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As you know, experimenting with clean versions of what would normally be a naughty treat is something I love to do, and as I was going over to a friends for a cuppa and a natter this afternoon, what better excuse than to try these delights out on her.
Incredibly simple and with so few ingredients – I’ll definitely be making these again!
Makes 10-12 Brownies
1 large sweet potato
2 medium sized beetroots (I used pre-cooked ones)
50 grams ground flaxseed
100 grams ground almond
100 grams buckwheat flour
1tsp Vanilla extract
1 desert spoon of agave nectar or honey
Small handful of dried apricots
1tbsp coconut oil (liquid form)
2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
Handful of chopped walnuts (optional)
- Soak the ground flaxseed in warm water so that it forms a gel like paste. As it’s soaking, blend the sweet potato (raw) and beetroot until it’s finely chopped.
- Add the remaining ingredients, including the ground flaxseed and continue to blend until well mixed.
- Spread evenly in a lined baking tray and scatter the walnut halves over the top (optional)
- Bake in a pre-heated over at 200 for 35 minutes.
- Allow to cool before slicing and serving.
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I’ve been a little quiet on the blogging and the cooking recently! I think in the summer I feel compelled to be outside making the most of the sunshine and warmth, however as the days get shorter (and colder) the warmth of the oven and the cosiness of the kitchen becomes all the more appealing!
So here is my latest experimentation with clean baking and I have to say, I’m quite impressed with the outcome! I hope you enjoy 🙂
Inspired by a recipe that I saw from @chocolatecoveredkatie on Instagram, I thought I’d try my own version with ingredients that I had in store. I’ve recently been experimenting with different types of gluten free flour, and whilst I tend to default to ground almonds a lot of the time, this week I’ve been trying out my own ground ‘buckwheat’ flour and the results have been surprisingly good! Using a packet of dried buckwheat, you simply pop it into the blender and whizz for 2-3 minutes until it’s a fine powder consistency (easy economically peasy!)
So the recipe makes 8-10 Blondies
1 large courgette
2 tsp of coconut oil
2 tbsp nut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp agave nectar
3 tbsp buckwheat flour
1.5tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Handful of raisins and chopped dried apricots (optional)
1. Finely blend the courgette (ideally in a food processer)
2. In a small saucepan heat the nut butter and coconut oil until it’s a smooth/ liquid consistency. Once it’s melted take off the heat, add the vanilla and blended courgette and mix, add the agave and continue to mix.
3. In a separate bowl, add the buckwheat flour, baking powder and salt and then add the wet ingredients. Mix well until if forms a dough like consistency.
4. If you’re choosing to add the raisins and chopped dried apricots then mix in now. (you could always use chocolate chips if you’d prefer something a little more indulgent.
5. Using a lined baking tray, spread the mix about an inch thick. Bake in a pre-heated oven (approx 200 degrees) for 10 minutes. Take out and leave to cool for a further 20 minutes. Don’t be tempted to cut it up and serve any sooner as it will continue to set whilst it’s cooling.
Hurricane Bertha hasn’t been very accommodating of any picnics in the park or walks in the woods today, so it’s been an afternoon of baking instead! As always I like to make a loaf of my GF (gluten free) Flaxseed bread each week, however this weeks has a slight twist as I was trying to get rid of some slightly stale bran flakes that have been sitting in the cupboard for ages . I blended these into the mix along with everything else as per usual….I also had a pear that was on the way out so I chopped that up and added chunks to the mix before pouring into the loaf tin. A good combo and the pear adds a nice soft sweet touch….definitely worth a try!
I also decided to get a little creative with my flapjacks after making some protein flapjacks earlier in the week. A more of a flapjack loaf but great as an afternoon snack or a post workout treat!
I hope you enjoy.
Makes 12 flapjacks
1 medium sweet potato
100g bran flakes
150g toasted oats
100g mixed seeds
100g mixed chopped nuts (brazils, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts work well)
50g protein powder (flavour of your choice)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1. Chop the pears and stew in a small saucepan with a splash of water and the coconut oil over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes (until soft). Meanwhile chop the sweet potato and then finely shred in a blender.
2. Add the stewed pears and egg and blend for a further minute until smooth.
3. In a separate bowl mix the remaining ingredients with a spoon and then fold in the egg, sweet potato and pear mixture until well combined.
3. Spread evenly on a baking tray and cook for 30-35 minute at 180 degrees.
4. Once cooled, divide into slices.
After reading Huffington Post’s article last week about the Pornographication of Fitness (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/tosca-reno/bikini-fitness_b_5610782.html) it got me thinking a little more about what it is that inspires people to become fit. The last couple of years has seen a dramatic increase in the number of images of muscular, toned and athletically ‘fit’ women in what I believe started out as a campaign to demonstrate that beauty wasn’t all about being thin. During the 90s and early 00s we were inundated with skinny models and the quest to be a size 0; whilst we haven’t completely overcome this obsession with weight loss and achieving that perfect waif body, we (or should I say – our media) are far more forgiving of curves, muscles and a natural physique.
However as these images are becoming more provocative in nature are they loosing their intended purpose? Are women feeling despondent or intimidated by these scantily clad females or are we inspired by their achievements? I’m sure the majority of us would give our right arm for the body of a fitness model, but in reality most of us don’t have 4-5 hours a day to spend exercising and preparing the perfect diet. Personally I am full of admiration for fitness/ bikini models and Body builders/ sculptures as the hard work, dedication and sacrifices they make to look like that would break even the most iron willed of us; however for most this is their 9-5 job and their body brings in the bacon. Therefore to pose as a role model for what health and fitness should look like would be setting unrealistic expectations.
The point I’m trying to make is, that you don’t need to have a visible 6 pack to be healthy and you don’t need to be completing an Insanity workout every day to be fit.
For many (myself included here) our motivation can be as simple as being able to run around with our children, take them for long walks to the park or take part in a 5km Park run each weekend. There is also an element of vanity in my motivation as I like to feel confident in my clothes and not cringe when I see bingo wings in side angle photos of myself. I find the world of social media a bit of a virtual boot up the backside at times too as I enjoy following groups of like minded individuals who I can relate to (Run Mummy Run, Fitter Foods, Clean Eating Recipes Shares and Swaps to name but a few). The positivity and encouragement that you can obtain from these virtual friends can have a bigger impact on your inspiration than even some of your closest friends and family.
So if you are feeling at a bit of a dead end with your training or are currently curled up on the sofa procrastinating over that run/ gym session, spend the next few minutes considering what your ‘fitspiration’ is. I’d love to hear it! 🙂
A few weeks back I talked about the relationship between our hard earned beach body and our holiday diet and how the two really aren’t all that compatible. I’m now coming through the other side of my official summer holidays and whilst I can still feel the snug effects of a week surrounded by Almond croissants and Pistachio frangipanes, I am pleased to say that I’m not having to revert back to the maternity trousers just yet. I do try and practice what I preach but at the same time I am human and it would simply be rude to pass up the opportunity to soak up the French Alps without a Cappuccino and a patisserie.
So despite the ‘self control’ mantle remaining in position for 85% of the holiday, the most difficult time for adherence was without a doubt the actual travelling part of our holiday. Eating healthily when on the move is a challenge for anyone, whether it’s your daily commute in and out of the city or a weekly long haul flight across the Atlantic – when you are on the road all routine and discipline seems to go out the window. As I spent a couple of days transiting through airports, train and service stations I couldn’t help but wonder why it is that travelling seems to bring out bizarre eating behaviours. North Terminal at Gatwick airport has an expansive range of restaurants and coffee houses which are kindly catering for everyone’s culinary needs, however it seems odd that at 10.30am Jamies Italian and Café Rouge are both packed to the rafters with holiday makers filling up before their flight! Pret and Eat are both equally chaotic with queues of people laden with sandwiches, granola bars and cups of coffee – anyone would think we were on the brink of an apocalypse!
So why is it that when we are on the move we have this overwhelming need to eat! I’m probably just as guilty as anyone else as I love nothing more than to grab a Hazelnut latte for the road, but I do try and maintain some form of normality. Our body clocks can get thrown out of kilter when we cross time zones but that doesn’t mean we need to have a 3 course dinner at 9am or grab a family size bag of fruit pastels to see us through the flight. Choices can sometimes be limited but we don’t need to use this as an excuse for making poor decisions. Salads and soups are readily available on every menu now a days and even the likes of Boots and WHSmiths have snack bags of crudités and mixed nuts.
If you don’t want your jet setting lifestyle to get in the way of your dietary regime then follow these simple tips.
1. Plan ahead– does your journey coincide with a meal time – if so then what will be available? Don’t fancy the in-flight meal or the buffet cart, then pack yourself a salad or a sandwich – you can ensure there are no hidden nasties in there!
2. Always pack a couple of snacks – delays or simply boredom can leave us reaching for the crisps or chocolates so always have something to hand such as a packet of oatcakes, fruit, snack bag of crudités, nuts or a small pot of yogurt.
3. Take some herbal tea bags with you – coffee is often a ‘go to’ pick me up when on the road, but it will leave your energy levels flagging later on. Keep your blood sugar levels balance and your hydration levels topped up with some refreshing mint tea.
4. Always carry a bottle of water with you – travelling in the summer can be a sweaty business and often aeroplanes can dry out skin and leave us feeling headachey. Dehydration can leave us feeling lethargic, tired and also hungry.
Frittata/Pizza base twist – a bit of an adaptation to the cauliflower pizza bases, this week I tried a frittata style base curtsey of Good Food magazine and my mum 🙂 If you’d prefer a more ‘clean’ version then please feel free to eliminate the chorizo and feta.
Serves 2 hungry and 3 no so hungry!
1 large courgette
1tbsp ground flaxseed
Large tbsp hummus
Sundried tomatoes or roasted marinated peppers
Chopped black olives
150g feta cheese
1 tsp coconut oil
1. Grate the courgette and finely chop the chorizo. In a large frying pan heat the coconut oil, frizzle the chorizo and fry the courgettes until soft (you may wish to drain off the excess liquid from the courgettes)
2. Add the 4 whisked eggs, season them and add a splash of water and the ground flaxseed. Add to the frying pan and leave over a medium heat until they start to set around the bottom (2-3 minutes approximately).
3. Once the base starts to set, transfer the frying pan to a medium grill to allow the top to cook (again 2-3 minutes approximately).
4. Once your frittata base is cooked, remove from under the grill and spread a thin layer of hummus over the top, add the remaining toppings (sundried toms, feta and olives) and then pop back under the grill for 1-2 minutes.
5. Serve with green salad.
I always think the holidays are a funny time when it comes to health and in particular our weight. We prepare and work relentlessly towards that ‘holiday body’, with every magazine offering us a washboard sculpted 6 pack just in time for the beach; but as soon as we disembark the plane we throw caution to that health kick wind and have a 7-14 day blow out!
Over the years I’ve seen many clients either working towards their beach body or trying to recover from their holiday indulgence blues, so it comes as no surprise that gym memberships spike and there is a tsunami of new attendees to the latest ‘weight loss’ craze’.
So what is it about our holidays that cause such destruction, blame and guilt? For most of us this is our annual chance to escape the monotony of daily life, recharge the batteries and forget about the M25 commute; however we often choose to do this by eating our body weight in food we usually wouldn’t touch with a barge pole, taking full advantage of the free bar and lying comatosed on a sun drenched lounger from morning till night in a quest to get our annual allowance of vitamin D!
No one blames us, we all deserve a break – so why is it that we give ourselves such as hard time when the bathroom scales confirm the consequences of our behaviours. Did we honestly expect anything else? We feel hard done by, don’t we? Our chiselled ‘Adonis’ abs have disappeared faster than our tan lines and it was all our ‘holidays’ fault! The snug fit of our work trousers remind us that our holiday is over, however without something to aim for (ie another holiday) there seems little point in getting back to that zumba class or steering down the salad isle in M&S – we are going to take our disappointment and destruction and veer back towards the biscuit barrel!
So what might have been a couple of extra pounds in August, turns into an extra stone by Christmas….but our summer holiday is still taking the blame!
Holidays should be a time to rest, change your routine and switch off; but it’s also important to exercise a little bit of moderation and self control. If you’re keen to try and beat those post holiday ‘weight’ blues then put some of these tips into action this summer!
1. Water – drink plenty of it! Dehydration can leave you feeling hungry so we reach for the snacks and sugary drinks. If you’re on the beach make sure you are drinking at least 2 litres through out the day and for any alcoholic drinks, match it with a glass of water.
2. Portion sizes – ‘All you can eat’ buffets are a danger zone for over eating. Try and fill your plate with fresh vegetables, lean meats and fish, but keep the fried potatoes, rice and pasta dishes at arms length. Take a break between courses to make sure you are actually full (don’t give into peer pressure)
3. Don’t see every meals as a treat – plan ahead and select 1 or 2 opportunities to have a more ‘indulgent’ meal, you’ll enjoy and appreciate the food all the more!
4. Move more – drag yourself off your lounger for at least half an hour each day and go for a walk, play some beach volleyball or get involved with the aqua aerobics.
5. Sleep – this is your chance to claim back some of that sleep dept. Have a couple of early nights and enjoy those lie ins.
Last weeks discussion on whether Obesity should be classified as a disability no doubt struck a few cords. Like many, my initial reaction was one of disgust and frustration; yet again we appear to be pandering to the consequences of poor behaviours and lifestyle choices, rather than forcing people to face the reality of their situation.
However perhaps this new classification might actually help us take some significant steps towards tackling our obesity epidemic? The current referral programmes and slimming clubs don’t appear to be making a dent and perhaps this is due to the fact that we have been trying to find a cure rather than working on the vaccine!
Obesity stems from an addiction to food; however unlike many other recognised addictions such as smoking, alcoholism and drugs, I don’t think that it is given the same recognition and certainly not the same sense of urgency. The referral systems, treatment plans and rehabilitation simply isn’t in place and rather than looking at why the individual became obese in the first place we try and help them loose weight. Of course some individuals may lack the knowledge and motivation they need to adhere to a healthy routine, but there is no shortage of gyms, eating plans and bariatric surgery, not to mention ‘free’ information on the internet – so this clearly isn’t the issue. An individual with an addiction to food is very much on their own to deal with their problem, and whilst it might not be right to classify them as ‘disabled’, it might help towards giving them the help they actually need. Unlike alcohol or smoking, human beings need food to survive and therefore the rehabilitation needed to overcome this addiction is far more complicated than simply going ‘cold turkey’.
The term ‘disabled’ suggests that an individual is unable to carry out normal activities and needs assistance with daily living. Whilst the excess weight being carried might make activities of daily living more of a challenge, it is the comorbidities that stem from obesity that are likely to render an individual disabled.
So if obesity becomes a disability should individuals be issued with parking permits and mobility scooters – I really hope not! Should these ‘disabled’ individuals be channelled through the correct rehabilitation centres, CBT, counselling programmes and support groups – I’d like to think so!
I’m hopeful that this new approach may give the psychological and emotional side of obesity the focus and prioritisation that is needs, this could be the stepping stone that we need to get to the root of our obesogenic culture!
After seeing the latest release of NHS recommendations I felt yet another wave of exasperation. This mornings news headlines were focusing on the latest suggestions that a 3% reduction in body weight can help towards reducing the risk of weight related illness. Yes, maybe it can, but considering we have an obesogenic culture where 1 in 4 adults in the UK are obese, a mere 3% reduction in their weight isn’t going to make a dent!
Now I don’t mean to sound pessimistic or cynical towards these recommendations, but I can’t help but see it as yet another ‘shifting of the goal posts’ to try and make our failing population feel a bit better about their situation. We set bench marks for a whole host of health related targets but when the majority of the population fail to meet them we choose to readjust the bar a little to make them more achievable.
If you look at exercise guidelines and fruit and vegetables intake, both of our ‘government’ suggestions are set well below the optimal intake. 150 minutes of physical activity a week and 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables a day simply aren’t enough if we want to tackle our obesity crisis. ACSM guidelines specify that in order to loose weight we need to be completing at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on 5 days of the week. People often feel this is too much as they simply haven’t got the time to fit that much exercise into their day, however when obesity is costing the NHS 5.1 billion every year and you run the risk of loosing 10 years off your life…is it really that much to ask?
In order to facilitate any cardiovascular improvements such as a reduction in blood pressure, an improvement in cholesterol profile or better regulation of blood glucose levels, an individual needs to loose at least 10% of their body weight.
I appreciate that the NHS are trying to set small realistic targets for patients to aim for in order to boost motivation and encourage adherence to weight loss programmes, however we still seem to be trying to find ways to fix the problem rather than tackling the root cause. With new suggestions such as these we are likely to achieve nothing other than a new belief that a loss of 6lbs is going to help improve our health.
We need to stop changing the guidelines and focus more directly on our behaviours. We have adopted a culture of convenience and with this an attitude of impatience. We expect to loose weight just as quickly as we expect our microwave dinner to be ready; however we need to appreciate that maintaining our health does require a small amount of effort, time and commitment.
When I say ‘loose a little, live a lot’ I’m referring to loosing some of your old habits, whether it’s cutting out the sugar in your tea or walking the school run rather than getting in the car, these small changes can have much more than a 3% impact on your weight!