Introducing: ‘Silent Sunday’ and ‘A Mantra for Monday’

Did I mention I was gonna shake things up a little?

Well, I am!

“I live for a challenge, I never sit still and I never stop thinking”

These words are taken from my ‘about page’. I think a lot…maybe too much, often ending up going round in circles! However, I know that in order to really find out who I have the capacity to become I must never stop thinking…doing…trying…challenging…being...living!

Writing things down helps crystallise your thoughts.  It helps make sense of any confusion and put things into perspective. I also love words.  I love the way that a combination of a few words has both the capacity to make you laugh out loud or sob uncontrollably. Incredible.

I also love photography. It is a skill which I really want to progress, and I don’t simply mean in relation to food (although that is a great outlet for practice). I love the fundamental emotional connection brought about through imagery without the use of words- a total contrast. Two extremes…not like me at all! (hmm…or maybe just a little!!)

So, I had an idea….

Every Sunday I will post a photo. That is all, just a photo. No words. These will be photos that I have taken at any time and place and that for whatever reason resonate with me and connect with my emotions. Without words the imagination has free reign open to all interpretation.

Hence, this will become Silent Sunday.

Inspiration for this concept and the subsequent title of my post was found here. The blog had been hosting a linked ‘Silent Sunday’ for a number of months before the linked element was removed. My own thoughts had already been heading in a similar direction when I happened to chance upon her blog and the eloquence of the title Silence Sunday appealed such that I found I couldn’t better it.

Following Silent Sunday’s pure and simple round up to the week, I wanted to offer something of a contrast to kick start Monday morning. Start as you mean to go on…so they say! If that’s the case, the opportunity to fill my mind with a positive thought to carry me through the week seemed particularly fitting.

Hence, this will become A Mantra for Monday.

It is difficult to know how these ideas will pan out over the course of time. It's unknown territory...spontaneous...crazy. I have no visions or expectations but I am simply open to the paths my mind may take me. I cannot promise this will work, and if it falls by the wayside then…well at least I can say I gave it a go!  In the meantime I hope you will also join me in this new chapter… your thoughts and comments will help turn this into something special.

….Oh, and don’t worry, there will still be plenty of food! I do love cake, after all, …and that definitely hasn’t changed!

I simply want to focus on a more holistic sense of wellbeing, and in doing so do more of the things that make me most happy and that give a sense of fulfilment and perspective. 

I hope I can share that with you too.


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‘Leftover’ Nut Roast Pasties

Boxing Day was a pretty quiet and relaxed day. These are the two days of the year when I can actually enjoy just lounging around…any other time I would get fidgety and feel the need to be doing something more!

In the morning we went for a walk through the park and the fields for a bit of fresh air, where myself and my brother and sister decided to take to the swings… if you can’t be a kid at Christmas… then when can you?  

The weather was actually quiet warm and sunny, very unusal for this time of year, so it felt a bit 

overkill to be dressed up in scarf and hat (the hat soon came off)!

Once back home I made lunch for everyone….my ‘leftovers’ pasties. 

The recipe is so quick and simple and was briefly mentioned here, but I’ll reiterate it again for quick reference. I just love the simplicity of the recipe and the fact that it could be so easily adapted for any ‘leftover roast’ combo. I haven’t included meat here, but obviously this could be included also if you wished. My family added some of the meat into their pasties.

Recipe: ‘leftover’ Nut Roast Pasties

Makes 6-10 pasties depending on size

Ingredients:

(these measurements are all approximates and easily interchangeable for other similar ingredients)

  • 1 ½ cup mixed veggies (I used brussel sprouts, roast potatoes and parsnips, carrots and mashed potato)
  • ½  cup nut roast or stuffing
  • A few tablespoons of sauce (cranberry sauce, bread sauce, gravy etc)
  • Approx. 1 tsp mixed herb seasoning (optional)
  • Approx. 30x50cm rolled ready-made or homemade shortcrust pastry (I cheated this time and used ready-made!)

Method:

Cut out approx. 6 large saucer sized rolled ready-made or homemade shortcrust pastry (shop bought shortcrust pastry in the UK is usually vegan anyway but check the label). Or you could cut smaller circles and make mini pasties.

In a medium bowl add all ingredients and mush together a little so well mixed. Spoon approx. ¼ cup of the mixture in to the centre of each pastry round leaving at least 2cm of pastry round the edge. Wet the edges a little and lift up and seal the edges together making a semi-circle with the seam at the top. Crimp the seam with your fingers.

Place the pasties on a greased or lined baking sheet, brush with soy milk and bake at 180C for approx. 25 mins until golden. Serve warm or cold.

Note: the dollop of filling I have shown there is too much in relation to the circle size- after this photo was take I had to reduce it a little to be able to seal the egdes!


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Christmas Day…done! (and Chocolate Cream Cranberry sponge)

So how long did you spend in your jammies Christmas day morning?

This year I was actually pretty good and got dressed well before lunch…but not until I’d opened my stocking (which usually includes some underwear and socks!)

Christmas day was spent at home with my family- mum, dad, brother and sister. All the presents were piled under the tree and every year that still seems so magical to me! We spent quite a few hours in the run up to lunch giving out the gifts, interspersed with trips back and forth to the kitchen to manage proceedings.

This year I packaged my gifts in brown paper with a minimal amount of sticky tape to help the recycling process! …but I do love lots of ribbon- it’s not Christmas without lots if ribbon! Part of the gifts to my family were bottles of my homemade  vanilla extract.

I also decided it would be a novelty to give homemade ‘vouchers’ so they could choose they own personalised cakes from my growing list of recipes. It will be interesting to see what they choose!

We all pitched in to help with Christmas lunch.  My main task was the brussel sprouts …so…many….sprouts…to…peel! I blanched them and then pan fried them with shallots and chestnuts. 

My other self-appointed roll was as ‘dessert creator’. I wanted to provide a lighter healthy vegan alternative to go alongside the traditional Christmas pud. It needed to be something pretty fool proof and easy to put together (no dramas on Christmas day thank you!).

I decided upon a combination of many of the recipes I have posted in recent days. The ingredients list may look long but the method is actually so simple.

…light fat-free chocolate sponge (based on this recipe)

...chocolate chestnut frosting (previously mentioned here) or you could use your own favourite.

…cranberry compote (based on this recipe) or any berries could be used.

…all layered up to create one fruity luxurious Christmas chocolate cream sponge! 

I really love the tart berries combined with the sweetly smooth and creamy frosting, topping the light and springy sponge base.  The perfect end to a sumptuous satisfying dinner…even those who claim they ‘couldn’t eat another thing’ could squeeze in a pieces of this!

Recipe: Chocolate cream cranberry sponge

Makes one 10x15 inch pan (or a thicker sponge for a slightly smaller pan)

Ingredients

Sponge base: (this can be made a day in advance)

  • 10 1/2 oz. firm silken tofu
  • 1/3 cup rapadura
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup
  • 1 tbs vinegar
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract 
  • 1 tbs ground flax mixed with 2tbs hot water (see egg replacer note below )
  • 1 cup whole wheat spelt flour
  • ¼ cup ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½  tsp salt
  • 1 tbs ground flax mixed with 2tbs hot water
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.

Chestnut cream frosting: (Can be made in advance). I used a two-layered approach with mychocolate frosting smoothed directly over the sponge (I had some reserved in the freezer) and then this chestnut frosting over that.

  • 100g silken tofu
  • 20g agave or brown rice syrup plus ¼ tsp stevia
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g chestnut puree (I used canned puree)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbs cocoa powder

Cranberry compote:

  • Approx. 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 3 tbs rapadura (extra if you don’t like your cranberries too tart)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 10x15 inch pan with baking parchment. In food processor, mix the tofu, rapadura, agave, vinegar, water, vanilla and flax mix. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ground almonds, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Pour the blended tofu mixture into flour mixture; stir together thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth batter evenly into pan and bake  for 10-12 minutes.

Allow to cool before lifting from the pan. The sponge can be made up to a day in advance.

To prepare the frostings, blend all ingredients listed together in a food processor until a smooth consistency forms. Layer the frostings up on top of the sponge.

To make the cranberry compote, add the fresh cranberries to a small sauce pan along with the rapadura, cinnamon and water. Simmer and stir every minute or so for 10- 15 minutes until the berries have softened and formed a thick compote.

Spoon the compote on top of the frosting and serve immediately.

The dessert can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days.

P.S. I know I also promised a boxing day pasty recipe!  We made the pasties for lunch today and now I just need to get it all written up…I promise this is on its way! It maybe too late for your Christmas day leftovers but it is also the perfect recipe idea for any ‘roast’.


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Wishing you a Happy Christmas!
I have so many recipes, thoughts and ideas to take me through into the New Year and beyond (including a healthy sticky toffee pudding which I am super excited about!)

...but now I will sit back and enjoy the festivities with my family.

I hope you do too!



jo hodsonComment
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Buffet Bites and the ‘Egg’ nog experiment

Well, these last couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirl-wind.

Cake still adorns all surfaces- waiting to be eaten, unwrapped presents lounge in boxes and bags, post-it notes and ‘to do’ lists remain half ticked off….

…..but this evening I relaxed! Work in the office is over for the rest of the year and now I can look forward to the holiday season with increasing excitement and last minute preparations!

egg nog smoothie

Actually I have been getting quite excited this year, since the festive recipes have swung me into the holiday spirit, but some years Christmas is literally knocking at my door before I realise that time has come around.  That’s the problem with being ‘too busy’… if you’re not careful it’s easy to miss all the fun, particularly all the build-up and anticipation which is often just as much fun as the big day itself.

Sometimes you just need to take a little time out. Take a step back and spend just 5 minutes looking around you. Smile from within. Calm.

I’m always busy, always rushing and always have another plan up my sleeve. It’s the way I love to be, but I also know I can be my own worst enemy when things don’t go to plan. I am not very good at creating some flexibility and allowance for if things take a ‘slightly different turn’ from how you anticipated. It is very easy to blame others or to blame the situation, which only serves to leave you frustrated when in actual fact you simply need to build in a little contingency plan. That way you can’t lose…and if it does all go to plan- bonus!

This statement is definitely a case of ‘do what I say and not what I do’. I really need to learn to listen to my own advice. It’s crazy that I can see this so clearly sitting here on the sofa, as I type with a clear and peaceful mind, the house is quiet and it’s almost time for bed. Why is it that in the flow of day to day chaos my mind seems set in a permanent state of ‘fast-forward’. Stop…rewind…so what was it I said?

Sometimes you just need to take a little time out. Take a step back and spend just 5 minutes looking around you. Smile from within. Calm.

Ok, ok I’m listening. Practice makes perfect. Hopefully one day I’ll master the balancing act.

But now for food, since that’s probably what you came here for? Although you may find my questioning mind creeping in a little more! Sometimes simply writing it down helps.

I’m all caked out. So this is a savoury post…a round up if you like of savoury nibbles or buffet bites (as it sounds cute).

These healthy nibbles should help see you through the holidays and beyond. I have here a combination of my previous posts, plus the outcome of my ‘egg’ nog investigation and experiments that some of you will be aware of from my facebook page- we simply cannot get soy-nog in the UK!

Some savoury nibbles to get the party going….

Speedy seedy crackers - Great for dipping, also great cut into strips as a healthy alternative to cheese straws!

Coconut cashews - Er, no explanation needed!

‘Meat’ balls - Serve these instead of scotch eggs or sausage rolls, satisfying finger food!

Plus I came across a great idea for using up Christmas Day ‘leftovers’….. Pasties!

I will try and post this recipe and my results on boxing day as I plan to make the pasties, but in essence the method is simple….

Use four smallish plate sized rounds of rolled ready-made or homemade shortcrust pastry (it’s usually vegan anyway but check the label). Add a mug of veggies and up to a mug of nut roast/stuffing all crumbled up together. Add a few dollops of sauce (whatever type you had with the meal- cranberry, bread sauce, gravy). Lastly add a few pinches of herbs. Spoon ¼ of the mixture in to the centre of each pastry round leaving 2-3cm of pastry round the edge. Lift up and seal the edges together making a semi-circle with the seam at the top. Place on a baking sheet, brush with soy milk and bake at 180C for approx. 40 mins until golden. Serve warm or cold.

So simple… I’ll try and post pictures on boxing day.

Now, for my ‘egg’ nog experiment 

(Gosh this has ended up being a long post- hope you're still with me!)

I checked out various recipes and they were all so diverse!! Some used tofu, some used nut butter, and some used banana.  There seemed to be various options to obtain the desired thickness.  I wanted to create a nog not using tofu, no real reason for that other than I fancied the challenge. A banana and nut butter combo inspired me as I didn’t want there to be an over-dominant banana-ry taste. I also used a thickener to ensure light and delicate flavours but it may also work by doubling the amount of banana and nut butter and omitting the thickening stage- note this has not been tested!

The result….? A  thick milk-shakey frothy drink that is creamy and lightly spiced. It tasted good to me but then I have never had real or soy egg nog before….maybe you can be the judge?

Recipe: Christmas Nog

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup cashew or almond butter
  • ½ a large banana- chopped (I used a frozen one but fresh should be fine also)
  • 4 dates
  • 2 cups ‘milk’ (I used a combination of 1 1/3 cups rice milk and ½ cup soy milk)
  • 2 tsp thickener (I used cornstarch but arrowroot/tapioca should also work)
  • 1 tbs ground flax
  • 1 tbs maple syrup
  • Spices- 1 tsp vanilla extract, ½ tsp nutmeg, ½ tsp cinnamon

Makes approx. 2 large glasses

Method:

Mix thickener with approx. 2 tbs of water for form a paste. Pour the ‘milk’ with the thickener paste added into a small saucepan and also add the dates. Simmer until it boils and thickens and the dates begin to soften. (note: it should be at least half as thick as the nog will end up). Add the ‘milk’ mixture to a blender along with all the remaining ingredients. Blend until totally smooth and creamy and frothy on top.

Chill until cold and then pour into glasses to serve. Sprinkle some extra grated nutmeg to the frothy top if desired.

Cheers!!


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‘Twelve Days’ day 12: sweet chestnut pancakes with cranberry compote

It’s come around at last…day ‘12’ is here!

So that must also mean that Christmas is just around the corner. (*super excited face*)

However, I must make one small apology…. 

When I announced my ‘12 days’ I also mentioned throwing a few savoury recipes in too….hmmm not so much! It wasn’t planned that way, it was simply that cake overwhelmed me and I got a little carried away. Oh well. There are worse things than cake and it is the name of this blog after all!

I will try to make it up to you little in the last few days before Christmas, as I am planning on a savoury round up- a ‘buffet bites’ type post if you like to give a little boost of inspiration to carry you through the Christmas period. I for one need a bit of a savoury kick- the amount of cake, cookie, frosting and pancake testing I’ve had to do in these last few weeks…it’s a hard life!!

So here you have it- the recipe for today. The perfect Christmas pancake brunch, sweet chestnut pancakes with a cranberry compote. Sweetly spiced and fruity, the perfect warming start to Christmas morning.

I bought my chestnut puree in a can in the local supermarket, I would assume this is readily available wherever you are- if not I guess you could blend your own (but that is just a guess!) or you could try an alternative pancake recipe along the lines of this blueberry pancake recipe , I imagine this would work just as well substituting the blueberries for cranberries and adding some Christmassy spices.

Recipe: sweet chestnut pancakes with cranberry compote

Ingredients

Pancakes:

  • 1/3 cup mix of wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1 tbs ground flax plus 2 tbs hot water
  • 1/3 cup chestnut puree
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½  tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbs agave (omit if you prefer a more savoury pancake base)
  • Approx. ½ cup soy milk (or milk of choice) use more or less to achieve a batter that pours thickly.

Topping:

  • 2 large handfuls fresh cranberries
  • 1 tbs rapadura
  • 4 tbs water
  • Soy yogurt (or others yoghurt/cream)
  • Maple syrup
  • Cinnamon
  • Makes approx. 4 pancakes to feed one or two (feel free to double, quadruple of whatever multiples you need to feed the crowds!)

Method

To make the cranberry compote, add the fresh cranberries to a small sauce pan along with the rapadura and water. Simmer and stir ever minute or so for approx. 10 mins.

Meanwhile to make the pancakes, mix the flax with the hot water an set aside to gel for a couple of minutes. Mix the chestnut puree, soy milk, agave and vanilla in a small bowl then add the flax mix. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl then add the wet and mix to get a thick but smooth batter. Spoon large dollops on a lightly oiled hot frying pan and fry till golden for a minute or so each side.

Serve topped with soy yoghurt and cranberry compote along with maple syrup and a dusting of cinnamon as desired.


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‘Twelve Days’ day 11: mini choco-nog sponges

I had really enjoyed my chocolate yule log, it was so indulgent yet not at all heavy and sickly sweet (meaning I could eat a lot in one go). It was the combination of the light and airy fat-free swiss roll sponge combined with the luxurious (but healthy)

chocolate frosting that made such an amazing pairing and so it got me thinking….how else could I achieve that same effect?

Frosting is the obvious answer, so this time instead of going for the obvious cupcake and frosting scenario, I decided to make another tray of swiss roll sponge but this time instead of rolling it up, I cut out circles with a cookie cutter and frosted those instead. So then you have mini chocolate sponges.  But the chocolate sponge needed something a little bit special and a little bit (ok, a lot bit) seasonal to top it. 

I’ve already given you a number of cranberry and mincemeat inspired creations (and I haven’t quite finished with the cranberries yet!) so I didn’t really want to go down the fruit route again.  This left the Christmas spiced combo up for grabs. Not that I mind…I love ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla- all warm and creamy dreamy. Mmmmm.

So egg nog anyone? Or maybe more accurately in this case, simply ‘nog’. Or even more appropriately… choco-nog mini sponges!

Ok, so now you’ll think I’m crazy…but…I have never actually tried egg nog. I’m not sure I’ve ever even come across it on the shelves (although often if you’re not looking for something you don’t realise it actually exists when its right in front of you face!)  So, here I am making what I call a ‘nog’ frosting having never actually tried egg nog before!  This may be nothing like real ‘nog’ but it’s a warm and creamy nutmeggy-vanillary frosting and to me that sounds like a noggy creation…or what I imagine one to be!

I’ve used banana in this recipe which does give a little bananary taste. If you would prefer a more neutral base to let the spices shout more loudly then feel free to reduce or omit the banana and substitute for more cashew (or other neutral) nut butter instead.

I know…I really must find some egg nog to try this Christmas, I’ve heard the vegan versions are pretty good so I just need to track some down! In the meantime whipping up a bit of this frosting with some almond milk and a dusting of nutmeg on the top may well just do the trick- I’d certainly recommend it and it's definitely the best way to clean up the remnants in your blender!

Recipe: mini choco-nog sponges

Ingredients

Frosting

  • ¾ cup cashew nut butter
  • 4 dates
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp rum extract
  • ¼- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ a frozen banana (or another ¼
  • cup nut butter)
  • ½ cup firm tofu (water pressed out)
  • 3 tbs maple syrup/brown rice syrup/agave nectar
  • Pinch of stevia powder (approx. 1/6 tsp or to taste)
  • 3 tbs coconut butter melted- if you want a thicker frosting (omit for a soft whippy frosting)
  • Makes approx. 1 ½ - 2 cups

Sponge

  • 10 1/2 oz. firm silken tofu
  • 1/3 cup rapadura
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup
  • 1 tbs vinegar
  • 1 tbs water
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract 
  • 1 tbs ground flax mixed with 2tbs hot water
  • 1 cup whole wheat spelt flour
  • ¼ cup ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½  tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.
  • Makes approx. 20 mini sponges (depending on their size and shape)

Method

Prepare frosting by adding all the ingredients to the food processor and blending together until smooth. If your blender is less powerful you may want to chop up the dates and soak them in a little hot water first. Once fully blended, the mixture will be thick but fairly runny. Set aside to use as a soft frosting or if you added the coconut butter for a thicker frosting, spoon into a bowl and allow to firm up in the fridge for an hour or two.

To make the mini sponges. Preheat oven to 180C degrees. Line a 10x15 inch pan with baking parchment.

In a food processor, mix tofu, rapadura, agave, vinegar, water, vanilla and flax mix (see note below). In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ground almonds, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Pour the blended tofu mixture into flour mixture; stir together thoroughly.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top of the batter evenly and bake for 10-12 minutes. 

Once the sponge is cool, lift out of the pan, place on a cutting board and using a circle (or any simple shape) cutter, cut rounds of sponge out of the slab. There will be a little wastage (or nibbles), so to avoid this you could cut the slab into squares.

Once the frosting is prepared, drizzle, spoon or pipe the nog frosting onto the individual sponges and serve immediately. The frosting and sponges can be prepared up to a day in advance and stored separately for last minute frosting.


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‘Twelve Days’ day 10: ‘sugar’ cookies

So what’s so special about these cookies you may ask? 

Well, if I said these ‘sugar’ cookies actually contained no refined sugar, and if I went further to say that these cookies were even gluten free and packed full of wholesome ingredients… I hope you would agree that it makes for a pretty special Christmas cookie!

So I guess these are not really sugar cookies at all but I think they still bare a pretty close resemblance, as the combination of almond and coconut gives these cookies a delicate bite without the need for refined sugar to do the job.  The cookies are best eaten on the day they are made or frozen to maintain their delicate texture. They only take a few minutes to defrost…so make a big batch!

Similarly to my gingerbread dough experiment, this dough was initially quite crumbly to roll out but it was fine with a bit of work once the dough become flatter, and they also cut out and baked perfectly.

These cookies are only very lightly spiced as I wanted to create a traditionally neutral sugar cookie base to be iced or frosted as you wish.  The simplest icing is traditional glace icing made with powdered sugar and water. But for me this was a sugar overload and so instead I used a little melted dark chocolate to trace some shapes. So little is needed this way (I think I used four melted squares for the whole batch) but it still gives you that little chocolate kick and transforms the cookies into so much more.   

My cookies were based on this recipe by Whole Life Nutrition which also notes a healthy icing option as an alternative to glace icing which I am intrigued to try.

For this experiment, I also tried making a cinnamon mousse to dip the cookies in (loosely based on my ‘go-to’ chocolate frosting recipe). It’s shown in the photos but i’m not yet providing the recipe here as I don’t yet think it’s quite good enough!  But you get the idea, the options are endless…..iced cookies…frosted cookie ….sandwich cookies

…..Just let your imagination run free!

Recipe: ‘Sugar’ cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finely ground almond meal
  • ½ cup shreddedcoconut
  • ½ cup arrowroot
  • ½ cup buckwheat flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tbs coconut oil
  • 3 tbs coconut butter (or use another 3 tbs coconut oil)
  • ¼ cup agave syrup
  • ¼ tsp stevia powder
  • 3 tbs soy yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp mixed spice (or cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • Makes roughly 15-20 cookies depending on their size.

Method

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl and then add to the dry. Get you hands in and press together to form a stiff slightly sticky ball of dough, if it is not sticky enough to hold together to roll then add a tiny bit more soy yoghurt or water.

Chill to the dough if you find it easier to work with this way but I didn’t find I needed to.

Roll out on a floured surface or between two layers of baking parchment. Cut out shapes and lay on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven for approx. 10 minutes keeping a close eye to watch they don’t burn.

Allow to cool fully before decorating as you wish. They can be frozen either plain or decorated.


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