Leftover Almond Pulp Lunch Box Crackers

crackersAgain, my photo’s are embarrassing compared to the food porn that is all over the blogging scene. But, alas, I don’t have time to set up a photo shoot in the kitchen and take a million shots, so you will just have to trust that these look and taste good!

I have been making my own almond milk recently and needed to find a use for all of the almond pulp that was leftover. I had saved a few recipes but not got round to trying them as they were too complicated or required special ingredients I didn’t have. I needed something quick and easy that was useful to have in stock instead of just making more food for the sake of it (which would be the case with almond cookies for example!)

I followed a recipe for almond crackers but the mixture was crumbly and too oily, so I added my own bits including a chia egg to hold it all together, hoped for the best, and came out with these more-ish, nutritious snacks. Not crunchy like crackers, more like oat cake texture, but great to spread with avocado, dip in humus or pack in your child’s snack box.

As I made the recipe up for the most part I have guesstimated quantities. The final mixture held together fairly well but it doesn’t need to be very dough-like. It had some moisture but didn’t stick to my hands. Just make sure you press it down firmly into the baking tray and it shouldn’t fall to pieces! You can try all sorts of flavours, just swap the herbs, add seeds, olives, sun dried tomatoes whatever you fancy!

Ingredients:

1 cup roughly almond pulp (as I use a juice my pulp is already quite dry, you might need less oil if your pulp is wetter)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup chickpea flour

1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water

Pinch of salt

4 sprigs of thyme, leaves only

1/2 teaspoon garlic granules or fresh, minced garlic

Method:

Start by making a chia egg (you could also use flax seeds here) by combinging chia seeds and water and setting aside for a few minutes.

Mix all of the ingredients together, adding the flour and oats a bit at a time and using the chia egg last to combine and hold together. If the mixture is too wet then add a little more flour or oats or both.

Press mixture into a small oven proof dish or baking tray. You want the crackers to be about 1/4 cm thick.

Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes or until the edges start to turn darker brown.

Cut into squares and leave to cool before moving to a different container.

Cocoa-nut bites

photo 2-1There are hundreds of these delightful little balls circling the blogging scene! I usually just make them up as I go along, but this one was particularly good. I haven’t been updating you on my sugar free challenge at all! But because of little lifesavers such as these nutritious snacks, I have managed fairly well. It hasn’t been as hard as I imagined, but then again we haven’t cut out natural sugars, so I can still satisfy my sweet cravings. Although many people say sugar is sugar, processed or not, I have to disagree. The foods that I get my sweet fixes from have so many health benefits that far outweigh the sugar content, and the extra goodness in them helps your body to process the sugar more efficiently anyway. I do feel better as a result of the challenge, with no more energy dips mid afternoon. I slipped up yesterday when I was testing a brownie recipe for the party this weekend, and today I have been feeling so lethargic! The other girls are doing great too and the online food diary has helped us to share ideas and really evaluate what we are putting into our bodies. I have realised that I really don’t snack as much as I thought! Michelle has lost a heap of weight and we have both said we want to make it a more long term change. I am also pleased that I have managed to, pretty much, cut out all processed bread (and haven’t eaten anything else processed the entire time!) and am now considering asking for a bread maker for Christmas!

If you have ever thought about going sugar free you should definitely try it. If you are happy to eat natural sugars in fruit, honey and maple syrup, for example, then you may find it is a piece of *sugar free* cake!

So to get you started here is a quick recipe for those moments when you just need a treat:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup soaked cashews

2-3 cup soaked dates

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Handful raisins

Desiccated coconut to coat balls in

Method:

Puree or blend your dates, cashews and coconut oil (I used my juicer to do this which makes them much smoother than blending, but either works ok) If the mix seems too crumbly add more dates. It should be sticky, holding together easily but not wet.

Put mixture in a bowl and stir in cocoa powder and raisins until mixed well. You can add more or less cocoa depending on how chocolatey you want them.

Roll into bite sized balls and then roll through the desicated coconut.

Refrigerate for an hour before serving (unless you are desperate to eat them straight away, but they really are better after being in the fridge!)

Store them in an airtight container and pack them in a picnic, in your child’s lunch box, for a long journey. You could even put them in a pretty box and give them as a gift…or just demolish them all whilst watching your favourite tv!

Enjoy!
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A Year To Celebrate

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Less than one year ago Poppy was thrown into this unfamiliar world, knowing nothing, doing nothing, completely dependant on her parents. And now she is a walking, almost talking, increasingly independent, huge personality with a whole range of feelings and ways of expressing them and an unfathomable amount of knowledge and skills that blow me away every day. How did that happen?

I was thinking about her upcoming birthday and how much she has changed in that first year, how truly amazing she, and every other baby, is! And it occurred to me that we have so much more to celebrate on that special day. Poppy may have had a shock when she came into the world all those months ago, but it wasn’t just her life that changed drastically. And despite how hard everyone said it would be, how many ‘You just wait’ looks I was given, to be honest, I think we have done a bloody amazing job so far.

For starters, Poppy’s birthday will mark a whole year of exclusive breastfeeding, no formula in her entire life so far, which less than 1% of Mum’s in the UK can say. I know this isn’t always possible so I consider myself very lucky to be contributing to that statistic, but despite the fact that she latched on immediately with no trouble, it hasn’t been without its difficulties. It was always so important to me that she was breastfed, I didn’t ever consider another option, but looking back on how much I actually did to make it possible makes me feel quite proud. Poppy spent the second week of her life crying in pain every time she fed and woke from her sleeps screaming and bright red in the face. She struggled to empty her bowels and had a blistered rash on her bottom. I was horrified seeing her like that, but kept being told that it was normal, just colic that would go away eventually. I didn’t buy it and took things into my own hands, researching how my diet could be affecting her through my breast milk. Looking at the common culprits, I decided to start by cutting out dairy, which was incredibly daunting considering I used to have cheese at every opportunity! I looked at the list of names for hidden dairy and read labels vigorously. It seemed I couldn’t eat anything. But I had to try something, and so for the next week or so I literally ate nothing but fruit and veg to be absolutely certain that nothing was contaminated. I felt pretty fed up not being able to eat the proper meals I was used to, but things with Poppy improved quickly which kept me going. I gradually got used to preparing wholesome meals without any dairy at all, using oat milk in our risotto and almond milk for my breakfast, tea and coffee. It was still so alien to me, but after two weeks on this diet Poppy was a new baby. I felt so relieved that I knew what had been causing the pain and angry that none of the professionals would take me seriously. Even after I had seen the amazing results my doctor and health visitor refused to believe it and made me feel pretty inferior to them. Then one day, after I had enjoyed some dairy free dark chocolate, Poppy seemed to react the same way as before. I checked all of the ingredients and Googled some more. Soy. Many babies who are intolerant to dairy are also intolerant to soy. So another thing to look out for, and this one really was in everything I picked up. I was constantly worried about eating out, or grabbing something on the go, I had to read every label meticulously to be sure that I wouldn’t be hurting my precious girl. I felt miserable that so many things seemed to be off limits, and I worried I would never have a social life again! But I still never considered giving up breastfeeding. I carried on, learning new recipes, changing the entire contents of our cupboards, without even questioning it, because it was for Poppy. I did this with little support and whilst juggling a newborn baby, recovering from a traumatic birth and adjusting to all of the other changes in my life. Of course, I may have felt a little sorry for myself, but at the time, in the blur of those early hazy days, I didn’t fully appreciate my own efforts. It was just another thing I had to do, something that perhaps would pass, like the spit up on my shoulder and the middle of the night feeds (little did I know that they weren’t going anywhere fast either). Almost a year later we are still breastfeeding and my diet is radically different. I don’t even have to think about it now, I am simply dairy and soy free, just like I have brown hair, an embarrassing laugh and a weakness for Pimms. It has become a part of me instead of a temporary fix to a problem. I remember wondering if I would continue to breastfeed for as long as I wanted because of this, but that no longer crosses my mind. For starters I have discovered that dairy seems to have been the main cause of my eczema, and I feel better in many other ways as a result of my new diet. It is difficult at times, going to social occasions, being tempted by my old favourites when we go out for dinner, but I can count on one hand the amount of times I have knowingly slipped up (and Poppy still reacts when I do). I never had that sort of will power on any diet I have ever been on! I have to refuse chocolates and cakes that are offered around without a second thought, pass on a lovely cup of hot tea when there is no alternative milk available, watch everyone else scoffing my favourite foods without making a fuss, accepting the fact that it is my responsibility to avoid temptation rather than expecting people to accommodate for me. It has become second nature and with our breastfeeding journey going beautifully I don’t plan to give up until Poppy is ready, which judging from the earlier statistic, is (sadly) not all that common. Now I know this may not be worthy of front-page news, but I am allowed to brag every once in a while.

There are other reasons why I feel this has been such an achievement. Having always struggled with accepting my body and eating healthily, knowing that I was nourishing Poppy forced me to take better care of myself. Since those first small changes I have learnt so much more, incorporating so many fresh and wholesome foods into my diet, trying new things all the time, constantly learning more about nutrition and ditching the junk almost completely. More importantly ditching the fasts and yoyo diet cycles completely. I am finally respecting my body which deserves to be as healthy as can be, because I have realised it is actually pretty incredible, to have grown and nourished a strong human being all by itself. Funnily enough I now, without even trying, weigh less than I did when I was practically starving myself, but I am happier than I have ever been regardless of what the scales say. I believe food is the most important thing to get right in your life, and I am proud that I have turned my relationship with food around completely. I am also proud that I can offer Poppy the best start and hopefully teach her about healthy choices throughout her life too. 

So I guess my next achievement links in with that perfectly. This last year has made me more confident in myself than ever before. My post baby body and new inner peace is just the beginning! There are so many choices to make, small and big, when you have a child, suddenly you have to be sure of yourself, otherwise you might cave under all the pressure. I have always been headstrong to an extent, but vulnerable and my confidence was easily knocked, over the smallest of things. But starting when I was pregnant, I had someone else to make decisions for, and I started to believe in myself more for the sake of that unborn baby girl. I refused induction when the doctors were making me feel like I was wrong. I knew deep down everything was OK, and I was right. Every other decision after that made me more and more sure that I would do things my way. People who scoffed at the fact that we co-slept, or wore Poppy in a sling for the majority of her newborn life; they didn’t make me question my choices one little bit. Suddenly I didn’t care what other people thought of me, because it wasn’t them who would be affected by my decisions, it was Poppy. Initially I had been worried about postnatal depression, having gone through depression and anxiety many times before. But previous bouts of depression left me feeling worthless, unmotivated and with no sense of purpose. I remember thinking, even during Poppy’s 4 hour crying fits, I had never felt more worthy, important, purposeful or in control of my own emotions in my whole life! There were hard times but I just felt like finally I had found what I was meant to be, I had so much to be happy for and someone else to be strong for and nothing would bring me down. Not that I am claiming to be a better mum than the next, or better able to cope with the hard times; in fact accepting that I cannot be perfect and that is still good enough, was a huge realisation and perhaps part of the reason I did remain so positive. When I see Poppy smile at me every day I feel as wonderful as she thinks I am.

As well as these personal achievements I will be celebrating the more simple things that have happened in the past year. We have moved to a fantastic place, made fantastic friends and we have shared so many good times as a family. Tim has come so far in his career, and I am so proud of him. I have thrown myself into a new life here, juggled a baby and a diploma, which is going pretty darn well, as well as keeping the dog alive and the house tidy (ish). So I hope you don’t mind the very personal (and slightly long) post, but I wanted to share with you all of those positive things that explain why Poppy’s very first birthday means so much to me. People warned me that having a baby would change my life, and it has…entirely for the better.

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What are you proud of since becoming a parent?

Vegan banana pancakes

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These pancakes were our breakfast on bank holiday Monday, a little treat (but a healthy one!), when there was nothing else in the house. They are so simple and very tasty with no sugar whatsoever. The chickpea flour provides protein and we all know that banana’s are good for us! Serve them with whatever you fancy, we used more banana and maple syrup. I’ll definitely be making these again and again!

Ingredients (to make the amount shown in pic):

1 small mashed banana
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4-1/3 cup water

Method:

In a mixing bowl combine the mashed banana, chickpea flour, cinnamon, baking soda and 1/4 cup water and mix.
Add more water if necessary to get the consistency somewhere between thick-runny and runny.

Preheat a non-stick pan over medium heat. I used a very small amount of vegan spread in the pan to stop them sticking.

Scoop about 1/4 cup batter into the pan for each pancake. (Notice how mine got smaller at the top?! I would use just less than 1/4 cup if you want a stack like this and you want them to be the same size!)

Cook on one side until the top is bubbly, then flip and cook for about another minute. The pancakes should be browned on both sides but nice and cakey! 

Enjoy! 

Raw Vegan Cheesecake

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So at the start of my sugar free challenge what better than a sugar free cheesecake to get me through my sweet cravings?! 

I took this recipe from http://www.therawtarian.com and it was a huge success. My Mum loved it (non-vegan) and I have loads left over for tomorrow which I know will please Tim. It wasn’t a perfect replacement for the cheesecake you might be used to, but I think it was nicer, and far healthier! It also could have been because I used maple syrup which has a distinct flavour, and I didn’t use a high speed blender. The base was quite crunchy and textured, but we really liked it like that. 

I did find that there wasn’t quite enough base mixture to cover a normal cheesecake dish, and so I used a smaller square pyrex dish, but then found there was too much ‘cheese’ mixture, making the layers quite thick in the smaller dish. It just meant we had smaller slices as it is quite rich, but we still both managed to have 2 of them! 

I will be trying this again with different fruit combo’s and think it could also work great with crumbled diary free ginger biscuits as the base and pineapple on top, for when the sugar free month is over. So here it is, simple and suprisingly healthy cheesecake! 

Ingredients:

Base:

1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts

1/2 cup dates (soaked over night to soften)

1/4 cup desiccated coconut

Pinch of salt

Cashew cheese filling:

3 cups cashews (I soaked mine over night to activate them and soften them)

3/4 cup lemon juice

3/4 cup agave/honey (I used maple syrup and honey)

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Water if you need to blend, I didn’t need any but use as little as possible

Topping:

2 cups frozen strawberries (I used raspberries!) 

1/2 cup dates (softened over night) 

Method:

Sprinkle your dish with the coconut and set aside

Using a high speed food processor, blend your macadamia nuts and dates until they are well processed but still airy. 

Press the nut mixture to the bottom of your dish (over the coconut which will stop it from sticking)

Blend all of your cashew cheese filling ingredients until smooth and pour on top of the nut base. 

Place in the freezer whilst you make your topping (the original recipe said an hour but I skipped this part completely and it still worked fine.)

Blend your fruit and dates in a high speed blender until smooth. It should look like a sorbet! Pour on top of the cheese filling and place back in the freezer, or the fridge like I did, until it reaches the desired consistency. The recipe says 5 hours in the freezer but I only put mine in the fridge for about 3 hours and it was perfect, the cheese had firmed up nicely.)

Mum left hers out of the fridge for a while before eating to take the chill off but I had mine straight away, your choice!  

Enjoy, guilt free! 

Thanks to http://www.therawtarian.com/raw-cheesecake-recipe for an amazing recipe!

Chickpea Tagine

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You may already know that we are a little obsessed with this recipe. In fact it was the first meal we cooked when we had decided to give veganism a go, and it was so good that we didn’t think we would ever be tempted to eat meat again! These days we are ‘chegan’s’; a name I heard somewhere that means vegans who cheat. Everything I cook at home is vegan, but if we are invited to a social event, we would rather just join in and eat what everyone else is eating to make life easier and ensure our social life doesn’t die out. I have also found it really difficult eating in restaurants, as a lot of the vegetarian options still contain cheese, so I often just opt for something with meat in order to avoid dairy. It is early days, but I think overall we are doing pretty well. 

Anyway, back to the tagine. This recipe has been adapted ever so slightly from one in our ‘Crazy Sexy Kitchen’ recipe book by Kris Carr. It is really delicious and healthy, and although it seems like a lot of ingredients, I now kow the recipe off by heart and it is easy. Try not to skip any of the flavour-y (it’s a word) ingredients as the overall taste is amazing! I once ran out of cumin seeds and discovered that these are an essential part of the dish!

You can, however, use any root veggies you like. For some reason I am always drawn to orange veg for this dish! I make my own tomato paste for this recipe, so I will start with that.

Tomato paste:

8 sun dried tomatoes

1 large tomato

1/4 red pepper

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cinnamon 

1/2 tsp black pepper

Blitz and set aside.

Chickpea Tagine:

1 tbsp. cumin seeds 

1 tbsp. ground coriander

3 tbsps. olive oil

1 medium white onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

Your pre-made tomato paste

1 pint (ish) vegetable bouillon

3 large carrots peeled and diced

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1/2 butternut squash

1/4 jar pitted and chopped green olives

400g carton of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 jar artichokes (optional but tasty)

Zest of 1 lemon

Large handful raisins

3 tablespoons chopped parsley, plus some to serve

3 tablespoons chopped coriander, plus some to serve

(The original recipe also had mint, but we don’t usually buy this so I leave it out)

Method:

1. Toast cumin seeds and coriander in a pan until aromatic. Once toasted, add to your tomato paste and mix in. 

2. In a large heavy-bottom shallow pot or deep skillet (cast iron works best) on medium heat, add oil, onions and garlic. Cook until onions are translucent and golden, stirring continuously for about 4 minutes.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the tomato paste and all of your root veggies (not the chickpeas), coating them in the paste.

4. Add the vegetable bouillon, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the veggies are tender. 

5. Add the olives, chickpeas, artichokes, lemon zest and raisins. Continue simmering for about 5 minutes. 

6. Add parsley and coriander and season with salt and pepper if desired. 

7. Garnish with sliced red chili and fresh herbs if desired.

I have just eaten a huge bowl of this! It is also one of the only meals that keeps Poppy’s attention for longer than 5 minutes. She picks out the chickpeas and eats them one by one! And today she had a go at the carrot and sweet potato too!

Enjoy!

Health Kick

Time is running away again…we were on holiday for a while but despite being back a couple of weeks I still don’t feel back in the swing of things! I ate whatever I wanted in Italy, and noticed the effect of dairy on myself and Poppy, so it is time to detox (as much as you can whilst breastfeeding!)

I will be posting a few recipes, because I am trying to be more adventurous, and also because recipes are quick to post and I always seem short of time! I’ll try my best to do an update on Poppy with a few hoiday snaps soon.

P1030883 (3)Blueberry and Cashew Green Smoothie

I have been having this for the last few mornings because it is so yummy and so healthy!

Ingredients:

2 handfuls blueberries

1 small banana

Large handful Spinach

Handful cashew nuts

2 dates

Non-dairy milk of your choice (I used hemp)

Ice

Blend, sprinkle with chai seeds or similar if you wish, and enjoy!

 

Asparagus gaucamole and avocado sandwich

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Sorry about the photo, back to using my rubbish old phone camera for a little while! I saw this recipe for asparagus gaucamole in one of the free supermarket recipe magazines, and seeing as I had just bought 3 huge bunches of asparagus I thought it was worth a shot. I liked it because there weren’t too many ingredients and you didn’t need anything special that could only be bought in that particular supermarket…which is often the case!

I had to add avocado because, well, I just adore it, and the result was a very tasty, refreshing sandwich, perfect for a hot summer’s day!

Ingredients:

Big bunch asparagus

1 small red onion

1 red chilli (I used orange and used less, although in the end the freshness of the other ingredients meant it wasn’t as hot as I thought it would be)

1 clove garlic

Handful fresh corriander

Zest and juice 1 lime

Half 1 avocado

Spoonful of veganaise or mayo

Bread

Method:

Cut the asparagus into roughly 2cm and steam the tips and the rest of the stems seperately for about 3 mins (you can steam them together but will have to seperate afterwards)

Whilst the asparagus is cooling finely dice the onion, deseed and finely chop the chilli and the garlic and corriander.

Mix everything but the asparagus together in a mixing bowl with lime zest and juice, adding the asparagus tips when cooled.

Blitz the rest of the asparagus in a food processor into a lumpy paste, I added a drizzle of olive oil at this point too and a pinch of salt.

Spread the asparagus guacamole over a slice of bread and spread the other slice with mayo and avocado. Put it together in a sandwich and serve with vegetable crisps and a glass of elderflower cordial for an alfresco lunch!

 

Rainbows and Smiles

10291854_10154031925635346_1747914046365390881_nA couple of weekends ago we celebrated my beautiful Nan’s 80th birthday, and I promised I would write a post about our weekend. Of course I didn’t get time, but I had to at least share the cake with you. I made this 6 layer rainbow cake by following the basic recipe at Kerry Cooks: http://kerrycooks.com/easy-6-layer-rainbow-cake-step-by-step/ BUT, get this, I had to use TRIPLE the ingredients…it was a BIG cake! That included 18 eggs, 3 tubs of dairy free spread, over 1kg sugar…you see I am not always health obsessed! Depending on how greedy your friends are I would say this would serve 20.

I made some of my own additions and changes. I added lemon zest to the sponge and of course it was made with Pure spread and so was dairy free. I also couldn’t use her cream cheese frosting, so I made my own lemon frosting, with Pure spread, icing sugar, lemon juice and super white powder food colouring, because the bright colours really do look great against bright white. If you are not dairy free you can use Lurpak to make a lighter frosting, therefore needing less white colouring to get the desired shade.

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All of the other colours were the same as the ones Kerry used, except for purple I used Sugarflair pastel colours in ‘Lavender’ and it turned out perfectly. You must use professional gel colours in order for this cake to be a success, not just supermarket gels or regular liquid food colouring. Just add a little bit at a time until it is as bright as you want it.

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My tins were 26cm, and so took a little longer to cook. I would say it was about 30 mins per layer. The sponge was lovely and putting each layer in the fridge wrapped in cling film before decorating definitely helped! All in all the cake was simple to make, just slightly time consuming.

P1020685I wanted the inside of the cake to be a surprise so I covered it in the white lemon frosting, and then decorated it with yellow to match the lemon theme. I love yellow and I love lemon cake, reminds me of spring time and happiness. I would say lemon cake is nice and light too, but this probably can’t be described as light if you have a 6 layer slice, like I did!

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I also made this lovely bunting with my Nan’s name on it, out of thread, cocktail sticks and thin card. I stamped her name onto separate card, cut out the circles and stuck them to the flags. The flags are just folded over the thread and then glued together. It looked very pretty and girly, and added to the summery vibes!

My Nan loved it and everyone was commenting on how beautiful it was…and then she cut into it and revealed the wonderful rainbow! It went down a storm and tasted delicious.

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