Amaretto & Cherry Truffles

Recipes

Amaretto & Cherry TrufflesOne of the lovliest and funnest things to do with your friends is make truffles!

They are really very easy to make and you can customize them to have any flavour you fancy… These ones are Amaretto & Cherry. But I also have a great recipe for Spicy Orange & Rum ones. The recipe below is very rough since I dont ever measure anything!

Ingredients:

  • 3 x 100g bars of dark chocolate (Sainsbury basics 30p bar, roughly 50% cocoa, but 70% is also great).
  • 3-4 tablespoons coconut cream (I use this instead of butter or cream)
  • 3-4 tablespoons Disaronno
  • 3 teaspoons almond essence
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • Dried Morello Cherries (or any dried fruit)
  • flaked almonds or dessicated coconut for coating
  • cocoa powder for rolling
  • tiny truffle cases

Directions:

  1. Melt your chocolate very gently in a pan (or bain marie, or in microwave in a tupperware)
  2. once its all melted, slowly add the coconut cream and stir in, the mix should go dark, smooth and glossy
  3. now add the Disaronno, almond essence and honey
  4. mix together well, the consistency should be thick (this is called ganache)
  5. put the ganache in the fridge for 2-3 hours to set
  6. meanwhile, gently toast the flaked almonds or dessicated coconut in a non-stick frying pan or under the grill. This happens VERY quickly, so don’t walk away, watch it the whole time and shake the pan so it all gets a little golden. Then you can crush the almonds a little so they are in small peices which will stick to the outside of the truffle.
  7. once the ganache is cooled it should be thick enough that you can only just push a spoon in there and scoop out a blob. (if too hard, you may need to melt again and add more coconut cream, if too soft, you may need to melt again and add more chocolate.)
  8. press a dried cherry or two into your blob of chocolate and roll in the cocoa powder, then roll gently in the palm of both hands into a ball, the cocoa powder should stop the ganache sticking to your skin.
  9. now roll the ball in the nuts until completely coated and put in a case
  10. carry on until all the ganache is used up! Your hands should be quite messy by this point!
  11. Put the truffles back in the fridge to harden up again, since they may be a little soft after rolling in your warm hands.
  12. After an hour or so, they are ready for eating, firm and chewy! Eat within about 3-4 days… if they last that long =D

 

 

 

 

Forgive Yourself

Guidance

Image

We have all been angry at someone for doing us wrong. That anger just sits inside like holding a hot coal in your hands, burning away at you slowly. This is why forgiveness is so important. Understanding why someone did something helps you to forgive them. But what about when you need to forgive yourself?  It can be really hard to forgive yourself when you have made a mistake, but we all make mistakes and that is how we learn. Making mistakes is absolutely fine as long as we are always learning from our mistakes. In fact, its good to make mistakes, it encourages growth! The problem is when we keep making the same mistake over and over again that it becomes toxic and can really have a negative effect on our lives and stops you moving forward.

The quickest way to move forward is to actively forgive yourself as soon as you make the mistake, beating yourself up about something only wastes energy that could be better used on a more positive emotion. So for instance, if you decide that you would like to give up smoking, it helps to start by forgiving yourself for any damage you might have already done to your body and to others who may have inhaled your smoke passively. You can do this by placing your hands over your lungs (or chest) and saying “I’m sorry, forgive me, thank you, I love you“.  I have taken this powerful phrase directly from a talk I watched by a man called Dr. Hew Len – you can read more about where this phrase originated from here. By forgiving yourself, you allow the healing to begin.

This works for both small mistakes and big mistakes (getting drunk, being jealous, over-eating, self-harming, being inconsiderate, being judgmental, telling lies, etc.)  It doesn’t matter whether you made the mistake or someone else made the mistake (for instance in the case of rape or violence) you can still use this phrase to forgive your perpetrator and forgive yourself for any guilt you may be feeling about being responsible for the attack.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Louis B. Smedes

On Selfies

Beauty, Guidance

 

selfiesWhen I look at a picture of myself, its a bit like looking at a picture of someone else. This is because the picture is not actually me. It is just a split-second representation of me which is dependent upon the quality and strength of light shining upon my face, the angle of my face and the emotion I feel at that moment. So that gorgeous picture I took when I was all done up and on my way out, THAT IS NOT ME! Likewise, that dodgy picture my friend took from a bad angle so that I look like I have 3 chins, guess what? THAT IS ALSO NOT ME!

None of your pictures are really you, but just a split-second of time where light made you look a certain way and captured certain of your features. And none of your pictures will ever come close to representing all the incredible, dynamic, unique, multi-faceted aspects of your being… Look at this video and see how various types of light from various angles affect the way you look! It really is all an illusion…

Have you ever noticed that someone becomes more beautiful as you get to know them? This is because you start to see their inner beauty instead of just experiencing only their external appearance. Have you ever fallen in love with someone you were not even attracted to on first sight? It could be that their funny jokes, stimulating conversation, charming manner or caring nature drew you in. Well this is the best place to focus, on our inner beauty, since it only gets stronger with age. Whereas our physical beauty will eventually fade.

How much does beauty weigh?

Beauty, Guidance

Black beauty

Above are two of the most beautiful women I have photographed, not just because of their physical beauty, but because of their strength of character and the love they radiate as mothers. But you wont see them on bill-boards and ad campaigns because they do not fit the beauty ‘standard’ that has been set by society. You know the standard I’m talking about, the one where you have to be below a certain dress size, above a certain height and below a certain age…

When you have been forced to look at that one ‘type’ of beauty day in and day out for the whole of your life, its no wonder you might be conditioned to only recognize that one type of beauty!! What about all the other types?? When our own beauty doesn’t match this ‘standard’ we start feeling less than adequate, but who wants to be standard anyway?! Be YOU in all your unique glory!!

My advice would be to make a conscious decision to AVOID too much exposure to ‘beauty’ and ‘celebrity’ magazines where this type of beauty is idealized, watch LESS TV, and most importantly, don’t compare your unique beauty to someone else’s.  Think about it, these magazines firstly tell us what we should think is beautiful, and then go and publish the worst pictures they can find of those models and celebrities without makeup or in bad light, in a bid to somehow make us feel better or show us they are not that beautiful after all? However, shaming someone else for not always looking their best isn’t a positive way of making ourselves feel better. A better way would be to represent all beauty types in the first place. Take for instance, the latest Selfridges advertising campaign The Beauty Project, which uses unconventional models and no retouching.

We should also remember that size is viewed differently depending on which country you come from. In the TED blog this week it states that countries with a low socioeconomic status (i.e. poorer countries) value a body that carries more fat, since “body fat is an indicator of status where resources are scarce”. Could our preference for thin body types also come from this same ‘status’ value? If you think that we prefer a thinner body because its healthier, think again. Last week’s New Scientist (3 May issue) contains an article about the misleading idea that being overweight or obese is unhealthy. Research has shown that actually overweight and obese people are NO MORE likely to die prematurely of diseases (such as cardiovascular disease or cancer) than a ‘normal’ weight person (using the BMI scale – body mass index). This is because weight is not an indicator of fitness. In fact, an underweight person is more likely to die prematurely of disease compared to an obese person. Yes, you read that correctly! The problem is, that even now that we know an ‘overweight’ person can be just as healthy as a ‘normal’ weight person, is that the terms ‘overweight‘ and ‘obese‘ are not positive ones and we have created a stigma, shame and discrimination towards those who carry more body fat. So apart from needing to redefine what we consider overweight or obese in the first place, we now also need to find a new term… a bit like CURVY, but more scientific… and which can apply to both sexes… any ideas?!

The BMI scale also, is an outdated method of deciding whether someone is overweight or not. I recently took a BMI test with Fitness First and I came out as ‘mildly obese’. Well, I am a size 10-12, am 5ft 5 and weigh around 10 stone. I don’t call that mildly obese? Perhaps they just wanted me to sign up! Well I didn’t. I get plenty of exercise cycling to work and jogging around the park, and some body weight exercises at home.

When Kate Moss uttered those famous words “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”… I thought to myself, well the poor woman has no idea how it even feels to have wonderful, voluptuous, sumptuous curves, so she has nothing to compare ‘skinny’ to… It’s like saying nothing tastes as good as bread, when you have never tasted anything BUT bread!

Can’t Sleep?

Guidance, relaxation

Have you ever had one of those nights where you wake up and can’t get back to sleep? How come we can fall asleep on a packed commuter train with our mouths wide open catching flies, yet not in the comfort of our own beds? I think a little of it comes down to the rocking motion of the train, but maybe a bit it comes down to expectations. When we lie in our beds expecting and trying to fall asleep, we end up annoyed that we are awake. This state of annoyance is what keeps you awake. So start by enjoying being awake for a moment. Enjoy the feel of the covers on your skin, bring your awareness to the various parts of your body, feel the tingling in your toes and the pulsing in your palms, lay your hand on your heart for a moment, and listen to it gently beating in your chest. Then enjoy just breathing, as soon as you begin to relax, you will notice your body breathe a sigh of relief and your lungs and belly will naturally expand to take a wider breath. As you breathe in, take the breath deep into your belly… you can now try a visualization! I’ve listed a few below:

  • As you breathe in, imagine yourself absorbing energy from the earth below you, this comes in through the soles of your feet and travels up your body and into your lungs to be circulated around your body. As you breathe out, then release any tension or negative thoughts.
  • Imagine yourself looking deep into the night sky. See all the glittering, sparkling stars and as you breathe in, imagine that you are breathing in the energy from these stars, in the form of a pure white light. This light feels warm and tingly as the energy enters your lungs and spreads down into your belly – you might even hear your belly give a little grumble – this is great, it means your visualization has caused an energetic movement and a shift of energy.
  • Imagine yourself to be an ice cube melting – not so much in the sense of being cold, but in the sense of going from solid to liquid. As each drop of water trickles away, you release any tension in your muscles… you gently and slowly melt down into a liquid pool of water, holding no tension at all.

Puy Lentil Salad

Food, Recipes

Puy Lentil Salad

Ingredients:

  • Puy Lentils
  • Aubergine
  • Red / Yellow Pepper
  • Red Onion
  • Sweet Potato
  • Feta Cheese
  • Coriander
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Thyme or Rosemary

For the Dressing:

  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • garlic clove

Place the sliced vegetables on an oiled baking tray and sprinkle with a little salt and either Rosemary or Thyme. Bake for at least an hour, turning occassionally so that both sides of each slice are golden brown.

Meanwhile, boil a pan of puy lentils (not green or orange ones since they go mushy!). Cook until soft, but still keep their shape (maybe 40 mins).

Then get to chopping the tomato, cucumber, and corriander – save aside in a bowl.

For the dressing I use a pestle & mortar; crush the garlic clove, grate the lemon zest and add the cumin and olive oil and give it a good smashing. Then add the lemon juice and a little salt and pepper to taste.

Once the lentils are ready, add them to the tomato mix.

When the vegetables are ready, you can either chop them and add them to the tomato/lentil mix, or you can decide to arrange the roast veg on a platter and keep lentil/tomato mix in the centre as per the picture above.

Finally, chop or crumble the feta over the top of the whole thing and drizzle with the dressing!

Pow-wow Porridge

Food, Recipes

Pow-wow PorridgeIngredients:

  • oats
  • peanut butter
  • raisins or sultanas
  • cinnamon
  • coconut milk
  • dessicated coconut
  • sunflower seeds
  • walnut peices
  • banana
  • dark chocolate

Firstly heat up the coconut milk (I dont mean the tinned kind for cooking curries, I mean something like koko-milk which is for drinking with your tea or cereal). Then add the raisins so they soften up. Add the oats and keep stirring on a gentle heat. Add the cinnamon and a spoon of peanut butter and keep stirring. Once it is the consistency you like, take it off the heat. In a small non-stick frying pan gently toast the dessicated coconut for a minute or two and quickly take off the heat as soon as it starts to go golden brown.

Now pour your porridge into a bowl, top with a piece of dark chocolate, let this melt a little, add your chopped banana and sprinkle with sunflower seeds, walnuts and a few extra raisins, finish off with your toasted coconut!

If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to add honey, but I find the raisins add all the sweetness I need.

On Ageing

Age, Beauty, Guidance

ageEmbrace your age!

If you are worried about getting older, just remember that with age comes experience and wisdom. Nothing is more valuable. Have you ever noticed someone getting more beautiful as they get older? This is because they have gradually been learning about themselves and now have a better understanding of what makes them happy and what doesnt work for them. Knowing yourself brings a deep sense of inner peace and confidence. You know what you are able to offer as a person and how valuable you are to those around you.

As we age, we may pick up a few knocks and bruises, we may lose the odd tooth, we may break a few bones, and in western society, when something is broken, we throw it out… that is pure madness! The Japanese have a much nicer way of mending broken things. When they break a pot, they fill the cracks with gold – this highlights the crack – because they beleive that when something has a history, it becomes more beautiful.

 

Drowning in Data

Poems

This poem is not just about digital data, but is a metaphor for the data in our heads, just like we can go in and delete old pictures (and old memories) from our phones, we can also clear out the clutter from our heads and from our lives. Have you ever had a good spring clean at home and let go of old ‘stuff’ you were holding on to? How good does that feel!!! Well its the same when you delete data, you feel lighter and less burdened, and have room for new things in your life.

Jennika Argent

I wake up in the dark, to a small blinking light
My phone waits patiently for the room to get bright

Spam emails by the hundred are waiting in line
all phishing for money and stealing my time

I’ll look at them later, In case I miss something great
It could be that job, or what if it’s my soulmate?

I’m checking for something, but I’m distracted again!
Suddenly I’m on plenty of fish, hunting for men…

A cold call interrupts my momentary gaze
Would I like to put in a claim for that tiny little graze?

How do they know I fell off my bike!
Have they been reading my mails or tapping my mic…?

Why do they persist in hounding me?
This is definitely an invasion of my privacy

I leave the house and delete as I walk
Do you know I barely use this phone to talk

My phone is so congested, with megabytes of memories
It sighs under the weight, of drunken smiles and homogenous selfies

I’ve got to keep deleting, before I get overwhelmed
Dropbox wants to save the data, but it can go to data hell!

Memories are reduced, to a sequence of 1s and 0s
Where does it go once its deleted? I don’t think anyone knows….

 

 

Thank You

Poems

This poem is about practicing gratitude for all the good things in our lives and being thankful for how perfect we already are…

creation

Thank you mind for lack of thought
Thank you ears for what you’ve taught
Through listening to words from others
My heart has been able to discover
What my eyes never saw…. I guess that’s not what eyes are for.

Thank you mind for being still
Thank you eyes for such a thrill
Through watching trees in all their glory
Wind through leaves tell their love story
Places where my soul is soothed…. my deepest darkest fears removed.

Thank you mind for knowing me
Thank you heart for being free
To love and give all that I am
Without the need for careful plan
I surrender to what may come…. and let go of what’s already done.

By Jennika Argent