Green Smoothie Bowl

Last week I arrived home in England. I made a quick decision to take a break from travelling to fly half way across the world to surprise my mum for her 60th birthday; I spent 33 hours travelling on four planes and even with delays and a missed flight, it has been well worth it. It’s amazing being able to spend time with my loved ones and it’s also so great getting back in the kitchen while I’m here. Ever since being home I’ve been cooking pretty much every meal for us.

After being in Asia for 6 weeks I was delighted to get back to my usual eating habits that make me feel so good. During my time travelling, carbs have played a much bigger role in my meals than usual. Carbs aren’t bad but I don’t usually eat them in such a large quantity and certainly not if I’m not doing the exercise to match… which I wasn’t. On top of that, rice, noodles and vegetables are almost always fried; so basically, there was a lot of stodge. This is why I’ve loved being able to use fresh ingredients to make healthy recipes.

I know that lots of my friends who are still at uni are going through a stressful period right now with it being exam time. It’s at times like this when, often, people don’t feel like they have the time or energy to make great dinners in the kitchen. However, this is a also a time when you need nourishment the most! This smoothie recipe is bursting with health and vitality; it’s thick and has so many textures due to the toppings which makes it really interesting and filling, plus, it can be made in 5 minutes.

For anyone needing an extra boost of health, this is for you.

P.S. It tastes delicious!

Ingredients:

1/2 Banana
1/4 Avocado
1 tbsp Coconut Milk
1 large handful of Kale
2 Celery sticks
Coconut Water (amount depends how thick you want it)
(Spirulina, Hemp, Flax – optional)

Possible toppings:
Blueberries
Dried Fig
Chia Seeds
Almond Butter

Add the banana, avocado, coconut milk and celery to the blender and you might want to blend this first depending on your machine. Tear the kale leaves from the stems, wash and add too, along with your chosen superfoods. I have spirulina tablets with me from travelling so I pop six of these in my morning smoothie now. Add a good slosh of coconut water then blend. You may now want to add more coconut water, depending on your desired consistency. Pour the thick smoothie into a bowl and top with blueberries, sliced dried figs, chia seeds and almond butter. This all adds so many different textures to work your way through. Enjoy!

Travel: Kampot, Cambodia

I have found my favourite place. After a month of travelling Vietnam and Laos, we crossed the border into Cambodia. Our first stop was Siem Reap followed by an overnight bus to Sihanoukville (surprisingly comfortable!), then another bus out to Kampot. I’d heard lots of good things about this town and had also read some blogs on things to do/see/eat/drink. During my research I looked, without expectation, to see if there was any yoga in the area and to my surprise there was a whole centre which offered yoga, spa treatments and a vegetarian cafe! I was delighted. Not only that, but the place I was planning on booking us into, due to a recommendation by a friend, happened to be right next door. Everything looked like it would fit into place… and it did.

I was staying at Olly’s Place, where my friend and I shared a bungalow for just $8USD a night (about £5.50). This group of separate straw shacks all lead to the bar and restaurant with lots of comfy chairs, cushions and hammocks all on a dock which backs straight onto the river. It’s total paradise. I spent lots of time relaxing, reading, writing, thinking, chatting, lying, napping, jumping, swimming; feeling very happy and content.

On my first morning I woke up with an early storm then couldn’t get back to sleep so I went for a run which was a really nice way of exploring the surroundings. As soon as the sun came up high enough to hit my face I got very, very hot. Luckily for me though, I was able to plunge straight into the river as soon as I got back and enjoy a beautiful swim, gazing up at blue skies and the surrounding palm trees.

Next door was Banteay Srey, which was closed on the day I arrived (Tuesday) but became almost my home for the following three days. Deva Cafe had some amazing breakfast options such as homemade morning glory flatbreads filled with all kinds of veggies and dips along with different fresh smoothies and juices. For lunch and dinner they serve an array of hot and cold tapas dishes which are really tasty and involve good quality plant proteins such a beans and lentils which I have found hard to find in traditional cuisine street food.

On my third day in Kampot, it was time to try out the spa. This training spa empowers and supports Cambodian women from backgrounds of poverty, violence and trauma. My therapist, Srey Ny, was so polite, professional and incredible at what she did. I had a pedicure with an added half hour foot massage as well as the most amazing facial. I don’t usually get facials but in my quest to become more natural I’ve ditched my cleanser totally and after being in a few very polluted cities I felt like a deep clean with natural products would feel rather divine. My favourite thing about this facial, besides the incredible head, neck and shoulder massage that I got with it, was the fact that I saw the beauty therapists prepare each stage. The facial involved a cleanse, steam, exfoliation, massage, mask, tone and moisturise and every product used came from the earth, such as black sesame, coconut, palm sugar, honey, cucumber, green tea etc; good enough to eat. I saw the girls fetch the fresh cucumbers and slice them up ready for the toning stage of my facial. The whole experience was blissful.

I loved that Banteay Srey offered yoga. I had managed to find classes when I was in other Asian cities which was great but the yoga here was my favourite. Every day they offered a power yoga class in the morning at 9:30am and a yin yoga in the evening at 5pm. Finding a sacred place to practice yoga with like-minded, inspiring individuals in something very special; it helped me to feel grounded and open to all the new experiences that were coming at me.

One day we rented bikes and went into town for breakfast and to plan our next moves, then a storm hit. This lead me to spend the day cafe hopping around all the cafes I’d researched and heard about. I had breakfast at Ellie’s Cafe where I had the special: homemade cashew and ginger granola with mango, banana, dragonfruit and yogurt. I don’t usually eat yogurt but I have been doing since coming to Asia, as a way of upping my good bacteria in my gut, and I’ve been enjoying it. The breakfast was delicious and I followed with a pomegranate loose leaf tea at the Epic Arts Cafe, an amazing place that supports disadvantaged people; the company enrols disabled students who are taught about artwork, gaining technical skills, performance skills and creative outlets. I also had a flapjack that I’ve honestly been fantasising about ever since! It had rolled oats, raisins, ginger, cashews and I’m not sure what else but it was vegan. For lunch, I ate at Cafe Espresso, which was opened by an Australian couple so I was able to enjoy a true favourite of mine: avocado on wholegrain toast with two poached eggs, spinach and roasted tomatoes, finished with lime, salt and pepper. This place really does have the Australian cafe vibe and is another lovely place to spend a rainy afternoon.

Finally, we spent our last evening on a river cruise. For just $5 we spent three hours cruising and were given a complementary drink. The sunset was beautiful, even after the stormy afternoon, and we got to see fireflies after it turned dark. Our cruise was through Naga House and was an enjoyable way to spend the evening and take in Kampot’s tranquility.

Travel: Vietnam

After 3 weeks of travelling up the coast of Vietnam I thought it was about time I shared with you the amazing eateries I found along the way. There is so much delicious Vietnamese food, however I found that most of the typical foods are deep fried and very heavy in carbs which is not something that makes us feel very good.

It is important to be able to adapt while travelling and it’s fun eating your way through different cultures. My favourite Vietnamese specialitiy, pho, is made with noodles, broth and usually meat; you can get it without meat though and the best varieties come with herbs, spring onions, nuts and fresh lime and chilli to add to your taste. Other typical dishes include banh mi (baguette filled with meat or eggs with a sprinkling of veggies and sauce), fried/sticky rice and noodles. You can find all these foods lining the streets for an incredibly cheap price which is great but eating all these foods each day can cause digestive issues which you don’t want to be dealing with throughout the whole of your travels.

With some research and tips from blogs and Instagram I managed to find many healthy alternatives, especially when in cities and I will share them now for if you ever find yourself in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City: Hum Vegetarian
This restaurant really is like a hidden oasis away from the hectic city, it is actually situated right next door to the war museum which is a must-do when you’re in Ho Chi Minh city, so it’s easy to find. Hum vegetarian has a tranquil atmosphere and the food is fresh and colourful, just what you need to revive when in a busy, polluted, noisy city. Here I enjoyed fresh spring rolls to start and then steamed vegetables with a rich soy bean sauce, along with a lemon and orange infused mineral water. The menu is huge and everything is vegetarian.

Hoi An: Minh Hien Vegetarian restaurant, Morning Glory, Cocobox
Hoi An offers a variety of healthy food. I was in Hoi An for my birthday and so I made sure that we had a delicious and healthy place to eat. We began with breakfast at our homestay which consisted of eggs, baguette and fruit platters (this is typical of hostels and homestays in Vietnam) then for lunch we went to Minh Hien Vegetarian restaurant which was amazing. This cafe is a little outside of the main streets in town which means that it’s very cheap. It was a lovely place to sit and enjoy a lunch with friends and would be equally nice to dine alone and watch the world go by. For dinner, we went to Morning Glory Restaurant which is very popular and is more expensive. A top tip for this place though is that the side dishes are actually really big and can be made into a main dish. I ordered the eggplant which was a side but I got a good portion along with a serving of sticky rice which was perfect after a big lunch. This restaurant serves meat and fish yet the sides are all veggie. Be warned that this place does get busy and you will probably wait for a table but you can enjoy a drink and/or a long ponder over the extensive menu.
On another day in Hoi An we discovered Cocobox, a smoothie bar opposite Morning Glory. They serve smoothies, juices, homemade ice cream and chocolates – it’s yummy! I got a green juice, coconut ice cream topped with Hoi An spiced and dark chocolate and a ginger and orange hot chocolate; I felt like I was back in Australia.

Hue: Huong Thoi Gian
Onwards and upwards from Hoi An, we motorbiked up to Hue (I should add that I wasn’t the driver) and found more delicious food. We had a favourite street food spot that we visited a couple of times in this city and also found Huong Thoi Gian. I, along with two friends, walked to this cafe at lunch time and although there is a large seating area, there was only us to fill it. We’ve been continually amazed at how quiet all cafes are but I guess it’s because most people eat street food; the number of people in the cafe isn’t a sign toward how good/bad the food is. We ordered a whole array of dishes to share and it was delicious. Again we got so much for our money and enjoyed a lovely couple of hours here before we left Hue and got the bus up to Phong Nha.
Hanoi: Raw Juicery, Jalus, Zenith Yoga Centre
Raw Juicery is a small bar that offers thick smoothies and cold pressed juices for cheap. I would always build my own smoothies using their structure of fruit, greens, liquid, booster and extras such as chia seeds and goji berries. If you’re looking for a nice cafe/restaurant both Jalus and Zenith are great options. They both have lovely decor providing a nice escape. These cafes are significantly more expensive than most other food options but they’re a great price when compared to what you’d pay at home in the UK or Australia for example. You can also do yoga at Zenith. I went to two classes there and if you pay for a class, you get 10% off your bill in the cafe. The smoothies are a bit thin for my liking however I can highly recommend the wholemeal pizzas, both the pesto and the hummus version. At Jalus, I tried their special salad and, on another occasion, their platter which I loved as it had a bit if everything, just what I needed after a seven hour bus ride back down from the north before we flew across to Laos.

Chocolate Protein Shake

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I’ve been getting really into my HIIT lately; just 15 minutes of exercise in the morning and you’re winning all day, how good is that?! What really helps us to progress our fitness, alongside dedication and motivation, is diet. It’s so important to fuel and refuel our bodies with the good stuff that’s going to aid recovery and our increasing strength.

This shake is so delicious and it hits you up with a great does of protein. It’s low in fat because this food group slows down the absorption of protein and after a workout we want to get it to our muscles as quickly as possible. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do.

Ingredients:

1 Banana
1 large handful Blueberries
1c Spinach
2 Egg Whites
2 tbsp Raw Cacao
3 tbsps Quinoa Flakes
3 tbsps Protein Powder (I use pea protein)
Almond Milk (the quantity depends on personal preference. I recommend adding in a good slosh, blend, then decide whether you want some more. Some people like their smoothie thin like a drink and others like it thick enough to eat with a spoon – you decide).

Add all the ingredients to your blender and whizz it up.

Hot Cross Porridge

As it’s Easter this weekend, I thought I’d create a special recipe. When I think of Easter I think of family roasts; sticky, toasted hot cross buns and, of course, chocolate Easter eggs! On Easter morning my brother and I used to sit as the coffee table together with our first, best and biggest (I mean seriously big) chocolate egg in front of a film. We always smashed the egg and hoped for one half to resemble a sort of bowl then the other half would be cracked into it pieces, when they were gone the bowl would begin to be cracked up until every last bit had found a home in our happy tummies.

Here in Australia Autumn has arrived and I’m going to guess that spring at home in the UK is still a little chilly, therefore, I wanted to create a warming bowl of Easter porridge… let’s face it, there’s never a bad time for porridge. This bowlful shares that special aromatic sweetness of hot cross buns and is the ultimate comfort food. It’s pure and fresh yet thick, creamy and decadent, just the way Easter should be.

Ingredients:

1/2c Oats
1 Carrot
1 Orange (juice)
1 handful Raisins
1 1/2c Almond Milk
1/8tsp Cloves
1/2tsp Ginger
1/2tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1-2tsps Cinnamon

Add the oats to your pan with one cup of almond milk and turn on the heat then add the spices and grated carrot. After about 5 minutes, stir, add the extra half a cup of almond milk and also a handful of raisins so they can get extra plump and juicy. The porridge should take around 10 minutes to cook on a fairy low heat. At this stage, cut the orange into segments and squeeze the juice out into the pan. Stir and serve. I like to add nut butter and seeds for some protein, fat, crunch and of course that all important cross to top my Hot Cross Porridge

Green Goodness Bowl

Food plates filled with green always scream health and this one tastes delicious. It’s quick and easy to make and has good sources of plant protein to fill you up. Quinoa is a good source of protein and lentils are even better. I always make big batches of (pseudo)grains which is the key to easy food prep. Once you’ve made a big batch of this at the beginning of the week that’s you sorted for a fair few 5 minute meals where you can combine different veggies and sauces with your grain that’s already prepared.

Ingredients (serves 2):

For the salad:
1 Cos Lettuce
1c Quinoa & Lentils (together they make up 1/2cup – I use equal amounts of the two)
1 Green Pepper/Capsicum
1 Avocado
1 Cucumber
1 large/2 small handfuls Sunflower Seeds

For the pesto:
1 handful Brazil Nuts
2 handfuls fresh Basil
5 tbsp Olive Oil (or any other good quality oil; I used some sesame seed oil too)
2 cloves Garlic
1 Lemon

To cook the quinoa and lentils you simply wash them and add to a saucepan with double the amount of boiling water (this is where it’s a good idea to make extra to keep in the fridge!). Bring to the boil then let simmer for about 10 minutes. There’s no need to do anything to it, just keep an eye on it and when all the water is absorbed, it’s ready. Meanwhile, add all the pesto ingredients to your blender and blitz; taste to see if you’d like to add a little more lemon, oil or nuts depending on what consistency and flavour you like. Then chop up your salad. Add the lettuce to your plate then mix the pesto into the lentils and quinoa before sprinkling all over the lettuce. Then add your chopped veggies and sunflower seeds for a nice crunch and some added protein. Finish with an extra drizzle of your oil, sea salt and pepper.

Chocolate Orange Smoothie

I’ve always been a huge fan of chocolate orange, I just love it and now I’ve finally worked out how to make it myself with wholefood – hallelujah! While living in Bondi, I worked in an amazing health food store and we created a Nutella Crunch smoothie that I just couldn’t get enough of; I’d tell every customer who wants a smoothie that they should choose this chocolatey dream and never did anyone regret it. This recipe stems from my love of that rich decadence; it’s not for the faint hearted, this is for my fellow chocoholics! This will satisfy all your needs and leave you energised yet wrapped in a creamy blanket of comfort.

Ingredients:
1 Banana
1 Orange (juice & zest)
1/2 Avocado
2-3 stalks Kale
1/2 can Coconut milk (you may need to add more depending on the size of your thickeners)
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Nut Butter (I used ABC (almond, brazil, cashew) spread – my new favourite!)
2 tbsps Raw Cacao
1 tbsp Chia Seeds
1 tsp Pure Maple Syrup (or Honey)
1-2 tsps Cinnamon

Firstly wash the skin of your orange then grate the peel then chop it in half or quarters and squeeze the juice into your blender along with the zest. You can actually add the whole segments of orange, just make sure to remove any stones and pith. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend. If it looks too thick you can add more coconut milk water. The thickness will vary according to the size of the banana and avocado you have used and it depends the way you like it. It will thicken over time due to the chia so if its left it will become more of a mouse, also delicious.

Yoga and what it unveils…

Over the past few months I’ve not been feeling ‘myself’; I’ve been really struggling with some things that first appeared as physical symptoms. Underneath these symptoms lay, and still lies, deeper rooted issues. Our bodies tell stories and every time we deal with, or more likely the times when we don’t deal with difficult happenings, they are nailed into our bodies somewhere. This is where certain aches and pains can come up and it’s when we work through those niggles that we can realise what truly lies beneath.

Yoga is a practice that helps us to connect to ourselves instead of continually looking outward. The connection to our own breath brings a heightened sense of awareness within and is the doorway to allowing us to explore what is actually going on inside.

During this recent period I have introduced a new yoga style into my practice: yoga massage. I think that this is the most powerful way to really delve into your own body, unveiling a somewhat hidden world. My wonderful, inspiring teacher here in Byron takes a class of students through different areas of the body with the use of two massage balls in order to work through and soften tightness. It’s certainly like no other yoga and although it may sound peaceful and relaxing, the truth is that it’s painful and fairly shocking. I hear many gasps and painful cries from both myself and those around me. It’s like learning to give ourselves a pressure point, deep tissue massage and continuing to purposefully give ourselves these intense sensations proves to be difficult. Throughout the practice we work through tension that we hold in our bodies, and this isn’t restricted to our back, we will use the balls on our hips, glutes, shoulders, tummies and even our jaw lines; often we can be so tight in these areas without even knowing; through fear, anxiety, grief and other strong emotions, our muscles and jaws have clenched to keep things in and not let it interfere with our day to day lives because it’s too difficult to face. By working massaging into these places, we help them to soften and are encouraged to think of the ball as a familiar friend, as opposed to this foreign object jabbing us in our sides. At a certain point, after the initial gasps of horror in places we had no idea were so tense, this painful practice becomes delicious as we surrender to our places of suffering.

Nonetheless, yoga, and particularly yoga massage, brings up so much emotion and this can be very overwhelming. I’m afraid to say that this post isn’t going to provide the answers for how to deal with it as I’m currently struggling very much myself at the moment. However, I wanted to share a few ideas that I feel seem to help.

1. Turn your attention away from sharing outward to help connect inward.
Three months ago I deactivated my Facebook account with the intention of taking a month’s break, however after taking myself off that huge jumble of information and judgement I’ve not looked back. For me, Facebook was not a positive influence in my life and I’ve been much better off without it. I know it seems scary to do something that’s outside of the norm but this social phenomenon is not all it’s cracked up to be and I think that it has really detrimental affects on peoples’ mental health and wellbeing, not to mention social skills. Taking a break from any and all forms of social media can be really useful. Before formulating messages to put out to mass numbers, meditate on what radiates inwards. The way to get to know yourself better is to guide your focus within.

2. Don’t be too hard on yourself, take things one step at a time.
As I said, yoga can be overwhelming in that it can bring up so many issues, something you may have had no idea about the severity of. Your body may be holding onto things that your mind or your heart has tried to shield you from. And there’s good reason for this! Therefore, don’t presume that once you’ve identified a place of tension that you will instantly be able to ease it. The tension is likely to have been built up over a period of time and will take time to work through. Also, there are probably many places in your body that hold dis-ease. Allow yourself to work through one at a time and even take time off working through the pain to revel in the other joyous, light places that also lie throughout each of our bodies. Be kind and ease yourself into your troubles, allowing them to slowly be revealed, understood and accepted before we start to work through them and help ourselves to ultimately feel better.

3. Think how far you have come and congratulate yourself for that.
It’s easy to forget the journey we’ve already been on to get to where we are today. Often we can get caught up in the quest to become better but again this is a hard approach and we should be much kinder to ourselves. For example, congratulate yourself for allowing yoga to become part of your life as opposed to feeling like you should be doing more; congratulate yourself for sitting down to meditate as oppose to beating yourself up for not being able to mediate for longer; or congratulate yourself for being able to spend time alone and reflect on your life and who you are, this is a great accomplishment in itself and it’s something many people forget to do.

As I’ve mentioned, I am no expert in overcoming the difficulties that lie within our bodies, I am a real novice who is trying. These points have helped me yet I still need to remind myself of them all the time. I have realised recently that I am in fact very hard on myself and one thing I can say for sure is that this is not the way to deal with our vulnerabilities, it only makes them more tender and scared to show themselves, inhibiting our progression. I hope this post can help someone or at least provide some comfort knowing that you’re not the only one who is struggling. Good luck and remember to enjoy the journey!

Textured Tortilla Mix

I haven’t cooked eggs for a long time but this week I’ve been doing some intense training sessions in the mornings and was trying to get as much protein in my body as possible to repair and rebuild my muscles. I do really enjoy eggs and think that my body uses them well now as part of a varied diet. After the toughest session of the week last Saturday I headed straight for the Bondi farmers markets to get myself a box of organic, free range eggs.

This meal makes for an amazing breakfast, full of protein and healthy fats and without hardly any sugar. I find that if I eat a sweet breakfast, it can leave me craving it throughout the day. I love having savoury, filling breakfasts just like this one, especially after a workout. Having said that, this also makes a great lunch or dinner.

I am using corn tortillas which I bought from my work; they are gluten free, dairy free and free of preservatives or additives and all you need to do is head them in a pan for 10 seconds on either side. I like using them to wrap up the filling however I like to make a lot more filling than can actually fit inside, therefore, I place the tortillas on the side so that I can munch on the filling with and without the tortillas.

My favourite thing about this dish is the number of contrasting textures! The poached eggs alone give both a solid and liquid texture which oozes onto the rest of the ingredients. There is a softness from the cooked mushrooms and tomatoes and an even softer softness (mmm) from the hummus and avocado! You get a fresh crunch from the lettuce and mung bean sprouts and then a dense crunch from the pumpkin seeds. It’s such a joy making your way through this delicious plate of nourishment. I’m so excited to make it again!

Ingredients:
1 tbsp coconut oil

2 Tortillas
4 Mushrooms
3 medium sized Tomatoes
2 Eggs
1/2 large Avocado (/1 small)
Lettuce
2 tsps Tamari
2 cloves Garlic

2 tsps Tahini
1tbsp Sesame or Olive oil
1 handful Mung Bean Sprouts
1 handful Pumpkin Seeds
1/2 Lemon
Paprika
Chilli flakes

1 tbsp Hummus (optional)

Firstly bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil before cracking in your eggs; turn off the heat and put the lid on. Leave the saucepan for 3-4 minutes to create perfectly poached eggs. Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil and add the sliced garlic then add your chopped mushrooms and tomatoes along with a good shake of paprika. As the veg cooks, slice your lettuce and avocado, squeezing over the juice of the lemon and adding to your plate. When the tortillas have been warmed through (according to packet instructions) fold these alongside the salad. When the veggies are done, add the tamari then stir and add to the building plate. Put your poached eggs on top then add the sprouts, seeds, oil and chilli flakes… Dive in head first!

Playfulness

While I was doing the modern yogi project we were given weekly questions which we reflected on and then would feedback and discuss together the next week. One week the question ‘where do you feel most playful in life?’ really stumped me.

As children we enjoy the present moment to the fullest, not being constrained by negative emotions like worry and fear which limit our abilities to be playful. As adults we can forget to allow ourselves to play even though it’s such a wonderful thing.

Playful activities such as splashing in the ocean, chasing people through the grass and swinging from a big tree can all be enjoyed by people who have been granted the gift of movement – take advantage! Imagine if tomorrow you lost the use of your legs and hadn’t taken your chance to hop, skip and jump…

Yoga is a great way of bringing playfulness into our lives while cultivating a wonderful practice. Although yoga can take lots of concentration and focus of the mind, the key aim is to break free of the adult boundaries we create for ourselves within our minds. We may tell ourselves that we aren’t the type of people who can do arm balances, confidently make presentations or move to another country and so we don’t, but if we stop closing down our opportunities, our abilities and life choices become endless.

Was there ever a better time to say ‘the world is your oyster’? What starts with playfulness turns into a brave attitude towards life as we don’t overthink our decisions when they come with a risk but we dive into them and go at it with our whole heart. Take that leap of faith; try the balance, stand confidently, make the move.