Sugar Free Sweet Treats Simple Raw Brownie Bites

In an ongoing attempt to steer Miss ND (and myself!) towards healthier refined sugar free sweet treats, I am continually (it feels) presenting her with my culinary experiments.  She’ll try anything and is a great barometer to anything from “ugh, disgusting” to “that’s really yummy mummy, can I have another!”.  Kids will usually tell you how it is!

I started a long time ago with this basic recipe for simple brownie bites with only 4 ingredients, adding in various other ingredients but I’ve had to be sneaky as Miss ND calls it to get some of them past her!  (She is used to my veggie smuggling).   

Brownie bites ingredients

Raw Brownie Bites

Raw Brownie Bites
Simple Raw Brownie Bites - delicious refined sugar-free sweet treats.
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Ingredients
  1. 100g walnuts
  2. 200g dates, pitted
  3. 1 tblspn cocoa powder
  4. 1 tblspn coconut oil, melted
Instructions
  1. Yields: 12 mini-sized kid treats and 4 large adult-sized.
  2. Blitz the walnuts in a food processor until finely ground or the consistency you like, the large the pieces, the more crunch in your brownies!
  3. Add the pitted dates, cocoa powder and melted coconut oil and whizz up again until you have a dough-like ball.
  4. Roll out the "dough" between 2 sheets of parchment paper into a rectangular shape, around 5mm/¼" thickness. Trim the excess to perfect the shape.
  5. Cut into 24 even pieces, I prefer 12 small and 4 large)
  6. Roll the left over trimmings into small balls and roll into desired coating, e.g. cocoa, dessicated coconut, seeds, nuts, etc.
  7. Place all into the fridge to set hard and enjoy in around 20 minutes.
  8. Nutritious and Delicious!
Notes
  1. This recipe can be successfully doubled or tripled for larger yields, I prefer to make smaller batches to ring the changes!
Nutritious Deliciousness http://www.nutritiousdeliciousness.com/

Raw Brownie Balls

Formulating sugar free treats is quite simple, leave out the refined sugar and sweeten with fruit. Dates, for example, are rich in vital nutrients with vitamins A, B6 and K, Potassium, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese.  

But let’s not forget that Dates and all dried fruit are high in fructose and contain concentrated sugars, but with these small brownie bites, the portion size is very small (unless like me, you cannot eat just one!).  And Dates that contain healthy vitamins, minerals and fibre do have a very different impact on the body than eating the same amount of refined sugar.  For example if you ate an apple, it would have a slower rate of glucose absorption than a glass of apple juice. The apple juice has had its fibre content removed completely so it is absorbed very much more quickly by the blood.  The fibre in whole fruit lowers the carbohydrate spike in the blood, which in turn slows down that sugar rush.

Raw Brownie Bite BallsI used the excess trimmings to create small balls, coat/roll them in a variety of coverings such plain cocoa powder, desiccated coconut, whole or ground flaxseed and/or chia seeds, cocoa nibs for crunch, etc. 

*Please note that these do contain nuts*, one of Miss ND’s good friends at school is nut allergic and I am looking to put together a nut-free version, these are refined sugar-free, my main aim for now.

 
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Christmas Stollen Bites

With Christmas fast approaching the sweet treats and cakes make their way to the table, it is hard to avoid them but I think there are times when we need to relax and enjoy the festive season and all it brings foodwise!  

I’ve been making a Stollen for the past few years now, I love it, reminds me of my grandmother who was very special and who Miss ND is named after. She would bake many Stollen before  Christmas each year and send one to all her family no matter where in the world they lived. I do miss her Stollen and more especially her.  I bake in remembrance of a wonderful lady.

Christmas Stollen Bites

 

Christmas Stollen Bites
It is usually Christmas Eve when we break out the Stollen with coffee and hot chocolate, this year I am making Stollen Bites instead of one large Stollen, the girl likes her mini cakes and these are perfect for a small Christmas treat!
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
35 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. Stollen Bites
  2. Proving Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  3. Ingredients
  4. 100ml semi-skimmed milk (warmed)
  5. 2 x 7g sachets easy bake yeast
  6. 250g Plain Flour
  7. 1tsp Mixed Spice
  8. 50g golden caster sugar
  9. pinch of salt
  10. 200g mix of sultanas, currants & raisins
  11. 30g mixed peel
  12. zest of small orange
  13. 30g ground almonds
  14. 50g unsalted butter (softened)
  15. 1 large organic egg (lightly beaten)
  16. 200g Golden Marzipan
To finish
  1. 15g melted unsalted butter
  2. 20g icing sugar
Instructions
  1. Place the warmed semi-skimmed milk and both packets of yeast into a glass jug and mix well. Leave to do its thing for around 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, sift the flour and mixed spice, then add the golden caster sugar, salt, dried fruit, mixed peel, zest and ground almonds and give it a good mix.
  3. Add the softened unsalted butter and combine the ingredients together.
  4. Add the yeast/milk mixture along with the lightly beaten egg and mix well to bring everything together to form a soft dough. At this stage if your dough is too wet sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over and knead in. Knead your dough for around 5 minutes, place in a clean bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for around 20 minutes (mine goes on top of the radiator!).
  5. Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead again for 5 minutes
  6. Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 10" by 8" onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Roll the golden marzipan into a smaller rectangle of about 5" by 4" (ish) and place onto one half of the Stollen dough then fold over the other half to sandwich in, seal edges with fingers.
  7. Cover again for around an hour, again leave in a warm place.
  8. 15 minutes before your dough has finally proved, pre-heat your oven to 180C/16OC fan, gas 4.
  9. Bake the Stollen for around 30-35 minutes until golden brown, turn halfway through baking to ensure an even bake.
  10. To finish brush generously with melted butter and dust with icing sugar.
  11. Leave to cool, then cut into bite-sized pieces.
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Honey Ginger Pumpkin Seed and Walnut Crusted Salmon with Black Rice Soba Noodles

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Honey Ginger Pumpkin Seed and Walnut Crusted Salmon with Black Rice Noodles, quite a mouthful and a super deliciously tasty one too!  This anti-inflammatory, antioxidant rich meal is easy to prepare and is ready in around 30 minutes.

salmon black rice soba noodles

I love Wild Alaskan Salmon, they swim around in the wild, eating as nature intended which makes them rich in omega 3, vitamins, minerals and Astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant.   Astaxanthin is a naturally-occurring carotenoid, a reddish pigment produced by micro-algae and eaten by salmon and other marine life, e.g. crab, lobster, etc which makes them pink. Astaxanthin can protects cells and the nervous system from oxidative damage and is beneficial to joints and skin amongst many other health benefits.

Salmon raw marinating

Adding a marinade of honey, orange and fresh ginger plus a crust of whole Pumpkin seeds and chopped walnuts only enhances the health benefits of the dish even more.  Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, magnesium, manganese and plant-based omega 3’s.  Walnuts, another rich source of omega 3, magnesium, folate, vitamin E and antioxidants.

Black Rice Soba Noodles

I teamed the dish up with a new find, King Soba Organic Black Rice Noodles
, made from black rice, a deep purple coloured rice rich in minerals and fibre.  Very quick to prepare compared to my usual pasta spaghetti.  The noodles are also wheat and gluten-free.

Honey Ginger Pumpkin Seed and Walnut Crusted Salmon with Black Rice Soba Noodles

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2

Honey Ginger Pumpkin Seed and Walnut Crusted Salmon with Black Rice Soba Noodles

Ingredients

  • Marinade Coating:
  • 2 teaspoons Runny Honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh Ginger, grated
  • Juice of half an orange
  • dash of Olive oil
  • Salmon:
  • 2 Wild Alaskan Salmon Fillets
  • 50-60g Pumpkin seeds, whole or roughly chopped
  • 50g Walnuts, roughly chopped
  • .
  • Black Rice Soba Noodles

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 160C fan 180C non-fan
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade/coating, mix well.
  3. Place the Salmon into an ovenproof dish and spoon the marinade over making sure all the Salmon is evenly coated.
  4. Sprinkle the Pumpkin seeds and chopped Walnuts over the Salmon. .
  5. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
  6. Take out after 5 minutes and baste the juices over the Salmon making sure not to disturb the crust.
  7. Whilst the Salmon is roasting, place the Black Rice Soba Noodles in boiling water (they will soften quickly) and cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat.
  8. Drain the Black Rice Soba Noodles and refresh quickly with cold water.
  9. Serve the noodles with the Salmon. I roasted Tomatoes with Garlic, Olive oil and Basil in the oven with the Salmon for another component.
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Honey Orange Roasted Figs

With the last of the fresh figs hitting the shops soon, it was a good time to snap some up and roast a few.  Figs are high in natural sugars which can add a healthier dose of sweetness to a dish. They are high in soluble fibre plus a good source of several essential minerals, including potassium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron and copper.  Figs also contain a good dose of vitamin C and vitamins B3, B5  and B6 and K.

Fresh figs are extremely delicate and perishable, I kept these in the fridge for a couple of days before I roasted them but once roasted they can be stored in the fridge for a few days.

Roasted honey orange figs

Honey Orange Roasted Figs

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • Fresh Figs, ripe (as many as you need), halved
  • approx 1 teaspon unsalted butter
  • 1 generous tablespoon honey
  • 1 orange, juiced

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C
  2. Arrange the halved Figs on a lined baking tray and place a small dot of butter onto each Fig.
  3. Combine the honey (if your honey is not runny, place in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to loosen up) and Orange juice in a bowl then spoon over the Figs.
  4. Place the Figs into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until they are soft and the honey/orange liquid is sticky.
  5. After 10 minutes baste the Figs with the honey/orange liquid, this will make the figs deliciously soft.
  6. Let cool.
  7. Serve 2-4 halves depending on size with thick Greek Yogurt and drizzle with a little of the honey/orange liquid to finish.
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honey orange roasted figs with natural Greek yogurt

Another perfect pairing with roasted figs is cheese especially Danish blue, Gorgonzola, Camembert or Blue Brie and walnuts.  I have a few favourites, but a quick one is to cut the fresh fig into quarters, not going all the way through, drizzle with the honey/orange liquid then place a square of Gorgonzola (my favourite) into the middle and roast in the oven along with some chopped walnuts.   

Roasted figs with Gorgonzola Cheese

Roasted honey orange figs with Gorgonzola cheese

 The result is sweet, soft figs with salty blue cheese and the sticky liquid that caramellises the walnuts – utterly delicious!

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Spelt Seeded Buttermilk Soda Bread

Inspired by the Spelt Buttermilk Soda Bread we made at River Cottage cookery school last month, this loaf was made with the buttermilk from the butter I made earlier in the week (I couldn’t resist having another go, the butter tastes so deliciously creamy too!).

Seeded Spelt Buttermilk Bread

My loaf contains Pumpkin, Sunflower, Sesame, Flaxseeds and Walnuts which are packed full of health giving properties.  

Walnuts, Pumpkin, Sunflower, Sesame and Flaxseed Mix

Pumpkin seeds are full of omega 3 essential fatty acids, along with some omega 6, rich in B vitamins, selenium and zinc. They are also a good source of calcium and magnesium.

Sunflower seeds too are a valuable source of B vitamins, vitamin E, omega 6 essential fatty acids and monounsaturated fats.  The seeds are rich in calcium and magnesium too.

Sesame seeds, these tiny calcium rich seeds are brilliant non-dairy bone builders, rich also in zinc and vitamins B and E as well as magnesium.  They contain both omega 6 and 9 fatty acids.

Flaxseeds have an abundance of balanced levels of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids plus vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, E, Folic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc.  A true wonderfood!

Walnuts, fabulous Walnuts, my go-to snack and a wonderful addition to breads.  They are one of the richest sources of antioxidants plus vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, E, biotin, Folic acid, calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc.

Spelt Seeded Buttermilk Soda Bread

Makes 1 Loaf

Pre-heat your oven to 200C/180C fan

Ingredients

175g Spelt Flour
50g Oats
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon each of Pumpkin, Sunflower, Sesame and Flaxseeds (more or less to your own taste)
100g Walnuts (more of less to your own taste)
100g Cheese (Cheddar and Goats cheese are favourites)
1 tablespoon Honey
275 ml Buttermilk

Extra seeds and cheese to sprinkle on top before baking.

Method

Combine the Spelt flour, oats, bicarbonate of soda, salt, seeds and nuts in a large bowl.  Mix in well.

Add the Cheese, Honey and Buttermilk and stir in until it all comes together, form into a ball and transfer onto a floured surface.  Gently knead until all ingredients are well combined, do not over work.  

Pop the dough onto a greased and/or lined baking tray and shape into a round, cut the dough with a knife twice, making sure not to go all the way though.  The bread should pull apart easily once baked into four generous pieces.

Spelt seeded buttermilk soda bread

Sprinkle with the extra seeds and cheese then place into the oven to bake for around 25-30 minutes until nicely golden brown.  This soda bread comes out of the oven with a delicious crusty finish, soft and pillowy on the inside.

 

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An Amazing Day at River Cottage HQ

After a 3 hour drive to Dorset with Elinor from Beach Hut Cook (who very kindly drove us there and back in her fabulous yellow mini!) we checked into our hotel, had an early dinner of pan-fried cod with a chickpea ratatouille, then an early night (8 uninterrupted hours for me!) and up at 6.30am for a very good full English breakfast washed down with tea, then onwards to Devon and River Cottage HQ.

River Cottage HQ

We were both so excited to be invited to this VIP event for food bloggers by River Cottage and Foodies100.  The chance to see first hand how the farm operates and to sample the food.

We were transported from the farm entrance by tractor which was brilliant, Miss ND would have loved it, to say it was bumpy is a huge understatement but it really started the day on a great note with lots of laughing and hanging on to our seats!

We were greeted with a campfire and to go over the day’s itinerary from the relative comfort of a yurt.  Then it was coffee and pastries and time to network and have a little wander around this amazing space before starting the day’s activities.River Cottage Yurt

Our first session was a Baking Soda Bread and Butter making session in the well-equipped River Cottage Cookery School with Group Head Chef Gill Meller.

River Cottage tote bags

River Cottage Cookery School

The River Cottage Cookery school hosts 1, 2 or 4 day classic cookery courses covering a range of techniques and skills from baking breads, cakes and pastries to fish and shellfish cookery to specialist courses with more specific interests or dietary requirements covering anything from gluten-free baking to vegetarian cookery, cheese making, curing and smoking meats!  There is so much more to do at River Cottage, from dining to fairs, festivals and even weddings, check it all out here.

River Cottage Gill Meller

I make soda bread frequently as I have a mild yeast allergy, this bread, however, was made with Spelt flour, a flour I have in my larder but never used to make soda bread.  I shall be posting my version in another post (we still have a huge amount apples from our trees to cook with and blackberries in the freezer from our garden) along with another attempt at making butter.

The bread was packed with apples and blackberries (which we picked ourselves from the bushes outside), oats, goats cheese, fennel seeds, black pepper and honey.  We then attempted butter making, very much easier than I ever thought (if you use a mixer!) and the buttermilk that was squeezed out of the butter used as the liquid for our bread.  

Spelt bread and butter

I buy butter and buttermilk every week, but I think I may be making more of my own butter now!

RIver Cottage Butter

Our next session was food photography styling with the lovely Lucy Heath who gave us a lot of inspiration for ideas and how to present our shots for the different social media platforms.  She laid out a lot of food props for us to have a hands-on session to try to replicate some of her ideas.  I love food photography, always learning so this was a real treat for me.

Lucy River Cottage

food styling tomatoes

Lunch was then served in the barn, along with the amazing menu, it was a chance to relax and chat with like-minded food bloggers, food does have a way of bringing people together.

Our first course was a beef ravioli or leek and goat’s cheese ravioli for the vegetarians, freshly made silken wholemeal pasta with a beautiful basil pesto, served on a bed of ratatouille, leeks, thyme and garlic.  

RIver Cottage Beef Ravioli

River Cottage Beef Ravioli

River Cottage Leek, Goat's Cheese Ravioli

River Cottage Leek, Goat’s Cheese Ravioli

This was served with delicious roasted corn on the cob and their freshly baked bread which had a crunchy crust with a pillowy soft centre that I slathered with lashings of butter!

Roasted Sweetcorn

Dessert was local foraged damsons with fennel meringue and the best icecream I have ever tasted, made that very morning, infused with salted caramel, coffee beans and Madagascan vanilla. I definitely need the recipe for that!

River Cottage dessert

Our final session was a tour of the farm including the kitchen garden.  Will, the head gardener regaled us with his extensive knowledge of River Cottage’s certified organic farm and the vegetable kitchen garden where we found some unusual herbs and learnt about their methods of composting, crop rotation and harmonious planting.

River Cottage Kitchen Garden Gate

 

River Cottage Kitchen Garden

 

River Cottage Kitchen Garden

River Cottage Kitchen Garden

We also saw some of the farm animals, notably the Black Pigs and the laying Chickens.  As a born and bred city girl (who now lives in the coastal/countryside) I loved seeing these creatures roaming relatively free and being treated with the utmost respect.

Throughout the day the River Cottage staff kept us well topped up with tea and coffee and to end the day we were treated to gorgeously soft (and moreish! I had 2!!) chocolate truffles with a final coffee to keep us going on the long journey home.

River Cottage grapes

River Cottage tree

Thank you to River Cottage HQ and Foodies100 for the generous hospitality and putting on such a wonderful day of events and food!  I will definitely be revisiting.

River Cottage

Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa Vegetable Stuffing

Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa Vegetable Stuffing is a highly nutritious, extremely filling lunch or supper dish.  You can roast the Butternut Squash ahead of time, make the stuffing, assemble and pop back in the oven to warm through.

butternut-squash

Butternut Squash is rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants. The beautiful orange colour of the butternut squash delivers an abundance of powerhouse nutrients known as carotenoids.  Rich in vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, its seeds are also rich in protein, healthy fats and zinc. Butternut Squash contains a good amount of fibre, potassium and magnesium. It is also a good source of Vitamins B1,B2, B6, Folic Acid, E, Calcium and Magnesium, and a rich source Vitamin C, Potassium and Manganese.

I roasted the Butternut Squash in Pukka Organic Ghee on recommendation and was not disappointed with the results, tasted so very buttery and soft.

pukka organic ghee

The vegetable rich stuffing has added protein from the Quinoa to balance the meal with health giving properties of garlic, paprika and cumin make the dish tasty and nourishing.

Quinoa vegetable stuffing

Roasted Butternut Squash with Quinoa Vegetable Stuffing

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Serving Size: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 medium - large Butternut Squash
  • Ghee
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon Paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground Cumin
  • 1 large carrot, blended or grated
  • 1 large courgette, chopped or spiralised
  • 2 tablespoons Tomato purée
  • 200g approx passata
  • Black Pepper
  • 50g approx Quinoa, cooked
  • 50g Mature Cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Cut the Butternut Squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Score the Butternut Squash diagonally to around 1cm depth.
  3. Dot with as much Ghee or butter as necessary.
  4. Roast at 160C for around 45 minutes until the Butternut Squash is buttery soft.
  5. Gently fry the red onion and garlic until soft.
  6. Add the Paprika and Cumin and fry for around 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add the blended Carrot (I used my blender blade to finely chop the carrot).
  8. Add a couple of tablespoons (or so) of water to the pan and place a lid on to steam them until softened.
  9. Add the Courgette and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  10. Add the Tomato purée and Passata, stir in well and cook for a few minutes.
  11. Season to taste with black pepper.
  12. Add the cooked Quinoa to the Vegetable mixture and combine well.
  13. Place the Quinoa, Vegetable mixture onto the roasted Butternut Squash, add to the scooped out holes and along the middle.
  14. Sprinkle the grated Cheese evenly along the whole length of the Quinoa, Vegetable mixture.
  15. Return the completed Butternut Squash to the oven and bake for around 10 minutes at 160C until the cheese has melted.

Notes

Cook Time includes 45 minutes roasting Butternut Squash, which can be roasted ahead of time and set aside.

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roasted butternut squash

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Mindfulness

So, the buzzword around seems to be Mindfulness.  Over the years I have consciously tried to slow life down, take time to sniff the air and the like but with a busy family and work life it never really lasted very long.

I recently bought myself a Mindfulness Journal, I usually dash things down on a pad or random piece of paper and then promptly forget about it.  A journal was the answer, with guided exercises to follow and something to carry around in my handbag to whip out when the urge to write takes me.

Mindfulness Journal

One particular thing I have made a point of doing is to try to eat mindfully, rather than mindlessly.   It is of course, what you eat that matters but also how you eat it.  My dad used to tell me as a child to chew my food slowly and mix it with my saliva before swallowing.  Of course as a child I thought urgh, that sounds gross as I wolfed down my food which usually got in the way of play, but he was right.  Saliva is made mostly from water with electrolytes, antibacterial compounds and various enzymes that break down starches.  It moistens your mouth, prepares food for swallowing and starts the process of digestion when we chew.

Most of us find ourselves multi-tasking when eating these days, on the phone, watching television, etc. eating on the run at least once a day or grabbing something quick to save time,  but not only is this not good for your digestion (sorry about the double negative there) but I’m guessing like me you barely remember eating it!  

Eating mindfully can change our brain and nervous system chemistry too, calming everything down and countering the effects of stress.  Our body’s response to stress is to slow down our digestive activity which should improve so that digestion can become much more efficient and effective.

 Mindful eating, easier said than done especially with small children around but well worth trying to put into practice for at least one meal a day.  I know I can feel the difference when I get the opportunity to slow down, ignore distractions and relish the food and the moment.  Food is fuel but it is also there to be tasted and savoured.  I will endeavour to take my own advice and the wise words of my father from long ago.

 

 

 

 

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Apple and Blackberry Chia Seed Preserve

Time to write has been very limited in the school holidays but time does seem to be flying by, she will be back to school for year 1 too soon and I will miss these relaxed, fun-filled, summer days.

I know I’ve posted before about Chia seed jam but with so many Apples being picked from our trees and our Blackberries finally starting to ripen I thought I’d try a completely sugar-free version, no sugar, nothing, not even a non-refined sugar.  I expect the purists would argue that this is a jam so I’m calling this a Preserve.

Apple and Blackberry Chia Seed Preserve

Preserves, Conserves, Jams made without sugar will need to be refrigerated and eaten within a week or so, no problem here!  

Apples from our apple trees

Using fruit to make a fruit spread like this is so simple and easy to put together in very little time. The fruit amounts I have used here worked well and the balance of flavours made it tangy but with a sweetness too from the Blackberries.  I used a mix of cooking apples and eating Apples, we have one Apple tree that produces a sweeter Apple than the other three.

Blackberries from our garden

The addition of Chia seeds will thicken up the Preserve as well as providing a healthy dose of omega 3, fibre, anti-oxidants and protein.  Once added to the cooked Apples and Blackberries, the Chia seeds will absorb some of the liquid and it will take on a thicker jam-like consistency.

Apple and Blackberry Chia Seed Preserve

Ingredients

500g Apples, after peeling and coring
200g Blackberries
Water, about an inch in your pan
1 tsp Vanilla extract 
2 tablespoons Chia seeds

Method

Peel, core and chop Apples into manageable pieces, I still use my Apple Peeler, a very retro and very necessary piece of equipment that saves me time and elbow grease, it does it all in one go!

Apple peeler

Put the Apples into a large pan with around and inch or so of water and cook on a gentle heat until the Apples have broken down and become a thick purée.  Add the washed Blackberries into the pan and continue to cook again until they are soft. 

At this point the Blackberries don’t need to be completely broken down unless you’d prefer a smoother fruit spread.

Add the Vanilla extract and stir in.  Turn the heat off, add the Chia seeds and stir in until well combined. Allow the Preserve to thicken up as the Chia seeds swell and the flavours meld until cool.  Transfer into a clean, sterilised (I pop mine into the oven) jar and keep refrigerated.

I’m off to have some on buttered rye bread as writing about it has made my mouth water!

Nutritional Info:

Blackberries:  Vitamins A, C, K, magnesium and potassium.  Rich in anti-oxidants, this fact sheet from Berry Health Benefits is a very good, informative read.

 

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Learning to Love the Lunchbox

When Miss ND started school last September I was concerned about many things, one of them was what was she going to eat at school.  I know they will teach her reading, writing and arithmetic (although they are probably called something else these days!) and many other things but her health and wellbeing was most important to me especially as she had barely turned 4.

Lunchbox-ideas

I read the school menu and  wrote over 1000 words for a post about it but have a lot of respect for the school cook, so it still sits in my drafts folder.  It wasn’t the improved Jaime Oliver school lunch experience I had hoped for but Miss ND loves her food and will try anything once.  So for the first school year she had school lunches and came out at 3.05pm so hungry that she hoovered up the snack box I made for her daily.   I wasn’t best pleased to hear about the small portion sizes and the time allowed to eat their food. Miss ND has a very healthy appetite and we all know that the little ones need time to eat and hopefully finish their food without getting indigestion or a stitch, I remember those!

The menu changes around October time for winter fare but I’m not holding my breath for any improvement (but would love to be surprised!) so I will be tackling the Lunchbox from September.  Believe me I don’t need the extra stress this may provide but replacing the days she really doesn’t like anything on the menu twice a week will be a start.  She is so excited to take one of her many lunchboxes in, to a 5 year old it is like a mini picnic with foods she enjoys.

Lunchbox Talk

Last  week I attended a bloggers event in London hosted by Making Sense of Sugar, along with Pediatric Nutritionist Ana-Kristina Skrapac and Chef Manju Malhi.  you can read about the event here

Chef Manju

It was useful to brainstorm about food choices and the struggles we are facing when sending in a Lunchbox
into school.  I know how to balance a meal and I also know what nutrients my child needs to grow and have enough energy to last through the school day but it’s also about packing a lunchbox with food that she likes too (and has time to eat!).  I want to see that lunchbox empty at 3.05!  

Here are my girl’s (mummy approved) recommendations, we’re starting with simple but healthy choices:

– Sandwiches with oat bread, butter or coconut oil (she loves coconut oil), filled with flaked tuna mixed with crème fraîche and black pepper or egg and watercress or cheese and cucumber.   Wraps would just unravel at this point and I always overfill them, maybe next year! 
– Frittata – freshly made the night before (with added hidden vegetables) and lunch for mummy too!
– Pasta salad, tossed in coconut oil (she loves it straight from the spoon!) with flaked tuna and diced cucumber.
– Carrot and Cucumber batons with homemade hummus (always have some on the go, so easy to make).
– Cheese, Cheddar, Gouda, Edam in any form, sliced, blocks, etc.
– Fruit pot, apple, blueberries, grapes (nothing that turns to mush with a bit of lunchbox shaking, e.g. raspberries!)
– Banana – bananas contain around 50% naturally occurring fructose, as well as glucose, sucrose and maltose. But they also contain valuable potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese as well as good amount of vitamin C.  Bananas are even a source of omega 3!
– Greek yogurt with berries/banana, etc
– Homemade bars and balls – nut free versions (recipes coming soon) or if pressed for time Organix Carrot Cake bar.
– Plain Popcorn (we love).
– Savoury homemade muffins, with bacon and cheese or sweet potato or courgette and goats cheese (these are sugar free too).

Balanced, filling and easy to eat in the allotted time!  That’s the plan anyway, 

As the colder months approach I will want to send in hot food but if our school does not have any reheating facilities I either have to send in a flask or think again.

I would love to hear what your children love to see in their lunchboxes too!

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