Author Archives: Monica

Tropical Spirulina Yogurt Smoothie

So it seems spirulina makes smoothies look like something out of Ten Forward. This is cool to me. #trekkie

The Neptune green appearance of this spirulina yogurt smoothie would make it a fitting item on the bar menu at Ten Forward (or the Chalmun’s Cantina if you’d like). The super sci-fi color comes from – you guessed it – the combo of yogurt and spirulina. Meanwhile, the addition of pineapple and banana make it delicious and refreshing.

Why this is good for you:

  • Banana is loaded with potassium
  • Spirulina adds iron, magnesium, protein and B12 to the party
  • Yogurt adds more protein, plus live cultures, calcium and vitamin D
  • Just half a banana and a small slice of pineapple means this smoothie isn’t a sugar bomb

This smoothie is inspired by the Passion 4 Juice Master, one of the highlights of Juice Feast. This smoothie uses whole pineapple rather than juiced pineapple so it can all be done in the blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9400).

Spirulina Yogurt Smoothie


  • 200g plain natural yogurt
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1-inch round slice of pineapple, skin removed and cut into chunks
  • 5g spirulina (about one heaped teaspoon; I use Naturya spirulina)


  1. Put everything into the blender (I use a Froothie Optimum 9400) and blitz until smooth. Serve on ice and enjoy!


Warm Tofu With Garlic Sauce and Sesame

Warm Tofu with Garlic & Sesame Sauce

This recipe could equally be called “The Easiest Way Ever To Make Tofu Taste Delicious”. It doesn’t involve any of the usual tricks people try to make tofu palatable: there’s no pressing or marinading or pan-frying or grilling. But the result is even better than you often get with some of these techniques.

The idea is simple: simmer tofu in water for a few minutes until its nice and hot. While that cooks, whip up a simple quick savory sauce, heavy on the chilli and garlic. Remove the tofu and place in a shallow bowl, then serve the tofu with garlic sauce.

That’s it.

Warm Tofu with Garlic & Sesame Sauce

The warm tofu basically becomes a sponge for the marinade, in this case, a potent garlic sauce that’s well seasoned with garlic, spring onions, soy sauce, a good dose of chilli and finally, a smattering of sesame seeds for flavor and texture.

It all comes together in about 10 minutes. Add some steamed rice and vegetables (broccoli works really well here) and you have a complete meal in no time flat that’s tasty enough to wow your friends. In fact, this is one of my favourite meals to serve lunchtime guests (Kavey in particular) when time is better suited to conversation and catching up rather than excessive amounts of extravagant cooking.

Warm Tofu in Garlic Sesame Sauce

Inspired by Lillian Chou’s recipe on

Serves 4


  • 1 400g package of firm tofu
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped spring onions
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, and coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari for gluten free)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red-pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar


  1. Put the tofu in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer then keep covered on a low heat while you make the sauce.
  2. Mash the garlic in a mortar and pestle (or with the side of a knife) with a pinch of salt. Stir the mashed garlic together with remaining ingredients.
  3. Lift the tofu with a spatula or slotted spoon out of the water and transfer to a shallow bowl. Spoon the sauce all over the tofu and serve.

Warm Tofu with Garlic & Sesame Sauce

Ultimate Evergreen Spirulina Smoothie

Ultimate Evergreen Spirulina Smoothie

This is one of my go-to post-swim breakfast smoothies that gets its awesome coniferous color from spirulina, a blue-green algae that I’ve been enjoying in my smoothies lately. Spirulina is touted for its high concentration of plant-based B12 and protein, making it a pretty cool supplement for vegans and vegetarians. Now, this could all be in my head, but I actually feel better for it – this spirulina smoothie after a swim seems to give me enough oomph to power through til lunch (including a pre-lunch CrossFit session as is my routine these days).

How does spirulina taste? Let’s be honest here: it’s an algae so it tastes a bit like seaweed and takes some getting used to. I’ve actually grown to like its flavor. Plus, this spirulina smoothie has a lot more stuff going for it: pineapple, lime, avocado… serve it in a salt-rimmed glass, garnish it with some flaked coconut and make an event of it.

Ultimate Evergreen Spirulina Smoothie

This spirulina smoothie features prominently in the 7-Day Juice Feast. It’s made by juicing pineapple, apple, cucumber and lime then blending it with avocado and spirulina. Yep, you need a juicer and a blender for this one. But as the song says: it takes two to make a thing go right. And this spirulina smoothie is so so right. I’ve been using an Optimum 9400 blender and Optimum 600 Slow Juicer to get the job done and I can’t recommend them enough.

Ultimate Evergreen Spirulina Smoothie

  • 1/4 pineapple
  • 1 apple
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • 1/2 lime, peel removed
  • 1 tsp spirulina (I use Naturya spirulina)
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 heaped tsp psyllium husk (totally optional)


  1. Juice the pineapple, apple, lime and spirulina.
  2. Blend the juice with the avocado, spirulina and psyllium husk until silky smooth.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

Juice Feast Winter Edition

Juice Feast Winter Edition

Today is the first day of my latest 7-Day Juice Feast, a 7-day juice-only regime following the program designed by Jason Vale . This is my fourth time doing the feast, and if you’re wondering what this is all about and why I do this, then read my previous posts: 7 Reasons Why Juice Feast and Juice Feast in Review.

Although it may seem strange timing to do a juice feast at the start of December (a week of drinking cold juices? brrr), for me the timing couldn’t be better. I initially set aside this week for juicing because for a while now I feel like I’ve been slipping. On my own I’m a superstar when it comes to food. I am also fairly active which means I can get away with eating a little extra from time to time when social celebration or a simple craving calls for it. However, these “times” have become more and more frequent and I’ve lost my focus a little. So I want to get that back and feel comfortable in myself (and in my clothes) again. On top of that, I’ve had a very difficult last couple of weeks following the passing of my dear dog Rocky, which has involved much comfort eating, far too much Prosecco and two Thanksgiving dinners in the process. It’s really time for a reset.

Also, this being the season of Thanksgiving, the Juice Feast offers a timely opportunity to give thanks for the abundance of fruit and vegetables we have available to us. I harken back to my words during my previous Juice Feast Harvest Edition:

I’m trying to make this juice feast not only about ME, but also about a celebration of all that’s available this time of year, and how lucky I am to live in a place where I have access to such beautiful fruits and vegetables, some of which grow right outside my door. The harvest aspect also plays to the “positive thinking” angle of Juice Feast. This isn’t something to “get through”, it’s a treat to my body and my brain.

Positive thinking: so important during these dark days! But unlike the Harvest Edition, when I was very motivated by my lack of goal progress, during this Winter Edition I want to reassess what my goals actually are. I guess I’m ramping up for Yule, a time to contemplate hopes and aspirations for the coming year and figure out how our natural talents can be used for good.

Plus, I can’t think of a better way to brighten up these dark days of winter than by surrounding myself with fresh vibrant fruit and veg, and loads of cheerful tasty juices!

A few of my Juice Feast goals:

  • Finish my Rocky tribute book, “Rocky: A Dog’s Life”, in aid of Hope Rescue
  • Figure out my goals (and rewards!) for Imbolc and the new year
  • Enjoy lots of quiet contemplation and thinking time
  • Get a lot of work done (boring)
  • Write a few blog posts, including my juicing essentials, and a review of the Optimum 600 Slow Juicer which I’ll be using throughout the week.

Several folks are joining me in the Juice Feast, both virtually and in person, some for a few meals, and some for a few days. I appreciate all of the camaraderie. If you fancy joining in on the juicing fun, then do share with me what you’re up to, either here in the comments, on Twitter, or on Facebook.


Rocky Tribute Book and Calendar for Charity

Rocky: A Dog's Life

If any of you follow me on social media, then you know I had a dog named Rocky who’s been my constant companion and an internet superstar in his own right ever since I rescued him in April 2012. I am sad to report that dear Rocky passed away last week following a (fortunately short) battle with liver disease.

Rocky was already coming on in years when I adopted him, so I’ve always felt that every moment we had together was precious, which might explain why I’m finding his passing particularly tough. Still, I’m grateful that we had as much quality time together as we did, and  I’m also grateful that I took so many pictures of him (upward of 1,000!) to remember him by.

I’ve decided to pay tribute to wonderful Rocky by creating a photo book to celebrate his life. The book is for sale in soft cover and hard back, priced to cover my costs plus a few extra £££ to be donated to Hope Rescue, the rescue center where I found Rocky. I also have a calendar for sale at the bargain price of just £6.

Rocky Calendar

Be uber generous this Christmas by helping out all those loving animals who haven’t yet found their forever homes for the holidays. Buy your book and / or calendar below:

Buy the book “Rocky: A Dog’s Life” directly through Blurb.

Buy the Rocky Calendar by clicking on the button below:

Some cool ways to display your calendar…

The cork technique…
Rocky Calendar

Good ol’ sticky tack on the wall:

Rocky Calendar

Ye olde hole punch and nail:

Rocky Calendar

Fridge magnets:

Rocky Calendar

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie with Oatmeal Crust

Pumpkin Pie with Oatmeal Crust

One of my all time favorite family recipes is mom’s pumpkin pie. She’s been bringing this dessert to Thanksgiving and Christmas parties for as long as I can remember. My version of the pumpkin pie with oatmeal crust is just a slight tweak on the original, because you really shouldn’t mess around too much with a good thing.

Mom’s method follows a pretty classic pumpkin pie recipe, with all the usual ingredients you’d expect: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, eggs, evaporated milk and if you want to be super American about it, Libby’s tinned pumpkin puree.

Pumpkin Pie with Oatmeal Crust

Of course, you can make your own pumpkin puree, but there is something special about Libby’s – they use a strain of Dickinson Pumpkins, with especially creamy flesh, that the company developed themselves. This variety is actually closer to a butternut squash than the pumpkins we’re used to, so if you are going for DIY pumpkin puree, you could just as easily use butternut squash.

I’ve riffed on the family recipe with the pastry, where I’ve used a pretty standard shortcrust amped up with some rolled oats for amazing texture that works really well with the custardy pumpkin pie innards.

Oatmeal Pie Crust

I’ve also been playing around with drink pairings for pumpkin pie. Sweet oloroso sherry and sweet reisling are amongst the recommended pairings, but I maintain that pumpkin pie, already quite sweet, needs to be balanced by something with a bit more oomph. For this reason, Maker’s Mark bourbon is ideal – the bourbon mellows the pumpkin pie, while the pie brings out the caramel flavours of the bourbon. It’s astounding, and about as American as it gets.

Maker's Mark: Perfect with Pumpkin Pie

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie


  • 16oz pumpkin puree
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 13oz evaporated milk
  • 1 oatmeal pie pastry (see recipe below) or plain pastry
  • whipping cream
  • icing sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 400F / 200C.
  2. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin, brown sugar, salt and spices. Blend in eggs and evaporated milk.
  3. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Bake for 45 minutes or until knife inserted into the middle of the pie comes out clean. Let cool.
  4. Just before serving, whip the cream (add a little icing sugar for a touch of sweetness). Slice the pie and serve each slice with a big dollop of whipped cream.

Oatmeal Pie Pastry Crust

Makes 1 crust.


  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1/2 cup jumbo rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into about 8 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if necessary


  1. Combine the flour, oats and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and turn on the machine; process for about 10 seconds, until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal.
  2. Put the mixture in a bowl and add the ice water; mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball, adding another tablespoon or two of ice water if necessary. Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle a clean countertop with flour, put the dough on it, and sprinkle the top with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll with light pressure from the center out. If the dough is hard, let it rest for a few minutes. If the dough is sticky, add a little flour. Roll, adding flour and rotating and turning the dough as needed.
  4. When the diameter of the dough is about 2 inches greater than that of your pie plate, drape the dough over the rolling pin to transfer it into the pie plate. Press the dough firmly into the plate all over.
  5. Trim the excess dough to about 1/2 inch all around, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the pie plate. Decorate the edges with a fork or your fingers. Freeze the dough for 10 minutes (or refrigerate it for 30 minutes) until you are ready to bake.

Pumpkin Pie with Oatmeal Crust

Induction Seduction

Induction Seduction

Today I’m talking about hobs, otherwise known as “cooktops” or “stovetops” to my American friends. My hob of choice is gas, but as I rent, I have been stuck with the electric hob that my landlords have provided me with… until now…

Two weeks ago, said hob began to crack and so needed replacing. Surprise! My landlords installed an induction hob. Now none of my pans work (in particular, my beloved omelet pan which I use almost every day). THANKS, guys!

But all was not lost. I managed to get hold of some excellent induction pans, including a non-stick frying pan and a sautepan from Judge Cookware, whose Continental Range is optimised for induction. All of their induction pans are stainless steel, have a thermic base for even heat distribution and, importantly, are dishwasher and oven safe to 180 C.

So with my new induction frypan and sautepan, I was able to test the merits of this induction hob business.

Broccoli, Potato, Feta and Dill Frittata

Here’s the story with induction: induction works by transferring an alternating current through a ferromagnetic coil, creating a magnetic field beneath the ceramic top of the hob and transfers heat directly to the pan. Induction only works when the pan is placed within this magnetic zone, so that energy is directed where it is needed.

Here are some cool stats and facts about induction hobs that I learned from

  • When using an induction hob, more than 90% of every pound spent on energy goes straight to the pan. Gas delivers less than 50% and traditional electric less than 60%.
  • The pan itself is turned into the heat source so the hob remains cool, thus, heat doesn’t build up and no carcinogenic fumes are given off – which reduces or eliminates the need for extraction units or air conditioning.
  • Induction is fast and efficient – you can boil four pints of water in less than a minute on an induction hob! You also have precise control of temperature so that foods such as soups and stews can be cooked over long periods of time without the risk of burning.

I definitely noticed the responsiveness of the induction hob straight away; it’s a huge improvement verses my previous electric hob and seems to be the next best thing to gas. And the pan issue isn’t such a scary one – many pans will work on an induction hob, as long as they are magnetic (you can use a fridge magnet to test this).

If you are on the hunt for some quality induction pans, I definitely recommend checking out the Continental range from Judge Cookware. They are stylish, functional, durable and right at home with induction. The small frypan in particular is perfect for a single-serving frittata – and because it’s oven-safe, you can finish your frittata in the oven – no frittata flipping required. Imagine the possibilities!

Broccoli, Potato, Feta and Dill Frittata

11 Immediately Gratifying Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Health

Goals are hugely important and I’m a big fan of dreaming big and aiming high. But the thing about goals is that they involve time, and let’s face it, sometimes those goals seem so out of reach that it feels daunting to even get started. For that reason, it’s important to do little things on a daily basis that offer immediate gratification while also edging us closer to the self we dream of becoming.

Here is a list of things I do on a daily basis that help me keep my head on straight by reminding me just how good it feels to treat myself well. All of these things offer near instant gratification. They are also easy and inexpensive.

Morning ritual: hot lemon and water. And a groovy mug to put it in.

1. Start the day with hot lemon and water.

There’s already loads of hype around hot lemon and water – it aids digestion, stimulates the liver, boosts the immune system… this may all be true, but in terms of immediate gratification, I find a mug of hot lemon and water first things is refreshing, boosts my energy and seems to kick-start my digestion, thus keeping me regular (TMI?). You can still have your teas and coffee, but have the hot lemon water first and then move on to the hard stuff.

2. Go for a walk every day.

Fresh air, folks – we could all do with a bit of that on a daily basis. I find walks especially helpful if I’m feeling tired or ho-hum.

“I try to walk minimum 1/2 hour after school run, & second walk about 1pm for 30-40 mins…The walk itself is good though, fresh air, nature & lots of other dogs & there walkers, so social too:-)” – Jude McGee, A Trifle Rushed

3. Buy flowers instead of junk food. 

This is my friend Claudia’s idea and I love it. If you’re at the shops and you want cookies, instead buy some fresh flowers – they’ll be nice to look at and remind you how awesome you are.

4. Start the day with a bit of exercise. 

Walk, run, bike, skip, yoga… it doesn’t matter really. A bit of exercise first thing is totally energizing and starts the day with an immediate success that you can feel good about all day long.

5. Contain your drinking to three days per week max. 

Not so much a “daily activity” but a good guideline for keeping the booze in check. For me this rule is less about calories than it is about good sleep – I just don’t sleep as well if I have alcohol. Good sleep = energy and motivation to do the other stuff on this list, and everything else you want to do. Again, immediately gratifying. I never regretting NOT drinking. Think on that!

6. Limit sugar to one day per week. 

Do I really need to explain this one?

7. Do something every day to connect yourself with nature.

The aforementioned daily walk is a good place to start.

Get outside. Sounds silly but even 30 mins on my allotment puts me in an amazing mood and emotional health is just as important as physical.” – Urvashi Roe, The Botanical Baker

Sunday morning walk

8. Garnish.

Garnish your food with nourishing deliciousness. For smoothies, I like seeds, nuts, coconut flakes, oats and bee pollen. For soups, I like more seeds, boiled eggs, diced vegetables and of course, avocado. They make your food more interesting and tastier too. It doesn’t get more immediately gratifying than that!

Coming soon to the blog (I swear): my recipe for my go-to breakfast smoothie as of late. It involves lots of lime and greenery. And garnish!


9. Visualize Success. 

Spend a few minutes every day visualizing your desired outcomes, be it fitness, financial, professional or anything else.

“As we routinely and intentionally visualize a desired outcome, and step into the belief that it is possible, our brains increase the motivation to make it happen. We become more and more determined to do whatever it takes to achieve our goals.” – Marla Tabaka,

10. Reflect on daily achievements.

While I’m doing my visualizing, I also try to work in a little reflection on the prior day’s successes. This is way more better for morale than focusing on what you didn’t do. Cuz really, all of the smart people I know have so many goals and dreams and ideas and ambitions, none of us have time to do it all. But as long we’re doing something, we’re ahead of the pack – so let’s remember what it is we HAVE achieved (it can be something as simple as having that hot lemon and water!) and wear a smile on our face because we’re so damn awesome.

11. Focus on gratitude.

When temptation strikes, respond to this feeling by thinking about what you CAN have. The fact is you can have anything you want, but you choose to have the nourishing stuff and leave everything else for an occasional treat.

“If you say ‘I want but can’t have’ – you will suffer. If you say ‘I can but I don’t want to have’ – you won’t… An ‘attitude of gratitude’ moves you from the ‘I can’t have’ child-like mental tantrum to one of empowerment and fulfillment.” – Jason Vale

So that’s MY list. What would you add to it?

Abby’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chilli

Sweet potato and black bean chili

This week’s Riverford vegbox contained two rare treasures: sweet potatoes and jalapeños, two foods that form the basis for one of my all time favorite veggie chili recipes: sweet potato and black bean chilli.

This recipe is a total blast from the past. My friend Abby made it for her boyfriend (now husband) and I on a cold snowy winter’s evening in Milwaukee several years ago. We’d spent the day cross country skiing in the bitter cold. It was amazing, but very hard work (it was my first time skiing ever!), and coming home to a big pot of piping hot chilli (and a few bottles of VERY cold beers) was hugely rewarding.


I haven’t changed the recipe much from the original – Abby herself said she likes to “play around with the spices”, so I did that, too, adding a bit of cinnamon and Mexican oregano (Abby likes to add Herbs de Provence).

Such is the awesomeness of veggie chili. It’s hugely adaptable and it’s hard to go wrong. But one thing you do need is good ingredients, and on this particular occasion I felt very grateful for having beautiful organic sweet potatoes to work with. Their flavor really came through against the cocoa and cinnamon, making for some serious comfort food that feels very much needed as the weather turns truly autumnal.

Sweet potato and black bean chili

I like to serve this chili with loads of garnishes: fresh cilantro, lime, raw onion, my homemade pickled jalapeños and lots of avocado. You could also add cheese or sour cream if you’d like, or a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds for a bit of crunch. And to really make it special, serve with a big wedge of cornbread and a bottle of good beer (I recommend Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale) on the side.

Beer Tasting

Abby’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili


  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 to 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tins diced tomatoes
  • 3 tins black beans, drained
  • 1 jalapeno chili pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves, washed and dried


  1. Warm the oil in a large pan over medium heat and add the onion, red pepper, green pepper, carrots, garlic, and salt. Saute until soft, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add the sweet potato and lime zest, and cook 10 to 15 minutes more, continuing to stir occasionally.
  3. Add the jalapeno, cumin, chill powder, cinnamon, cocoa and oregano, stir and cook for a minute or two.
  4. Add the tomatoes, black beans, lime juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20-40 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are very soft.

Sweet potato and black bean chili

This chilli is so memorable that I’ve written about it before.

Also memorable, the moustache on the ski rental dude at Wheel and Sprocket:


And my friend Matt on skis.

Matt on skis

Now go make some chilli!

Sweet potato and black bean chili

Also seen on Great British Chefs.

Goals 2015: The Original Mountain Marathon

In the last few years, my fitness goals have largely revolved around fixing injuries, but now I’m feeling pretty “fixed” for the most part (hurray!) and ready to set myself a challenge that will actually make use of my fitter better self and push me to, well, keep on pushing.

My friend James recently completed the Original Mountain Marathon (aka ‘the OMM’) and posted a video montage of the experience. I totally want to do this!

The OMM is a 2-day Mountain event, held in a different region across the UK every year (and other courses held in other countries throughout the year). It was first held in 1968 and continues today. Gerry Charnley, a skilled mountaineer and orienteer, designed the course to test orienteering skills in extreme circumstances; the full-length KIMM course is a double-marathon length race (there are shorter options).

There’s an OMM in France 19th-20th July which is appealing and well timed for my birthday. I’m looking forward to seeing when they set they 2015 UK date. It’s a little daunting and I’m not sure I’m capable of it – yet! – so all the more motivation to keep on CrossFitting, swimming, eating well and most of all: get out into the world and walk up some big hills and see some amazing places!

So, anyone want to be my OMM buddy?