Nutty Caramel Healthy Granola

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I have read somewhere that to make granola is so easy it can be hardly called recipe. Indeed is easy, however if you have never done it, some basic instructions would be appreciated even if is only useful to avoid having to try a couple of things before it works out.

Granola is very fashionable at the moment. When people are becoming more and more aware of how bad the breakfast cereals are for you (and your kids) in reality, ladden with refined sugars and hardly any real nutritional value other than lots of fast burning carbs, homemade things that SOUND healthier are rising in popularity. Problem? Well if you have a look at the amount of sugars contained in most store sold granolas, they should actually be considered a dessert. Because let’s be honest, non refined sugars like honey and syrups, are still sugars.

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Nothing wrong with a bit, but often difficult to eat the recommended dosage. The key to a granola versus a normal muesli is that has been oven baked and it is caramelised which makes it crunchy and sweet. In this recipe I have tried two things, one with a low carb sugar, Agave syrup, and the other one with birch sugar, xylitol. Both of them have the advantage of a low GI (Glycemic Index) making the carbohydrates slower to burn sustaining energy levels longer. The benefit of the xylitol over the agave is the amount of calories since agave has pretty much the same as regular sugar and is very high in fructose (not so good), so the version with xylitol is better but the flavour is different to the traditional ones made with honey and the sorts.

In any case, this is not breakfast cereal, this is something you can add to a smoothie bowl, a yogurt or a dessert. Is it not expensive, adds really good taste to your food and it’s visually very pretty which also makes you like more what you are eating.

For example, a whipped coconut yogurt with some berries and granola is  a fantastic alternative to a tradicional sweet dessert, a breakfast or an afternoon snack.

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Ingredients:

500 gr. oats

10 hazelnuts, chopped

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

2 tbsp. sesame seeds

1/2 cup raisins

2/3 tbsp. coconut oil

2/3 tbsp. xylitol syrup or agave nectar

How to…

Preheat the oven to 165C and in a large bowl melt the coconut oil and the xylitol. The add in all the ingredients except the sliced almonds and the raisins.

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Make sure all the ingredients are mixed with the oil and xylitol and spread evenly on an over tray. Bake for 15 minutes, then bring out and mix in the almonds and the raisins and get back into the oven  for another 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Wait until it is completely cold before storing. It can be kept in an air tight container for about 6 weeks.

Enjoy!

 

Healthy Vegan Peanut Butter & Banana Breakfast cake bars

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Today I would like to share with you an easy and super healthy way to start the day, o a good snack for mid morning or mid afternoon. I believe it will be particularly interesting for those with children because they are very easy to make, and they can be stored in the fridge and be a grab & go option.

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There are two ways about this recipe, the one with an egg and the vegan option that swaps that egg for a mix of chia seeds and water. Mine is dairy free but I have used some agave nectar for sweetener, but you can easily avoid it and use any non caloric sweetener or just use one more banana.

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I have made these with oat bran to make them extra low carb and high fibre but you can use oat meal or a mixture of the two, it is entirely up to your preference.

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These are quite moist and have very much the texture of a sponge cake, with the nutty flavour of the peanuts to give it a kick. They are high in healthy fats and low in the less good ones and quite a high protein option too. All in all, a balanced and nutritious alternative to sugary cereals or other treats. You can also use them as a sweet tooth trick because they do taste divine and they wont take a toll on the scales.

Ingredients (makes 12 portions)

1 1/2 cups oat bran

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg/ 2 tbsp chia seed in 3 tbsp of water

1/4 cup of unsweetened peanut butter

2 ripe bananas (or 3 if you dont want to use sweetener)

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (or almond or soy)

1/4 cup agave nectar/maple syrup

1 tsp baking powder

How to…

Mix in a medium bowl all the dry ingredients so they are homogeneously mixed and set aside.

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In a larger bowl mix the bananas (I used some I had frozen and i blended them in the food processor first) but you can also just mash them in the bowl with the peanut butter, then add the egg and mix until the mixture is like a dough (or the chia seeds). Then add the vanilla extract and coconut or almond milk. When everything is well mixed, add the dry mixture, combine and set in a pre-greased bowl.

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Bake at 175C for about 25 minutes. Decorate with peanut butter and peanuts and anything you may think of. Chocolate sprinkles could be a nice addition too.

Let me know if you try it!

Enjoy 🙂

 

Figs, Pine Nuts & Goats Cheese salad

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Well.. what is there NOT to like about this combination? In case as me you were not a massive pine nut fan, all you need to do is toast them in a pan, and then try them warm, they are supper nutty and delicious. This is a very summery dish, that can also lead well into autumn due to the cheese and the fact that the best time for sweet juicy figs is actually September.

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Figs are often considered a fruit that is extremely high in sugar,  and they may not be dieting material if you are planning on eating a whole plate of them. On the other hand, they have a lot of fibre and aid digestion, protecting our stomach at the same time. On the back of this, figs are excellent laxatives and they are full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, helping your body slow the ageing process.

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Additionally they have been proven to control the blood sugar levels and figs and their leaves are recommended for people with diabetes for this reason. They are also very effective to help you expectorate when you have a cold or the flu, this is, they help get rid of the mucus in the respiratory track.

Add some protein into the mix and green leaves to increase the fibre and satiating power and you will have an awesome starter or a light dinner.IMG_6528

Ingredients (serves 2)

3 figs

60 gr. of goat’s cheese or vegan alternative

2 tbsp. of pine nuts (toasted)

Mix leaf salad

Olive oil & balsamic vinegar

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How to…

Choose a pretty serving dish. People will be more willing to eat your food if it looks beautiful. It is what it is… we eat with our eyes!

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Lay your mix salad leaves on it forming a bed. Chop your figs in quarters and lay them on top of the lettuce alternating the tops and bottoms like in the picture, it will not alter the flavour, but looks better 😉

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Crumble your goat’s cheese or vegan cheese with your fingers and distribute evenly over the figs, then top it up with the pine nuts. To toast the pine nuts, simple place them in a hot pan with no oil until brown, and move them around every now and then so they don’t burn. If you want the salad to be warm toast put your pine nuts when they are still hot.

Dress with one tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, and one of balsamic vinegar.

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Tuna Tataki

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Sorry it has been a while, sometimes, life gets on the way of more important things like blogging 😉

The positive outcome is that i am having a lot more time to cook, which is obviously good news. Back in the day I used to be a picky eater, as an adolescent living at home, I didnt like fish and I didn’t like many different vegetables, it is a phase that a lot of people fo through. My redemption came by eating out. When I would refuse to try roasted red peppers at home because my mum didn’t put too much effort into making them interesting, I would give them a go in a non committal way when we were eating out. I did this through trying other people’s orders… that way if i didn’t like it there was no harm done and I could eat my own safe option.

I am sure many of you have gone through similar experiences one way or another. The reason why I am mentioning this is that one my all time claims was that everything I ate had to be very well cooked, and I would never ever eat something raw or rare… little i knew I would grow up to love sushi and sashimi and intermediate things like this tataki.

Ingredients (serves 2 -3)

100 to 150 gr. of excellent red tuna

1 scallion

Jalapeños to taste

Sesame seeds

Fresh Coriander

 

How to…

First cut and clean your tuna in a long square piece almost ready for sashimi as uniform as possible. Then tub the outside with sesame seeds.

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In a very hot pan, heat up a very small of olive oil or sesame oil if you prefer a stronger flavour. Seal the tuna on all sides for about 20 seconds on each one of then.

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Cut the piece in really thin slices, of 1/4 to a 1/2 of a centimeter and array in a tray as shown in the picture.

Chop of the scallion very thinly, the jalapeños and the coriander, keeping some full leaves to decorate and arrange on top of the sliced tuna.

Serve with soy sauce with a bit of wasabi to taste on the side.

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This recipe provides a lot of protein and it is very low in fat with barey any carbohidrate in it, so perfect for a late light dinner or to complement some plant based platter.

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The Ultimate SUPERFOOD Salad

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Maybe I should actually say superfoods, given the fact that there is not one but several highly nutritious foods in a plate of this beautiful and colourful salad.

Broccoli which we already talked about it the past, salmon, a powerful source of Omega 3 fatty acids to protect your arteries, spinach, full of protein and vitamin c and iron, feta cheese, low in fat but high in protein and calcium and edamame beans, which have all the benefits from the soy and all the benefits of a bean, making you fuller for longer and helping your digestive system with their high fiber content.

Salads a wonderful thing, they exist in an infinite possible combination, some of them more successful than others and very easy to adapt to one’s personal taste by swapping ingredients for something that you might like more.

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This recipe is very high is protein and good fats and has a small amount of low GI slow burning carbs that can be increased depending on your macronutrient needs. As you will see it is a pretty simple thing, with only a slightly different dressing that makes all the difference by bringing the flavours together and make this a salad that is better than the sum of its parts.

Ingredients (serves 2)

200 grams. poached salmon

50 grams. low fat Feta cheese

2 tbsp. of pine nuts

2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach

2 cups of steamed broccoli

1 tbsp. edamame beans (loose from the pod)

For the dressing

2 pinches of Salt

1/2 a tbsp. Dijon mustard in grain

1 tbsp. White wine vinegar

1 tbsp. Soja sauce

4 drops of Sweetener

Lay the spinach on a plate to make the base of the salad, scatter the broccoli evenly over it, then the poached salmon in flakes, sprinkle with fetal cheese and pine nuts.

I buy my pine nuts raw so I toast them myself on a pan with no oil whatsoever, just keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!

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Mix the dressing well and dress the salad with it and serve immediately. This particular mix of ingredients is meant to give it a slight Asian touch, which goes very well with the salmon and the edamame but of course you can avoid this just by removing the sweetener and soy sauce from the mixture.

Enjoy!

 

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Super Food Vanilla Caramel Chia Pudding

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I recently came across Chia seeds, you can find plenty of pictures on Pinterest, Instagram and other social media claiming the miraculous properties of this tiny little seeds. I read a bit about them and they really seem to be amazing, the key benefit is the high density of their nutrients, one serving is around 1 ounce (28 grams) and within it, you have 4 gr. Of Protein, 9 gr. Of fat (this is a lot, but 5 of those are Omega 3 which you would want to incorporate to your diet anyway) and 11 gr. Of Fiber. Not to mention that apparently they have more antioxidants that Blueberries, and more calcium gram on gram that dairy, which makes them specially good for people that don’t dairy, like vegans.

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Even when protein and fats can be sourced alternatively within your meals, fiber can be an elusive one specially on low carb diets when no bread, flour or pasta is included. Fiber is essential to keep you fuller for longer, so a dessert made of chia seeds could very well top up a light dinner or lunch, and keep you satisfied until the next morning/dinner.

They are packed with vitamins and all of this for only around 100 calories per serving and the best thing is that they are very versatile. You can sprinkle them on cookies, over porridge, you can have them with drinks and make desserts with them!

They don’t need to be cooked, they absorb so much liquid that they just need to be immersed in it for 24h and let them become a dessert by themselves!

This is my first attempt at them, so I only used half a portion to make one pudding, which made them more liquid than I have seen in other recipes. I think this basically comes down to personal preference and the texture that you like.

When I first tried it I was a bit wary, but it turns out it is actually pretty good! It reminded of those tapioca balls in bubble tea, but in a lot more interesting nutritional package. I totally recommend it!

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 tablespoons Chia Seeds (8 if you want a more dense texture)

450 ml of Light Soya Milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ teaspoon Caramel flavouring no added sugar

4 tablespoons coconut milk (reduced fat)

Sweetener of your choice to taste

How to make them…

So easy! Just mix all the liquid ingredients, if the coconut milk is not liquid, warm it up to mix it with the soya milk first, taste the flavour and add sweetener until you are satisfied.

Pour the chia seeds at the bottom of the containers where you will be making them, I have used the one from Weck because they can be closed and secured with metallic piec

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Add the liquid to the pots, close and shake each one for 30 seconds. Leave for 10 minutes and shake again. Shake again one hour afterwards and then you can leave them in the fridge overnight. They will be ready in the morning!

The seeds will fill up with water and duplicate their size several times. They have a gooey texture but not unpleasant and these soft vanilla and caramel flavour really make them delicious.

Don’t be scared to try new things!

90 Calorie Protein Punch Easy Egg Muffins

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How did I never think of this is a mystery, but we all have lots to learn, and I have learned about these beauties this weekend. I use an app called Fitocrazy to log my workouts, it provides support for fitness purposes and it’s full of people with very inspiring ideas, one of them was these egg muffins. Even though I seem to be the last one to find out about them, I thought I would give them a go.

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Before sharing the recipe, which is very very easy, I would like to stress the importance of snacking as part of a well balanced and sustainable way of eating. Most experts recommend doing 5 to 6 meals a day, smaller in size, the main advantages of these are two:

1. Keeps your metabolism active: when you eat every few hours your body keeps receiving fuel and so he keeps using it freely.

2. Avoids cravings and overeating at the main meal times. If you get to lunch starving, you will jump on literally anything, from crisps to sweets. If you eat something before hand, you will have better control over your appetite.

What should a good snack then have? Protein for starters, it is very important for satiety and muscle mass maintenance. Carbohydrate to make sure that protein is used best as possible, it should be a healthy source of carb to keep you fuller for longer and then some type of fat, ideally the least abundant component.

Between your lunch and dinner, one or two of these with a piece of fruit (an apple for example) will keep you energized and full until dinner. I have made these with full eggs, but I would recommend also to substitute a few eggs with egg whites for more protein and less fat depending on your goals.

Finally, I have made these vegetarian but they are awesome with bacon or chicken in them for additional flavor.

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Ingredients (for 6 muffins)

6 eggs

1 cube of frozen spinach

1 tomato

1/2 onion

2 tbsp. grated Grana-Padano or parmesan cheese

Salt & Pepper

How to…

In a frying pan, sauté the tomato and onion with salt & pepper for 3 to 5 minutes. In he meantime, boil the spinach until is loose and then remove all the water. In a bowl, beat up the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper again and add the vegetables and one tablespoon of grated cheese.

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Mix well and pour into muffin liners, the metallic are best to avoid the egg from sticking to the paper (it does stick a lot). Sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheese and bake for about 20 minutes at 150 C.

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They last in the fridge for around 4 to 5 days so it’s a great grab & go snack or breakfast if you are running late!

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Enjoy!

Easy & Light Comfort food Beer Chicken Casserole

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As we slowly but surely approach winter, the days are getting colder and the coats thicker. Covering ourselves a bit more is a tempting occasion to overindulge and let the kilos pile up until next May, when we will peel off the layers and cry. Cry for help! A personal trainer, a fad diet, a electro stimulation machine… ANYTHING will do when the bikini is coming back.

Well this might sound revolutionary to you, but what about instead of pigging out on pumpkin spice lattes and cheese all the way to xmas only to pig out on sweets & treats all the way into new year, we practice a bit of mindful eating? This is as simple as moderating your food on a constant basis. Choose good foods as soon as possible, and have the odd treat when you really feel like it. If 80% of your diet is clean and nutritious the 20% that you let yourself enjoy a few sugary and fatty foods, will have little to none effect on your body!

Of course you want to enjoy delicious food not once or twice a week but all the time! So do I, and so does everybody else! Being nice to yourself and nice to your body means making the right choices but not torturing yourself by denying yourself pleasures and living in misery, but learning to enjoy what healthy food has to offer. I can promise you that there is very little difference in you cook things right.

Today I wanted to share with you a recipe for a casserole, which normally has a questionable reputation as healthy, since traditionally it was cooked with too much oil and came accompanied by potatoes. This recipe is low fat and low carb, with only some veggies to accompany it, and a sauce made of beer.

Don’t be afraid of cooking with alcoholic beverages, once they boil most of their alcohol has evaporated and they have little to no impact on the caloric content on a meal.

Enjoy this lovely pot of comfort food in good company this weekend.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

1 carrot

1 chicken in pieces

1 beer (33 cl)

1 lemon

Salt & pepper

How to do it…

In a non sticky cooking pot (I keep using my Le Creuset like there is no tomorrow) fry the chicken pieces in no oil at all. Chicken is very high in protein and its meat is very lean, but it does contain a fair amount of fat in the skin. you can remove part or all of the skin before cooking or leave it on. Turn the chicken around so it doesn’t burn too much, basically allowing it toast a bit for 5 to 7 minutes. Take out of the pot and reserve. Bear in mind the chicken will probably have to be done in batches.

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On the same pot, cook the onions, carrot and garlic in medium heat and let them caramelize and become brown. I like to put the salt on them at this point too so they loose the water and cook better. Once this is done, incorporate the chicken back into the pot and mix well. Let it all heat up and then squeeze the juice of one lemon in the pot to deglaze (this means melt the burnt food at the bottom of the pot to incorporate back into the sauce). Stir a couple of times, add a beer and cover with the lid. Let cook for about 15 to 20 minutes on low heat. Open the lid and let cook for another 5 to 10 to reduce the sauce and give it consistency.

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I always recommend this dish the day after it has been prepared, since the flavours will be stronger and better integrated… this is if you can wait of course!

I have served mine here with some Brussels sprouts but any green leafy veggie will do, best with anything within the cabbage family (cauliflower, broccoli…)

Enjoy!

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Super Light Detox Veggie Bowl

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This soup is specially designed for the following occasions:

  1. When feeling sick and nothing solid really appeals
  2. After xmas: when you feel that just about anything you put in your mouth will make you explode
  3. After any holiday when you have maybe overdone it a bit with the chips
  4. Before any holiday that requires you to show off the bikini body (and of course you are not ready just yet)
  5. In winter when you are starving to warm you up and fill you up so you don’t eat too much of any other thing on the table

The original name of this soup is Julianne Soup due to the way in which the veggies are chopped (Julianne style) and it is honestly the simplest soup you can possibly make, very difficult to screw up and genuinely yummy.

It has only super low calorie ingredients it is almost virtually fat free and the only ingredient that could be higher GI is the carrot (high GI when is cooked) which you can totally leave out and it will be just as nice.

Ingredients (serves 6)

1/2 white cabbage

1 large onion

1 leek

2 carrots (optional)

250 gr of mushrooms

2 tomatoes seeds removed

Handful of spinach

Salt

2 Vegetable or beef stock cubes

Ground coriander

Fresh ground pepper

Chop all the ingredients in fine stripes (see picture) and clean and peel the mushrooms, discard the pods (you can use them in an omelette later on) and chop them too.

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In a good cooking pot (I use Le Creuset, but any good anti adherent one would do) and grease the base with an olive oil spray. Cook the onions alone for about 5 minutes in medium heat and then add the other vegetables except the mushrooms and the spinach. Add a pinch of salt and let them “sweat” to get rid of the water, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes.

Boil 1.5 liters of water in a kettle and add to the vegetables with the 2 cubes of stock. If you want a vegetarian/vegan option stay away from the beef flavor but it is entirely up to your personal preference.

Let it boil on low heat for 45 minutes and season to taste with the spices and then the mushrooms. Turn off the heat and let it sit for another 5 to 10 minutes.

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This soup can be kept in the fridge for about 4 to 5 days and it is perfect to cook once and then just grab and reheat. Great for school nights and it comes at about 90 calories per portion, with a very filling result. WINNER!

Easy Healthy Dinners: Lamb & Spinach gratin

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This is a really easy way of using leftovers, when preparing some spinach from my previous post Almost Creamed Spinach, just cook some extra and keep it in the fridge to use the following nights!

For this recipe, just pan fry in a really hot pan a 350 gr lamb fillet, then slice in half and then each half in smaller pieces (around 1 cm thick). Reheat the spinach and sprinkle some grated cheese on top.

Bon appetite!