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.

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Gluten-free, sugar free, vegan breakfast muffins

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Sometimes I just fancy something new for breakfast, and sometimes that ends in disaster. Especially when it comes to baking as I’m no good at guessing quantities and figuring out how to bind ingredients together or make sure it rises. But much to my surprise my recent experiments with breakfast muffins have turned out very well. I looked at a few recipes online, realised we had none of the ingredients in the cupboard, and made something up myself. I used flax eggs and banana to bind the mixture, although you could also use a vegan egg replacer instead of the flaxseed mix (the banana may even be enough but I felt safer using something I knew would definitely work!) You can add anything you like, such as dried apricots, cacao nibs or nuts, and adjust the sweetness with your choice of natural vegan sweetener. I like the fact that it feels like you are eating a cake but there is nothing naughty in there at all! They are also great for when you need breakfast on the go or something to grab when you first wake up, which is why I have just made a fresh batch for our holiday. I try to be prepared so that we are not tempted to eat out too often which will no doubt be unhealthy and expensive (I have been baking bread and making soup today too!) These muffins are easy, tasty, great for little hands and full of goodness; perfect for baby led weaning as well as lunch boxes!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup chickpea flour

3/4 gluten-free self raising flour (I used doves farm)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons milled flaxseed with 6 tablespoons non-dairy milk

3 bananas, the riper the better!

1/3 cup olive oil or coconut oil (melted)

1 tablespoon molasses

1/2 cup sweetener (agave, maple syrup, honey if non-vegan)

1 apple, grated

Small piece of ginger, grated

Mixed seeds of your choice (I used, chia, pumpkin, sunflower, golden flaxseed)

Handful desiccated coconut

Handful chopped dates

Method:

Mix flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.

Prepare your flax eggs by combining the milled flaxseed and non-dairy milk and setting aside for a couple of minutes for the seeds to absorb the liquid.

Meanwhile, mash the bananas and add them to the flour mixture.

Add the flax eggs and combine well.

Stir in the oil, sweetener and molasses, followed by the rest of the ingredients.

Spoon into cupcake cases and bake in the oven at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes, or until they start to turn golden brown.

Leave to cool before serving with a cup of tea!

Enjoy!

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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Vegan chocolate brownies

I am thinking of trying a vegan diet for a little while, with it potentially becoming a more permanent lifestyle change. I was thinking about becoming a vegetarian for a while, but then realised that with dairy already cut out the only thing left before vegetarian becomes vegan is eggs (that’s right isn’t it?!) I do like eggs, so we will see. But I have started off my experiment with chocolate brownies, of course.

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Ingredients: 

110g Pure Sunflower spread

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

4 tbsp milled flaxseed (available at good health food stores)

6 tbsp rice milk

4 heaped tbsp cocoa powder

175g light brown muscavado sugar

100g self raising flour

Couple of drops of vanilla extract

Handful of chopped walnuts (or other nuts of your choice)

Handful of cacao nibs (optional)

Pinch of salt

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease a square baking tray. (You could line with greaseproof paper as mine did stick slightly when getting them out but I also used a pyrex dish)
  • Mix together the flaxseeds, rice milk and baking powder.
  • Melt the pure butter and then add cocoa powder and mix until smooth.
  • Pour this on flaxseed mix, add the sugar, vanilla, cacao nibs and nuts and mix well.
  • Sift in flour and pinch of salt and stir well. Mixture will be nice a gooey!
  • Pour into tin and bake for 25 minutes.
  • Leave to cool before cutting into squares and transferring to plate.
  • Enjoy!

Next time I might try substituting a small amount of the butter for coconut oil and adding goji berries, crystalised ginger, raisins or hazelnuts. White chocolate chunks would also be delish if you have dairy free. Whatever you fancy! They taste great and I am looking forward to finding out if Tim approves later!

 

 

 

Dairy Free Essentials

So I have had a few people request more information on my dairy alternatives. As I said in my previous post, it hasn’t been easy, but gradually you get used to what you can and can’t eat and food labels become a breeze. There are some things I use on a daily basis and a few other things I have found that have surprised me in that they are ‘safe’ foods. I am only human and so have discovered a few treats that I am allowed, although I have no excuse really seeing as there are loads of tasty healthy options that I can make myself! Always good to have a few options though, especially when you are having visitors over and want to put a plate of biscuits out! Of course most of the items below are soy free too as Poppy was intolerant to this too. If you are choosing to cut out dairy and/soy completely then make sure you familiarise yourself with all of the hidden ingredients that become out of bounds. It is not as simple as changing your milk and butter! Use google to find a list of dairy/soy ingredients to look out for, it is long, but amazingly you memorise is pretty quickly!

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Pure spread – I don’t tend to have butter in sandwiches, but this is the best thing for baking. In fact my mum has always used it even though she is not dairy free. I have never liked margarines; they are not good for you at all. I have heard this is much better, but seeing as I don’t have too many options and don’t use it all that much, I haven’t really looked into how healthy this is. It is good value at about £1.50 and it is often on offer, buy 2 for £2 or similar. It means that most cake recipes are no longer out of bounds, and even if you struggle with eggs, you can substitute these with an egg replacer (try orgran no egg from Holland and Barrett). I use an egg replacer in baking anyway because it is such good value for money and otherwise we would use way too many eggs! The Pure spread is also good for frying, as it is made with sunflower oil, and of course you could just use it as your regular spread on bread or toast. I have come across a much more extravagant butter, made with very healthy things, but can’t remember the name of it because it cost over £5 for a tub! Sometimes I have to draw the line on my health addiction and think about my bank account.

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Almond milk (unsweetened) – by far the best option I have found for tea and coffee. I now much prefer it to cows milk. I have it everyday on my porridge too, although you can use any milk for this really. It also goes in to many of my super smoothies. Almond milk contains 120mg calcium per 100ml, compared to 124mg per 100ml in cows milk, and the bioavailability of the calcium is no doubt much higher in the almond milk, so your calcium absorption would probably improve.

Coconut milk – You can buy cartons of coconut milk along with all of the other milk alternatives, and I do enjoy a lovely coconut milk latte at our favourite café, however I don’t tend to choose this at home as I find almond milk more palatable in tea and coffee. However the thicker coconut milk that you buy in cans is used regularly at our house. Since we can no longer eat the cheese sauce which seemed to accompany so many of our staple meals, we had to have a bit of a menu change (which is never a bad thing seeing as it is so easy to cook the same things week after week). I didn’t want to give up my warm, hearty, comfort foods and start living on salads and steamed vegetables (my appetite is far too big!) so I started making quite a few curries. We absolutely LOVE Thai green curry and use half a can of coconut milk and stock for the sauce. There are loads of variations for Thai curry but mine includes loads of fresh ginger, leeks, spring onions, spinach, garlic, lemon zest and coriander so it is pretty healthy. Serve with wholewheat noodles or brown rice for a wholesome meal.

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Oat drink – Just another everyday milk alternative. Oats are very healthy so this is a good one to include in your diet, use on cereal or in porridge if you don’t fancy it in your tea.

Rice milk – Same as above! Also good for rice puddings surprisingly.

Hazelnut milk – This is my favourite milk for when I am feeling indulgent. I make hazelnut lattes with this using all milk, coffee and sugar. You could also try Ferrero Rocher hot chocolate just by using hazelnut milk instead of normal milk! If you don’t have dairy free hot chocolate try using cocoa powder instead, adding a natural sweetener such as agave syrup or maple syrup, a drop of vanilla essence and a pinch of cinnamon.

ImageOatly cream – I use this fairly regularly to add creaminess to a dish, for example in soups, curries or risotto. A very quick risotto recipe is Arborio rice cooked in vegetable stock, with loads of chestnut mushrooms, garlic and chorizo and finish by oatly cream. It is really easy but very delicious. Can also be used in puddings. A quick caramel sauce to add to deserts is made with 100g pure butter and 150g soft light brown sugar melted together in a pan, add 125ml of oat cram and simmer until heated through. I never used to use much cream at all when cooking, but I feel that oat cream can’t be all that bad for you!

Bread – Not a dairy one but I have only included this because I found it difficult to find a SOYA free bread. Ideally it is best to make your own, and occasionally my lovely Dad brings me a fresh loaf from his bread maker, but the rest of the time I have found wholewheat pitta breads to be brilliant alternatives and one brand of multiseed bread to be safe; Wheatfield Bakery as pictured. Tip: Try buying fresh bread from farmshops which shouldn’t usually contain soy. I also found that the tesco organic white bloomer (not the brown one) has no soy in, so we occasionally had this as a weekend treat!ImageDairy free treats – Nature valley oat bars (the healthiest option in this list by far), Oreos (contain soya!) Jammy dodgers, Ginger nut biscuits and Nice biscuits. There are probably many more but I haven’t bothered finding many as we rarely eat biscuits. A lot of sweets are fine but watch out for soya, I found they were in starburst amongst other popular sweets! Of course anything caramely or buttery is a no go, I am yet to come to terms with the loss of werther’s originals.

Nakd bars – I haven’t put these under treats, although I do think they are delicious. But they are 100% healthy! Raw pressed fruits and nuts, no additives, no added sugar, no baking involved. If you are avoiding soy as well be careful as some of them do have soy and some don’t. My two favourite are cocoa delight and cashew cookie which is literally just dates and cashews. They are rather pricey though at over £2 for a box of 4.

Shortcrust Pastry by Jusrol – We don’t eat much pastry, even though Tim is a big fan of pies. But every now and then I love a homemade quiche with loads of salad. I was sad when we had to give this up, but then I read the ingredients on the pastry I used and was very surprised to discover it doesn’t contain any butter or soy!! Oh and yes this is lazy but I really don’t have time to be making pastry from scratch! I actually think this pastry tastes really good, even though I am not a big pastry fan (Tim always gets my crusts once I have eaten the best bits of the quiche!) You could also use this pastry to make jam tarts or apple pie to add to your collection of dairy free treats!

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Raw Cacao Powder – You can also use normal cocoa powder for baking. But I love this healthy chocolate ingredient, it gives you the same endorphins as that unhealthy bar of milk chocolate, with none of the guilt! You can use it in pudding recipes, cakes and smoothies, or even in your porridge! Try blending a handful of dates, oats, a tablespoon of cacao and a splash of water, then rolling mixture into balls and refrigerating: Healthy chocolate truffles! Yum.

Ice cream and yoghurts – I am yet to try any dairy free yoghurts, but there are plenty available, whether you choose soya yoghurts or the healthier coconut yoghurts. Ice cream will definitely be tried this Summer! I did struggle to find any without soya in them, although there are a few expensive brands available online, but I tried plenty of dairy free ice creams when I was younger in a poor attempt at going dairy free, and they were mostly delicious. All major supermarkets should stock these.

Cheese – I am afraid I am not much help here either. Cheese was definitely the hardest thing for me to give up. I had it on a daily basis! There are cheese alternatives out there (look online) but I just don’t know if they would cut it for me. I have got so used to it now that I don’t really miss it, but maybe one day when I am feeling flush I will invest in some vegan cheese. If you have tried it let me know what you thought! Goats cheese may be ok for some people, other people may still find this causes problems.

I hope that helps. If there are any other dairy items that you miss or do not know how to cut out of your diet then comment below and I will see if I can help! Remember the blogging world is rife with dairy free recipes for al of your favourite dishes! Do not assume you will never be able to enjoy puddings again!

Visiting our Mummies and filling our tummies!

We have had another great weekend. Saturday was spent doing lots of organising; we still hadn’t finished unpacking and most of our junk had been dumped in what will eventually be Poppy’s room. Even though she isn’t in it yet and probably won’t be for a while, I want it to look nice and not just be an excuse to gather more cr*p! We went through all of the boxes and managed to completely clear the room and rearrange the furniture. I cleaned the shelves and arranged some wooden toys on them, all of them low enough for Poppy to reach herself when she is toddling, in keeping with Montessori philosophy. It looks really cute, and I am excited for when Poppy starts to enjoy playing in there and sleeping on her very own floor bed!

To break the day up a bit we went back to our new favourite vegetarian cafe and had a gorgeous lunch. It is a little pricey but they were good portions. I had a wholebean vegan burger, with onion rings, relish and gerhkins – delicious! And Tim had goats cheese tart which was also divine. Both came with a salad and Poppy chewed on a bit of sweet potato. We couldn’t resist the carrot cake for desert, and went home feeling rather full.

As if we haven’t eaten enough cake lately, I spent last night making another one for today’s dinner at Nana’s! It was a dairy free mocha fudge cake, and it was really easy to make. Recipe to follow!

 

I wrote a few notes for my next assignment later on, which is all about play. I was learning all about treasure baskets and it inspired me to have a change around of Poppy’s sensory objects, realising that whilst they were lovely, she probably had become bored of the same things. I collected lots of interesting everyday items from around the house and ordered a big shallow basket for them all to go in. I will write a post about treasure baskets, how brilliant they are for babies and how you can make your own, when the basket arrives! We took a  smaller portable treasure basket out with us today, and she loved exploring all of the different textures and shapes, it made the car journeys much easier.

Today we visited Brackley and our first stop was at Grannie’s house where The Greats were staying. Poppy was on good form, playing very happily and posing for photo’s. She was a very lucky girl and got given a beautiful push along wooden toy from her Great Grandma and Grandpa.  It was lovely to see Tim’s family as always, and even Oscar came home a happy boy with a bag of bones from Grannie!

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After all the excitement Poppy had a sleep whilst we walked Oscar, before going for dinner at Nana Sue’s and Joe’s. My Nanny was there too and they are also hosting a Japanese student at the moment called Mizuki, who was really sweet and taught us some Japanese, or tried at least! She also showed us some origami, and I made her a bunny, which is much simpler origami and great to do with kids at Easter! You can find instructions here. We also tried some sweets made from apricots from her parents sweet shop in Japan which were lovely. Having her eat with us reminded me of my own time in Spain; young and in a new country where I hardly understood the language, it was really daunting. She probably thought we were all nuts but she was always smiling and socialising, and I think Mum and Joe have made her feel very at home. Me and Tim are now thinking of looking into hosting a foreign student as well!

We enjoyed a wonderful roast dinner thanks to Joe, a cheeky glass of wine and a pretty good dessert thanks to me!

It was great to see everyone, I just wish we could visit more people when we go home. But something that was quite interesting was that we both said that although we miss the people we love, we don’t really miss our old town at all and on the journey back it really felt like we were coming ‘Home’. It is a nice feeling to be so settled so soon, especially as it is the first time either of us have moved away from Brackley (aside from Uni) and we knew nothing about this area.

I am now going to crack on with some more Montessori work so that I can relax and enjoy my jam packed week ahead. Excited about catching up with some friends and seeing my lovely cousin who is yet to meet Poppy. Look out for upcoming posts about dairy substitutes, treasure baskets, some recipes and non-toxic household products. But for now I will leave you with a few pictures of these beauties! (click to enlarge)

Hope you all had a happy weekend too!