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’”

The perfect roast potato

I’m not one for bragging, but I do know for sure that I make amazing roast potatoes. So for day 17 of my Sensitive Foodie Advent Calendar, I’m giving you my top tips for getting perfectly crunchy crispy spuds without really making that much effort.

I honed my roast potato skills soon after I left home to do my nursing training. I always seemed to be on a diet – often that was Rosemary Conley’s Hip and Thigh Diet, a low fat programme. Looking back now, I realise that there was a lot missing from this way of eating, but then hind-sight is a wonderful thing. But it did introduce me to dry roast potatoes.

If you search how to cook roast potatoes, there are a multitude of opinions on what fat to use, and how much. Ranging from normal vegetable oil to expensive goose or duck fat, the aim of the fat is to create a crispy outside and a soft fluffy potato on the inside. Using large amounts of fat on a high oven heat means that large amounts of liquid fat gets absorbed into the potato, which then gets absorbed into you. This high heat can also damage fat structure, which is not good for your body.

I have been making roast potatoes without all this fat for so long that I find I don’t really enjoy them when we eat out purely because they often seem overcooked and all I can taste is the fat. Since I’ve been following a whole-food plant-based diet it seems even more of a problem as my taste-buds have completely changed. And for anyone who follows a special diet like the Overcoming MS programme, fat soaked potatoes are off the menu. 

Rather than the fat being key, for me it’s the potato, and how it is prepared before it goes into the oven. Most recipes suggest par boiling potatoes, but often this isn’t enough. You want the surface structure to be breaking down properly before going in the oven – this is what goes all crunchy once roasted. And you don’t need lots of fat to do it.

So here are my top tips. If you don’t already roast your spuds this way, why not give it a go this Christmas? And don’t forget to let me know how you get on.

  1. Use floury potatoes not waxy. Maris Piper or King Edwards are the best. Also try to by organic or more naturally grown ones. They taste better too.
  2. Don’t make them too big or too small. And try to keep them a similar size. I find medium-sized chunks work best.
  3. Boil the potatoes so they are properly cooked. Keep an eye on them though as you don’t want them to fall apart into mush. Boiling time will depend on the type of potato and how many you have in the pan. Once they’re beginning to be flaking on the outside and you can easily pierce them with a knife, turn off the heat.
  4. Drain as soon as the heat if off. Give them a good shake to clear away excess water and break the surface a bit more. If they are still a little soggy, pop them back in the pan on a low heat for a minute to dry off.
  5. Make sure the oven is pre-heated at 200ºC. Fan ovens work best, but electric and gas still produce good potatoes. I can’t comment on an AGA.
  6. Use a good, non-stick baking tray with no scratches. You can pre-heat it if you like, but I tend to forget so it’s not necessary.
  7. Tip the potatoes onto the baking tray and give it another shake. You can add a little oil now if you like. I tend to use a few squirts of an olive oil spray just to mist the top.
  8. Pop the tray in the oven and let the potatoes roast for 15 minutes, then remove the tray and turn the spuds. You will see a lovely golden crust forming when you turn. Move them around the tray if you need to if the outside ones are cooking faster than the inside ones. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until they are all crispy and brown.
  9. Remove from the oven and transfer to a hot dish. Serve straight away and enjoy that lovely crunch without the grease.