Archives for category: Recipe

It’s that time of year again when temptation is all around – mince pies in the café windows, chocolates at the checkout, selection box biscuits in the office … Now, whilst I am definitely not against having the odd treat at any time of year, especially at Christmas, pigging out on bad food for an entire month is never going to leave you feeling good!

I find that one of the best ways to avoid giving in to all the Christmassy snacks that are being thrust under your nose is to be prepared and have your own snacks with you. That way, if it all gets too much, you know you have something with you that will fill you up, satisfy your cravings and nourish your body.

As my job involves a lot of odd hours, working through lunch and regular ‘jumping around’ sessions throughout the day, I often take snacks out with me to graze on rather than eating a big lunch in one go. I have become a master of healthy snacking, so I’ve drawn up a list of snack ideas that I hope will help and inspire you.

Simple, stress-free snacks

I’m a big fan of simplicity when it comes to eating. Although I do a lot of cooking and preparing of home-made snacks and meals, I tend to choose the quicker, simpler recipes because I’m always so pushed for time. These snacks don’t involve any preparation, are pretty basic, and are not at all ground-breaking, but they are healthy, nutritious and nice to eat:

  • High quality 90% dark chocolate

I find this is a great mood and energy booster, and because the chocolatey taste is so rich and the sugar content so much lower than in other chocolates, you only need a small amount to satisfy your cravings.

  • Fruit

Simple but effective. It’s easy to pop a banana or a satsuma in your bag and then when you want something sweet, it’s there waiting for you.

  • Dried apricots, prunes, dates and other dried fruits

Again, this is great when you want something sweet, but be wary of dried fruit – it is quite sugary and moreish so you don’t want to eat a lot of it in one go.

  • Nuts and seeds

Try to go for raw or (even better) activated nuts rather than roasted.

  • Nut butter (cashew, almond, hazelnut …)

OK, so you’re going to need to remember to take a spoon with you for this one, but when I’m really hungry and just want something to see me through and give me some energy, I always turn to a teaspoon of almond or cashew butter. Mmm!

Check out www.nuts.com for a great range of raw nuts and seeds and for a wonderfully diverse range of dried fruits.

Make your own snacks

If you fancy something a little bit more interesting or filling, you might need to do a bit more preparation, but that still doesn’t mean taking up loads of your time. Put aside an hour or two once a week to prepare some snacks that you can then grab when you are in a rush:

  • Power balls

We always have raw energy balls in the freezer and then we just grab a couple to take out with us when we need them. There are loads of recipes out there, so it’s worth having a look around. Energy balls always taste really indulgent so they’re perfect for taking with you when you know there are going to be lots of chocolates and tasty bakes around.

This is the one I usually make: Raw Chocolate Energy Balls , but I’ll be trying this recipe soon as it sounds delicious: Healthy Vegan Chocolate Truffles.

  • Healthy muffins

Deliciously Ella always has some nice muffin recipes. Or how about trying these recipes from my blog: Healthy Apple FlapjackNaturally Sweet Apple Muffins?

I love this recipe from I Quit Sugar.

  • Crackers

If you would rather have a savoury snack, then these crackers from I Quit Sugar are fantastic.

  • Left overs

This takes even less preparation. Depending on what you have for dinner the night before, you can always take some left overs as a little snack or light lunch. I like to make healthy, gluten-free chicken nuggets for dinner and then take the left over chicken nuggets to munch on the next day. They’re so good.

Above are just a few of my favourite snacks and recipes, but there are loads of amazing ideas on a website I have just discovered called www.nuts.com. Check out their healthy snack page and let me know if you try any of the recipes out. I’m definitely going to try out their Cranberry Almond Flour Cookies this Christmas, and their Granola Bars sound lovely too.

Ready made snacks

OK, so you’ve taken this all on board but you’re still after something that’s just a little bit more exciting to ward off those Christmas cravings, and you don’t have the time to prepare your own. Luckily, there are more and more truly healthy snacks available these days; when I say ‘truly healthy snacks’, I mean made without refined sugar and gluten, and without long lists of unnatural sounding ingredients. So have a shop around and see what you can find.

I hope these ideas will help you get through the next few weeks feeling happy, healthy and good about yourself. Remember, just because something is good for you, it doesn’t mean it can’t be delicious, so get inventive, get researching and treat yourself to some delicious snacks this December.

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Some of you may think this is taking things a bit too far – I know my boyfriend does – but there are only so many healthy living blogs you can read without thinking you should at least try a green smoothie. So, about a week ago I made a pineapple and kale smoothie.

I wouldn’t recommend it. I had to treat myself to a very strong coffee to get over the experience!

You’d have thought that would be enough to put me off trying any more green smoothie recipes, but I don’t give up that easily. On Sunday morning, I made a banana, mango and spinach smoothie. My boyfriend begged me not to waste any more food on this crazy experiment but I did it anyway and luckily it was OK. Actually, it was surprisingly nice, so I thought I’d share the recipe in case anyone else fancies giving this green smoothie thing a try.

How to make it:

Take 1 banana, 1 mango and around 2 handfuls of spinach. Whizz them up with some filtered water (depending on how thick you like your smoothies). And there you go.

I didn’t bother taking a photo because it didn’t look all that appetising, but believe me, it tasted good. I’m going to browse some green smoothie sites to see if I can find some more recipes. Let me know if you have any good green smoothie recipes worth sharing.

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Do you ever have those days (or weeks) when the most you can be bothered to cook is pasta?!  Maybe it’s just me but sometimes even chopping up a salad or making scrambled egg seems like a mission and when I want a quick meal that I know my 1 year old will eat too, pasta seems like an easy option. The problem is, pasta doesn’t really agree with me and the more I read about gluten – and wheat in particular – I don’t think it does anyone good to eat it on a regular basis. If you want to read up about gluten and wheat and the problems it can cause, this Changing Habits blog is a really good place to start.

So I decided to look around for a gluten-free gnocchi recipe and found this one. I tried it tonight and I’m so pleased with it, I just have to share it. If you’re looking for a quick, easy, gluten-free meal, this is brilliant. It took a bit of time to roll each individual gnocchi but once they’re done, you can bung them in the freezer and cook them from frozen in just 5 minutes.

As it says in the recipe, you can serve the gnocchi with your normal pasta sauce or do something a bit more adventurous if you want to.

Let me know how you get on and please share any good sauce recipes you have.

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A few days ago I was rustling around in the fridge looking for something quick, easy and healthy for lunch. I was feeling pretty lazy and uninspired and then I stumbled across a bag of watercress at the bag of the fridge. It was half forgotten and wilting a bit – no good for salad, but perfect for soup. I usually make watercress soup with potato but it was nearly the end of my lunch break and I didn’t have time for that, so I did a quick google search and found this recipe.

I didn’t have the time or the ingredients to follow the recipe exactly so I improvised a little bit.

Here’s my 5-minute watercress soup recipe:

Ingredients:

Knob of butter

1 clove of garlic

1/2 an onion

100-150g watercress

Salt

Pepper

Milk

1-2 medium to large tomatoes (optional)

How to make it:

Chop the onion, crush the garlic. Melt the butter in a pan and then add the onion and garlic. Sauté for 3 minutes. Add the watercress to the pan and add a pinch of pepper. Turn up the heat and cover the pan for 30 seconds to allow the watercress to wilt. Take off the lid, add 150ml boiling water, season and allow the soup to simmer for another couple of minutes. Whizz it up; I left mine a little bit lumpy because I like the texture of water cress. Stir in enough milk to make it the correct taste and consistency for you. Chop the tomatoes if you’re using them and mix them into the soup. Done.

Next time, I might try the actual recipe. I love the idea of combining spinach and watercress in a soup, but my version was absolutely delicious and it really didn’t take long.

In case you’re still not convinced, check out this article about the potential cancer fighting properties of watercress.

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This has to be one of my favourite recipes yet. It uses ground almonds instead of flour so it’s gluten-free, really moist, and tastes amazing.

You might have noticed by now that I’m a bit of a lazy baker so, as always with my recipes, this has relatively few ingredients and takes hardly any time to make. It doesn’t contain much sugar so you could use normal sugar and not feel too bad about it. I used coconut sugar, which tastes just as sweet and is rich in nutrients.

Ingredients:

200g ground almonds
125g gluten-free flour (make sure it doesn’t contain soya)
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1-2 tbsp organic brown sugar or coconut sugar (depending on taste)
40g butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
50-100g organic raisins (depending on taste)
3-6 tbsp milk

How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.

Add together the almonds, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar. Rub in the butter until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Stir in the sultanas and vanilla extra. Add the milk and use a knife to cut it into the mixture until you have a sticky dough. Do not add all of the milk straight away just in case you don’t need it: this mixture is wetter than normal scone mixture and sticks together very easily.

Place it on a greased baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown on top. Leave it to cool on the tray and then move onto a wire rack once it has firmed up a bit.

Pour yourself a lovely cup of tea, coffee, lemon water, herbal tea…cut a slice of scone and then sit back and relax.

Happy Easter, everyone.

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This one’s for my little sister, Ruth. For weeks we’ve been trying to come up with a sugar-free, syrup-free flapjack recipe that actually holds together and doesn’t just crumble the minute you pick it up.

We’ve tried out a few recipes using honey and whilst some of them have been very successful – like this delicious version by my friend, Sarah – I’ve wanted to go that little bit further and find a recipe that’s honey-free as well. Honey can be really good for you in so many ways, but it’s still a form of sugar and once I get a taste of it I want more and more and more….

So, I’ve come up with a very simple flapjack recipe that is lovely as a snack or as a quick breakfast when you’re pushed for time and, like many of my recipes, it makes a perfect snack for baby Freya too.

You may remember the cheesy flapjack recipe I posted a week or so ago. This recipe is a sweet version of that.

Ingredients:

100g (4 oz) oats

2 large cooking apple, grated

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil

About 10 prunes, chopped (the softer the prunes, the better)

How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Press into a greased tin so the mixture is about 1″ thick. Bake for around 20 mins until golden on top, remove from oven. Cool slightly before cutting into pieces (makes 14-16 fingers).

You could also experiment by adding other dried fruit and nuts of your choice. It doesn’t matter how much you add as long as you make sure the mixture is moist and sticky when it goes into the oven. I’d suggest adding more apple if you’re using loads of nuts because you don’t want the flapjack becoming too dry once baked.

Let me know how you get on.

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Last night I cooked this delicious chicken and sweet potato curry:

curry

I enjoyed it so much I had to share it with you, and the best thing about it is it’s made with coconut oil (instead of olive oil) and coconut milk. I just can’t get enough of coconut these days. For one thing, it makes everything taste lovely – it’s especially nice for adding flavour to meals and desserts when I’m trying to avoid sugar – but it’s also really really really good for me. Hurrah! It’s always nice when something you love turns out to be good for you.

So here we go with some of the health benefits. Coconut:

  • is antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and anti-parasitic;
  • is packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and amino acid;
  • is good for bone health;
  • is good for the skin: it helps healing and keeps you looking young;
  • boosts the immune system;
  • helps prevent obesity;
  • improves heart health;
  • has a low glycaemic index;
  • is great for digestion;
  • boosts energy and improves athletic performance.

And that’s just the beginning. For a more exhaustive list of health benefits and for more information on the list above, have a look at one of these sites:

www.care2.com

www.coconutsecret.com

www.coconutresearchcenter.org

Personally, I’m taking all of this to mean we should eat coconut as often as possible so here are a few ideas of how to get your daily dose:

Unsweetened desiccated coconut: bake with it, add it to porridge or muesli, mix it with nuts and seeds, or try it in hot milk with honey (one of my mum’s favourite snacks);

Dried coconut: excellent for snacking;
Coconut milk: Great for making curries and ice-cream, and if you’re a coffee lover, you might want to try this coconut latte. It’s still on my list of things to try very soon;

Coconut sugar: This is better for you than normal, refined sugar because it is rich in nutrients and has a lower glycaemic index. I’m hoping to use it for the first time to make my Dad’s birthday cake this weekend (hopefully…maybe) so watch this space;

Coconut flour: I haven’t tried baking with this yet, but I’m definitely up for trying it.

And now for the best one of all, Coconut oil!

You may have noticed I use it in quite a few of my baking recipes instead of oil or melted butter. I also use it when cooking soups, baby food, curries and all sorts of other dishes because it is wonderfully aromatic and adds real flavour.

According to several sources, Coconut oil is the healthiest oil in the world, helping with a whole range of health issues including lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes, aiding in skin repair, preventing osteoporosis, helping sufferers of chronic fatigue, improving metabolism, and possibly even helping treat Alzheimer’s. Again, for a more in-depth look at Coconut oil I’ll let more qualified people do the writing for me. Check out this site www.naturalnews.com.

A few other things that might interest you:

I’ve just read this article about oil pulling using coconut oil. I’m not so sure I’m ready for oil pulling yet, but it makes a very interesting read.

Coconut oil can be used to moisturise the skin and condition the hair. Again, not something I’ve tried yet but definitely worth looking in to.

So, to conclude, coconut rocks! Pina colada anyone? 😉

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Added 27/02/13: to find out more about how coconut oil may be used to treat Alzheimer’s, see here.

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Here’s a delicious recipe to brighten your weekend, courtesy of my friend Jemma Parker. Be warned, it’s a bit too nice!

Ingredients:

100g (4 oz) oats
100g (4 oz) cheese, grated
1 carrot, grated
1 apple, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil
Pinch of black pepper

How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl until well mixed. Press into a greased tin so the mixture is about 1″ thick. Bake for around 20 mins until golden on top, remove from oven. Cool slightly before cutting into pieces (makes 14-16 fingers).

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Good morning. Happy Valentine’s Day for yesterday!

How did it go? If you were lucky enough to be taken out for dinner last night, did you manage to resist pudding? Don’t worry if not; just count that as your cheat day and treat yourself to a lovely, sugar-free weekend.

We’re nearly at the half way mark and you might be starting to struggle without your normal quick energy fix: you might be feeling tired and grumpy after a long week of work; you might also be suffering from headaches or feel ill and as if you’re going down with something. I know it’s not very pleasant but it’s normal to get withdrawal symptoms like this: sugar is a drug after all. Just remind yourself why you’re doing this and think how good you’ll feel if you manage to resist those sugar-monster urges.

Now that’s enough about sugar! It’s time to stop focussing on what we’re ‘not allowed’ and start looking forward to some really delicious meals for the weekend. If you’re missing pasta, why not try cooking a dish with Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita squash). Bake it in the oven and then scoop the spaghetti-like flesh out and cook with it. I found a fantastic recipe idea here on one of my favourite new blogs, www.ourlifeinfood.com. Check it out for inspiration.

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what we’re not allwingIf you are feeling a bit down in the dumps and need a treat, here’s a delicious snack recipe courtesy of my frined Jemma Parker:

Very moreish cheesy flapjack
I’ve found a delicious meal idea that might just cheer you up, especially if you’re missing your pasta. This recipe uses Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita squash) as a replacement for pasta

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This is the easiest recipe ever. It took me 5 minutes to make and then 30 minutes in the oven. There are other more exciting versions of this recipe all over the internet so if you fancy being a bit adventurous, have a look around, but this is a good one to make when you have nothing but the basics in the house.

Ingredients:

350g (12 oz) organic wholemeal spelt flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp salt

½ pint milk (either fresh or slightly gone off)

Juice of ½ a lemon

How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

If you’re using gone off milk, you don’t need the lemon. If you’re using fresh milk, add the lemon juice to make it curdle. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl, add the salt and mix it all together. Make a well in the middle and add the milk. Quickly mix it all together and knead it briefly. Place it on a greased and floured baking tray and cook for 30 minutes.

To test whether or not it’s cooked, turn the loaf upside down and tap it on the bottom. If it makes a hollow sound, it’s done. Cool it on a wire rack.

Why I love it:

I love making my own soda bread because it’s quick and easy, because I know exactly what’s in it and because, unlike normal bread, it isn’t made with yeast.

So what’s the problem with yeast?

We all have a certain amount of yeast in our digestive systems but when we eat too much processed food, refined sugar and bread this yeast (Candida albicans) can get out of control and cause us all sorts of health problems such as digestive problems, bloating, aching joints, fatigue, headaches and thrush to name just a few. Taking a course of antibiotics can also cause an overgrowth of Candida albicans.

Doctors will often deny any link between yeast overgrowth and health problems but interestingly, patients with certain chronic ailments such as chronic fatigue syndrome are often successfully treated by cutting yeast out of their diet. It’s worth doing your own research into this but I certainly find I feel better if I cut yeast and sugar out of my diet: I feel less lethargic and sluggish and my digestive system feels a lot healthier.

If you want to find out more, here are some interesting articles to start you off:

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