Grateful to have moved hemispheres (again!)

courtesy of godsizedreams.com

courtesy of godsizedreams.com

The past year has been life changing in many ways: we have seen our youngest daughter graduate from high school in New York, leave home and go travelling alone ( every parent’s nightmare!). She jumped out of airplanes, slept on boat decks, climbed bridges and got a tattoo- the usual ‘gap year’ antics of a 21st century 18-year-old! Thankfully, after only a few anxious moments, she has settled in to University life and has completed a semester of her Science degree! But did I mention it is at the University of Melbourne in Australia? That’s a very long way from New York!! Paul is Australian and we had discussed moving to Australia 20 years ago, when we met in London, but life took us to Johannesburg and New York, instead!

So here we are 20 years later, living ‘down under’. After living on 4 continents in the past 8 years and moving house 6 times, we are ready to settle down to Aussie life. Moving to another country means completely starting from scratch, as Paul has been away 21 years it was the same for him; you would think we would have it sussed by now but every country has different rules and regulations, only known to themselves and you need to be a gymnast to jump through all the hoops and a genius to understand how to fill in all the forms! New bank accounts ( no chance of a credit card as “you haven’t any credit history”); new phone numbers; new medical insurance; changing driving licences to local ones; visa applications, references, certified copies of everything!! That’s all before trying to find a home to rent or start a new job! It gets overwhelming at times but I have, on deep reflection, realised that the pluses to our nomadic life outweigh the negatives:

I grew up near Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s home town, with a passion for Shakespeare that let me to firstly, be a tourist guide at his mother’s house and then become a college and high school English teacher. I’ve played Titania  ( local amateur production!) and walked in costume in the Shakespeare birthday Celebrations parade. I benefitted from all the heritage, beauty, experiences and privileges of growing up in the UK.

We then moved to Johannesburg, South Africa: where I have experienced dawn over the African bush, held in awe by lion cubs playing in a dry river bed whilst a watchful mother kept guard. I have taught bright, intelligent, inspiring young men from inner city Johannesburg, traversing ravines with them in the pink Magaliesberg mountains. Lived 2 streets from the world’s hero, Nelson Mandela and to whom we were even able to hand deliver a birthday card. The intensity of the country gets under your skin and becomes part of your soul. You feel closer to God in Africa;

“I was afflicted with Africa like a bout of a rare disease, from which I have not managed a full recovery.” ( The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver).

Africa is a delicious addiction that I will cherish in my body and mind eternally.

Just as we felt we would be in Jo’burg forever, we moved continents and hemispheres, again. New York is a city that is palpable in its energy and diversity.

The city is like poetry; it compresses all life, all races, all breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. (Charles Whitby)

My morning run was in Central Park, around the Jackie Kennedy Onassis reservoir passing the ambling tourists and feeling blessed to live in such a vibrant city of the world. Evenings were spent listening to classical jazz at the posh Plaza Hotel or engulfing ourselves in ‘world’ jazz at the eclectic Shrine club in Harlem. We have eaten gourmet vegan at Candle 79 to commemorate American Thanksgiving and, also, falafels and green juices at Abaleh health diner to celebrate Paul’s New York marathon achievement. We experienced summer heat of 40+C and 98% humidity, followed by winters that went down to minus 16C, where you felt that your face could freeze off and our backs got sore from clearing the snow off the driveway.

We have done a myriad of amazing things but the true blessings from living in all these places are not the really the things we have done but the people we have met: people who became friends and opened their lives and hearts to the new crazy foreigners.

Each friend represents a world to us, a world not possibly born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born. (Anais Nin)

The strangers who we met for a brief moment but took time to chat and share their knowledge and wisdom on their locale and their perspective of the world. The wonderful people who inspired us to try new experiences and constantly strive to improve ourselves both physically and mentally. The church communities who unreservedly embraced us in to their family of God. Those friends, old and new, who supported us in a variety of ways when things were tough. Our families who have borne the pain of our departure and the delight of each brief return visit. Through them we have learned how to be grateful and understand what true happiness is. Robert Holden, in his inspiring book Be Happy, says ” unless you cultivate an awareness of joy, no amount of pleasure or satisfaction will make you happy.”  The loved ones in our lives are our joy.

When life seems tough or when we are taking it for granted, counting your blessings and being aware of the joy that you can cultivate from within when recollecting the connections you have made , can be all it takes to change your attitude to your place in this wonderful world.

view of Sydney city from Blackwattle Bay

view of Sydney city from Blackwattle Bay

So, armed with my new energising self-knowledge, I am back on track with my holistic health blog and ready to share some of the recipes I have been working on during my travels…

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Gluten Free, Meatless Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Brown Rice Burgers

  •  sweet potato and brown rice burgers 
  • Another day another vegan burger recipe…

As you know, I have been experimenting all Winter to try and make the most delicious vegan sweet potato burger. We love sweet potatoes as they are full of antioxidants, beta-carotene, iron, magnesium, potassium, plus vitamins A, B6, C & D- wow!! Not only are they incredibly healthy, they taste so deliciously and naturally sweet, we particularly love the orange fleshed variety. We, also, love a bit of spice and I experimented with adding chili, sweet chili sauce, cayenne pepper and curry powder to create a little heat and intensity to the burgers.

My biggest issue was not getting the flavour I desired but the correct consistency for the burgers. Some attempts were too wet and broke up when on the griddle pan and had to be baked in the oven. I think this was due to a lack of flour to bind the mixture together- thank goodness for chickpea (garbanzo) gluten free flour which resulted in the following perfected recipe. They taste a little like an Indian pakora-yummm

 2 1/4 cups cooked chickpeas ( 1 cup dry)

1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potato ( roasted or boiled)

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice ( 2/3 cup dry)

1/2 finely diced red onion

1 carrot finely grated

1/2 red pepper ( or any colour) finely diced

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1-2 cloves of garlic- crushed

3 tablespoons ground flax seed

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

Chickpea flour to bind

Salt & Pepper to taste

1. If using dry chickpeas- soak over night. Rinse and place in a large saucepan of water with one bay leaf, cook for 35-45 minutes, until tender.

2. Cook brown rice as per packet’s instructions. I use a rice steamer, one of my favourite and most used appliances.

3. Either roast sweet potato in a hot oven ( 410F / 210C ) for approximately 30 minutes until golden and tender or boil in a saucepan until tender.

4.place chickpeas and sweet potato in a food processor and pulse until soft and mixed- do not over blend or the mixture will be too wet.

5. Sauté onions, garlic, cumin seeds, chili flakes and curry powder in a pan with a tablespoon of coconut oil or EVOO- for 3 minutes- add a teaspoon of water if it becomes too dry.

6. Add carrot and red pepper to onions and sauté for a few minutes until just tender.

7. In a large bowl mix all ingredients until thoroughly combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add extra seasoning if necessary. You can add chopped fresh cilantro ( coriander) .

8. Add 1-2 tablespoons of chickpea flour to help bind the mixture. Form in to 8 large patties. Place on a greased baking tray- cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour before cooking. They can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.

9. To cook- heat a griddle pan with a smear of coconut oil and sear on both sides. The burgers can be eaten straight away or placed in a low oven to keep warm.

These burgers should stand up to barbequing once the warm weather eventually arrives here in New York!!

rye beach1   rye beach2

Dog walk in the Spring sunshine on our local beach… Spring is here??

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Quinoa and Sweet Potato Burgers

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I have been experimenting for months to try to find a tasty meat- free burger that appeals to my family and friends. I have been promising to blog the recipe but wanted to wait until I was happy with it- I think I have finally got there! The beauty of this recipe is you can adapt it to your own tastes using different herbs and spices- the basis of the recipe is very simple.

1.5 cups of cooked quinoa
1.5 cups sweet potato-
1/2 cup cooked forbidden black rice ( or wild rice ) this adds texture.
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 onion – finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries- soaked, rinsed , dried and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 cloves garlic- finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 cup fresh chopped herbs- parsley, cilantro ( coriander), sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Chickpea ( garbanzo bean) flour

1) Peel and cut sweet potato in to 1″ cubes- drizzle with EVOO and roast in a hot oven ( 400F / 200C) until tender. Mash and place in a large bowl with cooked quinoa and cooked rice.
2) Sauté onion , chili flakes and garlic in a little EVOO until onion is translucent and going soft. Add balsamic vinegar and sauté gently until the vinegar has evaporated.
3) Next, put sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a processor and give them a quick blitz , so they are still chunky.
4) Add onions, seeds, cranberries and herbs to the large bowl .

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5) Add chickpea flour one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is dry enough to make in to burger patties.
6) Mould mixture in to about 8 patties. Coat your hands with a little chickpea flour to stop your hands becoming a sticky mess! Place burgers on to a sheet of parchment paper on to a tray and pop in the fridge until ready to cook. Place in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up the burgers before cooking.

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7) Add a tablespoon of EVOO to a frying ,or griddle pan, on a medium high heat- sauté the burgers until light brown on both sides. The sautéed burgers can be kept in the fridge and then re-heated on a baking tray in the oven ( 350F) for about 10 minutes, turning once. I like to sauté the burgers and then place them back in the fridge , they will keep for several days, and then re-heat in the oven when needed. This makes them firmer and less likely to crumble. You can, also, just bake the patties in the oven ( no need to fry).
We enjoyed our burgers with a quick homemade salsa: 1/2 chopped ripe mango, I large chopped tomato, 1-2 chopped spring onion ( green onion), salt, squeeze of lemon juice and a few chili flakes…. Delicious.

Health info:
Nut Free
Gluten Free
Contains protein, iron, calcium
Forbidden Black Rice- known as ‘forbidden rice’ as the Emperors of China realized the benefits of the rice and wanted to keep it for themselves! It contains 18 amino acids, iron, calcium, carotene, zinc and copper. Research by by Dr. Zhimin Xu states’ “just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fibre and vitamin E antioxidants”. It has a nutty taste and texture.

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Coconut and Cranberry Truffles

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These tasty little truffles are so quick and simple to make, and are a healthier alternative to all the seasonal, sugar laden cookies. They are also a great way to get the children involved in the kitchen, no cooking required: watch out for very sticky fingers as they roll the little coconut balls!

The recipe makes approximately 24 bite sized truffles.
Preparation time 15 minutes ( less if you have little helpers?!)

1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raw almonds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons raw cacoa powder
4 heaped tablespoons organic unsweetened coconut shreds ( plus extra to roll the balls in )
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence.

1. Soak the nuts and seeds over night ( or for 6 hours)
2. Drain and dry seeds and nuts thoroughly.
3. When the nuts are dry place in a blender and pulse until a coarse paste forms.
4. Add the cranberries, cacao powder, coconut and vanilla essence. Blend until a soft paste forms.
5. Roll in to bite sized ball and roll and coat in extra coconut if desired. I did because my family adore coconut and it adds another texture to the truffles.
6. Store on parchment paper in an air tight container in a cool, dry place.

For a nut free option omit the almonds and use extra sunflower and pumpkin seeds instead.
You can use raisins or dates instead of cranberries.
This recipe is gluten free and ideal for vegans and raw foodists, too!
I am looking forward to these little yummy treats Christmas night- I just hope they last until then!

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Vitamix Vegan Cashew Nut Ice Cream

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I would be lost without our Vitamix. Hyperbole? No I really mean it! In the last 18 months it has changed my life – for the better- how many things ( or people) can you say that about? It is the most used appliance in our house. From smoothies and vegan ‘cheese’ sauce to vegan ice cream the uses are limitless.
Cashew nut ice cream is my husband (Paul’s) speciality. Here is the perfected recipe:
– 1 cup of raw cashew nuts
– 2 cups frozen berries ( any will do but we mix strawberries, raspberries and blackberries- the colour is vibrant)
– 1 cup ice
– 2 tablespoons ( or to taste) of raw organic honey.
– 1 tablespoon unrefined virgin coconut oil ( optional)

Place all ingredients in Vitamix , using the tamper , blitz until smooth and creamy – you may need a bit of muscle at the beginning!
Eat immediately or store in freezer. It never lasts long enough for us to freeze it as we devour it strait away!
Non vegan friends say they can’t be it is dairy free.
You can add any fruit you prefer, or experiment with coconut strands, mint leaves, raw cacao… Etc just add an extra cup of ice if not using frozen berries.

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Vitamix filled with yummy ingredients and ready to go.

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Blitzed ice cream .

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Kombucha- the ‘new’ ancient wonder health drink?

Kombucha has been around for over 2000 years, the ancient Chinese called it the ‘immortal health elixir’ and drank it to improve their health and to fight against diseases. But what exactly is kombucha? I had heard about the health benefit claims and seen it on the shelves in my local Wholefoods but until just over a month ago it was an enigma. I decided to find out more about it, then to try it and see how it affected me- I was surprised by the results and now recommend it to my health coaching clients.

What is it?

When looking at the basic description of kombucha it sounds unappetizing, I imagined something that was ‘good for me’ but tastes disgusting; reminding me of Mary Poppins and childhood days of being force fed cod liver oil! So here’s the description but don’t be put off and read to the end: It is a fermented sweetened tea producing a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, abbreviated to  SCOBY  a.k.a ‘mother’ ( due to its ability to reproduce) which looks like a large flat , wet mushroom. The mixture is made up of green, white or black tea that has been sweetened with honey or evaporated cane sugar and left in a cool place away from direct sunlight to ferment. The beneficial yeast turns the sugar in to alcohol and then the good bacteria ferments the alcohol in to organic acids. These organic acids blunt blood sugar response and therefore, it has a low glycemic index (G.I.) and is non inflammatory. This process produces active enzymes, amino acids and poly-phenol anti-oxidants and, also, increases the probiotic content of the drink. it contains high  concentrations of B vitamins ( 20-25% daily intake in 80z) . A variety of fruit juices are then added to create a more pleasing taste to the pleasantly fizzy liquid.

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A bit of history:

Kombucha’s fame spread from China to Russia and then across Europe before arriving in USA in the 1990s. The Nobel Prize winning Russian author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn drank kombucha each day after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, he attributed his recovery to the miraculous drink. In 1987, Ronald Reagan used kombucha to help him stop the spread of his cancer. At the beginning of the twentieth century German and Russian scientists researched the health benefits and cancer curing properties of kombucha. Unfortunately, research was halted in the 1940s due to the Second World War.

There was a resurgence in interest in the 1990s for kombucha as a cancer cure and health panacea. There have been no major studies in the US, as it is not profitable for the drug companies; you can make kombucha at home for about $1.50 per gallon! However, the earlier European research is now available in English if you want to read the scientific stuff!

Health Benefits:

This is where it gets exciting! For most people today, our digestive systems are over worked, not functioning properly and this leads to chronic illness ( diabetes, heart disease, ADHD etc), my biggest task when first seeing a new client is how to improve their digestive health to benefit their over all wellness and create the outstanding life we all deserve. It all starts with a small step- kombucha can help with this.

  • Digestive health: The probiotic bacteria wards off parasites and pathogens ( especially candida which causes inflammation all over the body). Kombucha fills the gut with healthy bacteria and this improves our immunity to illness.
  • Cleansing: The properties in kombucha help to detoxify our bodies which reduces the load on the pancreas, liver and kidneys; this , in turn, helps the body to destroy cancer cells , glucaric acid has potent anti- cancer activity.
  • Joint health: glucosamines in kombucha lubricate joints and make them more flexible, which is beneficial for arthritis and rheumatism sufferers. It has the added bonus of improving collagen which improves and reduces wrinkles!!
  • Energising: the immune boosting properties lead to increased energy and elevated mood.

Effects I noticed:

First of all, I was amazed at how delicious the kombucha tasted- fruity and fizzy – not  like a medicine at all!! My body reacted  quickly to the enzymes and probiotics; within 20 minutes I felt energized, euphoric but very clear headed ( a bit like I could conquer the world- rather extreme I know but oh my, did it feel good!) I went to my early morning yoga class with a sparkle in my eyes!

The second time I drank kombucha was about 7pm after eating my raw cacao chia pudding! I had so much energy and positivity I wrote a blog post before I went to bed, even my husband was amazed!

I would recommend anyone trying kombucha, especially if you need to turn to caffeine to wake you up in the morning or for a pick me up mid afternoon- kombucha will provide this with all the other added health benefits, as well as not putting pressure on your adrenals, as the coffee would do. It is a lovely refreshing substitute for a glass of wine or a gin and tonic, too. Be aware that Kombucha is acidic and some experts say that it should be drunk in moderation and recommend not more than 8 oz a day if drinking every day.

For more information and details on how to brew your own kombucha at home try the following websites:

www.getkombucha.com

www.foodrenegade.com

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Chocolate And Raspberry Chia Pudding

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We are a family of chocolate lovers! There are times when only the indulgence of chocolate will satisfy: when you’ve had a tough day or a great day, when energy is low or emotions high. We all know how mass produced chocolate, full of corn syrup and fat, is bad for us, so thank goodness for raw cacao. Raw foodist and cacao exponent David Wolfe emphasises the wonders of raw cacao, calling it ‘the healthiest food in the world.’ And he is not alone in this view.

* Raw cacao is full of antioxidants it has the highest concentration of any food known to man. As basis for comparison, it is 20 times more concentrated in antioxidants than 70% cocoa chocolate, and about 15 times more than green tea and red wine.
* It has the highest concentration of iron and magnesium ( most of the western world is deficient in these minerals).
* It one of the only foods which helps our brain produce more of the ‘feel good’ hormones ( PEA, Tryptophan and Anandamine) – eating raw cacao is most likely to make you feel happy and a little in love!!

David Wolfe, also, tells us that if you eat berries and raw cacao together it dramatically increase the anti oxidant power of both. So this raw cacao and raspberry chia seed pudding provides double the pleasure.
With the added Omega 3 benefits from the chia seeds, calcium from the almond milk, potassium from the maple syrup – this dessert is an all round winner and it is so easy to make…

Recipe for Chocolate and Raspberry Chia Pudding- Serves 4:
1/2 cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
1 tablespoon ( to taste) raw Grade A maple syrup
2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond ( non dairy) milk
1/2 cup fresh raspberries ( can use frozen)
Coconut strands to garnish.

In a large bowl mix the cacao powder with a little milk until it creates a smooth paste.
Add the remaining milk, chia seeds &maple syrup – stir well.
Place in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to allow the chia seeds to swell and absorb the liquid.
Before serving stir in raspberries.
Place in individual bowls and sprinkle with coconut strands.
It’s as easy as that!

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