Cashew and tahini dressing

You know how sometimes you just need a simple, go-to tasty dressing that will liven up any dull dish (not that we have much dullness in The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen!) – you know, the thing you can splash all over a salad, dip your roasted veggies in or liven up a simple sandwich? Well, this is mine, and it works a treat.

Of course, a simple dressing of lemon juice and unrefined oil is lovely and refreshing, but it doesn’t really hit the sumptuous button. This creamy cashew and tahini dressing really does. It’s rich but still light and you can adapt it to suit your tastebuds. And with the whole goodness of both cashews and sesame seeds, it’s packed with nutritional benefits too, including good amounts of manganese, magnesium and zinc.

Our bodies are made up of a complex mixture of minerals; some get a lot of attention, others not so much. We hear a lot about calcium and strong bones (dairy is not the answer!), zinc for our immune system and magnesium for healthy hearts. Manganese is rarely in the mineral limelight, so today I’m going to remedy this, as it deserves attention of it’s own.

Whilst we only need a small amount every day to keep our body stores full, manganese is essential for growth and bone health, as well as strong hair, nails and healthy skin. It’s also needed for numerous enzymes involved in metabolic processes like blood sugar control and thyroid function. As with much essential nutrition, a type Western diet high in animal products and refined foods will be stripped of manganese; just maybe that contributes to the massive increase in chronic health problems? Anyone who eats a mainly plant based diet, however, will have no problem getting enough manganese as it features in nuts, grains and veggies.

So a good dollop of this dressing will help stock up your manganese reserves. If you add it to a salad including spinach and chickpeas, you’ll be super stocked! And it tastes so good, your mouth will be as happy as your body. This recipe makes enough for 4 servings and keeps in the fridge for 5 days. Enjoy!

Cashew and tahini dressing
1/2 cup cashew nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours
1/2 cup water
1 heaped tablespoon tahini (make sure no added oil)
pinch of salt
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional but good)
good squeeze lemon juice

Drain the cashew nuts. Place in a blender with the water and blend until smooth (add a little more water if too thick). Add the remain ingredients and blend again for a minute or so until everything is combined and smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as required.

The photo is roasted sweet potato and mini peppers alongside pan fried pak choi topped with the cashew and tahini dressing and pine nuts. Gorgeous! Follow me on Instagram for regular food pics and ideas – @the.sensitive.foodie.


Little balls of happiness

It’s mid afternoon and that familiar feeling comes creeping in – the slump. Tired, lethargic and craving something sweet, particularly if lunch was a meagre, hurried affair. A few hours later, your body is demanding something satisfying, and now!

A cup of tea and a slice of cake – that’ll do nicely! Whilst there’s nothing wrong with a mighty fine cake on occasion, consuming something that’s packed full of refined sugars, fats and flour (plus various additives if it’s not home made) whenever the slump hits is not sustainable in the long run. It may hit all the pleasure spots, but that quick release of sugar won’t last, and before long you’ll be hunting for more sugar satisfaction. As for biscuits, they may be even worse as it’s tempting to keep cramming them in until the end of the packet!

You need balls to deal with this problem – energy balls! Packed full of nuts, dried fruit, seeds or oats, these little lovelies are filled to the brim with healthy fats, complex carbs and soul soothing sweetness that will satisfy your cravings, boost your energy and see you comfortably through to dinner time. And because they’re full of whole foods rather than refined products, they’re super filling so there’s only so many you can eat at one time.

Not only that, they’re quick to make, store well and being raw, they are nutrient dense and packed with fibre, so keep your gut happy and working well. The nut based ones are gluten free too and of course they’re all dairy free and plant based.

The recipe for my original energy balls can be found here – These are still a firm favourite. But if you need a nut free version because of allergies or school lunch box restrictions (kids love these – honest!) then try these oat based ones.

Oat and seed energy balls
1 cup oas
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup stoned dates
½ cup dried cranberries
>½ cup raisins
1-2 tablespoons orange juice
dessicated coconut
Put sunflower seeds and dates in food processor and chop until fine. Add oats, cranberries, raisins and blitz until chopped. Add orange juice and blitz again until combined and sticking together (not too much juice)
Take a teaspoon of mix and roll into a ball then roll the ball in the coconut. Repeat.

Finally, for a slightly less dense and fresher flavour, try these lemon and nut wonders that are deceptively filling and so satisfying.

Luscious lemony balls
1 cup cashew nuts
1 cup desiccated coconut
Grated rind of one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch of salt
Put the cashew nuts and desiccated coconut into the food processor and whizz for a few moments until broken down. Add the remain ingredients and blend until combined and sticking together. Take out a teaspoon of the mixture and roll into a ball – this mix is slightly drier than the others so needs a delicate touch.

Planning Christmas dinner

Since my last post at the beginning of the month, I’ve moved continents!. The weather outside the window has changed from blue skies and 28 degrees to grey, cold and raining. Oh yes, I’m back in England! But to make up for the weather, it is Christmas time, and for the first time in 3 years it actually feels festive, with decorations in every home, the shops bulging with gifts and seasonal food and Christmas songs constantly played on the radio.

Now the jet lag has worn off, the present shopping is complete and we have an idea of where we are going to live, my attention is turning to food, particularly Christmas Day. Being dairy and yeast intolerant is hard at this time of year – all the mince pies are made with butter pastry, Christmas cake includes dairy and the brandy butter that melts so enticingly on top of the steaming Christmas pud is a non-starter! Then there’s bread sauce and stuffing which I love, but certainly don’t love me! This year I’ve made it even more complicated by eradicating meat from my diet too, so no traditional turkey either.

All is not lost, however. There’s still the roasted parsnips, potatoes and other veg. And being back in the UK, alternatives are more easily available in the shops. This though, is a bit of dilemma. Meat alternatives can be a bit gross to be honest, and tend to be full of a long list of fake ingredients and chemicals that don’t sit well in a wholefood diet. So it’s a nut roast for me, filled with brazil nuts and hazelnuts for a festive flavour which won’t over power all the delicious veg on offer.

By the way, brazil nuts are packed with nutrition. Unfortunately for some, they are also the second most common for nut allergies after peanuts. But if you’re safe to eat them, they are fabulous for health, eaten in moderation of course. Whilst fairly high in fat, they are monounsaturated, so help deal with ‘bad’ cholesterol. They also have good levels of vitamin E, vitamin B’s and selenium, a mineral that acts as a powerful anti oxidant. There’s also a mix of other minerals such as manganese, potassium, calcium, iron and zinc, all wonderful for your health and your skin.

This nut roast recipe is easy and tasty. It does use bread crumbs – in the past I have either used Orgran rice crumbs or whizzed up a tortilla wrap which works but gives a different texture. This year I am going to experiment with using quinoa instead. Using this and chickpea flour instead of wheat flour, this can become a gluten free recipe too. Now what sauce to put with it………

Normal nut roast
1 onion finely chopped
1 tbspoon vegetable oil
2 tomatoes skinned and chopped
30g flour (wheat, corn or chickpea)
140mls water
1 tbspoon soy sauce/tamari
230g nuts (brazil and hazelnut in mine) finely chopped or ground
85g breadcrumbs or bread alternative
1 tsp mixed herbs
Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion until it’s tender. Add the chopped tomatoes, lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes or so until pulpy. Stir in the flour, add the water slowly whilst stirring constantly to prevent lumps forming. Once it’s all mixed in, turn off the heat. Add all the other ingredients, mixing together thoroughly and place in a lightly greased bread tin. Bake at 180o C for 45 minutes or so until it’s firm and crusty on top. Leaving to cool slightly in the tin, then turn out on to a plate and enjoy with all the Christmas trimmings and a glass of something bubbly!