Food Blog

Healthy plant-based recipes full of good stuff whilst being free from refined sugars and wheat. The food blog is a space to kickstart your inner creativity!

Chocolate Crispy Cake 'Bliss Bars'

So here's a super simple recipe that I first made a month or two ago and I think I have now made at least 4 times since! It's a great one to make with or for kids too.

They are soooooo moreish it's unreal.... a soft and chewy 'bliss ball' texture with loads of crispy flakes mixed through.

The added bonus with the high proportion of flakes mixed in is that it helps lighten up an otherwise dense snack... that's the only problem with bliss balls/energy balls- they are very dense for their size and if like me you have a tendency to 'eat with your eyes' - it's very easy to overdo it!

crispy cake raw bars 1a.jpg

Guilty admission- as I sit here writing this post, I have a box of these bites beside to take on a road trip with a friend this afternoon, BUT I have already munched through the about four of them! Oooops.... ;-)

This most recent batch I made had protein powder added instead of the coconut flakes. This really helps bump up the protein count, if that's your thing for for it. One tip- I found they flavour was so much better the following day- on day 1 I could slightly taste the protein powder but by the second day onwards it had pretty much disappeared as the flavours had time to meld.

You can use any type of crispy flaked cereal you like, but for extra nutritional value I used these amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat cornflakes by RealFoodSource (amaranth is shown in the photos here) 

You can press the mix into a square pan and cut into squares/bars or roll into balls, both work great. They freeze well too, and can even be munch o straight from the feeezer (mind your teeth- you may prefer to defrost a little!)

Add any 'mix-ins' you fancy, some other dried fruits, nutty chunks or an extract such as peppermint, orange or almond always go down well. If using an extract- about 1/2 tsp should do mixed in at the start, with other ingredients pulse through at theed for a chunky texture.

crispy cake raw bars 3a.jpg

Recipe: Chocolate Crispy Cake 'Bliss Bars'

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (or raw cacao)
  • 1/4 cup ground flax (optional but I like the hidden nutritional boost)
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (or any ground nut)*
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 cup flakes cereal

handful chocolate chips or cacoa nibs- optional for extra crunch and chocolateyness

* for the protein version I swapped the ground nuts for defatted almond protein powder- you favorite neutral protein blend would also work here.

Method:

Place the dates, cocoa, flax, nuts and salt in a food processor. process until you have a soft-ish, sticky and clumpy mix- you will likely need to add 2-3 tbs water to create the right consistency.

Add the cereal flakes and choc chips (if using) and pulse through to mix in evenly.

Press firmly into a tin or roll into balls, Chill for an hour until firm.

Will keep for a week or two in the fridge or you can freeze them.

crispy cake raw bars 2a.jpg
crispy cake raw bars 4a.jpg

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Bean & Beat Burger with Portabello Buns

I actually first made this recipe many months ago... 2nd November 2016 to be exact (I can tell by my camera data!) and it's been sitting in my recipe archive folder waiting to be released to the world- amongst countless other recipes. Crazy, really how they all pile up! 

One of my missions this year is to get back into a regular blog posting schedule. To think when I began this blog in 2011 I was posting around three times a week- sometimes more, and that was when I still had my full time career as an architect. So there is really no excuse! ;-) 

portabello burger bun.JPG

I was reminded of this recipe a recently, as I was coming down from a week-long juice fast and I wanted to make a meal, to celebrate with my boyfriend, the return to normal food. I wanted it to be reasonably light, made mostly with veggies and no wheat or refined ingredients (though there was a little oil on the mushrooms caps). The result was this epic burger platter! (ok it was a little larger than I'd anticipated) ;-)

Portabello mushroom caps make amazing burger buns if you want to avoid bread, and you can really use any veggie burger mix inside. In the iphone photo above is the recipe featured below, but in the other 'pro shots' taken in 2016 I used this vegan meatball mix formed into burger patties instead of balls (both would freeze well too so you can make extra).

Then simply layer the burger up with avocado, hummus, relish, chutney, salad leaves, sprouts as tall as you like!

portabello burger bun.jpg

Recipe: Bean & Beat Burger with Portabello Buns

Serves two (makes approx 4 medium burgers)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans - drained and mashed with a fork
  • 1/2 small beetroot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa or rice
  • 1 cup gram flour (other flours would probably work)
  • 1/2 cup ground walnut (or other ground nuts)
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 heaped tbs chopped herbs (I used parsley and rosemary as I had them to hand)
  • 4 large portabello mushroom caps.
  • a little olive oil.

Method:

Finely chop the beetroot garlic and onion (I used a food processor for a quick blitz) and then saute for a few minutes in a medium sauce pan until softening. Meanwhile gather all remaining ingredients (other than mushrooms/oil) and then add to the pan. Turn off the heat and stir through in the pan until well mixed and the mix holds together.

Form burger patties with your hands and place on a lined baking sheet. I didn't oil them but you could if desired. Bake at 180 for approx 30 mins ensuring they don't burn.

Meanwhile, wash and pat dry the mushroom caps. Chop the stalk out (you could do this in advance and add to the burger mix to void waste). Lightly brush will oil on both sides then sprinkle with salt and paper.

Once the burgers have been baking for 15-20 mins. Place the mushrooms under a hot grill for approx 5 mins on each side until quite 'sweaty' looking.

Prepare any other toppings and a side salad. (For the 'coleslaw' style salad in the top photo I just used slightly water down hummus to coat)

Assemble the burgers in any way you wish! Enjoy immediately.

portabello burger bun.jpg
portabello burger bun.jpg

 

 

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Vegan 'salmon' cream cheese bagels

I saw this recipe on my friend Lisa's nutrition focussed Instagram account recently (well actually quite a few weeks ago now as it's taken me a little while to publish this post!)

Vegan salmon cream cheese bagels

It looked delicious and I was intrigued as to how she'd made it. When she said it was simply marinaded carrot ribbons I was hooked and invited her to share the recipe here on my blog. It's just the kind of quirky recipe creation I love :-)

You can keep it simple by using pre-made ingredients as suggested below. Or go all the way and make your own 'cashew cheese' or try a savoury version this cheese style spread I made using yoghurt and coconut flour. The bagels could also be homemade and gluten-free if needed. Or simply use lettuce cups for a light bite.

Now, take it away Lisa!

Recipe: vegan 'salmon' cream cheese bagels

Makes 2 bagels

Ingredients:

  • Bagels – I bought classic bagels from The Natural Bagel company (found in Sainsbury's) – worth checking labels to ensure no milk these had soya only.
  • Cream cheese – Again I went for convenience and bought the vegan original cream cheese from Sainsbury's free from range.  It’s a coconut base and a lot of my clients really like it as a dairy-free alternative. (There are also lots of recipes on-line for homemade cashew cheese or similar)
  • Salad – one of my staples is a bag of mixed watercress, rocket and spinach as these bitter greens are AMAZING for your digestion.

For the ‘Smoked salmon’

  • Liquid smoke (available on Ebay/Amazon and probably other places) quantity is personal preference but I put a good dessert spoonful in.
  • Carrots – I used two wide carrots.  Peeled the skin first and discard and then keep peeling.  I found a wide head peeler works best.  Peel the carrot so that it forms long ribbons.
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt
  • Some recipes add apple cider vinegar and/or tamari but I like to keep it as simple as possible!

Method:

‘Peel’ the carrots into long ribbons into a bowl. Add a twist or two of the salt. Add the liquid smoke. Mix everything together (see note below for marinading).

Transfer to a foil-lined baking tray – you need to be able to fully cover the carrot mix with the foil and seal it.

Bake in the oven 200˚C for about 20mins. Remove from oven and allow to cool.  

Lisa's note: when I made these I couldn’t wait and basically toasted the bagels, slapped the cream cheese on and put the carrot on and garnished with the salad – and they tasted amazing.   I left the remainder of the carrot with my vegan pal and she reported that left overnight and chilled the flavours were even better!

Vegan salmon cream cheese bagels
lisa.jpg

Want to know more about Lisa?

Lisa is 'The Nutritional Realist and has a holistic method of working, looking at every aspect of you and how it impacts your goal. Ultimately it's all about you. She’s the resource to enable you to get to your health goals and stay there! She’ll coach you to throw the pebble that will create positive ripples throughout your life.

Find more about Lisa and her work via her website, her Facebook page or on Instagram.


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Rhubarb Crumble Granola (and what is a 'natural flavour'?)

Over the last few month I have been working behind the scenes to develop my Wholeplus flavour range, it is still in the works but I hope to unleash the exciting new products and creative philosophy very soon!

Recipe: Rhubarb Crumble Granola

A huge part of my investigation process was in aligning optimal taste and texture with highest quality ingredients. When I launched Wholeplus I initially only had three flavours in the range- chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla as these were the only real food powders I could get and I was resistant to explore 'natural flavours' because I didn't understand them. It was very limiting.

So, what are 'natural flavourings'? 

Taken from the web: 'Natural flavourings are flavouring substances or flavouring preparations which are extracted from vegetable or animal materials and are not further chemically modified or changed.

Foodie Flavours
Foodie Flavours
Foodie Flavours

So basically, natural flavours come from natural sources — the original ingredient is found in nature and then purified and extracted and added back into the food. This is the only way it is truly possible to have foods in certain flavours, and nearly all companies use them including most of the health brands I know.

This has become sensationalised in various articles online with headlines such as 'is beaver butt used to flavour your food?' (Yes indeed the anal secretions of beavers can be used in foodstuffs and is actually pretty wide spread in the perfume industry as a musky smell- who knew!)  BUT Don't worry this DOES NOT appear in my products!

My biggest takeaway from this process of investigation is to be fully aware, do you own research and ask questions of the manufacturer if you are unsure how ingredients are derived. 

My investigations brought me to Foodie Flavours and after doing some thorough research to understand what natural flavours really are, a face-to-face meeting with the company, and confirmation that all of their products are indeed vegan, gluten free, sugar-free and made in the UK, I was gifted some flavours to take home for my trials.  

As well as Wholeplus Toppers recipes, I decided to put the Foodie Flavours to good use and created a granola recipe in a couple of flavours combinations. Both were great, but I have a real thing for the sweet and sour tang of rhubarb which is amazing.

Of course you can use any other 'flavouring' types you like- any extracts of choice or vanilla bean, cinnamon ginger etc.

Recipe: Rhubarb Crumble Granola

Granola is a perfect snack all on its own, but in a 'smoothie bowl' (top pic) that was almost like custard in its consistency it was a wonderful combo of smooth and crunchy.  This was simple to whip up with water, frozen banana and cashews blended up. Yoghurt gives a similar creamy contrast too.

I also love how the freeze dried beetroot gives a great nutritional boost and lovely pink hue to compliment the rhubarb.  Beetroot powder would also work well I imagine but I think beet juice would make the resulting granola too wet and soft.

You could add any chopped nuts or seeds you like, I used roughly half pumpkin seeds for some flecks of colour and the rest a combo of mixed chopped nuts.

Other flavours that would make great granolas...

  • Chocolate orange with cocoa and orange flavour (or zest)
  • Cinnamon ...because cinnamon with everything works ;-)
  • Bakewell tart- almond flavour with flakes almonds and some dried cherries (stir those in after!)
  • Banana Bread- I have tried this mashed with fresh banana and dried bananas chunks and it's great. These was my first granola recipe experiments that used pureed fruit.
  • Tropical Trip with a tropical flavour and then coconut curls and dried fruit chunks mixed through once cooked.
  • PB&J granola- this recipe made great chunky clusters!

What are your favourite flavour combos? 

Recipe: Rhubarb Crumble Granola

Recipe: Rhubarb Crumble Granola

(with Foodie Flavours)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup chopped nuts/seeds
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 3 tbs coconut oil- melted
  • 1/4 cup mild syrup of choice (I used coconut syrup)
  • approx 8 drops Foodie Flavours rhubarb flavour* (they suggest 20 drops per kg of product)
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried beetroot powder* (optional for colour)

*You could omit the beetroot and/or use an alternative flavour type of your choice. I also tried 'dulce du leche' flavour as seen below in the lighter variation. 

Method:

Stir together all ingredients in a medium bowl until well coated.

Spoon onto a lined baking tray in a thin even layer and bake for approx 15-20 mins on a medium heat- roughly 160C until lightly golden and toasted. Allow to cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container. I found the granola lost it crispness after a couple of days, but it still tasted good!

 The dulche du leche version. Great with yoghurt too- this is the new Alpro 'Greek style' version I fancied trying out!

The dulche du leche version. Great with yoghurt too- this is the new Alpro 'Greek style' version I fancied trying out!

Recipe: Caramel Crumble Granola
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The Raw Retreat experience. no. 2 (and my favourite 'meat'ball and chunky tomato sauce recipe!)

Last weekend saw the second Raw Retreat Experience take place... and it was just as epic as the first!  

The moment I walked through the front door of the hall, I breathed a sigh of relief and all my worries fell away. The weekend was ours. The energy of the simple unassuming village hall in the quirt Derbyshire countryside is incredible! Half of the participants had also been to the first retreat, and as they came through the door I heard a couple of them say "it feels like coming home". It did indeed.

As it says in the details, the Raw Retreat weekend is stripped back experience to remove luxury and create an environment for deeper connection with your inner spirit. As we arrived we each set up our beds and got cosy for the evening. There is a wonderful childlike sense of having a 'camp out' throughout the retreat, even when people have a little snooze during the day, or take time to zone out and meditate, there is a special energy about it all taking place in the same environment where someone maybe reading, eating or crafting just a few meters away. 

The focus throughout is on connecting with our senses... through food, movement, nature, crafting, conversation, space and stillness to go within.

Some of the tribe shared with wonderful words about the experience and it makes me heart smile, I can't wait to create more retreats for more deep connection...

"It felt like coming home, space to BE!"
I have learned loads about myself, I met wonderful people that feel the same as me inside. This is the closest I get outside 'recovery' in connection with feelings, emotions and understanding".
"Lovely vegan food, lots of walking, lots of talking and brilliant company." 

My friend Dionne at Manabika yoga led us through energising morning yoga practices and a yoga nidra bedtime session on the first evening.  Then there was the food.... wonderful food (if I do say so myself, ha!) Thought the focus was not on raw food (just healthy vegan food) Dionne also created a masterpiece of a raw cake... recipe to come soon.  One of my favourite recipes are my 'meatless meatballs'.... I can't believe I haven't shared them on my blog before (I even had to double check!) as they've been a favourite at both Lanzarote retreats and both Raw Retreats!

They are so versatile, can be rolled into balls or pressed into larger burger style patties, they can be made with beans or mushrooms or a combination. They also freeze well- so I always make a big batch!  Seriously- what's not to love?

The recipe for the 'no-meat' balls and my chunky tomato sauce is below, but first I want to share with you the energy of the retreat in photos. I plan to run 3 or 4 of these retreats a year so keep your eyes on the main info page for the latest dates!

 The wonderful raw cake... mmmmmm!

The wonderful raw cake... mmmmmm!

 Here we all are in our PJ's and onesies... having just woken up, drinking mugs of hot lemon and ginger water before morning yoga! ha ha

Here we all are in our PJ's and onesies... having just woken up, drinking mugs of hot lemon and ginger water before morning yoga! ha ha


Recipe: 'Meat' balls

Makes approx. 30 balls (they freeze well but you can halve the quantities if preferred)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked beans* (mix of red and black or just one type)
  • 1 cups sunflower seeds (approx 350g) soaked and drained
  • 1 cup oats
  • ¼ cup flax seed
  • 2 small red onions
  • ¾ cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 heaped tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 lemon- juice
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Approx. ¼ cup soy sauce

* Note: I used beans as one of the participants on the retreat had a mushroom allergy, but I have also used mushrooms instead of beans (arguably even more authentic!) pulsed in a the food processor to get a 'mince' style texture. Pat with kitchen towel to take as much of the moisture out to prevent wet balls.

Method:

Pulse beans in a processor until you have a loosely blended mixture. Set aside.

Pulse remaining ingredients together until you have a smooth but still chunky mixture. In a large bowl add the mushrooms and mix through well.

Roll the mixture into meat ball size balls and place in a lined baking sheet. Bake at 180C for 25 - 30 minutes until crispy and golden. (also great eaten cold)

Serving options: spaghetti (or courgetti) and tomato sauce, pasta, quinoa, topping for a salad or in a wrap. Also make great burgers.

Recipe: vegan Meat Balls

Recipe: Chunky Tomato sauce

Makes approx. 3 cups worth

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tsp Italian herbs (fresh basil optional)
  • 2 tbs cup tomato puree
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 carrot finely grated
  • approx. 4 dried apricots - chopped
  • 250ml vegetable stock

Method:

Heat oil, onion, garlic and spices for a few minutes, then add the puree and cook for another couple of minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.

Recipe: vegan Meat Balls

There photos above are of the 'bean' version as served on the retreat, below are a couple of photos I had taken previously when I made the 'mushroom' version as balls and burgers at home. The result is darker (and more meaty looking?) I love both options. Just be aware that the mushroom version can become a little too wet if the mushroom mix has a lot of moisture once chopped up and isn't pressed/patted dry.

Let me know if you make them and how you serve them... I'd love to hear!  Tag me @johodson on Instagram ;-)

Recipe: vegan Meat Balls
Recipe: vegan burgers
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Mini pumpkins... speedy last minute halloween treat!

I have so many recipe photos stored up in my computer, ready for editing and blogging... finding dedicated time to do so is somewhat tricky at times!  But I promise I will get back on it much more consistently as we gear up to the end of the year since sharing recipes is something I love so much!

I made this pumpkin themed recipe yesterday AND I had to no choice but to get on here and share because otherwise Halloween would be over! ha ha

If you are planning a gathering of some sort over the weekend, or need to take a treat to one, these could be a great bet. I found the flavours a little more sophisticated than regular bliss balls, so adults taste buds may prefer them, but i'll let you decide on that!

These are really quick to make. I used roasted pumpkin for depth of flavour and a less wet mix, but for speed you could use fresh raw chunks or puree from a can BUT in that case you will likely need to add extra oatmeal (or a similar dry ingredient) since the resulting mix will be wetter than when using roasted pumpkin which has a lot less moisture remaining. I used a smaller culinary pumpkin but I don't see why regular larger carving pumpkins would not work just as well.

Don't skimp of dusting lightly in turmeric for the orangey glow, it won't be overpowering to taste and really makes them look the part (though take the clove out before eating!)

Enjoy your mini pumpkins and any festive fun you might be having the weekend! 

Recipe: Mini pumpkin bliss balls

Recipe: Mini pumpkin bliss balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups roasted pumpkin chunks or 1/2 cup puree
  • 1/2 cup ground oats
  • 1 cup dates*
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
  • 2 tsp mixed spice (or to taste) (note- this is pumpkin spice if in the US)
  • a pinch of salt
  • a light dusting of turmeric to coat

* Just using dates was sweet enough for me, but taste the mix and add a little coconut sugar or stevia if desired.

Method:

Chop a fresh pumpkin into small approx, 2cm chunks and roast for 15 mins or until golden. I didn't coat my chunks in any oil. Note: you'll need around 1.5 cups of chunks as it will shrink during roasting. 

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor until fairly smooth. If the mixture is very sticky add extra oatmeal or other dry ingredient. 

I allowed my mix to 'set' a little in the freezer for approx 30 mins so it was easy to handle. Roll into balls and toss lightly in turmeric- add a little extra mixed spice to the turmeric if you like.

Press to form a squashed ball (pumpkin shape) and add a clove to the top for extra authenticity ;-)

Keep chilled until ready to eat.

Recipe: Mini pumpkin bliss balls
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Green beans, radishes... and Soul Circus!

Last weekend I had the privileged of working at Soul Circus, as taken from their website...

"Let your body dance and your soul run free. Soul Circus is about shedding the constraints of your adult life and rediscovering the world through the eyes of your inner child. Fun. Fantastical. Free. We invite you to participate in a weekend of celebrating and rediscovering your true self."

After a week of beautiful weather, it rained almost all weekend. I'm not going to lie... it would have been amazing if we could have enjoyed sunshine, chilling out on the hay bales, soaking up the sun, sipping green juices, chatting, jamming, playing... but instead we spend most of it ducking under cover! The sun did make an appearance in Sunday and so we all made the most of that!

Luckily, all the yoga sessions were held under cover the paver of beautiful tents, and I went to as many sessions as I could... plus a sound bath (cos I love them!) and a pineal light therapy session. My favourite by far was the handstand yogis session led by these guys. 

The attention to detail at this festival was incredible, maybe it's my years as an architect but I have an eye for that kind of thing and it did not go unappreciated. The bright colours of the ribbons and bunting brought such life, colour and beauty to the rainy greyness that prevailed.

On two evenings I helped out back of house in the kitchens, on the first night we prepared six course vegan dinner for 40 guests led by Jay Halford at The Core Cheltenham and then on the second evening I assisted a dinner for 12 VIP's in a makeshift back stage kitchen! Chris the chef, gifted me lots of lovely organic veg that was leftover... I received a bag of cobnuts, beautiful red and golden beets and a bunch of radishes and fresh herbs.

I have only even eaten radishes raw before and so I was intrigued to pan fry them. I had loads of green beans ready in the garden so this simply dish came together nice and easily.

If you haven't tried cooking radishes before, I highly recommend it... lovely mellow and almost buttery flavour. I used coconut oil but you could use an alternative favourite.

Recipe: Green beans and radishes

Recipe: Green beans and radishes

Ingredients:

  • 2 handfuls green beans- ends trimmed and beans cut in half
  • 1 small red onion (or 2 shallots)- sliced thinly
  • 1 handful radishes- halved or quartered
  • 2 tbs coconut oil
  • 2 garlic clives- crushed
  • 1 tsp mixed Italian herbs
  • small handful of fresh parsley or rosemary- chopped
  • red chilli pepper flakes to serve- optional

Method: 

Boil the green beans for 5 mins.

Meanwhile prepare remaining ingredients and add to a large frying pan with the coconut oil.

Drain and add the green beans. Pan fry all together until the radishes are lightly golden. Add the fresh herbs and stir through to serve. Sprinkle a few red pepper flakes over the top if desired and add salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe: Green beans and radishes

P.s There is an early bird rate coming soon for next years Soul Circus festival... so keep an eye their website for more details.


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Raw pomegranate and mint salad... with a pea dip!

I made this salad a few weeks back, took the photos... then promptly forgot about it! 

Even just looking at it now makes me feel light and refreshed.... I've had a heavy few days with sweet recipe experiments so this is a welcome change. I'm even very tempted to pop to the shop and buy a pomegranate right now.

I used my favourite bean and pea dip as the 'saucebut if you didn't want to whip that up (though it only take minutes, is very versatile and stores well in the fridge), you could try using simple hummus or guacamole.

To make it a little more substantial you could add some quinoa, cous-cous, tortilla wedges or some salad potatoes maybe.

It's a perfect quick light summer lunch as it is or double up the recipe to serve as a side dish at a BBQ maybe? 

I still haven't perfected an un-mesy way to bash out the seeds from the pomegranate hence the messy dressed dish. Ha ha though I think it looks pretty ;-)

Recipe: Pomegranate salad 

Recipe: Pomegranate salad 

Serves 2

 Ingredients:

  • 1 large courgette
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 cup bean and pea dip (using this recipe)
  • 2-3 handfuls of watercress
  • handful fresh mint leaves- roughly chopped
  • seeds from 1 pomegranate 

Method: 

Spiralise the courgette (or use a julienne peeler) and slice the red onion very finely. Mix the courgette and onion with the dip to create a sauce.  

Pile the a watercress to the serving plate and dollop the courgette mixture on top. Generously sprinkle the pomegranate seeds as garnish. 

Recipe: Pomegranate salad 
Recipe: Pomegranate salad 
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