Archives for posts with tag: honey

This post is a bit unusual for me. A few months ago I bumped into Isabel, a lady who has set up a family business in her home, making and selling chocolate. This isn’t just any old chocolate: this is home-made, nutritious, delicious chocolate and it is made just up the road from me near Bicester in Oxfordshire.

As you will know already if you’ve read some of my previous posts, I have a bit of a sweet tooth but I know what refined, processed sugar can do to the body so I’m always on the lookout for clean eating treats and recipes that use natural, non-processed and health boosting ingredients. I was so excited to meet Isabel and to discover that someone local to me shared the same ideals and values as I did and had turned it into a business. I rushed out to buy a bar of her chocolate and I can confirm it is delicious.

I decided I had to interview Isabel and share her story with you all. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to run out and buy Isabel’s chocolate as soon as you’ve finished reading this…which is quite lucky really because we all know chocolate is good for us. See my previous post here if you don’t believe me!

So here it is, an interview with Isabel, owner and creator of The Chicken Shed.

Tell me a bit about The Chicken Shed. What do you do and what makes your chocolate special?

The Chicken Shed is Enrico (the man who makes the chocolate), me (I look after the website, the look and feel of our products and most of our customer contact), Ella (10 – she’s a great sales lady!), and Maya (7, fellow taster with Ella). We involve the children in most aspects, from testing new flavours to how our packaging looks, and they help us get ready for markets.

We make chocolate bars in 8 flavours at the moment (but more to come!), hot chocolate, and Belgian chocolates exclusively for Deddington Farmers’ Market as well as seasonal chocolate items. Our chocolate is organic, dairy-free and is made with raw forest honey rather than refined sugar. We also work the chocolate at lower temperatures than normal so as to ensure that we don’t “cook away” all the nutrients. Technically you’d class it as raw.

Tell me about the ingredients. What’s healthy and good about them?

All our chocolate is organic. It’s made with raw honey rather than refined sugar, so the GI is much lower, plus it boosts your enzyme and antioxidant levels. We deliberately keep the temperatures low when making our chocolate so that the nutrients stay intact. We’re careful about the ingredients we choose – if it’s over-processed, or has little or no nutritional value, it doesn’t make it in.  For example, we could have made our hot chocolate with conventional cornflour as a thickener, but we opted for purple cornflour instead. Purple cornflour contains an antioxidant called anthocyanin which a study by the State University of Ohio has shown to have amazing cancer busting properties: during the study, researchers found that anthocyanins extracted from purple corn killed 20 percent of in vitro cancer cells, while leaving surrounding tissue relatively unharmed.

One of your major selling points is that your chocolate is sugar-free. Why is this so important to you?

Refined sugar is just full of empty calories. We all know it doesn’t do your body any good, in fact there is research that suggests it feeds cancer cells. Why eat what the media are calling “poison” when there are healthy alternatives out there? We didn’t want our chocolate to taste like an alternative though! We wanted it to taste amazing, so you still feel like you’re treating yourself, but you’re actually doing yourself some good (as part of a balanced diet of course).

Have you always been interested in health and nutrition?

To some extent, yes. I became vegetarian when I was 18 (for ethical rather than health reasons)  – I was still living at home at the time – and my Mum was really against the idea because she was worried I wouldn’t get the right nutrients in my diet. It made me focus more on having a balanced diet. Having children increased that focus. They’re vegetarian too, and I wanted to make sure that, without meat and fish in their diets, they would grow up healthy.

Then, about 3 years ago, I became friends with Ellie Bedford who is now a raw food nutritionist. She introduced us to the concept of baking and cooking without refined sugar and white flour. We did our own research on the health issues linked to those two ingredients, and – now armed with healthy alternatives – decided to ditch sugar and white flour (and co-wrote the healthy desserts book with her).

Aside from avoiding refined sugar, what other healthy foods and habits do you try to incorporate into your life?

We don’t use white flour – we tend to use spelt a lot as an alternative. Our overall philosophy is really a common sense one – there are so many different diets out there and they contradict each other – it’s very confusing!

We just trust that nature has things well designed so we eat seasonal foods when we can, get some variety, and we try to not “mess” with food, because a lot of the time, that means you end up taking away a lot of the nutrients. For example, the process of refining wheat into white flour strips away more than half of wheat’s B vitamins, 90 percent of the vitamin E, and virtually all of the fibre.

What’s your favourite meal?

Enrico’s Italian, so we eat a fair amount of Italian food, so I would go for homemade pizza or pasta (made with spelt flour).

What’s your favourite snack?

Our chocolate! Yogurt with fruit and nuts, spirulina Bounce balls, and raw chocolate brownies.

What’s your favourite Chicken Shed flavour/product?

Personally, I think cardamom, but it really depends on my mood. Obviously I like them all, or they wouldn’t have passed our tasting tests 🙂  The children love vanilla, liquorice, and Serious (73%), and Enrico would say liquorice, but they’re all nice!

Where can people find you and buy your chocolate? 

We’re online on, on Etsy and Notonthehighstreet, and are stocked locally at the Organic Deli in Oxford (, the Natural Health Store in Banbury, Uhuru in Oxford, the Duck’s Pantry in Hardwick and the Beanbag in Witney. The Varsity Club in Oxford sells our little chocolate eggs. We’re also regulars at Deddington Farmers’ Market and North Parade Market.

What is the future like for The Chicken Shed?

Well, we have a new flavour about to hit the market: Honey and Bee Pollen, which is exciting. We’re looking to expand, so hopefully more stockists. We’ve only been going for about half a year and in that time have changed the look of our packaging and almost doubled our range. Although we’re ambitious to grow, I’m hoping to get more balance in our lives as we do that.  Not quite sure how yet, but I’m working on it!



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.


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.


In some of my recipes, I have been using alternatives to refined sugar such as fruit and dates. I have a very sweet tooth and I love to bake but I am also aware of what refined sugar can do to the body, so I’m determined to find healthier alternatives that still taste good. I ordered some coconut sugar last week, which has just arrived and I’m excited about trying it out. I’m going to have to wait a while to use it though because I’m on day 1 of my 2-week sugar-free challenge. You can join me and do the challenge yourself: for more information, see The Sugar-Free Challenge page.

If you have any of the following symptoms, it could be that sugar is the culprit:

  • Aching joints
  • Permanently blocked sinuses (you know that feeling when you think you’re going down with a cold, but it never quite happens?)
  • Always tired
  • Lethargic
  • Headaches
  • Itchy skin
  • Dry skin
  • Thrush
  • Bad digestion
  • Fuzzy head
  • Forgetful
  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Prone to mood swings

So, why is refined sugar so bad for us?

There is so much information out there about how sugar damages your health, so I’m going to stick to the basics and leave it you to find out the specifics if you want to. Let’s start off with the obvious.

Sugar is quite bad for you because

  • It leads to tooth decay;
  • It is high in calories and completely lacking in nutrients, which leads to weight gain and malnutrition.

Ok, you probably already knew those 2, but that’s just the start.

Sugar is terrible for you because

  • It supresses the immune system;
  • It promotes inflammation;
  • It speeds up the ageing process;
  • It raises insulin levels. In the short term, this means sudden energy slumps and food cravings. In the long term, this can lead to diabetes;
  • It robs the body of B vitamins, which are basically needed to keep your nervous system, muscles and tissues healthy and functioning. See here for more information.

For more information on the list above, there’s a great article here at

For a truly terrifying list of how sugar damages your health, see 141 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health at

Now for the worst part:

The problem with sugar is that it’s just too tasty. No matter how much we want to hate the stuff, it’s very difficult to give up and that’s because sugar is a drug; it is addictive. There is an amazing lecture about this on YouTube called Sugar: The Bitter Truth by Prof. Robert Lustig, which I really recommend you watch if you are at all interested in the subject. Be warned, it’s over an hour long though!

What are the alternatives?

It’s important to remember that alternatives to refined sugar are still high in calories and will still raise insulin levels, so we shouldn’t go crazy and eat loads of them. However, it’s nice to have a sweet treat here and there and the alternatives in the list below contain more vitamins and minerals than refined sugar, meaning they nourish our bodies when we eat them rather than stripping the nutrients from us.

  • Fruit
  • Dates
  • Rapadura sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup

Alternatives to avoid:

In my opinion, sweeteners are even worse than refined sugar and should be avoided at all costs. But that’s a huge subject in itself, so I won’t go into it now.

By now you’re probably beginning to hate me a little for making you feel bad about eating sugar, but please don’t!  I wish I could eat lots of sugar too. As I said in my very first post, “I love food…especially cake. It makes me happy”  and I like nothing more than enjoying yummy food with family and friends. Emotional health is just as important as physical health so I’ve had to find a balance that is reasonable and sustainable: I try to eat healthily most of the time, if I have treats at home I try to use the healthier alternatives, but I’m not going to beat myself up about the odd indulgent meal at a friend’s house or a delicious, sugar-laden pudding at a restaurant. Life is for living and enjoying after all!



It was my Mum’s birthday last week and she came to stay yesterday so I took the opportunity to try out a new birthday cake recipe. It’s a sugar-free carrot cake with mascarpone icing and it’s amazing.

I wasn’t sure how it would turn out or whether Mum would be happy with a sugar-free cake but I have to say it was a hit. Phew!

The cake is sweetened using dates rather than refined sugar. This means that whilst you should still eat it in moderation if you’re trying to watch your weight, it is a lot healthier and richer in nutrients than normal cake. Dates are packed with vitamins and minerals and are high in fibre so help with digestion. For more information on the health benefits of dates, have a look here.


For the cake:

200g (7 oz) organic wholemeal spelt flour

3 tsp baking powder

110g (4 oz) finely chopped dates

75g (3 oz) unsweetened, desiccated coconut

50g (2 oz) finely chopped walnuts

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp mixed spice

110g (4 oz) melted coconut oil or sunflower oil

140g (5 oz) sultanas

2–3 large grated carrots

Zest of 1 orange and 2 tbsp orange juice

2 eggs, beaten

For the mascarpone icing:

225g (8oz) mascarpone

Zest and juice of 1 orange

Honey to drizzle

Walnuts to decorate


How to make it:

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Add the coconut, dates, nuts and spices to the flour and mix them all together. In another bowl, mix the oil, sultanas, grated carrot, orange juice and zest. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Then add the eggs and mix thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into a greased cake tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Check to see if it is cooked by inserting a knife into the middle. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Allow the cake to rest in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it onto a wire rack to cool.

Whilst the cake is cooling, make the icing by mixing together the mascarpone, orange juice and zest. Spread over the cake and then drizzle honey over the top and decorate with walnuts if you wish.

We treated ourselves to a slice of this with a freshly ground coffee and it was delicious. A real treat without eating loads of refined sugar and white flour…although, we did devour over half the cake between 2 of us. Ah well, it was a birthday celebration after all.

Happy Birthday, Mum!



I started my day off today with a lovely, cleansing ginger and clove drink. My mum swears by it and it’s actually this drink that inspired the title of my blog.

How to make it:

Boil the kettle. Chop up some ginger and pop it into a mug. Add 6-8 cloves. Pour in the boiled water. Top it up with boiled water throughout the day. Easy!

I added a squeeze of fresh lime this morning. Lemon works well too, and if you add a spoonful of honey and a sprinkle of cinnamon you’ve got yourself a delicious ‘hot toddy’, as my mum likes to call it.

Why it’s good for you?

Aside from tasting good, there are many health benefits to eating ginger and cloves regularly.

You only have to google ‘health benefits’ of either of these amazing spices and you’ll find loads of blogs and websites explaining just how healthy they are, so I won’t go into too many details here. But briefly:

Ginger is great for minor ailments like sickness and heartburn, and coughs and colds. It is also known to be an anti-inflammatory so it could help people with osteoarthritis, and it is even thought to provide protection against cancer. The article here on is very informative and interesting, especially the bit about ginger’s cancer fighting abilities:

“The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found out through their research that ginger can also destroy ovarian cancer cells. What’s more, they found that ginger triggered two types of cell death – apoptosis and autophagy. “Apoptosis…results from cancer cells essentially committing suicide.”

Read more:

Cloves are rich in antioxidants and like ginger they help fight infections, and relieve digestive problems and arthritis pain. They also have antiseptic qualities that are great for the immune system and for maintaining dental health. Have a look at this article on for more information.

I’ll be testing out some recipes using these ‘super spices’ and sharing them if they’re good. If you have any good recipes, please share. x