Chocolate Polenta Cake

This cake evolved from a Nigella recipe and a rainy afternoon activity with Isaac, who is rather partial to chocolate cake and munching on walnuts while mummy mixes (many batches of banana cake from spotty bananas have meant walnut munching is now a baking staple).

I didn’t intend for it to be a polenta cake but had no ground almonds in (shocker for me) and was amazed by the result. I also didn’t intend it to be dairy free but my butter was in the fridge and I couldn’t be bothered to dirty a pan melting some.

So here it is. I just made a little cake which struggled to make it to day 2!

Naomi was happily sat in her chair watching proceedings so it is fully family proof!

Ingredients:

  • 30g cocoa (I used Green & Blacks)
  • 90 ml freshly boiled water
  • Generous tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g fine polenta (cornmeal) – Nigella’s original recipe uses ground almonds so you could try a mixture
  • 100ml olive oil (light – you could also use sunflower)
  • 1/3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 100g coconut sugar (this is what makes it sugar free since coconut sugar is GI neutral but you could use unrefined sugar if you don’t have any)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs

Method:

Combine the boiled water and cocoa in a small boil until they are a cream like consistency.

In a separate bowl mix together the polenta, salt and bicarb.

Whisk together the eggs, vanilla, olive oil and sugar for a couple of minutes until they are really thick and light.

Finally combine all 3 mixtures maintaining as much air as possible

I used an 8″ lined, round sandwich tin.

Cook at Gas Mark 3 (170) for 20-30 minutes or until just coming away from the sides.

Et voila!

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Sugar Detox: Starts this Sunday, 5th January

Happy New Year to you all. I hope you had a great Christmas, with a chance to relax, unwind and spend quality time with friends and family.

Seasonal excesses can leave many of us feeling a little bloated and lethargic. Not just because of too much turkey and Christmas pudding. Did you know that for the majority of us, a month of eating differently and a change in routine can alter the nutrient balance in our bodies. That, coupled with winter’s lack of daylight and less exercise, is a recipe for sluggish systems and often low moods.

So the Fit School team have created a Sugar Detox plan. It’s a 10 day, online plan and it starts this coming Sunday, 5th January (Sunday will be a bit of a preparation day so you can hit the ground running on Monday, 6th). It costs £15 for Fit School members and £20 for non members.

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Over the course of the 10 days, the plan will help wean your body and mind from the sugar hit over the last couple of weeks. For some, the increase in sugar started as early as December! So here’s why we have created a Sugar Detox.

The three main nutrient groups in our diet are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

We consume these nutrients in varying ratios. Here are some common sources:

Carbohydrates

  • Fruit;
  • Vegetables;
  • Cereals;
  • Grains;
  • Milk;
  • Alcohol (see note below *); and
  • Anything containing sugar.

 Carbohydrates can be further broken down into the following:

  • Starch;
  • Sugar; and
  • Fibre.

*Alcohol is a separate group all to itself. You get all the calorific effects of a carbohydrate (the side effects of simple sugars) and none of the benefits (despite some blood thinning properties – although you can get these from other sources).

Here is a breakdown of how one Fit School member’s diet changed over the festive period.

Pre-Christmas Average December December with drinks/sugar
Carbs 45% 63% 62%
Protein 30% 12% 8%
Fats 20% 25% 30%

So the big change is increased carbs in the form of sugars, less protein (except Christmas day) and more saturated fats (from processed foods).

The calories in the three examples were roughly the same but to explain why counting calories isn’t always beneficial, below you can see the calories just from food.

  • Pre Christmas – 2000
  • Average December – 1750
  • + drinks and sugar – 1400

Even though the calories were roughly the same, up to 600 calories were now being consumed in the form of refined sugars or alcohol which you can’t readily use. In our experience, this kind of nutrient change tends to result in little actual weight gain you might grow a muffin top and feel generally flabby. If the ratios change as they have above and you consume more calories, you will put on weight as well.

We generally exercise less in the winter, since we are less motivated. So unless you adjust what you eat, you will put on weight. Christmas then compounds the issue. You’re feeling lethargic and your clothes are tighter by January.

So this detox is to get your body back to a point where you are looking and feeling great. It will require some will power and also some support. That is why doing it in a group will help you keep going. Our golden rule with trying to create a new habit is you must not take something out of your lifestyle without putting something back in. No doubt you derived some pleasure from eating or drinking the things that you did over the festive period. So it is essential that you replace the pleasurable part of these activities with healthier alternatives. For example, drinking nothing but water for a few days is probably okay, but by day three, you’ll find that every fizzy drink you walk past will be talking to you!

We will provide:

  • Low sugar recipes;
  • Protein rich meals;
  • Healthy carb recipes; and
  • Exercise guidance.

These will all be posted daily in our Facebook group. If you have any questions, we will also do our best to answer them so you understand what we are trying to do.

Want to sign up? All you need to do is email us at fitschoolessex@gmail.com and pay £15 (for members) and £20 for non-members before Sunday via our PayPal account: fitschoolessex@gmail.com.

See you there!

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

5 steps to avoid Christmas over-indulgence

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IT’S such a lovely time of year. We’re all starting to feel warm and cosy, mince pies and drinkies are plentiful and the promise of Christmas lunch and trimmings looms – plus of course a few well earned days off.

But it’s really easy to overdo it, get out of your normal active routine and become surgically attached to a box of chocolates. So here are a few, I hope realistic, yet practical steps to ensure Christmas doesn’t push you off track and that a couple of days of over-indulgence don’t turn into a couple of weeks!

1. STAY ACTIVE. This doesn’t have to mean going to the gym or sweating it all out in a spin class but a walk on Boxing day morning can blast away cobwebs and keep your metabolism (and your system) revved. Plus you won’t have to experience sprout and turkey wind – let it all out!

2. FILL YOUR PLATE WITH MEAT AND VEG. The average Christmas dinner offers a feast of vegetable colour. Rather than filling yourself up on roast potatoes and sausages, go for a plate filled with meat and vegetables. You will find it  easier to digest your meal, without overloading on fatty carbs.

3. LIMIT YOUR OVERINDULGENCES TO A FEW DAYS. Christmas and New Year’s Day are great feasting days and a little feasting in moderation does not a wide girth make. But if you skip your normal routine for weeks and keep munching on chocolates and goodies, you will put on a few pounds. Chocolate is still chocolate, even if it comes from Father Christmas.

4. GET A WORKOUT IN BETWEEN CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR. Get your kit on and walk out of the door. You will be so grateful you did!

5. JOIN A GYM IN DECEMBER. If you know you want to join a gym in the new year, skip the rush and do it now! Why?December is the quietest month in the gym salesman’s calendar and they have targets to make. Get some free gym visits in between Christmas and New Year, then sign up before 31st, just make sure you play hard ball to get a great deal.

And finally … be prepared for the New Year.  At Fit School we’ll be running a 10 day Sugar Detox, a great way to start your year.

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The start date is the 5th January 2014, and the programme will guide you through the process of weaning the body off sugar. To help, we’ll provide low sugar recipes, exercises and a follow up plan. You’ll also be part of a closed Facebook Group so you can ask questions and get coaching through the whole plan.

If you want:
*More energy.
*To know how to reduce your spare tyre.
*To reduce your muffin top.
*To break the hunger-sugar cycle.
*To kick start your health for the year.
*To be generally less flabby.

You can register your interest by emailing us at fitschoolessex@gmail.com or by using the contact form below. The price is £15 for members or £20 for non-members.

We will limit this to 50 spaces as we will be providing a lot of content and we need to ensure that we can help as many people as possible. First 25 people get an early bird discount.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Baked Chocolate Mousse Cake

Here’s definitely one for the weekend – one of my favourite desserts, which also happens to be packed with protein and lots of yummy dark chocolate. But is it a cake or a mousse? You decide.

What this hybrid mousse cake lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in taste. And although it’s not sugar free, the protein punch from the eggs means that a little goes a long way (take note hubby). It’s also gluten free.

It’s adapted from a James Martin recipe.

Ingredients

300g good quality dark chocolate (I use Green & Blacks cooks chocolate)

15og unsalted butter

5og unrefined caster sugar

6 large free-range eggs, separated.

1 tsp vanilla extract

(Grease and line a deep, 9″ round cake tin)

(Pre-heat oven to Gas Mark 4, 18o degrees)

Method

Slowly melt chocolate and butter together and then add the vanilla extract

Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites with half the sugar until stiff.

In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar for 30 seconds.

Allow the melted chocolate mixture to cool slightly before mixing with the yolk mixture. You’ll need to work quickly now since the cooling chocolate will start to go stiff.

Mix 1/3 of the egg whites with the chocolate mixture to loosen it before carefully folding in the remaining egg white. Make sure you incorporate all the sticky chocolatey bits from the bottom of the bowl.

Pop the mixture in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Once cooked, allow to cool for a while in the tin before turning out to a cooling rack. Do not be alarmed. It will look beautifully cake like on removal from the oven but soon sinks in the middle.

Eat this cake at room temperature, just don’t put it in the fridge or it will go stiff. I tend to make it at lunchtime for an evening dinner.

Et voila! The resulting cake is heavenly with chantilly cream or some lightly sweetened mascarpone.

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