Vegan pumpkin soup (and more)

The season for pumpkins is undoubtedly now, but what do you actually do with them? Do you carve them and then leave them to rot? Or buy pumpkin spiced lattes in ode to Halloween? Well let me tell you – pumpkins are a hugely under-rated vegetable (actually technically a fruit), filled with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, including carotenoids (great for your eyes), fibre (keeping you fuller for longer), vitamin C (to help fight off those winter colds) and potassium (good for lowering blood pressure)

Looking at a pumpkin though, you might think ‘what the hell do I do with this’? I know I sure did – I wasn’t even sure how to cut it! The great thing about pumpkin it can be used in a huge variety of dishes. Almost the whole pumpkin can be used too, including the seeds.

To cut, I used a serrated knife and cut it in half, before scooping out the seeds into a bowl. See further down on what to do with the seeds! This soup is super (souper) easy to make, makes enough to feed a family and is a perfect side or starter at a dinner with some crusty bread and, for non-vegans, cheese (I recommend gruyere).

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Pumpkins come in all shapes and sizes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pumpkin
  • 1 onion
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1tbsp vegetable spread (or butter if you’re not vegan)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper

 

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  • Cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds and pith (see bottom with what to do with the seeds) and cut the halves into three each.
  • Score a crisscross pattern into the quarters and place on baking trays covered in baking parchment or tinfoil.
  • Pour olive oil on top of the pumpkin and sprinkle the salt and pepper on top
  • Roast for 30 minutes until soft when poked
  • While the pumpkin is cooking, dice the onion and fry until brown in a saucepan
  • Add the vegetable stock and simmer until pumpkin is cooked
  • Remove the pumpkin from the oven and leave to cool enough to touch it
  • Cut away the flesh from the skin of the pumpkin and place in the food processor
  • Add the vegetable stock and onion mix
  • Blend (in batches if need be)
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

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To use the seeds: wash using a colander and remove the pith (the orange gooey bit) from them. In a bowl, coat in olive oil, salt and any other seasoning (I LOVE a little curry seasoning for this). Spread on a baking tray and cook until crunchy and very lightly browned. Make sure not to burn! Enjoy as a healthy snack any time of day.

 

OK, so I absolutely hate waste, and sadly soup is hard to make with skins, so what do you do with all those leftover skins? I have 2 ideas – pizza and miso-glazed pumpkin.

 

Miso glaze:

  • 1 tsp miso
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tsp lazy garlic/garlic paste
  • 1tsp lazy ginger/ginger paste

Mix all up and spread on the skins. Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes.

 

Pizza:

  • Tomato paste
  • Oregano
  • Cheese (vegan or real)

Spread the tomato paste on the skins, top with grated cheese and oregano. Bake in the oven for another 15 minutes. Enjoy!

 

I hope these recipes give you some ideas of what to do with one of the most under-rated and best value vegetables/fruits out there. My advice would be to go on Halloween or shortly after, stock up and make all of the above recipes! How do you use your pumpkins?

Chocolate chips oat cookies

This recipe is so simple and quick, I dare you to get it wrong. This is cooking at its simplest, but yields the softest, most satisfying oat cookies you could hope for. The dates provide little morsels of sweetness among the bitter dark chocolate and carby oats, and miraculously the entire mixture is filled with goodness (it definitely doesn’t taste like it)!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 50ml almond milk
  • 4 tbsp almond or peanut butter
  • 100g oats
  • 75g wholemeal flour
  • 50g muscovado/demerara sugar
  • 25g vanilla/chocolate/peanut protein
  • 4 dates, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 50 dark chocolate, finely sliced

 

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking parchment
  • Melt the coconut oil and whisk in the almond milk and nut butter.
  • Mix together the oats, flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, chopped dates and protein
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients in a large bowl before stirring in the chocolate pieces
  • Lump into balls and flatten partially onto the tray. This mixture should make 12-15 cookies.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the tops of the cookies are firm to touch
  • Enjoy!

 

* * I used vanilla pea protein in this recipe. You can use whatever protein you like, but bear in mind that whey may not require so much added liquid so add the milk slowly.

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Healthy quorn cottage pie

Recipes that will feed you all week, or feed an entire dinner party without a fuss are definitely some of my favourites. Coming home from work, sometimes all you want is something that you can shove in the microwave or oven and eat, and sadly the number of healthy options are limited. This cottage pie packs in 5 vegetables (although you can add as many as you like), protein and hella flavour, all for next to no money per portion and less than an hour spent in the kitchen.

I am all for sustainability, and sadly eating meat is one of those things that, for me, cannot be justified no matter how good it tastes (I actually don’t like meat at all, but know that lots of people do). This recipe works for anyone who enjoys meat but also wants to reduce consumption. Quorn is an amazing substitute for meat that is very high in protein, low in fat and has a much lower carbon footprint than any meat. Read my reasons for being pescetarian. Either way, this dish is easy, delicious and super healthy – definitely one for your weekly meal prep!

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Use seasonal and local vegetables where possible – read why

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 large courgette
  • 1 pepper
  • Vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 300g quorn (I get mine frozen)
  • Turmeric, chilli, salt, pepper
  • 30g cheese (optional – for a vegan option omit or use vegan cheese)

Method:

  • Boil the kettle and preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
  • Scrub the sweet potatoes and chop into small chunks to boil (I don’t peel them but if you’d rather do that feel free – leaving them as is increases the fibre content)
  • Finely chop the onion and fry with some olive oil and the garlic clove
  • Finely chop the carrot, courgette and pepper and add to the mix, stirring until soft and browning
  • Drain the sweet potatoes once soft, saving 200ml of the water
  • Add the quorn mince to the vegetables
  • Use one stock cube, stir into the hot water, add the soy sauce and pour over the vegetables and quorn
  • Leave to simmer for 10 minutes (or less if the quorn is not frozen)
  • Pour the veg into a large dish
  • Mash the potatoes, adding the spices and salt and pepper
  • Top the vegetables with the mashed potato and sprinkle over the grated cheese, if using
  • Cook for 25 minutes in the oven, until browning at the top
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Before being cooked

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The final product. Enjoy!

Protein cookie dough

When you just want something that tastes unhealthy, looks unhealthy and is just the right amount of decadent, this one is for you.

It needs no more introduction: peanut-butter protein cookie dough

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 50g peanut flour
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein
  • 100g honey
  • 100g peanut butter
  • 60g 70% (or more) dark chocolate (chips or finely chopped)

Method:

  • Pour all the ingredients except for the chocolate in a blender
  • Start slowly and then increase blending speed to mix
  • If you would like peanut butter swirls add the peanut butter at the end and blend slowly, or hand mix in
  • Fold the chocolate pieces into the mix
  • Refrigerate

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Blackberry protein sponge

This cake uses some strange ingredients that you might not usually associate with cakes, but once you taste it you’ll see why! The chickpea keeps the cake moist without becoming dense and the blackberries give it a pleasant tang that stops it being too sweet or bland.

If you are vegan, the whole cake can be made vegan by using egg substitute and vegan protein (although be aware – vegan protein absorbs more liquid, so you may need to add a splash of water or almond milk). As it is, this cake packs in a huge amount of protein and important fibre so definitely constitutes a very healthy treat.

You can make this into one large loaf using a loaf tin or alternatively you can make 2 small round cakes, which you can stack together like a Victoria sponge cake. I use cashew cream and homemade blackberry jam for the filling.

I would 100% recommend you pick your own blackberries for this – not only is that free but also they taste amaaaaazing and you get the gratification of working for your dessert. Now is the season and they’re everywhere so have a forage!

Macros (cake only): 270cals, F: 12g, C: 24.2, P: 15.5

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Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml honey (may need less with sweeter protein powder)
  • 50ml vegetable oil
  • 100ml almond milk
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 100g vanilla/unflavoured protein
  • 100g self-raising wholemeal/white flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 150g – 200g blackberries

Method:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C (160 fan)
  • Blend together all the liquid ingredients with the chickpeas until smooth (a couple of minutes)
  • In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients to blend
  • Fold in the dry ingredients into the chickpea liquid mix
  • Add half the blackberries and mix (it should be easy
  • Pour into a deep greased tin, preferably with a removable base (or two shallow round tins for filled sponge) and place the remaining blackberries on top
  • Cook for 35-40 minutes if in shallow tins or 45 minutes if in loaf tin. Check with cake prodder to see if it comes out clean. This may take an hour to cook in a deep tin
  • Remove from the oven; keep in tin and let cool on wire rack. Remove from tin when cooler and leave to cool further on the rack. Do not cut until at room temperature.
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If you sandwich the cakes you should level off the lower one using a bread knife

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Spread on the jam and cashew cream thickly, leaving some space at the edges

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Sandwich and enjoy!

Chocolate protein truffles

This recipe is a staple that should always be found in your fridge if you’re into fitness or love chocolate. The only problem is, as soon as you make them, they’re basically gone straight away, especially if you have sisters! But at around 30 calories a bite, you can make a few batches and not feel terrible if you eat them all (been there, done that, no regrets).

Per ball – P: 4.1g, C: 0.6g F: 1.4g, 30 calories

Ingredients:

  • 120g protein powder of choice*
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 50g ground almonds **
  • 150-200ml almond milk
  • Honey/agave/maple syrup (optional, to taste)

* I use nutristrength chocolate whey isolate. You can use vegan protein but you may have to use more milk. Salted caramel and various other proteins work really well here too! Experiment and let me know what you come up with.

** If you like peanuts, peanut flour created smores truffles – SO GOOD

Method:

  • Mix the dry ingredients together make sure they are well blended.
  • Add the milk slowly, mixing as you go. I usually use around 170ml with whey protein. You may not need the full 200ml
  • Add the honey/sweetener at this point and mix in
  • You should get to the consistence where it is extremely hard to mix but not dry.
  • Wet your hands and grab small (walnut sized) balls of mixture and roll into a ball (the mixture, not you)
  • Pour cocoa powder onto a chopping board/flat surface. Roll the ball in it using your palm.
  • Store in the fridge (best when eaten cold).

Enjoy!

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Protein nicecream

This is where the future of guilt-free desserts is at. In case you’ve not yet become acquainted, nicecream is a wonderful invention that tastes like a mix between marshmallow fluff, ice-cream and banana milkshake – and it’s totally healthy!

I always make mine for 2, so this recipe is for 1 big portion or small portions for 2 (but realistically who wants to share). It can be made vegan really easily (use nut milk and vegan protein) and is a great alternative to a protein shake if you’re craving something sweet. I use a mix of Women’s Best cookies & cream/vanilla and unflavoured MyProtein whey.

Macros (per portion): C: 35.2g, P: 36.3, F: 2.9g

Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen bananas (frozen overnight)
  • 100ml milk of choice (use less if you want it thicker)
  • 3 scoops protein of choice
  • Vanilla essence (optional)

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

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Nutty granola

This recipe is easy enough to make on a weekly basis when you will inevitably have run out of the last batch. What is so good about it is that you can just chuck in whatever nuts or seeds you have around – as long as you have the base ingredients, everything else is optional!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups oats (or substitute 1 cup oats for sugar-free muesli)
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • Dash of almond milk
  • 3 tbsp unrefined sugar (rapidura or muscavado)
  • 2 cups nuts or seeds (any mix of nuts and seeds works)
  • Cinnamon
  • Optional: 1 Scoop vanilla Huel (adds vanilla flavouring)*
  • Optional: 1 egg white (to replace this you can use a little more almond milk and/or almond butter)

nb/ You can add raisins or other dried fruit, but do this AFTER the granola is cooked (they don’t enjoy the oven very much).

*Vanilla Huel is one of my favourite favours, and even just the smallest amount can add a lot of flavour to this granola. If you don’t have any, feel free to add any vanilla protein powder instead.

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees
  2. Mix the dry ingredients in a big bowl
  3. Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan, take off the heat and add cold almond milk. Mix.
  4. Add the egg white, if using, and beat into the coconut oil (make sure the pan isn’t too hot so you don’t cook it)
  5. Pour the wet mixture onto the dry mixture and mix well
  6. Spread mixture out onto a large baking tray and put in the oven for 20 minutes, or until browning at the edges. Mix with a wooden spoon once or twice when in the oven.

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Veggie lasagne

This warming, hearty meal can actually be incorporated really easily into a healthy diet. In traditional lasagne, the meat, white sauce, white pasta and cheese make it the more unhealthy choice. This version, using wholewheat pasta, veg and better cheeses is actually amazing – it tastes just as good (even my carnivorous friends agree) and is significantly better for you. Just make one at the weekend and it’ll do you for meals throughout the week.

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Alllllllll the veg ❤

Ingredients:

  • 1.5kg veg (I use pepper, courgette, onion, aubergine etc.) – anything you can roast!
  • Wholewheat lasagne sheets (you can buy these at most supermarkets)
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 350g passata
  • 250g ricotta (see bottom for how to make vegan ricotta)
  • 120g mozzarella ball (or vegan mozzarella)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees
  2. Chop the vegetables into small chunks and toss with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes until lightly charred.
  3. Once cooked, pour into a lasagne dish
  4. Pour over the chopped tomato
  5. Put down one layer of lasagne sheets
  6. Pour over the passata and do another layer of lasagne
  7. Dollop the ricotta over the top layer and spread over the top with the back of a spoon
  8. Tear the mozzarella into small chunks and place evenly over the top of the lasagne
  9. Return the lasagne to the over for 20-25 minutes, until brown on top.

nb/ if you want to use veg that isn’t best roasted you can – mushrooms work well but must be pan-fried. Fry them with garlic and oil and then add them as you would the other veg!

Vegan ricotta 

  • 40g sunflower seeds
  • 1 block firm tofu
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 30g nutritional yeast

Method:

  1. Dry the tofu as much as possible and blend with the sunflower seeds until mostly smooth
  2. Mix in all the other ingredients, adding the nutritional yeast last.
  3. Use in place of the ricotta for any recipe. Makes about 2 cups.

 

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My daily routine

 

I have been asked many times what I usually eat in a day, how often I workout, what I do when I workout etc etc. At first I wasn’t going to write it – I don’t eat anything special. My diet isn’t an insight into how to get abs or the ‘perfect’ diet, so why would anyone want to see it? But then I thought, that’s why I’m going to write it – my diet isn’t a miracle worker, but then healthiness isn’t a miracle. It requires hard work and dedication, but you also need to have fun. Unless you’re training and eating to compete, ‘clean eating’ just isn’t sustainable or fun enough to contemplate doing all the time (at least for me). So if you’re reading this to find some miracle, you might as well stop. But I hope you don’t, because this is what a real person with real cravings and a real life eats. If you think that it’s filled with superfoods, hours of cardio and no cake, think again!

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I try to run about 4-5 times a week, either on the track or on the treadmill before a workout (photo by @mattlincolnphoto)

Daily diet: I don’t have a standard diet that I stick to everyday – my diet switches up daily and, like most people, I go through phases of eating really healthily and then have days when I eat probably (a lot) more than I should. But that’s balance, and that’s the ethos I live by. I base my diet on vegetables, but enjoy fish, quorn and complex carbs too. I try to limit animal products (except for eggs) and don’t eat meat.

Sleep: Sleep is a huge part of my life. I sleep 8-8.5h per night, although if I had my way it’d probably be more like 9.5-10h. I am a koala bear and can sleep at pretty much any time, anywhere. Sleep is so so important and stops you craving sugary snacks when you hit an energy slump in the afternoon. It also means you can train hard – it’s always so difficult if you’re sleep deprived. A good sleep routine helps me. I usually go to bed by 10, and am asleep before 11pm 🙂

Exercise: My workouts vary from day to day, and I try to mix up the parts of the body worked. I start most workouts with a 2km run or a 15 minute steep incline (8-10%) walk. This is to warm up my legs (especially needed in the winter) and increase my heart rate. This is all the cardio I do unless I got to track to train with the athletics club! I go for 2km in under 8 minutes, but of course everyone will vary. I workout abs twice a week at least, legs/butt I leave to running and arms/shoulders/back twice. Any remaining workouts are usually at the running, boxing or classes to mix things up a little. Sometimes I do full body workouts, which follow a Barry’s Bootcamp style (run, circuit, run circuit etc.). These are amazing if you want to burn fat, as they incorporate weights and cardio.

Supplements:

BCAA – Branched chain amino acids. These are three of the nine essential amino acids in humans and help muscles recover and grow after exercise. They may help reduce fatigue and DOMS in athletes. However, BCAAs probably aren’t required if you get lots of protein in your diet.

Protein – Similar to BCAAs, protein supplementation helps fix minute tears in muscle fibres after exercise. Having protein shakes is really useful if you’re not going to eat in the 45 minutes after exercise, as this is when protein is most needed by the body. I mostly use vegan protein, as whey, whilst it is absorbed more easily into the body, may not be as good for you in the long run (another post entirely)! I love strippd vanilla pea and hemp protein and am also a massive fan of Nutristrength whey isolate, which is kind on your stomach and really natural even if you’re lactose intolerant. Use FLORA15 if you’d like 15% off!

Multi-vitamins – I take multi-vitaminseveryday. They’re useful if you’re vegan or have a restrictive diet, although most people should have enough of the vitamins in their diet in general if you eat a variety of foods!

Ginkgo – Ginkgo has been used as a supplement for thousands of years in China. Whilst I’m wary of anecdotes about the wonders of traditional medicine, gingko has been widely researched and shown to slightly boost memory and cognitive speed. It may improve circulation (much needed for me) and increase energy levels.

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BCAAs, protein, snack bar and some other essentials I take to the gym

Day 1:

Breakfast: Smoothie bowl (check out some of my favourite recipes here and here) topped with muesli and crystallised ginger.

Lunch: Wholemeal pitta filled with vegetables I roasted over the weekend (squash, parsnip, carrot, tomato, kale), tomato paste, chilli flakes and mozzarella. Plain yogurt for dessert.

Snack: A protein bar/shake and some BCAAs after my workout.

Dinner: Homemade sweet potato and chickpea curry with Pollock

Dessert: Protein banana nice cream (food of the gods)

 

Day 2:

Breakfast: Bowl of chia and oat protein pudding (half chia and oats, mixed with almond milk or water and protein powder).

Snack: Slice of homemade beetroot chocolate cake

Lunch: Sourdough toast, ½ avocado, 2 scrambled eggs, polenta

Post-workout snack: Grenade carb-killa protein shake, BCAAs

Dinner: 2 egg omelette, quorn chicken pieces, kale, tomato

Pre-bedtime snack: cereal and crystallised ginger with coconut and protein powder.

 

Day 3:

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs (2) on homemade protein toast

Snack: Apple and peanut butter

Lunch: Kind bar and protein shake (I was full!)

Dinner: (LOTS of) Homemade veggie lasagne with apple crumble for pudding

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Apple crumble! I could eat this all day everyday ❤

I hope you find that useful, and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you might have. Remember, being healthy is not a miracle and it’s not a diet. It’s got to be a sustainable way of living, and one that you enjoy doing!