Chocolate Granola Clusters with Hazelnuts, Pecans and Cranberries

Today, I’d like to share another of my family’s favourite granola recipes. Filled with hazelnuts, pecans, cranberries and chocolatey goodness, this granola is perfect for this season.

Chocolate Granola Clusters with Hazelnuts, Pecans & Cranberries

My garden is bordered by cob nut trees, and this year they produced the most amazing crop. I made a deal with the squirrels whereby I would collect nuts from the low hanging branches, and they could have the rest. They then got to work, burying nuts all over my lawn and flower beds, and in my plant pots. Invariably they forget where they’ve buried them and we end up with nut trees growing literally everywhere!

Cob Nuts

I’m not going to complain though. Nut trees are awesome!

And once they’ve matured, cob nuts are very similar in taste and texture to hazelnuts, so I put them to good use in yummy recipes, like this granola.

Hazelnuts

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Lil’ L loves home-made granola, especially when it’s formed into clusters. It’s so easy to make. You simple press down the mixture as if you’re making a thin granola bar then, once completely cooled, you break it into clusters.

Granola Cluster Making

Our favourite sweetener for granola is maple syrup. This adds a delicious caramel-like sweetness, rather than a ‘sugary’ flavour. I use Clarks Original Maple Syrup, which is a blend of maple and carob syrups. It’s widely available in the UK, and a fair bit cheaper than pure maple syrup. I really like its flavour and consistency, which is slightly thicker than the pure grade syrup.

Granola Clusters

These granola clusters are wonderful for breakfasts, snacks and desserts. For breakfast, we like to serve them with natural non dairy yogurt (such as Alpro) or milk. For an omega-3 boost, I often add a light sprinkling of ground linseed and finely chopped walnuts before serving. I also sprinkle in a few extra cranberries to brighten up the bowl.

Chocolate Granola Clusters with Hazelnuts, Pecans and Cranberries

Layered with yogurt and fresh or frozen fruits, the clusters also make a delicious dessert or after-school snack. They look really fancy yet take literally seconds to throw together!

Chocolate Granola Parfait

Products used in this recipe (UK stockists)
Mornflake Superfast Oats, available in Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and The co-operative (Gluten-free oats are available from the ‘Free From’ aisle in major UK supermarkets and health food stores)
Tesco Buckwheat (found in the wholefoods section) (Buckwheat is also available in health food stores and online)
Biona Coconut Sugar, available from health food stores and online
Dried Cranberries (sweetened with pineapple juice), available from the wholefoods sections in Tesco and Waitrose
Clarks Original Maple Syrup available in Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s
Essential Organic Virgin Coconut Oil (available in health food stores and online)

Enjoy! xx

 

4 Comments

Filed under Breakfast & Elevenses, Desserts, Healthy Snacking

Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender Review & Reader Offer

Of all my kitchen gadgets, hands down it is the blender that gets most use. At least once a day I use it for blending smoothies or soups, as well as for grinding oats, nuts, seeds, making ice cream, chia puddings and much more besides.

Until now, I’ve always used mid-range blenders but, since the beginning of this year, I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with them. I don’t know if it’s just bad luck, but I’m finding that after about a year of use (usually just as the warranty expires), either the motor burns out or the jug starts leaking. I need a blender that’s powerful, reliable and going to last a good few years. After all, it’s not great for the environment (or my bank balance) if I’m having to buy a new blender every year.

When the jug on my latest blender started leaking a couple of months ago, I seriously started to wonder whether it would be worth taking the leap and investing in a high-end professional blender. I started to look around at options and was excited to discover that the Australian company Froothie had just launched in the UK.

Froothie Optimum 9400 Blenders 500

I’d heard great things about Froothie, and their Optimum 9400 blender has been pitched as the number one rival to Vitamix. While it has a similar spec to the Vitamix 500 series (even slightly better!), with a price tag of £329, it’s over £250 cheaper. Though double or triple what I’ve spent on blenders in the past, if the Froothie lasts even a few years, then it would actually be saving me money in the long run.

Optimum 9400 v Vitamix

[Source]

As well as looking for reliability and longevity, I also had a few niggles regarding the performance of my mid-range blenders which would hopefully be resolved with a professional high-end blender.

Optimum 9400 White 400 pix

I was recently in touch with the Managing Director of Froothie UK & Ireland and he kindly arranged for an Optimum 9400 to be sent to me so I could check it out for myself. For the past month, I’ve been using the Froothie and comparing it with my existing blender. It’s now really obvious to me what you get for the additional investment. Here’s a lowdown on the main differences I’ve found…

Power
My mid-range blender is described as having “an incredibly powerful 1,200W motor”. With a 2,238W motor, the Froothie has almost double the power. In fact, it is so powerful, that it can blend stones! You can imagine how Lil’ L’s eyes lit up when I told him this. He was dying to try it out but since I didn’t fancy filling my Froothie with stones, he had to be satisfied with watching the video demo instead.

 “The Optimum 9400 has an extraordinary 3 Horse Power motor able to easily withstand the toughest ingredients and outlast most other domestic blenders”


Noise

With my mid-range blenders, I’ve found that more power = more noise. My existing blender is so noisy that it makes my ears ring. The Froothie is noticeably much quieter.

The Blade
All my mid-range blenders have had a four prong blade which, in my experience, hasn’t been wide enough. Food gets stuck around the sides of the jug and I have to keep stopping to scrape down. The blades also tend to sit too high from the base of the jug, which means that unblended food gets stuck under the blade. Compare this to the Froothie blades which are so wide that they almost touch the sides.

Blades in Jug Blenders Collage with text

The Froothie also has two extra blades positioned underneath the four blades, which means that nothing escapes the blend. Never again will I finish the pouring of my smoothies with a ‘plop’ as rogue pieces of banana land in the glass.

Froothie Optimum 9400 Blenders Blades

Speed
I’m not sure of the speed of my existing blender, but I know it’s not fast enough to blend cashews into a smooth cream. I can never get beyond a ‘gritty’ texture, which isn’t nice for frosting or ‘cheesecakes’. The Froothie has a speed of 44,000 RPM, which is even faster than the Vitamix. There’ll be no gritty creams in this kitchen from now on.

The Jug
Mid-range blenders tend to come with a plastic (BPA) or glass jug. Since I’m not a fan of BPA plastic, I chose glass jugs for my last two blenders. The trouble is, they’re extremely heavy (2kg). When full, I have to use two hands to lift them and it’s tricky to pour. The Froothie comes with a BPA free plastic jug which, at 1kg, feels positively light compared to my glass one.

Froothie Smoothie Making Collage

Tamper Tool
My mid-range blenders have never come with a tamper tool, which means that I can’t add large amounts of light ingredients like spinach, nor can I fill them with frozen ingredients, as the blade just whizzes round and never touches them. I’ve used the Froothie tamper tool so much this past month that I can’t imagine going back to a blender without one. In the Froothie, soft whip ice cream and frosted smoothies are blended in a flash.

Heating and Freezing
Incredibly, the Froothie has the ability to heat soups and freeze ice cream. My mid-range blender doesn’t have these magical powers.

Reliability
As I mentioned at the top of this post, I’ve wasted a lot of money on blenders that have lasted little over 12 months. My latest blender lasted even less time. It started leaking from the base of the jug within 10 months. It was still under warranty so I got the jug replaced. I’ve only been using it for a few months, and the new jug has already started leaking. Though I’ve only used the Froothie for a month, I have confidence that it’s going to last years. It’s a commercial grade blender that’s used by juice bars and cafes to churn out hundreds of smoothies each day. Though I’m classed as a ‘heavy domestic user’, I’m sure it’s going to cope with my 1-2 times daily usage.

Comparison of Blender Jug Bases with text
“While ordinary blenders have a fan motor that runs at maximum power at all times, leading to rapid motor burn out, the Optimum 9400 uses a proprietary carbon brush motor optimised to only use the power demanded – so you get a motor life of decades rather than months.”

 

Here are a few of the extras that have given me further reassurance…

One Month Trial – Froothie offers a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee (including postage). No questions asked.

5 Year Warranty – This comes as standard but can be extended to ten years (for a fee), or an additional two years for free (see end of post for details).

Support – An expert team is available by phone, Monday to Saturday, 9am – 7pm, with plans to extend the opening hours to 7 days a week, 6am-5pm.

Froothie Optimum 9400 Blender

Each blender also comes with a complimentary copy of ‘Deliciously Raw’, an 82-page recipe book of quick ‘n’ easy recipes by Carmella Soleil.

I am so impressed with the Froothie – the design, the quality of the build, the power, the speed, the customer service. When they invited me to become one of their Ambassadors, I was happy to jump on board. I’m very careful about the companies I promote on my blog (hence why there are so few adverts) but I’m proud to display my association with Froothie.

Bit of the Good Stuff Reader Offer
As a Froothie Ambassador, I’ve been able to negotiate a great offer for my readers. If you purchase a blender via a link on my blog, you will receive an additional 2 years warranty. That means a total of 7 years warranty! To qualify for this offer, at the time of purchase you need to mention in the comments section that you’ve been offered an extended 2 year warranty via the Bit of the Good Stuff Ambassador. In return for introducing my readers to Froothie, I will receive a commission which I’ll re-invest back into Bit of the Good Stuff. Many thanks in advance for your support.

If you’d like to find out more about the Froothie Optimum 9400, and watch it in action, check out the video below. They even show a fork lift truck driving over the jug and it still doesn’t crack!

What’s your experience of blenders? Has yours been reliable? How often, on average, do you use it? 

14 Comments

Filed under Reviews

Autumn-Inspired Apple and Almond Breakfast Smoothie

After an exceptionally warm and summer-like September and early October, Autumn has finally arrived in Bath. The Virginia creeper seems to have magically transformed overnight from lush green to vivid red, and the river and canal paths are littered with crunchy brown leaves and horse chestnuts. It most certainly is a beautiful time of year

First Signs of Autumn 4

And though the weather has cooled off a little, I’m still enjoying my daily smoothies. I often have them as a breakfast or lunch on the go, so I add ingredients like nut butters and chia seeds for protein, slow-release energy and to keep hunger pangs at bay. Lil’ L also enjoys smoothies as an after-school snack or evening dessert.

One of our current favourites is this Autumn-inspired Apple & Almond Smoothie (which I shared on The Road to Less Cake last month).

Apple and Almond Smoothie

The nut butter, yogurt and chia seeds add a delicious creaminess to the smoothie as well as packing in lots more nutrients. The smoothie provides a good dose of protein, fibre and heart-healthy fats (including omega 3), as well as antioxidant vitamins C and E, and trace minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium.

And another great thing about this smoothie is that you can sneak in a handful of spinach and it doesn’t affect the taste at all!

Until recently, Lil’ L hasn’t been a fan of green smoothies. He likes his smoothies to be the ‘right’ colour. In his eyes, berry smoothies should be pink or purple, while pineapple or mango smoothies should be yellow. For him, a berry smoothie that’s bright green is just wrong. However, one day it dawned on me that I might get away with adding spinach to our usual apple and almond smoothie. Apples can be green, right?

Green Apple and Almond Smoothie

I decided to give it a try when he arrived home from school one day. Here’s how the conversation went…
“Hi!” I call out. “I’ve made you a smoothie!”
“Great! Thanks!” he replies enthusiastically. I hand him the smoothie and there’s a pause, followed by a despondent “Oh…. it’s green”.
“Yep, it’s a green apple smoothie. Give it a try. I’m sure you’ll love it”.
With trepidation he takes a sip. “Mmm, it’s really nice!” he says with surprise. Then there’s a pause…. “So what’s making it green?”
Darn, 10 year olds are sharp. Clearly the ‘green apple’ thing won’t wash with him, so I decide to own up and tell him it’s spinach. He thinks about it for a moment then decides it doesn’t matter after all. Green or not, it tastes really good.

Hallelujah, the green smoothie hang up is finally over! In hindsight, I wish I’d introduced green smoothies when he was much younger. That way, he would have grown up thinking that green berry or tropical smoothies are normal. Never mind, he’s on board now and I’m really excited to try out lots more concoctions over the coming weeks (especially as I’ve got an awesome new blender to play with).

So if you’ve got any green smoothie phobes in the family, I highly recommend trying this one on them. Start with a small amount of spinach so it’s a delicate light green rather than scary green and see what they think (just don’t mention the spinach until they’ve given it a thumbs up ;) ).

Products used in this recipe
Alpro almond milk and natural yogurt, available in major UK supermarkets
Meridian almond butter, available from Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Ocado and health food stores
Chia seeds, now available from Tesco, Ocado, health food stores and online (I knew the supermarkets would catch up ;) )
Clarks maple syrup, available from most major UK supermarkets

10 Comments

Filed under Breakfast & Elevenses, Drinks, Healthy Snacking

Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies (Dairy-free / Vegan)

I was going to share a recipe for my favourite almond breakfast smoothie today, but chocolate cookies seem far more appropriate for a Friday ;)

I also had a special six year old in mind when I made the switch. Like me, he has a dairy allergy, but he’s also allergic to nuts and seeds. I’ve been posting lots of recipes with nuts lately, so it’s high time I redressed the balance.

This time of year, I love using dried cranberries in my baking. In cookies, they glisten like little rubies, especially when set against a backdrop of dark chocolate.

Double Choc Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Until recently, I found it difficult to find dried cranberries that weren’t laden with cane sugar. However, I’m really pleased to see that the supermarkets like Tesco and Waitrose are now stocking cranberries sweetened with pineapple juice in their wholefood sections. To me, they taste far nicer than the sugar coated fruits.

Cranberries

These double choc chip cookies taste pretty decadent, but they contain lots of good stuff. The wholegrain flour and oats provide protein, fibre and slow release energy, while the cocoa and cranberries add antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Double Choc Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Freshly baked, the cookies have a crisp outer shell and warm, fluffy interior. They firm up in time, but are equally delicious. The cookies freeze really well too. I often freeze half of the batch so I’ve got a ready supply for lunchbox treats, afterschool snacks and coffees mornings with the girls.

These cookies have been a big hit with friends and family. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Double Choc Chip Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

I just need to work out how to gluten free these cookies now, and we can all tuck in. If any GF vegan bakers can share their wisdom, it would be very much appreciated!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone xx

9 Comments

Filed under Baking & Desserts, Treats & Sweets

Stuff I’m Loving – Autumn 2014

The market for tasty, healthy snacks and dairy-free alternatives seems to have exploded this year! Honestly, every time I visit the supermarket the ‘free from’ aisle seems to grow bigger and bigger! I love checking out new products and sharing my favourites with you in these posts. I also love to hear about your new discoveries so please do share them in the comments section below. I’m always on the look out for new things to try!

Here are five yummy goodies that me and the family have been loving lately…

Ombar Organic Coco Mylk Chocolate Bar
Dairy free / Gluten free / Vegan
Individual bars (35g) £1.99
Ombars are no ordinary chocolate bar. They’re made with raw organic cacao which not only gives them rich flavour, but also means that each little bar is packed with antioxidants and minerals. The bars are gently sweetened with organic coconut sugar (perfect for me as my body tolerates cane sugar less and less well these days) and some of the bars, like the Coco Mylk and Strawberries & Cream, also include probiotics (‘friendly bacteria’).

Ombar Coco Mylk

I’ve loved all the flavours I’ve tried so far but my absolute favourite has to be Coco Mylk. With its creamy flavour and melt in your mouth texture, it’s like a high quality milk chocolate, yet its 100% vegan. While the bars might seem pricey for their size, the chocolate is incredibly satiating, so I find that a little goes a long way. Since Coco Mylk is my favourite flavour, you can imagine how delighted I was to find a bar in my latest TVK Box!

TVK11

Ombars are currently available in the UK in independent health food stores and online.

Propercorn Sweet & Salty
Dairy free / Gluten free / Vegan
Individual bags (30g) – 75p, Family bags (90g) – £1.59
Lil’ L and I had never tried sweet and salty popcorn before, so when a packet arrived in our August TVK box, we couldn’t wait to tuck in! We were amazed at how well the flavour combo works, and loved how the brown sugar coating gave the popcorn a light ‘crunch’ as you bit into it.

Propercorn Sweet and Salty 400

Since Lil’ L discovered that Waitrose sells Propercorn, a family size bag seems to magically appear in my shopping basket every week. It’s his favourite treat for movie nights and, since it’s so light, he also likes to stash a bag in his backpack for school trips and biking adventures.

Lil L's Propercorn Snack Stop

Propercorn individual and family bags are currently available in Waitrose; individual bags are available in Tesco.

Nakd Bars
Dairy free / Gluten free / Vegan
Individual bars (35g) 75p; Multipacks (4 x 35g) £2.70
My family are big fans of Nakd bars and I like to keep a stash in backpacks and handbags for snacking on the go. I love how they’re made of 100% natural ingredients (basically raw fruits and nuts squashed together) with no added sugars, syrups or oils. They come in nine flavours and there are three in particular that I absolutely adore – Cocoa Orange, Cocoa Mint and Caffe Mocha. The packaging’s really cool too!

Nakd bars

In the shops, you can buy individual bars and four bar multipacks. Selection boxes are also available from the Nakd website. I love the ‘Find Your Favourite’ box which has one of each bar in the range. It makes a yummy treat for health conscious friends. I recently sent one to a friend that was going travelling as a ‘bon voyage’ gift.

You can get great deals on Nakd bars in the UK supermarkets, so I stock up whenever I spot them on offer. This month, Waitrose are offering two bars for £1 and two multipacks for £4.

Lil' L Nakd Bar Snack Stop

Oatly
Dairy free / Vegan
Oat drink (1 litre) £1.39-1.49; Organic Creamy Oat (250ml) 75p
I’ve only recently discovered the Swedish company Oatly, but they’ve been making oat drinks since the early 90s. In Sweden, Oatly is the number one milk substitute, and they’re rapidly growing in popularity here too. There are currently five Oatly products available in the UK. The Organic ‘milk’ only has three ingredients – oats, water and a little salt. For those that prefer fortified ‘milks’, the one in blue packaging comes fortified with calcium and vitamins D2, riboflavin and B12. There’s also a dairy-free alternative to single cream called ‘Organic Creamy Oat’, which is perfect for drizzling on desserts and can also be used for cooking.

Oatly has recently had a re-brand and the new packaging is really cool!

Oatly range

The Oatly ‘milks’ are available in most major UK supermarkets, and the cream alternative is currently available in Tesco and Waitrose. Since they have such a long shelf life, I like to stock up on the UHT ‘milks’ when they’re on offer. Both Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are currently offering multibuy deals (3 for £3; 2 for £2).

Hoots Snacks
Dairy free / Vegan
Individual bag (38g) £0.60
We first discovered Hoots through the September TVK box, and were delighted to meet the team behind this delicious snack at London VegFest last weekend Hoots sell a range of oven baked snacks made of wholegrains and mixed seeds (all free from added colours, flavours, preservatives and MSG). The pickled onion flavour is lush! For me, it tastes like a healthy version of my favourite childhood junk food – Pickled Onion Monster Munch! Lil’ L loves them too, and has enjoyed taking them to school and on trips as a ‘treat snack’.

Hoots Pickled Onion Snack

They’ve only recently launched in the UK and aren’t widely available, so I’ll update this post once they launch nationwide (Fingers crossed that will be soon!)

Over to you, lovely readers Have you discovered any new yummy plant-based products lately?

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

18 Comments

Filed under Healthy Snacking, Reviews, Treats & Sweets