Sugar Free Prunes Muffins

Light, fluffy and full of flavour, these sugar-free and low-fat muffins make for a perfect treat at any time of the day or night.

Light, fluffy and full of flavour, these sugar-free and low-fat muffins make for a perfect treat at any time of the day or night.This recipe is a spin-off from my Sugar & Wheat Free Fruit and Nut Breakfast Muffins. It has more defined flavours, has less fats due to the reduce amount of coconut oil used and with the addition of the optional dark chocolate and almonds I find it works perfectly as a breakfast muffin too 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 250g prunes; chopped
  • 1 tin / 400ml coconut milk
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 25g raw cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs; beaten
  • 1tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp nutmeg
  • 50g almonds; chopped coarsely (optional)
  • 50g dark chocolate; chopped coarsely (optional)

Light, fluffy and full of flavour, these sugar-free and low-fat muffins make for a perfect treat at any time of the day or night.Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C fan and prepare a 12 space muffin tin by lining it with paper muffin cases or silicon ones if you have them.

In a medium size cooking pot place the chopped prunes, add the entire 400ml tin of coconut milk after a good shake and bring slowly to a gentle simmer.

Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes or until most of the milk has incorporated itself into the fruit.

Put aside and allow it to cool for 10 minutes; then add 1 table spoon of coconut oil into the mixture and mix well until it has melted and combined into the mix.

Meanwhile sift the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon and nutmeg, into a large mixing bowl and then add the bicarbonate of soda and mix.

In a seperae bowl, beat the eggs till they are uniform and fully mixed.

Once the prunes have reached room temperature add the vanilla extract, beaten eggs and again mix well.

Finally, fold in the flour mixture. At this stage, if you have opted for using the chopped chocolate and nuts then add them now and fold in gently.

Light, fluffy and full of flavour, these sugar-free and low-fat muffins make for a perfect treat at any time of the day or night.Spread the finished mix evenly between the 12 muffin casings and pop into the earlier preheated oven. Try to work as fast as you can… as the slower you are, the less fluffy the muffins will be when they come out of the oven.

Bake for 18 minutes at 180C fan.

When the time is up, remove them from the oven, remove from the baking tray and place on a wire rack and allow them to cool completely (if you can).

Enjoy all day and night 🙂

Light, fluffy and full of flavour, these sugar free and low fat muffins make for a perfect treat at any time of the day or night.

Tarator – Chilled Cucumber Soup

Super tasty and extremely refreshing, this cold cucumber soup is the perfect dish to cool you down during those hot summer days.

Super tasty and extremely refreshing, this cold cucumber soup is the perfect dish to cool you down during those hot summer days. Tarator is a traditional Bulgarian summer soup, which can be found on the menu of many restaurants and diners. It’s actually a chilled soup, though some people prefer to call it a liquid salad, which really does work well on the pallet. The soup is very easy to prepare and it can be on the table within minutes… Tarator is a traditional Bulgarian summer soup, which can be found on the menu of many restaurants and diners.  It’s actually a chilled soup, though some people prefer to call it a liquid salad, which really does work well on the pallet. The soup is very easy to prepare and it can be on the table within minutes…

Personally I was avoiding this dish for quite some time now, the idea of a yogurt soup simply didn’t appeal to me very much, but then came that moment when visiting friends and I was cornered with no escape, the dish sat before me on the table coaxing me to try and surrounded by expectant faces waiting to see my reaction to eating it. To everyone’s joy, there was no screwed up face just wide eyes and that feeling of hmmm… more… now I’ve tried it, there is just no going back… it is definitely staying on the regular “go to” menu in our household.

One thing to have in mind, the longer you leave it in the fridge, the more intense the flavours…

The recipe below is for quite a large portion but we usually keep it in the fridge for up to a week, as the intensifying of the flavours works for us rather well, and it’s wonderful to be able to just open the fridge and grab a bowlful when you want a snack or a starter. If you think it’s going to make way too much for you or you just want to try and see if it’s for you simply halve the ingredients and prepare a smaller serving.

Ingredients:

  • 800ml Greek yogurt
  • 400ml filtered chilled water
  • 4 large garlic cloves; minced
  • 1kg cucumbers
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill; finely chopped
  • 2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp black pepper (optional)
  • Ice cubes – for serving (optional)

Super tasty and extremely refreshing, this cold cucumber soup is the perfect dish to cool you down during those hot summer days. Tarator is a traditional Bulgarian summer soup, which can be found on the menu of many restaurants and diners. It’s actually a chilled soup, though some people prefer to call it a liquid salad, which really does work well on the pallet. The soup is very easy to prepare and it can be on the table within minutes…

Method:

Wash the cucumbers (do not peel) then grate half of them; the remaining half chop into cubes. Place them in a large bowl and add the salt – let them rest like this for at least 5 minutes so they can start to absorb some of the salt.

In the meantime, mince the garlic and finely chop the dill and add to the cucumber mix.

Add the yogurt and water to your cucumbers, season with fresh cracked pepper and mix well.

Serve well chilled or even better over some ice and enjoy the cool sensation.

See, told you it was easy, now go and enjoy!

Super tasty and extremely refreshing, this cold cucumber soup is the perfect dish to cool you down during those hot summer days. Tarator is a traditional Bulgarian summer soup, which can be found on the menu of many restaurants and diners. It’s actually a chilled soup, though some people prefer to call it a liquid salad, which really does work well on the pallet. The soup is very easy to prepare and it can be on the table within minutes…

Sunflower Seeds – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sunflower seeds – small, tasty and healthy; eaten as a snack or as a part of a proper meal this fruit of the sunflower has a lot to offer us but just like most things in life, even sunflower seeds have to be consumed in moderation as too much simply isn’t good for us…

Some countries are much bigger on sunflower seeds consumption than other. I’ve read that in Russia for example, you can simply ask a friend for a handful of sunflower seeds once you run out, just like you would bump the proverbial cup of sugar from your neighbour in the UK; they are just so common and everyone eats them. I personally love sunflower seeds, to the point that Mark thinks I should look like a parrot by now. Anyways last night whilst multitasking (re-watching season 4 of House MD and playing Jelly Saga bubbles on my phone at the same time), I heard the episode with the diagnosis – B6 toxicity as a direct result of excessive sunflower seed consumption… well, this caused me to stop nibbling and got me thinking, so here I am sharing with you the headlines from what I have been researching for the last few hours 🙂

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of polyunsaturated oils; they are rich in Vitamin E, copper, Vitamin B, manganese, selenium, magnesium, folate and almost 70 other nutrients.

The main health benefits of eating sunflower seeds:

  • Weight control – due to their high levels of oil they will quickly take care of any hunger pangs, thus making a perfect snack.
  • Some anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular benefits due to their high levels of vitamin E.
  • They help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Anti-depressant – high level of magnesium can help with low moods, as well as help calm muscles and ease blood vessels.
  • Antioxidant – the selenium in sunflower seeds can help with thyroid health and help to repair any damaged cells within our body.

All is good in the world of sunflower seeds that is until we eat too many of them… Well, one might ask how many it too many… apparently, a single 1oz serving per day is the magic number… eating more can lead to several undesirable effects and contribute to:

  • Weight gain! Yes, the same seed which promotes weight loss in moderate amounts when eaten uncontrollably (the habit of nibbling them is very addictive) will inevitably lead to way too many calories and fats and undesirable weight gain.
  • Excess salt, especially if you snack on the salted version of the seeds.
  • General mouth and dental problems due to cracking too many shells.
  • Stomach problems due to high levels of fiber from eating both shelled and unshelled seeds.
  • Vitamin or/and nutrients overdose. All those good nutrients which were highly beneficial in a small amount can lead to problems when over consumed, especially manganese, selenium or B6 (just as House said).

I still love sunflower seeds but I might stick to a serving of roasted seeds as an addition to my salad from now on and lay off snacking my way through a 100g pack of it every other day.

Do you like sunflower seeds?

Have you ever considered that something can be beneficial in a small amount yet can be harmful when over-consumed?

A Shout Out to The Farmers Market

* by Mark

I am a sinner, for I partake in the nasty habit of smoking and so I am often relegated to the cold and wet outside to satisfy my cravings. Over the years I have grown accustomed to the downside of my habit and accept it as a norm. Oh yes before you think it I have tried to quit and sure one day I will quit with the help of vaping but for now success eludes me. So you may now be wondering what on earth this has to do with a farmers market, let me explain…

We smokers are often told from learned and wise people that one of the many downsides to our habit is a reduced or even the total loss of our sense of smell and taste and as they are indeed wise I for one took them at their word.

In a busy and hectic modern lifestyle we as a society have reduced our foraging for food down to the weekly visit to one of the main supermarket chains, its normal and everyone does it. Now as I wander around the fruit and veg section of our local supermarket the smells are muted and in many cases missing, even in the cut flower section. Once home and dinner is prepared my taste buds experience the same muted sense. It must be because I smoke right, my fault right….

A Shout Out to The Farmers MarketNow we live in the deepest darkest corner of Bulgaria, miles from anything resembling a supermarket and having missed the summer so the veg patch is currently bare we have to go foraging in a new way. So to the farmers market we go on a chilly but sunny Wednesday morning to browse a hundred different stalls stacked high with seasonally appropriate vegetables and fruit. This is where I had one of my life changing experiences.

Maybe it was a miracle, maybe Bulgarian cigarettes are made different whatever it was my sense of smell was reeling from all the inputs. I could smell everything and in many cases I didn’t even have to be an inch away but several paces away was close enough to smell the produce. It was an amazing experience and has left a lasting impression on me. When we returned home and prepared some of our newly acquired food my taste buds also joined in with the revelation of working again as the taste of everything was distinct and filled my mouth. I am hooked.

…and yes I still smoke, probably more now than ever as the novelty of £2 a pack makes quitting just a little harder!

So why, I was left wondering, why have my senses returned to me so suddenly after all these years of being dormant. Turns out if you eat stuff grown in clean soil, that’s clean in the sense of not being saturated in chemicals and in a natural environment as it is meant to be grown as stated by Mother Nature the end product smells and tastes amazing. If you eat stuff grown out of season, stuff that grew in a polly-tunnel and that was fed chemicals to facilitate the fastest possible growth cycle to maximise profits the flavour and smell is muted. It is all to do with the micro-organisms in the soil, all the creepy crawlies who defecate and die in the soil, the rain water and the whole ecosystem that the plant grows in. Things we probably don’t want to think about as we are eating but are vital to the amount of smell and taste we experience at the end of it all. Commercially grown stuff tends to be shielded from all that stuff and we pay the price.

So I return to my starting point, with a huge shout out to the farmers market, they are not perfect but they are a far better option than the supermarket shelves of commercially churned out produce. So support your local business person and visit your farmers market and spend a little extra cash, trust me your nose and tongue will thank you.

5 Benefits of Walnuts

Who knew that walnuts are truly the nut of wonder… well actually they aren’t nuts but seeds but you get the point. They are among the oldest foods grown by humans, dating back to 7000BC, super rich in nutrition and with countless benefits to our body.

Who knew that walnuts are truly the nut of wonder… well actually they aren’t nuts but seeds but you get the point. They are among the oldest foods grown by humans, dating back to 7000BC, super rich in nutrition and with countless benefits to our body.I was never a huge fan of walnuts. I do like them, don’t get me wrong, but given the choice of different nuts I would usually go for almonds, cashews or even hazelnuts. Since coming to Bulgaria we have discovered that walnuts are the only protected tree in this country, which obviously means no chopping without very special permission, as a result there are walnuts everywhere! And I really mean everywhere! I can go for a 5 minute walk to my local village shop and come back with a basket of walnuts if I was to collect only those that have dropped from the trees along the sidewalk.  With such an abundance of these nuts I have started to look closer into them and to my big surprise I have discovered that they are truly nuts of wonder with many benefits which really shouldn’t be overlooked.

Heart health

Walnuts contain the plant-based omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an anti-inflammatory and may prevent the formation of pathological blood clots. Research shows that people who eat a diet high in ALA are less likely to have a fatal heart attack and have a nearly 50 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death. They also decrease LDL cholesterol, which is the so called “bad cholesterol” and increases production of the good one.

Brain health

Walnuts have a very high antioxidant content, which means that they can improve your brain functions including the memory function, comprehension and possibly even slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.

Weight control

Surprisingly those fatty, fairly high calorie nuts can help us lose weight. If added to your diet they will help to keep us fuller for longer. One study has shown that people who included walnuts in their breakfast had a sense of fullness for much longer than the group which didn’t, which means less snacking, less other foods, less calories…

Source of vitamins and minerals

Walnuts are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals including: folic acid, vitamin B, vitamin E, magnesium, copper, phosphorus.

Beauty nut

Well, walnuts can help us with the quality of our sleep (thanks to melatonin), they will strengthen our hair (thanks to biotin / vitamin B7) and make our skin glow (thanks to vitamin B and antioxidants) so how could we not call it a beauty nut?

 

Those are just five of the main benefits of walnuts. According to many articles on the net there is many, many more, some less proven then others but the bottom line is: walnuts are good for you, really good! Now, it’s just a case of finding some “healthy” (aka organic grown) walnuts near you. And if you struggling give me a shout I can share our stash with you 🙂

Source:
https://authoritynutrition.com/foods/walnuts/
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/19/7-walnuts-benefits.aspx
http://www.thehealthsite.com/fitness/go-walnuts-13-health-benefits-of-this-awesome-nut/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19910942
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16825686