protein

Dairy Free Black Bean Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

choc vegan spread

I never understood the chocolate spread hype as a kid, it always looked so wrong to me, especially in a sandwich! It just plain old freaked me out, I was (still am) definitely more of a marmite or PB & jam kinda girl. I guess I was just highly suspicious of chocolate spread squished inbetween bread, in the same way that eating tomato ketchup with cold food was (and still is) way too much for me to handle – gross! Anyway, it’s not like I don’t like ‘Nutella’ spreads, it was clearly just a weird childhood thing……these days I’d rather make my own anyway, plus it’s super easy to do. Of course a great place to start is ya straight up hazelnut butter and chocolate combo but I wanted something a little less dense and healthy as a base, so naturally……….BEANS.

chocolate spread

I love beans full stop but I’m always really surprised at how much I like them in sweet treats like brownies and cookie dough butter!¬†And now, basically straight up Nutella but on a whole other level. A black bean level which transforms your usual chocolate spread to one that is very, very healthy and free from dairy. This super black bean chocolate hazelnut spread has:

no refined sugars
no trans fats
low sugar
lower fat
higher protein
a lot less calories.

spread toast banana

This is so much lower in calories than your average chocolate spreads that I’d actually be quite happy to eat the lot for pudding. Seriously.

I’ve put the measurements below but they are fairly approximate as I think it’s best to adjust and taste as you blend. This is fairly sweet so do reduce the syrup if you’d prefer less sweetness, or indeed crank it up if you want uber-sweet! I just so happened to have roasted hazelnuts at home but hazelnut butter would be fine or sub this for peanut or almond butter if you’re not fussed on the chocolate hazelnut combo.

vegan chocolate spread

Just throw it all in and whip it up…oh and then decide how you’re gonna eat it, straight up chocolate pudding or rich nutty chocolatey spread………..?

chocolate vegan spread

Dairy free black bean chocolate hazelnut spread

1 can black beans
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup roasted chopped hazelnuts
pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Add EVERYTHING to the blender (I use a Vitamix) and blitz to chocolate heaven.

Being Pregnant + Vegan

healthy diet pregnancy
Pregnancy has been harder than I thought what with the weight gain, nausea and numerous other weird physical side effects (!) but I tell you something, it’s that much harder being pregnant AND vegan! Like really hard. Not in a diet and ‘oh geez, what can I eat?’ way but in a socially acceptable way. I truly wasn’t prepared for the amount of questioning I’d receive with regards to my diet, my baby and the absence of meat and dairy in my diet. It’s been a little like this:

‘So, now that you’re pregnant are you eating meat?’

‘What about milk, you need calcium for the baby?’

Are you still a vegan now you’re expecting?’

No, I know and Yes.

I admit, I’ve struggled the past few months with these questions and although I know people only mean well, I can’t help but feel annoyed and at times a little like public property! Of course I answer politely and tell them I get plenty of calcium from alternative sources etc but the look of uncertainty is all the proof I need that they just don’t get it.

The thing is, I know about food, about nutrition, I’m kinda sensible and I’m a bit of a research nerd so naturally I did my homework on a plant based pregnancy. I know what I’m doing, it’s everyone else that’s doubtful, and there lies the problem. The other day was a particularly busy one for questioning, like 3 people asked me straight out whether I was still a ‘veggie’ at a team meeting in between congratulations. I’m pretty steadfast, I have the necessary knowledge but there’s only so much you can take before you start to doubt yourself and go home to calculate your calcium intake for that day, your protein for the week and the iron content of your lunch. I’ll send a text to Russ relaying all of this, to be greeted by his response of reassurance followed by my own realisation that I really do know the facts and that I’m doing the best for my baby.

My recent scan showed everything is progressing nicely with baby being the perfect size for her weeks. I am not deficient in anything, have bundles of energy and my weight gain is bang on target!

I refuse to measure nutrient levels and weigh absolutely anything (well except when baking, lol!), believe it’s completely unnecessary and why should I anyway? My body isn’t lacking a single nutrient, I look and feel full of energy and my baby is happy and healthy. I believe this is because I eat REAL food. Nobody seems to comment or judge the mum to be who drinks diet coke, eats KFC and a large bag of haribo but rather they are reassured they are eating for two and to enjoy it whilst they can!

Diets, especially during pregnancy are pretty personal and very individual and the following is what works for me but everybody is different, thank goodness ūüėČ Above everything, knowledge sure is power.

Here’s what I’ve been doing since being pregnant:

1. I have gone ORGANIC. Or partly organic. I try to at least buy the dirty dozen all organic alongside staples such as bread, nuts and oats. This change will stick with me, less chemicals is never a bad thing.

2. I have increased my intake of healthy FATS at each meal particularly oiive oil, nut butters, avocados, nuts, seeds, tahini, vegan cheeses. I find this alone has helped me feel more satiated and given me a level energy throughout the day.

3. I make sure I eat CALCIUM rich foods daily and it’s really quite a breeze on a plant based diet. I personally maintain healthy levels by eating the following: green leafy veg such as broccoli, kale, spinach and cabbage (did you know there’s more calcium in a cup of collard greens than in 1 cup of milk), fortified nut milks such as almond or coconut that contain 30% RDA in 200 ml, tahini which provides 10% RDA in just 1 tablespoon, molasses to sweeten, fortified oatmeal (Ready Brek) provides an excellent source too with a large bowl containing a whopping 60% RDA, an orange a day because I just love them, a handful almonds whenever I’m peckish, chickpeas / any pulse really (20% RDA in 1 cup) in a stew/curry or hummus and fortified wholemeal breads.

4. I have upped my IRON intake a little too by making sure I eat a wide selection of iron rich foods throughout the day including sweet potatoes, raisins, dates, figs, prunes, molasses, peas, artichokes, dark leafy greens, spirulina in smoothies, pumpkin, all whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans, beans and more beans. ¬†At least once a day I’ll try to have a food rich in vitamin C alongside iron rich foods such as baked beans and sweet potato to improve the iron absorption. Oh and chocolate too – a 3 oz. portion of cooked ground beef (70% lean meat, 30% fat) contains¬†2.11 mg¬†of iron, while 3 oz. of dark chocolate boasts¬†10.12 mg.

5. I drink way more WATER. This has made a HUGE difference to my digestion and energy levels and I just know that 3 litres a day makes a big difference to my wellbeing and my baby’s too.

6. Dear old PROTEIN and where d’ya get it from! ¬†Well I aim for a little more than before, about 70 grams per day. It’s easy as hell to get enough protein as a vegan if you cook real foods so I just keep a mindful eye on making sure I get some quality protein in at each meal from my favourite sources, including greens (most people don’t think of greens as punching much of a protein punch but they really do), nuts, seeds especially hemp, lentils, beans (15 grams in 1 cup!), nut milks, sprouted grain breads, oats, quinoa, cocoa (yeah really!) and occasionally Quorn. I don’t sweat this protein lark as other people do, that’s enough for me!

7. I have VICES. Beer and coffee. No more beer but I still drink coffee, just two cups in the morning and refrain from caffeine for the remainder of the day.

8. I take a general pregnancy SUPPLEMENT as advised by my midwife such as Pregnacare and also a B12 supplement.

So I pretty much eat the same foods I ate before, but at the start of my pregnancy I made sure to take a closer look to ensure I was covering all bases. I believe my body (and midwife!) will tell me if something’s up and I plan to continue eating a whole foods plant based diet for the reminder of my pregnancy and after that too.

Some light reading:

http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/veganpregnancy.php

http://www.vegansociety.com/lifestyle/parenting/vegan-babies-and-children/pregnancy.aspx

https://www.vegsoc.org/

http://www.vegkitchen.com/nutrition/vegetarian-pregnancy/

Sweet Cinnamon Roasted Chickpeas

chick peas

Everything tastes better roasted. Fact. It really does. nuts, seeds, veggies, garlic and now chick peas too. I am a little late to the roasted chick pea party but I’m here now so that’s all that matters. I’m still a little too impressed with how these turned out and are nothing like a soaked chick pea but rather crispy and crunchy! Kinda satisfying. Just be sure to really dry those bad boys first, like thoroughly, using kitchen roll or a clean tea towel. Once they’re all high and dry they’re set for flavouring up and roasting to perfection!

chick peas roasted

The flavour combos are endless but I reckon salt ‘n’ vinegar would be a bit of a star. That’ll be my next batch, salt ‘n’ vinegar always was my favourite flavour. In the meantime these are sweet, nutty and beautifully spiced with cinnamon, umm umm.

chick peas roasted

Reasons to eat these as an afternoon snack:

no bad fats
no additives
high in fibre and protein too
100% natural
delicious

chick peas roasted

Come on, you can’t say that for your average bag of crisps/chips or shop bought cereal bar can ya? That’s why I make these in batches and store in an airtight container for those munchie moments.

Just dry ’em well and watch ’em roasting – too little and you’re like, ‘where’s the crunch?’ and too much and they’re a bit charcoaled! Enjoy guilt free delicious snacking.

chick peas roasted

Sweet cinnamon roasted chickpeas

1 can chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

method:

1. Preheat oven to 225¬ļC. Meanwhile, rinse your chickpeas under cold running water + dry thoroughly by spreading out a single layer, using kitchen towel to soak up all excess moisture. It’s important they’re as dry as dry can be.
2. Place on a baking tray + roast for 15 minutes.
3. Remove from the oven + drizzle oil over the chickpeas followed by the sugar, salt + cinnamon. Toss to coat evenly.
4. Return to the oven + roast for a further 15 minutes until crunchy. Amaze at how you just transformed chickpeas.

Vegan Frittata with a Quinoa Crust

vegan quinoa frittataSometimes only tofu will do. I have a love hate relationship with the stuff, it’s the whole soya ‘is it bad for you or not’ thing but occasionally I just want it cos I like the stuff and it really does make the perfect egg substitute in this frittata. The rare occasions I cook with tofu I’m always sure to use organic stuff too. It’s pretty versatile and makes a fantastic egg substitute too and more randomly a super chocolate mouse.vegan kale frittata

Better than traditional egg based frittata and omelette. Honest.A slice of frittata

The creamy yellow ‘egg’ mixture is delicious, it looks more than taste like eggs but in a good way. The miso, nutritional yeast and mustard give a cheesy, nutty deep flavour that beats egg hands down. It really does. I had some leftover quinoa for a sturdy base/crust which is a really nice addition to an otherwise light snack. This vegan frittata is super quick and not too dissimilar to an original egg based recipe – fry off your chosen veg, mix up the egg mixture and throw it all together before baking. Easy really. This frittata has no saturated fat or cholesterol either. There’s so much kale in here there’s easily a serving per person, in fact this dish delivers 3/4 servings of veggies to each person. I love a happy ending.¬†vegan kale frittata

A super charged plant powered frittata.

Delicious hot or cold, for lunch or breakfast and super tasty the next day!vegan kale frittata

Vegan frittata with a quinoa base

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flax: 3 of water)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped into small pieces
2 small chilis, chopped finely
4 mushrooms, sliced thinly
100 grams kale, torn into pieces
1 cup broccoli florets, broken into very small florets
handful coriander, roughly chopped

‘egg’ mixture
1 package firm organic tofu (362 grams)
1/2 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons miso paste
1 teaspoon English mustard
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200¬ļC. Grease a 10″ springform baking pan + set aside. Combine the quinoa + flax egg thoroughly + press down to form a crust in the greased baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile gently fry the onions, pepper, chili + mushrooms in the olive oil for 10 minutes until softened. Add the kale, broccoli + coriander + contine to cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat.
3. Add all the ‘egg mixture’ ingredients to a blender + blend until smooth. Combine the vegetables + ‘egg’ mix well + spread evenly onto the quinoa crust. Bake for 4o -50 minutes, checking half way through. Allow to cool for 30-45 minutes before removing from the baking pan.

Pistachio, Pumpkin Seed + Herb Falafel (Gluten Free + Vegan)

Pistachio, Pumpkin Seed + Herb FalafelFor me falafel is a full on, fill me up, give it to me now crave food. It’s pure comfort food. When I want something filling, fresh, warming and healthy yet satisfying this is it. The thing is I rarely make falafel and it’s not like it’s easy to get in fast food joints around here either. Oh, what I would do to have a little local cafe nearby that baked me falafel when I needed it most, now that would be good. Until my make believe plant based Arab inspired fast food joint opens I’ll be making this myself and more often.

I am in love with North African flavours so naturally falafel is pretty high up there on the favourites list, I definitely ate my fair share (ok, more than is fair!) in Egypt. Were they better? Ummmm, not necesserily! The trouble is most falafel is deep fried as that’s in fact the traditional way of preparing it but it’s way toooo oily for me and so unnecessary as IMO they taste so much better baked. These pistachio, pumpkin seed + herb falafel are fragrant, lightly spiced, fresh,¬†crispy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside¬†and devastatingly good, in taste and for health! Yes, every recipe on this blog is healthy………

This here is falafel, just how it should be.Green falafel + yoghurt mint dressing

Baked not fried.Green falafel + yoghurt mint dressing

Russ was on ball making duty as it’s not my forte and his balls are so uniform, round and smooth (humour me). And green, nice and green thanks to the mint, coriander, pistachio and pumpkin seeds. Not only does this add a nice touch visually it really ramps up the nutritional density too. This pistachio, pumpkin seed + herb falafel is high in protein, contains only heart healthy fats, low in sodium and the herbs provide immense anti-inflammatory and ant-bacterial benefits. You just gotta love fresh green herbs.¬†Russ making falafel

These little blighters are super easy to put together and can be whipped up in 15 minutes flat, ¬†get somebody else to roll your balls and it’ll be quicker than that! I’ll send Russ round?Easy recipe....

Extra tasty served in fresh crisp lettuce leaves, the best way. Gone are the days when I felt self conscious eating from a lettuce or cabbage leaf, where others would sometimes make comments in confused wonder or assume I was just a weird eater. I’m not sure why either as it’s one of the most delicious ways to eat food minus the heavy carb and gluten load, just ask the Koreans. Since living in Korea for a year I soon learnt to love the leaf wrapping as they wrap everything in a fresh lettuce leaf, a crunchy wad of cabbage or a crisp sheet of seaweed. Oh I do miss that place and it’s food, but not the soups so much, particularly the ones where they sneak tiny bits of pork into it and tell you it’s vegetarian! Back to the leaf, Korean supermarkets have entire refrigerators dedicated to housing the most pristine, organised and colour coordinated lettuce leaves you have ever seen. Our local store even had a designated lettuce leaf handler (nice guy too), in charge of bagging, weighing and most importantly keeping the green, purple and red (yes, they put a lot of love and affection into their lettuce!) display looking beautiful. Tangent….yes falafel…..eating out of a lettuce leaf = good.

Falafel, lettuce wraps + salad

So, although I’m no longer leaf wrapping on a daily basis I always take up any opportunity to use fresh plant- powered wraps, especially if there’s falafel involved. I do wonder if I’ll ever be able to eat from a leaf again without thinking about Korea!! Good times.A whole lotta lettuce wrap

Falafel is a classic veggie staple and is delicious served with a big salad and if lettuce leaf wraps aren’t for you a wholewheat pitta would be amaze-balls (get it?) too. I like both, falafel wrapped in lettuce and stuffed in a pitta, finished off with generous dollops of minty dressing. Oh dear, now that is delicious.Falafel in hand

Pistachio, pumpkin seed + herb falafel

(10 balls)

1 can drained chickpeas (240 grams)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small onion, chopped
small handful fresh mint
small handful fresh coriander
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon cumin
salt & pepper

mint dressing:
small handful mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons yoghurt + 1 of water

Method:

1. Rinse + drain chickpeas, set aside. Place garlic, onion + green herbs into a food processor or blender + pulse until roughly chopped. Add the nuts + seeds + pulse to a rough texture. Add the chickpeas, cumin + salt/pepper + blend until fully combined so that it retains a rough like texture. You may need to redistribute the mixture with a spoon in between blending.
2. Form 10-12 balls from the mixture + place on a baking tray lined with grease proof paper. Bake falafel in the oven for 20 minutes until firm + crispy on the outside. Combine the mint dressing ingredients in a small bowl or cup + set aside.
3. Serve in lettuce with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds + a drizzle of mint yoghurt dressing.

Healthy Black Bean Chocolate Fudge Brownies (Gluten Free + Vegan)

Black bean fudge brownie stack!Because black beans are not just for tacos!

If there’s one bean I favour it’s the little old black bean and I just love everything about them. ¬†I’ve been blind to their amazing versatility as I usually just throw them in a Mexican stew or a big avocado salad, so I was pretty excited to combine my black bean love with my equal adoration of cocoa. I’m thinking, dark, chocolatey, fudge-like, gooey, crumbly at the sides and soft in the middle. I was right, this is exactly how they are…..were.Two black bean brownies......

Traditionally, chocolate fudge brownies are chock a block with bad fats, white sugar, digestive clogging gluten and dirty dairy but these are the perfect example of how something which really is ultra healthy can still be delicious. Let’s change all that, there really is no need to go without or crave junk when chocolate fudge brownies like this are knocking about. That’s good information to have. Make them and see for yourself, don’t take my word for it. If you don’t make them, please do take my word for it!Simple process

To achieve a fudgey brownie like texture I used agave rather than brown sugar and dotted each brownie with dark chocolate chips and pecan pieces for a richer more decadent treat. Scrap that, they’re hardly a treat with an ingredient list like this, more an everyday necessity. The black beans, chia, coconut oil and cocoa make this chocolate brownie a shining example of wholesome goodness brimming with health attributes, a brownie that kicks plant butt and makes you feel better than OK. Oh and don’t worry about eating the raw brownie batter straight off the spoon……it’s all plants so get stuck in.¬†Just as good uncooked?

So, here’s the black bean brownie lowdown:

grain free
dairy free
gluten free
iron rich
high fibre
good source of protein
so delicious

Please try these! Black bean chocolate brownies

Healthy black bean chocolate fudge brownies

(makes 12)

2 tablespoons chia seed soaked in  6 tablespoons of water
230 gram black beans (drained weight)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 tablespoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 tablespoons almond milk
pecans + chocolate chips to dress

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 175 ¬ļC.¬†Add the chia egg to your blender ¬†or food processor + blitz for 30 seconds. Next add the remaining ingredients apart from pecans + chocolate chips + pulse until a smooth batter is achieved. The ideal consistency should be quite hard to pour but not as thick as frosting. Add more milk/water if it is too thick.
2. Lightly grease a 12 cup muffin tin. Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into the tin + dress with nuts + chocolate chips if desired. Bake for 25-3o minutes. They are ready when the outside of the muffin has come away slightly from the sides of the tin but some softness in the middle.
3. Allow to cool fully before loosening the edges with a fork to remove. They are pretty delicate so handle with care.

Note: The chia seeds can be replaced by 1 egg for a non vegan version. The agave syrup can be replaced by brown rice syrup, honey (non vegan), maple syrup or 1/4 cup regular sugar.

Adapted from Minimalist Baker.

Vanilla Chia + Berry Pudding (Gluten free, Raw + Vegan)

Because PROTEIN is EVERYWHERE and plants are powerful!Delicious vanilla chia pudding

Yesterday I went for a check up at the doctors and I feel the urge to share some of our chit chat with you:

Nurse: “Make sure you eat lot’s of meat for protein”.

Me: “I don’t eat meat”

Nurse: “Oh right, so where do you get your protein from?”

Me: “Chia seeds”

Nurse: ‘What are they?”

I wont go on and yes, don’t worry I was just being a tad difficult with the whole chia seeds comment. Admittedly, I could have reeled off a whole host of ingredients she’d most likely heard of but I was having a moment and I thought that being a nurse she’d have a bit more of a grasp on non meat protein sources. Of course I explained that I eat a lot of plant based protein and it¬†seemed like her mind was put at ease, albeit with intrigue. She really was a lovely nurse but gee whizz, I just wasn’t expecting that, not from a nurse anyway. I get asked the protein question a lot and it’s hard for me to answer without providing so much information that the other person switches off (what? I’m passionate!). Usually, I go for a simple yet adequate response to this regular question with ‘oh, lot’s of different plant sources’. I’d rather it this way than start a mini powerpoint presentation to preach on how wonderfully abundant protein is within mother nature.Vanilla chia pudding

So this vanilla chia pudding is a celebration of plant based goodness….and protein of course. There are endless fantastic plants that are an excellent source of protein but today I’m picking on chia¬†because of it’s overall amazingness. I really do love the chia seed for it’s versatility and abundant health benefits. Chia really is the seed that just keeps on giving. Check out my post on the the health benefits of this Aztec wonder food and why it’s such a great addition to any diet.Vanilla chia pudding

Vanilla chia pudding is super easy to make and requires just a little pre-soaking before being thrown into the blender for a sweet, creamy and insanely healthy pudding. Great layered with any fruit you want but berries just fit so well and I dressed mine with cocoa nibs because they’re deliciously good for you. The little green sprig is in fact stevia. I cannot believe I found a stevia plant and it was completely by accident and at a builder’s merchants….so random! Of course I’m now looking for any excuse to use fresh stevia and this is one of those!Easiest pudding recipe ever!

Chia really does give good pudding.

So, where do ya get your protein from? Only kidding! No but seriously now, what’s your favourite way to use chia?

Peace, love and acceptance.Chia pudding + spoon ready to go!

Vanilla chia + berry pudding

(Serves 1)

1/4 cup chia seeds
3/4 cup almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple or agave syrup
1 banana (I used frozen)
a large handful of raspberries + blueberries
cocoa nibs for dressing

Method:

1. Soak the chia seeds, milk, vanilla, syrup + banana for at least an hour in a mason jar. Soaking overnight is ideal.
2. Empty the contents into a blender + blitz until smooth. You may need to add a little more milk here for a yoghurt like consistency. Taste + adjust sweetness if necessary.
3. Layer a glass bowl or tumbler with the pudding + berries + dress with cocoa nibs or your favourite nuts.

7 Cheers for Chia Seeds – a Weight Loss Weapon

Chia Seeds 5This chia seed craze isn’t going anywhere soon, it’s here to stay. I’ve had many a fleeting affair with the latest in vogue food, some working out and others not. Sorry goji berries, it’s not you, it’s me. With chia it’s different‚Ķ‚Ķ.I am fully¬†committed¬†to the humble chia seed, it¬†won’t¬†enter my life for a few weeks of dabbling only to be pushed to the back of the¬†cupboard, lonely and forgotten! Chia has a firm place in my kitchen and has made itself very comfortable.

I wasn’t at first convinced when my first bag of chia arrived and as they bounced along my kitchen work top I couldn’t help but think these tiny seeds seemed a bit, well small and fiddly. And anyway, how could such a tiny seed contain so much goodness? So much goodness.

Chia is yet another amazingly nutritious food from the superfood continent South America (quinoa, maca, lucuma, cocoa nibs- why do they have all the best ingredients?). Anyhow, first recipe in I really liked them but I loved them a whole lot more when I learnt about their nutritional attributes and impressive versatility within plant based recipes. Chia doesn’t have a truly distinct flavour ¬†but it has a unique consistency when combined with liquid, providing an excellent¬†base to add your own flavour and experiment with your favourite ingredients. I like to think of chia as a powerhouse nutritional canvas to get creative with!¬†Chia + liquid = very swollen seeds and a consistency that resembles tapioca pudding, all part of it’s secret weight regulating powers.

There’s a whole lot more to these Aztec wonder seeds and there’s very good reason(s) why they’re one of the big players in the realms of wellness. Here’s 7 of them:

  1. High in fibre so excellent for digestive function. Most of us could use more fibre and these contain a third of our daily requirements in just 2 tablespoons. We all know that a fibre rich diet keeps us fuller for longer, enabling us to maintain a healthy weight and beat cravings. These seeds swell to 10 times their original size when combined with water form a gel high in soluble fibre, which fills the stomach and satiates. Naturally, this fuller feeling reduces tendencies to over eat, so chia’s a weapon to any weight loss eating regime.
  2. A remarkable amount of antioxidants. Go away free radicals, ageing and cancer. Such high levels give chia a lengthy shelf life of up to 2 years.
  3. Calcium. Who needs dairy when you can get 1/5 of your daily needs from just 2 tablespoons, 5 times more than milk. These powerhouse seeds also contain sizeable amounts of magnesium and phosphorus.
  4. Good source of Protein. Made up of 30 % complete protein, containing all 9 amino acids in proper ratios,  they certainly give meat products a run for their money!
  5. No Gluten. Enough said.
  6. Brilliant egg replacer for plant based recipes. Mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 of water and leave for 10 minutes to thicken.
  7. One of the richest plant based sources of omega 3’s. In fact it contains 8 times more than salmon so is super for heart and brain health.

Bonus: I find chia helps fight fatigue, keeps me energised for longer and less likely to have late afternoon lethargy. I’m a recreational runner and find I am recovering quicker post exercise. Chia is a runner’s best friend.

So get cracking with an easy, feel good, filling chia pudding, a chia studded smoothie, sprinkle on cereal or make your own egg substitute.
Vanilla chia pudding

Start the day in spectacular fashion by making a yummy chia pudding!

Let’s all chia up!

Courgette & Quinoa Pizzas – GF

Courgette & quinoa pizzasThis isn’t strictly ‘pizza’ pizza but honestly, it’s just as tasty with a courgette base and of course it’s healthier. I didn’t know what to write in the title post – courgette or zucchini. I’ve always been a courgette person although zucchini is infinitely nicer sounding so I may even swap teams! It ‘s always interesting to see where others fall too, the same with aubergine/eggplant, coriander/cilantro and turnips/swedes. I witnessed a full blown argument with the last two, over whether it was indeed ¬†a swede or a turnip. It was definitely a swede but needless to say I stayed well out of it! I don’t even think it’s an American / English thing either as I’ve heard British people say zucchini and friends from the States have a preference for courgette. Anyway, it’s just one of those things that fascinates me, same goes for you say tom-ay-to, I say tom-ar-to, I say pot-ay-to, you say pot-ar-to! It’s probably just me but I love all these little differences and preferences in life.¬†Courgette & quinoa pizzas

Names and titles aside, these are neat little low carb pizzas with a good protein kick and 2 servings of vegetables. Sometimes you just want a lighter meal and these are the perfect way to lighten up. Pizza would work equally well in aubergine, mushrooms, beef tomatoes but I think courgettes (I mean zucchinis!) are pretty ideal and there was an abundance at the market this week. They’d be really tasty with some fresh baguette or pitta bread if you’re looking for a more substantial meal. We had them with some leftover spelt buttermilk bread which was really nice. These are super easy and can be made ahead of time for a quick grilling before teatime.¬†Courgette pizza process

Any cheese would be nice but mozzarella is a an ideal choice as it turns stringy and pizza like under the grill. The quinoa gives the stuffing a pleasing texture but also boosts the protein which along with the cheese makes a protein rich dish.Courgette pizzas with cheese

Are you in team courgette or team zucchini?

‘Zucchini’ & quinoa pizzas

(serves 2)

2 large courgettes, hollowed (see pictures)
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt & pepper
1/2 can chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup mozzarella, grated
handful chopped olives

Method:

1. Cut the courgettes in half and scoop out the insides. Put innards aside and place courgettes on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil & bake for 15 minutes at 180¬†¬ļC.
2. Lightly fry onion, garlic & courgette innards, adding the herbs and seasonings after 5 minutes followed by the tomatoes and cooked quinoa.  Simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Remove courgettes from the oven and fill the courgettes with the tomato quinoa mix. Dress with mozzarella and chopped olives. Place under a hot grill for 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and stringy.

Quinoa, Coconut & Blueberry Granola – GF & Vegan

Quinoa & blueberry granola

I was lucky enough to travel Peru last year and over the course of several weeks I ate my own body weight in this grain, what with daily helpings of quinoa cereal, quinoa soup and quinoa veggies! Needless to say, it was a tad overload and me and quinoa went on a break. Clearly this was just a temporary hitch because we’re now back in business, as we should be because this really is a super amazing whole grain. Just 1 cup of ¬†this cooked inca grain has more than 8 grams of protein and to me that’s pretty good BUT there’s more. Not only is the protein content impressive, it’s the type of protein that really gives this grain the winning edge. Quinoa (like chia seeds!) has the perfect balance of 9 amino acids and is therefore a COMPLETE protein, like the type found in meat. I make a point of arming myself with these lovely facts in answer to the ¬†well meant ‘but where do you get your protein from?’ queries! But it’s OK, quinoa is just one of many super protein sources available to vegetarians – I really like this post by ultraman Rich Roll on his top 7. Posts like this just reinforce how amazing a plant based diet is, it really does provides us with everything we need and much more.DSC_5877

Not only is quinoa is a vegetarian’s best friend, it’s pretty versatile stuff too. ¬†If you can cook rice, you can cook quinoa and like rice, it can be a breakfast, lunch or dinner. This super grain of the Incas is perfect for porridge, veggie stuffing, planting in salads, on it’s lonesome or as a base of crunchy, sweet, nutty granola. Quinoa granola works particularly well and it can be put together in a jiffy for a week’s worth of protein jacked breakfasts. The coconut oil and honey add a sweet smooth flavour to the clusters and allow the quinoa, oats and nuts to form a light crisp texture, kind of granola-esque!Granola ingredients

This cereal is packed full of healthy fats, protein and fibre, providing a satisfying and low GI start to the day. Adding fresh fruit will ramp up the vitamin and mineral content and fortified nut milks will give a calcium boost too. ¬†Delicious served with ice cold milk, on oatmeal, yoghurt or simply on it’s own from the jar.Granola & banana

Quinoa, coconut & blueberry granola

(6 servings)

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup gluten free oats
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup desiccated or shaved coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup coconut oil
3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180¬†¬ļC. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients except coconut oil & honey.
2. Melt the coconut oil & whisk in the honey. Add this to the large bowl & combine all the ingredients until thoroughly coated.
3. Place the mixture on a large baking tray and place in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Turn clusters over mid way through baking taking care not to over brown.

Note: If using larger sized nuts it’s advisable to add these at the start followed by smaller nuts & seeds half way through the total baking time for an even bake. The total bake time may need to extended by 5-10 minutes.

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