The start of a new month! Spring is almost palpable. How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? I hope you haven’t given up already… One of my resolutions is to start using my (rather large) collection of cookbooks a little more. So I’m going to kick off this year with a delicious gluten free banana bread from one of my favourite books I bought last year.
I have a thing for books. It goes back years. I used to be a library junkie as a child taking bags of them home to read with each visit. Most of the time the stories would have contained horses in some for or another. These days what entices me the most is cookbooks. Thing is, getting a cookbook from the library just doesn’t cut it as you have to return it sooner or later. I want have my cookbooks to hand at all times so I can pull one out when ever I need a little inspiration.
A good sign of a well treasured cookbook is one with a few crinkled pages, some stains and a couple of rough edges. I mean it’s not there to be sat on a shelf gathering dust, it’s there to be used and help you whip up delicious meals in your kitchen, when ever you need a helping hand.
To be honest I’m not sure how many cookbooks I actually own. I’m afraid to count and there’s always yet another one added to the Amazon wish list… When I first started buying cookbooks the purpose was just for general use, and I used to pick books with a variety of recipes.
I’ve always been drawn to ones with short listings of wholefood ingredients and pictures. In recent times the quality of the photography has taken even more center stage. I just love the book as a whole to be esthetic and pleasing to the eye. In a sense this is a little ridiculous as you may end up missing out on some amazing books with fantastic recipes, which just doesn’t have a lot of images. Though I have found that the more experience I get using a variety of ingredients, the better I have become at reading a recipe and can often get an idea if I’m going to like a dish or not, based on reading the ingredients list. What kind of cookbooks do you prefer? Would you care to share one of your favourites?
This lovely and moist gluten free banana bread is from the lovely Emma Galloway’s first book My Darling Lemon Thyme
I’ve been a fan of her blog for sometime but I absolutely LOVE her book. I love every thing about it. The broad variation of recipes, the useful cooking hints & tips, the layout and most of all Emma’s beautiful writing and and photographs. I have cooked lots of things from her book but this banana bread is by far one of my favourites and I have made it many times. It’s an easy recipe with not too many ingredients and it is one that make for (almost) guaranteed gluten free baking success!
I often just read the list of ingredients and look at the image when I try to re-create a recipe from a book but with baking you’ll never get away with that. And even less so with gluten free baking. I love baking and for me it’s one of my preferred ways of de-stressing. But I’m far from an expert at it. Particularly when it comes to recipe creating. That’s why I prefer relying on someone elses successful recipes.
I have only made two tiny tweaks to Emma’s original recipe. I tried and tested it with dried figs, rather than dates and I usually put sesame seeds on top of my loaf instead of the seed she is using. But other than that, I’ve pretty much stuck to how it is in the book. Make sure you also use a nice fruity olive oil. I tried with cold pressed rapeseed oils, but the bread didn’t turn out half as tasty.
I also love that the sweetness in this bread comes entirely from sources which are naturally found in nature without the need for processing.
Gluten Free Banana Bread – From My Darling Lemon Thyme
Makes one standard loaf
1 cup of dried figs, stems removed & roughly chopped
1 tsp of baking soda
3 large over ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 eggs, preferably organic, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla powder
grated zest of one lemon
1 1/2 cups (21g) fine brown rice flour – I usually weigh it out
1/2 cup (80g) potato starch – I usually weigh it out
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
a pinch of sea salt
a few tbsp sesame seeds, to sprinkle
Preheat your oven to 180C. Line your loaf tin with parchment paper.
Start by placing chopped figs and baking soda in a small bowl. Add 2 tbsp boiling water and stir well. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine mashed bananas, olive oil, beaten eggs, maple syrup, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk the mix until smooth. Then carefully sift in rice flour, potato starch, baking powder and a pinch pf salt into the wet mix.
Stir until the flour and the wet mix is combined and then add in the figs and any remaining liquid from them. Stir the batter to disperse the figs evenly. Pour the batter into you lined loaf tin. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
Bake for an hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 min before taking it out of the tin. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting in (the hard part). If you try to short cut this final step your banana bread will just crumble up. So refrain from the temptation and exercise patience.
Enjoy a slice, or two with your favourite beverage. The loaf will keep for a few days, stores in an airtight container. Apparently it will freeze well if cut in thick slices, too. However I can’t vouch for this as none of mine ever made it that far…
It’s the day before the day, or the eve before the day before Christmas day. I’ve been hanging out in the kitchen all day. Trying to get into some festive spirit by enjoying the kitchen all to myself, (well my dogs kept me company) with endless Christmas songs on Spotify. I had actually decided NOT to make any treats this year as it is a lot of work when it’s something you HAVE to do. I’ve been away the past few weekends so there has been little time to do fit it in anyhow. Yet today I found myself in the kitchen all day making stuff. You know what? It was so much fun! I’ve missed the creativity of cooking just for the fun of it and not just because of the necessity to eat.
A couple of random things were created today. This “alternative” Rocky Road for example. I also experimented with some homemade vegan marzipan, made some date truffles for a hamper for some friends to enjoy on Christmas Day and then of course these addictive little buggers!
Making sweet treats for Christmas was a tradition we used to do at home as children. A few of our friends + their mums from the village used to meet up a Saturday in Dec and make lots of traditional holiday treats. Well it was our mums that did most of the baking and cooking while we had fun playing and then got to eat the treats afterwards… Fond memories.
Five years ago, one of the years I spent Christmas in Ireland, we enured the coldest winter here in forty years! I was suppose to be working but the roads had turned into a sheet of ice and traveling anywhere was out of the question. So what does one do with an unexpected day off? Cook of course! Off I went to the shop (on foot) to get a couple of basic ingredients to enjoy my day off and to make some treats which I hadn’t made since childhood. Things I made that year was a little more sugar laden than what I made this year but the pleasure of creating edible things while enjoying festive songs at full blast is still the same. Little did I know back then, that this would be a new festive tradition to get myself into the perfect holiday mood.
If you are still stuck for an edible gift this close to the big day, then I suggest you give these sugar coated almonds ago. They (almost) cook themselves and all you need is some demera sugar, almonds, water and some cinnamon. Store-cupboard ingredients really. Don’t be fooled though, this classic treat is more addictive than your average tin of chocolate. As I reach for “just one more”, I try to convince myself that they are somehow a little healthier as it’s unrefined sugar and whole nuts… But perhaps I’m just kidding myself. Regardless, I’m done with food + guilt, so I keep enjoying each bite mindfully and so should you 🙂
150 g whole almonds – organic if possible
150 g unrefined Demera sugar
50 ml water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Place all ingredients in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir to mix the sugar, water, cinnamon and almonds together.
Bring to the boil and cook on medium heat until all the water has evaporated and the sugar begins to crystallise around the almonds. Stir on occasion. This part will take about 10 min or so. You want all the water to slowly evaporate.
Once the sugar has crystallised keep the pan hot until the sugar begins to melt. Stir to make sure all the almonds are well coated. Be careful not to burn the sugar. Remove the almonds from the pan on to a plate or tray. Separate them with a fork and allow to cool completely before eating.
The almonds will keep for up to two weeks. Wrap them in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight container, in a dry cupboard.
N.B I tried using raw cane sugar but since it’s very finely crystallised, the end result was not as good as when using Demera sugar which has bigger crystals.
This is my last post of 2014 and I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU for visiting my blog / website through out the year, for following along here and on various social media (Instagram & Facebook) and thanks to all of you who have used my nutritional therapy services this year too. Having each and every one of you being a part of my life and my business means so much. So thank you again.
Wishing you a week filled with love, family, friends, health, blessings and most important of all Good Food! See you in the New Year.
P.S Some new exciting things coming up next year, like our new online programme! If you would like more details about this please shoot me a mail on firstname.lastname@example.org I love helping people getting back to the healthiest version of themselves. 🙂 So why not work together in 2015?
We’re turning one! A little over a year ago this food blog was born. It all started with an idea that it would be so much more fun to cook, photograph and blog about the food I cook in my own kitchen and the type of food I recommend to my clients. Getting a brand new website built last year brought it’s own challenges but has it been worth it? Oh yes. And I hope you think so too.
I’m delighted to have so many people stopping by here each month, a few 1000 of yous now (!) And even more people over on Instagram. Heading for 10K now. This time there was about 500. How things change. So many things has happen this year. So many opportunities opening up. Guest blogging, cooking demos, online programmes (in the pipeline) and new friends. I’m so grateful.
Anyway. To celebrate Straightforward Nutrition’s blog first blogiversary I have teamed up with Waifair.co.uk to give one lucky reader here the opportunity participate in a Giveaway on the blog.
If you want to be in the draw to be given a £150 voucher to spend on kitchen appliances over on their site, this is what you need to do:
I believe sharing is caring and that we can all learn from each other to lead healthier and happier lives, so to be in the draw Leave a comment below, on this post, about the ONE Change you have made to help you live a healthier life. This could be anything from a change in habit or mindset to making shopping lists /menu plans or what ever it is that you have changed in order to live a healthier life and that you found made a profound difference.
I can’t wait to hear what brilliant changes you have all made! Please note the draw will close on Nov 20th. So do drop us a line before then.
**N.B Unfortunately this competition is only open to Irish & UK residents. I hope I will get an opportunity to run another giveaway in the future for the rest of you.**
I was tossing with the idea of making something savory as to celebrate with but somehow I just felt it would look a little weird sticking a small flag on a slice of pizza… Maybe next year!
These little lemony paleo muffins were actually featured as the recipe of the month on my old website, a long way back. And there wasn’t a pretty picture to go with it then either so what better excuse to make them again. If you like lemons, poppy seeds and want to bake something Paleo and gluten free, chances are you will like these muffins.
As far as gluten free go and baking with almond flour these are very easy and does not have an ingredients list the length of your arm, which is so often the case with gluten free baking. Gluten free baking is an art in itself, and I with confidence, hold my hand up, declaring it’s one I have yet to master. You really need to know what you are doing and, cooks like me which often just “add a little of this” and “a little of that” do better when strictly adhering to someone elses tried and tested recipe.
Almonds are a great source of potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc and vitamin E. They are also a good source of unsaturated fatty acids as well as protein. If you make your own almond meal from whole almonds, leaving the skin on, you will get plenty of fibre too.
Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
Makes 8 small muffins (they are seriously filling so no need to stuff yourself)
1/4 cup of oil of your choice – I normally use a nice fruity olive oil but I’d imagine melted coconut oil would work well too.
3 tbsp of clear runny honey – Local & Organic preferably
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 tbsp of lemon juice
2 1/2 cups of almond flour – 250g of whole almonds will yield this amount when ground
2 tsp poppyseeds
1/2 tsp of baking powder
A pinch of salt
Lemon zest of one lemon, finely grated
Preheat your oven to 180C. Place eight small muffin cases in a muffin tray. Or use an ordinary baking tray if you don’t have one.
Start by separating the egg yolks from the egg whites. Leave the yolks in one bowl and the egg whites in another one. In the bowl with the egg yolks, add honey, lemon juice, oil and vanilla extract and mix together well. Add in your dry ingredients and mix until you have a stiff batter.
Now proceed to whisk your egg whites until stiff peaks are formed. I normally do this by hand as it is such a small amount. Try using a large bowl so you can get plenty of air in . Or use electric whisks and spare yourself a work out. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Taking care to make sure it gets well blended but try not to be too heavy handed as the air from the egg whites is what will make your muffins nice and fluffy.
Spoon the batter into the muffin cases, filling them to about 2/3. Bake for about 20 min in the oven. After 10 min place a sheet of tinfoil loosely on top to prevent the muffins from burning while they finish baking. They are ready once a scewer comes out clean. Keep a close eye as they get too dry very easily if left in for too long.
Place the muffins on a wire rack and allow too cool completely before tucking in. Any leftover muffins will keep for up to a week if kept in a cool dry place in an airtight container.
Don’t forget to leave a comment below about The One Change you have made to make it easier to live a healthier life, to be in the draw for £150 to spend on some useful kitchen appliances to make you cooking easier!
And thank you for stopping by over the past 12 months 🙂
Have you ever tried raw chocolate or even better still, tried to make our own? It isn’t half as difficult as you may think.
I can still remember a few years ago when I ordered my first ever bag of raw cacao powder from the internet. I was soooo excited! Because I have a seriously sweet tooth and I love chocolate. I couldn’t wait to open the bag and taste this amazing, super nutritious stuff.
And then… Disappointment. It was so bitter. Of course it was. It was raw cacao powder, on its own. Not paired up with a whole load of sugar, cacao butter and other stuff. I don’t really know what I was expecting. Seriously. It kind of shows how hardwired our taste expectations are too, doesn’t it? Have you ever had a similar experience? Our taste buds seems to so be closely connected to our sense of smell, and any previous taste experiences are safely stored for future reference in out memory.
Perhaps this was once a form of protection, essential to survival? I do remember reading somewhere that taste is strongly linked to an innate recognition of the safety of eating plants growing wild in nature. If something doesn’t taste pleasant we are less likely to swallow it. We are much more likely to spit it out instead. Which comes in very handy if the food is actually a poisonous one!
I often hear people say “I don’t like this”. ” I don’t like that, it’s too bitter (or not sweet enough!)”. The thing is, our taste buds are a bit like the rest of our body, they can change and develop with practice. There’s lots of foods I didn’t like a few years ago but which are now clear favourites. Things like ginger, beetroot and tahini where not exactly love at first sight for me. Instead the flavor-relationship with these foods have gradually evolved and deepened over time. You really need to persist and keep trying things for a good few times before you completely dismiss a new food. Practice. Patience. Persistence. Like with so many other things in life.
This recipe is a creation I came up with after a little conversation and inspiration on Instagram. I have experimented with raw chocolate for a few months and some experiments has been less than successful. Others a little better. I came across the stunning feed of Ditte Ingemann (@ditsen) and she has by far one of my favourite Instagram accounts. She also has a lovely website, in Danish. Anyway, one day Ditte posted this gorgeous picture of some raw chocolate which she had adapted from another recipe. She kindly gave me the bones of the recipe and her ingredients and I took it from there, using what I happened to have to hand.
If you are trying to cut down on sugar but not on flavour, then this chocolate might be for you. I have found maple syrup to work best when you make raw chocolate like this. It gives the cacao a lovely sweetness without being overpowering and integrates quiet easily with the fats. The ingredients for making raw chocolate at home, may not be the cheapest but on the upside, you’ll get something that is so jam-packed with flavour that a little goes a long way really.
We are using a combination of coconut oil and cacao butter here. This will give you a less snappy chocolate than if you are using cacao butter alone. For a cheaper alternative you can of course use coconut oil on its own. However you will end up with a very soft end product and since it will melt rather fast you will need to store it in the freezer rather than the fridge. This chocolate will be way too soft if you leave the it hanging around for too long at room temperature. Somehow, I doubt this will be a problem though…
Easy Peasy Peanut Butter Chocolate
Makes about 30 squares
50g cacao butter
2 heaped tbsp coconut oil – raw & cold pressed
1 heaped tbsp crunchy peanut butter – swap for any other nut butter if you want
2 heaped tbsp raw cacao powder
2-3 tbsp maple syrup – depending on desired sweetness
A tiny pinch of sea salt or Himalayan pink salt
Melt the coconut oil, peanut butter and cacao butter in a bowl over a pan hot water. Once the fats are fully melted and liquid add in the maple syrup and the raw cacao powder. Stir for a minute or two until you have a really smooth cacao mix. Taste and add a little more maple syrup if you still think it is too bitter. Add in the pinch of salt. Remove the bowl from the stove and pour it all on to a tray lined with parchment paper. Let the mix cool slightly before transferring it to the fridge to set. After a few hours take the tray out and cut your chocolate into small-ish squares.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Your raw chocolate will keep for a few days in the fridge. Probably longer in the freezer.
*NB. This chocolate has a very short list of ingredients. Check how many your usual bar has next time you are temped to buy one…
P.S Our firs Blogiversary is coming up next month so there is sure to be more chocolate involved then 🙂 Oh and there will be a great give away too!! I can’t wait to celebrate with you all.