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!

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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) – Oats cut into 2/3 smaller pieces with a steel blade
  2. Jumbo – larger oats ideal for thicker porridge
  3. Rolled – steamed and dehusked, then flattened with heavy rollers

Porridge is best done the old fashioned way by combining ½ 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 “bad” 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’s 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’t 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 – 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!

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!

Overnight Oats

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With this being my first post I thought I should start with something I love and have pretty much everyday which is oats! One of the reasons I love oats is they are so versatile and can be kept simple with some berries and a drizzle of honey or you can load it up with nuts, seeds, dried and raw fruit, nut butters… the list is endless! I have a few regulars that find their way in each morning such as ground flax seeds, sultanas, blueberries and raw cacao powder.
If the first and last ingredients are something you are unfamiliar with, don’t worry, I will be writing a more in-depth post about these very soon!
Oats are an excellent choice for breakfast as they provide you will slow release energy which means you won’t be starving by 10 am and eyeing up the vending machine at work. Also, they are cheap! 1kg bag of oats is under £1 in most supermarkets, which will last you a lot longer than a box of cereal and can be used for a number of different recipes.

Overnight oats are usually made the night before (secrets in the name) and means you can have it on the go or take it to work but best of all it gives you that extra ten minute snooze.

The basic ingredients are the same though which are:

½ cup of oats

1/3 cup of greek/natural yoghurt

¼ cup of milk of your choice

Dairy and non-dairy work just as well for both the milk and the yoghurt if you wanted to substitute either. If you want a more dense consistency then use less milk but if you want it runnier then use more. Mix all ingredients together and then you can add whatever you want to flavour… I’ve put some that I use in the list below, plus an optional sweetener and then put a lid on and leave in the fridge overnight for the oats to swell and soak up all the goodness. Due to their thick creamy consistency if you didn’t fancy the full portion, you can keep it in the fridge and have the rest of it as an afternoon snack!

You can put whatever you want in this to flavour it but I would advise that if you are wanting to add nuts/seeds you are better adding these in the morning otherwise they can go a bit soggy.

Dried Fruit Nuts, Seeds & Nut Butters Raw/frozen fruit Superfood’s Sweeteners
Sultanas Cranberries Figs
Dates Prunes Apricots (3 = 1 of your 5 a day!)
Goji Berries
Almond Peanut Cashew Hazelnuts Walnuts Macadamia Pecans Desiccated coconut Sunflower seeds Pumpkin seeds Blueberries Strawberries Raspberries Bananas Mango Cranberries Grapes Raw cacao powder Bee pollen
Chia seeds
Ground flaxseeds/Linseeds Coconut oil
Honey
Maple syrup
Date syrup Cinnamon (this satisfies a sweet tooth and also helps to regulate blood sugar levels whilst suppressing your sugar cravings).

Nuts & Dried Fruit

Nuts and dried fruit are a cheap and easy way to make oats interesting and delish! (A more in depth post is coming soon). Nuts are a great source of protein, healthy fat and contain loads of vitamins and minerals. There are so many to choose from which work with different flavour combinations but the main three, which I always have in, are almonds, brazils and walnuts.

Almonds are definitely my favourite and are an excellent source of antioxidants; they are also one of the highest sources of vitamin E, which is used to protect the fat that surrounds each of the cells on our bodies. Protecting cells in this way helps prevent them from being modified and reduces the risk of cancer.

Brazil nuts have high levels of selenium that fight against heart and liver disease as well as some cancers. You only need 2 a day to get your recommended daily allowance and to have a significant impact on your immune system and thyroid function.

Walnuts not only do these pair beautifully with honey and cinnamon but they are rich in omega 3 fatty acids which are so important for brain function and help cut the risk of stroke and a number of cancers such as breast and colon.

Another tip is to look in the baking isle of supermarkets for nuts as so many can be roasted and salted, you want to look for raw unprocessed nuts as these will still have all the goodness in them. Having nuts in your overnight oats adds a nice crunch but you can also have them in the form of nut butters. Be very cautious though and check the label when buying them as many have hidden sugars and additives, which nobody wants. Many health food stores and even some supermarkets now do nut butters that don’t have all the nasties and are 100% nuts! I always have peanut and almond butter in but cashew is something I want to try next and there are new ones being created all the time.

Now you might be thinking peanut butter is not the best way to start your day due to it being high in fat but the fat is good for you! Your body needs fat to function and it also signals to the brain when you are full so is great for breakfast! Many vitamins such as the ones in nuts are fat-soluble which means they need to be consumed along with the fat in order for them to be absorbed into the body. Dried fruit can be very cheap and easy to buy in bulk. I would say most supermarkets sell their own brand version of your everyday dried fruit such as sultanas, apricots, figs, prunes and dates. These are my go to’s which I use for so many different things, not just for breakfast, as they last ages so you have can them in your cupboards for weeks and they will still be fine to use… that is, if you can leave them for that long! The other brilliant thing is that eating three dates, apricots or prunes = 1 of your 5 a day, when chopped up into overnight oats you can easily have 2 of your 5 a day for breakfast!

If dried fruit isn’t your usual thing then don’t worry! It may sound boring at first but believe me putting sultanas into your overnight oats and allowing them to plump up with all the juicy flavour’s adds such a nice chewy element to breakfast and they really do satisfy a sweet tooth. Soon you will be using dried fruit in things you never thought of and they are a great alternative to a sugar laden cereal bar. The above list is a guide of some of the things I use for porridge and overnight oats, most of them are cheap and easy to find. The superfoods are more expensive and not as easy to find but you can get them all online and usually in health food stores such as Holland and Barrett. I will be writing about these in more detail soon but if you had to pick one I would definitely go with Raw Cacao Powder! It’s chocolate in its most natural form ground into a powder and turns your overnight oats into a chocolaty pudding!

One of my fave’s is ½ chopped banana in with the overnight oats plus a sprinkling of cinnamon and then topped with the remaining banana in the morning and a spoonful of peanut butter! It’s simple but so delicious. Honestly, once you have tried these and played around with different ingredients they really do taste like dessert!

I have absolutely fallen in love with overnight oats and think they are especially brilliant for anyone who doesn’t have much time in the morning so make, snooze and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Wellness Bars

 

bars complete

 

I really didn’t know what to name these bars as they can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack or even dessert! They are so yummy and wholesome and are suitable for any time of day. Plus I don’t know if you’ve noticed a running theme I’ve got going on but I really do love how versatile oats can be!

They are super easy to make and can be kept in the freezer for around a month or in the fridge for up to a week. They could probably last a bit longer I’ve just not been able to leave them long enough to find out!
Seriously though they look good but taste even better…you won’t want to eat another cereal bar again!

The other great thing about them is that you can literally throw in whatever you have at home, I’ve made these a few times now and each batch has been different depending on what I’ve got in or what needs using up.

As these bars are made up of healthy fats, protein and slow release carbohydrates they are perfect as a pre work out snack and the oats will keep your energy levels steady throughout your gym sesh.

Makes 12-14 bars.

Ingredients:
1 cup (approx 75 grams) of oats
1 ¼ cup (approx 200 grams) of pitted dates
3 tbsp of 100 % natural peanut butter (or you could use another nut butter)
1 tbsp of coconut oil
1 cup (approx 75 grams)of a variety of nuts (almonds, walnuts, brazils etc)
½ cup (a good handful) of optional extras…

Some of the extra’s I have been putting in are, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, sultanas, apricots, prunes, goji berries and figs. Bigger fruits like figs and apricots would need to be chopped into chunks. You could even put in cacao nibs to add in some extra antioxidants and vitamins (adding some cinnamon and natural maple syrup would be quite nice to have in winter too).

Method

First you need to roast or bake the oats and nuts in the oven for just 10/15 minutes or so until they start to turn golden (around 180°c) I wouldn’t do this under the grill as it can burn the oats very easily.

Whilst they are in the oven, put the dates into a bowl and cover with some boiling water to soften.oats and nuts

Once the oats and nuts are nice and toasty put all of the oats and about 1/3 of the nuts into a large bowl. Then with the remaining 2/3 of the nuts put into a food processor and give a quick blitz until they are chunky (but not fine like crumble).

Add the chunky nuts back into the bowl with the toasted oats along with any extra’s you have chosen.

Then drain the dates and put into the food processor and blitz until it becomes very sticky and will start to clump together into a large ball. Add this to the oat mixture.

Next you need to melt the coconut oil over a low heat and then stir in the peanut butter until it becomes runny (if you like things sweet you could always add some maple syrup or honey at this point). Once fully melted and smooth drizzle this over the oat and nut mixture and combine thoroughly, making sure all of the oats are coated in the dates/peanut butter to ensure they stick together.

Line two loaf tins with parchment paper and divide the mixture between them, putting a couple of spoonfuls in at a time and pressing down with the back of a spoon until it starts sticking together like you would the base of a cheese cake.

Once they feel nice and compact pop them in the freezer for an hour and then slice into bars to eat later or even into squares to enjoy with coffee. I’ve even crumbled up a slice over frozen yoghurt as a healthy pudding too!

Gluten, refined sugar and dairy free, ideal for vegans, gym goers, raw foodies (if you don’t bake the oats and nuts) and peanut butter enthusiasts 😄