'Healthy omnivore with an occasional decadent twist' is the aim of Kellie Anderson's delicious blog, food to glow. As a mission statement for food to glow, Kellie says she strives to 'post the yummiest, most enticing plant-based recipes this side of a fairly decent cafe in a small town with no real competition.' [You've got to love that!]. Meat, fish, dairy and some truly divine sweet things have a look in, but Kellie points out that it’s really about the plants – their colours, tastes and versatility.
It was precisely this philosophy, not to mention Kellie's writing style and her vibrant and completely mouthwatering array of health-giving recipes and photos, that has made me a regular follower of her work. Once you've read Kellie's guest post here, you will too, I'm sure. And now, it's over to Kellie...
'Unlike a lot of Lizzy’s other friends and contributors, I don’t produce my own food. I don’t even have much of a green thumb, save for some herbs, kale, chard and the occasional stab at tomato growing. However, I love food – reading about it, shopping for it, cooking it and eating it – and as such I am indeed fortunate that food is my job... and that job is working as a health educationist and nutrition adviser with those who have a diagnosis of cancer.'
'Years ago, when my family shared an in-town allotment (with a view of Edinburgh Castle I should add) I was really only trusted with manual labour. While the others were talking about crop rotation and nitrogen fixing, I was either corralling the children away from sharp tools, or bending over concentrating on differentiating between carefully-nurtured seedling and bog-standard weed. But still I loved spending time on our little plot, among the patchwork of gardens; the older men dispensing advice from the shelter of their ramshackle wooden huts, chipped mugs of tea in hand. I like to think I learned by watching. I was certainly inspired by the fruits of our collective labour.
Gardening in Scotland is frequently hard, with the cold unpredictable maritime climate shortening our summer growing season, even with our enviably long days. But we do have rain. Plenty of rain. And if we are blessed with the right balance of summer sun and rain – even if still cool – our leafy greens and brassicas (kale! broccoli! Brussels sprouts!), root crops and soft fruits are difficult to rival. I have huge respect for anyone who toils the land and fishes the waters on our behalf. My behalf. It makes my job so much easier.
And that job is working with those who have a diagnosis of cancer. As someone who loves food – reading about it, shopping for it, cooking it, eating it (cleaning up after it – meh) – I feel fortunate that food is also my job. I work as a health educationist and nutrition adviser with the estimable Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres. Short-handed as Maggie’s, the 15 centres (and growing) are charitably run havens of exquisite architectural beauty and tranquillity that provide information, psychological support and practical help to patients and their families. Although separate to the hospitals alongside, the Maggie’s teams of health professionals provide a service complementary to the vital medical care.
Over the past eight plus years I have been privileged in providing nutrition workshops and individual sessions for those needing guidance on eating well during treatment and recovery. I also see people who, although their cancer is not curable, want to live life to the full. Enjoying food, in whatever form it needs eating, is a big part of that goal.
As part of the course I put together a nutritious and – I hope – tasty, mainly vegan lunch with the aim of bringing to life many of the things we talk about in the sessions. In discussions the emphasis is on plant foods – the more colourful the better. We favour local and seasonal too. But we also talk about how to make the best and most appropriate choices for all of the food groups. Eating well and nourishing yourself during cancer treatment is not easy, and often the ‘little bit of what you fancy’ motto helps: during treatment it is important to listen to your body about what and how much to eat.
I am hugely fortunate to work with some amazing people, in a beautiful, nurturing space, doing what I love. My healthy food blog, kelliesfoodtoglow.com, developed from my work at Maggie’s. Participants would mention that they had friends or relatives elsewhere needing what Maggie’s and the nutrition workshops provide. So I tentatively and without any technical knowledge – still none! – began posting the recipes I developed and tweaked for family, friends and the lovely people at Maggie’s. Usually I throw in some nutrition facts or ingredient history too. Two years on I am still writing recipes and sharing them on the blog, and at the Maggie’s kitchen table. Although the blog is mainly about the recipes now, and many readers probably don’t know what I do ‘in real life,’ there is an extensive cancer nutrition section too.
Today’s simple recipe is something I occasionally do for my groups at Maggie’s. It combines the healthfulness of fresh vegetables with the ease of prepared pastry. Sometimes people find it less daunting to eat well during treatment if they give themselves ‘permission’ to cut corners, or eat things they love – like pastry – but with a lick of added goodness. The topping is flexible to whatever is in season: in winter I will often roast sweet potatoes and toast pieces of kale. In the summer we will eat something like this with a choice of a vegetable-based salad (like this) and a grain-based salad (like this), a seasonal soup (maybe this) and ending with a fruit-centred dessert. Or sometimes a vegetable-centred dessert, like my chocolate beetroot cake! I’m sure Lizzy has loads of good things to pair with this recipe.
The semi-dried (mi-cuit) tomatoes are, as you know, hugely versatile. Here they mingle with a few lightly roasted seasonal-ish vegetables (our growing season is a month behind normal right now), and are placed on a hummus-smeared pastry shell. Hopefully you can get good quality puff pastry, but if not this is great on flatbread or a mound of herb-spiked quinoa.
I hope you haven’t minded a little off-piste ramble around my place of work. Lizzy is a huge supporter of what I do [Ed: I sure am Kellie!] and I am so grateful for not only this, but also the opportunity to share my work and these easy recipes with you. If you or someone you love is affected by cancer, Maggie’s also has a brilliant online community of support. If you are near to a centre, please stop in for a cup of tea and a chat. You are always welcome. And there may even be some homebaking on the go!
SPRING VEGETABLE AND HUMMUS PASTRIES
You can use any leftover roasted vegetables, and bought tomatoes and hummus, to make this even quicker.
Sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
Small egg, lightly beaten
100g semi-dried (mi cuit) tomatoes – see below
2 red onions, each cut into 12 wedges
2 young courgette/zucchini, cut into 2 cm-thick rounds
2 tablespoons dukkah - optional
2 teaspoons olive oil OR use oil spray
200g cooked and double-podded broad beans (from frozen is fine), cooled
A double handful of nice mixed salad leaves or microleaves
2 tablespoons fresh herb oil - see below
Note: You can do the vegetables and the pastry at the same time, putting the pastry on the top rack.
Toss the onion and courgette in the oil - or spray generously with oil spray - and sprinkle with dukkah (if using). Lay the vegetables on a baking tray and roast at 200C/400F for 15 minutes, or until the onion is soft and starting to colour.
Lay the pastry sheet on a baking paper-lined tray. Cut the pastry sheet into four equal pieces and, with a thin sharp knife, lightly score a one cm border within each to make a frame; brush with the beaten egg. Prick the inside of the frame all over with a fork. Bake in a preheated 200C/400F oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let them cool for a couple of minutes before pressing lightly with a spatula to release the air. Cool the pastry on a baking rack.
Spread each cooked pastry with one-quarter of the hummus, top with some lettuce or microleaves, the roasted vegetables, mi cuit tomatoes and broad beans. Drizzle over the fresh herb oil. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Halve as many little tomatoes (cherry or grape style) as you like and gently toss in a minimum of olive oil. Lay them cut-side up on a foil-lined tray, sprinkle over a little salt, and maybe tuck under some fresh herbs – I like thyme as I grow it year-round. You could also sprinkle over some red chilli flakes.
Pop the tray in the oven and immediately turn it down to 120C/250F. Slow roast the tomatoes for between 1 and 1 ½ hours, checking occasionally. Different varieties have different water and sugar contents so it is down to the cook’s instinct to pull them out when they are shrivelled but still soft.
Add the tomatoes to a sterilised jar and top up with good olive oil. These keep for about a month in the refrigerator. The oil will solidify so warm gently before using.
FRESH HERB OIL
Blitz 20g (packed cup) of parsley, basil, coriander – or a combination of these – in a small food processor bowl, or similar, with a small garlic clove, a good pinch of salt and some pepper. Scrape out into a small bowl and whisk in enough good olive oil (or plain yogurt) to make a loose sauce. Store in a lidded jar for up to five days in the refrigerator.
Thank you again Lizzy for inviting me to share my recipes and story with the readers of Good Things.'
'Kellie, I am delighted to spread the word on food to glow and cannot thank you enough for pulling together this post and images, particularly when I know you are so busy at work assisting others in need. Cancer and illness touches each and every one of us at some time or another in our lives and, to my mind, people like yourself are angels. Thank you again!'
Note: all images in this post appear kind courtesy of Kellie Anderson and are copyright Kellie Anderson and food to glow.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.