Movies, heartache & a strawberry smoothie

On a bad day, there is nothing better than cooking something beautiful to be shared with loved ones, dancing at the barre or smothering a mask on your face and drifting off with epsom salts. It’s all so healing. All of us are on a universal search for fulfillment in one way or another. In my heart of hearts I feel living a healthy life brings you a little closer to that phenomenon.

I used to believe in making movies, to me, that was the greatest thing in the world, pouring my heart and soul into films was how I made sense of the universe we live in, a way to discover it. I never thought that my one true love, film, would break my heart, but it did and I’m not sure how I would have dealt with that if my body felt weak and ill from unhealthy lifestyle choices. I don’t know if I will pour my heart and soul into another film, but how would I ever muster the strength for that again if I didn’t want to get out of bed? (Because on somedays, who wants to?) So what does get me out of bed? To explain that I take a green leaf from my friend and nutritionist, Alina Islam.

Strawberry Smoothie

Read the full post and get this delicious strawberry smoothie recipe over on The Quirky Princess.

Reimagining toast (& my new site!)

I’m sharing my confessions over at The Quirky Princess now. I don’t want you to miss out on what has been happening so will send you a reminder every now and again. All my recipes are now categorised in The Quirky Kitchen. Which means you can find recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and treats much easier. Click here to see what I mean!

In the past I’ve worked as crew, and in production for film, television and news channels, peanut butter and jam on whole wheat toast used to get me through gruelling days. Understanding what I do now about alkaline bodies, looking back, it probably wasn’t the best breakfast, but I did have the right idea. Switching up your grains, butters and jam for fruit could actually turn this into a superfood breakfast that is refined sugar free.

Blueberries & Chia Seeds on Toast

Cashew Butter, Blueberry & Chia Seed

(Serves 1)

Two slices of bread, toasted (kamut, spelt, rye, etc. etc.)
1tbsp cashew butter (or almond)
A handful or two of blueberries
2tsp chia seeds

Spread your toast with the cashew butter.

Arrange the blueberries on top of the toast, you can smash one or two into the butter as well.

Sprinkle each toast with a teaspoon of chia seeds.

For the rest of the post, head over to The Quirky Princess.

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.

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.)

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.

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.