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My Happiness Project Habits

I have been re-reading Gretchen Rubin's 'The Happiness Project' in a bid to reboot my own happiness level. Much of what she says strikes a poignant chord.


Depending on the individual, the route to DIY contentment will vary wildly and not many of us can attest to having 12 minutes free let alone 12 months to experiment with all the facets Gretchen explores in her book.

My five key personal takeaways to unlocking my gateway to happiness lie roughly in the areas of:
1. Sleeping and exercising better
2. Decluttering and organising
3. Launch a blog and enjoy the fun of failure (you are reading the evidence of this!)
4. Mindfulness
5. Practising gratitude

The problem is that every time I have tried to build good habits to tackle and enforce each of these areas, correlating bad habits have an uncanny knack of sneakily sidling their way to the forefront, eventually obscuring all trace of existence of their better halves.

Examining my own habits in light of these areas, I can …
Recent posts

Seaweed Cucumber and Radish Salad

When I am 'cooking' for just myself I revel in the freedom of not worrying about juggling all the likes and dislikes of every member of the family. This is one of my favourites - and every single ingredient is hated (not just disliked) by at least one if not all of my lovely family! And the best thing about making this for myself is that it's a doddle to prepare and doesn't even require cooking.



Seaweed is a great source of iodine, good for gut health and full of nutrients eg calcium, folate, magnesium. It also aids detoxification and has been claimed in studies to help regulate hormones. Whatever the benefits I love the natural saltiness and it always tastes great with a sesame oil and ginger based dressing.


Seaweed Cucumber and Radish Salad
Grain-free, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Refined Sugar-free

Serves 1 as a main, 2 as a side


Ingredients:
10g mixed dried seaweed, hydrated and drained
2-3 inch cucumber, finely sliced into discs
3 radishes, bulbs finely sliced into disc…

Chinese Red Date (aka Jujube) and Walnut Raw 'Cheese'cake

My time is precious. It is limited. The demand for it well exceeds its potential supply. If only someone would bestow me a Time-Turner a la Hermione in Harry Potter, then I could achieve so much more...


My mum has been feeding me Chinese red dates since forever - in soups, infusions, desserts - it is an essential Chinese 'superfood' (indeed pre-dating the term 'superfood' itself) with purported anti-inflammatory and calming properties. Recently she brought me some delicious snacks from Hong Kong - simply individually wrapped pitted Chinese red dates (aka Jujube) encasing a single walnut - so simple and such a perfect combo that I was inspired to make a dessert based on it.



Chinese Red Date (aka Jujube) and Walnut Raw 'Cheese'cake
Grain-free, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Refined Sugar-free

Makes a small 12cm diameter cake


Ingredients:
Base:
1/2 cup (65g) raw unsalted walnuts
1/2 cup (65g) soft, pitted, medjool dates
pinch sea salt
splash of water if needed

Top:
1/2 cu…

One Pan Meatloaf Stuffed Roast Squash with Asparagus

This recipe recycles leftover meatloaf, into a low maintenance, minimal effort second supper.


Meatloaf is a very lazy dinner menu option - literally mix 500g of minced pork (or chicken or turkey or a mix) with a few tablespoons of spices of choice (my favourites include 1tbsp cumin and 1tbsp ground coriander, but Chinese 5 spice, oregano, basil, etc all work well), a tsp of garlic powder and onion powder, an egg to bind and a tbsp of coconut flour to add firmness and plenty of salt and pepper.  Press firmly and neatly into a loaf tin and bake at 175 degrees celsius for about 45mins-1hr or until cooked through.  Delicious add-ins to the meatloaf mix are: - cooked spinach (make sure to squeeze out all the liquid before adding to the meatloaf mix) - pan fried chopped mushrooms (again, cook until liquid evaporated) - grated squash or carrots (squeeze out liquid) - coconut aminos and thai fish sauce with a handful of chopped bamboo shoots and water chestnuts (reduce salt accordingly)
I ha…

Spiced Pumpkin 'Panecotta' Pie Pud

I'm not American and I've only eaten Pumpkin Pie once - when I was very kindly but rather randomly invited to a Thanksgiving dinner on my first night in Japan, surrounded by a bunch of complete strangers. As a result, I'm not convinced it is a dessert that invokes a particular warm and fuzzy sentimentality. That said, I am an unapologetic fan of pumpkin and all the warm spices that accompany it in its seasonal pie incarnation.


This version is a hybrid of Crustless Pumpkin Pie meets Panecotta - slightly less custard-y and more of the wobble of a panecotta.


Spiced Pumpkin 'Panecotta' Pud
Gluten-free, Grain-free, Dairy-free, Refined Sugar-free, Nut-free

Makes a 15cm/ 6" pud


Ingredients:
225g (just over half can) unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and stoned
1 large ripe banana
1 small soft date, pitted
100ml coconut milk, cold
100ml coconut milk, heated to very warm but not boiling
1 1/2 tbsp gelatin (I use this Great lakes one but have no affi…

Thai Beef Salad

Slow roasting/ cooking any joint of meat is so time and energy consuming that it seems churlish not to cook plenty in one go to lower the cost per portion! This is what happened when I roasted a rather enormous joint of beef and the children declared with such exasperation, "Not beef again" that I knew it'd take a bit more pizazz to make this theoretically economical way of cooking actually work in practise!


This recipe works just as well for other leftover meats - I have done it with leftover turkey...


and baked salmon...
 and it tastes great regardless.


Thai Beef Salad
Grain-free, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Refined Sugar-free

Serves 2

Ingredients:
Salad:
approx 2 handfuls (1.5 - 2 cups) shredded or chopped cold roast beef (or substitute other cooked meat or a handful of roasted cashews for a meat-free alternative)
1/4 head of red cabbage (approx 3 cups) shredded (or use a mix of red and white cabbage)
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
3 radishes, finely sliced
1 carrot p…

Avocado Tuna with Ginger Lime 'Couscous' Salad

I love a good salad for lunch - mostly because I am lazy and salads are quick to make and require minimal washing up! This one is hugely versatile, super delicious and most importantly, super quick to whip up.

Matcha Moringa Roll with Carob Coconut Filling

Yes, the title is an alliterative mouthful but that's how I like to roll - ha ha - get it? I made this absolutely aeons ago but didn't get round to writing it up and somehow just forgot about it. 

It is super dense in texture (so don't expect a fluffy swiss roll feeling) and also rather fiddly to make but is really fun and definitely very healthy, being packed with all the green stuff - kale, spinach, matcha, moringa. Mostly I just make and eat the 'cake' bit - real life means patience and time don't often allow for the rolling and faffing!


Matcha Moringa Roll with Carob Coconut Filling
Grain-free, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Refined Sugar-free, Nut-free
Makes 8 pieces
Ingredients:

Cake:
45g kale leaves, washed and dried
60g spinach, washed and dried
2 medium, ripe spotty bananas (weighing 170g when peeled)
1/2 cup + 1 tsp (75g) coconut flour, sifted
1 tbsp (5g) moringa leaf powder
1 tbsp (5g) matcha green tea powder
4 medium eggs
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla ext…

Broccolini, Squash and Edamame Miso Salad

Broccolini is commonly known as Tenderstem Broccoli; a hybrid between regular broccoli and its more exotic cousin, kai-lan (aka Chinese broccoli). It is milder and sweeter than run-of-the-mill broccoli and is a good source of vitamin C.


As the stalks are so much thinner and the florets smaller and more delicate it is also quicker to cook - a brief steam or even blanch is adequate.

Roasting the squash brings out the natural sweetness of this antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory root vegetable. The roasting oil also aids the absorption of fat-soluble vitamin A.

It is no secret that the consumption of edamame beans and miso is not paleo - the argument against soy and its potentially distruptive effects on hormone balance abound on the internet, so I will spare the repetition. From personal experience I tolerate soy and choose to include it in moderation but understandably this will vary between individuals.

Edamame beans are a good source of plant protein, fibre, antioxidants, vitamins C …

Raw Nut-Free Naked Brownie Bars

These are just simple snack bars that everyone in the family can grab and take to work/ play/ school. They take a few minutes to whizz up in the food processor and contain a LOT less sugar (unrefined of course) than the store-bought equivalent and also work out a lot cheaper. I wrap them individually and store in a sealed container in the fridge



Raw Nut-Free Naked Brownie Bars 
Grain-free, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Refined Sugar-free, Nut-free

Makes 9

Ingredients:
1 cup (150g) raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 cup (100g) milled flax/chia seed blend
1 cup (150g) soft,unsweetened pitted dates (pre-soak briefly if hard and drain)
1/4 cup (50g) unsweetened raisins (soaked briefly and drained)
big pinch sea salt
1 tbsp cinnamon powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp coconut oil
a few tbsp hot water as needed
optional stir-through add-ins: if not nut-intolerant 1/4 cup roughly chopped almonds; cacao nibs; goji berries, chocolate chips

* Alternatives:
- add 1 tsp mint extract instead of vanilla and …