Embellished avocado toast

I’ve realised the breakfast section in my recipe index is a bit thin on the ground. Strange, as I love breakfast and can never go without. Even when I used to start work early in the morning, I still had to munch through something to power me up for the day, even if it was before the birds had even thought about waking up. And I’ve never understood people who say they don’t like breakfast – how can that be?

The old adage that breakfast is the most important meal of the day has been questioned in the last few years. Various experiments and studies have been undertaken to determine if you are likely to gain or lose weight if you miss out a morning meal. Guess what – the answers differ! Some people do, some people don’t. The idea that if you do a physical job you need to eat more, but if sedentary should consume less are all connected to the old idea that food is about energy units. But of course food is about so much more than energy!

Away from weight gain or loss, there is a consensus that people who eat breakfast are more likely to consume more micronutrients during the day as well as fibre, which is all good. But then again, if breakfast consists of sugary cereal and a bunch of empty calories then that’s no help at all! Eating breakfast does appear to help balance blood sugar levels during the day, but only if refined carbohydrates and sugar are avoided – so coco-pops are not helpful!

I guess the key to these studies shows that there is no right answer, because we are all different. Getting to know our bodies, what works for us and keeps us healthy and understanding the value and benefit of what we are doing makes a real difference. Since I started eating whole foods and dairy free, I’ve found my breakfast keeps me going much longer with no sugar lows or shakes until lunchtime. Some days I only feel like a light breakfast – some fruit and dairy free yoghurt maybe. Other days I’m up for something more substantial like scrambled tofu, especially at the weekend when things are more relaxed and sometimes breakfast is more brunch!

Avocado toast is one of my favourite breakfasts, easy and quick on a busy morning, simple to embellish on a lazy one. The toast for me is either wholegrain sourdough or a home made superfood bread, a gluten free and nutrition-packed lovely (the recipe will appear some time soon!). There’s fibre and minerals in the wholegrain and fabulous monounsaturated fats in the avocado, the healthy, anti-inflammatory fat that our bodies just love. The fat and protein in the avocado also help keep me feeling full for longer.

I like to add a good swirl of organic flaxseed oil on my toast before smashing the avocado on top; packed full of super health omega 3 fatty acids, it adds a lovely rich flavour, a great dairy free alternative to butter.

To add a few more goodies and start getting my 10 a day, adding some lightly sautéed mushrooms and a handful of fresh rocket or spinach really embellishes ordinary avocado toast and I highly recommend it. You may feel this is more of a lunch idea than breakfast, but all over the world, peoples idea of breakfast is different – my son was served spaghetti carbonara for breakfast in Vietnam!

So if you are a breakfast lover like me, give this little dish a go one morning – it will put a smile on your face and joy in your tummy!

Let us eat soup!

On to the second to last day of my week long veg box challenge, and much of the gorgeous organic produce has been used. We have plenty of leftovers from both Saturday night’s squash curry and the pie and mash from Sunday night, so dinner is sorted.

So what to cook on Monday? The one item mainly untouched is the green batavia lettuce. It’s not that we don’t like lettuce, far from it, but I have to say I prefer warm, comforting foods at this time of year rather than cold, crisp dishes. So there’s only one thing to do with it – make soup!

When chatting with my mum about what I was going to make, she was more than a little unimpressed! But lettuce soup is actually really tasty as well as healthy. Known in my house as ‘sludge soup’ due to its rather pond-like hue, it’s packed full of nutrients like vitamins A and B complex, calcium and iron, and a whole range of phytonutrients that help support the body. As lettuce has a high water content, the soup doesn’t need much fluid added to the pot, keeping the nutrients readily available.

The other important thing about making lettuce soup is that it reduces food waste – lettuce is top of the league when it comes to fresh food items thrown away each week. I’ve always tried not to waste food, but ever since Hugh’s War on Waste recently, I’ve really made a concerted effort to use everything up, which is one reason why a veg box can be such a good idea, as you base your meals for the week around the box and add in as necessary, rather than just buy random items and see what works.

So why not try this soup if you have a desolate lettuce hanging around? Open head, leafy ones like this gorgeous green batavia, romaine or little gem lettuces all work well. I’ve not tried it with lollo rosso, and I don’t think an iceberg would be quite right (although can’t remember the last time I bought one). It’s so green, you just know it’s good for you!

Lettuce soup
1 onion, diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 large lettuce, washed well and chopped
a handful of chard leaves, chopped
500ml vegetable stock
salt and pepper
Heat a glug of olive oil in the bottom of a large saucepan and sauté the onion and potato for 5 minutes on a low heat with the lid on until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Stir in enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the potato is cooked and soft. Add the lettuce and chard leaves. Pour in some more vegetable stock, but don’t fully cover the leaves as remember they will wilt and add more fluid to the pan, potentially making your soup too watery. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, pop on the lid and simmer for 5 minutes until the leaves have fully wilted. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then blend until smooth, adding more stock if needed.
Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice (to help with iron absorption) and a swirl of dairy free yoghurt or cream. Enjoy!

Continue reading “Let us eat soup!”

Carrot and ginger – grey day soup

I’ve realised that I write about soup more than another type of dish, but then that’s not surprising really, as soup is truly awesome! For a start, it’s hard to go wrong (although I have tasted some really bad ones in my time, so it is possible!), it’s pretty quick and easy, and nutritionally it’s the best way to retain all the gorgeous vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

Continue reading “Carrot and ginger – grey day soup”

Happy New Year hangover juice

It’s time to reflect on the year that has been, and celebrate the arrival of a new one. In recent years, we’ve seen in the New Year in some pretty different places – an Indian jungle, on the street in the centre of Bangkok and, last year, in a local Chinese restaurant. All have been memorable, but this year is my favourite way of celebrating – a crowd at a friends house. Good conversation, lots of laughs and a relaxed atmosphere. And of course, lots of alcohol!

No matter how careful I am, I always seem to feel hungover on New Year’s Day, even if I’ve not been drinking! Maybe it’s the combination of excitement and a late night, but telling signs of headache, tiredness and lethargy always seem to rear their unpleasant head.

A hangover is a combination of dehydration and an accumulation of toxins from the alcohol plus a low blood sugar which affects your brain. This can lead to a stonking headache, nausea, vomiting, lethargy and insomnia. Keeping well hydrated is key, so having a glass of water to every glass of alcohol helps. An extra good guzzle of water before going to bed along with a little snack should also smooth the way to a better morning after along with a milk thistle tablet (this helps support your liver detoxifying everything). Of course, you need to be in a reasonable state to do all this before collapsing in a post-party heap!

This year I’m armed with vegetables and fruit that will aid a faster recovery in the morning. – a juice that helps rehydrate, detox and settle a disturbed stomach. A combination of beetroot, celery, apple, carrot, lemon and ginger should do the trick.Beetroot is your liver’s best friend when it comes to excess as it helps remove toxins and is packed full of anti-oxidants. Celery is high in potassium and sodium and so helps with replacing those electrolytes lost with dehydration. Carrots are packed full of vitamin C, another powerful antioxidant, B6 (good for the liver) as well as potassium. Apples also rate high with vitamin C and potassium and can help settle the digestion; ginger does the same and can reduce any nausea that might be hanging around. Finally, lemon provides another shot of vitamin C and can also provide some additional phyto-nutrients.  If you fancy, a couple of handfuls of spinach can be thrown in for good measure; loads of B vitamins provide additional support to your liver.

There’s still time to make sure your fridge is stocked up ready for the morning after – give it a go and your body will love you for it!

Wishing you a very happy and healthy New Year!

Hangover juice (serves 1 poorly person)
1 medium beetroot
1 large carrot
1-2 sticks celery
1 large apple
chunk fresh ginger
1/2 lemon
couple of handfuls spinach (optional)
Put all the ingredients into a juicer to extract all the goodness. I like to add my spinach separately, by putting the juice into a blender, then popping in the spinach and whizzing it all up.  Add water if you desire and consume with gusto, or great care, depending on how delicate you’re feeling!