Birthday Celebrations

On Friday, Lil’ L celebrated his 9th birthday. I’m still in shock that he’s 9 already. Where did all that time go???

For the first time in his life, his birthday actually fell on a school day. He wasn’t too impressed about this to begin with, but it turned out to be a really fun day. It was the last day of the term and and they spent the afternoon making Victorian cam toys.  It sounded really cool!

He’d decided to save most of his presents until he got home from school, and he was just so excited and delighted about everything he opened. I loved watching his facial expressions as he ripped the paper off.

Check out his face when he discovered that his Nan had bought him the Nerf Supersoaker Scatter Blast Water Gun!

I couldn’t believe how many presents he’d been given. That boy was seriously spoilt 😉

Reading is still one of his passions and he’s recently got into graphic novels, which are inspiring his imagination and artwork.

He’s also loving the Tom Gates series. From what I can tell, it’s along the lines of The Wimpy Kid but with more graphics.  Here’s the ‘blurb’ (as Lil’ L calls it)….

“Brilliant comedies from a Roald Dahl Funny Prize winning series.  Tom Gates is a master of excuses, expert doodler, comic story writer extraordinaire – and the bane of his grumpy teacher, Mr Fullerman. And in his wacky journals, you’ll find all sorts of comic craziness to make you groan with glee! Tom’s battered homework diaries are crammed with his scribbles, stories and cartoons – as well as comments from the long-suffering Mr Fullerman. What with his awful big sister Delia, his band Dogzombies (rock stars in the making) AND the school disco, Tom’s life isn’t always easy. But it is laugh-out-loud hilarious!”

 

(If anyone’s got a 9-11 year old that would enjoy these books, I’ve spotted a great deal on the Scholastic site, where you can buy 3 Tom Gates books for £10. Here’s the link).

Once the presents were opened, it was time to light the candles on his cake and sing Happy Birthday 🙂

I tried a new vegan chocolate cake recipe for this year’s birthday cake. It was okay, but not outstanding. However, what I did love about the cake was the topping and filling. I could have just eaten a plate of those and skipped the cake 😉  Both were made without any refined sugar and they tasted scrumptious! I will definitely use them again. Here’s how I made them…

In the evening, for a third birthday in a row, Lil’ L chose to go to his favourite Indian restaurant, Rajpoot in Bath. We all had onion bhajis, mango chutney and poppadoms as starters, then Lil’ L and I chose to share three side dishes as our main course…
– Dall Roshun (Mosur Lentils seasoned with garlic)
– Bagun Bhajee (gently spiced aubergines)
– Mushroom Bhajee
… along with some boiled rice. Lil’ L also had a naan.
M chose to have the Navaratan Pulao (a nutty, fruity vegetable pulao).
All the food was absolutely delicious!

And, to top it off, the staff gave Lil’ L an amazing chocolate ice cream dessert as a birthday treat. Check out the huge sparkler that’s stuck in it.  It was awesome!

The birthday celebrations continued all weekend long. On Saturday, he went to the cinema with his best friend to see Madagascar 3. We let them go into the cinema alone (a first for Lil’ L… he was so excited!) while M and I enjoyed some time together in the foyer coffee shop 🙂

The cinema trip was followed by a picnic on the lounge floor, a Lego Star Wars film, then lots of lego building, general larking about, book reading in their sleeping bags and then, at nearly midnight, there was silence as the boys finally fell asleep 😉

Lil’ L had such a fantastic birthday weekend and thank you so much to everyone for all the kind birthday wishes, cards and presents he’s been sent. The ‘thank you’ cards are in production 🙂

Take care everyone!

I hope you’re having a great week so far 🙂 xx

Raw Chocolate Banana Ice Cream

Since we’re enjoying a late summer here in the UK, I thought it would be fitting to show one of our current favourite desserts … raw chocolate banana ice cream.

It’s so simple to make… even simpler if you’ve got a food processor 😉

You simply slice some very ripe bananas and place them in a freezer bag overnight.

Place the banana slices in the food processor, along with some raw cacao powder (regular cocoa powder will work fine too) and a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. I also add a teaspoon of virgin coconut oil to make the ice cream even creamier.

Whizz in the processor until it’s nice and smooth*. Add a little natural liquid sweetener to taste (I use agave syrup) and some cacao nibs or choc chips if desired. Pulse a few times to combine and then it’s ready to go!

* Before I had the food processor, I used to pulse the ingredients in my blender to break up the banana (scraping down a few times), then I transferred it to a bowl and used my stick blender to blend it to a smooth consistency. It turns out the same… just takes a little more effort than with the F.P.

The ice cream can be served straight away as soft serve, or frozen for a few hours if you wish to scoop it into balls. In the freezer, the ice cream will last weeks.

We love to serve the ice cream with a drizzle of home-made chocolate sauce (recipe coming soon!), and a sprinkling of flaked almonds and cacao nibs.

This ice cream is not only simple to make, but it’s cheap (a great way of using up over ripe bananas!), it’s packed with nutrition, it’s dairy free, it has no refined sugar and it’s low fat. It also happens to be totally scrummy. Now that’s my kind of treat! 🙂

Here’s the printable recipe…

For more info about raw chocolate and its wonderful properties, see this post.

What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?
I’d love to try a nutella version next… maybe using our home-grown cob nuts.

Have a great weekend everyone! xx

This time last year… A Wonderful Summer

London, Whole Foods, Saf & Raw Chocolate Pecan Bark

Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a great weekend!

I was lucky enough to start my weekend a day early, with a trip to London on Friday to spend the day with my gorgeous friends Helen and Naomi, and Naomi’s beautiful 9-month old daughter.  It was really good to see them, and I had such a great time! 🙂

I met them in Kensington and we headed to Whole Foods which is located in the historic Barkers Building on Kensington High Street.

I’ve heard so much in blogging world about Whole Foods and I never thought that I would actually get to go there myself.  It was health food heaven!!!  It was so beautifully laid out.  Just visiting the store was an incredible experience in itself!

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But just as I thought the day couldn’t get any better, we hopped in the glass elevator and went upstairs to the Saf Restaurant.  ‘Saf’ stands for ‘Simply Authentic Food’ and also means ‘Pure’ in Turkish. You can find out more about their mission and philosophy on their website.

I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the menu.  It was 100% plant-based!  That means I could eat anything on the menu!  That is seriously a first for me!

Everything sounded so delicious that I wish I could have tried it all.  To be fair, I did manage to get through quite a lot of the menu 😉  Between the three of us, we ordered a range of dishes to sample, which included the following…

Curried Kale Crisps – Raw marinated and dehydrated Kale crisps flavored with curried coconut flakes

Saf Cheese Trio – A selection of their signature, olive, herb and smoked paprika ‘cheeses’, served with flax crackers, raw quince jam and drizzled with herb oil

Spinach and Date Gyoza – Organic madjol date, spinach, caramelized onion and chive dumplings, served with black vinaigrette

Saf Banh Mi – Kentish flute baguette with their trademark vegan mayonnaise, kimchee, roasted aubergine, maple glazed tofu and torn fresh mint and coriander

Vietnamese Wrap – Rice paper wrap with pickled daikon radish, maple glazed tofu, mixed salad leaves and their own miso-sambal sauce

Saf Burger – Seasonal vegetable patty, grilled onion, gherkin, tomato, gem lettuce with homemade tomato fig jam and special tarragon aioli served on a wholegrain bun

… plus 3 different salads!

I was totally blown away by the food!  I don’t think I’ve tasted anything like it before.  So, so tasty!

After a breather to let our meal go down, I couldn’t leave the restaurant without trying one of their desserts.  Well, two actually 😉

Chocolate & Orange Torte – Raw cocoa & cashew cream ganache with cocoa nib & cashew crust served with orange bubbles

Butternut Cheesecake – Butternut & cashew cheese with a coconut & lemon zest base served with champagne sabayon

I nearly didn’t try the latter because the name put me off.  Butternut cheesecake?  Mmm, didn’t sound very appetising but I was intrigued.  It turned out that the cheesecake was absolutely stunning.  Probably the best cheesecake I’ve tasted in my life!  I would so love to try and re-create it at home.

Saf has an Iphone app which provides the recipes for a selection of their dishes.  Unfortunately, I haven’t got an Iphone myself but hopefully I’ll be able to borrow a friend’s or ask a friend to download the recipes for me.

In summary, Saf is a fantastic plant-based dining experience in a beautiful environment.  If you’re ever in London, you must check it out!

After a wonderful day in London with my friends, I returned to Bath fired up with enthusiasm for plant-based cooking and experimenting with new recipes.  Not least because I was armed with a brand new cook book that Naomi had bought me for my birthday called ‘Veggiestan’. Thank you Naomi!

The author writes a blog under the same name, which is really worth checking out.

My family loves middle-eastern food, so I can’t wait to start trying out Sally’s recipes.  The book is beautifully designed and makes a great read.  I actually started reading it in bed on Saturday morning with a cup of coffee.  Is that sad or what?  Please tell me I’m not the only one that sits in bed reading cook books!!

So, all fired up, I spent this morning in the kichen creating a variety of baked goods for this week’s lunchboxes and some raw chocolate goodies.  As well as making some goji hearts to send to Becca (the winner of my giveaway 🙂 ), I also made some raw chocolate pecan bark. Using raw ingredients allows the chocolate to retain all its wonderful antioxidants and other nutritional qualities.  I also opted to use Sweet Freedom Fruit Sweetener instead of sugar.  The result? A home-made chocolate bark that’s packed with nutrients, low GI and suitable for diabetics.  Happy days! 🙂

It also tastes scrumptious!

And it’s super quick and easy to make!

Fancy having a go?

Here’s the recipe:

So where can you buy raw chocolate making ingredients?  Some local health food shops stock them.  In Bath, you can buy them from Harvest, on Walcot Street.  I also buy my ingredients from Elements for Life, which has on online shop.  For those interested in trying out raw chocolate making, the Elements for Life Raw Chocolate Making Starter Kits are great.  They include raw cacao butter, raw cacao powder, Sweet Freedom fruit sweetener and a heart silicone mould, all for just £14.99.  These also make great gifts for dark chocolate lovers.

Lil’ L absolutely loves raw chocolate and, given its fantastic nutritional profile, I’m happy for him to eat it on a regular basis.  In fact, I would even encourage it.  As well as the raw chocs, I also add raw cacao powder to his smoothies and use it in desserts.

Since visiting Saf, I’m fired up to try making more raw desserts and treats.  I’ve already got a few ideas for new recipes, so I’ll test them soon and let you know how I get on.  Are you a fan of raw desserts?  If so, what’s your favourite?  Please send me links to your favourite recipes so I can check them out.

Have a great week everyone!  The Olympic Torch arrives in Bath tomorrow, so you can imagine how buzzing the city is at the moment!

 

 

A Weekend of Treats, Rounded off with a Raw Chocolate Orange Chia Dessert!

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

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday but I was busy all day taking photographs for “the book”!  My aim is to get all the photos finished by Easter, which isn’t far off considering how quickly the weeks are flying by!

So how was your weekend?  For us, it was a weekend of “treats”!  Lil’ L had the treat of going to stay for a night with his lovely nanny in Dorset, while M and I went for our belated Valentine’s night away at Carey’s Manor in Brockenhurst, Hampshire.

This place is pretty special…

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and has the most beautiful Thai-style spa with hydrotherapy facilities.

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Okay, I’ll stop the photos now 😉

This was our first ‘date night’ in months and it was nice to go somewhere special and spend some quality time together.  We reduced the costs as much as possible by staying on the Friday night (thus avoiding the Saturday night supplements), and we also took advantage of the hotel’s special free evening meal offer.

We were booked into the hotel’s Manor Restaurant for our evening meal, and I can happily report that the chef rose to the challenge of meeting my dietary requirements 😉  I didn’t take any photos as it wasn’t the type of restaurant where you can whip out your camera and start snapping the food , but here’s a quick run down of what they served me:

Entree – strawberry sorbet (M was given a white onion cappuccino which sounds bizarre to me, but apparently it was really nice!)

Starter – beetroot carpaccio with mushrooms, rocket and a balsamic dressing.

Main course – wild mushroom risotto…which they made with soya milk for me!

Dessert – pineapple carpaccio with shredded basil and coconut sorbet.

All courses were totally delicious!  I really want to have a try at making both the beetroot and pineapple carpaccios as they were stunning!

After our meal, M and I stayed in the lounge until 1 in the morning chatting.  We haven’t had an opportunity to do that in a long time.  It was really nice! 🙂

The next day, we met my mum and Lil’ L in Burley.  Every time I visit this village, I have to stop at the Old Farmhouse Tearooms for a soy cappuccino and slice of their ginger cake.  That cake is dairy free and gluten free… and totally scrumptious!

We then took a circular walk on the common to walk off our cake.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, it was warm enough to not wear a coat.  Is this really February?  The crazy weather continues!

Along the walk, we saw lots of this beautiful yellow gorse…

We warned Lil’ L that it’s really prickly but you know kids.. they have to find out for themselves 😉

We also came across lots of these beautiful little New Forest ponies.  So cute!

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.  Lil’ L loved his time with nanny and, since M and I rarely go on dates these days (perhaps 2-3 times a year?), we really cherished our night away.  M has suggested that we do it again later this year and I’m totally up for that!

As you can imagine, I did very little cooking this weekend …. but I did make a raw chocolate orange chia pudding!  I’ve only recently started to buy chia seeds as they have been hard to come by in this country.  Local to me, they’re now available from the Harvest Health Food shop in Bath.  I also purchase them from online stores including Healthy SuppliesElements for Life, and Earthfare.  I find that the cost of chia seeds can really vary from one store to another, and at different times of year, so I always make sure I shop around.

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These seeds come from the beautiful chia plant, which belongs to the mint family (salvia hispanica).

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I’ve read so much good stuff about them on the Internet.  Here’s a quick rundown of its nutritional profile:

  • Chia is a very rich source of omega 3 essential fatty acid
  • It is a good source of protein, and contains all 9 essential amino acids.
  • It is high in dietary fibre.
  • It’s easily digested and absorbs more than 9 times its weight in liquid when soaked, helping to regulate blood sugar and hydration.
  • Chia is a good source of minerals, notably phosphorus, manganese, calcium and zinc.

They sound like another “super food” to me!

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The seeds have been eaten throughout Central and Southern America for thousands of years, and were part of the staple diet of the Aztecs and Indians.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that chia seeds have a history of safe use as a food.  However, for some reason (which I’m yet to fathom out) these little seeds have been classed as a “novel food” under the EU Novel Food Act 1997.  This means that when you buy chia seeds in Europe, they have a big label on the packet that they can only be consumed as an ingredient for baked goods comprising a maximum 5% of the content!

Since I haven’t read anything on the Internet about chia seeds being harmful and, on the contrary, have read time and again about the health benefits of this little seed, I’ve joined my fellow American and Canadian health foodie friends in eating chia seeds raw 🙂  If you bake them, you lose the omega 3 content which, to me, defeats the object of eating them in the first place.

And in their raw form, chia seeds make the most AMAZING chocolate desserts!  Chocolate orange is my current favourite flavour, but I’m looking forward to trying mocha and hazelnut versions.  The possibilities are endless!

It’s so simple to make.  Here’s how I do it:

Do you eat chia seeds?  If so, what is your favourite way of serving them? Please add links to your favourite recipes in the comment section below as I’d love to try them out!

What do you think of the EU law on chia?  Do you think it’s right to class chia as a ‘novel’ food when it’s been around for thousands of years? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great week everyone! xx

 

Raw Chocolate Coconut Cup Recipe & Giveaway Result!

Hi everyone! I hope you had a great weekend! 🙂

As promised, today I’m going to share my recipe for raw chocolate coconut cups.  I’m not sure if the name is an accurate description of what these chocolates are, so if anyone can think of a better name, please let me know!

Raw Chocolate Coconut Cups

They are so simple and quick to make.  If you guys do make them I would LOVE to see the pics! You could post them on my FB page or send them to me on Twitter (@GoodStuffSharon).  I’m sure your pics will be amazing! 🙂

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • raw cacao (cocoa) powder & raw cacao (cocoa) butter
    These can be bought from health food stores (such as Harvest in Bath) or online
  • creamed coconut
    I use Patak’s creamed coconut sachets, which are available from major supermarkets here in the UK.  Creamed coconut is pure coconut flesh, which is pulverised and formed into a solid block.  It’s a common ingredient in Indian cooking, hence why Patak’s sell it.

I’m sure that coconut butter will be a fine replacement if you can’t get hold of creamed coconut.

  • Goji berries, almonds & brazil nuts, finely chopped (I whizz them in my mini chopper).  As you probably know by now, I’m a huge fan of goji berries.  They not only taste wonderful, but they’re packed with goodness too 🙂  These can be bought from health food stores, some major supermarkets (Asda are currently selling them for £1.47/100g compared to £2/100g at Waitrose) and online.

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  • Petit Four cup cases.  I double these up and use 2 cases per chocolate, to help them keep a nice round shape.

Apologies in advance to my US friends for not giving you quantities in cups. I wasn’t convinced by the online converter I found, so if anyone can recommend a decent one then please do let me know.

 

Valentine’s Giveaway Result
Thank  you so much for all the lovely comments you left me on Valentine’s Day 🙂  So who’s the lucky winner of my Valentine’s giveaway?

Well, I organised the comments into chronological order and pressed the magic button on random.org. 

The winner is the lovely Rachel who writes the fabulous blog My Naturally Frugal Family

Congratulations Rachel!  Six of  my raw chocolate coconut cups will be on their way to you shortly.

Have a wonderful week everyone!  xx

Sharing the Love with a Raw Chocolate Valentines Giveaway

Hi everyone!  I hope you’ve all had a great day so far!  I’ve had the most amazing afternoon making raw chocolate coconut cups whilst listening and singing along to Lana Del Rey’s album (which a certain person bought me for Valentines 😉  ) Oh, and I’ve also been acting as an assistant to the family’s principal Star Wars Lego Ship builder 😉

Anyway, this is just quick post to share some love <3.  Do you fancy trying some of the raw chocolates that I made today?

They really are scrummy 🙂

There’s are five ways you can enter my giveaway to win a box of six raw chocolates.  Each way counts as a separate entry.  So, if you do all five, you’ll increase your chances of winning five fold 🙂

  1. Leave me a comment below.
  2. Follow me on Twitter and leave me a comment below to let me know that you do.
  3. Tweet about the giveaway and leave me a comment below.
  4. ‘Like’ my blog page on Facebook (you can click the button on the top right hand side of my homepage) and leave me a comment below.
  5. Subscribe to receive notifications of my posts by email, and leave me a comment below.

A winner will be selected at random on Friday 17th February, 9pm GMT.

Good luck everybody!

I’ll leave you with today’s top Lana Del Rey sing along track.  Enjoy! xx