Quinoa Salad with Asian Dressing

Queen Street Warehouse does an apple, avocado and quinoa bowl, which is really delicious. It has lovely Asian flavours – the dressing is made with soy sauce, honey and lime.

Much to the hubby’s horror, I’m the girl who takes tamari with me to sushi restaurants and we hardly ever have soy sauce now but some days I like to get away with wheaty murder. What can I say? Soy sauce brings out my wicked side.

The kind of food I enjoy cooking and eating most is vegan or vegetarian and gluten free. My soft spot for pizza at the weekend and chocolate cake at celebrations (the joys of multinational family and friends are all the various national holidays and birthdays) is no secret. Until I master the art of clean baking, moist and squishy cake will be my vice.

I feel happiest when sharing recipes that can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter what their food preferences are. So it only felt natural to whip up my own vegan and gluten free rendition of an Asian quinoa bowl to be enjoyed on more than the odd occasion. I like to eat it with baby greens and some slices of avocado.

This recipe calls for a mixture of regular and black quinoa. I used Alter Eco’s Royal Black Quinoa, as I had some in my pantry, if you can get hold of their goods please do. I really love their stuff (especially their chocolate) and all of it is sustainable. I’m not perfect, but every little helps.

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(Serves 4)

For the salad:

1/2 cup each of regular and black quinoa
4 spring onions, sliced
2tbsp almonds, slivered

For the dressing:

Juice of one lime
2tbsp tamari
1tbsp sesame oil
1” piece of ginger
1tbsp coconut sugar

Cook quinoa according to packet instructions.

Meanwhile, in a small chopper, blitz all the ingredients for the dressing together.

Once the quinoa is cooked, toss it together with the spring onions and dressing. Sprinkle the almonds on top before serving.

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All that glam

My healthy habits for life truly began during our wedding days. For our big day I wanted to glow inside out, that is why I began following an alkaline lifestyle and have kept it up ever since. Another thing that I stuck with is using GLAMGLOW mud masks after seeing them in a wedding magazine.

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Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the only reason I was glowing (my handsome groom definitely put a beaming smile on my face), but my YouthMud was definitely the icing on the cake. They call it a facial in a jar, which couldn’t be more true, my skin felt super clean, lifted and tighter too. Since then I’ve tried their SuperMud as an overnight spot treatment (just dab a little on the affected area) and to keep my skin happy during winter in Canada, I am hooked on ThirsyMud. Which smells amazing and leaves my skin feeling dewy, soft and fresh.

I was replenishing my stock at Sephora the other day when I learnt the owners would be there at the weekend promoting their new “mud to foam” range (which is just as lush, mud that turns into cleansing foam) and so I booked an appointment. It was really nice meeting Glenn and Shannon Dellimore, they even signed my little jar of mud, so much better than just taking a selfie!

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I spend a lot of time choosing skincare products, I love trying new beauty lines but will only really invest in something if it is worth it and does what it says on the bottle. This range is a little like magic, it does the trick. After using it, I rarely bother putting on any make-up, just power up my brows and add flick of mascara.

If you have been keeping an eye on 2015 make-up trends, you will know that day glow, barely there hues and a natural face with pops of colour is right on the money. A fresh faced look needs a little more love than usual when it comes to taking care of the skin in winter and that polar vortex isn’t making it any easier. GLAMGLOW ThirstyMud is all that jazz.

Blue[berry] Monday

Ignorance is bliss. I didn’t even realise today was the most depressing day of the year but while reading about it online I found an article promoting a good use for the 26th of January 2015. Let’s use today to create awareness about all mental health illnesses.

I energy exchange at my local yoga studio and this week we are running two classes in support of Bell Let’s Talk, a campaign geared to ending the stigma associated with mental health illnesses. I did a certificate in counselling and psychotherapy, so talking about mental wellbeing isn’t something I shy away from but not everyone feels comfortable talking about it. This makes it really hard for people who have mental health illnesses, because what they need more than anything is support and empathy.

So how can you get involved? See if there are any events happening locally and take part in them, so you too can be part of the conversation. Educate yourself, ask questions and listen.

There are times where we feel down, this is beautifully human. Sometimes I need to feel sad, instead of fighting it I embrace it and work through those emotions and emerge feeling much better. If you ever feel like your down days are not just a passing phase, don’t stop yourself from reaching out. It is so important to talk to someone who will be able to give you the support and advice you need.

I’ve found that when I don’t eat well or workout I start to feel terrible, tired and quite out of sorts. While there are many mental illnesses that need more attention than better food choices and exercise, for most of us, leading a healthy lifestyle can do wonders for our mental wellbeing.

I kicked off my day with an uplifting smoothie. This one has all the right things to turn that frown upside down. Blueberries have a purple pigment called anthocyanin, so as well as being a heart-healthy antioxidant, they are wonderful mood enhancers. For good measure, I added flax (as low levels of Omega-3 can throw you off), and magnesium-rich cashew butter and chia seeds, both are also great mood enhancers.

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(Serves 1)

A big handful of blueberries
1tbsp ground flax
1/2 cup filtered water
1/2 cup of nut milk
1tbsp cashew butter
1tsp chia seeds

Blitz the blueberries and flax with the water and pour into your glass.

Clean out the blender, and then blend your milk with the cashew butter and chia seeds.

Create a layer effect by taking a teaspoon and place it on the rim of the glass. Pour the milk slowly into the glass over the teaspoon. See this image.

(Or you can just blend the whole lot together, layering is optional.)

That in-house mozzarella though

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My hubby and I recently attended a menu tasting event at Scaddabush, a restaurant named after the Italian slang word for a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

My first memory of Italian food is about twenty years or so old. I don’t think I was even into my first set of double digits in age, but then my Dad had us eating avocados and shellfish before we really understood that it was Sebastian from The Little Mermaid we were enjoying so much.

It was on the Isle of Man, we had decided to take a coastal drive, my father, my younger sister and I. We drove along the Island’s roads adjacent to the Irish Sea, making our way to Laxey of all places. My Dad is a real foodie, he loves all cuisines, has a serious sweet tooth, which he has passed down to my sister and I, and is never one to turn down a food adventure or not seek it in this case.

As we went down that teeny tiny road towards the beach, we passed a little restaurant – windows lit up with warm orange light and though we were supposed to be having dinner at home, Dad just decided to stop.

I still remember the first time I tried garlic bread that was flat and round, pizza that looked at though it had been made on tandoori naan and fresh pasta. In movies, I’ve heard people talk about the first time they tried heroin, nothing has ever lived up to that first experience of Italian food at La Mona Lisa.

We haven’t been to La Mona Lisa for many years now but some food memories just stay with you and it still plays on my mind whenever I order food in an Italian restaurant. It’s not as if I haven’t had great Italian food since then but nothing close to how that experience felt, studying the menu, bewildered by all the new words, asking Dad about items on the menu and watching him trying to figure it out (there was no Google back then), before waving the server over. Then, waiting for the food to come out, unsure why everything was the way it was but determined to try it all the same and having Manx ice cream after the entire event.

A few months a go, I went on a date with the hubby to Scaddabush after which we signed up to their social club. I love this place because there is nothing better than a restaurant that makes in-house mozzarella and with that tomato jam? I’ll happily concede to my hips and wave goodbye to any thoughts of abs.

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So about a week or so ago, I signed us up to one of their social events that took place a few days ago (thank goodness I follow the 70/30 rule, there were seven courses to try). Upstairs the vibe was super cozy and upbeat. Another reason, I love the Scaddabush interior is because it reminds me of The Elbow Room in Karachi (the only place in the world I have had lasagna to die for), rustic and inviting.

Honestly, I don’t remember the names of all the dishes, but I remember how good they were. The taste testing started with artichokes and calamari. Went onto freshly baked focaccia and warm olives, a mozzarella cheese bomb that oozed onto fiery peppers and tomatoes, followed by bite sized meatballs, pizza, and pasta and ended with a chocolate jar cake. Ahmed shamelessly ate two and went to the gym the next day.

Steve Silvestro, their executive chef, kind of paid homage to all my taste buds and challenged them with the delicious and the unexpected, sweet (honey drizzled onto a pizza with truffle oil) salty, sour (I didn’t know I could like olives so much) and spicy (the calamari had a kickass sauce on it). As course, after course came out, I felt closer and closer to home, that little restaurant close to the beach I love, and the little girl who fell in love with Italian food.

Vegan Aubergine Aioli

One of my fondest memories of aioli is from years ago, with my best friend Rach. I had already moved to Karachi by this point and was working there as an associate producer but always stopped off in London before heading back home to the Isle of Man.

We were in a restaurant and decided to order aioli with veggies to start and Rach, couldn’t get enough of the stuff and started dipping the left over baby greens into it, even though she couldn’t care for them. As she described it back then, “aioli, the dog’s (ahem), the bees knees. Garlic mayo, at it’s finest.”

When making my aubergine (eggplant) pesto, I noticed it had a creamy texture and flavour and wondered what would become of it without the basil, the nuts and so on. Though not a vegan myself, I still love eating vegan and vegetarian cuisine and that is what we mostly cook at home. So this aubergine aioli is my love letter to vegans and anyone else who falls in love with it.

So quick and easy, it’s delicious, we ate it with roasted roots, but it also would work well with sweet potato fries, sandwiches, you could use it as a dip or for whatever else you fancy.

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(Makes one batch)

1 aubergine/eggplant, cut into small chunks
1/2 a red onion, cut into small chunks
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp sunflower oil
Himalayan pink salt, to season
1/2 teaspoon of mustard (I used dijon)
1/4 cup extra Virgin olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Arrange the aubergine, onion and garlic in a baking tray. Toss with sunflower oil and season with salt. Roast for about 30 minutes.

Once the vegetables are tender, take them out of the oven and allow them to cool.

Once cool, throw them into the blender with the mustard, olive oil and vinegar. Blend until really smooth.

It will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for about a week.

The pesto that was meant to be

Towards the end of last year I was making a salad, no surprises there, it was one of my more elaborate attempts, with various different components to it, including some roasting and boiling. (I’m so fancy.)

It was while I was slicing through the aubergines that I decided to turn them into pesto, allowing them to be whipped into a creamy frenzy with roasted onions and basil worked well in this dish. This pesto (like the rest of them) can be used for whatever you want.

Adding chickpeas and avocados to salads works well because they pack in nutrients and make them so much more satisfying. This recipe is perfect as a light lunch for two, or as sides at dinner for four.

A refreshing take on pesto and chickpeas, making healthy intentions on a Monday all the more easy, it was just meant to be.

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(Serves 2-4)

1 small aubergine, cut into small chunks
½ a red onion, cut into small chunks
2tbsp olive oil
Himalayan pink salt, to season
Bunch of basil
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup of scant pumpkin seeds
Juice of half a lemon
1/8tsp of nutmeg
1/8tsp of cinnamon
1/8tsp of crush chili pepper
1 can of chickpeas
Baby greens
200g sundried tomatoes
1 avocado, sliced
2-3 spring onions, sliced

To serve: Drizzle a little olive oil and freshly ground pepper (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a dish arrange the aubergine and onions, coat with 1tbsp of olive oil and season with a little Himalayan salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes.

Once your vegetables are done, throw them into a blender with the remaining olive oil, basil, garlic, pumpkin seeds, the lemon juice, nutmeg, cinnamon, chili, and blitz until everything is blended together.

Toss the chickpeas in a few tablespoons of pesto. (If you have some left over, store it in the fridge and add it to brown rice pasta, roasted vegetables or spread on rice cakes. It also works well as a dip with crudités.)

Arrange the baby greens, tomatoes and avocados on a plate with the chickpeas tumbled onto them. Sprinkle with the spring onions.

If using, serve with some freshly ground pepper and olive oil.

Happy Friday

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My lazy weekend has begun really early, today, I’m going to be resting under my tartan blanket with a hot water bottle and a Friends marathon on Netflix. (Yeah, I am cranky when I have cold and flu.)

Because I haven’t been up to making all the recipes I would have been this week, I thought I would share what I have been doing. I have drank my weight in herbal tea (which is quite the achievement, I’m no baby unicorn), my lovely hubby has done his best to get me to eat his flu busting paste (I would rather do shots of turmeric and ginger, what does that tell you?) and I bought a load of magazines yesterday which I can’t wait to read, yes, yet again I have ditched the growing pile of books on my “to-read-list”.

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I have also kept up my daily work-outs and doing my best to eat well. Lying on the couch all day just makes me feel worse (I would like to point out, that to me, resting and festering are worlds apart), so doing some gentle exercise really helps me when feeling poorly. (As does writing in brackets it seems.)

If you are missing my usual antics, you can read my article on New Year beauty picks over at We Heart Living or you could check me out on Instagram. (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

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Hope you all have an amazing weekend! Can you believe we are half way into January all ready?

(Ps. If my lovely editors are reading this and wondering when I plan on submitting any of the articles I’m supposed to be writing, your guess is as good as mine.)