Vegan Moroccan Aubergine/Eggplant Bake

IMG_20160915_194004

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian or a meat-lover daring to dabble in the delights of “Meatless Monday”, this Moroccan inspired aubergine, pepper and onion tray bake – topped off with homemade hummus and pomegranate – is sure to satisfy even the biggest appetites and get the taste buds dancing.

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 40 Minutes

Difficulty Level: Easy!

For the Tray Bake:

2 Large Aubergines/Eggplants, sliced in half and scored flesh and skin side

2 Large Peppers (Green and Red work best but you can use whatever you like), sliced into medium-sized chunks

1 Red Onion, quartered and split into single layers (this way they will bake evenly)

2 Tbsp of Good Quality Olive Oil

2 Tbsp of Bart Moroccan Baharat Seasoning (you can find this or an equivalent in the spice section of most supermarkets)

1 Tsp of Cinnamon

1 Tsp of Turmeric

1 Tsp of Paprika

2 Tbsp of Pomegranate Molasses (available in many delis and specialist supermarkets; Waitrose, Sainsburys, Marks and Spencer) If you can’t get hold of it, you can use agave syrup (vegan) or honey (if not vegan).

Half a cup of Pomegranate Seeds (for garnishing)

Small bunch of Coriander/Cilantro (for garnishing)

For the Hummus:

200g/7oz of Canned Chickpeas

2 Tbsp of Lemon Juice (you can always add more if you like it sharper)

2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed

4-6 Tbsp of Water

2 Tbsp of Olive Oil

1-2 Tsp of Cumin (or to taste)

Method:

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/ 220 Degrees.

Drizzle the aubergine/eggplant halves with half of the olive oil and rub in so that the skin and flesh are completely coated. Then, in a large, deep oven tray, place the aubergine halves flesh side down and bake on the top shelf of the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, add all of the spices (Baharat seasoning, cumin, paprika, turmeric and cinnamon) into a small bowl and mix until well blended.

When the 20 minutes is up, remove the tray from the oven and turn the aubergines. Place the remaining vegetables in the gaps around the aubergine and dust with the spice mix before drizzling with the remaining olive oil and pomegranate molasses. Place back in the oven for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and browning around the edges.

To make the Hummus:

Drain the chickpeas and rinse. Next, combine the chickpeas, lemon juice, cumin, garlic, water, and a pinch of salt until smooth and creamy. Taste, then add more cumin, lemon, garlic, water or salt as needed.

Tip: you can serve the hummus with a sprinkle or paprika and a scatter or fresh coriander/cilantro.

Serve the aubergine tray bake with a dollop of hummus and scatter the pomegranate seeds and fresh coriander/cilantro on top.

Note: for bigger appetites you can serve this bake with a portion of couscous, quinoa or rice.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Do Be A Big Girly Girl’s Blouse.

 

I’ve never been a girly girl. I’m not a full-on tomboy ‒ I love being feminine ‒ but there’s something about being cute and girly that jars for me. Don’t get me wrong; I like girly. Just not on me.

Having said that, my girly side isn’t completely dormant. I have been known to enjoy the odd chick flick, and I’m a sucker for cute baby animals (have you seen a baby Aardvark? Too cute). But for the most part, I have a strong aversion to anything uber-girly. And this is especially true when it comes to clothes. My style is relaxed and sophisticated – clean lines, neutral colours and minimalist accessories, à la Jennifer Aniston. This means spots, brights and ruffles are out.

jennifer anniston
Seriously, how friggin’ hot is this woman?

However, like lots woman, I enjoy experimenting with my style, and a few weeks ago I had an urge to unleash my inner Cher Holowitz. (For those of you unfamiliar with Cher and the movie Clueless, where the hell were you during the 90s? Unless you hadn’t been born, or were living under a moon rock, what are you playing at?)

cher holowitz

I was shopping for an outfit for a friend’s wedding. I picked a few dresses in the style I’d usually go for; fitted and elegant. But I also picked out a skater dress in a bright floral print – Taylor ‘squad-life-till-I-die’ Swift style.

As soon as I’d buttoned it up, I knew it wasn’t me ‒ not my office, you might say. There was nothing wrong with it. It was a beautiful dress and I looked good in it.

It was pretty, which made me want to rip it off straight away.

Maybe my brain is just too male? I thought. Which got me thinking: what percentage of my brain is male, and what is female? And if my brain is more male than female, then does this have an effect on my style?

So I took a few online quizzes.  Now, I’m sure there are more accurate ways to measure how much of your brain is male and female; asking if I prefer android or Apple seems a strange way to determine my brain chemistry…

But regardless of the shameless data-collecting, I took the tests, and the results were pretty conclusive. First result: 60% male 40% female. Second result: 75% male 25% female.

I wasn’t shocked by this. I’ve always suspected my brain leaned a little more towards the masculine. But I wondered how much of this is nature or nurture? I did a little research on how our brains develop in the womb. The latest studies seems to show that while there are differences that rarely change from male to female brains – for example, male brains typically have a larger hippocampus, the part of the brain which controls memory – there is no one type of male or female brain. In other words, our brains are all different, with no two being exactly the same. Whether male or female, the genetic make-up of our brains can be constructed of endlessly varying degrees of both male and female elements. And these genetic markers mean that many of the things that make us who we are appear to be predetermined before birth. That’s not to say that our experiences and the environment we grow up in don’t have an equally important part to play.

From aged eight I lived with my dad. You could say the lack of a day-to-day feminine influence had an effect on me, but even before this, when I lived with both parents, you’d be more likely to find me playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles than Barbie dolls.

So I guess it’s probably safe to say it’s a case of 50/50… or 60/40, as the case may be.

The other thought-provoking nugget my little shopping trip threw up was this: why am I so against looking girly? Is there deeper issue at play here? In an attempt to unearth the root of the problem, I did a little psychological digging, and came to an uncomfortable truth.

I don’t like looking or being thought of a pretty or girly because it makes me feel weak.

Now, the feminist in me says this is ridiculous. Being girly and pretty is not a weakness. The image you present to the world – whether girly, androgynous, elegant, goth, slutty-bitch-goddess – has no bearing whatsoever on your strength, abilities or worth. I truly believe this. I think the reason I have such an issue with it is because I’ve spent years trying to build the persona of a woman who is confident, someone not to be messed with –and cutesy outfits threaten this. It’s a classic defense mechanism. In my mind, pink lipstick and frilly dresses undermine my ‘You know, I’m really very, very smart and capable’ image. It’s fantasy, my subconscious lying to me. And this makes me even more determined to embrace my girly side. If I really am such a strong, capable woman, then I should be setting an example to other women, and men, that being seen as a ‘girl’ is a great thing and not a sign of weakness or inferiority.

So I’m making a vow: the next dress I buy will be girly. It might take me a while to work up the courage to channel my inner Cher, but one thing’s for sure, whatever I choose, I’ll rock the hell out of it – the Pink way!

pink singer 2

 

Girl power!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Travel Review: Riva Del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy

italy pics

Earlier this year, after ten years together, my partner and I finally tied the knot in a beautiful and intimate ceremony close to our home in the New Forest. After finalising the details for the big day, we started thinking about honeymoon destinations. Like a lot of couples, we’d always imagined jetting off to some far-flung exotic escape – until my husband suggested we also look at locations closer to home. We’d both always wanted to visit Italy, and when we saw the spectacular views of Lake Garda – the dramatic Dolomites banking up on either side; the striking architecture; the sunny Mediterranean climate – we were sold.

If you are visiting, or thinking of visiting, Lake Garda, then hopefully this post will give you some useful information that may help you enjoy your stay even more. And if you’re not visiting, then it might just inspire you to take a closer look!

20150624_123411

Flights and Transfers:

We flew direct to Verona from Gatwick with British Airways for £132 for both of us – this excluded a checked bag each. We paid an extra £70 each way for bags (cheeky bastards). The flight back from Verona cost £104. Living in the south of England, we’d wanted to fly from Bournemouth or Southampton, but neither airport flew anywhere near Lake Garda. Verona airport is the nearest to Garda, and you can get to the northern edge of the lake, where Riva Del Garda sits, by car in around an hour. Our hotel, Lido Palace, offered to send a taxi to collect us from the airport for around €230, but it was much cheaper, around €180, to jump in one of the cabs outside the airport. Although we were tired from the travelling, the beautiful Italian scenery more than made up for having to spend an hour on the road.

Accommodation:

Being our honeymoon, we obviously wanted to splash out, so we booked seven nights at one Riva Del Garda’s most luxurious establishments, the five-star Lido Palace. The Palace opened its doors in 1899 and over the years has lay host to a plethora of high-profile guests including royalty ‒ oh, and me, of course. The classical Italian design is spliced with more modern, industrial features and decor – think wrought iron and Jackson- Pollock-esc art meets marble and ornate scrollwork. The five-story building boasts 42 luxury rooms, two restaurants, a superb spa (with an indoor and outdoor pool), a gym, and around an acre of beautiful, well-established gardens. We booked a premiere double room – which is the most-standard room – at the cost of around €339 a night, which worked out at about €2,450 for the whole week; not cheap! But well worth it! The room was large and immaculately clean, with spectacular views out onto the lake and surrounding mountains. The decor, although very clean and modern, was a little bland for my liking, and although there was a fully-stocked mini-bar there was no tea and coffee making facilities – a British tourist’s worst nightmare. That tiny gripe aside, I can’t fault our room or the hotel as a whole. The staff were fantastic, and the food in the restaurants was top-notch; we particularly enjoyed breakfast (they had soya milk – yay!). If you’re anything like me – a lover of all thing water and being pampered – then you’ll also love the spa. More on that later…

Seven nights bed and breakfast in a premiere double rooms starts from €339 a night.

20150629_115511

Thing to do, places to see

The beautiful town of Riva Del Garda is just a stone’s throw away from Lido Palace. A short walk along the northern edge of the lake and through gardens – and you’re in the town centre. As well as dozens of shops, restaurants and gelato stores, there are plenty of things – new and old, relaxed and energetic – to do! Here’s a list of just a few things we did:

The views over the lake are spectacular, and one of the best places to take them in is up at the Bastione. Perched up high on the edge of the Rocchetta Mountain, the military fortress was built in the 15th century and is one of the icons of the town. The trail up to the fort starts right over at the western edge of the town, at Monte Oro Street, and takes between 15-30 minutes; we did it in about 20. The paved path zigzags gently, so even those with lower fitness levels should be able to make it up – with a few rest stops of course! Once at the top you can take a look around the fort, enjoy the views and savour an ice-cold drink in the little cafe. For those who are feeling brave, you can continue up the mountain to the tiny Santa Barbra chapel. But be warned – the chapel sits around twice the height of the Bastione, and the climb, which takes at least 1 hour, should only be attempted by experienced hikers and people with very good fitness levels; my husband and I are pretty fit and have done some hiking in the past, but we didn’t fancy it!

20150625_130934

After deciding not to risk our lives hiking up to Santa Barbra, we headed back down to the town in search of the museum, La Rocca (no, I’m not eighty years old; I just like history). At the cost of around €6 each, the museum is host to a massive collection of photographs depicting the culture and lifestyle of Lake Garda over the past hundred years. There’s also an art gallery displaying works from the 15th Century to modern-day, and an archaeological floor showing artifacts from the Copper age, and pre-Roman and Roman times. Again, the views over the lake and town from the top of the keep are fantastic.

If you’re not a fan of wandering around a museum and prefer the more glamorous side of life, then a private boat trip around the lake will be right up your street. We took a one hour trip for two around the northern part of the lake. There are many companies offering boat trips, but the one we went with, Taxi Boat Experience, chartered a small, luxury motorboat with a lone driver for the cost of around €30. The trip we chose took us to a beautiful waterfall and past the town of Limone before heading back to Riva Del Garda. The pics of the waterfall, Limone and the stunning scenery, below, speak for themselves!

20150626_10051420150626_09581720150626_102123IMG-20150626-WA0007

In-between all the sightseeing, it’s nice to grab some down-time – and there’s no better place to get this than at Lido Palace’s CXI Spa. As well as two pools and a luxury sauna and steam area, you can enjoy a full range of relaxing spa treatments. As part of our honeymoon package we booked a couples’ rituals of well-being treatment – a 110 minute treatment in a private room which included our own private steam room, a full-body exfoliation, and a couples’ whirl bath and a full-body massage! Bliss! And well worth the €350 per couple.

On our second-to-last day we decided to venture out of the town in search of some new views. And they don’t get better than from the top of a mountain. Monte Baldo rises up over 7,000 feet above the town of Malcesine and offers some of the best views over the lake and surrounding Alps. Luckily, there’s not need to go all Edmund Hillary as there’s a cable car which takes you all the way to the top of the mountain in around 30 minutes (including waiting time). Prices for trips start at around €10. I think we paid a round €20 each for a return trip. You can find out more about the cable car and activities on the mountain here http://360gardalife.com/en/cable-car-malcesine-monte-baldo

20150629_13363720150629_140356

Now for the important stuff – food and drink:

We ate in lots of great places but a few of our favourites were;

For Pizza – Ristorante Pizzeria Maffie.

Huge pizzas, good beer and wine selection, beautiful building, friendly service.

Price range: ££

IMG-20150627-WA0025

For Traditional Italian Food – Piccadilly Bar.

Specialises in Brushetta, super-friendly owner and staff, great little location, relaxed atmosphere.

Price range: ££

20150628_213257

For Gelato – Gellaterio Al Pozzo.

One word: heaven.

Price Range: £

20150629_164456

For Coffee – Notting Hill Cafe.

Quirky decor, great selection of coffee and tea (and they do soya milk), yummy cakes.

Price range: ££

For something special – Il Re della Busa at Lido Palace.

Elegant al Fresco dining, amazing food, fine wines, stunning views.

Price range: £££

IMG-20150627-WA0020

Healthy Veggie Breakfast with Basil Scrambled Eggs and Garlic Mushrooms

Serves: 2

Prep time: 5-10 minutes

Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Now, I can’t claim that this vegetarian take on a cooked breakfast is completely clean, as even the healthiest veggie sausage is bound to have something in it which may not be so ‘clean’. However, if you buy the best quality fresh brands (preferably from the fridge not the freezer), then this is still a healthy, nutrient-packed alternative to a greasy fry-up.

20150825_140502

Ingredients

Two organic tomatoes, cut in half and seasoned with a little salt and pepper

Four to five free-range/organic eggs (I use Happy Eggs), whisked in a bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper

Ten closed cup mushrooms, cut in half

Four veggie sausages (I like Cauldron and Linda McCartney ones)

One clove of garlic, diced

A handful of fresh basil leaves

Method

Start with the sausages and tomatoes. Heat a grill to high heat and lay the sausages and tomatoes out on a grill pan covered in foil (shiny side down), then place under the grill and cook following the specified guidelines on the packet – usually around 15 to 20 minutes – turning the sausage regularly. The tomatoes usually take around the same time, but keep an eye on them as you may want to take them out a few minutes earlier (or put them in a few minutes later – up to you!), depending on how well done you like them.

Around ten minutes in to the cooking of the sausages and tomatoes, you’ll need to start cooking the mushrooms. Place a frying pan over medium to high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and garlic and cook until soft and just starting to colour. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan you used to cook the mushrooms, pour in the whisked eggs and scramble to your desired consistency. Add the chopped basil leaves right at the end of cooking and stir in.

Alternatively, if you want to omit the sausages you can add a few baked beans (again, not clean but very yummy), or some paprika sautéed potatoes (chop potatoes, dust with paprika, salt and pepper, and fry or oven cook – around gas mark 6, 400°F, 200°C – for about twenty minutes or until golden brown).

Plate everything and enjoy!

Dairy and Gluten Free Orange Drizzle Cake

Makes: 9 Slices

Bake Time: 45-50 Minutes

DSC_0333

Ingredients

Dairy-free margarine, for greasing

6 eggs, separated

200g/7 oz caster sugar

Grated rind of 3 oranges

150g/5½ oz ground almonds

For the topping

 Juice of 3 oranges

3tbsp clear honey

DSC_0370

Method

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/ 180c/350f. Grease a 20cm/8inch square cake tin and line the base. Beat egg yolks with sugar, orange rind and almonds in large bowl.

Whisk the egg whites in another large bowl until they form stiff peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites in stages into the almond mixture. Pour the mixture into the cake tin, and bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

To make the topping

Put the orange juice and honey into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir once, then cook without stirring for 6-8 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced, thick and syrupy. Pierce the cake all over with a fork, and pour the syrup over the top to soak in.

DSC_0397

Now proceed to stuff your face!

Clean Recipe: Cashew and Date No-Bake Cookies

Makes: between 10 and 15 cookies depending on the size you want them.

Prep Time: 15 to 20 minutes

20150216_154104

These cookies are a great sweet treat or protein bar replacement. They’re super easy to make as there’s no cooking needed, and the kids will love mashing all the ingredients together in a bowl!

2 cups raw cashew nuts

10 soft, pitted dates

1 sachet or 1 teaspoon of chia seeds (optional)

2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil

3-4 tablespoons of peanut, cashew or almond nut butter

1-2 tablespoons of honey, or to taste

In a food processor, blend the cashews and dates until fine, then tip into a large bowl. Add the other ingredients to the bowl and fold or mash with hands until mixed fully – add more cashews or peanut butter as needed to achieve the right consistency.

Using a spoon scoop 10 to 20 balls of the dough and form into balls or cookie shapes in your hands. Lay the cookies onto a plate or parchment-lined baking tray and chill them in the fridge (at least 40 minutes) until set. Enjoy!

Approximate Nutritional Value based on 10 cookies: 200 calories, 16g fat, 6g sat fat, 0mg cholesterol, 11g carbohydrates, 2g fibre, 5g sugar, 5g protein