April ‘Appenings

Can you tell I’m struggling to think up a title each time for these monthly posts? I will still need another A for August and just the one was hard enough.

I’ve resorted to improper English. Say it in a Yorkshire accent and I reckon it just about works.

So yes it’s the end of April. Already! Wow that really did fly by. So what’s happened for me this month? Apart from a new haircut, bleached to blonde and dyed back to brown again, that’s about it. Yes that’s the most exciting my life really does get. Not forgetting time spent gathering up the best bits to share with all you lovely readers.

I feel like I’ve neglected the blog recently, I’ve been ferrying around London and and up and down the country on trains, so there hasn’t been much time in my kitchen for some recipe crushing. Well, there has been a few baking attempts, majority of which ended up in the bin, let’s just forget about those. But panic not. I have some things waiting in the pipeline. A new dip recipe – perhaps I should change the blog name to ‘In Homage To Hummus’ it’s becoming a recurring theme – and talking about beans, a little sweet treat for that 4pm afternoon slump. For now, here’s what’s been ‘appening this April.

 

#1 Black patent trench coat, M&S

April showers. The saying has never rang truer. The past four weeks have included weather from all the seasons, sun, warmth, clouds, rain, hail, wind and snow. YEPP you read that right. It makes getting dressed in the morning incredibly difficult. A huge winter puffer coat isn’t really necessary (it’s still not packed away for winter yet…) but a light leather jacket is just too thin, and I don’t care about functionality there is no way I’m wearing a rain coat or pac-a-mac. Ok, it’s trench coat time. I bought this coat last year from M&S, before any mumsy thoughts pop into your mind your mum would have to be pretty sassy to wear this for the school pick up. A black patent trench coat, that squeaks when you move your arms. I just love it. Having been a fan of a classic trench coat for a few years, that beige colour that goes with EVERYTHING, this little black number is here to mix things up a bit.  And no you can never have too many shoes, coats and handbags. I will sit firmly on that mantra.

 

#2 Sunflower Seed Milk

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Have you ever made your own nut milk? If not and you need a little help, see this post, if you’re not a newbie perhaps it’s only almond you’ve attempted. Cashew maybe has been blitzed or you’ve even stretched as far as hazelnut (that in a chocolate milkshake would be utter heaven). I’m a bit obsessed with seeds lately, I’m trying to reduce my consumption of nuts as sometimes it becomes a bit excessive (particular when in the form of nut butter) so I seem to be turning towards their seedy friends for a dose of protein and healthy fats. I’ve been seeing many fellow bloggers making hemp seed milk recently, I reckon it would be lush and creamy, but alas I had ran out of hemp seeds. It’d been a good while since I last had a nut milk DIY sesh as I’m not entirely sure it works out any cheaper, it is a bit of a messy faff, it’s not fortified with vitamins and minerals we’re missing from not eating dairy but ignoring all of that the taste is miles miles better. I soaked some sunflower seeds for around four hours, drained and added 4 times the amount of water, a pinch of salt and blended it all up. A quick strain led to a subtle flavoured milk, lightly sweet which of course was drank up wayyyyy too quickly. Give it a try, pumpkin seed milk will turn out a lovely pastel green and sesame seeds will have that bitter toasty flavour we love so much about tahini. It’s not an everyday thing, but once in a while some proper nut and seed milk is called for.

 

#3 Masterchef

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Masterchef is back, and it doesn’t get tougher than this. Although it seems only moments ago when it was last on telly. I love a good TV competition and the fact that this one also includes food, well it’s a no-brainer. John Torode and Greg Wallace host the UK version of the show, I’m not sure if it’s me but has Greg been coming out with some ludicrous innuendos this time around, a bit much for the BBC I would have thought, and he’s definitely no Nigella. It’s the perfect week night show that you can lie on the sofa and let your mind wander, forget about the stressors of everyday life and get stressed instead at the contestants making yet ANOTHER chocolate fondant that isn’t cooked enough and instead serve a plate of molten goo. Find it on BBC 1 or catch up on iPlayer.

 

#4 The First Mess cookbook

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I’ve been a fan of Laura Wrights’ blog, The First Mess for some time now. A vegan plant-based centric delight to your eyes and your belly, using beautiful produce and no weird meat substitute business. Her cookbook came out earlier this year and with it being published in America and Canada and not here in the UK, I had to wait WEEKS for it to arrive. Oh but the wait was worth it.  I’ve already earmarked a number of recipes, particularly the miso turmeric chickpea scramble, fluffiest multigrain pancakes, sunshine crackers and a whipped chipotle lentil dip, all of which will be made ASAP. The photography is beautiful and everything looks doable with no need for fancy machines like dehydrators and sprouters which are a common feature in most vegan books. Take a look at her blog with the same name, The First Mess and follow her on Instagram @thefirstmess.

 

#5 Asparagus

What? It’s asparagus season? Perhaps my favourite of the vegetable family that I wait around allllllll year for, then fit it into as many meals possible between the months of April and June. Breakfast, lunch and dinner it will be sneaking onto my plate. FUN FACT: ever noticed that your wee smells after eating asparagus? It seems only 40% of us, more likely in women, have this ability to smell the particular whiff, all due to having a certain gene. I’m of the more dominant 60% of the population and don’t understand what all the fuss is about, but if you can smell it or not, it is definitely not going to affect my consumption. Green asparagus is most common here, but in the Mediterranean countries white asparagus tends to be a speciality and if you’re very lucky you might even come across the purple variety. Make sure to use it before we lose it again for another year!

 

For us in the UK it is the time of many bank holidays, the very beginning and very end of the month, time to spend picnicking, playing in parks, cooking up feasts and an extra day to relax (or party hard and spend the day in bed recovering). However you wish to spend yours, enjoy it fully with all of your heart doing what truly nourishes your soul.

Until then.

X

 

The new nut milk

Here’s a little quickie, more of a method than an actual recipe. The recent rise of people going dairy free or cutting down on dairy consumption with a switch to plantbased milks has grown exponentially. I personally have no issue with dairy, and wouldn’t cut it out of my diet as #1 I have done it before and it was pure evil, #2 I love yogurt and cheese too much. Like way way too much!

Also what’s wrong with cows milk, why is it being picked on so much recently by the media and certain health food bloggers and famous instagrammers? Are you avoiding it because someone else said you should or because you want to eat a ‘cleaner’ diet avoiding dairy, gluten, sugar and processed foods. Well perhaps take a peek at the ingredients list on your favourite almond milk brand, those ingredients sound very natural to you? Take a look at the side of a cows milk carton and whats on there, only one ingredient. Milk. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Now I’m not shunning plantbased milks, as I always have them in my fridge, nor am I shunning cows milk as even though its not my milk of choice I would anyday rather eat a cows milk yogurt over coconut or soya and a good chunk of cheddar cheese always hits the spot. I’m trying my best recently not to forbid anything in my diet because that just leaves guilt around certain products, if I fancy cheese, have some. Of course that small chunk isn’t going to make you fat, infact it is full of calcium and protein and satisfies that need so you’re not going to go crazy over the deprivation.

I feel that varying your diet up as much as possible is the best way to go, perhaps don’t start drinking plantbased milks for the so called benefits, do it because they can actually taste pretty good. Find the right brand and you’re onto a winner. If its a nut milk, one with a higher percentage of nuts is obviously the one to go for, otherwise it will be mainly water and possibly a bit of sugar completely lacking in any nutty flavour. Obviously it depends on your price bracket, I always like Rude Health and Plenish  as they taste plain lovely, but if you’re after something not extortionate in price or what you can just pick up in your Tesco Express then opt for Alpro unsweetened and Oatly is a good oat milk option. For the cheapest of the bunch if you’re not vegan or intolerant of course go for cows milk, I always like organic and full fat. We have so many options nowadays so chopping and changing between milks leaves our palates interested and not stuck in a monotonous rut!

For those of you fancying a bit of DIY? Maybe, if you are into your nut milks, and balk at the price of the good ones (when we’re talking £4 for a carton, that’s going a bit ridiculous), you can try making your own. Much easier than you might first think. All it requires is some nuts or seeds, water, a blender and a nut milk bag (failing that a clean tea towel).

It sounds quite the hassle, but there’s not much hands on time, and its quite fun to have a go for yourself. Even if you only do it the one time it’s worth a shot. Possibly some people do make their own nut milks on the regular however most people simply don’t have time for that. In that case do buy one from the supermarket, but this stuff tastes completely different to what you are used to, and it’s easy to get hooked!! Super creamy, so much more than supermarket brands, you can sweeten as you desire, use nuts or seeds that you would never discover on a shelf (toasted pecan cinnamon milk anyone?) and the process is so simple that it will give you a chance to get creative.

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Feel free to mix up the nuts, walnuts are lovely, or for a green hue to your milk try pistachios, sesame seeds have a lovely flavour and hazelnuts too. Perhaps try toasting your nuts or seeds prior to soaking for a deeper nutty aroma, or add other flavourings such as cinnamon, cardamom, cacao powder or blended fruits.

As the nuts have been soaked, real nut milk doesn’t keep as long as store bought. My carton in the fridge of a shop bought milk has kept for weeks with no hint of a sour, off flavour, whereas you may notice after 5 or so days the milk goes slightly sour. Not so great! So drink that up quick, it won’t be an issue as you will be drinking it at every opportunity you can find.

 

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Somebody’s been peeling beetroots!

 

When it comes to quantities I usually opt for 1 cup of nuts or seeds to 3-4 cups of water, depending on how thick or thin you like it. If the nuts are quite expensive you can use more water for a thinner milk but you get much more so it lasts longer. Try pouring on your porridge for some creaminess, splashed liberally over your muesli or granola, dunk warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, or just drink it chilled and straight up from the glass. If you like a higher protein content, you can leave the nuts in and miss out the straining step, that way it will be even richer and creamier. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to give that baby a good shake before using, as there’s no stabilisers or emulsifiers it will separate.

 

Almond and sesame milk

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw sesame seeds

 

Method

  1. Place the almonds and sesame seeds in a bowl and cover with water and a pinch of salt, put a plate on top and leave to soak overnight or for around 8 hours
  2. After the soaking period, drain the nuts and seeds and rinse well under water. Add to a blender and pour on top 3 cups of fresh water (not the soaking water).
  3. Blend well until it forms a creamy milky coloured liquid and there are no large chunks of almonds left. If you don’t have a stand blender add the nuts, seeds and water to a large bowl and blend with a stick blender, this may take a little while longer.
  4. Pour through a nut milk bag into a large jug or bowl and squeeze until all the liquid has passed through. You will be left with a damp flour left in the bag.
  5. Put the milk into a few screw lidded jars or a clip top bottle for up to 5 days in the fridge.
  6. Try to use up the nut pulp, put a heaped spoon in your smoothies, use it in bakes such as muffin recipes or macaroons, dry it in a low oven to make into almond flour or add to hummus and there’s even recipes to make nut cheese. Go wild.

 

I hope you will give homemade nut milk a chance to see how delicious it really can be, but don’t forget about our first friend cows milk he’s a fantastic breakfast fellow too. Whichever milk you choose, splash and pour with vigour, enjoy the gentle sweet creaminess and remember if you like it, that’s all that matters!!

Which variety of milk is your go to? And have you ever made your own nut milk before, let me know your ideas and tried and tested favourites in the comments below.

Much love and slurping!

X

 

Cookie cravings

Let’s cut straight to the chase.

Cookies

Banana. Peanut butter. Chocolate.

That is all my friends, and it sure is a good’un

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I don’t know about you, when I come to baking a so called ‘healthier’ snack or treat it gives me serious anxiety and stress before I’ve even made anything. Then don’t get me started on whether it’s cooked when pulled out the oven or if it will taste any good or just end up in the bin. A tight chest, knot in my stomach and usually tears ensues, makes me wonder why I bother in the first place.

Well that’s my issues laid out on a plate. Back to the recipe at hand.

It is known by most that baking is a cheap hobby. White flour, butter, caster sugar and eggs are typically the main ingredients to feature in a homemade bake. All friendly on the purse, leave your tastebuds happy however there’s not much going on the nutritional side of things. So when it comes to everyday snacking I want to find something wholesome, full of fibre, healthy fats, a littlleeee bit of sweet (NOT TOO MUCH) and just tastes real good. I love hummus and crudités, some full fat yogurt or banana/apple drizzled with nut butter they’re all great. But sometimes you just need that satisfaction that comes in the form of a baked good.

And chocolate, always chocolate.

Finding a recipe for something along ^^those^^ lines seems pretty easy to begin with- a quick google – factor in that you want it free from refined sugar and LOADS of things pop up. Look more closely and the recipes tend to just replace normal sugar with equal measures of expensive ‘healthier’ sugars like maple syrup and coconut sugar. I will keep this short – and will do a post on where I stand in the big bad world of sugar soon – however we need to keep the amount of added sugar in our daily diets down to a minimum. I’m looking at you honey, agave and dates too!!

If you do find a recipe that has reduced sugar and isn’t drenched in syrups, from my experience they’re always dry, unpalatable and claim to be ‘better than the real thing’. Course they ain’t. There’s no butter for starters. Bird food comes to mind, basically loads of nuts and seeds, and millet that’s what birds like isn’t it?

I’ve had a bit of an obsession with the blog Oh Lady Cakes recently, when I stumbled across these cookies, let’s say trail bar. As rightly pointed out by my mum they’re yummy but if you’re expecting a cookie you would be severely disappointed. FAIR ENOUGH. So trail bars it is! I altered the original recipe slightly to omit the maple syrup, the added banana chips sound divine, but sourcing some which aren’t deep fried or coated in sugar is like finding the holy grail, so instead I used coconut flakes and cacao nibs instead of the peanuts. Walnuts chopped up would add nicely to the ‘Chunky Monkey’ vibe going on.

So a base of mashed bananas, peanut butter, oat flour and rolled oats leaves these trail mix bars moist with that chewy claggyness you expect from a peanut butter cookie (I’m selling these really well aren’t I). To sweeten slightly I used some medjool dates (they’re a great source of fibre however still very high in sugar so don’t go overboard) and whizzed them up with the nut milk to form a date paste. They’re subtlety sweet but not teeth achingly so, AND only sweetened by fruits which makes me even happier. You don’t want to over bake these otherwise they will be like sawdust.

We want some goo. Goo is good.

All in all, the stress came – they smelt good, and looked good but the idea of them not tasting good always kills me as I hate to throw expensive ingredients away – but alas it swiftly left, as on the first mouthful I knew I was onto a winner.

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Pre their short stint in the oven

 

So by all means bake these *ahem* cookies, they’ll last on the counter or in the fridge for a good week. If you’re like me and they live up to your cookie cravings and you’re not expecting it to be a proper COOKIE COOKIE (ya know what I mean), then by all means here’s a recipe for banana, peanut butter and chocolate cookies.

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However if you want a wholesome snack that doesn’t lure you into a false pretence of being a cookie, only to be severely disappointed afterwards as it contained oats not butter and sugar, then here is a recipe for a banana, peanut butter and chocolate trail bar. Most definitely NOT a cookie.

Same same, But different.

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Banana, peanut butter and chocolate trail bars/cookies (it’s your call)

Ingredients

  • 1 large very ripe banana
  • 140g peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 80g medjool dates
  • 55ml milk (I used oat milk)
  • 120g oat flour (weigh out the oats and whizz to a flour, I did this in my Nutribullet with the milling blade on)
  • big pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g rolled oats
  • handful of coconut flakes/desiccated coconut
  • two handfuls of chopped dark chocolate (at least 70%)
  • a handful of cacao nibs (can omit if you like, I like them for crunch and a deep bitter cacao flavour)

Method

  1. Mash the banana in a large bowl and whisk together with the peanut butter and melted butter.
  2. In a blender whizz up the dates with the milk to form a paste and mix this in with the banana mixture.
  3. Add in the oat flour, bicarb and salt and mix with a spoon to make a sticky batter.
  4. Fold through all the other ingredients until distributed evenly, then cover and pop in the fridge for around 1 hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 160C, line two baking sheets with baking paper.
  6. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop out the mixture, roll into a ball and flatten into a thick cookie shape. Repeat until all the mixture has been used up. (You can of course lick the spoon but don’t eat it all!!)
  7. Bake in the oven for around 12 minutes until lightly browned around the edges but still underdone in the middle, this is what makes them stay gooey.
  8. Leave to cool on wire racks then store in Tupperware either on the side or in the fridge. Or pop in the freezer wrapped well where they will keep for a few months, just leave to defrost before eating, or put back in the oven for a few minutes to crispen up the edges and leave the chocolate nice and melty.

I like these obviously with a cup of tea (I’m Brtish), sometimes a rooibos, a chai rooibos or even a green tea (JUST DON’T DUNK!!). Sometimes only milk and cookies will suffice, so those days I pour myself a small glass of chilled milk, usually plant based or raw cows milk if we have some, with one of these.

Lovely

Much love and *hopefully* less stress in your baking ploys

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