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!
But now let’s get going with the interview! I will let Frances tell you a little bit more about herself now 🙂
Hi Frances! Can you tell us something about yourself and your work?
Sure! My name is Frances and I live in Kilkenny in the south east of Ireland. Kilkenny is my home town, but I lived in Dublin for years where I worked as a lawyer. I moved home about four years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer to focus on my recovery. I started my blog, The Honest Project two years ago as something for me to focus on when I was getting better. I found cooking food very therapeutic, especially when it was healthy foods. I began to experiment with my cooking and document it on the blog. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a child but never really experimented with vegetarian cooking until I started my road to recovery. I also love writing and photography so the blog is a great way for me to spend time doing some of my favourite things.
How would you describe your food philosophy?
I won’t really call it a philosophy. I just cook and eat what I want to at a particular time. I guess my focus is on eating more vegetables and I find vegetarian cooking exciting. I’m always looking for new ways to add vegetables to my diet. I think everyone has to decide for themselves how they wish to eat and I’d hate to come across as preachy; but I guess the blog is for anyone who wants to eat more vegetables and more food that is cooked from scratch. Sometimes the simplest of ingredients and cooking techniques can make the most delicious dishes and sometimes you want to make things a little more complex. Both ways of cooking have their place in my kitchen.
How did you come up with the name The Honest Project?
When I started the blog, it was so that I would have a project that I could focus on when I was recovering from being sick. I needed something to structure my day and I was so fatigued after chemotherapy I really saw the blog as a project to help get me back on my feet. I also wanted to write about things that were authentic and honest to me. I didn’t want to limit the blog to food related content so I thought The Honest Project was a good choice. Plus the URL was available, so didn’t have to think twice.
What does your process from idea to finished recipe and blog post look like?
It varies. I usually don’t put a whole lot of planning into my recipes. Rather I might have a beautiful seasonal ingredient in my kitchen and I decide to build a recipe around it. Sometimes I get ideas from café or restaurant menus from half way across the globe (thanks to Internet snopping) and I make an Honest Project version. Some of my favourite recipes have just come from me having very little ingredients in the kitchen and having to be creative with what I do have. I usually make the recipe a couple of times before it makes it to the blog. Also in the Winter time as day light hours are minimal, I have to make sure to make it early in the day so I have time to photograph it in natural light.
Which 5 ingredients will one find in your pantry?
I have so many ingredients in my pantry, it’s hard to narrow it down to five essentials. I always have olive oil (both extra virgin and olive oil). I love oats, they are so versatile and I use them all the time. I love avocados and literally have to stop myself eating them on repeat all day long. I eat a lot of nuts, especially almonds and cashew nuts and always have a supply in my handbag in case the dreaded hunger strikes. Lastly, I always have leafy greens for juicing, smoothies, salads and adding to stews and curries.
Do you have an all time favorite recipe you keep coming back to?
I have many. I adore chia seed puddings as I think they are the perfect blank canvas on which to experiment with flavour. They are also so handy to make in advance and just grab out of the fridge each morning. I also love chocolate brownies and I’m currently making a dark chocolate version with an almond butter swirl. It’s so good with a cup of tea or coffee. (Ed note* I can’t wait to read and cook that recipe as I’m always looking for the best brownie recipe!)
Tell us something about the recipe you are sharing today! Why this particular recipe?
Today’s recipe is for Coconut Chia Pudding with Berries & Passion Fruit. Most of the time when I eat chia pudding for breakfast I skip adding any sweetener bar fruit. But for this recipe I add coconut sugar, so it’s really more suitable for dessert than breakfast. Let’s be honest, chia seeds don’t really taste like anything at all. But paired with a delicious sweet nut milk and fresh berries, there are transformed into a delicious breakfast or in this case dessert. For this recipe I combine the coconut flavour of the chia pudding with passion fruit and berries. The great thing about this recipe is that it can be prepped in advance.
Coconut Chia Pudding with Berries & Passion Fruit
5 cups of coconut milk
3-5 tbsp of coconut sugar (depending on your sweet tooth).
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole chia seeds
1 cup frozen berries
3 passion fruit
A few sprigs fresh mint
1 tbsp coconut flakes
Heat the coconut milk in a saucepan over a low heat. Add the vanilla extract and coconut sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Add the chia seeds to the milk mixture and stir well. Pour the mixture into a large container and place in the fridge for 4 hours to set.
Just before serving, heat the berries in a saucepan over a low heat until they soften.
To serve, divide the chia pudding between six serving glasses. Spoon a tablespoon of berries and their syrup over each. Spoon the flesh of half a passion fruit into each glass. Top with fresh mint and coconut flakes.
Head over to The Honest Project for more great recipes! And if you want to stay in touch and follow her blog on Social Media, you will find her on Facebook Here and on Instagram Here.
Many months ago I posted a chia pudding recipe here and there’s also many, many varieties floating around the internet. Why? One reason may be because it’s a bit trendy. Just like quinoa was a few years ago. And perhaps the other reason is that it is one of these really “handy & portable” foods.
To be honest I don’t make chia puddings on a regular basis, but over the past few weeks I’ve had some serious kitchen and recipe creation inspiration, and this was one of them. (More to follow in the coming weeks as I get time to re test, style and shoot!).
Since I am such a sucker for pretty and colourful foods, when I spotted these gorgeous looking plums, I just had to buy them. A couple where consumed as straight up snacks whereas the rest formed the topping to this lemony chia pudding. However, if you can’t find any plums that look good I think some stewed apples would be equally good too. Might even try that version myself next time, since I’ve been gifted plenty of them!
I have tried a few various liquids to let the chia seeds gel in, but I keep coming back to full fat coconut milk. I just find that it gives the best consistency, compared to other nutmilks. The creaminess reminds me of ris a´la malta, a cooked rice pudding which has then been blended with whipped cream which is usually served cold on Christmas Eve, or as in my family, when I was a child we on Christmas Day. Always made from the leftover rice pudding from the night before.
So… This pudding may get you into the festive spirit (!).
The best thing with this dish / breakfast / snack is that it can be pre-prepared and if you make the chia pudding in a jar then it is easily transportable too.
Lemony Chia Pudding with Stewed Plums
200 ml full fat coconut milk – if you milk is separated you may have to gently heat it first
2 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
juice + zest of 1 lemon
4 small plums, stone removed and quartered
1-2 tbsp maple syrup
Place the coconut milk, chia seeds, lemon juice and lemon zest in a glass jar or in a kilner jar. Mix the seeds and zest into the liquid to make sure that they are evenly distributed. Set a side. You may want to give it another stir after about 10 min, when the seeds have started to expand.
Store the chia pudding in the fridge until ready to eat.
To make the stewed plums; Place the destoned and chopped plums in a small saucepan. Simmer the plums on low heat. Stir on occasion to make sure that they don’t burn. You may need to turn heat down even further.
Keep simmering until the fruit is completely soft and has broken down. This will take about 25-30 min. Add maple syrup to taste. Allow the fruit compote to cool before serving it with the chia pudding.
* My tip is to make the stewed fruit and the chia pudding the night before you intend to eat it. It may take a little forward planning, but once you have that, making this recipe is a breeze. Just stew the fruits at the same time as you are making dinner and assemble the pudding before you go to bed. Then you can get take a few min extra snooze time with clear conscious then next morning…! You can of course serve the fruit compote warm too 🙂
Let the purple theme continue! And the smoothie one too, of course. Purple is my favourite colour. So of course it made total sense to create a smoothie that was purple. It seems like late summer / early autumn is the natural season for purple foods.
In the past few weeks I’ve foraged some wild blueberries / bilberries as well as blackberries from the hedgerows out the back of where I live. On my last few walks I’ve also spied some lovely damsons and lots of elderberries. If the weekend allows I think I will go ahead and make some of this, which will make a nice one to keep any colds and flues at bay as the weather shifts. This transitional time of the year is one when I’m most likely to get sick, so it may just be a good idea to stay on top of it!
You know, the idea for this smoothie came initially from creating something “hidden”. Not everybody enjoy drinking the colour green. So what I did was put a few green leaves with something that would blend them into another colour. I’ve mentioned before that blending red and green is usually not a brilliant idea. You might get away with a few leaves of spinach with beetroot as it is so bright, but if you’ve ever tried spinach and strawberries… you know what I am talking about.
In this smoothie it is the blackberries that are providing most of the purple colour, but the blueberries bring equal beauty in form of taste, colour and nutrients. And if you have some blackcurrants throw them into the mix too! All these berries are a great source of vitamin C which is a major contributor to a healthy immune system.
Purple Smoothie with Hidden Greens
1/2 cup of blackberries – fresh or frozen
1/2 cup blueberries – fresh or frozen
a handful of green leaves like kale (stems removed) or spinach
1/2 small avocado
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp pea / hemp / rice protein
1/2 tsp ground caramom – optional, but delicious!
250 ml coconut water or plant milk of choice
Place all the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth.
Serve with your favourite toppings.
Feast your eyes on the purple delight.
And feel the nourishment spreading throughout your body!
In keeping with the yellow theme from last month’s blog post on the FIRE Aspect, I give you another yellow combination. And yes, it’s still a liquid one(!) *Note to self, make the next recipe something that you’ll chew*
But as I’m getting myself geared up for Whole Detox™ in about 10 days I’m enjoying a few smoothies here and there. Though I’m not really one for cold food in cold weather, (and boy is the warm winter we had turning cold and struggling to move out of the way) it can be hard to look past the convenience of smoothies when it comes to simple ways to increase the amount of fresh produce you eat. Eating enough can be such a challenge at times, and who would have thought, since the message that’s mostly thrown around it the one “eat less, move more”.
I’ve even had people on some of my programmes freaking out because of the volume of food on their plate. The beauty is though that when we increase the amount of colourful plant based foods we eat, we get to eat MORE, not less.
I remember doing this simple math’s exercise with a group I had on a weightloss programme a few years ago. Though, as you know I’m not a huge fan of counting calories but for this simple visual experiment they do serve a purpose.
So visualise this; One 500 ml bottle of soft drink (minerals / soda / fizzy drink – pick your name) contains roughly 500 kcal. Without having a label in front of me it will give you a fair amount of sugar, probably 10-14 teaspoons (remember this is a completely man-made product so any carbohydrate content will be pure sugar and count as your “added sugar intake”). There will also be some colourings and additives, more or less depending on the type and brand you choose.
Now let’s take those same 500 kcal and see how that translate into vegetables. So (from memory) 500 kcal worth of vegetable is about two full shopping bags worth! Lots of vital nutrients, fibre and volume. I would honestly think you’d struggle to chomp it all down in the course of a day.
That’s why the very handy, yet simple strategy of filling half your plate with vegetables is such a powerful way to reduce the total amount of calories yet maximise the amount of quality nutrition you get. There’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends 7-10 servings of fruit and vegetable a day for any diet to be disease preventable. 5-a-day is actually a minimum. And I see people who are only getting 2-3 at times.
How many portions are you eating daily?
I even know for myself when we did food diaries as project back in college, that upping it to 7-10 actually takes a conscious effort. Perhaps that’s one reason I’m so drawn to smoothies?
Anyway, another thing that I realised the other day is this; What if we look at the food we eat in a symbolic way?The majority of us want to have more energy so we can do more (and even BE more) and if we have a constant feeling of lack luster and even low mood holds this may hold us back from doing all that we want. It’s seriously frustrating. I can still remember what it felt like some years ago when my energy levels where down on 3-4, out of 10. A lot of the time I just functioned and got through the day, doing what had to be done. I was constantly tired.
So what if we focus on eating more foods that are vibrant and alive? What about adding more colour to the plate? My whole food philosophy is about feasting your eyes as much as feeding your body. In case you hadn’t noticed…
So without a degree in nutrition and if you want to keep it simple, yet knowing that you are getting lots of essential nutrients to fuel your body and mind, think colour! Think rainbow and aim to eat a rainbow of colours every day.
So with colour in mind, here is a yellow zingy smoothie that is sure to put some zest and brightness into your day.
If you are feeling brave and have a strong blender, like a Nutribullet, then go ahead and blend the whole lemon! It sure makes for some serious digestive power! Otherwise just use the juice.
And since the sun is still shining with it’s absence I am trying to brighten my days in other ways. This is one such way. Enjoy 🙂
Zingy Smoothie for Grey Spring Days
1 cup fresh pineapple – peeled, cored and diced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
Juice of one whole lemon – or peel (if you have an organic one you can blend the whole one) and use the whole fruit!
1 small fresh root of turmeric or 1 tsp of turmeric powder
1 tbsp of hulled hempseeds
1 tbsp of pea, rice or hemp protein (I like the Pulsin brand)
200-250ml plant milk of choice
Place all the ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. Drink immediately.
***Note, personally I don’t like really cold drinks (unless the weather is really hot) but if you want a colder drink feel free to add some ice too***