Posts Tagged With: mindfulness

Pappardelle with Artichoke & Almond Sauce plus Recipes for a Healthier & Happier Life

‘Pappardelle with Almond & Artichoke Sauce, Purple Kale & White Asaparagus’ – Original recipe from ‘Peace & Parsnips’

I’m cooking this tonight, a really attractive summery pasta dish.  I was reminded of it when it popped up on the Blue Zones website.  I cook dishes like this often, especially when I’m over in Spain, where the artichokes and almonds are just out of this world!!  Plus the lemons…..you cannot quite recreate the flavour of a lemon freshly picked from the tree which has enjoyed all that sparkling Med sunshine.  But let’s try!  If you cook this dish, wherever you are, half close you eyes and imagine that the bright sunshine is everywhere, the blue, blue ocean waves are crashing somewhere close by and there are trees filled with lemons just outside your window.  Ahhhhh.  That’s the right vibe for this one!

The Mediterranean diet is famous for being healthy, but its not just all the sea, sand and lemons.  A healthy lifestyle is a little more complex than that it seems.  I’m very interested in the idea that the way we live, not just the way we eat and drink, has a bearing on our health and wellbeing.  For me, diet is one of the foundations to a healthy and happy body and mind, but there is much more to consider and appreciate.

BLUE ZONES

Blue zones refer to the communities around the world who live for the longest.  There has been a lot of interest in the lifestyles of these people, why do they live so long?  It seems that being social, staying active and from what I can see, maintaining a connection with nature, leads to longevity.  There seems to be a strong sense of community in most of the ‘blue zones’ around the world, from Japan to Italy, and over to Costa Rica, people living more natural lives with good connections with each other, live longest.  Sounds like a recipe for a good life to me.

I’ve always like the Irish proverb, ‘a light heart lives long.’  I can’t see stress doing us any good in the long run.  When I see the people interviewed in these ‘Blue Zone’ cultures, they are generally chilled out.  Most of this is common sense to many of us, but its the putting it into practice that can be the hard part.  Takes a bit of discipline.

I’m always positive about change, our lifestyles will adapt depending on our priorities and convictions.  The option for a peaceful and content life is always there, it may be hard, may seem impossible, but with little shifts and changes to the way we approach life, the things we prioritise on a daily basis, big changes can come.  I know this, because it happened in my life.  I went from quite a stressed life managing restaurants in London to helping to build a little beach bar in Spain, then took the real plunge and went for a very long walk in the Himalayas.  My world view and perceptions changed considerably.

MINDFULNESS

A healthy approach is of course not just based around what we eat, but the way we think and feel.  I recently watched this little cartoon about mindfulness, which is an excellent technique for developing a more conscious and connected approach to life that has been effective for millions of people.  Mindfulness and meditation are two key practices that Jane and I use to maintain balance and harmony within ourselves and therefore within our relationship with each other and the world at large.

Mindfulness is like an anchor in a chaotic world, when our life seems to be out of control, it’s a safe place we can find empowerment and inspiration, peace and genuine relaxation.  After all, a short period of mindfulness and meditation can have the restorative and re-energising effects of many hours sleeping.  A relaxed mind is an effective mind and an effective mind allows us to navigate our way through life in an assured, calm and empowered manner.

I’d like to thank the Blue Zone site for sharing the recipe and reminding me about some of the aspects of my own lifestyle that were being neglected.  I’m off for a long walk and then, dinner!

Recipe Notes

Peace and Parsnips was released in the USA recently, so you’ll notice the US style weights and measures below.  The recipe contains a few ingredients, but is easy to put together and I like the artichoke and almond combo in the sauce, something a bit different.  I think this is perfect for a treat summer meal and the last recipe I posted, Simple Seared Mushrooms with Pea Puree & Crushed Minty Peas would make a very nice starter.  I love these kinds of dishes, simply prepared, just let the lovely produce at this time of year give their flavour and do the talking.

Have you tried salsify?  Its a delicious, if a little obscure, ingredient.  You can use salsify in this dish instead of the white asparagus, which is normally found jarred.  I first made this dish in Spain, where there is no shortage of white asparagus.  I like its subtle flavour and texture.

Pappardelle is one of my favourite pastas, great for a thick, creamy sauce that sticks to it nicely.  You can of course use tagliatelle or something similar.

 

The Bits

14 ounces (400g) purple kale, stalks removed, thickly chopped

8–10 white asparagus spears

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/3 cup (75ml) nice white wine (vegan)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

14 ounces (400g) pappardelle (or similar egg-free pasta)

a small handful of toasted almonds, finely chopped

a big handful of fresh parsley, chopped

a handful of watercress

 

Artichoke & Almond Sauce

5 tablespoons olive oil

a handful of almonds, soaked for 2 hours, skins removed if you have time

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

4 big handfuls of watercress leaves

14 ounces (390g) artichoke hearts

juice of ½ a lemon

 

Do It

For the Artichoke & Almond Sauce

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add the almonds.

Sauté for 1 minute, then add the garlic and continue cooking for 2 minutes more.

Add the watercress leaves, cover the pan, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Place the contents of the frying pan in a food processor with the artichokes, lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and blend to a smooth purée. The sauce should be thick and shiny. Add water to thin it out if necessary.

 

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan on medium and add the asparagus. Panfry for 6–8 minutes, until nicely caramelized. Add a glug of white wine, and when the liquid has evaporated, season and cover. Leave to sit.

Bring a big pan of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta for roughly 8 minutes, until al dente. Add the kale halfway through the cooking time. Drain well, keeping aside a little of the pasta water. Add the drained pasta and kale to the artichoke sauce and toss together, adding some of the pasta water if it is looking a bit dry.

Spoon into warm shallow bowls and top with crisscrossed asparagus and a sprinkling of toasted almonds and parsley. Garnish with the watercress and season with sea salt and black pepper.

 

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Categories: cookbook, Dinner, healthy, Peace and Parsnips, photography, plant-based, Recipes, Summer, Vegan | Tags: , , | 17 Comments

Mindful Eating – The Top 5 Good and Bad Mood Foods

Foods that make you go ZING!

Foods that make you go ZING!

MOODS

Moods. What can we do? Sometimes you’re up and then for no reason whatsoever, your down. Can food help? Most people realise that moods affect what we eat, but does it work the other way. Do foods effect our moods?

There has been much research into the matter which has shown a link between moods and the food we eat. A recent survey has shown that a large proportion (over 80%) of people felt better when they changed their diet. Eating healthier makes us feel better inside and out.

SCIENCE BIT

From what we can tell this is down to serotonin, the happy chemical, produced in our brains. Serotonin cannot be produced without tryptophan (an amino acid), so its a good idea to eat foods high in trypophan to make us happy. Simple enough!? Low serotonin levels are blamed for anxiety, cravings, mood disorders and IBS. The concept of eating foods high in trypophan is similar to that of taking an anti-depressant like prozac. Holistic anti-depressants.

Moods cannot be gotten rid of, but can be brought under control. The extremity of the ups and downs can be lowered, meaning you feel more centered and grounded in a good place. Eating and living well can be essential in maintaining not just our physical, but also our mental health.

TOP 5 GOOD MOOD FOODS

1) mung beans

2) nuts

3) tofu

5) bananas

Taken from the e-book The Serotonin Secret, Dr Caroline Longmore

After too many 'good mood' foods Jane sometimes tries to fly!!!!

After too many ‘good mood’ foods Jane sometimes tries to fly!!!!

WHAT MAKES THEM FULL OF ‘HAPPY’?

Foods high in fibre, wholegrains and protein can also help boost moods. Food with a low glycemic index, like oats for example will help the brain absorb all of these happy amino acids. Tryptophan absorption is boosted by carbohydrates.

These foods should be combined with lots of clean water and fresh fruit and vegetables. Eating regularly and not skipping meals also boosts our mental health. A balanced diet is always the best way forward.

Foods that have the opposite effect are sometimes called ‘Stressors’, the main culprits are listed below:

STRESSED FOODS

– Sugar

–  Caffeine

– Alcohol

– Chocolate

– Wheat-containing foods

– Additives

– Dairy

– Saturated Fats

Provided by the ‘Food and Mood Project’, backed by the mental health charity ‘Mind‘.

A diet heavy in the ‘stressors’ can lead to all sorts of problems including anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, panic attacks, lack of concentration and unfortunately, many more…

Sugar has a powerful effect on our sense of well being, if we eat too much, we can get into a sugar roller coaster, which is never nice. Our blood sugar levels are all over the place and we feel drained and fatigued when the sugar is lessening and high as a kite when its peaking.

OVER INDULGING

If you do over indulge (who doesn’t?!) one of the worst things that you can do is feel guilty about it. Feel great about it! You have just treated yourself and you deserve it. Move on and make efforts to eat better and feel better, step-by-step, slowly slowly. It’s a long road without any fixed destination.

Apparently we all have ‘triggers’, foods that can take us up and down. This depends on you, have a little experiment. If you are feeling a bit sluggish and down, think about what you have eaten that day or the night before. Trends will inevitably form. We found it really helpful to take the plunge and go for a full raw, vegan diet. Just for a month or sometimes just a week or so.  Our bodies became sensitive to what we ate and we learned alot about what makes us feel good and otherwise.  There seem to be definite trends in the foods that take the shine off things, and in our experience, most of them are all noted above as ‘Stressors’.  You don’t have to go this far of course, just cut out certain foods for a period of time and see how you feel.  Many people are doing this with gluten at the moment and feeling the benefits.

The occasional treat can never be a bad thing!!!!

The occasional treat can never be a bad thing!!!!

MINDFUL EATING

Eating well is one thing, but thinking well is another level completely. They both tend to rise inclusively.  Once we are feeling more stable and peaceful in the mind, our eating habits seem to change.  We become more aware of how we are fueling our bodies, the effects that the foods we eat have a profound effect on health, both mental and physical.  We all have a good idea of how to make our bodies fit and lean, but how is our mind shaping up?  Are we happy and content?

Thinking positively is the key, a good place to start.  If we can practice thinking only positive thoughts for a minute at a time and build on that. If this is done whilst meditating, even better.  Meditation doesn’t need to be done on a Tibetan cushion, you can do it anywhere.  On the bus or train or even when walking or simply sat in a waiting room.  The days are filled with moments of potential mediation, windows of unexplored peace and rejuvenation.  In our opinion, meditation is the most important practice in creating/ maintaining a more peaceful mental outlook. Once your thoughts are flowing in the right direction, the body tends to follow.  The cookies you crave one day are the carrot sticks you cannot live without the next.  Habits change very quickly.  It is really surprising.  We have been through all of this ourselves and being ‘mindful’ requires discipline and dedication.  But it does have incredible, trans-formative rewards.  Add that to your new found passion for mung beans and you’ll be shining away for all to see.

Here is a meditation clip for those interested.  Jane and I recently attended a Tibetan Buddhist meditation retreat up in Dharamasala, India.  This is there style of doing things, but there are so many styles and methods of meditating.  The most important thing is feeling a sense of peace.  That’s it!  Whatever works for you is the way.

We have a very soft spot for Tibetan Buddhism, so here’s how they focus the mind (this Rinpoche has the most lovely, smile-inducing voice):

If meditation is not your thing, how about some good exercise, get the blood pumping; a long walk in the countryside or a park, turning the computer off and doing some gardening, turning the mobile phone off and cooking your loved one the most beautiful feast, painting, writing, putting up a shelf with care and attention.  Anything that gets you away from the tidal waves of thoughts and ‘thinking’ will no doubt rejuvenate.  Taking care of ourselves, being gentle with ourselves, nourishing mind and body.

For more information on mood foods, check out theMind site. There is information here for Brits on how to contact dietitians and nutritionists to get started on a new diet plan and lifestyle.

Take it easy, have a handful of sunflower seeds, meditate peacefully and shine onX

Bananas always make me smile!

Bananas always make me smile!

This piece is a revised version of something we wrote a few years ago.  We just love the idea that foods can have such a profound effect on our sense of wellbeing, or otherwise…  

Categories: Healing foods, Healthy Eating, Nutrition, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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