Healthy Snack Recipe – Homemade Energy Bars

Do you sometimes feel like something sweet yet you want your snack to be healthy and nutritious? I like shop-bought granola bars but they tend to be loaded with sugar so I decided to try to make my own. This recipe is very simple and the two main ingredients are bananas and rolled oats.

Bananas are an amazing fruit. They are a brilliant source of energy and they are good for digestion, are probiotic and are a good source of fibre, Vitamin C, Potassium, Manganese and Vitamin B6. Eaten raw they are a delicious and satisfying snack. But they are also brilliant for baking as they take place of sugar, eggs and fat.

The great thing about these bars is they have no added sugar and you can whip them up in just a few minutes. They are a perfect mid-morning snack or they are also fantastic for picnics or days out walking.

m_DSC_2523

Homemade Energy Bars

Makes one 25 x 25cm tray

2 large, ripe bananas

2 cups rolled oats

1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates

1/4 cup raisins

Grated nutmeg or cinnamon (optional)

You can also add chopped wallnuts or hazelnuts, chopped dried apricots, dried berries or seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower or linseed.

m_DSC_2500

Heat the oven to 180°C and line a 25 x 25cm square baking tray with baking paper.

Peel the bananas and mash them thoroughly in a medium mixing bowl; the bananas should be essentially liquid.  Add the oats and stir them in. Stir in the dates, raisins, spices and any other ingredients you’re using.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan and press it well. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Place the baking tray on a rack to cool. When the tray is mostly cool, cut into bars. I use pizza cutter which makes the job easier.

Enjoy!

 

Make your own herbal tea blend

Hope you’re all having a great summer – it’s been a busy one for us hence the break in posting. Most of July we spent in the Czech Republic enjoying sunshine, glorious walks in the countryside, cities and time with friends and family. On our return to Shetland we were delighted to hear our building warrant for removing faulty blocks and subsequently insulating and cladding the house with larch was approved so we started the works immediately. Busy times…

For some reason after coming back from holidays this time I’ve been struggling to get back to my normal routine of healthy eating and walking plenty but I’m hoping to find my motivation soon and get back on track.

One of my routines is to dedicate Mondays to a fasting day. I feel a one-day fast is a good way of cleansing the body, getting rid of toxins and also keeping your weight under control.

Fasting means not eating for a prolonged period of time and there are different fasting regimes available. Refraining from eating for even a day can cleanse your body and help you feel better. Many resources also state that acute illnesses respond positively to fasting. I usually stick to drinking water and herbal teas throughout the day. Sometimes evenings are difficult so if I need to ‘cheat’ I’ll have a small baked potato for dinner as potatoes are low in calories and fill up the stomach so you don’t feel hungry.

When I’m in the Czech Republic I always stock up on my favourite herbal teas by an Austrian / Czech company called Sonnentor which liteally translates as ‘sun gate’. I very much like the philosophy of the company as their emphasis is on working with small organic herb growers and farmers and respect and consideration for nature are very important to them. They have a huge selection of teas based on traditional herbal blends and my favourite is their Hildegard von Binge range. Hildegard Fasting Time is a delicious aromatic blend which helps me to get through my fasting Mondays.

m_DSC_2427

For a bit of change I’ve decided to make my own blend, using herbs from the garden or ones I’ve picked in Shetland (apart from juniper).

m_DSC_3384

My blend contains:

Nettle (Urtica Dioica): used for treatment of disorders of the kidneys and urinary tract, gastrointestinal tract, bladder infections, skin complaints, eczema, cardio-vascular system, hemorrhage, flu, rheumatism and gout. When cooked it is rich in vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Nettle is a powerful detoxifier and is believed to enhance immune system.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita): not only it is delicious but it also calms the nervous system, soothes stomach and it is believed it relieves stress and muscular tension. Peppermint tea can act as an appetite suppressant, making it easier to stick to your healthy eating goals. Drinking a blend of peppermint tea and green tea can help increase metabolism, making it easier to shed extra pounds. Peppermint is also a natural remedy for certain stomach ailments, including bloating and gas. Having a cup of tea in the evening before bed can help soothe these problems, making it easier to digest and fall asleep.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): did you know an extremely useful natural remedy and food already grows in your garden… and you probably consider it a weed? The entire plant is used in herbal remedies: roots, leaves, and flowers. Dandelion leaves are very bitter and bitters have been used for centuries in many countries before meals as a digestive and liver stimulant. We are inundated daily with chemicals and substances that the liver must process so it deserves our support. Rough dry skin and acne, constipation, gas and bloating, frequent headaches, and premenstrual syndrome are all potential symptoms of an overburdened liver. Dandelion is also used to help purify blood and to treat infections. Dandelion leaves are also rich in minerals and vitamins, particularly calcium and vitamins A, C, K, and B2 (riboflavin).

Elderflower (Sambucus nigra): elder plant and is often overlooked for its medicinal benefits and is most frequently used for its flavouring properties and in making various foods and beverages. But in Central and Eastern Europe is commonly used to treat bronchitis, cough, upper respiratory cold infections and fever due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Elderflower also has diuretic and laxative properties and is helpful in relieving occasional constipation. It also has has antibacterial and antiviral properties and may also help alleviate some allergies and boost the functioning of the immune system.

Sage (Salvia officinalis): Salvia is derived from the Latin salvere (to save) and it has been used since ancient times for warding off evil, snakebites, increasing women’s fertility, a local anesthetic and much more. In Middle Ages it was cultivated in monastery gardens and it was one of the herbs which were used to ward off the plague. In the traditional Austrian medicine sage has been used internally (as tea or directly chewed) for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and skin. Its bitter component stimulates upper digestive secretions, intestinal mobility, bile flow, and pancreatic function, while the volatile oil has a stimulating effect on the digestion.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): a powerful healing herb. In Homer’s Iliad, legendary warrior Achilles uses yarrow to treat the wounds of his fallen fellow warriors. Indeed, constituents in yarrow make it a fine herb for accelerating healing of cuts and bruises. The species name, millefolium, is Latin for “a thousand leaves,” referring to the herb’s fine feathery foliage. Yarrow is also widely used in used in herbal remedies designed to treat heavy bleeding from menstrual periods and it is often classified as a uterine tonic. Several studies have shown that yarrow can improve uterine tone, which may increase menstrual blood flow when it is irregular or scanty, and reduce uterine spasms, which reduces heavy flow in cases of abnormally heavy menstrual flow.

Juniper (Juniperus communis): not that I have seen juniper growing in Shetland but since the dried berries are included in the Sonnentor tea I have decided to add them to my blend as well as they have a lovely flavour. Juniper is used for digestion problems including upset stomach, intestinal gas, heartburn, bloating and loss of appetite, as well as gastrointestinal (GI) infections.

And Shetland rose, marigold and white clover for a bit of colour and brightness too…

m_DSC_3395

Here are some tips for a fasting day:

1. Pick a day you want to fast. Depending on your work schedule, weekends work well for some people but I prefer weekdays as I’m busy at work which helps me to keep my mind of feeling hungry and I’m generally less likely to give in to the temptation…

2. Determine how long your fast will be. If you have never fasted before you should only fast for a day to see how your body manages it. Remember, there are transition periods before and after the fast. You will want to ease yourself from a full diet and ease back onto one.

3. To get the best results, the day before you fast eat only raw vegetables, whole grains, raw fruits and drink herbal tea and water.

4. On your fasting day abstain for eating the entire day. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of herbal tea and water. Use approximately 1 tbsp. of loose dried tea herbs for every 8 oz. of water. Drink only herbal teas the day of your fast. You will want to consume approximately two litres of tea or water. You can drink it cold or hot. Do not exercise vigorously. Rest and relaxation will help your body cleanse.

5. Ideally eat only raw vegetables, fruit and whole grains and drink herbal teas and water the day after your fast. Try not fill your stomach.

m_DSC_3397

Enjoy and good luck!

 

 

 

Rhubarb Schnapps

Pulling out a first few stalks of rhubarb in early May must surely be one of the most delightful things in gardener’s year. There’s nothing more exciting than taking of a rhubarb forcer (in our case an old burning bin) and being rewarded by lush, vividly pink, super-long stalks that almost beg to be eaten raw, just dipped into sugar! Forcing rhubarb is probably not a common thing in Shetland but covering the crowns will encourage the plants to make early growth and these forced stalks make a great substitute for fruit when there is little else available from the garden. m_IMG_3085 In Shetland cooking with rhubarb has a great tradition as it grows really well. In fact so well that a whole recipe book has been devoted to it. Rhubarbaria, written by the late Mary Prior – a frequent visitor to Shetland, is a brilliant and inspiring cookbook of every sort of rhubarb recipe. Rhubarb with meat or fish, vegetables, as a pudding, as a jam or in chutney are all included in this extensive resource. And since my rhubarb plant seems to have established itself quite well over the past couple of years I’m hoping I’ll have enough to keep cropping throughout the summer to be able to try a few recipes from the book. I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of a lamb and rhubarb stew! Here’s a recipe for rhubarb schnapps, a delicious, refreshing and seasonably pink drink.  m_IMG_6228 1. Chop the rhubarb finely to expose maximum surface area. Pulsing it a few times in a food processor makes the job much faster. Place in a glass jar add the vanilla pod (cut in half; lenght wise), cover with vodka by approximately an inch or so, seal, and allow to steep a month. Over this time, the flavour and colour will leach out of the rhubarb, leaving the alcohol pink and the rhubarb yellow-white. 2. When the rhubarb has finished steeping, strain it from the alcohol, and filter the solution through several layers of cheesecloth.  3. Measure the final amount of alcohol – this is your base number. In a saucepan, heat 1.5 times that amount of water, and 1/2 – 3/4 that amount of sugar, depending on how sweet you like things. To give an example: 4 cups rhubarb alcohol would need 6 cups of water and 2-3 cups sugar. Let the sugar syrup cool, then add it to your filtered alcohol. 4. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Let age for at least a month before enjoying. Rhubarb schnapps keeps at any temperature, but is especially delicious straight from the freezer. Try adding it to your Cava or Prosecco, just like Kir Royale. m_DSC_1732

Using up the last of last year’s beetroot – borscht

On this relatively cold and windy night (yes, it is summer after all) I felt like cooking some nice comforting food. After checking what’s in the fridge I discovered a poly bag with some of last year’s beetroot which kept remarkably well.

So I decided to make a big pot of borscht, a traditional Eastern European soup of possibly Russian or Ukrainian origin. I have a brilliant recipe from my friend who cooked the soup for us when visiting Shetland a few years ago. Since then I’ve been addicted to this authentic hearty soup.

m_DSC_3244

Here’s the recipe:

3 tbsp olive oil

250g beef

4 medium potatoes cubed

1/2 cabbage or a jar of sauerkraut

4 carrots grated

2 medium raw beetroot  peeled and cubed

2 onions chopped

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped

100g tomato puree

2 beef stock cubes

2 bay leaves, 5 allspice berries, marjoram,salt and pepper

1.5l water

 

1. Cut the beef into cubes, brown it off in the olive oil, then add water, stock cubes, salt, pepper and spices and boil until the meat is tender.

2. Add potatoes and after ten minutes add shredded cabbage or sauerkraut

3. In a separate pan fry onions until golden brown, then add the carrot and beetroot and fry for 5-7 minutes, then add tomato puree and garlic. Add this in the first pan and boil for further 20 minutes.

4. Serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Delicious with rye or sourdough bread.

 

There are many recipes and ways of cooking borscht and if you fancy experimenting and trying a different version follow this link.

Shetland superfoods salad sprinkle

My colleague from A Taste of Shetland Elizabeth inspired me to try to harvest some seaweed. Elizabeth’s post about the experience sounded real fun so last last week, on an evening, I suggested a family trip to the beach… with a bucket and scissors. My five-year-old son was thrilled with a thought of an adventure on a school night and my husband seemed quite intrigued too. So off we went to Minn Beach, in Burra, one of our favourite spots.

ms_DSC_2873

Needless to say there was some doubt in my mind if the the seaweed would be edible but after checking various resources I was assured that seaweed found around the UK shores is suitable to eat. We’ll see, I thought…

Anyway this foraging trip was a good excuse to enjoy a fine night outside doing something slightly different. After getting wet and having lost the feeling in outer extremities I had a small amount of what seemed a quite promising collection of seaweed. I made sure that it was only cut from a growing stem and it would grow again which to me sounds like the marine version of the cut and come again salad.

m_DSC_2907

After enjoying some stunning views of Foula on the way back, we were happy to get back to the car and head home to thaw out and soak and rinse the seaweed.

m_DSC_2940

And dry it in the boiler cupboard…

m_DSC_2944

m_DSC_2945

And after a couple of days there was a bowl of a sea-fragranced dessicated substance…

m_DSC_3079

Now what to do with it… and then I got an idea – making a salad sprinkle which originally was supposed to be just seaweed and chilli. After several attempts of finding a good method of shredding it (breaking up with hands, cutting up with scissors and whizzing up in a food processor) I had a little amount of beautiful looking pure-sea goodness in a bowl and all over the worktops too.

m_DSC_3084

I added chilli and dried nettle which I picked at the beach trip too.

m_DSC_3088

The mix looked absolutely beautiful and thought it could be called a ‘Shetland superfood mix’ since chilli and nettle are both a pretty amazing food stuffs and so is seaweed. But then I thought it would be nice to add something for a bit of crunch and I toasted some golden linseed, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds and for a bit of a twist I added some sumac which is naturally sour and tastes very refreshing.

And voilà here is my newly invented Shetland Superfood Salad Sprinkle.

m_DSC_3093

And it tasted delicious on some home-grown salad leaves with a drizzle of olive oil.

And the price tag? Just the cost of  a handful of seeds and we got a lot of fun and a small family adventure out of it too. Brilliant!

m_DSC_3094

Three vegetable crops to sow this weekend

It’s Friday afternoon and I’m planning my gardening tasks for the weekend. Certainly there will be plenty of weeding required and also keeping on top of pests like caterpillars and slugs… And then there are those pesky starlings that seem to love young, tender and particularly fragrant plants like herbs. They just snip them off and take them to their nests. But there will also be sowing of seeds…

m_photo-124_watemark

It might seem a bit late to sow seeds in the middle of June but there are some vegetables you can still sow for the later season crop. So the seeds I will be sowing are:

Perpetual Spinach

If you like spinach then perpetual spinach is the perfect thing for you. It tastes like ordinary spinach but you don’t need to keep sowing it as you do with ‘real’ spinach. The same plants will keep going for months. I usually do a very late sowing (August) and if the winter is mild we usually have enough greens to take us through till the spring.

Spinach needs plenty moisture at the roots and lots of nutriens so digging in well rotted garden compost before you start sowing is good. Since spinach prefers shade you can consider intercropping with veg which will provide it. Sow the seed directly in drills about 1cm deep in rows 30cm apart. Thin seedlings out to 15cm apart. Harvest little and often. It’s perfect for freezing too!

m_DSC_2445

Peas

Fresh peas – oh my goodness, what could be better than eating peas seconds after picking them. A real treat for kids too! Definitely better than sweeties. And the great thing about growing peas is that is easy (peasy). All you need is a small area, bed, container or a pot. In order to maintain a steady supply of peas through the season sow an early variety every four weeks.

Peas like rich, moisture-retentive soil so again adding compost or well-rotted manure is ideal. Peas dislike hot weather so they do well in Shetland. To sow peas make a single V-shaped drill, approximately 5cm deep and sow them 5-10cm apart.

m_DSC_2147

Beetroot

Beetroot is simply amazing. Probably usually enjoyed more pickled or cooked however when eaten raw, beetroot is full of vitamins and minerals and it is also packed with powerful antioxidants. But most importantly beets are valued for their support in detoxification and helping to purify your blood and your liver. Sometimes I add beetrot to my fresh juice (nice with carrot, apple and ginger). And nothing beats borscht soup.

Beetroot grows well in an open, sunny site in well-drained, fertile soil. My friends in Scalloway seem to be able to grow any amount of beetroot in a small, relatively unsheltered space without any difficulties yet we have never really succeeded with beetroot yet. On the other hand they have not had much luck with garlic which we seem to be able to grow really well here.

Sow thinly, in drills 2.5cm deep, 30cm apart. Thin out if necessary (approximately 8-10cm). Tip: in the polytunnel we always leave some beetrots over the winter and in the early spring you are guaranteed lovely, colourful salad leaves full of vitamins and minerals.

Happy sowing!

 

 

Shetland Kale: Possibly the oldest Scottish local vegetable variety

Last year my colleague from work was very kind to give me some Shetland Kale seeds she kept that season. I was very excited about the prospect of growing an old Shetland crop and particularly because it would be grown from a heritage variety seed that was lovingly nurtured and saved unlike mass-produced commercial hybrid seeds.

m_DSC_2457

When looking for more information about Kale I came across this some interesting information at Slow Food UK:

Shetland Cabbage

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What are my special features?

Much variation can be found in this cabbage/kale (Brassica oleracea L) and the heart is a lot more open than modern cabbage varieties. The cabbage has a characteristic peppery taste and is traditionally cooked in a mutton stew.

What is my history?

Shetland Cabbage/Kale is the oldest known Scottish local vegetable variety and has been grown on the Shetland Islands since at least the 17th Century. Specific origin details of this landraceis unknown. The outer or dropped leaves were often used as winter feed for cattle and sheep.

Due to the extreme weather conditions on the Islands cabbage seeds were traditionally planted in plantie crubs, a small circular stone-walled enclosure. The cabbage seedlings were then transplanted into larger yards also often with stone walls. These structures can still be seen all over the islands despite many being in ruins.

m_IMG_6800

Why am I forgotten?

In the last 30 years, there has been a steep decline in Shetland Cabbage and competition within other well-known supermarket varieties is further problematic for such traditional varieties.

Don’t lose me… cook me!

Kale was immortalised in the Shetland poem “Auld Maunsie’s Cro” by Basil R. Anderson:

‘Auld Maunsie biggit him a Cro
Ta grow him kale fir mutton bro
Fir Maunsie never tocht him hale,
Withoot sheeps shanks an kogs o’kale’

I found out that seed of Shetland Cabbage is not sold commercially and the survival of this, and other, landraces is entirely dependent on growers saved seed. Find out more here.

I’m planning to try keep some seed this year if the plants succeed so if anyone is interested in giving it a go please let me know and I’ll get you some seed.

Photo No.3: Silent witnesses to intensive crofting in the past – plantie crubs and kale yards in Culswick. To see this magic place and enjoy a fine walk to Culswick Broch check Walk Shetland.