Healthy cake to feed the masses. Yes it’s true, it can be done. Nat and her mum give you all the tips on creating healthy variants to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Following a recent trend in health food, my family (parents and lil bro) opened a healthy food kitchen up north. Nosh Healthy Kitchen was born with a mission to create healthy food that’s not only good for you but tastes delicious. It’s been highly successful, with one of the big hits being my mum’s healthy cakes.
“Healthy cake?!” I hear you cry. Yes… Believe it or not it is possible. In fact I challenge you to eat a piece of her blueberry cheesecake and tell me it doesn’t taste like a full fat, creamy treat. Not only will that cheesecake be healthy, low in calories and fat free, but it will also contain no gluten and be vegan friendly. Did I hear you mutter the word “miraculous”?
My mum and dad have worked together for months to take recipes apart and to then rebuild the dish, substituting ingredients with healthier alternatives whilst sticking to the concept of the dish and retaining flavour. Not only this, they have been looking into food science, delving deeper into a wider range of substitutes allowing for dairy free, gluten free, wheat free and vegan options. Sounds impressive right?
Now instead of trying to tell you what it entails to create such delights, this is where I will hand over to to my mum…
I have always tried to follow a healthy eating plan, especially with the children, and I do believe that having a Middle Eastern influence (with hubby Shari being Iranian and a chef) has allowed me to substitute western foods with delicious and sometimes natural alternatives without even realising it.
When we opened the shop we were all so excited, not just because it was a family affair, but because we could now share with others a concept we have followed for years. We really enjoyed playing with alternative ways to add protein, reduce fats, remove added sugars etc and also learn about the healthy benefits of so many natural ingredients. Wrong food types can leave you lethargic, fatigued, irritable, depressed… the list goes on. I met a wonderful young mum whose son was autistic, who was getting nowhere with conventional therapies or medicine and decided to dig deeper into alternative remedies. Now, by cutting gluten from his diet, he has not only impressed medics, but has a much better quality of life, so much so that she is now writing a book about it! It’s mind blowing to think she is actually changing his life by changing his diet.
Shari has always said to me we need to respect food, but it’s not until recently that I really understood what that middle eastern expression means. Food can be really powerful. Why take so many tablets and rush to the doctors if there are natural remedies and alternatives. So now with my ‘cake lady’ title I feel a great sense of duty to our customers to experiment and try new ingredients. Although I can’t give you our secret cake recipes (you will have to come and buy some cake from us) here are some of the things I have learnt about healthier ingredients and substitutions.
Let’s start with Milk. Don’t use normal milk, try Soy/Soya milk. It’s packed full of protein, is vegan, lactose free and has 0% cholesterol. It is rich in Omega 3 and 6 and has powerful phyto-antioxidants which protect your blood vessels from haemorrhage and lesions. It also promotes weight loss (always a bonus!) and has fewer grams of sugar than cow’s milk. It helps prevent prostate cancer and acts as a hormone replacement for women with menopause. It’s an all round winner.
Another ingredient I love is beetroot and I hide it in anything I can get away with! I always have some blitzed up in the fridge, sometimes mixed with apple, but most of the time on its own. You can now buy it vacuum packed and ready to use which is really handy and painless. It’s rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A, B6, and C, folic acid, carbs, protein, antioxidants, soluble fibre- need I say more. Studies have shown that blood pressure can lower within 24 hours of drinking a glass of beetroot juice, which is pretty incredible.
Here’s a smoothie recipe I normally make for breakfast before I go rowing which contains both ingredients:
1 x glass unsweetened soy/soya Milk
1 x handful of frozen berries
1 x tablespoon of honey or maple syrup if you’re vegan
2 x tablespoons pureed beetroot
Whiz, whiz whiz and you’re done. Alter the quantities according to your own taste and you have a morning pick me up.
Beetroot also increases blood flow to the brain, which in turn may help fight the progression of dementia. It contains high concentration of nitrates, which help open blood vessels and increase blood flow and oxygen. It can help treat wounds and skin problems, boost stamina and makes muscles work harder while reducing blood pressure. Love it, hate it, but if you’re me also hide it in cakes. How? Well hide it with chocolate in cake or brownies. It also goes very well with cream cheese or when using in cookie recipes. I found some great baking recipes using beetroot here.
Avocado is Nat’s favourite (she even wrote about it here) and can be used as a butter substitute. It’s unsalted and contains water therefore giving a mixture a creamy texture, smooth consistency and makes it moist. Another great super food that can be hidden in cake recipes with multiple health benefits. Avocados can be used as a substitute for butter or oil in your favourite baked treats like cookies, cakes or muffin and can work for a vegetarian or vegan diet.
When using oil try swapping out cooking oil for coconut oil. The superfood ingredient is one of the richest sources of saturated fat known to man, with almost 90% of the fatty acids in it being saturated. It’s unique combination of fatty acids can have profound positive effects on health. It improves skin, prevents heart disease, promotes weight loss and is great for the immune system.
The menu we have in store may be quite complex, which some people may not understand, but we use different methods and ingredients to try make fast food and cakes healthy while also maintaining flavour. We pack vitamins, proteins, iron and fibre into our food without our customers even knowing. Some people just eat with us as they love the food, others have intolerances and others love the macros we provide as they can mix and match sides to mains for their own specific daily needs.
Our Nosh recipes to me are like a man’s suit – We rip it apart then piece by piece put it back together again, tailoring it to the needs of our customers, creating bespoke and much more desirable end products. Some of our experiments may work and some might not, but even if there’s a small chance we are helping someone then that’s a job well done for me.
Guest collaboration with Debbie Jahangiry.
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Images © To Work or Play 2015 & Nosh Healthy Kitchen