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!

My Rawgust Experience... and Raw Avo & Tomato 'Toast'

'Rawgust' is over and we are rolling swiftly into September!

I thought I'd take a moment on this sunny Sunday morning to reflect on a few thoughts of my 'raw food' experience. As I mentioned in my previous post I didn't maintain a 100% raw diet, it was more like 85% as my view was to see it as an exploration and open my mind to new recipes and ideas, rather than a restriction which I may have felt had I been super strict.

>>> NOTE: see my previous post for tips and meal inspiration

This decision to go 'high raw' rather than fully raw was partly based on the fact I had a few family commitments and events I knew I would be attending which would have made life difficult. I decided that a 'high raw diet' would allow me to appreciate most of the benefits and enable me to broaden my raw food repertoire without it feeling pressured or frustrated.

Overall I really enjoyed the month, initially I did miss big hot bowls of porridge (yes, I still eat porridge in the summertime!) and I really missed beans and lentils- such a staple in my everyday diet.

That being said, I really threw myself into creating some amazing salads and lots of raw dressings and dips to go with them. For me, a good dressing can turn any salad from average to amazing :-) 

This is definitely something I'll be continuing, as I'd like to aim for at least 50% raw ongoing- basically, i'll be incorporating a smoothie and a big salad every day- pretty easy, right!

I'll post a recipe round up of loads of sauces, dressing and dips from my vegan community in a separate post- hopefully, there'll be lots to inspire you too!

My boyfriend, who took the challenge along with me- who also reminded me that it was his idea in the first place (credit where it's due!!) has, for the time being, decided to maintain a 75-80% raw diet, so we'll still be eating a lot of raw meals together. 

My downfall (if anything) was eating too many Bliss Balls, ha ha. I often get carried away anyway when I make them, but during Rawgust I fell into the trap of having even more excuse to indulge.

 Bliss balls... soooo tempting!!

Bliss balls... soooo tempting!!

Many people I know who eat raw, typically follow a high-fruit diet. This is something I have never felt really suits me. When I've experimented with an 801010 (80% carbs, 10% fat 10% protein) style diet in the past I ended up feeling incredibly bloated with the ratio of fruit. I feel I need to incorporate more fats. Maybe that was why one of my favourite meals last month was avocado and tomato on dehydrated flax crackers.

That said, my digestion was, for the most part, really great this last month, even though I have had some tough personal challenges to content with (stress usually impacts my bowels- sorry TMI!) My tummy felt flat and I have lost a little weight. Maybe that's down to the lack of legumes and/or grains... who knows? It will be interesting to see what happens as I add them back.

I'm also not convinced that a fully raw diet is particularly suited to our UK climate during the colder winter months. I know the idea of a nourishing warm meal really soothes me and the abundance root vegetables help ground me. I wouldn't want to forgo soups and stews indefinitely regardless of any nutritional science. 

I know there are ways to create 'warmth' in the body whilst consuming raw foods by using ginger and other warming spices to 'fire up' the body, but nothing compares to a big bowl of soup in my opinion! :-) 

I also query the environmental angle. I like the idea of aiming to eat more seasonally and locally, (although i'll make it clear I'm not perfect at this by any means), so feasting on tropical fruits shipped from far overseas during our cold winter months, doesn't quite sit right with me. I want to enjoy our abundance of winter vegetable roots and brassicas from the ground during this time.

One final point of interest... I was scanning through all my old health and wellness magazines, as part of my declutter ahead of moving house in a couple of weeks and I found various articles on Ayurveda. I am definitely a Vata Dosha and interestingly one of the things it advised 'Vata's' against was to consume raw foods... how interesting!

I have not looked deeply into the reasoning behind this (but now I am curious to know more), but it did remind me that there is never a 'one size fits all approach' when it comes to food, and that we all need to be intuitive eaters when it comes to what we feel our bodies need.  

As an example, I would never directly advise others to eat animal products BUT I do appreciate that we each need to find out own way and tune into what really works for us away from societies expectation and the pressure from the media and those around us.

Most of all, I believe we need to become more curious, more self-aware, more confident and relaxed around food.

Short terms 'Detoxes' and Challenges' (such as Rawgust) create the perfect opportunity for shaking things up, trying new things, re-setting our bodies systems, checking in with any symptoms that might be showing up and reflecting on what we really need deep down.

To break the pattern of the autopilot mode that so many of us function on day to day when it comes to food and lifestyle.

So on that note, I am going to leave you with the recipe for my favourite avocado and tomato salad on raw flax crackers.... ridiculously simple, and definitely one I'll keep on weekly repeat.

raw avo tomato toast 1a.jpg

I'd love to continue this conversation...

Have you tried a raw diet? Maybe you loosely follow a raw-till-4 approach? Or something else... I'd love to hear your own thoughts, experiences and results. 


Recipe: Raw Avo & Tomato 'Toast'

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • A large handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Dehydrated flax crackers (quantity to suit appetite!) 
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sprinkle of nutritional yeast (optional)
  • Salad leaves (optional)

Flax Cracker Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup ground flaxseeds 
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds, soaked overnight 
  • 1 cup walnuts, soaked overnight 
  • 1 stick of celery, roughly chopped  
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped 
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil (including the oil)
  • 1 tsp Himalayan salt
  • 1-2 tsp mixed dried herbs (or other herbs/spices to suit)
  • a few tbs water to create the right consistency (add gradually)

Method for the flax crackers:

Blitz all ingredients together in a food processor, until thick and sticky, adding a little water add needed (I used approx 1/3 of a cup)

Spread the mix to a 0.5 cm thickness over teflex dehydrator sheets. 

Dehydrate at 45C for approx 10 hours, turn over and place onto mesh sheets and return to the dehydrator for another 4 hours. 

Cut into any desired slices. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks. 

Method for the avo 'toast':

There is no real method.... just assemble everything on top of the crackers!

You can slice your flax bread/crackers into larger 'bread style' squares but because I make mine in a large batch I had pre-cut them into small squares for versatility. Either is fine.

NOTE: I originally made a version of this style of raw bread/cracker HERE. At that time I also tried a second batch and spread it out on a lined baking sheet at 'baked' it for approximately two hours on my lowest oven temperature (approx. 80ºC). I covered it loosely with foil after 1 hour to ensure the most even cook. It worked well so it's an option to try if you don't have access to a dehydrator.

raw avo tomato toast 2a.jpg
raw avo tomato toast 4a.jpg
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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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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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