Monday, 27 July 2015

Black Bean, Pistachio and Raspberry Brownies

On a Sunday afternoon, with a nagging hangover, I often find I need to do something to distract myself from feeling downright awful (I can't deal with hangovers in my old age!). This particular Sunday seemed a perfect opportunity to finally try out a recipe I discovered a while ago. I'm going to call it my own due to the tweaks made by adding pistachios and increasing the quantity of raspberries, but the use of black beans as a foundation for brownies is actually becoming more and more common. They get rid of the need for flour (great news for those with a gluten intolerance) but also makes what would usually be a guilty pleasure, a pretty healthy treat! Black beans are PACKED with fibre which is vital for healthy digestion. Not only this, but dietary fibre is brilliant for satiety so that one little brownie will go a long way. My old favourites - chia seeds and coconut oil - are also in these brownies meaning you get a good dose of protein and other essential nutrients.

You Will Need:
-4 tbsp chia seeds
-5 tbsp water
-170g maple syrup
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1.5 cans black beans, 
 drained and rinsed
-3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
-100g cocoa powder
-2 pinches sea salt
-1.5 punnets fresh raspberries
-1 handful pistachios, shelled

First off, preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a brownie tin with greaseproof paper. Mix the chia seeds, water, maple syrup and vanilla in a bowl and set aside. 

Once you have drained and rinsed the black beans, place them in a food processor along with the coconut oil, cocoa and salt. Blend until just combined. Add the chia mixture to the black beans and pulse to incorporate. You should have a quite a liquidy mixture but it should still hold together and have a few lumps and bumps in it. It may look a bit questionable but just trust me on this!

Now you can remove the blade from the processor and gently fold in the raspberries. It may be easier to transfer the mixture to a bowl before doing this. Pour this mixture into the lined brownie tin. Bake for 30 minutes. The tops should be dry and the edges are pulling away. If you find that the middle is still too raw, cover the tin with foil to avoid the top burning but continue to bake for another 10 minutes, checking at regular intervals. Crush some pistachios over the top and press into the top whilst it is still warm. Allow to cool slightly in the tin before serving. 

These brownies are meant to be gooey so don't be too cautious and over-bake them. With no added sugar, the raspberries are what will supply the sweetness and the stickiness whilst the addition of pistachios provide a much needed crunch. Give them a go and see what you think!


Tuesday, 7 July 2015


For me, one of the more difficult aspects of healthy eating is when it comes to snacking, especially if you are on the go. Things like carrot sticks and dips are great but, as someone who already has to carry around heavy bags for work, I don't want to add to that! 

A friend of mine put me onto the idea of LifeBox. If you've not heard of it, think of a glorified Graze box. Graze deliver regular snack boxes to your door which you can personalise. LifeBox have the same concept but in a larger, more varied form. 

Originally set up by Jenny Sleath, she developed a love for healthy eating and an active lifestyle after her own long battle with being overweight and generally unhealthy. As a big believer in encouraging both exercise AND a good diet, she came up with the idea of LifeBox. With monthly alterations, you can select a one off box, or sign up to a monthly delivery. She offers a Mini Trial Box (containing bits and bobs from all the other boxes), a Womans Health Box, Mens Health Box, Junior Box for kids, Cleanse boxes and an Everyday box. I opted for the Everyday box as it seemed to be the most popular. As you can see, you get LOADS of goodies in one box. Here's just a few of them:

This is definitely better being made with milk as opposed to water as it isn't overly sweet. However, the coconut milk in this gives an extra twist on your standard hot chocolate

Matcha Green Tea is available in a lot of supermarkets now. Again, this isn't overly sweet but you can buy this in other flavours. Incredibly refreshing though with no sugar.

This Organic Banana Powder is a great nutrient burst to add to smoothies or dusting on desserts.

This chocolate is fan-frigging-tastic. No added sugar, no soya, no dairy and no wheat; this is the ultimate guilt free treat. Bursting with fruit inside, it's sweeter than your usual dark chocolate and sure to please the most avid chocoholic.

These crackers are packed with all natural ingredients and uses honey to sweeten, as opposed to refined sugar.

Within each box, you get a load of information about each item. What's really handy as well is little recipe cards that you can use. My box included a recipe for banana pankcakes using the Banana Powder, and a recipe to make almond butter popcorn. If you're already a foodie, or just curious about the new weird and wonderful ingredients that have been coming out in the past few years, then I think LifeBox would be great for you. I also think these boxes are great gift ideas; certainly a step away from your average box of chocolates! With boxes ranging from £15.00 up to £23.00, you may think these are't the cheapest thing in the world but all the items in the boxes are high-end products which retail at a high individual cost. Plus, the items last a LONG time. I received my box 3 weeks ago now and am still working my way through the products.

So, give it a go! You've got nothing to lose. And you may just find that you discover a love for new foods you never knew existed.



Out of the blue, an old uni friend and I recently got back in contact for a catch-up chat. We'd gone our separate ways 4 years ago so had a lot to talk about. Turns out the dark horse had only gone and set up his own business. Impressive stuff! I'd seen things posted about it on Facebook and Twitter but had no idea it was his own doing. After finding out more about the aptly named Pretty Smart Food Company, I was intrigued to sample some of the products for myself. 

With the philosophy "Pure, Mindful Eating", the Pretty Smart Food Company pride themselves on the fact that all their products are free from gluten, wheat, dairy, grains, GMO and soy. Not only this, they are totally organic, vegan and, as the name suggests, raw too. Now... I get it. On paper, this may make you want to run and get your hands on the nearest Mars bar but, having tried them myself, I would strongly encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone. 

Introducing: Rawcha. These healthy little bars are based on the use of Japanese Matcha Green Tea, an ingredient with a ridiculous concentration of antioxidants in. Green tea is often attributed to it's ability to boost metabolism and increase energy so, if you like the sound of that but aren't a fan of drinking the green stuff, then you should definitely give Rawcha a try!

I was lucky enough to be sent a couple of samples: Cacao Bliss and Acai Goji. There is also a Citrus Zen flavour available. To avoid being totally biased, I gave them to a couple of all-too-willing friends in order to get their feedback as well.

First up, the Acai Goji flavour. As with all the Rawcha products, the ingredients label is a breath of fresh air. You may not have necessarily heard of some of the ingredients, but the point is that they are pure, unadulterated, unprocessed and natural - quite hard to come by these days! Both acai berries and goji berries have had a surge in popularity in the past few years, often being referred to as a new "superfood". Both are credited for their antioxidant properties and acai berries are commonly linked to weight-loss diets (I'll leave it up to you whether you buy into that or not...). Either way, with a zingy taste, they make this Rawcha bar almost citrusy in flavour and pleasing on the eye thanks to the vibrant colour of the goji berries. This bar is quite similar to the energy bars I made last year in that they are sticky due to being berry based (and having no cereal content) but are also deliciously sweet. The raisins and dates in this more than make up for having no added sugar. It was an even split in popularity between the two bars. Some liked this for the gooey texture and tangy taste. I, on the other hand.... all about the Cacao Bliss. For saying I'm not a huge chocolate fan, I was fully expecting to prefer the fruit based bar. But I fell in love with this one instantly. Again, the ingredients list is so easy to read, with no chemistry books required to figure out what everything is. As you can probably guess from the name, cacao is chocolate in it's rawest form. With practically no processing, cacao is high in antioxidants but also thought to be one of the highest sources of magnesium available to the human diet. Perhaps it is the lack of 
processing and therefore lack of sugar that appeals to me as you get the chocolatey flavour without the sickly sweetness. Lovers of dark chocolate will be a fan of this, I'm sure. With the addition of chia seeds, coconut oil and, of course, matcha green tea, this is one chocolate bar I can quite happily sink my teeth into. 

Currently based down in Brighton, the Pretty Smart Food Company have gained a lot of local recognition and can be found in 10 different stores across the area and even one in Hackney (see website for details). Not only this, but Rawcha bars were part of the May edition of LifeBox which I recently reviewed.

So keep your eye out for the Pretty Smart Food Company. I'm sensing big things for them. Just don't forget us little ones when you get to the top!