Monday Meditation: Vegan Gluten-Free Mango & Raisin Crumble

F285BFFB-8C3A-4FB1-8B4F-3B9714EEC31BAn unusual topic for a Monday Meditation, but if left to my own devices, I find baking a very meditative occupation.

I don’t particularly enjoy the hustle and bustle of a crowded busy kitchen, needing to produce several different items in record time! I do however enjoy creating recipes using just what I find in my cupboards or fridge/freezer, often using up small amounts of this and that, so as not to let them go to waste.

I can let go. I can relax. I can enjoy the sun streaming through the kitchen window even on freezing cold snow days, as this one was. I can play my favourite music and sing along at the top of my voice or enjoy the quiet and let my mind wander where it will, with no demands made of it. I can be as creative as I like and no-one is going to pull a face or disapprove. I like experimenting and rarely make the same thing twice with exactly the same ingredients. I’m not one for following recipes, even my own!

I’ve been asked for recipes for the baking I did during our week of snowdays, so I’m gradually working my way through them (see Our Snow Days Became Baking Days – Is The Gym Open Yet?)I made only sketchy notes or sometimes asked my husband to write things down and his notes are usually only compehensible by himself alone! So I’ll do my best, but all quantities are approximate.

I love mangoes. The fragrance, the juiciness, the soft flesh. They are high in vitamins A and C, and also contain some B6, iron, calcium and magnesium. Great on their own, in smoothies or ice-cream.

However, I find mangoes as frustrating as avocados. You wait forever for them to ripen and just when you think it will be perfect, it’s gone. They are best kept out of the fridge to allow the ripening process to continue, which I did, but this one was defying all the laws. It appeared to be ripe on one side, unripe on the other and developing a black spot on the end. I decided to peel it and see.

It was too unripe to use straightaway and I didn’t want to waste it. I had never heard of mango being cooked before but I decided I had nothing to lose, so I chopped it up onto a pan, added a little apple juice and some raisins – I may have used a little maple syrup too – put on the lid and cooked it on a low heat.

I didn’t want to use it immediately and so I put it in the freezer – and forgot about it! I found it on a snow day and decided to try and make a fruit crumble with it.

86B02C47-8A7C-4C21-AEE2-2FB40AE6A223I let it thaw for a couple of hours – it doesn’t look very appetising, but it tasted good. I then devised the crumble topping.

Here’s what I came up with:

2oz Tiger Nut Powder*

4oz Self-Raising Gluten-free Flour

2oz Poridge Oats (I left them whole as they were quite small, but you could grind them to a flour if preferred)

2oz Vegan Spread (I used Pure)

2oz Coconut Sugar**

Method

7394C255-4B0D-49A2-9249-9C594B5DDD8DMix together the flours, sugar & oats, rub in the spread with the fingertips until it resemble thick breadcrumbs.

Place the mango and rasin mixture in an oven dish and top with the crumble.

Place in a medium hot oven and cook until golden and bubbly.

9D4DC69F-4FDA-467C-A5E2-65F1ED6E4392We had it first with coconut yogurt and then next morning, having got up late, we had it with homemade custard while we sat huddled in front of the woodburner!

Homemade custard:

This was made using cornflour, a little coconut sugar and a drop of vanilla extract, which was mixed to a paste with a little almond milk, then I poured in some warmed almond milk, stirred and returned it to the pan and heated, stirring until it thickened.

I used some leftover crumble mix to make scones, see next time!

Vegan, Gluten-Free Plum Crumble – Nice, But Not Too Naughty!

‘What Do You Eat If You Can’t Have Anything Naughty?’ – What Vegans Eat

*The Tiger Nut Company

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Dairy-Free Frozen Chocolate-Flavoured Breakfast Smoothie Bowl

16D342DD-5171-499D-A90A-59CCFB55A00DI keep rescheduling this post because the weather insists on returning to winter temperatures!  Plus, I think the colour and the fact that it has spinach in it may put you off. If I hadn’t written ‘smoothie’ in the title, you would probably have thought it was soup!

However, I’m relegating porridge bowls for now, I need a change, and I have to hope that things will warm up sooner rather than later.

Admittedly, this smoothie doesn’t look very appealing, but appearances can be deceiving and it is chock full of the good stuff.  Using frozen instead of fresh banana makes the smoothie thicker and creamier. Slice over-ripe bananas and freeze them in the amounts you’ll want to use them. Bananas that start to have black spots on them are much easier to digest, fresh or frozen.

Use less milk than you would for a normal smoothie in a glass.

Vegan, Gluten-free and can be Nut-free.

All quantities approximate.

Ingredients

1 Banana (frozen)
½ cup of Blueberries, washed
1 small handful of Spinach, washed
2 Tbsp Peanut (or any nut or seed) Butter
1 Tbsp Raw Cacao Powder*
½ cup of Tiger Nut Milk (or any plant milk, click link for how to make)
Optional: 1 Medjool Date, but as I’d put one in the milk, I didn’t add another
Optional: 1 Tbsp Moringa**, or a scoop of Vivolife ‘Thrive for Her’ Green Superfood, Wild Berry flavour*** or any other flavoured Protein Powder
Toppings: I went for a crunchy mix to offset the creamy texture of the smoothie. Chopped nuts (I used Walnuts here), Mixed Seeds, (I used Sunflower, Pumpkin & Chia*), Cacao Nibs*, Blueberries or other berries, Buckwheat

Blend until smooth, but don’t overdo it or it will become too thin.

Sprinkle with chosen toppings.

Nutrients include: antoxidants, b vitamins, iron, magnesium, prebiotics, probiotics, protein, calcium, zinc, potassium, healthy fats, dietary fibre. Great for breakfast, dessert or a healthy pick-me-up.

Here are some links to other smoothie recipes:

Frozen Mango, Banana & Passionfruit Protein Smoothie

Monday Meditation: Two Year Old Frank’s Berry Good Smoothie – Made With Love & Smiles

Almond, Chia & Spinach Super Smoothie

Heart-Healthy Carob, Walnut & Lucuma Smoothie

Monday Meditation: Indulgent No-Banana Cherry & Chocolate Smoothie

The Mood Booster: Raw Chocolate Mulberry, Banana & Walnut Smoothie

Kumquat & Cacao Protein Smoothie

*I buy from The Raw Chocolate Company, their products are Vegan, Organic, Fairtrade, Kosher, Gluten-free, high quality, ethically-sourced and made in the UK.

**Also Vegan, Organic, Gluten-free & Kosher Aduna support African small businesses, often run by women.

*** From Vivolife also Vegan, Organic, made in the UK and Carbon Neutral.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Colourful Mixed Veg, Mushrooms & Puy Lentils with Spicy Caulifower Rice

547C7F73-757B-4E26-960F-CC4935551645Having spent all Sunday afternoon composing Monday Meditation: Relax with these Raw Tiger Nut, Cacao & Coconut Treats , I realised I hadn’t given a thought as to what I was going to have for dinner and my husband had pre-empted me by getting some of his frozen curry from the freezer. I stood in the kitchen gazing at the contents of the fridge, opening and closing cupboard doors. It was growing late, I was hungry and thought I’d end up making a salad. However, I knew that when I smelled my husband’s curry, I’d wish I had done something similar. I didn’t really want brown rice and there was a lovely caulifower calling out to me, so I decided on spicy cauliflower rice.

I put some puy lentils to soak while I got everything ready – you don’t have to soak them, but it makes them easier to digest.

I decided on cumin, which I love, to flavour the cauliflower ‘rice’, and turmeric, both for it’s anti-inflammatory properties and the lovely colour it would produce. Digestion begins with the eyes and I like to make food as colourful and appetising to the eyes as the mouth. The beetroot makes the carrot hold its colour and adding the frozen veg at the end makes this a bright, colourful dish.

This takes about an hour from start to finish – it sounds complicated written out, but if you pre-cook the lentils and process the cauli before you begin cooking, you don’t have to balance so many items at once. It really is easy.

It made enough for 2, with a little mixed veg and lentils left over for next day (see later).

  Vegan, Gluten-free and Dairy-free.

Ingredients

All quantities are very approximate

1/4 Cup Puy Lentils + reserved cooking water

Half a Cauliflower

Coconut Oil

Cumin

Turmeric

Optional: Dried Apricots

Mixed Veg – I used:

Small Beetroot

Large Carrot

Onion

2  Chestnut Mushrooms

Frozen Peas & Sweetcorn

Vegetable Bouillon Powder

Black Pepper

Optional:

Pine Nuts

Vegan ‘parmesan’: Almonds ground with Nutritional Yeast & a pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Method

Rinse and soak the lentils, then drain and cover with water, cook beforehand or while preparing the veg. Don’t overcook as they will be reheated in the veg mix. You want them to keep their shape and not become mushy.

Reserve the cooking water.

Process the cauliflower florets for a few seconds until it looks like rice and set aside.

Chop onion, beetroot, carrot, mushrooms.

Melt a little coconut oil in a frying pan, stirfry first the onions, then the other veg for a little while with some black pepper, add a few spoons of the lentil cooking water, cover and cook on a low heat. Make sure it doesn’t dry out.

3CBB91DD-1176-4FFD-AE9C-9148DFF29F59When almost done, sprinkle on a heaped teaspoon of  vegetable bouillon powder and mix in, adding the peas and sweetcorn and a little more lentil water. Cover.

Meanwhile, heat a little coconut oil in another frying pan, add the cumin and turmeric, stir round and add the cauliflower rice. Mix well, stirring and turning it over all the time. Add some black pepper and a couple of spoons of lentil water to keep moist.

On this occasion I didn’t add dried apricots to the rice as my husband doesn’t like apricots, but when he tried some ‘rice’, he surprised me with ‘it would be nice with apricots!’ 

When the ‘rice’ is ready, with as much or as little bite as you prefer, add several spoons of lentils to the veg and gently mix well, making sure they are heated through without overcooking everything. Spoon the ‘rice’ onto a plate with the mixed veg on top.

I forgot to add the pine nuts and ground almonds with nutritional yeast and cayenne before I took the photo of the cauliflower rice dish, but I added them when I had the leftovers next day accompanied with sweet potato mashed with almond butter, and some steamed broccoli.

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The cauliflower rice dish was really good and tasty, even my sceptical husband had a small helping in addition to his own curry!

These meals have so many vitamins and minerals, different complementary proteins and healthy fats, and are very satisfying.

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

Nourishing Green Vegetable Noodle Soup with Basil & Puy Lentils

0A5AA3AF-CA63-4E1E-A365-7FFDAF6282EFWe are in the middle of some arctic weather, with snow, hail, icy winds and below zero temperatures, so I thought I’d post a recipe for a nourishing soup to warm us up, rather than the frozen smoothie bowl I had planned!

This doesn’t look pretty, but it tastes great and is very filling, having plantbased noodles as well as lentils in it. It’s a good way to use up small amounts of green vegetables that you have left over. In my case, I also had some precooked puy lentils in the fridge from the previous 2 days’ meals as I had seriously over-bestimated how many lentils to cook!

Lentils are such a good source of complex carbohydrates which boost metabolism and can help to control weight. They contain a large amount of dietary fibre, which helps to control cholesterol and stabilise blood sugar. They provide protein, folate and magnesium, are heart healthy, and keep you fuller longer.

We all know we should eat our greens, and this is a good way to do just that. You can use any lentils, or mung beans.

Ingredients

(Vegan, Gluten-free, Dairyfree)

Amounts are very approximate.

Precooked Puy Lentils – reserve some of the cooking water

Coconut Oil

Half a head of Broccoli florets

Small amount of White Cabbage

 Handful of Celery Tops & Leaves

Fresh Basil

1 Leek

Stock cube + water, plus a cup of lentil cooking water

Some Organic Endamame Spaghetti* or other good quality plantbased thin noodles, broken up

Method

Chop and sweat veg and celery leaves in coconut oil with black pepper

Cover and simmer on low heat until just cooked

Add broken up Endamame spaghetti or any other thin noodles

When done, blend slightly with stick blender to thicken a little

Place a few spoonfuls of cooked lentils in the bottom of a warm soup bowl and cover with soup

1BE925F2-9489-46AF-9620-9262C9AFA287Serve with fresh basil leaves and warm bread or toast, or you might like to try Savoury Vegan Glutenfree ‘Cheese’ & Herb Scones

or Vegan Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Scone Recipes: 1 Sweet, 1 Savoury

*I got mine from Aldi UK

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

Brown Rice with Sweet & Spicy Stir-Fry Veg Topped with Spicy Vegan Parmesan

58197828-76D9-4D3D-B040-375D681ECE95Our son and youngest grandchildren had been here all weekend and much as we love them and we have great fun, there is always a lot of tidying up of toys, books, games etc. and stripping of beds afterwards. Come dinner time, we were all ship-shape but tired, we wanted a quick and easy dinner.

My husband wanted rice so he put some brown basmati rice to soak while we sat down and had a cup of tea to get our breath back and for me to come up with whatever was going to accompany the rice!

Stir-fry is often my go-to option, I don’t like standing a long time waiting for different elements of a meal to come together, it’s not good for my back and I don’t have the patience!

I don’t cook on a very high heat like most people when cooking a stir-fry, I don’t think it’s healthy, I tend to part stir-fry, part steam, just adding a spoonful of liquid and some tamari and/or lemon juice to help it along without destroying nutritional content.

The rice is always soaked for an hour and then strained and rinsed thoroughly to remove as much arsenic as possible. Even organic rice takes up some arsenic from the groundwater.

On this occasion, we had some mixed beans to use up, and I had already made a jar of vegan parmesan a few days beforehand, so there was only the broccoli and apricots to chop.

Beans, rice, peas and nuts are an excellent vegan protein combination, and with the veg provide b vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and dietary fibre.

Ingredients

A little Coconut Oil

 Broccoli, chopped finely

Frozen Peas, allowed to thaw

Tinned Mixed Beans, rinsed

Grated Carrot

Spoon of hot Water Or Stock

Tamari

1 Tsp Maple Syrup

Lemon Juice + a little zest

Black Pepper

 Chopped Dried Apricots

Homemade Vegan Parmesan: Almonds ground with Nutritional Yeast and in this case a little Cayenne Pepper

Method

Put the rice on to cook. Don’t overcook it.

About ten minutes before it’s ready:

63675337-1B81-48C7-A925-4BF820E4D877Heat the oil and stirfry the broccoli without burning it, add the peas, the tamari, black pepper, mixed beans, water, a squeeze of lemon, maple syrup, half of the carrot, cover and cook for a few minutes.

Add the cooked rice with the rest of the carrot, apricots and some lemon zest, mix well but gently so the rice doesn’t go all mushy. Adjust the seasoning, bearing in mind there is a little cayenne pepper in the parmesan!

Serve in/on a hot dish or plate, with vegan parmesan sprinkled on top and a green salad.

E40EC782-1353-4CED-8F81-48ADA5BB986F

 Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Relax with these Raw Tiger Nut, Cacao & Coconut Treats

9D53B3F2-CD26-408F-8731-EA58B260A9E2When life is relatively calm, ie no family crises, and I find myself alone with no urgent tasks, I like to sit down and just let my mind wander where it will. I might close my eyes and just wait for my breathing to slow, or I watch the birds, or just take in my surroundings: the paintings, the family photos, the gentle flames of the woodburner.

When I am completely relaxed, I might get the urge to be creative. This can mean painting rocks, making cards, or even writing a letter – the old-fashioned way! But often, I like to bake or cook. It needs to be simple, quick, and not require that I keep several plates spinning at once, and definitely no interference.

Cooking on my own at leisure is a different experience from the pressure cooking of doing a meal with other bodies around and people requiring my attention or getting in my way. I like to be free to select whatever appeals, create something for my own pleasure and not have to be mindful of others’ pernickety tastes!

B2D4B8E0-1499-443E-962E-920F164433FEI rarely follow a recipe, or if I do, it’s more of a starting point that inspires a variation of the original, as with these no-added sugar energy balls. I fancied a little something with my cup of tea and didn’t really know what the result would be, but on looking in the cupboards I found some Tiger Nut Powder that needed using and remembered a recipe on The Tiger Nut Company Instagram page for Tiger Nut Macaroons by Eve Kalanik.

I used the general measurements, but made some substitutions: almond butter for the cashew, cacao nibs for the coconut chips and coconut water for the plain water in the original recipe. I also added some wild berry-flavoured supergreen powder.

These take literally seconds to make in the food processor and once in the fridge, by the time you’ve cleared up and put on the kettle, they are ready to eat.

It’s easy to make your own substitions so long as they’re like for like, but the texture or flavour will be different.

These easy raw treats are Vegan, Gluten-free and can be made Nut-free if you use Seed Butter. 

Please note: Tiger Nuts are Tubers, Not Nuts.

Ingredients

100g Tiger Nut Powder

45g Desiccated Coconut 

1 Tbsp Raw Cacao Nibs, for a bit of crunch

2 Tbsps Almond Butter 

A pinch of Pink Himalayan Salt

4g Vivolife ‘Thrive for Her’, Raw Green Superfood Powder, Wild Berry flavour

Approx. 4 Tbsps Coconut Water (or water or apple juice)

Pulse all ingredients except water for a few seconds. Add water and process for a couple of seconds to mix.

Scoop spoonfuls of the mix and roll into balls.

Makes about 10.

Place in the fridge to set.

Keep for days in an airtight container in the fridge and for a long time in the freezer if you can resist!

So much healthier and satisfying than a shop-bought biscuit or pastry to have with your afternoon cup of tea, and will give you a lift, making you more alert and energised without the inevitable slump afterwards.

The tea, by the way, is Pukka Herbs’ Licorice and Cinnamon. A perfect relaxing combination on your own or to share with a friend.

6043E113-58C0-4BF6-B9E4-1B7DDDDF716D

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Easy Vegan, Gluten-Free Pink Pancakes!

img_3293We first made these 2 years ago when I discovered the basic recipe at Masala Vegan and although I’m not a big pancake-lover, my husband is and it’s Pancake Day, so we revisited these lovely Pink Ones.

We were better at cooking them this time, they were crisper and thinner.

Last time we had them with blueberries and Coyo coconut yogurt, this time we went with homegrown apples stewed with raisins and cinnamon, topped with Sojade soya yogurt and an optional small drizzle of organic maple syrup.

The original recipe calls for Xylitol as a sweetener, but I don’t like it and we prefer to add the sweetness via the fruit on top, and if you have a particularly sweet tooth, there’s always the maple syrup.

The recipe is very simple, all measurements are very approximate:

Ingredients

2 Cups of blended Watermelon Pulp

1 1/2 Cups Gluten-free Self-Raising Flour (last year we improvised with cornflour and gluten-free baking powder as we didn’t have the SR flour, it worked fine)

Coconut Oil for cooking

We added a pinch of salt

We also think they’re good with a pinch of spice, ground ginger or cinnamon, or baobab powder.

Method

In a large bowl, gradually whisk the flour into the watermelon pulp.

Heat a teaspoon of coconut oil until a drop of the batter sizzles.

Add 1/4 Cup of batter at a time and swirl around until it is thin. Cook until golden and crispy on the bottom, gently lifting the edges and turn over to cook the other side.

This amount made 8 small pancakes, we reneged after 3 each! Very filling and very tasty with the topping.

(See This Spicy Watermelon & Grapefruit Juice Will Help Stave Off Those Winter Bugs! for information on the many health benefits of watermelon – and grapefruit).

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

Vegan Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Scone Recipes: 1 Sweet, 1 Savoury

 

825955DA-F9B2-4A90-BA3A-15417AC8829F I had just made some Tiger Nut Milk and also had some raw sweet potato left over from juicing and I remembered seeing a recipe on The Tiger Nut Company Instagram feed that featured scones made with sweet potato and tiger nut pulp (but you can use tiger nut flour). Yes! I thought, it’s been a year since I tried a scone recipe ( Vegan Gluten-Free Almond & Apricot Scones ) let’s have a go! So I did. They turned out so well, I made a savoury version, too: Savoury Sweet Potato Scones using almond milk pulp, nutritional yeast, ground oats and paprika – see later in the post.

The original recipe by Kimberly Parsons of The Yoga Kitchen can be found here. They are moist and filling,  can be made nutfree, using seeds instead of the walnuts, and are a great way to use up nut milk pulp.

I used a chia egg instead of a hen’s egg (1 Tbsp Chia Seeds soaked in 3 Tbsps Water to form a gel). I steamed rather than boiled the sweet potato to maximise the nutritional content, and as I didn’t have any buckwheat flour, I milled some buckwheat flakes, and it worked well.

There is no refined sugar, just a little maple syrup.

Tiger nuts are tubers, full of gut-healthy nutrients, protein, calcium, Vitamin E, B Vitamins. They make lovely creamy, sweet milk – see link at the end of the post for how to make it.

This recipe with my alterations is reproduced by permission.

Ingredients for Tiger Nut & Sweet Potato Scones

90g tiger nut pulp (or tiger nut flour)

2 tsps baking powder

35g buckwheat flour (I milled some buckwheat flakes)

pinch Pink Himalayan salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 chia egg

180g steamed sweet potato, blended to a purée

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp maple syrup

30g chopped walnuts plus extra to decorate

A little nut milk to brush on top

 Method

Preheat oven to 180C

Line a large baking tray with baking paper

Whisk together Tiger nut meal or flour, baking powder, buckwheat flour, sea salt and spices in a medium bowl

Whisk the egg, sweet potato puree, vanilla extract and maple syrup until it’s a smooth paste

Add the mix to the dry ingredients and mix, adding the chopped walnuts once combined

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop mixture onto the prepared baking tray, Or small handfuls gentle rounded and flattened, brush tops with tiger nut milk and decorate with walnuts

Bake for 15-18 minutes until risen and the base sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool, and enjoy!

(I found the timing a bit difficult to judge as I have a fan oven and cooked them on a slightly lower heat for a little longer)

 

Savoury Sweet Potato Scones

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This time I used almond milk pulp, nutritional yeast, paprika, salt and pepper, ginger and left out the maple syrup and vanilla. They were really good, keep well in the fridge and freezer and are very filling.

***

Ingredients

(All quantities are approximate)

1 Cup Almond Milk Pulp

35g Ground Oats

2 Tbsps Nutritional Yeast

2 tsps Gluten-Free Baking Powder

1 tsp Paprika + some to dust

1/2 tsp Ginger

Pinch Pink Himalayan Salt and Black Pepper

Approx. 200g peeled Sweet potato, chopped, steamed, cooled and blended

1 Chia Egg

1 Heaped Tsp Almond Nut Butter

35g Mix of finely chopped walnuts and almonds, reserve some for decoration.

A little nut milk to brush on top.

Method as before:

Mix dry ingredients with the spices.

Whisk the chia egg, sweet potato purée, nut butter together and add to the dry mix.

Mix with a fork until it starts to come together, then knead with your hands until it forms a ball.

Form as before – I used the s allest cutter in the set – brush with a little nut milk, dust with paprika and ground walnuts.

56209B2B-AE73-48BA-AF5F-4C9B20C3A04DThe trick is to keep the dough very moist and gently flatten it to about an inch and a half to keep them a good thickness and make them light.

Cook approximately 15-20 minutes, but keep an eye on them. They should be a little crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.

Cook as before and cool on a wire rack.

981C02DE-304B-4AA6-ACDE-C13785C487E8

They keep well in the fridge, too.

Both versions can be eaten on their own or with nut butter, vegan cheese, or fruit spread for the sweet version.

Enjoy!

Thank you to Ani of The Tiger Nut Company and to Kimberly Parsons of The Yoga Kitchen.

(Tiger Nuts and Tiger Nut Flour from The Tiger Nut Company, link in text above).

See also: Savoury Vegan Glutenfree ‘Cheese’ & Herb Scones

Vegan Gluten-Free Almond & Apricot Scones – oh yes!

How to Make Horchata (aka Tiger Nut Milk)

Nut & Seed Milks & Smoothie Recipes

How to Make Smooth and Creamy Hemp Milk

How to Make Cashew Nut Milk & Why You Should!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Two Year Old Frank’s Berry Good Smoothie – Made With Love & Smiles

011DD6C8-E951-4474-BE0D-59A3DD11B990Two year old Frank watching his Berry Good Smoothie blending in the  Froothie Optimum, he has his own special ear defenders just for creating smoothies 😊 As soon a I mention making a smoothie he’s there like a shot, dragging the kitchen stool up to the counter, washing his hands and ready for action. Just like his dad at the same age, though he likes to make chilli-with-everything these days!

When cooking with Frank, I am always glad to have the opportunity of this time together, one on one: yes, it’s messy and yes, he can get a bit over-enthusiastic – I think we got about a third of a tub of baobab powder in there! – but I love watching him taking it all in, soaking up whatever I tell him and storing it away. I love his enthusiasm. I know that at some point in the future he will use it all and hopefully remember some of these times together.

He (and his older sister) have been cooking since they were literally babes in arms. They have always been willing to taste anything, and although they still go through the picky two-year-old stage, the fact that they have always been encouraged to be present in the kitchen and help with preparation means that they are familiar with cooking from scratch, using a wide variety of fresh foods.

They are already creating their own recipes: Frank’s four-year-old sister decided to try banana on her pizza and Frank likes the idea of dipping carrot sticks in strawberry spread! He loves homemade chips with balsamic vinegar and juices that contain ginger and turmeric. Olives and almonds are also favourites. The fact that actual vegetables are not allowed on his plate at the moment is irrelevant (except cucumber and raw carrot), he gets everything he needs in other forms* and is slowly acquiring the knowledge and skills to transform them into healthy meals when he does eventually give them house room. I have seen a photograph of Emily standing on a stool at the counter rolling pizza dough and chopping vegetables, and Frank sitting on the counter chopping cucumber! Children love to be involved in the kitchen and will be all the healthier – and self-sufficient – for it. Emily recently sliced a mushroom so thinly and precisely, with perfect control of the knife, just by copying her dad.

This is Frank’s smoothie recipe:

Large handful of frozen cherries, large handful frozen mixed berries, more than we wished for baobab powder, about 3 tablespoons oats plus what he spilled 😉 most of a medjool date minus a bite for tasting, a banana, a carefully tilted amount of cashews from the jar (with ‘help’ from Grandad), 2 tablespoons soya yogurt and a lot of coconut milk! It made enough for 3 of us and he had seconds and thirds, he said it was ‘berry good!’ Unfortunately, he doesn’t do washing up, our dishwasher is defunct (and so is my husband after a weekend without it!).

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*Frank doesn’t eat vegetables – apart from raw carrot and cucumber – but he will have juices and smoothies, even green ones, so seeing him have so much fun in the kitchen leads us to hope that one day he will be as much of a foodie as his dad and grandma.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Going Vegan: Keep Calm & Lead by Example + Tips

F8D68843-623C-4F1E-A097-C4C02293352CI was vegetarian for 40 years for all the usual reasons: ethics, sustainability, health, and thought that was enough. I gave up milk a long time ago, for health reasons. I still ate cheese and eggs. A couple of times, when I became a raw foodie and when my son lived in a tree (don’t ask), I almost became vegan, but couldn’t sustain it. I didn’t have the support and there wasn’t as much by way of articles, products or recipe ideas all those years ago. I finally became vegan accidentally after doing a 14 day juice challenge.

I realised after 3 months I hadn’t wanted to eat cheese or eggs, and I was a real cheese addict. Now I was vegan. And if I could do it for 3 months, I could do so permanently. But I was scared of committing myself and actually saying, I am vegan.

D09AC6B8-9C45-40EB-A436-2382AE979ECEI started following vegan accounts and began reading about the cruelty of egg production and dairy farming. There is so much information available now on social media, via blogs, in the press and documentaries. All I had back then was a library book and a cookery book to turn me on to becoming vegetarian. I had no idea then that male chicks are surplus to requirements in the egg industry or male calves to the dairy industry. I thought that if I bought organic, free range eggs, that was ok.

After several months, I took the plunge and in great trepidation began writing vegan recipes and informational posts on my blog. I fully expected to lose a lot of followers. It didn’t happen. In fact, quite the opposite happened, I gained a whole host of new ones!

The current wave of interest in sustainable living is being driven and adopted by young people in droves, because they now have access to educational tools, support, recipes and like-minded groups.

1AF63E27-2F18-436B-B556-CFD924E73DFFFive friends and family have  become vegan, are transitioning or making gradual changes, from observing my experience, seeing how healthy I am and that it is possible to be vegan, enjoy food and not waste away!

I have never tried to persuade anyone to be vegan. I only engage in the issues if it comes up organically and I know they are in a receptive mood. People need time to process and to work out how it will affect their lifestyle and family obligations. Being aggressive or judgemental is counter-productive. Being calm, understanding and the healthiest you can be is more likely to have people follow your example.

Education is the key, and support and encouragement. It was relatively easy for me as I was used to a vegetable- based diet and already bought cruelty-free toiletries and cosmetics. It can be very difficult for people unused to cooking from scratch, relying on processed convenience foods, on a tight budget (see link for Jack Monroe’s site below) or who don’t have family support.

F7CBF554-7687-422C-AC60-94ABF557C5FABecoming vegan also doesn’t necessarily mean you become healthy. It is quite possible to be vegan living on predominantly processed foods and be quite unhealthy! Food manufacturers and retailers are producing increasing amounts of fake meat products and convenience meals to cater for those who like meat-based meals. These products – not all, but some – can often read like a chemical experiment.

FF65FC84-2504-4B4B-9074-49D2637251A9It’s important to learn about nutrition, to know what constitutes protein and good complex carbohydrates, where to get good plant-based sources of calcium, iron, B12, D3, and so on, so that you have a balanced diet – and so that you have all the facts to hand when you inevitably get asked the questions! Because people who rarely allow a fresh fruit or vegetable to pass their lips will suddenly become concerned experts on your nutritional input. You don’t need a diploma, just Google it!

D47273E0-A5FF-452A-8FF8-C6AD4639A4AEYou can take baby steps by swapping to cruelty-free household products, toiletries and cosmetics. You can reduce your dependency on plastic packaging and this will often automatically mean you include more fresh food in your shopping as well as helping reduce the plastic waste that is filling our oceans, seas and water supplies.

IMG_8582Adding more fresh vegetables and fruit will reduce your intake of sugary and fatty foods which will help reduce inflammation and pain, provide more energy and fewer slumps, and make you more alert. Your skin will be amazing! Skin loves fresh food, especially avocados.

Why not try Meatfree Mondays? Plantbased rice, pasta or quinoa dishes like curries, for example, or pizza (there are some great vegan cheeses*), are often acceptable to families not yet on board with giving up meat. We sometimes give meat-eating guests Quorn or Linda McCartney pies without telling them and they are often uncomfortable and somewhat puzzled, believing they are eating meat, and very surprised when we reveal the truth.

imageBeing vegan is not all brown rice and lentils! Just look at any of the many vegan Instagram accounts and you will find colourful, appetising meals, snacks, treats, desserts, smoothie bowls and cakes for all occasions.

There are many websites, Instagram accounts, blogs and so on where you can find facts, recipes and support to help you make small changes that can eventually lead to bigger ones. Do you know, for example. you can substitute a chia ‘egg’ or flaxseed ‘egg’ for a hen’s egg in cooking? Just soak 1 Tbsp of seeds with 3 Tbsps of seeds to form a gel. Or use mashed banana. I have several informative posts here on the blog and I’ll include some links at the end.

All the recipes on this blog are vegan and gluten-free, just look in the Menu or among Top Posts and Pages, there are also posts on how to make Nut & Seed Milks & Smoothie Recipes

We Are Veganuary have a best-selling hardback book ‘How to Go Vegan’ and The Guardian’s Jack Monroe has a great blog with budget vegan recipes called Cooking on a Bootstrap.

 3C80CBB1-C6B6-4695-B227-0738ECAD1C08Over 165,000 people signed up this year to try being vegan for a month. If you were one of them, well done! You have helped save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, hundreds of kilograms of grain and dozens of animals, not to mention the reduction in greenhouse gases, just in a month!

img_6589If you missed it but would like to give it a go, Veganuary is open all year, providing support whenever you’re ready – see link below.

I hope you found this post helpful.

Remember, there is no failing. You do what you can. Everyone is on their own journey, we are all at different points on our journey, don’t be put off because you think it’s all or nothing and you wear leather shoes. Baby steps.

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The Vegan Society  Lots of info, nutritional advice, supplement advice, articles

The Green People Company for award-winning vegan skincare, toiletries, cosmetics

*Bute Island Foods for Dairy-free Cheese – available in Waitrose, Holland & Barrett, online & other retailers – and recipes

 Veganuary for Recipe Book, Support, Information & to sign up to try being vegan for a month

Environmental Benefits of Adopting a Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

Vivolife – a great resource, Josh does supportive, informative videos, newsletters, blogposts as well as selling good quality organic, vegan protein powders.

Where to Get Nutritional Advice for Young Vegans and Newbies 

Where Do I Get My Protein on a Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get My Calcium On A Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get Iron on a Vegan Diet?

Copyright: Chris McGowan