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.

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…

How to make the perfect smoothie

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Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know that I am a huge fan of smoothies and I try to have one a day. My favourite is a blend of raspberries, banana and blueberries as it acts as my sugar fix, but all of that sugar (even if it is natural) is not good every day. Here are the ingredients you need to create the perfect smoothie:

Cinnamon – this natural sweetener regulates blood-sugar levels and you only need ½ tsp.

Cucumber – a great source of potassium water that helps to lower blood pressure and reduce fluid retention. Add ½ a cucumber to your smoothie to refresh your drink.

Maca Powder – an immune boosting powder that is energising and also acts as a good hangover cure (just ½ tsp will do the job).

Raw Oats – a modern take on porridge. The oats help lower excess cholesterol and also prevent constipation. Add 1-2 tbsp to taste.

Lemon – add a dash of lemon to help preserve your smoothie and all of the good nutrients that you have added to it.

Coconut Water – a stress-relieving juice that is perfect for combating bloating and indigestion. Add 200ml to your smoothie mix.

Mixed Berries – In my opinion a cup full of mixed berries are a must-have for any smoothie. Opt for raspberries, blackberries or blueberries and your drink will be packed with antioxidants, beta-carotene and Vitamin C.

Healthy Snack Food

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Eight healthy snacks to get you through the day…

1. Popcorn with cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper is great for
kick-starting your metabolism and digestion to help cleanse the body
so add a dash to your popcorn with cayenne pepper for a healthy snack.

2. Green smoothie. Blend a ripe banana, blueberries and one handful
each of spinach and kale for an antioxidant-rich smoothie that
cleanses your body and helps reduce inflammation.

3. Apples with almond butter. Apples are full of phytochemicals and
soluble fiber that aid digestion and detox the body. Pair them with
creamy almond butter for a dose of healthy fats to stabilize your
blood sugar.

4. Avocado with lemon and olive oil. Slice an avocado in half and
drizzle with olive oil, lemon juice, and chili pepper for a powerhouse
of cleansing ingredients. Avocados are rich in fiber and antioxidants,
while lemon and olive oil help with digestion.

5. Greek yogurt with berries. Add antioxidant-rich blueberries to
yogurt and top with cinnamon for a healthy protein and fiber-packed
detox snack.

6. Vegetarian Sushi. Create your own veggie sushi with your own
fillings (crunchy veggies, tofu, or slices of omelet) for a healthy
snack that has more than one of your 5 a day.

7. Salt and Vinegar Kale Chips. The perfect solution for when you want
to eat junk food but also feel good about your dietary choices.
They’re super easy to make at home—just toss chip-sized pieces of kale
with a bit of olive oil, and let them crisp up in the oven for 10 to
15 minutes.

8. Cinnamon Fruit that is cut into bite-size chunks, put them on
skewers, and cook them on the grill, basting with a mixture of
cinnamon and honey, until they’re golden brown. The results are
natural sugar highs instead of the highs and lows that you get from
sweets and chocolate.

Recipe: Tom Yum Soup

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Time to share the recipe for one of my favourite dishes Tom Yum Soup. I discovered this on a trip to Thailand and have to admit that I ate it nearly every day during my two week holiday. It is packed with delicious flavours and spices and it is brilliant for boosting your metabolism.

To start this dish pour 600ml of water into a pan and add 50g of Tom Yum paste, 100g button mushrooms, 2 kaffir lime leaves, 1 crushed stick of lemongrass, fresh ginger to taste and bring it to the boil.

Simmer for 5 minutes; then add in prawns (and any other seafood you fancy) and leave to cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add a dash of fish sauce and a 1tbsp of brown sugar and lime juice to taste.

Divide between two bowls and enjoy with coriander on top. Not bad for just 250 calories!

Happy New Year!

It’s been a while but I’m back and ready to start some serious running for 2015. Ok, let’s start with the good old new year’s resolutions:

1. Avoid chocolate
2. Leave caffeine in 2014

I have never stopped running but I’ve been doing lots of little runs recently, three miles here four miles there. I need to get back into serious long distance mileage. It’s important to start small so January will be all about perfecting my 5 mile run. That’s not even an hour of running so it should be an easy one.

By March/April time it will be time to start on my 10 mile runs but I am keen to introduce a lot more strength exercises into my fitness regime too. I’m normally very lazy when it comes to strength exercises, as I don’t like pumping iron at all but I’m going to push myself this year to try it more – I might surprise myself!

I’m ideally looking for a half-marathon for September. That’ll give me the summer to enjoy training in the heat and it’ll mean that I have a good head start on health ahead of autumn.

Oh and the chocolate and caffeine resolutions, I’ll try and stay away from the whole year but I do love them even if I know it is bad.

What are your plans for next year? Do you have any resolutions that you know will be hard but you’ve just got to try?

Acne Solutions 

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Spots are a pain to deal with no matter how bad you get them. Everyone wants clear, picture perfect skin but it isn’t always that easy. Good cleansers, toners and moisturisers can be expensive so it is worth try a few at home remedies to see if you can get them working for your skin.

 

It is true to say that home remedies aren’t as glamorous as industry cosmetics, and there is nothing beautiful about putting lemon juice, apple cider vinegar or crushed garlic on your skin. They all smell a little funny and tend to be messy to apply. Lemon juice has a drying effect that can calm problem areas and apple cider vinegar is packed with lactic acid that can soften skin – it’s a great alternative toner. Garlic can be the real winner for your skin though, with zinc and calcium properties it acts as an antibiotic and cleans the skin. It’s great for a weekly treat for your face (disclaimer: the smell might linger for a few days!).
 
 
An old favourite is honey – used for many at home remedies – but have tried it with cinnamon? Honey is antibacterial, hence why we use it for sore throats, so it can kill the bacteria that causes acne. Cinnamon is anti inflammatory so when paired together you can soothe and repair your skin.
 
 
Two surprising at home antidotes are tomatoes and potatoes. Tomatoes are great for your skin and the natural acidity in them can dry your acne out. You could mash them up to create a face mask or slice then up and place them on your face – although it is a task try to get the slices to stay in place! Potatoes are high in vitamin C (which repairs your skin from the sun) and vitamin B (which is great for skin regeneration). Shred a potato up and wear it as a mask to prevent wrinkles (you could even add a dash of honey into the mix to glue it all together and heal your skin).
 
 
Finally, the most soothing of the bunch CUCUMBER! It’s perfect for hydrating as cucumber is 95% water. It will remove dead cell and clear pores. Grind it up with water and use as a face wash to moisturise your face.
 
 
Not all of these treatments will work for everyone and let’s face it you won’t want to try them all. But I find some of them a real treat for my skin and enjoy making them for a little at home pampering session every now and then.
 
Do you have any beauty remedies for acne that you can share?
 

Salmon Salad

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The summer may be drawing to a close (an awful thought) but keep the summer spirit alive with fresh, inviting food. At this time of year it’s nice to look to the Mediterranean for recipe inspiration and create dishes that are both healthy and delicious. I’m not a great lover of salmon but this delicately season salmon recipe is packed with healthy omega oils, plus the mustard dressing adds a refreshingly tangy twist to really by your taste buds going.

Did I mention that it’s simple too?

All you need is:

Salad >

  • 100g green beans
  • 100g mangetout
  • 80g peas
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 salmon fillet steaks
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 40g rocket
  • 1 lemon, for garnishing the salad with

Dressing >

  • 3 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp English mustard

Time to cook…

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 and bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the green beans and mangetout, cook for five minutes, then add the peas. Boil for two more minutes, then drain.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the salmon with the lemon zest, basil and onion. At this stage add pepper and salt to taste. [It is best to fry the fillets skin-side down for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a lined baking tray and bake for 4-5 minutes for rare, a bit longer for well-done].

Now mix all the dressing ingredients and toss it in a large bowl with the vegetables and rocket. Serve with the salmon and a wedge of lemon. It is as easy as that!