Friday, 27 May 2016

Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Soup [VEGAN].

Here's delightfully easy recipe for my extra tasty roasted cauliflower and garlic soup - it's vegan friendly too!


So I've been ever so slightly AWOL for the last week or so - my blogging mojo may have got up and done one. But I've hunted it down and we're on speaking terms so today I wanted to share a really quick, easy and super delicious soup recipe that can be whipped up with minimal effort. 

Cauliflower is not something I eat very often. I only ever really ate it smothered in cheese sauce. In fact back in my fussy eating days, cauliflower cheese was pretty much the only form of veg I would think about touching. How times have changes! Anyway, since going vegan cauliflower cheese just doesn't have the same appeal, yes vegan cheese sauces taste nice, but they just ain't real cheese. So after doing a bit of perusing of Pinterest for inspiration I decided to try my hand at creating a roasted cauliflower and garlic soup. 

This soup really does require minimal effort, all you need to do is chop and then let the oven and food processor do the rest of the work. Roasting the cauliflower and garlic brings out such a rich flavour, plus the combination of cauliflower and potato makes for a deliciously creamy soup without a drop of cream replacement in sight. As I write this post, I've actually eaten this soup for lunch and dinner today, it's that tasty (and quite frankly I couldn't be arsed to cook anything else!). Anyway, enough jabbering on, let me tell you how to make it.

My General Life - Roasted Cauliflower & Garlic Soup - Vegan


ROASTED CAULIFLOWER & GARLIC SOUP

serves 3-4


WHAT YOU NEED:

♥ 1 cauliflower, chopped into florets
♥ 1 white onion, peeled and chopped into chunks
♥ 1 medium potato, chopped into chunks (I'm lazy and left the skin on - extra fibre!)
♥ 10 cloves of garlic, skin on
♥ 750ml vegetable stock
♥ 150g cooked bulgar wheat (or quinoa/rice)
♥ salt and pepper to taste
♥ oil for roasting

Here's delightfully easy recipe for my extra tasty roasted cauliflower and garlic soup - it's vegan friendly too!

WHAT TO DO:

♥ Preheat the oven to 180°C
♥ Place the cauliflower, onion, potato and garlic cloves into a roasting tray. Drizzle with a little oil of your choice and season with salt and pepper (or any other flavourings). Roast in the oven for around 30 mins (the more roasted the veg, the darker the soup will end up being).
♥ Once roasted, remove the garlic from the tray and take the skins off.
♥ Place half the roasted veg mix, 5 of the roasted garlic cloves, half the bulgar wheat and half the stock into your food processor and blitz until smooth. Decant into a bowl/pan.
♥ Repeat the previous step with the remaining veg, garlic, stock and bulgar wheat.
♥ Season your soup as you wish, you could also add a little more stock if your soup is too thick for your liking.
♥ Serve and ENJOY - I really enjoyed dipping a toasted crumpet into this soup!

So there we have it, I like to think it's pretty simple and honestly the flavour is delicious. If you're not a mega fan of garlic then of course use less, but I think roasting it makes it taste so wonderful and it adds great depth of flavour to the soup.

Let's start a conversation:
How do you like to cook up cauliflower? I'd love for you to share your recipes either in the comments below or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan


Sunday, 15 May 2016

Pear & Pistachio Cake [VEGAN].

Here's a recipe for a yummy, vegan friendly pear and pistachio cake. Come join the yum train and find out more!


I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love cake. All kinds of cake. Except from maybe fruit cake. But there's always exceptions to the rule isn't there? A few weeks ago I cobbled together this delicious, vegan pear cake with pistachio icing. It was a bit of an experiment but oh boy did it work out. So today I thought I'd share the recipe so that you can join the yum train with me.

The cake is wonderfully moist due to the pureed pear, although it doesn't make it taste too pear-y, it's just enough. This recipe gave me enough to make one decent sized cake along with 6 yummy cupcakes (I was worried my cake tins were too small/shallow, but the cake turned out the perfect size!) Obviously if you have deeper cake tins then just whack the lot in, it's no biggie!

To create the perfect pistachio green hue in the icing I actually used a teaspoon of pumpkin seed butter in place of food colouring. It worked brilliantly, I'm really pleased with how the icing turned out - again the flavour isn't too overpowering!

Here's a recipe for a yummy, vegan friendly pear and pistachio cake. Come join the yum train and find out more!

PEAR AND PISTACHIO CAKE

WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

CAKE:
♥ 400g self raising flour
♥ 240g caster sugar
♥ 2 tsp baking powder
♥ 1 whole tinned pear, pureed in the food processor - I found this to be about 80ml
♥ 360ml dairy free milk (almond, soy, rice etc)
♥ 120ml flavourless oil (rapeseed, vegetable etc)
♥ 1tbsp vanilla extract
♥ sliced pear for decoration

ICING:
(makes enough to ice the middle of two cakes or the whole of one cake)
♥ 75g dairy free margarine (e.g. vitalite)
♥ 75g vegetable shortening (e.g. trex)
♥ 2 large handfuls shelled pistachios, blended until fine
♥ 1tsp pumpkin seed butter (I used Indigo Herbs)
♥ 750g icing sugar
♥ 50ml (approx) dairy free milk (as above)

My General Life - Pear & Pistachio Cake Vegan

WHAT TO DO:

♥ Grease the cake tins (mine were 8" diameter and about 1" deep) and preheat the over to 180°C
♥ Mix together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar & baking powder) in a large bowl
♥ Add in the pureed pear, milk, oil and vanilla, stirring until just combined.
♥ Spoon the mixture into the greased tins (and extra cupcake tins if like me you only have small cake tins) and add the decorative pear slices - I arranged mine in a pretty circle.
♥ Bang the tins on your work surface to pop any bubbles and place in the oven for 18-20 minutes (although always double check it's cooked with a skewer!)
♥ Allow to cool for 10 minutes when cooked before turning out to cool further.
♥ While cooling start your icing - with an electric mixer beat together the margarine, shortening and pumpkin seed butter until it softens up.
♥ Add half the icing sugar and mix in slowly until combined (covering the bowl with a towel helps prevent an icing sugar cloud)
♥ Add the remainder of the icing sugar along with a splash of the milk and the blended pistachio and mix again until combined. If the mixture is too firm once combined continue adding a small amount of milk at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
♥ One the cake has cooled sufficiently, ice away and ENJOY!

My General Life - Pear & Pistachio Cake Vegan

Let's start a conversation:
And there we have it peoples, in all it's yummy, vegan glory! Please do let me know if you try it, I love to hear when people make my recipes! What you're favourite flavour of cake? Please share your thoughts either in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan



Tuesday, 10 May 2016

What Is Health?

I'm asking the question "what is health?". Come on over and join the discussion!


What is health? 


Well according to the World Health Organisation (1948):

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

I was introduced to this definition at University, can you believe that is has remained unchanged for nearly 70 years? When you search for the definition of health in a dictionary it tends to only focus on the physical and mental health side of things and not on the impact of well being, be it physical, mental or social. Which, for me, is what makes this definition stand out.

So, as the definition suggests, health isn't just about the absence of illness, be it physical or mental. You could be a perfectly well individual, but according to this definition you still may not be considered to be or even feel healthy because of other factors at play in your life. I, personally, like the fact that this definition takes a holistic approach to health. That it's looking past illness and focusing on what else might be going on in an individual's world.

Health is a complex issue, one that is clearly impacted by a multitude of factors. It could even be considered abstract due to how difficult it is to truly define. What constitutes health is likely to differ slightly from person to person depending on what that individuals values and beliefs around health and wellbeing are. 

I think my difficulty with the WHO definition is that it makes true health feel slightly unattainable. Having a complete state of physical, mental and social well being at any one time is pretty hard going if you ask me, because let's face it, life likes to throw curve balls (not all intentional, mind you). And so in that sense are we ever truly healthy?

Something that I feel is integral to promoting health is your mindset and how you deal with the circumstances going on around you, particularly the ones, such as social well-being, that are more of an abstract and subjective concept. Looking at health in a positive or negative light can change how you think about it. Thinking of health in a positive light or as an asset can highlight how much health you really have, when compared to thinking of health negatively and making it focused more around illness or lack of health. 

I think what is really important to highlight is how we as individuals CAN take control of our own health and we should all be aiming to do this as much as we can. OK, there may be things that you have little to no control over, such as long term conditions or illnesses, but what I think is important is how we promote health for ourselves despite this. Be it trying to think about health more positively and focusing on all the aspects of "good health" you have, or promoting health through lifestyle changes, or focusing more on your social wellbeing, for example through relationships, social contact and connections. I actually listened to a really interesting Ted Talks podcast last week on a 75 year long study on two groups of men that found the key to living a healthy and happy life was being satisfied within ones relationships. It's true, the men that were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were actually the healthiest at age 80. Thus highlighting to me the importance of the social wellbeing concept in our original WHO definition regardless of how abstract it may make it.

Although the title of this blog post is "What Is Health?", I really don't think that's a question that I can really answer on behalf of all you guys. Because to me health is subjective and I think everyone is entitled to their own view of what their health means. To me, health is about being not only physically well, but mentally well, both of which involve making time for things that are important to me, that promote my health and wellbeing from a physical, mental and social perspective. Health to me is not about being thin or only eating certain foods or exercising everyday. Health is about balance.

If you have any concerns about your health then please seek support from your GP or another appropriate professional.

Let's start a conversation:
What does health mean to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts either in the comments below or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan


I'm asking the question "what is health?". Come on over and join the discussion!


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

How To Grow Alfalfa Sprouts + Recipe ft Indigo Herbs* [VEGAN].

I'm am so far from being green fingered it's ridiculous, I can't even keep herbs alive. It's something that I honestly find a little upsetting really as I'd love to be able to grow and nurture my own food. One of my goals this year is to teach myself how to be a bit more green fingered and at least grow something. So when Indigo Herbs sent me over some of their Organic Alfalfa Seeds I knew I had to try my hand at bringing them to life. And honestly, it was so easy even I could manage it without cocking it up.

My General Life - Growing Alfalfa Sprouts plus Recipe Vegan - Indigo Herbs

It's likely that you've got everything you need to start growing your alfalfa sprouts hanging about it your house somewhere. This being a mason jar, a muslin cloth and an elastic band/hair bobble. That is literally it.

*FUN FACT*
Alfalfa sprouts are packed with vitamins, the highest being vitamin K which is essential to support blood clotting along with promoting strong, healthy bones. 

My General Life - Growing Alfalfa Sprouts plus Recipe Vegan - Indigo Herbs

So to set up your sprouts you need to place 1 tbsp of your Organic Alfalfa Seed in the mason jar and cover them with a good couple of inches of water. Pop the cloth over, secure with the elastic band and leave to soak overnight. In the morning just drain the water off through the muslin cloth and leave the jar to sit somewhere - preferably not in direct sunlight. I gave my seeds a little rinse with fresh water every morning and evening after this, making sure to drain all the water off afterwards. What I think is so wonderful about growing alfalfa sprouts is that you can literally watch them grow - they change so quickly! Within just a few days you'll have a jar full of fresh, green sprouts ready to be enjoyed! See, even an inept gardener like me can manage growing sprouts. No mess, very little fuss and you reap the benefits within days.

My General Life - Growing Alfalfa Sprouts plus Recipe Vegan - Indigo Herbs

It was only after growing my sprouts that I wondered how I was actually going to use them. It's not hard to guess that they're pretty perfect in salads, as a little side, in sandwiches etc. But I wanted to try something a little different and non-traditional I guess. So I stuck them in a ramen and it was the best idea I've had all week. Honestly, it was so bloody yum and a great way to reap the benefits of the alfalfa sprouts.

*FUN FACT*
Alfalfa sprouts are believed to help reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol.

I'm sharing how you go about growing your own alfalfa sprouts along with a cheeky recipe for some delicious, alfalfa packed, vegan ramen. Click to read more!

UDON RAMEN WITH CRISPY TOFU & ALFALFA
serves 2


WHAT YOU'LL NEED:

RAMEN BROTH:
♥ 1 pint vegetable stock
♥ 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 3 chunks
♥ 1 garlic clove, peeled and cut into 3 chunks
♥ 1 spring onion, sliced
♥ 1/2 red chilli, sliced
♥ 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
♥ 1tsp rice wine vinegar (optional)

CRISPY TOFU:
♥ 1/2 block firm silken tofu, pressed for 15 minutes and cut into cubes
♥ 2 heaped tbsp corn flour
♥ 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
♥ 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
♥ salt and pepper to taste
♥ Oil for frying

EXTRAS:
♥ alfalfa sprouts (as much as you'd like)
♥ 300g udon noodles (I used Amoy straight to wok)
♥ Mushrooms
♥ Spinach
♥ Extra sliced spring onion and red chilli to decorate
♥ Splash of soy sauce to serve, optional

WHAT TO DO:

♥ Start with getting the broth stewing. Add the vegetable stock to a pan. Use a small amount of stock to loosen up the shiitake mushroom powder and add that to the pan too. Then add in all the other goodies (ginger, garlic, spring onion, chilli, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar). Allow the broth to simmer for around 30 minutes.
♥ In a shallow dish mix together the corn flour, Chinese 5 spice, cayenne pepper and salt/pepper (if using). Roll the tofu cubes about in it until they're coated on all sides.
♥ Heat the oil in a frying pan and when nice and hot place the floury tofu cubes in to fry. Keep turning as they turn all golden and crispy.
♥ While the tofu is cooking prepare your extras. Remove the chunks of garlic and ginger from the broth (you can leave them in if you want but I didn't fancy it) and the cook the noodles in the broth. I also fried off some mushrooms.
♥ Now it's time for the Avengers to assemble (metaphorically). Layer up the extras in your bowl of choice. Spinach, alfalfa, mushrooms, noodles and the freshly cooked crispy tofu. Add the hot, steamy broth over the top and sprinkle with spring onion and chilli to decorate along with a splash of soy if you wish.

My General Life - Growing Alfalfa Sprouts plus Recipe Vegan - Indigo Herbs

I wish I could eat this every damn day. I mean there's nothing stopping me but I would probably turn into a bowl of ramen. To me, ramen is just like a hug in a bowl. And it's definitely a dish you can throw together with whatever you have hanging around in the fridge and I totally encourage you to go wild and experiment with the extras. But for me it's a great way of getting my alfalfa in and packing in the extra nutrients.

Let's start a conversation:
Is growing alfalfa sprouts something you would try? How would you use them? I'd love for you to share your thoughts either in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan


*Indigo Herbs very kindly sent me some of their product for free. All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.*

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Ditch The Food Guilt.

Today I'm talking food guilt and why you should be trying to ditch it from your life and creating freedom within your food choices. Click to read more.


I've been really enjoying listening to podcasts lately and have discovered several that I'm finding really interested and thought provoking. One of these being the Food Psych podcast by Christy Harrison. The Food Psych podcast has really challenged my thinking around food and encouraged me to reflect on my own thoughts and feelings. Her podcasts look at making peace with food. With our relationship to food, with accepting ourselves regardless of what our body shape is. It also discusses challenging societal norms around food, body image and size and weight bias. It's got me thinking a lot about my relationship with food and my body and how I might like to change this for the better.

Feeling guilty about the food we put in our mouths is something I'm sure we've all done on more than one occasion. "Oh, I really shouldn't have eaten that cake, it's so unhealthy." I know I've done this countless times and then proceeded to worry about any hard work I've put in to get my body looking "perfect" being null and void. I've also then promised myself that I won't do it again, a promise I've never been able to keep. Because that kind of restriction just doesn't work for me. And why shouldn't I be able to have my cake and eat it?

I've really been reflecting on our society's idea of good and bad foods. Good foods being fruits and vegetables and healthy things and bad foods being processed and laden with sugar and fat. Actually, food is food. Regardless of where it comes from or what goes into it, it's just food. And some food's are more nutritionally dense than others. It doesn't mean that they're bad or even evil. And it doesn't mean that you're bad if you sometimes choose to eat foods that are maybe less nutritionally dense. More recently I've been trying to listen to my body more and identify what it needs and wants in terms of food, along with why it might need it. I was brought up having what I feel are typical meals e.g. cereal for breakfast, sandwich/soup for lunch and a large evening meal, typically with something sweet afterwards. My eating is habitual. Something that I've started trying to challenge in order to give myself more freedom to listen to my body. It's hugely psychological and for me is about learning to take notice. What have I learnt? That I don't always need food the way I thought I did. I might want it, but now I'm starting to question why I want it. Do I feel like I need that chocolate bar because I've had a really busy day at work and I'm feeling a bit stressed? Probably. So what can I do to manage that emotional need, because eating chocolate isn't going to fix the cause of the stress or tiredness or whatever else is making me feel that way.

I think the media has a huge role to play in fueling people's views on food and body size. What with all that fat shaming, thin shaming, diet criticisms and just general negativity. It almost feels as though you can't do right for doing wrong. And honestly I'm just so over that. Why are we letting the other people paint us a picture of how we should look or act or even what we should eat? It's not their picture to paint. It's our picture, because your body is precisely that, your body, and you should love it regardless of what shape or size it is and you should choose how you want to fuel it. However you believe we came to be on this Earth, your body is a miracle. Embrace it, love it, nourish it and enjoy it. Because really it doesn't matter what size or shape it is, we're all different and that's what's so wonderful.

As the aim of this post was to talk about food and food guilt, I think it's important to highlight the act of making choices that are healthful or health promoting. And I don't just mean that in the sense of choosing healthy foods. Healthful choices also refer your mindset and the psychological impact that these choices can have. This could incorporate not depriving yourself for the sake of appearance, not feeling guilty for the type of foods you eat or don't eat or not engaging in harmful eating habits - although I'm fully aware that this is a very sensitive issue and not something that can be worked through overnight. At the end of the day, food is there to be a fuel for your internal fire. The fire that keeps your going day after day and week after week. Learn to listen to your body and it will tell you what it needs to keep going, what it needs to carry out the millions of actions going on inside of you right now.

Given that I have just harped on about the need to remove restrictions and food stereotypes, I feel I should probably touch on my choice to impose massive perceived restrictions on my diet by living a vegan lifestyle. Those restrictions are exactly that. Perceived. Because honestly I've never felt more free in my diet than I do now. I don't feel restricted because my choice to eat a vegan diet is not fuelled by food guilt or a wish to eat healthier. It's fuelled by my ethics and morals. I think it's hard to fully see unless you're living it, I know before I went vegan my thoughts were around how much it would restrict and impact on my lifestyle. But when I think about my diet now I don't see restrictions, I see possibilities. I think it's so important if you're considering making a drastic change to your diet that you consider why you want to make this change. Are you doing it because you think it's a healthy choice? Are you doing it because you think or know your body will feel better for it? It's so important to be sure of your choice and that you're doing it for the right reasons, for you.

Since making a choice to listen to my body, my diet it the most nutritionally rich diet I've ever eaten - although don't worry though, there's still cake and chocolate in there form time to time too. It's not always a walk in the park, I'm still learning and I'm not claiming to be any sort of expert, in fact I'm far from it. But I'm giving it a try and it's honestly been liberating.

If you've managed to make it to the end of this epic blog post and the topic of ditching food guilt interests you then why not share it - click the link below to tweet about it!


What are your thoughts on food guilt? Is this something you experience and do you think you can work towards ditching it? I'd love for you to leave your thoughts either in the comments below, or drop me a tweet @_hellojordan

Today I'm talking food guilt and why you should be trying to ditch it from your life and creating freedom within your food choices. Click to read more.