Easy baked veggie cakes

Yesterday was a busy one in The Sensitive Foodie Kitchen – not that we went anywhere of course, well not physically anyway. For yesterday I beamed live into other peoples homes via my first live cooking demo via Facebook.

I had no idea if it would work, but it did! And rather wonderfully there were people popping by from all sorts of countries. The internet really is an incredible asset for these current times, helping us all keep in touch in times of physical isolation.

I started off with one of the most popular hands-on cooking experiences on my workshops – easy baked veggie cakes. These super tasty bites are great because:

  • they are really easy to make
  • they are super adaptable and work for most veggies hanging around in your fridge
  • if you include a range of veggies they’re packed full of amazing phytonutrients
  • they get you in contact with your food
  • kids can have fun making them – and hopefully eating them too

Popping these in the oven means there’s no added oil; the caramelisation of the sugars in the veggies makes them go brown and crispy all by themselves. And that way you lovely natural flavours too.

These make great snacks and lunches; make a bigger batch and keep some in the freezer for those days when you’re out and about and don’t have time to cook (which will happen again at some point in the future…….).

I know not everyone is on Facebook, so here is the video from yesterday in case you wanted to see it. And I’ve added the full recipe below so you don’t have to sit through it if you have better things to do!

I hope you enjoy making these tasty little bites – do let me know how you get on. And stay safe and well.

Easy baked veggie cakes

These super easy but delicious veggie cakes are a great lunch or snack. Kids love making them - and eating them too.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 12 portions

Ingredients
  

  • 500 grams grated vegetables eg a mix of carrot and/or parsnip and/or courgette and/or celeriac and/or sweet potato and/or turnip
  • 1 medium red or white onion, sliced or 4 spring onions or 1 shredded leek
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 cm piece fresh ginger grated
  • 50 grams chickpea (gram) flour or whatever flour you have
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 handful fresh herbs, chopped

Instructions
 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4
  • Place the grated veggies into a bowl with the finely sliced onion, garlic and ginger. Mix together well with your hands then add a teaspoon of salt and the fresh herbs and mix together well again.
  • Add the chickpea flour, mix well, then leave to stand for 10 minutes. The salt will draw the water out of the veggies and help bind it together.
  • Take a spoonful of mix and squeeze it together in the palm of your hand. If it binds well, it's ready to use. If it doesn't stick, add more flour as needed until it does. The exact amount depends on how watery your veggies are (ie: courgette will need more than parsnip)
  • Press a big spoonful of the mix into a round patty in the palms of your hand and place on the baking tray. Repeat until all the mix is used up.
  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Once the top of the veggie cakes are firm, carefully turn them over and bake for another 5 minutes or so until browned and crispy.
  • Serve hot or leave to cool and eat when you're ready.
Keyword easy recipe, gluten free, healthy kids, healthy lunch, OMS friendly, plant based, snack

 

Vanilla Oat Ice Cream

Today (23rd July) may be the day that the UK holds its collective breath as we wait to find out the name of the new Prime Minister, but in the US, it's National Vanilla Ice Cream Day. So to raise your spirits and focus on something much more tasty, I thought I'd share this delicious vanilla oat ice cream recipe. Because ice cream always makes things better!

Ice cream is the perfect combination of sugar and fat that pings dopamine receptors in the brain and sets us off on a full pleasure experience. It's the balanced combination of fat and sugar that does it - the bliss point. Eating sugar by itself is not so good - it's all claggy and gums up your mouth. And cream is ok in small amounts but is pretty bland. Blend them together, change the temperature, add a little extra flavouring (in this case vanilla) and voilá - a taste sensation that we love to eat in large amounts. The 'need' for ice cream is an on-going narrative in the media - I discuss this more in my book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie.

When I first changed to a dairy-free diet there was only one ice cream option available to buy - Swedish Glace. It was also very lovely; sadly it's since been bought by Walls and it's changed - I find it quite bland and the tub is nearly impossible to open without damaging your hand! Nowadays there are numerous dairy-free and vegan ice creams available to buy, most of which contain highly refined fats and sugars, or coconut, which is off the menu for those of us following the Overcoming MS programme or using a whole-food plant-based diet for reversing health conditions.

So what's a girl to do? This vanilla oat ice cream is a great alternative. It's thick, creamy and subtly sweet. It's also packed with fibre so even if your pleasure centre is screaming "more, give me more" your stomach will be saying "no way, I'm stuffed"!

If you've never made your own ice cream before, don't fret as it's super easy - as long as you have an ice cream maker. I've had one this Andrew James one for a few years now. It's not expensive and is easy to use - you just have to remember to freeze the bowl. I keep mine in a plastic bag in the freezer so it's ready for all ice cream emergencies. If you don't have a big freezer, you might not want to do that so be prepared to think ahead and freeze it as needed.

If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can make it by pouring the mix into a plastic container then freezing for hour, stirring, then freezing again. Do this 4 or 5 times and you should get a similar result - it's just time consuming and you have to remember to do it every hour!

Because this ice cream contains whole oats and dates it also contains a lot of fibre. So apart from filling you up as mentioned above, it also releases the natural sugars more slowly, which is better for blood sugar control. On top of that, the fibre in oats is good for gut health as well as heart health. And oats also contain healthy fats, as does almonds and cashews (if you are using it as cream). So this ice cream is good for the body as well as the taste buds - that really is something to celebrate!

If you think I've finally lost the plot with my whole-food plant-based ideas, don't dismiss this until you've tried it. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. And if you do make it, I'd love to hear what you think - and what flavour you would like to discover next.

Vanilla Oat Ice Cream

A super creamy ice cream low in fat, high in fibre with a delicously subtle vanilla flavour. A great alternative to shop-bought ice creams, especially if you are avoiding refined oils, coconut or soya.

  • 150 grams oats (gluten free if needed)
  • 100 grams dates (de-stoned)
  • 250 ml water
  • 400 ml dairy-free cream (almond, cashew or oat all work well)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • pinch Himalayan salt
  1. Before you start, make sure the bowl for your ice cream maker is frozen as per machine instructions. I keep mine in the freezer all the time in a plastic bag, ready for those ice cream moments!
  2. Place the oats, dates and water in a large bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to soak for one hour.
  3. Tip the soaked oat mix into a blender jug along with the dairy-free cream, vanilla extract and salt. Blend on high for 1 1/2 minutes until everything is well combined, thick and creamy.
  4. Prepare your ice cream maker and turn it on to churn. Give the oat cream mix one more whizz to pick up any fibre that may have settled on the bottom of the jug and pour it steadily into the ice cream maker (I always make a mess doing this!)
  5. Leave the ice cream maker to do it's magic. Once the ice cream is thick and the paddle stops churning, transfer the ice cream to a freezer-proof container and leave in the freezer for one hour, or until you're ready to serve.
  6. If the ice cream has been in the freezer for more than an hour, take it out 15 minutes before you want to serve it to soften slightly.

Strawberry and chocolate ‘cheesecake’

I’ve always been a bit partial to a slice of deliciously creamy cheesecake. Before I went dairy-free and plant-based my favourites were the ones you could buy frozen (I never tried to make my own!). Super-sweet crunchy biscuit base, thick and creamy filling then finished with a colourful layer of blackcurrants or strawberries, coated with more sugar of course. It hit all the pleasure buttons in one go!

When I went dairy-free, cheesecake was off the menu until I discovered the raw version – not quite so super-sweet but still delicious. I loved experimenting with different flavours – there are two amazing ones in my new book Eat Well Live Well with The Sensitive Foodie that are a winner every time. Continue reading “Strawberry and chocolate ‘cheesecake’”

Gastronomical Gauthier

As the wonderful world of plant-based eating grows ever-more popular, it’s fascinating to see how traditionally trained chefs are exploring this new culinary frontier with a whole array of ingredients and techniques to explore. Which can only be a good thing – beneficial to our taste-buds as well as our bodies, and of course animals and the environment too.

Alexis Gauthier, head chef of Gauthier, has been in the UK press a few times recently, particularly the plant-based media after his appearance as guest judge on the latest series of Masterchef. A classically trained chef, he started exploring cooking with plants as far back as 1997 featuring a range of vegetarian, then vegan dishes. He currently has a multi-course tasting menu running alongside his ‘classic’ meat and fish menus. After becoming vegan himself, Gauthier announced last year that the restaurant would become fully vegan in the future. Which is quite something in the top restaurant market place. Continue reading “Gastronomical Gauthier”

Raw chocolate brownies

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFs7XHLcRD0

One of the main themes threading through my courses and workshop is the importance of eating a rainbow every day – a fresh produce based one not a skittles one (as on that rather surreal advert)! People are sometimes surprised when I include brown on the rainbow, but in the world of powerful, colourful phytonutrients, brown is good, especially when it comes in the form of chocolate.

Before you jump for joy, that’s not all types of chocolate, sorry! For the more chocolate, or cacao, is refined and processed, the more it loses its magical properties and can end up as harmer not healer. Raw, unrefined cacao powder is packed with a group of helpful phytonutrients called polyphenols. There’s been a lot of research recently about this group as they appear in many of our favourite ‘treats’ like coffee and red wine, and supplement companies are researching the best ways to capture their magic and put it in pill form. I still believe the best way of getting them is through eating a wide range of wonderful, fresh plants (but then I would!).

It’s the flavanols in cacao which are particularly good, working together as a team. It appears they have some anti-inflammatory effects, soothing the body which can only be good in our hectic, stressful lives. Flavanols also improve blood flow, are good for heart health and possibly for brain health too, for better blood flow in the brain means more oxygen and nutrients get delivered and harmful by-products whisked away more rapidly before they can get up to mischief.

Heat reduces the beneficial flavanol content by up to 60%; cocoa powder is heated and refined as are most chocolate products. Adding sugar, refined fats and dairy products changes it again, each step making it less helpful. But it also tends to make it more palatable, and a sugar/fat combo hits our pleasure centres, which is why a chocolate bar tastes so good!

Raw cacao powder can be quite bitter; these chocolate brownies solves that problem by mixing it with dates and nuts, making it super rich and delicious instead. And because there’s no baking involved, the cacao keeps its nutritional properties, and gains a few more along the way from the other ingredients. I love it when cake is a health food!

A word of warning – these chocolate brownies are not cheap to make nor low in calories, but because they are so dense and packed with fibre, they’re incredibly filling and you can only manage a small amount at a time. They also freeze well, so you can make a batch and pop some away for another day. If you don’t have any cacao nibs, feel free to leave them out. They add texture and a little extra chocolatiness, but are not essential.

So if you feel like indulging in some chocolate loveliness, why not give these a go? Your body and your tastebuds will be delighted! And don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

Raw chocolate brownies

Deliciously rich chocolate brownies, raw and packed full of amazing nutrients.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Chilling time 2 hours
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

  • 300 grams dates soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
  • 110 grams hazelnuts
  • 140 grams almonds
  • 60 grams cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons cacao nibs
  • pinch salt

For the topping:

  • 30 grams cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • handful chopped nuts, desiccated coconut or freeze-dried raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon cacao nibs optional

Instructions
 

  • Drain the dates but keep the soaking water. Line a small square baking tin with non-stick baking paper.
  • Place the nuts into a food processor and blitz them to a course powder. Tip out into a bowl then add the soaked dates to the processor and blend them to a thick paste. Return the nuts to the processor along with the cacao powder and salt. Blend until the mix comes together into a ball – you may need to add a little of the date soaking water if it’s too dry. Remove the dough from the processor bowl and mix the cacao nibs into the dough by hand.
  • Press the mix into the base of the prepared baking tin – you may not cover the whole base, so work from one side and fill as much of it as you want, depending on how deep you want your brownies to be. Pop the tin the fridge whilst you make the topping.
  • Mix the cacao powder, vanilla essence and maple syrup together in a bowl to form a thick paste. Check the flavour and add extra cacao or syrup if needed. Grab the brownie tin from the fridge, pour the mix over the top and spread it out equally to cover. Sprinkle chopped nuts, desiccated coconut, freeze-dried raspberries or cacao nibs over the top to decorate, then return the tray to the fridge to set for two hours.
  • To serve, remove the tray from the fridge, lift out the brownies by the baking paper and cut into 12 equal squares. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.
Keyword chocolate, dairy free, plantbased, raw, vegan