Please tell me I’m not the only one panicking about Christmas? Whilst I’ve now made a dent in my Christmas shopping (Thank God for TKMaxx!) I’m so behind on all the awesome plans I had for homemade gifts. I’ve also been away from my own home, which has somewhat thrown a spanner in the works with regards to my blogging… side note; nothing beats the light in Cornwall. Of course, it’s super spending time with the folks and I’m doing my best to make sure Dad is getting all the goodness he requires but that means this little space needs to take a backseat.
If you follow me on instagram you’ll notice I posted a seriously lush ’Christmas CousCous’ dish I’ve been working on (I’ve gone persimmon mad this season) but I just didn’t like how the photos turned out so I’m keeping that recipe on the back burner for a bit. In place of that I thought I’d offer up my fail-safe method for Almond Milk of which I am always obsessed. And because I like my almond milk slightly sweet I’m happy to add a medjool date or two or even a squeeze of agave – actually my preference, as it doesn’t mess with the beautiful bright white colour of the milk… fickle, moi? For a flavoured milk why not play around with various extracts yourself or add a spoonful of cocoa/cacao for a yummy chocolately milk… really great for kids! I will be popping back throughout the week with other handy recipes to see you through the festive period. Now though, it’s time to hit Lidl to see what Christmassy vegan treats they have in store.
what you’ll need
85g (1/2 cup) whole raw almonds
350ml (1 1/2 cups) water
1/2 tbsp pref. sweetener (eg. agave) or two medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
what you’ll do
place everything in a blender and blend on a high speed until smooth. pass through a fine mesh sieve or nut milk bag. chill for at least an hour before serving – will keep in the fridge for up to three days.
Can you believe we are less than three weeks away from Christmas? Seriously, where does the time go?! I’m here in Ireland helping out with my Dad (who is soldiering on magnificently, by the way) whilst trying to get myself in the festive spirit … and all without my Hubby by my side. He’s currently still in Cornwall but will join me here on the 20th. I. Can’t. Wait. My Sister flies in from the States on Christmas Eve (no doubt we’ll be the ones picking her up at the airport), which is when the festivities will truly commence. So, as you can see, it’s a bit of a weird one this year but I’m still as gung-ho as ever about maxing out all Christmas possibilities. And that means (first and foremost) family, (secondly but also crucial) food as well as films, fashion, beauty, gifts, wrap, cards and carols… and anything else that makes Christmas, Christmas. It’s a long list, so lets leave it there.
Anywho, here are some bits and bobs that are making my Winter a little brighter starting with the bling. Now, you’re probably thinking this necklace is a bit OTT and I would tend to agree. In fact, it’s so not me I’m amazed I actually bought it but hear me out before you click on another blog with decidedly better taste. I’ve been on the lookout for a statement necklace for a while. In truth I was hoping to nab one of those JCREW style pieces that make a simple outfit a standout one but (1) they are usually way out of my budget and (2) up until spying and trying this one I was unsure I could pull it off in the nonchalant way I desired. Fast forward to me wandering around Debenhams when this not-so-little beauty caught my eye in Phase Eight. I was wearing a denim shirt at the time (a JCREW one, in fact – ha!) and immediately threw it on. Let’s just say I was instantly smitten and my Mum loved it so much she actually bought it for me – thanks Mum! It’s going to get a lot of wear this Christmas – watch out for a plaid shirt, blingtastic statement necklace combo very soon.
Another day, another shopping trip and this time it was Wallis that came up trumps with their incredible range of leather-free boots and shoes… seriously vegans, check out their website pronto, they have an impressive array of footwear available and it’s all so reasonably priced! Again, I had been on the lookout for a pair of black ankle boots and was finding it impossible to find the right kind… y’know what I mean, cuban-style heel (not to high, not too low), nice textured pleather (always looks better than smooth) with a bit of an ‘edge’. Well, these ‘mid heel cowboy boots’ were (are) them. I almost shrieked when I checked the label only to discover they could be mine after-all … don’t you just love those ‘man-made’ fabric moments?
And then there’s this hat. A cute pompom adorned number that, yes, you guessed it, is also made from synthetic fibres. I’m on a roll here. It was love at first sight – although I did wrangle between the rust and mustard before settling on this one because, you know, mustard. It’s already a staple. If you’re after one yourself check the men’s section in New Look.
Confession time. I’m not a big wearer of nail varnish. Tootsies, yes. Fingernails, no. I think it was my violin playing past that put me off having anything of colour on my hands – I just found it way too distracting. However, I’m really trying to break the habit of a lifetime and this vegan friendly mustard gelly polish from cruelty-free beauty brand BarryM is just the ticket to ease me in. Whilst I’ve had it on my toes for a while now I think it’s time to give the aforementioned fingernails a go… and this gorgeous hue could not be more fitting. Check instagram for the upcoming nail varnish wearing evidence.
Dionne Necklace /Phase Eight @ Debenhams
Mid-Heel Cowboy Ankle Boots/Wallis
Navy & Mustard Bobble Beanie/New Look
Mustard ‘Gelly’ Varnish/BarryM
Patent Mary-Janes (similar here)/Topshop
Shoes, shoes, shoes. A girl can never have too many, am I right? I actually bought these patent Mary-Janes a few months back (and I can’t find the exact ones on their website now… sorry!)but knew they would come into their own around Christmas time. They really lift any outfit (equally perfect with pants, dresses and skirts) and are a must-have in my opinion. Again, it was squeal-time in Topshop when I realised they weren’t actually leather. Adorable and cruelty-free – what more can you ask for?
I may be vegan but for me the queen of Christmas is, and will always be, the incomparable Nigella. No-one oozes festive cheer in quite the same way as the lovely Ms.Lawson and whilst I would love for her to promptly board the vegan bandwagon (Jamie and Hugh are both enthusiasts) and give us some plant-based recipes already I’m quite happy to veganize her already existing ones myself in the meantime.
I’m not ashamed to admit that leafing through ‘Nigella Christmas’ is undoubtedly one of my guilty pleasures at this time of year and I have a few firm favourites that I rely on regularly to help me out of any impromptu visitor fix – with her oh-so-easy ‘Easily Scaled Mont Blanc’ dessert being just one of them. I probably don’t need to tell you that this is one of the simplest veganisations (is that even a word?) ever. Simply swap out the whipped cream for sweetened whipped coconut cream or a dollop vanilla infused cashew cream (or even some soyawhip… I won’t judge if you wont!) and et voila you have yourself an awesome vegan alternative pronto.
But (but, but, but!) having done this several years on the trot I thought I’d go one step further and switch it up with my own (slightly healthier) version that still has the chocolately ‘soil’ bottom, unctuous chestnut filling and luscious ‘snow capped’ cashew cream peak… somebody has clearly been reading too much la Lawson lately, ahem.
In all honesty though, I was delighted with the richness of this (almost but not quite ‘raw’) dessert and despite being refined sugar-free (all hail the mighty medjool date) it felt decidedly indulgent – perfect for an alternative Christmas pud. Dont’ panic though, I’m still obsessed with these little French tins of sweetened ‘marron’ joy and you’ll probably find me spoon in hand eating it directly from said receptacle with gusto over the festive period. However, should I find myself in another chestnut bind (these things happen) I’ll know exactly what to do, safe in the knowledge the results will be equally decadent and impressive. Hurrah!
what you’ll need
for the chestnut puree
1 cup cooked chestnuts
3/4 medjool dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
for the base
1 heaped tbsp chesnut puree
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup chopped almonds
for the cream topping
1 cup cashews
1 tbsp agave
1 tsp orange extract
what you’ll do
soak the cashews overnight. drain, rinse and blend with the agave and about 1/4 cup water until smooth, adding a little more water as and when needed. once completely smooth and creamy add the orange extract and blend until incorporated. chill.
blend the chestnuts with the dates, vanilla extract, salt and a splash of water until smooth. you may need to scrape down the sides of your processor several times. chill.
blend 1 tbsp of the chestnut puree together with the cocoa powder and almonds until it form into a putty. press about a tablespoon’s worth into 4 muffin moulds and chill in the freezer for about an hour.
remove the chocolate bases from the moulds and fill each one with chestnut puree. top with the orange infused cashew cream and finish with a little grated chocolate and grated orange zest. chill until needed or eat immediately.
Bundt tins are my ultimate baking weapon. There’s no batter they can’t remedy with their impressively pretty exterior making them a must have kitchen essential. Luckily this recipe is equal parts substance and style, which is just as well because I’ll be serving it up for Thanksgiving dessert tomorrow. Yep, I’ve forgone the usual pumpkin pie option for a sweet potato cake – risky, I know! Luckily my guests are complete Thanksgiving novices so they’ll probably be none the wiser. Served with a dollop of orange infused cashew cream and I reckon (hope) it’ll be a slam dunk. Happy Thanksgiving Y’all!
what you’ll need
3 cups self raising flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tbsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 small sweet potatoes (1/2 cup puree)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 cup coconut water from a can
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
what you’ll do
pre-heat the oven to 200 degree celsius. prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork and bake for around 45mins. remove and allow to cool before scooping out the flesh and blending until smooth. turn the oven down to 175 degrees celsius.
place the flour, baking powder, bicarb, spices and sugar in a large bowl and lightly whisk.
whisk together the puree, coconut oil, coconut water, extract and agave until smooth.
make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the puree mixture. fold gently until combined.
pour the batter into a greased bundt tin and bake for 35-40mins. let it cool for 10mins before gently tipping out onto a cooling rack.
serve with a dollop of sweetened cashew cream or whipped coconut cream.
I had to leave you a little something for the weekend in the form of these Intensely Chocolatey Bliss Balls. They are quite literally to-die-for … so much so, my friend insisted I put them away after scoffing several at lunch but not before enthusing about their intensely chocolatey greatness.They would (and could) be entirely ‘raw’ apart from one small detail, which is that I only had cocoa powder in the cupboard(gah!) – oh, and not forgetting the oat/extract issue… in other words make sure they are authentically raw. Or not. Up to you. Anywho, feel free to do the necessary swaps yourself for an uber decadent raw treat that will have you bouncing off the walls with a cocoa (or cacao) induced grin on your face. No better way to start the weekend.
what you’ll need
1 cup rolled oats
4 medjool dates, pitted
1 heaped tbsp cocoa or cacao powder
1 scant tbsp maca powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp coconut oil
for the chocolate coating
1/2 cup coconut, melted
2/3 cup cocoa or cacao powder
1 tbsp agave
what you’ll do
place all the bliss balls ingredients into a small processor and blitz until it forms a rubble-like consistency. this mixture is drier than most bliss balls but will hold together when pressed firmly.
take a teaspoon-sized amount and roll tightly into ten or so neat little balls.
whisk the cocoa powder into the melted coconut oil along with the agave nectar or any other vegan sweetener. roll each ball twice in the mixture – I do them all once and then repeat… that way you get a nice coating. place carefully on a line tray or plate and sprinkle over a little seasalt – optional but is divine.
refrigerate for several hours until completely firm. store in fridge.
I know what you’re thinking. Not another hummus recipe. And I get it. Really, I do. But (but, but but!!) as hummus recipes go this has got to be my favourite… which is exactly why I felt compelled to include it in the book. Of course, this is a slightly amended version but the basic principle of boil and peel remain. Omit this step and you’ll never get your hummus completely smooth.
I toed and froed when it came to including recipes such as this one in the book, however, I can assure you there was some logic to my ‘who needs another hummus/risotto/crumble recipe’ madness. Sure, it’s a basic recipe that virtually no vegan hasn’t at some point tackled. Me included. However, I thought to myself, this is the book I would liked to have had when I first went vegan and because of that I wanted to lock in place all those easy go-to recipes that you can whip up at a moments notice and still wow. And trust me, hummus still has the power to wow.
And because it was my first book, I kinda wanted to get all those tried and tested recipes out of my system so I would then have the opportunity and freedom to expand upon those ideas in other volumes. Otherwise, I’d be constantly digging into my past kitchen repertoire instead of forging forward with new ideas. Obviously it was impossible to use all my ‘oldies but goodies’ in ‘Keep it Vegan’ but I gave it damn good try… whilst still managing to squirrel away a few classics for another time, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
My attention has now turned to my next book and, as ever, I’m putting myself under extreme pressure to come up with a boatload of exciting, fresh and innovative recipes that will hopefully ‘wow’ – there’s that word again! Whilst simplicity is still at the forefront of my mind, I’m conscious of creating an index of slightly unusual dishes that anybody can cook and enjoy. Not an easy task but one I’m seriously looking forward to. In the meantime, there’s always hummus.
what you’ll need
400g cooked chickpeas
1 large garlic clove
2 heaped tsp harissa paste
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1 heaped tbsp tahini (optional)
what you’ll do
drain and rinse the chickpeas and place in a saucepan with 500ml of water. bring to a boil and then simmer for 30minutes. drain (reserving some cooking liquid for later), rinse and once to cool to the touch, peel the skin off the chickpeas.
grind the garlic and 1 tsp salt in a mortar and pestle until you achieve a puree consistency.
place the chickpeas in a small food processor along with a little salt, juice of 1 lemon, harissa paste, garlic, tahini (if using) and 1 tbsp of the reserved cooking. blend until smooth, adding a little more cooking liquid if necessary.
taste for seasoning – it may need a little more lemon juice and/or salt. blend again. serve with a some lemon zest, chilli flakes and a dusting of smoked paprika.
Ah, bread. Or more specifically… ah, toast. It’s a mainstay in most people’s kitchens and nothing says comfort food like beans on toast. At least, if you live in the UK anyway. Right now I am in desperate need of comfort but because I’m ever conscious of providing myself with a healthy alternative I eschewed the usually sugar-ridden tinned variety for this garlicky butter bean option instead.
Possibly the most generously proportioned of all the beans (can you think of a larger variety?) the humble butter bean does not feature heavily in my weekly menu. I am currently questioning my reasoning on this one but I think it goes back to my childhood and being made to eat them in a weird chipolata and butter bean casserole at a friends house. It was not good. In fact, it pretty much scarred me for life. Hence the lack of butter beans in my diet.
However, I’m pleased to report that my prior butter bean blanket ban is about to change and it’s all thanks to this simple toast topper that has quite literally transformed my once unfavorably biased butter bean stance into one of total obsession. As I type this I’m thinking about all the ways I can use them in future, and yes, one may just include a homemade ‘Heinz Baked Bean’ rip-off complete with colossal butter bean inclusion… what can I say, I loves me some beans on toast.
So eager was I to get this in my gob I may have spent very little time and effort getting ‘the perfect shot’ – I usually try not to be so starving hungry when photographing food but today I totally failed. I paired it with some dense rye bread that went perfectly with the creaminess of the butter beans. I also may have slathered it (as in the toast) in marmite too. Gotta get ‘dem B Vitamins! Ideal brunch fodder, or in my case lunch, this easy recipe is the perfect way to let those beans shine whilst packing in your daily protein – I promise I don’t always view my food in terms of nutritional value.
Any other butter bean phobes out there? May I kindly urge you to try this before ruling them out of your life completely? Just in case you’re tempted, here’s how you make ‘em.
what you’ll need
1 380g carton cooked butter beans
1 large spring onion
4 large chestnut mushrooms
handful of young spinach
3 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
flat leaf parsley
what you’ll do
heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a small skillet.
finely chop the spring onion and add to the pan. gently cook over a medium for several minutes before adding the sliced mushrooms. season and sweat for several more minutes.
finely mince the garlic and add to the pan. let the flavours infuse for a few minutes.
drain and rinse the butter beans and add to the pan. season generously and heat through, stirring thoroughly so the ingredients are fully combined.
lastly add the spinach and let it gently wilt before adding a little more salt and pepper.
serve hot with some roughly chopped flat leaf parsley and sliced scallions.
Since moving to Cornwall I’ve become a bit of a Spa pro. There are so many options down here (what with it being a holiday makers haven) it can often be difficult choosing which one to go for… but fear not, I am here to help. Deciphering the veritable wheat from the chaff, as it were, and giving you insider tips on who does what well where. Yes, my love for alliteration knows no bounds.
Let me draw your attention then to St.Michael’s Spa and Hotel in Falmouth – located, funnily enough, opposite one of our favourite Fally hangouts, Gylly Beach Cafe (they do an awesome soya latte and always have a good selection of vegan cakes), and surrounded by the most incredible grounds and one heck of a gorgeous view. I’m a sucker for ambience and St.Michael’s definitely sets the perfect spa scene with all it’s nooks and crannies, super staff and top notch treatments. Of course, me being me went for the full shebang. Namely the AFYNA Ultimate Relaxation. Clearly, I don’t do things by halves.
Being a bit of a massage expert my standards are pretty high when it comes to back rubs – in case you’re wondering I always request firm pressure… it’s the only way to deal with those knots I’m so prone to although I often find masseurs are a bit too gentle for my liking. I needn’t have worried though because Carly applied the perfect pressure and all those weeks of recent stress seemed to melt away in seconds. In not time at all I was totally zen.
After the back rub it was time to work on my face. Eek. Okay, fess up time, as this was my first ever facial (I know!) so I have absolutely nothing to compare it to (but, but , but!) I think I possibly enjoyed this more than the massage. Call it narrow mindedness or sheer stupidity but I’ve never really ‘got’ facials. I realise I’m a total idiot for underestimating the power of a good facial but the thought of having my face pulled and prodded just never really appealed. How wrong I was – and may I just say, weirdly, having my eyebrows gently pinched was perhaps the most relaxing bit of the whole treatment. Or maybe I was just so relaxed by that stage it just felt like it was. Either way. Eyebrow pinching. I highly recommend it.
Of course, for us vegans, it’s important to know what products the spa uses, which is were St.Michael’s also comes up trumps. The AFYNA and ESPA ranges are both cruelty free and I was lucky enough to be given an EPSA home spa treatment kit to take away with me. More on that later. Oh, and did I mention they’re British brands – hurrah!
And it doesn’t stop there. Afterwards, I was asked whether I would like to know my skin type to which I eagerly replied ‘Yes’! Now, I always thought I knew my skin pretty well and had already self diagnosed myself as having having combination skin, i.e. dry with an oily t-zone. Not so! I have dry skin. Plain and simple. It wasn’t exactly a surprise but it prompted me to figure out a skincare routine that would better suit my skintype, which I’ve been following rigidly for the last three weeks and guess what?!! It’s working! From making sure I apply my moisturizer to damp skin (not bone, towel dry as per my previous routine) and using a facial oil at night instead of a cream, I’ve noticed a steady improvement in my face and on my body.
I’ve incorporated the ESPA kit into my routine, which has really helped, meaning my dry patches have pretty much cleared up … in a nutshell, my skin has never felt better. I am so excited to give the AFYNA range a go now too (just as little compare and contrast) – in fact, you could say I’ve become a bit of a skincare obsessive of late, especially as I’m attempting to wean myself off cheap high street brands and ensure my products are all paraben free and mostly organic. I shall definitely keep you posted. In the meantime, I cannot wait to get back to St.Michael’s to sample a few more of their treatments. Another facial is absolutely on the cards.
*I was kindly gifted the treatment but my opinions are entirely my own and 100% honest.
I don’t know about you but I can’t drink like I used to. Maybe it’s being in my thirties or perhaps it’s just my body saying ‘enough already’ but my alcohol inclination is simply becoming less and less. Take this weekend for example. As per usual, we settled down with our Friday night bottle of wine, mahoosive bowl of spaghetti and a movie. It’s our tradition and we love it; glass (or three) of red, pasta and a film… you just can’t beat it.
Except that when Saturday morning arrived, and after a so-so night’s sleep, I felt, not necessarily hungover (definitely not enough wine consumed for that), but certainly groggy. It was disappointing to say the least. Like most people I want to wake up refreshed at the weekend, not drained and mildly nauseous – and I’m slowly coming around to the thinking that the wine just ain’t worth it. But then came Saturday night. We were invited around to a friends for dinner (and Hubby wasn’t driving), which meant yet more wine, and yes, another patchy night’s sleep. In fact, after two nights on the trot I felt like I’d been run over by a bus with the only cure being a (vegan) fry-up followed by a blustery walk along the cliffs at Sennen and even then I wasn’t in tip-top shape.
So. Clears throat. Drum-roll purlease. I’ve decided that the next two weeks will be an alcohol free zone. Now, I know that sounds like no biggie (a fortnight is nothing in the grand scheme of things) but it will at least give me a glimpse into what life will be like when I have no choice in the matter – pregnancy prep, if you will (although let’s pretend you didn’t read that, m’kay?). However, in the meantime, I still want to enjoy the odd non-alcoholic tipple, which is why my attention has swiftly turned to the much ridiculed ‘mocktail’. Although it’s not quite as exciting as a Sidecar this fragrant ‘Pomegranate & Thyme’ cocktail alternative has enough layers of flavour to feel like a grown-up drink – crucially separating from it juice counterparts. Served in a vintage cocktail glass and adorned with a sprig of thyme, a few pomegranate seeds and a satsuma peel twist, I can honestly ‘hand-on-my-heart’ say I didn’t miss the booze. Okay, so I missed it a wee bit but I’m still willing to give this booze-free existence a go. See you on the other side my friends.
what you’ll need
several sprigs of thyme
1 tsp agave (optional)
what you’ll do
juice the pomegranate, satsumas and lime and place in a cocktail shaker with several ice-cubes.
gently rub the sprigs of thyme between your fingers to release the flavour and add to shaker along with agave if using.
shake vigorously until thoroughly muddled.
adorn glasses with a sprig of thyme, slice of lime, pomegranate seeds and satsuma peel.
pour and enjoy.
Here’s a sweet treat that can be whipped up in minutes whilst (crucially) still retaining some nutritional value – yes, I’ve added some (optional) sweetener but I reckon there’s enough good to cancel out the bad… at least, that’s what I keep telling myself. I went through a major amaranth pops phase a number of years back and that obsession has recently reared it’s head again. I just can’t seem to get enough of these little puffs of awesomeness. Whilst I usually opt to sprinkle them on cereal I’ve been wanting to experiment a little by using them in recipes. The chocolate/coconut additions were borne out of necessity, i.e. I simply used what I had to hand in the kitchen. Had I more chocolate in the cupboard I would’ve used it but this meagre amount had to suffice. It was also the perfect opportunity to try out my new Nikon camera – side note: it’s not a DSLR! My Husband and I decided to trade in one of our DSLR cameras for a handier option because I was using my own one less and less… I just hate lugging that thing about when I’m out. And besides, I think one DSLR is enough for any household and I am so excited to see what this little pocket-sized alternative can do. So far, I’m super impressed. Anyway, here’s the recipe (such as it is) and from me to you – Have a wonderful weekend!
what you’ll need
1/2 cup amaranth pops
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
splash of plant milk
1/2 tbsp agave (optional)
what you’ll do
bring a small pan of water to the boil and then turn down to barely a simmer. place a bowl over the pan and melt the chocolate, plant milk and agave until completely smooth.
add the amaranth pops, desiccated coconut and stir to combine.
fill 8-10 mini muffin cases with the mixture and finish with a little more coconut.
leave to harden for at least an hour before consuming. you can also chill them in the refrigerator if you prefer.