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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