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

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

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

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)

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.