There’s a misconception that dairy-free spread tastes weird. I’m not sure why people think this – I mean, yes, it’s not quite as rich and creamy as full-fat dairy butter but it’s usually made with plant oil and there’s nothing weird about that. Flora Freedom is a new dairy-free spread that tastes the same as the regular spread in the Flora range but is suitable for vegetarians, vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Made from rapeseed oil and sustainable palm oil, it contains 60% less saturated fat than butter and is free from artificial preservatives, colours and flavours. And you can do whatever it is you do with the dairy Flora: frying, baking, spreading, or just eating straight from the tub (really? You do that? Ick).
If you’re one of the tens of thousands of people who receive a weekly vegetable box delivery, you probably spend a lot of time wondering what to do with carrots.
I’ve blitzed them in smoothies, dunked them in hummus, and mushroom pate, cooked them in stews and bologneses but most of the time, because they go limp quickly, a lot of them end up in the compost. Last week after yet again receiving a big bunch of carrots, I decided to do something more ‘carroty’ with them and use them as the basis for something, rather than just added to something to simply use them up.
I took part in a 78-mile cycling event yesterday and, although I’d bought a Bounce Energy Ball and a Clif Bar to take with me, because I’ve got a bigger cycling event coming up in a couple of weeks and a) shop-bought products are expensive (the Bounce Energy Ball was £1-something and the Clif Bar was a smidge under £2); and b) I wanted to try a variety of different energy bars to see which I liked best, I wanted to make some of my own.
These strawberry and coconut energy bars are based on this Sunshine Bars recipe and they got me happily through 63 miles of cycling. I then had the Clif Bar, felt sick and abandoned the last twenty miles of the ride and got the train home instead. There’s something to be said for the ‘never try anything new on race day’ advice. But if you want something homemade with the right nutrients to get you through a long sporting event (don’t confuse protein bars with energy bars – protein bars contain a high amount of protein and are best after exercise to help repair the muscles, whereas energy bars contain a high amount of carbohydrate to fuel your muscles during exercise), these bars are for you. They taste amazing, too. I used dried strawberries from Urban Fruit because their dried fruit contains fruit and nothing else. I was shocked a few weeks ago after buying a bag of dried cranberries, to find out that cranberries were only about 40% of the ingredients.
Unfortunately, they’re not vegan, as most rice crispies contain Vitamin D, which is made from lanolin – a secretion from sheep skin, found in wool (and now I’ve just typed ‘a secretion from sheep skin’, I feel as sick as if I’d just eaten another Clif Bar) and I also bunged in a bag of Munchy Seeds honey-roasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds that I had lying around in the fruit bowl that never contains fruit. However, vegans need not despair – after finding out that all major supermarkets’ own rice crispies contain Vitamin D, I’ve found a vegan-friendly brand: Kallo Organic Wholegrain Breakfast Puffs, that you can get from Ocado or Holland & Barrett.
I love brownies but I don’t make them very often because then I have to see exactly all the rubbish that goes into them. Healthy vegan brownies though sound at best an oxymoron and, at worst, a really bad idea.
But Discount Supplements wanted to send me some flax seeds and cacao nibs with which to make brownies and so it’d have been rude to say no, wouldn’t it? (Plus, I keep seeing recipes I want to make containing flax seeds and cocoa nibs and it’d save me buying any myself.)
I’m not going to lie and say, ‘OH MY GOD YOU MUST TRY THESE BROWNIES YOU WON’T BELIEVE THEY’RE HEALTHY THEY’RE JUST LIKE NORMAL REALLY UNHEALTHY BROWNIES’ because I’d be lying. And anyway, I don’t actually speak like that.
But, if you want a perfectly acceptable brownie that isn’t *too* unhealthy, then give these a go.
I added walnuts to my vegan brownies because – as is my usual reason for using something – that’s what I had in but you can use cashews or almonds or whatever you fancy, or just leave them out completely.
At the end of last year, I took part in a wonderful free food photography course – 30 Days to Better Food Photos. When it ended, I didn’t want to lose motivation, so I created the Beginner’s Food Photography Critique Group on Facebook so those of us who wanted to, could keep sharing our photos and get feedback on them (it’s not just for people who took the course – anyone can join). Each month we set a challenge to photograph something on a theme and this month’s theme was regional/local.
I googled for traditional Kent recipes and fancied making a gypsy tart but decided that with evaporated milk being the key ingredient, it wouldn’t easily be veganised. Then I came across a recipe for oast cakes, which are named after the round pointy-topped hop-drying houses you can see all over the Kent countryside and the oast cakes were eaten after the crop had been gathered. I’d never heard of oast cakes but, as I’m from London, not Kent, maybe that wasn’t too surprising, so I asked The Meat Eater if he’d heard of them but he hadn’t either.
As you can see from the photo, they’re similar to Welsh Cakes and taste like them too, although oast cakes don’t contain spices or egg. What oast cakes do traditionally contain is lard but that’s easily veganised by using vegetable shortening instead. I’ve got to admit, I didn’t know what shortening was but a quick investigation told me that I could use suet or Trex. I thought Trex was something from the 70s but you can still buy it in Tesco, which is what I did as Trex is pure fat, while suet is a mixture of fat and flour.
These vegan oast cakes are fried, but I can’t see any reason why they couldn’t be baked instead.
As you know, I’m not a great cake or cookie person (actually, that’s a lie – I love cookies, I just don’t like making them because then I see exactly what goes into them and then I’m thinking HOW MANY CALORIES?)
But then Discount Supplements asked me to make something healthy for Christmas, using one of their products. They gave me a list of recipes to choose from and I chose the vegan gingerbread men because a) it looked the easiest; and b) I fancied playing with men-shaped cookie cutters.
I didn’t quite follow the provided recipe (and when I say ‘quite’, I mean ‘disregarded 99% of it’) so this recipe is how I made the gingerbread men, using the ingredients I had available (e.g. I used applesauce as an egg replacer instead of a flax egg, wholemeal flour instead of gluten-free flour and Golden Syrup instead of molasses).
I’m not sure I’ve ever had a gingerbread man before (not sure I’ve had a ginger man before – bread or otherwise, actually, but let’s not go there, eh?) so I don’t know if these are how they’re supposed to be, but if gingerbread men are supposed to be crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, then I’m the boss at making gingerbread men.
Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a food processor. Add the butter and blend until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
Beat the applesauce, Golden Syrup and almond butter together, add to the food processor and pulse until the mixture clumps together. Tip the dough out and knead until smooth. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Lightly flour a chopping board or worktop and roll out the dough to a thickness of about 0.5cm.
Using cookie cutters, cut out the gingerbread men shapes and place on the baking tray, leaving a gap between them.
Bake for about 13 minutes, or until a light golden-brown.
Leave on the tray for 10 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
Either use a skewer to make eyes and buttons, or decorate with icing.
What I really fancied making yesterday were the chilli cheese flapjacks I made a while back. I wanted to veganise them though and wondered if swapping the cheese for Violife vegan cheese and the butter for Vitalite dairy-free spread would work but then when it came to replacing the eggs, I doubted if applesauce (which can be used to replace eggs in cakes, muffins and other bready stuff) would do the trick. I don’t know why I thought this as I’m no scientist but it sounded dubious so I decided against it. [It has just occurred to me while typing this, that chia seeds would have been a good replacement but I didn’t have any in and I wouldn’t have spent £7, or whatever they cost, on a packet just to make some flapjacks anyway.]
But, I still wanted to make some flapjacks and although I knew vegan ones wouldn’t be as good as the ones my friend Cassie makes (hers are full-on dairy and completely delicious if a tad unhealthy. When I say ‘tad’, I obviously mean, ‘totally’), I reckoned they’d do to quash my craving.
These flapjacks are quick and easy to make and are oaty, buttery and moist, just like a flapjack should be. I reckon next time, I’ll double the quantities and make them thicker.
I’m not one to value myself on the number of ‘likes’ a photo of food gets on Facebook but I must admit to being rather pleased when the photo of these vegan cheese and onion muffins received almost 1,000 likes on the What Fat Vegans Eat Facebook page. I’m aware some of you may be thinking, ‘1,000 likes? Pah, that’s nothing – get over yourself!’ but I’m liking my likes so there.
I got the recipe from Kirsten’s Kitchen and, although Kirsten calls her creation ‘scoffins’, I’m sticking with ‘muffins’ because that’s what mine look like. Kirsten’s recipe also says it makes 12 muffins but I didn’t see that until after I’d squeezed all the batter into a six-hole tray.
After I posted my pic on Facebook, a few people who had commented on it went off and made their own versions; some following the recipe exactly and others substituting ingredients for ingredients they already had in, e.g. mushrooms instead of cheese, parsley instead of spinach and – a suggestion I loved – vegan sausage. Others suggested alternatives to apple sauce (which I used) as an egg replacer. Who’d have thought a batch of muffins would generate so much interest?
Don’t expect these muffins to be light and airy – they’re dense and doughy but, if dense and doughy is your thing, you’ll love these.
I love these energy balls. They’re healthy, use only a few ingredients, are made in minutes and don’t require any baking. As an added bonus, you’ve probably already got the ingredients in your cupboard, so there’s not even any need to go out shopping.
I originally got the idea from Ani Phyo’s book, Raw Food Desserts (although her recipe uses raisins, while I used sultanas), but the mixture was too dry to form into balls, so I added the coconut oil which made it stick together while giving it an extra dimension with the coconut taste.