Category Archives: Guilt-free snack

Vegan banana bread

Banana Bread Makeover

Banana bread must be one of the all-time best comfort foods. The sweet, moist cakey bread is loved the world over.

But what if banana bread could be healthy? Not just ‘not too bad, once in a while’, but actually healthy. Like, you can eat it for breakfast healthy. That was the aim when I set out to make a wholefood banana bread. I also wanted to make a banana bread that is vegan-friendly.

So, this is the result – a nutritionally dense loaf that is naturally sweetened, high in protein and fibre and, very tasty.

Baking outside of the box (no compromises on taste)

One of my aims is to promote meals that are made with natural, unrefined whole foods. In the case of most baked goods, that means finding alternatives to refined flour and sugar. And, when you can’t eat eggs, it makes life even trickier.

This recipe does not use eggs, wheat, refined sugar or butter*. Chia seeds perform the role of eggs and the moisture comes from ground almonds and coconut milk. Naturally gluten-free buckwheat flour ensures that the final product has the springiness of a sweet ‘bread-cake’ that you’re used to.

It is the perfect baked treat for anyone with multiple food allergies.

Wholefood banana bread

Molasses: a naturally fortified sweetener

Voluptuous blackstrap molasses is today’s sweetener. Molasses is the left over component of sugar cane juice after sugar is extracted. As such, it contains concentrated levels of the vitamins and minerals that were present in the sugar cane plant. There are different types of molasses (depending on the number of boiling cycles), but blackstrap molasses has the highest nutrient content because it is the most concentrated – it also has had the most sugar removed.

Blackstrap molasses’ nutritional credentials are based on its high level of naturally occurring iron. However, it is also particularly high in vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, potassium and selenium. This lovely sweetener also has a low glycaemic index, which means that its sugar is more slowly released into your bloodstream, stabilising your blood sugar.

Molasses is still a sugar, so while it’s a better choice, please still use in moderation. It’s a good supplement for anyone with anaemia or those looking to swap out refined sugar for a more wholesome alternative. The taste differs from traditional sugars and syrups – it’s a bit more robust and earthy, but delicious nonetheless.

The good stuff

In order to credibly promote banana bread as a breakfast alternative, or healthy snack, it needs to be nutritionally sound. That means that the final product needs to offer good levels of protein and fibre to keep blood sugar levels balanced; a spectrum of vitamins and minerals; and be naturally sweetened. This recipe delivers on all those requirements… and more!

Besides the bonus of a fortified sweetener (molasses), the other ingredients tick all the ‘healthy eating’ boxes.

The buckwheat, nuts and chia seeds provide fibre, protein and good fats (omega 3’s), while the banana brings the natural sweetness, potassium and more fibre.

Besides lending a lovely creaminess and richness to the bread, the coconut milk also contributes good levels of protein, folate, iron, magnesium and selenium.

Have fun experimenting with this new take on banana bread – there’s no compromise on taste and you really are nourishing your body with each bite!

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Ingredients

  • 2 tbs chia seeds, ground if possible
  • 6 tbs water
  • 1.5 cups ground almonds
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder (gluten-free if necessary)
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 180ml full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs blackstrap molasses
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs desiccated coconut (optional, for sprinkling)

Method

  • First, make your chia eggs. Grind the chia seeds in a coffee/spice grinder and mix with 6 tablespoons of water. Mix well and set aside. If you don’t have a grinder, you can leave them whole, or you can use two eggs.
  • Next, mix all the dry ingredients together: ground almonds, buckwheat flour, cinnamon, cloves, sea salt and baking powder.
  • In a separate bowl, mash the bananas before adding in the coconut milk, vanilla extract, molasses and the chia eggs (they should be quite gloopy). Mix well.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir.
  • Fold in the chopped walnuts.
  • Scrape the mixture into a 1kg greased and lined loaf tin and sprinkle with coconut (if using).
  • Bake at 1800C for 25-30 minutes. When it is ready, a toothpick inserted in the middle should come clean.
  • Allow the baked bread to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool for at least 10-15 minutes before attempting to slice.
  • Eat warm, cool or toasted!

This banana bread will be darker and a bit denser than versions made with wheat flour and sugar.

Leftover coconut milk? You can use it in this recipe.

*p.s. I don’t have a problem with eggs or butter, but they’re no good for vegans and folk who are sensitive to them. Feel free to replace the chia eggs with regular eggs (organic if possible), but you can’t directly replace butter for the other ingredients in this recipe.

 

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Heart healthy beetroot hummus

Beetroot Hummus (and why you need to eat it)

Escalate hummus to a vibrant, earthy treat with the addition of beautiful beetroot.

Hummus is one of my all-time favourite foods. It is a simple Middle Eastern staple that is both delicious and super-nutritious at the same time. A winning combination!

Made from chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice and tahini (sesame seed paste), hummus (or houmous), has become increasingly popular in the last decade with tubs available at most supermarkets, corner shops and delis.

The good stuff

Besides being absolutely delicious, hummus is a popular ‘go-to’ food for nutritionists.

Here are five reasons why hummus should be a fridge staple.

    1. Hummus is high in fibre. Chickpeas are an excellent source of dietary fibre. Most western diets do not include good levels of fibre which is necessary to keep your cholesterol in check, balance your blood sugar levels and keep your hormones in harmony.
    2. Hummus is high in protein. Chickpeas are rich in the amino acids lycine, isoleucine and tryptophan. This makes hummus an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. Amino acids are the building blocks of our cells, so it is important to include a variety of sources in our diets.
    3. Hummus keeps your blood sugar balanced. In order to avoid peaks and troughs in your blood sugar levels, I always recommend that snacks should contain an element of fibre, protein or fat (as these slow down the release of sugar into your blood stream). Swapping sugary snacks for wholesome alternatives like hummus will help you maintain your energy levels and help you manage sugar cravings.
    4. Hummus is rich in phytonutrients. Garlic, chickpeas and the sesames in tahini are a holy trinity of superfoods. Your heart and liver will be jumping for joy. Garlic’s medicinal benefits have been recognised for decades. Its compounds have been shown to decrease the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver, help with inflammation and enhance the immune system. Sesame seeds and chickpeas are rich in a group of phytonutrients called lignans.  Lignans have mild oestrogenic properties, which is why lignan-containing foods are recommended for women moving into menopause or for those with hormonal imbalances. Lignans have also been associated with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
    5. Hummus is convenient. Hummus is portable, so makes a great snack on the go. A tub in the workplace fridge will last a few days and, paired with an oatcake, carrot sticks or some rye bread will provide a quick, easy, filling snack.

Homemade beetroot hummus

Beetroot Boost

This version of hummus incorporates the marvellous superfood beetroot. Its vivid colour is a tell-tale sign that this vegetable is packed full of health-promoting nutrients.

Besides gifting this hummus dip with its awesome colour, beetroot also lends a slightly earthy taste to the recipe, as well as additional fibre and antioxidants.

Studies have shown that beetroot may be helpful in lowering blood pressure. Furthermore, the prominent phytonutrient in beetroot, betaine, protects cells and enzymes from environmental stress and fights inflammation. Beetroot also supports Phase 2 liver detoxification.

So, while hummus is excellent in its traditional form, adding beetroot takes it to another level.

Enjoy this delicious dip with a virtuous smile on your face. It is also a great way to get children’s lunchboxes healthy and bright.

The ultimate healthy snack

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 250g cooked beetroot (about 2 medium beetroot), peeled and cubed
  • 2 tbs tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 250ml water (approx.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Put the chickpeas, beetroot, tahini, lemon juice, cumin and half the water into a food processor and blend, scraping down the sides with a spatula a few times.
  2. Continue blending and slowly add the rest of the water until you have the consistency you desire – you may need to add a bit more.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste and give it a final whizz.
  4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Serve as a snack with oatcakes or vegetable batons, on rye toast for breakfast or lunch with avocado and pumpkin seeds or inside a pita with salads. This beetroot hummus pairs well with horseradish, mint and halloumi (not necessarily all together!).

 

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South African low carb rusks

High Fibre Rusks (dairy-free, grain-free, low carb)

Gluten Free Rusks (grain free, high fibre, low carbohydrate)

Rusks are a very South African thing. In that sunnier part of the world, rusks are a real comfort food, and packets of the dunkable delights inevitably find their way into expat care packages. And, it is important to note – they are enjoyed by young and old alike.

Alas, rusks are a hard sell to any adult in the UK and Ireland, where they are only found in baby aisles and associated with teething. Pfft!

Rusks are basically thick, wholesome cookies – what’s not to like? Biscotti is not treated with such disdain…

The traditional, commercially available rusks in South Africa tend to be made from flour, sugar, buttermilk and eggs. They are baked until cooked through, then sliced and cooked further to dry out. These are the ones most locals will remember fondly dunking into tea or coffee morning, noon and/or evening. However, homemade rusks have always been better than the store-bought versions.

I’ve had my eye out for a decent gluten/grain-free version for a while and I was delighted when my mum introduced me to a gluten free recipe. We adapted it slightly and the result is happily very close to the traditional South African homemade rusks.

Gluten free, high fibre biscotti-style snacks

A bit of Sweet

The recipe calls for xylitol, which makes these rusks perfect for any one with blood sugar imbalance (but you can substitute with maple syrup if you like). I’m not a huge fan of processed sweeteners, but I do find that xylitol is the most palatable.

Xylitol is a naturally occurring substance found in the fibres of many plants. It is widely used to sweeten sugar-free chewing gum and mints. In the last few years it has been increasingly marketed as a sugar alternatives to diabetics – it has fewer calories and does not raise blood sugar levels.

However, there are a few watch-outs when using xylitol.

While it is a very handy sugar alternative, at the end of the day, xylitol is a highly processed substance. It goes through a process of sugar hydrogenation and much of the commercially available xylitol is made from corn which may be from genetically modified sources (i.e. check the label before buying).

Also, if you are following a low FODMAP diet, you’ll need to avoid xylitol as it could lead to bloating.

For those reasons, I only use it very sparingly when it’s absolutely necessary. I generally prefer to use raw honey or maple syrup (unprocessed natural sweeteners). However, there are some people who cannot take these simple sugars and xylitol is, in my opinion, the preferred natural alternative out there. For me, sweet treats are just that – treats. I’m not expecting people to be ingesting large amounts of xylitol, so a little in your baking it perfectly fine.

 The Good Stuff…

All in all, this recipe turns out particularly nutrient-dense snacks. They are high in fibre, protein, vitamin E, zinc and good fats.

I have made this version dairy-free by using coconut milk, but you can substitute with organic cream or buttermilk.

These nuggets of home comfort are easy to make (great for kids to help out), but require a little patience. Like their Italian cousins, biscotti, they need time to dry out to crunchy perfection. They are worth waiting for – full of wholesome nuts and seeds, they are a guilt-free mid-afternoon snack, or a few will do you for a breakfast on the move.

Drying rusks

Ingredients (makes 28 rusks)

  • 120g coconut oil (or organic butter), melted
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 4 organic eggs
  • 1 cup milled flaxseeds
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup ground almonds
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds (optional)
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons aluminium-free baking powder
  • ¼ cup xylitol or ¼ cup maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Whisk the butter, coconut milk and eggs together in a large bowl. (TIP: shake the can of coconut milk thoroughly before opening)
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well
  3. Scrape the mixture into a greased 1kg loaf tin (or two smaller tins) and bake at 1800C (or 1700C fan) for 35-40 minutes until golden and firm (slightly less for smaller tins)
  4. Remove from the oven. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack
  5. Once the loaf is cool to the touch (but not completely cold), cut into 1cm slices and then cut in half again, across the crease. Set the oven to 50-700C.
  6. Arrange the rusks on a baking tray (or directly on the wire oven shelf) and leave to dry for 6-7 hours or overnight
  7. Store in an airtight container. Delicious with a traditional rooibos tea!

Leftover coconut milk? You can use it in this recipe

 

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