Couldn’t Be Easier Lemon Poppy Seed Cake (Gluten & Dairy Free)

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Baking a cake does not get any simpler, quicker or healthier than this.

All you need is a bowl, a scale and a whisk – no measuring cup or mixer needed.

And the result? Absolutely delicious. The tart taste of the lemon contrasts nicely with the subtle sweetness of the maple syrup and the crunch of the poppy seeds.

Poppy seeds seem to have fallen out of fashion recently, replaced by the more sexy and almost identical-looking chia seeds whose praise I sung here. Poppy seeds are super healthy as well, containing phosphorous, calcium, fiber, iron, potassium and zinc and are a good source of healthy fats. They are grown in Europe, making them more local to us here than chia seeds and they compliment baked goods like cakes or breads extremely well. They can also be added to salad dressings or sprinkled over porridge or muesli.

This is a great breakfast on the go cake and is also lovely with a cup of tea. It keeps well for several days and you can even freeze it.


100g maple syrup

40g olive oil

2 tbsp almond butter or other nut or seed butter

50g poppy seeds

3 small or medium eggs or 2 large ones

juice + zest of 1 large organic lemon

a pinch of sea salt

150g gluten-free flour of your choice – I used half buckwheat flour and half chestnut flour

2 tsp baking powder


Put a bowl on top of a scale and measure the ingredients one by one, starting from the top and whisking as you go along.

Pour the mixture in a baking loaf, greased if it is not silicone.

Bake in the middle of a preheated oven for about 25-35 minutes at 170 degrees. You will know it is ready when a knife comes out clean.

Take it out of the baking loaf and put it on a rack to cool down.

Inspired by this recipe.

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Lamb’s Lettuce & Egg Salad + Egg Love

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If you have a few extra hard-boiled eggs lying around this Easter period, fear not – I have the perfect recipe for you!

This recipe is based on the Swiss-German Nüsslisalat and uses a type of leafy green called lamb’s lettuce or mâche (doucette or rampon in French). Lamb’s lettuce has its humble origins as a weed which was found growing among cereal crops in Europe. It became an important source of nutrients during winter as one of the few types of salads that grows during this period, and is traditionally eaten in early Spring as well. It is a good source of vitamin C, iron and beta-carotene and has a delicate, nutty taste that is quite distinctive.

This Easter salad is very high in good fats found in the walnuts, avocado and olive oil as well as protein from the eggs. Because healthy fats and protein are actually more filling than most carbohydrates (especially refined ones like white bread), you can eat this alone as a meal in itself without needing bread or anything else to make it more filling. I always find it ironic that people trying to be healthy have a really light salad without much protein or fat and then fill up on bread. Add healthy fats and protein instead and notice how filling a salad becomes! It is enough for two people as a main dish or 4 as a starter.

A word on eggs

Research is increasingly showing that even though eggs contain cholesterol, they do not increase cholesterol in the body. Eggs are actually one of the healthiest foods you can eat, containing high-quality protein, healthy fats, vitamins, A, D, E, K and B12, folate and iron.

The most important thing is to make sure you buy organic, free-range eggs – meaning that the hens lived outside and where fed a natural diet.


1-2 pressed garlic cloves

2 tsp Dijon mustard

6 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar

1-2 tablespoons honey

8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste


200g lamb’s lettuce

4 hard-boiled eggs

1 avocado

Handful of walnuts

How often should you eat? 

How often should we eatHave you ever wondered how often you should eat? Should you eat 5 smaller meals, nibble consistently throughout the day or have 3 solid meals?

As is the case very often in nutrition, different experts have different opinions. This is probably due to bio-individuality: No one diet or way of eating works for everyone and the key is to experiment to find what works for YOU.

This is my opinon only, based on my own experience.

I used to graze constantly. 

I would have breakfast (usually cereal like Special K which I thought was healthy), then a snack like a banana or apple mid-morning, then lunch which I tried to keep ‘healthy‘ by having a very light salad, but filling up on bread. In the afternoon, I would start having sugar cravings and I would go for a Coke and whatever chocolate or cookies were lying around the office where I was working. Dinner was usually more bread with cheese (what I called a picnic dinner) or pasta or sometimes when I was alone and feeling indulgent I would have a ‘dessert meal’ – eating steamed brocolli followed by half a tub of ice-cream instead of a proper meal.

Not surprisingly, my digestion wasn’t great and I often had energy dips – which only led to eating more sugar.

When I began changing my diet, I started by adding in fats and protein to replace my carbohydrate rich meals. For example, at breakfast I would have oatmeal with nuts and seeds or a green smoothie with nuts and seeds (which provide both fats and protein) or eggs (again, a great source of both). I started noticing that my energy levels were more stable and I no longer needed my mid-morning banana when I asked myself whether I was really hungry. I then started making sure my lunches included a source of healthy fats and protein, even if I was having a salad or soup. I also started eating more filling lunches, often by bringing leftovers from dinner to work.

After a while, I noticed that I no longer needed to snack in the afternoon and I could wait for dinner to eat again. I also found that my digestion improved because I was giving it a proper break between meals to do its work more efficiently. And I lost a few kilos as well without going on a diet, but simply by eating more healthy, proper meals and snacking only when I was really, truly hungry between meals.

Why is that? A very simplified explanation is that after you eat, your body burns sugar from your meal as energy. Once it has burned the sugar, it starts burning fat, and this is when weight loss happens. If you think about it, even if you just eat a cucumber, your body gets busy digesting the cucumber instead of burning fat and if you are constantly grazing and eating late at night, you never really give it the break it needs to switch to fat-burning mode.

But hold on! Don’t switch to 3 meals immediately…

If you tend to have energy crashes, especially mid-morning and mid-afternoon when you start hearing the siren calls of sugar, stabilize your blood sugar levels first before trying to cut out grazing. In the beginning, aim for 5 smaller meals, with a snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and even before going to bed if you are hungry.

This isn’t permission to load up on unhealthy snacks though! Make sure you have meals and snacks that are high in healthy fats and protein which fill you up and keep your energy stable. Possible snacks that are high in healthy fats and protein can include nuts or seeds, a hard-boiled egg, a little meat, fish or chicken, a piece of cheese, fresh or dried fruit with nut butter, 1/2 an avocado, humus with raw veggies, a small pot of plain, organic yoghurt, dates with sunflower seeds or these date and nut balls.

It is also important to reduce the following as much as possible to avoid energy crashes: Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, refined starches such as white rice and white bread as well as processed foods, sodas and even fruit juice.

Once you find your energy levels start stablizing, eat a little more at meals and start asking yourself whether you are really hungry for a snack. You will find that if you eat proper meals, you won’t actually need to snack, or you will need to snack less.

Experiment with how you feel when you don‘t snack between meals.

Notice how it feels to eat your next meal when you are really hungry. 

Of course, it is not just what you eat or how often that counts – HOW you eat is just as important. Properly chewing your meals and being relaxed enables you to fully leverage your digestive fire and assimilate more of the nutrients from your meals. Also, when you slow down and take pleasure in your meals, your mind registers that it has eaten and you feel satisfied for longer after a meal.

What about you – how many times a day do you eat? Do you feel it works well for you?


Get Well Soon Red Lentil Soup

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Growing up, whenever someone in my family caught a cold, my mother would immediately whip up some red lentil soup or shorabet ‘adas as we call it in Arabic.

There was something magical about this soup: The mix of spices, fresh lemon and onion always made me feel better as soon as I ate it.

As an adult, I still make when my husband or I catch a cold or sometimes when I simply need a hug in a bowl.

I wanted to share this recipe with you as the perfect antidote to the colds that are so frequent this season. This powerful soup combines immune-boosting onion, nutritional powerhouse lentils and vitamin C-filled lemon juice. You can eat it as a starter or a main meal: Make it more filling by adding some of the toppings mentioned below. I almost always add olives, since as a healthy fat, they make a meal more filling while also adding some umami!

A nutritional aside

Red lentils are actually one of the fastest lentils to cook – they don’t need to be soaked (only washed) and are a good source of protein and fiber. Lentils are also a very good source of iron, and the vitamin C in the lemon helps improve iron absorption in the body.

I love using red lentils in soups because they become mushy when cooked unlike brown or green lentils which stay intact.

The star of this recipe is without a doubt the ground cumin. Cumin is traditionally paired with lentils in Arabic and Indian food because it acts as a digestive aid. Cumin is also a very warming spice – perfect for the winter months ahead, as well as a good source of magnesium and iron. Not just a tasty addition, a healthy one, too!


2 cups red lentils, washed until the water is clear

4 cups or 1 liter water

2 onions, chopped

Ground cumin, salt & pepper to taste

Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon – depends on the size of your lemon and how much you like the taste!


Heat oil and fry the onion. Once it is cooked, add the washed lentils, stir with the onions, then add water and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat and leave for about 10-15 minutes until the lentils are mushy.

Add the ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste – I use about a large tablespoon of cumin.

Once the soup is ready, remove from the heat and add lemon juice.


Olives, capers, strips of grilled Arabic bread, steamed leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard or kale or fresh spring onion for some added immunity boost.

I’d love to hear from you – what was your ‘Get well soon’ food growing up?

Do fats make you fat?

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Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, fat was The Enemy, something to be absolutely avoided. I am sure many of you will remember the age of low-fat everything, and how ‘healthy’ we felt eating those foods! After all, fat makes you fat, right?

Wrong! If there is one dietary myth I think it is important for people to know, it is that we NEED a good amount of healthy fats in our diets. And while it is true that some types of fat are better avoided, it is also true that many of us are not eating enough healthy fats. I know from my own experience that I was not eating enough fats a few years ago. As a ‘muffin vegetarian’, I ate very little fatty foods, and I actually thought this was a good thing – yet I was constantly grazing between meals. Adding more healthy fats to my diet, mostly in the form of nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs and coconut products drastically changed how full I feel after a meal.

Fats have more calories per gram than carbohydrates and proteins, but as I have written before, it is much more important to look at nutrients than calories, and fats are absolutely essential for the following processes:

♦ Building blocks of hormones

♦ Anti-inflammatory effect, meaning healthy fats can decrease the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases

♦ Fats make the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K possible

♦ Fats are essential for proper growth and development, especially considering that 60% of our brains are made of fat

♦ Fats slow down digestion, helping us feel full for longer and can also help reduce sugar cravings

Here are some easy ways to up the healthy fat quota of your meals:

Add raw, unsalted nuts like almonds and walnuts to your breakfast cereal, porridge or smoothie, sprinkle them over salads or soups or just snack on a handful.

Add raw, unsalted seeds to your breakfast cereal, porridge or smoothie, sprinkle them over salads or soups or just snack on a handful. Please note that linseeds/flaxseeds must always be ground in order for the body to digest them properly.

Add avocados to a salad or on top of any grain-based meal. Make guacamole or spread on toast or crackers for breakfast or a light dinner. Avocados have a unique combination of healthy fats and despite what a lot of women fear, they do not make you fat! They are actually particularly beneficial for balancing hormones in women.

Olives and olive oil (always extra virgin and cold pressed) can be poured over or added to any meal.

Coconut products such as coconut oil, milk or flakes are also a great source of a mid-chain fatty acids which are found in few other foods. Like nuts and seeds, flakes can be added to to your breakfast cereal, porridge or smoothie and coconut milk or cream can be used to make soups or curries or again, added to smoothies. I use coconut oil for cooking as it has a high smoke point (it can be heated without damaging the oil).

Good news for butter lovers – butter is now being considered a healthy fat when it is from grass-fed cows and eaten in moderation. I don’t think anyone needs ideas on how to use butter!

Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon (sockeye), herring, sardines and black cod are good to eat about 3 times per week. If you prefer not to eat fish or live somewhere where it is not available, it is essential to take an omega 3 supplement. I take this myself since I don’t like the taste of fish, even though I eat plenty of plant-based sources of omega 3. Plant-based sources of omega 3 like walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds are very healthy, but are a less efficient source as a conversion process still needs to take place in the body.

Eggs are a great source of healthy cholesterol which is essential for the body. Expert opinion on eggs have now been reviewed and it is generally agreed that they do not cause cholesterol in healthy people. Make sure the eggs you eat are organic and free range.

Meat can also be a healthy fat but again, make sure the animal ate its natural diet of grass rather than grains. This makes a dramatic difference in the ratio of healthy fats in the meat (the famous Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio).

Fats to avoid entirely:

Trans fats – theses are mostly man-made oils that are extremely toxic to the body, leading to heart disease, stroke and cancer. They are found in margarine, processed foods, candy, chips, crackers, flaky pastries, some peanut butters. If the label lists partially- hydrogenated oils, do your body a favor and absolutely avoid this food. The term vegetable oil on an ingredient list usually also means the product contains trans fats and is best avoided. Actually a note on margarine: Margarine and non-butter spreads are chemical, man-made foods which contains harmful fats. Use real butter instead.

Fried foods – make sure these are only a very occasional treat as fried food often contain trans fats.

Low fat foods – and yes, this includes skim milk and low-fat yoghurt. When fat is removed from foods, they are no longer the natural, whole food, and the body in all its wisdom recognizes there is something missing. This can manifest as cravings for sugar, for example. Also, low-fat foods often have sugar added to replace the taste lost by removing the fat.

So there you have it – the skinny on fats! I hope this post helped you see fats a little differently. I urge you to try adding some healthy fats to your meals to notice how full you feel in the hours after the meal. Of course, like every nutrient, the amount needed is very variable, so it is important to experiment to find the right amount for you. Above all, quality is crucial – always buy the best you can afford – cold-pressed, virgin oils and grass fed, organic animals products.

Read more about making your kitchen nut and seed friendly

Read more about making green smoothies that can be topped with healthy fats


Sources: 1, 2, 3