Healthy plant-based spiced chocolate tart with figs

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Something really strange has been going on with my Instagram lately — it seems the algorithms have changed (again) and smaller pages such as mine are lagging behind (again) unless they pay to have their posts boosted — sucks for me and my numbers, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop posting my recipes and photos; even if it’s only little ol’ me looking at them.

Ladies and gents, I give to you this beautiful plant-based chocolate tart with fresh figs on top. With no added processed sugar, this decadent beauty is the perfect chocolate fix and the best thing is…you could even have it breakfast if you felt like it.

It takes about 30 minutes to put together and about 2 hours to set in the fridge/freezer.

Here’s how I made it:

Ingredients:

For crust:

  • 1 cup of date paste (alternatively, you could soak about 20 dates in warm water, pit them and make into a paste in your food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon of organic coconut oil
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of salted pecans (you use any kind of nut you like)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla pods
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter

For filling:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/3 cup of tahini paste
  • 1/4 cup of date syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste
  • 1/3 cup of organic cacao powder
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

For topping:

  • Any fresh fruit you’d like.
  • Cashew cream (optional)**

The method to my madness:

  • First things, first. In your food processor, process the oats, cinnamon, ginger, and pecans into a fine flour.
  • Then, add the dates, honey, almond butter and vanilla and process all together until it forms a dough-like ball.
  • Take out the crust dough and with your hands knead it until it becomes nice and sticks together.
  • In a serving plate lined with wax paper, form the ball into a circular crust (or whatever shape you’d like) using your fingers and pressing down firmly. I created a little pool-like dough so the chocolate doesn’t pour out.
  • Place the dough in the freezer to firm up as you make the filling.
  • In a food processor (sorry, you’re going to have to clean it:)), throw together all the filling ingredients and blitz until it’s nice and creamy — taste it and see if you need to add anything (more honey, more cinnamon…)
  • Pour the filling mixture into the dough and put back in freezer to set (for two hours), or overnight in the fridge.
  • To top, you could make a simple cashew cream by placing 1 cup of raw cashews into a bowl with boiling hot water on top and let sit for two hours. Then blitz all together with a hand blender. I like to add two tablespoons of honey, vanilla paste and a little squirt of lime.

 

That’s it. Super simple. Super healthy. Super beautiful. No nasty processed additives that’ll have you feeling terrible after, this plant-based chocolate tart is just what I needed this hectic Sunday!

Since you’re here, why not follow Straight-upBananas on Instagram, too!

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5 days in Nepal with Pomalo

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About 4 years ago, I caught the travel bug and boy did I catch it bad. As I planned my honeymoon to the Greek islands, with little to no experience booking a trip, I pleaded for help on a Facebook page. Random strangers came to my aid and quite a few of them recommended I reach out to the lovely ladies of Pomalo Travel – the designers of custom-made travel itineraries specifically based on your preferences.

Fast forward 4 years, the best honeymoon anyone could ever ask for, and 20 countries later, I found out that I was actually their first client to make a booking through their website. And because life is funny like that, they wanted me to also be with them on their first ever female-only hosted trip to one of my favorite countries on the face of this planet, Nepal.

Having been there once before and having absolutely fallen in love with the beautiful nature (think views of rolling mountains, spectacular sunsets, and out-of-this-world sunrises), warm people, interesting history, and food that you won’t mind packing on some kilos for. I was super curious to see how Rana and Mona would be able to transform the beautiful, yet humble Nepal I had come to know, with an action-packed, yet luxe trip that I had come to expect from Pomalo Travel.

Although this was a hosted trip, I am by no means coaxed, or paid to give a good account of the experience. This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Ready?

 

Day 1.

The kind folks at FlyDubai and Lawrence Travel PR hooked me up with some Business class tickets straight to Kathmandu. So a good nap, movie, and 3-course breakfast later and we were getting to know our guide Mr. Mahish and heading straight to our first hotel.

 

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That morning view though!

 

A short drive later and we were rolling right into our very own piece of heaven in the bustling streets of Kathmandu.

The staff at Dwarika’s Hotel greeted us with some sindoor powder said to give us good luck and happiness and to welcome us into their home and their country.

 

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Mona and Rana with sindoor powder 

 

We were welcomed by our gracious hosts at Dwarika’s Hotel, shown around the estate, and promptly taken to our room to recharge and get ready to hit the streets of Kathmandu.

I was taken up to my suite and was instantly gob-smacked. I could already tell this was going to be a totally new experience of Nepal. The suite was so luxurious, I could’ve spent the entire holiday just lounging in the sandalwood-smelling sheets, taking in the skies of Nepal from my window.

 

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A room with a view (Dwarika’s Hotel – Kathmandu)

 

But then again, how could I rest when there was so much to see, explore and, most importantly, EAT. Equipped with my camera, rain gear, and curiosity,  I was ready to explore Kathmandu Durbar Square with Mona, Rana and our group.

 

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Monkey’s roaming the temples of Durbar Sq. and the Crematorium

 

Having visited Kathmandu Durbar Sq. in late 2014, I was almost moved to tears to see just how much of the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site was destroyed by the infamous earthquakes of 2015.

Built in the 10th century, the medieval ruins of the palaces (Durbar means palace in Nepalese), leave you in awe as you see the past unfold right before your eyes. I was stepping into the unknown with sights of palace ruins, live goddesses, and people flocking for prayers and religious rituals.

 

 

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Kathmandu Durbar Square

 

After Durbar Sq. we made our way to the crematorium area, where we were able to witness a funeral and cremation procession taking place. A truly unique and very intimate look into the local culture. From afar (as tourists aren’t allowed on the other side of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu Valley), we tried to discreetly and respectfully feed our curiosity.

 

 

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Cremation near Pashupatinath Temple

 

Then we made our way throughout the temple grounds while Mr. Mahish explained the historical and religious significance of the place. We even got to meet a few Sadhus that offered us their blessings in exchange for alms.

 

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Blessings from Sadhus

 

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Mona from Pomalo receiving blessings from Sadhus

 

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Day 2. Kathmandu

Next morning, it was time for an early wake-up call and a delicious Nepalese/international breakfast Dwarika style before we began our first adventure.

Pomalo Travel had planned a morning plane ride above the Himalayan mountain range and I was giddy with excitement at the prospect of maybe seeing Mt. Everest in all her grandeur.

 

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En route to see the Himalayas

 

A sight so beautiful it’ll almost bring you to tears. The cotton-like clouds, the snow-capped mountain range, the giggles throughout the plane as someone sees the peak of Mt. Everest — truly a sight that should be on the top of your bucket list.

Unfortunately, the weather was a bit too cloudy to capture the magnificent mountain range or even Mt. Everest on camera, but I’ve got a few mental images that won’t be leaving me during this lifetime, I assure you.

 

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Mountain range views

 

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Rana from Pomalo in awe of the view

 

We were even lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the view from the captain’s cockpit. A beautiful panoramic vista, that kind of leaves you feeling a tinge of jealousy that the staff from Buddha Air get to see these views all the time.

 

 

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Cockpit view

 

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Sunrise views of the Himalayas  (Sarangkot)

 

After the sensational views, we were off to a local house to learn how to cook Nepalese food. We got to learn the rituals and eating habits with the chef, his wife and their teenage son — a truly wonderful experience. Spicy potatoes and buffalo meat for starters, a Nepalese Thali dish, and sweet momos for dessert were all on the menu and I was on Cloud 9 the entire time.

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Day 3. Pokhara

On the morning of the third day, we jumped on an hour-long flight to beautiful Pokhara – personally, my favorite city in Nepal.

After arriving at the airport, we took a jeep and drove upwards for about 45 minutes till we reached the summit of Tiger Mountain and were greeted with a view that will leave you at loss for words. The highlight of my trip was staying at Tiger Mountain Lodge – Pokhara.

 

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View of the mountain range in Pokhara – Tiger Mountain Lodge

 

An all-inclusive, secluded estate with the best views all day long and the best Nepali food I think I’ll ever have (I’m salivating just thinking about it now).

 

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Pathway from restaurant to lodges

 

 

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Beautiful Nepali ‘high-tea’ platter at Tiger Mountain Lodge

 

After settling in, we then headed to a local school for the Pack for a Purpose initiative that Tiger Mountain Lodge is part of. We packed school supplies, books and other essentials in Dubai and brought them to a local school. We got to meet the students, talk to the teachers and enjoy the walk through the village from Tiger Mountain Lodge to Sri Shiva Shakti School.

 

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Sacred tree on our way to the school

 

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Taking photos of a water buffalo we found on the way to the school

 

 

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Rana and Mona from Pomalo and me:)

 

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The amazing students of Sri Shiva Shakti Primary School

 

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Mona from Pomalo and the students of Sri Shiva School
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One of my favorite photos of this little guy giving me a full smile

 

Then we headed back to the lodge for a Nepali dinner with views fit for queens.

 

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Nepalese Thali spread for lunch

 

 

Day 4. Pokhara

 

The next morning we woke up just before sunrise to a cup of ginger tea and a sunrise view of the Himalayas. Groggy, still in my pajamas and with a warm blanket wrapped around me like a burrito to protect me from the crisp dawn mountain breeze, I was blown away by the view.

 

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Sunrise view from Tiger Mountain Lodge

 

Then we headed to Pokhara town to take a look at the famous Fewa Lake and Peace Pagoda and to take part in a meditation session with our guide and guru.

We took a row boat to the steps of the mountain with a meditation guru and trekked to the top of the mountain to partake in a private meditation session in one of the rooms of the pagoda.

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Fewa Lake
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Row boats of Fewa Lake
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Rana in front of Fewa Lake taking in the view

After an adventurous trek to the top, we took our yoga mats and headed to the meditation rooms near the pagoda to learn about our chakras and how to meditate.

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Buddha’s watchful eyes on top of the pagoda

 

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Mahish praying in front of another pagoda in Pokhara

Unfortunately, cameras aren’t allowed near the prayer rooms, but I left feeling 10 times lighter than when I arrived.

 

After our meditation session, we headed to Sarangkot summit for a paragliding experience, soaring above Pokhara Valley and taking in the views from the top that only paragliding could offer.

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Getting ready to paraglide above Fewa Lake
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Me discovering that I may have a fear of heights

 

After our paraglide, we hit the streets of Pokhara for some well-deserved plates of momos and went to explore the fairtrade market filled with pashminas, meditation singing bowls, and handmade ayurvedic beauty products.

 

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Delicious vegetarian and chicken momos

 

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Mona learning all about Tibetan meditation singing bowls

 

Day 5. Dhulikhel

A short hour flight back to Kathmandu and we were on our way to Dwarika’s Resort in Dhulikhel. A holistic retreat perched on the beautiful mountain tops of Dhulikhel. Perfect for chakra balancing, yoga, meditation and spa treatments.

But before reaching Dhulikhel, we stopped on the way at Bhaktapur City (the city of devotees) a UNESCO World Heritage site. A city well-known for pottery, the grand Malla dynasty remnants and the Dhulikhel Durbar Sq.

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Lady selling local pottery goods
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Local fruit vendor with fruit baskets

Little did I know that the ladies from Pomalo Travel had yet another experience in store. They had arranged a pottery class with one of the local pottery masters — an experience I’ve honestly always wanted to try ever since the movie Ghost (Don’t pretend you don’t get the reference, you totally do).We rolled up our sleeves and took a shot at a pottery class.

With Unchained Melody in my heart, it was time to roll up my sleeves (figuratively) and get those wheels spinning (literally).

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After the oddly soothing pottery class, we had a few hours to have lunch (more momos, yes!) and purchase some local goods, roam the ancient streets, strike up conversations with locals and just take in the beautiful durbar square.

 

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Local woman selling pottery

 

 

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Some buildings being rebuilt after the devastation of the 2015 earthquake

 

 

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Beautiful textiles and cashmere

 

 

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Every intersection has a shaded area where people of all ages come to socialize 

 

There is no greater testament to the patience, resilience, and pride the Nepalese people have for their country. All around the country, 2 years later, and the people are still working together to revive their heritage. A medley of beautiful memories of what once was, and the possibility and strength the future holds for the people of Nepal.

 

 

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Recovering from the devastation of the earthquake 2 years later

 

After exploring, we headed back to Dhulikhel to unwind.

Dwarika’s Resort is a wellness retreat that has different activities included in the price (and others paid separately).

There’s an organic farm on the estate and you can take a cooking class with the in-house chefs — starting from picking the fresh produce and ending in enjoying a delicious meal.

There’s a meditation area with 7 rooms, each signifying one chakra. You start at the first room, meditating into the first chakra and slowly make your way up to the 7th with the meditation guru.

There’s a Himalayan sea salt room filled from top to bottom with salt, buddhist chants, drinking water and dim lighting — all perfectly set up to ease your breathing, and help you meditate and unwind.

A fully-equipped spa is available on the estate with professionally-trained ayurvedic messeuses.

And if you’re lucky, you could even catch a glimpse of the some of the wildlife surrounding the resort.

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Breakfast with a surprise guest

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Dwarika’s Resort pool views

 

The perfect season for Nepal is right around the corner this October, and I wouldn’t have any one else help plan the trip.

The ladies from Pomalo have gone from being the driving force behind making my honeymoon the most wonderful experience of my life, to becoming friends I hope I can keep in touch with for years to come.

They are thorough, thoughtful and leave no detail to chance — always resulting in a trip that is nothing less than perfection.

In Croation/Dalmatian, the word Pomalo means to ‘go with the flow’ or ‘not to worry’, and there is no name better for these two — they do all the worrying for you, so that you’re always able to ‘go with the flow’.

Rana, Mona, Fly Dubai, and Lawrence Travel PR, thank you for making my trip to Nepal a truly unforgettable one.

The light in me sees the light in you. Namaste.

 

15-minute vegan chili and garlic pasta

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Yes. You read that right, a 15-minute lunch recipe that’ll have you slurping delicious pasta in as long as it takes you to disgustingly crack all the knuckles of your body (cracking my fingers as we speak, and that’s the only analogy I could come up with).

So this sauce is so simple, that by the time the water for the pasta comes to a boil, and cooks your pasta the sauce is done! Now pay attention, or you just might miss how to make this supersonic sauce.

Ingredients:

  • Wholewheat spaghetti
  • 2 mid-sized tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 dried chili (depending on how hot you like it)
  • 1/3 cup of good quality olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of capers
  • 2 big handfuls of baby spinach
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Boiling hot water
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

 

How to make it:

  • First, put about 1 liter of water to boil with a pinch of sea salt
  • Then, in a separate frying pan, and on medium-low heat, put the pine nuts to toast until golden brown, and remove from pan.
  • In the same pan and olive oil, toast your sliced garlic until nice and golden brown as well.
  • Add the dried chili (again, depending on the heat you like) and fry all together.
  • After, add the capers and let them crisp up a bit.
  • By this time, your pasta water should be boiling, add the pasta and cook until done.
  • In the frying pan, add the tomatoes and cook on medium-high heat until the tomatoes start to cook off (galayit bandora style)
  • Then add the pine nuts, add 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water to the sauce and let cook until it becomes a sauce.
  • Once the pasta is cooked through, transfer it to the sauce and mix well together.
  • Turn off the heat, and add the spinach, sea salt and black pepper. The spinach doesn’t need to be cooked, it’ll wilt from the heat of the pasta and the sauce.

 

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There you go, easy peasy. The beauty of this recipe is that you could add or omit whatever you want. I mean white beans or butter beans go spectacularly well with this dish. I’m sure grilled chicken would go well with it. Once you’ve got a recipe down, the variations you could come up with are endless, seriously!

So that’s that. A 15-minute pasta dish, that only requires 4 dishes (if done right). Since you’re here, why not follow me on the Gram of Insta? Instagram

 

Quick carrot and ginger soup

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After 15 hours of fasting, you’d think that the first thing I’d want to do is dig into a ginormous meal, right? Nah, soup and salad are what I crave all day. I know it sounds strange, but that’s just the way it is. After so many hours of not having anything in your system, your stomach kind of gets used to it — and come iftar time, you’ll find yourself physically incapable of stuffing your face no matter how much you try.

One of my sisters-in-law once made this delicious carrot and ginger soup, so I tried to make my own vegan version minus the cream and the butter.

It’s super simple to make, mega good for you and tastes great. My husband and I finished 4 bowls in one day.

What you need:

  • 1 kilo of carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1 handful of raw cashews
  • 1 organic stock cube
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 liter of boiling water
  • 1/2 can of coconut milk (optional, but makes it much creamier)
  • Olive oil

 

How to make it:

  • In a large pot, add some olive oil and add the chopped carrots, spring onions, ginger, and garlic and saute lightly.
  • Then, add the stock cube, cashews, and boiling water and bring to the boil.
  • Simmer on low for about 20 minutes or until you can pierce carrots with a fork.
  • Turn off the heat, add the coconut cream (optional) and with a hand blender, blend the soup together till nice and silky.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • I like to serve pureed soups with a dollop of yogurt and you can top with some fresh coriander or dill.

 

As always, easy peasy.

Let this be a testament that you can get that creamy, hearty soup you’re craving, minus all the nasties from the cream. Give this soup a try, I promise you won’t be missing anything.

Oh, and since you’re here, why not show me some love on Instagram?

Easy potato, leek and butter bean soup

 

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Have I ever mentioned that I originally wanted to blog ONLY about soups…? Dumb, I know. But I’m an avid fan of everything slurpy and thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a website to my slurping obsession. Then, that same day, I was watching an episode of New Girl and Jess tells Schmidt that she’s “Straight-up Bananas, yo” and I literally popped my laptop open and bought the domain on spot. Fast forward four years and here we are…with a thriving Instagram account (have you followed me yet?), and less than impressive website (help meeeee)

Long story, short: I love soups. Probably way more than I should. Now add Ramadan and my constant need to break my fast with any kind of soup and you’ve got some good old-fashioned improv happening in the kitchen.

And the leek, potato and butter bean soup was born.

Super simple to make and MEGA good — it tastes creamy and cheesy for some reason without an ounce of either.

It takes about 20 minutes to put together and then you just puree it with a handy, dandy hand blender and you are good to go, mi amigo.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 Leeks
  • 1/2 kilo of potatoes, skinned and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 can of fullfat coconut cream
  • 2 organic stock cubes
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil
  • 1 can of white butter beans
  • 1 liter of boiling water
  • Dill, coriander or spring onion for serving (optional)

How to make it:

  • First, make sure you clean the leaks as they sometimes can be gritty
  • Put 1 liter of water to boil in a kettle
  • In a pan, melt the tablespoon of coconut oil
  • Slice the leeks, garlic, and spring onion and add to the pot to saute a bit
  • Then add the diced potatoes, stock cubes and boiling water and bring to a boil
  • Once up to the boil, lower the heat and let the soup simmer for 15 minutes (or until potatoes are completely tender…like mashed potato tender)
  • Add the can of butter beans and cook a bit more (1 minute or 2)
  • Turn off the heat and add a cup of coconut milk and the juice of the lemon
  • With a hand blender, blend the mixture until completely cream
  • Serve with freshly cracked black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and some dill or any other herbs.

This soup is easy, delicious and perfect for Ramadan — you’re going to love it, I promise!

While you’re here, why not check out my Instagram account and follow me!

Refreshing coconut, watermelon and lime agua fresca

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This Ramadan it’s all about getting good food in your body in the short time you have to get you through the next day. It’s also about easy, quick, and simple recipes that you could make, and then sit back, relax and enjoy your favorite Ramadan-friendly show.

This simple agua fresca recipe is full of all the ingredients you need to replenish your electrolytes and rehydrate after a day of no food and water.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a medium watermelon, diced
  • 2 young coconuts
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • Mint leaves (for serving)
  • Lime slices (for serving)

 

How to make it:

In a blender, place the diced watermelon, coconut water and the juice of the lime and blend together.

Using a seive, pour the juice from the blender into a jug, trying to get rid of any seeds that might be caught in the juice.

Serve in glasses wih ice, lime slices and mint leaves.

Enjoy! 🙂

 

It’s simple, I feel like a recipe might be a waste, but I really think it’s one you  should you try. I’m fasting writing this, so I definitely know it’s a recipe that I’m going to have to go back and edit the crap out of this. lol

Give it a try and let me know what you think. Oh, and how’s about a follow on the ole’ Gram of the Insta? @straightupbananas 

6-ingredient vegan pasta dish

Simple spaghetti sauce straightupbananas

My go-to meal when I’m in dire need of groceries and need something wholesome and easy for lunch.

Made of 5 ingredients and in two pots — it’s a win- win for me any day.

Ingredients:

  • Wholewheat pasta of your choice
  • 1 can of organic crushed tomato
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • Green peas
  • Sea salt

 

How to make it:

  • In boiling water with some sea salt, add the pasta and cook as instructed on package.
  • While the pasta is cooking, in a frying pan, add the olive oil and fry the garlic till nice and golden.
  • Then, add the can of crushed tomato and cook together.
  • Add some pasta water to get a nice rich consistency for the sauce.
  • Once the pasta is cooked through, add the pasta to the sauce and cook together then add the frozen green peas making sure not to over cook it.

That’s it, you’re done!

Hey why not visit my Instagram page: @straightupbananas