VEGAN PEPPERMINT HOT CHOCOLATE

hotchoc

Vegan peppermint hot chocolate

Ingredients [serves 2]

Handful of fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup non-dairy milk (I used rice milk, because its subtle flavour doesn’t compete with the mint)

2 tablespoons cacao powder

Method

In a small pot, stir the water over low heat, adding in the coconut sugar and mint leaves. Leave to simmer for about 5 minutes. Take it off the heat and fish out all the mint leaves, leaving behind the mint infused sugar water. To this water, add the milk – put the pot back on the stove and whilst heating again on low heat, stir in the cacao powder. Whisk it vigorously until any powdery clumps have disappeared. Pour into your favourite drinking vessels and enjoy!

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ON BREAKFAST, BLENDERS AND BILLS

For the 3 weeks that I was at my parents house, breakfast consisted firstly of handfuls of pills and tea (I had arrived home with a fever; my muscles aching, and my nose producing more snot than anyone would think is humanely possible), and then chocolate (I was slow to regain my appetite, but quick to accept that I could make room for chocolate. Because, you know, it’s chocolate). And then, because it was Christmas time, and we had guests, and because my parents can be generally great people, the table was laid many a morning with hot, buttery croissants, which I lathered in raspberry jam and then ate in glorious, sticky oblivion.

I have since come back to my flat in Auckland city, and with that, the desire to have healthful breakfasts has returned. This is not, I would like to add, part of a new year resolution: I share Rose’s sentiments ’bout crafting being the only legit resolution peeps should be making (i.e. I WILL finish my paper mache giraffe in the next 2 months). But my body is craving healthful foods again, and I’m always happy to oblige. So, re-enter the breakfast smoothie. Is there anything better? It’s super easy, nourishing, and uses minimal equipment. Speaking of, when I first got into this healthy eating dealio, I was a little overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I supposedly needed to get on board this wellness wagon: Vitamixes, dehydrators, spiralizers, juicers, and other various whatsits and thingymabobs, all of which meant I’d have to trade in my vital organs, given my (relative) lack of money (thank you, grad school).

Dudes, it’s been a little under 2 years since I’ve been getting excited about kale and almond milk, but what I have learned is that you don’t need All The Things to start this journey. I bought a second-hand $20 blender from trademe (NZ’s ebay) and a $10 juicer from a garage sale: they’re still working, and they do the job. When I browse the beautiful health foodie blogosphere, sometimes I get a little sad that foodies almost compete with one another… who has the best whozit, who’s eating This Rare Super Awesome Ultimate Tree Nut from Neverheardofland. Which is kinda silly, no? Enough with the rambling though: the point of this post is mostly just to say, I like smoothies, especially at breakfast time. And here’s a “recipe” for one. Enjoy! x

STRAWBERRY

FEATHER DUSTERS AND FAIRY LIGHTS

I’m imagining myself coming back to this space armed with a metaphorical broom and cloth; the dust has settled, but it’s clear this house can still be a home for my ideas and the things I’d like to share. I’ve picked through old posts carefully, wiped the dust away mindfully, and though I never really forgot, I’ve been reminded again why I like this space, this blogging-thingy-ma-jig so much.

So I’m back: a new year, fewer distractions, and with the silly season behind me, I’ve finally made the time to put fingers to keyboard and WRITE again.

I’m going to keep my holiday recap brief. November and December were FUN. Something you should know: I’m a Christmas FREAK (I’m not religious, so my love for Christmas is centred on Santa, food, more food, even more food, and feeling lucky enough to be surrounded by people I love. Oh, and fairy lights. I fucking LOVE fairy lights). I start playing Christmas songs in November (sorry flatmates and family members, but you can’t say you weren’t warned. This Xmas’ favourite was Mariah’s Oh Santa!); healthy food goes out the window (hello, copious amounts of chocolate and sugar. Do I feel bad about it? NO!!); and most afternoons I was left in a gleeful stupor, having spent them making paper snowflakes, paper chains, and hanging the tackiest, most delightfully sparkly things I could find all round the house. And for the third year in a row, I made a ginger bread house. Two gingerbread houses, actually, because my parents are kind and let me loose in the kitchen. One was a present for a friend’s children*.

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I rang in 2014 with a couple of amazing ladies – we drank wine, danced around the living room, and went to bed at 12.10am… #beingananaiscool. The next night was spent out on the town until 3am; the preferred night to celebrate because the pressure, expectation and craziness of the 31st is gone, and we’re just left with the knowledge that a whoooole new year is ahead of us. And dudes, I’m excited! If 2013 was anything to go by, 2014 will be a cracker.

Happy New Year to you, my sparkly friends : )

*I went through a phase last year of not wanting children. Christmas, among other things, changed my mind about this: After all, I’m going to need gingerbread house-making minions in the future, when I try and outdo myself and end up making gingerbread mansions. I told you, christmas freak 😉

A QUICKIE

I’m in exam mode, hence the cobwebs and spiders around this place. But I thought I’d check in real quick to a) say hi (HI!) and b) share this magical breakfast with you:

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Homemade bread (thank you, baker extraordinare Mimi, who is staying with us and has turned our house into a bakery. I ain’t complaining!), toasted, with banana, cacao powder and a little honey drizzled on top. Now run as fast as you can and make one for yourself!! You can thank me later.

RAW BEETROOT CHOCOLATE MUDCAKE

My mission is to educate and inspire, enhancing people’s health and happiness, igniting a ripple effect that transforms the world. – Dr Libby Weaver

Hmm, I’m not so sure that preaching to the wealthy middle classes about superfoods only they can afford will ‘transform the world’ Libby. Banging on about needing to eat more chia seeds and flax seed oil is hardly going to do much to alleviate this situation… EYE ROLL. I mean, I love this healthy eating, healthy living stuff. I’m all over that shiz – much like this kitten is all over that milk (I feel ya buddy):

But this self-entitled, I’m-going-to-change-the-world-by-telling-people-they-just-have-to-down-some-spirulina-and-go-to-bed-earlier crap really grinds my gears. As this lovely lady once said, “you can’t medidate yourself out of poverty!” This is not the first time I’ve made mention of my frustration with the largely a-political stance of the health-and-wellness world (see here), but every now and again, I feel the need to reiterate the point. /minor rant over, moving on./

Despite the above grumble, I did enjoy fawning over the glossy pages of Libby Weaver’s book, ‘The Real Food Chef,’ which I’ve borrowed from my parents. Many of the recipes are very similar to ones I’ve already come across in the beautiful land that is the foodie blog-o-sphere, but I bookmarked a few that sound new to me and I’d like to have a go at making (if I do, I’ll be sure to write about them here!): apple salad with sweet and sour dressing; omega oil chocolate sauce; cashew nut hot chocolate.

But one recipe in particular stood out as one I wanted to try straight away: a raw version of beetroot chocolate cake. And friends, this was a GOOD decision. The cake turned out all kinds of awesome.

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Beetroot Chocolate Mud Cake – adapted from a recipe by Dr Libby Weaver, from the book ‘The Real Food Chef’

Ingredients

For the cake mixture:

2 cups brazil nuts

4 fresh medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped

1/2 cup currants (I used dried cranberries instead, because I’m a rebel)

1/4 cup maple syrup

3 medium beets, peeled and grated

2 cups desiccated coconut (I only used 1 cup, because the parentals aren’t fans of coconut)

1/2 cup cacao powder

2 tbspn psyllium husks, ground (I forgot to add this… oops)

For the icing:

100g cacao butter

1 cup raw cashew nuts

1/2 cup cacao powder

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 tspn lemon juice

1 tspn tamari

Method

For the cake:

Throw everything except the grated beetroot in the food processor and blend like hell (or as Libby says, “until the ingredients are well combined and finely textured”)

In a large bowl, combine the beetroot with the cake mixture

Line a cake tin with baking paper and spread the batter evenly over the bottom. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, or until it is firm to touch.

For the icing:

Melt the cacao butter, then throw everything in the blender. Blend ’til smooth, then spoon over the cake and refrigerate for ~15minutes.

Make love to the eat the cake. Enjoy!

MY RISOTTO BRINGS ALL THE BOYS TO THE YARD

For some time, the way I felt about risotto was akin to how one might feel if they shagged George Clooney, only to find he’s terribly average in bed.

I'm sorry you didn't feel anything babe, but *I* had a good time
“I’m sorry you didn’t feel anything babe, but *I* had a good time”

Photographs of steaming piles of warm, sticky rice made my mouth water, but the few times I hit that, I always came away feeling vaguely disappointed. What I’d imagined would be an eye-flutteringly good experience, was really a bland and boring affair: goopy spoonfuls of rice that were either tasteless, or tasting only of stock. So despite risotto being a staple favourite among vegetarians, it was not one of mine.

That is, until this girl came along and rocked my world with her mushroom-with-a-raw-egg-yolk-on-top, tonsil-orgasms-aplenty, crazy-good risotto recipe.

The only catch?

Parmesan. LOTS of parmesan. Well, I mean, of course! It is risotto after all. But although I am not a vegan, I do try to limit my dairy intake, largely for health (and ethical) reasons. So one evening I set about making a dairy-free risotto, based on the aforementioned risotto-recipe-of-greatness. But it not risotto widoud da cheese-a! Mama mi-a! I heard the anguished cry of a hundred Italians in my mind. Fear not mi amicos, because on this fateful night, I discovered something good. Something sexy. Something… surprising. *wiggles eyebrows* That secret? A tablespoon of tahini, dissolved in a glass of hot water and added as part of the broth, as-close-as-perfectly replicates the creamy nuttiness that you’d otherwise rely on the parmesan for. Tahini! Yes! As I stood at the stove, stirring the gooey rice mixture tenderly, it came to me in a moment I’ll liken to Archimedes’ moment in the bath. I could only guess that it *might* work, but then when it did – ahh, the sweet feeling of smug satisfaction. The real proof in the pudding dinner though was when I asked the original chef herself if she could tell the risotto was vegan, and the look of complete surprise on her face said it all.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe for steamy, sexy, vegan (if you forego the egg) risotto, that’ll fool even the die-hard cheese lovers.

risotto

Ingredients (3-4 servings)

cooking oil (I use rice bran)

1½ cups Arborio rice

4 cups vegetable stock

½ cup white wine

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, diced

1 cup mushrooms, diced (as many different kinds of mushrooms as you like/can find!)

1 cup thickly chopped mushrooms

2 cups shredded spinach

1 tbspn tahini, dissolved in a cup of hot water

raw egg yolks (1 per serving; optional)

chopped parsley (optional)

himalayan salt, to taste

Method

Heat the stock and keep it simmering, so it stays hot.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan – throw in the diced mushrooms and sauté them, til they’re nicely cooked. Then remove em’ from the heat and set aside for later.

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat then add the diced onion. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until it is slightly translucent. Then add the garlic.

Add the rice to the pot and go at it with a wooden spoon so that the grains are well coated with the oil. Let cook for 30 seconds or so.

Add the wine and cook while stirring, until the liquid is fully absorbed.

Add a ladle of hot stock to the rice and stir until the liquid is fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the process.

NB: It’s super important to keep stirring often, so it doesn’t get burnt and stuck to the bottom!

Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, for 20-30 minutes or until the grains are al tende – that’s the fancy term for firm-but-not-crunchy.

When you’re down to the last bits of stock, add the cooked (diced) mushrooms, spinach and cup o’ tahini – stir ‘em through thoroughly. If you run out of stock and the risotto still isn’t done, you can finish the cooking using hot water.

Season the risotto with salt, to taste.

Just before the risotto is pretty much done, fry the chunky mushrooms.

Serve the risotto immediately, making a well in the middle into which you can pop the egg yolk, and garnish with the fried chunky mushrooms and parsley.

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Buon appetito!

10K, BABY

On saturday, this splendid chicky and I ran our first 10K. The race was an event hosted by Run for Relief, an aid organisation that provides emergency relief for people displaced in Burma. I signed up to do the race quite impulsively some weeks back, and other than sporadic 5K runs here and there, that was it for training. But we ran the whole thing – no stopping to walk (or stopping at all!). So I’m feeling pretty fly : ) As a result, I’ve definitely been bitten by the running bug… next up, half-marathon??

A SMOOTHIE FOR THE LONELY HEARTS

This blog is not one I intend to make into a place where I share overly personal information. But where the power of kind words from good hearted strangers – and those bloggers I don’t consider so much to be strangers as friends – can and do make this world a little bit happier, I thought I’d at least share this: I’m currently mending a broken heart, and you know what (you probably do)? IT SUCKS BALLS. It’s a strange thing to find yourself listening to the collective songs of a hundred broken hearted souls, and find meaning in them again beyond the pretty tune or a good lyric. Fiona Apple, you get me. And as Desree so wisely put it, “Life, oh life, oh life, oh life! Doo doo doo doo.” It goes on.

My appetite went out the window for a little bit, but luckily for me, I’m clued in on the way of the smoothie (i.e. nutritious pulp that’s easy to swallow, in spite of the lump in your throat… #holdme). So amidst my little melodrama, I thought I’d share my favourite smoothie recipe (and because I’m an artist, I drew the recipe for you in paint. Yeah.).

smoothie

LIVER LOVIN’

On Sunday, I returned from a week of having been away where I was getting edumacated at my university’s other campus (520km from here). And I did get edumacated (anyone up for a debate about the ethics of psychology and professional practice?), but I also got a variety of other things: 5+ coffees a day; spinach and cheese pastries for lunch; enough chocolate to give 50 dogs toxic shock; and take-outs for dinner every night (of the fried and noodled variety). Throw in a decent amount of alcohol, and I really don’t know how I can claim to have any right to be writing a health blog.

My poor liver.

liver

So this week is about getting myself on the bandwagon again – green smoothies, carrot juices, and nutritious dinners are on the menu; and limiting carbs, sugar, coffee and alcohol is the goal (with the exception of a flat warming this weekend 😉 ).

And with any luck, my liver will be feeling a little more like this very soon:

liver_uni

Hope you all have a great week! : )