Since Christmas is looming closer I thought I'd share a few ideas for home made Christmas gifts.
In my opinion, a home made gift is worth way more than a bought one. Time and effort have gone into it and a bit of love and care and that counts for a lot!
Even if you aren't creative or arty, these wee spice blends are so easy to make, and a great wee gift for a foodie friend!
Spices have been used for hundreds of years in cooking, they of course, add great flavour to food, but can also have lots of health benefits. A sprinkle of any of the following blends can really lift a simple meal and provide an extra treat for your tastebuds. We always add some kind of extra flavouring ingredient to our food and keep a wee selection of ready made spice blends.
Here are three of my favourites;
4 tbsp sesame seeds
4 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp dried thyme
4 tsp dried orgenao
2 tbsp sumac
(optional but nutritious- 1 tsp seaweed flakes)
Toast sesame seeds and cumin seeds until browned and fragrant; grind roughly in mortar and pestle then add the other and ingredients and grind again until satisfied. Chunky is good, or not so chunky, whatever you prefer. Sprinkle on anything-hummus, soups, pizza etc. It goes great with Middle Eastern flavours. Store in a glass jar.
from A modern way to eat-Anna Jones
a handful of hazelnuts
4 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon sea salt
Roast hazelnuts in the oven until golden, allow to cool before removing the bitter skins.
Grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until the hazlenuts and peppercorns have broken down into small pieces. You can leave it here or continue grinding to a fine powder. You could also add a teaspoon of seaweed flakes or hemp seeds for an extra nutrition boost.
Store in a glass jar and sprinkle over everything from salads to soups to roasted veggies- it packs a real flavour punch!
This isn't really a spice blend, its more of a condiment, but its delicious nonetheless! I've been using this since my macrobiotic days, and its simply a mixture of sea salt and sesame seeds, dry toasted and finely ground in a pestle and mortar. Sesame seeds are a great source of calcium and magnesium and great for bone health. I use it in place of salt and sprinkle it on soups, salads, steamed greens and sushi! It amazingly tastes quite salty but with only a teaspoon of salt, a little goes a long way! My favourite salt is Himalyan Sea Salt, known as the king of salts for its purity and high mineral content!
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup of sesame seeds (white, black or a mixture)
Simply dry toast the sea salt in a small pan for a few minutes then tip into pestle and mortar. Add the sesame seeds to the pan and toast over a medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon. Once the sesame seeds start to colour, turn the heat off. They sometimes start popping so stop then!
Add the sesame seeds to the pestle and mortar and grind to a powder. Its ok to leave the mixture with some whole seeds. Transfer to a glass jar and use liberally!
All spice blends will last for a good few months, though spices do lose their potency so i suggest filling small jars that are easier to use up quickly.
....your health in your hands...
I haven't shared a beetroot recipe recently so thought I'd share this humdinger of a beetroot casserole with sweet potatoes, herbs and mushrooms with a good glug of red wine to lift the flavour to dinner party fancy!! I assure you, its that good! If you love beetroot and hearty casseroles then you will absolutely love this recipe!
Beetroot ticks a lot of boxes for me, its cheap, readily available, delicious, a fabulous colour and has lots of health benefits! It can lower blood pressure, improve memory and brain function by basically improving blood flow and relaxing the arteries, all down to nitric acid which beetroot has lots of! Its also a very effective internal cleanser, due to the powerful antioxidant betacyanin and supports kidney, liver and gallbladder function. Its also a great source of vitamins, minerals, fibre and easily digestible carbohydrates for a wee energy boost!
It's also extremely versatile and lends itself well to juicing, cakes, dips, soups, salads and casseroles!
I really do love the humble beetroot, whats not to love?
Anyway back to this fabulous recipe, the idea came from the awesome Anna Jones cookbook A Modern Way to Eat. I love Anna Jones, she makes the most delicious vegetarian food, wholesome, flavoursome and nutritious. A fabulous book if you want to transition to a more plant based way of eating, full of family favourites, lovely photos and simple, easy to follow recipes.
So back to this one...
I used vacuum packed beetroot, instead of fresh beetroot. I always have packs of beetroot in the fridge for dips, houmous, salads and soups and it's already cooked so can just be added for the last 10 to 15 minutes. Fresh beetroot can take up to an hour to cook, so if you are using fresh then cut into smallish chunks, to speed up the cooking time.
Puy or dark green lentils are another favourite ingredient of mine. They are packed with fibre, protein, minerals and vitamins and support health on every level. They are really filling and make a great substitute for meat. They don't require soaking prior to cooking and cook in around 20 minutes. All the supermarkets sell puy type lentils now, they hold their shape well and don't go mushy, which the more common red lentils do! I always have a selection of lentils in my cupboards, they are so versatile and delicious and great for adding fibre and protein to a meatless meal.
Sweet potatoes add lots of beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A and supports skin and digestive health. They contain a wonderful sugar called fructo-oligo-saccaride which acts as a food source for good bacteria in the gut, producing a chemical called butyric acid that can repair and strengthen the gut wall and rejuvenate the digestive tract! We should all be feeding our good gut bacteria and sweet potatoes are just so delicious this is just another excellent reason to eat loads of them. Even though they are naturally sweet, they contain blood sugar regulating properties and improve the cells responsiveness to insulin, so won't spike your blood sugar!
So all in all a very healthy dish to make for dinner, its just full of beneficial veggies, lentils, herbs and lots of garlic to boost the immune system and add lots of flavour!
We had this served with a big pile of creamy mashed potatoes and steamed green beans and Jenna used the leftovers by adding more mushrooms, stock and potato and blending it to a smooth velvety pink delicious soup!
We never waste food at Nourished by Nature!!
So here is the recipe, please leave a comment if you try it!
Ingredients Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
4 cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
8 to 10 small cooked beets, quartered or fresh beetroot peeled and diced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into dice
4 bay leaves
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
250 ml red wine
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 cup (200g) small dark lentils, rinsed and drained
handful of mushrooms, halved (optional)
....your health in your hands.....
It's been so cold recently but I'm loving the crisp, frosty days! I've had to bring Grace my wee chicken into the house since the temperature has been -7C the past two nights! I'd never forgive myself if she froze to death!! She has been happily eating porridge for breakfast with coconut oil, raisins, sweetcorn and sunflower seeds and washing it down with a good glug of kombucha, which she loves! She is a discerning chicken for sure!
Anyway I thought I'd share another of my favourite soup recipes, which is just the job for lunch on a freezing cold day! This one is adapted from a macrobiotic recipe, acquired during my studies to become a macrobiotic health coach, which I am, but I find the macrobiotic way too bland and restrictive for my liking, so I adapt the recipes to suit my taste!
So mung beans are very small dark green beans, mostly eaten as beansprouts here but they are also delicious cooked! Like all beans, mungbeans are packed with fibre, protein and minerals with major benefits for our health. They lend themselves very well to soup and make a pleasing change to the more common lentils, which most of us are familiar with.
I do think its wise to introduce new foods, most of us have a limited repertoire of recipes and sometimes get stuck in a boring food rut, which is where Nourished by Nature comes in!
I never cook or eat boring or bland food, life is too short for that, I embrace all the wonderful natural flavours and enjoy vibrant good health as a result!
Soup is one of the easiest things to make, and the varieties are endless! It's just such a brilliant way of sneaking more veggies and wholegrains into the diet.
One of my favourite things is a big bowl of steaming hot soup, served with a slice of home made sourdough bread!
The simple things are sometimes the best...
Most supermarkets and natural food stores stock mungbeans and they keep for ages.
So this soup is thick, nourishing, tomatoey, flavoursome and stick to your ribs delicious!
Here is my recipe
MIGHTY MUNGBEAN & TOMATO SOUP
1 cup of mungbeans (approx 200g)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 glug of rapeseed oil
1 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely diced
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 leek, finely sliced
1 courgette, diced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 litre vegetable stock (Marigold or Kallo are good)
freshly ground black pepper
....your health in your hands......
My daughter Jenna made this chocolatey fruit and nut concoction a few weeks ago and I can't tell you how deliciously moreish it was!!
So I obviously had to make a batch myself!
We chocolate lovers can delight in the knowledge that good quality high cocoa solids chocolate is incredibly good for us! It contains antioxidants with heart protective qualities, phenylethylamine, an amphetamine like compound which acts as a natural mood enhancer along with magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and B vitamins.
All of that considered, dark chocolate just doesn't have the same creamy mouthfeel as milk chocolate, even though most of us are aware that milk chocolate doesn't have any of the benefits of dark chocolate and has lots of refined sugar!
So this recipe, adapted from The New Vegan by Aine Carlin, one of my favourite vegan authors actually manages to combine all the health benefits of dark chocolate with a lovely texture and creamy mouthfeel, due to one of my favourite ingredients....tahini!
Tahini is made from sesame seeds, its packed with calcium and magnesium and its alkaline so easy for the body to absorb. It's so versatile and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.
We literally use it every day!!
The other healthy ingredients in this delightful sweet are hazelnuts, goji berries and apricots, coconut oil and a good pinch of Himalyan sea salt.
With thoughts turning to Christmas, this could be made quite festive with the addition of cranberries and a teaspoon of mixed spice or cinnamon and maybe some orange zest! It really is good enough to give as a gift.
I will most definitely be making this again before Christmas.
It is perfect with an after dinner coffee or in fact any time you happen to pass the fridge!
It will keep happily for a fortnight in aforementioned fridge but not in our house! It's literally gone in a few days max!!
So here is the recipe.....
CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE SLICE
100g bar of dark chocolate
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown rice syrup
large pinch of himalyan sea salt
30 g hazelnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
30g apricots, raisins or cranberries
1 tablespoon goji berries(optional)
cocoa powder for dusting
I am a big fan of all things fermented and brew my own kombucha, make coconut kefir, ferment veggies and most recently bake my own sourdough bread. That is almost like another wee family to look after, these are all living organisms and need to be fed and looked after if they are to thrive and multiply.
That is pretty much the complete spectrum of naturally fermented foods and drinks and I am sure my gut bacteria are plentiful and happy and I reap the benefits!
The wonderful thing about all these cultures is that they grow and multiply, if they are looked after correctly, so you can give some away and what a gift to give someone!
I have shared kefir grains with many people who are now happily making their own and given a few Scobys to those brave enough to brew their own kombucha! Scobys are rather horrible looking things but they make the most delicious, health affirming drink from sweetened green tea!
Happy Kombucha sell a wonderful range of all things for fermenting your own foods and drinks and I'd highly recommend them for kefir grains, scobies, equipment, bottles and everything else you need. You can find them here
I was talking at The Good Food Show last week on all things fermented and had a lot of interest in fermented veggies, the easiest to prepare yourself, since no special cultures are needed, its just sea salt, veggies and flavourings!
I had a few requests for a good Kimchi recipe, which is the Asian equivalent of sauerkraut.
Napa or Chinese Cabbage is the main ingredient which have more delicate leaves than other types of cabbage and lend themselves well to Kimchi!
Kimchi has way more flavour than sauerkraut, its spicy and delicious, flavoured with ginger, garlic and chile pepper flakes but not for the faint hearted!! You can adjust the amount of chilli if you prefer less spicy food!
Traditionally vegetables were fermented to preserve them, in the days before fridges, freezers and chemicals! Magic happens when veggies are fermented naturally, the vitamin C content shoots up markedly, beneficial bacteria are produced, gut healing compounds are formed and the immune system is given a tremendous boost!
When you compare how the food industry preserves food, it invariably involves heating to high temperatures, which kills any pathogenic bacteria but also all the beneficial ones!! Next is a wide array of chemicals, none of them with any benefit to you whatsoever and most of them are detrimental to your good gut bacteria and are linked with all sorts of allergies and health issues, so we essentially end up with a food which is less healthy than we started with!!
It just makes more sense nutritionally to go back to the way things were done traditionally when preserving foods resulted in a healthier and more nutritious product.
All we need to preserve food naturally is salt and some patience! A lot of the so called advances in food production are about speeding up natural processes since time is money and if we want cheap food, there is plenty of choice, but at what cost to our health.....?
Killing off beneficial bacteria is extremely detrimental to health, and, as mentioned previously the use of chemicals is further depleting our good gut bacteria, resulting in a huge increase in chronic disease, gut issues, digestive problems, skin problems, allergies, autoimmune diseases, cancer and pretty much every other health issue you can name!
So at Nourished by Nature, natural processes are followed, using the best quality ingredients, preferably organic, free from chemicals and using traditional health affirming methods!
For anyone seriously interested in fermenting vegetables I can highly recommend the book
Fermented Vegetables by Kirsten & Christopher Shockey.
Its a great book with recipes for Krauts, Kimchis, Chutneys & Relishes, using every vegetable imaginable!
Traditional kimchi involves an additional brining step which makes it a much longer process so I prefer this simpler but equally beneficial method. You need to use napa or chinese cabbage, not the hard white variety, which is used for sauerkraut. Try to eat a spoonful every day, its great on a wrap or sandwich or as a side to any hot dish!
It's the best form of medicine, packed with beneficial bacteria, gut healing compounds, anti inflammatory and antibacterial benefits from the ginger and garlic, tons of minerals from the seaweed and loads of vitamin C to boost the immune system!
So here is my favourite Kimchi recipe
1 head of napa or chinese cabbage, chopped
3 carrots, grated
1 large daikon radish, grated or a cup of small red radishes, finely sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup of dulse seaweed flakes (I use Mara seaweed flakes)
1 tablespoon chile pepper flakes (or less if you prefer it less fiery!)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons good quality sea salt (himalyan salt is good)
1 teaspoon of tamari sauce (or fish sauce if you are not vegan)
1. Simply mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl and let it sit for 30 minutes.
2. Pack the mixture into a large glass mason jar or 2 smaller jars. Press it down firmly.
3. Top with a water filled ziplock bag to keep oxygen out and keep the veggies submerged under the brine.
4. Put the lid on loosely and set aside to ferment for at least 3 days. Taste it after 3 days and decide whether it tastes sour enough. Its a matter of personal taste so just keep trying it until you like it!
5. Once you are happy with the flavour you can store the kimchi in the fridge where it will keep happily for months, if it lasts that long!!
. .....your health in your hands.....
A healthy lifestyle blog with green living tips, plant-based recipes and natural health magic.