Archives for posts with tag: natural

You can hardly have failed to notice the organic industry exploding over the past few years. I used to have to go out of my way to find organic produce but now the supermarket shelves are packed with it.  The problem is, it’s all so expensive. I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to become sceptical about the health food industry. Sometimes it seems as though food companies are using the word ‘Organic’ just so they can charge more for their products.

Well, I’ve looked into this and

“unlike most food assurance schemes, organic food production is subject to […] an EU Regulation, which has been incorporated into the laws of the United Kingdom.” (www.organicfarmers.org.uk)

This means that, in general, organic food cannot be grown with artificial fertilisers, herbicides or growth regulators, and livestock feed additives are also prohibited.

Interestingly, there is very little data supporting the health benefits of eating organic food. According to a study reported on the BBC News website last year, organic food is no healthier than conventionally farmed food:

“Overall, there was no discernible difference between the nutritional content, although the organic food was 30% less likely to contain pesticides.” (www.bbc.co.uk/news)

In the future, I would hope to see that figure of 30% rise to nearer 100% (wishful thinking?!) but even consuming 30% fewer pesticides seems a good reason to eat organic.  If the alternative is packing my body full of chemicals, hormones and even sewage, I’m going to try to eat organic whenever I can.

The BBC article goes on to point out that the data is inconclusive and that the study was only run over 2 years. We simply do not know the long-term effects of regularly consuming these chemicals and I’d rather not be a human guinea pig! So, whilst I do have a problem with a lot of foods labelled as ‘healthy’* (see my previous blogs on ‘free-from’ products and soya), I strongly believe that organic food is good for us.

However, as much as I would love to buy organic everything, I just can’t afford to. Luckily, I stumbled across this helpful guide to organic food  and The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ lists  that show which foods contain the most pesticide residues and which are relatively safe to eat even when non-organic.

Based on what I’ve read so far, I’ll definitely be going organic for

  • Milk
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Blueberries
  • Leafy Greens
  • Courgettes
  • Summer squash

I don’t have all the information, facts and figures, and I suspect there is a long way to go before organic food is truly free from all the horrible pollutants we pump into the earth, but even if turns out that organic food really isn’t any better for our health in the short- or long-term (which I doubt), we know it is better for the environment and sustainable farming. Isn’t the future health of our planet – the world our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will live in – even more important than our own individual health?

I’d like to know your thoughts on this subject, so please get in touch.

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* I especially have a problem with margarines, low-fat spreads and other foods labelled as ‘low-fat’. These are generally not good for you and are misleading: low-fat, high-carb diets are detrimental to our health and are now known to cause all sorts of health problems. More on this in a future blog.
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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 Thursday, I started back at work after 10 months on maternity leave. To say it’s been a shock to the system would be an understatement and it’s meant I haven’t had much time for baking or writing this week. I haven’t even done as much exercise as I normally would, which has left me feeling a bit grumpy and lacking in energy.

I have, however, found a couple of brillaint articles/posts that I want to share with you so over the next few days I’m going to let other people do the writing for me.

Don’t worry, I’ve got loads of new recipes and ingredients I want to experiment with and lots more health and fitness tips to share in the next few weeks.

Today’s post is by Hayley Hobson, one of my favourite bloggers. In this post , Hayley writes about 10 foods that prevent Alzheimer’s. This is a subject very close to my heart as my gran has the disease. It might be too late to help her but it’s good to know that by eating the right foods I might be able to protect myself and my family from the same fate.

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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.

These chewy fruit biscuits are brilliant when you want a little something sweet, but not too naughty. They make excellent finger food for babies too.

A couple of months ago I left my daughter Freya in the sports centre crèche whilst I went into the gym. When I went to collect her, I was told she had been given a biscuit. I tried not to react too strongly, but I think they could tell I was a little put out. They quickly assured me the biscuits were gluten-free and dairy-free and were perfectly fine to give to any 6 month old baby. They didn’t mention whether or not the biscuits were sugar-free or even salt-free, so I asked to see the packet.

I can’t remember the exact make of biscuit, but the list of ingredients looked something like this:

Maize Starch, Sugar, Soya Flour, Water, Palm Oil, Sugar Syrup, Salt, Flavourings, Raising Agent: Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate. 

Hmm. There are so many things that bother me about this list of ingredients and I’ll talk about them in future posts, but for now let’s just say I wouldn’t be happy putting these ingredients into my own body, let alone feeding them to a baby.

Freya was booked into the crèche again the very next day so I quickly raced home to come up with an alternative biscuit-type snack to send with her the next day.

I found this recipe. Freya loves them and I quite like them too! No processed food, flour or sugar: just good clean banana and oats. I shared the recipe with a friend who added a couple of chopped prunes to the mix, which made them even tastier. Since then, I’ve tried replacing the banana with mango. The biscuits come out a little bit soggier, but they still hold together and I absolutely love them. Oh, and so does Freya, of course…when I remember to leave any for her!

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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.

Ingredients:

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!

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Here’s one of my new favourite recipes to get us started. It’s a guilt-free cake fix. Give it a go, adapt it a little if you want and let me know what you think.

These sugar free muffins are great for when I need a bit of cake without the guilt or the post-cake sugar crash. They are moist and delicious with a subtle sweetness. I make them for my 8 month old daughter so I don’t add any sugar to the mixture, but sometimes I treat myself by spreading them with a bit of butter or honey. Yum!

Ingredients:

150g (5 ½ oz) wholemeal spelt flour

1 ½ tsp gluten free baking powder

½ tsp cinnamon

A couple of handfuls of sultanas

60g (2 oz) coconut oil or butter

2 large eggs, beaten

3 medium apples, grated

3-4 tbsp milk

How to make them:

Preheat oven 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Gently melt the butter or coconut oil. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, grated apple and melted butter and mix well. Then pour the apple mixture into the flour and fold together. Add enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency. Spoon the mixture into greased muffin tins and cook for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

I use whatever apples I have lying around, usually the ones that are going a bit wrinkly in the fruit bowl! However, if you want to get more flavour, you could experiment by using a stronger tasting apple like a cooking apple.

To add a bit of natural sweetness, you could try adding honey to the mixture or a bit of freshly squeezed fruit juice, some orange zest or even some chopped dates. If you try these any of these, please let me know how it goes.

Also, try them with 2 medium carrots instead of apples for a slightly different taste.