Chocolate and banana granola clumps

Let’s start this post with a quiz. Name for me a breakfast food that one might consider ‘healthy’?

I’ll give you a few seconds to think about it…

Was granola one of the first ideas to come to mind? A deep bowl of fat free yogurt, chopped fresh fruit, and a generous smattering of granola. Not forgetting the drizzle of runny honey.

I’m not going to get into the debate here of clean vs dirty. Healthy v unhealthy. As is there really an unhealthy food? A slice of cake someone may think of as unhealthy however when you take a look at your diet as a whole if it’s sandwiched in between lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, surely that constitutes as a balanced diet? Kale and quinoa may be ‘healthy’ but if they don’t make you happy, are we living as well as we think. Cake, cookies, brownies and the sweeter things in life are as necessary as kale. That is fact.

Back to the granola, I’m sure there are many brands we grew up eating or still tip into our bowls each and every morning. Maybe you only bought some boxes believing they were healthy, perhaps better than your favourite Cornflakes, but didn’t really take any pleasure from eating them. Words such as natural, free from refined sugars, organic, low fat, whole, all suck us in to the belief that we are making the right choices. Go and take a closer look at almost any box of granola on the supermarket shelves. Take a real close look. HINT, look at the sugar content.

I know I’ve mentioned before about my thoughts on sugar. I’m not a nutritionist, a dietitian or anyone who has the scientific plain facts, so I suppose what I say should be taken with a pinch of salt. Nonetheless, it’s evident that as a nation we consume far too much of the sweet stuff. I’m not just talking caster sugar. Maple syrup, honey and agave I’m looking at you too.  Our recommended daily allowance currently stands at 30g per day, that’s 6 tsp. Take a regular can of coke for example, when that contains 35g (7 tsp) you can see how the numbers stack up.

Anything which contains more than 5g of sugar per 100g is said to be high. As sugar or a syrup is the ingredient in granola which brings the crunch, it is going to be higher than say a box of muesli or shredded wheat. There are granolas on the market which have much lower sugar content and are GL (glycemic load) tested, so won’t cause as much of a spike in your sugar levels. That being said, if like me you have tried this one in particular, will know that it resembles a certain food for our feathery friends. Bird food. Dry, floury, not much crunch and rather bland, food for fuel not for enjoyment.

No one needs that. Life isn’t made for boring breakfasts.

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I’m sure many of you have seen this recipe before from one of my favourites, Green Kitchen Stories. Their banana granola is a bit of a worldwide phenomenon. My New Roots has a recipe also. In fact it’s far from a new concept. Google banana granola and the posts are numerous. Hundreds and thousands of them. Hello innovative blogger over here! But you can never have enough granola recipes.

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Yet again I had a few bananas, well past their best, festering in the fruit bowl. Usually that always means banana bread, but no eggs and so far no success with a vegan version of said bread, I just wasn’t going to take the risk. Banana granola was on my mind. Sweetened with fruit and just a little maple syrup to bring the crunch. Thoughts of baking low and slow to ensure no burnt bitter ends and using up some brown rice puffs hiding in the back of the cupboard, well obviously my brain on that particular day was fully functioning. Clumpy granola, lightly sweetened, boulders of crunch to munch whether it be for breakfast or as a snack. It was a result.

This one. A heavy dousing of raw cacao, a big pinch of salt is essential, and some peanut butter too. Cos’ why not! Chopped nuts, coconut flakes, oats, raw buckwheat and puffed rice mixed well with some cinnamon for that sweet spice. It’s simple as you like, low in added sugar and one to use up whatever is going in your cupboards.

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I can’t forget to mention that it’s dad approved. From a dad who likes his breakfasts of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, granola, Shreddies and Weetabix on rotation, and that is that. But this stuff by the handful, he was more than happy. Take it as you like. In a bowl drowned with your milk of choice, ice cold. Or some yogurt, whether it’s coconut, cows or almond topped with a big handful and some fruit. That açai bowl or smoothie that was begging for a bit of crunch, here’s your answer. As a topper for porridge, toast, overnight oats, a vessel for scooping up nut butter or just popping into your mouth… You got it!

Plus it’s chocolate flavoured. How can you go wrong?!?!

Chocolate and banana granola clumps

  • Servings: Makes a small serving which can be doubled easily ( just divide between two trays and rotate them halfway through baking)
  • Print

Ingredients

Dry ingredients:

  • 40g almonds
  • 40g walnuts
  • 40g flaked coconut
  • 50g puffed brown rice
  • 25g raw buckwheat
  • 75g rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 big pinch of salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp rapeseed oil (olive oil or coconut oil will work too)
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 very ripe banana

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan. Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silicone baking sheet.
  2. Chop the almonds and walnuts roughly and add to a bowl along with all the other dry ingredients and stir together.
  3. In a saucepan mash the banana to a purée then add all the other wet ingredients and heat gently until everything has melted and combined.
  4. Pour the banana mixture into the oat mixture and give it a good stir until there are no dry bits left and everything is mixed well.
  5. Transfer to the baking sheet, pat into a thick layer and put in the oven for 20 minutes.
  6. After that time, give the granola a stir by folding it over trying not to break the clumps up too much. Rotate the tray and place back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes. Checking the granola every 5 minutes, stirring the outside edges into the middle to ensure they are not burning.
  7. Take out of the oven when deep brown and smelling delicious. It will firm up even more as it cools.
  8. Leave the tray to cool on a wire rack, whilst the scent of chocolatey banana bread wafts through the house, so hide away from wandering hands! Store in a Tupperware at room temperature where it will keep for around 1 month.

Hope you enjoy this one. It sure is a winner. I’ll be off now, I’ve just eaten a mouthful of granola and I want some more!

X

Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies

I love the gap in between meals. I love snacks. Particularly cookies for a snack.

mmmmm cookies

When I was younger I always loved the occasional trips with my mum to a shopping centre, bags gathered in hands with the excitement of new shoes and holiday gear. (Shoes which according to my dad should be saved for my holiday, by which time they were too small as I was the never-ending-child). We always made a detour on the way out by the Millie’s Cookies stand. Anyone also from the UK will have similar fond memories. I’d have a pick of two cookies, guaranteed white chocolate chip and the other a milk chocolate and toffee, my mum’s the oatmeal and raisin, all wrapped in a paper bag to nibble on on the car journey to my Nanan’s to bridge-the-gap before dinner.

Nowadays my cookie preference nods towards a more grown up flavour. Ideally a crispy on the outside and really gooey in the middle, the under baked kind with a good butterscotch caramel tone. Either with oats for a chew and plump raisins, or studded with dark chocolate chips (85% plus), more chocolate than cookie, and some nuts for crunch. Not forgetting that sprinkle of flaky salt. You can’t forget that.

Inevitably, eating cookies everyday isn’t going to do you any wonders. Perhaps your mental health, chocolate is known for its calming effects (I’ll take that as an excuse!!), but they are very high in sugar and fat. Sadly we do need to keep those added sugars down from day to day. On the odd occasion though, there will be no holding back.

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For the every day 4pm slot, THIS recipe has been my recent nibble. Usually I’m a fan of the two-ingredient banana and oat cookie which, as I can’t be that minimalistic, morphs into an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cookie. They’re sweet, gooey and as we always have overripe bananas in the fruit bowl, waste-free too! (BONUS). I found this version, full of add-ins for texture, crunch and goo, on The First Mess blog, her photography always does wonders there’s no surprise that I was drawn in. I am always on the hunt for the perfect specimen of a snacking cookie. Maybe now I’ve found it?!?!

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It wouldn’t be a recipe of mine on this blog without the little tweak here and there, and this cookie is no different. I like my snacks to not be too sweet, wholesome and tasty yes, but sickly no. Initial ideas of subbing the mashed ripe banana for an equal amount of finely grated courgette, great. However the last courgette I had just put in the oven to roast, so it wasn’t going to happen after all. Next best option? Carrot. Naturally sweeter, why didn’t I think of that in the first place!

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Made with finely grated carrots, oats, toasted coconut, roasted chunks of almonds (or pecans), some cinnamon and turmeric and not forgetting the dark chocolate (that’s the important part). Make sure to under bake these, they still will feel really soft from the oven, but bear with me here. Leave them to cool fully on a rack and store in the fridge ready for a week, or two (if you’re lucky), of snacking success. Note they’re vegan, with only a little bit of added maple syrup, I’d reckon they’re good enough for breakfast? Well they were good enough for me!

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Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 70g (1/2 cup) raw almonds or pecans
  • 40g (1/2 cup) coconut flakes
  • 80g (1 cup) rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground psyllium husk (if you can’t get this use ground flaxseeds or linseeds instead)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for topping
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 110g (1/2 cup) finely grated carrot
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) + 2 tsp milk, I used oat milk but water works too
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 90g (1/2 cup) chopped dark chocolate (my favourite is 85%)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
  2. Chop the almonds or pecans into small chunks and put in a tin and roast in the oven for 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile chop the coconut finely and after the 8 mins add the coconut and the oats to the tin and put in the oven for 4 more minutes.
  4. Pour the almonds, oats and coconut into a bowl along with the cinnamon, turmeric, salt and psyllium husk and mix well.
  5. Put the grated carrot, milk, coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a small bowl and whisk together.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry along with the chocolate (but reserve a little and put aside) fold until combined and everything is incorporated.
  7. Line two baking sheets with baking paper, or silicone mats. With an ice cream scoop place mounds of dough on the baking sheets until you have used all the mixture.
  8. Flatten to a pattie shape with damp hands, as they won’t spread in the oven. Squish the reserved chocolate chips into the top of the cookies and sprinkle rather generously with flaky salt.
  9. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, until the edges are golden and firm but the middles are still soft. I found 15 mins was perfect.
  10. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer to a rack until completely cool and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

 

But Seriously? We all know they won’t last that long.

Big hugs and sunshiney love

x

Coconut Overnight Muesli

I get it. We don’t always have time to prepare meals ahead, eat Instagram worthy breakfasts every morning, occasionally a proper meal doesn’t even get a look in. In reality breakfast is porridge splodged into a bowl dripping down the sides, and lunch on the go comprises of an apple and a bag of almonds. For those desperate times convenience food is called upon, whether it’s Pret, M&S, Itsu, ‘insert name of food place here’, they’re easy, offer lots of choice for all diets and appetite, however it sure can all add up.

The past few weeks I’ve been here there and everywhere. Last minute jobs and changes of plans resulted in throwing clothes in a bag (not forgetting the toothbrush) and making a dash for it. Packed lunches went out the window, dinner and mealtimes completely thrown all over the show, mouthfuls taken in between hair plaiting and foundation applying. At times like these food is fuel, not eaten mindfully and enjoyed as it should.

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When I know I’m going to have a crazy busy day, no scheduled mealtimes and the lunch option only centres around curled up sandwiches and party sized bags of Haribo, I ensure to have a really good breakfast. One that’s enjoyed slowly, peacefully as a moment to myself. I cherish those moments. Something with a good mix of slow release carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein and a bit of sweetness. Overnight oats pretty much ticks all of those boxes. Plus, the added extra that it can be made in a jar ready to pick up on your way out via the fridge, and eaten on the train, in your car whilst stuck in traffic or al desko. WIN WIN.

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I’m having a bit of a moment lately with muesli. The textures and sog that you get when it’s been soaking in milk for a brief sitting and every mouthful is just that little bit more different than the last. Yet again in the summer months I do enjoy a little fling with overnight oats. Porridge’s cooler friend, the one that was just thrown effortlessly together, walks with a breeze and without a care in the world with a touch of prepped smugness. I’ll have some of that please.

Grab your favourite muesli, I lean towards Rude Health’s Super Seed muesli, favouring more grains and seeds rather than dried fruit to control the sweetness levels. Prepared in the same way as we would overnight oats, stirred up with ground linseeds, yogurt, milk, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. We all have time for that surely? Prepare a large batch for the week ahead and divide into individual jars ready for the morning dash.

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To make it super thick and creamy, yogurt is a necessity. It adds a tang along with soaking the grains so they are more easily digested. An organic full fat yogurt with probiotic cultures, such as Yeo Valley, is an accessible choice found in most supermarkets here in the UK. I love yogurt, and eat dairy so that isn’t an issue for me, however I do enjoy mixing things up a little. On the odd occasion going for a coconut yogurt such as Coyo or Coconut Collaborative, some goats yogurt or almond or cashew yogurt. We’ve had a sudden influx here of alternative dairy products, Nush and Abbot Kinney are both coconut, almond and cashew yogurt brands which have recently appeared on the shelves. I even spotted a rice milk yogurt the other day. Don’t get me started on oat yogurt, a variety I have been desperate to try for AGES, Oatly my favourite oat milk brand from Sweden are yet to bring the yogurt to the UK. I am waiting, fidgeting, not patiently at all, but waiting all the same. Yes, alternative yogurts are more expensive, but it’s enjoyable to try new products and discover what you like, even if it is only very occasionally as a payday treat.

This particular day I had an opened tub of natural Coyo (if you have ever tried the salted caramel flavour, it is so good it’s just plain wrong!). Coyo is a lusciously thick coconut yogurt, more like coconut cream, so you don’t need much to be satisfied. That’s why I manage to stretch out one pot to a few servings. This overnight muesli could be made with any yogurt as a substitute, whichever you have open or is your favourite.

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I like to top this with fresh fruit, berries particularly are wonderful, or some mashed banana or grated apple stirred through just before serving to add a nice sweetness. A spoon of nut butter and some more seeds on top (you can never have too many) for crunch and bee pollen, because why not. If making your breakfast look pretty nourishes your soul, then go on and have a field day.

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Coconut overnight muesli

This makes just the one serving but you can double, triple or multiply the quantities as many times as you need to make a jar for breakfast every weekday. Eat on the train or whenever you get a chance to breathe and enjoy, and DON’T FORGET THE SPOON!!

Ingredients

  • 45g muesli
  • 1 tsp ground linseeds (ground flax or chia seeds work too)
  • Small pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 (large) tbsp coconut yogurt
  • 1/4-1/3 cup of milk (nut, oat, rice, cows, they all are good)
  • Berries to serve
  • Bee pollen
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almond butter

Method

  1. Mix the muesli, salt, cinnamon and ground linseeds in a bowl.
  2. Add the yogurt and stir until evenly combined.
  3. Starting with a 1/4 cup of milk mix well, if it is still quite thick add a splash more until the thickness of pancake batter, remembering it thickens up overnight. Place in the fridge until the next day or whenever it is served.
  4. At breakfast, give it a good stir add more milk if you like it thinner and top with berries, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and bee pollen, of course the almond butter too.
  5. If preparing for a few days ahead divide evenly into jars and add the toppings that you like where they will keep for 5-7 days, ready to be taken as and when needed.

I’m ready now for some much needed chill time. No more meals out of tupperware. Sitting at a table eating with a knife and fork (not plastic ones), perhaps a small glass of wine surrounded by my family. That’s what food should be about. And I cannot wait.

Hugs and kisses

X

 

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!!)

X

 

Beet tahini balls

When I was little, toast or cereal was the only thing on the cards for breakfast. Well thinking about it, it was almost always a big bowl of cereal. Toast was one of those things that sounded great beforehand, crisped and bronzed, slathered well with salted butter and a thin slick of ruby jam, BUT in reality a soggy piece of white loaf spread with flora and overly sweet strawberry jam. Nah never did it for me.

So bowl of cereal it was to break the fast. My eyes always shone at the sight of some Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, Shreddies, Rice Krispies or come winter warm Shredded Wheat or Weetabix with a sliced up banana. Now my mum was always a Sugar Puffs gal. If you’re new to the British cereal aisle, you’ll find them under the name of Honey Monster Puffs, a puffed wheat sweetened with sugar and honey. IN FACT, looking at the nutritional breakdown on the packet, containing 5 types of sugar, there are certainly better options out there.

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(On tasting these bars, my mum remarked how they are similar to Sugar Puffs, I’m hoping on a much more wholesome scale, but I will definitely take that as a good thing.)

Between me and my mum we’re both BIG fans of a good muesli bar (I’m not including my dad here because it’s near impossible to tempt him with a healthier treat, he’s only down for proper brownies and chocolate). I’ve attempted many in the past, and it really is hard to find a good one. Some granola bars are just way too dry, other ‘no-bake’ muesli bars too crumbly and fall apart, some using way too many dried dates or a big glug of maple syrup. I always return to the Muesli Bar from Green Kitchen Stories (on their desserts apps), they keep really well in the freezer and transport without turning into a mass of crumbs. If you fancy a baked bar, this Feelgood flapjack is lovely, just on the right side of sweetness, dipped into a cup of milk, crumbled on top of some yogurt or spread liberally with nut butter. Totally satisfying and moreish.

Now this recipe from Golubka Kitchen has been on my radar for quite a while now. Remember Rice Krispies Squares? The Rice Krispie snack glued together by a mass of marshmallows, this is slightly reminiscent of them. Gloriously magenta in colour, they use blended cooked beetroot to lend a slight earthiness as well as the mega hue. Oats and puffed brown rice make them more sustaining as a snack, and tahini and hazelnut butter lend a richness as well as a good dose of plant based protein. I added a handful of raisins for chewy nuggets, another of sunflower and pumpkin seeds for crunch and some cacao nibs for that 4pm much needed cacao hit.

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Note: The bars are best kept in the freezer and will keep there for a good few months, just take them out a few minutes before serving to soften. I have eaten some straight out the freezer but at room temperature is the best way to enjoy them. They are sticky and gooey and everything you want in a little snack bar. If you’re feeling fancy, drizzle with a little dark chocolate or some raw chocolate, i just rolled mine in whizzed up coconut flakes. The choice is yours.

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Beet Tahini Balls

Ingredients

  • 1 small beetroot, cooked (I roasted mine whole in its skin in foil, then peeled. However use vacuum packed if you can’t get fresh beets)
  • 1/2 cup soft dates, pitted
  • 1-2 tbsp plant based milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups wholegrain puffs (I used brown rice, try buckwheat, quinoa)
  • 1/2 cup tahini (try to use a brand such as Meridian, its much thicker)
  • 2 tbsp other nut butter (I used hazelnut sunflower seed butter but anything else will work)
  • Handful cacao nibs
  • Handful sunflower seeds
  • Handful pumpkin seeds
  • Handful raisins
  • Large handful of desiccated coconut or coconut flakes

 

Method

  1. Make sure the beet is peeled, then chop up and put in the food processor with the dates, 1 tbsp of milk, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Whizz up to form a smooth paste, and add more milk if it is struggling and still lumpy.
  2. Tip into a large mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients except the desiccated coconut.
  3. Mix well to form a sticky mixture, if it’s too wet add another handful of oats or if i’ts too dry add a little more milk. It needs to come together in one big clump.
  4. Form into little rounded mounds, akin to a coconut macaroon. I find this easier by wetting my hands with water first. Sprinkle the coconut out on a plate and roll the balls in the coconut until evenly covered.
  5. Place on a few plates in the freezer for at least an hour to set, then transfer to a Tupperware where they will keep in the freezer for a few months.

I hope these will brighten up your snacking or on-the-hoof breakfasts.

With love

X

 

The #PSL but not as you know it

The past week here in the UK there has been notable chill in the air. It seems to have sprung on us rather suddenly. Yes it’s October, and yes it is Autumn, but nevertheless I’m sure we have all been relishing in the glorious sunshine that’s turned up a couple of months late.

The sunglasses are still in use, but now I’m fishing out my winter coats, thicker tights, roll neck jumpers and very soon knee high boots (mini squeal!) to beat the frosty breezes but still enjoying the outside air without the wish to be snuggled up in a duvet with a hot water bottle.

Living in Britain we are supposed to have four proper seasons but due to global warming we’re shifting towards the two season year. Spring for sure, you’ll see the lambs, the daffodils, waking up to sunlight in the early mornings pulls us out of hibernation. Autumn too, leaves browning on the trees and gathering in piles of hedgehog caves, the low sunlight that blinds your vision, English apples crisp and sprightly. Both these times are truly magical.

Summer and winter are on a different level. Never warm enough in July and August, no picnics in the parks or bbqs (or if you’re lucky wrapped up in blankets), your umbrella is constantly sodden by the torrential downpour and bohemian summer dresses and sandals stay packed in the cases until next year. Winter isn’t much different, cold dreary mornings that turn into dark nights, never cold enough for snow only that grey sludge that lasts an eternity, everyone suffering from SAD in desperate need for some vitamin D.

Autumn is by far my favourite, maybe due to it also being the season for my birthday (yay!), I’m sure many others also cherish these couple of months. The time to make the most of British berries, plums, pears, courgettes growing in abundance, the last of the tomatoes, game season, early carrots and the start of the root vegetables, all meaning warmth and comfort will soon be filling our mealtimes.

For many the arrival of Autumn also means it’s time for Starbucks to take over with the #psl. What on earth is that? Come on, surely you know it’s the Pumpkin Spice Latte. The drink that has landed on our soil after many years being a favourite of the Americans. They will find the excuse to put pumpkin in EVERYTHING. And then if it doesn’t contain actual pumpkin there will at least be pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice.

Image result for starbucks pumpkin spice latte

Being a Brit, pumpkin only means one thing, Halloween. Pumpkin pie isn’t something we’re eager to bake and serve slices of with a mound of cream, and I don’t see people stockpiling pumpkin flavoured treats at the supermarket. I’m talking pumpkin Oreos, pumpkin spice cream cheese, pumpkin spice almonds, pumpkin spice kale chips, pumpkin pie flavour vodka, pumpkin pie flavour crisps, the list is endless I could’ve gone on on and but I think we’ve had enough of that.

Image result for pumpkin oreos

We get it the Americans love pumpkin, so in homage to them and in my attempt to create something as warm and cosy as the #PSL whilst still giving you something nourishing and not laden with sugar, I’ve come up with this recipe.

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Somebody else say porridge? Yes another porridge recipe, but if you’re anything like me that’s all I crave this time of year.

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For the pumpkin element obviously using pumpkin would be ideal, but if you’ve ever attempted to cook the ones you can find in the supermarket you’ll well know that they’re grown more to be spooky than savoured. Instead I reached out for the humble butternut squash, or even sweet potato would work here. We’re looking for that earthy sweetness, and brilliant orange tone to bring this porridge to life. Spices are obligatory, then finely chopped medjool dates are stirred through for their caramelly sweetness meaning no added sugar is required. And of course what would porridge be without a swirl of nut butter, sunflower seed butter was what I opted for but go ahead with anything else, pecan butter would be INSANE, and of course peanut butter will always have a place in my heart.

 

Pumpkin Pie Porridge

Ingredients

Serves 1

  • 40g / 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 125 ml / 1/2 cup water
  • 125ml / 1/2 cup plant based milk (I like oat or hemp)
  • 1/4 cup butternut squash, mashed**
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Pinch of ginger
  • Small Grating of nutmeg
  • Pinch salt
  • 1-2 squishy medjool dates (I find them very sweet and one is enough but alter to suit your taste)
  • 1 tbsp nut butter

 

Method

** The squash needs to be prepared in advance, can be cooked and kept in the fridge for around 5 days, use leftovers in a soup, as a mash for dinner, stirred into hummus, as a spread on toast or crackers, or just for this porridge every morning.

Wash the whole squash and wrap in foil. Place in an oven set at 180C for at least an hour until tender. Leave to cool.

When required, cut in half length ways and remove the seeds in the rounder section, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon, leaving the skin behind.

  1. The night before if you wish mix the oats, chia seeds, water and milk in a bowl and leave to soak until the next day
  2. In the morning if the oats have been soaked pour into a saucepan, if you haven’t soaked the put the oats, chia, water and milk straight into a pan. Then add the salt, squash purée, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger and nutmeg and mix it all together.
  3. Place over a medium high heat until it starts to bubble, then turn down the heat to a low simmer and leave to cook for 5-10 minutes until thickened to your liking. Keep checking and stirring to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom and add more milk if you prefer it looser.
  4. Tip into a bowl, swirl through your nut butter of choice and add the chopped medjool dates.
  5. Sprinkle with more cinnamon if you like, seeds, bee pollen and whatever else you fancy. If you want to go all out on that pumpkin pie vibe, add a dollop of yogurt, cows, goat or coconut, take your pick for some extra creaminess.

Enjoy in your dressing gown and slippers, a mug of green tea in one hand, the newspaper spread on the table and the porridge warming your belly.

Sending warmth and rosy cheeks your way

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Not so plain plane food

I’m writing this post about being prepared for plane journeys whilst I’m sat at the airport, delayed. No I don’t have much food to eat just some fruit, nuts and a Rawbite bar, so there’ll be a desperate stop off in M&S when we eventually touch down in England. Don’t follow my lead folks! 

Croatia has been the destination for my jollys this summer, somewhere a bit different and new to explore.

I was meant to be here relaxing, but that didn’t happen, instead it was spent learning my driving theory (pray to the road gods), but when I’m back on home turf expect plenty of nattering about noshing. Not gonna lie, the reason I like to go on holiday is for trying new cuisines and searching for some local gems, I prefer it more than the lounging around all day, that makes my legs ache. Until then I want to write a post about travelling whilst still remaining healthy and not succumbing to the dreaded plane food, or popping open the Pringles at 5 o’clock in the morning.

It’s a post that’s commonly found on lifestyle and wellbeing blogs around this time of year. Like me you probably read them to get lots of ideas, for snacks, how to avoid ‘little miss hangry’, things to pack for when you get there, the necessities that most definitely won’t be provided but make life a hell of a lot easier. It also means more time sunbathing less time shopping in supermarkets.

(Anyone else LOVE foreign supermarkets or is it just me? Maybe it is, it can be bloody hard to know what you’re buying half the time, you can never find organic produce, and no one speaks a word of English, but hey that’s the whole fun of it!)

I know, you’re sick of hearing it, but the only way to avoid the microwave mush is preparation. Just a quick little plan and food prep in some tupperwares to stick in your carry on for when that grumble arrives, and when it comes boy does it moan loudly.

Maybe your flight is only a quick two hours up and down, or you’ve flown half way around the earth and lost an entire day. No matter how long the flight, you will have been up probably 3 or 4 hours before you even perch your bum on that airplane seat, it’s time for a nibble. QUICK

I’ve been recently to Manchester airport, so I know what shops are there and what options there are for that early morning breakfast. If you are ever in the UK you will probably be able to rely on Pret a Manger whether you’re gluten, dairy, sugar free or vegan, vegetarian or don’t care and want a bacon butty, they’ve got something for you. With two types of porridge on offer, one traditional and cooked with milk-SUPER creamy I can guarantee-the other a five grain which is both gluten and dairy free made from pinhead oats, amaranth, quinoa, brown and light flaxseeds all cooked in coconut water. There’s honey, a dried fruit and seed mix or berry compote to jazz it all up, and that’s a pretty good filling breakfast right there. There’s also breakfast sandwiches, pastries, yogurts and granola, fruit pots and açai bowls (which I am yet to try), the tea is lovely and I’ve heard the coffee is pretty darn good too. You won’t be spending a lot of money and will get something fresh and the majority is British and organic. That floats my boat. 

I believe if you know there’s a better option at the airport grab it whilst you can, maybe pick up a salad or grain bowl, some fruit or nuts. No you won’t want it then but you’ll wish you did a few hours later, or even plan further ahead for something to eat when you arrive at your hotel or apartment, you won’t know where anything will be and what shops or restaurants will have to offer, so something healthy and fulfilling to look forward to means one less thing to worry about. And for me flying is way too stressful as it is.

So, you’re flying from an airport where you know there are no decent cafes or restaurants, and you don’t want a plate of chips? Then meal prep away people!

If it’s breakfast I need to take then I usually go along the overnight chia oats route, but make it seriously thick. I’m terrified that one day they’ll take it from me so I’ll just have to gobble it all down at security. On my last flight abroad I discovered a new idea from Hemsley and Hemsley. It’s basically a Quaker Oats mug porridge but super charged and will give your body some lovin’. 

It’s so simple, just stick in a coffee cup and ask them to cover with boiling water, pop the lid on and wait for the magic to happen. Alright, it’s not going to be the prettiest looking thing, but is an English breakfast from Ryan Air going to be either? If you can top it with some fruit like berries, apple or banana and you have a balanced meal that will keep you satisfied much longer than any hash brown from Maccy D’s.

Quinoa Kettle porridge

This is a recipe from Hemsley and Hemsley’s book, Good and Simple. I made a batch to take away to Greece with me for quick and easy breakfasts but also took some for my breakfast on the plane. The original recipe calls for quinoa flakes however I didn’t have any of these at home, so for a purse friendly version opt for some simple rolled oats, or route through your cupboards and use a mixture of other flaked grains if you have them, such as brown rice flakes, buckwheat flakes, millet flakes, all will be good here. When I made the recipe I used a scant tbsp of maple syrup which hardly added any sweetness at all so I probably would add 2 next time. For a sweeter tooth add up to four, if you’re eating healthier wholesome foods they’ve got to be enjoyable, it shouldn’t be torture!
If you fancy a cold breakfast, I’ve also tried soaking this overnight in the fridge. Add 1/2 cup (or more if it seems too thick) of milk of your choice or water, stir and cover and leave overnight. In the morning mix it up adjust the thickness to your liking by adding more liquid and top with fruit.

Ingredients
120 g quinoa flakes or oats, millet, buckwheat, brown rice flakes
120g coconut oil

100 g ground almonds

50 g goji berries, raisins or dried cranberries are good here too

50 g desiccated coconut or flaked coconut for chunkier bits

2 tbsp cinnamon, I also added 2 tbsp maca for some extra sweet maltiness

3 heaped tbsp chia seeds

3 heaped tbsp ground linseeds (mine is a combination of goji berries, sunflower, pumpkin and linseeds)

2-4 tbsp maple syrup (optional) or try date syrup or rice malt syrup

A handful of cacao nibs (optional) I added these because I LOVE THEM, it’s not completely necessary though and up to you

  1. Spread the flakes in a large roasting tin or baking tray, no more than ½ cm thick, and pop in the oven to bake at 180ºC fan for around 10 minutes, or until smelling toasty and they are golden brown. 
  2. Take out the oven and tip in a bowl along with the coconut oil, the heat from the flakes will melt the oil.
  3. Mix in all the other ingredients and stir really well, taste for sweetness and adjust if necessary. Leave to cool in the bowl
  4. Store in an airtight container, or divvy up into 4 or 5 portions in sandwich bags ready to be grabbed for those rushed mornings.
  5. When you’re ready to eat spoon out 4 to 6 heaped tbsp or pour your measured portion from the bag into a bowl. Add half a cup of boiling water, cover with a plate for 5 minutes and wait for the magic to happen.
  6. After the times up, give it a good stir, add more water if you like it thinner.
  7. Top with yogurt (Greek, coconut, goats, sheep) add some fruit and enjoy.
  8. If you are travelling, put the porridge mix in a coffee cup from a coffee shop, ask them to cover the porridge with boiling water. Pop on the lid to wait for it to thicken and there you have a quick, tasty transportable breakfast.

So you’ve eaten your breakfast, had a snack whilst watching Jurassic park for the 100th time in your life (btw my last post is all about snacks with a recipe involving peanut butter, YES PLEASE). Next follows lunch or dinner. The liquid ban throws a bit of a spanner in the works for this one. Meaning no dressings. A salad without a dressing is just sad and wrong. So the best route around this is packing something that won’t wilt and can stand being chugged around in your bag all day. Maybe a grain or lentil salad?

Don’t groan, trust me with this, if done right they can be seriously good. To make it interesting roast up some veggies with paprika or fennel seeds, chuck in a load of chopped herbs like parsley, coriander, mint, basil, dill, anything you have lurking really, mix it all up with your chosen grain, quinoa or buckwheat is fab. Maybe with some cheese like feta or goats cheese, some beans like chickpeas. Add in something fresh such as tomatoes, chopped cucumber or pepper, top it with something crunchy like seeds or nuts maybe some dried fruit too. Mix everything up in a bowl then you could stir some hummus (LIFE), chilli flakes or tahini through or pesto or tapenade to bring the pizzazz, AND don’t forget s+p. Chuck in your Tupperware with a hunk of lemon to squeeze on when you eat it and you’ll have a dinner that everyone else will be jealous of. 

Sorry was that a bit confusing? Let me break it down for you:

Base (use one or as many as you wish, these are only examples if you have any other ideas I’m sure it will be great)

  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Farro
  • Brown rice
  • Amaranth
  • Puy lentils
  • Green lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Butter beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans

Roasted veggies
I always like to roast my veg in ghee, coconut oil or rapeseed oil in a preheated oven on about 180, until caramelised.

  • Sweet potato
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Courgette
  • Aubergine
  • Fennel
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Beetroot
  • Celeriac
  • Parsnips
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Sprouts

Adding spices to the veg as it roasts is a seriously good plan, get experimenting to find different spice combinations you like. Try any of these and get mixing and matching.

  • Cinnamon
  • Paprika
  • Chilli flakes
  • Fennel seeds
  • Caraway seeds
  • Cumin seeds
  • Dried oregano
  • Ras el hanout
  • Garam masala
  • Turmeric
  • Sesame seeds
  • Za’atar
  • Dried mixed herbs
  • Don’t forget good old salt and pepper

Fresh veggies

Adding some fresh veg gives your salad more texture and colour, think variety and remember that 5 a day!

  • Defrosted frozen peas
  • Chopped up pepper
  • Chopped cucumber
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Raw fennel
  • Grated carrot
  • Grated beetroot
  • Avocado (beware it will go brown)
  • Cooked broccoli
  • Cooked green beans
  • Sweet corn 
  • Spring onion
  • Red onion

Flavour hits
Now comes the exciting parts. This is your substitute for a salad dressing, something thick enough to avoid that dreaded confiscation but makes your tastebuds happy. Try stirring one or more, if you’re feeling adventurous, of these through your salad:

  • Hummus
  • Tapenade
  • Pesto
  • Tahini
  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Chilli flakes/hot sauce
  • Guacamole
  • Mustard
  • Any other dip you have on the go

And finally…Crunchy munchy extras, you should add just ‘cos

  • Raw or roasted nuts (anything from almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pine nuts, macadamias you cannot go wrong)
  • Raw or toasted seeds ( eg. Sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, hemp seeds)
  • Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, chopped dates, chopped figs, sultanas, chopped apricots)
  • Chopped fresh herbs (parsley, coriander, mint, dill, chives, basil)
  • CHEEESEEEEEEE (feta, cheddar, goats cheese, sheeps cheese, grilled halloumi). I’m going to stop there because it’s cheese and doesn’t need an explanation.
  • Roasted chickpeas, think of them like croutons
  • Hard boiled egg (consider your fellow passengers, or don’t if they’re tilting their chair back into your face)

So there you have it. A salad that can be taken anywhere, plane journeys, car journeys, picnics, work packed lunch, or just for lunch in your own home. Don’t let the fact that I’ve written it as plane food stop you!

Perhaps make it an extra large one, something to pick at later or if you’re on a long haul flight have the leftovers for dinner.

So relax, enjoy your flight and your holiday wherever you end up this summer.

One last thing from me, HYDRATE! 

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