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.

 

RAW VEGAN COCONUT CHOCOLATE PRALINES (with pistachios & spirulina)

Hi lovelies! I am posting this recipe due to requests I have received via my Instagram account (hi there, IG peeps!).

The original recipe for both the coconut filling and raw chocolate coating is by the lovely SR Healthy Lifestyle, who was kind enough to allow me to recreate what was already pretty perfect, really.

I wanted to make something that would present as a praline (the Belgian/Swedish definition of praline*, that is), although it must be said that my pastry teacher would freak if she knew I’d referred to these as “pralines” at all! Her sister is a renowned chocolatier and these are pretty far from the Belgian-style tempered chocolate praliner I have been taught to make!

But they’re cute, yummy, sugar-free and healthy… so I forgive myself.

Before I share the recipe, I need to confess that I really am getting the guilts about my recent fly-by posts :( . This week I am making it a priority to catch up on reading, comments, etc. Bear with me, please.

<3 MM xx

*As opposed to the nutty caramel/brittle kind.

RAW VEGAN COCONUT CHOCOLATE PRALINES WITH PISTACHIOS AND SPIRULINA
Base recipe by SR Healthy Lifestyle

FILLING INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp rice malt syrup
3 cups shredded coconut
4 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp spirulina powder

CHOCOLATE COATING INGREDIENTS

125 ml cacao powder
125 ml coconut oil
, melted
3 tbsp rice malt syrup

FOR FINISHING

2-3 tbsp chopped pistachios mixed with a good pinch of spirulina

DIRECTIONS

  1. Blend all filling ingredients together in a food processor.
  2. Remove half of the mix and tip it into a 20cm x 20cm baking paper-lined tin, pressing it down firmly and neatly to create a smooth, even layer.
  3. Pop the tray into the freezer for a couple of minutes while you create the green layer.
  4. Add a teaspoon of spirulina powder to the remaining half of the mix in the food processor and give it a blitz.
  5. Take the tray out of the freezer and evenly flatten out the green half of the mix on top of the white layer. Pop the tray back in the freezer.
  6. Combine all chocolate coating ingredients in a small saucepan and stir on a low heat until well incorporated.
  7. Remove the tray from the freezer after an hour or so and cut the coconut filling slab into small squares with a sharp knife.
  8. Pop the squares on baking paper and drizzle over chocolate coating. Turn each square around, dabbing each side in the puddles of run-off chocolate to coat all sides evenly (yes, it gets messy right about now).
  9. Place coated “pralines” onto a clean, baking paper-lined tray and sprinkle with the spirulina-laced chopped pistachios.
  10. Refrigerate/freeze to set and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Remove from fridge/freezer a few minutes before serving.

 

MissMarzipan_coconut_pralines_pistachio_spirulina copy

*Visit srhealthy.weebly.com for more recipe inspiration.
*To make them Paleo, use agave or honey instead of rice malt syrup.

 

MISS MARZIPAN’S JAVA CHIP FRAPPU-CHIA-NO (a healthy, sugar-free, protein-packed, vegan, paleo-inspired, frosty mocha smoothie you can make at home!)

It took a long time for a certain coffee chain from Seattle to reach Sweden’s shores and, for many years, the highlight of my time spent sitting in airport transit areas was the rare opportunity to sip on a coveted Frappuccino. When I started becoming Pinterest-obsessed a few years ago, I noticed many a DIY take on the Frappuccino, but I really wanted to try inventing my own version, keen to tick a few boxes including sugar-free, vegan, healthy and protein-packed.

No regrets whatsoever! I think I am in <3


MISS MARZIPAN’S JAVA CHIP FRAPPU-CHIA-NO
Serves 4-6, depending on glass size and how much ice you blend in

INGREDIENTS FOR SMOOTHIE BASE

6 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp almond meal (finely ground raw almonds)
400 ml cold coffee*
500 ml almond milk
1 tsp vanilla powder (100% vanilla)
1 tbsp rice malt syrup

INGREDIENTS FOR CHOCOLATE SAUCE
3 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
3 tbsp rice malt syrup**

FOR SERVING
Crushed ice
400 ml cold coconut cream, whipped with a pinch of vanilla powder
Raw cacao nibs

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all smoothie base ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mix well with a spoon, then place in fridge for at least 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, you can make the chocolate sauce by simply combining all sauce ingredients in a small pan and heating through while stirring over a low heat. Remove from heat and let IT cool (it will thicken up a little after cooling).
  3. Give the smoothie mix a little stir, add 3 tablespoons of the chocolate sauce to the mix, then blitz it until smooth in a blender. Pour 3/4 of the blended smoothie mix back into the mixing bowl.
  4. Throw a handful of ice cubes into the blender with the remaining 1/4 of smoothie mix. Blitz then pour into a large glass/regular mason jar. Repeat process until all mix is used/glasses are full.
  5. Top each smoothie with whipped coconut cream, cocao nibs and a drizzle of the remaining chocolate sauce.

 

*I used freshly ground organic coffee beans to make coffee in a French press. To make it more Paleo-friendly, use decaffeinated coffee.
** To make it Paleo, use honey instead of rice malt syrup.

 

 

CHECK IT OUT ON INSTAGRAM

 

MY FIRST HALF MARATHON (I did it!)

Hi all! Just wanted to check in here quickly and report that my first half marathon experience was a success. The atmosphere was amazing, the bystanders were generous with their support and my fellow runners were a huge inspiration from start to finish. The route was great too, winding its way around many areas of Stockholm that I know but have never explored in such a way. I adored the sense of freedom I had running alongside others through tunnels, under/over bridges and on roads without cars.

I was arguably untrained, in the sense of not having followed a training program (nor run for 2 weeks prior to the race), and no doubt ill-prepared, collecting my bib just after the pick-up stations were due to have closed. To top it off, I had 5 hours of sleep the night before running and awoke with the beginnings of a cold…
But, I made it to the finish line in tact and ran the entire way, even sprinting the last kilometre. I am currently counting my blessings for my cheer squad and ginger tea/cold and flu medicine/echinacea, and I am really looking forward to doing some yoga and getting lots of sleep this week!

Too tired to write a recap now, I will pinch what I wrote on Instagram when I posted my first ever “selfie” (not technically one as I didn’t take the pic myself) today and copy and paste it here*…

“Ok, bear with me folks! This is my first #selfie on Instagram, in honor of the completion of my ✨first half marathon✨. It was an awesome experience and, as with all the scary yet positive challenges I have undertaken, the nerves beforehand were actually worse than the event itself. There were times during the #run when I felt truly amazing and times where everything hurt and my legs didn’t want to continue. But I achieved my personal goal of running the entire distance 🏃… and I had fun!

This pic was taken 30 minutes after I finished, on the walk back with my family (cheer squad) from the city centre. I am not wearing my medal here, as my baby daughter 👶 had already pinched it… but I ran in part for her, so giving her my medal is an appropriate gesture.

As you might have noticed, I’m not one for selfies. For 3 years I blogged completely anonymously, using neither my name nor my face publicly online. And, as a former makeup addict, showing a bare face after a 21.1 km run is also kind of a big deal for me (even if this is b&w and a bit more post-race-face-friendly!) 😜lol! For those of you who don’t like selfies, fear not; this will no doubt be a rare occurrence. And for those of you who wanted me to introduce myself, hi lovelies 👋👋! Sending 💕 from #stockholm !

To those who wished me well and told me it would be a mental challenge more than a physical one, thank you! Just prior to the race a friend shared the famous #edmundhillary #quote

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

So true.  💪❤🙏”

 

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I intend to catch up on everyone’s news soon… and get back to blogging some recipes and less personal stuff! :P

<3 MM xx

*Lazy, I know! Please forgive hashtags, emoticons and annoying social media-speak (poor grammar)!

THE LONG ROAD TO MY FIRST HALF MARATHON (and why I started running in the first place), PART 2

Tomorrow I am due to run my first half marathon. I cannot say I am set, as it implies “prepared”… which is something I feel far from. But I thought I should post this now and hopefully, sometime 18 hours or less from now, I will have good news to report.

THE POWER OF VISUALISATION

So, anyway, when I left you last time, I was in India. It was February 2008, I had recovered from my medical mishap and was able to enjoy the rest of my time there with a newfound appreciation for my health, travel and my life in general.

I returned to Stockholm to be greeted by the comforting smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns in Arlanda airport, the cold, crisp, clean winter air outside, and the promise of new opportunities. Thankfully, despite having recently been through some intense and tumultuous times, it seemed that as soon as I visualised something positive, it manifested in my life. Remembering an exercise I had done around the time I first started exploring self-healing and meditation, I had created a visualisation mood board (I am a big fan of these, as you can see here and here) in January 2008. It featured cut and pasted images of smiling, happy young women, artists/designers at work on pretty projects, bowls of fruit, healthy, yoga-loving people, exotic travel destinations and shiny new Apple Macintosh computers. I won’t say that scoring my dream job was easy. In fact it felt like I was having some surreal pop idol reality TV experience… sans a stage and cameras. Each week I was called to a new interview or asked to undertake creative/IQ/personality tests. I would make it through to the next “round”, only to discover a new challenge facing me. And week after week (the interview process took around 6-7 in total), I found myself making the cut.

By the time I finally walked through the office doors for my final face-to-face interview (there was still one more to go, via phone!), I was certain I was destined for a desk there… somewhere. I knew without doubt that it was the right fit for me and that I “belonged”. Apparently my soon-to-be-manager thought likewise and has since told me that as soon as she saw me, her voice of intuition said “She’s hired.” My first day of work was the official opening of the Stockholm head office and, my word, did the company put on a show. I entered the reception area to find a cocktail bar complete with ice sculptures being set up, there were generous gift bags, visiting dignitaries, multiple venues hired (that myself and my new 350 + colleagues moved between over the course of the day), meals, drinks, entertainment, hugs from the 5 fellow Aussies I discovered amongst the crowd, Sahara Hotnights playing as surprise after dinner guests, etc. It was a rather unusual first day on the job… but an amazing way to enter a new era of hard work actually paying off!

Yes, it's dorky, but here I am with a bouquet of "welcome" flowers sent to my home address by the HR team during my first week on the job. Note the slight look of disbelief on my face! There were many "pinch me" moments that year.

Yes, it’s dorky, but here I am with a bouquet of “welcome” flowers sent to my home address by the HR team during my first week on the job. Note the slight look of disbelief on my face. There were many “pinch me” moments that year.

I found myself in an all female team with women that were lovely, talented, creative and fun to be around. There was a bowl of fruit stationed behind my desk that was replenished daily by a fruit delivery guy, there were in-house yoga classes and I had a shiny new Apple Mac, complete with an IT support team’s help, should things go technically awry (the relief!). Less than 2 months later I was sent to leadership training and found myself in a swanky hotel in Moscow, literally jumping on the bed out of the sheer excitement of being there. A couple of months after that, I received a promotion. There were even bigger things to come that year career-wise and, in hindsight, I should have stuck a picture of a mansion, a million dollars and J.Lo’s butt on that mood board!

ALONG CAME TTC

Obviously India had fuelled in me an even greater interest in taking care of myself. But, somewhere in amongst all the busy-ness and success of that year, the desire to take care of someone else snuck in too. In fact, that little whisper of longing eventually became my focus for everything, namely because TTC (or trying to conceive as it’s known in non-TTC circles!) wasn’t the proverbial bed of roses I expected. I might elaborate further in a future post, but I will say now that the road to motherhood was a long and, at times, heartbreaking one for me. Somewhere in amongst landing my “dream job”, TTC, miscarriage and trying to improve my health, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition for which I am on medication to this day. A string of bad luck in the health department saw a broken arm and mild pneumonia thrown into the mix. I was fortunate that, by this point, I had a solid foundation upon which I could rely in terms of a support network, self-knowledge and an increasingly healthy lifestyle.

Feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, despite having a team of hair and makeup artists to doll me up for the gorgeous event that was my brother's wedding. Only two weeks before this day, I was given notification at the hospital that my HCG levels post-miscarriage had dropped to a point where it was deemed safe for me to travel. And so I went back to Australia for a visit, newly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and generally feeling pretty low. Feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, despite having a team of hair and makeup artists to doll me up for the gorgeous event that was my brother's wedding. Only two weeks before this day, I was given notification at the hospital that my HCG levels post-miscarriage had dropped to a point where it was deemed safe for me to travel. And so I went back to Australia for a visit, newly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and generally feeling pretty low.

Feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, despite having a team of hair and makeup artists to doll me up for the gorgeous event that was my brother’s wedding. Only two weeks before this day, I was given notification at the hospital that my HCG levels post-miscarriage had dropped to a point where it was deemed safe for me to travel. And so I went back to Australia for a visit, newly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and generally feeling pretty low.

ALONG CAME PREGNANCY #1 (EVENTUALLY)

My world changed forever on the morning of the office summer party in 2010, when a little pink line appeared on a pregnancy test. I had been so scared to find out the result of that test myself that I had sent my husband, with the test, out of the bathroom while I tried to distract myself by washing my hair.

“It’s positive…”, he said shakily as he reentered the bathroom a minute later.

“What?”, I responded, almost rudely. “What? What?…”

Disbelief.

“It’s positive.”, he said again with more conviction, as I collapsed in tears in the shower. He sprang in to hug me, still wearing his clothes.

I was thrilled to have this belly in 2010!

I was thrilled to have this belly in 2010!

My pregnancy was joyous beyond words, but gifted to me not without some difficulties, including 40 extra kilograms of weight, chronic edema, carpal tunnel syndrome and, eventually, sick leave. Yes, despite being health-focused, caffeine-free, doing prenatal yoga 5-6 times per week from week 13 through to 9 months pregnant, taking pregnancy dance classes during the second trimester, eating organic, mostly home-cooked, vegetarian food, and being generally overjoyed to be pregnant, my pregnancy was hardly free of issues. A traumatic birth experience involving an emergency c-section, blood loss of 3.2 litres and subsequent transfusions, meant a longer road to physical recovery than I would have liked, but I bounced back. I started going to a local womens’ gym, working out for as little as 15 minutes per session (depending on baby L’s napping), but going consistently… around 5-6 times per week. I did little to change what I ate, sticking primarily with homemade, vegetarian food. Within less than a year, I was more or less “back to normal”. I had a brief “pit stop” back at work and then…

PREGNANCY #2

… and with it a whole world of complications. I had my first major hemorrhaging episode during my second pregnancy literally the day after announcing the big news to my parents and in-laws over dinner. I was devastated when I awoke the following morning, drenched in blood. In the ER, I was told point-blank by the doctor that there was no hope for the pregnancy. She couldn’t see any sign of a baby in my uterus, I was clearly bleeding heavily and my endometrium was “too thin”. Concerned about a possible ectopic pregnancy, she scheduled blood tests to check my HCG levels. I went home, crawled into bed and grieved and cried for days. I suffered terrible cramping and heavy bleeding and, when it was over, I returned to work determined to throw myself into a huge project and be as massively distracted as possible. Sitting at my desk one day, I received the surprise phone call of a lifetime from a doctor at the hospital. My results had been delayed for some reason, but my HCG numbers had risen from 186 to 960.

What?

He continued by saying that, based on those numbers alone, he could predict that my pregnancy was not only viable but “normal”.

What?

By this stage in the conversation I had moved from my desk to a corridor, where I stood shaking and on the verge of a panic attack… not so much from any renewed hope or joy, but from absolute shock and confusion.

Another ultrasound brought more confusion and anxiety. The doctor (a new one) seemed perplexed and told me that he could see “something” but it was not the shape/form he would want or expect to see. My heart sank yet again. A specialist was called in and another ultrasound was performed. The verdict? That everything looked just as it should in the case of a perfect, viable pregnancy. I burst into tears. Again.

The next 4 weeks went by and the shock and trauma gave way to happiness… and nausea… and regular pregnancy stuff .

During my next ultrasound we saw a precious little heart beating. I was told by the doctor (yet another one) that everything looked perfect and that I shouldn’t have to worry anymore. Relief! I was beyond happy.

At around midnight that very night, I awoke from a horrible nightmare that I was losing my baby, to find myself laying in a pool of blood… yes, I was bleeding (and cramping) again! I couldn’t believe it. Back on the phone to the hospital, I was told that I could indeed be losing the baby and if I was, there was nothing they could do to help me. I was crushed again. This pattern continued; bad news following good news, bleed following bleed after bleed. 13 weeks brought contractions my way (yes, contractions!) and hemorrhaging so extreme that I ended up hospitalised and on medication after being told (rather tactlessly) “We will be keeping you here for observation and will check to see if your baby is alive in the morning”. Try to sleep after hearing those words!

At 16 weeks I put myself instinctively on full bed rest. I had already been on modified bed rest for 3 weeks at that point. I asked that my anatomy scan be pushed forward as I really wanted to have some peace of mind before heading back to work. We looked forward to good news and to finding out whether we were expecting a boy or a girl.

Then, almost half way through my pregnancy, I finally discovered (after 13 ultrasounds!) the truth of my condition and that, although my baby was doing well, I had a large blood clot inside the wall of my uterus (larger than the baby) that could threaten to cause “spontaneous abortion” and a host of other very nasty complications.

The SCH (subchorionic hematoma) extended all the way from behind the placenta to the cervix. There was nothing that could have prepared me for that shock, nor hearing the high risk specialist say that “some babies make it, some babies don’t”. I was told that there was nothing I could do (other than rest and wait), nor was there anything the hospital could do to save my baby at that point should the worst happen.

As I lay there on the examination table I was too devastated to bring myself to ask the baby’s gender. I began spiraling into a depressed state and I felt like the SCH was a ticking time bomb inside of me.

Just when I needed to hear this message more than ever, I watched an interview with Deepak Chopra where he said “You can believe the diagnosis, but not the prognosis”. Those words were a light in the darkness. And they changed my perception of my condition.

MissMarzipan_blessingway

Decided that, no matter what, I was celebrating my baby and pregnancy. My blessingway was beautiful, and these cuddles with little L at the end of the day were the icing on the gorgeous cake.

All in all, I ended up having a whopping 23 ultrasounds during my pregnancy, I was on sick leave for over 28 weeks, I was on bed rest (modified and full) for 10 weeks, on pelvic rest the entire pregnancy, I didn’t lift my 2 year-old son for at least 15 weeks (which broke my heart at times), I drank an absolute ton of water, I did lots of healing visualisation meditation, I donated money to various charities, I blogged (thank you WP friends for being here!) and I did what I could to stay positive, even whilst laying in bed. I believed that my baby was a fighter and it was my duty to fight too.

Me (with baby belly #2) and my Cupcake via 3D ultrasound... (just one of many!)

Me (with baby belly #2) and my Cupcake via 3D ultrasound (just one of many!), December 2012

The good news is that, in my case, the SCH did shrink. With every ultrasound, it got smaller. But slowly. And it never fully resolved.

At 40 weeks and 2 days, after going into labour naturally, I delivered my miracle Baby Cupcake via VBAC only 4 hours after arriving at the hospital. The labour and delivery were a dream come true for me and I loved the whole experience, including watching MasterChef Australia while crazily baking Garry Mehigan’s scone recipe during active labour! Unfortunately I had some serious complications following the birth, the result of which led to 4 liters of blood loss (approximately 8.5 pints… or a generally terrifying amount!) and I had to undergo tricky postpartum surgery.

Image copyright Breigh Mattson, Your Little Family Photography, 2013

Newly baked (around 5 weeks old). You were worth it all, Cupcake! (© Your Little Family Photography)

AND THAT BRINGS ME TO RUNNING

In June 2013, around 4 months after Cupcake’s arrival, I put on a crappy pair of decade-old running shoes, stepped on a treadmill, sputtered along for 3 minutes… and felt like I would die. But something in me acknowledged the privilege of such freedom of movement (after all the restrictions and limits of my high risk pregnancy). Something in me told me that maybe, just maybe, if I could push through that pain barrier, running would get easier… maybe even enjoyable.

And then Blodomloppet came along; a 5 km fun-run held annually in Stockholm to raise awareness and encourage sign-ups for blood donation. I was far from fit back then and weighed close to 15 kilograms more than I do as I sit here and type this tonight. But the cause was one close to my heart, given all the blood loss I have suffered and the transfusions I have been the recipient of. So I “run-walked” it with my Stockholm bestie. And it felt great.

I have continued to run since then, sometimes very regularly, sometimes not so much. But I can actually say that I like running now… and sometimes I even love it.

Still, when I think about tomorrow’s half marathon, I am hit by waves of anxiety. At this point the longest I have run is 18 km, which I managed 2 weeks ago. I haven’t run since! And I wouldn’t recommend my training schedule (lack thereof) to anyone. But I have been following my intuition. My body has said “rest” and “yoga”. So that is what I have done. I just hope I have made the right choices.

Wish me luck… and thanks for bearing with me during these incredibly long and winding posts.

I hope it is beyond clear now why not only my health, but the mere opportunity to be able to run, means so much to me.

Have a wonderful weekend!

<3 MM xx

MISS MARZIPAN IN PASTRY SCHOOL (“Whaaa…?”, I hear you think)

Hello lovely people! I have so much to share, very little time left before bed, and I don’t really know where to start, so this is just a short and sweet* sneak preview of my recent pastry school adventures.

Still on maternity leave and trying to complete personal graphic design projects, spend as much quality time with the children as possible and attend night school to undertake an intensive pastry diploma, has meant as little as 2 hours of sleep some nights. I do not recommend this :P .

Of course it has been an incredibly productive time too, and I feel like I have really done all I can with the opportunities afforded me… plus had the luxury of thousands of cuddles and baby cheek-kisses along the way.

I am quietly reflective and slightly emotional as I prepare myself to head back to work tomorrow (eek!) for the first time since it all came to an abrupt stop in August 2012, when I ended up in hospital for the third time with high risk pregnancy complications. As we had a family sing-along (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) tonight before the kids’ bed time, I felt beyond blessed. I never could have imagined back in 2010 when I went on maternity leave for the first time, how my life would have unfolded.

I will be sure to post a proper run-down of some of the pastry skills I have learned and reflections on my time in class soon, but in the meantime, here are a few images of some of the things I have made, including marshmallows, pralines (which you can’t actually see as they are hiding in egg cups!), mousse layer cake with buttercream frosting, Swedish knubbar (sweet buns), kolasnitt (caramel cookies), brioche, petits choux and more…

But for now it’s farewell summer, farewell maternity leave and hello new chapter of Miss Marzipan’s story!

Much <3 ! MM xx

*a not-so-clever pun!

ROASTED SWEET POTATO & QUINOA SALAD WITH CHILI & GARLIC-INFUSED DRESSING

Probably my favourite salad ever. Won’t beat around the bush, but I ate this every evening last week whilst at night school (that’s pastry night school, folks… will explain all in another post soon!)  if that’s any indication how much I love this recipe!

ROASTED SWEET POTATO & QUINOA SALAD WITH CHILI & GARLIC-INFUSED DRESSING

MissMarzipan_roasted_sweet_potato_quinoa_salad2

INGREDIENTS

4-6 sweet potatoes
400 ml of dry quinoa (I used black quinoa)
Vegetable oil (organic olive works perfectly)
200 ml dried green lentils
Lots of fresh arugula/rucola/mixed leafy salad greens
Toasted sesame seeds or furikake sprinkle sesame mix
Salt & pepper to taste

INGREDIENTS FOR DRESSING

1 red chill
2 cloves garlic
60 ml olive oil
60 ml tamari
60 ml balsamic vinegar
1 tsp rice malt syrup (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Peel sweet potatoes, cut into pieces of around the same side, toss in your favourite oil and roasted in the oven until cooked through and starting to brown (around 30-35 minutes on 180 C, fan).
  2. Cook quinoa according to your usual method/pack directions.
  3. Cook lentils according to your usual method/pack directions making sure not to overcook, drain.
  4. While cooking lentils and quinoa, de-seed and finely chop the chili, then pop it in a small bowl with the liquid dressing ingredients. Stir to combine.
  5. Peel garlic cloves then cut them in half and pop them into the dressing. Allow the garlic to sit there and infuse. You can cover the dressing and pop it into the fridge at this point, if you are making it in advance. *Remove garlic pieces before serving!*
  6. Cooked quinoa and lentils can be mixed in advance and topped with sweet potato and allowed to cool.
  7. Just prior to serving the salad, season to taste, scatter over fresh salad greens, sprinkle on sesame seeds and dress salad.

 

MissMarzipan_roasted_sweet_potato_quinoa_salad

*My pan Toasted Tamari Seeds are also a lovely addition to this salad.

**This recipe is inspired by one taught to me a few years ago by the gorgeous Maria Mo, green chef extraordinaire from Sweden.

SPICED CHAI SMOOTHIE WITH COCONUT CRUSHED ICE (pretending summer’s not over)

Firstly, I love chai! Secondly, despite my recent post mentioning some rather intense events that unfolded during a trip to India years ago, there were some truly wonderful moments too. Some of my fondest memories of India involve sipping chai with local people in the village where we ended up staying. The chai I drank there was always hot (despite the hot weather), but here is a cold and frosty version that also happens to be vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free and Paleo (if you substitute the rice malt syrup for maple/honey).

SPICED CHAI SMOOTHIE WITH COCONUT CRUSHED ICE

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp chia seeds + 6 tbsp water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground clove
2 tsp rice malt syrup
1 tsp liquorice root powder (more if you like it)
1- 1.5 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 frozen chopped banana
250 ml coconut water
250 ml coconut milk (on the creamy side)

2 trays of ice cubes
+ extra 100 ml or so extra coconut milk/cream
Extra cinnamon for sprinkling over finished smoothies

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a small bowl. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. Mixture should thicken.
  2. In a blender, blend chia mix with all other ingredients (except for the ice + extra 100 ml coconut milk & extra cinnamon) until it reaches a smooth consistency. Divide between 2-3 large glasses or standard mason jars.
  3. Rinse your blender quickly with water then throw in as many ice cubes as your blender can handle and some of the remaining coconut cream. Crush the ice, adding more cream as needed (you can also add extra coconut water too) to creat a kind of coconutty snow/granita.
  4. Heap large spoonfuls of the crushed ice onto your smoothies. Finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Enjoy!

 

*Recipe inspired by and modified from this one by paleo king and super chef, Pete Evans found at peteevans.com.au

 

QUICK PAN TOASTED SPICED TAMARI SEEDS

I love inventing simple additions to meals on the fly, and these super-easy toasted tamari seeds were the perfect accompaniment to my Roasted Aubergine and Tahini Bowl the other night (based on the recipe by Deliciously Ella, which you can find here).

 

Impatience led me to using a frying pan (I didn’t want to fuss with an oven) and, a few short minutes later, these tasty little lovelies were ready to add crunchy pops of flavour to our meal. Store-bought tamari seed mixes are so pricey and these homemade tamari seeds were so easy to make. I’ll never buy ready-made tamari seeds again!

QUICK PAN TOASTED SPICED TAMARI SEEDS

INGREDIENTS

100 ml pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
150 ml sunflower seeds
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp vegetable oil of choice (I used olive)
A dash of garlic powder
A dash of cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine ingredients in a bowl and tip into a frying pan to toast (on medium heat, though you may want to crank it up a bit if you’re supervising closely).
  2. Toast seeds, stirring frequently until they are deliciously golden and starting to brown in places. Do not step away from the pan for too long during the toasting process (it should take around 5-6 minutes).
  3. Store seeds in an airtight container. They’ll last at least a week, if not longer. Sprinkle them over salads/cooked grains/roasted vegetables, use them as a lovely addition in toasted sandwiches or eat them as they are.

 

THE LONG ROAD TO MY FIRST HALF MARATHON (and why I started running in the first place), PART 1

Even as I begin to type this post, I can feel my palms getting sweaty and my heart starting to beat a little faster. Why? Because there’s less than a month left before I am due to run my first half marathon*. This might not be a big deal for many people, but for me it is huge. My official starter kit arrived today and I am hoping that it’s a good sign that two of my favourite/”lucky” digits are repeated twice in my bib number.

MissMarzipan_stockholm_marathon_starterkit

23 days to go…

 

Bear with me, if you will, as I explain in a seemingly incredibly long-winded way (this is just the first part!) exactly why I want to do this and what it symbolises. Hopefully, by the time we reach the end of this tale, I will have convinced you (and myself) that I am aiming to take this challenge on for a far better cause than masochism.

MY EARLY HEALTH STORY

"5 year-old Marzipan", with little bro... plus healthy body and happy little heart

“5 year-old Marzipan”, with healthy body and happy little heart (and sweet little bro)

I was anything but an unfit child. Although naturally blessed with great health and good coordination, for some reason I only tended to participate in sports when coerced/forced. There were a couple of exceptions to this during certain periods in my youth where I was keen on swimming and tennis. I liked dancing too, though I was never particularly dedicated or consistent with my efforts.

As a tween/young teen, track and field was my nightmare PE class. No where to hide for the not-so-fast, not-so-sporty! Luckily I had an accomplice who was not averse to strategically faking asthma attacks in order to be pronounced exempt from athletics. She required a carer and companion during these episodes, of course, and I was more than willing to fulfil that role, sitting by the side of the track with her as others went huffing and puffing by. When I did join a gym as a teenager, it was a number on the scale, not fitness, that was my motivation.

I became a vegetarian in my mid-teens after being traumatised by a biology class viewing of a documentary about factory farming. Despite thoroughly enjoying cooking the couple of times I actually did it, I knew nothing about balancing meals and lacked even the most rudimentary kitchen skills. In my mid-teens, I would go to fast-food restaurants and order a burger “without the meat”, which would usually constitute a sugary burger bun with a slice of processed cheese and some ketchup. I was fortunate that my first flatmate introduced me to our local Hare Krishna restaurant, where I would go occasionally and eat decent, inexpensive vegetarian meals! I became adept at adding spices to a tin of baked beans, but that’s as far as my culinary prowess extended itself at that point.

It was my nonchalant attitude towards nutrition/my general health that led to the eventual demise of my vegetarianism a few years later.

Interestingly, even as a small child, I always maintained a quiet interest in herbs, natural healing, nutrition and cooking. I just didn’t take steps to truly nurture those aspects of myself. During infrequent moments of calm and solitude, I read about and daydreamed about such things. But I never really explored them. Eventually I pushed those interests away from me completely, in favour of pursuits I deemed to be cooler and far more exciting (in the eyes of others).

THINGS TOOK A NOSEDIVE FROM THERE

For a while, during and just after high school, I became a fully fledged “party girl”. I had a short stint playing in a band, worked as a nightclub promoter, lived for late nights out, slept the days away, fancied myself as a girl about town, ate poorly (and not nearly enough), smoked like a chimney and essentially did my body no favours at all during this time. Sadly, I seemed to revel in my lack of self-love, wearing my dysfunction like some warped badge of honour-cum-fashion statement.

"Teenage Marzipan", on a collision course with unhealthiness

“Teenage Marzipan”, on a collision course with unhealthiness and unhappiness

I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog before that, on top of it all, I may have well been the world’s unhealthiest vegetarian, at times subsisting on half a bag of French fries, or one small packet of Lifesavers, or half a falafel roll per day when I first moved away from the family home. By the time I turned 18, I was living independently, couldn’t cook, did no deliberate/structured exercise and cared little for the consequences. A sad state of affairs**.

When I moved to Melbourne, I began to shop at a local boutique called Tragically Hip. Apt.

When I moved to Melbourne, I began to shop at a local boutique called Tragically Hip. Apt.

THANKFULLY, THAT UNHEALTHY, EXTREME PHASE DIDN’T LAST LONG

After hitting a series of rock bottoms, each slightly more spirit-crushing than the one preceding it, I came to my senses***, cut ties with the people I needed to let go of, packed in my lifestyle of self-loathing, put away my party girl mask and began a journey of recovery and self-(re)discovery. Amongst many other things wellbeing related, I attended free meditation classes at my local Sri Chinmoy Centre. I was introduced to yoga (Hatha) properly for the first time, though I can hardly claim I applied myself to it. I enrolled in belly dancing classes (which I adored), began doing pilates at home and developed an interest in essential oils and aromatherapy. I began to step into the kitchen and had some of my first tentative and somewhat shaky cooking experiences, over which I was incredibly proud. I became determined to know more, to eat better… and to eat more!

Art school came along and gave me the gift of incredible focus for my creative passions. It also brought to my university the young Swedish exchange student who would one day become my husband.

He led an incredibly active, sporty kind of lifestyle and looked every bit the picture-perfect healthy, clean-living Scandinavian stereotype. He was “buff” and the girls in my class referred to him as “the guy with the shoulders”. And in true rom-com script fashion, I was initially rather rude and abrupt towards him, convinced that boys like him and girls like me simply did not like each other.

He may have looked the all-round healthy type, however the contents of his fridge on our first study “date” betrayed a chronic flaw. Frozen, generic brand hamburgers (the cheapest money could buy!) and plastic-y, processed cheese. Not even bread. Wowzers. And I had thought I’d been bad in the food department.

Luckily, I gave him a chance anyway. ;)

When we began to share an apartment, we began to cook together. We were still far from “foodie” at this point, but our mutual love of travel opened up other doors too, such as an interest in cuisines from other cultures. Every cent we earned during this period was saved and put towards traveling. We ate our way around Melbourne, Tasmania, New Zealand’s North Island and Fiji. I began to really fall in love with food.

"Mr Marzipan", before he was my Mr! Representing clean-living Scandinavia... with the exception of his appalling uni student diet!

“Mr Marzipan”, before he was my Mr! Representing clean-living Scandinavia… with the exception of his appalling uni student diet!

I STARTED TO CHALLENGE MYSELF

After graduating from university and backpacking around China, Mongolia and Russia, we arrived in Scandinavia. The winter was not kind to me. I developed surprisingly debilitating Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD (a suitably pathetic acronym) and a nasty, painful chest infection. Both of these things led me to believe that I could no longer get away with a half-hearted approach to my health. I started training in my parents-in-laws’ home gym and, slowly but surely, my fitness improved further. I started to take more of an interest in home cooking, providence of ingredients, organics and so on. My husband and I attended a couple of cooking workshops together, which where both fun and enlightening. We joined our local gym where we both trained regularly. I started to see a local Chinese doctor for acupuncture… which I hated, but I was open to trying anything that may have positive effects on my overall health.

I started to scour magazines for recipes and began to catalogue a kind of cooking bucket list. I was becoming more determined to teach myself how to cook.

I ran for the first time. Poorly. And Painfully. I had discovered a new form of torture and I questioned the sanity of anyone who had ever told me running made them feel great. Somehow I managed to build up my meagre 5 minutes of straining, hating, panting and feeling nauseous to 60 minutes (10 kilometres) of feeling not exactly great, but not totally crap. I ran Midnattsloppet (a famous annual 10km race held in Stockholm at night) once. And, challenge met, I hung up my running shoes.

"Backpacking Marzipan", somewhere in Outer Mongolia... SAD was just 6 months away!

“Backpacking Marzipan”, somewhere in Outer Mongolia. I look awfully serious in this picture, but was actually very happy at the time… little did I know that SAD was just 6 months away!

I PUT MY FOOT DOWN (EVENTUALLY)

Somehow, around this time, I found myself in a toxic job situation. Despite working in a field I loved (as a graphic designer), my particular situation was causing me damage, physically, mentally and emotionally. I would often be the first person to arrive at the office and the last to leave (sometimes at 6am). I worked weekends, nights and from home. I skipped lunch more times than I ate it that year, just so I could continue to work uninterrupted. I got paid a small fraction of what I was worth and was refused a proper contract, thus lived with all the responsibilities of my position and none of the rights.

I was witness to aggressive and occasionally violent outbursts from coworkers (not directed at me, thankfully… but still…), who were also weighed down by the pressure and tension I felt, but didn’t allow themselves to cry… as I did… often. I was becoming a wreck and was afraid that I would be robbed of the joy of creating altogether if I kept it up.

"Tourist Marzipan", in Berlin... where I decided enough was enough. I had worked until heaven-knows-what am, then had a flight to catch at 6am. After 1 hour of sleep, I stood in the check-in queue, shaky, exhausted and bawling my eyes out. Arrived in Berlin knowing that I needed to start sticking up for myself... "Tourist Marzipan", in Berlin... where I decided enough was enough. I had worked until heaven-knows-what am, then had a flight to catch at 6am. After 1 hour of sleep, I stood in the check-in queue, shaky, exhausted and bawling my eyes out. Arrived in Berlin knowing that I needed to start sticking up for myself...

“Tourist Marzipan”, in Berlin… where I decided enough was enough. I had worked until heaven-knows-what in the morning, despite having a flight to catch at 6am. After 1 hour of sleep, I stood in the check-in queue at the airport, shaky, exhausted and bawling my eyes out. I arrived in Berlin knowing that I needed to start sticking up for myself…

During a snow flurry on a freezing, dark December afternoon, I stepped outside the office with my boss, I cried and I resigned. Despite feeling beyond miserable about where I had ended up, I was simultaneously plagued with feelings of guilt for “letting the team down” and tormented by my crazy “good girl” sense of loyalty. But I told myself that it was one thing for me to compromise my own principles and quite another for someone else to do it on my behalf. I decided that if I had to eat baked beans on toast for a year, I was ok with that, as long as I didn’t have to deal with daily anxiety attacks on the way to work.

I decided that I was ok with whatever the future held, as long as I was ok with me.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

So, I walked out of that office, sold my computer (a traumatic reminder of my desktop slavery) and went to India, seeking a spiritual experience. And I knew I would have a spiritual experience in India because, well, doesn’t everyone?

My vision of that experience played out like a tourism campaign ad in my head. Me, on a beach, walking in slow motion, looking fit, tanned, healthy and serene. Me, on a roof top practising yoga during the sunrise. Me, eating the freshest, healthiest food in a relaxed, tranquil, enviably exotic location. Me, being pampered with massages and beautifying treatments at an Ayurvedic health spa. Me, returning to Stockholm with a flexible body, glowing skin and an even more glowing aura. Spiritual Me.

On my first day in India, I contracted a nasty bug after inadvertently (of course) swallowing contaminated water. I was given antibiotics by a local doctor. I had a swift and severe anaphylactic reaction to those antibiotics, first feeling as though my body was on fire, then losing my vision, followed by my ability to walk… followed by my ability to breathe.

I could have died in India.

There was me, in the back of a taxi having a conversation in my head with God (“So… this is it. I didn’t think it was going to end like this…”). Me, being carried from that taxi, semi-conscious, yet somehow knowing help was at hand. Me, in a windowless, one-toilet (broken and overflowing) shack of a hospital, being pumped so full of the medications that saved me that I began projectile vomiting. Me, on my hospital bed, drip in arm, sight recovered, staring at cracks in the wall and watching tiny spiders crawl around me. Me, being brought clean water by the hospital cleaning lady, who would kiss my hands and say kind (but not understood) things to me in Malayalam. Me, lying quietly as my husband read Eat, Pray, Love out loud by my bedside, tears rolling down my cheeks. Me, knowing that if this incident had occurred anywhere other than India, I would have been a whining, complaining, self-pitying little so-and-so.

Me, being truly grateful for the care I’d been given because of -not in spite of- its modesty… and humbled by the kindness I’d been shown by the hospital staff, my husband and local people alike.

And there was my spiritual experience.

Grateful Me.

One of just a handful of photos I captured during my time in India. Still not feeling well, fresh out of hospital, these friendly children kept me company in the shade. They told me I was "beauty". I certainly didn't feel it, but I appreciated the kindness.

One of just a very small handful of photos captured by me on my rubbish phone during my time in India. Still not feeling well, fresh out of hospital, these friendly children kept me company in the shade. They told me I was “beauty”. I certainly didn’t feel it, but I appreciated the kindness.

PART 2 COMING SOON…

(assuming I don’t regret posting Part 1!) 

 

*At the time of the writing of this post, the longest distance I have run is 16 kilometres, which I managed last Saturday. I told myself before the run that if I could make it to 16, I would be able to make it to 21+ at the time of the half marathon. Here’s hoping I can keep that promise to myself!

**In spookily timely fashion, in the middle of writing this post, I had a rather spontaneous catch-up chat with my former flatmate from this very period in my life, who to this day is one of my closest friends despite living on the opposite side of the planet. She reminded me of my pathetic attempts to make a packet of the cheapest brand of spaghetti and the cheapest brand of pasta sauce last an entire week. I also recalled borrowing “Buns of Steel” from her, which I watched and followed a couple of times… and which probably constituted the only deliberate exerise I did that year.

*** I think this is what is known as a spiritual awakening in the form of a rude awakening.