My “Go-to” Chocolate Cupcake Recipe. Dairy Free. Egg Free. Vegan.

Today I’m sharing my “go-to” recipe for chocolate cupcakes. This recipe has never left me down. My oven can be really temperamental when it comes to cake baking, but these cupcakes always turn out perfectly. They’re light, fluffy and deliciously moist.

Chocolate Cupcake

I’ve made them numerous times for fundraisers and they always sell in a flash. None of the children at our local school are vegan, but they choose these cupcakes simply because they love them. It also makes me happy to know that the children with dairy allergies are able to join in.  I often spot their mums making a beeline for me as I step through the school gate with my cake tin.

Next Friday is the annual Macmillan coffee morning here in the UK, which has now gained the status of the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. Last year, the event raised a wopping £25 million for people affected by cancer.

Macmillan Coffee Morning 2015 Continue reading “My “Go-to” Chocolate Cupcake Recipe. Dairy Free. Egg Free. Vegan.”

Bath Half 2015 – I did it!

I did it! I actually completed my first half marathon!

Bath Half 2015 - I did it!

And what an incredible experience it was to be in the midst of all these runners making their way round my home city

Bath Half 2015


My ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots look the wrong way round as I started the race soaking wet and finished it dry. As we set off for Bath city centre, there was a cool breeze, the sun was shining and the sky was clear blue. I kept calling out to the family how it was the perfect day for running… no sooner had I uttered these words than the sky went dark and there was the most almighty downpour!

Bath Half 2015 - before shot

Stupidly, I hadn’t packed a waterproof coat or an umbrella, so I ended up soaked to the skin and freezing cold. Instead of heading to the runners village, I popped in Cafe Nero’s to try and warm up. At least I managed to stop shivering! Luckily, the rain stopped just before the race began and the sun started to peep out.

With thirty minutes to go until ‘the off’, I headed up Great Pultney Street to the ‘starting pens’. It felt surreal to be part of the running crowd. I couldn’t quite believe I was there! Suddenly the race started, and the only sound I could hear was the ‘pitter patter’ of thousands of feet. It was such a unique sound. I found it mesmerizing.

Bath Half 2015 - Bath Chronicle


The first four miles went really fast, then it started getting tougher. I tried to keep up with ‘Pound Coin guy’ for a while. I did manage to say hi to him, but even his pace was too much for me. To ignore the fact my feet were screaming, I focused on the crowds and ‘hi fiveing’ all the kids I passed. Seeing their smiley faces definitely kept my spirits lifted.

Pound Coin guy


Another highlight for me was being lapped by the winner, Paul Martelletti and runner up, Dean Lacey. I can’t believe how fast those guys can run! If I’d blinked I would have missed them! Paul was the first British guy to win the Bath Half in twelve years, finishing in 1 hr 5 minutes.

Paul Martelletti


That’s a whole hour faster than me! I ended up finishing in 2 hours 5 minutes, which is quicker than expected. I even managed a kind of hobbled sprint finish 🙂

Once over the finish line, my body pretty much refused to move. I could barely bend over to reach the time chip on my shoe. I hobbled my way through the exit pens and collected my medal, finishers t shirt and ‘goodie’ bag.

Bath Half 2015 Medal

I loved the t shirt but the ‘goodie’ bag was pretty dismal. I was kind of expecting a protein bar or energy drink. Something to rejuvenate me after the big run. But no, here’s what was inside…

Bath Half 2015 Goodie Bag

Dairy milk bars and a Dairyfine Titan. Glad to see they catered for the plant-based runners 😉

But joking aside, I’m so glad that I took the plunge and signed up for the Bath Half. It was a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for me, and one that I’ll never forget.

Bath Half 2015 - I did it!

The fact I got to run for such a worthwhile cause was the icing on the cake. Thanks to you guys, I’ve raised £436 for Mercy In Action. I have been so touched these past few weeks by your kindness and generosity. I can’t thank you enough. As promised in this post, I’ll be picking three sponsors at random to win some of my home-made chocolates. Since donations are still coming in, I’ve extended the deadline until this Friday, March 6th March. I’ll notify the winners by email.

Thank you once again, to everyone that’s donated and offered words of advice and encouragement. I couldn’t have done it without you xx



Bath Half Marathon 2015 and Mercy In Action

On Sunday 1st March, one of the UK’s most popular city running events is taking place – the Bath Half Marathon. With thousands of runners taking part, and thousands more spectators lining the streets and cheering them on, the city is literally buzzing with atmosphere and excitement on ‘BathHalf Day’.

Bath Half Marathon


Every year, I stand by the barrier near the Holburne Museum soaking up the atmosphere and cheering on the runners. Come rain or shine (and especially when it’s freezing cold and rainy like last year!) me & Lil’ L are determined to stay right until the last of the runners finish their epic journey. I especially feel for those that have been on the course of hours. I can see in their faces how much they’re hurting when they turn that final corner and head onto Great Pultney Street. Hurting, but totally euphoric. We encourage them onwards by shouting that they’ve only got a few more metres to go. What an incredible sense of achievement they must feel!

Bath Half 2014 The Derby Telegraph edited


In all the years I’ve supported the Bath Half runners, not once have I wished to be running with them. If anything, I feel a sense of relief when I see their faces on the final corner, glad that I’m not going through the agony with them.

But this year, things are going to be a little different as I’m hopping over the spectator barrier to join the 15,000 runners. Even as I type this I can’t quite believe this is happening! The longest I’ve ever run before is 10K so running double the distance seems unimaginable right now. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to hurt a lot. BUT, it’s all going to be worth it as I’m running to raise money for an amazing charity

Mercy in Action banner
The Bath-based charity, Mercy in Action, was founded in 1995 by John and Allison Todd, following an unexpected encounter with five street boys during a trip to the Philippines. The boys hadn’t eaten for three days and were begging on the streets. Moved by the plight of children the same age as their son, John and Allison took them for a meal.

“Within the 30 minutes it took us to order the food and the boys to eat it, we both knew we couldn’t walk away from them, and so the seeds were sown for what has grown into a charity which to date has helped thousands of children and their families.” John Todd

Mercy In Action Street-LIFE
John & Allison with children from the Street LIFE Project


Mercy in Action is involved in numerous projects to help the poorest of the poor in the Philippines, and street children are at the very heart of what they do. The following are just a few examples of the valuable work that the charity does to support these vulnerable children:

Street LIFE Projects
Mercy in Action runs a ‘Drop in’ where street children are able to shower, wash their clothes, and have a hot lunch every day. Social workers support the children and ensure they get medical attention if needed; a teacher provides lessons tailored to the children’s various abilities; and global volunteers assist with the lessons and plan fun activities for the children including crafts, sports and a weekly outing.

“The drop-in was challenging to see; children from about the age of 7 living on the streets. We were struck by the size of the children. 14 year olds looked like 7 year olds, as a result of stunted growth due to poor, or at times non-existent, diets before Mercy in Action started working in that area […] The children were still amazingly positive, despite living on the street or in slums. They loved doing arts and craft activities and would try hard in the hours of teaching each day. Perhaps what sticks out most was that despite their conditions, despite they were standing in a ripped t-shirt often with nothing else on, when they got some food they would share it around and even offer it to us before themselves – such amazing, heartbreaking kindness, happiness, hope and generosity”. Volunteers’ Reflections on the Drop In

Mercy In Action - Street LIFE Project


Mercy in Action also runs a community centre with a range of after school clubs and organised activities. Many of the children that attend the centre live in slum houses with only one room and no electricity, which makes studying very difficult. A new library and study area has been set up in the centre to help support the children and enable them to excel in their studies.

Through Mercy in Action, over 400 children are currently sponsored to attend school. Click here to find out more about sponsoring a child.

Mercy in Action Education Programme


Spring Village
The first of three family houses and a community centre housing a canteen, meeting place and volunteer accommodation have been constructed on a purpose built site. A routine of school, play, good nutritious food and loving carers brings about radical and lasting changes in the majority of youngsters – even the most damaged and vulnerable. The remaining houses will be built as soon as finances allow.

Mercy in Action Spring Village


The Boys Home
In September 2012, Mercy in Action was able to rent an additional house near Spring Village and moved four street boys that they had been working with for five years into the new house. They were aged between 8-17, and all had drug addictions. The boys are all thriving in the home, and have been joined by four more. They are all off drugs, in regular education and flourishing with the help of loving house parents and counselling. The older boys volunteer on Mercy in Action projects, and are great role models to boys who are still on the streets.

Mercy in Action - Street LIFE project 2


Chelo’s House
Through a partnership between International Justice Mission (IJM) and Mercy in Action, the first rescue home solely for male victims of trafficking in the whole of the Philippines has been set up called Chelo’s House.

Transforming Communities
The key to seeing lasting change in the lives of the children they work with is to support the communities in which they live. Recognising this, Mercy in Action sets up tailor-made programmes to meet the needs of individual communities. In the mountain village of Tapul where absolute poverty was preventing many children from attending school, Mercy in Action replanted an area of previously logged forest and gave ten fruit trees to each family to care for. When mature, the fruit will provide a much needed income. Until then the children on the programme receive a hot, nutritious meal each day, as well as having all their schooling needs met. The parents have taken responsibility for maintaining this innovative project.

Mercy In Action 1


Mercy in Action recently received a grant for a small business fund. With this money they bought a fridge and other supplies to start an ice candy business. Some of the mums from a weekly support group called ‘Source’ get together once a week and make batches of ice candy. They then sell it in their local communities and give half of the money to Mercy in Action to continue the business and the rest they use to feed their families.

Mercy in Action 4


Several of the ‘Source’ mums have been on jewellery making courses provided by Mercy in Action. They then make beautiful necklaces and bracelets that are sent to England and sold in the charity shops. The women receive a fair wage for their work and all other profits are put back into projects with street children.

Mercy in Action is committed to helping families realise their dream of living in a home of their own. Small native houses are quick to build and relatively cheap, yet offer stability and hope that can pave the way to a happy, healthy family unit. Over the years the charity has been able to provide more than 50 homes.

And much, much more!
You can find out more information about this wonderful charity on their website, as well as details of how you can support them or even become a global volunteer!

Mercy in Action


Fundraising for Mercy in Action
So next Sunday I’ll be lacing up my running shoes, gritting my teeth, and heading out on that 13.1 mile run round Bath in order to raise as much money as I can for Mercy in Action. I’ve pledged to raise a minimum of £175.

If anyone would like to sponsor me, any donations, whatever the amount, will be so gratefully received. Just think, if everyone who read this post donated £2, I’d easily smash my target!

Prize Draw
As a small token of my gratitude, I’m going to enter all the sponsors into a prize draw to win a gift box of 6 hand-made chocolates (or a gift box of my favourite non-melty goodies if you’re currently enjoying summer in the southern hemisphere!) Three winners will be selected on March 6th and notified by email.

Chocolate Goji Almond Hearts


Thank you SO much for your support. It means the world to me and Mercy in Action xx

Sunshine, Veggies & Sport Relief!

Hi everyone!  I hope you’re having a great week so far! 🙂

What glorious weather we’re having here in the UK!  What with the clocks going forward on Sunday, the lighter evenings and warm sunshine, it feels like we’ve entered Summer rather than Spring.

The magnolia tree by our front door is now in full bloom.

I love the blossom on these trees. Yet another beautiful sight of Spring!

We spent the whole weekend outside, enjoying the good weather.  On Saturday, we went to the market town of Devizes in Wiltshire and had a lovely lunch sitting outside the Little House of Coffee, in the Market Place.  The town was buzzing with activity and had such a great vibe.  The people here are so friendly!


We then popped to see friends in the village of Seend Cleeve and had a great time catching up with them whilst sunning ourselves in their garden.  Is this seriously March?  If feels more like July!

On Sunday morning, M, Lil’ L and I took part in the Sport Relief Mile in Victoria Park Bath.  It’s the first charity running event that we’ve completed as a family and it was so much fun! 

We’ve raised about £100, which we’ll be sending off to join the other £54 million + that has been raised so far for this very worthwhile cause. 

Huge respect for John Bishop who cycled, ran and rowed over 295 miles from Paris to London in five days to raise money for Sport Relief.  Talk about guts and determination.  So far he’s raised over £3.4 million.  What a guy!  And he’s vegetarian!  Ha ha, had to get that one in there 😉  You can read about John’s “Week of Hell” here.  After seeing what John went through, never again will I complain if I get a stitch when I’m out on one of my little 4 mile runs!

Sunday afternoon we did some work in the garden, and I started to have a think about what to plant this year.  We’ve always struggled to grow veggies because of the billions of slugs, snails and other little critters that live here.  Rather than making the same mistakes over again, I thought it would be a good idea to start with a review of how our veggie growing attempts have gone this past year. 

To be honest, it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped… 

I’ll start with the disasters…

1. Tomatoes
We grew about 12 plants (10 from seed). We grew them in pots, grobags and some directly in the ground.  It looked promising, and we actually had little green tomatoes growing on the plants.

Then disaster struck.  We had so much rain last August that all the plants got blight and went black & mouldy. 
Yield: zero edible tomatoes 🙁

2. Courgette (zucchini)
I grew one courgette plant in a pot.  It started to get eaten by slugs, snails and wood lice, so I ended up bringing it into the back porch every night.  It then got covered in black fly.

But then a ladybird took up residence on the plant and the black fly were gone.  The plant produced the most beautiful flowers and 3 lovely little courgettes started to appear on the plant.

As soon as we got back from our holiday in August, I rushed into the garden to see how my ‘pet’ courgette was doing… only to discover that the plant was covered in earwigs happily munching away on my little veggies 🙁
Yield: half a courgette

3.  Butternut squashes
I grew the squashes from seed and planted them out in the raised beds that M had spent hours making for me.  I covered the plants with bell cloches to protect them while they were small.

As soon as the bell cloches were removed…. the slugs descended!  Night after night, come rain or shine, I went to the veggie patch and removed the slugs.  In one night, I picked up 40!  There were 2 toads resident on the veggie patch and even they couldn’t keep up with the sheer volume of slugs.

The gravel round the raised beds didn’t deter the slugs (instead it just attracted cat poo 🙁 ).  We put copper tape round the top of the wooden border, and that didn’t work either.  I tried putting strong smelling plants (like rosemary) round the edge, again no luck.

Yield: zero squashes.  Most of the flowers got eaten before the squashes had a chance to grow.  About 5 little squashes did appear… but they got eaten too!

4. Sweetcorn
We grew the sweetcorn from seed and had 5 plants that were strong enough to plant out.  As soon as the sweetcorns started to appear, most of them got eaten by slugs/snails and earwigs.

Yield: 4 very small sweetcorns.  They were delicious, but took us about 2 minutes to eat.

5. Gooseberries
We bought two gooseberry bushes.  They were covered in spikes so I didn’t imagine that they would be eaten.  Wrong!  Even though we kept them in pots, every single green shoot on the plants got eaten by slugs/snails!

Let’s move onto the successes now…

6. Flat leaf parsley
Last summer I sprinkled some parsley seeds into a pot… and they grew beautifully!  The plant is still going strong now 🙂  Slugs and snails don’t go near it.  It requires very little care; just the occasional watering. I did bring it into the back porch over the winter, but it’s back outside now. 

Yield: Since last summer, I’ve been using this parsley in my cooking and for garnishes.  As soon as you cut it, it seems to shoot up again.  Such a great plant!

7. Basil
Last Spring I sprinkled basil seeds into old yoghurts pots and was amazed how quickly they started to grow.  I transferred the plants into larger pots and put them on the dining room window sill.  They were really easy to look after, looked beautiful, and smelt wonderful as you brushed past them.

Yield: I had so much fresh basil that I made my own home-made pesto throughout the Spring and early Summer. We also used the basil in pasta dishes and for tomato & basil salads. 

Before we went on holiday in August, I froze a huge bag of basil leaves, and it was a good job that I did.  The plants had to be left in the garden whilst we were away and, on our return, we found them totally munched and covered in white fly 🙁

8. Rosemary
The rosemary bush has been at our house longer than us!  Slugs/snails leave it alone.  It survives all weather conditions.  The perfect low maintenance plant! 

Yield:  A never ending supply of fresh rosemary which I use in cooking and bread making.

9. Lemon Balm
I planted this in the raised bed in the orchard and the slugs/snails leave it alone.  I haven’t used it in my cooking yet, but I’ll be looking out for some recipes shortly.

10. Kale
We filled Lil’ L’s old sand pit with compost, placed it up on our summer house deck and attempted to grow some kale in it.  Shortly after it started growing, a large batch of caterpillars arrived and ate most of the leaves.  About half of the plants survived… and they’re still going strong now.

Yield: We’ve got about 3 scarlet kale plants that are still producing lots of leaves.  

11. Apples
We had a huge bounty of apples last Autumn.  Literally hundreds 🙂

 Even the tiny apple tree in our rockery grew lots of lovely eating apples 🙂

For months, we didn’t have to buy a single apple from the supermarket.  We enjoyed lots of apple compotes, apple crumbles, and apple pancakes.

In an attempt to overwinter the apples, M made this ventilated storage system which we filled with the best apples.

Until a couple of weeks ago, I was still using surplus apples that we’ d stacked in an old cardboard box.  You can imagine how delighted I was when I went to select one of our ‘finest’ apples from the storage system… only to find that the whole lot had been eaten by mice!  You gotta laugh!

12. Plums
Last Autumn we had the best crop of plums that we’ve ever had.  Literally hundreds!  The boughs were so laden with fruit that some of them unfortunately snapped.

I made sure that we didn’t waste a single plum.  I stewed big batches of them and put them in the freezer.  Plum compote is one of my most favourite desserts ever!  We finished our last batch of frozen plums only a few days ago.

Veggie growing plans 2012
Isn’t it just typical that the most success we had last year was with the plants that pretty much look after themselves… the apple and plum trees and the parsley!

This year, I’m not going to bother growing any veggies other than the kale.  I think the kale has got potential to work, but I  must remember to cover it with netting to try and prevent the caterpillars arriving.

I’d love to buy another fruit tree.  Perhaps a greengage? 

But mainly, I’m going to focus on herbs.  I’ll definitely be growing more parsley and basil.  I also bought these three little herbs from a charity sale in Lacock – thyme, sage and chocolate peppermint.

The chocolate peppermint smells wonderful!  I’m already looking forward to a cup of fresh chocolate mint tea! Yum!

Are you planning to grow any veggies, fruits, or herbs this year?  If so, I’d love to hear your plans.  Can you recommend any easy, low maintentance veggies that I should try? (preferably slug proof 😉 )


Macmillan Fun Day 2011

Last Friday, M, Lil’ L and I helped out at the Macmillan Fun Day at The Verwood Hub in Dorset.  The event was organised by my sister Jodie and supported by a lovely team of volunteers. 🙂 

There were lots of stalls and fun activities running throughout the day.

I was tasked with running the ‘foodie’ stall.  In the week leading up to the event, I was busy making cupcakes, flapjacks and raw chocolates (another of my latest passions 😉 ).

My mum was an absolute star and helped me out by baking and frosting nearly 200 cupcakes! Her poor electric mixer blew up half way through our frosting frenzy, so the remainder had to be made by hand. Me, my mum, and sister Sandra were up to midnight on Thursday frosting the cakes. After this, none of us could get to sleep. I’m sure we inhaled far too much icing sugar… I was buzzing all night!

All our cupcakes were dairy-free. We used Alpro soya milk and Pure margarine instead of cow's milk and butter.

I didn’t want to skimp on the quality of the ingredients, so I chose to use all my favourite products including Alpro’s soya milk; Sweet Freedom’s award-winning natural sweetener and syrup; Crazy Jack’s organic natural syrups, dried fruits and nuts; Detox Your World’s organic raw chocolate liqueur, cococa powder, goji berries and nuts and Flahavans wonderful Organic Oats. 


I want to say a big ‘THANK YOU’ to all these wonderful companies for the fantastic support they gave for this event.

A big THANK YOU also to Dan and Paula from Elements for Life who kindly donated a tray of their award-winning ‘Yummy Scrummy’ Raw Chocolate Brownie. Since tasting Yummy Scrummy at the Frome Green Fair earlier this year, I’ve been hooked on raw chocolate!  I was hoping that a piece of Yummy Scrummy would be left over so I could bring it home, but no chance of that… the whole tray was snapped up within the first hour! 

Another popular item on my foodie stall was the goji berry flapjack that I made using NO fat and NO refined sugar. Instead, I simply used natural sweeteners, chopped goji berries and nuts combined with oats and barley flakes. Again, the tray was emptied in no time at all.  

A number of people asked me for the recipe, so I promise I’ll write it up and post it before the end of the week.

My final picture is a close-up of the Christmas Cake that my sister Sandra made for the Macmillan event. It was covered in delicate Christmas trees made of wafer thin icing. It was breathtakingly stunning! The lucky winner is sure going to have a great centrepiece for their dining table this Christmas!

All in all, it was a great day and, most importantly, we raised lots of money for Macmillan.  The ‘goodie’ stall raised £200, while the overall total was a touch over £1,100.

A big thank you to everyone that supported the event. We hope to see you again next year xx

I did it!

I woke up this morning to the sound of heavy rain pounding on the windows.  “Great!” I thought.  I hadn’t factored in adverse weather conditions!  Fortunately, the rain eased off by the time the race started.

My strategy was to plod round the track in my usual, casual running style.  I’d never run 10k before so I didn’t want to burn out early on.  My friend D gave me some great advice, which was not to be tempted to set off at the pace of the others.  It was only last night I realised that I’d accidentally entered a serious race  (part of the Wiltshire Championship series).  When I entered online, I hadn’t read the blurb, but had just seen the words ‘suitable for beginners’.  I now think this meant ‘beginner competitors’ rather than ‘beginner runners’.  I tried not to panic though and kept reminding myself that I was doing it for Jodie and Macmillan, and it didn’t matter if I came last.  In fact, I should expect to come last and any other place would be a bonus 🙂 

So everyone sets off and I start my plod. 

Everyone soon deserts me.  It doesn’t matter though; the main thing is to enjoy it (this is what I keep telling myself!)  I do pass a couple of people that did set off too fast 😉

Here I come for lap 2, cheered on by one of my greatest supporters.  I’m starting to look like a beetroot now.  Still no one else in sight!

Already I’m being lapped by the guys.  I need to learn from their running stance because it’s far more effective than mine 🙁

By lap 3 I’ve got a humongous stitch.  A guy who’s running past me asks if I’m alright.  When I yelp that I’ve got a stitch, he tells me to “push it in”.  I’m not sure exactly what he means so I try pushing my hand into my ribs where the pain is.  It doesn’t seem to help much, so I decide to just get on with it and use it as an opportunity to practise a bit of Tonglen 🙂

I even tried to smile for the camera, although it was more of a grimace than a smile :/

I finished the race in 58.22 which is far, far quicker than I’ve ever run in my life.  You wouldn’t be able to tell from the photos, but I didn’t come last either!  I came 156th (out of 182) 🙂  It doesn’t really matter where I came though, because this is what it was all about…

A big thank you to everyone that sponsored me and offered words of support and encouragement.  I am very, very grateful.  At last count, the total raised was £295 which has far exceeded my expectations!  Thank you so much for the very generous donations xx