Mid-Week Mash & Beans

 
I’m always striving to make dinner time easy. I love (adore, am obsessed with) cooking but sometimes I do like recipes that require minimal effort … and I know you guys are into these too, so here’s one I really think you’ll enjoy. Not any old ‘Mash & Beans’ (although my penchant for spuds and a spoonful or two of Heinz’s finest will never diminish) but a rather more upgraded version in the form of sweet potato mash and pesto coated cannellini beans – de.lish. And whilst I always have one eye on the ‘balanced meal’ meter, the ingredients here are merely a happy accident because it’s basically what I happened to have in the fridge. In my opinion the best meals are often borne out of necessity anyway.

 

I would eek this post out further having just watched the first episode of Michael Pollan’s ‘Cooked’ series on Netflix but I think I’ll let my thoughts simmer for a while longer on that – although, what is with the whole ‘let’s break the veggie and get the evidence on camera’ melarkey? Always such a low, disappointing blow especially from someone I actually really admire. Hey ho.  

 

We’re also in the midst of moving and even though we’re actually pretty organised this time (and only have a miniscule distance to travel – major novelty) I’m still feeling a wee bit (read massively) stressed – particularly now that I’ve learnt our soon-to-be landlord went against our wishes and painted the living room grey, meaning we’ll be spending the first few days with paint brushes in our hands. Wonderful. Seriously, the sooner we own our place the better – I’m getting too old for this nonsense. Anywho. Mash ‘n’ Beans. Here’s the recipe.

 

what you’ll need

 

for the mash

1 sweet potato

2 carrots

sea salt

extra virgin olive oil

 

for the beans

1 small white onion

1 x 400g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 large garlic clove

juice 1 x lemon

pinch of oregano

2 tbsp vegan pesto

handful of roughly chopped spinach

sea salt and pepper

flat leaf parsley

 

to serve

griddled cherry tomatoes

 

what you’ll do

peel and slice the sweet potato and carrots, season with salt, cover with water, bring to a boil and then simmer until soft … about 15-20 minutes. drain, season, drizzle over some evoo and roughly mash … it really doesn’t matter if some lumps remain. keep warm on a low heat until needed.

 

heat a little olive oil in a pan. finely chop the onion and add to pan. season with salt and sweat until translucent. finely slice the garlic and add to pan. gently cook until its aromas begin to exude (and ensuring it doesn’t brown) before squeezing over the lemon juice. saute gently until completely soft.

 

add the drained and rinsed beans to the pan, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the oregano and gently heat through. add the pesto and about a 1/4 cup of water and gently heat. add the spinach to the pan, cover and allow it to wilt. check for seasoning before serving.

 

divide the mash and beans between two bowls and top with a few lightly griddled cherry tomatoes. finish with a smattering of finely chopped flat leaf parsley and a final drizzle of olive oil and/or spritz of lemon juice.

 

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Beetroot & Fava Bean Dip


 
With all-too familiar regularity, this Tuesday slump (as it shall henceforth be known) has reared its ugly head once again. It’s weird because I was feeling so sprightly yesterday – new week, new possibilities – but that initial enthusiasm has now been replaced with doubt, panic and all those other lovely emotions that go towards making us basically feel like crap. I think I mentioned in a vlog (oh yeah, I have YouTube channel) I made just before Christmas that I try to quash these anxieties with distraction tactics … making a cup of coffee (which, generally only serves to make me more jittery, so I’ve since switched to green tea), cleaning (there is certainly plenty of that to be getting on with – trust!) and watching endless hours of youtube vids because I’m a nosey parker and love to see what people eat in day. Once I’ve exhausted that little loop and I’m once again left with my own thoughts (and impending deadlines) I find myself wondering what I want out of life … yep, I’m a zero-to-a-hundred kinda gal and ‘the bigger picture’ is always (like a relentless whirring cog) on my mind. Of course, this approach tends to mean you aren’t always living in the present … something I am seriously guilty of. Not one for ‘settling’ or simply ‘being content’ I frequently have the bit between my teeth (pardon the non-vegan expression) quite a lot of time – not just work related, I might add. Like most people I dream of owning my own home, being able to travel more, enjoy more security in my career and maybe, just maybe, start a family at some point too … in my thirties so that clock is ticking loud and clear. These aren’t unobtainable dreams and we’re (my Husband and I) working towards achieving these life-goals all the time, however, in-between I often have to remind myself to enjoy the moment – heck, not just enjoy it but savour it. Remembering that I am, in fact, incredibly lucky (sometimes I need reminding) although seeing as everything is relative I still get caught up in everyday stresses and that definitely erodes my overall happiness.

 

Okay, so being pro-active is very much a part of the plan, and for me, plans usually start with food. Recently my focus has shifted ever so slightly in my vegan journey, as I become more and more fascinated with the raw food movement – which, is slightly ironic given the fact this recipe is so not raw. Stay with me. The power food has on our overall health (mental and physical) is really quite fascinating and as I’ve gradually erred away from food that ultimately doesn’t make me feel good (basically any shop-bought biscuits, breads, sugary yogurts, faux meats etc. which, I hasten to add, make up only a very small portion of my overall diet) I now continually question my choices to see if they comfortably fit into my current lifestyle. Luckily I’m always drawn to fresh fruit, big salad bowls, smoothies and anything that is 100% ‘natural’ and wholesome.

 

Having done quite a bit of research though, and knowing my own body, I know that 100% raw is absolutely not for me but I’d really like to find a way of upping my raw intake and decreasing my cooked food but not in a rigid ‘raw-till-4’ type way. I think being flexible will be key because I know sometimes I’ll fancy soup at lunchtime (homemade, of course!) but then maybe reach for a large, bountiful salad at dinner. Being overly dogmatic about calories and whatnot is not my thing (like, soooo not my thing) so again, I’ll be listening to my body when it comes to how much fat, protein and carbs I actually want to consume but yeah, I definitely think I can shimmy those about a bit to suit my needs – side note: 80/10/10 would not work for me either.  Equally, I don’t think totally eliminating certain foods from my lifestyle would be a good move for me or my Husband … and besides, tofu and beans are superb sources of protein (and not to be feared), which I consume regularly and totally love.

 

Likewise, grains – love ’em. Couldn’t (wouldn’t want to) live without ’em. Because yeah, taste, flavour, and all the stuff that surrounds ‘food’ (aside from its ‘fuel’ properties) is also really important to me. Who wants to be isolated in their eating? Not me. I like to create a mood where food is shared and enjoyed – this is so crucial to my vegan lifestyle and one that will encourage others to also embark on this journey … because, let’s face it, it’s lonely enough out there, and without the support of friends and family it can be nigh on impossible. Food is culture. Food is family. Food is joy. Food is everything. So when we make it this solitary endeavour we are missing out on so much. I’m not up for spending my life dining alone or just with my Husband – I want to make (and eat) great food that everyone will rave about (not just vegans) plus I want the freedom to be able to eat out at restaurants and cafes occasionally too. These are my current thoughts – I’ve not exactly put anything into practice just yet, I’m simply toying with ideas, recipes, philosophies and my own bizarre little mind. For now though, I’m happy to indulge in a little extra virgin olive oil action – drizzled over this fava bean dip with a few scattered pomegranate seeds for added sweetness, it is sheer heaven. Hand me a crudite, I’m goin’ in.

 

what you’ll need

1 x 400g can Hodmedod’s Fava Beans

1 x small cooked beetroot (about 50g)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 heaped tbsp tahini

juice 1/2 lemon

3tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp water

1 small garlic clove

pink himalayan salt

black pepper

 

to serve

ground cumin

hemp seeds

pomegranate seeds

extra virgin olive oil

 

what you’ll do

drain and rinse the fava beans and add to a processor along with the beetroot, cumin, tahini, lemon juice, a pinch of pink himalayan salt and some freshly ground black pepper. blend until it forms a rough puree.

 

mince the garlic with a little salt until completely smooth before adding to processor. whilst blending drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil – add the water to loosen the mixture slightly.

 

once you have achieved the desired consistency, transfer to a shallow bowl or plate and swirl with the back back of a spoon to form a groove in the dip.

 

serve with a smattering of hemp and pomegranate seeds, a dusting of cumin and a final drizzle of evoo.

 

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(Almost raw) Cinnamon Chocolate Slice

 

I almost didn’t post this recipe … not because it’s not delicious but because I often play around in the kitchen with similarly yummy results but for whatever many and varied reasons never get around to blogging about it. However, with that ‘New Year, New Me’ mantra still swirling around my head I’m determined to change that pattern, and even though (again) I’m not entirely happy with the images, they’re passable enough to warrant a post. I definitely deserve the ‘over-thinkers achievement award’, don’t you agree?

 

Brasil nuts are a new fav of mine when it comes to raw (or almost raw) desserts, particularly (especially!) for the base. The texture is almost sponge-like when ground and their wonderfully mild flavour ensures the chocolate ganache remains the star of the show – sprinkled with a little cinnamon, it is sure to blow yer socks off. In fact, I’ve been making a conscious effort to buy less and less processed food (yes, even us vegans fall into the convenience trap) and this is where raw desserts really come into their own. For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a bliss ball or raw slice – it satiates that nagging sweet tooth and gnawing pre-dinner hunger in one fell swoop, with the added bonus that your blood sugar levels don’t sky rocket meaning you’re less likely to falter before your evening meal. Our usual routine usually involves a cup of tea with a slice of something at around 6pm because we don’t eat until 9pm, which I know sounds crazy to some people but it’s just normality to us – basically, we are night owls and we eek out every second of our evenings together.

 

I say this is ‘almost raw’ because I’ve added a heaped tablespoon of coconut milk/water (the canned variety) but if you want to skip that part and swap out the agave addition for something else then feel free – any kind of vegan syrup would also work but I do like the lift it gives the ganache in addition to the palm sugar. Just my preference but you may want to ‘rawify’ it a little further – totally up to you.

 

My urge to purge the last few ‘processed’ items currently in my cupboards and fridge has arisen again after taking a bit of hiatus. Like most people, this miserable Winter weather had me reaching for comfort foods like cookies and whatnot but with Spring (almost) in the air, my body is already telling me to ditch the oreos and replace them with something a little less toxic. Don’t get me wrong, when Ben & Jerry’s finally release their dairy ice-creams I’ll be the first in line to sample the delights but until then I’ll be dining out on slightly healthier desserts like this. I hope you’ll join me too!

 

what you’ll need

for the crust

1 cup brazil nuts

3 medjool dates

1/2 tbsp coconut oil

pinch of pink himalayan salt

 

for the topping

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 heaped tbsp coconut palm sugar

1 heaped tbsp raw cacao

1 tbsp coconut cream

1 tbsp coconut water

1 tbsp agave or other vegan sweetener

generous pinch of cinnamon salt (available from the Cornish Sea Salt Co.)

or a pinch of regular sea salt mixed with grated or ground cinnamon

 

what you’ll do

place the brazil nuts in the blender and blitz to a fine meal. stone the dates and add to the processor along with the coconut oil and pink himalayan salt. blitz until it form a fine rubble before transferring to a lined tin. press firmly with the back of a spoon or spatula and refrigerate for at least an hour.

 

melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan and add the palm sugar. allow it to slowly dissolve before adding the cacao. whisk vigorously until combined … don’t worry if it still looks a bit grainy at this stage. add the coconut cream, coconut water, agave and salt, and whisk again until smooth – you can do this over a very low heat to loosen the mixture.

 

pour over the brazil nut crust and spread out using a spatula. garnish with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon salt.

 

refrigerate for several hours (or ideally overnight) until set. slice and serve … this dessert is quite rich so a small serving will suffice.

 

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Oat Milk ‘n’ Honesty


 

Hey folks, I feel like it’s been a while since we had a proper catch up. So much has happened in the past six months I almost don’t know where to begin and even though I’ve been posting reasonably regularly I guess I do hold back sometimes on the personal stuff … I am the master of talking in riddles it would seem. With that said, here’s what’s happening in my life right now – beginning with oat milk.
 

Okay, the ‘oat milk’ (as lovely as it is) is more of a segue into how I’m feeling about the blog at the moment. Basically, I’m procrastinating way too much before posting, which invariably means I just don’t – I have many excuses ranging from ‘the photos aren’t good enough’ through to ‘haven’t I done a similar recipe before?’ or ‘what exactly am I trying to say in this post?’… the list goes on and on. And yes, I see the awesome work other bloggers are doing right now and I feel my efforts are basically crap in comparison. Ego’s are delicate little things and mine is no different … let’s just say, social media is both a blessing and curse. To counteract this (self-inflicted) negativity, I’ve tried to limit my ‘follows’ to only those who inspire me. In essence, I’ve basically deleted any and all that make me feel like a total ‘daily’ failure – guess what, this strategy actually works. If someone is totally bumming you out with their ‘perfect life’ – whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, press unfollow immediately and swiftly get on with your day, safe in the knowledge their next upload won’t inevitably end up making you question your entire life choices to date. Simples.

 

The thing about social media is that you are basically in control of what you see, so if you surround yourself with people (virtually speaking) that trigger the worst in you then eliminate their presence from your life. For the sake of your sanity, click that ‘unfollow’ button, CLICK IT! Ahem.

 

We’ve established I want to blog more frequently – and, more importantly, not fret over my uploads too much. Yes, it’s just oat milk but it’s such a handy recipe to have up your sleeve … and the pulp makes for one heck of a shake – think Ed’s Diner (pre-vegan memories) without the guilt – my fav combo is oat milk (plus pulp), banana, raw cacao, pb, maca and medjool dates. Pretty much everything I post here is something I’ve eaten and enjoyed, meaning it hasn’t been designed specifically for the blog. Remember, real life is so much better than a carefully constructed internet presence, which leads me nicely onto my favourite recent vlog/blog find, Mango Island Mamma. Um, hello?!! Why has nobody told me about this gal before? *raps collective internet knuckles* What a totally awesome chick – so content and sure of herself, and completely down to earth with it. Raising two adorable bambinos on a mostly raw vegan diet – I salute you missus, and I can confirm I’m now your newest number one fan. If, like me, you are tired of the usual internet rubbish and need something to truly feed your soul, go check out her blog and youtube channel … mahalo.

 

The next thing weighing on my mind is our current flat hunting crisis – perhaps crisis is an exaggeration but I’m certainly starting to panic. Our landlord is selling the house we’re currently renting, which means we are yet again on the move. Almost twelve years together and the longest we’ve lived anywhere is two years … I can tell you it takes its toll. So far, so bad on the flat hunting front meant I was even willing to rid myself of most of my furniture (even the stuff that genuinely ‘sparks joy’) just so we could feasibly fit inside the only decent property we viewed. It ticked so many boxes (great kitchen, high spec finish, good location, amazing seaviews etc.) but was unfortunately the size of a shoebox. Given the fact I work from home most days meant that it was only a matter of time before I went stir crazy – and that is definitely not a pretty sight. My Husband was so desperate, however, he even suggested we sell the sofa (my indigo L-shaped mid-centuryesque pride and joy… uh, hell no!) and ‘downsize’ to fit the flat. Basically, not happening. I don’t doubt we’ll find somewhere suitable (patience is key) but in the meantime I’m left feeling (reeling?) in limbo – sat in a house I no longer feel is ‘ours’ and not knowing what the future holds … and how much it’ll cost.

 

Of course, all this pales in comparison when I think about what my poor Dad is going through. Eighteenth months on and he’s still battling but it breaks my heart (and maddens in equal measure) to see what cancer can do to a person even when they have all the will in the world to live. I think feeling totally helpless is natural but the guilt that comes with living in another country is also difficult to bear … we do what we can but my Mum is the one that has to deal with it on a daily basis. It’s honestly incredible how well she has coped – they are both superstars in my eyes, and I feel lucky everyday to have such an incredible family. My Sister and I have been afforded every possible opportunity in life, which is all credit to my parents … we were always encouraged to follow our dreams and without that kind of unflinching support I know we’d be in very, very different careers. Creativity has always been at the crux of our family unit – it’s the only language we understand, and what a privilege that has been. How many people are in jobs they hate because their parents held them back whereas ours said ‘reality be damned, aim for the stars’ – but get your degree too, haha. That’s the thing, as sad as we are about my Dad’s illness we haven’t spent a lot of time brooding on it – when we’re together, we laugh, chat, eat (my family are currently all plant-based nommers), do all the things we normally would. Perhaps it’s the elephant in the room but we never really dwell on the negatives and instead focus on everything we’ve achieved … the prognosis was grim but we’ve beaten those odds and then some. Like I said to my Dad when the surgeon delivered the worst news we’ll ever hear, it’s not all doom and gloom – and I stand by that, I really do.

 

Apologies for getting so heavy on you guys but I thought you should know where I’m at right now. This has always been a ‘safe space’ for me and will continue to be so – in my opinion, honesty is always the best policy. Let’s brighten the vibe then and get back to what I arguably do best … simple, plant-based fodder that makes you smile. Onwards.

 

what you’ll need

1 cup jumbo rolled oats

pinch of pink himalayan salt

1/2 tbsp agave or 1 tbsp maple syrup (or 2 medjool dates)

 

what you’ll do

add the oats to a blender along with 2 cups of water (3 if you prefer a thinner consistency) along with the pink himalayan salt and agave.

 

blitz until smooth and then strain through a nut milk bag.

 

chill for at least an hour and serve.

 

perfect in porridge, poured over cereals or into coffee – or it’s own!

 

 

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