All I Want For Christmas

A few weeks ago, Oscar, a new innovative health insurance company more human than the others, wrote a lovely email, asking me to reflect on my past year and think about what I am most grateful for this year. Given everything that has happened over the course of 2014, only one thing really sprang to mind and that was the importance of health and wellbeing.

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Last year, on Christmas Day, we had my Ubtan, a traditional event that takes place a few days prior to a desi wedding. My Grandma had recently died of cancer a few weeks earlier and all I wanted that day was for her to be with us. It can be hard looking back at those pictures knowing that such a big part of our lives had recently departed. It was sudden and unexpected, although it was bittersweet, the wedding helped us all to get through that loss, heal together and we have some beautiful memories of those painful days.

What does anyone want for Christmas? Having thought about it a lot recently, in the end I decided it was the health and happiness of my loved ones. What good would everything at Christmas be without that?

Putting up decorations, what fun is that if there aren’t happy, healthy people to do it with you? All the food we prepare, would it taste as wonderful if we weren’t enjoying it over the laughter of family members who feel well? How much would it suck if there were no smiling rosy-cheeked friends to huddle with on a cold day at the Christmas market?

Hunting down roasted chestnuts, braving the weather for gifts, ice skating, building snowmen, holiday lights, stocking fillers, ugly Christmas sweaters, an abundance of socks wrapped up under the tree, mince pies, festive films, an endless list of activities that would not bring half as much joy without the health and happiness of our loved ones.

This year I am grateful to my husband, family and friends for putting up with my adventures in food and life. For coming along to yoga, for supporting me in my health choices by bringing celery sticks with dips to girly nights, being the guinea pigs to my experiments in the kitchen, for getting me hot chocolate without milk, for encouraging my writing, sharing my food and recipes and for embracing all my quirks.

The greatest antidote to all ailments, the thing that keeps me smiling and feeling well, is the health and happiness of my family and friends, because without them, none of this would mean anything.

Follow me in merry measure

The 25th of December is just four days away! I am almost done with all my work and can’t wait to have a week off to just bliss out with my hubby when he gets back from his trip with the boys. We are off to a spa this weekend for our anniversary and I can’t wait. If there is one thing I love to do, it’s pampering myself just as hard as I work and play.

The other day, a bit over whelmed with all the deadlines on my plate and trying to balance festivities, I decided to switch off for a while, play some music, pop a face mask on and on close my eyes for a while. I didn’t realise I was all out of my favourite GLAMGLOW, so improvised with some wheatgrass powder and almond milk.

Lately I have been seeing spirulina masks on my Instagram feed, inspired by Deliciously Ella’s homemade masks, I did a little research of my own research and found out wheatgrass is just as good. Get glowing for Christmas with this quick and easy green beauty!

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1tbsp wheatgrass powder
1tbsp almond milk

Mix them together into a paste, apply and leave on for 10-15 minutes.

Chocolate & Strawberry Xmas Kisses

We were all quite surprised by the depth of this sauce. I put it down to the coconut sugar, which has a natural caramel taste to it.

Plenty of people love the flavour combination of strawberries and chocolate. That is why this platter of strawberries with a beautiful chocolate and caramel sauce will be highlight at your shindig. It’s a simple but elegant dessert, a great note to end your evening on or welcome the New Year with. It’s refined sugar free, so you know, bonus. Full of antioxidants, this glowing recipe doesn’t have empty calories.

Ahmed dipped some strawberries in the sauce and popped them in the freezer to set and yes, chocolate and strawberries are always fun, so if they don’t all disappear, you know what to do with the leftovers, enjoy them with someone special underneath the mistletoe.

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Serves 4-6

½ cup of coconut sugar
½ cup of water
1tbsp coconut oil
½tbsp cacao powder
1 cup of coconut milk
1tsp vanilla essence
¼tsp Himalayan pink salt
Pinch of cinnamon
Strawberries

In a small pan, on a medium heat bring the sugar, water and coconut oil to a rolling boil and immediately dissolved the cacao powder into it.

Add the coconut milk and vanilla and continue simmer. Add pink salt and cinnamon.

Keep simmering the sauce down until it is thick and glossy. It will take about 20-30 minutes.

Poke toothpicks into your strawberries and arrange them on a platter, serve with the sauce once it has cooled.

With logs on the fire, and gifts on the tree

It’s the last Friday before Christmas, are you feeling anything like me? Tired perhaps, but still quite celebratory.

Continuing with the party theme, I present to you a quick and humble recipe that has many possibilities depending on the vividness of your imagination. Throwing this together on a Friday evening and pairing it with your choice of topping and appropriate aperitif requires very little effort but perhaps some thought.

Dunking and dipping, interchangeable terms for lavishly or daintily coating a crispy or soft item that needs a bit of oomph… What to use though? Fruit and vegetable bring a lovely crunch or bite, crackers and biscuits are a great conduit to those pools of hummus, guacamole and sauces at a festive banquet. The toast trumps all of these, quite simply in its comforting presence.

Solo or teamed up with its’ buddies on the table, it is a triumph. Throw it alongside my avocado pâté, let it sit gently in a bowl of soup, tumble tomatoes onto it for an easy bruschetta or let it be the bed to your favourite slab of goat’s cheese alongside some fresh fruit.

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1 gluten free baguette
Olive oil, to brush
Oregano, to sprinkle
Parmesan or nutritional yeast, to sprinkle

Preheat your oven to 350F and line a baking tray.

Slice up your baguette, arrange them on the tray and brush both sides with olive oil. Be light with this.

Sprinkle the oregano and Parmesan or nutritional yeast on to them and bake until golden and crispy. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.

Hark the healthy angels sing…

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My hubby and friends are pretty unfussy when it comes to food and don’t seem to mind being subjected to my health experiments in the kitchen. It is probably out of reverence for their taste buds and wellbeing that I want everything I cook to be both healthy and delicious. A lot of people do have family and friends who have dietary requirements and that is why my festive party food is great for everyone.

Glory be to these blinis. Peace of mind for your body and soul. Both health and indulgence reconciled.

I finally perfected my pancake recipe just in time for this blini recipe. Traditional blini recipes call for yeast but mine just uses baking powder. They make the best celebration food and my recipe below proves that party classics can be really good for you and yummy at the same time. They are easily made vegan and the tomato jam is just one topping idea, try out your own favourites (for example: fig and goats cheese, basil pesto and mozzarella, a piece of marinated tofu, some smoked salmon and avocado).

Tomato jam blinis

Makes 24

For the jam:

1tbsp chia seeds
4tbsp water
1tbsp olive oil
½ a red onion, chopped
2tbsp coconut sugar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1tsp mixed dried herbs
1 cup of warm water

Mix chia seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside.

Put olive oil in a saucepan and set over a medium heat. Once hot, add the red onions and sauté until soft. Add the vinegar and sugar and cover with a lid for about twenty minutes.

Add tomatoes, herbs, chia seeds and sauté for a few minutes. Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for about thirty minutes or until the all the water has been absorbed and you are left with a thick mixture.

For the blinis:

½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup light buckwheat flour
Pinch Himalayan pink salt
1tsp baking powder
Cup of almond milk
½tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 egg (or one chia egg)
Sunflower oil for greasing

Put all your ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Grease a frying pan with a little sunflower oil and set it on a medium heat. Once the pan is hot, drop a scant tablespoon of batter into the pan and let it cook.

Once it’s set, flip the blini over to cook it on the other side. Repeat until all the batter is used up. Depending on how big your frying pan is, cook more than one at time.

To serve: top each blini with a teaspoon of tomato jam and garnish with fresh chives.

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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.