Chocolate cornflake cakes

An Easter classic, these can be made in no time at all and are great to made with kids! They’re also vegan and gluten free, if need be, so perfect little treats even for family dietary requirements! They can be made with most breakfast cereals, but work best with cornflakes, rice crispies or bran flakes. I use mesa sunrise, a gluten free cereal that I love. Top with mini eggs to make them super Easter-y.

Ingredients:

  • 50g coconut oil
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 1tbsp syrup (I use coconut nectar)
  • 1tbsp cacao powder
  • 100g cornflakes (or other cereal)

Method:

  • Place the cupcake moulds in a cupcake tray, or another dish if you don’t have one.
  • Put the coconut oil, broken up dark chocolate and syrup in a bowl. Heat in the microwave, stirring every 30s until it is all melted.
  • Once melted, pour in the cereal and mix until all the cereal is coated.
  • Spoon into the cupcake cases and pour over any remaining melted chocolate mixture when done, then top with whatever you’d like (I went for silver and chocolate balls).
  • Place in the fridge to set.

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Flapjack

I didn’t know what to call this recipe because ‘flapjack’ doesn’t really do it justice. It’s reduced sugar (because I find syrupy flapjacks almost unbearable) and vegan, and also is more nutrient dense than ‘normal’ flapjacks, thanks to the addition of prunes and seeds and the use of unrefined sugar rather than golden syrup. It’s slightly crumblier than most flapjack recipes but I’m working to fix this. Either way, it tastes bloody good!

Let me know if you make it and I can share on my instagram.

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Ingredients:

  • 250g oats
  • 3tbsp linseeds/seeds of choice
  • 1 heaped tbsp flour of choice
  • 100g vegan butter (I used vegan Flora for this)
  • 25ml oil
  • 50g dark brown demerara/muscovado sugar
  • 3tbsp honey/syrup
  • 5-8 prunes, chopped
  • 1 heaped tbsp peanut/almond butter

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade
  2. Put the oats, flour and linseeds in a large mixing bowl
  3. In a saucepan, heat the butter and oil until melted
  4. Add the honey and sugar and mix in the peanut butter. You may need to remove some of the lumps
  5. Add the chopped prunes and mix, before pouring into the mixing bowl with the oats
  6. Place in a small dish lined with baking parchment and pack down hard (I do this with the back of a metal spoon)
  7. Cook for 30 minutes until browning at the edges
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Perfect with a nice cup of coffee

Wheat – friend or foe?

This post is a guest blog by Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian Dr Megan Rossi. Follow her instagram here or visit her website

 

Confused by all the anti-wheat hype? Here’s the low down on the evidence behind whether or not wheat is for you. Grain-based foods, including wheat, are an important source of nutrients, such as B vitamins needed for cell metabolism and dietary fibre for gut health. In addition, any diet that unnecessarily restricts food groups can create nutritional imbalances. In fact, many foods advertised as wheat-free have added sugar and fats to compensate for the functional qualities of wheat.  What’s more, recent studies including over 300 000 people (without coeliac disease) have suggested those with low intakes of wholegrains compared to those with high intakes have an increased risk of type two diabetes1 and having a heart attack2.  So typically my answer to the common question “Is wheat bad?” is no! Whole-grain wheat (which is the minimally processed type of wheat) is healthy for the majority of people.

HOWEVER, there is a subset of the population who don’t tolerate wheat, which is typically related to one of three wheat components:
1) Gluten (type of protein in certain grains including wheat, rye and barley) main conditions: Coeliac disease– requires strict avoidance (effects 1% of the population3);  & Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)- newly defined condition with mechanism poorly understood (effects 1-6% of the population4)
2) Wheat proteins (proteins in wheat, other than gluten) main conditions: Wheat allergy– requires strict avoidance (>0.2% prevalence in adults1); & Non-coeliac wheat sensitivity (NCWS)- suspected crossover with NCGS.4
3) Fructans (fermentable carbohydrates found in many foods not exclusive to wheat) condition: Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) (15% prevalence5)- does not require strict avoidance of wheat nor is it known to carry any long-term health risk, although the associated gastrointestinal symptoms can be debilitating.
Non-coeliac gluten/ wheat sensitivity is a newly defined condition that recognises a wide spectrum of gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms including brain fog and fatigue. Given the co-existence of gluten and other wheat proteins in many foods identifying the culprit component ie. gluten vs. other wheat protein such as amylase-trypsin inhibitor (ATI) can be difficult which is why the terms NCGS and NCWS are often used interchangeably. The gold standard method to diagnose NCGS and NCWS is a placebo-controlled food challenge using isolated gluten and wheat protein.

If you suspect you react to wheat your first step should be to rule out coeliac disease and wheat allergy with your General Practitioner. It’s important you take this step so that you can determine how strict you need to be with your gluten/wheat exclusion, for instance, even traces of gluten from cross-contamination using a chopping board or toaster can have serious consequences for people with coeliac disease and wheat allergies. Once these have been ruled out the next step is to see a registered dietitian who can help identify whether you have NCGS/NCWS or instead are reacting to fructans (which may form part of a larger group of food exclusions known as FODMAPs). Unfortunately, there is no blood/breath/stool test that can accurately determine food intolerances, other than lactose intolerance (so please don’t waste your time or money!).

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Dr Megan Rossi is a Nutritionist and Registered Dietitian with a PhD in the area of Gut Health. Megan works as a Research Associate at King’s College London and Consultant Dietitian across industry, media and has just opened up a Gut Health clinic on Harley Street in London. To keep updated on the latest gut health news connect with Megan on social media @TheGutHealthDoctor
Web: www.drmeganrossi.com

References:

  1. Zong G, Lebwohl B, Hu F, et al. Abstract 11: Associations of Gluten Intake With Type 2 Diabetes Risk and Weight Gain in Three Large Prospective Cohort Studies of US Men and Women. Circulation. 2017;135:A11-A11.
  2. Lebwohl B, Cao Y, Zong G, et al. Long term gluten consumption in adults without celiac disease and risk of coronary heart disease: prospective cohort study. Bmj. 2017;357:j1892.
  3. British Allergy Foundation. 2016. allergyuk.org.
  4. Canavan et al. The epidemiology of irritable bowel syndrome. Clin Epidemiol 2014; 6:71-80.
  5. Giorgio et al. Sensitivity to wheat, gluten and FODMPAs in IBS: facts or fiction? Gut 2016; 65:169-178.

 

 

Lemon & Parsnip Cake

This post is part two of the recipes we learned from the Blogger’s event I held in Bristol with baker and chef Marianne (@mariannebakes). The basic recipe is easy but makes delightful little individual cakes, perfect for dessert at a dinner party! For a more complex and showy recipe, add the glacé icing and candied parsnips.

The recipe is gluten free, dairy free and can be made vegan by using an egg substitute. It also contains no refined sugars. But most importantly, it just tastes amazing!

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Marianne piping cake mixture into the cannelé moulds (ft. chocolate beetroot cake)

Ingredients (Makes 12 mini bundt cakes (made in silicone cannelé moulds) or 8 cupcakes):

Cake:

  • 100g eggs (2 medium)
  • 60g Total Sweet Xylitol
  • 60g honey
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 35g lemon juice
  • 80g sunflower (or other flavourless) oil
  • 150g grated parsnip (from approximately 1 large parsnip)
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g brown rice flour
  • ½ tsp ground psyllium husk (available in health food shops)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder

Lemon syrup:

  • 60g lemon juice (from approx 1 lemon)
  • 60g xylitol (or honey)
  • 30g water

Lemon glacé icing:

  • 150g sieved unrefined (golden) icing sugar
  • 40g lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • dried calendula petals or candied parsnip to finish

Candied Parsnip:

  • 1 small parsnip
  • 100g xylitol or regular white cane sugar
  • 50g water
  • small squeeze of lemon juice

 Method:

Cake:

  1. Wash (but don’t peel) the parsnip and grate it using the finer cheese-grating part of a box grater. Avoid the inner woody part of the vegetable and grate around the outside.
  1. Once grated, zest the lemons on top, weigh out the lemon juice and mix this all into the grated parsnip to prevent discolouration. Set aside.
  1. Crack the eggs and check the weight is approximately 100g (you can use any size eggs as long as you weigh the cracked quantity). Add the Total Sweet Xylitol and whisk on medium-high speed using an electric hand-held mixer or stand mixer for 5 minutes, or until paler and doubled in volume.
  1. Keep whisking the eggs on high speed and gradually pour in the oil a little at a time. Once incorporated, add the honey and whisk in.
  1. Fold through the grated parsnip using a silicone spatula until well incorporated. Sift together the rice flour, ground almonds, psyllium and baking powder, then fold this mixture through the cake batter.
  1. Allow the mix to stand for ten minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 140°C (fan setting) or 160°C (conventional).
  1. Grease the moulds with a little flavourless oil (eg sunflower oil) or coconut oil and place them onto a metal baking tray. Scrape the rested batter gently into a piping bag or jug, snip the tip of the bag with a pair of clean scissors and fill the moulds to just below the top. Let the mix sit and rest in the moulds for another 5 minutes before baking.
  1. Bake in the preheated oven for around 25 minutes, or until browned and the tops spring back when gently pressed, but the sponge still feels soft to the touch.
  1. Keep the cakes in the silicone moulds and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. De-mould the cakes and either brush with the lemon syrup or let cool and ice with the lemon glaze. They will keep for a good 3 days in the fridge, in a covered container.

Lemon syrup:

  1. Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat until it just comes to the boil.
  1. Brush over the cakes with a pastry brush while they are still warm. The syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 weeks, so you can re-use any leftovers; just make sure you strain out any cake crumbs!

Baking Tip: For extra moisture, you can re-use the moulds to soak the cakes. Once de-moulded, let the cakes cool slightly on a wire rack, then fill 1 tsp syrup into the bottom of each mould. Replace the cakes inside the moulds and then brush the remaining syrup on top. Let sit 5 minutes before de-moulding.

Glacé icing:

  1. Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl and make a well in the centre.
  1. Pour in half the lemon juice and stir from the centre using a balloon whisk. Gradually add more lemon juice until you achieve a pouring consistency the texture of custard.
  1. Spoon just 1 small teaspoon on top of each cake and pull the edges out to achieve drips down the sides. Sprinkle dried calendula petals on top before the icing sets, or wait for it to set before topping with the candied parsnip.

Baking Tip: If you prefer not to use cane sugar in this recipe you can omit the icing and just top the cakes with the decorations directly.

Candied parsnips:

  1. Dissolve the xylitol/sugar with the water and squeeze of lemon in a small saucepan.
  1. Wash the parsnip, but don’t peel it. For candied strips, use a vegetable peeler to pare off thin strips from the parsnip, peeling both sides of the vegetable until you have removed as much as you can. For candied flowers, use a sharp knife to cut very thin rounds horizontally through the parsnip.
  2. Place the strips or rounds directly into the hot syrup and cook gently, covered, for 2-3 minutes until the parsnip is just tender and translucent.
  3. Take off the heat and let steep in the syrup overnight at room temperature. Use a flower cutter to cut blossoms from the centre of the parsnip rounds. Store the candied parsnip strips/flowers in the syrup in the fridge for up to a week and drain from the syrup before topping the cakes.

Baking Tip: For pale coloured parsnip crisps use white caster sugar; the xylitol makes them brown slightly.

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Enjoy!

Healthy Banana Bread

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Banana bread is a superfood. Not in the instagram yoga-mum sense of the word, but in the way that everyone loves a good banana loaf (unless you dislike bananas) and it makes you feel amazing. I can promise you that I have made friends solely through the production and sharing of this banana bread. Its warmth and soft texture makes it perfect for autumn and winter, but this lighter version makes sure it’s not too stodgy and unhealthy. The wholemeal flour increases the fibre and nutrient content, and the date syrup (or alternative) ensures no refined sugars are used.

It’s not totally good for you as such, and doesn’t taste at all like it is (like all the best desserts), but it’s a huge improvement on the traditional recipe (which uses butter, white flour and sugar) and is so delicious it’s suitable for everyone! When I asked my friends, they said it didn’t taste like a healthy dessert, and didn’t have that weird texture too many sugar-free desserts have.

Macros: 244 calories, 13.7g fat, 26.5g carbs, 4.1g protein.

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For a marbled effect, add cocoa powder to half the mixture

This isn’t vegan or gluten free, but can be made both! See *notes at the bottom for ingredient substitutions.

Ingredients (serves 10):

  • 25g coconut oil
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs (or 1tbsp almond butter)
  • 2 large bananas (or three small ones)
  • 75ml milk of choice
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g flour of choice (I use 100g wholewheat and 100g white)
  • Optional: nuts, dark chocolate

Method:

  • Pre-heat the over to 180 degrees Celsius and line a loaf tin with baking parchment
  • Heat up the coconut oil if it is solid
  • Add the coconut and vegetable oils with the vanilla essence to a bowl and mix until combined
  • Beat in the eggs and sugar
  • Mash the bananas and add to the mix
  • Add the milk, baking soda, cinnamon and salt to the bowl and mix everything together
  • Add the flour slowly and fold in to the liquid mixture using a large wooden spoon
  • Add any extras you want at this point and fold in
  • Pour into the loaf tin, and top with cinnamon, or, if you’re feeling decadent, with brown sugar (this creates a crunchy top)
  • Bake in the oven for 1h (insert a toothpick/knife into the centre after one hour – if the cake is done, it should come out clean)
  • Leave to cool in the tin until the tin is cool. Remove from the tin and leave to col completely on a wire rack before cutting.

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*Notes:

Oils: It is possible to use 125ml coconut oil here. However, my aim to is make this affordable for everyone, and coconut oil is not known for being super cheap 😉 But do feel free to switch up ingredients as you like! Coconut oil is better for you, and doesn’t taste at all in this recipe – vegetable oil is a little more processed but works perfectly fine. Don’t use olive oil unless you love the taste in your cakes – it overpowers the bananas!

Bananas: Try to use ripe to over-ripe bananas. I always have a stash in my freezer that I freeze as soon as they become over-ripe. They are perfect for this recipe (and a million other things, such as my carrot cake smoothie bowl recipe).

Protein: If you want this as a post-workout snack, try adding 2 scoops of unflavoured protein powder to the mix.

Vegan? Use flax eggs or 1tbsp almond butter, and make sure to use dairy-free milk. My favourites are hazelnut milk and coconut milk.

Gluten free? This recipe works fine with all-purpose gluten free flour, although liquid levels may have to be increased. Play around and let me know what works for you!

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Let me know what you think in the comments below, or if you made any ingredients substitutions that you think work well! 🙂

Banana pancakes

Banana Pancakes

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PBJ pancakes (topping by @gracefitUK)

To the average human, pancakes are a treat to be enjoyed every now and again, maybe on pancake day, or as a decadent breakfast. But to us fit-freaks, a humongous pancake stack is a perfectly acceptable form of breakfast food – not to mention it looks pretty as anything, and sharing a pancake stack is a great way of making friends…. Which is why I have no friends 😉 #allforme

They key to getting a good pancake stack is to use a super non-stick pan and a lid. Using a lid allows the top of the pancake to cook, so you don’t end up with a burned pancake bottom and raw top, before trying to flip it over.

The pancake itself is only the start – the toppings are at least as important! As I someone told me on instagram this morning, anyone whose toppings don’t make up 90% of his or her breakfast is doing it wrong.

Here I outline the basic banana pancake recipe and some topping options – all guilt free of course!

Ingredients (serves 1):

  • 1 large ripe banana (or 2 small ones)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 scoop protein of choice (optional)
  • 2 tbsp oats
  • Baking powder (optional – adds fluffiness)
  • Oil spray or coconut oil

Method:

  • Mash/blend the banana
  • Crack the egg into a jug, add the mashed banana and oats to it and mix.
  • Add the protein powder and baking powder, if using. Mix well.
  • Heat some low calorie oil spray/small about of coconut oil in a pan
  • Once the oil is hot, pour a small amount of the mixture into the pan (depending on the size of the pan, you may be able to do multiple, as they should be quite small)
  • Put the lid on the pan and wait until the underside is properly cooked (it should be golden brown – use a spatula to take a peek to make sure)
  • Once the bottom is cooked, carefully flip the pancakes using a spatula – some mixture may spill, but don’t worry!
  • The second side will take less time than the first, so don’t let it burn!
  • As each pancake comes off the pan, pace it on a plate and stack, stack, stack!
  • (Sometimes, if the topping takes a while to make, I put these in a warm oven to keep them hot)

Toppings:

  • Walden farms pancake syrup
  • Chopped nuts and dark chocolate
  • PBJ – Pb2 peanut butter powder mixed with water, with frozen berries mixed with agave and hot water to make a jam
  • Berries
  • Cinnamon

 

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PBJ pancake stack and PBPopcorn in the background

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Banana pancakes topped with Walden Farms pancake syrup

Energy bites!

Energy bites are one of the simplest and most useful snacks to keep in your fridge or freezer. When frozen they keep for months and are perfect for a quick snack or energy boost on the go. There is an easy base to all energy bites, to which you can add different flavours and coverings depending on how you feel.

This recipe makes 25-30 balls

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Cacao-sesame energy bites

Base:

  • 200g prunes
  • 300g dates
  • 150g oats/oat flour
  • 2 scoops protein of choice (I use hemp)
  • 50g almond flour/ground almonds

Flavours:

Coconut and maca

  • + 1 tsp coconut oil
  • + 2 tsp maca
  • + 2 tbsp desiccated coconut, plus extra for covering

Choco-caramel

  • + 1 tbsp cacao/coco powder
  • + 2 tsp lucuma powder
  • + 1 tbsp cacao nibs, plus extra for covering

Matcha pistachio

  • + 2 tsp culinary grade matcha powder
  • + 1 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • + 1 tbsp chopped pistachios, plus extra for covering
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Matcha pistachio energy bites

Cacao-tahini

  • + 2 heaped tsp tahini
  • + 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • + 1 tbsp cacao/coco powder
  • + sesame seeds for covering
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Cacao – sesame energy bites

  • Blend all the base ingredients in a food processor (don’t try to use a blender unless you want everything to be smoked!).
  • Pour into a mixing bowl.
  • Add the extra ingredients to the bowl and mix using a strong spoon (this is a good arm workout).
  • On a chopping board, pour on the covering (e.g. pistachio/sesame seeds/desiccated coconut/cacao nibs).
  • With your fingers, tear off small walnut-sized chunks of the mix and roll it in the covering to make a ball (you may find this easiest with wet hands).

Ta da! Eat up and let me know what you think! 🙂

No-bake, no-wait cheesecake

This recipe is special. The title is also a bit of a lie, but if you’ve ever tried to make vegan cheesecake, you’ll know that it’s a lengthy process that means you actually have to wait for your food. I am very, very bad at this, so I set out to make a healthy gluten, dairy and refined sugar free cheesecake. Simple.

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This cake has three layers – the carby ‘biscuit’ base, the creamy cashew centre and the light and sweet goji topping.

The cashews need to soak to become the ‘cream-cheese’ in the centre, but unlike most recipes, here they only need to soak for 30 minutes, rather than overnight, which cuts down the waiting time significantly, which can only be a good thing 🙂 During this time you could read a little, stalk people on instagram or even make some nut-butter. So really it’s not time wasted.

This recipe can be altered to change the flavour. My favourite alternative is blackberry (see bottom photo) – it’s a gorgeous purple colour and has a rich summery taste. To do this, omit the banana and goji berries, and use 150g blackberries (or a fruit of your choice) instead.

Ingredients:

  • 3 nakd bars (I use cashew cookie) OR 50g almonds, 50g oats
  • 150g dates
  • 200g cashews (quick soaked in boiling water)
  • Almond/coconut/oat milk
  • 50g goji berries (soaked)
  • 1 banana
  • Vanilla flavouring (I use Walden farms near zero coffee creamer, but vanilla essence or even vanilla protein powder works well. I would recommend Strippd vanilla pea/hemp protein powder)

Method:

  • Remember to soak the cashew nuts and goji berries (separately) in boiling water. Set timer to 30 minutes. Then you can start on the base.
  • Start by lining a round shallow cake tin with baking parchment
  • Base – Blend together the 3 nakd bars/almonds and oats with 50g dates until the mixture is crumbly. It should resemble crumble mixture.
  • Pour this into the cake tin and pack down (the base of a glass works well – separate base and glass with clingfilm if it sticks).
  • Put in freezer.

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    Biscuit base

 

  • 1st layer – once the 30 minutes are up, drain the cashews.
  • Place 120g soaked cashews, 75g dates and the vanilla flavouring/protein powder into the blender. Blend.
  • Add milk as necessary – at the end of the blending process the consistency should be of hummus (yum).
  • Spoon this out over the biscuit base. If it isn’t runny enough it’ll ruin the base, so make sure to add enough milk to the mixture!
  • Stick this back in the freezer as you make the last layer
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Creamy cashew 1st layer

  • 2nd layer – blend together the remaining cashews (80g), dates (25g), the banana and soaked and drained goji berries until smooth.
  • Spoon this last layer over the other 2 layers.
  • Sprinkle on extra goji berries as optional decoration.
  • Stick back in the freezer for at least 1h
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Goji berry topping

This keeps best in the freezer, and becomes a little runny when left out for too long, as it heats up. Whilst it tastes good frozen, for a smoother, creamier texture, take it out of the freezer for at least 30 minutes before eating from frozen.

All done! You can do this the night before you want to eat it, or the morning of a dinner party. It tastes fantastic with fresh fruit and/or sorbet and is a great dessert to impress! Or just eat by yourself. Whatever works for you. 😉

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The blackberry version of the cheesecake