Ella’s food solution for… Sussing out smoothies

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Smoothies have been under scrutiny and have left lots of people unsure as to whether they are a healthy or unhealthy choice. The thing about smoothies is that they condense the fruit and vegetable that they contain, so fruit-only smoothies will contain very high amounts of sugar. Therefore, fruit smoothies are fine every now and then but are not a good idea to consume often.

On the other hand, smoothies containing lots of vegetables don’t negatively raise blood sugar levels and provide only fantastic fuel for your body. By blending many nutritious ingredients together, we multiply the quantities of enzymes and minerals. Research shows that people who consume more than 7 servings of fruit and veg a day have a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease than those who don’t. By eating green smoothies packed full with fresh fruit and (mostly) veg, getting seven portions will be easy.

Another reason smoothies are a good idea to incorporate into your diet is because by breaking up the ingredients, your body’s digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to break it down. This saved energy can then be used for the other necessary functions around the body, so that it is working to its optimum helping you to feel your best.

Nutritious smoothies can contain whatever variety of green vegetables you wish, along with one or two pieces of fruit which cut through the taste of all the vegetables. This provides a very healthy and tasty drink which will energise and focus you.

Ella’s food solution for… Your sweet tooth

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Contrary to popular belief, living a healthy lifestyle does not mean sacrificing yummy biscuits and cakes. All you have to do is replace artificial sugars and flavouring with natural sugars and spices – it’s a miracle! These oat drops are made without sugar, butter or eggs and they taste amazing. With their crumbly exterior yet soft and warm interior, there’s nothing more inviting.

I tend to use cup measurements which is typically more of an American way to do things but I just find it so much easier than weighing amounts of ingredients. You can buy proper cup measurements from most large supermarkets.

To prepare for these drops of heaven, preheat your oven to 175 degrees and line a baking tray with parchment paper. You must combine 2 cups of oats with 1/2 cup of mixed nuts, 1 cup of coconut flakes, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 cup of dried fruit (I used dried blueberries, cranberries and raisins – delicious!). In another bowl combine 3 mashed bananas with 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 cup coconut oil. Pour these ingredients over the dry ingredients to intermingle all flavours and consistencies. I think it’s necessary to really get your hands stuck in at this point.

I tend to simply shape the oat drops in my hands to create balls and then flatten them but you may prefer to use a utensil to ensure even drops. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just the edges become golden brown. This will allow the centre to stay soft and even cake-like. These are a must.

Ella’s food solution for… Energy dips

Quinoa protein bars
Quinoa protein bars

These quinoa protein bars are a treasure! They are delicious, filling and so easy to make. They will provide your body with lots of energy so they are a great snack for anytime of day. This mixture of ingredients combine to make a protein-packed bar which makes it particularly effective after a workout:

1/2 c quinoa
1/2 c chia seeds
1/4 c flax seeds
1/4 c shredded coconut
1 c oats
1/2 c almonds, chopped
1/2 c dried fruit
2/3 c nut butter
2/3 c honey/maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract

Lots of these ingredients can be found at any big supermarket but a couple, like the chia seeds, you may need to go to a health food store for.

First, preheat the oven to 175 degrees. In a mixing bowl, you must combine the quinoa, chia, flax, coconut, oatmeal and almonds (which I put in a plastic bag and bashed with a rolling pin until broken enough – other less aggressive methods may be used). Put this mix in the oven on a baking tray for 5-10 minutes until lightly browned. Meanwhile, combine the peanut butter and honey and bring to boil before removing from the heat and stirring in the salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract and cardamom (push down on the pods to crack them open and tip out the seeds). Add the toasted ingredients and dried fruit of your choice. I used half cranberries and half blueberries which tasted delicious. Finally, pour the combined mixture into a baking tray lined with cling film and push out to each corner to create an even surface before leaving to cool then refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Once set, lift the hardened mixture out of the tray and slice into bars. Put them into a sealed container and they will last up to three weeks, still tasting just as wonderful.

Ella’s food solution for… A fancy fibre fix

Mushroom, tomato and white bean stew
Mushroom, tomato and white bean stew

I found this recipe in a wonderful cook book I was given for my birthday which has collected recipes from a whole range of people from around the world, all who express the joy for casual entertaining in their homes. This filing and fibrous dish comes from the English Countryside.

First of all, heat a tablespoon of oil, then add an onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1 teaspoon of ground fennel seed, and a pinch of dried sage. These flavours and herbs provide delicious, good-quality flavouring to a true home-cooked dish. Meanwhile, begin to cook the bulgar wheat in a pan of boiling water, stirring regularly so it doesn’t stick, until it soaks up the water. After about 8 minutes of cooking, the onion should be soft and at this point you add 60 millilitres of chicken stock and then 340 grams of chopped mushrooms which you leave to simmer, covered for 5 minutes so that the mushrooms can release their own juices. Now add a can of cannellini beans, a can of chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley to create 3-4 portions before leaving to simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Season with a small amount of salt and pepper and serve with the bulgar wheat and top with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

The ingredients in this dish provide your body with a fantastic balance of fibre, protein, carbohydrate and plenty of minerals. Your hunger and tastebuds will be fully satisfied – this is certainly a dish to impress any guest at your dinner table.

Due to spending Christmas with my family in South Africa, it meant a slight twist to the traditional trimmings. My cousin and I created these colourful salads to accompany the beautiful blazing sunshine.