Sugar and spice and all things nice…

Once upon a time I felt overwhelmed and a little intimidated making desserts or cakes. I think it’s because, generally, I have more of a savoury than a sweet tooth. I feel more at ease with savoury ingredients and more comfortable with their blends and with how they behave.

Lately, I’ve been cooking a few different desserts; as winter approaches my husband and I have definitely re-discovered a sweet tooth and the love of a sweet treat with a cuppa.

I have – quite by chance – stumbled upon three random recipes all of which have been absolutely sensational. All of which have been easy to cook and all of which have turned out to be delicious without any real skill on my part. In short – they are my perfect sweet treats because I can make them without any real stress about whether or not they are going to turn out like I’d hoped. I feel satisfied, now that I have these three in my repertoire – that I have an option for a dessert, an option for parties / snacks and an option for a good cake that I can roll-out if ever needs be.

2016-06-04 18.25.14First up – let’s start with the dessert for dinner parties / friends or just happy filled bellies. This is a vanilla, lemon flan.

It was supposed to be a cheesecake but I cooked it for too long. And the result was amazing. If you like the texture of a firm custard flan you’ll love this. If not so much – just cook it for a little less time than in the recipe! I cooked it for about ten minutes longer than in the link which might also have made it more of a flan than a cheesecake.

The recipe was from this wordpress site (Click here) but if you look you’ll see the results are quite different. I played with the recipe a little and put my own spin on it (mainly because when I cooked it I didn’t fancy the berry flavour).

What did I do differently?

The base:

  1. I blended up my own version which included: Half cup organic muesli, half packet ginger biscuits, Cup macadamias, half cup almond flakes, 5 dates, tablespoon maple syrup and 2 tablespoons almond nut butter. Blend all together and adjust to taste.

The filling:

  1. I forgot to buy two tubs of tofutti but did have 500gm or medium firm tofu in the fridge. So i replaced the recipes suggestion of 2 tubs cream cheese and 300 (ish) grams of tofu with 1 tub tofutti and 500gm medium firm tofu (thus the slightly firmer texture I believe).
  2. I used slightly more sugar than in the recipe and put in 1.5 cups
  3. I added in a tablespoon of vanilla bean paste on top of the essence
  4. I used cashew nut milk as my nut milk
  5. I also added half cup psyllium husk powder to the recipe to assist with the setting as I am always dubious about whether it will set! (my own personal achilles heel is things never setting like they are supposed to)

The topping:

  1. Instead of the topping in the recipe I used this amazing soyatoo whipping cream and whipped a whole carton with about half cup icing sugar, vanilla bean paste and lemon juice (to taste). It was sensational.

Thank you mungbeans for that amazing recipe! If you follow all the steps in the recipe you will definitely enjoy the fantastic flavours!

cake12-1200x750.jpgNext up – quite simply the most amazing vegan pistachio cake. This was soooooo good my husband and I baked one on the saturday, devoured it, and made another one the next day. Its insane. Kudos to this recipe. The only thing I changed was that I also added about a cup of whole pistachios into the cake mixture as I like the extra texture and flavour that they added. Recipe here.  This is the photo from the recipe page and – amazingly – it turned out to look exactly like this. How often does that happen? Not that often in my kitchen.

Finally – we come to another new fave – the good for snacks / great for easy bake super tasty vegan chocolate ginger recipe which basically works just as well as a cake OR as2016-05-29 14.02.52

brownies.You can spin it either way depending on the tin you use or the way you slice it.

The recipe – again – is super easy and quick. It takes me about ten minutes to prep this and get it in the oven.

Chocolate Ginger Cake / Brownie

  • 180g plain flour
  • 35g Cacao (or cocoa powder)
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 1/4 teaspoon himalayan pink salt
  • 225g coconut sugar
  • 112ml coconut oil
  • 225ml water
  • 2tsp vanilla extra
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • Generous handful chopped crystallised ginger
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

For the topping:

  • Finely crumbled gingerbread biscuits (4-5)
  • Handful icing sugar to sprinkle

Its super easy….

  1. Pre heat the oven to 170c (using a fan oven) and grease your baking tin of choice. Line it with non stick baking paper.
  2. Sieve the flour, cacao, bicarb, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl. Stir to combine and make a well in the middle.
  3. Separately blend (I used an immersion blender / hand stick) the oil, water and both vanillas.
  4. Add the ginger to the dry mix.
  5. Add the wet mix into the dry mix and stir gently until combined.
  6. Then – and you’ll need to be quick about this as there will be a reaction – add the vinegar into the mix and gently combine it. It will start to sort of fix and change colour.
  7. Once combined pour into your tin and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked through.
  8. Turn out once cooled and place on a rack to completely cool.
  9. Then sprinkle over the biscuits and icing sugar.
  10. Devour when still a little warm with a cuppa. MMMMMMmmmmm.

This is sooooooo good.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I enjoyed making (and eating them!!!!) They were so yummy and I actually can’t wait to have a chance to cook them for someone other than myself or my husband! We might need to share these calories around a little.

Love and kilojoules ++++

K.I.S.S – Applying the Principle in my Kitchen

This weekend its been about simplicity. Post a very hectic and slightly stressful week – I wanted to make delicious but easy food that would put a smile on my face.

I have a love of trying complex dishes, testing myself with new and interesting ingredients and putting something together that I would never have thought up on my own.

However – that’s all well and good when you have the energy and the time. But what about when you just want yummy food with minimal effort.

K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid). 

And thats just what I did.

I had an amazing girls night on friday night with two lovely friends and that’s what gave me the idea. We had a rice paper roll night where we all bought different ingredients and laid them on the table and just assembled and ate as we chatted and put the world to rights. At the very last minute – about 10 mins before I left the house to meet them – I decided to make a dessert as I had some random ingredients laying around that I thought might just work together….

2016-03-12 19.15.19.jpgHere’s what I made…4 Ingredient Banana Chocolate Mousse. It took me 5 minutes and that might be exaggerating. And it made enough to serve 5 small serves (at about 300 calories a pop).

How? So easy that your 10yr old could make it.

  1. 2 frozen bananas
  2. 1 bag Sweet William Chocolate Chips
  3. .75 of a tin of ayam light coconut milk
  4. 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Simply melt the choc chips in the coconut milk. Place in microwave for 40 secs (or in a saucepan) to heat the milk and then – once warm – tip in the choc chips and stir until melted. Put aside and let cool for a minute. Then chop the frozen bananas and pop into blender with the coconut milk 2016-03-12 08.38.09.jpgand maple syrup. Add the choc mix to it and blend away. It will become mousse-like in consistency. Then – simply pop into serving utensils and put in fridge to chill (if you can wait that long). So yummy and chocolately and banana-ery. Amazing. Not great if you don’t like a strong banana taste…but otherwise faultless in taste versus effort stakes. I sprinkled a handful of walnuts on top when I served them.

Inspired by the simplicity of this recipe – I then tried another dessert – just now. Having previously made ice cream in an ice cream maker – I was a little suspicious of blender-made banana ice cream. How wrong I was….will I ever go to that much effort again I wonder after the ease and taste of this dish.

Banana Ice cream (vegan):

  1. 2 frozen bananas
  2. 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  3. half cup nut milk (I used brazil because I make it at home and its my fave but any would work)
  4. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2016-03-13 14.57.01.jpgAs before – simply chop the frozen bananas then pop everything else in the blender together and blend. Bob’s your uncle. It takes about 3-4 mins to blend and the consistency will change from thick to light and fluffy. And its amazing. Why spend $$$ on buying a vegan ice cream when you can just whisk up this little bad boy at home. I think it would be awesome sprinkled with nuts or with dark choc mixed into it. I think the skys the limit here. And – what’s more – its only about 6o calories a serve with hardly any sugar in it. WINNING.

Finally – something savoury. Many many moons ago my friend Terri had a house warming party in Manly and her housemate at the time made a spinach dip that I still remember. It was creamy and yummy and served in a cob. It was also laden with cream, mayo and cheese….which probably aided the indulgent flavour. Its been years and I’ve never yet tasted a spinach dip that was its equal.

However, after looking at a bag of spinach in the fridge yesterday and thinking I was going to have to throw it away (and I HATE wasting food) or get creative I decided to google ‘spinach dips’ and to veganise one. What I came up with was so yummy that even my dairy loving hubby thought it was delish.

Creamy Vegan Spinach Dip

This was definitely the most complex of the 3 recipes cooked; however it was still achieved in under 10 mins! So I think that still counts.

  • 10 ounces fresh spinach
  • half cup cashews (raw)
  • 1 red onion (medium sized)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Half teaspoon onion powder
  • juice half lemon
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Corn starch to thicken (if you need it)
  • Teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon oil (your choice)

2016-03-12 19.18.36So…how to achieve this yummy dip (that vegans and non-vegans alike will love)

  1. Pop the cashews in your blender with half cup luke warm water and leave for 5 mins.
  2. Roughly chop the spinach, the onion and the garlic.
  3. Fry the onion gently so it doesn’t colour in 1 tablespoon coconut (or olive) oil. Then add the spinach and the garlic and gently cook until it wilts.
  4. Finally – squeeze the half lemon over the wilted spinach.
  5. Go back to your cashews. Blend the water and cashews together. Then add the nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, salt and pepper and blend again. It should be slightly thick and not runny. If its too runny feel free to add more cashews or more nutritional yeast. Just make sure its nice and smooth.
  6. Add the spinach mix into the cashew mix a bit at a time and blend merrily away until its a lurid amazing green in colour.
  7. If its too runny – mix cornstarch / cornflour with a little water in a mug and add to the mix and blend again. This will help to thicken and stabilise it.

Then simply serve…I had it hot with fresh bread – amazing. It ended up becoming dinner as I couldn’t put it down. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

So there you have it. K.I.S.S in action. I am so pleased I did. 3 yummy dishes with really minimal effort and hardly any cost (or calories). Hard to beat that combination.

Until next time. Happy blending. 

 

 

 

 

An Indulgent Sunday…thx to my husband

This morning, whilst wandering around Coles, my husband got an idea for a dinner treat for us both this evening.

He loves a pear; poached, stewed or otherwise. He decided to make a deconstructed pear crumble and I was onboard. 100%.

Whilst he busied away making all the component parts (I am most grateful), I set about making my ‘veganised’ version of the dessert. So we ended up with two versions; one vegan, one not.

Non dairy friends

Non dairy friends

Thanks to the help of some ‘friends’ purchased at the Cruelty Free Shop (pictured left) I was able, with very little actual effort to make up a delish and creative vegan dessert. If you feel like a quick and easy vegan dessert – this is a great starter for ten. I would totally serve it up to my friends at a dinner party. Its super easy and stress free.

How to do it? Here you go…(It makes 2 servings each time)

2015-10-18 14.59.42Chop pears into cubes, then poach pears (1 pear per person) in water with about 1 tablespoon brown sugar, scraped vanilla bean pods (1), and a pinch of cinnamon until they are ready….basically just a little firm and not squishy / mushy. Set aside.

In each glasse (see pictured) place crumbled muesli (of your choice) about a handful. Top with vegan custard (I used the Alpro pictured) using a piping tube to your taste in terms of amount. Then add half of the pear cubes in each glass saving 3-4 per glass to top it off. Then pipe about a tablespoon of the soy dulce de leche on top. Add a little more crumble (muesli), some lemon zest, the leftover pear cubes and a pinch of cinnamon and hey presto.

Ready for a delicious treat!

Ready for a delicious treat!

For those looking to preserve their weight – these little babies are about 350 calories per dessert. Not something to be eaten 3 times a day as a staple but not ridiculous in terms of calories and sugar.

Roll on dessert and thanks to my lovely husband for the idea and execution.

There’s no such thing as too much peanut butter…

There have been a spate of birthdays in the office of late and – as the resident vegan (one of two) who loves to cook – I’ve put my hand up to cook vegan and gluten free goodies for the birthday girls. Mainly because I love to cook, partly because it means I can join in and a little bit because I like to show everyone that good desserts are still good even without butter and eggs….

The absolute truth

The absolute truth

Oddly enough – and through no deliberate train of thought – all three cook-offs have involved peanut butter. Lots of it.

I have to confess I am a peanut butter fan. I always have been and I always will be. Any way it comes – but preferably organic and really crunchy.  In fact this image pretty much sums it up. I have always spread obscene amounts onto my toast whilst also simultaneously cleaning the spoon (and sometimes having one on the side).

I love the glaggy way way it sticks to the top of your mouth. I love the way it gets stuck in your teeth. I love the way it melts on warm toast and above all – I just love how it tastes. Give me peanut butter over jam any day of the week. 

So – it was no hardship whatsoever for me to create peanut butter based desserts / sweet goodies for my workmates – although it did no favours whatsoever for my current get-ready-for-wearing-a-bikini-on-holiday diet.

So – this is a blog about peanut butter. My own personal homage to it. I’ll share the three recipes I cooked and I leave it to you to improve on them / improvise / share them and salivate over them – as I did.

First up – Peanut Butter Cheesecakes courtesy of the Minimalist Baker

2015-06-01 17.09.08First up – make the bases. These are delish. I made them with vegan and GF oreos that I picked up from coles. Super yum. This isn’t the best photo ever but you get the idea.

  • 10 ounces crushed oreo cookies
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (or sub melted or vegan butter) (i used the oil)

Next up – make the filling. This stuff is delish. NOT all of it made it into the cheesecakes. Chef’s special dispensation to try some of course.

The filling was actually surprisingly easy to make – the key is to make it really really smooth. Don’t be afraid to blend it to within an inch of its life as the cashews can make it a little grainy otherwise.

  • 1.5 cups raw cashews, soaked in water 4-6 hours then drained
  • 1 lemon, juiced (scant 1/4 cup)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp full fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or agave nectar (I used the former)
  • 1/3 cup salted natural peanut butter (creamy or crunchy (I totally used crunchy)

2015-06-01 18.29.11

Keep following instructions (Again…full recipe here) and finally put together the ganache. This was my fave – OMG. WHo knew that coconut milk and vegan dark chocolate would be such a taste sensation.

  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dairy-free)
  • 3 Tbsp full fat coconut milk, warmed to a simmer

Finally – put these bad boys together and stick in the freezer to set.

2015-06-02 17.09.56A few tips from me:

– Blend a lot until its super smooth

– Don’t make them too big – I used a rather large muffin tin which made quite large portions which – although delicious – were very rich and maybe too big a portion. Mini muffin tin portions would have been better I think or even ONE BIG 2015-06-01 18.40.46cheesecake style of dessert.

– I didn’t bother with the topping in the recipe – just too rich and a little too decadent for me – I just used leftover dark choc chips saved from the ganache

– Be sure to use enough baking paper (See image on the right) to pull them out of the tin when they are ready…Mine was a little too skinny and a number of them broke when pulling which made removal rather an interesting proposition.

Still – all that said – they were (quite possibly) up there in the top 3 desserts I have made. Smooth, decadent. delicious and delightfully peanutty. Yeah,

OK – so I promised three ways with peanut butter…what are the other two?

I was watching a cookery show with the english chef – Lorraine Pascale. I love her presentation and cooking style and the fresh way she presents food. However – not a great deal of what she cooks is vegan – but thats ok because I can play around with the ingredients to ‘veganise’ it myself!

Watching a show on foxtel I jumped on record when I saw this recipe being cooked: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/peanut_butter_squares_17553.pdf

2015-06-28 10.47.55

So – next up – Lorraine Pascale’s Veganised Peanut Butter Squares.

These are uber delish and so easy to make its bonkers. However – note to your thighs – these are not to be eaten like grapes. At 300 calories a pop I ate far too many of these on Sunday when I made them.

I leave you to look up the recipe but the ingredients are really simple:

150g (5 oz) butter (I used nuttelex buttery)
200g (7 oz) plain (at least 60% cocoa solids) or milk chocolate (or a mixture of both) – I used dark vegan chocolate
250g (9 oz) digestive biscuits – I used a brand of vegan shortbread style biccies I love (I don’t really think it matters which ones you use)
200g (7 oz) soft light brown sugar
300g (11 oz) crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

It literally took me no time at all to whip these up and they were amazing. And – when I took them into work – they 2015-06-28 06.23.20disappeared very quickly so sighs of utter delight (and disbelief that they were vegan).

I went back the next day expecting to sneak a morning snack with a cuppa and they were gone. Which actually made me smile and more than a little happy to know they were enjoyed.

And so – this leaves me with the final treat of peanut devotion – no bake vegan peanut butter brownies. Admittedly – there was actually no peanut butter in this recipe – again by the minimalist baker. 

3. No bake vegan peanut butter brownies

I just decided that peanut butter would add a little something something and so interpreted it myself with the addition of crunchy peanut butter (organic and low salt).

The recipe – again – was pretty simple (I don’t often go in for uber complex) and I found the recipe really easy to follow and cook.

2015-06-28 14.56.34BROWNIES
  • 1 cup (93 g) + 1/2 cup (47 g) raw walnuts, divided + more for topping
  • 1 cup (150 g) raw almonds
  • 2 1/2 cups (~425 g / 15 ounces) dates, pitted (if dry, soak in warm water for 10 minutes, then drain)
  • 3/4 cup (60 g) cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp cacao nibs + more for topping (I didn’t use these at all)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • My addition – 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • My addition – 2 tablespoons coconut flour as I found the mixture a little wet
GANACHE FROSTING
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) almond milk (I used coconut)
  • 1 cup (~175 g) dairy-free dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (or sub vegan butter), melted
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

2015-06-28 06.20.05These were so easy to make and – i confess – as I found the mixture a little wet – I did actually end up baking them for 15 mins on about 170C just to firm them up a little.  Again – these two disappeared into my belly, my husband’s belly and those of my workmates in very short time. And there were certainly none wasted. If only these were good for you. I’d eat them a lot. 

Tips:

– I added coconut flour to the mix as I found it a little wet

– the addition of peanut butter was awesome

– I roasted my walnuts (the topping) before sprinkling over to bring out the flavour

– I baked the no bake brownies (eek) because I felt like they needed it and didn’t trust they were going to set as firm as I wanted them to – only for 15 mins on 170C – just enough to warm them through and set them slightly

And that’s it folks. My homage to all things peanut butter. If only there were a vegan masterchef – I reckon some of these bad boys would give the desserts on the show a run for their money. So good and so worth the time and the experimentation.

Thanks to Lorraine and thanks to the minimalist baker. Amazing food, fantastic recipes.

If you have any peanut butter kick ass recipes to share – please do. I repeat – you can never have enough peanut butter in your life 😉 

Desserts and my Achilles Heel

I can’t believe its been nearly 6 months since I began this journey. Its gone so quickly and I’ve adjusted so much that it now seems weird that I ate in any other way.

I feel super healthy, my weight is great, my hair and skin and nails are in great condition and I’ve haven’t even had so much as a sniff of a cold the whole time (and yet have been surrounded by colds at work and home). Life is good.

However, until this weekend, there was one thing I hadn’t attempted and certainly didn’t feel confident about, and that was vegan desserts.

I’ve happily completed my quest for a vegan cheese that makes me smile, I’ve tried and tested a few seitan recipes and settled on one I love (which I’ll share later in another post) and I feel like I have tried and loved (most) of the new recipes and food stuffs I have discovered. Desserts and baking, however, remain a little bit of an achilles heel for me.

My husband will happily concur that my biscuits are a litte dry, that the vegan avocado choc mousse I made was a little gritty and odd and that some of the other sweet treats I have attempted generally haven’t sent anyone mad with delight about how tasty they were….

This weekend, however, I tried a recipe from The Unbakery, the best bloody vegan recipe book ever. I mean it quite literally. Its amazing. Go out and buy it! I am not even sure its a vegan cookbook as its focus is on raw food but 99.9% of the recipes are nonetheless vegan (and phenomenal).

mango torte and soy good ice cream with fresh mango

mango torte and soy good ice cream with fresh mango

The recipe in the book was for an Apricot and Ginger Torte which I was cooking to take to a friend’s dinner party for dessert. I was more than a little nervous knowing my skills in the dessert department are not especially strong. Oddly, and not entirely safely, I decided to amend the recipe, removing the ginger and exchanging the apricot for mango. This was a risky little move given my past success rates but, oh my, it really really paid off.

The recipe (original and with my variations) is below. it was painstaking but it was so very very worth it. Sure – my could have done with a little tweaking and, sure, the cream could have been a little smoother (my blender conked out half way through one of the stages)  but overall it was insane and I would 100%  make it again. The perfect dinner party dessert.

So…my changes to the recipe were:

Base – removed the dried ginger and doubled the vanilla bean. Also – added dark chocolate chips into the mixture. Just a handful.

Cream filling – Didn’t have fresh coconut flesh so took the extra cashew recommendation. Didn’t use the filtered water and instead used more almond milk. Used the agave option (instead of maple syrup or the suggested honey). Used mangos instead of apricots.

original recipe from the unbakery book

original recipe from the unbakery book

Doubled the vanilla bean and vanilla essence. Added veg set (1 teaspoon) to the mix as didn’t trust it would set (didn’t trust myself I had done it correctly…).

Syrup – didn’t make one. Just used the juice from the fresh mangos instead. And grated dark chocolate over the top to decorate.

OVERALL TIPS:

– I made 1.5 of everything as it wasn’t quite enough to fill my cake tin

– I made the base the night before and set it in the fridge

– The filling literally takes about 6hrs to set in the fridge so you can’t rush it!

If you decide to make it – have fun! It was completely worth the effort and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat!

Enjoy the calories. This is not a dessert for dieters!

the finished deliciousness

the finished deliciousness