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Little Miss (gluten-free) Muffet!

I love happy accidents! This recipe I fell upon about a year ago – I can’t quite remember what it was that I was attempting to make when this recipe was born, but I managed to make a rather delicious hybrid! A cross between a Muffin and a Crumpet (A MUFFET if you will) and this original recipe has become the basis for a few recipes.  These little Muffets are great with a little butter and jam, perfect with a poached egg or two and just divine toasted, buttered and drizzled with Maple syrup and dusted with grated Cacao!  The combos are endless!

The best thing about this recipe is that it is super easy and once you have a batch made up you can just lightly toast them or have them as they are.  Perfect afternoon tea fodder, ready for Easter!

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Makes 10 large Muffets or 20 little Muffets!

Ingredients:

350g plain Dove’s gluten-free flour blend (or similar gf plain flour blend)

1 tbsp coconut sugar

1 tbsp coconut oil (solid oil) or if already liquid consistency 2 tbsp

1 1/4 tsp fast acting dry yeast

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1tbsp psyillium husks mixed into a gel like consistency with a splash of water

1 pint full fat goat milk

pinch of Himalayan salt

Method:

1) First sift the flour into a large mixing bowl.

2) Add the coconut sugar, Psyllium husk “gel” mix, salt and stir.

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Just a splash of water mixed into the husks will make the gel.

3) Add and mix in the yeast.

4) Warm up the goat milk for a couple of minutes, but it should not be boiling.  If my coconut oil is solid I add it to the milk to melt. No need to do this if the consistency is already liquid, just add straight to the flour mix along with the extra tablespoonful.

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5) Gradually pour in the warmed milk (and coconut oil) into the flour mix  and blend with an electric mixer with a dough hook attached.  Whizz away until all the lumps are out.  You might need to use a spatula to pull the dry ingredients off the side of the bowl and into the wet mix. Then add the bicarbonate of soda and give it one last whizz.

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6)  Cover the batter with cling film and leave for about an hour in a warm dry spot to let the yeast do its it ‘thang!

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7) After an hour or so the mixture will have doubled and if you lightly touch the top of the mixture it will leave a very small impression in the mix.  If in doubt you can leave it for another 20-30 minutes sometimes the yeast will work slower if the room is a bit cold.

8) I did these on top of my mum’s Aga directly onto a bake-o-glide sheet but you can just use a non stick pan lightly wiped with a little coconut oil to prevent sticking (over a medium heat warm the pan first before adding the batter)  For the small Muffets a tablespoonful of the batter will do – I find piling the mix on top of itself works best so that is settles into its size as it cooks.  For the larger ones two tablespoonfuls will do.  They take a couple of minutes each side to cook or until golden each side.

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They’ll go like “hot cakes!”

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The texture really is a cross between a muffin and a crumpet! And so was born the Muffet! 🙂

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This Muffin/Crumpet hybrid also very easily transitions into the “Scuffet!” A Scone, Muffin and a Crumpet in one! It is the same batter mix. All you do is add 100g of sultanas after the batter has sat and expanded for an hour or so. The dried fruit can stop the yeast from working, so I find it best to put the fruit in once the yeast has had a chance to work.

Once cooked and cooled (if you have some left after peeps have tucked in!) store them in an airtight container and to keep them fresh put the box in the fridge but you will need to warm them through or lightly toast them to serve.

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Lovely with a nice cuppa! ENJOY! 🙂

 

 

It’s Christmas!

I’ve been having a bit of break from the bloggin’ world for a little while as I was off fighting with giant anaconda & crocodiles for a tongue-in-cheek style movie; playing a rather fun, evil villainess character! My husband and I have also been designing our narrowboat which is going to be built in January 2015! Exciting and busy times ahead!

Before I forget: Merry Christmas to you all and may you have a very prosperous, happy and healthy new year! 🙂

Here is my Christmas pud recipe. I tested it for the first time last year and this year I feel it’s time to shout about it because it was really rather delicious!  My Christmas inspiration brings forth a big batch of mincemeat which can lend itself to stuffed baked apples or topping for natural yoghurt or little pies. It is also the main ingredient in my pud!

Buying dried fruit in bulk is often cheaper. I also think it’s worth looking for the most naturally dried fruits: just check the label for any added extras.  These recipes can easily be halved when catering for small gatherings.

Mincemeat: Fills 2 large 1.5l kilner jars…

500g dried currants

200g dried apricots, chopped

250g dried cranberries

200g dried prunes

500g dried date paste (soak the dates for a couple of hours and then blitz in the food processor to a smooth paste)

250g goat butter, frozen and then grated

juice and zest of 1 large orange

juice and zest of 2 clementines

100g chopped mixed peel

1/4 pint of brandy

1/4 pint of Cointreau

500g Macadamia Nuts, chopped

2 tsps mixed spice (I like to add an extra 2 tsps cinnamon)

Method:

Prep the ingredients as described. Add to a very large mixing bowl and get stuck in with the mixing! Store in the sterilized kilner jars and place in the fridge ready for use!

I love stuffing the mixure into large, cored cooking apples (make sure you score them around the circumference to stop them exploding!) and baking them in a deep roasting tray with a little water and foil to cover them (160C for about 45 minutes). I don’t add any extra sugar as the mincemeat is very sweet with all the dried fruits. Serve it with coconut cream or natural sheep yoghurt and, if needed, add a little extra sweetness with a drizzle of maple syrup!

Here is the Christmas pud recipe:

This can be made well in advance as long as it is sealed well and stored in a cool dry place. Equally, there’s no harm in making it on the big day if you haven’t got too many other cooking chores going on! It is super rich with the cacao element so this pud will stretch far!

Serves 10

Ingredients:

2lbs mincemeat (from the recipe above there will be plenty left over for other festive treats too!)

1 grated cooking apple

2 tbsps coconut oil, melted

2 tbsps pysllium husks, mixed with a splash of water to form gel-like consistency

3 level tbsps of GF brown bread flour (or coconut flour – whichever you prefer)

200g ground almonds

6 free-range eggs

2 tsps cinnamon

75g grated cacao from solid block (halve this if using ground cacao powder)

2.5 tsps bicarb of soda

1 tsp vit C powder

splash of brandy for setting it alight to serve!

Method:

Line and grease a large pudding basin (mine is big, it is 12cm in height and 19cm in width! This size takes about 3 pints I believe…) &  making sure there is enough parchment to go over the top of the pudding to ‘tuck it in’. I find cutting a few slits around the edge helps to sort of pleat and fold the paper to fit around bowl.

Put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl apart from the vitamin C and the bicarbonate of soda. You can mix the ingredients by hand but a dough hook on an electric mixer gets everything integrated really efficiently and keeps the batter nice and light. Finish by adding the vitamin C and the Bicarbonate of soda and giving it a quick whizz through.

Pour the mixture into the basin (making sure there is about an inch space from the mixture to the top of the basin for growing room!) and tuck the baking parchment over the top – not too tightly. More firmly wrap the foil over the top and tie a string around the rim of the bowl. It’s worth attaching a loop (via the string already in place) over the top of the basin to act as a handle, making it easier to pull out of the saucepan (and saving your paws) once it’s cooked. Poke a couple of holes into the foil with a skewer to allow for air flow as the pud cooks. Then place the basin into a large saucepan (filled 3/4 with water when basin is inside). Put a lid on and bring to the boil and simmer for about 3.5-4 hours, making sure the water doesn’t boil dry. The pudding will have expanded and will feel firm to the touch. If cooking and eating on the day leave in the basin to cool a bit before turning out. To heat a pre-cooked pud put it back into a saucepan water bath and simmer for about 1 hour with the lid on. Decorate the serving dish with holly, drizzle the pudding with brandy and set alight. Serve with coconut cream or brandy-infused custard (I make custard with coconut milk, egg yolks and sweeten it with agave syrup).

Enjoy!

I will be posting pictures at a later date!

 

Why does Apple Cider Vinegar have a mother?

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Well, we have all come from a mother and I would hope for most people a loving one at that; but it does sound strange that a vinegar would “have/need a mother.”  I hope to bring some insight here.

Not many people would think of vinegar being particularly useful from a medicinal point of view but choose the right one and you have yourself a very powerful tonic for your body!  Yes vinegar can be bought in a wide variety of shops and many of us think of it as a good mixer for salad dressings or for chips or even for polishing windows! Unfortunately a lot of these vinegars are refined, filtered and pasteurised which gets rid of a lot of the health boosting properties that are beneficial to us.

Apple Cider vinegar is totally natural, resulting from the fermentation of apple juice to apple cider and then a second fermentation produces apple cider vinegar.  The mother is a web like formation that floats in the vinegar – it is full of beneficial bacteria, living nutrients and enzymes.  The vinegar although it has a low acidity (5%) to it, it actually has an alkaline effect on the body – apparently an overly acidic body can lead to more disease and illness.

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I have also read that it aids detoxification, is anti-fungal, lowers cholesterol, and can be beneficial for people suffering from arthritis – again I am sure that is related to balancing out the acidity in the body – acidity apparently can also mean more inflammation…

So you may ask how to take this powerful tonic?  Some people like to take it in a shot glass first thing in the morning and last thing at night – this is a strong approach!  Personally I put a splash into a glass and top it up with water – if I’m at home I’ll have 3-4 glasses a day.  For those that have a sweeter tooth, I recommend perhaps trying it with a little honey or a teaspoon of maple syrup.

I also use it to make my salad dressings and my home-made mayo:

Bella’s Vinaigrette:

4 tbsp Hemp oil (omega 3 fatty acids)

2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (with the mummy!)

Pinch of Himalayan salt (84 trace elements)

Pinch black pepper

And how about a few snips of fresh dill

and a teaspoon of Wholegrain mustard to clinch it – see bracket below*.

(*try to find a mustard that is as natural as possible and gluten-free or alternatively crush a few mustard seeds bashed in a pestle and mortar)

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Power breakfast: left over chicken, avocado drizzled with Bella’s dill vinaigrette & radishes

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Power lunch: Smoked mackerel salad with Bella’s Vinaigrette

Bella’s home-made Mayo: with or without garlic: this makes enough to store in a jar in the fridge to use in other salads or for dunking crudites as a snack! Will keep for about a week.

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For starters? Prawns cooked in coconut oil & hot smoked paprika delicately drizzled in Bella’s home-made garlic mayo… Hungry yet?

Ingredients:

4 Fresh egg yolks (Organic Free-range if poss)

2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar, don’t forget the mummy! 😉

1 small clove of garlic, crushed (optional)

2 tsp Wholegrain Mustard (again best to go as natural as you can here see above note *)

Approx 1/4 pint Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Salt (Himalayan if poss) & Black Pepper

Method:

Add the Egg Yolks to a food processor and blitz until the egg yolk starts to go a bit paler. At this stage slowly add the Olive Oil whilst the processor is still whizzing. The colour will slowly start to fade as the mixture starts to thicken. Next add the Apple Cider Vinegar one tablespoon at a time. After that add the crushed garlic (you can leave the garlic out if you don’t like it), Salt, Pepper and finally the Mustard – keep blending for another couple of minutes to further smooth and thicken the mixture. At this stage give it a little taste to check the seasoning – you might want to add a little more oil, salt or pepper or even a touch more vinegar – personal preference here but if you add anything more – just give it another whizz in the processor to make sure it is fully combined.  Add the mixture to jar and store in the fridge to chill down.

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Free range Gammon steak, steamed sweet potato and mixed chopped salad with grated carrot, celeriac, apple, lettuce, parsley, dill, toasted pumpkin seeds and Bella’s home-made garlic mayo!

Vegetables and salads should never be boring or tasteless and with the right combinations of dressings and textures your palate will be buzzing with joy and your body bursting with vitality and health! 🙂

Let the Sun Shine in with Sunbutter!

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I actually wrote this a few days ago from London with a view out of my apartment window of the grey misty rain outside.  It appears the weather has really started to turn.  I’m not going to lie, I’m not a big fan of this kind of weather and it is at this time of year, I turn to a few essentials to boost my immune system and brighten my mood.

Supplements like Vitamin D (the sunshine Vit) are really useful, particularly when there is not much sunshine around at the moment.  Oily fish is also a good source of Vit D.  A lack of vitamin D can really affect your mood and energy levels.

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With the colder weather there can also be a rise in flu and colds and to combat this, it can be helpful to boost your immunity with Vitamin C & Zinc supplements, Echinacea drops (10 days taking the drops, 10 days off).

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Also making sure you are getting enough probiotic; Sauerkraut is a great option here, or natural Sheep/Goat yoghurt or even probiotic Coconut yoghurt.

I have also heard that Clove tea is good at cleansing your system of pollutants and parasites, it also provides some powerful antioxidants to support your immune system.  Just put a teaspoon of whole cloves into a pestle and mortar and give them a bash around to release the natural oils and put into a pot with boiling water to steep for 5 minutes, strain and pour.  1-2 cups a day should really help prep your body for the colder months ahead.

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Now let the sunshine in with Sun butter!

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I love sunflowers, they are not only so vibrant and cheerful they also produce some incredibly nutritious seeds that can really transform you health.  Packed full of Selenium, Calcium, Magnesium, Copper and Vitamin E they really have the whole package in terms of promoting bone health, preventing cell damage, alleviating stress, and reducing inflammation in the body – easing joint pain.

Hello health! Welcome back! 🙂

I first discovered Sun butter when I lived in California – I mean where else but the golden state would they name it sun butter!  I soon discovered that it is really easy to make and much cheaper. Here is how:

It really depends on how much you have – you want at least 500g of sunflower seeds to make up a decent batch. 1KG will give you a good yield (fills about a 1litre kilner jar). My example below was with about 500g. Best deals for nuts & seeds can be found online.

Start by lightly toasting the seeds in a frying pan (dry – no oil) low – medium heat. You will need to do this in batches so that the “toast” is even and make sure you regularly toss and shake the pan.  Be careful not to over do it – too much and the sun butter will taste burnt, too little and the flavour won’t be as rich. This pic below is a little uneven – I needed to do a bit more tossing here!

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Once you have toasted the whole batch, throw them in a food processor and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes (they retain their heat pretty well).

Now set the blades ‘a whizzing.  You will see at first it goes to a dust like consistency and gradually they start to clump together.

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This is when you need to use a spatula to scrape around the sides and pull it altogether, between whizzes.

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You need to keep doing this until the natural oils from the seeds have started to release and it is becoming more paste like.

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Then add a good pinch of Himalayan salt (the least processed the better) and gradually start to add in, a good quality Olive oil.  You will start to see the paste becoming smoother and smoother.  The amount of oil you add is really personal preference, I like quite a lot so it has a good sheen! Keep tasting and checking the smoothness of the paste. For a touch of sweetness I like to add 1-2 tsps of Maple syrup to taste (remember this is high GI – so less is more)

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As you can see, Sunbutter, unfortunately does not a pretty picture take!

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It looks kind of like cement!

But trust me, it tastes delicious and is great served on Gluten free toast, but I love having it with crudites or slices of apple.  It is a great little snack buddy and easily assembled in a little tupperware if you are going to be out and about.

A little organisation goes a long way… you only have one body in this lifetime, why not make it a healthy, happy one?

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Use Your Loaf! Part one…

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“What!? You can’t eat bread or Pasta!? What do you eat!? That must mean you can’t eat cakes and stuff too? Blimey!”

These comments are usually followed by a deep pitying look, as though my life must almost, not be worth living!

I have heard this so often over the years and when I was younger it used to bother me, perhaps because I didn’t know what I know now.  Now when I hear these comments, I tend to have a wry smile on my face because I actually think my food tastes better and is a hell of a lot healthier!

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Saffron infused Buckwheat groats with poached smoked haddock…

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Chargrilled Squid with a selection of chargrilled vegetables…

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Sexy Little Nectarine Tart

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Mixed salad with smoked Mackerel and Bella’s Powerkraut.

When you stop eating gluten your brain hones in all the “glutinous” stuff you will “miss out on.”  In search of gluten-free alternatives you go to the “free-from” section in the supermarket.

IMG_1724 You find the selection of GF breads, cakes and crackers is impressive and pretty darn pricey, but you think:

“I need these “essentials,” so I can still enjoy my life!”

As you start sampling these products you think:

“Wow, these taste pretty good.”

You start to feel better because you are not having all the horrendous symptoms that go with intolerance to gluten.  It actually gives you a false sense of security, that your health is on track and in pretty good shape…

For years I used to buy this stuff, alongside continuing my gluten-free experiments in the kitchen, without really factoring in the “SUGAR CONTENT!”

When you look at a nutritional label you want to see the carbohydrate Vs “of which sugars.” The GF stuff scores very high in the sugar stakes:

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IMG_1729 IMG_1730 It is almost as if the manufacturers have in solving, the “issue,” of “lack of gluten” have made up for it, with additional sugar and “fillers,” that make it cheaper for them to make. In addition because us GF folk “need” alternatives to the other convenience foods on offer, they figure they can charge a fortune for it!

The gluten-free food market is the biggest growing and most profitable food market worldwide.  Partly due to more and more people being diagnosed with intolerance and food related illnesses, but also because of the amount they charge for this “specialist” food!

As a nation it has almost become “in-grained” in us (‘scuse the pun) that we must have bread, cereal or pasta at most meals.  We really don’t need that much carbohydrate to survive – how many of us, are Olympic athletes or go out hunting for our food these days? Why are we so dependent on these “essentials?” I could talk for hours on this subject, but for now maybe worth having a think about it?

I know from personal experience that eating these convenience GF foods is a ticking time bomb… My health started coming off the rails a few years ago, my hormones went out of whack and I was told I had something called insulin resistance; which in layman’s terms means, when I eat food with a lot of sugar in it, my insulin levels go bonkers! It was a big wake up call.  I decided to take control and really look at the food I was eating and I urge you to do the same, whether you are gluten intolerant or not. Ultimately the more natural and less processed the food you put into your body is, the more health rewards your body will give you. 🙂

While I choose not to have bread every day, I do occasionally make a loaf.  My GF bread recipe won’t break the health bank. It is versatile, soft enough to make sandwiches and it also makes delicious toast too… Click the link below for the recipe. Enjoy! 🙂

USE YOUR LOAF PART TWO: BELLA’S BREAD

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USE YOUR LOAF PART TWO: BELLA’S BREAD

Bashed “Breaded” Bird!

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I’m not going to lie I’m a big fan of chicken and I certainly don’t think a chicken dish need ever be boring, but sometimes I just want that little extra crispy, yum factor.  This certainly does not mean I’m about to hot foot it down to my local KFC! But southern fried chicken does taste good – there is a reason it is so popular. So here is my spin on it – of course it’s Gluten Free and of course it’s healthier – and does it taste good – hell yeah! 🙂

You can skip this first step – but I actually think, all good things come to those who wait – worth planning this step into the equation! So the night before I plan to eat this dish, I do a little prep.

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I use (4) Organic, free range chicken breasts (if poss), that way I know I will not be ingesting any unnecessary growth hormones, and antibiotics etc plus the chicken hopefully had happy life! I bash the breast quite thin, with a tenderising mallet, this helps with the cooking later on, and is also quite therapeutic! Next, I place the chicken in a tupperware box ready for the next stage.

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I then mix together about 4 tablespoons of organic natural sheep yoghurt, a good pinch of Himalayan salt with about 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of water.  I then pour this mixture over the chicken breasts and place the box in the fridge over night.  Traditionally this stage is done with buttermilk, which is of course is derived from cow’s milk, so I just switched it up with a healthier alternative.  The calcium from the yoghurt works its way into the chicken to make it ultra tender.

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The next day I pull the chicken box out of the fridge and let it get to room temp and in the meantime I prep a little salad.  You can serve this dish with sweet potato wedges too – just wedge ’em up, drizzle with a little melted coconut oil, salt and pepper and bung in the oven for about 40 minutes on 180’C and to serve sprinkle with some hot smoked paprika. If you go with the wedges, time wise – take the chicken out the fridge about twenty minutes into the “wedge” cook!  But for a lighter option I like to do a nice mixed salad – a selection of leaves, grated carrot and a few mixed sprouted beans and lentils. Nice, colourful, crisp…

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You can buy raw sprouted lentils and beans from deli’s and health food stores but it is also very easy to grow your own too.  You just need to buy the seeds, a germinating tray and have access to water.  They add a little extra crunch and interest to any salad and the stored energy from the nutrients become much more readily available and easy for us to digest. You’ll get a hit of Zinc, Copper and Vitamin C and lots of micronutrients too. Now the weather is starting to change, it’s totally worth upping your vit hit!

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Back to the bird…

It is here I will give you some options.  There are a couple of ways to proceed.  If you want the ultimate protein feast you can use ground almonds as your coating, this will taste delicious but won’t go quite as crispy as the Buckwheat flour option.  Totally up to you, the Buckwheat will add some low GI carbs and a toasty, nutty quality and the ground Almonds will add more protein and well, nuttiness! Why not try a bit of both and see which you prefer!  Also I should say, if you don’t want to do these escalope size you can also cut the chicken into nugget sized chunks! Now for the egg wash (1 beaten egg).

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Now for the coating…

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…your choice of either buckwheat flour or ground almonds, I like to add a touch of salt and pepper here too.  You’ll want about 300g of your chosen coating.  In the meantime worth doing a little dressing for the chicken.  I melt a little goat butter in a pan with fresh thyme leaves and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, salt and pepper – cook for just a couple of minutes on a low heat, then take the pan off the heat – and finally add some chopped fresh parsley into the melted butter mixture.  This will be drizzled over the chicken when it’s done.

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In this pic I haven’t added all the herbs yet…

And then into a hot, sizzling, pan with the chicken. You can fry the chicken in some Coconut oil or you could try Walnut oil or Goat butter if you wanted to change it up.  You will want about 1.5 tablespoons of oil.  As the chicken has been bashed thin it shouldn’t take too long about 3-4minutes each side.

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I prep a plate with some kitchen roll on so when the chicken is ready it can rest and the excess oil can be absorbed.  Then it is ready to serve onto the plate with the salad/wedges and finally finished with the scrumptious, garlicky, herby butter… Oh yeah….

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This crispy coating also works really well with fish – so if you just have to have your fix of fish ‘n chips you can.  Who said you couldn’t make scrumptious, tasty stuff, that is Gluten Free!? 😉

The Real Chocoholic

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Why is chocolate good for us? Well it depends on what kind of chocolate you go for but the theory goes the higher the Cacao percentage, the higher the health boosting properties will be.  A good quality dark chocolate can apparently boost your mood, boost your brain power, help prevent disease and alleviate age related problems, with the powerful flavonoids and antioxidants it contains.

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The things that will make your chocolate less healthy are to do with the processing and added ingredients that many companies put in to fill it out, making it cheaper for them to make and much less healthy for us to consume.  Ever heard the phrase:

“a second on the lips a lifetime on the hips!?”

I actually think you can eat a piece of cake, or some chocolate, or a couple of biscuits everyday and not ever have this phrase pass through your head again – if you choose to make these items from scratch, mind-fully selecting your chosen ingredients so that they are nutrient dense and not packed to the gunnels with sugar and other heavily processed nasties! 🙂

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If I do buy chocolate I tend to go for the highest Cacao percentage, and I also have a little look to see if there are any added ingredients beyond Cacao butter, Cacao and raw sugar – I don’t mind a little natural vanilla or chilli flavour.

Top tip if you’re not up for making your own: Willie’s 72% Cacao bars (Online or Waitrose/Selfridges/Liberties) are by far the best I have come across…

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But why not give the home-made chocs a go?  It’s really easy and fun! For the healthiest chocolates, personally I think it is best to go raw, as none of the nutritive value will be lost through heat treatment.

The basic ingredients you will need are:

Raw Cacao Butter

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Raw Cacao Powder

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You can get the best deals shopping around online, but you can also get these ingredients from health food shops too.  They may not seem cheap but remember you can eat less and get more, because the final result is more nutrient dense and satisfying! 🙂

Raw chocolate; if you have ever tried it, is naturally quite bitter.  For sweetening your chocolate there are many options.  One thing to consider: how much of a sweet tooth do you really have?  Many people don’t think they do have a sweet tooth until they cut out sugar completely for a few days. Try it – I dare you! That means eating no fruit too (“nature’s candy”) – just eat fish, chicken, meat, plain nuts, seeds and vegetables for three days and just drink water and see how you go.  The more you crave the sweet stuff the more of a sugar addict you probably are; but the interesting thing about this process is that you will be able to re-train your taste buds and in fact you will start to appreciate the sweetness of things like raw carrots.  But don’t worry I am not suggesting you sweeten your home-made chocolate with raw carrots!

Here are some of my sweetening suggestions:

Coconut Palm Sugar – OK, I know what I said about sugar but this is unprocessed and tastes delicious and although this type is still high GI it is quite a bit lower than the highly processed white stuff;  plus you can control how much you put it. 😉

Coconut Sugar

Dried Prunes or Dates: (for truffles) these work really well and again, although high GI, they have the added advantage of being high in fibre which I believe helps slow the sugar hit down.

Agave Syrup: Although advertised as a low GI sweetener that is a healthy alternative to sugar, Agave syrup is more a triumph of marketing over science. It is highly processed and it will raise your insulin levels in the same way high fructose corn syrup does. But remember you are in the driving seat when you make your own goodies, so you can control how much you put in!

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Honey: another option that is on the high GI side – so go easy… I think the milder tasting honey works the best.

Maple Syrup: A nice cold pressed maple syrup tastes wonderful and is full of lovely minerals but again, it is on the high GI side of the fence so less can be more!

Maple Syrup

Lucuma Powder: comes from the Peruvian Lucuma fruit.  Although it tastes really sweet and creamy it actually is a great Low GI alternative to sugar and the added plus point is, it contains Potassium, Iron, Calcium, Phosphorus, Fibre and lots of B vits.  Hoorah! Shop around for the best price online, or you can get it in health food shops. Outside of Peru, this is most commonly sold as a fine powder. The fruit is dried at low temperatures and milled into a fine powder, so dissolves really easily which makes it great to work with when making chocolate.

Lucuma Powder

Cashews: (For truffles) I find Cashews have a natural sweetness and Almonds do too. If you soak them over night in water you actually awaken the natural “live” properties of the nut making them more nutrient dense. After soaking you need to rinse them and then blitz them into a smooth paste in a food processor. They add a nice flavourful, sweet, protein-rich addition to truffles. If you have a nut allergy you can replace nuts with soaked and “blitzed” seeds like Sunflower or Hemp.

Xylitol: you know, the stuff they put in chewing gum & mints?…  So of course “Tooth friendly!” Bonus! It is naturally found in low concentrations in the fibres of many fruits and vegetables and is recommended as an alternative to sugar for diabetics, as it apparently does not contribute to high blood sugar levels.  It is not toxic to humans, but is however, highly toxic to dogs, so if you have any pooches in your house, please take care that they don’t get their paws on it!

Xylitol

As an aside: consume too much Xylitol and it can have a laxative effect, ‘nough said! Also I have found it works ok in hot/cold drinks and also chocolate truffles but not so well making things like custard or cakes… This is a much better alternative to artificial sweeteners, like Aspartame which has been linked to many health problems…

Additional Flavours:

The best thing about making your own chocolate is you can really experiment with flavours and sweetness.  I actually did a kind of spice “wheel” plate and had great fun playing around with the flavours:

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Vanilla Pod, Smoked Paprika, Curry Powder, Ginger, Lavender, Cinnamon, Coffee, Lime… Tequila (just a teeny tiny amount 😉 …)

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Coconut Manna (again shop online or from health food store) is great for making truffles as it has a really lovely, creamy texture. Coconut Manna is full of fibre, protein and healthy fats and makes a great alternative to milk or cream in recipes. It is also delicious added to fruit smoothies.

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Okay down to the biz:

You need to start by melting the Cacao butter very gently, you don’t want to “cook” it, you just want to gently loosen/ooze it into a liquid…

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See how I’ve put an upturned bowl in the water and placed the Cacao butter bowl on top of that, so it does not actually touch the water (less aggressive this way) and then a lid on top.  The slower & gentler this process, the better. Perhaps my drawing explains it better:

Choc making set up

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It gently melts into a lovely amber coloured liquid:

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For a basic white chocolate recipe you can play around with the flavours and amounts but this is a good start:

100g Raw Cacao Butter, slowly melted.

1-2 tsp Lucuma Powder

A touch of additional sweetener of your choice – (I would recommend a syrupy option for ease here but if you want to try using the coconut sugar or the Xylitol I would recommend stirring the mixture until it is it is fully disolved so you don’t get a grainy texture.

A little grated citrus rind (orange, Clementine or Mandarin work well)

A Squeeze of whichever citrus fruit you chose from above

Pinch of Cinnamon (slows the rate at which the sugars are metabolised – flavour and a bonus! 🙂 )

Pinch of Himalayan salt (contains 84 trace elements for an added health boost!)

A touch of vanilla – scrape a few seeds from a fresh pod or 1tsp natural vanilla essence

Once you have your melted Cacao butter add the remaining ingredients and stir well for about 3-5 minutes until you have a smooth consistency then pour into chocolate silicon moulds, rest for 10 minutes to cool a bit and then place in the fridge for at least one hour before turning out.

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For the darker chocolate version you do the same as above. But you also add 3-4 tbsp of raw Cacao powder (I found it was best to sieve it in to get rid of any lumps). This will make it a bit more bitter so you might need a touch more of your chosen sweetener.  I left out the citrus zest/juice and added a pinch of Cayenne pepper which added a subtle kick! I also tried a sprinkle of Lavender on some chocolates which added a little floral flourish!

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A little wonky on the fridge shelf and my chocs were tipsy! 😉

Truffles

To be honest though my favourites are the truffles as I feel you can be a little more robust with the flavours and textures.

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I used a basic prune or date paste base,  (basically the dried fruit is blitzed in the food processor to make a paste) I then added the melted Cacao butter, Cacao powder and any additional flavourings. So roughly the basic base recipe is:

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Basic Truffle recipe:

50g Prune paste or Date paste (Prune paste really compliments the chocolate flavours, Date paste does too, but is a lot sweeter)

4-6 tbsp (depending on how dark you want it) Cacao powder (plus a little extra for dusting)

2 tbsp Cacoa Butter (melted)

1 tbsp Coconut manna or Soaked nuts/seed paste

1-2tsp Lucuma powder to taste (optional)

Pinch of Himalayan salt

If you need a little help combining it all you can loosen the mixture further with a little more melted Cacao butter or if you prefer, a little melted coconut oil.

Party Truffles (additional flavours to add to basic recipe)

Zest of 1 lime (leave a little aside for decoration)

Juice of 1/2 lime

Pinch of Cayenne pepper

2 tsp Tequilla (cheeky!)

Finally, a little Coconut sugar and Cacao powder for dusting/rolling the truffles in which are then finished with a sliver of Lime zest on top. Place in the fridge for at least an hour to chill down and set.

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My second batch had the basic recipe above but I used Cinnamon as an additional flavour by rolling the truffles in this.

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For my third batch I used Date paste with Smoked paprika and finished with a good dusting of Cacao powder.

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Ginger and Lime anyone? I used Date paste for these and finished them off with some pumpkin seeds to decorate.

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One of my favourite combos was Garam Masala, I used a pinch with the prune paste and topped with mint.  Sounds kind of wrong doesn’t it? Curry and Chocolate… but it really works! IMG_3311

I also tried some prune paste based truffles, dusting/rolling them in a little ground coffee and cinnamon  – go easy if you are caffeine sensitive.

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All these chocolates and truffles actually freeze really well so you can put some batches aside for a rainy day and a little “mood food” pick me up! They also make a great end to a dinner party!

There are endless possibilities with home-made chocolates, that are not only fun but also full of health giving wonders! Enjoy! 🙂

Mood Food

Well if you haven’t realised by now, I am all about eating foods that are joyous, indulgent,  as natural as can be and abundant in health giving properties.  I truly believe that eating the right kinds of foods can have a massive impact on how you feel both physically, mentally and even emotionally.

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Prawns fried in Coconut oil and Garlic, finished with Hot Smoked Paprika and served with Avocado

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Orgnanic Chicken Liver Pate on Almond crackers

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Free-Range Ham with Rhubarb & Apple Sauce with a Baby Tomato Spinach Salad

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Crispy Fried (organic, free-range) Chicken with a herby garlic butter (goat butter) dressing, served with mixed salad and mixed sprouted beans and lentils.

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Buckwheat, Hemp and Coconut pancakes…

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Bella’s Banana Bread…

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Chocolate and Beetroot cake…

Many people suffer from depression and while this can be for a multitude of reasons, there are certain things that can be done to help pull a person out of that mental ditch.  It is incredibly hard in a depressive state to do some of the simplest of tasks, but I know from personal experience the things that can help move you in the right direction are quite simple too.

First up a person has to want to help themselves and they might also need the help and support of friends, family and or a therapist.

On a more practical level I’ve found getting organised and planning my days/weeks can really help, as tough as it sometimes can be, if you force yourself to do stuff and get stuff done, it helps give you a sense of achievement, however small that might be.

Getting out of bed, getting dressed and making yourself presentable to the outside world even if you may not be planning to “see” anyone – can really get your mind in a better state.

A bit of exercise everyday can also really help even if it is just a 20 minute walk or 10 minutes of yoga and building up to a bit more can obviously help in boosting those Endorphins – brain producing chemicals that make you feel good :-).  Also Meditation can really help calm the mind and reset your consciousness.

All these routines can really compliment eating the right kinds of foods and the effects build up over time to really give you a positive outlook and a body that sings with health and vitality.

Believe me, I know life throws us some curve balls from time to time and to put all these things into practice on a daily basis can really be challenging.  I actually read somewhere once, that to form a habit it takes 21 consecutive days – and so to break one I imagine… I’m the kind of person who enjoys a bit of a challenge; so 21 days of putting good mood/health practices into place sounds pretty cool to me, especially if it will make a person feel better – Anyone fancy giving it a go?

Now onto the food side of things – certain foods can really bring a person’s mood down and also affect hormonal balance which in turn can make you feel really depressed, aside from or on top of any circumstantial things going on in your life.  So why eat those foods that make you feel crappy at all!?  Why not always eat the foods that are going to help make you feel fantastic!?

Here is the list of food/drinks that can make you feel rubbish:

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Enemy number one: SUGAR!!!! Gives you that upward zip and makes you buzz right before your body crashes into a depressive slump and then leading you to crave more of the sugary stuff sending you on a roller-coaster that ultimately is heading for a big crash.  The more processed it is the worse off you will be.  Not to mention increasing your likely hood of having weight problems and potentially some pretty serious health conditions.  Even diet soda after a time, starts to trick your body into thinking it is having sugar not to mention the links that artificial sweeteners have to cancer – in my opinion Coca Cola, Pepsi and all the other “drink giants” have a lot to answer for!  Top tip: Coca Cola makes a good toilet cleaner… 😉

Alongside sugar are High GI foods – that is food that releases energy into your blood very quickly – it has the same effect as pure sugar.  This includes: white rice, white potatoes, white bread, white pasta and corn (see a theme here? All heavily processed and colour bleached away). Sugary fruits/juices like Melon, Oranges, Grapes even dried fruits etc can have the same effect although perhaps with a few more Vits thrown in.

Gluten is also apparently on the hit list: there was a huge population study that found Coeliac disease was associated with an 80% increased risk of depression.  Given that there is a massive proportion of the population who have Coeliac disease but have not officially been diagnosed that is a pretty massive fact, especially when you consider there is around 3 million people suffering from depression in the UK alone. In fact you can have mood debilitating symptoms relating to Gluten without even having Coeliac Disease. Maybe worth looking into…

Caffeine: while initially it might give you a buzz it also causes dehydration which can later lead to irritability, withdrawal headaches and can sometimes affect your sleep quality.  I find I am best off sticking to having my caffeine in the mornings or having a cut off point no later than say 4pm.  But  perhaps worth cutting down altogether on the amount of caffeine is worth looking at.  Green tea is quite a good alternative to Coffee and Breakfast tea as it has less caffeine and is also packed with antioxidants. (An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules – so in theory helps slow down the ageing process and prevents diseases…)

Alcohol: is a known depressant.  Initially it might relax and mellow you out, but chances are it will make you feel worse particularly the next day – imagine the build up if you drink alcohol everyday.  Your Liver has to work overtime to clear the toxins, which is why it can drain your energy and also affect the quality of your sleep – everyone needs to achieve some REM (deep sleep cycle) during the night in order to feel refreshed the next day.  Of course the other thing about alcohol is, it contains enemy number 1 Sugar not to mention a tonne of negative calories with no nutritive benefit.  Of course socially it is nice to join in with other people and a have a drink occasionally – you have to enjoy yourself too!  I have found if I have a glass of wine it is best to have it with a meal as it slows the sugar rush affects down.  Also a lower sugar alcoholic drink, that is gluten-free is sipping Tequila – on the rocks with freshly squeezed lime juice and a splash of soda water.  I wouldn’t recommend more than 2 of an evening, if you really want a balanced mood and good night’s sleep… Also best to have lots of water to counteract the dehydration effects of the alcohol.

Now let’s get onto the good stuff! The things that will really help pick your mood up.

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A lack of Omega 3 essential fatty acids can really have an effect on us and so many people don’t have enough in their diets! You can find sources in oily fish like Sardines, Mackerel, and Salmon.

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Smoked Mackerel with Bella’s Powerkraut

IMG_2663 Smokin’ Meatballs…

A lack of B & D Vitamins, Folate and minerals like Magnesium and Selenium can also account for lower moods. To get good sources of these eat plenty of good quality proteins such as:

Eggs, Pork, Chicken, Turkey, lean Beef, Fish, Seafood, Quinoa. Where possible go free-range and organic for added health benefits (no anti-biotics or growth hormones) and peace of mind that any animals have been treated well…

IMG_2476 Coconut oil Scambled eggs served with Quinoa and toasted seeds

Prawns & Samphire

Prawns in Coconut Oil, Garlic and Samphire

Crab Salad

Crab & Asparagus Salad

Natural Sheep and Goat Yoghurt

IMG_2480(Sheep Yoghurt with Passion fruit, Pecans, Pumpkin & Sunflower seeds, a couple of chopped dates and a little honey… Nuts and seeds balance out the sugars from the fruit…)

Nuts (Brazil nuts are particularly good apparently) and Seeds – also soaking your nuts (not your privates gentleman) overnight (then rinsing in the morning) actually awakens the live properties in the nuts and makes them even more nutrient dense and powerful, so in theory you can eat less and get more – Bonus!

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And of course green leafy vegetables like Spinach, Kale and Brocoli.

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Kale, Feta & Apricot salad with toasted Pine nuts

Can you see the theme with the “good stuff?”  It’s colourful and unprocessed!  I find personally the best way to maintain my energy and keep my mood balanced is to make sure that every meal I have, contains a good source of protein and my carbs come from Low GI sources, like vegetables, some fruits, a little Buckwheat or Quinoa.  I also try to keep my sugar content low and balance out any sugars with protein and fibre. Try it (21 days) and see if you feel better too!

Finally how could I forget: CHOCOLATE – OH YEAH BABY!

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I have met an enormous amount of people who profess to being Chocoholics over the years.  I’ll ask them what is your favourite chocolate? 9 times out of 10 they will list off something from the Cadbury’s range of milk chocolates or similar highly over marketed brand.  I’m afraid to say but anyone of you that professes to be a chocoholic based on eating Cadbury’s is sorely mistaken.  Perhaps a more accurate description of your habit might be: “a sugar junky that likes watered down chocolate with all the goodness extracted from it and with a good dollop of genetically modified Soy lecithin in it for good measure!” Sorry if this sounds harsh but ever read the back of a chocolate wrapper to see what they put in there…?  If you really are looking to get some of the great benefits of eating chocolate then a good quality dark chocolate is the way to go and the higher the Cacao value the better. Watch out for the added Soy crap and really if you are going to have sugar see if you can get one with raw unprocessed sugar in there.  But if you really want to get a handle on what you are putting into your body have a go at making it yourself!

The Real Chocoholic post to follow shortly 🙂 …

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Pressing the Reset Button: 3 Day Juice Fast

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I’m a day late in posting this but you will hopefully get the gist!

I have been a little quiet of late my fellow “bleeps”, I actually had a bit of a “Gluten” attack just over a week ago – completely my own fault, I did not ask the right questions in a restaurant.  I had ordered a chilled soup for lunch and made a guess that “it should be fine” as I had had a similar soup at a different venue.  Key things to ask with any soup – chilled or otherwise: does it have Gluten in it?  What is the stock made from? How has the soup been thickened?  You would think after all these years I would have this down.  If I am honest though sometimes in new company I don’t want to be seen as “fussy,” so I may not give the full spiel when ordering, especially when I am making a kind of educated guess that what I am ordering should be fine.   It’s funny I find myself doing this more in the UK than I did when I lived in LA – LA is about 10 years ahead in their forward food thinking and I think us Brits can be a bit backward in our acceptance of anything “different.” Also LA restaurants tend to label their menus better!

Anyway definitely learnt my lesson and “Yup, I’m an idiot!”  I don’t think I care now if I come across fussy after the week I have had!  For those that don’t know, the range of symptoms for a Coeliac range from diarrhea, constipation, headaches, lethargy, bloating, pain, and mouth ulcers – I have experienced the whole shebang over the last week.  In fact some of these symptoms can also be experienced by people who have food intolerance too – so worth looking into that… if you have ever experienced these symptoms.  Digestive health is so important as it can apparently affect all systems of your body – heart, liver, kidney health and fertility so leaving these things undiagnosed can lead to serious health conditions further down the road.

With all this in mind I decided to “re-set” my digestion.  Our bodies work really hard everyday to process everything from pollutants, stress and food, and over time toxins can build up in our bodies.  There are a few things I find help minimise this – eating the right foods, yoga and meditation but when all else fails it’s time to press the re-set button.

I have for the last three days been doing a Juice fast – this means I have not consumed any food but have had lots of lovely freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juices.  I actually have on my wish list this amazing cold-press juicer but for the time being, I am using a centrifugal one which is OK as it doesn’t spin super-quick.  The main thing you want in a juicer is that the juice yield is not forced through too quickly resulting in a very frothy ‘head’ on your juice.  It seems to me the less agitating (for the fruit not the individual!) the juicing process is, the better, as less heat is created which means none of the nutrients are lost due to heat damage.  Apparently a nutrient measuring study was carried out comparing juice made by centrifugal machines and cold-press, auger style ones, that found the cold- press juice does in fact retain the majority of nutrients while the centrifugal juice lost a fair amount of nutrients – depending on the model – (worth researching before you buy).  Ideally you want to be drinking your freshly pressed juice within 20mins or so for the ultimate “Vit-hit.” Ready made shop bought juices retain very little of the nutrients so really not worth it and they tend to use a lot more of the sugary fruits…

Fasting has been around for thousands of years for spiritual reasons and the benefits it has to general health.  If you think back to our ancestors, the “hunter gatherers”, they may have had a few days between their meals and were most definitely a lot more active than we tend to be today.  The majority of animals also naturally have this system in place. Many people have jumped on the 5:2 diet principal recently and while I think there is merit in this approach I don’t believe it should be an excuse to eat “badly” for 5 days of the week!

I’m not going to lie to you, newbies to the juice fast will find it challenging but the benefits really do out way the “process.”  There have been moments the last few days where I have found it particularly hard.  But you learn a lot about yourself, about your will and strength of purpose.  The first day is always the toughest and you can get some headaches, nausea and light-headidness – this is actually part of the process of your body detoxifying itself.  What tends to happen when you start a fast is the body starts releasing toxins into the blood stream and you can go into a kind of “healing crisis” but the reason a juice fast is easier on your system is you are at least giving your body some nutrients to support this detoxification.  The more your body needs the detox the worse you might feel – but your body will thank you afterwards with renewed energy, clearer skin, and better digestion I promise!  It’s funny normally when I get hungry (my husband can testify to this) I can get really grumpy, but I think it is different when you have mentally prepared yourself for the task at hand.

So Friday night I went to the supermarket and bought a whole heap of fruits and vegetables including beetroot, celery, apples, pears, lemons, carrots, fennel, pink grapefruit, tomatoes, basil, asparagus, ginger, mint, broccoli, chard, and kiwis.  I tried to stick to the less sugary fruits as although the initial hit of sweet juice might feel great, you could have even more of an energy crash later.  I also bought some Detox herbal tea – no caffeine permitted!  I started Saturday morning with a cup of this tea and then followed it with a juice.  The idea is to have a juice every couple of hours or so or just when you feel the hunger pangs really kick in alongside lots of filtered or mineral water.  Apparently to aid the detoxification it is also good to do some daily, dry body-brushing.

My husband joined me with this fast and in some ways that is great because you have a juice “buddy” to keep you motivated but we did find it interesting how much of a complex we have as a couple, sharing food.  As I said you learn a lot about yourself – your habits and the complexes that you have formed around food. Breaking eating habits can be difficult but it really gives you a sense of achievement when you complete your goal.

By about 5pm on the first day we both felt like – to stop now would be silly as we had got so far – and by 7pm Sunday night we could really see the end in sight.  On Sunday night I actually had a small glass of unsweetened Almond milk before going to bed, I just felt I needed a little protein to settle my stomach (this is alright and won’t affect the detox but obviously not recommended to have loads). Monday was interesting as you feel like you are so close with one more night to go before breaking the fast.  The one thing we have both really noticed is how clear our minds feel, also our sense of taste is really enhanced and our energy is back on track! Totally worth it! 🙂

To break our fast today (Tuesday) we took it gently – you might imagine we would have piled in with an almighty cooked breakfast but actually it is better to ease your system back into solids.  We still had our morning juice and the detox tea, then about an hour later we had a bowl of mixed berries with some Organic Natural (probiotic) Sheep’s yoghurt, a little honey and a small sprinkle of seeds.  For lunch we had a small portion of sweet potato mash with smoked mackerel and a green salad, for a snack later in the afternoon we had a pear with some sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) and dinner; a small seafood stir fry – no added spices, all quite plain.  Some people recommend starting off with broth and soups – I really think it depends on how you feel as everyone experiences their detox differently.  From my experience though, eating lightly is best and it goes without saying – don’t ruin the detox straight away by hitting the booze – your body will be like “WTF!?”

Lastly I think 3 days is the optimum amount of time for your body to heal itself. Some people like to go up to 7-10 days if they are trying to lose weight but obviously not advisable if you have pre-existing health conditions. With a longer fast it definitely would be advisable to break the fast with easily digestable soups (or even nuts & seeds soaked in water overnight). I would recommend starting with a 3 day juice fast first and building up later to a longer one, if you fancy that challenge!

During your juice fast I would not recommend doing strenuous exercise but either a little light yoga or walking is fine.  Also at the end of the fast, apparently it is useful to take some Aloe Vera or even a natural laxative if you have been a bit blocked up, to help flush out any toxic remnants from your colon.  You also then want to replenish your gut with lots of probiotics, so good choices are natural sheep’s yoghurt or Sauerkraut. Why not also have a massage to really cleanse your system and reward yourself for your achievement! 🙂

Finally variety is the spice of life right? We experimented with lots of different flavours and combos but our favourite combo of the weekend was this one below.  It had a unique sherbet-y  sweetness – really delicious. (Pics coming later)

4 asparagus stalks,

2.5 Pears,

Small chunk Ginger,

1 whole Lemon Grass

1 Kiwi.

Lazy daze Summer Picnics: Mini Quiches and more…

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I’m little behind on my blogging, I started this post last week but have not got around to posting it until now.  I was delighted however to be invited to do a guest blog for The Good Web Guide all about Sauerkraut!

So this is what I started last week: My gorgeous hubby had his birthday last weekend and what better excuse than to have a gathering and make the most of the glorious sunshine! A picnic seemed like the most obvious style of feasting  for the day. We went all out and bought a special hamper style cool bag in honour of this special day – much to our friend’s amusement as they thought it looked rather like a baby’s basinette/carrier! Well we are not there yet but good to know we have some equipment on standby for the future! 😉

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The art of great picnic-ing is prepping in advance so all you need to do when you arrive at your desired spot is: pour some cheeky glasses of chilled Proscecco, kick your shoes off, spread your rug and lay out your picnic spread!

This is what we had: Slices of Prosciutto & Salami, Olives stuffed with Pimento, Manchego cheese (Spanish sheep cheese), Goat cheese, Mini Shallot and Mushroom Quiches, Chicken Liver Pate with crackers, my Super Dope Kale Salad, Mini Sesame rolls, and a massive Carrot cake with Goji berries and a Lavender cream cheese frosting!

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So lets start with me’ mini Q’s – I am still so buzzed about these – they turned out so well.  Also doesn’t everything look so cute mini size!  So the genius of this recipe is that the pastry is in fact made with Sweet potato and Buckwheat a glorious combination of nutty and slightly sweet and it makes a lovely low GI alternative to “normal” pastry.  I’ve talked about Buckwheat before but here are some interesting tit bits I’ve learned about it recently: It is related to Rhubarb and Sorrel and because it grows super fast, disease is not generally a problem and so very little pesticide use is found on the crop, in fact it will die if grown with most chemicals – I mean “Hello?” Awesome-ness! It is one of the best sources of easily digestible proteins and high in Rutin, who’s properties are known to help lower blood pressure. If that wasn’t enough for you – it is also apparently very rich in Iron and Antioxidants along with lots of minerals such as Copper, Zinc and Niacin.

Now lets look at the Sweet pots’ goodness factor! Ostensibly they are high in B6, C, Iron and Beta Carotene. They also contain Vitamin D – the sunshine Vit! I know we are having a good streak of sunshine recently here in the UK but we tend to be a little lacking on the sunshine visits.  In fact a lack of vitamin D can effect your energy levels, mood, bone and teeth health. Another important mineral they contain is Magnesium which is known as the relaxation and anti-stress mineral. Now talking to you ladies out there – from personal experience I have been known to turn into a mega bitch because of pre-menstrual tension and I have found that by making sure I get enough magnesium each month can really help combat this – my t’other ‘alf also apreciates it! 😉

Alright I know you are as excited as me now, so I’ll get into the main body of the recipe now – here is what I did:

Mini Shallot and Mushroom Quiches – makes six mini Q’s (or one large one just add an extra egg)

Pastry:

1 medium sized Sweet Potato

1 cup or 125g Buckwheat Flour

Pinch of Salt (Himalayan for extra health benefits)

Sprinkle of grated Nutmeg

Knob of Goat butter (just use Coconut oil if avoiding dairy completely)

1 Tblsp Coconut Oil

Filling:

3 Echalion Shallots, finely chopped

200g Button Mushrooms, sliced (you could swap out the mushroom for peppers (2 peppers will do) if your not a fan of the mushrooms or even add some chopped ham for more protein)

1 cup (about 1/4 litre) of Bouillon Stock

Few springs of fresh Thyme

Pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

80ml (which is about 1/2 a can) coconut cream

10z Goat butter

3 large free range organic eggs, beaten

60g Grated Ossau Iraty sheep’s cheese grated (or leave out if avoiding dairy)

Black pepper

1) For the pastry add the chopped Sweet potato to a pan with the coconut oil, and a splash of water, cover with a lid and bring up to the boil – and turn the heat down a notch to let it simmer away for about 30-35mins until the potato has softened. Check on it occasionally during this time to make sure the potato doesn’t burn – you might need to add a tiny bit more water if the simmer has got too fierce!  Once softened let it cool with the lid off for a few minutes.

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2) In the meantime you can start on the filling. Chop the shallots and the mushrooms. Over a medium heat fry the shallots with the Goat butter until they start to go transparent (about 2-3 mins) , then add the mushrooms and cook for a further 3 minutes or so until the mushrooms gain a bit of colour. Then add the fresh thyme – I tend to pull the leaves from the main stem particularly if it is a bit woody. Then add the Bouillon stock and bring up to a simmer.  You are going to let this cook away until almost all the liquid has been reduced – about 15-20mins. Turn the heat off and let it cool for a few minutes.

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3) Add the cooled and softened Sweet potato to the food processor along with a knob of goat butter (or Coconut oil if you want to avoid dairy) and blitz until smooth. Then add Salt, black pepper and grated nutmeg to taste.

4) Then back to the Mushroom Shallot mixture. Add the Coconut cream, some black pepper and stir well.

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5) Put the pureed Sweet potato mixture into a bowl with the Buckwheat flour and combine well to make a dough consistentcy.  Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for about 30-60mins – it just makes it easier to handle later. In fact if you wanted to, you could make the pastry the day before and have it in the fridge overnight if time wise it is easier for you to do this in stages.

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6) Once chilled bring the pastry out. Break off a handful and roll into a ball, then press it into a greased and lined mini flan tin (I actually double lined mine as it makes is easier to extract from the tin later see pics) The pastry will press really well, and you should be able to get a reasonably flat surface – doesn’t need to be perfect a rustic quality adds to the charm! It helps to use greaseproof paper to assist you while you press the pastry into the tin- see below:

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7) Prick the bases with a fork and put in the oven for about 10 minutes just to get the cooking started.

8) Now add the beaten egg to the Mushroom/Shallot/Coconut cream mix.  Then spoon a little of the mixture into each of the flan bases and then sprinkle with a little of the Ossau Iraty sheep cheese on the top.

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9) Finally bake in the over for 20-25 minutes until the cheese has melted and gained a little colour and the egg is set.  I promise the coconut cream does not give it a coconut taste for those that don’t like coconut – trust me, I tested these on a “non coconut lover” and he gobbled them with gusto! These little beauties are fab hot or cold – and wouldn’t they be lovely served with a little rocket watercress salad as a starter for your guests at a dinner party or just a little light lunch? But they were fantastic for our picnic!

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This last pic above is a Red Pepper version that I did in a large Flan pan – same amount of filling & pastry ingredients just without mushrooms.  My top tip is to blister and blacken the peppers  (I used two red peppers) on a direct flame on the hob – then wrap them in cling film for a few minutes  to loosen the skin and then peel the skin off.  This just adds a slight smokiness and brings out the sweetness of the peppers. You do this before adding them to the shallots at stage 2.

The crackers, Chicken Liver Pate and Carrot cake went down very well too and I will post the recipes for these shortly but for now here are a few pics:

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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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Buckwheat, Coconut & Hemp Pancakes

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Pancake

Because this is my favourite weekend breakfast, I just had to re-post this!  I’ve tried to play around with the “percentages” of the ingredients but it never comes out quite as well as this! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! 🙂

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Original story from May:

It is the end of May, it is cold, grey and rainy.  I arrived home and was in   need of sustenance. But my first priority was to change into something more comfortable – out of the heels, blouse & skirt and straight into my PJ’s – Oh yes I’m not ashamed and finally – what to eat? Well it could only be one thing to top off this indulgence (at 4pm in the afternoon) and that was to make pancakes – Buckwheat, Coconut & Hemp Pancakes with Blueberries, Pecan nuts and maple syrup!  Sometimes there are days when only comfort food will do and today my friends, is one of those.  I am always experimenting with my pancake recipes and the reason I like this one particularly is that the pancakes are thick (good for syrup absorbing), rich in protein, Calcium, Omega 3 and fibre not to mention the Manganese in Maple Syrup, the vitamin C in the Blueberries, and all the wonderful antioxidants in the Pecans… So although they taste like an indulgent treat they will also benefit my immune system, my hormonal balance and my energy – did I mention it’s cold, rainy and grey – I guess what I am saying is food like this, is a pick me up on all levels!

Ingredients:

4tbsp Buckwheat Flour

2tbsp Coconut Flour

1tbsp Hemp Powder

1tsp vitamin C powder

½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Pinch of Salt (Himalayan Sea Salt most health benefits)

1 large Egg, beaten (for greater health benefits, Organic free-range if possible)

Full Fat Goat Milk (approx 1/4 Pint see instructions) or if you can’t tolerate any dairy, use Coconut Milk.

1 tsp Cinnamon

A squeeze of lemon

1 tsp Coconut oil to cook (for each pancake)

For topping: Maple Syrup to drizzle (go easy if you are insulin resistant, although a natural sweetener it has a high GI)

Blueberries or Bananas and Pecan nuts

Makes about 4 pancakes (approx. 6 inch diameter) – perfect for two people – obviously double the quantities for more peeps. They are surprisingly filling!

Method:

1) Mix together the Buckwheat flour, Coconut flour, hemp powder, Vit C, Cinnamon, Salt & Bicarbonate of Soda in a bowl.

2) Add the beaten egg and stir in – don’t worry about it being a bit lumpy at this stage.

3) Add the milk until it makes the mixture smooth enough to pour into the pan but at the same time coat the spoon.

4) Add a Squeeze of lemon to help activate the Bicarbonate of Soda, I use a balloon whisk at this stage to add a little air then I let it stand for a minute or so to expand slightly.

5) Over a medium heat, melt the Coconut oil in a small frying pan or skillet and let it get hot before you ladle the first batch of mixture in. Tilt the pan to help the pancake take it’s shape.

6) You will start to see small bubbles appear around the outside of edges of the pancake, because the mixture is quite dense it will take a couple of minutes to get a good colour on the underside. (If you like you can add some blueberries or banana slices on top of the pancake and let them sink into the mixture for a minute or so before flipping).

7) You will need to check the underside by gently lifting with a spatula – you want it to be a good golden colour. Once the underside is golden gently turn it over. It won’t take as long to go golden on the second side – also if you have added fruit be careful not to burn them (you can always turn the heat down a little here).

8) Serve with Blueberries, Pecan nuts and a seductive drizzle of Maple Syrup! Yum!

A few extra notes on the ingredients – yes there is a lot of ingredients here but always good to have in stock and the more expensive ingredients I have used less of.  I believe it is worth investing in your health.  If your interested here is a little more detail on the health benefits of these ingredients:

Buckwheat: is actually a fruit seed that is related to Rhubarb – and although contains the word Wheat in the name it does not contain any wheat or gluten. It is great for the cardiovascular system helping to lower cholesterol and not only does it have Low GI rating it is also rich in Flavonoids that help extend the action of vitamin C acting as an antioxidant. It is also a good source of Magnesium, which is excellent for improving sleep quality and balancing hormones.

Hemp protein powder: increases energy levels and contains essential fatty acids in the correct 3:1 ratio (omega 3 & 6) the human body needs. It reduces food cravings as it is high in fiber that not only clears the system but gives you a feeling of fullness. The protein helps maintain muscles health, lowers blood pressure and Cholesterol and generally improves immune function.

Eggs: high in protein containing 9 essential amino acids, vitamin D, Sulphur and Cholene so good for healthy hair, nails, eyes, fertility and also helps brain and nervous system function. Organic and Free range is best if you can get them, simply because they won’t be contaminated with anti-biotics or growth hormones.

Coconut Oil: Ok there are so many health benefits to mention here (I will have to do a separate post) but a quick snapshot: Great for your immune system as it is anti viral, good for your skin and digestion – honestly can’t say enough about this amazing stuff – use daily! 🙂

Coconut Flour: is high in fibre and protein and is low GI. It is rich in Lauric Acid (closest thing to breast milk) which makes it anti-viral, strengthening your immune system and boosting your metabolism.

Cinnamon: regulates blood sugar levels, is anti inflammatory so helps with joint pain related to arthritis, helps alleviate menstrual pain and balance hormones.

Goat Milk:  natural anti-inflammatory, high in essential fatty acids, calcium rich, anti-mucosal due to smaller fat globules, high in Riboflavin, Phosphorous, and Vitamin B12, & it also contains selenium which helps build the immune system, less toxic than cow milk – Cows are generally pumped full of bovine growth hormones in addition to Somatotophin which increases milk production in an unnatural way; Goat’s are rarely treated in this way because they are on the fringes of agriculture.

Blueberries: are considered to be a low GI fruit (slow releasing energy) full of Vitamin C and antioxidants.

Bananas: are full of potassium but release the sugar/energy content faster than berries – so go easy if you are insulin resistant or weight managing.

Pecan Nuts: full of Vitamin E so great for your skin and B Vitamins and essential fatty acids.

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Salt, you can use sea salt or whatever type you like really but… – Ok a little more pricey but here is why Himalayan Salt is so good for you: it contains all of the 84 elements found in your body which in turn helps many of your bodily functions including:

1) Regulating the water content throughout your body.

2) Promoting a healthy pH balance in your cells, particularly your brain cells.

3) Promoting blood sugar health and helping to reduce the signs of aging.

4) Assisting in the generation of hydroelectric energy in cells in your body.

5) Absorption of food particles through your intestinal tract.

6) Supporting respiratory health.

7) Promoting sinus health.

8) Prevention of muscle cramps.

9) Promoting bone strength.

10) Regulating your sleep — it naturally promotes sleep.

11) Supporting your libido. 🙂

12) Promoting vascular health.

13) In conjunction with water it is actually essential for the regulation of your blood pressure.

Long overdue update…

Introducing Narrowboat Theadora….

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So much has happened! I promise to try and condense it down, so here is a snapshot:

My husband and I decided to hop on the unconventional property ladder, and in January 2015 we commissioned the fabrication of a 70ft narrowboat by the wonderful boat builders Andy Thompson and Jez Harris of Andicraft Fabrications up in Market Harborough. By March 2015 we had a 70ft spray foamed insulated “tunnel” for want of a better word. Then the fun and challenges really began – we started fitting out the inside…. Now when you think about any DIY task in a house it is usually reasonably straight forward, for a start the walls are straight! On a boat everything is at some odd angle! Add to the mix neither my husband or I had ever done anything like this before and you begin to understand why it has taken us so long. We are both self-employed and had to juggle our various commitments in London and building the inside of our boat, while effectively camping out on it (on a hard stand). Side note: Market Harborough is a beautiful part of the world, I highly recommend visiting the area if you get a chance!

I filmed the very tongue in cheek “Lake Placid vs Anaconda” during this time, carried on my teaching commitments, directed my first Shakespeare play, Macbeth, filmed a pilot for the BBC (a great cook-a-long concept that you can see here:  https://cake.pilots.bbcconnectedstudio.co.uk ) and oh, biggest life changing event of all, I had a beautiful baby boy, 6th July 2016!

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We finally got the boat in the water in October 2016 and we set sail down towards our new home near London – at the beginning of November; 87 Miles and 78 Locks with a breast feeding four month old baby!

Only in the last couple of months have I had a proper functioning kitchen (a one pot camping stove was a little challenging) and in the last week we got the internet fully working (just in time for me to discover my MacBook pro’s batteries expanded & “nuked” my computer! – time to start saving!). Hence the big break from my blog/social media! My son is now 8 months old and we have just started to get his routine sorted. He loved the sail down towards London and got so used to sleeping in his buggy on the stern deck, over the gentle grumble of the engine, that it has been a challenge getting him used to naps in just the plain old cot during the day!

My apologies to all of you for the break but I promise to start recipe experimenting & blogging soon.  In the last three months the most exciting thing I have been making is baby food! However just to really kickstart me back into it all again I will be appearing at the Ideal Home Show on the 30th March. They have a new Eat and Drink festival and I will be doing three live demonstrations throughout the day – 11am, 13.15pm & 15.30pm. So please do come along, I promise the recipes I have come up with, are a bit more exciting than baby food!

To get an idea of all the aforementioned boat odyssey, here are a few pics:

In the beginning there was just a base plate for the hull…

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Nice to see Sainsbury’s regularly stock

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Nice to see Sainsbury’s regularly stocking fresh #Turmeric root now. Easy to grate into recipes wear gloves! The colour is bombastic yellow!

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Not only good to eat & great for health but how pretty is this colour on fabric! http://ow.ly/rnby309IEP5 join me Eat & Drink Festival 30th March