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!

Apple Galette: a healthy treat

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It is ironic how the language is sometimes a better historical trail than carbon 14 readings. I cannot get my head around the moment in which the human beings came up with the sentence “one apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

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Apples belong to the botanical genre Malus. Malus is the latin root that means “not good” and it gave origin to many wonderful words such as maleficent and malefic in English but also to the word mal (evil) in Spanish. It is in origin an Asian tree and as a fun fact for the day, it did not exist in America until the colonist took it there. There are many different varieties of apple trees and apple and its history is long and twisting, from being the forbidden tree to the inspiration for the original theory of Gravity by Sir Isaac Newton.

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It’s darker character made it the vessel for the poison in Snow White’s tale and the bright red color of some variants make it perfect to represent temptation. Granny Smith, an Australian old lady bred a particularly sour one. Golden Delicious lives up to its name and there are a myriad of wild unchartered types to be found in small orchards.

They are long lived fruits, they last months in a dry clean place and for that reason they were kept during the winter months in barrels, getting wrinkles and a bit drier with the weeks passing by and still sweet and full goodness. Malus, if you ask me, doesn’t quite make them justice.

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If like me, you have left your apples for too long and they start to be a bit wrinkly, this is what you can do with them.

Ingredients (makes 4 small galettes or 2 large ones)

For the crust:

  • 2 cups wholewheat flour
  • 1 tbs coconut flour (optional for extra fibre, if not available, more normal flour)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sunflower oil  or coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg or 2 flax egg replacements
  • pinch sea salt

For the filling

  • 2 tbsp unsweetened almond butter
  • 2 tbsps apple puree
  • 2 apples without the core, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar

How to…

For the dough, mix all the ingredients in a bowl and knead until you get a ball of dough that is a little sticky but you can work with. Let sit in the fridge for 15 minutes. Take out and divide in 2 or 4 according to your plans. Form 4 discs of approximately half a centimetre thick.

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Preheat the over 180C.

Mix in a bowl the almond butter, the apple pure and the cinnamon and cover the base of the discs of dough leaving 2 cm to the end with no mixture. Then lay the thinly cut apple slices overlapping as in the picture. Sprinkle with coconut sugar and more cinnamon.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until it looks golden brown. Serve with a bit of low fat cream.

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French Onion Soup

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Warming hands and bellies since time inmemorial, I have had an inconsistent love-hate relationship with soups. It has been a few years now that is gone to the love side and I think it will stay there forever.

You see my mother used to feed us the same vegetable soup every day from Monday to Thursday while growing up. Every day, the same thing. Followed by some fish, meat or poultry but the same starter, that is when the hate phase started. It wasn’t until much later that I realised that soups were indeed a whole wide world in themselves and I started being more open minded.

Living in Switzerland for a few years and starting to get into skiing, I got the chance to try this Onion Soup, one of the many Gruyere containing specialities of Valais, and it was love at first sip. It is rich, sweet, sour and salty with those subtle herb flavours from the thyme that made me realise what a great addition to my collection this would be.

So after a trip to the slopes of the Mont Blanc, I trialed it at home and I can say with no doubt that is is an easy one to crack. The key to be honest, is patience. Since I don’t like to use sugar in my recipes unless is absolutely necessary, I stripped my recipe from it and made it for it in time.

The main effect of the sugar in this recipe is to make the onion go dark quickly and facilitate that caramelisation, which to be completely honest, you can achieve but cooking it for 30 minutes instead of 15. Also I find that the longer you cook it the more flavour it will have. My recommendation, this is a real crowd pleaser, so if you have people over, is a great way of impressing them, with a good fresh out of the oven presentation.

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Ingredients (serves 5)

2 tbsp Olive Oil

3 very large onions finely sliced top to bottom

2 sprigs of thyme 

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

200ml dry white wine

1 heaped tbsp wholegrain flour

50ml brandy/sherry wine

1 litre vegetable stock

5 thick slices of bread, 100% wholegrain sourdough

5 tbsps grated Gruyere cheese

How to…

In a large frying pan heat up the olive oil, when hot, add the chopped onions, the thyme and the garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes over a medium to low heat, until they are cooked and have a dark brown hue, stir often so it doesn’t burn. Add the flour and keep cooking for a couple of minutes before adding the white wine and then let boil until it has reduced by half. Add the brandy or sherry, then add in the stock and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to let the flavours mix. Pick out the thyme and then pre heat the grill in the oven. Toast the bread on one side and set aside.

Before serving the soup, taste it for salt and correct if needed. Pour the soup into the bowls, top with a slice of bread and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Grill for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

Fab & Healthy Rhubarb Crumble

 

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Crumbles are one of the easiest recipes to adapt to low carb and since they are mainly made of fruit, they respond very well to the change and you can barely tell the difference. In this case I have taken on the traditional rhubarb crumble and it has turned out delicious.

Can you believe that people in Spain have never heard of Rhubarb? A few years ago when I first tried to replicate this recipe, I struggled a lot to find it, I had to order it and it took a week to come. I started then to research why was that and apparently it is due to the fact that Spain has good weather and great soil. Ha!

According to my findings, rhubarb is a vegetable that grows in soils that are not great for other plants and they have enormous amounts of oxalic acid, which makes it potentially poisonous to humans, specially in summer and autumn when the concentration has become higher. Don’t worry though, the poison in the leaves, so as long as you stick to the stems, you should be fine.

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It is used in traditional Chinese medicine as a cure for constipation and it is also good for mouth sores although the acid content attacks the enamel so be careful with consuming it very often. Due to this content, it can block the iron absorption so bear that in mind when composing your menu, it may not be the best dessert for a lentil soup.

Made like this, the Rhubarb Crumble is Vegan, Gluten Free, Paleo friendly, low carb, has no added sugar and it is ok for diabetics. Perfect to have a sweet finish to your meal and super easy to make.

Ingredients (serves 4)

500 gr. rhubarb stems

1 tsp. ground ginger

2 tbsp. xylitol

For the crumble

80 gr. coconut oil or butter (if not vegan)

2 tbsp. coconut flour

1 tbsp. almond meal

1 tbsp. xylitol

How to…

Chop the rhubarb in 2 cm long pieces and heat up in a pan with the xylitol and the ginger until it is soft, about 8 minutes. Try for flavour, the rhubarb’s acidity varies and it could need more sweetener.

In a bowl, mix the oil/butter, coconut flour, almond meal and xylitol and work with your hands until you get a crumbly texture.

Distribute the rhubarb in 4 small ramekins, top with the crumble and place in the oven for 15 minutes at 160 degrees. Check that the tops of the crumble and nice and golden and take out when they look ready. The coconut flour takes longer to change colour so bear that in mind.

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Serve with soy cream or coconut yogurt mixed with cream (to lighten up consistency) on the side, or if not vegan, with normal cream or low fat yogurt mixed with milk. The sauce should be a bit liquid so you can pour it over the crumble while it’s warm, it gives a nice sweet and cold contrast.

Some people eat it with custard or vanilla ice cream so… take your pick!

I decorated mine with flowers from my garden and mint leaves.

Enjoy!

Raw Cashew + Coconut Protein Balls

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There are thousands of recipes out there for protein balls, energy bites and fat bombs. The key to choosing which one is best for you lays in your goals.

An energy ball is generally higher in carbohydrate and fat and fat bomb is obviously higher in fat and lower in carbs. A protein ball is generally enriched with protein powder and is lower in carbs.

If you are in a Ketosis state or diet, you are probably looking for a fat bomb because you want high energy in the form of fat and you are not interested in carbs at all. If you follow a diet with a variety of foods, including carbs, you probably want an energy bite if you are not trying to lose weight, or if you are bulking and a protein ball if you are watching your calories. The last ones are my favourite.

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This is a personal preference but I don’t like overly sweet things so I have tested and corrected a recipe to suit them to my taste and here you have the result!

They provide 86 calories each, 3.5 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of protein and 9 grams of carbs.

Ingredients (makes 15 balls)

100 gr. of natural Cashew nuts

100 gr. of pitted dates

1/3 gr. of shredded coconut 

2 scoops of vanilla protein powder

1 tbsp of chia seeds

3 tbsp of water

Agave nectar (if needed)

How to…

In a food processor, blend the dates and the cashew nuts, in a bowl, mix with the coconut and the protein powder and the chia seeds and if needed add one tbsp of water at the time to improve the texture. Try and add a bit of agave nectar if needed.

 

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Food & Colours

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We all like to eat pretty. We are more willing to try new foods when those are presented to us in a nice way, we eat with our eyes. Colourful arrangements are more succesful than boring brown bowls of lentils, delicious as those may be!

The key to helping others or ourselves try and love new foods or make our meal times for enjoyable, is to find little tricks to make our food as attractive as possible. Think about eye candy since this works for everything in life, from beautiful people to expensie clothes… everything displayed nicely is desired, and costs more.

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I have been playing around with colours lately and this is my take on green, a colour that wouldnt necessarily make part of desserts until you get familiarized with Matcha, the japanese green tea that is packed with antioxidants and stimulants that is great to burn fat and minimise the effect of the free radicals.

So what about combining the great properties of matcha powdered tea with another superfood, the chia seed?? Well then we have a lovely dessert that is full of protein, fibre, good fats, antioxidants and fat burning properties.

In case you havent heard it before, matcha is not a tea as such, it is a vibrant green powder that is made with the green tea leaf in its entirety, that is why it has such powerful benefits compared to the infusion of the leaves.

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You can find this powder in any asian shop and also in most health food stores now a days, it is quite expensive but very little goes a long way. Just half a teaspoon is enough to make a full cup of it.

The recipe for this dessert, as simple as it gets is as follows:

Ingredients (4 small portions)

4 tbsp. Chia seeds

400 ml coconut milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

Sweetener

1 tsp matcha powder

Cherries or any other fresh berry to decorate

How to?

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients except the fruit, mix well with a whisk and let the chia seeds reach their full size (they absorb the liquid) until they take a loose pudding consistency.

Distribute in your ramekins or serving pots and when you serve, decorate with a cherry or berry. Very sweet, and healthy! Oh, and totally vegan so perfect for Meatless Monday!

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