Nutty chocolate squares

Warning: This recipe is definitely not healthy BUT it is delicious!

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Ok, so these might not be one of the so-called clean bakes I like to create but they are so yummy and perfect if you fancy a treat or if you’ve got friends/family coming over – and who doesn’t like chocolatey treats!?

I made these for my mum who had to take some sweet treats into work for a cake sale.  I also made a batch for the whole family to devour and we all loved them. The recipe is actually one from my Grandma so I can’t take credit for this creation but I guarantee you won’t be left disappointed if you do give them a try!

You will need:
– 2 medium sized eggs
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 2 tsp vanilla essence
– 1 1/2 cups pecan nuts, chopped
– 1/2 cup plain flour
– 1/4 cup caster sugar
– 1/2 cup golden syrup
– 3oz plain chocolate, finely chopped
– 3 tbsp butter
– pecan nuts to decorate

Mixing together the sugar and golden syrup

Mixing together the sugar and golden syrup

To make:
– Start by whisking the eggs, vanilla and salt together.
– In a separate bowl mix the chopped nuts and flour.
– In a pan bring the sugar and golden syrup to the boil gradually then remove from the heat. Keep stirring so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
– Once removed from the heat stir in the chocolate and the butter which should all melt in. Gradually mix in the egg, vanilla and salt mixture before folding in the pecan and flour mix.
– Pour the mixture into a greased baking tin and bake for about 35 minutes on 180 degrees.
– Once ready (you can check the squares are ready by inserting a knife into the middle of the bake & if it comes out clean, they’re ready!) decorate each square with a nut on top and drizzle with chocolate before cutting up in to squares!

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Why it’s good to be nuts about nuts

Nuts are such an underrated snack.

Different types of nuts offer different nutritional benefits but they’re all packed full of goodness including plenty of fibre, good fats and protein. Yes, they are high in fat and 100g cashews typically contains 553 calories but before you vow never to eat a handful again let me tell you why nuts ARE in fact good for you and although high in fat, it’s good fats and fat like this is our friend to use a tired but true cliché.

30g is the ideal snack size for nuts so try and stick to that. I’m talking about unsalted, non-honey coated nuts here too!

They’re so easy to snack on as well. You don’t need to keep them in a special Tupperware and they have a long shelf life which is perfect if you want to buy in bulk.

I’ve put together a bit of info to highlight the nutritional benefits different nuts offer.

Let’s start with…

 Almonds:almonds
These nuts are packed full of fibre which is good for your digestive system. They’re also rich in vitamin E which is a great antioxidant and is good for the skin. If you’re avoiding dairy then stock up on almonds as they’re calcium and phosphorous rich. Finally, these nuts are especially good for your heart if they have their skin on as it is full of heart-protecting nutrients.
Try them in porridge or add ground almonds to home-made energy bars.
30g contains roughly 173 calories.

casjhews  Cashews:
Cashews are a definite brain booster as they contain lots of magnesium which is supposed to help with age –related memory loss. Some studies have even gone as far to say that eating cashews can help to warn off Alzheimer’s. Not only that but these nuts are also rich in iron and zinc which is good if you’re a vegetarian and lacking minerals usually found in red meat.
Try them in this really easy to make Pad Thai dish.
30g contains roughly 166 calories.

brazil nuts  Brazil nuts:
If your immune system needs a boost then grab a couple of Brazil nuts. They’re a good source of selenium which boosts immunity and also helps those who have a low thyroid function. It has also been suggested that selenium might help to prevent certain cancers including prostate and breast cancer. An ideal serving would be 3-4 Brazil nuts, it’s important not to over-do it with these.
Perfect simply as an afternoon snack or on your cereal.
30g roughly contains 197 calories.

hazelnuts  Hazelnuts:
We all love a hazelnut shot in our coffee but like other nuts these boast a high amount of good fat. Hazelnuts in particular are full of mono-unsaturated fats which can  improve heart health. The nutrients in hazelnuts help to balance out homocysteine levels – amino acid homocysteine has been linked to heart problems according to medical research.
Try them in home-made crunchy granola.
30g roughly contains 184 calories

walnuts  Walnuts:
They can often look like a brain and the image fits as these nuts are rich in omega -3 and mono-unsaturated fats which are both food for the heart. They are also a good source of calcium, iron, selenium and magnesium. Calcium and iron will help with strong bones whilst selenium is a fantastic anti-oxidant. Walnuts have also been proven to help lower cholesterol.
Try them in a salad with raisins or grapes and feta cheese.
30g roughly contains 196 calories

 

Banana, pecan & choc chip loaf

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We all need a little treat from time to time and that’s a fact.

Despite being an advocate of clean eating I am aware that this can sometimes become an obsession rather than a lifestyle choice. When we find ourselves saying no to birthday cake in the office or a festive mince pie at a family bash it’s time that we took a step back and re-evaluated our eating attitudes.

My opinion is that balance is key and by not denying yourself treats you can still maintain a healthy body and a great figure whilst maintaining a healthy mind at the same time.

This is where my banana loaf recipe comes in. I am a massive fan of banana loaf and although you can make Paleo banana cake it was a real banana cake that I wanted. Another reason why I wanted to bake a “real” cake was because baking is not my strong point and I don’t like to be defeated. I was thrilled with how this one turned out and I will definitely be making another in the future.

You will need:  (makes one big loaf)
100g soft butter (and a little for greasing)
140g caster sugar
140g plain flour
1 egg – beaten
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Vanilla essence
4 ripe bananas
85g pecans
35g dark choc chips

To make:
– Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees and grease a loaf tin with a small amount of butter ready for the mixture.
– Begin by mixing together the sugar, butter and egg before slowly stirring in the flour and baking powder.
– Next, mash the bananas in a separate bowl before adding it to the main mixture along with the vanilla essence, pecans and chocolate chips before stirring well.
– Pour the mixture into the tin (it was at this point that more mixture went into my mouth rather than the actual tin, whoops!) and bake for about an hour. Test that the cake is ready by putting a knife or a skewer in and if it comes out clean then the cake is done.
– Leave to cool on a wire rack before slicing and then keep fresh in foil.

This is such a simple cake to make and other nuts or dried fruit can be added depending on what you fancy. Enjoy with a cup of tea as a post workout treat or just as a treat in general! 🙂

Food cravings: what they really mean

Whether it’s that chocolate bar during the post lunch slump or the urge for a cool glass of Pinot on a Friday night, we all get cravings.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give in to our cravings but it’s all about balance and it wouldn’t be healthy to give in to them every single day.

I decided to write this post after I began craving some odd things. When I started CrossFit for example, all I wanted to eat for breakfast lunch and dinner was pineapple. After a quick internet search I learnt that my body was craving pineapple because my muscles were inflamed. They weren’t used to being worked in the way that CrossFit was working them and that craving was the result.

Ever since then I have been fascinated to learn about what particular food cravings mean. Often when we crave chocolate or something salty our body doesn’t actually need these things, it needs something else.

Research conducted by vouchercodespro.co.uk found that there are more nutritious ways to satisfy these cravings. For example, you might be interested to learn that when you think you’re craving a bar of chocolate your body actually needs magnesium which can be satisfied with a small handful of nuts. Similarly, when you fancy a glass of wine that craving can be satisfied with a serving of protein.

Check out their helpful infographic below:

Research from vouchercodespro.co.uk

Research from vouchercodespro.co.uk

Now that’s not to say that every time you crave something you should reach for an alternative but if you’re craving the same thing every day it might be a good idea to see if you are lacking in certain nutrients. A sign of low iron for example is when you are craving a good steak or any kind of red meat.

Aside from that, here are five of my tips to tackle unhealthy food cravings:

  1. Distract yourself – When we have food cravings it can often be because we are bored. If you find yourself craving something, start doing something else. Keep yourself busy and I guarantee that with your mind on other things it will soon pass.
  2. Have a drink – Often when we think we are hungry it’s actually because we are thirsty. When a craving hits, head to the kitchen for a glass of water or juice instead.
  3. Pay attention to what you’ve recently eaten – I always find that if I eat something sweet I then start craving other sweet foods for the rest of the day. Make a note of when cravings hit and you’ll soon start to see a pattern.
  4. Have healthy alternatives on hand – Keep nuts, fruit or carrot/celery sticks at work so that when you start feeling like you want to give in to a craving you’ve got healthy alternatives on hand.
  5. That said, giving in to a craving is fine – Why not try just having a quarter of what you would usually have though. If it is chocolate you really want, have a couple of squares of dark chocolate rather than a whole bar.

Peanut butter, fruit & nut balls

I confess – I’m not the most organised person in the world, but when it comes to meals I plan them down to the last mouthful. Sunday evening consists of planning the following weeks meals, factoring in training sessions and of course starting that all important meal prep.

Main meals are usually the easiest to plan and with Sunday night meal prep, lunches are easy as well. I find that snacks are my downfall though. Once the afternoon slump hits I’m ready for a boost and I’ve been looking for a way to switch up my snack options.

This is when I decided to get creative. For those who don’t know me, I love peanut butter – on apples, in cookies and more often than not I am guilty of eating it straight out of the tub.
Instead of grabbing a couple of spoonfuls pre-gym, I thought why not incorporate my love of it in with my afternoon snack to give myself a healthy protein hit to keep me going all afternoon.
With that in mind, I created these peanut butter fruit and nut balls.

You will need:
– 1 cup sugar free coconut shavings
– 1 cup flaked almonds
– 2/3 cup sultanas
– ½ cup chopped dried apricots (or any other dried fruit you fancy, I just happened to have apricots)
-Sprinkling of cinnamon
-couple of heaped tablespoons of smooth peanut butter (organic preferably, I love Meridian smooth!) – You can also use chunky if you want a different texture although I found that smooth enables it to set better.

What to do:

-Combine the coconut, almonds, sultanas and apricots into a bowl and blend with a hand blender – this isn’t the easiest of tasks but it doesn’t take long and it helps the mixture to combine.
– Add the cinnamon and then start to add in the peanut butter a spoonful at a time. Add enough so that the mixture is sticking together but not too much that there is more peanut butter than mixture!
– Tip the mixture on to some Clingfilm and flatten out before putting in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
– Once set,  mould the mixture in to balls, sprinkle with an extra bit of coconut if desired and keep in the fridge.

And there you have it – a healthy, high protein and tasty snack for the rest of the week! Now there’s no excuse for me to eat peanut butter straight from the tub – well, at least for the next week anyway.

Peanut butter, fruit and nut balls - my latest creation!

Peanut butter, fruit and nut balls – my latest creation!