Cranberry, Pecan and Chia Seed Granola Bars

I haven’t jumped onto the healthy eating bandwagon, but that’s not to say I haven’t had a deep curiosity about the fuss associated with superfoods such as chia seeds, avocado and coconut oil. Perhaps it was when Nigella Lawson started using these ingredients in her TV show that I realised this is no longer a niche market, and has started to become much more mainstream.

So yes, last year I succumbed to temptation, and bought an enormous packet of chia seeds. Fast forward a few months later and it was still sitting in the cupboard unopened, and I was scratching my head in perplexity, wondering how on earth to use it up (I must add that the same situation occured several years ago with a giant bag of cocoa nibs, and I’m still working through them – obviously I don’t learn from my mistakes!).

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After a lot of googling, I couldn’t say I was hugely inspired by most of the online recipes out there for using up chia seeds. Eventually, I decided to heavily adapt an Ottolenghi recipe to incorporate ingredients I desperately wanted to use up.

It seemed to do the trick. These aren’t exactly what I’d call healthy, but they aren’t quite as bad for you as, say, flapjacks, and taste along the same sort of spectrum. Next time I’d probably leave out the flaxseeds which had a bit of an earthy aftertaste I wasn’t hugely enamoured of.

Cranberry, Pecan and Chia Seed Granola Bars

Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

  • 190g rolled oats
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 40g chia seeds
  • 40g flaxseeds
  • 60g dried cranberries
  • 40g pecans
  • 80g coconut oil, solid at room temperature
  • 80g brown sugar
  • 80g maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 140˚C and toast the pecans for around 8 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 160˚C.

Soak the dried cranberries in hot water for 10 minutes then drain with a colander.

Toss all the ingredients minus the coconut oil, sugar and syrup together in a bowl.

In a saucepan, heat together the oil, sugar and syrup until bubbling then pour over the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly together to combine, then pat down into a lined 20cm square tin. Bake for around 20 minutes, then leave to cool before slicing into squares.

 

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Skinny Peanut Butter Brownies

Now I am running a bit more, I’m trying to kick off with some healthier changes to my lifestyle. Salads are cropping up again, and with the glorious sunshine outdoors, it’s been no hardship eating all things juicy, crunchy, and fresh.

Now, I know. Baking cakes doesn’t really constitute healthy living. It’s been a while since the black bean brownies incident, but I’m still fairly traumatised by it. However, my interest was piqued by yet another “skinny” brownie recipe, which this time, had loads of rave reviews. And this time, no pulses were involved. Given my last experience, I had such low expectations about this recipe. I was expecting flat, cardboard-flavoured disappointment.

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I was so wrong.

These brownies are a full-on miracle. They contain no butter, no oil – but they are gorgeous. Sticky, fudgy, intensely chocolatey, and totally luscious. I practically licked a square off the sheet of baking paper, and my taste-testers gave the seal of approval too.

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The main alteration I’ve made is mixing the peanut butter into the batter instead of swirling it on top. I used crunchy peanut butter, so I got some tasty nuggets interspersed throughout. I’m so excited to have found this recipe, and I can’t wait to get experimenting with almond, cashew, and hazelnut butters, and other additions like freeze-dried raspberries and chopped white chocolate….yay!

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Skinny Peanut Butter Brownies

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

  • 120g peanut butter
  • 170g plain yoghurt
  • 60ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 64g cocoa powder
  • 40g rolled oats
Preheat oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a square 20 x 20cm baking tin. Place all of the dry ingredients into a blender and whizz into a powder. In a jug, mix together milk, yoghurt, peanut butter and the egg. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and blend to combine into a smooth paste. Pour the batter into prepared baking dish. It will be thin, don’t worry. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool down completely before slicing into squares. It is a very squidgy brownie, so if you want very cleanly cut squares, first pop it into the freezer to get firmer.
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Winter Roasted Medley

Do you ever go shopping and come away with a heap of things but not the item you originally went to buy?

Yup, today, that was me. I went to Sainsburys intending to buy a loaf of bread, and came out with two bags bulging with veg. So this is my effort to use some of it up – throw it in a tin into the oven, and hey presto.

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With roasting, getting crispy edges is imperative, which can be difficult unless you spread everything out with plenty of space. Ideally, two tins would be perfect, but my flat oven only has one shelf, so in the end, I had to sacrifice some of the crispness (the idea of cooking everything indivdually crossed my mind but I don’t have that much time to spend on a fairly simple recipe).

Many souls on the internet have been raving about the joys of roasted broccoli. It’s nice, but I prefer it sauteed as retains a little crunch and texture, and the colour of the broccoli itself stays brighter.

Still, this works very well as a meal in its own right, maybe bulked out with some cooked shredded meat for extra protein. I think this dish probably works best in its Christmassy incarnation – as it is the perfect, perfect companion to a roasted hunk of meat.

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Winter Roasted Medley

  • 3 roasting potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small red onion, cut into wedges
  • handful of broccoli and cauliflower florets
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Parboil the potatoes in salted water until they are soft when you stab them with a fork. Drain throughly. In a roasting tin, toss the butternut squash with 1 tbsp oil, and roast for 15 minutes.Then add the onion, parboiled potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, and toss together with another tbsp oil. Season well. Roast this for a further 25-30 minutes, tossing throughout until some of the edges brown and become lightly golden, and serve hot.

Roasted Vegetable Salad

It’s the perfect sort of healthy dish that bridges the gap between light summery food and comforting winter stodge. Roast up a tray of vegetables, and throw in a handful of fresh salady components. You can even roast a bit of meat together with your veg. Why not?

I used some homegrown courgettes which exuded water by the litre in the oven, so I had to keep taking the tin out and stand over the sink draining the excess water off. I read a tip on the internet that you can roast your vegetables sitting on a rack inside the roasting tin, so I’m tempted to try that next time so see if I can get a crisper finish.

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Roasted Vegetable Salad

  • 2 small red onions, cut into wedges
  • 1/4 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 colourful peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 small courgette, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 small aubergine, cut into chunks
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of fresh baby spinach
  • 5 cherry tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 220˚C. Toss the onions, butternut squash, peppers and courgette together in a large roasting tray with a drizzle of olive oil, and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.  Roast for at least 30 minutes until softened, and starting to crisp. If eating immediately, toss the roasted veg with some fresh spinach leaves and some sliced cherry tomatoes. If saving for another day, then wait until the roasted veg is cold before amalgamating everything together.

Mix n Match Salad

Summer is the best time for salads, and I’ve been loving the simplest of them alongside cuts of roast meat, fishcakes and even solid slices of that English favourite – pork pie. The most important part of the salad is ensuring you use fresh, good quality tasty vegetables, and don’t forget the dressing! This salad is incredibly versatile because you can add almost anything you like to the mix, and it is guaranteed to taste fabulous.

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Mix n Match Salad

You need:

  • 1-2 green leafy vegetables: baby spinach, lambs lettuce
  • 1 crunchy vegetable, shredded: beetroot, cucumber, carrot
  • 1 sweet addition: pomodorino tomatoes, melon
  • a serving of protein: cooked chicken, smoked mackerel,
  • a serving of carbohydrate: cooked baby potatoes, fresh crusty bread
  • a teaspoon of dressing

Toss all the ingredients together. Drizzle over the dressing and serve immediately.

See? Easy Peasy!

Omelettenies

Omletteenies = mini omelettes, geddit?

🙂

I saw this recipe on the Blogilates website at the weekend, and they looked so good I just had to make them on Monday. They’re going to form my breakfasts for the rest of the week.

So easy and delicious!!

I adapted the recipe from the Blogilates recipe a little using the ingredients I had around, and also reducing the amount so I made 12 instead of 24.

Omletteenies (adapted from Blogilates)

Makes 12

  • 1 whole egg plus 1 and 1/4 cup egg whites (equivalent to 10 egg whites)
  • a handful of finely chopped up cherry tomatoes, avocado, baby spinach leaves, and a spring onion stalk

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line a bun tin with fairy cake cases. Whisk the egg and egg whites together. Pour a little egg just to cover the base of each case. Mix the veggies together, and put a spoonful into each case on top of the egg. Pour the rest of the egg on top of the veggies in each case, and pop into the oven until they are cooked through.

Spicy Prawn Noodles

Another quick midweek supper meal; these noodles are ridiculously easy and flavoursome. There is enough here for 2 servings, but you can upp it, or make it healthier by replacing the coconut cream with coconut milk instead.

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Spicy Prawn Noodles

  • 1 packet of cooked small prawns
  • handful of spring onions, thinly sliced
  • handful of peas (optional)
  • 1 tbsp thai green curry paste (not sauce)
  • 1 small can coconut cream
  • 2 nests of dried egg noodles

Cook your egg noodles according to packet instructions and drain. Get a pan, spray it with oil, and cook the prawns until they are heated through. Add the peas and the spring onions, and cook a little longer. Then mix in the thai curry paste. The amount you put in depends on how spicy you like to go. Add the coconut cream – you might only need some of it. Simmer for a few minutes, then take off the heat, and mix together with the noodles.

Bananarama Pancakes

As a change from my usual breakfast toast, I decided to make the Blogilates banana pancakes.

Attempt 1? Catastrophe. I think it was from using just egg whites and whisking in too much air, but my pancakes resolutely refused to flip and things got messy. They still tasted yummy though. But I wanted to have another go to get them just right.

On my second try I used one whole egg and one egg white, and beat the mixture together with a fork the bare minimum it took for them to combine.

Result? Perfection. They’re soft and fluffy, and taste great with only two ingredients!img-20120922-00246

Banana Pancakes

Adapted from Blogilates

Serves 1 (makes a small stack of 5)

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 whole egg and 1 egg white (or 2 whole eggs if you’re following the Blogilates recipe)
  • Spray oil

Mash the banana with a fork. Gently mix in the egg until combined. Put the batter into a jug. Heat up 2 non-stick frying pans on a medium heat, and spray with oil so the pancakes won’t stick. Pour a little batter into each pan to form your pancakes. Flip over gently once the top is no longer gooey.

Eat, whilst contemplating how your neighbour’s washing line  can consist entirely of neon pink boxers. Perhaps he looks like this Korean dude here.