Happy Belly Happy Heart

A blog dedicated to nutrition, wellbeing and happiness. I believe the key to a good life begins with what you choose to put into your body. A happy belly = a happy mind = a happy heart.

Pumpkin, Parsnip & Carrot Soup

Pumkpin, parsnip & carrot soupI made this delicious soup a few weeks ago and have been meaning to share it with you ever since. Actually it was probably more like 6 weeks ago as the pumpkin arrived in my organic veg box around Hallowe’en!

As is often the way, I had a few ingredients left from my veg box and was wondering what to do with them. And the old reliable turn-them-into-soup option seemed perfect on this occasion!

The pumpkin creates a rich, creamy texture and a flavour that’s not too overpowering. This allows the sweet, celery-like taste of the parsnip to come shining through, and finally the carrots add a depth of flavour and colour to the soup.

So here’s my recipe; feel free to adapt it as you see fit:

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  • 1 small organic pumpkin
  • 2 large or 3 medium organic parsnips
  • 3 medium or 4 small organic carrots
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt & pepper
  • Crème fraîche to serve

Method:

  1. De-seed, peel and chop the pumpkin into small chunks; peel and chop the parsnips and carrots into chunks.
  2. Put all the veg into a large saucepan, pour in the stock and bring to the boil.
  3. Peel and crush the garlic and add to the pan.
  4. Cover the pan, reduce the heat and cook for about 20-30 mins or until all the veg is soft enough to purée.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a food processor.
  6. Blend into a soup and add more boiling water if needed for required consistency.
  7. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

Enjoy!

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The best energy balls in the world… perfected!

Energy BallsFollowing my previous post, which provided a recipe for fantastic peanut butter, coconut and date power bites, I’ve been practising with them and have now fine-tuned the method.

The recipe is the same, but the nuts and dates should basically be chopped up a lot smaller. I did this by hand but you could use a blender or food processor.

It’s easiest to roll the balls when the mixture’s cold so start rolling them as soon as you take it out of the fridge. Then, if it starts to stick to your hands, you can pop it back in the fridge for 10-15 minutes before rolling the remaining balls.

I took the newly improved energy balls on a recent camping trip and they went down a storm! Plus they didn’t fall apart in our hands, which made them much easier to handle and more civilised to eat!

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The best energy balls in the world…ever!

date & peanut butter energy ballsI came across this recipe for “No-bake peanut butter, coconut, date power bites” and had to share it with you! I decided to make some to take to a lovely little festival called Wildheart, which was just outside Lewes, East Sussex at the end of May. And they went down a treat!

You could really feel the energy they were giving you and we were able to keep going for hours (although the copious amounts of raw chocolate may have had something to do with it too!) They’re completely natural, very easy to make and require no baking. They are quite sweet, but that’s down to the dates, honey and peanut butter, so as long as you use good quality peanut butter they contain no refined sugar. My favourite is Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter, but you can only get it in Nelson, NZ so it’s a bit far to go to stock up! However, I’ve just discovered they now have an online UK store – result! Other good brands include Meridian and Whole Earth.

The only thing I would change next time is to cut the nuts and dates up smaller. Although the honey and peanut butter are good for binding everything together, I did find it a bit tricky to make them stay in their balls and had to add more honey to help them stick. So I think having smaller chunks would be better.

Anyway, here’s the recipe, which I’ve adapted slightly from the original:

(Makes about 20 balls)
• 1 cup rolled oats
• 20-25 chopped pitted dates
• 3/4 cup chopped hazelnuts & almonds
• 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
• 1/4 cup sesame seeds
• 1 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1/3 tsp grated nutmeg
• 1 tsp vanilla extract (not flavouring)
• 1/3 cup runny honey
• 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
• 1/2 cup shredded (or desiccated) coconut

Mix together the oats, dates, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add the vanilla, honey and peanut butter and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then, using your hands, mould into small balls and roll in the shredded coconut. Store in fridge until ready to eat. Enjoy :0)

You could also experiment with various substitutes, such as: flax, poppy or chia seeds instead of (or as well as) sunflower and sesame seeds; almond, cashew or brazil nut butter instead of peanut butter; pistachios, walnuts or pecans instead of (or as well as) hazelnuts and almonds; almond extract instead of vanilla extract. The possibilities are endless!

I might make some more for a camping trip next weekend so I’ll let you know how the second attempt goes. Maybe I’ll even get them looking like actual balls this time…

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A Quick Quinoa Salad Fit for a Queen

Quinoa saladMy quinoa salad has become rather famous amongst my circle of friends, as some variation of it usually makes an appearance at any party, gathering or picnic I’m invited to! So I thought it was about time I shared the recipe.

Quinoa (pronounced kin-wah or kwin-o-a) is a type of South American grain, which is considered by many to be a superfood. It’s high in protein, gluten-free, contains all the essential amino acids and is easily digested. Quinoa is also a good source of dietary fibre, magnesium, iron and calcium. So it makes a much lighter, and more nutritious, alternative to pasta or rice.

It’s also easy to cook: just place the required amount of quinoa in a pan – I find one cup is enough for a large salad that lasts 5 days; half a cup is about one portion for an evening meal – and pour in double the amount of water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. If you have an electric hob you can just turn the heat off completely and leave the pan covered on the hob until all the water is absorbed.

There are many different variations of my famous salad, but my current favourite (which I’m eating for lunch every day this week) is the following.

For the salad:quinoa salad plus dressing ingredients

  • 1 cup of organic quinoa (white, red or mixed), cooked & cooled
  • A bunch of organic rocket
  • 3-5 organic beetroots, cubed
  • A pack of feta cheese, cubed
  • A large avocado, chopped
  • 2 handfuls of cherry or baby plum tomatoes, halved
  • Half a cucumber, quartered
  • A large organic carrot, grated
  • A handful of toasted (dry fried) seeds, e.g. pine nuts, sunflower & pumpkin seeds

For the dressing:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Wholegrain mustard

Mix all the salad ingredients together, or layer them into a large tupperware container, then they’ll naturally mix together as you take out each portion. Mix the dressing ingredients together in a jar or glass and adjust to taste. It’s best to avoid dressing each portion until the last possible moment to avoid a soggy salad.

Of course, you can substitute or add any other ingredients as you like. Grilled halloumi works well instead of feta, or why not try adding peppers, spring onions, mushrooms, fennel, radishes, bean sprouts or tofu.

Hey presto – a quick, quintessential quinoa salad fit for a queen!

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Breakfast Like a King

breakfast table laden with foodTo breakfast or not to breakfast? That is the question. It’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. A decent breakfast makes you feel good, gives you energy and sets you up for the day.

According to a survey by The Telegraph around two thirds of people in Britain don’t eat breakfast but most nutritionists agree it’s the most important meal and if you’re trying to lose weight this certainly isn’t the way to do it.

As Angela Tella, a dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA), warns in the Telegraph article: ”Breakfast is a very important meal and provides a lot of nutrients, such as glucose, that aid concentration and mental strength. And research shows that people who eat breakfast are generally slimmer.”

The reason for this, according to researchers from Imperial College London is that missing breakfast increases the appeal of high-calorie foods, leading to a higher intake of calories at lunchtime. It can also result in mood swings and a feeling of hunger throughout the day, which is not what you want when you’re trying to lose weight. Skipping breakfast sends messages to your brain that your body may be going into hibernation mode, so any calories that you do consume will get hoarded for later use, i.e. stored as fat.

So, the next question is: what should we be eating for breakfast? The possibilities are endless: from toast, bagels and pancakes; to yoghurt, cereals and fruit; to eggs, bacon and beans. I have a bit of a reputation in my office for eating the healthiest breakfasts so I thought I’d share some of my personal favourites with you.

Now, I’m definitely not one to shy away from a hearty Full English (veggie of course), a delicate Eggs Florentine or a delectable stack of pancakes smothered in maple syrup, bananas and blueberries. But here comes that familiar motto again…. altogether now: Everything in moderation!

I’ll splash out on a brekkie treat now and then, tend towards a post-practice coffee and croissant on a Sunday and favour 2 slices of wholemeal (or gluten-free) toast with Marmite and peanut butter (not together – ew!) at the weekends. But my standard, weekday, post-practice, at-the-desk staple is this:

  • breakfast bowl, muesli & rice milkA base of Doves Farm gluten-free cornflakes.
  • Followed by a handful of oats granola or, better still, homemade muesli (see below).
  • Freshly sliced banana layered on top.
  • A sprinkling of homemade nut & seed mix (almonds, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, poppy & chia seeds).
  • A spoonful of some healthy powder! Currently Linwoods’ milled flax, sunflower, pumpkin & sesame seeds & goji berries; soon to be replaced by Pulsin’s hemp protein powder.
  • All topped off with a generous portion of rice milk.

Sounds complicated but it’s so delicious and nourishing and keeps me going for hours.

I’ve only just started making my own muesli, inspired by a recipe my sister passed on to me in New Zealand. It’s so easy and much cheaper than buying it ready made. This is how to do it:

  • Mix 170g of rolled oats with 35g of dessicated coconut, 2tbsp of neutral oil (try grapeseed oil), 85g of runny honey, 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon and as many nuts and seeds as you fancy.
  • Combine thoroughly, spread into a baking dish lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 180 degrees for about 20-30 mins, turning regularly.
  • The muesli will turn a lovely golden brown colour. If you prefer it more toasted, bake for longer, but keep turning it regularly.
  • Remove from oven and once cooled add dried fruit to your liking, e.g. raisins, sultanas, cranberries, apricots, dates, etc.
  • Eat and enjoy!

Lapsang Souchong teaAnd of course no breakfast would be complete without a strong smokey cup of Lapsang Souchong tea to wash it all down with! (The first meal of the day seems to warrant a little more leniency with the half-hour rule…)

I’m looking forward to the morning already!

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