Healthy Apple Cupcakes

Over the past few days I’ve been trying to come up with a sugar free sponge recipe. Let me tell you this is not easy! Traditional sponge relies pretty heavily on sugar. My first attempt was so bad, honestly I wouldn’t feed it to a dog. After a good few experiments however I think I have 2 good recipes. One for these apple and oat cupcakes and a chocolate alternative that I’ll share in my next post. As well as being refined sugar free, these cakes are also gluten free. I’m using coconut flour which I only discovered a couple of months ago. My children (well really my husband) bought me a bag of it as a mothers days gift. This might sound an odd gift to some people but to me this is the best kind of present. Coconut flour is pretty tricky to work with you can’t substitute ordinary flour for coconut flour in the same amounts. It’s kind of its own beast, it soaks up liquid more than other flour, but it’s well worth experimenting with I reckon. It’s a good source of fibre and protein and I think it gives a really nice subtle coconut flavour and texture. These cakes went down pretty well with my children. Don’t expect a traditional sponge, the coconut flour and oats give a different texture but it’s tasty all the same and the apple purée gives a fruity taste. 

Apple and oat cupcakes 

Ingredients 

  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup ground oats 
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup melted soya butter 
  • 1/3 cup apple sauce 
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup 
  • 1 tbsp Greek yoghurt

Method
Preheat the oven to 180/gas 4 

First make the apple sauce. To do this simply peel and chop 1 Apple. Cook in a pan over a low heat with a dash of water until soft then mash or blend till smooth. This is best done with the lid on but keep an eye on the water, adding more of it starts to look dry. This should only take about 5-10 minutes. I like to use 5-6 apples at a time so I have some for the fridge…my kids love it on top of yoghurt. 

Next place the porridge oats in a food processor and whizz until they turn into a fine powder. 

Transfer oats into a mixing bowl and add the coconut flour and baking powder. Stir to combine.

In a small pan melt the butter. I used Pure soya spread but you can just as well use ordinary unsalted butter. 

Add the melted butter to the dry ingredients along with the eggs, vanilla, yoghurt, apple sauce and maple syrup. (the yoghurt can be substituted for soya yoghurt if your dairy free)

Mix everything together and spoon into small paper cases. You should get 6 cakes from this mix. 

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. 

Once cooled top with 100% fruit spread (my favourite is Meridian apricot) as it compliments the Apple flavour of the sponge really well. Then sprinkle with desiccated coconut and enjoy with a cup of tea.   

  

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Sugar free florentine biscuits. 

So I was one child down today as my oldest spent the day with his grandparents. This meant I had some (relative) peace to get stuff done. The plan was to spend the day reading the Highway Code as tomorrow I’m sitting the driving theory test. This has not happened. Mostly I’ve been charity shop shopping, napped with the baby and created a fabulous new recipe for florentine biscuits. The day hasn’t in the least bit been wasted, ok so I didn’t revise road signs but I had some lovely bonding time with my littlest one Sadie, treated myself and felt inspired. It occurred to me while I was half awake last night that Florentines made without refined sugar could be pretty delicious. So this afternoon I gave it a go. I stuck to the classic flaked almonds but instead of candied fruit peel which is of course coated in sugar I used a mixture of dried berries. Then I decided on a whim to throw in some pistachios…just coz I love them. They came out a lot sweeter than I imagined they would but I’m really pleased with how sticky and chewy they are. I sent some home with my dad when he dropped Arthur off so I’m hoping for a full review tomorrow. 

Sugar free florentine biscuits Makes 6

Ingredients 

  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 dates (soaked)
  • 1/3 cup flaked almonds
  • 1/3 pistachios 
  • 1/3 mixed dried fruit (I used golden raisins, green raisins, cranberries and cherries) 
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour 
  • 80g 75% dark chocolate 

Method 

Preheat oven to 180/gas 4

Melt the the coconut oil and the honey in a pan over a low heat until combined.

Add the dates and use a hand blender to purée into a thick, smooth caramel. 

Place all the other ingredients except the chocolate into a mixture bowl and mix together. 

Add the date purée and combine thoroughly. This moisture will be really sticky. 

Take spoonfuls of mixture and form into rounds, press them down flat onto the baking sheet. 

Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. 

Once cool melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of water. Dip the underside of each biscuit into the melted chocolate and place in the fridge or freezer to harden. 

Once they are solid, take a fork and the remaining melted chocolate and do some fancy handy work swishing chocolate stripes over the top side of each biscuit. 

  

More seeds and some chocolate

Yesterday afternoon it rained and everyone was a bit stuffed up with the cold so we stayed in and had a baking session. It was pretty experimental, messy and Arthur definitely ate too many raisins but it was great fun. Sadie even got involved creating some wonderful spoon music for us. We got out every possible ingredient we had and went from there. Arthur is very clear about what he likes and doesn’t like and helped to pick which ingredients to use. He is always keen to include dates and seeds and so this yummy, sticky and energy full creation was born. May I introduce the sticky toasted seedy chocolate slice. MmmmmmmmmmmmmmThis is a great recipe if you have a nut allergy. Lots of healthy recipes tend to be quite nut heavy so I’m hoping this will appeal to those who can’t have nuts. Although if that’s not an issue for you the tahini can easily be substituted for a smooth nut butter; peanut, almond or cashew will work just as well. Similarly if you don’t have maple syrup, runny honey will work work too.

Sticky toasted seed and chocolate slice

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup dates (soaked)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup 
  • 1/2 tablespoon tahini 
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp hot water 
  • 1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds 
  • 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sultanas 
  • 1tsp chia seeds (optional) 

For the chocolate topping 

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 heaped tbsp cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder) 
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp runny honey

Method 

First line a 1lb loaf time with grease proof paper

Toast the sunflower and pumpkin seeds in a frying pan over a low heat until they start to look nice and toasty and shiny. 

Use a hand blender to whizz the dates, coconut oil, maple syrup, tahini, vanilla and water into a sticky, gooey caramel. 

Transfer this mixture to the food processor (you can just as easily use a mixing bowl and a bit of elbow grease) 

Add the seeds, sultanas and chia seeds and pulse a couple of times till everything is combined. You don’t want to break up the seeds just mix them thoroughly through the sticky date paste. 

Squish the mixture flat into the loaf tin and put in the fridge while you make the chocolate.

In a small pan melt the coconut oil. Take off the heat and whisk in the cacao powder, maple syrup and honey until it resembles a smooth melted chocolate. 

Pour over the seedy mixture and smooth flat with a spatula and return to the fridge for a hour or so until the chocolate is set. 

Cut into squares and eat!

Store in the fridge in an airtight container. 

  
 
 

Feel good chocolate crispy treats. 

Who doesn’t love a chocolate crispy treat?! They are definately not just for kids but they are a great recipe to do with wee ones. Quick, messy and delicious…you can eat them as you make them and to top it off these ones are actually good for you. I’ve tried lots of raw chocolate recipes and I just love it. It totally satisfies my chocolate cravings and has gone down pretty well with the family too. Now I know some of the ingredients I’m using here might look a little daunting and hard to get hold of but I promise they aren’t. Any good wholefoods shop will stock everything I’ve listed and even some supermarkets. Cacao powder and cacao butter are ace ingredients to have in your cupboard if you want to try some raw chocolate recipes. Yes they are a little expensive but a little really does go a long way with these so you won’t need to buy them again for a while. The same can be said for coconut oil. Cacao powder is full of antioxidants, magnesium, calcium and iron. I mean how can you argue with chocolate that’s good for you! It has its own unique flavour but is similar in taste to dark chocolate. 

So on to the recipe. I make two types of the these crispy treats; the adult dark chocolate and orange version and the crowd pleasing sultana and cranberry. But really the sky is the limit, you can add whatever you want to these. 

Ingredients 

  • 1/4 cup cacao butter
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder 
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 50g wholegrain puffed rice (or  cereal of your choice) 

Extras

  • Zest of 1 small orange 
  • A small squeeze of juice from that orange 
  • A sprinkling of cacao nibs or good quality dark chocolate chips

Or

  • 50g sultanas 
  • 25g dried cranberries 

Method

Melt together the cacao butter and coconut oil in a heatproof bowl over a pan of water. Once melted take off the heat and stir in the cacao powder, maple syrup and vanilla. 

Pour the chocolate mixture over the puffed rice in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. 

Next mix in your extras. I like to do half grown up orange and half sultana and cranberry. Best of both worlds. 

Spoon into paper cases, refrigerate  until firm and then hose down your children who will by this point be chocolate coated too. 

  

Toasted pumpkin seed and apricot cookies

Seeds seeds seeds! My boy loves seeds. He likes them raw, toasted, roasted with honey or soy or even chilli but he especially likes them mixed with dried fruit. I’m hoping his seedy addiction will rub off on Sadie as soon as she’s big enough to start munching them too because they are great for you. Don’t underestimate the value of such a small addiction to your diet. Pumpkin seeds are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, protein, fibre and numerous antioxidants. Not to mention when eaten regularly can aid sleep. Yes sleep! remember sleep? Any parent of babies and small children will know full well that a good nights sleep is usually down to illness or miracle. Well stop press. Shovel some pumpkin seeds into your little monkeys before bed and maybe just maybe they will snooze all night long aaaahhhhhh. These little seeds of wonder pack a huge tryptohan punch. Yes this is a strange sciency sounding word but basically it’s a building block of protein and helps you make sleepy sleepy serotonin zzzzzzz. 

Now for my first experimental recipe which I am calling toasted pumpkin seed and apricot cookies. (Maybe that’s a little long winded but I’ll work on my catchy names I promise) 

Ingredients 

  • 100g porridge oats 
  • 50g toasted pumpkin seeds 
  • 50g ground almonds 
  • 50g dried apricots (finely chopped)
  • 3 tbs coconut oil
  • 2 tbs almond butter 
  • 2 tbs maple syrup
  • 2 tbs water 

Method

First preheat your oven to 180/gas 4 and line a baking sheet with grease proof paper. If you don’t have grease proof which I regularly don’t just grease it with a bit of coconut oil.

Lightly toast the pumpkin seeds in a frying pan on a low heat for a few minutes. you don’t want to overdo them as they will toast more in the  oven. Once you start hearing them pop they are about done. 

Next mix together the oats, ground almonds and seeds in a mixing bowl then add the chopped apricots. 

In a small pan on a very low heat warm through the coconut oil, almond butter and maple syrup, stirring gently until they are all dissolved together. 

Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and add the water. Stir to combine. This mixture will look quite loose so the next stage is important 

Take tablespoons of mixture into your hands and squeeze really firmly to stick it together into balls and then slightly flatten them onto your baking sheet. This should makes around 10 cookies. I often do half quantity of new recipes so this will work well too if you just want to try them out. 

Bake for about 20 minutes until the edges start to go a nice golden brown. Cool on a rack and then enjoy! 

  

The beginning 

So let’s start at the beginning. I had my first child, Arthur in 2013 and holy crap it was life changing. Suddenly I had this wrinkly little person to look after and I was over cautious and I over analysed everything…I’m sure this is familiar to many parents out there. We just want to do our best and muddling through the absolute unknown of new parenthood when your sleep deprived and weary is tough right? By the time Sadie arrived in 2015 I had the basics Sussed, I knew I could keep a baby fed, clean, clothed and juggling two children wasn’t as tough as anticipated. But just as I sat back and breathed a sigh of contented mummy smugness my gorgeous boy Arthur became a two year old. In case you’ve never had a two year old for the record they are pretty tricky. The toughest part of parenting a toddler for me has been the transition from a boy who would eat anything to a boy who would eat somethings but only on a Tuesday and if it was the right shape and colour and not too hot…or too cold. Providing healthy homemade food has always been my mantra but when the big 2 hit I had to up my game. Not only did Arthur discover he could make choices and decline/demand things he also cottoned on to all the things he saw us eating but weren’t sharing with him. I naively thought if I didn’t ever give him chocolate he wouldn’t know what it was and thus never ask for it…but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that mummy and daddy hiding in the kitchen scoffing yummy sweet smelling treats from bright crinkly wrappers is something your gunna want in on. So in classic New Years resolution style at the start of 2016 I decided to lead from the front. No more sugar laden stash in the kitchen cupboard and no biscuit jar full of Jaffa cakes. I would cut the refined sugar and start making wholesome naturally sweet treats and that’s all we would ever eat ever and we would all be high on the naturally sweet goodness of apricots and life happily ever after. Now of course like all good New Years resolutions I started out with slightly unrealistic expectations. I am by no means claiming I or my children are never going to allow refined sugar to pass our lips. If someone wants to send me a box of chocolates I will wait till the kids go to bed and happily stick my face in them and If we go out and someone passes round the Jammy Dodgers I’m not going to be the mean mum that says no you can’t have one (well actually sometime I am) but what I mean is I try to be reasonable. It’s not a diet it’s a choice and I’m choosing not to bring loads of highly sugared products into my house and instead create some amazing healthy sweet treats instead. 3 months in and it’s been an inspiring experience…I’ve experimented with natural sweeteners, raw baking and made some bloody delicious things which not only satisfy my sweet tooth but make me feel great too. Arthur loves my baking and I’m even winning over the husband, one raw bounty bar at a time. I’ve learnt loads and I’m still learning and I’ve decided to start creating my own recipes…and so this blog is born. My diary of triumphs and failures, tips and tricks, inspiring cooks and recipes and generally full of all things yummy.