3 Ingredient Hazelnut Truffles

If you’ve never roasted hazelnuts at home, it’s something you need to put on your to do list this weekend because they taste so damn good and smell divine!

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I’ve made these a couple of times now and each time I have planned on them lasting all week so that I can have a little something sweet either at work or after dinner but so far they have lasted 2 days tops. And it’s not just me that loves them, everyone who has tried them (children too) have given two sticky, chocolatey thumbs up and can’t believe that they are good for you!

They are really easy to do and super fun to make, so if you have kids they are a winner!

Like I said, you can have them for a snack any time of day but I think they go really well with coffee at the end of a meal as they are rich and satisfying so you don’t need many.

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Hazelnuts are high in good fats, both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated and these can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Fats are needed by the body for many reasons, one of which being that certain vitamins and minerals (such as A, K, D and E) are fat -soluble, so can only be absorbed and then used or stored through these types of fats. The raw cacao powder is a really high source of magnesium that is fantastic for your muscles and nervous system. It also raises serotonin levels in the body, making you feel calmer and happier…do you need anymore excuses to eat raw chocolate than that?!

The third ingredient is 100% natural maple syrup. Although is does contain sugar, it is a natural source so there are no additives or preservatives and it has been far less processed than white table sugar.
Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 cup (150 g) hazelnuts
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup

Makes approximately 20 truffles

  1. Heat the oven to 180°c and roast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes on a baking tray, then remove from oven and allow to cool completely
  2. Put 20 Hazelnuts to one side and put the remaining nuts into a food processor
  3. If you want a really smooth paste you can rub the hazelnuts with some paper towel which will remove the dark skins before you blend them. Its a little time consuming but worth it.
  4. Blend until a fine crumb, then remove 2 tablespoons worth and place in a bowl (this will be used to coat the truffles at the end)
  5. Add the maple syrup and cacao powder to the processor and blend again for a few minutes until a smooth and creamy paste. If it’s sticking too much you can add water but do so a little at a time to prevent it becoming too runny
  6. Using a teaspoon take a small amount of the paste and encase a whole hazelnut and roll into a ball. If you don’t want to get messy you can use two teaspoons and roll the ball between them to round the truffle into a ball. Then place the truffle into the bowl with the crushed hazelnuts and roll around until evenly coated.
  7. Once all are done place into the freezer for half an hour to set. They can be kept in the freezer or in a airtight container in the fridge

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Dakos greek salad

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This last week I’ve been on my jollies in Sivota, mainland Greece. The first time I visited Greece was when  I went to the island of Kos last year and I fell in love with the place and the food! Everything is so fresh, locally sourced and in season and I love how so many of their dishes are made from a few simple ingredients that taste amazing.

The Greek or Mediterranean diet has always been considered one of the healthiest and I can definitely see why, although some of the most classic Greek dishes are meat based such as Moussaka it doesn’t seem to be the main basis of their diet. Freshly caught fish, lots of fruit and vegetables and small portions of locally produced dairy such as feta and Greek yoghurt seem to make up most of what they eat. Accompanied by some good quality olive oil, homemade bread and an occasional slice of baklava with honey, pistachios and walnuts!

One of the things I noticed about traditional Greek food is that a lot of dishes are either raw or gently cooked for warm salads for example or they are slowly roasted which intensifies the flavours of the ingredients. Many Greek dishes are tomato based as they grow in abundance in most regions . Taking inspiration from how good they tasted over there I thought I would share with you  a recipe which grew to be one of my favourites.

It’s so simple to make and is a great way to use up a few last pieces of bread that you might otherwise use to feed the birds! The dressing is full of healthy monounsaturated fats from the olive oil (check out my last post on why fats are good for you here) and it’s quick and cheap!

Greek Dakos Recipe
  • 3/4 slices of crusty bread (depending on how big you would like the salad)
  • 50 ml of Olive oil 
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp of dried Oregano
  • 1/2 a Cucumber
  • 100g Feta Cheese
  • 2 x Beef Tomatoes (good quality)
  • Small bunch of fresh Dill
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Put a griddle pan on a high heat, lightly brush the bread slices with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toast on either side for 2-3 minutes until they start to crisp up
  2. Whilst they are toasting, finely chop the beef tomatoes and cucumber
  3. Once all the bread is done put to one side and combine the rest of the olive oil with the lemon juice and dill salt and pepper and whisk
  4. Mix the cucumber, tomatoes and crumble in the feta into the dressing..leaving a little feta to one side to garnish
  5. Chop the bread into thick chunks and combine well with the dressing until it’s evenly mixed
  6. Leave for 10 minutes for the bread to soak up all the juicy flavours.
  7. Sprinkle the remaining feta over the top along with the oregano and season with salt and pepper

This dish originates from Crete but is common all over Greece and you can adapt the recipe to create lovely bruschetta’s too if you were having guests over – to do this just toast the bread in the same way but rather than combining with the tomatoes and feta dressing and leaving to soak, just soak the dressing and then top the bread when ready to serve so it still keeps it’s crunch.

Or just make a big salad that everyone can help themselves to accompanied with some olives, sun-dried tomatoes and hummus – check out my smokey hummus recipe here.

I will definitely be making this dish again when I get the holiday blues and want something light and tasty in 15 minutes! Try it out and let me know what you think 😊

 

Snack Ideas: Simple, Smokey Hummus

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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!

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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?!