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!

Chia Porridge With AMAZING Toppings

Some mornings I want something more substantial than my Paleo Porridge and this is perfect for a bit of carb loading of the slow release variety.  Chia seeds are perfect for adding protein to your porridge, which will keep you feeling full until lunch, plus all their other benefits.

If you can’t be bothered clicking on the link, I will summarise – they contain protein, amino acids, iron, fibre, calcium, magnesium, omega 3s. OK?

Chia seeds have no flavour so are perfect for mixing into things (and sneaking into kids yogurts etc for a protein and nutrient boost) but what is also brilliant about them is their texture. They form a gel consistency when mixed into liquid, so are a perfect thickener to soups, stews, smoothies, and of course porridge. You won’t even notice they are there! Unless you are my husband, who thinks they are a bit gloopy and frogspawny in porridge, which is a shame.  But even he will eat them in yogurt as he likes the fact they are tasteless. so, persevere with chia!

If you’re feeling organised, you can soak your ingredients the night before, then all you have to do is heat it up in the morning for a super speedy breakfast. I soak it all ready to go in the pan on top of the hob, so it couldn’t be easier, even for an organisation-phobe like me.

You don’t even need a recipe for this.  I use  around a handful of organic jumbo oats per person and a heaped tablespoon of chia. Add about a mugful of almond (or any other) milk depending on how thick you like your porridge and a tiny pinch of salt. Soak overnight and then warm up in the morning or, if making from scratch, simmer on the hob for about 10 minutes.

Then the fun can really begin with…

FLAVOURS AND TOPPINGS

HOT CROSS PORRIDGE

This is possibly my fave. I LOVE hot cross buns, I could easily eat a whole packet. So I am often on the lookout for something similar, but healthier, and this is IT. Just don’t try to toast and butter it.

Add raisins, chopped apricots, a few twists of lemon zest, 1/2tsp mixed spice,  pinch cinnamon and few gratings of nutmeg at the cooking/soaking stage. This helps the fruit to get all juicy and plump and lovely. Top with pumpkin seeds and grated apple for a bit of texture. And honey, always honey. 

BANANA CINNAMON  

Ooh no, maybe this is my fave… Add 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon at cooking/soaking stage, top with sliced banana and honey. 

SPICED APPLE

Add cinnamon, mixed spice and raisins at cooking/soaking stage. Once cooked, stir through 1/2 grated apple per person, chopped walnuts and top with apple puree (I use Hipp or Organix baby puree, apple and pear, its organic, cheap and easy, yippee! Hipp Puree). Drizzle with honey or maple syrup.

CRUNCHY NUT 

Add cinnamon, sliced banana, chopped walnuts and a spoonful of almond or nut butter. Dreamy!

SIMPLE STUFF

My kids like it with just chopped apricots and honey. 

Salmon To Make Your Skin Glow

I have rubbish skin. My daughter tells me so, often. I am a master in the art of concealer (Rimmel Hide The Blemish, if you’re asking. I’ve tried many and this is just THE best). I’ve never had them on my T-zone, always on my cheeks or jaw, like a teenage boy. I was told it is “male pattern acne” caused by too much testosterone. Jesus Christ! Could it get any worse? Also known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. So my hormones are to blame. It will never be perfect but it has DEFINITELY got better since I cleaned up my diet.  Or perhaps it’s now that I am thirty-fucking-five and it’s harder for the spots to fight for space between my crow’s feet??? Anyway, it’s one of the reasons I try to avoid lactose as I notice it flairs up straight away if I have too much dairy, and I definitely think cutting out sugar has balanced my hormones, thus improving my skin.

So, last week, I was watching TV with daughter and a Clearasil advert came on TV. Daughter turned to me and said, in her kindest voice, with a somewhat patronising smile, “Don’t you get that Mummy…. You wouldn’t be the same without your spots” Sigh. She has also said on several occasions, with real fear in her eyes, “I won’t get spots like you when I’m older, will I?” I really hope she doesn’t, and remains peachy skinned and beautiful  throughout her teens. And twenties. And sodding thirties. God, when will they go?!!! She and her brother are totally screwed in the genetics department mind you, both me and Mr Intolerant have dreadful skin, so the odds are sadly stacked against them.

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Anyway, salmon is supposed to be good for your skin. And seeds. All those omegas and essential fatty acids. So here is a salmon and seed recipe to make your skin glow, or to at least make it slightly less shit, if you’re me.  I LOVE this salad, it’s easy, tasty and protein-rich. P. S. Try to buy wild salmon, my Mum told me farmed salmon is really bad for you, so it must be true. If you want to do your own research you can read about it here Wild Vs Farmed Salmon

SALMON PESTO CANELLINI BEAN SALAD

INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

2 salmon fillets

4 tbsps pesto (dairy free pesto if you like)

extra Virgin olive oil

handful tomatoes, fresh or sunblush

salad leaves

1/2 courgette

1/2 tin canellini beans

1/4 small red onion or 1 Spring onion

4-5 radishes, sliced

lemon juice

balsamic vinegar

pumpkin/sunflower etc seeds

METHOD

1. Get your pan really hot, pat dry and season salmon. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and cook salmon flesh-side down on medium-high for 5 minutes.  DO NOT TOUCH IT. Not even a teensy bit, you want a nice crisp top.

2. Meanwhile drain and rinse beans, chop 1/4 red onion or spring onion very finely. Mix with beans, squeeze over lemon juice and season with lots of black pepper and a little salt.

3. Use a vegetable peeler to peel fairly thick strips from courgette (you want some bite).

4. You probably want to flip your salmon now if it’s had 5 minutes. Cook skin side down for another minute or two.

5. Place 2 tbsps pesto on each serving plate. Mix with about 1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil to thin it a little. Place courgette strips, salad leaves, bean mixture, tomatoes (halved if fresh) in pesto-y bowls and mix around a little. Drizzle with about 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (you don’t need much, you have a lot of flavours going on here) and place salmon on top.  Scatter with seeds.

Paleo Porridge

 

Oats are supposed to be very good for us, so when I first learned of the Paleo diet I was sceptical about cutting them out of my diet. But I did often feel tired, sluggish and bloated after my morning porridge.  So first of all I made  Chia Porridge which I found left me feeling much less bloated and also fuller for longer. Yippee!! I then decided to see if I could make a porridge that was completely grain-free, and this is the result!

This is my go-to breakfast which I adjust to whatever I have in the cupboard. I make enough for 2-3 breakfasts at a time and keep in the fridge for a super speedy breakfast. I would describe it as a cross between Bircher muesli and porridge and it is DELICIOUS!  My daughter often requests this, she loves it so much, and it’s lovely sending her off to school knowing she has a tummy full of omegas, amino acids and protein to keep her going through the day. 10 reasons to eat chia seeds

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My secret ingredient is…. Baby food! Yep. Toddler apple purée. I buy Hipp or Organix purees in bulk when they are on offer so I can have different flavours and always have them on hand to make this.

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You are only heating this to speed up the soaking of the chia seeds, so leave it on a  low heat whilst you shout at the kids to get dressed/make packed lunches/referee fights, etc.

RECIPE (serves 2-3 depending upon greed levels)

I tend to really just thrown things in the pan when I make this so it is a recipe in the loosest sense. Feel free to adjust accordingly.

1 100g tub fruit purée (my fave is Hipp Apple and Pear)

About 2/3 mug full almond milk/water

About 1/4 mug full chia seeds

V. small handful raisins/chopped dates/apricots

2 tsps cinnamon

1 large or 2 small apples, grated

pinch salt

2 tbsp (ish) ground almonds

Ground flaxseed/pumpkin seeds/chopped walnuts

METHOD

1. Warm first 5 ingredients in pan for 5-10 minutes until chia seeds soak up liquid and produce a frog-spawn like texture 😂  The heat speeds up the soaking of the chia seeds. Alternatively, you can soak them for an hour or overnight and skip straight to next step. If soaking rather than cooking, you can have this like a Bircher muesli and don’t need to heat it at all. Add splash more milk or water if texture too thick.

2. Grate your apple and mix with pinch salt. I don’t know why but I just think it tastes nicer this way.

3. Take pan off heat and stir in ground almonds, this instantly thickens the texture. Add grated apole and stir well.

4. Stir through 1 tbsp flax/ handful seeds/chopped nuts if using and top with raw honey or almond butter.  It is AMAZING with almond butter.

OPTIONS:

If I have no apples or I am in a real rush, I make this with 2 tubs baby purée and skip the grated Apple.  Just add a few more chia seeds/ground almonds to thicken it up if necessary. This option is particularly DELICIOUS with the almond butter stirred through as it gives it some texture.

This is gorgeous with Apple and Raspberry or Apple and Mango purees too, swap the cinnamon for some vanilla essence or some desiccated coconut and add extra fresh raspberries or mango on top. YUM!

Let me know any other combinations that work for you, too.

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Sugar Free Buckwheat Banana Muffins

These muffins are genuinely sugar free. Not sugar free but actually contain half a bottle of maple syrup or a cup of honey, or 1kg of dried dates, but genuinely 100% bona fide no added sweeteners. They are also wheat, gluten and lactose free. Hurrah! And… my kids actually even eat them. Can you believe it?!

I love adding fruit purée to my baking, it’s such an easy way to increase fibre and nutrients, but also makes everything more moist and full of flavour. What’s not to like? Use as ripe-as-possible bananas for this. This recipe also makes a great banana loaf, just bake in a lined tin for 45-50 minutes.

P.S. Don’t be put off by the vinegar, you can’t taste it, it’s there as a raising agent. Promise.

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RECIPE (makes 10 cupcake size)

4 ripe bananas (medium or thereabouts)

3 eggs

4 tbsps melted coconut oil

2 tsps vanilla extract

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 cup ground almonds

2 tsps cinnamon

2 tsps mixed spice

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsps baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Optional – 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans/walnuts/pumpkin seeds

Optional – 1/4 cup chopped dates

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 170C (fan oven)

2. Whisk together wet ingredients.

3. Mash bananas into wet mixture.

4. Sift in buckwheat flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and add almonds. Fold in gently, ensuring all ingredients are well incorporated.

5. If using, stir through nuts and dates. As a yummy and very pretty alternative, you can add the nut and date mixture to the top of the cake mixture after you have put it into the tin, see picture of loaf I made below. To prevent it browning too quickly, mix with a little melted coconut oil to coat, and scatter over the mixture before baking.

6. Bake for about 15-18 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean (longer for larger cupcake cases and 45-50 mins for a loaf. The loaf may need foil on top for the last few minutes if you use the nut topping and it starts to brown too quickly).

Enjoy warm with a mug of tea!

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Watermelon Ice lollies

I LOVE these ice lollies, they couldn’t be easier, or healthier!  Plus, I think they look really pretty too.  Push a lolly stick into a slice of watermelon, and freeze.  Ta da!  My daughter and her friends loved them.  Predictably, small boy took a few bites and then asked for a “choc lolly”… Cunningly, I melted some chocolate and drizzled it on top of the frozen watermelon.  He licked it off and dropped the watermelon on the floor. Gah! I give up!!

If you’re a watermelon fan you should try this smoothie, too         I carried a watermelon…

I carried a watermelon…

I love watermelon. Its so refreshing and sweet. But I hate picking out all those fiddly seeds. Covered in juice, holes in my melon 😮, seeds all over the flipping place, I had an epiphany… can you eat the seeds? Surely if pumpkin seeds and all those other seeds are nutritious, then watermelon seeds might be too? And it turns out they are! Yippee! They are full of magnesium, folic acid, iron, protein, amino acids and omega 6.  Sprouted roasted watermelon seeds are even being touted as a superfood.  Yes, really.  That sounded like way too much hard work, so instead I nutribulleted them, and the result was AMAZING. Just add a couple of cubes of ice to thicken the texture up a little and you have a delicious and nutritious drink.  It would be particularly nice with a slug of vodka in it, too.

More about the health benefits watermelon seeds  and  watermelon seeds the new superfood  You can also try my super easy Watermelon Ice lollies here.

A perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up, with or without the vodka.

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Intolerant Me

Nearly 20 years ago (that makes me feel old) I was diagnosed with an intolerance to wheat and dairy and advised to cut sugar from my diet.  Thus ensued several miserable years in my late teens and early twenties where I ate cardboard alternatives to bread and felt like a social pariah.  Remember, this was way before it was trendy to be ‘GF DF’ and there were very few alternatives tucked away in dark, dusty health food shops. Your university years are not quite so much fun when you are the boring one who can’t eat a kebab at 3am or share a pizza for lunch. A student budget doesn’t go far with free-from foods, either. Food became a source of anxiety, embarrassment, and somehow both an obsession and a chore.  Then, I met my future husband.  He laughed at my faddy intolerances and basically told me to man up. So, I started eating bread, and milk, and ice cream, and pasta.  It was so liberating, and my health seemed fine.

Several years, two kids later and a little squidgier and heavier, I was constantly tired and run down and decided to stop living on cakes, biscuits and toast just to make it through the day and to clean up my act. Out went processed and sugary foods and, having read about the paleo diet, I cut back on all grains, not just wheat. The prospect of going back to a life of deprivation was scary, but things have moved on so much. Cauliflower rice, courgetti, chia seeds, coconut yogurt, millions of recipes on the Internet, it was actually pretty easy. This time around, I also wasn’t too strict.

Having eaten like this for over a year now, I decided it was time to try and inflict some clean eating upon my family. In between healthy meals, we can be found munching on takeaways and dunking the odd biscuit and I am known to bribe my children with ice cream on a regular basis.