I often think about this relentless striving to be more, do more and to continue to better ourselves. The beginning of each year is a time when this message becomes excessively loud. The “how to” of creating a “new you” is E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E.
Of course I believe in self development and growth, because that forms part of the work I do in my clinical practice, yet this message of striving to become a new version of ourselves feels like it carries an undertone of unworthiness to me. Why else would we want to be a NEW version of ourselves? Are we trying to eradicate the very truth that we are actually worthy human beings just by being here?
One of my ambitions last year was to attend a 9 day Vipassana retreat, which I was very blessed to actually achieve. I have done a couple of shorter silent meditation retreats in the past, so this time I had a fair idea of what to expect. What I didn’t expect though was the intense tiredness I felt for the first few days. Every spare moment, in between the formal sittings, I took naps. I meditated, ate and rested. It took a few days before I actually had enough energy and desire to go for some longer walks. My body was tired because my mind was so full and had been so overstimulated. The thing is, it is only in this intentional stillness that I can really notice how much my mind is racing.
Though I don’t consider myself someone who is extreme, doing something as radical as spending time in silence and meditating for hours over the course of a week has been one of the best forms of resting and recovering for me. I know this is not for everyone and you have to find what works for you, of course. Going on retreat where the outside stimuli is virtual nil has been the only way for me to completely let go. It’s not easy, but it has been possible, and so rewarding.
With this experience freshly in my mind one of my intentions for 2019 is definitely to let go more, to be more present and to allow my life to unfold more than me constantly pushing and striving. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have ambitions for things I’d like to happen, places I’d like to see and conversations I want to have, it just means that I am more open than attached to outcome. Basically I am taking more of a curious approach this year. Let’s see what will happen!
Before I move on to sharing my first recipe of this year, a green smoothie with some seasonal ingredients, I want to circle back to the self development topic. If we stop striving for being some different version of ourselves then what? Should we just give up on the self development project altogether?
I like to think about self development work more like a homecoming. A way to really get to know ourselves and to develop the skills, resilience and courage to live our lives on our own terms. To be able to be more of whom we are, rather than what society think we should be. So any tools and practices that helps us returning home to ourselves, to peel of all the layers of expectations and external driven motivations get my vote.
If you want to spend this year getting curious about your strengths and weaknesses, about what makes you tick and about what brings you joy, just know that I will be here cheering you on all the way. Just know that regardless of what you do, or don’t do, you are still enough and worthy just by being you.
So now to this recipe. Yeah, posting a green smoothie recipe in January does feel a little like playing into the hands of Diet Culture, but I also know that my body craves fresh foods and greens after all the holiday foods. However, when we’ve given ourselves full permission to enjoy all foods and eat (at least mostly) from a place of attunement, having a green smoothie doesn’t HAVE to mean that we are jumping on the diet bandwagon.
I have to admit that cold smoothies in cold weather is not my usual go to either, but this seasonal combination is so delicious and having a smoothie is a quick and easy way to consume something green, when you are craving it!
Apple & Kale Green Smoothie (For The Winter Season)
1 small apple, core removed & roughly chopped into chunks
1 small banana or 2 Medjool dates
A few leaves of green kale, stems removed & roughly chopped – I used cavolo nero here.
1 tbsp protein powder of choice – I tend to use an unflavoured pea protein – optional
100 ml full fat coconut milk
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
150 ml soy milk or other plant milk of choice
Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. If you are using dates, don’t forget to remove the stones!
I personally like my smoothies at room temperature, but if you like them colder you can either use frozen banana slices in place of the fresh banana or ad some ice. Just make sure your blender can handle it. Enjoy!
Woho! The first new recipe for my new site, an Apple & Blackberry Crumble is here. I really hope you are excited about this as I am. Especially since it was 1st of July since I last put up something here, and back then the website looked vastly different.
When I decided to re design it, I knew that it was a big project and that it would take me some time to do it. The summer months seemed to be the perfect time to get going as clinic wise this tends to be a slower time of the year for me. Having said that, it wasn’t my preference to spend all that screen time when the weather was so lovely. On the upside, there were days when it was almost too hot to be outside (imagine saying that about an Irish summer!), so eventually it all came together.
The feedback has been lovely so far and if you have been hanging around here before, then I hope that you can still find your way around just fine. I am happy enough with how this re design turned out, and glad that all the tech skills that I have amassed over the past five years or so came to good use. Another positive thing was that my blogging hasn’t been weekly over these past five years as I had to do some minor editing to all my blog posts and 125 of them was more than enough to be honest!
Creating and developing recipes that are seasonal requires some timing. If you are using seasonal ingredients then making winter recipes in July is a challenge and it may also mean that sometimes when you create a recipe in season, by the time it is ready to be published the season has passed… That’s exactly what happened with this Apple & Blackberry Crumble. When I moved house last year, this was one of the first things I made. Because I liked it so much I made it several times when I had people over for dinner. It is a spicy twist on a seasonal classic.
The crumble is crunchy and buttery and the apples are tart. Using Chinese Five Spice, which is a spice blend made up of cinnamon, fennel, star anise, cloves and black pepper was born out of curiousity. All of these spices individually pairs well with apple so I thought, why not in a crumble? The result is something a little different but more interesting than your typical apple and blackberry crumble. Using ground hazelnuts add to the seasonality and oats makes for a crispier crumble topping. If you don’t have blackberries, just omit. Or be bold and add something else like blueberries or blackcurrants.
Apple & Blackberry Crumble with Chinese Five Spice
2 large cooking apples
½ cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
60 g hazelnuts, ground in to a rough flour
75g cold butter, cubed
60 g rolled oats, gluten free if necessary
4 tbsp muscovado sugar
½ tsp Chinese Five Spice
¼ tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp rice flour or spelt flour if it doesn’t have to be gluten free
Heat your oven to 180˚C. Peel and core your cooking apples then cut them into neat slices.
Toss the apple slices in the Chines Five Spice and the ground cardamom and then place them in an oven proof baking dish. Scatter over the black berries.
In a separate bowl add the ground hazelnuts, sugar, rice or spelt flour and rolled oats. Mix it all together with a spoon. Then add the cold butter into the flour mix and with your hands rub the butter and flour together until you have what resembles bread crumbs.
Scatter the crumble topping evenly over the apple slices and black berries. Then bake in the oven for 35 min until golden and the apples are soft.
I like serving this with sour cream or crème fraiche, as the tartness works well with the spices. However a really nice vanilla ice cream would be good too.
Halloween has just been (and the Christmas decorations are already appearing around the place!) but for all my U.S friends Thanksgiving is just around the corner. So I suppose it is still pumpkin season.
I was contemplating the other day how nature seem to have provided us with a natural harmony of flavour pairings. It seems like many foods that are in season at the same time, go well together.
Like apple and blackberries, or apples and pumpkins. Or hazelnuts and mushrooms. Each season has its own charm, yet there’s something so comforting about the foods that comes with this time of the year. I don’t know about you but I naturally yearn for more stodgy food when the weather gets colder. Spicy soups, roasted root vegetables, strews. Less salads more strifries. That kind of thing.
I think I read somewhere you need to live a full year somewhere, through all the seasons, before you are fully rooted in your new environment. Not sure where I read it, but regardless, it has been my lived experience. Would you agree?
There are more seasonal recipe ideas to share, like an apple and blackberry crumble I have made on repeat lately, but have yet to photograph, a purple salad and maybe this year my own version of a mushroom soup, will make it here too.
Until then, I hope you will enjoy this pumpkin soup recipe!
Apple & Pumpkin Soup
1 Hokkaido Pumpkin (Butternut Squash could work well too)
4 small or 2 big eating apples
1 yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cumin, ground
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cinnamon
½ pinch of ground cloves
Approx. 1 litre stock
Sea salt & Black pepper to season
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Heat oven to 200˚C. Make a few cuts in the whole pumpkin and then on a baking tray and roast for about 2h, until soft. Doing it this way, I’ve found make much less work than trying to wrestle with it in its uncooked state.
Once cooked and soft, set aside to cool. Once the pumpkin has cooled down, remove skin and seeds and roughly chop.
Chop onion, garlic and the apple into small pieces.
Heat a heavy based pan, add some olive oil. Then add garlic and onion and sauté until soft and translucent.
Add spices and fry off at a low heat for 1-2 min until fragrant. Add the apple pieces and the pumpkin pieces. Add the stock.
Bring to a lively simmer and cook for about 30min until the apple is soft. Let the soup cool somewhat, add the red wine vinegar and then blend until smooth.
Season to taste. Add more liquid if you find the consistency too thick.
Whilst I am chipping away at a non recipe blog post I thought I would share this seasonal favourite one of mine. It is funny because sometimes those types of posts almost writes themselves, and other times they require a bit more of an effort.
I picked up some really delicious Irish apples the other day when I was in Cork City. Ten apples for €2, so quiet a bargain. Which is so often the case when you buy locally grown or produced food that is in season.
To be honest, apples are not a fruit that I tend to include in my weekly shop on a regular basis. Bananas are my staple (not locally grown!), mostly because I love using them in smoothies. From there it can shift to whatever looks good and is reasonably priced.
Or if there’s something that looks interesting and that I haven’t tries before. Like green plums (seriously good), or kumquats, or just good old raspberries… You get the idea.
Fresh slices of apple with some nut butter is a “classic” snack in nutrition circles. It’s easy, portable and give you that balanced combination of carbohydrates with fat and protein, that will prevent your blood sugar from spiking too much.
But with the change of seasons, baking them whole in the oven is much more satisfying to me. And I suppose it I also means I am admitting that we have now left Summer behind, to get ready for wet and windy days, woolly jumpers, cozy hats, warm fires, darker evenings as well as beautiful clear skies with all the colourful glory that the autumn leaves brings.
Do I feel ready for this kind of transition? I don’t know… Are we every truly ready for any change in our lives, consciously chosen or not?
Yet it is the one certainty that we have.
And need to learn to live with.
The constant of change.
I began making baked apples like this about two years ago and since then this recipe have become an autumnal ritual of sorts. It is a lot less effort than you may think and only requires a few basic ingredients.
I tend to use eating apples rather than cooking apples for this.
Baked Apple with Spiced Nutbutter & Dark Chocolate
Recipe is based on one apple per person so double ingredients per amount of apples required.
1 crispy type of apple
20g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tbsp nut butter, (hazelnut would be me personal preference)
½ tsp mixed spice or pumpkin spice
Good quality ice cream, dairy free alternative or crème fraiché, to serve
Heat your oven to 180˚C. Cut the top off and then core the apple. If you have one of those tools to core an apple, lucky you! It will make it much easier. If you don’t use a small knife to cut around the core and then remove it.
Place your apple(s) on a lined baking tray. In a small bowl mix nut butter and spices together until you have an evenly paste.
Stuff the core of the apple(s) with alternate teaspoons of nut butter and chocolate until it’s full. Place the top back on.
Bake the apple(s) for about 30 min until the skin is soft and cracks and the flesh is fairly soft.
Serve warm with your choice of ice cream / cream / dairy free alternative.
** Some interesting alternatives for stuffing would be to use some butter instead of the nut butter (if you can tolerate dairy). Or some almond paste. You could make your own by blending ground almond with some maple syrup.
If you don’t have mixed spice, using ground cinnamon and / or cardamom would be delicious too!
Since we had a Summer Salad Series, I thought it I might treat you to some Winter Warmers over the coming months. Soups are such an amazing way to enjoy seasonable vegetables and to ensure you eat your minimum of 5-a day. Enjoying a big bowl of soup daily is a surefire way of making sure you get at least your minimal dose.
I’m one of these odd people who don’t like having soup as a starter, as to me it’s a meal in itself. However, if you’re having soup as a single meal, make sure you have enough. Otherwise it’s not going to keep you fulled to your next meal. A measly cup won’t cut it (well not for me anyway!), if you’re not pairing it with a whole lot of bread or something…
I think sometimes we become so consumed with what we eat, or simply eat to “fill the gap” as we notice an urgent hunger sensation or running out of steam. But what if we actually took the time to stop and “smell the roses”? Or as in this case, the apples. Perhaps it’s then we really can appreciate the intensity and depth in flavour eating seasonally gives us.
Have you noticed how much more the apples that are around this time of year smells? I love these kinds of winter apples with their sharp and crisp flavour. They pair so well with green salads or as a small snack with some nut butter. Lately I’ve also added finely chopped fresh apples to my morning porridge + some ground cinnamon. Or I’ve used them as a bold pairing, like here, with beetroot.
After getting over my past dislike of beetroot there’s been no holding back! I’ve had it raw, cooked in salads, in hummus, cakes and now soup. It’s such an incredibly powerful vegetable with its liver and blood supporting nutrient content, in form of glutathione, nitric oxide and iron.
I’m also tying this recipe into my last blog post talking about the ROOT Aspectof health. Beetroot, being both a root vegetable growing deep in the earth, being the colour red and being beneficial to the red blood cells kind of IS the perfect “cover face” for the ROOT Aspect. I think there’s nothing more grounding when it comes to food than pulling a beautiful root vegetable out of the ground. It’s a direct connection with the soil, which nourishes us all… Having dabbled in some GIY this year, which I really enjoyed, I’ve discovered for myself how de-stressing it actually is to literally stick your fingers in the soil and to get your hands dirty, when your head is feeling frazzled. I’m sure those of you who already are avid gardeners know this, but I couldn’t believe actually HOW beneficial I found it to be to my own health and wellbeing. Especially these days when a lot of time is spent in front of the computer.
This very bright red soup was something I tried and tested already last year but it never made it to the blog before the seasons changed… I think there’s a picture of the first attempt somewhere waaay back over on Instagram. (Be warned, you will have to scroll back a few hundred images!) Anyway, at that time I didn’t write down the recipe so I’ve made it a few more times since, taking notes (!) with the intention of sharing it here with you all. So now after a few more test rounds, here it is, ready to share!
It may seem like a bold choice of flavours but trust me, it works. The sweetness of the apples marry with the earthiness of the beetroot. I added some shaved coconut on top as a fnish here, but you can use yogurt too.
Apple – Beetroot Soup
3 medium sized beetroot, peeled & finely chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 small apples, cored & finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp fennel seeds, ground
700 ml vegetable stock
Start with grounding the spices with a pester and mortar. Gently heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan, then add the ground spices and fry off for a few minutes until fragrant.
Add the finely chopped onion and sauté until soft and transparent, but not burnt. Add the finely chopped beetroot and the chopped apples. Let the beetroot and apple soften by gently mixing them with the onion and spices over medium heat, for about 5 min.
Then add the vegetable stock and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover the saucepan with a lid. Let the soup simmer for 45 min until the beetroot is soft. Allow it to cool somewhat before blending it smooth. I use my handheld blender directly into the saucepan (I’m a little lazy like that!)
Serve the soup warm in bowls, topped with some shaved coconut flakes.