“No sugar” breakfast muffins, and the myth of no sugar

As the world has gradully woken up to the fact that sugar is one of the worst substances on the face of the earth for your health there has been a prolifiration of no sugar baking books.  As someone who is trying to reduce her sugar intake but still have the odd sweet treat the no sugar claims have become increasingly frustraiting.

Many people will gush about how wonderful the latest no sugar baking book is, only when I open it to find that all the recipies are made with maple syrup or honey.  Let’s be clear, maple syrup and honey are sugar.  They are a less refined form of sugar.  They probably have a few trace minirals which makes it ever so slightly more nutrionally dense than refined sugars.  They are slightly sweeter so you can use less than refined sugars.  But they are sugar.  Just packaged in a different way.  Therefore if there is maple syrup or honey in your recipie, it is full of sugar.

One other, and my prefered”no sugar” alternatative is to use a home made date paste, prunes or apple puree – using the sweetness of the fruit.  However this still uses sugar.  Fruit is full of fructose, and anything ending with “ose” is sugar.  Because this sugar is wrapped in the form of fruit it also has vitimans and minerals and most importantly fiber.  Fiber will help slow down the absorbtion of the “ose” into your body, and means you are much less likely to hit a sugar high then dip.

It’s really important to be careful with what we label sugar free as it’s not just the worried well who are persuing no sugar diets, but people with medical conditions such as diabetes.  For diabetics this mislabelling could have sever consequences – so it’s important to know what really is and is not sugar.

It’s also important to recognise that if you eat plently of fruit and veg you will also be eating sugar – it’s practically impossible to be totally sugar free in your diet.  The real key is to be aware of what you are eating and do your resarech, then adjust as you see necessary.

The best “no sugar” baking book I have found is Sensationally Sugar free by Susanna Both.  Only one recipie uses honey, all the rest either stevia (a no calorie sweet alternative) or combinations of date pastes and fruit.

The only gripe I have with Booth’s otherwise excellent collection of recipies is that the technique often creates an inferior product.  The Seeded Breakfast Muffins, are made by putting all the incredients into a blender.  While this is certainly baking that works for the busy person, it’s not baking for those who enjoy the texture of cake as much as the flavour.  However it’s easy to adapt and I’ve included my adaptions for the muffins below which turns them from a breakfast muffin into more of a carrot cake muffin.

Seeded Breakfast Muffins

7.5 oz plain flour

5oz sweetcorn (frozen or canned)

5oz soft pitted prunes

20oz sunflower seeds

20oz carrots peeled and grated

8oz sultanas

8fldoz almond milk

4fld oz sunflower oil

3 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 teaspoons baking poweder

1 teaspoon cinnimon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

1. Sive the flour spices and baking powder together in a bowl

2.  In your blender add the oil, vanilla extract, almond milk, prunes and sweetcorn.  Blend until smooth and combined.

3.  Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir until intigrated.  

4.  Beat the eggs lightly and add to the mix.

5. Add the grated carrot, sultanas, sunflower seed and half the pumpkin seeds, and stir until combined.

6.  In a muffin tin, place muffin cases and spoon the mixtuer evently between all of them.

7.  Finally top with the remaining pumpkin seeds, pressing them into the mix slightly to make sure they adhear.

8.  Cook in an over at 180c/350f/Gas mark 4 for about 25mins or unti lrisen and golden brown.


5 best Edinburgh blogs

I fell in love with Edinburgh when I was five.  I was in the boot of the family hatchback crossing over the Dean Bridge into the city.  (We had a big family.)  The sky was a mix of peaches and reds, and the backs of the New Town houses appeared as if they were growing organically right out of the rock.  For a wee girl from the Black Isle it was entrancing and I wanted to live in the city ever since.

There is no point living somewhere you like if you don’t get out and sample it’s delights, try what it has to offer, suck it dry and spend the rest of the next day recovering.

Here are my five top blogs for enjoying the city.

Crumbs and Petals:  Husband and wife team (and also my friends for transparency) Crumbs and Petals explore all that there is to offer in Edinburgh’s food and cultural scene. They’re on a pause just now, but the archive is worth looking through.  If you want a festival beer, find out about gin or how to make a giant after eight – these are your people! Who doesn’t want to make a giant after-eight?

Lost in Edinburgh:  Ok not strictly a blog, more a FaceBook community.  Edinburgh is a city that is not only teaming with life, events, art and culture but also history.  Much of it turbulent and bloody.  The kind of history I like.  Lost In Edinburgh will help you discover some of the hidden gems, little known facts and nooks and crannies that all too often get forgotten about in the madness of pulling in the tourist pounds.

Edinburgh Coffee Lovers:  If wild beer soaked nights of spoken word, street performance and sticky floors are becoming a little bit boring then kick back with the slower paced Edinburgh Coffee Lovers.  It will specifically plug you in to the independent coffee scene in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.  These people know what they’re talking about.

Edinblogger:  They got there first with the name!  This blog has been going for a while, and I really appreciate getting truly honest reviews.  Sometimes it’s ok to say “The experience was meh…just alright…nothing special.”  It doesn’t all have to be whizzes and bangs.  If I’ve thought about reviewing a place, they’ve generally got there first.  *shakes fist*

Edinburgh foody:  despite the title this isn’t a blog about people who are richer than you eating in places you’ll never afford.  It’s about real live actual people, who aren’t cut outs from the Observer Magazine, eating, drinking, reviewing gadgets, trying new recipe books. Go eating!


Chocolate lime non-dairy ice cream

img_20160429_164655714.jpgBeing an indoors kind of day I felt like spending time making food.  I decided to dust of my ice-cream maker and start making ice-cream again.  Knowing several people who are either vegan, or lactose intolerant, I was keen to try  my first non-dairy version an opted for a coconut milk base.  Coconut milk is full of fibre and vitamin’s, so that totally cancels out all the sugar, right?

I’ve tried experimenting with no-sugar ice cream and it just doesn’t work.  Not because of flavour, but because the sugar is needed to make sure it does not freeze solid and remains scoop-able.  I ended up with a blueberry cinnamon milk stone.  The other ingredient that can keep the ice cream at the right texture while freezing is alcohol, but that wouldn’t really work for my eight year-old.

We’re just going have to accept that ice-cream is going to have a lot of sugar and calories in it. Everyone needs a treat now and again.  This is my favourite flavour combination I’ve made so far.  The lime and chocolate compete against each other in a dance off on your tongue.


400ml can of coconut milk

150g dark chocolate (I used 60% coco in this one)

86g golden syrup

zest and juice of one lime

pinch of salt

Step 1

Melt the chocolate by placing it in a glass bowl set above a sauce pan of boiling water.

Step 2

Add the chocolate and all the other ingredients to your blender and blend.

Step 3

Put mixture in ice cream maker and follow instructions.

Step 4


Step 5


Rich Chocolate Mousse: No flour, no dairy, no added sugar.

My attempts over the years at making healthy sweet treats have been rather hit and miss, but always a fun experiment.  This rich chocolate mouse however is all hit.  I’d defy anyone to find a chocolate mouse recipe which is more healthful while still giving you the satisfying taste and texture of the more traditional desert.  Of course the flavouring with orange is optional and you can add whatever additions you wish to try.  This recipe serves two very generous portions, or four, if you like the people your eating with enough to have less yourself.


2 ripe avocados

100g dark chocolate (I like about 75% coco)

1 tablespoon coco or cacao

Zest of one orange

A squeeze of orange juice

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Step one

Break up the chocolate into pieces and place in a glass bowl.  Rest the bowl above a pan of boiling water, without it’s bottom touching that water (I have no idea what happens if they touch, but everyone appears to think this is really important so I’m not going to try).  Once it has all melted move to Step 2.

Step 2

Scoop the avocado flesh out of the skin and put in a blender.  Add all the other ingredients including the melted chocolate and blend until it is all combines.

Step 3


Step 4



No Meat March. The verdict

I have now completely finished with No Meat March, so I’ve listed below some of my thoughts, and reactions.

I didn’t feel the desire to gorge on meat at the end…

I grew up in a family that was pretty meant heavy, and especially red meat heavy in it’s diet.  Meat was almost seen as a virtue by some of its members, and there was a time when I saw things that way too.  However when I was coming up to the end of No Meat March there wasn’t any part of me that felt I needed to go out and gorge on meat because of the enforced abstinence.  This however could be down to the fact that I am specifically trying to outgrow having an all or nothing mind set.

I missed fish most of all…

I had expected to miss traditional meat dishes, and especially the comfort foods, such as lasagne, bolognaise.  However I didn’t.  Probably because there are plenty of veggie comfort food options.  I found I did keep on thinking “I’d like some salmon,” or “I fancy a tuna salad,”.  I could definitely be pescitarian.

Worst of all was the running…

Having not balanced out my diet to include the needs of running was probably the lowest point of the month.  However, this problem can happen for both meat eaters and vegetarians, its just slightly more likely to happen for vegetarians.  A poorly balanced meat diet can result in the same.  There are plenty of vegetarian protein alternatives, and once I’d done a little research and adjusted it was fine.  The need to adjust diet is something that will hit everyone at some point, given all the changes our bodies go through in a life time.  Which brings me onto the next point…

I’ll definitely continue to include soy mince in my diet…

Cheaper than beef mince, able to store it for longer, less fat, and lighter, this feels to me to be a fantastic alternative.  It will definitely be part of my store cupboard from now on.

When eating out, you need to explore other cultures…

European cultures are often quite meat heavy, and if you want more than one option you need to explore other cultures food.  Which is great fun.  Turkish is particularly recommended, but I can’t praise Yo Sushi enough for it’s amazing Tofu Katsu Curry and fried aubergines.

Lunch is the saddest time…

If you haven’t got your act together to bring you own lunch into work and end up having to pop out for a sandwich you have two options, egg and cress and cheese and pickle.  Which leads me on to…

It’s healthier because…

Often you have to do things like prepare you own lunches and cook from scratch, which are essentially healthier ways of eating because you can avoid over processed foods.  I’ve always eaten vegetables and fruit, but because I was eating so much more, I felt really good about what I was putting in my body.  Yes, it is possible to be an overweight or unhealthy vegetarian, but as a diet it does draw you more towards increasing health (if you’re doing it right).




It was a mainly positive experience, and one I would recommend people try.  I always knew from the beginning that it would not turn me into a vegetarian.  It’s expanded my horizons and helped me come to know myself, and my own food preferences better.


Munch Together: Eating out, while eating in.

Munch Together is a totally new concept in dining, eating out while also eating in.  Munch works much in the same way as Air BnB, you’ll be eating in a strangers home, but a stranger who has actively wanted to invite you and cook for you.  To start set up a profile on the Munch Together site, and tell people a little about yourself.  You then search through Munch’s in your area, all of which have menu’s, and chose whatever one fits you and your culinary preferences best.

Munch Together fonder Mo Abushaaban set up Munch with the aim of ending the Palestinian Israeli conflict – I enjoy it when people are highly ambitious for good!  Originally from Gaza, Mo see’s sharing food together as a way of breaking down boundaries, of building up understanding and relationships and resolving conflict.  Food is a universal, and the simple act of sharing it is also a way of sharing ourselves, our lives, of caring for others whether stranger of friend.

I chose to go the the inaugural Munch which was a Mexican feast for 12.  I paid £11 and was sent a guide for guests and the details of your host.  The guide answers questions about cancellations and refunds but also sets out some ground rules and boundaries for etiquette.  The day before I also got a reminder email – and the Munch emails are nice, they can’t stop telling you how great you are!

The inaugural event was success, with a brilliant atmosphere, and delicious food – catering for both vegetarians and gluten intolerance.  The first ten or so minutes felt a little awkward, however everyone knew that they were going to meet a bunch of strangers and very quickly the atmosphere warmed up.  I didn’t talk to every guest, but I met a fair few new people, and found out about interesting Phds, swapped falafel and bath bomb recipes, talked about my work,  dinner party disasters, discussed how annoying overly positive people are and everyone’s experience of the Aurora Borealis.  It was delicious, friendly, informal and fun.    Much thanks goes to Ilana for opening up her home to us and being such a warm host.

Munch is an especially good idea for those who may be travelling and would like a real taste of the local area, those who are new to an area and looking to meet people, anyone who just wants someone else to cook but not pay restaurant charges.  Or you could be like me, a extrovert who enjoys meeting new people but is bizarrely surrounded by introvert friends who don’t.

I’m definitely planning to go to another Munch, and a little further down the line I might host one myself.  Talking to Mo about his future plans, he doesn’t just want to solve international conflicts, he’s also said that if in five years there hasn’t been a wedding of two people who’ve meet at Munch he’ll be very disappointed.  That kind of encapsulates what Munch and Mo are all about.  It’s about love.

My weekend in baking

It’s been a doing things inside kind of weekend.  Which in our house translates into a lot of baking.  Here’s a run down of all the recipes and non-recipes I tried this weekend, with additional commentary from my eight year-old daughter, Milla.

Jack Munroe’s Peanut Butter Bread


I have a great fondness for a lot of Jack’s recipes as she’s all about what I call low anxiety cooking.  Don’t have all the ingredients, use a substitute, not quite perfect, never mind, adjust it next time.  While I love food made for pure indulgence of the senses, I also have to live in the real world, and Jack lives and writes there too.

I took the original recipe from her new book, A Year in 120 Recipes but substituted 50g of the 300g of flour with rye that is sitting unused in the cupboard, the rest as plain white, and also added some cranberries that were left over from Christmas.  The addition of the fruit moistens the mix, and a further 15mins needed to be added to the overall baking time.  As Jack uses a liberal tablespoon of baking powder rather than yeast, the bread has a slightly more scone-like texture than breadish.  The result is a batter rather than a dough, and therefore is resistant to being rolled and cut into shapes.

The scone like crunch of the crust goes brilliantly well with the softness of the inside, and the tart taste of cranberries is contrasted by the sweetness of the peanut butter, with none of the claggieness of the original spread.

Milla’s opinion:  “Disgusting”.

Polenta chips (with Jack Munros’ Butch Romesco Sauce)


I tried making polenta many years ago, and while the top of my polenta looked great, it always had a soggy bottom – so I gave up.  A couple of times in 2015 I tried polenta chips when eating out, and I enjoyed them enough to feel I could give it another shot.  I’ve also been keeping in mind that I’m going vegetarian for a month this year.  I’m on the look out for more fun, vegetarian (or adaptable) recipes that I can get Milla into, so I was hoping Milla might enjoy this.

I made the polenta with 800mls water to 250g polenta.  Simmered it in a pan until it started coming away from the sides.  Took it off the heat and chucked in a couple of handfuls of grated cheese.  I then poured the mixture into a shallow tin that was lined with cling-film and went to mend the washing machine.

Washing machine mended the polenta had set in a rubbery consistency that in no way looked appetising.  Once turned out the tin could be cut into thin strips.  Rather than frying, and in a rather un-vegetarian move, I coated them in left over goose fat from Christmas and baked them in the oven until crisp.

I loved the romesco sauce, which can also be found in Jack’s new book.  It is full bodied, rich, sweet, sticky and sour.  Paring both together makes for a highly indulgent, but healthy, alternative to chips and ketchup.

Milla’s opinion:  “Ok-ish.  But I’m not even going to touch that sauce!”

Savoury swirls


I made a chicken and tarragon pie for Sunday lunch, and after rolling out the shop bought puff pastry and putting it on the pie I had two large pieces of puff which had been trimmed off.

I rolled the puff again, spread it with left over romesco sauce and scattered some grated cheese over them.  Then rolled up the pastry swiss-roll style, cut it into slices and baked in the oven at 200c for 20mins.

Milla’s opinion:  “No.”

Amber Roses’ Cinnamon and Banana Cake


I went through a massive Amber Rose phase a few years back. I’ve rather fallen out of love with alternative flours and sugars now, for various coming to my senses reasons, but this cake and her polenta cake have remained staples of my baking.

When following this recipe I soak my sultana’s in rooibos rather than earl grey.  I had run out of maple syrup so used honey instead, and rather than using wholemeal spelt had a half plain white and half rye mix.  It still tasted great.  The smell of vanilla and cinnamon mingling and wafting through your house is worth the wait alone.

Milla’s opinion:  “It tastes different somehow.  But I suppose it’s still good.”