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Cook First: 100% Guilt-Free Eating

cook-first

I am a massive foodie: I love eating at new restaurants, I love trying new foods, I love being impressed by foods that I already love, I love cooking and I love new food concepts… so where there’s food in my life, there’s lots of love too!

Earlier this week, the lovely Amelia Stewart from Cook First came to one of my yoga classes at Form Studios in Notting Hill.  Amelia is a self-taught cook and baker, with a passion for simple, nutritious food and for reducing food waste.  She turned up with a box of sweet, yet healthy, treats for me; Beetroot, Cacao Cookies (vegan, gluten, refined sugar-free) and Banana & Nut Muffins (gluten, dairy & refined sugar-free) – pretty much the definition of guilt-free eating!  I absolutely loved both snacks, there were sweet, tasty and incredibly moreish (check out the recipes below).

Amelia explained that Cook First is based on the concept that cooking is a positive and productive creative medium through which to tackle challenges of life.  It aims to empower people by teaching them to cook simple, nutritious meals, while also minimising food wastage. I asked Amelia to explain more:

Through my own experience I have developed a simple approach to achieving a healthy, balanced lifestyle and nurturing physical strength and mental wellbeing.  Good cooking is key.  It doesn’t require huge expense, culinary expertise or fancy kitchen equipment.   It’s perfect for students faced with the challenge of self-catering, for young people embarking on their independent lives away from the comfort and convenience of home, or even busy professionals who are young at heart!’  

For more information and delicious recipes, take a look at her website.

Recipes:

Beetroot, Cacao Cookies (vegan, gluten, refined sugar-free)

Packed full of goodness, beetroot brings a unique flavour to these simple, nutritious cookies. Perfectly paired with energising raw cacao, they make a delicious portable snack.  This recipe yields about 16 small cookies.

Ingredients:
½ cup coconut flour
¼ cup desiccated coconut
2 small beets (cooked and pureed)
1 tsp good-quality vanilla extract
½ tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup of coconut oil (melted)
¼ cup of coconut sugar
¼ cup of pure maple syrup
3 tbsp raw cacao powder

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the beat puree, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and vanilla extract until well combined.
  3. Stir in the cacao powder, coconut flour, baking powder and desiccated coconut. The mixture will seem quite soft and crumbly, but don’t worry!
  4. Roll into balls, place on the baking sheet and press down on each cookie with the back of a spoon to flatten it out a little.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until the cookies have hardened and are starting to turn slightly golden.
  6. If you aren’t going to eat them straight away, do leave them to cool for at least 10 minutes before moving them, as they are quite crumbly when warm.
  7. These will keep fresh in an airtight container for 3 days.

Banana & Nut Muffins (gluten, dairy & refined sugar-free)

A perfect way to use up those rejected overripe bananas, these make a delicious and nutritious breakfast on the go, or are fab with a cup of afternoon tea. They are perfectly moist and have just the right amount of sweetness – and are so simple to bake! I like to use buckwheat flour as it’s gluten-free and easier to digest, but this recipe could also work with regular wheat flour.

Ingredients
½ cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground flaxseed
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp arrowroot powder
2 eggs
2 overripe bananas (mashed)
⅓ cup maple syrup (or runny honey)
3 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp smooth peanut or almond butter
½ cup coarsely chopped peanuts, walnuts or almonds – whichever you prefer!

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and grease 9 holes of a muffin tray by greasing it coconut oil – or if you have cupcake cases you could also use them instead.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, arrow root powder and salt and place on one side while you mix the wet ingredients.
  3. In another bowl, whisk eggs and bananas together. Then add in the maple syrup (or honey), the nut butter, coconut oil and the vanilla extract and whisk until well combined.
  4. Now mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, and combine well. Now fold in the chopped nuts.
  5. Spoon batter into 9 of the cups of the muffin tin (filling about 3/4 of each with the mixture) and place in the oven.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops of the muffins are starting to go a golden brown.
  7. Let the muffins cool for about 10 minutes before carefully removing them to cool completely on a wire rack.
  8. These muffins can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or even in the freezer for 3 months.
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