MINI PUMPKIN PECAN PIES (quick, easy, IQS-style, low-fructose, gluten-free, vegan deliciousness in mini pie form!)

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and relatives (and anyone else who may be celebrating today)! It was 2 years ago (and with a touch of trepidation), that I decided to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time. Since then it has become a tradition for me to host a cosy crafting/seasonal eating event for my Stockholm besties around this time of year.

With lots to be thankful for, and still riding the wave of sugar-free inspiration after my latest round of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Plan, I came up with these little treats yesterday. So far they’ve been much-appreciated by my vegan husband and food-loving kids, and I plan to defrost/warm through the pies I have frozen when the girls are around on Saturday for our annual pre-Christmas crafting day.

This pumpkin pie filling is creamy and has a lovely texture (non-vegans: you will not miss eggs, I promise) and, as it’s been a long time since I made my own pumpkin pie spice mix, I decided to wing it, adding a pinch of just about every spice I tend to use in baking at this time of year (with the exceptions of allspice and saffron).

I am so pleased with this recipe and I really do hope you’ll give these mini pies a go!

And back to gratitude…
Regardless of whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, if you’d like to drop me a line and share what you are thankful for this year, it would be lovely to read about what is making you happy!

<3 MM xx

 

MissMarzipan_Mini_Pumpkin_Pecan_Pies_Vegan_lg

MINI PUMPKIN PECAN PIES 

Makes 16-20 (depending on size*)

INGREDIENTS FOR THE PIE CRUST

80 g almond flour
50 g pecans (blitzed in a food processor to a crumb consistency)
125 g coconut
45 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (juice from approx. half an orange)
Freshly grated zest of half an orange
A good pinch of organic vanilla powder
45 ml coconut oil
2 tbsp rice malt syrup

INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING

150 g pure, unseasoned pumpkin puree (made from baked pumpkin)
1,5 tbsp rice malt syrup
A pinch each of cardamom, nutmeg, clove and ground ginger
2 tbsp raw, unsalted cashew nut butter (at room temperature)
1/4 tsp vanilla powder

Approx. 20 pecan halves for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (fan).
  2. Cut small squares of baking paper (mine were approximately 5 cm x 5 cm). Cut slits from each corner of each square almost to the middle of the square, but not quite. Place in a mini tart/pie tray (of the kind you might make Christmas mince pies in).
  3. In a food processor, blitz all dough ingredients until the dough comes together.
  4. Using a tablespoon (I used an actual measuring tablespoon for this) scoop out a tablespoon’s worth of mixture, shape it into a flat-ish round disc and place it on top of one of the baking parchment squares in a pie hole. Use the back of a teaspoon to shape the dough further and even out if necessary. Repeat until you have filled the tray.
  5. To make the filling, blitz (or mix vigorously with a fork, as I did) the filling ingredients until well-combined.
  6. Spoon just a tad more than 1 teaspoon of filling into each mini pie shell. Top each pie with a pecan half.
  7. Bake mini pies in oven for approximately 10 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown and the filling looks just set.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving (they are delicious freshly baked and still warm).

 


* Using the above measurements and directions, I made 19 pies of equal size exactly.

**I suspect that these pies can be made in advance and frozen in, but I can confirm this on Saturday if my reheating experiment works!

****I have called this an “IQS-style” recipe as it is inspired by my recent experiences in doing the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program and it relies upon certain principles and key ingredients featured in many IQS recipes (rice malt syrup, coconut oil, nut flour/butter). When I talk about “sugar-free”, I mean it in the IQS sense of the term, which is essentially no/very low-fructose.

***Although oranges don’t feature in IQS-style food prep very often, I love the combination of the zest with pecan nuts and spices. For me, orange works perfectly in this flavour combination, but if you’d rather omit the juice, try replacing it with a couple of tablespoons of water and use only the zest. You can also try cutting the syrup in the filling by half, although the dough might rely on it too much for binding to be able to make a successful cut there.

****For a Paleo version, try using maple syrup or honey instead of rice malt syrup.

CRISP(IER) SWEET POTATO FRIES (seasoned with Rosemary-Infused Sea Salt & Fresh Parsley)

On my final Sunday of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program (program review coming soon!), prompted by Sarah Wilson‘s plea for participants to keep experimenting and avoid wastage by using up leftovers, I made these yummy sweet potato fries.

Now, I think it’s important to state from the outset that I am pretty sure deep-frying is the only way to guarantee that every single fry will be super crisp. But what I know for certain is that there are a few tricks to achieving a “crispier” result when baking fries/chips.

I have looked at and experimented with a few methods. At the end of this exercise, more of the fries I made in the following manner had a “crispness” than did not (though most were soft-ish in the middle, which is how I like them). That is a win, as far as I am concerned.

But then again, if it’s baked and sweet potato is involved, it’s already winning in my book!

MissMarzipan_crispy_sweet_potato_fries_rosemary_salt_lg

INGREDIENTS

3 large sweet potatoes
2,5 – 3 tbsp cornstarch (approximately 1 tbsp of starch per potato, depending on potato size)
Organic olive oil (I used a mister, but allow for at least 2 tbsp of oil regardless of application method)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C* (fan).
  2. Peel and slice sweet potatoes uniformly (you want a matchstick-style shape, as opposed to a wedge).
  3. Place sliced potatoes in a large bowl, cover with water and place in refrigerator .
  4. Drain and rinse the fries, then lay them out on sheets of paper towel to dry, blotting with more paper towel to remove remaining moisture.
  5. In a large bowl, toss potato slices in corn starch to evenly coat.
  6. Arrange potatoes on a greased sheet of baking paper on a baking tray. Do NOT over lap the fries. Don’t even let them touch each other. This is one of the crucial keys to a crispier “baked fry”.
  7. Use an oil mister to evenly coat with oil**.
  8. Bake for around 10 minutes. Remove tray from oven, turn fries and then bake for approximately another 15 minutes (until the edges are browning).
  9. Season well/to taste. I used homemade rosemary-infused sea salt (recipe coming soon!) and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
  10. Serve immediately.

 

SUMMARY OF TIPS FOR ACHIEVING A CRISPIER RESULT

  1. Cut the slices uniformly and into a stick shape, not a wedge.
  2. Soak the sliced potatoes to be rid of the natural starch on the outside, which can hinder “crisping up” if it is not removed.
  3. Dry the slices prior to coating.
  4. Ensure an even coating of oil (this is where a mister can help).
  5. Do NOT let the slices touch on the baking sheet

 

Recipe inspired by my IQS experiences, the multitude of sweet potato inspo-yummies I have seen around Pinterest (by Sally’s Baking Addiction, Paula Deen, The Merrymaker Sisters, etc., etc.) and my own experiments.

*All ovens seem to have their own “personality”, so you may want to try adjusting your oven temperature if you notice your fries browning too quickly … or the baking time if they haven’t browned enough after 25 minutes.

**If not using a mister, after soaking and drying, place the slices of potato in a large bowl and coat them lightly but evenly with olive oil (start with 1.5 tbsp and add more if necessary). Then toss the slices in corn starch to evenly coat.

***For a Paleo version, you could try using just enough coconut oil to coat the sliced sweet potatoes, before tossing them in arrowroot powder (instead of corn starch) to coat evenly.

 

 

THE BEST VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE BY IQS, SPOOKIFIED (Happy Halloween… BOO!)

I made this yummy IQS chocolate mousse (purportedly the best vegan chocolate mousse around) after seeing it suggested as a healthy Halloween treat on iquitsugar.com the other day. I loved their suggestion of turning the chocolate mousse cups into spooky little diorama treats!
 
These were super-easy to assemble; approximately 100 x less labour intensive than baking and decorating Halloween cupcakes. ;) So if you’re looking for a healthy, vegan, raw, gluten-free, sugar-free, chocolate treat that’s both festive AND delicious, look no further!
 
MissMarzipan_IQS_vegan_chocolate_mousse_Halloween_1
 
THE BEST VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE, SPOOKIFIED 
Recipe only slightly tweaked from the amazing I Quit Sugar recipe, which you can find at iquitsugar.com

 

INGREDIENTS

400 ml can coconut cream
100 ml raw cacao powder
35 ml rice malt syrup
60 ml chia seeds
1-2 tbsp cacao nibs
A few large mint leaves, chopped finely

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine coconut cream, cacao powder, rice malt syrup and chia seeds in a large mixing bowl, whisking until smooth.
  2. Pour into 4 serving glasses. Chill in the fridge for around 2 hours, or until firmly set.
  3. Add little headstones*, sprinkle some chopped mint (grass!) around the inside edge of each mousse cup, then add Halloween characters (I used Lego** skeleton figures), pushing them just the tiniest way into the mousse so that it looks as though they are emerging from it. Finally, sprinkle some crushed cacao nibs around the figures to create small piles of “earth”… and, voilà; a slightly scary, IQS-style, sugar-free treat!

 

If you’re celebrating Halloween, enjoy!
If not, I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

<3 MM xx

 

*I can upload free printable headstone graphics if anyone is interested. They can, when adhered to toothpicks or ice-cream sticks, be used as pictured, or as cupcake toppers.
**Obviously Lego pieces are not edible decorations and MUST (it should go without saying) be removed before serving. Our children had no access to the small 
pieces at any point of the assembly or serving of this dessert, but still loved and appreciated the look of them prior to serving.

 

 

IQS-STYLE CARAMEL SLICE (an egg/nut/gluten/sugar-free treat, just in time for Halloween!)

This delectable Caramel Slice is an IQS-inspired treat, closely based on the fabulous recipe by Steph from I Quit Sugar, posted a while back on iquitsugar.com (click here to view the original recipe). It is not one of the recipes featured in the I Quit Sugar 8 Week-Program, however I admit I did have a piece (or two)… because I am not a saint. ;)

And yes, it is absolutely delicious, just so you know; like a super-yummy, much healthier version of a Twix bar or, I imagine, Millionaire’s Shortbread (which seems to be the US equivalent of Caramel Slice).

So, 3 things happened that led to the creation of this treat:

  1. I was asked to bring something typical of my “heritage” to my kids’ nursery school for a shared afternoon tea with parents and teachers, in celebration of UN Day (being raised in Aus, caramel slice did spring to mind!)
  2. The lovely folks at Pureharvest sent me a care package of rice malt syrup all the way from Australia!
  3. Halloween is around the corner and this is something that can be made in advance and kept in the freezer, so it’s perfect for an impromptu healthier sweet treat if we have visitors

 

I changed the recipe to accommodate what I had on hand at home as well as allergy policies within the school (nuts are totally banned, for example, and eggs are an issue in my daughter’s class). So this recipe is an amalgamation of Steph’s recipe for I Quit Sugar and this recipe by the Johnston Family (found at taste.com.au).

For rice malt syrup-curious folks, I didn’t know all of this info before, but Pureharvest RMS is fructose-free, organic, GMO-free, gluten-free and suitable for vegans (a great alternative to honey in sweetness, consistency and natural colour) and contains no preservatives, colourings, flavourings or artificial nasties. For the record, I have been relying on the only shop here that seems to stock RMS, located in an outer suburb of Stockholm, so I am extra thankful to Pureharvest for replenishing my dwindling stockpile.

 

MissMarzipan_IQS_caramel_slice

 

IQS*-STYLE CARAMEL SLICE
Makes: 36 servings

INGREDIENTS

BASE 
250 ml sifted gluten-free flour
125 ml finely shredded coconut
115 g butter (or non-dairy alternative if vegan)
3 tbsp rice malt syrup

CARAMEL SAUCE
125 ml cup rice malt syrup
100 ml full-fat coconut cream
100 g butter**, cut into cubes

CHOCOLATE GANACHE
125 g 85% dark chocolate
80 ml coconut cream (I could have used more, but didn’t have it on hand)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 3cm deep, 28 x 18cm (base) pan with baking paper.

BASE

  1. Combine all base ingredients in a bowl. Mix well.
  2. Press into prepared tin. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until light golden.
  3. Remove from oven. Cool completely.

 

CARAMEL SAUCE

  1. Heat rice malt syrup in a pan on medium heat until bubbling.
  2. Cook for 10 minutes until syrup has reduced down, keeping an eye on it at all times and stirring intermittently (I was afraid of it “catching”, so stirred quite a bit!). The mixture should be thick and coat the back of a spoon lightly when ready.
  3. Add butter and stir to combine.
  4. Remove from heat and slowly add coconut cream, stirring until combined.
  5. Pour caramel into a bowl and sit in the freezer for two hours until thick.
  6. Pour caramel on top of the biscuit base and refrigerate for at least two more hours or until set.

 

CHOCOLATE GANACHE

  1. Heat the coconut cream in a saucepan until simmering.
  2. Turn off heat and pour cream into separate bowl Add chocolate pieces, stirring gently until melted and silky.
  3. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes until mixture thickens but is still pourable.
  4. Remove the set base from the refrigerator and pour ganache over the top. Smooth ganache with a rubber spatula.
  5. Return to the freezer and set for at least two hours before serving, keeping leftover servings in the freezer until ready to eat.

 

*This recipe is closely based upon the amazing one by Steph, posted on iquitsugar.com (please visit for that one and many more fabulous sugar-free recipes!) and this top-rated by the Johnston Family, found at taste.com.au
**Vegan friends: I plan to try an experiment with a non-dairy substitute, although you might want to take a chance and do it before I do.
***Note that this recipe contains minimal fructose (the IQS definition of “sugar”) of around .42 g (yep, less than half a gram!) per serve, so is not technically 100% sugar-free. It is, however, in small portions, a suitable, delicious and very low-fructose alternative to other sweet treats, and will not rock your sugar-free boat once you have “recalibrated”. It is IQS-friendly but not part of the IQS 8-Week Program, which aims to cut all sweeteners (even the “safe ones”) back to a minimum. I should not fail to mention that Pureharvest did not sponsor this post, ask me to make anything, nor tell me to share anything about their products or RMS in general. I chose to do so willingly and freely (I think I may have even surprised them when I posted a picture on Instagram!)… and no doubt would have made this recipe at some point regardless, as I have been coveting it since I Quit Sugar first posted the original version!

 

I QUIT SUGAR… AGAIN! (IQS 8-Week Program, weeks 1 & 2 in review)

Right at the very last minute, literally a day before the registrations closed for the new round of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program, I found myself not only signed up, but appointed an IQS Ambassador* by the IQS team!

I hardly ever check personal mail at work (and never Facebook), but I happened to log in to my email account the day before the 8WP kicked off, and read a mail sent from IQS HQ, asking whether I’d like to become an ambassador.

My response?

“If I wasn’t surrounded by colleagues right now, I’d be squealing! “

And I meant it!

Within a 24 hour period, I received that mail, a copy of I Quit Sugar for Life *signed* by gorgeous Sarah Wilson, and word that Diana Tencic from Body Be Well was going to be on the panel of experts for this round. How could I NOT take part?

Before signing up for this round of the IQS 8-week program, I wondered whether there would be a great deal of repetition in regards to recipes and information (I had, after all, just completed the previous round). I am truly shocked (in a good way!) to discover that, not only do most of the recipes so far appear to be new ones, they have become some of my favourite recipes EVER! IQS must have sugar-free pixies working overtime in order to have come up with the new features and developed all these new recipes… for two programs, I might add!

WHAT’S NEW THIS ROUND

  • All the amazing new recipes, for starters!
  • There seems to be even more enthusiastic forum activity/participation
  • The new Movement Plan (hooray!), which is designed to complement each stage of the IQS program and is adaptable depending on fitness level
  • There where many experts available to support participants last time, but it certainly seems like there may be even more on board this time around, from personal trainers and nutritionists, to hormone balancing experts and psychologists… an impressive line-up!
  • The new webinars, tips, snack ideas, etc.

 

WHAT I HAVE BEEN EATING

 

Week 1 kicked off to a brilliant start, with a fabulous Sunday Cook-up (thanks to hubby being on kiddie duty), during which I managed to prepare elements for a grand total of 9 of the week’s recipes. I was thanking myself all week for that afternoon’s efforts! The recipes were amazing, from the Open Spinach & Ricotta Sandwich (I used feta, as it’s what I had on hand) to the Sesame Carrot & Pecan Salad. The Layered Vegetable “Lasagna” was bound to be a hit and I loved the Choose Your Own Oats breakfast concept, which not only caters to individual tastes but makes breakfast a breeze thanks to prepping in advance.

Week 2 introduced more new (and stellar) recipes, including the very clever IQS take on Spaghetti Arrabiata, Zucchini Fritters and Pumpkin & Coconut Curry Parcels, which newly-vegan hubby is still raving about! The Veggie Burger was simply outstanding. Not only does it make my top 5 IQS recipes ever, but it easily makes the top 5 of ALL the veggie burgers I have eaten (and I’ve seen plenty of veggie burger action in my time, I can tell you!).

If you’re curious to see more of what I am eating during the program (including Week 3, which I will cover in the next post), you are welcome to visit my Instagram account.

You can still search for the hashtag #IQS8WPveg that I created on Instagram during the last round of the program, but it appears to have been adopted by others, so no longer features my images exclusively as it did during the last round… but you will get a good overview of the broad variety of dishes in the vegetarian version of the program.

HOW I HAVE BEEN FEELING

In a word, good!

I love being able to get through a whole day at work and pick-up time at nursery school on the fuel that breakfast and lunch provide me with… no unhealthy snacking necessary. I adore getting/being organised, particularly when it comes to meals and family-related routines.

Last Saturday, I beat my previous personal record for a 5 kilometre run… a record I had set during the last round of the program. I beat it by only 3 seconds, but I was thrilled. I am doing more yoga and, as sad as I am to have left the truly lovely small women’s only gym I was going to, I am ever so grateful for the opportunity to train with my husband for the first time since 2009, thanks to the co-ed factor and amazing childcare services/playroom at our new gym (that my kids love so much, they cry when they get picked up!). I am embracing the Hot Mojo, HEAT and Organic Body Work passes available in the “hot room” at my gym. And now that the weather is turning, it’s great to have access to an abundance of brand-new treadmills. Baby Cupcake has also started at my gym, doing Born to Move baby dance classes once a week. Totally adorable!

So what does this have to do with IQS?

My schedule is full-on now. I am back at work part-time, with the children the rest of the time, engaged in many personal projects and I train 4-5 times per week. I have energy to do all of this, despite still not getting quite enough sleep and drinking only one cup of coffee per day.

I am enjoying being part of the IQS community and I’ve loved the weekly intro videos, blog posts and the webinar that was held the other day. Sarah Wilson said something that really struck a chord with me during the webinar:

“Be the message.”

So simple and so powerful.

I am not an expert/nutritionist/dietician/doctor… I am a just someone who is interested in and has benefitted from investing in my health. When I treat myself with kindness, the effects spill over into every area of my life. My children, I believe, will do as I do, not as I say. So “being the message” is vital when it comes to raising my children the way I think they deserve to be raised.

 

WHAT I AM LOVING

  • The new 8-Week Program recipes
  • Being more active in the IQS forums, Instagram and other channels with program participants and those who are curious about quitting sugar
  • The adaptability of Vegetarian Program recipes means my vegan husband and I do not have to prepare entirely separate meals. This is a huge time-saver… and everybody wins!
  • That my kids love the food too!
  • That my 3.5 year-old son has started asking for asparagus, quinoa and “avocato” at meal times! (I am not kidding)
  • Having a fridge and pantry stocked with healthy food and a freezer full of labeled leftovers
  • Riding the wave of all this organisation-related motivation and getting other big jobs done, such as donating clothing to charity
  • That the more care and attention I invest in food- from the purchasing of raw ingredients of the best quality through to preparation and cooking- the less inclined I am to waste a single bite!

 

WHAT I AM NOT LOVING SO MUCH

  • That I am still “snacky” when I first get home after picking the kids up/before gym (although I don’t know if this is a “bad” thing, especially when I am training!)
  • That I can’t shake chocolate completely (even if it is raw, homemade and sugar-free)

 

WHAT I AM NOTICING

  • There have been many occasions when I thought I was craving sugar, that I’ve actually been dehydrated. As soon as I drink water, the fake craving goes away!
  • That in Week 2, roasted tomatoes tasted very sweet (not in a bad way, just noticeably sweeter)
  • That preparation truly is one of the cornerstones of success with IQS. I see the benefits of being organised food-wise everyday as I try to juggle work, parenting, training, hobbies, married life and whatever else a 24-hour period brings!

 

Wishing all the other participants of this round of the IQS8WP the very best and, indeed, the same to anyone who might be reading this today! :)

<3 MM xx

 

*An IQS Ambassador’s role is essentially one of helpful support and friendly encouragement for fellow program participants… not hard to do, as they are all quite lovely and I am a big fan of the program!

 

SPICED ALMOND MILK HOT CHOCOLATE

I have decided that tonight I will attempt to catch up on news in the blogosphere. But before I see what my friends have been up to, I want to quickly share a recipe that I’ve had a few requests for via Instagram. The other day, lovely Lillian, the brains and beauty behind Sugar and Cinnamon, posted a recipe on Instagram. She claimed to have perfected a healthy, vegan spiced hot chocolate. With the weather outside becoming increasingly Swedish dismal, when I noted that Lillian’s recipe would be easy to IQS-ify and saw that ginger, clove, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg and almond “mylk” were all in the ingredients line-up, I got on it.

To make life simpler for those who have asked to be directed to the recipe, I’ll post it here, giving full credit to Lillian as the only substitution I made was adding rice malt syrup (instead of a non-IQS alternative) and the only additions I made were extra almond milk and some coconut cream to serve.

Bye-bye, Autumn blues!

I hope everyone’s having a great weekend! <3 MM xx

MissMarzipan_SugarandCinnamon_hotchocolate1

SPICED ALMOND MILK HOT CHOCOLATE
by Lillian from Sugar and Cinnamon
Serves: 1

INGREDIENTS

3 tsp raw cacao powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp vanilla powder/vanilla bean paste
A tiny pinch of ground clove
A tiny pinch of nutmeg
250-300 ml unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp rice malt syrup (or 1 tbsp agave/maple syrup if you’re Paleo/non-IQS)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix cacao and spices in a mug/cup/jar.
  2. Boil a kettle and pour just enough hot water over the cacao spice mix to cover everything (approx. 50 ml).
  3. Stir in the rice malt syrup.
  4. Heat the almond milk in a pan until just starting to froth, then pour into the mug. Stir everything to combine well.
  5. Add a dollop of coconut cream on the top (it should go “melty” and rise to the surface). Sprinkle over a pinch of cinnamon and serve immediately.

 

*To make an iced version, leave drink to cool for twenty minutes, then blend with some ice cubes before serving.

 

RAW VEGAN COCONUT CHOCOLATE PRALINES (with pistachios & spirulina)

Hi lovelies! I am posting this recipe due to requests I have received via my Instagram account (hi there, IG peeps!).

The original recipe for both the coconut filling and raw chocolate coating is by the lovely SR Healthy Lifestyle, who was kind enough to allow me to recreate what was already pretty perfect, really.

I wanted to make something that would present as a praline (the Belgian/Swedish definition of praline*, that is), although it must be said that my pastry teacher would freak if she knew I’d referred to these as “pralines” at all! Her sister is a renowned chocolatier and these are pretty far from the Belgian-style tempered chocolate praliner I have been taught to make!

But they’re cute, yummy, sugar-free and healthy… so I forgive myself.

Before I share the recipe, I need to confess that I really am getting the guilts about my recent fly-by posts :( . This week I am making it a priority to catch up on reading, comments, etc. Bear with me, please.

<3 MM xx

*As opposed to the nutty caramel/brittle kind.

RAW VEGAN COCONUT CHOCOLATE PRALINES WITH PISTACHIOS AND SPIRULINA
Base recipe by SR Healthy Lifestyle

FILLING INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp rice malt syrup
3 cups shredded coconut
4 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp spirulina powder

CHOCOLATE COATING INGREDIENTS

125 ml cacao powder
125 ml coconut oil
, melted
3 tbsp rice malt syrup

FOR FINISHING

2-3 tbsp chopped pistachios mixed with a good pinch of spirulina

DIRECTIONS

  1. Blend all filling ingredients together in a food processor.
  2. Remove half of the mix and tip it into a 20cm x 20cm baking paper-lined tin, pressing it down firmly and neatly to create a smooth, even layer.
  3. Pop the tray into the freezer for a couple of minutes while you create the green layer.
  4. Add a teaspoon of spirulina powder to the remaining half of the mix in the food processor and give it a blitz.
  5. Take the tray out of the freezer and evenly flatten out the green half of the mix on top of the white layer. Pop the tray back in the freezer.
  6. Combine all chocolate coating ingredients in a small saucepan and stir on a low heat until well incorporated.
  7. Remove the tray from the freezer after an hour or so and cut the coconut filling slab into small squares with a sharp knife.
  8. Pop the squares on baking paper and drizzle over chocolate coating. Turn each square around, dabbing each side in the puddles of run-off chocolate to coat all sides evenly (yes, it gets messy right about now).
  9. Place coated “pralines” onto a clean, baking paper-lined tray and sprinkle with the spirulina-laced chopped pistachios.
  10. Refrigerate/freeze to set and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Remove from fridge/freezer a few minutes before serving.

 

MissMarzipan_coconut_pralines_pistachio_spirulina copy

*Visit srhealthy.weebly.com for more recipe inspiration.
*To make them Paleo, use agave or honey instead of rice malt syrup.

 

MISS MARZIPAN’S JAVA CHIP FRAPPU-CHIA-NO (a healthy, sugar-free, protein-packed, vegan, paleo-inspired, frosty mocha smoothie you can make at home!)

It took a long time for a certain coffee chain from Seattle to reach Sweden’s shores and, for many years, the highlight of my time spent sitting in airport transit areas was the rare opportunity to sip on a coveted Frappuccino. When I started becoming Pinterest-obsessed a few years ago, I noticed many a DIY take on the Frappuccino, but I really wanted to try inventing my own version, keen to tick a few boxes including sugar-free, vegan, healthy and protein-packed.

No regrets whatsoever! I think I am in <3


MISS MARZIPAN’S JAVA CHIP FRAPPU-CHIA-NO
Serves 4-6, depending on glass size and how much ice you blend in

INGREDIENTS FOR SMOOTHIE BASE

6 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp almond meal (finely ground raw almonds)
400 ml cold coffee*
500 ml almond milk
1 tsp vanilla powder (100% vanilla)
1 tbsp rice malt syrup

INGREDIENTS FOR CHOCOLATE SAUCE
3 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp raw cacao powder
3 tbsp rice malt syrup**

FOR SERVING
Crushed ice
400 ml cold coconut cream, whipped with a pinch of vanilla powder
Raw cacao nibs

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine all smoothie base ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mix well with a spoon, then place in fridge for at least 2 hours.
  2. Meanwhile, you can make the chocolate sauce by simply combining all sauce ingredients in a small pan and heating through while stirring over a low heat. Remove from heat and let IT cool (it will thicken up a little after cooling).
  3. Give the smoothie mix a little stir, add 3 tablespoons of the chocolate sauce to the mix, then blitz it until smooth in a blender. Pour 3/4 of the blended smoothie mix back into the mixing bowl.
  4. Throw a handful of ice cubes into the blender with the remaining 1/4 of smoothie mix. Blitz then pour into a large glass/regular mason jar. Repeat process until all mix is used/glasses are full.
  5. Top each smoothie with whipped coconut cream, cocao nibs and a drizzle of the remaining chocolate sauce.

 

*I used freshly ground organic coffee beans to make coffee in a French press. To make it more Paleo-friendly, use decaffeinated coffee.
** To make it Paleo, use honey instead of rice malt syrup.

 

 

CHECK IT OUT ON INSTAGRAM

 

MY FIRST HALF MARATHON (I did it!)

Hi all! Just wanted to check in here quickly and report that my first half marathon experience was a success. The atmosphere was amazing, the bystanders were generous with their support and my fellow runners were a huge inspiration from start to finish. The route was great too, winding its way around many areas of Stockholm that I know but have never explored in such a way. I adored the sense of freedom I had running alongside others through tunnels, under/over bridges and on roads without cars.

I was arguably untrained, in the sense of not having followed a training program (nor run for 2 weeks prior to the race), and no doubt ill-prepared, collecting my bib just after the pick-up stations were due to have closed. To top it off, I had 5 hours of sleep the night before running and awoke with the beginnings of a cold…
But, I made it to the finish line in tact and ran the entire way, even sprinting the last kilometre. I am currently counting my blessings for my cheer squad and ginger tea/cold and flu medicine/echinacea, and I am really looking forward to doing some yoga and getting lots of sleep this week!

Too tired to write a recap now, I will pinch what I wrote on Instagram when I posted my first ever “selfie” (not technically one as I didn’t take the pic myself) today and copy and paste it here*…

“Ok, bear with me folks! This is my first #selfie on Instagram, in honor of the completion of my ✨first half marathon✨. It was an awesome experience and, as with all the scary yet positive challenges I have undertaken, the nerves beforehand were actually worse than the event itself. There were times during the #run when I felt truly amazing and times where everything hurt and my legs didn’t want to continue. But I achieved my personal goal of running the entire distance 🏃… and I had fun!

This pic was taken 30 minutes after I finished, on the walk back with my family (cheer squad) from the city centre. I am not wearing my medal here, as my baby daughter 👶 had already pinched it… but I ran in part for her, so giving her my medal is an appropriate gesture.

As you might have noticed, I’m not one for selfies. For 3 years I blogged completely anonymously, using neither my name nor my face publicly online. And, as a former makeup addict, showing a bare face after a 21.1 km run is also kind of a big deal for me (even if this is b&w and a bit more post-race-face-friendly!) 😜lol! For those of you who don’t like selfies, fear not; this will no doubt be a rare occurrence. And for those of you who wanted me to introduce myself, hi lovelies 👋👋! Sending 💕 from #stockholm !

To those who wished me well and told me it would be a mental challenge more than a physical one, thank you! Just prior to the race a friend shared the famous #edmundhillary #quote

“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

So true.  💪❤🙏”

 

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend! I intend to catch up on everyone’s news soon… and get back to blogging some recipes and less personal stuff! :P

<3 MM xx

*Lazy, I know! Please forgive hashtags, emoticons and annoying social media-speak (poor grammar)!

THE LONG ROAD TO MY FIRST HALF MARATHON (and why I started running in the first place), PART 2

Tomorrow I am due to run my first half marathon. I cannot say I am set, as it implies “prepared”… which is something I feel far from. But I thought I should post this now and hopefully, sometime 18 hours or less from now, I will have good news to report.

THE POWER OF VISUALISATION

So, anyway, when I left you last time, I was in India. It was February 2008, I had recovered from my medical mishap and was able to enjoy the rest of my time there with a newfound appreciation for my health, travel and my life in general.

I returned to Stockholm to be greeted by the comforting smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns in Arlanda airport, the cold, crisp, clean winter air outside, and the promise of new opportunities. Thankfully, despite having recently been through some intense and tumultuous times, it seemed that as soon as I visualised something positive, it manifested in my life. Remembering an exercise I had done around the time I first started exploring self-healing and meditation, I had created a visualisation mood board (I am a big fan of these, as you can see here and here) in January 2008. It featured cut and pasted images of smiling, happy young women, artists/designers at work on pretty projects, bowls of fruit, healthy, yoga-loving people, exotic travel destinations and shiny new Apple Macintosh computers. I won’t say that scoring my dream job was easy. In fact it felt like I was having some surreal pop idol reality TV experience… sans a stage and cameras. Each week I was called to a new interview or asked to undertake creative/IQ/personality tests. I would make it through to the next “round”, only to discover a new challenge facing me. And week after week (the interview process took around 6-7 in total), I found myself making the cut.

By the time I finally walked through the office doors for my final face-to-face interview (there was still one more to go, via phone!), I was certain I was destined for a desk there… somewhere. I knew without doubt that it was the right fit for me and that I “belonged”. Apparently my soon-to-be-manager thought likewise and has since told me that as soon as she saw me, her voice of intuition said “She’s hired.” My first day of work was the official opening of the Stockholm head office and, my word, did the company put on a show. I entered the reception area to find a cocktail bar complete with ice sculptures being set up, there were generous gift bags, visiting dignitaries, multiple venues hired (that myself and my new 350 + colleagues moved between over the course of the day), meals, drinks, entertainment, hugs from the 5 fellow Aussies I discovered amongst the crowd, Sahara Hotnights playing as surprise after dinner guests, etc. It was a rather unusual first day on the job… but an amazing way to enter a new era of hard work actually paying off!

Yes, it's dorky, but here I am with a bouquet of "welcome" flowers sent to my home address by the HR team during my first week on the job. Note the slight look of disbelief on my face! There were many "pinch me" moments that year.

Yes, it’s dorky, but here I am with a bouquet of “welcome” flowers sent to my home address by the HR team during my first week on the job. Note the slight look of disbelief on my face. There were many “pinch me” moments that year.

I found myself in an all female team with women that were lovely, talented, creative and fun to be around. There was a bowl of fruit stationed behind my desk that was replenished daily by a fruit delivery guy, there were in-house yoga classes and I had a shiny new Apple Mac, complete with an IT support team’s help, should things go technically awry (the relief!). Less than 2 months later I was sent to leadership training and found myself in a swanky hotel in Moscow, literally jumping on the bed out of the sheer excitement of being there. A couple of months after that, I received a promotion. There were even bigger things to come that year career-wise and, in hindsight, I should have stuck a picture of a mansion, a million dollars and J.Lo’s butt on that mood board!

ALONG CAME TTC

Obviously India had fuelled in me an even greater interest in taking care of myself. But, somewhere in amongst all the busy-ness and success of that year, the desire to take care of someone else snuck in too. In fact, that little whisper of longing eventually became my focus for everything, namely because TTC (or trying to conceive as it’s known in non-TTC circles!) wasn’t the proverbial bed of roses I expected. I might elaborate further in a future post, but I will say now that the road to motherhood was a long and, at times, heartbreaking one for me. Somewhere in amongst landing my “dream job”, TTC, miscarriage and trying to improve my health, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, a condition for which I am on medication to this day. A string of bad luck in the health department saw a broken arm and mild pneumonia thrown into the mix. I was fortunate that, by this point, I had a solid foundation upon which I could rely in terms of a support network, self-knowledge and an increasingly healthy lifestyle.

Feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, despite having a team of hair and makeup artists to doll me up for the gorgeous event that was my brother's wedding. Only two weeks before this day, I was given notification at the hospital that my HCG levels post-miscarriage had dropped to a point where it was deemed safe for me to travel. And so I went back to Australia for a visit, newly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and generally feeling pretty low. Feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, despite having a team of hair and makeup artists to doll me up for the gorgeous event that was my brother's wedding. Only two weeks before this day, I was given notification at the hospital that my HCG levels post-miscarriage had dropped to a point where it was deemed safe for me to travel. And so I went back to Australia for a visit, newly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and generally feeling pretty low.

Feeling incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin, despite having a team of hair and makeup artists to doll me up for the gorgeous event that was my brother’s wedding. Only two weeks before this day, I was given notification at the hospital that my HCG levels post-miscarriage had dropped to a point where it was deemed safe for me to travel. And so I went back to Australia for a visit, newly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism and generally feeling pretty low.

ALONG CAME PREGNANCY #1 (EVENTUALLY)

My world changed forever on the morning of the office summer party in 2010, when a little pink line appeared on a pregnancy test. I had been so scared to find out the result of that test myself that I had sent my husband, with the test, out of the bathroom while I tried to distract myself by washing my hair.

“It’s positive…”, he said shakily as he reentered the bathroom a minute later.

“What?”, I responded, almost rudely. “What? What?…”

Disbelief.

“It’s positive.”, he said again with more conviction, as I collapsed in tears in the shower. He sprang in to hug me, still wearing his clothes.

I was thrilled to have this belly in 2010!

I was thrilled to have this belly in 2010!

My pregnancy was joyous beyond words, but gifted to me not without some difficulties, including 40 extra kilograms of weight, chronic edema, carpal tunnel syndrome and, eventually, sick leave. Yes, despite being health-focused, caffeine-free, doing prenatal yoga 5-6 times per week from week 13 through to 9 months pregnant, taking pregnancy dance classes during the second trimester, eating organic, mostly home-cooked, vegetarian food, and being generally overjoyed to be pregnant, my pregnancy was hardly free of issues. A traumatic birth experience involving an emergency c-section, blood loss of 3.2 litres and subsequent transfusions, meant a longer road to physical recovery than I would have liked, but I bounced back. I started going to a local womens’ gym, working out for as little as 15 minutes per session (depending on baby L’s napping), but going consistently… around 5-6 times per week. I did little to change what I ate, sticking primarily with homemade, vegetarian food. Within less than a year, I was more or less “back to normal”. I had a brief “pit stop” back at work and then…

PREGNANCY #2

… and with it a whole world of complications. I had my first major hemorrhaging episode during my second pregnancy literally the day after announcing the big news to my parents and in-laws over dinner. I was devastated when I awoke the following morning, drenched in blood. In the ER, I was told point-blank by the doctor that there was no hope for the pregnancy. She couldn’t see any sign of a baby in my uterus, I was clearly bleeding heavily and my endometrium was “too thin”. Concerned about a possible ectopic pregnancy, she scheduled blood tests to check my HCG levels. I went home, crawled into bed and grieved and cried for days. I suffered terrible cramping and heavy bleeding and, when it was over, I returned to work determined to throw myself into a huge project and be as massively distracted as possible. Sitting at my desk one day, I received the surprise phone call of a lifetime from a doctor at the hospital. My results had been delayed for some reason, but my HCG numbers had risen from 186 to 960.

What?

He continued by saying that, based on those numbers alone, he could predict that my pregnancy was not only viable but “normal”.

What?

By this stage in the conversation I had moved from my desk to a corridor, where I stood shaking and on the verge of a panic attack… not so much from any renewed hope or joy, but from absolute shock and confusion.

Another ultrasound brought more confusion and anxiety. The doctor (a new one) seemed perplexed and told me that he could see “something” but it was not the shape/form he would want or expect to see. My heart sank yet again. A specialist was called in and another ultrasound was performed. The verdict? That everything looked just as it should in the case of a perfect, viable pregnancy. I burst into tears. Again.

The next 4 weeks went by and the shock and trauma gave way to happiness… and nausea… and regular pregnancy stuff .

During my next ultrasound we saw a precious little heart beating. I was told by the doctor (yet another one) that everything looked perfect and that I shouldn’t have to worry anymore. Relief! I was beyond happy.

At around midnight that very night, I awoke from a horrible nightmare that I was losing my baby, to find myself laying in a pool of blood… yes, I was bleeding (and cramping) again! I couldn’t believe it. Back on the phone to the hospital, I was told that I could indeed be losing the baby and if I was, there was nothing they could do to help me. I was crushed again. This pattern continued; bad news following good news, bleed following bleed after bleed. 13 weeks brought contractions my way (yes, contractions!) and hemorrhaging so extreme that I ended up hospitalised and on medication after being told (rather tactlessly) “We will be keeping you here for observation and will check to see if your baby is alive in the morning”. Try to sleep after hearing those words!

At 16 weeks I put myself instinctively on full bed rest. I had already been on modified bed rest for 3 weeks at that point. I asked that my anatomy scan be pushed forward as I really wanted to have some peace of mind before heading back to work. We looked forward to good news and to finding out whether we were expecting a boy or a girl.

Then, almost half way through my pregnancy, I finally discovered (after 13 ultrasounds!) the truth of my condition and that, although my baby was doing well, I had a large blood clot inside the wall of my uterus (larger than the baby) that could threaten to cause “spontaneous abortion” and a host of other very nasty complications.

The SCH (subchorionic hematoma) extended all the way from behind the placenta to the cervix. There was nothing that could have prepared me for that shock, nor hearing the high risk specialist say that “some babies make it, some babies don’t”. I was told that there was nothing I could do (other than rest and wait), nor was there anything the hospital could do to save my baby at that point should the worst happen.

As I lay there on the examination table I was too devastated to bring myself to ask the baby’s gender. I began spiraling into a depressed state and I felt like the SCH was a ticking time bomb inside of me.

Just when I needed to hear this message more than ever, I watched an interview with Deepak Chopra where he said “You can believe the diagnosis, but not the prognosis”. Those words were a light in the darkness. And they changed my perception of my condition.

MissMarzipan_blessingway

Decided that, no matter what, I was celebrating my baby and pregnancy. My blessingway was beautiful, and these cuddles with little L at the end of the day were the icing on the gorgeous cake.

All in all, I ended up having a whopping 23 ultrasounds during my pregnancy, I was on sick leave for over 28 weeks, I was on bed rest (modified and full) for 10 weeks, on pelvic rest the entire pregnancy, I didn’t lift my 2 year-old son for at least 15 weeks (which broke my heart at times), I drank an absolute ton of water, I did lots of healing visualisation meditation, I donated money to various charities, I blogged (thank you WP friends for being here!) and I did what I could to stay positive, even whilst laying in bed. I believed that my baby was a fighter and it was my duty to fight too.

Me (with baby belly #2) and my Cupcake via 3D ultrasound... (just one of many!)

Me (with baby belly #2) and my Cupcake via 3D ultrasound (just one of many!), December 2012

The good news is that, in my case, the SCH did shrink. With every ultrasound, it got smaller. But slowly. And it never fully resolved.

At 40 weeks and 2 days, after going into labour naturally, I delivered my miracle Baby Cupcake via VBAC only 4 hours after arriving at the hospital. The labour and delivery were a dream come true for me and I loved the whole experience, including watching MasterChef Australia while crazily baking Garry Mehigan’s scone recipe during active labour! Unfortunately I had some serious complications following the birth, the result of which led to 4 liters of blood loss (approximately 8.5 pints… or a generally terrifying amount!) and I had to undergo tricky postpartum surgery.

Image copyright Breigh Mattson, Your Little Family Photography, 2013

Newly baked (around 5 weeks old). You were worth it all, Cupcake! (© Your Little Family Photography)

AND THAT BRINGS ME TO RUNNING

In June 2013, around 4 months after Cupcake’s arrival, I put on a crappy pair of decade-old running shoes, stepped on a treadmill, sputtered along for 3 minutes… and felt like I would die. But something in me acknowledged the privilege of such freedom of movement (after all the restrictions and limits of my high risk pregnancy). Something in me told me that maybe, just maybe, if I could push through that pain barrier, running would get easier… maybe even enjoyable.

And then Blodomloppet came along; a 5 km fun-run held annually in Stockholm to raise awareness and encourage sign-ups for blood donation. I was far from fit back then and weighed close to 15 kilograms more than I do as I sit here and type this tonight. But the cause was one close to my heart, given all the blood loss I have suffered and the transfusions I have been the recipient of. So I “run-walked” it with my Stockholm bestie. And it felt great.

I have continued to run since then, sometimes very regularly, sometimes not so much. But I can actually say that I like running now… and sometimes I even love it.

Still, when I think about tomorrow’s half marathon, I am hit by waves of anxiety. At this point the longest I have run is 18 km, which I managed 2 weeks ago. I haven’t run since! And I wouldn’t recommend my training schedule (lack thereof) to anyone. But I have been following my intuition. My body has said “rest” and “yoga”. So that is what I have done. I just hope I have made the right choices.

Wish me luck… and thanks for bearing with me during these incredibly long and winding posts.

I hope it is beyond clear now why not only my health, but the mere opportunity to be able to run, means so much to me.

Have a wonderful weekend!

<3 MM xx