Originally known as the ‘caramel slice’, complete with condensed milk, sugar and butter, the ‘millionaire shortbread’ is one of those sweet treats that is definitely a favourite in our house, although ours has some very different ingredients. You can find a few healthier millionaire shortbread items in the supermarket in the ‘free from’ section, but if you’re currently in Covid-19 lockdown like us, it may be easier to whip up your own.
Feel free to play around with some of the ingredients – you can use a mixture of oats or flour, or even chopped nuts for the base if you have them handy, and if you don’t have raw cocoa butter in the cupboard, coconut oil works just as well.
(makes a 15cm x 15cm container’s worth )
For the base:
½ cup dates cup dates (stones removed)
½ cup oats
½ cup ground almonds
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tbsp honey
1/2 cup ground flax
(if you don’t have almonds or flax, you can sub statute them for oats)
For the ‘caramel’ filling:
1 and ½ cups dates (stones removed)
1 tbsp stevia (or honey / another sweetener)
2 tsp miso paste (optional – if you don’t have this, use ¼ tsp salt. The miso adds a ‘salted caramel’ flavour)
To make the base, soak the dates in warm water for 10 minutes
Keep the water, but add the dates to a food processor, along with the other ingredients
Blend until the ingredients form a dough-like texture, the sort of texture you might use to make energy balls with – if you need to, pause to scoop the mixture off the sides of the food processor every so often, and add a little of the water the dates were soaking in if needed
Press the mixture firmly into a tin and pop in the freezer for 15 minutes
Meanwhile, make your caramel filling by soaking the rest of the dates in warm water for 10 minutes again, then place the dates and all other filling ingredients into a blender and whizz until you create a thick caramel-like texture. If you need to, add a tiny bit of water to help it mix.
Spread the caramel filling over the top of the base and place back in the freezer, this time for about an hour to allow everything to really firm up.
After an hour or so, make the chocolate topping by melting the cacao butter and coconut oil (or just coconut oil) and mixing in the cocoa powder and stevia
Allow the mixture to cool for a couple of minutes so it becomes thicker, then pour over the caramel layer of the shortbread
Place back in the freezer and leave again for at least an hour – after an hour or so, the shortbread can be moved to the fridge until you’re ready to slice and serve it!
When it comes to using ‘natural’ deodorants without aluminium or hormone-disrupting chemicals, the fact is that a lot of them just don’t really work…. The good news however, is that there’s an incredibly easy, cheap and good-for-your-body way to make deodorant at home. This recipe genuinely works wonders, and is so easy to make, you’ll never need to buy chemical-laden deodorant again! Plus, remember that what goes on our skin, goes directly in our bodies, so it really matters what products we use. Whip up this recipe using a mini jam or honey jar, and you’ll be able to bring it with you to the gym, yoga classes, and on holiday too.
(makes 1 mini jar full)
2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
8 drops good quality essential oil (oils with antibacterial properties will help with the deodorising element, such as clove, cinnamon or rosemary, and oils like lavender or rose will give a lovely scent!)
Add all ingredients to your jar and mix well
Place somewhere cool and dry and allow the mixture to set for about an hour
Whilst we’re in the midst of COVID-19, it’s pretty difficult to know what we’ll end up with after a brief trip to the supermarket. Luckily however, we now find ourselves at the beginning of Spring, which means there are lots of herbs, leafy greens and edible flowers available in the natural world around us. Whilst it’s really important to know what is safe and what is definitely not safe to eat, if you’re sure of what you’re picking, this is a great time to forage for free, fresh foods.
Wild garlic is abundant near hedgerows and under shaded areas right now, and is a delicious, healthy and versatile ingredient that can make a big difference to dishes. You can of course also use this pesto to spread over toast or home made pizza. Wild garlic is generally young at the moment, and this is a good time to pick it. In a month or so, the leaves will be accompanied by white flowers which make the plant more visible, but signal the garlic is past its best. Have a look at the picture below to see what wild garlic looks like at the moment, and be sure to smell it to make doubly sure it’s garlic. It’ll smell like…. yep, garlic.
This recipe is made even more delicious by adding preserved lemons, which are also very easy to make. Simply sterilise a jar, slice a few lemons into quarters and pack them tightly into the jar. Using coarse salt, pack the salt around the lemons and add some optional herbs and spices like bay leaf, chilli flakes and black peppercorns. Place the jar in a cupboard for 3 months and turn it over each day. Liquid will start to fill the jar as the days go by, so if it looks as though the salt is depleted, add a little more. To make your pesto ASAP however, emit the preserved lemons and just use the juice of 1/2 a lemon plus 2 tsp zest.
2-3 large handfuls fresh wild garlic
1 handful cashews
2 big gulgs of olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 a preserved lemon, or the juice of 1 whole lemon + 1 tsp of lemon zest
A little water, if needed
Add all ingredients to a blender and whizz, adding a little water if needed.
Store in the fridge and consume within a couple of weeks. Stir into soup or chilli, mix with pasta, spread over toast, and enjoy!
When the world around us right now is unpredictable and ever-changing due to Covid-19, we benefit from focussing upon the things we CAN do to maintain our own health and wellbeing. If you’re self-isolating or social-distancing, if your children are off school and if you find yourself spending lots more time at home, this time can serve as a way to reflect upon how your daily habits and routines contribute to your physical, mental and emotional health. Everything we do has an impact upon us, so how can we make the most of this turbulent time right now to actually make a positive difference to our lives?
Early Morning & Awakening
In the early hours there are high levels of blue light waves in the atmosphere, and these help the body recognise exactly when its morning, therefore kicking the body clock into action. As humans, we’ve evolved for millions of years to react to the sunrise and wake up with it – these morning light levels are literally a natural alarm clock! When we expose our eyes (and also our skin) to natural light in the morning, the body wakes up the digestive system, increases alertness and cognitive function, begins pumping blood to the muscles more efficiently, and helps the body’s circadian rhythms (the body clock) ‘tick’ at the right time.
Each cell of the body has a clock, and in order to work ‘on time’ they require us to interact with natural light in the morning. If we don’t get that natural light first thing after waking however, we’re essentially walking around half asleep, with melatonin (the sleep hormone) still hanging around in body’s systems, and a brain and digestive tract that are nowhere near prepared for the day ahead. Sunlight gives us energy too – if you’re feeling tired and not entirely satisfied by your food choices throughout the day, try to get more natural light and notice whether you start feeling ‘fuller’ and more energised.
The morning is also a key time to set an intention for the day. An intention can help focus the mind’s energy and provide a reference point to return to if we happen to face challenges throughout the day. Your intention can be anything you like, but of course it helps to choose something simple, realistic and positive, such as ‘Today my intention is to be kind to myself and others’, ‘My intention is to focus on the positives today’,‘I set an intention to notice the little things that bring me joy today’. You could even write down your intention and place it somewhere you’ll easily see it throughout the day.
Whether it’s a quick few minutes or a substantial set amount of time, a meditation practice first thing in the morning can serve as your way to start the day from a place of being more connected to yourself, aware of how you’re feeling, and with less chatter in the mind. Your morning meditation practice doesn’t have to be difficult to do – in fact, try to make it as easy as possible so you’ll be more likely to do it often. When you wake up, sit up in bed and take a couple of slow breaths in and out. As you do this, observe the feeling of the air flowing in through the nose and expanding the lungs, ribs and stomach. As you exhale, consciously relax your body. Continue focussing on the rhythm of your breath for a few minutes. If you mind wanders or chatters, simply notice what it’s chattering about, acknowledge it, and then re-focus on your breathing. The key is to not become attached to any particular thought, but to actively choose where you place your focus. The more your practice, the more you’ll be able to translate this into the ability to choose where to focus your mind throughout the rest of the day.
Learning from ancient wisdom traditions like Ayurveda and Chinese medicine can give us very effective insights into how the different times of day support different activities. According to Ayurveda, the hours of 6am-10am are governed by Kapha energy. Kapha refers to the sort of energy that holds things together; it has the qualities of being heavy, dense, cool, soft, stable, slow, loving, cohesive, loyal and enduring. Think of a thick muddy puddle during Springtime, a beautiful big-eyed, curvy aunty, the muscles, ligaments and fat tissue of the body, and the sensation of having a mucus-y cough. All of these things – even though they may seem different initially – are all representations of Kapha energy.
As Kapha’s slow and steady energy governs 6am-10am, it’s especially important to do something active to prevent too much ‘heaviness’ from building up and turning into lethargy. Take part in an online class if you’re staying indoors, head out for a jog, dance around in your kitchen, or step into your garden to move in a way that feels good to you. Consuming bitter herbs like dandelion root or Spring greens, spices like cayenne and ginger, and things that are stimulating like tea or coffee are also best tolerated by the body at this more stable time of day, so use this to your advantage.
Our digestive power (known as ‘agni’ in Sanskrit or the metaphorical ‘fire in the belly’) follows the arc of the sun. As we approach midday and the sun is highest in the sky, we’re more able to digest bigger quantities of food. Because of this, most holistic wellbeing traditions suggest consuming the largest meal of the day at lunch. If this works for you, cook up something delicious and seasonal to consume at lunch. If you really value sitting down to a full dinner with your family in the evening however, there’s another way to make the most of your digestive capacity here: By choosing not to snack at all through the day (therefore not spiking your blood sugar levels and weakening insulin resistance every few hours) and consuming slightly bigger meals. You can also consider which of the foods you eat that are difficult to digest (like raw foods, cold foods or heavy proteins) and consume them here.
The Chinese medicine body clock reveals that the afternoon is when the small intestine and bladder respectively are most active. What this means is that in order to feel our best, our actions ‘should’ go towards supporting the actions of these organs and not getting in their way. When the small intestine is absorbing food after lunch, we have a natural dip in energy levels (reflected in the dip in our natural circadian rhythms), which is conducive to doing something restful like light reading, napping or a slow walk. When we move towards 3 and 4pm, the bladder is more active, which means our energy levels may be restored and we feel drawn to creative tasks or studying.
The way we utilise light is again really important during the evening. Just as we want to expose our eyes and skin to bright light in the mornings, we want to stay away from it at night. Bright lights from screens and artificial lighting prevent the body from releasing melatonin (the sleep hormone) so we benefit from trying to turn off lights or limit our exposure to them. (iridescent lightbulbs, phone and lap top apps that dim screens and blue light blocking glasses are all effective ‘hacks’ you can use if you’re not able to turn off lights and screens). Remember; we’ve evolved for thousands of years to either be exposed to darkness or the natural red light waves of fire in the evening, so try to find ways of mimicking this as much as you can.
Slowing down and creating a barrier between work and home / leisure time is especially important now too – especially if your work is now happening within your home. Try taking a walk outside to mimic ‘walking home’ from work. Change your clothes, put on some music, or dedicate some time to an activity that signifies to you the end of a working day. Even more important now is to turn off your work emails and leave work duties alone until your next working day. The world is stressed enough right now, there’s no need to put yourself through any more of it!
Night time & Sleep
All natural health research points to the benefits of getting to bed around the same time each night – and the optimal time for that is about 10pm. Of course, humans haven’t always slept for eight hours straight, and in fact lots of anthropological data shows that lots of cultures sleep in a couple of smaller blocks of time, often waking in the middle of the night to be creative, to pray or meditate, or even to have sex. Sleep is so important for every single aspect of our minds and bodies. When we sleep, our cells repair, our brain consolidates memories and new learned skills, as well as processing emotions, which can help prevent trauma from being stored in the body. Especially at a time when we all know we need to look after the immune system, make sleep a priority. Effective advice for getting a good night’s sleep includes:
Sleeping in a cool and well-ventilated room
Stopping all work at least 2 hours before bed
Not eating too close to bed time. If you struggle to sleep however, a healthy and carbohydrate-rich food like banana can help relax the mind and muscles and promote healthy sleep.
Try magnesium to help relax the nervous system and aid in maintaining healthy muscles
Opt for herbs like nutmeg, lavender and chamomile to help induce sleep. Add them to warm milk and sip before bed
Stay away from any heated debates or emotional conversations before bed, as they can stop the mind from relaxing in time for sleep
Practice box breathing to help get to sleep quicker: lay down comfortably in your bed and visualise the four sides of the bed. Linking the breath and your visualisation together; inhale as you slowly draw your awareness up one side of the bed. Hold your breath as you draw along the top edge of the bed. Exhale as you visualise drawing down the other side, and hold as you draw your awareness along the bottom. Do this until you fall soundly asleep!
As thousands of people in the UK and all over the world are self-isolating right now and working from home, it’s more important than ever to focus on what we CAN do to stay well, rather than focussing solely on the problems we’re facing. For those of you spending more time at home, this could be the perfect time to reflect upon your morning routine, your daily habits and any positive changes you want to bring into your life. To get things started, here’s a short and simple yet effective morning movement practice to boost your mood, enhance circulation and lymph flow, and awaken your brain for the day. If your children are at home now too, this may be a great opportunity to introduce them to the benefits of movement and yoga!
Videos will be uploaded for you every couple of days, so stay tuned and stay well!