I'm really embracing guest bloggers right now. With things getting busier planning Health Bloggers Community events in Dublin (read more here!) I've had to adjust my posting schedule a bit to allow me more time for nitty gritty logistics, planning and also appearing elsewhere on the web writing for others (you can see the collection of all my guest articles on this page of the Pantry).
So this week I'm introducing you to Ciara from The Irish Balance who is filling in with a delicious recipe from her own blog.
Ciara has become such a brilliant friend since my move to Dublin in May. She's the perfect example of someone you feel a bond with following on social media and who lives up to their online persona in every possible way and more when you meet them in person.
Ciara and I are now Dublin brunching buddies and I love being inspired by her commitment to her exercise regime, her honest from-the-heart blog posts on topics like Stress, Sleep and Switching off and Exercise Addiction and her amazing Instagram Stories encouraging me to get on camera a little bit more!
I've asked Ciara a few questions so you (and I!) can get to know her better. And then she'll be serving up her delicious nutty quinoa cashew bars which I couldn't wait to try!
Hi Ciara and welcome to The Flourishing Pantry! Please tell us a little bit about you and your background.
I’m a Boston-born Irish girl working as a junior doctor in Dublin, Ireland. I’ve always been interested in science and nutrition, and loved working with and helping people, so medicine seemed the right fit to me! I actually completed the first year of a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics before starting Medicine. Five years later with my medical degree happily under my belt, I started work as an intern in Dublin, and am now in my third year of doctor life!
What prompted you to start a blog?
There were a couple of reasons – I realised last year that I was passionate about the growing area of ‘lifestyle medicine’ (i.e. looking at how our diet, activity, stress, etc. affects our health), and using that knowledge to help us improve on those areas, and ideally help alleviate some of the chronic illness burden so prevalent in our society today. I wanted to create a platform to share what I would and will learn about lifestyle medicine, in a simple message that reaches many. I also had begun to post pictures of meals I had made on Instagram, and a lot of friends would message me asking for the recipe – so a blog seemed the perfect fit for that too!
Why do you think healthy living is important?
I attended a talk by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee this year that really stuck with me.
Dr Chatterjee talks about four pillars of health – diet, exercise, stress and sleep. Each of us has at least one of these areas we know we could improve on, myself included. No one is perfect, and that’s the beauty of balance – it’s a constant journey unique to each person. And if you apply those pillars to yourself, think how much better you feel after a good night’s sleep, or a walk, a run, a good meal with friends, relaxing with a gripping book – all of those simple things DO make us healthier as well as happier.
The science as to how that happens is constantly evolving and is a very new area. It’s THE area I want to pursue as part of my career as a doctor, and I want my blog to be a platform for me to share that with you.
Any advice for those starting on their health journey?
Start simple. Look at your four pillars – diet, exercise, stress, sleep. Which do you think you’re more naturally good at? What are the areas you want to improve the most? Take pride in your strengths, and pick one pillar to improve initially. For example, if its exercise, think about the type of activity you enjoy. Is it walking, running, dancing, lifting weights? Pick what you have fun doing, because that is what you will stick at.
How do you balance work and staying healthy?
Calling my blog The Irish Balance wasn’t a random pick. I chose the term ‘Balance’ because I want to use my blog to share my own journey to balance with you guys, as well as help you on yours.
My two pillars I’m constantly working on are stress and sleep, and let’s be honest, being ‘balanced’ isn’t easy – so I don’t pretend to be! I juggle my day job and staying healthy with a few go-to habits – making time for family and friends a priority, meal preparation, and planning each week when I’ll get my exercise in (I’m a gym and outdoor activity addict!).
What is your favourite recipe from your blog?
Definitely my Chocolate Chickpea Power Bars – and happily, it’s a crowd favourite with those following my blog too!
I went through such a phase last year of consuming a LOT of synthetic protein bars – both Fulfil and Grenade as a snack on the go at work. I don’t think they did my skin ANY favours - despite being two brand with the best macro-nutrient breakdown out there, a synthetic protein bar is still a processed food product.
So, as I began to reduce my animal protein intake this year, I decided to try my hand at making a plant-based homemade protein bar. I had made Peanut Chickpea Blondies before and loved them, so using chickpeas again was an obvious choice! My highlight with this recipe has to be when someone messaged me to say their children loved the bars and begged for them to be made – GOALS.
What is your favourite recipe from The Flourishing Pantry?
A VERY tough call – have you seen the range of beautiful creations she has on it? But, if you’re forcing my hand, I’ll say Vicky’s Roasted Aubergine with Tahini Dressing. It’s one I love to make and don’t get to often enough – plus, I’m a self-confessed tahini addict!
Thanks so much Ciara, it's great to get to know you better! Time for a snack I think...
SERVES: Makes 12 bars
PREP TIME: 15 minutes
COOK TIME: 25-30 minutes
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp whole chia seeds
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp chopped cashews
2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp sweetener of choice (Ciara uses Meridian Foods Date Syrup, Vicky used honey)
2 medium sized ripe bananas, mashed until liquid-like in consistency
1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 cup/100g quick-cook oats (Ciara uses Flahavan's Progress Oatlets)
50g good quality dark chocolate, chopped into tiny chunks (Ciara used Magic Mayan Creamy Cashew 73% Dark Chocolate)
Optional: 2 tbsp of Protein Powder (Ciara used Nutristrength Vanilla Pea Protein!)
Preheat the oven to 180C (fan oven), line a baking dish with tinfoil, and grease the tinfoil with a little melted coconut oil.
Take a large mixing bowl, and add your oats, rinsed quinoa, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, protein powder, seeds and cashews. Stir everything up using a big spoon so it's well mixed.
Leave the chocolate chips aside for the moment.
In a smaller bowl, mash your bananas, and add the vanilla extract, sweetener and coconut oil, and stir.
Add your wet ingredients into the larger bowl, and get some elbow action going! Mix it all up until all the dry ingredients are coated.
Finally, add the chocolate chips, and fold them into the batter.
Scoop your mixture into your baking dish, and using the back of a spoon, spread it out evenly into each corner of the dish, flattening the top as you go.
Transfer the dish into the oven when it's ready, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check at 25 minutes by inserting a fork or toothpick into the centre of the bake - if it comes out pretty much clean, you're all set!
Remove from the oven, and allow the bars to cool for 15 minutes before slicing - and devouring.
Ciara :) x
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