Miso-Chocolate Granola

If you’ve followed my Instagram account for a while, you’ll know that I am a HUGE fan of the miso-chocolate combo (miso-chocolate smoothie bowl – HECK YES). There is something about the salty-umami-ness of miso paste that goes so spectacularly with sweet and chocolately flavours and I will never stop looking for new ways to bring these two together.

The lovely people at Tide Ford Organics sent me two flavours of their fresh, unpasteurised miso to try and OMG I have been in miso HEAVEN. Usually I use their standard Brown Rice Miso paste in my cooking (miso ramen yes paaalease) but this time I got to try out their Saiko Sweet Miso for the first time and I am in love. All of u check it OUT pls.

Miso-Chocolate Granola

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Ingredients

  • 1 heaped tbsp. Tide Ford Organics Saiko Sweet Miso paste
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. smooth, runny peanut butter
  • 2 tbsps. raw cacao powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1.5 cups whole rolled oats

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150 celcius (fan)
  2. Add the miso paste, agave, coconut oil and peanut butter and heat gently, stirring regularly,  until combined
  3. Whisk in the cacao powder and salt
  4. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped almonds and oats
  5. Transfer to a lined baking tray and bake for 30 minutes
  6. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool
  7. Once cool, break into smaller chunks and store in a jar or airtight container

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Easy Roasted Tomato & Pesto Linguini

Pesto was one of those things that I realised, quite late in my vegan journey, isn’t vegan. It isn’t even vegetarian! I’m not going to lie, this was quite a blow because I LOVE pesto. Happily, SACLA’ have a range of FreeFrom pesto which is everything a vegan pesto-addict could ever wish for. Having a jar of this to add to pasta, sauces and toast (pesto on toast is actual heaven, just sayin’) is honestly my favourite way to make my life more delicious. 100% recommend. SACLA’ FreeFrom is available from the Free From aisle at most supermarkets or on http://www.sacla-shop. co.uk/

I wanted to share the recipe for one of my go-to dinners with you because it is too easy and delicious to keep to myself. Also, Italian food is the one.

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Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • 75g wholewheat spaghetti
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh rocket
  • 2 tbsps. SACLA’ FreeFrom Sundried Tomato Pesto
  • Olive oil for roasting
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 celcius (fan)
  2. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place on a baking tray
  3. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  4. Roast for 10 – 12 minutes
  5. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions
  6. Drain the spaghetti and return to the saucepan, add the roasted tomatoes, rocket and pesto and season well
  7. Serve (I highly recommend a side order of vegan garlic bread!)

Peanut Swirl Brownies (Vegan, GF)

Gluten free baking is something I am slowly trying to conquer. I’m not gluten intolerant but I am conscious that I want my recipes to be accessible to as many people as possible because finding an amazing recipe and then realising that you can’t eat half of the ingredients is one of the saddest things ever #veganproblems.

So, when The Groovy Food Company sent me a batch of their finest baking ingredients – including a big ol’ bag of coconut flour – I decided I would take on a gluten free baking challenge. I’ve had a few baking disasters in the past when trying to adapt existing recipes to make them gluten free so I was terrified of how these were going to turn out, but happily, they are delicious!

This recipe uses pumpkin puree which you can buy in the International Foods section of large supermarkets. If you can’t get your hands on a tin of thee stuff, you can make your own! Just steam or boil a batch of sweet potatoes, squash or pumpkins and blend until smooth – you could also add a dash of sweetener if you’d like.

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup smooth, runny peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup The Groovy Food Company agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup The Groovy Food Company coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup The Groovy Food Company coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup The Groovy Food Company coconut flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. plant milk
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • Extra peanut butter for peanut swirl (about 2 tbsps.)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150 celcius (fan)
  2. Combine peanut butter, agave nectar and coconut sugar in a large bowl and mix well using an electric whisk
  3. Melt the coconut oil in the microwave (about 30 secs.) and add to the peanut mixture
  4. Add the cacao powder, pumpkin puree, coconut flour, salt, baking powder and plant milk and whisk until combined
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips
  6. Transfer the mixture to a lined baking tin and smooth using the back of a metal spoon
  7. Drizzle the extra peanut butter over the top and use the spoon to swirl into the brownie mixture
  8. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the tin
  10. Cut into 9 equal squares and store in an airtight container

 

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These taste amazing fresh out of the oven but are so gooey – leaving them in the tin until completely cooled allows them to fully bind together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basic Vegan Banana Loaf with Coconut-Chocolate Drizzle

Sugar is confusing, right? We’re told constantly that too much sugar is bad and that refined sugars are particularly awful and that maybe the sugar in fruit isn’t all that good for us either. As someone who is pretty health conscious, I’ve run around in circles trying to decide what is the best sweetener to use – agave nectar was the hero for a while but then was demonised by a number of research papers, dates and other dried fruits work well in some recipes and not at all in others, coconut sugar is ridiculously expensive (and how different is it from normal cane sugar anyway?) and there are so many different types of fruit syrup that I normally just panic and buy whatever is on offer.

In terms of the effects on the body, there is no categorical evidence that any one sweetener is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than another. There are research articles strongly in favour of unrefined options (coconut sugar for example), and others which find their effects on blood glucose to be no different to that of their refined counterparts. It’s an absolute minefield.

One rule I do try to stick to (and this goes to pretty much all of my diet choices) is that I try to choose natural ingredients over chemically produced ones. This means steering clear of products which contain ingredients like aspartame, saccharine and refined glucose syrup and choosing those which sweeten with dates and other naturally occurring sugars.

So I was so excited when the lovely people at Natvia sent me their Natural Baking Sweetener (which is aspartame and saccharine free!) and, naturally, spent the weekend experimenting with it. The finished product is this Basic Vegan Banana Loaf which I topped with a coconut-chocolate drizzle (I’m thinking some kind of peanut-butter infusion might just have to be the next step though…)

 

Basic Vegan Banana Loaf with Coconut-Chocolate Drizzle

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Ingredients

  • 200g wholewheat flour
  • 100g buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 130g Natvia Natural Baking Sweetener
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 120ml plant milk
  • 1tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 50ml carob syrup
  • 80ml olive oil
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius and line a standard loaf tin with baking paper
  2. Combine flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, Natvia and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well
  3. In a separate bowl, mash bananas into a puree using a fork
  4. Add plant milk, apple cider vinegar, carob syrup, olive oil and water to the banana puree and mix well
  5. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the wet mixture
  6. Mix well using a metal spoon
  7. Pour mixture into the lined loaf tin and bake for 45 – 50 minutes
  8. Once cooked, allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before removing from the tin and transferring to a wire cooling rack
  9. Melt the coconut oil in a microwave
  10. Stir in the cacao powder
  11. Drizzle chocolate mixture over the top of the loaf and sprinkle with coconut chips

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NB. The loaf will keep in an airtight container for around 3 days and is freezer safe.

Product Review: VOOST Effervescent Vitamins

For a long time, I was completely anti-supplements. I didn’t like the idea of consuming something artificial that was going to provide me with the vitamins I *could* be getting from ‘real food’. But more recently I realised that despite eating a healthy, well-balanced and varied diet, I could still be missing out on some of the key nutrients I need for optimum health. B-vitamins, for example, are always something I’m conscious that I might not be getting enough of as I don’t eat meat, fish, dairy or eggs. I try to consume as many B-vitamin-rich plant-based food as I can (spinach and other green leafy veg, marmite, fortified mylks and cereals and nutritional yeast), but some days I just can’t fit them all in, and over time, this might lead to a deficit. B-vitamins contribute to a load of important functions such as converting food to energy, regulation of red blood cell formation, maintenance of the immune system and functioning of the immune system; so it’s pretty important to be getting enough. So, a few months ago, I put aside my reservations about supplements and started taking a B-vitamin and a vegan omega-3 complex and have noticed an increase in my energy levels and in general feelings of good health.

Following on from that, a week or so ago, the lovely people at VOOST sent me a batch of their effervescent vitamins to try and I have been super excited to tell you guys about them! My package contained the following:

          Multivitamin (Orange Flavour)

          Vitamin B Complex (Apricot & Peach Flavour)

          Vitamin C (Blood Orange Flavour)

          Vitamin D (Mixed Berry Flavour)

          Calcium + Vitamin D (Orange Flavour)

          Magnesium (Lemon Flavour)

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I must admit, that I was wary about the flavours to begin with. I have tried effervescent vitamin drinks before and have often found the taste too sharp and haven’t been able to stomach them. I had a particular aversion to orange flavour effervescent vitamins too, thanks to forcing orange flavoured Berocca down myself pretty much every day during my first year at university in a bid to stave off Freshers Flu etc. etc etc. But I was so pleasantly surprised by the VOOST range. When dissolved in 200ml water, the flavours are strong enough to be pleasant but not so strong so as to be overwhelming. And as it turns out, I think I’d consider the orange flavoured ones are my favourite!

Effervescent vitamins can be absorbed into the blood faster than vitamins contained in standard capsules or tablets. I also feel so more comfortable drinking one of these each morning than swallowing copious amounts of tablets to make sure I’m getting enough vitamins. That being said, I personally don’t feel the need to be supplementing with all the vitamins outlined above every single day and am always striving to fill my diet with enough fruit and veg to get as many nutrients as I possibly can without the need for supplements. But an extra dose of vitamin C on the days when I feel like I’m getting a cold or some more vitamin D in the winter as the days get darker and my body is under the increased stress of winter training definitely won’t go amiss.

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If you’re worried you might be lacking any of the key vitamins in your diet, it really is worth getting a blood test from the doctor. This will tell you super quickly if you are deficient in anything and will allow you to adjust your diet and/or begin taking the necessary supplements. You will honestly be amazed at what a difference having all the right nutrients can make!

Vegan Ginger Caramel Shortbread Recipe

Vegan Ginger Caramel Shortbread

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Caramel shortbread used to be one of my all-time favourite desserts before going vegan, but knowing that caramel tends to contain condensed milk and butter being one of the main ingredients in shortbread, I had kind of resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy the same level of shortbread-based indulgence again. Happily though, it turns out (as with pretty much everything, so it seems) it is possible to create a vegan version that is just as delicious and much healthier (which just means I’m going to be eating at least 2 at a time).

After developing the basic recipe, I was inspired to make it a bit more interesting by a delivery of Mr Popple’s Super Roots Raw Chocolate. Raw cacao is a natural source of theobromine, a mild non-addictive stimulant, which can increase energy levels, aid concentration and might even help combat depression. As if I didn’t need another reason to eat bars and bars of the stuff. Mr Popple’s Super Roots contains raw cacao, yacon syrup (a pre-biotic, low-GI sweetner), lucuma powder (high in antioxidants and B-vitamins), maca powder, dried beetroot, dried carrot, turmeric powder and ginger oil (all the best flavours). The day of my chocolate delivery I’d also been experimenting with ginger-flavoured vegan caramel and it seemed ridiculous not to marry the two; some things are just meant to be.

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 Ingredients (makes 8 squares)

For the shortbread layer:

          ½ cup walnuts

          ½ cup cashews

          1 cup organic desiccated coconut

          1 cup rolled oats

          Pinch salt

          1 tsp. vanilla extract

          ½ cup coconut oil, melted

          1 tbsp. carob syrup (or other sweetener of choice)

          1 heaping tbsp. smooth creamy peanut butter

For the ginger caramel layer:

          1.5 cups medjool dates (about 12 dates)

          1 tbsp. date syrup

          2cm stem ginger*

          ½ tsp. powdered ginger

          Pinch salt

          ½ cup water

For the Super Roots chocolate layer:

          1 bar Mr Popple’s Super Roots raw chocolate

          ¼ cup coconut oil

          ¼ cup smooth creamy peanut butter

          4 tbsp. cacao/cocoa powder

Method:

1)    Add the walnuts and cashews to a food processor or high-speed blender and blitz for 15-20 seconds.

2)    Add the rest of the shortbread ingredients to the blender and pulse until the mixture starts to come together. It should hold its shape when pressed between your fingers.

3)    Line a 5×5 inch tin with baking parchment and press shortbread into the base. Make sure it is tightly packed.

4)    Place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

5)    Meanwhile, add all the ingredients for the ginger caramel to the food processor and blend until smooth – scraping down the sides of the blender when necessary. It will take around 5 minutes for the mixture to become smooth. If the mixture is a little thick, add another tbsp. or two of water – it should be spreadable but not runny.

6)    When the shortbread layer has been in the freezer for around 30 minutes, spread the caramel layer on top using the back of a metal spoon. Your caramel layer should be about 1cm thick.

7)    Place in the freezer for about an hour.

8)    For the chocolate layer, melt all the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring constantly.

9)    Poor chocolate mixture over the top of the caramel layer and return the whole thing to the freezer for another 2-3 hours.

10)  When set, remove from the tin and cut into 8 equal-sized squares using a sharp knife. Store in the freezer and remove 5 minutes before eating.

 

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I’ve already eaten my entire batch so make sure to tag me (@charlotteemmma) on Instagram if you recreate these so I can be jealous! Or better still, get some posted to me? Okay, ty byeeeeeee xo

*If you’re not a fan of ginger, you can leave it out of the caramel and use plain raw cacao for the topping and it will still taste great!

 

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Boredom and How We’re Missing Out

We all know what boredom feels like. It’s sitting on the sofa on a Thursday evening when all your friends are busy, there’s nothing on TV and it’s raining outside. It’s waiting for your train that is 30 minutes delayed on a Tuesday morning. It’s reading 8 30-page articles for that essay that you really don’t want to do. We often define boredom as having ‘nothing to do’, but thinking about it, being in a situation where there is not a single thing you could physically do is quite difficult. Rather, being bored is the feeling of having many potential things that you could be doing, but not being particularly interested in doing any of them. And this quite often leaves us feeling unhappy, frustrated and lethargic.

Because of this, boredom is generally considered to be a negative feeling in our society. We are usually encouraged to find a solution to our boredom – to get out of the house or do something productive – but what if being bored is actually an important part of our lives?

Psychologists think that when we lack excitement in our surroundings, our focus turns inwards and we turn on what is called ‘the default network’; that is, the state your mind naturally returns to when lacking external stimulation. We more commonly call this, daydreaming. Daydreaming is thought to have a whole host of knock-on effects. Some researchers think that daydreaming is a coping mechanism that helps us deal with the tension caused by feeling bored. Others think that it gives us an opportunity to re-evaluate old experiences and memories allowing us to problem-solve and to be creative in our reasoning. Daydreaming can bring together unrelated facts and thoughts and is often linked to that ‘Eureka moment’ when we finally come up with a brilliant new idea or new way of seeing things.

One particular study found that giving people a boring task to do helped them to be more creative in their responses to another task immediately afterwards. Participants were asked to spend 15 minutes copying out phone numbers from a phone book before being asked to come up with as many ideas as possible as to how use two paper cups (who comes up with this stuff?!). Participants who did phone number copying first gave way more ideas than people who only did the cup task. The researchers suggested that 15 minutes of boredom ‘turned on’ the creative thinking part of the participant’s brains as they started to daydream, so that when they were given a task in which they had to think outside the box, they were more likely to think creatively about their answers. Interesting, huh?

However, the time we spend ‘being bored’ is becoming less and less frequent. More and more we are filling the little pockets of unused time in our lives scrolling social media, checking emails, online shopping; basically, being on our phones. I know I often find myself on my phone in situations where I usually would have been doing ‘nothing in particular’: waiting for a train, walking between meetings and even in the bathroom. But what happens when we do this? Those little pockets of time we had to plan, to daydream, to make connections between ideas and experiences, are gone. And what is worse, we’re filling that time with images of unrealistic beauty, stresses about work and desire for new things. We’re shutting off our brains and not engaging with our thoughts.

And there might be another problem with our frequent phone-checking. Every time we turn our attention to a new task, opening a new app on our phone for example, we are using up energy or ‘mental resources’ in our brains. Mental resources are limited and tiring them out has been linked to all sorts of phenomena including increased mistake making, reduced willpower and mental fatigue. A decade ago, we shifted our attention at work every three minutes. Now we do it every 45 seconds, and we do it all day long. The average person checks their email 74 times a day, and switches tasks on their computer 566 times a day. Every single time you make a switch, your brain uses us more and more glucose; no wonder we feel so mentally exhausted after a day at work.

So, I challenge you, the next time you’re waiting for a friend for lunch, or you finish your book 15 minutes before getting off the train, keep your phone in your pocket. Relax into yourself and let your mind wander. Don’t fight boredom, embrace it. When we are bored is when we are at our most creative and our most open. Next time you go to check your phone, ask yourself: ‘What am I really looking for?’ If it’s to check email, that’s fine — do it and be done. But if it’s to distract yourself from doing the hard work that comes with deeper thinking, take a break, stare out the window and know that by doing nothing you are actually being your most productive and creative self. It might feel weird and uncomfortable at first, but boredom really might lead to brilliance.

 

Inspired by the 2017 TEDtalk by Manoush Zomorodi, ‘How Boredom Can Lead to Your Most Brilliant Ideas’. Watch it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/manoush_zomorodi_how_boredom_can_lead_to_your_most_brilliant_ideas