Gluten-Free Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin Recipe

I’m a big fan of baked goods. I am also a big fan of chocolate. These gluten-free banana chocolate chip muffins are a perfect combination of them both.

As part of my self-care journey and wanting to become healthier, I’ve been trying to make small alterations in my diet. This has become increasingly important as I strive to rid my body of Reactive Arthritis (read more about that here).

When searching for a baked good I could take along to work, I stumbled upon this Chelsea Sugar recipe for these banana and chocolate chip muffins and decided to mix it up a little. In the recipe below, you’ll see the ingredients I chose to use, making it slightly healthier for me. I am trying to be conscious of the food that I put into my body – especially in meals or baked goods that I make from scratch.

Gluten-Free Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups (220g) Edmonds gluten-free flour
1/2 cup (110g) Chelsea low GI cane sugar
1 tablespoon Edmonds baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Mrs Rogers Himalayan pink salt
1/2 cup Whittakers fair trade 72% dark chocolate, cut into chips
1 Bioland organic egg
1/4 cup (65ml) Lupi Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup (65ml) Anchor lactose-free milk 
1 cup mashed fair trade bananas (purchased from Pak’nSave)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Place muffin cases into the muffin tin, or grease as necessary.
  3. Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and chocolate chips into a large bowl and mix thoroughly.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients bowl.
  5. Beat the egg in a small bowl, until frothy. Mix the oil, milk and bananas in the same bowl.
  6. Pour the wet mixture into the well of the dry mixture.
  7. Stir the dry and wet mixture together, only to moisten. Be aware that the batter will be lumpy.
  8. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.
  9. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
  10. Let cool and serve (you may wish to sprinkle some icing sugar on top before serving).

I hope you enjoy your muffins – let me know how they turn out!

Giving Back: Street Appeals

In my spare time, I enjoy volunteering for organisations like the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation and the SPCA. A lot of organisations like these run Street Appeals, where people can donate money into buckets that you’re holding outside of stores like Countdown and Mitre10. You may be thinking, “Hmm, I don’t know about that. I don’t like harassing people for money”. Well, let me ease your mind – as someone who is collecting in a Street Appeal, we are asked not to approach people. Instead, we let people come to us, which I think this is really important because no one wants to be pressured into donating!

I usually sign up to the Street Appeals with a friend and we do a two-hour block of collecting. We usually make a day of it and either have breakfast or lunch together as well (depending on the time). We spend most of the time chatting away with each other and to those who donate. It’s quite interesting to see the different conversations you can have with those who choose to donate. Sometimes it can be a real eye-opener, as the person shares their personal connection with the organisation.

It is such an awesome and easy way to give back to others with a low level of commitment. I wanted to get into volunteering for years (specifically at the SPCA) but realised I didn’t have the time to commit to regular volunteering, so signing up for things like the Street Appeals (and other cool one-off events like the Cancer Society’s Walking with the Stars half marathon), I am able to volunteer my time on an irregular basis – win-win!! Why do this? Well, to be honest, it makes me feel good! As I say, it is such an easy way to give back to others, so I think the more important question is “Why not?”. I have found over the years that taking care of myself includes doing things for others and this is just one way that I achieve that.

That being said, this won’t suit everyone. If you want to help out but Street Appeals don’t sound too appealing for you, then perhaps look into other things that you could do – like bake cupcakes for the SPCA Cupcake Appeal or look into volunteering at the Starship Hospital. Whatever way you choose to give back, the organisations and those they serve will appreciate it 😊

Gluten-Free Delight: Bakeworks Delivers!

Having been stuck at home for the past month (read more about why here), I’ve consequently spent a lot of time on the internet, among other things.

One delightful thing that I came across is that Bakeworks, an awesome Gluten-Free company, has an online shop AND they deliver for free – “Free North Island shipping on orders $20+ and only $10 for South Island – Sorry no Rural Delivery due to courier restrictions”.

I have had an intolerance to gluten for several years now and I love stumbling across new products to try. I first took notice of Bakeworks when their Home St. Sprouted Seed Pizza Bases became an alternative option at Hell’s Pizza. I then saw them (and tasted their scrumptious samples) at the Gluten-Free Food & Allergy Show on the North Shore. However, not knowing where to buy these amazing bases from, Bakeworks fell off my radar.

Friday is pizza night at my house and I was gleefully getting used to Hell’s Pizza – an altered Pandemonium, being my favourite. My mother, however, came home one night with a packet of the sprouted seed pizza bases and I told her how much I had enjoyed them. She had purchased them from one of her favourite stores, Cere’s Wholefoods and I asked if she could get more the next time she was there. Lo and behold, Bakeworks showed up on my Instagram within the next few days and it said they had an online store! I was absolutely delighted. I made my order on the spot and within 36 hours had the goods delivered to my house for free.

The items that I tried were:

1x Torpedo Roll 210g Single for $3.99 each
1x Bakeworks Pizza GF Base 10″ 2pk 370g for $5.95 each
2x Home St. Sprouted Pizza GF Base 10″ 2pk 370g for $7.49 each
1x Bread Crumbs Retail 300g – Bread Crumbs Retail 300g for $5.50 each
1x Shortbread 200g for $5.50 each
1x Triple Choc Muffins 2pk Retail for $5.50 each

So far I have tried the muffins (which didn’t taste gluten-free, meaning I feel happy offering it to friends when they come over), the shortbread (which I would say have been the best gluten-free biscuits I have tasted thus far) and the plain pizza base (which was as delicious as the sprouted seed pizza base).

I definitely look forward to trying more of their products in the future. Go on, give them a go – spend only $10 (South Island) or $20 (North Island) and it can get delivered right to your door for free!!

How Reactive Arthritis took reign over my Summer Holidays

When I was first diagnosed with Reactive Arthritis, I did what most doctors hate and went straight to the internet for answers. I wasn’t looking for medical opinions, however – I was looking for personal experiences so I knew what to expect.

So, what is Reactive Arthritis and how did I get it?

Reactive Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints and you get it after having an infection in the bowel or genital tract. The day before my inflammation had started, it was confirmed that I had salmonella – a type of food poisoning. To read more about Reactive Arthritis, take a look at this brochure from Arthritis NZ and to read more about salmonella, take a look at this brochure from the Ministry of Health NZ.

How did it all start?

Some could say the timing was a blessing, others not so much. I caught the salmonella at the start of December and it lasted around two weeks. The original day I came home early from work due to feeling sick, was also the day that my dog passed away. It was sudden and heartbreaking – with putting her down as the only humane option at the end of the night.  I will never forget those moments when she closed her eyes and you could finally see her at peace, no longer panting in pain or confusion. My heart, it still aches.

Due to this traumatic event, I wasn’t taking too much notice of my poor health. Nevertheless, once I had been tested and it was confirmed that I had salmonella, I was told to just keep on keeping on and that I wouldn’t be getting any medication to help. At that point, I didn’t mind, as I could feel that it was finally coming to an end. Little did I know, that Reactive Arthritis was coming my way!

How did it ‘reign over’ my Summer Holidays?

I write this post four and a half weeks since I first experienced symptoms and I still have a long way to go in terms of healing – just so you get an understanding of how long this process has been.

I originally woke up one Saturday morning with a sore jaw and a sore ankle. Thinking that these two things could not be related and not being in too much pain, I went about my day. It was an early Christmas for my family as I was to fly out to France the following Friday 22nd December for my summer holidays (although, it would be winter in France). Over the course of the day, I battled with the dregs of my salmonella and the beginnings of inflammation in my left jaw and right ankle. Over the course of the next 24 hours, the pain got worse and my ankle was starting to be noticeably swollen. A friend had come over and she took me straight to A&E. The diagnosis was not straightforward, unfortunately, and I was sent home with the suspicion of Reactive Arthritis and a prescription for low dose painkillers and low dose steroids.

I am unable to take anti-inflammatories, which is something quite important to note (as it changes the whole course of action in terms of healing when it comes to things like Reactive Arthritis).

Hours after my initial visit to A&E, my mother had to take me back, as the inflammation was getting worse and I was becoming less able to put pressure on my foot, making it hard to walk. They sent us to the hospital for more testing and I was thankfully able to grab a wheelchair while we were moving around for different tests. After some bloods, an X-ray and after they took some fluid out of my right ankle (unpleasant experience, but necessary), they confirmed that it was Reactive Arthritis and I was told to continue the treatment that was prescribed to me at A&E. Within 48 hours I was back in the hospital, via an ambulance, due to how much pain I was in. I was thankfully prescribed better painkillers and was given a few extra days of steroids. They told me to visit my doctor before the end of the week as a checkup. At this point, it seemed like they assumed I would still be making it over to France at the end of the week – boy, were they wrong.

Friday came along and I had to cancel my plane tickets. It was a hard decision but I wasn’t improving and knew that it was the smart idea to cancel rather than reschedule at this point (thankfully I did, seeing as I am still in the healing process a month later). It was time to visit my doctor. He saw me walking along on my crutches, unable to put any pressure on my right leg and instantly knew that the dosage of steroids I had been given were not high enough. He increased the dosage and warned me about the dangers of being on the higher dosage – your body becomes dependant on them and it can be super dangerous to suddenly stop taking them. There are also way higher chances of getting an infection, as well. Within a day, I already felt better. However, over the next 48 hours, I then began to feel worse. It had spread to my knee and it was excruciating to bend my leg.

Having done our online research, we could see that it wasn’t unusual for the inflammation to spread. A few days later, however, I was in too much discomfort to ignore that things seemed like they were getting worse. We went back to my doctors (not my usual one, as he was on annual leave) and the doctor sympathised with my pain and gave me longer lasting painkillers, but said there was nothing else he could really do to help. We went for a blood test as a precaution and by the next morning, I was back in the hospital. Apparently, the blood test I did post my doctor visit didn’t look too great, so he called me up and sent me to the hospital ASAP, thinking I could have an infection. We did more blood tests at the hospital and thankfully I didn’t have an infection. They mentioned that they thought I would have been successful in my healing at this point, but my knee and ankle were still quite swollen. Luckily, my left jaw had gone from painful enough that I could only eat liquids or extremely soft foods to being able to eat relatively normal and only have sporadic belts of pain.

Seeing as my knee had the most inflammation, the doctors decided to drain some fluid out of it – like they had done the previous week with my ankle. They warned me that it increases my chances of infection, but can also be really helpful. Around half a cup later, my knee was not as full. They did some more tests and decided to also inject a steroid directly into my knee. This was extremely painful and I wasn’t expecting the doctor to take the needle and in and out a few times to “make sure she was getting it in the right spot”. Despite the pain, I appreciated both attempts to help my knee, as these actions seemed to help show progress in my healing. My father has rheumatoid arthritis and seeing as I was taking much longer to heal than they thought, we had to double check that they had not misdiagnosed me. I had X-rays of my jaw, pelvis, both hands, both knees and both feet. Thankfully, the results came back clear.

I spent the next three days in the hospital, getting out just in time for New Year’s Eve – not that that meant much to me at the time. It has been two weeks since my stay in the hospital and I am still in pain, which changes on a daily basis. I am getting more sleep than I was a month ago, although I cannot wait until I can sleep through the night. I went for a check-up at the doctors last week and he has suggested that I continue on my current treatment plan of steroids until I visit the rheumatologist in mid-February, so they can make an official analysis. I am seeing a very slow positive progression of the swelling but the pain is still quite prevalent.

So, how did Reactive Arthritis take reign over my holidays? Well, I had to take the last week of work off in December, I spent two weeks unable to walk and two weeks still on crutches and bed rest, I’ve had to take the first week off work in January and I’m still in the process of healing. I essentially had no holidays. I am, however, extremely grateful to my mother who has taken care of me this whole time and to all my friends and family who have visited me in the hospital or at home. It’s amazing how times like these show you people’s true colours and makes you appreicate all of those around you.

I hope to update you all on my progress over the next month. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact if you have any questions!

Summer Smoothies

During the summer months here in New Zealand, making smoothies becomes a common occurrence in our household. The ingredients usually consist of whatever I have available at the time. I do, however, like to keep my freezer stocked with frozen berries! My current favourite is the Smoothie range from Oob Organics.

Knowing that I was getting take-out for dinner tonight, I decided to have a smoothie for lunch. Today’s concoction involved: @oob.organic berries, @biofarmorganic organic low-fat natural yoghurt and a @huckleberrynz fair trade banana 🍌

As part of my self-care journey, I am also trying to investigate and explore ways that I can care for others and the environment. One way that I have found to care for the environment, is to purchase some CaliWoods reusable smoothie straws! The @caliwoods_eco straws “.. are made from food-grade, type 304 stainless steel so are easy to clean, completely dishwasher/steriliser safe and can be used over and over.”

I’ve always been a fan of using straws but felt bad about the plastic that I was using. Now, I don’t have to worry!

New Year, New Me?

At the start of every new year, you often stumble upon the statement new year, new me. I’m not too sure how intensely people unpack this statement, but from my own experiences, it often has a shallow meaning behind it.

As a society, we place a lot of emphasis on the beginning of the year, as though it’s the only time we have to enable change in our lives. In reality, January 1st is just another day, and there is no reason why we have to wait until then to make changes in ourselves or our lives, other than using the upcoming date as an excuse.

A few people I follow on social media have decided to ‘opt out’ of the new year, new me statement this year, by saying “New year, new me? Yeah right”, so it got me thinking.

This blog, this journey and my life, in general, is all about becoming self-aware, empowering myself and others and generally trying to be better. It’s about acknowledging that we all have faults and things we don’t like about ourselves, we are all different, and we all have things we want to improve on in our life. The statement new year, new me challenges me, as it indicates that the old me was no good and the new me will be amazing. I don’t think we should have that mindset because although we are forever changing beings and will always have things to work on, we are all amazing.

I think it’s important that we learn to love ourselves as we are – something we can do while simultaneously trying to better ourselves. No one is perfect, but we can aim to achieve a better and healthier lifestyle for ourselves. Everyone is different, and therefore every person has their own definition of what it means to be happy and healthy – think, what does it mean for you? Rather than thinking new year, new me backed with unrealistic resolutions or meaningless goals, think about some lifestyle changes you can make. These could be anything, big or small.

Do you need to buy a coffee every morning? Should you wake up and meditate for 15 minutes before work? Could you tell your loved ones you appreciate them more often? Always wanted to pick up a new hobby like dancing or playing an instrument? Could you save an extra few dollars per pay?

It’s your life – make changes that you know will be realistic, beneficial and empowering. Happy new year!