Healthy Baking

Attitudes towards healthy eating have changed drastically over the last few years. Concern for what you put into your body- be it wheat flour, sugar, dairy- has never been so main stream. A quick glance at #eatclean on Insta should give you a good idea of the current healthy eating landscape; natural is in, anything processed or refined is most definitely out.

Wellness warriors such as Deliciously Ella, Natasha Corrett (Honestly Healthy) and the Hemsley sisters have become household names, with their recipes that offer healthy alternatives to traditionally naughty foods proving to be particularly popular. We all love a sweet treat from time to time , so it’s no wonder that guilt free baking has captured the foodie imagination. Companies such as Livia’s Kitchen and Hardihood are leading the way in healthier sweet treats, but when it comes to nutritional value, nothing beats making your own.

In the recipes that follow, unhealthier ingredients are substituted with vegetables and other natural products, meaning you never have to feel guilty about satisfying your sweet tooth again.

1. Deliciously Ella’s Sweet Potato Brownies
Made with sweet potato, cacao and dates, these six ingredient gluten and dairy free brownies are one of the most popular recipes on Deliciously Ella’s site. They might look and taste decadent, but they’re actually packed with goodness, including antioxidant rich superfood cacao.

2. Hemsley and Hemsley’s Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies
Jasmine and Melissa are big advocates of nutrient rich, whole foods, and with a a restaurant in Selfridges and  TV show both launched this year, clearly a lot of people . These cookies are super easy to make and feature ground almonds as opposed to traditional flour. The Hemsley’s also have their own take on brownies, made with black beans, which, rich and delicious and full of fibre, are one of my favourite recipes for a sunday bake-off (the featured image here is of my own BB Brownies!).

3. Madeline Shaw’s Sticky Gingerbread Puddings
A must try for any self-respecting fan of the sticky toffee pudding, this dessert of Shaw’s would win over even the most hardened of health food sceptics. Sweetened with date syrup instead of refined sugar, these puddings are fantastic for satisfying that sweet tooth craving without any of the guilt that usually comes with such an indulgence.

4. Madeline Shaw’s Ultimate Gluten Free Choc Chip Cookies
Another fantastic recipe from Madeline Shaw, these cookies are dairy, gluten and refined sugar free. Everyone loves a cookie, especially with a cup of tea, so these coconut oil filled treatsa are a great alternative for adults and children alike.

5. Livia’s Kitchen Raw Snickers Slab
Ok so given that this dessert is raw, it technically doesn’t include baking, but still makes for an unbelievably healthy treat.  A firm favourite from Livia’s blog, this snickers slab features chocolate, caramel and nougat, yet is still guilt-free! Great for those with even the most severe of food intolerances, this recipe is made up of completely natural ingredients.

6. Honestly Healthy Banana & Pecan Bread
Natasha Corrett is all about eating ‘the alkaline way’, so even her sweet treats pack a nutritional punch. This recipe is for a light, fluffy and healthy bread that tastes just like the original. You honestly (get it?! pun was originally unintended here) won’t notice the difference!

7. Mind Body Bowl Spiced Apple Muffins with Wal-nutty Crumble

The mind body bowl site is run by Annie, a yoga teacher and all round health enthusiast, but this particular recipe is a ‘guest recipe’, written by iQuit Sugar’s Sarah Wilson. AS with Deliciously Ella’s brownies, these muffins make use of the super food sweet potato, the health benefits of which are much extolled given their high Vitamin A content.

8. Hemsley & Hemsley’s Avocado Lime Cheesecake

Avocados have become literally indistinguishable from the clean eating movement. They are the poster child for health par excellence, you’d be hard pushed to have a scroll through Instagram without being confronted with an #avo. This sugar, flour and dairy free cheesecake utilises the creamy consistency of avocado in a fabulous example of healthy baking (although admittedly, the only baking involved here is a little bit of pecan and coconut toasting) . Super healthy and completely guilt free, the Hemsley’s have got wholesome sweet-treats down to a T.

 

Healthy Brown Rice Risotto

This is  great way to squeeze a variety of vegetables into your dinner without feeling that you’ve made a ‘boring’ choice, I often cook this on a Monday if I’ve had a particularly meat heavy weekend as it somehow tastes both indulgent and good for you at the same time!

It really is a one pot wonder- which is great in terms of washing up- and what’s amazing about it is how easy it is to make yet how impressive risotto seems to be.Be warned, brown risotto rice takes a lot longer to cook than it’s white counterpart, but it really is SO much healthier and very filling so it’s definitely worth the wait. Also, brown rice requires less stirring, so if you’re feeling lazy then this recipe is ideal!
Ingredients (serves 2)
-500ml chicken/ vegetable stock
-1 small glass white wine
-150g brown risotto rice (I love biona)
-1 onion
-3 cloves crushed garlic
-1 large carrot
-1 courgette
-300g mushrooms
-150g green beans
-50 g parmesan (parmesan can be expensive, so if you want to substitute it for grana padano that works wonderfully too).
You’ll need a pot or deep pan. I use my Le Creuset casserole, which works perfectly.

Method

Start by finely dicing your onion and carrot – you can leave the courgette and green beans until later as you’ll have time whilst the rice is cooking- and roughly chop the mushrooms.
Sauté the onion and garlic in a knob of butter or in the oil of your choice (I use coconut oil or ghee). Once slightly softened, add the carrot and mushrooms and give it all a good stir before cooking for a couple of minutes over a medium heat. Now it’s time to add your rice, which should be mixed thoroughly with the veg so that all the grains are covered in the remaining oil/butter.
 Add the glass of wine and stir everything thoroughly, deglazing the pot, and allow the rice to absorb the wine, making sure to stir constantly. Once the mixture has dried up, add a ladle-full of stock and keep stirring until the liquid has been absorbed. Repeat this a couple of times before adding the remaining stock and allow to simmer on a med-low heat whilst you finely chop the rest of your vegetables. This is where we depart from the ‘usual’ risotto method, as the brown rice needs to cook for longer so you don’t need to add the stock in stages and stir it in each time.  Once all of your veg are ready, add them to the rice and stock mixture, making sure to stir everything well.
The risotto should still look very wet at this stage and the rice will still be hard. So, make sure there’s enough liquid in there and then pop a lid onto your pot, allowing everything to cook, and just making sure to stir every 4-5 minutes, so that nothing gets stuck. If at any point the risotto seems dry and starts to stick (when the rice is still under done), add a little more stock or some boiling water.
It should take about half an hour for the rice to cook through completely (although timings may vary slightly depending on the brand of rice- just make sure to keep an eye on it and keep test tasting throughout) so once the liquid has completely disappeared and the rice and vegetables are soft, you should be left with a beautiful creamy risotto. Brown risotto rice tends to have a little more bite to it then white, so don’t worry if even when cooked the rice is slightly al dente.
At this stage, turn off the heat, season and stir in the parmesan, saving a little to scatter on the top when serving if you wish to. I sometimes garnish the bowls with a little fresh parsley, which is always nice as it adds a little extra colour. The great thing about this meal is that there are often leftovers, which I usually pop into a tupperware and take to work for lunch the following day.
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