Sticky Gingerbread Paleo Muffins

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All week I have been craving gingerbread.  It must be the time of year, all those posters for gingerbread lattes.  I had a hunt around for some healthy/gluten-free gingerbread muffin recipes but nothing looked too exciting, or healthy, so I made this up as I went along.  Not to be too smug or anything, but these are INCREDIBLE!! The whole house smelt amazing and so festive whilst I was baking them, too.  These little beauties are free from gluten, grains, dairy and refined sugar, and full of nourishment and protein.  Which mean you can eat all 6, obvs.

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These muffins are really light and fluffy and not at all dense like a lot of paleo or gluten free cakes. The molasses/treacle also makes them gloriously sticky and sweet. I have tried baking with coconut flour before but had some serious disasters. Less is definitely more as it’s quite binding.  Secondly, the whisked egg whites make all the difference to the texture. I try to avoid recipes which require whisking egg whites separately as I’m essentially far too lazy, but I’ve begrudgingly come to the conclusion it is more than worth the effort and the extra washing up.    Don’t hold back on the spices when you make these, you want them to be full of flavour.

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RECIPE (makes 6 muffins)

2 large eggs

2 1/2 tbsps coconut flour

1/2 cup (50g) ground almonds

2 tsps ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 tbsps coconut oil

2 tbsps dark treacle/molasses

2 tbsps maple syrup

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METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 160C fan and line a muffin tray with cases.  Melt coconut oil, treacle and maple syrup gently over a low heat until combined and syrupy.

2. Separate eggs.  In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the whites until soft peaks form.

3. In a second large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Add egg yolks, vanilla essence and slightly cooled oil/syrup mixture.  It smells amazing when you mix it all together.

4. Stir through 1 tbsp egg white to loosen the mixture, and then fold through the remaining egg white.

5. Divide between cases and bake in middle of oven for approx 20 minutes until they feel lovely and springy and a skewer comes out clean.

6. Allow to cool in tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

These will keep for several days in an airtight tin. But they probably won’t last that long.

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Too many questions, too little sleep

I’m feeling particularly intolerant today. Husband and I had an all-too-rare night out last night. On a Tuesday, I know! It was a proper night out, too, I got the train into London and everything. We live less than half an hour away from London by train so it is ridiculous that I don’t do this more often. In fact, it is going to be my New Year’s resolution to do it far more often. So anyway, we had a lovely dinner with friends and got home a little worse for wear at about midnight.

Obviously, the kids decided this would be the perfect night to both be total pains in the arse.  At 4am, daughter came into our bed.  We both assumed it must be morning so let her snuggle in, have a chat and a monumental fidget while we tried to catch a few more minutes of hungover sleep.  I then heard husband, “Aaaarghh! It’s 4am! Get back in your own bed!” We then tried to get back to sleep. At 4.45am, as if pre-planned, small boy starts kicking off.  He has only one speed, fast, and one volume, loud. It is impossible to ignore.  I tried anyway. Husband cracked first, he’s a far lighter sleeper than me (result!) and off he went to try and settle him. I knew it wouldn’t work, hence my masterplan of ignoring him for as long as possible instead.  Poor husband then ended up having breakfast at 5 am with little boy 😬

Daughter awoke some time later, particularly bright-eyed and bushy tailed. FFS. She bombarded me with a million questions. The highlights of which are as follows:

“Mummy, do you think you have chicken pox? They are really big spots on your face”

“Really though, could it be chicken pox?”

“If Jesus was alive, how old would he be?”

“How long has there been Christmas for? When was the first ever Christmas? How old is Father Christmas?”

“Which do you like best, poo or wee?”

“You know the elves left me a note telling me to be good? And to be kind to my brother and not hit him…..? Do you think really they didn’t mean it and they meant to tell him to be good….? Yes, I know I hit him, but still… I don’t think that note was really for me…. Yes, I know it had my name on…. But really, they didn’t mean me, did they?”

She is like a dog with a bone. She doesn’t even listen to my answers, she just carries on firing questions. And, even worse, if she doesn’t like my answer, “YES the bloody sodding note was for you, quite clearly!!!!” She will just keep going and going until I eventually break, “ok, ok, maybe it wasn’t for you!!!!” She even carried on asking me questions whilst brushing her teeth, literally mouth full of toothbrush and toothpaste, “Mummy…”

Me:”Why don’t you brush your teeth, then ask me… Brush your teeth… I’m not listening until you’ve finished brushing your teeth!”

Its going to be a long old day. And the children will most definitely be getting pizza for dinner. And will watch too much TV whilst I feel sorry for myself and brace myself for further questions.

 

 

Gluten Free Super Seed Goujons

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I absolutely loathe unloading my dishwasher.  I know it’s not the worst household chore, not by a long shot. I think it’s the mundanity of it, the fact that I do it every single godforsaken day.  I remember when my daughter was very small, washing bottle after bottle and staring down the barrel of another long day on my own with this tiny little person.  I had no idea what I was doing and no idea how to fill day after day, each one the same as the last.  And each and every Groundhog Day began with the dreaded dishwasher.  I could have cried (I think I probably did a few times) just with the boredom and repetition and the futility of it.  Sometimes, just for a treat, I would load our dirty breakfast things on top of the clean things and put it on again, just to avoid unloading it for another few hours. What a thrill! Ah, those heady, reckless days!

Even though my days are now much more interesting than back then, and I have no qualms with how to fill time, rather with how to make more of it, the dishwasher-hatred has never quite left me.  It’s one of the reasons I try to cook one pot dishes and adapt my recipes so I can make cakes in one bowl where possible.  I have little interest in a recipe that’s going to mean I have to unload my dishwasher even more often.

So you can imagine my horror, then, when the husband made pesto pasta and brocolli for the children at the weekend.  He used 3 pans!!!  Who does that?  One for the brocolli.  One for the pasta.  One to mix the pesto and pasta in.  WTF?!!!  I have gently suggested to him on several occasions, through the medium of four letter words, if making pasta, PUT THE VEG IN WITH IT!! And then when it’s cooked, stir through the sauce in the same pan. It’s not rocket science!!!

Mr Intolerant makes amazing roasts and no one can cook a better steak than he, but he does like to use rather a lot of utensils.  His favourite trick is to use a slotted spoon to dish out something highly inappropriate, say, a casserole, or bolognese, and then a second serving spoon to dish up the actual sauce.  Cunningly, I recently melted our plastic slotted spoon on to the hob, so that’s put an end to that! Ha! Oh yes, I’m no fool! The acrid smoke, molten plastic and gloopy hob were a small price to pay for marital harmony (well, for one less thing to argue about).

So…. these gluten-free seedy Chicken Goujons have to be something really special for me to go through the faff of using two or three plates. These went down a storm with my kids. I’m rather partial to a chicken nugget myself and have to say they were really, really good.

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One of the few things that small boy is virtually guaranteed to eat is breaded chicken.  It’s a shame no supermarkets seem to make organic or even free range chicken nuggets.  Making my own means I know the meat is good quality and organic. The other benefit of making these is that you are upping your protein and omega content with all these seeds, rather than breadcrumbs, which are pretty void of nutrition. My kids aren’t big fish fans so I love recipes like this that increase their Omega 3 intake. It’s worth the faff, I promise. The sesame seeds, in particular, make these really tasty.  Use chicken mini fillets rather than strips of chicken breast as a) it saves you chopping and b) they are so lovely and tender.

PS The first time I made these I coated half of the chicken pieces with seeds and then mixed breadcrumbs into remainder of the seeds and made the rest with a mixture of breadcrumbs and seeds, just in case my kids didn’t like 100% seeds, so that’s worth a try to avoid any potential wastage or fussiness.

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Gluten-free, low carb, high protein, high in omega 3, paleo, nutrient dense, super tasty chicken nuggets… need I go on?!

RECIPE (serves 4)

1 packet organic chicken mini fillets (about 400g)

1 large egg

40g ground almonds

50g golden linseeds (approx)

60g sesame seeds (approx)

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1. Whisk egg briefly with a fork in a large shallow bowl or plate.  On a separate plate, mix together sesame and linseeds. Have a lightly oiled baking tray nearby to place the newly made goujons on.

2. Tip ground almonds into a large plastic bag and season with salt and pepper (omit salt if making for young children).  Place mini fillets in bag, close and shake well, separating the pieces to ensure they are well coated in almonds.  You may prefer to do this in two batches.  Or you can do this on a plate, but that would entail more dishes to wash.

3. Next, dip the goujons, one by one, briefly into the beaten egg, allowing excess to drip off, and then into the linseed and sesame seed mixture.  Roll them around and make sure they are fully coated   Place on baking tray.  Repeat with all goujons.

4. Fry on a medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, trying not to turn or move too much as you risk losing your coating! Or bake in oven at 180c for 10-12 minutes. These will keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours before cooking so you can make a big batch in one go.

5. Curse, mumble and moan whilst loading all plates into dishwasher.

Perfect with chips, peas and ketchup or my kid’s favourite “wagamama” katsu style with rice, carrot, cucumber, sweetcorn  and a homemade amai sauce (honey and soy sauce mixed together) or for grown ups with a big salad…or chips 😍

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Earl Grey Tea Loaf with Marmalade Glaze

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Happy Half Term!  I hope you’ve all survived.  We’ve had a lovely quiet week not doing much, which I think we all needed.  One afternoon I was even lucky enough to ditch the kids with daddy and escape ON MY OWN!!  My lovely friend and fellow blogger Lauren over at Black Dog Living invited me along with her to celebrate Teapigs 10th Birthday.  We got to sample lots of lovely teas including their new limited edition Jelly and Ice Cream Tea, and eat cake.  It was amazing! We got to drink whole cups of tea, hot, and talk to other grown ups, with no kiddy interruptions.  I couldn’t quite believe I was at a day time party with no children or creepy entertainers, and no crying over Pass The Parcel.  In fact, the only crying was from us when we had to head home.

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As a Northener, I like a good strong cuppa with now’t messed around with.  And I think I have fallen in love with their Everyday Brew.  Sadly, it’s not cheap, so I will be saving it for special occasions (and hangovers, it would definitely blast a hangover away).  I do like herbal and fruit teas, too, but I often find they smell incredible but taste flat.  So, I wasn’t expecting much from the Jelly and Ice Cream tea, if I’m honest, but it was fantastic! It really does tastes as good as it smells.  Apparently, I now know, this is because Teapigs use the the whole leaf and whole spices and flowers.  Other tea bags tend to just contain dried up sawdusty bits and bobs, hence they lack the same flavour punch. You can find out more here About Teapigs

All those lovely tea flavours inspired me to try and incorporate them in a recipe.  So here is my Breakfast Bread. The tea gives it a rich flavour and also keeps the loaf lovely and moist.  I’ve used Apple purée and a tiny bit of honey to sweeten this naturally.  and, of course, it is gluten and dairy free. It’s a winner! Eat on its own or slathered with cold butter!

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Gluten dairy and sugar free Earl Grey Tea Loaf

Earl Grey Tea Loaf with Marmalade Glaze 

INGREDIENTS

275g dried fruit (I used cranberries, raisins, sultanas and dried apricots)

300ml Teapigs Earl Grey Strong Tea (I used one tea bag, if using another brand you might need 2 tea bags)

zest of 1/2 orange (or lemon)

75g or 1/2 cup buckwheat flour

75g or 3/4 cup ground almonds

100g Apple & pear purée (I use Hipp purée pots)

5 tbsps melted coconut oil or butter

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

11/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

3 medium organic eggs

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1-2 tbsps honey

GLAZE

100ml Teapigs Earl Grey Strong Tea

2 tbsps St Dalfour Orange Spread (this is pure fruit and sugar free) or Marmalade

zest of 1/2 orange, thickly pared if possible

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METHOD

1. Oil and line a loaf tin and preheat oven to 170C fan.

2. Place dried fruit and orange zest in pan and pour over hot tea.  Bring to boil, cover and remove from heat.   Leave for 5 minutes so the fruit soaks up the tea and becomes nice and plump and juicy.  Alternatively, you can soak for several hours or overnight.

3. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre and crack eggs into it.  Whisk eggs well with a fork, trying not to incorporate the dry ingredients too much.  Whisk in melted oil, then vinegar and honey.  Mix well.

4. Stir in cooled dried fruit and Apple purée.

5.  Pour into lined tin and bake for approx 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

MARMALADE GLAZE

When your loaf is almost ready, make your glaze.

1. Place tea and marmalade into a pan, along with thickly pared orange zest. Bring to boil and simmer strongly for about 5 minutes or until a syrupy consistency.

2. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes or so. Use a cocktail stick to make holes all over top of cake.  Pour glaze on top and allow cake to cool in tin.

Gluten-free dairy-free Italian Chocolate Cake

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So I’ve recently come out of the closet and confessed that I am a secret blogger. It was a huge thing to put myself out there and tell everyone what I’m doing, I’m not particularly comfortable in the limelight.  Unless I’ve had a bottle of prosecco, but that’s another story… Surprisingly, people have been amazingly supportive, to my face anyway.  I’m not sure what I expected, to be honest, but certainly not the lovely reaction I have had.  The other thing I didn’t expect was for people to actually want to cook my recipes and ask me for recommendations!!

This morning, a Blog Fan (OK, it was my best friend from school) asked for a lactose-free gluten-free dessert she could make for family gatherings as she has a pesky allergic relative.  I can’t resist a bit of bait like that and immediately the cogs were turning.  The main challenge, as I saw it, is what can you make as a one-off if you are not intolerant yourself?  Something that doesn’t involve you buying weird allergy-friendly ingredients that are expensive and will lurk in your cupboard taking up valuable biscuit space for the next 6 months.  And, it needs to be tasty enough for the non-lactose or gluten dodgers to enjoy it and not feel cheated out of a good pud.

So here it is, a traditional Italian Chocolate Torta Caprese.  This is a traditional chocolate cake from the island of Capri, made with dark chocolate and ground almonds.  It is really easy to make, delicious, rich, chocolatey and moist.  And, mainly, something I always love in free-from recipes, is its not a substitute.  It’s a stand-alone gorgeous cake that was supposed to be made this way, not a list of substitutions that make it almost as nice as it should be.  It does contain sugar, but I have reduced the quantity so it’s not too sweet, and, considering the rest of the cake consists of nuts and eggs, it packs quite a protein punch so shouldn’t hit your blood sugar too hard.

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Now, according to my extensive research (google) there seem to be two different ways to make a Torta Caprese.  You can chop the chocolate very finely so that this is a marbled, fudgy, choc chip sort of affair, or melt it. The first time I made this, I chopped it, second time I melted it and much preferred that option. The third time, I did what any sensible person would do and did both! Amazing!

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Traditionally, this is dredged with icing sugar but I thought that was a bit dated, plus icing sugar isn’t the healthiest option.  Instead, I dusted over a little cocoa and made some dark chocolate curls to scatter over the top. You can never have enough chocolate!  In fact, if I was making this for a dinner party I would probably add an extra 25g of chopped dark chocolate, but that would make it very rich, be warned!!

I’m going to experiment with this recipe. I have a feeling it would be beautiful with ginger or organge flavoured dark chocolate or made with half ground hazelnuts/half almonds.

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Chopped chocolate version

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Melted choc version

INGREDIENTS (makes 24cm round cake, serves about 10)

200g dark chocolate (I used Green & Blacks 70% dark)

250g ground almonds

5 large organic eggs

175g sugar (I used unrefined dark muscavado as its less processed and nice and fudgy, but any sugar would be fine)

100g coconut oil OR 100ml olive oil (or melted butter if you can have it) plus extra for oiling tin.

1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence

pinch salt

cocoa for dusting (optional)

 

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 170C fan.  Generously oil and line a 24cm round tin with baking paper.

2. First, if you can be bothered with this part, make your chocolate shavings. Turn large bar of chocolate over so smooth side is facing upwards, pull a large knife firmly towards you, the chocolate should curl up. Keep going until you have a handful or so. Set aside in a cool place. Alternatively, skip to next step.

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2. Chop 50g of the chocolate finely (see picture above).  I chopped some very finely and left some chocolate-chip sort of size so there was a mixture of textures.  You could also pulse it in a food processor.

3. Melt 150g chocolate in a bain-marie or microwave.  Once melted, add coconut or olive oil. Allow to cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, separate eggs into two bowls.  In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk whites until they form stiff peaks.

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4. With the same whisk (you don’t need to clean it in between so long as you have whisked whites first) beat yolks with sugar until pale and creamy.  Add vanilla essence and salt. Mix in tepid (it mustn’t be hot or it will scramble the eggs!) chocolate and oil mixture.

5. Next, mix ground almonds and then chopped chocolate into egg yolk mixture.  Carefully fold in egg whites, about a third at a time, until fully incorporated. No streaks of egg white please!

6. Pour into tin and bake for about 50 minutes a skewer almost comes out clean and it is firm to the touch.

7. Allow cake to cool in tin. Once cool, serve as it is or dust with cocoa and pile chocolate shavings on top, if using.

Enjoy on its own or with cream/soya/ coconut cream. This cake just gets better and better as it gets more moist after a day or two thanks to the almonds, so it’s great to make in advance.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Gut Recipes. Chicken Pho, Pickles and Lashings of Ginger Beer, hurrah!

 

The Norovirus has swept through our house this last 10 days.  Daughter and I have both been ill and it will be an absolute miracle if the boys don’t get it too.  No doubt small boy will get it over half term so I will spend a third week confined to the house 😫  On the plus side, there’s nothing like a good tummy bug for weight loss and I have lost 4lbs.  Hurrah!  Sadly, this weight loss seems to be focused almost entirely on my boob area.  Why is life so bloody unfair??!!

So, anyway, this weekend I have decided we need a some extra nourishment and I’m going to make plenty of things which are good for gut health.  The main one is bone broth, see my recipe for Brilliant Bone Broth Bone broth contains Glutamine which helps maintain the function of your intestinal wall; Glycine which stimulates production of stomach acid and aids digestion and Collagen which can heal the gut lining.  Scientists are beginning to realise just how important gut health is to our overall health and wellbeing, and poor gut health is being linked to an increasing number of diseases as well as obesity and even depression. Did you know 80% of the happy hormone serotonin is produced in your gut? Nope, me neither. It is the largest sensory organ in the body and apparently  70% of our immune system is in our gut.  So it’s pretty important to look after your tummy.

How do we do that?  Taking good quality probiotic supplements will improve your gut microbiome.  As will eating naturally probiotic foods, which include garlic, leeks and onions, artichokes, bananas (I’ve been having them on my porridge every day this week), natural ‘live’ yoghurt, and fermented or pickled foods such as miso, sauerkraut and kimchi (they mustn’t be pasteurised though, as this destroys the good bacteria).  So, as well as making bone broth and OD-ing on probiotics, I have made a homemade pickle, and for the kids, a fermented fizzy ginger drink.

Here come the recipes…

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GINGER POP

Enid Blyton, eat your heart out. The famous five would have loved this shit. Fanny and Dick would never have caught the Norovirus if they had drunk this.

Jolly hockeysticks!

INGREDIENTS

large root of ginger (about 5 thumbs in total)

1 tbsp unrefined sugar
spring water

METHOD

This takes about 10 days to make in total. Hopefully it will be worth the ball-ache.

Day 1: You need a clean bottle with an airtight stopper. Rinse through with boiled water to sterilise.  Grate about 1 inch ginger into bottle and add 1 tsp sugar and cover with spring water. Leave in warm place for 24 hours.

2. Repeat process for 5 days until mixture begins to bubble. This is your ‘Ginger Bug’. I love that name!

3. You can use your Ginger Bug to make any flavour Pop you like, add some cooked rhubarb, orange juice, lemon… The world is your oyster. I’m just sticking to the ginger to begin with. So, add any extra flavourings, then top up your bottle with water and ferment for a further five days, then it’s ready to drink. It should be slightly sparkling. I will let you know how ours is doing in 10 days time…

VIETNAMESE CHICKEN PHO

 

Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients, this is actually pretty quick and easy to make.

INGREDIENTS (serves about 4)

2 litres bone broth or chicken stock

2 litres bone broth (or chicken stock, it just won’t have quite the same gut healing capability)

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely grated or crushed

2 thumbs of ginger, finely grated

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 star anise

veg – we like sliced Pak Choi and a mixture of different types of mushrooms, you could also use courgetti noodles or just throw in a bag of pre-prepared stir-fry

To serve

100g beansprouts

small bunch roughly chopped coriander

1 lime

1 red chilli, chopped

2 spring onions, finely chopped

soy sauce

METHOD

1. Bring bone broth to the boil in a large pan. Meanwhile prepare and chop veg.

2. Add whole chicken thighs and all other ingredients apart from veg. Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes.

3. Remove chicken thighs and shred using 2 forks.  Whilst you are shredding chicken, pop veg into pan to cook.  Return shredded chicken to pan and cook for a further minute or two.

4. Ladle generously into bowls and serve topped with beansprouts, spring onions, coriander, chilli, soy sauce and a wedge of lime.

 

PICKLED VEGETABLES

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I’m not a big fan of sauerkraut or kimchi, or anything too pickle-y or fermented come to think of it, so I hope I like these.  They look very pretty sitting in the jar, so that’s a good start.  Raw garlic and onions are supposed to be brilliant probiotics but can both be a bit harsh on the tastebuds, so fermenting them shound give them a more mellow flavour whilst retaining all their raw benefits. Best of both worlds!  PS You must use spring water for this as tap water contains chlorine to kill bad bacteria in the water supply, but that also means it will prevent the very bacteria we are trying to create in this process. Doh!

INGREDIENTS

veg – anything you like… I used 2 cauliflower florets, baby corn, green beans, 1/2 red pepper, small red onion, 2 garlic cloves,  1 small carrot.

1 tbsp sea salt or Himalayan salt

1 tsp whole black peppercorns

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 star anise

METHOD

1. Wash a kilner jar and rinse through with boiled water.

2. Fill with veg, leaving a 2cm gap at top to allow water to cover completely and to allow room for the veg to swell up. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp salt. Close lid and shake jar well, this ensures salt fully covers the veg and preserves it and also helps to break down the cell walls of the vegetables, which will accelerate the lacto-fermentation process (I know, get me! 🤓 )

3. Add star anise, pepper and mustard seeds.  Top up with spring water until veg is fully submerged (if it’s not, mould can form).

4. Keep in a warm place for 3-4 days and then it’s ready to eat.  I’ll let you know how it tastes on Wednesday…!

 

 

 

 

 

Spinach Cupcakes – yes really!

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My 7 year old daughter is beyond excited for Halloween this year.  She always enjoys it, but this year I have been coerced into buying loads of decorations already and she would like us to have a party.  Arghhh, that means I really need to tidy my house!  In fact, I probably just need to nuke it.  Anyway, all this Halloween excitement got me wondering how I can make Halloween a little healthier. Trick or Treat is all about the sweets and chocolate… Imagine if you presented a bowl of fruit to a crowd of trick or treaters unfortunate enough to knock on your door?  It’s not going to happen, is it?  But, maybe we can make it a little bit more nutritious and give the kids a bit less of a crack-cocaine sugar rush? And definitely cut out the artificial colourings where possible.

First-stop, cupcakes.   Inspired by a big bag of spinach and my Sugar Free Buckwheat Banana Muffins recipe, I decided to see if I could make some  ghoulish cupcakes that were sugar-free, gluten-free and lactose-free… Ta-da!

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INGREDIENTS (makes 12 large cupcakes or approx. 16 medium sized)

50g or 1/2 cup ground almonds

75g or 1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1 heaped tbsp coconut flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 large eggs

150g spinach

1 banana

1 tsp vanilla essence

1\4 cup or 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup or 4 tbsp honey/maple syrup (I use a mixture of both)

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

METHOD:

1. Blend spinach, banana, eggs and vanilla essence until smooth.

2. Sift flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a large bowl. Add ground almonds and pour in spinach mixture.

3. Melt coconut oil and honey/maple syrup together in saucepan. Allow to cool slightly and then mix with rest of ingredients. Add apple cider vinegar (it will bubble up when you add the vinegar).

4. Spoon into cake cases, fill them quite high as the mixture doesn’t rise a huge amount.

5. Bake at 170C for 15-18 minutes until nice and springy and a skewer comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack.

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ICING

Now, the icing I used is not sugar free. In an ideal world I would make a sugar free frosting, but I reasoned I had done pretty well with the cupcakes and life is possibly a bit too short for sugar-free icing.  They are perfectly nice without a topping, see pic below.  If you want to make a sugarfree icing, instead whip the coconut cream with a tablespoon or two of raw honey (it is much thicker than pasteurised honey or maple syrup, which would make it far too runny) I have tried to keep my icing from being too sweet with some sugar substituted for coconut flour.

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INGREDIENTS:

100g unsalted organic butter, dairy free spread or a tin of coconut cream (you can buy small tins of this or refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight, turn upside down and open, pour off liquid and you will be left with coconut cream)

75g icing sugar

2 heaped tbsp coconut flour (optional, just makes it less sugary)

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 tsp favourite milk or water (only if you are using butter)

1 tsp matcha green tea powder

METHOD

1. Allow butter to come to room temperature so that it is soft enough to whisk.  Alternatively, refrigerate coconut cream or milk for several hours or overnight. Whip butter/spread/coconut cream on medium for 1 minute until smooth and creamy.

2. Add coconut flour and 1/3 sugar and whisk well, continue to add sugar in thirds until well incorporated and icing is light and fluffy. Whisk in vanilla and milk, if using.  Alternatively, for a sugar-free version, whisk in some raw honey to taste.

3. When you are happy with flavour and consistency, whisk in matcha tea powder, using more or less until you have reached desired shade of ghoulish green.

And decorate! I had a go at making some dark chocolate spiders with a piping bag, they need much more practice! I also forgot to refrigerate them before peeling them off the baking paper so they broke easily – don’t make that mistake!!  Below, I also made some bloodshot eyeballs out of giant white chocolate buttons, sugar free 10o% fruit spread with a dark choc chip pupil, and poppy seeds made brilliant black sprinkles.

I still  can’t quite believe how colourful and vivid these cakes naturally are. My daughter was amazed by them, and for once she was free of criticism, hurrah!

Clean Green Pad Thai in Five

Last weekend we stayed with Nanna, my Mum-in-law.  She lives up north, near a beautiful beach (yes, Up North can be beautiful and yes they have beaches, with rolling sand dunes and everything! I can say all of this because, I too am from this part of the world. It’s really very pretty, take a look).

It’s not all grim Up North.

After a lovely morning collecting (fighting over) seashells, we had Sunday lunch in a cosy pub. We all plumped for roast beef, even our 7 year old daughter, she loves roast beef 😍), apart from our 17 year old niece who wouldn’t dream of eating a slab of red meat and always likes to be a bit more exotic. She went for the Pad Thai.

“What’s that?” asked Nanna

“Pad Thai”

“What?”

“PAD THAI”

“Pat’s Eye???? That’s an unusual name”

Uproarious laughter. It took some time before any of us could recover enough to explain it was P-A-D  T-H-A-I.

Pad Thai, or Pat’s Eye as it will now forever be known to me, is one of my all time faves, but, although gluten free, it can be a bit of a greasy carb fest, so here is a healthier, greener version. It’s also super quick and easy to make.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

1 pack prawns or 2 chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 lime

coconut oil

1/2 small pack coriander, roughly chopped

1/2 red chilli, chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes)

VEG – any combination of the below.  My favourite is a bag of beansprouts, 1/2 small head red cabbage, 1/2 head broccoli, 1 red pepper and 2 carrots (julienne or spiralized)

You could also use: courgetti noodles, sliced mushrooms, pak choi, green cabbage, leeks, or just a big bag of mixed stir fry if you want something really quick and easy

4 spring onions, finely sliced

chopped roasted peanuts or a spoonful of sugar free chunky peanut butter or almond butter

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METHOD

1. Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a large heavy based pan or wok.  Chop your all of your ingredients so they ready to throw into the pan.  Chop brocolli into small florets which will cook quickly.

2. If using chicken, fry this first for 2-3 mins. If using prawns, skip to next step.

3. Add garlic, 2/3 of spring onions and prawns, if using. Fry for 1 minute.  Add broccoli and red cabbage and any chunkier veg that will take longer to cook.  Squeeze in half of the lime and add fish sauce. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until brocolli is al dente.

4. Add your quicker-cooking veg, soy sauce and honey and stir fry for a further minute or two.

5. Serve with remainder of spring onions, chilli and coriander scattered on top and a teaspoonful of nut butter or chopped peanuts. Serve with a wedge of lime.

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Lamb Kleftiko

This doesn’t photograph so well, you can see that, but don’t judge a book by it’s cover, it tastes amazing!  We LOVE this in our house. We first had Kleftiko on a trip to Kefalonia many moons ago and as soon as we got home I set about working on my own version. Kleftiko is a traditional Greek lamb dish, slow cooked with herbs, tomatoes and potatoes. It is garlicky, tangy, rich heaven on a plate. Every restaurant we have been to on various trips to Greece seems to have their own version of this. And the more I googled it, the more variations I found.  So this is my very own hybrid, slightly quicker and easier version. In my humble opinion, it’s the coating of the lamb with the garlic that really makes this amazing, so don’t forget that part whatever you do!

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This does contain feta cheese, so is not lactose free as such, but many lactose-phobes like myself can tolerate sheep’s or goat’s milk cheeses as they don’t contain Casein, also known as A1 protein, which is found in cow’s milk. Casein is the guilty party that can make cow’s milk hard to digest. There is a helpul blurb about cheese for the lactose intolerant here This will also still taste delicious if you don’t want to use the feta, just add an extra squeeze of lemon for additional tanginess.

This Kleftiko can also be made in individual baking paper parcels for a     30 minute midweek     version. Making it in parcels is also a nice twist on the presentation and means you can make  smaller quantities for 1 or 2 rather than making a big pot. SCROLL DOWN TO END FOR METHOD.

It can also be made more traditionally with a whole shoulder of lamb, which makes for a gorgeous Sunday Roast. Mmmm…. And if you want a lighter or paleo meal, I often omit the potatoes and use an extra courgette, or some sliced, fried aubergine. I’m sure you could also easily make this in a slow cooker, just omit the stock.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

4 shoulder or lamb leg steaks (ideally organic)

3-4 carrots

2 large potatoes

2 red onions

2 courgettes

1 tin chopped or plum tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp mint (fresh or dried)

2 bay leaves

100ml stock/bone broth/water

Extra Virgin olive oil

Squeeze of lemon juice

1/2 pack feta cheese

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 180C (170 fan). Rub your lamb steaks with crushed garlic and set aside.

2. Oil casserole dish. Slice potatoes thinly and layer at bottom of dish. Season with salt and pepper and a pinch of the herbs and spices. Slice carrots and place on top of potatoes. Slice onions into thin rings and layer on top. Pour stock over.

3. Place garlicky lamb on top of onions, add another pinch of herbs and cinnamon, drizzle with EVOO and a squeeze of lemon.

4. Pour over tinned tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over remainder of herbs and cinnamon. Crumble over 3/4 of feta. Slice courgette into 1cm thick rounds and layer on top.

5. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and bake, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours or until pots and carrots are tender. If a lot of liquid remains, cook without the lid for a further 20 mins; the longer you cook it, the tastier it will be. I often turn the oven down to 140C and cook for an extra hour with the lid off so the sauce really thickens up.

Serve with green or roast vegetables, and sprinkle the remainder of the feta on top for extra tang and presentation brownie points. Drink lots of red wine alongside.

QUICKER AND LIGHTER OPTION: If making individual portions in parchment paper, lay carrots and onions in middle of a large square of parchment. Lay garlicky  lamb on top, cover with a few spoonfuls of chopped toms, herbs, spices and feta. Top with courgette. Fold sides together to form a parcel and bake for 30 mins.

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Pear and Almond Crumble

I have had pears in my organic fruit and veg box for the last 3 weeks running. Lots of them. There are only so many we can eat. So, I’ve been trying to be creative. Last night we had pork loin steaks pan fried with a sprinkling of fennel seeds, baked sweet potato and broccoli, and I threw a thickly sliced pear into the pan with the pork for the last few minutes. Yum. Pork and pears is delicious. If you don’t believe me, you must try Jamie Oliver’s Pork, Pear and Parsnip recipe Here.  Anyway, that used up one pear, so I was still left with a fruitbowl-full. So I decided to make a crumble.

My crumble is gluten and sugar free, but of course.  I did ponder putting a bit of sugar into the crumble mixture. I thought honey or maple syrup would make it too soggy and distinctly non crumbly. I often wonder why some “sugar free” recipes might contain 1/2 a bottle of maple syrup or a cup of honey. What’s the point?  Cutting sugar out of your diet is not about swapping it for another sweetener. It’s about re-training your tastebuds and improving your health with a lower GI diet.  Yes, processed white sugar is the worst form of sugar, but anything very sweet, such as honey or a ton of dried dates made into a ‘raw brownie’  will also effect your blood sugar, adrenal system and waistline. They are less bad for you, rather than good for you, Is one way to think of it.  Anyway *clims back off soapbox* I try to make my cooking low in any form of sugar where I can. And so by the same token, I have no issue with using a spoonful of really good, organic muscavado or Demerara sugar here and there.  I hope that makes sense, it does to me anyway 🤔

So, without further ado, here is the recipe, handmade by me and t’kids this afternoon.  Feel free to add any other fruit you like: a handful of juicy blackberries or an apple or two would be lovely.

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INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

6 medium sized pears, fairly ripe or thereabouts

1 100g pot Hipp organic pear & apple purée (optional)

1 tbsp honey

1 tsp vanilla essence/paste/seeds

1/4 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cinnamon

50g oats

75g ground almonds

2 tbsps butter or coconut oil

25g pumpkin seeds

optional: 25g chopped walnuts or pecans (My kids aren’t big fans, so I often just add these to my own bowl later)

good pinch salt

OPTIONAL: 1 tbsp muscavado, demerera or coconut sugar

 

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 180C.  Chop your pears into various sizes. You want some to have a bit of texture (about 1 inch slices) and some to reduce down to form a sauce (about 1cm).  Cook on a low heat with a splash of water, the honey, vanilla and half of the cinnamon for about 5 minutes until soft… ish. How much cooking they will need depends on how ripe they are, so use your judgement. If you’re using it, stir through your purée, it makes a nice sauce.

2. Meanwhile, spread oats out onto a baking try. They are crispier and have more flavour toasted and are easier to digest.  Cook in oven for about 6-7 mins, keep an eye on them, you just want them just starting to turn golden and toasty.

3. Allow oats to cool slightly, mix with almonds and rub butter or oil in to form a breadcrumb type texture. Stir through sugar (if using), salt, seeds/nuts and rest of cinnamon.

4. Top fruit with crumble mixture and bake for 15 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, custard, coconut yoghurt… If it’s not quite sweet enough, drizzle with a little honey, maple syrup or even (ssshhh!) a sprinkling of sugar. I always add a handful of extra walnuts to mine, just because I love walnuts.

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