Self-care and kindness can often come most obviously through food, but is not always the simplest or the most wanted route when we’re tired or feeling agitated or low. When we look back over a few days’ or weeks’ habits we can often gauge if we were “looking after ourselves” or simply following habits that seemed a little easier at the time or had a numbing or self-medicating effect.
Not so kind treats?
We all have those foods that come straight to mind – those that we default to when we are feeling tired, annoyed, upset, hard-done-by or like we deserve a treat. The likelihood is that you have a few to choose from and rotate these on how you are feeling – crisps, chocolate, cake, ice-cream… a particular brand in a particular flavour that just ‘hits the right spot’ – or does it?
These comfort foods are seldom something fabulously good for us (it’s the rare human that treats themselves to a bowl of spinach) and you may or may not be aware of your body’s responses to a concoction of sugar, saturated fat and possibly chemical additives in cakes and sweets. A treat can seem kind at the time, but ultimately does not move us in the direction of self-care and can set up cycles of craving that we don’t want to be going around, as well as contributing to health issues.
Consider these aspects that a ‘quick-fix’ food will give you:
• Sudden, jangling and even jarring rush of energy
• Immediate feeling of instant gratification, but an energy slump several hours later
• Increased cravings for these foods
• Reliance on foods for mood, energy or to simply ‘feel normal’
Further down the line you may recognise any of the following patterns:
• Eating so-called treats until you feel sick
• Not really even sure if you truly enjoy them?
• Feeling a cycle of wanting, having and then regretting
• Blindly eating without even really knowing why
• Feeling defensive about them, even when reading this?!
The foods that you turn to in crisis may well be entrenched in a long-term ‘comfort and reward’ cycle, set up when you were a child and something you turn to when you feel that small voice nagging that you ‘deserve it’ – but do you really deserve to be that detrimental to your health?
The kindness of healthy food
Home is where we can have most control and choice over what we eat. Ensuring we have the ingredients handy to rustle up something that will satisfy taste can be the difference between the healthier choice or defaulting to the jam on toast or bowl of pasta. Keeping foods like fish cakes, good quality veggie burgers or falafel in the freezer means you can always make a meal. Hopefully there are some vegetables or salad hanging around that you can turn to and add a quick and simple dressing to for a light meal or snack.
Here are some dressing and flavouring ideas of ingredients to keep in or buy regularly so you can treat yourself with kindness even when energy or time is low:
• The easiest and quickest dressing is a splash of extra-virgin olive oil and a smaller splash of apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, straight onto the salad
• Olive oil, cider or wine vinegar, Dijon or wholegrain mustard and a tiny bit of good quality honey, mixed together in a jar
• Tahini, equal quantity of water, crushed garlic, juice of half a lemon (or more to taste) and a splash of soy sauce. Add a little bit of chilli too, if you like.
• A good-sized dollop of hummus, baba ganoush or other dips
• Healthy sprinkles: Lightly toasted or raw seeds or nuts, crispy onions, pickled or black garlic, capers, soaked seaweed, anchovies, fennel or cumin seeds, sprinkle of goat’s cheese, a little rock or sea salt
With the dressing applied, a salad will last in the fridge for two consecutive meals, so you could have for lunch, dinner or even breakfast, or dinner and then the following day’s lunch.
The recipes below truly delicious, chosen for their full sensory taste and luxurious feel. They contain key ingredients that you can keep in the house to create other meals, adding up to a larder of flavourings – such as olive oil, sesame oil, tamari, apple cider vinegar – that can easily be used for stir-fries, dressings and other quick meals. They also support health aspects like blood sugar balance, digestive support, immune modulation and liver function, so you can eat with full enjoyment!
GOATS CHEESE, PINE NUTS AND ROCKET STUFFED PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS
This is one of my favourite meals to rustle up for comfort and I never get bored of these juicy, tasty stuffed mushrooms over a few days’ meals. For even more ease you can make the same recipe with pre-made pesto and garlic paste or puree (both are always good to have in the fridge) but the fully homemade version is more tasty and can feel an act of self-care to take the time to prepare.
The mushrooms are great for blood sugar balance and gut support, as well as providing a good ‘fleshy’ texture for the teeth – a satisfying eating experience that vegetarians may feel they sometimes lack.
PREP TIME 10 minutes
COOK TIME 15 minutes
4 Portobello mushrooms
4 tbsp. pine nuts
2 tbsp. sunflower seeds
½ clove garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
8 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
100-150g goats cheese
1. Preheat oven to 200°c/390°F/GM6.
2. Remove stalks from mushrooms and lightly brush off any mud if necessary.
3. Place basil, rocket, 2-3 tbsp. pine nuts, sunflower seeds, lemon, garlic, salt, pepper and cider vinegar and 2-4 tbsp. oil in a blender or food processor and blitz briefly. Add the remaining oil and blitz again until the desired consistency is reached. Adjust seasoning if required.
4. Place the mushrooms gill side up on a baking tray and spoon a tablespoon of pesto per mushroom into the centre.
5. Top each mushroom with 1-2cm thick slice of goat’s cheese, a teaspoon of pine nuts and a sprinkle of pepper.
6. Place on the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes.
Serve with a lightly dressed rocket and watercress herby pesto salad and roasted red onions, beetroot or squash.
These mushrooms will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days or can be frozen and reheated straight from frozen (though please note they may give off a little extra liquid when reheating if frozen).
FENNEL, MANGO AND AVOCADO ASIAN STYLE SALAD
The exciting taste mixture here keeps you wanting this as much as any less healthy comfort food. You can play around with ingredients to your taste or simply as you have in. The dressing can be kept for other salads or steamed vegetables and you can use garlic and ginger pastes or purees for convenience. Both the tamari (wheat-free soy sauce) and sesame oil are great simple stir-fry additions with garlic, ginger and sesame seeds.
PREP TIME 10-15 minutes
For the salad;
1 bulb fennel
1 ripe mango
1 large avocado
½ butterhead lettuce (or 1 little gem lettuce)
10g coriander leaf
5-10g fresh mint
For the dressing;
1 tbsp. mirin (or 3 tsp rice or apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp honey)
1 tbsp. soy sauce (or tamari)
1 tbsp. sesame oil (or ground nut oil)
½ clove of garlic
1 inch ginger root
½ tsp ground pepper
2 tbsp. black and white sesame seeds
1. In a dry frying pan, lightly toast the sesame seeds and set them aside.
2. Prepare the fennel by removing any fibrous outer layers or brown bits then finely slice the fennel, removing the woody core.
3. Cut around the stone of the mango and avocado, scoop from the skins and cut into approximately 1 inch cubes.
4. Squeeze the juice of half a lime over the avocado and toss gently to coat evenly.
5. Finley slice coriander, mint and chilli and place in a bowl with the fennel, mango, avocado and roughly torn washed lettuce leaves.
6. To make the dressing, peel and mince garlic and ginger and add to a small bowl with the remaining dressing ingredients and whisk briefly to combine.
7. Add 2 tbsp. dressing (or more if desired) to the salad and mix together.
Top with a few slices of chilli, fresh picked coriander leaves and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds to serve.
Serve as an accompaniment to summer rolls or topped with soy marinated chicken breast or tofu or some cashew nuts.
This salad is best served fresh but will keep a day in the fridge if the avocado is coated with lime juice but the salad isn’t dressed until serving.
SUMMER ROLLS AND DIPPING SAUCE
Another Asian-style dish, these flavours always lend themselves to feeling satisfied but not overly full. The ingredients all help digestion, especially if you choose the leaves over the rice paper sheet to form the basis of the roll. Once you get used to making rolls like these, it is simple to make with any variation on filling and dressing, also adding ingredients such as chicken, slices of tofu or prawns for a heartier meal.
SERVES 2-4 (MAKES approx. 12)
PREP TIME 30 minutes +
COOK TIME 5 minutes
For the summer rolls;
12 round sheets rice paper (or leaves of spring greens or Savoy cabbage)
1 mooli (kohl rabi or radish)
1 bell pepper (or ½ and ½ for a mix of colours)
¼ red cabbage (or 1-2 beetroots)
10-20 green beans
½-1 mango (or green papaya)
2-3 spring onions
10g thai basil leaves
10g coriander leaf
10g mint leaves
50g roasted cashews (or peanuts)
1-2 tbsp. sesame oil
For the satay;
1 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic
1 inch ginger
1 tbsp. soy sauce (or tamari)
2-3 tbsp. peanut (or other nut) butter
300ml coconut milk
1. This recipe can be made using rice paper or cabbage leaves as the summer roll wrapper. If using rice paper, each sheet needs to be individually soaked for 30 seconds in a plate or wide shallow dish of luke warm water, one at a time as you assemble the rolls. If you are using cabbage leaves as the wrapper these can be blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds and then plunged into cold water as part of the veg prep.
2. Peel the carrot and mooli and cut into thin strips (julienne) a few millimetres thick and about 2.5-3 inches/5-6 cm long.
3. Slice the peppers, red cabbage, mango, spring onions and chilli lengthways to roughly the same thickness and length.
4. Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanche the green beans for one minute before removing from the heat and cooling instantly with cold water. If you are using cabbage leaves for your rolls then blanche them for 30 seconds at the same time as the beans.
5. Pick the herb leaves from their stalks, tear lettuce leaves to about 5cm in diameter, roughly chop the roasted nuts and then assemble all the chopped ingredients each in individual piles ready to construct your summer rolls.
6. Add luke warm water to a raised edge plate or dish which has a base larger than the size of your rice paper discs. On another two dishes (one to build on and one to serve on), lightly grease with sesame oil. Use one plate as the base for assembling your summer rolls on. The oil will prevent the rolls from sticking to the plate or each other. Soak one sheet at a time by submerging it in the water for about 30 seconds, gently remove from the water and smooth out onto the oiled plate.
7. Making one at a time, add the lettuce in the centre of a soaked circle of rice paper and put a few strips of each veg and some herbs and nuts. Try and ensure the mango is resting on the lettuce rather than touching the rice paper as the acidity in the mango will disintegrate the rice paper and prevent making neat rolls. Fold three corners in and over themselves and then as tightly as possible being mindful not to tear the rice paper, roll the contents over to the remaining unfolded side to seal (like wrapping a burrito).
8. If you are using cabbage leaves instead, omit the lettuce as this is not required and roll the same way, being careful not to over fill them so that they stay easily sealed once rolled.
9. Repeat the process until you have enough rolls or have used all of the veg fillings.
10. Once all your summer rolls are made, you can make the satay sauce by finely chopping onion, garlic, ginger and chilli and frying in a pan with a little oil for a few minutes to soften before adding the soy sauce and cooking for a further few minutes.
11. Add the nut butter and coconut milk and bring gently to the boil, stirring until thickened and well combined, do not allow to boil vigorously as this can cause the fats in the sauce to separate.
12. Finally, squeeze ½ a lime into the sauce and stir through before transferring into a small dish for dipping the summer rolls in as they are eaten.
Try adding strips of tempeh or cooked prawns to these summer rolls to make them more substantial. You can also serve these summer rolls with a sesame and soy dipping sauce such as the dressing in the fennel salad listed above or with a chilli sauce if you prefer a bit of a kick.
You can vary the vegetables and herbs in these summer rolls to your taste or just based on what ingredients are easily available to you.
These summer rolls are best served fresh but can be kept in the fridge for a day or so if they are lightly coated in some sesame oil to prevent them sticking together.
This blog post was taken from one of Charlotte’s Calm Club recipe ebooks. For more information on the Calm Club, please click here