I’m back!

I just wanted to write a quick post to explain the absence of blog updates in the last six months.  I had been working really hard on the blog up to my trip to Nicaragua last September.  All the hard work paid off when I was short listed for the Irish Blog Awards.  I was delighted to have reached my goal and took a break while I was on my travels.  When I returned I found that my focus had shifted slightly.  I began a yoga teacher training course when in October and since then most of my energy has been going towards that.

Initially I felt a lot of guilt and stress at neglecting the blog, as I struggled to juggle my full time job, as well as working on the blog which is very time consuming, as well as yoga practice and study, as well as working on my other goals and not to mention finding time for a social life and relaxation!

I decided to just go with the flow and do what felt right.  I allowed my work on the blog to slide for a little while.  Many people asked me when I would be updating it or if I had given it up.  I didn’t have an answer for them but I knew that there was no point in working on the blog if it was becoming stressful or a chore, whereas it had begun from a place of passion, creativity, fun and excitement.

In the last  couple of months I have been missing blogging, and my enthusiasm and passion for Natural Fuel has been returning.  I have a lot less time to dedicate to the blog compared to what I had last year but I am planning to continue!  I am hoping to design a completely new website in the coming months.  In the meantime I will be posting new entries here when I can and I will be active on social media.

I am really looking forward to interacting with the blogging world again and seeing where life will take me (and the blog) next! :-)

Ultra Moisturising Shea Butter Hand Balm

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This hand cream is completely natural and organic, containing gorgeous plant based ingredients to moisturise, soothe and protect dry hands.   It’s thicker than a hand cream so a little goes a long way.  It’s semi-solid texture is that of a balm or salve -think halfway between a cream and a hard lip balm.
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 I used shea butter as the main ingredient due to it’s amazingly effective moisturising and nourishing properties.  Shea butter is protective, hydrating and very efficient at softening and smoothing the skin.  It is a rich source of vitamins A and E.  When making skincare products, I always strive to use raw, natural, organic, unrefined ingredients that have not been processed from their natural state with chemicals.  Otherwise I may as well just buy any old hand cream from the shop -I like the challenge of creating beautiful, natural products which are kind to our bodies and the planet.
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The only issue with this is that some people find that the unrefined or non chemically altered version of shea butter has a strong unpleasant smell.  It is a distinctive, natural and earthy smell which is certainly stronger than unrefined shea butter but the beneficial properties of unrefined are also stronger compared to refined shea butter.  If you are really adverse to the smell, which I don’t find unpleasant at all, you could experiment by using another unrefined butter instead.
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I used jojoba wax  to help harden this product so that it sets, and avocado oil to add even more to the highly moisturising nourishment.  The essential oils which I used in this one were added more for fragrance rather than function, so you can replace them with any combination of essential oils you like.
 
INGREDIENTS:
  • 20g shea butter
  • 5g jojoba wax
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 5 drops lavander  essential oil
  • 3 drops neroli  essential oil
  • 1 drop patchouli essential oil
Melt the wax, butter and oil in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering hot water.  Do not allow the bowl to touch the surface of the water.  Once everything is melted and fully combined, add the essential oils.  Mix well and allow to cool before transferring in to a glass airtight container.  A small glass jar is best as you can scoop the product out with your finger.  This recipe makes enough to go in to a 25g container.

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Grilled Pink Grapefruit with Date Syrup

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I have had a few requests lately asking for more posts about breakfast foods.  The reason I haven’t included many to date is because I am not really a big breakfast person!   I have always been one of those people that doesn’t feel like eating straight away in the mornings.  Previously I would just leave the house around 8am without having anything except a cup of green tea, or sometimes nothing at all, and then eat breakfast in work when I began to feel hungry.  Once I have my appetite for breakfast, it’s usually non stop eating for the rest of the day!

My default breakfast in work was usually porridge or pinhead oatmeal with almond milk, nuts, seeds and banana or berries.  The recipe for the pin head oats is here.  When I got a high powered blender at the start of this year I began making a green smoothie every morning before work.   Even though the thought of food so early after waking usually seems very unappealing to me, I seem to be able to stomach a pint of scary looking green smoothie first thing no problem at all!  Being quick and easy probably helps -it takes two minutes to make and one minute to drink!  I’m going to do a post on my green smoothies in the coming weeks as I had a request on my instagram account to give more details on my recipe as well as the hemp protein powder which I use -my favourite part of my green smoothies, it’s amazing!

Apart from green smoothies or porridge, the next closest thing to a breakfast food that I regularly have is this very simple grilled pink grapefruit with date syrup.  I’ll often start my day with one of these until my body gets hungry enough for a real breakfast.  Grapefruit is so refreshing in the morning but this is so delicious that I tend to eat it after my dinner sometimes too.  I always thought that I hated grapefruit until I got some in my organic box and decided to give them another try.  I usually love sour things but I still found grapefruit slightly too sour, so I decided to try caramelising the grapefruit under the grill/broiler for a few minutes in order to intensify the natural sugars.  You can also place it cut side down on a hot griddle pan.  I then add date syrup for extra sweetness. OH BABY! The contrast of the flavours is so good -deliciously sweet on top and pleasantly bitter on the inside.  Blueberries are also a very good accompaniment to this.  If you don’t have time to caramelise it you can just try out the date syrup on a plain pink grapefruit but the little effort to caramelise it first is really worth it!  Pink grapefruit is full of vitamin C and it also contains the cartenoid lycopene which fights cancer forming free radicals in the body.  Don’t waste the rind -drop it in a pint of water for a refreshing flavoured drink!

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Rose Mira Organics – Organic Natural Skincare Review

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I am very excited to be doing my first review of skincare products!  Rose Mira Organics very kindly sent me an amazing box of beautiful, organic products which I am only too happy to rave about and recommend!  As this is my first review of external products, I feel that I should state a little disclaimer on my stance on this.  I am very happy to review any products whereby the ethos of the company fits in to the theme of my blog.  I will only feature products which I would be happy to purchase, use and recommend to friends.  I aim to mostly use natural and organic skincare and beauty products on myself, which are cruelty free and ethically sourced and produced.  I am aware that companies producing these sort of products are in a niche market. Because I greatly admire the ethos under which they operate and the message which they are sending to the world,  I am happy to give genuine and talented producers of these products praise and promotion on my blog.

Rose Mira is definitely an example of such a company.   Rose Mira state that they have a  relationship to nature and care about sustainability and the environment. They don’t use artifical commercial preservatives, additives, parabens, phthalates, artificial fragrances or dyes. They are a member of the Leaping Bunny Coaltion for Consumer Information on Cosmetics and PETA, and they are a Green America Approved Business in Green America’s Directory of Products & Services for People and the Planet.  Like me, the founder of Rose Mira loves essential oils, and they are incorporated in the products for both their healing and aromatic properties.  The company uses only organic and wild crafted essential oils and pure botanical extracts.
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Most of the products have a limited shelf life compared to other commercial products -this is a good thing!  The butters last six to eight months from date of purchase and  the toners and serums last about a year while the natural cleansers and moisturising creams are made to order and last three to four months.  Rather than being an inconvience, this is a major plus for me!  Skincare products with these shelf lives are fresh, natural and biologically active, offering the very best outcome for your skin and your health.
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A message on their website http://rosemira.com reads as follows “At Rosemira we believe beauty should not come at the expense of health.  Many of the larger skin care companies that dominate the anti-aging skin care industry use ingredients which are toxic both to our environment and to ourselves.   These companies don’t provide their customers with effective results.   Since organic and natural ingredient skin care is gaining popularity, these companies are going to market with new products touted as organic and natural.   Unfortunately natural and organic are words which are easy to place on labels with little need to prove their validity.   We’re being misled into trusting these products.   Not all companies are following suit.   There are companies with a social ethic–companies like Rosemira  that actually use organic and natural ingredients 99% of the time. We buy our ingredients from distributors we trust. We use the best ingredients available on the market today”

 I love how Rose Mira promotes a healthy lifestyle on their website, tying in the use of natural, organic skin products with an emphasis on a holistic approach to health, nourishment and self care.   They highlight how using natural products on your skin is just as important as eating right and exercising.  Rose Mira also takes the refreshing approach of aging gracefully and beautifully, rather than avoiding the aging process at all costs.  The company is of the opinion, which I share, that rather than sticking rigidly to a skincare routine, we should use different products according to the seasons, the weather, travelling, etc.  Your skin is an active, working organ rather than just something keeping all your insides together!  Their product range has so much variety that tailoring your use of products is made easy, and by matching your products with what is going on with your body at the time, you will massively increase the benefit and functionality.

I tried out the following products which were sent to me.
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Pineapples & Cream Cleansing Milk
I used this cleansing milk on days when I wasn’t wearing any make up.  It is lovely and light and my skin felt really soft afterwards.  It has a very fresh clementine smell which is really nice but I do usually prefer my face products to be lighter scented.  If this is not your preference then you will love the scent wafting up your nose as you massage this cream in.  It contains bromelain, an enzyme derived from the pineapple extract, which gently exfoliates the skin.
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Sweet Coconut Body Butter
I wish we had the technology to share smells via the internet because I would love to share the amaaaazing coconut and mango smell with all of you -can’t stop smelling myself!  Wonderful scent aside, this moisturiser gets straight to work on the skin leaving it smooth, soft and protected.
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Lemongrass Fresh Foaming Cleanser
This foaming cleanser is suitable for all skin types.  Lemongrass essential oil is used for cleansing and tightening pores in a base of aloe vera gel.  It also contains apple botanical extract due to it’s moisturising and anti aging properties. I always cleanse my face using the oil cleansing method and so I found it a bit strange using this foaming cleanser.   I hadn’t used one in a long time and it is so different from oil cleansing!  However due to the gentle, natural ingredients his cleanser doesn’t feel as harsh or dying as most commercial foaming cleansers and my skin did feel squeaky clean afterwards.
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Romantic Vanilla Super Moisturising Cream
This is a powerful but light cream suitable for all skin type and particularly younger skin.  The vanilla scent is lovely, but once again I found it strange having a vanilla scented product on my face. I guess I am more used to eating it! This cream absorbs really well and is really effective.
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Moisturise Me Citrus Restorative Cream
This is a really rich cream which can be used day or night for all skin types.  You only need a tiny amount of this product as it is very nourishing.  It effectively tones skin and tightens pores, slows down wrinkle formation and helps reduce the appearance of existing ones. It is said to work particularly well for Combination and Oily skin and those prone to acne, however my normal/dry skin loved it too!
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See Me C Repair Serum
I loved this serum.  It is deeply healing, moisturising, soothing and balancing.  It contains pomegranate seed oil and marula oil, which is apparently the newly hyped oil coming to take argan oil’s crown!  It also contains the anti aging essential oils of frankincense and rose which have powerful skin rejuvenating and hydrating properties.  This rich and effective serums feels fast absorbing and highly nourishing.  It dramatically improved some hormonal spots along my jaw line.  I couldn’t believe it when I woke up in the morning and saw that they 50% healed overnight.  On doing some more research I discovered that marula oil is highly praised for it’s acne and spot fighting benefits. Another massive bonus for this beautiful serum!
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Beauty Revitalising Serum
This serum combines sea buckthorn berry, evening primrose, borage seed oils, carrot and rose essential oils.  It feels so nourishing and healing on the skin, a real treat!
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Spring Flowers Calming Toner
I loved this fresh, light toner. It mixes floral hydrosols of orange blossom and lemon verbena with essential oils of linden blossom and rose damascene.  The scent is lovely and a few sprays on the face leaves skin feeling less tight and very soothed.
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Although I love having fun by experimenting with making my own natural skin and beauty products, it’s always a treat for a reformed beauty product junkie like me to try out new face and body products.   All of these products felt amazing on my skin.   If you feel like treating yourself and your skin, I’d definitely recommend checking them out.  In particular I recommend the face serums, as you only need a few drops per use which makes them very long lasting and which also offsets the initial cost.  Rose Mira Organics Skincare is a gorgeous line of luxury skin products.  All of the products which I tried were of really high quality and incredibly effective.  Highly recommended!
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Best Vegan Sandwiches -Hummus, Avocado & Tomato

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I have a love/hate relationship with the humble sandwich.  Sometimes I find sandwiches really uninspiring and boring as a lunch option, preferring big salads or dinner leftovers, and other times I get an intense craving that nothing but a sandwich will fix!  Although the sandwich world is so dominated by meat and dairy, vegan sandwiches can be just as full of flavour and of course, definitely more healthy and kinder than their meaty cousins.  The hunt for the best vegan sandwich doesn’t have to be a difficult one.  There are endless potential combinations of flavourful, healthy, plant based ingredients that can taste even better shoved between two slices of bread. (Preferably sourdough or spelt bread for me!)

This sandwich is my personal favourite vegan sandwich ever!  Hummus, Avocado & Tomato on Wholemeal Spelt Bread.  Get the best quality ingredients that you can. Spread organic hummus, avocado, vine tomato and scallion on wholemeal spelt bread, seasoned with organic cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper and dried chilli flakes. NOM NOM NOM!!!

I think it would be a very strong contender for the winner of the ultimate vegan sandwich contest… does such a thing exist?! The best vegan sandwich competition?!.. It should!!  What are you favourite vegan sandwich ingredients?  Let’s share our veggie sandwich secrets and find out some yummy new flavour combinations!

I would love if you shared a photo on twitter, instagram or facebook of your next vegan sandwich with the hashtag #bestvegansandwich -make sure to link me @naturalfuelblog to make sure that I see it! I’ll keep an eye on all of your creations and each time that I blog about a new vegan sandwich creation of mine, I’ll also share with everyone the sandwiches which you guys have tempted me with the most.  We’ll never get bored of sandwiches again! :-D

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Pea & Lime Hummus Recipe

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This week’s recipe is similar to last week’s in that the theme of my favourite cuisine is continued.  (My new food obsession Socca or Chickpea Flatbread also makes another appearance, I promise I’ll leave it out next week!).   Last week I gave my favourite traditional middle eastern cuisine a twist by replacing bulgar wheat with quinoa in my Tabbouleh, and this week I’m tinkering with everyone’s favourite dip -hummus.  The basic ingredients for hummus are chickpeas, tahini, lemon and garlic, but hummus lends itself well to all sorts of adaptations and adaptions.  We all have our favourites -I am a particular fan of black olive humus and roasted red pepper humus.  I also love subbing the lemon juice for lime juice to subtley change the flavour, it adds a great zing which livens the dip up if you’re getting tired of eating the more traditional versions.

This pea version came about as I had a lot of fresh pea pods hanging around my fridge that needed to be used up.  Pea and mint is a lovely pairing for a dip, but having made chickpea hummus with lime the week before, I decided that pea and lime would probably be an even more exciting combination.   I am usually very heavy handed with the tahini when making hummus, but I omitted it for this version as I wanted the pea and lime to really shine through.  I added some chickpeas too as I wanted to retain some of the hummus taste, but you could make this entirely with peas if you prefer.   By omitting the chickpeas and using raw peas you could make this an ultra healthy raw dip or pate.

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INGREDIENTS:

I am not one for adhering strictly to recipes, especially not with these kind of dips that you whip up in seconds.  They lend themselves perfectly to last minute adaptations and ingredient swaps, and taste is so subjective that it is better for people to taste as they go and decide what works best for them.  As a rough guide, I simply processed all of the following ingredients together.  You may prefer to have more peas than chickpeas, or vice versa.

  • About 200g fresh peas (I lightly boiled them first but you could use them raw also)
  • About 200g cooked and drained chickpeas
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • A few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

The recipe for the Socca Chickpea Flatbread featured in the photos can be found on last week’s recipe here.

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Organic Red Quinoa Tabbouleh with Chickpea Flat Bread

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I have just recently discovered a whole new food that I never knew existed.  A mind blowingly delicious food.  A healthy, protein filled, wheat and gluten free food.  A super quick and easy food.  I feel cheated that I have been going through life unaware of the existance of Socca!  For those of you who don’t know, Socca, also known as Farinata, Torta Di Ceci or Cecina is a type of flat bread made from chickpea flour, popular mainly along the Ligurian Sea coast from Nice, France to Pisa, Italy -having apparently originated in Genoa.   There is also a very similar dish from Algeria called Karantita.
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 I came across the basic recipe for Socca or Farinatta while browsing popular cooking blog The Kitchn.  Chickpeas are one of my favourite foods ever and I am always eager to find new wheat free versions of bread so I began experimenting with it straight away.  I expected that I would mess it up a few times before I got it right, but on my first go it came out perfect, illustrating just how easy it is.  You simply make a batter of chickpea flour, water, oil and seasoning.  This can then be cooked under the grill/broiler, or oven baked, and it can be varied to a thin or thick consistency.  Olive oil is more traditionally used but I find coconut oil particularly delicious with Socca.   I sprinkle the wedges liberally with salt and pepper when done.  They are best eaten piping hot.  Chickpea flour or Gram Flour as it is also know can be easily found in Middle Eastern and South Asian stores.
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I have mostly just been eating Socca on it’s own as it is so tasty, quick and easy -perfect for a snack.  I wanted however to begin experimenting by using it as a bread and pizza substitute also.  This quinoa tabbouleh goes brilliantly with thin wedges of Socca instead of Lebanese flat bread -making this meal perfect for people avoiding wheat and gluten.   Middle Eastern cuisine is probably my favourite type of food.  There are great vegetarian and vegan options and it tends to be very healthy.  I usually do a twist on classic taboulleh salad by using quinoa instead of bulghar wheat.  The flavour remains pretty much exactly the same but the wheat and gluten is cut out, while raising the protein content massively.
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INGREDIENTS:

Quinoa Tabbouleh

  • 1/2 cup red quinoa
  • 1 handful fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint (finely chopped)
  • 2 plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon

Socca / Chickpea Flatbread

  • 1 cup gram flour
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1-2 clove garlic (grated)
  • 3-4 tbsp Coconut Oil

Cook the quinoa and combine it with all of the other ingredients.  I like to do this in a food processor as I hate chopping onions and herbs!  To make the Socca, sieve the gram flour plus one cup of water in to a bowl.  Add the spices and herbs, then whisk vigorously to remove some of the lumps.  Allow to stand for ten minutes to half an hour.  To cook under the grill/broiler, melt some coconut oil in a frying pan underneath the grill.   Make sure that you use plenty of oil so that the mixture doesn’t stick.  When melted, pour the batter in to the pan and place under the grill until cooked, crisping and browning.  Remove with a spatula.  For a thinner pancake, split the batter in half and make two batches.  This is what I did for this recipe.  Each crepe took about 10 minutes but it will depend on the heat level and distance from the grill.  For a thicker pancake, you will obviously need to leave it under the heat much longer.  Alternatively you can bake the batter on a rimmed pizza stone or similar tray until set and cooked through.

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