I don’t think I’ve met many people who don’t like a slice of chocolate cake every now and again, some more than others! Even though I am happy to be sugar free and don’t really miss cake, sometimes you just fancy a treat. I looked through a few recipes online and in some of my cookbooks and came up with my own version of a chocolate cake with an indulgent chocolate ganache and pecan topping.
Low carb, sugar free (almost – a small amount of rice syrup was used) and packed with nutrients (dark chocolate, ground almonds, arrowroot powder – many health benefits including aiding digestion, lowering cholesterol, protein rich, blood sugar regulation and much more besides), this cake is suitable for paleo & gluten free diets.
Ingredients for Base:
- 225 g ground almonds
- 30 g raw cacao powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 20-50 ml rice malt syrup (amount to suit taste)
- 60 ml water
Ingredients for ganache topping:
- 120 ml double (heavy) cream
- 100 g dark chocolate 85% or higher, roughly broken/chopped into pieces
- Sprinkle of pecan nuts (optional)
Method (makes approximately 16 servings):
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 20 cm square or round baking tin
- Mix together the ground almonds, cacao powder, arrowroot and baking powder in a bowl
- Whisk the eggs, rice malt syrup and water
- Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well
- Pour into baking tin and bake for 20 minutes before cooling completely on a wire rack
- To make ganache, slowly heat the cream (do not boil) and stir in the chocolate pieces until glossy
- Spread over the cooled cake and sprinkle with pecan nuts
- Leave to cool and then cut to serve. Perfect with a scoop of clotted cream or mascarpone.
We are all keen to live healthy lives and look after our hearts. Starting the day with a heart healthy meal can help keep cholesterol levels in check and provide an excellent source of other vitamins, minerals and nutrients to keep the rest of our body functioning well too.
Many people are now prescribed statins by their doctor due to raised cholesterol levels but I can’t help feeling that most of these people would benefit from better diet and lifestyle choices rather than simply popping more pills. Of course, you should always seek advice from your GP first but it can’t do any harm to include some of these heart friendly foods regularly in your diet anyway.
My breakfast/brunch today was packed full of vitamins, minerals and nutrients known to specifically target good cardiovascular health.
Smoked mackerel is an oily fish containing anti-carcinogenic agents. It fortifies the immune system and contains omega 3 acids which enhance both brain and nerve development.
It is known to improve the condition of the blood – fatty acids help thin blood, improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol whilst maintaining the good cholesterol.
Avocado contains oleic acid (this is also found in olives) which is known to reduce cholesterol. It contains heart healthy folate and also has fibre and lutein, an anti-oxidant to help protect against eye disease.
And finally eggs – these are a high quality source of protein, vitamins, minerals and good fats. They also contain lutein for eye health but are also responsible for raising the good cholesterol.
So before you reach for that bowl of cereal or toast and jam, think about treating yourself and your heart to a delicious nourishing meal instead.
No need to scour the supermarket aisles, checking labels for added sugar, gluten, nuts etc – these are all good foods as nature intended and will keep you feeling full and energised for the day ahead.
We have been extremely lucky this year with a bountiful supply of fresh raspberries from the garden and blackberries from the hedgerows. Our freezer is now becoming full of berries which we use most days to defrost and add to our yoghurt breakfasts or cream cheese pancakes but I thought it might be nice to try something different.
I saw a few posts for chia seed jam online but in the end I just decided to ad lib and try my own recipe. I literally filled the small kilner jar with a mixture of the frozen raspberries and blackberries, added about a teaspoon of water and microwaved them for a couple of minutes. I did take them out to stir a couple of times until they seemed a little thicker. I then added about 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds and gave a final good stir before leaving to cool in the fridge.
The result was good! I didn’t need to add any sweetener as the fruit was sweet enough for my tastebuds but you could add a little rice malt syrup or similar sweetener. It tasted delicious mixed with some Greek yoghurt and clotted cream!! I was pleasantly surprised at how well it set and how quick and easy it was to make. Definitely a regular recipe for me from now on.
Even better of course is that it is packed full of goodness from the berries and chia seeds. Protein, omega 3, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, fibre, stabilises blood sugar and lowers blood pressure, vitamins and anti-oxidants – the list goes on….!
I love Kale. In fact, I love all green and leafy vegetables, I’m sure I feel instantly healthier once I’ve eaten them! I know though that my love of all things green isn’t shared by everyone but because kale is so nutritious, I tried to find a way of making it more appealing and came up with my own quick and easy version of kale “crisps”. If you get the munchies in the evening you can eat these with absolutely no guilt, in fact quite the opposite!
- Kale is low in calories, low in fat and high in fibre and sulphur making it a great detoxifying food, good for your liver
- Very high in iron – contains more iron than beef per calorie!
- High in vitamin K
- Contains anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids
- Lowers cholesterol so is great for heart health
- Contains vitamin A and vitamin C
- Good source of calcium – more calcium than milk, so a good addition to your diet if you can’t tolerate lactose/dairy products
How to make kale crisps (chips):
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
- Grab a bunch of fresh kale, I used cavalero nero, one of my favourites
- Cut into good-sized 1-2 inch pieces (it will shrink slightly in the oven)
- Place in a plastic bag or bowl, add 2-3 tablespoons of cold-pressed rapeseed oil along with a generous sprinkling of smoked paprika and sea salt and mix well (you can experiment with other spices to replace the paprika)
- Lay the kale pieces on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until crispy
- Take out of the oven and leave to cool before eating
One of my favourite recipes is my courgette bread recipe. This is no ordinary loaf. It is paleo friendly, sugar free and gluten free and is packed full of nutrients. It’s so delicious – please give it a try! It may seem like a lot of ingredients but it’s a meal in itself and a little goes a long way. It’s a firm favourite in our house and great for picnics too.
If you want a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals then look no further:
- Ground almonds – heart healthy nuts that reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol. Good source of vitamin E and magnesium as well as protein and fibre.
- Pumpkin seeds – rich in iron and fibre, contain protein as well as magnesium, zinc, omega 3 and tryptophan (helps aid restful sleep!).
- Arrowroot powder – has a high nutrition content, it is an easily digestible starch and is very useful in aiding digestion and alleviating bowel complaints in particular.
- Courgette – a good source of vitamin K and vitamin C, also contains potassium and fibre.
- Apple cider vinegar – aids with diabetes and blood sugar control
There are many other health benefits in these foods but the list would have gone on forever!
- 150 g ground almonds
- 100 g arrowroot powder (you can find this in the supermarket in the baking section)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 5 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 125 g grated courgette
- 25 g grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon mixed herbs
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- Preheat your oven to about 160 degrees and prepare a greased and lined loaf tin
- Mix together the ground almonds, arrowroot powder, salt, bicarbonate of soda and mixed herbs
- In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and apple cider vinegar
- Add the grated courgette and cheese to the dry mixture and mix well
- Add the egg mix to the rest of the ingredients and mix well to combine
- Pour the wet dough into the prepared loaf tin
- Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top
- Bake the bread for approximately 45 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire tray before slicing
It is delicious eaten while still warm with some butter but it can be eaten cold and also stored in the freezer.
Fat Bombs – never heard of them?
If you follow a ketogenic diet then you definitely will have come across them. Basically they are a concentrated form of healthy fats that fill you up and help sustain you on a low-carb diet. A healthy dose of fat allows our bodies to absorb vitamins and nutrients from other foods. Usually made from a combination of ingredients such as butter, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, fat bombs were initially designed for those following the ketogenic diet although popularity is rising, especially amongst body builders and other low-carb dieters. Fat bombs are low carb, sugar free, gluten free, wheat free and nut free and yet provide you with a bundle of energy.
They are a great way of getting into ketosis quickly and a great snack pre or post exercise. You will find an abundance of recipes online – this morning I made a batch of raspberry fat bombs to keep handy in the freezer as I wanted to use up some of the berries that I have growing in the garden this summer.
They are very simple and quick to make. You can change the ingredients and use different berries, maybe add some lemon juice, you could add a teaspoon of Stevia if you would prefer something slightly sweeter, or maybe substitute the berries for coffee and cacao nibs for a richer flavour, the choices are endless!
Ingredients (serves 6):
- 60 ml melted coconut oil
- 50 g fresh or frozen raspberries
- 4 tablespoons of softened unsalted grass-fed butter
- 30 ml double cream
- 4 oz full fat cream cheese
- melt the coconut oil (and berries if frozen) and stir in the softened butter
- add the cream cheese and double cream
- whisk until all ingredients are combined
- pour into 6 individual dessert glasses (silicone muffin cases are good for this too)
- put in the freezer or just leave in the fridge until cool and set
I thought I would share my recipe for sugar free mousse with you. I adapted it slightly from a recipe that my mum used years ago when she was on a Weight Watchers diet. They used low fat fromage frais but, as this is full of sugar in itself, I swapped this for a much healthier and more satisfying full fat natural Greek yoghurt. I think it gives it a much creamier taste anyway.
It caters for many different diets including sugar free, gluten free, nut free, paleo and keto. As the recipe uses an egg white, it’s probably best that pregnant ladies avoid this though.
It’s so easy to make, you would hardly believe that something sugar free can taste so refreshing and delicious. You can choose the flavour of your choice by using a different jelly but I used strawberry for the ones in the photos. It’s nice to serve it in clear bowls or glasses as the mixture does separately slightly when setting in the fridge and creates layers.
- 1 Sachet sugar free jelly, any flavour
- 250 g Natural Greek yoghurt – full fat
- 1 egg white
- Empty the jelly sachet into 1/4 pint of boiling water and stir until dissolved
- Top this up to 1/2 pint with cold water
- Beat an egg white until stiff
- Add the Greek yoghurt to the jelly mixture (should make nearly 1 pint), give a good stir and pour into a bowl (don’t worry if there are some lumps at this stage)
- Add the egg white to the jelly/yoghurt mixture and whisk it all together
- Pour into individual bowls or one large jelly dish and put into the fridge to set
- Eat as it is or add some fresh fruit/cream/crème fraiche!
One of things I missed most about being low carb, sugar and gluten free was something to go with cheese, pate and dips. I thought the days of crackers had long disappeared but I discovered this very simple recipe for flaxseed crackers. They don’t feel like a substitute at all, they taste delicious. With only a couple of ingredients, they are very quick to make and you can try them with different herbs or spices to suit your personal taste.
I had mine with a selection of cheeses – Cornish Garlic Yarg, Cornish Blue, Somerset Brie but they are also great with pate or cream cheese.
They are suitable for vegan, gluten free, dairy free, nut free, low carb and sugar free diets.
The main ingredient is ground flaxseed (linseed) which has many health benefits. It is low in carbohydrates, is a healthy fat and high in fibre (soluble and insoluble). It is high in B vitamins, magnesium and manganese and is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, along with phytochemicals and antioxidants.
- 200 mg ground flaxseed (linseed)
- 50 mg of seed mix of your choice, I chose an omega seed mix adding some pumpkin seeds and goji berries
- 200 – 250 ml water (start with 200 ml and add more if needed)
- 1/2 tsp rock salt
- 1 tsp of herbs/spice of your choice (I used italian herbs)
- Preheat your oven to 180-200 degrees
- Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well until a dough forms (you can do this by hand or machine). Add more water if needed.
- Place the dough on a silicone sheet or parchment and roll into a thin even layer on a baking tray
- Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until brown and crispy
- Leave to cool, then cut into squares and eat!!
Even though you may be following a sugar free, gluten free, grain free or low carb diet, it doesn’t mean you can’t have something to satisfy your sweet tooth. You don’t even have to feel guilty about this one, it’s healthy too (as long as you don’t eat the whole bar all in one go!).
I adapted this recipe from one I found online as I like to use darker chocolate personally (90%) but as long as you choose one which is at least 70% cocoa solids then that’s fine. You could substitute the peanut butter for sunflower seed butter if you are allergic to nuts and leave out the nuts sprinkled on top. And best of all, it doesn’t need baking!
Why it’s good for you:
- Contains fibre, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and selenium
- Has more antioxidants than blueberries or Acai berries (can you believe that?!)
- Raises HDL and lowers LDL cholesterol which basically means it’s good for heart health
- Cocoa contains flavanols which improve blood flow to the skin, protecting against sun damage
- Contains caffeine and theobromine, stimulants which can improve your short-term brain function
- Contains protein and fibre which keep you fuller for longer
- It is an unsaturated fat, meaning it’s one of the ‘healthy’ fats
- Contains potassium, vitamin E, magnesium and also vitamin B6 and zinc which are great for boosting your immune system
I also topped my chocolate bar with some organic cocao nibs – these are also brimming with macro and micro nutrients, high in fibre and contain magnesium, potassium and iron. You could add anything you like to the top though, maybe a few berries, nuts or coconut flakes for instance.
- 100 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids, the higher the %, the less sugar!)
- 60 g unsalted butter or coconut oil
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 50 ml smooth peanut butter (or you could substitute any other nut butter, ie almond or hazelnut, or sunflower seed butter if you have a nut allergy)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (or other spice of your choice, ground coffee also works well)
- Nuts/cocoa nibs/coconut flakes to decorate
- Melt the chocolate and butter or coconut oil either in the microwave or in a glass bowl over a pot of steaming water
- Mix with the remaining ingredients in a bowl until combined
- Pour into a greased, lined baking dish (around 5″ square)
- Let it cool at room temperature for a short while before adding the toppings of your choice
- Refrigerate until cooled completely and then cut into squares with a sharp knife
- Store in the fridge or the freezer
One of the basics in my own ketogenic diet is “bulletproof coffee”. I have this as a replacement for breakfast on a regular basis, particularly if I am heading off early to work or perhaps before exercise in the morning. It keeps me feeling full for hours and mentally alert, this effect will typically last up to 6 hours for me personally. The Tibetans have been drinking Yak butter tea for centuries which I believe is where the idea has been derived from.
Whilst I use this to keep myself in ketosis, it also comes with some surprising health benefits. Most people would think that there’s nothing good about caffeine, butter and oil but that is not necessarily true. I always use organic coffee beans, organic grass-fed butter (try Kerrygold) and organic coconut oil. This way I ensure I am getting good quality ingredients.
- Coffee – caffeine increases exercise performance by raising the metabolic rate and it helps mobilise fatty acids from the fat tissues. It is associated with a lower risk of dementia and neurodegenerative disorders. Liver cirrhosis and liver cancer are also reduced. Caffeine contains several vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
- Coconut Oil – contains MCT – medium chain triglycerides. These have therapeutic effects on several brain disorders. The fatty acids can kill harmful pathogens, helping fight infection. Helps blood concentration of ketone bodies, proven to reduce seizures in epileptic children and the effects of dementia. It improves cholesterol thus reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Grass-fed Butter – butter keeps you feeling full, giving a sustained source of energy. It has a zero insulin response, there will be no detrimental effect on blood sugar levels.
- 20 g unsalted butter, preferably grass-fed (Kerrygold)
- 20 g organic coconut oil
- sprinkle of cinnamon and/or ginger (optional)
- ground coffee beans
- Grind your coffee beans and brew your coffee
- Place the butter and coconut oil into a jug, add cinnamon and/or ginger if desired, and pour in the desired amount of coffee
- Using a stick blender, combine all the ingredients for a few seconds until frothy
- You could add some double cream to make it taste extra creamy
- Pour into your favourite mug and enjoy!!
You may wish to alter the amount of butter and coconut oil that you add to your coffee to suit your taste. It’s always best to start with a small amount and then add more if you wish!