Healthy Carrot Cake

I discovered this Gillian McKeith recipe over Christmas, and plan to make it this week. I called a truce on healthy eating over the festive season, but time to get back into those good habits again. I have switched to agave syrup as a sweetener as much as possible in my baking, and this recipe calls for the syrup, alongside some silken tofu to substitute for the usual buttercream icing.


  • 100g grated carrot
  • 2 oranges
  • 4 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 free range egg
  • 150g gram or chickpea flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g soft silken tofu


Preheat oven to 170C/Gas 3. Line a 500g loaf tin with baking parchment.

Grate the orange zest. Place it with carrot, (reserve a little for topping) and half the syrup in mixing bowl. Stir with a fork and make a well in the centre.

Break the egg into the well and whisk until light and frothy.

Mix the flour with the baking powder and then beat into the carrot mixture 2 tablespoons at a time.

Add the juice of 1 orange and mix well. Place half the juice of the second orange in the base of the loaf tin.

Transfer the carrot mixture to the preapred tin and smooth the surface with a pallet knife. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 25-30 mins or until well risen, golden and firm to the touch.

Remove from the oven and remove from tin. Allow to cool.


Beat the tofu with the reamining syrup until light smooth, then add the juice of 1/2 an orange. Stir well to mix and leave to stand for a few mins.

When the cake is cold, top with the frosting and sprinkle over any remaining zest.


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Bananas in an orange and coconut syrup

Ok, so the first thing about this delicious recipe is that the bananas are fried on a pan, but sometimes you just need to be a little naughty and it is only a little butter ūüôā


55g/2oz creamed coconut (sold in blocks in supermarkets & health stores)

  • 125 ml/4oz fresh orange juice
  • 1 level tsp grated orange rind
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 large bananas
  • 1 tsp butter
  • tsp cinnamon


  • Cut the creamed coconut into rough chunks and put in a pa with the orange juice, rind and lemon juice. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the coconut has melted to give a smooth creamy sauce.
  • Cut the bananas in half and then in half again lengthwise and fry them in the butter until they begin to soften and brown.
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve immediately with the orange and coconut sauce.

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Apple Cake

I serve this as a pudding with some custard in the autumn when apples are plentiful.¬† It doesn’t rise like a traditional cake so perhaps a pudding is a better way to think of it.


  • 115 g/4oz chopped dried dates
  • 90 ml/3 fl oz water
  • 115g/4 oz butter or marg
  • 170g/6 oz gluten free/rice/regular flour
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 170g/6oz sharp eating apples (weigh after peeling & coring)
  • 2¬†rounded tsp mixed spice/cinnamon
  • 2¬†rounded tsp baking powder
  • 115g/40z sultanas
  • Method

    • Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin or a 15cm/6 in¬†deep sided cake¬†tin and set the oven temp¬† to 170 centigrade or equivalent.
    • In a pan¬†simmer the¬†chopped dates and water on low heat until the mixture is soft and mushy and most of the water has been absorbed. Allow to cool.
    • Process the mixture with the butter or marg until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, baking powder, flour and spice¬†and process again.
    • Add the apples and sultanas and process for a few seconds to combine. Don’t over-process. The mixture should have¬†a soft dropping consistency, so add a little extra water or milk¬†if needed.
    • Place the mixture in the baking tin and bake for aprox¬†50-60 mins or until golden brown and¬†firm to touch.
    • Allow the cake to cool¬† for 5 mins and then turn onto a wire rack and remove the lining paper.
    • Serve and enjoy!
  • Source: Cooking without made easy

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    Quinoa Tabbouleh

    Quinoa is an ancient grain and was once considered ‘the gold of the Incas’ in South America. All but forgotten, it is coming back into vogue on a global scale. Like most whole grains, it is a great source of fibre, but what makes it really special, in my book, is that it is a complete protein, providing all essential amino acids (important for tissue building).

    Specifically, it is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc and iron. While most of us look to animal based protein sources such as meat and cheese for our daily intake of protein, quinoa provides a good option for people following a vegan diet who might feel slightly limited with beans, nuts and tofu.

    An obvious substitute for pasta, rice or couscous, you can buy quinoa in all health food shops (and thankfully, it’s gaining shelf space in many supermarkets). Rinse it before cooking to get rid of its bitter outer layer, then simply cook it like rice until it is light and fluffy. For added flavour cook it in fish, chicken or vegetable stock instead of water.

    In salads, it is terrific served with grated raw vegetables (beetroot and carrots being my favourites) with sautéed sliced red onions and a balsamic vinaigrette.

    Tabbouleh is a great crowd-pleaser of a salad, full of freshly chopped herbs. Though traditionally made with bulghur in the middle east, I made this quinoa tabbouleh for a family buffet and was reassured when my 80- year-old aunt returned to the table for second helpings.


    Serves four

    • 150g quinoa
    • 400mls water
    • Pinch salt
    • Half cucumber, skin on, diced small
    • Half courgette, coarsely grated
    • 2 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
    • 1 red onion, finely diced
    • 25g fresh mint, leaves chopped
    • 25g flat leaf parsley, leaves chopped


    • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce (or tamari)
    • Pinch paprika
    • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste


    Rinse the quinoa in a sieve, rubbing your fingers through the grain until the water runs clear.

    Place the quinoa and water in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until all the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool.

    Once cool, transfer the quinoa to a wide bowl. Stir in the cucumber, courgette, tomatoes, red onion, mint and parsley until fully combined.

    Next stir through the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce and paprika. Season to taste.

    Recipe Source: Vanessa Greenwood in the Irish Independent

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    Fennel and orange salad


    • 2 oranges, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 2 fennel bulbs, stalks removed and thinly sliced (reserve the leaves)
    • 1 red onion, very thinly sliced
    • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tbsp finely chopped mint
    • salt and pepper


    • When chopping the orange, reserve the orange juice to mix with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
    • Arrange layers of orange, onion and fennel. Drizzle over the dressing and garnish with plenty of fresh mint.

    Source: Irish Independent

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    Make friends with fennel

    Fennel has a delicate, fresh aniseed flavour. It marries so well with so many dishes that you’ll wonder how you lived without it. There are three parts of the fennel plant we can use: the bulb, seeds and fine leaves. The only inedible parts really are the hard stalks, but these are still excellent in stocks.

    Fennel is the perfect partner for any seafood dish, so serve it on the side as a salad or a roast vegetable. You can also stuff a whole fish with fennel and lemon slices or bake fish in foil parcels with fennel and lemon.

    It’s the fennel seeds in tea that are well known as a digestive aid. Fennel is soothing on the digestive tract and nursing mothers can calm colicky babies by eating fennel.

    Fennel is very good at stabilising blood-sugar levels and food cravings, so has been used for many years as a useful tool in weight loss and managing cravings, especially sugar cravings. Fennel seeds are also mildly diuretic and cleansing to congested lymphatic systems. In plain English, fennel is great for fluid retention and cellulite.

    Rich in phytoestrogens, fennel helps relieve hormonal problems such as PMS and menopausal symptoms. And as it is soothing on the whole abdominal region it can only bring relief. It might also relieve the uncontrollable urge to scoff mountains of chocolate at that time of the month.

    Fennel is in season at the moment so make the most of this wonderful vegetable. Finely slice it into salads or wrap the bulbs in foil and roast on the BBQ.

    Baked Fennel with a Crispy Topping

    • 3 fennel bulbs, stalks removed, cut into quarters (reserve the delicate leaves)
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 clove garlic, crushed
    • Zest of 1 lemon
    • 50g breadcrumbs
    • 50g grated Parmesan cheese
    • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • salt and pepper


    • ¬†Preheat oven to 190C.
    • Place fennel on a baking tray, brush with half the olive oil and season with some salt and pepper.
    • Mix the rest of the olive oil with the breadcrumbs, cheese, lemon zest, parsley and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
    • Bake for 25-30 minutes until the fennel is softened and the coating is crispy.
    • Garnish with the fennel leaves.

    Source: Irish Independent

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    Cranberry, apricot and sultana loaf

    This recipe produces a fat-free loaf, which tastes great when sliced and spread with butter. Play around with the ingredients, replacing the apricots with prunes or figs and using cherries instead of cranberries.

    • 55g/20z chopped dried dates
    • 45 ml water
    • 140g/5 oz plain yoghurt
    • 1 medium egg
    • 125 g/ 4 1/2oz flour (regular, rice or gluten free)
    • 1 heaped tsp mixed spice
    • 1 level tsp bicarb of soda
    • 55g/2oz dried chopped apricots
    • 55g/2oz dried cranberries
    • 30g/1 oz sultanas


    • Pre-heat oven to 180 centigrade or equivalent. Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin.
    • Simmer the dates in the water, over a low heat until soft and most of water has been absorbed. Allow to cool.
    • Mix together the dates, yoghurt, egg, flour, mixed spice and bicarb of soda until well mixed.
    • Add dried fruits and combine. The mixture should have a soft dropping consistency.
    • Place the mixture in the tin and bake for aprox 30-35 mins.
    • Cool for 5 mins in tin, then place on wire cooling rack.

    This can be frozen in slices or will keep for up to 3 days.

    Source: Cooking without made easy

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