16.12.16

White Chocolate Orange Cranberry Cookies

I've never been a big white chocolate fan. Except this grilled white chocolate from Chin Chin Labs in London. It's like crack (but not...). Take a scoop of their already perfect, delectably smooth, nitrogen frozen ice cream and top it with spoonfuls of this stuff - bliss, I tell ya. Also, a billion percent not sponsored, thought I secretly wish I was.

Anyways, that white chocolate apart, white chocolate is just not my thing. I am a die hard chocoholic. A major classic chocolate chip cookie fan. But I recently stumbled across a recipe for white chocolate chip, currant and orange cookies and was inspired to take the plunge. This flavor variation just sounded too good too pass up. Spoiler: they were good.

I must admit that the first time I made these, they turned out waaaay too sweet. Like to the extent that I couldn't stomach more than half alongside a cup of tea/coffee/milk. Sweetness apart, I knew they had potential. So I gave it another shot, and they came out a winner.

The original recipe was great inspiration, but I ended up subbing naturally dried cranberries for the currants, white chocolate chips for the chocolate chunks and coconut oil for the butter (because let's be honest, when do I not use coconut oil?). I also dramatically cut down on the sugar and swapped out some flour for oat flour (healthier and texture is so on point!). Basically, I created the recipe, just borrowed the flavor combination.
These would be a lovely addition to your Christmas cookie party, your dessert table at Christmas lunch, a tea time snack before Christmas dinner or just a treat in your hand as you cozy up with a good book and hot mug of tea by your fireplace. Let's just say they're very festive and wonderfully delicious.

Tie them up in little packets with bows or pile them in a jar and they would make the perfect Christmas present. To yourself is acceptable - I won't tell.

Ingredients
Makes 14 medium-sized cookies
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup unrefined sugar
zest of one large orange
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup oat flour
pinch of salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries (sugar and sulphate free)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Cream the coconut oil, sugars and zest together in a medium bowl using a hand whisk. Don't overdo the mixing as you want to retain the nice chewy texture once the cookie is baked. Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk again until well combined.

In the same bowl, add the flours and salt and mix until flour is well incorporated.

Fold in the white chocolate chips and cranberries.

Roll the dough into approximately equal sized balls and place on a cookie sheet linked with parchment paper. Gently press down on the balls of dough (not completely flat) and make sure there is plenty of space between cookies, as they will spread.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until slightly golden brown on top. If your oven has the tendency to have an uneven distribution of heat, rotate the tray after around 10 minutes.

The cookies will be slightly soft even after 15 minutes, but they will firm up. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cook completely.

Grab a warm drink, get dipping and enjoy!

14.12.16

The BEST Avocado Toast

So, here's the deal. I'm not sure this post is warranted, but, it's happening guys. It is. Kudos to you for even clicking on it. Also, let's take a moment to stop and appreciate what's on my plate in front of me (yes, eating as usual, because food is fuel!).

I can see you shaking your head, rolling your eyes. You guessed it. Avocado toast.

So... I've always liked avocados, especially when added in small quantities to salads, wraps and sandwiches or in the form of guacamole. But when avocadotoast became the new hot trend, wait for it, I was just not with it. I didn't see what the hype was all about. Sure avocados are super healthy - they offer nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, especially potassium, folate, lutein, B vitamins and vitamins C and E. They're packed full of fiber, are low in sugar and the only fruit (yes, they are) that provide a good source of monounsaturated fatty acids. They help keep your skin glowing, your body running and your insides flowing. They've also given me powers to master the art of rhyming.

Basically they're a nutritional powerhouse, but that's all I saw them as.

And especially smashed avocado on toast? Definitely (was) not my thing. Or never used to be, anyway. But now I know why. I was doing it all wrong, in my humble opinion.

Almost ashamed to say (but not really) that I pretty much eat avocado toast in some form or another at least once a day. Sometimes it's alongside scrambled/fried/boiled eggs for breakfast or lunch, sometimes it's as an anytime-of-day snack and sometimes, well it just happens without explanation.

My key tips for a killer avo toast:
  1. Don't be shy with the amount of avocado. Yes, it's high in calories and fat, but it's great for you so jam pack your toast with all the avo. Less avo = less fun.
  2. Use avocados that are at their peak of ripeness (easy to say, hard to implement - I understand)
  3. Make sure to salt your avocado. But make sure you don't overdo it on the salt front, as I, unfortunately, am guilty of doing on few too many occasions.
  4. Lemon or lime is a game changer.
  5. Make sure you play up the textures - I love adding a sprinkle of seeds on top, but chopped nuts or pomegranate arils would be really great too!
  6. Toast your bread to perfection. Too little and it will be soggy. Too much and you'll have avocado crackers.
If you haven't already hopped on the bandwagon, then who are you? Just kidding. But really, get toastin' - you won't ever look back. I had to share this "recipe" because I don't want you to miss out on this perfection in a plate.
 
Ingredients
2 medium to thick slices of hearty, dense bread (my favorites: rustic sourdough, walnut cob, dark rye)
1 just ripe medium avocado
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch of salt, to taste
pinch of dried red pepper/chili flakes, to taste
2 tsp mixed seeds (I like using sunflower and pumpkin)
handful of fresh mixed greens or rocket

Instructions
Toast your bread.

While your bread is toasting, and then cooling, prep your avocado topping. I like to let my toast cool before I top it with the avocado for a couple of reasons: 1) I don't really like warm avocado, 2) a warmer toast will attract moisture and get soggy, 3) if you lay a piece of warm toast directly on a plate, it tends to condense underneath and result in super soggy toast (not good!).

For the avocado, you can either cube it or mash it. I used to be a major fan of cubing, but I've recently turned to prefer mashing. But, even when I mash it, I make sure to leave some larger chunks. It's all about the texture!

Place the cubed or mashed avocado in a bowl and squeeze in the lime and add the salt. Give it a quick stir.

Top your mostly cooled toast with the avocado, a few chili flakes, a sprinkling of seeds and the greens/rocket.

Serve and enjoy!

14.9.16

Raw Chocolate Tahini Slice

Can we just take a moment to appreciate this beautiful sight. Isn't it breathtaking? Life and nature are simply amazing...
This was the view from my window this past weekend. The fam and I ventured up to the Lake District (a gorgeous area in the northern part of the UK filled with, well, lakes!) to celebrate my dad's 50th birthday. The weekend was splendid. We were apparently blessed with the best weather the Lake District ever sees, we embarked on two lovely hikes, we ate some really delicious food, we played croquet for the first time (and ended up then playing all three days we were there!) and best of all, we spent some real quality time together as a family.
Anyways, we're all here for the goodies, so let's get back to the food. I've been really into my raw treats lately (see these tahini date cups, bliss balls, mini vegan cheesecakes, raw brownies and chocolate peanut butter fudge slices). They're the perfect thing to have in my freezer when the sweet cravings hit, which is usually after dinner. It's rare that I don't want something sweet to end off my day. And rather than fight this, I realised it was much better to satisfy my sweet tooth. Life's too short to not have dessert! To be honest, I'm now of the mindset that it is totally okay to have small slice of cake or scoop of ice cream every night, but if I can replace this a couple of nights a week with a sweet treat made from more natural, whole-food ingredients, I'm not going to say no.
By no means are these raw treats low calorie. In fact, they're pretty high-calorie and high in healthy fats. They're made from nuts, seeds, dates, coconut oil and cacao powder. Some rather calorie dense ingredients. But they're good for you, give you energy and don't make you feel sluggish which, at times, a real sugary dessert will. This still means moderation is key - I'll often reach for a second (#noregrets), but after that, it's a good time to let my brain do the thinking and gauge whether I really need another.

Anyways, this is quite similar to these raw brownies, but with a little twist. I love the tahini coconut drizzle on top - it adds a nice subtle bitter contrast to the sweet date base and the rich, smooth chocolate ganache, almost amplifying the flavors of both. Basically, I love these and could come up with a gazillion reasons why I do.

If you're into these kind of date & nut-based raw treats, or up for trying them, I'd highly suggest you give these a go! They also happen to be vegan, if that's your jam.

Ingredients
For the brownie base/crust:
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts - I used pecans, walnuts, cashews and pistachios
1/4 unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
1 1/2 cup pitted gooey dates
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup tahini

For the chocolate ganache:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup cacao powder
1 tbsp tahini
pinch of salt

For the tahini drizzle:
1/4 cup light tahini
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted

Instructions
Line a 10" by 8 " brownie tin with baking paper and set aside.

Pulse the mixed nuts in a food processor until they are in pea-sized chunks. Do not over process - you don't want a nut flour!

Pour the pulsed nuts into a bowl and set aside.

Without cleaning the food processor, put the dates and tahini in and process until a gooey, thick paste-like mixture forms.

Add back in the nuts, along with  the coconut, cacao powder and salt. Mix again until uniform.

Press the base mixture firmly into the prepared pan and place in freezer while you make the ganache.

Make the chocolate ganache by stirring together the respective ingredients. Using a fork will make this easier to break up any cacao powder clumps.

Remove the base from the freezer and pour the ganache on top. Smooth out to cover the base evenly. Place the tin back in the freezer for at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, make the tahini drizzle by simply stirring together the tahini and coconut oil. Remove the tin from the freezer and drizzle this on top of the ganache layer. Working quickly, slice into squares (don't actually pull them apart yet). Place back in freezer for another hour to firm up and they are ready to serve!

I like to store mine in the freezer because they last long and I love the fudginess of them when they are super cold. I recommend storing in the freezer for lasting purposes, but if you prefer a softer brownie, I would take them out 15 minutes before eating.

ENJOY!

7.9.16

Fruit and Nut Chewy Oat Bars

Oats are definitely a staple in my diet. Overnight oats, homemade granola, steaming bowls of porridge, bircher muesli, baked goods made with oat flour, you name it. There's one more main thing we can't forget - granola bars. I love 'em. Especially hearty, wholesome and delicious ones chock full of dried fruits, nuts and other goodness.
The great thing about making granola bars at home is that you know exactly what's going into them - you can customise the add-ins completely, you can control the amount of added sugar and oil, you can make them as chewy or crunchy as you'd like.

Not sure I need to go into the reasons I love granola bars, but to name a few: they're super portable, last pretty long, durable, filled with lots of your favorite things, hearty and deeelish.

These are great to make in a large batch, wrap individually and grab whenever the need arises or craving hits. These ones are particularly great because most of the sweetness comes from natural sources like dates, dried cranberries and unsweetened applesauce. These bars are coincidentally oil-free (I like my healthy fats, by the way!) and when baked, come out wonderfully crusty on the outside but almost soft and chewy on the inside. The chunks of dates, cranberries, pistachio and almonds add a great texture element to these wonderful bars!

Ingredients
1 cup whole rolled oats
1 cup baby porridge oats
1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1 cup applesauce
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Instructions
Line an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with baking paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 175 C.

In small bowl, stir together applesauce, honey, cinnamon and salt.

In a food processor, pulse the rolled oats, dried dates and cranberries until they reach an even, chunky consistency. You don't want this to turn into a paste. A crumbly mixture is perfect.

Place the pulsed mixture into a large bowl and add the cup of porridge oats, chopped almonds and pistachios. Pour the wet mixture on top and mix everything together.

Add the oat bar mixture to the prepared pan and bake for around 25 minutes until crusty and top is golden brown.

Let the bars cool in the pan for 10 minutes, slice into bars and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Grab one when you're rushing out of the house, keep a stash in your drawer at work, pack them for a picnic. Just enjoy!

28.8.16

Chocolate Orange Swirl Bundt

Chocolate and orange is just one of those things - in general, you either love it or hate it. I went from the latter to the former (and am now almost mildly obsessed!).
There's just something about the brightness of orange combined with the richness of chocolate that makes the combination, well, impeccable, really. Yeah, okay, this is my twenty-year-old self talking. Fifteen-year-old Tanvi would tell you otherwise. But trust me.

Let's just look at how pretty this cake is. Swirls just have a soft spot in my heart. And do you see how nicely swirled the swirl is? #swirlfreakhere. I'll teach you a tip (#1): the way to get the swirls all stripey and perfect is to use a technique used to make "zebra swirls". Here's the low down. Once you have the two different batters - chocolate and orange - use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to pour two spoonfuls of orange mixture into the bundt pan. Next alternate and pour one spoonful of chocolate mixture on top of the orange mixture. Continue to alternate between orange and chocolate layers until bundt pan is filled, pouring each next layer directly on top of the previous and letting the batter spread in the pan itself.

The cake is moist, soft and has the perfect amount of crumb. It looks gorgeous both because of the swirls and the bundt shape. Tip #2 of this post: bundt pans are your secret to making any cake dessert- and crowd-worthy. They don't require frosting, a streusel topping or anything fancy. A simple dusting of powdered sugar will do the trick.

Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup unrefined sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup coconut oil, softened
3/4 cup plain yogurt
5 tsp orange juice
4 tsp freshly grated orange zest
5 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk, divided

Instructions
Lightly grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside. Preheat your oven to 175°C.
Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, beat coconut oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition.

Add the half the mixed dry ingredients and half the yogurt to the beaten butter mixture and use a large spoon to mix until just combined. Repeat again, using the remainder of the dry mixture and the yogurt. 

Divide the mixture into a 60:40 split.

Mix the cocoa powder into the milk and pour this mixture into the 40% split part. Gently mix until just combined.

Fold the orange rind and orange juice into the other split (60% one).

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt tin using the zebra swirl method described above. Alternatively, spoon the orange and chocolate batters alternately into the pan and use the normal swirling method of running the back of a spoon or knife to through the batter.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until nicely risen and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then run a knife gently around the edges and tip the cake over into a plate.

Enjoy!

7.8.16

Raw Chocolate Brownies

The weather is stunning today in London. Bright sunshine, clear blue skies and a vibrancy that this city has that's impossible to miss. It's 3 pm on Saturday afternoon and the weekend has definitely gotten off to a great start. It began with a quick 30 min walk in the park (was pretty exhausted after a long week of work to do a proper run), which was followed by breakfast at a nearby bakery - my picks for today were a dark chocolate muffin and fresh orange juice.
Yeah, the dark chocolate muffin was pretty much like eating full on cake for breakfast. It was super rich (but not in a heavy sense), uber chocolatey, filled to the brim with lots of chocolate chunk and had the perfect, and I mean perfect, crusty/chewy muffin top. I'm all about the eating well, but mostly because it makes me feel good. And, sometimes, cake for breakfast does just the trick. Long story short: had a bomb.com chocolate muffin (more like cake) for breakfast and no regrets.

Right, let's get back to happenings of the day. The sweet morning was followed by a few hours out with one of my best gal pals. We made the most of the gorgeous weather and walked along the Thames River from London Bridge to Big Ben. We talked, took some pics and had a great time.

I made it home just in time for a much-needed wholesome meal (after lots of eating out during the week because I barely make it home in time for dinner!). A long-overdue Skype call with one of my childhood friends followed. Which brings me to now - I'm currently snacking on some blueberries, a sliced banana and some peanut butter (i.e. my happy place!). I'm soon heading off to BBQ and then going for dinner with the sis to a place that specializes in 20 inch pizzas - yup, 20 inches, you read right. PS. That's massive if you haven't already got the point. In essence, it's turning out to be a pretty splendid Saturday. And I can only hope that Sunday is just as good!
These raw brownies are some of the densest, fudgiest, bestest (see they're even throwing my language skills off whack!) things that have ever entered my mouth. No, they're not a direct substitute for warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven chewy brownies that you can top with a scoop of ice cream and hot fudge. But YES, oh yes, they are a wonderful dessert that you can eat anytime to curb your sugar cravings and chocolate cravings. And... well... I have been eating them anytime (and everytime).

They're good. Trust me.

Ingredients
For the brownie:
1 1/2 cups mixed nuts (I used walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and pistachios)
20 medjool dates, pitted
1/3 cup raw cacao powder
pinch of salt

For the frosting:
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
2 tbsp pure maple syrup

Instructions
Line a 8x8 brownie pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Pulse the mixed nuts together until crumbly. You don't want them to turn into a powder and definitely not nut butter, so don't over-pulse!

In the same food processor or blender (no cleaning required!), blend the dates until they form a sticky paste. Pour back in the pulsed nuts, add the cacao powder and salt and mix until well combined.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press down evenly.

Whisk together the coconut oil, cacao powder and maple syrup for frosting. Pour and spread on top of date nut brownie layer.

Place in the freezer to set for a couple of hours and slice into squares.

These can be stored in the fridge or freezer (I prefer the latter!).

Enjoy!!

31.7.16

Carrot Chocolate Chunk Bread

Carrot cake is such a timeless classic. It's homely and comforting, spicy and sweet, naughty yet nice. It's great when wrapped in a gorgeous cream cheese frosting (best saved for those indulgent occasions!), drizzled in a simple glaze or even just studded with toasted nuts, dried fruit or chocolate chips.
Let's start with the backstory. As usual, the weekend comes around and I'm ever ready to bake something. As usual, in wondering what I should make next and as usual (see the trend here?) I'm planning to turn to the fam for some suggestions/inspirations if they haven't already hit yet. Because, let's be honest, what's the good in baking if no one's going to eat it?

But...

My sister preempted this by asking for carrot cake. This was rather rare, as although she's usually one of the first takers of my baked goods, she's usually the last to actually request something be made. There was no further thinking - carrot cake it would be! And the addition of chocolate? Well, that simply goes without saying.

The combination is unbeatable. Sweet, moist, warm carrot cake with small chunks of dark chocolate chunks with a whole lotta personality.

I may have (I did) eaten this for breakfast, as a mid-afternoon snack and even late at night when the midnight munchies hit. I've spent the past five weeks (and will be doing so for the next five!) interning and often get home pretty late at night. It's been a couple of hours since I've had dinner and my body and mind are craving a small sweet treat before bed that'll satisfy the sugar needs, yet not make me feel too sluggish or heavy to go to bed. And this definitely fits the bill (as do these chocolate peanut butter fudge slices and some raw brownies that are coming to the blog soon!). Basically this carrot cake is so good and versatile it's hard not to like it. Both die-hard dessert fans (depending on how hardcore) and people who like an ever-so-slightly sweet treat here and there will love this. What are you waiting for?

Ingredients
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup self-raising flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup baby oats
4 tbsp coconut oil
2 eggs
2/3 cup unrefined sugar
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (chocolate chips or chocolate chunks would work too)
Optional: chopped toasted walnuts, raisins

Instructions
Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Line a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with baking paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours,  baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in the baby oats and sugar.

In a separate, smaller bowl, beat together the coconut oil and eggs. Add the milk and vanilla and beat again.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet and stir until just combined. Fold in the grated carrot. Finally, gently fold in the chocolate chips (and nuts and raisins, if using).

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cut into thick slices and serve. Grab your favorite book (or movie), a cup of coffee or tea (or iced coffee if you're me) and enjoy!

23.7.16

Raspberry Blueberry Oatbake

Berries are just freakishly beautiful. They take any slice of cake, bowl of oatmeal, stack of pancakes, fruit salad, you name it (within reason!) to the next level. As a rule of thumb, if you can add berries, add them. Profound, huh? They pack a punch of nutrients, freshness, color and of course, flavor!
This creation was yet again inspired by something I ate for breakfast in a cafe recently - a very rustic, no frills cafe to be exact. And that's exactly how the delicious goodies on offer were too - rustic, no frills, no fancy ingredients and not overly sweet. And to be honest, that's exactly what I want at breakfast. Too often, I find myself eating a muffin or the like that almost feels too sugary by the end of it so early on in the day. Problem is (or not?), my body needs the sugar kick in the morning so eggs don't usually cut it. Eggs for lunch, though? I'm a fan. As for breakfast, I'm a muesli, overnight oats, peanut butter toast, granola, smoothie bowl or baked goods kinda gal. 
This berry oatbake is extremely easy to throw together and totally adaptable to your preference of berries. I went with raspberries and blueberries as this is what I had in the cafe and loved the combo. I can imagine blackberries, cherries, sliced strawberries or even plums and peaches would work well too!

It's great at breakfast, tea-time, or even as a beautiful summer dessert! And guess what? It's definitely pretty enough (and yummy enough!) to serve to guests or bring to a party. 

Ingredients
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup hot milk
3 tbsp coconut oil, at room temperature
4 tbsp unrefined sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup fresh raspberries
3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Instructions
Start by pouring the hot milk over the oats and letting them soak for a while to absorb the milk and cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 175 C. 

Beat the coconut oil and sugar in a medium bowl. Add the honey and vanilla extract and beat again. Add the egg, and beat well. 

Sift the baking powder and flour into the wet ingredients and fold to combine. 

Pour out any remaining milk from the soaked oat mixture, then fold the soaked oats into the batter.

Lightly brush a square baking tin with coconut oil, then pour in the prepared batter. Sprinkle the blueberries and raspberries on top.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, until nicely golden brown, some berries have burst and until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the oatbake cool in the tin for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.

For extra fanciness, dust with powdered sugar before serving (but totally unnecessary and better avoided because the extra sugar is really unnecessary!). I'm more than sure you will, but... Enjoy!

10.7.16

Raw Chocolate Peanut Fudge Slices

I recently went to a simple, yet very chic and homely, health food cafe and was introduced to the wonderful word of raw peanut fudge slices. One bite and I knew I needed them in my life on a regular basis. I came home craving for another and more importantly, determined to recreate the amazing-ness. The story began with dates, nuts, peanut butter, coconut oil and cacao powder. Who am I kidding? Let's just get to the end already. It ends like this: they came out 99% perfect and the missing 1% was fixed by adding more of just one ingredient (hint: this is the key ingredient in making the ganache layer chocolate-y).
 
Oh and did I mention they're raw, vegan and refined-sugar-free? In terms of my own diet, no, I'm not any of those things, but thought it good to highlight this to people who may be. It's also worth noting that treats as delicious as these can be made to fit most dietary requirements. 

These fudge slices are crunchy, ooey, gooey, chewy, dense, rich, naturally sweet and are simply spot on in all aspects. And the best thing? They don't make you feel heavy or give you a sugar high straight after. I've been reaching for them at least once, if not twice, a day and invariably find myself reaching for seconds (and thirds). I'm slightly addicted and it may be a problem... Not. 

If you're feeling extremely generous, you could even make these in larger batches, as these treats are fantastic to make when having friends friends over for coffee or to a picnic (be sure to pack them in a cooler!). 

Can we also just take a moment to appreciate the beauty of that cross section?

I could keep on rambling, but if I were you I wouldn't bother reading the rest. I'd probably have already scrolled down to get the recipe and start making this, so kudos to those of you still reading, but I'm going to do you a favor and end the mumbo jumbo here and leave you with three words. Go. Make. These.

Ingredients
Base:
1 1/4 cup pitted Medjool dates
1 cup mixed nuts of choice*
*I used walnuts, pecans, pistachios and hazelnuts. To keep the flavor traditional and emphasize the peanutty-ness, you could stick to 1/2 cup peanuts and 1/2 cup almonds. However, I decided to mix it up to get a variety of nutrients (and tastes!) as this recipe already has a peanut element and I eat lots of almonds on a regular basis.

Peanut butter fudge layer:
1 1/2 cup pitted Medjool dates
1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
generous pinch of salt

Chocolate ganache:
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup cacao powder
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp smooth natural peanut butter

Instructions
For the base layer, put the mixed nuts into a food processor and pulse until they are in small chunks. Pour into a bowl and set aside. In the same food processor - no cleaning or such required - blend the dates until a thick, sticky mix forms. Place the nuts back in with the dates and blend until combined. If your dates are not gooey enough, you could add a tablespoon or two warm water to help the blending process. Press the date nut mixture into a square tin (sides 8-9 inches) - lined with parchment paper to make removal easier - and set aside. 

Onto the next layer - combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. TIP: again, there's definitely no need to clean your food processor before doing this! The mixture will be quite thick and sticky. Spread evenly on top of prepared crust and set aside. 

For the chocolate ganache, combine ingredients in a bowl and stir until smooth. Pour on top of peanut butter caramel layer. 

Place the tin in the freezer for an hour or two to set, then cut into squares (quick tip: dip a knife in warm water between cuts and this will be so much easier). Store in either the fridge or freezer (freezer is my preference because I love things extremely cold, hard and fudgy) and eat whenever the cravings hit. For me, this means pretty much all. the. time. As always, enjoy!

1.7.16

Bliss Balls

I know, I know. Bliss balls are now everywhere. But that doesn't stop me from posting about them, because they are simply blissful. Call them whatever you wish - bliss balls, energy balls, raw truffles, date truffles... All I know is that they're magical.
They taste beyond amazing, make you feel even better, give you lots of energy and look pretty darn fantastic as well. They're also sneaky in the sense that they make you want just one bite more, but then when you stop and think about it, you'll realize after having one that you're actually satisfied and very content. The bliss balls are packed with lots of nutrition - healthy fats and vitamins from the nuts, necessary carbohydrates and iron from the dates and the perfect amount of coconut-y goodness. They're satisfying enough to tide you over for a while, yet light enough to be a quick snack. They're sweet enough to curb any sweet cravings, yet naturally, so this still appeal to people who aren't sugar-crazy.

And the best thing (other than all the other best things about them) is: they're totally customizable! Don't like dates? How could you?! Just kidding. Swap them for your favorite combination of dried fruit - prunes, dried apricots, raisins, dried cranberries. Just remember that the bliss balls rely on your dried fruit being soft enough to blend and form a sticky mixture, so if that's not the case, do make sure to soak them in water overnight or in hot water a couple of hours beforehand.

With the nuts, feel free to use whatever you wish - walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, almonds, sesame seeds, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, pine nuts, hemp seeds. Finally for some added texture and visual prettiness, cover them in a topping - chia seeds, sesame seeds, desiccated coconut, cacao nibs, cacao/cocoa powder. This step is totally option.

And to make them even more gourmet (not that they aren't already), you can even add in things like cacao nibs, cacao powder, orange zest, lemon zest, maca powder, coconut oil, oats, maple syrup, nut butter, chia seeds... I could probably go on for a while longer, but I think I'll leave it here.

Ultimately, the combination is completely up to your own imagination, taste preference, and nutrition goals/requirements. My personal preference is simple and sweet: dates and an assortment of nuts pulsed together and rolled into a ball and covered in desiccated coconut.

Make these. Once you've made them once, you'll never stop.

Ingredients
600g Medjool dates, pitted (soak overnight or in warm water beforehand if your dates are qui
1 1/2 cups of mixed nuts - I used a mix of pistachios, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and sesame seeds
pinch of salt (DO NOT OMIT THIS - it makes a world of difference!)
1/3 cup dessicated coconut

Instructions
In a food processor or high speed blender, pulse the nuts until they are small bits. It is essential that you don't over-pulse to the point where the nuts turn into powder, or even worse, nut butter!

Pour the pulsed nuts into a bowl and set aside.

Without cleaning/washing/doing anything to your blender, add the dates and blend until a sticky paste forms.

Once almost smooth, pour in the nuts again, add the salt and pulse/process until the nuts and dates and well combined. The mixture should be sticky enough to form into balls.

Pour the desiccated coconut into a small flat plate and set aside.

Roll the nut/date mixture tightly into balls of desired size. After rolling each ball, roll it in the plate of desiccated coconut, pressing down with the slightest amount of pressure so the coconut sticks. Once all the mixture has been used up, place the balls in an airtight container and leave in a cool place or in the fridge. Don't forget to leave one out for you to taste right now! Enjoy!

23.6.16

Banana Oat Blondies

Because there's only one (maybe two?) things to do when you see a bunch of overripe bananas on your counter: turn them into a delicious baked good! Freezing them is the second option, in case baking with them doesn't excite you. Well, I guess there is a third, most obvious option: eat them.
Banana bread seemed too mainstream. If you've been following me for a while now, you'll know that I mean this in the best of sentiments. My family and I are banana bread fanatics, and I've already made so many variations. It only seemed fair to give other treats a chance. Hence, these oat banana blondies were born. Quick confession time. These aren't your classic blondies, so don't expect them to be as such. They're more like a chewier, denser version of banana bread in blondie form. Not sure who wouldn't want that though! They're also easily made gluten free as long as you make sure to use gluten-free certified oats.

From my experience baking with oat flour, I've found it to be one of the most reliable flours - it always yields such delicious results. The texture is just right - crumbly, nutty and has a bite to it, yet is smooth, rich and oh-so-wonderfully wholesome.

These blondies are no different. They're soft, slightly chewy, filled with just the right amount of chocolate chips, moderately sweet and healthy to boot! You could even slice a large square in half and slather on some peanut or almond butter (or a cocoa hazelnut spread that's made from real ingredients - i.e. not Nutella).

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups baby oats, ground into a flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tbsp almond butter
1/2 tbsp coconut oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions
Preheat oven to 170°C. Line a square baking dish (8 to 9 inches in side length) with parchment paper and set aside.  

Sift the dry ingredients, except sugar, together in a medium mixing bowl. Stir to combine.

In a separate, larger bowl, beat together the Greek yogurt, almond butter and coconut oil. Add the eggs one at a time and beat again until light and frothy. Add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat well again.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Fold in the mashed banana, then the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

Let the blondies cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy anytime with drink of choice (milk, tea, coffee.... I guess wine works too?)!

19.6.16

Butternut Squash & Chickpea Salad

Aaand I'm back! This term has been one-of-a-kind. It's been so super special and amazing I don't even know how to describe it. It's also been a term filled with a lot of new experiences - I pulled my first all-nighters (three in a span of seven days....), I went for a couple of runs with one of my best friends and a former cross country runner, I traveled to them Amalfi coast and indulged in some amazing Italian food (and dessert because life without dessert is just..... not ok - for me, at least!).

I'm also back on the savory kick with this colorful and wholesome butternut squash and chickpea "salad". I say salad in quotations because salads tend to get bad rep for being a small bowl-full of limp lettuce leaves topped with flavourless tomatoes and some sort of dressing, but really, that's not what salads should be or are about. They're about taking a variety of fresh, delicious ingredients and putting them together in one gorgeous dish!
This salad is a variation on one of Deliciously Ella's (a lovely health food and wellness inspiration - do check her out if you haven't already!) recipes with a few variations here and there to make it more aligned with my tastebuds. It's a nourishing and satisfying lunch or equally great as a side dish! I find it absolutely perfect in the summertime when the weather is warm, the sun is shining, the days are long, the produce is fresh and the body craves something other than a piping hot meal. Can you tell I love summer? That said, it's great all year round - in fall due to the very autumn-y flavors and earthy combination, in winter because of the warming spices and the fact that this salad can be served warm and in spring because springtime is salad time!

The butternut squash roasts up beautiful and get just the slightest bit of crusty goodness on the outside. The chickpeas are also roasted in the oven with a wonderful blend of spices - I allow them to bake just enough so they're firm, but not completely dried out and crunchy like, say, toasted nuts. Instead of using already-roasted or sun-dried tomatoes, I prefer to do it myself and take sweet cherry tomatoes and roast them in the oven until they've shriveled and are juicy, but not completely dried. The salad comes together with a handful of sharp rocket leaves and a tart, yet sweet dressing that brightens the flavours and really brings out the sweetness of the squash.

If you don't have any butternut squash on hand, feel free to use pumpkin, another similar squash or even sweet potato - all would work just fine!

Ingredients
Serves 1 as a main dish

For the salad:
1 cup worth of large chunks of butternut squash, peeled
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil
1/2 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 tsp chili powder
large handful of rocket leaves (or arugula or rucola - whatever you call it!)
8-10 cherry tomatoes

For the dressing:
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp honey
sprinkle of sea salt
juice of 1 lemon

Instructions
Soak the dried beans the night before making the salad. If you forget to do this, soak them in boiling water for 1 hour. Cook as per instructions.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. 

Toss the squash with the herbs, paprika, olive oil and a dash of salt. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half.

Take the chunks of squash and tomato halves and place them side by side on a baking sheet. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until tomatoes are shriveled and have let out some juice and the butternut squash is tender and slightly charred on the outside.

Having placed the squash and tomato in the oven, toss the chickpeas in the chili powder and bake for around 20 minutes.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing together, adding salt and pepper as to your taste.

Once the squash, tomatoes and chickpeas are done and have cooled slightly, mix the squash, tomatoes, rocket and chickpeas. Add the dressing, toss once again and serve. Enjoy!

8.4.16

No-Bake Vegan "Cheesecake"

Zoodles or courgetti (which one do you call it?) just don't cut it for me. If I'm craving pasta, my body's asking for a hearty helping of some downright carbs. Spiralized zucchini just isn't going to magically turn into that. Sorry to all you devoted fans out there. There's nothing wrong with zoodles, but they're just not pasta. At least not to me!
Why am I randomly blabbering about pasta, you ask? Well because I like to keep it real. Just like with these "cheesecakes". There's no doubt these are a fantastic afternoon snack or post-dinner dessert you can eat on the daily, but they're not cheesecake and I won't pretend they are. If you're interested in this recipe, I'm guessing you most probably know this already, but thought I'd warn you just in case.

What they are is a lightly sweet, raw-treat that's smooth and dreamy and definitely reminiscent of a cheesecake type of dessert. But not cheesecake. They're easily customizable, conveniently-sized and downright delicious. I went with three flavors - plain, raspberry and peanut butter, but I can only imagine that flavors like chocolate, lime, blueberry, strawberry and coconut would be equally delicious.   

The "crust" is the classic health-food-trend base of dates and nuts (walnuts were my choice) and the filling is one made from blended cashews, coconut oil and lots of other feel-good goodness. The blended cashews as a filling is definitely not something new - I always thought of trying it but never really got around to it. Better late than never, hey? I was so pleasantly surprised! The filling is so luscious, creamy and aromatic right when it's blended that it'll take a lot of self-control to stop yourself from literally spooning the mixture right out of the blender jar straight into your mouth (I won't tell if you do this). A spoon, or few, is necessary as a taste test anyways...right? The subtle sweetness of the maple syrup perfectly complements the tangy lemon flavor (hello cheesecake). The trick to getting a nice a smooth filling is soaking your cashews for long enough. I suggest overnight, but if you forgot/hadn't planned for this, a few hours in some boiling water will do it.

If you're used to raw/healthy/nut-based/naturally-sweetened treats, you'll love this. If not, give it a go and let me know what you think. You'll never know if you don't try!

This recipe is adapted from Minimalist Baker's 7-Ingredient Vegan Cheesecakes.

Ingredients
Makes 10-12 standard muffin-cup sized mini cheesecakes (or one larger 9-inch cheesecake)
For the crust:
1 cup pitted gooey dates
1 cup raw walnuts (pecans or almonds can be substituted)
pinch of salt
For the filling:
1 3/4 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight or in boiling water for a few hours
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut milk, preferably the thick creamy part that forms on top
Optional add ins: peanut butter, raspberry jam

Instructions
Bring out your standard muffin tin and set aside.

Add walnuts to a food processor/high speed blender and blitz into small chunks. Don't process it into a powder unless you don't want any chunks of nuts in the base  - I like the crunch so I keep it quite chunky! Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same machine, process the dates until a sticky paste/ball is formed. Pour walnut bits back in, along with the salt, and process again. The mixture should come together quickly and be sticky enough to roll balls, but not so sticky that it sticks to your fingers. Add more dates or walnuts to get to the right consistency. 

Cut thin strips of parchment paper and lay them in each muffin cup to make it easier to pull out the cheesecakes later (make sure about an inch sticks up on either side).

Take small amounts of the crust mixture and press it into each muffin cup. There's no exact science here - mine ended up being between a half and one centimeter thick. Just use your fingers to gently press down. Place in the freezer to set while you prepare the filling.

Blend all the filling ingredients together until a very smooth, silky, almost velvety mixture is formed.

Take the crusts out of the freezer and pour spoonfuls of the filling onto each crust. If using optional flavorings, swirl small spoonfuls of your chosen add-in into the filling.

Place in the freezer to set completely. To serve, either eat them straight from the freezer (cold is always my chosen preference) or remove 5 minutes before serving for a softer, more cheesecake like texture.

Enjoy!

4.4.16

Mocha Oat Cookies

Cookies always seem to do the trick. At breakfast, mid-morning, post-lunch, at tea time, after dinner or when the midnight munchies hit, cookies seem to come to the rescue.
Sorry quick tangent. As I'm typing this blog post, I'm noshing on a perfectly ripe banana sliced up and topped with melted peanut butter and dark chocolate spread. Not sure why I haven't tried this before - such a great snack! Highly recommended. Also just realized that this could mistakenly come across as I haven't had bananas with pb or chocolate before. Definitely not true. I'm pretty sure I eat all three on a daily basis and bananas and pb often feature together.

Back to the cookie loving. Or should I be hating? The fact that they're so easy to make and eat is pretty dangerous... But at least when they're filled with good things like oats, dark chocolate (healthy in moderation) and coffee (likewise), you can feel good about eating them, right? Please say yes.
The coffee flavor isn't overpowering. It's almost as though - yes this is going to sound weird and manipulative, but just trust me here - you can taste the coffee undertones if you want to, but if not, all the coffee does is intensify the flavor of the chocolate. And who doesn't want that? Give me all the chocolate.

The texture of the cookies can't be beat. They're wonderfully crunchy and perfectly gooey right around the puddles of melty chocolate chips. You'll wonder where the lovely crunch comes from only to remember that the secret lies in using oat flour to make these cookies. Don't worry if your oat flour isn't perfectly ground into a fine powder. There's almost a beauty to the tiny specks of oat bits peppered through these chocolate-y cookies. They bake up just perfectly - slightly sticky/crispy on the outside and chewy and gooey on the inside. They're almost like a brookie (fudgy brownie cookie!).

Ingredients 
Makes 15 large cookies
2 1/4 cup rolled oats, ground into a flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup unrefined sugar
3 tsp instant coffee
2 eggs
4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 175 C and line a large cookie baking tray with baking paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the oat flour, salt, baking powder, cocoa, sugar and instant coffee.

In a separate small bowl or cup, briefly mix together the the coconut oil and eggs. They probably wont mix that well, but don't worry as all you need to make sure to do is break the yolks to make for more even mixing later.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Mix until just combined.

Gently fold in the dark chocolate chips.

Use your hands to roll the dough into 15 evenly sized balls. They won't be perfect as the dough is likely to be slightly sticky, but this is intended so keep going!

Place the balls on the prepared cookie sheet. Press down slightly for a flatter cookie (I did this) or leave as is for chunkier/thicker cookies. Leave some space between the cookies because they do tend to spread.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until just firm to the touch. Cool in tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Don't wait - just eat. And enjoy!

28.3.16

Dark Chocolate Cherry Granola

Does anyone else get really annoyed by traffic and delays? I just can't stand them. It's weird. I'm generally a pretty patient person, I take life pretty easily and barely find myself rushing to get somewhere. But there's something about traffic and delays that simply ticks me off. If I'm going to be stuck in traffic for hours, I'd rather get out of the car and walk for the same amount of time. Sounds silly, I know. But being stuck in one place - can't handle it. As long as I'm moving, I'm happy.
And don't get me started on flight delays. Especially the kind where they make you board the plane only to tell you that you'll be departing in X hours. In case you haven't already guessed, this is exactly what happened to me this morning. Thankfully, I was surrounded by my fam, which made the aimless (but not really) waiting much more bearable.

Mini rant of the day done and dusted. Moving on the the food. And not just anything - CHOCOLATE! I hope you all had your share of chocolate goodness on Easter, whether you celebrate or not, because chocolate is never a bad idea. I had a pain au chocolate, chocolate chip swirl, chocolate Easter eggs, hot chocolate, chocolate cake and chocolate mousse. FYI, that's just half the sugar I had on Easter day - the rest included tiramisu, stroopwafels and a few tidbits more. #sugaraddict and #noshame
On the theme of chocolate, I present to you dark chocolate cherry granola - an idea presented to me by my sister. This is a major shocker, by the way. She likes most of the things I bake, but rarely every requests me to make something specific (other than this banana bread and these orange chocolate scones). We always make our own granola at home, but it's a cinnamon vanilla variety chock full of nuts and seeds (hopefully I'll be posting a recipe soon!). She steers clear of nuts and seeds, and hence definitely doesn't touch the granola.

But chocolate and cherries? That she was more-than-willing to try. And who am I to say no to a baking request? I based the recipe off my traditional variety, but made a few adjustments to make it work for this one.

What did it yield? A rich, chocolately, barely sweet, clustery granola filled with dark chocolate chunks and dried cherries. Chocolate for breakfast? Why not! It's wonderful with milk, fruit yogurt, on smoothie bowls or simply by the fistful. Try it. You'll regret it if you don't!
Ingredients
3 cups whole rolled oats
pinch of salt
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dark chocolate chunks
*feel free to up the quantities of cherries and chocolate chunks

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 155 C. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, cocoa powder, salt and cinnamon.

Add the honey and coconut oil and mix well. The mixture will be sticky.

Spread the oat mixture on the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes. During the last 5-10 minutes of baking, watch carefully as each oven has its own quirks and you don't want to end up with burnt granola! Likewise, you may need to keep it for a little longer. Your house will smell like the most delicious chocolate cake is baking.

Remove from oven and let cool completely. The oats will still be soft when you pull them out, but will crisp up in a matter of 10 minutes!

Once completely cooled, stir in the cherries and chocolate chunks.

Store in an airtight container. It will stay fresh for up to 3 weeks, but trust me, it won't last that long! Enjoy!

22.3.16

Classic Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Life tip of the day. If something's going well, there's no need to revamp it. Looking for improvements is always great, but don't go and rewrite it if it works!
Why am I expressing this today, you ask? Other than the fact that it is so true, it's because this is the tale of this banana bread. It's often recipes like this one that I tend to overlook because I've been making it for almost ten years now. Every time I make this banana bread, it's delicious, never goes wrong and yet I felt it too commonplace to share simply because I make it so often and have been doing so for so long... But then last evening after a fresh batch came out of the oven, beautifully crusted on the outside and gorgeously fluffy and steamy inside, I realized that it was time I post a recipe. Dare I say, it just may be my family's favorite recipe. It's made every week at home and despite all the other exciting (or I hope!) treats I whip up, this is always the first to go. 

The main culprit: my sister. She's head-over-heels obsessed with this banana bread with chocolate chips. Read: the chocolate chips are essential. Not optional. 
If the rest of us had it our way, we'd definitely throw in a handful of chopped, toasted walnuts. The nuttiness and crunch is irreplaceable. But (if you've read another post or few) you'd know that the sis and nuts don't get along too well. So I restrain. You won't miss them, but equally, feel free to throw in a few if you so wish!

While this is baking, I can assure that you'll be not-so-patiently waiting by your oven until it's ready. It smells absolutely delightful with a fragrant sweetness of banana and undertones of dark chocolate. Is there anything better? I think not.

Also, another quick tip for the day. I'm usually one to avoid the end slices of loaf cakes and head straight for a large center slice, but with this one, I strongly urge you to fight over the end slices. The sweet crust just can't be beat. 

So come on, grab those ripe bananas on your countertop, take fifteen minutes out of your day and get baking!

PS. The sun is shining so brightly this morning in London - it makes me one happy gal!

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup baby oats
pinch of salt 
3/4 cup unrefined sugar
3 tbsp coconut oil (softened) + 3 tbsp coconut oil (melted), divided
2 eggs
3 ripe-overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp milk
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line a loaf baking pan with with baking paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together softened coconut oil and sugar until creamy. Add the eggs and beat again until light and well combined. Stir in the mashed bananas, vanilla and melted coconut oil.

Sift in the flour and salt. Add the oats. Lightly mix all ingredients until just combined.

In a mug, add the baking soda to the milk and add this to the batter.

Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top is well-risen, golden brown, crusty and a toothpick inserted comes out just clean.

Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.

Cut yourself a thick (end!) slice and enjoy!