Uh-oh, there goes another white t-shirt. 1 month into 2013 and 2 white t-shirts have bitten the dust. This one got hit with an attack of the cocoa powder; plus some red food coloring, just to make it more interesting. And no, I do not use red food coloring – I was in the process of throwing it away. Just thought I’d clear that up right out the gate. One of these days I hope I can remember not to wear a white t-shirt when I am cleaning out cupboards in the kitchen, or eating anything drippy. At this rate my white t-shirt budget will be higher than my almond flour budget, and baby, that’s big.
Talking of t-shirts – earlier this week our fearless leader and I were in the studio podcasting, and he showed up wearing one of his new t-shirts. I knew you’d love to see a picture of him wearing it, so I snapped one for you. He would not let me include his head because he had a serious case of designer stubble going on. I was fine with that because I didn’t spend much time that day looking at his head anyway.
Do you love the t-shirt? What do you mean, “Huh?” ?! Focus, people, focus! You’re supposed to be looking at the t-shirt. Love the t-shirt? You can get your very own right here.
In other news, if the sight of Bailor in a t-shirt doesn’t inspire you to do your 10 minutes of eccentric exercise, you might want to have a friend check your pulse. I’ll be right back. I have a date with a dumbbell.
Have we all stopped quivering yet? Because I have something else for you to get all googly-eyed over. I’ll give you a clue. It’s a muffin.
I thought it only fitting to add a muffin recipe to this post, because there certainly ain’t no muffin tops anywhere else on this page. Plus, I promised you muffins last weekend, and muffins you shall have. These are probably my most thrilling experiment with baked goods yet. I still can’t quite believe it when I eat one. If you didn’t know this was a *SANE muffin, you’d never guess this was a *SANE muffin.
It looks just like a regular muffin. And by golly, it tastes just like a terribly tasty regular muffin. When I took these into the office earlier in the week they were met with an enormous amount of muffin love. Everyone is still really confused about how they can possibly be wheat, gluten, grain, sugar, dairy and added fat free, but that didn’t stop them swooning once they’d eaten one. And demanding the recipe. Repeatedly. Oh, and did I mention fast and easy to make? They are really fast and easy to make.
Here, have some Cinnamon Raisin Muffins and rejoice the day you discovered what *SANE meant. And that you can eat more and exercise less and yet be healthier and slimmer than ever.
Spray 12 silicone muffins cups with coconut oil and place them in a muffin pan.
In a coffee grinder, grind the chia, sunflower seeds and coconut well.
Tip the ground seed mixture into a mixing bowl (preferably one with a pouring lip) and add the almond flour, ground flax seeds, almond meal, whey powder, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, xylitol, and raisins and mix all together well.
In a small bowl whisk the eggs and cold water together.
Add the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well until completely mixed.
Pour the mixture into the muffin cups, stopping a little short of full.
Bake the muffins in the center of the oven at 325F for 30 minutes, until golden brown on the top.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes until you can handle the silicone cups.
Turn each cup top down in one hand, and using the other hand gently squeeze the sides of the cup all the way round until the sides release and the muffin pops out. Be gentle.
Many of you lovely readers who are making the move to a *SANE lifestyle are finding that you need to get busy in the kitchen a lot more than you used to, especially when it comes to baking. If you want SANE baked goods you pretty much have to make them yourself from scratch.
For those of you who haven’t spent much time in the kitchen prior to embracing SANEity, you may be overwhelmed by all the gadgets available, and are not sure what you need to make your time in the kitchen most effective and get you the results you want. Many of the items I list here are not essential by any means – they just make cooking and baking easier, quicker, and help you to get great results time after time. Many of you have asked me what I use when I am in my kitchen, so here’s a rundown of the things I use most often.
Note: using these links to make your purchases *may* result in me receiving a small commission (with no additional cost to you), which will help enormously in being able to maintain this site and create new recipes for you. The costs of running this site and developing recipes come entirely out of my own pocket. The purpose of this site has never been – and never will be – to make money, however, I would hugely appreciate your support by using these links, if you feel so inclined.
High Powered Blender
A Vitamix or Blendtec will be your very best friend once you start using it to make your smoothies and soups. These machines smash everything that goes in them into liquid. Forget juicers – with one of these beasties you put whole fruit and veggies in and get juice out, with all the fiber still in it – you just can’t feel it. Given that a SANE lifestyle requires fiber, one of these will help you enormously to make sure you’re getting all the fiber you can. Jonathan and I both have a Vitamix. I’ve heard that Blendtec are just as good.
Second jug for Vitamix / Blendtec – I find having a second blending container incredibly handy. Or maybe I just don’t like washing up when I am on a roll in the kitchen.
I have a KitchenAid blender in addition to my Vitamix, for those times when I don’t want to pulverize everything into oblivion. Some recipes just need texture, or don’t require the extra power. I use this Kitchen Aid blender when I don’t want or need to use the Vitamix. Grinding nuts is a great example – try this in a Vitamix and you’ll have awesome nut butter, but you won’t have any ground nuts.
Not essential, but it does make things easier and quicker. I use mine mainly for mixing doughs, but it is also super handy for slicing and all manner of other uses. I love this Cuisinart Food Processor because it comes with three bowls that sit inside one another so you can do three different things before you have to wash up. Love that. It also has a large capacity, which I find very useful when making large batches.
I use a hand mixer for quick things like whipping egg whites and mixing batters when I don’t need the power of a food processor, or don’t want to get too much stuff dirty. I use this Cuisinart Hand Mixer because it has 9 speeds and a timer, so it is useful for lots of different recipes.
When I moved to the US I was completely dumbfounded that no one had an electric kettle. Brits use kettles multiple times a day, and I cannot imagine living without one. Boiling water is a breeze. I have this Cuisinart Kettle and I love it because it has pre-set temperatures and other features that make it even more useful than a regular kettle. For any Brits reading this, I can hear you all shrieking, “What?? No kettles??!!!”
My steamer is in constant use for steaming veggies instead of boiling them in a pan of water, as it keeps the nutrient content much higher. We love that.
I have a multi-purpose hand-held blender that doubles up as a grinder / chopper as well as a blending stick for blending directly in a pan or bowl. I have the Cuisinart Smart Stick that comes with a whisk and chopper attachments. Super useful.
If you read some of my baking posts you’ll know I insist on weighing things, rather than using cups. Cups are not consistent. The only way you can hope to have baking success time after time is to be accurate when measuring ingredients. A scale is your best friend. I use this Oxo Digital Scale because it can weigh an awful lot of stuff, plus it has a pull out screen so you can put really large bowls on it and still read the display. I reverse weigh a lot and this scale makes it so simple. It also weighs in both ounces and grams, so you can switch between the two and not have to do any conversions in your head – keeping everyone happy all the time. Hurrah!
A mandoline is a slicer that makes very short work of cutting, slicing, dicing and otherwise making all manner of veggies into uniform sizes and shapes. When you’re eating a ton of veggies it’s more important that those veggies look super-appetizing and you have a lot of variety to keep it interesting. There are many mandolines available – choose one that fits your budget, although usually, the higher the cost, the better the machine is.
This handy little gadget makes short work of turning vegetables into “spaghetti”. Especially good on zucchini (courgettes), cucumber, and carrots. I use it with zucchini instead of baking a spaghetti squash. Super simple, super fast, and won’t break the bank.
I have 4 sets of these measuring spoons, because when I am making stuff up for you I use them constantly, and rinsing them every 5 seconds is just annoying. These are double-ended, which effectively doubles the number of spoons you have. They are also magnetic so they stick together tidily and don’t get lost, and they have flat bottoms so they will sit on the counter without tipping over. Who knew someone could get so excited about measuring spoons?
Microplanes are the bomb. I have several different shapes and sizes and use them for all sorts of things. So much better than a grater – faster, cleaner, way sharper. Grating is no longer a chore with these puppies. Yay!
I am a perfectionist, so I use sieves a lot. A lot. Strawberry pips in the sauce? Sieve. Hazelnut skins? Sieve. Cocoa powder? Sieve. Nut dust in the nuts you just chopped? Sieve. Ice cream custards? Sieve. Green tea got a few stray leaves? Sieve. I sieve everything in the name of texture perfection. You don’t have to go as far as me, but I do recommend having at least one really good fine mesh sieve. Plus a set of regular general purpose sieves.
I use these melamine pouring batter bowls more than just about anything else in my kitchen. The handle design makes them stackable – saving tons of space, and the melamine means they do not transfer flavors and colors like plastic, but they are way lighter than glass. I use them for mixing up just about everything, and find the handles super useful. If you hadn’t realized – I LOVE these bowls.
For all those scrumptious SANE cookies and scones, you’ll need cutters, because cutters make food fun. And pretty. Anything that makes your SANE food more appealing is a good thing. Cutters will help. Get metal ones in whatever shapes and sizes make you happy. Plastic cutters will stop your scones from rising so well. Metal is best.
I am not a fan of plastic for storage. At all. I use these glass Pyrex lidded dishes for storing everything – in the ‘fridge, in the freezer, in the cupboard, and to transport breakfast and lunch to the office. If plastic is capable of absorbing colors and flavors, then that means the plastic is not impermeable. The thought that the chemicals in plastic are therefore capable of transferring back into my food is highly unpleasant to me. In the Brown house, it’s gotta be glass.
For me, using kitchen equipment is like an extension of my body, so I may have forgotten things that are new to you. I’ll add to this as I think of things that I think you may find helpful. If there is something missing, please shout!
Soup. It’s part of “Getting Your Veggies In 101″. Like smoothies, you can cram a ridiculous amount of vegetables into soups, and I thoroughly recommend it as a strategy for eating those 10 servings a day that our beloved Mr. Bailor reminds us about at any given opportunity. Especially in the winter months. I find salads easy-peasy to eat in the spring and summer, but as soon as the leaves turn – yeah, not so much. Another brilliant thing about soups is their portability; oh and let’s not forget how easy it is to make an enormous batch all at once and eat it over several days, or freeze it in ready to serve portions. Soups rock.
I don’t know about you, but I am already thinking about summer. And salads. Even though it’s mid-winter where I am. This soup got started when I had all the typical ingredients for salad lurking in the ‘fridge, but the temperature here had just turned to not-salad-eating degrees. I wondered what I could do with all the lettuce and cucumbers and tomatoes if I wasn’t going to eat them raw as salad. So I decided I would see what happened if I threw all of them together into soup. The same soup. And, in an instant, Tomato Salad Soup was born.
In the first iteration I even squirted in some mayonnaise. I do not recommend this. AT ALL. Please do not do this at home. It was not good. AT ALL. The second iteration, on the other hand, was a huge hit.
So next time you have a craving for salad in mid-winter but really want something warm – soup it up. No one will ever guess just how much green summery stuff is hidden in there.
It’s true! Staying *SANE is the easiest thing I’ve ever tried when it comes to controlling what I eat – but even so – sometimes it’s still hard. When I am caught unawares, when I race out the door without eating breakfast, or when my schedule unexpectedly blows up; when I’m in a hurry, when exhaustion strikes, or when the emotional blahs roll in, it can be harder to stay on track. I’ve found that a little bit of planning can make all the difference in the world when your body is screaming for burgers and cupcakes. Or a sandwich. Or a huge bowl of spaghetti carbonara. Or whatever your crush of the moment happens to be. Mine is usually a loaf of Sunmaid Raisin Bread – goodness only knows why. 14 minutes after eating it my stomach feels like a lead balloon, and by the time 23 minutes has ticked by I am lying on the blue leather couch like a beached whale while I slide into a carbohydrate coma that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. Awful. Just awful. I am getting *much* better at remembering the last “awful” before I cram that first slice in my mouth.
It’s also true I have discovered – during my last two run-ins with a loaf of raisin bread – that an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. And here’s a third truth: prevention is only going to happen with a little bit of planning.
Here’s what I do to make sure that even when my plans come unravelled, I’m always prepared on the food front – and way less likely to add eating inSANEity to my list of things that went sideways. See if adopting some of these strategies helps you in your quest to stay SANE whatever else is going on.
1. Clear out your cupboards, pantry, ‘fridge and freezer of *inSANE foods. When it comes to meal times at home, it’s much easier to eat *SANE food if that’s all you have in the house. If clearing it all out at once is too daunting, clear out one cupboard, or one pantry shelf a week. Take it to the Food Bank if you cannot bear to toss it out. Eating food that makes you unhealthy “just because you paid for it” does not serve you well. If you have a few favorite inSANE things that you cannot bear to part with (yet), keep them until last. Don’t panic – this does not have to be all or nothing…BUT…just know it will be much easier for you to stay SANE if you make a clean break. If you want to take a slower route to SANEity, take baby steps. Each step, however small, is a step in the right direction.
2. Fill your cupboards, pantry, ‘fridge and freezer with SANE foods. I will shortly be posting a list of what’s in my pantry that I hope will help you focus when you are next at the grocery store. Keeping these items on hand will make it super simple for you to whip up something SANE at meal times, or when the munchies strike.
3. Talking about the grocery store…when you’re doing the grocery shopping, stick to the perimeter of the store – that’s where almost all the SANE stuff is. Avoid going down any of the aisles in the middle. Depending on the store, the only things I dash into the middle for are herbal tea, nuts, herbs and spices, baking aids such as guar and xanthan gums, baking powder and baking soda, and frozen fruit.
4. Make batches of snack foods to have on hand for when the munchies unexpectedly strike. Here’s 10 great recipes that you can make in advance (and in quantity) to have ready to chow on at a moments notice. Most of them feel very naughty. All of them taste fantastic, totally fill you up and help you towards your health and fat-loss goals. Yep.
5. Make some meals in advance and freeze them – for those days you unexpectedly get home late, or get home so tired you just don’t have the energy to get busy in the kitchen. Instead of going through the drive-thru on your way home, sling a pre-made dish of *SANEity in the oven or microwave when you get home. Soups are particularly brilliant for this.
6. Keep some “instant” protein in the ‘fridge or pantry. My favorites are cooked chicken and turkey slices, smoked salmon or other smoked fish, cooked prawns, canned tuna and salmon, non-fat cottage cheese, non-fat Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs. If you get home *really* late and don’t even have the time or energy to scramble an egg, these fill you up faster than anything else, and mean you don’t go to bed hungry, which can be disastrous.
7. Keep these QuestBars bars handy. They are the SANEst protein bars available, and – BONUS! – they taste awesome. Keep a stash in your desk drawer at the office, some at home, a handful in the car, and a couple in your purse / handbag / back-pack / briefcase. Take them with you when you travel – they are a lifesaver at airports and on planes. Most protein bars are not SANE, so be careful. The only other one we recommend is the Pure Protein brand.
8. When you feel hungry – and you suspect it might be emotional hunger rather than physical hunger – drink a glass of water, or drink a cup of green or herbal tea first. If you are still hungry after that, grab a SANE snack from #4 above or a protein bar from #7 above.
And then, if you still find yourself in a situation where inSANEity is inevitable, don’t panic! Just do your best in the moment and get back to SANEity as soon as you can. Beating yourself up won’t make anything better. You’re awesome, and you can do this!