Vegan peanut butter muffins

I’ve tried out a LOT of different vegan bakes in my time, and I have to say that they can often be disappointing. It’s easy to find delicious sounding recipes online, but sadly the end result doesn’t usually taste as good as it looks in the pictures. Which is why I wanted to share these yummy peanut butter and honey muffins from Nutritionist In The Kitch – a rare exception to the rule!

They’re super easy to make, don’t require any exotic (and therefore extremely hard to track down) ingredients, and they certainly won’t disappoint! The texture is somewhere between a cupcake and a muffin… I like to call it a ‘cuffin’…

So, start by heating the oven to 180, then whisk together a cup of flour (preferably whole wheat), a teaspoon and a half of baking soda and a pinch of salt. Next, add three tablespoons of peanut butter and two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and mix everything together until crumbs form. You should probably use a fork, but I used my hands because it’s more fun!

To this, add 3/4 of a cup of almond milk and three tablespoons of honey. You’re supposed to have little clumps of PB in there, but make sure they’re not too big as you don’t want mouthfuls of powdery flour left in the mix. Spoon into paper cases and bake for about 15 mins.

When you’re serving them (or just eating them yourself!), drizzle some honey over the top. I also added some chopped Brazil nuts, because I think the crunch brings out the PB flavour in the muffins.

Here’s the original recipe – hope you agree that it’s one worth making!

Butternut squash tagine

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any recipes (I’m finding it true that Londoners don’t cook all that much – there’s no time!), but last week I made a butternut squash tagine that I thought delicious enough to be worthy of sharing. This was first made for me by my lovely friend Charlotte, who I think got it from a Jamie Oliver recipe book. I imagine Jamie’s original is fancier, but the way I like to make it is nice and simple.

1. De-seed a medium sized butternut squash, chop into chunks (I leave the skin on because of all the GOODNESS) and roast in the oven for about 30 mins.

2. While the squash is roasting, dice two onions and soften in some olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat.

3. Add raisins and cinnamon to the onions. Really helpfully, I don’t measure amounts of either… I just bear in mind that this recipe makes four portions, and I keep tasting as I go along and adding more cinnamon if I think it needs it.

4. Next, add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tin of chickpeas, including the water. Cover and leave to reduce on a medium/low heat.

5. When your squash is done, chuck that into the pot too, mix well and leave for a little longer so that it soaks up some of the cinnamon flavour.

6. Serve with couscous and a dollop of Greek yoghurt on the top. Delish!

Pomegranate power

IMG_0061.JPGOne of my funny food quirks is that I prefer my salads without dressing (which is helpful for cutting out unnecessary calories), but I was keen to try this pure pomegranate essence from Secret Gardens.

Although there’s not enough evidence to place pomegranate firmly in the superfood category, it’s proven to do wonders for heart health. As well as reducing the damage caused by cholesterol, pomegranate has been shown to improve blood flood and reduce the risk of heart attack. It’s a good source of vitamin E, calcium, iron and potassium and is packed full of those precious antioxidants. Plus, it’s delicious!

The Secret Gardens pomegranate dressing and marinade, which I was sent a review sample of, contains six fruits per 340g bottle – and nothing else. The pomegranates are simmered for hours following a traditional Turkish recipe known as Nar Eksisi, which translates as ‘pomegranate sour’. It is quite acidic so you only need a small amount, but it adds a powerful punch to any salad.

I’m devouring my warm salads at the moment, and this evening I had:

Iceberg lettuce
One salad tomato
One carrot, grated
Half a red pepper
Half a courgette
Butternut squash
Broccoli florets
Two Quorn sausages

It was delicious and super easy as everything that needs to be cooked can just be chopped up, chucked in a baking tray with some olive oil and bunged straight into the oven. Crispy baked broccoli is my absolute favourite at the moment – top tip!

Healthy party food ideas

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For some reason, probably because essentially I’m just a great big overgrown child, I like my food better when it’s served up in bite-sized pieces. Not only does colourful finger food make me feel like I’ve had a treat, I’m also less likely to eat 50% of it during the preparation stage because I don’t have time for that nonsense – I’m too busy making it look pretty! So when I saw a recipe for these little rolls online I had to make my own veggie version.

First of all create the courgette ribbons by peeling off thin strips running the whole length of the vegetable. Spread a little houmous on each ribbon and sprinkle on a few pine nuts. Add half a slice of fake turkey/chicken/whatever-it’s-supposed-to-be to one end and roll up around a chunk of red pepper. Hold the rolls together with a toothpick and you’re done!

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I don’t often eat meat substitutes but I will have Quorn (or similar products) every now and then – just for variety. The main reason that I don’t eat them any more is that , contrary to popular belief, meat substitutes aren’t that healthy. I think the assumption we make is that a good vegetarian diet is healthy and so products aimed at vegetarians must be healthy too. In reality, yes they’re low in fat but they’re also highly processed and have little nutritious value. So, like all things, they’re okay in moderation but you’re much better off getting your protein from eggs, nuts, seeds, etc. – despite what Mo Farah might tell you!

In keeping with the party food theme, I had these banana and PB slices topped with a few cherries for dessert. Man, I ❤ food…

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Lemon and mint halloumi skewers

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If I’m ever feeling a little bit down, I find that making myself a big healthy meal goes a good way towards turning my mood around – and cooking for someone else is even better! I made these halloumi skewers for my friend Jess the other day and again for myself this evening because they were so tasty.

Luckily it went a lot smoother when I was cooking for Jess – I must have been on clumsy mode today as in addition to setting the smoke alarm off twice, much to the amusement of my neighbours who were out enjoying the sunshine in the communal garden when I flung the balcony doors open and started flapping frantically at the device with a teatowel, I managed to throw grilled cherry tomatoes all down my jeans and onto the floor… Fortunately the trials I had to go through to prepare them meant I enjoyed eating them even more!

To make these skewers for yourself, cut some halloumi, orange bell pepper and courgette into chunks. Put the chunks into a bowl with some cherry tomatoes and add olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and chopped mint leaves. Give this a good mix to ensure all of the pieces are coated. Chop a red onion in half, then slice the half into eighths to make little wedges. Thread the different components onto wooden skewers before putting them under the grill. They cook quite quickly (as my smoke alarm will testify…) so give them a turn after a few minutes, then they’ll only need a few more mins on the other side.

No-bake bounty bites

If you love chocolate anywhere near as much as I do, you too will be mourning the fact that Easter is over and there are no more excuses to eat absurd amounts of the stuff on the horizon. In order to try and get over this depressing predicament, I made these yummy coconut treats.

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To make ten bites you will need:

– 8 tbsps of coconut flour

– 12 tbsps of coconut milk

– 1/2 tbsp of pure honey

– 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence

– 10 chopped almonds

– the most natural chocolate you can find (here I went for ‘no added sugar’ chocolate chips)

Simply mix all the ingredients together and shape into little bites with your hands. Because I’m impatient, I did mine really quickly so they look like gyoza! Chill them in the fridge for at least half an hour before eating.

Lunchspo #4

Let me just say this now… I REALLY LOVE FOOD…

fridge boyfriend

…but I never thought a lunch could make me this happy! I found the original recipe for this on the Women’s Health website (it’s the fourth image), but substituted a couple of ingredients because pumpkin isn’t in season and they didn’t have any pistachios in the shop. I also got rid of the balsamic and mustard because for some reason I never like dressings on my salad (which is handy for cutting out unnecessary calories).

These amounts are for one portion, so times it by however many days you’re making lunches for:

– Six brussel sprouts

– Around 120g of butternut squash, cubed

– 1 pear

– Approx 30g goat’s cheese

– 10 almonds

Roast the sprouts and the butternut squash in 1 tsp of olive oil for about half an hour – this bit can be prepared and kept in the fridge. In the mornings, add one whole sliced pear and the almonds and crumble the goat’s cheese on top.

I found this salad really filling, perhaps because it’s quite different to what I usually have – i.e. something with a quinoa or lettuce base. I find that the more often you eat something, the less satisfied you feel and the more you crave extra. The sweetness of the pear and the butternut squash goes amazingly with the creaminess of the goat’s cheese and the crunch of the almonds. And sprouts. Sprouts are just awesome. Enough (38)

For snacks I had a Trek protein flapjack, raw carrot sticks and an apple because I read in Women’s Health (yes, it is my bible) that apple skin contains ursolic acid which could protect us from obesity because it increases our muscle stores. An apple a day? Yes please!