Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Great Butter Debate…

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always bought skimmed milk, wholewheat bread, wholemeal pasta, fat free yoghurts and olive spread. Have I been getting it wrong all along?

The Great Butter Debate

The Great Butter Debate

I’ve recently brought our butter dish back out of the cupboard.

The last time it was in use, was when my daughter was very young & the advice was to give full fat dairy products, such as whole milk & butter. I’ve always shied away from the butter dish for myself. Growing up thinking that butter was a near equivalent to downing shots of bleach, or chewing down arsenic sandwiches – you know, it *will* kill you.

Butter is fat. Fat is bad. Fat will kill you.

I follow A LOT of fitness experts, food bloggers, nutritionists, sports enthusiasts, personal trainers and hobby gym go-ers. Most of these guys are incredibly careful about what they put in to their bodies. Some are clean eaters, some are veggie, some are high protein-ists, some are paleo, some are strictly alkaline. All are about eating the most pure form of foods, the best that they can find, the unadulterated. Those of them that eat dairy, almost all eat ‘real’ butter. It has left me wondering why I do usually opt for the reduced fat spreads. I’d never really given it a thought…

The thing that started me down my route of questioning the norm, was whilst I was making a cake for a birthday party. I had bought proper butter to make the cake, but didn’t quite have enough. I reached for the pot of ‘light olive spread’ & it proclaimed that it couldn’t be used for baking, frying or cooking. Weird, I thought, I wonder why… Then I looked at the ingredients, trying to figure why it wasn’t suitable for baking, and this is what I found:

Water, Vegetable Oils in varying proportions (22%) (Rapeseed, Palm, Sunflower), Olive Oil (16%), Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Buttermilk, Emulsifiers (Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids, Sunflower Lecithin), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Citric Acid, Natural Flavouring, Vitamins A and D, Colour (Carotenes)

I flipped my butter pack over, ingredients:

Jersey Cream

I kind of stood in my kitchen, thinking “hmmmm, hmmmmmm, ahhhh, hmmmm”, tapping my head a bit, re-reading both packs and then thinking “hmmmmmmm”.

I feel like I’ve been sidelined in to this ‘healthy eating’ brainwash: “Butter = Bad. Low fat spread = Good.”

Reading, what can only be described as a chemical cocktail, I’m no longer convinced that low fat spreads are the way forward, certainly not for me & my family. Whilst the overall fat content of these low fat spreads may sound more appealing, I think that it makes sense to use real butter, but perhaps more sparingly. I’m not about to start eating a block a day, because, good or bad, it is still a source of saturated fat. But a little bit here and there will be better that a bunch of chemical junk any day.

I have shunned my previous favourite spread to the very back of the top shelf of the fridge – I don’t know why, I’m not planning on ever eating it again, maybe it is there for an emergency, you know, when I really feel the urge to spread some Potassium Sorbate on my toast (ick!)

By dropping ‘butter vs low fat spread’ in to the interweb search box, heaps of articles pop up, some pro butter, some very anti butter. I’m sure that there are pros and cons to each side, as there always is with any choice or debate. I’m gonna go ahead and stick myself firmly on the pro butter side.

What do you think?

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Gluten Free Apple & Pistachio Crumble Cake

I made a ‘normal’ version of this a few weeks ago and it was SO good, but I tried it with gluten free flour this weekend & hey, guess what?! It is even BETTER!

Gluten Free Apple & Pistachio Crumble Cake

Gluten Free Apple & Pistachio Crumble Cake

The cake was moist and delicious, delicately spiced with cinnamon, rich from the cinnamon buttercream, sweet from the cherry jam filling & chunks of apple. The crumble topping was crisp and crunchy and the chunks of pistachio gave a great texture.

I highly recommend making this with gluten free flour, whether you are gluten intolerant or not, it just works so much better! The gluten free flour I used was a Doves Farm self-raising.


Cake batter:

  • 250g room temp butter
  • 250g muscovado sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1tbsp raw honey
  • 4 medium eggs, beaten
  • 250g gluten free self-raising flour
  • 50 g pistachios
  • 2 big or 3 small cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped in to 1-2cm chunks

Crumble topping:

  • 50g cold, diced butter
  • 100g gluten free self-raising flour (you could use plain here, but I only had SR)
  • 50g muscovado sugar

Cinnamon Vanilla Buttercream (& Cherry Jam) Filling:

  • 140g room temperature butter
  • 280g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1tbsp raw honey
  • (Cherry Jam – I used Meridian no added sugar morello cherry fruit spread, but use whatever you have open already & in need of using up)

Cake Batter Method:

  1. Preheat oven to gas 4. Line a 25-30cm round cake tin (I used a spring-form because it comes out easily).
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together. Add in the cinnamon, honey and vanilla. Add in the eggs a little at a time.
  3. Gently mix in the flour, pistachios and apple chunks.
  4. Pour the cake batter in to the prepped tin.

Crumble Topping & Baking Method:

  1. Put the cold butter, flour and sugar in to a bowl & rub together with fingertips, until it looks like breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the cake batter.
  2. Bake in the pre-heated over for around 1h 30 – 2hrs, or until a metal skewer poked in to the centre comes out clean.
  3. Leave to cool in the tin, before cutting.

Cinnamon Vanilla Buttercream & Assembly Method:

  1. Beat the butter and icing sugar together until smooth.
  2. Add in the honey, cinnamon and vanilla, then add the milk until it is the right consistency.
  3. Cut the cooled cake in half and remove the top section (be careful not to brush off the crumble topping).
  4. Spread the buttercream over the base of the cake – it will take all of it, no problem! Slather the jam all over the buttercream & carefully place the lid of the cake back on.
  5. Sprinkle with a little icing sugar and (because I’m mentally a 6 year old when I make cakes) chuck on some glitter and sparkly sprinkles! 😉
  6. Cut a huge wedge & eat it up along with a glass of wine/baileys/gin!

Please share the recipe with your friends & surprise a gluten-intolerant person with a thoroughly delicious cake of yummy proportions! Let me know what you think of it!

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Vegan Kale Pesto Recipe

I love getting my weekly veg box delivery. I like that it forces me to include a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in to my diet. This week, when I saw a huge bag of beautiful dark green kale arrive, I knew I was going to definitely make a gorgeous green pesto out of it, and I did, and here it is:

Vegan Kale Pesto (makes a good soup-bowl sized amount):

Kale is an awesomely good source of iron, vitamins A, B-6, C & K and rammed full of antioxidants. Cashews are also a great provider of B vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, copper and zinc and a good source of mono-unsaturated fatty acids. They are full of soluble dietary fibre too.

Super Green Kale Pesto!

Super Green Kale Pesto!


  • 1 large-ish bag of kale, washed & tough stalks cut out
  • 2/3cup of cashew nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4cup green olives
  • 3tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4cup cyder vinegar
  • 1tsp ground nutmeg
  • salt & pepper


  1. Cut the kale up a bit to help with blending later on.
  2. Cook the kale in salted boiling water until *just* cooked, drain.
  3. Blend kale along with all other ingredients – make sure that you add the oil a bit at a time, you may not need it all, or you may need a little more.
  4. When the pesto is blended to your preferred consistency, check for seasoning.

I love to serve this pesto as a stunningly green pasta salad dressing, teamed with tomatoes, chickpeas and pine-nuts, or over hot potatoes. Try adding in to soups, or mixing with cottage cheese as a topping for cracker breads. Use as you would any other pesto really!

Vegan Kale Pesto with Pasta, Chickpeas, Pinenuts & Sunblushed Toms.

Vegan Kale Pesto with Pasta, Chickpeas, Pinenuts & Sunblushed Toms.

I find that this pesto will keep well in the fridge for a few days, or, if you are unlikely to get through it all, pop in to ice cube trays, freeze and then bag up for later – add a couple of frozen cubes in to soups/stews to cook through, or defrost in the fridge and use as before.

Don’t let your kale go sad and floppy at the back of your fridge, go and give it a try!

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My Fantasy Food Team

I stepped on the scales this morning – I actually don’t do this very often, as I find it can sometimes have a detrimental effect on how you behave for the rest of the day/week/month if you don’t like what you see. According to my (cheap, old, not very accurate) scales, I now weigh in at 139.5lbs. The half pound is very important because that makes me UNDER 10 stone, that is NINE STONE something. A loss of OVER five stone. Good times.

Anywho, I’ve noticed recently, that a lot of people I know are passing comment on my weightloss (something that actually creeps me out a bit!) & then asking how I’ve done it. Well, there’s no special secret, trick or magic spell. The answer is simple:

Eat better. Move more.

You’ll notice that I’ve said “eat better“, not “eat less“. Whilst limiting calories is an age-old, time-tested way to certainly reduce weight, it is actually more important to make sure that you are eating the right things first. For example, you could calorie count a 1500kcal diet & eat low fat crisps, low fat cheese, and sugar-free sweets till the cal counter tells you you’re done. You’ll have sunk your daily intake, but likely feel hungry, tired, a bit crabby as you are being ‘punished’ on your diet. You’ll also be far more likely to crave more food & make further poor choices.

I’m a huge advocate of snacking. Little healthier snacks between meals will stop you from sugar-crashing & craving a quick fix, like chocolate. Choose things that are full of either proteins or complex carbs, as these will help you to feel fuller for longer.

By eating better – choosing fruits, vegetables, healthy snacks AND the odd treat, you will find that you will not be so hungry, nor as likely to delve in to a huge bar of chocolate. You won’t feel so ‘punished’ if you are full. You won’t feel so terrible if you actually allow yourself an occasional treat*

*a giant bar of chocolate, giant bag of crisps, 3 bottles of wine isn’t a treat – try a small bar of chocolate, a bag of baked crisps or a glass (maybe 2) of wine.

I thought I’d share my food staples with you. These are foods that I eat at least 2/3 times a week. Foods that help me to feel full and that feel like a treat in themselves, when really, they’re all pretty healthy! They might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but give some of them a go:

  • Nakd & Trek Bars – I’ve mentioned these in a previous post. They are still delicious, sweet & sticky – perfect for sweet cravings. They have also just released a Christmas Pud flavour & it is out of this world.
  • Quest Bars – These aren’t for everyone. I spend quite a bit of time doing exercise, both cardio & weights. I am aiming to build strength, build muscle. These delicious protein bars come in heaps of different flavours and feel like a real treat. They are low in carbs, low in cals and high in protein. They are a bit on the £££ side of the snack world, but for me, they are totally worth it & they are a MILLION times better than a yucky protein shake!
  • Yoghurts – Either plain, fat free greek yoghurt (I like fage total the best), or, Danio fruit minis, or Liberte fruit layers. All low in fat and low in cals, but thick & creamy, so quite filling.
  • Fruit – I eat heaps of fruit. If I’m feeling lazy (and likely to reach for something worse), I’ll get the pre-prep packs from the shops, but most of the time, I’ll prepare it myself. Try freezing grapes as a great sub for sweets. Eat alongside other foods to make it go further & fill you up even more. Grab up a sack of clementines – seasonal & the perfect size for snacking on. A good ol’ banana is a powerhouse!
  • Marks and Spencer’s Guilt-Free Snack Range – The crisps that these guys sell are great, mostly around or under 100kcals per pack. Huge range of flavours. My faves are the sour cream and chilli lentil curls & the little bacon lentil tubes. Also a great pesto chickpea shell flavour available too. Perfect substitute for ‘normal’ crisps.
  • Popcorn – Amazing stuff. My fave brands are metcalfes (the sweet & salt and the  heat & sweet are to die for). Also try portlebay – the lemon sherbert flavour is unbelievable! Popcorn is relatively low in cals and the flavoured varieties make it feel like a special treat.
  • Rice-cakes – These are a bit of a new revelation for me. My faves at the mo are made by Kallo. There is a great kiddy range that are strawberry yoghurt & come pre-packed in 2s. Also give their dark choc and orange flavour a go!
  • Quorn – low fat, low cal, protein source & really reasonably priced. The family ‘chicken’ roast is so good & ridiculously good value!
  • Ryvita – great source of fibre, low in fat, low in cals and perfect for topping with delicious stuff. My fave topping is cottage cheese, ham, fig and basil.
  • Warburtons Wholemeal Pitta Halves – I don’t eat much bread, but these are high in fibre and relatively low cal. Great to eat with soup.
  • Low Fat Cottage cheese – great source of protein and low in fat & cals. Great as a topping, or as a replacement for mayo. Chuck in on crackers, mix in to tuna, blob it on soup, spread on ham and add a gherkin for a roll-up snack, use it in cooking & baking too.
  • Protein powders – these are great for whipping up great snacks. I’ve got the protein powder cookbook & the banana bread & vanilla blueberry muffins are super delicious and quick to make. Most of the recipes are low carb, low fat, high protein & made with great stuff like coconut flour.
  • Oats – I eat these mostly as porridge (made with skimmed milk), but also use them in lots of recipes
  • Soup – the days are getting colder and darker & soup is great for lunch. Make your own where possible, but for those of you with limited time or without the inclination to make it, there are some very good pre-prepped stuff in supermarkets now. Just try to avoid aby that have cheese or bacon/chorizo in, as these will be higher in fat and therefore, higher in cals too.
  • Vegetables – A bit of a no-brainer, but eating loads of veg will help to fill you up. Eat it raw, steamed, boiled, roasted. As a quick side dish, I like to chop loads of crunchy veggies up and chuck in a spoon of plain greek yoghurt, some lemon juice and some herbs & seasoning – perfect speedy sort-of coleslaw!
  • Veg chips – some days only chips will do – unless you can make veg chips! I like to make veg chips using carrot, parsnip, sweet potato and sometimes bog-standard normal potatoes. A teeny bit of oil, a good non-stick baking tray, hot hot hot oven and a great seasoning mix (I use semolina, for crunch, a little sea salt and some paprika and cumin). So good, give them a try!
  • Hognuts Nutbutters – A relatively new find for me. So delicious, loads of gorgeous flavours of nut butter – all hand blended & high in protein. Great toast topper, awesome stirred in to oats, or baked in to a protein cookie!

This isn’t an exhaustive list, by any means, but they are certainly favourites of mine. I try to avoid full fat cheeses and fatty meats such as salami or sausages. I don’t eat very much bread or pasta, but when I do, I eat wholemeal, where possible. I limit my alcohol intake and don’t drink at all during the week. I generally have a day of ‘relaxed’ eating at the weekend, especially if there’s a birthday or if friends are over. I do still put everything in to myfitnesspal though – even if it is wayyyyyyy over what I should have had – I find that by doing this, it does make you think & ask yourself whether you should really have that extra slice of cake or not – the answer is usually not! 😉

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