As a family we do not use large quantities of refined sugar. The only time I ever use it is in my baking and that is usually for a treat rather than the norm. Over the years I have tried several artificial sweeteners in my baking but have never been converted and always revert back to the normal household brands of sugar. While I was out shopping last week I came across a new product by Tate & Lyle called Light at Heart. This is a combination of Brown Sugar and a Stevia Blend and has 50% less calories. I shook the container and could tell that the sugar was granulated (I hate the powdery substance of artificial sweeteners) so in the trolley it went.
Since buying the product I have done a bit of research into Stevia and I think it would be fair to say that there is a divided camp when it comes to the safety of consuming Stevia products. The plant has been used for centuries in South America as a natural sweetener, it has almost zero calories and studies have shown that it significantly inhibits the development of dental plaque. On the flip side it has negligible nutritive benefits (but then neither does refined sugar) and there is this small camp who maintains that more research needs to be done before allowing Stevia to be used in food products. For me the positives outweighed the negatives and I know we will not be consuming large quantities so I was keen to try it out.
I decided to try it out on something simple first so went for these easy pancakes with a blueberry sauce. Now what I didn’t notice on the packaging was something it said on the back “as it’s twice as sweet, only use half as much.” My blueberry sauce was very, very sweet so I would definitely have been able to use half the quantity. By the time I made the pancakes I was a bit wiser and only used half my usual quantity of sugar and this time the taste was perfect. More to the point – there was no artificial taste normally associated with low calorie sugars/sweeteners.
The next step now is to try baking one of my tried and tested cakes to see how it compares. I will let you know how I get on.
I can hardly contain my excitement whilst writing this post. Why? you may ask. It looks like just any other muffin topped with the usual artery clogging butter and sugar frosting. Well guess what – there is no butter, no refined sugar and it is grain free. I have most definitely not turned over a new leaf and gone super-duper healthy but I have been following the progress of a lady over in New Zealand who is trying to alleviate some of her health issues by changing her diet. Suzanne’s blog is over at Strands of My Life and is full of interesting information about using alternative products to change the way we eat. Suzanne is adamant that going gluten, dairy and refined sugar free should not mean that she cannot have her sweet treats and this gorgeous treat below and many others are as a result of her hard work to achieve this.
The muffin itself is made with coconut oil, coconut flour, honey, carrots, raisins, shredded coconut, eggs, bicarb and cinnamon. I found the first two products at Holland & Barrett and they are not cheap. £14.00 for the two products is a lot to pay but if you are plagued with food intolerances then you may have these items already. I was just curious and wanted to try them out for myself. The baked muffin is quite heavy and dense but not unpleasant. It is sweet and tasty and very moist. But the piece de resistance is the fabulous chocolate frosting. This is made from avocado, cocoa and honey. It is unbelievably thick and creamy and has absolutely no taste of avocado. Suzanne explains about the benefits of avocados so I will not repeat it here. If like me, you have children then you will know that it is usually the frosting on a cupcake that they go for, leaving the cupcake for someone else to finish off (me). Every time I watch my children devour all this butter and sugar I feel guilty but this would be so different. Yes, avocados contain fat but it is good fat and honey is so much better for you than all that refined sugar that makes up icing sugar.
I have just returned from picking my 6 y/o up from school and couldn’t wait for him to try one of these muffins. I had placed the muffin so that he would see it as soon as he came into the kitchen and of course he begged to have it there and then. I was trying to act as normal as possible so as not to alert him to the fact that is was different. He took his first lick of icing, looked at me and said “did you make this?” Oh here we go, he’s sussed me out, I thought. “Yes,” I said, “why?” He walked over to me and gave me a big hug and said “this is so yummy, thanks.” He didn’t eat the muffin but that is not unusual.
The next time I make chocolate cupcakes for the kids I will definitely use this frosting. It is just so much healthier than the buttercream frosting I normally use.
For this fabulous recipe and more information on going grain, dairy and refined sugar free pop over to
For my next January challenge I decided to enter Random Recipes over at Belleau Kitchen. Dom, who is the guy behind Belleau Kitchen, asked if we could choose a recipe from someone else’s kitchen for this challenge. My initial thought was to ask my Mum but as most of our cook books are the same I knew I was unlikely to get something new. My second thought was to ask my friend Sam. I have known Sam for a few years and we meet up once or twice a month for coffee and a catch up. We have many similar interests but one thing we don’t share is my love for food and cooking. Sam eats to live, I live to eat. For this reason I have never told her that I have a food blog, conscious of not wanting to be a food bore and to witness the slight glazing over of eyes that I see from my husband when I start to talk about food. I sent her an email along the lines of “Hi Sam, would you mind choosing a recipe from one of your books and sending it over to me. It can be anything you want. Tks.” Now Sam has been in my kitchen and knows I have 100′s of books so I kind of anticipated her answer. The replay back was “What do you mean? Why are you asking me when you have so many recipe books?” I knew this was going to be hard to explain but I went with it anyway. I replied back, “I know it sounds weird but I am cooking something random for a guy called Dom.” The reply back was quick, “Who is Dom?” I was now having fun and decided to go with the flow. “Well he is a guy on the Internet.” Another quick reply, “You’re talking to a guy on the Internet and cooking for him? What’s going on?” “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “Nothing untoward is going on. Just send me a recipe and I’ll tell you all about it next time I see you.” Not long after I received an email back with a recipe from The Fairtrade Everyday Cookbook for a Chocolate and Apple Cake. She closed the email with “Can we meet for coffee this week?”
I feel slightly mean for keeping her in suspense and I know she won’t fully understand why I’m cooking something completely random for a guy I’ve never met but that’s blogging for you.
I made the cake a couple of days ago and loved it. I still had a couple of apples from our apple tree lurking in the back of my fridge and so made my own apple puree. There is something oddly satisfying about using home grown produce. I even had Fairtrade cocoa and Fairtrade chocolate so felt I was doing the recipe justice. The raw cake mixture was thick and fudgy and quite different to any other chocolate cake mixtures I’ve made before. Once cooked, the cake was beautifully moist and had the slightest hint of apple to taste. I was running out of time to finish it off, so wrapped it up in tinfoil and only took it out to ice today (2 days later). It was still moist and fudgy. I topped it off with the chocolate topping which I have to say set really quickly and had a nice crispness to it. If anything the topping slightly overpowered the taste of apple in the cake but it is still good. This is not a showstopper of a cake but more a family favourite and so much better for having some fresh apple in it.
Now I really must get back to Sam about that coffee date.
On Sunday nights my children get to choose what we eat for dinner and yesterday we had a unanimous show of hands for this sausage, leek and pasta bake. For some reason neither of them will eat onions, managing to find the smallest piece in any dish and leaving them dotted round the edge of their plates. Leeks on the other hand do not seem to bother them. Of course leeks have a much milder flavour than onions and tend to be a bit softer if cooked well. Leeks are also a good source of Vitamins A, C and K so I am more than happy that they eat them. I like to have a nice crisp, green salad with this meal to lighten it a bit but haven’t yet managed to get the kids to agree to that one.
When I first discovered the Classic French challenge over on Blue Kitchen Bakes I was more than happy to participate. I have strong ties to France and love everything about their whole way of life. When January’s theme was announced I knew it would be a good chance for me to try out the classic soufflé – something I haven’t made since my early days of cooking. My last attempt was a bit of a disaster. I can remember we had some friends over for dinner and I had prepared everything for the soufflé up until the addition of egg whites. We had our first and second course along with copious amounts of wine. The time came to finish off my soufflés. Disaster – they were as flat as a pancake. The taste was still good and everyone very kindly finished them off. It was only when we went to tidy up and I found the bowl of egg whites that I realised my mistake. A soufflé with no egg whites does not a soufflé make.
So fast forward to 2013 and with lessons learnt I’m ready to master the soufflé. My Mum had been raving about these pear soufflés so I knew what I would make. When she sent me the recipe she put a little note at the bottom telling me that I had about 2 minutes to photograph them before they would collapse. 2 minutes – are you serious? I have only just progressed from taking my camera off its Auto setting. Exposure, Aperture, ISO etc. are all new terms to me and do not come naturally. We also have absolutely no decent natural light at the moment which makes things even harder. I thought I would give it a try and with everything set up close at hand I made my first batch. One click, two clicks, three clicks, flat soufflés and of course no decent images. Next batch in the oven, one click, two clicks, three clicks, flat soufflés, lighting has changed and exposure settings wrong. Next batch in the oven, perfect soufflés, lighting much the same, this time it’s going to work, trip over my tripod, flat soufflés. Next batch in the oven (yes I really do have that much patience), soufflés even better than the last, manage to avoid the tripod, lighting as good as it’s going to get, press the button, nothing happens, press again in desperation, nothing happens, check the camera, battery flat.
So after all that – were the soufflés good?
Yes, they were.
They had much more flavour than I ever imagined they would. As expected, they were light and airy and this is my only problem with them. I don’t often get to eat desserts so when I do I want something with a bit of substance, something that I can savour over time. These soufflés were delicious but gone in a flash, leaving me wanting more.
So here we have my shaky, rather dull photo of what is a delicious pear soufflé.