Spiced date and walnut vegan loaf cake

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spiced date and walnut vegan loaf cake recipe


This week, I have another recipe for you.  I have been playing around with some new tech on my website.  I now have a super new recipe layout which hopefully you should be able to print off to use whenever you like.

I’d love to know what you think of it.  Do you like the layout of the recipe, is it easy to read, and is it helpful to be able to print the recipe off?  Let me know in the comments below, or comment on my Facebook Page or Instagram Page.



Spiced date and walnut vegan loaf cake

Enjoy this loaf cake with a cup of tea or coffee for your morning snack.  It's packed full of dates, walnuts and oats to provide a nourishing energy boost without eggs or butter.  
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Resting time5 mins
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: healthy, Snack, vegan
Keyword: dates, healthy, loafcake, snack, vegan, walnuts
Author: Janine Harris, New Leaf Health and Wellbeing


  • 1 cup pitted chopped dates
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tbsps maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice


  • Preheat oven to 180C/365F/Gas mark 4 1/2.  Grease and line a 6.5cm x 9cm x 19 cm loaf pan.
  • Place the dates in a heatproof bowl and pour over the boiling water.  Add the maple syrup and allow to stand for 15 minutes
  • Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl.  Add the mixed spice and stir to combine. 
  • Add the oats, walnuts and sugar,  Stir well to combine.
  • Add the date mixture to the dry ingredients, again stirring well to combine.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. 
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  • Stand for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out to cool on a wire rack.
  • Once cool, the loaf cake should be kept in an airtight container.
  • Serve sliced.


You can serve each slice of loaf cake with a spread of butter, cream cheese or a vegan substitute if desired.  

Wishing you a super week.

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Fruit’n’nut Chocolate Energy Slice Recipe

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fruit'n'nut chocolate energy slice


This is a super indulgent, energy slice.  It is rather high in calories due to the dried fruit and dark chocolate so it’s best to eat it pre or post exercise or as an occasional indulgent treat.

Fruit’n’nut chocolate energy slice


Makes approx. 32 slices


375g mixed dried fruit

125g of chopped nuts of choice (I used pistachios and walnuts this time)

150g dried cranberries

1/4 cup of plain flour

150g butter

1/2 cup of honey

1 egg lightly beaten

200g good-quality dark chocolate



  1. Preheat your oven to 170C.  Grease a 3cm x 18 cm x 28 cm baking tray.  Line with baking paper.
  2. Combine the dried fruit, nuts and cranberries in a large bowl.  Stir in the flour.
  3. Combine the butter and honey in a small saucepan over a low heat.  Cook stirring for about 3-4 minutes or until the butter has melted.  Allow to cool slightly.
  4. Add the honey and butter mixture, plus the egg to the fruit mixture and stir well.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.  Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Set aside in the baking tray to cool completely.
  7. Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on low for about 2-3 minutes, stirring every minute with a metal spoon, until the chocolate has melted.  Stir well to ensure the chocolate is completely smooth and then spread over the cooled slice.
  8. Refrigerate the slice for about 2-3 hours, until it is completely set and firm.
  9. Cut into slices.  Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


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fruit'n'nut chocolate energy slice


Wishing you all a super week.

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12 Motivational Tips to help you achieve your healthy goals

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motivational tips for healthy goals

Wow, we’re rapidly heading to the end of January.  How did that happen?  Are you still sticking to your New Year Resolutions or have you lost your motivation on the cold winds of winter?

Here are 12 Motivational Tips to help get your mojo flowing again

  1. Focusing on whether you should do a paleo, vegan, keto etc diet is not relevant when you are starting out.  Just focus on simple, doable changes that you can make every day and build on with time, i.e. move more, eat smaller portion sizes, cut back on processed foods and alcohol, try to sleep better and drink more water.  Trying to radically change your lifestyle overnight will only lead to overwhelm and probably failure.  Just start with small, simple, doable actions.
  2. To make changes you have to take action consistently.  Just stick to making your simple changes, but do them every single day.  If you do have a wobble and miss a day, don’t give up.  Tomorrow, just go back to doing your simple steps.  Remember, imperfect action still counts.  So, if you don’t feel like doing a run today, then just go for a walk instead.  This will still count towards your overall goal of getting fitter.
  3. Don’t try to do it all on your own.  Find a buddy/friend/family member or a professional who can help keep you accountable, provide support and information.  Whenever we try to change habits, we will hit obstacles.  That’s when you need help the most.  Don’t be afraid to ask for it.  Most people love to help others.
  4. Who you surround yourself with matters.  Unfortunately, when we want to make changes to our lifestyle, if our partners, family or friends aren’t on board then they can undermine your determination and willpower.  Try to explain to them how important this is to you and that you would really appreciate their help.
  5. Don’t buy or think there is a ‘quick fix’ solution to getting healthy.  Unfortunately, it does take time to master new habits but once you do they will be much easier to stick to for the rest of your life.  Crash diets and magic pills never work in the long term and you will end up where you started, usually worse off financially and health wise.
  6. Remember YOU ARE UNIQUE.  The methods/exercise that worked for your friend or the latest celebrity may well not work for you and your lifestyle.  Don’t be afraid to swap and change your eating or exercise plan over time to make them work for you.
  7. Be realistic! – You don’t have to look like a model or a fitness pro to be a healthier YOU.  Just work on making yourself FEEL better and not on how you look to others.
  8. Don’t compare yourself to others and their health journeys.  We are all different and unique.  You need to find methods that work for you.  The person you are comparing yourself too, may have had enormous struggles or still be struggling.  Most people hide what’s really going on in their lives.
  9. Tell yourself that you can do this!  Everyone can make changes to their lives but we have to believe we can do it.  If you think you may have a mindset issue i.e. you don’t feel worthy enough to be slimmer or fitter, then find a coach or counsellor who can help you.  All humans generally hold mindset blocks on some aspect of their lives – for some it may be body image, for others it may be around money or confidence.  These issues can be fixed with the right help.
  10. Remember why you want to get healthier.  Is it so you can run around the park with your kids, or is it so you can feel more energised everyday?  Write down your reasons, maybe on your phone, so you can check in with yourself whenever you are struggling and need a reminder of why these changes are important to you.
  11. Change brings feelings of fear!  We all have these feelings but fear is not a physical danger.  It is just a feeling.  Acknowledge it as a feeling and then take action and put yourself out there.
  12. Overcome your fear of failure!  The best way to do this is to make changes in small, simple steps.  When you master and accomplish one change, you will gain confidence to go on and tackle your next change.  Crash diets and radical changes to your lifestyle usually bring failure which then confirms your fears.  Don’t follow this route.

I hope these tips help you to refocus your motivation to achieve your healthy lifestyle goals.

Which one did YOU need to hear the most today?

Do you need a bit more motivation?  Why not head over to the New Leaf 52 weeks Healthy Motivation Facebook Group where I give you a weekly healthy challenge, a free recipe and lots of tips and ideas to help keep you motivated.  It’s completely free and is a wonderful private group of likeminded (mainly ladies) people all seeking to get healthy.

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Bonfire Parkin Recipe and this week’s meal plan

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bonfire parkin recipe meal plan


Hello Everybody,

Happy Guy Fawkes/Bonfire night!

Oh dear, it’s been a while since I’ve written a post for you.  The reason – well, there isn’t one really!.  You know, sometimes life just gets in the way.

I’ve been busy with my ‘day job’ plus spending time with the kids over half term.  At times like this, it would be very easy for me to wallow in feelings of failure but I know this will just make the problem worse.  If I allow a failure mindset to take hold,  I know I won’t take any steps to get on with motivating myself to take action.

If you are struggling with making lifestyle changes, then I’m sure you’ve experienced a similar problem.  It’s very easy to ‘fall off the wagon’ when making changes, and then feel it’s just not worth going on because you’ve failed.

If you are facing this problem, then the best approach to take is to just shrug your shoulders, recognise that things didn’t quite go to plan and then pick yourself up and crack straight back on with your goals.  We only fail if we don’t try again.

Whilst I was spending time with the kids yesterday, I made some Bonfire Parkin and thought I would share the recipe with you.

Parkin is a sticky, ginger cake that originates from Yorkshire and Lancashire.  It’s usually eaten around this time of year as a Bonfire treat.  It’s believed the recipe dates back to Pagan times, when baking with oats and spices was part of the celebration of the start of winter.

Bonfire Parkin Recipe

bonfire parkin recipe


100g dark brown sugar

150g plain flour

150g porridge oats or oatmeal

3 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

100g butter

3 tablespoons golden syrup

150ml milk


  1. Grease and line a 20 cm square baking tin.
  2. Preheat the oven to 130°C/250°F
  3. Place all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and stir together well.
  4. Place the butter and syrup into a pan and gently melt over a low heat.
  5. Pour the syrup and butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.  Then add in the milk to form a runny batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for about 1 hour to 1¼ hours or until the cake is firm to the touch.  Don’t open the oven door for the first hour, or the cake won’t rise.
  7. Leave the cake to cool in the baking tin.  When cool, wrap in foil or place in a storage tin for about 2 hours before slicing.  Parkin does improve with time if kept wrapped in foil or in a cake tin for 2-3 days.

Enjoy by the Bonfire with a hot chocolate!


this week's meal plan

This week’s meal plan:-

I haven’t posted a meal plan for a while.  I’d love to know whether these meal plans help with your meal ideas for the family.  Let me know in the comments or on my InstagramFacebook Page

  • Crumbed chicken, sweet potato wedges and veggies
  • Chinese roasted pork, stir fried veggies and rice
  • Shepherds pie
  • Chorizo and mushroom pasta
  • Pork with peanut butter and sweet potatoes, rice and green veggies
  • Creamy chicken pasta bake
  • Baked salmon, potatoes and veggies


Wishing you all a wonderful week.

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How and why I’ve changed my drinking habits

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alcohol drinking habits

How and why I’ve changed my drinking habits

Firstly, I want to be clear that I’m only talking about changing alcohol drinking habits and NOT alcohol addiction.  Alcohol addiction is a serious condition that requires specialist medical advice, which I’m not qualified to comment on.

Also, I don’t want anyone to think this is some sort of prudish, judgmental post about people who drink alcohol.  I love alcohol but I think it is necessary for us all to be aware of the health implications and make informed decisions about our drinking habits.

Humans have enjoyed alcohol for centuries from the ancient Egyptians to the Victorians.   Our love of alcohol hasn’t changed in modern society.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed drinking alcohol.  My first experiences of alcohol were one or two glasses of cider or Pomagne at teenage parties.  As I grew older and started frequenting pubs and bars, I moved on to trying as many different drinks as I could!.

Growing up in the ’80’s, I was bombarded with advertisements from Babycham, Martini Rosso and Cinzano which aimed to glamorize alcohol (do you remember the ads with Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins?).

These advertisements portrayed alcohol as decadent, luxurious and grown up.  Drinking these drinks was something to aspire to – it’s amazing the power of advertising! (separate rant – this is why we need regulations on how we advertise to children).

My student years were spent enjoying as many different drinks as possible.  Once I started work however,  drinking alcohol became more of an occasional treat, reserved for a weekend meet up with friends in the pub.

Buying alcohol from supermarkets become more popular in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, with people drinking increasingly in their homes.  It became the ‘norm’ to have a glass of wine with your meal at the weekend.  Now, I think most people see it as the ‘norm’ to have a glass of alcohol every night with their meal.

In many families juggling work, childcare and domestic chores, parents see the evening glass of wine as their treat to help them unwind and relax.  Sound familiar?

I know this was a habit that had developed in our household and for a long time I didn’t think twice about it.

So, what affect does drinking alcohol have on our health?

The Pros

  • there are studies that suggest that moderate, responsible wine consumption can lower overall health risks associated with cardio vascular disease.  However this benefit is only relevant for people of middle age or older and only has a small protective benefit.
  • In the Blue Zone areas of the world, particularly Sardinia, the inhabitants enjoy a glass of wine with friends every evening.  Blue Zones are renowned for the longevity and health of their inhabitants, so it could be argued there is a link between their health and drinking alcohol.

The Cons

Unfortunately there appear to be far more cons than pros:-

  • alcohol is perceived by our bodies as a poison.  Prolonged use can therefore seriously damage our liver, causing cirrhosis and liver failure.  It can also damage the pancreas, causing bouts of pancreatitis.
  • alcohol affects our brains, messing with our judgement, reactions and impulses.  This is why it’s illegal to drink and drive a car.
  • alcohol impacts our sleep patterns.  New research is showing that a lack of sleep can have serious implications on our general health.
  • alcohol can cause osteoporosis, making bones thinner and weakened.
  • alcohol can weaken heart function.
  • alcohol generally increases our risk of cancer, particularly breast, bowel, liver, mouth and throat.
  • alcohol consumption during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, the baby having a low birth weight, learning or behavioural difficulties.  Drinking heavily through pregnancy can result in a serious condition called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
  • alcohol can affect your mood and lead to depression, anxiety or anger.

(source: http://www.drinkaware.co.uk)


Why I’ve changed my drinking habit

I’m sorry for the long list of doom and gloom regarding alcohol.  Whilst I was aware of some of these health implications,  I had never really considered my daily glass of wine could be playing havoc with my health.  It’s only as I have grown older that I’ve begun noticing alcohol having a more direct affect on my day to day health.

Some of my readers will be aware that I suffer from arthritis.  Over the last year, I’ve noticed that wine seems to increase the pain and swelling in my joints.  I’m also at the dreaded menopausal age when hot flushes, brain fog and a tendency to gain weight can kick in.  I’ve again noticed that alcohol can have an impact on these symptoms.

Lastly and most importantly, I’m concerned at the link from drinking alcohol to an increased risk of breast cancer.  As my mother is a breast cancer survivor, I know genetically I may be at increased risk.  Drinking alcohol could increase my risk further, but this is something I can control and change.

How I changed my drinking alcohol habit

Now, as I mentioned earlier having a glass of wine (or other alcohol) with our evening meal had become a regular habit.

The problem with regular habits is that they become very ingrained within the brain.

Simplistically, habits are formed when the brain is provided with a cue (in our case our evening meal).  This then triggers the routine i.e. a glass of wine.  Our brain then enjoys the reward of feeling relaxed by the release of dopamine as we enjoy our wine.  Eventually,  the loop of cue, routine, reward becomes automatic and we do it without thinking about it at all.

The cue and reward triggers become so intertwined, that we begin to have a sense of anticipation and even craving to get to the cue i.e. dinnertime and our expected reward – the enjoyment from the glass of wine.  (source: The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg).


Have you had that craving during the day to just get to ‘wine o’clock’?  Thankfully, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are an alcoholic, but just that your brain has become addicted to your evening habit and reward.

Unfortunately, trying to break this loop is really tough at first, as we have to re-train our brains.  Now, in my opinion brains are a bit like toddlers.  If you say “no” or change their routine, they have a complete melt down and a tantrum.  If you persist with the new routine, eventually they stop fighting it and adapt to the change.

Our brains are exactly the same.  When we tell our brain it can’t have a glass of wine every night, it fights back really hard and makes us crave wine even more! (most of us experience the same with food).  But, with time and by replacing wine with another routine, it begins to accept this change.  The time it takes to achieve a change in habits can vary from individual to individual and on the type of habit being changed.  A general rule is anywhere between 21 days to 8 months but research suggests the average time is usually about 66 days to begin to see a true change.

So, just prior to Christmas 2017, I decided I wanted to change my alcohol drinking habit.  I knew it would be tough over Christmas and New Year, so I just started slowly by only having a drink every other night.

Then in the New Year I went to not having any alcohol from Monday to Wednesday, slowly increasing this to Monday to Friday.  These days, I go weeks without having any alcohol and amazingly I really don’t miss it.

Another trick I tried during the Christmas period, was to replace my alcohol drinking habit with low alcohol and alcohol free drinks such as Eisberg Wine and low alcohol G & T’s.  Many of these drinks are much better than they were 5 or 10 years ago.

One of the biggest hurdles I’ve found though has been social expectations when I go out.  It does feel very odd not drinking alcohol when we go to the pub with friends or for a meal in a restaurant.  Usually people assume you must be driving but if they know that’s not the case, you do get some strange looks and raised eyebrows.  Also the shadow of the marketing of the 80’s means I don’t feel very grown up if I’m not drinking alcohol.

The benefits of  changing my alcohol drinking habit

Since reducing my alcohol consumption I have noticed improvements to my general, everyday health namely:-

  • I sleep much better and don’t wake up from hot flushes
  • I feel like I have much more energy
  • I’ve noticed I am more patient and far less snappy and short tempered with the kids
  • I find I can concentrate better and have far less brain fog days
  • I have less joint pain
  • I may have lost weight but I don’t tend to weigh myself very often, so I’m not sure.
  • My skin certainly looks better with less fine wrinkles and dryness.  Alcohol is known to dehydrate skin and strip skin of nutrients.  It probably helps that I’m drinking more water now (instead of that glass of wine with dinner!)
  • it’s also saving me money!

My conclusion on changing my alcohol drinking habits

Overall, I feel much better for reducing my alcohol consumption.  I still enjoy alcohol every now and again.  Certainly whilst on holiday I reverted to having a glass of wine most nights with dinner.  I haven’t re-trained my brain completely from enjoying the taste of alcohol.

However, I think my brain is beginning to appreciate how much better it feels for not having alcohol and that has become it’s new reward.

Whilst, I don’t want you to see this article as a “you should do this” argument, I would suggest that if you think you have become stuck in an alcohol drinking routine that may be affecting your everyday health, perhaps you can experiment with seeing how you feel if you change your habit.  There are several challenges around the world such as Dry January, Dry July, Sober October which you could join in to get you started.

Unfortunately, the downsides of alcohol drinking are rather numerous and can have huge implications for our health, so I believe it is in our benefit to kick the habit if we can!

If you enjoyed this article or think a friend may enjoy it,  please like and share it on social media.

You can also sign up for our free New Leaf Newsletter here to receive regular updates and tips and inspiration to make healthy habit changes.


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