Tag Archives: dairy-free

How to make chia eggs (and what to do with them)

If you are allergic or intolerant to eggs, chances are you’ve been missing out on some of your favourite dishes.

Fortunately, nature has provided a workaround in the form of chia and flax seeds. Once soaked, these seeds become gelatinous – similar to egg white. This means that they are a good substitute in recipes which need eggs to bind ingredients together.

Now, it is important to know that chia or flax eggs will not always work in all traditional baking recipes like sponges or custards. They are a decent stand-in, but cannot completely fill all the roles of the egg.

Ground chia and flax seeds are useful alternatives for those following a gluten or grain-free diet as they can be used to substitute traditional foods that ‘hold’ ingredients together. For example:

  • Thickening sauces and gravies instead of wheat or corn flour
  • Making grain free crackers (their gelatinous consistency when soaked holds ingredients together, much like psyllium husk)
  • A substitute for breadcrumbs in meatballs or fishcakes
  • Chia puddings (chia seeds only)

I’ve included a list of chia-egg recipes from around the internet (and my own blog) below the tutorial. I recommend trying a recipe you feel most comfortable with and be open to experimentation.

STEP 1: Choose your seeds: 1 tablespoon for 1 egg. You can use whole or ground chia seeds, but flax seeds must be ground.

Seeds

 

STEP 2: Soak for five minutes. 3 tablespoons water to 1 tablespoon seeds. Soaking seeds

 

STEP 3: Get cooking. Your egg substitutes are now ready to be added to your recipe. 3 Soaked seeds

 

Recipes using chia or flax eggs

Egg-free Banana Bread

Cherry Coconut Chia Pudding

Black Bean Chocolate Cookies

Walnut and Date Cookies

Egg-free Almond Pancakes

 

 

 

 

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Coconut chia pudding with cherries

Cherry Coconut Chia Pudding (dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

Cherries are currently in season in Europe and I get a little over-enthusiastic about them every year. Growing up in South Africa in the 80’s and 90’s, only glace cherries were available. Once I moved to Europe and experienced fresh cherries for the first time I was hooked!

Cherries are as versatile as they are delicious – their sweet, but complex flavour lends them to all types of dishes, sweet and savoury. And, of course, they are full of goodness, bursting with nutrients!

Broadly, there are two types of cherries: sweet and sour. It’s the sweet ones we see on our supermarket shelves and the sour ones tend to be used for juices etc. Both are full of nutrients, however the sour cherries, appear to have a slightly higher concentration of vitamin C and some phytochemicals.

Three Cheers for Cherries

These vibrant berries are well known for their vitamin C and fibre content, but the real potent, health-giving properties appear to come from their rich abundance of antioxidants.

Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules. Think of how lemon juice prevents apples from going brown – that’s the antioxidant in the lemon juice preventing the air from oxidising the apple flesh. We need the same process to happen in our bodies, so it is important to eat foods rich in antioxidants.

Antioxidants are measured by their ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score – the higher the better. 1 cup of sweet cherries has a score of 4,873 while a medium banana has a score of 650. You can read more about oxidation and antioxidants in this post.

Cherries are full of anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid with strong antioxidant potential. Flavonoids are being researched in relation to numerous health conditions, including cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, in laboratory studies, ‘anthocyanins inhibit the growth of cancer cells and stimulate their self-destruction, without affecting healthy cells. These compounds also show anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant effects1.

When it comes to cherries in particular, studies have shown that they can be helpful for three common ailments:

  1. Arthritis: Arthritis is an inflammatory condition affecting the joints. It can be painful and debilitating, and affects around 400,000 people in the UK. Cherries appear to help symptoms of arthritis due to the anti-inflammatory properties of the anthocyanins.
  2. Gout: Gout is a type of arthritis caused by excess uric acid in the bloodstream. This can result extremely painful inflammatory arthritis if the uric acid crystallises in joints. Joints of the foot, knee, hand and wrist – especially the big toe are most affected. Studies have shown that cherries can lower uric acid in the bloodstream and could reduce gout attacks by 35%.
  3. Insomnia: Insomnia needs no introduction – most people have experienced it at some point, and some suffer from chronic inability to get a good night’s sleep. The hormone melatonin regulates our circadian rhythm, allowing for a restful sleep. However, things like bright lights, poor diet, jet lag and device screens can interfere with melatonin balance. Cherries are one of the few food sources of melatonin, so including them in your diet may help improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

C4: Cherries, Coconut, Chia and Cocoa

This recipe features four powerful foods, each providing nourishment for your body: cherries, coconut, chia and cocoa.

You now know all about cherries and you can read more about chia in this post. Chia seeds form the basis of this dish and the dairy-free coconut milk binds all the lovely flavours together in a creamy ‘mousse’. You can substitute the coconut milk for almond milk or water if you like, but I recommend the coconut milk for its good fats and the level of satiety it brings to a breakfast dish.

Cocoa is a great source of iron and magnesium as well as the powerful flavanol antioxidant. Everyone knows that cherries and chocolate are best friends, however, the chocolate is optional in this recipe. If you want a fruitier flavour, feel free to leave out the cocoa powder.

Chia pudding with cherries and coconut

Pudding for Breakfast   

So, if you are looking for fresh breakfast ideas, then this is one to try. If you’ve never tasted chia pudding before, then expect something between that is rice pudding and chocolate mousse in texture. I like to grind the chia seeds for a smoother pudding, but some do prefer the texture of the whole seeds (more rice pudding than mousse!).

I also think that it’s important to try and get a bit of crunch into the final product. I use fresh shaved coconut and fresh fruit, but dessicated coconut, nuts and/or seeds will do.

The good news is that you can make this pudding with other berries too (try blueberry or raspberry). If cherries are out of season, 30-40ml of CherryActive* concentrate will give you the cherry flavour with most of the nutritional benefits. You should be able to pick it up at your local health store in the UK and ROI and, I believe, they do have stockists in South Africa, Australia and parts of Asia.

 

CHERRY COCONUT CHIA (CHOCOLATE) PUDDING

Serves 2 for breakfast and 3-4 for dessert/snack

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole fresh cherries (or 30-40ml cherry juice concentrate)
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (optional)

For serving:

  • Fresh cherries
  • Shaved fresh coconut, toasted

Method

  1. Put the chia seeds into a coffee/spice grinder and grind into a powder. This step is optional – you can use whole chia seeds.
  2. Remove the stalks and stones from the cherries and place into a liquidiser or food processor with the other ingredients. Blend until combined. You can also use a hand-held stick blender.
  3. Scrape the mixture into a container or individual bowls/glasses, cover and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container for a breakfast or snack on the go.
  4. Serve with fresh cherries and toasted coconut shavings (or anything else that gives it a crunch: toasted and chopped nuts, muesli or seeds).

Cherry and chia pudding to go

*This post is not sponsored by CherryActive, nor am I affiliated with them. I have personally tried and tested the product and I think that it is a viable alternative if fresh cherries aren’t available.

 

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Healthy fruit, nut and seed breakfast

Pineapple and Coconut Breakfast Bowl

This is a quick, tasty and nutritious breakfast that will give you a boost in the morning.

Full of vitamins, minerals, fibre and good fats, this tasty breakfast bowl will keep you energised all morning.

Coconut and pineapple is a classic combination – and this breakfast gives you the taste of a pina colada, but with a much better nutrient profile!

Pineapple is the most summery of summer fruits. It smells, tastes and looks like a fiesta! This lively fruit is also packed with great nutrients. It is full of vitamin C and fibre – the benefits you can only enjoy if you eat the fruit whole. Pineapple juice might feel healthy, but the fibre is removed and, if not 100% fresh, the vitamin C will be reduced through pasteurisation and exposure to oxygen.

The blueberries in this dish add an extra dash of phyto-nutrients (thanks to the dark skins) and additional vitamin C.

Nuts for coconut

I’ve used fresh coconut in this recipe, as my local supermarket has had a stock of them for the last few months and they are generally reasonably priced. Yes, there is a bit of work opening them and slicing out the flesh, but I don’t mind – the ‘packaging’ is all natural and the flesh can be used for so many sweet and savoury dishes! Chunks of coconut are also excellent for snacking.

Coconut flesh is full of the healthy fats capyrlic acid, lauric acid and capric acid. These are known as medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) and there is increasing evidence to show that they are beneficial to our health. Among the cited benefits are:

  • They are anti-microbial and anti-fungal
  • Due to their size, the body uses them easily for immediate energy
  • They are great for building muscle

Best of all, coconut tastes delicious. If you can’t find a fresh coconut, feel free to substitute with desiccated coconut in this recipe.

Pineapple and Coconut Breakfast Bowl

Ingredients:

Serves 2

  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • ¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • ¼ fresh pineapple, cut in wedges
  • ½ cup fresh coconut, cut into small pieces (or shaved with a potato peeler)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Method:

  1. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and gently toast the pumpkin seeds, almonds and walnuts.
  2. Mix with the remaining ingredients and serve.

If you’ve never opened a coconut before, here is a YouTube video that will help you get started. Remember to keep the coconut water to drink!

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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!

AAIMG_3856

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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Broccoli and Fennel Soup with Almonds (vegan, gluten free)

Creamy broccoli and fennel soup

This soup was thrown together in an attempt to use up a glut of vegetables in the fridge.

I had bought some fennel on a whim in the week, so I knew I needed to use it. I wanted something warm and hearty, so a soup seemed like a good idea. I wanted an element of protein, but didn’t feel like adding legumes – so almonds came to the rescue. I was going to call this soup ‘The Kitchen Sink’, but after tasting it, I thought that would do it a disservice.

It tasted good, so it’s made it onto the blog. Also, the more I looked at the ingredients, the more I realised that together the ingredients are a brilliant tonic for a number of ailments. This is the soup you want to make if you are feeling a little under the weather (great immune boosting qualities), but would be equally good for ladies who need to balance their hormones. Here’s why.

Fresh fennel bulb

Fennel

If you’ve eaten fennel before, you’ll know that the stylish white bulb with feathery leaves has a subtle aniseed-y flavour that adds both depth and freshness, depending on how it’s cooked.

Medicinally, fennel’s properties are widely known. Fennel has been used for increasing lactation, promoting menstruation and increasing libido – these possibly linked to the subtle oestrogenic effect of some of its constituents. But it is as a carminative where fennel is particularly effective. It’s been used for centuries to soothe gas and bloating in both adults and infants.

Fennel has also been shown to be effective for respiratory problems – so there’s no harm in getting in a good dose if you’re fighting off a chesty cold.

Nutritionally, fennel bulb is a great source of fibre, vitamin C and folate.

Broccoli

One of my favourite friends. Broccoli has so many excellent nutritional properties, I could write a whole blog post on it alone. In the interests of brevity and to stay on topic, I’ll summarise as follows:

    • 100g provides almost double the amount of vitamin C than an orange
    • Broccoli contains glucobrassicin, which is broken down to indole-3-caribinole (I3C). I3C improves oestrogen metabolism and is particularly effective on ‘bad’ oestrogen (16-alpha-hydroxysestrone). I3C also seems to have antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus (the one that gives you cold sores).
    • Broccoli is a sulphurous vegetable. This means that it provide excellent support to the liver
    • There are a good number of studies showing convincing anti-cancer properties of broccoli
    • Broccoli is very high in antioxidants
    • Broccoli contains sulfophane, which is anti-inflammatory

The support team

Onion, ginger and garlic are well known for fighting colds. They have excellent anti-microbial properties and provide your body with extra immune-boosting compounds. Onions and garlic are also great for your liver, so therefore good news for hormone metabolism.

Coconut oil, also has anti-microbial properties, so definitely use this if you’re under the weather.

Now, don’t let the thought of almonds in a soup put you off. The almonds provide a wonderful creamy texture without a particularly nutty taste. If you are struggling with a chesty cold, dairy can sometimes aggravate symptoms, so almonds are a brilliant alternative to a dairy creamer in your soup or stew. They also provide a good amount of protein and fibre to this dish to ensure that it keeps you fuller for longer. It is better to soak the almonds before using them in the soup, so remember to prepare them at least an hour before you start cooking – you could really soak them all day.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 fennel, finely sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter
  • 1 litre stock (vegetable or organic chicken)
  • 1 medium head broccoli, in florets
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup whole raw almonds, soaked for at least 1 hour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Method

  1. Heat a medium saucepan and sauté the onion, fennel and ginger in the oil until soft
  2. Add the stock and bring to the boil
  3. Lower the soup to a simmer and add the broccoli and garlic. Simmer until the broccoli is just cooked and remove from the heat.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the almonds and place them in a liquidiser with ½ cup of the soup broth. Blend until the nuts break down.
  5. Add the rest of the soup to the liquidiser jug and blend until smooth. The soup may still be quite hot, so blend in short spurts and open the lid after every blitz to allow steam to escape. Hold the lid of the liquidiser down with a tea towel to protect your hand. You could also use a stick blender for this step.
  6. Return the lovely creamy soup to the saucepan and test the seasoning. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to your taste.
  7. Serve in warmed bowls with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

 

 

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Bircher muesli - to go

Bling Your Breakfast – Bircher Muesli

Muesli is one of those foods vastly misunderstood. Often promoted as a healthy breakfast, commercial varieties can be full of sugar and, worse, many contain trans fats. However, if made right, and eaten in moderation, muesli is absolutely a healthful food. It is also one of those dishes which acts as a vessel for many other ingredients that can provide a super-boost of nutrients for the day.

Oats are the base of all mueslis and there are generally two types: those that are roasted to a crispy crunch and the soaked kind. This recipe is all about the soaking and the method is generally described as Bircher muesli (after the Swiss naturopath who popularised the dish in his clinic).

A Quick Fix

There are plenty of nutritional advantages to Bircher muesli, but one of the main advantages is its ease. Yes, many cereals are easy, but they won’t have a touch on the nutritional value that Bircher muesli provides.

This makes it a brilliant dish for those of you who, for convenience, either skip breakfast or opt for no-cook mug varieties (not good, please switch to this recipe!).

There are many ways to prepare Bircher muesli, but what they all have in common is soaking the grains. What this means is that you can prepare breakfast the night before and lob it into your handbag (or briefcase) on your way to work. Soaking oats overnight also allows them to become lovely and creamy, without the need for dairy. Because the mixture keeps well in the fridge, you can soak a batch and scoop out what you need on a daily basis.

Soak Your Oats

Oats are a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals, however, they also contain phytic acid which can combine with nutrients like magnesium, iron and zinc and block their absorption.

That’s why a diet high in unfermented whole grains can contribute to deficiencies and soft bones.

Soaking oats neutralises the effect of phytic acid, so be sure to sit your oats in water for at least 30 minutes before making porridge. I recommend an overnight soak though. It means that you can have a delicious and nutritious breakfast without too much hassle in the morning.

The Good Stuff (pay attention if you’re managing your cholesterol)

Oats are full of B vitamins (particularly B3, B5 and folate), essential for energy production and overall healthfulness. ½ a cup will also provide you with 20% of your zinc and iron RDA and 35% of your magnesium RDA (if you absorb them – hence the soaking).

Oats are also cholesterol busters. A number of studies have demonstrated that individuals with high cholesterol levels experience significant reductions with frequent oatmeal consumption.

“In individuals with high cholesterol levels (above 200mg/dl), the daily consumption of the equivalent of 3g soluble oat fibre typically lowers total cholesterol by 8-23%. This is highly significant, as with each 1% drop in serum cholesterol level, there is a 2% decrease in the risk of developing heart disease1.”

So – oats are a nutrient powerhouse and help manage cholesterol – what a win. But wait, there’s more…

Oats are a fabulous source of prebiotic fibes. These feed the beneficial bacteria in our guts and keeps our digestive system healthy (which in turn keeps the rest of us healthy!).

Because all balanced meals should have an element of protein, this recipe contains ground almonds and ground seeds. Besides donating their protein content to the meal, they also provide excellent levels of vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids (also excellent for heart health).

So, get soaking.

Healthy Bircher Muesli

 

Ingredients

1 Serving:

  • 1/2 cup oats (or gluten free if required*)
  • 1 dessertspoon ground almonds
  • 2 teaspoons desiccated coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax and pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon raisins

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and add enough filtered water to just cover. Cover well, and leave overnight in the fridge.
  2. Add your optional ‘sprinkles’ before serving: grated apples or berries, some more coconut and seeds – I like a bit of crunchy texture. In winter, you can add a splash of boiling water and stir through for a warmer dish.

The mixture can keep in the fridge for up to a week, so try making in bulk for a quick, nutritious breakfast.

 

*There’s no consensus on whether or not oats are gluten free. One of the arguments is that the grain is naturally gluten-free, but ends up being contaminated during processing. Some people with gluten sensitivity manage just fine on regular oats, but if you are a coeliac, you absolutely must go for certified gluten-free oats. They are a bit more expensive, but your long-term health is worth it.

 

1 Murray and Pizzorno, The Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine 3rd Ed. p683-684

 

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Gluten free noodles

Courgette Noodles with Tomato Sauce (gluten, dairy and grain-free)

Pasta is the ultimate comfort food. A steaming bowl of fettuccine coated in a flavoursome sauce can make you fall in love, forget your ex or make a wintry Friday evening at home that much more cosy.

Unfortunately for some, a big bowl of pasta also signals bloating, cramps or spasms for hours or days later. If you are a coeliac or are sensitive to gluten, the pleasure sought in that delicious bowl is paid for – and it’s not pleasant.

Some get on just fine with gluten-free varieties of pasta, however, I just can’t. Some are too slimy and others have long lists of very refined ingredients I am not partial to.

So, this dish uses courgette noodles. Inspired by the paleo ‘scene’, it takes a wholesome vegetable and turns it into an excellent vessel for your favourite pasta sauce. There’s no mucking about with ingredients and kneading – all you need is a sharp knife and pasta joy is a few minutes away.

How many have you had today?

I developed this recipe for a client who struggled to comprehend how he could eat 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetables daily, so the sauce is heavy on the veg. However, as the courgette is relatively neutral in flavour, you can substitute any of your favourite pasta sauces.

This recipe delivers a whopping seven (that’s 7) portions* of vegetables! That’s 3.5 portions per serving. If you add in any of the other optional ingredients, you can shoot up the nutrient content of this delicious meal even more.

This dish is also a brilliant vitamin C boost. The peppers, tomatoes and courgettes will take you to pretty much 100% of your RDA (although you typically need a little more than that for great health) and the courgettes alone will provide you with around 40% of your vitamin A RDA (per serving)

This recipe is remarkably simple and the noodles are a great way to get young children to try a green veg.

Enjoy!

 

Courgette Noodles and Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

Serves 2

For the noodles:

  • 400g courgettes (about 2 med-large. The longer the better)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

For the sauce:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1 tsp crushed chilli flakes or fresh chilli to taste
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 can cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped (for garnish)

Method:

  1. Prepare the courgette noodles. Cut the courgettes into long thin strips using a sharp knife, a mandolin, spiraliser or a peeler
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on a low heat. Add the chilli, garlic and the onion and cook until translucent. It is important that the oil doesn’t get too hot
  3. Add the anchovies if using. These cook away to nothing, but add a lovely flavour. Just two fillets also add about 160mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
  4. While the onions are cooking, pit the olives and roughly chop.
  5. Add the peppers and sauté for another few minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes, olives and vinegar to the pan. Stir well, cover and simmer for at least 10 minutes.
  7. Now, cook the noodles. Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. Add the courgette noodles and sauté them for a few minutes until just cooked.
  8. Check the seasoning of the sauce – add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Divide the noodles into two warmed bowls and top with the sauce. Add a sprinkle of parsley and a drizzle of olive oil on top of each serving.

Optional extras: Boost the nutrient value of the dish by adding any of the following:

  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms at step 5 (=1 portion veg)
  • 2 cups of sliced kale – add to the sauce 2 minutes before serving (=2 portions veg)
  • 1 cup sugarsnap peas – add to the sauce 5 minutes before serving (=1 portion veg)
  • ½ cup frozen peas – add to the sauce 5 minutes before serving (=1 portion veg)

 

*Portions estimated based on the NHS fruit and vegetable portion guide.

 

This recipe is part of my Cleanse and Reset programme – a healthy start to the year with tasty, nourishing food. Get in touch for more details.

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High protein, gluten free pancakes

Super Banana Pancakes (grain free, diary free, high protein)

Super banana pancakes

I love pancakes. There is something about them that is comforting and feels like a treat. Since going gluten free, I’ve struggled to find a pancake that results in the same satisfaction as the ‘full flour’ versions.

Breakfast-style pancakes can definitely be made gluten free. However, in the past I’ve found that the grain-based versions taste odd, the coconut flour versions can be too dry and others can be too runny. I also prefer to use as many wholefood ingredients as possible (gluten-free flours can be very processed).

I came across a recipe on Facebook from which these banana pancakes are based: 1 banana and 2 eggs – mix together and fry off in small batches. Brilliant – protein and fibre with a bit of natural sweetness! The result was moderately successful, but I wanted a bit more fibre and a bit more protein to make it a more rounded breakfast (or snack). I added ground flaxseeds and ground almonds to the mix – these essential store-cupboard ingredients also up the vitamin and mineral profile of of the recipe. If you are avoiding flax or nuts, the plain egg/banana version does work, but you need a good hot pan, a good amount of butter and nimble wrists to flip without splatting!

So, after a bit of trial and error, here is my offering. Even the husband likes them!

The Good Stuff

These lovely pancakes pack a particularly good nutritional punch. The eggs and protein will keep you feeling satiated (avoiding sugar cravings!) and eating a full portion will provide half* of your RDA of vitamins B2, B6 and magnesium! The high fibre and magnesium content makes these a great addition to your diet if you’re feeling a little constipated. See the end of this post for nutritional details on each of the ingredients.

This truly is a super-delicious, super meal!

Gluten and grain-free banana pancakes

Ingredients (makes about 12)

  • 1 banana
  • 2 organic eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds
  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1.5 teaspoons aluminium-free bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon almond or cashew nut butter (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Raw coconut oil or organic butter for frying

Method

All you need to do is combine the ingredients into a batter. There are a few ways you can do this:

Option 1: put all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until it comes together

Option 2: put all the ingredients into a jug and process with a stick blender (my preference as you can then pour the batter directly into pan (less washing up!)

Option 3: if you don’t have any of the electronics, you can simply mash the banana with a fork, then add the other ingredients and whisk together.

  1. Ideally, leave the batter to sit for about 15-20 minutes before cooking. This will help it mature and make flipping a bit easier.
  2. Heat a knob of butter or raw coconut oil in a pan on a medium-high heat and fry off smallish pancakes (about the circumference of an orange slice).
  3. Use a thin, wide egg lifter or spatula to flip – you need to get right under them without breaking the cooked film on the edge.

Serve with a light drizzle of good quality maple syrup or honey, some organic plain yoghurt, berries or even some bacon.

These are not just for weekends. Because of the nutritional profile, they are great for a replenishing snack after sport, an after-school treat or a quick breakfast any day of the week.

Nutritional facts

This recipe is full of nutritious, whole foods. Each ingredient is particularly rich in key nutrients that contribute to a balanced diet and keep your energy levels up.

Eggs: protein, vitamins D and B12, selenium, choline,

Bananas: magnesium, potassium, fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6

Almonds: high in protein, fibre, omega 3, magnesium, vitamins B2 and E, and potassium

Flaxseeds: vitamin B1, iron, magnesium, selenium, omega 3 and fibre

Cinnamon: balances blood sugar

 

*RDA percentages are estimated using NutritionData.com. Actual percentages may vary based on age of product and country of origin.

I have updated the recipe slightly from the original post – the addition of 1 teaspoon of chia seeds really helps the batter hold together well!

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3 ingredients, one great treat

Healthy Dark Chocolate Truffles (dairy free)

There are plenty of healthy truffle recipes out there, but this is one of my favourites. The dairy element of the traditional truffle (i.e. cream) is replaced by avocado, elevating this delicious treat to a healthy snack!Dark chocolate truffle ingredients

Besides the heart-healthy oils in the avocado, this recipe uses ground nuts to add texture and more nutrients to the mix. I use toasted hazelnuts as they add a lovely depth of flavour and allow these nutrient-dense balls to give Nutella or Ferrero Rocher a run for their money!

What is fabulous about these truffles is that there are only three main ingredients, but they pack a significant nutritional punch:

Avocados are rich in vitamins C, E and B5, folate, choline, magnesium and potassium. Half an avocado can also give you up to 13g of dietary fibre.

Hazelnuts are great sources of vegetable protein and vitamin E. Using almonds will up the magnesium and walnuts will add an omega 3 boost.

Dark chocolate is a good source of iron and magnesium, as well as copper and manganese. Most brands do include sugar, so while there is no need to add any sweetener to this recipe, do bear in mind the sweetness if you need to watch your sugar intake. On the positive side, the good fats, fibre and protein provided by the avocados and nuts will ensure that the sugar is slowly released into your blood stream, making these truffles a better bet for an afternoon snack or after dinner treat.

These truffles are very quick and easy to make and all the mashing and rolling is brilliant fun for any little helpers you may have.

Dairy free chocolate truffles

 

Makes 15 truffles

Ingredients:

  • 160g good quality dark chocolate
  • ½ medium avo (ripe)
  • 1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts (or almonds, or walnuts)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional flavourings: ground ginger, ground cinnamon, chai spices, ground cardamom, rose water

Method:

  1. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water
  2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until they are gritty (you can make them finer for a smoother textured truffle)
  3. Mash the avocado into a smooth paste
  4. Once the chocolate has melted, remove it from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes before adding the avocado, nuts and vanilla extract
  5. At this point, you can add any flavourings if you like. I tend to divide the mix in two.  Add about 1 teaspoon of ground ginger or cinnamon to half the mix and stir mix through. You can add more to taste, but the texture will change slightly based on the amount of dry ingredient you add, so work carefully
  6. Allow the mixture(s) to firm up in the fridge for 15-20 minutes
  7. Take about a tablespoon of mixture and roll into truffles with the palms of your hands. If you have spilt the batch you can make alternative shapes to differentiate between your flavours (small round or triangulated logs work with this recipe)
  8. Roll in cocoa powder or desiccated coconut to finish (another way to differentiate between flavours)
  9. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a week (if they last that long)

 

 

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