IT’S THE CHRISTMAS SEASON – and its GUEST POST time! As you all might have figured out by now, I LOVE Christmas. LOVE IT. It is hands down my favourite time of year – everything about it brings a smile to my face. Especially the recipes – brussel sprouts, pumpkin, turkey, cranberries, cinnamon – flavours, foods and spices I just adore cooking with. The holiday season is a time to be really thankful for family and friends around you too, and I always find myself reflecting on the year that’s passed, and new faces I’ve met along the way.
Which brings me to…Vicky! AKA @theflourishingpantry, Vicky is a fellow food blogger and more importantly, a really brilliant new friend I made in 2017, simply through the beauty of social media! She is an all round GOOD EGG guys – having moved to Dublin from London this year, we fast became brunch buddies (is there any better way to bond?), and both went to the Health Blogger’s Community Health Blog Awards this year – taking home silverware too! Vicky is the driving force behind getting the Health Blogger’s Community set up in Dublin, and I’m so happy to be helping her with these events – we recently had our very first one which was an amazing success!
So this blog post is two fold – a fabulous FESTIVE guest post recipe from Vicky herself, and a little Q&A with Vicky so you can get to know her too! I’ve shared my own guest recipe of my Chocolate Quinoa Cashew Bars and a Q&A with me on Vicky’s The Flourishing Pantry blog too!
Q&A with Vicky!
Tell us a little bit about you and your background
My name is Vicky and I moved to Ireland in May 2017. I’ve spent 10 years working in the music industry, setting up concerts and tours worldwide for orchestras and classical music ensembles. But after moving to Ireland and starting my blog in 2016 I’ve quit my full-time job and am starting to run events, write and do recipe development full-time with a new-found passion for health and wellness.
What prompted you to start a blog?
I suffer with IBS and after years of symptoms and very little support from the NHS GP I started to take things into my own hands. I did a food intolerance blood test at home and it told me I had a yeast intolerance. That opened a can of worms and I got sucked into things like anti-candida and yeast free diets.
I started the blog to record my recipes and learnings. It’s become a really honest account of my discoveries – where I’ve got it right and where I’ve got it wrong. I’m not an expert, I’m just a normal girl trying to work out what’s healthy to eat and might help me tackle my IBS and that’s what I wanted to share with the world.
Why do you think healthy living is important?
I think healthy living is important because it affects every aspect of our lives.
The more I have spent time reading and researching about nutrition and diet the more I’ve realised what we eat is just a small part of what affects our health. Healthy living encompasses not just diet and gut health but mental wellbeing, physical strength and ability and a positive attitude towards long term lifestyle changes, not short term diet and fitness fixes. Being part of this community has made me realise how all encompassing healthy living is and I’m glad that not only has my diet changed as a result of being part of the health blogging community.
What have you found works particularly well for you?
What works for me diet-wise is eating lots of vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds and reducing processed meats, dairy products and sugary foods. But that’s a really general summary and I am absolutely not demonising any of these groups. I still eat from all of them! I’m just aware now after cutting out things in a very extreme way in the past what works for me and what makes me happiest, healthiest and less likely to suffer from my IBS symptoms.
I’ve realised thanks to the research and discoveries I’ve made writing the blog that this sort of diet isn’t good because it’s ‘anti-candida’ or ‘yeast-free’, it’s just a generally healthier diet around which to focus 80% of my eating. I
I’ve also realised that the body and the gut are incredibly complicated and everyone is unique. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all. That’s an important thing to remember when looking for advice online. Listening to your own body is really important.
Any advice for those starting on their health journey?
I’ve just said listening to your own body is most important and I do stand by that! But if you are looking for help and support when taking care of your health my advice would be to get your advice from trained professionals, not celebrities or supermodels or someone trying to sell you a quick fix or a superfood product or detox tea.
In terms of diet look for registered dietitians and nutritionists which have degree qualifications in what to eat. The advice won’t be sexy or extreme and it won’t involve cutting out whole food groups. It will be solid, evidence backed and what you need to transform your whole lifestyle for the long-term, not just a week or a month.
How do you balance work and staying healthy?
I work freelance at the moment and so it’s very easy to find I sit for hours on end in front of a computer and don’t move, sometimes mindlessly putting food into my mouth or raiding the fridge as I sit right next to it!
In order to get a balance I try to get up early and go the gym, walking there which takes 30 minutes each way. When I get back home I can have a shower, do a 10 minute meditation and be at the desk for 9am having already done a workout and a big chunk of my 10,000 steps a day.
During the day I have water with me all the time and try to get out again at lunchtime for another walk which is really good for clearing the head.
Working freelance means it’s difficult to switch off sometimes – every hour is a possible office hour. I’m trying at the moment to switch off the laptop by 22.00 and my phone by 23.00 so I’m not constantly scrolling and doing things which can get me feeling stressed by bedtime.
What is your favourite recipe from your blog?
Argh, that’s so tough! I have to say an oldie but a goodie is the cacao almond mylk which I still make regularly. My Roast Brussel Sprouts Quinoa is going down an absolute storm at the moment at the top of my most popular content, so that’s definitely another one to check out this season.
What is your favourite recipe from Ciara’s blog?
Ciara’s protein based recipes really inspire me! Since I’ve moved to Ireland I’ve made more time for a gym routine and am aware that I often under-eat protein on a daily basis. Recipes like Ciara’s Chocolate Chickpea Power Bars are something I’ve got to try to get some more protein in me.
Festive Stuffed Roasted Butternut Squash
Ciara and I discussed a stuffed squash recipe when we talked about a collaboration so I searched for inspiration online – as I always do! I found an amazing picture of a squash sliced with stuffing through the middle made by Sam at vegan blog It Doesn’t Take Like Chicken. I loved the idea of stuffing the squash and slicing it up like a cut of meat, with all the flavours of a rich stuffing in the middle.
My version of stuffed squash is perfect for the festive season. I went with quinoa as the base for the stuffing and added flavour and texture with cranberries, macadamia nuts and kale for a wintery green hit. I hope you love this recipe as much as I do! The skin of the squash is absolutely fine to eat by the way – and will be soft with all the baking.
SERVES: 3-4 people
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOK TIME: 1 hour 20mins
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- A big handful of kale, tough stalks removed, chopped
- 35g dried cranberries
- 35g macadamia nuts, cut into small pieces (I got the dried cranberries and macadamia nuts together in a 70g snack pot at Lidl)
- 150g quinoa, cooked to packet instructions
- 1/2 cup / 125ml stock
- 1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds, then put both halves on a baking tray, cut side up. Drizzle the olive oil on each half and rub to coat evenly. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the squash is cooked and tender. The timings will vary dependent on the size of your squash; try not to overcook it as you want it to keep its shape.
- Once tender, remove the squash halves from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Leave the oven on! Scoop out some of the flesh in the of both squash halves, leaving about a 1-inch border all around. Keep the flesh! Dice it into bite-size pieces to be included in the stuffing later.
- While the squash is baking, in a large pan heat a splash of olive oil over a medium heat. When hot add the garlic, carrots, celery, kale and red onion until they soften. A lid might help to allow the veg to steam cook.
- When the veg is soft, add the quinoa and stock to the pan and give it a stir. The stock is just to moisten up the mixture and should soften everything up and combine.
- Add in the macadamia nuts, dried cranberries, sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Add in the chopped squash flesh and stir well to combine.
- Time to stuff! Pack in as much of the stuffing into both sides of the squash as you can. There will be loads of leftovers that you can serve on the side! Pick up one squash half and flip it on top of the other. Use kitchen string to tie the squash in 2 or 3 places to hold it together.
- Lightly brush the top of the squash with olive oil. Bake for 15-20 minutes until piping hot the whole way through.
- Serve the squash held together with string and slice with a sharp knife. The slices will fall apart easily. This dish would be great with a gravy and remember to add the extra quinoa to plates too for a seriously filling meal.
Enjoy guys! I really hope you love this recipe from Vicky as much as I do. It is an absolutely gorgeous creation, perfect for the festive season! Tag us if you try it out – @theirishbalance on Instagram/Twitter or check out Vicky @theflourishingpantry on Instagram and of course on her beautiful blog The Flourishing Pantry!
Ciara 🙂 x