Fire within 

Even if the sky should fall 
And the Earth should open up
Threatening to 
Swallow you through its cracks 
Even if the Ocean should roar
With so much fury 
That it drowns the sandy beaches 
With its rough tsunami waves 
And soft foamy edges 
Even if there was no tomorrow 
Would you choose to stay down 
Cowered in the corner 
Afraid 
Always
Afraid
Or would you choose to
Rise
To trust
Just as the Sun does not know
what it will meet 
Each dawn 
Still
It rises 
With fire
And unimaginable beauty
It does not matter
How stormy the day has been 
Still it sets 
With 
Grace 
And gratitude
So too will you 
Rise 
With a 
Fierce radiance
So too will you
Set
Quietly
But
Boldly
Knowing that today
You lit up 
The whole damn sky.
– Emma Nathan

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“From African to… Vegan?!” Also, My Recipe for Seriously Good Wholegrain Pumpkin & Pecan Spiced Muffins (no eggs, dairy or refined sugar)

I have long been baking. I have not so long, been baking treats without refined sugar or refined flour because I only cut those bad boys from my life a little over a year ago. It’s a good lifestyle choice, don’t take my word for it, just try it for yourself and see. You have my support!

What I have yet to do, however, is translate some of my kitchen based experiments into blog posts. For those of you, like me, who trawl the internet looking for the perfect recipe to match a) your baked good craving but in a healthy format and b) one that has all the ingredients listed, I am truly sorry for not having posted  a recipe sooner. Why? Because sometimes I create truly magical things in my kitchen and I really do have the best intention of sharing the magic with all of you but until now I just haven’t succeeded. Sometimes I conjur up baked goods that give me the urge to take them round to local cafes and artisan coffee shops and say “taste these and tell me you wouldn’t want to sell these??” Most especially because there isn’t one drop of refined sugar in any of them. Well, I’m not quite there yet (because baking mass orders with a toddler at my heels doesn’t appeal at this present moment. In his defence, he is a very helpful mixer and batter taster.)

Today I really do have to share a recipe with you, because it is that good. It was an experiment which many of my creations are, after searching high and low on pinterest and google and then finding a recipe or two and tweaking them or mashing them up or just being inspired to create something new. These muffins tick all the boxes. Really light and fluffy but deliciously moist. Full of autumn flavours… with pumpkin, pecans, maple syrup and warming spices in the mix you really can’t go wrong. Also it’s a really simple recipe and easy to make.

 

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The desire to create these perfect muffins was born out of my partner, Mr S’s recent decision to become more conscious of what he puts in his body. I am very excited about this and wholeheartedly support his journey into cleaner eating. Mr S is actually drawn to Dr Sebi’s mucus reducing, non-hybrid, alkalinizing, plant based diet. There is much to discuss about this topic, but I will save that for another post.

Most significantly, this is quite a big leap for Mr S, who until now, has had a lifetime of eating all food groups and didn’t really care too much about whether something had gluten in or not or what impact dairy had on his body. My South African friend had quite a comical response to this when she was trying to make sense of it all…. “Wait so he’s going from…African… to Vegan??!” Hm. I know this friend well enough to know there was no offence intended here, but no Mr S is not changing his ethnicity. He is however breaking free from considerable and deep rooted cultural norms with regards to his diet, especially as an African. I think my friend was actually more shocked by the fact that she (having recently given up all refined sugar and flours) is clutching onto meat as her saving grace, and in swans a fellow African who is just casually giving it all up in one fair swoop.

Having lived half of each year in Nigeria for the past 5 years I can confidently say that there are not too many vegans, or vegetarians running around Lagos. There are some though, I’m quite sure of that. I would love to hear from anyone out there who chooses to eat a whole foods plant based diet (like we strive to) that might be reading this. How has your journey been? How have people responded to your choices?

There is a growing movement of people becoming increasinlgy aware of the impact of their diet (and lifestyle) on their bodies, their mind, their spirit and the planet. Let’s keep the discussion flowing so we can all keep growing. Most importantly – there is no judegment here, each to his own.

So, back to these muffins. I like to bake for my people and as such I wanted to bake something without eggs or dairy that doesn’t compromise on texture or taste. Today’s recipe is fully intentional. It uses wholegrains, healthy fats and there are no animal products or refined sugar in sight 🙂 These muffins embody autumn and I think that’s the secret as to why they are so yummy.

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Mother Nature is just so delicious at this time of year, with her warming colours and intoxicating flavours. I baked her right into a muffin, and let me tell you this muffin is divine. Also, they happen to be perfect with a steaming hot cup of golden milk (tumeric, raw honey, a little coconut oil and milk of choice – keep the lurgies off your back during cold & flu season!)

Let me know if you bake these and how they turn out. It is possible this was just a fluke awesome batch in which case I’m already regretting not freezing half of them. It’s too late now, my child has already eaten half of them. A quick note on ingredients – I think the only tricky thing to find is the whole dired stevia leaves (I found some at a farmer’s market in Portugal over the summer then ground it in a coffee grinder which really isn’t going to help any of you looking for some BUT you can buy it on amazon etc.) Honestly though this is not an essential part of the recipe it was really more part of the experiment and can easily be left out. Enjoy!

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Wholegrain Pumpkin & Pecan Spiced Muffins

(No eggs, dairy or refined sugar)

Makes 10 – 12 muffins

Note: this recipe is in US cup measurements but I will try and translate it to grams and ml at some point! Also, in general the more ingredients you can get organic the better.

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 level tablespoon gluten free baking powder
  • 1 heaped teaspoon (I mean really heaped) mixed spice. Add a bit more for good measure
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon  (you can really add any other spices you like… nutmeg etc.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground dried stevia leaf (not the white stuff you find in supermarkets, I mean the real stuff from the plant itself – you can buy online or simply leave it out if you don’t have it and add a bit more maple syrup if you like things sweet)
  • Pinch sea salt (optional)
  • Chopped nuts of choice, I used pecans because they compliment the flavours oh so well. As much or as little as you like!

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin or butternut squash (steamed till really soft & then blitzed)
  • 1/2 cup dairy free milk (I used Rude Health almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil (or coconut oil, olive oil etc.)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (more if you like it sweeter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C
  • Mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl
  • Mix all your wet ingredients in a separate bowl till fully combined (hand or electric mixer)
  • Slowly fold your combined wet ingredients into combined dry ingredients
  • Grease a 12-muffin pan with a little oil of choice
  • Scoop the batter into each muffin hole till they are equally filled
  • Sprinkle some chopped nuts and cinnamon on top if you’re feeling fancy
  • Bake for 16 -18 mins. Check at 16 mins, an inserted toothpick or knife will come out clean when they are ready
  • Trasnfer muffins to cooling rack if you can wait but it is totally acceptable to eat these steaming hot from the oven.

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Grace is Beauty.

I’m dedicating a blog post to the incredible women I met picking tea leaves in the hills of Munnar, South India. They made my heart burst. They are some of the hardest working women I have ever had the privilege to meet. They surrounded me with smiles and stories and each wanted their photo taken. So here, I want to share the grace & dignity that oozed from these wonderful women. I was unable to write down their names… but I can still feel their energy now. Powerful, beautiful. They reinforced a personal mantra that started swirling around in my mind when my journey of consciousness escalated in the autumn of 2013….

Grace is beauty.

A reminder to myself in those moments when fears and insecurities start to over power the true and authentic me… when my Ego is triumphing over my Soul. It is a call to myself to awaken… and to do so gracefully. To not let old fear-based habits take over, just because they used to. Just because they could. Now I can add calling on the strength of these women to those moments when I stumble, feel weak, or lose my way a little.

Deeply grateful.1960847_10101514666233588_8183269421795565740_o(1) 10006099_10101514673414198_959197032084028907_o(1) 10700494_10101514674237548_6691893346853477965_o(1) What helps your Soul shine through a stormy moment?

Unconditional Love

Journal excerpt: November 25th 2013

Location: Wayanad, South India

Amidst a day of perfect chaos I have found more than one moment of stillness and tranquility that I have been so deeply craving. Reaching a waterfall after turn after turn of luscious green fields of tea, and greeting the water with all of me… feeling the coolness rush over my toes.

Recharging the Soul

Later, meeting a pure and beautiful Swamiji who emitted Unconditional Love, with sweet gifts of prasad, smiles and acceptance.

Purity & Grace

Thus far, Mother India has shown me only the Unconditional Love that I know we all could be giving to one another. Loving the unexpected, I continue to trust that the Universe will provide all my Soul needs.

Mama India

Journal excerpt :: November 20th-21st 2013

Location :: Coorg hilltop, Western Ghats, South India

Without expectation but an abundance of excitement, I set out on a path of unknown beauty and perfection. A yellow brick road of luminous autumnal leaves line my path as I exit quietly from suburbia into utopia. A mostly calm, effortless journey brings me here… a mix of all the “homes” I have ever known in the depth of my heart… Mauritius, Lagos (and the as yet unvisited, Sri Lanka)… INDIA. Flawless. Dignified. Elegant. Breathtakingly BEAUTIFUL.

The tiredness of my journey cannot force my eyelids closed… I must absorb it all… people everywhere, smiles from their souls, colour, colour, colour, tuktuks and okadas and my favourite – the ever graceful cows roaming the streets with a radiant dignity. I feel my mother’s Soul beside me. I am already in love with the country that my ancestors have called me into… pulled me back to. I appreciate them for the force. I am here… I am home, again.

Following the chaos of traffic and hustlin’, we arrive at a true paradise. I hear birds and insects singing, Tibetan monks chanting, I am welcomed by our host family and I feel at ease. Everything is at once familiar but different… and it is all PERFECT. The landscape, the food, the smiles. Today, I feel the eternal truth that I am exactly where I am meant to be.

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Gratitude fills me up to the very top. Blissful life.

Drumming dreams come true

When you close your eyes and listen to the samba being played perfectly in time with rhythm, soul, and an undeniable vibrancy, you would imagine yourself to be in the streets of Rio. But this is not Brazil, we’re still in Lagos after all. Up wind of a makeshift rubbish dump, kids cover every inch of ground, step, wall and rooftop available. They don’t notice the smell wafting over the compound wall, they’re too busy watching the spectacle before them, something they’re not used to seeing in their modest part of town.

Seyi Ajeigbe, Nigerian/British musician (soundbites from his band AGEMO can be enjoyed here) has returned home (and brought me with him!) to give his local community something he had longed for as a child – a place that would enable him to escape his daily struggles as his mother worked hard to raise him and his four siblings in a sprawling African ghetto by herself. A space in which he could bring to life the music from his imagination. A place where he could simply, play a drum and get lost in the music.

After discovering Brazilian samba eight years ago whilst living in London, Seyi found something that matched the rhythmic beat inside him that he just couldn’t say no to. He excelled at playing samba in various forms and went on to perform all over the UK and throughout Europe. Life was pretty darn good on the drumming front, it would seem, but Seyi couldn’t shake an idea that he had had very early on in his samba career. He imagined playing this same samba, not in Brazil, but back home in Lagos, returning it to the continent where the very roots of this music had originated.

Seyi has established the first samba school in Nigeria – Eko Samba School – a non-profit organisation, which enables children from his local community to learn to play Brazilian drums. Bridging gaps between children from a mix of social, tribal and religious backgrounds, giving them team working and leadership skills as well as improving their social responsibility, and above all, learning, enjoying and performing together, it is clear this is something well deserved in this community.

Despite encountering many a bureaucratic hurdle with regards to getting support for the project here in Lagos, Seyi sums up the positives in an interview with Arise magazine:

“The best part so far has been the music itself. It brings a lot of satisfaction to hear the samba swing in the middle of a slum in Lagos, it’s as if the souls of those slaves taken via Lagos to Brazil are returning.”

For me, the best part so far is the ear to ear grins on these kids’ faces, the freedom in their enjoyment, as they sing and dance, sweat pouring from their bodies, and they play (and I mean they really play) those drums.