Meatless Monday: Vegan bean chilli pasta bake

Monday, 28 November 2016

Filling, warming and easy to make, this is an ideal recipe for a cold autumn day.  The addition of the chocolate squares gives the chilli a velvety richness.

Vegan bean chilli pasta bake

Serves 2

You will need 
75g cashews
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp organic olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 can organic mixed beans
6 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp pink salt
1/2 tsp chilli flakes or to taste
2 squares vegan, sugar free chocolate
150g wholegrain pasta

Just cover the cashews with water and soak for a couple of hours or overnight.  

Heat the oil and heat the onion until transparent.  Add the tomato puree, salt, chilli flakes and around 200ml water.  Bring to the boil then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the beans and chocolate squares and heat through.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain well.

Stir the pasta into the bean mixture and transfer to an ovenproof dish.  

Whiz up the cashews and nutritional yeast with the water in which they were soaking.  Top the pasta and bean mixture with the cashew 'cheese' and place in a hot oven for 10 minutes.  


This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Last week our intention was to cultivate the strength to be with our anxieties and fears. This week we are cultivating detachment from our fears. This means taking a 'step back' so that we do not get wrapped up in our anxieties.
Blog post and yoga video on my 'sister' blog-

If you are celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, you may want to look at my Ayurveda Thanksgiving vegan menu with recipes.
Happy Thanksgiving!
Please see my 'sister' blog-

In this blog post we are using the chair as a prop to help with balance, to bring the ground nearer than a block would and to help you relax. Please see my 'sister' blog-

Planning next year's organic gardening

Here at 40plusalliswell we have been planning next year's growing on the allotment - an ideal activity when the growing season is all but over and there is little to do (we needed to get our orders in, but if you are able leave your ordering until the after Christmas 'slump').  

As you know we have a quarter plot which we took over in October 2015.  Last year's planning was a little haphazard although we were really pleased with the bountiful harvests we have had from the allotment.  

This year, with a little more experience under our belt (and a lot of advice from fellow allotment growers!) we have planned our allotment with all the precision of a military campaign. I thought that you might want to look at the 'plan' and what we have have ordered although half the fun of owning an allotment is planning what you will grow.

We have also ordered flowers to grow in the garden.  Becky grew some dwarf sunflowers this year which gave us so much pleasure and in fact fresh flowers have been shown to boost mood.  

Our marigolds however which we planted in seed trays in the greenhouse were not so successful - ants invaded the greenhouse and carried off the seeds!!!! (the perils of organic gardening!!!) For this reason we are investing in some extra shelving this year!

This year also we are practicing an ancient technique known as 'three sisters planting' that is sweetcorn, beans and squash as these three grow and thrive together using a system of interplanting (more on this in Spring). Unfortunately for us, we seem to have a problem with rats at the allotment and other allotment growers, who have lovingly grown sweetcorn this year have found that it has been eaten by rodent munchers.  This year also we have decided to give brassicas a wide berth. This is because we have had so much trouble with pests- white fly, slugs and cabbage white butterflies ruining the produce that we have been a little disheartened, but maybe the year after. Talking about bugs and pests, if you are an organic gardener, it is worth choosing varieties that have naturally high resistance to pests and disease.

No garden? This year we are going to be growing dwarf french beans and salads in pots.  You could also grow dwarf broad beans, peppers and turnips in this way and you can grow herbs in pots on a windowsill.
All in all there is lots to look forward to on the allotment in next year's growing season.  Stay with us as the year unfolds.

Happy planning!

Pumpkin pie smoothie

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

This smoothie, with all the flavours of pumpkin pie is a foretaste of the Thanksgiving feasting to come.  It is also good for you.  Pumpkin, oats and banana are good sources of soluble and non-soluble fibre. Fibre is important for gut health and it also helps lower cholesterol which reduces the risk of heart disease. Pumpkin is also a good source of beta-carotene, which helps keep your mucus membranes healthy which is important at this time of year to help ward off colds and flu.  The banana provides sweetness without adding sugar to the smoothie. The spices are not only warming but have many benefits for your health.  Please see 'Cinnamon - the blood sugar balancer- and 'Superfood -ginger'-

So enjoy this guilt-free treat or Thanksgiving breakfast.

You will need
Serves 1 generously

150g peeled and de-seeded weight pumpkin, chopped
1 large banana, peeled, chopped and frozen
30g oats
200ml organic unsweetened soya milk or soya milk sweetened with apple juice if you have a sweet tooth.
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp allspice

Place the pumpkin in a high speed blender and puree.  Add the remaining ingredients and whiz together.  Divide between two glasses and serve.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Meatless Monday: Sweet potato and nut roast roulade

Monday, 21 November 2016

Today's Meatless Monday is a Thanksgiving special. This nut roast makes a change from the usual nut roast as it is encased in filo pastry.  I have chosen filo because it is low fat - the one I used contains a little rapeseed oil.  I have also used frozen chargrilled vegetables for convenience and these should ideally be defrosted. 

Sweet potato nut roast roulade

Serves 2-3
You will need
1 large sweet potato, diced, boiled and mashed
200g frozen chargrilled vegetables, defrosted
150g breadcrumbs
Egg substitute equivalent to 1 egg
150g mixed nuts (hazelnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans), roughly chopped
1 tsp pink salt in 180ml hot water
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
2 sheets filo pastry

Mix together the mashed sweet potato, chargrilled vegetables, egg substitute, herbs, nuts, breadcrumbs and pink salt in hot water.  

Lay 2 sheets of filo pastry out on a chopping board and place the sweet potato mixture in the middle leaving a gap top and bottom. Roll up and press the the edges and ends together. 

Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees. 

Enjoy with a mixed salad or extra vegetables such as parsnips and brussel sprouts.

This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 20 November 2016

This week in our series to help with anxiety we are developing strength to be with our fears as a further stage in dealing with them.
Blog post and yoga video on my 'sister' blog-

It's Thanksgiving next week.
Did you know that being grateful is good for your mental and physical health?
In the blog post on my 'sister' blog we practice a yoga sequence to cultivate an attitude of gratitude-

Using a wall can help you open up in a yoga pose, give you support, or help with balance.
Try the yoga sequence on my 'sister' blog using a wall-…/yoga-with-wall.html

Chocolate fruit and nut Christmas Cake-gluten free and no added sugar

It's Stir-up Sunday - traditionally the day when you make your Christmas cakes and puddings.

This year I have made a Chocolate fruit and nut Christmas Cake which has no added sugar and is gluten free. 

Due to there being no sugar in this recipe, it will not keep as long as a cake with sugar in but it will freeze so you can still get ahead.  Sugar also helps the cake stay moist - in this recipe I have used beetroot (which also adds sweetness) and ground almonds to help the cake stay moist.

Chocolate fruit and nut Christmas Cake

140g dairy free spread + extra for flouring
30g stevia
Egg substitute equivalent to 2 eggs
250g rice flour + extra for dusting
4 tsp gluten free baking powder
6 tbsp cacao
240g cooked beetroot (find it in the salad section of your local supermarket), whizzed up in a high speed blender
2 tsp vanilla
6 tbsp soya milk
50g ground almonds
70g mixed nuts, chopped
100g sultanas
100g raisins

Cream the dairy free spread with the stevia.  Add the remaining ingredients except the fruit and nuts and mix really well to a dropping consistency  Stir in the sultanas, raisins and nuts and transfer the mixture to a greased and floured 8 inch (2o cm) cake tin.  Bake 40-50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  When cool sprinkle with stevia and add Christmas Cake decorations if desired.  

Serving suggestion - whipped coconut cream.

Apple, Cranberry and Orange Chutney-no added sugar

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

With Thanksgiving fast approaching I thought I would use some of the apples kindly donated by people in the village who grew far more than they could possibly use themselves.  As always the recipe has no added sugar so I have not made a large quantity as sugar acts as preservative. However vinegar also acts as a preservative so the chutney should last for a week or two.  It would make a great addition to your Thanksgiving meal or Christmas meal.

Apple, Cranberry and Orange Chutney- no added sugar

Makes 8-10 servings

You will need
450g eating apples, peeled and chopped (weight after preparation)
1 large cooking apple  (weight after preparation)
1/2 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
150 ml apple cider vinegar
Juice medium orange
150g frozen cranberries 
25g stevia or to taste

Place the apple pieces and chopped onion in a saucepan and cover with the apple cider vinegar.  Add the ginger. Simmer on a low heat for around 30 -40 minutes until the mixture thickens.

Meanwhile sterilise two jars by washing them with hot water and washing up liquid. Rinse well. Place on a baking tray in an pre-heated oven at 120 degrees for 10 minutes.

Stir in the cranberries and orange juice and simmer for a further 10 minutes.  Stir in the stevia while the chutney is still warm.  

When the jars and chutney are cool, divide the chutney between two jars.  

Keep refrigerated.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Meatless Monday : Soy 'meatballs' with leek and mushroom ragu and pasta

Monday, 14 November 2016

We have been harvesting leeks from the allotment and so I made this pasta sauce as a way of using them up.  It is good to eat seasonal foods - the flavour and nutrition are better.

Soy 'meatballs' with leek and mushroom ragu and pasta
Serves 2 
You will need

For the soy 'meatballs'
120g dried soy chunks
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tbsp tamari
olive oil spray

For the leek and mushroom 'ragu'
1 tbsp organic olive oil
1/2 red onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
125g mushrooms, sliced
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, roots removed and sliced
1-2 tbsp tamari
1/4 tsp stevia
100g tomato puree (around 6 tbsp)

Pasta to serve

Place the soy chunks in a bowl and cover with boiling water - leave to re-hydrate for around 10 minutes.  Drain well then whiz up in a high speed blender with the tamari and mixed herbs. Form into balls and place on a baking tray.  Spray with the olive oil spray and bake for 20 minutes.  

Meanwhile make the leek and mushroom ragu.  Heat the oil and cook the onion for 2-3 minutes.  Add the crushed garlic, leek and mushrooms and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, adding a little water if necessary.  Add the tomato puree, tamari, stevia and 200ml water and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.  

Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer's directions.

To serve place the pasta in bowls, top with the leek and mushroom ragu and soy 'meatballs'.


This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 13 November 2016

We feel anxiety not only in our minds but in our bodies. The breath is also affected. In this yoga video we increase our awareness of these signs of anxiety as a first step to detaching from that anxiety. 
Blog post and yoga video on my 'sister' blog-

Hedgehogs are in decline. Find out how you can help on my 'sister' blog-

In honour of Remembrance Day we look at how yoga can help with severe stress. There is also a yoga sequence.
Please see the featured post on my 'sister' blog-

A yoga strap is essential to your yoga practice. It can help you get a delicious stretch, help you move deeper into a pose or it can be used to lengthen your arm. A yoga strap can also help your body open gradually and helps you keep good alignment. 
On my 'sister' blog are some of the poses where a strap is useful-

Oil pulling

Remember when we used coconut oil as a cleanser?  Please see 'Coconut Oil Cleanser'-  Oil pulling, a technique that has its roots in Ayurveda, yoga's 'sister' science, is a way of using oils to cleanse your mouth.

Oil pulling involves swishing one to two teaspoons of coconut oil, olive oil or sesame oil around in your mouth for 10-20 minutes to 'pull' out any harmful bacteria that may lurking in your mouth.  My favourite is coconut oil but some people might be allergic to it so use another oil instead if this is the case. You then spit the oil out and rinse your mouth out with warm water. Try not to swallow any oil.  

Now oil pulling is gaining in popularity although I admit that I have been putting off trying it because I did not fancy swishing oil around my mouth.  I am now convinced however that it is well worth overcoming my initial reluctance for the amazing benefits of oil pulling.

Oil pulling helps remove Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria commonly found in your mouth and which is a major cause of tooth decay. 

Keeping your mouth free from bacteria so that your teeth and gums are healthy also helps lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.  This is because  bacteria in your mouth can lead to inflammation and gum disease which affects the blood and will over time damage blood vessels including those of your heart and brain.  Other diseases are also linked to gum disease.  These include rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Oil pulling however can actually heal bleeding gums and strengthen them.

Please note oil pulling is not a replacement for your normal oral hygiene routine of brushing your teeth.  Speak to your dentist before practicing oil pulling if you have a medical condition or other oral health problems.

Weight loss help - Resistant starch

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Resistant starch is formed when certain carbs are cooked and then cooled.  These include potatoes, pasta, and rice.  The process is called retrogradation and it makes the carbs resistant to digestion meaning that they do not provide your body with many calories and in fact behave like fibre. They are several types of resistant starch including that in beans, seeds, lentils, grains such as quinoa etc, which are resistant by virtue of their fibrous cell walls.

The type of resistant starch I am interested in for this blog post however is that formed as a result of cooking and cooling - think potato salads, rice salads, pasta salads etc.(care with rice - please see  'Is rice not nice'-  As well as fewer calories, eating resistant starch has other benefits too. Because resistant starch acts like soluble fibre in your gut it can help reduce the risk of constipation and bowel cancer.  

Eating these carbs helps stabilise blood sugar because they slow the release of glucose into the blood. This not only reduces appetite (blood sugar spikes followed by dips can trigger hunger) but reduces the risk of insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes. It also has the effect of lowering cholesterol which in turn lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

And there's more -  resistant starch acts as a prebiotic so that it increases good bacteria in the gut.  

What are you waiting for? Pasta salad for lunch anyone?

Meatless Monday : Indian Rice Bowl

Monday, 7 November 2016

Quick to make, healthy and delicious this makes great lunch.  You could use fresh vegetables but frozen will make this quicker to prepare.  Alternatively you could use left over veg from the previous evening's meal. 

Indian Rice Bowl
Serves 2

You will need
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp chilli
150g organic brown rice
1/2 tsp salt
cup of frozen veg (I used mixed carrots, peas, sweetcorn and red pepper)

Place the rice in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to the boil and reduce heat to simmer for 25 minutes until the rice is tender. Drain excess water.

Heat the oil and cook the onion over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and continue for a further minute adding a little water if you need to.  Add the rice, salt, frozen vegetables and just a little water. Heat through and divide between two bowls.  

Garnish with coriander.


This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Fear can be caused by a blockage to the flow of energy through the kidney meridian. In this week's yoga video the intention is to release these blockages.
Blog post and yoga video on my 'sister' blog-

An Ayurveda Herb for Anxiety. Read more on my 'sister' blog-
This blog post was included in the online paper 'Amrita'-

A yoga block is essential to your yoga practice whether you are a beginner or a more practiced yogi. On my 'sister' blog are some of the ways your yoga block can benefit your practice-

Fragrant Healing-Essential Oils for Fatigue

At this time of year things start to get busy.  We are no sooner through Halloween and Bonfire night than we start to focus on Chistmas and not forgetting Thanksgiving for my American friends.  Exciting though this is, in Ayurveda terms this is the season when our bodies need to be more quiet, and introspective, just like the rest of nature.  Yet society demands otherwise. 

In times gone by our ancestors would sleep longer in the shorter days but artificial lights mean that we are no longer in tune with the rhythms of the seasons.  The result may be fatigue.  

So how can essential oils help with fatigue?  Essential oils can reduce stress and anxiety which leads to fatigue.  Please see 'Fragrant healing-Essential oils for anxiety and immunity'- Lavender essential oil can also help you get a better night's sleep which can help reduce fatigue (sprinkle a few drops on your pillow).   

Pine essential oil is good for relieving exhaustion - it is best used via steam inhalation.  To do this place 3 drops essential oil in a bowl of hot water.  Place a towel over your head,  and with your face about 30cm from the bowl inhale the steam - drape the towel around the bowl so that the steam does not escape and close your eyes.

Essential oils such as cinnamon and rosemary essential oils can stimulate blood flow to your brain which helps with fatigue. Place one drop of the essential oil on a cotton pad and inhale once through each nostril for an instant pick me up.  This is because when we inhale the essential oil molecules act on the olefactory organs in the nose which link directly to the brain. 

Peppermint essential oil is a great energizer - use diluted on your temples, back of your neck, in a diffuser or your morning bath.

Other essental oils that boost your mental energy and relieve fatigue include  ginger, orange, lemongrass, eucalyptus and bergamot. Use in a diffuser-  try 4 drops lemongrass with 2 drops black pepper or make your own blends up.

Do not use these stimulating essential oils near to bedtime - you may be up all night!!

Safety note - do not use essential oils without professional advice if you are pregnant or have any medical condition.