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!


Makes 1

Hands-on time: 5 minutes    Ready in: 5 minutes

1 cup non dairy milk
½ TBSP cocoa powder
½ TBSP coconut sugar or maple syrup
¼ tsp pure orange extract
Cinnamon stick

Give the carton of milk a really good shake, then pour a cup’s worth into a small pan. Gently heat through. When warm, whisk in the cocoa powder using a balloon whisk. When fully incorporated, whisk in the sweetener and orange extract. Taste test, and add more sweetener or orange extract, to taste. Pour into a cup and serve with a cinnamon stick.

Products used in this recipe
Oatly Enriched Oat Drink
Green & Blacks Organic Cocoa
Biona Organic Coconut Sugar  or Clarks Original Maple syrup
Star Kay White Pure Orange Extract (bought from Lakeland)


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 😉 ).


This smoothie is perfect for breakfast on the go or as a post-school or exercise snack. Unlike regular fruit smoothies, this one is a great source of slow-release energy and will keep you feeling full up for hours.

Hands-on time: 5 minutes

Serves 1 as a breakfast (or two as a snack)

1 medium organic apple, cored and chopped (no need to peel if you have a powerful, high speed blender)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 TBSP almond butter
1 TBSP chia seeds
handful of spinach leaves (optional)
120ml / 4 fl oz / ½ cup almond milk (or other non dairy milk)
120ml / 4 fl oz / ½ cup non dairy natural yogurt
1 tsp maple syrup, or to taste

Place all the ingredients in a blender. Pulse a few times to break up the apple, then blend on high speed until smooth. Taste test, and add more sweetener, if desired.


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!




Frappuccino (Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Low Calorie)

It’s been a scorcher of a week here in Bath, which has given me a great excuse to indulge in one of my all-time favourite iced drinks… home-made frappuccinos 🙂

Dairy Free Frappuccino 400

I adore iced coffee drinks but find I can’t tolerate the ones served in coffee houses.  Even when they’re made with soya milk I find that they leave me feeling queasy.  I’m guessing it’s their high sugar content that’s the culprit.

The great thing about making your own frappuccinos is that you can adjust the coffee and sweetener levels so that they suit your taste buds perfectly.  As an added bonus, you’ll also save a small fortune.  A coffee house frapp will set you back around £3, compared to less than 50p for the home-made version!

I don’t have an espresso machine, so I use my cafetiere (French Press) instead.

Cafetiere 400

A pot of strong coffee is brewed and left on the side to cool.  When cold, the coffee is poured into a large silicone ice cube tray and placed in the freezer overnight.   Any leftover coffee gets stored in a jug in the refrigerator, then used to refill the ice cube tray the following day.

To make a frappuccino, seven coffee ice cubes (about a cup’s worth) are placed in the blender along with a cup of soya milk.  I pulse it a few times to break up the ice, then blend on high speed until the ice cubes are completely incorporated.  A little sweetener is added (I use about a teaspoon of maple syrup), then a couple more pulses to combine and it’s ready to serve.

Philips Blender 500

As I pour the frappuccino into the glass it separates into these two wonderful layers… cool milky coffee on the bottom, with an ice-cream-like topping. It is totally lush!

Frappuccino - Dairy Free - Vegan 500 1 copy


Here’s a printable version of the recipe:


Serves: 1

1 cup’s worth of coffee ice cubes (about 7 cubes)
1 cup of soya or almond milk (240 ml / 8 fl oz)
1 tsp maple syrup or other natural sweetener, to taste


1.     Brew a jug of strong coffee using a cafetiere (French Press).  Leave to cool.  When cold, pour the coffee into a large ice cube tray and place in the freezer.  Any leftover coffee can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days and used for iced coffees or to replenish the ice cube tray.

 2.    To make the frappuccino, place around 7 coffee ice cubes in a blender along with a cup of milk.  Pulse a few times to break up the ice, then blend on high speed until the ice is fully incorporated.  Add syrup, to taste, and pulse a few more times to combine.  Serve immediately in cool glasses.


Products I used in this recipe:
Alpro UHT Soya Milk
Original Maple Syrup
Bar Originale Large 32-Hole Silicone Ice Tray with Hard Plastic Carry Case (N.B. this is the 3rd silicone ice cube tray that’s warped in my dishwasher. In future, I’ll always wash my silicone trays by hand, even if they say “dishwasher safe”!
Bodum 1928 Chambord Coffee Maker Stainless Steel 8 Cup 1.0lt
Philips Blender with Pulse and Ice Crush

I hope you enjoy this frappuccino as much as we do!

Have a great weekend everyone xx

What’s your favourite cooling drink?  As well as the frapp, I’m loving lime-based drinks at the moment. They’re so refreshing! 

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