Best Ever Healthy Banana Bread

Wholemeal spelt banana bread

Healthy Banana Bread

This is such an easy loaf to make and is perfect for a new year treat that won’t send your sugar levels soaring. I used my husband and children to do the ‘taste test-drive’ on this. They are huge fans of my usual butter & sugar laden version, so this recipe needed their approval. Their opinions are easily swayed so I decided not to tell them them I had changed the recipe. It got the thumbs up from all with an added quip from my other half about how light it was. Perfect, there is now no going back to my usual recipe unless of course my cholesterol levels drop dangerously low!! Fat chance of that happening…..

It is very straight forward to make, uses maple syrup to sweeten instead of sugar and wholemeal spelt instead of white flour. It will make a great addition to our healthy lunch box tomorrow for the start of the new school term.

Ingredients:

3 medium ripe bananas (the riper the better!!)

2  organic eggs beaten

4 tablespoons of melted coconut oil or you could use a good quality cold pressed oil such as vegetable (neutral taste) or olive (more savoury flavour).

6 tablespoons of maple syrup (runny honey will also do)

250g Wholemeal Spelt Flour

1 tsp of baking soda

1 tsp of vanilla extract

1/2 tsp of cinnamon

60ml of water

A good pinch of salt.

 

Method:

Preheat your over to 165degrees celsius or 325 degrees fahrenheit.

Grease an line a 9 x 5 ” loaf tin.

In a large bowl, add the spelt flour and baking soda.

In a separate pot melt the coconut oil. Once melted turn off the heat and add the maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Now pour in the water and mix.

In a separate bowl add the beaten egg. Mash up the bananas until they are almost liquid. Add theses to the egg and mix well together.

The next step is to add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold the mixture carefully until everything is just combined and has formed a batter. There is no need to over mix this mixture.

Now pour into your tin, lightly dust with cinnamon  and place in the middle of the oven for 55 mins. Leave it to cool for a while in the tin before turning out.

This banana bread is wonderfully moist and should keep for up to 3 days in a bread bin, 3 days or so longer if kept in the fridge. It freezes well and should keep for up to 3 months.

Enjoy with a hot cup of tea! 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Breakfast Granola Recipe

I’ve been slack.
Super Slack with a capital S this month with regards to writing and posting. I’m not going to apologise.
As someone very kindly pointed out today, Life happens and until I get myself sorted here is something to be getting on……..

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Good Granola costs an arm and a leg but here is a simple recipe that is quick and costs surprisingly little even when you use very fine ingredients. It cuts back on packaging so is not only simple and quick to make but is eco-friendly too. I make enough in one go to last me a week and it takes minutes.
For Christmas this year, everyone nearest and dearest to me got a jar.  It is made without sugar and uses the ‘oil du jour’, coconut oil. It is my favourite healthy breakfast.

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5 Green Bee Simple Home Remedies for Sinusitis

Finding natural remedies for Sinusitis took me several years but the answer was, if you’ll pardon the pun, under my nose all along. I began getting Sinus infections in my early twenties. The first time I got it was probably the worst I have ever had. It came over me quite quickly and I had no idea what was going on. I had an excruciating pain in my forehead directly above my eyes. It got so intense that all I could do was take pain killers and get into bed and imagine the worst.

I was home from Dublin for the weekend and thankfully my lovely Mum was there to look after me. She called our family Doctor who made a now all to rare house call. He knew straight away what it was and filled out a prescription for me. Phew! It wasn’t a brain tumour just a Sinus infection. Within a day of taking the antibiotic the symptoms began to disappear and by the end of the course I was good as new. The next time I got that tingling feeling and pressure above my eyes I knew what was coming so I acted quickly before the pain incapacitated me. Straight to my GP I went and a prescription was duly written. But, I wasn’t so comfortable with this so I also began to research other ways of managing my health and diet to see if there was another solution. My GP seemed unsure about the importance of food but I discovered that there are lots of food triggers for a sinus infection. For me (and I can only speak from my own experience) I only ever got it after I had a cold. If I continued drinking red wine and eating cheese during my cold I would, without doubt, develop a sinus infection. The lifestyle change came gradually. I begrudgingly waved bye bye to Pinot Noir and cut back hugely on my cheese intake but when I became pregnant a few years later the antibiotic was no longer the quick fix I could resort to.  So, I took to the books and found another way. I needed a natural remedy and a home remedy became the quickest option and this is how I discovered the overnight success.

My ‘hardcore’ quick fix is what I like to call my overnight success. If, like me, you aren’t a fan of raw onions, you may struggle with this remedy but it works and quickly. I have to be in a very bad way to put this one into practice but hey, if you like raw onions this is the one for you.

The Raw Onion Sinus fix/Overnight Success recipe.

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 You will need

I onion and a piece of muslin or thin cotton, large enough to comfortably tie around your neck

Method

Chop the onion into thin slices of an inch or longer. Open out your square of material and place the raw onions in the centre. Fold the material in half keeping the onions in the centre to form a triangle. Now roll the material so that it can be worn around the neck like a neckerchief with the onions neatly wrapped in the middle. Now bear with me……..wrap the ‘onion’ kerchief around your neck and go to sleep for the night. In the morning you will notice two things. Firstly, you, your pillow, bed linen and room all smell of raw onions. Secondly and most importantly, all sinus pain will be gone. Voila. No costly trip to your Doctor or the pharmacy and of course no need for an antibiotic.

Every time I have endured this treatment it has worked for me. I have also worn it during the day/evening and not worn it to bed with similar success. In terms of other remedies I find them to be slower leading to results but they do work and generally I do them in combination with each other.

Steaming with Peppermint and eucalyptus 

Green Bee natural remedies

This is a pretty tried and tested method and if done regularly at the start of a head cold works wonders.

I fill a stainless steel bowl with just boiled water and I add a few drops each of peppermint and eucalyptus essential oil for immediate and longer relief. Place your head over the bowl and cover your entire head and bowl with a towel to trap the steam and inhale for a few minutes. Do this as often as is required but certainly three times a day.

 Apple Cider Vinegar

image Believe the hype. Apple cider vinegar is brilliant. It has lots of benefits apparently which aid well-being but for me it’s my go-to aid for sinusitis. It helps thin mucus and 1 tablespoon taken in a glass of warm water three times a day works. I take it for up to a week but by many accounts apple cider vinegar can be taken every day for a variety of other benefits as part of an alkaline diet or to aid with weight  loss.

Hot Lemon drink

Mimageix the juice of 1 lemon with an inch of thinly sliced fresh ginger with a spoonful of honey and a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon in a cup and top up with hit water. Drink straight away.

My final sinus remedy is primarily a great tasting soup. I refer to it as my Sinus Soup which is decidedly unappetising but Spicy Vegetable Soup will work just as well.

It’s vegetable broth that takes very little time to prepare.

Ingredients

1 good sized onion thinly sliced, 1 stick of celery chopped, 2 cloves of garlic sliced or crushed, 1 large potato cut into bite size chunks, 1 courgette or Zucchini diced, 1/2 red pepper cut into bite size chunks, 2 carrots sliced, a good handful of shredded Savoy cabbage, 4 roughly chopped mushrooms. 1.5 litres of stock. 1 level teaspoon of Tumeric, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a good grind of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of dried mixed herbs and 1 inch of thinly sliced fresh ginger.

Method

Fry the onion, celery, Savoy cabbage, mushrooms and garlic with a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Once the ingredients have softened add the herbs and spices and make sure all of the vegetables fully coated. Add the potatoes and carrots and add the stick. Simmer over a medium heat for 30 minutes or until all of the undereducated are cooked.

Serve steaming hot.

Wintery Red Split Lentils and Turnip Soup

imageMy youngest child is fascinated with turnips (!) so we set about finding a suitable recipe that would meet his expectations. He chose this delicious winter soup recipe from Stovetop Story that is fast becoming my ‘go-to’ site for recipe inspiration. in our house it has been renamed as Oscar’s French soup in honour of my youngest and Julie the wonderful French blogger who devised this recipe.
You will never look at a turnip in the same way again. Bon Apetit!

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Another cold day, another warm soup! I realize that I posted a soup recipe last week already but to be perfectly honest with you, soups constitute about 50% of my diet as soon as the temperature drops. The other half is noodles, and even then I usually find a way to combine the two into noodle soup.

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30 minute ‘Gourmet’ wild mushroom soup

The above title may sound like a contradiction. Surely ‘gourmet’ can’t be achieved in 30 minutes?! Wrong.
Yes it can and my gourmet tasting, wild mushroom soup can be made by even the culinary inept among us.

Of all of the soups I make, this is the one that is the crowd pleaser. My ‘picky eater’ middle child despite a hatred of mushrooms will always ask for seconds and I can find no better way to fool my children into eating vegetables than this. But the really great thing about this soup is that it tastes so impressive it makes a delicious way to start a dinner party or Supper for guests.

My mantra as an embracer of a ‘greener’ life is “less is more” and that extends to spending less time cooking. Cooking from scratch can be time consuming so I am always on the hunt for delicious tasting, nutrition packed ways of speeding this up. This soup is a perfect example. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including selenium, potassium, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D and are a good source of B vitamins.
Leeks are a good source of folic acid and vitamin A and are also a good source of fibre but having said all of that this soup definitely does not taste of leeks which is a god-send to my leek phobic children!

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Ingredients:
250g wild mushrooms (chestnuts are a good substitute too)
30g dried porcini (lidl sell great quality dried porcini for under €3!)
2 good sized leeks,
cleaned & finely sliced
1 onion, diced
1.2 litres of stock
2 tablespoons of olive oil
15g butter
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme or parsley to garnish

Method:
First of all place the porcini in a shallow Pyrex dish and pour over 100ml of freshly boils water. Leave to soak.
Next, gently heat the oil and butter in a heavy bottomed pot.
Once the butter has melted and has started to foam add the sliced leeks and onions. Stir and cook over a gentle heat until the onions and leeks have become translucent. Stir frequently to avoid burning or sticking to the base of the pot.
Now combine the sliced mushrooms, again stirring to avoid sticking. Place a lid on top and allow to cook gently for 5 minutes. It is time to add the litre of hot stock and half of the porcini. Allow the mixture to simmer gently for another 10 mins before blending with a hand held blender. Finely chop the remainder of the porcini and stir through along with the liquid. Heat through for another 2 to 3 minutes before serving, garnished with flat leaf parsley.
Enjoy. Foolproof, healthy and utterly scrumptious.

Tip: add 150ml of fresh cream if you are looking for something a little more luxurious but trust me, it’s great without it!

Easy peasy homemade Houmous

Homemade

I love Houmous and it is a weekly staple in our house. The children have it in their school lunch boxes in pitta, a bagel or on my ‘eco’ brown bread with grated carrot. As a dip it makes a great healthy snack with celery, carrot, cucumber, or bread sticks. Of course most Supermarkets stock fresh houmous but I can guarantee that with a small amount of pre-planning you can make a fresher, healthier, cheaper and tastier one in under 3 minutes with no cooking required. I can’t say fairer than that and yes, it is easy peasy.

Ingredients:
1 400g can of chickpeas
I tablespoon of Tahini. Tahini is pulped sesame seeds and can be bought in lots of Supermarkets and any health store (light or dark, I prefer light). You should get between 4 and 6 batches from one 300g jar.
I small clove of garlic crushed
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of paprika
season with a pinch of salt and black pepper

Method:
You can use a food processor or a hand held blender which works just as well.
Throw in all of the ingredients together, blend and season to taste. Water can be added in small amounts to get a consistency you are happy with. Voila. Enjoy.

My ‘Eco’ Irish Soda Bread

In keeping with trying to be a little ‘Greener’ in my day-to-day life, one of my favourite ways is to bake bread.  I’ve done it for years and am happy to use many different methods and styles. I have a bread machine and use that a lot, particularly when I want to wake-up to fresh bread.The delicious smell permeates around the house and gets me out of bed quicker than any alarm. The timer mode is a life saver. Having said that it’s tough to get Bread Machine recipes for wholemeal or high fibre flour so one of my daily staples is Soda Bread, made in the old-fashioned way by hand. It is so easy, quick, cheap and damn it’s good for you. I’m not a fan of cutting carbs and this high fibre bread makes a fantastic breakfast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. It’s delicious on its own with butter and can only make a good soup even better.

Let me talk you through baking a 1lb loaf of Irish bread that is yeast free and so easy a child can make it. If you haven’t made bread before you’ll wonder why it’s taken you so long. It’s strength and taste lies in it’s simplicity.

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Heat your oven to 200 degrees celcius/Gas mark 6.

Ingredients:

450g/1lb of Wheatmeal Flour

2 level teaspoons of Bread Soda

1 level teaspoon of salt

2 level teaspoons of Cream of Tartar

275 – 425 ml/ 1/2 – 3/4 pint of milk

(The Cream of Tartar can be omitted if you choose to use Buttermilk instead of fresh milk)

1LB Loaf tin greased and floured

 

Place the Wheatmeal flour into a large bowl. Sieve the bread soda, cream of tartar and salt and mix well with the flour. Make a well in the centre and add enough milk to make a soft dough adding a little by little until you feel the  consistency is right. Turn out onto a lightly floured bowl and knead until smooth. If you feel the mixture is too wet add a little more flour.  Now put into the prepared loaf tin and using a knife, score a cross on the top.

Place in the middle of a the oven for Approx 45 minutes. It should be risen and cooked through. Turn out from the tin, wrap in a clean tea cloth and leave on a wired tray to cool. Enjoy.

This bread freezes well so I often make two at the same time so I can freeze one for later. Also, a handful of sunflower seeds thrown in with the dry and ingredients at the start, is a delicious addition.

 

 

 

Friday Night Pizza

Aahhh Friday, the best day of the week. Game over.

As soon as I was properly aware of the days of the week, Friday was always the business. School frames the week and puts Friday clearly in poll position. Saturday mornings are clearly good but they lack the structure of a Friday and the tinge of expectation that the best has yet to come. As a kid, Fridays meant, no homework, fridge full of goodies after the weekly shop and Channel 4’s The Tube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUePUyzY_5A ) . Life was good, very good.

By the time I hit Uni at 17, Friday’s meant blatant underage drinking on Campus and the joys & heartbreak that came with South side Boys.

In my 20’s and early 30’s it was to start off the day with one thing in mind: Do everything in your power to not work late, even if it means going back in over the weekend. TV Post Production can be a hard task master and often I was unsuccessful but on the nights I escaped I soared like a bird out into the Soho night and found the ‘Nine to Fivers’. Fridays were a chance for me and my lifelong Mates to check-in with each other, to try to hang on to some semblance of an Irish brogue in our London accented life and drink and eat until we could do no more. The world was put to rights, career’s were planned, Waiters were flirted with and advice was doled out in large dollops. We talked over each other and ran outside for sneaky smokes and never thought it would be any other way. Yet, it is different now and I still love it.

Fridays are once again framed for me by the school week. My children occupy the slot that was once mine. They have no homework to do so I have none to check. There are no lunches to make for the following morning. I make sure our fridge is full of Goodies, play dates happen and movies are watched and best of all, Pizza is made by me and eaten by everyone under our roof. As with my Friday nights in Soho there is some preparation required but once your focus is right the work load is minimal. Get started with your sauce and then dough and make sure the fridge is full. Once these three steps have been adhered to the night is whatever you make of it.

Never let it be said that Pizza is unhealthy. Homemade pizza can taste as good (trust me) as any Italian Pizzeria and if you use good ingredients your body will respond accordingly.

Friday night Pizza:

Step 1: The Sauce. Method: Get a heavy bottomed pot.Throw in a generous glug of extra virgin olive oil and gently heat. Add three to four cloves of crushed garlic and cook gently but do not allow to burn as it will make the sauce bitter. after 2 minutes add 3 tins of peeled plum Tomatoes (not chopped as the skins are left on!). Add a good pinch of salt a teaspoon of brown sugar and some ground black pepper. Leave to simmer very gently for a few hours until the sauce has reduced a little. Now blend.

Step 2: The Dough. Pour a 7g sachet of dried fast acting yeast into a bowl with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and 4 tablespoons of warm water. Set aside for 15 minutes until the mixture has brother and doubled in size.  Sift 9 ounces of strong flour or spelt. I love Dove’s Organic Farm white Spelt flour (https://www.dovesfarm.co.uk). I never use whole grain as it just doesn’t taste good. Plain flour will also do or self-raising flour if you like a lighter base. Spelt can be tricky to handle so if you are a virgin dough handler maybe use strong or plain flour until you are feeling comfortable with the dough making process. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture, a good few glugs of Olive oil, a few generous splashes of warm water and a pinch of salt. Now mix it all together and if it is still too dry add some more water until it all comes together. Plop it out onto a floured board. Now begin kneading. This bit is very important so don’t hold back. Think of rolling Tuscan Hills and go for it. Once it feels elastic yet smooth it’s ready. Pop it back in the bowl. Brush some olive oil over it, cover with a tea cloth and leave in a warm spot to prove. usually about two hours. After this it is rphoto-2eady to be rolled out and put onto pizza trays ( I don’t like the ones with holes). I usually get three good sized crispy Piazzas from this recipe.

Step 3. Now add the cooled tomato sauce and top with whatever you fancy. We like things pretty plain at our house so Mozzarella, olives and maybe mushrooms is about as far as we go. Sometimes we add pine nuts if we are feeling frisky. I like to serve it with a mixed leaf salad with home-made balsamic dressing (a few gluts of olive oil to a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar) and top with toasted almonds and mixed seeds.

Friday night Pizza. The effort is small but you do need to engage a little planning. The response will be so great it will become part of your weekly ritual and you have absolutely minimal packaging to dispose of. The cost is low, even if using a good organic flour and three large pizzas will keep at least 4 little people and 2/3 Grownups happy and full and feeling utterly spoiled. Just as one feel should on a Friday.

I get at least two Fridays out of a 1kg bag of Spelt at €2.85 a bag. An 8 sachet box of Tesco branded Dried yeast is under €2 and will last for 8 Fridays. Lidl is great for the extra Virgin Olive oil €2.99, Light Mozzarella 57c x 2, jar of pitted olives c99 chestnut mushrooms €1.19 Assorted seeds and pine nuts about €1 each and will last for a few weeks.