Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Tuesday 29th November 2016 - Increase Serotonin Naturally

After a week of birthday celebrations, getting through lots of customer orders in preparation for Christmas, birthday gifts and even a special 50th Vegan wedding anniversary cake, life has been busy.

I can't complain as I love being busy and knowing that I can be of service in offering a wide variety of food/baked/raw goods that suit many dietary requirements is most satisfying.

Moving on from this, I came across a great article about how to increase Serotonin levels naturally and I for one, could do with a little more of this as I don't get the opportunity to spend as much time as I would like to outdoors in the natural light and fresh air as well as not getting in tune with myself as much as I like, although I do religiously keep a journal which I update daily (full of things I am grateful for, blessed with, plans and goals and so much more).

So here goes:


1. Enjoy The Light

When you’re exposed to sunlight (and even just daylight on a cloudy or cold day), your brain starts to produce more serotonin in response. So, make a habit of going for a walk for 10-20 minutes each day. You may also find that this time gives you a great opportunity to reflect and plan for the day ahead.  I love getting out for my walk first thing in the morning (weather permitting) where it gives me the chance to take in the great fresh air, the quiet surrounding me when most people are still asleep), clean for the day ahead both for business as well as food and recipe planning and simply clearing the mind of the night time cloudy/fogginess!

2. Cut Back On Sugar

People with low serotonin often report intense cravings for sugar, which may be your body’s way of signaling that you need more of this crucial neurotransmitter (because sugar produces insulin, which then provides some of the building blocks required for serotonin). 
However, this isn’t a good way to stabilize your body, as it increases your risk of illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and sparking a crash in mood further down the line.  A good recommendation to get a 'sugar hit' is to enjoy natural sugars like enjoying a fresh glass of mixed fruit and vegetable juices, making some fresh raw energy balls which contain good healthy sugars (dates) and fats (walnuts/cashes/hazelnuts etc.) for that healthy treat.  

Some great Vitamin B food choices

3. Get More B Vitamins

All B vitamins help to support good mental and physical health, but vitamins B6 and B12 are particularly famous for improving mood thanks to their ability to boost the amount of serotonin in your brain. 


4. Actively Work On Positivity

It isn’t just your treatment of your body that can increase serotonin levels in your brain—psychologists have discovered that deliberately establishing and maintaining a positive outlook leads to large gains in serotonin. 
For example, keeping a gratitude journal, spending time with good friends and listening to soothing music can all help to regulate your neurotransmitters and assist in alleviating depression.
Some other ways of working on positivity include:
  • Getting rid of negative influences (including toxic people)
  • Using affirmations – both write them down and say them out loud)
  • Smile more
  • When you talk about your problems, focus on the solutions more than the problem itself
  • Listen more to happy songs instead of sad ones
  • Read positive books and watch funny films (as opposed to horror films and thrillers)
  • Meditate regularly (ideally morning and evening to both charge you and relax you either end of the day)


5. Add More Protein To Your Diet

The protein content of foods for meat eaters are eggs, cheese and lean meats which can dramatically boost the levels of tryptophan in your blood, thereby leaving you with more serotonin. However if you are VEGAN/Vegetarian or Lacto-intolerant, the good proteins you can add to your diet are:  Avocado, lentils, grains, beans, nuts and seeds (see No 6 below for more benefits on nuts and seeds).


6. Load Up On Nuts And Seeds

All nuts and seeds are a source of tryptophan, which is an amino acid needed to synthesize serotonin. This means you choose your favorites as a snack, and reap the associated benefits—not only for mood, but also for your heart, respiratory system and cell production. A handful of nuts also gives you a nice dose of fiber, keeping your digestive system in good working order.


7. Book A Massage

While everyone knows that a massage feels great on tired muscles, fewer are aware that this form of healing touch has a direct impact on serotonin levels. This benefit comes from the fact that massages reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that blocks your brain from producing the right amount of serotonin. In fact, research suggests as much as a 31% reduction in cortisol, leading to a much better mood. 


8. Get Plenty Of Exercise

As well as going for walks to elevate the amount of sun exposure you get per week, do your best to engage in regular cardiovascular exercise. The endorphins produced by a thorough workout immediately make you feel in better spirits, partly due to changes in serotonin levels. 
Plus, people who exercise frequently appear to have stronger immune systems, so you’ll be helping your body fight disease as well.


9. Meditate

Finally, it’s worth noting that a regular meditation practice is a wonderful way to keep your serotonin at the right level. At this stage, there are dozens of credible studies proving the connection between meditation and psychological health, so you have multiple reasons to stick to this habit. 
If you haven’t tried transcendental meditation (TM), now might be a good time to start—it has a particularly potent stimulating influence on happiness, as it elevates levels of 5-HIAA (which are necessary for the production of serotonin). Like massage, meditation also cuts levels of cortisol and leaves you feeling much calmer.

Serotonin information courtesy of:  http://www.thelawofattraction.com

This is a great way to see where we can make some changes to maximise benefit into our own lives, track it by keeping some form of journal and regularly track your own progress.  When you review the past week/month/3 months and see how far you have actually come, its positively joyous and will give you a sense of accomplishment, achievement and most of all gratitude of all that you have put your mind to achieving.  I highly recommend making a start, even my taking on 1 of the above steps and see how you feel in a months time. 
I would love to hear more from you about your experiences, your goals, and what you feel you have put your mind to and achieved.
So just to share with my plans and goals for the coming week, from the list above I have planned for the following:
-  a massage (booked for tomorrow)
-  regularly meditating (I aim to have about 20 minutes first thing in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening with some soft music playing in the background just to help me stay focused)
-  walking:  although it is cold and frosty in the morning, which can in turn be quite slippery, I leave my walks until around lunch time, especially on a sunny day, when I know I can go and walk safely and get some fresh air (regardless of how cold it is) and take in the beautiful scenery of the local streets and parks.
For now.......this is my great place to start.  Have  a great week x

If your thoughts are pure, it becomes easy to say what you think and do what you say!


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Wednesday 16th November 2016 - Turmeric, My Miracle Cure

Now the days are getting darker by 4.30pm and the weather is getting colder and I for one suffer physically at the hands of the cold weather.

I don't have arthritis however I do suffer with long standing lower back pain as well as a more recent injury to my right ankle and find that when the weather is cold, the room temperature is cold, these weaker areas suffer.  However, after following a strict diet of adding turmeric to my fresh juices, porridge, foods and hot milk drinks, the inflammation in my body is reducing and the pain factor that was previously between 8-9/10 is now between 2-4 depending on what my activity levels have been throughout the day.

I have mentioned in an earlier blog the importance of moving, whether it be walking, swimming, jogging or more intense forms of exercise, the body NEEDS to move.  This helps in keeping the body mobile and flexible and aids in the reduction of inflammation in the body as well as reducing the pressure in the head on the onset of a headache/migraine (works wonders for me)!

I love to walk and do this both for pleasure and health.  It is at the moment one form of exercise I can do comfortable that doesn't irritate any of my joints and of course keeps me mobile, and aids in my gentle weight loss journey of course paired with eating a healthy balanced diet.



So going back to my favourite spice = TURMERIC, I wanted to share with you some delicious recipes of how you can add this into your diet.

Turmeric is deeply golden in colour and is used in ancient medicinal practices such as Ayurveda.  This punchy spice has the backing of modern scientific studies that verify its wide-reaching preventative and functional health benefits.  This comes from naturally occurring chemical compounds known as curcuminoids, the most significant of which is curcumin, which gives it all its incredible positive molecular benefits.

Curcumin has a justifiable rep as a potent anti-inflammatory that research shows targets and blocks NF-kB, a molecule that switches on inflammatory mediators and has been linked to chronic diseases such as arthritis.

There is one caveat though - you need to eat turmeric with black pepper when cooking as it needs this partner to be properly absorbed or it pretty much goes right through the digestive tract.  It's also best eaten with a healthy oil.  Curry works well (made with coconut oil) or add to salad dressings with sesame oil, black pepper and lemon juice, or in fresh juices and smoothies, always with a pinch of black pepper.

So here are some tasty ways for you to add turmeric into your diet.

FRESH GREEN BREAKFAST JUICE




2 servings
Ingredients:

8 stalks of celery
2 green apples
1/2 cucumber
1/2 fennel bulb
1/8 tsp of ground black pepper
1 inch fresh ginger root
2 inch fresh turmeric root
1/2 lemon/lime (remove skin)
2 cups of organic washed spinach

Juice all the ingredients except the spinach.  In a blender add the spinach and fresh juice, blend and enjoy.

**Some delicious variations:  add kale instead of spinach, add beetroot instead of apple, add carrot instead of apple, add orange instead of apple.

BEDTIME MILK




Serves 1
Ingredients:

1 cup of Almond or Soya milk
1/2 cup of water
1 inch turmeric grated or 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 tsp of ground black pepper
1/8 tsp of ground cinnamon
Sweetener to taste (I use Stevia or you can use 1 tbsp maple syrup or agave syrup)

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan and gently whisk and bring to the boil.

**Some delicious variations:  add 2 tsp of cacao powder into the mix to make a warming hot chocolate.

Serve and enjoy.

Here is the link to my website where I share with you a truly tasty Butternut Squash Curry which contains fresh turmeric for that added benefit.

http://virtuosofoods.co.uk/recipes-3/butternut-squash-curry/

Turmeric is also a great addition to any soup, not only for its properties, also for its flavour and colour.

SWEET POTATO, CHILLI & COCONUT SOUP



Serves 4
Ingredients:

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 medium white potato
2 stalks of celery
1 medium carrot
1 medium red chilli
2 inch fresh turmeric root
1/2 tsp coconut oil
1 can coconut milk

Chop all the vegetables into small pieces.  Grate the turmeric.  Saute all the vegetables in coconut oil for about 10 minutes on medium heat.  Add some boiling water to cover the bottom of the pan so the vegetables do not burn and saute for a further 10 minutes.  Then add 6 cups of boiling water to cover all the vegetables and simmer until tender (about 20 minutes).  Add salt, black pepper to taste.

Lastly, add a can of coconut milk, bring to the boil and then turn off the heat.  Blend the mixture until smooth.  Serve with a garnish of fresh coriander.

So nutritious, colourful and tasty.

**One thing worth mentioning - turmeric thins the blood so should be avoided by people taking warfarin or other blood thinners, or for anyone with a condition that could be harmed by taking blood thinners.**

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Thursday 10th November 2016 - BOWEN Therapy

Although it has been a few days since my last Blog update, it seems like it's been a long time.  Since I last wrote we have had the US Presidential Elections, which seems to have taken over everything, from TV, to discussions, to involvement and now that it is over, whatever your views were/are about who will be president, it sure is good to get back to 'normal'.

With this in mind, our kitchens have been really focused on creating some delicious raw balls/bites due to high demand.  At the beginning of October my personal goal was to focus on promoting these raw treats to businesses with a view of the owners taking pride in offering a delicious alternative and healthy treat to both employees and clients.  It has been an honour to work with 2 mid size companies who have taken on these raw treats with open arms and as a result, these treats have been enjoyed by all who have had the opportunity to taste them resulting in some additional orders.  So a big thank you to Raj and his partners in Leicester for taking our 'balls' on and for promoting them with such passion.


  


Needless to say, after preparing for this order, me and my little elves deserved a day of yesterday.  I made some delicious food and a heavenly Raw Key Lime 'cheese'cake, which I will share the recipe with you a little later on in this blog.  I also treated myself (my back, next and arms) to Bowen Therapy to help restore my muscles and nerves back to pain free movement.

If you haven't heard of Bowen Therapy and suffer with any kind of muscular/sciatic type pains, then I highly recommend this form of treatment.  Anyone who knows me knows the long standing battle I have suffered with lower back pain and more recently with a painful ankle/heel pain and after years of standing whilst I had Cafe Virtuoso, the impact was immense in so much that I couldn't move with flexibility easily or stand for longer than 5 minutes.  I swear by Bowen Therapy in so much that I can now move around easily and can stand longer than 5 minutes and with this therapy and walking regularly, I am in a much better place physically than I have been in the last year, over the last 4 or so months.

The primary benefit of Bowen Therapy is relief from muscular-skeletal conditions but also for other ailments including:

  • reduction or relief from pain, including sciatica.
  • reduced stress.
  • enhanced mobility.
  • increased energy.
  • enhanced immune system.
  • improved circulation.
  • lymphatic drainage.
  • carpal tunnel syndrome.


I also suffer with occasional migraines and this therapy has addressed this area in so much as reducing the regularity of experiencing migraines and when I feel the onset of pressure or aches, knowing how I can deal with them through the Bowen technique.

If anyone is interested in this type of therapy, I can highly recommend my therapist who is Bedford (UK) based so please get in touch for more information on this.

Moving onto to food related items, as the cold weather is setting in, the foods I'll be eating more of during this month of November are the following:

-  Avocado:  being a vegetarian, avocado is a great source of protein and healthy fat and combined with the right ingredients, can fuel your body.  Avocado has high levels of potassium (more than bananas) and is a great source of fibre.  I enjoy this wonderful fruit (yes avocado is technically a fruit not a vegetable) in energising smoothies in the morning, I love them in my sushi rolls and enjoy them on Sourdough toast mixed with lemon juice, salt, black pepper and dried chilli flakes which is oh so warming.



-  Dates:  as you can imagine, making lots of raw energy balls and bites, this little fruit is heavily used in my kitchen.  Dates are a good source of various vitamins and minerals and a wonderful source of energy, natural sugar and fibre.



-  Mushrooms:  I love mushrooms, in all its different varieties and flavours.  My most favourite is Shiitake mushrooms.  I use this type in particular as a meat substitute as it has similar textures, great powerful flavour and is versatile.  They are high in B vitamins and serve as a good source of vitamin D.  They support cardiovascular health and has some evidence in improving energy levels and reducing inflammation as well as supporting the immune system.  I enjoy these little beauties at least 2-3 times a week and my favourite dishes are: 1)  Miso and Mushroom Soup 2) Coconut cream of Mushroom soup 3)  Mushroom Risotto

  



-  Turmeric:  I absolutely LOVE this root vegetable - not because of the flavour but purely because of its benefits and properties.  I indulge in this vegetable in capsule format daily to help my body reduce inflammation (physically, muscular and headache/migraines) as well as so many other benefits.  It helps aid digestion, is great for the skin and is full of natural nutrients.  I add the root into my fresh juices, grate it into soups, stews and curries and enjoy them sometimes with almond milk, cinnamon and coconut sugar for a warming nighttime drink.

So going back to sharing a delicious recipe with you, here it my recipe for Raw Key Lime 'Cheese'Cake

Raw Key Lime 'Cheese'Cake, GF & Vegan


For the crust
2 cups walnuts
1 cup chopped dates
Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
Process the crust ingredients in a blender with an ‘s blade’ until the mixture comes together.  Then empty into a 9″ cake pan (removable bottom is best type to use) and press down until the crust is firmly in place.
Filling
2 cups unsalted cashews (soaked overnight or for at least 2 hours minimum)
1 large avocado
1/2 cup of raw coconut oil (melted)
1/4 cup agave syrup/maple syrup
4 soft limes (grate the zest of 2 of the limes and juice all 4)
Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until all the ingredients have broken down, combined and is of a smooth and creamy texture.  This may take about 10-15 minutes so be patient.
TIP:
1)  Do not add any water even if you feel the mixture is a little thick.  This is fine.
2)  Blend the cashews first into a powder and then commence with blending all the other ingredients – (you don’t have to do this however it gives you a head start to the blending process).
3)  You can add more or less lime juice, depending on how tangy you like your pie!  I love tangy, so I personally add juice from 6 limes and it is ‘wow’!
Once all the ingredients are blended well into a creamy texture, empty into the cake pan, smooth over with a knife or back of a spoon, sprinkle on the lime zest and put in the freezer for a couple of hours.
When you want to serve the pie, take out of the freezer and thaw for about 45 minutes (when you are entertaining at home, when your guests arrive, take the pie out of the freezer & thaw.  Once thawed, slice and put onto plates and you can put back into the fridge until you are ready to serve).
The pie will keep in the fridge for 2 days and in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.  This recipe will also work well as 8 mini pies using a muffin tin.
To enhance your dessert, you can serve with some coconut cream.
Topping
1 can of coconut milk
zest from 1 lime and juice from 1/2 of the lime.
Open the can of coconut cream and gently remove the cream from the surface into a bowl.
Add the zest and juice from the lime and gently mix.
With a teaspoon, make little quenelles of the cream and put on top of your pie before serving.  Truly scrumptious!
With the rest of the coconut milk, you can use this in soups for a delicious flavour (see above for some of our soup recipes which uses coconut milk).
I hope you have enjoyed todays blog.  If you have any comments or suggestions, tips, recipes you have tried and tested and would like to share, please let me know and share with me.

Until soon, I leave you with my thought for today.







**PLEASE NOTE:  all input and updates shared with you in my blog are my findings, ideas and suggestions and recommendations are based on personal opinion.  I am not medically qualified or trained however have worked with food and nutrition for many years and recommend based on my own findings.  Before following any specific diet or trying new foods and ingredients, please check with your health practitioner/doctor especially if you have any diagnosed illness/ailments**

www.virtuosofoods.co.uk



Monday, 7 November 2016

Monday 7th November - 2016....Eat Well

After a 'festive' few days, what with Halloween coming and going, having fun on Bonfire Saturday just gone and spreading the tastiness and goodness of my delicious raw energy balls around in Bedford, I am gearing up towards a packed few weeks preparing for Christmas treats heading towards the most wonderful time of the year............



As you may (or may not yet) know......I will be heading to warmer climates for Christmas so Virtuoso Foods will be taking a well earnt break, our last working day being 13th December, returning 16th January 2017 therefore, if you would like to place any orders leading up to Christmas for some tasty festive cakes and treats or indeed anything else from our range on our website then please do this sooner rather than later because although we work very hard, both me, my staff and our kitchens can only cope with so much at any one time :)



 Since November 1st set in, the weather and temperature has certainly taken a turn towards freezing.  I guess we can't complain to much as we had quite a pleasant and warm October.  Now the evenings are getting darker earlier and the cold is seeping through all the cracks in our homes, what better way than to warm up with delicious hot drinks and soups.

It is now definitely the time for soups and I have some wonderful recipes for you to try out at home and I promise, you will not be disappointed.

HOT CHOCOLATE (VEGAN & GF)



~ Serves 2
2 cups of milk (you can use soya, almond, coconut or milk of your choice)

4 tsp raw cacao powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Sugar to taste (I used 2 tbsp of coconut sugar however you can use pure stevia, agave syrup or maple syrup). 
Put all the ingredients in a pan and gently bring to the boil.

Absolutely delicious, creamy and satisfying.


CREAM OF MUSHROOM SOUP (VEGAN & GF)



~ Serves 4
2 cups of mushroom, chopped into small pieces
1 can of coconut milk
6 cups of vegetable stock (homemade:  recipe can be found a few days earlier in this blog)
1/2 cup of chopped coriander
1 cup of cooked mixed lentils (I use a pre-packed mix which contains brown lentils, red lentils, red grain rice, green split peas).  Some pre-packed soup mixes contain barley so be careful if you are gluten intolerant.  It is very easy to make your own mixes from your store cupboard for future use.

Boil the potato up in the stock water for about 30 minutes.
Saute the mushrooms in 1/8 tsp of coconut oil for about 10 minutes.
Add mushrooms into the stock water.
Add the lentil mix.
Add coconut milk.
Add coriander (keep some aside for garnish).
Simmer gently for 5-10 minutes and serve with some delicious warm crusty rolls or gluten free raw crackers.


CABBAGE, BROCCOLI & CAULIFLOWER BAKE (VEGAN & GF)





~  Serves 4
1 floret of cauliflower (cut into chunks)
1 floret of broccoli (cut into chunks)
2 mini cabbages (cut into half)

Roux sauce
3 tbsp of sunflower oil
2 tbsp of gluten free white plain flour
1/4 cup soya/almond milk
Pinch of salt & pepper
1/2 cup of grated cheese (I use Violife vegan cheese which is nice and creamy)

In a small saucepan heat the oil, add flour and bring together until the oil has dissolved then slowly add the milk until the sauce becomes creamy.  If there are any lumps, just sieve the mix through a sieve.  Add salt and pepper and the cheese and then pour the sauce mix over the vegetables and bake in the over for 30 minutes on 170oC.  You can serve this over rice or quinoa with a delicious mixed salad.




So these recipes should give you a nice mixture of delicious warming foods and drink you can make at home, all quick and easy and very tasty.

Also don't forget that regardless of whether the weather is warm or cold, stay hydrated by drinking at least 2 litres of water a day.  During the cold season you can use the water intake making delicious fresh hot teas....for example Lemon & Ginger tea.  

Add juice from a 1/4 or 1/2 lemon and grate a 1/2 inch fresh ginger, top with hot water and then add a sweetener of your preference (I add manuka honey which also assists with coughs  colds and chestiness)............you can also sprinkle some cinnamon on the top for that added warmth and flavour.

Enjoy and please share with me some of your delicious recipes and tips for making warming hot drinks during the winter.

Have a lovely day xxx


www.virtuosofoods.co.uk



Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Wednesday 2nd November 2016 - Sharing Facts

Good day to you all. What a beautiful sunny morning greeted us this morning, although there was heavy frost everywhere and temperatures dipping to as lows as 4oC so cold however now we have glorious sunshine, frost melted away and warm sun rays shining on us.



We certainly have stepped into November weather wise and I am excited because not only is it my birthday celebration month, it also sees us getting closer to Christmas (52 days to be exact, not that anyone is counting are they?).  This year I have decided to spend it away from the UK, in sunny LA with my family.  It will be some what warmer the temperatures you will experience here in the UK although still somewhat chillier and I am guessing a little different in terms of atmosphere, routine, food, activities etc.  However I am looking forward to these few weeks away.  Although our online 'shop' will be closed over the festive period, I will still be updating you on Social Media and of course via my blog with delicious foods and drink recipes, breathtaking sceneries, update on activities and goings on plus so much more so keep tuned in!

With all this in mind, November also sees the celebration of Thanksgiving, which although isn't a big thing in the UK, it is heavily celebrated in the USA, it should be more celebrated in the UK.

It is not only about getting together and sharing good company food and drink, it is about being 'truly thankful' for all that we have in our lives.  When I personally come to think of all that I have, all I have accomplished and achieved, how far I have come, the wonderful people I have in my life I acknowledge all of this and on a daily basis, give thanks to the Universe for seeing me through life as a fortunate being.

Though I have days of self doubt and lack of motivation, I pick myself up and see the good things I have in my life and am truly thankful for all that I do have therefore, although there is one day dedicated to giving thanks and celebrating, 'Giving Thanks' should be acknowledged and shared mindfully daily.

This picture says it all for me:



I love reading and came across a wonderful article this morning which shared some 'healthy tips' into little ways to make the month healthier, which I wanted to share with you.

As the weather is getting colder, it is important to keep the body fuelled with the right foods and drinks and as well as focusing on the physical aspects of keeping healthy, the mental aspect is also important.

1)  BE MINDFUL
Researchers have measured a significant association between regular 'everyday' mindfulness and/or meditation and an increased likelihood of healthy blood glucose levels.

2)  DRINKING WATER
Increasing your water consumption by just 1/one % could significantly lower your intake of calories and sodium.  Daily recommended intake is 8 glasses (approx 2 litres) of water.

3)  EATING RAW
Eating RAW foods can not only increase your energy levels, it can help improve digestion and improve your natural skin glow.  However eating RAW is good during the first half of the day, and then from about 3/4pm onwards, enjoying a fully or lightly cooked mixture of foods as the digestive systems starts to reduce its function towards the end of the day.

A delicious raw salad recipe I regularly make and enjoy is Avocado Pesto Noodles.  Not only is it filling, it is tasty and satisfy.

Continuing on with my 'CHALLENGE 5', here is the recipe for you to enjoy:

Avocado Pesto Noodles



Serves 4
Ingredients:

(1) 2 medium avocados
(2) Juice from 1 lemon
(3) 1/2 cup fresh basil (keep a few leaves aside for garnish)
(4) 4 courgettes (spiralised)
(5) 1/2 cup of cashew nuts, soaked overnight (optional:  adds an additional creaminess to the pesto as well as being a good source of fat and protein).

Salt & pepper to taste

In a blender, mix the avocado, lemon, basil, cashews, salt & pepper until it forms a creamy texture.

Spiralise the courgettes into a big bowl.

Mix the 2 into each other really well and serve either as a starter or main meal.  This is great as a delicious lunch time dish, light and fully satisfying.

You can serve with some salad leaves and juicy cherry tomatoes if you like.

Try this at home.  If you don't have a spiraliser, high street supermarkets now sell different types of vegetables already spiralled for your convenience and you can play with different flavours (courgette, cucumber, squash).

So with all this in mind, I will leave you with todays thought........x

Don’t just accept where you are at in life.
If you want to be better, do better.
if you want to be more, do more.
It’s all on you.
Do it and do it today.
In fact, start NOW.
(Courtesy of: Thought for Today, found on FB, Laguna, USA)

www.virtuosofoods.co.uk





Monday, 31 October 2016

Monday 31st October 2016 - Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone.



I know the streets are going to be busy with people trick or treating so we have prepared a delicious bowl of goodies, from satsumas, sweeties and raw energy balls for the health conscious kids.  So have fun, stay wrapped up warm and keep healthy :)






I think offering children a choice of treats is wonderful because they get the opportunity to see that there is always more on offer than the 'regular' sweets and snacks sold heavily and on display at all the high street superstores.


Continuing on from the theme of our 'Challenge 5' recipes, today my mum made a delicious Tofu Burger and it was so good, I wanted to share the recipe with you.

Tofu Burgers

(1)  250g firm tofu (mashed with a fork)
(2)  4 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
(3)  1/2 cup of chopped coriander
(4)  1/4 tsp cumin
(5)  4 tbsp flour to coat the patties (or you can use gluten free flour or polenta)

2 tbsp sunflower oil/coconut oil for frying
Salt & pepper to taste
4 tbsp of water or milk (of you choice) if mixture is too dry.

Mix all the ingredients together and make patties to the size you like.
Fry the patties in a frying pan for about 4-5 minutes on each side and then transfer to a baking tin and bake in the over at 180oC for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Tip:  If you don't want to fry, then you can make balls of the mixture and press down in a greased muffin tin and bake in the over at 190oC for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Both ways are delicious.



The weekend has seen us being really busy with baking and making goodies for both new and existing customers.  We have been making loads and loads of raw energy balls for customer orders and I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to all of you who have placed orders.  I think it is wonderful that most of the orders were from mummies who wanted to offer not only their own children but other children a healthier option of treats over the Halloween festive period.  THANK YOU




As it has been a hectic few days, I also wanted to say a big thank you to my mum and some friends who have volunteered their time to help me and my business over the weekend and with this in mind I wanted to share this lovely quote from Stevie Wonder, all about Love and Love needing Love.

Have a wonderful week and until soon xxx


" Love's in need of love today; don't delay; send yours in right away...... did you ever think that Love would be in need of love ? "

Friday, 28 October 2016

Friday 28th October 2016 - Being Prepared

It was an early morning wake up call this morning with lots to do and plan for today and over the weekend.

As Halloween is fast approaching, we have been popular with orders for our Raw Energy Balls and Bites.  I am so happy that more and more people are switching onto wanting healthier tastier treats to offer not only their own children, but other children visiting their door steps during this Halloween!  Not only will the children be able to enjoy delicious and varied raw balls and bites but their parents will also be able to devour our treats.  So it's not too late to place your orders for Halloween, for work (spoil you employees/employers and colleagues), your kitchen mantlepiece for turning to for the tasty snack and of course treat someone to that perfect gift, an alternative and perfectly delicious replacement to the usual box of chocolates you are used to buying!

Yesterday I attended the 'Busy Women Networking' lunch which was really good as I got to meet lots of women from all walks of business and they all loved my raw energy ball tasters I took along with me.  Lots of new business leads to chase up on and looking forward to networking with them in the future.

Today I will be making loads of energy balls and bites, as well as raw crackers and a vegan victoria sponge, a vegan chocolate cake and lots of cupcakes for a childrens birthday party.  As you can see it is going to be a busy day and weekend ahead and with this in mind, I need to stay energised and plan well to keep the body fuelled the right way.

To kick start the day I will be enjoying some porridge with banana and blueberries to fuel me throughout the morning, after my brisk morning walk (40 minutes).


I have prepared my fruit and veg for making juice later this morning of which I will use the pulp to make raw crackers and I have also prepared the ingredients to make a pea & sweetcorn chowder for lunch.  As I always say, preparation is KEY to the success of healthy eating, making sure you have the right balanced foods ready when your body needs it.

Apple, celery, carrot & ginger - ingredients for an energising juice


Ingredients for Pea & Corn Chowder

Pea & Corn Chowder (Vegan & GF)


For anyone who would like to make my delicious creamy soup, here is the recipe, continuing with Challenge 5:

Serves 4
(1)  2 medium potatoes diced
(2)  1 medium red pepper diced
(3)  1 carrot diced into small pieces
(4)  1 cup of frozen mixed sweetcorn and peas
(5)  1 can of coconut milk
6 cups of pre-prepared stock (recipe in my blog from Wednesday 26th October).
1/4 tsp coconut oil

Instruction:

In a saucepan gently saute all the vegetables, except peas and sweetcorn, in coconut oil, stirring for about 10 minutes.  Add the stock and let the mix simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  If you want the soup to be thick, you can gently blend the vegetables now.  Add sweetcorn and peas, simmer for another 5 minutes before adding the coconut milk.  Simmer for another 5-10 minutes before the soup is ready to serve.

This soup is truly tasty and decadent, vegan and gluten free.

Serve with raw crackers or crusty warm bread.

Now off to work we go.  I wish you all a great taste filled with healthy foods and treats. x


www.virtuosofoods.co.uk
Orders now being taken for Christmas........

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Wednesday 26th October 2016 - Decluttering! Challenge 5 begins....


As Autumn sets in, the weather is definitely starting to get colder and needing more layers first thing in the morning for my walks, however the views everywhere are stunning, what with the leaves fallen all over the ground, in their abundance of different colours, it sure is breathtaking.

View at 7.20am


View at 2pm

View at 2pm
Yesterday morning was a quiet day in our Virtuoso kitchens so we utilised the time to clear out the shed in the garden which was over stuffed with lots of unused and un-needed items.  It took 3 back breaking hours to clear it out, clean it and then reload it, this time in neat areas so next time we are looking for something, we know where it can be found - that is the theory anyway!

Through the decluttering process, I came across a wonderful spiritual book which reminded me on how being simple is great for the soul, the body and the mind.  This took me back to a challenge I did some time ago where I would only cook with 5 ingredients.  The benefit of this was to think less about all the ingredients needed to create a dish as well as using up all veggies, herbs and foods already in the fridge before they go off and giving them each their moment of glory without over crowding them!

"CHALLENGE 5"

So for the next few days I want to re-start the 'Challenge5' cooking project for myself and of course anyone else who would like to join me in this.

I will be posting at least 1 main dish a day focused on using only 5 ingredients, without losing any taste or flavour whilst still ensuring a good balance in all the nutrients we need.

However there are some tricks to maximise the use of your 5 ingredients.

For example, I cook fresh EVERY DAY, at least ONE MAIN dish daily.

Therefore, being vegetarian, I use a lot of veggies and make a huge pot of fresh vegetable stock once a week, which I use throughout the week for different dishes.  This helps when bringing fresh flavours to your dishes.

FREE additions you can add to your dish in addition to the 5 ingredients:
-  Stock
-  Oil (any you wish to use for cooking i.e. sunflower, coconut, olive etc.)
-  Salt & Pepper are also FREE ingredients you can add to your dish (although be careful as this has already been added to your stock).

I hope this makes sense so far and I haven't lost you :)

TIP 1
So basically my tip for you is to make a big pot of fresh stock.  Here is my recipe:

Fresh Vegetable Stock

In a large sauce pan put the following with 1 tsp of coconut oil:
-  2 medium potatoes, diced
-  2 medium carrots, diced
-  4 stalks of celery sliced thinly
-  1 tsp of black peppercorns
-  Mixed peppers - 1 of each colour (red, green, yellow), diced
-  1/2 small red scotch bonnet pepper sliced into small pieces
-  1 fennel bulb, sliced

*  Saute for about 10 minutes and then add the following and sauté for a further 5 minutes:
-  4 bay leaves
-  1 small bunch of parsley, chopped finely
-  1 tsp Himalayan salt
-  2 tsp Nutritional yeast

Fill the pan up with hot water and turn the heat down to low and let the mixture simmer gently for a couple of hours.

Let the mixture cool and then transfer to a glass tupperware (ideally glass but plastic is fine) and put in the fridge until you are ready to use.

TIP 2
You can blend the stock before you put in the fridge or keep it simply chunky.  The decision is yours and of course will depend on the dishes you will be preparing throughout the week.  If you keep the stock chunky, you can always blend the mixture as and when you want to use it.

TIP 3
You can add any vegetable you like.  Here are some additional options:
-  Parsnips, cabbage, mushrooms, beetroot, mixed herbs (thyme, coriander, fresh turmeric, tarragon, mint etc), butternut squash, kale, spinach, chard and so on.  Whatever you have in the fridge, stick it in the pot.

TIP 4
What the stock can be used to make:
-  Soup, risotto, casseroles, veggie bolognese sauce, veggie chilli, the list is endless.

RECIPE 1
VEGGIE PIE (VEGAN & GF)

Ingredients for 4 servings

(1)  4 large maris piper potatoes (boil in salted water until soft for mash)
-  When the potatoes are ready simply mash with 2-4 ladles of pre-prepared blended stock until the mixture becomes a smooth mash like texture.

(2)  2 medium carrots peeled and diced
(3)  1 cup of frozen peas/ sweetcorn
(4)  1 cup of soya mince (OR 1 cup of brown cooked lentils)
(5)  1 large beef tomato cubed (keeping a few slices for the topping of the pie)

1 tsp of sunflower oil or 1/2 tsp of coconut oil

Instruction:

Gently sauté the carrots for 5 minutes.  Add peas/sweetcorn and mix for another 5 minutes.
Then add the soya mince/lentils and mix for a couple of minutes before adding 2 ladles of pre-pared stock.  Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes whilst all the ingredients come together.  If the mixture is too thick, add another ladle of stock.  Add tomato and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Put the mixture in a glass oven proof dish and cover with the mash potato and then the slices of tomato.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes @ 190oC until the top looks crispy and golden brown.

Serve with a nice green salad and citrusy dressing.

Here is the one I made earlier for lunch.  It was delicious and full of flavour from the stock.


So have a go yourself and please let me have your comments and any tips you can offer me and my readers..............

Now I need to get back to a few admin activities and business planning before 4pm creeps up on me as I have a 'Bowen Therapy' session for work to continue on my lower back and ankle.  I will tell you more about 'Bowen' later this afternoon or tomorrow so stay tuned.

Until soon, I will leave you with todays Thought for Today xx