Zesty and Herby Green Vegetable Soup

This recipe actually came into being by accident a few Sundays ago.

I was faced with a random selection of leftover vegetables in my fridge, it was tipping it down outside and all I wanted to do was snuggle on the sofa with something warm and hearty. Aside from being very filling and comforting, this recipe is so quick and simple to make.

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Ingredients

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp mixed herbs

1 tsp vegetable stock powder

5-6 small new potatoes

1/3 cup of macaroni – or other small pasta shapes

1/2 courgette

Handful of mangetout

2 stalk black kale

1 lemon

Handful of basil

Water – enough to cover all the ingredients

Handful of frozen peas

Teaspoon of dairy-free pesto

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Mince the garlic and roughly chop the vegetables.

Add to a pan alongside the herbs, vegetable stock powder, pasta shapes, basil, enough water to cover and the juice of one lemon.

Simmer until the vegetables are cooked, only adding the frozen peas in the last 3-4 minutes.

Dish up into a bowl and add a dollop of pesto on the top.

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Diet Update

It’s two years since I went pescatarian and for the past seven months my diet has been around 90% plant based. I say 90% because there are times when a friend has taken me out for afternoon tea or my granny has forgotten and cooked me a piece of salmon along with everyone else. I’ll be honest, in those situations I don’t have the heart to decline what has been so lovingly placed in front of me. I’d much rather spare someone else’s feelings than my own.

I’ve always been fascinated by this way of eating and have spent hour upon hour watching countless YouTube videos, Netflix documentaries and reading books – How Not To Die being my bible. It’s hard not to be lured in by the glowing and radiant appearance of people who eat a healthy plant based diet. They look and say that they feel phenomenal. And I agree, they look great and seem to have such a zest for life.

So I decided to see what it was all about. I’ve never enjoyed eating meat and dairy wasn’t hard as I’ve been lactose intolerant on and off all my life but eggs and fish are where I struggle. Of course, this is made easier nowadays by the plethora of vegan substitutes now available. Linda McCartney sausages are my all time favourite and Alpro Soy Vanilla Ice Cream is better than the real thing in my opinion. That being said, I started this journey in order to become a healthier version of my former self so I don’t eat these things on a regular basis.

When I first started I fell into the trap of thinking that I could eat endless amounts of anything as long as it was wholegrain, cue the two bread rolls (with dairy free butter and jam) as an afternoon snack, the midnight snack bowls of all-bran cereal with handful upon handful of raisins. I gained weight. Not a tremendous amount but my jeans that once were loose were now snugger than ever. I also didn’t feel particularly great either, didn’t have a lot of energy and felt like nothing could satisfy my never ending hunger.

That’s when I decided to properly put my mind to it and read the advice of qualified scientists and nutritionists. Enter the likes of Dr Michael Greger, Dr Neal Barnard, Dr McDougall. Their theories and research are astounding, I challenge anyone to not read one of their books and not feel compelled to make a change, no matter how big or small. Thanks to their guidance and knowledge I’ve now managed decipher what foods work for me and what don’t. I eat a lot of leafy veggies, potatoes, beans and pulses, nuts and oats. I tend to steer clear of bread and white pasta as they don’t really satiate me and as a result I could probably eat a family size serving of pesto pasta in one sitting and not think anything of it.

There is something else that I wanted to touch on: Animal welfare. I didn’t feel I could write this post and overlook the primary reason most people choose to stop consuming animal products. Whilst I genuinely find the idea of eating another living thing somewhat repulsive, it’s sometime easy to forget that side of it when you’re presented with it to eat. I know that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense for some people, I doesn’t really for me now I’ve said it out loud. I would never call myself a vegan because besides from the few occasions I eat fish and eggs, I wear leather and I can’t guarantee that every beauty product I own hasn’t been tested on animals. I think it’s unrealistic to suddenly dive in head first with a change as radical as this one and I don’t think it’s right that people are chastised by hardcore vegans because they wear leather. Instead people should be praised, as any change, big or small, towards living a life free of animal products should be celebrated.

I commend people who suddenly decide to commit to not consuming animal products anymore, that’s really an amazing feat. Of course if I really wanted to do it then I could, there’s nothing stopping me. However I know myself, and I know the best way for me to stick to something is not to rush into anything, and instead slowly incorporate it into my life so that it’s sustainable in the long term. No one knows you better than you, so always do what’s right for you and don’t be discouraged by anyone else’s comments or feel that you have to label yourself.

So, onto a lighter note: What changes have I noticed within myself?

  • Stronger nails
  • Shiny, thick hair
  • Clearer skin – this isn’t to say that I still don’t get spots but they’re a lot less angry and frequent
  • Improved energy levels. I am no longer a victim of the classic 3pm blood sugar level sump.
  • Eating a wider variety of foods
  • Cooking a wider variety of recipes
  • Lower food bills. Think about it, a £0.46 tin of kidney beans vs £3.50 for a chicken breast.

 

What I eat:

Breakfast

Oats: Microwaved // Baked // Overnight // Homemade museli // Stovetop

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Flaxseed/cinnamon/cacao powder/nutmeg

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Banana, grated apple, berries, nectarine, raisins, pear, plum, peach, dates, courgette*

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Water, almond milk, coconut and almond milk, oat milk

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Agave nectar, golden syrup, coconut sugar, choc shot

*If I’m feeling extra peckish then I add grated courgette to bulk up my oats, extra greens and you can’t even taste it.

A combination of all of these things form my breakfast 95% of the time. Other breakfast items I reach for are:

Toast + dairy-free butter// jam/marmalade // almond butter/banana // avocado/tomato

Fruit salad and yoghurt

Parfait – yoghurt + granola + fruit

Lunch

Leftovers

Salad: Lettuce, cucumber, pepper, radish, beetroot, spring onion, sweetcorn, apple, any leftover veggies

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Starch/Carbohydrate : White potato, sweet potato, quinoa, brown rice, white rice, couscous, buckwheat, pearl barley

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Protein: Beans (borlotti, cannellini, kidney, black), chickpeas, tofu, falafel

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Dressing: Balsamic/mustard, hummus, dairy-free mayo, white wine vinegar

Dinner

Stir-fry // Stew // Lentil casserole // Nourish bowl // Curry // Veggie Pie // Sausages and mash // Chilli // Burrito bowl // Soup //

On the whole I try to keep my diet pretty clean, i.e. not eating a lot of processed foods – during the week anyway, weekends are a different matter entirely ;). As such, I use ingredients in their whole, natural state and incorporate them into making veggie/vegan twists on the classics i.e. Veggie shepherd’s pie, lentil casserole, bean chilli etc.

I’ve included some snaps from my foodie Instagram account for your perusal.

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If anyone has any questions/is more curious about my transition so far then please ask away. I almost wish I had been able to ask someone questions when I was considering eating a more plant based diet.

Also – if anyone has any blogs/vegan foodie websites that they turn to then please let me know, I’m always on the hunt for new recipes.

BLOGS I’M LOVING: CUPCAKES AND CASHMERE

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Cupcakes and Cashmere was the first blog I ever religiously followed. It became the highlight of my day and I couldn’t wait to get home after school to read Emily’s latest post. As is only natural, it has changed somewhat since then, she’s got married, had a lovely little girl but I think the fact I’m still reading her blogs five years later is a testament to my admiration for her.

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I was that much of a fan girl that I sent her an email – approaching five years ago – to tell her how much I admired her, cringe! To my absolute delight she replied personally and I still have the email saved somewhere. She’s always been a great source of inspiration and sure it only took me half a decade to get round to starting my own blog but I got there eventually.

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Out of all the blogs I read I find Emily’s style to be the most functional and relatable i.e. I could see myself wearing practically every outfit she puts together. Alongside this, whilst some of the pieces she wears are more high-end, many of the pieces she wears are affordable.

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Her blog is brimming with variety, from homeware to recipes, outfits to skincare, so there’s definitely something for everyone. The posts on her blog are always written so eloquently and feature equally high-resolution images.

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These are some of her most recent posts that I’ve loved reading:

How I’m Learning To Open Up On Social Media

Five Things – this series has always been one my favourites!

How To Motivate Yourself To Workout At Any Time Of Day 

I Wore The Same Thing Every Day For A Week

If you’ve never stumbled across this gem of a blog then you can thank me later ;).

 

Homemade Vegetable Soup

This style of soup first entered my scope of awareness back in 2012 ish when my Mum was fully immersed in her healthy eating/Slimming World phase.

She would make a ginormous batch of this at the weekend and then we would either have it for lunch or snack on it throughout the week. Now the weather is turning this is the perfect opportunity to reinstate it.

Another great thing about this recipe is that you can basically add anything you have in your cupboard/fridge and leave out any veggies that don’t really float your boat. No specific weights/measurements are required as I just chop up enough veggies to fill a large saucepan, leaving room for liquid of course.

Ingredients (roughly)

2 onions

2 cloves of garlic

3 carrots

2 parsnips

1 sweet potato

1 pepper

1 head of broccoli

Handful of green beans

Handful of kale or spinach

2 tsp mixed dried herbs

1 tin of sweetcorn

1 tin of beans – borlotti, cannellini, chickpeas etc.

1 cup of small pasta shapes – conchigliette are perfect

2 tins of chopped tomatoes + extra water if needed

1 tbsp tomato purée

2 tsp veggie stock powder

Salt and pepper to taste

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Method

Chop all the vegetables and garlic into similar shaped pieces, I tend to either dice or cube mine.

Place them all in a large pan – the larger the better as this wards off any over-boiling incidents.

Sauté in a little oil or water along with the herbs.

Add the chopped tomatoes, sweetcorn, drained tin of beans, tomato purée, vegetable stock and pasta shapes.

Essentially I just add enough liquid so that everything it covered in order for it to cook properly.*

Bring to the boil and simmer until all the veggies are cooked.

Season to taste.

*When re-heating it might need a splash of water adding to it if it’s looking dry.

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The variations of this really are endless. You can also add:

Aubergine, butternut squash, mushrooms, courgette, peas, swede, white potatoes etc.

Having a big batch of this in the fridge means that I always have a healthy option on hand if I don’t feel like cooking when I get home from work. Because let’s face it, the only time we reach for convenience food is when we don’t have anything ready to go.

I don’t just eat this as soup but I sometimes add a bit more water to turn it into a chunky pasta sauce or remove some of the liquid and turn it into a vegetable stew and eat it with mashed potato.

If you’re looking to get more veggies into your life then give this a go!

What I Ate Today

 

Breakfast 

Avocado Toast & Almond Butter and Banana Toast

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Such a cliché of a breakfast if ever I saw one but who cares? It’s obviously popular for a reason: it’s delicious.

I never add any butter to my toast before adding the avocado, instead I just add the mashed half an avocado and lots of salt and pepper.

My preferred almond butter of choice is by Meridian Foods, it has no nasties added to it and is just ground almonds, that’s all.

Lunch

Apple, Sweet Potato and Beetroot Salad

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I love salads, I don’t think I’ll ever bore of them as they’re such a versatile meal that you can add so many different things to. I always invariably start with a bed of lettuce and build from there.

To this base I added roasted sweet potato chunks, apple, beetroot, borlotti beans and sesame seeds. Nine times out of ten, as I did on this day, I drizzle my favourite dressing over the top: balsamic vinegar and wholegrain mustard.

 

Snack

Peach 

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I don’t think this picture does the size of this James and the Giant Peach justice. It was sweet and juicy and had me slurping the juice up, not so pleasing for those around me, but I find that’s always a sign of a good peach.

Dinner 

Nourish Bowl [broccoli, sweet potato chunks, sweetcorn, kale, carrot, brown rice, lentils, hummus]

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This type of meal is perfect if you’re a like-a-bit-of-everything kind of person like me. I always make sure I have a green vegetable, carbohydrate and protein to make it a perfectly balanced meal.

Dessert 

Bourbon biscuits – multiple!

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I’m a strong believer in everything in moderation and never depriving yourself. Like many I’ve had a very up and down relationship with food over the years, but I’m a stage now where I know what keeps me on the straight and narrow and what doesn’t. That being said if I want some biscuits to end my night I’ll have some, just not the whole packet…

 

Pear and Raisin Baked Oats

Now that mornings are getting colder this has been one of my go-to breakfasts and it’s something a little bit different from every day porridge cooked in a pan.

Ingredients:

80g oats

2 cups coconut milk

1 pear

Handful of raisins

Teaspoon of agave nectar

Teaspoon of cinnamon – or to taste

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.

Combine oats, milk, raisins, agave nectar and cinnamon in a baking dish.

Cut pear in half and cut a thin slice out of each half. Cut the remainder of the pear into chunks and mix in to the oat mixture in the baking dish. Place the two slices of pear on top of the oats.

Bake for 25 mins.

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I added an extra splash of coconut milk to mine for a bit of extra moisture.

Not only is this a winner at breakfast time but it would also go down a treat as a dessert.

Just add a splash of cream or ice-cream and it’ll be sure winner!

Coconut and Banana Baked Oats

I had a really, really overripe banana that was begging to be saved when I had a sudden lightbulb moment and remembered that they are perfect for baking. It also just happens that oats and bananas are a match made in heaven.

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Ingredients:

80g jumbo rolled oats

2 cups almond milk (or 1 cup water + 1 cup almond milk)

2 tsp desiccated coconut

1 tsp agave nectar

1 ripe banana (the riper the better) 

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees

Combine oats, milk, 1 tsp desiccated coconut and agave nectar. Stir well and transfer to baking dish.

Slice banana lengthways and place on top of oat mixture.

Sprinkle over remaining teaspoon of desiccated coconut.

Bake for 25 mins and enjoy*

*Eating in bed is optional but highly recommended.

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