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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Breakfast, Snacks & Treats

Banana & Cherry ‘Nice Cream’

Apparently this ‘nice cream’ stuff has been going around for ages. By ages I mean years! I hate missing out on things, and I really hate the thought that I have been missing out on this for that long. I was clearly too busy stuffing my face with Haagen Dazs while churning out essay after essay at university a couple of years ago.

A fair few of your will know I also have an Instagram account, where I like to post pretty pictures of the yummy things I eat. It is there that I found a recipe for this healthy ‘ice cream’, or ‘nice cream’ as people like to call it. Who would have thought that frozen banana could make such a smooth and creamy dessert?! Not me, for sure. How wrong I was!

Since Liam and I have been eating this, we haven’t bought any ice cream or made any late night trips to the local shops for a mars bar ice cream (but damn, those things are good!). This, I have to say, is a pretty grand achievement. Pat on the back for me! To be honest, I haven’t even felt like I wanted any proper ice cream. Nice cream just feels so indulgent that I feel totally satisfied after I’ve eaten it (well, only after I’ve licked every last bit out of the bowl).

It has been a bit of a struggle since I moved house last week to get back into the routine of things. This past week in the lab I’ve had a total ‘can’t be bothered’ attitude, and I’ve not really felt like doing anything when I get home. That’s what a week off to move house will do to you! I really needed a holiday after all of that packing, lifting, knackering my knees, unpacking, cleaning, more cleaning, and more unpacking. Oh, and the final day of my time off (literally the Sunday) we found out the washing machine wasn’t working! More lifting (this time heavier than any piece of furniture we own, because the washing machine was full of water) and more knackering my knees.

Despite the washing machine being hard work though, it was nice learning something new. I will have to get used to this DIY business now we’re homeowners!

Anyway, I have finally got round to taking some snaps of this amazing dessert, and here it is. It is so easy to make, even my Mum said she made it when I told her about it a few weeks ago (and she is not one for making new things). I think she uses cow’s milk, but I like to use homemade almond milk. If you want to do this, it is SO easy. Here’s how!

For about 3/4 cup: Soak 1/2 cup almonds in some water for about 2 hours. Drain, then whizz them in a blender a little. Add 1 cup filtered water and blend until smooth. Add 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1 tsp agave nectar and blend slightly just to mix. Pour the mixture into a nut bag or a muslin cloth (I got mine from Steamer Trading Co for about £2.50) and then squeeze the liquid through into a jug/bowl. There you have it! You can save the almond meal that is left in the nut bag/cloth for baking with. I made these with my almond meal. YUM!

It is so simple, all you need for this delicious dessert is a bit of frozen fruit, a bit of milk, a hand blender and a bowl. My hand blender is such an old faithful. I’ve had it since I first moved out of home to go to university (6 years ago!) and it is still going strong even though it was a real cheapy.

This is what you need:

Serves 2

1 banana, sliced and frozen

1 cup frozen fruit (my favourites are mango, cherries or raspberries)

1/4 cup (60 ml) milk, which can be cow’s or nut milk. I love to use homemade almond milk! If you want to make your own almond milk, just follow my little ‘how to’ in the ramble above.

This is what you do:

Put all the ingredients in a sturdy bowl. I say sturdy because I broke through the bottom of a cheap and flimsy bowl from Poundland. Serves me right, I guess.

Let the frozen fruit thaw slightly, which should only take a few minutes.

Now blend! Blend it all up with a stick blender until smooth.

Enjoy! (I’m sure you will.)

You will be happy (but not goofy, like me) if you make the switch to nice cream!

Alice x

 

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Breakfast, Snacks & Treats

No-Bake Cranberry & Macadamia Granola Bars

Who doesn’t love a granola bar, hey? I used to eat them all the time as a snack, but then stopped as I was put off by all the junk and refined sugar that is in them. You don’t need high maltose corn syrup, sugar, honey and fructose, ALL in ONE bar. Well, according to some on the supermarket shelf, you do. Because of this, it has been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of tucking into one of these (I have to admit, they are yummy). Why didn’t I make my own before now? I have no good answer for that. However, I have ventured down the homemade granola bar route now, and I am quite sure I shall never return!

A good friend of mine asked me to make a ‘no-bake’ granola bar recipe for her, so I started googling straight away! Why no-bake? I have no idea, you would have to ask her that, but I cracked on, no questions asked (I was excited!), to find what I thought would make a healthy yet really satisfying bar. What are good friends for, if not to make scrumptious recipes for one another?!

I’m so glad she asked actually, because Liam and I have spoken recently about making some, but we never actually got pen to paper, or fingers to laptop, to create or find a recipe we wanted to make. Not enough hours in the day, and all that nonsense.

From my research on the ‘no-bake’ element of anything granola-like, I seemed to find that there may be a problem of binding everything together strongly enough, so when you pick up a bar at one end, the other end doesn’t fall off. There were all sorts of suggestions flying around the internet. Some recipes use coconut oil, some use peanut butter, and others use mashed banana. I decided to go with using cashew butter. I thought a nut butter sounded like it would do the job well, but I didn’t want that well-known peanut butter taste in my bars. I preferred a more mellow, creamy taste that you get with cashew butter.

Then came the almighty decision of what to actually put in the bars. Anyone who knows me well, will know that I hate making decisions. I really hate making decisions when there is too much choice, mostly because I want more than one of the choices, and I’m worried that my choice will turn out to not be the best one in the end. This may sound like a problem, but in reality it involves situations such as ‘which snack shall I buy from Pret?’ or ‘what shall I get for lunch from Pho?’ Hardly life or death decisions.

In the end, after much internal debate, I settled on cranberry and macadamia for the main elements. Why? Well, I didn’t just want to put something in there that I ate every day, or that I don’t regard in my mind as a ‘treat’. I wanted to make my mouth water when I thought about them, basically. So that part was settled.
As I’d taken all that time to choose the stars of the show, or bar, I didn’t want to overpower them with loads of other nuts, seeds or fruit. I chose just one extra, a popular seed for granola bars: pumpkin seeds – scrummy little nuggets of nutrition. For a little bit of extra sweetness, I added a small amount of agave (or honey, if you want to substitute), and cinnamon.
I like that you can taste each element of the bar, as one ingredient doesn’t overpower the rest.
Regarding the ability of the bar to crumble despite your best efforts, it is best to keep them in the fridge. This keeps the nut butter more solid, and I found this does actually keep them together really well. I like to eat mine in the afternoon, to give my morale a little pick-me-up while I’m slogging away in the lab (ha), so I take it to work wrapped in a little bit of kitchen foil and pop it in the fridge until I’m ready to eat it.
I just realised, this is another oat recipe! Oh well, I guess this just shows you another super easy way to make them into something delicious.

These granola bars are definitely a healthy alternative to the store-bought kind, and these ingredients together will provide you with a little hint of indulgence. Lovely!

This is what you need:

1 cup whole rolled oats

80g (I estimate about 1/4 cup) of nut butter (I used cashews for their lovely creaminess)

50g dried cranberries

50g macadamia nuts

25g pumpkin seeds

2 tbsp agave nectar/honey

1 tsp cinnamon

This is how you make them:

Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and press the mixture into it, making sure to pack it in really tight. If the mixture doesn’t fit the tray, don’t worry! just cram it all up to one side (like i did – pictured 2 images above).

Pop into the fridge for at least a few hours, before cutting into bars. I made 8 – I find this makes nice sized bars.

Keep them in the fridge in a sealed container.

When I take one to work, I wrap it in kitchen foil/cling film and keep it in the fridge until I eat it.

I hope you enjoy these. Liam and I sure did!

Stay happy,

Alice x

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Breakfast, Make-ahead

Bircher Muesli

Bircher muesli is one of my favourite breakfasts. Especially at the minute, when there are luscious, fresh, locally-grown berries for sale everywhere, just ready to become the topping for my creamy, oaty breakfast. My favourite has to be strawberries and blueberries/raspberries (which anyone will know if they happen to quickly glance at my Instagram account). I’m a berry addict! Although, I am also partial to a topping of banana or dried figs.

I’ve not had much time to experiment with my breakfasts lately as I’ve been bogged down with preparation for my mid-PhD report/presentation/viva, but this trusty muesli has had my back. It is always there to put a smile on my face and a spring in my step. All I have to do is make sure I remember to prepare the muesli on a Sunday evening (which is super easy) and I am then provided with a quick and nutritious breakfast for the next five days – perfect for the working week, when I don’t really have to the time in the morning to be slaving away over breakfast.

Thankfully, I successfully completed my PhD upgrade, and I’m now looking down the bleak and frightening road that leads me to the end. At least for now my time has freed up a little, and I can concentrate on cooking up some good food to keep me healthy through the tough times ahead! Sometimes it is hard to stay on track, especially after a bad day (or bad week!) in the lab, but I find that lots of pre-made meals, such as this Bircher muesli, makes it a lot easier to shun the foods commonly associated with ’emotional eating’.

I tend to stick with breakfasts that are ‘pre-made’ (maybe I should change that phrase to ‘pre-homemade’?) because they mostly involve a lot of oats. I have a thing for oats, if you hadn’t noticed. The fibre in them is really great for digestive health and cholesterol levels, and they have loads of great minerals, such as manganese, selenium and phosphorus, that we require for numerous different cellular functions.

There’s nothing better that starting your day with this!

This is what you need:

180g whole rolled oats

350ml water

1 tsp cinnamon

50g raisins/mixed dried fruit

40g almonds, chopped

25g coconut flakes

1 apple

1/2 cup Greek yoghurt (not pictured – oops!)

(You can play around with the amounts and types of nuts and dried fruit you use – the ones here I guess are guidelines.)

This is how you make it:

Add the oats, cinnamon, dried fruit and nuts to a large bowl. Add the water, cover in cling film (or put into a tub and seal the lid).

Leave to soak overnight.

In the morning, grate the apple. Mix the grated apple and Greek yoghurt into the oats.

Keep it in the fridge in a covered bowl for the next 5 days! If it separates a little, just give it a stir before you scoop some out into your bowl.

Stay happy,

Alice x

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Breakfast, Smoothies & Shakes

Glorious Green Smoothie

Everyone loves a smoothie, right? Well, we do in this house (flat)! My favourites are the green smoothies, whereas Liam loves the more indulgent ones – frozen banana, milk, chocolate and peanut butter, for example.
I love green smoothies. Why? For starters, they helped me kick my caffeine habit. It wasn’t a bad one, but I was always conscious that my intake was slowly increasing. I went from one instant coffee a couple of times a week, to 1 instant with breakfast, 1 americano when I got to work, and then another americano in the afternoon, all in about 3 years. This was too much for me! I still enjoy a cup at home at the weekend, but now I really enjoy it without feeling like a slave to it.

My motivation to get rid of the coffee came when I bought the Honestly Healthy recipe book. It is really informative on which foods are acid-forming in the body (which is bad). Coffee is apparently one of the worst. I was also more than aware that coffee can actually cause more tiredness – anyone who saw me around 3pm would have known this too.
I needed something to substitute for the coffee, but also give me a bit of a boost in energy. Enter the green smoothie!
I won’t lie… the headaches and tiredness were pretty bad – I decided to (pretty much) go cold turkey. But, it passed, and I felt really good.
Now, all this liquid veg and lack of coffee does my energy levels wonders!
I also love the fact that before, I would never eat a stick of celery, or a kiwi, or a handful of kale in any regular day. I would never eat a stick of celery in any day to be honest – I think it tastes quite vile. But whizz it up in a concoction of nutritious green yummy-ness and I’ll drink one straight down, no problem.

All of these vegetables and fruits that would have never made it into my meals or snacks, are now giving me all this extra nutrition that I wasn’t getting before. Bonus! I have recovered from the coffee-induced slump and gained an extra boost from the veg.  
This green smoothie is one of my favourites. It is from the Honestly Healthy book, with a little extra addition of a banana (or mango if you don’t like banana). I still drink one every morning ‘in replace of my coffee’ even though my coffee habit is long gone. If this is my new habit, well, I don’t think I will be trying to kick it just yet!

You will need:

A large handful of spinach

1 kiwi, skin and white centre removed

2 celery stalks, ends removed

1/4 avocado

1 banana (or about 6 x 1 inch chunks frozen/fresh mango)

10cm piece of cucumber (approx. 1/4 – 1/3 cucumber)

1/2 lemon, juiced

250ml cold, filtered water

8-12 ice cubes, depending on size

This is what you do:

1. Wash the celery, spinach and cucumber.

2. Put the spinach in the blender first. Chop the rest of the solid ingredients and add to the blender.

3. Juice the lemon into a small bowl. Really go for it! Then remove any seeds that popped out. Pour the juice into the blender.

4. Add the water and ice cubes.

5. Blend until smooth!

Stay Happy,

Alice x

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Breakfast, Make-ahead

Almond & Pumpkin Seed Granola

Oats are such a traditional breakfast staple, but until recently I rarely ate them. I had to have a breakfast rethink though, because I just didn’t have time to make poached eggs on wholegrain toast anymore! I kept running out of time before having to leave to catch the train to London, and I never failed to forget something. My favourite item to forget was my keys. Liam has even given me a nickname for when I forget things! To save myself from running around in a panic, trying to remember everything I need for every step of the day, I needed to claw back some time.

When searching for a quick and easy, but healthy breakfast, I remembered the modest oat. I didn’t want to be cooking anything, so porridge was out the window – I wanted something slightly more exciting anyway! I found many delicious-sounding recipes for granola, and I was sold. The thought of waking up to a breakfast of granola, Greek yoghurt and fresh fruit was a mouth-watering one. I love how I can now crawl out of bed and into the kitchen, and about 1 minute later I have a really nutritious and filling breakfast.

Not only is this granola pretty darn tasty, but it is filled with nutritious goodies too; Adding seeds and nuts to the granola ensures a great range of vitamins and minerals in your granola bowl. The oats themselves are the stars of the show, though. Oats are really high in a type of dietary fibre called beta-glucan, which we don’t naturally produce in our bodies. This fibre helps regulate our immune system, helping us fight off natsy pathogens, and is also strongly linked to preventing weight gain and increasing insulin resistance, which helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Play around with combinations of nuts, seeds and dried fruit to find a combination you love.

It all depends on whether you gorge yourself with granola for breakfast, brunch, afternoon snack and supper or not, but this recipe fed me for over a week. Obviously it is easy to double up, too.

This is what you need:

Dry ingredients:

2 cups whole rolled oats
1/4 cup / 50g pumpkin seeds (you can use no/different seeds if you wish)
1/3 cup / 65g almonds, roughly chopped (you can use no/different nuts if you wish)
1 1/2 Tbsp Ground flax seed
1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 Tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt

Wet ingredients:

2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
1 very ripe banana, roughly mashed

Extras:

1/3 cup / 50g raisins/dried fruit

To serve:

2-3 Tbsp Greek yoghurt
Strawberries/pomegranate/blueberries/banana/other fruit of your choice

This is what you do:

1. Preheat your oven to 190°C (170°C Fan)

2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl

3. Combine the wet ingredients in a bowl and smush it all together with your (clean) hands. You want to make sure it is all combined. Don’t worry if it is a little lumpy, but try to make it as smooth as possible.

4. Tip the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients, and mix away! Make sure it is really well mixed. Use your hands for this too.

5. Pour it all out on a baking tray, making sure it is evenly spread.

6. Bake for 10 minutes, stir it around a bit, then bake for another 10 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may need a few minutes longer. Keep a keen eye on it though… You don’t want burnt granola!

7. Let cool before stirring in the raisins/dried fruit. Store in an airtight container in the cupboard/kitchen side.

8. Enjoy with yoghurt and fresh fruit!

Stay happy,

Alice x

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