Sweet and salty peanut butter ice cream shell

Hands up if you love ice cream!

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If like me you love the stuff then I think you will also love this sweet and salty peanut butter sauce. It goes really well with my current favourite – Alpro Hazelnut and Chocolate “ice cream” – which is dairy free, low in sugar and it does not disappoint. Anyone out there who can’t have dairy or chooses not to then you’ve gotta try it…it’s so creamy, I don’t know how they do it but it’s delicious.

I’ve got to admit… when I first made the recipe I hadn’t planned on it going solid when it cooled, I just wanted a little something extra that was as satisfying as toffee sauce but a healthier version! I’m really chuffed that it does though, it reminds me of when we were little getting ice cream from the lakes that was dipped in hot chocolate sauce which were always so good!

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Anyway whether you have it drizzled over porridge or a stack of pancakes it’s equally as nice but I just love how when you pour this sauce over ice cream, it hardens and forms a shell, ready to be cracked open!

This recipe can be whipped up in less than 5 minutes, so whilst you are waiting for your ice cream to soften a little you can make a quick batch of sauce. Its so good you’ll end up eating it out of the pan before it even makes it near your dessert bowl, did I mention that it’s completely vegan too…

Give it a try next time you have a cosy night in and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

Serves 2

Method

You can make this in a little saucepan or in a bowl in the microwave.

Heat the coconut oil over a medium heat until melted, add in the rest of the ingredients, stir well and serve!

The sauce is ideal for freezing too, just reheat in the microwave when you are ready to eat!

Maple, Pecan & Almond Granola

top view granola

For some strange reason, despite loving all things breakfast I have waited until now to make homemade granola. I literally have no idea why as every time I’ve looked up recipe ideas people always say how easy it is and that it makes you never want to get shop bought granola again… they weren’t lying!

This granola makes your home smell incredible and it tastes delicious… you could have this plain and simple with milk or layered between yoghurt and fresh fruit for a breakfast parfait.

Granola doesn’t necessarily shout ‘healthy’ to some, as those who usually get the shop bought kind know it contains very  high levels of sugar, sometimes even chocolate chips! However this granola  contains all of the main food components and only natural sugars…

Carbohydrates  Carbohydrates are one of food groups our body produces energy from but complex carbohydrates such as oats take a while for your body to breakdown meaning you stay fuller for a lot longer and you don’t have a sudden spike of insulin in your blood.
Protein You can use any nuts you like for this recipe but as almonds and pecans are some of my favourites I decided to use them. They are a great form of plant-based protein that fuels your body throughout the day, helping your muscles to grow and repair.
Fibre Granola as a whole is full of fibre and this makes it the ideal thing to eat for breakfast as it kick-starts your digestive system ready for the day, ensuring that everything is running smoothly. It reduces the amount of time food is travelling through your colon too which can help prevent harmful bacteria growing and leading to more serious health issues.
Vitamins/Minerals Seeds of all varieties are such an easy way of getting essential vitamins and minerals into your body. Pumpkin seeds are especially good for you as they contain Zinc, which is a real immune booster, helping to prevent disease.
Fat Coconut oil is high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and is made up of medium-chain fatty acids. This makes it easier for the body to absorb and convert into energy rather than storing as fat! Great for your heart, lowering your bad cholesterol levels and also your skin, hair and teeth too!

In spite of all the goodness these cripsy little clusters give you, I would make them just for the smell alone! I spent most of yesterday opening the jar and just smelling the comforting cinnamon and maple! Honestly its so easy to make and the taste is so amazing, much more flavoursome and with homemade you know exactly whats gone into it.

5 minutes to make and 30 minutes in the oven.

Fills a 2 litre jar!

  • Coconut oil – 2 tbsp
  • Natural Maple Syrup -150ml
  • Natural Vanilla Extract – 1tsp
  • Oats – 250g
  • Cinnamon – 2tsp
  • Desiccated Coconut – 50g
  • Mixture of Almonds/Pecans – 150g 
  • Mixed seeds – 100g (I used pumpkin and sunflower)
  1. Heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
  3. Melt the coconut oil using a microwave and then mix this with the maple syrup and vanilla extract in a small bowl.
  4. Chop the nuts to your desired consistency, I put some into the food processor and pulsed a few times so that some were halved and others were more crumbly – this is optional though.
  5. Combine all the dry ingredients (oats, nuts, seeds, desiccated coconut, cinnamon) in a large bowl.
  6. Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly until all the oats, nuts and seeds are completely coated.
  7. Half the mixture between the two baking sheets, spreading evenly and then pop into the oven.
  8. After 15 minutes take out and give them a good stir and switch the trays round so that they have the same amount of time on the higher shelf.
  9. Pop back in for another 15 minutes or until they are a nice golden brown.
  10. Once done leave out to cool, (enjoy that amazing smell!) then put into an airtight jar.

This recipe is dairy free, suitable for vegans and is completely natural. If you are celiac you could use gluten free oats for this and you can alter the above with your favourite nuts/seeds. You could also add dried fruit after it’s cooled too for a sweeter spoonful… enjoy!

Easy Peasy peanut and raisin cookies

When it comes to making sweet treats at home I have a very simple check list…

  • Quick & easy to make
  • As few ingredients as possible
  • Good for you!

These cookies definitely fit the bill, they are so yummy and only take 10 minutes to bake! So if you want something soft, sweet and delicious without feeling guilty then put 5 minutes aside to make them and by the time you have made a brew and decided what to watch on Netflix  they’ll be ready!

When sweet treats are very indulgent you might only want to make them for a special occasion or at the weekend when you have more time but what I love about these little beauties is they are so easy! You can do them anytime and they are great to have as a snack at work or in the evening when you fancy something sweet after dinner.

The sweetener in these cookies is maple syrup which is something I used to only ever use on top of pancakes but it’s great for baking and is  a brilliant natural sweetener as long as you get the  right kind. If you are ever unsure check the label as lots of brands use “maple flavoured syrup” or if there is a list of alien ingredients you can’t even begin to pronounce then it’s a no go – natural is 100%!

There are a few different brands I have bought in the past including “Buckwud” and “Clarks Pure Maple Syrup” that you can get from supermarkets such as Morrisons, Sainsburys and Asda and they are on offer quite frequently. More recently though I discovered that Aldi do their own brand which is 100% natural for £2.99 for a 250ml bottle!

Maple syrup is made from the sap that circulates inside a maple tree. When extracted, it’s heated to remove any water and filtered to get rid of any impurities and that’s it, no chemicals are added, just natural sweetness straight from a tree! There are different grades that you can buy too which are based on the darkness in colour, this is down to the time of year the sap is extracted. It also contains high levels of antioxidants and minerals such as manganese and zinc which are good for healthy bones and joints, as well as  helping your blood to clot. The zinc is especially important for your immune system to helping fight off infection.

Although it’s a natural sugar and has a weaker affect on your blood sugar levels than refined sugar does, it still should still be consumed in moderation.  If you are eating too much sugar on a daily basis your body will start producing more insulin to try to reduce your blood sugar levels by storing it as fat which increases the risk of obesity and diabetes. Not all sugar is the same though, so I will be doing a more in-depth post soon on why this is and some healthier natural alternatives you can switch to. If you aren’t already, follow me on Instagram & Twitter using the links on the right on through the homepage for regular updates.

Makes approximately 12 cookies

  • 40g of oats
  • 3 heaped tablespoons of natural peanut butter (you can use the smooth kind but I prefer crunchy)
  • 6 tablespoons of natural maple syrup
  • A good handful of raisins
  1. Heat the oven to 180°C
  2. Combine peanut butter and maple syrup I’m a food processor (if you don’t have one just mix really well by hand)
  3. Stir in the oats and raisins until evenly distributed
  4. Scoop out each cookie with a tablespoon and roll into a ball using the palms of your hands, or press into cookie cutters using the back of a spoon
  5. Put onto a lightly greased baking tray (I use coconut oil)
  6. Bake for 12 minutes until lightly golden but still quite soft to touch 
  7. Leave to cool (if you can!) and enjoy!

They are gluten, refined sugar and dairy free and suitable for vegans too!

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!

chocolate freezer treats

Healthy eating and chocolate rarely find themselves within the same sentence but I’m telling you it can be done! I would say the thing that most people struggle with when they change their eating habits is cutting out the sweet stuff and having a sweet tooth myself I know your pain. But depriving yourself is never the right answer and knowing you can’t have something makes you suddenly want it so much more!

Despite there being so many “low fat” and “99 calorie” sweet treats available on the shelves they are pumped full of sugar to make them taste good so I wanted to be able to make sweet treats that contain natural ingredients that I can read and understand without scrimping on quality.

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And then I found cacao ️❤

I can cut out crisps, cakes, sweets and biscuits  no problem but chocolate is my real downfall and is something I always crave so by using raw cacao powder I realised you can make amazing desserts, chocolates and sauces that are completely natural and guilt free and the best bit is that it’s actually so so good for you!

Cacao is highly potent in magnesium which enables the body to absorb energy from foods and is a key component in our metabolism, in particular keeping our bones strong and reducing inflammation. Due to it’s affects on energy, not having enough magnesium in your diet can leave you feeling achy and fatigued.

Being full of antioxidants, cacao is amazing for your skin and your body as a whole as it neutralises harmful “free radicals” that can damage cells and cause many forms of disease and ageing.

Free Radicals – sound’s like crazy little men with spiky hair do’s running around your body kicking things and generally being up to no good. In reality that’s kinda true! They are groups of atoms that can arise naturally or can be absorbed through food, sun exposure, smoking etc and when they react to oxygen this can lead to a disruption in their growth causing them to become out of control and have a negative impact on healthy cells.

It also helps regulate blood sugar levels which really helps combat that 3pm slump when you feel like you need a chocolate biccy with your brew.

Raw cacao powder can go into smoothies, porridge, overnight oats, deserts, chocolate sauces, brownies, you name it. Unlike cocoa powder, cacao has not had any refined sugars added to it and is unprocessed – tasting like very dark chocolate. So when using this you will most likely need to add a natural sweetener such as maple syrup, honey, agave etc.

To make my healthy homemade freezer chocolates you will need:

  • natural maple syrup 1-2 tbsp
  • coconut oil – 2 TBSP
  • raw cacao powder -2-3 TBSP

(all of the above ingredients can be found in health food stores, online and in some supermarkets, you don’t have to spend a lot but it’s worth spending the extra on cacao as it will last you, and is very versatile)

Melt coconut oil in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.

Once melted, remove from heat, add cacao powder and maple syrup to taste until mixed thoroughly and forms a runny sauce.

Pour the sauce into ice cube trays (or if you are super fancy like me, a pretty chocolate mould from the pound shop!) put into the freezer for an hour until set.

If you are a lover of nut butters, you can fill the moulds half way and put into the freezer..once set put a small dollop of nut butter in the middle and then top with the remaining melted cacao. As you can see sometimes it will ooze out of the sides but it just adds to the delicious gooeyness…it’s a definite winner!

freezer chocolate close up

You can keep them in the freezer for easily a month and they are a perfect go to if you want a little something sweet at night. You could add some dried fruit or nuts to these to change the texture or add different flavours such as vanilla or cinnamon too.

The above could also be used as a chocolate sauce over some healthy pancakes, frozen yoghurt or fresh strawberries 🍓

Guilt free, homemade chocolate that is good for you, need I say more?!