SIMPLE LAVENDER SALT SCRUB (a quick, thrifty and beautiful homemade spa-in-a-jar gift)

Allow me to jump right in and begin this post by stating that this scrub works. It really works. Not only will it leave your skin cleansed and moisturised, but you will smell gorgeous too (if lavender is your thing, as it is mine).

Moreover, it is inexpensive to make, simple to prepare (my toddlers helped me make it!) and is a lovely homemade gift*.

As someone who has worked rather extensively within the beauty industry**, I am familiar with the old technological innovation = high-performance pitch. So I forgive myself initially questioning the efficacy of such a simple homemade skin care preparation. Thankfully, I had the good sense to try this scrub out myself before packaging it up for gifting purposes. Now I’ll be sure to make this scrub for myself too!

If you’re looking for a last-minute, DIY-style Christmas stocking filler or hostess gift, this is just the ticket.

MissMarzipan_lavender_salt_scrub_lg

SIMPLE LAVENDER SALT SCRUB

INGREDIENTS

350 ml epsom salts
150 ml gently melted organic coconut oil
15 drops organic lavender essential oil
2,5 tbsp organic lavender flower buds

DIRECTIONS

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients well. Spoon into containers/jars of choice. Place descriptive label or tag on them if giving as a gift.

USAGE

Use this scrub on feet, elbows, legs, arms… anywhere that can do with a bit of exfoliation and a moisture boost.

  1. Apply warm water to the area of the body you will be applying the scrub to (doing this in the bath or shower is ideal)
  2. Massage the scrub over the skin lightly. Approximately 1 tablespoon of  the scrub mix per area of the body should be sufficient. Rinse off with warm water.
  3. Towel dry skin gently.

 

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER

  • If you have a known issue with sensitivity to essential oils, please stick with using the lavender flower buds only.
  • If you have experienced skin sensitivity to epsom salts, please try making a sugar-based scrub instead of this one.
  • Of course, you should never use anything of an abrasive/exfoliating nature on chapped, raw, sensitive, broken (cut/scratched) skin.
  • If you have found your skin irritated after the use of any exfoliating product, consider using this scrub as a relaxing bath soak/foot soak instead, adding 200 ml or so to a warm bath/foot bath as it is being filled.

 

LABEL DIRECTIONS

Simply download, print, cut out and adhere to jar or swing tag!

MissMarzipan_lavender_salt_scrub_gift_label-01

** Well, I’d be happy if someone gave me a jar of it!
* As an art director.

 

For other easy, inexpensive DIY festive gift ideas, see these previous posts:

ROSEMARY-INFUSED SEA SALT (a perfect pantry staple or homemade gift)

CHRISTMAS HOT CHOCOLATE MIX IN A JAR (instructions for easy, pretty homemade gifts + FREE printable labels)

FROZEN BERRY JAM (no doubt the easiest, yummiest way to use up frozen berries!)

VEGAN CHOCOLATE SNICKERDOODLES (yummy spice-laced, sugar-coated, crackly-topped cookies)

FROSTY SNOWFLAKE-STAMPED SUGAR COOKIES (possibly the easiest way to “cheat” your way to a decorated festive cookie without candy, chocolate or icing!)

 

 

 

I QUIT SUGAR… AGAIN! (IQS 8-Week Program, weeks 3 – 8 in review)

Hello friends! I have been meaning to post a review of my last round of the IQS 8-Week Program for a couple of weeks now, so before this truly becomes “old news”, let’s get right down to the nuts and bolts of it, shall we?

WHAT I ATE

 

Week 3 kicked off and, despite being at the tail end of recovery from a strange virus, I was excited to present Chilli Lime Kebabs with Herb Quinoa to hubby for his birthday dinner (his plate featured sunflower seeds and avocado to replace the feta). The Root Vegetable Rosti with Pea Salsa were a hit (not just with me; reports from other 8WP participants were positively glowing!). I experimented with making my own Salt & Vinegar Sweet Potato Chips (which I should get around to posting here, in case anyone is interested). Nutty Broccoli Pasta became an instant family favourite. The children helped prepare this easy dish, taking turns to measure out the pasta, pour the olive oil and juice the lemon. I don’t know who was more proud, them or me! The IQS take on Shakshuka was a perfect post-yoga, weekend brunch dish. Vegetarian Pad Thai was a true surprise, though I should know by now that IQS dishes are delicious. My husband loved this dish. The kids, who I encourage to at least try a little of everything I cook, did too (although they weren’t completely sold on the tofu). Once again the week wrapped up with one of my new favourite activities; Sunday Cook-up time.

Week 4 began with a touch of trepidation putting a slight dampener on my enthusiasm for “Clean Week”; a complete detox off of sweet things of all kinds (berries included), gluten AND caffeine. Breakfast #1, the Make-Me-Over Mojito Smoothie was my very first IQS-style green smoothie experience! I must admit, I have always been a green-smoothie-sans-fruit sceptic. No longer. I genuinely loved this and could easily have one every day! Of all the meals I have tried during 2 rounds of the 8WP so far, I was possibly most surprised by this one, having been so sceptical about the flavour profile before trying it. I spent the week still revelling in the fact that kale is now stocked in the supermarket across the road, and I added loads of it to my Super Green Paleo Fried Rice. I finished the week in gluten-free style. I was bound to love the Grilled Vegetable Wrap (because I am not a complete basket case) and, indeed, I did!

Week 5 arrived and I became acquainted with the Grilled Vegetable and Ricotta Stack with Pesto. Just. Yum. I made the mistake of saving a portion of the Stuffed Field Mushroom with Cauliflower Mash for 2 days instead of 1. *Sad face*. It really should be eaten within 24 hours (the texture became unpalatable after too much time in the fridge + reheating… but, made fresh, this dish was yummy). On the upside, the leftover cauliflower mash was a hit with my son, who demanded cauliflower mash for the rest of the week! I’ll freely admit that I went a little astray around this time and started including non-program IQS treats in my cook-up (IQS-style Caramel Slice and Vegan Chocolate Mousse). I blame Halloween.

Week 6 highlights definitely included the Mushroom, Chilli + Spinach Pasta. What can I say? Simple, easy, family friendly yumminess! Cooked up a double batch of the delicious Quick Moroccan Chickpea Stew, which is a perfect freeze and reheat kind of meal. The Apple Cookies were amazing. I can’t say enough good things about them; crunch factor, sweetness (not too much), kid friendly, peanut butter… you can’t go wrong!

Week 7 and Roasted Cauliflower + Chickpeas with Dukkah Kale came into my life. Hello, one of my new favourite dishes! Making my own Dukkah was a delicious revelation, and an activity I plan to repeat. My husband has been converted to cauliflower now, thank you IQS. Green Mac + Cheese was the inevitable success it was destined to be. The gorgeous Blueberry Paleo Pancakes, likewise!

Week 8 saw the return of some tried and true 8WP favourites, including the  Sesame Carrot + Pecan Salad and Breakfast Bruschetta (which was a hit during the last round). I was very surprised to find that I actually preferred the berry-free Make-Me-Over Mojito Smoothie (of Clean Week) to the stunning Strawberry Daiquiri that was raved about by IQSers at the start of this week. I never thought I’d prefer fruit-free over berry anything! The Coconut + Lemon Powerballs were a success; easy to make and moreish. I got around to making the amazing Zucchini Cheesecake + Summery Quinoa Tabbouleh. The tabbouleh alone is fabulous (fresh, light and vibrant), but combined, these dishes are a formidable duo. The Vegetable Free-Form Pie was a suitably festive and yummy way to celebrate the program’s completion! The Chocolate Brownie Biscuits with Ganache, created from a recipe sent via email to participants as an extra gift, were every bit the delectable treat you would expect them to be!

HOW I FELT

Overall, during weeks 3-8 I felt pretty good! I didn’t have traveling to contend with during this round of the program. I did, however, have adjustments to make to my routine upon returning to work after maternity leave. My energy levels were fairly evenly maintained throughout the course of the program (barring the very end of Week 8) which, in itself, is pretty amazing.

Week 4 *drum roll*… Clean Week! If you read my post detailing my experiences during this stage of the program last time around, you will have noted that it was basically a total write-off! In fact, my last “clean week” was rather quite the opposite. So this was my chance to give it a real go. I am amazed that I managed the caffeine detox during a working week. Despite normally drinking less than the equivalent of a standard cup of coffee per day, during Clean Week I had a particularly busy work schedule, plus very early starts at the office coupled with stupidly late nights working on personal projects. I survived being completely caffeine-free, nevertheless.

And the most amazing thing? Clean Week threw some challenges my way in the ol’ detox symptoms department, but I trusted the process and it was totally manageable when I did the things that were suggested. Detox headaches started on the first afternoon of Clean Week (I very rarely get headaches at all) and became progressively worse as the day went on. Walking helped. Drinking water helped. Green smoothies helped (I made a small one as an after work snack). Then I did hot yoga, sweated it out and killed that headache completely! Amazing! The detox headaches never returned after that hot yoga session. It must have been THE shortest caffeine detox I have ever been through (from start to finish, it lasted a matter of hours!). I still experienced a touch of “brain fog” at work for a couple of days, but I stuck with herbal infusions and water. I was still snacking… healthily, but snacking nonetheless.

By Week 8 I was taking on too much and “compensating” by seemingly putting sleep/rest/myself last on the list of my priorities. This wasn’t how I had hoped to end the IQS 8-week program; more sleep-deprived than I’d been since I-don’t-know-when after literally zero hours (or even minutes) of sleep on the last Saturday night of the program! After 6 hours of repeated attempts at meditation, breathing exercises and good old-fashioned sleep, I found myself in tears, my body physically shaking. I surrendered eventually and, taking myself out of bed, feeling like absolute rubbish, I started to organise my bedroom.

It was then, whilst sitting on my bed amidst a pile of personal papers and newly folded clothes, that I had one of many a-ha moments that have come to me recently. The realisation was that, despite the many issues I encountered during both of my pregnancies, when I was pregnant I approached matters concerning my wellbeing in the most loving, gentle and nurturing of ways. Recently I have been doing rather well in the food department and with training too. But some basic needs (such as sleep!) and gentle self-nurture have been demoted on my list of priorities. It is fitting, then, that on the last day of the 8WP I had a spiritual (read rude) awakening regarding the sustainability of any kind of healthy lifestyle.

I need to switch off. I need to simplify. I need to say “no” more often to the things that cause me undue stress. And “yes” more often to the things that bring me joy and contentment.

How does this fit in with my IQS-related journey/experiences?

I have always felt that one of the major benefits of IQS is the increased level of self-awareness it brings. This process is not always “comfortable”, but it certainly helps to shed light on aspects my life (not necessarily food-related at all) that need a bit of a shape-up!

On the upside, during Week 8 I ran my last race for the year; the greatly anticipated Stockholm Tunnel Run. I was joined by over 42,500 other participants, all crazy enough to brave the cold for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to race through the newly constructed Stockholm Northern Link Tunnel before its official opening. Miraculously, despite the cold, the often crowded conditions inside the tunnel, my layers of winter clothes creating the effect of a personal sauna, and not keeping track of the pace I was running at, I managed to beat my personal best time for a 10 km race by 44 seconds.

This was a fitting way to end the program and a suitable metaphor for my IQS8WP experience; not trying or striving for a particular result, just giving it a go… and coming out on the other side feeling good, surprised that reward was gained with relative ease!

WHAT I LOVED

  • The inspiration I have gained from working with new cooking techniques and ingredients
  • Connecting with inspiring, kind and motivated people via the IQS forums, Instagram and other channels <3
  • The heightened level of taste/body/self-awareness
  • Being organised. I can’t stress enough how amazing getting into the practice of a doing a weekly/ Sunday Cook-Up has been. It has changed our lives.
  • The increasing consciousness around our consumer behaviour that is being nurtured in both myself and my husband (and as result, our children)… not just when it comes to food, but across the board.
  • That somehow moving outside of my comfort zones with food seems to have inspired me to do the same with training, so I am trying new gym classes with new instructors, keen to change things up a bit (though CrossFit still terrifies me!)

 

WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE SO MUCH

  • That I remained (and still remain) an after work/pre-dinner “snacker” despite being snack-free and satisfied from my IQS-style breakfasts and lunches everyday.
  • That chocolate (even in its healthiest forms) never left me during this process, or rather, I never left it! :P

 

 SUMMARY

As much as I loved IQS from the moment I was introduced to it, I never pledged it would be something I’d embrace “forever”. In recent years, I have been one of those yo-yo detox types; generally fairly health-conscious, but doing the occasional “hardcore health” lifestyle experiment here and there when seized by moments of incredible motivation (usually after a binge of some kind; work, food, etc.). When I read that Sarah Wilson suggests approaching quitting sugar as an experiment, I thought “Yep, that resonates. I can deal with that…”, but I was quick to place conditions on my decision!

It is now, after using I Quit Sugar for Life, recipes and tips from Sarah’s blog and iquitsugar.com, doing two rounds of the IQS8WP and experimenting in my own kitchen that I can see how sustainable this really is. Not a fad. Not a diet. IQS is a common sense lifestyle approach .

It’s all about living consciously and fully.
It’s certainly not about denial or deprivation.

Many years ago, someone told me that the Latin root of the word “addiction” comes from a word meaning “to enslave”*. The things that are familiar crutches (hi sugar!)- things that we may falsely perceive as treats/freedoms/friends/momentary comforts- can actually be the very things can are keeping us chained to unhealthy patterns and preventing us from finding true and lasting happiness. IQS is about “true” food freedom.

In this way, I find it easy to pay no mind to the naysayers. I would feel confronted too if I was in their shoes. In fact, I did when this whole quitting sugar thing was first raised with me by a friend! If we are hooked on something, if we are desperately clinging to denial (because we know that once it’s gone, it’s gone) in order to avoid accountability, we will fight for our right to be right, right?

I still find myself hesitant to shout “I quit sugar for life!” from the rooftops (and, having studied pastry, I am sure to bake the odd cake or two in the future!), however it is evident to me and everyone who knows me, that I am a BIG fan of this program. And, to be honest, I can see myself continuing to largely embrace the IQS philosophy moving forward, despite the fact that my husband and I are both heading in a plant-based direction**.

I am so happy to have given IQS a go… not perfectly at all times, perhaps, but I have tried it. Moreover, I have seen the benefits. I have become part of a community of like-minded people, I have become more confident in the kitchen, cooked/eaten new things, I have run my first half marathon (a year and a bit before doing so, I honestly couldn’t run 3 minutes without feeling like I would die), I have seen my hormones start to balance out (after many, many struggles in this area), I have seen my kids get excited about food in a whole new way, I have seen my vegan husband adore the meals I have shared with him from the veg 8WP meal plan, and I have been hugely inspired in all areas of my life.

I have become more “me” than I have ever been.
And that, for me, is the greatest success.

I’d like to extend my best wishes and warm regards to the IQS team, my fellow 8WP participants and all those IQS-curious folks who have been sweet enough to follow along. Many thanks for the support, inspiration and encouragement!

I promise to play catch-up with everyone soon and see what exciting things you’ve been up to! I am so happy to be counting down to Christmas, celebrating each day of advent in simple, delightful and cosy ways with my children. Living in pitch blackness and freezing cold is kind of ok right now. ;)

<3 MM xx

 

*In case you’re interested:
Addict, v. < Addict, adj. < classical Latin addīctus assigned by decree, made over, bound, devoted, past participle of addīcere to assign, to make over by sale or auction, to award, to appoint, to ascribe, to hand over, surrender, to enslave, to devote, to sentence, condemn < ad ad- prefix + dīcere to speak, say”

**IQS is a program ideally suited to omnivores, but very accommodating to those adopting a standard ovo-lacto vegetarian approach to eating, with many IQS vegetarian recipes offering vegan alternatives. I seem to find myself in a strange little boat of my own, embracing many of the IQS principles (which have much in common with those of the Paleo and LCHF movements) and, simultaneously, an increasingly plant-based approach to eating (which, popularly, has a high-carb, high-fructose, low-fat leaning). It is an interesting place to be, with lots of room (and need) for experimentation. 

***The next round of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program starts on January 22, 2015.

 

A LITTLE CHRISTMAS COMPETITION (+ many thanks and lots of love)

*This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for your interest!*

‘Tis the season to give back*. That’s what I think, anyway! And I am so incredibly grateful for the support I have had here and via Instagram, I thought it would be nice to host a little competition giveaway as a token expression of thanks.

If you like cosmetics/fashion and if you care about kindness, this one is truly a win-win.

Italian eco fashion label Miomojo produced this gorgeous, exclusively designed set of two Moon Bear Love make-up bags for Animals Asia. Perfect for travel and everyday use, they are durable and have been constructed in an ethically sound manner, free from toxic, carcinogenic chemicals and substances. And of course Miomojo products are cruelty free; fashion-forward in every way!

I fell in love with these make-up bags as soon as I saw them, but as we are not buying things we don’t immediately need à la Sarah Wilson (I have two bags in good condition and in use right now), I wanted to gift them to someone else.

 

If you haven’t heard of Animals Asia, do check out their website and you will be moved (perhaps to tears, as I was) when you read about the amazing work they are doing to end the cruel, frankly horrendous practice of bear bile farming and give rescued moon bears a chance to experience kindness from humans after years of torture.

HOW TO ENTER THE COMPETITION

  1. Leave a comment to express your interest in entering, ideally with an email address so I can contact you promptly**.
  2. Simply agree that when you receive your moon bear bags, you will post something online -visible publicly - (via your blog/Instagram/facebook or what-have-you) giving a little shout-out to Animals Asia.

 

I will pick the winner by using the ol’ name-in-hat trick to make it fair.

The competition will be open for one week from today (Sunday, December 7 to Sunday December 14).

At this point, the competition is open internationally. I am awaiting confirmation that shipping to any location is possible, so my apologies if there is an issue with this.

I will be posting some Christmas freebie downloadables soon too, so everybody will be able to get a little something!

<3 MM xx

 

*Giving back makes one jolly! :D
** As the winner, you will need to provide me with a shipping address too.

 

This competition is NOT being sponsored by Animals Asia or Miomojo. I am purchasing these bags as any other Animals Asia contributor/online shopper would, and personally paying to have them shipped to the winner at the address provided to me.

 

ROSEMARY-INFUSED SEA SALT (a perfect pantry staple or homemade gift)

This was the salt that I used to season my “epic” (to pinch a Daniel Churchill term) Crisp(ier) Sweet Potato Fries the other day. The lovely, subtle rosemary taste/aroma makes this salt a versatile pantry staple or, prettily packaged in cute glass containers, an ideal party favour/hostess gift/homemade Christmas gift; an aromatic salt that can be used for sea salt bath soaks as well as culinary purposes.

In fact, I gifted the very containers you see in the photographs here to girlfriends who joined me for a Thanksgiving-themed, IQS-style brunch on Saturday.

MissMarzipan_Rosemary_Infused_Salt2_sml

I am rather taken with rosemary right now (as I am with cinnamon, clove, orange zest and other flavours/scents that I associate with this season). Rosemary essential oil is purported to have invigorating, energising and stimulating properties, all of which I can do with massive doses right now as we fast approach the darkest day of the year. At the moment I am using Faith in Nature’s Rosemary Shampoo (which is certified vegan, organic and cruelty-free). I happen to love the product (and the company), but perhaps I am subconsciously hoping it will improve my energy levels too!

Aside from tasting and smelling rather wonderful, rosemary’s health benefits seem to be many and varied. A recent study of plant-based anti-inflammatories has shown that rosemary significantly inhibits the inflammatory responses in the body. It contains high levels of calcium, iron, and vitamin B6 and is a powerful antioxidant. Already thinking ahead to New Year’s (that’s how I roll :P ), I would love to try making an IQS-style, non-alcoholic version of this Healthy Lemon-Rosemary Mojito (how good does that sound?) recipe that I found over at ALOHA.

MissMarzipan_Rosemary_Infused_Salt

ROSEMARY-INFUSED SEA SALT

Makes 125g

INGREDIENTS
125 g sea salt (I used Falksalt)
A few large stems of fresh rosemary (I used 5 whole stems) plus smaller sprigs for decoration

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large pan over medium heat, combine salt and rosemary and warm through for around 10 minutes. Allow salt to cool uncovered in pan then cover with lid and stand for 24 hours.
  2. Discard the rosemary from the salt mix. Fill attractive airtight glass containers with infused salt, adding a fresh sprig of rosemary before sealing.

 

*Recipe adapted from this one by Martha Stewart

MINI PUMPKIN PECAN PIES (quick, easy, IQS-style, low-fructose, gluten-free, vegan deliciousness in mini pie form!)

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and relatives (and anyone else who may be celebrating today)! It was 2 years ago (and with a touch of trepidation), that I decided to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time. Since then it has become a tradition for me to host a cosy crafting/seasonal eating event for my Stockholm besties around this time of year.

With lots to be thankful for, and still riding the wave of sugar-free inspiration after my latest round of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Plan, I came up with these little treats yesterday. So far they’ve been much-appreciated by my vegan husband and food-loving kids, and I plan to defrost/warm through the pies I have frozen when the girls are around on Saturday for our annual pre-Christmas crafting day.

This pumpkin pie filling is creamy and has a lovely texture (non-vegans: you will not miss eggs, I promise) and, as it’s been a long time since I made my own pumpkin pie spice mix, I decided to wing it, adding a pinch of just about every spice I tend to use in baking at this time of year (with the exceptions of allspice and saffron).

I am so pleased with this recipe and I really do hope you’ll give these mini pies a go!

And back to gratitude…
Regardless of whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, if you’d like to drop me a line and share what you are thankful for this year, it would be lovely to read about what is making you happy!

<3 MM xx

 

MissMarzipan_Mini_Pumpkin_Pecan_Pies_Vegan_lg

MINI PUMPKIN PECAN PIES 

Makes 16-20 (depending on size*)

INGREDIENTS FOR THE PIE CRUST

80 g almond flour
50 g pecans (blitzed in a food processor to a crumb consistency)
125 g desiccated/finely shredded coconut
45 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (juice from approx. half an orange)
Freshly grated zest of half an orange
A good pinch of organic vanilla powder
45 ml coconut oil
2 tbsp rice malt syrup

INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING

150 g pure, unseasoned pumpkin puree (made from baked pumpkin)
1,5 tbsp rice malt syrup
A pinch each of cardamom, nutmeg, clove and ground ginger
2 tbsp raw, unsalted cashew nut butter (at room temperature)
1/4 tsp vanilla powder

Approx. 20 pecan halves for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (fan).
  2. Cut small squares of baking paper (mine were approximately 5 cm x 5 cm). Cut slits from each corner of each square almost to the middle of the square, but not quite. Place in a mini tart/pie tray (of the kind you might make Christmas mince pies in).
  3. In a food processor, blitz all dough ingredients until the dough comes together.
  4. Using a tablespoon (I used an actual measuring tablespoon for this) scoop out a tablespoon’s worth of mixture, shape it into a flat-ish round disc and place it on top of one of the baking parchment squares in a pie hole. Use the back of a teaspoon to shape the dough further and even out if necessary. Repeat until you have filled the tray.
  5. To make the filling, blitz (or mix vigorously with a fork, as I did) the filling ingredients until well-combined.
  6. Spoon just a tad more than 1 teaspoon of filling into each mini pie shell. Top each pie with a pecan half.
  7. Bake mini pies in oven for approximately 10 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown and the filling looks just set.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving (they are delicious freshly baked and still warm).

 


* Using the above measurements and directions, I made 19 pies of equal size exactly.

**I suspect that these pies can be made in advance and frozen in, but I can confirm this on Saturday if my reheating experiment works!

****I have called this an “IQS-style” recipe as it is inspired by my recent experiences in doing the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program and it relies upon certain principles and key ingredients featured in many IQS recipes (rice malt syrup, coconut oil, nut flour/butter). When I talk about “sugar-free”, I mean it in the IQS sense of the term, which is essentially no/very low-fructose.

***Although oranges don’t feature in IQS-style food prep very often, I love the combination of the zest with pecan nuts and spices. For me, orange works perfectly in this flavour combination, but if you’d rather omit the juice, try replacing it with a couple of tablespoons of water and use only the zest. You can also try cutting the syrup in the filling by half, although the dough might rely on it too much for binding to be able to make a successful cut there.

****For a Paleo version, try using maple syrup or honey instead of rice malt syrup.

CRISP(IER) SWEET POTATO FRIES (seasoned with Rosemary-Infused Sea Salt & Fresh Parsley)

On my final Sunday of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program (program review coming soon!), prompted by Sarah Wilson‘s plea for participants to keep experimenting and avoid wastage by using up leftovers, I made these yummy sweet potato fries.

Now, I think it’s important to state from the outset that I am pretty sure deep-frying is the only way to guarantee that every single fry will be super crisp. But what I know for certain is that there are a few tricks to achieving a “crispier” result when baking fries/chips.

I have looked at and experimented with a few methods. At the end of this exercise, more of the fries I made in the following manner had a “crispness” than did not (though most were soft-ish in the middle, which is how I like them). That is a win, as far as I am concerned.

But then again, if it’s baked and sweet potato is involved, it’s already winning in my book!

MissMarzipan_crispy_sweet_potato_fries_rosemary_salt_lg

INGREDIENTS

3 large sweet potatoes
2,5 – 3 tbsp cornstarch (approximately 1 tbsp of starch per potato, depending on potato size)
Organic olive oil (I used a mister, but allow for at least 2 tbsp of oil regardless of application method)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C* (fan).
  2. Peel and slice sweet potatoes uniformly (you want a matchstick-style shape, as opposed to a wedge).
  3. Place sliced potatoes in a large bowl, cover with water and place in refrigerator .
  4. Drain and rinse the fries, then lay them out on sheets of paper towel to dry, blotting with more paper towel to remove remaining moisture.
  5. In a large bowl, toss potato slices in corn starch to evenly coat.
  6. Arrange potatoes on a greased sheet of baking paper on a baking tray. Do NOT over lap the fries. Don’t even let them touch each other. This is one of the crucial keys to a crispier “baked fry”.
  7. Use an oil mister to evenly coat with oil**.
  8. Bake for around 10 minutes. Remove tray from oven, turn fries and then bake for approximately another 15 minutes (until the edges are browning).
  9. Season well/to taste. I used homemade rosemary-infused sea salt (recipe coming soon!) and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
  10. Serve immediately.

 

SUMMARY OF TIPS FOR ACHIEVING A CRISPIER RESULT

  1. Cut the slices uniformly and into a stick shape, not a wedge.
  2. Soak the sliced potatoes to be rid of the natural starch on the outside, which can hinder “crisping up” if it is not removed.
  3. Dry the slices prior to coating.
  4. Ensure an even coating of oil (this is where a mister can help).
  5. Do NOT let the slices touch on the baking sheet

 

Recipe inspired by my IQS experiences, the multitude of sweet potato inspo-yummies I have seen around Pinterest (by Sally’s Baking Addiction, Paula Deen, The Merrymaker Sisters, etc., etc.) and my own experiments.

*All ovens seem to have their own “personality”, so you may want to try adjusting your oven temperature if you notice your fries browning too quickly … or the baking time if they haven’t browned enough after 25 minutes.

**If not using a mister, after soaking and drying, place the slices of potato in a large bowl and coat them lightly but evenly with olive oil (start with 1.5 tbsp and add more if necessary). Then toss the slices in corn starch to evenly coat.

***For a Paleo version, you could try using just enough coconut oil to coat the sliced sweet potatoes, before tossing them in arrowroot powder (instead of corn starch) to coat evenly.

 

 

THE BEST VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE BY IQS, SPOOKIFIED (Happy Halloween… BOO!)

I made this yummy IQS chocolate mousse (purportedly the best vegan chocolate mousse around) after seeing it suggested as a healthy Halloween treat on iquitsugar.com the other day. I loved their suggestion of turning the chocolate mousse cups into spooky little diorama treats!
 
These were super-easy to assemble; approximately 100 x less labour intensive than baking and decorating Halloween cupcakes. ;) So if you’re looking for a healthy, vegan, raw, gluten-free, sugar-free, chocolate treat that’s both festive AND delicious, look no further!
 
MissMarzipan_IQS_vegan_chocolate_mousse_Halloween_1
 
THE BEST VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE, SPOOKIFIED 
Recipe only slightly tweaked from the amazing I Quit Sugar recipe, which you can find at iquitsugar.com

 

INGREDIENTS

400 ml can coconut cream
100 ml raw cacao powder
35 ml rice malt syrup
60 ml chia seeds
1-2 tbsp cacao nibs
A few large mint leaves, chopped finely

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine coconut cream, cacao powder, rice malt syrup and chia seeds in a large mixing bowl, whisking until smooth.
  2. Pour into 4 serving glasses. Chill in the fridge for around 2 hours, or until firmly set.
  3. Add little headstones*, sprinkle some chopped mint (grass!) around the inside edge of each mousse cup, then add Halloween characters (I used Lego** skeleton figures), pushing them just the tiniest way into the mousse so that it looks as though they are emerging from it. Finally, sprinkle some crushed cacao nibs around the figures to create small piles of “earth”… and, voilà; a slightly scary, IQS-style, sugar-free treat!

 

If you’re celebrating Halloween, enjoy!
If not, I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

<3 MM xx

 

*I can upload free printable headstone graphics if anyone is interested. They can, when adhered to toothpicks or ice-cream sticks, be used as pictured, or as cupcake toppers.
**Obviously Lego pieces are not edible decorations and MUST (it should go without saying) be removed before serving. Our children had no access to the small 
pieces at any point of the assembly or serving of this dessert, but still loved and appreciated the look of them prior to serving.

 

 

IQS-STYLE CARAMEL SLICE (an egg/nut/gluten/sugar-free treat, just in time for Halloween!)

This delectable Caramel Slice is an IQS-inspired treat, closely based on the fabulous recipe by Steph from I Quit Sugar, posted a while back on iquitsugar.com (click here to view the original recipe). It is not one of the recipes featured in the I Quit Sugar 8 Week-Program, however I admit I did have a piece (or two)… because I am not a saint. ;)

And yes, it is absolutely delicious, just so you know; like a super-yummy, much healthier version of a Twix bar or, I imagine, Millionaire’s Shortbread (which seems to be the US equivalent of Caramel Slice).

So, 3 things happened that led to the creation of this treat:

  1. I was asked to bring something typical of my “heritage” to my kids’ nursery school for a shared afternoon tea with parents and teachers, in celebration of UN Day (being raised in Aus, caramel slice did spring to mind!)
  2. The lovely folks at Pureharvest sent me a care package of rice malt syrup all the way from Australia!
  3. Halloween is around the corner and this is something that can be made in advance and kept in the freezer, so it’s perfect for an impromptu healthier sweet treat if we have visitors

 

I changed the recipe to accommodate what I had on hand at home as well as allergy policies within the school (nuts are totally banned, for example, and eggs are an issue in my daughter’s class). So this recipe is an amalgamation of Steph’s recipe for I Quit Sugar and this recipe by the Johnston Family (found at taste.com.au).

For rice malt syrup-curious folks, I didn’t know all of this info before, but Pureharvest RMS is fructose-free, organic, GMO-free, gluten-free and suitable for vegans (a great alternative to honey in sweetness, consistency and natural colour) and contains no preservatives, colourings, flavourings or artificial nasties. For the record, I have been relying on the only shop here that seems to stock RMS, located in an outer suburb of Stockholm, so I am extra thankful to Pureharvest for replenishing my dwindling stockpile.

 

MissMarzipan_IQS_caramel_slice

 

IQS*-STYLE CARAMEL SLICE
Makes: 36 servings

INGREDIENTS

BASE 
250 ml sifted gluten-free flour
125 ml finely shredded coconut
115 g butter (or non-dairy alternative if vegan)
3 tbsp rice malt syrup

CARAMEL SAUCE
125 ml cup rice malt syrup
100 ml full-fat coconut cream
100 g butter**, cut into cubes

CHOCOLATE GANACHE
125 g 85% dark chocolate
80 ml coconut cream (I could have used more, but didn’t have it on hand)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 3cm deep, 28 x 18cm (base) pan with baking paper.

BASE

  1. Combine all base ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.
  2. Press into prepared tin. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until light golden.
  3. Remove from oven. Cool completely.

 

CARAMEL SAUCE

  1. Heat rice malt syrup in a pan on medium heat until bubbling.
  2. Cook for 10 minutes until syrup has reduced down, keeping an eye on it at all times and stirring intermittently (I was afraid of it “catching”, so stirred quite a bit!). The mixture should be thick and coat the back of a spoon lightly when ready.
  3. Add butter and stir to combine.
  4. Remove from heat and slowly add coconut cream, stirring until combined.
  5. Pour caramel into a bowl and sit in the freezer for two hours until thick.
  6. Pour caramel on top of the biscuit base and refrigerate for at least two more hours or until set.

 

CHOCOLATE GANACHE

  1. Heat the coconut cream in a saucepan until simmering.
  2. Turn off heat and pour cream into separate bowl Add chocolate pieces, stirring gently until melted and silky.
  3. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes until mixture thickens but is still pourable.
  4. Remove the set base from the refrigerator and pour ganache over the top. Smooth ganache with a rubber spatula.
  5. Return to the freezer and set for at least two hours before serving, keeping leftover servings in the freezer until ready to eat.

 

*This recipe is closely based upon the amazing one by Steph, posted on iquitsugar.com (please visit for that one and many more fabulous sugar-free recipes!) and this top-rated by the Johnston Family, found at taste.com.au
**Vegan friends: I plan to try an experiment with a non-dairy substitute, although you might want to take a chance and do it before I do.
***Note that this recipe contains minimal fructose (the IQS definition of “sugar”) of around .42 g (yep, less than half a gram!) per serve, so is not technically 100% sugar-free. It is, however, in small portions, a suitable, delicious and very low-fructose alternative to other sweet treats, and will not rock your sugar-free boat once you have “recalibrated”. It is IQS-friendly but not part of the IQS 8-Week Program, which aims to cut all sweeteners (even the “safe ones”) back to a minimum. I should not fail to mention that Pureharvest did not sponsor this post, ask me to make anything, nor tell me to share anything about their products or RMS in general. I chose to do so willingly and freely (I think I may have even surprised them when I posted a picture on Instagram!)… and no doubt would have made this recipe at some point regardless, as I have been coveting it since I Quit Sugar first posted the original version!

 

I QUIT SUGAR… AGAIN! (IQS 8-Week Program, weeks 1 & 2 in review)

Right at the very last minute, literally a day before the registrations closed for the new round of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program, I found myself not only signed up, but appointed an IQS Ambassador* by the IQS team!

I hardly ever check personal mail at work (and never Facebook), but I happened to log in to my email account the day before the 8WP kicked off, and read a mail sent from IQS HQ, asking whether I’d like to become an ambassador.

My response?

“If I wasn’t surrounded by colleagues right now, I’d be squealing! “

And I meant it!

Within a 24 hour period, I received that mail, a copy of I Quit Sugar for Life *signed* by gorgeous Sarah Wilson, and word that Diana Tencic from Body Be Well was going to be on the panel of experts for this round. How could I NOT take part?

Before signing up for this round of the IQS 8-week program, I wondered whether there would be a great deal of repetition in regards to recipes and information (I had, after all, just completed the previous round). I am truly shocked (in a good way!) to discover that, not only do most of the recipes so far appear to be new ones, they have become some of my favourite recipes EVER! IQS must have sugar-free pixies working overtime in order to have come up with the new features and developed all these new recipes… for two programs, I might add!

WHAT’S NEW THIS ROUND

  • All the amazing new recipes, for starters!
  • There seems to be even more enthusiastic forum activity/participation
  • The new Movement Plan (hooray!), which is designed to complement each stage of the IQS program and is adaptable depending on fitness level
  • There where many experts available to support participants last time, but it certainly seems like there may be even more on board this time around, from personal trainers and nutritionists, to hormone balancing experts and psychologists… an impressive line-up!
  • The new webinars, tips, snack ideas, etc.

 

WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING

 

Week 1 kicked off to a brilliant start, with a fabulous Sunday Cook-up (thanks to hubby being on kiddie duty), during which I managed to prepare elements for a grand total of 9 of the week’s recipes. I was thanking myself all week for that afternoon’s efforts! The recipes were amazing, from the Open Spinach & Ricotta Sandwich (I used feta, as it’s what I had on hand) to the Sesame Carrot & Pecan Salad. The Layered Vegetable “Lasagna” was bound to be a hit and I loved the Choose Your Own Oats breakfast concept, which not only caters to individual tastes but makes breakfast a breeze thanks to prepping in advance.

Week 2 introduced more new (and stellar) recipes, including the very clever IQS take on Spaghetti Arrabiata, Zucchini Fritters and Pumpkin & Coconut Curry Parcels, which newly-vegan hubby is still raving about! The Veggie Burger was simply outstanding. Not only does it make my top 5 IQS recipes ever, but it easily makes the top 5 of ALL the veggie burgers I have eaten (and I’ve seen plenty of veggie burger action in my time, I can tell you!).

If you’re curious to see more of what I am eating during the program (including Week 3, which I will cover in the next post), you are welcome to visit my Instagram account.

You can still search for the hashtag #IQS8WPveg that I created on Instagram during the last round of the program, but it appears to have been adopted by others, so no longer features my images exclusively as it did during the last round… but you will get a good overview of the broad variety of dishes in the vegetarian version of the program.

HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING

In a word, good!

I love being able to get through a whole day at work and pick-up time at nursery school on the fuel that breakfast and lunch provide me with… no unhealthy snacking necessary. I adore getting/being organised, particularly when it comes to meals and family-related routines.

Last Saturday, I beat my previous personal record for a 5 kilometre run… a record I had set during the last round of the program. I beat it by only 3 seconds, but I was thrilled. I am doing more yoga and, as sad as I am to have left the truly lovely small women’s only gym I was going to, I am ever so grateful for the opportunity to train with my husband for the first time since 2009, thanks to the co-ed factor and amazing childcare services/playroom at our new gym (that my kids love so much, they cry when they get picked up!). I am embracing the Hot Mojo, HEAT and Organic Body Work passes available in the “hot room” at my gym. And now that the weather is turning, it’s great to have access to an abundance of brand-new treadmills. Baby Cupcake has also started at my gym, doing Born to Move baby dance classes once a week. Totally adorable!

So what does this have to do with IQS?

My schedule is full-on now. I am back at work part-time, with the children the rest of the time, engaged in many personal projects and I train 4-5 times per week. I have energy to do all of this, despite still not getting quite enough sleep and drinking only one cup of coffee per day.

I am enjoying being part of the IQS community and I’ve loved the weekly intro videos, blog posts and the webinar that was held the other day. Sarah Wilson said something that really struck a chord with me during the webinar:

“Be the message.”

So simple and so powerful.

I am not an expert/nutritionist/dietician/doctor… I am a just someone who is interested in and has benefitted from investing in my health. When I treat myself with kindness, the effects spill over into every area of my life. My children, I believe, will do as I do, not as I say. So “being the message” is vital when it comes to raising my children the way I think they deserve to be raised.

 

WHAT I AM LOVING

  • The new 8-Week Program recipes
  • Being more active in the IQS forums, Instagram and other channels with program participants and those who are curious about quitting sugar
  • The adaptability of Vegetarian Program recipes means my vegan husband and I do not have to prepare entirely separate meals. This is a huge time-saver… and everybody wins!
  • That my kids love the food too!
  • That my 3.5 year-old son has started asking for asparagus, quinoa and “avocato” at meal times! (I am not kidding)
  • Having a fridge and pantry stocked with healthy food and a freezer full of labeled leftovers
  • Riding the wave of all this organisation-related motivation and getting other big jobs done, such as donating clothing to charity
  • That the more care and attention I invest in food- from the purchasing of raw ingredients of the best quality through to preparation and cooking- the less inclined I am to waste a single bite!

 

WHAT I AM NOT LOVING SO MUCH

  • That I am still “snacky” when I first get home after picking the kids up/before gym (although I don’t know if this is a “bad” thing, especially when I am training!)
  • That I can’t shake chocolate completely (even if it is raw, homemade and sugar-free)

 

WHAT I AM NOTICING

  • There have been many occasions when I thought I was craving sugar, that I’ve actually been dehydrated. As soon as I drink water, the fake craving goes away!
  • That in Week 2, roasted tomatoes tasted very sweet (not in a bad way, just noticeably sweeter)
  • That preparation truly is one of the cornerstones of success with IQS. I see the benefits of being organised food-wise everyday as I try to juggle work, parenting, training, hobbies, married life and whatever else a 24-hour period brings!

 

Wishing all the other participants of this round of the IQS8WP the very best and, indeed, the same to anyone who might be reading this today! :)

<3 MM xx

 

*An IQS Ambassador’s role is essentially one of helpful support and friendly encouragement for fellow program participants… not hard to do, as they are all quite lovely and I am a big fan of the program!

 

SPICED ALMOND MILK HOT CHOCOLATE

I have decided that tonight I will attempt to catch up on news in the blogosphere. But before I see what my friends have been up to, I want to quickly share a recipe that I’ve had a few requests for via Instagram. The other day, lovely Lillian, the brains and beauty behind Sugar and Cinnamon, posted a recipe on Instagram. She claimed to have perfected a healthy, vegan spiced hot chocolate. With the weather outside becoming increasingly Swedish dismal, when I noted that Lillian’s recipe would be easy to IQS-ify and saw that ginger, clove, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and almond “mylk” were all in the ingredients line-up, I got on it.

To make life simpler for those who have asked to be directed to the recipe, I’ll post it here, giving full credit to Lillian as the only substitution I made was adding rice malt syrup (instead of a non-IQS alternative) and the only additions I made were extra almond milk and some coconut cream to serve.

Bye-bye, Autumn blues!

I hope everyone’s having a great weekend! <3 MM xx

MissMarzipan_SugarandCinnamon_hotchocolate1

SPICED ALMOND MILK HOT CHOCOLATE
by Lillian from Sugar and Cinnamon
Serves: 1

INGREDIENTS

3 tsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp vanilla powder/vanilla bean paste
A tiny pinch of ground clove
A tiny pinch of nutmeg
250-300 ml unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp rice malt syrup (or 1 tbsp agave/maple syrup if you’re Paleo/non-IQS)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix cacao and spices in a mug/cup/jar.
  2. Boil a kettle and pour just enough hot water over the cacao spice mix to cover everything (approx. 50 ml).
  3. Stir in the rice malt syrup.
  4. Heat the almond milk in a pan until just starting to froth, then pour into the mug. Stir everything to combine well.
  5. Add a dollop of coconut cream on the top (it should go “melty” and rise to the surface). Sprinkle over a pinch of cinnamon and serve immediately.

 

*To make an iced version, leave drink to cool for twenty minutes, then blend with some ice cubes before serving.