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Nourishing and comforting plant-based recipes to boost your energy, help you sleep, and brighten your mood.
So many of us go about our busy lives without eating wholesome food. Yet without giving our body what it truly needs to fuel us through the day (and night), we get ill, feel low, and have trouble sleeping.
In The Self-Care Cookbook, plant-based chef Gemma Ogston introduces us to eating as the ultimate form of self-care, whether you're a full-time vegan, flexitarian, or just looking for simple recipes developed with wellness in mind. Each recipe has been crafted to nurture your body and mind. Organized by some of the core goals of self-care routines--Restore, Rebalance, Reflect, and Renew--The Self-Care Cookbook demonstrates countless ways to embrace your mood and understand your body's needs through recipes as well as activities outside of the kitchen.
With over 60 delicious meals including Firey Bean Stew for the days you feel under the weather, Calming Miso Pasta to give your gut flora a super boost, and Indulgent Chocolate Pudding (because you deserve it), The Self-Care Cookbook is for anyone who needs some extra TLC and finds comfort in creating healthful, cozy meals--whether it's dinner for one or a meal shared with the people you love.
Under the Cover
An excerpt from The Self-Care Cookbook
Our busy lives and hectic schedules can often leave us running on empty. Now more than ever, it feels so important that we regularly set aside proper time to fully restore and recharge our energy levels. Often we find ourselves dealing with feelings of guilt if we plan to take some time out, as though we think we should be constantly chasing that to-do list, or maybe even that we think we don’t deserve to stop and rest. But is there really anything more important than looking after our health? If we aren’t looking after ourselves properly, how can we be expected to look after other people or perform to the best of our abilities? If we ignore our need to replenish our energies and carry on steaming ahead, illness or exhaustion can kick in, forcing us to take a break. It’s obviously so much better if we can avoid reaching a breaking point in the first place. Remember that life isn’t a competition about who can do more or who can operate on the least sleep.
This first chapter is all about retreating into yourself for a little while, slowing the pace down so that you can gather your energies together again. I’ve included sections on how to get more rest into your days, with ideas and recipes to calm the nerves and reduce anxiety, and to aid properly peaceful sleep. I’ve also shared an easy restorative mindfulness exercise, which you can even practice while you are preparing a delicious meal for yourself! The chapter closes with one of my favorite sections in the book—Cozy. Whether it’s a sleep-in on the weekend or snuggling down into the sofa after a long day, I believe getting cozy is essential to our well-being. It should be a MUST in your self-care routine.
I hope by the end of this chapter, you will have started to feel a little calmer, recharged, and more in control. Bringing a sense of calm to how you go about your day, however chaotic life may feel at times, will leave you better able to cope with whatever you are facing.
Good-quality rest—and enough of it—is vital for body and mind. Experiencing even low-level tiredness can lead to fluctuating moods and even forgetfulness. Although eight hours a night is often considered the Holy Grail when it comes to sleep, as a mum of two with a busy job, I know that this is not always possible for everyone. We also all need different amounts of sleep, so it’s important to work out how much you need personally and then to try to aim for that whenever you can.
Don’t worry if you’re not getting as many hours each night as you think you should, but do take a look at ways you can introduce more moments of rest into your daily life and at improving the quality of the sleep that you do get. Maybe set aside one night a week to go to bed early or let yourself nap in the afternoon on the weekend if you’re tired. Even just slowing things down a notch or two as you go about your day, allowing yourself to pause for a quiet moment or making the time to do absolutely nothing for a few hours every so often so you can relax and unwind will help you feel all the more rested.
The recipes on the following pages contain my favorite restorative and calming ingredients to help boost melatonin production (which controls your body’s internal clock) and to aid better sleep. These dishes can also help reduce anxiety so you can feel more relaxed and calmer throughout the day. Later in the chapter, I’ve shared a few of my tried-and-tested ways for achieving a truly restorative night’s sleep.
If you are feeling unrested and exhausted, remember to be gentle with yourself. Know that it will pass eventually, and make sure not to overload your days or plan in too many activities that will drain your energies. We all go through patches of restlessness during our lives, but taking just a few small steps can help you gain back control.
Sometimes poor sleep can be due to something as simple as falling blood sugar levels during the night. Try one of these light snacks before bed and see if it makes any difference to how well you sleep.
• A small bowl of porridge This is a great bedtime snack, as oats provide sleep-inducing amino acids and B vitamins.
• Natural cherries For a melatonin boost. Have a few on their own, or add to granola with some plant-based yogurt.
• Walnuts Another good source of melatonin—make some simple energy balls (see page 132) and keep them in the freezer.
• Hummus on crackers or toast Chickpea hummus contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid that gets converted into melatonin in the body. Spread on rye toast or crackers.
Restore your sleep
Rest well, sleep well
When we are stressed or have a million things going around our minds, it can be hard to drop off to sleep. Or maybe you can get to sleep without much of a problem but find yourself wide awake a couple of hours later staring at the ceiling. . . . Of course, if there’s something specific worrying you and keeping you awake, then the best solution is to try and resolve that issue once and for all. But in the meantime, or if that’s just not possible right now, try these simple steps for achieving a deeply restful night’s sleep so you wake up feeling rejuvenated.
Write your worries down
Whether you’re already into journaling or if you’ve just had a stressful day and need to clear your head, write down whatever thoughts you have racing around, then set them aside for the night.
Create a calming sleep environment•Let your bedroom breathe. Open the windows and get some fresh air in every day.
• Burn relaxing essential oils to make your room smell divine.
• Reduce the clutter. Give your room a good cleanout and get rid of those odd socks you have hiding under the bed!
• Invest in some new bedding. It doesn’t need to cost a fortune—you can get some on sale—but it really makes a difference.
• Keep colors and artwork peaceful. Set the mood for relaxation.
• Keep it dark. Even a little artificial light can upset your natural sleep cycle. Think about investing in blackout blinds or wear an eye mask.
• No late-night scrolling! We all know the blue light emitted from electronics can affect sleep, but social media can sometimes spark negative thought processes, too. You want to go to bed feeling calm and content.
That feeling of being tranquil, with the absence of any strong emotions or stressful thought patterns is such a nice idea, isn’t it? But daily life, chores, family commitments, and worries can often mean that calm isn’t something we feel or practice often enough. Maybe we have even forgotten what it actually feels like to be calm?
As a first step, try to include just five minutes of calm in your busy day by closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing. See opposite for my calming breath-work exercise. It’s such a simple practice but has huge and long-lasting effects. It can be done anywhere and at any time when you are feeling anxious or frantic. Try it before you leave the house in the morning to help set a calm intention for the day, or when you get back at night to reset before the evening.
In this section, I have chosen recipes based on ingredients that can relieve stress and anxiety, to help you realize that longed-for sense of calm. When you are feeling overwhelmed, I know that cooking can sometimes feel like yet another thing that you need to do, but try to enjoy the process. Preparing a meal for yourself—and for others—is incredibly nourishing and a wonderful act of self-care. Cooking can be such a calming and enjoyable activity—a kind of meditation therapy in itself. See page 44 for more on mindful cooking.
Being kind to yourself and allowing yourself a few moments of tranquility and peace during the day is something you deserve and need in order to calm your mind and help balance your emotions, so make sure to factor it in.