Measuring Up

I know that January is almost over, but I am still optimistically (desperately) hanging on to my resolutions (delusions) of improved health and well being.  This feels all the more urgent because my diet at the moment seems to consist mainly of butter, egg yolks and cream.  My waistline is in serious peril.  But more on that in a later post.

My problem is snacking.  I can’t have breakfast at 7.30 in the morning and wait until 1pm for lunch.  I’ll keel over.  I need something that hits the spot, preferably with a bit of carbohydrate to keep me going.  I know I should probably have some protein, but that just doesn’t do it for me, no matter what the nutrition police say.   These oat, orange and prune bars are soft, squidgy and hearty yet butter, wheat and sugar free (well, just a tiny bit of honey to sweeten- adjust to your taste).  So they do the job in my book.  

Oat, Orange and Prune Bars

You will need:

170g oats
1 orange- zest and fruit of
10 prunes, chopped
3-5 tbsp honey
60 ml vegetable oil
150ml Greek yogurt
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 175 C.


2.  Mix together oats, orange zest and pulpy flesh, prunes, desired amount of honey, oil and yogurt with the salt and cinnamon until you have a very thick batter.

3.  Smooth this into a lined baking dish.  Push down any bits of exposed prune and bake for 30-40 min until just set.  Cool before cutting into rectangles.  Sprinkle with a little sugar should you wish. 

A cup of coffee and a sit down…

I think I have a problem. An addiction.  I’ve realised I can’t get through even a single day without sitting down to a cup of tea or coffee and something sweet. 

I blame being Swedish.  It is a country, after all, with its own word to describe this sinful act: fika.  The issue is that my daily fika has developed into so much more than just a quirky scandi ritual, it’s become a necessity without which my withdrawl symptoms are palapable- I become cranky, clumsy and a have a feeling that something isn’t quite right. 

To spare those around me, I’ve decided to give in to my sugar and caffeine fix for now.   I thought, however, I’d at least try to make my fika a home-made indulgence, as often as my schedule permits.  That way at least that way I know what I’m getting and can add a bit of goodness like grains, seeds, nuts and wholemeal flour.

These simple cookies are a case in point.  I’ve lowered the sugar amounts considerably and used raisins- already so sweet.  To make these cookies gluten-free, use the same amount of gluten-free plain flour with an additional teaspoon of xanthan gum and gluten-free oats.  You could also use wholemeal flour, if you prefer. 

Now, I’m not saying they are totally guilt-free, but I’m fairly sure they beat a kit kat.  So make a double batch, they last for a few weeks in an airtight container. 

Oat and Raisin Cookies

You will need:
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
75g sugar
75g light brown sugar
100g raisins
300g oats
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method: 

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.

2. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
3. Add the sugars to the dry ingredients, and mix. Add the oats, and stir to combine well.
4. Add the softened butter, beaten eggs and vanilla, and mix until the dough comes together. It will be very thick, and a bit difficult to stir.
5. Drop the cookie dough by rounded tablespoon on the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. 
6. Place in the middle of the preheated oven, and bake for about 12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown all over.  They should have a bit of crunch on the outside and still be soft on the inside.  Allow to cool before dunking into a cup of milky coffee or tea.  

Skinny Pancakes


Healthy pancakes with blueberries, banana and honey.  Black tea.

For one of our first dates, which coincided with Shrove Tuesday, Toby invited me round to his London Fields flat for pancakes.  I’m not convinced that he had ever made them before, particularly as he tried to make savoury ones with tinned spinach.  Luckily he had a French flatmate at the time, who swooped in and saved the day with her crêpe-making prowess (air-flipping and all).  In the end, they turned out pretty well, nobody went hungry and we’ve continued the tradition every pancake day since.  

I personally think it’s the perfect excuse to indulge and go all out.  Perhaps experiment with some new flavours (last year I baked them sprinkled with Parmesan and stuffed with fresh spinach and ricotta, this year I’m thinking of adding cocoa to the batter and serving them with ice cream and chocolate sauce).  However, you might want a recipe for something a bit less guilt-inducing for the other days of the year.  
These will do the trick- fluffy, versatile and much healthier, they have a very similar taste (just slightly oat-ier, which is actually quite nice) and spot-on consistency.  Serve with one of your five-a-day portions of fruit and you’ve got a pretty balanced breakfast. 
Guilt-Free Pancakes
You will need:
½ cup porridge oats
½ cup cottage cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 eggs
Method:

1. Separate the egg whites and yokes.  Put the yokes to one side (perhaps turn them into mayonnaise later?).  Whisk the whites until stiff and peaky, either with an electric whisk or a hand-held one (if you prefer to give your arms a bit of a workout). 


2.  Add the oats and cottage cheese, whisking between each addition to make sure there’s plenty of air in the batter.  This will make the pancakes light and fluffy.


3.  Use a nonstick frying pan, lightly greased with vegetable oil.  You want to make sure the pan is really hot for the first batch.  Dollop a couple of tablespoon-fulls of batter into the pan.  I made the thicker, American style versions, but you could make thinner crêpe-like ones with this batter too.   The trick to knowing when to flip your pancakes over is to wait until little bubbles form on the top (i.e. on the uncooked side).  After flipping they should only take another minute or so tops.

4.  Serve with your favourite pancake toppings- fruit, syrup, lemon juice, or honey. Or sugar, chocolate sauce, ice cream, marshmallows, bacon…..

Early starts….

…are a bummer.

I’ve taken to eating breakfast once I get to the office, which is a bit depressing but I do find it curbs my hunger for lunch until lunchtime, rather than until mid- morning.

I’ve got the working breakfast thing sorted and stock our fridge with some yoghurts, fresh fruit and there’s a big bag of oats in the cupboard. So this is what my breakfast usually looks like:

Porridge with seeds and blueberries, a drizzle of honey.

And on that note, I’d like to point you in this direction. If you haven’t browsed through the breakfast ideas on this blog already, I heartily suggest that you do.

Of course, there are times when a breakfast out (preferably a fry-up or a stack of pancakes) is the only thing that will do. For that, I would like to recommend to my fellow Londoners the definitive breakfast bible, the London Review of Breakfasts.