Posts tagged jan2012
Valentine's Coconut Ice

Valentines is such a commercial holiday…but then again, any cause for celebration is good enough for me!

I’m not really the type to celebrate Valentines in a big way, I much prefer showing a little love at any other time of the year and not when I’m ‘told’ I should. But since I have no Valentine of my own it’s a little bit pointless debating my options (or maybe I’m just a tad jealous)!

A thoughtful gesture always means so much more than anything money can buy. A little homemade gift is sure to raise a smile... and a tasty yummy treat all the more!

I have a few simple Valentine’s ideas to post over the next few days.  These would be perfect any time of year….another little way to remind someone how much they mean to you.

No Valentine? Then treat yourself, you best friend or your mum. Plus since these treats are super healthy you will all be smiling all day long.

First up, pretty pink coconut ice. 

You can use any dried red berries here- I used cranberries but cherries would be fabulous! The result is a lovely speckled pink cube of delight with a light crumbly coconutty texture and hints of delicate sweet berries. You could use any shaped moulds you fancy, just make sure to firmly press in the mixture whilst still soft and warm.

Recipe: Valentine's Coconut Ice

Makes approx. 12 cubes (1 ice cube tray)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut butter (make your own)
  • 2tbs cashew or almond butter
  • ½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 2 tbs agave nectar plus tiny pinch stevia
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Melt the coconut butter then combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a thick smooth paste is formed.  There should be ‘flecks’ of the red berries in the mixture as opposed to a solid colour. Whilst still warm, spoon the soft mixture into an ice cube tray or other candy moulds and press down firmly into each mould.

Freeze briefly to set and then store in the fridge.


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Mantra for Monday no. 5

This has become something of a personal mantra for me in the course of everyday life. I often find myself whispering those words under my breath or repeating that line over in my head during times of doubt.

Obviously this statement  has some presence in the everyday superficial elements of life… just because I have £100 in my purse doesn’t mean I should by a new bag.

What I want to reflect on here is the deeper realm, the mental challenge.

It is easy to get carried away, to push and challenge yourself, to feel obligated in taking on responsibilities. Often it is simply because we know we are capable of handling a situation, we feel that by default it is therefore our duty to see it through.

There is a blanket of guilt that engulfs us if we don’t.

Sometimes it is hard to know where to draw the line… we watch our happiness and contentment begin to slip away from but we carry on regardless because we can and therefore because we feel we should.

I’ve felt this most strongly within relationships with others. Without realising it you can end up with a very negative balance, where your capable and accommodating nature is taken for granted. Over time this will on serve to wear away at us, slowly at first such that you may not even notice it happening. Even when the questions begin to rise inside, we justify our continuation down that road with a guilt trip over a sense of failure if we ‘give up’ now.

I have a competitive personality; I always want to push myself and to ‘prove’ to myself…prove what is often something an unknown entity. I know that for me, I often find myself pursuing a fruitless goal purely because I don’t want to fail on the task I had originally set myself regardless of whether the circumstances may have changed. I feel that because I can do something I must honour its completion.

No…that isn’t how it should be. Guilt can distort our perspective and play us off against the physical and mental sides of our reasoning. Logic is all but lost in the battle.

We must be more accepting of circumstance, be aware of the situation and be analytical in our approach and understanding. Quite simply…be honest with yourself and be ready to hold your hands up and step away.

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Spreading my wings…. blog updates!

I know today is a Silent Sunday … so please forgive the intrusion, SS no. 5 will be along later on today.  I have made a few changes round here recently and I just wanted to tell you about them.

Firstly, I have tidied up my homepage. I want to keep it as simple as possible so the posts themselves could take centre stage.

I have a few neat little buttons along the top (I was very proud that I edited the html code myself!) with links to my social media pages. I have only recently joined Twitter and I really don’t know what took me so long.  I would love it if you came and joined me!

Checkout my FacebookTwitter and Pinterest pages, you can also subscribe by email or RSS feed too.

My blog is still relatively new, but I’m slowly building up my archives and I hope you agree that I have a few interesting things to catch your attention. If you like anything you’ve seen I would be hugely grateful if you could take a moment to share it so that others can join in also and I can begin to grow and spread my wings…..!

Here are a few of the most popular recipes you might have missed …..have a little browse!

I now also have a Recipage which makes searching through my recipes soooo much easier… you can search by type, ingredient, alphabetically…. It is a great resource. Please have a look and let me know what you think.

You may have noticed that I don’t include the nutritional information alongside my recipes. This is simply because, for me, it is all about the nutritional quality of the ingredients and not about the overall numbers. I think numbers can sometime be misleading, for example nuts have an amazing nutritional status and the good fats we need for everyday health…but the numbers would be higher due to these fats. So I eat what feels right for me as long as I know I am putting good wholesome ingredients in! 

However, I do appreciate that for many of you, understanding the statistics in important.  So in order to assist in making this a little simpler I have included a new recipe nutrition calculator in my side bar. You can type in up to 6 key ingredients in a recipe and it will provide you with the comparative information. If you do find this useful please let me know as I’d love to know how to get on with it.

I have also added two new page tabs: ‘Where to find me’ provides a little summary of the places I tend to pop up most. ‘Wellbeing’ is a new page and a new direction I am keen to head towards. As I’ve often mentioned, life is a constant balance along the path to achieving happiness. Food is just one part of that holistic experience both physically and mentally, so I simply want to tap into that side of things a little more- hence th Silent Sunday and  Mantra for Monday posts. I’d be really interested to know how you felt about this side of things, as the development of this blog over time is as much for others as it is for me.

I’d really love to hear your thoughts.

I have so many more ideas and discoveries with new products and companies I am keep to share with you, but for now I’ll leave it at that…..I’ll fill you in on everything else shortly.

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Homemade Granola- Two Ways (Banana & Nutty)

Last weekend I really fancied a bowl of granola!

I’d seen some posh tasty looking ‘healthy granola’ in the health food section of the super market, it was chocolate orange flavour and I wanted it there and then! I was so excited (is that odd?) to get home and try this new snack with a dollop of soy yoghurt as an afternoon treat… but I have to admit I was left a little disappointed. It just didn’t do it for me. I’m not sure if it was the flavour combo, the texture or the fact that maybe it wasn’t as amazing as the packaging would have me believe...plus it was very expensive!

Undeterred, I vowed to make my own. I’m surprised I haven’t done so before now. It is really so simple to make, stores for weeks in the cupboard (as if it would last that long!) and is the perfect snack to nibble on at any time of the day when a bowl of porridge just doesn’t quite have the same appeal. I just love oats in all forms!

My granola is now all but gone and today I made a second batch based on the ‘fruity nutty’ version- my favourite of the two if it had to choose, plus I trialled a healthy chocolate version of my own which will be posted soon no doubt once I've had a chanve to refine it a little more. I’m sure I’ll also be playing around with other flavour combos in coming weeks… I will keep you posted.

For now, here you have two recipes for starters. I ate the first as breakfast and the second as dessert…

Breakfast…a generous handful of the nutty fruity granola topped a bowl of grated apple mixed into soy yoghurt sprinkled with cinnamon.

Dessert…the coconut banana granola had a more tropical trip and was mixed through a bowl of soy yoghurt and mango chunks. Fresh mango would be ideal but I only had frozen chunks at the time which I allowed to defrost before mixing through.

I’d be interested to hear about your own granola experiments as I know so many people already make their own.

Banana coconut granola - Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup oats
  • ½ cup chopped almonds
  • 2 tbs each chia seeds/pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds
  • 4 tbs dessicated coconut
  • 1 banana- pureed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbs cocout butter- melted
  • 2tbs maple syrup or brown rice syrup
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch salt

Nutty fruity granola - ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup oats
  • 2 tbs chia seeds
  • 1 cup mix of nuts (I used cashew, walnut and hazelnut)
  • 2tbs each of sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • 2tbs ground flax
  • 3 tbs apple puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs coconut oil- melted
  • 2 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tbs rapadura/palm sugar
  • 1 cup dried fruit- optional (I used dates and cranberries) Note: mix into granola once cooled.
  • Makes approx. 3 medium bowls each (or two baking sheets)

Method for both: 

Melt coconut butter/oil into other liquid ingredients. Add all dry ingredients and mix through. Spoon onto two lightly greased baking sheets making sure to achieve a thin even layer with some clumpy bits.

Bake at 170C for 10-15 minutes until slightly golden.

Allow to cool fully before storing. Stores in an airtight container in a cupboard for a few weeks.


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Sweet Scones with Walnut & Cranberry

I like a challenge, the chance to do something a little different, the chance to explore a common theme with a little of my own imagination thrown in. I also enjoy seeing how others respond to an idea…

…for example if you were asked to make scones (aka American biscuits) what would you come up with?

Sweet, savoury, a circle of wedges, round scones cut with a cutter, fruity scones, chocolate scones, scones served with jam and cream for afternoon tea, scones served as a side with a casserole or broth…the list goes on!

I have recently joined the Daring Bakers and this was my first monthly challenge….scones! The challenges are set on the 1st of every month with a publishing date of the 27th of every month. It’s been very interesting to check out the results of the other bakers and to see just how different the outcomes can be.

For me the basic scone recipe presents simply the principle, one which I can then tweak to create a healthy vegan adaptation.  I opted for sweet scones as would be traditionally served with jam and cream (or in my case sugar free jam and a dollop of soy yoghurt). This is the type of scone with which I am most familiar; I remember days gone by cuddling up on the sofa with a warm wedge of light and fluffy baked scone slathered in jam and squirty cream!

I haven’t had too much experience with baking healthy vegan scones (or any scones for that matter), other than the first batch I ever made- my Halloween pumpkin scones which were a resounding success! This gave me a little confidence boost and I was keen to get cracking!

Traditional scones, whether sweet or savoury, consist primarily of plain flour, butter and milk. I adapted the basic recipe to incorporate spelt flour, almond milk and coconut oil and I’m pleased with the overall result…a good base for many flavour combinations.  I had three attempts at this challenge, tweaking as I went and reducing the liquid slightly and adding a little baking soda along with the baking powder, and adding a little dried fruit.  The original Daring Bakers January recipe challenge can be found here.

So, question time...Do you call them ‘biscuits’ or ‘scones’? Do you prefer sweet or savoury? What’s your favourite flavour combination?

Recipe: Scones with walnut and cranberry

Makes approx. 6 wedges or circles (I made one batch of each)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mix of white and wholemeal spelt flours
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Tiny pinch of salt
  • 2 tables coconut oil (not melted)
  • Slightly over 1/3 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk of choice) plus extra for glaze
  • 2 tsp agave syrup
  • ¼ cup mix of chopped cranberries and dates (optional)

Method

Mix/sift dry ingredients well to maximise air in the mixture. 

Rub through the coconut oil with fingers to achieve a breadcrumb like consistency, then mix through the dried fruit if using. 

Mix agave into the milk and add liquid to the dry ingredients. Use hands to create a soft dough ball that should be slightly sticky but manageable.

On a floured surface, knead dough into a circle approx. 2cm thick and either cut into 6 wedges or circles using a cutter. Brush a little ‘milk’ over the tops to glaze.

Lay close together on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 210C for 8-10 minutes until tops are golden. You may need to rotate halfway through to ensure an even rise.

Daring Bakers... Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!


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Carrot & Citrus Bean Soup

For this week’s soup fix I wanted to bring on the lovely sweet and earthy flavours of the winter root veg but also a little citrus kick to perk things up on these cold winter days. Beans are (or should be) everyone’s best friend and are perfect way to get your protein, so a good mixture of beans also feature here for a nice variety. 

This recipe was based on a BBC Good Food recipe which used one can of mixed beans to serve 4, when I make this soup again I will definitely double this two cans to give extra body and oomph to the soup. My photos barely show any beans at all but I can promise you this soup had a lot more bulk than would appear- it sank to the bottom of the bowl!

I made this soup last Saturday as a quick lunch in between batches of baking, freezing the extra portions as I nearly always do. I actually had another portion for my lunch at work today and it was just as good.

My kitchen work top ends up full of ‘experiments’…this is what my typical weekend looks like! Note…this is what it looks like when I’ve already cleared up and wiped down and have tidied away all my ‘baking boxes’ full of goodies that end up being stacked on the floor around me. No creative cooks are tidy cooks…are they??

Here I have a pan of these granola barto keep me going through the week, my trusty smooshbars for a colleague at work, some remaining scones- recipe to come (minus the two I’d eaten) and four leftover pots of this soup for freezing.

I do love being surrounded by warm, freshly cooked food...I want to nibble on it all…it’s a good job it is all so healthy then!

Recipe: Carrot and citrus bean soup  

Ingredients

  • 2tbs olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • Approx. 450g carrots- roughly chopped
  • 1tbs garam masala
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger- grated
  • Juice of 1 orange or ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 200ml coconut milk (full fat or light is fine)
  • 410g can mixed beans- drained and rinsed (note- I would use two cans next time)
  • 2 tbs chopped corriander

Method

Heat oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions and chopped carrotfor around 15 minutes until softening. Add the garam masala and ginger and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the orange juice and vegetable stock, bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Once the carrots are tender, stir in the coconut milk. Using an electric hand blender (or pour into a blender) puree until fairly smooth (or as smooth as you like).

Add the beans to the pureed mixture in the pan, simmer for a few minutes. Add the coriander just before serving.

Note: if making this again I would use 2 cans of beans to make it even more substantial.

Left over portions can be frozen.


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The worlds healthiest fudge

This wasn’t supposed to be a fudge recipe.

This was supposed to be an energy power bar recipe!

It still is an energy bar recipe…..it just so happened to turn into fudge too….crazy things do sometimes happen!

Now, before you get ahead of yourself, these little treats aren’t identical to fudge…so don’t go expecting a regular sugar loaded, melt in your mouth (furry teeth inducing) fudge morsel.  These little treats are full of healthy ingredients, are sugar free and have a really soft but firm, chocolatey,  fudgey bite to them, I find them really moreish and the only word I could use to describe them is…well…fudgey!

Perfect for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or a post work-out protein boost.  What provides the protein…black beans of course!

I have lots of notes and saved recipes from websites and books for various types of granola bars, energy bars, baked bars, raw bars….. and these bars were inspired by Enlightened Cooking who’s power bar recipe can be found here I was intrigued by the simple concept, having used beans plenty of times in my baking before, but never in a raw form. My recipe followed closely along the same lines with a few tweaks of my own.

The ‘dough’ is so simple to prepare and very easy to handle. It is also very ‘accommodating’, and by that I mean it holds together really well, so I imagine it could take all sort of mix-ins without a problem….chunks of nuts, fruits, chocolate chips. Feel free to experiment with your favourite flavours. I have used both cranberry and coconut here.

Recipe: black bean energy ‘fudge’

Makes approx 10 slices

Ingredients

  • 200gor ½ can black beans- rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium mashed banana
  • ½ cup cocoa powder (or raw cacoa powder for an even healthier boost)
  • 1/3 cup dates
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½  tsp cinnamon
  • ¼  tsp stevia
  • ½ cup ground oats
  • 2 tbs ground flax
  • 2 tbs chia seeds (optional)
  • Optional:
  • Dessicated coconut to coat
  • Cranberries (or other dried fruit)- finely chopped and mixed through

Method

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a smooth dough is formed. Add additional dried fruit here also if using. The dough should be fairly tacky but not sticky and should be easy to handle.

Form a log of dough approx. 5cm in diameter. Roll the log in desiccated coconut if desired.

Using a sharp knife, cut the log into rounds approx. 1-2cm thick. Store in a sealed contained in the fridge for up to a week. (these also freeze well).

Note: to form ‘bars’ divide the dough and roll into individual logs and flatten slightly.

 The fudge log before it was cut into pieces, see how soft and malleable the dough looks...just waiting for all those creative mix-ins!

By now you probably already know I've used beans to pack a protein punch and substitute some of the fats in many of my recipes (i don't stop going on about them)..... check out my blondies, my brownie torte and my sticky toffee pudding .  I have also made a few raw energy bars.... like my absolute favourite choc-orange smoosh bars , my power cubes and my raw gingerbread.


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A Mantra for Monday no. 4

Sometimes I wish I would just take my own advice….and believe it!

Even though we are no longer together the Boy still has a daily influence on my life, my thoughts and a way of being that I still seek to understand. I still have a lot of growing to do…so do we all, it never stops.

‘You are already good enough’, was a phrase he often used to stop me in my tracks, to quieten me at times when I was getting fraught and frenzied about all the things I hadn’t done…felt I should try to be, felt I could have done better.

I had no comeback line. My ‘buts’ faltered short and I had no reply. Those words released me, forced me to see that, well, maybe he was right.

Be content with who you are…right here…right now. 

Accept and grow from all decisions and experiences which take place every day. Through acceptance you experience true freedom.

Easy to say, those lovely peaceful poetic words…blah, blah, blah. I’ll be honest and admit that at times I’m prone to casting those words aside as well. Generally it’s when I’m feeling defensive, when I know that it’s true but I just can’t admit that I’m really beating myself up about insignificant things, giving myself a hard time for no good reason. I guess I almost feel ashamed.

Constantly striving for goals without appreciating what you already have is a fruitless and negative experience. By all means set goals and challenges, but enjoy the journey and don’t obsess over achievement, deadlines, and the end result. Enjoy that when you get there…and you will get there…but throughout the process be content with who you are and understand that you are already good enough.

You are a living, breathing human being...a miracle of nature.

We all take our place here on earth for granted. 

Now, sometimes I catch myself when I’m getting a little crazy, getting all het up in my little bubble of negativity. It doesn’t always work and I probably always will be my own worst critic, but reminding yourself of those words can help. It forces a reality check and allows you to enjoy simply being. Just be in that moment and embrace it, for you are already good enough.

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