dessert

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS


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CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

Peanut butter cup and chocolate is a match made in heaven. Dark chocolate peanut butter cups could nearly be called a healthy snack. These little beauties are fabulous for today’s Valentine’s Day but they are perfect just about anytime. I will be bringing these to a relaunch of our local business networking group to sweeten up new members :)

Three ingredients is all you need. Nothing can be easier. Ten minutes prep, half an hour chilling in the freezer and the perfect treat is on the table. I prefer to use chocolate that is 70% cocoa content anything higher will be too bitter. But if you like higher cocoa content go ahead with 85%-90%….

I have used small size mini muffin cup cases that fit into a 24 mini muffin pan but we have also made larger size cups (think large Reeses size) in a 12 muffin pan, just use the smaller muffin paper cases. I prefer the smaller ones as I seem to get better ration of peanut butter to chocolate without making them too big to eat. Now a friend of mine pointed out my cups looked uneven… I am not very good at this fiddly stuff. Even or not they are delicious :) By the way my daughter was helping with making the peanut butter cups in these pictures so I can blame the unevenness on her ...

Enjoy. And Happy Valentines!


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CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

Makes 24 mini or 12 larger cups

350 g non dairy 70% dark chocolate
1/2 cup smooth, sugar free peanut butter
1-2 tbs maple syrup (depending on your taste buds)

Place the peanut butter in the middle she said :)
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  • Place a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Break the chocolate into pieces (there is something satisfying about hitting the wrapped bar of chocolate against the chopping board… ). Let the chocolate slowly melt.
  • While the chocolate is melting in a small bowl (cereal bowl will do) mix the peanut butter and maple syrup together till well combined.
  • Place the muffin cups into the muffin pans. If using mini muffins pour about half tablespoon of the melted chocolate. Place a half a teaspoon of the peanut butter mix in the middle of the chocolate puddle and cover with another half tablespoon of chocolate. Use more chocolate and peanut butter if making larger peanut butter cups.
  • Set in the freezer for half an hour.
  • Enjoy. (or wrap in a heart shaped box and gift to someone you love, preferably someone who will share…)

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BERRY TOPPED CHIA SEED PUDDING

BERRY TOPPED CHIA SEED PUDDING

There are not many things that get a teenage boy out of the bed on a weekend morning. Trust me I know. You can’t imagine my surprise when I heard his rather hasty steps down the stairs one Saturday morning. The reason? My rather loud announcement: Chia Pudding is ready!!! Yep he loves it!

Chia seeds maybe tiny but they pack a lot of nutritional value. Just one ounce (28g, about 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds delivers 4g of protein, 11g of fibre (the average UK intake is around 12g of fibre per day!!!). You also get 18% of your daily calcium, 30% of manganese, 30-50% of magnesium and 27% of phospohorus. Chia seeds also contain decent amounts of Zinc and Vitamins B3, B1 and B2. And don’t forget the omega 3 fatty acids, 4915mg in those 2 tablespons (omega 6 - 1620mg). Omega 3 to omega 6 in perfect ratio!

When soaked in liquid the outer layer of chia seeds forms a gel. 1tbs of chia (whole or ground) soaked in 3 Tbs a water for 15min is a great egg replacement in baking. This gelling property is what makes these seeds perfect for a pudding. Yes, your pudding will look a bit like frog spawn but it does taste delicious.

I like to top my pudding with berries. I tend to use frozen berries (because they are always in my freezer) and let them defrost. This creates a berry sauce that mixes through the pudding for a great fruity zing. You can leave your fruits to defrost in the fridge overnight, but if like me you tend to forget, you can just put them into a small bowl and sit it into a large bowl of hot (tap hot) water. The berries will defrost while the pudding sits.

While you wait for your pudding to thicken you can contemplate on how in 15 minutes you will tuck into a breakfast that can lower triglycerides, lower bad cholesterol, increase the good one, help reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation…and best of all it is called a pudding!!!


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BERRY TOPPED CHIA SEED PUDDING
serves 3 (or 1 portion for me 2 portions for the teenager)

300ml of almond milk
1 mejdol date or 1 tbs maple syrup
6 Tbs chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
berry topping:
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen strawberries

  • Combine berries in a bowl, cover with lid and let defrost overnight. Or place into a small bowl. Sit the small bowl into a large bowl filled with tap hot water, let sit till needed. Stir to help release the juices.
  • If using the medjol date, place the milk and mejdol date in a blender and blend till smooth and pour into a medium bowl. If using the maple syrup just stir into the milk in a medium bowl.
  • Add the vanilla and all the chia seeds.
  • Let sit for 15 minutes, stir from time to time to prevent clumps forming.
  • When pudding has thickened, divide between bowls and top with the defrosted food and the sauce they have created.


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GLUTEN FREE VEGAN PANCAKES X2

GLUTEN FREE VEGAN PANCAKES X2

Most days I am too busy to make a special breakfast for kids but I do make up for it in the weekend. They both love pancakes and don’t even notice that I am using gluten free flour to make them. There is always the obligatory maple syrup but also various fruit. The favourites are bananas, strawberries and blueberries.

Recently I created two recipes for pancakes. One was made out of the necessity to use up two large overripe bananas. The two recipes differ in texture. The banana pancake is softer and fluffier. The other has a bit more firm texture and will work wonderfully with blueberries added to the batter. Unlike the banana ones the batter can be made en evening in advance ready for the morning. The banana batter would go unappetising grey colour…

They make a lovely quick dessert too. You can serve them with caramelised bananas deglazed with rum for a grown up flavour. Or with a chocolate syrup and some vegan vanilla ice cream.

My kids liked both versions. I don’t think they had a firm favourite and since my daughter hates bananas with a passion I may be making the banana ones bit more often. PS: Mother in law tested too :)

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GLUTEN FREE VEGAN PANCAKES

ingredients
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup gluten free flour (I used Dove’s organics)
2 tsp gluten free baking powder (I used Dove’s)
1 flax egg
1 and 3/4 cup non dairy milk ( I used almond)
1 tbs maple syrup
1 tbs of coconut oil for frying

method
  • First prepare the flax egg by combining 1 tbs of ground flax and 3 tbs of water. Let sit for 5 min to form a gel like texture.
  • Combine the two flours and baking powder, mix together.
  • Add the milk, flax egg and maple syrup.
  • In a large non-stick (I use Green Pan) heat up tsp of the coconut oil.
  • Drop large tablespoons of batter in the oil. Turn when bubbles start to form on surface.
  • Repeat with rest of the batter, adding a little of bit of the coconut oil when needed.

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GLUTEN FREE VEGAN BANANA PANCAKES

ingredients
2 large overripe bananas
1 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
1 cup almond milk
1 tbs coconut oil for frying

  • Mash the bananas well.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well.
  • In a large non-stick (I use Green Pan) heat up tsp of the coconut oil.
  • Drop large tablespoons of batter in the oil. Turn when bubbles start to form on surface.
  • Repeat with rest of the batter, adding a little of bit of the coconut oil when needed.

the banana ones
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BANANA DATE PECAN PUDDING SQUARES

BANANA DATE PECAN PUDDING SQUARES

Overripe bananas in the fruit bowl mean only one thing: cake time!!! As my kids both don’t like bananas (other than in a smoothie) this happens often. I love baking with bananas, they are a great substitute for butter or oil in a recipe and add sweetness without the need for added sugar.

Athletes often snack on bananas, they are a great source of low glycemic carbohydrate. They do however offer more than being an efficient pick me up. As a rich source of potassium they can help lower blood pressure. They also contain plant sterols, theses can block the absorption of dietary cholesterol thus could be helpful in keeping our cholesterol levels healthy. Bananas are a good source of fibre which, of course, helps to regulate our digestion i.e. keeping things moving. FOS (fruictooligosacharides) is another component of bananas, FOS is metabolised by bacteria, helping us keep our friendly microbiome healthy. Interestingly per weight, banana has more vitamin C than a peach! Who knew??!!

My banana date pecan pudding squares have the texture of Jamaican sweet potato pudding (hence the name). If you are looking for a texture of a cake than walk away now. If you like stodgy, you should enjoy these. I will admit that my kids are not keen but I have eating half of it already…No gluten, no refined sugar, no eggs, no oil or dairy. And they will keep moist, can’t tell you how long as they do not seem to last beyond the second day….

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BANANA DATE PECAN PUDDING SQUARES
makes 15 squares

ingredients
1 flax egg (see below)
1 cup dates
1 cup almond milk
3 overripe medium bananas
1 cup gluten free oat flour (I blitzed oats in a blender)
1/2 cup gluten free flour (I used Dove)
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

method
  • First, prepare the flax egg by combining 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed with 3 tablespoons of water and let sit till needed.
  • In a blender process the dates and almond milk till fairly smooth (few chunks are ok). If you don’t have a high speed blender you can soften the dates by soaking them in the milk first (at least 30min).
  • In a large bowl mash the bananas, than add the flours, date milk and flax add. Whisk till well combined.
  • Finally stir in the pecans.
  • Pour the batter into a 15cm x 25cm (6 x 12 inch) baking dish that has been lined with a nonstick paper.
  • Bake at 180C for 30 - 35 min to till set.


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BANANA COCONUT FLAPJACKS

BANANA COCONUT FLAPJACKS

Sugar has been getting a lot of bad press lately. And I will say rightly so. We do eat far too much and many of us don’t realize all the hidden sugars in processed foods. However I hate when a banana is being compared with coca cola or fruit smoothie with a glazed doughnut for sugar content.

Unlike cola banana has fibre, potassium, protein, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium,manganeses, folate and it even has a small amount omega fats in the right proportion. And yes a medium banana has 27.5g sugar. One can of cola has 33g of sugar and that’s pretty much it.... I know which one I would choose to eat.

Breast milk tastes sweet and maybe that’s why, from a very young age, we have an affinity for sweet taste. I notice my craving for sweet treats goes up when I am doing intense studying. Around 3pm every college weekend, there are serious calls for chocolate and if you happen to have a bar in your bag you score a lot of points with fellow students.

Last week I spend revising for an exam and even it involved a lot of sitting my need for food went way up. Brain needed fuel. Three overripe bananas in the fruit bowl and half an hour later I had these rather yummy banana coconut flapjacks. Yummy squidgy energy giving bars.

My daughter hates raisins or indeed any dried fruit apart from mango, so I opted for chocolate chips (not that I had to convince myself too much). If you are feeling more virtuous swap them for whatever dried fruit you fancy or just double the amount of nuts.

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BANANA COCONUT FLAPJACKS
Makes 12 bars

ingredients
3 very ripe medium bananas
3 Tbs coconut oil, melted
135g (1 1/2cups) porridge oats (gluten free for a gluten free version)
90g (1cup ) coconut flour
45g (1/2 cups) plain chocolate chips
45g (1/2 cups ) walnut pieces

method
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. First line a 10x6 inch (15x25cm) baking form with baking paper.
  3. In a large bowl mash the bananas. Add in the melted coconut oil, porridge oats and coconut flour. Mix well
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
  5. Tip the mixture into your prepared baking form, press down with a spoon and bake for 30min or until golden brown.


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HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY/ LAYERED RASPBERRY RICE PUDDING

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY/ LAYERED RASPBERRY RICE PUDDING

Valentine’s day. Every recipe blog has a chocolate recipe. Sadly I have none in the house. I KNOW, NO CHOCOLATE!!! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN??? At least I have frozen raspberries. Red fruits go with Valentine’s nearly as much as red roses and CHOCOLATE.

I had something tall (a glass), creamy with raspberry ripple in my head. I thought a rice pudding would do nicely. My husband loves rice pudding. However, as I started to layer it, he told me he doesn’t like his rice pudding with fruit... hm I guess this could be bit of a failure, especially since I put apple juice into the cooking liquid. Yes he wasn't impressed. I guess I will have to come up with another Valentine’s recipe for him...

Luckily my son does enjoy fruit with his rice pudding. If he had a tongue like a giraffe he would have licked the glass clean. Therefore if you like fruit with your rice pudding than this is a recipe for you, if not you could make my chocolate pot I made couple years ago.

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LAYERED RASPBERRY RICE PUDDING

ingredients
1/2 cup (100g) arborio rice
1/2 cup apple juice
2 cups almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs coconut nectar sugar

2 cup raspberries, I used frozen
2 tsp coconut sugar
1tbs water

  1. In a medium saucepan combine rice, apple juice, almond milk, vanilla extract and coconut nectar sugar.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 30min until the rice is very soft and sauce is thick. Stir occasionally.
  3. To make the raspberry layer in a small sauce pan heat the raspberries with coconut nectar sugar and one tablespoon of water. Cook until the raspberries collapse into a thick chunky sauce (I do like the seeds in but you can strain the sauce).
  4. In a tall glass layer the creamy rice with raspberries, finishing the glass with the raspberry layer.

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KUMQUAT AND RAW CACAO TRUFFLES


KUMQUAT AND RAW CACAO TRUFFLES

Did you know there are videos online explaining how to eat a kumquat? Unlike other citrus fruits kumquats are usually eaten whole with the peel (you should spit out the pips). The inside flesh is rather sour whilst the peel is much sweeter. Eating the whole fruit should balance the flavours together.

These mini “oranges” pack a nutritional punch. From antioxidants like zea-xanthin and lutein to essential oils like limonene or a-bergamotene. Of course they are rich in Vitamin C but also have good levels of B vitamins.

I though they would pair up beautifully with some raw cacao and nuts in yet more truffles. I know I just posted a recipe for very simple basic chocolate truffles but I believe that one can never have enough chocolate recipes.

I have tested these on the family and I am afraid they weren’t too happy about me ruining the chocolate truffles with “orange”. However they were hit with a lot of friends. If you do like the classic orange - chocolate combo this is a recipe for you.

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KUMQUAT AND RAW CACAO TRUFFLES
Makes 16-18

ingredients
1 cup almonds
2TBS flaxseed, ground
1/2 cup coconut flour
8 kumquats
6-8 Mejdol dates, pitted

method
  1. Using a food processor process the almonds into coarse powder. Add the flaxseed, cacao, coconut flour and pulse to mix.
  2. Quarter the kumquats and remove any pips (there can be quite a few). Put into the food processor with 6 dates.
  3. Process till the mixture comes together, you may need to add extra Medjol dates. You should get a pliable sticky mixture that is easy to roll into truffles.
  4. Make walnut shape truffles, you should get 16-18 pieces.
  5. Refrigerate to firm up the truffles. Enjoy!

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RAW CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

RAW CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

My cookbook library comprises several hundred titles. I will have to estimate (some are still in the garage in boxes since our May house move) but it could be somewhere between 500-600 hundred titles. I love looking through recipes, getting inspired but I am rather bad at actually following recipes. I keep telling myself I should plan better and maybe make couple of recipes a week from one of the many amazing books I own.

Last weekend I picked up
Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen, a book my husband brought for me from San Francisco. I was amazed to find a recipe that I had all the ingredients for. I made Ani’s garden pate and tested in on our friends who were coming for drinks and nibbles. Who would have thought that something made of celery and carrots could taste this good. I added some coriander and splash of tamari, because I simply can’t help myself. This will definitely be a mainstay in my repertoire. Yum!

Ani's Garden pate
Garden-pate

Another dish I made for nibbles were raw chocolate truffles. These were of my own recipe. I admit I have been craving chocolate and these really hit the spot. We made them disappear rather quickly. They are incredibly easy (just 4 ingredients) and have the potential to keep in the fridge for about a week but I doubt they will last more than couple days. I have been commissioned (by my son) to make more -
FAST.

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RAW CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES
You may need more or less Medjol dates, this depends on their size and moisture. Mine were on the dry side and I had to add a few more than the recipe states. Simply keep adding dates and test if the mixture stick together when pressed.

ingredients
1 cup of almonds
1 cup of walnuts
6-8 Medjol dates, pitted
3 level Tbs of raw cacao powder

method
  1. Using a food processor, process the almonds and walnuts into coarse powder (you want few coarse bits to add texture).
  2. Next add cacao and enough dates to achieve the desired texture. The mixture should be moist and easily pressed together to roll a ball.
  3. Roll balls size of a walnut, you should get about 16-20 truffles out of this mixture.
  4. Refrigerate (this will firm the truffles up) and nibble when you fancy something sweet.

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RAW CHOCOLATE ORANGE TART

RAW CHOCOLATE ORANGE TART

Three birthdays in a row can be quite challenging. We had a very busy week indeed. Family meal out, my daughter's birthday party and a rather noisy sleepover, dinner made for my husband, visit from the family and some birthday shopping (yay!!!).

My daughter’s birthday is two days before mine and my husbands three days after. I always felt that my son would feel left out but he relishes the fact that his birthday is in June and all attention is on him only. The three of us end up sharing the birthday magic... Just trying to decide which restaurant we want to have our triple birthday meal can be a challenge.

Every year I tend to make a three course meal for my husband. This year it all went badly wrong. Things just weren’t going right at all. My husband and our friend who was joining us were both stuck in gridlock traffic. My timing therefore was off. And in the end I managed to cook millet in place of quinoa (they just looked too similar at that point in time). I only find out when gooey slimy millet sludge started to bubble up in the pan. Yeah it didn't taste great. Luckily the dessert turned out fabulous.

As all inventions go I had my fingers and toes crossed that the tart sets, cuts into neat (ish) wedges and mainly tastes good. As you can see from the picture, the wedges were not restaurant quality neat but they did hold their shape. And the taste? Smooth orange and chocolate cream filling, intense tart shell ... do I need to say more?

I am sure I will not serve millet "pilau" (sludge) for a while but the tart is definitely going to make an appearance next time friends come for a visit. Well, I do need a better photo after all!

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RAW CHOCOLATE ORANGE TART
serves 8-10

ingredients
the base
2 cups of walnuts
10 Medjol dates
2 tbs raw cacao powder

the filling
1 cup cashew nuts
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2 medium oranges)
1/4 cup water (or as needed)
4 medjol dates
2 tbs coconut oil melted (preferably in a dehydrator)
orange peel, grated (from 1 orange)

2-3 oranges to decorate

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  1. In a food processor combine the walnuts and pitted dates. Process till combined into a paste with the nuts retaining still some texture.The nut pieces should be about the size of breadcrumbs. Add the cacao powder and process until the cacao is mixed in well.
  2. Press the walnut date paste into a 25cm (10inch) tart tin , I used a silicon one. There is enough mixture to go up the sides. Place into the fridge while you prepare the filling.
  3. In a high speed blender combine the cashews, orange juice, mejdol dates. Process till smooth thick creamy texture, like thick custard. Add extra water in mixture is too thick (i feel that if the blender struggles extra water is needed). I needed to add the whole 1/4 cup of water.
  4. Stir in the coconut oil and orange peel.
  5. Poor the filling into the tart shell. Place in the fridge for several hours or till the filling sets.
  6. Decorate with orange slices.

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RAW CARROT COOKIES


RAW CARROT COOKIES

Our broadband has still not been connected. I am not in love with my temporary intermittent connection but I guess that’s all I have for the moment. Patience required. Another thing that has given me grief is my new fridge. Apart from being a tad smaller than my old one, I have found out that my lower fridge drawer is freezing my vegetables. Rocket with ice-crystals was the first victim, but I just assumed the temperature was too low. I adjusted it but I still pulled out solidly frozen cucumber and courgettes from the fridge the day after.

The cucumber, unfortunately, had to be binned. The courgette I attempted to cook in a stir-fry. Slicing it from frozen wasn’t easy! I honestly thought about using a saw. And the result? Well I have had better...

After seeing my frustration my husband read the fridge instructions (yes we should have done that earlier!) and we found out that the bottom drawer is designed for meat and fish, and will freeze vegetables. Not even the suggestion of putting up the temperature to max has worked. This drawer is now assigned for kids lunch box smoothies, and my array of flax, hemp and chia seeds. I am feeling a bit angry at SMEG for making a veggie unfriendly fridge. I do normally have more veggies and fruits that one drawer can contain! On the other hand this is making me plan my meals better so there may be a positive in this after all.


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RAW CARROT AND CHIA COOKIES
My friend made a vegan carrot cake to have after our dinner the other day and I must say it went down a storm. It also inspired me to make raw carrot cookies. My son did say they looked like something stuck on the bottom of a shoe (thanks mate!) but he did admit they tasted great.

Makes 9-10 cookies

ingredients
2 medium carrots
1 medium eating apple
2 Tbs chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
tiny pinch of salt (optional)
1 cup pecans (or walnuts)
4 medjol dates
1/3 cup raisins

method
  1. Grate the carrots and apple very finely using a box grater. I find my food processor doesn’t grate the carrots finely enough. Place into a large bowl.
  2. Add chia seeds, cinnamon and salt into the bowl. The salt is not necessary but brings out the flavour of the cookies.
  3. Next in a food processor grind the pecan nuts till you achieve quite a fine texture, few larger bits are fine.
  4. Add the pitted medjol dates and process till the mixture starts coming together
  5. Add the date pecan mixture to the carrot apple mix. Add the raisins and mix thoroughly.
  6. Take enough mixture to roll into an apricot size ball, flatten it to make a cookie and place on your dehydrator sheet.
  7. Dehydrate at 115F (45C) for 8 hrs, turning half way through. If you don’t have a dehydrator you can use oven at its lowest setting, with door ajar.
  8. These cookies will keep in the fridge for 2-3 of days. But they may get eaten before that... :)



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VEGAN MANGO AND CINNAMON CAKE

VEGAN MANGO AND CINNAMON CAKE

Some days only a cake will do. I baked this one on our very snowy Friday. School was closed, kids were defrosting from sledging and making snow angels, the dog was melting all over the floor. It sure seemed like a perfect time to make a cake.

I do not like to used too much sugar in my cooking, in this cake I used only 1/2 cup . It will serve 8 which means around 1 Tbs of sugar per serving. That is a fraction of sugar in most cakes. On top of this (of course) there is no butter, oil, or eggs used in this recipe. Quite a low cal, low fat treat.

This cake was tested over the weekend on my family and friends. My Brazilian friend H said she liked it even though she hates mangos! She told us when she was growing up in Brazil, kids would pick ripe mangos off the trees, eating them straight away with juices dripping all over their faces, hands and even hair. I thought that was an amazing image but apparently it put her off mangos for life.

If you feel the same way about mangos you can substitute your favourite fruit for them. I think peaches or cherries would be fantastic. How about blueberries or a large not too ripe pear. I have a feeling we are going to make many versions of this surprisingly light cake.

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VEGAN MANGO AND CINNAMON CAKE
I used all whole meal (wheat) flour but to make the cake slightly more kids friendly you may want to use half white half whole meal. I must say my son enjoyed it as it was.

Makes 8 good slices

ingredients:
200g (1 and 1/2 cup) of fine whole meal (wheat) flour - or half white half whole meal
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs ground linseed soaked in 3 Tbs water
100g (1/2 cup) unrefined (or raw) sugar
250ml (1 cup) almond milk
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 large mango, peeled and cut into large dice
2 Tbs flaked almonds

method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, bicarb of soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
  3. In a small bowl mix the ground linseeds with the water and let sit couple of minutes
  4. In a measuring jug or a medium bowl mix the almond milk, sugar and vinegar together. The mixture will curdle, that is expected no worries :)
  5. Add the soaked linseed, and the almond milk mixture to the flour mix. Mix well together using a large whisk or a wooden spoon.
  6. Fold the mango cubes into the cake batter.
  7. Pour into a 8 inch (20cm) spring form cake tin that has been lined with baking paper (or lightly greased).
  8. Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top of the cake batter.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40min. Check halfway through, it the almonds are starting to brown to quickly cover the cake with aluminium foil for rest of the baking time.
  10. To check the cake is ready insert a skewer into middle of the cake, it should come out clean.

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MINI SPELT BANANA LOAVES

MINI SPELT BANANA LOAVES

My son spent 5 days on his school camp last week. In preparations, while packing, I was trying to give him lots of well meaning advice. The usual: listen to your teachers and instructors, don’t do anything silly, make sure you shower (at least twice please!), change your underwear daily, brush your teeth.... and of course :”Please try to eat at least a little bit healthy.”

I was hoping for the best, but I knew there would be temptations on every corner. He did come home with a huge bag of sweets, but also a present for his sister (aaahhhh). He had a pudding every day and quite a bit of cheese. On the other hand, he said, he made sure he ate salad and a bowl vegetable soups every day. Pizza was on offer as a part the salad buffet, but apparently he only had it once because he didn’t want to eat too much unhealthy food. “And mum, I always asked for extra vegetables!” This left me wanting to dance a jig! I restrained myself. First and foremost I don’t know how to dance a jig and I really needed to keep my cool. Pretend this is not a big deal... But I did tell him how proud I was.

Few weeks ago I had a conversation with one of my friends about my kids and foods. I did tell her how I do bore them out of their skin telling them about the nutrients in the food they eat. She did say to be careful so they don’t rebel few years down the road. And yes, this is a possibility, but what teenager doesn’t rebel? I do believe that some of this information will stick in their head and they will come to see healthy food as the norm. At the moment my 10 year old seems to be doing quite well.

As a parent you can hope for the best. There are far too many kids who see junk food as the norm and these habits are hart to break. Even if my kids deviate from “our norm” from time to time, going back to whole natural foods won’t ever be alien to them.

Whilst helping me cook pasta for dinner, my son said “I hate brown pasta, we had normal pasta at camp”. Still he managed to eat 2 plates of the horrible hated brown pasta, saying it was rather nice.... Nice try! Next thing is weaning him of the sweet stuff... spelt mini banana loaves without added sugar are a good start.

mini spelt banana loaf with a glass of almond milk
bananaloaf-with-milk

MINI SPELT BANANA LOAVES

These loaves are more dense than a regular cake, they remind me of bread pudding. One easily serves 2 people.

Makes 4 mini loaves or one standard loaf

ingredients:
2 Tbs ground chia seeds
125ml (1/2 cup) water
250ml (1 cup) of almond (or other non dairy) milk
3 Medjol dates
2 medium overripe (or very ripe) bananas
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tsp bicarb soda
260g (2 cups) wholegrain spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 medium apple
Walnuts about 2 Tbs per loaf

ready for the oven
bananaloaf-unbaked

method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. First mix the ground chia seeds and 125ml (1/2cup) water. Let sit for 10min, the mixture will sort of jellify....
  3. In the meant time put almond milk, dates and bananas into your blender and blend till smooth.
  4. Add the vinegar and bicarb soda to the almond milk mixture.
  5. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and pinch of salt.
  6. Grate the apple and add to the flour together with the almond milk mix and soaked chia seeds.
  7. Mix together well.
  8. You can mix in the walnuts now or leave them for the topping (you can double the amount of walnuts and use them both in the cake mix and on the top if you wish)
  9. Divide the mix between 4 non stick mini loaf pans.
  10. Top with the walnuts and bake 25-30min or until the cake springs back when you press it with your finger. You can also use a skewer - the loaf is cooked when it comes out clean.
  11. Let cool in the tins and invert carefully (any runaway nuts are an extra treat for the cook)

mini spelt banana loaves straight from the oven (one without nuts for my daughter)
bananaloaf-baked
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CHOCOLATE RAW BARS

CHOCOLATE RAW BARS

Imagine this: you pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee if you prefer and you get that niggling feeling to have something sweet with it. Do you reach for a biscuit jar, a slice of Victoria sponge or a brownie? Or do you decide to be good and have nothing at all? What if there is a solution that gives you a well deserved treat without the butter, refined sugar and even flour. My chocolate raw bars are right on the money.

There has been a bit of an explosion of raw bars on the market lately. I am partial to Naked Bars, they taste great and are a perfect portable boost of energy. They are very popular in my nutrition class they seem to come out when we need a lift from that mid afternoon slump. As much as I love them I thought I could do better and cheaper myself.

Results were excellent, I must say Naked Bars have a competition, my son prefers mine and takes them to school. My friend who had one today asked for a recipe and to take some home with her. Another friend coming tomorrow... I am thinking I should start to package these. Enough of this self indulgent praise. Fire up your food processors and make these bites of indulgent gorgeousness too.


chcorawbar

CHOCOLATE RAW BARS

I do apologise for using American measure only but I got carried away (twice already) and didn’t weigh my ingredients, using cup measure is so much easier. 1 cup = 250ml.

Makes 10 bars

ingredients

1 cup walnuts
1 cup desiccated coconut, unsweetened
10 Medjol dates
2 Tbs raw cacao powder
1 Tbs Maca powder (optional)
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 goji berries
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped (each nut into about 4 pieces)

method

  1. In a food processor combine the walnuts and coconut, process till you get reasonably fine texture, it will not be as fine as ground almonds.
  2. Add your cacao and maca powders and whizz around shortly, just until mix trough.
  3. Next add the dates into the mixture and process until it all starts coming together. To test it take a bit of the mix and press together between your fingers. If it sticks together and holds shape you are ready. If the mixture is not sticking together you may need to add another date.
  4. Tip the mixture into a bowl and add rest of the ingredients. Mix well so the ingredients are evenly distributed.
  5. Line a 10x6 inch baking dish with a grease proof paper. Tip the mix into the baking dish and press down to get a compact rectangle.
  6. Chill in the fridge for at least couple of hours before cutting. They will keep a several days in the fridge easily.
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Rhubarb ice cream

RHUBARB ICE CREAM

This weekend was marked by my son’s 10th birthday. He was very excited about getting into “double figures”. He celebrated hard and it might have taught him a very important lesson.

Nobody expects kids sleepovers to be a subdued affair but I didn’t expect three 10 year olds to be capable of staying up more or less all night. There might have been couple of hours of sleep somewhere. When I went to take breakfast orders my sons face said it all...yes he looked terrible.

The day after sleepover morning he woke up with a sore throat and a very raspy nearly asthmatic cough. The lesson he learned was that child’s body is just not meant to got on so little sleep. It is as if his body panicked due to the stress of lack of sleep and the result was contracting an opportunistic infection. This may be just a theory but I am sure to remind him how he felt before every sleepover. Now he is on lots of vitamin C rich fruits and veggies and early nights.

This recipe is for one of mu son’s favourite ice-creams. Like me he loves rhubarb. My husband and daughter are not keen on it at all. Rhubarb is one of those love it or hate it foods. My grandma loved rhubarb however one day after eating a jar of rhubarb compote she ended up in agony with pain caused by kidney stones. Yes, rhubarb can cause kidney stones so if you do have a tendency to get them it is advisable to stay away from the pinky stalks.

Of course rhubarb needs sweetening, otherwise if will not be very pleasant. It would be actually be rather disgusting. When making this recipe I started with 4 Tbs of coconut palm sugar, but eventually had to increase it to 6. Taste as you go. Frozen ice cream will taste less sweet than the mixture before freezing.

rhubarbice-cream

RHUBARB ICE-CREAM
Don’t forget to soak your almonds overnight!

Makes 4-6 servings.

ingredients

350 g (12 oz) rhubarb
6 Tbs of coconut palm sugar (also sold as coconut nectar)
2 cups of water
250ml (1 cup) of raw almonds
375 ml (1 and 1/2 cup) of water

method
  1. Soak the almonds in water overnight.
  2. Cut up the rhubarb into half inch pieces, place into a small sauce pan with the coconut palm sugar and 2 Tbs of water. Bring to a boil and cook after the rhubarb is falling apart and you get a thick compote. Let it cool way down.
  3. While your rhubarb is cooking make the almond cream: Drain the almonds put them into your blender. Add 375ml of fresh water and process till smooth. Pour the cream into a cheese cloth and squeeze out as much as you can. Discard the almond meal (or save for making dehydrator cookies)
  4. Mix the cooled rhubarb compote with the almond cream. For best results chill in the fridge before putting into an ice-cream maker.
  5. If using an ice-cream maker follow the manufacturers instructions, all makes are different.
  6. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker, put the mixture into a container and place in your freezer. Every 2 hrs remove out of the freezer and whisk thoroughly to remove any ice-crystals (electric whisk works best). Repeat this until the ice-cream freezes.
  7. Remove from the fridge for 20min before serving.
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COURGETTE BREAKFAST MUFFINS

COURGETTE BREAKFAST MUFFINS

Last week I have fallen a victim to a horrible virus. It started on Monday evening, my legs seemed to weigh a ton, my head was about to explode and I felt incredibly tired. I thought a good night sleep would make things better. That didn’t happen, I couldn’t sleep much and woke up feeling drained. The headache was still there, and I spend most of the day half asleep on the sofa only to wake up for the school run.

As I found out later I wasn’t the only one who got attacked by this mysterious illness. Several of my friends and even the young man at the supermarket checkout complained about the same symptoms. I am glad to report that headache is gone and I don’t feel like I have kettlebells attached to my legs any more.

The day when I felt the worst all I craved was peanut butter and banana toast. My brain was asking for carbs and refused anything else. Sometimes you must listen to what your body is asking for, within reason of course. Therefore I ate fruit salads, potatoes, pastas and peanut butter and banana sandwiches to get my energy levels up.

Feeling better I wanted to utilise the UFO I found in my veg box . The UFO, as I discovered, was a bag of broad (lima) bean tops. I have never used them before, so I though I would try them in a quick blender soup. It didn’t work out that well. Now I don’t have anything against the taste of wheat grass but I don’t want a whole soup bowl tasting like it. Yes, the broad bean tops experiment was a disappointing failure. I am glad to report that my next experiment was much more successful. Healthy breakfast courgette muffins. Great for breakfast on the go but they will work served with a cup of tea in bed as well. (Hint to my kids...)


COURGETTE BREAKFAST MUFFINS

If you cannot find unsweetened apple sauce make your own: peel and core some apples, place them into a small sauce pan with few tablespoons of water and cook until soft, add more water if needed. Push the apples through a mouli. 3 medium apples will yield half a cup.


Makes 12

ingredients
225g (1 and 1/2cups) fine wholemeal flour
1/2tsp bicarb (baking) soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
50g (1/3 cup) coconut palm sugar
1 medium courgette(zucchini)
185ml (3/4 cup) almond milk (or another dairy free milk)
1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
80ml (1/3 cup) unsweetened apple sauce
a handful of raisins
a handful of chopped walnuts

courgettemuffins

method
  1. In a large bowl combine the flour, bicarb of soda, baking powder and coconut palm sugar.
  2. Finely grate the courgette, place in a tea towel or a cheesecloth and squeeze out the liquid. Add to the flour mix.
  3. In a smaller bowl mix together the almond milk, apple sauce and vinegar.
  4. Add the wet mix into the dry mix. Combine well, do not over mix.
  5. Stir in the raisins and nuts.
  6. Put the mixture into 12 muffin cases.
  7. Bake at 180C oven for about 20min or until golden brown. They should spring back when you touch the top.


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MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 5: Desserts - FRUIT KEBABS WITH COCONUT DIP

MORE FRUIT AND VEG Part 5: Dessert
FRUIT KEBABS WITH COCONUT DIP

The best for last. Desserts. Not much room for veggies here. Fruit is the star. Lately fruit has been vilified by many. Fruit is largely excluded from the low carb high protein diets due to their high carbohydrate content. Too much fruit, some say, hampers your weight loss. Yes fruits are high in sugar but that is what makes them so utterly irresistible. It is sugar packaged by nature not a processing plan. Of course you are also getting loads of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Our ancestors surely found fruit the easiest food to gather.

I cannot imagine world without fruit, it is my favourite snack and makes a perfect dessert. Great fresh fruit salad is an incredible treat, of course the fruit must be its flavoursome best. When I was a child every June my grandmother went to search for first cherries, she tied them into mini bunches with a string and presented these ruby red bouquets to the family. It was a yearly ritual, we knew summer was in attendance.

Yes I am a fruitaholic, but I am not the only one. Dr Douglas Graham has based his 80/10/10 diet on fruit. Yes he recommends 80% of person’s daily food intake consumed in the form of fruit. My sport hero and compatriot Martina Navratilova certainly agrees. Even if I wouldn’t take up this diet full time I would never say no to an all fruit binge especially in this hot weather.

Plant based diet doesn’t mean that your only dessert option will be just fresh fruit, of course there is so much more to choose from. Raw desserts are my favourite, they are incredibly inventive and satisfying. From raw ice-creams, to tarts and cheesecakes you just can’t go wrong. You don’t have to give up baked desserts either, it is easy to substitute eggs, milk and butter, to make fab muffins and cakes. Just search for black bean brownies on the internet and you may be surprised how many recipes pop up. You can eat your way toward your 10-a-day with some yummy sweet treats.

My recipe today is fruit based, cut up and put on skewers kebab style makes it fun to eat, especially for those kids who may find fruit boring (how could they???). I made a simple coconut and cashew dip to make it a bit more special.

fruitkebabs

FRUIT KEBABS WITH COCONUT DIP

ingredients
Fruit of your choice
to make 8 kebabs I used:
1 large punnet of strawberries
half a pineapple
2 large bananas
1 kiwi (for a special request kebab...)
the dip
3/4 cup (185ml) water
1 cup cashews
1-2 Tbs coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened dessicated coconut
1 Tbs toasted coconut to decorate (just toast your dessicated coconut in a dry frying pan till golden)

method
  1. Cut up your fruit and thread on skewers.
  2. In a blender process the cashews, sugar and water till smooth. Add more water if too thick.
  3. Add the coconut and whizz up quickly just to stir through.
  4. Serve kebabs with the dip on the side.
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RAW BANANA AND BRAZIL NUT COOKIES

RAW BANANA AND BRAZIL NUT COOKIES

Weight Watchers are coming to our high street. With shops in the USA, Australia and China, we shouldn’t be surprised that UK, the fattest nation in Europe, would be next. Honestly I really want to like this idea, having accessible shops for anyone to pop in for a one to one consultation, get weighed, be advised, buy their low calorie lunch. I am not sure how much WW will charge but they are a multi-billion business so I am sure sound financial forecasts are in place to make this a monetary success.

We all know if you eat less and move more weight loss should follow. It is not a rocket science. Last September a study came out claiming that weigh-loss courses such as Weight Watchers were more effective than the national standard care weight loss. Sounds good right? The participants who took part in a year long study were either assigned WW program or the standard care weight loss program. Those on WW lost on average 5.06kg as opposed to the 2.25kg on standard care.

Any weight loss is a good thing, however to me 5.06kg in a year is a rather small number, especially if you have a lot of weight to loose. At the raw food seminar I met a man in his 60’s who lost about 20lb in 4 months of his raw food journey and he is feeling fantastic. Plant based diets (raw or not) have a great record in helping people loose weight without feeling hungry whilst ensuring superior nutrition.

There are many people who loose loads of weight on programs like WW and that is a good thing. The one element that really worries me is the low fat meals that Weight Watchers are selling. They may be low calorie low fat but far from healthy. They may remove the fat but add lots of other stuff (I so want to say c..p) that in no way should be part of a healthy diet. Here I present to you Heinz Weight Watchers Banoffee Dessert:

Water, Toffee Sauce (12%, Glucose Syrup, Sweetened Condensed Milk, Dextrose, Condensed Skimmed Milk, Invert Sugar, Water, Butter, Stabiliser - Pectin, Emulsifier - Polysorbate 60, Flavouring), Sugar, Skimmed Milk Powder, Banana Puree (6%), Wheat Flour, Glucose Powder, Glucose-Fructose Syrup, Vegetable Oil, Inulin, Whey Powder, Brown Sugar, Curls (1%, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Whole Milk Powder, Whey Powder, Cocoa Mass, Emulsifier - Soya Lecithin, Flavouring, Colour - Paprika Extract), White Chocolate (1%, Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Whole Milk Powder, Whey Powder, Milk Sugar, Emulsifier - Soya Lecithin, Flavouring), Pork Gelatine, Stabilisers - Locust Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Sodium Alginate, Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum, Dextrose, Sorbitol Syrup, Egg Powder, Fructose Syrup, Barley Starch, Modified Potato Starch, Egg Albumen, Caramelised Sugar Syrup, Flavourings, Dried Glucose Syrup, Colours - Curcumin, Paprika Extract.

Do you really want to eat that??? Or how about some of my raw banana cookies minus the added rubbish.

RAW BANANA AND BRAZIL NUT COOKIES
I have used my dehydrator to make the cookies, if you don’t have one you can use your fan oven, turn it to the lowest setting, keep the door open and bake for about 2 hrs, just keep checking on them. These cookies will not be classed RAW but still delicious.

To make the orange powder: Peel an orange using a swivel peeler, taking only the zest off, none of the white piths. Dehydrate at about 125F for about 2-3 hrs until dried enough to make a powder easily. Store in an airtight container. You can also use fresh orange peel in the cookies or replace with dried ginger.

Makes 14

brazilcookies2

ingredients
130g (1 cup) Brazil nuts
60g (1/2 cup) raisins
1 tsp orange powder (or 1 tsp dried ginger)
2 medium bananas
1 Tbs sweet freedom syrup (or agave)

method
  1. Place the Brazil nuts in a small bowl of a food processor. Process till quite fine with some bigger pieces for nutty texture.
  2. Add raisins, orange powder, bananas and agave to the food processor.
  3. Process till the mixture starts coming together.
  4. Using a American tablespoon measure, place mounds of mixture on top of a dehydrator Teflex sheet.
  5. Dehydrate for 1 hr at 145F.
  6. Turn the dehydrator to 125F and dehydrate for further 3-4 hrs. Turn the cookies over and place on a dehydrator sheet without the Teflex sheet after 1 hr.
  7. The cookies are done when they feel quite dry on both sides. They will still be moist inside, if you want crunchier cookies dehydrate for another hour.

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RAW FREEDOM

RAW FREEDOM

There is no doubt that eating as nature intended is good for us. We all know that including more fruit and veggies in our diet is the key to good health. Eating the majority your fruit and veggies raw can further amplify their magic health giving powers. I have been trying to incorporate more raw foods into my daily menus. I love green smoothies and raw desserts, make my raw crackers, but I still wanted to know more. The obvious solution? A raw food seminar!

Saskia (Raw Freedom, the wonderful raw food coach) runs her classes from her house. Not only you will find out about why and how to eat raw, you will also have plenty to taste. Wonderful raw lunch is included and rest assure she makes sure you leave with a tummy full of delicious raw goodness. I wanted inspiration and that is what I got. As you may know I already use cashews to make creamy cheesy sauces, but having raw courgette “pasta” with it was a new discovery ( I need to invest in a spiraliser). All the food was amazing from the guacamole mushrooms to the zingy purple salad. And if you think that you will lose out on your favourites when eating raw there was a cheesy tart and 4 different amazing raw ice-creams.

The best thing about Saskia was her infectious enthusiasm for raw food and her enviable vitality. She is not trying to persuade anyone to become 100% raw, that would be daunting, she inspires you to have a go and discover what raw food can do for you (less wrinkles anyone?). If you need a bigger push and support she offers one to one coaching, which is tailored to your individual needs.

I have several raw cookbooks and when I look at the recipes they seem very daunting. Long lists of ingredients, some of which are extremely difficult to find in my immediate area and too many steps to get through. I love my cooking but those kind of recipes make me give up before I start. Saskia’s recipes are nothing like that, they are easy and very doable. I left very inspired, raw chocolate ice-cream in the freezer, I feel poised to embark on the quest of including more interesting raw foods in my family’s diet.

To get inspired and well fed check out Saskia’s website, go to her next seminar or book one to one coaching. I am sure you will feel amazing.

http://www.rawfreedom.co.uk/#

To inspire you even further here is a couple of Saskia’s recipes (with her permission) that I just had to make for my family today.

Saskia's-fruit

GINGER & MINT FRUIT SALAD WITH CASHEW CREAM

Saskia presented this as a special treat for breakfast, I think it would make a perfect dinner party dessert!

Serves 1

Make a delicious fruit salad for one from a selection of the following fruit:
banana, papaya, strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, mango, grapes, nectarine, dates, pineapple, orange, apple, plums...

Add:
4 mint leaves, chopped
1/4 inch ginger, finely chopped or grated

cream
handful of cashew nuts
1 orange, juiced
2 Medjool dates

Blend the nuts with the orange juice and dates, adding water if necessary to get the right consistency. Pour over you fruit salad and indulge.

Saskia's-soup


SPINACH SOUP

Watch Saskia making this recipe on her website.

Makes 1 large or 2 small bowls of soup

3 handfuls young spinach
1 avocado
1 spring onion, white part only
1 cm ginger
1/2 tsp mineral salt (pink Himalayan salt)
1/2 water

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth.

To make the soup warm, use 1/4 pint boiling water mixing with 1/4 pint cold water to make the 1/2 pint water in the recipe.
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ENERGY BARS

ENERGY BARS

“Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food” Hippocrates

Medical doctors are amazing, the knowledge they have to learn and retain (!), the responsibility they carry on their shoulders is immense. There is however a room for improvement. Dr Dean Ornish emphasised in one of his TED talks that you can’t only mop the floor, you also have to fix the tap. Don’t only treat symptoms, treat the cause.

Recently I watched my friend L struggling with her baby’s eczema, her son (born last September) was waking at night trying to scratch the itchy red skin, clearly suffering. She was at a breaking point, no mother wants to see their child in discomfort. Naturally she visited her GP and a dermatologist. Unfortunately their approach was using topical creams (not even emollient) and if those would not bring much relief, he was to be put on glucocorticoids. Rather scary prospect for a baby.

My friend decided to contact a naturopathic eczema specialist. Since she is breastfeeding her son, she was prescribed an exclusion diet. It is a big change, she isn’t even allowed her beloved green tea at the moment, but her baby boy’s skin is clearing up. Next step will be reintroducing foods to find the triggers. What a fantastic news! I wish her doctor was able to recommend a similar approach, it has no side effects! Actually it does, my friend feels great! she told me this way of eating is making her feel “light”. And of course there is not better feeling than seeing her beautiful son’s eczema on the retreat.

ENERGY BARS

This is perfect for “grab and go” breakfast or just a quick energy boosting snack. If you want to make this completely refined sugar free, skip the chocolate chips.
Makes 10 bars


energybars2


Ingredients
1 Tbs ground flax seeds
150g (1 and 3/4 cups) oats
50g (1/2 cup) pecans, chopped
80g (1/2 cup) dried apricots, chopped roughly into quarters
30g (1/4 cup) sunflower seeds
35g (1/4 cup) raisins
2 small bananas mashed, makes about 125ml (1/2cup)
1 Tbs date syrup
1/2 dairy-free chocolate chips (optional)

method
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C.
  2. First in a small bowl add 60ml (1/4 cup) of water to the flax seeds, let stand while preparing the rest of ingredients. The mixture will become viscous somewhat reminiscent of an egg.
  3. Mix together the oats, pecans, apricots, sunflower seeds and raisins.
  4. Add the mashed bananas, date syrup and flax seed mixture. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Line a 10x6 inch (15x25cm) baking dish with a greaseproof paper. I used a drop of water under each corner to keep it in place.
  6. Put all the mixture into your baking dish, press down firmly.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 min or until the top starts to turn golden brown.
  8. Let cool and cut into bars.



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CHOCOLATE PRUNE CAKE

CHOCOLATE PRUNE CAKE

Sometimes I wake up with a recipe idea in my head that I quickly need to act on. Today was one of those days and after coming back from the school run and a dog walk I got stuck into creating a plant based brownie cake.

I admit I find this new way of baking a bit daunting. I went from baking with eggs and butter to dairy and egg free baking and now I am determined to crack even healthier baking without oils and as little refined sugar as possible. You can make a fabulous vegan muffins or cakes but that doesn’t mean these are healthy if you still use white flour and sugar, and replacing butter with oil or margarine. Plant based eating goes another step further.

Hence my challenge. An experiment. When the cake was in the oven I was anxious. To be honest I was expecting to pull out a flat dry mess of a cake. To my surprise I had a moist light chocolate cake thing...

There is a secret ingredient that made all this possible. Wait for it.....
prunes.They are soaked, pureed and serve as an astonishingly great replacement for fat. Believe me you won’t even know that this iron and fibre rich fruit is in the cake. Kids were certainly surprised!

Here is the family verdict:
My son: 7/10 ( he is not keen on chocolate cakes)
My daughter: 10/10; 20/20; 100/100 ( she got a bit carried away)
My husband: 8/10 (9/10 if it was sweeter)
I thought it went fabulously with a cup of tea!

Not bad for an experiment!
prunecake

CHOCOLATE PRUNE CAKE
The prunes I used were organic as these have no added preservatives. I also used 3 Tbs of maple syrup, use 4 if you want a sweeter cake.
I flavoured mine with orange zest but next time I will try vanilla extract. I am also thinking dairy-free chocolate chips, walnuts, almonds.... treat this as a base recipe.

ingredients
1 (140g) cup organic prunes (not the soft ones)
1 cup (250ml) almond milk (or other dairy free milk)
zest of 1 orange or 1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbs cider or rice vinegar
3 - 4 Tbs maple syrup
1 1/4cup (160g) whole wheat self-raising flour
pinch of salt (optional)
1/4 cup (30g) cocoa
1/2 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)

prune puree
prunepuree

method
  1. First soak the prunes in boiling water for about 20min or until they soften.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C (I had my fan oven on 160).
  3. Put the prunes and about 80ml-90ml (1/3cup plus 1 Tbs) of the soaking liquid into your blender or food processor. Start with less liquid, process into a thick smooth puree (see photograph), if too thick add more water. Set aside.
  4. For the wet ingredients, in a medium bowl, mix the almond milk, zest (or vanilla extract), the vinegar and maple syrup. Stir in the prune puree.
  5. For the dry ingredients, in a large bowl, mix the flour, cocoa and bicarb soda.
  6. Add the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir together. You will get moose like cake batter.
  7. Line a 10 x 6 inch baking tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the batter, spread evenly.
  8. Bake for 20 min or till cake springs back when pressed with your finger.
  9. Let cool, cut into squares and enjoy.
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APPLE STRUDEL MINIBITES

APPLE STRUDEL MINIBITES

header-tea and strudel



In my opinion there is no better drink than a nice cup of tea. My favourite, without a doubt, is green jasmine tea. I love its heady floral scent and gentle flavour. My cupboard is full of different teas, green and white, plain and flavoured, there are some with fancy names, teas in bags and loose leaf teas. Some have been tied by hand into intricate flowers that magically open up when introduced to hot water.

We all know the antioxidant rich tea has lots of health benefits. In UK tea is the number one source of flavonoids in the diet. I thought I would do a little experiment and search through some tea stories to see what health claims newspapers come up with. I must say I was overwhelmed.

These are some of the claims I found:
Drinking tea just may

  • reduce chance of brain tumour and stroke
  • help fight infection
  • slow down weight gain and prevent obesity
  • cut risk of throat and oral cancer
  • help prevent breast cancer
  • lower LDL cholesterol levels
  • prevent flu better than vaccination
  • alter gene expression and improve cholesterol metabolism
  • lower diabetes risk
  • extend lifespan
  • prevent fatal autoimmune diseases
  • fight ageing and free radicals
  • cut risk of heart disease
  • help to halt luekemia and other blood cancers
  • block lung cancer
  • prevent eye disease and glaucoma
  • halt prostate cancer tumour growth
  • treat/or prevent dementia, brain disorders and Alzheimer’s Disease
  • fight lung cancer and pneumonia
  • prevent and treat osteoporosis

A very impressive list indeed. According to these claims, drinking tea could help solve the world health crisis and we all should have green tea coming out of our water pipes. As amazing as all these claims are, tea is just one small part of a healthy lifestyle, drinking tea will not have a significant affect if the rest of person’s diet is poor. However based on this my daily cups of green tea will taste much sweeter (without sugar of course).

Most people associate tea with a piece of cake or biscuit so I though a perfect sweet treat will go down well with my today’s blog. A classic slice of apple strudel I grew up with is transformed into a much healthier bite size version. All the familiar apple strudel ingredients minus the sugar and pastry. The dates may not belong to a classic strudel but they are a fantastic glue to keep the bites together. One or two are enough to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.

APPLE STRUDEL MINI BITES

tea and strudel ingredients

ingredients
100g (2cups) soft dried apple rings (not apple crisps)
100g (1cup) walnuts
70g (1/2cup) raisins
4-5 Medjol dates
1tsp cinnamon

method

  1. In a food processor chop the walnuts. The nuts need to retain some texture not turn into nut flour.
  2. Add the apples, cinnamon, raisins and 4 dates. Process until the mixture starts coming together. If needed add another date.
  3. Tip the mixture into the bowl and roll into 18 walnut size balls.
  4. Keep in the fridge, this will firm them up a bit.

  1. tea and strudel

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VALENTINE DAY CHOCOLATE POTS

VALENTINE DAY CHOCOLATE POTS

I will admit I am not big on Valentine’s Day. It is like baked beans on toast, you have to grow up with it to really appreciate it and in my case Valentine’s Day was not something that was ever celebrated when I was growing up. On the other hand I really love my orchid and the massage my husband bought for me. Kids were really excited and loved helping me with decorating the table. They also made a special red smoothie that they enjoyed drinking from wine glasses.

Admittedly today was the perfect opportunity for me to play with chocolate. Out of 70% dark dairy free bar I made everybody’s initial to put on their plate (we ate it for our starters!) and a heart to decorate my chocolate pots with. Perfect day spent with the people I love the most in the world.

VALENTINE DAY CHOCOLATE POTS
This is such an easy recipe, takes minutes to make and taste great. You don’t need Valentine’s Day as an excuse to make these. They are nearly guilt free, cashews, dark chocolate and no added sugar, just dates for sweetness. They are much lighter than traditional chocolate pots made with double cream.

Soaking the cashews overnight (or at least for 2 hours) this will ensure smoother cream and less work for your blender.

Serves 4

chocpots

ingredients
1/2 cup (125ml) cashew nuts soaked in 1/2 cup (125ml) water
2 Medjool dates, stones removed
100g (3.5 oz) 70% dark chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
to decorate:
50g (2oz) of 70% dark chocolate

method
  1. In a blender whizz up the cashew nuts, dates and water until smooth. Strain the mixture to ensure a smooth texture, the dates can leave few gritty bits behind.
  2. Place a bowl with broken up chocolate over a pot of simmering water (makes sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water and the water doesn’t boil rapidly). Melt the chocolate.
  3. Stir the chocolate and vanilla. Make sure the ingredients are well combined leaving no streaks in the mixture.
  4. Carefully pour (or spoon) into expresso cups and let set in the fridge for at least an hour.
  5. To make decorations, melt chocolate as above and pipe heart shapes onto greaseproof (parchment) paper. Let them set in the fridge. Be careful handling them as they melt readily when touched.
  6. Serve the pots decorated with the chocolate hearts or raspberries.
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RICE PUDDING WITH BLUEBERRY COMPOTE

RICE PUDDING WITH BLUEBERRY COMPOTE

Today a headline in Daily Mail caught my eye: The white stuff: Drinking just one glass of milk a day could boost your brain power. Apparently a study shows that drinking at least a glass of milk a day will improve your memory. Now I am sure I was going to say something about that..... oops can’t remember.... must be my non-milk drinker’s brain ....fried. By the way the journalist forgot to mention this study was sponsored by the MILK BOARD (USA). Very reputable, independent study indeed.

It took me quite a while to figure out why I couldn’t ever eat porridge, rice pudding or even muesli made with milk without feeling nauseaous, I couldn’t get through the bowl. Yes it was the milk! I never drank the stuff on its own, even when in nappies I found the taste utterly repulsive. I don’t have an allergy, maybe just a slight intolerance, but there are many more reasons while I took a step back from dairy.

With non dairy milks I can finally enjoy porridge, rice pudding and muesli. No memory loss so far. My kids never took to drinking milk either, but they did like it in their cereal. Now they enjoy almond and coconut (not tin) in their breakfast, and they actually prefer it. The only problem is when a guest wants an proper English cuppa I GOT NO “NORMAL” MILK at home...
rice-pud

RICE PUDDING WITH BLUEBERRY COMPOTE

This rice pudding contains no refined sugar, it is sweetened with date syrup and the blueberry compote with the Good Taste award winner Sweet Freedom. Both are available online or in health food shops. The date syrup has a very concentrated date flavour hence a bit overpowering for the blueberries. Beware it will turn your rice brown!

The non dairy milk of choice here is oat milk. I find that is compliments the rice beautifully. Make sure to shake the carton first.

We do like to eat our rice pudding warm, not too stiff, if you prefer less creamy and runny consistency just cook it a few minutes longer.

Serves 4 (very filling!)

ingredients

rice pudding
100g (1/2cup) sushi (or arborio) rice
3-4 Tbs date syrup
750ml (3cups) oat milk
blueberry sauce
500ml (2 cups) blueberries
juice of half a lemon
1-2Tbs Sweet Freedom (or agave)
2 Tbs water
pinch of cinnamon
garnish
toasted almond flakes
lemon zest

method

  1. In a heavy bottom sauce pen, combine the milk, rice and date syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer gently for about 30min, or until desired consistency. Make sure to stir every so often, and very often towards the end of cooking time.
  2. For the compote, in a sauce pan, combine blueberries, lemon juice, sweet freedom (or agave), cinnamon and the water. Gently bring to simmer, cook just a few minutes, until some of the blueberries pop and create deep purple sauce.
  3. In a serving glass, put in some rice pudding top with blueberry compote and garnish with the lemon zest and almond flakes.
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DATE AND ALMOND BALLS



After eating at a new all you can eat buffet restaurant (yummy curry!) I didn’t expect my friend D would want to hold me to my promise that next time she’d come over I would make her my date/almond balls. Promise is a promise and that is why even with a full tummy (while my Earl Grey was brewing) I put a batch together.

To be honest these morsels of yumminess have been my most requested recipe. Those who taste them want to make them. They are perfect snack if you fancy something sweet. Dates are after all nature’s candy. With the help of a food processor they are incredibly easy and quick to make. I always have a huge bag of almonds in the freezer and Medjool dates in my pantry so there is never an excuse not to roll a few up.



DATE AND ALMOND BALLS

If you are using almonds from your freezer do defrost them first, it takes about half an hour, not only this will make the work easier on the food processor but the balls seem to come together better too. I store the balls in an airtight container in the fridge, they firm up a bit. If you don’t like coconut you can also use sesame seeds to roll the balls in.

ingredients

1 cup /250ml almonds
7-8 Mejdool dates, stones removed
1/2 cup/125 ml shredded coconut

method

  1. In a food processor grind the almonds, make sure the pieces keep some texture (about bulghur wheat size). You don’t want to end up with almond flour.
  2. Add the dates and process until mixture starts to come together. Test it but squeezing some of the mixture together, it should hold its shape.
  3. With wet hands make walnut size balls and roll them in the coconut.
  4. Chill in the fridge if you can wait.

Date Balls

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