Low-sugar acai bowl

My Instagram feed has been LOADED lately with smoothies. Smoothie bowls, açai bowls, ‘nice’ cream, basically blended up cold things, with toppings for crunch.

Don’t forget the toppings!

Out of all the breakfast foods (OK perhaps not the avo toast as that is the ULTIMATE in photogenicity) the smoothie bowl photos rather well. Thick and creamy in a vibrant green or purple – or brown if you use spinach – a good nut butter drizzle and the generous overflow streaming down the sides. It’s cool, similar to ice cream so surely is the perfect candidate for summer breakfasts when porridge most definitely isn’t the answer.

Why is it then that every time I make a smoothie, it just doesn’t float my boat. I’m not sure whether it’s that a liquid meal just doesn’t satiate my appetite? Or perhaps that I’m conscious of not adding too much fruit so instead it ends up tasting of pond, never mind resembling one? I just can’t figure it out. SOS (save ones’ smoothies).

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Now I’m sure we’ve all heard of the açai bowl. A street snack from Brazil which is a deep purple berry frozen and blended and then topped with toppings galore. Bananas, granola, berries, coconut, seeds, you name it, you can top it. Here in the UK the açai berry isn’t as abundant so we have to rely on frozen bananas for the texture and then freeze dried açai powder or little frozen sachets of the açai pulp for the taste and colour. If you’re then centering your toppings around granola, banana and berries it’s not a very balanced breakfast. Meaning spiked blood sugar levels and a grumble in your belly by 11am. Breakfast preferably wants to contain a good balance of slow and fast release carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats so we need to rethink our smoothie bowl making rituals.

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Something else that has been trending lately. Fruit-free and low-sugar smoothies. Yuppp that’s right, ones that supposedly don’t taste like salad, are filling and all add up to that much needed 5-a-day (or is it now 7, or 10? I’m not sure it keeps changing). Frozen banana is the fruit of choice when it comes to smoothies, but have you ever considered steamed and frozen cauliflower? Or courgette? Or butternut squash? Thought not. Me neither. The furthest I ever roamed into vegetable territory was spinach or kale , the odd bit of avocado – that’s technically a fruit so doesn’t count!

Steamed to make it gentler on your tummy and frozen to keep the smoothie chilled, vegetables are a wondrous addition. Paired with ground flaxseeds, a spoon of plantbased protein powder, some berries, maybe a cheeky half a date as I’m just not that hard-core, milk and any funky powders you like, you’d be none the wiser that it contains some cruciferous vegetables. A spoon of oats or soaked buckwheat blended into the mix would be ideal if you need it super filling, or a generous sprinkle (*ahem* handful) of granola or muesli…leftover cookies in my case.

Maybe this smoothie bowl is the one that will change things forever? It was good. I’m not going to lie. But I am still ever faithful to my porridge/toast/muesli/overnight-oats rotation. The girl knows what she likes. -\_(‘~’)_/-

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Maybe I haven’t landed upon the perfect granola yet? Not too sweet, plenty of crunch. The sort that you just can’t get off of your mind. Saying that, this one was mega, it hasn’t escaped my mind. Maybe I’ve found the one?!?

If you’re after some more smoothie bowl inspiration and recipes, all low sugar veggie-centric and drool worthy may I add, head to these blogs and Instagram accounts. These girls are killing it in the smoothie game.

Low-sugar açai bowl

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup steamed and frozen cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup steamed and frozen courgette (zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup berries (I used a mixture of strawberries and blackberries, any fresh or frozen would work)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp açai powder
  • 1 tbsp protein powder (I used hemp)
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseeds/linseeds
  • 1/2-1 date depending on sweetness preference

Topping ideas

  • Granola (try to use a low sugar one)
  • Muesli
  • These crumbled up cookies
  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, banana, kiwi
  • Bee pollen
  • Cacao nibs
  • Chopped Nuts
  • Nut or seed butter (I used a roasted almond, cashew and hazelnut)
  • Yogurt
  • Coconut flakes
  • Puffed rice, buckwheat, quinoa or amaranth

Directions

  1. Add all the ingredients for the smoothie into a high powdered blender, starting with 1/4 cup of milk.
  2. Blend until everything is blitzed smooth and you have a thick smoothie with the consistency of ice cream, adding more milk if necessary. A high powered blender will work best here, I use a nutribullet. One less powerful will struggle to blend the frozen fruit and vegetables and it will be lumpy.
  3. Spoon into a bowl (watch your tongue on that blade I know you’re licking it clean!)
  4. Choose your toppings, add as many or as few as you wish.
  5. Dive in whilst it’s still cold, and don’t forget that picture for Instagram!

Enjoyed al fresco basking in the morning sunshine listening to the birds whistle their tunes. That’s the ideal breakfast situation. Not achievable most of the time I know, but on the one day that it appears, make the most of it. Embrace it with both hands, the smoothie bowl included, and DIG IN!

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Golden ginger pancakes

So I missed it. Shrove Tuesday that is, or Pancake day if you wish. This year, February the 28th, was the National Day of the Pancake. Fat, thin, puffed, rolled, however you take it, across the country Brits were flipping their pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I did have a pancake recipe planned, but for no other reason than I just didn’t get round to it, it wasn’t posted in time. Soz Guys.

Last Tuesday, eating pancakes for every meal of the day was of course allowed. It’s kinda obligatory as when else can you do it?? An indulgence that’s not frowned upon whether you’re 8 or 80, and if a whole jar of Nutella is consumed in one serving, no fingers will be pointed!! I’m not really a Nutella girl, my go-to is lemon and sugar however I updated it a little this year. Chunks of tart cheek-sucking blood orange and grapefruit, lemon juice and a good drizzle of local honey. That was swiftly followed by another spread liberally with the milk jam I spoke about in my last post. No need for an explanation, I’m sure you can all imagine the heavenlyness that graced my mouth.

Preceding the sweet pancakes there always has to be a savoury version in my house, and not too many as we don’t want to be too full for the MAIN event now do we?!? Obviously there’s no american pancakes allowed on pancake day, crepes are where it is at and so the batter doubles both for the savoury and the sweet. In the past I’ve made a version of the french galette, the crepes made from buckwheat flour a deep nutty smoky flour that when poured thin and crispy and wrapped around ham and Comte cheese sizzled under the grill with a handful of lemony spiked salad on the side, it’s simple, unadulterated but hits the spot. Or for the veggies, pear, cheddar, walnuts and some honey, or mushrooms spinach and a runny fried egg perched on top. Balances out the oncoming sugar-hit but leaves enough of a hole to eat at least one or two more pancakes!

Pancakes are a thing eaten worldwide, probably in every country, in many many different variations. So we all know the French crepe, and the American pancakes, thick fluffy and the size of your face. Hop across the continents to Asia where pancakes are a regular for breakfast. In South India there is the masala dosa. A pancake made by fermenting ground lentils and rice, spread so thinly you could read the newspaper through it, filled with a spiced potato mix and served with a lentil sambol and coconut chutney. Or in Sri Lanka there is the hopper. A coconut infused rice crepe with an egg cooked inside, topped with curries and chutneys. We all have grown up with the Chinese crispy duck pancakes, and one not so dissimilar is the banh xeo found in Vietnam. A coconut and turmeric spiced pancake typically stuffed with pork and prawns, mushrooms and raw crunchy vegetables alongside a dipping sauce heavy on the fish sauce called nuoc cham.

I wanted to stay seasonal this year, so for pancake day as the savoury course I opted for a spiced roast squash, sage and hazelnut pesto, spinach and some goats cheese (plus the sizzled chorizo for my dad, AKA meat fiend). We all enjoyed it so much it made me wonder why we don’t eat savoury pancakes more often, a brilliant way of cobbling together straggling leftovers from the fridge to make a wholly satisfying meal.

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Topped with blood orange and pink grapefruit, be pollen, sunflower seeds, yogurt, cashew butter, cinnamon and a drizzle of local raw honey

 

My recipe for you this time doesn’t actually involve crepes, sorry for the tease. Here’s a pancake recipe that can be used all year round, weekdays before work (yes they’re that quick) or for a long and relaxing weekend brunch. I threw this recipe together one morning, adapted from the two-ingredient pancakes I’m sure you’ve seen sneaking around on Pinterest. Originally it calls for one banana to two eggs, but by adding oats, bicarbonate of soda, spices, grated fresh ginger and ground linseeds it makes for an uber fluffy pancake.

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The banana in the batter makes them sweet so it’s not necessary to add any more sweetener, although a little drizzle of something never does any harm. Top with your favourite fruits, nut butter, chopped nuts or seeds and some yogurt and be prepared to lick the plate clean.

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Can you tell I was way too keen to get eating before I took these pictures?

 

Golden ginger pancakes

Serves 2-3 depending on your appetite

Ingredients

  • 1 large very ripe banana
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 inch piece ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp ground linseeds/flaxseeds
  • Milk, around 1/4 cup

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients except the milk to a high speed blender such as a Nutribullet and blend until a smooth very thick batter forms. Add the milk and blend again, if it is still too thick add a little more milk.
  2. If you don’t have a high speed blender, mash the banana well in a bowl and whisk in the eggs. Substitute the rolled oats for oat flour or any other flour of your choice (wholemeal would be nice) and whisk well along with all the other ingredients. Add enough milk to thin the batter slightly as before.
  3. Place a frying pan on a medium high heat and add some oil. Brush the oil round to coat the base of the pan. When it is hot add ladlefuls of the batter, I usually manage 3 or 4 in a large pan, trying to keep them in a round-ish shape. When the edges start to set and there are loads of little bubbles on the surface flip the pancakes and leave to cook for 1 or 2 minutes more.
  4. Whilst you finish cooking the rest of the pancakes, put the cooked ones on a plate and cover with a tea towel. Put in a low oven to keep warm.
  5. Once all the pancakes are cooked serve as many as you wish, piled with your favourite fruit and toppings.

 

Treat yourself with love,care and a nice breakfast, and a successful day will surely follow. Love and breakfast wishes (and a very, very belated Happy Pancake Day to you!!)

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A pot of liquid gold

Hands up who likes nut butter.

Hello my fellow friends.

Hands up who spends a fortune on nut butters, seemingly weekly because you can’t just have the one variety in your cupboard and a teaspoon always is a permanent feature propped up in the jar.

Still there?

I was wandering round planet organic the other day killing some time and obviously ended up facing a row upon row of nuts and seeds in jars, swiftly followed by tea the other lover in my life (I seriously need to find myself a boyfriend). The varieties are endless, every nut or seed is on offer, some chocolatey –  a riff on Nutella – others spiced up, some raw, some roasted, the list goes on and on and on. People are becoming more innovative in their flavour creations, no longer sticking to just sea salt, trying to cater for their audience of evolving tastebuds. Beautiful packaging sure is a feast for the eyes, but turn your gaze to the price tag…  just walk away, swiftly.

However much I love a little splurge on new products to test out and try, when prices are rattling up to £12 for a piddly little jar, that’s one indulgence too far. So I tend to use my aisle perusing as a source of inspiration. Gather my thoughts and *mind journal* new tastes and flavours to have a play around with come the weekend.

One jar I’ve always been tempted by, but gawk at the price tag for, the royalty that is the macadamia butter. We’ve all picked up a packet in the supermarket, wondering why on earth they cost so much, a pack of almonds or cashews are so cheap in comparison, so I’m sure that they are quite often overlooked.

When living a more plantbased lifestyle it’s necessary to get enough protein and fibre throughout your day, usually in the form of nuts, legumes and grains. The majority of these are grown abroad in sunnier climes as the UK just isn’t suitable. I’m sure you all know about the recent concerns in places like California who grow almonds in abundance but due to recent droughts and the sudden clean eating craze they’re struggling to keep up with demand. They’re not the only country. Of course we can’t be self efficient by just relying on our own local produce, we have such worldwide varied tastes now that meat and two veg just won’t cut it. I feel by varying the type of nuts and grains you buy, is one way of helping and not putting as much pressure on the countries already struggling. Instead of almonds and quinoa next time try pecans and millet, or walnuts and amaranth, pumpkin seeds and spelt. There are so many options available for us now we should all be making the most of it.

So back to the macadamias, perhaps another reason why we aren’t stocking up on them is the queries of how high in fat they are. We still believe that fat is bad, low fat= good. Friends and family still comment saying, ‘no I don’t eat nuts they’re really high in fat’, ‘avocados they will make me fat’ and ‘I only drink skimmed milk because the fat is bad for me’. When introduced into a balanced diet, all these plantbased fats are incredible for our skin and health, we just need to keep in mind ‘in moderation’. Fats keep you satiated and tell that part in your brain that that food was good. Its so important too if you’re eating lots of vegetables, these fats unlock all the fat soluble vitamins and minerals, so you can reap all the benefits.

So let me break this down for you. Macadamias are high in monounsaturated fats (the GOOD ONES) found in abundance in avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts and whole milk. Research has proven that eating plenty of these fats helps to reduce cholesterol, prevent heart disease, and diabetes. As with all nuts, macadamias are high in fibre, both the soluble and insoluble kind, meaning happy digestion!! They also contain a whole host of valuable vitamins and minerals, manganese, thiamine, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and vitamin B6, all which help the body to thrive.

That’s one good nut.

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Golden and toasted after a few minutes in the oven

 

Macadamia butter works well in both sweet and savoury food, it is also a great substitute for butter. Now I’m not sinning butter, it’s golden lusciousness never fails to make me happy when slicked on toast, but sometimes we need to change things up a bit. And I know there are some of you out there that don’t like butter (it’s a mystery to me) but this will sit nicely on your toast, swirled into your porridge or mixed with ginger, lime and soy to make a creamy Asian salad dressing.

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Sit the little pot of nut butter in the fridge where it will keep for a while, probably a few months, but seriously will it last that long? I highly doubt it, you will be finding every opportunity you can to crack open the jar. The other day I paired it with mango and date syrup on top of pancakes, we may be in the middle of winter here in the UK but for those few moments I was transported to a tropical paradise. I do like to keep as seasonal as possible with my produce but sometimes we just need that little bit of sunshine in our mornings.

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Almost there… this is the stage where it forms a big clump and you think the nut butter will never go thin and silky. Just hang on, macadamia butter is only moments away.

 

Macadamia butter

Ingredients

  • 1 packet macadamia nuts
  • Pinch of sea salt

Method

  1. Set the oven to 180C. Open the packet of macadamias and tip them all out onto a tray or in a roasting dish so they sit in a flat layer.
  2. Put in the oven, until they smell toasty and they have tinged brown on the edges. Don’t let them burn.
  3. Once out of the oven, put the nuts in a food processor and set to a high speed. Leave the food processor on until a smooth creamy paste has formed. It doesn’t take very long with macadamias due to the high fat content, but scrape the sides down as necessary.
  4. Add a big pinch of nice sea salt, and whizz for a few minutes more.
  5. Transfer into a clean jar and store in the fridge.

 

How do you use your nut butters? Are they just for breakfast and eating with a spoon or do you use them in savoury dishes too. Think satay, creamy salad dressings, dipping sauces, a substitute for tahini in hummus. Please do comment with your thoughts and ideas, I’d love some new inspiration as always!

Happy blending, you nutty lot!

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