Healthy Beetroot dip – two ways!

On Wednesdays we wear pink…

ummmmm actually, most days I wear grey and black much to my mums disapproval, “you’ve got your whole life to wear black” she used to say. I’m not entirely sure what she meant by this, so I’m going to eat pink and colourful food instead…does that count?!beetroot dip 1.JPG

Whenever we buy cooked beetroot in the vacuum packs I always end up with a few leftover, I put them in the fridge with every intention of using them and in a blink of an eye they’ve gone off. I’m trying to consciously reduce the amount of food we throw away so I thought I would create some simple recipes to use up the rest, so no excuses!

I’m also a massive fan of dips; hummus, tzatziki, guac, tahini, salsa, you name it. They’re such an easy way to make a meal taste amazing! They’re also great for when you’ve run out of ideas, especially for things like salads, just add a dollop of dip and it totally changes the dynamic of the dish.

Beetroot is an amazing source of antioxidants and vitamins such as potassium which is important for muscle contraction and it’s very high in folic acid which the body requires on a daily basis. Folate is used in the body to produce DNA and to help with cell division which is essential for you to heal and grow.

Cooked beetroot is really cheap too, I think the pack I bought to make both of these dips was around 80p. They are easy to juice or chop up in salads but one of my favourite ways to eat them is to cut them into chunks and mix with warm goats cheese ¬†ūü§§

Beetroot mint and yogurt dip

Ingredients

  • 3 medium sized cooked beetroot
  • A small bunch of fresh mint
  • 200g Greek yogurt – you could use a plant based yogurt to make this suitable for vegans/dairy free.
  • 1/3 of a cucumber
  • 1 clove of Garlic

Method

Grate the beetroot into a bowl.

Slice the cucumber in half lengthways and with a teaspoon remove the watery flesh to leave 2 long “C shaped” sections. Grate these too and add to the same bowl.

Finely slice the mint and the garlic (if you have a garlic crusher use this) and add to the bowl along with the greek yoghurt. Mix really well, season with salt and pepper and enjoy!

beetroot dip 2.JPG

Beetroot Hummus

Ingredients

  • 1 can of Chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp of Tahini
  • 2 cloves of Garlic crushed or finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 3 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 3 medium sized cooked beetroots

Method

Roughly chop the cooked beetroot into quarters and add to the food processor.

Drain the chickpeas and add in along with all of the other ingredients and blitz. If it’s still very thick add in small amounts of olive oil until it’s the right consistency. ¬†Season to taste and serve!

beetroot dip 3.JPG

Both of these dips are really easy and quick to make and can be made vegan too. They go well with crackers, bread, pittas, crudit√©s or just dolloped ontop of your meal ūüôā

 

 

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Herby lentil and tomato salad with griddled halloumi

Halloumi and Lentil Salad

When I think of lentils, hearty winter stews, indian dahl and my favourite vegan shepherds pie spring to mind. Salads are probably the last thing I would put lentils with but they go so well! I’m always trying to come up with new salad concoctions to keep things interesting and this one is easy to do, filling and really tasty.

I never used to cook with them as the idea of pre-soaking for hours on end was a no go. Sometimes you don’t always know what you are going to fancy the following day for dinner! So luckily you can buy them cooked, canned and ready to go, so all you need to do is gently heat for a few minutes or you can drain them and serve cold.

They are a great source of soluble-fibre, plant-based protein and iron, in fact per 100g, they contain more iron than steak! Lentils are really filling too so they go well in salads to keep you feeling full and satisfied.

You can opt out of the halloumi all together for a vegan option, replacing with tofu or another meat free alternative. Or use another type of cheese, goats cheese would work really well or paneer too.

Serves 2

  • 1 pack of Halloumi
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach/salad leaves of choice
  • 1 can of pre-cooked lentils
  • 2 cloves of garlic or 1 tsp of powdered
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes – not essential but goes really well
  • 1 large handful of baby plum or cherry tomatoes
  • juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon.
  • 2 tbsp of Balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dried or fresh parsley and thyme

Method

Cut the courgette in half length ways and then cut those halves into further strips. Drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper onto a chopping board and then rub the courgette slices in this so they are nicely coated and then put onto a griddle pan over a medium heat, turning after a few minutes to cook on the other side.

Whilst that’s cooking, pour the lentils and their water into a microwavable bowl and cook in the microwave according to their instructions. Once cooked add to a separate pan over a medium heat with olive oil and chopped garlic (you can use fresh or powdered) the dried herbs and the vinegar. After a few minutes add in the fresh and/or sun-dried tomatoes and season well.

Once the ¬†courgette slices are done put them into the oven on low to keep warm whilst you cook the halloumi. Cut the halloumi into approximately 10 slices and then rub each slice in the olive oil from the courgettes and place into the griddle pan, turn after 3-4 minutes once they start to brown (the griddle pan is just to make it pretty so if you don’t have one just use a regular frying pan).

Whilst the halloumi is cooking, add the lemon juice and zest and plate up the salad leaves. You can add any of your favourite salad ingredients now such as cucumber, beetroot, radishes, spring onions etc or you can keep it simple.

When everything is done, divide the lentils between the two plates, then top with the courgette and finally the grilled halloumi.

If you don’t finish it all, it’s a great dish to have cold the next day for leftovers. On top of this salad I’ve also thrown in some crispy¬†Cajun chickpeas as a little added extra, if you want to make them then just click here.

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¬į 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!

Salted Caramel Easter Eggs

Happy Easter everyone!¬†I hope you are all having a lovely long weekend¬†ūüėä

I ¬†couldn’t resist doing a healthy option for those that want to enjoy a little chocolate over the holiday but without all of the refined sugars, additives and preservatives that your typical easter egg contains. When you are trying to follow a healthier lifestyle it can be difficult to avoid days like today when unhealthy food is all around you but it you are able to, I’m sure you will¬†take great pleasure in taking naughty treats and turning them into healthy alternatives! This way you don’t feel deprived and you can feel good about what you are eating too!

eggs

I’ve taken my original recipe for my ¬†chocolate freezer treats¬†and adapted it slightly and now these eggs won’t melt if left out at room temperature plus I’ve filled them with yummy salted caramel!

For the Chocolate:

  1. Cacao powder 80g
  2. Cacao butter 100g
  3. Maple syrup 4 tbsp
  4. Coconut oil 1 tbsp
  5. Ground cinnamon 1 tsp
  6. Vanilla extract 1 tsp

For the Salted Caramel:

  1. Tahini 1 tbsp
  2. Vanilla extract 1 tsp
  3. Maple Syrup 3tbsp or date syrup works really well too
  4. A good pinch of himalayan rock salt
  • Melt the cacao butter, coconut oil and maple syrup in a glass bowl over a pan a quarter full with water over a medium heat- make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the glass bowl.
  • Once melted, add the cinnamon and vanilla extract and then slowly add the cacao powder a bit at a time whilst whisking so that it ends up nice and glossy.
  • Fill the moulds you have half way, if you don’t have any chocolate moulds you can use an ice cube tray…but it might not give the same effect for easter!
  • Pop these into the freezer for 20 minutes until they have hardened. Whilst you are waiting, mix together the caramel ingredients and sweeten to taste with extra maple syrup if necessary.
  • After 20 minutes take out the chocolate’s which should now be firm to touch and using a teaspoon put a little blob of caramel into the middle of each one. Then put back into the freezer for another 20 minutes.
  • Finally once this has set, cover the caramel in the remaining chocolate and leave to set in the freezer.

Tahini isn’t for everyone and if you don’t have it in or aren’t a fan, not to worry, I’ve provided another way to make the caramel using dates instead. If you are trying to reduce your sugar intake then I would go for the tahini option but either way they are both completely natural!

Follow the above steps but when it comes to making the caramel use this method:

  1. Cover a handful of dates in some warm water and soak for 5 minutes.
  2. Once soft, drain as much of the water as you can and place into a food processor with the 1tsp vanilla extract and the salt.
  3. Blend until smooth, you may need to get a spatula and scrape the sides down a few times and if it still isn’t to your desired consistency strain the caramel through a sieve to make it nice and smooth.

daffodils

Go on, give them a try and make the easter bunny jealous!¬†ūüźį

Super Easy Kiwi & Pineapple Smoothie

Some days are harder than others to get all 5 portions of your fruit and veg and I often find at the weekend when I‚Äôm not in as much of a routine food-wise, this is when I can miss out on those vital nutrients and minerals. Particularly this time of year when many of our everyday¬†fruits aren’t¬†in season, frozen fruit really comes in handy and it‚Äôs cheap and convenient for blending.

Smoothie

Smoothies are such an easy way to give your body a boost of goodness and it really doesn’t have to be boring or over complicated. There are so many different variations and different ways of building them up, if you prefer a thicker consistency add¬†a banana /avocado or sometimes I add a teaspoon of chia seeds and leave for a few minutes to soak up. For greens I often add frozen spinach as the taste isn‚Äôt as potent as fresh but still gives you the nutrients and vibrant colour! If you wanted to make it more substantial, adding some oats into the blender will increase the fibre and provide slow release energy too, great for breakfast.

Some supermarkets provide a wider variety of frozen fruits than others, so if you really love a particular type of fruit, it may be worth buying extra to freeze when they’re on offer to save money. Try to freeze as soon as you buy or as soon as the fruit is¬†ripe¬†to ensure you keep as much freshness and nutritional value in as possible.¬† Chopping the fruit into small pieces and putting them into zip-lock freezer bags will also make it easier for you later on, if you wanted to add smaller amounts for a smoothie for 1 person or to use for other recipes.

Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Tesco & Morrison’s do some if not most of¬†the below options:

Cherries                                  Black forest fruits

Blackberries                          Strawberry & Banana

Summer fruits                       Pineapple

Raspberries                            Mango

Rhubarb                                  Blueberries

If you are new to making smoothie’s, this is a nice and easy one to begin with,¬† it’s a mixture of fresh and frozen ingredients and its lovely¬†and refreshing. Often shop bought smoothie’s¬†contain banana to thicken them which some people aren’t fond of… so if you aren’t a banana fan this is for you!

Serves 2

  1. small handful x frozen spinach
  2. 1 x kiwi Рflesh scooped out and cut into small chunks
  3. 1 cup x frozen pineapple
  4. The juice of 1 lime
  5. 2 cups of water

Use the same  cup to measure the water and the pineapple Рthese are only rough guidelines so if you want it to be thicker, add less water etc

  • First blend the frozen spinach, pineapple and water together.
  • Once¬†smooth then add the kiwi flesh and blend again until this is fully combined.
  • Finally, add the lime juice, give it a final blend and away you go!

 

Roasted Parsnip, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Homemade soup is the epitome of heart warming ¬†food and when it’s cold outside on a dreary¬†Monday morning there is nothing better than knowing you’ve got a nice hot bowl of goodness to look forward to at lunchtime. If you’re anything like me and think about lunch as you are finishing breakfast then this is an important factor in your day!

I tend to alternate my lunches at work between salads, leftovers from the night before and soup but at the moment salads just haven’t been cutting it for me. It’s too cold and I want a hug in a mug. Does anyone remember those adverts? With the big purple hairy arms?

Anyway, this sunday as part of our now almost weekly baking/food prepping session, we decided to make some lovely homemade soup.

Soup¬†is really easy¬†to make, I think a lot of people are put off at the thought of whipping up their own but you can make it as easy or as complicated as you like. With this recipe you can do it one of two ways. The first is by roasting the carrots, parsnips and sweet potato in the oven with some olive oil, thyme, honey and mild curry powder. The other and notably easier option is to throw all of that into one big pot with the rest of the ingredients and let it bubble to it’s hearts content. The flavours will be stronger if you roast the veg but if you don’t have loads of thyme on your hands (excuse the pun) then go for the latter.

Soup - Homemade Health“Souping” is said to be the new trendy foodie¬†thing in 2016 (personally I’ve always thought it was great!) and with a¬†variety of different diets and lifestyles, making soup to¬†suit your dietary requirements such as¬† gluten/dairy free, vegetarian/vegan/paleo couldn’t be easier. Or if you are¬†wanting to adopt a healthier eating style or trying¬†to¬†lose weight then soup is a good choice for lunch as it’s really filling and satisfying.

Using complex carbs in your soup such as sweet potato will help to slowly release the energy too.

Not only is making your own soup much tastier than tinned versions, it’s so much better for your health! You can alter the seasoning¬†and consistency¬†to suit your taste and avoid all the preservatives, salt, sugar and fat ¬†that is often added into the processed kinds.¬† It’s also freezes well too so if you make a larger than expected batch as I always do then just put the excess into some airtight Tupperware and pop into the freezer.

This recipe makes 8 portions.

  1. 5 Carrots
  2. 500g Parsnips
  3. 3 Medium Sweet Potato’s – peeled
  4. 2 Onions
  5. 2 Garlic Cloves
  6. 2 tbsp Medium Curry Powder
  7. 1 tbsp Honey
  8. 2 tbsp Fresh/Dried Thyme
  9. 2 sticks Celery
  10. 1 litre Vegetable Stock
  11. 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Turn the oven to 220¬įC
  • Roughly chop the parsnips, carrots and sweet potato and season with salt, pepper, olive oil, honey, 1 tbsp fresh or dried thyme and 1 tbsp medium curry power. Roast in the oven for around 30-40 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes of them being in the oven, finely chop the garlic, onion and celery and fry in a large pot over a medium heat with olive oil until soft. If you like some extra heat, you could throw in a chopped chilli or some dried chilli flakes.
  • Once the roasted vegetables are done, add them to the pot with the onions and stock with the remaining curry powder, thyme and a bay leaf (can be dried) if you have any.
  • Leave on a medium-high heat for 20-30 minutes.
  • Finally blend using a hand blender or a food processor to your desired consistency and season to taste!

 

I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I did and that it gives you a bit of confidence to make your own if you never have before!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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¬įC.
  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!

Heartwarming Porridge

porridge1

Most mornings, particularly in winter my breakfast comes in the form of creamy porridge topped with anything and everything I have in the cupboards. They are super cheap and so so good for you but they don’t have to be boring!

Oats are one of the best sources of fibre which is so important for your digestive system as it takes a while for your body to break it down and absorbs harmful bacteria that may be lingering in your gut, keeping everything running smoothly.

They are also naturally gluten free and provide slow release energy that is easy on your blood sugar levels and helps you feel fuller for longer.

There are 3 main types of oats, all of which can be used pretty much interchangeably, which are:

  1. Steel Cut (or pin head) ‚Äď Oats cut into 2/3 smaller pieces with a steel blade
  2. Jumbo ‚Äď larger oats ideal for thicker porridge
  3. Rolled ‚Äď steamed and dehusked, then flattened with heavy rollers

Porridge is best done the old fashioned way by combining ¬Ĺ cup of oats (50g) ¬†and 1 cup (roughly 350ml) of water/milk and microwave for 2 minutes or put on the hob and keep stirring (check the oats packaging if unsure). There are a lot of brands that do sachets which are quite handy if you are on the go but unfortunately most of them are full of added sweeteners and preservatives, so check the labels thoroughly first.

Using seasonal fruit in porridge is a great way to up your fruit intake and reach your five a day.  I often use different berries, bananas and dried fruit but you can also make fruity compotes to stir in too.

Example: peel and core an apple, and chop into bite sized chunks. Add 2-3 tbsp. of water, a squeeze of honey and a dash of cinnamon and put on a low heat for 5-10 minutes until the apples become soft then stir into your porridge!

I love adding sultanas, blueberries, flax seeds and cinnamon to mine or if I’m really feeling like something sweet I will have raw cacao powder and a drizzle of maple syrup!

Flax seeds are getting more and more popular and are a great way of adding fibre and omega 3 fatty acids into your diet, which are great for a healthy heart as they have been found to reduce blood pressure and the ‚Äúbad‚ÄĚ HDL cholesterol. As well as being full of antioxidants and vitamins like magnesium, the omega 3 fatty acids in these tiny seeds can help fight against inflammation in the body which are contributing factors of a number of huge health issues like cancer, heart disease and arthritis.

Being ground into a crumbly texture means it’s a lot easier for your body to digest and also makes it easier to add to many things such as yoghurt parfaits, smoothies, pizza bases, and baking without the flavour or consistency being overpowering.

As for raw cacao powder, it‚Äôs AMAZING and I could easily talk about it all day long…

However just to give you a little snippet, raw cacao powder is basically chocolate in its most purest, natural form. Cacao pods contain little white beans inside which are usually roasted at high temperatures and processed over and over to create coco powder which is used to make all things chocolaty. Due to this process all the natural goodness is stripped from the bean and lots of artificial sweeteners and preservatives are added.

With raw cacao powder the beans are unroasted and cold pressed to remove the fat known as cacao butter (amazing for making raw healthy chocolates with!) and ground into a fine powder. This powder is full of extremely potent antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and in particular it’s one of the highest sources of magnesium of all foods on the planet! It really is a brilliant thing and can I just reiterate that this is CHOCOLATE!!

I’ll calm down now.

Just having a tbsp of raw cacao powder in my porridge makes it feel incredibly indulgent and a little bit naughty for breakfast but then I remind myself of how good it is so you really could eat this any time of day and not feel the slightest bit guilty!

Porridge really doesn’t have to be boring and once you have tried a few different toppings you will really enjoy being able to mix it up rather than choosing the same old cereal or toast in the morning. Also I noticed that after a while of eating porridge for breakfast, if I did have something like cereal there was a massive difference in how long I felt full and more importantly satisfied for, never mind the spike in my blood sugar levels!

I know for some people the thought of having a bowl of hot creamy porridge first thing is too much, especially for those who don‚Äôt have much of an appetite in the morning but you can have it in the form of overnight oats which is a cold version with yoghurt ‚Äď click here for¬†my recipe.

Whether you have hot porridge or cold overnight oats, it’s definitely one of the¬†best ways to start the day!

My Top 3 Natural Sweeteners

Following on from last weeks post I thought I would dedicate some time to my favourite natural sweeteners as it’s one of the areas of nutrition that I find most interesting and I love creating sweet treats in a healthy natural way! I also wanted to¬†give a few home truths on a popular sweetener which is very trendy but isn’t all that good for you.

 
Honey

It may seem like an obvious choice but honey is just so good for you. It’s been used as a medicinal treatment for thousands of years ¬†and is said to be beneficial for those who have allergies such as hay-fever as it contains traces of local pollen that helps you to build up a natural immunity. Taking a spoonful of honey with a piece of honeycomb in every day for two weeks can massively reduce the symptoms of hay-fever – I will definitely be trying this out next spring!

I love to use honey as a sweetener in hot drinks and its great in a stir-fry or drizzled over vegetables such as butternut squash or parsnips before roasting in the oven.

  • Antibacterial – Honey is my absolute go-to when I’m feeling under the weather and is brilliant for sore throats and colds. Drizzle a teaspoon into some hot water with a slice of lemon and fresh ginger and it will help draw out the moisture and reduce inflammation in your throat. It’s very soothing on an upset stomach too, fighting against harmful bacteria in the gut.
  • Antiseptic – Not only is it good for your insides, honey can be applied topically as an antiseptic on wounds and sores and has even been used on burns to speed up the healing process.
  • Antioxidant – we need antioxidants from our food to keep our whole bodies healthy and honey is an excellent source! Preventing damage to our cells helps our immune system and reduces the risk of many cancers.
Maple Syrup

This is probably my favourite natural sweetener as it’s great to bake with and gives a wonderful flavour without being overpowering. I love mixing it into raw cacao and melted coconut oil to make healthy chocolates and it’s delicious in porridge too!

Maple syrup has a low GI (Glycaemic Index) which means it takes longer ¬†to have an affect on your blood sugar levels than other sugars. Meaning that you won’t crash shortly after consuming it, which can lead to mood swings, feeling lethargic, headaches and worst of all…craving even more sugar!¬†It’s such an easy and negative cycle to get into, so it’s best to stick to natural unrefined sugars, in doing so there¬†are no additives/preservatives or nasty chemicals in there which can lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes to name a few!

Among many health benefits, maple syrup contains Phytochemicals which are compounds that are found in plants that fight against disease such as inflammation to ensure your cells can regenerate and stay healthy.

Date Syrup

Date syrup is extremely popular in the middle east and is used for sweet and savoury dishes. So far I have only used it in sweet dishes such as overnight oats¬†or when I’m¬†baking¬†but I hope to try it out in a tagine soon!

Dates are a staple part of my day to day diet and I always have them available as a snack or if I want to satisfy my sweet tooth, I use them as a sticky sweet base for my wellness bars! They are full of fibre which is important for your digestive system by keeping things regular and they increase the growth of healthy bacteria in your stomach. Dates contain high levels of potassium which is needed for a healthy heart and is particularly beneficial for to those who have high blood pressure and they can help reduce the risk of stroke. Being high in Iron and antioxidants known as Tannins helps the clotting of blood and contributes towards a generally healthy cardiovascular system.

I’ve only recently discovered date syrup in my local health food shop and you can buy it online too¬†but¬†If you are struggling to find it, it’s super easy to make your own! I like to soak some dates in warm water until they soften and then blitz in the food processor until it forms a smooth runny sauce.

Now for the not so good stuff…

Agave Syrup has been promoted as a healthy alternative to chemical laden, artificial table sugar as it derives from the agave plant or cacti, the same one used for making tequila!

When you look a little closer, it appears that the sap is so heavily refined that it’s¬†just as bad for you as high fructose corn syrup and any nutrients and anti-oxidant’s¬†that¬†could¬†be¬†beneficial to your health will be potentially lost completely within the refining process! Agave¬†is considered a low GI sweetener¬†due to¬†the low levels of¬†glucose which is why it’s often advertised as suitable for diabetics, however it’s extremely high in fructose (even higher than regular sugar!) which can only be broken down in the liver. Consuming high levels of this will result in your body storing it as fat around the liver and stomach which can develop over time into fatty-liver disease,¬†weight gain and¬†high cholesterol.

Sugar is a tricky thing as too much of any kind can be harmful but by switching to natural sugars you can reduce those risks and nourish your body with nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants whilst enjoying sweet treats in moderation.

 

 

 

 

 

Creamy coconut and fennel curry

Its getting to that time of year again where everyone is coughing and sneezing and all you want to do is snuggle up and eat delicious comfort food…but who says it has to be unhealthy?

nanny's curry

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, I love a one pot meal and this curry is very easy to make and you can put whatever you want in to bulk it out such as chickpeas, broad beans, peppers and frozen peas.

The main ingredient, Fennel,  is a funny little thing… I have never been a fan of aniseed or liquorish but when you gently cook it, the flavour changes completely and it’s so tasty, you just have to try it!

Fennel is full of Vitamin C which is great for boosting your immune system, especially if you are fighting off a cold! It’s also required for your body to produce the protein collagen, which is essential for cell growth and regeneration, keeping your bones and teeth strong and ensuring that your wounds will heal and blood will clot. It’s also  said to help reduce the risk of bowel and colon cancers due to it’s high fiber content that helps to remove any nasty toxins that could remain in your colon.

The other superfood in this dish is spinach! If you aren’t a huge fan then this curry is a good way of increasing your intake of vitamin K, and B vitamins such as folic acid without the strong flavour. Folic acid can’t be stored within the body so it must be consumed through every day diet and is especially important for pregnant women as it is required to develop a healthy baby and keep blood sugar levels stable.It helps keep your brain active and alert and the dark green colour means it contains a higher level of chlorophyll that’s anti-inflammatory and promotes good eyesight. Spinach can be used as a base for salads or lightly wilted into a warm dish just before serving as over cooking will reduce the amount of nutrients you absorb. However, I wouldn’t worry about that in this dish, as you are likely to eat a lot more spinach this way than you would in a salad!

Serves 2 main meals (with two lunch sized portions for left overs the next day!)

  • 2 Leeks finely sliced
  • 2 Onions finely sliced
  • 2 Fennel bulbs, feathery top removed and thinly sliced length ways
  • 1 courgette sliced into discs and then halved
  • 1 Pack of spinach – (If you don’t have fresh spinach in or don’t buy it very often, frozen spinach is just as good and is usually compacted into little blocks, so use 4-5)
  • 1 Tin of coconut milk
  • 1 Vegetable stock cube
  • 1 Can black-eyed beans drained (you could substitute any sort of legumes you have in such as butter beans/chickpeas)
  • Half a bunch of fresh coriander
  • 2 Limes
  1. Over a medium heat, gently sauté the leek, fennel, courgette and onion in a little olive oil until soft
  2. Add the coconut milk, black eyed beans and chopped coriander and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  3. Crumble in the stock cube
  4. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes – If using frozen spinach add the blocks in with the coconut milk but if you are using fresh, add once it’s simmered.
  5. Squeeze in the juice of 2 limes and serve with brown rice or quinoa

If you wanted to make this even more substantial, double up on fennel, coconut milk and vegetables. Quorn chicken pieces complement this dish really well too or you could try tofu if you want to keep it vegan ūüėČ