Breakfast, Snacks & Treats

Banana & Oat Pancakes

Without a doubt, these are my favourite pancakes. I mean, I love traditional ‘pancake day’ pancakes, but these are something else, and super healthy (the best bit). They are my go-to pancakes for a lazy-weekend breakfast, and I’m actually going to (or try to) start my own tradition of banana oat pancakes for Christmas day breakfast (my mum’s tradition is cinnamon rolls – yummy!) These pancakes are moist in the middle and sweet from the bananas, and will set me up perfectly on Christmas day!

So there’s only 1 week left until Christmas, and it has been a busy build up. I’ve had a visit from my uni friends, Liam and I had a board game night with some of our fellow board gaming friends, and I’m paying two visits to my mum because we can’t be together at Christmas. Good job the pancakes are worth your wait! So, only 1 week to go, and I still need to do everything that is actually related to Christmas. The last couple of days before The Big One will be filled with present wrapping, Christmas tree decorating and Christmas food preparation.

I was asked by my pen pal what my favourite season was a few weeks ago. Apparently hers is autumn, and I agreed that was mine too. What was I thinking? Winter is definitely the best! I love the crispness in the air and all the wrapping up in layers to go outside. I love it when there is a frost on the ground and a mist lurking over the little lakes that my train travels past. I also love snuggling up at home in the evening or at the weekend (our new house has a log burner too, so we need to get that going soon. Super snuggly!)

These pancakes are perfect for the colder months, when healthy and warming food is a must! These aren’t nutritionally-void pancakes like the traditional ones, but ones made from banana, oats, spices and healthy fats. The bananas are really potassium-rich, which is essential for cardiovascular health and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. Bananas also have a high fibre content, some of which is soluble fibre that is linked with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Oats are a really good source of this soluble fibre! These are super healthy pancakes!

Banana and Oat Pancakes (nabbed from Cookie and Kate)

Ingredients:

3 ripe bananas

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon honey/maple syrup

2 eggs (room temp)

1 cup oats

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:

1. Mash bananas in a bowl, then mix in the melted coconut oil, lemon juice and honey/maple syrup.

2. Beat the eggs, then add to the mixture and mix.

3. Pop the oats in a little food processor and blend until the oats resemble flour (about 10 seconds or so). Mix in the baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg

4. Add the oat flour mix to the banana mix and stir to combine.

5. Leave for 10 minutes!

6. Heat up a little coconut oil in a pan and drop a tablespoon or two of the batter in and even it out with the back of the spoon. Cook the pancakes for a minute or so on each side.

To keep the pancakes warm while you cook the rest, wrap them loosely in foil and pop in the oven, preheated to about 90 C

Top with maple syrup, sliced banana, crushed walnuts and coconut flakes

Enjoy guys 🙂 x

 

 

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Make-ahead, Snacks & Treats

Sea Salt & Black Pepper Crispy Wholegrain Flatbread

These wonderfully moreish crisp flatbreads are a simple solution to an inevitable problem: Carrots just get boring sometimes! I wanted something that I was actually looking forward to dipping into my hummus. I found it! These are adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s rosemary flatbreads. I tried doing the recipe first with thyme, because I don’t own a rosemary plant, but the delicate taste was lost during cooking. All that was left was the saltiness from the sea salt sprinkled on top. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved this. So, I paired it with some freshly ground black pepper, and swapped half of the flour for the wholegrain variety, and I was left with an incredibly tasty, crunchy bread for dipping.

Maybe it’s not a coincidence that my craving for something less ‘veggie’ came when I entered into the final year of my PhD. I do, after all, think I am a little bit of an emotional eater. I remember a few weeks ago I was annoyed with Liam over the phone, hung up, and immediately headed for the waffle shop in Liverpool Street station (oopsie!). I didn’t even enjoy eating it. Making crisp flatbreads for hummus-dipping is definitely a more sensible option. They even taste great on their own if you want a little cheeky nibble here and there.

Anyway, PhD times. I think it is more the commute to/from London that is slowly wearing me down, rather than the lab work. The workload/stress is ramping up though, and after a long day, the last thing I want is to have to spend the next hour and a quarter getting home. (Poor me, I know.) A lot of the time I’m still feeling the buzz from working. I think to myself ‘yeah I’ll to this, this and this when I get home! I feel great!’. Then I get home… I feel like crawling right into bed!

These flatbreads will last for a little while in an airtight container (I think we have kept them for about 4 days – but then we had eaten them all! I’m sure they would last for longer though). You can break them up to get them in a container, or alternatively, you can make mini flatbreads! I haven’t actually done this, but I keep wanting to. Next time, definitely.

Ingredients:

115g Plain flour

115g Wholegrain/wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (125ml) water

1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil

For on top of flatbread:

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 220 C (200 C Fan)

2. In a large bowl, mix together the two flours, baking powder, salt and pepper.

3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Add the water and oil, and mix with a wooden spoon until everything comes together into a ball. Tip it out and knead a few times.

4. Split the ball into 3 pieces (or more to make mini flatbreads), and wrap all but one up in cling film.

5. Place the ball on a large piece of greaseproof paper, and place a large piece of cling film on top. Roll the ball out with a rolling pin until it is really quite thin. Like a couple of millimeters in thickness. 

6. Peel the cling film off carefully. Brush a bit of extra virgin olive oil on top, then sprinkle on a good pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

7. Pop in the oven and bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Check on it though, you don’t want it to burn!

 

Hope you enjoy 🙂

 

Alice x

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Make-ahead, Salads

Kale & Pearl Barley Salad with a Lemon-Honey Vinaigrette

Believe it or not, there are quite a few scrumptious uses for kale that don’t involve a blender (I do love a green smoothie though!) This kale and pearl barley salad is definitely one of them.
Since I made the switch from soup to salad earlier this year, probably around march/April time, I’ve been eating the same boring salad. Quite an achievement though. Anything else and I would have been bored senseless by now. Anyway, I needed a change, and I don’t quite feel like giving in to soup season just yet.

This salad has more of an autumnal, comforting taste than my usual, and combines a lot of my favourite things. Lemon, honey, sunflower seeds, avocado, feta, red onion. Amazing. The lemon-honey vinaigrette really softens up the kale, and makes it surprisingly delicious, and the pearl barley packs it out so it really is a filling lunch.

When in Ireland last week, I realised how much I love salad. Too many days (basically, anything more than 1) were spent making custom baguettes in delis and cafes for my liking. Custom baguettes, you see, because apparently most places in Ireland don’t cater very well for the vegetarian types. I ate so much bread in such a short space of time. Ugh! So this salad was a doubly nice change for me upon my return.

Kale is something I’ve come to love in the past year or so. It is high in vitamin K, which is needed for bone health and normal blood clotting. It is also a great anti-inflammatory food, as well as being good for cardiovascular health and implicated in cancer prevention.

Serves 4-5 (From Sweet Peas & Saffron)

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked pearl barley

4 cups of kale ribbons, stems removed

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 medium red onion, finely diced

1 avocado, cubed

100g feta, crumbled

For the vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons honey

 

Directions

1. Wash the pearl barley a couple of times in clean, cold water and drain. Pop in a pan of boiling water and cook as detailed on the packet instructions, or just simmer until cooked. When the pearl barley is cooked, rinse under cold water to cool it (so you can add it to the salad straight away!)

2. Put all the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar, put the lid on a shake thoroughly to mix. Pour all over the kale, and with your (clean) hands, rub it into the kale really well. I love this bit.

3. Add the sunflower seeds, chickpeas, red onion, avocado, feta and cooked pearl barley to the kale and mix.

3. Serve straight away or chill until needed.

4. Enjoy! 🙂

 

Alice x

 

 

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Mains

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pistachio Pesto, Feta & Pomegranate Seeds

After finally tearing myself away from the Louis Theroux marathon that I seem to have embarked upon, I cooked up something special to mark the occasion. Roasted veg has to be one the most comforting things (apart from maybe pizza, but I’m trying to be healthy here!). This roasted butternut squash is really something, and is especially needed now we’re deep into the cold, wet Autumn, and I barely see any daylight anymore (sad face).

I don’t buy many food magazines at all (I already pay for the internet, which has gazillions more recipes!) but I did buy a couple of ‘Vegetarian Living’ magazines a while back, which is where this recipe is from. The first time making it had us screwing our faces up due to the sheer amount of cheese in the pesto, so I have reduced the amount of Parmesan to make it a bit more delicate and less overpowering.

There seems to be quite a lot of pesto when you spoon it over the squash, but I find that it allows a bit of pesto in every forkful. You can always play it safe, and add a bit more if you like later on. If you do have leftover pesto, it tastes great with a salad too!

I have to admit I don’t eat butternut squash aalllll that often, which is a shame because it is super good for you! It is low in calories (if that is what you are looking for), and really high in vitamin A. It has a high fibre content, which is great for heart health (yay!), and lots of vitamin B6, which is important in brain and nervous system function. I will stop there, don’t worry, but I could sing its praises for a little while longer.

Anyway, I’m going to retreat back under my blanket on the sofa now and watch Mr Theroux!

Ingredients:

Serves 2

1 medium butternut squash (approx 1kg)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
50g feta (approx.)
40g pomegranate seeds (approx.)

Pistachio pesto:
75g shelled pistachios
25g Parmesan, chopped into rough chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
1 small bunch coriander, leaves picked
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
2 tablespoons chilli oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 200 / 180 fan

2. Slice butternut squash in half lengthways and scoop out seeds. Rub/brush a little bit of oil over the top then season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pop in the oven on a baking tray for 45-50 minutes, until cooked through and charred slightly at the edges.

3. While the squash is in the oven, make the pesto. Add the shelled pistachios and parmesan to a blender and whizz until chopped and combined. Add some oil to bring it all together, then a but more, until it is loose enough to blend smoothly. Add the herbs, chilli oil and lemon juice and whizz it up again. Season generously with sea salt, give it one last blend, and taste. Add some more lemon juice or salt if you think it needs it. Chill in the fridge until the squash is ready.

4. When the squash is cooked, place on a plate and dress with the pistachio pesto, crumbled feta and pomegranate seeds.

5. Tuck in and enjoy! )

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Smoothies & Shakes, Snacks & Treats

Chocolate & Strawberry Dairy-Free Milkshakes

I don’t follow a dairy-free diet (I love Greek yoghurt, soured cream and cheese too much!), but, you know how much I love everything coconut-related! I was inspired to get my blender out and mess around with different milkshakes when I read an article in the latest Women’s Health magazine, which contained a recipe for a healthy burger, chips and milkshake. The addition of dairy-free ice cream in that milkshake I feel was unnecessary, and I tend to try and avoid using loads of substitute foods, so I concocted these two traditional-flavoured milkshakes, with a healthy twist.

Each of the ingredients images show enough for 1 large milkshake or two small ones, but I actually just made half of this (so 1 small milkshake in each flavour) as I was making both flavours. Regarding the amount of ice you use, well, that all depends on how you like it! The strawberry milkshake is thinner than the chocolate one, because of the addition of banana to the chocolate shake. You can add more ice to thin them out if you want, but I think this is a balanced amount to start with.

I almost feel like I’m copping out here. A recipe with only 4 ingredients? I know. I have been in an ‘Oh my god, what am I going to do with my life?’ kind of crisis. October marks the start of the final year of my PhD, and I never though I would feel so terrified of the real world approaching. I have to get a proper job after this. Oh god. To stop too much comfort food passing my lips, I’ve been sipping on the odd coconut milkshake. Mmmm, creamy coconut! Anyway, Liam and I have really been enjoying these milkshakes recently (and a tropical one – think banana and pineapple!) so I thought I would share it with you.

Although coconut milk contains loads of saturated fat (if you hadn’t heard!), it is the specific type of saturated fat in coconuts that is actually thought to have a beneficial effect. Long chain fatty acids, the bad type of saturated fat, are linked with heart disease. Medium chain fatty acids, for example lauric acid, are known to have anti-viral and anti-bacterial effects (and so help out our immune system). This is the main type of saturated fat in coconuts! Yippee! Lauric acid also increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, which lowers your chances of developing heart disease.

Pass me a straw!

Ingredients

(Each makes 1 large milkshake, or 2 small milkshakes (like the ones pictured)

Chocolate:

1/2 can coconut milk, refrigerated

150g or so of ice, crushed

2 tablespoons organic cocoa powder

1 banana

Optional extras to sweeten it a little: drop of vanilla essence and a squeeze of agave nectar (yum!)

 

Strawberry:

1/2 can coconut milk, refrigerated

150g or so of ice, crushed

100g strawberries

4 pitted dates

 

Directions:

1. If your blender doesn’t handle ice well (like mine), pop it in a bag (the ice, not the blender) and place on a chopping board, cover with a tea towel and give a good bash with a rolling pin. Quite therapeutic.

2. Add crushed ice, coconut milk, and either banana and cocoa powder, or strawberries and dates, to a blender.

3. Blend until smooth. Add agave and/or vanilla essence to the chocolate milkshake if using, to add sweetness.

4. Enjoy!

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Make-ahead, Salads

Mixed Bean Salad

As summer draws to a close, and the darker, colder days are on the horizon, tuck yourself into a healthy and colourful salad to keep the spirits high! Less of the summery cucumber and lettuce, more of the wholesome bean. When it starts to get colder outside, and soup season is just round the corner (nearly Christmas!) it is so much easier to just reach for the ‘comforting’ foods. I find that making a big batch of this bright bean salad keeps the hunger pangs, and therefore the temptation, at bay.

Oops, I forgot the pepper and sweetcorn!

Oops, I forgot the pepper and sweetcorn!

In the summer, Liam and I had a barbeque with our parents (where they met for the first time!), and we made a lovely, fresh pearl barley salad and a Moroccan-style couscous salad, inspired by salads I’d seen in the shops. It is incredible how easy it is to make some of the items off the supermarket shelf. I have become a bit of a homemade-food freak as of late. I even asked Liam if I had become the fun police (he said no, and that it is good I have principles!). I just don’t like knowing I am eating all of the preservatives off the shelf, that I could avoid by making food at home. (Told you, fun police.)

This mixed bean salad is a supermarket-salad inspired recipe, where I just worked out the best ratios of the key ingredients and mixed them to create a side/snack that tastes all fresh and light, but is actually nice and filling. I use tinned, cooked beans for this salad, and while you could go the whole hog and cook the beans yourself, it would take a lot of time and effort for something that really should be quick and easy. I can still compromise!

Since moving into our house, I planted the herbs out in bigger pots in the garden, where they have flourished (apart from Greek basil, whom I sincerely apologise to for all the months of neglect on the windowsill). The mint and parsley grow like crazy now, which is great because I needed a big handful of each for the salad. Having fresh herbs growing in the garden draws more appeal to making this mixed bean salad myself too, as the cost comes to less than buying the equivalent from a supermarket.

Both me and Liam eat this as a snack during our day at work (I eat mine mid-morning to fuel me until a later lunch!). As veggies, we sometimes find ourselves lacking in protein-rich meals, so we added this to our day to up our intake. If you split the salad into 6, each serving contains roughly 10g of protein. It’s all win, win, win!

Ingredients:

1 can mixed beans/pulses, rinsed and drained

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 can borlotti beans, rinsed and drained

1 large handful fresh mint, washed and finely chopped

1 large handful fresh flat leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped

3 tablespoons rapeseed oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

Optional (but well worth it):

1 large red pepper, finely diced

100g frozen sweetcorn

Directions:

1. If using, cook the sweetcorn in a pan of boiling water for a few minutes. Once cooked, run under cold water in a sieve.

2. Mix the cooked sweetcorn with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and season generously.

3. Chill in the fridge in a sealed tub (it will keep for a while – I’ve gone up to 4 days,  it will probably last a bit longer).

4. Enjoy.

Well, that was easy!

I hope you enjoy all that autumn brings!

 

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Snacks & Treats

Healthiest Chocolate Mousse

I remember Liam’s face when I first told him the main ingredient of the delicious-looking mousse I had made, was avocado. He wasn’t too keen! Its a good job he is open to trying new things, because he did, and he absolutely loved it. Me too, for that matter!
The avocado makes this mousse so creamy and velvety, and the cocoa powder adds a richness and bitterness, that is tamed to perfection by the agave nectar. This ticks boxes left, right and centre for me!

The recipe is from the honestly healthy book (I need to dust some of my other recipe books off, for sure), which has a pretty decent-looking dessert section. I’ve not really made many others though, because a lot of the recipes use loads of unheard of ingredients and different sugar substitutes that I don’t own. This one is so simple though, and it tastes so indulgent too.

The mousse tastes good regardless of whether you eat it straight away or after chilling for a couple of hours. Chilling it it sometimes nice to do as you can really slice through it with your spoon, but when I made this the other day I just plopped it on a plate and scooped it right up, because it is thick enough right out the food processor to hold its shape

I bought 6 avocados this week. Six! I’m into all of that healthy fat business, which avos are rammed full of. The fats in avocados have anti-inflammatory benefits, could help with lowering the risk of heart disease, and also help with the absorption of some fat-soluble nutrients, such as carotenoids (so popping one in a salad is a pretty good idea!). Avocados also make a damn healthy chocolate mousse, apparently.

I love healthy desserts!

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 avocado, skin and stone removed, and flesh chopped

1 tablespoon water

2 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons agave nectar

Raspberries, to serve

 

Directions:

1. Melt the coconut oil in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water.

2. Add the melted coconut oil, avocado flesh and water to a food processor (I use my mini one). Whizz it up until very smooth.

3. Add the cocoa powder and agave, and whizz it all again u til really, really smooth!

4. Either put into ramekins and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours, or enjoy straight away. Serve with fresh raspberries.

 

Enjoy!

Alice x

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