What’s the dealio with dairy?

We pour it on our cereal, splash it in our tea, our coffee, eat it as an after dinner dessert or slice onto crackers with chutney for a mid-afternoon snack. Dairy in all its forms is something we have been brought up on. In the western world we are told as soon as we stop breast feeding to drink our milk, so much so that is an integral part of most peoples’ diets.

Memories of a glass of warm milk before bed as it helps to send you to sleep, that minuscule red wheel of Babybel cheese you fished out of your lunchbox daily, and squeezy yogurts that you stuck in the freezer to make into ice lollies on those (more frequent back then) days of stuffy summer. Frubes I’m looking at you! Dairy, seemed to be a fundamental part of the diet.

Marketing campaigns encourage parents to feed their children dairy products, enforcing the fact that without it they won’t get enough calcium to grow and have strong bones, ‘it will make you strongerer’. The fear of rickets is probably on most parents minds, so if the guidelines say to eat dairy, the children will eat it. What if they were lactose intolerant though? Around 10-20 years ago the only option you had as a dairy alternative was fortified soya milk. Probably sweetened. Most likely a bit gross. There wasn’t really much development in terms of dairy free milks, yogurts and cheeses, and the free from aisle…what free from aisle? If you were lactose intolerant you either gave it up cold turkey, or suffered the consequences.

I can’t pinpoint when exactly, but here in the UK, let’s say 5 years ago? Something triggered a small amount of the population to go dairy free. We also became more aware of the effects of soya on the environment and how it disrupts hormone levels (particularly for us women). The dairy free market was steadily growing, the occasional almond and coconut milks were accessible, still didn’t taste that good- mainly water and emulsifiers – so the need for creamy dairy wasn’t ever satisfied. You know it’s become a thing when Starbucks catch onto the trend and almond and coconut milk become an optional extra, with a 30p charge of course. Soon the media channelled into it spreading the word that dairy is the devil, it leads to cancer and causes osteoporosis, and every other ailment under the sun.

Around the same time, another tribe of people were touting that low fat dairy should be avoided at all costs. You can still eat your cheese, yogurts, milk and butter, but ensure that it is full fat. The higher the better for some, swearing off high fat – low carb diets. Bulletproof coffee (that is indeed coffee blitzed with butter to supposedly give a creamy drink without the crash from the caffeine), full fat yogurt, choosing cheese over dessert and searching out raw milk if possible. Totally contrasting to the dairy free crowd, making it utterly confusing to us consumers.

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to this problem for the time being. The government guidelines include dairy as part of a healthy balanced diet, it’s a good source of protein and calcium ensuring that you stick to lower fat varieties as the amount of saturated fat can be high. Personally, I find a happy ground in between all this conflict. I eat full fat yogurt (organic if I can, Yeo Valley is my go to), spread salted butter liberally on my toast and eat cheese when I want. I enjoy dairy. Cutting it out from my life would make me miserable and being unhappy doesn’t contribute to a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve ever experimented with removing or reducing your consumption of something, you will have realised that it penultimately ends up in being substituted with something else. The best dairy substitute by far is nuts, healthy though they are, you can always over do it. Need some cream, use cashews, spread nut butter instead of butter on toast, make cheese from cashews herbs and garlic, and milk from, yet again, more nuts.

Nuts aren’t the only culprits in the dairy free gang. Rice milk has been a favourite for many for years as it’s naturally very sweet, and coconut milk too for something a bit creamier and richer. Oat milk hailing from Sweden and even hemp, quinoa and tiger nut milk can all be spotted. If you’re wanting to switch up your milk routine and try something new here’s a list of dairy free milks that I would always choose. They are tried and tested, all of them with a different flavour which lends themselves to different things.

  • Oatly – Oat Milk

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A personal favourite, creamy milk which tastes as delicious chilled from the fridge as it does on your morning muesli or stirred into your porridge. Also note that it is one of the best dairy free milks for using in tea and coffee as its foams well and doesn’t separate. I tend to choose the blue Oatly carton as it is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, B12 and riboflavin and it is also cheaper than the organic version.

  • Rude Health

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I’m a huge fan of the company Rude Health, having sampled all of their range of milks (many times I may add) they still are a firm staple on my shopping list. Their almond, hazelnut and coconut milks all are made with a base of brown rice so are delicately sweet, perfect for those of you wanting some sweetness without adding sugar, and when blended into smoothies or lattes have a nice subtle flavour. Then there’s the ultimate almond for the purists – with a heftier price tag – and a higher percentage of nuts and none of the rice. The cashew milk too, which I’m highly fond of, purely made from cashews and water, it is the creamiest of the lot and makes a mean turmeric or matcha latte. All of the Rude Health milks have the added bonus that there are no emulsifiers or stabilisers so they do require a good shake before pouring. However if you’re worried about missing out on certain nutrients when you cut out milk, none of these are fortified so you may want to opt for another brand for the everyday use.

  • Alpro – Unsweetened roasted almond milk

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Alpro is well known by the masses notably for soya products, which has a bit of a bad rap. This almond milk though is the best of the lot they offer. Unsweetened and fresh, it’s the sort of milk that fits into your everyday life. More cost-effective too at the cheapest on offer, but with a very low content of almonds and quite a neutral flavour it may not be the most exciting for your tastebuds.

  • Califia farms – Unsweetened almond milk

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New to the UK and currently found in Sainsburys, Califia Farms is a bit of a game changer in terms of almond milk. Carageenan free, no added sugars and utterly delicious I have to add, this one is something to hunt down. It’s so good I enjoy drinking it as is, from a glass (and when I’m that desperate straight from the bottle) and that’s that. Also brilliant for use in hot drinks as there is no curdling and it isn’t thin so you won’t require half a carton to get your tea how you like.

Now what’s my stance on dairy? I love the stuff and have tried (vow to never again) giving it up, and believe that if you aren’t allergic or intolerant and most importantly you enjoy it, don’t deprive yourself. Dairy is high in saturated fat but as long as you don’t overdo it, there will absolutely be no problems. Here’s some of the dairy products that I like to eat, I always try to stick to organic if possible and mix it up by consuming not only cows milk, but sheeps, goats and buffalo too. You will be surprised how many of your favourite cheeses aren’t actually made from cows milk.

 

  • Yeo Valley – Natural yogurt, Greek style yogurt and salted butter

 

I love this brand as all of their products are organic the cows are fed on luscious grass and made in Somerset . I always return back to their natural yogurt, or the greek style if I want something richer, as it has a good tang and you can find it in most supermarkets and even corner shops. The butter too is lovely, a bright marigold yellow with a little salt, spread it on sourdough. That’s what you call heaven.

  • St. Helen’s farm – Goats yogurt

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This may be a dividing option. It’s rich, but with a salty savouriness that balances all out. The flavour too is much stronger than a cows milk yogurt so a little goes much further. Dolloped on a crumble, topped with strawberries or strained to make a labneh. Perhaps keep it real simple with just a drizzle of local honey and a little pinch of salt, bloomin’ marvellous!

  • Feta cheese

The most famous of offerings from Greece. That salty crumbly cheese that none of us can get enough of. It makes every meal better, whether that be avo on toast, a mundane salad, a sandwich or a pile of broccoli. Add feta and automatically it is elevated. Traditionally feta is made only from goats milk so try to opt for one of those, searching in your local Aldi or Lidl should do the trick.

  • Halloumi

Halloumi tends to be the vegetarians’ choice (and eaten by all the carnivores too) particularly when BBQ weather rolls along. You Nando’s aficionados will know the drill. Squeaky cheese, as my mum refers to it, takes on flavours well so when marinaded and griddled to leave blackened scorch marks, that rivals any sausage or chicken drumstick. Another cheese which traditionally is made from goats or ewes milk and found in the Mediterranean sunnier climes of Cyprus.

  • Longley Farm – Crème Fraîche

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From a dairy local to me comes this crème fraîche. Alongside many yogurts, butters, milk and creams they produce, this is the better than any supermarket version. If anyone knows in more detail, please back me up on this, but supposedly this is the only variety of cream available to buy in France. Crème fraîche goes through a fermenting process to give it that tang, meaning it lasts longer in the fridge and is better for our digestion than cream.

  • Godminster – Organic Cheddar cheese

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Having worked a stint in a farm shop and on a cheese counter, a good few chunks of cheese came my way. Blue, Cheddar, Lancashire, Cheshire, Brie, goats cheese, I like them all, but when it comes to making a cheese board I know that a good cheddar will always be the first to disappear and everyone fights for the last slither. This Cheddar cheese from Somerset is mature and punchy enough to stand up to any chutney, but still creamy and lingers on your palate…until the next piece. Available to buy in the UK at many delis by the slice or in individual truckles. Grated into a cauliflower cheese or sliced in a cheese sandwich, guaranteed it will be the best you have ever made.

To wrap it all up, I still don’t think there’s an outright decision on whether we should be eating dairy or not. Do what works for you. I do try to limit my dairy consumption, so that means substituting dairy milk for a plant based milk instead, for environmental reasons mainly as methane production is one of the main causes of global warming. Milk is something in the western diet that is consumed at least once a day, particularly for us Brits – we’re all rather partial to a cuppa – very swiftly by switching that up you’ll be eating and drinking much less. Yogurts, cheeses, butter and cream don’t tend to be an everyday thing. Also yogurt and crème fraîche (and some butters if they’re french) are all fermented or cultured. They’re beneficial to our guts and if you’re not a huge fan of other fermented products such as sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi they are a good way of getting those good bacteria into your diet.

Do what’s right for you, your lifestyle and your budget. As long as we’re all ensuring to eat as many vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, mainly plant based, then that cheeseboard and a glass of vino, it’s there to ENJOY!

Until next time

X

Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies

I love the gap in between meals. I love snacks. Particularly cookies for a snack.

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When I was younger I always loved the occasional trips with my mum to a shopping centre, bags gathered in hands with the excitement of new shoes and holiday gear. (Shoes which according to my dad should be saved for my holiday, by which time they were too small as I was the never-ending-child). We always made a detour on the way out by the Millie’s Cookies stand. Anyone also from the UK will have similar fond memories. I’d have a pick of two cookies, guaranteed white chocolate chip and the other a milk chocolate and toffee, my mum’s the oatmeal and raisin, all wrapped in a paper bag to nibble on on the car journey to my Nanan’s to bridge-the-gap before dinner.

Nowadays my cookie preference nods towards a more grown up flavour. Ideally a crispy on the outside and really gooey in the middle, the under baked kind with a good butterscotch caramel tone. Either with oats for a chew and plump raisins, or studded with dark chocolate chips (85% plus), more chocolate than cookie, and some nuts for crunch. Not forgetting that sprinkle of flaky salt. You can’t forget that.

Inevitably, eating cookies everyday isn’t going to do you any wonders. Perhaps your mental health, chocolate is known for its calming effects (I’ll take that as an excuse!!), but they are very high in sugar and fat. Sadly we do need to keep those added sugars down from day to day. On the odd occasion though, there will be no holding back.

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For the every day 4pm slot, THIS recipe has been my recent nibble. Usually I’m a fan of the two-ingredient banana and oat cookie which, as I can’t be that minimalistic, morphs into an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cookie. They’re sweet, gooey and as we always have overripe bananas in the fruit bowl, waste-free too! (BONUS). I found this version, full of add-ins for texture, crunch and goo, on The First Mess blog, her photography always does wonders there’s no surprise that I was drawn in. I am always on the hunt for the perfect specimen of a snacking cookie. Maybe now I’ve found it?!?!

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It wouldn’t be a recipe of mine on this blog without the little tweak here and there, and this cookie is no different. I like my snacks to not be too sweet, wholesome and tasty yes, but sickly no. Initial ideas of subbing the mashed ripe banana for an equal amount of finely grated courgette, great. However the last courgette I had just put in the oven to roast, so it wasn’t going to happen after all. Next best option? Carrot. Naturally sweeter, why didn’t I think of that in the first place!

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Made with finely grated carrots, oats, toasted coconut, roasted chunks of almonds (or pecans), some cinnamon and turmeric and not forgetting the dark chocolate (that’s the important part). Make sure to under bake these, they still will feel really soft from the oven, but bear with me here. Leave them to cool fully on a rack and store in the fridge ready for a week, or two (if you’re lucky), of snacking success. Note they’re vegan, with only a little bit of added maple syrup, I’d reckon they’re good enough for breakfast? Well they were good enough for me!

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Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 70g (1/2 cup) raw almonds or pecans
  • 40g (1/2 cup) coconut flakes
  • 80g (1 cup) rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground psyllium husk (if you can’t get this use ground flaxseeds or linseeds instead)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for topping
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 110g (1/2 cup) finely grated carrot
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) + 2 tsp milk, I used oat milk but water works too
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 90g (1/2 cup) chopped dark chocolate (my favourite is 85%)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
  2. Chop the almonds or pecans into small chunks and put in a tin and roast in the oven for 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile chop the coconut finely and after the 8 mins add the coconut and the oats to the tin and put in the oven for 4 more minutes.
  4. Pour the almonds, oats and coconut into a bowl along with the cinnamon, turmeric, salt and psyllium husk and mix well.
  5. Put the grated carrot, milk, coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a small bowl and whisk together.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry along with the chocolate (but reserve a little and put aside) fold until combined and everything is incorporated.
  7. Line two baking sheets with baking paper, or silicone mats. With an ice cream scoop place mounds of dough on the baking sheets until you have used all the mixture.
  8. Flatten to a pattie shape with damp hands, as they won’t spread in the oven. Squish the reserved chocolate chips into the top of the cookies and sprinkle rather generously with flaky salt.
  9. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, until the edges are golden and firm but the middles are still soft. I found 15 mins was perfect.
  10. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer to a rack until completely cool and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

 

But Seriously? We all know they won’t last that long.

Big hugs and sunshiney love

x

May Memories 

I’m saddened by the news recently. All these traumas and terrible events, that seem to not be a reality as they happen so far away, have been brought close to home.

I always go through life in a bubble, trying to shield myself from the news as I don’t want to accept that these horrors are true. Yet of course they are, and when it happens in your city, you can’t ignore it. I had plans to write my usual monthly musings, but waking up to the news of a terror attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, it’s made me think differently.

Going about our everyday lives as if nothing has happened, that’s not an option. Of course we must be aware, make others aware and send all our love to the families of the people affected. We can all take a moment of quiet to think, but we must not let it stop us from living our lives. You can’t allow things like this to prevent you from travelling and exploring this mad world, or even stepping out of your front door. We were all put on this earth to live our lives to the fullest they can possibly be.

As northerners we will stand strong and together to get through it. We have done in the past so we won’t stop now. I thought I would cease all the food pics and recipes and mindless chatter for this week. Showing you what I had for breakfast isn’t really relevant, not in times of grief. However on second thought, I will carry on. Stopping our lives in our tracks is what the people causing the hurt want. And we can’t allow that.

So, here are a few things which have made a mark on my month. The little things that make me truly grateful for the life I am living, healthy and surrounded by people I love. Please do comment, start a conversation, I’d love to hear from you. Just the little perks that make you smile and glow brighter.

Stay safe out there.

#1 Brazil nuts

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More than a bit obsessed with these. Everyday for the past few weeks I’ve tried to include 3 Brazil nuts, whether it’s part of a snack or breakfast, there they have been. Nuts are great for us, such a good source of fibre, vitamin E (think dewy skin), plant based protein and healthy fats, but Brazil nuts in particular are abundant in selenium. Selenium is a good mineral to fill your boots with, it’s an anti-inflammatory, aids with thyroid function, acts as a mood enhancer, supports your immune system to help wounds heal and you only need 3-4 to get 100% of your daily needs. Not a bad deal right?

 

#2 The Natural Deodorant Co.

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Finding a good natural deodorant. It’s harder than getting your hands on a ripe avocado after the post-work supermarket dash. And don’t even try bothering with a sweet potato past 7pm. If you’re wanting to venture into a healthier lifestyle, it’s not just the food you put into your body that you need to consider. Your skincare and makeup, along with all other toiletries are absorbed into your blood stream just as readily. One of the main issues is deodorants and antiperspirants all of which tend to contain aluminium, a heavy metal which we want to avoid as best we can. Our underarms are one of the most sensitive and absorbent parts of our bodies, so this area is one we need to look after. I’ve tried the salt sticks which you just dampen and rub on. No good. And various other natural deodorants which were also no good. Then I found The Natural Deodorant co, a London based brand which is natural and scented with essential oils. It’s not an antiperspirant, so you will still sweat but it does prevent any smells, even after a sweaty yoga sesh. Available in 3 varieties, clean, gentle and active, within that three different scents so you will find the one for you. It feels a bit odd at first to rub a cream on your pits instead of a quick spritz, but it’s a habit that’s easy to get used to. Order online from their website, at £11 a pot which will last you a good couple of months, its a product that I will keep turning back to.

 

#3 John Masters Organics, shampoo and conditioner

 

Another beauty fave. I’m on a mission to make as much of my toiletry bag as natural as possible, it’s difficult and expensive at times but I have found many lovely brands and products along the way. Visit online shops like Naturisimo and Content Beauty and you will see the array that there is to offer (and even that’s only a very small selection). On the search for a shampoo and conditioner, minus the silicone, SLS and parabens, it wasn’t an easy task. We’re so used to using shampoos that form a good lather due to the SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) and when washed away your hair feels silky soft and smooth as the silicone has coated the strands. You don’t get those feelings when switching to natural shampoos, which is an odd experience to get used to at first.

After hearing good things about John Master’s Organics hair products I got the spearmint and meadowsweet shampoo for Christmas. It’s minty and tingly, a super refreshing shampoo that wakes you up in the morning. Made of natural ingredients and plant extracts and essential oils, it’s gentle enough to use on colour treated hair and there’s different shampoos to suit your hair type. The only downside it is rather pricey, so I only buy it when I’m either severely fed up and need to treat myself or add it to my Christmas and birthday lists. At the moment I’m using the lavender rosemary shampoo and the lavender and avocado intensive conditioner, both deeply relaxing and leave my hair super shiny and smelling pretty good too. 

 

#4 Roast tamari mushrooms

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Mushrooms don’t tend to be one of the vegetables that I buy very often. I absolutely love them so I don’t quite understand my reasoning behind that….something has to change. Did you knooowwww, mushrooms are very high in vitamin D, something which we are severely lacking in here in the UK. Next time they’re on your shopping list, try leaving them on the windowsill for 1-2 hours turned upside down. This supercharges the vitamin D content in the mushrooms by the UV rays in sunshine. Safety specs put aside, mushrooms are pretty tasty things. One of my favourite ways of preparing them at the moment is slicing, tossing with rapeseed oil and tamari (or soy sauce) and roasting them in the oven on around 180C until crispy on the edges. Maybe throw in some chopped garlic and chilli flakes, even better!! Marvellous as a snack akin to jerky, tossed through a salad or used to scoop up some creamy dip.

 

#5 Reformer classes at Frame

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When you think of Pilates what tends to come to mind? Pelvic floor? Lying down on your back for 1 hour? Exercise for after you have given birth? Ok, ok. I get it. Pilates tends to have a bad rap. Along with yoga people believe that as they’re not coming out of the class drenched in sweat, it’s not exercise. Let reformer Pilates change your mind! I’ve gone a few times to reformer Pilates classes at Frame in London. There are 4 venues across the city all which provide such an array of classes. I love how at Frame, they don’t make you feel intimidated when you walk in, it’s not cliquey and you will work your socks off whilst having the best time. After your class you can pick up a post-workout smoothie or a bite to eat, or if you arrive early have a peruse around their shop or flick through a cookbook. So reformer Pilates, all the Pilates exercises that we know of aided with weights and resistance. Your legs will be quaking when you leave I can guarantee. After my class the other day, I couldn’t lift my arms above my head afterwards and the walk home was slightly juddery. Frame offer a membership card where you have to put on at least £50 and then you get a discount off every class you go to (motivation to go to the gym or what?!), or you can pay as you go for whenever you feel the need to get moving.

 

#6 LoveRaw, Cacao and Cardamom drink

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This. This milk is good. Like really really good. Brought to us by the recently relaunched (Manchester!) brand are three plant based milks. Cacao and Cardamom, Cold Brew Caffe Latte and Turmeric Chai Latte. All dairy free and utterly delicious. I’ve only tried – so far I might add – the cacao and cardamom, an almond milk drink sweetened with date syrup and spiced up with some cacao powder and cardamom, drink cold for a sweet pick-me-up, or heat up for a hot chocolate to wind down your day. Thoughts of adding a shot of espresso to the milk, for a take on a mocha, that would be mega. On ice too?? Now you’re teasing !You can grab one from Sainsbury’s and many health food shops across the country. Do add one to your trolley if you spot it, or do as I do and hunt one down.

 

I want to finish this post sending love to all who were affected by the attack in Manchester earlier this week, and share a picture of the most recent addition of street art in the Northern Quarter. The Worker Bee is the symbol of Manchester, representing the hard-working class during the industrial revolution. It can be seen everywhere throughout the city, on the bins, on the Palace Hotel clock face, in the stone work of buildings and now proudly in Stevenson Square.

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XXX

April ‘Appenings

Can you tell I’m struggling to think up a title each time for these monthly posts? I will still need another A for August and just the one was hard enough.

I’ve resorted to improper English. Say it in a Yorkshire accent and I reckon it just about works.

So yes it’s the end of April. Already! Wow that really did fly by. So what’s happened for me this month? Apart from a new haircut, bleached to blonde and dyed back to brown again, that’s about it. Yes that’s the most exciting my life really does get. Not forgetting time spent gathering up the best bits to share with all you lovely readers.

I feel like I’ve neglected the blog recently, I’ve been ferrying around London and and up and down the country on trains, so there hasn’t been much time in my kitchen for some recipe crushing. Well, there has been a few baking attempts, majority of which ended up in the bin, let’s just forget about those. But panic not. I have some things waiting in the pipeline. A new dip recipe – perhaps I should change the blog name to ‘In Homage To Hummus’ it’s becoming a recurring theme – and talking about beans, a little sweet treat for that 4pm afternoon slump. For now, here’s what’s been ‘appening this April.

 

#1 Black patent trench coat, M&S

April showers. The saying has never rang truer. The past four weeks have included weather from all the seasons, sun, warmth, clouds, rain, hail, wind and snow. YEPP you read that right. It makes getting dressed in the morning incredibly difficult. A huge winter puffer coat isn’t really necessary (it’s still not packed away for winter yet…) but a light leather jacket is just too thin, and I don’t care about functionality there is no way I’m wearing a rain coat or pac-a-mac. Ok, it’s trench coat time. I bought this coat last year from M&S, before any mumsy thoughts pop into your mind your mum would have to be pretty sassy to wear this for the school pick up. A black patent trench coat, that squeaks when you move your arms. I just love it. Having been a fan of a classic trench coat for a few years, that beige colour that goes with EVERYTHING, this little black number is here to mix things up a bit.  And no you can never have too many shoes, coats and handbags. I will sit firmly on that mantra.

 

#2 Sunflower Seed Milk

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Have you ever made your own nut milk? If not and you need a little help, see this post, if you’re not a newbie perhaps it’s only almond you’ve attempted. Cashew maybe has been blitzed or you’ve even stretched as far as hazelnut (that in a chocolate milkshake would be utter heaven). I’m a bit obsessed with seeds lately, I’m trying to reduce my consumption of nuts as sometimes it becomes a bit excessive (particular when in the form of nut butter) so I seem to be turning towards their seedy friends for a dose of protein and healthy fats. I’ve been seeing many fellow bloggers making hemp seed milk recently, I reckon it would be lush and creamy, but alas I had ran out of hemp seeds. It’d been a good while since I last had a nut milk DIY sesh as I’m not entirely sure it works out any cheaper, it is a bit of a messy faff, it’s not fortified with vitamins and minerals we’re missing from not eating dairy but ignoring all of that the taste is miles miles better. I soaked some sunflower seeds for around four hours, drained and added 4 times the amount of water, a pinch of salt and blended it all up. A quick strain led to a subtle flavoured milk, lightly sweet which of course was drank up wayyyyy too quickly. Give it a try, pumpkin seed milk will turn out a lovely pastel green and sesame seeds will have that bitter toasty flavour we love so much about tahini. It’s not an everyday thing, but once in a while some proper nut and seed milk is called for.

 

#3 Masterchef

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Masterchef is back, and it doesn’t get tougher than this. Although it seems only moments ago when it was last on telly. I love a good TV competition and the fact that this one also includes food, well it’s a no-brainer. John Torode and Greg Wallace host the UK version of the show, I’m not sure if it’s me but has Greg been coming out with some ludicrous innuendos this time around, a bit much for the BBC I would have thought, and he’s definitely no Nigella. It’s the perfect week night show that you can lie on the sofa and let your mind wander, forget about the stressors of everyday life and get stressed instead at the contestants making yet ANOTHER chocolate fondant that isn’t cooked enough and instead serve a plate of molten goo. Find it on BBC 1 or catch up on iPlayer.

 

#4 The First Mess cookbook

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I’ve been a fan of Laura Wrights’ blog, The First Mess for some time now. A vegan plant-based centric delight to your eyes and your belly, using beautiful produce and no weird meat substitute business. Her cookbook came out earlier this year and with it being published in America and Canada and not here in the UK, I had to wait WEEKS for it to arrive. Oh but the wait was worth it.  I’ve already earmarked a number of recipes, particularly the miso turmeric chickpea scramble, fluffiest multigrain pancakes, sunshine crackers and a whipped chipotle lentil dip, all of which will be made ASAP. The photography is beautiful and everything looks doable with no need for fancy machines like dehydrators and sprouters which are a common feature in most vegan books. Take a look at her blog with the same name, The First Mess and follow her on Instagram @thefirstmess.

 

#5 Asparagus

What? It’s asparagus season? Perhaps my favourite of the vegetable family that I wait around allllllll year for, then fit it into as many meals possible between the months of April and June. Breakfast, lunch and dinner it will be sneaking onto my plate. FUN FACT: ever noticed that your wee smells after eating asparagus? It seems only 40% of us, more likely in women, have this ability to smell the particular whiff, all due to having a certain gene. I’m of the more dominant 60% of the population and don’t understand what all the fuss is about, but if you can smell it or not, it is definitely not going to affect my consumption. Green asparagus is most common here, but in the Mediterranean countries white asparagus tends to be a speciality and if you’re very lucky you might even come across the purple variety. Make sure to use it before we lose it again for another year!

 

For us in the UK it is the time of many bank holidays, the very beginning and very end of the month, time to spend picnicking, playing in parks, cooking up feasts and an extra day to relax (or party hard and spend the day in bed recovering). However you wish to spend yours, enjoy it fully with all of your heart doing what truly nourishes your soul.

Until then.

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The new nut milk

Here’s a little quickie, more of a method than an actual recipe. The recent rise of people going dairy free or cutting down on dairy consumption with a switch to plantbased milks has grown exponentially. I personally have no issue with dairy, and wouldn’t cut it out of my diet as #1 I have done it before and it was pure evil, #2 I love yogurt and cheese too much. Like way way too much!

Also what’s wrong with cows milk, why is it being picked on so much recently by the media and certain health food bloggers and famous instagrammers? Are you avoiding it because someone else said you should or because you want to eat a ‘cleaner’ diet avoiding dairy, gluten, sugar and processed foods. Well perhaps take a peek at the ingredients list on your favourite almond milk brand, those ingredients sound very natural to you? Take a look at the side of a cows milk carton and whats on there, only one ingredient. Milk. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Now I’m not shunning plantbased milks, as I always have them in my fridge, nor am I shunning cows milk as even though its not my milk of choice I would anyday rather eat a cows milk yogurt over coconut or soya and a good chunk of cheddar cheese always hits the spot. I’m trying my best recently not to forbid anything in my diet because that just leaves guilt around certain products, if I fancy cheese, have some. Of course that small chunk isn’t going to make you fat, infact it is full of calcium and protein and satisfies that need so you’re not going to go crazy over the deprivation.

I feel that varying your diet up as much as possible is the best way to go, perhaps don’t start drinking plantbased milks for the so called benefits, do it because they can actually taste pretty good. Find the right brand and you’re onto a winner. If its a nut milk, one with a higher percentage of nuts is obviously the one to go for, otherwise it will be mainly water and possibly a bit of sugar completely lacking in any nutty flavour. Obviously it depends on your price bracket, I always like Rude Health and Plenish  as they taste plain lovely, but if you’re after something not extortionate in price or what you can just pick up in your Tesco Express then opt for Alpro unsweetened and Oatly is a good oat milk option. For the cheapest of the bunch if you’re not vegan or intolerant of course go for cows milk, I always like organic and full fat. We have so many options nowadays so chopping and changing between milks leaves our palates interested and not stuck in a monotonous rut!

For those of you fancying a bit of DIY? Maybe, if you are into your nut milks, and balk at the price of the good ones (when we’re talking £4 for a carton, that’s going a bit ridiculous), you can try making your own. Much easier than you might first think. All it requires is some nuts or seeds, water, a blender and a nut milk bag (failing that a clean tea towel).

It sounds quite the hassle, but there’s not much hands on time, and its quite fun to have a go for yourself. Even if you only do it the one time it’s worth a shot. Possibly some people do make their own nut milks on the regular however most people simply don’t have time for that. In that case do buy one from the supermarket, but this stuff tastes completely different to what you are used to, and it’s easy to get hooked!! Super creamy, so much more than supermarket brands, you can sweeten as you desire, use nuts or seeds that you would never discover on a shelf (toasted pecan cinnamon milk anyone?) and the process is so simple that it will give you a chance to get creative.

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Feel free to mix up the nuts, walnuts are lovely, or for a green hue to your milk try pistachios, sesame seeds have a lovely flavour and hazelnuts too. Perhaps try toasting your nuts or seeds prior to soaking for a deeper nutty aroma, or add other flavourings such as cinnamon, cardamom, cacao powder or blended fruits.

As the nuts have been soaked, real nut milk doesn’t keep as long as store bought. My carton in the fridge of a shop bought milk has kept for weeks with no hint of a sour, off flavour, whereas you may notice after 5 or so days the milk goes slightly sour. Not so great! So drink that up quick, it won’t be an issue as you will be drinking it at every opportunity you can find.

 

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Somebody’s been peeling beetroots!

 

When it comes to quantities I usually opt for 1 cup of nuts or seeds to 3-4 cups of water, depending on how thick or thin you like it. If the nuts are quite expensive you can use more water for a thinner milk but you get much more so it lasts longer. Try pouring on your porridge for some creaminess, splashed liberally over your muesli or granola, dunk warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, or just drink it chilled and straight up from the glass. If you like a higher protein content, you can leave the nuts in and miss out the straining step, that way it will be even richer and creamier. Whatever you choose to do, make sure to give that baby a good shake before using, as there’s no stabilisers or emulsifiers it will separate.

 

Almond and sesame milk

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw sesame seeds

 

Method

  1. Place the almonds and sesame seeds in a bowl and cover with water and a pinch of salt, put a plate on top and leave to soak overnight or for around 8 hours
  2. After the soaking period, drain the nuts and seeds and rinse well under water. Add to a blender and pour on top 3 cups of fresh water (not the soaking water).
  3. Blend well until it forms a creamy milky coloured liquid and there are no large chunks of almonds left. If you don’t have a stand blender add the nuts, seeds and water to a large bowl and blend with a stick blender, this may take a little while longer.
  4. Pour through a nut milk bag into a large jug or bowl and squeeze until all the liquid has passed through. You will be left with a damp flour left in the bag.
  5. Put the milk into a few screw lidded jars or a clip top bottle for up to 5 days in the fridge.
  6. Try to use up the nut pulp, put a heaped spoon in your smoothies, use it in bakes such as muffin recipes or macaroons, dry it in a low oven to make into almond flour or add to hummus and there’s even recipes to make nut cheese. Go wild.

 

I hope you will give homemade nut milk a chance to see how delicious it really can be, but don’t forget about our first friend cows milk he’s a fantastic breakfast fellow too. Whichever milk you choose, splash and pour with vigour, enjoy the gentle sweet creaminess and remember if you like it, that’s all that matters!!

Which variety of milk is your go to? And have you ever made your own nut milk before, let me know your ideas and tried and tested favourites in the comments below.

Much love and slurping!

X

 

A pot of liquid gold

Hands up who likes nut butter.

Hello my fellow friends.

Hands up who spends a fortune on nut butters, seemingly weekly because you can’t just have the one variety in your cupboard and a teaspoon always is a permanent feature propped up in the jar.

Still there?

I was wandering round planet organic the other day killing some time and obviously ended up facing a row upon row of nuts and seeds in jars, swiftly followed by tea the other lover in my life (I seriously need to find myself a boyfriend). The varieties are endless, every nut or seed is on offer, some chocolatey –  a riff on Nutella – others spiced up, some raw, some roasted, the list goes on and on and on. People are becoming more innovative in their flavour creations, no longer sticking to just sea salt, trying to cater for their audience of evolving tastebuds. Beautiful packaging sure is a feast for the eyes, but turn your gaze to the price tag…  just walk away, swiftly.

However much I love a little splurge on new products to test out and try, when prices are rattling up to £12 for a piddly little jar, that’s one indulgence too far. So I tend to use my aisle perusing as a source of inspiration. Gather my thoughts and *mind journal* new tastes and flavours to have a play around with come the weekend.

One jar I’ve always been tempted by, but gawk at the price tag for, the royalty that is the macadamia butter. We’ve all picked up a packet in the supermarket, wondering why on earth they cost so much, a pack of almonds or cashews are so cheap in comparison, so I’m sure that they are quite often overlooked.

When living a more plantbased lifestyle it’s necessary to get enough protein and fibre throughout your day, usually in the form of nuts, legumes and grains. The majority of these are grown abroad in sunnier climes as the UK just isn’t suitable. I’m sure you all know about the recent concerns in places like California who grow almonds in abundance but due to recent droughts and the sudden clean eating craze they’re struggling to keep up with demand. They’re not the only country. Of course we can’t be self efficient by just relying on our own local produce, we have such worldwide varied tastes now that meat and two veg just won’t cut it. I feel by varying the type of nuts and grains you buy, is one way of helping and not putting as much pressure on the countries already struggling. Instead of almonds and quinoa next time try pecans and millet, or walnuts and amaranth, pumpkin seeds and spelt. There are so many options available for us now we should all be making the most of it.

So back to the macadamias, perhaps another reason why we aren’t stocking up on them is the queries of how high in fat they are. We still believe that fat is bad, low fat= good. Friends and family still comment saying, ‘no I don’t eat nuts they’re really high in fat’, ‘avocados they will make me fat’ and ‘I only drink skimmed milk because the fat is bad for me’. When introduced into a balanced diet, all these plantbased fats are incredible for our skin and health, we just need to keep in mind ‘in moderation’. Fats keep you satiated and tell that part in your brain that that food was good. Its so important too if you’re eating lots of vegetables, these fats unlock all the fat soluble vitamins and minerals, so you can reap all the benefits.

So let me break this down for you. Macadamias are high in monounsaturated fats (the GOOD ONES) found in abundance in avocados, olives, olive oil, nuts and whole milk. Research has proven that eating plenty of these fats helps to reduce cholesterol, prevent heart disease, and diabetes. As with all nuts, macadamias are high in fibre, both the soluble and insoluble kind, meaning happy digestion!! They also contain a whole host of valuable vitamins and minerals, manganese, thiamine, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and vitamin B6, all which help the body to thrive.

That’s one good nut.

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Golden and toasted after a few minutes in the oven

 

Macadamia butter works well in both sweet and savoury food, it is also a great substitute for butter. Now I’m not sinning butter, it’s golden lusciousness never fails to make me happy when slicked on toast, but sometimes we need to change things up a bit. And I know there are some of you out there that don’t like butter (it’s a mystery to me) but this will sit nicely on your toast, swirled into your porridge or mixed with ginger, lime and soy to make a creamy Asian salad dressing.

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Sit the little pot of nut butter in the fridge where it will keep for a while, probably a few months, but seriously will it last that long? I highly doubt it, you will be finding every opportunity you can to crack open the jar. The other day I paired it with mango and date syrup on top of pancakes, we may be in the middle of winter here in the UK but for those few moments I was transported to a tropical paradise. I do like to keep as seasonal as possible with my produce but sometimes we just need that little bit of sunshine in our mornings.

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Almost there… this is the stage where it forms a big clump and you think the nut butter will never go thin and silky. Just hang on, macadamia butter is only moments away.

 

Macadamia butter

Ingredients

  • 1 packet macadamia nuts
  • Pinch of sea salt

Method

  1. Set the oven to 180C. Open the packet of macadamias and tip them all out onto a tray or in a roasting dish so they sit in a flat layer.
  2. Put in the oven, until they smell toasty and they have tinged brown on the edges. Don’t let them burn.
  3. Once out of the oven, put the nuts in a food processor and set to a high speed. Leave the food processor on until a smooth creamy paste has formed. It doesn’t take very long with macadamias due to the high fat content, but scrape the sides down as necessary.
  4. Add a big pinch of nice sea salt, and whizz for a few minutes more.
  5. Transfer into a clean jar and store in the fridge.

 

How do you use your nut butters? Are they just for breakfast and eating with a spoon or do you use them in savoury dishes too. Think satay, creamy salad dressings, dipping sauces, a substitute for tahini in hummus. Please do comment with your thoughts and ideas, I’d love some new inspiration as always!

Happy blending, you nutty lot!

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