Gluten free is a no-go for me

Gluten free. Saying “bye bye” to bread and cakes and everything in between – been there, done that, bought the Tshirt, ripped it up and now it is in the bin.

Nothing as drastic as that in reality, but in my mind that’s the relief I now feel.

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Being ‘gluten free’ in the UK is a common phrase. You could say, ‘it’s having a moment’. We overhear conversations in the street, see it on menus in restaurants, aisles dedicated to products of the kind are growing bigger and bigger in the supermarkets, and companies are using it on their packaging as a marketing ploy for people to buy it, as gluten free means it’s healthier….

HOWEVER if you are coeliac or have Crohn’s Disease, gluten most definitely should be steered well clear of. Thankfully for those of you unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with coeliacs diease the quality of gluten free products has improved drastically over the past few years, people are more aware of what it entails and being actually able to eat something other than lettuce leaves is proving easier than ever.

Back to the gluten free tribe. We seem to have had this idea hammered into our minds that a food with the gluten removed is virtuous. Gluten is the devil that is causing all of our ailments in this modern day. Bloating, constipation, leaky gut, headaches, weight gain, depression, you name it gluten will the reason and once removed you will be healthy and this aura of wellness will surround you forevermore. Scrolling through Instagram you see bloggers saying how they’re gluten, dairy and wheat free excluding it completely from their diets and vowing to never eat some sliced white again. In the news, guaranteed there is a headline at least once a week stating that cutting gluten from your diet will be the magic cure supposedly to cancer and Alzheimer’s (?!?!?). I used to believe, wandering down the free from aisle in Tesco, that I was doing myself some good. Picking up that gluten free bread, perhaps some bakewell tarts and a box of gluten free granola (all gluten and dairy free of course), that I was being healthy. Still eating toast with jam (more, jam with toast in my case), snacking on sweet pastries and cakes and baking with gluten free flours convinced that what I was doing was the right thing. As I’m sure many still do.

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In cafes we see cakes, cookies and brownies – without the gluten – appearing more and more frequently. I’d assume the thought passes through most peoples’ minds, that they wouldn’t dream of having a piece of normal cake, but that gluten free brownie is a no brainier. Compare the ingredients of your usual bread and its gluten free counterpart. First thing you will surely notice is the huge markup in price for something which is at least half the size, it feels like a dense rock and there will be so many unknown ingredients and added things you wouldn’t expect to see in bread to just keep it all stuck together. Next try the gluten free brownie, I’m reckoning the sugar content will be much higher as when you remove one thing it has to be replaced with something else to keep the flavour. And what’s cheaper than white sugar and vegetable fats?

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So what even is gluten? Well, it’s a protein. Gluten is not bread. Found naturally in wheat, spelt, rye and barley and added to convenience foods and sauces where it is used as a thickener. It’s what gives bread that good bounce and chew, and ensures your cake isn’t a pile of crumbs. So it is not the maker of all evil or spawn of the devil it is in fact protein. Perhaps by removing gluten from our diets we are missing out on a source of protein, which is something we all seem to be striving for more of nowadays?

If you’ve ever tried excluding something from your diet you will know how much of a shadow it casts over your life. You see the evictee everywhere you look, bread rolls shopping for milk, toast running for the bus, and croissants playing football in the street. You want it more and more, crave bread at every meal, spend hours in your day searching for where to eat with gluten free options, worrying about that pizza night your friends are planning and what you are going to eat and in the end probably end up crying into half a loaf of bread and butter.

Sucks to be gluten free.

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So, yes, of course if you feel like you have some digestive issues go and see your doctor or a nutritionist or dietitian to get that thing checked out. Don’t cut things out of your diet ‘cos your best friend told you to’, or you want to be as skinny as that blogger on Instagram and she doesn’t eat gluten. Think about the poor people who are coeliac and have to avoid gluten for the rest of their lives. It isn’t a choice for them. Don’t go on a ‘gluten free diet’ to lose weight, if the bread basket is placed in front of you and you fancy some, have some bread, it’s NOT going to kill you!

I have most definitely stopped that gluten free escapade well in its tracks. I now struggle to get through a weekend without a visit to our local baker for a loaf of sourdough, and if that’s not accessible there’s always a stash of rye bread in my freezer. At work if there’s some Danish pastry going free, no way on earth am I going to pass that up, and I am never going to a pay a premium for gluten free oats when oats naturally are gluten free in the first place!! On the sourdough note, due to the grains being fermented it is far more digestible than breads using commercial yeast, never mind tasting better due to a longer prove, so sourdough sure is the way to go.

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When you switch to a wholefoods based diet, or even increase the amount of fruits, veggies, wholegrains and legumes on your plate, you will notice that as a result you are eating less gluten. I’m not preaching here, if you want to go by that label then please do, but for me I find it better to not put up any fences between me and bread. No I don’t eat it everyday, I don’t eat white pasta, or pizza on a regular basis, not for the reason that they contain gluten, more for the fact that I base my diet on lovely veggies, beans, nuts and wholegrains. When I have pasta it’s either wholemeal or spelt and if I go out for a pizza it will be a bloody good one (not one rummaed from the freezer).

This is one of the latest trendy diets, but just don’t fall for it. Save your money for an occasional treat, that coffee from your favourite café, a massage, a dinner out with a loved one, or visit your local shops to buy some local produce and cook up a mega meal. Lots of plants is where it seems to be at, and I reckon it will be sticking around for a long time. And this diet sure ain’t a fad, this one’s a keeper!

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Carrot and lentil patties

If you know me fairly well, then you will know of the huge pile of cookbooks I own. Let’s say two huge piles. It’s become a bit of an addiction of mine. I’m that person who reads cookbooks from front to back and whenever I have a spare moment will happily flick through. Each birthday and Christmas I will, rest assured, add one or two new additions to my collection and swiftly forget about the others. Brutal, I know. I do have my absolute favourites though, that I return to time and time again, the tried and tested which are guaranteed to please. But even those recipes are few and far between, saved for when we are feeding guests or want a dish that I know will be a knockout, no stressin’! The rest of the time is dictated by what I’ve seen on blogs, TV, Instagram and most importantly the contents of my fridge.

That’s where the magic is!

 

At lunch I always feel the need for a falafel or patty, whatever you name it, something to finish off my bowl of veggies and grains and that will sit nicely with that obligatory hummus dollop. I always have the intention of making some but then get too hungry so end up going without or I don’t have any beans or grains already cooked (the whole point of a recipe like this is for making something out of the leftovers). Often too, I’ve had the intention of making a big batch to freeze but they end up dry, only palatable if smothered in a TONNE of dressing (make it a tahini one and its not a bad thing). I suppose given that I don’t follow recipes and add a little bit of this, take out that as we don’t have any in the cupboard, it’s guaranteed that many of my attempts will end up in the bin. It’s all a process of learning, except for those times when you don’t remember your mistakes and make them numerous times. The EXACT SAME ONES. Been there.

 

 

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Pre-bake, with a dusting of polenta for that much needed CRUNCH

 

This occasion however was a day for success. Thank the food gods. 

These carrot and lentil patties, came out unscathed, crunchy on the outside, and just what my lunch bowl was needing. Here I used some french lentils that I had overcooked, but any other beans or lentils would suffice just make sure to give them a bit of a mash first. The grated carrot could be changed to courgette or beetroot, any fresh herbs, omit the cheese all together or use more or less (I would’ve added more but it was the end of the block) feta would be nice, as would cheddar or some Parmesan. I haven’t tried making something like this without egg, it’s a great binding agent, but I’d assume a flax egg would work in the same way. And if they don’t hold together, well it just won’t be a plate to photo for Instagram I suppose. Sandwich in between your favourite bread or in a wrap, these would also be brilliant bites for a savoury energy ball. I find snacks rely too heavily upon dates and nuts, so one or two of these would be a great alternative.

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Carrot and lentil patties

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of lentils
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated/crumbled cheese
  • Handful of fresh herbs, any mixture of basil, parsley, coriander, mint
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • Polenta for coating
  • Oil

Method

  1. Put the lentils in a large bowl and mash slightly so half are crushed and half are still left whole.
  2. On a box grater grate the carrot and add to the bowl along with the cheese.
  3. Finely chop the herbs and add to the lentil mixture along with the spices, oats and some seasoning and mix well.
  4. Crack in the egg and mix again to form quite a wet mixture.
  5. Leave in the fridge for at least 30 mins to firm up slightly.
  6. Heat the oven to 200/180C fan and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or a silicone sheet.
  7. With damp hands form the lentil mixture into 8 patties and place on the baking sheet.
  8. Brush with some oil and sprinkle over the polenta, this is what will give the crunch.
  9. Bake in the oven for 15 mins until firm and slightly golden.
  10. Will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for a few months.

Side note: if you plan on freezing the patties, bake for a little less time, around 10-12 mins then leave to cool before freezing. Place back in the oven when you want some from frozen until crispy and piping hot in the middle, this will ensure that they won’t dry out.

 

So here’s to happier lunchtimes and turning those droopy leftovers into something new.

Get rolling those patties!!

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Radicchio, courgette and goats cheese cauliflower pizza

So in the fridge you have a small chunk of cauliflower, a courgette, some radicchio and some stray basil. Not enough to make a mean veggie bowl filled with grains and a killer dressing, and we’d eaten pasta the night before so that was off the books. My mum isn’t the biggest fan of cauliflower unless I completely mask it with loads of spices, and no avocado is just real sad. You see come Friday it’s the end of the week and the day when I always like to cobble the leftover contents together, and miraculously make a veggie meal for my mum and I. Thank god it’s also the day when my dad goes out to the dirty beer shop (AKA the pub) so doesn’t eat with us, meaning less panic on my behalf due to the lack of meat.

(That’s not to say that I don’t eat meat, im not vegetarian or vegan I just prefer to eat plant based the majority of the time)

I kept wandering to the fridge that day, back and forth racking my brain for what to make for dinner that will use up the odds and ends, but obviously still taste really good. Peeking into the corners and behind the drawers in hope that something had fallen and become lost, no luck there, and if it had, probably would be from a few weeks back and starting to digest itself. Only one thing was on my mind, it had to be pizza. Cauliflower pizza that is. I’m not one to say that this is better than the real thing and you would never know it doesn’t contain gluten, as A. it’s not and B. you would. A proper pizza when done well, a slow risen dough to produce a thin crispy crust, puddles of mozzarella, fresh herbs and a smatter of a tomato sauce, if that’s what you’re expecting cauliflower pizza will never live up to that standard. It’s pretty shameful to even compare it to pizza, it shouldn’t be a substitute for when you’re on a ‘health kick’ or ‘detox’, both should be eaten with enjoyment because they both taste pretty fabulous. It’s same same, but different!

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I’ve made this pizza many times, for a Friday night, shared with my mum over a glass of wine. I make a thick tomato sauce spiked with a heavy helping of garlic and fiery chilli along with some oregano and a squirt of tomato purée for some depth. Sometimes I’ll whizz up a pesto with fresh herbs, masses  of lemon and a handful of nuts and some oil, lovely drizzled over before serving for that fresh and zingy hit. The toppings are completely adaptable. This time we had roasted courgettes, radicchio and tomatoes, but try a selection of peppers, mushrooms, roast aubergine, artichokes, capers, olives and sweetcorn (which caramelises and goes slightly crispy, we fight over those bits). Then a good scatter of cheese, feta is always a guaranteed pleaser, but some goats cheese is rather good too. Then just before serving a large handful of some vibrant greens like watercress or rocket, drizzle with oil and a squeeze of lemon. Simple, full of veggies, uses up odds and ends and most importantly tastes really very good.

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Radicchio, courgette and goats cheese cauliflower pizza

Adapted from Hemsley and Hemsley’s Flower Power pizza

Ingredients

Pizza base

  • 140g cauliflower
  • 1 egg white
  • 50g gram/chickpea flour
  • 40g buckwheat flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Tomato sauce

  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1/2 tin plum tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Big pinch of chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Toppings

  • 1 courgette
  • 1/2 radicchio
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Cheese, I used a hard goats cheese, but feta, soft goats cheese or mozzarella would also work nicely
  • Pine nuts, toasted
  • Fresh basil
  • Salad leaves, I had a mix of rocket, watercress and spinach
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan. Chop the courgette into rounds, drizzle with oil, place in a roasting tin in the oven for around 20-30 minutes until golden and caramelised
  2. Next make the base. Put the cauliflower in a food processor and blitz until it looks like couscous. Add the other ingredients and whizz until you form a damp dough.  If you don’t have a food processor you can grate the cauliflower on a box grater then mix with the other ingredients in a bowl, this will just take a little longer.
  3. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and grease lightly with oil. Spoon the dough on the sheet and spread out thinly, leaving a slightly raised edge. I like to keep it circular for aesthetic reasons (we do eat with our eyes) and around 25cm diameter is a good size to aim for.
  4. Bake in the oven for 15 mins, flip over and bake for 5 mins more.
  5. Meanwhile for the tomato sauce, add some oil to a saucepan and place on a low heat, finely chop the garlic and add to the pan and sizzle until it starts to turn slightly golden.
  6. Squeeze in the tomato purée and cook it for a few minutes, then tip in the tinned tomatoes mush them up with a fork, fill the tin halfway with water and add to the pan also. Add the oregano and chilli flakes and simmer until thick and spreadable, check for seasoning and set aside.
  7. Flip the pizza base so it’s the right way up and spread in the tomato sauce, leaving a rim around the edge.
  8. Slice the radicchio thinly and the cherry tomatoes in half, and place on the pizza along with the roast courgette and some chopped fresh basil if you have it.
  9. Grate the cheese (if it is a hard one) or crumble as much as you like over the pizza, then place back in the oven for 10 mins.
  10. When it’s cooked, serve on a board with a drizzle of oil and a handful of salad greens.

I’d love to hear what your favourite way with leftovers is, or your favourite pizza toppings. And it is true that leftovers make the best meals, always far better the second time round  (especially if paired with a nice glass of wine).

Happy munching my lovelies

X

March moments

It’s here again, another month has passed by and March is coming to its end. This past week it has turned from Winter to Springtime, when on Saturday the clocks here in the UK SPRANG forward one hour. Waking to bright gleaming mornings with the birds cheeping is my favourite thing about this time of year. I always like to leave my curtains slightly open to let the sunlight beam through the gap and wake me up gradually. There seems to be an aura around this season, once the dreary weight of winter has lifted we all wander round with the sun on our faces (if we’re lucky) and a rosiness to our cheeks. Walks outdoors without the numerous layers, the arrival of gloriously pink rhubarb, knobbly asparagus and those grubby Jersey Royal potatoes and daffodils and crocuses peeping out from the soil. Not to forget the baby lambs that will soon be dotting the fields, spring is the moment for new life and beginnings in nature and in our lives too. Perhaps adding a new thing into your daily routine like a morning stretch, having a good ‘spring clean’ of your wardrobe or kitchen cupboards or starting that creative project you have always had on the backburner, it is the perfect time for that. These brighter longer days leave us brimming with boundless energy as we come out of hibernation and back into the world outside our front doors.

Not that this months’ musings have been getting me outside, the majority of March has been cold and very very rainy. Cherishing these last winter moments has been my port of call, wrapped in a blanket in my pyjamas. That’s the one thing that is so great about winter, but so long for now and we shall see you in 6 months time.

 

#1 Blogilates

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I’m not a runner. How I wish I was. Neither am I the sort to go to the gym or do a HIIT workout being shouted at to go faster, faster. FASTER!

no thank you very much.

Now exercise is vital for me, but I have learnt over the past year or so that heart racing and sweat inducing activities aren’t what my body responds to well. I find my long limbs cumbersome, and the words BABY GIRAFFE spring to mind. I like to exercise to improve my muscle tone, remain flexible and most importantly keep my mind in check. The only way I find this possible is by doing activities that I enjoy and mixing it up a little to not get bored. For those of you as lazy as me, and don’t want to make yourself look half decent before getting hot and flustered again, the stay at home workout will be just for you. I like to do workout videos on YouTube and Blogilates has been my go to this month. Cassey makes exercising fun. TRULY! Each video is only around 10 or 15 minutes long so it doesn’t need to take hours out of your already busy schedules, but I can guarantee you will finish with quaking abs, breath deepened and a slight sweat on your brow. Give Blogiates a go, and trust me you will get addicted!

 

#2 A Man Called Ove

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After going through all my books to read on my kindle I was rather stuck. I tend to go to my mum for recommendations but considering I’d read them all it was up to me to find the next good read. We do have a very similar taste, my mum and I. Post-apocalyptic Earth or sci fi always tend to feature, but sometimes you just don’t want to be reading about one of the many possibilities that our lives on this planet will come to an end or about being probed by aliens. Sometimes you just need a good giggle and maybe a little cry too. that’s all that I’m asking for. I came across this book, A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, a New York Times bestseller which tends to mean its a good’un. Dark humour, heart-warming merged with sadness, a book about life (I’m sure the main characters many of you will find quite relatable). If you’re stuck for what to read next, I really do recommend this, and if you’ve already read it please do give me your recommendations. I’m open to anything, the only thing it has to be is GOOD!!

 

#3 Beauty and the Beast

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It has always been my favourite of the Disney films. For my 6th birthday I got the Christmas Belle outfit so of course wore it to my party, and consequently it still fitted me when I was 16 so wore it to a Halloween party, albeit it was very short. I always wanted to be Belle when I was younger, and when I think back now its not the best goal in life to want to achieve – pretty much unattainable – thank god since then I have formed some other aspirations. The classic Disney film has now been made remade into a new film for 2017 but this time it isn’t animated. It came out the other week so me and my mum had a lovely lunch out together followed by Beauty and the Beast. We did both come out of it crying and singing ‘Be Our Guest’ for the rest of the day. Full of all the same songs as the original, sometimes a bit of showy flamboyancy (that’s for the 3D) but apart from that it really is such a good film and one that I’m glad I didn’t wait for to come on the telly. If this sunny weather doesn’t persist go and watch it in the cinema, you will want to clap at the end, we did!

 

#4 Burford Brown Eggs

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Eggs. Whether they’re poached, scrambled or fried whichever way you take yours the yolk has to be golden and oozy right? RIGHT. When buying eggs I feel you have to buy the best you can afford, always free range and preferably organic. I try to buy local when I can too, but sometimes that’s just not practical and a trip to the supermarket has to suffice. I’ve recently been buying the Burford Brown Eggs, they have a speckley brown shell with promise of a deep orange yolk. The rare breed hens are fed a vegetarian diet rich in corn ensuring that deeply coloured yolk. Yes you do have to pay a little more for them but this ensures the birds have a nice life and have the option to roam, also not forgetting the flavour surely that’s the most important thing of all. You can find them in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Co-op and many health food shops across the country.

 

#5 Kefir

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One of my favourite programs was back this month on the BBC, Trust Me I’m a Doctor. A show debunking the myths and giving us the facts backed up by scientific proof. It’s ever so interesting and obviously with the rise of healthier lifestyles there is a lot of episodes featuring the latest trends and whether or not they work. Think turmeric, nitrates for improved exercise performance, and most recently probiotics. In this episode they were researching wheather probiotics (in the form of a supermarket yogurt drink), prebiotics (the foods that feed your gut bacteria like bananas, onions and artichokes-things high in inulin) or fermented foods (in this case kefir) was the most beneficial for our gut health. After a few weeks of testing they came to the conclusion that fermented foods are the things that will actually increase the number of good bacteria in our guts. So on the back of this of course I had to have a go myself.

I’ve had many attempts in the past – majority failed – of DIY fermented foods, sauerkraut, a killed sourdough starter, abandoned kombucha (to name a few). Kefir is made simply from some grains that you leave to ferment in whole organic milk for 24 hours, after this it thickens and turns slightly sour (think pouring yogurt) with a fizzy effervescence. Lovely on muesli instead of milk, as a substitute for buttermilk or yogurt in baking, blended into a smoothie or just drank straight up! Now though I do have a glut in my fridge at home, so I’m on the search for recipes to get it used up.

 

I can’t  wait until next month to share all my new discoveries and findings, but until then.

Love and sunny wishes for April and beyond

X

 

Stumped about sugar?

Sugar. White and ‘processed’, dark brown, golden syrup, maple syrup, sweets, honey, toffee, caramel, fruit, dried fruit, coconut sugar, Stevia, molasses. Whatever your mind conjures up when I mention this buzzword, we have all been paying particular attention the past year or two to this meddling carbohydrate.

The word refined-sugar has been thrown around by health bloggers, newspapers and the media, a term supposedly describing types of sugar that have gone through a form of processing and had all ‘goodness’ removed. Countless recipes stream down your Pinterest feed that are labelled refined sugar free. Millionaire shortbread bars, brownies, cakes, cookies, all our favourite sweet treats made allegedly healthier. So eating the whole batch in one go is fine, because its not made with sugar right??

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Along with clean eating, gluten free, dairy free, low carb, all these diets which are becoming the norm, refined sugar free is another which has been added to the extensively long list. We are told day after day that sugar is the devil, no longer fat as we used to believe. That it causes cancer, diabetes, obesity, the main ailments that are  putting such a strain on our NHS and healthcare services. Of course sugar is a main ingredient in things such as fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes and biscuits, but does everyone think to look on the back of packets of sauces, ready meals, condiments, flavoured nuts and crisps? Take a flick through your cupboards and I’m sure you will be surprised at how thinly sugar manages to spread itself.

First things first, sugar isn’t all too great for us, just to put it straight. It’s found naturally in most foods like fruit, vegetables, grains, dairy, its very high in energy which in turn gives us energy to move, breathe and basically live. The thing we need to watch out for is added sugars or free sugars as you may often see it written. This term defines products where sugar has been added and isn’t found there naturally. Think of syrups, fizzy drinks, the sugar in your tea or coffee and even in fruit juices. When it comes to free sugars we have the choice of whether to add them or not, unlike total sugars such as lactose in milk and ones found in fruits and vegetables. For adults it’s recommended in the UK that we consume no more than 30g of added sugar every day. That 30g is quite difficult to picture in your head, so think about it like this, 7 tsp/sugar cubes MAX, and for children this number is obviously lower.

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In 2016, Jamie Oliver started the Childhood Obesity Strategy, in a ploy to crack down on increasing obesity rates in the UK. Some of many things he was campaigning for, a sugar tax, a ban on junk food advertising pre-watershed, clearer labelling including a visual sugar content, and reduction in manufacture for excessive sugar. If you watched Jamie’s Sugar Rush you will have seen the impacts that it is having on us all across the world, especially those consuming a typically ‘western diet’. After his petition going to debate in the commons, the government failed to accept the majority of his pleas, only compromising with the sugar tax with no given amount as of yet.

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We are all more aware now of the sugar content in things. I think we’re heading in a good direction, eating more consciously and lower sugar the majority of the time and eating the odd brownie if you fancy it, HELL why not! Of course it’s not going to do you any damage. That REAL brownie is surely going to satisfy that craving more than a sweet potato one full of maple syrup or agave syrup. My main issue is the group of people calling a sin on refined sugar-white caster sugar or soft brown sugar-meanwhile pouring bottles of maple syrup on their 2 ingredient pancakes or baking cakes with coconut sugar as it contains lots of minerals so its better for us.

I’m not a nutritionist or a dietitian, but I know well enough that sugar is sugar. No matter what you want to call it, our body sees all types of sugar in the same way. Whether it’s raw honey, agave syrup or caster sugar, it gives us energy, any extra is stored as fat and doesn’t give us any health benefits. It is true that maple syrup contains potassium, magnesium, zinc and calcium. It’s also true that coconut sugar contains electrolytes and vitamin C along with loads of other minerals, and yes raw honey is antibacterial (perfect if you have a sore throat) however you would have to eat a ton of any of these to reap any benefits. The amount of sugar consumed would obviously then outweigh the ‘good for you’ label.

Another group of people are the sugar free crusaders, shoving all types of sugar containing foods aside, including fresh fruit. That means no syrups, no apples, bananas, possibly the odd portion of berries because they’re ‘lower in sugar’, no dried fruit, juice only if its green made completely from vegetables. You see, I went through this phase, thinking I was doing the right thing. In the sugar free phase, I found I was opting for lots of nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt, avocados, things quite high in fat to fill in that sugar free hole. It wasn’t a great time, and seriously what is wrong with fruit?!? NOTHING, EXACTLY. Fruit contains fibre and lots of it, and if you’ve read my blog before you’ll know all too well that we need a lot of roughage in our diets. Dried fruit too contains lots of fibre, prunes have a reputation for a reason, so sprinkle them on your breakfasts and include them in your diets.

Happily now, I’ve managed to bring myself to a middle ground, keeping my overall added sugar levels to a minimum, but not putting a big red cross over it for the rest of eternity. There is nothing wrong with a little of the sweet stuff. No matter the source of origin your body will recognise it as glucose or fructose-just organic molecules-they aren’t separated into groups whether they came from a medjool date or a sugar cube. Remember those 7 tsp of added sugar to keep an eye on daily, and if you’re a lover of a sweet cuppa perhaps its a good time to start reigning it in. Take it slowly, stretched out over a few weeks and your taste buds will soon adjust.

Changing the odd daily habit will make a huge benefit to your diet in the long run:

  • When baking reduce the quantity of sugar by a third in recipes. It’s the maximum amount of sugar to remove without it affecting the structure and texture of the bake, but the flavour is still just as good.
  • Buy natural yogurt instead of sweetened and add your toppings and mix-ins to your own taste.
  • Instead of having jam or marmalade with butter on toast every morning for breakfast, try a spread of peanut, almond or even cashew butter with some sliced banana. The combination of high protein nut butter with the sugar from the fruit and carbohydrates from the bread will keep you going until lunchtime.
  • If you’re a big fan of fizzy and soft drinks, and water just is tasteless and boring, try infusing jugs of water with fresh fruits, citrus, herbs or vegetables. Things like mint, lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, berries, melon, as good as it sounds!
  • That chocolate bar is the only thing which gets you past 4pm? Banning it is not necessary, if you can learn to love dark chocolate. Preferably 70% or above, the higher the better, as it is lower in sugar and due to the deep intensity a few squares is usually enough.
  • If dairy free milks are your jam, check on the ingredients list. On many of them, sugar will be the second or third on the list. Opt for the unsweetened varieties, or ones made with rice for some natural sweetness.

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Let’s put a stop to this term refined sugar free. It’s defunct. Its all the same stuff. Sprinkling coconut sugar on your Rice Krispies sure ain’t no better than sprinkling white sugar on. So save those extra £££s (that stuff is expensive) and stick to a bowl of porridge!

Thanks for reading my little rant, if you have anything else to add or want to join in the conversation please do comment below.

Until next time, love and sweet blessings

X

 

 

Golden ginger pancakes

So I missed it. Shrove Tuesday that is, or Pancake day if you wish. This year, February the 28th, was the National Day of the Pancake. Fat, thin, puffed, rolled, however you take it, across the country Brits were flipping their pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I did have a pancake recipe planned, but for no other reason than I just didn’t get round to it, it wasn’t posted in time. Soz Guys.

Last Tuesday, eating pancakes for every meal of the day was of course allowed. It’s kinda obligatory as when else can you do it?? An indulgence that’s not frowned upon whether you’re 8 or 80, and if a whole jar of Nutella is consumed in one serving, no fingers will be pointed!! I’m not really a Nutella girl, my go-to is lemon and sugar however I updated it a little this year. Chunks of tart cheek-sucking blood orange and grapefruit, lemon juice and a good drizzle of local honey. That was swiftly followed by another spread liberally with the milk jam I spoke about in my last post. No need for an explanation, I’m sure you can all imagine the heavenlyness that graced my mouth.

Preceding the sweet pancakes there always has to be a savoury version in my house, and not too many as we don’t want to be too full for the MAIN event now do we?!? Obviously there’s no american pancakes allowed on pancake day, crepes are where it is at and so the batter doubles both for the savoury and the sweet. In the past I’ve made a version of the french galette, the crepes made from buckwheat flour a deep nutty smoky flour that when poured thin and crispy and wrapped around ham and Comte cheese sizzled under the grill with a handful of lemony spiked salad on the side, it’s simple, unadulterated but hits the spot. Or for the veggies, pear, cheddar, walnuts and some honey, or mushrooms spinach and a runny fried egg perched on top. Balances out the oncoming sugar-hit but leaves enough of a hole to eat at least one or two more pancakes!

Pancakes are a thing eaten worldwide, probably in every country, in many many different variations. So we all know the French crepe, and the American pancakes, thick fluffy and the size of your face. Hop across the continents to Asia where pancakes are a regular for breakfast. In South India there is the masala dosa. A pancake made by fermenting ground lentils and rice, spread so thinly you could read the newspaper through it, filled with a spiced potato mix and served with a lentil sambol and coconut chutney. Or in Sri Lanka there is the hopper. A coconut infused rice crepe with an egg cooked inside, topped with curries and chutneys. We all have grown up with the Chinese crispy duck pancakes, and one not so dissimilar is the banh xeo found in Vietnam. A coconut and turmeric spiced pancake typically stuffed with pork and prawns, mushrooms and raw crunchy vegetables alongside a dipping sauce heavy on the fish sauce called nuoc cham.

I wanted to stay seasonal this year, so for pancake day as the savoury course I opted for a spiced roast squash, sage and hazelnut pesto, spinach and some goats cheese (plus the sizzled chorizo for my dad, AKA meat fiend). We all enjoyed it so much it made me wonder why we don’t eat savoury pancakes more often, a brilliant way of cobbling together straggling leftovers from the fridge to make a wholly satisfying meal.

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Topped with blood orange and pink grapefruit, be pollen, sunflower seeds, yogurt, cashew butter, cinnamon and a drizzle of local raw honey

 

My recipe for you this time doesn’t actually involve crepes, sorry for the tease. Here’s a pancake recipe that can be used all year round, weekdays before work (yes they’re that quick) or for a long and relaxing weekend brunch. I threw this recipe together one morning, adapted from the two-ingredient pancakes I’m sure you’ve seen sneaking around on Pinterest. Originally it calls for one banana to two eggs, but by adding oats, bicarbonate of soda, spices, grated fresh ginger and ground linseeds it makes for an uber fluffy pancake.

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The banana in the batter makes them sweet so it’s not necessary to add any more sweetener, although a little drizzle of something never does any harm. Top with your favourite fruits, nut butter, chopped nuts or seeds and some yogurt and be prepared to lick the plate clean.

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Can you tell I was way too keen to get eating before I took these pictures?

 

Golden ginger pancakes

Serves 2-3 depending on your appetite

Ingredients

  • 1 large very ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp ground linseeds/flaxseeds
  • Milk, around 1/4 cup

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients except the milk to a high speed blender such as a Nutribullet and blend until a smooth very thick batter forms. Add the milk and blend again, if it is still too thick add a little more milk.
  2. If you don’t have a high speed blender, mash the banana well in a bowl and whisk in the eggs. Substitute the rolled oats for oat flour or any other flour of your choice (wholemeal would be nice) and whisk well along with all the other ingredients. Add enough milk to thin the batter slightly as before.
  3. Place a frying pan on a medium high heat and add some oil. Brush the oil round to coat the base of the pan. When it is hot add ladlefuls of the batter, I usually manage 3 or 4 in a large pan, trying to keep them in a round-ish shape. When the edges start to set and there are loads of little bubbles on the surface flip the pancakes and leave to cook for 1 or 2 minutes more.
  4. Whilst you finish cooking the rest of the pancakes, put the cooked ones on a plate and cover with a tea towel. Put in a low oven to keep warm.
  5. Once all the pancakes are cooked serve as many as you wish, piled with your favourite fruit and toppings.

 

Treat yourself with love,care and a nice breakfast, and a successful day will surely follow. Love and breakfast wishes (and a very, very belated Happy Pancake Day to you!!)

X

 

The new nut milk

Here’s a little quickie, more of a method than an actual recipe. The recent rise of people going dairy free or cutting down on dairy consumption with a switch to plantbased milks has grown exponentially. I personally have no issue with dairy, and wouldn’t cut it out of my diet as #1 I have done it before and it was pure evil, #2 I love yogurt and cheese too much. Like way way too much!

Also what’s wrong with cows milk, why is it being picked on so much recently by the media and certain health food bloggers and famous instagrammers? Are you avoiding it because someone else said you should or because you want to eat a ‘cleaner’ diet avoiding dairy, gluten, sugar and processed foods. Well perhaps take a peek at the ingredients list on your favourite almond milk brand, those ingredients sound very natural to you? Take a look at the side of a cows milk carton and whats on there, only one ingredient. Milk. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Now I’m not shunning plantbased milks, as I always have them in my fridge, nor am I shunning cows milk as even though its not my milk of choice I would anyday rather eat a cows milk yogurt over coconut or soya and a good chunk of cheddar cheese always hits the spot. I’m trying my best recently not to forbid anything in my diet because that just leaves guilt around certain products, if I fancy cheese, have some. Of course that small chunk isn’t going to make you fat, infact it is full of calcium and protein and satisfies that need so you’re not going to go crazy over the deprivation.

I feel that varying your diet up as much as possible is the best way to go, perhaps don’t start drinking plantbased milks for the so called benefits, do it because they can actually taste pretty good. Find the right brand and you’re onto a winner. If its a nut milk, one with a higher percentage of nuts is obviously the one to go for, otherwise it will be mainly water and possibly a bit of sugar completely lacking in any nutty flavour. Obviously it depends on your price bracket, I always like Rude Health and Plenish  as they taste plain lovely, but if you’re after something not extortionate in price or what you can just pick up in your Tesco Express then opt for Alpro unsweetened and Oatly is a good oat milk option. For the cheapest of the bunch if you’re not vegan or intolerant of course go for cows milk, I always like organic and full fat. We have so many options nowadays so chopping and changing between milks leaves our palates interested and not stuck in a monotonous rut!

For those of you fancying a bit of DIY? Maybe, if you are into your nut milks, and balk at the price of the good ones (when we’re talking £4 for a carton, that’s going a bit ridiculous), you can try making your own. Much easier than you might first think. All it requires is some nuts or seeds, water, a blender and a nut milk bag (failing that a clean tea towel).

It sounds quite the hassle, but there’s not much hands on time, and its quite fun to have a go for yourself. Even if you only do it the one time it’s worth a shot. Possibly some people do make their own nut milks on the regular however most people simply don’t have time for that. In that case do buy one from the supermarket, but this stuff tastes completely different to what you are used to, and it’s easy to get hooked!! Super creamy, so much more than supermarket brands, you can sweeten as you desire, use nuts or seeds that you would never discover on a shelf (toasted pecan cinnamon milk anyone?) and the process is so simple that it will give you a chance to get creative.

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Feel free to mix up the nuts, walnuts are lovely, or for a green hue to your milk try pistachios, sesame seeds have a lovely flavour and hazelnuts too. Perhaps try toasting your nuts or seeds prior to soaking for a deeper nutty aroma, or add other flavourings such as cinnamon, cardamom, cacao powder or blended fruits.

As the nuts have been soaked, real nut milk doesn’t keep as long as store bought. My carton in the fridge of a shop bought milk has kept for weeks with no hint of a sour, off flavour, whereas you may notice after 5 or so days the milk goes slightly sour. Not so great! So drink that up quick, it won’t be an issue as you will be drinking it at every opportunity you can find.

 

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Somebody’s been peeling beetroots!

 

When it comes to quantities I usually opt for 1 cup of nuts or seeds to 3-4 cups of water, depending on how thick or thin you like it. If the nuts are quite expensive you can use more water for a thinner milk but you get much more so it lasts longer. Try pouring on your porridge for some creaminess, splashed liberally over your muesli or granola, dunk warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, or just drink it chilled and straight up from the glass. If you like a higher protein content, you can leave the nuts in and miss out the straining step, that way it will be even richer and creamier. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to give that baby a good shake before using, as there’s no stabilisers or emulsifiers it will separate.

 

Almond and sesame milk

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw sesame seeds

 

Method

  1. Place the almonds and sesame seeds in a bowl and cover with water and a pinch of salt, put a plate on top and leave to soak overnight or for around 8 hours
  2. After the soaking period, drain the nuts and seeds and rinse well under water. Add to a blender and pour on top 3 cups of fresh water (not the soaking water).
  3. Blend well until it forms a creamy milky coloured liquid and there are no large chunks of almonds left. If you don’t have a stand blender add the nuts, seeds and water to a large bowl and blend with a stick blender, this may take a little while longer.
  4. Pour through a nut milk bag into a large jug or bowl and squeeze until all the liquid has passed through. You will be left with a damp flour left in the bag.
  5. Put the milk into a few screw lidded jars or a clip top bottle for up to 5 days in the fridge.
  6. Try to use up the nut pulp, put a heaped spoon in your smoothies, use it in bakes such as muffin recipes or macaroons, dry it in a low oven to make into almond flour or add to hummus and there’s even recipes to make nut cheese. Go wild.

 

I hope you will give homemade nut milk a chance to see how delicious it really can be, but don’t forget about our first friend cows milk he’s a fantastic breakfast fellow too. Whichever milk you choose, splash and pour with vigour, enjoy the gentle sweet creaminess and remember if you like it, that’s all that matters!!

Which variety of milk is your go to? And have you ever made your own nut milk before, let me know your ideas and tried and tested favourites in the comments below.

Much love and slurping!

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