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

 

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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

Some layers with your, blue?!, cake…

This kind of cake is what you get when it is your birthday in Denmark (except for the colour which is what you get when you have a slightly mad 4 year old boy)! There is rarely a shop bought cake in sight, no fondant icing, no silly shapes and figurines…just good, old cake! Lots of layers, lots of whipped or vanilla cream and usually lots of fruit. It is very simple but I can tell you; it takes your breath away (mine at least). I will never get too old for this kind of cake and my husband, a die-hard chocolate cake fan, has even been converted! There are lots of reasons why – it is light, sweet, fresh, soft…just gorgeous!

The recipe, passed on to me by my sister-in-law (who, by the way, makes it to perfection!) is used to create the three layers for the cake. Once the basic dough is made and cooked you can fill and decorate as you wish – as you can see from the pictures my children often pick the colour of their icing as well as what fruit goes into it!

Make the layers and cake the day before you want to serve/eat it and refrigerate, but do not ice/chocolate coat it. This allows the flavours to develop and more importantly the sponge layers to get the moisture from the fruit and cream. On the day of serving, ice or chocolate coat it.

5 eggs – separated
210g caster sugar
150g flour – sieved
1 tsp baking powder
 
  • Preheat your oven to 180C
  • Separate your egg whites and egg yolks

  • Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff – turn bowl upside down to make sure they are ready!!!! The best test…really. Promise.

  • Add the sugar to the stiff egg whites, a little at a time. Watch the white colour change from matt to silky smooth – so beautiful. Wish I could jump into it….velvet!

  • Once completely mixed, add the egg yolks to the white mix – another beautiful change of colour as you slowly add the yellow…

  • Put flour and baking powder in a separate bowl and combine well. Sieve this mixture into the egg batter and carefully fold into the mix with a spatula.
  • You should now have a creamy, thick (and incredibly tasty!) dough.
  • Pour the dough into a lined round cake tin.

  • Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes – it will be light brown in colour and spongy to the touch. With this I mean that if you gently press the top of the cake, your finger should feel a spring back rather than a sinking in feeling….Hope that makes sense!
  • Once cooked, let cool in the tin on a wire rack.

  • When completely cold, with a sharp and long knife, cut three layers. This can be a bit tricky but if you do it slowly you should be OK. It is fine if there is a small hole here or there – believe me, once filled, no one will know (or care)!

Now for the filling! You can, literally, combine any fruit, jam, whipped cream and berry you like…It just works…Here are my favourites:

  • Whip whipping cream with vanilla essence and a tbsp sugar until creamy. Add raspberries (or strawberries) and whip a bit more to make pink cream! Like you would lasagne, place a layer of cake on the bottom, then a layer of raspberry cream, then another layer of cake, then the raspberry cream and then, on top, melted dark chocolate… (place pieces of chocolate in heatproof bowl with a few tbsp of whipped cream, over simmering water, slowly stir till melted. Scoop onto cake’s top layer and gently spread to cover…let ooze over the sides! Let chocolate set and then refrigerate until ready to serve (I have decorated with candied lemon peel here).

  • Spread strawberry jam onto the bottom layer and top with crushed macaroons. Put whipped cream (whipped with vanilla essence and a tbsp sugar until creamy) on top and place a second cake layer onto this. Add whipped cream and fresh strawberries onto this layer and place final cake on top. Thinly coat the top with the whipped cream and cover in fresh berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries…you name it! Beautiful and so tasty! (Don’t forget to lick the spoons!)

  • A very delicate version is to add a bit of instant coffee powder to the whipped cream mixture and spread this onto every layer. For the topping, add instant coffee powder to icing sugar and a little water and make a thin coffee paste that you then spread on the surface. Absolutely divine!
  • A layer of pineapple and whipped cream followed by a layer of strawberries and whipped cream – with the topping being icing sugar, water and food colouring of your choice! Banana also works well as a layer.

If you are not a whipped cream fan you can make this gorgeous vanilla cream – also often used in Denmark – and use instead. Simply layer it with the fruit as above.

Vanilla Cream

1 egg
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp flour
200 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla sugar (can be bought in Waitrose or make your own by adding the inside of a vanilla pod to some caster sugar)
 
  • Whip egg and sugar until fluffy and light
  • Pour into a sauce pan and whisk in the flour
  • Add the milk to the saucepan and heat it all slowly. Stir constantly while it is heating – and low heat – we don’t want scrambled eggs!
  • Bring it to the boil and once boiling add the vanilla sugar
  • It is now ready! Let it cool and use as mentioned above. It is also very tasty to put a combination of this cream and whipped cream into the layers.

Chocolate Dipped Fruit

These are lovely as gifts and look beautiful on any table, for any occasion! We had a three-layered cake stand full of chocolate dipped strawberries at our wedding reception – they go wonderfully with champagne!

200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa content)

Fruit of your choice – good ones are:

Dried, soft apricots
Strawberries
Apple slices
Cold banana slices
  • Slowly melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Do not allow to boil as chocolate will go hard and grainy.
  • Once melted, remove from heat but keep bowl in the hot water so the chocolate does not start to cool down.

  • Dip the fruit into the bowl and place it on a large piece of baking paper/parchment. Let the dipped fruit air dry (unless it is a very hot room in which case the fridge probably is best).

  • When the chocolate is completely dry, remove from parchment and put in pretty presentation bags with string (if a gift) or in a lovely jar or simply in a bowl on the table!

  • Keep in the fridge until serving – will keep for 2-3 days.

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!

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

Strawberry Compote

A small, simple but very useful recipe to have! A must for every breakfast table…

Fill a small sauce pan with trimmed and washed strawberries (halved)

  • Add a teaspoon of sugar (optional) and a tablespoon of water
  • Simmer ever so slowly until a nice, thick compote is formed
  • Let cool and store in a jar or airtight container in the fridge – will keep for 2 weeks easily.

Eat on toast or put a dollop in your bowl of natural yogurt – delicious!

 

Top Tips

  • Great as a gift – just add a nice lable and ribbon to the jar!
  • If you have strawberries that are too soft to eat do not bin them – make compote!
  • Compote can be made with most berries – blueberry also gorgeous!