Category Archives: Super-healthy

Pizzaphilia

Hi.

Just stopping by to tell you about the pizza I made for dinner this evening.

I left all my exciting new flours in Brighton so this base is standard wholemeal flour, you can use the gluten-free one if you like.

From bottom to top:

Pizza base, pre-baked.
One avocado, whizzed up with garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Spinach, blanched.
Parmesan cheese.
Steamed butternut squash.
Sundried tomatoes.
Egg, poached or fried.
Rocket.

Warm toppings through in oven for about 10 minutes once the base is cooked.

Is there anything more satisfying, nutritious, diverse, delicious and quite frankly perfect than home-made pizza ?

You couldn’t find a more straightforward path to my heart.

Summer is here and the Squirrell family are having a barbecue tomorrow.

See you then x

Yoga for Breakfast

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…mushroom soup for lunch !

No, but really, I had a real breakfast. Peanut butter toast and a banana, to be precise.

I am slap-bang in the middle of that part of my week in which I have all the time in the world to focus on exercising, cooking, composing, practising, writing and revising, which is useful and all that but I’m telling you, Cabin Fever is imminent. The weather has been terrible lately, and it really, really makes me feel horrible when I have to run in the rain, or I look out of the window to be met with nothing but grey, drab skies. I know this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it does, so there.

I reacted too quickly back in March when we had that all-too-familiar bout of unusually sunny days to which the UK is so often subjected during the early days of Spring, causing everyone to be too hasty in getting their skin out and eating salad outside. Then suddenly the weather snaps back to, well, standard Britain and you’re all like, Oh, what have I done with my winter coat/umbrella/thermal underwear ? and I really fancy some soup.

Which is what I did today. Yes, my winter coat has indeed made its way back out of storage, much to my disgruntled mumbling and cursing. And yes, mushroom soup has occurred ! Aren’t mushrooms pretty ?

I know what you’re thinking, “But mushroom soup has to be creamy, and you’re vegan, so this recipe is going to suck.”

Well, it is creamy. And it is vegan. And it most definitely doesn’t suck. So read on, oh, sceptical one.

Mushroom Soup with Cashew Cream
(by Joy the Baker)

Serves 2

You need:
Olive oil
1 onion (I only had red, so I used it)
2 cloves of garlic
250g mushrooms (you choose the type. I used chestnut)
1 tbsp soy sauce/2 tbsps Worcester sauce (fish-free – I know right ? It really exists !)
Salt/black pepper
375ml vegetable stock
30g cashew nuts
60ml water

Method:

Finely chop the onions and garlic. Fry the onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes on a medium heat, then add the garlic and stir through on a low heat for a further 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, chopped. Stir for a further 5 minutes.

Stir in the soy and Worcester sauce, salt and pepper. Then add the stock and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend together the cashews and water in a food processor, until creamy (see where this is going now…?)

Transfer cashew cream to another container and blend the soup.

When smooth, you can reheat in the saucepan, lightly stirring through the cashew cream.

This really was good, if a little salty. In hindsight, go easy on the salt because of the soy and the Worcester, and especially if like me you use cheap stock cubes that are mainly salt. Also, you really have to work at blending the cashews. If you’re finding it hard to get the lumps out, sieve the mixture and scrape and mash it through with a spoon. Transfer pulp back to blender and whizz again, add a little bit of the sieved cream and process again, and repeat until you have a decent amount of creamy cashew-y cream.

It is completely and utterly worth the effort.

Shroomy-love,

Amy x

Tofu Lasagne

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Piercing the film lid of a Linda McCartney vegetarian lasagne ready meal, placing it lovingly into the microwave, shutting the door and pressing ‘Go’ is about as close as I’ve ever come to making this dish. I can’t really believe that I’ve never done it before, shame on me ! Well today is the day that I changed that part of my life forever, by making…

VEGAN TOFU LASAGNE !

(What a strange combination of letters combine to form the word ‘lasagne,’… lasagne, lasagne, lasagne… so weird !)

You will need:
Wholewheat lasagne sheets (mine you can just put straight in the dish without pre-boiling – check your packet instructions)
200g spinach
400g pack of firm tofu, drained
60ml soy milk
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsps lemon juice
2 tbsps fresh basil
1 tsp salt/pepper
A double batch of the tomato sauce I detail under the pizza recipe in this post (so about 20 cherry tomatoes worth)

Optional: a few handfuls of grated not-zzarella (I used Cheezly); a sprinkling or two of vegan imitation parmesan; a handful of pine nuts

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Blanch the spinach (place in boiling water for a few seconds, then remove and plunge immediately into cool water). Leave aside to drain.

Place the tofu, milk, garlic, lemon, basil and seasoning in a food processor and blend until fairly smooth but slightly textured. I think the idea here is to create some kind of imitation ricotta…

Stir the spinach through the mixture.

In a baking dish, layer tomato sauce, then your lasagna sheet, followed by tofu and cheese/pine nuts if you’re using. Repeat until dish is full/ingredients are gone. Finish with pasta sheets and tomato sauce, and cheese if you wish.

Bake for 45 minutes

Makes 4 servings. Adapted from The Daily Green.

Things I learnt from making this dish:

Drain your tofu like a mother. I mean really drain that badboy – take it out of the packet in the morning, squeeze it, wrap it in paper towels, stick it under something heavy in your fridge. Go for a 10 mile run. Take it out. Squeeze it again. Wrap it up. Put it back in the fridge. Repeat. Check it throughout the day and change the paper towels if need be.

Make more tomato sauce than you think you need. I ran out. It’s better to have too much – you can always put it on some pasta for lunch the next day.

Season this like you’ve never seasoned before. I enjoyed this but because of the tof-overload it was a bit bland, next time, MORE EVERYTHING. Especially tomato sauce because I reckon this is where the most flavour is in this dish.

Other than that, I totally am not missing dairy products anymore. I’m no longer starving either. And it’s sunny.

Life is AWESOME.

Amy x

Of Portobello Mushrooms, Pizza, Pine Nuts and Plastic Cheese

… and other such vegan-related endeavours that do not begin with ‘P’.

So here are some of the dairy-free meals I’ve been enjoying this week:

Baked sweet potato with sautéed spinach, kale and pine nuts – stab your potato with a fork several times. Cover it in olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 200 degrees C for an hour. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add chopped garlic, pine nuts, spinach and kale. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and sauté for about 5 mins. Add to potato.

Spinach is high in iron, which many vegetarian and vegan diets lack due to the elimination of animal products in which iron is rife, particularly red meat. Both greens along with the sweet potato are packed with too many vitamins to list, and the sweet potato itself is a particularly good, non-dairy source of calcium. So it’s good to know my bones aren’t about to disintegrate just yet. And I chucked the pine nuts in for a bit of protein and mono-unsaturated fat.

Grilled portobello mushroom “cheeseburger” – preheat grill to medium-high. Remove the gills and stem from one large portobello mushroom and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Finely chop some olives, garlic and spinach and fill mushroom cavity with mixture. Grill for 6-8 minutes, then top with dairy-free mozzarella or other vegan-friendly cheese of your choice. Bake for a further 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and has started to colour. Serve with ketchup in a wholemeal bun.

Mushrooms, as well as being a good source of B vitamins, and a variety of disease-fighting minerals, are hearty and filling and therefore good for combatting the satiety issues I’ve been experiencing since turning vegan, which thankfully seem to be waning.

… I was too excited to eat this to take a picture.

(Vegan-friendly!) pizza – make some pizza dough and allow to rise for 1 hour. Chop 10 cherry tomatoes and blend in food processor. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add tomato mixture to oil, plus chopped garlic, a tablespoon of tomato purée, fresh basil, salt, pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Heat through and leave to stand. Put some onions on to caramelise on a low heat. When dough has risen, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Roll out pizza dough onto a foiled/oiled baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and top with tomato sauce, spinach, olives, caramelised onions and dairy-free mozzarella. Bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes.

The not-zzarella is really tasty ! I was a bit sparing with it on the pizza and mushroom in case it was horrible, but it really wasn’t ! I really couldn’t much tell the difference. I mean, obviously it’s not mozzarella and it never will be, but it definitely didn’t feel like a compromise and I enjoyed this pizza as much as I would have enjoyed one with real dairy cheese. I was too scared to use it when I baked the potato but next time I make one I am definitely topping it with this stuff.

Sadly, its protein powers pale in comparison with the real thing, with mozzarella packing 2.2g per 10g serving, and my Cheezly proffering a paltry 0.5g of protein per 10g serving. Not good, but all the vegetables that I piled on top of this beauty seem to have done the job of helping me stay full and feel satisfied tonight.

My mum had a mini freak-out that I was going to die of malnutrition, so I blinded her and consequently you, Dear Reader, with my unnecessary stores of food-science-knowledge. I think I managed to convince her that protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals are available in a wide range of non-animal-derived foods and it is possible to obtain them all with the exception of vitamin B12, which remains elusive in the vegan world save for fortified cereals… and Marmite. And so Mama Squirrell bestowed upon me the biggest tub of Marmite I have ever laid eyes upon. And I had some on my toast this morning. So all is well, and I remain alive and kicking indefinitely.

I hope this post goes towards proving that you absolutely can follow a balanced and varied diet without consuming animal products. At least, you can for a week. We’ll have to wait and see what the next three have in store…

Until next time,

Amy x

Things I eat after a run

BECAUSE I RAN THE BRIGHTON MARATHON, BABY.

Free chocolate milk and getting a leg massage in my space blanket was totally worth running 26.2 miles for

It took me 4 hours, 56 minutes and 41 seconds. Not enviable, but I finished, and I finished running. And I’m going to do it again next year. Faster. Thank you to everyone who believed in and supported me with love and donations, you are all awesome.

I currently have the body of a 90-year-old. Stairs are my nemesis. But I feel amazing. Everyone should run a marathon, seriously.

So you know that post-workout feeling. Exhausted. Hot. Sweaty. Your legs feel like jelly, your hands are shaking like milk and all you can think about is getting that clammy running kit off and some good hydration and nutrition in.

…at least this is what exercise does to me.

Needless to say, a lot of energy is spent during cardiovascular exercise, which, if you’re training for fitness and endurance, needs to be replaced as quickly as possible after a workout to re-stock your glycogen levels and enable muscle repair.

To replenish your glycogen stores after a heavy workout (to avoid post-run head-rushes, headaches and lethargy) you need something with a high glycemic index. High GI foods – things like refined grains and sweets (see this post for more info) – are usually the ones to be avoided, as their quick sugar-release is more readily stored as fat if munched mindlessly. But in this instance, they are allowed, nay, encouraged, shock horror, because your body will be in desperate need of some energy !

In terms of GI, foods are allocated a sort of rating on a scale between 1 and 100 according to how quickly their carbohydrate energy is released into your system – the higher the number, the higher the glycemic index and the faster its energy is released when you eat them. Some exercise plans tell you to eat high GI foods post-workout such as jelly beans (80), sports drink (90 – 100), and white bread (70), but all of these make me feel sick and I prefer a more natural fix such as an over-ripe banana (50-70 depending on ripeness), a few slices of watermelon (80), or medjool dates (60) (which, if you’ve never eaten them, are DIVINE and I cannot get enough of them at the moment. The thought of them fuels my running).

(Find the GI numbers of your favourite foods here.)

Fruits or vegetables are important after a run, and not just to replace carbs. Along with the water you lose as you sweat, you also lose minerals, which you can find in fruit and veg. I also use these fizzy mineral replacement tabs dissolved in about a pint of water which have no calories, only super-hydration.

You also need protein to repair your muscles and help them to retain the strength you build into them by training. Yoghurt, peanut butter and milk are examples of quick protein fixes (ie. you don’t have to cook them). You see, after you finish training, you have a 15 minute window in which consuming these kinds of things is most beneficial for workout recovery – its when your body needs them most. But who can cook a meal in under 15 minutes after a 16 mile run ? As I said, I can barely spread peanut butter on a bagel.

So I decided that something easily made, consumed and digested was the way forward.

AND THUS WAS BORN THE MOST WONDROUS AND DELICIOUS SMOOTHIE THAT EVER EXISTED.

Okay, so I didn’t invent this, I’m sure. But you won’t care once you taste it.

Banana-Date-Peanut-Butter-Post-Workout-Smoothie

Get:
Half a banana (I’ve usually eaten the other half before the run) – for carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals such as potassium
3 medjool dates, chopped and pitted – high GI for quick sugar release
150ml of milk – for protein
A tablespoon of peanut butter – for protein, carbohydrate and a little salt – OR a few tablespoons of chocolate-flavoured yoghurt

Do:
Blend all ingredients.
Snarf.
Recover like a boss and be the sexiest mo-fo’ on the mo-f’in’ beach.

Another taste sensation across which I stumbled during my treacherous training regime is:

No-bake Vegan Oat Energy Bars

Get: 5 tablespoons of oats
3 tablespoons seed/dried fruit mix
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

Do:
Mix all ingredients together until all combined. If the mixture is too dry and isn’t sticking, add more honey/agave.
Pack tightly into some kind of dish lined with baking paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

These are great for protein, but as honey and especially agave nectar are in fact low GI, eat it along with 2 or 3 dates or a slice of watermelon if you’re consuming post-workout. The slow-release energy in every ingredient makes them a perfect pre-run snack.

And some more ideas…

Yoghurt

Peanut butter and sliced banana on wholewheat toast

Tuna on rice-cakes

To put it simply, think protein and sugar. Bam.

Enjoy.

Amy x

When the Snack Monster rears its ugly head…

… snack !

I’ve been asked to write a post about snacking, because what happens when you skip breakfast ahead of a day at work or school, run around like a mad thing all day and eat lunch on the go without really thinking about it ? You get hungry at 3pm. It’s not lunchtime anymore. It is not yet dinnertime. Your mind wanders dangerously close to the biscuit tin, and 9 times out of 10 your hand follows.

This is an example of an eating pattern that I am WHOLLY AND UTTERLY against.

So before I begin my righteous healthy snack post, I will say this, please, just indulge me…

How to snack less in the first place

1. Eat a proper breakfast before you start your day. I’ve always been brought up to understand that breakfast is important, so much so that it slots into my morning routine as easily as cleaning my teeth; the same as most people would never consider leaving the house without doing so, I will NEVER consider doing ANYTHING except shower before I have my breakfast. I am hungry in the morning, and who can blame me, I haven’t eaten for 7 hours ! I don’t understand people who say they can’t stomach food in the morning (although there is rarely a time when I can’t stomach food; if there is, you know the hangover is bad and should probably leave me alone for at least a day). So try and eat something before you start your busy, busy day; get up 15 minutes earlier, that’s all it takes. It won’t take long before your metabolism adapts to the change and your body will begin to reward you by actually wanting breakfast when you wake up ! (Life hacking, I’m a pro.)

Incorporate some protein (eggs, bacon, nuts, yoghurt) as well as some fruit and a little slow-release carbohydrate; this should keep your change in your pocket and out of the vending machine until at least lunch. “Slow-release” carbs (bananas, porridge, Weetabix are good examples) release their energies into your body slowly, so you retain your full feeling for longer. The opposite – too sugary a breakfast – will cause an insulin spike and subsequent blood sugar dip, which causes sugar cravings (vicious cycle, hey ?) and ultimately pre-lunch cake.

2. Savour your lunch. Continue in much the same manner as breakfast – wholewheat carbohydrates, protein; fill up on vegetables and fruit if you’re still hungry. Often I find grabbing lunch in the midst of a hectic schedule can mean you don’t spend enough time making sure your brain has actually registered that you’ve fed yourself, leading to mindless snacking later on in the day because your mind has tricked your stomach into not believing it is full, even if it is. So take your time and choose wisely (not being starving because you skipped breakfast will help you make informed choices, instead of rushing headlong into a giant plate of chips).

3. Eat enough in your meals. I’m guilty of this when I’m trying to lose weight (a few Christmas/Birthday pounds here and there, for example); in that I purposefully cut back my meal portions because I think this will cut back on calories. Obviously it does, but it just leaves me feeling unfulfilled, hungry, and I (or a combination of my ultimately under-fed brain and stomach) end up making up the calories I saved skipping the second slice of toast by gorging later on in the day.

4. Know how to tell the difference between being bored and being hungry. I am SUCH a sucker for eating when I’m bored. I think it’s because a second rarely passes when I’m not thinking about eating, so when my mind wanders from the task at hand, it immediately jumps to its background runner: food. If you feel the urge to snack, have some water or a cup of tea. Failing that, go for a walk. If you still want to eat, chances are you’re probably genuinely hungry and should eat one of the delicious but nutritious snacks outlined below. Plus you’ve had a walk, so it’s fine !

Healthy snacks

If you get a combination of good carbohydrates (that’s wholewheat starch, fruit or veg) and protein the snack will serve to tide your energy and hunger levels over until the next meal. I tend to follow this daily pattern: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack, where the main meals are not big and the snacks are not small. This keeps your energy levels up throughout the day, as opposed to your blood sugar spiking and dipping (this not only leads to sugar cravings, but can also cause mood swings, and nobody wants that).

Any fruit, dried or fresh. My personal favourites include bananas, apples, plums and cherries. Or pick the hardest fruit to eat that you can find, for example, a pomegranate. Picking the seeds out will ensure you take your time over it and keep you entertained for a while.

Nuts. Our good friend, protein, to the rescue again ! Half a handful will do.

Peanut butter. Put it on a piece of wholewheat toast or dip some apple slices in 1-2 tablespoons.

Seeds. Work in much the same way as nuts.

Natural yoghurt. By which I mean unsweetened, unflavoured, plain yoghurt. It may seem a little sour at first if you’ve never had it before, but it’s absolutely perfect on a sliced banana with a little honey.

(This is a good one for boredom snacking; I find that it helps to make a meal, for want of a better phrase, of your snack. Not literally; I mean choose a snack that takes a little time to prepare. Chop up your fruit and make a fruit salad, for example. Do the baked apple, or the frozen banana thing. Taking time over any food allows your brain to feel satisfied, as well as your stomach.)

Invest in a weekly or bi-monthly Graze box. And use this code – 7N1PQH2 – on sign up for your first box free and your second half price ! (Graze should totally pay me for this, but sadly they don’t… but I get £1 off one of my boxes if you do this, so do it.) Their website speaks for itself…

Bake the apple oat bread-cake. But don’t eat it all at once.

Olives. For monounsaturated (healthy) fat (like the stuff in avocados !). Aim for about 10.

Hummus. Dip some carrot sticks, cucumber, pepper or a toasted wholemeal pitta in 1-2 tablespoons of the stuff. Beautiful.

Low-fat cream cheese. Again, dip vegetables or bread sticks, or spread on 2-3 oatcakes/ricecakes.

2 squares of dark chocolate. 70% cocoa and above. Satisfies your chocolate craving, but because it’s stronger than milk, you shouldn’t really feel like gorging on it.

A hard-boiled egg. Crack some black pepper on that bad boy.

Edamame beans. If you can get them in their pods, sprinkle a bit of sea salt over before literally popping them out into your mouth. They’re so fun and satisfying !

Glass of milk. Soy or semi-skimmed.

Wasabi peas. Low calorie but high flavour, so you won’t need to eat loads anyway. Great instead of crisps due to their salty-spiciness and crunchy texture.

Hope this helps. I’m off to bake an apple in the microwave…

Next time we speak I will have baked MUFFINS !

Amy x

(This is for Lizi x)

Avocado, how I love you

These beauteous, nutritious and delicious Mexican fruits are without a doubt my most favourite food at the moment. Okay so there are about 300 calories in a whole avocado (which I have been known frequently to consume in one sitting), and about 30 grams of fat (eek!) but studies have shown that the avocado is actually incredibly beneficial to weight loss programs.

Reasons why one avocado is better than your dinner:

It contains about 4g of protein

It contains healthy mono-unsaturated fats (which apparently speed up metabolic rate AND reduce cholesterol)

It has the vitamins and minerals of green vegetables including vitamin E and C, folic acid and vitamin K (among many more I am sure, look it up)

It is high fibre and low carb (what an angel) which helps regulate your digestion and blood sugar = good post-meal satiation = less sugar cravings throughout the day

It apparently helps your body to absorb more of the antioxidants in carrots and spinach if eaten together (so go make a frickin’ salad !).

So when you weigh up the pros 300 calories isn’t really that much, especially considering you can just whack it on a piece of brown bread with some salt and pepper and BAM, super tasty lunch.

Scoop my tasty, tasty brains !

But you can’t always eat a whole one because all the healthy fats and protein make it very filling. So what happens when you put half an avo on your sandwich, then are left with the other half that is just too damn tasty to throw away, but that goes brown faster than you can say ‘guacamole!’ ?

This:

Creamy avocado pasta (how can you not love something that has the word ‘creamy’ in its title ?!)

Serves 1

Ingredients:

½ medium avocado (or 1 whole, depending on how obsessed you currently are with avocados…ahem)

1 clove of garlic

Lemon juice

Tsp of olive oil

(God, I’m actually eating this dish as I’m typing this, food baby CENTRAL I’m eating it so fast it’s that good.)

Fresh basil

Salt and pepper, bit of oregano

Cheese (parmesan, mature cheddar, optional)

Brown pasta
(you can use white but tsh, shame on you) – I actually used Blue Dragon wholemeal noodles for this and it was really yummy; linguine or spaghetti would be awesome, or any other kind of pasta, but slurpy pasta is always fun.

Method:

Put the pasta on to cook as you like.

Put the sliced avocado, garlic, torn basil, salt, pepper, oil and lemon juice into a tall jug (to avoid av0-splash-back. This is a commonly used noun. Or least it should be.)

I recommend crushing the garlic before you blend, to avoid great hunks of garlic in your meal. Unless you’re into that kind of thing.

Blend it.

Yeah, blend it.

Blend it good.

Drain pasta. Mix in avocado-y goodness. Grate cheese on top should you wish (go on, be a devil. Remember what we said about cheese ?).

Not actually as much cheese as it looks, promise...

I am literally licking the freaking PLATE.

Nutritional values per serving, noodles and all, PLUS 15g grated cheddar (sauce made using half an avo): 413 calories, 22g fat, of which saturates 6.3g. (If served without cheese minus 60 cal, 5g fat, 3.2g sat fat.)

I KNOW 22 grams of fat sounds like a bucketful but remember all the beautiful nutritional facts about the good stuff in avocados means that you’ll feel satisfied for longer/fight cancer/absorb more vitamins/speed up your metabolism/reduce your cholesterol just by eating them. And to be honest, even if you ate 22g of fat in EVERY one of your daily meals (that’s some hefty bowl of porridge ya got there) you would still only amount to 66g a day, which is under the RDA of 70g for women, providing you snack wisely.

Phew. Feeling full.

Amy x

(p.s. this recipe is dotted around various places on the internet, I didn’t make it up. Just adapted it. When I first made it I didn’t have any basil due to what has been and which will from now on be referred to as The Basil Tragedy, so I stuck in some oregano and balsamic vinegar, just a tiny dash, and it was really tasty. Add what you will – I steamed some broccoli once and dry roasted some tomatoes to mix in. Heaven. Creamy Mexican/Italian heaven.)

(A present for KP xxx)