For some, Christmas couldn’t be Christmas without The Village Bakery

If you’re looking for that extra touch this Christmas you may want to try an organic Apricot & Brandy Christmas Pudding from The Village Bakery.

The artisan bakers at Melmerby in Cumbria pride themselves on using excellent ingredients to create distinctive tastes.

The Village Bakery Apricot & Brandy Pudding
Organic and free-from Christmas desserts from The Village Bakery

So in this luxury Christmas pudding you’ll find the distinguished flavours of rye and coriander, apricot and brandy and moist dates and cashew nuts. But there’ll be no refined sugars or flours, simply interesting ingredients, naturally processed and a fantastic taste.

While The Village Bakery’s famous gluten free mince pies are now looked after by their sister free-from company OK Foods, they’re still producing gluten and dairy free puddings bursting with fruit steeped in ginger wine and studded with Brazil nuts – just the thing to make onlookers jealous. Plus, The Village Bakery lots of other gluten free or and organic Christmas cakes and puddings to enjoy too.

With their attention to detail it’s difficult not to enjoy any of the award winning Village Bakery range.

Raw bars just got better

Nakd Rhubarb & Custard

Last week I wrote about some new Scottish fruit and oat bars, known to be healthy for their unprocessed ingredients.

nakd are a Welsh company who have been doing it for ages…

The main difference being nakd’s raw ingredients tend to be a mixture of fruit and various nuts.


If there’s any sense of a ‘raw war’ between the two nations then the Welsh have just upped the ante with a new Rhubarb & Custard flavour.

I don’t know about you, but the flavour appeals simply because of my schooldays spent saving up pennies to buy my favourite sweets from the corner shop, especially the hallowed Rhubarb & Custard flavour!

But there’s not one bit of added sugar or syrup here, simply 100% natural ingredients. The bars are vegan, dairy free and gluten free with a soft, chewy texture that will fill you up till your next meal and most likely count towards your 5 a day too.

nakd make lots more flavours too, such as mocha, ginger bread and apple pie, but, if you’re not convinced by my nostalgic excitement over childhood flavours, read this feedback and weep…

“Hi, I’m another person who normally never bothers to write to companies, but I felt compelled to this time. The new Nakd bars are just fantastic. How did you manage to come up with something that tastes even better than chocolate?!!! I’m as far away as you can get from a health food junkie, but given the choice of pretty much any other biscuit, cake or sweet I’d choose one of the new bars every time. The flavours are brilliant. I expected to like one or two but, having tried the sampler pack, I’m happy to say that I love all of them. Thank you!”

Try this creamy dairy free ingredient in your Christmas cooking… (recipe included)

Amazake is a deliciously sweet and creamy dairy free alternative
Try this deliciously sweet and creamy dairy free alternative for your desserts

If you’re looking for a cooking alternative to milk, you might want to try amazake. It’s so deliciously thick and creamy it is hard to believe its made from dairy free ingredients!

Amazake is a non-dairy ingredient for desserts and drinks, made purely from whole grain rice. It is naturally sweet flavour and has a thick creamy consistency. Plus it’s gluten free too

Try using amazake for making pancake batter, muffin mixes or dairy free French Toast. Or you can mix it into your fruit smoothie. Also available, with their own distinctive flavours, are oat and millet amazake.

Try this Orange amazake dessert Recipe…

A light, but satisfying dairy-free dessert for serving all year round.

(serves 5)

– 1 jar (380g) Clearspring Amazake
– 350ml (1 jar) water
– 1 tbsp (30g) Clearspring Malt Syrup
– 100ml carrot juice for colouring (optional)
– Juice of 1 orange + some of the rind, grated
– 1 tbsp Clearspring Kuzu (thickener)
– A pinch Clearspring Traditional Sea Salt
– Slices of orange to garnish

1. Mix all the ingredients except for the kuzu and bring to the boil whilst stirring.
2. Dissolve the kuzu in a little water then add to the hot liquid stirring until thick.
3. Serve into individual dishes, cool and garnish with the orange slices.

Have you heard about green coffee and weight loss?

If, like me, you’ve been trying to lose weight for ages you probably know all the tips and secrets.

You’ll also be frustrated that it isn’t going as well as you like!

One of the key pieces of advice is to get your metabolism working better. But how?

Exercise, sleep, curious foods, even drinking milk, all these things help mobilise your metabolism, but here’s something which has been making shockwaves with its effectiveness…

Green Coffee bean extract has been shown to boost metabolism so that tests foundpeople would lose 18 pounds over 6 weeks. Not only that, taking green coffee pills kept the weight off too.

Green coffee extract elps with weight loss
Green coffee extract elps with weight loss

Green coffee (or raw coffee) contains chlorogenic acid which works by inhibiting the release of glucose and increasing your body’s metabolic process at the same time. Neither does it leave you with the jitters like coffee might.

It’s not something I’ve tried yet, but I’m hoping to get my hands on some as soon as I can.

Raw Cacao & Pecan Cake recipe (gluten, dairy, soya and egg free!)

There’s a great new book coming out that really should be on your Christmas list.

It’s called ‘Meals That Heal‘ and it’s not only informative, it looks beautiful and has lots of exciting recipes for you to try. We asked the author, Karen Maidment, a health and nutrition specialist to tell share one of her recipes with us…

“As a health & nutrition specialist, personal cookery coach and author of Meals That Heal Anti Inflammatory Healthcare & Free From Cooking, real foods that are also healing are my number one priority.

“Thanks to Goodness Direct us free from foodies can purchase mouth watering delicious ingredients without the fear of food sensitivity associated pain.

“This gorgeous recipe combines some of my favourite super foods, raw cacao, coconut oil and raw honey allowing you to reveal in this decadent treat completely guilt free, enjoy!”

cacao and pecan cake, gluten free, dairy free, soya free, egg free

Raw Cacao & Pecan Cake

Free from gluten, dairy, soy and egg!

Serves 8
Preparation time: 15min
Cooking time: 45-50min

170g/6oz organic Dove’s Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour
110g/4 oz organic raw cacao powder
110g/4 oz organic coconut sugar
2 tbsp organic raw honey
1 sp organic vanilla extract
1 tsp Organic Dove’s Farm Baking Powder
1 tsp Dove’s Farm Organic Bicarbonate Soda
250ml Organic Biona Coconut Milk
170g/6oz Organic Biona Coconut Oil
125g organic pecan nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 170°c, 340°f, gas mark4
2.  In a large mixing bowl sift the flour, cacao powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sea salt.
3. Place the coconut oil, milk, sugar, vanilla and honey in a saucepan and melt on gently on a low heat.
4. Make a well in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour the melted wet ingredients in. Mix using a whisk (electric or hand) until there are no lumps.
5. Using a rolling pin smash the pecan nuts (inside a bag) into small bite size pieces. Sprinkle 2/3 of the nuts into the mixture, combining with a wooden spoon.
6. Grease a false bottomed cake tin thoroughly with coconut oil and pour your cake mixture in. Sprinkle the rest of the nuts onto the top of the cake.
7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cake. NOTE: if the top of the cake starts to burn simply cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper.
8. Once cooked carefully work your way around the edge of the cake with a knife to loosen, and then using an oven mitt gently push the cake up from the bottom and out of the tin. Set on a wire rack to cool. Once slightly cooled remove the cake tin base from under the cake.
9. Dust with a little icing sugar.

Good Food a Good Asthma-Management Tool

Vegetables and fruits provide a wide array of antioxidant and other nutrients that might help reduce inflammation, writes Maureen Williams, ND

‘Five a day’ is surely good advice for people wanting to improve their long-term health, but, for people with asthma, the effects of eating lots of fruits and vegetables may be more immediate. A study found that the lungs of people with asthma functioned better when they ate a diet high in vegetables and fruit, compared with people on a diet low in vegetables and fruit after just two weeks. The same study also found that taking an antioxidant supplement for 12 weeks was not as effective as eating a high-antioxidant diet.

Comparing diets and supplements

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 137 adults with asthma. They were assigned to one of three groups:

  1. A high-antioxidant-diet group, who ate 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits every day
  2. A low-antioxidant-diet-plus-supplement group, who ate no more than 2 servings of vegetables and 1 serving of fruit per day and took a daily supplement
  3. A low-antioxidant-diet-plus-placebo group, that ate the same diet and took a daily supplement of no nutritional value

After the first two weeks eating their assigned diets, participants added either an antioxidant supplement (a tomato extract providing 45 mg of the antioxidant, lycopene, per day) or placebo for an additional 12 weeks.

Eat your antioxidants for the best effect

Several important differences were found:

  • Breathing tests showed that respiratory function worsened in people on the low-antioxidant diet after two weeks, but was unchanged in people eating the high-antioxidant diet.
  • Asthma symptoms were more likely to increase in people on the low-antioxidant diet than people on the high-antioxidant diet.
  • Levels of CRP (C-reactive protein, an inflammatory chemical in the blood) increased by week 14 in people on the low-antioxidant diet, but not in people on the high-antioxidant diet. (There are health advantages to decreasing inflammation.)
  • Taking the tomato-extract supplement had no impact on the negative effects of being on the low-antioxidant diet.

“We found that a low-antioxidant diet led to a reduction in lung function and an increased risk of asthma exacerbation compared with a high-antioxidant diet,” the study’s authors said. “Whereas antioxidant supplements and dietary manipulation both increased antioxidant concentrations [in the blood], clinical improvements were evident only after the high-antioxidant diet, which suggests that whole food interventions are most effective.”

Eating for better asthma control

Vegetables and fruits provide a wide array of antioxidant and other nutrients that might help reduce inflammation and manage inflammatory conditions like asthma.

In addition to lycopene, here are some of the many antioxidants from vegetables and fruits that might benefit people with asthma:

  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C is important for keeping all kinds of inflammation at bay, and supplements have been found to be helpful in treating asthma, especially exercise-induced asthma.
  • Beta-carotene. In the same family as lycopene, beta-carotene is an antioxidant that gives plants yellow, red, and orange color. People with asthma have been found to have low blood levels of beta-carotene.
  • Quercetin. This flavonoid is found in many fruits and vegetables and might help to control the release of histamine in people with allergies and asthma.
  • Proanthocyanins. This family of plant compounds gives blue, red, and purple color to flowers and fruits. They are strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, and studies have suggested that certain plant extracts that are high in proanthocyanins may aid in asthma management.

(Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:534–43)

Maureen Williams, ND, completed her doctorate in naturopathic medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle and has been in private practice since 1995. With an abiding commitment to access to care, she has worked in free clinics in the US and Canada, and in rural clinics in Guatemala and Honduras where she has studied traditional herbal medicine. She currently lives and practices in Victoria, BC, and lectures and writes extensively for both professional and community audiences on topics including family nutrition, menopause, anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, and easing stress. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

What does Christmas smell like?

Christmas should be sensational.

With all the food, the Christmas carols, the glittering lights and the kisses and hugs of dearly loved ones, Christmas is designed to excite every sense known to man.

But what about the smell of Christmas?

It’s little understood frankincense and myrrh were highly significant in ancient civilisation. With gold, they represented the most valuable gifts available to man. Little wonder they were the first presents recorded in celebration of the time-honoured message of Christmas.

It’s possible to enjoy the aroma of frankincense and myrrh essential oils for yourself. Hambleden Herbs sell small packets of the wonderfully evocative incense. The pale yellow Frankincense releases an earthy scent with notes of freshly cut pine wood whereas the darker tears of Myrrh are more reminiscent of exotic sandal wood. Together they create a scent that freshens the room and fills it with a warming, exotic fragrance – perfect for the season and dreams of another far away time.

In true Hambleden Herbs style, the Christmas spices are entirely natural, free from adulteration. And don’t forget, it’s possible to get hold of Hambelden’s Organic Mulling Spices too for those cold ponderous winter nights.

However, you celebrate Christmas, make sure it’s filled with joy.

We all need omega oils. How do vegans get theirs?

We all know we need omega oils in our diets, but how do vegans get it?

Omega fatty acids are important for every cell in the body so a diet rich in the right balance of omega oils is going to mean a healthier you.

The right balance of omega 3, 6 and 9 is crucial. In the western diet we get too much omega 6 but not enough omega 3 – both are needed to support the heart, eyes and brain.

Vegan Omega Oils 3 6 9
Vegan friendly omega oils

Tricky for vegans and vegetarians

But if it’s difficult for most Westerners, with fish being the best source of omega oils, it’s even more tricky for those who don’t eat any meat.

Granovita, a vegetarian food company, offer a solution in an Organic Omega Oil Blend. It contains the ideal ratio of omega 3, 6 and 9 essential fatty acids.

As a mix of flax oil, hemp oil, sesame oil, pumpkin oil and evening primrose oil, you can use it as an alternative to vegetable oil or olive oil, particularly for drizzling on salads, potatoes and soups.

One final point however, while I believe organic foods are more nutritious and beter for the environment, my own research hasn’t identified any direct benefit of organically sourced omega oils. So if anyone has any information on this I’d be interested to know?

Get the word out about echinacea – great for defeating colds

It’s amazing how many people don’t know about Echinacea (let alone how to pronounce it)…

The powdered flower is used to increase the white blood cells in our body which fight colds and flu.

My own personal experience with echinacea is so good that I recommend it all the time. It stops me getting worse when I’m run down.

Come to think of it there are loads of herbal remedies which people find useful for different purposes. Schwabe make a product called EchinaCold, but they also make various other concoctions for migraines, depression, sleep problems, indigestion, coughs and stress… The list goes on.

For those of us who prefer to use herbal remedies Schwabe make a useful source of medicinal treatments, all with the Traditional Herbal Remedy certification mark.