White month coming up and a Parsnip with roast garlic soup!

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I hope you all had a merry and relaxing Christmas! I have truly had a proper Christmas break so far, sleeping a bit more than normally, no blogging (not that blogging feels like a chore), reading, eating lots ( good and bad things), doing some fun holiday type things ( London aquarium amongst other things) and just generally lazing about (watched 2 episodes of Danish/ Swedish crime series The bridge….during the day when the kids had their nap) I never watch tv during the day so a very nice treat indeed! Basically hanging with my family and enjoying life.

I feel really refreshed mentally but physically…..let’s just say I’m looking forward to January! Too much sugar, wine and food in general. I do find it’s good to remind myself sometimes ( very rarely, like once a year ) how unwell and rubbish I feel when I go on a food indulgence spree.

My husband has always had a white month in January and in recent years it has been more like 2 or 3 months. He likes his drinks and figures that if he can’t stop for a month he has a drinking problem so apart from a healthy break it’s a test of sorts. I tend to join him and I have started to look forward to January because of it. This year I will do no drinking, no sugar and no dairy. And I will also start 13th of January since I have some dear friends coming to stay. I might keep it up until the end of February, we shall see.

And just a brief mention about my B12. ( I will certainly write a long post about it soon) The tests came back within normal range but about 2 weeks after having started taking sublingual B12 and after using high-potency B12 patches I feel like a new person. All the weird symptoms and the absolute fatigue is gone, and I mean gone! Something fishy is definitely going on. Anyway I’m seeing the neurologist in 2 weeks so stay tuned….

If you are feeling stuffed from all the heavy, sugar laden food from Christmas here’s a great soup to enjoy! It will certainly scare away all cold and flu germs given the amount of garlic. And it’s very delicious!

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Parsnip and roasted garlic soup

Serves 4

5 medium parsnips
1 sweet potato
3 garlic heads
1 onion
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup of Single cream or diary-free alternative
1 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
Black pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 200 °C. Chop the parsnips and sweet potatoes in cubes. Cut the bottom of the garlic heads off and wrap the garlic heads in foil. Put half of the parsnips on a baking tray with some coconut oil and put it in the oven together with the garlic heads.

In the meantime gently fry the chopped onion in some oil in a large pot for a couple of minutes. Then put the other half of the chopped parsnips and the chopped sweet potato in the pot and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the vegetable stock and cook for about 40 minutes or until soft. Take the garlic and parsnips out from the oven after 40 min and add to the pot. (The garlic can be squeezed out like tooth paste from a tube : )

Add cream and cook for a couple of minutes. Turn of the heat and add the turmeric. Then blend the soup and adjust the thickness by adding some water if necessary. Serve with some spelt bread and wave bye bye to those flu germs!

Healthy and happy new year to you all!

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Healthy Vietnamese food at Viet Grill and a hangover-fix-it smoothie

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What can be better for your health than having a great meal out with friends…..not much! A good laugh is both calming and healing!

Instead of opting for Christmas food so close to the big jingle bells day, I meet a group of friends for Vietnamese at Viet Grill in Shoreditch on Monday. Always great to stock up on some healthy stuff before all the heavy sugar laden food comes out at Christmas.

However I started my meal with a Vijito. Viet grills cocktails are amazing!!!! ( and now maybe you understand why the title indicates that I have come up with a hangover cure drink ; ) This beautiful cocktail had a whole passion fruit in it, soo yummy!

Vietnamese food is generally very healthy. The main staples are herbs, lots of vegetables and seafood and it’s generally broth based. The only possibly negative health aspect of vietnamese food is the usage of MSG. The usage of MSG is highly controversial and it’s difficult to find out if it’s bad for your health and if so, how bad? Apparently FDA has claimed it is safe in small doses since 1959. Read more in this interesting article by John Mahoney. Others claim it is very harmful to your health. I’m going down the route of eating as little as possible of it but if I once in a while eat a little bit of it, so be it. Viet grill told me that they use very minimal amounts of MSG and only in a few dishes (soups). Their aim is to get rid of it completely next year. Fine by me.

We had a mix of starters and they were all delicious but what stood out the most were the fresh vegetables spring rolls. Lots of raw vegetables crammed into featherlight rice paper. And the dipping sauce, ah the dipping sauce…..And it’s incredibly refreshing to eat uncooked spring rolls. Definitely a favourite of mine!

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For main it was equally easy to find something very healthy, I opted for the wokked monkfish and shiitake. Lovely, fresh and filled with nutritious shiitake mushrooms. I personally would have preferred a bit more fresh herbs in my dish but that’s coming from someone who eats half a packet of coriander with my Pad Thai….Other things that I have tried before are La Vong Grilled Monkfish (starter) They cook it at your table so it’s certainly fresh and very tasty. I have also had the soft shell crab curry which was outstanding. My mouth is watering just writing about it, definitely going back soon.

So to sum it up; lovely atmosphere, great staff, fresh and healthy food and dangerously good cocktails! If you end up having one too many, here’s the rescue plan for the day after;

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Perfect hangover cure!
Coconut water, banana, strawberry and mint smoothie

1 cup of Unoco coconut water
1 cup of frozen strawberries
1 teaspoon maca powder
1 banana
1 1/2 teaspoon of honey
A couple of leaves of mint

Blend it all and make sure it’s cold ( put in fridge or add some ice-cubes ) A good idea is to make a double portion and sip throughout the day

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When hungover the body needs to replenish the potassium that has been lost. Coconut water contains a lot of potassium. So does bananas and honey. Maca powder is great for an energy boost. I use the Unoco coconut water because unlike most other brands it hasn’t been heat-treated or pasteurised hence none of the anti-oxidants have been lost. Unoco uses high pressure processing (HPP) in order to give the coconut water shelf life without loosing any nutrients! Clever…… Strawberries also has loads of anti-oxidants and they will be needed if you had one festive drink too many!

A planned weekend and buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup

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I am currently reading a book called “What the most successful people do before breakfast” by Laura Vanderkam. Yes it’s a self-help book and no I’m not too keen on the title, I don’t exactly think I’m going to get successful by reading this book if you get my drift. However…. this book is different to other self-help books that I have read, the ones when you get inspired but as soon as you have finished the book, it’s completely forgotten and nothing has changed. With this one I can see a couple of changes happening already, small things……It’s just simple advice, easy to implement. Lessons I have taken away from the book so far

a) if you don’t do exercise in the morning chances are…it won’t happen because you have had a hard day, you get lazy, that very tempting after work drink becomes way too tempting or the sofa just looks too cozy! So I have been doing 15 min every morning, for a month on Monday so I guess it’s a habit by now. Not a lot but it helps, and it sets up the day in a very positive way. Now I can step it up one notch, perhaps some additional morning meditation…..

b) even if you want to do NOTHING during your weekend you have to plan it. (This is especially true when you have kids because lets face it, doing nothing rarely exist with little ones) And you don’t have to plan every minute, just some key points. Planning it early in the week also means you have a nice weekend to look forward to, like a mini holiday : )

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So my weekend plan that I have been looking forward to

Watching the last 3 episodes of Breaking Bad with hubby on Friday night

Some me time and some quality time with my son whilst hubby and daughter is in the park.

Finish off Christmas decorating ( I love Christmas so it’s not a chore for me, it’s fun )

Christmas party at my sisters on Saturday night

Reflexology session on Sunday afternoon followed by..

Carols by candlelight at St Barnabas church with activities for the kids ( not usually a church goer but Carols, mulled wine and activities for the kids in one of the hidden gems of Hackney…sounds worth checking out)

And one of my favourite weekend breakfasts this morning;

Buckwheat pancakes with bananas, maple syrup and blueberries

Serves 2

3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 tablespoons of flaxseed
1 cup of milk of your choice
1 egg
1/2 banana
2 handfuls of organic blueberries
Maple syrup

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I use the Dove farms buckwheat flour and rice flour. It’s both organic and naturally gluten free. Dove farm is a company with great ethical and environmental policies.

Mix together flour, baking powder and flax seed. In a separate bowl whisk the egg and milk. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Prepare the banana, cut in slices. Wash the blueberries.
Pour a little bit of olive oil and then the mixture into a blini pan, plett pan (not too shallow) or non-stick egg rings. As soon as you have poured in the mixture put a couple of banana pieces on top. Cook on a low heat. Once the pancake is bubbling on top turn it over for another minute or two.

Serve with the blueberries and maple syrup

Buckwheat flour is gluten free and comes with lots of benefits. It may lower the chance of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes and also contains a lot of magnesium and anti-oxidants

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and raw ginger bread cookies

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….well not exactly outside here in London. We have blue sky and there are some red and orange colours still in the trees, it certainly feels more like autumn. It’s starting to look like Christmas at home and in my head, I’ve started to have this nice, warm, fuzzy feeling that I get around Christmas time. You see I’m one of those people who loves Christmas.

Lots of people get stressed around this time but me who normally has a tendency to get stressed, I actually don’t…..I figure whatever gets done gets done and what doesn’t doesn’t. Simple as that! For me Christmas is about spending some good quality time with your nearest and dearest, not a period of obligations.

This year we are keeping it very small, we figure it’s easier when the kids are still very young not to travel and just do lots of things locally and hang out just the four of us. I would have loved to go to Sweden to see my Dad and other family, but it will just be more relaxing this way. And I’m really looking forward to it.

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If you love Christmas you can easily get over excited. Which is good, getting over excited about something is a happy feeling and happiness is good for your health. A friend of mine got so excited she ended up buying 49 books for her daughter for Christmas ( the daughter is going to be one well-read little lady! ) Me I am getting super excited about ginger bread cookies but I don’t want to start too soon because once I start I can’t stop. And whilst being exited and happy is good for you, sugar is not and there’s certainly lots of it around during Christmas. So because I recently also got very exited about my raw cacao, macademia nut balls and ate quite a few of them I thought to myself……what if I could swop some ingredients, roll it out and make raw ginger bread cookies…and I could! This is like a mixture between eating the uncooked gingerbread dough and the cookies themselves but without the baddies and with plenty of goddies! Now that’s happiness for me!

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Raw gingerbread cookies

Makes 20 cookies

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves (not too much, cloves can be over powering)
1 cup of cashew nuts
1 cup of hazelnuts
2 cups of pitted dates
2 tablespoon acacia honey
1 tablespoon of water
Desiccated coconut to decorate

Add all ingredients apart from the water and the desiccated coconut.
Blend to required texture. I like it when it’s not too smooth, it gives it a bit of texture. If it’s to dry you can add a tiny bit of water but only a little bit at the time, if it gets too wet it’s impossible to roll out. Put the dough in fridge for an hour or so, then roll out until about 5mm thickness. Use your favourite Christmas dough cutter to cut out shapes. Decorate with desiccated coconut.
Don’t eat all the dough before you have made the cookies!!

Dirty Dozen and yummy pistachio and goats cheese figs!

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Now if all the fruit and vegetables that you consume are organic because a) you are loaded or b) you skip holidays, presents and restaurant visits because eating healthy is the most important thing to you or c) you grow all your own veg then great, you can skip this next part and just scroll down to the recipe.

But if you’re like me, you would love to be able to buy all your food organic but sometimes you just can’t afford it. (About 60% of all the food I buy is fruit and vegetables and all organic would get quite expensive) What is one to do?….I found this very useful list that can help one to optimise their organic purchases.

The Environmental Working group (EWG) is an American non-profit organisation whose mission, according to their website, is “to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. “The EWG comes out with a list every year of the fruit and veg with most pesticides ( Dirty Dozen ) and the least pesticides ( Clean Fifteen ) Armed with this on your phone or in your wallet when you go shopping you know where you have to go organic (or if that’s not possible perhaps go for an alternative) Apples, strawberries and grapes are fruits that my kids eat several times a week. I certainly will ALWAYS buy them organic in the future!

The Dirty Dozen+ (Always Buy Organic)

Apples
Celery
Cherry tomatoes
Cucumbers
Grapes
Hot peppers
Nectarines
Peaches
Potatoes
Spinach
Strawberries
Peppers

On the +list ( did not meet traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but were commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system)

Collards and kale
Summer squash and zucchini

The Clean Fifteen (OK to buy non-organic)
Asparagus
Avocado
Cabbage
Cantaloupe
Corn
Eggplant
Grapefruit
Kiwi
Mangos
Mushrooms
Onions
Papayas
Pineapples
Sweet peas (frozen)
Sweet potatoes

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So we are eating figs tonight. They are not on the EWG list and I am not sure how they fare in terms of pesticides, so googled it. There isn’t a definite good or bad. People were saying that they are easy to grow and aren’t attacked by a lot of pests so hence shouldn’t have a lot of pesticides…..I went organic anyway : )

Found this truly lovely recipe on a beautiful website called a subtle Revelry, so simple and so delicious. We’ve been eating them 2 days in a row!

Goat cheese and pistachio figs

Serves 2

4 fresh figs (halved)
8 teaspoons of soft goat cheese
4 tablespoons of pistachios (finely chopped)
black pepper to taste
1 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar ( I prefer to use Balsamic vinegar of Modena cream)
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Place the halved figs on a plate and press 1 small teaspoon of goats cheese on top. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios and pepper. Whisk together honey and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle the mixture over the figs.

Figs are very nutritious. High in potassium, fibre, good for eye sight and more. Definitely worth eating more of!