Primal Granola

Bowl of primal granolaI have an awesome breakfast recipe for you guys! I have been doing some experimenting with recipes I’ve found online and I’m pretty sure I’ve nailed this one! This falls more on the primal side and wouldn’t be Whole30 approved as it has some real maple syrup or organic raw honey in it. If you wanted to make it Whole30 style, just omit the sweetner.

Primal Granola

Ingredients
250g Almonds
200g Pecans
200g Walnuts
200g Hazlenuts
(You can replace any of these with your preferred nuts!)
100g pumpkin seeds
3 medium egg whites
2 Tblsp of Pure Maple Syrup/Organic Raw Honey

Method
Granola

1. Soak nuts and seeds for around 7 hours. (For info on how to soak and why, see here.
2. Preheat oven to 160oC
3. Place nuts in a blender and blitz, adding 200g at a time until you have your preferred texture.
4. Beat egg whites till they are fluffy and form peaks.
5. Mix maple syrup or honey with egg whites.
6. Place nuts and seeds in a mixing bowl and fold in egg white mixture.
7. Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment and pour mixture onto trays. The mixture should not be more than 1 inch high.
8. Place trays in the oven for for 30-40 mins (or until golden brown), stirring every 10 minutes.
9. Once out of the oven and cooled you can add sultanas, dried apple or any other dried fruit.
10. Enjoy with hot or cold milk and berries or, as a trail mix!

Jar of GranolaThis is super filling so you only need a cup size portion to keep you satisfied for the morning. Store in an airtight container to keep it fresh.

Enjoy!

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Meditation 101

So, there have been a few slip-ups on the sugar-wheat front! However, the meditation is going well. I’ve been finding it easier to settle into the silence. I enjoy taking the time out to clear my mind of busy thoughts and I have noticed a small improvement in my concentration during the meditation. So, for those of you who would like to give it a try but don’t know where to start, here is a short post on getting comfortable with meditation.

Benefits of Meditation

As I said at the beginning of this project, my main purpose for focusing on meditation during lent is for the benefit of my soul! I don’t feel I give enough attention to it, so I’m hoping that by integrating daily meditation into my routine, I can create space for spiritual growth.

The brain before and after meditationHowever, there are many additional benefits to meditation. A regular practice can help you achieve your goals, sleep better, lower stress and blood pressure, improve concentration and creativity and even make us more compassionate! The picture to the left shows the brain before and after meditation. Essentially, it causes the flow of information and sensory stimuli to slow or even stop in some cases. This allows our brain to recover and create more ‘gray matter’ in the hippocampus and frontal areas of the brain, leading to more positive emotions, emotional stability and increased focus in daily life. You can find out more here.

Headspace

photo 1This is a fantastic app. Now I can hear some of you saying ‘Surely smartphones and meditation don’t go together’! To some extent, I agree. Once you are more comfortable with the practice of meditation, you need less guidance and can simply sit and meditate whenever you feel like it. However, for the novices among us, this app really is an excellent starting point! You can get a free 10 day trial for iPhones and Androids in the app store.

HeadspaceAndy talks you through 10 daily meditations, each about 10 minutes long. He also has meditations for public transport, bedtime and walking in the Headspace Active section. I find the sleep one great and usually don’t remember hearing the end of it! It has no religious content so the focus really is on technique; learning to breathe, relax your body and quieten your mind. In case you haven’t guessed already, I highly recommend it.

Sacred Word Meditation

Once you have tried a few basic meditations and breathing exercises, you can start to build on your practice. The beauty of meditation is that it is a very personal exercise that can be easily adapted to suit your own experiences. Here is one I have found very helpful. Before you begin, choose a word that has meaning for you, that you would like to concentrate on during your meditation. I often use ‘ma-ra-na-tha’, saying it (in my head) in four even syllables. It is an aramaic word mean ‘Come Lord’. A common buddhist mantra used in similar meditations is ‘om mani padre hum’ which is the embodiment of compassion. You can even choose a combination of simple words such as peace, love, God, calm, enegry etc. You will likely find that some work better for you than others.

Practice
1. Find a quiet, comfortable place for you to sit, where you won’t be disturbed.
2. Begin to notice your breath, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Notice your belling rising and falling as you breath. Do this for one to two minutes.
3. Begin reciting your chosen sacred word/phrase, either in your mind or out loud. Say the phrase in even syllables, in a slow, low voice. When your mind strays, return to the mantra without judgement or disappointment.
4. After a few minutes, begin to visualise your words as you say them. Continue do do this for another few minutes.
5. End your meditation by sitting quietly and focusing on your breath for two-three minutes.

Ommmmmmm…..

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Smoothies to Help Beat Your Lent Cravings

sugar cravingI’m sure lots of you have decided to give up chocolate, biscuits, crisps, alcohol, fizzy drinks or [insert personal vice here] for Lent. I don’t know about you, but I’m far more likely to eat well throughout the day if I start out right. After the whole juice craze that took over my Facebook feed in January, I started reading about the benefits of juicing. I won’t speak on juice cleanses here, (each to their own on that one) but I can say that having juices and smoothies as part of your diet seems a pretty good way to give your body the nutrition it needs. Often, when we think we’re craving junk food, our body is really asking for certain vitamins and minerals. You can read more about this here.

Just don’t fall into the trap of drinking shop bought juices and smoothies that are packed with sugar! Homemade is definitely the way to go on this one. My own personal preference has fallen on the side of smoothies. You don’t lose any of the fibre and nutrition that you can lose through juicing and they’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer. So today, I have a few smoothie recipes for you that not only taste great, but also pack a punch full of vitamins and minerals that your body will be thanking you for all day long!

Method for all three
Simply throw all the ingredients in a blender and whizz it up! I use hand blender and it works great! I also recommend using a thick straw for these guys!

The Green One
Green SmoothieLet’s just go ahead and jump in the deep end! The dreaded Green smoothie/juice evokes fear in many a vegetable juice virgin! But honestly there’s nothing to be afraid of! This one is super tasty and refreshing. It’s packed with hydrating vegetables which is great first thing in the morning. If you just don’t like the taste of vegetables, try adding a sprig of mint!

Ingredients
1 green apple, peeled and cored
½ stick of celery
½ avocado
1/3 cucumber
A handful of spinach
150mls coconut milk
Juice of ½ a lime

The Red One
photo (3)This smoothie is sweet and earthy and the lemon juice helps cut the sweetness of the beetroot. Beetroot is associated with better stamina, improved blood flood and lower blood pressure. I love it in a salad but since discovering this smoothie, I rarely have any left by the time lunch comes around!

Ingredients
1 small beetroot, peeled
1 apple, peeled and cored
1 tsp almond butter
½ cucumber
Handful of spinach or preferred leafy green
Juice of half a lemon
150mls coconut milk
A few ice-cubes

The Tropical One
This one is a real treat! Tastes like dessert for breakfast! Bananas are pretty much a wonder-fruit. They are high in potassium, help fight against muscle cramps, help lower blood pressure and, have the same impact on your serotonin levels as chocolate does! Throw in some anti-inflammatory pineapple that is choc-full of vitamin A and C, and you have one super breakfast!
Ingredients
1 banana
50g pineapple
1 tsp almond butter
200mls coconut milk
½ tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
Sprig of mint

Cravings? What cravings?!

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Project Lent

Taken from Journal.ie

Taken from Journal.ie

This year I’ve decided to go a little further than the standard ‘sweet sacrifice’ I usually do for Lent. Lent mirrors the time Jesus spent in the dessert, not just fasting, but also meditating and praying. While such practices may seem foreign to us today, the idea of taking time to reflect on and develop our Spiritual journey, whatever that may be, can only be seen as an opportunity to grow. So that’s what I hope to do with Project Lent…grow a little! To do this, I’ll be focusing on the three aspects of Body, Mind and Soul.

Body

This part is the most straight-forward. Frankly, it’s about committing to taking better care of my body. As most of you know, I did a Whole30 last year and felt great after it! But like many others, I gradually let all those inflammatory foods back into my diet. I have found the biggest culprits for me to be wheat and sugar. So that’s what I’ll be giving up for lent! This post on the ‘9 Rules of Lent Every Irish Person Knows’ had me in stitches this morning and I particularly liked the Bruce Bogtrotter reference! Worth checking out if you’ve just committed to giving up chocolate!

Mind

I think I was a much kinder person as a kid! My instinct was usually to share, help others and see the best in situations. I know I’m not a total tyrant now but I definitely feel a lot more sceptical and selfish these days. Personally, I think the way to combat this is to retrain your brain. The recent trend of RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) nominations in response to the NEKs reminded me that society can be pretty awesome. It was great to see my news feed filled with joy and positivity for a few weeks, rather than the usual stream of bad news and negativity that often plagues our daily reading. So, I plan to do 40 acts of kindness, one for each day of Lent, in the hope that it will retrain my brain towards instinctive kindness! They say it takes 30 days to kick a bad habit and replace it with better habits so I should flying after 40!

Soul

This was the trickiest bit for me to figure out. I wanted to do something that I could stay consistent in for 40 days, but that would also challenge my beliefs and allow me space to grow. So, I have decided to do a daily meditation. As a child, my nana used to say our bedtime prayers with us. Anyone who has an Irish granny will know them… ‘Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Bless the bed that I lay on…’ To this day I still say my ‘prayers’ at night before going asleep. Though, they’re not quite as formal. More a rundown of my worries and concerns, than anything else! It’s the old adage that people only pray when they want something! As a Quaker, I am pretty comfortable with silence, though in recent years, I have found I don’t use the silence as best I could. I have used meditation in the past to help me centre down at the beginning of Meeting for Worship or before bed but I have not practiced on a regular enough basis to truly benefit from it. So I’ll be tuning out every day for 15 minutes, to reflect, give thanks and listen.

Tools

Count Your Blessings App I’ll be using two primary tools to help me on my journey! The first is the Christian Aid Count Your Blessings App. I think this is pretty awesome! They are a fantastic organisation working with partners on the ground to provide urgent, practical and effective assistance where need is great, tackling the effects of poverty as well as its root causes. The app provides food for thought and a stunning photo each day giving you opportunities to act, donate and learn about the issues affecting our world. Today’s story is about the impact of Climate Change.

Meditation BibleThe second tool I’ll be using is the Meditation Bible! This baby is packed with guided meditations for all scenarios. Some simply help you focus, others help you explore specific aspects of your spirituality. This book would be too ‘Hippy’ for some people but I like it. It’s broad enough that you can choose to put your own beliefs into the meditations.

What you can expect from upcoming posts

I hope to do a mixture of posts on the three aspects of my Lent project. There will of course be some tasty recipes! I’ll also post a few guided meditations and tips on how to integrate meditation into your daily routine. While I won’t post about each of my 40 RAKs (you’ll just have to trust me!), I will be on the look-out for stories which inspire gratitude and hope. If any of you have any Lent stories of your own, I would love to hear from you.

A note on the Spiritual aspect of this project

I want this project to be accessible to all those interested. For that reason, I will try to make my posts as non-denominational as possible. In saying that, I am a Quaker! Inevitably, I will use language that reflects that. In these cases, I urge you to take what you can from my posts and choose to assign your own language to it. For example, the phrase ‘Inner Light’ is often used by Quakers to describe that of God in a person. If it sits better with you to use words or phrases like ‘soul’, ‘spirit’, ‘the sacred part of a person’ or whatever else you can think of, please do. My aim here is not to promote a particular way of thinking, but to share my journey and track my growth over the next 40 days.

Get Involved

If you like the sound of this project or haven’t quite decided what you’re doing for Lent, why not create your own Lent project. Pick a way to take care of your body, something that will help expand and challenge your mind and, something that will help nurture your soul. It is completely adaptable to your individual preferences and journey. Some people will find attending mass or prayer meetings helpful. Others will flourish in a regular yoga practice or find peace walking through the woods. Whatever you decide, push your boundaries a little and watch what happens when you allow yourself time to reflect and grow.

Happy Lent!

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Paleo Apricot Scones

scones 1 So remember I said I had a failed attempt at a scone recipe? Well I’ve had two more! I’ve tried a few recipes from various sites which were based primarily on almond flour and they were all pretty awful. A few problems I’ve encountered have been: They were too salty; too dry; the temperature of the oven was too hot and; the texture didn’t resemble a scone at all!

However, after much trial and error and looking at normal scone recipes for reference, I think I finally have a recipe that I’m happy enough with to recommend to you guys. These scones are great for afternoon tea or for breakfast on the go and are packed full of good fats. Remember, you only need a small scone to feel satisfied as the nut flour makes them very filling!

Paleo Apricot Scones(Makes 12)
1 scone contains approximately 160 calories, 12g carbohydrates, 11g fat and 4g protein.

Ingredients
100g of almond flour
60g coconut flour
1tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt (literally a tiny pinch!)
60g dried apricots (or your preferred fruit)
50g coconut oil (frozen) or clarified butter (cold)
150mls of unsweetened coconut or almond milk
1 egg, whisked
2 tblsp of raw honey
1 tsp vanilla essence

Directions
1.Preheat oven to 160oC.
2.Line baking tray with grease-proof paper.
3.Mix flours, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl.
4.Rub coconut oil/butter into flour until it forms small pea-size balls.
5.Fold in apricots.
6.In a separate bowl mix milk, egg, honey and vanilla.
7.Mix wet ingredients into dry with a spatula to form a ball. The mixture should be on the wet side and a bit sticky to hold.
8.Pat down dough on a lightly floured surface. Use a cookie cutter to cut out scones and place on baking tray. (These should be neat scones, not massive like the ones you get in cafes!)
9.Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on the outside.
10.Eat warm with some butter for best results!

scones 2

Enjoy!

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Paleo(ish!) Dark Chocolate and Cherry Brownies

brownies 2After a few weeks firmly off the paleo-wagon, I’m ready to feel good again and get back to eating well. I finally got round to experimenting with some Paleo baking this weekend. I love having something in a tin I can pull out for when guests drop in over the weekend and it’s even better if I can eat it too!

I tried some scone and brownie recipes. The scones failed miserably and tasted pretty much like crap so it’s back to the drawing board on that one and I won’t inflict them on you here. However, I think I nailed an awesome brownie recipe which I’d like to share with you today! There are plenty of recipes for Sweet-Potato Brownies online and this is my version. I love fruit with dark chocolate so I’ve added some dark cherries to this but you could really add any dried unsweetened fruit you like. Give it a try and let me know if you like them!

Paleo Dark Chocolate and Cherry Brownies
Makes 15-18

Ingredients
•2 small sweet potatoes
•3 eggs, beaten
•50g coconut oil, melted
•100g raw honey
•3.5 tablespoons coconut flour
•2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
•80g dark chocolate (min 80%), chopped (or chocolate chips)
•60g unsweetened dried cherries
•0.25 teaspoon baking powder
•0.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
•0.5 teaspoon cinnamon
•pinch of salt

Brownies before the oven!

Brownies before the oven!

Instructions
1.Preheat oven to 200oC.
2.Bake sweet potatoes for 30 mins.
3.Remove and turn oven down to 180oC.
4.Peel sweet potatoes and mash in a bowl.
5.Add eggs, coconut oil, honey and vanilla to the sweet potato and mix.
6.Combine coconut flour, cocoa, chocolate, cherries, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Then add to sweet potato and mix well.
7.Pour batter into a lined baking tray.
8.Bake for 30-35 minutes.
9.Allow to cool and cut into squares
10.Eat those bad boys up (but try not to eat the whole batch in one go)!

Brownies after the oven!

Brownies after the oven!

Enjoy!

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Paleo Patrick’s Day Brunch and The Anti-Paleo Weekend!

I am currently in New York for the final conference of the Arms Trade Treaty Negotiations, which kick off tomorrow but, before I start working, I’ve been spending some time with my lovely sister who moved to the Big Apple in November. We have been eating our way around Manhattan and I have to confess it has pretty much turned into the anti-paleo weekend! But before I give you a run down of some of the tasty treats we’ve been having I wanted to share an idea for a Paleo friendly Paddy’s Day brunch!

Green eggs and Ham

So, if you google ‘paleo green eggs and ham’ you’ll find some good recipes for creating paleo dishes based on the famous Dr Seuss rhyme. My own personal favourite is from PrimalPalate.com, which involves bacon, eggs, avocado and kale pesto. This is delish and the pesto really adds umph to your standard bacon and eggs brekkie and the green, white and orange colour palate will totally get you geared up for the pararde and festivities! I challenge you to make it look pretty though…this was mine:

Tasty but not so pretty Green Eggs and Ham!

Tasty but not so pretty Green Eggs and Ham!

Head over to http://www.primalpalate.com/recipe/green-eggs-and-ham/ for the recipe!

Dear Paleo Diary,
Let’s just say, I will probably be in need of another Whole30 after this trip! I have thrown caution to the wind this weekend and have decided to give myself a complete weekend of indulgence!

We began our culinary journey at Balthazar a must visit French restaurant at 80 Spring St in Soho. I had Skate fish and sister had the Moules Frites. The skate was perfectly cooked and was served with cauliflower florets, sweet red peppers, capers and sultanas. So good! Sister wrangled me into sharing a bread pudding which I was a little scared of given I haven’t been eating bread or dairy, but it was very light and was the perfect end to the meal. I also had my first alcoholic drink in a long time… A Brigette, on the waitresses recommendation. It was a beautifully refreshing drink of vodka, cucumber and mint.

This morning we ate at Rare on 37th and Lexington. This place is well worth a visit for breakfast. I meant to take a picture when the dishes came out but in my eagerness to get stuck into my brioche French toast with bacon and maple syrup, it slipped my mind! Sister had the all American bacon and eggs with fried potatoes. The portions were generous and the service was great!

image

The last spot I wanted to recommend is Melissa’s Cupcakes beside Grand Central on 42nd, though I think there are a few around. These were literally the tastiest baked treats I’ve ever had! They come in miniature buns so you can try a few different flavours… It’s still really hard to pick though! We went for red velvet, chocolate peanut butter cups, chocolate chip pancake and the March special, caramel apple. You can see how happy they made me!

However, as you might expect, I’m sitting here feeling rather ill tonight. Not unbearably so, but bad enough to be looking forward to going paleo again! Obviously, the pizza slice and few drinks we had tonight to celebrate St Patricks day hasn’t helped either! The effects of sugar, gluten and dairy on my body are pretty instantaneous and I have no doubt I function better without them. For now though, I’m happy out after enjoying a few of New York’s tastiest treats!

Shout out
I met a very nice guy on the flight over and he’s in New York to run the half marathon tomorrow with 2 of his friends. We had great chats about paleo and fitness so I wanted to wish Garrett and everyone running tomorrow morning the best of luck!

Happy St Patrick’s Day Folks!

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