Next stop: Hydration Station…

My, oh my, it is hot, hot, HOT here today. So hot, I wasn’t quite sure how to get my over-heated, Friday-frazzled brain to write about what I’d originally planned to write today. Since taking out the laptop, I’ve tidied my (unsuccessful) veg patch (a post for another day, sigh), thoroughly cleaned the table upon which this laptop sits, sifted through some Spotify playlists, you know, the usual distractions when you’re supposed to be working.

It turned out that alternative subject matter for today was staring me in the face.

Water. Sweet, watery water.

Now, I’m not going to win any prizes for telling you about the benefits of drinking water. If you haven’t grasped that by now, you’re probably too dehydrated to read this post, or you’re a raisin with surprisingly good cognitive skills.

As any reflexologist like me will tell you, drinking lots of water for the 24 hours after a treatment can really enhance the positive results of your foot love, helping to eliminate toxins more efficiently and balance out your systems. So there’s your tenuous link as to why I’m writing about water here. Plus anyone who has known for any length of time, will only very rarely see me without a bottle of water in my hand. It’s the closest I can get to the sea these days.

But really it’s not about the water today, it’s about what I’m drinking it out of. Stay with me…

Last Christmas, my No.1 Clever-gift-giver in my family (shout-out to Cara) got me the Citrus Zinger, the water bottle that’s kind of changed my life (just a little, but still). It’s made from the good plastics (is there really a good kind?) so it’s rock solid, durable and has a clever handle you can thread your thumb through to give your hand a break when carrying it. Granted it’s heavier than other water bottles so probably not your running friend, but really it’s all about the compartment at the bottom.

The fab thing about the Citrus Zinger is that you can make all kinds of refreshing and tasty infusions by turning it upside down, unscrewing the compartment and adding all sorts of fruits or herbs so that they stay there and do their thing but don’t make your water all bitty. I know, right? GENIUS! It’s part water bottle, part orange squeezer. Whatever will they think of next?

Citrus Zinger

Today’s baking heat has me delicately swigging out of it for some lovely Weybridge water infused with half a lime and a chunk of raw ginger. They give you all sorts of suggestions on the box for the uninspired, and I’ve tried basil and mint as well, which is really tasty. Due to a medicinal amount of gin and tonics in this house, we tend to have a LOT of limes lying around, so usually I just chuck half of one of those in and keep refilling it during the day. I drink a lot more water and it doesn’t feel like a chore in any way.

I know a water bottle may not be the most exciting thing to write about but I tell you, it genuinely makes me happy. It’s no world peace, but it’s rocking my world right now.

You can check them out here: http://www.zing-anything.co.uk/citrus-zinger/ if you want to join my new cult. Plus, of an evening, I reckon it could make a pretty nifty cocktail maker – as yet untested by me. Note to self for tonight….

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‘You like FEET?!’

Some of my friends give me with the strangest look when they learn that I’m also a reflexologist. People are so funny about feet, sometimes.

‘And you don’t mind touching people’s feet’? I get asked a lot as they sort of recoil in a kind of foot-induced horror. It really makes me laugh. I didn’t think it was *that* weird but there you go… I like feet, I like people and I like reflexology. There are worse triumvirates out there!

 

I also often get asked how I got into reflexology and the answer is easy – my mum. Growing up in Co. Cork in the 80s, my mum was a big fan of reflexology. Maybe that was a bit hippy-ish. I can’t say that it was the most popular activity at the time but it seemed a very normal part of our lives. We still went to the doctor for the big stuff but for little things and sometimes for no reason at all, I’d find myself at a lovely little building outside town with the smell of joss sticks tickling my nose.

 

I can vividly remember sitting in the waiting room of that local complimentary therapy centre while she had a treatment. In retrospect, I now realise it was probably a brief moment of peace for mum whilst raising two feral children with my dad often away working in the UK – plus, reflexology was probably cheaper than developing a fondness for gin in the mornings. I can remember looking at the foot charts on the wall with all their multi-coloured bit and arrows pointing to corresponding parts of the body and being fascinated that there seemed to be a connection between the soles of the feet and parts of the body. To be fair, what I actually also remember is picking the wood chip out of their extremely classy wood chip wallpaper bored where I was sitting while what felt like the longest hour ticked along, but I’m not sure that’s entirely relevant here…

 

Sometimes, mum would book a treatment for me and my brother to share – we’d get half an hour each and even back then, wood chip wallpaper and all, I loved it. I’m not sure if that’s odd or not but I do remember sinking back into the big reclining chair and feeling very toasty as Peter would work his way through the reflexology sequence, and massaging the reflexes I’d seen on the chart in the waiting room. I’d clearly been given a taste of something that would later go on to become part of my holistic backbone.

 

As a teenager, I suffered from pretty bad panic attacks and had a nasty reaction to antibiotics which, for a long time affected my digestive system. So off for reflexology I went. Again and again I turned to it. In the run-up to my Leaving Cert off I went again and through a particularly Dawson’s Creek-esque breakup *blushes as I type*, off I went again. I even had it done the day before I got married.

 

Now, any good and law-abiding reflexologist knows that we cannot say that reflexology cures anything but what reflexology does and can do is help the body to restore its balance naturally and help it to fight for itself. In my case, it was there as a restorative and relaxing time, away from everything when the big things were getting to me or exciting things were around the corner and I as a little off kilter. 

 

And after studying it for a year back when I did my diploma and the many people I’ve treated since through all kinds of scenarios and problems, I remain as convinced now (if not even more!) as a practitioner as I did all those times I lay back in the comfy chair and experienced it as a client. You don’t have to like your feet to have reflexology. I’ve enough foot love (but not in a weird way, honest) for all of us. My fingers are itching to finish this post off with a cheesy ‘reflexology is good for the soul/sole’ pun but I. must. resist!

 

 

 

 

 

Those badass Aztecs strike again – Behold the chia bon bons of Susan Jane White

When I was back home in Ireland over Easter, I had a go at a fab new recipe from the gorgeous brain of health goddess Susan Jane White (@SusanJaneHealth on Twitter) and her new best-selling book, Extra Virgin Kitchen (http://susanjanewhite.com/the-extra-virgin-kitchen/).

 

Packed full of recipes which, for almost the first time ever for me, hasn’t had me wondering what I’d need to substitute sugar for to make it kinder to my system, the recipes are a god-send for anyone trying to make even a gentle step towards a healthier diet. There’s no judging here!  

 

Susan was in my class at university in Dublin and always had a fab energy around here. One of life’s great enthusiasts I remember being so shocked to hear of the debilitating and soul-crushing health problems she suffered after the years we had spent sharing lecture theatres. However, it was no absolutely surprise to me to learn that she threw any remaining energy she had at the time into her further studies of all things foody and essentially cured herself. Now, I’m Irish and if you knew my family, you’d know there’s a *slight* tendency for exaggerations and added ‘colouring’ of stories but I do not use that phrase lightly. She really did cure herself – with the help of nutritional changes and guidance which she talks about on her blog  http://susanjanewhite.com/, she stepped away from the endless courses of medication and is now possibly even MORE full of joie de vivre than ever before.  

Armed with a sassy clutch-bag full of fantastic, accessible recipes, she is on a mission to help the rest of us. So, it would have been rude of me not to get cracking with her recipes, having finally picked up my copy of the book. First off, I’ve made her chia bon bons. You can  check out the recipe on her site here though I really recommend you get a copy of the book – http://susanjanewhite.com/380/

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Sugar-free and packed full of a handful of gut-soothing good things, if you get the consistency right (ok, so I *may* have misread the recipe first time round), they have a very truffly, ganache-y texture. They take about 5 minutes to make and are very child-friendly on the assembly front (Tick, on the rainy day toddler activity front, then). Man, oh man, do they satisfy a sugar craving…(rhetorical question but yes, yes they most definitely do). Plus, zero guilt when when you dust the cocoa powder from around your mouth, honest.

 

If you haven’t heard of the humble chia seed yet, it’s the ‘new’ (but ancient) big thing seed-wise (did I actually just say that?) and, like the linseed and quinoa before it, is one of those ingredients that is so process-free and wholesome, it’s got you wondering if it could possible be any fun. Trust me, it is. If it’s good enough for those partying Aztecs, it’s good enough for me.

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If there’s a recommended daily intake for these, I most definitely exceeded it  – over Easter as we made 4 batches of them (Canada, you can thank me for propping up the sales of your pricey Maple syrup….) and they barely lasted a day at my parents’ house. Cocoa-dusted, chia-seedy high fives to you, Susan Jane!

 

Kiss my face, breakfast bread!

God, I love this recipe and it’s a quick one to prepare, even if it takes a while in the oven.

I’ve been making this bread almost weekly since I first tore it out of the magazine earlier in the year. It has vastly improved breakfast times in our house and even my walnut-hating husband gives it a resounding thumbs’ up. I’m not a massive ricotta fan so we have it with yoghurt and fruit or sometimes just a slab of butter (good fats, right?).

I tend to substitute the self-raising flour in the recipe here for gluten-free self raising flour or spelt and I don’t get too hung up about which nuts and seeds I have as long as it evens out in the measurements in the end. I also often sprinkle in some of those milled linseed mixes – you know, the ones with the goji berries, pumpkin seeds etc in them? Plus our small person loves getting involved in all the mixing of the different nuts. Tick.

It’s a dense loaf and needs a lot of baking at a low heat to dry it out but it’s VERY filling and packed full of good things. It even gets the thumbs up from the very discerning palates at walnut-hating husband’s Total Aspect Fitness bootcamp gang (@TAFbootcamps on Twitter) who have been known to have breakfast sharing sessions when the weather is too rubbish for press-ups in the park.

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This is also well worth a go if you’re not so keen on munching on unsalted nuts as a snack to get your essential minerals.

Kiss my face, breakfast bread….anytime.

Fig, nut & seed bread with ricotta & fruit | BBC Good Food.

Chocolate. Sweet, soul-boosting conscious chocolate

This may be the first time I blog about chocolate but I can guarantee it won’t be the last! Oh I’ve been burned before. Burnt by the promise of ‘healthy’ chocolate. Chocolate that is guilt-free, chocolate that will give me superpowers, chocolate that will make me see through time. So, so many disappointing times… and still no superpowers. 

 

To be fair, there are a lot worse things I could be eating than chocolate but these days, but your average supermarket-checkout-eye-grabbing bars are just so sugary and full of strange unpronouncable ingredients that’s it’s really taking the fun out of chocolate (with or without the added superpowers). 

 

I’ve tried chocolate ‘alternatives’ before. Carob, oh carob. You are probably good for lots of things but a satisfying substitute for chocolate, you are not. I’ve even tried not having chocolate at all but that did not a happy Lynn make.

 

However, I bring you news…hope, real hope from the health food shop aisles. A few years ago I discovered Conscious Chocolate. My good God, it’s great stuff. It’s strong, it packs a punch, it’s a bit melty and it is very satisfying and it does actually taste like chocolate. It’s not the cheapest bar you’ll buy (is ANYTHING in Whole Foods?) but it’s really, really worth it. I like that it’s raw chocolate, I like that it’s only got a few ingredients which I can count on one hand (and I know what they all are!) and I love that it doesn’t contain glucose, hydrogenated anything and that one bar is happily enough to share with fennel-hating husband during an episode of the Good Wife.

 

Keep an eye out for them if you’re looking for a guilt-free, actually healthy treat that does you good without making you feel like you’re being a martyr. I’ve seen them in Food for Thought in Kingston and they’re appearing in more and more shops. They’ve got some gorgeous flavours including rose, coconut and goji berry, orange blossom and all sorts. 

 

And you’d be surprised the superpowers you might uncover (multitasking counts, right?)

 

 

check out:http://www.consciouschocolate.co.ukImage

 

 

 

 

 

Oh fennel….

Fennel bulbs… so, so divisive in our house.

My husband glowers at it whenever fennel bulbs appear in our weekly veg box and he claims, in a tone not dissimilar to our 2 and a half year old, that he doesn’t like fennel. Yet when I pop it into a variety of dishes, he regularly comments on how rich the flavour is of whatever we’re eating. I hide it amongst celery when cooking and he rarely notices. A small victory for me – especially as it’s so ridiculously good for you.

Sure, raw fennel in salads is an acquired taste but (due to its recent prevalence in aforementioned weekly veg box) I’ve been adding it to all sorts recently to pretty good effect.

I’ve added it to homemade pasta sauce along with red onion and it brings a lovely mellow sweetness to the tomatoes, garlic and herbs, when cooked very slowly. I’ve put it in spag bol, again with similar results, I’ve roasted it with chicken and last week it made an appearance in another beef dish.

Now maybe I’m a bit evangelical about fennel. It is my after-dinner tea of choice and it’s long been renowned for its diuretic and digestional goodness, but it’s hard not to want to sneak into more of my diet when it’s so good for me.

It’s crammed full of phytonutrients which give it some great anti-oxidant powers – and we all love that. It’s a a great source of vitamin C (maybe that’s why you see it so regularly coupled with orange in salads!), dietary fibre, potassium and folate, amongst others. One of the things I really like is that research has also shown it’s help in reducing inflammation.  Kind of a wonder-bulb, right?

So, have a nose around for some recipes – it’s very popular in French, Italian and other Mediteranean cuisine and just give it a go. Chopping a bit into what you’re making can only do you good. Eventhough its flavour can be strong when raw, it really mellows when sauteed for a while over a low heat and is a great pal to our good friend, the onion.

Now I’m off to hide it from Mr C in another recipe. I’ll convert him yet *evil chuckle*

Pippa Kendrick

Recently, I was lucky enough to get my reflexology-ing hands on an advance copy of Pippa Kendrick’s new book ‘Free-From Food for Family and Friends: Over a hundred delicious recipes, all gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free’.

It’s due out in April, and I loved her previous book, the Intolerant Gourmet which is a gorgeous book to pour over and I’ve made quite a few of her recipes already.

I’m not a coeliac myself (though I’ve an increasing number of friends and family who are) but I like to think that recipes like Pippa’s which are gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free, aren’t just for those with restricted diets and more interesting shopping baskets than mine.

What I love about the new book is the accessibility of the recipes. For those of us without a massively well stocked store cupboard (I do try but…), there are plenty of things in there that don’t require ingredients from the more hidden away shelves in my local supermarket. Although I like the idea of cooking with spirulina, lacuna powder and other exciting ingredients, they’re not exactly things that I have lying around or that our local Sainso’s always have! There are plenty of recipes here which are twists on favourite dishes without having to stock up on unusual potions and powders.

My small person and I gave her chocolate banana bread a go last weekend and it got a big thumbs up from team – very easy to make and in the oven in a handful of minutes and an easy one to make with the help of children.

Sure, it wasn’t quite as rich as a cafe-bought banana bread, what with it being egg-free, which is often what brings that richness to cakes, but it cleverly used a little flaxseed and water instead to bind and moisten and I have to say, it was fab. It still had sugar in it which is my own headache bringing, tummy-knotting nemesis but there wasn’t loads in it and the cocoa powder and bananas worked really well together.

I’d highly recommend pre-ordering a copy now and enjoy some really satisfying, healthy recipes. We’ve also since tried her roast jerk chicken which was a real Sunday lunch hit – and I’m not usually one to mess with a classic Sunday roast!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Free–Food-Family-Friends-gluten-free/dp/0007454740/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392387345&sr=1-1&keywords=free+from+foods

You can follow Pippa on Twitter: @friendlyfood for more recipes and ideas for eating gluten-free, egg-free and dairy-free, without having to live only by way of the lonely lentil. Enjoy!