Cashew Butter Carrot Cake and Coconut Oat Cookies

“If you’re doing your best and you make a mess of things; if you got big dreams but you got big doubts…well, you’re doing it right.”Rodney Atkins. 

Carrot cake and Coconut Oat Cookies - Made with Cashew butter!

Don’t you just love grated carrot?

Huge, seemingly bottomless fluorescent orange bags of glow in the dark, pre-prepared goodness. You can cook it, you can juice it; you canbananacinnamonvanillaandhoney smoothie it orrrr, my forever favourite… you can always carrot cake it! Mmm.

Okay well that’s misleading. You can’t always carrot cake it. Cause sometimes after a week of much indulgence, something might just be telling you that that’s probably not gonna the smartest way to get your veggies in…

Carrot cake and Coconut Oat Cookies - Made with Cashew butter!

Another twist in this whole dilemma is that carrot cake has got to be frosted (unwritten law of the universe, yes), which unfortunately cancels out the vegetable dose you thought you had to defend yourself with…

Anyway I, got sick of this. I had this threatening bag of bottomless grated carrot. I had that indulgent week. I had those cravings for carrot cake. Anddddd I had coconut…

Carrot cake and Coconut Oat Cookies - Made with Cashew butter! So, if you find yourself in similar shoes… then please: just MAKE THESE CASHEW CARROT CAKE COCONUT OAT COOKIES ALREADY! They will be the best thing you eat all week, I promise.

Actually, just forget about all of the reasoning above. Carrot cake cookies don’t need to explain themselves…

Carrot cake and Coconut Oat Cookies - Made with Cashew butter! Carrot cake and Coconut Oat Cookies - Made with Cashew butter! Carrot cake and Coconut Oat Cookies - Made with Cashew butter!

…So just do yourself a favour and make them anyway ;)

Ingredients: Makes appx 7-10 generous cookies

  • 1/2 C Flour
  • 3/4 C Rolled oats
  • 1/4 C Coconut
  • 1/2 C grated carrots
  • 1.5 tsp Baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 x medium sized banana, ripened + mashed (you don’t need to use banana. If you’d prefer to leave out, then you probably only need to use 1/2 C oats instead of the 3/4C oats listed since the cookie dough won’t be as wet)
  • 1/3 C + 1 T  Nut butter of your choice (I chose to use a mix of peanut butter and natural cashew butter – though I’d warn you to stay away from natural butters because they will make flatter + runnier cookies, though these seemed okay because they rose)
  • 1/4 C + 1 T honey
  • 2 x Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 x T brown sugar
  • 1 x tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger – also 1/4 tsp of each clove + nutmeg (or just use 1 x tsp all spice powder)
  • 1 x T Vanilla extract
  • A handful of chopped walnuts
  • 1 x egg
  • 100g white chocolate for drizzling.

Carrot cake and Coconut Oat Cookies - Made with Cashew butter!

  1. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter and banana (if using) with the sugar and honey
  2. In a food processor, briefly pulse the grated carrots, coconut + walnuts with the spices until sufficiently blitzed to chunky grains. (If you have grated carrot, you can skip this step, but it is nice to have smaller pieces, since they reduce the prominence of carrot in the finished cookies).
  3. Add the oats to the peanut butter, banana + sugar mix. Add in the flour, baking soda + baking powder second.
  4. Follow on by adding the carrots, coconut, walnuts + spices to the combined mix.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and egg. Combine, but don’t over beat.
  6. Try and freeze the bowl of cookie dough for at least 1 hour before spooning onto cookie sheets and baking at 175 degrees for 8-10 minutes, or until risen + browned. You can skip this step, but they might be unpredictably flat.
  7. After baking, remove and leave to cool a little before drizzling melted white chocolate over them.
  8. Stop lusting after that carrot cake and enjoy guilt-free!
  9. They also make a great smashed-all-up base for no bake, cheesecakes in glasses. Just saying. ;)

So there you have it! – These fabulous little cookies are actually healthy…Like actually healthy, guys. I know I say that a lot about sooo many different things I try to justify (sorry not sorry) – but seriouslyyyy…The above list of ingredients is seamlessly wholesome and everything about the little treats are so. damn. good. for you. Okay wait – so there is flour in them – but whatever. Just replace it with extra oats if you must.

But there you go – you can finally have carrot cake for breakfast! (if you weren’t already accustomed to the act, that is…)

Carrot cake and Coconut Oat Cookies - Made with Cashew butter!

Enjoy your nutritious little rounds of carrot cake!

Carrot cake and Coconut Oat Cookies - Made with Cashew butter! Carrot cake and Coconut Oat Cookies - Made with Cashew butter!

You’re shining your light

You ain’t losing your mind

You’re dropping the ball, but you’re picking it up.

You’re stumbling and falling and falling in love… 

You’re prayin’ each night 

…You’re doin’ it right 

– Rodney Atkins, Doin’ it right.

Soft Peanut Butter & Banana Caramel Oat Cookies – Flourless!

“I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of lives for which we should be particularly grateful… just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm.”  — Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Flour-less Soft Peanut Butter & Banana Caramel Oat Cookies

Quite often I find myself craving to just bake something. And more often than not, that *something* of impulse bakes generally turns out to be something peanut butter, chocolate, banana or loaf/cookie based – they’re just so easy.

Surely enough, the majority of these cravings can usually be explained by a longing for a hulk-sized spoonful of peanut butter or chocolate or idk, a slab of cheesecake – call it hunger or whatever. But when I really trace these cravings back to the little coves in my mind where they came from… I realize that this craving to *bake* something with these usually-at-hand ingredients stems more from a need to occupy my mind with something therapeutic, than it does wanting to actually eat the finished product. The joy of creaming whippy mounds of peanut butter into the sandiness of brown sugar, or folding chocolate chips into a floury-sweet mixture of melted butter and fragrant vanilla beans is an art that is quite deeply engrained in my neuro-pathways. It’s relaxing. I know these ingredients – I can totally predict the way they’ll behave when combined with this or that and how they need to be handled when folded into each other or spooned out onto cookie trays. I feel them, I tell ya! Better yet, I know how much I’ll be looking forward to these bakes for breakfast every day for the rest of that week, because they are made with the favourite things I always come back to. How inviting are they?!

Flour-less Soft Peanut Butter & Banana Caramel Oat Cookies Flour-less Soft Peanut Butter & Banana Caramel Oat Cookies

It’s no surprise then that I tend reach for the jar of peanut butter or start melting blocks of chocolate whenever I notice we have an awful lot of bananas turning brown. These things are comforts in their own right, but not just because they make you want to sink into them when you have a taste because as I say – it’s not just about deriving pleasure from eating the finished goods… But because instead, when life goes crazy, they are an excuse for me to hide away and take a moment to focus on perfecting something I already have a grip on.

Having some time away from the pressures of your schedule, to just stand in the kitchen folding these ingredients into something to bake signifies endurance – it’s the opportunity for a breather. It is the comfort of setting out to create something, and have it turn out just the way you want it. All the while enjoying the sensation of bringing them to life with your own hands. That’s what waking up to make these of simple, comforting peanut butter cookies is all about.

Flour-less Soft Peanut Butter & Banana Caramel Oat Cookies

 

Now obviously dressing them up in caramel is optional…but also highly recommended ;)

Ingredients (makes about 8 biiig cookies): 

  • 1.5 C Oats
  • 1C Crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 C Brown sugar
  • 2 x Small bananas
  • 1 x Egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 T vanilla extract
  • 100g Dark chocolate chips
  • Extra 100g chocolate for melty-drizzling <3
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas. Add the peanut butter to them, then add the brown sugar, vanilla and baking soda.
  2. Add in the oats to this mix. Fold in the egg, then add the chocolate chips. You should have a pretty dense, ‘scoop-able’ cookie dough.
  3. Put the mix in the fridge for 1 hour (or in the freezer for 30 mins) so that it can thicken. You may skip this step but your cookies will spread out really easily and thin while baking, if you do.
  4. Spoon onto a cookie sheet and bake for 8-12 minutes or until cookies are browned, leave to cool in the oven for 5-10 minutes before removing and cooling on wire racks (Lol am I the only one who never does this?)
  5. When cooled a little (but not so much that you don’t get to eat them hot!) –  melt the dark chocolate in the microwave and drizzle over the cookies. Make a mess! Add extra gratings of chocolate if you wish <3

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Flour-less Soft Peanut Butter & Banana Caramel Oat Cookies

Flour-less Soft Peanut Butter & Banana Caramel Oat Cookies

Flour-less Soft Peanut Butter & Banana Caramel Oat Cookies

 

 

[No Bake] Peanut Butter & Lemon Chocolate Cheesecake Pot

Peanut Butter & Lemon Chocolate Cheesecake Glass

If you are crazy for peanut butter, and a sucker for anything even remotely lemon-y or, well – I’m not even gonna bother asking if you’re a fan of chocolate because… Yeah.

But if the first two apply. Then THESE. ARE. FOR. YOU. Like, hear me: they are life changingly, for yooouuuuu.

In a packet of sweets I will always reach the yellow wrapped one. And in any universe I will always reach for the peanut butter without any special occasion needed. Meanwhile on most at-home afternoons I’ll usually be reaching for some type of chocolate, so its no surprise that these three flavour worlds finally got to meet on afternoon day last week. I’ve also recently started to put lemon curd on absolutely everythingggggg, so it only seems fitting that these little cheesecake pots can justify my new favourite addiction…

But have you ever put this combination together before? I had never thought about it until, um… so basically I was eating chocolate caramel popcorn granola with yogurt. I topped it with peanut butter (as you do)… Anddddd there was just this beckoningly yellow jar of lemon curd still sitting out from the morning. And bam, there you have it. A perfectly decent explanation.

Fast forward, we go on to replace the yoghurt with a low fat cream cheese (you can get away with it so…), we whip that batter up and vooooillla here we have the perfect, citrusy-nut masterpiece to then top with a thousand grated chocolate sprinkles! Cheesecake cheat/win. You’re welcome.

Peanut Butter & Lemon Chocolate Cheesecake Glass Using low fat cream cheese means you can eat this glass of yum after dinner on an almost full stomach. It also means you can call them healthy/fat free or whatever (I dunno about you, but peanut butter is healthy so I never question the fat content muaha). I meant to add 2-3 T of heavy cream to this recipe so that the pb cheesecake would get all huge and whippy and basically double in size… but we didn’t have any in and it was raining sooo… I made it without and had (what looks like, but definitely isn’t) a tiny layer of pb cheesecake as a result – but if you add the cream you will get the kind of creamy silky whippiness that takes up 3/4 of your glass!*

The lemon is really refreshing and the chocolate ratio is jusssst right. Using full fat cream cheese would be pretty sickly I’d imagine, since the peanut butter is so heavy on its own… But it’s still something that I for one would definitely still be in favour of ;)

I love these so much because they are the kind of things you can quickly fix together, and just throw them in the freezer for 20 mins before devouring them straight away! Because I designed these as a kind of flavour ‘trial’, they are also really easy to make in individual servings, or just for say 2 people.

Oh and did I mention that the base = a buttery mound of gingersnap biscuits? Lemon and ginger. (plus peanut butter and chocolate). Match made in heaven, I tell ya.

Say helloooooo to your new favourite way to eat lemon curd:

Makes 2 cheesecake glasses: 

  • 2 x T Salted butter, melted.
  • 6 x Ginger nut/ginger snap biscuits, crushed. Make it 8 biscuits and 3 x T butter if you like a thicker butter base at the bottom of your glass.
  • 6 x heaped T Low fat cream cheese
  • 3.5 heaped T White sugar (You can add more if you want, but the topping is quite sweet so it might get too sickly if you do)
  • Sprinkling of icing sugar (Don’t worry about this if you haven’t got it on hand, but it smoothens the cheesecake layer that bit more)
  • 1 x tsp Vanilla extract
  • 2 x T heavy cream (optional, read above*)
  • 2.5 x heaped T Smooth peanut butter
  • 3 x heaped T Lemon Curd, microwaved for about 35 seconds until ‘melted’.
  • 40g ++ of chocolate chunks, chips or gratings (or all 3!!)
  • Optional: Mini lemon meringues.
  1. Combine the crushed ginger nuts with the 2 x T melted butter. Divide the crushed + buttered biscuits between two clear serving glasses, sprinkling a few chocolate chips over the biscuits in each glass
  2. In a bowl, whip the cream cheese with the sugar will combined. Add the peanut butter and vanilla.
  3. Add the heavy cream, whipping and whipping it until the pb cheesecake batter grows a little in size. Dollop the cheesecake layers over the biscuit bases, dividing the mix evenly between the two glasses.
  4. Melt the lemon curd in the microwave, before pouring over the cheesecakes.
  5. Throw on the rest of the chocolate chunks/gratings + add the mini meringues if using.
  6. Freeze for 20 minutes if you’re impatient, or put in the fridge for an hour and a half before enjoying :-)

Brb just gonna rescue take-two from the freezer…

Peanut Butter & Lemon Chocolate Cheesecake Glass

Nectarine, Avocado and Goats Cheese Sourdough Crostini

It’s no secret that I have this deep thinnnnnnggg for nectarines.

Peach, Avocado and Goats Cheese Sourdough Crostini

I will put them on everything.

Like, it’s still summer (sorta, England…) and I cannot. get. enough. of them. Another reason why I love summer probably has to be because supermarkets sell them so cheap at this time of year. Thinking about nectarines also takes me back to last summer; when us girls were inter-railing through Italy, stopping at all the supermarkets we could and stocking up on nectarines for our air b&b fridge and second breakfasts along the canals in Venice.

We’ve had a bag of nectarines on the floor of the kitchen for weeks now. It won’t go down. Not that I’m complaining or anything. I mean, it’s me who keeps buying more.

So far I’ve put them in salads with spinach and lemon-y olive oil dressing and handfuls of feta. They are made even more amazing by the addition of sweet potatoes and (yup you guessed it) – even more feta and a drizzle of honey. And omg did I even mention what a sprinkling of walnuts or hazelnuts can do to a nectarine salad? I put ‘em on chicken pizza. I put ‘em in banana and coconut porridge. I made meringue trifles out of them. I made smoothies, juices and desserts out of them. I spent weeks on end eating them sliced up with nothing but mango-vanilla yoghurt for breakfast, before I finally switched it up and used them toppings for my plum jam & cashew buttered toast (the bestttttttttt).

And man coming to think about it, I really wish I had made that nectarine custard tart already… because HOW GREAT WOULD THAT HAVE BEEN WITH ICE CREAM?! It’s a full blown love affair.

One thing I hadn’t done is tried them with avocado. Or goats cheese… together…

Peach, Avocado and Goats Cheese Sourdough Crostini

Now I’m not Italian; I don’t really think this would pass as authentic crostini… but the classification fits it pretty well. either way. And I needed a summery, Mediterranean name to do justice for the deliciousness happening here.

So basically, you’re either gonna love this or hate this. If you’re not an avo person, close this window and find another way to heart nectarines – because this one won’t be for you. If you are all for it, then please step further into this new chapter of the summer-time nectarine chronicles…

What you need (serves 1): 

  • Toasted + buttered sourdough (you know it’s better buttered).
  • 2 x T tomato puree, basil, parsley, salt + pepper for the buttered sourdough.
  • 1/2 smashed avocado, salted + peppered to your liking and then spread over the tomato-pasted sourdough.
  • 1 large ripe and juicy nectarine, sliced + used to top the toast.
  • A handful of goats cheese sprinkled over everything.
  • A generous splashing of extra virgin olive oil to finish it all off.
  • Chives for topping.

Try to enjoy it when its still hot!

I think it would be really nice to try this same thing with the addition of sweet potato/red pepper hummus, as well as some roasted Mediterranean veg. Don’t you?

What’s been your favourite way to eat nectarines this summer?

Peach, Avocado and Goats Cheese Sourdough Crostini  Peach, Avocado and Goats Cheese Sourdough Crostini

Life is better than death, I believe, if only because it is less boring, and because it has fresh peaches in it.”
― Alice Walker, Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology

Chocolate Fudge Marbled Banana Bread (And it’s good for you!)

Chocolate Fudge Marbled Banana Bread (And it's good for you!)

In my post for Soft Peanut Butter & Banana Caramel Oat Cookies, I spend a good 3 para’s or so justifying why peanut butter and banana and chocolate etc etc are the BEST. INGREDIENTS. EVER. That explanation pretty much justifies this loaf cake too, so I won’t go all emotional about peanut butter on you again.

Except… with alllllll of that said… This cake doesn’t even actually involve peanut butter… *gasp*. I mean, it was supposed to… but then I realized that if I put peanut butter into it, then one of my brothers (the peanut-phobic and therefore uncool one) – wouldn’t be able to enjoy any, so the rest of us had to enjoy it while lusting over what could have been. Even so it still tasted fully aaaah-mazing. It’s the healthy type of loaf cake that you totally can let yourself eat for breakfast, but only two bites in you start to question whether or not you’ve served yourself a slice of the wrong cake. Why? Bc it tastes wickedly indulgent. The banana part is moist and fluffy with a pretty damn decent crumb, while the chocolate fudge layer tastes too stupidly rich to be anything that really isn’t a block of pure butter-fudge…

Now I don’t count calories, but one slice of this involves waaaay less everything than a slice of the full blown bake. You just would never realize it – it’s that good. Sure, there’s a generous amount of dark chocolate inside it, but c’mon… that stuff truly is good for the heart. There is enough apple [sauce] in there to keep the doctor away for a good while. So there – don’t let anything stop you spreading extra nut/choc hazlenut butter over it at breakfast, also ;)

ps. MAKE IT.

Marbled banana bread:

Dry mix:

  • 2 C Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking soda
  • 1 T Powder

Wet mix:

  • 2/3 C sugar
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • ¼ C Vegetable oil
  • ½ C Apple sauce
  • 1 tbsp Greek yog
  • 1 T Vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon (optional)
  • Splash of milk

Marbling:

  • 1.5 T Cocoa powder
  • 100g Dark chocolate, melted.

To make the banana bread:

  1. Combine dry mix in a large bowl
  2. Combine everything from the wet mix in a separate bowl – except the milk + eggs.
  3. Combine dry + wet ingredients together. When folded together add the eggs one at a time.
  4. Add the splash of milk, you want to keep your batter thick but add enough milk to bind everything together so that it may be poured into the loaf tin. Use your eye for this, you may need more/less.
  5. Remove 1 C of the banana bread mix and set aside – you will need this for the marble.
  6. Tip the banana bread mixture into a prepared loaf pan, and then get started on the marble layer.

To make the marble:

  1. Remove 1C of the cake mix and add 1 tbsp cocoa powder + 1 x 100g of melted dark chocolate. Stir and combine.
  2. Drizzle the marble gently over the banana bread mixture in the loaf tin – swirling with a fork to combine like marbling.
  3. Bake the loaf cake for 30-35 minutes at 175 degrees/until the centre has set. Cool in oven for appx 10 minutes before removing to cool.

Chocolate Fudge Marbled Banana Bread (And it's good for you!)

Almond and Lemon Cranberry Cookies

Almond and Lemon Cranberry Cookies

These cookies were a hit! I made them waaaay back in April – to bring to the birthday picnic of Katie and Maddy (Taurus twinnies!!) on Primrose Hill. I chose them because it was exam season and they were so quick to make. Also because sometimes, only a rich dose white chocolate coated sweet almonds will do ;) They were added to the heap of yummy bakes, cakes and cheeses that everyone else had brought alone to celebrate with, under the sundown and London skyline. It feels so strange, reflecting back on it now…on nearly the very last day of August. How does time vanish so quickly?

I usually make big soft and chewy cookies (personal favourite) but everyone in the house tends to prefer the crunchy kind that you can dunk into tea without risking a melted chocolate chip cookie massacre at the bottom of your mug. So, whenever I do make a batch of these they go pretty fast.

Almond and Lemon Cranberry Cookies

If I had to admit one regret that I have about these cookies, it would be that I didn’t make more. I mean, you probably don’t want to double that amount of butter just to make a second batch, but given another shot I’d probably freeze the cookie dough for longer (impatience is my own worst enemy, too), before cutting it into smaller rounds so that there’s technically ‘more’ cookies to go round, meaning we can all have two or three but technically still only be eating one…of the old ones ;)

Ingredients: 

  • 1C Salted butter
  • 2/3 C Sugar
  • 1 x Tbsp Almond essence
  • 3/4 C Flour
  • ¾ c Ground almonds
  • 1/2 C Cranberries (optional)

What to do: 

  1. Cream the  butter and sugar and add the almond essence.
  2. Fold in the flour, almonds + cranberries if using.
  3. Roll dough out, and using a cookie presser cut out the rounds you’d want.
  4. Put the rounds in the freezer for 20 mins or in the fridge for 1 hour (this stops them spreading when baking – a step I probably should have actually taken…see how much the shapes changed before/after baking!)

+ 100g don’t forget that melted white chocolate for drizzling really is the perfect icing on top!

Almond and Lemon Cranberry Cookies

So do you have a favourite shortbread recipe? I’m looking for a new, plain + basic go-to recipe that I can keep on hand to use as a base for all such things.

Hope you enjoy! Xx

Cuba 2015 – 3 months later.

“It came, like it always comes. And went; like it’s always gone”.  –  Sanober Khan, A touch, a tear, a tempest

Cuba Tealightsky

Okay so I know I am always in disbelief at time – but the past few months have FLOWN. I could swear that time goes round in circles. I have a brief chance to reflect on how quickly the past few months came and went, before WHOOSH. It’s 2,3 or 4 months down the line and I can’t believe I have enough new days to reflect on, yet again. What. is. happening. Because here we are again.

It’s been 3 months since we got to visit Cuba? For real? Those flip-flop days of having permanently sandy feet after purple-sky strolls along the shore and having rum fried bananas with ice cream – or rice pudding and pina coladas for dessert after dinners in the humid open, Caribbean air with cats under our chairs (queue Emma: run a mile) – do not feel as if they were that long ago. For real.

Cuba Tealightsky

I haven’t got that many photos to share. It was my 6th time out there, but Emma’s first. We spent two weeks in a paradisic resort that overlooked an ocean that transformed into the most beautiful aqua colour by midday, so the everyday view was pretty generic (if not utterly stunning). We went specifically for 2 weeks of this:

Cuba Tealightsky

The weird thing about the Caribbean is that the air is so humid and sweaty that you feel permanent thirsty, but rarely any *proper* hunger like you would at home…you just feel kind of full on like, heat alone. I told Emma as we boarded the plane “Inhale your last breath of fresh air for 2 weeks”. She didn’t know what I mean until we got there and spent the first night suffocating while we adjusted! But now we do really miss the tranquillity (and good music!) of it all…

Cuba Tealightsky sunset

We tried to get up early whenever we could so we could just inhale everything and swim in the glassy clear waters and slo.o.o.o.w. walk to breakfast, where we’d see all our new chef friends and they’d come over to our table with a jug full of fresh mango juice just for us, too big for even both of us to try and share. We’d then go and bury ourselves under a parasol either on the beach or at our spot by the pool reading and reading and reading and just stay there all morning til’ our tums grumbled and then we’d go grab some chip butties (#soverybritish) and mini pizzas or ice cream with plastic forks (srsly!).

After lunch we’d connect to the Wi-Fi for approximately 7.582382 minutes or so, so that we could spread our Wi-Fi cards over more than 3 days . We had such a perfect routine going. The afternoons were mostly for swimming and lapping up the lingering rays of sun, because even I found it waaaay to hot to even try and stay out during the peak hours of the day, something I used to have no problem doing. Our ‘favourite hour’ was actually gone 6pm – when the beach became deserted and the shimmering silver of the sea became ours to drift away in, before the sky faded into burnt orange and the sun went down. (It was one day during this hour that Emma came up with her philosophy: ‘People are a lot like waves’). It was just 2 sunshine chilled weeks of eat-sleep-suntan-repeat, and a total chance to switch off because-you-have-the-whole-summer-to-stress-about-the-dissertation-fieldwork-that-you-need-to-start-when-you’re-back.

Cuba TealightskyCuba TealightskyCuba Tealightsky

As for food out there… Cuba is not really renown for it’s cuisine… Some perks of visiting are definitely the abundance of fresh tropical fruit that you can get out there (though kudos to any resort that can serve it without flies inhabiting it…). We went to the resort’s ‘French’ restaurant one evening – and basically ate prawns and lettuce styled in different ways for 3 straight courses, which was pretty lol…

One annoying bump in the holiday was the evening when I got the most horrendous bout of food poisoning from some undercooked turkey…All I can remember is darkness and vomiting while the world news channel in the background reported the freak Carolina church shootings, while all Emma can recollect is “I was about to start saying Hail Mary’s”.  Seriously – if in doubt throw it. Throw the turkey a mile and eat somewhere else instead. Oh also, just make sure to travel with someone who chooses to packs Nature Valley Granola bars instead of tampons (loooool) – because for some reason they do cure you better than medicine on yucky nights like that :-).

IMG_2808IMG_3162

Ah and lastly also feel like I should give lil Enzo a shout out here… We basically ‘adopted’ a 10 year old, super hyper Cuban kid who was also staying at the resort with his parents at the time (we found him playing ‘pelota’ by himself in the pool one evening, and after we had felt bad for him and gave him some company, he then kept bringing us ice creams, turning up at our villa just whenever, inviting himself to our dinner plus running off with my headphones every. single. day after). Cheeky little man he was! (Although his ‘playing-dead’ thing he used to do was not okay). He cried and kept giving us hugs when he had to leave which was cute but sad! Although we did get so much peace after he left andddd Emma could finally understand me again (he only spoke Spanish). We are certain we are gonna switch on the TV and see him on there, one day.

Over all, it was me and Emma’s first bff holiday together which was lovely! Cuba is pretty high up on the list of interesting places to visit right now – particularly the political changes that are about to take place there! (It was quite fascinating to talk to the local people of their opinions on these changes, out there). I’d really urge you to go and see it now, because it won’t be so authentic in a few years time.

But for us, nothing beat the feeling of anticipation we got when we passed through Blackfriars on the train – half asleep at 5:30 in the morning, when it finally hit us that we were so close flying away. (Or the panic we felt when we thought the train had abandoned us at BRIGHTON – instead of Gatwick Airport… remember that Em? ;) Although with that said, nothing either could have prepared us for the other moments when the Cuban heat hit us for the very first time as we were fresh off the plane in Holguin, or our surprise meeting with a cockroach on our bed…. or the huge, furry tarantula that snuck onto our flight home to London. Many many memories, mostly too fleeting to list. But isn’t that the beauty of memories, anyway?

IMG_2827IMG_3216Viva Cuba <3

Healthy Sweet Potato Fudge Brownies – GF/No butter

Brownies everywhere have been hijacked. But these ones are way, way too good be true…

Healthy Sweet Potato Fudge Brownies - GF/No butter

Clean ‘brownie’ bars that once only dominated health food shops have now seeped out onto the aisles of supermarkets, RAW has become the new baked and avocado is currently trying to lend itself as butter in far too many recipes. Sure, there are some good ones out there, but generally it’s pretty rare to find a block of proper dense and fudgy chocolate brownie that actually lives up to the standard it’s producers are promoting it by.  How are you supposed to skimp on animal products and all that evil refined crap when it’s those very things that made a traditional brownie possible to begin with?! Raisins and dates and ‘natural oils’ etc can only liven up a pan of cocoa powder so much without being excessive in themselves (- you want me to blend HOW many cups of nuts into this mix?!).

Wouldn’t it be AH-MAZING if there was a healthy brownie recipe that legitimately tasted just like the classic butter-choc-bricks they sell at Borough Market? (home to the most irresistible brick brownies that you can’t even enjoy bc you’re so full on the cheesecake blocks that you probably bought from the same stall).

I recently asked myself: Should I really be taking my lack of gluten/dairy intolerance so for granted? I’m always scrolling through reels of Pinterest recipes, claiming to make the best ever grain free/vegan brownies or whatever. But my body doesn’t have any actual problem with either food-group, and so long as I don’t go overboard – treats that use them are fine. Meanwhile vegan and GF treats are quite trendy right now even among people who aren’t vegan/GF, and since some of these treats can be pretty decent, it can be tempting to join in on them sometimes… but surely a bit of real ‘bad’ indulgence from time to time can’t do much harm? There is no need to eliminate specific ingredients unless you actually have real allergies to them or unless you have made a commitment to not eating animal products for your own personal ethics. So if you aren’t part of either of these groups, why not enjoy a healthy brownie recipe that simply combines the best of the good-for-you vs. the decadent worlds into a treat that simply nourishes your body… but also looks + tastes convincingly like the *real thing*?

Healthy Sweet Potato Fudge Brownies - GF/No butter

Just because something is vegan; that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Meanwhile, being healthy doesn’t mean it has to be vegan. Duh, right? Actually…no. Because sometimes in this confusing, social-media-and-health-freak-frenzied-universe, it is easy to lose sight of why we/others are choosing to live by certain regimes… Some people have to eliminate certain food groups else they will get ill. Other’s decide they genuinely do feel better if they live by a vegan lifestyle. Others who are mostly on the fence just decide that they feel better committing to nothing, and choose to live by good old moderation and eating real food instead. Because God forbid your favourite healthy brownie recipe throws in a cheeky egg or better yet, defies any low fat expectations because it thoroughly believes that mega-ounces of real dark chopped chocolate truly is good for the heart…

Healthy Sweet Potato Fudge Brownies - GF/No butter

These brownies are for all you other people like me, who really do see the advantage in cutting out those certain ‘bad’ things every now and then…but then again, really don’t want to make any actual commitments to these alternative lifestyles. They are also for you if you don’t fancy spending £££ on RAW baking ingredients that are sold in bags a mere 1/800th the size of good old plain flour… or having to add a new label to yourself every time you bake something rad.

So just to make it clear: these brownies arent RAW. These brownies aren’t Vegan, and these brownies aren’t refined sugar or grain free. These brownies are for all you other people like me, who wish to simply nourish yourselves with a devilishly good treat (only minus the sugar headache) that truly IS as good as its classic, whilst continuing to lust after + indulge in real food…in moderation.

So enjoy! And good luck attempting to stop at ‘just the one’. It’s entirely impossible – they really are the AH-MAZING-AND-IMA-HIDE-THEM-AWAY-FROM-EVERYONE sort of addictive. Even my chocolate addicted never-even-eaten-a-sweet-potato best friend had no idea that they weren’t the full butter/flour and sugar fudge stuff and contained root vegetable, while others who managed to get a taste of these things have since been asking me for the recipe because they reckon they are 100% decadent enough to serve as the real things at their own gatherings and events!

Oh and P.S, did I mention that they can be made gluten free, after all?  ;)

Dry Mix: 

  • ¾ C gluten-free rolled oats + 2 tbsp, blitzed into a flour (hello food processor).
  • 1 C + 1/4 C sweet potato, cooked (= 2 small/medium or one very large)
  • ¾ C cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Wet Mix: 

  • ½ C white sugar
  • 1/4 C melted vegetable oil or butter oil (I made mine here (pictured) with veg oil and they came out perfect – but admittedly found myself lusting over a more thick, buttery bite, and thinking about how even more amazing they would be if I had opted for butter instead of oil)
  • 1C smooth apple sauce
  • 1/4 C light brown sugar
  • 4 heaped tbsp Greek yogurt (don’t skip!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 x tbsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 x tbsp instant coffee granules.
  • 1/2 tsp salt if using unsalted butter.

Extras: 

  • 150g Choc bar, melted into brownie mix.
  • Many, many dark choc chips to be thrown into the mix. (say, 50g? +)
  • Many more white choc chips also to be thrown into the mix (the more the merrier – 50g + is also good).
  • 1 Splash of milk (appx 3 tbsp) – (add last, only as much/little as you need only to churn the batter and incorporate everything once and for all. It will make the brownies moister, but remember you want to keep the batter thick and not runny. Go by eye).

Bringing these babies to life: 

  1. Combine listed dry ingredients together
  2. Combined listed wet ingredients together
  3. Combined wet + dry to form a batter.
  4. Add the melted chocolate to the batter, followed by the chocolate chips.
  5. Add the milk a slight splash at a time. Your batter should still be kept sufficiently thick + fudgy before being transferred into a baking tray, so stop adding milk as soon as the batter becomes even slightly ‘pour-able’, go by your eye. Thicker batter makes denser brownies. but you do need a splash of milk for the concoction to work properly.
  6. Bake at 175 degrees for 30-35 minutes (depending on how your oven usually handles tray bakes) and remove when the centre has set through.
  7. They are also made even more amazing when drizzled in melted white chocolate!

P.S. If I can’t persuade you of their wholesomely divine goodness here, then I will just have to eat your share of the next batch… which is fine with me ;) Try them for yourself and see! (and save your avocados for salty breakfast toast…)

Healthy sweet potato brownies - gluten free

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.
…live in the question.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

 

My Favourite Escape – Brunch at Granger and Co. Kings Cross

I didn’t think I’d ever find a café I liked more than Granger and Co. Notting Hill. But it turns out I was wrong… I’ve discovered Granger and Co. Kings Cross

Ricotta Hotcakes and Scrambled eggs at Granger and Co Kings Cross - Bill Granger London

Spacious, airy and light – Granger and Co. Kings Cross has taken a blank, L-shaped canvas and filled it up with sunlight.  The very essence that so far, has been bringing people back to of the rest of Bill Grangers’ contemporary havens time and time again (London, Sydney, Seoul…) – has infused this entire space. It is a simple kind of sophistication, breathing a design that is cosy but also contemporary and fresh.

Granger and Co Kings Cross - Bill Granger London

After you’ve ordered, all you find yourself wanting to do is to just sink into a pillow of their whippy scrambled eggs (no I will never stop gushing about them) – with sunshine on your face, and let the dreamy, rich silkiness of their coffee take you away (seriously, get a mocha). You really will experience the sensation of being enveloped by buttery swirls of heaven with each and every bite of their scrambled eggs, I promise. That’s just the kind of effect that brunch here will have on you. And that’s before we even get started on those ricotta hotcakes… (look up)

The look of the place kind of speaks for itself, IMO.  I mean come on! Just look at all of that space… it’s such a peaceful air to simply be in, since the ambience oozes the kind of calamity that makes you slow down and realize you’ve come here to quite literally  pause. Meanwhile it’s so bright that those floor to ceiling windows may as well not even be there. I wonder how this look adapts to a cold wintery day? In August anyway, there’s so much room for clear thoughts, which is perfect if you’ve come there to get some work done (they welcome over-stayers).

I’ve been spending so much time in cafés really. Like really, I mean I’ve been enjoying a full-on brunch out 2-3 mornings a week. Turns out my [brunch-based] dissertation fieldwork is more expensive than I ever estimated it to be…but getting this time to crack on with the fieldwork this early on has big advantages (aside from the obvious food part of it) since it’s been the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends in some of my favourite foodie-hideaways, plus to treat my lil brothers for doing so well in their exams :-)

Granger and Co Kings Cross - Bill Granger London

But thanks to all of this fieldwork, I’ve had the perfect excuse to linger around and speak to the people who work, dine and chill out in havens like these… Granger and Co. just had to be the first on my list, which is kind of why I was here. Mostly because I was nervous to interview and so ready to procrastinate; I figured I may as well get a decent brunch out of it and feel like I achieved something. But it turns out there was no need to be so nervous! I ended up getting to sit down and interview the manager there – Toby, who was friendly and warm and more than happy to reel off a list of reasons why Granger and Co. works as this ‘Third Space’ in the city (particularly during brunch) – AKA: a place between work + home where people can come and feel free to use the place exactly as they want, not to mention order irresistibly high quality comfort food. I can honestly say I’ve never heard anyone speak so elegantly about the place where they work. Nothing welcomes you to a place more than seeing genuine enthusiasm shine through the faces of people who work there, and I think this really is one of the huge selling points of Granger and Co. It’s not cheap, but they really do everything so well.

But how has this post turned into a miniature dissertation summary? I don’t even know! I’m sorry. You probably want to know about the breakfast food. There’s not really much way to put it onto words, other than that |1| Everything arrives bigger than it looks in the photos, |2| They GIVE YOU SO MUCH BUTTER WITH EVERYTHING AND THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY. (I was tempted to order the coconut bread again just because I know they give you a brick of butter to melt on it, ssh) |3|. Order the hotcakes. |4|. Get Bill Grangers’ famous scrambled eggs no. matter. what. You haven’t come here to not have them. |5|. If it’s the brioche with labeh and pistachios from the menu that is catching your eye, then go to Notting Hill – they actually serve it there *sadface*.

Somewhere towards the end of the interview, Toby and I got talking about those scrambled eggs. And overall we decided it was probably best to turn a blind eye to the amount of cream that goes into achieving that very gravity defying heap – if only because they taste so much better that way ;-)

p.s. order the scrambled eggs.

Granger and Co Kings Cross - Bill Granger London xox

 

Cream cheese and Coconut Lemon Loaf (Lighter and healthier)

Cream cheese and Coconut Lemon Loaf (Lighter and healthier)For so long now, I’ve been wanting to churn a mound of cream cheese into a bowl of cake batter. How would it turn out? Can you even do that? I figured that if yoghurt (one of my all-time favourite cheat ingredients to sneak into any sweet loaf/tray bake) works to create the moistest of loaves, then so should cream cheese, right? After all, cream cheese is thicker, creamier and denser than yoghurt – even the lowest of fat types. I simply couldn’t see how the end result could be anything disappointing. It just had had had to be tried.

The end result was something really, really ridiculously delicious!

Cream cheese and Coconut Lemon Loaf (Lighter and healthier)To think coconut hadn’t even been on my mind until I found an opened pack of it stored next to the bag of sugar I was reaching for! (An old bag I bought months ago for some baked berry oatmeal recipe that tasted ended up tasting euck because I didn’t actually start liking coconut until like, last week). Last week, Jessie had had us over for dessert, and had fed us her amazing pandan coconut crepes and tasty coconut bread (microwaved for ‘extra flavour’, tehe) which have in all honesty, 100% revolutionized my feelings towards this tropical, milky fruit.

This lemon cake uses half the butter it should, yet still tastes like such a rich and naughty buttery treat. It subs half the butter with veggie oil, and uses a very modest amount of sugar just so that you can have one more slice than you otherwise might, first thing in the morning. ;)

IMO, it probably still gets the majority of its moistness from the silky gloop that is Greek yogurt. Cream cheese just makes the crumb that little bit more dense… the secret ingredient if you like. So although cream cheese can’t take all of the credit here, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to achieve such a buttery, fluffy cake with such a compact crumb (sort of like a pound cake) if it weren’t for it.

Oh and P.S. I think you should totally put extra cream cheese on it, plus a good sprinkling of that special dusty sugar stuff, – toasted.

Cream cheese and Coconut Lemon Loaf (Lighter and healthier)If I were to make it again I would put ginger in it also. I didn’t leave it out on purpose. I just only realized the possibility of it after it had come out of the oven and my nosebuds sub-consciously started searching for hints of freshly baked lemony-ginger goodness in the air (my brain has mostly come to recognize lemon through copious amounts of lemon and ginger tea over the years). Don’t make the same omission </3.

  • 2/3 C + 1 T White sugar
  • ¼ C Salted butter
  • ¼ C Vegetable oil
  • 1.5 T Lemon zest (appx 2 small lemons)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1+ ¼ C Flour
  • ¾ C desiccated coconut
  • 2 T baking powder
  • ½ c Greek Yogurt (low fat is perfectly fine!)
  • ½ C Low fat cream cheese
  • Extra pinch of salt.
  • 1 t dried ginger (!?!)
  • Splash of milk (Like 2 T).

Mix the wet ingredients – starting with the sugar, butter, oil, lemon zest + juice in a bowl|In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients| Add the egg to the wet ingredients|Mix wet + dry ingredients together|Add the yogurt and cream cheese to the combined mix, followed by the splash of milk|Served best first thing in the morning with scrambled eggs and peaches. 

Cream cheese and Coconut Lemon Loaf (Lighter and healthier)