FAMILY FARM STAY REFLECTIONS FROM BACK 2 EARTH, SHOALHAVEN (+ cashew yogurt breakfast pizza recipe!)

*Post update, June 2017* The Rescued Animal Adoption Program at Back 2 Earth is now live. I am very grateful to have been a small part in its conception and I wish Marc, Jenny and animal rescuers/advocates everywhere the very best. To get to know the animals, donate or get involved head here: https://back2earth.net.au/adopt-an-animal/

 

After exceeding 2000 km of cross-country car travel, I arrived in Berry on the 21st of March, travel-weary, newly on antibiotics and still very much under the weather. My travel companions – my husband (aka Designated Driver), hungry one year-old Oliver, plus Louie and Lillian – were, like me, rather keen to stretch their legs after hours on the road en route from Kariong. Pulling in at Back 2 Earth, we were immediately struck by the tranquility of the place. I think I may have audibly sighed with relief. The pups who enthusiastically bounded over to greet us did nothing to disturb the serenity. In fact, they added to the pleasantness of the warm welcome we received from Jenny and Marc.

Having spent so many days on the road, staying in many places merely overnight, I was beyond tired. Hence my body was unable to fight off whatever it was that I’d come down with in Sydney and, after over a week of pushing on regardless, I conceded surrender and found myself in a doctor’s office in Newcastle. Antibiotics were prescribed (as I knew they would be). And so was rest. We had originally planned to stay just one night at Back 2 Earth. My exhausted body said “Stay for two!”, and once my body and brain reached a consensus, it felt right to extend our visit. Oh, the relief of having a place to call home for more than a night.

THE ACCOMMODATION

And what a place! I was delighted to find our self-contained cottage style B&B accommodation was generously appointed and featured a comfy open plan living and dining room, a separate kitchen (complete with all cutlery/crockery/mod cons) and several other features just perfect for a motel-weary family. The large bedroom was furnished with a comfortable queen bed and the children had a cosy bunk bed to share. The bathroom was a welcoming amalgamation of homely comfort and day spa. The veranda was the perfect place from which to greet the morning. And though it was too warm to justify using a log fireplace, I imagine reading a book in front of it would be a wonderful way to relax at the end of a leisurely day.

There are three accommodation options for visitors – all with gorgeous veranda views of Berry Mountain and the paddocks – including the Cozy B&B where we resided as a family.

Aside from the high standard of accommodation, there are some offerings that make Back 2 Earth rather unique in the realm of farm stays. The first is that the farm animals are not “working” farm animals, but rather rescued animals for whom the farm is a sanctuary and a “forever home”. The second is that Marc and Jenny continue to practice their respective pre-farm professions from specially designed buildings on the farm, meaning that Back 2 Earth is a farm meets holistic health retreat, where float tank experiences, massage therapy and psychotherapy sessions are all on offer for those who are interested.

Not only does the 5-acre farm produce its own organic fruit and vegetables, but the entire operation is run on the principles of sustainability, environmental awareness, zero waste and self-sufficiency. And it’s all the more impressive considering Marc and Jenny created it all themselves in an ambitiously short period of 3 years!

Exploring the farm in the rain

One thing that I love about the manner in which this particular farm stay operates (we have glamped on organic farms before in the UK), is that guests can design their own experience. From romantic getaway, to health & wellness retreat, to an opportunity to introduce your children to farm life and animal care/welfare, the experience of staying at Back 2 Earth can be… well, just what you want it to be!

THE FOOD

If you hang out on this blog for the food content, you will no doubt be curious about the culinary aspect of the Back 2 Earth experience. The main thing to note is that the catered option is raw vegan. And whether or not you are familiar with raw vegan cuisine, you are in for both a surprise and a treat. Aside from the catered packages which can be tailored to suit your needs (we had one dinner and two breakfasts plus snacks), the self-catering option is generously complemented by the guest harvesting allowance; teas and vegetables can be picked fresh from the gardens for personal use!

Fresh fruit & veg juice to start the day

Marc is the chef on-site, responsible for most of the dishes and recipes that leave the farm’s strictly vegan kitchen. Aside from teaching interested guests about farm life, Marc also runs raw food workshops which can be tailor-made to suit specific areas of interest or health/dietary needs. My workshop included recipes and demos (plus hands-on experience for myself and the children) for raw burgers, cashew cheese dip, raw yogurt, golden milk turmeric chai lattes, choc mint pralines (with amazing raw mint fondant), and more! And yes, I did get to sample everything!

Raw food workshop

I asked Marc and Jenny how they came to adopt the raw vegan lifestyle. They explained that, while traveling in the U.S., Marc began to suffer from debilitating diet related illness. At some point in the trip after Marc had required a period of bed rest, they found themselves in a raw food café. Browsing through the book collection, they became engrossed in the vegan lifestyle-related literature. By the end of that day, they’d worked their way through several books and decided to embrace raw veganism. They haven’t looked back. And I am happy to report that all is well on the health front for Marc these days too.

If you are labouring under a misapprehension that eating raw food equates to subsisting on salads of leafy greens, rest assured the food at Back 2 Earth is anything but boring; think cashew yogurt unicorn smoothie bowls, coconut granola, 3-layer smoothies, bloomed wild rice stuffed tomatoes, spirulina crackers, golden milk lattes, organic fruit platters and dehydrated apple & cinnamon birds nests. Families visiting the farm with kids in tow may well discover what we did. Our little foodies were delighted by some of the most interesting, whimsical and inspired food we’ve eaten since we left Sweden… and it all happened to be 100% refined sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free and plant-based (I think Marc is part chef, part magician 😀 ). The vibrant, nutrient-dense & delicious catered raw food options at Back 2 Earth are available at an additional cost if desired, and some are included with special accommodation packages.

3-layer fruit smoothie

Incredible breakfast spread for the whole family

 

THE R & R FACTOR

If there’s anything that will snap you out of an under-the-weather-melancholy funk, it’s fresh air, good food and a big old dose of perspective. On my second morning at the farm, I walked out onto the verandah to witness the sun rising over the farm. Playful puppy, Squishy, bounced around excitedly by my feet. At the recollection of his story (just weeks before he’d been left to die in a trash can), tears sprang to my eyes. I consoled myself by watching him happily tiring himself out, knowing that he’d found not only rescue but a love-filled home, thanks to Marc and Jenny.

A tuckered out little Squishy

Marc led me to the building that houses both the massage area and the float tank room. He explained the mechanics of the float tank process, such as wiping the glass area above your face with a wash cloth to avoid salt water dripping down.

Although the physical aspects of the float tank process are easy to relay (step in, wipe glass, close hatch, etc.), the internal process I went through during that hour is still very difficult for me to articulate. If you’ve ever had issues “sitting with yourself” then it may well bring some things up for you…. much like silent meditation, but intensified. For an hour I floated with myself, mostly in silence. I swung from finding myself in what I would describe as a semi-relaxed state to borderline anxious. As I watched my many (many, many) thoughts come and go, my body felt weightless, but my heart felt heavy. I felt claustrophobic, not because of the tank itself, which is surprisingly roomy and a very pleasant temperature, but rather because I was bombarding myself with “my stuff”; my thoughts, self-imposed obligations, insecurities.

As I bobbed on the surface of that incredibly salty water, my emotional stuff rose to the surface of my consciousness. And you know what? It is fine that it did. In fact, it is good that it did. The distractions and to-do’s that I often find myself wading knee-deep in prevent me from being with me. Or rather, just being. Anxiety starts to flare up as a result. And some of the best ways I have found to restore the equilibrium are to slow down, to sit with myself, to feel, to be in the moment… and, when all else fails, to cry.

As much as I found the experience confronting, I also found it healing in a kind of uncomfortable “break through” kind of way. The ol’ spiritual-awakening-in-the-form-of-a-rude-awakening scenario, that I am all too familiar with! At one point right near the end of the experience, I had to open the hatch a crack. There was just too much “me” in that space. I thought about all the people out there who naturally “get” relaxation. People who fall asleep on massage tables (what? Are you kidding me?)… or in float tanks. I am fairly certain we are wired differently. Or maybe I just have a ton of work to do on myself before I get to that point. Or maybe it’s not about work… maybe it’s about surrender. Or something.

The music that signalled the final stretch of floatation time began to play and I felt relieved. My session ended, I stepped out of the float tank, showered, changed, paused briefly to examine a crystal in the room (wondering if I’d receive some magical healing benefit by osmosis) and left the building. Marc met me outside and asked me how I had found the experience. I opened my mouth to answer that I’d found it “challenging”, then promptly burst into tears. At this point I feel I need to add that my husband – who, on any given day, is likely to be balanced emotionally without any concerted effort – loved the floatation experience, not because it revealed anything to him, but rather because it was thoroughly relaxing! In an understanding in manner, clearly unfazed by my tears, Marc nodded and explained that emotions can indeed surface as a result of the experience. My understanding, however, is that many (if not most) people, will experience what my husband did: serenity and deep relaxation.

THE ANIMALS

Feeding the rescued animals was of course a highlight (and something the children still talk about now), but there is a lasting impression made too by the stories of the animals and how they came to live at Back 2 Earth.

The farm began with Marc and Jenny’s dream “to live a life based on kindness and compassion, to heal our health and to have as little footprint on the environment as possible”. From that initial spark of inspiration came a farm, a raw vegan, organic health retreat, farm stay and an animal sanctuary… which is now home to 75 animals!

One such animal is Alphie. As robust, friendly and somewhat mischievous as he is today, Alphie didn’t always feel so spritely. In fact his journey to the farm started with a horrific accident, when the gate of a speeding truck he was being transported in (along with many other baby goats), flew open. Alphie was one of the survivors but required medical care and rehabilitation, after which he was shuffled from home to home before finally finding love and stability at the farm.

Cheeky Alphie was a favourite

Jasper and Puddles (horse and donkey respectively) were rescued as a duo. Jasper had suffered abused as a young colt and, as a result of being beaten on the head and otherwise mistreated, he arrived at Back 2 Earth just a few weeks ago, skittish, dishevelled and dirty. Now well-fed, loved and housed with his good friend Puddles, Jasper is acclimatising to his new home, and each day is a little more curious, friendly, and confident. He finally has a safe home and haven. He finally knows something of human kindness.

REFLECTIONS

I typed the following words on my phone on our last day at Back 2 Earth. As they still ring true in summing up my feelings about our stay, I’ll share them again here…

“The culinary experience here is amazing and it has opened my eyes to possibilities. But beyond that this place has had a profound and unexpected effect on me. As we prepare to leave for our next destination, I feel grateful… both for the chance to rest and recuperate (feeling much better, thank you to my friends who asked) and the wake up call. I want to contribute more to the world through kindness and Back 2 Earth is a fabulous inspiration.

As I sit here and type, I feel both strangely relaxed & slightly overwhelmed by my experiences. To be clear, this place is all about rest & recalibration. There is, however an element of #inspo (for lack of a better term) that provokes a deep emotional response in me. Perhaps it’s Mark & Jenny’s steadfast dedication to the raw vegan lifestyle coupled with an understanding, inclusive stance towards their non-raw vegan guests, some whom are here to heal. Perhaps it’s the fact that they built all of this on a dream, in a ridiculously short amount of time and with no prior knowledge/experience either with raw food or farming. And one cannot help but be moved by the rescued animals at the centre of this story and the new, happy lives they have been afforded as a result of Mark & Jenny’s incredible dedication to the betterment of circumstances for all beings.”

Literally within minutes of first arriving at the farm, my 4 year-old daughter exclaimed, “I want to be in this family!”, and no doubt now we have left she has taken her Back 2 Earth farm stay impressions with her both in memory and heart. I think we all have.

❤ Marisa xx

PS Want the chance to treat yourself and your loved ones to a fabulous Back 2 Earth farm stay experience? Visit me on Instagram for details and you could be the lucky recipient of a 2-night stay for up to 4 people including a delicious raw breakfast in the cozy. Valued at $600 AUD.

NOTES

Some notes for allergy sufferers: If you’re lactose/dairy protein/gluten intolerant, you are in luck. All the food made here will be suitable for you. My husband is allergic to animals (particularly horses), grass, pollen and some foods, but interestingly had no symptoms during our stay. He did bring allergy medication with him just in case and I would recommend doing the same if someone in your party has allergies. Our daughter, who has very sensitive skin, had a mosquito bite that came up rather nastily on the last day, and en route to our next destination we stopped at the pharmacy in Berry (just 5 minutes from the farm) where the staff were wonderful, advising us on the best treatment for our daughter’s skin. If you have a very serious seed or nut allergy, you should be advised that the catered options at Back 2 Earth probably wont be suitable for you, but self-catering on the farm could be a possibility.

For wellness seekers: From therapeutic and relaxation massage, to Eastern cupping, reiki, floatation tank usage and EFT, there is much to be experienced in the way of healing treatments. Marc is a specialist oncology massage therapist and Jenny is a clinical psychologist who offers individual psychotherapy, couples, parenting and pre-marital counselling onsite for interested parties.

For food lovers: Aside from enjoying the on-site catering options or participating in Marc’s workshops, house made snacks and treats can be purchased directly from the farm or online. The crackers, dried fruit roll ups and gluten-free granola clusters are all delicious, as my family can attest! 😀

For vegans: Welcome home! You will love it here! If you want to know more about the benefits of raw food or the art of cooking it, Marc’s personalised workshops have you covered. You can chat with Marc about your specific areas of interest, or do as I did and allow him to make a few suggestions for your raw food demo that will cover some different bases; sweet, savoury or both.

For omnivores: Welcome home! You will also love it here! In fact, Marc and Jenny find themselves endlessly surprised by the number of people who visit Back 2 Earth and decide to adopt lasting, healthy changes when they return home (for example eating organic food, enjoying meatless Mondays or instituting some other practice as a result of what they have learned at Back 2 Earth about sustainability and wellbeing).

For families: It goes without say that most children will find themselves fascinated by farm life and enchanted by the animals here. The opportunity to be involved in the daily workings of the farm, learning which animals eat what, how to gently approach and interact with animals, and how to care for/feed them is a fabulous hands-on experience for young and old alike.

For couples: Something I wasn’t aware of before we visited the farm is that Marc and Jenny run couples retreats that comprise a host of inclusions, including therapy sessions with Jenny. The purpose of these retreats is to strengthen connection, rejuvenate and reconnect, and I can absolutely see how this offering could be of benefit to any couple, but particularly those whose schedules have made it hard for them to touch base in an emotional way day-to-day.

For groups:
 Back 2 Earth allow groups to utilise spaces on the farm for their own events, workshops and retreats. Catering can be arranged if desired.

For animal lovers: If visiting the farm, the close encounters with the animals will be a highlight, but if you’re keen to be a part of the Back 2 Earth family and contribute to the rescue and welfare of these very special residents, an adoption program is currently being set up. This means that very soon friends of the farm – near and far – will be able to connect with the animals, hear their stories and be part of their healing process.

CASHEW YOGURT UNICORN
BREAKFAST PIZZAS

A recipe by Marc Hammond

We ate these tasty treats for breakfast (‘we’ as in, my entire family, including baby Oliver). And they were so lovely that we found ourselves negotiating with each other over remaining bites and crumbs! I appreciate that some people find themselves unsure about “unicorn food” (or fantasy food), but if you’re curious and looking for an easy, wholesome recipe to try with a touch of whimsy thrown into the mix, this could be the perfect one for you!

CASHEW YOGURT

INGREDIENTS

Flesh from 1 young Thai coconut
250 ml cashew nuts
125- 250 ml water
2 dried figs (or 1 tsp maple syrup)
½ vanilla bean (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Blend all ingredients together in a high-speed blender or Vitamix.
  2. To create different colours/flavours, blend fruit* (or superfood powders such as spirulina) with the yogurt mix.
  3. Refrigerate overnight and serve as is, or use to decorate breakfast pizzas or other treats.
  • Purple – blueberries
  • Red/Pink – raspberries/strawberries/watermelon
  • Orange – mango/rock melon/persimmon
  • Green – kiwi
  • Yellow – pineapple

 

GRANOLA PIZZA BASE

INGREDIENTS

3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
3 tbsp sunflower seeds
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 cup date or fig paste (soak dried fruit overnight and blend to make your own)
Additional dates or figs, chopped
2 apples, peeled and grated
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 tsp maca powder (optional)
1 tsp baobab powder (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all ingredients. Measure out approximately 125 ml of mixture, spread and flatten into round circles.
  2. Dehydrate for around 15 hours or until as crisp as desired.
  3. Decorate with organic cashew yoghurt, fruit, coconut or nuts.
  4. Enjoy!

*Our thanks to Marc, Jenny and the animals at Back 2 Earth for sharing their home (+ food and recipes) with us. And though we were treated to this fabulous experience, I gladly and faithfully share my impressions here in gratitude for the wonderful time we had.

*Thank you to the staff at Broadmeadow Medical Centre and Strachans Pharmacy for being so thorough & kind when we stopped by en route to Back 2 Earth.

 

PEACH & STRAWBERRY MUFFIN BAKED OATS (+ a couple of foodie reflections on Byron Bay)

Firstly, a Happy Easter Monday to all who are celebrating! The recipe that follows below is simple, delicious breakfast treat; one that definitely errs on the side of wholesome in the midst of chocolate-drenched April. Secondly, I apologise in advance if the next few posts I write defy the laws of chronology, but such is life on the road that I can never quite keep up with myself, let alone all the ‘happenings’. As it is, I recently found myself in possession of a punnet of organic edible flowers from Byron Bay. And so, having used them to decorate the very dish I’m sharing with you today, I have decided to start this patchwork quilt-esque series of posts there; on the coast of New South Wales, in hippie-meets-hipster ville Byron.

We left Sweden in January to embark upon a series of adventures that started in Connecticut (I’ll come back to that one) and has led us all the way back to Adelaide again after a road trip loop that saw us cover thousands of kilometers. Literally. Our road trip began in Adelaide, taking us to Hay, then on to Sydney, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour, before we even made it to Byron Bay. I will attempt to fill in the blanks at some stage (oh, for the luxury of time and space to write), but for 3 years of my life on Instagram, I dreamed of #ByronBay. More specifically, I suppose, I dreamed of the food I would eat there whilst seated at tables previously occupied by the likes of Sarah Wilson and others who shared their Byron inspo from afar!

So as we approached real life Byron, hungry and in need of caffeine, we headed straight for hipster joint No. 1* (*not its real name) while I browsed the restaurant’s reviews on Tripadvisor. Perhaps it was a mistake, perhaps it was a godsend… I might never know now. But there seemed to be a pattern: “Great food. Rude service”, “Excellent quality of food. Terrible place for children”, etc.

My husband was nonchalant. “If the food’s good, do we care that much?”
To which I responded, “I have too much self-respect not to care!”

I decided to duck in quickly to gauge the “vibe” of the place before committing to hanging around. The menu did look amazing, but lack of seating, the bad reviews I’d just read and the half-smile the woman at the counter gave me when she looked down and spotted my daughter standing with me sealed the deal. We were out of there, and onto a distinctly non-hipster venue, Byron Corner Store.

Toasted sandwiches, veggie burgers, smoothies, good coffee, friendly smiles, sharing long tables with strangers in an unpretentious setting… what’s there to complain about, really? The prices were reasonable, the grilled veggie sandwich and the veggie burger were tasty and unfussy. The kids seemed happy with their fare too. Yes, I may have preferred some quinoa + salad type of meal over something bread-based, but it was more than passable and worth it for the chance to feel relaxed about eating lunch out with our 3 young children.

Veggie burger at Byron Corner Store

I was glad we didn’t stay at venue No. 1. There may have been a time in my life when I went to night clubs/bars/restaurants and put up with whatever the standard of service/friendliness (or lack thereof) was because it was “the place to be”. But I have a very low tolerance for that stuff now, especially when my kids are in tow. If I eat out, I expect good food and friendly service. There’s no place for attitude in customer service, in my opinion. Especially in the hospitality industry!

And that brings me to Folk. Two amazing east coast girl bosses brought me there: Louise, from We Print Nice Things and Amanda from Probioskin, with whom I had scheduled consecutive meet-ups. Pitching itself as being “organic, ethical, plant based”Folk Byron Bay ticks a whole lot of wholesome boxes before you even glance at the menu. Located on Ewingsdale Road, adjacent to the Discovery Holiday Park, it’s a foodie hub set away from the main Byron thoroughfare that attracts locals and the transient Byron population alike. Upon arriving, I was immediately struck by the lack of seating space. People were spilling out onto the lawn and most of the tables were occupied by groups of backpackers who didn’t seem to be consuming anything at all, but rather merely waiting around listlessly. Louise arrived, remarked that Folk is not ordinarily so busy and, right on cue, a table was vacated and we had a quiet nook in which to sit and enjoy a coffee.

I almost became teary with happiness when I read the menu. Though the options are few, the food is absolutely my kind of food (as in, I’d eat it everyday if I had the means and time). The prices are far better than I would expect of similar meals in such an establishment, especially when comparing them to the prices we paid for stock-standard, far more pedestrian veggie meals elsewhere on the east coast and well-known cafés attracting a similar patronage in the major Australian cities we’ve visited. I was fond of the understated rustic charm of the place… the copies of Lunch Lady magazine left on tables, the macramé touches, the wooden bowls. The coffee, as promised by many a favourable review, was good. The music was not obnoxiously loud and, when the backpackers started to disperse, the space was even more subdued and there were tables enough for the lunch crowd.

And – hallelujah! – the staff were very friendly.

Louise departed and I was joined shortly afterwards by Amanda who brought a care package of gorgeous, lovingly crafted organic Mayella wellness products with her; a timely gift, given my under-the-weather state (little did I know I’d end up in a doctor’s office in Newcastle the very next day!). It was a muggy, sweaty day and the refreshing organic hibiscus iced tea with lavender, citrus and ginger was just the thing to accompany lunch. Without much deliberation we ordered the nourish bowl and the purportedly ever-popular Folk burrito. The nourish bowl changes seasonally, I believe, but the one I had included brown rice, quinoa, raisins and cumin roasted pumpkin. I opted to skip the haloumi, but it’s offered as an additional extra. The menu comprises a tasty selection of wholesome, vibrant dishes, and even the carnivores among the patrons are sure to find something appealing.

Hibiscus Iced Tea at Folk Byron Bay

Nourish bowl

When I met with Sarah Wilson and Jo Foster for breakfast in Sydney recently (go on, pinch me!), I mentioned that my Byron Bay memories of “darker days” amount to nothing more than a hazy recollection of being perched on the edge of a roadside gutter eating “veggie nachos” (which back then meant corn chips with a bit of cheese). I was on tour with the band that I’d found myself in and the entire east coast experience of that time is a bit of a blur, to be honest. But I am happy to report that my culinary experiences of Byron (and my east coast travel experiences in general) this time around far surpass those of my past! 😀

I have meandered long enough back to the organic edible flowers from Byron Bay that I mentioned at the start of this post. And so, as Sweden embraces frosty spring in hopeful anticipation of summer, and in Australia the days are getting milder (I can’t bring myself to write ‘colder’ as 29°C is hardly that, but it’s relative I suppose!), this breakfast dish is a humble ode to changing seasons.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Easter weekend if you’ve celebrated… and I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe if you try it!

PEACH & STRAWBERRY MUFFIN
BAKED OATS

Serves: 2

INGREDIENTS

250 ml gluten-free oats
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg (optional)
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
200 ml cashew milk (or plant milk of choice)
1-2 tbsp rice malt/maple syrup (optional)
6 large strawberries, chopped
1/2 a peach, chopped
50 ml flaked almonds

OPTIONAL TOPPINGS

Extra strawberries and peach slices
Edible flowers
Coconut yogurt

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (fan) and lightly grease 2 large ramekins/oven safe jars (350 ml capacity each) with a little melted coconut oil.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, mix oats, spices, baking powder and salt.
  3. Add wet ingredients – minus fruit and berries – and mix to combine well.
  4. Gently fold the fruit and berries into the porridge mix (you can anticipate jammy fruit pockets to form as your oatmeal muffins bake).
  5. Spoon porridge mixture into ramekins/jars and top with flaked almonds.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on desired consistency (a longer baking time will produce a firmer set).
  7. Let stand for a few minutes (the ramekins/jars will be very hot at first), then top with a scoop of coconut yogurt, extra fruit, and fresh, edible flowers if you like. The baked porridge pots be kept covered in the fridge (after cooling) for at least 3 days, and make a wonderful, portable breakfast treat.

* If you like this recipe, check out the one it is based on; my Sweet Potato Pie Baked Porridge Pots!

**Heading to Byron? Check out Folk Byron Bay at Lot 1, 399 Ewingsdale Road, Byron Bay for wholesome, delicious meals (at a surprisingly budget-friendly price point) in a charming locale. For simple yet tasty sandwiches, coffee and such, check out Byron Corner Store at 47 Jonson St, Byron Bay.

Folk Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

WATERMELON CELEBRATION CAKE (100% fruity fun!)

At this time last year, I was being transferred from the delivery ward to the maternity ward at SÖS. That’s right; Oliver (aka Baby Marzipan) has just turned 1. I could cry. Oh, wait. I already have! 😛 We’re celebrating the big baby milestone in Australia… in 36°C heat (thank you, Adelaide)! And there couldn’t be a more appropriate and refreshing centrepiece than a cake made entirely from the fruit of the season.

I had intended my next ultra-belated blog post to be about an event in snowy Sweden, or perhaps our more recent trip to wintry Connecticut. Truth be told, there are several posts I have drafted that are awaiting publication. However this one was pushed to the front of the queue for what I assume are obvious reasons. So summer + Australia + baby milestone celebrations + current news + fruit it is.

To the cake. Firstly, the concept is not original. Actually, I first saw a watermelon cake pin several years ago on Pinterest (this one from Instructables, I believe), but I was keen to avoid lashings of sweetened whipped cream and the ice-cream suggested for serving, partly because my kids enjoy fruit just as it is, and partly because I just want to keep it simple. Not having to deal with melting ingredients in sweltering Adelaide heat is one less #momlife issue to deal with during a 1st birthday party.

The watermelon cake is one of those novel ideas that, since I first saw it, I’ve thought might be fun to try out/customise at some point. And when we came across a perfectly sized organic baby watermelon at The Marketshed on Holland on the weekend, I knew the time was nigh. Add to this the roaring success that was Oliver’s first taste of dragon fruit at About Life in Crows Nest (on another recent Aussie adventure), and a fruit cake – or rather, a cake made entirely of fruit! – seemed to cater perfectly not only to the current climatic conditions, but also to Oliver’s tastes.

Hopefully this highly customisable take on cake will cater to your tastes too!

Much love to all of you from sunny Australia to wherever you happen to be!
❤ Marisa xx

missmarzipan_watermelon_celebration_cake

WATERMELON CELEBRATION CAKE

INGREDIENTS

One watermelon of size of choice
(ours was around 3 kg)

Fruit and berries of choice
(We used:
1 kiwi fruit, sliced thinly
1/2 a pink grapefruit, sliced thinly
1/4 dragon fruit
A piece of rock melon
A few strawberries
A few raspberries
A few blueberries
A couple of mint sprigs)

OPTIONAL

Lime wedges or passionfruit pulp for serving

DIRECTIONS

  1. With a large, sharp knife, cut the both ends off of the watermelon.
    The size and shape of the watermelon will determine how much you have to remove in order to eventually end up with a cake-shaped cylinder, but we had to remove around 4 cm from each side.
  2. Stand the watermelon upright, using one of the flattened ends as a base.
  3. Use a bowl or cake tin of a suitable size as a guide. Place it on top of the watermelon and, using a small sharp knife, draw a line just inside the circumference of the rind. This will help you determine how much to cut away and still maintain an even shape.
  4. Using a larger sharp knife, cut the rind away in increments, tuning the watermelon, cutting some more rind away and continuing around the whole circumference until the rind is removed and you are left with a cake-shaped watermelon cylinder.
  5. Move the watermelon cake to a cake stand/plate.
  6. Decorate your watermelon cake as you please, simply piling berries on top for an easy option, or slicing some fruit and arranging something a little more elaborate (as pictured below).

    missmarzipan_watermelon_celebration_cake3

  7. Using cookie cutters to create some shapes (à la Taline Gabriel of Hippie Lane fame) creates a pretty alternative to the plastic/fondant/chocolate /candy decor that customarily adorns children’s celebration cakes. To make them stand in the cake, I used skewers and tooth picks; easy to remove before serving slices to little guests and easy to cover if desired by strategic threading of blueberries.
  8. To serve, simply slice the watermelon cake as you would any other cake, pop it on a plate and enjoy!

    missmarzipan_watermelon_celebration_cake2

 

 

PANCAKE CAKE (with whipped coconut cream & banana)

As I sit here and type these words, I find myself feeling nostalgic about last Christmas already. Less than a month ago, on Christmas Day, my family and I enjoyed this very Pancake Cake as part of a lazy brunch that lasted literally half the day.

24 days into 2017 and aspects of my New Year’s vision board are already unfolding before me, with travel featuring prominently as we get set to embark on a 3.5 month (at least) journey that will take us from Stockholm via Amsterdam to Connecticut, then onto LA… before my feet eventually touch Australian earth again in beautiful Sydney. I am feeling rather emotional at the prospect of connecting in person with some people who have been very supportive and dear to me from afar and reuniting with family and close friends who are ordinarily separated from me by oceans. I look forward to having some time/space to process things (both internal and external), to spend time with my family on the road and, in essence, to examine what “sparks joy”… and grab it with both hands!

But before I am able to share some of those yet-to-be-experienced experiences with you, I will share this recipe and the simple assembly technique (which was created on the fly with the ingredients we happened to have at home on Christmas Day).

If you have a favourite pancake recipe or different toppings on hand, by all means check out the video below for construction tips and experiment with this idea. And let me know if you do!

I hope your year has started beautifully, that your resolutions are going strong (if you made some!), and that you and yours are happy and well.

❤ Marisa xx

missmarzipan_pancakecake

PANCAKE CAKE

with whipped coconut cream, toasted coconut,
banana, pecans & cranberries

 

To make 8 thin pancakes

(use this recipe or a favourite one of your own)

INGREDIENTS
200 ml organic flour
2 tbsp rice malt/maple syrup
1/2 tsp baking powder
200 ml cashew or other plant-based milk
1 tbsp organic olive/melted coconut oil
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of cinnamon
A pinch of salt
Extra oil for greasing the skillet pan

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine ingredients without over mixing.
  2. To a skillet pan over medium-high heat, add approximately 45 ml of pancake batter.
  3. Cook for around 2 minutes or until centre is bubbling and edges appear well set. Flip pancake with a spatula.
  4. Cook the reverse side for a further minute or until cooked through as desired. Repeat until batter is used up and you have 8 pancakes of an even size.

 

To make Pancake Cake

PANCAKE CAKE COMPONENTS

8 thin pancakes of choice
2-3 ripe bananas (depending on size), sliced
125 ml toasted coconut flakes
165 ml whipped coconut cream
Cinnamon for dusting
A handful of dried cranberries or fresh berries of choice
Extra toasted coconut flakes for a final sprinkle
A handful of pecans or nuts of choice, chopped

ASSEMBLY DIRECTIONS

  1. Once pancakes have cooled, place one on a plate & spread with 2 tablespoons of whipped coconut cream.
  2. Add a layer of banana slices and top with a second pancake.
  3. Repeat the process, this time adding a sprinkle of toasted coconut before topping with the next pancake.
  4. Repeat, alternating between coconut & banana layers until all pancakes have been used.
  5. Top with approximately 4 tablespoons of whipped coconut cream, chopped pecans, berries and more coconut, then dust with a little cinnamon.
  6. To serve, simply slice as you would a cake.

 

 

2017: LET’S DO THIS & DO IT WELL! (my annual visualisation mood board)

In amongst the cooking prep in our brand new place, the study (new for 2016), the content creation work (also new for 2016) and being with all three children (yep, another gift of 2016) there’s been one big thing on my mind over the past two days; setting my intentions (or #goals, if you will) for 2017. I don’t think I am alone in feeling as though 2016 was a challenging year! In my case, on a personal level, the year was one of huge circumstantial changes and massive introspection. As a result, despite the many positives that have come my way, it has been exhausting and a little emotionally tumultuous! Let’s just say, I am ready to be done with this year and to move onto 2017, with hopes that it will be more grounded, balanced and even more fruitful than this year… not just for me but for the entire planet! I think we deserve a break from the intensity!

So, to my vision board. You may know by now that I swear by them, and my personal New Year’s ritual (which also includes meditation) would not be complete without the creation of one. You may also notice that my mood board themes are spookily similar. Personally, I don’t find it strange. There are subtle differences, but certain things such as family, food, wellbeing and travel are always going to be important to me… so they’re bound to feature heavily.

missmarzipan_2017_moodboard

From my pre-NYE Instagram post:
“Some last reflections for 2016. I realise I’ve spent much of my life downplaying ‘me’, worried about what others would think of me if they saw it all; my triumphs, my fears, my battles, my talents… the whole package. In my past I often settled for second (or third 😜) best from others whilst knowing I was probably worth more. There’s a saying that you have to teach people how to treat you (something along those lines, anyway). I was a person who was afraid to do just that. Particularly since having children, I have learned some tough lessons about boundaries. One of which is that you will surely get what you are prepared to accept. That’s across the board. As soon as I started saying to myself “Hold up… I deserve better than this!”, I inevitably got better (whatever “better” was in that instance). ‘Yes’ is a powerful word. It opens the way for new opportunities. But so does the word ‘no’. I’m someone who not only grows attached to things, but feels guilt about letting go/letting down/moving on. I see more & more that the BIG #konmari question “Does this spark joy?”, is a question I not only ask of my possessions today, but of *everything*: opportunities, relationships (on all levels), etc. I don’t have the energy nor the desire to keep up pretences in the face of fear of judgement. There’s no reason why I/you/anyone can’t be all that we’re meant to be *unapologetically*… while also encouraging others (who are keen!) to shine their light. And, as I put the final touches on my vision board for 2017, one of the squares in my collage is a quote I found: “Surround yourself with people who get it”. If you’re reading this and you “get it” thank you very much for being here & hanging out with me! And if you’re shining, SHINE ON! Downplaying to make others ‘comfortable’ is a disservice to them, you & the world! 2017, WE GOT THIS👊🏻!”

With that, here’s to the New Year! May 2017 be happy, healthy, love-filled, peaceful and kind (above all things) to all of us!

 MM xx

*Borrowing yet again from my post back in 2012, if you want to create your own, you can do so using images sourced online** and a page layout program such as InDesign or make one using magazine images and ye olde cut-and-paste method. If really pressed for time, why not create a Pinterest board called “2017” and fill it with pins of the things you’d like to see manifest in your life with this coming year?
** Picture credits: In this vision board, I have included images by Elsa’s Wholesome Life, Nourish Atelier, Nectar & StoneLois AveryDonna Hay, Food52, @robineleyartistBarefoot Blonde, The Food Club, Matcha Mylkbar and loads of others (without credits attached, sourced from Tumblr). Please let me know if one of these images is yours so I can credit you! I always try to credit where possible. x

Previous mood boards:
2013
2014
2015
2016

PEPPERMINT & STRAWBERRY CHOCOLATE BARK (a revamped version of an old classic!)

Firstly, much love and warm Christmas wishes to all those celebrating today! Over 4 years ago (I cannot believe it was so long ago!) I posted a recipe on this very blog for homemade Peppermint Chocolate Bark after seeing the famous Williams Sonoma original all over the internet and several variations of DIY “imitations” on Pinterest. Interestingly, the other day I took part in a live chat on Twitter – the theme of which was #barkyeah – with feedfeed, Williams Sonoma and some other food enthusiasts. It reminded me of my long-lost and embarrassingly poorly illustrated “teacher gifts” post featuring my own Peppermint Chocolate Bark… and provided me the impetus to revisit and revamp that old recipe.

Although I can’t compete with the Williams Sonoma bark, it is hard to improve on such a delicious flavour combination. Yet with the aid of my kitchen helpers, Louie and Lillian (aged 5 and 3 respectively), I may have stumbled across a new variation that will please traditionalists and more adventurous eaters alike.

So here it is; Peppermint Chocolate Bark, revisited… with strawberries! Just in the nick of time for anyone looking for a last-minute Christmas treat recipe that can literally be prepped in minutes. 😉

I hope you are having a wonderful, peaceful, happy weekend!
❤ Marisa xx

I dedicate this post, with a heavy heart, to Katherine of Pillows A-La-Mode, one of a few bloggers who I met around the start of my blogosphere journey who supported me (and many others), stuck around and was always about on WP with a wonderful crafty project, great community spirit and a kind word for her fellow bloggers. She will be greatly missed and I send my love and thoughts to her family.

missmarzipan_peppermint_strawberry_chocolate_bark1

 PEPPERMINT & STRAWBERRY
CHOCOLATE BARK

INGREDIENTS:

100 g dark chocolate*
100 g milk chocolate*
200 g white chocolate*
2 tbsp crushed freeze-dried strawberries
1 crushed peppermint candy cane

*Dairy-free/refined sugar-free chocolate varieties work just as well as any other!

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Line a pan* with baking parchment.
  2. Melt all 3 types of chocolate in 3 separate bowls.
  3. Add the crushed freeze-dried strawberries to the white chocolate. Mix.
  4. Pour the dark chocolate onto the prepared baking pan and smooth out into a rough rectangular shape with a silicone spatula or back of a large spoon, then drop spoonfuls of the melted white and milk chocolate on top. Use a wooden skewer to create swirls in the chocolate.
  5.  Sprinkle crushed candy cane pieces evenly over the bark. Add some extra crushed dried strawberries too, if desired. Chill in the fridge until set, or use the freezer for a super-fast option.
  6. Cut/break into shards to serve. Store unused pieces in freezer.

 

*I used an IKEA Drömmar pan, dimensions: 37 x 25 x 3 cm

missmarzipan_peppermint_strawberry_chocolate_bark2

 

NUT BUTTER BROWNIE TRUFFLE BITES (plant-based, gluten-free & low-fructose)

Call me crazy, but after much deliberation followed by a split-second decision, I started doing PIIT28 last weekend. If you’ve ever heard of Pilates enthusiast extraordinaire Cassey Ho, you probably know what it is. For those who don’t know, it stands for Pilates Intense Interval Training and is a 28-day fitness reboot that’s done in 28 minutes per day. And, yeah… I was a little nervous (it’s tough!). And, yes, it’s Advent (and, yes, I love treats!). But I am at the point postpartum that I want my energy back. I want to feel “myself” again, despite still breastfeeding and even though, after 3 babies in a row, looking like the “old me” is unlikely to improbable. This postpartum period has involved less exercise, and decidedly more cake than my previous two. But I am determined to reclaim a little ‘me’ in my life right now and start prioritising my health again.

Years ago when I used to do 70 minute-Pilates sessions on a regular basis, I felt taller somehow. My core was strong and I rarely found myself hunching over, despite long hours of university study and an otherwise rather unhealthy lifestyle. These days I seem to catch myself in bad posture mode as regularly as I find myself in yoga pants (not doing yoga, mind you 😛 )… and that’s quite a lot.

And so, in anticipation of Christmas and in the spirit of not wanting to deprive myself of treats, I created these little yummies which are to be stored in the freezer (a way to curb the stress eating I have been doing lately). And they are delicious, not-too-sweet and very satisfying!

If you happen to make them, do let me know. And if you are on Instagram, I am hosting a little Advent cooking share challenge, so if you think your festive eats are love-worthy, feel free to use the hashtag #happyhealthyadvent and tag me when you share your Christmassy food creations.

Love, Marisa xx

PS I’ll update on the PIIT28 situation when I have more soon. So far I am 6 days through week 1 and modifying a fair bit.

missmarzipan_nutbutter_truffle_bites3

NUT BUTTER BROWNIE TRUFFLE BITES

INGREDIENTS

200 ml nut butter*
1 block (100 g) 85-90% chocolate
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 tbsp rice malt syrup (or raw substitute)
3.5 tbsp raw cacao

TO DECORATE

Cacao/matcha powder, coconut, flower sprinkles or whatever you fancy

DIRECTIONS

  1. Line a small baking tray (13 x 13 cm/5 x 5 in) with baking parchment.
  2. In a ceramic/glass mixing bowl over a water bath (pan with a little water in it) over low heat, combine chocolate and coconut oil. Melt together.
  3. When melted and smooth, add nut butter and mix through.
  4. Add rice malt syrup and cacao. Mix well.
  5. Remove bowl from heat. Tip mix into prepared tray and smooth down with a spatula.
  6. Decorate with sprinkles of choice and set tray in freezer for around 1 hour or until mix is firm and set.
  7. Cut into pieces, store in the freezer and serve cold.

 

*I used crunchy peanut butter for the ones pictured here, but hazelnut is also fabulous and tahini works too, for a nut-free option.

** Truffles will be very soft at room temperature so do remember to serve them direct from the fridge/freezer.

missmarzipan_nutbutter_truffle_bites4 missmarzipan_nutbutter_truffle_bites4

 

 

24 DAYS OF HAPPY, HEALTHY CELEBRATION (cut the stress, get organised & eat deliciously balanced this Christmas)

As I count down to my first Christmas as a mother of 3 in a brand new home that’s barely 1/3 in order, I am simultaneously overjoyed at how blessed I am and, frankly, a little overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of keeping 3 little ones (and myself) in festive mode throughout the month of December.

When winter hit us hard this year (with record snowfall in Stockholm in conjunction with a cold that affected every member of our family), I began to dream up ideas for how I could keep up the Christmas spirit while dialing down the stress. And then, in the midst of my pre-Christmas stress-minimisation musings, Lidl Sverige asked me to partner with them in creating some no-fuss festive recipes in line with their Christmas campaign, the premise of which is making sure no Christmas hero goes unsung (yes, that includes all those of us who budget/organise/pour love into creating an enjoyable celebration for our near & dear ones) while encouraging everyone to join in with the preparations.

So, with this post I am combining both my organisational tips for a peaceful, Advent with healthy, wholesome, budget-friendly festive recipes that can be prepped (with help from the kids) in advance of your celebration!

If we’ve been in touch for a while, you may know that I am an avid list writer with a propensity for taking on way too many commitments than can possibly be sustainable long-term. During 2016, in amongst having a baby, registering my own business (the same week as giving birth, no less 😛 ), selling our old place, moving to our new place and taking 4 separate overseas trips, I also started studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I know that sounds like the decision-making of a mad woman, but there has been some logic to it all… and an important lesson that I have learned as a direct result of taking my course. I have a daily journal that was given to me by my school and with it I am supposed to set a daily intention, writing 3 – yes, 3 as opposed to 333 – tasks to undertake on any given day. It’s been a simple way of taking my list writing down a notch, finding a little more personal focus in the midst of circumstantial chaos, and generally getting back to basics.

I have decided to apply the same keep-it-simple tactic to Advent and Christmas this year. And I will combine this approach with others I believe work too, based on personal experience.

MY TOP TIPS FOR MINIMISING FESTIVITY-RELATED STRESS

Enjoy the lead-up, not just the occasion itself
This is crucial for someone like me who tends to suffer from pre-event anxiousness! In many areas of my life I am a ‘journey person’ as opposed to a destination one. I would like that to carry over to all areas of my life!

Prioritise experiences over things
For several reasons I believe this is the “way forward”. I don’t believe that any amount of toys/gifts/objects will shape my children more positively than quality time spent as a family having fun will, be it doing simple things such as baking together at home or travelling somewhere on a day trip. Secondly, budget doesn’t have to play such a large role in simple, everyday experiences. A trip to a park is free. As can be a crafting session to recycle things that may otherwise have been thrown out. Christmas is an occasion where the food is in focus, but you can be kinder to your bank balance by buying good quality, budget-friendly produce and cooking at home as a family… and the memory-making possibilities of doing so are invaluable. And on that note…

Get the family involved in preparation
Firstly, it makes it more fun. Secondly, the responsibilities are shared. Thirdly, preparation becomes a fun activity rather than a burden to be carried by one person!

Practice gratitude… and remember what it’s all about
Practicing gratitude has to be one of the easiest methods I use to snap myself out of a negative mind state any day/time of the year. And whether it comes to planning Christmas, a wedding or a party, keeping the core reason for the event in mind can also help stave off anxiety. Recently I spoke at an event about social media (more on that in an upcoming blog post). I am not a public speaker nor am I accustomed to putting myself “out there”, but the event was raising charitable legacy funds. So keeping that in my mind every time it all seemed overwhelming really helped, especially on the night itself (in fact, I was surprisingly calm and centred).

Be mindful of health & balance
Like gratitude, this is always important, but perhaps it’s even more apt to be mindful during a time of busyness, indulgence and (if you live where it’s bitterly cold 😛 ) reduced immunity.

 

’24 DAYS OF HAPPY, HEALTHY CELEBRATION’
ADVENT CALENDAR

If the things listed above resonate with you, yet you don’t know where to start when it comes to implementing them, I have taken the classic advent calendar model and replaced the “things” (candy/small gifts) that would normally be tucked away with little notes. On each note is an activity, and it is my hope that undertaking these activities will bring me and my family (and you & yours) a happier, healthier, more balanced December.

DOWNLOAD YOURS HERE!

missmarzipan_24days_advent_printable-1

I have kept each note date-free and there are 16 pre-filled activity notes and 16 blank, making this Advent calendar highly customisable and leaving room for you to include all your personal favourite family traditions. Mix and match suggested activities with your own unique ones, and choose your own days/ calendar dates. In fact, you don’t even need to use an actual advent calendar (but it is rather cute, and fun for the kids to discover the “treat” du jour!).

 

missmarzipan_advent_calendar

missmarzipan-lidl_advent_calendar
For each suggested activity there is the easy version, then the super-easy one. I truly want this to be an achievable and fun exercise; the exact opposite of stressful.

For some of the activities, there are links to YouTube videos (click on them directly in the downloadable pdf or in the suggestions list below!). For some of them a recipe or crafting activity is mentioned.

And, to make things even easier for you, in partnership with Lidl Sverige (who have a clear goal of breaking the “Christmas stress” mold this year), I have created 3 simple wholesome recipes that can all be prepped ahead of time to hopefully make your holidays even more balanced and relaxing. And they’re all right here in this very post!

3 SIMPLE PREP-AHEAD RECIPES

to add to your no-fuss Christmas repertoire

Speckled Gingerbread Cookies

Based on the cookie recipe shared back when my little Oliver was a newborn, these no-fuss homemade treats (and a delicious smelling kitchen) are just minutes away! Make the dough in advance, freeze/refrigerate it and bake cookies as needed (or bake them and then freeze and thaw before serving!).

missmarzipan_speckled_gingerbread_cookies

INGREDIENTS

375 ml almond flour
60 ml tapioca flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground clove
A pinch of salt
¼ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
70 ml maple syrup
3 tbsp speckles of choice (e.g., chopped dried cranberries/cacao nibs/chopped dark chocolate/currants)

FOR DECORATING (optional)

Melted dark chocolate
Desiccated coconut

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine all dry ingredients. Add the coconut oil and syrup and mix until dough comes together.
  3. If your dough feels particularly tacky/sticky, place it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to firm up a little, otherwise place it directly on a sheet of baking paper and dust it with a little tapioca flour.
  4. Roll the dough out flat with a rolling-pin (to around a 1/2 cm in thickness). Cut out as many gingerbread cookie shapes from the sheet of dough as you can. Re-form, re-dust and re-roll the excess dough to cut out extra cookie shapes.
  5. Bake for about 8-10 minutes (depending on cookie size and temperament of oven) and allow to cool completely before decorating with chocolate and coconut “sprinkles” if you like. To set the chocolate, place the cookies in the fridge or freezer.

 

 

Roast Veg & Buckwheat Salad with Ginger, Tamari & Orange Dressing

Roast the veggies and make the dressing and buckwheat the day before serving. Simply dress and add fresh greens when meal time rolls around.

missmarzipan_roast_veg_buckwheat_salad

INGREDIENTS

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 aubergines, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, cut into 6 wedges
3 tbsp olive oil/melted coconut oil

FOR BUCKWHEAT

450 ml buckwheat groats
750 ml water
A good pinch of salt

DRESSING INGREDIENTS

1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in thirds
1 clove garlic, peeled & cut in half
2 tbsp olive oil
50 ml tamari
50 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (approx. 1/2 an orange)

TO ADD WHEN SERVING

Finely chopped herbs (such as parsley and chives)
Mixed fresh greens (such as rucola and baby spinach)
Pomegranate arils from half a pomegranate
2 tbsp pepitas

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C (fan).
  2. Line a deep baking tray with foil/baking parchment.
  3. Add chopped aubergine and sweet potatoes to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle over oil and give the bowl a shake to coat the vegetables evenly.
  4. Tip veggies into the prepared tray and pop it in the oven for 30-35 minutes or until veggies are nicely roasted with edges caramelising/turning brown.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare buckwheat. Rinse buckwheat groats in a sieve under running water. Add to a large sauce pan with the water and a pinch of salt and allow to cook over low heat for around 20 minutes or until groats have cooked through and water is absorbed. Once done, remove from heat and allow to cool. Can be stored in the fridge or freezer prior to use.
  6. While the buckwheat is cooking and the veggies are roasting, prepare the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a small jar. Firmly screw on the lid, give the jar a good shake. Set to the side. Dressing can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. Note: the large pieces of garlic and ginger should be removed from dressing before serving (they are for infusing, not eating!).
  7. When ready to serve the salad, spoon buckwheat onto serving dish, top with roasted veggies, dress with half the dressing (reserve the rest for people to add extra as they like) and top with fresh greens, herbs, pomegranate arils and seeds.
  8. This dish can be served hot or cold. If hot, simply warm up the buckwheat and roasted veggies and top and dress as above.

 

missmarzipan_roast_veg_buckwheat_salad3

Try serving this salad alongside veggie Swedish “meat”balls.
You can make your own (here’s an old recipe) or purchase organic ones such as these from Anamma.

missmarzipan_roast_veg_buckwheat_salad2

Leftover salad? Perfect lunch-in-a-jar fare!

 

2-Minute Festive Warm Muesli

serves 4-6

Make the basic muesli mix the night before (or hack it and just blitz 600 ml organic fruit & nut muesli in a food processor!). In the morning, simply pour over hot milk of choice and top with leftover sweet treats, for a no-waste, no-fuss festive breakfast.
Tip: if you made the previous two recipes you should have a selection of things (e.g., cookies, cranberries, pomegranate arils, orange and dark chocolate) to spare. These little bits and bobs make for the perfect toppings for your oats.

missmarzipan_festive_warm_muesli

MUESLI INGREDIENTS

400 ml of oats
100 ml dates/golden raisins/dried apricots
100 ml almonds
80 ml desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground clove

DIRECTIONS

  1. Blitz all ingredients (or 600 ml fruit and nut muesli) in a food processor to combine and reduce to a coarse crumb consistency.
  2. Store mix in an airtight container.
  3. When ready to serve, for each 100 ml serving of muesli mix, heat 250 ml milk of choice (I prefer oat, almond or cashew) .
  4. Pour milk over blitzed muesli mix, stir and top with treats of choice.
  5. Serve immediately.

I hope you find this post useful in some way. And I hope you feel as I do; that a stress-free, wholesome (with organic produce!) and enjoyable December/Christmas period should be the right of every family who wants it that way, not just a privileged, super-organised or wealthy few.

No matter your family traditions, culture or beliefs, I wish you a wonderful, peaceful December and a happy closing to what has hopefully been a happy 2016! ❤

Much love from Stockholm,
Marisa
xx

missmarzipan_kids_crafting missmarzipan_speckled_gingerbread_cookies2

“Till julens hjältar och alla andra, ta hand om varandra i år. Glöm inte att hjälpas åt. Julen är för alla.”

(To the heroes of Christmas and everyone else, take care of each other this year. Don’t forget to help out. Christmas is for everyone.)

 

SOME FUN, FRUGAL DIY CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEAS

Homemade Overnight Oat Kits

Simple Lavender Salt Scrub (with free printable labels)

Christmas Hot Chocolate Mix in a Jar (with 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 (“cheat” your way to a decorated festive cookie without candy, chocolate or icing!)

SOME FAMILY ACTIVITY IDEAS TO KEEP STRESS AT BAY

Mini family yoga session 

5-minute family meditation

Family gratitude list

 

*As with the majority of ingredients, many of the items (including the clothes we are wearing and crafting materials) are from Lidl Sverige. [side note: aren’t the kids’ Lupilu jumpers adorable? I take credit for choosing them myself 😛 ] Much of what I used to create what you see in this post is organic too, yet I truly feel compelled to share that I was shocked to find the price point for ingredients was typical of (or lower than) many non-organic supermarket items found in other stores. I made it a personal mission to see what I could buy on a limited budget from this famous budget supermarket and was honestly surprised myself to see what was possible to get in terms of both quality and quantity. I have included active links to Lidl Sverige. Using these links will not generate any revenue for me. They are for your shopping convenience, for ease of searching and for transparency of sponsorship purposes only. And, as always, all opinions stated here are genuine and my own. 🙂 

 

CHOC-MINT MATCHA CRUNCH BARS (with novelty Winterfell wrapper printable)

With literally minutes left to celebrate Halloween here in Sweden, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share one of the most requested recipes I’ve shown previews of on Instagram. Many people mistakenly thought I had purchased a “Winterfell chocolate bar” when I first shared it during #foodofthrones2016, which of course I was rather chuffed about! 😉 But for those of you who’d like to make one yourself, you can download a free printable chocolate bar wrapper here.

And if you’re simply looking for an easy-to-make, last-minute healthier Halloween treat that truly tastes amazing, you’re in luck too!

missmarzipan_winterfell_chocolate_mint_bar

CHOC-MINT MATCHA CRUNCH BARS

INGREDIENTS
100 ml unsalted almond butter
4 tbsp rice malt/maple syrup
4 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp matcha powder such as Matcha Maiden
10 drops mint flavoured liquid stevia OR 1/4 tsp mint extract
325 ml quinoa oats (or plain oats)
75 ml crunchy quinoa/bran flakes (or other crisp flake-style cereal)
1-2 tsp cacao powder
40 g dark mint chocolate or plain dark chocolate

TO DECORATE (optional)
Melted dark chocolate of choice
Cacao nibs
Matcha white chocolate

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Line a small baking pan with baking paper.
  2. Blitz quinoa oats/oats in a food processor to make a coarse flour.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except for the chocolate and blitz until well combined (a shiny dough should start to form).
  4. Roughly chop/break up the chocolate and pulse blitz in with the rest of the mix to break it up and incorporate.
  5. Pop the mixture into the lined baking tray. Use a spatula or the back of a large spoon to flatten the mixture. Try to create a smooth surface & even thickness.
  6. It shouldn’t take long for the fudge to firm when chilled. To do it quickly, place it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. Remove slab from tray, cut as you like into squares, bars or candy-sized pieces.
  7. Eat as is or drizzle with dark chocolate and sprinkle with toppings of choice (such as chopped matcha white chocolate, mint chips and cacao nibs).
  8. If wrapping, cover bars with foil first, then secure your cut out printable wrapper with tape or glue.

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Happy Halloween greetings from our little patch of Stockholm!

❤ Marisa xx

WELLNESS & WANDERLUST WEDNESDAY with featured holistic nutritionist & intrepid traveller, Lana Jankovic

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JUST GO!

If holistic nutritionist and passionate life-lover, Lana Jankovic, doesn’t inspire you to want to step away from your computer, venture out into the wilderness and embrace whatever comes your way, I am not sure who will. An intrepid explorer, wordsmith and natural by example-style inspirer, it feels pointless to try to sum up in a paragraph how Lana makes her way through the world or her ultra-positive outlook on life and her spectrum of experiences. So I’ve picked just a fragment of one of many captions attached to one of many gorgeous images from Lana’s Instagram gallery:

“Bagged a few summits, chased the most insane sunrises of my life, skinny dipped in glacial waters, met the most incredible humans, had my heart broken repeatedly in the worst/best possible ways, woke up on mountaintops, accidentally got left floating alone in the middle of the Indian ocean, took massive leaps of faith, got dirty, danced around in pleather and blue lipstick in front of a few hundred people, got attacked by a monkey, ran barefoot through the streets of Asia, embraced the crazy adventures, co-piloted a plane through some epic ice fields, hit a few road trips, left my job on a whim, came home to my true nature, refused to settle for anything less than amazing, and raised the bar in every way possible.”

Intrigued? So am I! So let’s meet with Lana and find out more…

Marisa: As a holistic nutritionist, one assumes that you would have some travel-friendly food favourites. Any tips/hacks for travelling and eating well?

Lana: Yes! I pack my own food whenever possible, but to be honest, I’m not fanatical about it. I used to be a lot stricter with what I ate, to the point where it would cause me unnecessary stress and defeat the purpose of trying to stay healthy. Now I stay prepared as much as possible, but often when travelling I just go with the flow and adapt to what’s available around me. In Bali I (gratefully and graciously) ate heaps of local food and fried rice, because that’s what was on offer at the warungs (small, modest family-owned restaurants) around us. I balanced it out with extra water and vegetables when they were available, but didn’t worry about it too much. For weekends away and day trips around here, I’ll pack my own food – apples, homemade granola bars (I find store-bought ones always have questionable ingredients or too much sugar), healthier sandwiches (there’s not that many convenient things you can lug up a mountain for lunch), and trail mix. I’ll buy raw unsalted seeds and nuts, then add raw coconut shreds and my own dark chocolate in rather than the cheaper chocolate that usually comes in pre-made mixes – because what’s trail mix without chocolate, really.

I always suggest that if there’s something convenient to pack that you know you love and crave, like muffins, make a double batch of a healthier version at home and stash ‘em in the freezer so they’re ready to go rather than buying them at some questionable stop on the side of the highway. It’s easier to substitute with heartier, homemade versions of our favourites when first attempting to switch to healthier choices rather than depriving ourselves of everything we hold dear in life, right? When I’m travelling outside of my hometown, if all else fails I can get a simple salad with a basic vinaigrette, some vegetables, and some protein at just about any restaurant. Stick to the basics when possible (focusing on getting in a wide variety of nutrient-dense whole foods), scope out better options around where you’re staying ahead of time so when you get hungry you have a game plan decided already, and just do the best you can with what you’re given so you can feel really good and enjoy your time away. But I mean, sometimes you just need a burger or pie, you know?

Marisa: Are there 5 items you simply cannot be without when on the road?

Lana: All the snacks! Most definitely. I’ve got a thing for dark chocolate, snap peas, and tortilla chips on road trips, so there’s always ample snacks in the backseat. My iPod comes with me everywhere, because what’s an adventure without epic tunes? I basically live in leggings, so you’ll never find me anywhere without ‘em (you can wear the same black leggings to cycle around the city then out to a bar that night, right? #sorrynotsorry). My GoPro is always with me as well – being so small, portable, waterproof, freeze-proof, and basically Lana-proof, it’s been my favourite purchase this year!

Marisa: And what of packing hacks? I may be jumping to conclusions, but you strike me as a woman who knows her way around a well-packed bag!

Lana: Hilariously I’m the worst packer sometimes, as evidenced by my recent attempt to rummage through my backpack with frozen hands for my warm layer wedged right under my sleeping bag and mat, along with literally everything else under the sun {nailed it!}. I do my best to pack the things I’ll need the least or less likely at the bottom and stack up from there, but that system fails me sometimes when I decide that it’s an epic idea to go swimming in a glacial lake and my swimsuit is at the bottom of my bag, ironically right beside my jacket (who swims in 6 degree water anyway? Canadians, I guess). A friend of mine just introduced me to packing cells, which is BRILLIANT, and I’m definitely hopping on that bandwagon stat. When travelling, I pack only things that have multiple uses – all my fashion forward people, forgive me, but I’ll pack leggings that I can wear actively outdoors and can also pull out at night with boots – and not pack too many similar items. Do I really need two basically identical black t-shirts and more than one dressy outfit on a one week trip? Probably not. I’m all about rolling vs. folding clothing as well, it makes it so much easier to economise on space in a suitcase!

Marisa: Somehow, in amongst all your tales of adventure, you manage to weave in themes of self-esteem and body positivism. What motivates you to do this? And do you think that your passion for advocating the emotional health of women influences the way you travel and experience life?

Lana: Such a spicy question, LOVE it! When I was younger, I used to miss out on a lot of life because I was afraid of what others would think of me, often too self-conscious to wear a swimsuit in public or let people see me without makeup. It was easier to cancel plans and stay home, thinking that one day things would be different and only then could I really truly live my life – once I deemed myself more worthy, thinner, more this or that. I struggled with a lot of self-esteem and body image issues, disordered eating and the sort, and I would often sit out instead of getting amongst it and experiencing life to the fullest extent I possibly could. And I don’t want that for anybody. I want to see women (and men!) empowered, healthy, confident, out there in the world doing whatever it is that sets their soul on fire, knowing they have the right to take up space and don’t need to water themselves down for anyone or anything. The world needs more of that.

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We live in the age of endless pursuit of perceived perfection, especially in the realm of social media, and it’s chipping away at us. I do my best to fight back as much as I can, posting photos of myself living my life as I actually am – without smoothing over cellulite, editing out rolls of any sort, or worrying about what my hair looks like after 8 hours of hiking. I want to bring the focus back to what our bodies are capable of doing and who we are as humans, rather than what our exterior shells look like. Because you know what would be heartbreaking? Looking back on our life and thinking, damn, I missed out on so much because I felt I wasn’t good enough exactly as I am to show up and claim what’s mine in this world, to share all my talents and gifts, no matter what I look like or how much I weigh. It would shatter you. So I do my best to share transparently, remind people that they’re badasses and can go after whatever they dream of, and bring back a little real-life grounded humanness into the online world. It definitely has influenced my life in more ways than I ever could have thought possible, because sharing all of this and having others come back and say, hey, I’m doing the same and I’m totally onboard with this, just continually inspires me to go bigger, harder, and deeper.

I’ll bookend that with sharing a realization I came to this year that, when we look back one day on all the things we’ve accomplished and the epic things we’ve experienced, we’re going to remember the feelings above all else – the accomplishment, the joy, the awe, the love, the rapture, the trials and tribulations – we’re not going to remember if we weighed 5 pounds more than we wished we did, or if things jiggled a bit while we ran. So always go, and don’t take a backseat on your life waiting for the day when you think you’re worthy of your dreams. You’re worthy now.

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Marisa: Right on! Bold (and awesome) statement! And, on that, you’ve made some pretty bold decisions when it comes to exploring the world. Have you ever had any close calls with danger? Care to elaborate on the “monkey attack” referenced in the quote, perchance?

Lana: The most recent one that stands out to me was back in August, when I was hiking Mt. Yamnuska in the Rockies with a friend. What should have been a straightforward hike ended up a bit scary for a hot minute when we accidentally veered off the trail and found ourselves on a rocky downward slope of the mountain, wet after a sudden downpour an hour before. At a certain point we looked around, realized we had gone off course, and that the safest (hah!) way back to the trail on the top of the ridge was, well, straight up. Everything was slippery, and we were free climbing a rock face with no solid hand or foot holds on terrain that probably should have required a rope. I remember clinging to the rock, desperately grasping for the next hold to pull myself up, but every nook I found disintegrated when I pulled on it, sending shards of rock bouncing down the mountain behind me. Listening to the distant sound of rocks falling, it was the first time I was ever truly scared in the wilderness, knowing that if I slipped and lost my footing the way down wasn’t going to be so pretty. The fact that we had only seen 2 other humans off in the distance that entire day also made the fear that much more real. Eventually we made it back up to safety, and the two of us lay down on the ridge laughing off the nervous jitters for a while, thankful we hadn’t ended up in a heap on the bottom of the mountain like the bits of rock we’d sent down. It was a bold and humbling reminder of how powerful mother nature is, and how beautiful yet belittling mountains can be.

As for the monkey debacle, oh my. We were at the Monkey Forest in Ubud, and as we were leaving I saw a little guy playing with an empty aerosol container. Completely forgetting that you’re never supposed to take anything away from a monkey, I attempted to verbally reason with him (as one does with animals, right?) and grab the container from him with my foot. Worst. Idea. Ever. He came after me and lunged for my foot, baring his teeth, and I freaked out and jumped back, trying to run away quickly as he chased me down. Luckily he didn’t get me, but I was mildly traumatized for a few hours after, haha! Not all adorableness and cuddles, those ones, hey?!

Marisa: No, I guess not! It’s actually a fear of mine (being attacked by a monkey, that is 😛 ). And expanding upon the previous question, have you ever second-guessed a decision you’ve made or ended up somewhere in the world thinking, “What am I doing here?”.  And in hindsight, do you have any travel regrets?

Lana: I tend to err on the side of impulsiveness, so there have been many days where I’ve spontaneously ended up running with some wild ideas (understatement of the year). It’s never been in a negative sense though, and I have no regrets about any of it. At the end of the day, even the stickier situations I’ve landed myself in can always be chalked down to an accumulation of experiences. I mean, take for example me clinging to those rocks on Mt. Yamnuska. Sure, a part of me was mentally tapping myself on the shoulder repeatedly to point out how nicely I had messed up, but my rational mind was reminding me, alright, we’re here now, and we need to stay calm, figure this out, and deal with it.

Any regrets I’ve had with regards to travel, people, and experiences could all be boiled down to those times where I didn’t end up doing what I wanted to do for one reason or another. 5 years ago when I had spent 9 months living in Brisbane, I kept putting off visiting Melbourne, Sydney, the Whitsundays, etc. – waiting for better timing, better weather, all my stars to line up, and any other excuse under the sun. My stay in Australia got cut short suddenly, and when it was time to go, it was time to go, regardless of the fact I hadn’t seen all the things I had planned to. I still to this day kick myself for sitting on those plans and not pushing to make them happen while I was there. I think about it often, and it taught me to always go, always do the thing, always get gone. Even if conditions aren’t perfect. Because they never will be.

AND JUST QUICKLY…

  • Ski fields or waterfalls? For a Libra who can’t ever make decisions, these questions are ROUGH. I’ll go with ski fields! (But seriously, can I have both?)
  • Food truck or fine dining? Food truck, hands down. Did someone say tacos?
  • Temple or botanical garden? Temple, always.
  • Your favourite destination: Croatia is my favourite place on earth I reckon! But the mountains, oh, they will always have my heart. I’ll call this one a tough tie.
  • Best healthy food spot in Vancouver: I love Tractor, this amazing little café with a salad bar, soups, all kinds of healthy choices for a quick lunch that isn’t fussy. Endless options, whole food goodness, and you can pick and choose exactly what you want and how you want it (again, for a Libra, that’s just brilliant isn’t it?!). Also: their grilled avocado. Next level.
  • Somewhere you haven’t been that you long to visit: I couldn’t even begin to list all the places! Visiting the Yukon and Alaska are high on my list, I’ve been aching to see the Northern Lights. And the sheer amount of untouched wilderness, majestic mountains, and endlessly awe-inspiring landscapes up there? Total dream! I also have heaps more exploring to do locally in our Canadian Rockies and around the PNW. That said, my heart has a soft spot for Europe, especially the Balkans {my motherland}, so I have a feeling I’ll be finding myself back around those parts to explore more thoroughly very soon.

I sincerely thank Lana for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. And I truly hope you enjoyed reading and that you too feel inspired by what Lana shared!

Again, if you have any suggestions for questions you’d like me to ask upcoming health/wellness/travel professionals for this blog feature series, please feel free to let me know. 🙂

To connect with Lana and to find yourself transported on adventures, thoroughly entertained and greatly inspired, visit: