Sweet Potato Soup with Pomegranate Seeds

Sweet Potato Soup Autumn taunted us for a few days last week with lower temperatures and I was instantly ready to dig out the pumpkin pie spice, start Christmas shopping and curl up by the fire.  Alas, it then withdrew and we’re back up at 100F outside with iced coffees in hand. Autumn, we’ll see you soon (please).  So given the heat I really didn’t set out to make soup but as happens more and more now I get a weekly produce box, the ingredients in the fridge spoke to me.

A sweet lady at work asked me if I wanted a huge box of pomegranates from her tree.  Well, who would say no to that?! So I said yes and they sat on my coffee table for a week looking at me. Later that day the veg box arrived and it was full of the largest sweet potatoes I’ve ever seen.  Fall root veggies always say soup to me but a bowl of soup wouldn’t be the first place I’d think to use pomegranate seeds. With a whole box to use though, I’ve already done everything I know and I needed something new.  The sweet crunchy seeds are actually the perfect addition to the warm, creamy soup!!  They add a fun burst of tart, freshness in the middle of the soup – I was surprised at how good it was!  To me even the best soup can get a little boring if it’s lots of mouthfuls of exactly the same taste so this is the perfect remedy.

A little tip: To adorn the coffee table whole intact pomegranates are going to be best, but for eating you actually want the less attractive already splitting open ones.  Those are the ones that are ripe and sweet and perfect! So don’t judge the book by it’s cover on this one, pick the ugly duckling!

Recipe:

Makes 2 large servings or 3 small ones!

1 medium sweet potato
3 carrots
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup good stock
1/2-1 cup fresh cashew coconut milk (or any nut milk but that’s my favourite home made one!)
A good dose of salt and pepper
A pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup Pomegranate seeds to top

Chop the sweet potato and carrots into chunks and steam them until they’re soft when you prod them with a fork. At the same time, sauté the onion over a medium heat in a little coconut oil until it’s translucent and softened.  Let them cool and throw them in a good blender with the veggies, stock, 1/2 cup milk and a pinch of cinnamon, salt and pepper. Blend it all up until its completely smooth and then taste test.  If you want it thinner more milk 1/4 cup at a time, and add more salt and pepper to taste. Pour into a container to store/freeze or back into a pan to warm if you’re going to eat it right away. I split it and did both.   Then top your yummy bowl with a good handful of juicy pomegranate seeds and dive in!

A little tip: I actually ate mine cold for lunch the next day with more seeds and it made a delicious chilled soup so that’s what I’ll be doing until it cools down!!

Fresh Asian Pear Vinaigrette

Pear and Walnut Salad
I love putting a huge salad on the table with a loaf of bread and some other goodies and then tucking in with people I love followed by a french press of delicious coffee and something chocolatey. (Read ‘…and Port’ if it’s dinner.)
Personally I’m not a huge salad dressing person, mainly because the ingredients often make me nervous and I’ve always avoided it.  So I’ve been experimenting recently with making clean ones.  Last week I tried a raspberry vinaigrette to go on a strawberry and toasted pecan salad. It was a hit (I found myself eating the dressing on a spoon, don’t tell anyone) so I’m delving in again this week with a fresh pear vinaigrette on a walnut, arugula and apple salad. Thanks to my veg box for providing the pear inspiration. Enjoy!
Pear vinaigrette

To feed four people alongside a loaf of crusty fresh bread:

1 6 oz bag of spinach
1/2 6oz bag of rocket/arugula
4oz goat cheese
1-2 apples finely sliced and tossed in lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped and toasted walnuts
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 portion of fresh pear vinaigrette (below)
For the vinaigrette:
1 medium asian pear, cored and chopped
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp melted coconut oil
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp raw honey


Throw the pear in a good blender with the vinegars, lemon juice, salt, pepper and honey. Blend it really well until it’s completely smooth and combined and then with the blender running slowly drizzle in the oils and continue blending for a further minute.  Pour it in to a glass container and refrigerate.
Note: The coconut oil is a personal preference as I’m not a huge fan of the taste of olive.  You could equally use all olive oil or a walnut oil would be a great addition. The coconut oil sets it a little but if it’s well blended it’s ok, just take it out 10 minutes before eating and give it a good shake.
Toss all the leaves into a large bowl, crumble the goat cheese on top with the apple and walnuts.  I like to slice the apple thinly so you don’t get big chunks but just little bits of crisp juicy fruit in the leaves.  Squeeze half a lemon over the slices before adding them to the salad so they don’t brown.  Toasting nuts really brings out the flavour so for a salad I always like to toast them.  Gently heat the walnuts in a little skillet for 5-10 minutes shaking regularly so they don’t burn., they’ll taste twice as good afterwards! Then allow them to cool and sprinkle them on the salad.  Just before serving it drizzle as much of the dressing over as you’d like.  I like to put about a third of that amount on and then put the jar on the table for people who like more. Now tuck in and enjoy!
Pear and Walnut salad

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Raspberry Vinaigrette

 

Tonight we took a salad to a dinner party to accompany steaks.  Usually Jared is not hugely opinionated on what we take, when I ask he’ll give me a look that says, ‘You know that’s your thing and I don’t mind’.  But I still ask him anyway, just for fun.  This time he surprised me and straight away said, ‘Yes, a salad with strawberries, pecans, cheese…’ So that’s what we did.

On my own I’m not a huge salad dressing person, I never have been but when I need them for Jared or to take on something like this, I don’t like the ingredients in a store bought ones so I want to get better at making my own with good, clean, ingredients.  There’s only one vinaigrette that this salad wants and it’s a raspberry vinaigrette.

Here’s what I used:

1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

A pinch of salt and pepper

A 6oz punnet of raspberries

6 tbsp coconut oil (you could use olive oil or another good oil but I’m not a huge fan of the taste and coconut oil was what we had today)

Have all the ingredients at room temp (especially if you’re using frozen raspberries).  Place everything except the oil in a blender and whizz until it’s completely blended then slowly add in the oil. Done!

For the rest of the salad and to feed 8 with steaks I used about 10 cups spinach, 1 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced, 1/2 cup almonds and 1/2 cup pecans which I lightly toasted with salt and black pepper, and 1/3 cup goat’s cheese. Toss it all together and mix on half of that vinaigrette.  Put the rest in the fridge for next time and put the steaks on the grill :)
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Kale salad with tahini lemon dressing

Kale salad
This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of my favourite salads in the world. So when kale and asian pears arrived in my produce box this week I knew exactly where they were going. In my opinion every salad should have something crunchy, something sweet, something tangy, and then be hearty enough to actually fill you up, and this one has it all.  Wholefoods often has a similar one in their heavenly salad bar and I always pile it into my brown takeout box whenever I see it in the line up, so this is my twist.

It’s also just about the only way I’ll eat kale raw, so if kale scares you, I dare you to still give this one a try!

Kale salad

To serve 2 as a main or 3-4 as a side you’ll need:

1 bunch kale (about 8-10 stalks)

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/4 cup raisins

1 apple or pear

For the dressing:

Juice of 1 1/2 lemons

1/4 cup tahini

2 tbs olive oil

2 tbsp water

1 tbsp minced garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Start by tossing the pine nuts in a small skillet over a low heat and toasting them for 5 minutes or until you can see them gently browning – you don’t want them to go black. Shake the pan regularly to move them around.

Take the kale and tear the leaves off the hard stems, discard the stems and put the leaves in a bowl.  Now (don’t laugh at me…) you’re going to massage the kale.  It might sound strange but it really does help to break it down and make it more palatable, give it a go for a few minutes until you feel a difference.

Now, in a bowl mix all of the dressing ingredients together thoroughly with a fork.  You really want the dressing to coat the kale so and pour it on mix until its really well and evenly combined.  Slice the pear and add that to the salad with the raisins and the toasted pine nuts, give it a gentle toss and you’re ready to go!

Kale salad

 

Fig, red onion and port jam on spelt pizza with goat’s cheese and arugula

Spelt Pizza

 

I love small town living.  There are many things I’ve learned to love in moving from the cosmopolitan millions of London to this Northern California 90,000 but one of them is the food producing and sharing community.  Picking up my veg box the other week, someone kindly handed me an extra half gallon of delicious raw milk from their goats, a friend brought me two passive bags of persimmons, while she was on vacation another friend told me to go and pick chard and strawberries from her garden. Regularly I go to the gym and there is a box of garden bounty left by another gym member… it’s a dream!  Last week someone said they had a whole fig tree that needed picking, and that is a red rag to this bull.  I took a big bag and went on my way home from a party.  I picked and picked until the sun was down and I couldn’t see the figs any more! Thanks Craig and Cindy, you are so generous.

But now, what to do with hundreds of figs?

Well, the same answer as to hundreds of any kind of fruit: jam. Perfect.

I made some sweet with orange, vanilla and cinnamon and then I made this one with red onions and port… it’s a winner in my opinion.  And then to take it a step further, lather it on a pizza with goats cheese, fire it up and then top it with rocket, a drizzle of balsamic reduction, and some chopped nuts.  Sit it next to a good glass of wine and you have the perfect summer night.

15(ish!)oz fresh figs

1 red onion finely chopped

1/2 cup port

3 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the red onion in the oil for about 10 mins until its going translucent and it’s nicely soft.  As it’s cooking, finely chop up all the figs, removing the stems.  When the onion is ready, pour in the port and scrape down the pan.  The throw in all the figs and stir it all together. Let it simmer with a lid on for about 15 mins stirring occasionally, then remove the lid and continue cooking until you reach the jam consistency that you want! Now put it on a cracker, on some cheese, or load up a home made pizza crust!

Beni’s Grawnola

Last weekend my wonderful boss Beni handed me a paper bag of home made granola.  It was delicious looking raw granola made with nuts and seeds, no grains and lots of yummy healthy hidden extras.  I couldn’t wait to dig in.  Save it until breakfast the next day? Nope. No way, I stuck my hand in the bag and started snacking.  A little crunch, a little chewiness, gently sweet but not too sweet, and surprisingly light for a nut based granola.  Yum.  I went for round two after a long Monday morning workout and made myself a smoothie bowl topped it with blueberries and a handful of the granola.  It was perfect. Honestly I had thought it might be two heavy and rich for more than just snacking on in very small quantities but somehow it isn’t and today’s round three with homemade cashew milk and fresh figs next to a perfect cup of coffee confirmed: it’s the ultimate ‘grawnola’.  So I asked Beni if I could share the recipe here and she kindly said yes so here it is, thanks boss ;)

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Ingredients:

6 cups of soaked nuts (I use mostly almonds and cashews)
1/2 raw honey
2 TBS maca (optional)
3/4 cup dates
1/4 cup freshly ground flax seed
1TBS vanilla
1/4 cup buckwheat flour (optional)
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds

Method: Soak all the nuts in filtered water for 8 hours, or overnight, to activate them. (Cashews don’t need more than 6 hours so if you want you can soak them separately from the almonds) Drain the water and place the nuts in a food processor with the honey, maca, dates, flax seed and vanilla.  Combine them by pulsing the blender a few times. Be careful not to process to much, you want them broken down but also for it to still have texture keep pulsing until you have no whole nuts and they are in small pieces. Transfer that nut mixture into a big bowl and mix in the hemp and chia seeds. Once it’s well combined spread the mixture out onto dehydrator trays. Dehydrate the grawnola for at least 12 hours at 118 degrees.  Once it’s done you can transfer it to a sealed glass jar for storage… or pop it straight into a bowl, top it with some fruit and cold fresh cashew milk, (take a picture!) and enjoy. Perfect.

 

Instagram Inspiration!

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Who’d have thought that countless people across the globe would spend hours pouring over small square photographs on various versions of a small black box?! But we do. And I love it.  I love the community and inspiration that Instagram can bring! As you can probably guess, my feed is comprised mainly of food related pictures.  I love being inspired by other people’s worlds.  From watching homesteading life and being inspired to eat seasonally to feeding on the creativity of stunning healthy desserts in an Aukland cafe, I love it all.  So I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you.  They’re all different and provide different kinds of food and inspiration but I’m always happy when these people below pop up on my feed!

The Whole Food Diary

@thehealthfuldiaries

‘A 32 year old story to a healthful 365 days, minus the sugar’. Simple, clean, nutritious every day life made beautiful, happy and delicious.  Londoner Charlotte provides gorgeous daily inspiration for eating clean around the clock in the midst of her daily life.  Breakfast bowls to eat on the train, baked oatmeal, smoothies, clean simple desserts… it’s all manageable, and she posts lots of recipes and clever ideas.

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The Whole Food Diary

@riddlelove

I saw Katie the other day and she said that she’d just come from her gym, her grocery store, and her tanning salon… aka her garden! Katie is a wonderful homesteading, homeschooling, healthy eating, fun loving wife and mom of 5. Her insta comes with a really useful and fun blog too where she shares her journey in transitioning the family to eating healthily, building a garden (and a house!) and living off the land.  She has weekly meal plans with seasonal produce and meal ideas for families, kids and individuals using seasonal, clean ingredients.  I love it!

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@theurbanposer

How many things can you fit on top of a burger? This genius of a lady will beat you ;) The Hulet family’s Instagram famous #sundaynightguacburgers have inspired many Sunday night grilling sessions in our house, just go and check the hashtag! And it’s not just Sundays, the rest of the week you’ll find inspiration for all kinds of paleo wonders and beyond gorgeous desserts.  If you glance through you’ll see there’s also a cookbook on the way (I can’t wait) –  it looks like nothing else in the paleo dessert world, phenomenal.

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@fitncleanmom

Leah welcomes you into the good the bad and, well, the real life of being dedicated to health and fitness with a husband, 4 kids and a full schedule!!  She’s a close friend and I love her and this down to earth, honest account!  At 30, after having 4 kids and already having cut out gluten/dairy/sugar, she ventured into the gym just to lose the baby weight… and never looked back, she’s now a bikini competitor! She shares everything; food, prep, cheat meals, struggles of food intolerances, the honesty of real life, body insecurities, all of the truth behind the scenes. The ultimate real life journey to remind you that health is possible and manageable for everyone!

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@fitmamaq

Alyssa is a mom of two, pregnant with her third and she inspires me! I’m taking notes for when I have babies! She’s a pilates and yoga instructor and always a super healthy eater but in a life bringing and non restrictive feeling way, which I sooo value! Listening to our bodies and being gracious towards ourselves is so important, Alyssa is one of the best at showing how to live a healthy balanced life. Like no one else she manages to navigate health through the ins and outs of every day life, at home and on the road.. and during pregnancy.

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@againstallgrain

This is definitely one of the top resources for creative and inspired grainfree/gluten free/paleo cooking. My boss gave me Danielle Walker’s NY Times best selling cookbook a while back and I’ve been following her and loving her food ever since.   She has come up with clean ways to recreate some of the most delicious dishes and as well as the instagram account, her blog is full of recipes for clean versions of everything you need in life.

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@thebalancedblonde

Formerly The Blonde Vegan, Jordan recently ‘came out’ about how she is changing up the way she eats and moving away from veganism.  Having been on a similar journey myself and moved from myself from strict raw veganism to adding meat, eggs and cooked foods back in for a more healthily balanced approach, I love watching her demonstrate a balanced and healthy lifestyle.  She’ll inspire you with recipes, a great fun account focusing you on staying balanced in life while pursuing health, she’ll remind you that everyone’s different and inspire you to find what’s right for you.  There’s also a great blog with lots of recipes, tips, and two brilliant, totally manageable 5 day cleanses.

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@littlebirdorganics

I love the creativity and beauty of food and this is one of my favorite places to watch that foodie creativity happen! These guys will fill your feed with the most stunning raw food creations that inspire me to get in the kitchen with simple ingredients and create excellent food in its least processed form. More than anyone, they prove that healthy food is the furthest thing from boring.  I dream daily about going to Auckland just to pick up the chia puddings and detox salads from the Little Bird Unbakery! I didn’t know that what was missing from my life was fresh flowers, sprouts and hemp seeds in half avocados on my lunch salads… but now I know ;)

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@templecoffeeroasters

Who doesn’t love a really great cup of coffee? Sometimes I just need pretty pictures of things that make me happy! Temple coffee is one of our favourite coffee spots and they add a little good looking coffee into my feed!