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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Bella’s Banana Bread: From Family Feast Day

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My Banana bread is a show stopper in the taste department particularly with the kids. Here’s the scoop: Bananas are full of Potassium and B6 and a good source of fibre – Yeah bring it!

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Ingredients: 

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200g Ground Almonds

100g Coconut Flour

185g Goat Butter, melted

1/2 tsp salt (I used Himalayan)

1/2 Juice of lemon

1/2tsp Vitimin C powder

2tsp Bicarb of Soda

3 Ripe Bananas

50g dried dates (juicy kind)

3 Free Range Eggs, beaten

1 Tblsp mild tasting Honey

100g Walnut pieces

Super easy to make heres how:

Pre-heat the oven 160C

1) Mash the nanas:

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2) Soften the dates in a splash of water over a low heat about 10 mins – allow to cool.

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3) Blitz in the food processor:

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2) Melt the Goat butter:

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3) Combine the Ground Almonds, Coconut Flour, Vitamin C, Salt, beaten eggs in a mixing bowl.

4) Add the mashed bananas, Date paste, melted Goat butter, and honey and stir throughly.

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5) Add the lemon juice and finally the Bicarbonate of Soda – fold it in.

6) Finally fold in the walnut pieces

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– leaving a few extra to scatter on top before it goes in the oven. I baked it for about 45 mins 160C.  Allow it to cool completely before removing it from the tin.

TOP TIP: I used a 2lb tin which I lined with Bac’O’Glide awesome stuff you can re-use it and bung it in the dishwasher afterwards!

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Sexy Little Nectarine Tart: From Family Feast Day

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IMG_2846 Just to repeat the story in case you missed it from Family Day Feast: When I was a kid my family used to go on the odd holiday to Menorca and those holidays were all about the BBQ’s one of the recipes my mum picked up around this time was Nectarines poached in wine and cinnamon – I can honestly say the combination of Nectarines and cinnamon is just heaven and the aromas when they cook are a heady floral combination. Nectarines are full of Vit C, Beta Carotene and Lutein a super antioxidant cancer preventor! I’ve talked about Cinnamon before but in case you forgot here’s the sweet & low… it regulates blood sugar levels, is anti inflammatory so helps with joint pain related to arthritis, helps aleviate menstrual pain and balance hormones.

With all this in mind I came up with this Sexy Little Nectarine Tart, served with Coconut Cream:
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Ingredients:

For the Topping:

6 unripe Nectarines
200g of (juicy) Dried Dates
2 inches of a  whole Vanilla Pod, snip with scissors
3 tsp Cinnamon
Splash of Water
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
1 Tblsp Coconut Oil

For the Base:

200g Ground Almonds
50g Cashew Nuts
50g Pecan Nuts
100g of Coconut Flour
2 Tblsp Coconut Oil
60g Goat Butter
1 desert spoon of mild Honey
Pinch of Salt

Glaze for the Topping:

1 oz Goat butter melted,
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp honey

Pre-heat the oven 150’C

Method:

1) I Started with the topping: I Scored the Nectarines (four lines top to bottom), put them in a pan with the Coconut oil, Lemon Juice, a splash of water and 2 teaspoons of the Cinnamon; put the lid on and over a medium heat brought them up to a boil and then turned the heat down and allowed them to simmer for about 20 minutes, turning the Nectarines occasionally so they cooked evenly.  I wanted them to soften slightly but also retain their shape.

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* I pulled the Nectarines out at this stage and put them aside to cool, leaving the nectarine juices left in the pan.

2) Next I did the base: I put the Cashews and the Pecans in the food processor and blitzed until fairly fine, then I added the Grounds Almonds, Coconut Flour, Goat Butter, Coconut Oil, Honey and salt – and gave that little lot a quick blitz to bring it all together to make a kind of dough.

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3) I lined a flan tin and gave it a little grease up (coconut oil) for good measure! See how I used two pieces of greaseproof paper and separated the central circular disk below.

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Then I put 3/4’s of the dough on the lined circular disk, laid another sheet of greaseproof paper over the top and used a rolling pin to roll it out and get a smooth bottom:

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Once I had nearly a full circle I placed the circular disk bottom on top of the lined flan tin (the bit with the hole).

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Then I added the remaining dough and used my hands to push the dough into the crevices.

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Before I put it in the oven I pricked it a few times with a fork.

4) I then put it in the oven – now full disclosure here I put it in for too long at this stage – I put it in for 12 minutes – really it only needs about 6-8 minutes – because it is going to cook again with the topping.  It just needs a little bit of colour but not as much as mine below.  The reason I felt it was too long was the base was the tiniest bit dry in the end result – however it tasted great and the coconut cream made it sing! In fact this is a desert you can make easily a day or two before you plan to serve it, just keep it in the fridge – it’s a knock out!

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5) Next up I added the Dates to the pan with the left over Nectarine juices and snipped in the 2 inches of the Vanilla pod and a splash of water over a low heat, brought the pan up to a simmer and gently cooked until the Dates and the pod had softened – about 10 mins. Then I let it cool.

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6) I Slice the cooled Nectarines into segments like this:

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7) I blitzed the Date Mixture, pod and all, along with a few slices of Nectarine (no more than half of a Nectarine) with 1 teaspoon of Cinnamon. I urge you to taste this mixture – just sensational! 🙂

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8) I spread this mixture onto my cooled/semi cooked base.

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9) I then added the sliced Nectarines to make a nice pattern on top:

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10) For the Glaze: I melted the Goat butter with the Cinnamon, Ginger and Honey, took less than a minute to melt together. Then I brushed it over the nectarines:

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11) Finally I put the whole thing back in the oven for about 15 minutes.

12) Out the oven I allowed it to cool completely before removing it from the pan and chilling it in the fridge.
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Coconut Cream: You can serve it as a pouring cream – it is nice to chill it down before serving though. For a thicker cream: pick up a can of coconut milk (or actual coconut cream) that is free from any nasties like preservatives – you know the deal natural as possible. Put the can in the fridge for at least an hour. Then spoon off the top more solid stuff at the top and put it in a bowl (left over runnier bit can be put into a smoothie or used for Quinoa breakfast).  My hand whisk efforts were poor but with an electric whisk you can get a better thicker consistency.  This is just a lighter option to the classic dairy cream options and of course much easier to digest. Num, num num! 😉

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Family Feast Day

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So last weekend I organised a little family get together kind of a belated father’s day feast as I didn’t get to spend the actual day with my great Pa.  I love get together’s like this, my brain automatically starts going into a creative spin, because it is an oportunity for me to try out new recipes. Now some of my creations last weekend were a monumental hit and of course I will share these with you my fellow “bleeps”.  However to give you full disclosure one of my efforts was not quite up to scratch so has been put in the “work in progress pile” – more on that later.

Despite the mixture of gloomy skies, sporadic showers and the blink and you might miss it sunshine – summer we are currently having, we thought we would be bold and go for a BBQ style feast.  My family is not big, so gathered together we were just 6 adults and 2 kids under 5 but you know this style of food works perfectly for giving people options.  This is what was on the menu:

Rosemary Chicken Thighs

Gluten Free Sausages (from the “Good little sausage company” http://goodlittlecompany.com/)

Pork ribs with a homemade glaze

Kale, Feta & Apricot Salad

Roasted Rosemary/garlic new potatoes

and for dessert…

Banana Bread and a Nectarine Tart with Coconut cream.

Wowsers just writing this is making me hungry again!

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The Sausages and the Chicken I didn’t do anything fancy with other than a little seasoning for the chicken and a few sprigs of Rosemary snipped straight from my dad’s beautiful garden – it really sets the taste buds up in anticipation of a feast with the lovely fragrant aromas of Rosemary wafting through the air.

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The Potatoes I actually par- boiled (10mins) as the kids were ready to eat their own arms off they were so hungry; before adding them to a roasting tray with a few whole skinned cloves of garlic, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of Rosemary, all drizzled with light Olive Oil and then bunged into the oven 200C for about 30mins to roast them off.  The Sausages were perfect for keeping everyone going before the main event – these sausages are very tasty indeed – not only are they Gluten Free, they have no artificial colours or stabilizers and are made from lean pork, the pigs are also allowed to root and forage freely – and if all that wasn’t “good” enough for every pack you buy, they give someone in a developing country the means to grow themselves a meal every day for 2 weeks! Seriously start stocking these “good” little guys! 🙂

Good little Sausages

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Next up my mum picked up this massive rack of pork ribs from the local butcher – I mean easily 12 large juicy ribs worth – ambitious in terms of imagining we might get through it all but I love having left overs so actually, pretty darn awesome! This is where my new recipe didn’t quite live up to the “dream.”  I had this idea of making a glaze for them; so on the Saturday I sent myself off on a mission down Brick Lane to get a block of Tamarind; I  know you can buy these ready-made sauces/glazes but to find one that is without Gluten, Sugar and is not full of, let’s face it ‘crap’ and fits the “Sha-Zam” bill on the taste buds, is hard!

I have to say although what I created tasted fantastic, I don’t think I can honestly say it was a glaze… Let’s just say the cooking and execution of this dish needs a little more development.  I actually started the rack off on in the oven for 45 minutes, then I added my “glaze” and that is when it hit the BBQ.  Don’t get me wrong the finished result was very tasty but for my liking the meat did not sing with all the flavours I had put together, perhaps because I did not marinade the meat or treat it to a slower style of cooking… in addition to that the “glaze” element didn’t really happen and perhaps this is because my recipe was not packed full of sugar! But don’t worry, the challenge has been set, I am on the case I will conquer this and then give you all the deets.

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The Kale salad was a mega hit – most people think Kale is just for the frying pan or for dehydrating into those tasty little crisps but if you really want the mother load of “Vit Hits” – leave it alone – let it be its raw natural self!  I first had raw Kale in LA and it was kind of a salad revelation – this gutsy leaf is not shy of flavour doesn’t wilt under pressure and I can’t leave this nugget out – it’s a superfood packed to the gunnels with Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin K. A diet high in Vitamin K can help protect against various cancers, it’s also high in fibre and has a touch of sulphur which all helps in detoxifying the body – I mean hello health!  Hard to think this was and I am sure still is still grown just for the purposes of feeding cattle!

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So here is my…and in the voice of Will.i.am SUPER DOPE Kale, Feta Apricot, Salad – the genius of this is you can knock it up quickly even dress it and not worry about it looking like a mushy mess an hour later!

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Ingredients:
1 large bag of Kale, washed & whizzed in a salad spinner
1 bag of Pine nuts, lightly toasted – instruction on: https://bellasfreestylekitchen.wordpress.com/2013/06/10/the-lunch-box-plan/
1 packet of Feta Cheese
1 Handful of Dried Apricots, finely chopped
1 small Red Onion, finely chopped
Black pepper
Dressing
Good glug of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tblsp Balsamic Vinegar (check it is Gluten Free)

Method:
Pretty self-explanatory really: A big bowl, add the main ingredients and toss together, then for the dressing don’t be shy with the Olive oil and just a dash of the balsamic makes the perfect balance. You don’t need to add extra salt as the cheese is salty and the apricots (full of Vit A, C & Fibre) do that yin yang thing with the cheese and the pine nuts add an extra awesome crunch factor.

Desert – don’t know about you but I think the success of any good gathering is a choice of deserts – perhaps this is because more often than not, when I eat out, my dietary requirements usually dictate my desert choice; which generally is limited to just a sorbet.  Really I don’t quite know why chef’s have not got more imaginative with their desert menus to create sweet dishes that are not only exciting and suitably lush but also healthy – it’s really not that hard!

My Banana bread was a show stopper in the taste department particularly with the kids. Here’s the scoop: Bananas are full of Potassium and B6 and a good source of fibre – Yeah bring it!

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Bella’s Banana Bread

Click on the link below for the recipe:

https://bellasfreestylekitchen.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/bellas-banana-bread-from-family-feast-day/

Final desert – when I was a kid my family used to go on the odd holiday to Menorca and those holidays were all about the BBQ’s one of the recipes my mum picked up around this time was Nectarines poached in wine and cinnamon – I can honestly say the combination of Nectarines and cinnamon is just heaven and the aromas when they cook are a heady floral combination. Nectarines are full of Vit C, Beta Carotene and Lutein a super antioxidant cancer preventor! I’ve talked about Cinnamon before but in case you forgot here’s the sweet & low… it regulates blood sugar levels, is anti inflammatory so helps with joint pain related to arthritis, helps alleviate menstrual pain and balance hormones.

With all this in mind I came up with this Sexy Little Nectarine Tart: For recipe click here:
https://bellasfreestylekitchen.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/sexy-little-nectarine-tart-family-feast-day/

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Coconut Cream – easy peasy – how to: at the bottom of “Sexy Little Nectarine Tart.”

A final personal thought: It was wonderful to spend this day with my family and in particular to be able to say goodbye to our wonderful family dog Jemma who at the ripe old age of 14 was really starting to struggle with old age and painful arthritis, she sadly passed on the Monday.  She was a much-loved member of our family and will always be fondly remembered. R.I.P Jemma.

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Smokin’ Meatballs

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I think we all start to have them – you know when you’re in a couple – there are certain meals you really enjoy eating together and sometimes it even becomes something you have 2-3 times a month.  Well this is one of those dishes I roll out pretty frequently because I know it’s a big hit.  Now I’m not going to lie I have been known to cheat and buy a packet of Duchy Organic meatballs (which are great as they are gluten-free & they have top-notch farming standards so you know you’re getting the good stuff!) to serve with my thick tomato sauce.  But really to get the full showstopper of a meal and the “I’ll love you forever” moment from your t’other half – you gotta go from scratch – and don’t worry it’s not much extra effort. These Smokin’ balls are full of flavour and work well as a winter warmer, but I say why confine these tasty balls of deliciousness to winter! 😉

You might be wondering why my meatballs are smokin’ well not because I set them on fire but I really love Hot Smoked Paprika, it just adds this really awesome earthy, spicy, smokiness to the dish.

Now traditionally meatballs are served with spaghetti or perhaps rice or bread – and you know that’s fine, there are some good GF pastas out there – (the Corn versions are high GI so not the best if you want sustained energy).  I want to show you how easy it is to plan meals that don’t revolve around breads, pastas and cereals.  I like to serve my meatballs on a bed of steamed Courgette ribbons – they act as a great accompaniment and the meal is fully rounded with proteins, fats and the low GI carbs come from the vegetables.

The Meatballs

400g  (Organic) minced beef 20 % fat (Organic will taste better but is also better for your health – the meat is not pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones – but completely up to you)

¼ of Onion (finely chopped)

2 cloves garlic (* minced) * see instructions on this.

small bunch Thyme (* finely Chopped)

small bunch Parsley (* finely chopped)

small bunch Basil (* finely chopped)

1tsp Hot Smoked Paprika

A dash of Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

Thick Tomato Sauce:

500g Carton of Passata (sieved tomatoes)

200g or half tube of tomato puree

Half a carrot

¾ of Onion

A dash of light Olive oil

4tsp  Bouillon stock powder (check it is Gluten free, I tend to go for the yeast free & reduced salt – most natural) made up to 1/2 litre with boiling water

Pinch dried Oregano

1 Bay Leaf

2 cloves garlic

The Bed:

3 Courgettes – sliced into ribbons

A sprinkle of Sea Salt

1) To start finely chop the herbs, garlic, onion, (*) but if I’m honest I tend to bung them all in the food processor with salt, pepper,  the hot smoked paprika, a dash of olive oil – and give them a quick blitz – saves time…

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2) Next I put the minced beef in a bowl and add the herb/spice mix – you have to get your hands in here to really integrate it all.  Then take little bite-sized amounts and start balling them up and put them on a plate, depending on the size you should get about 18-20 balls.

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3) Then you want to make the Courgette ribbons with a peeler, if you have a mandolin you can always go for a finer noodle style if you prefer.  I then put them in a colander and sprinkle the courgette ribbons with salt – this draws out the excess water and any bitterness.

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4) For the tomato sauce, I roughly chop the rest of the onion (3/4’s should be left) and half a carrot – (the other half I usually eat – sometimes dunk in Sunbutter or home-made mayo… as the warm up act!)

5)  Now back to the balls: I heat up a large frying pan medium heat and then add all the meatballs – no oil here as they have their own fat.  You want them to get an even colour on all sides.   Once nicely browned, turn the heat off and leave them to rest.

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In the pic above they need a just a few more minutes to get a more even colour.

6)  Now you can start the sauce: roughly chop the carrot and onion and then in a little olive oil, gently fry for a couple of minutes until the onion starts to go a bit transparent.

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7) Add the tomato puree and stir for a couple of minutes – the paste will go a touch darker.

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8) Then add the Passata, the bouillon stock (half a litre), one bay leaf, black pepper, (you won’t need extra salt here as the bouillon is salty) and a pinch of dried Oregano. This is the same tomato sauce recipe I use for my Bolognese – it’s great in my opinion!

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9) Put the lid on and bring it up to the boil and then turn the heat down and take the lid off, bringing it back to a simmer.  Then add the crushed garlic and the browned  meatballs.

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That little yellow roller (on the right) is really cool it rubs the garlic skin right off, no fuss and you don’t get garlic paws! 😉

10) Now you can let the tomato sauce pot simmer away for 45-60 minutes – plenty of time to catch up on any house chores, admin or plain old relaxing!

11)  At the 45 minute mark check it – you want the liquid to have reduced in the pan to half and the sauce to be a lovely rich, thick consistency.  Give it a few minutes more if need be. When it  is ready turn the heat off and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes.

12)  In the meantime you can rinse the Courgettes with water to get the excess salt off and then gently squeeze the excess liquid out with some kitchen paper.  I like to steam them for about 4-5 minutes so they retain their shape and of course their vitamins!

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Finally, I add some fresh chopped parsley and basil to the meatball mix (pull the bay leaf out) and give it a stir. Give it a taste it might need a touch of black pepper.  In a pasta bowl or plate I lay a bed of Courgette ribbons out and spoon the meatballs over the top.  For a lighter meal you might find 4-5 meatballs per person is adequate but for a more filling meal 9-10 meatballs per person works well.

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This dish has all the fantastic health benefits from the herbs and garlic. The red meat makes it iron rich and packed full of protein.  Perfect for us ladies wanting to balance our hormones!

The tomato sauce is rich in Lycopene, people who have diets rich in tomatoes, apparently have a lower risk of certain types of cancer. Meanwhile Paprika is loaded with Capsaicin which is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory, which can ease chronic conditions like arthritis and joint pain. Capsaicin also helps improve blood circulation, thereby improving conditions like cold feet and hands. Paprika also has plant enzymes that can help neutralize stomach acids, thus aiding digestion.

Garlic: Lowers cholesterol, keeps you heart healthy 🙂 and is also a natural antibiotic!

Thyme: Its leaves are one of the richest sources of potassium, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, and selenium.

Basil: Natural anti-inflamatory, magnesium and also a good source of iron, calcium, potassium and vit C.

Parsley: B 12, K, Vit C and A – keeps your immune system strong, heals the nervous system.

Lastly Courgettes: A little of Vit C, A, B Vits – thiamin, pyridoxine, riboflavin and minerals like iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc – yes please!

The Lunch Box Plan

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Sandwiches, sandwiches, sandwiches they are everywhere and if your trying to avoid the glutinous grain it can sometimes be tricky when you are out and about.  This does not mean it is impossible, sometimes it just means a little more thought goes into planning your day.  One of the things I like to do is make sure I have a selection of what I call “lunchables” ready to go in the fridge.   You know like the “Pig Candy” or some Feta cheese, Olives, nuts & seeds, boiled eggs, smoked Mackerel, Sardines or sliced meat left-overs from the night before, a few leaf varieties – like Kale, Chard, Spinach or Watercress, a box of shredded coleslaw mix ready to dress with home made mayo – all easy to mix & match – variety is key!  One of the best things I ever bought was a food processor it makes life so easy – you can shred veggies, grind nuts, blend sauces super quick and a little prep on a Sunday night for the week ahead goes a long way. I will also sometimes cook up a big batch of Quinoa (pronounced Keen-wah) which is similar in texture to Cous Cous (which of course is a big no no for us GF folk) but rather than it being a grain it is in fact a seed:

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As a result it makes it far superior to Cous Cous (or rice even) as it is low GI, high in protein, and Riboflavin. It has a nutty kind of flavour but is neutral enough that it can take on a variety of flavours savoury or sweet. One of my favourite breakfast/desert things to do with it, is mix it (cooked Quinoa) with a little Cacao powder, warmed Coconut cream, berries, toasted seeds and honey! “Hello Yumminess!”

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But I digress – back to the savoury lunch box! So a classic summer recipe is Tabouleh and this is traditionally made with Bulgar Wheat (which is a no no for us GF folk) it usually has mint, spring onions and cucumber in it – this works really well with the Quinoa, dressed with fresh lemon juice, salt, black pepper and lots of Olive Oil.

Quinoa is readily available in most supermarkets now and is really easy and quick to prepare.  Most important is to rinse the Quinoa thoroughly with cold water before cooking – if you miss this stage you will find the taste can be quite bitter.

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Put in a pan and cover until an inch above the line of the Quinoa with cold water.  Set on the stove and heat over a medium temperature – bring it up to boil and then turn the heat down and allow to simmer.  This should take about 6-7minutes and when the seeds have just started to “split” like this:

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Then turn the heat off and put the lid on – this allows the rest of the liquid in the pan to be absorbed and for the Quinoa to finish cooking with the steam left in the pan.  This makes a lovely alternative to rice or pasta with a drizzle of Olive oil.  For salad use allow it to cool before adding the additional flavours.

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For a more substantial salad, I like to roast some Red Peppers, Red Onions, and Aubergine with a little light Olive Oil and a few sprigs of fresh Thyme or Rosemary (roughly chopped and roasted at about 180c for about 40mins). Allow to cool and add to the cooked and cooled Quinoa.  Then it is all about adding the layers of flavour, next up is some crumbled Feta cheese (classic salty goat & sheeps milk cheese), followed by some fresh shredded mint, black pepper and a good dose of Extra Virgin Olive oil, and then to really make this salad rock, throw in some toasted Pine Nuts, Sunflower seeds and Pumpkin seeds.  Toasting these little guys really intensifies the flavours and turns any lifeless salad into a thing of glory! This is the kind of salad that can liven up the side dish element of a BBQ or Picnic gathering and offers a substantial dish for any vegetarian guests, but the best thing is, it lasts a few days in the fridge ready to fill your lunch box!

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Toasted seeds easy peasy! In a dry frying pan over a medium heat add the seeds of choice – best to do them separately as they tend to toast at different speeds.  Watch them closely and toss them around in the pan occasionally to get the colour fairly even all over – once they start to get colour they can turn very quickly and start to burn.  The Pumpkin & Sunflower seeds actually make a crackling sound and continue “chatting” once you have taken them off the heat!  And what about a lovely alternative to popcorn – drizzle with a touch of Olive oil or melted goat butter & a sprinkle of sea salt – low GI and far more nutritous and filling!

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Seeds pack a powerful punch in their health giving benefits:

Pumpkin seeds are the only alkaline forming seeds which is great in helping balance the body. They are filled with lots of minerals including phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, vitamin K and high in Zinc.  They are anti-parasitic! They also contain L-tryptophan, which helps with good sleep and lowering depression. Tryptophan is converted into serotonin and niacin.  Serotonin is also very helpful in helping us to have a good night’s sleep. So they really would be a better option served at cinemas as an alternative to the low nutrient, high GI Popcorn!

Pinenuts: Rich in Vitamin A and lutein, both of which are known to support sharper vision. High in Vitamin D (strong bones) vitamin C (happy immune system!) and Iron (good news for the circulatory and nervous system.) The protein and magnesium in pine nuts makes them an excellent source of energy, so whenever you’re feeling tired, pop a few and feel like new!

Sunflower Seeds not bad either! Very good source of vitamin E “Hello younger looking skin!” In addition, sunflower seeds are a good source of manganese, magnesium, copper, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and folate.  Ever tried Sunbutter?  Recipe coming soon! Awesome snack buddy! 🙂

 

Coconut Oil is the “Bomb!”

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Well I said Coconut Oil deserved a whole post to itself because it really is the “BOMB” in  terms of health benefits.  Although it is high in saturated fat it is made up of what they call medium chain fatty acids which actually speed up your metabolism and lower your cholesterol – it gets better – it is also high in Lauric acid and Caprylic acid – which means it is anti viral and anti fungal too!  Lauric acid is actually what is found in Human breast milk – you know the stuff that starts building up a baby’s immune system.  Well, as an adult most of us don’t drink human breast milk – nor am I suggesting you latch on to your friend’s/wife’s boob after she has just given birth! But in our adult life we can always do with a little boost to our immune systems and why not revisit Lauric Acid in the form of Coconut Oil!

Coconut Oil can not only be eaten but also used topically on your skin (anti-ageing) and hair (ultra shiny).  And if you don’t like the taste of Coconut oil try Coconut butter which has the same benefits without the flavour – although it has to be said, the flavour is mild and in my opinion not overly “Coco-nutty.”

I cook with it a lot, as it is by far the healthiest oil to cook with – vegetable oils and corn oils don’t retain their structure when heated and can turn toxic, where as Coconut oil maintains it’s structure and all it’s health benefits.  At the moment it is not widely available in supermarkets but you can get it in health food shops and online.  It is worth investing in a cold pressed Virgin oil as this will benefit you the most – it will cost you about the same as a good quality Olive oil and when you look at the health benefits, its worth every penny in my opinion.

Now moving off on a tangent here – ever had bad scrambled egg? Well let me tell you, there is nothing I hate more than overdone, tasteless scrambled egg… I remember a visit to Wales once with my ex-boyfriend, we had quite a big evening out with friends and the next morning our host offered to cook us breakfast – I knew it was going wrong when I saw him put the beaten eggs into the microwave and “nuked” the hell out of them – what ended up on our plates – we politely forced ourselves to eat – a truly unpleasant experience of anemic looking, rubbery and flavourless eggs! The thing with eggs that people often forget is that they retain their heat really well and actually carry on cooking.  So I thought I would do a little post on my idea of the perfect scrambled egg – just in case any of you ever fancy cooking it for me one day! 😉  Although this is one of the easiest meals to prepare it is also one of the easiest to get wrong too!

I use Coconut oil in my scrambled eggs and I don’t use any milk – remember it’s not overly “coco-nutty” but if you have the fear of the “Coco-nutty” use Coconut butter instead!

This is how I did my breakfast this morning:

Put a plate aside ready to serve the scrambled egg  and put salt and pepper ready to use and a few snipped fresh chives. In a small frying pan over low heat melt a knob of Coconut oil.

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Crack the eggs (free range, organic if poss) directly into a pan – no need to dirty a bowl – using a spatula to break the yolks up and start stirring –

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 In fact, that is one of my top tips here – keep stirring and it will gradually start to thicken.

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About half way through take it off the heat and keep stirring for the final thickening and back on the heat for the last twenty seconds or so.

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You want to serve it straight onto the plate – no dordleing as it will keep cooking if left in the heat of the pan.  Finally, add the seasoning, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of freshly chopped chives.  I served mine with a side of Quinoa (more on this later), toasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and Pinenuts.  This is a great way to start the day – a high protein meal with healthy fats and fibre; kick starts your metabolism and gives you sustained energy that your body will thank you for.

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Birthday Blog: The Dream Cake… Chocolate Beetroot Cake

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I had such a wonderful day yesterday, as you know it started with Yoga and pancakes made by the hubby and then I had lunch with my Mum and Brother. I had sautéed giant prawns in garlic and chilli, with a side of cherry tomato, basil, & red onion salad and a cheeky glass of Rose – perfection!  My brother had to rush back to work and my mum had to get the early train home for the “off peak” travel, so I had a couple of hours to kill before the party in the evening.  So I hopped on a Boris bike and whipped it down Brick Lane (I’ll admit I went against the flow of traffic – naughty! – but much quicker to get home & I promise I was careful!) I was on a mission to start the “dream cake” process.  Sometimes I get really excited about the prospect of a new recipe – it might take a couple of weeks or a few days to formulate in my head properly but this is good because if I rush into it too quickly without thinking about it – it can end up being a disaster!  So what were the flavours I had been contemplating the last few weeks? Well I’m really into juicing and usually start the days with a Beetroot, Carrot, Apple & Ginger juice – great way to get the “Vit Hit” in early.  Beetroot has such a wonderful colour and apparently was the juice of choice for the Olympic athletes last summer at the Olympic park! Why? Not only does it have a unique natural sweetness, it’s magical in the health department! Here are a few facts you may like to know:

* It reduces blood pressure & the risk of heart attacks & strokes.

* It is a powerful antioxidant.

* Full of Folic Acid: essential for normal tissue growth.

* Reduces the risk of Osteoporosis – helps the body utilize calcium more efficiently.

* Lowers Cholesterol.

* Stabilizes blood sugar.

* Helps treat anemia & fatigue.

I mean really – start getting this into your diet ASAP! If you don’t like the taste – experiment with it – don’t go for the shop bought stuff dipped in vinegar – go natural – juice it with apples, roast it with onions, fry it into crispy chips – get creative!

Now the birthday card from my brother & his wife was apt – pretty much says it all in terms of the next flavour I wanted for my dream cake!

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Good quality dark chocolate is the ultimate mood enhancer, full of antioxidants & these key Vits: Potassium,Copper, Magnesium and Iron.  I always check to see how pure the chocolate is – the higher the Cacao percentage the better and I don’t want any extras like soy lethicin, preservatives, gluten or milk.  A little raw sugar is OK.  I really like Willi’s Cacao – the raw block has no sugar in it and can be used in savoury dishes too – but the best thing is you can control how much sugar you put in.  The chocolate is rich, fruity and in my opinion just “magnifique!”

Final flavour of choice: Pecans – gotta love em’: full of antioxidants & protein with their unique maple sweetness – “Yum” in a word!

I hope you get the idea by now – I’m all about packing my recipes with goodness but I also want the “OMG” factor when that first bite hits my mouth! 🙂

And so without further ado this is what I did:

Chocolate Beetroot & Pecan Cake

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Oven Pre-heated to 150C

Ingredients:

4 Raw Beetroot, peeled and roughly chopped

3 tbsp Coconut Oil you can buy this from a health food shop or online – (Organic cold pressed, raw Virgin oil is the best if you can get it)

1 tbsp Goat Butter you can buy this from most supermarkets now

Juice of 2 Lemons

200g Dried pitted dates (make sure they are the juicy kind if you know what I mean)

Splash of Water

1 inch of a  Vanilla Pod

3 Eggs beaten (organic free range if poss)

80g Pecan Nuts roughly chopped and a few whole halves to decorate

200g of Ground Almonds

3 tbsp Coconut Flour: You can buy from health food shops or online

90g This is exactly half of a Willi’s raw Cacao block roughly chopped (Waitrose sells it or you can get it online here: http://www.willieschocolateshop.com/cooking-chocolate-pure-cacao.html

1tsp Vitamin C powder

1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Icing:

150g Willi’s Cacoa Chefs drops: http://www.willieschocolateshop.com/chefs-drops.html

1 Tbsp Coconut Oil

1 tbsp Goat Butter

1 inch of a Vanilla pod scraped seeds only

1) In a large pan I put the chopped Beetroot, Lemon Juice, Coconut Oil and Goat Butter and over a medium heat cooked it down for about 30-35 minutes with the lid on until tender but still holding their shape. I let them cool before blitzing in the food processor.

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2) For my sweetener I like to use Dates, because they are more natural than sugar and high in fibre! In a smaller pan I put the dates, a splash of water (not enough to cover them completely but almost) and I snipped an inch of a vanilla pod into the pan skin and all.  Over a low heat I cooked this down (lid off) for about 10 minutes until I could mash the dates with a fork like the pic on the right:

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3) Having pureed the cooled Beetroot I put it into a separate bowl to one side, I didn’t worry about washing the bowl from the food processor here, I just added the date mixture and gave that a blitz too until completely smooth – and the inch of vanilla pod was broken down too.  Then I added back the Beetroot mixture.  I urge you to taste this mixture – at this stage, what you have in the food processor would make awesome baby food – so natural, nutritious & delicous and a great way to introduce your baby to healthy food!

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4) Next I melted the roughly chopped raw Cacao over a Bain Marie – or in a bowl placed over a saucepan of water like this:

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Stops the choc from burning…

5) Once melted I added this to the Beetroot/date mixture along with a knob of Goat butter and whizzed again to make it smooth – again have a little taste test here – pure pleasure!

6) In a large mixing bowl I combined the Ground Almonds with the Beetroot mixture and then I added the Coconut Flour on top of that. As I stirred here, it did get pretty thick but I wasn’t worried as I still had the eggs and raising agents to add.

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7) Beaten eggs added and folded in:

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8) At this point I should have added the Pecans but I forgot & ended up adding them once I had put the cake mixture in the tin! More on that later! Next I added the Vitamin C and the Bicarbonate of Soda through a sieve to avoid lumps and folded it in.

9)  I poured the cake mixture into a greased loose bottomed 8 1/2 inch tin (in hindsight I should have lined the base with grease-proof paper but I was excited!) It was here that I remembered my Pecans! I added them and loosely stirred them into the mixture but because I didn’t want to over work the mixture at this stage most of them stayed close to the top of the mixture – perhaps this could be written off as one of my “happy accidents?” But what a lovely colour!

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10) And off to the oven it went 150C for about 45 mins – check it – skewer in – comes out clean and the mixture will be firm but springy to the touch. Put it back in for few mins if need be. I allowed it to cool in the tin.  At this point I had to start getting ready for the party so I had to leave it for the night.

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11) Next day and out the tin, completely cooled, it looked like this above – so my “happy accident” actually made for a lovely rustic look and would be delicious just as it is if you wanted something less fancy.  However I was after something more indulgent for my dream cake and icing was my next stop.  This was when I realised that if I had lined the base of the tin it would have made it easier to remove it from the base without breaking the cake up – plus the nuts on the top now would make the icing look really lumpy. So I decided I would have to flip the cake and get it off the base – CAREFULLY! Not too much damage done and cake still in one piece – Phew!

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But look at the fab colour!

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And the texture of the sponge was incredible! (my husband should be a hand model!)

12) So to Icing: Into a Bain Marie as before I put the chef’s cooking drops, a tablespoon each of Coconut oil & Goat butter, and I scraped the inside of a vanilla pod (just one inch) and added that too – all to be melted together.

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13) I poured the mixture onto the cake and used a flat scraper to smooth it over:

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13) This was messy – it ended up on my coffee cup – Mocha anyone? 🙂

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14) I cleaned the excess chocolate off the plate – and added my Pecan nut decoration – and then it was into the fridge to set the icing.

Well? You might ask… was it “OMG” from the first bite? Pretty much! But let me tell you my friends this cake is not for the faint hearted it is Uber rich, luxurious and definitely perfect for that special occasion! It went very well with a few raspberries scattered on the plate too…

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