The Chia Co Chia Seeds, Chia Pods and Oats+Chia Review


As many of you know I’m a big fan of chia seeds. They make an awesome egg replacer for baking, are delicious stirred into smoothies, yoghurt and porridge and are fab sprinkled over salads and in granola. So I was super excited to receive this wonderful bundle of goodies from The Chia Co to try.

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Chia is the richest source of plant based Omega 3, protein and fibre and is also full of vitamins and minerals so they’re a great food to include in your diet. The Chia Co are an Australian based company growing chemical-free, sun ripened chia and as well as producing packets of the seeds themselves they also make two awesome chia-based products to go – chia pods and oats+chia.

I was sent a big packet of chia seeds, four chia pods – vanilla bean extract and blueberry flavours, and the apple spice and mixed berry Oats+chia sachets.

So starting with the seeds – I use chia a lot so I used these seeds in my recent peanut butter brownie recipe (recipe here)

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I also sprinkled them in my granola, used them in my quinoa porridge (recipe here) and added them to my smoothie. The smoothie was based on this recipe here from Colette’s Fitness Kitchen – 2 large bananas, 1 tbsp cashew butter, 2 cups soya milk, 2 scoops of Pure Form Vanilla Protein Powder, 1tbsp chia seeds, 1 tsp each of cinnamon, raw cacao and coffee and a cup of ice – blitzed together! Yum! :)

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So as you can see I LOVE using chia and these seeds from the Chia Co are fab! They’re beautifully packaged in a resealable pack and they also make them in little individual sized ‘shot’ portions which are perfect to take with you on the go!

Now on to the Chia pods! These are a serving of chia seeds, coconut milk and fruit (or vanilla extract) – all good and dairy free. I tried both flavours and although I thought I’d prefer the vanilla one the mixed berry was definitely my favourite. The vanilla one was good but I could only manage half this generous portion in one go – it was so creamy and rich.

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The blueberry one though was divine! I polished that up super quick! The addition of the real fruits really made this and lightens it up. It makes a fab brekkie, pud or post workout snack. They’re in really secure portable packaging too, with a spoon, so are easy to pop in your gym bag or handbag, or lunchbox.

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My absolute favourites of the products I tried though we’re the Oats+chia sachets. These are single serve sachets of chia, oats, coconut oil and real fruit which you just need to add water too. You can either add hot water directly to the contents of the pack, or you can add cold water (using the empty sachet to measure the amount needed – a feature I loved!) and then microwave it.

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The portions don’t look very large when you open them so I was a little worried to begin with.

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But once you add the water and let it sit for a minute as per the instructions it bulks up to a decent portion and it’s so lovely, creamy and filling that it really is the perfect amount. The apple spice flavour was delish – plenty of spices and real chunks of apple made this super tasty and filling. I had it as a post workout snack and it filled me up perfectly. I threw a blueberries on top but it would be just as nice without.

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The mixed berry flavour was my favourite once again – super creamy but wig a lovely tartness from the berries. I had this for brekkie and added extra berries and toasted almonds. It really didn’t need these either but I was feeling decadent! :)

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So all in all I’m really impressed. The Oats+chia sachets are definitely my favourite (well aside from the seeds themselves which are super useful for loads of things!). They’re a great portion size, are filling and full of flavour. They’re also really quick to make up and are so much better than other similar instant oat products which are full of sugar and artificial flavours etc. I can’t wait to try the banana and mango, and blueberry and lemon flavours! Oats+chia are available from Ocado.

The pods were fab too – especially the blueberry one. I’m hoping the mango and banana flavours will be just as yummy! The pods are available from Tescos, Waitrose, Whole foods Market, Planet Organic and some local health stores.

The seeds are available from lots of suppliers. For more info about the products and stockists check out http://www.thechiaco.com.au or http://www.facebook.com/thechiaco :)

Do try them and let me know what you think too! :)

The Primal Kitchen Energy Bars – a review


Any company founded by one woman, some nuts and a blender is always going to be good and The Primal Kitchen is no exception if these bars are anything to go by!

I spotted one of these bars in a local health food shop some time ago and quickly realised that not only did they sound delicious but the company was based locally in Surrey. I’m always keen to promote and support local enterprises, and review potential snack options for you all and I was lucky enough to be sent some of these bars to try.

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There are currently three flavours available (though there’s a delicious sounding Hazelnut & Cocoa fourth on the way!) – Coconut & Macadamia, Almond & Cashew and Brazil Nut & Cherry. They’re made with no more than 5 ingredients and are full of whole foods and free from gluten, dairy, refined sugars and grains.

I train a lot and am always on the look out for healthy, portable snacks to refuel with. and these tick the boxes on that score. Although in an ideal world we’d all be making our own protein-packed healthy snack bars, in reality it’s just not possible all the time. These are a great source of protein and good fats, bursting with energy for when you need to grab something on the go. They’d be great for children too.

So on to the bars – the Coconut &Macadamia bar was my first to try. This was really good – I love the combination of coconut with macadamia. It was chewy but with lovely big chunks of nut and had loads of flavour. It also looked great too.

IMG_1007The Almond & Cashew Bar was very tasty. Not too sweet, and not too bland with a really good balance between the nuts. It looks great and again has lovely chunky bits of nuts. I also like the fact that it’s not too oily (as some other similar bars can be).

IMG_1000I saved the Brazil Nut and Cherry one until last – both with trepidation and excitement. I’m not a big fan of Brazil nuts, but I LOVE cherries… so I was really keen to taste this one. Would the cherry beat those Brazil nuts and win me over? Well indeed it did! This is probably my favourite (though it’s so hard to pick one!).The sweet tartness of the cherries balances the Brazil nuts perfectly and I actually loved the combination. I often find Brazil nuts too rich for me but combined with the cherries they were great!

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They all looked homemade – which I love, and they were all really filling which is great. I also love the packaging and design of the products. They’re designed for people following a Paleo diet, but would suit anyone avoiding gluten, dairy or refined sugars in their diet and are great for anyone Paleo, or not, who wants a grain-free, healthy snack bar. The bars have been created by Suzie Walker, a Nutritionist, and you can really taste the love and thought that’s gone in to these and it’s brilliant to see snack bars which aren’t just full of sugar and other rubbish actually competing with the big boys. These bars are now available in Ocado and other online shops (see list here) and will soon be in Tescos too.

So go try them! I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

Almost raw gooey lemon cheesecake pudding – dairy and gluten free


I’ve been dying to create something new with my lemon curd for a while now. I’m a massive fan of lemon meringue pie so I was thinking along the lines of a healthy meringue pie but wanted something more “puddingy”.  So I decided to create a cheesecake-inspired layered pud instead and lo and behold this squishy, goey, sweet, lemony jar of goodness was created!

Not only do these taste heavenly but they’re full of goodness and I think they look pretty cool too! They’d make fab individual desserts for a dinner or lunch party.

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It passed the test of my chief taster and lemon curd fiend Colette and even managed to please my friend Dee who’s a self-confessed full fat, full sugar cheesecake addict!

Here’s the proof – Colette savouring the lemony goodness ;)

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There are three parts to this pud: the base, the filling and the topping. It does require a little preparation in advance (for the filling and topping) but it’s super quick to put together after that.

Now depending how much you want to make you can adjust the quantities below. I tend to make big batches of all 3 components and then put together a few puds but also eat the various components on their own too! It will also depend how large your pud containers are. All of these components can be made in advance – the curd will last several weeks in the fridge, the base will be fine for 1-2 weeks and the topping will last a week in the fridge. So you can always prepare all the bits a few days in advance and then pop it all together on the day! The puds themselves will last a good few days in the fridge (if you can resist eating them!).

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For the topping:

You will be making a cashew cream (basic recipe here) – for this one though I leave out the sweetener. So you will need:

1-2 cups raw Cashews (depends how much you want to make)

Water (enough to cover them and then another cup or so)

(You will also need a few tbsp of lemon curd for the final construction)

First things first soak the cashews overnight (or for as long as you can) in water (so that they are well covered).

Drain and rinse them and then pop them in to the blender. Start by adding about half as much water as cashews to the blender and give it a blitz. Continue adding water until the cashews are smooth and you have the consistence of cream that you want – less water, thicker cream! You want it quite thick for this recipe. At this point you can pop it in the fridge while you do other bits.

For the filling:
You will need to make a batch of curd for the filling! I always have a jar in my fridge (I get palpitations when I start to run low ;) ) so this is always on standby for me. The recipe has been posted before (here) but here it is again for ease.

You will need:

1 1/4 cups of Lemon juice (I used 6 very large lemons)

Zest of half of the lemons used (freeze the rest of the zest for use later)

1/2 cup of Cold water

1 3/4 cups unrefined raw Sugar (adjust to taste)

5 tbsp Cornflour (corn starch)

2 tbsp non-dairy margarine

6 tbsp Almond milk (you could also use soya or coconut milk)

Juice and zest your lemons. You only need the zest from half of the lemons but it’s worth zesting them all and keeping the remaining zest in the freezer to use in other recipes later.

Place the lemon juice and water in a cold saucepan. Add the cornstarch and whisk to dissolve. Add the sugar and turn on the heat. Continue to whisk as you bring the mixture to a boil slowly. Once boiling allow it to boil gently for one minute without stirring.

Add the rest of the ingredients, whisking the whole time, and cook for 3 minutes.  Have a little taste – if it’s not sweet enough for you then stir in some more sugar. Remove from the heat, pour into a bowl or jars and allow to cool. Place in the fridge once cooled.

For the base:

You can adjust the quantities and types of fruit and nut to taste or depending on what you have to hand. You want to end up with a sticky consistency though so the dates are important. I used:

1/2 cup raw Cashews

1/2 cup raw Almonds

1/4 cup of Pecans

1/4 cup Raisins

1/3 cup of dates (if using dried dates then soak in warm water for 5-10 mins, keep the water to one side once soaked)

A good pinch or two of Lemon zest

Pop all of this lot into a food processor and pulse until blended and well combined. It will come together to form a sticky dough. If it’s not sticky enough add some more fruit and a little of the water from the dates. If it’s too sticky you can add some more nuts. Adjust the amount of lemon zest to taste.

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Construction of the pud!

You will need some jars, glasses, ramekins, or whatever you fancy serving this in.

First take a few spoonfuls of the base mixture and press well into the base of your chosen jar. I like to have a depth of 2-3 cm, but obviously you can add more or less as you like.

Then add a generous layer of lemon curd – this curd is beautifully tart so you don’t need a huge amount – I used about 1-2 cm.

Finally take your topping and stir 2 – 4 tbsp lemon curd through it (adjust to taste) and then layer on the top – as thick as you want!

Finish with some lemon zest. Keep in the fridge until you’re ready to devour it!

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You can even supersize this and make a massive one – for sharing… (Or not ;) )

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Peanut butter fruit and nut brownies – dairy and gluten free


Two very exciting things happened recently…Firstly I was given this beautiful pot full of scrummy raisins from my friend Dee :) and secondly I finally found some PB2 powdered peanut butter!

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The raisins… well that’s a long (somewhat amusing) story which I won’t go in to here, but needless to say they were very gratefully received :). Now PB2….What on earth is that and why would I be so excited to find it? Well for a start it’s a powdered peanut butter which means it’s a great way to get peanut butter in to your baking (if you want to.. which I do!). As an added bonus it has 85% less calories from fat compared to traditional peanut butter, but it isn’t full of rubbish. It’s all natural, slow roasted peanuts which are then pressed to remove the fat and oil. It comes as natural and chocolate (yum!) and you can either just add water to make it in to a butter to use as you would normal peanut butter…. or you can use it as a powder in bakes and shakes!

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So these two wonderful things were just crying out to be combined into something yummy…. and here it is! Peanut butter fruit and nut brownies! A great way to have a healthy treat with a little bit of a protein boost too!

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You can change the fruit and add different nuts if you like but I wanted to really give that peanut punch so I stuck with peanuts! You can also use peanut butter if you don’t have PB2 but it will change the consistency so I suggest you go a little lighter on the oil.

You will need:

1/4 cup Rice flour

1/2 cup Ground almonds

1 cup unrefined Raw sugar (golden caster sugar, coconut sugar etc)

1/2 cup almond oil (or coconut oil)

1/4 cup raw Cacoa powder

4 heaped tbsp PB2 (if you don’t have this you can use normal peanut butter – 2 – 3 tbsp)

2 tbsp chia seeds soaked in 6 tbsp water

1/2 tsp Himalayan rock salt

1/4 tsp Bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp Vanilla extract

100g dried Raisins

50g dried Cherries

Handful of natural roasted Peanuts (halved or chopped)

For topping

2 – 3 tbsp PB2 original

1 – 2 tbsp PB2 chocolate

a little Water

Preheat the oven to 170C and grease a 20 x 20cm square baking pan with parchment paper.

Mix the ground almonds, flour, cacao powder,PB2, sugar, salt and bicarbonate of soda together in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl soak the chia seeds in the water. Once the chia seeds have absorbed all the water add them to the mix along with the vanilla extract, and oil. Whisk together using a hand mixer until well mixed. It should be thick and glossy when mixed. Have a taste – if you want a bit more peanutty flavour you can add a little more PB2 now but mix it in really well.

Stir in the peanuts, raisins and cherries (cut them in half if they are large). Pour in to the baking tin and place in the oven for 25 – 30 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack

Then prepare the topping. In separate bowls mix the original PB2 and chocolate PB2 with water. Add a little water at a time – you want a runny consistency but not too runny.  Drizzle the original one over the brownie, then the chocolate one. Pop in the fridge to set  – or just eat straight away!

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Homemade healthy coconut “bounty” bars! Dairy and Gluten-free


I made these a while ago but totally forgot to put the recipe up! Bad Nancy!

These are delish – a great alternative to a traditional “Bounty” bar and FAR healthier! They’re made with raw chocolate so they’re full of antioxidants and the coconut centre is pure coconut, nothing else!

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You will need some sort of mould for this – it can be any shape and any size you like! I’ve gone for a rectangular one as I happened to have one in my cupboard but anything will do.

For the chocolate you will need:

1 cup Cacao butter (melted)

1 cup Raw Cocoa powder

1/3 Cup Maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)

For the filling you will need:

A few tbsp desiccated Coconut (adjust quantity to taste)

Coconut butter – the amount will depend on the size of your chocs so start with a small amount and it’s easy to make more as needed. You need to make sure you use a whole coconut flesh butter, rather than coconut oil. I used the Artisana brand.

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Start with the chocolate. Mix the cacao butter, cocoa and maple syrup together and ensure there are no lumps. Pour a small amount in to the mould – remember you are filling this so don’t fill the mould – probably aim for a third of the mould. Save enough to cover the filling later. You will probably find that it settles at the bottom leaving the sides with only a very thing layer. This is ok – just pop it in the fridge for now. After about 5 mins check it and as it’s beginning to solidify just swirl the mould around so the chocolate coats the sides too. Place back in the fridge until set hard (15 mins should do it).

Now prepare the filling. Just melt the coconut butter gently in a warm pan, stirring all the time. Add as much desicated coconut as you want to get the desired texture and then pour in to the chilled moulds. Place back in the fridge immediately until this has set (at least 15 mins)

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Cover the top with more of your raw chocolate mix (you may need to re-warm it if it’s started to set). Pop straight back in the fridge until properly set – 30 mins or more.

These are best kept in the fridge until you want to eat them and then remove them and allow them to warm very slightly at room temperature for a few mins before serving. I made my chocolate layers just a little bit thick… but I quite like that! :)

Enjoy!

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Guilt Free Goodies – a review


I had the great pleasure this week of being sent a beautiful box of treats from Guilt Free Goodies.

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This UK, home-based business is run by Natasha and her partner, who produce homemade, all natural, healthy goodies – from granolas, nut butters to delicious treats and cakes. They’re perfect for anyone looking for dairy-free treats, diabetics and those wanting refined sugar-free treats (only natural sweeteners are used) or following the “paleo” diet. They’re also great for anyone who’s just health conscious and wants to watch what they eat. They can also make most of their products (granola, bites, energy balls and butters) suitable for vegans (some products do contain egg or honey).

I was sent this delightful selection of:

Peanut butter surprise muffin

Cashew butter, coconut and blueberry energy balls

Honey and peanut granola

Salted caramel almond bites

The first thing I noticed is how lovely the packaging was – all the items are beautifully packaged with lovely little touches like the handwritten notes. They’re also really securely packaged so nothing was damaged in transit.

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As instructed I popped the almond bites in the freezer (top tip – highly recommended!) and the first item I tucked in to was the cashew, coconut and blueberry energy balls. After a busy morning teaching spin and bodypump I was famished and needed something quick to munch on. These really hit the spot – full of goodness and flavour. Really satisfying and tasty too – not too sweet but sweet enough to satisfy :)

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Later that afternoon I was in dire need of a boost so thought I’d try the granola next – I served it with some homemade compote from my friend Colette and a big dollop of soya yoghurt.

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It was absolutely divine – crunchy and crisp with a great mix of nut and fruit. The sweetness wasn’t overpowering either which was great. I had to eek it out as otherwise I’d have eaten it all in one go! As it’s full of good fats (from the nuts) it really sustained me for my evening classes which is exactly what I needed. This would be just as good served with a little almond milk or yoghurt for brekkie, or as a decadent treat you could serve it with some coconut yoghurt or ice cream for dessert! Yum!

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I saved the muffin for a mid-morning snack with a cuppa. This was a really nice treat. Now it’s not like a traditional muffin so don’t be surprised. It’s a lot smaller but it’s also much denser. I really like this about it – it’s moist and squishy (in a good way!) and although small it’s exactly the right amount for a snack. I loved the peanut butter in the middle of this one. The nice thing about these muffins is that they really fill you up in a way traditional muffins just don’t.

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I saved the best until last – the almond bites. I was most excited about these – they looked delicious and I’m such a sucker for anything almond-based so I had high hopes.

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I was not disappointed in the slightest. These were so good! They’re definitely best out the freezer – the base goes all crispy and the caramel stays soft. The combination of the caramel, a whole almond in the middle (!), and lovely chocolate on the top is just fab!

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So all in all I was really impressed with all these products. They certainly live up to their reputation and satisfy your cravings without ruining any of your hard work!

I just love that this is a home-run business, run by someone who clearly puts their heart and soul in to their products. I’d definitely recommend them so do go and try them. You can also buy hampers or sample boxes and they’d make great gifts for the health foodlovers in your life. I’m really looking forward to ordering some of Natasha’s other products now – especially the loaf cakes and nut butters! :)

You can find out more about the products and place orders from their facebook page – here: Guilt Free Goodies or their new online shop here: Guilt Free Goodies Eshop.

Do check them out! and if you do let me know what you think :)

 

 

 

Blackberry and cinnamon cakes with blackberry and mint swirled cashew cream!


I managed to get a mahoosive haul of wild blackberries last weekend so decided I’d better find some ways to use them! I fancied a light, muffin/fairy cake kinda thing for tea so came up with this little beauty. They’re delicious on their own, but if you want something a bit special then serve them with this blackberry and mint swirled cashew cream for a bit of afternoon tea!

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For the cakes you will need:

1 cup of non-dairy Milk
1 tsp Cider apple vinegar
1 1/4 cups Gluten-free flour or Spelt flour
2 Tbsp Cornflour
3/4 cup Raw unrefined sugar/ coconut palm sugar
3/4 tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp Himalayan rock salt
1/3 cup Olive oil
2 1/4 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
Blackberries – couple of handfuls (depending how large they are!)

For the cashew cream you will need:

A cup of cashew nuts (or however many you want to use!)
Some water
maple syrup/agave syrup/rice malt syrup (optional – to taste)
handful of Blackberries
handful of fresh Mint leaves
A blender/ vitamix

Soak the cashews overnight in water (so that they are well covered).

To make the cakes:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Put the milk and vinegar together in bowl and whisk together, then leave to curdle for a few minutes. Add the milk mixture, oil, sugar and vanilla extract to a large bowl and mix together. Sieve the flour, cornflour, cinnamon, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into the liquid mixture and stir well until no large lumps remain. Gently stir the blackberries in to the mix. Pour into cupcake liners in a muffin pan – this should make approximately 15 cakes. Make sure the blackberries are covered with batter (you may need to just gently push them down).

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Place in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Once done place on a wire rack to cool.

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To make the cashew cream

Drain and rinse the soaked cashews and then pop them in to the blender. Start by adding about half as much water as cashews to the blender and give it a blitz. Continue adding water until the cashews are smooth and you have the consistence of cream that you want – less water, thicker cream! If you want to add some sweetness add your choice of liquid sweetener to taste.

Smoosh the blackberries up a little bit with the back of a knife, and chop the mint finely. Stir it in to the cream and adjust quantities to taste.

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Serve your cakes with a big dollop of the cream and a sprig of mint!

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