Snack Idea: Crispy Cajun Chickpeas

You’ve got to try these, seriously, they are so good and super moreish. I made them on a whim to go on top of a salad when we didn’t have much in and by the time we sat down to eat there was only a handful left, so I think it’s safe to say this is an ideal recipe for snacking!

Cajun Chickpeas

If you are having a movie night at home and want something that’s healthy but still satisfies your craving for something salty and crispy then these would make a great substitute. In fact if you were to be really organised you could make these up ahead of time for when you go to the cinema…you just can’t go to the cinema without snacks, so why not make them healthy? Unlike popcorn, the fibre and protein content of chickpeas make them a really filling and satisfying snack so you are less likely to fancy something naughty afterwards.

These properties make this snack great for diabetics as they slow down the rate of glucose absorption in your blood and they are rich in selenium too which is quite rare for a legume. Selenium can help prevent cancer due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce tumour growth.

I always try to make sure I have chickpeas in the cupboard for recipes like this one, for hummus and falafel or just to bulk out a one pot meal. They’re a cheap, naturally gluten free staple and even better, you can get 4 cans for £1 in Morrison’s!

Ingredients

  • 1 x can of chickpeas
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder – you can decide the heat!
  • 1 tsp medium curry powder
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

Method

  1. Turn the oven to 200° C and line a baking tray with tin foil.
  2. Pour chickpeas and their water into a bowl and microwave according to can instructions.
  3. Once cooked drain well and spread out onto the tray.
  4. Drizzle on the olive oil and stir or lightly shake the tray from side to side so that all the chickpeas are coated.
  5. Season well with salt and pepper and put into the oven
  6. After 15 minutes take them out and sprinkle with the herbs and spices and give them a good shake so they are crispy on both sides – the spices are added at this stage to prevent them from burning.
  7. Pop back into the oven for a further 15 minutes, then serve!

Serve immediately for the best flavour, they are still really nice cold if you wanted to make them for the next day but they do loose a bit of their crispness. Obviously if you don’t have all of the above spices then you could just buy a Cajun spice mix but check the label as many have additives and preservatives in, plus lots of salt! Doing it with all of the above spices ensures that you are getting only natural ingredients and you can tailor the heat, salt and intensity of flavour to your liking.

You could make these with a number of different  flavour combinations, so have a play around… if you prefer something a little sweeter to snack on you could try these with a drizzle of honey and some cinnamon instead!

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!

Snack Ideas: Simple, Smokey Hummus

hummud

quite often come across photo’s online of people food prepping for the week ahead with huge trays of food ready to be roasted and every size of Tupperware you can imagine.

I would say for a lot of people, myself included, that you want to make the most of your Sundays and although I admire those who can prep every meal for 7 days I just don’t have the time or room in my fridge!

Preparing anything in advance doesn’t have to be extensive, just getting  your snacks prepared is a great little timesaver for the week and it’s much easier to have a healthy diet if your snacks are healthy and all ready to go! I will be adding different snack ideas on the blog but carrot sticks and hummus are one of my favourite’s, as it increases my raw veggie intake, it’s really tasty and super healthy!

If you don’t have carrots at home you could always substitute with celery sticks, mange tout or sliced peppers. I tend to use carrots because they are really cheap so I usually get a big bag and use some for freshly pressed juices as well as in salads or dinner recipes. Even something simple like grating some carrot into your salad gives it a new texture and vibrancy.

There is also a bit of truth behind the old saying “carrots help you see in the dark” as I was always told growing up. The Beta-carotene found in carrots which gives them their vibrant colour is turned into Vitamin A when digested. Vitamin A is required by the body for our immune system and those who have a deficiency can often have problems with their sight, which is why carrots help to maintain healthy vision.

Chickpeas are great too as they are cheap, filling and high in protein and as they have a low GI they will not spike your blood sugar meaning you will stay fuller for longer. Plus they are so versatile, I use them in so many different ways and they are a great staple to have in the cupboard for bulking out a meal or when you are running low on fresh veg.

Sweet & Smokey Hummus Ingredients
  • 1 tin of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. of Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tbsp. Sweet Chilli (optional)
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper and some salt to season

Drain the chickpeas of any water and throw them into a food processor along with the whole garlic clove and all other ingredients and blitz up until smooth…that’s it! This is the easiest thing to make ever and is so tasty you won’t want to buy shop made hummus again.

Other flavour options:

Sometimes I will omit the sweet chilli and smoked paprika and flavour the hummus with something else which may be to suit whatever you are making for dinner or just to mix up what you have for snacks. All you do is mix whatever you like into the top 4 ingredients in the list.

Examples: a tsp. of pesto, cumin and coriander, Moroccan spice mix (you can pick up in almost all supermarkets), roasted red peppers or sun-dried tomatoes.

The tahini paste is quite an important part of the hummus and it gives it quite a distinct taste. You can buy it from places like Holland and Barrett or other health food stores and it’s not particularly expensive considering the size of the jar and how little you will use which is good but you can make it without, it just won’t taste as much like traditional hummus but still makes a lovely dip!

Doing just a little in advance really helps and this is so easy to make for when friends come round by just doubling the quantities or to have on salads. Its great to keep some in the fridge too, so when you get home from work you have a healthy, filling snack waiting for you 😊

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?!