Woho! The first new recipe for my new site, an Apple & Blackberry Crumble is here. I really hope you are excited about this as I am. Especially since it was 1st of July since I last put up something here, and back then the website looked vastly different.
When I decided to re design it, I knew that it was a big project and that it would take me some time to do it. The summer months seemed to be the perfect time to get going as clinic wise this tends to be a slower time of the year for me. Having said that, it wasn’t my preference to spend all that screen time when the weather was so lovely. On the upside, there were days when it was almost too hot to be outside (imagine saying that about an Irish summer!), so eventually it all came together.
The feedback has been lovely so far and if you have been hanging around here before, then I hope that you can still find your way around just fine. I am happy enough with how this re design turned out, and glad that all the tech skills that I have amassed over the past five years or so came to good use. Another positive thing was that my blogging hasn’t been weekly over these past five years as I had to do some minor editing to all my blog posts and 125 of them was more than enough to be honest!
Creating and developing recipes that are seasonal requires some timing. If you are using seasonal ingredients then making winter recipes in July is a challenge and it may also mean that sometimes when you create a recipe in season, by the time it is ready to be published the season has passed… That’s exactly what happened with this Apple & Blackberry Crumble. When I moved house last year, this was one of the first things I made. Because I liked it so much I made it several times when I had people over for dinner. It is a spicy twist on a seasonal classic.
The crumble is crunchy and buttery and the apples are tart. Using Chinese Five Spice, which is a spice blend made up of cinnamon, fennel, star anise, cloves and black pepper was born out of curiousity. All of these spices individually pairs well with apple so I thought, why not in a crumble? The result is something a little different but more interesting than your typical apple and blackberry crumble. Using ground hazelnuts add to the seasonality and oats makes for a crispier crumble topping. If you don’t have blackberries, just omit. Or be bold and add something else like blueberries or blackcurrants.
Apple & Blackberry Crumble with Chinese Five Spice
2 large cooking apples
½ cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
60 g hazelnuts, ground in to a rough flour
75g cold butter, cubed
60 g rolled oats, gluten free if necessary
4 tbsp muscovado sugar
½ tsp Chinese Five Spice
¼ tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp rice flour or spelt flour if it doesn’t have to be gluten free
Heat your oven to 180˚C. Peel and core your cooking apples then cut them into neat slices.
Toss the apple slices in the Chines Five Spice and the ground cardamom and then place them in an oven proof baking dish. Scatter over the black berries.
In a separate bowl add the ground hazelnuts, sugar, rice or spelt flour and rolled oats. Mix it all together with a spoon. Then add the cold butter into the flour mix and with your hands rub the butter and flour together until you have what resembles bread crumbs.
Scatter the crumble topping evenly over the apple slices and black berries. Then bake in the oven for 35 min until golden and the apples are soft.
I like serving this with sour cream or crème fraiche, as the tartness works well with the spices. However a really nice vanilla ice cream would be good too.
As I am striving to simplify my life with less stuff, I also feel a draw to create recipes that reflects that. Amid the current hype of “50-fancy-ingredient-lattes”, what I want is something tasty and comforting made from just a few store cupboard ingredients.
Maybe it is my shift towards digging deeper into the social justice side of health, or it is a subconscious longing for my Swedish roots. Or maybe it is having a somewhat constrained food budget… I don’t know. What I do know is that there are some real delights to be had, by the skill of being able to turn just a few simple ingredients into something yummy, especially when the weather has you all down.
These cookies, or biscuits where something I made several times this past winter. It was like my body craved something energy dense in order to cope with the long cold wet days. But maybe it was just my tastebuds calling out for something with the combination of fat and sugar. Either way, these basic oat cookies hit the spot every time!
The initial obsession with this particular ingredient combination started off when I spotted a flapjack recipe on Instagram. Over the course of my trial and errors developing this recipe, I learned that the ratios of sugar/oats/butter/honey will affect the texture and quality of your end product. More butter – Less oats will give you a crispier kind of cookie. Increasing the ratio of oats and you’ll end up with more of a flapjack, chewy kind of bar.
To be honest, what I was aiming for was something like the Swedish oat cookies called ‘Havreflarn’, which is a crispy candied type of cookie. The thing is, the recipe for Havreflarn uses wheat flour also and I wanted to try and recreate something without it. You know how it goes though… Baking, apparently, is an exact science so if you go changing any one component, you most likely will not end up with what was the intended outcome of the original recipe. Never the less though, it can be equally tasty and satisfying! Which which I am, self proclaiming about this recipe experiment that I am sharing with you here.
So let’s get to it! This is NOT a dairy free, sugar free kind of cookie. This is an all in treat made with a few things you can buy in your corner shop, or small country village shop to whip up in no time when you need something to go with that comforting cup of tea / coffee / hot chocolate. Those days when we need something to light up a dreary cold day (and when you live in Ireland those are part of every season…)
Basic Oat Cookies
Makes about 12
75g butter ( I use salted)
45g dark muscovado sugar (but any type will do. I just like the flavour of muscovado sugar more)
50g porridge oats
25g oat flour (porridge oats milled in your blender)
1 tbsp milk of choice (dairy or non dairy is fine)
1 tbsp of runny honey (get the best quality you can find and afford)
1/4 tsp baking powder
This recipe is super handy because you can mix all the ingredient directly into the saucepan that you use to melt the butter. Less washing up that way!
Heat the oven to 185°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium sized saucepan, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted remove from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients and stir until you have an even mix of deliciously tasting butter, sugar, honey and oats. (Don’t eat it all this way though, I know it is tempting!)
Using two spoon, spoon a dollop of cookie mixture on to the lined baking sheet. If you want them a bit neater looking than mine then shape them up a bit. Leave some space between each dollop as you don’t want your cookies flowing into each other.
Bake for about 7 min until golden and a little brown around the edges. Let the cookies cool on a rack before tucking in. They will firm up a little as they cool.
Store in an airtight container. Will probably keep for a few days. (Mine never lasts long enough to go off.)
I think it was about time I shared another sweet recipe here on the blog again. And if you read my last post, about my own personal history with food (sugar in particular) and how I made eventually made peace with it all, then you will know that I love the taste of sweet.
Dates are such a versatile food. They are sweet and sticky and actually good for you with a high amount of fibre, but also the vitamin and mineral content like zinc (for immune system) magnesium (for energy production), iron (for red blood cells) and potassium (for nervous system).
Because of their “stickability” they work really well in all types of raw desserts as they so seamlessly hold everything together. I also love that when we are using dates as sweeteners we tend to use the whole fruit, just like nature intended.
This recipe is based on a typical traditional Swedish recipe and one we made time and time again as kids – Choklad Bollar.
The original recipe calls for butter, sugar, oats and cacao powder. And perhaps a little coffee too.
Here I have replaced the butter and sugar with the dates and added some melted cacao butter as fat. You can use coconut oil too.
Traditionally “Choklad Bollar are rolled in desiccated coconut, which I personally like though I made another version of these for a recent talk I did locally and rolled them in some melted dark chocolate and some roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts. Much like a giant Ferro Roche… Yeah, just imagine! Totally worth the extra effort.
Chocolate Oat & Date Balls
Makes about 10 medium sized balls
½ cup rolled (porridge) oats
20 small pitted dates – or use about 10 soft Medjool dates
2 tbsp raw cacao powder
6 tbsp strong coffee – or use same amount of water
2 tbsp melted cacao butter – or coconut oil
Shredded coconut to coat the balls in
First blend the oats in your food processor until you have a rough ground texture. Soak the dates in some hot water for about 1 min, then drain. Just to soften them a little. If you are using Medjool dates you can skip this step as they tend to be much softer. However don’t forget to remove the pits!
Add the rest of the ingredients to your food processor and blend until it all comes together like a sof dough.
Roll the dough into small balls with your hands and roll them in some shredded coconut.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge. They will keep for a few days.
(I’m always musing to myself about the difference between the words “keep” and “last”. To be honest, I am actually just guessing how long they will “keep” for, since I’ve never had any “last” long enough to see when they would be gone off…)
I’ve been meaning to share this recipe with you all for ages. It’s one I came across months ago on the lovely Pippa Kendrick’s website The Intolerant Gourmet. I’ve been making these delicious oat squares from time to time and it is one of the recipes I most likely give to clients when they are asking for healthy snack options. Which is a question that I get asked A LOT!
Most of us have this thing with snacking… Through some curios observations, both personally and with clients I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a few legs to the snacking stool. And intertwined with it is one of my favourite topics, hunger & satiety.
Are you ready to look a little deeper of what function snacking has for you?
First up; eating regular meals to keep our blood sugar stable. There’s not much arguing here really, this is an important factor. Eating smaller meals with regular intervals ensure that your body and brain has as continuous supply of energy to run on, preventing you from getting on the dysglyceamia roller coaster.
Personally eating smaller meals and maybe 4-5 times / day seems to suit my digestive system a lot better. This tactic is also one I use with many of my clients when they need to get a handle on their eating pattern, especially if they are stressed. Sometimes you may even see eating up to six times a day recommended, from some sources.
Keeping your blood sugar steady throughout the day, does not only give you more energy, it will also keep those pesky sugar cravings at bay, helping you make better choices for your health – rather than being driven by instinct and having your brain screaming at you “I need sugar NOW or I’m not going to make it!!”
But then there’s the other end of the spectrum which recommends eating fewer meals, slightly larger portions and in an 8h time frame, leaving your body 16h to fast, most of which is done overnight. This works really well for others who have a sensitive digestive system which needs a longer rest from food.
So how do you choose? How do you actually know what suits your body best? Well this is where a mind-body approach to eating comes in. You are really the only one that can figure this out. It’s time to begin to listen to the signals that your body is using to get your attention.
Do you know what true hunger feels like to you?
What are the first subtle signals your body send out, telling you it is looking for food as it’s running out of fuel?
And do you know what it physically feels like when you have reached the stage of ravenous?
I’ve seen many people overeat, simply because they have ignored the many signs of hunger, before they get to the stage of ravenous, and at this point eating becomes so primal and out of control. Usually in a fast and flurry frenzy, leaving us sometimes feeling out of control coupled with guilt and shame because we think we are low in willpower. When in fact, what we are lacking is selfcare…
Here is when having a healthy snack like these oat squares, or my other favourite snack: fresh fruit and nuts come in handy. If you know that there is a long gap, more than 3h between say your lunch and dinner, having a snack somewhere in between can greatly reduce the chances of you eating all around you when you get home to cook dinner. Simply because you are now not only hungry, you are ravenous.
I’ve also had patients who are the total opposite to this. They don’t know what their true hunger really feels like, because they never allow themselves to get to that point, out of the fear of losing control and binge like I just described above. If this is you, then I would invite you to, when you are in a safe environment to sit with your hunger sensations for awhile and take note how they show up in your body physically, before you start eating.
What will really happen if you stay with those feelings and sensations rather than act and react to them immediately? Sometimes the desire to control our food intake is a response or a message that we want to have a sense of security in our life, especially when there are other things going on in our lives that makes us feel helpless and out of control.
Another thing to note, is that the composition of your meals, will likely also play a role in how much desire you have for snacking. If your meals are mostly made up of quick releasing carbohydrates like white bread, sugary snacks like chocolate bars as well as caffeine (on it’s on or combined with the others) chances are that you will want something to eat again after two hours. Or if you have a small bowl of soup at lunch and still have several hours to work and commute until you get home to make dinner, it is going to be difficult to say no to any cakes, biscuits or other treats that may be lurking around the office, for sure. Because chances are that it’s not your willpower that’s low, it’s your fuel gauge.
When you start having meals that are a combination of quality carbohydrates (such as whole, and I mean literally whole, grains, fruit, vegetables), some healthy fats and some protein and also make sure you eat enough to feel satisfied, chances are that you will find yourself snacking less.
So is snacking good or bad? I really don’t believe in labeling eating as any form of good or bad. As the leap from here to imply that when we eat a certain way may make us good or bad is way too tempting…
However, I believe that sometimes we do need a lighter small meal or snack to fill in that gap between something more substantial. And sometimes we just want to eat a little something for pure pleasure, whilst caring for our bodies by feeding them something nutritious at the same time. And whatever it is for you, I hope that these little guys will fit the bill for you.
They certainly do for me!
This recipe is so simple with the minimal of ingredients. I just love it. They keep well for a few days and make a great lunch box addition. Lots of fiber from both the dates and the oats. To me this is wholefood baking at its finest simplicity. I have barely made any changes to Pippa’s original recipe.
Makes 12 squares
200g pitted dates
125g rolled oats – gluten free if needed
2 tbsp coconut oil – melted
Pinch of sea salt
50g dark chocolate min 70% – to drizzle over the top. Optional but delicious
Preheat the oven to 180c and line the baking tin.
Roughly chop the dates, place in a saucepan with 250ml water and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to simmer over a low heat, uncovered and stirring occasionally for 15 minutes until the dates soften and form a thick paste.
Stir the oats, salt and coconut oil into the dates until combined and then spread into the baking tin, leveling the top with the back of a spoon and in a square shape. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and cut into squares.
Leave in the tin to cool completely and then transfer to a board and re-cut the squares before serving.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water and then drizzle it generously over the cooled squares.
Store your oat squares in a sealed container in the fridge. They will keep a few days, but I’ll doubt they’ll last long enough to go off…
Let’s continue the Summer Salad Series! I know we are already halfway through Aug but still… In a sense, as this salad contain several cooked elements it’s the perfect transition from summer to autumn. It’s still pretty fresh with an element of summer, containing juicy nectarines, yet it has that autumnal feel that root vegetables bring.
The combination of flavours may be stretching a little bit outside some people’s tastebuds comfort zone but hey, if you don’t challenge yourself every know and then how are you suppose to grow and evolve? One of the biggest challenges to many of my clients seem to be adding variety to their everyday diet. The majority of people I know, eat mostly the same thing, day in and day out. We get stuck in food ruts. It’s safe and it’s easy. Just like our daily life routines…
I was told once by a man that apparently in Japan most people eat 20-30 different types of foods, including spices every day! How’s that for variation? Now, I will admit that I haven’t verified his statement to see if it’s true or simply a myth, but whatever way, ask yourself “How many different foods and flavours are you eating every day?” By making this salad you will end up with nine (!) different components alone.
Sometimes when people are diagnosed with food intolerances it can turn out to be a blessing in disguise as it opens up the opportunity to try a whole new world of different foods and flavours simply because they have no other choice. Thing is with food intolerances that it’s important to eat as wide of variety of foods as possible (within the range of foods you can eat) to make sure you don’t develop further intolerances. Sometimes the reaction to certain foods is because the digestive system as a whole is compromised and the foods showing up are the ones the person eats the most of. This is not always the underlying reason, but it can be. So simply put; Eat a great variety of colourful foods. It will keep your body happy and your gut microbes happy too. And if you need a change in your life, starting with a few small changes to what’s on your plate can create ripple effect into the rest of your life 🙂
Let’s get going with the recipe! Beetroot is back in season and the peaches and nectarines are still around. I also used whole cooked oats in this salad to make it a complete meal on its own. Whole oats are delicious and very filling. Eating cooked grains like this is a great way to get your whole grains in. They are a good source of fibre keeping your bowel working as it should, plus fibre ads bulk and help us stay full for longer. Whole grains are also a great source of B-vitamins which are essential to a well functioning nervous system. It’s important to remember that B-vitamins are water soluble vitamins, which means our bodies don’t really store them. When we are stressed we have a higher requirement for B-vitamins so it is important to make sure you get plenty if you are having a hectic lifestyle (and who hasn’t).
If you can’t have oats then you can easily sub them for cooked quinoa instead. The fresh mint leaves add another interesting dimension to this cooked salad. Enjoy!
Cumin Roasted Beetroot Salad with Nectarines & Mint
2 cups whole oat kernels, washed and rinsed
3 large beetroot, peeled & chopped into large chunks
2 nectarines or peaches, washed & chopped into chunks
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
3 tbsp olive oil + some extra to coat the beetroot in
juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt & black pepper to season
Pre heat oven to 175°C. Place your peeled and chopped beetroot on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the ground cumin a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Toss the beetroot in the oil and seasoning to make sure they are evenly coated. Place the tray in the oven and roast for about 35 min or until the beetroot is nice and soft.
In the meantime, place your washed and rinsed oats in a saucepan and cover with water. You want to have about an inch of water covering your grains. Bring to boil and then reduce to a lively simmer for about 20 min. If it looks like your pan is getting to dry add some extra water. The oat grains are cooked when they become slightly transparent in right the way through.
Once the oats are cooked through, put them into a sieve and drain any excess water. While they cool, make the dressing by mixing olive oil and lemon juice together in a bowl. Season with a pinch of sea salt if you wish. Once the oats have cooled down somewhat, mix in the dressing.
Place your dressed oats, the roasted beetroot and the chopped nectarine in a large bowl. Scatter some fresh mint leaves over the top and enjoy.
This salad makes a nice lunch the following day as you can cook both beetroot and oats ahead of time and then just assembles with the fresh nectarine and mint before eating.