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!

Spinach Sweet Potato and Pea Seasonal Supergreen Soup

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I had the perfect excuse to make my favourite soup today, as my organic veg box this week contained leeks, sweet potatoes and spinach.  It’s quite worrying how happy this made me. Anyway, I have to pay homage to baby food guru Annabel Karmel for this recipe, as this in fact started off life as one of her baby food purees. See Annabel Karmel for more inspiration.

This was yet another failed attempt to get The Boy With The Sweet Tooth to eat something nutritious. Predictably, small boy wanted nothing to do with this purée, but it smelt amazing, so I added some seasoning and found I had a pretty life-changing soup on my hands. Thank god one of us liked it!  I can’t say I have ever tried a baby purée before (OK, well, apart from the ones I use to make my Paleo Porridge, obvs)  I find there is something a bit repulsive about blended food, I’m a bit squeamish about anything coming out of a nutribullet, even.  So, I promise you, this had to be something special to get me to try it.

I’ve played around with the original recipe, and as with most of of my recipes it’s all very free and easy so just adjust to how many leeks you need to use up or how many peas are at the bottom of the bag lurking in your freezer. This cries out for thickly buttered fresh brown bread to be dunked into it, but is equally nice as a virtuous snack on its own, or bulked up with some protein on the side. If I have a batch in the fridge I tend to have it as a mid-afternoon snack to keep the 4pm slump away. I always feel wonderfully wholesome after I have eaten this.  And ready to tackle the mayhem of kids teatime and witching hour. Well, maybe…

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RECIPE (serves about 4)

2 large sweet potatoes

large bag of spinach

3 leeks

about 200g frozen peas

water, stock or bone broth (about 200ml depending on how thick you like your soup)

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil

 

METHOD

1. Warm the oil or butter in a heavy based pan with a well fitting lid. Wash leeks well, chop and sweat on a low heat with the lid on for about 4-5 minutes.

2. Peel and chop sweet potatoes into roughly 1 inch chunks. Add to pan and sauté for a further minute or two.

3. Add approx 200ml bone broth/water or stock, I always add less as I like thick soup, and you can always top it up if it needs more when you blend it.  Season well and simmer for 10 mins or until potatoes are lovely and soft.

4. Wash spinach and gently squeeze out excess water, add to pan along with peas and simmer for a further 3 minutes or so.

5. Blend to desired consistency and tuck in!

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This is will keep well in the fridge for about 3 days and also freezes beautifully. You could always even try and give it to your baby (minus the salt), you may have better luck than me!