Iced mocha smoothie…for when you need a little more than coffee in the morning 

I’ve been dying to make this recipe for ages as we’ve been out of cacao powder for some time but after a trip to Sainsburys I am now stocked up and ready to make this dreamy smoothie!

Think iced coffee meets frappaccino but waaaaayyy healthier and only 6 ingredients so it’s an easy one to do.
Avocado gives a wonderfully creamy texture and the cacao and coffee are just an amazing combination! The sweetness comes from a little honey and some dates for some extra fibre too.

Avocado’s are a fantastic source of vitamin E which is beneficial to your immune system for fighting off infection and helps to keep your eyes and skin healthy. They are famously known for their monounsaturated good fats which contribute towards a healthy heart. One of the fatty acids found in Avocado’s is Linoelic acid which cannot be produced by the body so must be consumed in your everyday diet, so that’s good news for avo lovers!

It’s a really nice smoothie to make before work, especially when it’s a warm day as the caffeine wakes you up but it’s cold, icy and refreshing!

Ingredients
Serves 2

  • flesh of 1 avocado
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 handful of pitted dates
  • 3 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp honey – vegans could use maple syrup instead
  • 200 ml milk of choice (almond milk works well)

Method
Put the dates and the milk into a blender and blend until smooth.

Add in 3 large teaspoons of good quality instant coffee, I like to use Nescafe espresso instant which is a powder so it doesn’t need to be blended for long. If you are using granules you may have to leave it blending for slightly longer. However if you have the time and you own a cafetiere then it’s definitely worth making some fresh coffee (enough for 2 people) and pour the whole lot in. You can always add in more ice/milk/water if you want to make more too.

Add in the avocado flesh, 2 tbsp of cacao, honey, ice and top up with 300 ml water and blend until smooth and creamy! Let me know what you think 🙂

Mexican Inspired Quinoa Bowl


I’m a huge fan of Mexican food…pretty much anything with coriander and lime gets a thumbs up from me…add avocado into the mix and I’m in heaven! However I used to always associate this type of cuisine with heavy, carb-rich foods such as fajitas or quesedilla’s which are so yummy but not something I would necessarily consider healthy due to all of the processed dips, cheese and white wraps.

I wanted to incorporate the freshness of those flavours into something lighter, more nutritionally dense and less processed. So mexican quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) was the answer!

Quinoa is a such an amazing thing to cook with as it’s so versatile, you certainly aren’t going to buy it for one recipe and then never use it again… and with its neutral flavour it can be used with virtually any herbs and spices! It’s also available in many supermarkets, usually in the whole-foods isle so it’s not difficult to get hold of these days. Depending on where you shop the price can vary slightly but from Sainsbury’s a 300g bag is £1.80 and that will easily give you 6 servings, we usually get 4 good sized dinner portions and 2 slightly smaller lunch portions as left overs so its pretty good value for how far it will go!

Quinoa originates from the Andes and was a staple part of the diet, often referred to as the “gold of the Inca’s” due to its high nutritional value. Commonly referred to as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed of a grain so is suitable for those following a Paleo diet and as their bitter coating is removed when harvested this makes it easier to digest. It’s also a brilliant source of protein which is good for vegetarians, vegans and for those who may want to cut down on their meat intake but still keep their protein levels up. The seeds actually contain all of the 9 essential amino acids which the body can’t produce itself – making it a complete protein.

In my post “good fat – made easy”  I mentioned how  good fats fight inflammation which can negatively impact your cells and the immune system. Quinoa contains these healthy mono-unsaturated fats that help to do this and they also contain a high level of manganese which is needed to keep bones and blood healthy.

Although the name might be hard to get your head around it’s so easy to cook so please don’t be afraid! It’s very similar to rice, give it a rinse and then cook your chosen quantity in double the amount of boiling water for 20 minutes.

The below recipe can be altered to your taste and to what you have in your cupboards but one thing you definitely need is the smoked paprika! This is a simple one pot dish packed full of flavour and involves  very little washing up! It’s got a combination of Mexican and spanish flavours, so if you love tapas or paella then this is for you and it’s suitable for vegans!
Serves 2

  • Quinoa x 150g
  • Passata x 390 (or you could use a can of chopped tomatoes)
  • Garlic x 2 cloves
  • Red Onion x 1 large
  • Sweetcorn x 1/2 cup can be fresh or frozen
  • Peas x 1/2 cup – can be fresh or frozen (if either are frozen they don’t need to be defrosted!)
  • Pepper x 1 (optional)
  • Fresh Coriander x 1 handful roughly chopped with stalks
  • Avocado x 1 chopped into small chunks
  • Black eyed beans x 1 can drained
  • Vegetable stock cube – try to get the lowest sodium you can find in 200ml of boiling water
  • Juice of 1 Lime
  • Smoked Paprika X 3-4 tsp
  • 1 tsp of Cumin
  • salt and pepper to season
  1. Finely chop the onion, pepper and garlic
  2. Sautee the onion and garlic in a pan over a medium heat
  3. Once they are soft, add the pepper and stir occasionally for 5 minutes
  4. Pour the quinoa into a sieve and rinse with water then add to the pan along with the passata
  5. When the quinoa is fully coated in the passata add the peas, sweetcorn, smoked paprika, cumin and black eyed beans along with the stock and season to taste with salt and pepper
  6. Turn the heat up high for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly and then reduce back down to a medium heat for a further 10 minutes
  7. Add the chopped coriander, the lime juice and stir well.  Check at this point to see if you need any extra paprika… you honestly can’t have too much in this dish!
  8. Finally add the chopped avocado into the quinoa a couple of minutes before serving so that it still retains it’s consistency but is heated through…or if you prefer serve on the side with a wedge of lime!

 

 

 

 

 

Good fat – made easy

 

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I for one have always been confused when it came to fat. We have had it drummed into us for years about how fat is, well, making us fat!

So I thought I would have a look at the facts about fat to see what the different types are and how they impact our bodies.

For a long time low fat products have been considered the healthy alternative but despite the low fat/low calorie market being one of the biggest there is, people aren’t getting any slimmer or more importantly… healthier.

This is because when you remove the fat from something, the flavour usually goes with it! So often the fat will be replaced with sugar, which is even worse, leaving you feeling unsatisfied.

One of the great things fat does, is it signals to the brain that you are full. Fat and protein are the main nutrients that have this function, so getting fats into your diet everyday will make you feel fuller for longer and it’s very beneficial for your health.

We do need fat as part of a healthy balanced diet but it’s so important to know what types of fats are going to benefit you. Fat is essential for our bodies as it provides energy and there are many vitamins which are fat-soluble, meaning they need to be consumed with fat in order for the goodness to be absorbed. Vitamins A, D, E & K are all fat-soluble and are great for things like glowing skin, strong bones, a healthy immune system and ensuring your blood clots.

 The three main types of fats are:
  1. Monounsaturated
  2. Polyunsaturated
  3. Saturated

Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated are the “good fats” I believe we should try to consume daily to maintain our good (HDL) cholesterol levels and keep our hearts healthy.

Monounsaturated fats help to improve insulin sensitivity, which has a huge impact on the risk of type 2 Diabetes and it’s also great at protecting your cells from damage.

These are mainly plant based and can be found in; avocado’s, IMG_1141almonds, peanuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, olives, olive oil, rapeseed oil.

 

Polyunsaturated fats are similar to the above but have the all-important fatty acids. Omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish are crucial for us, as our bodies cannot produce it themselves. They are amazing for heart health too as they help to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attacks and reduce blood pressure.

Polyunsaturated fats can be found in oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, trout) flax seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, sesame seeds and leafy greens.

One of the other great things these two fats do is fight inflammation, which can negatively impact the body in so many ways. Chronic inflammation has been linked to many major health issues like cancer, diabetes and arthritis which is why it’s recommended you eat oily fish at least twice a week. This doesn’t have to be expensive though, I usually have good quality fresh fish for one evening meal and then have lots of tinned mackerel and sardines in the cupboards as they are cheap and are easy to throw into a salad/pasta/quinoa dish.

Saturated fats usually come from animal products such as cheese, meat, processed meats and dairy products such as butter, cream. They are usually solid at room temperature and because of this it is used in a lot of processed foods to give them a longer shelf life.

Saturated fat (for the most part) is the stuff I believe you should try keep to a minimum in your diet. Saturated fat is high in things like red meat and is said to increase the bad LDL cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease and strokes.

However, there are a few exceptions to the rule and coconut oil is one of them!

Coconut oil and many coconut varieties are high in saturated fat but are so good for you and this is due to the fatty acids they are made up of.

Medium-chain triglycerides (fatty acids) are very easy for your body to breakdown and convert into energy and can be absorbed into cells quickly. Most other saturated fats are made up of long-chain triglycerides that require special enzymes to break them down, so often they are stored as fat straight away causing problems for your heart and cholesterol.

Increasing your intake of good fats is so easy to do and doesn’t have to be expensive.

As amazing as it would be to have smashed avocado and fresh smoked salmon every day (I wish!) having a handful of nuts and seeds daily will give your health such a boost.

Sprinkle them on salads and soups, stir into your porridge or smoothie, you could even make up some healthy fat salad dressing with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. All natural nut butters are another great way to get healthy fats  in but just make sure they don’t contain any palm oil or additives.

Or… you could just keep it simple and take a little bag of mixed nuts and seeds to work with you or keep in your bag if hunger strikes!

I hope this post has made the idea of fats a bit simpler, less scary and will hopefully encourage you to eat more of the good stuff!