Vegan and Gluten Free but still Yummy

This weekend between all the shopping and trying to to get too caught up in the commercialism around Christmas we had a lovely party to go to. Lots of our friends have become vegan recently and I’m always trying to cut down on gluten so these cookies seemed a good idea to try.

First, the coconut oil is whisked up until it starts to be fluffy then the sugar is creamed in and the milk (oat in this case but whichever milk you choose would work – obviously non-dairy milk if you’re making vegan cookies) mixed in. The gluten-free flour and baking powder are mixed in a separate bowl.

The dry ingredients are mixed into the wet until it resembles large breadcrumbs. Then the mixture is brought into a ball by hand an kneaded gently, it’s quite crumbly and hard work to bring together.

Once the dough sticks together it’s reasonably easy to roll and cut shapes from. They are baked on greaseproof paper lined baking trays and take about 10 minutes.

They mostly held together well once baked only a few crumbled while I was icing them.

The icing was just powdered sugar and water mixed to the right consistency and sprinkles over the top. Simple, pretty and most importantly declared yummy by the taste team and the guests at the party we took them to.

 

 

 

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Making Mince Pies

I’m not a huge fan of mince pies and I find shop bought pastry too dry and thick usually. My significant other, however, thinks maybe mince pies should be available all year so I buy them for him and I try to make him at least a couple of trays a year. These are so good I can eat a couple myself.

The recipe I cut out of a magazine many years ago. It’s from a time when my granny who since passed away gave me a magazine subscription as a gift. So it has lovely sentimental value too.

Ingredients:

200g Plain Flour
52g Ground Almonds
100g Butter
50g icing sugar
1 large egg yolk
3 tbsp milk
225g mincemeat
beaten egg (or egg white) to glaze

First, the flour and almonds are weighed and mixed together then the butter (cut into cubes to make it easier to work with) is added and rubbed in (which can be done with fingertips or one of these handy tools) until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then the icing sugar is stirred in.

The egg yolk and milk are beaten together in a separate small bowl and then added to the dry ingredients and mixed with a round-bladed knife until it starts to come together in a ball, it might be necessary to bring the last bits together by hand, turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently. Wrap the dough ball in clingfilm and pop it in the oven for at least 30 minutes (if you leave it longer than an hour you might need to allow it to sit out for a short while before rolling it out).

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The cold pastry doesn’t need much if any extra flour to stop it sticking as you roll. Make sure you have a greased cake tray and your oven pre-heated to gas mark 5 / 190c. Cut approx 7cm rounds for the bases and 6cm rounds for the tops, keep rerolling until all the dough is used. The large rounds line the tins and are pricked with a fork.

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Spoon a little mincemeat into each pie and top with a smaller pastry round, use the beaten egg white to seal and then to brush over the top of each pie (this helps them brown nicely) cut a small hole in the top of each pie with a small knife or pair of scissors.

Bake 15-20 minutes (remove from oven when a nice overall brown colour). Sprinkle with icing sugar if you like and enjoy warm with cream or ice cream.

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Healthy(ish) Christmas Gingerbread

Gingerbread might be my favourite Christmas treat but it’s so full of sugar and butter I always feel guilty about how much I can eat. This is a healthier alternative but mine aren’t quite as healthy as the recipe because I’ve chosen to use brown sugar instead of stevia in the gingerbread and regular icing sugar for the icing.

The flour, cornflour, baking powder and spices (ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg in mine today) are mixed together in one bowl. In the other bowl melted and cooled butter, egg and vanilla whisked together and then molasses and a little brown sugar mixed in.

 

Then the wet ingredients mixed into the dry, it needed hands to bring it together into a sticky dough. The dough is placed between two sheets of cling film and then goes in the fridge to firm up and become easier to handle.

 

The dough can then be rolled out still between the cling film which is a really handy trick for helping it not to stick to anything and making it really easy to place on the lined baking tray. 10 minutes in the oven and 5 minutes left on the tray before moving to the cooling rack seemed about perfect.

The icing was just icing sugar and water mixed to the right consistency. The plan was for a mix of red and green sprinkles but the kitchen assistant had a green sprinkle related disaster so it was mostly just red sprinkles.

 

Even without the icing the gingerbread was pretty good and didn’t really taste too ‘healthy’ it is less healthy with the icing but still significantly lower fat and sugar than the really decadent gingerbread recipe coming up later this month!

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Christmas Cake

Here’s a Christmas lesson, this post was written early and posted late because there are so many things that I’m always trying to do at this time of year. I need to learn to slow down and enjoy the time more.

It’s been an introspective year for me. I’ve thought of so many times in my life I’ like to go back to and tell myself to make different decisions or to make decisions for the right reasons not because of being scared or feeling that there was no choice. But time travel isn’t possible and I’m trying to learn to give myself the same care that I extend to others. To allow myself to know I made the best decisions I could at the time with the information I had. We can’t go back in time but we can go forward with all of the life experience and knowledge we have and make decisions for the right reasons in future.

As I write it’s December 1st and I’m waiting for my Christmas Cake to come out of the oven. It’s at least a month after it ‘should’ have been made and it’s made to a much more simple recipe than the usual recipe I use. But rather than having to try and convince myself it’s not happened that way because I’m never good enough or organised enough or have let anyone down I feel happy it’s done now. I decided to do other things up until now and I decided to make this recipe, not the other one. There really isn’t a sort of person who makes the perfect family recipe Christmas Cake and a sort of person who buys a cake there’s only the sort of person who does what they do with the time they have and deserves to be happy and proud of themselves.

As usual, Mary Berry can be relied on to provide a lovely simple recipe.

I made it a bit more special by soaking the fruit in a mix of sherry and brandy overnight before I started.

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My heirloom electric whisk from the 1980s finally gave up the ghost during the creation of cupcakes for the school Christmas Bizarre so I ended up making this using the food processor as I’ve become much too lazy to cream butter and sugar by hand.

Adding the flour and ground almonds and a little orange essence as we didn’t have almond and it seemed more suitable than peppermint which was the other alternative in the cupboard.

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Had to mix in the fruit by hand after draining off the excess alcohol (which I saved to pour on once the cake is cooked) maybe I should have used a slightly bigger mixing bowl because it was a bit tricky to hold such a full bowl while pouring mixture into the tin.

Once the cake was cooked and had plenty more alcohol poured over the top it is cooled and stored for a couple of weeks before it’s ready for the marzipan and icing.

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Meringues

This weekend we had spaghetti carbonara which involved egg yolks. Thought I would have a go at making meringues with the egg whites. There were a lot so I used up all the sugar but they went the best I’ve ever managed. I think the key was in all the extra whisking as suggested by the Meringue Girls.

I shared on my Instagram stories as I went so I ended up with videos which gave me more fun (and some swearing) today making a how-to video…

There was so much mixture I also managed to make a pavlova which is pretty much my favourite dessert ever. There’s too much sugar for true healthiness but I’m going with sort of healthy because fat-free!

Yummy and Healthy Chocolate Cookies

Trying to learn how to make the most out of life. You can’t control everything in life, some decisions might be out of your control. But you can control how you react to the cards you’re dealt.

So I can’t control how much I like chocolate and how unhealthy that can become but I can keep on working on making healthy but yummy things that provide a less unhealthy way to get a chocolate kick.

These are adapted from a recipe in one of my favourite cookbooks.

Cream together:

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil

2 tablespoons nut butter (almond or peanut for example)

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses or honey

Then whisk in one egg.

Stir in:

1/2 Cup self-raising flour

1/4 Cup cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

1 cup oats

1 teaspoon super seed mix

Mix till combined then stir through:

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Use your fingers to form small balls, place on a greased baking tray and flatten slightly.

Bake at 350f 180c or gas mark 4 for 15 minutes.

 

See if you can resist eating until they’ve cooled a little at least then compete with your family to eat the most because they’re so yummy.

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Very very chocolatey (also sweet potato)

Today’s recipe isn’t really that healthy but it’s incredibly yummy.

After the not very popular in this house peanut and sweet potato cookies, this recipe was recommended to me by a friend.

I made it at the same time as cooking roast dinner so I would like extra points for multi-tasking, please. We had it for pudding and everyone wanted seconds so it only lasted one sitting for our family of five and none of the taste team could guess the secret ingredient.

 

The first step was the most labour intensive with the sweet potato needing to be peeled chopped boiled and mashed. Then chopped dark chocolate was added and melted as it was mixed in.

Meanwhile, the cake ingredients are mixed together then the whole lot combined.

It goes in the tin and into the oven. I don’t know if it was my oven or what but it took longer than an hour to cook.

The icing is more melted chocolate, butter, golden syrup and chocolate pieces!

 

 

Halloween Special Pumpkin Cookies

I’ve been thinking about and feeling frustrated over the way people are valued only by the money they make not their true intrinsic value again this week. But also aware that I’m incredibly privileged to have the time and energy for philosophical thinking.

Parenting struggles have included how to get your child to calm down and go to bed when they are completely full of sugar from the strangest celebration invented yet, Halloween. Which seems to have developed from celebration of spooky scary things to community spirit and neighbourliness with a sugar focus. As much as I suspect the amount of money confectionary producers are making may have something to do with the growth in popularity I still really enjoyed meeting so many neighbours.

We had fun making our pumpkin lanterns but as always I needed to do something with the pumpkin insides so they weren’t wasted. Turns out there’s so much you can do. Curry for dinner, roasted seeds to snack on, syrup for making my own pumpkin spice latte. Last but definitely not least these really yummy cookies.

Oat, flour and spices in one bowl and melted butter, pumpkin puree and maple syrup mixed in another. Then combine the two bowls with each other and add the chocolate chips. Spoon onto a lined baking tray and bake in a medium oven 10-15 minutes.

They’re still a little soft when they come out the oven but a pretty good consistency once cooled and really delicious. A tiny bit cakey so the search for the perfect healthy cookie continues but if I have more pumpkin to use up again I’d happily make more of these too.

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Sweet potato and peanut cookies.

I really love sweet potato. I’ve never had something made with sweet potato that I didn’t like. Well not before today anyway.

The weather was properly cold for the first time this year and sunny too which cheered me up. It was the end of the half-term holiday so I had a lovely walk with my dog (well mostly lovely except of course the ratbag wanted to chase all the squirrels). It’s his least favourite time of year because of all the fireworks, which used to be one of my favourite times of the year but not so much with a terrified dog almost every evening for about 3 weeks.

The cold weather arriving is legitimising my desire to make stews and soups more and more so today I was making a shepherds pie of sorts (it had veggie mince and sweet potato topping). So I thought I would give some sweet potato baking a go too.

I’m not linking to the recipe I used because this isn’t the best of reviews (plus I slightly changed it as not a fan of raisins and didn’t have pumpkin seeds available) but it’s not the recipe’s fault.

  • img_20171030_131915.jpg3/4 Cup mashed sweet potato
  • 1/2 Cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs

Cinnamon and Maple Syrup Ingredients for cookiesWhisk together. Then add and mix in.

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 Teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Add and combine

  • 1/3 cup oat mix flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Spoon tablespoons full on to a lined baking tray. Bake at 350f 175c or gas 4 for 20 minutes.

For me, they are the wrong texture for a cookie and taste entirely of slightly gone off peanut butter. The rest of the taste team said they look like chicken pieces and taste disgusting. I think we need to find someone who likes the idea of peanut butter flavour cake. Taking them to a meeting this evening to try them out on some friends.

Back to the drawing board for me when it comes to sweet potato baking. The sweet potato shepherds pie, on the other hand, is amazing.

Lots of parties.

Almost into the third week so here’s two weeks in one before I have to do three weeks in one!

There was a fifth birthday in our house this week and lots of parties to celebrate so both weeks the baking in the house was cake. Last week I made pumpkin cupcakes which were also seasonal.

This week it was birthday cake.

This is just a regular sponge cake made with the same weight each of self-raising flour, sugar and butter or margarine as 3 eggs plus a teaspoon of vanilla essence. The batter was split into three bowls and each one coloured with a different gel food colouring. When baked and cooled it was iced with shop bought buttercream icing and covered in rainbow sprinkles.

Slice of rainbow cake with sprinkles on top

Pumpkins are in all the shops at the moment. It’s a bit soon for carving if you want them to be still fresh on Halloween though plus I hate all the waste so I’m always looking for ways to use what’s emptied out for carving. This recipe requires pureed pumpkin which can be made by baking the pumpkin then removing the seeds and skin or by removing seeds and skin and then boiling the chopped up flesh. It needs to be well strained to remove as much water as possible before being pureed.

I used this recipe which is easy to follow and required things that were already in my cupboard.

The wet ingredients are mixed in a food processor then added to the dry ingredients.

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I found it a bit of a liquid batter which made a challenge for getting into the cupcake cases. Best method seemed to be pouring from the bowl which also works your arm muscles! Which explains the messy cake tray.

img_20171018_211146.jpgI needed to make dairy free icing rather than cream cheese icing but apparently failed to photograph after I iced so this is the finished cupcakes. Without the icing, they were almost like muffins. The taste team approved as did the party guests. If I get time and another pumpkin I might try for a low sugar version.