Meatless Monday : Vegan black bean burritos

Monday, 30 January 2017


This vegan version of Mexican burritos will be a hit whether or not you are vegan.  With minimal cooking they are quick to prepare and yet filling.  
  
Serves 2 
You will need

2 flour tortillas
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced 
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1 can black beans, drained

Guacomole
1 avocado
1/4 red onion 
1 cherry tomato
1/2 red chilli, deseeded
1 tsp coriander
juice 1 lime

Vegan cheese, grated
Fresh coriander to garnish (optional)

Heat the oil and cook the onion for 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic, chilli, red pepper, smoked paprika and salt and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes.  Stir in the black beans and heat through.

Meanwhile wrap the tortillas in foil and place in an oven for a few minutes.

To make the guacomole whiz all the ingredients in a blender.

Now it's just a matter of assembling the burrito.  Top each tortilla with the bean mixture, then the guacomole then the grated cheese and coriander leaves if using.  Fold to enclose the filling and enjoy.



Happy Chinese New Year!

Sunday, 29 January 2017



If you are celebrating Chinese New Year you may want to have a look at my recipe for 'Vegan Tofu Chow Mein'- http://40plusandalliswell.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/meatless-monday-vegan-tofu-chow-mein.html

This week on Flexiladiesyoga


So many people do not have a good night's sleep and yet a good night's sleep is essential for physiological balance and wellbeing.
This week's yoga video on my 'sister' blog may help if you have problems with sleep-

If you are struggling to calm your mind for meditation, this yoga sequence on my 'sister' blog may help-http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/starting-meditation-practice-calming.html

Having a friend to help you with some poses can help you move deeper into those poses, feel supported, help you trust others and bring a sense of fun into your yoga practice. With Valentine's Day coming up, it is the ideal time to introduce your partner to yoga - it can strengthen the bonds between you. 

🍌 Treat Yo Self 😃 Mint Choc Chip Breakfast Nice Cream 🍌


I love giving desserts a healthy vegan makeover- and I find that with a little creativity, a few bananas and a pinch of fairy dust (well, stevia powder anyway), there aren't many desserts you can't give the healthy-vegan treatment.

In this series of posts I'll show you how to make breakfast nice creams that taste so darn good you won't believe they are vegan friendly, dairy-free, gluten-free, and free from refined sugar.

The first is my take on a classic ice cream flavour- mint choc chip. It's really easy to make and looks and tastes like the real thing. Even better, you get an antioxidant boost from the spinach that gives the nicecream its lovely green colour- no artificial colourings needed!

This breakfast serves one generously- in the words of the fabulous Mae West, too much of a good thing can be wonderful! 😃

🍨 Mint Choc Chip Nicecream 🍨

3 1/2 ripe bananas
Handful spinach
6 mint leaves (plus a sprig of mint to decorate)
1 cup unsweetened dairy-free milk of your choice
2 heaped tablespoons of chocolate chunks (either cacao nibs or a sugar-free vegan chocolate bar cut up into small pieces. Make sure that the chocolate is gluten free if gluten is an issue for you.)

Chop the bananas into chunks, put them into a plastic food bag, and then pop them in the freezer overnight. When you're ready for breakfast, put the bananas, dairy-free milk, spinach and 6 mint leaves in a blender and blend until smooth. Stir through the chocolate chunks using a spoon, and then spoon the nicecream into a bowl. Add a sprig of mint for decoration and serve immediately.

Dig in and enjoy!

What's stopping you reaching your healthy weight? Part 2- Lack of sleep

Friday, 27 January 2017


You have been dieting and exercising but the weight is not shifting - how frustrating is that!?  The first thing to do is get yourself checked out by a medical practitioner, as certain conditions such as underactive thyroid can get in the way of your efforts to lose weight.  If your doctor gives you the all clear, however, it's time to look at other factors that may have affected your weight.

If you regularly do not have enough sleep, it may stop you losing weight.  There are several reasons for this.  If you do not have enough sleep, your energy levels will be low so preparing healthy food seems like too much effort and you are more likely to eat convenience (junk?) foods.  You may also not feel like exercising.

In fact sleep deprivation dulls your pre-frontal cortex, the decision making part of your brain making it less likely you will make good food choices. Have you noticed too, the longer you stay up, the more appealing salty or sweet foods seem?   

There is an effect at the cellular level too.  Lack of sleep means glucose tolerance is impaired.This means that your cells do not take the glucose they need for their metabolism from the blood, and this signals to your brain that you are hungry and so you eat.

Lack of sleep also messes with your hormones.  Two hormones in particular are involved - ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates your appetite so that you eat and more is produced when you are sleep deprived. Leptin signals to your brain that you have eaten enough and less is produced when you are sleep deprived.  More ghrelin, less leptin - you can see which way this is going - you are going to eat more.

Ghrelin and leptin are not the only hormones lack of sleep messes with.  When you are sleep deprived your cortisol levels rise and you know from last week what effect this can have on your weight.  Please see 'What's stopping you reaching your healthy weight-Part 1-Stress'

Now we are not talking about the occasional late night but regular sleep deprivation. Also, sleeping more than you need will not make you lose more weight.  Sleep requirements vary but about 7 1/2 hours a night seems to be optimal.

Tip- If you have trouble getting off to sleep you could try sprinkling a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow before you go to sleep. Also, make sure you have some 'winding down' time before bed- turn off computers etc and may be have a relaxing warm bath. I find a cup of chamomile tea also helps. 

You may also like the yoga videos on my YouTube Channel below:-

'Yoga for a good night’s sleep Part 1'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=En7NqQWgdeg

'Yoga for a good night’s sleep Part 2'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-qMKAvCUKU

'How yoga boosts health – Better sleep'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rg0jQLuWsus

Deep relaxation also helps prepare you for sleep.  Please try my 'Yoga-relaxation-Yoga Nidra'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gE6iKNk1PTY


Night, night, God bless



Meatless Monday: Vegan Tofu Chow Mein

Monday, 23 January 2017


Chinese New Year is celebrated this year on Saturday 28th January.  This year is the year of the rooster which may be a sign of turbulent times ahead internationally.

To celebrate the New Year I have made this Chow Mein dish.  Traditionally made with chicken, this vegan version is made with tofu but equally delicious. The crispy rice noodles make a great contrasting texture. Aside from the marinating time the dish can be made in a matter of minutes.

Vegan Tofu Chow Mein

Serves 2

You will need

1 tbsp sesame oil + extra to cook the rice noodles
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 tbsp frozen mixed vegetables
1 pack straight to wok noodles

handful rice noodles

1 pack firm tofu
For the marinade
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp Chinese five spice
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp stevia 

Drain the tofu and press lightly between sheets of kitchen roll to remove all water.  Cut the tofu into small squares.  Place the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl and mix well.  Add the tofu and soak the tofu in the marinade for at least an hour.  

Heat 1 tbsp sesame oil in a wok and add the onion. Stir fry until transparent then add the garlic and mixed vegetables.  Stir fry a further minute and add the marinated tofu and straight to wok noodles.  

While the tofu and noodles are heating through, heat a little oil in another pan.  When the oil is hot drop the rice noodles in and heat until they puff up.

Divide the stir fry between bowls and top with crispy rice noodles.



This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 22 January 2017


It's mid-January and for many of us, those well intentioned changes we promised ourselves we would make this year, may be starting to slide. Time to use our yoga practice to draw the strength and determination to continue to work towards making our intentions a reality.
Blog post and yoga video on my 'sister' blog- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/rebalance-willpower.html

When we start a meditation practice we often start by watching our breath as it moves in and out of our bodies. Let's face it - the breath is not the most riveting of subjects and if you are feeling tired, it can have a similar effect to 'counting sheep'. 
In this blog post and yoga sequence on my 'sister' blog we look at some ways to help you stay awake in meditation- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/starting-meditation-practice-staying.html

On my 'sister' blog we look at some Ayurveda tips for a healthy winter- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/ayurveda-winter-tips.html

Eat a rainbow - sweet potato


We are always being told to 'eat a rainbow' that is different coloured fruit and vegetables and there is a good reason for this.  Different coloured fruit and vegetables have different antioxidants, vitamins and minerals so by eating a variety, you are taking steps to boost your wellbeing.

In this occasional series 'Eat a rainbow', in which we look at fruit and vegetables in season, we are on the colour orange. Sweet potatoes are in season from October to March and it is their orange colour that can impart their health benefits.  The orange colour comes from beta-carotene which is the precursor to vitamin A.  Vitamin A keeps your mucus membranes healthy which is great at this time of year when viruses can take hold if muscus membranes are less than healthy - your mucus membranes are your first line of defense.  Vitamin A is also essential for healthy vision.  

Sweet potato is a rich source of fibre as well as providing vitamin C, an antioxidant, B vitamins, magnesium which help with stress that affects immunity, and some iron for healthy blood.  

There are many ways to enjoy them - sweet potato chips, an alternative mash to top vegan 'mince' or why not try these Tandoori Baked Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Mint Drizzle.

Tandoori Baked Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Mint Drizzle

Serves 2

You will need

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 can chickpeas
Tandoori spices
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 - 1 tsp turmeric
pinch cayenne
Olive oil spray

For the Coconut Mint Drizzle
Handful mint leaves, chopped
2 tbsp coconut cream

Place the sweet potatoes on a baking tray, prick with a fork and bake at 200 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  

Mix the tandoori spices and place the chickpeas in an ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle the tandoori spices over the chickpeas and spray with the olive oil spray.  Place in the oven with the potatoes for the last 15-20 minutes.

When the potatoes are cooked, make a split in the middle and stuff with the chickpeas.

Mix the coconut cream and mint and drizzle over the chickpeas'.

Serve with a side salad if you like.

Other orange fruits and vegetables include carrots, squash, persimmon, oranges, mango etc.

You might also like 'Eat a rainbow-Red cabbage'.


  

What's stopping you reaching your healthy weight? Part 1- Stress

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


You have been dieting and exercising but the weight is not shifting - how frustrating is that!? 

The first thing to do is get yourself checked out by a medical practitioner, as certain conditions such as underactive thyroid can get in the way of your efforts to lose weight.  If your doctor gives you the all clear, however, it's time to look at other factors that may have affected your weight.

A major culprit causing weight gain is stress.  When you are stressed, your adrenal glands secrete 'fight or flight' hormones such as cortisol.  Way back in our evolution, we needed this response to help us run away from or fight a stressor- for instance, to give us the energy we would need to run away from a wild animal.  One of the effects of cortisol is to convert protein stores into glucose which enters the blood and is distributed to the muscles where it can be readily accessed- perfect for 'fight or flight'.  Nowadays, however, we don't often have the same kind outlet for our stress- that is, one that burns up lots of energy. If our boss asks us to type up a big report at the last minute, it's unlikely we'll be able to run around at the same time to burn up the glucose. So if stress becomes chronic, you'll tend to find that blood sugar levels become elevated.  Normally your body would up its production of insulin to return your blood sugar levels to normal, but cortisol inhibits insulin (because your body thinks that the glucose is 'needed' by the muscles).  The result? Chronically raised blood sugar levels that also, paradoxically, leads to the cells of your body being glucose deficient- as insulin enables glucose to enter your cells.  Your brain then causes you to feel hungry, making you prone to overeating- especially high calorie foods such as fats and easily converted to energy foods such as carbs. 

Another worry is that cortisol can also release triglycerides from storage- that's fat to you and me.  If not used  fightin' or flightin' then this fat is then stored round the belly area.  This is because your body stores the fat close to your liver where it can be quickly converted to energy if needed. The bad news is that fat stored here increases the risk if diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease etc. 

So what can you do to relieve stress?

  • Try yoga, Tai Chi, meditation and relaxation techniques.
  • When we are stressed we breathe quick and shallow, into only the upper chest.  When we are calm we breathe slow and deep.  We can create a feeling of calm when we are stressed simply by taking some consciously deep breaths.  When we practice deep breathing regularly, we start to react to stressors in a more considered way.  
  • Aerobic exercise 'burns off' stress hormones.
  • Take B vitamins to help keep the nervous system functioning well.  When we are under stress our bodies need more B vitamins and they cannot be stored in your body.
  • Stress can arise from tension in your body.  Try yoga and maybe a magnesium supplement.
  • Get enough sleep.  You are more likely to become stressed if you are sleep deprived - we will look more into this next week.
  • My favourite stress buster is to spend time in nature.  After walking in the woods for an hour or by the river, things look much better.  You become more tuned in with the changing seasons and you never know what you might see - birds, deer, squirrels (I always carry some hopeful shelled peanuts!).
  • Another of my favourites is a long relaxing bath with epsom salts (detoxing) and lavender (relaxing). Please see-'Been out Christmas shopping? Restore with an epsom salt bath'.
  • Reduce caffeine, sugar, cigarettes and alcohol which enhance the body's stress response.


Meatless Monday: Vegan Mexican tortilla soup

Monday, 16 January 2017


First things first - I hope all my American friends have a great day as they celebrate Martin Luther King Day.

Meanwhile here in Yorkshire, it is raining heavily and cold but today's Meatless Monday is just the thing to bring a touch of Mexican warmth to a cold winter's day. It's also Blue Monday today, supposedly the most depressing day of the year, but the chilli in this dish has been shown to improve mood.

I have baked the tortilla strips rather than frying them, as is usual so that they are lower in fat.

Vegan Mexican tortilla soup

Serves 2

You will need

1 tbsp organic olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2-1 tsp pink salt in 500ml hot water
6 tbsp sweetcorn kernals
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
6 tbsp tomato puree
1 can black beans

To top
1 tortilla, cut into slices
olive oil spray
1 avocado, diced (optional)

Heat the oil and fry the onion for 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients in the order above and stir. Bring to the boil and reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile cut the tortilla into strips and spray with olive oil spray. Place in an oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes.

Divide the soup into two bowls. Top with tortilla strips and diced avocado if using.


This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 15 January 2017


Your liver works very hard for you. In this yoga video and meditation we rebalance the liver meridian and stimulate the liver for complete wellbeing. Please see my 'sister' blog-
http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/rebalance-love-your-liver.html

If you are thinking of starting a meditation but are concerned that you cannot get comfortable in a seated position to meditate, this blog post and yoga sequence may help.
Please see my 'sister' blog- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/starting-meditation-practice-are-you.html

And now for something a little different. Shake up your yoga practice with these Tibetan Rites.
Please see my 'sister' blog- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/and-now-for-something-little-different.html


Mid-winter pick me up juice


We are halfway through the winter and our immune system has been working hard.  After the festive season also we can feel a little down: spring still feels a way off.  What we need is a pick me up.  This juice has oranges and apples for vitamin C, an antioxidant which not only protects your cells from free radical damage but they also promote antibody production to see off those 'invaders' (microbes) that cause illness.  

Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, which keeps your mucus membranes healthy as a first line of defense and also boosts your white cell production.  
The ginger adds a little warmth and the avocado adds creaminess as well as some 'good' oils.

So, let's get juicing

For 2 glasses you will need 

1 medium orange
1 large eating apple 
1 medium carrot
2 cm piece ginger, peeled
1 small avocado

You might also like the following videos on my 'sister' blog -

'Introduction to juicing'- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/an-introduction-to-juicing.html

'Seasonal juicing- September'- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/seasonal-juicing-september.html

'Seasonal juicing- October'- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/seasonal-juicing-september.html






Sweet almond oil for winter skin

Thursday, 12 January 2017


Here in York, UK we have had all weathers this week - heavy frosts, high winds and now we have snow forecast.  All this means that in winter our skins can get very dry and central heating can make the drying effect worse.  

Facial oils can replace the oils that the weather takes out of the skin but there is no need to buy expensive oils.  Sweet almond oil can be bought quite cheaply and lasts for ages because you do not need much. It has a slightly nutty smell which is not unpleasant. It softens and smooths your skin by reducing moisture loss from your skin.

There are two types of almond oil but it is the sweet almond oil you need to use - the other can be toxic. Made from edible almonds, sweet almond oil is light so easily penetrates your skin, hypoallergenic so usually fine for sensitive skin, and non-comedogenic, that is non-pore blocking so also usually fine for acne-prone skins.  In fact, because sweet almond oil is rich in vitamin A, it can prevent acne flare ups.  It also can ease skin inflammation and irritation. 

More than this, sweet almond oil is rich in vitamin E, which like vitamin A has antioxidant properties, preventing free radical damage to your skin. Free radicals can attack the collagen in your skin.  This is the 'scaffolding' in your skin so when it breaks down your skin sags.  By preventing collagen breakdown, sweet almond oil therefore is anti-aging.  It also anti-aging because it protects your skin from UV damage and help repair UV damaged skin (don't be fooled, the aging rays still get through in winter if not the burning rays) - I would still use a sun cream however once the oil has soaked in.

I like to use sweet almond oil at night - if you like you may add a single drop of rose oil.  In fact sweet almond oil is too good to save for winter - I like to use it all year round.

Stay young

Meatless Monday: Tex-Mex Vegan Hot Dog

Monday, 9 January 2017



It may be January but we can recreate a feeling of summer through our food.  This vegan version of a Tex-mex hot dog from Mexico would also be great for those summer barbeques. Originating in Germany, the hot dog took on a new identity when it was 'adopted' by the Americas. Quick to make and assemble, let's whisk ourselves off to warmer climes.

Serves 2 

You will need

2 large or 4 small vegan sausage
2 hot dog buns

For the salsa

2 tbsp sweetcorn kernals 
1 medium avocado, peeled, stoned and diced 
1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced thinly
1/4 red pepper, diced
2 chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp coriander leaf
pinch stevia

For the drizzle

50ml soya milk
1 tbsp organic olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard
Romaine lettuce for serving

Cook the vegan sausage according to the manufacturer's directions.  Meanwhile assemble the salsa by combining the ingredients.  

To make the drizzle place all the ingredients for the drizzle in a blender and whiz up  

It is then simply an assembly job. Open the hot dog bun and place a lettuce leaf on the bun. 

Top with the vegan sausage, salsa then spoon the drizzle over the salsa.  Done.

Enjoy



This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 8 January 2017


It's the new year and we are starting a new series in which the intention is to bring our bodies back into balance. When our bodies are in balance we sleep well, have energy and a zest for life.
We start with a yoga practice to detox.
Blog post and yoga video on my 'sister' blog- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/rebalance-detox.html

If, like me, you feel the cold, you'll be glad to know that yoga can help you stay warm. This yoga sequence will get your blood flowing and give your metabolism a boost to help you stay warm.
Please see my 'sister' blog- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/keeping-warm-with-yoga.html

Here in Yorkshire we have just had a cold snap. I have found myself hunching my shoulders against the cold with the result that my shoulders have been achy. To remedy this I have put together the following yoga moves. Please see my 'sister' blog- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/yoga-moves-for-tight-winter-shoulders.html


Kill sugar cravings


If you indulged in sugar-rich desserts over the festive season, you may find that even though you have returned to normal eating, you crave sugary foods.  

Why does this happen?  You may be aware that the gut is often referred to as the 'second brain'.  This is because it communicates with the brain with hormones, neurotransmitters such as serontin (the'feel good' neurotransmitter) which can cross the blood-brain barrier and along a neural pathway known as the gut-brain axis which is throught to be primarily the vagus nerve. Many of the 'messages' are produced by the microbes that live in your gut.  For instance gut bacteria produce a chemical messenger similar to ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and peptide YY which sends a message to your brain that you have eaten enough.  

Problems occur when the gut microbes get out of balance.  Sugar feeds a yeast, normally present in the gut known as Candida albacans.  Where the diet is high in sugar, the yeast proliferates and more sugar cravings result to feed the increasing population of yeast.   It can be a vicious cycle - you eat sugar, the yeast grows, so you crave sugar.  Now this is unlikely to occur after a few sweet treats over the festive season only if you continue to indulge.  This doesn't mean you can't have sweet treats - there are many desserts and cakes on this blog with no added sugar for you to enjoy once you have restored your gut flora balance.

So how can you restore gut flora balance?  If you suspect you have a Candida proliferation (for example you are experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, IBS-like symptoms, difficulty losing weight, fungal infections etc) seek guidance from a nutritional therapist who can guide you through the stages of rebalancing your gut flora.  If you simply want to get you gut flora back into balance after the festive season I would recommend a good probiotic to repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria.  Also eat prebiotic foods such as onions, bananas, oats, apples and flaxseed.  Prebiotics feed the 'friendly' bacteria in your gut.  

Having a balanced gut flora can help weight loss in other ways too.  For instance the gut bacteria produce B vitamins that can be utilised by your body.  B vitamins help reduce stress which can lead to comfort eating.  As mentioned above the gut is where up to 90% of the body's 'feel good' hormone serontin is made and when you feel good, you are less likely to resort to comfort eating.

As if all this wasn't exciting enough, did you know that the gut flora are able to influence neuroplastiity (the ability to create new neural pathways) in the brain which can in turn help you create better eating habits.

Stay healthy, stay happy,


Pamper your liver

Thursday, 5 January 2017


Your liver may have been working very hard over the festive season when our normal diet can be forgotten and we may drink alcohol.  Foods containing saturated fats or worse, transfats can increase your cholesterol which makes for an unhappy liver.

Keeping your liver happy is important because the liver works hard for you - it has many functions in your body which include detoxification, controlling the levels of fats, amino acids and glucose in your blood, breaking down hormones, making enzymes and proteins which are involved in blood clotting etc  - see 'About the liver'- British Liver Trust https://www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/liver-information/ for more.

You can keep your liver happy through diet and exercise.  Exercise improves heart function which in turn can improve circulation of blood to the liver and easier for the liver to send filtered blood back into the circulation.  In fact there is some evidence that exercise can reverse fatty liver disease.

You can cleanse your liver through your diet.  Avoid saturated fat, transfats, sugar, refined carbs such as white flour, white pasta etc and alcohol. Your liver loves garlic  - it activates the enzymes which flush out toxins.   Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables for their vitamin C and toxin neutralising properties, decreasing the workload on the liver - green vegetables, beets, carrots, apples etc. Globe artichokes are especially good for liver function. The mineral selenium is also good for boosting liver function  - think brazil nuts, brown rice, shiitake  mushrooms, broccoli and cabbage.

Staying hydrated is also important to flush out toxins - green tea is especially good. Please see 'Hydrate to stay healthy'

Please note if you suspect that you have a liver problem please see you medical practitioner. 

You may also like 'Milk Thistle liver cleanse and emotional cleanse'.



Meatless Monday: Argentinian style Empanadas

Monday, 2 January 2017


I try to see the best in every season.  I love bird watching in the winter - when the trees have shed their leaves, you get better views of the birds.  I love going to to the woods with a bag of wild bird food.  No sooner is the food on a fence post than you hear the message being 'tweeted' out and soon it is 'raining' birds.  Even so, in the northern hemisphere January is thought of as the armpit of the year - the Christmas activities are behind us and spring feels a long way off.  I think this is why people plan their holidays in January.  

We can whisk ourselves off to warmer climes through our food and this week we are making empanadas which hail from Latin American countries and are often sold as a street food.  

Empanadas are baked, stuffed pastries. I tried making these initially with gluten free flour and although the result was declared 'delicious' by my long suffering family (who eat my 'failures' as well as successes) they were crumbly and you would not be able to pick them up to eat.  For my second attempt therefore I used regular flour and the result was much better. The apple cider vinegar stops the gluten strands becoming too long resulting in a tougher pastry- also do not knead too much.   Here is the final recipe.

Argentinian style empanadas

Makes 4-6

You will need

For the dough

450g flour
2 tsp baking powder
120g dairy free spread
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
200ml water (approx)

For the filling

120g dried soya mince
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 tsp salt
100g chestnut mushrooms
100g tomato puree
pinch stevia
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chilli


Place the soya mince in a bowl and cover with boiling water.   

Meanwhile make the dough.  Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and add the dairy free spread in small pieces.  Rub in until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs then add the vinegar and water until the mixture forms a dough.  Cover with cling film and place in the fridge while you make the filling.

To make the filling, heat the oil and cook the onion for 2-3 minutes.  Add the soy mince, salt, chilli, smoked paprika, tomato puree and a little extra water.  Cook for 10 minutes, adding a little water if necessary.  Leave to cool.

Roll out the dough to around 1/8 inch thick and cut into 8 inch circles.  Place some of the filling on one half of each circle and fold the dough in two.  Seal the edges with a fork and transfer to a baking tray. Make a tiny slit in the pastry. Bake at 200 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  

Enjoy as they are or with a salad.


This week on Flexiladiesyoga

Sunday, 1 January 2017


In the last of our series on anxiety we focus on the breath to anchor us to the present moment.

Christmas is a hectic time - there's all the preparations, the cooking, friends and family visiting or coming to stay. In this time of 'Twixtmas' before the New Year celebrations begin, why not take some time to refresh and renew. 
This yoga sequence will calm your nervous system ready for the New Year celebrations. Please see my 'sister' blog- http://flexiladies.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/yoga-for-anxiety-present-moment-part-2.html
This blog post was included in the online paper 'Yoga Vitality Magazine'-http://paper.li/Yoga_Vitality/1336524135?edition_id=737f92c0-cc96-11e6-8c0f-0cc47a0d1605

Please see the link to my 'sister' blog to read my thoughts on the New Year-