My first thought was that I'd do a post about my highlights of 2016 but then I quickly ruled that out. I didn't want to sound like one of those people who just make their lives all shiny and then sing about it on social media. That's the thing with these spaces - it's so easy to curate what you show, and what you don't, I think people forget that. Am I going post a photo of the pouring rain and a scummy North Norfolk puddle on instagram? No, exactly, I'll post a nice picture of some spring sunshine or maybe something I baked because I've styled those photos to hell and back. Easy. Reality is boring. If I just wrote, I'd be telling you about these 6 essays I've been working on over the holidays. And about how our flight may be cancelled because of fog. So I'll just leave the good and the bad aside and I thought instead I'd share two things I learnt this year. Ok, I know I'm barely 18 so this may sound funny to some people but I think this is actually that window when we learn the most. We're still easy to mould, the things that shape us now give us our form forever, I would've thought.
Life is fragile. I don't mean this in a let's-go-out-get-smashed type of you-only-live-once-way, but I take for granted that my life will overlap with others. I say this after the episode with Prune that I mention often. I thought I'd have years with them, apparently not. I then realized I don't have enough photos of the girls, that there will never be enough days to bury my face in their fur. I mean, their lives are like a sunrise. So short, so bright, filled with energy, bringing us so much beauty. Blink and you'll miss it. It's probably the same for parents, I wouldn't know. One minute you're driving kids around everywhere and thinking oh lord when is this going to end then suddenly the kids have their own cars, they go to university and that's that. People, pets whoever, they have small batteries and no armour. It doesn't mean that Prune won't get an earful when she picks fights with dogs half her size or that Suezie can endlessly stretch with her claws on my bare feet but I should hug them more. And stop saying, when they suddenly sleep in the crate together, that I'll take a photo next time.
People have been designed to put up with a lot. Somewhere I read that 'all flowers must grow through dirt' and I think of that often. Just when you think that nothing worse will happen, the tsunami hits after the earthquake. They also say that something good will always come from something bad, I don't think that's always the case. Instead I think what you learn is that your resilience is much more than you expected. And the people who are with you through it, they're the keepers, the ones you should remind to eat their kale.
In the spirit of eating kale, new beginnings and general healthfulness, I'd like to bring you some honey and olive oil quinoa granola. A mouthful, but a tasty protein packed one at that. I literally eat 'nola in some form every day, but this is different to my orange granola because it's less oat-based with lots of crunchy quinoa, nuts and seeds, which will appeal to a lot of people at this time of year. There are quite a few indredients but if you stock a remotely whole-foods pantry they're all staples and if you don't, I have added a little info about each ingredient - either way, it's nice to know a bit about what you're eating. This is quite long, so feel free to skip down to the recipe. I don't have one particular source for the info, I am enough of a food nerd to keep a notebook with this kind of thing.
Rolled oats (porridge oats): what would I do without these guys? boil them up for a quick and creamy breakfast, bake them into muffins or granola, bake with the flour... they are a great source of manganese (connective tissue builder + regulates blood sugar + absorbs calcium). Beta glucan is the fiber (a super source of fiber, oats) specific to oats that is associated with lowering cholesterol, preventing cardiovascular disease through unique anti-oxidants, and helping the heart. Oats are inherently gluten free, but are often processed alongside wheat products so if you/those you feed are very sensitive to gluten, be sure to buy certified gf oats :)
Quinoa: ah quinoa, the tiny gluten free superfood that's taken media by a storm. you've probably seen it around in supermarkets by now - not strictly a grain, but rather a seed (though it's considered a whole grain. imposter.)that contains all 9 essential amino acids. This is pretty incredible for a plant and what makes it so popular as a protein source for vegetarians/vegans. It is high in many minerals (iron, manganese, magnesium, copper....) so can help ease migraines. It is no headache to cook either; it can be used like rice (boil with a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio, so 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water). Just make sure you rinse it first, like I do here, because there is a bitter coating to the grains otherwise.
Sunflower seeds: good for your bones because they're so rich in magnesium which helps with structure and regulating nerve cells. They are very mild and always remind me of granary bread from when I was young; they can easily be tossed into salads or to add a bit of crunch to oatmeal. The selenium helps with cancer prevention and certain chemical compounds (phytoserols) play a role in lowering cholesterol, and as an anti-inflammatory agent. Sunflower seed butter is often used as a nut-free alternative to almond butter, I'm sure it's really tasty.
Pumpkin seeds: These seeds contain a huge range of anti-oxidants; wider than many other nuts and seeds. They are also a source of unique proteins which have anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties and are super sources of zinc. Zinc is huge in boosting immunity and fighting colds, never a bad thing at this time of year. Like sunflower seeds, they can go almost anywhere you want a crunchy element and are often used to make pesto, which I really must try.
Brazil nuts: incredible sources of selenium, which is an anti-flammatory agent and also helps prevent free radical damage and so have been associated with lower levels of cancer, as well as having an important role in regulating your metabolism by influencing thyroid hormones. Selenium also helps prevent depression - it's a mood lifter, so smiles all around. They have a flavor that to me is a lot like almonds, I'm always surprised they're not used more in recipes. I have added soaked nuts (saving my blender) to smoothies and they are so creamy!
Almonds: the world's highest source of vitamin E (fat soluble anti-oxidants) which kindly protect your cell walls from damage. they're high in monounsaturated fats, the 'good fats' which help lower cholesterol and keep hair and nails and the heart healthy. They are also potassium rich, like bananas (!!!) so great for active people and nerve transmission & muscle contraction. Incredibly, these mild & tasty nuts have been associated with regulating blood sugar levels and lowering the glycemic index of the meal they're incorporated into.
Flax seeds: aside from containing lots of essential fatty acids and omega 3, these unobtrusive seeds are incredible sources of lignans. Lignans are chemicals found in some plants that have been linked to colon and breast cancer prevention. Flax is high in fibre and help regulate the passage of food through the intestines, assisting with the absorption of other nutrients (the midfielders of the nut/seed world). The combination of omega 3 fatty acids & high levels of vitamin B mean they're good for shiny, healthy hair and skin.
Hemp seeds: (un?)fortunately nothing to do with weed but you'll feel pretty good after eating these protein powerhouses. Much like quinoa, these seeds are a complete protein and are valued in plant-based protein powder; they also contain the type of aminos needed for muscle repair. They are a valuable source of omega 3, good for preventing inflammation; and are high in iron as well as a bunch of vitamins (A, B, D, E). They have a pleasantly nutty flavor and I often use them in granola but you can also chuck them into smoothies, salads, wherever you would any seed.
Chia seeds: I know what you're thinking but these have become mainstream now, I can find them at my local supermarket... and I'm not suggesting you use these tiny superfoods to make chia pudding (chia soaked in milk/water, the seeds swell with the liquid and resemble something tapioca-ish, popular with health foodies but a step too far for some of us ahem), which I am aware resembles frogspawn, I know from experience. Instead, I use them in granola, baked into muffins and cookies, sprinkled over oatmeal, blended into smoothies... because they have so much goodness! They are very rich in omega 3 & fatty acids; even more so than flax seeds, and are also good sources of iron and calcium, great for non-dairy and non-meat eaters. They are useful as a binder in gluten free baking and can stand in for eggs too.
Olive oil + honey quinoa granola
This granola is fruity and fragrant from olive oil; with floral notes from honey and a whole lot of energy and goodness from quinoa and hemp seeds. The nuts and seeds are toasted and golden; quinoa adds a little crunch to this protein-packed breakfast.
// gluten + dairy free // makes about 5 cups (1.25l)
2/3 (130g) cup quinoa
2 cups (200g) rolled oats, certified gf if neccessary
1/2 cup (75g) almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (70g) brazil nuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup (70g) pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (65g) sunflower seeds
1/3 cup (40g) hemp seeds
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup (80ml) honey*
dried fruit, optional**
Pour the quinoa into a fine mesh sieve and rinse really well under cold water; rub the grains together and between your fingers for a couple of minutes. Lay our a few paper towels and spread the rinsed grains over them, pat them down to dry a bit and leave aside to dry.
Preheat the oven to 165’C and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl (like, super sized) add the oats, nuts, seeds and salt, spices, mix it all up with your hands. Add both the olive oil and the honey plus vanilla, mix well again.
Dry the quinoa one last time and then add it to the melée, toss everything around so it’s evenly coated.
Dump the bowl out onto the prepared pan, spread it out into one even, thick layer. Bake for 45-50 minutes.
Remember to rotate the pan every 10 minutes and to stir the granola up, bringing the edges into the middle and the middle over to the edges so it all browns evenly and nothing burns.
Once the granola is nicely browned, allow it to cool fully on the pan. After it’s cool, toss through the dried fruit if you’re using any, then fill a large air tight jar. The granola will keep at least a month. Question is: will it last that long?
*to keep this vegan, you can substitute maple syrup for honey in the same quantity, maple also goes amazingly with olive oil
As always, you can adapt the liquid – dry ratio in the recipe and use what you have/like instead. I’ll often use half walnuts instead of brazil nuts, or sometimes all sunflower seeds if I have no pumpkin seeds.
** I generally like to add dried fruit to my ‘nola, especially in winter when there’s little fruit in season. You can leave this out if there’s fresh fruit where you are, otherwise I like to use dried cranberries, blueberries, figs or raisins. Use what you like, just check there’s no added preservatives (sulphur) or sweetener.
I hope you found this remotely helpful and that it inspires you to add a few new goodies to your pantry, or reminds you of some. This granola is infinitely adaptable, so I really hope you make it. Granola, cute dogs and funny people exist, so don't let January get you down. Hugs xo
Ps. Today is our last day in India. I can't believe it... how did three weeks go by so fast? I will have some photos of Bangalore on the blog soon, if you're curious.