Salted Pistachio Rose Cookies

Here in the UK, we’ve been experiencing an Indian summer. Blue skies, sunshine, warmth, walking around in short sleeves… I’ve been enjoying it for sure. And so has the garden. Typically winding down for Winter this month, gardens have suddenly burst into colour again. June roses are back in full bloom. I’ve never known this happen before.

Pink Rose

Seeing the roses out in bloom again has been the inspiration for my latest experiments in the kitchen. Continue reading “Salted Pistachio Rose Cookies”

Cranberry, Orange and Dark Chocolate Florentines. Dairy-free. Vegan

For this month’s Suma Blogger’s Network entry, I though I’d share one of my latest treat obsessions – Vegan Florentines

Vegan Florentines

I’ve been dreaming about Florentines ever since I saw them on display in the patisserie shops of Venice and Florence a few years ago. I’d never seen anything quite like them before. They looked so dainty yet totally decadent with their dark chocolate bottoms! I was pretty sure that they’d be full of dairy and off limits to me, but I was excited about the thought of creating a vegan version one day.

This week I finally got round to a little Florentine experimentation in the kitchen.

Cranberry Pieces

After a quick internet search, I discovered that Florentines are typically made with cane sugar, honey, butter, candied cherries, candied citrus peel and almonds. Since I’m not a fan of the first 4 ingredients, and I know a lot of my readers aren’t keen on candied peel, I ended up subbing 5 of the 6 ingredients. The almonds stayed 😉

The cane sugar and honey was swapped for coconut sugar and maple syrup, which gave the Florentines a wonderful golden hue and caramel-like sweetness. Instead of candied cherries and citrus peel, I used dried cranberries and orange zest. This gave the Florentines a fresh, citrussy flavour which I absolutely loved. The butter was exchanged for non dairy spread or organic aroma-free coconut butter.

Vegan Florentines

I’ve done 6 trials so far this week, playing around with different ingredient ratios and combos. All have tasted delicious, but I was striving to bake a Florentine that was super thin with the traditional ‘lacey’ texture on the underside. By the 4th trial, I’d cracked it.

Vegan Florentines

Once cooled, I then added the classic Florentine wavy chocolate bottom.

Vegan Florentines

These Florentines are my new treat obsession. I absolutely love their texture – crisp on the outside, chewy in the centre with a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate bottom. Plus the flavour combination is so lush. The citrus zest gives them a wonderful lift while the dark chocolate makes them feel decadent.

Another great thing about this biscuit is that each one only contains 1 tsp of mixture which, in my eyes, makes it totally acceptable to go back for a second or third 🙂

‘M’ and Lil’ L seem to love them as much as me. I’ve made 72 so far this week, and there are very few left in the biscuit tin! I also took along a sample to my Tuesday night study class and they were a big hit!

Vegan Florentines

Unwaxed Citrus Fruits
Unwaxed lemons are widely available, but unwaxed oranges are a little harder to come by. In the UK, they are currently available in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Tesco. If you’re only able to find waxed oranges, you’ll find tips online on how to remove the wax. The wax on citrus fruits often contains shellac (from the lac beetle) or beeswax, making them unsuitable for vegans. Organic citrus fruits are unwaxed, which makes them vegan friendly 🙂

You’ll find Suma products available to purchase in UK independent health food shops. You can also bulk buy many of their products from Amazon.

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Gingerbread Men (Dairy-free / Vegan)

The recipes I most often share are firm family favourites that I’ve been refining over a number of years. So when I get inspired to create a new recipe that I want to blog now rather than in 5 years time, I end up obsessively testing it again and again over the course of a week or so to play catch up with the tweaks and refinements.

This week, the obsession has been these little guys…

Gingerbread Men

When Amy mentioned gingerbread under my waffles post, it reminded me that I hadn’t made gingerbread men in years. I decided it was high time I dusted off my old recipe notes and gave them another whirl.

So far this week, I’ve made 72 gingerbread men! Family and friends have kindly been helping me out with the testing. Lil’ L’s taken them to school, Mark’s taken them to work, and I’ve shared them with friends over coffee (not the classiest of cookies but hey it made them smile).

Making Gingerbread

All the batches got great feedback, but Mark thought they could be a bit ‘gingerier’ so the next batch had an extra ½ tsp of ginger. I’ve tested different thicknesses (the thicker men were the winners), different sugars and different oils/butters. All worked fine, so I’m guessing the recipe is pretty adaptable. I also tested different cooking times and I personally preferred the longer time as it made them firmer and crunchier round the edges.

Readers have also had great success using gluten-free flour to make these gingerbread men. Check out the Comments section below to see their feedback.

Gingerbread Men

Even though I’ve eaten a ridiculous amount of gingerbread men this week, I’m still totally in love them and will be happily munching my way through more this weekend. Fortunately, as cookies go, these are pretty healthy as they’re wholegrain, plus they’ve got an extra boost of iron from the molasses. As well as coffee, they’re delicious with a cup of ginger tea. This has got to be the ultimate winter warmer. I can literally feel myself warming up from the inside out as I sip a cup

Gingerbread Men

 

If you try the recipe and make any adjustments, do let me know. I always love to hear your feedback!

love

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

Gingerbread Cookies (Dairy-Free / Vegan)

Today, I am delighted to share my first post for the Suma Blogger’s Network  I’m sure a lot of you will have already heard of Suma or seen their products in your local health food stores. Suma are the UK’s largest independent wholefood wholesalers of vegetarian, vegan, fair trade, natural and organic produce.  Suma operates as a workers’ cooperative which means that the business is jointly owned and managed by the staff. Everyone is paid the same and they collectively do all the jobs that need doing, whatever they happen to be.

Suma-Bloggers-Network-LogoI love everything that Suma stands for, so when they invited me to become one of the first twelve bloggers in their new network, I was more than delighted to accept! Intrigued to find out who else is involved? Click on this page to check out their profiles (you’ll see I’m in good company!)

Every other month we’ll be sharing a recipe using one or more products from Suma’s product range. We’ll post the recipes on our blogs, and share them via Facebook, Twitter and a dedicated Pinterest board.

This month, I’m sharing a recipe using one of my all-time favourite ingredients and ‘super’ foods…. Blackstrap Molasses!

Meridian Blackstrap Molasses_740g

As you might know, Blackstrap is the dark, thick liquid that remains after sugar cane is processed to make refined sugar. While the end product – white sugar – has no nutritional value whatsoever, the molasses that gets left behind after extraction is literally brimming with nutrients. It’s rich in vitamin B6 and minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese and selenium. Historically, this byproduct of sugar production has been used to feed livestock, while humans consume the empty calorie, unhealthy white sugar. Crazy eh?

Blackstrap Molasses from Wikipedia

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Flavour-wise, Blackstrap is rich and bittersweet. To me, it has a liquorice-like flavour which, I guess, is one of those flavours that you either love or hate. If you have Blackstrap lurking at the back of your cupboard, then this recipe might just tempt you to dust off the jar and give it another try. The Blackstrap adds a wonderful depth of flavour and colour to these ginger cookies, but it’s not overpowering at all.

Gingerbread Cookies | Bit of the Good Stuff #vegan

For the dry sweetener, you can use unrefined caster sugar or coconut sugar. I prefer the latter as it’s low GI (which helps to keep blood sugar levels balanced), plus it contains B vitamins and a range of minerals, including potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. I also love its caramel-like flavour.

Feel free though to choose whatever sweetener suits your personal tastes and preferences. I prefer the coconut sugar cookies, ‘M’ prefers the cane sugar ones (which are slightly sweeter), and Lil’ L says he can’t really tell the difference and loves both!

Gingerbread Cookies | Bit of the Good Stuff #vegan

These cookies have been tried and tested many times over with my family and friends, and they’ve received a big thumbs up from everyone. I’ve been asked numerous times for the recipe and my standard reply is ‘sure, I’ll post it on the blog’. Well, it’s high time I kept my promise! Here it is…

NOTE: Recipe updated 25 March 2019 to bring it into line with the ‘Gingerbread Cookies’ recipe in the Bit of the Good Stuff Cookbook

I just need to work out how to make a gluten-free version now, so no one misses out! Any tips from the GF experts would be greatly appreciated! 😉

Gingerbread Cookies | Bit of the Good Stuff #vegan

 Enjoy! xx

Are you a fan of Blackstrap molasses? If so, what’s your favourite way to use it?

Disclaimer: I received some Suma’s products to use for recipe development but, as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

A Weekend of Sunshine, Bike Rides & Almond Cookies (Dairy Free, Egg Free, Vegan)

After one of the coldest Springs on record, the weather is finally starting to warm up.  Like us, the garden is loving it!  The Aquilegias (‘Granny’s Bonnet’) are out in full force…

Aquilegia - June 2013

and the peonies have started to bloom.

Peony May-June 2013

We had zero fruit on the apple and plum trees last year due to the poor weather conditions, but things are looking better this year.  Even the tiny apple tree growing in our rockery is covered in blossom.

Apple Tree & Peony - May-June 2013

Hopefully we’ll have lots of homegrown apples come September 🙂

Apple Blossom - May-June 2013

The weather is still very patchy at the moment though.  One day we have glorious sunshine and it’s warm, while the next day it can be cold and dark, with non stop rain.  I don’t know when (or if) the weather is going to settle down this year, so we’re just going to have to make the most of the sunshine when it appears.

This morning, before heading out on our bikes, Lil’ L and I decided to bake some Cinnamon Fruit Loaf and Almond Cookies.  As soon as the cookies were baked, we headed out into the garden to enjoy them along with a cup of raw hot chocolate.

Lil L, Almond Cookies & Hot Choc in the Garden 1

In fact, it was so sunny this morning that we needed to wear sun glasses!

Lil L, Almond Cookies & Hot Choc in the Garden 2

The almond cookies were really yummy!  Straight from the oven, they were crunchy on the outside with a softer centre.  We used chapatti flour which is so fine that you wouldn’t even guess that these cookies were wholegrain!  To boost the almond flavour, we added a little almond extract which gave them a hint of marzipan.  Next time round, we’re going to toast the almonds first to see if we can boost the almond flavour even more.

Vegan Almond Cookies

Here’s how we made them:

Fuelled up from our ‘elevenses’, we headed out on our second bike ride of the weekend, this time along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal…

Riding along the Kennet & Avon Canal Towpath

passing through the lush green countryside and wildflower meadows round Monkton Coombe, followed by a ride through the Bath Two Tunnels (it was so cool in there!)

Two Tunnels

then onto Bath city centre for cappuccinos & smoothies.    It was absolutely glorious!

I hope you had a lovely weekend too and I wish you all the best for the week ahead 🙂

What was the highlight of your weekend?