The best possible fuel

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf

In the last few months, I’ve been doing a fair bit of running, and work has been busy, so eating decent food has been important for keeping the show on the road.

One Saturday, attempting a long-ish run after a 14 hour work day the day before, powered by multiple cups of tea and far too many biscuits, I felt awful. Sluggish, heavy-legged and not in the humour to run anywhere but to my couch (for more tea and biscuits).

Usually I eat reasonably well, but am certainly prone to eating too much junk. And generally, the busier I am, the more junk I eat. Which, when  you think about it, is really rather stupid.

So in recent weeks, I’ve been trying to think more logically about food as fuel. Dodgy petrol won’t do much for a car, so why would bad food be of any use to a human?

Running has made me much more aware of this, which is silly as it is not exactly rocket science. Even something simple like getting enough water in the day before a run can make such a difference.

It’s not a question of being virtuous, but more ensuring you eat whatever you need to get you through the day you are facing.

I think when I was younger I could get away with much more in this regard. But getting older means a few weeks of eating badly really takes its toll on my fitness, my skin and my energy levels.

So now, if I’m asking a lot of my body, it seems reasonable that I give it the right food in return. Happy fuelling!

Pizza with a twist

When it comes to comfort food, you really can’t beat a gooey, cheesy pizza with lots of toppings and a hint of spice.

I’ve seen lots of recipes recently for a less doughy alternative, using cauliflower and ground almond to make a gluten-free crust. To be honest, I was intrigued…but not convinced. Cauliflower does not scream comfort food, does it?!

After a lazy Sunday that did not involve a trip to the supermarket, my fridge was pretty empty. I was tempted to order a pizza, but then decided to put the rather sad looking cauliflower that was lurking in the fridge to use.

To start, blitz the cauliflower florets in a blender until very fine. Then microwave for 4 minutes or so. Next, add ground almonds (approx 100g for a full head of cauliflower, or reduce accordingly), a beaten egg and some seasoning (salt, pepper and oregano).

You’ll now be wondering how the gloopy mess in front of you is ever going to resemble anything like pizza. But stick with it. Spread the mixture on a baking try and bake for about 20 minutes, until it starts to crisp.

Then knock yourself out with whatever toppings take your fancy and pop it back in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. The aforementioned empty-ish fridge meant few options. I roasted some tomatoes and then blended them, sieved off some of the excess juice and used the pulp as a tomato base. Next I added some grated cheese, a sliced yellow pepper, some mushrooms, spring onions and chilli flakes.

A twist on pizza

A twist on pizza

Continue reading

A ball of energy

We all have days when we are zipping from A to B, with a to-do list a mile long and people pulling us in multiple directions. Those are days that usually call for a Double Decker for me. And sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

However, I recently spotted a recipe for energy balls that I thought might be a tasty alternative and a good way to give me a boost on the go. This recipe features lots of things I love, including oats, banana and coconut, so I was hopeful that these snacks would be right up my street.

Energy balls

My attempt at energy balls

The recipe also uses raw cacoa, something I have never used before. As far as I understand, it’s basically unprocessed cocoa. A lot more expensive than regular cocoa powder, but I decided to give it a try once anyway!

After blending all the ingredients, roll the mixture into balls and bake in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes. Allow to cool before munching.

These were very easy to make, but to be honest not as tasty as I’d hoped. Not a bad flavour, but possibly a little dry. I might add dates next time or some sort of dried fruit, for a bit more stickiness. So, all in all, unlikely to replace my Double Decker just yet!

Have any of you had success with energy ball recipes? I like the idea of nutritious, portable snacks, but they need to be tasty – not just virtuous! Share your recipes via a comment. Thanks!

Lazy Sunday

It’s a bit miserable out today, a bit damp and grey, and well…January-ish. On such days, I’m usually far more susceptible to the lure of tea and biscuits, accompanied by a ‘straight-to-TV’ film or a flick of a magazine.

A few weeks ago I watched a documentary on sugar, which quite frankly terrified me and was far more effective than any January health kick in motivating me to step away from the biscuit tin.

That said though, life would be terribly dull without a few treats, so I’ve been trying to make a few less-sugary, more nutrition-packed alternatives at home. I like the idea that sugar is not banned completely, but that it comes serves with some nutritious stuff.

The Little Green Spoon blog is full of great inspiration and I’ve been meaning to try its pistachio and cranberry squares for the last couple of weeks.

These were really simple to make, and quick too (an added bonus!). In summary, lightly toast oats and pistachios. Blitz these with coconut and cranberry, and then bind with melted coconut oil, almond butter and maple syrup. I reduced the amount of maple syrup slightly.

If you happen to be into icing cakes, and have an icing smoother, it comes in very handy for squishing the mixture into a baking tray to set. If not, your hand or a sideways mug (hold by the handle and roll) will also do the trick.

The recipe I was working from yielded 12 perfect squares. My attempt was a bit crumblier…so broke a little when I cut it into pieces. Still tasty, just a bit misshapen (and the leftover crumbs were delicious sprinkled into yogurt).

Leftovers for lunch

A half hour on the couch, with a cup of tea and some magazines is one of my favourite ways to wind down. Generally this involves food magazines (and sometimes really trashy celebrity magazines that I try to resist).

While thumbing through a recent issue of Easy Food magazine, I came across a handy recipe for sesame chicken. You basically bake chicken in a crumb coating, and then toss it a tasty chilli sauce. I’ve made this a good few times, serving it with stirfried veg or a quick salad. Continue reading

Five to try: Apps for healthy food ideas

My bookshelves creak under the weight of countless food books; some dog-earred, others reserved for special occasions. Books, and the recipes they contain, become like friends. The one you turn to in a panic when you need something in a hurry. The ones you spend indulgent afternoons with, simply enjoying the luxury of time.

In a small apartment though, there’s only room for so many friends at the party. Which is why I’m trying some new online relationships, trading my lust for new cook books for the immediacy of downloading a new app. So far, so satisfying.

Food apps are very handy for on the go recipe hunting. For the day when you are on the bus and remember you’ve an *insert wilting vegetable of choice* buried in your fridge that needs to be turned into a meal pronto.

The beauty of apps is that you can try a new one out without a big commitment. The most I’ve spent on a foodie app so far is €4.99, and there are a lot of cheaper – or even free – options.

In no particular order, the following five apps are my current favourites for healthy recipe ideas. They all focus on eating natural ingredients, and overlap a lot in terms of their philosophy. I don’t really go for the whole juicing craze, or the idea of a “cleanse” whereby you eat a very restrictive diet, but I agree with the overall goal of eating less processed stuff and trying to choose fresh, natural stuff instead.

Food Fix Up: I came across this app from Aussie Stephanie Neal purely by chance, and now I’m addicted. I especially love the jerk chicken with baked sweet potato and mango salsa.

Deliciously Ella: This app is a pretty popular one, and the Ella of the title now has a book out too. A good range of recipes, with a special mention for all the lovely smoothie ideas.

Green Kitchen: For starters, this app features gorgeous food photography. It offers a wide range of vegetarian recipes from couple David and Luise, who also have a lovely blog.

Clean and Green: This app has some really simple recipes, and is a nice starting point for someone who wants to mix up their menu a bit and introduce new recipes.

Honestly Healthy: This app has some recipes with fancy ingredients, and some more complicated suggestions. But still some nice ideas to try.

If there are any apps you enjoy using for healthy eating ideas, I’d love to hear about them. Share your favourites by posting a comment below. Thank you!

Six to try: Recipes for peanut butter lovers

Peanut butter and I took a while to get off on the right foot. A few years ago we tried to get acquainted but I simply couldn’t warm to it. Too gloopy, too heavy and not my thing. Or so I thought!

Times change, and so does your palate it seems, because recently I’m guzzling peanut butter and have made my way through jar after jar of it. I love the super-healthy version from the health food shop with no nasty additives, but it’s a lot more expensive than a reasonably healthy version from my regular supermarket. which adds some sugar and salt but not too much. So, most of the time reasonably healthy suffices.

Beyond simply slathering peanut butter on toast, here are five really tasty ways to use it.

1. The smoothie: This smoothie recipe from Deliciously Ella actually suggests almond butter but I had a try with peanut butter and it was very tasty and rather more-ish.

2. The cookie: Oats, apple and peanut butter in a cookie. What’s not to love? Gooey, sweet and tasty…it’s very easy to over-indulge!

3. The breakfast: If you like breakfast that doubles as dessert, then this overnight oats recipe with peanut butter and banana is worth a try. Be warned though, a little goes a long way as it is very heavy. But also incredibly tasty!

4. The snack: Apple rings with a little peanut butter spread on top. SImple, quick and tasty.

5. The main meal: Satay chicken is a personal favourite of mine, and something I’d order a lot if I’m treating myself to a meal out or a takeaway. But creating a version yourself with peanut butter and a few other cupboard staples is pretty easy too, as this straightforward BBC recipe shows.

6. The treat with a twist: I love brownies, and probably eat them far too frequently. I’ve tried a few alternative versions in a bid to be a bit less bold. This semi healthy option uses oats and yogurt instead of flour and butter. And it also has a peanut butter twist.