Chocolate-Coated ‘Strawberry Coconut Ice’ (Vegan / Dairy-free)

When I was young, I used to love the tins of Quality Street that we shared as a ‘treat’ at Christmas. My eyes lit up every time I opened the lid and saw all those shiny, bright wrappings. Usually people have a Quality Street ‘favourite’ but not me… I loved all of them bar one… and that was the hard toffee penny in the gold wrapper. In fact, I’m wondering whether anyone actually likes those toffees. In my house, they were always the last ones left in the tin.

Quality Street


My taste buds have changed a lot since I was a kid and now, even the thought of eating a Quality Street chocolate makes me feel queasy. I just don’t like the taste of cane sugar anymore, nor the nauseating feeling it leaves me with for hours after I’ve eaten it. However, as you’ll have seen on my blog, I do still love chocolates A LOT. It’s just that these days, I prefer to make my own and fill them with ingredients that make me (and everyone else) feel great.

Strawberry Coconut Ice Chocs

This week I’ve been having fun creating a new chocolate to share with friends and family this weekend. I daren’t admit how many I’ve eaten this week but it’s well into double figures. Good thing I’m running a lot at the moment!

This new chocolate is a healthy hybrid of two of my favourite Quality Street chocs – the Strawberry Delight and Coconut Eclair.  Its flavour and texture is not dissimilar to ‘coconut ice’ (or a strawberry flavoured bounty!) but it tastes fresh and ‘real’ rather than sugary and processed. It’s really yummy!

Strawberry Coconut Ice

It’s super easy to make too! It’s simply a case of whizzing coconut and strawberries together in a food processor, popping them in the freezer to firm up, then coating in dark chocolate. I like to make my own raw chocolate, but you could easily melt down a bar of chocolate or some choc chips if you prefer.

Strawberry Coconut Ice Chocs

At Christmas time, I was really lucky to win a Twitter giveaway hosted by Sevenhills Organics. The prize was £250 worth of superfoods! In my amazing haul, was some beautiful cacao powder and cacao butter, which I used to make these chocs.

Cacao Powder & Butter

I’ve never seen cacao butter in buttons before. As well as being super cute, they’re much easier to use than the solid blocks that I normally buy. You simply pop them straight in the double boiler – no messing about with chopping or grating. I’ll definitely be buying these again!

The sweetener I used for these chocolates was Clarks Carob Fruit Syrup. If you’ve read my other raw choc posts, you’ll know that I love the subtle flavour of carob fruit syrups in my chocs. I’ve used Sweet Freedom before and the Clarks Carob Fruit Syrup is similar in taste, though much lighter and thinner in texture. It’s a fairly new product and currently only available from Ocado (I was sent some samples to trial). If you can’t get hold of carob fruit syrup, or you wish to make the chocolates raw, then organic agave nectar is a good substitute.

Strawberry Coconut Ice Chocs

Products used in this recipe (UK stockists)
East End Desiccated Coconut
Essential Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
Clarks Carob Fruit Syrup (Sweet Freedom and Organic Agave Nectar will work too)
Steenburgs Organic Fairtrade Vanilla Extract
Sevenhills Organic Cacao Powder
Sevenhills Organic Cacao Butter
Magimix Food Processor

Did you have a favourite Quality Street as a kid? If so, let me know as I’d love to try my hand at recreating it at home! 😀

Raspberry and Lemon ‘Cheese’ Cake Hearts… Perfect for Valentines or any Special Occasion!(Vegan / Dairy-free)

When I was young, cheesecake was my number one favourite dessert. When I quit dairy, I never imagined that I’d ever eat it again! However, in the past few years, some very talented vegan chefs have been creating a mouth watering array of dairy-free ‘cheese’ cakes that easily rival the traditional dairy-laden dessert. Not only do they taste scrumptious, but they’re far healthier too!

At the Alley Cafe in Nottingham, I experienced my first blackcurrant vegan cheesecake, made with tofu (not that I realised it was tofu – I had to ask the chef for the secret ingredient!) I loved it so much that I went back the next night, just so I could indulge in another slice 😉

On my first trip to Saf in Kensington, my jaw dropped when I saw the selection of vegan cheesecakes on offer. I was amazed when the waitress told me that the creamy filling was actually cashews! (By the way, it’s so sad to hear that Saf’s shutting… I loved that place so much I even chose to go there for my 40th birthday lunch … and had cheesecake for dessert of course!)

Me at Saf Restaurant on my 40th birthday

Since my first visit to Saf, I’ve made numerous cashew ‘cheese’ cakes at home, some of which you’ll find in my recipes section.

It’s Valentines Day tomorrow, which gives me the perfect excuse to indulge in my love of making (& eating!) these scrumptious desserts. Last year, I made six mini chocolate cheesecakes for friends and family (I halved the quantities in this recipe).

This year, I chose a chocolate crust, but couldn’t decide whether to make lemon or raspberry cheesecake, so I made some of each. I topped both with freeze-dried raspberries, and added a sprinkling of grated chocolate to the raspberry cakes.

Raspberry Vegan Cheese Cake

These scrumptious cheesecakes would make a wonderful treat for Valentine’s Day, birthdays… or any special occasion! They freeze well so you can make them days in advance.

And you’ll be pleased to hear that they’re not labour intensive at all. It’s jut a case of blending and freezing!

Lemon & Raspberry Vegan Cheese Cake

Products used in this recipe
Aasani Cashew Kernels, available on the world food aisle in Tesco (the cheapest cashews I’ve found so far!)
Aasani Almonds, available from the world food aisle in Tesco (nuts from the world food aisles and Asian supermarkets tend to be far cheaper than those found in the home baking or whole foods sections)
Essential Organic Virgin Coconut Oil – I bought this from Harvest in Bath, but it’s also available from online stores, including Amazon.
Clarks Original Maple Syrup – available from Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s supermarkets and online stores, including Amazon
Magimix 3200 Food Processor, purchased from Amazon

[This recipe has been shared at Ricki Heller’s Wellness Weekend]

What was your favourite childhood dessert? Is it something you still enjoy eating now?

Valentines Chocolate Crunch Hearts (Dairy-Free / Vegan)

Today I’d like to share one of my favourite chocolate recipes. This could make a great gift for your Valentine … or to share with your girlfriends over coffee. I’m planning on doing both 😉

Mark and I haven’t got a great track record when it comes to Valentine’s Day. Normally our days run pretty smoothly (and I’m very thankful for that!) but we seems to trip and stumble our way through Valentines. It’s very strange indeed!

One year we’d arranged to go out for a special Valentine’s meal, but Mark decided to first unblock the kitchen sink. He put on safety goggles (‘cos that’s the kind of guy he is), poured a heavy duty drain cleaner down the plughole and pushed the plunger. A second later, the drain cleaner shot out the overflow, through a gap in the side of his safety goggles and straight into his eye!!!

Since I’m not very confident at driving, he chose to drive himself to the hospital. In a hurry (and with only one eye vision!) he accidentally cut up a guy at a roundabout. The guy got so mad that he overtook us, slammed on his brakes in front of our car, got out his car and started making his way towards us. We quickly swerved round him and continued on our way. It was scary at the time (and one of the least romantic nights of my life), but seems totally farcical now!

Decades later, things haven’t improved much. Last year, we decided to celebrate Valentines Day with a take-away from our favourite Thai restaurant. We rang through the order using the numbers on the menu (as you do). When the food arrived, we gleefully ripped open the containers…. to discover that the dishes were full of meat 🙁 It turns out that our menu was out of date and the dish numbers had changed!

I dread to think what might happen this year. To be safe, I’m going to lie low!

Whatever happens, the Valentines treats should be okay, as I’m making them in advance. The chocolates were made yesterday, and I made sure I had a few extra so that Lil’ L could test them for me. I’m delighted to say that he gave them a huge thumbs up.

These treats remind me of Tiffin and Rocky Road, yet they are neither as they don’t contain butter, syrup, marshmallow or dried fruits. They are simply a scrumptious mix of dark chocolate, crunchy biscuits and nuts, topped with a sprinkling of colourful berries.

I used freeze-dried strawberries, but raspberries would work well too.  In one batch, I added some strawberries into the centre, but Lil’ L and I agreed that we preferred the batch where the strawberries were sprinkled on top only.

For the crunchy centre, I used some chopped raw almonds and Doves wholewheat digestive biscuits, which have great flavour and are dairy-free.

These chocolate treats are super simple to make, yet look really impressive! I set them in cupcake moulds, so they’re pretty substantial and great for sharing.

You could make a single chocolate for your loved one, or a ‘His n Her’ pair. Wrap them in cellophane with a hand-made card, and your loved one is bound to be impressed by the thought and effort you’ve put in.

Here’s how to make them:

Products used in this recipe
Doves Organic Wholewheat Digestives

Waitrose Freeze-Dried Strawberries
Waitrose Continental Plain Chocolate 

What would your ideal Valentines gift be? Do you like grand gestures, roses, romantic meals… or do you prefer the smaller, low key but thoughtful gestures like hand-made cards and treats?








Sweet Beet “Love” Soup

With its sweet, earthy flavour and deep purple colour, I have always been strongly attracted to beets.  In my childhood, my favourite salad ingredient was my Dad’s home grown beetroot, freshly pulled from the garden.

beetroot-uprooted copy


But little did I know as a child how good they were for my health.  I only recently discovered that beets are actually a super food.  Well I never!  Here’s what I’ve learned…

1. Beets are packed with vitamins and minerals
They contain a huge array of nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamins A, B & C, beta-carotene, beta-cyanine and folic acid.

2. Beets are rich in antioxidants which help to protect against disease
Beets are a very good source of antioxidants vitamin C and manganese.  They also contain a powerful group of antioxidants called betalains, which can help in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and inflammation. (It’s the betalains that give beets their deep red colour).  The nitrates contained in beets can also help to lower blood pressure.

3. Beets cleanse the body
Beets are a great detoxifier, tonic for the liver and blood purifier.

4. Beets help your mental health
Beets, like chocolate, contain trytophan, a substance which is known to relax the mind and create a sense of well-being.  The betalains contained in beets have also been used in certain treatments of depression.

5. Beets boost our brain power
Beetroot contains high concentrations of nitrates, which are converted in the body into nitric oxide.  This helps open blood vessels in the body, increasing blood flow and oxygen.  Nitrites also increase blood flow to the brain, which may help to prevent dementia.

6. Beets are energy boosters
Beets are a great source of complex carbs and slow-release energy.  The natural nitrates found in beets also help to increase our oxygen intake and energy levels.

7. Beets enhance our physical performance
Studies have shown that the nitrates in beets can enhance physical endurance.  In one study, cyclists who drank 500 ml of beetroot juice were able to ride up to 20% longer.

8. Beets are great for weight management
Beets are high in complex carbs and fibre, but low in calories, which makes them the perfect food for weight management.

And finally, did you know that…

9. Beets are Nature’s Viagra!
The Romans used beets medicinally as an aphrodisiac, and science has proven that beets are indeed a natural Viagra.  Their nitrate content increases blood flow in all areas of the body.  Beets also contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.

If you wish to know more, there’s a clip of Dr Oz talking about the health benefits of beets (including number 9!) here.

Getting in the Mood for Love with …

Sweet Beet Soup!

With its deep red colour and wonderful mood enhancing properties, I reckon beetroot would make a wonderful addition to any romantic meal that you might have planned for your loved ones this evening 😉

On tonight’s menu for us, is a starter of Sweet Beet Soup.  Until recently, I’d only ever eaten beetroot in salad but, inspired by Candy’s beautiful blog post called ‘Simple Pleasures’ I was inspired to try my hand at making a beet soup.

Candy kindly allowed me to share her beet soup photo. Isn’t it stunning?

Sweet Beet 'Love' Soup

And perfect for Valentines!

You must check out Candy’s post.  It is such a beautiful read!

For my beet soup, I chose to add sweet potato.  As well as adding sweetness and additional nutrients, I find it gives soups a wonderful, silky texture (without the need to add cream or milk).  Furthermore, with the addition of the potato, I find that a bowl of soup is filling on its own, without the need to add a side dish of bread.

For protein, additional flavour, textures and nutrients, I add a sprinkling of shelled hempseeds, lightly toasted pumpkin seeds and dried dill.

Here’s how I make it…

[This recipe has been submitted to Ricki Heller’s #Wellness Weekend]

So I’ve got the starter and dessert sorted for tonight’s meal, just got to decide on the main course now!

Are you a fan of Beets? What’s your favourite way of serving them? 

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day everyone xx

p.s. It’s the last day to enter my Valentine’s Raw Chocolate Giveaway (ends midnight GMT tonight).  I’ve been overwhelmed by all the beautiful comments I’ve received on this giveaway.  Thank you so much guys! You really have made my week!  Since there have been so many entries, I’ve decided to make another batch of chocolates, and I’ll select 3 winners in total.  I’ll post details of the winners on FB and Twitter tomorrow, and also email directly.
Good luck everyone xx