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! :-)

Advertisements

Morning Green Smoothies

image

A few people have been asking me on Instagram about my usual breakfast routine so I thought it was time for a quick post on my morning green smoothies.  Since I got my high powered blender at the start of the year, I have been having a green smoothie every morning.  I have always been one of those people who doesn’t feel like eating straight away in the mornings.  Previously I would just leave the house around 8am without having anything except water or sometimes nothing at all.  I’d then eat breakfast, usually porridge with almond milk, nuts, seeds and banana, in work when I began to feel hungry.  Green smoothies are quick, fast and easy to stomach first thing (you might be surprised!) so they have become the perfect compromise for me in terms of not wanting to eat in the morning before leaving the house.  So many nutrients in one glass!

I love how you can mix and match your green smoothie ingredients according to what nutrition you need, how full you want to be and for how long,  or just what flavour you feel like.  Green smoothies are so popular now, a quick internet search will bring up countless recipes.  The basic idea is that you need some greens or green powder (kale, spinach, swiss chard, green superfood powders etc), some liquid (water, almond milk or other non dairy milk) and a binder (the list is endless, soft fruits like banana, avocado, mango, oats, nut butters etc)

At first I made my green smoothies with kale, water, lemon, coconut oil, fresh ginger, ground chia seeds, ground flax seeds and banana, adding almond milk and/or oats if I wanted more sustenance.  As kale went out of season I began using spinach leaves instead, sometimes adding pineapple or mango for a sweeter taste, as well as a crazy experiment with left over almond butter, dates and apricots which was weird but delicious and very filling!

My current summer green smoothie recipe is water, banana or avocado (sometimes both), a handful of oats and supergreens powder consisting of spirulina, chlorella, wheat grass and barley grass and finally hemp protein powder.  I love hemp protein powder because hemp is a plant based complete protein, meaning it contains all 20 amino acids, including all of the essential ones, in a highly absorbable form.   Hemp is also an excellent source of the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, as well as gamma linolenic acid.  Hemp contains soluable and insoluble dietary fibre as well as great levels of vitamins A, D, E, and B vitamins. It is also a good source of iron and a high source of magnesium.   Hemp is especially great for post-workout due to it’s high protein levels which will help to feed the muscles, as well as it’s  branch-chained amino acids which are needed for repair and growth of lean body tissue.  For this reason I always add hemp protein powder to my post run or workout smoothie too.

And while we’re on the subject of hemp,  I know there will be some of you who are wondering…  the hemp which is cultivated for smoking and medicinal purposes is a different strain of the plant, containing much more of the essential THC compound, so no matter how much hemp protein powder you consume, you are not going to get high! ;-)

Occasionally I do get tired of a green smoothie every morning and in that case I usually whip up a dessert-for-breakfast smoothie using almond milk, raw cacao powder, banana, vanilla and date syrup. Yuuuum!!

image

If you enjoyed this post and are new to Natural Fuel, why not use the box on the top right of this page to receive update notifications by email, or follow Natural Fuel on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Pinterest.

 

Wildfood for Free: Summertime Foraging -Bilberries / Froghan

DSC_0121 (4)
DSC_0255 (2)
DSC_0114
I spent a lovely summer morning this Saturday catching up with a friend and picking bilberries on the Sugarloaf Mountain, Kilmacanogue, County Wicklow.  Unfortunately the rain which appeared out of nowhere (it is Ireland after all) cut my foraging short but I managed to pick enough berries to make a dessert; Bilberry & Apple Crumble -dairy & sugar free of course!
 
Bilberries (Vaccinium Myrtillus) grow wild on high ground in Ireland from May to September, peaking in July.  The plant can often be found growing amongst the gorse and heather of the hillsides and mountain slopes.  The low lying bushy shrub with narrow, slightly toothed green to rust coloured leaves hides clusters of little black berries which resemble small blueberries.  Although they are similar in taste to blueberries, they are a different species with a more distinctive, deeper and tarter taste.  This was my first time foraging Bilberries and I quickly learnt that they can be a bit painstaking to gather, as they are hidden on the underside of the plant and are not easily accessible.  It took me nearly two hours to find and pick a cup full, but it was a pleasant warm morning with beautiful views over Wicklow as my favourite Swallows darted overhead.  I also saw a wild Hare for the first time, which I got very excited about!
 .
Bilberries are known as Fraochán or Froghan in Irish.  They are the first wild berry to ripen here and as such were historically a highly prized food source linked to the Celtic Festival of Lunasagh when the first fruits of the harvest were celebrated. The berries were traditionally made in to Froghan Cakes, as well eaten raw, used medicinally and as a dye.  According to Irish folklore, the berries are not to be picked after August 1st as the faeries spit on the fruits that night, bringing bad luck!
10580112_10152555926063771_7056001645345301221_n

Me picking the berries :-)

IMG_1717

Froghan berries and green/rust coloured leaves

IMG_1727

Froghan nestled in between purple Heather and yellow Gorse, with the rolling Wicklow hills behind

IMG_1760

As with all foraging, chose a plant away from pollution and traffic fumes.  Given the remote places in which Froghan grows, this is thankfully much easier with bilberries compared to foraging some other wild plants.  Always ensure that you do not pick the entire crop of berries so that wild animals (and faeries!) can still benefit from the food source.

I used sweet eating apples rather than cooking apples for this recipe as bilberries are quite tart and I wanted the crumble to be a little sweeter.  If you don’t have a high powered food processor you could use 3/4 cup oat flour (which is essentially finely milled oats) and 1/4 cup oats, or just use 1 cup of rolled oats and chop the nuts and dates in to small pieces by hand. This quantity will make 4 – 6 individual ramekins.

DSC_0221 (2)

DSC_0173

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 heaped cup berries
  • 3 diced apples
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 4 tbsp date syrup
  • Seeds of 1 large vanilla pod
  • 8 dates
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup walnut halves
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • Sprinkle cinnamon to taste

Put the apples and orange juice in to a pan and stir over a medium-low heat for about three minutes until the apples begin to soften.  Add the seeds and pod of a vanilla pod, along with the berries and stir gently for a further three minutes.  Remove the vanilla pod and spoon the mixture, including all of the juice, in to a baking dish or individual ramekins.  Bake the mixture in a 170 degrees celsius oven for ten minutes, while you make the crumble topping. Put the dates in a bowl of very hot or boiling water for two minutes to soften.  Place 3/4 cup of the oats in to a powerful food processor, along with the almonds, walnuts and dates.  (Make sure that you remember to take the stones out of the dates first! I completely forgot and nearly broke my tooth when I took a bite! Doh!) When the mixture resembles bread crumbs, transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining 1/4 cup oats and the sunflower seeds, along with the softened coconut oil and mix until everything is thoroughly combined and coated with oil. Spoon the crumble topping on top of the baked fruit and return to the oven for a further 20 minutes or so, until browned and bubbling.  Serve with your choice or cream or ice cream.

DSC_0230

DSC_0298

If you enjoyed this post and are new to Natural Fuel, why not use the box on the top right of this page to receive update notifications by email, or follow Natural Fuel on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Pinterest.

Grilled Pink Grapefruit with Date Syrup

a

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!

If you enjoyed this post and are new to Natural Fuel, why not use the box on the top right of this page to receive update notifications by email, or follow Natural Fuel on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Pinterest.

Greek Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

 

ImageImage

Summer time always reminds me of holidays in the Greek islands and the excitement of going out for dinner every night in anticipation of trying the delicious Greek food.  The cuisine generally has very good meat free options with a limited use of dairy.  Despite the variety of vegetarian food on offer, these dishes are usually eaten as sides.  The waiters usually found it baffling as to why I would not want to eat meat or fish along with the vegetables but generally they were always very eager and proud to present me with the best vegetarian food that they had, often making up dishes especially for me.

Among my favourite dishes were the stuffed tomatoes and peppers.  For meat free meals these are usually stuffed with rice, however I like to stuff them with quinoa instead to raise the nutrition content, and particularly to add some high quality protein.  I think the tomato version is tastier than the peppers as the tomato juices marinate the stuffing from the inside in.  Unfortunately I can rarely find very large tomatoes here  but these pepper ones are also pretty damn tasty! If you can find large tomatoes, try this recipe out using both.  You can omit the tomato puree if stuffing tomatoes.  If for some bizarre reason you don’t like olives, play around with different types of stuffing using different ingredients.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 150g cooked quinoa
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced,
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 6-8 kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 3/4 tsp dried mint
  • 4 large red pepper

Image

Fry the onion and garlic gently.  Stir in to the cooked quinoa along with the fresh and dried herbs, lemon juice, tomato puree and olives.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cut the tops of the peppers and discard the seeds and inner membranes.  Rub with olive oil and season inside the peppers.  Spoon the quinoa mixture in to the peppers and replace the lids.  Place in a baking tray and fill with about half a pint of water.  Bake at 180 degrees celscius for an hour and a half.  If the lids are browning too quickly, place some foil over them -I should have done this with mine sooner!  Best served warm rather than piping hot.

I always make the lemon & herb roast potatoes featured in the photos to go with these. I’ll put that recipe up too if people would like to see it.

 

ImageImage

 

If you enjoyed this post and are new to Natural Fuel, why not use the box on the top right of this page to receive update notifications by email, or follow Natural Fuel on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Pinterest.

Soft Spinach Polenta with Grilled Tomatoes and Pinenuts

ImageImage
This is a simple and quite filling lunch or brunch.  I’ll admit that I haven’t always been a fan of polenta in it’s softer, creamy form. Sometimes it reminds me of bland mushy gruel!  And it never looks too appetising either, a bit grainy and lumpy and bleugh!  I usually prefer it to be hardened and then baked or fried to add texture and flavour.   Soft polenta on it’s own is certainly not very exciting… (Does anyone disagree?!)
.
However depending on what you combine it with, you can create a soft polenta with great texture and flavour. The pine nuts add texture and wonderful earthy flavour while the juice of the warm tomatoes add a sharper taste and moisture to the creamy thick polenta.   To be honest I only made this meal because I was too lazy and hungry to wait for the polenta to set as I usually do, so I decided to try to make soft polenta more tasty and appetising.  Trust me, it worked!
.
This quantity also makes enough for some of the polenta mixture to be reserved and set, to be fried or baked later.  You may as well if you’re already boiling some up!  Simply pour the remaining soft polenta in to a shallow oiled dish or tray and allow to harden.  The hardened polenta can then be sliced and baked or fried.
.
Polenta is made from finely ground corn meal.  It is a great alternative to use for wheat free or gluten free cooking.  I always try to use all organic ingredients where possible, although I understand that this is not always feasible.  I have however stressed organic polenta in this recipe due to the high levels of GMO corn on the market.  Polenta is a great source of dietary fibre and anti oxidant phytonutrients.  It is also high in complex carbohydrates, which means that it is slowly digested by the body and is great for providing long term energy.
Image
.
INGREDIENTS:
  • 120g organic polenta
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 big handfuls spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
 Boil 750ml of water along with some salt, and then lower the heat.  Slowly pour the polenta in to the water, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Add the herbs, some pepper and the garlic.  Stir to combine.  Pour in the olive oil.  Tear the spinach and stir in to the mixture. Continue to simmer, for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick.  Meanwhile cut the tomato in half and place on a baking tray under the grill/broiler, along with the pinenuts.  Spoon half of the polenta in to a bowl and top with the tomatoes and pine nuts.  Season with salt and pepper.
 Image

If you enjoyed this post and are new to Natural Fuel, why not use the box on the top right of this page to receive update notifications by email, or follow Natural Fuel on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Pinterest.

Best Vegan Sandwiches -Hummus, Avocado & Tomato

ImageImage

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

Image

If you enjoyed this post and are new to Natural Fuel, why not use the box on the top right of this page to receive update notifications by email, or follow Natural Fuel on FacebookTwitterInstagram or Pinterest.