Sunday, 16 August 2015

Well, That's Just Peachy

Years of toil, heartache and tantrums in the kitchen have taught me that if you want your creation to taste more apple-y or banana-y or apricot-y, just add that fruit - raw. So long to all the messing around and fancy mousses and foams and gels and syrups. We sleep one-third of the day so who wants to spend another third in the kitchen? The good news is...the lazy options are often the super-healthiest so, if you started the New Moon detox, you're not breaking the rules. Amen!

Introducing...

LAZY PEACH SESAME CRUMBLE



Too simple for words... doesn't need a Method and still devilishly delicious. Ready in a nanosecond.

INGREDIENTS
Serves 4

200g oat flakes (rolled or flaked)
4 tsps tahini
3 tsps honey
4 peaches, roughly chopped

Simply combine the oats, tahini and honey...and scatter over the peaches. Dust with cinnamon power.

To serve you can add a splash of your favourite milk or, if you don't want to open the fridge door (after all, this is a lazy crumble), just add a few splashes of water.

Bon App├ętit!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Lunatic

"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes" 

- Carl Jung


Working at a natural remedies shop as a student had a profound effect on the course of my life. I moved from dressmaking and textiles to health and horticulture. As a big fan, I was approached by them while working for a luxury goods brand and asked to work as a retail assistant front-of-house, a new role back then - normally, their staff were simply practicing holistic therapists who occasionally ran products through the tills. Delighted, because I loved their products, I didn't realise what transformations were on their way.

At the time, I was an average student living off frozen pizzas and, being slim, I could eat as many Mars bars or Twix bars when it was snack time. I have always loved food and playing with texture, even if that just meant shoving a pint of milk and Victoria sandwich in the blender. It wasn't until my manager, trained in nutritional therapy, pointed out that maybe the dietary habits I'd formed and lack of well-being, and skin problems, weren't such a coincidence. She was instrumental in teaching my how to take better care of myself - sharing her lunch, giving me recipes and we attended nutritional lectures together. The pendulum swung to the extent that, shortly after graduating, I decided to take my gap year as a vegan, avoiding anything that had been reported to be unhealthy (refined foods, sugar).

Many years later, with less discipline and less anxiety over food choices, I've found a happy medium in what constitutes healthy eating. There are some practices that have left impressions since their impacts on my sense of well-being were so noticeable especially the lunar cycles. My manager, then also a  good friend, introduced me to a book entitled "Moon Time", written by someone who'd been raised in a Native American culture. I was fascinated and soon, I was aware of which phase the Moon was passing through and was learning the best ways to strengthen that particular part of my body. I consider myself a deeply Romantic person so linking into this cosmic rhythm was just wonderful. Like with the healthier connection I was establishing with the food I ate, I felt more connected to natural rhythms.

This Friday, 14th August, I will embark on yet another greening mission! It is a New Moon, when no moon is visible in the sky, and it is said to be a great time for stillness, reflection and giving drive to initiate new projects. August is a great time for cleansing because, generally, the weather is good and access to fresh fruit and vegetables is great. I'd love for you to join me! Here are my intentions and comment/email me if you have any ideas to make it even snazzier. And, if you're skeptical (always the healthiest way, I think), then try it and see for yourself if it makes a difference to your well-being. You have nothing to lose. You can choose to stay with the programme for however long you want - a day to 21 days, it's up to you. Listen to what your body needs (when it cries Ben & Jerry's, even when it's Macadamia Nut Brittle, don't respond!). Pair up with a friend so you can support each other.

What You Need

          Inspiring recipes for vegetarian-based meals - we'll mostly avoid meat because it can be hard to           digest and high quality meat from well-treated animals can be very expensive

          A dry skin brush

          Green clay (available at health food stores). Don't worry if you can't find it!
Each night, soak 1 tsp green clay in water. The following morning, drink the water and leave the clay at the bottom for a mask. It will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. This is a super gentle detoxification technique for your digestive tract

The regime

It's basically a health kick and you can add extras if you generally follow a healthy lifestyle, such as going for a deep tissue or shiatsu massage, or even an enema...but they are not necessary.

         Every day

                    Rinse your mouth out with water before doing anything else
                    Before you get out of bed, stretch lots...do gentle twists, feel into every body part
                    Have an amazing affirmation: mine is "Today is the best day of my life"!
                    Take a glass of water with a splash of apple cider vinegar with a pinch of seasalt
                    Dry skin brush your whole body - working towards your heart, avoiding sensitive areas
                    Apart from exercise, this stimulates your lymph system and helps prevent stagnation
                          Choose an exercise you feel inspired by - dance, run, swim, cycle, yoga (e.g ashtanga)*. I benefit a lot from circuit boost training, where you start gently for 10 minutes or so, then go at full speed for 3-4 minutes. Increasing your heart rate, especially doubling it, in a short period of time has been shown to have the same effect as exercising over extended periods...minus the disadvantages of straining joints and muscles. This is one of the only methods I've found where a 6 pack (well, maybe a 4 pack!) developed very quickly. Your body is boosted to sculpting itself. 
*Remember - do no exercise at all for 2 days a week. This is vital for repair and recuperation.
                   Meditate - 5 mins in the morning, 5 minutes before you go to bed. Keep it simple - notice                    your breath, imagine what your day will look like, or remember what you loved about the                   past day, and if your mind is buzzing, acknowledge them and ask them to come back                           when you are busy tomorrow. This sounds crazy but it works!  
                        Take 2 brief cold showers a day - this may seem like hell but you become accustomed to it                   very quickly and it's the only thing where I've noticed a distinct improvement in my skin                     tone and hair quality. Hot water really can dry us out and in the summer, the cold water is                   so refreshing. If you can't bear it, just finish a shower with a cold rinse!
                  If you have a small trampoline (or lucky enough to be near a gymnastics centre where                         there is a large one!), bounce until your heart;s content. Literally! Recently, I took to                           bouncing while I was irrigating the garden. It is so much fun and really relaxes everything.
 This suggestion may not appeal to everyone's budget but having a personal trainer truly changed the way I worked out - there are many discount options and even if you have 2-3 sessions, you will be left with tips and tricks to understand your body type. This is really important to your motivation because, if you see results, you will feel happier and more body-confident. I slogged away at the wrong things for years and consequently hated exercise. But, it turns out, I was doing the wrong ones for my body. Find a trainer and book for a session and see the difference. Some visit your house so you can be even more comfortable plus you have a seriously fit guy showing you the moves.

RECIPE IDEAS
There's such a lot of choice to eat especially if you live in the UK. Here are my suggestions for meals you can have. Remember that when you are hungry, it's natural to crave processed foods as your body wants the immediacy of being satisfied. Giving in to it won't feel that great afterwards. Have patience when you are hungry and you will appreciate your food more. Once you get a taste for the freshness, there is no rival to other foods. I am talking from a pizza-ice cream-cookie junkie background so trust me! Be inventive...and try to source non-sprayed foods to reduce your exposure to chemicals. Also, I recommend blurring the lines between meals so you can surprise yourself and experiment with flavours at different times of the day - Thai green curry with coconut rice is a great breakfast, too! I tried a pineapple curry with basmati rice recently, almost like a pudding, but a great dinner time meal. My biggest tip is simplify and keep fancy foods for when you eat out. I love food but hate spending hours in the kitchen - it's possible to have something super tasty in a short time.

BREAKFAST IDEAS
I would avoid smoothies so you can chew the food. It is more satisfying and better to digest.
Sweet
Fruit salad with yoghurt and honey
Muesli
Pancakes (see below)
Porridge - made with oat or millet flakes
Savoury
Tomato salad with cheese and fresh herbs
Mackerel, cucumber and yoghurt
Eggs
Bread - choose that with a sourdough starter so it is easily digested        
Pancakes - making the batter the night before and refrigerating is the way for a great crepe! Fill with vegetables or leftovers from last night's meal

LUNCH / DINNER PALETTE
If you're working, choose something quick for lunch so it's convenient. I called it a palette so you mix anything you want. I always love reading recipe books, but never follow recipes! Again, I'd avoid dips - because they're time consuming to prepare and often have us reaching for endless grissini.

Fish or cheese salad - opt for light, softer cheeses like Ricotta or moussey goat's cheese
Have a conversation with your fishmonger - ask for seasonal fish, get cheap cuts, go for line-caught, avoid farmed fish. UK has great fish resources and M&S is great for labelling
Lentils
Chickpeas
Eggs
Nuts
Vegetables - raw or roasted
Baba ganoush - a dip worth making! Great with cucumber and carrot slices
Leaves - of all kind. Ice berg lettuce sucks, so go for the many other frilly, crispy, beautiful varieties
Bouillabaisse
my favourite dish of all time that is childishly simple to prepare. Email me for my recipe!

SNACKS
Depending on your constitution, appetite, mind set, genes...and a million other things, you may want to snack. And if you feel hungry, you should because you want to avoid blood sugar crashes and crazy glucose events. I recommend always packing a piece of fruit and your favourite nuts, like cashews or almonds. They are both more easily digestible when roasted, or some studies claim. Also, they're less dry and more swallowable! Again, be creative - pineapple with lime zest and chilli is a great snack; or soft-style oatcakes with nut butter and strawberries is just delicious. Lose your judgment about what matches and just try. Make the food world your playground.

Final note...

Learning more about taking care of myself allowed me to understand the emotional tools that come with that. While it's easy to eat better, exercise more...what can be more challenging is spiritual tools to live our deepest truth. I would encourage you to be still, allow yourself to be open-hearted, feel everything that courses through you without judgement...no matter what emotion it is, explore it, allow it; if you're tired, sleep...if you want to dance, dance. There's no rhyme or reason for the different things that we feel, they simply want to express something so welcoming them allows us to understanding what they are saying. Make this clean and green time a time to establish a superhonest conversation between you, your body, your mind, your spirit. It sounds corny, but you are unique and so is your experience in your life. You know yourself better than anyone else so indulge yourself, relax, enjoy and have fun!


"The dream is to see the invisible forms
Of imprecise distances, and, with sensitive
Movements of hope and will,
To seek out the cold line of the horizon
The tree, the beach, the flower, the bird, the fountain
The much-deserved caresses of Truth"
- excerpt from "Horizonte" by Fernando Pessoa


Dedicated to the very-much-alive-and-kicking Suzanne! You changed my life.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Monsters & Dragons



"For those ..."who cannot bear grief, and desire but to bathe in bliss", the ambrosial potion of 

this greatest gift of life is a drink too strong"

                                                                                                    - Gottfried, quoted in Joseph Campbell's Myths To Live By

I've never been a fan of positive affirmations. They smack of post relationship break up tear-stained smudged Post-its, clutched on to with withered fingers in a last grasp of self-pity. Pathetic. There are many other things I also feel eugh at, like celery, but, since I'd rather this list doesn't continue to grow, I thought it was time to look into why I find them irksome and if my aversion to them can actually teach me a lesson; like a room filled with spiders, only less horrifying. So, I swallowed my judgments and chose an affirmation a few weeks ago then got to saying it every morning, or any time I needed to remind myself of the inherent joyousness of the world. It was glorious.

But this week's whirlwind craziness left me a bit stunned - a constant shifting Rubik's cube of colourful bonkersness, with plans and expectations obliterated, then resurrected... then dead in an instant. I summoned my affirmation but in the midst of this spaghetti belly feeling, the words just blinked sadly at me. I re-attempted calmly and carried on: "This is the best day of my life," I repeated, which, alarmingly, awakened an inner goblin who began to say something like - "Now, we both know that is so not true. How can it be? Look...your life is a mess. Your best day would actually be roses and rainbows, kittens and cake and ice-cream and cartoons." Hmph. I thought affirmations were goblin slayers, I mumbled wearily.

As the train left the tunnel of all this doom, all is happily ever after again (cue Hollywood style symphony). Rather than listen to goblin, I heard it, patted him on the back and stayed centred with lovely conversations and openness about how vulnerable I felt at that moment. And now, I feel stronger and more able, clearer and more committed than ever to the dream that exists within me, regardless of the exterior forces. We can choose to feed the goblin or feed the dream. It's a simple but tremendously powerful choice. Collapse the cards of heady complexity and here we are, still the same person, still able to live, learn and love it all. Facing challenges with integrity builds character, expands perception and shows that we can live with our goblins if pick a fight with them, reason with them a bit. It makes our decisions more solid.

Having a great life doesn't mean that everything goes right all the time because, if it did, we wouldn't learn anything at all. We need a healthy amount of stress to keep us alert and challenged so we can continue to evolve. Suffering is a fundamental part of life so we may as well face is with playfulness, courage and a smile so every day continues to truly be the best day of our lives.