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.

Toasted savoury seeds

One of the big benefits of eating whole, unrefined plant-based foods is that food starts to taste different – and wonderful! When you change to a whole-food plant-based diet, cutting out lots of refined fats and sugars as well as high-sodium animal products, it takes a few weeks for your taste-buds to change – but only a few. Suddenly, you realise that each dish tastes delicious unadorned. This old blog post tells you more about taste.

But even though natural flavours start coming through in individual, fresh products, how to combine and enhance them to get a taste sensation still comes down to cooking technique. Continue reading “Toasted savoury seeds”

Banana and blueberry muffins

Summer may have arrived, but it’s tipping down with rain outside. Thank goodness half term has finished and the children have gone back to school. Not that it affects our house, as both my kids are young adults now, but I remember well the nightmare that is a rainy day in school holidays – how to keep small people entertained without breaking the bank!

On rainy mornings like today, baking always came to the rescue. Out came the plastic mixing bowls, doddery old weighing scales and the go-to children’s recipe book, the pages sticky and crusty from previous cake escapades, along with whatever ingredients we could find in the cupboard. Despite the often heated debates about what to make, it usually came down to muffins or cupcakes – quick, easy and fun to decorate later on (more diversionary tactics!).

I would often try and sneak in some fresh fruit or vegetable (like carrot) into their muffins; if children are involved in making the food, they’re often more keen to try it. Not only do you get more vitamins and phytonutrients into them, but less refined sugar is needed due to the natural sweetness from the fresh produce. Bananas are great in muffins as they also act as a binding agent, replacing the role of eggs in vegan baking. They do need to be really ripe though so you can mash them easily. This used to be a problem in our house as all the bananas would disappear from the fruit bowl. We discovered who was the main culprit when my daughter went to university – suddenly there were always over-ripe bananas perfect for baking.

Adding blueberries is another nutrient bonus. These tasty little berries are packed full of vitamins and phytonutrients and rightly carry the title of ‘superfood’. Unfortunately, the UK blueberry season is very short; some supermarket-sold blueberries have travelled a long way, so always check before you buy if you don’t want to pile on food miles. Freezing berries in season is always a good solution so you have some on hand. If you want to know more about why blueberries are so super, check out this information-packed article https://www.cookingdetective.com/blueberry-benefits-20-science-backed-health-benefits-of-blueberries/

These muffins are quick and easy to make, perfect for small people to make on a rainy day, or for anyone on any day! They can be made gluten free, soya free and nut free if needed, and being dairy and egg free, are perfect for vegans or anyone after a more plant based way of eating. And, most importantly, they are super tasty. They will bring a little sunshine to any day, no matter how wet it is outside.

Banana and blueberry muffins (makes 12)

300g wholemeal or gluten free self-raising flour
50g oats (gluten free if needed)
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
90g coconut sugar
300ml dairy free milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
2 medium over-ripe bananas mashed
75ml olive oil
100g fresh blueberries
For the topping:
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 tablespoon oats
pinch of cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 180ºc/350ºF/Gas mark 4. Grab muffin trays and line with papers if you use them. Measure out the dairy free milk into a jug and add the vinegar or lemon juice (if you can’t tolerate vinegar) and leave to curdle slightly.

Measure out the flour, oats, baking powder, coconut sugar, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl and mix well. Mash the banana in another bowl trying to get rid of as many lumps as possible. Stir in the oil and dairy free milk and whisk together until well combined.

Pour the wet mix into the dry and combine quickly – do not over mix, a few lumps are ok. Stir in the blueberries then pour spoonfuls into the prepared muffin tins, dividing the mix out equally into 12. Sprinkle a little of the topping over each muffin. Tap the tins on the worktop before popping in the oven. Bake for 16 minutes then check to see how they’re doing. The muffins should be risen, but still soft and bouncy to the touch. Use a cocktail stick to check they are baked on the inside – if the stick is coated with some mix, pop back in the oven for a couple more minutes, but don’t over cook.

Leave the muffins to cool in the tray for 5 minutes or so, then transfer onto a rack to cool fully. Store in an air-tight container. Keep for 3 days (if they don’t get eaten up). Can be frozen. Enjoy!