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Tomatoes, tomatoes, to buy some fresh things….

For several weeks now, I’ve been more adventurous with food and have been paying extra attention to eating generous portions of fresh fruits and veggies more than I possibly did last year and I must say that I see good results ‘cos my skin certainly feels clearer and my bowels happier 🙂

While foraging for my weeks’ supply, I ran into these luscious Riccio Fiorentino tomatoes in the organic section and was certainly attracted to them due to their deep red colour and their trademark ridges. I do love eating tomatoes and learnt to juice and eat them fresh like my daddy, however, I certainly balk at spending a king’s ransom on vegetables.

I thought I could just buy a kilo or two but was forced to drop them like hot potatoes when after it was weighed the cost of my 6 tomatoes was enough to buy me my entire basket of vegetables for the week.  I felt a bit disappointed and settled for my regular everyday tomatoes all the while thinking of the sweet, rich flavour of those beauties.

Am I the only one who feels that the prices of these organic products are most times irritatingly exorbitant and exaggerated?

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An Arabian Night….

The weather at this time of the year is at its best in the UAE. A great dose of chilly air with a bit of sun thrown in and I am totally lovin’ it 🙂

I’m going to stay in the present and enjoy every bit of the season without letting my mind run off to the fact that the blissful weather will not stay long with us.

Last evening, I had a lovely open-air evening out with some Emirati friends. We sat around the fire drinking Arabian coffee – a wonderful blend of coffee and spices – eating dates, cakes, grill etc. It was just a lovely evening well spent; watching the logs crackle and burn, eating, listening to music, chatting about everything and nothing.

Though my inner throat was growling to snaffle all the goodies in sight, I held my self-respect like a cloak around me in the chilly night and indulged daintily. I am a foodie and believe me when I tell you that the struggle to behave myself around food is real, especially when it comes to sweet nibbles.

I keep having to tell the cookie monster in me that it’s all about balance and not either of the extremes – starving the craving or gobbling up everything – and I think that approach keeps her tamed, calm and contented.

Last night also reminded me that the deeply satisfying and pleasurable things in life are the simple things and most times these simple things are free: laughter, friendship, music, nature…and of course food 😉

It’s the start of a new work week, though mine started yesterday and wherever you may be at this point in time, remember that grace abounds. May your week be fulfilling and your hunger satisfied.

Feel Good Food For Everyday

Healthy Food, Fresh Foods, Fruits and Vegetables, Grocery, Cooking, Lifestyle, Organic, Raw Foods, Good Food

Food is absolutely fundamental to our lives. We eat every day, cooking different meals, sourcing new foods at grocery stores, trying recipes from around the world. Food brings us together around the table but it can also provide a moment of solitary bliss in the form of a quick one-pot meal alone at lunchtime.

The flavours we go for and the choices we make aren’t just about enjoyment though. What we eat affects every aspect of our lives from our health to our weight and from the money we spend to the times we can save. Food can give us momentary joy, later replaced by frustration standing on the bathroom scales, but it can also help us to get the healthiest body we can.

Understanding foods and the benefits they bring is key to having a healthy, balanced diet that takes in everything from a bit of chocolate here and there to a huge bowl of steamed veg whenever you like. These are the foods that make us feel good every day.

Steamed Vegetables

A completely unsurprising first entry: steamed vegetables are fantastic for your body and will always make you feel good. You can choose from a wide range of flavours so that you can easily eat something completely different every day.

A good rule to go by is to choose from a wide range of colours when you decide which vegetables to eat. Dark leafy greens tend to contain lots of iron, carrots with their vibrant orange contain vitamin A and pulses like peas and bean contain plenty of fibre and protein to keep you fuller for longer.

Steaming vegetables is a good way to cook them as you don’t lose any of the vitamins or minerals to the cooking water. It is also significantly better than frying or roasting because this method doesn’t need any fat.

Sauerkraut

Another way to enjoy vegetables is to pickle and ferment them, as in the case with sauerkraut. The fermenting agent is a bacteria that is particularly good for your gut, allowing you to take in more vitamins and minerals and making you feel generally more healthy.

As a probiotic, sauerkraut does seem to help people who need IBS relief as it improves the functionality of the gut. Though it’s often unclear what causes IBS in each individual, it does seem that an imbalance in your gut flora is a possible cause of the discomfort you experience. Sauerkraut and other foods like kimchi and miso help to restore the balance by introducing new ‘good bacteria’ which allows your gut to function properly again.

One final reason to eat sauerkraut is simple: it’s delicious.

Dark Chocolate

Though milk and white chocolate are often full of sugar and fat, dark chocolate is a bit more forgiving and a little bit each day can be good for you. Lots of people find that dark chocolate is an acquired taste and if you are used to eating the high fat and sugar stuff, anything about 70% cocoa is going to be a surprise with its depth and bitterness. However, if you do like it, there are lots of reasons to love it.

Dark chocolate can help to lower your blood pressure, improve your eyesight and even help to increase your metabolism. Plus as it is sweet once you get past the bitterness, it can be the perfect alternative to a calorific dessert your main meal. Dark chocolate has also been found to help with symptoms of depression, lower cholesterol and seems to help with cognition too.

So if you are feeling stressed, trying to study for an exam and wanting to lose weight, dark chocolate might just help you on your way.

Fruit

Though people with diabetes will need to watch out for eating too much high sugar fruit, for most people, eating fruit is a great way to pile in on lots of vitamins and minerals. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes are ideal for gaining vitamin C. This is important because vitamin C is shown to increase the absorption of iron, making citrus fruits the ideal companion for green leafy veggies. If you are feeling fatigued or you are trying to work out harder at the gym, up your citrus fruits to really make a difference.

Fruit, like veg, is also a good way to increase the amount of fibre you eat. This will help your digestive system stay regular as well as keep you fuller for longer. Lots of fruits are also good for helping to increase your liquid intake. Though drinking a glass of water is always a good idea, fruit is a simple way to introduce more liquid into your diet, keeping you well hydrated throughout the day.

Flax Seeds

There is a lot of research into the benefits of flax seeds including whether they might help to prevent cancers, lung disease and cardiovascular disease. While this research has not provided any conclusive evidence just yet, there is a wealth of optimism that the flax seed could be ideal for improving your health.

What it certainly does contain is plenty of fibre (a theme is developing with fibrous foods!) as well as omega 3, an essential fatty acid and lignans, which are what researchers are looking into as they may help to protect against cancer.

The foods we choose to eat are vital for our health and well being and finding the best foods can be difficult. As the science around what we should eat changes all the time, it can be confusing to follow the best advice as it changes so frequently.

One thing you can do is listen to your body. Think about how you feel after eating certain foods. Do you feel good and energised? Do you feel happy? Do you regret what you ate? All of these questions will help to indicate the types of foods that you should be going for. And if you are really committed to your quest, keeping a diary will help to isolate the foods that really bring you joy.

My Yummy Chicken Mango Salad – A Click A Day.

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This is mango season and the delicious fruit abounds in the fruit stalls right now.

Taking advantage of its sweetness asides from juicing them and making smoothies, they can be used in fresh salads as well.

I made this platter yesterday evening and you have to take my word for it that it’s yummy and of course, you are welcome to give it a try 🙂

Quick Recipe

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 lemon, juiced

1/4 flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped

1 long red chilli, deseeded and chopped (optional)

1/2 of a tomato, deseeded and chopped (optional)

1 stick of cucumber (optional)

2 – 3 cups of chopped roasted chicken – remove the skin

2 mangoes, peeled cubed or sliced into small bits

150g of mixed salad greens

Preparation Steps:

  1. Combine the Olive oil with the lemon juice and add the parsley and chilli if you are using chilli.
  2. Combine the chicken, mango, salad greens, tomato (optional), and cucumber (optional) in a large bowl. Drizzle your dressing, toss lightly to mix and serve.
  3. Enjoy 😉

© Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha


out-of-the-silent-breath 2

 

 

 

 

Cooking for my family – Jollof Rice with beef, fried plantain and salad.

Jollof_Rice[1]

Jollof rice is a staple dish eaten in most West African homes and though I am not living in my home country, Nigeria, a lot of our native dishes feature big time on my menu each week.

As a busy mum, I try to cook a large pot that will serve my family at least twice. This is time saving and grants me some respite on some evenings when I can just kick back a little and not sweat over the cooking pot.

So, from my cooking pot, I bring you my own modified version of jollof rice. Modified in the sense that I added some vegetables. I always seek ways of sneaking in extra veggies for my children in as much as my younger son finds time to pick the peas, he still gets to eat a good portion.

Recipe:

 

  • 1.5 kg Uncle Bens long grain parboiled rice
  • 1 kg of fresh, red tomatoes blended with red bell peppers, chilli pepper, ginger and garlic.
  • Beef or Chicken (depending on your families taste. I use both)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 large onion or 2 medium onions
  • 3 cooking spoons of vegetable oil. I use Canola oil.
  • 4 Knorr cubes
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 3 tsp curry powder – if I find Nigerian curry powder all the better ‘cos it’s more aromatic.
  • 450 gms of diced vegetables.
  • 1 tin of pureed tomato paste to add more colour – optional.

Preparation:

I prepared the tomato stew by boiling the tomatoes first to lose to lose excess water, then fry the dried blend in the vegetable oil and spice.

Most times I make the stew before hand and keep in the freezer so that whenever I want to cook jollof rice it’s a question of using the prepared stew and it can also be used to eat other meals like boiled yam, beans…

Cook your meat with curry, garlic, thyme, salt, ground pepper, Knorr cubes and chopped onions. The cooking time depends on the type of meat and how soft you want it. You can also fry or grill the meat depending on your taste.

Parboil the rice by boiling it. Rinse the parboiled rice and leave it in a colander to drain.

Cooking Steps:

  1. Pour your meat stock and the tomato stew into a sizeable pot and leave it to boil.
  2. When it boils, add the parboiled rice, curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. The quantity of water should be at the same level with the rice to ensure that the rice doesn’t get too soggy by the time it’s cooked.
  3. Cover the pot and cook on low to medium heat. Jollof rice has the tendency to burn so keeping it on reduced heat helps to prevent it from burning so much before the water dries up.
  4. Normally, the rice will be done by the time the water is dry but if not, add more water in small quantities and keep cooking on reduced heat till done.

When it’s cooked, you can serve with fried plantains and salad.

It usually serves us twice even with generous helpings 🙂

Enjoy your day today.


Below is my first just published Poetry Book “Out of the silent breath” which is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

When you buy my book, you support me in an invaluable manner.

 

‘A Richly Layered and Passionate Read.’ Jan Cliff

Out of the silent breath

 

 

 

9 Great benefits when our young children cook for the family.

Cooking[1]

For quite a while now, most weekends I involve all my children in cooking a meal or two.

This was how I learnt in my mothers’ kitchen and it’s invaluable to start them young (as soon as they are old enough to help with bringing the tomatoes) for so many reasons.

  1. It builds their self-esteem, confidence and they feel like valued contributors.
  2. It helps to grow their sense of independence so that even when you are not around, they can easily cope on their own.
  3. It helps you a great deal on days that you are just too worn out to think straight. They can easily whip up an omelette for you.
  4. It’s fun and offers a great bonding time as well. We swap stories or just generally chit-chat.
  5. It offers them the opportunity to learn a basic life skill and you never know what direction life can take them.
  6. Real life science and opportunity to experiment.
  7. Calculation skills are introduced here as well as better comprehension; I ask them to write down what they learnt or to read a recipe and explain it to me.
  8. You increase their imagination – to the point that my children now hunt for new recipes that we can try 🙂
  9. A nice way of sneaking in the vegetables, since ordinarily, two of my children avoid veggies, but taking part in making it does a wonderful thing to the mind.

…and yes, the food tastes extra special 🙂

Food1[1]

Yesterday, we made our own version of baked potatoes and vegetable casserole with meatballs.

My daughter selected and washed the items according to my directions – I was the Operations Director 😉

They all participated in the paring, grating, cubing of the vegetables and potatoes, whilst mommy’s responsibility was to add the spices, assemble the processed items and set it to bake.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the finished product before we dug into it, luckily, I took a couple of photos when we started.

Recipe:

1 big sweet potatoes – peeled, washed and grated

3 medium sized Irish potatoes – peeled, washed and cubed

Half a head of Broccoli

3 large tomatoes

1 large onions

4 medium carrots – peeled, washed and grated

4 big white mushrooms

I large yellow bell pepper.

2 beaten eggs for binding.

Fresh garlic – out of a clove, I use like 4 pieces.

Spinach – a handful

A sprinkle of parsley

Oregano – half teaspoon

A dash of curry spice

Salt – 3 teaspoons

2 cubes of Maggi stock

25-50 gms of grated cheddar cheese – layered through and sprinkled on top.

1 pack of minced meat – spiced and rolled into balls with breadcrumbs.

Served a family of 5 with generous helpings and leftovers 🙂

Have a great weekend and do share your tips with us.

© Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha


Below is my first just published Poetry Book “Out of the silent breath” which is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

When you buy my book, you support me in an invaluable manner.

 

From the very first poem, “Dreams,” this book captivates with passionate and perceptive words. Jacqueline Oby-Ikocha captures a broad expanse of the human experience in this book of richly layered poems.

Out of the silent breath


 

Breakfast in bed…

My soul gives thanks
for the blessed hands
that prepared this morning’s fare.
My children felt that their mommy
deserved some breakfast in bed.
Some greasy eggs and diced sausages
they whipped into an omelette.
I ain’t complaining, greasy or not
it’s certainly delicious 😊
A handful of grapes
Some toasted bread
a dab of cheese and tea
now my tummy is all ecstatic
mommy is thinking poetic.

Breakfast in bed


Below is my first just published Poetry Book “Out of the silent breath” which is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

When you buy my book, you support me in an invaluable manner.

Out of the silent breath

Eyes full of resplendent thoughts,

I watched a butterfly flit around

from a petal to another like a true flirt,

not too sure on which one to settle.

It’s an appetite inducing exercise to listen raptly,

I dug into the sizzling barbecue with a sigh of pleasure.

***

*an extract from my poem*