Vegan banana pancakes

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These pancakes were our breakfast on bank holiday Monday, a little treat (but a healthy one!), when there was nothing else in the house. They are so simple and very tasty with no sugar whatsoever. The chickpea flour provides protein and we all know that banana’s are good for us! Serve them with whatever you fancy, we used more banana and maple syrup. I’ll definitely be making these again and again!

Ingredients (to make the amount shown in pic):

1 small mashed banana
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4-1/3 cup water

Method:

In a mixing bowl combine the mashed banana, chickpea flour, cinnamon, baking soda and 1/4 cup water and mix.
Add more water if necessary to get the consistency somewhere between thick-runny and runny.

Preheat a non-stick pan over medium heat. I used a very small amount of vegan spread in the pan to stop them sticking.

Scoop about 1/4 cup batter into the pan for each pancake. (Notice how mine got smaller at the top?! I would use just less than 1/4 cup if you want a stack like this and you want them to be the same size!)

Cook on one side until the top is bubbly, then flip and cook for about another minute. The pancakes should be browned on both sides but nice and cakey! 

Enjoy! 

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Sugar Free Month

10584848_10154521485950643_1258223624_n Michelle’s delicious looking salad on day 1!

My friend and I have just started a sugar free month. I have always wanted to be sugar free but didn’t think I would manage. I don’t eat an awful lot on a daily basis, but I do like it in my tea and we all know I am partial to a bit of cake or brownie. But with everything we have been doing lately, right back to our holiday to Italy, family BBQ’s, social events and the brilliant festival we went to last weekend, I have been eating more and more junk and feeling really awful as a result. It has made me realise just how much my diet has changed for the better since having Poppy, as I can literally see the difference in the mirror. I have put on weight, my eczema is back and I have acne. So I haven’t been feeling too thrilled about this. As well as that I feel lethargic and have awful headaches. This isn’t all down to sugar of course, bacon rolls are not exactly a super food, but even those were laden with sugary ketchup, and the more sugar I ate, the more I craved. These cravings caused me to make bad choices, like having a bowl of cereal for breakfast whilst visiting family, just to get that sugar fix which then left me feeling sluggish and hungry again within an hour. I wonder if Poppy became ill this week because all of the sugar I was eating had weakened her immune system.

So seeing as we don’t have any more excuses to pig out on rubbish food this month, I decided I would see exactly how sugar affects us. We are allowed natural sugar in fruits, and dates are always my lifesaver, but nothing with added sugar or artificial sweetener. I actually extended my challenge to basically rule out any processed food at all, so every meal will be freshly prepared by yours truly, so I know exactly what is in it. We are only on day 3 but I honestly already feel better. My skin is clearing up at last and I have more energy. I am making green smoothies every morning, and I have even tried making my own almond butter in my juicer, which was so easy! I will definitely be making my own nut milk next, because the ones you buy in the supermarkets have added stuff we don’t necessarily want.

I struggled initially knowing that I couldn’t detox whilst breastfeeding (because the toxins are eliminated into your breastmilk). Whenever I have over indulged in the past I have gone on a strict detox, such as a juice cleanse, to fix all the damage before starting from scratch. It was actually difficult knowing that I couldn’t do this quick MOT, and that my naughty slip ups would probably have more long lasting effects and require more hard work to undo. But at least I don’t have to cut down on the amounts that I am eating, because I am still providing enough for two! I realised that I could still eat clean and my body would detox itself, without compromising Poppy’s health. That way I get to enjoy heaps of delicious healthy food and spend lots of time doing what I like to do most: cooking!

If anyone wants to join us on this challenge then let me know and I can add you to our facebook group. I will try to post about our results on here and hopefully it will all be good news!

5 healthy and *should be* easy changes

I have been meaning to make a few changes for a few weeks. But there is always some excuse. We have been very busy and Tim’s work is rather manic, which seems to have a knock on effect on our whole lives. Anyway, that may seem totally unrelated to the following changes, but I have found myself in general becoming more and more unhealthy. I haven’t been organised with planning meals like usual because Tim leaves early for work and I don’t seem find the time to cook proper meals when Poppy is awake; but that is a poor excuse because I could do with a little effort. I am so tired by the end of the day and Tim is home late, that I don’t feel motivated to cook from scratch and eat by myself. Not having the car as often as usual also means we are getting behind on food shopping, and have been left with an empty fridge far too many times recently. The other night I literally just roasted some potatoes and ate those!!! I am filling myself up on quick fixes like crisps, and drinking too much tea and coffee because when I do it makes me feel as though I am having a break, even if I am drinking it on the go! So that is the eating side of things.

Another way I feel unhealthy is in my mentality. When I have a lot going on I find it really difficult to switch off. I actually love being busy, I might moan about my essays at times, but I think it is good to have something to focus on, and I am enjoying it. But I admit I find it hard to manage my time between being a mum, a girlfriend (housewife!), a student and a friend to lots of people who I have not made enough effort with recently which is adding extra pressure because I feel guilty about this. My mind goes into overdrive. And I have become so used to doing that I have forgotten how to stop. It gets to 5pm and I start looking forward to putting Poppy to bed and having some me time. I think about what tv might be on catch up, whether I might run a bath, what book I could read…but then the time comes and I find myself tense and fidgety, and usually end up writing a blog post, wasting time on facebook, starting a mini project (like today I rearranged our living room and looked online for some paint to revamp our drawers) or something else that seems to get me to 10pm realising I haven’t put my feet up once all day. There always seems to be little jobs that need doing, like changing my phone contract, ordering our veggies for the week, booking car hire for our holiday, writing a letter to my doctor…I have a list on my phone with the idea that it will be deleted once everything is crossed off (I am sure many of you are the same.) Of course this will never happen. I aim to do these little jobs in the evenings when I have no distractions, but sometimes I just can’t be bothered. What do I do instead then? I don’t sit and relax knowing they can wait until tomorrow. I sit and think I really should be doing stuff and don’t allow myself to relax, so it is just a complete and utter waste of my life, and it somehow seems to take energy to do nothing?! This tense state of mind is also filtering into my weekends with Tim, and I am fed up of us sitting next to each other on our phones, or saying ‘Let’s find something to watch’ every now and then for an hour or two, whilst we waste time doing other things and then realise it is bed time. We are off on holiday this weekend just for 3 nights, and I am so looking forward to it. Tim has even promised he is leaving his phone at home!

The last thing worth mentioning before the list is that I feel like my own energy effects Poppy and vice versa, and not in the way you might first think. When I feel worn out or demotivated Poppy seems more energetic than ever, which makes me even more sorry for myself! Whereas when I am energetic and productive Poppy is calm, interested in what I am doing and the hours pass so quickly as we do lots together. I have recently become interested in the conituum conecpt (I will try to write a post about this another time) and one thing that has stuck with me is the way in which young babies are so calm and relaxed when they are at the centre of the adults busy lives and everyday jobs. It seems that the active lives of the adult is enough to tire out the baby without them doing anything at all. When Poppy was a newborn our busy lives seemed to be too much for her and she became very over stimulated, so I am questioning whether this philosophy would have worked for us, but now that she is older she is certainly very interested by our actions, and often falls asleep most peacefully if we put her in the sling when she is wide awake and get on with our lives. Suddenly I look down and she is dreaming. Babies brought up according to the contiuum concept are constantly held, watching their parents work and amazingly they are able to use knives safely by themselves at age two! I am not suggesting this is my aim, but it is amazing how concentrated Poppy is when she is watching me ‘at work’. This must be the easiest, most natural way to teach a child. It also resonates with me because the concentration a child demonstrates when they are fixed upon the activity of an adult is that same concentration that is at the heart of Montessori education, and indeed the way in which you present an activity to a child is by clear, precise demonstration with little need for speech. It makes perfect sense that children should be calm and relaxed watching their parents at work because their mental energies are focused and they have no need to channel their natural energies into volatile behaviour or pointless activity.

So anyway…my completely random, unrelated list of positive changes:

  1. Drink more water and less tea and coffee 
  2. Hold Poppy in the sling every evening whilst I cook a healthy dinner. 
  3. Turn off my phone and computer one evening a week and have a bath, read, do my nails…
  4. Turn off my phone and bully Tim into turning off his during our weekends (or rare evenings together), as MUCH as possible. 
  5. Take Oscar for a walk EVERY afternoon with Poppy in the sling* (another time when she is nearly always calm and concentrated on the world around her. Also love the fresh air once we are out and Oscar thanks me) 

*I have had a bad neck/back lately so in the event that this is particularly bad I am allowed to skip this one every now and then!

If you know that I am not adhering to these rules feel free to slap me! Oh…whoops it is 9.30pm and I am getting up at 5.30am…I suppose I had better go and relax quickly!!!

Creamy Celeriac and Cauliflower soup

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Very thick and creamy soup, with hardly any ingredients, easy and healthy!

Ingredients:

1 whole celeriac, peeled and chopped into small chunks

1 whole cauliflower chopped

1/2 white cabbage, sliced into ribbons

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Drizzle of olive oil

Enough bouillon to cover the veggies

Pepper to season

Seeds (optional) 

Method:

Fry garlic and cabbage in the olive oil on low-medium heat for a few minutes, stirring every so often to make sure it doesn’t burn. 

Add celeriac and cauliflower to the pan and cover with the stock. 

Simmer until veggies are cooked.

Blitz and season with pepper, and sprinkle with your choice of seeds (I used shelled hemp seeds and sunflower seeds!)

Enjoy!

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Adults see a hazard whilst babies see a learning opportunity!

Poppy has mastered the step that divides our living room and dining area! It is a small step (hehe) towards her ever growing independence! I love how babies and children practise new skills over and over again. Repetition is recognised as vital to a child’s development in Montessori’s philosophy and they should be given the time to be allowed to. Poppy has been climbing up and down this step all afternoon!

 

Spring salad

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After a miserable day yesterday I felt like something fresh and colourful to remind me it was actually still Spring. I came up with this lovely pesto pasta salad. I wanted to use spring onions instead of red, which didn’t work all that well, but we didn’t have any.

Pesto:

Pine nuts (half a small pack)

Bunch of Basil

Generous Drizzle of Olive oil

Garlic (I used 1/2 a clove)

Lightly toast the pine nuts for a few mins, tossing regularly to prevent burning. Whizz all of the ingredients in a mimi food processor, tasting to check the quantities, this was only enough for one portion. 

For the salad:

Cook pasta of your choice (I used whole grain rice pasta) and leave to cool

Stir through pesto and add the following:

Avocado 

Artichokes

Cherry tomatoes

Spring onions

Cucumber

Mango

Extra pine nuts and basil to garnish

If you are not vegan then parmesan would be delish on this, I can’t pretend pasta is better without cheese! 

This was a hit with Poppy as well. She only tasted a couple of bits of pasta because it was her bed time, but I will be making it again for her as she seemed impressed! 

 

Dairy Free Essentials

So I have had a few people request more information on my dairy alternatives. As I said in my previous post, it hasn’t been easy, but gradually you get used to what you can and can’t eat and food labels become a breeze. There are some things I use on a daily basis and a few other things I have found that have surprised me in that they are ‘safe’ foods. I am only human and so have discovered a few treats that I am allowed, although I have no excuse really seeing as there are loads of tasty healthy options that I can make myself! Always good to have a few options though, especially when you are having visitors over and want to put a plate of biscuits out! Of course most of the items below are soy free too as Poppy was intolerant to this too. If you are choosing to cut out dairy and/soy completely then make sure you familiarise yourself with all of the hidden ingredients that become out of bounds. It is not as simple as changing your milk and butter! Use google to find a list of dairy/soy ingredients to look out for, it is long, but amazingly you memorise is pretty quickly!

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Pure spread – I don’t tend to have butter in sandwiches, but this is the best thing for baking. In fact my mum has always used it even though she is not dairy free. I have never liked margarines; they are not good for you at all. I have heard this is much better, but seeing as I don’t have too many options and don’t use it all that much, I haven’t really looked into how healthy this is. It is good value at about £1.50 and it is often on offer, buy 2 for £2 or similar. It means that most cake recipes are no longer out of bounds, and even if you struggle with eggs, you can substitute these with an egg replacer (try orgran no egg from Holland and Barrett). I use an egg replacer in baking anyway because it is such good value for money and otherwise we would use way too many eggs! The Pure spread is also good for frying, as it is made with sunflower oil, and of course you could just use it as your regular spread on bread or toast. I have come across a much more extravagant butter, made with very healthy things, but can’t remember the name of it because it cost over £5 for a tub! Sometimes I have to draw the line on my health addiction and think about my bank account.

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Almond milk (unsweetened) – by far the best option I have found for tea and coffee. I now much prefer it to cows milk. I have it everyday on my porridge too, although you can use any milk for this really. It also goes in to many of my super smoothies. Almond milk contains 120mg calcium per 100ml, compared to 124mg per 100ml in cows milk, and the bioavailability of the calcium is no doubt much higher in the almond milk, so your calcium absorption would probably improve.

Coconut milk – You can buy cartons of coconut milk along with all of the other milk alternatives, and I do enjoy a lovely coconut milk latte at our favourite café, however I don’t tend to choose this at home as I find almond milk more palatable in tea and coffee. However the thicker coconut milk that you buy in cans is used regularly at our house. Since we can no longer eat the cheese sauce which seemed to accompany so many of our staple meals, we had to have a bit of a menu change (which is never a bad thing seeing as it is so easy to cook the same things week after week). I didn’t want to give up my warm, hearty, comfort foods and start living on salads and steamed vegetables (my appetite is far too big!) so I started making quite a few curries. We absolutely LOVE Thai green curry and use half a can of coconut milk and stock for the sauce. There are loads of variations for Thai curry but mine includes loads of fresh ginger, leeks, spring onions, spinach, garlic, lemon zest and coriander so it is pretty healthy. Serve with wholewheat noodles or brown rice for a wholesome meal.

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Oat drink – Just another everyday milk alternative. Oats are very healthy so this is a good one to include in your diet, use on cereal or in porridge if you don’t fancy it in your tea.

Rice milk – Same as above! Also good for rice puddings surprisingly.

Hazelnut milk – This is my favourite milk for when I am feeling indulgent. I make hazelnut lattes with this using all milk, coffee and sugar. You could also try Ferrero Rocher hot chocolate just by using hazelnut milk instead of normal milk! If you don’t have dairy free hot chocolate try using cocoa powder instead, adding a natural sweetener such as agave syrup or maple syrup, a drop of vanilla essence and a pinch of cinnamon.

ImageOatly cream – I use this fairly regularly to add creaminess to a dish, for example in soups, curries or risotto. A very quick risotto recipe is Arborio rice cooked in vegetable stock, with loads of chestnut mushrooms, garlic and chorizo and finish by oatly cream. It is really easy but very delicious. Can also be used in puddings. A quick caramel sauce to add to deserts is made with 100g pure butter and 150g soft light brown sugar melted together in a pan, add 125ml of oat cram and simmer until heated through. I never used to use much cream at all when cooking, but I feel that oat cream can’t be all that bad for you!

Bread – Not a dairy one but I have only included this because I found it difficult to find a SOYA free bread. Ideally it is best to make your own, and occasionally my lovely Dad brings me a fresh loaf from his bread maker, but the rest of the time I have found wholewheat pitta breads to be brilliant alternatives and one brand of multiseed bread to be safe; Wheatfield Bakery as pictured. Tip: Try buying fresh bread from farmshops which shouldn’t usually contain soy. I also found that the tesco organic white bloomer (not the brown one) has no soy in, so we occasionally had this as a weekend treat!ImageDairy free treats – Nature valley oat bars (the healthiest option in this list by far), Oreos (contain soya!) Jammy dodgers, Ginger nut biscuits and Nice biscuits. There are probably many more but I haven’t bothered finding many as we rarely eat biscuits. A lot of sweets are fine but watch out for soya, I found they were in starburst amongst other popular sweets! Of course anything caramely or buttery is a no go, I am yet to come to terms with the loss of werther’s originals.

Nakd bars – I haven’t put these under treats, although I do think they are delicious. But they are 100% healthy! Raw pressed fruits and nuts, no additives, no added sugar, no baking involved. If you are avoiding soy as well be careful as some of them do have soy and some don’t. My two favourite are cocoa delight and cashew cookie which is literally just dates and cashews. They are rather pricey though at over £2 for a box of 4.

Shortcrust Pastry by Jusrol – We don’t eat much pastry, even though Tim is a big fan of pies. But every now and then I love a homemade quiche with loads of salad. I was sad when we had to give this up, but then I read the ingredients on the pastry I used and was very surprised to discover it doesn’t contain any butter or soy!! Oh and yes this is lazy but I really don’t have time to be making pastry from scratch! I actually think this pastry tastes really good, even though I am not a big pastry fan (Tim always gets my crusts once I have eaten the best bits of the quiche!) You could also use this pastry to make jam tarts or apple pie to add to your collection of dairy free treats!

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Raw Cacao Powder – You can also use normal cocoa powder for baking. But I love this healthy chocolate ingredient, it gives you the same endorphins as that unhealthy bar of milk chocolate, with none of the guilt! You can use it in pudding recipes, cakes and smoothies, or even in your porridge! Try blending a handful of dates, oats, a tablespoon of cacao and a splash of water, then rolling mixture into balls and refrigerating: Healthy chocolate truffles! Yum.

Ice cream and yoghurts – I am yet to try any dairy free yoghurts, but there are plenty available, whether you choose soya yoghurts or the healthier coconut yoghurts. Ice cream will definitely be tried this Summer! I did struggle to find any without soya in them, although there are a few expensive brands available online, but I tried plenty of dairy free ice creams when I was younger in a poor attempt at going dairy free, and they were mostly delicious. All major supermarkets should stock these.

Cheese – I am afraid I am not much help here either. Cheese was definitely the hardest thing for me to give up. I had it on a daily basis! There are cheese alternatives out there (look online) but I just don’t know if they would cut it for me. I have got so used to it now that I don’t really miss it, but maybe one day when I am feeling flush I will invest in some vegan cheese. If you have tried it let me know what you thought! Goats cheese may be ok for some people, other people may still find this causes problems.

I hope that helps. If there are any other dairy items that you miss or do not know how to cut out of your diet then comment below and I will see if I can help! Remember the blogging world is rife with dairy free recipes for al of your favourite dishes! Do not assume you will never be able to enjoy puddings again!