Cooking for Wellbeing & My Favourite Lockdown Recipes
As we hit the two-month mark in lockdown, I think we are all starting to slow down and create new routines and a new normal in the safety of our homes. Staying safe, at home to protect the NHS and all our loved ones. Life is almost unrecognisable, and we have all been thrust into a world that by and large, exists at home (with the odd walk, and trip to the supermarket).
We are all in the middle of so much loss and uncertainty, it is a time of high anxiety, worry and stress. More than ever, we must check in with ourselves, and work hard to surround ourselves with things that make us happy and content and feel safe and at peace.
For me, cooking and food go hand in hand with wellness. Good food fuels our bodies making us healthy. Cooking is good for the soul; food and eating together creates routine, togetherness and strength in our time together.
It is generally observed that families who eat together tend to have stronger and more open relationships. During this stressful time, it is a great opportunity to create daily routines centred around creating and carving out important time together to talk, share worries or make plans. Most of us have a bit more time to plan and create healthy meals, these choices help support our mental and physical health, which is more important than ever right now.
It really does help to take a few moments daily to check in with yourself and take a little break from work, any chaos at home, or any other worries you are facing. Here are my top tips inspired by The Stress Management Society for each of us to consider for our physical and mental wellbeing as we settle into our new routines.
1) Prioritise Your Health
We are still able to go outside for our daily exercise- be it a walk, run or cycle, but you can also workout effectively at home too. There are endless free online workouts through YouTube or various apps that can get us energised for the day without having to leave the house.
My favourite at home workout is yoga and I have used Erin Motz, Bad Yogi for as long as I can remember. There are many of her free classes on YouTube, you can follow her on all social media sites and her app and website give you opportunities to join her studio and download more yoga flows and workout plans. She is so lovely, and her workouts are suitable for beginners, but there are plenty of more challenging flows for experienced yogis too!
Click the link below to explore the Bad Yogi Website:
2) Practice Meditation and Deep Breathing
In addition to exercise, short meditations or even just a few deep breaths can help us to ease any stress or pressure we are feeling. I like to do a bubble meditation when I start to feel overwhelmed and I urge you to give it a go too.
3) The Power of Sleep
This may be easier said than done, especially for those with young children! Rest, however, is crucial to our wellbeing and mood. There are small things you can do to help encourage peace and sleep; how about switching off or putting away your phone or tablet before you get into bed? Try reading instead or doing a quick meditation. Little changes can make a big difference!
4) Stay Hydrated!
Does anybody else feel like they don’t drink as much water at home as they do at work? It is something I have noticed, even though my water bottle is never that far away.
Whenever you take a break, check your water, drink some if you haven’t and keep it topped up. I have also started having a drink first thing in the morning, before I do anything, I pick up my water bottle and take on some water before I take on the day. Again, a simple change in your routine can encourage a new habit.
5) Cooking for Wellbeing
My favourite tip- food! A balanced diet will keep us healthy and energised. Fruit and veg are great brain food and don’t take much effort to prepare. With all this new time spent at home, I have been loving cooking more and trying out some new home cooking recipes. Whether you are doing this with family, housemates or alone to relax, cooking up something tasty is always rewarding.
So, here are a few of my favourite recipes right now… give them a go, get in the kitchen!!!
Creamy Coconut & Lentil Dhal
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
8 (or a handful) of cherry tomatoes diced
1 can of green lentils, drained and rinsed Handful of uncooked red lentils
1 can of coconut milk (we used reduced fat)
Crushed Ginger or 1 tsp of ginger puree
1 tsp medium curry powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp mild chilli powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
1) Add onions, garlic and tomatoes to a wide based pan and sauté with a drizzle of oil (we used rapeseed) and a splash of water for 5 mins or until the onion is translucent.
2) Add all of the spices, stir until fragrant (add more water if it’s too dry)
3) Add coconut milk, green and red lentils, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes, so the sauce thickens, adjusting the flavours if necessary and seasoning with salt and pepper.
4) Serve with your choice of sides… We had rice, vegan samosas and bhajis!
Vegan Sausage Stuffed Conchiglioni
1 pack of Vegan Sausages of choice, we used Linda Mccartney Foods Lincolnshire Sausages… defrosted and roughly chopped
250g conchiglioni vegan pasta shells
2 tbsp sundried tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
80g sundried tomatoes, drained of oil and roughly chopped
30g pine nuts
80g baby spinach, roughly chopped
50g vegan mozzarella, grated
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
100g passata (or enough to cover the base of your dish)
1) Preheat your oven to 190C/180C/Gas Mark 5.
2) Cook the conchiglioni pasta shells two minutes under the recommended cooking time according to packet instructions. Drain and toss in the sundried tomato pesto. Set aside.
3) Put the oil in to a large frying pan and fry the garlic, onion and sundried tomatoes on a low heat for 2 minutes.
4) Add the Vegan Sausages and pine nuts and cook for a further 8 minutes. Stir through the baby spinach, vegan mozzarella, salt and pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes.
5) To assemble the pasta, stuff the shells with the sausage mixture and place into a large skillet or baking dish, filled with the passata.
6) Repeat until all the shells are filled. Transfer to the oven to bake for 20 minutes.
Spinach & Tofu Filo Pie
For the filling-
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
100g pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, crushed
200g young spinach leaves, any tough stalks removed
1 pack (280g) Tofoo Naked tofu, well drained
50g dried breadcrumbs
1 small lemon, finely grated zest only
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp pink himalayan salt
freshly ground black pepper
For the pastry-
1 pack of filo pastry (sheets)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
1)To make the filling, heat the oil in a large, wide-based saucepan. Add the onion and pine nuts and fry for 5 minutes, or until the onion has softened and the pine nuts are lightly browned, stirring regularly.
2) Add the garlic and spinach, a couple of handfuls at a time, and cook for about 3 minutes, or until the spinach is very soft, stirring constantly. Drain the spinach mixture through a sieve, pressing with a spoon to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Leave to cool for 15–20 minutes.
3) Mash the tofu roughly with a fork in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, breadcrumbs, oregano and combine. Add the spinach mix and season with salt and lots of black pepper. Mix thoroughly.
4) Preheat the oven to 190C (fan) . Grease the base and sides of a cake tin, (we use spring form for ease) with a little oil. Put a large sheet of baking paper on a work surface.
5) Put two of the filo sheets on the paper with one long side facing you. Brush each with olive oil. Spoon a quarter of the filling roughly 3cm in, from left to right in a long sausage shape from one end of the pastry sheet to the other.
6) Fold the pastry closest to you over the filling and then continue to roll tightly and firmly to make a long roll of pastry wrapped around the filling. Carefully lift the pastry roll and place tightly against the sides of the prepared tin.
7) Repeat the method with the remaining pastry sheets and filling, coiling the pastry around the tin until fully covered. Brush with the remaining oil and bake for 35–40 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown and the filling is hot.
Vegan Toad in the Hole
For the batter-
250g self raising flour
1 tsp of baking powder
400ml unsweetened soya milk
100ml warm water
For the toad-
Linda Mccartney’s 6 Lincolnshire Sausages
1)Add all the batter ingredients to a food processor with a pinch of salt and blitz until smooth. Transfer the batter to a jug, cover with cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hr.
2) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
3) Pour oil into a wide based oven proof dish, enough to cover the base and heat in the oven until piping hot. At the same time, heat your frozen sausages in the oven for 5 minutes (or until the oil is hot).
4) Remove pan from the oven, add the sausages and pour over batter- return to the oven and cook for a further 35 minutes or until the Yorkshire has risen and is slightly browned on top.
5) Serve however you like! We had mash potato, peas and gravy.
Stay Home. Stay Safe.