Rainbow roasted carrot and thyme salad

I’m a big fan of carrots. And of rainbow eating. So you can imagine how excited I get when I find rainbow carrots!  I’m like a kid in a sweet shop, much to the embarrassment of whoever I’m with.  Sometimes hard to find in mainstream supermarkets (although I have noticed them appearing more, along with a premium price), they seem to be easier to find at farmers markets and farm shops. Or even better, try and grow your own – they’ll taste so good! Continue reading “Rainbow roasted carrot and thyme salad”

Sticky ginger-garlic aubergine

I love aubergine. Unfortunately my husband can’t stand them. He’s very tolerant of my plant-based experiments, but sadly aubergine is his red line that can’t be crossed! Which is not too much of a problem as there are so many other delicious plant-based foods to play with. Plus he’s often away, so aubergine becomes my indulgence when he’s on his travels.

He’s not the only one who can’t or won’t tolerate aubergine. Some people find it too bitter (although this is much less of a problem now than in the past as cross-breeding has removed much of the bitterness) whilst others can’t stand the texture, particularly when it’s over-soft and mushy. Then there are those who are sensitive to produce from the night-shade family which includes aubergines. Continue reading “Sticky ginger-garlic aubergine”

Brain food

Have you ever thought about how the food you eat directly affects your brain? As its Brain Awareness Week, it’s worth sparing a minute or two to do just that. Do you give your brain what it needs?

The brain is the hungriest organ in the body. Mind you that’s not surprising really as it’s always on the go, managing and controlling everything else in the body, even (and particularly) when we’re asleep. 25% of the body’s energy supply (in the form of glucose, its fuel of choice), is used in the brain Continue reading “Brain food”

Read all about it!

Drum roll please………my new book is out! If you follow me on Facebook hopefully you’ve seen the posts and know it’s a thing. But do you know what it’s all about? And not everyone has been sucked in to the time-wasting chasm that is social media, so here is the run down.

Eat Well Live Well with the Sensitive Foodie – may not be the catchiest of titles but it sums it up rather nicely! Based on the idea that the food we eat really is key to health, it’s part information, part cookbook interwoven with the story of my own health challenges and the desire to eat great food. Basically everything The Sensitive Foodie is all about! Continue reading “Read all about it!”

Healthy oat and flaxseed cookies

The last few weeks have been so busy, getting the last bits of my new book finalised. It’s very exciting – I have 250 copies of Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie currently being printed and hopefully being delivered tomorrow. I’m at the Horsham Vegan Festival on Saturday (click here for details) where I’ll be giving a talk and selling my book for the first time! If you’re in the area, do pop by and say hi.

In the meantime, there’s still some baking going on (if nothing else it’s therapy to being on the computer for hours on end!). And as its half term, I thought you might like something simple to do with the kids, especially if you’ve run out of ideas that don’t cost money, as school holidays can be such an expensive time.

I used to love baking with my children when they were young, but it had to be simple otherwise 1) they would run out of patience and 2) the kitchen would turn into a baking bomb-site! And sometimes is was wise not to do highly sugar-laden cookies otherwise it would send them a bit bonkers – not ideal on a wet February day!

These cookies are super easy to make and contain no refined sugar, the sweetness coming from the ripe banana and dried fruit. If they are not sweet enough for your family’s taste-buds, add a little maple syrup. I’ve used raisins and almonds in my recipe, but there’s lots of alternatives like cranberries, pecan nuts, peanuts or chocolate drops (dairy-free of course!).

These can be made strictly gluten-free if that’s important to you by using gluten-free oats. And there’s loads of lovely fibre here from both the oats and the flaxseed to keep your gut bacteria happy. The flaxseed also provides health omega 3 fatty acids which help boost brain power and reduce inflammation in the body. Yay!

Of course, you don’ have to be a child to enjoy these! Just a lover of cookies! Perfect for lunch-boxes and snacks, you could even get away with eating them for breakfast. And as they are fully plant-based and low in fat, they are suitable for many specialist health programmes like Overcoming MS and reversing diabetes and heart disease.

I hope you give these a go. If you do, let me know how you get on. And if you can come to Horsham on Saturday – see you there! If not, I’ll be posting details on how to buy my book very soon.

Healthy oat and flaxseed cookies

Quick and tasty oat based cookies with no added sugar but lots of yummy flavour.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Snack
Keyword: cookies, dairy free, gluten free, no added sugar, plant based
Servings: 10 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)
  • 100 grams oats gluten free if needed
  • 50 grams ground flaxseed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 30 grams raisins
  • 30 grams sliced almonds
  • 3 tablespoons dairy-free milk

Instructions

  • Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper or a silicon mat. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan). 
  • Hunt out 10 good almond flakes and put to one side for decoration. Roughly chop the remaining almonds
  • Place the ripe banana in a bowl and mash it until soft and smooth. Add the oats, ground flaxseed, salt, cinnamon, raisins and almonds to the banana and mix well to combine. Pour in the dairy-free milk and stir to form a thick dough. Leave it to settle for 5 minutes. If the dough is really dry, add a little more dairy-free milk but take care not to make it soggy.
  • Split the dough into 10 equal sections. Roll each one into a ball, place on the baking sheet and flatten with your hand until it’s approximately 2cm thick. Repeat with the remaining sections. 
  • Press a sliced almond into the top then place the tray in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn over and bake for another 10 until firm and lightly browned. 
  • Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. That’s if they don’t all get eaten at once!

Notes

Don’t forget you can swap the raisins and almonds for any dried fruit, nut or seed of choice, or use dairy-free chocolate drops.

Fabulous fibre

Have you noticed how fibre has suddenly appeared in the news again? That’s food-related fibre, not the high-speed broad band type! A large meta-analysis of research studies published in The Lancet last week concluded that a diet high in complex fibre and whole-foods could prevent the development of many chronic health problems. It concluded their study provided a ‘causal link’ between a low fibre diet and poor health (read more here).

The world of food and health is complex and fickle. The fact that fibre is good for health has been known for a long time, but gets conveniently forgotten when more popular diets come along, like low-carb/high fat, or ketogenic programmes. There’s a lot of confusion about the carbohydrate element of foods with many people automatically associating ‘carbs’ with sugar. And it’s true, refined sugar isn’t good for us, but complex, unadulterated carbohydrates are.

As anyone who has participated in my Eat Well Live Well course will know, I’m a big fan of fibre. And one of the benefits of eating a whole-food plant-based diet is that it is packed full of lovely complex fibres that the body just loves. And rather than worrying about how much you should consume, it’s just part and parcel of every meal – as long as you eat a wide range of whole plant foods that is.

So why might you not get enough fibre in your diet?

  1. Only food from plants contain fibre, so if you eat mainly meat, dairy and eggs you’ll be missing out on fibre.
  2. Refined cereals and grains loose their healthy complex fibre, so if you eat white bread, pasta or rice, processed breakfast cereals or ready meals, you’ll be losing all the lovely complex fibre.
  3. Fresh fruit and vegetables contain fibre too, so if you don’t hit your 5 portions a day (like 70% of the UK population), you’ll be missing out on fibre.

So what does fibre do for us? Lots, as it turns out. I go into more details in my new book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie (out next month!), but in a nutshell it:

  1. Improves gut motility – ie: make you poo!
  2. Removes excess bile, fats and toxic waste
  3. Fills you up
  4. Releases nutrients slowly
  5. Looks after the friendly bacteria living in your gut.

As more is learnt about the importance of gut health, this last one is really key. Bacteria living deep down in the large intestine dine out on the insoluble fibre found in complex carbohydrates that we can’t digest ourselves, and then puts it to good use, carrying out functions we have outsourced and can no longer do ourselves. Gut health is connected to many health challenges, including food sensitivities and autoimmune conditions, hence my personal love of all things fibre!

So how do you get more fibre in your diet? It’s easy – eat more plants! And a wide variety of them too. Add beans to soups and stews, more veggies to dishes. Ditch the processed breakfast cereals and opt for wholegrain or oats. Swap to wholegrain pasta, rice and bread. Or just focus on eating amazing plant foods throughout the day and then you don’t have to worry where your fibre is coming from.

A word of warning though, if you’re not used to eating lots of lovely fibre, or have IBS or something similar, take care! Fibre makes you fart. And if your gut is not happy, a sudden overload of high fibre foods could find you trumpeting at inappropriate moments or doubled up in pain. So think about gradually increasing the amount of whole foods over a few days rather than all at once – you, and anyone around you, will appreciate it!

If you’re not sure how to start eating more fibre, check out the recipes on my blog. Made with whole plant foods, they’re all packed with fibre in various forms. And if you’re interested in finding out more, my book is a good place to start. Look out for more information about publication date, or sign up to my book mailing list. You’ll get the lowdown before anyone else, plus special launch information and offers. Just click here.

Beany ‘cheesy’ pasta bake

How’s 2019 treating you so far? You may be sticking with a determination to lose weight, or trying out Veganuary or similar plant-based eating programme. It could be you’ve started training for a marathon or half marathon (yay go for it!) or been stuck in bed with one of the nasty winter bugs going around and just want some comfort food.

Good news – todays recipe will hit the spot with all of these situations, and more – like you just want something super tasty for dinner!

One of the wonderful things about eating whole-foods is the focus is not on one nutritional element – the protein, fat or carbohydrate content. Rather, it’s on how all  the constituent elements work together as a team and provide the right balance of nutrients for over all health. With no refined products, this dish is full of lovely fibre, making it filling, satisfying and something your gut will just love. Because, as researchers are discovering, gut health is key to overall health, including weight management, mental wellness plus prevention and management of chronic health problems.

So although this dish contains pasta, it doesn’t make it the devil incarnate as some ‘low-carb’ enthusiasts might declare. Wholegrains retain more of the original beneficial elements like complex carbohydrates that feed friendly gut bacteria, slow release energy to power your body’s processes and even proteins, minerals and, in some forms, essential fatty acids. If you have a gluten sensitivity, then rather than wheat-based pasta, choose brown rice or other gluten-free options (but take care it’s not too refined).

If you’re trying plant-based for the first time, I’m sure you’ve already been asked ‘where do you get your protein from?’. Beans are a fantastic source of plant-based protein. But because whole-foods have more than one macronutrient, they also contain complex fibre and other nutrients too. Nuts are another great protein source, as well as fats, as is tofu. So there’s plenty here, no chance of missing out.

On top of all that, this recipe is full of delicious vegetables, packed with minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients. All these nutrients support the body right at cellular level, maintaining your internal equilibrium but also helping you to heal and then stay well. So if you’ve been feeling a bit under the weather or you’re training hard, these nutrients will work together to help you feel great.

Ultimately, though, the key thing about this dish is that it tastes absolutely delicious. And after all, isn’t that really what we get out of eating? It is for me! There’s no joy in eating dull, bland food no matter how ‘good’ it’s supposed to be. Whole plant foods retain their wonderful flavours, so even if you’re restricted in some way, ‘on a diet’, have food intolerances, a health problem or training for an event, you never have to miss out on taste!

So why not give this one a go this week? To help you get more from the recipes, you’ll notice I’ve changed the format so you can adjust number of servings or print it out – no more sticky fingers on the iPad screen. Hope it works well for you! Don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Print Recipe
Beany 'cheesy' pasta bake
Course Main Dish
Servings
hungry people
Ingredients
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 sticks celery diced
  • 2 small carrots diced
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 1 clove garlic finely diced
  • 4 medium mushrooms chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 4 florets broccoli chopped
  • 400 grams tin borlotti beans rinsed and drained
  • 150 grams whole-wheat pasta or gluten free alternative
  • salt and pepper
For the sauce
  • 75 grams cashew nuts soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
  • 100 grams silken tofu
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 clove crushed garlic (optional)
Course Main Dish
Servings
hungry people
Ingredients
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 sticks celery diced
  • 2 small carrots diced
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 1 clove garlic finely diced
  • 4 medium mushrooms chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 4 florets broccoli chopped
  • 400 grams tin borlotti beans rinsed and drained
  • 150 grams whole-wheat pasta or gluten free alternative
  • salt and pepper
For the sauce
  • 75 grams cashew nuts soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
  • 100 grams silken tofu
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 clove crushed garlic (optional)
Instructions
For the pasta and beany sauce
  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the dried whole-wheat pasta. Pop on the lid, turn down the heat and cook on a gentle boil for 20 minutes until al dente. Turn off the heat, leave to rest in the pan for a couple of minutes then drain and keep warm in the pan until the beany sauce is ready.
  2. To make the beany sauce, heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the bottom of a large non-stick pan and sauté the onion, celery, carrots and red pepper until soft, around 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for another couple of minutes.
  3. Mix the tomato puree with 50ml of water. Add the oregano, chilli flakes and diluted tomato puree to the pan and stir well. Simmer for 5 minutes on a low heat then add the chopped broccoli florets and beans along with a little salt and pepper. Continue to cook on a low heat for up to 10 minutes until all the veggies are cooked and soft.
  4. Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pan and stir well to ensure its all covered with the beany sauce.
For the 'cheesy' sauce
  1. Drain the cashews and place in a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Add enough water to cover then blend until smooth. Add more water if it's too thick. Taste and add more flavourings as needed.
To finish off
  1. Pre-heat the grill to high. Tip the pasta beany sauce into a large serving dish. Pour the cheesy sauce over the top - there will be a lot but that's ok as you want it to create a good layer. Place under the grill for 5 minutes to brown, then remove and serve straight away - a green salad on the side will finish it off perfectly!

Simple New Year changes that have a big impact

Wow, it’s the last day of 2018! What a busy year it’s been. How’s it been for you? For me, there’s been some amazing experiences, incredible changes and smattering of challenges and obstacles. A pretty standard year all in all!

So now it’s time to start thinking about the new year ahead. Have you thought about your New Year’s resolutions, or what you would like to achieve over the next 12 months? For many, January is a time for ‘going on a diet’ and ‘getting fit’. Both great goals to have, but more often than not the enthusiasm starts to wane after just a couple of weeks. Or it might be that you are planning on going plant-based, either by joining a campaign like Veganuary or following your own ideas. This works really well for anyone who is an ‘all-or-nothing’ kind of person. But it’s not for everyone.

I actually think that early January is not a good time of year to make major changes. For a start, the weather is cold and the whole month can seem rather dull and miserable after the colourful build up to Christmas. Going on a diet has connotations of missing out or deprivation. The cold weather outside naturally drives us towards warming comfort foods rather than salad. Plus the ‘hang-over’ from all the Christmas and New Year excitement and celebrations takes a while to pass.

It’s because of this that I never run my Eat Well Live Well course until the end of January or beginning of February – that’s the time when you’re fully recovered from the festive fun and truly ready to make some positive, lasting changes.

Now that’s not to say that being a bingeing coach potato is a good idea! If you want to ease yourself into a positive health change or just want to make some easy changes, here are 5 simple changes to make that will have a big impact.

  1. Eat more. Ha, bet you didn’t expect that one first! If you’ve pigged out over the last week, this might not sound like a good thing. But I don’t mean eat more of everything. Just eat more fresh fruit and vegetables every day, some raw, some cooked. An incredible 75% of the UK population still don’t hit the 5-a-day target (click here for statistics) so if you are one of them, now’s your chance to go for it. But don’t stop at 5. As fresh fruit and vegetables are packed full of amazing nutrients and phytonutrients that support our bodies right at cellular level, 10 portions a day is much nearer to what we should be aiming for. Your body will love you for it and you’ll soon start feeling the benefits. Plus if you fill up on the fresh stuff, there’s less room for the junk!

2) Go brown. White flour, pasta and rice have all their wonderful nutrients stripped away and all you’re left with is the starchy endosperm that rapidly gets broken down into simple sugars. It’s calories and not much else. Wholegrains on the other hand retain their fabulous fibre, essential oils and protein as well as other nutrients. They’re more filling and your helpful friendly bacteria love them. If you want to give it a try but don’t think your family will be on board with it, don’t tell them! Just change one at a time and see if they notice (sneaky but effective 😉 )

3) Eat real. Have you explored the label on processed foods recently, even ‘healthy’, and specifically ‘free-from’ items? Do you recognise half the ingredients? Many of the common items bought contain a cacophony of refined ingredients or lab-made chemicals. Even ‘natural’ ones are not quite as natural as you might think. Hundreds of new chemicals are passed as safe for human consumption every year, but most have not been tested over long periods of time (for accumulation) or in combination with other chemicals. A report last year highlighted that 51% of the food consumed in the UK is now ‘ultra-processed‘. That’s far away from the original ingredient, if it even had one. Our bodies take time to recognise and respond to these chemicals. They much prefer things simple and natural. So next time you go to buy something, ask yourself “Is this real?”. If not, put it back on the shelf and find something else to put in your basket.

4) Eat a rainbow. I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about this before, but it’s so important, I’m saying it again! Plant foods all contain magical tiny chemicals that help support the body in a multitude of ways. We evolved foraging off the land and consumed whatever the land provided, much of which was colourful and attractive to the eye. Try to make a conscience decision to eat red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, brown and white produce every day.

5) Eat variety. As well as eating different colours, we evolved eating a wide variety of food items – basically whatever was found. Variety is key to our gut health, to look after our magical microbiome. The modern western diet tends to offer four main food sources – meat, dairy, soya and wheat – as 90% of the food eaten. Our ancestors are known to have eaten about 130 sources. Whilst that may be hard to achieve, try to avoid eating the same things day in, day out. Make a conscience effort to try new things too. Your gut will love you for it!

That’s it – more, brown, real, rainbow variety and you’re set for a healthy 2019! If you need any recipe ideas, then have a browse through the recipe index on the menu above. There’s loads to try, all of which will help you achieve these 5 easy steps. If you haven’t already subscribed to the blog, why not do that now and get new recipes directly to your inbox?

Wishing you a very happy and healthy New Year.