Parkin recipe- no added sugar and gluten free

Monday, 31 October 2016

Parkin, a gingery, oaty cake is just the ticket to warm you up whether you are going out 'trick or treating' or off to a bonfire this weekend.  Traditionally parkin is made with brown sugar, syrup and treacle, ingredients banned from the 40plusalliswell kitchen so I thought I had set myself an impossible task to make a parkin without using those ingredients.  I warned my daughters who were waiting with eager anticipation that this was an experiment and might not work but to my delight it turned out really nice filling the house with a warm, gingery smell and tasting wonderful.  It was also delicious crumbed and stirred into a 'nice cream' made by whizzing up a few frozen, chopped ripe bananas and a little unsweetened soya milk. 

Try it and see!

No added sugar, gluten free Parkin

Cuts into 6-8 slices

You will need

100g Medjool dates
1 rounded tbsp lucuma
2 -3 tsp coconut milk
100g dairy free spread
5g stevia
1 egg or equivalent
125g rice flour
50g oats
1 and a half tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ginger 

Cover the Medjool dates in boiling water and leave to cool.  When cool add the lucuma and coconut cream and whiz up in a high speed blender.

Cream the dairy free spread and stevia then add the dry ingredients, the eggs and the Medjool date mixture.  Mix thoroughly.  

Line a loaf tin with baking parchment and transfer the mixture to the tin.  Bake for 30-40 minutes at 200 degrees until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the tin and leave to cool.  


Recipe Copyright 40plusandalliswell

Meatless Monday: Baked lentil and sweet potato samosas

A warming recipe that would be a change if you are out 'trick or treating' tonight or off to a bonfire this weekend. These samosas are baked and so much less greasy than samosas that are fried, which is the more usual way of cooking them.

Baked lentil and sweet potato samosas

Serves 2

You will need

1 tbsp olive oil plus extra for greasing the baking tray
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
75g brown lentils
30g barley (optional)
1tsp pink salt in 400ml water
1 sweet potato, scrubbed and diced
4 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder 
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp stevia
Filo pastry 
Almond milk

Heat the oil and cook the onion for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and spices and continue for a further minute. Add the lentils, barley if using, diced sweet potato, stevia, tomato puree and pink salt in water.  Bring to the boil and reduce heat to simmer for 25 minutes until the sweet potato, lentils and barley if using are tender and the liquid has absorbed.   

Cut the filo pastry into strips about 10cm wide. Place a little of the sweet potato and lentil mixture in the bottom right hand corner. Fold as in the diagram below tucking in the ends.  

Place the samosas on an oiled baking tray and brush with milk.  Place in the oven at 200 degrees for around 20 minutes.

This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 30 October 2016

This week's yoga practice is a yin yoga sequence. The longer holds allow us to go a little deeper and just be with the thoughts and emotions we release without getting caught up in them.

Happy Halloween!
Kids will love this yoga practice telling the story of a witch's cat who longs for adventure but gets in all kinds of trouble! With all the benefits of yoga too!

If you suffer from anxiety these breathing techniques may help you prevent and gain control of anxiety and panic attacks.

Fragrant healing - essential oils to improve circulation

If you suffer from poor circulation, it might spoil your enjoyment of autumn and winter. 

Symptoms of poor circulation include white or blue hands and feet, numbness in hands and feet followed by pain as they start to warm up.  I used to suffer like this in the winter, especially when we had a pony to look after. Sometimes it took 15 minutes for the pain in my hands to subside enough to be able to drive home from the stables where she was kept. 

Chilblains too are a result of poor circulation.

Some essential oils can help boost circulation because they stimulate blood and lymph flow by relaxing muscles. These include lavender, sandalwood,  geranium, black pepper, peppermint, hyssop and rosemary.  You can make your own blends by combining a few drops of some of these essential oil in a carrier oil such as almond or coconut oil.  I like to use 5 drops lavender,  5 drops geranium and 5 drops peppermint in 50ml carrier oil. Massage with the oils twice a day if possible using long strokes for your limbs, circular strokes for the joints. Ideally leave the oils on 10 minutes before showering (take care you do not slip).

For other tips to help improve your circulation please see-
40plusandalliswell,  'Love your circulation'-  
and Flexiladiesyoga 'How yoga can help boost the circulation of blood and lymph'-

Please note - do not use essential oils if you are pregnant.  If you have skin allergies please do a patch test using diluted oil 24 hours before using and if you have circulation issues please consult your doctor as circulatory problems can have several causes including Raynaud's and diabetes.

You might also like-
'Love wellness - dry body brushing'-

Also in this series there are 'Fragrant healing - essential oils for colds and flu'- and 'Fragrant healing - essential oils anxiety and immunity'-

Immunity boost - Forest bathing

Thursday, 27 October 2016

'Forest bathing' simply means spending time in a forest.

I'm lucky to live near a forested area where I walk regularly and last week we visited a huge forest where we walked three of the recommended walks.  Walking regularly in nature helps you feel really connected with the rhythms of the seasons and with nature itself.  On my walks in the forest I have seen Sika deer, an adder, squirrels, numerous bird species, many fungi including my favourite, fly agaric, numerous flowers including common orchids and patted many friendly dogs.  Next time you are in a forest notice the light coming through the trees, it can be almost magical.  I have affectionate names for certain areas of the forest according to the most common bird species that I see there - 'coal tit corner' and 'blue tit boulevard'.  

In recent years however researchers are discovering there are many benefits to 'forest bathing' which you probably knew instinctively if you walk in a forest regularly.  Forest bathing boosts immunity because of the effect it has on stress and anxiety which can lower immunity.  Forest bathing has been found to lower stress hormones which in turn can allow for Natural Killer cells (a type of lymphocyte) to increase.  These can attack not only viruses but even cancer cells.  The effect is down to the release of chemicals from many trees (phytonates).   These chemicals are also antimicrobial. Another effect of reducing stress and anxiety is that you will feel more energized and you will sleep better.  Stress and anxiety reduction may also be attributed to the colour green which is soothing and restful.  

Add to this the circulation boost that forest bathing gives you, the natural daylight and you can see why walking in my local forest is my favourite walk.  

Meatless Monday: Pumpkin and lentil soup

Monday, 24 October 2016

Pumpkins are in season right now. They are bursting with fibre and beta-carotene which the precursor of Vitamin A which helps protect your mucus membranes they are good for your eyes and your immune system. Many people throw away their pumpkins after Halloween but there is so much you can do with them.  You can even roast the seeds. Toss the seeds in a little oil- remove the husks before eating. Last week we made a vegan cottage pie with pumpkin mash.  This week we are making a supereasy, warming pumpkin and lentil soup.

Pumpkin and lentil soup

Serves 2 

You will need 

1 tbsp organic olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
120g brown lentils 
600g pumpkin (weight after peeling), diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 can coconut milk
pumpkin seeds to garnish

Heat the oil and cook the onion for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and chilli flakes and continue for a further minute.  Add the lentils, pumpkin, carrot, salt and 500ml water.  Bring to the boil and reduce heat to simmer for 25 minutes until the lentils are tender.  Blitz in a high speed blender and stir in the coconut milk.  Heat through and divide between bowls.  Serve topped with pumpkin seeds.

Serve with crusty bread


You might also like 'Jack O' Lantern Stew baked in a pumpkin'

'Vegan Thanksgiving Dessert'-

This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 23 October 2016

In the second of our yoga series to help with chronic anxiety our yoga video is a grounding sequence to start to calm the mind.

For breast cancer awareness month please check out this yoga sequence on my 'sister' blog to help keep breasts healthy-

Standing balances are wonderfully calming for the mind and so great to practice if you suffer from anxiety but many of us find that we cannot stay in balance poses long enough to reap the benefits. If you have a tendency to wobble and fall out of poses these four prep poses on my 'sister' blog may help-

At this time of year we can become anxious and fatigued. This is because the autumn season is dominated by vata dosha. This yoga video will help you balance vata dosh with the earth element. Please see my 'sister' blog-

Fragrant healing - essential oils for colds and flu

It's that time of year again when colds and flu abound.  Colds and flu are caused by viruses so antibiotics will not help.  Rest, eat well and drink plenty.  If you have asthma or other chest related illness see your doctor.  Also see your doctor if you have a high temperature or severe headache.

The saying goes 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'.  Many essential oils are immune stimulants which can reduce your risk of catching colds and flu.  Lavender, eucalyptus, lemon, cinnamon, tea tree, rosemary, thyme and clove are antiviral and so help to kill the microbes which cause colds and flu.  You can use these in a diffuser to purify the air.  You could also make your own hand sanitizer by using 5 drops of tea tree oil and 5 drops of lavender in 50ml (about 3 tbsp) aloe vera gel (which is also antibacterial).   

If you succumb to a cold  or flu essential oils can help.  One of the miseries of a cold is that the respiratory passages become inflamed.  I like to rub lavender on my chest and inhale the vapour to soothe an irritated throat and chest.  Lavender also eases congestion. (Please note that lavender is the only essential oil that can be used on the skin undiluted). Eucaalyptus has a similar effect. You can make your own vapour rub using 5 drops of lavender and 5 drops of eucalyptus in 50ml coconut oil. 

Homemade vapour rub

Eucalyptus can also  be used in a steamer to help with congestion. Tea tree essential oil is antiseptic and antimicrobial - it can be used to help sore throats.  Use one drop in a large cup of warm water as a gargle.  Try not to swallow any but do not panic if you do swallow a little. Tea tree is also effective used in a steamer if your cold has affected your sinuses.

Please note - do not use essential oils if you are pregnant.  If you have skin allergies please do a patch test using diluted oil 24 hours before using. If in doubt consult an aromatherapist 

You might also like:-

'Fragrant healing- Essential oils for anxiety and immunity'-

'Natural winter remedies'-

Berry good for you

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Every year a kind neighbour shares his bountiful harvest of blackberries with his neighbours. They are large and luscious although this year's harvest has been slightly delayed by the cool summer.  Blackberries are rich in bioflavonoids and vitamin C.  They also have high antioxidant level including the anthocyanins which help prevent cancer, inflammation, aging and dementia .  They are also a good source of fibre, both soluble and insoluble. Please see 'The vegan diet and weight gain - Part 3' for more information on fibre

You can enjoy blackberries on their own, you could top your morning cereal with them, or enjoy my 'Blackberry and apple 'Eve's pudding' Please see
or why not try this Blackberry, raspberry  and apple cobbler. Blackberries pair well with apples - Bramley apples would be best to use and are available all year. The raspberries were ones we had frozen after harvesting them from the allotment earlier in the year. 

The recipe below is great served with 'nice' cream- simply whiz up some chopped, frozen bananas with a little almond milk in a high speed blender. 

Blackberry, raspberry  and apple cobbler
Serves 4-6

You will need

For the apple and blackberry 
600g blackberries and raspberries
3 medium Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice
stevia to taste

For the cobbler
200g rice flour
1 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp cinnamon
100g dairy free spread
10 tsp stevia
200ml almond or soy milk
25g flaked almonds

Place the apple in a saucepan with the lemon juice a a little water.  Cook over a low heat until the apple pieces soften then add the blackberries and raspberries.  Cook for a further minute or two then transfer to an ovenproof dish.  

To make the topping, place the rice flour, cinnamon and baking powder in a mixing bowl and combine.  Add the dairy free spread and rub into the flour. Stir in the stevia and add almond or soy milk to make a batter.  Drop tablespoons of the batter on the fruit mixture. 

Sprinkle with almonds then bake at 200 degrees for 25-30 minutes.


Meatless Monday: Vegan cottage pie with pumpkin mash

Monday, 17 October 2016

This hearty autumn dish was served with a side of parsnips from the allotment. Please see 'Harvesting the parsnips and cavolo nero'- 
Pumpkins are in season right now bursting with fibre and beta-carotene which the precursor of Vitamin A which helps protect your mucus membranes, is good for your eyes and your immune system. In this dish pumpkin makes a lower calorie alternative to potato mash.

Vegan cottage pie with pumpkin mash
Serves 4 

You will need

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tsp pink salt  
1 leek, trimmed and sliced
1 large carrot, diced
4 tbsp peas (optional)
2 cans mixed beans

Vegan cottage pie and the roasted parsnips 

For the pumpkin mash
600g pumpkin flesh, skin and seeds removed
pinch salt
1/4 can coconut milk 
1 tsp dried rosemary
4 tbsp nutritional yeast

Serving suggestion 
Roasted parsnips (parsnips, olive oil)

Heat the oil and cook the onion for 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and leeks and cook for a further minute.  Add the carrots, salt, tomato puree, peas if using and 300ml water.  Bring to the boil and reduce heat to simmer until the vegetables are tender. Drain the cans of beans and stir into the vegetable broth.  Place in an ovenproof dish.

Meanwhile place the pumpkin flesh in a saucepan with a pinch of salt, rosemary and a little water and bring to the boil. Simmer until tender and drain well.  Return to the pan and mash. Stir in the coconut milk and nutritional yeast. Return the pan to the heat to reduce the liquid- be careful it doesn't catch. Top the bean mixture with the pumpkin mash. Place in the oven for 30 minutes with the parsnips if using.

If serving with roasted parsnips, quarter the parsnips lengthwise, drizzle with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Roast at 200 degrees for 30 minutes.


This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 16 October 2016

To mark 'World Mental Health Day' on the blog there are yoga videos to help with depression.
There is also a playlist to help with stress on my YouTube channel and this week we will be starting a new series to help with anxiety. 
Anxiety is epidemic in our society. In this new series we will look at ways to help ease chronic anxiety. We start in this week's video by releasing the physical tension we hold in our bodies as a result of chronic anxiety. 

A digital detox can help with anxiety. Read more on my 'sister' blog-

Many people become sad at this time of year but this yoga sequence to balance the lung and large intesting meridians will help support us through this time by helping us let go of the summer so we can enjoy the autumn.

Fragrant healing - Essential oils for anxiety and immunity

Anxiety is epidemic in our society.  Symptoms include feelings of panic and fear that reaches the point where it interferes with everyday life.  We build up imaginary scenarios in our minds then get upset about them.  As panic sets in we can feel tight in our chests, short of breath, have palpitations and feel dizzy.  Long term this can lead to endocrine imbalances which cause nausea, low immunity (the last thing you want at this time of year), fatigue and muscle tension leading to pain in the body.  It is telling that use of pain killers has increased dramatically over the last decade.    

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years.  They are generally safe, easily excreted by the body and do not leave toxins in the body.  Even so if you have any health issues or are pregnant please consult your doctor before using.  Also, if you do suffer from anxiety please see your doctor.

So how exactly can essential oils calm anxiety?  Smelling certain essential oils affects the limbic system of the brain which controls emotions such as fear in a positive way so that fear, which underlies anxiety is reduced.  The limbic system affects breathing which can become quick and shallow when anxious.  When using essential oils breathing can, in this way, be restored to its normal pattern. Affecting the limbic system in a positive way can also slow down the release of hormones from the adrenal glands such as cortisol which cause anxiety. This in turn also helps boost the immune system since cortisol dampens down the immune response.  

My favourite essential oil for anxiety is lavender.  It is especially good if anxious thoughts keep you awake at night - a few drops on your pillow will calm and relax you helping you to have a restful sleep.  Lavender is also good if you are prone to panic attacks.  Keep some with you and if you feel yourself getting anxious dab a little on your wrist or a cotton pad and inhale - I always dab some on before visiting the dentist!  Note that lavender is the only essential oil that can be safely used undiluted on your skin - if you use other essential oils on your skin I would recommend you use 10 drops of essential oil in around 5ml (a teaspoon) of an oil such as almond oil. Alternatively you can add a few drops of lavender to your bath.  This relaxes your muscles which in turn relaxes your mind.  

Other essential oils that can help with anxiety include geranium, sandalwood, German chamomile, ylang ylang and bergamot.   

As well as using them in the ways already described you could use them in a diffuser or massage yourself with them diluted in a carrier oil such as sesame or almond oil .. A massage using warm oils is ideal before you take your morning bath.  Use long strokes for your arms and legs, circular movements fr your joints.  Massage your tummy in a circular motion - up the right side, down the left. If you can, leave the oils to soak in for 10 minutes before taking a bath (care you do not slip). 
PLEASE NOTE - do not self-massage if you are pregnant, menstruating or have any medical problems (check with your doctor). If you have skin allergies please do a skin patch test using diluted essential oil 24 hours before using.

On the yoga blog I have just started a new series to help with anxiety.  Please 'Yoga for anxiety- An introduction and yoga video'-see

Harvesting the parsnips and cavolo nero

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Harvesting the parsnips-ugly but delicious

If you remember we planted the parsnips in spring.  Most seed packets will say February but parsnips are slow germinating and do better if the seeds are sown in April.  

Traditionally they are not harvested until after the first frost but ours had grown to such whoppas that we thought that if we left them any longer we would never get them out - it took a great deal of tugging as it was!!!  If like us you decide to harvest yours now you might want to leave them to become sweeter for a week or two.  

Enjoy them cut into quarters lengthways and roasted with a coating of olive oil.   Great with a vegan cottage pie- (see next week's Meatless Monday recipe).

Please see also Organic gardening update: spring planting two-

Harvesting the cavolo nero

The cavolo nero is also ready to harvest and is 'cut and come again'.  Cavolo nero is actually a kale - its dark green leaves are bursting with folic acid for healthy cholesterol levels and therefore a healthy heart.  It is a good source of fibre for gut health and it is also good for your eyes.  It is lovely stir fried with rosemary, garlic and a few chilli flakes as a side dish. Please see also this week's Meatless Monday recipe which was 'Meatless Monday: Stir fried kale with barley and mushroom risotto' -

Happy gardening and eating!

Meatless Monday: Stir fried kale with barley and mushroom risotto

Monday, 10 October 2016

We made the stir fried kale in this recipe using curly kale from the allotment.  Kale is good to grow for a winter harvest. It is easy to grow so ideal if you are new to organic vegetable gardening and it is a hardy plant.  If you are going to grow kale, you need to plant it six to eight weeks before the winter frosts, ideally this would be by the end of July - maybe put this in your garden calendar for next year if you haven't grown kale this year.  Kale is good for you too.  It is  a source of folate for healthy blood and fibre. It is anti-inflammatory and it can even improve your eyesight.

I have used barley for this risotto.  Although less used than rice, it is packed with fibre, protein, selenium and magnesium.

Stir fried kale with barley and mushroom risotto

Serves 2
You will need

For the barley risotto
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
160g quick cook barley
200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp pink salt in 500ml water
2 tbsp nutritional yeast

For the stir fried kale
1 tbsp oil
250g kale,
25g flaked almonds
1tbsp tamari

Heat the oil and cook the red onion for 2-3 minutes then add the garlic and cook for a further minute.  Add the mushrooms and cook a further minute or two. Add the barley (no need to soak), lemon juice, thyme, and a little of the salt water.  Stir often until the salt water is absorbed and continue until all the salt water has been added and absorbed.  Stir in the nutritional  yeast.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a wok and add the kale and a tablespoon  of water and the tamari. Stir fry for around 5 minutes then add the flaked almonds.  Serve with the barley risotto.