Tag Archives: low calorie alternatives

Carrot Flax-bread

Well, this is certainly not what I had in mind in terms of making an impressive return to the blog scene, but since it happens to have been the first time camera and kitchen have met since, well, Pizzaphilia, I suppose it will have to do.

Let me preface this by saying that I made a quite frankly disappointing batch of flapjacks this week, friends.

Disappointing flapjack…

They contained shredded coconut, ginger and dark chocolate. Which should be yummy in itself, and I don’t think it was this flavour combination that ruined these would-be treats. No, I blame the absence of taste and feelings of OMG-give-me-more before you even swallow your first bite that flapjacks usually nail, on the total lack of butter and sugar (I’m still afraid of these things, you know) in these babies. Flapjacks should be golden and sticky. This one looks, well, anaemic, soggy, sad, and it was nowhere near sweet enough.

I’ve been doing a TON of exercise to get this summer weight OFF me, Christ, I want to SCOOP OUT the contents of my disgusting sagging pot-belly but sadly, that’s not possible, so it’s off to kickboxing/gym/circuit training for me until I have sufficiently reduced in size. Oh, and tomorrow I start swing dancing classes, which, along with melting some of this disgusting fat, should provide some hilarity as I am the least co-ordinated person ever; having kickboxing in the dance studio in which one wall is entirely mirror has well and truly confirmed this for me… sigh.

I recently returned from spending five days with the love of my life in Naples – the land of fat, carbs and alcohol. I ate the most delicious food on the planet and I left no stone unturned when it came to sampling the delights of Italian cuisine; let me tell you, the mozzarella is to DIE for; the gelato, the coffee and the red wine, utter perfection. I ate pizza upon pasta upon gnocchi upon ice-cream, upon more pizza and more ice-cream, drizzled with olive oil and washed down with countless espressi, cappuccini and bicchieri di vino rosso. Half-board at the hotel meant we were treated to a buffet breakfast every day of cornetti, little biscuits and pastries, even cake, for goodness’ sake, as well as the best scrambled eggs I think I have ever tasted. And with marinaras and margheritas for €3 a pop, well, we could afford to eat a pizza a day, and we did. I totally forgot what it was to even be aware of what I had eaten in a day, let alone count calories or worry about things like double-carbs or fat content.

But the sheer gluttony didn’t end there. When we got back it was our three-year anniversary as a couple, and the day saw us polish off burger and fries and iced coffee that for some reason had ice-cream in it at Brighton’s infamous American diner; a large chocolate milkshake tided us over to red wine, calamari, bread, and yet another pizza in the evening at our favourite Italian restaurant. Needless to say, this summer has left me feeling somewhat… squishy.

I have had enough junk to make up for all the sugar and fat and carbs that I have not allowed myself to eat over the course of the last few years, and should probably see me through the next lot of neuroses to come as a result of gaining I don’t know how much weight from the careless, foolish but oh-so-much-sinful-FUN of Summer 2012. (Well, my BMI said I could have done with gaining a few lbs but of course, that does nothing to comfort me. Oh well, roll on next week’s kickboxing session). The good news is, despite feeling incredibly anxious at the concept of actually having gained real proper mass, I feel wholly more relaxed around junk. It’s not going to kill me. And actually, I feel much happier and can exercise a lot harder when I eat. I know now where I’d rather be.

Anyway, here’s a healthy thing that I made tonight that shouldn’t be marred by the absence of butter and sugar (seriously, what was I thinking? Flapjacks should be made with these things or not at all). It all started with a carrot glut and a recipe for Jamaican Carrot Juice (more on that later). I call it, Carrot Flax-bread.

You see, when you make carrot juice (I freakin’ LOVE carrot juice), you end up with a lot of pulp. It takes like, ten carrots to get one tall glass of juice. Then you take the lid off your juicer and you’ve got the semi-dried out remains of ten carrots, and dumping it all in the bin just makes me feel like a huge wasteful cow.

So here’s what you do:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Take the contents of your juicer after you’ve made your delicious carrot juice.
Scoop them into a bowl.
Add a few tablespoons of flaxseed, a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon of ground ginger. Mix with a spoon.
Roll it together to form a ball with your hands. If it doesn’t stick, add more flax and keep stirring.
Flatten out mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment.
Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy and sort of solid.

Eat as a snack, for breakfast, with soup, salad, with jam, peanut butter, hummus. Whatever. Gluten-free, protein-rich flat bread for you, courtesy of leftover carrots.

I think it would be equally nice as a savoury with a bit of minced garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper and lemon juice, maybe drizzle a bit of olive oil on top before you bake it to make it extra crispy. You could use it as a cheeky no-rise, lowest-of-the-low-carb gluten-free pizza base. Wow. Who knew carrot-pulp could be so versatile ?

Well, now you do.

Hope everybody had a wonderful summer.

See you at circuit training.

Amy x

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Pizzaphilia

Hi.

Just stopping by to tell you about the pizza I made for dinner this evening.

I left all my exciting new flours in Brighton so this base is standard wholemeal flour, you can use the gluten-free one if you like.

From bottom to top:

Pizza base, pre-baked.
One avocado, whizzed up with garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Spinach, blanched.
Parmesan cheese.
Steamed butternut squash.
Sundried tomatoes.
Egg, poached or fried.
Rocket.

Warm toppings through in oven for about 10 minutes once the base is cooked.

Is there anything more satisfying, nutritious, diverse, delicious and quite frankly perfect than home-made pizza ?

You couldn’t find a more straightforward path to my heart.

Summer is here and the Squirrell family are having a barbecue tomorrow.

See you then x

Breakfast Party for One

I spend a lot of time on my own when I’m in Brighton.

Now that university is on hold for another summer, I find myself short on cash and long on time, which means taking up my old job back in Kent as a clinical assistant/receptionist in an independent optician.

Which means revisiting the 9-5 lifestyle.

Which means moving back in with my parents.

Which means sharing a room with my sister. Sharing meal times. Sharing the TV, stories of each others’ days. Sharing a house with people (ie. my parents) who are more morally qualified to get their own way than I am when it comes to running said house. You see, at uni, my housemates and I assume an equal level of responsibility and entitlement when it comes to household matters, because we all arrived at the same time, we all pay the same rent, and are all the same age with similar lifestyles, commitments and incomes. At home, my parents pay the mortgage, the bills; I was born of them and regardless of the fact that I am 21 and am perfectly capable of looking after my own finance, health and cleanliness, when I live under their roof, I must do as I am told. That’s fine, I get it. They built this family, they should be the ones in charge. They love my brother, my sister and I and they look after us admirably. Family life just all gets a bit much every now and then.

Which is when I escape to my Brighton hideaway.

Gareth has Wednesdays off, so if I’m not working, we travel down to Brighton and spend Tuesday night together. He goes home Wednesday evening in time for work at 7am on Thursday, and I stay for another day or two teaching cello lessons, and having the silent alone time that I come to crave so desperately after living in what feels like such a crowded house. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. I love spending time with them; it’s lively and fun, there are four other lifestyles to learn about – the mechanics, the fireman, the nursery nurse, the student. The teenager, the young woman, the married couple. I thrive, but I get stressed with the compromise this vibrancy entails. I can’t live my life in the way I have become used to living it.

My kitchen in Brighton has it all. I have white flours, brown flours, rye flour, gluten-free flours. I have flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seeds, pecans, macadamias, walnuts. I have rice, pasta, lentils, quinoa, oats. I have prunes and raisins and dried sour cherries. I have edamame beans in the freezer. I have dark chocolate hidden away in the door of the fridge, should I feel the need. I have two round pizza trays. I have kitchen foil, cling film, greaseproof paper. I have cardamom pods, vanilla extract, caraway seed, dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda. I have agave nectar and maple syrup. I never run out of peanut butter or garlic. This is a list of all the culinary things I feel I need to conduct my activities, the absence of which I find it hard to overcome when trying to cook in my family home. I am a kitchen prima donna, I know. But I can’t help it. Cooking is my hobby, and I am very particular.

I rent this house despite not having much time to enjoy it this summer. My money goes into my bank account and straight back out again. The opticians gives me numbers in exchange for my time, presence and good manners. The letting agent, the phone and the energy companies take away my numbers. Different combinations of numbers and the absence or presence of a minus sign dictates how many pairs of silver, high-waisted leggings or second-hand American Apparel wrap dresses I can buy at any given time. Numbers go up at the pump. The dial goes up in my car’s petrol gauge. The dial goes down in my car’s petrol gauge. I impart what knowledge I have gained from my 13 years of playing the cello to a charming autistic 12-year old in exchange for paper that represents some other numbers, but that doesn’t really represent anything because the bank made too many I.O.Us and that’s why spinach has gone up from £1 a bag to £1.75, and why I now buy kale, which still costs £1 in my local supermarket. Who cares, it’s just numbers on a screen, false promises on paper, needles on a gauge, and one day we’re all gonna die.

What matters is that I made gluten-free pancakes for breakfast (adapted from Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef).

First, make sure you are fresh out of bed. You must retain cockatoo bed hair, and the pancakes will taste better if all you are wearing is your bed t-shirt and knickers. After all, everyone’s gone home for the summer. Get a cafetiere on the go, this is true me-time. You can see your friends later.

Eat the pancakes in bed.

Maybe stick on some crap TV…

… around this point was where I started to feel full.

… fuller still…

… but I finished them all anyway.

That’s the thing about bouncing back and forth between abodes; you never get a decent food shop in. The best thing about a giant, extravagant breakfast is knowing there’s no food in for lunch.

Banana Maple Pecan Pancakes (gluten-free, dairy-free)

You need:

70g sweet brown rice flour

30g tapioca flour

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

1 teaspoon baking powder

A pinch of salt

A dash of cinnamon

100ml of buttermilk (or milk/soy milk with a few drops of lemon juice, left to stand)

A drop of vanilla extract

A tablespoon of mild olive oil/vegetable oil

Method:

Mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients. Combine.

Heat frying pan with oil. Make pancakes.

Top with delicious morsels; I used maple syrup, banana and chopped pecans.

Eat pancakes.

This would probably serve 2. It served me just fine. Pig.

I spend a lot of time on my own when I’m in Brighton. But don’t worry, I like it.

Amy x

Orange and Ginger Loaf: A Citrusy Tale

Posted on

“I made bread today ! Well, actually, it’s more of a cake – ”

“Every time you tell me you’ve made bread you say it’s actually more of a cake. Stop lying to yourself, you’re making cake !”

… was how the conversation went yesterday and I must admit, it is entirely true. It seems a common occurrence now that should I decide to make bread, some sort of sweetness ensues and I end up making a cake, and when I attempt to make what I think is going to be a sweet loaf, bread happens.

My reasons for referring to this as bread are as follows:

It contains no eggs.

It is baked in loaf form, in a loaf tin.

… eh, that’s about it.

In support of this concoction as a cake:

It contains a lot of brown sugar.

It was batter when I poured it in said loaf tin, not dough.

So what is this ? You decide. I am calling it a loaf. A tasty citrus loaf with ginger and cinnamon. Like banana bread, but with orange pulp. Why ? you ask. Well, let me tell you a story.

As a child/young adult, I never liked oranges. I’d drink orange juice and eat orange flavoured things, but would never eat a real orange. Recently – let’s say last year or thereabouts – I decided, for reasons that escape my memory now, to eat one. And it was an entirely delicious and refreshing experience ! I began to incorporate oranges into my daily life, cutting them into quarters, pressing each one eagerly to my mouth and chewing off every last bit of pith and flesh and slurping at the juices like a hungry and overzealous monkey.

(Just so you know I should be writing an essay about 20th century avant-garde performance art right now…)

I revelled in my new-found love of oranges for a few months until one fateful day, I think it was around this Easter, back at my parent’s house. I cut up my orange as usual and sat myself down in front of the television, a bowl in which to discard the skin placed on the arm of the sofa, unaware of what was to come. I lifted an orange segment to my face and was met with the most utterly tasteless, textureless, pithy disgusting mess I never thought my precious citrus fruit wonder capable of producing. I spat it right out, shocked that I could be so betrayed by my fruity friend. It was obscene. Denied my orangey treat, I threw the remains in the bin; I put it down to an unfortunate anomaly of nature, how queer. But the next time I ate an orange, the same thing happened ! And again, and again. A bad batch, perhaps ? Wait a few days or so for the supermarket to restock. But no. Ever since the initial incident, I have yet to sample an orange that I did not immediately spit into the bin. Not again ! Where have all the good oranges gone ? So I abstained from oranges for a period of time.

The other day, I thought it time to readdress my complex, and spent a whole £1.50 at the supermarket on 4 British Navel oranges. I ate one. It wasn’t perfect, but it sufficed. I ate the whole thing. The next day I ate a second one. Unnacceptable. One bite, then straight into the bin, I’ve been cheated again ! Left with two scheming and deceitful oranges I had no intention of eating on their own, I headed straight for the internet for some kind of baking punishment for the pair.

In the end I just used a vegan banana-bread recipe, with a few tweaks.

Here’s what you need:
1/3 cup butter or vegan spread
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large oranges, juice, pulp and zest
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup regular or soy milk
A teaspoon vanilla extract

Do this:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

Cream together the butter/margarine and the sugar

Sift in the flour and the baking powder

Add the orange zest, cinnamon and ginger and combine

Stir in the orange juice and soya milk, alternating a dash of each one at a time to ensure the mixture doesn’t become too runny, but you still want it quite gloopy. You might not need all the orange juice.

Pour into a greased loaf tin and bake for 40 – 45 minutes

Amy x

Vegan Baking Pt. II: Rustic Cupcakes

Yup, that's bona-fide dairy-free "butter"cream you see there.

I call them “Rustic Cupcakes,” because they were always intended to be cupcakes, except they’re nowhere near dainty or cute enough. They are the overweight child and I am the pushy mother who squeezes them into their leotard and drives them to ballet class week after week with disconcerting enthusiasm. (If you’ve just stumbled across this, please check out this post for the recipe and somewhat of an explanation for the weird series of events that led to this abomination.)

Maybe I should call them “Fairy-Scones.” As in fairy-cakes. That taste like scones. They are nice with the buttercream and a good cuppa – turns out hazelnut milk is really nice in tea. On some I just used plain buttercream (soya spread + icing sugar), others I used chocolate buttercream (soya spread + icing sugar + cocoa powder) and some I put a layer of fig jam in too !

Now for some photo evidence of me forcing my friends to enjoy my Frankenstein’s Monster of a batch of cupcakes… sorry, rustic cupcakes. If I say that it makes it sound intentional…

Today has been my last day of pesca-vegetarianism* for at least the next month. The milk is gone, the cheese is gone, the salmon is in the freezer; my kitchen is free of dairy indefinitely.

Next stop, Vegan Town !

Amy x

*I made this word up

Vegan Baking Pt.1

It’s 4pm on a sunny April Saturday in Brighton and today I have achieved the following things:

1 cup of Earl Grey tea.
45 minutes of yoga/pilates workout
My first run since the marathon ! 25 minutes
1 multiseed bagel with peanut butter and a banana
1 load of washing in the machine
1 shower

…and one weird batch of dairy-free cupcake/scone/bread thingies.

I went into town yesterday and bought an array of culinary delights that will enable me to continue cooking and baking my favourite foods in a vegan-friendly manner, suffering the reproachful glares of the Infinity Foods staff for reasons I can only assume concern my lack of dreadlocks and hemp clothing… seriously, why are the people who work there so bloody miserable ?! It’s like you can never be hippie enough to get your groceries in Infinity Foods and thus must suffer the withering looks of people who will always have more difficult and complicated eco-friendly idealist lifestyles than you.

My wholefoods supermarket reputation may not have necessarily been helped along by my housemate’s incredibly loud remarks on vegan cheese (Tom: “So it’s cheese with no dairy ? Isn’t that just… plastic ?” Me: “Shh ! You can’t say that here, the hippies will get you !”) but nevertheless we march onward. I now have in my stocks some egg replacement powder, a block of dairy-free ‘mozzarella’, dairy-free ‘parmesan’, some vegan-friendly coriander/basil and mixed nut pesto and enough UHT soy milk to render the cow obsolete (sorry, cows). So before vegan pizza, vegan cheeseburgers and a variety of vegan pasta dishes occur, here is the first installment of my experimental dairy-free lifestyle (despite having milk, cheese and a salmon fillet still to use up before this whole thing becomes official on Monday)…

VEGAN CUPCAKES… ?

Except they don’t look much like cupcakes. More like scones.

Also I was so confused by the fact that the mixture formed a dough instead of a cake-mix that I got tired halfway through putting it in cupcake cases and just made a loaf.

If you are interested in baking this strange egg-less, butter-less, sugar-less bread-cake-thing, then follow these instructions, pilfered from Coconut Oil Cooking.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Combine:
3 cups plain flour (I just used an approx. 200ml tumbler, I could literally not be bothered with scales today)
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Then mix together:
1 cup honey (the original recipe called for sugar but I don’t have any)
1/2 cup coconut oil (soft but not liquid)
1 1/2 tsps of egg substitute powder
3/4 cup of hazelnut soy drink (I used this instead of regular soy milk)

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Actually I had to bake the loaf for about 45 minutes and I played around with the temperature on both, moving it between 180 and 200. Also I went for run in between baking the scones and the loaf so had to turn the oven off, and when I got back I didn’t really give it a chance to reheat. I would suggest keeping an eye on them, I really have no idea.

I’ve actually yet to taste these, and until that happens I will be unsure of their destination – (vegan) cheese ? Jam ? Icing ? Or bin…

Watch this space to find out !

Amy x

Things I eat after a run

BECAUSE I RAN THE BRIGHTON MARATHON, BABY.

Free chocolate milk and getting a leg massage in my space blanket was totally worth running 26.2 miles for

It took me 4 hours, 56 minutes and 41 seconds. Not enviable, but I finished, and I finished running. And I’m going to do it again next year. Faster. Thank you to everyone who believed in and supported me with love and donations, you are all awesome.

I currently have the body of a 90-year-old. Stairs are my nemesis. But I feel amazing. Everyone should run a marathon, seriously.

So you know that post-workout feeling. Exhausted. Hot. Sweaty. Your legs feel like jelly, your hands are shaking like milk and all you can think about is getting that clammy running kit off and some good hydration and nutrition in.

…at least this is what exercise does to me.

Needless to say, a lot of energy is spent during cardiovascular exercise, which, if you’re training for fitness and endurance, needs to be replaced as quickly as possible after a workout to re-stock your glycogen levels and enable muscle repair.

To replenish your glycogen stores after a heavy workout (to avoid post-run head-rushes, headaches and lethargy) you need something with a high glycemic index. High GI foods – things like refined grains and sweets (see this post for more info) – are usually the ones to be avoided, as their quick sugar-release is more readily stored as fat if munched mindlessly. But in this instance, they are allowed, nay, encouraged, shock horror, because your body will be in desperate need of some energy !

In terms of GI, foods are allocated a sort of rating on a scale between 1 and 100 according to how quickly their carbohydrate energy is released into your system – the higher the number, the higher the glycemic index and the faster its energy is released when you eat them. Some exercise plans tell you to eat high GI foods post-workout such as jelly beans (80), sports drink (90 – 100), and white bread (70), but all of these make me feel sick and I prefer a more natural fix such as an over-ripe banana (50-70 depending on ripeness), a few slices of watermelon (80), or medjool dates (60) (which, if you’ve never eaten them, are DIVINE and I cannot get enough of them at the moment. The thought of them fuels my running).

(Find the GI numbers of your favourite foods here.)

Fruits or vegetables are important after a run, and not just to replace carbs. Along with the water you lose as you sweat, you also lose minerals, which you can find in fruit and veg. I also use these fizzy mineral replacement tabs dissolved in about a pint of water which have no calories, only super-hydration.

You also need protein to repair your muscles and help them to retain the strength you build into them by training. Yoghurt, peanut butter and milk are examples of quick protein fixes (ie. you don’t have to cook them). You see, after you finish training, you have a 15 minute window in which consuming these kinds of things is most beneficial for workout recovery – its when your body needs them most. But who can cook a meal in under 15 minutes after a 16 mile run ? As I said, I can barely spread peanut butter on a bagel.

So I decided that something easily made, consumed and digested was the way forward.

AND THUS WAS BORN THE MOST WONDROUS AND DELICIOUS SMOOTHIE THAT EVER EXISTED.

Okay, so I didn’t invent this, I’m sure. But you won’t care once you taste it.

Banana-Date-Peanut-Butter-Post-Workout-Smoothie

Get:
Half a banana (I’ve usually eaten the other half before the run) – for carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals such as potassium
3 medjool dates, chopped and pitted – high GI for quick sugar release
150ml of milk – for protein
A tablespoon of peanut butter – for protein, carbohydrate and a little salt – OR a few tablespoons of chocolate-flavoured yoghurt

Do:
Blend all ingredients.
Snarf.
Recover like a boss and be the sexiest mo-fo’ on the mo-f’in’ beach.

Another taste sensation across which I stumbled during my treacherous training regime is:

No-bake Vegan Oat Energy Bars

Get: 5 tablespoons of oats
3 tablespoons seed/dried fruit mix
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

Do:
Mix all ingredients together until all combined. If the mixture is too dry and isn’t sticking, add more honey/agave.
Pack tightly into some kind of dish lined with baking paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

These are great for protein, but as honey and especially agave nectar are in fact low GI, eat it along with 2 or 3 dates or a slice of watermelon if you’re consuming post-workout. The slow-release energy in every ingredient makes them a perfect pre-run snack.

And some more ideas…

Yoghurt

Peanut butter and sliced banana on wholewheat toast

Tuna on rice-cakes

To put it simply, think protein and sugar. Bam.

Enjoy.

Amy x