Healthy Lemony Lemon Pie

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I can think of at least three songs that mentioned lemons and lemon trees from the top of my head. Small wonder since it is one of those rare fruit trees that seems generous in excess when it feels like it. Some lemon trees just don’t produce a single thing whereas others are a miracle of constant fruits hanging from its branches. All year long!

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We used to have such a tree in the garden and it was fantastic to just pop out and grab one when in need. My sister in law even built an extension on her house around the existing lemon tree but if you had seen this one you would probably have done the same. Lemons have saved more lives through history than penicillin, without the data to back it up, you are just going to have to take my word for it. Its very high vitamin C content was the antidote for the scurvy which was a lot more prevalent that you may think, specially in countries were citrus fruits don’t thrive and the winters are long and hard.

Squeezing a lemon juice into warm water and have it first thing in the morning is a sure way to boost your inmune system, it has become very popular in social media to recommend  such practice as a way to live 100 years. I don’t know about the longevity, but it has proven benefits, with the only caveat of the acidity in your teeth, so it is better drank through a straw.

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If you want to make it sweeter, this cake is actually a really way of doing it. It has high amounts of lemon juice although vitamin is highly sensitive to heat so cooking it for a long time will destroy its content. The meringue is made with egg white, or aquafava if you are vegan and thus very high in protein. It has an artificial sweetener I normally wouldn’t use, Splenda, but it is the only sweetener I have found that has the right texture for a meringue. To compensate, the amount is has is less than half of the sugar the cake would normally take. If you prefer, you can use warm honey to sweeten it.

Ingredients

For the pastry

– 225g wholemeal flour

– 175g butter/margerine

– 2 tbsp xylitol

– 1 egg

For the lemon layer

– 4 lemons, finely grated zest & juice

– 40g corn flour

– 150g birch sugar

– 4 egg yolks

For the meringue topping

– 4 egg whites (remaining)

– 3/4 tbs splenda/honey/agave

– 1 tsp corn flour

How to…

To make the mix the flour and butter in a food processor if you have one and blend together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs you can do this by hand too. Add the birch sugar, egg and one tablespoon of water and mix again again until combined to a ball.

On a work surface roll the dough to a 3mm thick sheet. Transfer it to line a 20cm loose-bottomed tin. Cover in cling film and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Take the pastry-lined tin out of the fridge and trim the excess pastry.  Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the beans and parchment and bake for another five minutes.

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Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 170C.

For the filling, mix the lemon zest and juice with the cornflour and stir to form a paste. Add 300 ml of water into a small cooking pot and bring to the boil. Add the lemon cornflour mixture to the hot water and stir until the mixture has thickened, then remove from the heat. In a bowl mix together the birch sugar and egg yolks and add them to the lemon mixture in the pan. Stir over a medium heat until thickened.

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For the meringue, whisk the egg whites with an electric whisker until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Add the Splenda one tbsp at the time, and try it for sweetness, still whisking until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Add the cornflour and whisk again.

Spoon on top of the filled pastry case and spread the meringue to cover the lemon filling. Get creative to create a swirl on the top of the meringue.

Toast the top of the meringue with a burner. Allow to cool completely before serving.

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Carrot Cake 1 of your 5 a day?

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I recently came across a study that highlighted the effect of the UK government campaign for the population to eat more fruit an vegetables. Indeed, with one of the fattest populations in the world is a encomiable effort. Some really overweight person once told me that Ketchup was one of her 5 a day and that made me chuckle… If you smother your veggies into oil, butter, sugar or salt, you might as well skip it all together.

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I am a big fan of Carrot Cake, it is indeed my favourite cake in the world and this coming from a person that spend 15 years of her life separating carrots from her food is something. As pumpkin, carrot if a highly sweet vegetable, but when raw these sugars are actually not metabolised by your body, it is the cooking process that makes carrots sweet, so if you are trying to keep your weight at bay, eat your carrots raw. Their glycemic index sky rockets from low to very high after heating, shocking isn’t it? Overall they are a very healthy food but in this case, i will not pretend that like ketchup, this cake is like eating salad. It is a glorious treat and since my aim in this internet world is to make your indulgences less taxing on your blood sugar levels, here I present you the perfectly perfect better for you carrot cake.

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I have spent years perfecting my carrot cake and then some more making it healthier so I think I am now ready to share these lifetime findings 😉

Ingredients Serves 8:

For the cake

4 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups xylitol

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups wholegrain flour

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

3 cups shredded carrot

1 cup chopped walnuts

For the icing

60 gr. butter/margerine/coconut oil

220 gr. low fat cream cheese

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sucralose (splenda)

How to..

Bring the over temperature to 180C. Prepare a large mould with grease and flour.

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In a large bowl mix the eggs, the oil, xylitol and vanilla. Whisk with an electric mixer and add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and mix well.

Then add the grated carrot and the walnuts.

Pour into the mould and bake for an hour.

For the icing:

Mix the butter and cheese (both at room temperature) add the vanilla and the splenda until you have soft uniform texture with no lumps.

Check that your cake is completely cooked by inserting a pick in the middle, it is a very moist cake so make sure it is properly cooked. Leave to cook off completely before covering it with the icing.  I like to cut mine and add a layer of icing also in the middle but it is entirely optional. Decorate.

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Better for you Chocolate Cake

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I was just reading some fun facts about chocolate in the hope of getting some interesting content to grab your attention, dear readers. There is a lot of quirky facts like the one that says that Emperor Montezuma II drank 50 cups of chocolate a day (WOW) or the fact that Quaker Oats sponsored the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to promote their Wonka Chocolate Bar and that is the reason why the book and the movie have different names (The book is actually called Charlie and The Chocolate Factory).cake above

However the one that really caught my eye was this: A 2004 study in London found that 70% of people would reveal their passwords in exchange for a chocolate bar.

What the hell!! are we that stupid as a species? Apparently we have not evolved a lot since swapping mirrors for gold on the beaches of South America or getting distracted with bananas. It made me chuckle though… chocolate is pretty enticing as a prize and personal online security is surely over valued…isn’t it?

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Do not worry though, I am asking for nothing in exchange for this chocolate recipe and as per this blog’s custom, it has been stripped of all nasties and converted into something that you can serve at a children’s party and then take the leftovers to enjoy with a cup a of tea once everyone has left. Delicious, beautiful and wholesome, it is made with wholemeal flour, a couple of extra bits of fibre, low impact sugar and lower fat alternatives but just as delicious as it should be.

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I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients

For the cake

200g wholemeal flour

25g oat bran

200g  birch sugar/xylitol

85 g pure cocoa powder

1½ tsp baking powder

1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 organic, happy eggs or 2 flax eggs

250ml oat milk (or any milk, to your tasting)

125ml sunflower oil

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

250ml hot water

For the icing:

200g dark sugar free chocolate

200ml reduced fat double cream

How to…

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

For the cake, mix all the ingredients into a mixing bowl except the boiling water. Beat the mixture until smooth and well combined. Now add the hot water to the mixture, little by  little until completely combines. The resulting batter will be quite liquid. Leave to set for 10 minutes.

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Bake for 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. You might have to cover the top with foil half way to avoid it from burning. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tins.

For the chocolate coverage, heat the chocolate and cream in a pan on low heat or au bain marie until the chocolate melts. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk until smooth, glossy. Set aside to cool for 1 hour so it is not too liquid.

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Take the cake out of the tin, with a long round bladed knife cup it in half and separate the two carefully. Spread the icing over the top of the bottom half of the cake, then put the other one on top and pour the rest over the top. You can work on your drops to make it look more artistic. Leave to cool and the chocolate icing to harden and then decorate with fresh figs and mint leaves before serving. Edible flowers are always a plus.

Yum!

Healthy home made Nutella

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I realised last week that some of you actually read what I write, so I am going to have to start measuring my words! Strange how we project our digital voice to the void and we listen carefully to what the wind brings in return.

I am one of those people that stick a finger in the bottle of Nutella. Cheeky and shameless I scoop as much as I possibly can and i rush it to my mouth to stop it from dripping (which I only succeed every now and then).  We all know it isn’t the best of snacks but it is so delicious… If like me, you would like to be able to stick your finger in the chocolate pot more often and feel good about it, you have come to the right place.

This Nutella is vegan, sugar free and high in fibre. It takes a bit of processing time but other than that is very simple to make and takes only 3 ingredients.

Ingredients 

150 gr. Hazelnuts

60 gr. birch sugar

50 gr. cocoa powder

20 gr. cocoa butter (optional) or 50 ml. oat milk

How to…

First toast the hazelnuts in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes, without letting them get too toasted. Then mix everything else in a food processor until smooth and try.

You may need to add some more milk, or more cocoa depending on your taste.

If you have cocoa butter it will make the mix a little bit softer that if you don’t, without it, it will be more intense.

Once you have a smooth paste you can keep it in the fridge in an air tight container for 4 weeks.

You can also melt it au bain marie and pour as a sauce on top of pancakes like these:

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Healthy banana bread

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Not very popular where I come from, making cakes with things like banana and carrot is not something I did when growing up. Now that I have been living abroad for a while and I have been exposed to many other baking styles, carrot cake is absolute favourite cake.

Only a couple of years a loaf style cake caught my attention in a cafeteria, Banana bread said the sign. The bread part is a ruse, non english native speakers, it’s a proper cake. And a good one too! So I started to search for a good recipe and I ended up at the BBC good food site, which quite frankly has all the answers when it comes to culinary questions. I have since adapted it of course, to a sugar free wholegrain version that is a little bit healthier than the original and absolutely delicious.

This is my take on a traditional banana bread…

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Ingredients

  • 285g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 110g butter or coconut or sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 200 gr birch sugar (xylitol)
  • 2 happy chicken organic eggs
  • 4 very ripe mashed bananas
  • 85ml buttermilk (works as normal milk with 1½ tsp of vinegar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

How to..

Preheat the oven to 180C. Mix he flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and birch sugar together until light and fluffy, bear in mind that if using xylitol this won’t happen as with sugar and it will keep being somewhat separated. Don’t worry, it will work out in the over when heated.

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Add the eggs one by one mixing well each before adding another, then the mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the butter and sweetener mixture and mix well. Fold in the flour mixture carefully.

Grease a 20cm long loaf tin and pour the cake mixture into it, then put in the oven and bake for about an hour, for the last 20 minutes you might need to cover it with tin foil to stop the cake from darkening in excess. Insert a pick in the middle to know if it’s properly cooked. It should come out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

If you like the bananas on top as decoration, cut one in half alongside and place before putting in the oven.

Enjoy!

How to eat Pasta

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Pinch with a fork, take fork to mouth, place pasta in your mouth, chew until the food has become a paste, then swallow. Possibly gush down with a bit of red wine. Easy right?

Now, pasta is healthy food. Most food is actually healthy food. Look at the Italians, they have it everyday and their country is rather slim and the life expectancy is one of the longest in the world.  For most of us non Italians though, pasta has come into our homes as a cheese and butter smothered mixture that resembles more a fast food option than a real meal.

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Pasta is meant to be eaten with vegetables, fresh tomatoes, fresh herbs, fresh seafood and olive oil, with only a drizzle of grana padano or parmesano on top. Not a lot of people know that a carbonara sauce has no cream, but egg yolk. Of course everyone is free to enjoy pasta as they want, but if you are looking to enjoy pasta in a delicious, healthy way, check out this recipe, which I learnt in my last trip to lake Como.

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The pasta I have used is wholegrain rye macaroni which provides 14gr of fibre per each 100 grams and its manufacturing process makes it less taxing on the blood sugar levels. Cooks in 7 minutes and it should be cooled down after boiling, this brings the glycemic index even lower. The flavour is absolutely superb.

Ingredients (serves 2)

6 tbsp home made tomato sauce

100 gr. of uncooked pasta

3 cubes of frozen spinach

1/2 onion

1 clove of garlic

100 gr. ricotta cheese

2 tbsp grated grana padano cheese

Pinch of salt

How to…

Let the spinach unfreeze for a couple of hours. Boil the pasta according to the pack instructions with salt, wash with water and keep aside. In a pan, cook the onion with the garlic in a small amount of olive oil, make sure it’s very finely cut. xt19400.jpg

When cooked, add the spinach with a pinch of salt and mix well, until it’s incorporated. In a separate bowl mix the ricotta with the spinach mixture and the pasta.

In a plate, make a base with the tomato sauce, then pile up half of the spinach pasta mix and top with the grated cheese. You can microwave for 30 seconds to make sure all the elements are warm and to melt the cheese on top.

Enjoy!

 

Healthy Strawberries & Cream

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Not all strawberries are created equal. Nowadays they always look big red and gorgeous but they don’t always taste as they should. The best way to know if the strawberries are flavourful is to smell them! If they smell potently like they should, then you are on to something good.

Even so, if you want to make your strawberries shine and take them to a whole new level, or simply save some that weren’t all that good to start with, all you have to do is “confit” them.

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The problem with Strawberries & Cream is generally that the cream is incredibly high in saturated fat and well, it isn’t something to eat everyday in all honesty. The good news is that I found a great substitute that is super creamy and sweet but has a lot less fat than the original recipe.

For the Strawberry confit:

500 gr fresh strawberries

1 lemon ( the juice)

1 tsp. sucralose (or your sweetener of choice)

For the “cream”

340 gr. Fat free Greek Yogurt

50 gr. Mascarpone cheese

How to…

Chop the strawberries in very small pieces and place them in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of one lemon, and the sweetener and heat them up in the microwave for 30 seconds. Take them out, whisk them with a fork to mix in the juices and then heat them up another 30 seconds. Leave them out to cool down and then keep them in the fridge.

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To make the cream, whisk the yogurt and the mascarpone together and split into 3 to 4 portions depending if you want it as dessert, snack or light breakfast. This is a high protein non added sugar recipe so feel free to give it to the kids, awesome way to eat more fruit!

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