#WakeuptoOrganic breakfast bars with #noaddedsugar

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This time last month I was at Natural and Organic Products Show Europe where we launched the Organic Trade Board’s Wake up to Organic Campaign with the help of food blogger and food tutor, and more, Laura Scott. Laura made a cool green smoothie which had a great minty zing and a sumptuous granola breakfast parfait.

The campaign will take place on the morning of 15th June (it’s our second year) where all over the UK independent retailers will host #WakeuptoOrganic events where they serve free organic breakfasts to their customers and passers by to show how easy it is to make the switch to organic.

Why organic?

There are plenty of reasons to choose organic, it’s better for the environment, the animals are reared using higher animal welfare standards and of course organic produce has lower pesticide residues and is GM free. There is evidence now that there’s a difference in terms of nutrition.  A recent study  by researchers at Newcastle University, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that organically grown fruit and vegetables have:

  • Higher levels of antioxidants
  • Lower pesticide residues (which were 4 times higher in non organic) and
  • Significantly lower levels of the toxic heavy metal, Cadmium.

A recent meta analysis published by the same researchers in British Journal of Nutrition found that organic meat and dairy had:

  • about 50% higher levels of healthy omega 3 fats (which are good for heart and brain health as well as protecting against cancer)
  • Under organic standards cows must eat a 60% fresh grass based diet or hay/silage (conserved grass) which is likely to be a factor in the higher omega 3 levels.
  • Organic meat had slightly lower concentrations of two saturated fats linked to heart disease.
  • Organic milk and diary has 40% more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which has been associated with reduced cardiovascular heart disease, some cancers and obesity.
  • Organic milk contains slightly higher concentrations of vitamin E.
  • Less iodine than non-organic milk.¹

Both studies were meta-analyses of the available evidence which assessed peer-reviewed papers. Where studies did not meet the standards set by the researchers for methodology and/or reporting they were excluded from the review. This means the quality of the evidence included is good and the evidence is robust.

So to celebrate our Wake up to Organic launch I made these breakfast bars, based on my popular no added sugar banana and date flapjack recipe. I’ve also added nuts and seeds to increase the protein content. While these contain no added sugar they do have dried fruit in them, so it’s a good idea to have them with a glass of milk and drink water after to protect your teeth!

Wake up to Organic breakfast bars

Preparation: 20 minutes
Baking: 25 minutes
Makes 12

You will need…

150g Oats
2 large bananas (about 200-220g)
50g desiccated coconut
120g chopped dates (if you don’t have enough dates substitute chopped raisins)
100g melted coconut oil (or butter)
80g nuts and seeds (I used pumpkin seeds, chia and pecan)

How to…

Mash the bananas on a plate and put in a bowl.
Add the coconut oil, dates nuts and desiccated coconut and mix well.
Now add the oats and again mix well
Turn into a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Press down so it’s evenly spread
Bake in an oven at 190 °C or 160 °C in a fan oven or gas mark 3 for 25 minutes.
Cut into slices whilst still warm.

 

¹Historic research highlighted that organic milk contained less iodine. However, the industry has taken steps to address this. OMSCo (the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative) representing over 65% of the UK’s organic milk supply, announced that in 2015 organic milk had achieved comparable levels of iodine to conventional and in 2016, following recent testing of bottled milk, they announced these levels of iodine have been maintained. Richard Hampton, managing director at OMSCo, said; “We initiated projects to boost iodine levels and applied these to our farmer members’ enterprises, and by early 2015 we announced that we’d achieved comparable levels with those in the conventional market. Our latest results have shown that one year on from the initial milestone we’re maintaining those levels.”

 

 

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Pecan and date spelt breakfast muffins

 

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I’ve been looking for healthier breakfast muffin recipes because, who doesn’t love cake for breakfast, especially children. And if it’s lower sugar then you’re good to go.

Helping with the Organic Trade Board’s  Wake up to Organic campaign has made me want to come up with some new ideas for breakfast. On 15th of June all over the UK independent retailers will dish up a free organic breakfast to their customers and passers by. The idea is to show easy it is to make the switch to organic. Follow us on twitter to keep up with the campaign

Gluten free

I haven’t tried this recipe with gluten free flour but I am sure it will work – you can also use gluten free oats. I am going to try to make them with buckwheat flour and will report on how well it works.

Dairy free

This recipe is dairy free but if you want to use butter instead of coconut oil or milk instead of dairy free alternatives to milk.

Sugar

These muffins have no refined sugar in them – though they do have maple syrup which as a syrup is classified as sugar. I will be trying this recipe without maple syrup as I think they can easily be made without – 30ml contains about 15g of sugar which is equal to about 1.3g of sugar per muffin, the dates contribute 7g of sugar, the bananas provide just under 1.8g sugar per muffin, the coconut milk provides less than a gram. So in total each muffin has about 2 teaspoons of sugar which sounds like a lot but most shop bought muffins will be bigger portion sizes and contain 4-5 teaspoons of sugar, and they also won’t be in natural fruit form – which of course include lots of micronutrients, from vitamin B6 in the dates, to potassium in bananas. Under the latest Scientific Advisory Committee guidance this is equivalent to just over 1 teaspoon of refined sugars.

We do have some sugar in our diet in our family and I want to reduce it. Have you found that children don’t notice any changes to what you feed them, if you don’t mention it and also make those changes gradually. In between work, parenting, and walking the dog I don’t have much time to experiment in the kitchen so I need tried and tested recipes that work, like this one. These make a great treat breakfast and of course can be put in lunch boxes too.

Pecan and date spelt breakfast muffins

Vegan, soy free

Makes 12 muffins
Prep time 20 minutes
Cooking time 25 minutes

You will need…

240g white spelt flour (or a mixture of white and wholemeal)
130g dates chopped
190ml coconut milk or almond milk or other diary free milk.
2 small to medium bananas mashed (about 180g)
30ml of maple syrup
30g chia seeds
30g pumpkin seeds
50g pecans chopped
30g oats
60ml coconut oil melted
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
Medium carrot finely grated (about 80g)
pinch of salt

How to…

  • Preheat your oven to 190˚C/gas mark 5/350°F.
  • Put the mashed banana in a big bowl with the carrots, milk, maple syrup, vinegar and vanilla extract  and melted coconut oil, mix well.
  • Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, mixed spice and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  • Gently fold in the seeds, nuts, dates and oats.
  • Don’t over mix as this helps keep the muffins fluffy.
  • Place the mixture in 12 muffin tins.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes. You can test with a skewer and if it comes out with mixture on it bake for a few more minutes.
  • Cool on a cooling rack for about 5 minutes or so.
  • Serve with some chopped fruit and/or a cup of milk.

Mushroom and red lentil pasta for #meatfreeMonday

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I made this last night at 11pm, when I realised my daughter needed lunch for the Childminders today. It’s easy peasy, one of those pasta sauces you throw together at the last minute, not sure whether it’s going to work and it does, as long as the little person likes mushrooms…

I’ve stopped eating meat since the beginning of January, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, and it’s great. While I am not stopping the rest of the family from eating meat, I am not cooking it! So am looking for more vegetarian recipes that include high quality protein like lentils, beans, quinoa, nuts and seeds, and eggs, that also appeal to the kids.


Mushroom and red lentil pasta
You will need…

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, top and tailed peeled and grated
50g red lentils, rinsed
about 6 mushrooms sliced (have more if you want_
Teaspoon of dried oregano (or mixed herbs)
Carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
100g water

How to…

  • Heat the oil in a pan
    Add the onions and carrots and cook until softened
    Add the dried herbs and mushrooms.
    Stir and cook for 5 more minutes.
    Add the lentils and stir well.
    Add the tinned tomatoes and about 100g water.
    Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sauce is nice and rich and the lentils cooked through.

You can make this dish gluten free, using gluten free pasta and it’s vegan if you don’t have the cheese.

Green juice with watermelon rind and chlorella

IMG_3437Argh!!! This blog post has been sitting in “drafts” for ages. New job, demanding toddler and other things that keep me in the present moment means blog posts tend to languish in drafts or floating round my head!

Anyway…

Like most people with juicers I go through phases of using mine daily and then something will happen, a change in routine and then suddenly it’s back in the cupboard and forgotten about. Initially when I started juicing around 10 years ago, my juices were probably two thirds fruit to a third veg. And now they tend to be mainly vegetables with one or two pieces of fruit to add a little sweetness but not too much sugar.

Juicing is a great way to use up produce that would get thrown out (as long as it’s not too far gone!). This can make for some interesting juices, and you might find some tasty combinations.

Juices and smoothies made mainly from fruit have a high sugar content, so while they’ll be providing you with lots of vitamins and minerals, they will also be contributing to your sugar intake.

Don’t forget your straw

The one thing that’s missing from this photo is a straw, as I had run out of them. Straws help protect your teeth against any free sugars in the juice. If you don’t have a straw have a glass of water after your juice to wash away any lingering sugars.

In this juice:

1 stick of celery

¼ cucumber

Few handfuls of mint from the garden

2 apples

Half a fennel bulb

Chunk of ginger

Watermelon rind

Teaspoon chlorella powder

I would usually put a lemon in too (peeled).

Also I always put green some leafy veg like kale or spinach.

Watermelon rind

My lovely friend, Julie Ann put me onto the idea of using water melon rind in juices. It’s great as means you get no waste at all. The seeds too can be lightly toasted too. Watermelon rind is high in phenolic antioxidants, lycopene, flavinoids and vitamin C . Diets rich in all of these help to reduce our risk of getting cancer.

Chlorella

Chlorella is green algae. As a supplement it comes in a powdered or tablet form. It’s been popular for some time in Japan. And there is evidence that it could help removing heavy metals from the body.

It’s reported to be the richest natural source of chlorophyll which makes plants green transforming sunlight energy to plant fuel.

In one study (which is small) 44 pregnant women’s blood, fat stores, breast milk, placenta and cord blood were measured for dioxins. Half the sample took chlorella supplement and the other didn’t. The researchers found that women who took the supplement had 30% lower levels of dioxins, compared to the control group.

There is also research that suggests that chlorella helps to remove toxic heavy metals out of the body (not clear whether just from digestive tract or also from tissues and muscle). It is thought  that the cell wall binds to the toxins so that they are excreted with the cell walls when stools are passed.

It has a thick cell wall that human enzymes cannot break down, so if you buy it you need to ensure you are buying broken cell wall chlorella.

One study found that it may support immune system. You can read more about it’s possible positive effects at the Linus Pauling Institute page

It’s high in fibre, vitamin B12 (so a great source of B12 for vegans – Vitamin B12 is found in Meat, fish and dairy products in the main, so is a vitamin that vegans need to ensure they get enough of in their diet ).

It’s high in iron too. Because it’s from a plant source this means it is better absorbed alongside vitamin C, so including it in your juice as powder or taking the tablets with your juice is the perfect way to take it, as the juice will be contribute lots of vitamin C.

It’s also high in Vitamin D2 and iodine.

In terms of meeting nutrient requirements (for a woman aged between 19-50 years*), a teaspoon of chlorella will provide at least 100% of your recommended vitamin B12, and over a quarter of your recommended iron intake. It will also provide just under a fifth of recommended iodine intake (iodine supports thyroid function). Vitamin D2 is the plant form of vitamin D and is not so well absorbed by the body as far as we know but it may contribute some depending on how it’s stored and processed and metabolised by the body.

*If you’re interested in knowing how much of these nutrients chlorella would contribute to the diets of other age groups, send me a comment, happy to look this up for you (will be based on UK Recommended intakes).

Chlorella references

Information from Linus Pauling Institute : http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/chlorophyll-chlorophyllin

Morita K, Ogata M, Haegawa T. Chlorophyll derived from Chlorella inhibits dioxin absorption from the gastrointestinal tract and accelerates dioxin excretion in rats. Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Mar; 109 (3) 289-294 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1240248/

Nakano S, Takekoshi H, Nakano M. Chlorella (Chlorella pyrenoidosa) supplementation decreases dioxin and increases immunoglobulin a concentrations in breastmilk. J Med Food 2007, Mar; 10(1) 134-42.

http://examine.com/supplements/Chlorella/

Date and banana flapjacks with #noaddedsugar

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I have got into the habit of making flapjacks on a Sunday night for the week – though they don’t always last that long. I have taken to storing them in the car so I am not tempted – there is evidence that unsurprisingly shows that if you can see food you eat it!

This is the first time I’ve made them with no honey, just relying on natural sugars from dates and bananas. There is a lot in the media and books to buy, and recipes online for no sugar foods. Which is great. We are still waiting to hear following on from the draft guidance on sugar intakes published by the Government’s SACN. In the meantime World Health Organization has published their latest recommendations to reduce intakes to 10% with an ideal target of 5% or less.

It’s worth remembering that honey, maple syrup, dried fruit and smoothies still contain sugar but because the sugar is in it’s natural form it also provides nutrients. So recipes that contain these natural forms of sugar are not “sugar free” but have no “refined sugar” or “processed sugar” or, I suppose “added sugar”. Refined sugar is has no vitamins or minerals, so really only provides empty calories. The sugar in honey, maple syrup etc, is in its natural form, so it has a lower GI (a slower release of sugars into the blood) and also contains some minerals. Maple syrup is high in manganese, and contains good amounts of zinc and potassium. Honey contains very low levels of iron, copper and manganese.

These flapjacks are perfect for picnics and after main meals. Not recommended for between meals as the sticky sugars can get stuck on teeth. Regularly eating dried fruit, juices or smoothies between meals increases risk of dental decay. See my previous post, Sweet Tooth for more information.

This recipe is vegan if you use coconut oil, if you use butter best to use organic. Organic Standards legally set mean that organic cattle have to be pasture fed for the most of the year.

Flapjacks are really easy and quick to make, your children can help with the mashing and mixing (my 2 year old happily helps out – it gets messy and keeps her busy).

You will need…

  • 180g Oats
  • 2 medium bananas (about 190-200g)
  • 60g desiccated coconut (optional)
  • 160g chopped dates (if you don’t have enough dates substitute chopped raisins)
  • 100g melted coconut oil (or butter)

How to…

  • Mash the bananas on a plate.
  • Put the bananas in a bowl
  • Add the coconut oil and dates and mix well.
  • Now add the oats and desiccated coconut and again mix.
  • Turn into a lined baking tay
  • Bake in an oven at 170 °C or 150 °C in a fan oven or gas mark 3 for 25 minutes.
  • Cut into slices whilst still warm.

If you have older children do not mention these flapjacks have no refined sugar in them as they will immediately hate them. My 8 year old had these happily last night because I said nothing!

Cheap eats January #9: Minestrone soup

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Easy to make, tasty to eat. Children love having pasta in soup too.

 

You will need…

2 medium onions (red are best but white are fine if that’s what you’ve got) halved and sliced
2 medium carrots, top and tailed, peeled and sliced
1 stick celery sliced
600ml of vegetable or chicken stock*
100g dried borlotti beans soaked overnight and boiled for about an hour and a half
Carton of chopped tomatoes**
100-150g savoy cabbage shredded
2 tablespoons of olive oil
100g of pasta (gluten free if need be)

 
How to…

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
Add the onion, carrots and celery, and cook until soft and onions are translucent.
Add the cabbage and tomatoes, stir well.
Pour in the stock.
Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.
Add the pasta and the beans and simmer for a further 15 minutes.
Serve topped with grated parmesan or cheddar and crusty bread.

*Ideally use low salt stock or home made
*If tomatoes are in season, use 3 fresh tomatoes, chopped.

Cost

This soup costs £2.43 to make and serves 4-6 people. If you use organic bacon then it costs £4.58 to make.

Nutrition

A quarter of this soup for an adult will provide good amounts of fibre, potassium, folate and vitamin C and some calcium, and magnesium an, iron and zinc, as well as selenium, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6

Cheap Eats January #5 : In praise of beans on toast

Yes that’s right, I am writing a post on… baked beans on toast.

Only because nutritionally it’s a great meal, it’s cheap of course and if you’ve been working all day, doesn’t take long to prepare so you get to spend some time with your kids.

Nutrition

This meal will give your kids good amounts of protein, potassium, calcium, iron zinc, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and folate, oh and fibre, of course.

Lower salt baked beans are ideal, as regular baked beans (and organic brands can be higher than others) tend to be high in salt (a quarter of a 100g tin of baked can provide as much as 75% of a 5 year olds recommended intake of salt – and that’s before you’ve added in the salt from bread too).

Protein combining

Proteins are chains of amino acids, of which there are 8 that are essential in our diets. Two of these, lysine and methionine are more readily available in balanced proportions in protein from animal sources (such as eggs, milk and cheese). Vegetarians and especially vegans need to make sure they get a combination of foods that have good amounts of each.

Protein from cereals such as wheat and rice, tend to be low in lysine but good sources of methionine. Beans and lentils and peas tend to be low in methionine but high in lysine.

So combining cereals and legumes means you get complete proteins. Classic examples examples being beans on toast, humous and bread, tortilla and chilli (with red kidney beans) and rice and dhal (lentils).

It was for some time thought essential to combine these foods at the same meal but is now not thought to be necessary. However, it is interesting that in different cultures, all over the World that these combinations have existed for hundreds and thousands of years.

Even if it’s not required to combine these foods at the same meal, it makes sense to, as they complement each other so well.