Goat’s Cheese, Date and Walnut Salad

2 cups of mixed salad leaves of your choice

1/2 cucumber chopped

1 cup of mini tomatoes cut in half

1 cup of dates pitted and chopped in half

2 ripe pears (peeled or skin on) and chopped

2 figs quartered

½ cup walnuts chopped

200g Goat’s cheese crumbled

 

Optional: Blackberries to garnish

 

Dressing:

¼ cup honey (pure raw honey is the best)

60 ml apple cider vinegar

Lemon rind grated

1 Tbs lemon juice

60ml extra virgin olive oil

Seasoning to taste

 

  1. Mix all the salad ingredients in a bowl
  2. Drizzle with the dressing

 

Alison Middleton

How are you getting on with your ‘chosen word’ for the year?

Are you remaining true to it? Have your decisions and actions been in line with your word? Or, has your chosen word fallen by the wayside? 

This is a chance for you to review where you are at and how things are going.

Earlier this year, I shared my chosen word for the year: courage. There are things I’d been wanting to do for some time, things that had been brewing and bubbling under the surface that I’d not been ready to acknowledge or couldn’t find the courage and energy to take forwards. Then came the point when I could no longer ignore the deep inner sense and increasing conviction that I felt inside my stomach, chest, and throat compelling me to take action. Much as I loved my career, I knew I wanted to work more on my passion for health and wellbeing, I wanted to spend more time with my family and I wanted a summer break. So, I put the word out and publicly committed to making a change.

The first thing I did was resign from my full-time job. I felt I needed to let it go in order to achieve my goals. Yet, just four hours after I handed in my notice, all the things I dreamed of became my new reality. I was applauded for taking a courageous step and offered the opportunity to work part-time, which means I now no longer feel torn. I can enjoy the balance and fulfillment I craved, and dedicate more time to my role as a health and wellness advocate.

It feels wonderful! I have no regrets. Sure, I feel a little scared at times but overall, I feel liberated and optimistic for the future.

My lesson going forward is that whilst we don’t know what the future will bring, if something feels right to us, things’ll be ok.

Since taking that first step, daunting yet exciting opportunities have come my way: Alex and I are writing a book (watch this space!); I was asked to be a wellness expert and contributor to a local female empowerment group, and I am now the owner of a wellness practice. Once upon a time, all of this would only have been dreams: I wouldn’t have been open to or had the courage to seriously consider taking on such initiatives. But now I do have the courage to move forward and I’m ready to embrace the opportunities and tackle whatever challenges they bring.

What’s holding you back?

Now, let’s talk about you: If you’re not living in alignment with your word for 2017, now’s the chance to ask yourself why not and what is holding you back? Remember you chose your word or it chose you so something about it resonated with you. If you are not following through, what is holding you back?

Is it fear? If so, of what? Are you afraid of failure or perhaps of success and what it might lead to? How can you mitigate that fear? What will help you with that? Are there things you don’t know how to do? If that’s what’s holding you back, then get help. I did: the financial aspects of running a business strike terror in me so I’ve asked a friend who has the right skillset to come into the business with me. I’m not going to allow fear to hold me back.

Or, perhaps this isn’t what you really want. Are you hiding behind excuses: “I’ve been too busy”, ‘So and so happened and I just couldn’t find the time…”? What does this tell you? Maybe you don’t really want this.

Let me ask you, how would you feel if you don’t move forwards? Check in emotionally and physically.  Will you regret it if you don’t? Or, is the issue that you don’t feel worthy or good enough?

All of these emotions are natural and fine to feel. It’s part of the journey. Believe me, I felt all of these along the way – and still do now. If it’s not really important to you that’s fine but check in and ask yourself, what do I want this year to be about? Do I want to recommit to my word or do I want to commit to something else? Then take some action. Action brings you closer to your goals and desires and gives you a great psychological boost.

How to move forward

Perhaps you know what you want to do but you don’t know where to start. Here are some ideas to help you take action:

  1. Make some commitment to your word or goal. Write it down on paper. Say it publicly or say it to a friend.
  2. Listen to how the decision feels in your body and the sensations it evokes. If there is fear think about what you can do to mitigate it. Perhaps it is enlisting the help of a friend to do something with you.
  3. Hold yourself accountable. Perhaps share your inspirations with a friend who will support you, be it by joining the gym with you, encouraging you to take relevant courses or use their own skill set to take you forward
  4. Identify one thing today that you could do right now to move closer to your aim, followed by a goal for the week ahead, and then the month ahead. You get the picture.

I’d love to hear how your year is going and how you’ve found working with your 2017 chosen word. What have been your achievements? What are the challenges you are facing and need help with? Remember there is no such thing as failures just lessons learned on the way.

Please share your thoughts with me!

 

Courageously yours,

Alison Middleton

 

 

Food of the Gods or Dieters’ Nightmare?

Can you guess what I’m referring to?

Chocolate, of course.  With Easter fast approaching and the shops overrun with every kind and size of chocolate egg possible, it’s hard not to think about the creamy, melt-in-your-mouth sweet stuff.

Chocolate is, without a doubt, one the most craved-for foods of all time. It makes us feel good. Well, that is until the guilt of indulging, or even overindulging, kicks in.

Chocolate Easter bunnies aside, most of us turn to chocolate at times of celebration or desperation. You might share a bar of chocolate with friends at the end of a lovely meal. Or, you might devour a whole slab of chocolate locked away in your bedroom at the start of your dreaded period.

So what’s the deal with chocolate? Is it our friend or foe?  Is it good for you or does it solely serve to pile on the pounds and the guilt? 

The answer depends on the type of chocolate you’re eating. Most of the chocolate consumed nowadays is full of sugar and nasty ingredients.

Here’s a piece of chocolate’s history for you:

Chocolate comes from cacao beans, which are seeds of the fruit of the Theobroma cacao tree native in tropical regions of South and South America. Research shows it was first consumed in the form of a bitter frothy drink around 1900 BC in Mexico, so very different from the sweet treat we enjoy today. Cacao beans were fermented, roasted, and then ground into a paste mixed with water and spices like chili peppers and vanilla and later on sweetened with honey or cinnamon.

The Mayans and Aztecs revered chocolate for its invigorating and mood enhancing properties. The Mayans worshipped a god of cacao and reserved chocolate for rulers, warriors, priests and nobles hence it became known as ‘Food of the Gods’.

It continued to be consumed only in exclusive circles until Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented the cocoa press in 1828. This separated the cocoa butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving behind a dry cake that could be ground into a fine powder that was mixed with liquids and other ingredients and could be poured into moulds. Chocolate became available and affordable for the masses.

In 1847, the first solid chocolate bar, made from just 3 ingredients – cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar, was introduced by the British c company J.S. Fry & Sons. Cadburys, Hersheys, and Mars came into the picture in the 1900s and introduced the different sweet variations we have today.

So, with all the extra nasties now present in that innocent-looking bar of chocolate, you can indulge in an occasional treat but if you’re looking to enjoy something healthier and guilt-free, why not give minimally processed dark raw chocolate a try? Make sure it’s organic and fair trade and has a cacao content of at least 70%. A single square of chocolate packs a mighty punch of the most powerful antioxidants and the least amount of sugar.  The higher the percentage of cacao the greater the potential health benefits.

I know, raw chocolate is an acquired taste.  The polyphenols are what make the chocolate bitter, which is why manufacturers remove them and, as a consequence, we lose the health benefits. The good news is that you can train your palate to enjoy raw dark chocolate. My son is milk (lactose) intolerant so I decided to buy it for him. And then, of course, I had to try some too. At first, we both found it very bitter but we gradually came to enjoy it.  He and I often have a piece of raw dark chocolate in the evening after our meal. One or two pieces is enough as it is so rich, which it means a whole bar lasts a few evenings AND we don’t over-indulge and scoff the lot in one go!

So, what are the health benefits of dark raw chocolate?

A 2013 paper in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine hailed cacao as a complete food for its:

  • healthy monosaturated fats
  • high levels of antioxidants (nearly 8 times the levels of strawberries) which are critical in protecting the body from damage and ageing.
  • positive effects on our cardiovascular system, helping reduce blood pressure and cholesterol
  • high levels of minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, zinc, and magnesium, all critical for the body’s efficient functioning.
  • ability to improve brain function. thought to be due to the high content of flavonoids. Various studies bear this out.  http://www.webmd.com/brain/news/20160222/can-chocolate-improve-brain
  • Mood enhancing properties. It contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the same chemical your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love.

Just an ounce of dark chocolate with 70 percent to 85 percent cacao solids contains around:

  • 168 calories
  • 12.8 grams carbohydrates
  • 2.2 grams protein
  • 12 grams fat
  • 3.1 grams fibre

Click here for a nutritional breakdown:http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/sweets/10638/2

So you can see why it has been referred to as Food of The Gods. 

Cacao v cocoa?

These can be used interchangeably but in cooking and baking, I tend to choose raw cacao powder as it retains more of its natural goodness.  Cocoa powder, on the other hand, is typically heated at much higher temperatures, destroying many of the health properties. It also often contains sugar. You could also try raw cacao nibs. A sprinkling makes a great addition to porridge or to your smoothie.

What about caffeine?

Dark chocolate contains caffeine but much less than coffee. Compare a 1.5-ounce bar of dark chocolate with 27 mg of caffeine, to the 200 mg in an eight-ounce cup of coffee. However, if you do have trouble sleeping don’t indulge in chocolate from late afternoon onwards as some people find it gets in the way of a restful night’s sleep.

So, to sum up:

If you want to enjoy the health benefits of this Food of The Gods consume dark chocolate. Look out for the highest percentage cacao content you can find (at least 70%), check the sugar content, consume in moderation, relax and relish its rich deliciousness.

Alison Middeton

The Spring Equinox – a chance to rebalance

This week we’ve had the Spring Equinox, the annual celestial alignment between the Earth and the sun, which usually takes place on or around 21st March.  It is accompanied by a change in the seasons from winter to spring in the Northern hemisphere.

The Spring Equinox occurs when the Earth is in the right place with respect to the sun. At this point in the Earth’s roughly 365-day journey, both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres receive almost the same amount of daylight (12 hours), meaning there are almost equal amounts of daytime and nighttime in both halves of the Earth. Hence, the word, equinox, which means “equal night” in Latin.

The Spring Equinox marks the start of longer days for the Northern Hemisphere (and shorter days for the Southern Hemisphere). It has long been celebrated as a time of rebirth with the spring festivals of Easter and Passover celebrated at this time.

It’s a perfect time to think about the balance and the ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ in our own lives. The basis of this Chinese philosophy is that all life is ruled by the interplay of these 2 dynamic forces: yin is negative, yang is positive. Seemingly opposite or contrary forces (such as night and day, darkness and light, masculine and feminine), one cannot exist without the other. The whole is greater than the parts.

The table below gives some characteristics of Yin and Yang:

Ying Yang
feminine
negative
passive
inward
sensitive
soft
cold

expansive

dark

moon/night

sad
intuition
future
masculine
positive
active
outward
strong
hard
hot

contractive

light

sun/day

joyful
logic
past

The yin yang symbol  (see below) is a wonderful expression of the interplay between the two forces. The black colour represents the yin and the white colour represents the yang. There is a black dot that looks like an eye of the white fish. Similarly, there is a white dot as if an eye of the black fish. If you were to walk through the diameter of the circle, you would not experience pure black or pure white. There is always some black and some white. This reflects that the yin and yang are rooted in one another. You find yin in yang, and yang in yin reflecting the reality of life: there are seeds of sadness in happiness and opportunities in every risk.

shutterstock_521258731

The roundedness of the symbol gives the sense of continual movement and interaction of the two energies. Yin can turn into yang and yang turns into yin, causing a new state of yin-yang relationship to establish. The aim is to balance them as far as possible for without balance there is discord and disharmony in our worlds.

A challenge for us in life is to balance the yin and yang in things we do. The better we are in finding the equilibrium, the more effective we can be.

I’d like you to think about:

  1. The yin and yang aspects of your life. Are your mood and energy more aligned to yin or yang at this point in time?
  2. Where you have been focusing your time and efforts. Have you been focussed on work rather than family, fitness or self-care?
  3. The aspects of your life you have been neglecting. Do you need to reconsider your priorities to stay balanced?

If you have been giving to others you need to take the time to receive for yourself. There are many ways to find your way back to balance. Here is a handful of suggestions below:

  • To counteract the long time spent sitting at your desk during the week, go out and enjoy a run or hike, sit outside or sign up for a fitness or yoga class
  • We all need a respite from social interactions. Take time out to just ‘be’. Immerse yourself in a good book, meditate or enjoy an hour in a flotation tank
  • Whenever possible, ditch your smart clothes for casual attire. Spend a day with no makeup, relaxed and free in tracksuit bottoms!
  • If you’re feeling grumpy or dissatisfied, take a moment to reflect on all the good things you have in life and what you have to be grateful for
  • Whenever possible, take a break from your hectic routine. Plan regular holidays or long weekends to relax and do things you enjoy
  • If you find you’ve been eating unhealthily, try to balance the junk with nutrient-dense food such as healthy vegetables, a salad, or one of my go-to recipes here

The chart below may help you see where you can make choices to rebalance your diet:

Yin Foods: “Yoga Foods”

 Makes you light and happy

Can make you spacey and scattered

Yang Foods: “Weight-lifter Foods”

 Makes you grounded and focused

Can make you aggressive and forceful

Raw Cooked
Fruits Chicken and eggs and meat
sweeteners salt
alcohol

Balanced Foods:

Whole grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa, oats

Dark leafy greens

Vegetables: squash, carrots, onions, broccoli, mushrooms

Beans and legumes

 

 

So, I’d love to hear your thoughts around the areas you are going to focus on to rebalance, ready to shrug off that winter blanket and leap into spring with vitality and energy.

Alison Middleton

Roast Veg

This makes a nice change to boiling or steaming vegetables. Great as a side dish accompaniment to a roast or just on their own.

Choose any combination of all or some of the following (whatever you have to hand):

  • 4 cups of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and/or broccoli
  • 2 carrots
  • ½ squash
  • 6 parsnips
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 purple onions (cut into quarters) or 8 shallots
  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 red, orange or yellow pepper or a mixture
  • 1 large beet
  • 1 large garlic bulb, broken up into cloves and peeled (see trick above)
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2 to 3 tsp extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • couple of sprigs of rosemary (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 400F or 200C
  2. Chop all the vegetables (except the parsnips – you can leave them as they are) in similar size chunks. If using cauliflower, break it up into florets or if using Brussel sprouts cut stems off and cut in half
  3. Toss all vegetables and whole garlic cloves with seasonings and oil
  4. Place vegetables on large sheet pan (Tip: cover the pan with parchment paper to make it easy for clean-up)
  5. Roast vegetables for 20 mins and stir, then roast for another 15 mins or until vegetables are golden brown on the edges.

 

Home Brewed Ginger Root Tea

A member of the turmeric and cardammon family, ginger root is a  great digestive aid – great to drink after a heavy meal. It can relieve nausea and bloating and  prevent travel and morning sickness . But its therapeutic properties go way beyond that and being a good source of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese it is a good immune booster, can increase cardivascular circulation and help with pain relief especialy helpful in protection against osteoarthritis pain and several cancers, including ovarian, colorectal, lung, and breast cancers.

This tea is great on a cold winter’s day to warm you up or alternatively it can be just as refreshing over crushed ice on a summer’s day.

Make as much as you like – we tend to cook up about 1 litre at a time and store in a glass jar in the fridge to have whenever we feel like it.

  • Fresh ginger root about 3 to 4 inches peeled and chopped and bashed (this releases the flavour)
  • 2 Star anise (optional)
  • 1 Cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 1 Litre of water

Put all the ingredients into a slow cooker and cook for 6 or 7 hours on slow (or 3 and 4 hours on high) or if you don’t have a slow cooker bring to the boil in a normal saucepan and simmer for a couple of hours topping up the water as you go.

Drink straight away or cool down and keep in fridge in a glass jar.This is great served cold with ice or warmed through. And if it is too strong for you, just dilute with some more water.

Optional to serve: add lemon slices and if you need to sweeten add some raw honey or stevia but I like it just as it is!

A big leap of faith

So, what a week I’ve just had. I learnt an important lesson and that is to take action and go after what you want in life.  Even though it can be incredibly hard, ‘pluck up the courage’  to go for it. Don’t settle for second best and even if it seems like it might not be possible still go for it. I chose the word COURAGE to be my word for this year (see my blog post here if you have yet to pick yours!)  as I knew there were some hard decisions to be made,  actions to be taken and it was time to put them off no longer.  Continue reading