Sweet Potato Soup with Chia & Linseed

You can’t beat a good soup and one packed with nutrients is even better. This creation combines wholesome sweet potato with healthy garlic and flavoursome onions. It is incredibly simple to prepare and can easily be done whilst you multi-task during a busy evening at home! The thyme is the secret weapon in this delicious soup and really brings a splash of extra flavour. Many people prefer to peel sweet potatoes before they use them in cooking but the skins are actually a fantastic source of nutrients such as fiber and potassium. So for this recipe I advise that you keep the skins on to get that extra dose of goodness into your meal! Add to that the amazing health benefits of chia seeds and linseeds  and you can’t go wrong. To make enough for two people, acquire the following ingredients.

IMG_1912Ingredients

Two medium sized sweet potatoes

One large onion

Five cloves of garlic, finely sliced

A bunch of thyme

Two carrots

Two cups of vegetable stock

Chia seeds

Linseeds

Salt and pepper to taste

Coconut oil

sweet_potato_soup_chia_linseed_the_flexi_foodie2

So to start, slice your onion and cut your sweet potatoes into manageable chunks. Then fry the onions and garlic in coconut oil over a medium heat. After two or three minutes add the sweet potato in too. Leave this to heat for ten or so minutes, remembering to stir every now and then to prevent anything from burning.

Next, take the bunch of thyme and finely chop it. It is more than likely that the thyme won’t get totally broken down during the blending process so the better you chop it now, the less time you will have to spend sieving later! You can also take this opportunity to chop the carrots.

sweet_potato_soup_chia_linseed_the_flexi_foodie3If your ten minutes has passed then you can move the garlic, onion and sweet potato into a large pot with two cups of water and two cups of vegetable stock. Add in the carrots and boil the pot for a further ten minutes, then reduce the heat to simmer. Leave it on a low heat for twenty minutes to really soften the sweet potato up before removing from the heat, chucking in the thyme and blitzing with the blender.

sweet_potato_soup_chia_linseed_the_flexi_foodie4

Once you’ve got as fine a soup as you can manage, leave on a low heat for ten to fifteen minutes before passing through your sieve. Then simply serve into two bowls, garnish with chia seeds and linseeds before you enjoy!

Artichoke and Lentil Salad with Raspberry Dressing

This dish is amazing for all round nutrition as it combines fruits, vegetables and legumes in one delicious creation. The inclusion of maple syrup in the dressing gives it an extra nourishing kick and because this meal doesn’t take long to make, it is the perfect choice after a tiring day at work! When I’ve had a long day teaching yoga and then running the kids around after school, this is one of my first choices as it means less time between getting in the door and filling everyone up! The raspberry dressing is a great fit for most salad dishes and if maple syrup isn’t to your tastes then it can be swapped out in equal measure with any other natural sweetener!

To feed two people you will need the following ingredients and just double up for a family of four!

One cup of puy lentils

Pink Himalayan salt

Two cups of kale

50 grams of raspberries

One lemon

Apple cider vinegar

Maple syrup

Olive oil

One cup of pre-cooked artichoke

One red onion

Half a cup of sun-dried tomatoes

maybe

It’s always best to soak puy lentils before you use them. Upwards of four hours will do the trick but if you want to leave them soaking in the fridge overnight then that’s great too. Once your lentils have been soaked, boil them in a pan with two cups of water and a dash of salt.

maybe8

As soon as this pan is heating up, chuck your kale into a separate pan with three cups of water and boil. Next, in a jug or mixing bowl take your raspberries and blend them with one teaspoon of lemon juice, two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons of maple syrup, one tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of water. Sieve this mixture and place in the fridge for now.

maybe7

After approximately 10 – 15 minutes your kale and lentils should be cooked. So the next step is to transfer the kale into cold water to cool down and then drain the lentils before returning to the pan (with the heat turned off). Finely dice your red onion and mix with half a cup of sun-dried tomatoes into the pan of lentils. Once the kale is cooled it can also be added into the pan with the lentils, onion and sun-dried tomatoes. Your meal is now ready to serve so spoon onto two plates, drain the artichokes before you add them and finally take your raspberry dressing from the fridge to drip on as required.

Green Acai Berry Bowl

Green Smoothies were all the rage last year but for 2014, there’s a new Superhero in town called the BOWL!  Yup, the bowl is prettier and can be decorated easier than a boring glass.  So, here’s a twist on the smoothie:  The Green Acai Berry Bowl.  And trust me, it’s much easier to get your kids to eat this when it’s in a bowl and decorated with pure goodness.

IMG_1314It’s so quick and easy to make so grab yourself these ingredients:

1 banana (frozen is good if you want it nice and cold!)

1/2 cup coconut water

3 dates (pitted)

1 pear

large handful of spinach

1 teaspoon of acai powder (or more if you fancy!)

For the topping:

Well, you can add just about anything you like.  For this post, I added blueberries, coconut flakes and bee pollen!  Yum!

The acai berry is one of the healthiest berries you will ever find!  This antioxidant-rich fruit has been tooted for centuries as a healing, immune-stimulating, energy-boosting fruit.  Hurray!  A foreign relative of the blueberry and cranberry, studies have shown that this antioxidant-rich berry may be able to help in the prevention of diseases associated with oxidative damage, not to mention many other health benefits like digestion and weight loss!  I’m all over this berry……Enjoy!

IMG_1316

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Oils?

Oil can be a big problem to dieters and it is something that I recommend all of my clients try to use less off if they are trying to lose those last 5 – 10 pounds. The harsh reality is that cooking oils are highly processed using manufacturing methods that are highly destructive to oil molecules.

According to Udo Erasmus, author of the book Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill, oils are typically pressed or solvent extracted from seeds and nuts, using a process where they are de-gummed, refined, bleached, and deodorized. The thing about this process that many people don’t realize is that valuable ‘minor ingredients’ including antioxidants, phytosterols, chlorophyll, flavor molecules, color molecules, lecithin, and other oil-soluble beneficial molecules are removed too.

how_do_you_solve_a_problem_like_oils_theflexifoodieWhat we just discussed applies to the cooking oils you may purchase in a store, or find in packaged food, or consume in French fries from a fast food restaurant. But what about when you cook at home with something like olive oil? Unfortunately, olive oil has a fatty acid composition (largely Omega-9) that’s NOT highly resistant to high heat. Meaning, its structure gets damaged and becomes partially toxic when cooked at high heat. It is also not a whole food anymore. Olives are whole foods found in nature, but olive oil is processed, with the oil separated from the fiber and rest of the whole food that it came from. While it may not be as bad as common cooking oil, olive oil is far from the ideal solution to cooking with oil. So what’s the answer?

While this fat trigger is everywhere – from cooking oil, to packaged foods, used at restaurants and more – there are some simple steps you can take to avoid it.

First, stop cooking with oil. I know that may seem radical, but it’s possible to steam your vegetables or cook grains without using oil. You can even stir fry your vegetables lightly with water or vegetable broth in a “non-toxic” non-stick pan to avoid using oil. Then, if you want a little oil with your food, you can add it later. This way, you’re enjoying the food you want, without denaturing and making the oil toxic in the process.how_do_you_solve_a_problem_like_oils_theflexifoodie2

Another option is to ONLY cook with coconut oil, which is composed largely of medium-chain fatty acids that don’t denature the same way polyunsaturated oils do. This is especially important if you must fry something or cook at high heat. It’s unarguably better to use coconut oil than cooking at high heat with a less stable vegetable oil that will break down more readily.

The third and final option is perhaps the most radical, but worth considering. It is simply to give up oils all together if you really want to lose those last 5-10 pounds. For instance, I watch the amount of oils I consume – I find that it’s too easy to overdo fat when using them, and I don’t think they’re fundamentally necessary. When I do cook with oil, it’s always coconut oil.

how_do_you_solve_a_problem_like_oils_theflexifoodie4When I want some healthy fats in my diet, I”ll have a small avocado, or some whole nuts and seeds. Or perhaps a little coconut meat. Even the dressings I make and recommend to clients are oil-free.

Whatever option you choose here, the most important thing is that you reduce this fat trigger to the best of your ability and when you do cook, use small amounts of coconut oil instead or water. You’ll automatically reduce your intake of empty calories, detox faster, feel lighter, improve your digestion, reduce acne or skin blemishes, shed weight, and just plain feel better.

Blue Ballet Squash Boats with Black Rice, Swiss Chard and Cranberries

Oh, how I LOVE autumn! Because with autumn comes so many delicious and amazing varieties of squash! It’s so much fun going into Whole Foods and seeing the shelves covered with the brightly coloured squashes so when I saw this Blue Ballet Squash sticking out amongst the red, orange and yellow varieties, I knew I had to have it!

P1050438

I mean, look at how gorgeous this Blue Ballet Squash is!  I nearly didn’t cut it up and was thinking about having it for decoration.  My four kids even thought it was the coolest looking vegetable they’d ever seen.

P1050407

I don’t think we all actually realise what  a power house of a food squash really is.  I mean, look at its size – these guys are big players in the game of well-being.  They’re like the big linebackers on an American football team. Plus, they simply are delicious!

P1050422Although winter squash has long been recognized as an important food source of carotenoids, only recently have research studies documented just how fantastic winter squash can be when it comes to these key antioxidants. For some groups of study participants, winter squash turns out to be the primary food source of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene in the entire diet! For lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-cryptoxanthin (three other health-supportive carotenoids) winter squash also comes out among the top three food sources in several studies.

P1050443

And don’t forget about the SEEDS!  Seeds from winter squash make a great snack food, just like pumpkin seeds. If you scoop the pulp and seeds from inside the squash and separate out the seeds, you can place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and lightly roast them at 160-170°F (about 75°C) in the oven for 15-20 minutes. By roasting them for a relatively short time at a low temperature you can help minimize damage to their healthy oils. Linoleic acid (the polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid) and oleic acid (the same monounsaturated fatty acid that is plentiful in olive oil) account for about 75% of the fat found in the seeds.

P1050433

So this lovely, quick and easy recipe serves four.  Here’s what you’ll need:

1 large ballet blue squash (or another type of round winter squash will do just fine!)

A large bunch of Swiss chard

1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

1 cup black rice

2/3 cup dried cranberries

2/3 cup brown lentils

1 tsp. black mustard seeds

1 Tbsp. coconut oil

Sea salt and black pepper

P1050423

Heat the oven to 180C and cut the squash into four boats.  Remove the seeds and save them for later!  You’ll want to roast them for a delicious snack!  Place the squash into the oven and let them back for app. 20-25 minutes or until the flesh is beautifully bright orange and soft!

Bring two and a 1/2 cups of water to the boil, add the black rice and reduce to simmer until all the water is absorbed.  Rinse then let it cool.  Next, melt the coconut oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds.  This is a great way to really fragrant the lentils.  Allow the mustard seeds to start popping to release their flavour and then add the lentils and just enough water to cover 1cm above the lentils.  Again, bring the bowl and then let simmer until all the water has been absorbed.  Then, mix the cooked lentils in with the black rice.

P1050429

Coarsely chop the Swiss chard and steam for seven minutes or boil for two minutes.  Again, add to the black rice/lentil bowl along with the cranberries and toasted pine nuts.  Season with sea salt and black pepper and scoop a large dollop onto each of the boats so that they are overflowing with goodness!  And voila, you have the most gorgeous looking, delicious tasting, nutrient dense meal for a cold autumn night!

P1050471

tibits; A Buffet with a Difference

I recently checked out tibits, a vegetarian restaurant and bar, and I absolutely loved it. Tibits offer a wide variety of vegetarian buffet food, which makes it the perfect place to dine out if you’re not quite sure what you want to eat yet! It’s brilliant for splurging or scrimping on the pennies too – it can cost as little or as much as you want. With a twist on the more conventional buffet idea, the protocol here is to select what you want from the range of dishes, take your plate up to the counter to be placed on a scale and then pay for your meal depending on the weight. It’s a pretty novel system but I thought it was great!

tibits_a_buffet_with_a_difference_the_flexifoodie (4)The buffet is apparently changed daily, and each option is helpfully labeled so that you can distinguish between the vegetarian, vegan and gluten free food. If you don’t eat meat or dairy and you’ve ever tried to dine at a regular buffet, then you’ll understand just how much easier and enjoyable this makes your dining experience. I liked the fact that there is a great selection of organic wines and beers on offer, as well as the typical fresh juices and hot drinks.

tibits_a_buffet_with_a_difference_theflexifoodieRight now there are some amazing autumn specials on the menu, such as the Onde con Funghi al Tartufo (a mushroom pasta dish) and the Focaccia Mexicana pizza, both of which are delicious! I always think the dessert is the most important part of a meal though and the dessert menu here was a treat.  The selection of sweet dishes on the list is fantastic, and with the desserts being vegan I couldn’t be happier. Needless to say, I’ll be bringing all 4 of my kids along next time for the sticky toffee pudding! The staff at tibits are really child friendly as well, great for people like me who want both quality food and good service for their kids (a rare find).

tibits_a_buffet_with_a_difference_the_flexifoodie (2)The location for Tibits is great for me as I pass through central London often. I find the problem with a lot of restaurants in this part of town is that they’re overly busy with minimal seating – not the best for sitting down with friends or for having kids running underfoot. It’s the complete opposite at tibits – as you walk down from Regent Street, Heddon Street is a blissful sea of calm away from the mad flow of tourists.

Inside the restaurant, everything is decorated to give a cheerful atmosphere, and I’d recommend it as a good spot to meet friends for lunch or for a relaxed evening meal. Tibits also offers a take away option! I’ve often wanted to grab a vegan snack as I pass through central London and seeing that all their hot food is vegan, this is ideal – it’s practically open all day. I also saw that they have “vegan day” events that are every eleven days, details on their website www.tibits.co.uk, so I’m definitely coming back for that!

I have to say that tibits is definitely one of the few vegetarian or vegan restaurants to which you can take your carnivorous friends. The friend who came with me eats meat, and to have her actively enjoy the meatless dishes is pretty astounding. I’m sure many of you reading this know just how tedious pleasing carnivores can get!

All in all, I had a great experience here and would recommend it as a vegetarian hotspot in London!  Check them out here: www.tibits.co.uk

Quinoa and Cannellini Bean Burgers

Okay, I must admit…… I’m a veggie burger addict.   I LOVE them!  And when I know they’re homemade, I’m the happiest girl.  I’ve even managed to convert my four kids, but it was hard!  There are so many ‘burger’ joints popping up around London BUT luckily all of them do have the ‘veggie’ option and I’m very honoured and pleased to say that my 15 year old ALWAYS orders one.   However, converting kids to like/love veggie burgers as much as beef burgers is/was difficult.  And so, your really need a GOOD recipe to do just that.  If you throw something from the supermarket that was frozen and tasteless in front of them, you’ve got a harder hill to climb.  But if you take the time to actually prepare a delicious veggie choice, then I can pretty much guarantee this:  they’ll like it!

P1040675

But let’s talk quinoa for a second.

1. Quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat. It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.

2. Quinoa contains almost twice as much fiber as most other grains. Fibre is most widely known to relieve constipation. It also helps to prevent heart disease by reducing high blood pressure and diabetes. Fibre lowers cholesterol and glucose levels, may lower your risk of developing hemorrhoids, and may help you to lose weight (it takes a longer time to chew than does other foods because it makes you feel fuller for longer and is less “energy dense,” which means it has fewer calories for the same volume of food).

3. Quinoa contains Iron. Iron helps keep our red blood cells healthy and is the basis of hemoglobin formation. Iron carries oxygen from one cell to another and supplies oxygen to our muscles to aid in their contraction. Iron also increases brain function because the brain takes in about 20% of our blood oxygen. There are many benefits of iron; it aids in neurotransmitter synthesis, regulation of body temperature, enzyme activity and energy metabolism.

4. Quinoa contains lysine. Lysine is mainly essential for tissue growth and repair.

5. Quinoa is rich in magnesium. Magnesium helps to relax blood vessels and thereby to alleviate migraines. Magnesium also may reduce Type 2 diabetes by promoting healthy blood sugar control. Other health benefits of magnesium include transmission of nerve impulses, body temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, and the formation of healthy bones and teeth.

6. Quinoa is high in Riboflavin (B2). B2 improves energy metabolism within brain and muscle cells and is known to help create proper energy production in cells.

7. Quinoa has a high content of manganese. Manganese is an antioxidant, which helps to prevent damage of mitochondria during energy production as well as to protect red blood cells and other cells from injury by free radicals.

Image 19-10-2013 at 13.10

So this recipe makes six yummy burgers!

  • 1 tin of cooked cannellini beans
  • 1 cup cooked red quinoa (makes it more attractive!)
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • healthy handful of parsley, chopped
  • coconut oil
  • pink himalayan sea salt + black pepper

P1040685

Let’s go….

Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and coat with app. 2 Tbsp. of coconut oil.  Add chopped shallots and cook for a minute until soft.  Add the crushed garlic, fennel and cumin and cook for another minute until you smell the amazing aroma and the garlic is soft.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Put the cannellini beans, quinoa and breadcrumbs in a mixing bowl.  Add the chopped parsley and now cooled shallot mix.  Using your hands (much more fun, especially for kids!) combine everything together, mashing the beans well so that the mixture turns into a paste.  Season with salt and pepper

Once combined into a paste, create lovely veggie burger patties about the size of your palm and about an inch thick.

Fry those gorgeous veggie burgers over medium high heat and add a tablespoon of coconut oil to coat the pan.  Cook the veggie burgers for approximately three minutes each side and you will then have a super delicious, incredibly healthy veggie burger!

P1040699

 

P1040708

Your delicious bean burger can be dressed with mustard, home-made ketchup, onions, avocado and placed between either two leaves of collard greens or a good ol’ wholewheat bun!  Yum!!!!!

P1040718

If you like this blog post, then why not like me on FACEBOOK or follow me on INSTAGRAM and TWITTER!

Baked Sweet Potato Chips

Although traditionally made from standard potatoes, chips made from sweet potatoes are much healthier and are actually of great nutritional value. Just 7 ounces of this vegetable contains approximately 65% of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C! They are also rich in calcium, potassium and beta-carotene. As a rule, use one sweet potato per person you are feeding, I used six to feed all six of us! To make this simple recipe all you will need is the following ingredients:

Sweet potatoes (1 per person)
Olive oil
Herbamare (pure sea-salt infused with organic, garden-fresh herbs and vegetables)
A dash of turmeric or cumin

So to start, heat your oven to 180C then wash and peel your potatoes. Once they are peeled, slice each potato to 1cm thickness and then again to 1cm longways. Once they are all sliced into shape, coat them all generously in corn flour.

bakedsweetpotatochips grassrootsandgrains1

You must then apply olive oil to each chip. I prefer to spray the oil on instead of pouring it, but either method is absolutely fine. Next, give your chips a good sprinkle of Herbamare and then add a dash of turmeric or cumin, completely up to you!

bakedsweetpotatochips grassrootsandgrains2

Now that your chips have been prepared, align them on the baking tray side by side, making sure not to place them on top of each other as this will prevent them becoming crunchy. Place the tray in the oven for 15 minutes and then take them out, turn all of the chips over and put back in for an additional 15 minutes.  Your chips are now ready to eat so serve them with some decent ketchup, preferably made with Agave or Brown Rice Syrup, not sugar!!!

The high nutritional value of sweet potatoes isn’t the only reason you should be including them in your diet. They also score impressively low on the glycemic index which makes it great for your blood sugar levels. The rich content of Vitamin A and beta-carotene makes sweet potatoes fantastic for your skin and also work to combat the free radicals which cause visible ageing effects.

The high potassium content of this vegetable helps to alleviate muscle cramps, making them great to eat if you’re particularly tense! Sweet potatoes are easily grown in your garden and you don’t have to be especially green-fingered to be successful at it!

Remember, if you love this recipe click to like my Facebook Page!

Click here to sign up to my newsletter and get my Top Ten Healthy Living and Eating Tips!