Homemade Energy Bars

Since I got into running I’ve become much more aware of how I fuel my body. I like to make my own energy bars to give me a boost pre or post running as I know exactly the kinds of super nutritious things that I’ve packed into them! I always put 3-4 in the fridge and freeze the rest. These bars were made by blitzing dates with 5 different types of nuts (use any you like) and a big handful of mixed seeds plus cocoa powder. Doesn’t everyone love a hint of chocolatey taste?!

These are UK measurements… into the food processor I put 250g pitted dates, 250g nuts (I used a mix of cashews, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and a few brazil nuts I had). Then in went around 60g mixed seeds (I used a pack labelled ‘mixed seeds’) and 2 big spoons of cocoa powder. Then I blitzed it for a few minutes until it all came together and I could lift it into my hands to form a ball. I used a rolling pin to flatten it into a square then put it in the fridge for around 40 mins before cutting it into slices. I think it made 20 slices but I ate a couple as I was making it.

For a nut-free version try adding some oats or dessicated coconut (if you can eat that) – just something to bind well with the dates. Adding ginger could be great too. I’m always experimenting! Dates make such a good chewy base you could easily leave out the nuts and add something you prefer.

Vroom Vroom Veggie Burst with Black Beans and Almonds

As a runner, I constantly struggle to stay adequately hydrated, especially in the hot, humid Mediterranean climate. My doc explained that our total body water content declines as we age and urged me to up my fluid intake. And menopause just makes it worse; crazy hot flushes are another hydration stripper!

After experiencing another crushing headache after a particularly busy day last week I’d had enough. You see, I don’t always notice my thirst building (I know – odd!) and often forget to drink enough water (is there no hope for me?! ) so I’ve decided to try and up my hydration levels in other ways. One of my goals for this summer is to pack as much fruit and veg (especially veg, as I prefer them) into my day as possible. We often focus on the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables but it’s easy to overlook the fact that we can also boost our water intake from the foods we eat. There’s also that added nutritional bonus I mentioned – that these foods are also rich in antioxidants, vitamins, electrolytes, and fibre that are great for our health.

Top of my must-eat list are watermelons, which are 92 per cent water and just everywhere here in Cyprus in July – being sold from the back of trucks at the side of the road.

It’s pretty easy to gauge which are the super watery fruits and veg – celery, cucumber, courgette (zucchini) etc but here’s a list of the hydration stars:

Over 90% WaterOver 70% Water

Iceberg lettucePeaches
Sweet peppersPears
Courgettes (zucchini)Raspberries
Green peas
White potatoes

Who knew that vegetables were so water-rich over fruits?! I always imagined fruit to have the higher water content.

I’ll often start my day by adding berries to my breakfast porridge and include a salad at lunch time (I have a few of my faves to share with you in a future post).

Today, I have this dish to share with you which is just brimming with so much goodness; broccoli, cauliflower, courgettes, peas, carrots, green beans, onion, sweet potato, tomatoes, spinach, coriander and black-eyed beans.

Vroom Vroom Veggie Burst with Black Beans and Almonds

Serves 4

I’ve indicated the rough quantities I used but honestly, add whatever you fancy and substitute veggies you’re not keen on. I didn’t use garlic either as I’m not super fond of the after taste but I think most people would want to add a couple of crushed cloves.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 2 courgettes (zucchini) sliced
  • Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 250g broccoli florets
  • 250g cauliflower florets
  • Large handful green beans
  • 100 g frozen peas
  • 1½ – 2 teaspoons of: cumin, coriander and turmeric
  • Sprinkling chilli flakes (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tinned black eye beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 tbsp almond milk
  • 8 tablespoons koko dairy-free yoghurt
  • Handful slivered  almonds
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • Handful spinach leaves
  • Water or vegetable stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook to soften slightly then stir in the spices, ginger and chilli flakes. Gently cook for a minute then tip in all the veg plus the tin of tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Add enough water or vegetable stock to just cover. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for around 20 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked. Add the beans and chopped coriander and heat through.

(Sometimes the cauliflower can take a bit longer and if you have time you could pre-cook it for 5-10 minutes before adding it to the pan. I don’t as I’m quite happy with it a little bit crunchy).

Mix together the almond milk, yoghurt and almonds and stir into the veggie mix.

Serve with couscous, quinoa, brown rice – whatever you fancy! As with most of these types of dishes – even better the next day 🙂

Raw Energy Balls

I’ve never been very good at eating healthily.

You see because I’m fairly slim and like to go running everyone thinks I’m super healthy and super fit. But, I’m not.

Along with frequent respiratory infections, I get lots of headaches and bouts of the most intensely itchy scalp psoriasis which drives me half crazy.

I drink hardly any water and all of my kids think my diet is appalling.

‘A pork pie, bag of Maltesers and glass of wine? For dinner? Seriously, mum?!’

I began to wonder; what if I really paid attention to my diet? Would I notice any difference? Would I knock these colds on the head and morph into a super runner? Only one way to find out.

Have you ever wondered how well you’re ageing? I watched a TV show a few weeks ago about staying young and there was a 51 year old chap on there who struck a chord with me. He was slim and felt fit and healthy but his diet was poor. They did a battery of tests on him and his body age came out at 73. What a shocker. Like me he thought that because he didn’t put on weight, he was getting away with eating whatever he liked.

The good news, though, was that he was able to do something about it. By paying careful attention to his diet he knocked nine years off his body age in just 12 weeks.

I could do that.

I like the author Michael Pollan’s approach to eating. His two most quoted rules are:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

Simple to follow – eat mostly fruit and vegetables and avoid highly processed foods.

Considering I love vegetables, porridge, yoghurt, nuts and seeds, beans and lentils you’d have thought I had it made. But I also loved chocolate, pies, bread and cakes. And wine. Lots of wine.

It wasn’t what I’d have to eat that would pose the problem, it was what I’d have to give up.

Anyway, whilst I’m still motivated I made these raw energy balls with dates, walnuts, almonds, cashews, coconut, cocoa powder and a dash of vanilla.

Since spending time in the US where my daughter lives I’ve become a cup convert. Measuring things in cup sizes really is a whole lot easier.

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups pitted dates

2 cups cashew nuts

1/2 cup almonds

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 tbsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp cold water

Place dates, nuts and cocoa powder in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.

Add coconut and vanilla extract. Pulse again adding water a little at a time until mixture makes a moist but not sticky dough.

Roll the mixture into balls – makes 8-12 depending on how large you want them.

Chill in the fridge. I placed half of the balls in the freezer and left half in the fridge to encourage me to snack on them that week!