When life gets busy it’s easy to let healthy eating habits slip and instead reach for sugary snacks as a quick pick-me-up. Having a smoothie for breakfast helps ensure that you get at least two or three of your five a day and, if you add some superfoods, it will also keep your energy levels high, boost your immune system and stave off sugar cravings. The lovely people at Indigo Herbs sent me a big box crammed full of some of their best-selling healthy goodies such as wheatgrass, spirulina, bee pollen and Acai powder. Time to dust off the smoothie maker and get creative!
First up was this smoothie made from mango, bananas, orange juice and a teaspoon or two of organic Acai powder, organic wheatgrass powder, organic Maca powder, and organic raw banana powder. To find out more about the health benefits of these superfoods, check out the Indigo Herbs website.
Next, I tried a blueberry and banana smoothie with some added spirulina powder, banana powder and bee pollen granules. I was especially intrigued to try the latter as I had just read an interview with Victoria Beckham in Vogue where she was enthusing about bee pollen’s wrinkle busting properties and other health benefits. It has quite a coarse texture and I found that even after a thorough whizzing in the blender, there were quite a few large bits floating around in the smoothie. It still had a great flavour, although I preferred the first combination of ingredients.
I also tried sprinkling some bee pollen granules on my morning muesli and that, to me, was a better way of eating it.
A small, family run company based in Glastonbury, Indigo Herbs prides itself on only supplying the best organic, wild crafted or quality assured products available. All the powders came in generously sized packaging, so there’s plenty left for me to try more recipes. Ordering via the website couldn’t be easier and, although they will not give specific nutritional or medical advice, the knowledgeable team are happy to talk customers through the various products on offer.
These biscuits are a real favourite of mine. In Swedish they’re called Hallongrottor which translates to ‘raspberry caves’ and they remind me a bit of jammy dodgers although they’re much nicer than the shop bought ones. They also freeze really well so I like to whip up a big batch and keep for impromptu coffee mornings.
200g butter at room temperature
100ml caster sugar
1tbsp vanilla essence
450ml plain flour
1tsp baking powder
150ml raspberry jam
1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees
2. Stir together the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth and light. Mix the flour with the baking powder in a separate bowl before working in to the dough.
3. Divide the dough into 20 pieces of equal size and roll into round balls. Place in muffin cases and, using your finger, make a small indentation in the middle.
4. Fill the indentations with raspberry jam and bake in the oven for 12-14 minutes.
“Soup!?” I hear you say, “in the middle of summer?!”
And you’re right, I probably wouldn’t choose to have this for lunch on a scorching hot day but eaten, as we did, at the end of a rainy summer’s day, it was simply delicious. Just add some crisp salad, crusty bread (gluten free in our case) and a glass of chilled white wine and you have the perfect light supper.
2 cod fillets, cut into cubes
3 salmon fillets, cut into cubes
1 garlic clove
A generous handful of cooked prawns
1 tin of tomato soup (around 500g)
300ml double cream
salt & pepper
Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry in butter in a saucepan. Add the water and cream and bring to the boil. Add the fish and allow to simmer over a medium heat for around 5-10 minutes (depending on the size of the fish pieces). Pour over the tomato soup, season with salt and pepper and simmer for a while longer. Add the prawns and allow to heat through.
1 egg yolk
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
A pinch of salt
2-3 garlic cloves
Approx 200ml neutral oil (eg rapeseed oil)
Mix together egg yolk, vinegar, mustard and salt in a bowl. Whisk with an electric whisk and add the oil gradually. Continue to whisk until all the oil is added and the mixture has the texture of a thick mayonnaise. Add a small amount of water (approx 1/2-1 tbsp) and whisk some more so it becomes whiter and looser. Add the garlic using a garlic crusher and refrigerate the aioli for a while before serving.
Spaghetti Carbonara is one of those classic dishes that everyone seems to have a slightly different recipe for, although the basics (eggs, pancetta, parmesan) remain the same. My husband makes ‘proper’ Carbonara without the cream, instead adding white wine and a sprinkling of nutmeg as per Nigella Lawson’s recipe. It’s very tasty but I’m pleased to say that the kids prefer my version! In fact, this is my eldest son’s favourite dish and he always requests it on special occasion or when he is having a friend over for tea.
Ingredients (serves 3-4):
3 Egg yolks
100ml Double cream
75ml Creme fraiche
75g Finely grated parmesan
150g Cubed smoked pancetta
1 tbsp Olive oil
1. Boil the pasta in a pan of water with a bit of olive oil according to the packet instructions.
2. In a bowl combine the egg yolks, double cream, creme fraiche, parmesan and a good grinding of black pepper.
3. Fry the pancetta in the olive oil until it starts to crisp and remove from the heat until the pasta has cooked.
4. When the spaghetti is ready, drain and return it to the saucepan. Tip over the pancetta and butter.
5. Keeping the pan on a very low heat, pour over the egg mixture and stir it through until it thickens and coats all the strands of spaghetti.
6. Serve immediately with extra parmesan and black pepper.
Lately I’ve been trying to add more vegetables to my diet. Now that summer is almost here, fresh produce is in abundance so it’s the ideal time to shift your healthy eating up a gear. I love salads but find that unless I add protein and/or grains, they don’t really fill me up and I’m hungry again an hour or two later. As always, Pinterest is an endless source of inspiration and I’ve been busy pinning a few recipes I would like to try over the next few weeks. Now, if only I could convince my two youngest kids that these dishes are so much nicer than pizza or plain pasta…
Chorizo, Tomato & Chickpea Salad
Sesame, Almond, Avocado & Spinach Salad
Butternut Squash and Barley Salad with Poached Egg
Quinoa Tabbouleh with Chickpeas
Roasted Sweet Potato and Red Onion Salad
Find all these recipes and more on my ‘Food’ board on Pinterest
There is not much that beats a tasty bowl of granola with yoghurt and fresh fruit to set the day off to a good start in my book. The best granola I have ever eaten was a vanilla one created by the aptly named Hotel Vanilla in Gothenburg where we stayed for two nights a couple of years ago. I brought a bag of their granola home with me, but it ran out many moons ago, so I was thrilled to find a recipe for a very similar sounding vanilla granola on a Swedish baking blog. I have made a couple of minor adjustments by adding cinnamon and almonds, and the result is, in my opinion, nothing short of divine. When breakfast tastes this good it is definitely the best meal of the day!
280 g rolled oats
50 g mixed nuts and almonds
a good pinch of salt flakes
2 tsp cinnamon
100 ml water
3 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp vanilla essence
In a bowl mix together the oats, nuts, cinnamon and salt flakes. Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and simmer gently until all the sugar has dissolved. Add the oil and vanilla, then pour the liquid over the oat mixture and stir it all together. Spread the granola out on a baking tray covered with parchment paper and bake in the middle of the oven at 100C for approx 2 hours. Stir the mixture occasionally, every 20-30 minutes. Let the granola cool completely before transferring to an airtight jar.
With Easter’s chocolate egg overload just behind us, I’m sure the last thing on anyone’s mind is more sweet treats. But I couldn’t resist sharing the recipe for this apple pie which I made for pudding when my parents came over for lunch last week. Trust me, it’s definitely one to file away for a rainy day: along with cottage pie and grilled cheese, apple pie/crumble must be one of the ultimate comfort foods. And don’t be alarmed by the salt flakes specified in the recipe – they provide a beautiful contrast to the sweet crumble topping and tart apple. And the secret to getting a really yummy caramelized topping? Drizzle some golden syrup over the pie before it goes in the oven.
Apple Crumble Pie with Salt Flakes
approx 800 g apples
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar
1 pinch salt flakes
125 g cold butter
140 g plain flour
25 g rolled oats
125 g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt flakes
Pre-heat the oven to 225°C and grease a pie dish (approx 28cm in diameter). Crumble topping: cut the butter into pieces. Pinch together butter, flour and oats to form a crumbly mixture. Add the sugar and salt flakes. Peel, core and cut the apples into thin slices before mixing with the cinnamon, sugar and salt. Put the apple slices in the bottom of the prepared pie dish and sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top. Drizzle some golden syrup over for a tasty toffee-like finish. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes. Let it cool slightly and serve with whipped cream, custard or ice cream.
NB: As my husband can’t eat gluten, I made this crumble with gluten free flour and oats. It worked really well.
As I’ve been working more than usual over the school holidays I haven’t had much time for baking, so it’s likely that my lot will have to make do with shop bought treats over the Easter weekend. But if you have the time, here are some of the most tasty (and pretty) looking recipes that I have found on Pinterest.
1. Down the Rabbit Hole Cake Push Pops
2. Oreo Cookie Chick Easter Treats
3. Springtime Birds Nests
4. Easter Egg Fudge
5. Mini Easter Egg Cake
6. Healthy Easter Treats
For more Easter recipes and ideas see my Easter Inspiration board on Pinterest.
1. This Asparagus with Egg and Parmesan recipe is the perfect dish for spring
2. Thinking ahead to festival season and wondering what to wear? Actress AnnaSophia Robb (of The Carrie Diaries) gives the lowdown on her favourite festival looks
3. 17 Spring Projects for a Happier Kitchen, including making your own Grenadine Syrup
4. Calling all selfie aficionados and budding photographers: Find out how to look amazing in photos
5. Easter is fast approaching and as usual Pinterest is the best source of inspiration for yummy treats to make, including these cheesecake filled chocolate Easter egg
6. Or go along to Harrods and gawp at what must surely be the most luxurious chocolate egg ever, priced at an eye-watering £28,000. Made of chocolate and decorated with gold dust, inside the egg is a diamond pendant necklace by Swiss jeweller Shawish.
7. If you’re in London, don’t forget to also drop in to the Fashion Rules exhibition at Kensington Palace, showcasing dresses worn by HM Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Diana Princess of Wales
8. Ever dreamed of writing your own book? Here are some tips on how to write and pitch a book proposal
I’m not a big fan of chocolate cake so it will come as no surprise to hear that brownies don’t feature high on my list of favourite things to bake. Recently though, I’ve come across several recipes for blondies – basically brownies without the chocolate – which I had earmarked to try on a rainy day. Well, yesterday that rainy day finally materialised. It was the first day of the Easter holidays and with Clemmie still recovering from flu and the aforementioned rain pouring down outside, it was the ideal time for all of us to get stuck into some baking. With icing sugar covering every surface of the kitchen like fairy dust, we measured, poured and stirred in relative harmony.
And the end result? Well, the kids loved the frosted blondies but they were a little bit too sweet for my liking. I think next time I will omit the frosting and use the chocolate chips specified in the original recipe (we were out of chocolate chips so I used some mini fudge pieces I found in the cupboard instead). It is a great basic recipe, however, and I look forward to experimenting with new flavours. I have seen recipes for banana blondies and peanut butter or salted caramel blondies, all of which sound yummy.
I used a mix of two recipes: one for basic blondies (any recipe that has ‘no fail’ in the title gets my vote!) and another one for the brown sugar frosting. I prefer to follow Swedish or American recipes as they tend to use cup or deciliter measurements for the dry ingredients which I find easier than weighing everything. Usually when I’m making something that I plan to post in the blog, I measure the ingredients anyway but with three kids clamouring for the same wooden spoon I just didn’t have time. The first recipe includes the weight in grams but the frosting recipe only has cups measurements I’m afraid.
(Makes 16 bars)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Butter or line an 8-inch by 8-inch (20 x 20 cm) baking pan with parchment paper.
- 1/2 cup (115 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup (230 g) lightly packed dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar which seemed to work fine)
- 1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (140 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
- 1/2 to 1 cup chocolate chips (white, milk, semi-sweet, dark, etc.)
- 1/2 to 1 cup chopped and toasted nuts
- 1/2 to 1 cup chopped dried fruit or shredded/flaked coconut
- 1/4 cup liquor (bourbon, whisky, rum, etc.) Note: Increase flour by 1 tablespoon to accommodate
- 1/2 teaspoon flavourings or extracts (coconut, mint, rum, raspberry, etc.)
In a medium sized bowl, stir the melted butter and sugar until smooth. Stir in the egg, vanilla, almond extract (optional) and the salt. Add flour and stir until incorporated then mix in any extras such as chocolate chips, nuts or dried fruit. Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for around 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out relatively clean. Cool, then cut into 16 squares as they are or after adding the frosting.
Brown sugar frosting