Fig + Walnut Muffins

Fig walnut muffins

I’m all over this fall weather and have been channeling my inner baker this week. During the summer months I barely bake, and tend to spend the majority of my time outside. So, when autumn finally kicks in I’m all about being cosy… big knits (admittedly, we’re not quite there yet), cinnamon tea, and candles everywhere… and, I’m also one of those people who starts getting excited about christmas before people start thinking about halloween.

These healthy fig + walnut muffins are a result of my cosy fall madness. They’re great treat and will fill your house with the sweet smell of cinnamon… as a bonus they are healthy, and enough so to be enjoyed for a weekend breakfast. Featuring nutritious unrefined whole grain spelt flour and omega 3 rich walnuts, these muffins are only lightly sweetened with maple syrup (only 3 tbsp in the entire recipe!) + the dried figs, which are high in fibre as well as a good source of calcium and iron. I added a generous amount of cinnamon, which helps call out all the sweet flavours while also adding some great health benefits. (Read more about that here… How cinnamon benefits our health).

fig walnut collage

Adapted from this recipe Blueberry Spelt Muffins 

Fig + Walnut Muffins
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Recipe type: Cake
Author:
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Total time:
Serves: 8-10 muffins
Ingredients
  • 2 organic free range eggs (medium sized)
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla bean (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 3 tbsp (45 ml) maple syrup (honey and agave syrup will work too)
  • 3 tbsp (30 ml) virgin coconut oil, melted (alternatively you can use macadamia oil)
  • pinch sea salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp apple cider vinegar (to activate baking soda)
  • ⅓ cup (50 gm) unrefined whole grain spelt flour
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk or water
  • 75 gm ( 2½ oz) figs, chopped
  • 60 gm (2 oz) walnuts, chopped
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).
  2. Whisk eggs, vanilla, maple syrup, coconut oil and apple cider vinegar together in a bowl.
  3. Add water (or coconut milk) and chia seeds and combine well.
  4. Leave to set for 10 mins to allow the chia seeds to expand.
  5. In a separate bowl combine, spelt flour baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
  6. Add the dry flour mix to the bowl with eggs and chia seeds, mixing well with a spoon until the batter has a smooth consistency.
  7. Chop the walnuts and dried figs into smaller pieces and fold into the batter.
  8. Scoop out 2-3 tbsp of muffin batter into muffin cases (the batter should give you approx. 8-10 muffins depending on the size of your muffin cases).
  9. Place the muffins in the oven and bake at 150°C (300°F) for 12-15 mins. (Keep in mind that baking time may vary between different ovens so keep a close eye on the after the first 10 mins.).

Fig walnut muffins

Happy fall!

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Flax Crackers

flax crackers

Everyone loves a healthy cracker. Unfortunately, they’re not easy to come by as most store-bought varieties are made primarily from over processed white flour and vegetable fats. Since my chia seed crackers have been one of my most popular recipes on the blog so far, I thought I’d try my hand at a slightly different type – featuring another omega 3 rich super seed… flax seeds.

These crackers are as simple as 5 ingredients. Plus they are vegan, gluten free, dairy free and suitable for those who avoid grains (and paleo friendly for those of you who include buckwheat – which is technically a seed).

I love how filling and tasty these are. Nutritionally they are loaded with healthy fats and fibre, which is key for healthy digestion and staying satisfied longer. I find that they are a great snack when I get hungry but only have one hand free to grab something quick… eating with two hands seems to be a thing of the past with a newborn in the house. Ha!

I love these sprinkled with poppy seeds (as pictured) but, as the recipe notes, they are completely optional. As an alternative, you can use sesame seeds or chopped pumpkin seeds – or you can simply leave them plain. They will be great either way!

flax crackers

The trickiest part of making these is to get the dough rolled out thin and evenly on the parchment paper and getting the baking time right. For more specific instructions on how to roll the dough out follow the instructions from my chia seed crackers. Since every oven is different, you have to keep a close eye on them the first time you make them to get the timing right. As noted in the recipe below, if you notice some of your crackers aren’t completely crispy, simply give them a few extra minutes in the oven and cool again. The effort will be well worth it!
On one last note, it is important you use a parchment paper that is non stick! I personally love this brand, which is not only amazingly non-stick but also totally unbleached and chlorine free.

Flax Crackers
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Recipe type: Snack
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Total time:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (240 ml) flax seeds
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch sea salt
  • 3 tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 2-3 tbsp seeds to sprinkle on top (OPTIONAL) - sesame, pumpkin or poppy seeds all work well
Instructions
  1. Set oven to 150°C (300°F) fan force.
  2. Combine flax seeds and water and leave to set for at least 1 hour (you can do overnight as well).
  3. Add salt, buckwheat flour and olive oil and mix well with a spoon until the mixture resembles a sticky medium thick dough.
  4. Spread the batter as thinly and evenly on a large piece of non-stick parchment paper. You can spread the batter with either a butter knife or a using a second piece of parchment paper on top while spreading out the batter with your hands.
  5. Drizzle the poppy seeds evenly on the batter before cutting the batter into squares using a knife or pizza cutter.
  6. Bake at 150°C (300°F) for 35-45 mins until completely crisp (oven time may vary between different ovens so keep a close eye on them after 30 mins).
  7. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 5 mins. If certain pieces are not completely crisp give them an extra 5 mins in the oven.

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How To Be Healthy When You’re Busy

I see a lot of people who struggle with their health during busy seasons and often claim to be too busy to be healthy. While I understand how being busy makes eating healthy a bit trickier, I also think “busy” easily becomes an excuse to not care enough about our health – including what we eat, and how much we sleep and move. The fact is that it is during busy seasons, with added stress and exhaustion, we need to care the most about our health! By being organised and investing a bit of time to plan ahead, healthy is not hard. On the contrary, you’ll feel better, be more motivated and have more energy to cope with the stress – physically and mentally. You can’t put a price on good health!.. So get ready, take charge and make your health a non-negotiable priority.

Here are my top tips for being healthy & busy…

1. Make Breakfast A Priority

No, coffee does not count as breakfast. If you have coffee, it is better to have later in the morning after you’ve had some real food.

Smoothies make a quick breakfast and are packed with energising nutrients that set you up for a good start. I always base my smoothies on primarily vegetables (frozen spinach, chard, romaine, cucumber & zucchini are great in smoothies) combined with a whole lemon (peeled or juiced) and 1/2 a banana or a small green apple to sweeten. You can add in a tsp of chia seeds, flax seeds or coconut oil for extra health benefits and up the protein by including a tbsp of protein powder if you like (I use unsweetened pea protein). I prefer my smoothies very green to reap the most nutritional benefit while avoiding too much sugar… but if you’re new to green smoothies, you may want to include some more fruit and gradually up the veggie to fruit ratio. (Why include greens in your smoothie? Read more about that right here).

Smoothies Made Even Easier…

  • Have organic frozen berries and spinach in your freezer. Not only does it work out cheaper – it also lasts longer. I always keep a bag of spinach in the freezer to use for smoothies. It makes it so much easier and there’s no need to wash.
  • Freeze your bananas. I like to freeze them in halves or 1/3 pieces as I like my smoothies with minimal fruit for a lower sugar content.
  • Peel or juice your lemons in advance and store them in an airtight mason jar in the fridge (keep in mind that freshly peeled or juiced is better though, as the vitamin C content decreases rapidly!)

Other quick, healthy breakfast options you can prepare in advance and have ready to go include…

how to be healthy when you're busy

2. Drink Enough

Hydration is key for your health, digestion and energy and in a lot of cases, thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Keeping a large water bottle on hand throughout the day is key and make sure you get at least 1 1/2-2 litres a day. Also remember the more coffee you drink the more water you need!

3. Eat Regularly

It is a well known fact that will power goes out the window when you get too hungry! Plan to have healthy snacks on hand to avoid getting so hungry that you lose the ability to choose healthy main meals. Eating every three hours will keep your blood sugar levels steady and will decrease overeating at meal times.

Healthy Office Snacks…

4. Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol might be nice way to wind down after a long day, but be cautious. When alcohol is consumed it gets priority in our digestive system – meaning that all the food in your stomach is pushed aside until the alcohol is metabolised (hello weight gain!). If you have alcohol at night after your meal, this means that your body will be trying to digest and process your dinner while you’re trying to sleep… leading to poor quality sleep and more exhaustion the next morning.

5. Be Smart When Dining Out

Be smart about ordering your restaurant meal. When ordering meat, look for words like steamed, baked, poached, roasted, broiled or grilled and do your best to avoid foods with the words fried, au gratin, crispy, escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed or stuffed, which are good indications that the foods are high in fat and calories. If an item calls for the one of these options, ask the food item to be grilled, steamed, or baked instead. Also make a habit of ordering a side of steamed vegetables or a side salad – and always ask for the dressing on the side so you can control how much you put on, if at all.

6. Avoid Eating Too Late

Your metabolism slows down at night so you can count on anything you eat within four hours of bedtime sticking to your bones! Eating before 8 pm will allow your body to properly digest your meal before you rest – so it can focus on repairing cells and getting rid of unnecessary weight while you’re sleeping. Allowing your body to digest your food before bedtime will also enhance quality of sleep, giving you a better chance of waking up feeling rested and energised. Have a sparkling water with fresh lemon/lime juice, or even better, a cup of herbal tea instead.

7. Light Late Meals

Building on the previous point, when you do end up having to eat late, make it a light meal. Stick to something like soup, steamed fish and veggies or a salad. I always keep a batch of homemade dressing or vinaigrette in a mason jar in the fridge so it is easy to quickly whip up a tasty salad. Top it off with some nutritious add-ons like nuts or toasted pumpkin seeds and/or a sprinkle of feta cheese or nutritional yeast.

If dinner is a constant challenge, investing in a slow-cooker can be a life saver. A slow-cooker will have your meal cooking while you’re away at work all day. Just throw the ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning when you still have some energy, and you’ll return home to a finished meal. The recipe options are truly endless when it comes to a slow cooker!

8. Sneak In Some Exercise

Physical movement, in any way, shape or form is a great way to release stress from the body. It balances your hormones, improves your sleep and stabilises your blood sugar levels – making it easier to eat healthier. Whether you are able to hit the gym, go for a run /walk outside or simply do some pilates or strengthening exercises on your bedroom floor… it is all going to benefit your body. If you need a guide, there are numerous online guides and videos ranging from 10 minutes to hours. All you need to do is make a decision.

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Apple + Almond Muesli Bars

Apple + Almond Muesli Bars

So, life with a baby (who’s already 9 weeks!) is gettin’ pretty busy! On top of that, we’ve had family visiting from Australia + Denmark for just over a month, so I haven’t had much time to blog… on the upside though, I’ve had plenty of time to play in the kitchen while grandparents have been busy doting over the kids.

The recipe I’m sharing today is a result of me trying to make my own healthy muesli/protein bars for my 2 year old, who really loves his snacks. Naturally, I wanted something without any refined sugars, but packed full of wholesome ingredients, fibre and filling protein that he would be satisfied by and enjoy as much as store bought varieties. These bars fit the bill and were polished off within a few hours at our house, which I consider a good sign. They instantly won the approval of everyone in the house, including grandparents (I’m sure the chocolate topping helped). I did debate whether or not to decorate them with dark chocolate, but I went for the 85% dark chocolate without much sugar and thought it made them look so much better for the photos… so I leave the choice of chocolate topping completely up to you. They are delicious without as well!

Apple + almond muesli bars

They are very easy to make, granted you have a good food processor on hand or own a Vitamix or other high speed blender. I have left the protein powder as an optional ingredient as well, as I know not everyone is a fan. I don’t use it much, but when I do, I opt for organic unsweetened pea or hemp protein powder. The protein powder helps up the protein content, making them extra satisfying without altering the taste.

You can cut your muesli bars into whatever size you prefer and keep them stored in the fridge. They are also great frozen and I sometimes cut each muesli bar into several smaller squares for a candy-like frozen treat for my son. I love seeing him enjoy this homemade variety as much than the store-bought ones. And although they are more time consuming than picking up a box at the shop, they are nourishing and nutritious and saves you money too!

Apple + Almond Muesli Bars
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Recipe type: Snack
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Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: makes 12-14 bars
Ingredients
  • 80 gm (approx. 1 heaping cup) dried apple
  • 8 soft pitted dates
  • ½ cup (120 ml) sliced almonds
  • 3 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 3 tbsp toasted hazelnuts
  • 1 cup (240 ml) oats (gluten free if needed)
  • pinch sea salt
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla powder (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 2 tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (alternatively you can use honey or agave)
  • 3-4 tbsp water (or more if needed)
  • 2-3 tbsp protein powder (OPTIONAL - I prefer hemp or pea protein powder)
  • 30 gm (1 oz) organic 85% dark chocolate (OPTIONAL - I used Green & Blacks Organic chocolate)
Instructions
  1. Place dates, dried apple, maple syrup, salt, vanilla and coconut oil in a food processor with an "S" blade (or a vitamix) and process until it forms a sticky, yet roughly chopped mixture.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and process again until a dough-like mixture forms.
  3. Remove from food processor and form a big round ball using your hands.
  4. Press the dough onto a piece of non stick parchment paper and flatten into an even square in the size you want your muesli bars to be.
  5. Fold the parchment paper around the square and place in fridge to set for 30 mins.
  6. Cut the muesli bars into long squares and place on a tray.
  7. Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler.
  8. Once melted, drizzle the chocolate over the muesli bars and place the tray in the fridge for the chocolate to set.
  9. Serve chilled and store in an air tight container in the fridge.

Apple Almond Muesli Bars

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

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