Seasonal superfoods

If you’re reading this in the UK, you might have spotted a new title on the shelves of your local supermarket or newsagent lately – Superfood, a magazine dedicated to eating well using ingredients that are naturally nutritious.

We hear a lot about superfoods, and sometimes information on the topic can be confusing or contradictory. Even the term itself is much debated and hard to define, so I really hope that this magazine helps clear things up!

The first issue is a Christmas special, so I thought I’d share five wintery fruits and veggies that I’ll definitely be incorporating into my seasonal celebrations.

  1. Cranberries. A rich source of vitamin C and greatly valued for their anti-inflammatory properties, cranberries were even used by Native Americans to treat arrow wounds!
  2. Sprouts. I LOVE sprouts, and have done since I was a baby. Maybe it’s because they’re low in carbohydrates and a 20g serving contains more vitamin C than an orange?
  3. Sweet potatoes. One of the most versatile superfoods around, sweet potatoes are also one of the best sources of vitamin A. Plus, they’re linked to cancer prevention and the maintenance of good eyesight.
  4. Beetroot. Research suggests beetroot can help lower blood pressure, boost performance when exercising and prevent dementia. Even better, it’s a hangover cure! The beta cyanin that gives beetroot its colour is an antioxidant which helps your liver flush alcohol out of your body.
  5. Onions. Do not underestimate the humble onion! It provides many vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, beta carotene and folate, but almost no fat – no wonder we use it in everything!

Thanks to Superfood magazine for the facts. If you’re keen to incorporate more of these natural goodies into your Christmas feast, check out the first issue which has plenty of recipes to inspire you – from a traditional cranberry sauce to a colourful winter slaw. 

  

Butternut squash tagine

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any recipes (I’m finding it true that Londoners don’t cook all that much – there’s no time!), but last week I made a butternut squash tagine that I thought delicious enough to be worthy of sharing. This was first made for me by my lovely friend Charlotte, who I think got it from a Jamie Oliver recipe book. I imagine Jamie’s original is fancier, but the way I like to make it is nice and simple.

1. De-seed a medium sized butternut squash, chop into chunks (I leave the skin on because of all the GOODNESS) and roast in the oven for about 30 mins.

2. While the squash is roasting, dice two onions and soften in some olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat.

3. Add raisins and cinnamon to the onions. Really helpfully, I don’t measure amounts of either… I just bear in mind that this recipe makes four portions, and I keep tasting as I go along and adding more cinnamon if I think it needs it.

4. Next, add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of chickpeas, including the water. Cover and leave to reduce on a medium/low heat.

5. When your squash is done, chuck that into the pot too, mix well and leave for a little longer so that it soaks up some of the cinnamon flavour.

6. Serve with couscous and a dollop of Greek yoghurt on the top. Delish!

Work off your Wimbledon faves

Who doesn’t love watching a bit of tennis with a glass of Pimms and a punnet of strawberries?

With Wimbledon just around the corner, Central London Apartments has put together this fun infographic showing how much of the sport you’d actually need to play to work off the treats traditionally associated with it.

Serious message: the infographic is based on calories and we should all know by now that one calorie is not like another – what’s way more important than the number is where the calories are coming from (i.e. protein, carbs, fats), but regardless this is an entertaining guide for tennis fans visiting the city this June/July.

I’m rather partial to a cream scone myself so the news that I’d need to play for an hour and a half to make up for it is rather alarming, although 15 minutes for a g&t seems reasonable…

What’s your Wimbldon weakness?

Infographic

Veganuary – the verdict!

For me the first of February brought eggs, white chocolate and Nutella – all the things I’d been craving through Veganuary. Now that it’s over I wanted to reflect on what I’ve learned over the past month. And I decided to do it in Q & A format, because why the hell not interview yourself…

Was it difficult?

Absolutely not, and hell yes! Cooking for myself at home was dead easy. Being a vegetarian already it didn’t make that big of a difference – I already usually choose coconut or soy milk over dairy so the only thing I properly had to cut out was eggs. Eating out was a lot harder, and frustrating because I couldn’t have my usual favourites, but it wasn’t impossible. Places that I’d recommend in Cardiff include Wagamamas, Wahaca and Cosy Club. It also helped me discover the delights of Riverside Market‘s vegan stalls including Mr Nice Pie, Naturally Kind Food and (my favourite) The Parsnipship.

Did you ever cheat?

Once, sort of accidentally, to my knowledge. It was at the airport and I’d asked for no mayonnaise on my burger but the kitchen hadn’t got the message. I ate it anyway because I was starving and if I didn’t eat then I’d have had to wait another three hours…

Did you feel like you were lacking energy?

Yes, but that was nothing to do with the veganism! January was absolutely mental in work, so it was actually a pretty good test of my energy levels. I felt tired but I think that would have been the case anyway – my meals definitely kept me fuelled.

Did you lose weight?

Yes, I lost three pounds as well as a centimetre off my waist and hips and two off my thighs. It’s not a lot, but I’m happy with that – I think it proves that following a vegan diet doesn’t make you deficient in anything, and I wouldn’t want my baby muscles to waste away! It helped me get back to my pre-Christmas weight, though, which is great. I think this is mainly down to the fact that vegan snacking is difficult – most cake and biscuits are off the menu. I did give the dark chocolate a good go though (Hotel Chocolat’s Gianduja Bombe‘s are the one) and my lovely colleagues made sure I was supplied with ‘accidentally vegan’ Oreos.

Has it changed the way you’ll eat?

I’ve decided not to stay vegan, because I think these days it is possible to get dairy and eggs from suppliers that you trust. As a bonus, buying direct is often cheaper too. Nantgwared Farm, another Riverside Market gem, does six large eggs for £1.50 whereas you’d normally pay around £2 in the supermarket – and you’re buying from the farmer that looks after the chickens so you know that they really are free range.

However, it will make me a lot more careful about processed products with egg or dairy in them. Most brands of eggs or milk are now labelled as organic or free range (if they qualify) but where the egg/dairy is just an ingredient the producer can be sneakier about it and can get away with a lower quality. So that’s something I’ll avoid in the future.

Have you bored the pants off everyone you know in the past month?

No doubt about it. Massive apologies to everyone I know, especially anyone who’s been out for food with me in January, and huge thanks to Cookie for enduring it with me!

Vegan pizza

2015/01/img_0163.jpgI kid you not, this vegan pizza is so delicious that you won’t even notice the cheese is missing.

Start by lightly toasting some pine nuts before setting them aside. Next, chop up half a yellow bell pepper, half a red onion and a few mushrooms and fry them in some coconut oil. (This recipe uses a tortilla as the base and that takes just minutes in the oven so we need to cook our veggies beforehand.)

Spread two tablespoons of tomato purée on a soft tortilla wrap, leaving just a small border around the edge. Once the veggies are done, layer these on top. Add 5/6 halved black olives, a generous sprinkling of sweetcorn and top with the pine nuts, which give it a satisfying crunch.

Put your pizza straight onto the oven shelf and cook for 5 -10 minutes, depending on how crispy you want the edges. Et voila!

This genuinely tastes like pizza, but better because it’s a super virtuous, clean and wholesome version. Veganism = easy and pizza = delicious, therefore veganism + pizza = winning. It’s just maths.

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Pomegranate power

IMG_0061.JPGOne of my funny food quirks is that I prefer my salads without dressing (which is helpful for cutting out unnecessary calories), but I was keen to try this pure pomegranate essence from Secret Gardens.

Although there’s not enough evidence to place pomegranate firmly in the superfood category, it’s proven to do wonders for heart health. As well as reducing the damage caused by cholesterol, pomegranate has been shown to improve blood flood and reduce the risk of heart attack. It’s a good source of vitamin E, calcium, iron and potassium and is packed full of those precious antioxidants. Plus, it’s delicious!

The Secret Gardens pomegranate dressing and marinade, which I was sent a review sample of, contains six fruits per 340g bottle – and nothing else. The pomegranates are simmered for hours following a traditional Turkish recipe known as Nar Eksisi, which translates as ‘pomegranate sour’. It is quite acidic so you only need a small amount, but it adds a powerful punch to any salad.

I’m devouring my warm salads at the moment, and this evening I had:

Iceberg lettuce
One salad tomato
Olives
One carrot, grated
Half a red pepper
Half a courgette
Butternut squash
Broccoli florets
Two Quorn sausages

It was delicious and super easy as everything that needs to be cooked can just be chopped up, chucked in a baking tray with some olive oil and bunged straight into the oven. Crispy baked broccoli is my absolute favourite at the moment – top tip!

Mix like a pro

IMG_0051.JPGI’ve wanted a PROMiXX mixing bottle ever since I first saw this neat little gadget popping up on the Instagram accounts of fitness professionals, so I was really excited to receive the 2.0 model to review ahead of its launch later this month.

The PROMiXX promises no more lumpy shakes or powdery supplement drinks and it’s true to its word – a motor in the detachable base of the mixer creates a miniature vortex in the bottle, which not only gives you perfectly smooth drinks but also looks incredibly cool. Every element of the design has been careful thought through, right down to the blunt blade – studies have shown that regular blenders damage the molecular structure of protein, so the PROMiXX designers chose a blunt blade to protect the micronutrients in your supplements.

The PROMiXX doesn’t just rely on this one unique feature to make sure it stands head and shoulders above its competitors – its design also takes into account the faults you often find with other mixers. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve ended up with protein shake all down my arms or the outside of the cup from not squeezing the lid tight enough, but you don’t get this with the PROMiXX. The sports flip cap and twist-to-seal lid mean no leaks, but also make it really easy to assemble/dissemble the mixer. It practically cleans itself too – just add hot water and washing up liquid and turn it on and the job’s done – which, for anyone who’s ever left it a little too long to clean their shaker, is a blessed relief…

The original PROMiXX is powered by 2 x AAA batteries but the 2.0 comes with a Lithium-Ion rechargeable motor and USB charging cable, so that you don’t need to keep buying batteries. The new model also features an integrated supplement storage container which slots in between the body and the lid, making it even easier to mix drinks on the go. These features are available separately as the PROMiXX Upgrade Pack until the 2.0 is released, and come in all three colours – black, white and hot pink.

IMG_0039.JPGIt’s possible to get by perfectly well with standard shakers, but the PROMiXX is such a well-designed and durable gadget that it’s definitely a good investment for anyone concerned about getting their supplements on the go. And on top of this the business is based in south Wales, so through buying one you’ll be supporting a local start-up doing some really exciting things.

If you’re in Cardiff you can get your PROMiXX from Cardiff Sports Nutrition, otherwise you can buy online from Amazon.