Date and Pecan Muffins

  • No Grain or Gluten
  • No ‘Free Sugar’

These muffins have an amazing taste and texture!

I don’t like the phrase ‘sugar free’ when recipes still contain natural sugar ingredients. It’s important to know what sugar we need to limit in our diet to only 25g a day – free sugar.

Free sugar is defined by the World Health Organisation as follows;

‘Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates’

So, the sugar in these muffins is NOT free sugar (this is good!), and will be easily digested by people with compromised digestive systems. Also, it’s important to recognise the nutrition content of ingredients in food; bananas and dates in these muffins will provide important vitamins and minerals that you won’t get from free sugars.

Make sure your bananas have black spots – this means they are ripe and the starch has turned to sugar.  My bananas were so ripe they were black (and fermenting, judging by the slightly alcoholic smell of the mix).

Serve with your favourite nut butter or a big dollop of natural yogurt.


Makes 12 muffins

  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup pecans (you can use walnuts), chopped/crushed
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (160 fan oven).
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground almonds, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pecans.
  3. In a food processor, combine dates, bananas, eggs and oil.
  4. Combine the dry and wet mixtures
  5. Spoon mixture into muffin tins lined with paper cases – fill to the top (I didn’t).
  6. Top with banana slices and chia seeds (exclude for SCD).
  7. Bake for  25 minutes – toothpick should come out clean.

Homemade Yoghurt

This is SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) Legal Yoghurt.  I use a lakeland yoghurt maker as it works like a dream every time.  This yoghurt is fermented for far longer than commercial yoghurts, which means there is a higher (beneficial) probiotic count than commercial yoghurts.

As the yogurt bacterial culture breaks down the lactose (which, don’t forget, is carbohydrate AKA sugar), the remaining simpler carbohydrate molecules are more easily absorbed by our body – so nothing is left to feed the bad bacterial overgrowth in the lower intestine.

I don’t tolerate dairy, but I can eat A LOT of this (…and butter and cheese).  Many people who are lactose intolerant are able to tolerate this yoghurt.  If you do find you are having trouble with it, then it’s worth trying goats milk.

You don’t have to use cream, you can just use all milk, but the cream helps to make a thicker, creamier and less tart yoghurt, which I prefer.  I use Total greek yoghurt as it contains specific bacteria (acidophilus) that helps my gut.


  • 300ml of double cream
  • 500ml milk (high fat milk)
  • Small tub (150g) of total greek yoghurt – full fat


  • A thermometer
  • 2 spoons – one to stir the milk in the pan, and one to mix the yoghurt and milk.
  • A yoghurt maker
  • A sieve – to catch lumps and skin from the milk/cream.


  1. Put the cream and milk in a pan and put on a low to medium heat.  It is key to heat the milk slowly, taking about 20mins, otherwise you will have grainy yoghurt. Stir every so often.
  2. Switch on your yoghurt maker to get it up to temperature.
  3. While the milk is heating, boil some water and then sterilise all your equipment, including the inside of the pot that the yoghurt will ferment in.
  4. Heat the milk and cream to simmering point – but don’t let it boil.  Simmer for 2 minutes once simmer has been reached.  If you are using goats milk, don’t let it go above 185 degrees F.
  5. Once the milk is up to temperature, switch it off, put the lid on and let it sit to cool down to under 110 degrees F. You can speed the process by sitting the pan in the sink.  I just leave it on the side for an hour until it’s body temperature.
  6. Put your pot of Total yoghurt in the yoghurt maker pot, and using the sterilised sieve, add some of the cooled milk to this.  Mix it thoroughly before adding the rest of the milk through the sieve.
  7. Make sure there are no lumps of yoghurt in there, then sit the pot into the yoghurt maker and leave for 24 hours.
  8. Once 24 hours has passed, pop it in the fridge for at least three hours before using.

Serve with:

  • banana and seeds
  • roasted peaches
  • just honey

Weight Loss: Basics

The word ‘diet’ has a lot of negative connotations amongst those who don’t believe in weight loss ‘diets’, so I find myself explaining to people that when I use the word ‘diet’ in reference to the SCD, it’s about a change of approach to food as part of a lifestyle change, not a short term fix for being overweight.

And this should be anyone’s approach to weight loss: a lifestyle change. What you’ve been doing before has only led you to where you are now.

Doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result each time is a sign of madness!

Actually, it’s just plain stupid!

There is a lot of information out there on the best ‘diet’ for weight loss and health maintenance, and it can be hard to figure out what’s what when we are bombarded with information from all directions.

People that want to loose weight are not interested in the mechanics; they just want something simple that will help them loose weight without taking too much effort or involving too much analysis/thinking.  And that’s understandable; we lead busy lives and things need to be easy and straightforward. So let’s make this easy to understand….

“Calories are tiny creatures that live in your wardrobe, who sew your clothes a little smaller every night”

It might feel like that, but I think we know that’s not the case! Calorie is a measure of energy.  Food contains energy.  When we move around we use energy.

Calories is a simple way of measuring energy INPUT (the amount of energy we take in when we eat) and OUTPUT (the amount of energy we use moving around).

So here are three simple weight loss facts and they revolve around ‘Calories’:  

  1. On any given day, if you eat more calories than you use (more input than output), you WILL GAIN WEIGHT.
  2. If you REALLY like your food (lots of input) and you don’t want to put on weight, then you REALLY need to like exercise too (lots of output).  Exercise, uses that excess energy produced by your food.
  3. If you don’t want to exercise, then just eat less.  Start cutting down your intake until you see your weight going down.  When you reach your ideal weight, increase your intake until your weight becomes static; this level is your ideal food intake for your activity level.

But, before we get too excited, there are some other things we need to take into account, because it’s not just about loosing weight any way we can; our priority is EATING NUTRITIOUS FOODS to keep our bodies running efficiently, fighting disease and feeling energetic.

‘Nutrition value’ refers to the level of vitamins, minerals & other essential nutrients in food.  So, here are three other points to take into account when counting calories;

  1. Processed foods (cake, wine, beer, bread, pasta, rice, pastry) in general, are HIGH calorie and have LOW nutrition value.
  2. Non-processed foods (vegetables, fruit, meat, beans etc..) in general, are LOW calorie and have HIGH nutrition value.
  3. This means that if you are trying to loose weight by eating fad-diet foods and other processed foods (1) you will have to eat less, and (2) you are not taking in any nutrients, thus making yourself tired, sick and probably sapping your willpower to stay on track.

The picture below shows two lots of food; processed (left) and non-processed (right).  The total calories in each picture are exactly the same (around 1600), but the NON-processed foods will (1) keep you fuller for longer and (2) provide you with ample amount of nutrition that you will NOT find in the processed foods.


Notice how processed foods are always on the beige/brown part of the colour scale? YUCK!

But on top of this, there are other things to consider:

  • Hopefully you read my blog post on sugar and carbohydrates; constantly using carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, pastry, low calorie cakes & sweets) to feel satisfied will be slowing, if not stalling, your weight loss. A high protein and fat diet has been shown to keep people satisfied for longer, thus stopping them snacking (a key problem with diets).
  • Studies show that people on low-carb diets, taking in the same number of calories as people on high-carb diets, actually lose more weight. It has been found that a diet of LESS than 10% carbohydrates (AKA sugar) will aid weight loss. You WILL notice a difference.
  • There are many myths around low-carb diets, which I will cover in a separate blog, but in summary: no, it’s not dangerous; the main myth is around Ketoacidosis which is a problem suffered by diabetics, not general low-carbers; and, if you eat less than 10% cabs, then yes, you might get funky smelling breath when your body starts using fat to create energy AKA Ketosis (ask Terry about my morning breath!).
  • I will cover the topic of ‘fat in food’ in another blog, because there is a LOT to say.  But in summary, the thinking on fat has changed over the last couple of years; fat from NON-processed foods, even saturated fat, is good for you. Trans fats are NOT good for you; trans fats are found in processed foods.

But this doesn’t mean you should rub your hands together at the thought of the next fry-up! Just eating fat and protein, like all things, can cause other health issues. Have your eggs and bacon, but also have an avocado and fresh tomato with it! KEEP A BALANCE!  For weight loss and health maintenance you must ensure you are having a balanced diet containing healthy protein, vegetables and some carbohydrates.

But what is balanced, and how much of each should I eat? Your activity level will determine how much of each food group you should eat. Guidance on this varies: there’s the old food pyramid for the average person that indicates a very high intake of carbs, which I do not believe is right. And then there’s very high protein and no carbs, which contrary to popular opinion, is not good either, especially for body builders who need to ensure they have enough carbs in their diet to prevent their body cannibalising their hard-won muscles for energy.

There is a happy place somewhere in the middle for those of us who live an active or sedentary lifestyle. But here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Carbohydrate (sugar) is in most vegetables and fruit, so you don’t need to add bread, pasta or rice to your meals;
  • Fibre is in all fruit and vegetables so you do not need to eat bread, cereals etc;
  • Protein can be found in veg, nuts, seeds – you do not need to just eat meat all the time for protein intake;
  • You should have veg with each meal; this makes up most of your fibre, vitamins and minerals! If you can’t stomach veg at breakfast, then have a small portion of fruit instead (see my green smoothie recipe at the bottom of this post to start having veg at breakfast);
  • Vegetables are your friend; the more you eat them the more you will like them, and the easier it will get;
  • Portion sizes are important; the ‘serving size’ on a packet is NOT necessarily a healthy portion size (you shouldn’t be eating anything out of a packet anyway!!).

The chart below gives a guide to portion sizes for each meal for a normal person; I would suggest you keep carbs below 20%, and flex the other groups accordingly. For weight loss, your carb intake probably needs to be lower.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 09.54.52

If you are trying to lose weight or give up smoking, but you always feel hungry, cut out the processed foods and start increasing your vegetable, fruit, and protein intake: boiled eggs, carrot sticks & hummus, sliced chicken breast…  it’s not complicated, just a case of using your imagination and planning ahead.  I have 2 boiled eggs mid morning as a snack, and that’s me happy till 1pm.  I also make my own yoghurt; it’s protein rich and thick like greek yoghurt, and has hardly any bitterness unlike commercial yoghurt.  As an afternoon snack, it keeps me full till dinner time!

If you are suffering from any health issues (e.g. diabetes), then it’s important to see your doctor if your planning on changing your diet. However, there is growing evidence that low-carb diets improve blood glucose levels and aid weight loss in diabetics.

Anyway, just to prove that low carb diets are not boring and bland, here’s a lovely recipe for you.


Pistachio and Parsley Stuffed Chicken


For two people – or keep the other portion for lunch the next day!

This is easy and tasty!  I would suggest having it with a salad of various leaves, roquefort cheese, walnuts and crispy pancetta.


  • 2 portions of chicken breast butterflied,
  • handful pistachios; shelled, unsalted, roasted and chopped,
  • handful fresh parsley, chopped,
  • zest from half lemon,
  • juice from half the lemon,
  • 2 cloves minced garlic,
  • black pepper,
  • sea salt,
  • 2 tbsp of butter, softened.


  1. Pre-heat oven to 200C.
  2. Butterfly chicken breasts – basically cut the piece of meat in half longways, but leave the two halves attached (making it look like an open book).  You can pound the chicken between plastic to make it flatter if you need/want to. Use string to tie it all together if you have some, otherwise don’t worry too much – filling might some out but you will still get the flavours.  You could also buy the chicken with the skin on and stuff the pesto underneath the skin (I buy all chicken breast like this because chicken with skin on hasn’t been rolled in water & protein to make it swell up).
  3. Combine all the ingredients (except the chicken!) in a bowl.  As long as the butter is soft it should go into a chunky paste.
  4. Put the mixture in the middle of each piece of chicken.
  5. Fold it over and tie it up.
  6. Oven bake at 400C for 20-25 minutes – cut a fat part of the chicken breast to ensure it’s done (no pink).
  7. Let chicken rest for a few minutes before serving.

Acid, Heartburn and Digestion

A few nights after starting the SCD, I woke in the early hours wanting to vomit with acid burning in my chest. It was very painful, and continued into the next day.  I couldn’t figure out what I had done to cause this but I must have done something as these things don’t just happen for no reason.

I decided to do a bit of research to find out what was going on, and hoped to identify a way to solve it.

Food is digested in two ways; in our stomachs and in our intestine. The job of the stomach is to digest proteins (e.g. meat). It does this by producing hydrochloric acid (AKA HCL) and pepsin (an enzyme) that breaks down the protein.

So what causes heartburn or indigestion?  When we eat meat, as an example, it enters our stomach and the acid and enzymes start working on it.  A build up of pressure in the stomach can cause malfunction of the lower oesophageal sphincter (little door at the top of our stomach), which then allows acid from our stomach into our oesophagus (tube from our mouths to our stomach), causing all sorts of pain.  When I woke up that night feeling sick, this is exactly what I felt in my stomach; a great pressure like it was going to burst.

The diagram below is taken from this website and shows all the important parts referenced above.


Acid reflux is not caused by too much acid; on the contrary it’s believed that heartburn and acid reflux is caused by LOW stomach acid, which encourages overgrowth of bacteria and malabsorption of carbohydrates (remember, our old friend SUGAR AKA carbohydrate?).  Therefore, reducing your carbohydrate intake should help resolve the problem over time, however other factors may be affecting the pressure in your stomach, and these issues can be easily and quickly addressed:

  • Don’t lie down after eating: leave at least 4 hours after eating before you go to bed, and lie on your left side when in bed;
  • Don’t consume fatty foods: high fat meals and fried foods tend to delay stomach emptying, building pressure, thereby increasing the risk of reflux;
  • Don’t over-eat: get smaller plates and know your portion sizes – this is a useful visual guide to portion sizes;
  • Don’t bend over or slouch after eating: stay upright for 4 hours after eating.

Obesity is another cause.  The extra weight has the same effect as lying down after eating.

Looking at the above, and being able to discount some of the possible causes, I think my problem was caused by too much fat in my diet during the previous day; having moved to a low-carb diet for health reasons, I was enjoying my fried breakfast and meat feasts a little too much, so I paid for it.

If you don’t think any of the above have caused your issue, then finding the cause may need to involve visits to the doctor.

  • GERD (GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease) is heartburn happening so often there is serious risk of damage to the oesophagus. There are diets out there to help this condition, but being a food nazi I’m avoiding recommending some of them because although they may be low fat, they are still carbohydrate packed and use packet ingredients in some of their recipes.  I do however recommend the SCD – just be conscious of your fat intake.
  • Stomach ulcers can be caused by an overgrowth of a bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori, which can be obliterated with a course of multiple antibiotics; it worked for me back in my 20s. However, it doesn’t work for everyone (like my Dad), and knowing what I do now about bacteria and carbohydrates, I wonder if it was my diet that had caused the issue in the first place.  Had I changed my diet, could I have rid myself of the bacteria and the issue without antibiotics?

As we get older the amount of hydrochloric acid we produce can decrease, meaning these stomach issues will only increase with age unless we start looking after ourselves now and ensure we eat a healthy balanced diet.

The recipe below is easy on the stomach and includes ginger, which is a great digestion aid.  Make this soup and you’ll have a healthy lunch for three or so days.


Ginger & Butternut Squash Soup

  • Half thumb of ginger (about 25g), peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • Half a red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped to thumb sized pieces
  • 500ml of vegetable or chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste (I like LOTS of pepper)


  1. Put everything in a stock pot.
  2. Bring to the boil, then turn to simmer until the butternut squash is soft.
  3. Add seasoning.
  4. Blend with a stick blender or blend in batches in a jug blender.

Budapest: Food Market in a Ruin

Another delayed blog… promise I will catch up.

Today we went walking around Budapest. The first place on our ‘hit list’ was Szimpla Kert (simple garden). It’s a market during the day and a ‘ruin bar’ and cinema/theatre at night.


‘Ruin’ bars are a big thing in Budapest, where old run down houses and factories are turned into public spaces, bars, food places and markets: semi indoor/outdoor.

Cheese, pates, blood sausage, crackling, and something in a pigs stomach by the looks of it!!


There were quite a few stalls full of honey and something I haven’t seen in a market before; pollen. They also made their own peanut butter, of sorts, where ground nuts are mixed with honey, and sometimes honey and cocoa. Something to try making at home as an alternative to peanut butter.  See the recipe further down.

So much cheese! I must admit to being slightly scared to try it… you never know what bacteria is lurking! Unpasturised cheeses have been known to cause ‘issues’! My dad could tell you a good story about his unpasteurised cheese experience.

IMG_3383Paprika is a key ingredient in the amazing sausages produced here.

The next time we visit Budapest we will probably rent an apartment so we can make the most of the local food, but also ensure we eat well. Green vegetables have been minimal for the last few days and I can really feel it.

Later that night, the place looks completely different.





Salt and Honey Almond Butter.

I was going to post a paprika infused Goulash recipe, but you can find recipes all over the internet, and to be honest, the almond butter with honey is more appealing to me.  I am also going to try a chocolate version of this by adding cocoa and vanilla essence.

This recipe is totally lifted from another site, Naturally Ella.  This is snack food heaven!  Have it with crudite (carrots, peppers, celery), or add it to your green smoothie!! 🙂

  • 2 cups roasted almonds*
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt (or more, depending on your taste)
  1. Place almonds in a food processor and turn on. Let your food processor run until the oil has released and almond butter has smoothed out – it will ball up just before this happens. Turn off food processor and transfer to a jar.
  2. Stir in salt and honey. Cover with an air tight lid and keep in the refrigerator. SIMPLES!

*If using non pre-roasted almonds, you can roast them yourself.  Place almonds on a baking tray covered in parchment paper. Roast at 135˚C for 45 minutes.

A Rant: Sugar and Carbs

A delayed blog….

We are on our way to Budapest for the weekend. I love travelling, but what I don’t like is airport food, or more to the point, the lack of healthy options at the airport. I would be happy with some carrot sticks and a pack of cooked meat, but no such luck.

This is the first time since I started on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) that I have eaten out, where my food choice is limited and I’ve had to wrestle between spending a fortune on something healthy or just eating something/anything.

I decided on the cheaper option, and after devouring a cheese sarni I already regret saving the money.

I have two issues:

  1. Bread is carbohydrate, and carbohydrate is sugar. Yes, carbohydrate is sugar. Sugar feeds ‘bad’ bacteria in my gut which causes me all sorts of digestive issues. This is why sugar and specific carbohydrates are not allowed on the SCD.
  2. Eating very little carbohydrate means I am loosing weight (yay!), I have loads more energy (yay!), finding it easier to wake up in the morning (yay!) and finding my skin feels softer and smoother (yahoo!). Eating the crappy bread does not support all this.

People think fat in food makes them fat, and that’s where it all goes wrong. Eating more sugar and carbohydrates than you need for energy makes you fat. We need fat in our diet, of course it matters what type of fat, but it’s not fat that makes you fat.  Just in case you missed it …. EATING EXCESS CARBOHYDRATES (Sugar) MAKES YOU FAT (and sick).

Here’s a rough idea how it works….

All your favourite things (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, pastry, wine, beer, cakes, low fat biscuits, flavoured drinks, most types of flour, the list goes on…) CONTAIN SUGAR.

When we eat sugar, AKA carbohydrates, it is converted to glucose in our intestinal tract. The glucose enters our blood stream and travels to our liver, where the liver either farms it out to organs immediately to be used for energy or stores it as glycogen in our liver and muscles for later use. Any excess glucose is stored as fat. This is why if we eat a lot of carbohydrates and sugar we will just GET FAT. If you are exercising and not loosing weight, check your carb intake!

This isn’t just about weight: if we consume carbohydrate (AKA sugar) at a high level consistently, our body has to keep producing more and more insulin to stay on top of our blood sugar level. Eventually the insulin has little or no effect, and this is when you can develop DIABETES (Type 2).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) draft guidelines states that people should consume no more than 25g of sugar a day. A can of Coke has 35g of sugar!

In the UK we have a traffic light system on packaged food that indicates the level of sugar, salt, and fat content, but the maximum allowance for sugar is higher than WHO recommends, so this traffic light system is not doing what it should be doing. People are still consuming far more sugar than they should be. This high sugar intake is not just creating the obesity epidemic, but it’s contributing to the multitude of diseases and issues, such as diabetes, bowel disease and cancer.

Why is this happening? Well, people don’t really know what is good or bad when it comes to food labels.  Kids are not taught about nutrition facts at school; the food pyramid poster is still stuck on the wall of the food science (that’s a joke) room! People still think food marked as Low Fat or Low Calorie will help them loose weight or keep them healthy: this is a myth brought about by marketing companies, funded by food companies and, even more surprisingly, governments. This so called ‘Low Fat’ food is tasteless in its basic form because the fat has been removed, so it’s laced with sugar and salt to add flavour, and as we now know, EXCESS SUGAR/CARBOHYDRATE CAUSES FAT.

Some of this ‘ignorance’ is just plain old denial: people do not want to stop eating the lovely sweet/savoury crappy processed food or admit that this ‘food’ is shortening their life. Sugar is a drug. They are addicted. They are addicts.

The taste buds and brain of an addict are so dependent on getting a sugar fix, that when he tastes ‘real’ food, like green vegetables for example, he is revolted. To stop eating sugar he has a drug like withdrawal and he can’t deal with it. And actually, he doesn’t care.

Over the last few days I have been reading a blog of a lady who started a ‘diet plan’ where all the food is sent to her house in a box.  It’s all muck; sugar, carbs and sauces. The idea is you add more calories to supplement what they have sent you i.e. vegetables and fruit.  However, her supplementary food is bread and smash.  She admits she doesn’t like veg. She is loosing weight, but as soon as she stops paying for the diet plan, she will be back to square one. The only good thing this diet is doing is teaching her portion control.

Some people might argue that people need to find a diet that works for them – but this isn’t just about weight loss. This is about feeding our minds and bodies the nutrients it needs to run efficiently to prevent us getting sick. It strikes me that some people have been feeling like crap for so long, they think it’s normal.  They can’t even imagine what it’s like to feel light and full of energy. They don’t know that a week or so after they start eating nutritious food (veg, protein & good fats) and cutting down their sugar/carbs intake, it would be easier and they would start feeling so amazing. Why are schools not teaching this from the outset?

In summary

The answer to most of our health needs are through a natural diet, not in a packet of pills or packaged diet food. Whilst I’m not into the paleo diet per se, I do recommend you read this article: Better Health: it’s less complicated than you think!

One other thing… have you noticed how all processed food is the same colour? It has a kind of yellow/beige hue.  Look at your plate, packet, box, or bag.  Is it a rainbow of colours? If not, you need to have a think about what you’re eating.


Green Smoothie

I struggle to keep time in the mornings before work, so my quick and nutritious breakfast is a green smoothie.  For me the key is to have veg, protein and only a small amount of fruit – it’s too easy to overload on the sugar with fruit. You can do what you like with this recipe and you can find loads more online if you search for ‘green smoothie’, but don’t be tempted to just go for fruit smoothies.

  • 2 handfuls of spinach or kale (I keep mine in the freezer)
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • Half an avocado
  • Handful of frozen berries or fruit (blueberries are my go-to as a superfood)
  • Big dollop or two of full fat natural yoghurt (mine is homemade but Total is a good alternative)

Good additions to this one are peanut butter, flaxseed or egg white.

Want something zingy? Look for recipes with lemon, lime or ginger.

For SCDers, be aware the nuts and seeds may irritate your tum when you are starting out.