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Snow Cones for Grown Ups

Grown up snow cone

As part of my supperclub earlier this month, I developed a signature cocktail - fresh pineapple margarita with jalapeno and strawberry infused tequila – inspired by my time spent in Austin and budding interest in fresh juice cocktails.

sno-cone-suppliesToday, inspired by my friend Kavey’s post about ye olde ice cream vans, and because it’s Friday, I decided to recreate my margarita as an adult version of the classic “Snow Cone”. This is also in vague tribute to another Austin favourite, Casey’s Snow Balls, which itself is a tribute to another one of my favourite city’s, New Orleans (it’s all about tributes today).

The snow ball concept is basically this: put some shaved ice in a cup (which you can sort of achieve by blending up ice in a blender with a little water). Pour whatever you want over the shaved ice – booze, fruit syrup, fresh juice, cordial, whatever – and serve. This makes the below recipe very adaptable for whatever margarita flavour you’d like (I pimped out the above margarita with some elderberry syrup I had left from last year).

For lack of paper cones, I find the cone-shape of the margarita glass makes a perfect substitute.

Snow Cone Margarita

Serves 1

  • 1 cup shaved ice (or ice crushed up in a blender with a bit of water)
  • 1-3 Tbsp agave nectar or flavoured syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 ounce tequila (or better still, jalapeno and strawberry infused tequila)
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • salt if desired

Method

  1. If you like a salt-rimmed glass, then take a lime wedge and use it to moisten the rim of the glass. Put some salt on a plate and rotate the outside of the glass rim in the salt (so that you salt the outside, not the inside).
  2. In a jar or any container with a lid, combine the agave, tequila and lime juice. Give it a good shake.
  3. Put the ice in the glass and pour the jar contents over it.
  4. Garnish with lime, pineapple or whatever you like an serve.

I’m including this in Kavey’s Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream round-up under the ice cream van theme.

Smarter Fitter Supperclub Recap and Recipes

Fwd:

Last night was my first ever Smarter Fitter Supperclub held here at my digs in the Cotswolds featuring a vegan, raw, gluten-free theme. There were 11 of us in total, and what fun it was having so many like-minded and adventurous people over to try some of my creations, share ideas, drink wine and have some great chat. It went amazingly well and I hope all of my guests had as much fun as I did. The stand-out dishes seemed to be the beetroot and walnut dip, sweet potato kofte, raw raspberry cheesecake and, funny enough, the “Juicer Dreg Crisps” I made in the dehydrator with leftover juicer pulp.

My only regret is not taking enough pictures! The only pictures I did take were of the beverages (which might explain a thing or two).

Infusing. #tequila

Will I do it again? I think so! The social opportunities alone make it worthwhile – I met some really interesting people and made a few new friends. Plus, it was great hanging out with people who are actually local to me – something I don’t do as much as I’d like to.

So I’m thinking a summertime veggie BBQ camp. Any interest?

The menu from last night is below, with links to a few recipes for some favourite dishes.

DRINKS

APPETIZERS

SMORGASBORD

DESSERT

Smarter Fitter Supperclub – with camping!

I am hosting the first of hopefully many Smarter Fitter Supperclubs at my home in the Cotswolds countryside this 12 April – and everyone’s invited! Read on for details…

Supperclubbing

The Basics

  • Date: Saturday, 12 April
  • Time: 7pm
  • Cost: £40 for a cocktail and 3-courses (£100 for camping option, see below)
  • Cuisine: Vegan (more on this below)
  • Drinks: BYOB
  • Location: My cottage near Cirencester (details will be emailed to you after you book)
  • Booking: Please book via PayPal below

The Food

Supperclubbing

The Smarter Fitter Supperclub will feature a 3-course vegan menu that features loads of seasonal produce and the kind of colourful, creative dishes that I’ve honed over my last 22 years of cooking and eating meat-free, with the last several years being heavily focused on developing all-natural vegan recipes that are satisfying and tasty for vegetarians and omnivores alike (check out my Instagram feed for a glimpse at some of my creations).

This isn’t a health food supperclub, it’s a real food supperclub. Yes there will be salads, but not like you’re used to! Expect lots of colour and yummy dressings and rich sauces and no doubt an avocado or two. Given my propensity for juices and smoothies, you can bet there will be some fresh juice going around. And you are welcome to bring your own wine, beer and spirits.

This supperclub isn’t just for vegans; it’s for anyone who likes good, wholesome, all-natural food. It’s also for people who are adventurous and want to experience some new ingredients and a new way of eating! You may even walk away with some inspiration for how to incorporate more vegetables, raw food, pulses and gluten-free grains into your own cooking in a creative way that’s equally satisfying, nourishing and delicious (I will happily share my recipes after the supperclub).

I can cater for all special diets – the menu will be primarily gluten-free as is. So if you have any dietary restrictions, just let me know.

The Venue

Farm life

The supperclub will be held at my cottage in the countryside, a hidden oasis in the middle of wildflower meadows with an orchard in the backyard and an awesome dog named Rocky. You can get a preview of the grounds and interior in my Airbnb listing. Like all good cottages, mine is cozy and so supperclub seating is limited. Book now to secure your place by clicking on the Paypal link below.

Camping Option

Particularly handy for those who like their wine!

Those of you who would like to stay the night and have breakfast in the morning are welcome to bring a tent and pitch in the backyard. I am really good at breakfasts and encourage you to take advantage of this offer!

Questions?

If you have any questions at all before you book, please contact me by email or on Twitter. I hope to see you soon!- Monica


Make a booking:
(If you’re booking for more than one, you will be able to change order quantities after clicking the Buy Now button.)



No Knead Bread

Courgette and Carrot Salad

From the orchard

Breaking down camp

Beetroot Gazpacho Soup

Mom made this awesome sign!

Pudding time

New Year Reboot Workshop Recap

New Year Reboot Detox Class at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School

Last Tuesday I hosted my first cooking class ever! The title was New Year Reboot and the aim was to show people strategies and recipes to help them recover their body from a season of excess and get back to (or get started with) feeling awesome all of the time. The class was held in Bath at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School, owned and operated by Rachel Demuth, one of the best vegetarian chefs in the UK (she’s been at it for 30 years so she knows her stuff!).

New Year Reboot Workshop

I was very grateful to work alongside Rachel as I taught the course. While I demonstrated smoothies, soups and salads, Rachel showed how to make your own veggie stock, quinoa and the ultimate soup garnish: kale chips!

New Year Reboot Workshop

I was so grateful to have Rachel there, along with my helper and friend, Marie Leggo of Lanyon in Cornwall. I now realise just how much effort goes into teaching a cookery class, and I have new appreciation for the work that cookery teachers like Rachel put into what they do. It’s quite possible that I bit off more than I could chew with the menu, but Rachel and Marie helped everything flow.

All of the dishes were vegan, gluten-free, soy free and dairy free. Here’s what was on the menu, with recipes where available:

The students made their own pear and avocado smoothies and quinoa bowls, and it was fun seeing the different variations they came up with (I applaud their copious use of fresh herbs – my students were flavour genius!).

I was further delighted by how much they liked my cauliflower soup, where the creaminess comes from cashews rather than milk or cream. And in another cauliflower trick, the raw winter tabbouleh used cauliflower in place of bulgar wheat (the cauliflower gets broken into bits in a food processor).

New Year Reboot Detox Class at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School

Of course, the best part was meeting and cooking with a bunch of new people, all eager to learn a bit about this healthy eating stuff and exchange ideas. It made all of that effort worthwhile and certainly assuaged any new-teacher-nerves I might have had!

photo 2.JPG

A big thanks to Rachel for providing such a wonderful environment for teaching, and thanks in particular for all the help with preparation. And thanks to Marie who helped clean up our messes!

Finally, thanks especially to everyone who came on the course – it inspires me to keep on pushing with my own healthy habits, and healthy output like recipes, cookbooks and workshops. Beetroot smoothies all around!

 

Juice Feast in Review

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

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently did a 7-day “juice feast” in which I drank only fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices for seven days in a row following Jason Vale’s annoyingly-named “7lbs in 7 Days Super Juice Diet”. I’ve already written about how stupid it all sounds (I normally wouldn’t buy or buy into anything involving the word “diet”, but even book publishers have to eat… or drink as the case may be). But I did it, not so much for the weight loss, but just to see how it would make me feel. I wanted an adventure!

Having finished the seven days (successfully!), I just wanted to share a few random thoughts about the whole thing.

Let me make this clear: THIS IS NOT FASTING

When I told some people about this juicing thing they were automatically like “oh my god, you’re going to to disappear”. I want to stress that this juice plan wasn’t a starve yourself plan. I drank 6 substantial juices throughout the day at 3-hour intervals. Some of those juices got blended with avocado or greek yogurt, so were more like smoothies. It’s tough to count how many calories I was eating, but as a very rough estimate, I’d say I drank 6-7 cups of juices per day plus 1-2 avocados plus 200-400g yogurt. If a cup of juice has 100 calories, an avocado 400 calories and yogurt (I chose Greek!) 100 calories per hundred grams, that’s about 1200+ calories per day. And the plan is flexible – if you’re hungry, have more juice.

Attempting the family jello 'mould' using fresh juice. Beet for colour!

In fact, I wasn’t hungry

As much as I was never full, I was never really hungry. There were some days when I didn’t even drink all the juices because I just felt satisfied with what I had.

No planning or thinking required: I like that

Well, there’s a bit of planning – you have to go to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients. And get a juicer. But the day-to-day stuff is completely laid out on a wall chart. There’s your seven days. No researching recipes or thinking up creative low calorie meals. The work is done. And as much as I normally love inventing recipes, this juicing thing was totally new to me and I appreciated the clear guidance.

Headaches

I experienced headaches on Days 2 and 3, in the evening, but these went away after that. Caffeine withdrawal? Kale withdrawal? Who knows.

Crazy amounts of energy

So after Day 3 is when things really got crazy. I suddenly had all kinds of energy that lasted from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. It was marvellous. I got so much done. I was focused. I put in lots of time on Smarter Fitter Smoothies. I put in lots of time on everything. I had to force myself to go to bed at night even though I wasn’t tired. I felt like I did things with purpose. I wonder if…

Was it the superfood?

The plan calls for supplementing with wheatgrass (fresh or powder), spirulina, “friendly bacteria” and his “Superfood” supplement. I bemoaned the idea of buying more stuff, so I didn’t, but then had the great fortune of receiving some wheatgrass powder and spirulina samples from Naturya (more on that in a separate post). These arrived at the end of Day 3. So I’m left to wonder whether my energy came from the “superfood” or just the simple fact of my body settling into a juice routine. Regardless, I’m going to keep up with the superfood in my post-juice-feast smoothies and see if the energy wave continues.

Physical energy, too

Throughout the seven days I maintained my usual morning gym routine of swimming and weightlifting and even upped the ante a bit with some afternoon cycling on my new bicycle trainer. My workouts that week were better than they’d been in months. I was swimming faster, lifting more, and generally just feeling more focused on my activities, and thus, pushing myself harder.

Sorry to sound so smitten but

I felt better at the end of those seven days than I’d felt in probably years.

But I was glad when it was over

It felt so good to chew food again and to eat things that were (a) hot and (b) SAVOURY. In fact I made my first savoury smoothie the day after the juice feast.

Whole food is hard on the body after a week of juicing

Jason’s book stresses that you must ease back into normal eating slowly. Days 8-10 should consist of smoothies for breakfast, raw salads or soups for lunch and a protein-rich dinner. So that’s what I did – lunch was an apple, avocado and rocket salad and dinner was a thai-style fish soup with lots of vegetables. But even then, my stomach felt off on Day 9, like it was sore from all the hard work of digestion! So I kept Day 9 pretty light with a juice for breakfast, a small salad and juice for lunch, and another salad with grilled fish for dinner. Today is Day 10 and I am feeling much happier on the inside. 

What about those 7lbs?

I guess for a lot of people this is what it all really comes down to. I lost 6lbs. I wasn’t able to measure body fat so I don’t really know how much of that weight loss was water, fat, muscle, etc. As much as I didn’t do this to lose weight, when I looked in the mirror at the end of it and saw just a HINT of an abdominal muscle, I felt kinda pleased. Hello Christmas six-pack.

Expensive, but not as much as I thought

I put the vegetable ingredients into Tesco’s online shopping cart and the grocery bill came to £43.68 (with about £15 coming from the 85 apples!).To me that isn’t absurd for a week of groceries. The real expense comes with the equipment and the supplements, if using. The juicer alone cost £199 (you can get them cheaper, mind you, but expect to pay at least £80). And if you buy his recommended supplements, you’re looking at another £50 for spirulina, wheatgrass, psyllium husks, “Friendly Bacteria” and “Superfood” (I didn’t use the latter three). Plus the cost of the book and the iPhone app (which is awesome), about £10.

So in total it costs about £200-300 to do this thing.

But why?

I only wish I knew more about why the plan was laid out the way it was, in the given order on each day. Why did I have to wait three days to have the glorious yogurt and spirulina smoothie?! This was not covered in the book, or if it was, only in fluffy, non-scientific terms. I want someone to explain the way I’m feeling so I know how to make it last!

How long can I keep this up?

I’m still feeling pretty awesome and incredibly motivated to KEEP feeling this way. I just have this worry – now that I’ve stopped juicing, is all this awesome energy going to wear off? Well, I guess that’s the next adventure. Let’s so how I long I can keep it around for!

Cashew Curry

Cashew Curry

Given yesterday’s news that nuts are tied to lower risk of cancer and heart disease, I thought I’d share this cashew curry recipe which I made recently as part of an Indian feast for my friend Sam’s birthday a couple weekends ago. The recipe is adapted from Reza Mahammad’s “Cashews in a Rich Coconut Sauce” from Rice, Spice and All Things Nice. Yes, this is a curry based entirely on nuts! A strange idea, I thought, but it works really well and makes a most interesting option for a vegetarian curry.

And if you’re worried about the fat content of nuts, don’t be!  The study showed that people who ate nuts actually tended to be slimmer than their non-nutty counterparts. And, bonus, they also had:

  • 29% reduced risk of heart disease
  • 11% reduced risk of cancer
  • 20% reduced risk of death

The results applied to all nuts, even peanuts, which are actually a legume, not a nut (in fact, I’d be willing to bet that people who eat legumes regularly experience the same benefits as nut fiends).

Here’s a few other nutty recipes I like:

Cashew Curry
Author: 
Recipe type: Curry
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 6
 

Skip the chillies if you can’t take the heat! Yes there is a 2-3 hour cooking time but this is MOSTLY unattended.
Ingredients
  • 200g raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 50ml vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1in piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground fennel
  • 200ml coconut milk (1/2 can)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt
  • 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise

Instructions
  1. Cut the onion into quarters. Blend ¾ of the onion in a food processor. Finely dice the remaining onion.
  2. Rinse the cashews in cold water and drain.
  3. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the diced onion and fry on low heat for 10-15 minutes until it turns translucent and soft (do not allow it to brown!).
  4. Add the garlic, ginger, blended onion, turmeric and fennel. Pour in 500ml of water and stir well to incorporate.
  5. Add the cashews to the pan, return to the boil, lower the heat, cover, then cook slowly for 2-3 hours until the cashews are tender to the touch (stir the pot as little as you can during this time).
  6. When the cashews are soft, add the coconut milk, sugar, salt and chillies, then cook for another 30 minutes on a low heat.
  7. Serve hot.

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 serving Calories: 350 Fat: 32g Saturated fat: 12g Carbohydrates: 16g Fiber: 2.5g Protein: 6g Cholesterol: 0g

 

In Search of the Perfect Veggie Roast

Thanksgiving veggie loaf experiments

Thanksgiving is upon us, a holiday which means very little to most people in the UK, unless you’re one of us American expats for whom the holiday seems to take on even greater meaning than it ever did when we were Stateside. Maybe it’s the ol’ ‘distance makes the heart grow fonder’ thing: because we can’t be home for Thanksgiving, we compensate, busting out every traditional recipe with can think of – from green bean casserole to pumpkin pie. And for lack of a central “family unit” to centralise the festivities, multiple people play host to Thanksgiving dinners, resulting in a multitude of Thanksgiving feasts, any one of which would probably put the family party back home to shame.

I am attending two Thanksgiving dinners this year, one of which I’m hosting here at the cottage. It will be a vegetarian feast, which naturally leads guests to the following question: “Will there be a nut roast!?”

To nut roast or not to nut roast? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.

Impromptu veggie loaf

The search for the perfect vegetarian holiday main dish seems to be a constant quest for me and my veggie mom and sister. Every year we scheme and plan. There have been lentil loaves, stuffed butternut squash and, one of our most successful attempts, a glorious vegetarian moussakka.

But what I’m after is something vegetarian that works with two of my favourite Thanksgiving hallmarks: gravy (cashew gravy in my case) and cranberry chutney.

Cranberry Chutney

So a veggie roast is in order, but what to make? Here in Britain, the classic veggie roast is a “nut roast”, for which numerous recipes exist. The problem I have with all of these recipes is, well, the nuts. I just really don’t want to eat a slice of nuts for Thanksgiving dinner, especially when there’s cashew gravy on the line.

Christmas Eve Nut Roast

Other options include a loaf based on lentils or grains, but the challenge continues… many of these veggie roast recipes take some of the key elements of the meal – namely roast vegetables and stuffing – and mush them up into one loaf – it’s like bubble and squeek on overdrive. Great for leftovers, but not the main event. So I’m seeking a loaf that really stands on its own, that works with side dishes like roast carrots and parsnips, mashed potatoes and stuffing, without being redundant.

Aside from all of this, the veggie roast should have great texture while still being sliceable. I’ve made my share of veggie loaves that crumble apart when you slice them. Not the best presentation!

Thanksgiving veggie loaf experiments

To that end, I’ve been researching recipes and practising and I think I’ve settle on something that does the trick. But I don’t want to give anything away before the big day. Instead, I’ll share with you a few of the more promising recipes I’ve stumbled upon.

I’m sure there are more out there but frankly I’m a little bit burnt out on veggie loaf research. So you tell me: what’s the ultimate veggie roast? Or is there no such thing? In which case, what’s the ultimate vegetarian Thanksgiving main?

Super Veggie Carbonara

Spaghetti, egg, green beans, parm, chilli. Family recipe. Comfort food.

My parents used to make a spaghetti dish when we were kids that involved the following ingredients: spaghetti, scrambled egg, crushed red chilli flakes, Lawry’s Garlic Salt, frozen french-cut green beans and parmesan.

I think of it as veggie carbonara, with green stuff in place of bacon, which some might say is an insult to carbonara, but I say what’s in a name? Regardless…

Whenever I’m feeling unwell, I always get a craving for this recipe. And so, dinner last night brought together: spaghetti, scrambled egg, crushed red chilli flakes, sauteed onion (everything’s better with onion), garlic and parsley (in place of the Lawry’s), fresh green beans (because that’s what came in the Riverford box this week), peas (cuz it didn’t feel right making this dish without tapping the freezer at least once) and, as ever, lots and lots of Parmesan.

Feeling much better now, especially after following my pasta bomb with this:

Peach frozen yogurt (from @davidlebovitz's Perfect Scoop).

Easy Yogurt and Jam Popsicles

Blackberry jam popsicles

So I’ve sorta got a thing for frozen things, particularly late at night. And so for this reason, I try not to keep ice cream or sorbet around. Cuz I’ll just eat it, proper American style: in front of the fridge, in my pajamas, with a big spoon. And contrary to recent cheese plates and cake bombs, I do try to generally stay true to this blog’s name in my daily life. So instead of ice cream, I’ve honed a taste for alternative frozen delights like frozen banana and – is this weird? – frozen apple sauce.

But I should shut up about that because it doesn’t sound very fun, and these popsicles are all about being fun, with the added bonus that they remain a justifiable weekday snack that satisfies my incessant craving for frozen goodies.

Back story: my friend Kavey of Kavey Eats does this monthly blog challenge thing called Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream (aka BSFIC).  This month’s challenge is all about ice lollies, aka popsicles, so I thought this was a good reason to branch out from my frozen bananas and do something a little more interesting. It also helped that Kavey was over for a visit the other weekend, and the blackberries were in season, and we picked some, and we made jam. And ta-da, the Yogurt and Blackberry Jam Popsicles were born. They’re totally easy peasy:

Easy Yogurt and Jam Popsicles
Recipe type: Dessert
Cook time: 
Total time: 

 

Ingredients
  • Yogurt – I used Greek style but any yogurt will do
  • Jam – I used Kavey’s homemade blackberry jam
  • Port or some other liquor (or water)

Instructions
  1. Dilute the jam in a bit of port or other complimentary liquid so that it’s “swirlable”
  2. Layer yogurt and jam in a popsicle mould (I did about 1-2cm yogurt in layers with a little dollop of jam)
  3. Swirl the yogurt and jam around a bit with a knife or skewer
  4. Freeze until set

 

I used Greek style yogurt from the Organic Farm Shop in Cirencester which is VERY thick and also quite tangy, a flavour I really like with the blackberry jam.

Blackberry jam yogurt popsicles

And by the way, if you think frozen applesauce is weird, you should check out Kavey’s Pickleback Ice Lollies.

The Early Bird Catches the Peahen

Early Bird

I awoke this morning to find this big beauty staring at me from right outside the front door. It’s a peahen, a female peacock (many thanks to @WiltshireWalker on Twitter for helping me identify it). And as much as I was amused by the idea, I will not follow Vivia‘s suggestion: “roast peahen is quite a delicacy and there is no closed season :).”

I will also not follow the peahen’s persistent pecking at the door to “let me in!” As much as I like the idea of a posh peahen pet, the poop would be a disaster.

Early Bird