Rocky Road (Vegan Style!)

Sorry I haven’t been around much these past few weeks, but I’ve been hanging out with Lil’ L. He’s growing up fast, and since this could be the last summer that he actually wants to hang out with me, I’ve been savouring every moment. We’ve had so much fun! This week’s highlights (so far) have been hiking, biking, playing tennis, picnicking in the park, a trip to the cinema (How To Train Your Dragon 2) and playing in the kitchen :)

Last weekend we got back from our vacation and there was a postal delivery card waiting for us. First thing Monday morning, we hopped on our bikes and pedalled down to the post office. I jumped with glee when I saw that the mystery parcel was the latest The Vegan Kind Subscription Box. I couldn’t wait to do the big ‘reveal’!

The Vegan Kind #TVK10

As usual, the box was filled with interesting brands and products that I’m excited to try out. Lil’ L’s eyes especially lit up when he saw these….

Freedom Mallows

While regular marshmallows are made with gelatine (a slaughterhouse byproduct), Freedom Mallows are gelatine free, dairy free, egg free, gluten free and nut free, and thus suitable for vegetarians and vegans, as well as people with gluten, dairy and nut allergies/intolerances.

And it’s incredible how similar they are to regular marshmallows, both in taste and texture. My mum loves marshmallows and even she can’t tell the difference.

Over the winter, Lil’ L enjoyed slicing and sprinkling vanilla mallows onto his hot chocolates. This time round, we thought it would be fun to make some Rocky Road. While I stood by, Lil’ L set to work melting chocolate and coconut oil…

Rocky Road Making

…bashing biscuits

Rocky Road Making

…then adding mallows and mixing it altogether. Since our mallows were strawberry flavoured, we thought it would be nice to finish off our Rocky Road with a sprinkling of freeze-dried strawberries (which we had left over from these Chocolate Crunch Hearts).

After a couple of hours in the freezer, the Rocky Road was ready to slice and sample. It got a huge thumbs up from Lil’ L!

Rocky Road (Vegan Style)

So far this week, he’s enjoyed it as a treat snack at the cinema and the tennis courts. While it’s a little too sweet for me, Lil’ L reckons it’ll be a hit with kids or anyone with a sweet tooth. It would be great for sharing at children’s tea parties or selling at charity or school fundraisers. It would also make a lovely home-made gift for sweet-loving veggie friends, wrapped in a special box or tin

In the UK, Freedom Mallows are available from Holland & Barrett, independent health food shops (including Harvest in Bath) and online.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! xx

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Filed under Reviews, Treats & Sweets

Bringing Vegan into Vogue & The Launch of Vegan Life Magazine

In the past couple of years, there’s been a noticeable increase in the popularity of veganism and plant-based diets. I guess there’s so much information now available on the health, environmental and ethical benefits of these lifestyles that more people are feeling encouraged to give them a try.

And never slow to spot a new trend, UK businesses have been busy developing and launching all manner of vegan-friendly products. Gone are the days when I’d be lucky to find a carton of soya milk in my local supermarket. Now I have a choice of five or six vegan milks, as well as yoghurt, cream, custard, cheese and ice cream. Restaurants (even high street chains!) are now offering vegan options, while small independents are selling a plethora of vegan goodies including toiletries, make-up, shoes, sweets, cakes, holidays, and even weddings. Never has it been a better time to go plant-based!

And even in the short amount of time that I’ve been blogging, it’s been noticeable how veganism has transformed into a diverse and vibrant movement, spanning all sectors of society and age groups. It’s definitely shaken off its old stereotypes. Vegan is coming into vogue

And to help it on its way, the creators of OM Yoga are just about to launch the UK’s first ever, high street vegan lifestyle magazine.

Vegan Life issue 1 - 400

The magazine will feature lots of gorgeous recipes, articles on family life, nutrition, product innovations, fashion and beauty, interviews with top vegan celebrities and athletes, and much more besides. If you’re interested in healthy eating or cruelty-free lifestyles, then this magazine is for you!

Issue 1 of Vegan Life hits our shops on 21st August. As an introductory offer, it’s being sold in a polybag with its sister publication, OM Yoga. That means two magazines for the bargain price of £3.95! You’ll find it in Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Boots, WHSmiths and independent stockists.

Want the magazine to arrive on your doorstep? Well, there’s a subscription service starting at £14.50 for one year (instead of £32.70) which includes a fab free gift. European and Worldwide subscriptions are also available, so no one misses out.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the launch of Vegan Life, so when they contacted me about joining their Vegan Life Blogger Community, I was very happy to accept the invitation. As a Vegan Life Blogger, I’ll be able to share all the latest news on the magazine, as well as my own reviews of Vegan Life features and recipes.

Fancy a sneaky peak at Issue 1? You can check it out here.

Vegan Life Preview
Doesn’t it look fab?

Only 4 days until the launch. I can’t wait!

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Coconut Milk Ice Cream & a Fab New Kitchen Gadget

I have always wanted to try my hand at ice cream making, but sadly my freezer drawers are way to narrow to fit an ice cream bowl, and I’m just not organised enough to hand whisk at half hourly intervals. I haven’t got a Vitamix or Blendtec either, which means I can’t use the freeze and blend technique.

However, when my blogging friend Aimee Ryan (who writes the wonderful Wallflower Girl blog) recently launched her recipe book for coconut milk ice creams, I just couldn’t wait any longer. Those scrumptious recipes were calling to me and I needed to find a way to make them asap!

Aimee Ryan Coconut Milk Ice Cream

After trawling the Internet, I found an alternative option available to me – an ice cream maker with in-built compressor. These machines don’t require any pre-freezing of bowls. You simply pour the mixture in and 40 or so minutes later the ice cream is ready. These gadgets are pricier than traditional ice cream makers (which you can pick up for less than £20), but for people with freezer storage issues like me, these machines are perfect.

I especially liked the sound of the Andrew James New Improved 2 Litre Professional Fully Automatic Ice Cream Maker. The reviewers had given it 4.5/5 stars on Amazon and, while a pretty sizable piece of equipment (43cm wide x 28cm deep), I love its sleek style and cool blue LED display. My kitchen colours are red, black and stainless steel, so this gadget goes perfectly. Last Friday I took the plunge and ordered the machine…. and it arrived the following morning.

Andrew James Ice Cream Maker

I’d carefully read through all the reviews, so I knew what I was in for. The main negative was that it was a bit fiddly to slot the bowl, paddle and lid into place. These reviews must be referring to the older model though because the set up on the new improved machine couldn’t be easier. I didn’t even bother consulting the manual as it was obvious how to do it.

The next step was to choose an ice cream flavour. Aimee’s ice cream recipes are divided into five chapters:

Healthy Spins on Famous Flavours – Vanilla, Chocolate, Cashew Cookie Dough Chip, Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Brownie, Salted Caramel, Mint Chocolate Chip, Mocha

Fruity Flavours – Coconut, Mango & Passionfruit, Roasted Pineapple, Papaya & Lime, Roasted Plum & Cardamom, Pomegranate, Sweet Melon, Date, Strawberry, Caramelized Banana, Peaches & Cream, Orange, Apricot

Nut & Seed Flavours – Pecan Praline, Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl, Pistachio, Chestnut Caramel, Chocolate Hazelnut, Maple Glazed Walnut, Salted Almonds, Toasted Sesame Seed

Spicy Flavours -Fresh Ginger, Mayan Chocolate, Wasabi, Chinese Five-Spice, Sweet Curry

Aimee Ryan Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Dessert Inspired Flavours – Rhubarb Almond Crumble, Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin, Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie, Red Velvet Beetroot Cake, Coffe & Walnut Cake, Christmas Pudding

Boozy Flavours – Pina Colada, Rum & Raisin, Apple Cider, Irish Cream, Roasted Cherry & Whiskey, Mojito, White Wine

Floral Flavours -Blueberry & Lavender, Chamomile & Vanilla, Elderflower & Lemon, Orange Blossom, Rose Raspberry Ripple

Herbal & Tea Flavours – Chai Tea, Lemon Green Tea, Fresh Basil & Mint, Malted Maca Chocolate, Earl Grey

Aimee Ryan Coconut Milk Ice Cream

With all these lush flavours to choose from, we ended up practically filling the entire book with stick it notes! We’ve decided we’re going to work our way through all the recipes (adapting the boozy flavours to make them child friendly) and, to kick off our ice cream making adventure, Lil’ L chose the Chocolate and Salted Caramel flavours :)

Following reviewers’ recommendations, I chilled the ice cream maker for 10 minutes before pouring in the chilled ice cream mixture. I didn’t bother using the pouring hole. I just poured the mixture straight into the bucket, slotted it into the machine, screwed on the lid and pressed the button. You can choose different churning times and for our initial trials, I chose 40 minutes. This was pretty much spot on. The ice cream was soft serve consistency and the paddle started to have difficulty rotating.

Making Ice Cream

We could have served it straight away as soft serve, but we decided to freeze it so it could be scooped into cones. Aimee recommends storing the ice cream in a wide, shallow dish so I used my Pyrex lidded glass dish (which I’d previously chilled as my house is so hot at the moment). After three hours we checked on the ice cream, and it was ready for scooping.

All the ice cream recipes in Aimee’s book are dairy free, egg free, gluten free and vegan. Though, at the time of writing, Aimee wasn’t vegan herself, she simply believes that coconut milk makes the best ice cream. The healthiness of her recipes is an added bonus. For the Salted Caramel ice cream, the flavour and colour comes from delicious coconut sugar.  After three hours in the freezer, the consistency of the caramel ice cream was perfect. It was silky smooth and soft enough to scoop right away. And it had the most amazing caramel flavour. I find most commercial ice creams sickly sweet, but Aimee’s got the sweetness levels spot on. It was utterly delicious

Salted Caramel Coconut Milk Ice Cream

The chocolate ice cream uses maple syrup as the sweetener (as do most of Aimee’s recipes) and, in addition to cocoa powder, it has dark choc chips melted into it to add even more chocolatey goodness. As a budget-friendly alternative to pure maple syrup, I use Clark’s Original Maple Syrup, which is a blend of maple and carob syrups (around £4.86 for 500ml in Asda or Sainsbury’s (97.2p/ 100ml)). I also watch out for half price offers on Clarks pure maple syrups.

Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream 500 copy

After freezing for a few hours, the chocolate ice cream was a lot firmer than the caramel one so, as Aimee recommends, we left it on the worktop for ten minutes and I heated my metal scoop in hot water. It then scooped perfectly. The flavour was incredible! It’s by far the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever tasted, and Lil’ L said that it was easily as good as the quality ice cream he’s eaten in Italy. And I couldn’t believe it when ‘M’ enthusiastically tucked in and said how good it was. He isn’t usually an ‘ice cream person’ and tends to decline if you offer it to him. However, these coconut milk ice creams have won him over.

It’s great that Lil’ L’s on his school holidays as he makes a very handy ice cream model ;) It was pretty hard for him to resist the temptation to lick it…

Salted Caramel Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Five seconds later he caved in ;)

Salted Caramel Coconut Milk Ice Cream

I am so pleased that I finally took the plunge and got an ice cream maker. I know it’s going to get used a lot. It will probably take me the rest of the year to work my way through Aimee’s recipe book. I’m especially looking forward to trying the Christmas Pudding flavour! I’m also looking forward to making fruity sorbets, hopefully using fresh berries from my garden.

Many thanks to Betta Living for providing the ice cream maker for these tasty new recipes Both the Andrew James Ice Cream Maker and Aimee Ryan’s Coconut Milk Ice Cream recipe book are available to purchase from Amazon UK. For our US & Canadian friends, Aimee’s book is also available from Amazon.com.

Do you have an ice cream maker? If so, what’s your favourite recipe? If you’ve posted any vegan recipes online, please do share below.

Lovely readers, I just want to let you know that I’m about to take a little break from blogging & social media. I’ll be back towards the end of August. Have a wonderful summer and I look forward to catching up with you all on my return xx

 

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Filed under Desserts, Reviews, Treats & Sweets

Mezze Lunch Platter – Sun-Dried Tomato Houmous, Baba Ganoush, Confetti Salad, Marinaded Olives, Flatbreads

There’s something really fun about tucking into a platter of mini dishes, and Middle Eastern mezze contains some of my family’s all-time favourites, such as houmous and baba ganoush.

If mezze is on a restaurant menu, we’ll order it. If the platter isn’t 100% vegan, I find that the staff are always willing to substitute the non-vegan dishes. Back home, we love to eat mezze for lunch at weekends and during the school holidays. It’s also great for serving to friends when they come over for ‘drinks and nibbles’ (or ‘dribbles’ as we like to call them). Today, I’d like to share some of my favourite dishes to serve as part of a mezze lunch platter.

Middle Eastern Mezze Platter

UK supermarkets now offer a great selection of flavoured houmous, so feel free to use shop-bought houmous in your mezzes if you wish. I still enjoy making my own as I love playing around with different flavour combinations. One of my current favourites is sun-dried tomato with Dukkah spice topping. As you’ll notice in the recipe, I prefer to use water instead of oil in my home-made houmous. I find that it doesn’t compromise the flavour, yet it greatly reduces the calorie content (which is a bonus as it means I can eat twice as much ;) )

Dukkah – the Egyptian aromatic mix of nuts, seeds, herbs and spices – has become the new salt and pepper in my house, and I sprinkle it on pretty much everything. While you can make it yourself, it’s fairly cheap to buy ready mixed. No two places make Dukkah the same, so their flavours can vary a lot. A favourite of mine is made by Olives et Al. You’ll find them in health food stores and farm shops across the UK, as well as online.

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus with Dukkah Spice Topping

Baba ganoush is an aubergine (eggplant) dish, used for dipping or spreading on flatbreads. It’s usually made from the flesh only, but I prefer to blend up the whole aubergine. I think the skin adds to the flavour and texture of the dish, as well as adding more nutrients and fibre (feel free to omit the skin though if you prefer!)

Tahini is an essential component of houmous and baba ganoush. It varies in flavour and consistency depending on the brand. Some tahinis I’ve tried have been too bitter for my taste. My current favourite brand is Achva (available from Tesco and Morrisons). This tahini is creamy, has a beautiful flavour and a pourable consistency (so great for dips and dressings).

Baba Ganoush

The salads on mezze platters tend to be dainty so I make a ‘confetti salad’ of finely chopped cucumber, tomato and red pepper. On top, I drizzle one of my all-time favourite home-made tangy creamy dressings. The dressing is oil-free, and the creaminess comes from ground hemp seeds. The hemp also adds a lovely boost of protein and omega 3 to the salad.

Confetti Salad with Creamy Tangy Hemp Vinaigrette

And the final dish is full of beautiful olives. My favourite olives are those marinaded in herb or spice-infused extra virgin olive oil. Once the olives have been eaten, the oil can be used for dipping bread, mixing into pasta or drizzling on pizzas.

Olives et al Olives

Olives et al kindly sent me some of their new Smoky Chipotle Chilli Olives to try. These feature whole Amphissa olives, marinaded in extra virgin olive oil infused with Chipotle chillis. They were so tasty, and perfect for me as the chilli flavour is very subtle. I find that supermarket marinaded olives can be a bit ‘hit and miss’, but I’ve loved every single jar of olives that I’ve tried from Olives et al. They have an amazing selection so, if you’re in the UK, do check it out.

Mezze Platter

 Do you like mezze? If so, what are your favourite dishes?

 

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Filed under Healthy Snacking, Lunches & Light Dinners

Healthy Snacking – ‘Crispy Kale’ (Kale Chips) with Gomasio

One of my first ever blog posts, back in June 2011,  was about ‘crispy kale’ and, to this day, it remains one of my all-time favourite snacks

While a lot of health food bloggers are currently enjoying raw kale salads or kale smoothies, my taste buds aren’t quite there yet. I do, however, LOVE crispy kale and will happily munch my way through handfuls of the stuff.

Crispy kale is also one of the best ways I’ve found to encourage Lil’ L to eat kale. I often put a bowl out as a starter or as a side dish and, before I even get to sit down at the table, the whole lot’s been demolished!

Kale

Over the past three years, I’ve been refining the way I make my crispy kale. In the early days, I had the oven temperature too high, so the kale would quickly burn on the edges. I’ve slowly lowered the temperature from 180C, and found 150C to be spot on – the kale becomes totally crispy with no burned edges or soggy leaf in sight.

Making Crispy Kale - About to go in the oven

Roasting the kale at the lower temperature also makes it stay crispier for longer. In an airtight container, it will stay crispy for a couple of days. (I’ve only trialled storing it for test purposes mind you, as there’s never any leftovers in my house!)

Crispy Kale (Kale Chips)

My favourite way to serve crispy kale is with a touch of salt, sugar and sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds. I tend to grind the sesame seeds first, as it helps them to stick to the kale leaves. As you probably know, ground toasted sesame and salt is a Japanese seasoning called ‘gomasio’. You can buy it ready made in health food stores, but it’s super simple and cheap to make yourself.

Gomasio (Toasted Sesame Seeds & Salt Seasoning)

I use gomasio as a seasoning for lots of our Asian dishes, including stir fries. Since I like to liberally sprinkle it on, I only add a small amount of salt. I find that toasted sesame has a great flavour anyhow. It just needs a touch of salt to make the flavour ‘pop’.

Thanks to the two main ingredients – kale and sesame – this is one super healthy snack! Just one cup of cooked kale provides 354% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, 89% of the vitamin C, and 1328% of vitamin K! Kale also provides good amounts of calcium and iron, as well as protein, dietary fibre and omega 3 essential fatty acids. Sesame seeds are also packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, rich in minerals including calcium and iron, and a good source of protein, dietary fibre and B vitamins.

Crispy Kale (Kale Chips)

Here’s the recipe for what is, for me, the perfect crispy kale. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Crispy Kale (Kale Chips)

Do you make crispy kale / kale chips? If so, I’d love to hear what your favourite seasoning is. Have you tried Chinese, Mexican or Indian spices yet?

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