Pistachio, pomegranate & herby rice

We’ve well and truly hit BBQ season. I love the whole shabang, I like making plates and bowls of food that people can dip into, and I enjoy the consideration process about which textures and tastes will mix and match the best. When done right BBQ’s are food festivals. They bring people together in the sunshine to enjoy old classics mixed with new tinkerings and tastes.

This salad is a perfect addition to any BBQ spread. It’s more impressive and interesting than your average rice. The fruity sweetness from pomegranate and lemon works really well with the salty crunchy nuts, making it pretty god damn moreish. I wouldn’t worry what to match this one with, it goes with fish, meat or just a bit of green salad. If you’re lucky you might have enough left after guests to just enjoy a simple bowl on it’s own the next day.

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Weights and measures

You don’t need to worry about following specifics too firmly on this kind of thing. It’s nice to prepare for people coming with music on and a feeling of freedom in the kitchen, rather than the prescriptive panic of half measures and exacting teaspoons.

Roughly speaking you need the following for 6 servings:

  • 500g cooked basmati and wild rice (about 180 grams pre cooked weight)
  • 2 generous tablespoons pomegranate seeds (plus extra to sprinkle on top)
  • 2 generous tablespoons of crushed pistachios (plus extra to sprinkle on top)
  • 2 big handfuls chopped mint
  • 2 big handfuls of chopped basil
  • Juice from a lemon
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

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How to make:

  1. Cook your basmati and wild rice according the instructions. Make sure you don’t overcook it. The basmati should be soft and fluffy rather than soggy. Leave it to thoroughly drain and cool before you mix in the other ingredients.
  2. Add the fruit, nuts and herbs, give it a good mix
  3. Mix the lemon and oil together separately, then add to the rice dish. You might not need all the oil suggested, just add half, some salt and pepper and taste first. You can tweak to add more lemon, more oil and more seasoning to your own tastes.
  4. Cover until you’re ready to serve. Make sure this doesn’t go to the table straight from the fridge, room temperature is best alongside your hot BBQ food.
  5.  Before you serve, sprinkle with more pomegranates and nuts

Enjoy xx

Back in play – Banana magic

If there’s one thing I love it’s a good project. So when we came up with the idea of buying a house in Spain before Christmas, I leaped to my ‘get up and go, let’s make it happen’ action station. I rarely put much thought into what compromise these things can create. The opportunity to ping open an excel spreadsheet and make some action plans makes me go weak at the knees.

We have been very fortunate. We were lucky in the search and fell for a belter pretty early on. Once secured, I was Pinterest board ready and fully charged to bring the ideas to fruition.

Now either I am slowing down, or the projects are getting bigger. I am guessing the truth as always lies somewhere in the middle. However, as we’ve been working to bring the house to life, my children suddenly seem to demand more in the day yet want to go to bed later, school seems to be closing for more saints, training and bank holidays, and I swear someone’s shortening the number of days we’ve got each month.

Strangely as I’ve looked down at my perpetual to do’s, I’ve also been saying YES to anything new thrown at me. I have some innate desire to be wonderwoman, wonderfriend, wonderwife and wondermum. Like lots of people I know, I say yes to so many things that inevitably I trip up and feel far from amazing at any of these super hero roles. So needless to say it’s been fairly hectic this past few months. The fantastic news is that we’re now the privileged owners of a beautiful sunny home, a place I know in my heart will house masses of joy, relief and laughter over the years to come.

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It’s also an epic place to bake and cook. The kitchen is a happy place to work. I love nothing more than pouring myself a cold glass of Verdejo, putting on the radio and pottering around.

So it’s a real shame that I’ve run out of the extra energy needed to write up and snap the interesting things I have been making. Sometimes it really isn’t even about time, it’s about finding that final bit of space in your emotional vault to create good energy for just one more thing in a given week. I’ve been all out of the skills needed to clear away the space recently.

My lovely little blog project has been residing in the unfinished business box. It’s time to dust it down and throw in some love. I want to get to a point of pride before I walk away from this one, making sure I’ve featured enough varied recipes so that I can say this does fairly reflect the food of our O’Shaughnessy time. I’ve missed the thinking process, the snapping and I’ve really missed just writing for fun.

So let’s go. Back to brief. 

I started this blog, probably like many others, to create a compilation of the food we love, the tastes of our lives at this very moment. I am going to open up again with my children’s favourite banana muffins. I make these on a Saturday morning or anytime I know we’ve got people for brunch or breakfast. They’re not clean, paleo, sugar or fat free, which is potentially why the kids want them so much! I’m starting with these, because they’re an honest reflection of things I do to give my children balance. I don’t want them to resent the food we eat, so here’s one in honour of ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’.

Brilliant banana muffins

The picture doesn’t do these crowd pleasers the justice they deserve. These soft sweet muffins have little chunks of fudge and chocolate in the middle. They’re easy to make and quick to cook.

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For 12 decent sized muffins, you need:

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50g fudge chopped into small pieces
  • 50g milk chocolate chips (or exclude fudge or chocolate if you prefer)
  • 75g butter
  • 125ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of runny honey

Here’s how:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees celsius or 375 degrees fahrenheit and put paper muffin cases into a muffin tin.
  2. Pop the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl, adding the fudge/chocolate and sugar.
  3. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan, remove from the heat to add the milk and vanilla essence.
  4. Mash the bananas in a bowl.
  5. Beat the eggs in another bowl.
  6. Add the eggs and bananas to the first big bowl of flour, stirring everything together with a wooden spoon. It will be quite a lumpy mixture, but that’s totally fine.
  7. Spoon in equal measures to your muffin cases then bake for about 15/20 minutes.
  8. Once firm and well risen, use a skewer to test that the mixture inside is cooked. Once out of the oven, leave them to cool in the tray for a further five minutes, brushing the tops with honey while still warm.

Next up – grown up food I promise xx

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3 Steps to a Happier New Year

Plus, a Knock-out Masala Soup

At this time of year there is so much focus on resolutions, giving things up and drying ourselves out. What about celebrating what went before, getting excited about what’s to come and making genuine plans for a truly tremendous and memorable year?

I’m posting a beautiful new year soup, but firstly want to share some extremely practical and liberating techniques that can allow you to go about things a bit differently this January.

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  1. Firstly, take a moment to REFLECT on 2015

I don’t think we should live life looking backwards. We need to embrace today and whatever happens we need to keep moving forwards. However, I think we sometimes move so fast that we fail to pause, to reflect on what has gone before. Reflection gives the opportunity to smile at the wonderful and sometimes bonkers moments, see the changes in our lives and appreciate the times where things went wrong. If we’re doing a really great job at this, reflection can allow us to see where we should make changes so we don’t make the same daft mistakes all over again.

I make a family album every December, I start with some words on what happened in the year. ‘2015 was the year that Tobias lost his first two teeth, Martha was a star in the Christmas play, we moved house to number 30, we holidayed in the mountains and Alex finally joined me in the Tough Mudder challenge…’ Then I follow with some favourite pictures from each month. It’s a simple and pretty old fashioned exercise but it gives me time to indulge in both my memories and my whacking great love for the brood. Ultimately it always charges me with a powerful appreciation that time is precious and it’s racing by so fast.

If an album seems a bit like overkill, consider putting aside an afternoon to go through all your digital materials from 2015, pulling down things from all phones and cameras. Create a file for the year gone by and if time allows pull out your best shots and videos into a folder called ‘favourites from 2015’. Then create a back-up, or like me, find someone with some degree of technical competence to do that for you!

After that cathartic task you will almost certainly feel charged with some sort of drive to look ahead and make 2016 a great year.

  1. The stop, do, start challenge

Forget the resolutions and your promises to give things up. It’s depressing to start the year, already feeling pudgy, tired and run down with a list of things you now need to quit. With a moments peace, get yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine, grab a large piece of paper or 3 pieces of white A4 and a nice fresh sharpie pen. Write the 3 separate headings:

  • STOP
  • DO AND DO MORE OF
  • START

Then without caution, throw yourself into the task. Think about what you want to get from 2016, how you want your life to change, the emotions you want to feel about yourself, your experiences and your relationships. You’ll be surprised how easy this is once you get into it.

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What do I want to stop?

These can be as literal or emotive as you want them to be. You may have ‘Stop smoking’ in the same list as ‘Stop beating myself up’ or ‘Stop spreading myself too thinly’. There is no wrong or right, just dig deep to the things that don’t actually make you happy, not the things other people want from you. This is your exercise so make yourself the centre of the task. You won’t find it easy to stop things for other people, but will be able to make changes if you address what will make you a happier person this year.

What do I want to carry on and do more of?

Acknowledging what you like and things that make you feel great is a remarkably positive thing to do. We spend far too much time beating ourselves up. What about saying ‘I am brilliant at that and I am glad that’s a part of my life’.

For each carry on, there is usually a do more of such as:

Carry on…

Making amazing suppers, seeing and loving my friends, running

Do more of…

Trying new recipes, make a regular date with friends, enter more races

Enthuse about the opportunity you have to do more of these things you enjoy.

What do I want to start doing?

Go for it. End this year having tried something new. Life is so short that we need to grab hold of any opportunity to experience new things.

The reason this is so rewarding is that there are no rules to it and there is certainly no contract at the end of the exercise. You just get a good insight in to where you’re actually at and what you truly and practically need to do to make this a happier year.

The key to making the exercise have impact is to move from planning things to acting upon them. The most rewarding and the easiest place to start is with the things you want to start and do more of. Follow up on at least one thing the next day. Research your first Spanish lesson, finally get the dog into a training class, or book a table for a date night next week.

  1. De-clutter

The third and most important thing you should do right now, or as soon as humanly possible… clear some crap! I firmly believe that the things we surround ourselves with affects and reflects our sanity. It sounds dramatic, but if we’re holding onto things we don’t need, surrounding ourselves with items that add no value to our day to day existence, then we are surrounding ourselves with clutter, which can get in the way emotionally.

Holding on to clothes, toys or broken possessions, is like holding on to the past. Whereas creating some space helps us better enjoy things we use and love in our lives today. Space is a great thing, important for clarity and clearer decision making.

Go one room at a time and ask yourself

  • Do we use this?
  • Does someone wear this?
  • Does this bring someone joy to look at?

When the answer is no – move to the clear out pile! Once you start you’re immediately on the way to a more ordered, calmer home and a clutter free mind.

And now for the soup!

As we get back into the routine of life including work, school and fitness, soulful soup like this provides a perfect refuel half way through the day.

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You will need:

  • A tablespoon of coconut oil
  • A large (or two small) butternut squash
  • A white onion
  • 3 leeks
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 generous teaspoons of masala curry powder
  • Enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables (probably around 750ml)
  • Seasoning
  • Seeds to sprinkle on top

It is easy to make:

  1. Heat the oil, add the onions and garlic and fry on a medium heat till soft.
  2. Add the leeks for another 2 – 3 minutes until they also soften.
  3. Add the chopped butternut squash, the stock and the curry powder.
  4. Put a pan lid on and give the soup a good 20 minutes or so on a gentle heat.
  5. Once the vegetables are soft the soup is almost ready. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Blend with a hand processor or pop into a stand up blender.

Enjoy this gorgeous nourishing feed and good luck with your new year start.

x

A painless pre-Christmas detox

It’s not too late to feel great this Christmas

Christmas doesn’t just start in December anymore. It seems to get gently rolling shortly after Halloween, with the pace picking up week by week, until this full throttle crazy week before Christmas. There’s more ‘Tis the season’ drinking, way more naughty nibble consumption and therefore a subtle slide into a ‘So what it’s Christmas’ behaviour.

I keep bumping into people saying they feel like they’ve already overdone it. I certainly started this week feeling like the wheels were nearly falling off,  that’s before a turkey has been cooked or a cracker has even been pulled.

Don’t panic, you can still make a few changes that will make an enormous difference to how you feel by Christmas Day.

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A simple, pain free, 3 day detox.

Here’s the plan. For 3 days follow this guide and you will slash your calorie intake, take on masses of vitamins and minerals and give your digestive system a much needed break. The result will be that you’ll feel energised, leaner and probably pretty pleased with yourself. It’s as much about sharpening your mind and mood as it is fitting into your snazziest Christmas dress.

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Firstly make sure you organise your equipment (you need a juicer and a blender) and stock up on the ingredients. Don’t drink alcohol or over indulge on sugar the night before. It won’t be easy if you start this with a sugar hangover and spiking insulin levels.

Each day:

  1. Have a hot water and lemon to start the day. (Have a black tea or coffee if you feel you can’t give up caffeine right now!)
  2. Follow with the green detox juice below
  3. Don’t snack all morning
  4. Another green detox juice for lunch
  5. Don’t snack all afternoon
  6. Finish with a very light evening meal such as soup and green salad, stir fried vegetables, poached salmon and salad.

Make sure:

  1. You avoid caffeine
  2. You don’t drink alcohol
  3. You avoid all sugar and don’t have any processed foods in the evening meal

The trick is not to think to hard about it. Just get up and get on with it and you’ll be fine.

A gorgeous green juice

This  is truly the most delicious green juice. It’s packed with good stuff and it’s easy to make as there’s not a lot of peel and faffage.

Get your ingredients out the night before and prep as you need for your juicer. Put them in a food bag in the fridge, so all you have to do is throw them in the juicer in the morning.

For each serving, juice the following:

  • 2 green apples
  • 1/2 a large cucumber
  • 4 celery stalks
  • A lemon
  • A decent chunk of ginger

Then add 2 handfuls of spinach to the blender and blitz. Add ice and away you go.

Mix it up or make your own

There are plenty other juice recipes you can try on this plan. I have just kept it basic to make it easy for myself. There’s so much going on with the Christmas prep that this approach makes it so simple.

Have a look at some other great juice recipes online:

http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/wellbeing/galleries/34328/healthy-juices

http://www.juicemaster.com/recipes/juices/

http://ifocushealth.com/juice-detox-recipes/

Enjoy x

 

 

One pot chicken wonder

I am so in love with this recipe. Making this one is like a mini adventure, with a brilliant delicious reward at the end.

It’s a tender, heart warming chicken dish, perfect for Sunday supper. Prep this one early afternoon so it’s ready to roll a few hours later with steaming vegetables and a mellow glass of red rioja.

Taken from the amazing Nom Nom Paleo Cookbook, this clever slow cook chicken recipe delivers you beautifully succulent chicken, with a rich and incredibly more-ish vegetable gravy. It’s ever so simple, delightfully healthy and is now a thumbs up dinner winner for kids and grown ups in our house.

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I have adapted the Nom Nom recipe slightly. I found the gravy too thick on the original. It’s a forgiving dish to change, so have a go and tweak away if you need to.

My preferred ingredients to make this are as follows:

  • Nice family sized chicken – one that can fit in your slow cooker!
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 3 chopped leeks – white parts only
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1/2 a mug of chicken stock
  • A tablespoon of dried herbs – I use tarragon, rosemary and thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of fish sauce – trust me it works wonders here!
  • Pink salt and black pepper

And here is how to prepare the vegetables:

  1. Fry the leeks and garlic in the oil till soft, before adding the tomato paste and chicken stock. Allow to simmer for a further 4 or 5 minutes.
  2. Pop the soft vegetables in the bottom of your slow cooker and then move on to prepare the chicken.

Here’s how to prepare the chicken and finish the dish. It’s nice and easy:

  1. Season the chicken inside and out with your herbs, salt and pepper.
  2. Place the chicken breast down on top of the vegetables and sprinkle over the fish sauce.
  3. Put the lid on and leave on the low setting for around 4 hours. You need to check on things towards the end. A larger bird will take up to 5 hours.
  4. I turn my bird over for the last 30 minutes, just to ensure that all sides have been covered in the juices.
  5. When the bird is beautifully steamed and soft, take it out to rest for 15 minutes, before breaking off the meat.
  6. You need to ‘degrease’ the sauce. I do this by simply putting kitchen roll on top to soak up the fat.
  7. Once you are happy, simply blitz up the vegetables with a hand blender. Check the flavours and season if required. If you want a lighter sauce add a little bit boiling water to thin it out.
  8. Serve up with whatever works for you. Sweet potatoes and roasted broccoli makes perfect sense to me.

The ultimate beauty of this is the way the chicken stays so moist, cooking gently and soaking up the gorgeous garlicky flavours. Of course, there are so many other ways you could twist this towards your own favourite flavours.

Have a go and make it your own.

Happy Friday xx

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Pink-ish Beetroot Muffins

Hello,

If you get time I would love you to take a look at an article I have written especially for The Glass House Girls. It’s features a special recipe created for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Pink-ish Beetroot Muffins

Thank you, happy Friday,

Laura x

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Balsamic beef with crispy greens

Well here’s a turn up for the books. A full on meaty meat recipe on my blog. I would have bet money against this recipe making it on here six months ago.

The truth is I’ve made a few changes recently. I’m happy with my diet and feel very lucky to be in tune with my body, but I’ve decided to try something new . Over the past few weeks I have cut down the fructose even further, left out legumes and swapped in more proteins from meat. Yes meat, I didn’t expect myself to say that one!

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Ask yourself how you feel?

Just as it’s important to look at our exercise patterns and check whether we’re varying things enough to give enough benefit and recovery, I think it’s just as valuable to do an audit on what we eat every now and then.  I think we should check that what we’re eating is working for us, giving us as much energy as possible and reacting well with our bodies. I’ve been asking myself how I feel and made these changes primarily to help with my energy levels.

So is it a paleo thing or a personal thing?

I have been hugely woken up from the insights on blogs, recipe books and friends with regard to paleo, primal blueprint and caveman style eating. The science behind the principals is so logical. Read a cute introduction to Paleo by Nom Nom. However there are also arguments to say that we have moved on since the caveman days, and that there are definitely risks to eating too much protein Here is a vegan debate against Paleo.

So all I can do, is carry on feeling my way through and lead this one for myself. For me it’s definitely a personal thing. I have a strong set of lifestyle principals and I like that I have found a way to eat and operate that works for me. I’ll just keep checking that I feel good and that I am enjoying life and the food I make.

So what’s the verdict?

Two weeks in and I feel amazing. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of making different things and I cannot believe how much sharper I feel. Clamping down on fructose has meant the mid-afternoon slumps that had started sneaking in, have completely disappeared as my body has a stable blood sugar content. The single most exciting part of this though is that we’re naturally just starting to eat in sync again as a family. The food I am eating is the food my husband and children love to eat.

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So, back to the recipe. I don’t think the pictures are quite as graceful for sure. So more beautiful recipes soon I promise. For a marinade for 2 people you will need:

  • 2 premium cuts of steak, I used fillet steak
  • 3 cloves of garlic sliced finely
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of dark balsamic vinegar
  • About 5 sprigs of thyme and 5 large chopped mint leaves
  • A little salt and pepper

For the green vegetables:

  • An oven tray of kale and broccoli
  • A drizzle of olive oil and gentle drizzle of white balsamic vinegar,
  • Generous sprinkle of pink salt

To bring it all together:

  1. In a flat bottomed ceramic dish place the steak and top with the marinade ingredients.
  2. Cover with foil and place in the fridge for 4 – 6 hours.
  3. When ready, pop the vegetables in a pre heated oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees C.
  4. Heat a large frying pan or griddle and cook the steaks while the vegetables are cooking.
  5. Once the steak is to your preference let is rest for 5 minutes before serving.

A guide to cooking the perfect steak:

  • Blue: About 1½ mins each side
  • Rare: About 2¼ mins each side
  • Medium-rare: About 3¼ mins each side
  • Medium: About 4½ mins each side

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