Of the citrus fruits, oranges are probably one of the most popular. Although they are commonplace now, at one time they were considered exotic and precious. I recall from my own childhood, it was a tradition to add oranges to Christmas stockings. As children we were restricted to one piece of fruit a day because of the cost so a juicy and sweet orange was always a treat!
Oranges and their origin
According to Nuovo, botanists believe that citrus trees are native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and have been around for 20 million years. Arab traders first brought them from India and Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) to some of the wealthiest families of the Roman Empire. Groves then appeared in Italy, North Africa, Spain and Portugal until at the end of the thirteenth century, they were bought by a Spanish boat to the United Kingdom. Since then, oranges have evolved from the fruit of European royalty and aristocrats to a kitchen staple for the masses.
Ice cream sandwiches have come along way since they first appeared one hot summer on the streets of New York around the turn of the twentieth century. At that time, for the price of a penny, street vendors sold what they referred to as “hokey pokeys” which were slabs of ice cream between sheets of paper. As they were sold on the street, the sandwiches tended to cater more towards working-class individuals, however, the appeal quickly caught on and they soon became a hit with Wall Street workers alike.
Although the Food Network tells of the earliest known recipe for an ice cream sandwich using two slices of sponge cake, the frozen treat we are more familiar with today is ice cream sandwiched between either cookies or crispy wafers. Since my first introduction to the ice cream and cookie combo, I have never looked back. I had originally thought that plant-based eating would mean saying farewell to such decadence, however, it seems not! With nice cream, a tasty frozen filling, sandwiched between a couple of vegan chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, the treat lives on!
Recipe for Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches
As the popularity of the ice cream sandwich increased, they began to be mass produced and, unfortunately, they are now considered a highly processed food full of fats and sugars. However, this version of the ice cream sandwich is relatively easy to put together and is full of whole ingredients making it a healthier alternative to the traditional treat. The cookies used for this recipe are chocolate chip oatmeal and they can be enjoyed either on their own or made into these delicious ice cream sandwiches filled with frozen bananas mixed with the gooey caramel-like flavour of medjool dates.
Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies:
1 1/4 cups (125g) old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup (75g) whole wheat flour (can replace with an all-purpose gluten free flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/4 cup smooth almond butter (or peanut butter)
1/4 – 1/2 cup maple syrup (depending on preferred sweetness)
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup (60g) dairy-free chocolate chips
Banana Ice Cream Filling:
3 (about 300g) frozen bananas
4 medjool dates, pitted
splash of oat milk if needed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
To make the cookies: preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix together oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and set aside.
Melt the coconut oil and mix with the almond/peanut butter, maple syrup, and vanilla until well combined.
Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and then fold in the chocolate chips.
The total mixture is just over 450g in weight. For evenly sized cookies, measure out portions of about 37 g (this should make about 12 cookies). Roll each portion into a ball and place on the baking sheet and then flatten into cookie shapes with a lid or the back of a spoon.
Bake the cookies in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until edges are golden, then let them cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
Once the cookies are completely cool, place them in the freezer for at least 10 to 20 minutes which helps to keep the cookies firm.
To make the ice cream: add chopped pieces of frozen banana to the food processor and blend. Soak the dates in hot water for about 30 mins to soften and then chop and add to food processor. When blending the ice cream, don’t worry if the dates don’t break all the way down as they make tasty chunks in the ice cream filling. If needed, add a splash of oat milk to assist with blending.
To make the ice cream sandwich: place a large scoop of ice cream on the bottom side of a cookie and then gently press down a second cookie on top and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the freezer.
To serve: take ice cream sandwich out of the freezer for 5-10 minutes before serving.
National ice cream sandwich day is August 2nd and these ice creams would definitely be a tasty treat during the long hot days of summer. However, as summer feels a long way away right now, especially as it is likely the coldest week of the year, I find it just as pleasing to enjoy them when cocooning inside by a toasty fire watching the snow fall outside. After all, ice cream is ice cream and my feeling is that these frozen treats make a great snack at any time of the day, and any time of the year. It is always good to be prepared for anything and once made, these goodies can be happily stored in the freezer until such time as they might call your name!
We often hear about the benefits of eating a diet rich in plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, pulses, and grains. As this advice is very general in nature, I was interested to read about the suggested goal to aim to eat at least 30 of these plant-based foods a week. Research suggests that the health benefit of this mix will promote a more varied gut bacteria which will ultimately lead to a healthier gut microbiome.
I was curious to see how many of these foods I actually included in my diet and so started to track my intake at the beginning of the year. On the first day, I had consumed about 12 on the list and by the second day it was up to 19. This seemed easy and I thought I would have no problem achieving the goal of 30. However, as the week wore on my total didn’t really budge much. Although I eat plant-based foods, as a creature of habit, it appears they tend to be the same ones!
In an effort to vary my diet, I started to look at adding foods I don’t normally eat and quinoa (keen-wah) was one of them. Quinoa cooks up fairly quickly (about 15 minutes) and can be used in a variety of dishes including soups and salads. It is naturally gluten free, rich in fiber, minerals and antioxidants. It is also one of the plant-based complete proteins which means it contains all nine essential amino acids. In fact, some say quinoa is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet!
The origins of quinoa
Referred to by ancient grains as an ancient food, quinoa originated with the Incas in the mountains of Bolivia, Chile and Peru about 5,000 years ago. Although it served as a staple food for the Incas, they also considered it a sacred crop. Known by them as the mother of all grains, the legend states “that the Incan emperor would ceremoniously plant the first quinoa seeds every year”.
Recipe for Spiced Almond and Quinoa Salad
This quinoa salad was inspired by Deliciously Ella and can be prepared relatively quickly for lunch or served as a side salad to a main dish. It is a great mix of flavours, textures and colours with crunchy nuts and seeds, soft roasted vegetables and fresh greens. In addition, this one dish will provide a whopping 9 out of the 30 plant-based foods for the week! Serve it with some avocado or hummus and the number keeps rising!
1/2 cup (100g) quinoa
1 x 400g (14oz) can of chickpeas
1 large red pepper
1 small red onion
1/3 cup (50 g) whole almonds
handful of sunflower seeds
handful of pumpkin seeds
handful of rocket (arugula)
1 tsp gound cumin
1 tsp paprika
pinch of chilli flakes
pinch of salt and pepper
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp maple syrup
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 180C (375F)
Drain the chickpeas and pat dry
Place diced pepper and red onion on one end of a baking tray with a drizzle of olive oil and salt
Place chickpeas, almonds and seeds at the other end of the tray and sprinkle them with the cumin, paprika, chilli flakes and salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Mix well so chickpeas, nuts and seeds are evenly coated.
Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes (until nuts and seeds go crunchy)
Cook quinoa by following instructions on packet (usually twice as much water to quinoa and boil for about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is light and fluffy. Remove from the heat and stir the dressing ingredients through.
Either serve the salad warm by mixing everything together with a handful of rocket, or wait until the quinoa and veggies and seeds have reached room temperature before tossing them together.
Quinoa was not part of my diet growing up and so, like a lot of the popular health foods today, it almost seems like a “new” addition to our diet despite the fact that it is actually part of ancient history. Quinoa didn’t really become popular in the modern world until around the 1970s but it has proved its worth in the past and, as such a highly nutritious and versatile staple, I imagine it will continue to remain as part of our modern diet.
As it was interesting to see the reality of how little variety I was actually eating, in terms of gut health, I am definitely trying to be more aware of maintaining variety in my diet and am glad to now have quinoa to add to the mix!
When you think of oranges and lemons, what comes to mind? More than likely it is a vision of a couple of citrus fruits characterized by their leathery rind, white pith and juicy segments! Not at all surprising as these fruits are a common ingredient in baking and cooking and can have many uses for both sweet and savoury dishes. However, when I think of oranges and lemons something quite different comes to mind.
Although they are not as readily available now, I still have cravings for many of the English puddings from my childhood. One of the popular baked goods I enjoyed was the deliciously chewy and sweet flapjacks made of rolled oats, butter, brown sugar and golden syrup. Since living in North America, I discovered that a flapjack is actually considered something else entirely and is a widely-known but lesser-used term for a pancake!
When the weather turns cold and food is scarce, some animals such as bears hibernate to survive. Although people do not have the same metabolic characteristics needed to hibernate, I often feel the inclination to cocoon during the cold months of the year. However charming this concept seems, the “not eating” aspect of hibernation has far less appeal. In contrast to the fasting bears, during these dark and cold days, I feel that nothing beats the comfort of a simmering pot of a hearty stew.
Ginger is one of my kitchen staples and I appreciate its versatility as a kitchen spice for both savoury and sweet dishes. Although I have heard many words to describe the flavour of ginger such as “hot, zesty, biting, sweet, warm”, it can generally be relied on to add a spiciness, juiciness and pungency to cooking. Ginger is available in several forms including fresh, dried, pickled, preserved, crystallized, and powdered and can be used in many different ways.
A great big thank you to Nourish for this nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award! Nourish has been one of the sites that has had significant influence on my blogging. Nourish began around the same time as The Dragon’s Picnic and I ended up learning a whole lot from you both and enjoy your interesting articles as well as the delicious food posts. You have a wonderful blog which has definitely inspired me!
The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to bloggers by fellow bloggers who are creative, positive, and inspiring. After receiving the nomination, the blogger has the honor of writing a post that thanks the nominator, answers some fun questions, and nominates more bloggers for the award.
Here’s what the nominees have to do:
Thank the blogger who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
Answer the 11 questions asked of you.
Nominate other bloggers for the award and ask them 11 questions.
Notify the nominees in the comments of one of their posts.
Include the request and logo of the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post.
Here are the questions from Nourish:
What is one positive thing that happened in 2020?
With respect to my job, I was fortunate to be able to move from the office and work from home. I usually have a lengthy commute into work which I have not missed at all and, as an introvert, lots more time by myself was not unwelcome!
2. What are you looking forward to in the New Year?
Hopefully more progress with dealing with Covid which would mean the opportunity to travel home to the UK for a visit.
3. How will you be celebrating New Year’s Eve?
In a low key and quiet way although there will definitely be something pink and bubbly as part of the plan.
4. Follow up to #3: are you planning on staying up until midnight on NYE?
Unlikely …. and I am not even sure if that would be possible! I am definitely an early morning person and often start my day between 4:00am and 5:00am so midnight is almost time to get up!
5. Best recipe you tried in 2020?
A one pot red lentil and sweet potato stew with coconut cashew cream. Anything with sweet potatoes is usually a winner for me!
6. Best book you read in 2020?
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn which is about a couple who, just days after learning that one of them is terminally ill, lose their home and livelihood. They decide to walk the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path of England. With very little money for food and shelter, they carry the essentials on their backs and it is an amazing story of survival and rediscovery in unexpected ways.
7. Favorite blog post you’ve ever done? (Feel free to link it!)
Cycling the100km which was an account about overcoming a fear to reach a goal. It was a brief synopsis of what had been a challenging few years learning to get back on the bicycle after a serious accident.
8. If you could travel anywhere (when it’s safe to, of course), where would you go?
There are so many wonderful countries where I would love to experience the food, culture and natural landscapes. Currently, I am looking at a cycling trip through Europe.
9. What is something you do take care of yourself?
Strenuous exercise. I find maintaining a regular exercise schedule, whether I feel like it or not, goes a long way to regulating my mood, finding balance and generally feeling more inclined to be creative and do something constructive with my time.
10. What do you hope readers get out of your blog?
This is a good question and it is something that I will be giving some more thought but, in general, I would say that I hope that my readers feel inspired to try a plant-based meal.
11. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
The focus it provides. It enables me to work on a number of my favourite interests which include research, writing and photography. It is an added bonus that I can interact with other bloggers and be a part of this amazing creative network.
Tahini, the paste of crushed sesame seeds, is rich in nutrients, protein and healthy fats and it continues to be one of my most used and versatile ingredients. As well as adding protein and nutrients to a meal, the earthy flavour of tahini lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes making it an easy addition to sauces, dips, dressing or desserts.
Throughout history, winter solstice festivals have been held across the world to celebrate the changing seasons and to mark the longest night of the year and rebirth of the Earth. Interestingly, it is these solstice rituals that mark the origin of baking cookies and treats for holiday festivities such as Christmas.
Since it was often necessary to feast before the winter famine, the solstice celebrations tended to revolve around food. In addition, the festivities and food often had an emphasis on the Earth itself and tended to incorporate natural foods such as nuts, berries, and spices.