Thursday, 31 March 2011

Weighty matters

I am sure there are not many of us that haven't at one stage wanted to lose a bit of weight- be it a couple of pounds or a few stone.

Food is so readily available that it is very easy to over-eat. And without the worry that our food is in short supply it is up to us to eat healthily and within proper limits because we want to rather than because we have to.

What is more concerning is that more and more children are having weight problems- ranging from increased rates of childhood obsesity on the one hand to younger and younger children suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia.

Not only is it very important for your own health to have a good relationship with food it is also very important for your children. If you have a negative relationship with food they quickly learn from that. Particularly girls will learn very quickly from their mothers and older sisters (and other female role models) about eating habits - be they good or bad.

If you are happy with your weight then a few changes to your diet may still be beneficial just to keep things ticking over nicely without the risk of any health problems developing in the future. If you are trying to lose weight then the first thing you need to do is correct your bad habits and understand why you may have gained weight and where your weak points are.

Crash dieting is not the answer. Even if you lose the weight as soon as you start eating normally the weight will go back on. It is also terrible for your children to watch you not eating properly- how can you expect them to eat well balanced meals if you are refusing to. I truly believe in being very open with your children- they understand a lot more than many adults give them credit for. Discuss with them that you are wanting to change your eating habits to eat more healthily and discuss how you are going to do this. If you are following a healthy eating regime then most meals should be suitable to have as a whole family.

Before you change anything a good thing to do is to keep a food diary for a week. Many people will say that they barely eat anything but they are still overweight. You often don't realise how much you have eaten in a day until you have written it down- the extra piece of toast at breakfast, the last pieces of cheese left over from the sandwiches you make in the morning for a packed lunch, the biscuit mid-morning, the left over fish fingers from your kids lunch etc... all add up. If you write down everything that passes your lips it will help you see the trends and times that you are slipping up with your eating habits.

It's useful to also note down when you are wanting to eat (and what the cravings are for). A lot of the time we will snack because we are bored and needing some distraction and a physical pick me up (and so often sweet things like chocolate are chosen to give us a boost). You will probably notice that the busier or more entertained that you are the less that you are eating. Also keep yourself not just busy but also active- make sure that you get in some exercise each day- even if it is just a brisk walk when you are doing the school run.

But when you are eating your meals, concentrate on your food and avoid other distractions. If you eat in front of the tv you cannot notice if you are full and so are more likely to overeat. Family mealtimes are not only great as a bonding experience but also mean that you are more able to listen to your body and will probably stop eating sooner since you will actually notice if you are full.

Another trick is to photograph your food and do a food diary that way. Again seeing exactly what you eat each day can help you realise how much you are over-eating. Take time to notice your portion sizes. Just by reducing the amount of food you put on your plate can drastically help with maintaining a healthy weight. The palm of your hand is a good indicator for the size that each food group on your plate should represent. Try using a smaller size plate since you won't be able to put so much food on it!

Once you have understood when you are over-eating and the areas you can improve on the next area to look at is the food you have around you. Obviously in the days when we had to hunt and gather our food there was very few overweight people- we simply didn't have the luxury of high calorie food on demand. These days you can have chocolate, sweets and crisps filling your cupboards. If you have it there you are more likely to eat it. Whatever treats you do have in the house make sure it is not very easy for you to get to- put it on a high shelf or behind other food so that you cannot easily get at it. If you have to actively get a chair or move lots of other food to get at the treat it will hopefully make you more likely to stop and think whether you want it rather than just picking it up and eating it because it is there in front of you.

I am not saying ban everything naughty from your house since this probably makes it less likely that you will be able to stick long-term to your healthy eating plan if you feel you never have any treats. But do limit the amount you have in the house- rather than a large 200g bar of chocolate get a small treat size bar to have over a couple of days- and that way if you can't resist eating it it's not going to blow the rest of the good work you have done that day. Be careful of that "all or nothing" cycle where you can feel you've failed if you eat one piece of chocolate so you eat the whole bar- everyone will lapse at some point and it really doesn't matter. Similarly try and get healthier versions of your favourite food- diet versions of fizzy drinks, baked crisps rather than the fried varieties, frozen yoghurt rather than ice-cream. Do read the packets carefully though since some low fat food will be high in sugar to make them taste nice and vice versa. Also carefully check packet sizes and portion sizes- sometimes it will seem that something is lower in calories than it really is because in small writing on the back there is note stating that the packet of food actually is more than one serving!

Eating regularly is far healthier for you and will make it easier. I take my hat off to anyone that is able to do diets that involve meal replacements such as shakes- it would drive me insane not to have proper meals. Always have a good breakfast- it was only when I was pregnant with my first child that I probably started eating breakfast properly and it is something I insist that my girls eat properly. It gets your metabolism going (which helps with weight loss!) and gets you going. You wouldn't expect your car to run with no petrol- you can't expect your body to. Having a healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack together with a balanced lunch and dinner means you won't be feeling hungry and likely to give up and revert to old habits.

Set yourself realistic goals. Don't aim to lose a stone in two weeks. It is unrealistic (and unhealthy if you are able to do that!) A couple of pounds a week really should be your absolute limit. But also plan rewards when you hit your target (preferably not food related!) Also learn to listen to your body. If you are not hungry and someone offers you a biscuit with a cup of tea turn it down- you won't miss it and it is these empty calories that quickly add up!

Try and have a range of healthy snacks that appeal. Make up a box of raw vegetables (carrots, peppers, cucumber, celery etc) that you can snack on when you feel like something to eat. Low-fat hummous and low fat cream cheese can be used as a healthy dip with these. Also have in lots of fresh fruit- whatever fruit you like. Bananas are great for providing you with some slow release energy. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated and drink about 6-8 glasses of water each day. Not only is this good for you but it will make you feel fuller. When you go out and about taking a bottle of water with you so you are not tempted to go and buy a drink which could result in you also buying an unhealthy snack.

But similarly don't deprive yourself of everything you love- just try to adapt your cravings to something reasonable. If you fancy a glass of wine or beer at the end of the day- have ONE! Or make it last longer by having a shandy or white wine spritzer using diet lemonade.

A lot of recipes can be adapted very slightly so that you can enjoy them without feeling that you are on a diet. There are a few items that you can substitute into your cooking and will start to make a difference straight away.

Rather than using oil for frying and cooking if you switch to spray oil that will reduce the amount of fat and calories that you are adding to your food. You can buy sprays such as Fry Light (comes in sunflower and olive oil sprays) and Flora:

Or you can an oil sprayer that you fill yourself with your own choice of oil and can reuse:

Both perform the same function- they will spray a fine mist of oil so can be used to grease cake tins, coat frying pans etc.. but will barely add any calories or fat content. If you find when you are frying that the pan is getting a bit dry add a little bit of vegetable stock.

Try and find healthier substitutes for your food- rather than butter use low fat spread on your toast, change to low fat cream cheese from full fat, switch from full fat cream to Elmlea (the light versions are 50% lower in fat that normal single or double cream and they last unopened up to 8 weeks in the fridge):

Also if you are reducing the fat content you don't need to reduce on taste- herbs and spices add lovely flavours to your dishes without really increasing the calorie content. Looking back to my earlier blog Spring has Sprung- growing your own is not only great fun but again can help with your healthy eating since you will want to taste your fresh fruit and vegetables without hopefully needing to hide them behind unhealthy sauces. Also if you don't currently eat a lot of fruit and vegetables this may encourage you to eat more.

Make sure you have a good vegetable peeler and salad spinner. I couldn't live without my OXO potato peeler (I really do find it is the one thing I miss when I am cooking in someone else's kitchen!)

It is so quick and easy to use it makes peeling vegetables a breeze. It is also good for thinly slicing vegetables. For a healthy snack of homemade potato crisps you can thinly slice one potato and spread on a lined baking tray- this is just half of a fairly small potato:

Spray with your spray oil and season however you wish- a bit of salt, some dried chillis for a bit of a kick, a little paprika etc... Bake in a very hot oven for about 10 minutes until they have browned and starting to turn crispy. Remove from the oven and enjoy.

A good potato peeler is also good for thinly slicing courgette to add to a salad or to have as a side for a main meal- simply spray again with the spray oil and toss in lemon juice and freshly grated pepper for a quick and easy side dish that doesn't even require cooking.

Similarly a good salad spinner will mean that you can have fresh crisp salad whenever you wish. You can buy ready prepared salads but they are often washed in chemicals (you should avoid them if you are pregnant) and they don't stay fresh for long. They are also very very expensive for what you actually get. Buy (or even better grow) whatever lettuces you fancy and just chuck in a few handfuls to the salad spinner to wash and then dry.

Again the OXO salad spinner is highly recommended

For mealtimes you want to plan through your food for the day so you can prepare in advance what you need in and also so you can meals cooking in advance if necessary so you are eating at reasonable times- if you have long gaps between your meals you are more likely to snack more. When you go food shopping make sure you are not hungry- you are much more likely to pick up more snacks and unhealthy food if you are hungry. Go when you have had a meal and so you will buy what you really need for your meals. I do most of my food shopping on the internet and get it delivered by one of the big supermarkets. You are much less tempted to pick up extra treats this way and you can monitor what you are spending so I find I spend a lot less then we used to.

For breakfasts try and have something such as porridge with crushed bananas and raisins or poached eggs on a slice of toast (with low fat spread). This will keep you going, are quick to make and can be made for the whole family. Be careful of fruit juices and smoothies- a lot of people have lots of these for breakfast since they think because it contains fruit it is good for them- but they are very very high in sugar and not as good for you as just eating the fruit since it doesn't contain all the fibre and pulp of the pure fruit. By all means have some as a treat but regard it as a treat rather than a healthy option!

For lunch and dinner there are so many options that I cannot list here! Something easy is putting in enough baked potatoes for the family but then doing toppings to suit. Tuna (in water) mixed with some extra light mayonnaise, extra light cream cheese, reduced salt and sugar baked beans are all good options and will provide you with some slow release energy. You can also make a lovely homemade coleslaw- for two people grate one large carrot and add it to a quarter of a cabbage (chopped). Add a couple of chopped shallots or salad onions. Mix with a 1 tablespoon of light salad cream and then two tablespoons each of extra light mayonnaise and also of plain low fat yoghurt. Add a dash of worcestershire sauce and also a few drops of tabasco sauce for a bit of a kick and season well.

Really easy and so much healthier than shop-bought and makes a very filling meal when used to fill a baked potato. Don't be tempted to add butter to your potato before the filling- you won't taste it again again it is just extra calories.

Another quick lunch is a vegetable and noodle stir fry. Spray oil into a frying pan and add whatever vegetables you like- brocolli florets, spring onions, sliced peppers, courgette and carrot batons, green beans, mange tout etc. Fry over a fairly high heat for a few minutes.

Add a little bit of vegetable stock and a teaspoon of peanut butter to add some flavour. Add a good shake of light soy sauce. Serve over a portion of noodles dusted with some seeds for added protein.

Making your food interesting will also help. If your food looks interesting and you are trying new recipes you won't feel you are on a diet- more that you are experiencing different meals. The more appetising the food looks on the plate the less likely you are to notice if portions are slightly smaller or some of the fat content of the food has been reduced. Rather than having grilled chicken and vegetables - turn them into kebabs basted with some soy sauce, garlic and a tsp honey.

Grill under a hot grill or BBQ until the chicken is cooked through and serve with some rice and a yoghurt and mango dip (0.5 cup plain yoghurt, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp mango chutney and season well).

And try and adapt family favourite meals. You can still have meals such as spag bol but make sure you use extra lean mince (about 300g for two adults) and put the meat, chopped onions, chopped garlic and diced carrots into a dry pan and fry without adding any extra oil or butter. Then when it is cooked a lot of the fat will have come out of the meat into the pan- take the pan off the heat at this point and spoon off all the fat (it is quite amazing how much comes off). Then add lots of flavourings- a dash of red wine, some worcestershire sauce, chopped tomatoes, garlic, fresh herbs, a bit of tabasco/ chillis etc.

Similarly you can still have chips without piling on the calories. For 2 people get three reasonable size potatoes and wash and dry. Slice each potato (skin on or off- whichever you prefer) into about 4 slices about 1 inch thick- depending on the size of the potato this could be slightly more or less. Then lie each slice down on your chopping board and cut again into 0.5 inch slices- you now have your chips. Rince in a collander and pat dry then put in a large bowl. Add 1-2 tbsps of vegetable oil and 1 tbsp sugar (this will caramelise and give the chips a lovely golden crust but they won't taste sweet- you can leave this out if you don't want the extra calories) and a good shake of salt. Toss so everything is lightly covered and spread on a baking tray sprayed with spray oil.

Give a final spray of spray oil and bake at the top of a very hot oven for abut 25 minutes turning occasionally until the chips are cooked through and golden.

Careful you don't then serve with lots of full fat ketchup which is full of sugar and high in calories!

You can serve these with homemade burgers- mix a pack of 250g extra lean mince with some diced shallots/ onion, some worcestershire sauce and a dash of tabasco, your choice of fresh chopped herbs (coriander, parsley etc) and half a peeled and grated apple (you won't taste this but it makes it really moist and bulks out the burgers a bit with something healthy!) and mix all together then divide into patties.

Grill or bbq for about 8-10 minutes per side until cooked through. Serve with the chips and your choice of vegetables or salad.

There is obviously a wealth of recipes that are great for anyone watching the calories and I will come back to them again. There is too much to put in just one blog! But you can lose weight and still eat lovely food that the whole family can enjoy.

Til soon....

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Black Vanilla- a true Blackheath gem

So my first blog about somewhere I've eaten at that I feel stands out from the crowd.

When I first heard the news that another cake/coffee shop, Black Vanilla, was going to be opening in Blackheath Village I thought the owners must me mad.

The village is swarming with coffee shops and I really couldn't see how it could be anything different that would attract its own range of customers. Like several other shops that have been before I thought that there was a good chance it wouldn't last a year. How wrong I was...

It is not just another coffee shop- it describes itself as a boutique bakery and gelateria and that truly is what it is.

The above pictures are taken from their website but the products that they have in the shop really do look as good as these ones. The shop is based in the heart of the village (just over the road from the train station).

On a rare lunch out with just my husband without our children in tow, we decided that rather than having pudding at the end of the meal we would go and try the gelato at Vanilla Bean. The shop is quite small but there is still a scattering of tables and cube chairs for eating in and it is clean and tidy and fresh.

The idea is a simple yet inspired one- cupcakes, gelato, a caffeteria and a few cakes. Their uniqueness comes from the gelato (ice-creams) and frozen yoghurts. The main counter contains the various flavours that they have on offer that day with a range of cones and pots. A piccollo cone is only a pound and good for treating the little ones without succumbing to a big ice-cream if mealtime is near. But a normal cone at £2.50 (they do go bigger than this!) is good value for money and the ice-cream is so good it definitely satisfies any sweet cravings!

Their website explains:
"Crafted like no other, Black Vanilla's indulgent collection of gelato and frozen yoghurt creates moments of pure bliss. We rely on a blend of naturally intense ingredients which provide passion and pleasure in every bite. Our gelato & frozen yoghurt are prepared on site daily with 100% organic milk and no preservatives, artificial colourings, flavourings or hydrogenated fats. Frozen yoghurt is fat free and our gelato contains 50-60% less fat than traditional ice cream.

We believe our exquisite ingredients produce exquisite desserts. We use only the finest ingredients like Valrhona and Callebaut chocolate, Lescure butter and of course the unsurpassed Madagascan Bourbon Vanilla.

All our cupcakes are lovingly hand baked, iced and decorated; containing only the very best natural and simple ingredients that Mother Nature provides"

My sister-in-law is Italian and having visited Italy on several occasions I know what good gelato is like (and to be honest most UK cafes and restaurants are unable to rival their Italian counter parts). But Black Vanilla really does produce gelato to the standard we've sampled in Italy. And the range of flavours is interesting and exciting with different flavours each time we have visited. They explain that they use a 60 year old recipe from Naples and it shows.

We returned yesterday afternoon with our two girls as a treat before our eldest's parents evening. However good the produce from a shop like this- if the staff aren't friendly it is off-putting for any parents. But the staff are truly delightful- both times we visited both with and without the girls they were happy for us to try out the various flavours before deciding which we wanted. They are also happy to discuss how the gelato is made and discuss flavours with you. They don't rush you even when the shop is busy into making your choice. This just adds to the experience.

Yesterday me and my girls all went for the chocolate with real chocolate pieces.

My husband had the strawberry with proper pieces of strawberry throughout. This is their strawberry gelato taken from their twitter page:

The girls both gave their ice-creams the thumbs up. While we were there the place was swarming with parents and children after school- already there is obviously quite a following (and this was on quite a cold wet March day- I can't imagine how busy it will be when summer arrives!)

They also have a lovely range of cupcakes that changes all the time. Again here is a selection of their special cakes that they have posted up on their twitter page and all the ones in the shop look as good as these:

They also have a range of cakes:

And macaroons:

And will custom-make cakes for customers and again this is an example they have on their site:

As well as cakes and ice cream they also do FANTASTIC coffees and my husband really enjoyed their hot chocolate.

So anyone local (or even not so local!) to Blackheath village- I would really recommend visiting Black Vanilla. I see on their website that they are opening a Champagne Bar and Gelaterie in Greenwich this spring- two of my favourite things right on my doorstep- now I can't wait to try that one out. Definitely could be a different venue for a girls night out...!

Til soon....

A spoonful of sugar - diabetic puddings!

Had my second request- this time from Maddy Carvosso who wants some diabetic-friendly pudding recipes for her husband.

Now before I start obviously with any medical condition each person is different and though these recipes should be safe for those suffering from Type 1 diabetes (those that inject insulin) they may need to be modified for those with type 2. Whatever form of diabetes you suffer from do make sure you are happy that the ingredients are suitable for your diet. If you are unsure then please check first with your doctor or nutritionalist.

A good substitute to add sweetness to puddings and cakes is unsweetened apple sauce, which is used in serveral of the recipes below. A lot of recipes that I discuss below also use the sugar substituate called SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener.

It is suitable for diabetics since it uses the sweetening ingredient sucralose which is not recognised by the body or broken down for energy, so it has no effect on insulin or blood glucose levels. It works best in recipes where it is used to sweeten the recipe (rather than to caramalise such as with a creme brule).

For recipes that need light cream I like using Elmlea double or single light which are really good substitutes- the light varieties contain 50% less fat than normal single or double cream:

I've done a selection of recipes and I hope they will give you some inspiration for different puddings and sweet treats. These recipes will also be good for anyone dieting.

Lime cheesecake

15 wheatmeal biscuits
50g melted reduced-fat spread
200g diet peach yoghurt
250g reduced-fat smooth ricotta cheese
2 tsps finely grated lime rind
1 egg
2 tbsp caster sugar
0.25 cup wholemeal plain flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (160 degrees C if fan assisted oven). Grease a 22cm loose-base tart dish. Put biscuits into a food processor and blitz until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the spread and process until combined. Press mixture over base of prepared pan. Place pan on a baking tray and put in fridge.

Put the yoghurt, ricotta, lime rind, egg, sugar and flour into a bowl and with a hand held mixture blend on a low speed until smooth. Pour mixture over biscuit base. Bake for 30 minutes or until just set and edges are light golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until cold.

Serves 12

Cherry Clafoutis

1.25 kg frozen morello cherries
4 heaped tbsps SPLENDA® Granulated Sweetener
5 eggs
120g plain flour
600ml light single cream
200ml skimmed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Light margarine, for greasing

Defrost the cherries then drain and pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C.

Beat the SPLENDA® and eggs in a bowl until pale. Add the flour, single cream, milk and vanilla extract and mix everything together well. Grease a large baking dish. Place the cherries on the base of the dish and pour the batter mixture over the cherries. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Serve either hot from the oven or allow to slightly cool. Serve with low-fat cream.

If you don't like cherries you can crush 250g raspberries and use them instead.
Serves 8

Diabetic Orange Cake

A lovely cake that gets its sweetness purely from an orange

4oz butter
3 whole eggs
1 whole orange (skin still on but cut into quarters and de-seeded)
8oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
0.5tsp ground cloves
0.5tsp ground nutmeg
500g packet of mixed dried fruit

Preheat oven to degrees C (160 degrees C in a fan-assisted oven). Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin and pour in the mixture. Put the butter eggs and orange in a food processor and blitz to combine. In a large bowl combine all the other ingredients except the dried fruit. Add the orange mixture and combine. Then add the mixed dried fruit. The final mixture should drop freely from a spoon- if it is a bit thick add a little skimmed milk to loosen the mixture.

Bake for about 50-60 minutes. Check with a squewer that it comes out clean so that the centre is cooked – if not bake for a little longer.

Once cooked allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin then remove to cool on a rack and store in an airtight container for up to two days.

Panna Cotta
2 leaves of gelatine
800ml reduced fat single cream
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
3 heaped tbsp Splenda® Granulated Sweetener

Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water. Meanwhile put the cream and the vanilla seeds in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to very low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Remove the soaked gelatine leaves from the bowl and gently squeeze out any excess water. Put the gelatine leaves and Splenda® into the cooled cream. Leave to cool completely, stirring from time to time.

Pour the mixture evenly into 6 glasses and put in fridge for 12 hours. Serve immediately from the fridge.

Diabetic Apple Bread Pudding
2 medium apples
2 tbsps brown sugar
1 tbsp water
625ml skimmed milk
1 vanilla bean halved lengthways
4 thick slices fruit bread
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (140 degrees C for fan-assisted oven). Grease deep 1.5 litre.

Peel, core and quarter apples, cutting each quarter into 3mm slices. Put sugar and water in a frying pan over a low heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves.  Add the apples and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Put the milk and vanilla bean in medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, put a lid on the pan and stand for 5 minutes then remove the vanilla bean which is no longer needed.

Meanwhile cut bread into quarters and then arrange alternate layers of the bread and apples in the dish finishing with a layer of bread. Whisk the eggs, cinnamon and nutmeg in medium bowl and then gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Pour the egg mixture carefully over bread and apple.

Place the dish into a deep roasting tray then add boiling water into baking tray so that it comes halfway up side of pudding dish. This is called a bain-marie (water bath) and creates steam in the oven to keep your pudding moist.

Bake uncovered about 1 hour or until set. Serve with low fat ice cream/cream.

Catalan Cream

3 vanilla pods
7 egg yolks
5 heaped tbsps SPLENDA® Granulated
250ml skimmed milk
750ml light single cream (5% fat) (Elmlea does a good light cream)

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C. Cut the vanilla pods in 2 lengthways remove the seeds with the point of a knife and place them in a bowl with the egg yolks. Add the SPLENDA® and beat until pale. Pour in the milk and cream and whip well together.

Fill four individuals ramekins with the mixture. Put the dishes in a large roasting tray and pour in enough hot water to come halfway up their sides (bain-marie) and bake in the oven for 35 minutes. When cooked the cream should be firm but still slightly wobbly in the middle. Leave to chill in the fridge for two hours. Serve immediately on removing from the fridge.

If you would prefer a lemon version substitute the vanilla pods with lemon zest.

Bread pudding

3 slices day-old white bread, cubed
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups skimmed milk
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsps SPLENDA® Granulated
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Spray a 1.5 litre baking dish with spray oil. Put the bread cubes and raisins in the prepared dish. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl then pour over the bread and raisins stir everything together. Put the dish in a deep baking tray and fill the tray with water until it is half way up the side of the dish. Bake 45 - 55 minutes, or until a squewer inserted in the pudding comes out clean. Remove the pudding from the oven and serve warm or chilled. Can serve with the following custard.

Easy custard

2 tbsps custard powder
1 pt skimmed milk
2 tbsps SPLENDA® Granulated

Mix the custard powder with 2 tbsp milk to a smooth paste. Put the remaining milk in a heavy based saucepan and bring almost to the boil. Gradually add milk to custard powder paste. When thoroughly combined, return to the saucepan. Place over a medium heat and stir continuously until mixture comes to the boil. Reduce heat and continue stirring for a further two minutes. Remove from heat and add SPLENDA® Granulated, stirring until dissolved. Serve hot or cold.

Floating islands
An impressive end of dinner dessert that will impress even non-diabetics! A little patience is all that is required.

8 eggs, separated
Pinch of salt
2 heaped tbsp SPLENDA® Granulated
1.5 litres skimmed milk
2 vanilla pods, seeds only

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Put the whites in a bowl and add the salt then whisk with a hand blender until they form stiff peaks. Continue whisking and add 1 tbps of SPLENDA®.

Meanwhile, bring the milk and the vanilla seeds to the boil in a large saucepan. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer. Scoop up a large tbsp of the egg white (one sixth of the mixture), smooth with the back of a knife and put delicately onto the surface of the milk. After 1 minute, gently turn over the egg white mixture and poach for another minute. Gently remove the poached meringue and rest on kitchen paper. Repeat the process until all six portions of egg white have been cooked.

Strain the milk through a sieve. Beat the egg yolks with the remaining 1 tablespoon of SPLENDA® and then pour the milk into the mixture and cook over a very low heat- if the heat is two high the custard will overcook. Stir constantly for around 20 minutes until the custard ‘coats’ the back of a spoon. Put the custard into 6 dessert bowls and place a poached meringue on the surface of each custard. Serve chilled 

Lemon pudding cake

A light and refreshing dish that separated when cooked to produce a lovely lemon sauce underneath the pudding.

3 Large eggs, separated
3/4 Cup SPLENDA® Granulated
2 tbsp butter or margarine, at room temperature
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
1 Cup lowfat buttermilk (if you can't get this use 1 cup of skimmed milk, 1tbsp lowfat natural yoghurt and 0.5 tsp lemon juice)
1/3 Cup lemon juice (fresh if possible)
1/4 Cup plain flour

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Coat a souffle dish/straight-sided baking dish with spray oil.

In a large bowl beat the egg whites with an electric hand-mixer on high speed until foamy. Gradually beat in 1/4 cup of the SPLENDA® and continue to beat until it forms stiff white peaks.

In another bowl, put butter, remaining SPLENDA®, lemon peel and egg yolks. Beat on high until mix is thick and lemon-colored. Stir in buttermilk, lemon juice and flour. Add about 1/4 of the egg whites to batter and stir gently to combine without knocking out all the air. Then fold in remaining whites. Pour batter into prepared dish and place this in a deep baking tray. Place the whole thing into the middle shelf of the oven and then pull out shelf slightly and pour boiling water into tray half way up the side of the dish. Bake for about an hour- when done the top of pudding should be rich brown and the centre firm when lightly pressed. Serve pudding hot or cool. Make sure you spoon the portions up from the bottom of the baking dish to get the lemon sauce that has formed beneath the pudding.

Sugar Free Strawberry Jam

You can buy sugar free jam but the following is quite an easy recipe for making your own:

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup cold water
Pack of sugar free jelly mix such as Hartleys. It depends which you are using to how much you need- adjust to your taste since the more or less you add will change the consistency.

In a large saucepan, crush the strawberries and combine with the water and jelly mix. Place over medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour into sterilized containers or jars. Allow to cool and cover. Store in fridge for 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months.

Diabetic Cupcakes

Very easy and loved by children as well as grown ups!

3 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 small can crushed pineapple in fruit juice (not syrup) undrained
1.5 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
2 large bananas sliced
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp SPLENDA® Granulated
1.5 cups light cooking oil

Put all ingredients in bowl. Blend everything together gently- do not overbeat. Line a cupcake baking tray with paper cases and divide out the mixture. Bake in a preheated 160 degrees C oven for about 30-35 minutes or until a squewer comes out a cake clean.

Diabetic fruit cookies

Quick and easy and great with a cuppa!

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup water
1 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup apples, peeled & chopped
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup quick oats
1 tsp group cinammon
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecans, chopped

Put the water, dates, apple and raisins in a pan and bring to the boil then simmer for three minutes. Remove from the heat and add the margarine and stir. Cool mixture and then add all the other ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight if you have time. Drop spoonful of the mixture onto lined baking sheets 2 inches apart.
Bake in preheated 180 degrees C oven for about 24 minutes. Store in the fridge in air tight container.

Diabetic Mini Fruitcakes

0.5 cup Diced orange peel
0.5 cup Diced lemon peel
0.5 cup Diced dates
0.5 cup Golden raisins
0.25 cup Brandy or orange juice
2 tsp Baking powder
0.5 tsp Baking soda
1.5 cups All-purpose flour
0.5 tsp Ground allspice
0.3 cup Vegetable oil
2 tbsp Brown sugar
2 Eggs
0.5 cup Chopped pecans
12 Pinneapple chunks
This is so easy- just combine the first 5 ingredients in mixing bowl then add everything else except the pineapple. Mix everthing together and then divide the mix into paper lined cupcake tray filling each 2/3 full. Top each with a pineapple chunk. Bakefor 30-35 minutes at 160 degrees C (until a squewer comes out clean). Allow to cool and store in airtight container.

Raspberry Frozen Yoghurt


A refreshing low fat and low sugar treat to be used whenever you would normally use ice-cream



2 cups frozen raspberries
0.5 cup non-fat lemon yogurt
1 tbsp SPLENDA® Granulated
1 tsp Fresh lemon juice

In a food processor blend frozen raspberries, yogurt, SPLENDA® and juice until smooth. For a quick dessert serve immediately. Or place in an 8x4-inch rectangular freezer container and freeze for 4 hours or until frozen.

Whipped Topping

This can be used on cakes and puddings for an extra treat. It should be prepared as close to serving time as possible since it loses volume after a period of time.


0.5 cup dry milk
0.3 cup Cold water
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Sugar (or substitute for SPLENDA® Granulated if you don't want any sugar)
0.25 cup SPLENDA® Granulated
0.5 tsp Vanilla

Combine dry milk and water and put in fridge for 30 minutes then beat at high speed for 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and beat again at high speed for 4 minutes. Stir sugar and sugar substitute together and add gradually to the whipped milk while it is being beaten. Add vanilla to whipped topping and refrigerate until used.

Sugar-Free Chocolate Fudge Recipe

A very simple recipe that requires very little cooking.


450g cream cheese, softened
50g unsweetened chocolate
0.5 cup SPLENDA® Granulated
1 tsp vanilla extract
0.5 cup chopped pecans

Melt the chocolate in the microwave (about 40 seconds) then allow to cool. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, chocolate, sweetener and vanilla until smooth. Stir in pecans. Pour into an 8-inch square baking pan lined with foil. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Cut into 16 squares.

Diabetic Vanilla Ice-Cream

Tin light evaporated milk (about 410g)
2 tbsp SPLENDA® Granulated
1.5 cup whole milk (note whole milk does have sugar content)
1 tbsp vanilla
3 eggs

Combine evaporated milk and SPLENDA®. Beat well until sugar is dissolved. Add whole milk and vanilla extract and beat well then add the eggs and beat the mixture vigorously. Either then pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions or pour into a freezer container and freeze for 8 hours, removing the ice-cream from time to time during that period to beat it to stop ice crystals forming.

Note this recipe contains raw egg so should not be served to babies or pregnant women.
Servings: 8

Diabetic carrot cake and icing

Ingredients for cake:
225g wholemeal self-raising flour
1.5    tsps baking powder
0.5    tsp bicarbonate of soda
0.25sp salt
0.25 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
150 ml oil
0.5 cup plain low fat yoghurt
2 medium carrots peeled and grated
Juice and rind of 1.5 oranges
60g walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Ingredients for topping:
300g light cream cheese, at room temperature
Juice and rind of ½ orange
0.5 tsp vanilla essence
Sugar-free sweetener (eg: SPLENDA® Granulated) to taste
Toasted walnuts halves to decorate

Coat two springform 8 inch pans with spray oil and then line with baking paper. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Put flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, apple sauce and cinnamon in a bowl and mix with an electric hand mixer or spoon. Add all the other cake ingredients except the walnuts and mix again until combined and then stir in the walnuts. Divide the mixture between the two pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden and cooked through (check squewer comes out clean). Cool them on wire racks.

Meanwhile blend the cream cheese, orange rind and juice and vanilla essence in a bowl. Add sweetener to taste. Use half the mix to sandwich cakes together and the rest on the top. Decorate with walnut halves.

Sponge Cake with Cream Cheese Filling

This is great for a afternoon treat but also can be used as a birthday cake- just add candles!

Ingredients for the sponge cake:

150g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 tbsp SPLENDA® Granulated or half a cup of unsweetened apple sauce
2 tbsp dried skimmed milk powder
1 tbsp ground rice
1 egg, beaten
7 tbsp vegetable oil
0.5 cup natural low fat yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Ingredients for the cream cheese filling
300g light or extra light cream cheese
2.5 tbsp SPLENDA® Granulated
0.5 tsp vanilla extract
Low sugar jam (shop bought or from the recipe above)

Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC. Spray 2 x 7in round cake tins with low fat cooking spray and then line the tins.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Stir in SPLENDA® Granulated, dried milk and ground rice. Add the eggs, oil, yoghurt, vanilla extract and salt. Mix this into the dry ingredients. If you don’t have a soft dropping consistency add another 1-2 tbsps yoghurt. Spoon into the prepared tins and level the tops. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. When cold, the cakes are ready to decorate with the cream cheese filling. Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. If you prefer a chocolate sponge then add 1.5 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder.

For the filling beat together cream cheese, SPLENDA® Granulated and vanilla extract.  Spread a layer of low sugar jam over the bottom cake and then use one third to sandwich together the sponge cakes and spread the remaining mixture over the top of the cake. 

Serves 8

Strawberry Tart

A lovely summery pudding that looks great

Ingredients for sweet Pastry:

250g plain flour
3 level tbsp Splenda® Granulated
150g low-fat soft butter
1 egg

Ingredients for pastry cream:
4 level tbsp Splenda® Granulated
30g plain flour
100g ground almonds
2 eggs
100g low-fat soft butter

Ingredients for decorations:
300g strawberries
4 tbsp low sugar strawberry jam (shop bought or made as above recipe)
Juice of 1 orange

In a large bowl, sieve the flour, add Splenda® Granulated and the butter. Use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Make a well in the middle and crack the egg into it. Bring all the mixture into the centre, gently mixing into a dough. Form the dough into a ball and wrap in cling film. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4). When the pastry is ready, roll out on a well-floured board and use it to line a (9-inch) tart tin, with removable bottom sprayed with low fat spray oil. Prick the pastry base with a fork to stop air bubbles forming, line base with greaseproof paper and weigh down with ceramic beans or dried pulses. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then take out of oven and remove the beans and paper. Return to oven for 5 minutes to dry out the pastry a little.

Meanwhile, begin preparing the cream by mixing together Splenda® Granulated, flour and ground almonds, in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and the butter. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix. Pour the cream into the pastry cream. Put back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Put the jam and orange juice in a pan and gently heat so that it combines. Allow to cool a little. Arrange the strawberries on top of the tart, and brush with the jam and orange juice glaze. Put in the fridge and chill for at least 1 hour before serving

Serves 6

So a range of desserts you can make for the whole family to enjoy and also for entertaining. 

Til soon...