Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Vegan, gluten & refined sugar free pumpkin pie!

The days are getting shorter, there is a (pretty fierce) chill in the air and it's Thanksgiving tomorrow; it's that time of year when you just need to eat pumpkin pie. I just adore pumpkin pie, it is so creamy and delicious- the perfect comfort food. I wish it were more popular in England!

Over the years my pumpkin pies have evolved from regular pumpkin pies, to wholemeal crust then on to refined sugar and dairy free and finally gluten free. I've never attempted to make one without the eggs before, as they seemed like such a vital part of the structure. How can you make a pumpkinny custard without the eggs? For the past couple of years I took the easy option and we've enjoyed a tasty raw version of this dish but this year I felt brave. Maybe it's all the Dr Who action I've been watching lately inspiring me with fearlessness, but I was finally ready to tackle the vegan, refined sugar free and gluten free pie!

As I was pondering how to go about it, I remembered I had some agar agar in the cupboard which I'd used to make fruit jelly last year. I am also a big fan of tapioca flour and use that to thicken up all sorts of sauces, so I reckoned with these two ingredients I was on to something.

So armed with my tapioca flour, agar agar and big old fresh pumpkin (it is super tricky to find canned pumpkin in the UK so no easy option for me!) I experimented. And you know what? It worked!



For the crust
1 cup of buckwheat flour
1/2 cup of brown rice flour
1 cup of maize flour
2 tbsp tapioca flour
3 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp ground flax
pinch of sea salt
Cold water to mix

For the filling
1 small-medium sweet pumpkin
1/4 cup of pumpkin juice*
1/2 cup of the thick part of the coconut milk
1 tbsp of agar agar powder/flakes
2 1/2 tbsp tapioca flour
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp maple or brown rice syrup
1 tsp sugar free vanilla extract
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice (or clove)
Pinch of sea salt

*This juice is created during the roasting of the pumpkin. You could also use boiling water.

Method
First preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan).

Step 1: Roast the pumpkin
Cut your pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and place cut side up on a baking tray. Bake for around 1 hour until soft and cooked.
Remove the pumpkin from the oven. The pumpkin will have filled up with juice, drain this into a bowl and set aside for use in a minute.

Step 2: Make the pastry crust
Add all the ingredients (apart from the water) to a food processor and pulse to mix. Then gradually add the water a little at a time until it comes together as a dough. Tip the dough out and press into a greased 22cm pie dish. This part is much easier than regular pastry as no rolling involved, just press it in to an even thickness. You can make the edges fancy if you like by crimping them with your fingers, or pressing a fork around the edge.

Place the pie dish in the hot oven for 8 minutes just to firm up a little.

Step 3: Make the filling
Take 1/4 cup of the pumpkin juice and stir in the agar agar, whisk lightly.
In a food processor, add 2 1/2 cups of the flesh of the roasted pumpkin (about half to just over half of the pumpkin if it is medium) and the agar agar. Blitz well until smooth. Add all the remaining ingredients and process so there are no lumps remaining.

Step 4: Assemble
Open the oven door and carefully pour the pumpkin mixture into the pastry case. Put back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 160 (fan) and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the middle is set but still has a slight wobble. Cool on a rack for an hour and the transfer to the fridge overnight or for around 4 hours.

The pie is darker than regular pumpkin pie because of the coconut palm sugar, but the flavour is all there!

I used the rest of my pumpkin, the rest of the can of coconut milk and the remaining pumpkin juice in a dhal for dinner so nothing was wasted!





Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Back with a Bonfire night bang! Vegan, refined sugar free toffee apples.

My talk 'Where the wildfoods are'

Oh dear. I've been absent for so much longer than I thought I had, I have no clue where the time goes. The start of October saw both myself and my hubby giving talks at Vegfest in London with the amazing LifeWell Wellbeing hub which was super fun! I have long been freaked out by the idea of speaking in front of people, but I guess finding the area I love to speak about made it much easier than I thought. I was still super nervous, and I was convinced I'd blunder through it messing it all up so I was pleasantly surprised when that didn't happen!



Since that date we have enjoyed the company of my lovely Sister-in-law visiting from the States which has been a blast (sorry, more Bonfire Night puns!). We got to take fun trips to the Wye Valley and Wales and Sherwood forest, all sorts of adventuring. We even went to a pub that's in a cave, how about that. Not all play though, we've been working hard finishing a project that we're doing together so I've been pretty tied up. But things are calmer now and I realised how badly I've been neglecting this blog, I'm so sorry guys.

I'm starting back into the world of blogging with a bang- because it's Bonfire Night! For my non British friends the 5th of November in the UK is a day we celebrate with firework displays and bonfires, burning effigies of a bloke called Guy Fawkes. Guy back in 1605 attempted with a group of others, to blow up the houses of parliament. I'm not so sure why we pick on Guy specifically, as he wasn't even the ring leader, but every year kids make 'Guys' out of straw, old clothes and paper and we burn them on the fire. Whenever I explain this tradition I realise how gruesome it actually is, but it is my favourite celebration for so many other reasons.

In our dark cold Autumn evenings, there is nothing better than warming your hands near a big old bonfire with a cup of fragrant mulled wine, enjoying some crunchy toffee apples, steaming hot chocolate and maybe some bangers (that's sausages) with friends and family, while watching the pretty lights in the sky. These days our hot chocolate, sausages and toffee apples are of course vegan and refined sugar free wholefood versions, but just as tasty and atmospheric!


Today the girls and I made these uber tasty toffee apples and I am excited to share the recipe with you (watch out though, they're real tooth breakers!).

A little note of caution. This toffee mixture gets HOT. It will burn your skin and stays hot for quite a while. My girls like to measure out the ingredients and skewer the apples, I do the toffee making and dipping of the apples.


Toffee Apples (makes 4)

Ingredients
4 apples
4 wooden skewers, cut in half
1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp coconut oil




Method
First of all, wash and dry your apples and skewer them with the wooden sticks to make a handle, set aside.
Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a pan and heat over a medium heat, stirring constantly for about 4 minutes until thick and bubbly.
You can test if the mixture is ready by dropping a bit onto some greaseproof paper to see if it sets.
When ready, quickly dip the apples in the toffee and stand on some greaseproof paper to set. Don't worry if all your apple isn't coated, I think it actually looks more rustic and pretty this way.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Chipotle, bean and quinoa veggie burgers

Even without the delicious smell of burning charcoal floating through my windows (bbq's are a distant memory of summer now), I often fancy a burger and I experiment with making them quite a lot.

The trouble is they never seem to make it onto a blog post. I frequently struggle to get them to hold their shape during cooking and they end up being a bit of a mush on a plate (a tasty mush mind, but not a very pretty one). These veggie burgers though are special. They hold their shape amazingly well (perfect I'd say) and taste rather good too; I finally have a vegan gluten free burger recipe I'm proud to share!

The flavour is delicate, the texture crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, they're easy to make and they don't have to be fried- exactly what you'd want in a good veggie burger. As they have such a delicate taste, they go well with big flavours such as salsa, guacamole and pickles, so pile on whatever you like, the more toppings the merrier!




Bean and quinoa veggie burgers makes 6 burgers

Ingredients
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 spring onions, diced
1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (i used a mix of red and white)
1 large carrot, finely grated
2 tbsp hemp seeds (I used italian flavour from good hemp)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground sweet paprika
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp ground chipoltle chili's

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
This is the easiest burger recipe ever, and they pretty much take care of themselves. Simply blend everything together in a food processor until it forms a stiff mixture. Shape the mixture into 6 patties with your hands and place on a very lightly greased tray and bake 20-30mins until golden and crisp.
Serve with guacamole, with or without a wholegrain bun and all the trimmings you like!

Friday, 13 September 2013

The ultimate paleontology, archaeology and Bigfoot birthday party! This is what we did :)

The other  weekend, we gave the girls their first 'proper' party- I've been avoiding doing it for a while now but was feeling inspired this year. The theme they wanted was all things 'ology'. Fia wants to be an archaeologist, paleontologist AND geologist when she's bigger and Dorrie wants to go find bigfoot- I think they call that cryptozoology. All this ologying reminds me of the old BT advert- does anybody remember that one? It still cracks me up! But I digress.. This theme rocks, I was probably more excited than them!



We had a ton of fun making up the theme for this party. I got a load of cool ideas off pinterest, some from my imagination and we really went to town... ;)

We tried to make the party as eco friendly as possible, using palm leaf table ware, paper straws and biodegradable balloons. Each child got to take home their explorer kit that they used in the party and a little crystal individually chosen for them by the girls, which I thought was a really sweet touch.




The other thing we did was to invite all the parents as well. I've always struggled with 'same-age' groups. Mother and baby groups used to terrify me, all that competitiveness and baby talk, I always felt like they needed a few older, more experienced people thrown in and some teens to help entertain the kids! That would work better I think. Traditionally cultures mixed right across the age groups and it adds different dimensions which I feel we're missing out on today. But all this aside, us adults don't get to party so much, it's nice for the adults to have a bit of a get together too and join in on  the fun too, it is a celebration after all!

And of course it meant we could join in with the games- jeeze guys can be so competitive can't they? There they were having 'practice' rounds before the games and moving the markers way back across the lawn to make it a super challenge!





















For entertainment we played a classic bean bag toss game, and I made the board to look like Bigfoot (a girl bigfoot, of course), we played pass the parcel, a game of 'mummies' where the kids got to wrap each other up in toilet roll as a mummy and we had an excavation, a 'big dig' where they could look for crystals and fossils (including dinosaur poo- big hit that one). The excavation kept everyone busy right until the end of the party, the kids loved it. I'd set out a finds tray with magnifying glasses and brushes and tweezers so they could examine their finds after. We also put out compasses , field journals and pencils for budding explorers and cryptozoologists to go off and record stuff in.


I made the food around this theme and it was so much fun coming up with afternoon tea treats with dinosaurs and bigfoot in mind! All the food was made without refined cane sugar, was all wholegrain, without modern wheat (using spelt, kamut and buckwheat) and was nearly all vegan except for the fossil cookies which had organic butter. I was pretty pleased with that!
My food inspiration came from multiple places. Fossil cookies are found all over the internet and I just used a basic sugar free cookie recipe for them, but I came up with the little bags of trail mix idea (check out the labels designed by my sister in law) and the raw excavation slices which had different soil layers just like you would in an archaeological section (geek overload here). I did a raw 'cheese' cake for the girls so they could have some candles to blow out. They insisted on having their real cakes on their actual birthdays, butI felt bad if they'd miss out having their friends sing happy birthday. It all went on a rustic setting table with a giant map as a backdrop showing the coordinates of Bigfoot sightings and some major dinosaur discoveries (this was a last minute moment of inspired genius, tee hee).

I made little bottles of chocolate-praline almond milk for the kids to drink and served up tea, coffee and (sugar free) biscuits for the adults. You can't be an archaeologist without the obligatory tea break...

I think it went really well and everyone had a great time, I'm lucky my girls chose such a cool theme to go with, if it had been princesses I may have cried....







Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Ombar review- delicious raw chocolate bars of goodness!


Anybody out there as much of a raw chocolate fan as I am? I adore raw chocolate. Not only do I think it tastes way better than the chocolate I used to eat (it tastes far more grown up to me, like comparing tomato ketchup to a rich chutney- no comparison!), being raw, it also retains a far higher antioxidant content which is good news.

There are a couple of brands that I prefer more than any others, Ombar is one of them. Sweetened with coconut palm sugar, a less refined and mineral rich sweetener than cane sugar (and vegan), these little bars of chocolate are hard to beat. There is quite a range to chose from including dark 72%, coco mylk, coconut 60%, strawberry probiotic, lemon and green tea, goji berry, cranberry and mandarin and acai and blueberry.
The lovely people at Ombar sent me three bars to review, the coco mylk, goji berry and strawberries and cream. These have recently been repackaged and they look beautiful.



Strawberries and cream.
The first one up is the strawberries and cream. First of all, I've got to say that I reeeally like that the chocolate pieces come in bars rather than squares- bigger pieces is a plus for me! ;)
This one is definitely my favourite of the three I was sent to review. It is super creamy yet the strawberries are tangy which stopped it from being over-sweet. It was actually very refreshing which in a chocolate bar is pretty unique. It also has the added benefit of probiotics! What's not to like?


Coconut mylk.
I feel like this new coconut milk is sweeter than it used to be before (or maybe I am going crazy), but it is much too sweet for me. I couldn't have much of this one at once however it is satisfyingly creamy and very melt in the mouth. This bar was very popular with my eldest and I think it would make a brilliant chocolate for people used to 'traditional' milk chocolate bars due to the sweetness and texture; a brilliant transition bar if you are new to the world of raw chocolate and great for children.

Goji berry. 
This was my youngest's favourite of the three and I really liked it too. They don't skimp on the goji berries (as you can see in the picture) and you get lovely whole berries embedded in the chocolate. It also has a crisp texture which I really liked. This bar is a really great dark chocolate and one I'll be buying more of.




I hope this has given you some insights into which might be right for you, go out and try some and let me know what you think!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Bigfoot, sugar free cakes and healthy edible playdough!

Well it's that time of year again that I am in the kitchen freaking out about Birthday cakes! Last year both my daughters had raw cheesecakes which I decorated with raw chocolate and nut icing, one with a hello kitty theme and one a fairy garden. It was all very in my comfort zone and although it took some planning it was pretty simple stuff, but this year? No such luck!

Dorrie wanted a Bigfoot cake. She has been totally obsessed with Bigfoot for a year now, so watch out Canada, when Dorrie turns 17, she informs me she's heading your way to find him ;)

So I sat and drew out some ideas and decided on a rectangle 'cheesecake' which I would pipe in chocolate nut icing, the image of a pretty Mrs Bigfoot.
Then I made a schoolgirl error and told Dorrie my plan. Oopsy.  'Oh no' she said. 'It needs to be a real, actual cake, a chicory one and Bigfoot needs to be standing up!' 'Can I make a little clay Bigfoot as a topper then?' I asked. 'That way you can keep it forever?' 'No' she said, 'I need to be able to eat the whole cake, all of it'. Hmmm. At this point I went into panic mode, I can make a sugar free cake simple enough, but I was completely phased at the idea of constructing it, and how would I make a face without sugary royal icing and marzipan? After a panic call for advice on my Facebook page, I was rescued.

A friend of mine who is the actual baking queen (watch out Mary Berry) came over and constructed him for me. I have never been so grateful. I had an idea to make a twist on edible play-dough to make it sugar free and it worked brilliantly. We then used that for her face, hands, feet and to make a flower for her hair (oh and can you spot the tiny bunny on the hillside?!) I didn't have any nuts to make a nut icing so I just sweetened some organic mascarpone cheese* with vanilla stevia and rice syrup and coloured it brown with cocoa powder for her fur. I made the green grass icing for the hills with avocado, lime, wheat grass and coconut oil which worked amazingly. So between us, this is the little Bigfoot we created- Dorrie was thrilled!

And we only had one minor slip up through it all. Will and I had got up super early on Dorrie's birthday to ice Mrs Bigfoot as marscapone icing often discolours when made in advance. We finished it, admired our handy work (Will was particularly happy with his fur effect) and I went to lift her up to move her to the fridge. I had just moved her the teeeeeniest bit, when she toppled forward right into my chest. Standing there helpless, I screamed 'Wiiiiiil' (he'd left the room). He took forever to rescue me as he was busy distracting the girls who'd just woke up. Eventually though he did come and we carried out a rescue mission on Mrs Bigfoot. We luckily managed to save her, all but a tiny dent in her face which wasn't very noticeable. Phew.

The sugar free edible play dough was such a triumph I am sharing the recipe here for you. As far as I am aware, this is the first and original sugar free edible play-dough recipe of this kind (ta-da), one that uses no flour that is. It is also suitable for gluten free and vegan diets and can be raw if you use a raw nut butter and raw honey. This opens up a whole world of opportunity for making children's healthy birthday cakes- yipeeeeeeee!

Sugar free edible play-dough recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup Smooth peanut butter
1-2 tbsps brown rice syrup
Lucuma powder, enough to mix to a dough (varies depending on how oily your nut butter is)

Method:
Mix everything together until it becomes a mould-able dough. That's it! Sooooo easy. This makes quite a batch but it can be kept in the fridge for a few days. Try it as a filling for raw chocolates for a healthy version of Reeses peanut butter cups- nom nom.

*These days I would use CoYo coconut yoghurt to make it vegan, it makes wonderful icing! Veganized and updated Jan 2015.


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

lettuce and spring onion tart

I love quiche, but as you guys know I try to eat as close to a 100% plant based diet as possible. Now and again I slip up along the way, but for the main part I succeed! The usual version of a vegan quiche is made it with tofu, but as we don't eat tons of tofu, I went online to search through some of my favourite blogs to see what else is out there.

I didn't have to look for long when I came across this entry for mexican crustless chickpea quiche on 'Sprint 2 the table' and I was totally intrigued. Laura uses a chickpea style batter (similar to socca) for the filling which (in my opinion) is no short of genius! By the way, if you guys haven't checked this blog out, please do, its full of amazing, healthy and delicious inspiration,you'll love it.

The original version is crust-less but I really fancied a traditional quiche/tart feel to the dish so I made mine with a gluten free crust (with some thrown in carrot pulp for extra goodness). The filling was dictated by the contents of my fridge (we have so much lettuce, we're gonna look like lettuce) and I felt a little decadent so I used some vegan cheese too. I don't use it often and I definitely see it as a special occasion food, but now and again I think what the heck and go to town with it. I have discovered a lovely brand called vegusto that is soy and gluten free and we really like their 'no-moo piquant' cheese.

For the crust
1 cup rice flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup teff flour
1 cup carrot pulp (optional)
A glugg of olive oil or 1 tbsp coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt
Cold water to mix

For the filling
2 cups chickpea (gram) flour
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups of water (or veg stock)
1 head of romaine lettuce, shredded
2 spring onions, sliced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 cup of vegusto cheese (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste


Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
First make the crust. In a food processor, blitz together the flours, carrot pulp, olive oil and sea salt very lightly until just mixed. Then slowly add enough cold water until it makes a dough. Turn the mix out and press into a lightly oiled flan dish until you have a nice even crust. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and cook for around 10 mins until very light golden.

Take out of the oven and sprinkle over the shredded lettuce, green pepper and spring onion. In a bowl mix together the chickpea flour, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper and water until smooth. Pour into the tart crust, covering all the veggies. If using, finish with a sprinkle of the vegan cheese.

Bake this for around 20-25mins until set and golden, cool slightly before cutting into slices. We enjoyed this with a lovely green salad and wholegrain mustard.


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Good Hemp seed review

This is the first of what I hope to be many reviews. There are some amazing brands out there making such wonderful products and I am excited to be sharing these with as many of you as possible (and I can already tell I'm going to have great fun doing it too!)

So, we're off to a pretty good start with a brand that I'm no stranger to... Good Hemp!

Good Hemp are an awesome company. They make a variety of products from hemp including seeds, oil, milk and protein powders. Hemp does not require the heavy use of fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides and there are many uses for the whole plant from food to building materials making it a hugely sustainable crop. Hemp is certainly a crop for the future and one I'd like to see more of.. I also LOVE that Good Hemp grow all their hemp in the UK which is great news if you're concerned about your carbon footprint!

They very kindly sent me a variety of goodies to review, this week I'm reviewing both the original and the Italian seed varieties to review which had me jumping for joy as I had never tried the flavoured seeds before! Stay tuned for my reviews on their milk and oil.






Original hulled hemp seeds
These (like all varieties of Good Hemp's seeds) come ready shelled which is pretty handy, and in a re-sealable pot to help keep them fresh. They have a very light nutty flavour and creamy texture and are amazing blended into smoothies and elixirs. We also added them to our museli and they went down a treat with the girls.


Italian flavour hemp seeds
Try the Italian herb seeds on pasta as a vegan alternative to Parmesan. OMG. Amazing. Really. The slight nuttiness of the hemp still comes though and is not overpowered by the herbs, and you can really taste all the herbs. These seeds would also taste amazing on salads, vegan pizza, pretty much any kind of pasta I can think of, in falafel mixes, on potato wedges, kale crisps, or go ahead and eat them right off the spoon which is how my youngest daughter asked for them.

The other seed flavours available are Asian spices and sweet cinnamon and I'm definitely going to keep my eye out for those- I can already imagine the sweet cinnamon sprinkled over raw vanilla ice cream.... Mmmmmm.

You can buy their products in health stores or online at  www.GOODHempNutrition.com





Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Gomasio kale crisps (kale chips for our American friends!)

I'm not sure if I have ever actually posted a kale crisp recipe before. I think I've probably left it as there are a gazillion versions of kale crisp recipes out there, but, these are a long standing staple in our home and this version is way too good not to post!

Kale crisps are great just with a little sea salt and sometimes we add a little cider vinegar and nutritional yeast to make them cheesy. We cook ours in the oven as we don't have a dehydrator but if we had one, I'd use that for sure to make them a raw recipe. Either way you get delicious salty, crispy treats that are packed with nutrients. The only drawback? Bits of green kale get stuck in your teeth....

I made these gomasio kale crisps in a moment of inspiration as I had a ton leftover in the fridge. Luckily, it was amazing and made the best flavoured kale crisps I have ever tasted. Ever. So I am delighted to share this recipe with you. You can make your own gomassio (It's pretty easy) or you can buy it ready made in health stores- whatever works for you!


Ingredients
2 bunches of kale
2-3 tbsp gomasio
1 tbsp melted coconut oil

Method
Preheat the oven to 180 (160 fan).

Tear the kale off the stem and rip the leaves into crisp size pieces. Wash and spin dry thoroughly. Add them to a large baking tray and massage the oil into them making sure each leaf is coated well. Sprinkle over the gomasio and lightly mix with your hands. Place them into the oven- now these crisps can turn very quickly, you'll need to keep an eye on them! After 8-12 mins, turn them over and separate them out a little more so they all get a chance to get nice and crispy. Cook a little longer until crisp. Enjoy!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Roasted carrots and chickpeas with hemp pesto and gomasio

It's been so hot recently that I've not really wanted to do too much cooking over a hot oven. We've been enjoying tons of smoothies and juices (I recently discovered turnip juice, it's pretty fabulous) and salads a plenty.

This dish is the exception, only the carrots are roasted, the rest is all chopping, blitzing and mixing and it's really, really easy. We've had this three times in the last week and I'm pretty sure it's on the menu for the coming week too!


Roasted carrots & chickpeas with hemp pesto & gomasio

For the main dish:
8-10 carrots, scrubbed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
1 carton chickpeas, drained
4 tsp of gomasio*

 For the pesto:
1 clove of garlic, diced
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls of basil, plus a few leaves for garnish
A handful of parsley
1-2 tbsp hemp seeds


Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180-200 degrees.
Slice the carrots into bitesize chunks, coat in the oil and bake in a tray for around 25mins or until nicely browned. Remove from the oven and stir through the chickpeas. While it cools slightly, make the pesto.

Blend all the pesto ingredients together in a mini chopper until creamy with just a little texture left. Drizle over the carrots and chickpeas and stir well to mix.

Finish with a sprinkling of the gomasio and the extra basil leaves. I like to serve this with a big green salad- delish!


*gomasio is a very tasty sesame condiment that comes from Japan.
To make gomasio:
I follow the directions from Alicia Silverstone's book 'The Kind Diet' (which is amazing). She uses 1 tsp sea salt to 6 tbsp of rinsed sesame seeds. You simply dry fry the salt and then the sesame seeds till toasty and puffy, then grind them together with a Japanese version of a mortar and pestal. Although Alicia recommends making it the traditional way, I have had success with a spice grinder too.

You can also buy gomasio on-line from The Natural Grocery Store, here.








Monday, 15 July 2013

Spicy kefir and pear smoothie!

Well, after three rubbish Summers here in the UK, i'm pleased to announce that Summer has finally arrived! We've even reached the 30's- how about that for hot?! It's been so lovely and we've been blessed with so many enjoyable days out including an AMAZING Rolling Stones concert with my Dad in Hyde Park- best concert ever!

So while I'm enjoying the long awaited hot weather, I'm just not in the mood for cooking at all. We've been having a ton of salads, smoothies and really simple meals which has just been perfect.

This morning I made a super creamy smoothie for the girls breakfast using kefir, pears and ginger. They both really enjoyed it, although Fia did think that adding some cacao or carob would have made it better. I think that girl has a serious obsession for chocolate smoothies!
We love to use coconut kefir (which you can now buy at Holland and Barrett) but you could also make water kefir, using maple syrup to sweeten.

To make this recipe completely vegan, replace the bee pollen, with sprinkle of raw cacao nibs or chia seeds!



Kefir & pear smoothie
Serves 2

2 large pears, skin on
1-2 tbsp of Udo's, Flax or hemp oil
2 cups of coconut kefir
1 tbsp bee pollen, chia seeds or cacao nibs
1-2 tbsp raw honey or maple syrup
2 tbsp raw rice protein powder
3 drops of pure ginger extract (make sure it is sugar free!) or to taste

Blend until creamy and delicious!

Veganized Feb 2015.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The simplest things are the greatest- lemon, cucumber and thyme water

When the sun is shining down (if you're in the UK right now, just pretend) and you're sitting out in your garden, there is nothing better than some lemon, cucumber and thyme water to quench your thirst! Not only does it look super pretty (and appeals to children) it also tastes amazingly refreshing. Drinking this brings with it the memory of pimms, without all the sugar and alcohol!

There are also health benefits to this simple drink. The lemon and cucumber are said to aid detoxing and cleansing in the body, they also help to re-nutrient (I may have made this word up) filtered tap water (handy if you can't find spring water) making it more hydrating for the body. Adding in the medicinal benefits of herbs like thyme boosts the goodness of this drink even further as well as creating a new depth in flavour. You can get really experimental too- mint works well, and for a truly exotic summer drink that children will adore, try adding some sliced strawberries or water melon!

To create this drink, fill up a jug of filtered or spring water and add slices of cucumber, lemon, fruit if you're using and a sprig or two of herbs. I like to make up a jug in the morning so that the flavours have time to develop during the day- you could also leave this overnight in the fridge. Cheers to Summer!



Friday, 31 May 2013

Warming lentil stew for a British summer!

I know Summer is around here somewhere, but right now, looking at that big grey sky, I think she's a little shy... That's ok though, on days like this I like nothing more than a big bowl of warming lentil stew- keeps you feeling all warm inside even on a grey day! My girls could eat lentils everyday, and if you cook them with a little kombu, you'll find that the digestive complaints that often come with lentils are avoided!

This is one of my intuitive recipes- the amounts are not exact, trust yourself and use your judgement for this recipe. That way you can adjust the stew to your own tastes, it can be super thick or very soup like, whatever you prefer. The list of ingredients is long, but you just throw it all in a pot so it is super easy to make.

I usually serve mine with some mashed potatoes made with a little nut milk, though the potatoes pictured here are green, you're not imagining it! I stirred in some left over raw courgette, hemp, lemon and mint sauce and they tasted delicious!



Lentil stew- makes enough for 6-8

Ingredients:
2 small or 1 large leek, diced
1 large onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
1 1/2 cups of pureed roasted tomatoes, or jarred passata (the roasted gives a nicer flavour if you have the time!)
400g dried green speckled (puy) lentils, washed
1 inch piece of kombu
2 litres of low sodium vegetable stock
Generous drizzle of maple syrup for a sweet smokey taste
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1-2 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Big handful of fresh parsley
Big handful of fresh chives


Method:
Sautee the veggies in a little vegetable stock until softened (you could use olive oil if you wanted). This takes a good 10mins when using stock. Then throw in all the rest of the ingredients except from the parsley and chives. Bring to the boil, reduce to simmer and cook for around 50mins until the lentils are flavourful and tender. Keep a close eye on them, and if you need to, go ahead and add extra water or stock. If you find it is too soupy, up the heat a little to reduce it down further to the consistancy you'd like. At the last moment add the parsley and chives, stir and you're ready to go!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Back with a bang! Vegan socca pizza! :)

Hello strangers! It's been a while... I cannot believe I haven't posted since January! Wah!

So what have I been doing?! Well, we've had some sad family times, some happy family times, a mystery illness with Dorrie (she is thankfully fine now) and some health problems with me which I'm still working on. We've also been thinking about moving, stepping up the girls homeschooling and looking at potential 'alternative' schools for them too. To say things have been manic would be a huge understatement. Plus we're saving for our super exciting holiday so there is way less experimental food money to play with!

The biggest area of change right now though has to be my food choices. In response to my health issues, I did a bit of a diet overhaul...

In the last couple of months I've switched to a low oil plant based diet. Not totally free from any oils at all, I still use linseed/flax and hemp (uncooked), just a little, but I've certainly stopped using olive oil for cooking in. It's meant that I have kinda had to learn to cook all over again! Tried and tested tasty wholefoods recipe favourites needed tweaking to be oil free and vegan. I have perfected the skinny pancake and all is well with the world- but it did mean needing to track down (and pay a lot of money for) a non toxic ceramic based non stick pan! So I've been learning alot, really tons. I feel really good about eating this way right now, but at the same time I realise that it's a journey and nothing is set in stone. I am considering removing soy and wheat from my diet too, as a period of total cleanse, I kind of feel this is where I need to go to make some major shifts. So it's not without a little fear of the challenges I will face that I move on with my healing journey. Excitement too, but definitely some fear, though it helps that I get to share it all with you!

This marks the first of my oil free (more) plant based recipes and what a treat I have for you today-  socca 'pizza'! As its made from chickpea flour, this also happens to be gluten free. It tastes delicious and is something I'll be making frequently. The socca crust is chewy and delicious and the garlicky mushrooms with the spicey garlic and salad leaves is an amazing combination, this pizza *needs* alot of mushrooms, the more the merrier!


Vegan socca pizza- makes 1 pan size pizza, serves 1-2

For the socca batter
1 cup of chickpea (gram) flour
1 cup of water
Pinch of unrefined salt

For the sauce
3/4 cup passata (sieved tomatoes)
1 tsp tomato puree
1/4 tsp garlic granules
1/4 tsp onion granules
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano

For the toppings
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
10 small chestnut mushrooms, sliced finely
1/2 romano pepper, sliced finely
5 kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup of chopped fresh herbs like basil, chervil, sorrel, parsley
2 cups of spicy salad greens such as watercress or rocket or a mix.


Method
First make the batter ahead of time. Whisk the ingredients together until smooth and leave to ferment for at least 2 hours, you can leave it overnight if you like.

Pre-heat your oven to around 180 degrees. Put the mushrooms and garlic and a couple of tablespoons of water into an oven dish and bake until cooked through. Take out the oven, drain off excess liquid and set aside.

When your batter is ready, heat a ceramic (non-toxic) non-stick pan* on the hob until medium heat. If you are using a cast iron frying pan, feel free to spray a little olive oil/water mix to make it non stick.
Cook until the batter is just over half way cooked and then pop in the oven to finish off cooking.

While it is cooking, prepare the sauce by mixing all the ingredients together! Easy :)

When the base is ready, flip it out onto a lined or greased baking tray. Spread the sauce evenly over the top. Top with the garlicky mushrooms, then the chopped herbs and then the sliced olives and peppers.

Pop into the oven and cook for around 10-12 mins (depending on your oven) until the crust is golden and the vegetables are soft. Serve with the fresh spicy salad greens on the top and a little sprinkle of unrefined sea salt and plenty of ground black pepper. Delicious.

 * Note: you'll need a metal handled pan that is also oven safe.











Wednesday, 16 January 2013

What I ate Wednesday- It's been while!

So excited to do a What I Ate Wednesday post- it has been waaaay too long!


Nothing fancy this week, just straight up what I ate yesterday. It was a pretty cool day though, the girls wanted to be all TV chef (They are actually obsessed with watching Diners, Drive in's and Dives, (even though they get a little excitable and tell Guy off for eating too much sugar -  they seriously shout at the tele!)) and begged me to let them make a video. They wanted to do a smoothie and Fia pretty much decided on what to put in it all by herself herself. The smoothie is pretty similar to what I make for them, though Ill usually add a little hemp protein and bee pollen too.... Check it out here on my facebook page!




The rest of the day was pretty simple foods here they are in technicolour!

I made an super energy boosting carrot, celery, lettuce, lemon and ginger juice for brekkie- I gulped it down before I photographed it, this is the best I could do! ;)


For lunch I had more of the delicious raw 'tuna inspired' salad that I made at the weekend, seriously this is one amazing filling!!



As a snack we made cabbage crisps (No kale left!). We used the thick outer dark greeny-purple leaves and they were actually really tasty, I'd definitely make them again.



 Of course we all enjoyed some of the girls yummy carob smoothie in the afternoon!



For dinner I had aubergines and potato in a fennel and tomato sauce with broccoli and quinoa, and a lovely cup of yogi tea!



So there it is, a fun day with my budding Chef's, hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

carrot & apple pulp, buckwheat skinny pancakes!

We often have pancakes for brekkie at the weekends, and our favourite are the traditional skinny kind topped with lemon and coconut palm sugar or honey... Still, we don't get to have this kind too often as I am far too lazy to spend an hour at the stove, cooking one at a time, it just takes forever!  The plus side of this is that it just makes them all the more special when we do have them.

This weekend I had some apple and carrot pulp left over from juicing and was about to mix up a thick drop scone style pancake batter to use it in, when I realised I'd never tried the veggie pulp in the skinny kind.... So, excited to play with a new pulp recipe, I decided to experiment and the result was absolutely delicious. Sooooo delicious. Now that I have a skinny pancake recipe that makes use of that leftover veggie pulp, there will be no more excuses, I will definitely make these more often.

I make skinny pancakes with all sorts of flours; kamut, spelt and wholewheat, whatever I have in the cupboard. For a traditional French crepe style pancake, and one that is also gluten free, I often use buckwheat flour. Personally, this is also my favourite flour for skinny pancakes as I love that slightly nutty flavour it gives them.

But before we get on to the actual recipe, I'd just like to put something out there about pancakes... Is it just me or does anybody else find the first pancake nearly always doesn't work out? And this only seems to apply to skinny ones, not the American or drop scone thicker ones. That first pancake is really quite a challenge; it sticks, it breaks up, it looks anaemic in colour... I never get that first pancake perfect! But I have found a couple of tricks that help it come out pretty darn close...

  1. Let the batter sit for around 20-30 mins - something in the resting of the batter helps it to stay together when it comes to cooking!
  2. If you use a cast iron skillet, heat the pan a good 5mins before cooking the first pancake. I find this encourages the first one to remain as stick free as possible. You probably don't have to do this step if you are using a non stick frying pan...


Ingredients
2 cups buckwheat flour (about 500g)
800ml of filtered water
2 cups (500ml) of milk of choice (I like almond)
1 flax egg*
Pulp from 2 apples
Pulp from 2 carrots
Pinch of fine sea salt

A little coconut oil for frying.

Method
Pour the flour into a large bowl and add the sea salt. Make a little well in the middle and add the flax egg. Add a little of the water and beat. Pour in the remaining water and the milk and whisk until there are no lumps, leave the batter to sit for at least 20mins, an hour is even better.

Heat the pan to a medium-high heat.Add a little knob coconut oil and swirl around the pan to coat. Take a ladle full of the batter, pour into the pan and gently tilt to evenly coat the bottom. Cook for a couple of minutes until you start to see lots of bubbles in the batter. Flip the pancake and cook for around 30-40 seconds more on the other side.

Serve with freshly squeezed lemon and a natural sweetener of your choice!

*Flax egg is made by mixing 1tbsp ground flax, to 3 tbsp water and letting it sit for a few minutes to thicken up.

Veganized Feb 2015

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Tuna inspired salad

To call this mock tuna or tuna-less salad would be a crime! It implies something is fake or missing from this delicious filling and nothing could be further from the truth! It resembles tuna-mayo, sure, it even has a taste that reminds you of it, but it is a delicious filling in it's own right - when you eat this I'm quite sure you won't think of this as something without....Hence the name, tuna inspired salad.

This is a fab raw fusion dish and makes a great intro to raw foods. It has to be up there as one of my favourite raw dishes for sure, with flax crackers and guacamole. The filling is bursting with living nutrients and when sandwiched between two slices of comforting wholegrain bread the result is heaven!

Use any of your favourite breads here, rye, wholegrain sourdough, buckwheat or multi seed would all work well. For an all raw alternative use as a topping for romaine lettuce 'wraps', raw bread or flax crackers; pura vida do a great raw bread in a variety of flavours!

I really like the abundance of fresh coriander and the kick of the onion, but that was a little too much for the girls. To adapt it to a younger child's palate, reduce the amount of coriander and leave out the onions, this combo left my girls asking for seconds!


 

 Ingredients

1 cup soaked sunflower seeds, drained
1 cup of soaked cashew nuts, drained
Juice of a lemon
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup carrot pul (pulp from 2 large carrots)
2 sticks of celery, sliced
2 spring onions, sliced (you could also use 1/2 red onion)
2-3 tbsp drained capers
Big pinch of arame, soaked to rehydrate then roughly chopped
The fresh corn from 1 cob (or about 1 cups worth)
Big handful of fresh coriander, chopped fine
Ground black pepper to taste

Method
Add the seeds, cashews, sea salt and lemon juice to a food processor and process until the consistency is like tuna mayo! You want to blend it enough to create almost a sauce, but you want some texture too. I find I have to stop the machine and scrape down the sides 3 or 4 times to get the perfect consistency.

Add the carrot and celery and process again until the mixture is slightly loser- the moisture from the celery helps create a real mayonnaise look!
Tip out into a bowl and add the remaining ingredients, stir well.

Serve this up with bread of your choice and some crisp romaine lettuce leaves for a tuna-less salad that won't disappoint!


Sunday, 6 January 2013

Tasty tofu burgers

Mention the word tofu to most people and it is met with many a groan, it really seems to have a bad rep as a bland and tasteless food. I happen to love it, but Will and the girls are not so keen so when I cook it up I need to get creative with it if I want them to eat it!

Interestingly, even the subject of tofu (and soy products in general) itself can be a complicated issue. Are they good for us or not? Are they good for hormone balancing or bad? There is so much conflicting evidence on this and I have gone around in circles trying to find the answer but still I am unsure - and have concluded we cannot know everything!

The solution for our family is that we mainly consume soy in fermented form only, such as miso, tamari and tempeh. We never buy highly processed soy foods such as soy milk or flour or the textured soy protein. I'm not saying it's bad, it's just the way we decided to go and what works for us! Our exception in the non fermented soy food category is Tofu. As I do (honestly) enjoy it and it is an affordable non - animal protein source as well as a traditional food (though traditionally consumed in small quantities), I like to give it the benefit of the doubt and so we eat it occasionally.We do however keep it to a minimum and be sure not to rely on it as our main source of protein.

So now that we cleared this up (sorta) it's on to what kind of tofu to buy. There are so many types, brands and flavours now and some of them are just about as far from the traditional product you can get. Make sure you check out those ingredients; many of them have added chemicals, stabilisers, emulsifiers, gums and preservatives instead of being made traditionally. Good tofu should just contain soy beans, water, nigari and, sometimes, sea salt. Lastly, always chose organic or GMO free tofu!

As you browse the stores you'll see that there are different kinds of tofu - firm and silken, fresh and long life. Personally I prefer the firm kind as it is a little more versatile, and fresh tofu is always better if you can get it over long life (though Clearspring do a pretty good long life version that is free from any additives!).





Ingredients: (serves 4)
190g (1 pack) firm tofu* (can use marinated)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup of cooked brown rice
1/4 cup of brown rice flour (plus extra for dusting)
1/4 tsp ground paprika
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Method:
Throw everything into a food processor and process until it starts to bind together. Split into 4 portions. Shape each portion into a burger shape.
Coat them lightly in brown rice flour. Lightly fry them in a little olive or coconut oil until crisp and golden. Serve in a wholemeal bun or flat bread with a punchy salad such as watercress or rocket. Here I served along side them a red cabbage coleslaw and root vegetable oven baked chips, delicious...

* our favourite organic brands coagulated with nigari only and free from additives and chemicals are clearspring and clear spot. Clearspot do a marinated version with tamari, apple cider vinegar and spices that works very well in this recipe too!


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

black bean brownies & a happy new year!


Happy new year everybody!! Is it just me or does 2013 sound incredibly futuristic?! It still doesn't feel quite real yet. 2012 has been an amazing year for us. It had not been without it's challenges but I feel we have learnt so much and have changed for the better for it. Will and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary with a vow renewal and a party on the 21st of December...and...the world didn't end! We have alot to be grateful for! ;) I'm pretty darn excited to see what happens next, we have so many exciting plans and really have no clue where we'll be even in 6 months from now which is quite scary/exciting at the same time.

So on to new years foods and the first recipe for 2013. Black beans are often eaten for good luck in the new year in many different cultures from Cuba to Japan. We've had them three times already this year, just to be sure! Now I know we've missed New Year's day now, but in Japan the new year's traditional foods are eaten over three days, so I reckon its worth cooking up some black beans today and I have the perfect recipe for you....

Black bean brownies!

There are literally tons of recipes for black bean brownies out there and I've tried and tested a few. None were quite perfect however, so I've played around with some ingredients and have come up with what I think is the tastiest version out there (if I do say so myself!). This recipe uses coconut palm sugar which has a toffee like taste that works very well with chocolate. It is also high in minerals with a lower GI than sugar. Adding the chicory gives a delicate coffee like flavour without it being overpowering though you could easily use instant coffee granules in its place. The bicarbonate of soda lifts it just enough without making it too cakey like baking powder can and the chocolate chips give it a really decadent finish!

I would usually add chopped walnuts to the mix which I love, but in this last batch I made they are sans walnuts at the girls request. Personally I think they are better with, so I've added them to the list of ingredients even though they are indeed missing in these photographs.

Wishing you tons of luck for the year ahead!

Black bean brownie- makes 20 squares
Ingredients
2 380g cartons of black beans, drained (or two cups cooked black beans)
1/4 cup apple puree
2 flax eggs
1/4 cup of olive oil (I use extra virgin unfiltered)
2 tsp sugar free vanilla extract
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup of coconut palm sugar
2 tsp instant chicory granules (or dandelion 'coffee')
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
50g chopped walnuts
45g bar of sugar free chocolate (we like plamil coffee chocolate), cut into small pieces


Method:
Heat the oven to 180 degrees (mine works better at 190, but it is a sloooooow oven!)
Lightly oil a 23cm square (9x9) dish and set aside.

Pop all ingredients apart from the nuts and choc pieces into a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. The mixture will seem runnier than a standard brownie mix but that's ok it's meant to be! Mix in the chopped walnuts. Pour the mix into the dish and sprinkle with the chocolate chunks/pieces.

Pop into the oven for 35-40 mins until the middle is only just set. I check it frequently in the last 5 mins as they can go from perfect to dry pretty quickly!

Leave to cool on a rack before cutting into squares, if you cut too soon they'll crumble. That's the only hard part about this recipe- leaving them to cool when the delcious chocolate aroma wafts around your kitchen and you just want to dive right in!

Veganized 2016