A healthier sausage and bean melt

My friend Carla works as a Property Assistant between two offices. When she is in one of her offices she has a weekly routine of going to Greggs and ordering the following: 1 sausage and bean melt, 1 packet of Quavers, and 1 yum-yum.

After seeing my last blog, Carla challenged me to make a healthier version of a sausage and bean melt. I accepted.

The old sausage and bean melt used to be a firm favourite of mine (still is, on the odd naughty occasion), so I was excited to concoct something just as tasty with a higher nutrional value. Now, obviously, this isn’t going to be the healthiest meal ever, as it involves ready-to-roll pastry, sausage, and butter, but it is definitely more full of goodness than the Greggs version (which contain sugary baked beans and no veg). I came up with a recipe with lots of tasty veg – it’s a great Saturday night take-away alternative.

Once we’d finished our meal I asked Carla to crown the melt champion, was it to be mine or Greggs, purely on flavour?

‘Honestly? Yours’, she answered. VICTORY! (I’m not sure I’m willing to curb her Greggs habit by cooking it weekly, though).

 

Ingredients – serves 4:

200g barlotti beans

200g tin cannolenni beans

Half of a chorizo sausage ring

Handful of baby chantenay carrots

2 sweet potatoes

50g baby spinach

100g feta cheese

Half an onion

1 clove garlic

400g chopped tomatoes

1 tsp hot chilli powder

1 packet ready-to-roll filo pastry

Salt & pepper

Olive oil

2 tbsp butter

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into 2 inch chunks. Wash the carrots. Spread the sweet potato and carrots onto a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season and pop into the oven for 40 mins.

Thinly slice the onion and garlic, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan/wok, and fry the onion and garlic until soft.

Chop the spinach & chorizo and add to the pan (it’s up to you what size you want the chorizo chunks).

Cook for a few mins until the chorizo darkens and add in the beans, chopped tomatoes and chilli powder.

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Unroll your filo pastry, melt the butter in the microwave, then brush a layer of butter onto the top sheet of pastry and lift that layer onto your baking tray. brush the next layer and lay it on top of the first. Repeat until all the layers are buttered and sitting on top of each other.

Cut your pastry into even sections, and scoop a dollop of the sausage mixture onto each section.

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Crumble an even amount of feta cheese onto each pile.

Fold up your pastry in each section, encasing the sausage mixture and pinching the pastry at the top to seal.

Brush a little melted butter over each sealed melt to finish, and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and crispy.

Serve with the carrots and sweet potato.

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Take that, Greggs!

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four fun lunch salads

Something I’ve found quite tricky since revamping my eating is lunches. I’ve just started working again after being out of work for a few months, so getting into a routine of preparing good lunches and taking them to work with me has been a readjustment (especially on particularly lazy days). One thing I’ve noticed is that grabbing food for lunch on the go is very difficult when choosing to eat natural/sugar free. Sandwiches, soups, even salads I’ve found in supermarkets and take-aways have almost all been full of sugar and preservatives. The ones that aren’t, cost a small fortune.

I was on the hunt for healthy, quick, easy and fulfilling lunches that I could prepare at the start of the week; ‘salads!’, my mind chimed in. ‘Hmmm, but salads are boring’, I huffed back. Thankfully, after some pinteresting and some tweeking, I found and tried four fun salads that are exciting to eat, easy to prepare, nutritious and don’t break the bank.

 

1 – Mediterranean grilled veggie salad

 

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(adapted from here)

Ingredients – makes a lunch salad for one:

For the salad –

1 courguette

1 red pepper

2 spring onions

2 handfuls mixed leaves (I used spinach & rocket)

1 handful of green olives

For the dressing –

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Juice if half a lemon

Pinch of salt & pepper

 

Method:

I used a George Foreman grill (very handy for quick, healthy grilling), but you can use a pan or griddle.

Slice courgette and pepper into thick slices, and place on the grill/hot pan. Grill for 8-10 minutes until charred and soft.

Meanwhile, mix together the dressing ingredients, chop the spring onions and toss with the mixed leaves and the dressing.

When the veggies are done,  toss them with the leaves and throw in the olives.

Enjoy!

 

2 – Balsamic roasted beetroot and goats cheese salad

 

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(adapted from here)

 

Ingredients – makes a lunch salad for one:

2 beetroots (either fresh or vac-packed)

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 tbsp organic maple syrup

Mixed leaves (again – I used spinach and rocket)

Handful of goats cheese, crumbled

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Chop up beetroot into inch cubes and toss them in the olive oil and salt in a large bowl.

Spread the beetroot out on a foil-lined baking sheet and pop in the oven for around 20-30 minutes until soft.

In the meantime, combine the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the mixture has reduced to about half, then take off the heat and set aside.

Once the beetroot has cooked and cooled, mix them them into the balsamic mixture until coated and sticky.

Toss the beetroot with your mixed leaves and crumble goats cheese on top.

Enjoy!

 

3 – Mexican chicken and avocado salad

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(adapted from here)

Ingredients – makes a lunch salad for two:

2 chicken breasts

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp mild chilli powder

1 tbsp olive oil

Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 avocado

Handful of olives (green or black)

Mixed leaves (I used spinach and rocket)

 

Method:

Mix together the oil and spices in a large bowl, add the chicken breasts and coat them with the mixture.

Grill the chicken breasts for 10-12 minutes until charred and juice (again, I used George Foreman but you can use a pan/griddle).

While the chicken is cooking, slice the onions, tomatoes and avocado.

When the chicken is done, slice it and toss it with the rest of the ingredients, olives, and dressing (I used the same dressing as with the mediterranean salad).

Enjoy!

 

4 – Pear, goats cheese and cranberry salad

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Ingredients – makes a lunch salad for one:

1 pear

Half a red onion

Handful of dried cranberries

Handful of rocket leaves

Handful of goats cheese

Splash of balsamic vinegar

 

Method:

Thinly slice pear and red onion. Toss with rocket leaves, balsamic vinegar, cranberries and crumble goats cheese over the top.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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‘The Hulk’ smoothie

Smoothies have become quite the fad recently. They are sold as a tasty healthy boost, but I’ve been learning that the average smoothie sold in juice bars and the like, are not as healthy as we might think.

The main reason being that most smoothie recipes contain a very high amount of sugar, from fruit juices, fruit and often added sugars and sweeteners. Because smoothies are blended, it means that a way bigger portion of fruit than you would normally eat in one go, is eaten all at once, resulting in a massive spike in your blood sugar levels. In this article, Kimberly Snyder gives us more information on good vs bad in the smoothie camp. 

Smoothies can be a really good source of nutrients and energy, though, and I’ve been hunting down the best recipe. In fact, nutrition experts say that they can be one of the best sources of nutrients because they are made from raw ingredients. The healthiest smoothies are made from a combination of greens (spinach, kale, spirulina), healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado), fibre, and fruit.

I have dubbed the following smoothie ‘The Hulk’, due to it’s colour and high-energy effect. It’s SO simple to make and you can make it in large quantities and freeze in portions. Then all you need to do is take a portion out the night before. It’s a great way to start off the day with the nutrients your body needs to kick-start it into action.

Here it is (makes two smoothies):

 

Ingredients:

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1 cup cold water

2 handfuls spinach

1 handful bluebberries

1 banana

1 tbps coconut oil

1 tbsp chia seeds (chia seeds are one of the best superfoods you can include in your diet, here‘s some info on their benefits)

Method:

Blend!

 

I hope you enjoy ‘The Hulk’ as much as I do…

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Super-food Chocolate Mud Pies

Here it is – recipe number 1. I have come up with this from looking into variations of healthy chocolate pies and sugar-free, dairy-free pie base alternatives. This recipe is a collaboration of a few recipes I found online mashed together. A healthy chocolate pie mash-up, if you will. I’m not a huge nut fan, so this recipe has a nut-free base which makes it quite cakey/spongey, but if you’d prefer more of a crunchy base to your pie, you could use a nut version.

Did you ever think you’d hear the words ‘super-food’ and ‘chocolate pies’ in the same sentence? Me neither.

This rich scrumptious pie recipe is the perfect healthy alternative to satisfy your chocolate cravings, free from refined sugar and dairy. The recipe has an imposter ingredient that may surprise you, but it is the key to the lovely thick texture; avocado. I know it sounds a strange combination, but avocado is actually a fruit and works really well in sweet dishes. It is also classed as a ‘super-food’ with a number of health benefits, check them out here.

This recipe makes around 5 small pies, but they are very rich and chocolatey so I found that was enough for one batch. If you want more you can double.

You probably won’t have some of these ingredients in your cupboard, but it’s definitely worth popping into a health food store and stocking up on things like coconut oil (a healthy oil alternative that you can cook with, use in baking, make body scrubs with and even put in your hair as a conditioner).

Ingredients –

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For the bases:    

2 eggs

30 ml coconut oil

1 tbsp honey

2 tbsp coconut flour (a gluten-free flour alternative)

pinch salt

For the filling:

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup unsweetened 100% cocoa powder (I used Divine Cocoa but Green and Blacks is a good one too)

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/3 cup real maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ripe avocado (soft)

Method –

Bases – Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease 5 muffin holes in a muffin tin with some coconut oil. Blend the honey and coconut oil in a food processor. Add the eggs and blend well. Sift in the flour and blend until it becomes thick and doughy. Divide the mixture between the 5 muffin holes. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until golden. Leave bases to cool completely and then carefully ease them out with a teaspoon and place on a plate – the bases are very crumbly so be gentle!

Filling – Melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan on a low heat and add in the cocoa powder a little at a time, stirring until smooth. Stir in the coconut milk and maple syrup and heat until warm. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. You should have a smooth chocolate sauce. Scoop out the avocado and blend in the food processor. Pour the chocolate sauce over the avocado and blend until smooth and mixed well. Pour this mixture into the cooled pie bases and refrigerate for at least 3 hours to set before serving.

Enjoy your super-food delight with a cup of warming chai tea – perfect winter comfort.

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3 new eating principles

From my search for a healthier diet and my reading on nutrition, I have come up with 3 principles for a new way of eating.

I am by no means an expert and not a scientist so I will try my best to explain what I have read about, but if I get it wrong don’t shoot me. This is just a summary of what I have discovered and am learning about. I will link all of my sources so that if you want to read more yourself you can.

1 – ditch the sugar

Ah, sugar. It’s the food we turn to when we want a serious hit of pleasure – our favourite comfort food. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent crying into my bowl of melted cadbury’s bars.

But I’m about to drop a bombshell…

Sugar is bad news.

‘Whaaat?!’ I hear you cry, ‘I thought it was a superfood?!’

Okay, I know you’re not totally shocked by this ‘revelation’, we all know that it’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but I’ve been blown away by what I’ve read about sugar, and that has led to me going cold turkey on the good stuff.

In this article in the Telegraph about the links of sugar to health issues, it tells us that sugar can be more addictive than cocaine. And that addiction is deep rooted. It’s only after giving  it up that I’ve realised that added sugar is in almost everything we eat/buy in this country.

This post gives a list of the effects of sugar on our health. Some of these effects include supressing of the immune system, increased risk in a number of cancers, increased risk in various heart issues, headaches/migraines, to name just a few! In fact, there are 66 health risks listed here in relation to sugar consumption.

If you want a more scientific overview – watch this video.

That’s all very well, but when it comes down to it, how do we actually kick this highly addictive habit of a cake here, a biscuit there and a chocolate bar inbetween? For me, I have had to find some alternatives to give me that sweet kick as I definintely couldn’t do without something sweet for the rest of my days. The good news is, there are lots of healthy alternatives to eating the crazy amounts of sugar that we do – hooraahh! And that is one of the things I’ll be posting in this blog, an array of sugar-free delights to help us kick sugar and it’s health risks in the butt!

2 – udderly bad

Cow’s milk. Now, there is a lot of controversy around this so I am speaking personally here about my thinking from experience and what I have read recently.

I have always thought it was bizarre that human adults drink a substance that is produced for baby cows. We don’t feed calves on our breast milk so why do we drink their milk? After reading into it a bit it seems that cow’s milk isn’t great for humans and that’s why so many people are lactose intolerant. One of the sources I’ve been using for recipes and nutrition knowledge is a woman called Kimberly Snyder (thanks to my step-sister who has her book). In her book, Kimberly tells us that the main protein in cow’s milk is casein, which is the protein that makes cow’s bones so big. She says that ‘There are so many thousands of studies on the detrimental effects of dairy, but the strongest argument I can share with you is that of all animal proteins, casein is the one that most consistently and strongly seems to promote cancer’. As well as this, Kimberly calls dairy a ‘clogger’, because it is so difficult for the human digestive system to break down. To read more of Kimberly’s findings and for some yummy recipes, click here to follow her blog.

As a massive cheese lover, I haven’t gone completely cold turkey on the dairy yet, but I am gradually cutting down and looking for recipes with alternatives to dairy, of which there are many. I’ll be posting my favourite dairy-alternative recipes here and sharing the effects that less dairy is having on me.

3 – if you can’t kill it or grow it, don’t eat it.

Another one of Kimberly Snyder’s principles is that whole, natural food is the only thing that should be going into our bodies. It makes sense when you think about it, something that has been poked and prodded, compressed and stretched, heated up to 1000 degrees and then cooled down to -6000 degrees while hanging upside down, being spun around and bounced 30 times, isn’t going to be the best for your body. Okay, I’ll admit I have no idea what actually goes on in a factory but I am now choosing to eat as much unprocessed food as possible.

The recipes I post on here will consist of whole natural ingredients that give your body the best chance at working properly.

So that’s all of the boring stuff out of the way, let’s get on with the EATING. First recipe up here soon.

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drool worthy fuel

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have always been interested in food. Interested may not be the best way to describe the relationship;  love, adore, obsess over might be a little closer to the truth. My boyfriend enjoys telling people that one of my favourite hobbies is reading restaurant menus, just for the fun of it.

Because of my love of food, I have quite often gotten into bad habits of eating a lot of junk that tastes ‘good’ but makes me feel bad.

It’s only recently that I have been putting some time into researching and learning about food’s relationship with our bodies. I have been fascinated and shocked at the effects that food can have on our health and wellbeing, so I decided to make some changes.

It makes sense, when you think about it. Food is the fuel that our bodies need to work properly, so why don’t we put in the fuel that’s going to make us the best versions of ourselves?

The answer is, simply, that we’re all big suckers for pleasure, and if food isn’t appealing to us then we just don’t want it.

That leads me to this blog, I want to give my body the best, I want to feel the best and look the best that I can, but I don’t want to mourn my love of food and munch on tasteless greens for the rest of my life. Here begins my search for the best food for both flavour and health.

As well as recipes, I’ll be posting some of the things I’ve discovered about the way that certain foods that we are addicted to can effect our health.

I’m on a mission to find the tastiest recipes minus the junk, and I want to share them with you, too.

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