Ginger Oat Biscuits

It’s biscuit week on The Great British Bake Off! There are absolutely endless possibilities when it comes to biscuits… so many flavours, textures, sizes. How could we possibly choose? As with most things in life, you just have to go with your gut – and after watching the bakers battle it out with their gingerbread creations, my gut wanted ginger. Quite appropriate, given that ginger is well known for its ability to settle stomach upsets and alleviate nausea. Studies have also shown that it has anti-inflammatory properties similar to those of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, so next time you have a headache or a cold, try reaching for the ginger instead of the medicine cabinet! Fresh grated ginger works a treat in hot water with some freshly squeezed lemon juice.

This recipe is our take on the traditional ginger biscuit, made with oats instead of flour as a crunchy, gluten-free alternative. The flavour is very much like gingerbread… bold, spicy and sweet. The key ingredient is blackstrap molasses, a thick syrup produced when the sugar cane plant is processed to make refined sugar. The refined sugar element is toxic for the body but its by-product molasses contains all the minerals and nutrients absorbed by the plant – it is extremely rich in iron and can be used in the treatment of iron-deficiency anaemia. In this recipe the molasses helps to bring out the flavour of the spices.

Ginger Oat Biscuits (VE, GF and Refined Sugar Free)

Makes: 15 biscuits
Takes: 30 minutes

Ginger oat cookies (2)

Ingredients

  • 150g gluten free oats
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds/linseeds
  • 50ml melted coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tbsp almond butter (you could also use peanut butter)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 large tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Method

  1. Start by making a flax egg – mix your tablespoon of ground flaxseeds with 3 tbsp warm water and set aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk together the coconut oil, brown rice syrup, molasses and almond butter, then mix in the bicarb and spices. Mix in the flax egg.
  3. Fold in the oats making sure they are all covered then pop in the fridge for 15 minutes or so.to firm up a little.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Use approximately 1 tbsp mixture per biscuit, roll into balls, flatten slightly and pop on baking paper on a baking tray. Make sure you leave space between each one – they double in size and flatten out when cooking so don’t be tempted to make them bigger (unless this is the effect you are after!)
  5. Bake for around 15 minutes, although keep an eye on the oven. Take them out when they still seem a bit underdone, they will finish cooking when you take them out.

Raw Jaffa Cupcakes

So the Great British Bake Off is back… and so are we, with our health conscious, vegan and gluten free baking alternatives! The first week has already sparked lots of ideas for us and I am sure we will have fun experimenting with new recipes over the next 10 weeks. This week though, we have decided to put our spin on the Jaffa Cake challenge. Mcvities Jaffa Cakes have been marketed as a low calorie treat and this has often been misinterpreted as a healthy choice. In reality though, they are nutritionally devoid and anything but a treat for the body – they are full of refined sugar, processed dairy, oils and E numbers, all which create inflammation in the body and can wreak havoc with your system in the long run.

In their purest form, cacao and orange are wonderfully nutritious ingredients and go hand in hand in flavour. We’ve taken these two elements of the Jaffa Cake to create these tasty raw cupcakes. The combination of ingredients works really well for maximum absorption of iron, magnesium and vitamin C, and these little treats won’t spike your blood sugar levels either! The natural sugars and fibre from the dates are perfectly balanced with the healthy fat and protein from the nuts, slowing down the release of energy and keeping you feeling energised and satisfied. To increase the nutritional value of the nuts try soaking them overnight, which allows your body to absorb the nutrients more easily.

You could also make this recipe as one big tart… although be careful, it’s so moreish!

Raw Jaffa Cupcakes (VE, GF, Refined Sugar-Free)

Makes: 10-12
Prep time: 30 minutes

Jaffa 4

Ingredients

Cases:

  • 175g dates
  • 150g almonds
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • Zest ½ orange

Filling:

  • 100g cashews (soaked overnight)
  • 80ml freshly squeezed orange juice (around 1 orange)
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 2 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • A pinch Himalayan salt
  • Zest ½ orange, to decorate

Method

  1. To make the cases, pulse the almonds in a food processor until they break down into small pieces; add the dates, cacao and orange zest and blend until the mixture clumps together.
  2. Take a generous tbsp of the mixture (ours were 35g each), roll into a ball and place into a cupcake baking tray. Use your thumb to push the centre inwards and shape into a deep shell. Repeat until you have used all the mixture and pop in the fridge whilst you make the filling.
  3. To make the filling, blend all of the ingredients (except the orange zest) in a food processor until smooth and creamy. You may need to scrape the sides down a few times.
  4. To complete the cupcakes remove the cases from the fridge, placing a generous spoonful of the filling in each, and top with the orange zest! They will keep in the fridge for a few days.

The Mindful Breakfast Club

Last month we launched The Mindful Breakfast Club – Manchester’s first health conscious breakfast club. Both passionate about health and wellness, Jane and I have observed for some time the lack of places to enjoy a good breakfast out in the city… vegan options are certainly on the rise but to find food that is not only vegan, but gluten and refined sugar free as well? It’s slim pickings. So, we decided to help fill this gap, and on a sunny Friday morning in July my flat was transformed into a pop-up breakfast shop and meditation space – filled with love and positive energy.

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We welcomed our guests into the space with a selection of herbal teas and raw treats before getting comfortable for a short meditation with Rebecca Wilson from Transformational Retreats. Rebecca led us through a beautiful gratitude meditation and healing mantra, allowing us space to thank our bodies and be grateful for the food we were about to fill them with… and then came the food. On this month’s menu was Avocado, Quinoa and Kale Fritters with a Cashew Hollandaise; Raw Date and Apple Bread with Almond Butter; Raw Cacao, Raspberry and Coconut Chia Pots; an alkalising green juice and a summer fruit salad of peaches and raspberries, with a sweet tahini drizzle.

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The concept behind The Mindful Breakfast Club is that mindful eating is not just about making healthier food choices, it is about community, gratitude and taking time for you – to enrich our minds and souls, as well as our bodies. We believe that how we feel is intrinsically linked not only to what we eat but how we eat, the environment we are in and how we take care of ourselves. Our breakfast clubs offer a fantastic opportunity to connect more deeply with ourselves and strengthen our bonds with others, whilst enjoying seasonal foods that nourish us from the inside out.

The next Mindful Breakfast Club is on Friday 19 August, if you are interested in joining us please drop us an email at ourmindfulkitchen@gmail.com or contact us via our Facebook page – we hope to share a breakfast with you soon!

Love Bex & Jane x


All of the food we serve at The Mindful Breakfast Club is vegan, gluten and refined sugar free. Here’s why…

Why no animal products?

Animal products are highly toxic to the human body – they contain high levels of saturated fat and hormones that increase the risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Dairy, in particular, should not be a staple in your diet. It contains some very allergenic proteins, such as casein that creates inflammation in body, leading to symptoms such as acne, eczema, allergies, bloating and gas. A vegan diet is not only kinder to your body, it is kinder to the earth and all its living things, and forms part of a much more compassionate, sustainable and fulfilling way of living.

Why no gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains (wheat, rye, barley). It is the stuff that makes dough sticky. As many as 30% of us suffer from some form of gluten intolerance where gluten causes inflammation throughout the body – with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract, and more. Even if we have no obvious symptoms, it can be the hidden cause behind many diseases.

Why no refined sugar?

We are designed only to tolerate very small amounts of sugar at any 1 time – 1-2 tsp max. Any more than this can cause our blood sugar levels to rise, which can deeply affect our metabolism (leading to diabetes), impair brain function and make us much more susceptible to obesity, heart disease and cancer. Sugar is also highly addictive – in fact, it lights up your brain on an MRI in the same way as cocaine, and studies on rats have shown that it is eight times more addictive! Find out more about the types of sugars we should be avoiding and which ones are acceptable.

Sugar – is it all bad?

Sugar has had a lot of bad press in recent years, and for good reason. As human beings we are designed only to tolerate very small amounts of sugar at any 1 time – 1-2 tsp max. Any more than this can cause our blood sugar levels to rise, which can deeply affect our metabolism (leading to diabetes), impair brain function and make us much more susceptible to obesity, heart disease and cancer. Sugar is also highly addictive – in fact, it lights up your brain on an MRI in the same way as cocaine, and studies on rats have shown that it is eight times more addictive! We all know what sugar is bad for our health, but another concern is that all sugar is being treated equally. So which sugars should we be avoiding, and which ones are acceptable?

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The worst kind of sugar

Any processed or refined sugar is toxic to the body, and unfortunately, it is present in nearly all man-made foods – not just in cakes, sweets and desserts, but also in seemingly ‘healthier’ options such as cereals, salad dressings, pasta sauce, bread, ready meals and tinned foods like baked beans and soups. This is the sugar that can cause disease and should be avoided as much as possible.

You may be surprised to know though that the worst kind of sugar is actually fructose, the sugar molecule found in fruit. Fructose is the only type of sugar that we don’t have a ‘full’ switch for, which means we can just keep going and going! In addition, the majority of the fructose we consume is converted directly into fat. This puts extra burden on our liver and can lead to a whole host of diseases including fatty liver and nerve problems. Watch out for added fructose when making your food choices.

THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT FRUIT IS BAD FOR YOU. When we eat fruit whole, as nature intended, it has the necessary fibre, vitamins and minerals accompanying the sugar to help our bodies understand when we are full, and to slow down the release of sugar into our bloodstreams.

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Picture taken at Unicorn Grocery, Manchester

Healthy sugars – truths and myths

  • Agave Syrup: whilst extracted from a plant, agave syrup is heat and chemically treated which destroys the health benefits of the plant. It is heavily processed and contains around 80% fructose! Contrary to popular belief, agave should be avoided.
  • Maple Syrup: retains many nutrients and antioxidants when 100% natural, and has a fructose percentage of 40%, but it can be quite expensive. Watch out for cheap imitations as they may have added fructose.
  • Date Syrup: not a bad choice, with a 30% fructose content, but not as sweet as others so you may be inclined to add more.
  • Brown Rice Syrup: made from fermented cooked rice and 100% fructose free! It’s a great, cheap alternative to maple syrup, and can be found in health food shops.
  • Coconut Sugar: derived from the coconut palm tree. More nutritious and lower GI than regular refined sugar, but still shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities.
  • Raw Honey: a good source of antioxidants, and has antibacterial and antiviral properties.

My top five sugar tips

  1. Limit fruit to 2-3 pieces a day (but obviously an extra piece of fruit is a healthier choice than other sugary treats). Fruits with a lower GI make the best choices, such as berries, grapefruit and stoned fruits.
  2. Add healthy fats and protein when eating fruit such as nuts and seeds as this can help to reduce sugar highs and lows.
  3. Be wary of ‘low fat’ labels – which often means the food has added sugar to make up for the flavour.
  4. Restrict fruit juices, which contain the same amount of sugar as a can of pop!
  5. Avoid artificial sweeteners, which can be just as harmful for your health.

 

Spring Cauliflower Couscous Salad

Couscous2

It’s been a rare couple of weeks where the sun has been shining almost every day in Manchester and with the warmer weather creeping in I’ve found myself craving the cooling, bitter flavours of spring veggies. This is a vibrant salad that takes advantage of the gorgeous purple sprouting broccoli, spring onions and radishes on offer during the spring season. It’s an ultra-fresh take on tabbouleh – using cauliflower instead of traditional couscous makes it completely free from wheat and gluten so you’ll feel much lighter and energised after eating a bowl full. For variations, you can try adding other spring veggies such as asparagus or watercress. It would also go well with a portion of my homemade cashew cheese.

Couscous3

This salad is almost completely raw making it full of live enzymes that help convert the food we eat into energy. When we cook food we destroy or alter many of the vitamins and minerals that regulate our metabolism and enable our bodies to function. Including lots of raw food in your diet will increase your energy and mental focus and enable your body to thrive.

Spring Cauliflower Couscous Salad

Makes: 4 main portions
Takes: 25 minutes

Couscous1

Ingredients

  • 1 cauliflower head*
  • 200g purple sprouting broccoli, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 bunch radishes, finely sliced
  • 2-3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • A large handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • A handful of cashew nuts
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • Sprouted seeds to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Pulse the cauliflower florets in a blender until they form a fine couscous – be careful not to over-blend so it doesn’t turn into mush.
  2. Blanche the broccoli in a saucepan with a little bit of water for a couple of minutes. You want to keep it al dente so it keeps a bit of its crunch.
  3. Mix together the cauliflower couscous, broccoli, red pepper, radishes, spring onions, coriander and cashew nuts in a large bowl.
  4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, tamari and tahini, then stir through the salad.
  5. Top with sprouted seeds, if using!

* Tip: don’t throw away the cauliflower leaves! They are amazing roasted in a bit of olive oil with sea salt – roast for 15 minutes or so until the stems are tender and the leaves are crisp.

Cinnamon Pecan Blondies

This is my second chickpea recipe this week and this one is a little bit naughty… but not THAT naughty. Firstly, these blondies don’t contain any gluten, dairy, eggs or oil, making them easy to digest as well as hormone and cholesterol free. Secondly, they contain a healthy dose of fibre, protein and nutrients that you often don’t find in sweet baked treats. The recipe calls for chickpeas, which are naturally high in plant-based protein (making it filling) and fibre (aiding digestion), organic coconut sugar – unprocessed sugar containing impressive amounts of nutrients like zinc and iron – and nut butter to bind (I used cashew butter, high in unsaturated fat that can help lower cholesterol levels). Ironically, all of these ingredients are actually beneficial for controlling blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of developing diabetes!

You might think that all sounds rather dull, but these blondies are totally addictive. They may not contain any nasties but they’re deliciously moist, sweet and light, packed with pecan pieces and flavoured with cinnamon, a powerful anti-inflammatory spice – totally comforting and unpretentious all round.

Blondies

Take a batch out with you on a walk, enjoy as an afternoon treat, or even as an indulgent breakfast.

Cinnamon Pecan Blondies (VE, GF)

Makes: 12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 30g oats (gluten-free if possible)
  • 60g organic coconut sugar
  • 6 heaped tbsp nut butter (cashew/almond/peanut)
  • 60ml maple syrup
  • 1sp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50g pecans, roughly chopped

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degress C and blend all of the ingredients except the pecans in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Fold the pecans into the batter then pour the mixture into a lightly oiled square baking dish (around 20 x 20cm).
  3. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until the top is firm. Allow to cool before slicing.

 

Chickpea Omelette

Breakfast is by far my favourite meal of the day. I love a smoothie in the morning but sometimes nothing beats a cooked breakfast. When I decided to commit to a plant-based diet I never thought that I’d find an alternative to omelette – how wrong I was! This omelette made from chickpea flour is just as easy to make, is much cheaper and lower in fat than the traditional egg version (but still contains a healthy dose of omega-3), and of course being completely plant-based means it’s also cholesterol free!

Omelette 1

Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, chickpeas are a legume that contain lots of protein and fibre and have a great nutty flavour, and are now a popular staple in most cultures across the world. Chickpea flour (also known as gram flour) is naturally gluten free making it a more digestible alternative to processed wheat flours in baking. You can use it to make pancakes, muffins, biscuits or tasty savoury snacks like bhajis and pakoras. It also costs under £1 for a bag – that’s what I call cheap nutrients!

The high protein content of chickpea flour makes this omelette extremely filling and satisfying for those mornings (or lunchtimes!) where you need an extra energy boost. Make sure you use a non-stick pan or it will be difficult to flip. Try it with my mushroom and spinach filling below, or get creative with your own veggie fillings.

Chickpea Omelette with Spinach and Mushroom Filling (VE, GF, grain-free)

Serves: 1
Takes: 15 minutes

Omelette 2

Ingredients

For the omelette:

  • 50g chickpea flour (gram flour)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast*
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds**
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 125ml water
  • 2 tsp coconut oil, for frying

For the filling:

  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 100g mushrooms, sliced
  • 100g spinach
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • A handful of sunflower seeds (optional)

Method

  1. To make the omelette – mix all of the dry ingredients together and whisk in the water until thoroughly combined. Set aside for a few minutes to thicken whilst you prep the filling ingredients.
  2. Heat the coconut oil in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, then pour in the omelette batter, turning the pan to make sure it covers the whole pan. Cover with a lid and let the batter cook and steam for around 5 minutes until bubbles appear in the surface and it starts to solidify. Then flip and let it cook for another 5 minutes on the other side.
  3. Whilst the omelette is cooking, in a separate pan, fry the onion and garlic in a little water until they begin to soften. Then add the mushrooms, spinach, thyme, nutmeg and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until wilted.
  4. To assemble, remove the omelette from the pan and top one half with the spinach and mushroom filling, followed by the sunflower seeds (if using), then fold over to serve.

* Nutritional yeast is a vegan’s best friend! It’s deactivated yeast sold in flakes that makes everything taste sort of cheesy. It’s packed with vitamin B12 (which can be difficult to get from plant-based cources), folic acid, selenium, zinc and some protein. You can find it in most health food stores.

** Flaxseeds (also known as linseeds) are a rich source of omega fatty acids, especially omega 3 which helps keeps your heart healthy. You can find them in most health food shops, such as Holland and Barrett. You will need the ground version in this recipe.