Thursday, 25 June 2015

Rice pasta with beetroot greens, raisins and lemon

One of the things I love most about getting an organic veg box delivered to our door, is that lots of the veggies come with their greens still attached. This morning as I unpacked the box (while fending off the children who were grabbing cucumbers and tomatoes before I could even drag the box to the kitchen), I was super excited to see that my beetroot had an impressive bouquet of greenery on it.

I adore beetroot greens and always wonder why you can't find them in supermarkets over here. Travel to the continent and you find these greens in abundance at local farmer's markets- clearly they know something that we don't! They are super mild in taste, a cross between chard and spinach and are packed with nutrients too, including vitamins A & C as well as calcium and iron.

As I was pushed for time today (as always!), I decided to make these greens the star of a quick and simple pasta dish, along with some raisins that I had left in the cupboard. As I love to add garlic and fresh lemon zest to as many things as possible, I decided to add these as well. The combination of the earthy greens, sweet raisins, punchy garlic and zesty lemon was a match made in heaven. Simple, filling, nutritious and inexpensive, I am sure this will be a summer family favourite!



Rice pasta with beetroot greens, raisins, garlic and lemon
Serves 4

Ingredients
400g brown rice pasta (or pasta of choice)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic finely sliced
6 cups beetrot greens, washed and finely shredded
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp salt to taste
Zest of 1/2 lemon

Method
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and when boiling add the pasta and cook according to the packet directions.
In a deep frying pan (I like to use a deep cast iron pan), sautee the garlic in the olive oil over a medium heat until it starts to turn golden. Add the beetroot greens, stiring until they just begin to wilt and release their juices. Add the rasins and cook for a further 8 minutes until softened, Season with sea salt.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the greens, mixing well. Grate the lemon zest over the top and serve immediately.



Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Review- Indigo Herbs Super Cleanse Tea

As you guys may have noticed by now, I am a huge fan of the Indigo Herbs of Glastonbury company. I genuinely find that their products are of amazing quality and value and love discovering new products of theirs, and this one has indeed been a brilliant discovery.

They sent me the Super Cleanse tea to review over the Spring, but with the colder weather we've been having, I've been stuck in hibernation mode and reluctant to give up on comfort foods and chocolate elixirs. Now that the warmer weather is here, it really felt like a good time to cleanse and try out this tea for you guys!


This particular blend contains a mixture of fennel, liquorice, ginger, dandelion, nettle and red clover, which makes it the perfect tea for cleansing and for putting a spring back into your step! Here's what they have to say about the tea:

"A cleansing, purifying tea that supports the body, and revives the hard working systems of elimination. This tea helps the body recover from over use of caffeine and other toxins. The delicious tastes of fennel, liquorice and ginger uplift the healing herby tastes of Dandelion, Nettle and Red Clover. Our Super Cleanse Tea Blend can be infused in boiling water and made into a delicious herbal tea drink."

I tried this over four mornings in place of my regular green tea and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the result. As well as being refreshing to drink first thing in the morning, I definitely noticed that I had less of an energy slump mid afternoon which was a huge bonus.

You might expect the tea to be very herby with so many strong flavours packed in, especially with the bitter tones of dandelion and nettle, but it was far from herby or bitter. The liquorice comes through as a sweet aftertaste that was pleasant to drink and needed no extra sweetener added.


I love that this tea contains whole clover and chunky herbs rather than being in powdered form, and as it comes in a handy re-sealable bag, I didn't notice any deterioration in the flavour over the days which was great.

If a cleanse tea isn't what you fancy right now,  Indigo herbs do a good range of herbs and tea blends so there is sure to be one that suits you, give them a try!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Epic Adzuki Bean Burgers

So you guys, what a week! We've been sorting out the house and attending to all the neglected jobs over the years, trying to fit in all these home-school books and files we have acquired, moving my youngest into her 'grown up bed' (eeek my baby isn't a baby anymore!) and generally de-cluttering the place, and it's reached that point that even though we've sorted and sorted till we can't sort no more, the place still looks like a bomb has hit it. Anybody else been through this? My house is literally driving me crazy, but, I know the end is near and this is keeping me going... just.

Amongst this craziness I also got a new camera. Finally I can stop having to rely on my wonderful friends to take pictures, or resorting to snapping them on my phone. I am so excited about this, though it really has been an eye opener for me. Until I got this camera, I had no clue how bamboozling the world of photography can be. I have a new lens and tripod on order and am very s-l-o-w-l-y getting to grips with the basics, so please bear with me while I learn. I can't promise you mind blowing pictures just yet, but surely they will improve with time.

The recipe that is lucky enough to be my first photographed recipe (on a proper camera that is), is this tasty little vegan adzuki bean burger, because everybody loves a burger!

But as much as we love them, they seem to cause some major challenges for the vegan kitchen. Getting the taste and texture just right, and producing a patty that doesn't fall to pieces when you cook it can definitely be a challenge and I have had my fair share of disasters.

While I love this recipe for tasty tofu burgers, I know many people are uncomfortable with eating too much soy and I wanted to provide a tasty alternative. I was firmly in that camp for years too and avoided unfermented soy, but after more study into the subject, I am happy to include whole soy products now, including milk and yoghurt. I do always make sure it is organic and GM free of course, and I do stay away from soy protein isolate as that still makes me me uncomfortable, but whole soy products have been a welcome addition to my family's diet.

But I am rambling. If you do prefer to avoid soy, this is the perfect recipe for you!

Made with the tiny titan of the bean world that is adzuki beans, these are bursting with flavour as well as being super healthy. The burgers can be made completely oil free too, depending on your preferred cooking method. With a crunchy exterior thanks to the polenta and a soft interior, these burgers really work well in a toasted rye or gluten free roll, with all the trimmings of course.

Just a quick word about the seasoning. I use 'Green Cuisine Chicken Seasoning' which is all natural and contains no sugar. This herb blend is a mixture of paprika, sage, parsley, thyme, cumin, pepper, garlic and onion. You could also use jerk seasoning for a spicy twist, or a tablespoon of harissa paste for a Moroccan influence. Basically spice these up any way you like them, there is no wrong choice here.



Adzuki Bean Burgers
Makes 4-6 burgers

Ingredients for the burger
3 cups of cooked adzuki beans,* drained well
4 spring onion
1 very finely grated carrot
1/2 sweet potato,finely grated
3 tbsp rolled oats
1 tbsp chicken seasoning
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

For the coating
1/4 cup polenta
1/4 cup sorghum flour or rice flour


Method
Add your cooked beans along with the rest of the burger ingredients to a large bowl and mix with your hands. Really squish that mixure up, it's very theraputic!

Next shape them into patties. This mix makes between 4-6, depending on how large you like them to be, I have actually found that 5 seems to be the ideal amount, which leaves one extra left over for lunch the next day.

Tip the two flours for the coating on to a  plate and mix together. With slightly wet hands, shape the burger mixture into nice rounds and coat each one well in the flour.

You can now either shallow fry these in extra virgin coconut oil for around 5-6 minutes each side, or bake in a hot oven until crisp and golden.

Serve these in a toasted bun of your choice, with lettuce, pickles and some home made tomato ketchup.


*I cook my beans from dried with a piece of kombu in the water for added minerals and easier digestibility!


Super excited to link this recipe up to 'Honest Mum's' Tasty Tuesday! I was lucky enough to see this inspirational blogger speak recently and she is awesome. Loving reading about her vegan cleanse too, go Honest Mum!

Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Monday, 8 June 2015

Summer Strawberry, Beetroot and Fig Salad

So June is finally here and along with it the start of the warmer weather. That definitely means strawberry season is upon us and I couldn't be more excited!

I must admit though that I had delayed this post a little. When I began to write this at the start of last week, it felt as if we were in the depths of Winter again. Sharing a Summery recipe like this in a middle of a cold spell made me feel like a bit of a tease so I put it on hold. And while us Brits have never been held back by a little wind and rain (we'd never get anything done if we did!), I decided to put my faith in the fact that Summer was just around the corner, and wait out the wind and the rain.

Anyway, I am delighted that Summer finally decided to join the party, and even more excited to share this delicious recipe with you all as it really is delicious. The strawberries are an exciting addition to a green salad base and served alongside the sweet figs, fresh basil, earthy beetroot and crunchy macadamia nuts it makes for a hearty and satisfying combination. Strawberries and basil really are a match made in heaven!

This strawberry salad is the perfect dish to serve up at barbeques and festivities as an impressive side, but enjoyed alongside some rustic rye sourdough, this also forms a substantial main in its own right.


Strawberry, Beetroot and Fig Salad
Serves 2-4

Salad ingredients

100g macadamia nuts
8 baby figs
4 heaped cups of baby spinach
200g strawberries
2-3 small, cooked beetroot
50g radish and alfalfa sprouts
Handful of fresh basil

Dressing ingredients

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sea salt and black pepper


Method

Heat a cast iron pan or heavy bottomed frying pan over a medium heat. Add the macadamia nuts and stir constantly until they are lightly toasted and golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat up a griddle pan to a high heat and lightly brush with olive oil. While it is heating, cut the figs into halves. Griddle each of the baby fig halves (cut side down) for a couple of minutes, until they just start to caramelise. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Now we're ready to assemble the salad.

Wash the baby spinach, giving it a shake to remove any excess water. Add the spinach to a large salad bowl along with the fresh basil leaves.

To prepare the rest of the salad, firstly cut the strawberries into halves. Peel the cooked beetroot (you can also use the cooked vacuum packed beetroot that is already peeled) and slice them into thin rounds. Add these to the salad bowl, along with the strawberries, macadamia nuts, griddle figs, and alfalfa and radish sprouts.

Lastly make the dressing. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to a small bowl and lightly whisk to mix, or shake everything together in a jar. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and mix well with a pair of salad tongs.


All Photographs Copyright of Emma Lou Cowell 2015




Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Cats and Summer Smoothies

What a few weeks we've had! I'll try and sum them up for you guys, all that you've missed in the month of May so far...

After sadly losing our beautiful 9 year old cat, Chaak (named after the Mayan rain God) we were all a little heartbroken. It seems he and his brother both had some sort of hereditary heart disease or blood clotting issue that meant we have lost them both to thrombosis, way before their time.

He was such an amazing character, he had this way of communicating with us that I've never seen another cat do before. When we first saw him, as a 4 month old kitten in the rescue centre with his brother, he started nodding his head enthusiastically at us (while bashing his poor brothers head against the wall), and he never ever stopped nodding in all these 9 years. He also looked a lot like a bat when upside down...



So goodbye little Chaakie, we hope you're having a wonderful time up there with your brother Jaguarundi, we miss you both so much!


So as we started to get back to normal at home, my youngest daughter went and broke her elbow rather spectacularly, while trying to hurdle a space hopper, at great speed, on the patio. I have since praised her for her bravery and told her it's great to try out these things, but perhaps hurdling a more stationary object is a better idea in the future... She's been incredibly brave and I am amazingly proud of her. And through it all she is still smiling!

While my youngest has been playing daredevil with a space hopper, my eldest has been saving trees! We live in an area that is being rapidly re-developed, and sadly as part of this, a beautiful line of trees that ran behind our back fence were cut down to make way for new houses. We were all saddened by this, but little did I know that my daughter had saved one of those little helicopter seeds from the tree and she had planted it in a pot. A couple of weeks ago, she proudly presented me with this, it's growing!


Last weekend, a month after losing Chaak, we adopted a new rescue kitten- hooray! His name is Gink and he is rather special. He is so friendly and at only 3 1/2 months old, he is already a real lap cat. We have one small problem though. Our 3 year old girl cat, Chia, has turned into a hissing, spitting, crazy cat. She'll even hiss at us if we smell like the kitten! Eeek. So any advise on helping these two get along would be greatly appreciated. Same could be said of the girls really... (kidding! Kindda).

So that's been the last few weeks, a mixture of highs and lows and lots of busy in between. As a result, we've been cramming in the smoothies and juices this week, to boost our energy and for a quick and easy snack or brekkie. One we are absolutely loving is this butterhead lettuce and grape smoothie. We're getting lots of butterhead lettuce in our vegbox, and it tastes delicious in a smoothie. We've used frozen grapes as the girls really love them and I keep a bunch in my freezer, but any soft fruit would work.



Grape and Butterhead Lettuce Smoothie
Serves 1-2
Ingredients:
1 cup of frozen grapes
1 cup of chopped butterhead lettuce leaves
1 large banana
1 tbsp hemp protein powder
2 cups almond milk

Blend everything together until creamy and smooth!


Smoothie photo credit Emma Lou Cowell

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Mirabilia olive leaf tea review

I don't think I've ever reviewed a tea before, then in the space of a few weeks, I have three wonderful tea discoveries to share with you! They're all very different, so I hope that there will be a tea to suit everyone. I'm going to start the tea reviews rolling with this delicious olive leaf tea from Mirabilia.

When Mirabilia olive leaf tea sent me some of their delicious tea to sample, I was super excited! My Mum had brought me some olive leaf tea a few years ago and I enjoyed its light taste, but really had no idea of its health benefits. I drink a lot of caffeine free alternatives to green tea, and many of them rival the antioxidant properties of green tea, such as hibiscus or red bush, but somehow olive leaf had passed me by. When I  read through the information that they sent with the tea, and found out the many benefits, I couldn't wait to start drinking it.


Mirabillia olive leaf tea is made from organic green olive leafs. Bimbi and Kim set up their business in Italy believing wholeheartedly in a local sustainable approach to producing the tea. I am a huge believer in using local foods wherever possible so this was music to my ears.

As some of you who have watched my talks and demos will know, when I first started living the wholefoods and raw foods life I embraced the exotic, weird and wonderful worlds of superfoods with passion and wonder. But over the years I began to realise that we have the most amazing and powerful superfoods right here in the UK and also closer to home in Europe. Where I could, I started making changes in our diet, replacing more exotic foods with local alternatives and foraging for wild foods. Knowing that I am doing my bit for the environment is a great thing. I'm not saying never eat any exotic foods (I cannot give up chocolate and bananas just yet!), but it does make sense to include as many local foods as possible. For as well as the environment to think about, we have our health to consider, and the foods grown closer to home, which are more climate appropriate, tend to be better suited to us and better at keeping us in balance.

About the amazing Mirabillia Tea:

“ Our team of pickers, all local ladies of a certain age, are amazingly enthusiastic about their work. They can remember their grandmothers talking about the benefits of olive leaf tea and are thrilled to be part of this revival of local culture and tradition. Everyone involved in this project is proud to be taking part, seeing it not only as a positive benefit to the region but also as a fun and satisfying way of working together on the land

Not only the tea, hand-picked in our organic groves, but also the packaging, the labels and bags, even the machine that helps weigh and pack the tea, have all been locally sourced as we have an unswerving commitment to the area and to the community.”

How awesome is that? The more I looked into the information they had sent me and from what I read on their website, the more I was excited by it's potential health benefits. Olive leaf tea has been traditionally used in Italy for many generations and studies have shown that it could be beneficial for blood pressure and weight loss, is anti-viral, anti-fungal rich in vitamin C and high in antioxidants. There are no known side effects and it is safe for all the family.

Here is another great quote from their website:

"Oleuropein is active against bacteria and insect pests, thus protecting the olive tree. This property has also been found to help protect humans too. European researchers discovered that oleuropein was effective at lowering blood pressure as well as increasing blood flow.
Research conducted in the late 1960's by scientists at major pharmaceutical company Upjohn (now Pfizer ) showed that an active ingredient from olive leaf tea called elenolic acid was very effective at inhibiting viruses from growing, including those associated with the common cold of humans ( the "Rhinovirus" family)"

So what does it taste like?
Delicious! It has a very mild slightly "olivey" flavour, and a butter-like quality to it, making it very smooth on the palate. I imagine that this tea is just as tasty served chilled as it is hot and could be used as a base in cooking too.

How do you prepare it?
To prepare the tea, simply steep a pinch in some boiled water for around 5 minutes to get the maximum benefits. And that's it! I serve mine with a wedge of lemon in it and it's super refreshing that way, but it works amazingly well as the base of a nutritious hot chocolate elixir too!

I am a huge fan of making hot chocolate elixirs, as a delicious and nutritious way to boost my nutrient intake. My elixirs have evolved over the years from containing exotic superfood powders and herbs, to making use of more local ingredients such as beetroot powder and rosehip. Last Saturday, I thought I'd give olive leaf tea a go as my elixir base for one of my demos at Vegfest in Brighton. I usually use redbush tea, which is a fabulous tea for all the family and full of antioxidants, but I wanted to see if I could make this elixir using this delicious tea. It worked perfectly - I am excited to have another tea that I can use in the mix, and it's great to know the addition of olive leaf tea takes this elixir to a whole new level health-wise.

I will definitely be buying this tea and making it a staple in our home. If you are interested in purchasing this tea, all the information, as well as where to buy it can be found on their website!

http://www.oleaft.com/

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Refined Sugar Free, Vegan Easter Treats!

Easter is approaching, and it's that time of year when the shops are full of sugary, dairy filled chocolates- so what's a Mama to do? Well, the good news is that chocolate can be delicious and healthy too! (in moderation of course!) Cacao contains many important nutrients including magnesium which is important for heart health, and is packed with antioxidants too.

Of course we're talking chocolate in it's pure form, before the added sugar and the dairy and the emulsifiers and the rest of the stuff you get in regular chocolate bars. Good quality dark chocolate is the one to look out for, raw or roasted and preferably cane sugar free. The question that I get asked a lot is, what is the difference between raw cacao and cocoa, and does it need to be raw to get health benefits?

I've been a fan of raw chocolate for a long time now, and it has become quite a trend these days! While it is a sure thing that it has a higher level of nutrients and antioxidants that the roasted cocoa bean, it is also true that roasted cocoa still packs a huge punch when it comes to antioxidant levels (though try to choose one that hasn't been dutch processed, as this extra processing step, reduces the antioxidants further). Some people (my daughter included) tend to notice that raw cacao has an effect on them more than the roasted kind, so I think it is down to personal choice which you use, so go have fun and experiment with them!

A couple of weeks ago I had a blast teaching some pupils from our local school how to make super healthy Easter treats at the beautiful Dorchester Show Home! We made crispy cakes and raw chocolate eggs filled with peanut butter. I was a little nervous, as many children are so used to the milky kind of chocolate, I wasn't sure how they'd like this pure raw dark kind, but I needn't have worried, the chocolates were a great success! So much in fact, that I wanted to share the recipes with you in time to make them for Easter!


Easter chocolate crispy cakes
Makes 12

These crispy cakes taste just like the traditional favourite, only they are dairy and refined sugar free!

100g dark chocolate*
1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
¼ cup agave or maple syrup
1 cup sugar free cornflakes (I use Dove's Farm)
1 cup plain rice puffs
½ cup dessicated coconut

*I like plamil (found in Holland and Barrett), which is sweetened with xylitol

Break up the chocolate, and add to a pyrex bowl with the coconut oil and agave/maple syrup. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and melt together, stirring frequently. While melting, add the cornflakes, rice puffs and dessicated coconut to a bowl. Pour the melted chocolate mixture over, and stir well to make sure everything is coated in the chocolate.

Spoon the mixture into cup cases, and pop in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours!


Raw chocolate mini eggs

Making raw chocolates is easy. The raw cacao powder is packed with nutrients and being refined sugar free, these chocolates are good for you as well as delicious!

100g cacao butter
5-6 tbsp raw cacao powder
4-6 tbsp agave syrup, maple syrup or coconut syrup
Seeds of half a vanilla pod
2 tbsp unsweetened peanut butter, mixed with ½ tbsp agave syrup

Cut any large pieces of cacao butter up (to make it easier to melt), and add them to a pyrex bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisk until melted. Split the vanilla pod in half, and scrape the seeds out with the back of a knife. Add the vanilla seeds to the cacao butter along with the agave syrup and cacao powder. Whisk well until evenly mixed and no lumps! Fill the chocolate moulds with half of the melted chocolate. Add a quarter of a teaspoon of the peanut mixture to each, and then top with more melted chocolate to cover. Set in the fridge for a couple of hours, or in the freezer for 30 minutes.


Photo credit Dorchester Living 2015.