Yummy Ella Crumble

Apple Crumble

Apple Crumble

It’s been a while since I shared my progress with Deliciously Ella, the cook book I purchased in an attempt to eat less sugar.

Apart from making a range of smoothies every day (mostly my own invention, like cucumber, pear, apple juice and aloe vera) I haven’t actually used the book in a while.

Then, during half term, my friend (who bought the book after I showed her my copy) made us the quinoa and broccoli dish and it was scrummy.

My own attempt was less delicious, but that was probably because I got my tahini and tamara muddled up (it is a bit like learning a new language!) so there was too much sesame and not enough salt.

Today I ended up taking my daughter to the minor injuries unit at 7.30am because her wrist was still hurting after a week (nothing serious, apparently, although it didn’t help that she decided to be brave and not tell the nurse when it hurt! Sigh) so we all missed breakfast.

My son made up for it with four rounds of toast, at playgroup and football, and nothing else, so I decided to make a healthy pudding to top up his nutrients after tea. Crumble is his absolute favourite – pretty much the only way he’ll eat fruit that isn’t dried. But I couldn’t be bothered to make the topping, after all my weekend baking, so I dipped into Deliciously Ella.

As you can see from the picture, the recipe is very low hassle. About the only effort is melting the coconut oil (and I held it over the boiling pasta pot for a minute which did the trick!)

As you can also see from the picture, I tweaked the recipe a bit. Ella’s recipes always make far too much. I used roughly a third of the ingredients, together with four tiny apples and a fruit pot, and it made enough for four people.

I also included pumpkin seeds and brazil nuts to add a little crunch and extra flavour. It was delicious. I did serve with custard, but aside from that there was no butter, refined sugar or wheat flour in it.

Unfortunately, after a bowl of broccoli pasta and two yoghurts my son wasn’t hungry and didn’t eat his! Shame. All the more for Mummy and Daddy. We need nutrients too, right?

 

Healthy Food Update

Delicious Sweet Potato Brownies (apart from the crunchy rice!)

Delicious Sweet Potato Brownies (apart from the crunchy rice!)

It’s been nearly two weeks since I wrote my review of the Deliciously Ella cookbook and I thought I ought to give an update.

Between surviving half term (with trips swimming, to the gym, the zoo, the garden centre, and HOURS of craft), I have been slowly gathering the ingredients to try some more of Ella’s recipes.

The first one I tried was the Carrot, Orange and Cashew Salad (p139 of the UK edition), supplemented with the ingredients I had in the cupboard, rather than the ones listed (and made with satsumas rather than oranges!)

The first batch I made with avocado and tomato, rather than olives and raisins, and I didn’t add any date or maple syrup. Instead I fried it all in olive oil. Delicious, quick and easy. The second batch (which I was brave enough to try on hubbie after my first go) I swapped avocado for some cranberry cheese that needed using up. Although not dairy free, like the first one, it was just as delicious. Even hubbie said it was nice. So that’s a keeper.

The second recipe I tried was not quite so successful, but only because I had failed to gather all the necessary ingredients and I don’t own a food processor. My search for an affordable food processor that might manage to make nut butter is an ongoing challenge. For now I’m using the mill adapter for my blender (which has sustained a little damage as a result) and my Philips handheld blender, which is doing an amazing job considering.

Anyway, the second recipe was the Sweet Potato Brownies (p166), which are made using sweet potatoes (obviously), Medjool dates, ground almonds, brown rice flower, raw cacao powder and maple syrup. I had everything but the rice flour and ground almonds, so I chucked a scoop of rice in with some whole almonds and ground them in the mill.

That was my mistake.

I should have just used plain flour and accepted that it wasn’t 100% gluten/wheat free. It’s not like I’ve given up wheat or sugar completely, so it wouldn’t have mattered. As it was, the rice didn’t grind up fully and the brownies ended up teeth-breakingly crunchy.

BUT, and it’s a big but, they are delicious. Seriously. No butter, no refined sugar, and actually some vegetables, and they are yummy. So I will buy some rice flour and I expect these will become a stock bake. I dread to think how many calories they contain, with all those nuts and maple syrup, but at least they’re sort of healthy.

I still find the book frustrating to use. I often can’t find the recipes I want, and I wish they were ordered by type (meal, salad, dessert) rather than ingredients. I still halve the recipes and find that makes plenty. But I am glad I bought the book, even if my wallet isn’t! I’m sure my body will thank me in the end.

Initial Review of Deliciously Ella

My scribbled notes on the hummus recipe

My scribbled notes on the hummus recipe

I wrote a few days ago about the new cookery book I purchased, Deliciously Ella, and how I hope it will help me solve the problem of being perpetually tired. I don’t do diets and I am definitely not a foodie: these things should be taken into consideration when reading the following!

These are my initial thoughts on Ella’s book

1. As I first noted, it is like a text book rather than a recipe book – I’m taking ideas away rather than following specific recipes, especially for things like smoothies. It’s hard to find recipes because the way it is laid out by ingredient type, but that does help with learning more about the ingredients. So far I’ve tried things I wouldn’t have before in my smoothies, like spinach, cucumber, and beetroot juice (and will definitely skip on the latter!). Amazingly, even though they turn the juice green, spinach and spirula (or the 7-superfood variety I’m using) don’t really alter the taste.

2. The ingredients are VERY expensive. Even if you don’t go for organic or the best you can buy, buckwheat flour is four times the cost of normal flour and hazelnuts and almonds prohibitively expensive in the quantities most recipes require. Maple syrup (the pure stuff) is £5 for 300ml and the recipes often call for a mug (or three) of the stuff. Medjool dates, ditto. Tahini and chickpeas weren’t too expensive and neither was apple cider so, unsurprisingly, the only recipe I’ve tried so far was hummus. Which brings me on to point three.

3. You need to already be a foodie, or at least be able to beg/borrow/buy some equipment. I have a blender, which I pulled out the back of the cupboard from my singleton days, so that’s great for smoothies, but it wasn’t up to making hummus. You need a food processor for that. Thankfully my hand blender managed a reasonable job as I don’t own a food processor. I love the look of courgette spaghetti but can’t find a spiralizer with decent reviews for less than £20 and I’ve spent a fortune already. Oh and the spiralizer isn’t mentioned in the list of equipment you need, but magically appears in the courgette recipe which was rather annoying.

4. The recipes don’t give much of a clue about the quantities you’re making, and seem to use stacks of (expensive) ingredients. If you’re hoping to swap cookies and cakes for the healthy sort, expect to pay a lot more for the luxury. I haven’t tried any of the yummy looking things yet because I can’t justify the expense (see above about maple syrup and Medjool dates). I halved the recipe for hummus and it made enough for three or four snacks.

5. I bought the book because the sweet recipes sounded appealing in the radio interview I heard. Who wouldn’t love healthy cakes and cookies? However, based on the ingredients, I’m not sure I agree with ‘healthy’. They might not be full of refined sugar and gluten, but nuts and avocados and maple syrup are pretty fattening products in the quantities suggested. I’d also be vaguely interested in the calorie content, but I realise that’s a long way from the ethos of the book. I guess I’m just used to calorie counting. I’d like to know if I’ve used a whole day’s calories in a dinner of avocado and hummus, even if it is good for me.

6. The recipes are a bit repetitive. There are lots that include coconut (which I don’t especially like) and avocado (which I love but is full of calories and difficult to buy ripe). I also found there weren’t many meal replacements. Lots of things I can nibble on during the day, but for the cost of the ingredients I need something to replace the evening meat-based meal that hubbie might eat.

7. On a positive note, however, the book is encouraging. There are great quotes littered throughout and I do feel it is about empowering you to not be afraid of food. I would never have put spinach in a smoothie and now I have it every day.

8. Also the recipes also only call for a few main ingredients, even if they are pricey. I’ve invested £30 in some of the core products, which I’m waiting to arrive by post, as even Waitrose don’t stock raw cacao powder or Miso paste. I am excited about trying some of the recipes and I may visit the blog to see if there are some that are more straightforward.

9. I feel better. I want to eat more things with spinach in and fewer bags of crisps and packets of cookies. For me that’s HUGE. But money is a worry and so my target now will be to find a few recipes that aren’t too expensive (and fattening) and to explore other recipe books that might be more suited to our lifestyle.

10. There are some ways to cheat. I have bought lazy garlic and lazy ginger, which might not be the same as the real thing but more cost effective (and easier for a non-foodie like me). I buy raw juice or at least not-from-concentrate juice (fruit and veg) as a base for my smoothies so I don’t need a juicer and I don’t need to buy more ingredients. I also follow Ella’s suggestion and make extra smoothie and keep it in a glass jar in the fridge. Plus I go to the ‘out of date’ section in the supermarket for fruit and veg – if it’s going in a smoothie it doesn’t matter if it’s a bit battered.

All in all I’m glad I bought the book. I’m sure my body is glad too, or it will be when I’ve got through the detox headache. The doctors called today and all eleven (!?!) of the blood tests my doctor put through came back normal: I don’t have glandular fever, my thyroid is fine, I’m not anaemic. So the tiredness is just laziness, rubbish food and being a parent. If Ella’s book helps me to change that, then it was worth every penny!

Deliciously Ella: Or How I Accidentally Jumped on a Bandwagon

The new cookbook

The new cookbook

I don’t do healthy eating. I try, but I’m a lazy cook and a chocoholic, and I was brought up in an age when crispy pancakes and deep fried chips were a perfectly acceptable meal to give a child.

My sister is the foodie in the family. Her children eat humus through choice and would take veg over chocolate any day. She makes healthy muffins and stews and slow-cooked curries. She bakes her own bread. And she works all day in an office.

I want to be like that, I do. But I find it hard to lead by example. Even though I’ve started baking a bit more, I make white bread and scones, banana loaf and chocolate cake. Watching the half-a-bag of white sugar and half-a-slab of butter go into the bowl ready to make cookies doesn’t prevent me from eating them all, although I do try and limit how many I give to the children.

Since my first child was born (six years ago already – how did that happen?!) I’ve tried to move away from white bread and crisps to a healthier diet, but with limited success.

I do make my own bolognaise sauce from scratch (most of the time), especially as it’s the only thing both my fussy children will eat. I buy fruit and vegetables, and the children sometimes even eat them. I scour labels for sugar content, and try to make sure the children have a break from their sugary breakfast cereal at least one day a week by making them eat Weetabix. They mostly only drink water and milk (although fruit juice is allowed.)

Despite my half-hearted efforts I realise, some days, that my son has only eaten wheat: for breakfast, lunch and dinner (cereal, toast and pasta), with a bit of cheese and a bottle of milk thrown in for good measure. Thank goodness he isn’t dairy or gluten intolerant. My daughter does better, as she loves berries, but it’s tough keeping up with that habit in the winter without taking out a second mortgage.

Recently I realised, even by my poor standards, things have taken a nose-dive. The children are having chocolate biscuits and crisps for their snacks instead of rice cakes and muesli bars (the low sugar type, not the ones that claim to be healthy and yet have 40% sugar content). The problem is they’re getting more vocal, and fussier, and – with hubby out of work last year when I was watching the food budget more – I realised crap food is so much cheaper.

But it’s February and I’m still shattered. The doctors don’t know why I’m tired all the time. I know Christmas and then my daughter’s birthday month always take their toll, but I’m in the middle of a stinking cold, and my children are on their second each of 2015. Something has to give.

Then I heard an interview, by accident, on Radio 2 a couple of weeks ago, with a woman called Ella who suffered from an illness that left her sleeping sixteen hours a day and unable to walk. She cured herself by switching to a whole-food, sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free diet.

Ella's Blog

Ella’s Blog

Normally I try and ignore such interviews.

When it came out a few years ago that sugar was the new smoking, the new thing we all have to quit, I hid under the covers. I can’t vaguely imagine giving up sugar. I might just be able to give up refined sugar, although breakfast would be hard as I’m a cornflakes girl, but giving up fruit? Bananas and fruit smoothies are the only healthy things I enjoy. I might as well give up breathing. Giving up smoking when I found out I was pregnant was a doddle in comparison. (Besides, I did that for someone else, not for me.)

But the more I listened to Ella talk, the more I liked what I was hearing. Still being able to eat pizza and chocolate brownies? Surely too good to be true? Was there a way I could feel better and still stuff my face with chocolate cake on that fourth week of the month when my hormones demand their human sacrifice? Better still, was there a way I could sneak vegetables into my now-much-too-savvy children’s diet?

After the interview was over, I ordered the cook book. Me and thousands of others apparently. That was when I realised I had inadvertently jumped on a bandwagon. Apparently Ella is the daughter of Mrs Sainsbury and a former Cabinet Minister and her blog has had 17 million hits. Ho hum. I never have been that much up on the zeitgeist.

When the book finally arrived last week it was more like a study book than a cook book. Not that I would know – I only have a couple of cook books and I don’t think either of them have ever been used. My few recipes come from the Co-op free magazine or online. But when I opened random pages in Ella’s book, I didn’t find easy-to-make healthy recipes, I discovered essays on the wonders of quinoa and chickpeas. So I stuck it on the shelf next to Jamie Oliver and the Woman’s Own tome and ignored it.

Fast forward a week, past my daughter’s craft party (which went really well, thankfully), past three days of feeling so awful it took all my energy to take the children to school, and I had a change of heart. I needed something to make me feel better and coffee and chocolate just weren’t doing it.

Baby steps towards a healthier diet...

Baby steps towards a healthier diet…

I started out searching for smoothie deals online. I keep seeing them in Groupon emails – you know, for the bargain price of £59.99 (reduced from £249.99) you can have a dozen tiny bottles of fruit juice, guaranteed to make you feel better.

I didn’t have sixty quid for three days’ worth of juice. So I went to the supermarket and bought some instead, including lettuce and beetroot juice.

And then I started having porridge for lunch. And that reminded me of where I came in to Ella’s interview on Radio 2. How she was such a sugar-monster that she had to hide fruit in her porridge when she first started out on her quest for healthy eating. It sounded familiar.

And it made me pick up the book. And read the first chapter. And write a shopping list of things I’ve never heard of, like buckwheat flour and tahini. That’s as far as I’ve got, well apart from making my porridge today with coconut oil and honey instead of sugar and treacle. I won’t be going dairy or gluten free any time soon, but if I can manage one meal a week (a month!) from Ella’s book, it will be a good start.

I think that’s what is different with Deliciously Ella. She was a self-confessed sugar-monster student, and she managed to make the change. If she can then so can I. Maybe not all at once, but bit by bit. She isn’t preaching, she isn’t being holier-than-thou (or she certainly doesn’t come across that way in the book’s introduction) and that’s very encouraging.

When I started out self-publishing, there were those who said ‘you can do it’ and those who said, ‘you must have an editor and a proofreader and spend thousands or you’re ruining it for all of us.’ Thankfully I listened more to the former (although the latter left scars) and I followed my own path.

Hopefully I can apply the same logic to eating. It doesn’t matter if it’s one thing, one meal, one ingredient. It’s better than nothing. And if it allows me to get through the school holidays without being asleep all the time, then it will be worth the effort.

I’ll keep you posted!