Award Season

Did you all watch the Golden Globes last night? Congratulations to all the nominees and winners of yet another stellar year in movies.

While it may seem that the glitter of festivities has worn off, award season kind of keeps it alive for me. I love braving the cold in order to watch movies at the cinema, look forward to seeing the sparkling and glowing faces of the epic films and continuing to work on my own scripts and ideas hoping they make it to the big screen someday.

I definitely want to be healthy today following all that jazz from the red carpet last night, but something came to mind, on Mondays, given everything else that is going on (back to work, back to school, the beginning of the week, etcetera, etcetera), it isn’t always easy to make that a priority.

My sister-in-law shared a link to uber-avocados-on-toast with me over the weekend. I put it up on the Confessions of a Quirky Princess Facebook page saying I could live off green smoothies, lentils and avocados on toast. The only way I get through Monday without tearing open bars of chocolate are these go-to recipes.

Although having said that, my friends Haji and Jared can attest to their Christmas chocolate stash having significantly diminished after my visit to their home this weekend before a garage rave on Queen Street. Which also means I’ll be doing my Tracy Anderson treadmill workout for much longer today.

Mondays are busy and hectic for us (for anyone) and the last thing anyone wants to worry about is what to cook and eat. Between Ahmed working on shows, my deadlines, ballet and chores it’s so easy to succumb to an easy and not always healthy fix.

That is why our freezer is laden with frozen portions of homemade dahl, which we gorge on for meatless Mondays. A Sunday night grocery trip for smoothie ingredients, organic spelt and kamut bread, avocados and lemons for hot water ensures we don’t go awry.

So today, keeping up the momentum of January, I am sharing with you my foolproof Monday menu, which gives me my best start to the week so you can make post-festive season most awarding.

I love to start the day with lemon and hot water, (and drink plenty of fluids throughout). I need snacks while I write, (it’s true) and keep a stash of nuts, apples and Nākd bars nearby.

Breakfast – Go Green

Monday morning and emails go hand in hand, that’s why a filling smoothie with greens and a banana is my solution. Here are my favourite recipes, you can even chop up your ingredients and put them in your blending cup the night before.

Karachi Green Juice
Power Green Smoothie
Pick-Me-Up Smoothie
My Green Go-To

Lunch – Avocados on Toast

No kidding.

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(Serves 1)

Two slices of bread (for example rye, spelt, kamut)
1/4 of a large avocado
1/2tsp coconut oil
Squeeze of lemon
Himalayan pink salt, pinch
Freshly ground pepper
Small handful of alfalfa sprouts
Some raw pumpkin seeds

Pop your bread to toast.

Meanwhile prepare the avocado, by mashing it with coconut oil, lemon, salt and some pepper.

Once the toast is done, spread the avocado, arrange the alfalfa sprouts on top of it and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.

Dinner – Dahl

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This is my easiest lentil dish yet, without the onions but all the taste.

(Serves 4)

1tbsp coconut oil
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp ginger paste
1tsp garlic paste
1tsp curry powder
1tsp Thai red curry paste
2tbsp tomato paste
2 cups of red lentils, washed and soaked for at least an hour
1 cup of coconut milk
3 cups of water
Himalayan salt to season

Heat the oil in a pan on a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, fry the cumin seeds for a few minutes. Be careful not to burn them.

Add the ginger, garlic, curry paste, curry powder, tomato paste and fry for a few more minutes. Add a little water if it starts to dry out.

Next stir-in the lentils once they are nicely coated pour the coconut milk and water into the pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for about 30-40 minutes, adding more water if necessary depending on how thick you like your dahl to be.

Season with Himalayan salt and serve.

Shine for you

The third installment of glowing recipes. In the winter, I often try to get immunity boosts from soups and hydrate myself with all things coconut. I need warm and hearty food to make me feel better because it is cold outside!

Day Three: Mindful eating is easier than dieting or counting calories. Sure, it means avoiding processed food and not overloading yourself with sugar, alcohol and salt but imagine the food you eat giving you vitality. You don’t need to miss out on pizza or brownies, you just need to make a few changes to the ingredients and instead of empty calories it becomes nourishing.

Processed with Rookie

Breakfast – Chia Seed Pudding

When it is cold outside, try heating chia pudding up a little before topping it with berries and nuts. If you are familiar with my blog, you will have seen this recipe recently, but I wanted to show you different ways to kick-start your day with chia seeds, nuts and berries.

(Serves 2)

1 cup of dairy free milk of your choice
3tbsp chia seeds
2tsp coconut palm sugar
1 cup of raspberries
1/4 cup of raw almonds

Mix the chia seeds with half of the milk, 1tsp of sugar and set aside.

Mash the raspberries with a 1tsp of sugar.

Roughly chop up the almonds by hand.

The chia seeds will have absorbed some of the liquid and started to swell, mix well and add the rest of the milk and leave in the fridge to set for about thirty to forty minutes.

Once the chia seeds have set in the milk you can assemble your pudding. Spoon some raspberries into your jar or bowl and then top with some nuts and then the chia seeds. Repeat layers in this manner until you have two even portions.

Mid-Morning: Green Hydrating Smoothie

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Green, milky and super refreshing, this is one to beat those winter blues.

(Serves 2)

300g watermelon chunks, without seeds
1/2 cup coconut water
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 handfuls spinach
A squeeze of lemon

Blitz all the ingredients in the blender until really smooth.

Lunch: Immunity Boosting Thai Mushroom Soup

Fragrant flavours always make soup a bit more exciting. More importantly the star anise, ginger and mushrooms are delicious but they also have incredible properties that have a number of benefits on the body’s immune system and have been used for centuries in medicine. I would encourage the use of organic mushrooms.

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(Serves 4)

2 cups organic mushroom broth (or vegetable)
1 star anise pod
1 piece cinnamon bark
A few black peppercorns
1tbsp coconut oil
5 green onions, finely sliced (reserved green part)
1tsp grated ginger
1tsp curry powder
1tsp Thai green curry paste
220g of mixed mushrooms
1 can coconut milk
2tbsp coconut sugar
1tbsp tamari
1 lime

Set the broth to heat up on a medium heat covered in small saucepan with star anise, cinnamon and peppercorns.

Meanwhile, in another pan, sauté the spring onions in coconut oil on a medium heat until sizzling. Add the ginger, curry powder, curry paste and mushrooms and fry for a few minutes. Once the mushrooms soften, stir in the coconut milk.

Discard the whole spices from the broth and add to the mushrooms. Add sugar, tamari and squeeze in the lime. Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer for ten minutes.

Take two cups of the soup, whizz in the blender and pour back into the pan. Stir in the chopped green part of the spring onions and serve.

Snack – Raw Cacao Protein Balls

A warm squishy sweet treat for the afternoon, this is another one of my favourite recipes from the past.

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Makes six

6 Medjool dates, pits removed
1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 scoop Vega chocolate protein
1/2 tbsp raw cacao (plus a little more for dusting)

Pulse the ingredients together in your blender.

Tip into a mixing bowl and form together into a dough.

Roll out into bite-sized balls and dust with some raw cacao.

Dinner – Quinoa and Kale Salad

I shared this in December, but it hasn’t lost it’s charm for me post-festive season! I am still enjoying it at least once a week. I have also been using Alter Eco Royal Black Quinoa, although this is an older picture, I love using their product to make this salad.

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(Serves one)

Couple of generous handfuls of kale
1tsp olive oil
Quarter lemon
Quarter avocado, sliced into pieces
10 grape tomatoes, cut in halves
1/2 cup cooked black quinoa
3 spring onions, chopped
1tbsp pumpkin seeds

Your favourite dressing to drizzle, or you can try my favourite one.

Arrange your kale in a salad bowl, spoon the olive oil and squeeze the lemon juice on it and massage into the kale for a few minutes.

Arrange the tomatoes and avocado amongst the kale. Next arrange the black quinoa and top with the spring onions and pumpkin seeds.

Add your dressing, toss through and serve.

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Glow Again

Here is the second day of recipes! A lentil soup for you to try as well as my favourite on-the-go snack mix! If you are still cynical, just try a couple of them, they are yummy enough to be enjoyed just for the heck of it too!

Day Two: Eating in a way that enriches the body, will enrich your mind and soul too. Today, you’ll find more beautifying foods that I love to indulge in like pomegranate and pumpkin seeds, detoxifying foods like pear and broccoli and healing food such as buckwheat and spices.

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Breakfast – Pomegranate Overnight Oats

Another simple, delicious and nutritious recipe that can be put together the night before and heated up in the morning for a lovely breakfast. Pomegranate is the most incredible fruit, I ate so much of this during my wedding. I throw it into salads, on top of hummus or pop handfuls of it whenever in my reach.

(Serves 2)

1 cup gluten free oats
2tsp chia seeds
2 cups of nut milk (I used cashew)
A splash of vanilla essence
A pinch or two of cinnamon
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
2tsp coconut sugar (optional)
Some shredded coconut (optional)
Some flaked almonds (optional)

Mix oats, chia seeds, nut milk, vanilla essence, cinnamon and divide equally in two bowls, cover and put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, warm the oats gently in a sauce pan for a few minutes and top with pomegranate. Transfer to a serving dish, if using also top with the coconut sugar, shredded coconut, almonds and serve.

Midmorning – Pick-Me Up Smoothie

This was one of the first recipes I created for We Heart Living. It’s still one of my favourite smoothies. Nutrient dense, it fills you up and gives you a really healthy kick for the day. Avocados (the beauty fruit) are high in protein and packed with vitamins, pears have pectin in them, which help to remove toxins from the body, spinach helps to boost immunity and coconut water adds incredible hydration to this smoothie. Try to have wheatgrass everyday, the numerous potent benefits of wheatgrass are incredible so it is well worth making it part of your daily diet. Adding orange juice delivers a hit of vitamin C but also cuts through the richness of this green juice with some citric deliciousness.

(Serves 2)

2 big handfuls of baby spinach
500ml coconut water (chilled)
1 small ripe avocado, chopped
1 small ripe pear, chopped
3 heaped tsp Naturya wheatgrass powder
120ml smooth not from concentrate orange juice (optional)

Blend the spinach with coconut water first on high. Add the avocado and pear, pulse to blend. Add the wheatgrass, pulse to blend again. If using, add the orange juice and give it one final blend.

Lunch – Green Lentil Soup

This too was one of my earlier recipes for We Heart Living, but I love going back to it for a chilled out lunch during the week or at the weekend. Here, I have modified it a little from the original recipe.

(Serves 4)

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
½tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper & turmeric
1½ cups green lentils washed, soaked and rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 tin of coconut milk

To serve: a squeeze of lemon and freshly ground black pepper

Gently heat the coconut oil in a large pan on a medium to low heat, add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add a tablespoon of stock and then add garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add another tablespoon of stock and then add all the healing spices and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and cover in spices. Pour in the remaining stock and add the bay leaf, bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add coconut milk and bring to the boil once again, then cover and simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf and use a blender or a hand-held blender to blend mixture, leaving it a little chunky. Serve with a fresh squeeze of lemon and black pepper.

Snack – Super Pick’n’Mix

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I love a snack, especially after ballet or working out, or while watching Masterchef and The Voice. I really enjoy brown rice cakes topped with avocado or hummus, date balls and Nakd Bars but there is nothing quite like a pick’n’mix! You can even try making your own using the ratio below.

(Serves 1)

2tbsp pecans
1tbsp pumpkin seeds
1tbsp cacao nibs
1tbsp goji berries
1tbsp toasted coconut

Toss the lot together and munch away!

Dinner: Buckwheat Noodles with Tamari, Green Chillies & Ginger

I’ve shared this recipe on the blog before, but it’s such a wonderful gluten free vegan option, it would be remiss not to include it on this eating plan. I’ve noticed my lazy Sunday recipes are fabulous during the week because they come together so easily and quickly!

(Serves 2-3)

King Soba Buckwheat Noodles
1tbsp Coconut oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1tbsp grated ginger
2 small green chillies (we love spice so kept the seeds, but you don’t have to)
3 spring onions sliced (including the green part)
2 cups steamed broccoli florets
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1tbsp tamari (you can add a little more if you like)
1/4tsp smoked paprika
1/4tsp cayenne

Cook the noodles according to packet instructions.

Melt the oil in a wok on a medium heat and sauté ginger, garlic and chillies until they start to sizzle. Then add the spring onions, mushrooms and broccoli. Stir-fry while the noodles cook.

Once the noodles are done, drain and rinse in cold water and then throw them into the wok. Add the tamari, paprika and cayenne. Mix everything well and stir-fry for a few more minutes. Serve immediately.

Ready to glow?

So I didn’t make any resolutions, I am not going to encourage you to either, do what you love in 2015. I love it when my skin glows and I feel amazing because I am eating well, spending time doing activities that I love, like ballet, laughing till my stomach hurts with loved ones and buying myself pretty things.

When my hubby was in Nicaragua he did a home stay with a local farming family who mainly ate a vegetarian diet except on special occasions. We lead an alkaline lifestyle so don’t eat meat everyday (when we do it is mostly organic and raised humanely). So while there are no real resolutions, because of Ahmed’s humbling experience at the farm, we hope to be eating even more veggies this year. Once upon a time my hubby wouldn’t even touch spinach, he came back from this trip talking about kale patties. It’s not a bad idea to look into “Living [more of a] veg life.”

This three day plan, with smoothies, meals and snacks will hopefully leave you feeling wonderful. Wheat, dairy and meat free, the following recipes are my favourite go-to options for nourishment that beautifies inside out. If you aren’t up for the whole thing, why not try adding some of these ingredients to your weekly grocery shop or a meal or two?

Easy breakfasts that take minutes, which you can prepare the night before, hearty soups that can be made and frozen in advance and delicious dinners that don’t take much putting together. Remember to drink lots of water and herbal teas.

Day One: Lots of antioxidants, healing spices and potent super foods today. I am huge fan of ginger (especially in winter) and never need an excuse to enjoy chocolate.

Start the day with a cup of hot water and lemon.

Breakfast – Choc n’ Berry Super Pots

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I love desserts that are healthy enough to be eaten for breakfast! My raw chocolate mousse, featured on We Heart Living, will win your taste buds and your body over. Avocado, berries, chia seeds and cacao are incredible foods, putting them together creates a meal that is a powerhouse of antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients.

(Serves 2)

One ripe avocado
½ cup of coconut milk
½tbsp of chia seeds soaked in a little water
2tbsp cacao powder
2tbsp maple syrup
½ cup water
1 cup of raspberries

Whizz all the ingredients in a blender (except the raspberries), adding up to ½ cup of water as needed to give a smooth, light airy consistency. Divide into 2 small dishes and chill in the fridge for several hours. Push the raspberries into the mousse, add some to the top and serve.

Mid-Morning – Beetroot, Pineapple & Ginger Smoothie

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This smoothie is fresh and energising. I love the deep rich flavour of amazing beetroot against the sharp sweetness of pineapple and zing of ginger.

(Serves 2)

360mls of coconut water
One beetroot, washed, scrubbed and cut into pieces
250g pineapple chunks
2″ piece of ginger, grated

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth.

Lunch – Spicy Squash Soup

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Creamy buttery squash in soup, rocks. This soup is so comforting and it always bring me warmth, which is always welcome.

(Serves 3-4)

1tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
400g of butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
1tsp curry powder
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
2” piece of ginger, grated
1/4tsp nutmeg
1/4tsp cayenne pepper
1/4tsp cinnamon
3 cups of vegetable stock

To serve – Fresh coriander and a swirl of coconut milk (both optional)

Heat oil in pan on a medium heat, sauté onion and garlic until soft.

Add the squash and curry powder and sauté until the squash begins to sweat. Stir in the apple, the remaining spices and stock. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Once the squash and apple are soft and tender, blitz the mixture in a blender and serve with coriander and a swirl of coconut milk.

Snack – Date-Pops

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I’ve shared this recipe before and I absolutely love dates, especially when they are meshed with almonds and shredded coconut. Pop a couple of these in the afternoon to keep you going and glowing like pro.

(Makes 10)

250g dates (pitted)
Half a cup ground almond powder
Half cup unsweetened desiccated coconut (to cover with)

In a blender mix the dates with the ground almonds, this should leave you with a thick sticky mass. Form ten two-bite sized date-pops. Scatter coconut on a flat plate, roll the date-pops in the coconut and cover, pressing coconut in as required.

Dinner – Warm Roasted Veggie & Quinoa Salad

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I know that vegetables are best eaten raw, but I love roasting them, especially with red onions. Something magical happens in the oven and vegetables take on a whole new level of yum when they are roasted in this way. It’s worth eating quinoa, the hero grain, several times a week. Read more about the benefits here.

(Serves 2-3)

1 cup of quinoa
Two small red onions cut into quarters
One zucchini squash cut into quarters lengthways sliced thinly
200g of mixed small tomatoes
Big pinch of cumin seeds
Big pinch of oregano
Himalayan pink salt to season
A tablespoon of olive oil

Preheat oven to 350F.

Wash and cook quinoa according to packet.

Meanwhile, in a roasting tin, add zucchini and onions. Toss together with cumin, oregano, salt and olive oil. Roast for twenty minutes. Add tomatoes to mixture and roast for another fifteen minutes

Once the vegetables are cooked, add the quinoa to the roasting tin, combine and serve.

Toasting 2015

Happy New Year everyone! Like me, I hope you all had a wonderful break. I am not the biggest fan of January and February, but I promised not to harp on about that this year, I know it’s cold but the sun is shining away today.

Christmas was really quiet (just me, as Ahmed was in Nicaragua). I feel like a lot has happened on the personal side, Dad turns sixty today, and my father-in-law turns sixty this week. They are both remarkable, I hope that when I am sixty, I too might have the grace and poise they possess. Given that such life events are happening at the moment, it has been a time for reflection indeed.

Ahmed and I had our first wedding anniversary, we hit the spa and then skipped going out on New Year’s Eve and had a lovely evening at home, which is something I have wanted to do for years.

I am feeling quite tired at the moment, which probably has something to do with being a bit lax with food selection. We got back to being alkaline with green smoothies, avocados on Kamut toast and lentils yesterday. Tomorrow I’ll be posting recipes for a three-day plan to get you glowing in no time!

Usually I skip resolutions, but this year I am a little more than taken with Pantone’s colour of the year, Marsala or more so the selection of it, to enrich our mind, body and soul. If there is anything that makes one glow inside out, it is seeking out such experiences, how ever big or small they are.

So that is what I’ll be doing and I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass to such a year. Here is my first recipe for 2015!

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Power Green Smoothie

This concoction is a powerhouse of nutrients. I really slacked off the green juices over the past week, so definitely needed something strong and nourishing this morning. It’s breakfast in a glass, fantastic fuel for workouts and busy (or gloomy) January days!

One banana
A handful of spinach
1 Medjool date
1 cup nut milk (I used cashew)
1tbsp nut butter (I used cashew)
1tsp super greens powder
A few chlorophyll drops

Blitz all the ingredients together until smooth.

Party Food

The Marks & Spencer Christmas party food adverts would haunt my festive foodie dreams. In the past, appetizers were where my healthy habits would go to die.

Last year I didn’t have the luxury of indulging as I was getting married two days after Christmas, so I worked really hard to stay away from delicacies in miniature. Not to say I didn’t sneak one or two bites in of my favourite fancies from Hob Nob Bakery in Karachi.

However, what I have come to value as luxury over this past year, is being able to have my hearts fill by re-imagining classic recipes and turning them into something delicious and rewarding to my wellbeing.

This week I’ll be serving up some stunning appetizers on the blog. Party perfect food, worth having on the menu at your Christmas and New Year get-togethers.

I love guacamole but I want something a little more special for my guests this time of year, that’s why this avocado pâté is a fantastic alternate. Delicious, fresh and creamy, it is one everyone will enjoy and great for anyone who it trying to stay healthy.

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½ generous cup of raw cashews, soaked in water for an hour or so and drained
½ cup chilled water
1 avocado, chopped
3 green onions, sliced finely
2 garlic cloves, roughly sliced
Juice of ½ a lemon
1/2tsp paprika
Himalayan pink salt to season

To Garnish: Chives, finely chopped (optional)

To Serve: Organic oatcakes, vegetable crudités, gluten free crackers

Whizz cashews with the chilled water in your blender until smooth and creamy.

Add the rest of your ingredients and blend until they are all incorporated.

Empty into a dish and chill before serving with oatcakes, veggies and crackers.

‘Tis The Season

There are many things I find tricky in life but balancing health with party season is not one of them. Let’s be honest though, unless you have the willpower of Gandhi, the weekends are going to be a bit of a challenge. Who wants to eat a salad every time they go out this time of year?

I am totally against that mindset of ‘let’s pile on the pounds in December, because from January I will be on a diet,’ and I also believe in not stressing about eating yummy holiday food. Follow the 70/30 rule of thumb and you won’t have to worry about it at all.

The only thing I’ve found since cutting down salt, sugar and wheat from my diet, is when indulging at the weekends, I really struggle with water retention and bloating on a Monday. I’ve been doing a few things every week for a while now to help combat those side effects and it leaves me feeling much better.

Now is a great time to make these tricks part of your weekly rituals to feel fabulous inside out during the festive season and all year round.

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Sunday Night

Psyllium husk. While this isn’t the easiest thing to consume, it is worth trying it out. Growing up in a Pakistani household I’ve known about the husks of the incredible Plantageo Ovato plant my whole life, as it is native to the region of Pakistan and India. I keep it in my pantry in a powder form.

It promotes intestinal health and I drink a tablespoon of it mixed with lots of water and follow it up with a cup of peppermint tea before I go to bed on a Sunday night. You could also take a bath with Epsom salts which can help to alleviate bloating and flush toxins from the body.

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Monday Morning

Oil pulling. You can read in detail about the numerous health benefits of oil pulling here, but in a nutshell, oil pulling is an ancient 5000 year old Ayurvedic method from India. Within weeks you will discover how wonderful this simple and priceless treatment can be for your general health and wellbeing as it aids with removing toxins.

It is a process of swilling oil around your mouth, thoroughly, as you would a mouthwash. It is best done in the morning on an empty stomach with a teaspoon or two of coconut oil for about fifteen to twenty minutes.

After this I have my usual cup of hot water and lemon and then proceed to dry body brushing. Which is an excellent way to get your circulation and lymphatic system going (encouraging the expulsion of toxins) and to energise your self on a Monday morning.

Don’t skip breakfast, have a green juice, some avocados or poached eggs on gluten free toast or how about this quick and easy chia seed pudding you can throw together the night before? Chia seeds are high in nutrients like manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium, so they are the perfect way to start the week after an indulgent weekend.

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Serves 2

1 cup of dairy free milk of your choice
3tbsp chia seeds
2tsp coconut palm sugar
1 cup of raspberries
1/4 cup of raw almonds

Mix the chia seeds with half of the milk, 1tsp of sugar and set aside.

Mash the raspberries with a 1tsp of sugar.

Roughly chop up the almonds by hand.

The chia seeds will have absorbed some of the liquid and started to swell, mix well and add the rest of the milk and leave in the fridge to set for about thirty to forty minutes.

Once the chia seeds have set in the milk you can assemble your pudding. Spoon some raspberries into your jar or bowl and then top with some nuts and then the chia seeds. Repeat layers in this manner until you have two even portions.