Avocado: The Little Miracle Worker

28598640_UnknownIt’s no secret that I love avocados. I eat them in some form or other every single day: blended with juices, smashed on corncakes or toast with tomato and chilli powder, as a dip or dressing with crudités or salad (see photo) as a sauce with pasta, even in chocolate mousse! (There are recipes in the Menu at the top of the page).

‘But they are so full of fat and calories!’ Yes, they contain fat and calories, but they are the good sort, the sort your body needs. As I said earlier, I eat them every day (along with those other so-called weight-gainers, nuts and seeds) and I am not exactly breaking the scales!

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Have you ever noticed how vegans usually have glowing, soft skin? It’s probably all the avocados! Adding avocados to my daily diet certainly helped clear up my mysterious skin disorder, an itchy scaly rash that appeared out of nowhere and nearly drove me mad. You can read about it here: How I Juiced My Skin Clear: A Rash Decision?

Avocados are little miracle workers. They are nutrient-dense, great for your skin, your brain, your immune system, providing protein, energy and fibre. They can help lower cholesterol and fight inflammation. They are a meal and a medicine cabinet all in one fruit.

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‘Oh, but they’re either too hard or over-ripe, or you end up throwing some away because it won’t keep!’ We always have one ripening in the fruit bowl and one waiting in the fridge. The best way to test for ripeness is not to press the wider part of the fruit, but the ends, where the stalk is, so you don’t bruise it and make it go black.

Do you know you can freeze avocado? If you only require a quarter or a half of one, say for a smoothie or sandwich, you can chop or slice the remainder, put it in a freezer bag or container in the freezer and it will keep for ages until you need it. No waste. (Same goes for over-ripe bananas, by the way).

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(The above is a Vegan Gluten-Free Nut-Free Bread Mk IV – the best yet!

I’ll soon be posting a recipe for Guacamole with Coriander, Chilli and Moringa. Meanwhile, try eating ripe avocado with a spoon straight out of the shell with a squeeze of lemon or lime and a twist of black pepper. It will fill you up for longer than any chocolate bar or packet of crisps, flooding your body with lots of healthy vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs and fats to provide it with sustained slow-releasing energy, rather than leaving you feeling tired and hungry and reaching for another nutrient-free snack.

ps An easy way to peel a ripe avocado and remove the stone is to score down the shell and flesh with a sharp knife from top to bottom in quarters, the 4 parts will fall away and the stone will pop out, you can then peel the quarters like an orange.

You’re welcome!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Vegan Chilli Spiced Black Beans, Veggies & Buckwheat with Cumin & Coriander

28863488_UnknownWell, it’s mid June and still we are wearing long socks and woolly cardis while cowering inside from gale force winds and rain, but worry not, we Brits are a hardy bunch and we know how to keep our peckers up! Here’s an easy wholesome dinner that will not only warm your cockles but is satisfyingly healthy too.

Buckwheat is a good alternative to rice and quinoa and very versatile. You can even eat it without cooking: it’s a nce crunch in muesli or energy balls, goes well lightly toasted in granola or with other seeds and a splash of tamari. It’s gluten-free, a vegan source of protein and magnesium, B vitamins and fibre. It’s satisfyingly nutty – suits me then! – and filling.

Black beans are also a great source of vegan protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre.* This recipe uses some fresh summer vegetables: you can mix and match the types of fresh beans, mushrooms and tomatoes, use fresh chilli if you like it – I’m a bit of a wimp so this has a little chilli powder in it.

The thing is not to overcook it. It took about 30 minutes. How you serve it is entirely up to you – my husband decided to fry a (veggie) burger and some onions to have with it, I drew the line at the chips (fries) he proposed to have too :-)) I had it with some green salad.

All measurements and timings are very approximate.

Serves 2-3

All ingredients are vegan, gluten-free, and organic where possible and unpeeled

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Ingredients

1 Tsp Coconut Oil, melted in a frying pan

1/2 Tsp Chilli Powder

1Tsp Dried Cumin

Onion, chopped

Pressed Garlic

Fresh Green Beans, washed, topped and tailed, chopped

Half a Courgette, washed and chopped

Few Chestnut Mushrooms, washed and chopped

Sweetcorn

1/3 Cup Buckwheat

Approx. 250mls Vegetable Stock

Few Fresh Baby Plum Tomatoes, sliced

1 Tsp Raw Coconut Palm Sugar

Fresh Coriander, chopped and some reserved

Tamari

Black Pepper

1/2 Tin Black Beans, drained and rinsed

Method

Cook the spices, onion and garlic in the coconut oil for a few minutes, stirring

Add green beans, courgette and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, stirring

Add the buckwheat, stirring, then the stock, sweetcorn, frsh coriander, a splash of tamari and black pepper.

Cover and cook on a low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When almost done and most of te liquid absorbed, gently mix in the black beans and scatter the sliced tomatoes on top.

Cover and allow to heat through for a couple of minutes.

Serve in a hot bowl with fresh coriander.

****

*See also  Vegan Black Bean & Walnut Veggie Burger

Red Lettuce & Black Bean Protein Salad

Rice Bowl with Mildly Spiced Veggies, Vegan Black Bean Burger & Cashew Cheese Sauce

Copyright: Chris McGowan

My Burnt Quinoa and a Yummy Banana Chia Pudding!

Because I think it’s important to show the disasters as well as the successes, here’s a quick post to show you things don’t always go as you expect in a health/food blogger’s world:

Here’s what happened to my dinner last night:

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It was supposed to be a fruity/spicy quinoa dish, with cumin, ginger, mushrooms, dates, sweetcorn and some veggies on the side, but even the most dedicated foodie can get distracted by the cycling at the Giro d’Italia! It practically needed a chisel to remove!

Here’s what I actually had!

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Unfortunately, I lost the mushrooms as they were in with the quinoa and there was no time to redo it as the steamed veggies were ready, so the chopped dates and some pinenuts were added to the steamed carrot, leeks, sugar snap peas, asparagus and sweetcorn, with a little alfalfa on the side. It was surprisingly good.

But just to make sure I wasn’t going to be malnourished I had a lovely banana chia pudding afterwards 😉

I forgot to take a photo but the ingredients were:

banana, a little coconut water, chia seeds, soya yogurt, baobab powder, ground cashews, all blended, and served with a sprinkling of chopped medjool date, chopped cashews & dessicated coconut. Yum!

Here’s a video showing you how to cook perfect quinoa (although it’s a little overcooked for my taste, I don’t like it so soft and mushy!).

Quinoa is a complete protein and can be used in savoury or sweet dishes, you can also buy quinoa flakes for muesli-type breakfasts or smoothies. It needs some spices or sweetness added to give it flavour, or you can cook it in vegetable stock. It’s also gluten-free.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Silky Green Smoothie, Zinc-rich: One for the Men?

img_4148There is less fruit in this smoothie than normal, but don’t let that put you off. It still has a sweet flavour and smooth, creamy consistency. It is also chock full of nutrients: magnesium, potassium, protein (did you know Romaine lettuce is a good source of protein?), B vitamins, zinc, vitamin E, lots of other vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fats.

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc and therefore often recommended for men to maintain a healthy prostate. We love them as a snack or on stirfries, lightly toasted with some Tamari whch gives them a salty soy sauce flavour.

Walnuts, too, are a good source of zinc, Vitamin E, B vitamins and healthy fats – swap for sunflower or other seeds if you have a nut allergy.

Zinc is also necessary for a healthy immune system, wound healing and to help breakdown carbohydrates. It is involved in our senses of taste and smell, in healthy cell division, fighting colds and cancer, so is a pretty important mineral.

Tahini is made from sesame seeds and a good source of calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron.

Potassium (from the banana too) is good for the heart while magnesium is needed to prevent muscle cramps, aid mental and physical relaxation (necessary for good sleep), good digestion and gut health.

Wheatgrass powder is full of useful nutrients including Vitamins A, C, E, and K, B Vitamins, Protein, Zinc and other minerals as well as dietary fibre.

All ingredients are organic (except the coconut water), vegan and gluten-free.

Ingredients

1 Small Banana, chilled

2 Tbsp Oats

1 Generous Tbsp Pumpkin Seeds

Small Handful Walnuts

1 Generous Tbsp Tahini

3 Romaine Leaves, washed and chopped

1 Tsp Wheatgrass Powder

Medium Glass Unsweetened Coconut Water

Blend in a high speed blender, add ice if you like it chilled or use frozen banana.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Rice Bowl with Mildly Spiced Veggies, Vegan Black Bean Burger & Cashew Cheese Sauce

img_3084This dinner came about when I had recently finished a 3 week juice plan and wanted something simple but with a little flavour – not too much, as my digestion wouldn’t be able to cope so soon.

My husband was having chilli, so I decided to have a mild version and also use up some mushrooms and bits of veggies as well as cashew cheese sauce (recipe here) left over from the previous evening, plus a solitary Vegan Black Bean & Walnut Veggie Burger that had been lying forlornly in the freezer for some time. (A chilli burger would work well here too, see Vegan Tiger Nut & Peanut Chilli-Burger).

(I dare anyone to ask where the protein is in this recipe!!)

(You could use spicy tofu in place of the veggie burger and if you really want to spice it up, add a real chilli pepper!).

img_3080The idea was to have rice with mildly chilli-flavoured stir-fried veggies topped with the crumbled burger and lightly chilli-seasoned cashew cheese sauce. 

It turned out really well, but there was far too much for me. It was very filling. I could have halved it and had a small green salad and it would have been more than enough.

 Vegan, gluten-free, organic where possible.

Ingredients for 1-2 servings

1/2 Cup Brown Basmati Rice each, soaked and rinsed well

Various veggies, we used:

Kale, washed and chopped

Red Cabbage, washed and shredded

Carrot, shredded

Chestnut Mushrooms, washed and chopped

Courgette (zucchini), washed and chopped

1 Heaped Tsp Raw Virgin Coconut Oil

Chilli Powder

Tamari

 Black Pepper

Cashew Cheese Sauce

Method

Cook the rice in about twice as much water until it is absorbed or until it is al dente, you don’t want it split and mushy, it doesn’t taste as nice and it means the rice now behaves as a sugary carbohydrate with a higher GI rating.

Melt the oil; when hot but not smoking, add a little chilli powder then add the veggies, one group at a time so as not to mudddy the colours. Keep them moving.

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Add a few twists of Black Pepper.

We added a little tamari to the mushrooms.

Cover and allow to cook on a low heat for a few minutes until done but still with a bite.

Meanwhile, slowly  warm up the burger and cashew cheese sauce.

We added some chilli powder and extra nutritional yeast to the sauce once it was warmed up.

Place the rice in the bowl, add the veggies, top with the crumbled burger and drizzle or pour over the sauce.

Et Voilà!

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

Zingy Kale Salad Juice

Are you ready to ditch the festive food yet and get healthy again? 

I am.

Food is a real problem for me when all the family get together. My juicing routine is interrupted and meals take so much time and preparation that I end up compromising and eating things I know are going to leave me feeling uncomfortable if not in great pain.

Yesterday was one of those days.

With a houseful of meat-loving teenagers, there are only so many times you can get away with vegan nut roast or pizza, fruit salad, and raw chocolate treats, before you have a mutiny on your hands. So yesterday, their final lunch was fish and chips from the local chip shop! There was no time for juicing or making salads as they were on a tight timetable for their journey home. I ended up having a few chips, my first potatoes of any kind for 18 months. They were crisp and freshly made and tasted good with Himalayan pink salt. I ate them slowly and mindfully. I asked them to be kind.

Those few chips caused me so much heartburn and acid reflux, I was in pain all night and had no sleep! What’s more, the skin on the back of my hand began to itch (see How I Juiced My Skin Clear: A Rash Decision?).

This morning, I decided that was it. Back on the juice.

*

This is one of my husband’s concoctions. It’s a throwback to summer days in the garden. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath, hold your nose and cross your fingers, but this turned out really well!

Wash all the ingredients, keep the peel on unless you’re using a waxed lemon, in which case pare it very thinly to leave as much pith as possible, this is where the micro-nutrients live and we need them in the juice. It helps the kale to go through the juicer more easily if you chop it roughly and feed it through in scrunched-up batches between apple and cucumber. Feed the lemon in with another item and leave the celery to last if your juicer doesn’t cope with it too well.

This juice has protein, antioxidants, B vitamins, healthy omega fats, electrolytes, fibre and is hydrating and good for your skin.

Ingredients

Large handful of Kale

2 Apples

Half an unwaxed Lemon with peel

3″ Cucumber

1 Stalk of Celery

Handful of Green Beans

1/4 of Avocado

Wash and juice everything except the avocado which is blended into the juice.

(Begin with apple and end with apple for best results).

You can chop and freeze the remainder of the avocado to use for future blended juices or in guacamole etc.

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Juicing in the garden during the late summer while hb mends bikes – it’s his thing. It’s very messy and that’s as close as he gets!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Spirulina, the Ultimate Superfood? + Banana, Blueberry & Red Peanut Smoothie

imageI loved this smoothie! It has an unusual combination of ingredients and I wasn’t expecting to photograph it at all because usually anything with dark ingredients, and especially Spirulina, will look less than appetising. I was pleasantly surprised, it looks just like a milkshake!

Nutritionally, it has everything you could ask for: potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, protein, B12, Vitamin K, iodine, essential fatty acids, fibre – in fact, more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than you can shake a spoon at.

This so-called superfood can help with post-exercise recovery and fatigue, plus reduce the symptoms of Candida and of allergic rhinitis, among other benefits.

Spirulina is an algae that is mostly protein (between 60% and 70%) and contains a long list of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. I found it difficult to take on its own when I first tried it just in water, it was better in a small glass of apple juice, but it didn’t blend, I found adding it to smoothies the best way to take it. I then tried the Juicemaster brand and found it a milder version, it certainly doesn’t shout above the other ingredients in this smoothie or spoil the taste.

It’s so beneficial for good health that it’s one of those foods you just know you have to have for your own good!*

I’m not really selling it to you, am I?

Trust me, if I gave you this smoothie and you didn’t know it had spirulina in, you’d be none the wiser. But if in any doubt you could add a medjool date or some maple syrup to be on the safe side!

Remember, the coconut water is naturally quite sweet, as is the banana.

Begin with 1 Tsp a day and gradually increase to 3 times a day if you want therapeutic levels.

(If you have to watch your sodium levels, then please do your own research).

Ingredients

Soak 3 Tbsps Oats, 1 Tbsp Organic Chia Seeds* and a handful of Organic Red Peanuts in a Medium Glass of 100% Raw Coconut Water in the blender for 15 minutes to make them more digestible.

Add

1 Small Banana

A Large Handful of Organic Blueberries, washed

1 Tbsp Meridian Smooth Palm Oil-free Peanut Butter

1 Tsp Juicemaster Spirulina

Blend and add ice if you prefer your smoothie chilled. Enjoy!

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*Please Note: Since spirulina stimulates the immune system, anyone with an over-active immune system or an auto-immune condition such as Lupus or Multiple Sclerosis is advised not to take it. Similarly, due to its phenylalanine content, those with the metabolic disorder PKU should also avoid spirulina.

Juicemaster

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Meridian Foods

Copyright: Chris McGowan

The Benefits of Baobab, a Fruity Protein Smoothie + Review of Aduna Bars.

img_1319Baobab powder may be new to many of you. I’ve only recently begun using it in smoothies and on porridge and I really like it.

It has a mild, citrus almost sherbet taste and contains protein as well as calcium, iron, thiamin, vitamin C, fibre and potassium.

I use Aduna* brand as I like their ethos: they use vegan, organic ingredients and support small producers in Africa, many of them women (here’s a link to a good article in The Guardian about their business and the impact of growing baobab on local African economies).

I also use their moringa leaf powder which is a green herbal-tasting superfood, a bit like spinach, also with a high protein content, vitamins and minerals.

(My first order came with a personal handwritten thank you note and a couple of recipe cards, which was a nice touch).

(Coincidentally, after I had written and scheduled this post, I won a box of Aduna Moringa and Baobab bars! I have to say, the family love them. The 22 month old who won’t eat anything vaguely resembling a vegetable but loves all kinds of fruit gobbled up a Baobab bar. It has pineapple in and is very flavoursome with a strong citrus taste. I love the Moringa bars with their mango and slightly herbal flavour. They are both highly satisfying. My husband takes a Baobab bar with him on cycle rides). 

Ps Since this post was published I ordered some Aduna Cacao bars – they are lush! They have walnuts, cacao nibs and hibiscus in them and it’s a lovely fruity combination with a bit of a bite from the nuts ‘n’ nibs.

The bars are organic, vegan and gluten-free.

Fruity Protein Smoothie

img_2349This smoothie recipe is also vegan, gluten-free and organic.

If you have time, soak the oats and cashews for 15-20 minutes in the coconut water in the blender. This makes them more digestible.

The grapes and plum contain the anti-ageing reseveratrol, banana is a good source of potassium and energy, the oats and cashews have calming magnesium and the hemp seeds are a good source of protein and healthy omega oils.

Ingredients

Half a Banana

1 Plum

Handful Red Grapes (washed well, they are among the most sprayed crops in the world)

2 Heaped Tbsps Oats

Handful of Cashew pieces

1 Tbsp Baobab Powder*

2 Heaped Tbsps Hemp Seeds

Coconut Water – I used quite a lot this time as I wanted a thin smoothie.

Add all the ingredients to the blender and blend well.

https://aduna.com/

Copyright: Chris McGowan

This Green Juice Packs A Nutritional Punch! (Ft Jay Kordich Juicing Video)

(Please read to the end, there’s a special video feature for anyone interested in juicing).

As you know, I love juiced sweet potato, so forgive me for posting another one! Sweet potato on its own is so full of nutrients – vitamins including betacarotene, minerals, fibre, essential fatty acids – but combined with the carrot, broccoli, spinach and avocado, this blended juice packs quite a nutritional punch.

The apples add soluble fibre and all the fruit is high in vitamin C.

The broccoli and spinach are good sources of bio accessible calcium.

img_3635The avocado also provides protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, and contributes to a more satisfying, satiating juice.

These nutrient-packed, versatile fruit are very good for your skin, heart, eyes and regulating blood sugar levels. They fill you up so you don’t eat as much. I have some avocado at least once a day. It is one of those foods you could live off if you were stuck on a desert island (though when you were rescued you’d probably never want to see one again!).

This juice is high in antioxidants, helping to boost your immune system and ward off those winter viruses.

Metal straws protect your teeth when drinking juices, they are reuseable, can go in the dishwasher and don’t end up in landfill – and they’re not made of plastic, so no nasty chemicals. You can find them on Amazon, the ones I have came with their own tiny cleaning brush.

Ingredients

Sweet Potato, washed, chopped and peel left on if organic

Carrot, ditto

2 Sweet Apples, ditto

Slice of Lemon, ditto

1 Kiwi, peeled

3″ Broccoli Stem, washed

Handful of Spinach, washed

Juice all ingredients beginning with an apple and ending with an apple

 Blend with 1/4 Avocado

*

Jay Kordich is known as the Father of Juicing. As a very young and athletic man he was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer. He chose to work with doctors who specialised in juice therapy. He is still alive today at the age of 93. This is his first video lecture fom 30 years ago on how to juice. I learn something from him every time I see him.

Please note he is using organic produce and using the skins. Please be sure to wash your produce thoroughly and consult your doctor if you are taking medications.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

The Look, No Banana! Mango Smoothie Bowl

imageI nearly always start a smoothie wth a banana. I like that it thickens the smoothie but also that it has so many healthy nutrients in one ingredient and it is so satisfying.

Today, however, I went for something different: dried mango. I love mango, it is my favourite fruit: I love the juiciness, the colour and most of all the smell! But it is difficult to find them here, they are nearly always expensive and unripe.

Like avocados, they have a tendency to go off before they ripen and so when I get the urge for mango, I generally turn to the dried strips. Still organic, but not so juicy – or so messy! They take a little soaking first, so you may want to soak them in a little fresh apple juice or with the chia seeds and quinoa flakes in the coconut water for half an hour while you do something else. (This is extra yummy if you use frozen mango).

Mangoes are a good source of dietary fibre, B6, Folate, Vitamins A, C and K (necessary for bone health), and Potassium. Quinoa is a complete protein, while chia seeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, protein and essential omega fats (see also 3 Cheers for Chias! for more info on these amazing seeds plus further breakfast bowl recipes). Brazil nuts contain selenium, which some people are deficient in. (See Love Brazils? Beware Potential Selenium Overload! to read more about the symptoms of selenium deficiency and also the dangers of over-consumption).

This isn’t a particularly arty breakfast bowl, but it is simple and healthy.

All ingredients are organic, vegan and gluten-free.

Ingredients

1 Cup Dried Mango, chopped

1 Tbsp Quinoa Flakes

1 Tbsp Chia Seeds*

3 Brazil Nuts

1 Medium Glass Chi Coconut Water

Soak the above for about 30 minutes in the blender.

Blend and pour into a bowl and top with sliced apple and a sprinkling of dried coconut. 

Some smooth jazz today with some stunning natural photography.

(Ps If you’re reading this via email, you’ll have to go onto the blog to play the video)

Have a great day!

*http://www.therawchocolatecompany.com/

Copyright: Chris McGowan