Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Sweetcorn & Spinach Soup

This is a great recipe for those with busy lives as you can create a huge batch and freeze for another day. It’s easy to make too as you can throw all of the ingredients into a pan or a slow-cooker and leave it to cook while you get on with other things. The spinach and sweetcorn off-set each other beautiful and will fill your bowl with vibrant, mouther-watering colours.

Ingredients:

  • 500g Fresh finely chopped spinach
  • 400g Sweetcorn
  • 1 Sweet potato (finely chopped)
  • 2 Finely chopped onions
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 3 Cloves of garlic
  • 400ml gluten-free vegetable stock
  • ½ Tbsp rosemary
  • ½ Tbsp thyme
  • ½ Tbsp coriander
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 2 Deseeded Birdseye chilies (optional)

Method:

Heat a large pan and add the onions and celery, and fry until golden brown.

In a separate pan add bay leaves to the stock and bring to the boil. Prepare all of your ingredients and place into a pan with the vegetable stock. Season and leave the ingredients to cook for 45 minutes on a low heat. Over the next 45 minutes, stir every 5 minutes or so to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. You want to give it long enough for all of the ingredients to blend and infuse. I like to throw it all into a food-warmer and leave it on high for 3 hours while I get on with other things.

You’re ready to serve. I often make up a big batch and freeze a lot of it down as it’s great for taking to work as a simply soup. I also keep some in the freezer for those times when I have no time and need good food fast. On occasion I’ll cook a chicken breast and have this with it to give it a bit of protein if I’ve just had a session in the gym.

 

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Gluten-Free Lentil and Rosemary Soup

This is one of my favourite winter recipes. It has a warming taste and at least two of your portions of veg! It is the easiest thing in the world to make and it’s perfect for freezing or taking to work for lunch. The sautéed garlic, onions and celery blends perfectly with the lentils too…delicious!

Ingredients:

  • Spinach
  • 400g of green lentils
  • 2 Onions
  • 3 Cloves of garlic
  • 300ml gluten-free vegetable stock
  • Fresh Rosemary
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Bay Leaves

Method:
Allow the vegetable stock to start warming on the stove. While this is  warming up hallow fry the garlic, onions and celery and then transfer this into the vegetable stock. Add in the spinach, green lentils, fresh rosemary and bay leaves and season. Leave for 45 minutes to cook on a low heat and allow the flavours to infuse.

Great British Bread

GBBO 2015 is now over, the cakes have been eaten and the winner announced (Go Nadiya!). Rather than feel empty this Autumn as I search for something to replace my Wednesday night treat I’ve been inspired to bake!

I am following a low sugar diet at the moment so Paul Hollywood’s crusty loaf recipe is ideal… I thought I’d share it below so you can try it too (dip it in Olive Oil with a sprinkle of salt – heaven)…

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g/1lb 1oz strong white bread flour, plus a little extra flour for finishing
  • 40g/1½oz soft butter
  • 12g/2 sachets fast action dried yeast
  • 10g/2tsp salt
  • About 300ml tepid water
  • A little olive or sunflower oil
  • Additional cold water, for creating steam in the oven

METHOD:

  • Weigh out the ingredients.
  • Put the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the butter. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and add the salt to the other – the salt will kill the yeast if they come into direct contact. Stir all the ingredients with a spoon to combine.
  • Add half of the water and turn the mixture round with your fingers. Continue to add water a little at a time, combining well, until you’ve picked up all of the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all of the water, or you may need to add a little more – you want a dough that is well combined and soft, but not sticky or soggy. Mix with your fingers to make sure all of the ingredients are combined and use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl. Keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.
  • Use about a teaspoon of oil to lightly grease a clean work surface (using oil instead of flour will keep the texture of the dough consistent). Put your dough onto the greased work surface. Make sure you have plenty of space.
  • Fold the far edge of the dough into the middle, then turn the dough by a quarter turn and repeat. Do this several times until the dough is very lightly coated in olive oil.
  • Now use your hands to knead the dough. Push the dough out in one direction with the heel of your hand, then fold it back on itself, turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Kneading in this way stretches the gluten and makes the dough elastic. Do this for about 4 or 5 mins until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Work quickly so that the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands. If it does get too sticky you can add a little flour to your hands.
  • Clean and lightly oil your mixing bowl and put the dough back into it. Cover with a damp tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and leave it on one side to prove. This gives the yeast time to work and the dough will double in size. This should take about an hour, but will vary depending on the temperature of your room.
  • Stage two: Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size you can scrape it out of the bowl to shape it. The texture should be bouncy and shiny. Put it onto a lightly floured surface and knock it back – use your hand to roll the dough up, then turn by a quarter turn and roll it up again. Repeat several times. Then use your hands to gently turn and smooth it into a round loaf shape.
  • Place onto the lined baking tray, cover with a tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and leave to prove again until it’s doubled in size. This will take about an hour, but may be quicker or slower depending on how warm your kitchen is.
  • Preheat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan assisted)/425°F/gas mark 7. Put an old, empty roasting tin into the bottom of the oven.
  • Stage three: After an hour the loaf should have risen again. Sprinkle some flour on top and very gently rub it in. Use a large, sharp knife to make shallow cuts about 1cm deep across the top of the loaf to create a diamond pattern.
  • Put the loaf on the baking tray into the middle of the oven. Pour cold water into the empty roasting tray at the bottom of the oven just before you shut the door – this creates steam which helps the loaf develop a crisp and shiny crust.
  • Bake the loaf for about 30 mins.
  • The loaf is cooked when it’s risen and golden. To check, take it out of the oven and tap it gently underneath – it should sound hollow. Turn onto a wire rack to cool.

I Quit Sugar

I did it! I quit sugar…the 31st August was the last time I ate it and I have to say I haven’t missed it greatly. I have always been a huge sugar fan and my excuse for eating so much of it was that I run regularly. It turns out that running will not prevent my teeth from rotting or my body from getting diabetes, so I thought before this happens it is time to make a change, put down the Percy Pigs, and take healthy living to a whole new level.
  
I started the first week organised and ready to go. I watched plenty of healthy eating programmes, to motivate myself, started following I Quit Sugar on Instagram and even made Sarah Wilson’s Banana Bread as my sugar substitute (I can’t say I liked this recipe and probably won’t make it again – but there are plenty of other sugar free alternatives that I am trying).

This new way of living means that I am avoiding naturally reoccurring sugars as well as refined sugar. No more bread, fruit or tomato based sauce and lots more cave-woman styled cooking. My days now look a lot like this:

Breakfast: Porridge Oats

Lunch: Avocado and chicken

Dinner: Chicken/Quorn and vegetables

As I move into my fourth week of living sugar free I am beginning to see the benefits of this new diet. My skin, which is normally spot prone and blotchy, has cleared up and I am finding that I have a lot more energy throughout the day. I will admit that I want to give up every time people offer biscuits and cakes around the office but I’ve stuck to it. I don’t know how I am going to cope as Christmas gets closer and stores start to bring out delicious chocolaty treats for the holiday, but hopefully a weekly post here will help me to stay motivated.

Have you changed your diet recently? Are you keen to go sugar free?

 

The fashion bubble

I’ve been awful at posting recently because I’ve been so wrapped up in work. I work for a fashion brand and the summer was a really busy time with work events and launches. Excuses, excuses!
The new season calls for me to be more organised and get back to posting.

Here are a few updates since I last posted which explain my silence:

  1. I moved house – my weekends have centered on me running around DIY stores rather than the park
  2. I got engaged – So I really need to start running around the park again!
  3. I went to NYC – it was a work trip (I love my job) but it has meant playing catch up and lots of extra work

I’m back now though with a new gym training regime and a wedding body to work on. Help!

How to boost your energy…

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Do you feel like you are constantly running low on energy? It’s no great surprise that 60% of women claim to feel tired all the time. Unfortunately jobs, family and social lives often cannot be put on hold. Here are a few ways to give those energy slumps the boot:

  • Just a spoonful of…honey?

Porridge with berries and honey is a great way to give you sustained energy, as the honey delivers a quick lift just 5 minutes after consumption

  • Find your inner peace…

A short mediation session can help you to feel more with it. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for as long as you can. A five minute session everyday with help you to feel more relaxed and energetic

  • Have a brew…

Switch your normal tea or coffee for a uplifting red ginseng the nutrients in ginseng help to increase your body`s ability to adapt to stress which can help you feel more motivated in even the most pressured situations

  • Indulge in chocolate (yes, chocolate!)

A little chocolate will help you to reboot your brain if you’re tired – but the darker the better. So take five and have a bite!

  • Time for a cherry shot…

I’m not suggesting that you indulge in a shot of cherry that is laced with vodka every time you have a night out. Research suggests that 30mls of (pure) cherry juice twice a week can help you to sleep better and for longer, so you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. (You may not feel so fresh if you decide to opt for the vodka version).

  • And so to bath…

After a long, hard day unwind with a relaxing bath to bank plenty of energy for tomorrow. Add uplifting essential oils like lavender or May Chang with full-fat milk to your bath water for extra indulgence, and relax…