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Vegan Banana and Chocolate Ice Cream

I'm a firm believer that being healthy doesn't mean that you can't enjoy food and still eat lots of lovely yummy things, being healthy is simply about making good choices and finding better alternatives to those unhealthy foods we all crave every now and again. I used to eat so much rubbish but now I've sorted my diet out, I don't crave those unhealthy foods anymore, because I know I can have a delicious sweet treat which is also nutritional and healthy, like this banana and chocolate ice cream, which I am so excited to share with you because well, it's delicious, but it's also part of a wonderful campaign to try and encourage children to eat better and get involved in cooking. And I know it's definitely not the season for ice cream, but y'know, ice cream is always a good idea.

I was recently asked by the lovely people at Wren Kitchens to create a recipe for their new 'Little Kitchen' e-book, which is all about getting children engaged in the food they are eating, under the theme 'Superhero Swaps' - swapping an ingredient in a popular kids meal for a healthy alternative. I really wanted to create something that was easy, that tasted yummy and contained a hidden fruit or vegetable, because getting kids to eat their five a day can be difficult. This ice cream is so simple to make and isn't too different from regular ice cream so they might not even notice (but even if they do it's so yummy they won't mind). 

You will need to freeze some ripe bananas in advance to make this (a perfect use for those poor brown bananas that were heading towards the bin!) - just take the skin off and chop them into chunks, pop into a freezer bag and leave them for at least a day before making the ice cream. I also use cacao powder in this recipe, which you can get from a health food shop and I have seen it in Tesco before, because it's better for you as it is less processed but you can also use cocoa powder, you'll just need to use slightly more as cacao has a much stronger taste. 

Vegan Banana and Chocolate Ice Cream


You will need (serves 2):
2 frozen bananas 
2 teaspoons cacao powder (or 3 teaspoons cocoa powder)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 Medjool dates 
toppings of your choice - I used chopped hazelnuts and flaked almonds 

Method: 
- Pit the dates and then soak them in a small bowl of hot water for five minutes. 
- Pop everything into a blender and blend until nice and smooth - this will take a few minutes, depending on how strong your blender is. 
- Split into two small bowls and put back into the freezer for about an hour. You can leave this step out if you want to eat the ice cream straight away but it won't be as firm. 
- Top with your favourite yummy treats! You can use date syrup as a sauce, chopped nuts or granola for a little crunch or banana slices or berries for some extra goodness.

The e-book featuring this recipe (and lots of other healthy yummy recipes) is now available for download on the Wren Kitchens website!

Vegan Banana and Chocolate Ice Cream

Vegan Basil and Spinach Pesto


I originally made this pesto to be part of a salad recipe (which I will be posting soon too) but it turned out so yummy that I thought it deserved a post all to itself. Pesto is one of those things that I always used to happily buy in a jar from the supermarket. I'd never buy any other pasta sauce in a jar because they are loaded with ridiculous amounts of sugar and salt but I never minded buying pesto. That was until I became vegetarian a few months ago and discovered that parmesan cheese isn't vegetarian (crazy, I know!), so finding a ready made pesto that didn't contain Italian cheese became pretty hard. I'm also on the verge of going fully vegan so any cheese in pesto was a no-go, so I made my own and now I'm questioning why I didn't do it sooner because it's so easy and tastes so delicious and fresh. I think you will love it. 

You will need (makes one small jar): 
1 cup fresh basil
2 cups spinach
2 small cloves garlic (minced)
the juice of half a lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional) 

Method: 
Simply pop all the ingredients into a food processor and mix until you get a pesto consistency. If the mix is too thick just add a little extra olive oil.

Yes, it's as easy as that. Goodbye shop-bought jars of pesto.

Vegan Basil and Spinach Pesto

Tomato, Red Pepper and Lentil Soup

I love soup. In fact, I could easily live off it. Even in the summer when it's warm outside and everyone else is having salads, iced drinks and sandwiches, I still love a big bowl of delicious soup. It is definitely more of a winter thing though, especially now that the temperature in Scotland seems to have dropped quite significantly, and there's nothing I can think of that's better than coming in out of the cold to a huge bowl of warming soup and a side of fresh bread (because you can't have soup without bread). When I make soup, I always cook big pots so I can take it to work for lunch during the week and also freeze the leftovers for later. This recipe is one of my favourites at the moment and is a bit of a mix between two classics, tomato and lentil. The red peppers give a lovely depth of flavour while the lentils mean it's more substantial than just a tomato soup. I tend to find that when I cook soup without any pulses or grains it doesn't quite fill me up enough so I much prefer making recipes that are big and hearty, more like a meal than a light lunch. Because that's how soup should be in the winter: full of goodess, complely satisfying and lovely and thick! Yum. 

Tomato, Red Pepper and Lentil Soup

You will need (makes 5-6 portions): 
1 onion
2 red peppers
1 carrot
1 + 1/2 cups dry red lentils
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups water
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
2 teaspoons ground coriander leaves
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons tomato puree
dried chilli flakes and ground pepper to taste

Method: 
- Chop up the onion, carrot and red peppers into small chunks and then add to a large pot with a little olive oil. Fry the veg over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes, until softened.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, veggie stock, water, lentils and spices to the pot and bring to the boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for about 35 minutes.
- Use a hand blender to blend the soup until it's nice and smooth.
- Serve with a sprinkle of ground pepper and a side of fresh bread. 

Tomato, Red Pepper and Lentil Soup

Vegan Banana and Cinnamon Pancakes

Happy (the day before) Pancake Day! I love pancakes, a lot, but they tend to come with lots of sugar and just aren't very good for you. My memories of Pancake Day at home involve copious amounts of lemon juice and sugar, double helpings of Nutella and mountains of jam. So yummy but so much sugar! This recipe is much better for you and so simple to make, and I promise you they taste just as good, in fact, maybe even better. When I first changed my diet I used to make banana pancakes using the banana and eggs recipe but because I'm trying to eat a more plant based diet I wanted to create a recipe that was just as yummy but also vegan. It took a few attempts but I think I've perfected it with this one, just in time for Pancake Day. The banana makes them perfectly sweet while the cinnamon gives a little extra warming flavour. So delicious and completely guilt-free, so you can enjoy Pancake Day without feeling bad! I love having these for breakfast too, they are so good for a relaxing weekend morning with a cup of tea and a book (which is exactly what I did after photographing this post!). 

Vegan Banana and Cinnamon Pancakes

You will need (serves 1): 
1/2 cup spelt flour (or another flour of your choice)
1 banana 
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup oats 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Coconut oil for frying 

Method: 
- Mash up the banana in a bowl. 
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. 
- Melt a teaspoon of coconut oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Once the oil is melted, spoon the mixture into the pan to make the pancakes. I use around two tablespoons of mixture per pancake and this makes about five. Fry on each side for 1-2 minutes - it's ready to flip once little bubbles start to appear in the mixture. 
- Serve with some extra banana slices, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a little maple syrup. 

Vegan Banana and Cinnamon Pancakes


Vegetarian. 

A word I never thought I would use to describe myself. I grew up in a family of meat eaters and all of my friends eat meat. I did too up until a few months ago, although it was very rare and only ever chicken or mince. I've never particularly liked red meat - steak, ribs, lamb, pork - I didn't like the taste at all and there was just something about having such a vast chunk of meat on my plate that made me feel a little uneasy. I would eat chicken perhaps a few times a month but as the prices got higher and higher I started eating it less and less. 

Since changing my lifestyle and eating healthier I've loved experimenting in the kitchen and creating new and delicious foods. I'd say the second part of last year was when this really took off because I moved from a shared house to my own little flat and having my own kitchen really made a difference. With more space I could easily spend hours in the kitchen every weekend cooking up different things and trying new recipes. I started to explore more veggie options and I loved discovering new ways of cooking vegetables and grains. It didn't take long before I realised how delicious vegetarian food could be and that you really don't need to have meat in your diet. The more and more I looked into it and after watching a few food documentaries (anyone else love watching these?!) the more I realised I didn't want to eat meat. The last time I ate meat was September and I decided in December that I was going to give myself the label and go veggie.


A lot of people who are vegetarians do so because they are animal lovers but for me this wasn't the main reason, although I do love animals and it was definitely a factor in my decision. No, for me the main reason was health related - I simply felt better when I didn't eat meat. I love eating huge plates of vegetables, grains and fruit filled with goodness because it just makes me feel so wonderful. I have more energy, feel less lethargic and just all round better. I've also spent a long time on antibiotics for a health condition but I'm hoping now that I've come off these that I can use diet rather than drugs to fend this off. 

I would also say environmental factors played a role in my decision too. After watching documentaries including Food Inc. and Cowspiracy I was pretty shocked at the sheer amount of resources that go into producing meat for human consumption. I won't go into the facts and figures here but I would say if you're interested then go and do a bit of research because it is so interesting.

And of course the animals. It breaks my heart to think about the awful things that happen to animals during their short lives. Animals that are born purely to be reared for human consumption can be treated so badly and I just can't support that. I think when you eat meat you tend to turn a blind eye to these things, but the more I found out I just knew I couldn't support the meat industry anymore. 

Vegan?

It's only been a month or so since I became vegetarian but I am already considering going vegan or plant-based. I watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives and it just really opened my eyes to the benefits of a vegan diet - I'd really recommend watching it if vegan is something you're considering because it is so interesting. There's also the issue of animals who are used for creating products like milk, eggs and cheese and how unnatural this is and how cruel it can be. There's just something about living solely off plants that really appeals to me. It seems a lot more natural and I would love to see how it makes me feel, if just going veggie has already made me feel so great. 

But, at the moment, I'm not vegan but I am trying to eat a more plant-based diet and have been experimenting with different ways to make my favourite dairy-based foods with plant-based products. If you are vegan I would love to know how you found the transition and if there's any advice you would give to someone considering the change?

I'd just like to finish off by saying that each and every one of us has the right to choose how we eat. Just because I am now a vegetarian doesn't mean I will be trying to convince any of my friends to do so too. I believe we should all eat what makes us feel wonderful, whether that be meat, eggs, fish or a huge plate of vegetables. I just wanted to share my thoughts on the subject and give a little insight into why I decided to change my diet.

x

Almond, Date and Cacao Snack Balls

I've wanted to make energy balls for so long having seen them pop up on food blogs everywhere for the past year, however, up until very recently I didn't own a food processor. I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt excluded from the delicious energy ball craze by my lack of equipment and so this recipe was born after I discovered the soaking dates in hot water trick and I think it's pretty good, but maybe I'm biased. You could make these in a food processor if you have one but I really wanted to create a recipe that was accessible to everyone. I'm sure I'll be making lots of yummy energy balls in my new food processor in the weeks to come but, for now, this one is for the old food processor-less me and everyone else out there who can relate to this struggle. I hope you will enjoy them! 

You will need (makes 8 balls): 
6 Medjool dates
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup oats
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 heaped tablespoon almond butter
2 teaspoons cacao powder (optional)

Method: 
- Pit the dates and pop into a bowl of boiling water for 10 minutes to soften.
- Once the dates have softened and are starting to break down, mash them up using a fork until they form a paste.
- In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together (apart from the cacao powder).
- At this stage I split the mix in half and add cacao powder to one of the halves to make a chocolatey tasting ball, but you can leave this out if you prefer or make all the mixture chocolate by doubling the quantity of cacao powder - it's up to you!
- Roll the mixture into eight balls (four of each flavour).
- On a plate put a small amount of ground almonds and roll each ball in this to give it a nice coating, this also takes away the stickiness of the mixture. If you've made chocolate balls, add a little cacao to the ground almonds too when you roll the chocolate balls. 
- Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge. They should keep for up to two weeks.

Almond, Date and Cacao Snack Balls