Pancakes are always a treat, but I have a particularly soft spot for savoury pancakes. My dinner time treat, when I was a child, was wholemeal pancakes with cheese sauce – utter bliss. These pea protein pancakes include matcha for flavour and colour and are served with a spicy peanut sauce. They are vegan, gluten free and most importantly, tasty.
When I ordered my latest supplies from Suma, it was around Pancake Day so I had pancakes very much in mind. I wasn’t quite sure what sort I would make, but I ordered a few things which might be suitable. With Easter fast approaching, I finally plumped for some chocolate pancakes for Easter, which I thought a fine idea.
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone. I’ll be heading off to visit my mother shortly. I was going to take her out to lunch, but turns out she hadn’t realised the significance of the day and has invited friends over. So I decided to make her an ultra healthy, dairy-free, grain-free and refined sugar-free vegan cake instead. Why? Because I felt like it and thought it would make a nice change. So this chocolate coconut cannellini cake is what she’s getting.
I defy anyone not to find chocolate puddings irresistible. Well how about a chocolate chia pudding that tastes indulgent, but has no dairy or eggs and is pretty much guilt free? Indeed, it has many positive nutritional benefits.
Porridge was a breakfast mainstay when I was growing up and it’s given me a love of oats that’s never left me. I use them in porridge, in my smoothies and in baking. But I rarely think about soaking them overnight and having a bowl of raw goodness for breakfast. Bircher muesli or overnight oats, call them what you will, is another tasty addition to have in one’s breakfast repertoire.
Whilst not quite at the forefront of raw food consumption, it does make up a part of my diet and I don’t just mean salad leaves. I’ve been a fan of raw chocolate since long before I started this blog; the concept of raw chocolate and other sweet treats that are actively good for you is one I find most appealing. Unlike cheap chocolate bars, I find these satisfy quite quickly and I’m unable to gorge myself on them.
The UK has a long tradition of coconut use, one of the advantages of a global empire I suppose. However our usage has been somewhat limited to desiccated coconut and whole coconuts, usually found as a target in fairgrounds and often past their best. In recent years the products have become much more diverse and coconut has now gained the status of a superfood. I’ve always been a fan and use coconut in a number of ways. However, when I was sent a bundle of coconut products from Cocofina to try out, the coconut oil was the only item I was familiar with.
Cocofina, meaning fine coconuts, was conceived with the idea of selling a healthful drink that was naturally sweet and would need no added artificial colours or preservatives. Starting off in 2005 selling 100% pure coconut water, the company has now branched out into other coconut products. There are over 100 varieties of coconut and they have many uses. Harvested young they are best for water and the mature ones are best for oil. I was pleased to see that all Cocofina products are organic and certified by the Soil Association. The company also supports Action Against Hunger, vowing to raise at least £5,000 a year.
Once again, I roped CT in to help out with some of the tasting. As coconut is one of his favourite foods, he was not averse. After tasting all of the products, I set to and baked this coconut chickpea chocolate cake using the nectar and oil.
Coconut Water – 100% filtered coconut water from green coconuts.
A multi award winning drink, this claims to refresh, reenergise and rehydrate; it is full of vitamins and minerals and is naturally isotonic. I was expecting it to taste like the water you get when cracking open a mature coconut, but it was noticeably different. It was sweeter with a slightly smokey taste, pleasant but not quite as nice. I was really rather excited to find you can buy coconut water, as a natural alternative to dairy is hard to find. This came in a 500ml plastic bottle. I know plastic is the modern way, but I would prefer to see a healthy drink put into a glass one. After sipping it to see what I thought, I decided it would make a great base for a tropical breakfast smoothie. It did. See recipe below.
It has the look and feel of runny honey, but the scent and taste of light molasses. We both really liked it and had to restrain ourselves from spooning it directly from the jar into our mouths. It made a really tasty chocolate glaze which I used for the coconut chickpea cake and a subsequent vegan cake I’ve made. The nectar has a low GI so is a healthier option than sugar and would also make a great vegan substitute for honey. I was pleased that this product did come in a glass jar. It contained 350ml.
I’m a big fan of coconut oil and have written a fair bit about it on this blog already. It is a particularly healthy oil and is good spread on toast, used in baking and for frying as it has a high smoking point. This one is cold pressed extra virgin and organic. It smells and tastes deliciously of coconut. Like the nectar, it came in a 350ml glass jar.
Coconut Snack Bars
All of the bars weigh 40g and are organic, dairy free, wheat free and have no added sugar.
Organic Coconut & Cocoa Bar – raisins (containing sunflower oil), dates, coconut, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder.
Described as a pre-workout snack, this is toothsome bar that in my book could be eaten at any time. Coconut and chocolate is one of those combinations that just work: the flavour here is well balanced with the coconut being dominant and the cocoa enriching the flavour and reducing the sweetness. Both chewy and crunchy from the coconut and cocoa nibs, the texture encourages you to savour at length. Hello Cocofina, goodbye Bounty, quipped CT.
Organic Coconut & Date Bar – raisins (containing sunflower oil), coconut, dates, oats.
It’s nice and coconutty with shards of dried coconut which make it particularly chewy; in CT’s own words “it’s fun to carry on chewing and squeeze out every last bit of flavour”. It is quite sweet with an almost honey like taste and very enjoyable. CT suggested that a Levantine merchant would stock up on these in preparation for a long camel train trip.
Cocofina Macaroon Bar
I’m guessing this is a recent addition to the range as the wrapper is plain and has no information on it other than the name and best before date. Firmer in texture than the other bars, it tastes of coconut and honey. It’s quite sweet, but due to its firm and chewy texture, it gives the jaws a good work out. It reminds me of the sweets I used to eat and enjoy in Egypt. Sweet is the operative word; it feels more like an item of confectionary than an energy bar, but is nonetheless delicious.
Brownies by Rawness
Based in Richmond, Rawness is a company that started making 100% raw desserts for local consumption. Take a look at their website if you need to be convinced as to the allure of raw cakes and chocolates. They have recently introduced a range of brownies that are more robust and can be sent by post and thus distributed more widely. Despite the name, these didn’t really resemble classic brownies which, in my opinion, should be soft, fudgy and uba-sweet with a crusty top. These were in two layers and whilst the top was indeed fudgy, the bottom was decidedly chewy. Forget the name though and you have one very tasty and satisfying piece of confection which I defy anyone not to enjoy.
As I read the list of ingredients, I got more and more excited; they sounded both exotic and luxurious. I was intrigued by the Medicine Flower mentioned, so went off to investigate. It turns out they are an American company offering a range of concentrated extracts using a cold pressed extraction method. They have some very unusual flavours and are certified organic. The brownies, though small, are quite substantial and weigh 55g each. Sitting in their little wooden trays and encased by protective plastic, they would make ideal picnic fare. I was sent three flavours to try. CT helped me out in the task. We found sharing three between us was more than enough to satisfy us after a long session of gardening.
Hazelnut Caramel Brownie – hazelnuts, hazelnut butter, dates, Peruvian cacao powder, Peruvian cacao butter, heather honey, lucuma powder, extra virgin olive oil, vanilla, Himalayan crystal salt.
Whilst hazelnut is dominant and caramel notes are obvious, other complex flavours weave their way around the palate. We were hard pressed to describe them, but how about this: slightly floral, heathery taste and an elusive whisky tang.
Cherry & Walnut Brownie – walnuts, almonds, walnut butter, dates, Peruvian cacao powder, Peruvian cacao butter, honey, sour cherries, sour cherry powder, lucuma powder, extra virgin olive oil, vanilla, Medicine Flower Cherry Extract, Himalayan crystal salt.
Crikey those cherries are sour. Eat this if you are flagging in front of your computer and you’ll soon be woken up. We really liked the contrast between the sweet chocolate, crunchy walnuts and tart cherries. This is less complex in flavour than the previous one, but unusually for a brownie it is quite refreshing.
Banana Pecan Brownie – pecans, almonds, pecan butter, dates, Peruvian cacao powder, Peruvian cacao butter, honey, banana pieces, banana powder, lucuma powder, extra virgin olive oil, vanilla, Medicine Flower Banana Extract, Himalayan crystal salt.
Decorated with a piece of dried banana and a pecan nut, there is no doubt what this brownie contains. The banana is very much the dominant flavour here, but it somehow tastes fresh and quite pleasant. And that is the opinion of two banana sceptics. Like the others, the nuts provide plenty of crunch which encourages you to keep right on chewing.
The brownies can be bought direct from Rawness, but I don’t think their site has been updated to reflect this yet.
Heavenly Cacao with cacao & red berries – sultanas, dates, cranberries, goji berries, oats, vegetable glycerine, cacao powder, cacao nibs, cacao butter, maca powder.
Described as a cold pressed cacao and goji berry flapjack, this is a 38g bar which is packed full of goodness. The cacao is cold pressed making it additionally nutritious. The texture is complex and interesting with crunchy cocoa nibs, oats and chewy dried fruit which makes it virtually impossible to wolf down. It is rich in cocoa and quite filling, but also has a slight tartness which I found particularly refreshing. Not only did it taste nice, but with added goji berries and maca powder I was sure it could only be doing me a power of good. This is just the sort of pick-me-up bar I love to have with me when out walking the Cornish moors and coast paths. The only thing missing for me was the fact it was not organically certified.
Indigo Herbs of Glastonbury
I’ve recently been sent a raw chocolate kit with a host of other organic goodies from Indigo Herbs of Glastonbury, so my exploration of raw foods will continue for a while longer yet. So far I have used the organic mango and banana they provided to make the smoothie recipe below and some coconut flakes to decorate the coconut cake I made last week.
- 500ml coconut water
- 1 banana
- 1 mango
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 scant tsp maca powder
- 1 heaped tsp raw cocoa powder
Total time: Yield: 4 x 220ml glasses
Although I can often be seen running down the road with a piece of toast in my hand first thing in the morning, I have had a bit of a love affair with breakfast smoothies recently. Packed full of healthy and delicious ingredients, they can be a great way to start the day. If I’m at home on my own, I sometimes have one as an easy lunch option. Normally I use milk, but when given the opportunity to try some unsweetened Almond Breeze recently, I thought I’d take the chance to reacquaint myself with almond milk.
Made from Californian almonds, Almond Breeze is dairy free and soya free. It is very low in calories with only 14 per 100 ml, making it ideal for those on the 5:2 fasting diet. 100 ml also provides 15% of the recommended daily allowance for Calcium.
Foodies 100 set a challenge to come up with an “easy to make but incredibly scrumptious breakfast smoothie”. Well, I had this one sorted without even having to think about it. I’ve honed my matcha smoothie to the point of perfection and for optimum nutrition, it was just a matter of swapping the dairy milk for Almond Breeze.
This is how I made:
Matcha and Banana Superfood Breakfast Smoothie
- Soaked 2 tbsp of porridge oats and 2 tsp of chia seeds in a litre of unsweetened almond milk (Almond Breeze) for 15 minutes so that the oats and chia would swell and thicken the smoothie.
- Added two chopped fairtrade bananas, 1 tsp matcha powder and 2 tsp honey (I usually use Cornish honey, but I had been sent some Beech Forest Honeydew from the New Zealand Honey Co, so thought I’d use that to give an extra boost with its 10+ pre-biotic factor).
- Whizzed this in a liquidiser for a couple of minutes until smooth and frothy.
- Poured into 2 large glasses and topped with shavings from a bar of 100% chocolate.
Pure breakfast bliss and so simple. It was thick and frothy, just as I’d expected. The matcha green tea gave a pleasant green colour and infused the smoothie with its distinctive taste and high density of antioxidants. The chia seeds gave a lovely speckled look and added additional powerful nutrients. The chocolate on the top gave a real burst of intense cocoa with every sip and without the addition of sugar is super healthy too. For a vegan alternative, the honey could easily be replaced by date syrup or agave nectar or left out all together.
Disclaimer – I was sent two litres of almond milk to try. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
As some of my regular readers will know, I try to ensure that most of my baked goods contain mostly healthy ingredients. Indeed they are a good vehicle for nuts, fruit, seeds and various super foods. I generally use at least half wholemeal, spelt or other healthy flours in my baking. I use organic eggs where possible and properly free ranging hen and duck eggs when it’s not. I believe organic butter where the cows have been grass fed is also nutritious (in moderation). Chocolate, it goes without saying is good for you 😉 My main concern is sugar – I haven’t managed to convince myself on this one. I use raw sugars in the main and do use other sweeteners such as Rapadura and agave syrup sometimes. But these substitutes are expensive and I do have rather a sweet tooth. I just hope, the other nutritious ingredients counteract the bad of the sugar. For more information on Rapadura and other ingredients I use see ingredients are the key – ties in very nicely with this month’s healthy theme.
But when Chele announced that the theme for this month’s We Should Cocoa was healthy eating, I thought I’d go the whole hog and produce something that was properly good for you. One of my Christmas presents from CT was a packet of chia seeds. Chia seeds are said to be super healthy: they contain omega 3, vitamin B, complete protein, anti-oxidants and fibre. It is also claimed they can replace half the conventional fat in any recipe with no discernible effects on taste and texture. The secret is to soak the seeds in water for 15 minutes before using. They form a gel, which is then ready to be used. This seemed to be a good opportunity to put these claims to the test.
So for added nutrition, I rather nervously thought I’d create a muffin recipe using wholemeal spelt and oats, some of the pumpkin butter I made back along, Rapadura rather than sugar and of course, chia seeds. I also had a jar of raw chocolate and almond spread that I hadn’t yet used and thought this would be suitable for the chocolate element.
This is what I did:
- Spooned 1 level tbsp of chia seeds into a jug.
- Topped it up with water to 50ml and left to soak for 15 minutes.
- Beat 2 eggs with 120g rapadura and 35ml sunflower oil for a few minutes until well incorporated and bubbly.
- Beat in 2 heaped tbsp pumpkin butter.
- Stirred in the chia seeds (which had indeed turned to gel)
- Sifted in 200g wholemeal spelt, 2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda.
- Folded this into the egg mixture together with 50g rolled oats.
- Spooned this into 12 muffin cases.
- Placed a small teaspoon of raw almond and chocolate spread on top and scattered over a few oats.
- Baked at 180C for 23 minutes.
These had a nice flavour with a rich aroma of molasses, but they weren’t overly sweet. They were firm, substantial and chewy and had a crunchy top. CT’s comment was “it tastes like it’s probably good for you”. They’d be ideal as a breakfast muffin, but I think I’d feel a bit short changed if I got these as a tea-time treat. The chocolate spread was really good and I’m not sure why I haven’t used it before.
PS 18 February – Nearly one month after making these, I’ve just found two muffins hidden in one of my cake tins and amazingly they are not only still edible, but really nice – I shall have to rename these indestructible muffins!