Healthier Baking Ideas*

January is not a good month to be someone who loves to bake for other people- everyone is either on some kind of new year diet or so over-saturated with the rich foods of Christmas that they just can’t face any sweet treats. With that in mind I thought I’d explore a few ideas for healthier baking, mostly simple ingredient swaps to serve (mostly) as inspiration for myself and also to inspire my fellow baking addicts- and nab your ideas for healthier cakes and biscuits too!

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One simple swap you can make is to reduce saturated fats by replacing butter with an ingredient like rapeseed oil. There are a whole host of healthy baking recipes if you click the link- I especially like the look of the date and walnut cake which of course carries the added benefits of the dried fruit and nuts.
Obviously baked goods are notoriously laden with sugar and it’s hard to avoid it completely. What you can do though is look for sweeteners that have more nutritional benefits than refined white sugar- honey, apple puree, banana or sugar alternatives such as the SugaVida I recently featured are all good substitutes.
You can improve the nutritional content of cakes and bakes by adding in ingredients such as flaxseeds (also a great alternative to egg in vegan baking) to boost fibre content as well as providing a good source of vitamins and minerals. You won’t necessarily taste the difference but the benefits will be there.
Using alternatives to standard white flour will also boost the nutritional content of your bakes- buckwheat or spelt flours will increase fibre whilst almond flour will add a protein and vitamin E boost.
Finally when it comes to topping your bakes try switching regular cream or icing for greek or natural yoghurts. There are plenty of recipes out there for healthier toppings and you’ll gain the calcium, vitamin B12 and probiotics that yoghurts provide.
I’d love to know what smart-swaps you make for healthier baked goods, I’m getting bored of not baking and would love to get experimenting on healthier treats that both myself and those around me can enjoy. I’m notorious for not eating my own creations and it’s about time I started!

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Degustabox: December review and discount code

Some time amidst all of the madness of Christmas I took delivery of the December Degustabox* which was rammed full of new treats to try out. I’m a little late with posting my review, the last few weeks have been quite busy and my procrastination game has been strong, but here I am with my thoughts on the last box of 2016 as well as a hefty discount for anyone wishing to give this foodie subscription a whirl.

For those who don’t know Degustabox is a monthly subscription box filled with 10-15 food/drink products, most of which are brand new to the market so it’s a great way to try things out. On a month by month basis the box costs £12.99 (with a discount for longer subscriptions) but the contents are generally worth far more than this.

Introductions over and it’s on to the contents…

First up are these Bahlsen Akora biscuits, a traditional German heart-shaped lebkuchen. Spiced jam filling, soft gingerbread and signature chocolate are combined to make one of my favourite festive treats. I’ve loved lebkuchen for as long as I can remember and this is up there with some of the best I’ve had. Sadly only available at Christmas but at £1.99 a bag it’s well worth stocking up on when you can.
It took me a while to get my head around this snack from Bite+. Essentially a savoury cereal each pack contains two servings with an RRP of £1.69. It comes in an assortment of flavours and are high fibre, low fat and packed with taste. Once I got my head around the fact that these were a snack and not some strange alternative to cornflakes I broke in to my pack and really enjoyed them.
This apple and cinnamon fudge from Oh Fudge was delicious- creamy and rich with an apple and cinnamon flavour that was perfect for this time of year. I don’t have the exact price information to hand but a quick google suggests this goes for around £3.50 a box which for the size of it isn’t bad at all. The packaging is gorgeous too so would make for a lovely gift.
Quick meals are my thing and what’s more comforting than a steaming bowl of risotto? This rich four cheese risotto from Gallo and risotto box with cheese and vegetables both cook wonderfully in the microwave and make for the ultimate comfort food dinner in minutes. The pouch costs £2.29 and the box £2.00 (perfect for a work day lunch).
I think Hoots is such a cool name for a snack! These are baked multigrain snacks designed to be an alternative to crisps. I especially enjoyed the salt & pepper flavour (I wish more things came in that flavour to be honest) and at £0.69 per pack they are pretty good value. Also suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.
Maggi 3 minute noodles (£0.75) make for another quick and easy meal. The chicken flavour is pretty decent and being ready in only three minutes they appeal to my impatient nature. They are also available in beef and curry flavours and would make a good desk drawer emergency lunch.
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and whilst I am a creature of habit with what I choose (porridge and toast usually) I can be tempted in to trying something different from time to time. Nutri-Brex gluten free coconut and crispy rice are similar to weetabix in principle and really tasty especially with hot milk. At £3.79 I wouldn’t pay full price for them but would pick up a box or two if I saw them on offer.
I’m not much of a soft drinks person myself but do like to keep a few bottles of something in for when guests pop round. The alcohol free wine by Eisberg (£1.39) is ideal for drivers or those watching their weight. Made in the same way as normal wine but with the alcohol gently removed this has only 28kcal per 125ml serving. Also included was Newton’s Appl Fizzics (£1.29). This is a blend of apple juice and sparkling water which is all natural with no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Crisp and refreshing even I enjoyed this!
Finally on the drinks front we have some What A Melon watermelon juice (£2.00) which I admit I am yet to try. This claims to be hydrating like coconut water but with extra anti-oxidants and amino acids. It sounds lovely I’ll admit so I’ll be sure to give it a go soon! the a2 milk (£1.39) is a long life cow’s milk which is free from the a1 protein that can trigger symptoms associated with lactose intolerance (although it isn’t suitable for anyone with a cow’s milk protein allergy). There’s not much I can say about this, it tastes like milk but has added benefits. Useful to have in as a stand-by!
If I’ve tempted you to treat yourself to a Degustabox subscription then you can claim a brilliant £7.00 discount off of your first box with the code 6HZJ8 making it only £5.99. I’d love to know if you do sign up and what your thoughts are! I look forward to getting my box every month as it’s a great way to try out new things that I’d otherwise overlook or never otherwise find.

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Degustabox provided for review purposes, all opinions and reviews are my own.

Super Snacking with Planet Hemp

When I was given the opportunity to review a new snack product I was pretty excited, I much prefer a little and often approach to eating and snacks happen at least three times a day for me. I admit I was less excited when the snacks arrived- despite kind of knowing what I was getting in to by accepting a product containing hemp, when faced with the reality of actually trying it my confidence wavered. There are lots of benefits to consuming hemp though, and in a bid not not rely solely on biscuits for my daily snack intake I decided to just be brave and get stuck in.

So, why eat hemp? Where to start! Firstly hemp seeds contain more protein than chicken and it’s high in omega 3 and 6 as well as iron, magnesium and manganese. Hemp is easy to digest as it contains no enzyme inhibitors (unlike many grains, legumes and nuts) and is also an excellent source of essential fatty acids. Hemp also contains all of the essential amino acids that our bodies require but can’t produce- never before has a snack of mine been such a nutritional powerhouse.

Super Mini Bouchées c/o Planet Hemp

These Forbidden Fruit flavoured hemp snacks come in an attractive pouch and promise a big taste as well as a big nutritional punch. A two piece serving contains 110 calories and is an excellent source of protein which is something I’m trying to be mindful of when it comes to my food choices.

I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about these to be honest. This is no bad thing, it means they aren’t terrible but I do find the texture for me has taken some getting used to (but I am an odd creature with many food texture aversions). If you can get past the texture- kind of crunchy but also kind of chewy they taste pretty good! The fruity flavour comes through well and there is no plant-y aftertaste which was probably my main concern for some reason.

With their short and simple ingredients list (of which you can pronounce everything, always a bonus!) and the fact they are gluten free, raw and vegan these are well worth a try if you’re trying to eat healthy or are looking for a nutrition boost over party season. As they are quite a dense texture and not crumbly they transport well and would easily slip in to your handbag. The protein fills you up nicely, perfect for all of the dashing about that comes with this time of year!

Planet Hemp is brand new to the UK and there are many other products in their range including hemp protein, hemp oil and hemp seeds. I haven’t been able to find an awful lot of UK stockists at present but you can order online at Dolphin Fitness who I’ve used before with success.

Let me know if you’ve tried any hemp products or have discovered any healthy new snacks- I’m on a food discovery adventure right now and I’m game on for pretty much anything.

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Gift Inspiration: Lolly’s Sweets

I’m not going to lie, I am that person who starts buying the Christmas food the second it hits the shops. It’s one of my favourite things about this time of year- there’s something about everyday favourites coming in festive packaging or novelty shapes that makes it taste that bit sweeter (not to mention the truly seasonal goods like Lebkuchen, we won’t talk about how many bags of that I’ve got through!).

I’m also a fan of giving sweets as gifts, to some it might seem like a cop-out present but for me getting a selection of the recipient’s favourite confectionary and wrapping it up along with some other treats is something that never fails to raise a smile. I’m always delighted to receive something edible and I’d like to direct anyone who wishes to indulge me (or you know, do some actual Christmas shopping) to Lolly’s Sweets who have a huge selection of festive gifting options to suit all tastes and budgets- and you still have a whole week to make your choices and still get delivery in time for the big day!

Top of my person wish list are the fruity liquorice candy cane bites and the truly adorable fruity Rudolph reindeers which look almost too cute to eat! Also on my shopping list are the white chocolate stars which are a real crowd pleaser and would make great favours for the dinner table if you go down that route. There are also plenty of retro favourites available for creating a personalised hamper as well as pre-made hampers such as this epic Reese’s Chocolate one who I think a certain friend might approve of!

What are your favourite festive foods? Do you stock up the second they hit the shops or save yourself for December?

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Healthier Baking with SugaVida

I’m using the word healthier in place of healthy in the post title because I’m not sure that the cookies I’m sharing a recipe for would pass as a “health food”- they still contain real butter and white flour after all. I’m definitely not the kind of person to jump on any dietary bandwagons but I’m all for a bit of experimentation so when I was given the opportunity to test out the UK’s new “super sugar” SugaVida I jumped at the chance. Actually this was more for the benefit of my best friend’s Dad who has recently been told his blood sugar is higher than it should be- he’s been really careful with his diet but has been mourning the lack of my baked goods…I decided to put my thinking cap on and come up with a bake that he could enjoy but wouldn’t undo all of his hard work.

Before I get in to the recipe I’ll explain a bit more about SugaVida. It’s essentially an alternative to traditional sugar and also goes by the name of Palmyra Jaggery which is a crystallised, unrefined nectar. Because it has a low GI it is suitable for diabetics and can be used in place of sugar in hot drinks, baking and cooking. It’s also packed with other nutritional benefits- one teaspoon of SugaVida contains 36% of the RDA of vitamin B12 (in fact, SugaVida is the only plant-based source of B12 which is great news for veggies and vegans), 210% of the RDA of vitamin B6 and a whopping 500% of vitamin B1. What’s more, SugaVida is organic, ethically sourced and sustainable for the communities who farm it!

I decided to make cookies as my first experiment, a nutella type cookie in fact, although I used Jim Jams low sugar chocolate hazelnut spread to continue on the virtue front.
Ingredients:

100g Jim Jams chocolate hazelnut spread
100g unsalted butter, softened
175g SugaVida
1 egg
250g Self raising flour

You will need also need a baking tray lined with baking parchment

How To:
Heat the oven to 180c, 160c fan. Gas 4.

Place the chocolate hazelnut spread, butter and SugaVida n a mixing bowl and beat well until smooth (an electric whisk helps).

Beat in the egg then beat in the flour to make a stiff dough.

Shape the dough into large walnut sized balls and place on a baking tray spaced a little apart. Flatten with a fork and bake for 15 mins until golden. allow to cool and store in a cake tin- they keep well, if you can resist them!

The SugaVida reminds me very much of a dark, muscavado sugar so adds a real caramel taste to the cookies. This combined with the chocolate hazelnut spread was a real winning combination and already a second lot has been requested. They are so quick and easy to make that I don’t mind and I’m hoping to experiment with some more low sugar bakes in the future so my bestie’s dad no longer needs to miss out!

SugaVida is available at major retailers now with an RRP of £6.49 for 250g. Yep, it’s pricey but if you’re baking for an occasional treat for someone who would otherwise miss out, or are planning on using it just to sweeten hot drinks then it’s not too bad.

Let me know any diabetes friendly baking recipes you may have in the comments, I know they’ll be appreciated!

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