Here’s to… Amsterdam!

I’ve stayed in hostels before. Airbnb. Cheap hotels. And although I would like to say I don’t mind it… well, I do. I like the good life, I like luxury, I like the good stuff. Ok? It’s nice to be pampered, to have an amazing view, to be treated well, to have silence and peace, polite people around you, great food. If you don’t like that kind of stuff, fine. You know, everyone has their own preferences. And it’s fine. I think a lot people forget about that. That we are all the same, but actually different. That we all have different lives, aspirations, backgrounds… Respect is something so rare in this world nowadays and people have become so engrossed in themselves to the point that they think their opinion is the only opinion to have. The only one that counts. But hey. Let’t talk about Amsterdam. ;)

IMG_4432

So we arrived late morning on a miserable cloudy day in Amsterdam on January 4th 2016 for our three day holiday. The guy at immigration hands over my passport and says “Obrigada” – I wanted to say to him that he should have said “Obrigado” but then I remembered that I hate those people who correct grammar thinking that because they do that they are so much better than other people. In the end of the day, who cares? So I smiled and thought of all the times that happened to me in all the countries I have been to. Brazilians are liked in most places. Sometimes for the wrong reasons, but hey, if I am getting a smile and “obrigada” or “obrigado” I am taking it! Especially when I had no idea how to say “thank you” back in Dutch! Shame on me! And it was actually so easy! Duh! “Dank je” – very similar to German. Ok, never mind.

Next we got the train to town, so easy and convenient! Not to mention cheap! (Hello England – learn something with the real Europeans, won’t you!!!) Then we got a tram (which was actually not really necessary since it was only a 20-minute walk to the B&B) and walked across one of the canals and voila, we arrived at the amazing Kamer01 B&B with views to the canal, near the 9 streets, Jordaan neighbourhood and the most amazing cookie shop which sells just one type of cookie – dark chocolate with melted white chocolate in the middle! Our hosts are so nice (Peter, Wolter and Tommie the Beagle), there’s only three bedrooms and a gorgeous breakfast room where we spent our mornings and evenings watching the cyclists pass by. I could not recommend this place enough!

IMG_4368
Our morning view from our bedroom at Kamer01

Amsterdam is a very relaxed city – probably because of all the marijuana smoke in the air. You don’t even need to smoke one in this city just walk in one of the many streets with “coffeeshops” and you will get high just with the smell! By the way, “coffeeshops” is where you get the stuff, “koffiehuis” or “coffee house” is where you don’t get the stuff and so can actually breath “normal” air and stuff your face with delicious cakes which are not space cakes, if you know what I mean…

Now, we are not very “museum-type-people” so we didn’t bother visiting them. But Anne Frank‘s House is definitely worth a visit, especially if you know her story, her diaries, etc. It’s a very emotional journey going around the house and imagining that this family lived there for two whole years to then being discovered, taken to concentration camps and then all die but the father! This poor man had to live the rest of his life knowing their family were all killed. And this teenage girl who wished to be a journalist one day, a famous writer, who is described to have been someone full of life and hope… It does break one’s heart. And makes us think how lucky we are to have been born past these horrendous wars. That we cannot ever really complain about our lives today. At least us, people who live in lands with no wars and no real life threats. And there I am, looking at her diaries, deep in thoughts… and a stupid fat kid passes by with his iPad playing games on the screen, shouting at his parents and parents not even bothering. Has the world become any better? I always wonder…

Then there’s the red light district. Women in bikinis and lingerie with neon lights, awkwardly dancing?! on glass windows. Groups of guided tourists passing by, groups of sleazy men, and weirdly enough, lots of couples just like us who were too curious not to go and see what was it all about. Well, let’s say, one look was enough. I was slightly disappointed that they were not topless and my husband was just too embarrassed to make any eye contact with them or their boobies – so he says.

But Amsterdam is not just pot and boobies. The beautiful houses all of different sizes and shapes, with no gaps in between them, facing manmade peaceful canals… The beautiful Dutch people who are so good with their English and so polite it makes you want to cry of happiness. Why aren’t we all like this!! The independent shops and the many markets and cafes. And the bikes. The really cool city bikes everywhere. Definitely a very relaxing city break.

 

And as a true breakfast lover, the highlight of our trip was our breakfast at Kamer01. The setting, the food, the company. All so perfect. And mostly organic and local – double points! The husband made really well choosing this place. I can’t wait to go back one day.

Trip back home: 20 minutes walk to station, 15 minutes on the train, 45 minutes flying, amazing 2 minutes wait at immigration in Luton airport (I’m still shocked!), and one hour drive home!

Worth it. :)

Debora

x

Here’s to… nut “butters”.

Easy to make and absolutely delicious – nut butter! No, it is not nuts with butter, it’s just nuts blended until they become the consistency of butter. It should be really called nut spread… yea… so here’s to nut spreads!

 

Brazil nuts, macadamia and almonds
Brazil nuts, macadamia and almonds

First of all you need to get some raw nuts – so not that stuff you get in the supermarket which is already roasted and added a ton of salt to it. Ingredients should read just nuts – whatever they are: almonds, macademia, pistachio, hazelnuts, etc. Peanuts are not nuts, but you can also make peanut butter – of course – and it tastes great when you make your own. It’s the same process as with the nuts. :)

I usually blend at least 3 types of nuts together. Almonds, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts; or almonds, cashew nuts and macadamia nuts; and so on. Sometimes I blend just two or just one on itself. Cashew nut butter is amazing and it’s so sweet. With a pinch of vanilla – oh wow. Yum! Almond butter is sort of the new kid on the block that you find in most supermarket shelves now. There are some good brands out there but do beware – don’t forget to look at the ingredients’ list in the back as there should not be anything else added besides maybe salt. Some nut butters they add some sort of oil to it. I don’t like to add any oil because there is no need really but some people like to add things like coconut oil, hemp seed oil etc… which is fine, but I don’t see a need for it as I like the taste of the nuts alone.

So next thing you need to do is to roast the nuts on a medium to low heat and keep an eye so they don’t burn. This should take about 10-15 minutes depending on how high you put your oven on. The nuts should start giving a nice smell in your kitchen and maybe look like some of their oils are coming out. Then you know it’s ready. There’s no under-roasting really but careful not to over-roast them – meaning, burn them! It won’t taste nice at all. Believe, I know.

Next you leave it to cool for a bit and then you will need a powerful blender or even better, a powerful food processor. Especially if you are using hazelnuts! They are a bit on the dry side so they take longer to break down, and they are also a bit harder so it could damage your blender/food processor.

Ok, so, put all your nuts (a combination that adds up to a full cup/mug or as much as you wish to make really – I would not recommend less than a cup/mug though as it wouldn’t be enough for your blender/food processor to do the job) and then you blend them util it starts to get to a spreadable texture. You might need to stop your blender/food processor and give it a mix with a spoon/spatula or something to get the bits that stick to the sides. And the whole blending process might take a while – sometimes up to 15 minutes! It depends on the nuts, some are softer than others… For instance, with cashew nuts, it is a bit faster than with hazelnuts.

Once you get a good soft, sort of oily, texture – or the one you prefer, maybe you want a chunkier sort of butter – than you add a pinch of salt, stir again and then transfer it all to a jar and keep in the fridge. It should keep for at least a couple of weeks.

You can also play around with it and add other things such as vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, coconut oil, seeds… You can use the nut butter in sauces (just mix with some olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper), as a spread on breads and crackers with some fruit or jam on top, or even cheese! You can add to yogurt, you can use in baking, or to make energy balls. I normally have them on Saturdays on top of my pancakes or with bread and fried banana, or during the week I snack on it on top of rice or rye crackers with some fruit. Nut butters are very versatile, not to mention very filling and super healthy!

Homemade pumpernickel bagel with nut butter and strawberries
Homemade pumpernickel bagel with nut butter and strawberries

 

Rice cracker with nut butter, banana and cacao nibs
Rice cracker with nut butter, banana and cacao nibs

 

IMG_0018
Homemade peanut butter cookie (made with homemade peanut butter) and homemade banana “ice cream”

 

IMG_4312
And my favourite: homemade bread with nut butter, baked banana (or fried banana which is what I usually do), cacao nibs and desiccated coconut!

On a future post I will also include a homemade nutella recipe. Still trying to perfect the ones that I have tried making.

Anyway, have a go with the nut butters and enjoy! :D

Debora

x

 

Here’s to… getting rid of crap.

I had so many views on my last post that it motivated me to write a bit more today! YEY!

To complement my last post I decided to give here some tips to help sorting out your kitchen and making it ready for a healthier food-lifestyle. This is based on all those books, websites and courses I mentioned getting obsessed with in my previous post. Ok, so here we go.

  • First, have a look around your kitchen. How much crap do you have in there that has been sitting on shelves, counters or even in your fridge/freezer that you have never used or used once and forgot all about it? What is the expiration date on them? Do they still smell ok? I mean, really. Get rid of that shit. Even if it is something that you will likely start using in your new found love for food, if it is expired or opened for too long, it’s not going to make you any good. Just throw it. Oh, but keep the glass the jars – give it a good wash. You might use it to store other stuff in them. It is better to store food in glass jars rather than plastic! Plastic has toxins that can leak to your food. Yep.
  • Ok, next… what kind of sauces do you have hanging around your kitchen? Have you ever looked at their ingredients’ list? Do you know how much sugar goes into ketchup, mayonnaise and the likes? Get rid of them all and learn how to make your own sauces! You can use olive oil (cold pressed preferably), fresh lemons, tahini, nut butters, fresh herbs, garlic, mustard… once you learn how to make your own you’ll see how much better tasting they will be. There’s lots of blogs with tons of good recipes. Also, there are some brands that make really nice-just-a-few-ingredients-and-no-sugar type sauces. Buy those next time. Just keep reading the labels.
  • Do you drink coffee and tea with sugar? Do you keep white sugar in your kitchen? Why? Get rid of it. If you must, buy some raw cane sugar instead. At least it has some minerals to it. And seriously, you don’t need to add sugar to drinks. You think you do, but you don’t. You either like the taste of coffee and tea, or you don’t. If you don’t, don’t drink it. Coffee and tea with sugar it’s basically just sugar with water really. No, really. After you get used to not adding sugar, let’s talk again.
  • Do you buy low fat stuff? Well, stop. Low fat means other crap has been added to it to give the flavour that was taken away because the fat was the flavour. And guess what they put in it to give flavour? Yes, well done. Sugar! And the fat is not bad for you. Too much of it maybe, but good old full fat stuff is the good stuff.
  • Like to eat dairy? Well, if there is only one thing you want to buy organic because you think buying all organic is too expensive then make it dairy. The amount of hormones and antibiotics that are pumped into cows is just ridiculous and it goes all in the milk, yogurt, cheese, etc, that you eat and drink. Plus the poor animals are so badly treated. Yes, they are yummy on the plate but they will be even yummier if they lived a happy healthy life. Just like you.
  • And so goes for meat. Do you really need to eat meat every day? With every meal? No. You don’t. You can learn to eat some great combinations of veggies and salads, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. It will be delicious and it will keep you full. I promise. I love meat. But once you learn about the meat industry you will think twice about eating meat every day. Plus, it slows down your metabolism so much. And gives you gas. You don’t want gas do you?Whenever possible, buy organic. And eat some fish instead – they are ugly anyway. And really extra good for you. Unless they swim in really crappy water. Then it’s definitely not good for you.
  • Fizzy drinks. Dump them.
  • Squash. Oh my god. Dump them.
  • Get a selection of herbal teas, you can make them cold as well if you need some flavour in your water. Otherwise, just drink more water. Filtered or mineral whenever possible. Don’t get me started on tap water. It’s really, really crap. Especially in this country – it’s reused water. Just yew.
  • A glass of wine or beer once in a while. Yea of course. Every night? Maybe not so much, hu. Drinking a glass of alcoholic beverage every day, or going once a month on a binge is practically the same shit. Moderation in this department is super important for many many reasons. Plus, have you heard about beer bellies? Yea, they are real! If you don’t want one think twice before opening another bottle. Do you really need to down 2-3 glasses in one night? Are you even appreciating the stuff that you are drinking?
  • Ok, maybe that is a lot of no nos, so let’s see some yes yeses. Stock up on different nuts. You can make delicious and nutritious nut butters, nut milks, granola, savoury snacks and even sauces with them. They are full of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Just don’t go crazy on it ok. A handful of nuts per day is quite sufficient. Remember, too much of anything is not great either. Not even water!
  • Raw honey and maple syrup – good sugars. But they are still sugars, so again, don’t go crazy on them. They are good substitutes in baking but it will not work in all recipes so make sure you get a recipe that already includes them rather than trying to substitute white sugar for them straight away. It’s tricky stuff. Unsweetened apple sauce also a good one, and bananas! Lovely bananas.
  • And speaking of bananas. Stock up on some fruit but don’t eat more than two portions a day – although fruit is great because of all the vitamins and minerals and fibre, it is still a load of sugar which should be taken in moderation. Yes, we do need sugar ,as matter of fact, for our bodies to function and create energy necessary for all the stuff that our bodies need to do. But it doesn’t need loads of it. Eating tons of fruit which has simple sugars in them than go straight to your blood, so to speak, is not great either. Moderation and appreciation.
  • Organic free range eggs. Oh so yummy, on top of mash avocado and a slice of sourdough or homemade bread. Yum. I had some tonight after my workout with the pumpernickel bagel I made with rye and spelt flours. yum yum yum.
  • Organic whole grain rice cakes. I like Kalo and Rude Health ones. I always keep a bag of them around because they are easy to snack on with just some butter (organic of course) or nut butter or mash avocado or mashed banana with cinnamon. Endless possibilities.
  • Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, paprika, cumin, mustard seeds, ginger… you name it. Have a selection so you can add to sauces, soups, roasts, etc. Ginger and turmeric are also great to reducing inflammation, digestive issues and as an overall body tonic!
  • Dried herbs, good to have those too to add flavour when you don’t have fresh herbs to hand.
  • A good olive oil (cold pressed for purity), coconut oil, ghee, cold pressed rapeseed oil… and all organic if possible.
  • Apple cider vinegar and lemons for acidity. Lemons are good in everything really.
  • And plenty of vegetables. Of all shapes and colours. Each colour represents a different nutrient, you know… so the more colours the more nutrients. Your body will thank you.

Finally, set some time aside and get a bit more informed about food and nutrition. There are plenty of good books and websites out there and even Jamie Oliver is now all into superfoods and healthy stuff as well. I will eventually add some of my favourite sites and books here as well.

Ok, I think that is plenty for now. Remember, it is all about priorities. Like I said before, “healthy eating” can be time consuming in the beginning but worth it. Even your taste buds will change. Food will never taste so delicious. And really, it is all about going back to basics, to real foods, not processed, refined stuff made with colorants and additives and sugar! hehehe

x

Debora

No I didn't make that. Sometimes you cannot make everything you eat but you can find places that make good healthy food for you! :D You do need a ton of money to pay for it unfortunately. Better stick to making it all at home as much as possible if you are not shitting money yourself. If you are, Nama Foods in London is a great place to eat a super delicious raw meal. ;)
No I didn’t make that. Sometimes you cannot make everything you eat but you can find places that make good healthy food for you! :D You do need a ton of money to pay for it unfortunately. Better stick to making it all at home as much as possible if you are not shitting money yourself. If you are, Nama Foods in London is a great place to eat a super delicious raw meal. ;)

Here’s to… losing 13 kilos and hoping to never ever finding them again!

So, this is the post that a few people will probably be most interested in reading as I have been asked quite a lot about how I managed to lose 13 kilos. Some people were even skeptical that I had 13 kilos to lose in the first place – which I find very sweet, but yes, I did have 13 kilos spare to lose. ;)

For starters, I was always one of those yo-yo people who go from skinny to fat, back to skinny and then back to fat. I like food. And food likes me. I think about food 24-7. I’m having my breakfast already thinking about lunch. I go to bed at night looking forward to waking up just so I can have breakfast again. I know, it’s an illness. And before, the only way I knew to lose weight was to literally close my mouth. Which as you can imagine is extremely hard for someone who is obsessed with food like me. So I would close my mouth for a couple of months, go back to being on my “normal” weight and then, well, food would find me again.

The main problem I had is that I loved good food as much as I loved junk food. And to top it all up, I have a big sweet tooth as well. My dream moment is me ,sitting on the floor, surrounded by all sorts of cakes and desserts, and just stuffing it all in my face with my bare hands. I still have that dream… Anyway… around February this year I decided to weight myself since it had been a while I did that. All my clothes seemed to be a bit tight and I thought “no, surely I am not a size 14. I can still fit in a 12 right?”. Well, the scale pointed at 69 kilos. 60 bloody 9 whole kilos. “What the f***?”, I thought. No, surely this is wrong. I have never been so over my weight before. Normally whenever I thought I was “fat” I was in the 62-64 kilos mark. My “normal” being 58-59, and ideal at 55-56 kilos. Now, I know that weight doesn’t really matter because of our body shape, muscles, height etc. But I had been already diagnosed with a fatty liver and if you look at photos of me before and now… oh my, you will definitely see a difference. Especially my face and arms. Just think of those puffy fish types… no, not a great look. Though those fish are cute.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 14.24.23

So what did I do. Well, first of all I thought “I seriously need to shake off this laziness and couch-potatoness that is engrossed in my life”. Then I needed to find a way of still being able to eat and lose weight at the same time because I just could not bare the thought of going back to not eating. My husband was up for the challenge as well so I started to research on healthy eating (which luckily this year was a big trend) and we decided to join the gym with the promise that we would actually attend it this time – yea, we did pay for it in the past and just simply did not go. Waste of money, I know. I also got myself a personal trainer once a week because I really needed the extra push if this was going to work.

The more I read about healthy eating the more I understood that sugar, the refined type, is basically everywhere. And how bad it can be to our health. Basically, you find it in every single food you buy from the supermarkets. Not only the sweet stuff, savoury food as well. If you buy a ready meal, even the ones labeled as healthy, or even a salad, you are sure to find sugar somewhere in the ingredients. And the closest it is to the first ingredients, the more there is of it in your food! So the problem is not eating a cake now and again. The problem is that practically everything that you buy ready made has sugar in them. The healthy juice you thought was good for you, added sugar. The healthy low fat yogurt you thought was good for you, added sugar. The salad dressing, sugar. The soup full of veggies, well, guess what, also full of sugar. It adds up big time, especially if you have a couple of teas and coffees during the day in which you add – sugar! And the stuff is like a drug. It doesn’t fill you up, it makes you crave more food, especially the sweet type, it kills your tastebuds so you don’t know what good food is anymore, it makes you sad if you don’t have more of it, plus all the health issues such as diabetes… I mean, the list goes on. They say all in moderation but it is hard to have any sort of moderation when it comes to sugar because if you depend on ready made foods you are pretty much screwed.

Ok, I think I made my point there. And you can read more about it in the media as it has been a much talked about subject lately. So, I cut off a lot of the sugar and I also cut a lot of carbs from my diet – not completely, but I didn’t need to eat carbs the way I was eating. Especially at a desk-based job where the amount of energy spent during the day is minimum. I started to cook pretty much everything from scratch, added some superfoods to the mix, lots of vegetables – especially the green type – and carried on with the workout at the gym. In a matter of a couple of weeks I had lost already 4 kilos. I felt so much more energetic and my skin started to look much better too. As the weeks went by I noticed that I was losing about a kilo a week. I kept a food diary as well, to check on anything that didn’t really agree with me and to keep an eye on how much of each foods I was having as well. Actually, keeping a food diary in the beginning is really good. It makes you more focused and more likely to keep on with the healthier way of eating. I also got loads of books, read tons of websites, and attended a few courses on the matter – yea, I get obsessed with stuff.

I have to say that changing the way you eat is time consuming. Especially in the beginning when you are getting to grips with what is good and what is not so good, etc etc. There’s a certain amount of dedication you have to put into it. And healthy can be expensive as well. Cooking from scratch with quality products, organic stuff… not cheap. But well worth it if you think that you are investing in your body to be free from illness. In the long run you won’t need to spend money with medication, etc. But a few changes can go a long way as well, especially if you start by cutting off foods with added refined sugar and process stuff that contains god knows how many chemicals and other crap in them that your body really doesn’t need and cannot even cope with. Learning to read labels is a good start. Try to look for fewer ingredients as possible, and a list that contains words that you actually know what it means! Remember that the first ingredients are the things that are in a higher percentage in the food. So if a list start with sugar, then it’s probably better to put it straight down. Unless you are buying caramel. Caramel is pure sugar really. Sometimes caramel is good. But not all the time. Although you can secretly desire it… what, hu? … hehehe.

Anyway, I am now at 56 kilos, size 6, and very happy with my body. Im still working on it to be in top shape in terms of health as well as how it looks. But it has already changed so much. I have a lot less cellulite, no more puffed face and chubby arms, and best of all, I fell so much fitter – when I walk, I glide… hahahah I don’t drag my body like if I was carrying a bag of potatoes with me all the time. It feels really good. The downside is that I now own very few clothes that fit me because everything is so big now. The good side though is that I can go shopping for new clothes. However, there’s another downside which is that I no longer make enough money to go shopping. But the good side of that is that I have to wear a uniform for work anyway. Which is actually the downside of it because I hate uniforms. Oh, life can be so hard for some. And then all those children that have nothing to wear or eat. Yea, I know.

x

Debora

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 14.28.42
Those arms!!! My lord! Well, no wonder I was that big – look at the size of that plate of yummy french toast!
Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 14.30.08
And here’s me with my aunt in NY this year in September. The previous photo I think it was just last year. My arms are half the size now! You might not see much difference overall but I do, and I feel it too!

 

Here’s to… breakfast and homemade granola!

Breakfast is my favourite meal, and as it turns out it is also the most important meal of the day. Basically, what you eat on your breakfast sets up the pace and your food decisions for the rest of the day. It’s the first meal you put in your stomach so make it count!

I usually start the day with some water first. Sometimes if I can be bothered I have some warm water with lemon. They say lemon is alkaline and it helps to get your metabolism to kick start. But to be honest, just water does the trick as well. Some people say drink it half an hour before you eat something, some people say drink two glasses, etc… there are lots of “rules” out there. I think, have what’s enough for you. Some people might need a bigger glass then others. I particularly have maybe half a glass to a glass and I find it already makes a difference. I get full quickly with drinks so I never finish a glass of anything anyway. Also, I sometimes wait a bit and sometimes I just get food straight after… again, maybe it matters or not. What I tend to do is just have some water as soon as I wake up, go get ready and then have breakfast.

Now, breakfast for me is a bit of a ceremony. I like to get things nicely done, sit down, and enjoy it. I don’t like to throw food down my face hole and run out of the house. Food should be appreciated anyway, and every meal should be an enjoyable moment you have with yourself and the food. Make time and see how it will make a difference. It will also stop you from eating crap because you start paying more attention to what you are eating. And make it colourful as much as possible – it’s good for the soul and good for your body because each colour (not artificial of course) means that different vitamins and minerals are present. So the more colours the more nutrients. Ok, back to breakfast then…

I like to vary as much as possible but one thing my husband and I have been eating every day before our actual breakfast is a couple of spoons of yogurt (natural or Greek style, unsweetened and organic) with flax seeds (either soaked overnight or ground and kept in the fridge). Now, he needs more sweetness and crunchiness to make it worth eating the yogurt. I first made some apple cinnamon buckwheat crispies to go with it, but we ran out. So I looked around for a good healthy granola recipe and found this one from Green Kitchen Stories – Banana Granola. But as I usually do, I tweaked it a bit, so below it’s my version.

Oh, yea, the thing about yogurt and flax seeds every day for pre-breakfast. Well, natural yogurt – you know the one where you read in the ingredients’ list “milk”, and only milk, nothing else, is full of great live bacteria that do wonders to our digestive system. Since we started having it every day we noticed that we are no longer constipated. Did you know that not going to the toilet every day to do your number 2 is constipation? You should go every day, and some say even after every meal! So if you are not doing it at least once a day, than it’s time for you to rethink your diet. And the flax seeds, well, they are pure fibre which means it will help move things along down there. hahahah. They also have healthy omega 3s which are essential fatty acids, and lignans which feed the good bacteria and act as a sort of antioxidant. So there you go. We can talk more about number 2s in another post anyway… hehehe

Spiced Banana Granola

Ingredients (by the way, I don’t necessarily measure things properly so go with the flow and put less or more depending on your taste – also I use organic of most things):

  • 250 grams of oats
  • 100 grams of buckwheat groats
  • 70 grams of pumpkin seeds
  • 70 grams of sunflower seeds
  • 80 grams of a mixture of hazelnuts and pecan nuts (but use whatever nut you fancy)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla powder or extract (don’t use the ones with added sugar in it – it’s nasty)
  •  a pinch of good sea salt (throw away your table salt – it’s rubbish)
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon of molasses (if you don’t have it, don’t sweat it just do another tablespoon of honey)
  • 2 teaspoons of honey (raw honey or local honey is better for you), you can use maple syrup instead (make sure it doesn’t have added sugar to it!)
  • 2 big bananas or 2 and a half medium ones or 3 small ones
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger *
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamon *
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves *
  • a pinch of nutmeg *

(* Don’t worry if you don’t have any of these. You can leave it out or add the spices you like. I would say that cinnamon is the most important because it goes well with bananas, but you can even leave it out as well and I’m sure it will taste good. Again, up to you)

How to do it:

  • Preheat the oven at a medium temperature (each oven is different – I have a fan oven which is a bit crap and I used it at 160-180 degrees).
  • Prepare a baking tray (like those you use for roasting – it will be easier when it comes to stir things around) with baking paper.
  • Using a food processor, pulse the seeds and nuts for a bit so it grinds them a bit and they are not so chunky. If you like chunky then just leave it all whole.
  • Place it all in a medium bowl (you will use it to mix all the ingredients in) with the oats and buckwheat groats and set aside.
  • Don’t bother washing the food processor, just throw the rest of the ingredients in it and whiz it until it all comes together in a sort of moist paste (not too thick, not too runny). Taste the mixture and see if you would like to add a bit more of anything.
  • Combine the wet mixture to the dry ingredients so it is all well coated.
  • Spread it in the prepared baking tray and stick it in the oven. Keep an eye on it and stir things around every 10 minutes for a couple of times and then every 5 minutes as you see it is all starting to come together. You can leave big chunks or break into smaller ones. I left some big chunks and they taste so good!!!

The baking will take about 20-30 minutes depending on your oven. Just don’t let it burn. It’s ready when it is starting to get crispy. Take out of the oven and let it cool completely before storing it in a sealed jar. Before mine was done I turned the oven off and left it in there to crisp for a bit with the oven off and then let it out to cool later.

Make sure you taste some, but don’t eat it all in one go!!! hahahaha. It is super good with yogurt. You can have it with milk, or nut milk, and add some berries, cacao nibs, bee pollen and whatever else you fancy that you think it will go well with it.

It should last a few weeks (probably a month) stored in a sealed jar, but I doubt you won’t finish it in much less time then that.

So enjoy it, and let me know how it goes. What do you have it with, and what have you changed or added to the recipe. :)

Spiced Banana
Spiced Banana Granola – Yum Yummy Healthy Deliciousness

Debora

x

New/old challenges!

Waking up at 5:50am everyday… maybe not that great. But I have to say, I did not mind it one single bit. I am completely in love with my new job and I like waking up, having my breakfast and cycling down the road for my 7am start. If the weather is clear I can even watch the sunrise from the kitchen! Once at work I get to decorate tarts, play around with a blowtorch and other cool kitchen toys, mix stuff, glaze stuff, and talk about food all day. Heaven.

Every morning at work I assemble the fruit on top of the tarts.
Every morning at work I assemble the fruit on top of the tarts.

Ok, does it all sound too perfect? Well, of course it isn’t.

First of all, I love food. Why this is a problem you may ask. Well, the thing is that in the past couple of years I found out that I am much better off staying away from wheat. And in the past few months I also found out that I am much better off staying the hell away from refined sugar. So working in a bakery with lots of yummy stuff made of wheat and sugar – maybe not the cleverest idea. You see, I do sort of have to try it all. As well as helping me understand the flavours and textures that I am working with in the kitchen, it also gives me an insight of what it tastes like so I can tell clients when I am serving in the shop. It really makes a difference when you can give your honest opinion about a product. But trying things every day is actually taking its toll on me. Summarising: aggressive spots, ups and downs in terms of energy, mouth ulcers, feeling bloated, swollen throat and, well, a general feeling of being unwell. So I will need to take down a notch this week… or two, or three. It’s not even about moderation, it’s the accumulation effect that even moderation can bring down on you. So perhaps one weekly treat, small, should suffice. I still love baking my own healthy stuff at home so I’ll just carry those around with me and it will keep me away from trouble. I hope.

Now, the food stuff is definitely a big challenge but the biggest challenge, really, is people. It doesn’t matter where you work there will always be people that are not happy in the same environment that makes you giggle inside with happiness. Mind you, everybody I work with in this new job are very lovely and I liked them all straight away – which is rare for me! Most of them are very young, in their early 20’s so I don’t take too much to heart if they act too pessimistic around me. I understand what is like to be doing a job that is not what you want to do for the rest of your life, but what I learned with time is that it doesn’t matter what you do, do it well. Even if it is just for the passing, until you achieve your dream job or whatever. And if you are really fed up with it, it is dead simple: go after something else. Yes, it requires balls and big efforts, not to mention time, to find a new job but just being miserable every day and not doing anything about it, it is simply not going to take you anywhere. I know that too well. So my second challenge is to keep smiling, enjoying it all and not let anyone burst my bubble. It will be super hard, no doubt, but I will try my hardest this time because I am really enjoying this job.

Finally, I am not really making any money here. Minimum wage, people! Minimum wage. hahahahahahah. I laugh, yes. I’m lucky that I have my husband to support me and cover what I can’t cover in the month because as he says “it’s almost like you are paying to work there”. It’s a decision we made together and one that I am still very happy about. This job, right now, it’s not about the money at all. It’s about starting again, learning, enjoying it and seeing where it will all take me. As I have said before, I am fortunate to be in a place in life that I can do that. And this is why perhaps it is a lot easier for me to have a more positive attitude at work – I mean, hello, even washing up dishes makes me happy at the moment. This is not normal. hahahaha

So here’s to a great first week and hopefully a second, a third, a forth……..

x

Debora

New beginnings!

Today is a happy day. No, an extremely happy day. No a super duper extremely happy day. Well, you get the picture. I am very happy today. And so this is probably the best time to start this blog.

Who would have known that I would end up one day working in a bakery. And not just a bakery, it’s a French bakery and patisserie. It’s a heaven of a place if you are into breads, pastries, cakes and biscuits like me. The smells in the kitchen and in the whole shop are just so divine. Standing there preparing cake tins, something so simple, really put a smile on my face. I could not stop laughing inside my head and thinking how much I was actually enjoying just plainly assembling the bottom and little cages for the cakes we will be doing tomorrow. You know how you always hear about how it’s the simple things in life that brings us happiness? Well, this was one of those moments. Of course that if I only did that all day long it would not be the best thing ever, but it was the whole feeling of being there, and that I was actually initiating a new chapter in my life. One that I never in a million years saw it coming. And I don’t know where it is going to end but I am, most definitely, really up for the ride, wherever it takes me. This is the time to see if this is “it”, you know… can my passion become my work? Will I be one of those lucky people who do what they love and love what they do?

Well, only time will tell. In the meantime… it’s the meantime. I’m very lucky to be able to be in a position in my life where I can actually change my career like this. So yes, I am very aware of how lucky I am and very thankful too.

Ok, so for those of you who don’t know me, or don’t know me well, let’s go back a bit and explain why I am so happy working on pretty much minimum wage, I think, in a bakery…

I’m a 33 year-old woman, married, no kids, Brazilian, living in the UK for the past 8 years and 8 months. I have been working since I was 16-17. And even before then I worked here and there helping in my family’s bakery. Yes, that’s right. I pretty much grew up inside a bakery. In fact, at one point in my life I literally lived inside one – between the bakery shop and the production kitchen. Our bit of house was in the middle of the building and my bedroom was right on the passage to go from the production kitchen to the shop. But this was in my late teenage years, in my mum’s bakery. My first memories in life though are in my grandparent’s bakery. The smell of the bread dough rising, the way my grandfather sort of slapped the dough in a scale before shaping it and putting it in a tin, my grandma making crumble for the “cucas”, my uncles and aunts and my parents helping out in the shop, the queues at rush hour of people coming in for fresh bread and cake every morning and evening… These are memories that I keep very close to my heart, especially because my grandfather and one of my uncles, who was also one of the bakers, are no longer with us.

My family back in Brazil doesn’t have the bakery business anymore… perhaps a story to tell in a future post. However, my mum is still a baker. She works mainly from home nowadays and has even been learning how to make some French macarons as well. She is an extremely hard worker. I remember her working for hours and hours non-stop. But the fun fact of all this is that I was never really allowed in the kitchen. Yep. I could watch but not touch. So I never really learned how to bake with any of my family members. Actually, I didn’t learn with anyone really. One day I thought to give it a go and I remember that I tried making this carrot cake which was a complete disaster and my mum had a good laugh about it telling me that of all cakes I had to try doing one of the most difficult ones. It did not rise, it did not bake really. It was this flat soggy cake, but you know what, it tasted alright. I did get put off after that and did not bake until I moved to England and really wanted to eat a particular cake we had in our bakery back home called Nega Maluca (Crazy Black Woman – I know, don’t ask). It’s a very fluffy chocolate cake made with oil, flour, sugar, eggs, hot water and chocolate – I think that’s all – and covered with a delicious chocolate ganache and chocolate sprinkles. After baking it and coming out exactly the same as my uncle use to make, I never looked back and so the passion for baking began – and this is only about 7-8 years ago.

My actual first job when I was 17 was as an English teacher. I went on to teach English for quite a while, in between I also did other jobs, but never really anything to do with the bakery. Well, I say that but I did do a bit of forced worked at our bakery which I remember vividly of really hating it. Especially when I was a teenager and had to do some work in the bakery at weekends. Oh my, so dreadful. hahahahaha. Can you start seeing my point about never imagining me working in a bakery? At those times I remember saying that I would never ever want to take on the family business. I liked it alright, but I did not want to have to deal with it. There was so many other things I wanted to do. I didn’t really know what they were exactly but I knew that I wanted to do anything else but working in a bakery. Surprise surprise – never say never hu?

I had some really cool jobs, and some not so much, in my journey till this day. I worked in a few different languages schools as a teacher, I was an assistant photographer and a photographer for a little while, a secretary at the university student union, I worked in a few fairs as well representing a parachuting school, then in the States I worked as a PA, cleaner, babysitter, and over here I worked as an Au Pair while studying for my degree (the family actually owned a pub and that’s where I lived! – food follows me!), I did some work as an assistant to my husband who was not my husband at the time, I did lots of projects for the same company afterwards and then got a really good go in international marketing recruiting students for a few years. This last job I really enjoyed for a while, I got to travel to several different countries including my favourite – Japan! It was one of those dream jobs for a while, going abroad, meeting loads of like minded people, different people, amazing people and some not so amazing as well… hahahahaha. And trying the foods from all these different countries… yum! You see, food is my biggest passion in life. More on another post though… Travelling, also one of my biggest passions by the way. So, for a while working in international marketing was great fun. But you know what… after a few years my heart was just not into it anymore. There are aspects of it I will always miss, especially all the travel and all the amazing people I met. But something was still missing. Whenever I was not travelling I would be sitting in front of a computer, eating my way through a muffin, putting on the pounds and feeling slightly miserable every passing day.

Eventually I got stressed, depressed and extremely unfulfilled. The only thing that kept me going is probably my love for baking. About 3 years ago I started to make bread as well as cakes, and when I decided this year to stop working for a while to get myself back together and see what I actually wanted to do next, I basically baked like mad. ahahahahahah. More and more I thought, “I think I would love to work with baking… I cannot believe it, but yea, I think that is what I want.” I was a bit uncertain still, I applied for a couple of jobs and was not successful and thought maybe that is not what I wanted after all. But then this position came up as kitchen and front of house assistant in a really nice French bakery near my house and I thought.. well, I will give it a try. It doesn’t hurt to try. I got a phone call just a couple of hours later, the manager sounded so nice on the phone, and it really put my spirits up again and the possibilities of changing career once again made me feel excited. A bit scared at first, but nonetheless, very excited. I met with the owner who is the head patissier, we set a trial date, which was today, and what can I say… I am just in love with it all. The people that work there seem really nice, the shop is cute and small and the array of breads and cakes are just to die for. It is just perfect you see… I wanted a job for now that was not full time (although now I see that I would probably not mind working full time at all in this job), I still wanted a day off during the week because it’s just nice not to work when everybody else is hahahahaha (guess what, the shop doesn’t open on Mondays), I wanted to be near home so I don’t have to drive (it’s less than 10 minutes on the bike), and I even got the bonus factor that this year I started to learn French and so now I have a place to practice since 98% of the staff is French!

So all in all, although I was there for only 3 hours today, it was the best time in a very long time. I can’t wait to go back tomorrow and work more. I’m so over the moon today. And normally when I feel like this I always get anxious that maybe it will get all spoiled by something, that it will all be shattered and not work out and that all my excitement was for nothing. But I truly feel, just, I don’t know, really really happy. And it feels like it will all work out just perfectly. I haven’t been this positive in such a long time. It is such a great feeling to have. It kinda consumes you in a way that it is difficult to explain in words. And even if it does all go pear shape, oh well, I feel so happy for just having the courage to go for it. I’m not worried I am not going to be making anything near as much as I made before. I’m not worried that I have to wake up a lot earlier than before. I’m just not worried. I just cannot believe this feeling. I know it might sound a bit too much for something that might be so ridiculously simple… And I know that it might not always be as good as that amazing mille feuille I tried today (oh my god, what was that, a piece of heaven that was), there will be days where there will be disasters and stress and all that… but it will be all fine. Right? Well, you can follow it here and see how it all goes. Next post: “Day 2 – I hate this job” hahahahhahahahaha No, it won’t be like that. I know we should never say never but there is something about it that feels really right. Pleasantly surprising right.

As one of my aunts said the other day: the fruit never falls too far from the tree. I hope my grandfather is cheering me on from beyond. Miss you lots. And so I dedicate this blog to him, but also to my whole family. I would never be in this place in my life if it wasn’t for them. No matter how crazy they all were, and still are.

Until the next post…

x

Debora