I have had a “best baked beans” recipe for a long time now, but every time I make it, I tweak it – anyone else do that? Now that we’ve been a couple of months sans-Heinz over in rural northern Sweden I have had plenty of practice and plenty of tweaks and boy, is this THE recipe I have for you now!!!
If you think you don’t have time to make beans and that they couldn’t possible stand up to the comparison of your favourite can – think again, I promise you will not be disappointed 😉
Little olive oil for frying
½ onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed / finely chopped
2 rashers of streaky bacon (optional, but highly recommended)
Pinch ground cumin
Pinch ground coriander
250 mls tomato passata
1 400g tin cannellini beans (or 100g dried beans soaked overnight then boiled for approx. 90 mins until cooked)
Gently fry the onions and garlic in a little oil
for 2-3 minutes on a medium temperature, stirring so they don’t burn, then add
the bacon (if using) and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until it’s all cooked
Add the passata, coriander and cumin and bring
to the boil before adding the beans.
Cook through for 10 minutes or so until
everything is piping hot.
What are your cupboard staples that could use a tasty and healthy makeover?
Continuing with my Good.Mood.Food series on food to support mental health, I wanted to introduce you to buckwheat – have you tried it? When it comes to supporting mental health, it’s such a lovely source of supportive nutrients and definitely something I love to have in my weekly repertoire.
First of all, it’s high in protein – in fact it is one of only a few plant sources of protein that are considered “complete”, in that they contain some of all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to get from their food. Protein is so important for building neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers that we need for a happy mood). It also stabilises our blood sugar levels, keeping us feeling fuller for longer and also on a more even keel energy and mood wise.
It also contains a good dose of magnesium, manganese and B vitamins like niacin, riboflavin and B6, all of which are important for our brain health amongst other things!
Buckwheat flour is used a lot in Brittany, northern France, for making “galettes” – savoury pancakes like these, and that’s exactly where I discovered it many years ago, long before I had any appreciation for its nutritional benefits. You can fill these pancakes with whatever you fancy, I like a simple ham and cheese which also goes down well with the kids and is a brilliant toddler food when cut into strips like an alternative quesadilla. Here I’ve made a simple ratatouille and topped with a little hard goat’s cheese, and accompanied it with a green side salad to further boost the nutrient density of my meal.
100g buckwheat flour
Pinch of salt
300mls mls water (approx.)
Knob of butter, melted (optional)
Mix the egg into the flour and salt using a whisk, then gradually add the water until it has a smooth and runny but not watery consistency. Add in the melted butter if using and thoroughly mix in. You want to be able to pour pancakes that are as thin as you would expect to make sweet ones.
Heat a little butter in a large frying pan to a medium – high heat, pour the batter and leave to cook for approx 2 mins until it is dry on top and comes away from the sides easily (don’t try to remove it to quickly or it will stick and tear). Once it comes away, flip it over and cook the other side for 30 seconds – 1 minute.
Repeat as necessary add your fillings and then fold or roll
The batter will last in the fridge for a couple of days in an airtight container if you don’t want to eat them all at once. They can also be stored cold in the fridge and used as wraps for lunches / lunchboxes
Do let me know what you think, and I hope you’re enjoying my series on Good.Mood.Food – the full blog post and links to more recipes for your mental health are here.
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s important that we get it right! This is often the first place I start with my private clients, but why and what are they doing wrong? Well, many processed breakfast cereals release their carbohydrate content very quickly (even if they are labelled “low sugar”) and are really lacking in essential nutrients that we need to thrive. It’s a scientific fact that if the first meal we eat in the day is high in protein, we consume less overall throughout the day, and I for one know how much better I’m able to concentrate and keep going when I eat a good high-protein breakfast.
So, one of my favourite breakfasts is home-made granola. Making granola might look complicated and time-consuming, but I assure you, once you get in the swing of it, it really isn’t that onerous and the benefits to your health and energy levels, as well as your wallet, will speak volumes!
This batch was inspired by my pick-you-own strawberry experience (I sliced and dehydrated these strawberries, but you can also buy them in health food stores, online shops, or substitute for another dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries).
I’ve called it “omega 3” because it’s rich in the fats that our body coverts to healthy omega 3 (think heart and brain health) and which tend to be lacking in many shop-bought cereals which often provide more omega 6 fats). Omega 3 in this recipe comes from the walnuts, flax seeds and hemp hearts, but you can mix it up with whatever you have to hand in terms of nuts and seeds.
Do have a go and let me know what you think!
3 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups oats
3 tbsp buckwheat
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tbsp hemp seed hearts
15g dehydrated or freeze-dried strawberry / raspberry pieces (or other fruit)
Method: 1. Preheat the oven to 160C
2. Gently melt the coconut oil in a pan, then mix in the honey, vanilla and cinnamon
3. Blitz the nuts slightly in a food processor or blender, to make chunks of varying sizes rather than whole nuts
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, buckwheat, coconut and seeds, then pour over the coconut oil honey mix and mix well together
5. Pour the mix into a deep sided baking tray and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven to mix the mixture, preventing it from burning on the top and sticking together, then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Repeat again with a final 10 minutes cooking time, then remove, mix the mixture one last time and leave to cool.
Once cool, mix in the freeze-dried berries and transfer to an airtight container. This will last 2-4 weeks kept in a cool and dark cupboard. Serve with full-fat plain yogurt or milk.
Breakfasts of cereal (and semi-skimmed milk) are low in nutrients and high in sugar. We’ve been lead to believe that their added nutrients (B12, iron, folic acid etc.) are good for us, but in reality, these synthetic forms of vital nutrients just aren’t the same as those found in “real” food, and are added only because the high processing leaves the original ingredients so stripped of nutrients that they would barely be classified as food without them. Similarly we are taught to look at the amount of sugar written on the label (which is in itself misleading) but when we think about what these cereals are – highly processed carbohydrates – they are almost entirely sugar by the time they reach our stomachs anyway.
What does this mean? Fast release sugars that are quickly processed and stored by our bodies (as long as we have good insulin sensitivity) and a subsequent crash in blood sugars thereafter. Our children are not being set up for a day of good concentration, learning and behaviour when they have a bowl of cereal for breakfast, they are left prone to feeling tired, hungry and grumpy by 10am.
And the answer? There are plenty of great tasting, child-friendly breakfasts that are fast to make and really pack a punch in nutrient density and satiety to balance blood sugars for sustained energy, concentration and ability to learn. Eggs, porridge, low-sugar granola with yogurt… and these oat pancakes.
I have my good friend Jenny to thank for this recipe. Such a simple tip she passed to me as a favourite for her boys that I’ve used time and time again with different variations. I even use the same mix (with a little more milk) in my waffle maker for a slightly different take. Multiple practices later, I think I’ve cracked the perfect recipe and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.
Makes 10-12 pancakes, serves 4
1 cup oats
1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
150 – 200 mls milk (almond or other if nut free)
1 tsp coconut oil
Blitz all ingredients bar the coconut oil in a food processor. Adjust the milk to make a thick batter – depending on the size of the egg and banana the amount will vary slightly.
Heat a little coconut oil in a frying pan on a medium-high heat, and then add the batter a ladleful at a time to form pancakes. I usually make 4 at once.
Cook until they are firm and bubbles start to appear on top – approx. … minutes, flip and cook for a further 1 minute.
Serve with stewed apples or fresh fruit, add almond butter, a drizzle of honey, flaked almonds, or seeds, whatever you fancy. This batch was served with blackberries (and mint at the request of my 3 year old, and it did make the photo extra pretty!)
I know when I was growing up, the school lunchbox revolved around a sandwich, a packet of crisps, piece of cake or a chocolate bar, a piece of fruit (usually and apple or banana) and a juice. I am thankful to have been one of the lucky ones, as my Mum bakes her own bread, always used real butter not low-fat margarine, and would bake delicious cakes full of fresh and dried fruit and nuts.
But the science can’t be disputed now, and although this was a pretty good example, most lunchboxes that follow this theme are not nutritionally sufficient. Our kids need good proteins and fibre to sustain their energy to learn, good fats to support their brains, and a myriad of other nutrients to allow their growing bodies to flourish in the numerous tasks it needs to carry out over the course of the day.
But they also need to be eaten, and so herein lies the challenge us lunchbox mums face on a daily basis…
I have quite a few staples that I batch make and freeze for ease in the mornings, and over the coming weeks and months, I’m planning a project to share some more of them with you as my time permits, but here’s one that proved a popular request last week – crustless quiches. Great for breakfast, great cold in lunchboxes too.
These are so quick and easy to do, and as long as you have eggs, the rest can really be made of whatever you have to hand: veggies, leftover meat or fish, cheese, olives. Why not try blending in spinach? Makes them an amazing bright green! Whatever you do, the aim is to get a few different colours into the mix (for different micronutrients and phytonutrients), and the protein and fats are taken care of by the humble yet nutritionally wonderful egg.
½ baked sweet potato
Small handful of parsley
50g ham, chopped
50g (frozen) sweetcorn
50g grated cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a muffin tin (use butter, coconut oil or rice bran oil)
Blend together the eggs, sweet potato and parsley in a blender
Mix the ham, sweetcorn and half the cheese, then pour into the muffin tin (makes 12)
Sprinkle on the remaining cheese, and bake for 12-15 mins until solid and slightly golden on top.
Allow to cool in the tin, then remove with a spatula (they can stick a little so be gentle!)