Tag Archives: Vegan

A Healthy Hot Chocolate

26 Jan
© Jess Bruce 2016

© Jess Bruce 2016

Winter has finally hit in the UK. Last week was absolutely freezing. Okay so perhaps not cold compared to Alaska or the Antarctic (or most of North America at present for that matter) but temperatures close to freezing are incredibly chilly, and came as quite the shock, compared to the balmy December we enjoyed (and moaned about at the time, daffodils blooming by the roadside in December? What has the world come to!).

What’s all this weather talk about? Well cold weather means only one thing in my mind…..hot chocolate baby!

I spent most of last week with the heating on max but still cold, wearing a scarf, quilt over my lap and fingerless gloves encasing my hands in order to sit and type. Yes really. It was VERY cold!

There are only so many cups of green tea one girl can drink in a day (and I definitely push it to the limit) in order to keep warm. And so enters hot chocolate.

Sometimes you need a sweet hit and you don’t have any cake or biscuits to hand – damn that January resolution of no cake for a month….(definitely not stuck to that one). Hello hot chocolate.

And sometimes you want a sweet treat without totally blowing your blood sugar; craving a hint of sweetness without endangering your health kick. Is this you? Well say hello to this little miss healthy hot chocolate.

She will satisfy your sweet tooth, warm you up and sate your appetite. All without blowing off your new years resolution to be more healthy.

The recipe below is for an au natural version. Simple, clean, pure hot chocolate. However, you could take things to the next level and pimp your delicious hot drink. Though I think if you go for the ‘enhanced’ version using some of the following suggestions (brandy, chocolate and marshmallows I’m looking at you…), we should perhaps tack the qualifier ‘ish‘ onto the title healthy – healthy-ish hot chocolate. But why not. It’s the last week of January, you deserve it.

So if you want to ‘enhance’ your drink, you could try:

  • Melting a handful – this isn’t an exact science, so much the better if you have big hands 🙂 – of 70% cocoa chocolate chips into the saucepan.
  • Top your drink with some coconut whip (I use this method to make whipped cream from coconut milk) and marshmallows and some chocolate shavings….oh boy that sounds good!
  • Toss a chai tea bag into the saucepan and allow to infuse with the milk for a hit of aromatics. Maybe throw in a cinnamon stick for extra measure.
  • Add some finely grated orange zest (that’s healthy… vitamin C anyone?) for a drink reminiscent of the ubiquitous orange shaped and flavoured chocolate.
  • Add a few drops of mint extract for an after dinner digestive aid (see healthy…maybe a stretch?)
  • If you like things chilli hot, then a sprinkling of cayenne pepper would spice things up nicely.
  • For an adult version, you could add some brandy or whiskey to taste (and blow dry January out of the water).
  • For a ‘Snickers’ inspired drink, sub the almond butter for peanut butter, adjusting the quantity to taste.

That said, simple is satisfying to me. I enjoyed the natural beauty of the hot chocolate recipe as set out below greatly and didn’t need any additions (though perhaps that’s because I hadn’t thought of them yet and didn’t have any marshmallows in the house….)

Here’s the recipe, hope it warms you up. Let me know if and how you enhance it, healthy or otherwise!

A Healthy Hot Chocolate

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Gluten and dairy free, Vegan

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of gluten free oat milk (or other plant based milk of choice)
  • 2 rounded tsps of cacao powder
  • 2 scant tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1 tsp almond butter
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk yoghurt

Steps

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over a low heat.
  2. Whisk well to dissolve the almond butter and yoghurt.
  3. Allow to simmer until just boiling (about 5 minutes) whisking every so often.
  4. Pour into a mug and enjoy.

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Cookbook Joy

11 Mar
 © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

A few of new recruits! © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

We’ve exchanged! At long last we have finally exchanged on our new house! I am so happy! And more than that I am incredibly relieved. It got very touch and go towards the end and looked many times like the whole deal was going to fall through. Thankfully that did not happen and now we have exchanged. Yippee!

For anyone not used to the idiosyncrasies of the British house buying system, exchanged means we have exchanged contracts, paid our deposit and are now legally bound to the transaction. Most importantly, our buyer is, at long last, legally bound to buy our flat. Hurrahhh!!! Completion is set for 27th March so we have a few weeks to get everything organised and packed.

The last few months have been very stressful and my health has taken a bit of hit as a result (things are improving again now thankfully). One of my coping mechanisms was to surround myself with interesting books to keep me occupied and distracted. This for me means one thing….cookbooks. I have a confession to make. I have a pretty large huge GIGANTIC cookbook collection. It is my pride and joy. I read them like novels, even taking them to bed to read before lights out. I dread to think how many boxes it’s going to take to pack them all up to move!

 © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Bed time reading © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Despite already having more than enough cookbooks to be able to cook something new every night of the week for the next year decade, the last couple of months I have purchased a few more…. all in the name of keeping me calm, sane and distracted through the house buying nonsense you understand 🙂 I thought I would share some of my new finds with you today.

Deliciously Ella Granola  © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Deliciously Ella Granola © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

The first I have to mention is Deliciously Ella, the debut book by food blogger Ella Woodward. Ella had POTs and when conventional medicine didn’t work she changed her diet, cutting out gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs and meat. She has been a huge source of inspiration and her blog a great resource for me in navigating my own recovery from chronic illness. I was very excited for the release of her book – so excited that when I discovered my Amazon pre-order wasn’t going to arrive until a week after the launch date, I cancelled the hard copy order and got the Kindle e-book instead! Instant gratification! Dangerous… As I said, I may have a small problem where cookbooks are concerned…. Ella’s book lived up to expectations and I have already made numerous things from it – coconut thai chickpea curry with miso was delicious, as was the pea and mint cannellini soup (cannellini beans are used to thicken the soup and provide a good solid dose of plant protein) and the giant hash brown was a big hit with my dad and Mr B. Her cinnamon granola has been my go-to breakfast in recent weeks. I am keen to make the scones and carrot cake with creamy frosting next.

Chocolate – Covered Katie, the first book by Katie Higgins, the healthy dessert queen, is another new favourite. Again I have been a fan of Katie’s blog for a long time and love her healthified version of cakes, sweets and desserts. Whilst not all of Katie’s recipes are gluten and dairy free, the majority are, and when they are not, Katie is good at suggesting substitutions to adapt the recipe for particular dietary needs. I am head over heals in love with her deep dish cookie pie (secret ingredient chickpeas!) and her chocolate banana bread cupcakes were a big hit with my friend and her toddler! Whenever I bake something for friends and family they always ask, what’s the hidden vegetable or ingredient, so used are they to me making sweet goods with hidden healthy ingredients. Chocolate Covered Katie is my inspiration! Next up I want to make her Lemon Meltaway Pie – secret ingredient…frozen cauliflower! I have several cauliflower hating friends so I may have to keep very quiet about what’s in that pie until they’ve taken a bite and fallen in love!

© Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

© Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved.

I know my body works better when I eat minimal meat and as I can’t tolerate dairy, several of my new books are mainstream vegan. Isa Does It by Isa Chandra Mokowitz is a vegan bible jam packed with easy vegan meals from around the world. The photography is stunning and it is a beautiful book. I haven’t yet made anything from it but I’m very excited about trying out some of Isa’s recipes in my new kitchen in a few weeks, Dragoon Noodle Salad with its spicy peanut butter sauce and Red Lentil Thai Chilli  are vying for first spot on my to make list.

But I could never go vegan! Debut book by Keepin It Kind blogger Kristy Turner  © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved

But I could never go vegan! Debut book by Keepin It Kind blogger Kristy Turner © Jess Bruce 2015. All Rights Reserved

As you’ve probably guessed, I love food and everything to do with it. Discovering a new food blog is to me what Christmas morning is like to a young child. I love it as it means I can spend hours losing myself perusing the recipe back catalogs. One such blog that I discovered recently was Keepin It Kind by Kristy Turner. I have to say I have no idea how I hadn’t come across it sooner! Once I’d perused the archive I obviously then had to buy myself the book (in Kindle format to save trees and reduce the packing load!)

My love of food and cookbooks also extends to recipe apps. Green Kitchen Stories have two apps, one healthy desserts and the other full of savoury goodness. Mr B and I had a delicious brunch using their shakshuka baked egg recipe and their banana granola is so good. The photography is literally stunning and makes you want to make everything immediately!

I could go on and on talking about this topic! But I’ll restrain myself and leave you with a final few loves of mine: Oh She Glows blog and book by Angela Liddon (literally AMAZING, have made hundreds of things from these and they always work perfectly), Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi (shows you new and inventive, yet simple, ways of making vegetables the star of the meal) and Yum Universe (another recent food blog discovery that had me lost for hours!).

Do you love cookbooks too? What are your favourites?

As a final note, it seems very fitting that I am writing this post today, 11th March, as it would have been my dearly beloved Nan’s birthday today. Nan, my maternal grandmother, passed away nearly 8 years ago. She was a wonderful cook and inspired a love of food in my Mum which has been passed onto both myself and my sister. So lots of love goes out to my Nan (who was also called Jess and who I’m named after), thank you for inspiring me. I love and miss you everyday.

Hello, can you hear me, am I getting through to you….

31 Jan

It has been a rather mixed week for me. Amidst the euphoric feeling of reaching day 100 of using the Lightning Process and doing so much better thanks to it, I’ve also had a raft of symptoms rear their ugly heads. I’m not sure why. I have a few theories but I’m trying hard not to over analyse (I’ll let you be the judge of how successful I’m being on that front…)

Taking the Lightning Process approach, I think it’s my body’s way of giving me ‘feedback’ it’s trying to tell me something that perhaps so far hasn’t quite got through to me…, slow down we’ve still got work to do. Keep using the LP, use it more intensely again, don’t eat meat, take it more gently….And boy is it going to town with telling me. Enough already body. I’m listening, you’ve got my attention, I get ‘it’…though still figuring out exactly what ‘it’ is.

It all began on Monday when my digestive system decided to go on strike. Big bloated belly is me with very little to no action in the waste disposal department and all the abdo pain joys that goes along hand in hand. This carried on for a few days only gradually improving yesterday. Today I still resemble a mildly pregnant lady with my swollen tummy.

But that’s not the worst of it. Nope just the beginning in fact.

Day 100 of A Life I Love

Tuesday was day 100 of me using the Lightning Process- woohooooo! I celebrated by going for a lovely walk with my Mum in the crisp winter sunshine. We walked 2.54 miles! Woop! I’ve been managing that sort of distance a couple of times a week with no ill effects since Christmas. Yay me. That was Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon saw me doing increasingly tired, a sleepy hangover tired rather than ME/CFS hit brick wall crippling tired, and in bed with a bad headache. This is the first headache for which I’ve had to pull out the big guns (extra strength co-codamol and darkened bedroom at 4 in the afternoon) in a long time, weeks if not months – the lightning process and/or the trigger point physio I’m having really seems to be working a treat. After the big guns were released and some uber gentle yoga (cue Mum and Me in legs up the wall pose) my head cleared tho the tiredness remained.

A Funny Turn

Wednesday saw me driving to our local Westfield shopping centre (literally 10 minutes away, I love where we live!) and Mum and I doing a spot of shopping. We’d been there about an hour, a good proportion of which had been spent sat down whilst my Mum drank the biggest coffee in the Universe (the mug had two handles!), when I suddenly became incredibly hot and tired. Within seconds my legs and arms felt heavy and incredibly weak. I was light-headed and could feel my heart racing. My legs and arms were throbbing and my hands were visibly trembling. I felt so shakey and week. It was horrible.  Thank God Mum was with me. She steered me to the nearest seat, thankfully we were stood opposite a Costa coffee shop.With shaking arms I stuffed several fruit and nut quinoa cereal bars into my mouth along with gulps of fruit smoothie. This is sadly not my first ‘funny turn’, I know food usually helps but as with the last couple of times it has happened it took more food than it used to. I was still shaking and very white and my legs were throbbing. We put my legs up on a stool and gradually I felt the throbbing and heaviness subside and after about 30 minutes of sitting and several cups of green tea later I felt strong and stable enough to stand up. I was very close to tears during all this, not least because the ‘I thought I was better’ line and ‘why does this keep happening’  kept repeating in my head. Mum snapped me out of it ordering me to do the Lightning Process to calm myself down. Mum’s are always right aren’t they? I felt calmer and much less panicked after talking myself through the process.

Prior to doing the Lighting Process and taking back control of my body and my health these funny turns were a relatively regular occurrence for me; they were part of me doing ME/CFS and/or POTS. They had thankfully calmed down through the Autumn. But since Christmas they seem to be on the increase again. I had a similar incidence when I was out with Mr B just before New Years, once when I was at back at my parents’ last week and a couple of times after showering. The latter makes me think it’s something to do with orthostatic intolerance and standing up for too long. But yesterday I was wearing compression stockings which usually helps. My latest bloodwork  is better than my GP has ever seen from me so I’m at a bit of a loss as to what’s causing it which makes it pretty hard to prevent. My specialist is helpfully on holiday for the next month (probably on his yacht or at his house in Barbados, something tells me I pay him too much…) so instead I’ve contacted my physio, my dietician and my GP to see if anyone has any advice. Feel free to chip in if you have something that might help. Please!

I felt pretty dazed and a bit shakey for the rest of Wednesday and very tired. Yesterday, Thursday was better, no funny turns – yippee! But the myalgia and general achiness in my arms, neck and shoulders was far worse than it has been for months. My shoulders and collarbone particularly hurt. You may wonder how a collarbone (rest assured I didn’t bash or break it) can hurt, me too, but it did.

Chicken Tonight…errr No!

I have a burgeoning theory that this ‘bad’ week is possibly down to food; more precisely, down to chicken. That may sound crazy, maybe it is, I don’t know. I had chicken (a nice big breast baked in jamaican spices) on Sunday for the first time in 3 weeks. Since Christmas I’ve been eating a plant based diet and avoiding all meat, both red and white, as I suspect this will give me better energy and improved overall health. More on that in future posts. So I had chicken on Sunday and then everything has unravelled. It would seem logical and pretty obvious to tie the constipation and bloating to the chicken and probably the tiredness and the headache too – the toxins from the poorly digested meat in my gut could logically have caused that. But can it be that simple? Is my gut really at the heart of everything? To be honest I vehemently hope it is, because that would be a pretty easy thing to solve, bye bye chicken (Mr B trembles in horror!! Don’t worry my love I’ll still cook you meat…) But it almost seems too simple. And the funny turn? Given they’ve happened both when I’ve eaten meat and when I haven’t it would seem to me that that is something separate, but who knows. I’m going to try and trace a pattern through it all. But it’s kind like wading through waist high mud….

I perhaps shouldn’t be  complaining  focusing on the symptoms this week and instead be grateful that I have been relatively spared the pain and discomfort of ME/CFS in recent months thanks to using the Lightning Process. When I think of fellow spoonies still suffering 24/7 and compared to how I was when I was doing genius level ME/CFS I really have nothing to complain about.  And I am grateful for that. Honestly I am. But I’m also rather frustrated and flabbergasted. I want to know why, why God damn-it why?! If only my body could talk in actual words, then maybe I’d know what the heck was going on.

Until then, am I talking gibberish? Or does my chicken theory have legs? (hehe!)

Anyone experienced anything post Lightning Process symptom flares? How did you cope with it?

And if anyone can shed any light on the ‘funny turn’ in the absence of my specialist, then I’ll be forever in your debt 🙂

For now, yes body, I am listening to you, but could you send me an email with what you’re trying to say clearly typed please? I’m a lawyer, I like precision, enough already with these vague signs! Many thanks.

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