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Category Archives: Comfort Food

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!

 

Soups for the Soul

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I’m not one for wasting food. One of the best ways to get the most out of your roast dinner over a weekend is to use the bones & little scraps of meat left over to make a great stock for gravy & sauces, to be frozen for another time or to make the most heartwarming and delicious bowl of goodness – a soup for the soul.

Making your own broth/stock is apparently highly nutritious – rich in vitamins and antioxidants especially Phosphorous, Magnesium, and Calcium – so great for bone health.  Also, I have read (in science literature) that bone broth contains two very valuable amino acids called Proline and Glycine – these are the key components of building connective tissue – the biological glue that literally holds our body together and in addition, these amino acids also help to reduce inflammation in the body.  Perhaps this is why home-made chicken soup is always recommended for people recovering from colds or sickness.

I have two soup recipes here; one is Chicken soup and the other is an Asian-inspired Duck soup.  For the Chicken soup I used whole grain or brown rice – this is more nutritious than white rice and is a low GI option (for a less hearty soup just leave the rice out).  I also topped it with my favourite superfood veggie, Kale!

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For the Duck soup – I topped it with Dulce which a slightly spicy and highly nutritious seaweed (Iron, B6, B12 & Iodine) – it works well with fish & seafood dishes but also great in this soup. You could perhaps try adding buckwheat or quinoa noodles which would make a nice low GI addition, but this weekend when I made it, I left the noodles out as I wanted something a little lighter to compliment the glorious weather!

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For the Chicken Soup:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (carcass left over from a roast dinner)

enough filtered water to completely cover the carcass – (about 2 litres I found)

1 onion

2 sticks celery

2 carrots

2 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic

good pinch of Himalayan salt

black pepper

small bunch of fresh herbs – thyme, rosemary, parsley (or whatever you prefer)

100g Kale, shredded

50g cooked brown rice (optional)

Method:

1) Put the chicken carcass in a large casserole pan.  Pour in enough filtered water to completely cover the chicken. I have been known to just do this stage, put the lid on and leave it until the next morning to go on to the next stage – it just depends on how much time you have.

2) Next throw in a pinch of salt & pepper, the bay leaves, a few sprigs of rosemary & thyme (save the parsley for later,) 1 carrot – whole, 1 stick of celery – whole, half an onion (no need to chop) – then lid on. Bring the water up to a boil, before lowering the temperature right down to the lowest setting, and simmering away for about 4 hours until the bones separate when prodded.  Time enough, to do some house chores, sort your schedule out for the week, read a book, watch a movie or whatever floats your boat! 😉

2) Put a colander over a large bowl and pour the meat broth into it.  Allow to cool. What you then do, is pick out any bits of meat left and set aside for later – throw out the bones, skin, veg & herbs etc.

3) Put the broth in the fridge for 30 minutes or so – this will help any fat to solidify a bit on the top.  You can then skim the fat off with a large spoon.  If you just want to use this for stock you can either freeze the lot or pour into ice trays to make “stock cubes,” to use in sauces for later.

4) Then put the clarified broth back into your large casserole pan.  Add the shredded meat, crushed garlic, and the last of the veg: onion (finely chopped), celery, carrot – roughly chopped (I like mine quite chunky).  Then gently bring up to the boil and back to a simmer again.  Gently simmer for about 15 minutes.

5) When the carrot and celery are tender – but still with a bit of bite (you don’t want to lose all the vitamins by over-cooking!),  add in the cooked brown rice and warm through for about 2 minutes. Then add in the Kale, give it a good stir, turn the heat off and put the lid on for 5 minutes – this will wilt and steam the Kale.  Finally add the chopped parsley and more salt & pepper to taste. Serve on its own. If you have added the rice – it makes for a fully rounded lunch or light supper or if without the rice, you could serve it with a bit of Bella’s bread! 😉

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Asian inspired Duck Soup:

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Ingredients:

Duck carcass (I used a crown as it was on offer at the supermarket!)

enough filtered water to completely cover the carcass (again I found about 2 litres worked fine)

1 Carrot

1 stick celery

1 onion

4 star anise

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp juniper berries

6 spring onions, finely chopped (save the softer green ends to add at the end – why waste it?)

2 sticks lemon grass, finely chopped

1 courgette, finely chopped

50g fine green beans – chopped into inch long pieces

1 red chilli, chopped (take seeds out if you don’t like it too hot)

2 cloves garlic crushed

small bunch of coriander shredded

20g dulse (dried seaweed) you can get this from a health food or Asian supermarket.

1 tbsp Tamari – gluten-free soy sauce (available at most supermarkets make sure it is naturally brewed and GM free too)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 lime juice (optional)

Method:

1) Same as the chicken soup – cover the carcass in filtered water so completely submerged – add the bay leaves, star anise, juniper berries, whole carrot, whole onion, whole celery, salt, pepper.  Lid on, bring up to a boil then lower the temperature to lowest setting – simmer for about 4 hours.  Next, strain into a bowl and allow the liquid to cool. From the solid stuff you’ve just strained, pick out any bits of meat, and a few of the juniper berries and set them aside for later. Throw the bones skin, star-anise, veg etc out. Put the liquid broth in fridge for 30 minutes and when the fat has solidified a bit, skim it off the top.

2) Put the broth back into your casserole pan along with the meat and juniper berries that you set aside earlier, together with the garlic – crushed, chilli, lemon grass, courgette, white part of the spring onions and green beans. Gently simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes until the veg is tender – but again, not over done!

3) Put the Dulse (dried seaweed) into a bowl and cover with water to rehydrate.

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4) In the meantime, turn the heat off and add to the casserole pan, the green part of the spring onions and the shredded coriander – put the lid on and leave for a couple of minutes to wilt.

5) Finally rinse the Dulse thoroughly under cold water, gently tear it up and add to the casserole pan. Ladle the finished soup into bowls.  Season with black pepper and a splash of Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) and a few drops of sesame oil & a squeeze of lime to taste. If you like it spicy add a little extra fresh chopped chilli too.

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You might ask is it worth it? Well I definitely think so – your not wasting anything and you get a few more meals out of that Sunday roast, not to mention all those health-boosting powers! 🙂

Winter warmer slow cook – Spice up your life!

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I can’t believe I just coined a phrase from the Spice girl era but you know how phrases stick…! Back in September I went to Morocco for a few days and if you ever want some inspiration for some awesome flavour combos this is the place to go.

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Home of the traditional tagine it is all about the slow cook.  Any meat cooked long and slow offers up delightfully tender morsals, and is so much easier to digest.

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Herbs and spices have long been used for medicinal purposes and now that we are into the colder months it is totally worth nurturing your immune system – along with your soul – because good hearty food will always put a smile on the face, when it is cold and bleak outside! 🙂

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I implore you to experiment with different spice combos.  Here are a few little tit bits I found out about the different spices I brought back from Morocco:

Turmeric: anti-inflammatory and anti viral. It contains something called Curcumin which has a positive effect on cholesterol levels and to top it off, it apparently helps improve insulin sensitivity – so slows down the rate at which sugars enter the blood stream.

Star Anise: More anti-viral, anti fungal, anti bacterial goodness and packed full of anti-oxidants!

Paprika: Vit A, E and Iron

Cumin: contains lots of Iron, anti-oxidants and with antiseptic properties it is another immune booster.  It is also apparently good for your digestion too.

Coriander: Vit A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and Potassium – in a word good! 😉

Cayenne: anti-fungal and apparently boosts your metabolic rate – bring on that heat!

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I like to use grass-fed not grain fed meat.  This is much better as animals fed just grass are far healthier, which is then passed on to you – you are what you eat after-all!

Grass fed meat contains loads of Omega 3 fatty acids, which most people are lacking, simply because our bodies do not make it and we have to get it from our food or with supplements.  It is most commonly thought of as being found in oily fish. But really variety is key in a healthy diet, so worth getting your Omega 3 from different sources for the ultimate benefits.

Apparently an Omega 3 fatty acid deficiency can cause a range of health issues including: fatigue, depression, poor circulation, and mood swings.  From what I understand, it is important to get the ratio of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids right (3:1 is about right)- too much of the 6 creates inflammation in the body while the 3 reduces inflammation.

Slow cook Beef served in an Onion Squash Bowl!

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Ingredients:

1.5 kg of stewing steak, or beef brisket, or even beef cheeks work well with a slow cook – rich and full of flavour.

couple of Star Anise

couple of dried Bay leaves

1 desert spoon ground Turmeric

1 desert spoon ground Paprika

1 desert spoon ground Cumin

1-2 tsp of Cayenne pepper depending on how spicy you like it.

chopped fresh Coriander

Juice and zest 1 Lime

1 desert spoon Cinnamon

good pinch of Himalayan salt

Black pepper

6 whole cloves of garlic

6-10 whole peeled shallots

200ml of red wine or if you prefer 2 tbsp of madeira – this is optional make it up in water if you prefer.

And enough water to cover the meat and veg

200g Chestnuts roughly chopped (vacuum packed or tinned but not in juice)

A handful of flaked almonds for topping

A handful of fresh spinach per serving

1 onion squash or pumpkin cut in half, seeds scooped out, then carve the flesh out to make a “bowl.” This will make two bowls but obviously, use more squash if you have more people to feed. The stew will make enough for 5-6 people.

Method:

Pre-heat the oven 150C

1) I let the meat rest at room temperature for at least half an hour or so before cooking.  If using a brisket or the cheeks I leave them whole – however with stewing steak I usually chop it into fairly large chunks. Then I rub the spices and seasoning into the meat and place in a large casserole pot.

2) I sear the meat to get some colour all over. I then add the garlic and shallots and allow them to get a little colour.  I then add the wine or madeira and allow that to cook off for a couple of minutes, before adding the lime juice and zest and enough water to cover the vegetables and the meat.

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3) Bring it up to a simmer and then pop the Casserole (lid on) in the oven for at least 4 hours. You only need to check it and stir it after about 2.5 hours – just check there is enough liquid to cover the meat – if not just add a splash more. In the meantime you can cut the squash/pumpkin in half and scoop out the flesh:

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Then wrap the shell in foil like this ready for the oven later:

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Time to have a rest or get your chores done – the beauty of a slow cook is you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen! 🙂

4) At the 4-5 hour mark I take out the bay leaves and the star anise. I then add to the casserole, the roughly chopped chestnuts and scooped out squash/pumpkin flesh. If the liquid in the pan is looking a bit low eg the meat is not covered I top it up with a touch of water.  I also put the foil wrapped onion squash/pumpkin shell into the oven this will take about 45 minutes to an hour to cook – turning it over half way through cooking – obviously you want it to still retain it’s shape so that it can be used like a bowl.

5) Around the 5-6 hour mark the meat should be lovely and tender.  If your happy with the tenderness of the meat bring it out of the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes (lid off). If you have used a brisket or joint of meat gently shred and slice the meat after the meat has rested.

6) Assembly time. Into the cooked squash bowl put a handful of spinach and then add a ladle-ful of stew (the spinach will wilt/cook instantly) and finish with some flaked almonds, chopped coriander or a couple of leaves of spinach for extra colour.  A real bowl of comfort and health! 🙂

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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. 😉

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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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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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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