Sunday, 31 January 2016

Healthy Berry Muffins

Readers, I’m still on the healthy baking bandwagon (and it’s the end of January – success). Owing to Sunday night no money what’s in the cupboard levels of boredom, I decided to do some kitchen experimenting last week.  It’s the first time I’ve attempted something like this – and I think the recipe needs a little refining – so this could be a work in progress.  I got 8 small cake style muffins out of this mixture and it’s the first time I’ve milled my own flour so I’ll perhaps need to up the flour/try a bit less fruit and play around with the raising agent.  These had a good rise in the oven but fell when they came out.  (Could be something to do with a lack of stabiliser or gluten perhaps).

Anyway, give this a go and if I manage to make something even better next time around I’ll update the recipe accordingly.

The main thing – these are free from refined sugar, bad fats and are loaded with fruits, vitamins and home blended flour made from oats.  

To anyone wondering how to make flour at home: a good blender, or in our case a Nutribullet did the job. It’s not quite as smooth as a pre-bought flour, but a good sieve got rid of any tough parts which I discarded and didn’t use.   I let it run for about 30 seconds, stopped and shook the mix, then milled for around 30-40 seconds. I used the milling blade (for any users of the Nutribullet out there).  
Relatively easy and once mixed in, you couldn’t tell the difference.

I used frozen fruit this time round, but I’ll try fresh or freeze dried next time.  There’s a high water content when the berries melt, which seems to have affected the overall mix.

Anyway, happy kitchen experimenting and I’d love to know if these worked out for you… Oh and if they start to go a little too brown on top, pop a tinfoil hat over the top of them.  Stops the tops burning as the heat is reflected back into the oven.  Top tip.
healthy berry muffins
Healthy Berry Muffins

Healthy Berry Muffins


Ingredients – makes 8 small breakfast muffins

1.5 cups oat flour (blended at home)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
4 heaped teaspoons coconut oil (melted and cooled)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
3 teaspoons runny honey
1 medium mashed banana
½ cup fresh, frozen or freeze dried berries

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan. Place 8 cupcake/small muffin cases into a muffin tin.
  2. Mill the porridge oats in the blender until a fine flour is created.  Sift into a bowl and discard any “hard” pieces that are left behind.  You won’t need this.  Sift in the baking powder and mix to combine.
    Discard the hard parts
  3. Add the spices and pinch of salt.  Mix to combine.
  4. In another bowl add the eggs, vanilla essence and milk.
  5. Mash the banana in a separate bowl.
    Mash the banana well
  6. Melt the coconut oil in a microwave proof cup and allow to cool slightly before adding to the eggs, vanilla and milk.
  7. Add the wet mix and banana to the dry mix.  Add in the fruit also. Mix until loosely combined – you don’t want to over mix the batter.
  8. Spoon into the muffin cases and place in the oven to bake for around 20 minutes.
  9. After 20 minutes, check the muffins – if they look to be going a little too dark, place a sheet of tinfoil over the top of tin and bake for another few minutes. 
  10. Check by inserting a toothpick – it should have a few crumbs on it, when removed, but not wet mix.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Once cool, dust with icing sugar if desired. 


Place in an airtight container and store for 2-3 days.  

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Product Review: The Snack Organisation Presents Rice Crackers

Readers, I’d like to congratulate you for making it through January in one piece.  Well done if you’ve stuck to healthy living and double points if you’ve managed some exercise.

January is a miserable month and I was delighted to be cheered up by a box of snacks turning up at the door from The Snack Organisation.  

I received three flavours of their new rice crackers – teriyaki, sweet chilli and lightly salted.  They are gluten free (bonus for special diets) and are great for after work snacking, enjoying in the “hangry” period between breakfast and lunch and ¼ of a large pack is only 100 calories.  Result – open them on a Monday and you’ll have 4 days of snacking.


So far, we’ve tried the teriyaki and sweet chilli varieties.  Teriyaki has been the hands down favourite, but I’m also looking forward to trying the lightly salted variety for those days when you just want to keep it simple!

These were fairly “crispy” – so if you are on crisp cutback, it’s a similar sort of sensation to biting into some crisps.  Might make the swap to healthier living a little easier.

The range is currently available in Tesco and Sainsbury's
 stores priced at £1 per pack – a bargain for several days’ worth of snacking!

For more information on the products, why not check out their twitter or facebook page?


Disclaimer: I was sent 3 packs of crackers to review.  Any opinions expressed are my own. 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The Easier Way to 5 A Day – Fruit Platter

Readers,
Sorry I’ve been silent of recent.  January has started with a healthy eating kick and I’ve cut back on the treats.  I’ve been ill with flu, so exercise has been minimal.  Instead, I’ve been trying to eat healthy and cut back.  I’ve also done dry January – not for charity or anything.  I just haven’t felt like going for a drink.  Probably isn’t a bad thing either!


Anyway, I’ve been trying to get more fruit and veg into my diet and one way to do that…  by making fruit look exciting.

This is less of a recipe post and more of an idea post.  A way of eating healthy for dessert, but still enjoying a small treat.  I welcome my friend Nutella.  Otherwise known as “the good stuff”.

I made a platter for two – but if you are super hungry or feeding a family then scale up as necessary.
This recipe uses two teaspoons of Nutella.  It’s a small chocolate treat but much better than a full on Mars Bar.  It’s a way of having a chocolate at dessert without having a chocolate cake. 

The secret… warming the Nutella in the microwave.  40 seconds on high, a quick mix around and you’re good to go.

In this platter, I used –

1 large banana (chopped)
1 small punnet of strawberries (tops cut off)
1 medium red apple (sliced)
1 blood orange (segmented)
I’m aware this is 4 pieces of fruit – not the recommended 5 but top up with a portion of vegetables at dinner and you’ve hit the target.


Note – I’m recommending this as a treat or dessert.  If you’re having it for breakfast, maybe half the amount of Nutella, or leave it out!  

Monday, 4 January 2016

Cranberry, Date & Walnut Healthy Flapjacks

Readers, it’s out with the old and in with the new again.  We’re into dreary Janauary – month of darkness and generally having no money.

I don’t buy into the “new year, new me” thing – but if it encourages people to go out and do something different, then who am I to stop them?!  My plans are to try and eat a bit healthier and increase the amount of exercise I do in 2016 – I’ll never be a skinny Minnie, but I could use getting back into shape again.  I’m not as young as I used to be!

Anyway, we’re back scratch cooking again, upping the amount of fruit and veg in the diet, getting stuck into lean proteins and trying hard to cut back the carbs. Not stop them… just cut back.

I’ve been looking into healthy treat ideas today – you know for that stage in the office between breakfast and lunch at 1 when you are completely ravenous and go into full on “T Rex at the vending machine” mode?  Yes, that stage.

I’ve created a baked flapjack recipe that uses no wheat flour, sugar, butter or eggs.  It’s sweetened naturally with dates, uses coconut oil instead of fat, uses oats for slow energy release and has ground up cashews – containing good fats to strengthen hair and nails.

It’s still a snack – a small piece should suffice (don’t eat the whole tin at once) – but it’s healthier than shop bought versions packed full of sugar, fats and nasties.

Anyway – Happy New Year, thanks for all your support and here’s to 2016!
healthy flapjacks

Healthy Flapjacks with Cranberry, Date & Walnut

Ingredients (makes 9 large squares)

200g rolled oats
60g cashews (finely ground or chopped)
60g dried cranberries
60g chopped dates
1 large, ripe, mashed banana
3 dessert spoons coconut oil (melted)
Melted dark chocolate to decorate

 


Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/Gas 6. Line an 8x8in baking pan.
  2. Weigh the oats and place in a baking bowl along with the cranberries, mix to combine.
    Woohoo! Healthy ingredients!
  3. Mill the cashews into a powder.  I used a Nutribullet to do this, but you could also just chop up very small with a knife and have larger pieces of nut in the mix. Add to the dry ingredients.
  4. De-stone and chop up the dates.  If they are slightly hard, place in 4 teaspoons of water to soften up.  Once softened, drain then add to cranberries and oats. Mix.
    Softening the dates.
  5. Mash the banana in a separate bowl. Melt the coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl and mix into the mashed banana.
  6. Add the coconut and banana mix into the dry ingredients.  Mix until fully combined (use your hands if necessary!)
    Add the wet ingredients to the dry
  7. Transfer the mix to the prepared baking pan and smooth until flat in the pan & even.
    Flatten the mix to go in the oven
  8. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven, cover with tinfoil to prevent the top burning and bake for a further 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
  10. Melt dark chocolate and drizzle over the top to finish. Once set, cut into 9 equal pieces.
    Drizzle dark chocolate over the top
  11. Store in an airtight container and consume within 3 days.