Low GI, low sugar, low fat flapjack Recipe

healhty-fruit-flapjack-recipe

When we visited Paris – I was delighted with the cakes and pastries mostly because they don’t use as much sugar as we do in the UK.

Like so many others at this time of the year, I am trying to eat less sugar and fat but weaning off sugar is not easy! I find 4 0’clock is when my body craves a sugary snack, so I thought I would come up with a healthy alternative – where I can indulge a little sweetness without nullifying my exercise sessions! While a lot of flapjacks in shops look healthy, they are usually packed with too much sugar or fat.

low-gi-flapjack-base

This is made in layers – for the base and crumble topping you need:

200g or 2 teacups of rolled oats

150g, or 1 1/2 tea cups of wholewheat flour

2 oz or 50g of Apple puree (apple sauce is a good alternative if you don’t make your own)

2 oz or 50g of butter or you can use coconut butter

Fruit sugar or honey – 1 – 2 tbsp depending on taste

The fruit layer

Fruit – cherries, blueberries, blackberries approx 1 lb

Arrow root

Fruit sugar or honey – 1 – 2 tbsp depending on taste

low-gi-flapjack-base

Firstly, mix the flour, oats into a bowl and rub in the butter, then add enough apple puree to bring the ingredients together – aim for crumbly rather than paste. Add a little sugar to taste, (if you bought your applesauce then it might contain enough sugar) Try to keep it to 1 tbsp if you can.

Set aside about 1/4 of this mixture for the topping, and then press the rest into a well greased, (or lined with parchment) swiss roll tin, (8 by 6 inch).

Bake in a medium oven (baking oven on aga, GM 6, 180c) for around 10 minutes. This makes the base nice and crisp.

cherries-thickened-with-arrowroot

While the base is baking, put your fruit into a saucepan and enough water to just cover the bottom of the pan and slowly bring to a simmer. You can add sugar or honey to taste, or without if you prefer. Once the fruit is soft take off the heat.

In a small cup, mix a little 1tsp of arrowroot with water to form a milky solution – add it to the fruit mixture and stir rapidly, until the sauce thickens.

low-calorie-oat-topping

Add the fruit topping to the cooked base and sprinkle with the reserved 1/4 topping. Return to the oven until the top is golden brown.

Cut into slices and allow to cool.

This recipe cuts down on the amount of butter by using apple sauce and you can reduce the sugar down to make it less sweet. If you are trying to wean yourself off sugar then this is a great alternative to cakes or the sugar laden flapjacks. These will stay in an airtight tin for a few days ! if you can leave them that long!

low-calorie-flap-jack-low-sugar

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Migraine Relief Remedy – Elderflower cordial

13-Elderflower cordial -010 I am a frequent migraine sufferer – they appear suddenly sometimes lasting as long as two weeks. I have tried several different ‘cures’ and  spent a great deal of time investigating various solutions. While medication is the only thing that allows me some respite, I was delighted to read in my book, The Natural Guide to Medicinal Herbs and Plants, that the Elderflower can help with migraine. It makes sense, often during a debilitating attack the nausea is so bad that I can only tolerate small sips of lemonade, so elderflower would be a welcome alternative.

Elderflower plants

As I was wondering along the lovely hedgerows in the last few weeks I spotted a huge number of these plants in flower – they are tall bushes, the tiny flowers are in flat topped clusters and the leaves are usually in fives. If you get closer to the plant, especially this month when they are at the height of flower, you will notice their distinctive delicate scent. (It is always good to be sure about any foraged plant so make sure you know what they smell like).

elder flowers

These are the tiny elderflowers, they have pretty small blooms, each flower has five petals with pale yellow five pointed stamens around a yellow centre. Pick them when they are fully open, not green (in bud) or brown (gone over), best around mid to late afternoon when the dew has gone and their scent is at its height. Pick from waist height and above, taking care not to strip one plant bare of blooms, there should be plenty of plants to choose from.

You should not wash the elderflowers  it is good practice to gather them in a wicker basket, then lay the flowers out on a tray for a couple of hours in the sunshine if you can- it allows all the little creatures to escape and find alternative accommodation.

elderflower Recipe

You don’t need expensive ingredients:

For every pint (600ml) water add

1 large unwaxed lemon washed (zest and then simply cut into slices)

1lb 10oz (750g) of granulated sugar

2 1/2 table spoons of citric acid.

10-Elderflower cordial -007

Surprisingly citric acid is difficult to get hold of, Chemists will only sell small quantities if they sell any at all. It is used in winemaking so brewing shops might sell it. I bought mine at Lakeland – but I was emphatically informed by the staff,  I could only have three small sachets due to government restrictions. Thankfully the vintage dress and straw hat I was wearing was enough to convince staff  I was not a bomb maker nor a drug dealer, so they passed over the citric acid to me without complaint, although it did make me feel somewhat subversive!  Mr D spent his time pretending not to know me in case I needed more than my allocated 3 and he could pose as another customer, luckily one sachet was enough for my recipe, so he did not need to jump into action!

A basketfull of elderflowers

The recipe called for 7 flower heads – however I wanted to make the most of the properties of this plant so used a basket full of elderflowers and used three times the quantities mentioned to make three pints of cordial.

14-Elderflower cordial -011

The method is straightforward:

Put the sugar and water into a large preserving pan, heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved. You will notice that the liquid goes suddenly clear. Turn off the heat.

Add the lemon zest, sliced lemons, citric acid and finally the elderflowers, stir gently.

Cover with a clean tea towel and allow to stand for at least 24 hours. I started my cordial off about 9pm on a Friday evening and left it until Sunday. (giving it a little stir and poke now and then!)

05-Elderflower cordial -002

I also put my glass bottles into a cold oven and then switched it on to about a gas mark 4 for around half an hour. It is essential that the glass goes into a cold oven and is brought slowly up to temperature otherwise you might end up with shattered glass. After the oven has reached its temperature, turn it off and leave the bottles in there to go cold, until you are ready to decant your cordial.

02-Elderflower cordial -001

It is vital that you strain the liquid through a fine mesh muslin, or a jelly bag. It is not pleasant trying to drink liquid with little bits of flower (or the odd bug or two!).

I did my first strain through a colander lined with some fine net, but still had the odd debris, so ended up using a funnel and filter paper from my coffee machine. It ended up pretty clear.

elderflower Cordial label

It is a great idea to label your bottles as soon as you have bottled it up – it is surprising how one clear liquid can look exactly the same as another! I made these labels so feel free to right click and download if you want to use them. They are scaleable.

01-Elderflower cordial

I serve mine with a good quantity of sparkling water as it is very sweet.

They make lovely gifts and will last up to 3 months in the fridge or in a cupboard stored away from sunlight. The citric acid works as a preservative as does the sugar quantity.

If you wish to keep the cordial longer – simply pop it into ice cube trays and transfer to a freezer bag once frozen. (Its a good idea to label it too, as one block of ice looks very much like another! as I have often discovered. It might look like a frozen egg white but doesn’t beat up the same when making meringue!)

It is a wonderful accompaniment poured over ice cream or you can poach peaches in the syrup for its delicate floral essence.

heavenly!

I’ll let you know how I get along with the migraine solution when I get my next bout!

ttfn. x

17-Elderflower cordial -014

Dog Nutrition – Cooking for Your Dog and Why It’s Good for their Health

A Dog's Diet

Imagine living on a diet of convenience food, how long  would be before it took a toll on your health? Yet most of us feed our beloved dogs pet food because we are encouraged to believe it is the best way to keep our dogs healthy.

When my dog, Gus, arrived from the rescue centre he was balding, his ribs were showing and you could see his spine, he also had the most appalling stomach problems that made living with him a little challenging!

I tried several expensive brands of food, but nothing really helped.  Most of the advice on the internet either advocated a raw food diet or commercial food: so I decided to try the middle ground and created a recipe that transformed him into a healthy dog.

Healthy dog

The recipe is simple:

5lb of minced hearts, (heart is muscle not offal)

250g of frozen mixed veg

Place in a large pan and add cold water.

Bring to the boil until mince is cooked.

Allow to cool – drain off some of the water but keep the fat – you dog needs this.

Sprinkle the food with linseeds – it is very good for their coat.

I put these into tupperware boxes so that I work out portion sizes.

Add Porridge Oats soaked overnight in Water or Boiled Rice, I add this afterwards not cooked up with the other ingredients. Rice can go off easily, so I use it fresh.

IMG_1160

Dogs need certain nutrients from raw meat, so I give him a portion of uncooked heart mince on the day I buy it.

Your dog will need additional calcium, you can crush up egg shells but I give my dog bones from the butchers.

My dog is a Staffie, he has incredibly powerful jaws that need to gnaw bones and he is able to crush them down. Sometimes when I have made stock with a chicken carcass I add a little vinegar. This makes the bones soft enough for him to eat. (I am reluctant to give him raw chicken bones because of they can splinter even more so if they have been roasted).

If your dog is smaller it might be worth talking to your vet.

I know exactly what is in my dog’s food, unlike commercial food,

(see further down the post)

Home made food

 Here are the reasons I have for making my own dog food.

  1. He is a healthy weight – my dog is well past middle age (11 years old). He is active, and vibrant, with a glossy coat like you will see on a racehorse. He is not slowing down, nor does he appear to have any arthritis or joint problems.

  2. His teeth are white I don’t need to buy him teeth cleaning treats, he has no tooth decay.

  3. He does not smell – his tummy has settled down and picking up after him is easy.

  4. He doesn’t eat treats other than pigs ears, even when the vet gives him a ‘treat’ he will lick it and politely leave it on the floor.

  5.   It is cheaper on average it costs me £10 per week to feed my dog.

  6. Apart from his annual checkups we do not have to visit the vet, there are no signs of diabetes, obesity or teeth problems.

You cannot feed your dog the following: Onions, dairy like milk or cream, chocolate.

I avoid putting in greens like broccoli, cabbage or spinach as it can make the food smell unpleasant.

Pet food was ‘invented’ as a way of selling animal waste left from food manufacturing. Before this many dog owners fed their pets leftovers from their own meals – which wasn’t all bad as a dog requires a diet similar to our own requiring meat, vegetables and carbohydrates as well as the odd bone.

The scientific claims of pet food is designed to give us the same confidence used to sell washing powder and toiletries. Bear in mind a business primary aim is to make money, that means  maximising profits and trying to outsell competitors.

I began to read the labels on dog food and discovered the following.

Contents of commercial dog food

If you read the contents of pet food you will find

Chondroitin – is cartilage and connective tissue (food waste that cannot be used in human food) it was this product suspected of causing BSE, as diseased animals were used in animal feed.

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) also sometimes called oligofructose or oligofructan,  used as an alternative sweetener. Amino glucose or anything ending with ‘cose’ is sugar. 

Sorghum is a grass and its grain is widely used in dog foods as an inexpensive alternative to traditional grains it does not have the same level of nutrition as rice and oats.

Calcium carbonate – this is made from shells of marine organisms, snails, coal balls, pearls, and eggshells

Pet food does provide nutrition – but I want to know exactly what my dog is eating, so I  make it myself.

Butter whirls Recipe

Oh my! the weather has changed considerably in the last few days, gone are the balmy sunny days of September with all the fruitful abundance, to the chill wet rain of October – I want to spend time in my warm, kitchen listening to the rain and hail splat against the window, enhancing the cosiness of baking and domestic bliss. 
A dear friend of mine was having a coffee morning so I made these butter whirls to take along, they are so easy to make and they look so pretty. 
150g of softened butter
50g icing sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla paste
100g of plain flour
50g of rice flour (or you can use all plain flour) 
Cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy, its best done with a mixer to save aching arms! Stir in the flour but teat it lightly otherwise you might lose all the air. 

Place mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large gage star nozzle. 
Pipe onto a greased baking tin, in small swirls. 
Its a good idea to keep the swirls tall, as the mixture spreads out in the oven. 
Put a cherry on the top and bake in a moderate oven (160/325 GM3) around 20 minutes 
or until pale and golden. 

You can be even more indulgent by adding a little jam and butter icing to make a biscuit sandwich, they will look like home made Viennese whirls. Or you can dip one side in chocolate… now that is a thought… ttfn x

Healthy chocolate Brownies!

Are you enjoying the Great British Bake off? I have to say I admire all the contestants for entering. Baking is one of those pleasurable activities that feeds the soul as well as body, (my body maybe is being fed a little too much! ) I need a calm kitchen, preferably with a radio 4 comedy playing in the background – while I measure and mix to my heart’s content – a long way from the pressures of the bake off tent!  

Unfortunately, I don’t have my children at home to eat the result of this soulful activity, so I do turn up to friends houses with my apologetic offerings, (there is usually something that has happened so that the item in question is less than perfect). However, most of the time I just eat it myself… and it must be very fond of me because I believe my cooking has stayed with me – on my hips and waist to be precise! 
The hunt was on, for a way to satisfy my appetite for all things sweet and tasty, without the calories, and I came across this wonderful recipe for low fat chocolate brownies. Most of the fat is substituted by fruit puree, it makes a delicious, rich brownie that is good for you too! Just remember that they do have a little fat and a lot of sugar… or you can simply forget that altogether! 

Healthy Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients
3 oz coca powder
4 oz whole meal flour
4 oz dark brown soft sugar
2 table spoons of melted butter
2 eggs 
2 oz of fruit puree (prune or apricot baby food works or see tip below) 
5 oz dark chocolate roughly chopped
Walnuts or macadamia nuts optional 
Salt to taste 
Method
1 – Pre heat your oven GM 7, 350F or 150 C 
2 -Line a rectangular baking tin (8×6) with baking parchment 
3 – Whisk butter, eggs and prune puree together
4 – In another bowl combine the cocoa powder, wholemeal flour, sugar and dark chocolate until they are well blended. 
5 – Add the butter/egg/prune mix to the dry ingredients but do not over mix
6 – pour into the baking tin and bake for around 35 minutes 
7 – remove from tin using the baking parchment to lift the cake out and allow to cool. 

To make your own fruit puree: soak prunes or apricots overnight in a bowl of water. Then blitz them in a food processor until they are smooth.  

Summer time and the livin’ is easy

We are enjoying a wonderful warm summer here in Southern England: as soon as the sun comes out we head out to make the most of it. The beaches are busy, but the garden is quiet the balmy sun warming and browning my pale skin while a lazy breeze rustles the Roses in full bloom their delicate sent drifting along in waves while the dog rolls blissfully in the grass. 
The riper the tomatoes the deeper the colour

There is so much to treasure at this time of the year but in particular the appearance of seasonal fruits and vegetables; their freshness and piquancy is at its height.  I received some delicious vine ripened tomatoes and a flavoursome cucumber this week – just perfect for gazpacho soup.

To enjoy your own all you need is:

6 large ripe tomatoes
1/2 cucumber peeled
I large red pepper
1 large red onion
1 clove of garlic 
100ml olive oil
A splash of Red wine vinegar
A couple of teaspoons of sun dried tomato puree
A large handful of mint fresh from the garden 
(I have some sensual lemon mint that just adds a delicate note to the soup)
Just blitz it all up in a liquidiser or blender until you have a smooth consistency
Pass through the sieve to remove the seeds and skin of the peppers and tomatoes
Leave to cool in the fridge for at least an hour or if you don’t want to wait add ice and blitz again
Best enjoyed out in the garden – relaxing with a good book or the Sunday papers, 
 a nice cool glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or a pitcher of Pimms at your side.
Oh yes….summer time and the living is easy!  

Strawberry fields forever… June Jamming

I love the warm June sunshine – it has been a wonderful summer so far and I am thrilled that it is once again Strawberry Season. 
While I would love to be one of those talented gardeners that grow everything I need, my gardening skills are not that successful! Fortunately there is a lovely pick your own farm not to far from home and my friend D and I headed off there last Sunday. 
Its very companionable moving among the warm straw lines, spotting and picking the delicious red berries among the lush green leaves; the sun warming our backs as the gentle breeze plays with strands of our hair, the easy conversation mixing with birdsong as we catch up on our lives. I love the smell of hay as it rises warm from the sun reminding me of so many good times in strawberry fields: childhood days spent roaming the fields, my own children in competition to find the biggest sweetest ones their chins evidence of the fruit that did not make it to their baskets. There is nothing to beat the taste of a strawberry ripe and warmed by the sun. There are so many wonderful pleasures associated with this small simple act, gathering your own is almost as good as growing your own and the price of the strawberries makes it worthwhile too. 
Of course jam making is a slow process; one that fills my kitchen with the sweet delicious smell while they seep in the sugar. I tried a few new ideas this year as strawberry jam is notorious for not setting well – I was thrilled that I achieved the soft set I was hoping for.
 I have included the recipe here if you want to make some yourself, it is very satisfying to have the jam on the shelf only days after they are picked – it gives me a glorious sense of blissful domesticity. 
I made around 2 1/2 lb of jam (strictly it is a conserve but I call it jam!)
You will need:
900g / 2lb strawberries, hulled. 
900g / 2lb of preserving sugar (it contains pectin which will help your jam to set) 
2 apples
2 lemons 
15g / 1 knob of butter 
A preserving pan 
Sugar thermometer (it really does take the guesswork out of finding the setting point) 
A muslin square  
Jam funnel (it is one of those really useful items that you only discover once you have one!) 
3 medium sized clean jam jars with lids
Wax paper discs 
Layer the strawberries in the sugar and allow to seep, preferably overnight
Peel and then finely grate the apple – place the peel and core in the muslin square and knot tightly to encase the apple then add to the strawberries and sugar. 
Cook over a low heat stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved, then allow to boil gently for around 5 minutes just enough for the fruit to soften. Turn off the heat and cover with a clean tea towel and allow to stand for another night. 
Before you begin cooking the jam -place two saucers in the freezer, you will need them to be very cold in order to check the jam for setting. 
Sterilise the jam jars by placing them into a warm oven (lowest setting).  This will also mean that the jars won’t crack when you spoon the hot jam into them. 
Add the juice and grated rind of the two lemons to the strawberries and place the sugar thermometer on the side of the pan ensuring that it is not touching the bottom of the pan. 
Bring the jam back up to boiling point, stirring the fruit now and then – boil rapidly (the jam will do a rolling motion) for around 5 minutes. Check the thermometer – the temperature should reach about 220 or the ‘jam’ setting. 
To test for setting -take a small teaspoon of jam and place it on the plate, return to the freezer for a few moments;  the jam should be slightly thick when you push your finger through it. If it remains runny then boil again for a few more minutes and then repeat the test until you are happy with the set. 
Place your butter into the jam and turn off the heat, stir the butter until all the bubbles are gone. 
Let your jam to cool a little (about 10 minutes) so that the fruit will be evenly distributed in the jar rather than sinking to the bottom. 
Ladle into the warm jars and cover with a wax disc. Run a damp cloth round the edge of the jar, this will discourage mould to form. Screw up tightly and allow to cool. 
Label and decorate with fabric and ribbon if you wish; enjoy the warm glow of being a domestic goddess!  
Delicious on a warm baked scone or fresh white crusty bread and butter! 

Lovely lazy Saturday

Saturday mornings are a pleasure all of their own, it is waking up with that feeling you don’t have to rush anywhere. Weekend breakfasts are lengthy, tea in a tea pot, tea cups and the Guardian Quiz. (Only three correct this week!) I love scotch pancakes (or dropped scones if you prefer), these are extra good for you because they are from my low GI cookbook, I also make them with a little fruit sugar rather than normal sugar. They are filling and mean I can often last out to lunch. 
You simply put two heaped tablespoons of SR flour, Wholemeal Flour and one table spoon of porridge oats and Fruit sugar into a bowl. Add half a teaspoon of baking powder and mix well. Then add two large eggs to the centre, gradually bringing in the dry ingredients, add milk gradually until you have a thick batter. 
Heat a griddle or frying pan, and brush with  a mixture of oil and butter. (Butter creates a lovely buttery flavour to the pancakes, but you have to turn the heat down a little otherwise it smokes). Put a tablespoons of the mixture on the griddle – keeping them slightly apart. Watch the mixture turn from glossy to dull, then turn over to cook the other side. Leave on a kitchen towel to soak any excess oil, delicious to eat while warm. 

I have almost finished curtain wrestling, – I can’t call it sewing there was simply too much material! Double width, 90″ drop and lined with black out lining! I had to sew on the dining room table in order to have support for all the fabric! I shall let them hang for a while and then finish the bottoms. As you can see my beloved Bernina is back in action! 

One tip I learned from Maria from Clothkits is that she keeps a little pin cushion on her machine, it is an ideal place! This little lovely was bought at a craft fair quite a few years ago, it sits perfectly on that spot! It might be my imagination but I did not have quite so many pins on the floor afterwards! 

Cake is also the perfect pick me up – the rain might have been pounding on the windows, but you can’t beat a nice home made Victoria Sponge, cuddled up on the sofa, yet another pot of tea close at hand, watching a good film. 
I used cocktail sticks to create a little design on the top. 

It looks like a firework! I used the plum jam I made a few weeks ago, it was nice and tart and a great contrast to the sweet icing. 
The weather outside might be frightful, but home is so delightful! 
Happy Autumn

Home remedy

A has been suffering from a terrible cold, and this week I have been feeling under the weather, there is nothing more comforting than comforting honey and lemon. This also has turmeric which is a very good anti-viral as well as giving this a wonderful yellow colour. Honey is a good throat soother, so with each warming cup full soothes and comforts.

Add the juice and zest of 6 lemons, making sure that you don’t add any of the white pith. Add six table spoon of golden caster sugar (one for each lemon) together with an inch of fresh ginger grated. One table spoon of honey, and 1 teaspoon of turmeric with 600ml of water. Bring to the boil so that the sugar is dissolved, and then allow to cool, strain off the zest . You can drink this warm or drink cool with some carbonated water.

Transitions Bread

I have been making bread for a while now, but I needed a little bit of hands on expertise which might give me the confidence to bake great bread, efforts up to now have been ‘all right’. 
A great friend told me about Transitions Chichester which was set up a few years ago, it is a scheme where people share their skills to help one another, so you can offer your time which can be simple tasks such as babysitting to gardening and baking. 
So I was up bright and early Saturday morning, armed with pinny, a large mason cash bowl and a jug for Julia’s bread making course held in her own kitchen. There were four of us in all and Julia quickly put us at ease – (once a teacher always a teacher!). Together we all made loaves with Julia’s gentle guidance. I ended the morning not just with a loaf, but enthusiasm and new friends. 
The transitions scheme has its own currency, the chi, which Julia earned by hosting the course, chi’s can be then exchanged for help or learning new skills. I think it is a great idea and one that had me wondering what I can offer. The great thing about sharing a skill with someone, is that you can gleefully delight in their success knowing that you were a tiny seed in their creativity. 
And here.. at last (third time lucky!) is a seeded loaf, made with honey not sugar! I am so proud! 

While out walking with the dog, I came across this lovely clump of snowdrops nestling among the shade, such a beautiful sight that I could not help but share with you. Sunday was a gloriously sunny day, A and I walked the dog along the sandy beach and I really appreciate how lucky I am to be so close to the sea, with a lovely man and the dog teaches me to enjoy each moment, as he chases his frisbee enthusiastically his face in a wide grin!