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.

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.

Holiday Lights

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Entertaining with healthy food doesn’t have to be drab. Serve delicious soups in pretty festive teacups and your guests will be delighted. In case you need some soupy inspiration or tender loving care, here’s one I made earlier from Simple Recipes for Joy.

(Sharon Gannon is one of the founders of the Jivamukti Yoga method. As well as being an inspiring yoga teacher, amongst her passions is kitchen cuisine and she runs a successful vegan café in New York called Jivumktea Café. Her approach to the culinary arts embodies her spirit towards life, holistic and full of light.)

This soup will leave you feeling wonderful and nourished and is perfect for the holidays.

Red lentil and tomato soup

Serves 8-10

1 cup of red lentils
8 cups of water, plus more as needed
2tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, diced
1tbsp vegetable stock in ¼ cup boiling water
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp curry powder
Large can of tomato sauce
1 cup coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, place the lentils and rinse with cold water, then drain. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered, for about 45 minutes, until lentils are mostly dissolved.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat oil over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-10 minutes, until translucent. Add stock, cumin and curry powder and simmer for three minutes, stirring often and adding water if necessary to reach the consistency of a thin paste.

In a blender, puree the tomatoes and coconut milk. Add the sautéed onion mixture and blend until smooth.

When the lentils are cooked, add the tomato mixture and more water as needed to obtain the desired consistency. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.