Orange Spiced Hot Chocolate (Dairy-free / Vegan)

For my last recipe of the year, I thought I’d share one of our favourite Winter drinks – Orange Spiced Hot Chocolate. It’s really easy to make and tastes amazing!

I love the chocolate and orange flavour combo, especially this time of year 
How about you? 

Orange Spiced Hot Chocolate

You can buy ready-made orange flavoured hot chocolate blends, but I find they often contain a lot of cane sugar. I don’t tolerate cane sugar well these days (especially in drinks) and just one cup of the shop-bought blends can leave me feeling queasy for a good hour or so, which is no fun at all :/ My sweeteners of choice for this drink are coconut sugar or maple syrup. Both add a delicious caramel-like sweetness to the drink.

This winter, my preferred milk for this drink has been Oatly. Just a few seconds of whisking produces the most amazing froth! I buy the long life ‘Ambient’ cartons that are fortified with calcium, riboflavin, D2 and B12 (the one in the blue carton).  The Oatly milks contain very low levels of gluten so, if you’re super sensitive to gluten, it would be best to use another milk such as soya, almond, rice or coconut drinking milk. I’ve used all of them, and they all work well in this drink. It’s just that some are thinner, and some froth better. All taste good though!

Orange Spiced Hot Chocolate

 Have a wonderful Christmas everyone
I look forward to catching up with you in 2015!


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

Lemon Water, Fruit Juice and their Effects on Teeth

A couple of years ago, I decided to switch my first drink of the day from coffee to something a little more gentle. The coffee was proving too harsh on my empty stomach, leaving me with an uncomfortable ‘racy’ feeling. On the internet, I came across numerous health websites describing warm water and lemon as ‘the perfect morning drink’ because of its associated health benefits, including its ability to cleanse our systems, flush out toxins, stimulate digestion, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system.

Warm Water and Lemon

[Photo Source: 16 Health Benefits of Drinking Warm Lemon Water]

 So I made the switch from coffee to warm water with a slice of lemon, and my stomach was thankful …  However, what I didn’t realise until very recently was the damaging effect that this seemingly gentle drink can have on teeth.

About a year ago, M switched his morning drink to warm water and lemon too. Unfortunately, at his latest dental check up, the dentist was shocked by the extent of enamel erosion to his teeth. This damage has only happened in the past twelve months, and the dentist suspected that the culprit was the lemon water!

The dentist explained that the acidity in lemon softens tooth enamel and can cause erosion. If we brush our teeth soon after consuming the drink, the enamel is still soft and can easily erode. This enamel can never be replaced. When it’s worn away, it exposes the underlying dentin (making the teeth look hollow and yellow) and can cause sensitivity and cavities.

M has little time in the morning before he heads to work, so he’s likely to be brushing his teeth within 15 minutes of finishing his breakfast i.e. when the enamel’s still soft from the lemon water :/

The dentist gave us a few tips on how to minimise the risk of enamel erosion from acidic drinks…

  • Don’t brush your teeth for at least half an hour after the drink (many dental websites suggest it’s best to leave an hour before brushing)
  • Rinse your mouth out with water
  • Brush your teeth gently
  • Use a straw to limit the drink’s contact with the teeth
  • Chew sugar-free gum (this stimulates saliva which helps to neutralise the acidity)
  • Drink water frequently during the day to help wash away acid and prevent a dry mouth (as saliva is needed to neutralise the acid)
  • Try to limit acidic drinks to meal times only, to give the mouth a chance to restore to its optimal pH level (the dentist drew a graph to illustrate this point to me, which was helpful indeed!)

Since it has such a severe effect on teeth, M and I have decided to ditch the warm water and lemon altogether, and we now drink a cup of herbal tea instead. To be honest, I’m enjoying this as much as the lemon water, and my stomach has been fine too!

Herbal Tea Health Benefits

[Photo Source: Herbal Tea Benefits]

 While lemon has one of the highest acid contents, it’s worth bearing in mind that other fruit juices and soda drinks are acidic too.

This issue of enamel erosion got me thinking about the amount of fruit juice that Lil’ L drinks. Typically, he’s been drinking a glass of juice with his breakfast, plus a carton of juice with his lunch. After our main meal, we usually make a fruit smoothie too (using whole fruits and non dairy milk/yoghurt).

In addition to the acid, there’s a large amount of fructose in fruit juice too. There’s been a lot in the media lately about the excessive amounts of sugar we’re consuming and how it’s affecting our health. Before, I’d only really been concerned about ‘added sugar’, but too much of any sugar can be harmful to us.

This past week, I’ve made a couple of changes to Lil’ L’s juice consumption:

  • In the morning, he has a glass of orange juice (fortified with calcium) with his breakfast. I make sure he has breakfast at least half an hour before he brushes his teeth.
  • The carton of juice in his lunchbox has been replaced with water. At the moment, he doesn’t like taking fresh fruit to school, so I make sure that his lunch contains vitamin-C rich vegetables instead (like red pepper) to aid the absorption of iron.
  • Fruit smoothies are now drunk with a straw

For now, I’ve been using a plastic straw which I rinse out immediately, but I’m on the lookout for a quality, reusable straw. You can buy reusable straws in so many different materials these days, including glass, stainless steel, silicone and even bamboo!

I’m thinking that silicone is probably the most child-friendly. I found these ones on Amazon, which sound perfect for Lil’ L.

Greenpaxx Silicone Straws

GreenPaxx Cool Straws

 I’m also planning to get a straw cleaner, so I can make sure the straws are thoroughly cleaned out.

Next on the ‘to find’ list is a good quality, small size, eco-friendly water bottle that fits in his lunch bag and won’t leak. Now that could be a tall order 😉 Any recommendations will be very gratefully received!




Herbal and Fruit Tea Giveaway!

Since ditching dairy, M and I have become avid drinkers of herbal and fruit teas. For me, herbal tea is the ultimate ‘comfort drink’ as it leaves me feeling so great on the inside

As well as being gentle on the stomach, I find it to be super hydrating, which has helped me stay headache-free for years.

Herbal Tea

Our drinks cupboard is literally brimming with boxes of tea, and I’m always keen to try new flavours.  This winter, we tried Ginger tea for the first time, and it was a big hit with both of us!

To help kick-start our healthy new year, I have a great selection of herbal and fruit teas to give way to one of my lovely readers, courtesy of Whittard of Chelsea.

Whittards Fruit and Herbal Tea Selection

There are six teas in the selection: Organic Peppermint, Blackberry & Elderflower, Apple & Mango, Organic Rooibos, Organic Camomile, and Acai & Goji Berry. The 48 individually-wrapped tea bags are packaged in a stylish keepsake tin.

Whittards Fruit and Herbal Tea Selection

I personally like all the teas but, if I had to choose a favourite, it would be Organic Peppermint. I love drinking this tea after meals as I find it really helps to aid digestion. The Acai & Goji Berry was a new-to-me flavour, which I really enjoyed. If you like fruity teas, I think you’ll love this one!

Whittards Herbal and Fruit Tea Selection 1

To be in with a chance of winning the Healthy Teas Gift Tin, leave me a comment answering the question featured in the Rafflecopter below. Do make sure you tick the box in the Rafflecopter to register that you have done so! 

If you’re new to Rafflecopter, it’s pretty easy! Click on ‘Use Your Email’ and enter a name and your email address (rest assured it won’t be published anywhere). If you wish, you can log in via the Facebook button. A quick demo of how to use Rafflecopter can be accessed via this link.

There are a number of additional ways you can enter in order to increase your chances of winning. You will find these listed in the Rafflecopter. All entries will be verified prior to the winner being selected.

The giveaway is open to all UK residents, aged 18 and over (so sorry international readers!)

The closing date is Thursday 23rd January 2014 at midnight GMT.

Good luck everyone! xx

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclaimer: I was sent a gift tin for review purposes. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.


Our Wildlife Garden & Summer Fruits Energy Shake (‘Breakfast in a Glass’)

What a glorious summer we’ve had this year! After a spell of wet, overcast summers, it was such a refreshing change to have blue skies and sunshine for pretty much the whole of July and August.  I absolutely loved it and took every opportunity I could to be outside, making the most of it

The plants and insects clearly loved the weather too!  This year, I decided to let the failed ‘veggie’ patch grow wild and turn it into a little haven for wildlife.

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 1 500

The whole summer it’s been a hive of activity, filled with all manner of bee, butterfly and beetle. We’ve also had baby toads and slow worms living in there too!

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 3 500

Does anyone know the name of the yellow plant below? I think it’s beautiful and it doesn’t get munched at all. As soon as I know its name, I’ll add it to my list of slug and snail resistant plants 🙂

'Veggie' Patch Aug 2013 4 500

We’ve also had success growing raspberries in the patch 🙂 A generous friend gave me six plants earlier this summer, and by late August they were already producing fruit. This raspberry is golden yellow in colour, which seems to make it less appealing to the birds. While the leaves of the plant have been munched, the fruits haven’t been touched at all!

Raspberries September 2013

Normally at this time of year, I would be out on my bike foraging for blackberries, but this year there was no need. By leaving the garden wild, we ended up with our own bumper crop!

Blackberries 4

In the mornings, I’ve been enjoying energy shakes for breakfast, made with a cup of freshly picked blackberries. By adding in some oats, ground almonds and chia seeds, the shake becomes a very satisfying ‘breakfast in a glass’. The additions make the shake so filling that I don’t get hungry all morning!

Blackberries 3

This shake also makes a fantastic post-exercise recovery drink and after-school ‘snack’ to revive energy levels.  I find they’re especially useful as a filling, energy booster on weekday nights when Lil’ L has after-school activities and dinner is going to be served late.

Blackberry Shake 1 500 copy

These smoothies have been a great way to encourage Lil’ L to eat berries. He still won’t go anywhere near whole berries (it’s a ‘texture thing’) but he’ll happily gulp them down in a shake. When he was little, I used to blend the berries and milk first, then strain it to make it completely smooth before blending in the remaining ingredients. These days, he’s happy to drink the smoothies straight up, pips and all!

Here’s how we make them:

And to make to even more scrumptious, I like to top off my shake with some ground cacao nibs 🙂

Berry Shake with Cacao Nibs 1 500 copy

The Good Stuff ♥
Blackberries – Fantastic immunity boosters, packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C. Also a great source of dietary fibre, vitamin K, and manganese
Fortified soya milk & yoghurt – Good source of protein, calcium, vitamins B12 and D, yoghurt cultures
Oats – Provides slow-release energy

Almonds – Provides protein. Rich source of antioxidant Vitamin E, riboflavin, manganese and magnesium

Chia seeds – Good source of protein and dietary fibre. Rich in calcium, manganese, phosphorous and omega 3 fat
Cacao Nibs – Packed with nutrients, including lots of antioxidants. Check out my raw chocolate post to find out more.

Products used in this recipe
Alpro soya milk and plain soya yoghurt (available in all major UK supermarkets)
Mornflake Superfast Oats (available from Tesco and Asda)
Chia seeds (available from health food stores and online. I purchased mine from Earthfare)
Duronic 1200 1.8 litre Jug Blender, available from Amazon

Cacao nibs – available from health food stores and online. I use the Elements for Life Cacao Nib Grinder


Have you had any success growing fruits or veggies this year? Do you ever go foraging?


Pink Himalayan Salt & Cacao Nib GIVEAWAY & Recipe for Mocha Frappuccinos (Dairy-free, Sugar-free)

Today, I’m very excited to launch a fantastic giveaway! My good friends over at Elements for Life have given me ten of their Pink Himalayan Salt and Cacao Nib Grinders to give away to you, my lovely readers 😀

It makes me so happy when I get to give away products that I love myself. This blogging gig has some seriously great perks! 😀

The Pink Himalayan Salt is sourced from the foothills of the Himalayas, where it was deposited by primal seas millions of years ago. It is totally pure and packed with trace minerals. I use the salt to season savoury meals and to add a touch of saltiness to my raw chocolate barks.

Himalayan Pink Salt

The cacao nibs are sourced from Peruvian cacao beans. Once the beans have been dried, they are crushed and the papery skins removed, leaving the cacao nibs. Since they aren’t roasted, the cacao nibs retain all the goodness found in cacao beans.  They contain a serious amount of nutrients, including lots of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and amino acids.  To find out more about their nutrient content, check out my ‘Wonders of Raw Chocolate‘ post.

Cacao Nibs

I like to sprinkle cacao nibs on my porridge,  banana pancakes, chocolate ‘cashew’ cheese cakes, yoghurts, parfaits, chocolate energy milkshakes, chocolate banana icecream and mocha coffees.  If you like very dark chocolate, you’ll love cacao nibs!

Another great feature of this giveaway is that the two products come packaged in their own glass bottles with plastic grinder tops, which have two settings – coarse and fine. I’ve never had a manual grinder that’s had adjustable settings so I’m loving this feature. It saves me having to get out my electric grinder when I want fine nibs for sprinkling on drinks.

Grinder Lid 500

In addition to my Coffee Frappuccinos, another drink I’m loving at the moment is home-made Mocha Frappuccinos / Frappés.  The coffee shop versions are way too sugary for my liking. They seriously make me nauseous and the feeling lasts for hours 🙁 Instead, I much prefer my home-made version. It’s very simple to make and you can adjust the sweetness to suit your individual tastes. As an added bonus, they’re far cheaper to make yourself. ‘M’ loves them too!

Mocha Frappuccino Dairy Free Sugar Free copy

For a Mocha Frappuccino, I simply use my Coffee Frappuccino recipe and add a tablespoon of cacao powder per person.  While the recipe will work fine with regular cocoa powder, I prefer to use raw cacao powder as I find the taste superior, plus it adds more lovely nutrients 🙂

Just in case you’d like to try it too, here’s how I make it:

Dairy Free Sugar Free Mocha Frappuccino copy



Elements for Life are selling these refillable grinders for £2.75 and £2.95, which I think is a great price considering that they come pre-filled with 100g of the Pink Himalayan salt and cacao nibs, respectively.

However, five of my lucky readers are going to bag themselves one each of the grinders for FREE! 

There are three ways to enter the giveaway:

  1. Leave me a comment below. Anything will do, but I’d love to find out a bit more about you! Are you already a fan of Pink Himalayan salt or cacao nibs, or have you yet to try them? Have you tried any new drinks lately that you’re loving?
  2. Share this giveaway on Facebook by clicking on the ‘Like’ button at the bottom of this post, then leave me a comment below to let me know you have done so.
  3. Share this giveaway on Twitter with something like “I’ve entered the @GoodStuffSharon @MakeRawChoc Pink Himalayan Salt & Cacao Nib Giveaway”, then leave me a comment below to let me know you have done so.

If you enter all three ways, you’ll triple your chances of winning.

Sorry international readers but this giveaway has to be UK only due to the postage costs.

The closing date is Thursday 1st August 2013 at midnight GMT. After this date, 5 lucky winners will be chosen at random.

Good luck everyone! xx