Reign it in or let it all hang out this Christmas?

I spent a lot of time planning some healthy balanced dishes to include in my menu plans over the coming weeks. I am all about menu planning, it is my number one TOP TIP piece of advice to any busy person trying to keep their diet on track and the lead up to Christmas has got to be the worst! Before you know it, boom, you are trailing in it’s wake, getting home late from school nativity plays, Christmas concerts, impromptu drinks, the cupboard is bare and all you can rustle up is some cheese on toast and a packet of biscuits…. the dishes in my Christmas Menu are not  exactly there for the rustling, but if you put aside a bit of time at the weekend, you can have a fridge full of treats to keep you on track and feeling your best. Have a read and you will find all the recipes listed in the post below x

Omega-3 is an Essential Fatty Acid for good reason; it is essential to support a healthy heart and brain as well as helping to manage blood sugar, control diabetes and strengthen bones, but Omega-3 is also important for healthy nourished skin, something which can be sorely lacking at Christmas. Too many late boozy nights leave us dehydrated and our skin sluggish – so our starters contain a variety of ingredients high in Omega-3. Mackerel pâté is quick to make and can be prepared in advance, so that you always have something to feed to drop-in guests. The date and goats cheese bites have added walnuts which are pretty much the best  vegetarian source of Omega-3 (along with flax seeds and chia seeds).

Most shop-bought canapés are made with pastry, high in pro-inflammatory Omega-6 as well as refined white flour which will spike your blood sugar levels – the combination leaves us  feeling stressed out and grumpy.

Instead I have included a pumpernickel bread and homemade oatcakes, both high in fibre and low on Glycemic Index, shown to help promote weight loss . I often make a big batch of oatcakes in advance (they store well in an airtight tin) and you can also freeze the dough. The kids love helping with the cutting out, smaller shapes are perfect for party food, and larger oatcakes are great for lunches alongside pâté, cheese, soups and my personal favourite… shop bought hummus!

Kimchi  (recipe below) can be substituted for a few small capers, a flake of pickled ginger or small slices of pickled gherkin.
Colour, texture and flavor are vital to encourage all the family to indulge in some healthy new treats over the Christmas period. Christmas is a time so entrenched in tradition that introducing new dishes must be handled with diplomacy.

So, the main dishes served here are not designed to replace the turkey and roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts, (although trust me when I say that sprouts can be the most delicious dish, sautéed lightly with fresh ginger and sesame seeds…) but these are dishes are to accompany your traditional table.

Walnuts as we discussed earlier are a fantastic source of Omega-3; the lentil and walnut loaf would be delicious served as a standalone lunch with a big green salad. Lentils are a good non-meat source of protein for days that you wish to choose something lighter to enjoy.

Raw slaw salads are one of the most useful things to have on hand in the kitchen, they last well, mellowing in intensity as they cook ceviche in the citrus dressing and the inclusion of raw cabbage, fennel and apple. Cabbage is part of the family of cruciferous vegetables, along with sprouts, and the strong smell we all recognize form overcooking the cabbage comes from the phytochemicals known as sulporaphanes. Sulphoraphanes reduce oxidative stress, the damage caused to our bodies from an excess of external and internal toxins; including sugars, alcohol, processed foods. Overcooking destroys these phytochemicals and they are therefore best eaten raw.

Don’t let this put you off cooking an enormous dish of braised red cabbage however. It is always a crowd pleaser, freezes well and leftovers are delicious served alongside an omelette for breakfast!

Christmas is a time when the glycemic load of all our meals creeps up, artisan loaves freshly served alongside homemade soup, handy mince pies and sausage rolls, and of course roast potatoes, gratin potatoes, potatoes dauphinoise, baked potatoes, and then of course fish and chips on New Year’s Day… (or is that just me?)  I know folks who don’t eat potatoes at all during the whole of the rest of the year and suddenly can’t live without them between 24th December and January 2nd. There is nothing wrong with potatoes per say, but to balance our blood sugar levels, thereby managing mood, stress levels, energy balance and ultimately our waistlines it is good to consider a few potato free alternatives.

Cauliflower rice is a well-known replacement for white rice and delicious served with boxing day curries. But quinoa is a simple and easy way to bring together delicious winter dishes. It is a pseudo grain, that is to say it is a seed, a good source of protein, but also a source of high fibre carbohydrate, so ensure you stock up on those fabulously easy pouches to have on hand… a few snips of spring onion, some fresh squeezed lemon juice and it becomes a tasty blank canvas for anything you wish to add to it.

Speaking of seeds. Can I recommend making a large jar of toasted nuts and seeds to keep in the cupboard. They will add instant crunch, protein and healthy fats to most dishes. A sprinkle over some soaked chia or overnight oats in the morning. Leftover pumpernickel toast with avocado and omega-sprinkles for brekkie or lunch. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds or toasted sesame seeds on your soup. An excellent source of both zinc and magnesium, Dr Michael Mosely has recently been talking about magnesium as a useful supplement for depression, migraine, PMS, sleep and insomnia. Magnesium is a helper molecule, which is implicated in hundreds of processes in the body and the symptoms of deficiency are standard for many people over the Christmas period.

Puddings

Dark Chocolate Bark with cranberries and pistachio nuts
Protein cacao truffle Christmas Puds

Following on from talking about magnesium strikes me as a good time to introduce the benefit of dark chocolate. Rich in antioxidants and another good source of magnesium, I wanted to include my chocolate bark recipe. ( it is not really a recipe; just melt a couple of cars of Lindt 85% dark, in a bowl over a simmering pan, once melted pour out flat onto baking parchment and sprinkle with jewelled berries, seeds and nuts… a bit of edible gold leaf wouldn’t go amiss either…. no such thing as too much bling!). Christmas to me is always linked to reds and greens, colours which we can easily incorporate into a healthful diet. This bark makes a great gift too, and is always a winner at the end of a meal, when everyone has already consumed more than they comfortably planned on eating, yet there is still room for a little taste of something sweet. I included cranberries because they are heart protective, rich in antioxidants and so perfect for Christmas. Cranberries are very sour, so all the dried ones will contain some added sugar, whilst not as beneficial as fresh, it is the dried ones I recommend you using here. And chocolate truffles, well these are just a more refined version of a regular energy ball, with the almond blitzed really fine, if you don’t have a super strong blender, try using a jar of almond nut butter and adding that to a pack of 9-10 medjool dates instead.. add your raw cacao and once rolled into truffle shapes, roll again in powdered cacao… I swear no-one will know they are not the chocolate and cream version!. This is another job for the children over Christmas, the craft shop in Cranbrook sells little confectionary boxes, they make a great gift. If however these are purely for home then the best way of storing them is in stacked egg boxes in the fridge!

If you would like any more information on any of the things we talked about please get in touch or follow me on instagram where I post daily @thekitchenproject_kent
Love and thanks
Camilla x

Healthy Balanced Christmas Menu

I spent a wonderful evening cooking up some healthy nourishing recipes to see you through the festive period. I mean it really shouldn’t be stressful should it, this is the most magical time  of the year with so much excitement and anticipation, but somehow there can be that little something known as  “too much of a good thing”….  long days, late nights, an overpacked diary and the steady regular intake of alcohol, rich meals and pick-me-up coffees leave us feeling burnt out, sluggish, bloated and grumpy…  not the look I am going for on the big day…. so read on for some recipes which help redress that balance; packed with omega-3, blood-sugar-balancing ingredients, a mass of stress reducing nutrients in the form of magnesium, B Vitamins and anti-oxidants, this is a menu which is both delicious and sanity-saving…. before I go on, I must thank Kali, from Hamerton + Jones for inviting me to put on this event, we are utterly blessed in our local vicinity to have the support of so many positive people, encouraging our goals toward self-care xx

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THE MENU

Canapés

Smoked Mackerel Pate on homemade oatcakes with beetroot crisp

Smoked salmon and kimchi on a toasted pumpernickel toast

Medjool Dates stuffed with goat’s cheese & walnuts with fresh mint

 

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Main Course

Lentil and walnut loaf

Quinoa, red pepper and pomegranate tabbouleh

Detox raw slaw salad with cabbage, fennel and apple

Kale and mango salad with sunflower seeds

Tarka Dal with spring greens

 

Something sweet

Dark Chocolate Bark with cranberries and pistachio nuts

Raw Cacao Truffles

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Smoked Mackerel Pate on homemade oatcakes with beetroot crisp

Ingredients

Mackerel Pate

1 pack of smoked mackerel fillets
Cashew Nut Dressing
1 cup cashew nuts
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp of dijon mustard
Water to mix

Oatcakes

500g oats (blitzed in the mixer to a flour)
300ml warm water
150ml olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

Method

To make the oatcakes. First blitz 500g of oats in your mixer until they form a flour. Add the salt, olive oil and gently mix in the warm water. You can do this bit by hand in a bowl as you want to have the consistency of a sticky dough.

Roll out and cut into rounds to bake on a flat baking tray in the oven (170’C) for 30-35 minutes.

Leave to cool and store in an airtight container for a couple of weeks
Oats are a fantastic source of soluble fibre, also known as fermentable fibre, oats act to nourish the microflora in the large intestine • betaglucans in oats are known to lower high cholesterol and are one of seriously few ingredients allowed to make such a health claim • I know it’s easy to buy really good quality oatcakes, and I often do, but it’s a very satisfying home bake, the children can help too and they last well in an airtight tin. I also like to top them with avocado and pumpkinseed butter for any anytime snack.

SMALL DAILY IMPROVEMENTS ARE THE KEY TO STAGGERING LONG-TERM RESULTS

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Rainbow Slaw with a Cashew Nut Dressing

Serves 8 as a side salad or 4 as a main, with leftovers J

Ingredients

Salad

6 medium carrots, peeled

2 beetroot, peeled

½ red cabbage

1 fennel bulb,

1 apple,

1 tbsp lightly toasted sesame seeds

1 sml handful of fresh coriander

Dressing

1 cup (150g) raw cashews

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Juice of ½ lemon

1 cup (120ml) water

Method

Chop all your vegetables into fine slivers for the salad. For really fine slices try use a hand held julienne slicer. Once sliced, mix all the veg ingredients together in a large bowl. (TIP: Try substituting vegetables seasonally, including cabbage, onion, fennel, courgette, sweet potato, parsnip).

Combine all your dressing ingredients together and blast with a stick blender until smooth and creamy!

(TIP: You can adjust the amount of water you use depending on the consistency you would like, as this dressing will also make a delicious thick dipping sauce for raw crudités).

Serve your crunchy salad slaw on a large platter. Drizzle over your tangy cashew dressing, sprinkle with toasted almonds and fresh chopped coriander. Devour!

Rainbow slaw contains a variety of brightly coloured vegetables, rich with phytonutrient antioxidants to support the immune system. “Phyto” from the Greek word meaning ‘plants’. The greater the variety of colour pigments in our diet from assorted fruit and vegetables, the greater the breadth of protection, they are able to provide against damage from toxins. Remembering that the antioxidants are those super bouncers that manhandle the drunken free radical hooligans out of the club!

 

Ultimate Lentil Walnut Loaf (recipe courtesy “OhsheGlows.com)

Vegan, soy-free

This lentil walnut loaf is so delicious, you’ll find it hard to resist. Raved about by readers, husbands, children, and recipes testers alike, many claim it’s better than traditional meatloaf. The beauty of creating a lentil loaf (as opposed to a meatloaf) is that you can taste the mixture as you go without having to worry about the raw meat. This results in a perfectly seasoned loaf and, trust me, the batter tastes so good! Lentil loaves can be temperamental, so it’s best to follow the directions exactly as written as I’ve tested this multiple ways. Even minor changes to this recipe can result in a loaf that doesn’t stick together as well. I love to serve this loaf with my stunning Cauliflower Carrot Mash, applesauce, and/or steamed broccoli or greens. This lentil loaf is inspired by Terry Walters’ Clean Food Lentil Loaf recipe. (Angela, OhSheGlows)

Ingredients:

For the Lentil-Walnut Loaf:

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans of lentils, drained and rinsed*
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped sweet onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1/3 cup peeled and grated sweet apple
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (chopped) or raisins
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Fine sea salt, to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt bread crumbs (or bread crumbs of choice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

For the Balsamic-Apple Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce or apple butter
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan, and then line it with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit the length of the pan.
  2. If using canned lentils, rinse and drain them in a colander. If using lentils cooked from scratch, follow the directions in the note below. After draining, add them into a very large bowl and mash the lentils with a potato masher. The goal is to create a lentil paste while still leaving about 1/3 of the lentils intact.
  3. Spread the chopped walnuts onto the baking sheet. Toast the nuts for 8 to 12 minutes until fragrant and lightly golden. Set aside to cool.
  4. Increase the oven heat to 350°F.
  5. Add the oil into a large skillet, and increase the heat to medium. Stir in the onion and garlic and season with a pinch or two of salt. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes until the onion softens.
  6. Stir in the celery and carrot, and continue cooking for another few minutes.
  7. Finally, stir in the grated apple, dried cranberries (or raisins), thyme, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Cook for a couple minutes longer.
  8. Into the bowl with the mashed lentils, stir in the walnuts, ground flax, oat flour, and bread crumbs until combined.
  9. Stir in all of the the veggie mixture until combined. Add the red pepper flakes, if using. Taste and add more salt (I usually add another 1/2 teaspoon). If the mixture seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of water and mix again.
  10. Press all of the lentil loaf mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Pack it down as firmly as you can as this will help it hold together after cooling.
  11. In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, applesauce, vinegar, and maple syrup until combined. Using a pastry brush (or simply a spoon), spread all of the glaze over top of the lentil loaf.
  12. Bake the lentil loaf, uncovered, at 350°F for 50 to 60 minutes until the edges start to darken and the loaf is semi-firm to the touch. Place the loaf pan directly onto a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Then, slide a knife around the ends to loosen, and carefully lift out the loaf (using the parchment paper as “handles”) and place it directly onto the cooling rack for another 30 minutes.
  13. After cooling, carefully slice the loaf into slabs. Serve immediately. The loaf will continue to firm up as it cools. Some crumbling is normal if sliced while warm.

Tips:

  • * If you’d like to make lentils from scratch, swap the two cans of lentils for 1 cup of uncooked lentils. Add the lentils into a pot and cover with water. Bring to a low boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-high, and then simmer the lentils uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes until tender. Drain well.

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POMEGRANATE, PEPPER AND QUINOA TABBOULEH

 

(recipe + photo: Camilla Elms Nutrition)

 

Here is a fantastic quinoa salad to have on hand over Christmas, beautiful rich twinkling colours, full of antioxidant-dense nutrients (read on for more on that…) from the pomegranates and of course the protein packed quinoa, which helps balance blood sugar levels keeping you feeling full but not lethargic… sounds just about the perfect salad doesn’t it?

Ingredients

———–

250g quinoa (I used the mixed reds, blacks and white)

2 red peppers

1 yellow pepper

(1 garlic clove and a sprig of thyme to roast with the peppers)

2 tbsp of olive oil

2 fresh pomegranates (or 2 tubs of pomegranate seeds)

Coriander

Pre heat your oven (and roasting tray) to about 200^ for roasting the peppers.

Method

——–

Bring the quinoa to the boil in a pan of cold water and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the quinoa is cooked but still retains some bite.

Drain and set aside to cool.

While the quinoa is cooking, place your peppers in your preheated roasting tray with a couple of tbsp. of olive oil, an unpeeled clove of garlic and a sprig of thyme. Roast until the peppers are softened but still retains some bite, 10 minutes or so.

Discard the garlic and thyme but keep the lovely scented oil.

Add the peppers and the garlic/thyme scented oil to the drained cooled quinoa.

Add the pomegranate seeds

Add a handful of fresh chopped coriander

Toss everything together with your hands, the olive oil from the peppers and the fresh pop-tang-kapow from the pomegranates serves as a dressing by itself, you can of course season with a little salt and pepper to taste.

This would be perfect served with cooked ham or leftover turkey on boxing day and I’m just going to put it out there now that I will be serving this on Christmas day itself, so pretty will it look on the table! So road test this now guys and let me know what you think!

Potent Health Benefits of Pomegranates

Pomegranates are in season at this time of year although you can of course also buy the little packs of seeds. To get the seeds out of a fresh pomegranate, cut it in half, lightly pull the bowl-shaped halves apart a little, cracking them softly to release the seeds from the claws of the pith and then turn the pomegranate-half upside-down over a large bowl and tap, hard, with a wooden spoon, watching the seeds come tumbling out!

Pomegranates have got to be up there as one of the original Superfoods. And don’t just take my word for it, research Reviews espouse the potent antioxidant benefits of pomegranates for the prevention of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, reduction of oxidative stress, hyperglycaemia and inflammation markers and for the prevention and treatment of several cancers (Zarfeshaney et al. 2010). Greater in anti-oxidant activity than either Green Tea or Red wine, (both of which I’m certain will also feature over the Christmas period)! pomegranates are rich in anthocyanins and will make for a beneficial addition to your diet at this time of year. Clink on the link below for more information on the cited article.

*As always with the potent superfoods, be aware of contra-indications with certain medications including Warfarin and ACE inhibitors where it may have additive effects.

Zarfeshaney et al. (2014) Potent health effects of pomegranate. [Online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4007340/ [Accessed: 25 Nov 2016]. 

 IMG_8499CHICORY, QUINOA AND MANGO SALAD

Chicory, quinoa and mango salad • Chicory leaves are incredibly bitter, and it is this bitterness which makes them a wonderful digestive aid, with anti-inflammatory properties as well as being a carminative Food, shown to reduce stress and anxiety • I have balanced the bitterness with a sweet mango and a citrus, chilli honey dressing • it’s delicious and can be assembled in minutes

Ingredients

1 head of red chicory

1 pouch of ready cooked mixed quinoa (red+white)

1 chopped fresh mango

3 spring onions

 

Dressing

1/3 cup olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp Apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp raw honey

A few drops of Worcestershire sauce

Pinch of chilli flakes

Seasoning

Mix all your salad ingredients together, add the dressing and serve immediately • to make this more substantial you could add a few steamed broccoli florets or some toasted pumpkins seeds for extra crunch • what I love about chicory is it retains its crunch really well in winter salads •

 IMG_8498Raw Cacao Truffles

(Allergens: Contains Nuts) Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Protein Rich, vegetarian, paleo, processed sugar free, low sodium

Makes 18 truffles

 

Ingredients

1 cup (150g) of whole almonds

1 cup (180g) of Medjool Dates (the jammy ones!)

2 tbsp cacao nibs

2 tbsp raw cacao powder (you may also use unsweetened cocoa powder)

Method

Pulse 1 cup of almonds in your food processor until they resemble the texture of fine breadcrumbs.

Add the pitted dates, cacao nibs and cacao powder to the crumbed almonds and pulse everything together in the processor.

Once well blended, tip the crumbly contents of the mixture into a large clean bowl and using your hands roll the mix into balls to form your truffles. The mix will look crumbly to start but the jammy dates will hold the truffles together as you roll them in the palm of your hand. This mix should make approximately 18 truffles. Empty egg boxes are the prefect shape for storing rolled truffles in the fridge!

Place them in the fridge to set.

Notes

These truffles are protein packed the almonds, perfect for keeping you full for longer; raw cacao contains many more antioxidants than chocolate and 20 times the amount of antioxidants found in blueberries. Dates are a rich source of fibre as well as many vital minerals including magnesium and calcium. This is an excellent snack to provide sustained energy as well as balancing blood sugar levels.

Dark chocolate bark with cranberries, pistachios and pomegranate seeds x

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Chicory, Quinoa and Mango Salad

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Chicory, quinoa and mango salad • I want to share this amazing health promoting salad with you in time for the week ahead • do you use chicory leaves in your salads? They are incredibly bitter, and it is this bitterness which makes them a wonderful digestive aid, with anti inflammatory properties as well as being a carminative Food, shown to reduce stress and anxiety • I have balanced the bitterness with a sweet mango and a citrus, chilli honey dressing • it’s delicious and can be assembled in minutes
Ingredients
1 head of red chicory
1 pouch of ready cooked mixed quinoa (red+white)
1 chopped fresh mango
3 spring onions
Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp raw honey
A few drops of Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of chilli flakes
Seasoning

Mix all your salad ingredients together, add the dressing and serve immediately • to make this more substantial you could add a few steamed broccoli florets or some toasted pumpkins seeds for extra crunch • what I love about chicory is it retains its crunch really well in winter salads •