Coconut Pancakes with Blueberries and Creme Fraiche (gluten free)

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It’s Shrove Tuesday, a great excuse for yummy pancakes and they are pretty healthy. Those winter Olympic athletes could be having them for breakfast with bananas to get a low fat, high carb plus protein start to the day.  Here’s our delicious recipe to try with coconut flour which is gluten free, perfect for those of us who are gluten intolerant or sensitive or who just like the coconut flavour for something different.

Ingredients

½ cup (20g) coconut flour

¾ cup (95g) gluten-free plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon caster sugar

1 egg

1 cup (240ml) milk

Small handful of blueberries

Dollop of crème fraiche

Directions

Sieve dry ingredients into mixing bowl. Whisk 1 egg with milk and add to flours. Mix well. Spoon dollops of batter into buttered hot frying pan. Spread a little, turn after a few  minutes. Serve warm with blueberries and crème fraiche.

Enjoy for breakfast or a delicious dessert or snack.

 

Moodilicious Christmas Cake ….simple to make, delicious to eat!

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400g sultanas
4 tablespoons brandy (or orange juice)IMG_20171211_153737873
200g self raising flour
1/2 a nutmeg finely grated
150g soft dark sugar
150g butter
200g walnuts, chopped apart from a few for decoration
200g glacier cherries
3 large eggs, beaten

Put the sultanas to soak in the brandy for a few hours.
Heat oven to 180 C
Line the base of a 20cm round, lose bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper and butter.
Put the flour, nutmeg and sugar in a large mixing bowl, chop butter in to lumps and mix together using finger tips to produce a bread crumb consistency.
Add the soaked sultanas with any remaining liquid, walnuts (apart from a few for the top) cherries and beaten egg.
Carefully mix and combine.
Put the mixture in the cake tin, smooth to give a slight hollow in the middle. Arrange whole walnuts on the top. Wet finger tips with a little water and lightly dampen the cake surface to avoid it becoming too dry.
Place in the middle of the oven for half and hour.
Lower the temperature to 150 C, cook for a further hour.
Check after thirty minutes and if the top looks too brown, cover with a piece of greaseproof paper.
Use a fine skewer inserted deep into the cake to see if the mixture is cooked through. The skewer should be clean if the cake is cooked, allow a further 15 minutes and check again.
Leave in the tin to cool.
Remove when cold. Double-wrap in greaseproof paper and store in a cool, dry place.

 

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Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Scones

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These delicious scones are remarkably light and fluffy.

Like all scones, they are best eaten the day they are made, but freeze well and liven up with a little warming when thawed.

 

Makes 8 large scones or more little ones

250g pumpkin

40g butter

75g/ 1/3 cup castor sugar

300g/2 cups self-raising flour

1/3 nutmeg finely grated or ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 egg, gently whisked

Milk for brushing

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds for sprinkling.

 

Heat oven to 180 C, line baking tray with greaseproof or baking paper.

Boil the pumpkin for 15 minutes, drain well and place on a double layer of absorbent kitchen paper to cool and remove excess fluid.

Beat butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.

Add egg, beat well.

In a small bowl, mash pumpkin with a fork.

Combine pumpkin with mixture, fold in flour.

Turn dough onto floured surface and gently mould with rolling pin to give a layer 2cm thick.fullsizeoutput_23fc

Cut disks using pastry cutter or small wine glass, arrange on lined baking tray.

Re-mould and cut left over pieces.

Brush surface with a little milk and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

Bake in centre of oven for 15 minutes

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Cool on rack. Serve buttered with jam.

 

 

The Tastiest Pumpkins

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Tastiness isn’t always our first concern with pumpkins.

Ornamental appearance such as quirky shapes, nobbliness or shear size are often the feature most apparent in a pumpkin.

As we approach Halloween, ease of carving scary faces is vital. Howden pumpkins are the best for carving and were developed by John Howden in his backyard garden in Massachusetts in the 1960s. They have become the classic jack-o’-lantern pumpkin. These are the pumpkins that you most often see offered for sale in stores. The fruit is deep orange and ribbed and can weigh up to 30 pounds.

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Bland flavour, fibrous flesh and tough outer skins are off-putting and the requirement for sweetness has dominated mass pumpkin production. However cooks and vegetable growers have long enjoyed the huge range of flavoursome pumpkin varieties.

 

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There are so many varieties as seen by the images above including the brilliant orange Uchiki kuri, the green Buttercup and the sweet and nutty Butternut pumpkin. All delicious and versatile in soups, scones or roasted.

 

Nutrition Knowledge:

Being 92% water, pumpkins will never get labelled as super foods, but they do have a few useful qualities. That bright orange flesh is a clue to the carotenoids present, a 100g portion of pumpkin provides almost twice our daily requirement for vitamin A. They have a little vitamin C and folate, but not much protein, so we need to add other ingredients with extra nourishment to our pumpkin recipes.

 

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However – the seeds are a different story. A rounded tablespoon of whole roasted pumpkin seeds has about 5g protein, 5g dietary fibre and a little iron. A generous sprinkling of the seeds over our pumpkin salad or scones will make a big impact on the nutritional quality.

Sunflower Seeds – sunny bright flowers morphed into nutritious treats!

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I’m in Northern Spain and September is harvest time for sunflowers. These nutritious treats are ubiquitous, munched at half time at the soccer, on loaves, in muesli. Tree nuts can be costly but tiny sunflower seeds are equally nutritious and very cheap.

IMG_20170911_124516560 copyFrom Sunflower to Food – what happens?

The salted sunflower snack that we crack open to eat the seed is usually prepared by soaking or boiling the seeds in salted water then roasting them. Although the seeds are high in calories, these are slow to eat and so long as the salt level isn’t high, we get a nutritious snack.

Whole seeds are mashed and processed to extract the oil – more on sunflower oil later.

 

 

Lots of calories but what about nutrients?IMG_0976

A 30g serve of sunflower seeds contains around:

177kcal

6g protein

16g fat – 6g mono-unsaturates, mostly oleic 7g poly-unsaturates, mostly linoleic

3g fibre

Around half our daily requirement for vitamin E – 10.6mg

A little calcium and iron, B vitamins and Vitamin A

Plus squalene and sterols both of which are associated with a reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease.

The raw seed is low in sodium

 

How About Cooking with sunflower oil?

On the face of it, sunflower oil looks good, excellent mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids, and a high smoking point (225). Oils like olive oil and butter have much lower smoking points which made them seem unsuitable for frying – but now we know better. Sunflower oil is great raw, but as with corn oil, at high temperatures they produce aldehydes which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Canola oil is a better choice for frying.

For more on this: www.hippocraticpost.com/nutrition/toxic-truth-vegetable-oil/

 

Chocolate Cheer!

 

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Chocolate coated Spanish cookie treats from San Sebastian

What makes us so attracted to chocolate?

The sweet taste.
The coating of our taste buds as it dissolves in our mouth.
The rich and delicious flavour that can also be a complex bitter/sweet mixture.
And for those with a chocolate habit, the feeling can seem addictive.

Only in moderation?

The health enhancing Mediterranean diet includes a few squares of dark chocolate daily!
However, caution is advised. Milk chocolate contains around 30% fat and 52% sugar so this is definitely a treat food. But, it does have some nutritionally redeeming features. A 50g serve of milk choc provides around 10% of our daily iron and calcium needs, some choline and useful amounts of riboflavin and B12.

It also contains variable amounts of the flavanol theobromine, the concentration increasing with the quantity of cocoa solids.  This unusual substance acts on the nervous system to reduce the inactivation of some processes controlled by neurotransmitters and hormones. The effects can be to stimulate the heart, cause vaso dilation, reduce blood pressure plus have diuretic properties. These effects can be beneficial but not for people with heart burn where the relaxation of sphincters can cause reflux. The oxalate in chocolate may also increase the risk of kidney stones in those whose intake is high. The theobromine in 50g can be enough to poison a small dog.  

The best pleasure comes from the best quality and the range is enormous, but moderation is still the recommendation. Also, be aware that cocoa farming has been linked to the use of child labour, the situation is complex but finding a product we trust is a good start. Some ethical chocolate brands are found here.

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Walnuts – the crunch!

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Walnuts – the edible options are endless.

Eaten Spanish style with cheese and honey is divine, in homemade cake or banana loaf is scrumptious, tossed in a salad or over breakfast cereal is a treat. The flavour is fabulous and the soft crunch under the teeth gives a brilliant texture.

Healthy Walnut Research

The University of Barcelona has been working on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for years. The inclusion of a 30g daily serve of tree nuts, – mostly walnuts, with almonds and hazelnuts too, produced a massive 30% reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke.

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What’s good in Walnuts?

Lots of poly and mono unsaturated fats – and to stop these fats going rancid, there are lots of antioxidants – all wrapped up in a crunchy fibrous structure.

Fats come with calories, it’s not surprising that 100g walnuts have 654 kcal – our Spanish friends recommend a modest 30g per day. Walnuts are 15% protein, 7% dietary fibre – a smattering of iron, calcium and selenium with bits of the antioxidant vitamins E and A, and some B vitamins folate and niacin. The high protein value means that a small serve of walnuts provides a big feeling of satiety.   This comes with very little sodium and low carbohydrate.

The fancy chemicals are the flavanols, the anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins. These guys are the antioxidants associated with protecting us from heart disease and stroke.

Walnuts also contain a little choline which is showing promise in research on the prevention of cognitive decline in old age.

Storage – keep cool. All nuts are high in fats, to avoid them getting bitter and rancid we need to eat them promptly or keep them cool – and check the ‘eat-by’ dates when we buy them.

There’s lots more interesting info on walnuts, here’s a taster !