quick

Vegan Coconut Chia Balls

coconut chia ballsOh my, hello coconut powder, woweeee, where have you been all my life? I wanna tell you guys how amazing this stuff is but you should check out a more informed write up about coconut powder’s wonderful versatility because I want you to get involved. It’s not coconut flour nor desiccated coconut but pure coconut powder and I reckon I found another absolutely delicious way to put coconut powder to work- vegan coconut chia balls. So simple, yet sooooooo bloody tasty and the best part is these cost nothing, well they cost a little tiny bit. I got a huge 1 kg bag for £3 from my local Indian supermarket and probably used only 50 pence worth for this one recipe. Thank you very much. Coconut powder is officially high up on the list of my coconut loving, coconut milk on tap (now there’s a thought) and creamy curries make this stuff pretty special…..oh god, what would happen if there was no coconut….shudder. Life would be pretty awful though, wouldn’t it?delicious coconut chia balls

My day was filled with dull training and long team meetings, oh and what a drag it was to see the sun finally come out only to be stuck in a huge strip lit meeting room. That’s the worst for me – being cooped up indoors when there’s sunshine and blue skies outside but luck was on my side as my meeting finished really early! Obviously I came straight home to make these delicious coconut chia balls whilst sitting outside in the sunshine and generally chillaxing. Yes I did just use that word.

Making coconut + chia balls

I think people across from the canal, usually walking dogs wonder what I’m doing with my kitchen utensils and camera laid out all over the garden furniture. I do get some funny looks! Oh no, I just had a horrid thought, soon it will be winter and really cold so where am I going to make all my food…………of course I have a kitchen but it’s really not the same as al fresco food prep! I guess I’ll survive, inside, in my kitchen…..just like normal people!The ball making station!

So the mixture only made 10 balls which really wasn’t enough for me so just double or triple the mixture for a larger batch because they really don’t last long. Packed full of creamy coconut and ultra satisfying, I can honestly say that these are way tastier than any shop bought sweets I’ve ever had. You know what I love on top of all that, there’s no ridiculous ingredients or additives either, zero hydrogenated fats and very low in sugar. In fact they’re a very healthy treat. You know what else, coat these in some raw dark chocolate and you can say goodbye to Bounties forever!Ball station!

I just wanna persuade you to make these coconut chia balls, so here goes: they contain the amazing superfood chia and coconut, very cheap to make, no blender involved so minimal mess and super duper quick to throw together, healthy and better than a Bounty! No problemo If you don’t have any chia to hand as sesame seeds, cocoa, carob or any crushed seed or nut would work wonders as a coating. Enjoy. Delicious coconut chia balls

Vegan coconut chia balls

(makes 10 balls, yeah double this recipe!)

1 cup coconut powder
pinch of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 cup crushed chia seeds

Method:

1. Add all the ingredients to a bowl + combine well.
2. Using your hands form 10 small smooth coconut balls. The mixture should be very maleable when squeezed together but if it’s a bit dry just add a little extra coconut oil.
3. Lightly dampen the outside of each ball + roll in the crushed chia seeds.
4. Transfer to freezer for 30 minutes + store in an airtight container if you haven’t already devoured them. Consume within 4 days.

The Healthiest ‘Cup’ Cake Ever (Gluten Free + Low Carb)

A cake to celebrate!Cake in a mug

Life’s too short not to eat cake. I whole heartedly agree but life’s also too short to eat over processed junk and be unhealthy, sick and unhappy. And there really is no need to be, not when you can actually have your cake and eat it. This healthy coconut, cranberry + dark chocolate mug cake is a nutritious, protein rich, gluten free, low carb, sweet and nutty cake served mug style.

Oh, and it’s delicious, I mean really delicious. It’s the kind of deliciousness where I wish I was eating it, like all of the time. It’s in a mug, there’s a microwave involved so you know that this is minimal on the washing up and pretty quick too. I love baking with coconut flour as its gluten free and high in fibre and lauric acid which is essential for a healthy immune system, great skin and optimal thyroid function.Mug cake in a bowl

The healthiest ‘cup’ cake ever is flavoured with extra coconut, cranberries and dark chocolate purely because I believe this is a perfect combination and essential for my peace of mind! It works, take my word for it, no don’t do that, make it and see for yourself! Any variety of dried fruit, chocolate chips and nuts would work so this is great for adapting to suit your mood or the contents of your kitchen cupboard. I used coconut flour purely because I really do love it and it’s grain free but any flour would work well, as long as a cake batter consistency is achieved. Mug cake = easy

I eat this as part of my lunch when I fancy something a little sweeter, sometimes breakfast and often an afternoon or evening snack. Oh OK, I eat it whenever, because it really is that good, and healthy too, it’s definitely that.

See if you can get it out of the mug without breaking it in half like me – it’s hit and miss! Just grab a mug and have your cake and eat it, a healthy cake at that. Mug cake

Healthy coconut, cranberry + dark chocolate mug cake

(serves just you)

1 heaping tablespoon coconut flour
1 tablespoon dessicated coconut
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1/3 cup coconut milk (or nut milk of choice)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon maple syrup
sprinkle of cranberries + chocolate chips (dairy free)

Combine the dry ingredients in a mug + stir thoroughly. Add the wet ingredients and mix to fully combine. Stir through the cranberries + chocolate chips. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Eat from the mug or transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with extra sweetener. Maple syrup is good.

The Very Healthy Cookie (GF + Vegan)

The healthiest cookie there is!I’m not just saying it, these are very healthy, incredibly so. I wouldn’t lie to you. A cookie doesn’t need to be rammed full of sugar and trans fats to taste great and ‘the very healthy cookie’ is proof of that.

A creamy oat base with vanilla undertones filled with gooey chocolate and chewy walnuts. Yeah, they’re really good.A very healthy cookie

I’m so over shop bought cookies, biscuits and cakes and the ‘extras’ they seem to come with. These ‘very healthy cookies’ are pure living proof that plant powered health food does indeed taste better than processed, manufactured sweets and even white sugar laden home baked goods. So easy to put together, literally throw it all in the bowl, mix and make balls. Cookie balls!Cookie process

I love using oat flavour for the texture, creamy taste and heart healthy benefits plus humble old oats are great for stabilising blood sugar and warding off sugar cravings. There’s a little sugar in these but levels can be altered to suit your tastes, I could have actually used a little less but its entirely dependant on how sweet your sweet tooth is. Although these look like quite a dense cookie, they’re in fact pretty light and not too crumbly to bite into with a softer rather than a crisper crumbly texture. You’re not left with a lap full of cookie crumbs after munching on these. Just the way I like ’em.

Perfect gluten free, whole food snacking.Cookies + chocolate chips

The Very Healthy Cookie (GF + Vegan)

(makes 15-20 small cookies)

140 grams oat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup walnuts
3 tablespoons dark chocolate chips (I used dairy free)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons almond milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 195ºC. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the wet ingredients to the mixture, mixing thoroughly to form a workable dough. The oats will soak up much of this so add more milk if required.
3. Break small pieces off the dough and roll into balls, place on a baking tray + gently press down.
4. Bake for 10 minutes + leave to cool when removed from the oven.

Spicy Tomato Spelt Spaghetti (Vegan)

Spicy tomato spelt spaghetti Are you a creamy or tomatoey person? I’m definitely the latter but regardless, everybody needs a solid go to tomato pasta sauce in their life, I know I do. I’ve always loved spaghetti coated in a rich, vibrant, sweet and spicy tomato based sauce. It doesn’t get much better than that. It was one of my favourite meals as a kid, oodles of spaghetti piled high and tossed in a rich red sauce. I used to have fun eating it too, relishing in the fact the table was set with spoons and forks as opposed to the traditional knife and fork (why can’t I get excited over such things anymore?!). There’s only one thing I don’t like about this meal and that’s the noises, you know the ones – sucking, slurping, general pasta suction techniques, we’ve all done it. I can’t deal with my emotions when I’m subjected to this. Surely, you can ONLY do this when eating alone and isn’t this the reason why you never order spaghetti on a first date?Spaghetti topped with parmesan

This spicy tomato spelt spaghetti is a 15 minute meal that couldn’t be more simple. It’s too true, the simple things are often the best. This is so speedy, it’s quicker than picking up the phone, ordering take out and waiting for it’s delivery. A basic italian inspired tomato spaghetti that’s delicious as is but would work really well powered up with your favourite veg, especially chestnut mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, a handful of rocket or a sprinkle of lemon zest. It’s a truly versatile dish. I like to use spelt spaghetti for the lower gluten and higher vitamin content but any wholegrain pasta would make a worthy nutritious and filling meal.Simple spaghetti ingredients

In my book a perfect tomato sauce needs good quality tomatoes, a good glug of olive oil, generous garlic, correct seasoning, a little sweetness and some spice. I like it really spicy but then again I do have a slight addiction to all things chili so if you prefer it a little milder then use a little less spice. It’s a great idea to make a large batch of the sauce and freeze half as it’s so versatile you could use it for another pasta dish such as lasagne, mixed with butter beans, poured over veggies or as a base for stuffed veggies. Just a thought. Two bowls of spaghetti

So, are you a creamy or tomatoey pasta person?

What’s your view on spaghetti eating etiquette?Spaghetti twisted on fork ready for slurping!

Spicy tomato spelt spaghetti

(serve 2)

200 grams spelt spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili, finely chopped
1 teaspoon oregano + 1/2 teaspoon crushed chili
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt + pepper
generous handful of black olives
fresh basil leaves, torn

Method:

1. Place the spaghetti into salted boiling water + cook according to packet instructions.
2. Heat the olive oil + add the garlic, chili + oregano stirring until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar + seasonings simmering for 10-15 minutes.
3. Drain the spaghetti + set aside. Add some of the pasta water to the sauce if it needs a little thinning. Stir the torn basil leaves, black olives + cooked spaghetti through the spicy tomato sauce.
4. Serve immediately + garnish with extra olives + basil leaves.

The Ultimate Vegetarian Lasagne with Roasted Romano Pepper + Pumpkin

Roasted red pepper + pumpkin lasagneRuss and me cook together every night. Occasionally one of us will suggest we’ll cook alone to free the other up but we just kind of like cooking together. We enjoy it, it’s relaxing, plus it takes half the time and we get to chat about our day whilst chopping, stirring and getting ready to eat fabulous food. The thing is, yeah it’s a habit but a good one surely – well you gotta eat and we get to feast on delicious, fresh and nutritious meals every night. Cooking together is a lot more fun than cooking alone but we seem to have definitely assigned ourselves set roles, Russ does most of the chopping and salad bits and I crack on with the actual cooking, timings, table arranging, flavours and cleaning. Well we both share the cleaning but I’m starting to think I got the raw end of the deal being a slave to the hob! I’d challenge Russ to swap with me but his knife skills are too good and I always prefer salads made by another! We’ve both just slipped into these roles and seem to get on with them like a well oiled machine- funny how habits form over time without us really noticing. Maybe I’ll challenge him to get down and dirty with the cooking whilst I sharpen my knife skills….yeah maybe. He can keep the bathroom cleaning duties though, I don’t want to share that one or bin change day!Slice of lasagne

I adore vegetarian lasagne but I don’t buy into complicated lasagnes at all. To me, the most important aspects are the flavours and good quality pasta sheets. I’ve made a full on traditional lasagne from scratch before and it seemed to take an age, but this recipe is just perfect and takes less time, especially if you’ve pre roasted vegetables to hand. I have to say when cooking in tandem (Hi Russ!) there really isn’t any recipe that’s too much so I really have no excuses. However, this is so jam packed full of fresh and vibrant ingredients it really doesn’t need a lot of fuss and time.Roasted vegetables

I use a cheats white sauce to quicken the lasagne process further and only spread this on the top layer as opposed to traditionally distributed throughout. I find this enough but if you prefer a creamier dish then just double the creme fraiche mixture and add to as many of the layers as you like. The roasted vegetables give this lasagne a beautifully sweet flavour, transforming the plain old chopped tomatoes into a sweet, rich and extremely moreish sauce. I like to add a little chili for a spicier version, actually I add chili to almost everything so just ignore me.Lasagne - ready for assembly!

Here is a fact and an opinion: Fact first, this is much healthier than traditional meat lasagnes. The tomatoes, peppers and pumpkin make this dish extremely nutrient dense and the cheese, creme fraiche and lentils provide an excellent protein content too. Now opinion, well I believe this is tastier than any other lasagne by miles, meat or non meat. It’s the ultimate vegetarian lasagne.

Do you have quirky routines/habits around cooking?Lasagne + Russ' salad is perfection

The ultimate vegetarian lasagne

(serves 2 hungry people)

200 grams pasta sheets (I used gluten free)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 romano peppers
2 cups cubed pumpkin or squash
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon, oregano + thyme
1 white onion, chopped finely
1 can chopped tomatoes + 1 can water
1/2 cup lentils
chopped parsley

cheat’s white sauce:
1 cup creme fraiche + a little water to loosen
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1 cup mozzarella, grated

1. Pre-heat oven to 190ºC. Place whole peppers + squash in an square 12″ oven proof dish. Season + drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil + roast for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil, add the onion, garlic + seasonings stirring until fragrant + translucent. Add the tomatoes + water, keep on a low simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are roasted.
3. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven. Peel the skins off the peppers (they should fall off) + chop roughly. Add both to the tomato sauce.
4. In a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche with a little water + stir through the parmesan. It should be a pourable consistency.
5. Assemble the lasagne in the square dish starting with a base layer of sauce, followed by the lasagne sheets. Continue for 3 layers of tomato base + pasta. Pour the white sauce over the assembled lasagne + place in the oven for 30 – 45 minutes depending on pasta sheets used.
6. Remove 5 minutes before the end + add the mozzarella. Place bake in the oven until the cheese is lightly browned + bubbling. Serve immediately with a big salad + garlic baguette.

Keep refrigerated, delicious eaten cold + freezable on day of making.

10 Minute Fig, Walnut + Lemon Thyme Fusilli

The most delicious ingredientsSo I was gonna start this post by sharing those cherished italian memories forged during the year I lived and loved in Florence but then I realised I’ve never lived in Italy and this is but a dream! So naturally, I’m going to share information on smells and my love affair with garlic.

What is it about garlic that does this to me?! The aroma of garlic gently sizzling in olive oil has got to be my all time favourite smells. I joke with Russ that you could fry any inedible and gross food or non-food (don’t ask) in garlic and I’d eat it! We end up listing a load of rancid, disgusting ‘things’ whilst agreeing that garlic would more than likely make it irresistible! Sometimes I think we’re quite immature for our age.  There’s one smell I like more than just garlic and that’s garlic and white wine cooking together – oh my god, this does it for me big time. I’m quite the garlic fan which is just as well as when we lived in Korea we were served a lot of raw garlic and I got very involved.DSC_7068

This 10 minute fig, walnut + lemon thyme beauty has a good hit of garlic and is one of my favourite pasta dishes. I got out of the pasta habit for a while there and I’m wondering why this happened to me. Maybe it was pasta overload whilst at university because this was definitely my staple food. Or maybe it’s the wheat and gluten ‘cos I don’t like too much of that either. But really I think I just forgot how good italian pasta dishes can be with so few simple ingredients. It’s comfort food which can also be nourishing when combined with the right ingredients. I’m a big fan of spelt spaghetti (less gluten) and also brown rice varieties so I use these when avoiding gluten overload. This fig, walnut + lemon thyme dish is enough to get me back on pasta track though. The simplicity, the flavours and the aroma are so good;  sweet figs, earthy and  creamy walnuts mingling with white wine and garlic infused fusilli.Delicious fig, walnut, wine + lemon thyme fusilli

It’s healthy too, the walnuts and olive oil make this a pasta that’s packed full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. A good fat that helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels, lowers the risk of heart disease and helps to regulate our blood sugar and insulin levels. The figs are a great source of potassium and fibre and  help to reduce high blood pressure. But really figs are just beautiful, I think they’re one of the prettiest fruits around making this dish easy on the eye! Oh yes, another thing – if you use wholegrain gluten free pasta such as brown rice, whole wheat or spelt you’ll be getting an extremely fibre rich meal which will satiate, keep you full for longer and regulate blood sugar levels. This is a perfect lunchtime or evening meal with a little italian inspiration on the side.

So, what are your favourite cooking smells?Fusilli + wine = delicious

 

10 minute fig, walnut + lemon thyme fusilli

(serves 2)

150 grams fusilli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small glass white wine
2 figs, sliced
50 grams walnuts, toasted
generous sprinkle lemon thyme
parmesan, to serve
salt & pepper

1. Place the fusilli in salted boiling water & cook according to packet instructions.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat & add the garlic, cooking until fragrant. Stir in the figs & add the white wine, allowing to simmer until the alcohol burns off, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the thyme, walnuts & cooked pasta stirring through to fully incorporate.
4. Transfer to large serving bowls. Serve with a scattering of extra thyme & a generous sprinkle of parmesan

Beer Bread

Perfect with a pot of tea.
Perfect with a pot of tea.

Introducing beer and bread.

Bread making looks like such a lot of work and this always puts me off making my own. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking but not only is there already a huge variety of bread pre-made, packaged and all set for my trolley but there’s always something I’d rather make more than a loaf.  So I’ve never actually made bread and this needs to change  for several reasons. Here are three of them: 1)We all know the shop bought stuff is full of unnecessary additives. 2) I’ve heard bread making is therapeutic, who doesn’t want free therapy? 3)I just want to get good at bread!

I’m starting basic though. I thought I’d give beer bread a shot as it’s one of the few breads I can’t  find in the supermarket. Also, this beer loaf is not like those other bread recipes. No kneading, no resting and no yeast involved. How divinely simple. Sometimes you just don’t want complicated and time consuming but rather, easy and quick. Isn’t everything already complicated enough?

Easiest recipe ever, no concentration needed.

There are lots of beer bread recipes out there and most use three basic ingredients but I decided to wing it a little and came up with this. It turned out pretty good and is delicious with savoury and sweet things. Using wholemeal flour not only increases the fibre content but adds a nutty flavour too (I don’t much like white bread anyway). I brushed the top of the loaf with butter and topped with seeds mid way through cooking for added crunch and protein.  Oh, and of course I used a bottle of strong beer. I love beer and I love bread so I’m wondering why it’s taken me so long to make this easy peasy loaf!

Enjoy slathered in butter, jam or honey with a hot cup of tea.  Alternatively, serve as an accompaniment to a hearty soup.

Bread and jam collage

Now I’ve got the bread making bug. Next time I might get involved with yeast and kneading.

Beer Bread

(makes 12 slices)

375 grams wholemeal self raising flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
330 ml of BEER (I used IPA extra strength)
1/4 cup of seeds (optional but recommended!)
butter & extra seeds for coating 10 minutes before the end.

  1. Place the flour, sugar & salt in a mixing bowl and stir through the beer until well combined. If using add the seeds at this point.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a greased loaf tin and bake on 180 º C for 50 minutes. If desired remove from the oven 10 minutes before the end and brush lightly with melted butter and top with extra seeds.
  3. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

 

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