Thursday, February 28, 2013

Daily life in photos...

What, not a word? I've got to do something to one day reach my goal of beating Matt at scrabble... #lovejc

Another sugar free cupcake experiment

Another recipe from The Healthy Chef - this time for Lemon Yoghurt Cupcakes. This one looked yummy and I really wanted to try it, but again, since it called for so much almond meal I was wondering how I could substitute it. This recipe called for 3 cups which would have cost me $25 for almond meal alone!!

This is the picture from the Healthy Chef website,  not my cupcakes.
As you will see below, mine didn't turn out quite so pretty or tasty looking...

Since my last experiment - the chocolate cupcakes - worked with LSA instead of almond meal I thought I'd try that again. But as soon as I started, I realised this was going to be different - maybe you've already worked out how.

Because of the linseed/flaxseed, the result is obviously going to be funny brown colour, not the lightness of pure almond meal.

My substitutions:
- LSA instead of almond meal
- apple puree instead of oil

Cue the yucky look mixture... and when I tasted the batter I realised despite the sweetness of the honey and the tang of the lemon and yoghurt in this, it wasn't going to be enough to mask the stronger flavour and slight bitterness of the LSA.

The downsides?
Made with LSA these cupcakes taste a little bitter and strange. Edible thanks to the large quantity of honey and the lemony flavour, but not like I was hoping them to be.

Quite a bit of honey - if you're going sugar free, honey is an acceptable occasional food, but it's still sugar when you have large quantities.

The upsides?
If there are any, it's that they are nutritious.

However, if made with almond meal, I think these would be amazing!

The Bottom Line?
Made with LSA? Fail.

Made with almond meal - I think they'd be a winner. Soft, moist and sweet.

I think I need to try and source some cheap almonds and grind them myself to try this recipe again.

Serving Suggestion: LSA version - keep them to yourself. Probably no-one else will want to eat them.

Almond version - I imagine these would be great cold with a dollop of yoghurt. Yum.

Happy baking and here's hoping your experiments are more successful than this one!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Daily life in photos...

The Christmas decorations are finally coming down. At least we got in before Easter. Not like one year where we just put the tree away fully decorated... #lovejc

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Family Organisation App - Cozi

I discovered this app by Cozi when I was looking for a list that would sync between my phone and my husbands. You know those times you just happen to be at the shops so you think, I may as well pick up a few things that we need. Except your paper shopping list is sitting at home on the bench. So you try to remember, but forget 3 things and have to go back again the next day.

And now that The Bubs is here, its my husband who tends to be out and about more for those incidental shopping trips, and funnily enough he's less likely to notice the things we are getting low on, like breast pads for example. :)

So I thought if we could have a synced list on our phones, then no matter who put things on the shopping list and who ended up at the shops, we'd always know what to get.

What I found was even better than just a shopping list. Cozi is a family organiser complete with shopping lists, to do lists, calendar and even a journal. You can create multiple users in the one account so you can assign things to different family members and it all syncs across devices.

Best of all it is free! There's yearly paid subscription upgrade for a few extended features, but the free version is very useable.

Its available on Apple and Android, and you can also access it on their website which  is perfect. Overall this is a brilliant app for families. Provided you can train them all to use it - I have to remind my husband to put things on the calendar.

The good thing is, though, that even if they don't remember to look at it, you can set up reminder emails (and texts  for US users) to send to the relevant family members, or device notifications.

I love this app! I'm not paid or affiliated with Cozi in any way I just love the merge of technology and organisation, and thought others might too :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Road testing healthy chocolate cupcake recipe

I was so excited to come across all the recipes on The Healthy Chef and couldn't wait to try some out. But when I actually went shopping for the ingredients, I realised how expensive this venture could be. Most of the cakes call for almond meal, which in the required quantity was far too much money. The chocolate cupcakes Im testing below would have cost about $12 just for the almond meal alone. The website names coconut flour as an alternative to almond meal for those with nut allergies, but I'm not sure you can even get that in my little town, and I can't imagine it being much cheaper.

So I decided to experiment with some substitutions of my own. I already had LSA at home, which is ground linseed (flaxseed), almond meal and sunflower seeds. Since that already contains almond meal, and I had read about using flaxseed, I thought I'd give it a go.

There were two recipes I wanted to try - a chocolate cupcake and a lemon cupcake - but I thought I'd go with the chocolate first as it looked harder to stuff up.

The recipe for these chocolate cupcakes is here on The Healthy Chef.

My changes:
- I substituted equal measure of LSA for the almond meal.
- I also added an extra tablespoon of honey, after I tasted the mixture and thought it was a bit too lacking in sweetness.
- I was using vanilla essence, not extract or paste, so I added a fair bit of that since essence is not as strong.
- I used unsweetened almond milk.
- I used regular Cadbury cocoa powder.
- I used olive oil - basically because that's what I had.

The mix looked chocolatey... But if you gave a spoonful of this to a child they'd probably make a face...

The mix was a funny, airy, puffy consistency, not smooth like if you were making regular chocolate cupcakes. I think it's because of the flaxseed soaking up moisture and going gluggy. Because of that I wouldn't leave the mixture sitting too long before baking. But even with having to go settle a crying baby twice during this process it was fine, so it's not a big deal.

They took exactly 25 minutes as the recipe said. They definitely smelled like chocolate in the oven.

The downsides?
If you tell someone you're giving them a chocolate cupcake and give them this without warning, they'll probably throw it at you yelling 'liar!'

Ok, maybe not that extreme, but these are definitely not sweet. It's like the difference between really dark chocolate and milk chocolate. If you're used to dark chocolate, or prepare yourself for it, you should like these.

If your new in your sugar free healthy eating journey, then you may struggle to acclimatise your taste buds at first. I would recommend eating them with some puréed or smashed up berries on top to give some sweetness. I think they'd be really yummy like that.

The Upsides?
They are quick and easy.

These are actually healthy - the protein and good fats from the nuts and linseed, and the absence of refined flours and sugars mean that the nutritional values justify the calories. And if you use good quality dark cocoa or raw cacao then you are getting a whack of antioxidants as well.

So if you can retrain your taste buds, then this is a chocolatey fix you can enjoy and know you're not harming your health - in fact our doing yourself some good. (As long as your not eating the whole lot at once obviously.) They are also more substantial - you feel like you've eaten something.

And these are also gluten and lactose free.

Bottom line: Success!!
So you can use LSA in place of almond meal for these cupcakes. They cooked well and have a nice moist consistency.

They aren't super sweet, but you can't expect a healthy sugar free cupcake to be just like a sugar, white flour version. And the point is to retrain your taste buds anyway.

Serving suggestion: Eat warm with smashed berries over the top.

If you try these or any other recipes, please share!
Happy healthy baking.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Great Source for Healthy Recipes

My husband and I are a just over a week in to a 100 day sugar free challenge. He's been challenged by his dad, and gets monetary gain to spur him on. I'm motivated by the promise of a robotic vacuum cleaner at the end of it... :)

Going well so far. I've even been to a birthday party, and stood fast while everyone else hoed into a delicious looking blueberry and white chocolate cake.

Then last night, while everyone else was tucking into pieces of chocolate cake, I realised I was imagining eating that sugar laden packet cake and actually cringing. I didn't want it.

I've been hunting for sugar free recipes, but I didn't just want to replace added sugar with just as much of another sweetener. Even though it might be healthier to use stevia instead of refined sugar, if everything else in the recipe is the same and it still tastes just as sweet then I'm not really retraining myself. I'll still crave sugar and sweetness. Especially if it's made with white flour.

What I really want to do is retrain my taste buds so I no longer need things to be as sweet. And so I no longer want to eat sickly, sugary, refined foods. Who wants to rely on their will power all the time? Mine fails me more often that it helps me. It's a fickle companion at best. But when has anyone ever needed will power to NOT eat brussel sprouts. I mean, that one comes naturally. If you don't like it, it's pretty easy to not want to eat it.

I believe it can be the same with healthy eating. We can train ourselves to like less sugar, less refined, processed food. We have to learn not to cringe at words like 'wholemeal' and 'sugar free', and stop only thinking of health foods as yucky, bland vegetables. The truth is even brussel sprouts can taste amazing if done right. We just have to know how.

So I was thrilled when I came across The Healthy Chef.

I haven't actually tried any of the recipes yet since it's 9pm, but I want to get right on it tomorrow. And I'm hoping they turn out well and satisfy the desire for yummy snacks and baked goods without the sickly sweetness.

A lot of the recipes are already wheat free, or have variations or adaptations to make it gluten free, or suitable for paleo diet etc.

Easter is coming up - I wonder if these wholemeal, gluten free, no sugar Hot Cross Buns will hit the spot?

I'll keep you posted on my experiments.

Happy healthy baking, and if you have tried any of these recipes, or any other sugar free recipes that have turned out well, please share!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Zucchini & ricotta pita bread pizza

With peas... Weird you say? Don't knock it till you try it!

(Although I did grow up with things like peas, corn and carrot on my pita bread pizzas so maybe my taste buds have grown accustomed.)

But you can put whatever veges and healthy toppings you like on this healthy, low calorie homemade pizza.

The basics of this pizza are a small wholemeal pita, tomato paste and ricotta cheese. Ricotta has significantly fewer calories than many other cheeses.

Then what topping you add is up to you. The trick is to load it up with tasty veges and flavours and go easy on the calorie rich, fatty things like meats and mozzarella cheese.

My pizza was:

- 1 pita pocket

- spread with approx:
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2-3 Tbsp tinned diced tomato
1 Tbsp ricotta cheese (low fat even better.)
1 tsp of Dijon mustard for a bit of bite

- add:
3 thin slices of pepperoni, quartered and spread evenly
4-6 thinish slices of zucchini
1 tbsp frozen peas

- sprinkle with:
Pinch of paprika
A tiny bit of grated cheddar, mozzarella or parmesan if you can't bare to skip it completely.

Works out to about 300-350 calories per pizza and can be low fat depending on your ingredients. Load it up with even more veges for an extra filling low cal meal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Things to do for new parents

new parents, new mum, new mom, new dad

I cant help but think that bringing home a new baby would have been easier in a time when we lived in smaller villages with bigger families. These days we can keep in touch with our 'community' and families through Facebook, but Facebook cant make you a cup of tea, fold your laundry or hold the baby while you have a shower.

We're used to these modern times I think - most of us wouldn't want to give that up to have our whole extended family move in with us - but at times like when new parents bring home their baby, we shouldn't neglect to recreate a bit of that village feel.

Parents don't always know what to ask for even if you offer, and don't want to feel like a burden, so if you know any new or soon-to-be parents here are a few suggestions of practical and specific offers of help you can make.

(Mainly aimed at first time parents, but many still apply no matter how many times they've done it before.)

For both:
- Clean the house before they get home from hospital. A freshly made bed or freshly scrubbed bathroom will feel like luxury.

- Stock the fridge and pantry with meals and/or easy to use groceries.

- Bring food whenever you visit - either stuff for the pantry, or freezable meals. Or just something as simple as a plate of biscuits. Coming soon-  ideas on the best freezable, nutritious food to make for new mums.

- Leave the house a little cleaner than you found it. It shouldn't be hard to find something to do. Fold laundry, dishes, sweep the floor. And if you are there around a meal time don't leave the mess for the parents to deal with when you leave.

- Hire a cleaner - sometimes parents may feel embarrassed to have you come and clean their toilet, so consider paying for a cleaning service to come a few times in those early weeks or months. Even better, check which day will work for the parents, then ring, book and pay so its all taken care of.

- Lend them your DVDs. New parents probably wont get out as much, and breastfeeding mums especially will be spending a lot of time sitting around. TV series are great because you're not committing to 2 hours, but movies can be paused, so give 'em everything you've got. (Keep your own record of what you've leant them incase their sleep deprive brains can't keep track.

For mum:
- Beauty services. She probably can't get to a salon very easily at first. The merry go round of feeding and sleeping doesn't leave much time for scheduled appointments. And she probably barely has time to shower regularly. So come round and offer to pamper her a little. These are things you could do even while she's breastfeeding. Eg pluck eye brows, wax legs, mani pedi, moisturise, facial, even just brush her hair. 

Stock the shower with yummy bath and body products. Showers will be irregular and rushed for a while, so make them special.

- Get her out of the house - sensitively of course. Mum may just want to sleep, or lie on the couch with a cup of tea, but if she's happy to, encourage her to get outside and go for a walk together while you're visiting rather than just sitting on the couch. Mums will benefit from the fresh air and exercise, but sometimes just getting out the front door can seem like too much trouble without a friendly push and a helping hand.

- Tell her she looks great. Admire how well she's bouncing back. Be sincere of course, because an obvious lie will make her feel worse. But its a great little boost to think maybe you don't look as horrible as you thought post baby.

- Buy her some e-books. Check what format she has the gadget to read them on of course. Paper books are harder to manage one handed.

For dad:- Give him some love - dads often get left out when it comes to the care, concern and credit. Everyone goos over the baby and fusses over mum - and rightly so - but dads are experiencing emotions and changes and stress and tiredness too. Plus they often have to pick up slack around the house, emotionally support their partner, learn the ins and outs of newborn care without the 9 months of bonding, mental prep and motherly instinct - all while often still going to work. And then they get ignored. 

So bring a beer, clean the BBQ, mow the lawn, tell him you admire him. All in a totally manly way of course.

- Praise him when he does something well with the baby - and don't act surprised. Act like you knew he would be a natural parent all along.

Hope that helps give you some ideas that new parents will love you for! Any other great ideas for things you've done for new parents, or things others have done for you? Share below!

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