Chocolate Granola Clusters with Hazelnuts, Pecans and Cranberries

Today, I’d like to share another of my family’s favourite granola recipes. Filled with hazelnuts, pecans, cranberries and chocolatey goodness, this granola is perfect for this season.

Chocolate Granola Clusters with Hazelnuts, Pecans & Cranberries

My garden is bordered by cob nut trees, and this year they produced the most amazing crop. I made a deal with the squirrels whereby I would collect nuts from the low hanging branches, and they could have the rest. They then got to work, burying nuts all over my lawn and flower beds, and in my plant pots. Invariably they forget where they’ve buried them and we end up with nut trees growing literally everywhere!

Cob Nuts

I’m not going to complain though. Nut trees are awesome!

And once they’ve matured, cob nuts are very similar in taste and texture to hazelnuts, so I put them to good use in yummy recipes, like this granola.

Hazelnuts

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Lil’ L loves home-made granola, especially when it’s formed into clusters. It’s so easy to make. You simple press down the mixture as if you’re making a thin granola bar then, once completely cooled, you break it into clusters.

Granola Cluster Making

Our favourite sweetener for granola is maple syrup. This adds a delicious caramel-like sweetness, rather than a ‘sugary’ flavour. I use Clarks Original Maple Syrup, which is a blend of maple and carob syrups. It’s widely available in the UK, and a fair bit cheaper than pure maple syrup. I really like its flavour and consistency, which is slightly thicker than the pure grade syrup.

Granola Clusters

These granola clusters are wonderful for breakfasts, snacks and desserts. For breakfast, we like to serve them with natural non dairy yogurt (such as Alpro) or milk. For an omega-3 boost, I often add a light sprinkling of ground linseed and finely chopped walnuts before serving. I also sprinkle in a few extra cranberries to brighten up the bowl.

Chocolate Granola Clusters with Hazelnuts, Pecans and Cranberries

Layered with yogurt and fresh or frozen fruits, the clusters also make a delicious dessert or after-school snack. They look really fancy yet take literally seconds to throw together!

Chocolate Granola Parfait

Products used in this recipe (UK stockists)
Mornflake Superfast Oats, available in Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and The co-operative (Gluten-free oats are available from the ‘Free From’ aisle in major UK supermarkets and health food stores)
Tesco Buckwheat (found in the wholefoods section) (Buckwheat is also available in health food stores and online)
Biona Coconut Sugar, available from health food stores and online
Dried Cranberries (sweetened with pineapple juice), available from the wholefoods sections in Tesco and Waitrose
Clarks Original Maple Syrup available in Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s
Essential Organic Virgin Coconut Oil (available in health food stores and online)

Enjoy! xx

Postscript
Sirilipons … ‘Secret’ nibbling eh? I wondered where the bottom right hand corner had gone. It looks like a giant mouse has been at it. You are so busted!

Granola Cluster Making

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

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

Stuff I’m Loving – Autumn 2014

The market for tasty, healthy snacks and dairy-free alternatives seems to have exploded this year! Honestly, every time I visit the supermarket the ‘free from’ aisle seems to grow bigger and bigger! I love checking out new products and sharing my favourites with you in these posts. I also love to hear about your new discoveries so please do share them in the comments section below. I’m always on the look out for new things to try!

Here are five yummy goodies that me and the family have been loving lately…

Ombar Organic Coco Mylk Chocolate Bar
Dairy free / Gluten free / Vegan
Individual bars (35g) £1.99
Ombars are no ordinary chocolate bar. They’re made with raw organic cacao which not only gives them rich flavour, but also means that each little bar is packed with antioxidants and minerals. The bars are gently sweetened with organic coconut sugar (perfect for me as my body tolerates cane sugar less and less well these days) and some of the bars, like the Coco Mylk and Strawberries & Cream, also include probiotics (‘friendly bacteria’).

Ombar Coco Mylk

I’ve loved all the flavours I’ve tried so far but my absolute favourite has to be Coco Mylk. With its creamy flavour and melt in your mouth texture, it’s like a high quality milk chocolate, yet its 100% vegan. While the bars might seem pricey for their size, the chocolate is incredibly satiating, so I find that a little goes a long way. Since Coco Mylk is my favourite flavour, you can imagine how delighted I was to find a bar in my latest TVK Box!

TVK11

Ombars are currently available in the UK in independent health food stores and online.

Propercorn Sweet & Salty
Dairy free / Gluten free / Vegan
Individual bags (30g) – 75p, Family bags (90g) – £1.59
Lil’ L and I had never tried sweet and salty popcorn before, so when a packet arrived in our August TVK box, we couldn’t wait to tuck in! We were amazed at how well the flavour combo works, and loved how the brown sugar coating gave the popcorn a light ‘crunch’ as you bit into it.

Propercorn Sweet and Salty 400

Since Lil’ L discovered that Waitrose sells Propercorn, a family size bag seems to magically appear in my shopping basket every week. It’s his favourite treat for movie nights and, since it’s so light, he also likes to stash a bag in his backpack for school trips and biking adventures.

Lil L's Propercorn Snack Stop

Propercorn individual and family bags are currently available in Waitrose; individual bags are available in Tesco.

Nakd Bars
Dairy free / Gluten free / Vegan
Individual bars (35g) 75p; Multipacks (4 x 35g) £2.70
My family are big fans of Nakd bars and I like to keep a stash in backpacks and handbags for snacking on the go. I love how they’re made of 100% natural ingredients (basically raw fruits and nuts squashed together) with no added sugars, syrups or oils. They come in nine flavours and there are three in particular that I absolutely adore – Cocoa Orange, Cocoa Mint and Caffe Mocha. The packaging’s really cool too!

Nakd bars

In the shops, you can buy individual bars and four bar multipacks. Selection boxes are also available from the Nakd website. I love the ‘Find Your Favourite’ box which has one of each bar in the range. It makes a yummy treat for health conscious friends. I recently sent one to a friend that was going travelling as a ‘bon voyage’ gift.

You can get great deals on Nakd bars in the UK supermarkets, so I stock up whenever I spot them on offer. This month, Waitrose are offering two bars for £1 and two multipacks for £4.

Lil' L Nakd Bar Snack Stop

Oatly
Dairy free / Vegan
Oat drink (1 litre) £1.39-1.49; Organic Creamy Oat (250ml) 75p
I’ve only recently discovered the Swedish company Oatly, but they’ve been making oat drinks since the early 90s. In Sweden, Oatly is the number one milk substitute, and they’re rapidly growing in popularity here too. There are currently five Oatly products available in the UK. The Organic ‘milk’ only has three ingredients – oats, water and a little salt. For those that prefer fortified ‘milks’, the one in blue packaging comes fortified with calcium and vitamins D2, riboflavin and B12. There’s also a dairy-free alternative to single cream called ‘Organic Creamy Oat’, which is perfect for drizzling on desserts and can also be used for cooking.

Oatly has recently had a re-brand and the new packaging is really cool!

Oatly range

The Oatly ‘milks’ are available in most major UK supermarkets, and the cream alternative is currently available in Tesco and Waitrose. Since they have such a long shelf life, I like to stock up on the UHT ‘milks’ when they’re on offer. Both Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are currently offering multibuy deals (3 for £3; 2 for £2).

Hoots Snacks
Dairy free / Vegan
Individual bag (38g) £0.60
We first discovered Hoots through the September TVK box, and were delighted to meet the team behind this delicious snack at London VegFest last weekend Hoots sell a range of oven baked snacks made of wholegrains and mixed seeds (all free from added colours, flavours, preservatives and MSG). The pickled onion flavour is lush! For me, it tastes like a healthy version of my favourite childhood junk food – Pickled Onion Monster Munch! Lil’ L loves them too, and has enjoyed taking them to school and on trips as a ‘treat snack’.

Hoots Pickled Onion Snack

They’ve only recently launched in the UK and aren’t widely available, so I’ll update this post once they launch nationwide (Fingers crossed that will be soon!)

Over to you, lovely readers Have you discovered any new yummy plant-based products lately?

 

Rocky Road (Vegan Style!)

Sorry I haven’t been around much these past few weeks, but I’ve been hanging out with Lil’ L. He’s growing up fast, and since this could be the last summer that he actually wants to hang out with me, I’ve been savouring every moment. We’ve had so much fun! This week’s highlights (so far) have been hiking, biking, playing tennis, picnicking in the park, a trip to the cinema (How To Train Your Dragon 2) and playing in the kitchen 🙂

Last weekend we got back from our vacation and there was a postal delivery card waiting for us. First thing Monday morning, we hopped on our bikes and pedalled down to the post office. I jumped with glee when I saw that the mystery parcel was the latest The Vegan Kind Subscription Box. I couldn’t wait to do the big ‘reveal’!

The Vegan Kind #TVK10

As usual, the box was filled with interesting brands and products that I’m excited to try out. Lil’ L’s eyes especially lit up when he saw these….

Freedom Mallows

While regular marshmallows are made with gelatine (a slaughterhouse byproduct), Freedom Mallows are gelatine free, dairy free, egg free, gluten free and nut free, and thus suitable for vegetarians and vegans, as well as people with gluten, dairy and nut allergies/intolerances.

And it’s incredible how similar they are to regular marshmallows, both in taste and texture. My mum loves marshmallows and even she can’t tell the difference.

Over the winter, Lil’ L enjoyed slicing and sprinkling vanilla mallows onto his hot chocolates. This time round, we thought it would be fun to make some Rocky Road. While I stood by, Lil’ L set to work melting chocolate and coconut oil…

Rocky Road Making

…bashing biscuits

Rocky Road Making

…then adding mallows and mixing it altogether. Since our mallows were strawberry flavoured, we thought it would be nice to finish off our Rocky Road with a sprinkling of freeze-dried strawberries (which we had left over from these Chocolate Crunch Hearts).

After a couple of hours in the freezer, the Rocky Road was ready to slice and sample. It got a huge thumbs up from Lil’ L!

Rocky Road (Vegan Style)

So far this week, he’s enjoyed it as a treat snack at the cinema and the tennis courts. While it’s a little too sweet for me, Lil’ L reckons it’ll be a hit with kids or anyone with a sweet tooth. It would be great for sharing at children’s tea parties or selling at charity or school fundraisers. It would also make a lovely home-made gift for sweet-loving veggie friends, wrapped in a special box or tin

In the UK, Freedom Mallows are available from Holland & Barrett, independent health food shops (including Harvest in Bath) and online.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! xx

Mezze Lunch Platter – Sun-Dried Tomato Houmous, Baba Ganoush, Confetti Salad, Marinaded Olives, Flatbreads

There’s something really fun about tucking into a platter of mini dishes, and Middle Eastern mezze contains some of my family’s all-time favourites, such as houmous and baba ganoush.

If mezze is on a restaurant menu, we’ll order it. If the platter isn’t 100% vegan, I find that the staff are always willing to substitute the non-vegan dishes. Back home, we love to eat mezze for lunch at weekends and during the school holidays. It’s also great for serving to friends when they come over for ‘drinks and nibbles’ (or ‘dribbles’ as we like to call them). Today, I’d like to share some of my favourite dishes to serve as part of a mezze lunch platter.

Middle Eastern Mezze Platter

UK supermarkets now offer a great selection of flavoured houmous, so feel free to use shop-bought houmous in your mezzes if you wish. I still enjoy making my own as I love playing around with different flavour combinations. One of my current favourites is sun-dried tomato with Dukkah spice topping. As you’ll notice in the recipe, I prefer to use water instead of oil in my home-made houmous. I find that it doesn’t compromise the flavour, yet it greatly reduces the calorie content (which is a bonus as it means I can eat twice as much 😉 )

Dukkah – the Egyptian aromatic mix of nuts, seeds, herbs and spices – has become the new salt and pepper in my house, and I sprinkle it on pretty much everything. While you can make it yourself, it’s fairly cheap to buy ready mixed. No two places make Dukkah the same, so their flavours can vary a lot. A favourite of mine is made by Olives et Al. You’ll find them in health food stores and farm shops across the UK, as well as online.

Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus with Dukkah Spice Topping

Baba ganoush is an aubergine (eggplant) dish, used for dipping or spreading on flatbreads. It’s usually made from the flesh only, but I prefer to blend up the whole aubergine. I think the skin adds to the flavour and texture of the dish, as well as adding more nutrients and fibre (feel free to omit the skin though if you prefer!)

Tahini is an essential component of houmous and baba ganoush. It varies in flavour and consistency depending on the brand. Some tahinis I’ve tried have been too bitter for my taste. My current favourite brand is Achva (available from Tesco and Morrisons). This tahini is creamy, has a beautiful flavour and a pourable consistency (so great for dips and dressings).

Baba Ganoush

The salads on mezze platters tend to be dainty so I make a ‘confetti salad’ of finely chopped cucumber, tomato and red pepper. On top, I drizzle one of my all-time favourite home-made tangy creamy dressings. The dressing is oil-free, and the creaminess comes from ground hemp seeds. The hemp also adds a lovely boost of protein and omega 3 to the salad.

Confetti Salad with Creamy Tangy Hemp Vinaigrette

And the final dish is full of beautiful olives. My favourite olives are those marinaded in herb or spice-infused extra virgin olive oil. Once the olives have been eaten, the oil can be used for dipping bread, mixing into pasta or drizzling on pizzas.

Olives et al Olives

Olives et al kindly sent me some of their new Smoky Chipotle Chilli Olives to try. These feature whole Amphissa olives, marinaded in extra virgin olive oil infused with Chipotle chillis. They were so tasty, and perfect for me as the chilli flavour is very subtle. I find that supermarket marinaded olives can be a bit ‘hit and miss’, but I’ve loved every single jar of olives that I’ve tried from Olives et al. They have an amazing selection so, if you’re in the UK, do check it out.

Mezze Platter

 Do you like mezze? If so, what are your favourite dishes?