Healthy(ish) Christmas Gingerbread

Gingerbread might be my favourite Christmas treat but it’s so full of sugar and butter I always feel guilty about how much I can eat. This is a healthier alternative but mine aren’t quite as healthy as the recipe because I’ve chosen to use brown sugar instead of stevia in the gingerbread and regular icing sugar for the icing.

The flour, cornflour, baking powder and spices (ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in mine today) are mixed together in one bowl. In the other bowl melted and cooled butter, egg and vanilla whisked together and then molasses and a little brown sugar mixed in.

 

Then the wet ingredients mixed into the dry, it needed hands to bring it together into a sticky dough. The dough is placed between two sheets of cling film and then goes in the fridge to firm up and become easier to handle.

 

The dough can then be rolled out still between the cling film which is a really handy trick for helping it not to stick to anything and making it really easy to place on the lined baking tray. 10 minutes in the oven and 5 minutes left on the tray before moving to the cooling rack seemed about perfect.

The icing was just icing sugar and water mixed to the right consistency. The plan was for a mix of red and green sprinkles but the kitchen assistant had a green sprinkle related disaster so it was mostly just red sprinkles.

 

Even without the icing the gingerbread was pretty good and didn’t really taste too ‘healthy’ it is less healthy with the icing but still significantly lower fat and sugar than the really decadent gingerbread recipe coming up later this month!

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Yummy and Healthy Chocolate Cookies

Trying to learn how to make the most out of life. You can’t control everything in life, some decisions might be out of your control. But you can control how you react to the cards you’re dealt.

So I can’t control how much I like chocolate and how unhealthy that can become but I can keep on working on making healthy but yummy things that provide a less unhealthy way to get a chocolate kick.

These are adapted from a recipe in one of my favourite cookbooks.

Cream together:

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil

2 tablespoons nut butter (almond or peanut for example)

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses or honey

Then whisk in one egg.

Stir in:

1/2 Cup self-raising flour

1/4 Cup cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

1 cup oats

1 teaspoon super seed mix

Mix till combined then stir through:

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Use your fingers to form small balls, place on a greased baking tray and flatten slightly.

Bake at 350f 180c or gas mark 4 for 15 minutes.

 

See if you can resist eating until they’ve cooled a little at least then compete with your family to eat the most because they’re so yummy.

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Very very chocolatey (also sweet potato)

Today’s recipe isn’t really that healthy but it’s incredibly yummy.

After the not very popular in this house peanut and sweet potato cookies, this recipe was recommended to me by a friend.

I made it at the same time as cooking roast dinner so I would like extra points for multi-tasking, please. We had it for pudding and everyone wanted seconds so it only lasted one sitting for our family of five and none of the taste team could guess the secret ingredient.

 

The first step was the most labour intensive with the sweet potato needing to be peeled chopped boiled and mashed. Then chopped dark chocolate was added and melted as it was mixed in.

Meanwhile, the cake ingredients are mixed together then the whole lot combined.

It goes in the tin and into the oven. I don’t know if it was my oven or what but it took longer than an hour to cook.

The icing is more melted chocolate, butter, golden syrup and chocolate pieces!

 

 

Chocolate Bites

Chocolatebites

I’m not doing super well at heating healthily but I’m trying and I’m getting some other things done so I’m cutting myself some slack.

But if super yummy snacks are this easy every time I might be about to do a lot better at healthy eating without too much trouble!

There are so many recipes for these kinds of no-cook easy to eat naturally sweet bites.

Mine are made with:

1 Cup Oats

3 Tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon honey

8 dates

and a little water.

The dry ingredients go in the blender or food processor until they’re flour consistency.

Then the vanilla dates and honey are added and the food processor switched on again.

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As the mixture begins to come together a little water can be added so that it sticks together (but isn’t sticky).

The mixture is made into small bite size balls and then goes in the fridge to set.

The only problem with these is they are all gone already because they are too yummy.

 

 

 

Back in the kitchen happy place

DSC_0329Tring out some new flour in my sourdough this weekend. The rolls are a mix of wholemeal and rye flour. They’re made with honey and butter so are sweet and soft. Not my favourite but I wanted them to go with soup which is next on my list along with more flapjack of course. The loaf is made with the regular wheat starter but then all spelt flour. It tastes amazing, the perfect mix of soft middle and crunchy but not too hard crust. I’m thinking the same recipe could be made into baguette shapes and would even make the fussy teenagers happy.

This week we’re almost back on it with the older kids routine which is making everyone a bit less stressed, although we’re still working on some kind of screen time compromise that doesn’t suit anyone!

It’s been the last week at home with one afternoon of trying out school for the youngest. Such a mix of emotions. Not looking forward to having to get out of the house in time for school every day but very much looking forward to routine and time to do things other than child care better.

Baking for fun partly motivated by having forgotten to buy any treats for lunch boxes this week. Back to good old Mary Berry Fast Cakes. These are Chocolate Fudge Squares and live up to every part of their name as expected.

The only issue being they sunk in the middle. Sorted by adding extra icing to make it look flat. So for those who like icing the middle pieces are the ones to aim for!

Extremely yummy, not at all healthy.

There are no bananas in the flapjack

School holidays week 4 the constant struggle between having had enough holiday fun and feeling guilty for not taking the kids out constantly. My four-year-old is also struggling to sleep through the night again (combination of having been ill with a nasty cold and feeling unsettled due to transition to school -can’t decide if knowing why is helpful or irrelevant when failing to do anything I want to because if over tired brain fog.)

But today was a little better we baked, well mostly I baked and there was a last minute trip to the park and definitely less crying than the previous few days.

Another take on my flapjack recipe:

Melt together:

5 Tablespoons Date Puree (Made mine by chopping dates, soaking in water overnight and then whizzing up in the blender).

1 Tablespoon Honey

3 Tablespoons Coconut Oil

Remove from heat and mix in 150-175g Oats

Bake 20 minutes at gas mark 6 in a greased and lined tin.

Feed to your family as ‘just normal flapjack’ with no banana or apple. Have them all love it and never know about the dates unless they read your blog.

It was a little crumbly possibly due to a few too many oats – or not quite sugary enough but tastes great so not a problem really.

 

Had a couple of left over bananas for the first time in ages. They went into the usual Mary Berry Banana Loaf.

Brilliant simple all in one recipe including yoghurt as well as banana. Too much sugar to be properly healthy but still not too unhealthy and really yummy.

Turned out beautifully.

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So far mostly enjoyed by the now much less fussy ‘fussy eater’ and I once we got through the confusion as to whether it was naan as bread or banana bread. Not bothered we can’t convince the anti-banana brigade to try any as it means more for us.

Chocolate Quinoa

It’s true what they say, who you are matters more than what you say in determining who your children will become. It’s a slow and steady process. I’m six months in to eating differently and paying more attention to my health (some weeks it goes better than others but there are no failures when you don’t give up) and my super fussy eater has not only tried and even liked a few new things but has been reading and thinking about allergies and food that makes you feel better. Now if only I could find a way to cope better with them being really irritating so I could pass that on to them too. Or maybe siblings will just always get wound up by each other no matter what. 🙂

The last few weeks I’ve also started consciously working on not letting anxiety stop me from achieving what I want. I know that doing the thing that makes me anxious is almost always not as bad as not doing it and getting anxious over what might happen. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I need to head back and re-read The Opposite of Worry and maybe get on and write my diary so I can move on to the next part of the CBT course rather than continue to just avoid it by starting other courses. At least the learn to code HTML and CSS course is really interesting and making my brain work hard and being encouraged by my son to give it a go and keep going is super special.

Despite prevailing opinions on quinoa in the household I decided to give a quinoa experiment a go this week. So I made some for my lunch which was yummy and then made the rest into quinoa crispies like this it wasn’t the weather for having the oven on for longer than necessary so I took the opportunity to slow roast some veggies which means that my dinner is under control for today. Not often I’m that organised so feel pleased with myself!

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The quinoa didn’t all get the same amount crispy but it was sticking to the tray more and more so I decided it was time to move on.

To make it into Quinoa Crunch Bars.

These are so simple. I didn’t have (and don’t like) stevia but I’m also used to things not so sweet now. If you’re not used to being sugar-free or don’t want to be then a teaspoon or even half a teaspoon of icing sugar would work really well.

Decided to be extra decadent and put some melted chocolate on top before they went in the freezer. When they came out they looked great.

They taste like a chocolate bar. The only issue for me was a little bit of getting quinoa stuck in my teeth, worth it for the kick for sure. Two of the taste team found them a little too chocolatey but the maybe not so fussy anymore one wanted a second piece!

Bonus almonds

I worried the lady on the door at the blood donation session yesterday by not having eaten carbs that morning. Fortunately, the nurse said it was OK to donate still. It made me think about how much healthier I feel since I cut down on grains and dairy. No thinner and not cutting anything out or doing anything drastic but just more balanced and less digestive discomfort. Plus I get to do fun things like making almond milk and then making granola with the pulp.

Taking the skin off the almonds was fiddly but blending them up was fun.

I was lazy and used a sieve rather than a muslin but it worked fine.

DSC_0009_1The milk tasted fine in coffee but maybe I need a better blender as by the end of a cup there was some graininess.

To use up the pulp. I tried out this recipe with a couple of substitutions for things I don’t like (I’m really fussy with dried fruit).

Roasting / drying the almond pulp wasn’t as difficult as I thought but mixing the coconut oil and honey was surprisingly challenging.

Looked pretty much the same before and after being in the oven. Just a colour change and obviously dried out.

But it tastes pretty good and that’s for someone who’s not really a cereal person.

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Cheese and Chocolate Chips

You’ll be relieved to hear I’ve not mixed the two things together. Last weekend -the long weekend- we were busy, so baking didn’t happen. I realised when looking through my photos for this post I did do some more baking last week too so there are two posts ready for this week.

I’ve been thinking about how to not get completely exhausted and frustrated while doing household tasks and cleaning this week. Half term is always a time there’s so much more to be done and it can be easy to let things slide for a day and then have regret the next day. In our house, we are trying to teach our children the household tasks are the joint responsibility of the household. So the older kids have a list of chores to pick from before they go off and do their own thing each day and the youngest is beginning to learn to tidy up her own things after she finishes using them. Still, many of the household chores fall to me as does keeping a mental picture of what needs doing and how long it was since all the different tasks were last done. The most helpful thing I’ve found apart from doing little and often and listening to good podcasts or radio shows is thinking about why I am doing something, who am I really doing it for. More often than not I find I’m really doing things for myself. It’s me who doesn’t feel comfortable surrounded by dirty dishes or with piles of dog hair over the floor so really it’s me who benefits from those things being sorted out. I think it’s important to teach my kids to do the laundry and to cook and clean so they are positive members of any future household they belong to and can look after themselves when they are ready to leave home. But I find it much less stressful if I remember they aren’t there yet they’re still learning and sometimes I have the energy to teach but sometimes I don’t but I still want things done so I chose the things that matter to me and let the other things slide if I’m happy in my surroundings that’s what’s most important.

Today I was invited to a vegan cheese related event which was too good an opportunity to try something new to turn down. So I had a go at making vegan queso dip.

I used this recipe which I picked because it was comparatively quick to make. I have spotted some recipes for cashew cheese which take a while to mature but I’m definitely giving them a try soon.

Basically, this is aubergine dip flavoured with garlic, cumin, nutritional yeast and what is supposed to be chilli powder but I didn’t have any so I used paprika. I chopped too much garlic and had to remove some when I measured and I might use even less if I make it again as it was a bit garlicky for my personal taste.

The only issue I had was it didn’t thicken as much as I expected even after adding extra cornflour. But once mixed with salsa and nachos it was really yummy and cheesy and I couldn’t really tell it was vegan. Not sure if anyone else tried it so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This afternoon we had a go at vegan gluten free chocolate chip cookies as choc-chip cookies are something super popular with my family.

Had fun cooking with my kitchen assistant except when she was disappointed she couldn’t use the oven herself.

I started with this recipe and then changed it around for ingredients I had in the cupboard.

1/3rd Cup coconut oil

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons almond milk

2 cups Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup dark choc chips

Heat oven to Gas Mark 4 (180C 350F).

Grease cookie sheets.

Cream coconut oil and sugar, whisk in vanilla and almond milk.

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Stir in flour and baking powder. Gently combine chocolate chips. 1 cup is definitely too many chocolate chips 1/2 or 3/4 would be plenty. img_20170601_190109.jpg

Make small balls and flatten slightly onto trays at a reasonable distance from each other.

Bake for 12-14 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before eating if you can resist that long.

These are amazing. So good that the fussiest member of the taste team ate two without realising or even minding when he found out they were gluten free and vegan. Will be making them again many times.

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Too yummy for photos

This week I made vegan brownies twice and both times they were eaten too quickly and I didn’t get the chance to take a photo of the finished product. Partly the speed of eating because they were so yummy and partly I was distracted as I had a week surrounded by friends and family. So super busy that not only did I not have time for food photography I had little time for thinking.

Yet what did ‘get done’ was very important. I spent time with my children, I listened to them and I gave them opportunities to spend time with friends and I spent time with my friends and that’s good for the soul. Then I spent time with family over the weekend, which is precious especially as you never know when it won’t be able to do it anymore.

Vegan brownies inspired by some of my friends ‘going vegan’ or rather ‘switching to a plant-based diet’. Good for the environment and when you don’t make brownies as your main vegan thing often good for health too with lots of yummy vegetables.

The recipe involves precooking some of the flour and water before mixing into sugar and cocoa powder and oil.

It’s an unusual method, not one I’ve used before but not too difficult or time-consuming. It makes a really sticky batter which is much thicker than I’m used to but makes really lovely sticky sweet brownies which you can easily be healthy and eat just a small amount of, unless you’re like the taste team and get carried away.

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Thank you https://www.facebook.com/itsthehappypage/

When you’re an introvert it can sometimes feel like hard work having friends and family but it’s always good to be reminded it’s really worth it.