Fill My Belly: Pancakes Don’t Have to Be Bad

OK, so pancakes are always a little bit bad, no matter what you do with them, but you can make them better for you by adding little extras and changing things up a bit.

Pancake day (Shrove Tuesday) has been and gone for this year, but pancakes are simple, quick and satisfying comfort food at any time of the year, and can be had sweet or savoury.  I tend to choose sweet as I have rather a sweet tooth (my downfall!) but usually that would mean loads of sugar sprinkled over the top with lemon juice, or lashings of chocolate spread, neither of which is very healthy and usually makes me sugar-crash later on.

However, there is another option!  Fruit and spices, especially combined, make a wonderful alternative for adding flavour; adding protein powder makes them more satisfying and keeps your blood sugars even. If you must add sugar, using natural sugars like honey are more beneficial than refined sugars – did you know that honey contains vitamins and minerals in small quantities, has been used for over 5000 years for its healing properties (it contains an antibacterial agent), and also contains fewer calories gram-for-gram than refined sugar?

So, what did I do with my pancakes this year?  I made the mixture with half wholemeal/half white flour, for extra fibre, and added a scoop of whey protein powder, then beat in a large egg and some soy milk (you can use any type of milk but I had soy on hand).  I then wiped a frying pan with oil and pre-heated it, before adding slices of banana to the pan for 30 seconds and sprinkling the pan with ground cinnamon.  I then poured the batter over the sliced bananas and cooked until the top of the pancake was almost solid, and flipped the pancake to cook the other side.  Once brown on both sides I served the pancake with a small drizzle of maple syrup.

Banana Protein Pancakes

This combination worked so well – the banana goes quite caramelised in the pan and cinnamon really enhances the flavour, but you could also mash the banana and add it to the pancake batter itself.  It would be fun to try with other fruits as well, though you would need to use quite firm fruits or they will turn to mush when they cook.

Nutrition Facts
Servings 8.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 149
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 2 g 4 %
Saturated Fat 1 g 4 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 23 mg 8 %
Sodium 30 mg 1 %
Potassium 185 mg 5 %
Total Carbohydrate 18 g 6 %
Dietary Fiber 2 g 7 %
Sugars 4 g
Protein 15 g 30 %
Vitamin A 3 %
Vitamin C 2 %
Calcium 7 %
Iron 6 %

Nutrition details above relate to the following quantities of each ingredient:

1/2 cup each wholemeal and white flour
1 egg
25g protein powder
1 large banana
200ml soy milk
1 tsp cinnamon
Maple syrup not included


Fill My Belly: On The Glow Basic Oatmeal Squares — Oh She Glows

Breakfast. Most important meal of the day. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper, as the saying goes.  Now, typically I’m not a morning person. I need a good couple of hours and a large coffee before I’m at my best (unless you let me sleep until 10am), so cooking or lots of preparation for breakfast is not an option for me. However, as I cycle commute I do need to have a balanced breakfast to provide both instant and slow-release energy for my ride. I’ve experimented with lots of different things over the years, from cereal to smoothies, and everything in between, but usually either the preparation is too involved or the dish doesn’t provide enough energy at the right time.

Until I discovered these baked oatmeal squares from Oh She Glows. Now, being new to this blogging malarkey I am sure there is a better way to share/present this but here is the link to the recipe and blog:

On The Glow Basic Oatmeal Squares — Oh She Glows.

These are so tasty, versatile and filling, I’ve had them almost every day for breakfast for the last month, and my latest batch has just come out of the oven now, ready for the coming week. The great thing is, you can do the preparation and cooking in the evening/weekend, and then they are ready when you need them in the morning. They last for 4/5 days in an air-tight container, although using fresh fruit will reduce their longevity, but I’ve found that you can also freeze them and just get them out the freezer the night before you want to eat them.

Fresh from the oven. It doesn't look like much here, if only you had smell-a-vision!
Fresh from the oven. It doesn’t look like much here; if only you had smell-a-vision!

I’ve been enjoying playing with the flavours – the recipe on the blog is for a basic recipe, but as Angela says in her post you can put anything you like in it. My flavour combinations so far are:

fresh blueberries and peanuts
vanilla, chopped hazelnuts and chocolate chunks
sultana, cherry and dried coconut
ground almond and cherry
lime (zest, and lime juice infused raisins) and dried coconut

I’ve also been adding 50g whey powder to the recipe (I make a shake with the whey powder and the almond or soya milk, and blend it into the liquid ingredients) for added protein, which of course does make the recipe no longer vegan-friendly, but you could use hemp or pea protein instead.

Obviously the nutritional value of these will depend on what you add to the recipe, but for the basic recipe alone there is instant energy from the maple syrup, and slow release energy from the oats.  There is omega-3 from the seeds (flaxseed is an excellent plant source of omega-3 (1)), and a whopping 7 grams of fibre per square from the seeds, banana and oats.  There is also protein and healthy fats from the nut butter and seeds, and vitamin E from the almond milk, which helps protect against oxidative stress (2), which has been implicated in conditions such as cancer (3), heart disease (2) and Alzheimers. The banana, and any other fruit or nuts you choose to use will add further vitamins and minerals to this as well, though sadly chocolate has little to offer here; vitamin C from berries and citrus, copper and manganese from coconut, and so on.

I really recommend giving these little nutritional powerhouses a go for breakfast, or they would make a great pre/post-workout snack.  I like mine with fruit on the side, and a hot coffee!

Cherry and Almond Oatmeal Squares
Cherry and Almond Oatmeal Squares

1. Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food

2. Vitamin E, Oxidative stress and inflammation

3. Oxidative stress and cancer: have we moved forward?

Fill My Belly: Squash, Leek and Mushroom Cannelloni

Cycling is hungry work, and as both myself and my husband cycle commute, a hearty meal is always appreciated when we get home. We take it in turns to cook depending on what time we finish work, and today it was my turn.

I decided on a recipe from the Healthy Food Guide magazine, February 2015 issue.  Unfortunately the recipe isn’t on-line yet so you’ll have to make do with my own pictures etc. and modifications.

Whether you’re active like me, or just want to eat healthily, it is important to eat a balanced diet (sorry, a cake in each hand doesn’t count!) with a good mixture of macro-nutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein) and micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals). This meal is low in saturated fat and low in sugar, whilst being high in protein, fibre, iron and calcium.  It also has beta-carotene in the squash for healthy eyes and lungs (both essential for cycling), vitamin C (for a healthy immune system) in the squash, spinach, tomatoes and peppers, and iron and vitamin K (for healthy blood) from the spinach. When you break it down it’s easy to see why meals like this are great for supporting an active lifestyle.

Roasted Squash, Leek and Mushroom Cannelloni

Squash and mushroom cannelloniThe ingredients are as follows (note there are slight differences to the original):
Cooking oil spray 
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
200g button mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
150g baby spinach
500g butternut squash, roasted
125g ricotta cheese
4 fresh lasagne sheets
2 tbsp grated parmesan
Home made tomato sauce – I made mine using 1 400g can chopped tomatoes, chopped onion, mixed herbs, 1 clove garlic and chopped jarred peppers. 

1) Heat the oven to 190/170 fan/gas 5. Spray a non-stick frying pan with oil and fry the leek for 3-4 minutes on a high heat until soft. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until soft.  Add the garlic and spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Leave to cool.

Step 1 - Cannelloni2) Spoon half of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 2 litre baking dish. Combine the mushroom mixture with the ricotta and roasted squash.  Cut the lasagne sheets in half widthways. Spoon an eighth of the filling along the edge of each pasta sheet and roll to enclose the filling. Place the cannelloni seam-side down into the baking dish.

Step 2 - Cannelloni Step 2 - Cannelloni

3) Cover with the remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle with the parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes.  Serve two cannelloni per person, with extra spinach or salad on the side.

Step 3 - Cannelloni The finished dish - cannelloni

When I first read this recipe I thought that two cannelloni would not be enough, but they were very satisfying and filling, and I didn’t go back for more.  My husband thoroughly enjoyed these too, despite the lack of meat, and helped himself to my second portion too!  I will certainly make this dish again, and the only thing I would change is to add more tomato sauce.

Like Chocolate, with Negative Calories

Mmm....chocolately goodness

Everyone loves chocolate, right?  The delicious creamy taste, melting texture and feel-good factor…..

Yes, I totally tipped out my chocolate stash to take a picture, then ate some!
Mmm….chocolately goodness

Science tells us that eating chocolate triggers the release of neurotransmitters known as endorphins, such as serotonin. These are the body’s natural pain moderators, and act on the same receptors as opiates like morphine – no wonder we feel good after a bar of chocolate, eh!

Such a shame that aside from making you feel good chocolate has no nutritional benefit and is a short-cut to weight gain if not consumed in moderation…

The thing is that for me cycling has the same effect; it’s like eating chocolate, but with negative calories! I used to cycle daily as a teenager for college and work, and I started cycling daily again two years ago for my commute to my current job, and I don’t think it’s coincidence that those two periods correspond with me being happiest overall in life.

Consider it a natural high – a pain-fighting, mood-boosting, concentration-enhancing wake up call every morning, and a stress-busting, motivating pick-me-up after work, plus a work out and an uncomplicated way to get to work each day.

I’m not just making it up though, and I refer to science again (you’ll find I do that a fair bit) but studies have proven that exercise releases endorphins too (more so than chocolate even!) and it is becoming more common now for doctors to prescribe exercise to treat a range of conditions, including depression, because of the measurable effects of exercise on mood, among other things.

So, when people ask me now why I choose to cycle instead of drive, one of the reasons I should give is that it is like chocolate, with negative calories – what’s not to like!

If you’re interested you can find out more about exercise and depression from The Harvard Medical School.

My First Bike

It seems right to start at the beginning – where it all started, with my first bike. I remember my first bike well: it was white with silver and red accents, and a dropped bar, and stabilisers and a chain guard, and it looked like freedom.

I remember my dad helping me learn to ride it; teaching me the things it is impossible to teach and you really have to learn by making mistakes – how to balance, how to lean into the direction you want to travel, how to coordinate pedalling and steering and balance and looking behind you for traffic and waving your arm when you want to turn or stop…

I kept the stabilisers on for quite a while, I seem to remember. I wasn’t ready to balance by myself just yet.  And it felt like when we took them off, I had to learn how to ride all over again. Nowadays it’s all the rage to give children balance bikes (without stabilisers or pedals) so they learn to balance first and add the pedalling later, which seems to make sense to me as balancing is the harder skill.

Apollo wooden balance bike from Halfords
Apollo wooden balance bike from Halfords

We started in the garden and then when there wasn’t enough space in the garden we would go out into the garage road behind the house and I would whiz up and down – it felt like I was going really fast! – and dad would be there running along beside me reminding me to pedal or sometimes to stop before I hit something.

But once I could ride I could explore!  My friends all had bikes too, and although I wasn’t allowed far from the house as I was only little, there was plenty to discover around our own quiet road, and we would cycle around feeling fast and free and powerful, and race our bikes down the hill slight incline of the road – especially fun after they resurfaced it and it was all smooth.

I didn’t realise it then, but those early days of riding my little white bike with stabilisers would start a long love of cycling, and a sense of freedom whenever I get on a bike.