healthy

Paleo Almond & Chocolate Chip Cookies – GF & Vegan

Paleo almond meal

A healthier approach.

Lately I’ve been trying to squeeze a little yoga in before bedtime, to stretch out my runners legs and as part of a wind down routine. Let’s call it a spot of self care. For the most part it’s working out pretty well, it’s calming on the mind and loosening those tight muscles little by little. Years and years of heavy running along with my penchant for hard hitting circuits (pain is good, isn’t it?) means that I’m not exactly Miss flexible. In fact I’m about as flexible as a wafer! The thing is I know what I need to do to, stretch, foam roll, massage but I guess I’m a bit lazy. I’m hoping that my nightly 10 minute yoga sequence will help, I’ll let you know.Almond cookie stack

One thing I have no trouble sticking with in the evening is my nightly ice cream habit! It’s one of my vices but  really I could do with something a little healthier. I shouldn’t think a sugary dairy hit is not what my body wants before bed, despite what my mind is telling me. So I wanted to make something equally as delicious, more healthful and with way less sugar.  My mind didn’t immediately gravitate to a cookie but this isn’t any old cookie! This is a super cookie made from such healthful ingredients you could have easily get away with having them at breakfast.

Right, I’m going to convince you why you need these cookies in your life. First up, they’re utterly delicious and I’m not just saying this, truly. They’re not overly sweet and contain just a few healthy ingredients including almond meal, coconut oil, honey and almond milk. The best part is they are really low carb which is perfect for some late evening paleo snacking. The low sugar content wont give you any crashes and as they’re jam packed with almonds, this healing food will in fact stabilise blood sugar which is important if you’re crashed out for the next 8 hours. See, these cookies are amazingly for you, just check out the ingredients list for yourself. I devoured a couple last night during a ‘Dexter’ session and I must say, I was impressed all over again and I could see that Russ felt the same!Cookie dough

Cookies for breakfast anyone? I’ll be having a couple tonight, before bed,  a habit I don’t feel the urge to kick.

What do you eat to satisfy evening cravings?Almond cookies

Paleo almond & chocolate chip cookies

1 cup almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
dash of cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon almond milk
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips

Method:

1. Add the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl. Combined the wet ingredients whisking thoroughly. Add the wet ingredients to the almond meal mix along with the chocolate chips. Bring together to form a cookie dough.
2. Roll into 8-10 small cookie balls and place on a baking tray. Press down lightly with a fork.
3. Bake at 175 ºC for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. Be careful not to over cook. Remove from the oven & allow to cool before storing.

“5 a day” Lentil & Spinach Stuffed Peppers- Vegan & GF

Stuffed peppers & salad

Lentil, spinach, butternut squash, tomato & onion = 5 a day in one delicious hit.

I’m itching with sheer impatience to go on holiday but there’s still 6 weeks to go so I gotta reign it in and slow down! We’re hitting Alaska and Canada in an RV and I literally cannot wait to get there, like now! It feels like forever (officially 3 months!) since we were last away and I’m too excited about hitting the Yukon national park and experiencing some of Alaska’s highlights. I’m actually thinking, ‘will I see a real bear?’! Oh and the supermarkets, I like those too. Yep, bears and supermarkets are the theme of this trip. What is it about supermarkets abroad anyway? I doubt it’s just me, they’re like a whole new world. I just love grocery shopping in the States, it’s so much better and there’s way more choice compared with the UK. I’m quite happy to idle down the supermarket aisles in any country but my own, it’s like a day trip in itself for me. Oh and the coffee, they do coffee so well and i’m not talking about frothy, chocolate dusted coffee but rather your straight up filter coffee, normal coffee. No frills coffee is good in the USA and it’s absolutely everywhere. This is a very good thing seeing as there will be a lot of driving happening. Russ is our designated driver and I’ll be busy navigating and not bear spotting! I’m a newbie to Canada but my Canadian buddy Amy has advised that the coffee chains will live up to my high standards, so ‘Tim Hortons’ and ‘Second Cup” here I come. I reckon we’ll be making an obscene amount of coffee stops on our Anchorage to Vancouver road trip so not only will I be taking in the amazing scenery (and bear watching, seriously!) but I’ll be on the lookout for coffee and big supermarkets!Stuffed peppers

Talking of supermarkets (an English one this time), I got a good deal on bell peppers yesterday and this recipe is a super way of putting them to use.  These lentil and spinach beauties contain all 5 of your ‘5 a day’, so serious bonus points here. However, sorry to disappoint but I reckon just forget ‘5 a day’, let’s all aim for 7 or more! Roasting whole veggies like bell peppers, courgette, aubergine and whole squash is one of my favourite ways to cook veggies, an oldie but a goodie! Slow baking brings out the sweet flavours of the vegetable whilst creating a soft gooey texture to the flesh. And they’re pretty accepting of most fillings. And, if prepared in advance they’re a nice and easy evening meal or a delicious cold lunch the next day. Let’s face it, these are just a good idea.Stuffed peppers process

So, why don’t you get stuffed?! Not you, the vegetables. Why don’t you stuff some veg for tea tonight? Really nice served with garlic bread, rice or cous cous and lot’s of salad. A Russ salad is preferable.Stuffing peppers

We’re planning our Christmas holiday NOW, well you gotta have something to look forward to! Where’s your next trip?

Russ' salads are actually amazing. i am a lucky girl.
Russ’ salads are actually amazing. i am a lucky girl.

‘5 a day’ lentil & spinach stuffed peppers

(serves 2)

4 whole bell peppers, tops/lids & seeds removed
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, peel and minced
1/2 can tomatoes
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano, thyme & nutmeg
1/2 cup red lentils
1 large handful spinach, chopped
1 cup cubed butternut squash
oil for frying

Method:

1. Slice the tops off 4 whole peppers, cleaning the seeds out with running water. Arrange in a baking dish and roast for 20 minutes at 180 ºC.
2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and saute the onion & garlic for 5 minutes. Add the seasonings, tomatoes, lentils, spinach and butternut squash, mixing to combine. Let the lentils simmer for 10-15 minutes.Remove from the heat when cooked.
3. Remove the peppers from the oven & spoon in the lentil mixture, pushing down to compact. Replace the lids and return to the oven for 15-2o minutes. Careful not to over char.

Quinoa Salad Bowl with Cumin & Lime dressing – GF & Vegan

Mexican quinoa salad ingredients

Lunchtime salad

Lunch is my least favourite meal of the day. It’s usually a sandwich on the run, occasionally second rate canteen food, it can be a second breakfast (I know, not necessarily a bad thing) or worse still, I have no time for lunch. That’s why I like working from home. I can make lunch, I can take the time to enjoy my lunch and I don’t pay inflated prices for a simple but healthy midday meal. Russ has the right idea, he buys a job lot of ingredients at the start of the week and makes lunch at the office.
DSC_5610My body will thank me for it. Our bodies will be thankful for it. This colourful quinoa salad is bursting with protein, healthy fats and antioxidants…wait a minute, this is really the perfect midday pick me up. I love quinoa and avocado (together is best) especially with a drizzle of this mexican inspired dressing.

Salad is so underrated, it has the ability to actually be one of my favourite meals. A huge, superfood laden, bulging, hearty dressed up salad. Oh, black beans, it’s too late but the next salad will have black beans, that will really complete it. Salad is a bit like lego, you can just keep building, using a variety of colours and the possibilities are endless. Of course salad tastes much better than lego!Avocado and quinoa salad

Now I’m thinking about holidays, Mexico specifically. Well it is my second favourite cuisine and I can’t believe I still haven’t been….and I have to go, to get truly inspired, to expand my mexican mealtime repertoire (it’s really very small) and of course hit the beach. Anyway, build this quinoa salad bowl on the day or the night before. I will be.

I always eat with chopsticks but that's another story!

I always eat with chopsticks but that’s another story!

Quinoa salad bowl with a cumin & lime dressing

(serves 2)

2 cups cooked quinoa
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 green pepper, sliced finely
1 avocado, sliced
2 heaped tablespoons sweetcorn
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small red chilli, chopped & desseded if you wish
handful fresh parsley (or coriander), roughly chopped

for the dressing:

1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt & pepper twist

Method:

Assemble the salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk the dressing ingredients thoroughly. Drizzle generously & enjoy.

Note: If, like me you will be making this the night before then I’d advise to keep the dressing in a separate container ready for when you plan to eat.

 

Paleo Almond Pancakes & Quick Blueberry Compote – GF

Take two!

I have a confession to make…

These pancakes didn’t turn out as I’d planned and that was a problem for me because I’m still unlearning being a perfectionist. It wasn’t a disaster, not even close, they were delicious. They just didn’t look exactly as I’d expected and this bothered me, at first. So I tried again and although they came out neater, plumper and cuter, guess what? They still tasted the same, they were still delicious, they weren’t a failure, they were just flatter and randomly shaped.Bleberry almond pancake

Just two simple things, less milk and a little baking soda, resulting in a thicker batter second time round. I remember now, I poured in a tad too much milk, this is what happens when you’re hungry and making delicious pancakes! The hand shakes, the concentration slips, you get the picture. It’s actually a good thing I made these again because now I know not to make pancakes when you’re really hungry! At least I got to have a double helping pancakes, every cloud all. The thing is though, I don’t actually like perfect, or neat and tidy either.  This wasn’t the problem. My perfectionist brain was the problem,  they were NOT how she had pictured and she wasn’t amused. Eventually she got lost!

Blueberry almond pancakes second time lucky!“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”  Salvador DaliImperfect pancakes

You can tell the difference, right? These darn almond pancakes aren’t supposed to be perfect and they weren’t, by any stretch of the imagination. These are perfectly imperfect Paleo pancakes. Perfect isn’t welcome here anyhow. But the taste, the taste was delicious and this is the important part because delicious and healthy is the aim of the game.

A bit about the pancakes. Made from almond flour, these are perfectly Paleo and although I’m not a Paleo girl myself, I do see the benefits of going a little easier on the grain. Almond flour like coconut and peanut flours is ideal for baking these low carbohydrate recipes. Almond flour is a favourite of mine because I adore almonds with their sweet, fragrant creaminess- the main reason why I was a cherry bakewell and marzipan fiend as a child.. So making pancakes with flour and milk from the delectable almond is quite exciting for me and if it turns out that I have a few less grains, that’s just a bonus.Almond pancakes & blueberry compote

Another thing about these pancakes is they’re super filling but not in a lead brick afternoon slump full but more a light, energised ‘I’m super productive’ way! What’s more is they’re fluffy, nutty and sweet with a blueberry compote that’s way too delicious for just 3 ingredients. Just perfect.

It all gets messy in the end.
It all gets messy in the end.

Paleo Almond pancakes & quick blueberry compote

(serves 2)

1 cup almond flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
coconut oil for frying
extra maple syrup for serving

For the blueberry compote:

1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon of stevia
3 tablespoons water

Method:

1. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a measuring jug whisk the milk, egg & syrup. Combine the wet & dry ingredients, whisking thoroughly.
2. Heat the coconut oil in a griddle pan over a low heat. Ladle a spoonful of batter into the pan & cook until golden brown and just set. Flip & repeat until batter is all gone.
3. Serve warm stacked pancakes with blueberry compote & extra maple syrup.

Blueberry compote:

Heat all three ingredients over a low heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until desired consistency.

Spiced Carrot Muffins

Carrot spiced muffin

Do you randomly reminisce about mediocre food you were fond of as a younger you? I do, all the time but come to think of it, I think about any food, all of the time! Of late it’s been the ginger biscuits I made as a kiddo, usually when I was bored or avoiding homework. They were nice but I wonder, were they really that good? I’ve been thinking maybe it’s the nostalgia that makes food seem more appealing than it perhaps was?! In their defence, these ginger biscuits were pretty popular though, my family loved them for a good tea dunking. It’s just that there really wasn’t anything special about them, they were just biscuits. But they were the first biscuit recipe I nailed and gosh was I proud! See, it’s nostalgia. They were bursting with immense gingery goodness, probably because I usually doubled the suggested 1 teaspoon to 2, well 2 1/2 actually!

Anyway, I’ve been meaning to make some gingery baked goods for a while now. I just love ginger with it’s warm, rich, spicy yet sweet flavour provoking memories of a gloriously sticky ginger pudding smothered in creamy pale yellow custard. Even a fiery Thai or Chinese stir fry packed full of ginger just makes you feel warm and comforted. Yes, I think there’s something comforting about ginger and I love that it’s good for us too. In India, ginger is viewed as a complete wonder spice and this is good enough for me (being a huge fan of all things Indian).

I used an overly-heaped teaspoon in the muffin mix because I just love the flavour and it works fantastically with the pineapple, carrot and raisins. In hindsight, these could even take some more – so if you like ginger go for 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons. Definitely a match made in heaven. I’m thinking of making oatmeal with these flavours, kind of like an exotic carrot cake breakfast. I used honey and crushed pineapple to sweeten and to ensure it retained as much moisture as possible, plus I wanted to replicate the moist and sticky ginger puddings I loved so much as a kid.

Step by step

Alongside ginger I used a teaspoon of cinnamon,  another spice I am completely obsessed with. I use  both these exotic spices most days, even just a sprinkle on cereal, toast or porridge. A few years back in the middle of some hefty marathon training  I read that cinnamon is amazing for blood sugar regulation. Obviously, eager to gain a winning edge I started stirring heaps into my breakfasts, popping it into smoothies, sprinkling on honey toast, whisking through pancake batter and adding generously to my curries, North African dishes, well anything really. I swear this carried me through the long hard training and not once did I ‘hit the wall’ as they say in running jabber. Purely psychological? Maybe, but there’s something in it, quite literally. Whenever I google ‘cinnamon benefits’ it never ceases to amaze me (same for ginger) how healing these can be! I’m pretty mindful about generous health claims but the taste, aroma and colour of these spices just make you feel like you’re doing your body a favour.

These muffins are super blood sugar regulators and high in fibre too.  Full of wonderful flavour and texture, these muffins are an acceptable breakfast snack and even a worthy pudding contender – with a scoop of ice cream or  a dollop of custard. Are you sold yet?

Carrot spiced muffin
Sticky, sweet, spiced & fruity

What was the first recipe you mastered as a kid (or adult for that matter!)?

Spiced Carrot Muffins

(makes 10-12)

1 1/2 cups of wholemeal self raising flour
1 teaspoon of ginger
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
small handful of crushed walnuts
small handful of raisins
2 tablespoons of honey
1 cup of shredded carrot
1 cup of crushed pineapple
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg

Method:

  1. Sift all the dry ingredients together and combine well. Add the walnuts, raisins and carrot.
  2. Combine the wet ingredients and mix just enough to fully combine.
  3. Place in 10-12 muffin cases and sprinkle with oats.
  4. Bake at 175 ºC for 25 minutes.

Bake for 25 minutes at 175 °C.

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