Banana and Oat Pancakes

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People always laugh at my putting oats into everything – but I do.

I add it to savoury dishes, to desserts, in drinks and, as this recipe will show, in breakfast or brunch pancakes. Why? Well, rather than using flour which leaves me feeling bloated and uncomfortable most of the time, oats fill me up, leave no nasty side effects and have very little flavour which means they can be used in most recipes. Oats are high in fibre and antioxidants however they do contain gluten, unless you buy gluten-free oats. The gluten content is very low though.

Eating oats carries many benefits, amongst others:

– stabilising blood sugar
– enhancing immune system
– removing cholesterol from the blood system

(read more here)

Bananas are, like oats, a great source of fibre and naturally sweet which means no added sugar is needed.

This recipe developed because we, as a family, had the habit of always eating pancakes together on a Sunday morning. Life is so busy, especially with three children and all that comes with them, and Sunday mornings were our quiet time. Our family time. But it was very sugar filled and ultimately we agreed that this must change. So the challenge was to create a treat, in the children’s eyes, that would be healthy. Banana and oat pancakes were born!

Banana and Oat Pancakes (makes three small, round pancakes)

1 ripe banana (the more ripe, the sweeter the pancakes)

1 egg

2 tbsp whole rolled oats (or any oats you have)

Coconut butter for frying (coconut butter is magic! Read more here)

  • Mash the banana in a bowl with a fork
  • Crack the egg and add it to the banana – stir the two together
  • Add the oats – if you prefer more dry pancakes you can add three tablespoons
  • Heat a teaspoon of coconut butter in a frying pan
  • Once melted and the pan is hot, add the pancake batter creating three round pancakes using a large spoon
  • Fry for a few minutes then flip over and fry for a further minute or so.
  • Transfer to a plate and eat either as they are or drizzled with Greek yogurt, honey and some goji berries (or any berries for that matter).
  • They will be fluffy, sweet and keep you satisfied for many hours. Enjoy.

Coconut butterRaw pancakesready

Yum - a sprinkle of shredded coconut.

Mango and Spinach Smoothie

Breakfast Smoothie

I have been trying to eat different kinds of breakfasts lately as I was getting bored with porridge and fruit.  As I started looking into healthier, yet still filling, alternatives, I was led down the smoothie route.

This one is a nice way to start off as it is mild and does not contain anything very scary…I guess spinach might be scary for some, especially when combined with the word breakfast, but give it a go. For those of you with children, who do not eat a lot of fruit or veg, this is a sure winner. The colour might put them off – healthy green – however the taste will have them asking for more. Let them try a teaspoon and see what happens…

As for health, spinach is one of the greatest leafy greens (and can be substituted for kale in this recipe if you prefer). It belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family (also known as goosefoot), a family of nutritional powerhouses including beets, chard and quinoa. It shares a similar taste profile with these two other vegetables; the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavour of chard. Spinach is rich in iron which, as you probably know, plays a central role in the function of red blood cells which help in transporting oxygen around the body, in energy production and DNA synthesis. Spinach is also an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2. Vitamin K is important for maintaining bone health and it is difficult to find vegetables richer in vitamin K than spinach. Have a read here for more details (BBC Good Food). A great food to fill up on for anyone but especially if you are pregnant or breast feeding.

Mango is another super healthy element to this breakfast. It improves digestion, lowers cholesterol, it is rich in iron, is said to improve concentration and memory and last, but certainly not least, Vitamin E, which helps to regulate sex hormones and boosts sex drive, is abundantly present in mangoes… Read more here (Health Mango).

So feed it to your children before exams or simply in the mornings to help them concentrate, feed them to yourself to improve digestion and maybe slip your partner some….:-)

Mango and Spinach Smoothie

1 banana (if very ripe it will make smoothie sweeter)

1 apple

2 handfuls of fresh spinach (or kale)

1 large handful of frozen mango (if you buy fresh, then cut into wedges and freeze)

100ml of cold water (if smoothie seems too thick simply add a bit more)

  • Slice the banana and apple and put them in a tall blender
  • Add mango, spinach and water
  • Blend for a good 2-3 minutes to ensure a smooth drink
  • Pour into a nice glass…makes it look tastier!
  • Enjoy!

(You can add other fruit – I threw in a few strawberries after I had taken the first picture…hence the small red dots in the glass)

Fruit DSC_0011 (3)Yum

 

Rye #4 – Stress Free Carrot and Rye Breakfast Rolls

The reason these are called stress free buns is that you make the dough the day before and leave it to cool overnight – then grab it when you want it, shape your rolls and place them in a cold oven, turn it on and cook for 35 minutes – the result being amazing! While they are cooking you can go for a short run, take a shower or bath, play with the children, read the paper…what ever you fancy! And when your timer goes off, breakfast is served – stress free! Combine with a big mug of coffee, some orange juice, slice of cheese with a dollop of strawberry compote…heaven!!!!

As with all my rye recipes they are jam-packed with goodness! The seeds and carrot only add to it – and the children absolutely adore them.

I like to make the dough on a Friday afternoon – sometimes a double portion – then Saturday and Sunday breakfast becomes a treat and a really lovely time where we can sit together as a family and enjoy. There is nothing like a freshly baked roll in the morning.

This recipe is a mix of my Dad’s and my Mum’s – thank you both!

300ml (ish) luke warm water
15g fresh yeast or 1.5 tsp dry yeast
Drizzle of honey
250g rye flour
150g plain flour
1.5 carrots – grated
Handful sunflower seeds or more
Salt
1 tbsp olive oil
 
  • Pour luke warm water into a big bowl and dissolve the yeast – fresh or dry – in it with a wooden spoon
  • Drizzle honey in and stir
  • Add the flour – both types – stir to combine. What you want is a dough that is sticky but not runny. It should make your hands messy…but not too wet. You definitely do not want it too dry. So add the flour slowly and stir as you go.

  • Throw in the grated carrot and seeds, season with salt and add a bit of olive oil – about 1 tbsp
  • Put a lid or tea towel over the bowl and leave in a cool place. If you have a larder, great, if not the fridge is good. Walk away!
  • The day after, the dough will have risen and be spongy, it may also smell slightly sour and yeasty. That is fine! It will not have risen a lot as the rye flour is heavy.

  • Shape small dough balls with your hands and place the rolls on a lined baking tray – as mentioned earlier the dough will be sticky. Rolling each bun in a little flour will make it easier and neater – for a more rustic appearance, see note further down!

  • Pop in a cold oven, turn it to 225C and bake for 30-35 minutes
  • Let cool for about 10 minutes before eating

If you are lazy, or do not want to get your hands sticky, you can simply drop the batter onto the baking tray with a wooden spoon – this will give you a more rustic looking bun and it does not affect the flavour at all!

Sleep your way to happiness!!

How many times have you tried to lose a few pounds? How often do you find yourself yelling too much at your children? How often are you lacking motivation to exercise or cook healthily? Final question – do you sleep less than 7 hours a night?

The days I go to bed too late or have my deep sleep broken by someone needing a wee, talking in their sleep or waking inhumanely early, I am much more irritable, prone to be more short-tempered, and definitely have a higher tendency to feel stressed. I eat a lot more sweet and unhealthy foods and am much less fun, definitely in the eyes of my children! Like when they fill the sink with water until it runs onto the floor and through the ceiling into the room below…yeah…when I have too little sleep, that is not a good scenario to find myself in (or for my children to have created!!).

The link between sleep and mood, appetite and weight is not only easy to experience first hand  but also well documented. Over the past few weeks I have, due to feeling tired and de-motivated, been reading up on it and it has made me realise that it is very simple to hit these low energy phases but likewise, very easy to turn the energy levels back around.

Most of the research I have read centres around sleep and weight loss, with one study showing that “…men ate significantly more (an average of 560 excess calories in their daily diet) during the days after they were sleep-deprived, compared to what they ate after having a good night’s sleep” (everydayhealth.com article). For those not used to working with calories, 560 excess ones equate to roughly ½ a kg a week in weight! Amazing how sleep alone can affect our appetite this much.

Less sleep equates to less energy and lower motivational levels throughout the day – you will find it harder to get out there and exercise as well as harder to cook and prepare healthy meals. Instead, and you are probably nodding now, you will grab for food that gives you an instant kick – starchy carbohydrates and sugars – and a vicious circle is created. This is because your appetite controlling hormones have been thrown with sleep deprivation leading to elevated levels of ghrelin, which is appetite-stimulating, as well as reduced levels of leptin, which is an appetite-suppressing hormone (everydayhealth.com). So how do you turn it around!? A few tips – and they work!

  • Sleep is the linking factor so start by going to bed at a decent time, and do it regularly. Creating a good routine will make it easier for you to stick to bedtimes. Count back at least 7 hours from when you have to get up…the hours before midnight are the ones you want to catch – especially if you have children that wake before 6am!
  • Eat a healthy breakfast! This is critical to starting your day with energy and giving your body fuel to tackle all that will come its way. Have a read of my blog RISE AND SHINE for more information on why breakfast is important.
  • Snack between meals. By this I do not mean stuff yourself! Have a handful of nuts (almonds or walnuts) with a piece of dark chocolate or a carrot with some olives, some tomatoes and feta cheese, edamame beans, hummus and veggies….Having a healthy snack will keep your blood sugar levels afloat during the day and thus keep your mood steady! Less shouting at the children, less sweets and starchy carbs being eaten!
  • Exercise! At least 30 minutes, five times a week. Getting out into the fresh air will not only clear your mind and help keep you in shape but it WILL give you energy! It also helps keep your appetite balanced…So important! Read EXERCISE blog for more!
  • Eat healthily! Every magazine you read bangs on about 5 a day. I won’t! I don’t care how many a day you have – it’s not about getting the five in there but about enjoying a balanced diet every day of your life. It is a mind-set to be honest. You need to just go for it. DO IT. Decide that you will throw away the processed white stuff in your cupboards, your biscuits, the chocolates…get rid of it. If it is there so is the temptation to have it. Do not worry so much about the fat content (there are actually many many fatty foods that are good for you, in moderation), look more at the sugar and carbohydrates. This is what gets you lazy and tired…and overweight! Fill your bowls with fruit and vegetables and always have lots of nuts and seeds to hand. Salads are great and believe me there are so many gorgeous ones – it does not have to be boring!!!
  • Cut back on alcohol and caffeine – at least in the afternoon and evening.  If you are struggling to get to bed early, or with waking in the night, don’t assume that a few glasses of wine or a beer will make you sleep better! It may get you falling asleep but once the alcohol wears off you will wake and probably find it hard to fall asleep again. Caffeine will prevent you from falling asleep – usually it takes 4-5 hours to get it out of your system. It would be very hard for me to live without my morning coffee but that is all I have. Not more than 3 cups of tea or coffee a day someone once told me – if you have more broken sleep is the result!

With the darkness and cold moving in on us it is so important to create energy in our every day. I like to feel alive! I like to wake and jump out of bed and look forward to the day ahead. I like to laugh with my children, not shout at them. I love the feeling of returning from a run, buzzing….I love good food – and I do not feel I am missing out on that by eating healthily. I just follow the 80/20 rule…eat really healthily 80% of the time and sneak in some naughtiness once in a while! Finally, I love to sleep! After a full day with exercise, the children and fresh air, there is nothing better than getting under the covers and letting the body have a well-deserved break!

These same rules apply to children by the way…are you helping yours to be happier?

Give it a go and let me know if you are feeling more energised!

(Some good articles I read on the importance of sleep)

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/sleep-more-weigh-less

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/seep-weight-loss-and-appe_b_566378.html

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/fitness/weight-loss/the-relationship-between-getting-enough-sleep-and-weight-loss.html

http://www.tree.com/health/sleep-disorders-effects-weight-gain.aspx

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/mood

Fruit, Yogurt and Nuts

Absolutely bursting with flavour, this is my favourite thing in the morning! I pretty much have it every day. Makes me happy to look at and the combination of the greek yogurt, honey and nuts is divine.

You can have the fruit with low-fat or fat-free yogurt but the best flavour, as well as what is best for you (in small quantities), is full fat greek yogurt. Remember, your body needs fat (so make it the good kind)!

Half a banana in slices
5 halved strawberries
Small handful of blueberries
1 kiwi sliced
5-6 almonds
5-6 walnuts
2 tbsp greek yogurt
Drizzle of runny honey
  • Place your fruit in a bowl, add the yogurt, sprinkle nuts on top and drizzle with honey….
  • You can use any combination of fruit – the above is just my standard plate!

Spinach and Mushroom Omelette

Let’s face it – breakfast often becomes the routine meal….Something easy, quick, coffee….Well, if you are bored with toast and cereal – have an omelette! Quick to make and filling too. Can be made in many ways…my favourite is this one! Don’t leave out the coffee though…could not imagine my mornings without one!

2 eggs
2 tbsp milk (or cream if you prefer)
Good handful of fresh spinach
Half a cup of water
2 closed cup mushrooms
1 tsp oil
Salt and Pepper

  • Heat the oil in an omelette pan – or any small pan you have
  • In a pot, bring the water to boil and let the spinach soften for a few minutes – drain
  • Mix eggs, milk, salt, pepper and sliced mushroom in a bowl and stir
  • When the pan is warm, pour in the egg mixture. Let it settle stirring gently to cook it evenly. Low heat will get you the best results
  • When the omelette looks dry at the bottom but still slightly wet on the top, lay the spinach onto it. Gently fold half the omelette on top of the spinach.
  • Let it cook for a further few minutes until you can see all the egg mixture has dried.
  • Gently lay on a plate and enjoy!

American Style Pancakes

These have become our regular Sunday breakfast! The children know and race to the table…Easy and delicious and, if covered in fruit, not too unhealthy!

125g flour
2 tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp baking powder
240ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg
  • In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients
  • In a separate bowl, combine milk, vanilla, oil and egg and stir
  • Slowly add the liquid ingredients to the dry until just combined – do not over stir
  • Heat your pan and grease lightly – very little is needed as there is oil in the batter
  • Once pan very hot – pour batter on in small circles. In a 26″ pan you should be able to fit three

There are many ways to serve these:

  • Syrup and butter
  • Syrup and pieces of fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and banana are fab
  • Nutella
  • Sugar and lemon
  • Honey
  • Jam
  • Peanut Butter
  • Yogurt and honey
  • Plain