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Vegan ‘Nutella’ Truffles

These little bad boys have received critical acclaim.

Well, my husband declared them to be ‘amazing balls’ and my friend Jacqui can’t stop raving about them so that’s kind of the same thing.

And actually they’ve come along at exactly the right time of year. With Halloween and Christmas both fast approaching we are constantly bombarded by ads for sweet treats, the shops are chocca with choccy and waistlines across the lands are feeling the pressure.

I can’t tell a lie; these indulgent treats are not low fat. They are however, packed full of nutrients which will keep your energy levels high enough to endure the coming festivities! They’re also pretty rich so should help you feel satisfied without overdoing it.

The ‘Nutella’ flavour comes from hazelnuts and cocoa powder and those are the exact ingredients I’ve used here.

You’ll need:

Half a cup ground walnuts

Half a cup ground hazelnuts

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

1 tablespoon ground wheat germ

1 cup dried dates

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

3 -4 tablespoons hazelnut milk

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Dessicated coconut for rolling

In a bowl mix the nuts, wheat germ, seeds and cocoa powder. Spoon the mix into your food processor and pulse with the dates, milk and syrup. If the mixture is too wet add some more ground nuts or wheat germ, too dry and you can add a little more milk. You want it to be moist enough to roll easily into little balls. Take the balls and coat them in coconut and then leave them in the fridge for an hour or two to set.

Now for the really fun part. Mix it up! There are a whole host of other ingredients and flavour combinations you could try.

How about chocolate orange, mint choc chip or rum and raisin? Or even just plain old vanilla?

Bon appetit!

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Lentil and red pepper hummus.

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Initially I was unsure about whether to post this recipe. After all, I don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype of a vegan who eats nothing but hummus and lentils,never mind combining these two vegan staples. Next I’ll be posting nothing but tofu and salads!

Yes, the poor old lentil gets short shrift sometimes from vegans as we strive to prove that there’s so much more to a vegan diet than lentil loaf. No more though. I am happy to declare from the rooftops my love of the humble lentil. Versatile, nutritious and ever so handy for those days when the cupboards are pretty bare you can’t be bothered going to the supermarket, they are veritable shape shifters. Yesterday  they made a delightful daal, tomorrow they might disguise themselves in burger form, introduce them to some spinach and passata and you have the makings of a rather gorgeous vegan lasagne…

Today though, my little lentil friends are feeling all Middle Eastern.

 

So, here we go. Get your blender out and chuck in the following ingredients:

1 cup of cooked red lentils

1 tablespoon tahini

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 chopped, raw red pepper (you could try a marinated, roasted pepper instead if you like)

My blender is not that great so I have to add a little water to get the ball rolling.

So that’s the hummus base taken care of but it still lacks a little sparkle. Add the following ingredients gradually to work out your own preference. If you like the tart freshness of lemon juice, try adding a tablespoon. If that’s too much for you, tone it down a little.

lemon juice

salt and pepper

garlic granules (you could of course use fresh garlic cloves but I find this is too ‘spicy’ for the kids’ taste, granules over a more subtle flavour. Next time I will experiment with roasted garlic)

smoked paprika

Give it all another whizz in the blender, decant into a bowl, sprinkle with smoked paprika and garnish with fresh parsley.

 

You could serve this traditionally with pita bread or use it as a sandwich filling but I found that my boys quite liked it as a pasta sauce. Simply add a dash of olive oil to thin it out a little and stir it through some cooked pasta. For extra nutrients and flavour, add some sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and more fresh parsley.

No bake chocolate brownies.

No bake chocolate brownies...and a very large knife.

 

Anyone who has tried some of my cake recipes in the past will have twigged that being vegan doesn’t automatically equal good health.

My personal battle is a reliance on refined flour and sugar – I’m a borderline addict!

Cue a health kick.

Still, just because I’m being all healthy doesn’t mean I want to forgo the odd treat.

Thanks to my friend and master baker Jess Crisp (check out her amazing cupcakes here), I don’t have to. She has kindly allowed me to reproduce her recipe for raw chocolate brownies.

You will need:

1 cup of mixed nuts (I used cashews, walnuts, brazils and almonds)

1 cup of dried fruit (I used mainly sultanas with some apricots and dates thrown in for good measure)

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon agave syrup

1-2 tablespoons almond milk

In your food processor pulse the nuts until they are nice and crumbly then add the cocoa powder and pulse again to ensure the nut mixture is well coated. Add the fruit and pulse once more. Turn the mixture out into a bowl and stir in the agave and almond milk until you have a stodgy texture.

Press the mixture into a container and pop in the freezer to cool.

Palm oil: is it vegan?

Palm oil is the hot topic in vegan circles at the moment.

Why might it not be vegan?

Technically it is a vegan ingredient and it is a prominent feature in so many vegan products, from margarine to dairy free ice cream. It is entirely plant based.

However, any ethical vegan will tell you that the whole goal of veganism is to avoid animal exploitation and abuse. And I don’t think anyone could argue that palm oil is innocent when it comes to those charges.

Palm oil production is responsible for deforestation on a massive scale. In Borneo and Sumatra, Orang-utans are losing their habitat at an alarming rate. With nowhere left to go, they are forced into local villages to find food for their children. Mothers are killed, tortured, burnt alive and even used for prostitution (yes, really). Their babies are prized away from their still warm bodies become victims of the exotic animal trade. It is predicted that within 10 years these ‘men of the forest’, these animals who are so like us, who share around 97% of our DNA, will be extinct.

Surely no ethical vegan could be ok with this? Surely no person with an ounce of compassion in their body could be ok with this?

It’s everywhere!

Often labelled simply as vegetable oil, it’s hard to know when you might be buying palm oil.

So what is the answer?

A boycott of products containing palm oil (yes, even those marked vegan) is one option. I’m in two minds over how useful this will actually prove; vegans are such a small minority, those who care about palm oil even more so.

By all means boycott these products. I’m heading that way – trying to gradually reduce the palm oil we eat as a family. Fussy kids and a tight budget make it harder than it might be if I was living alone and catering only for me.

A far more useful activity, I believe, is to take a few minutes out of your day and email or write to companies who use palm oil in their vegan products. Highlight your concern and ask them to reconsider their use of this highly unethical ingredient.

UK high street store Lush have already stopped using palm oil in their products so it can be done.

It’s time for some armchair activism!

‘Sexy’ cake!

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I’ve heard many adjectives used to describe my baking efforts: ‘delicious’, ‘moist’, ‘scrumptious’, ‘disastrous’…but ‘sexy’ wasn’t a word I would have expected to hear in reference to a cupcake. Yet this is how my raspberry and chocolate chip cupcakes were described last weekend by my friend from the great Glasgow band The Meatmen. (Let’s take a moment to appreciate the irony of one of my favourite bands being called The Meatmen. Don’t let the name put you off, fellow vegans, they’re awesome. Check them out here: http://www.myspace.com/themeatmenglasgow)

So, on with the show.

For the cake:

1/2 cup vegan margarine/non dairy butter

1 cup sugar

3 cups self-raising flour

1 tablespoon apple sauce

1 cup non dairy milk (I used soya)

100g chocolate chips

Small pack raspberries

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the icing:

1 cup (approx) non dairy butter

Icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 180c and grease a cake tin or line a cupcake tray.

Melt the butter and mix with the sugar. In a large bowl mix the flour, apple sauce, milk, vanilla extract, chocolate chips and raspberries (you can add the rasps whole or break them up a bit – I did the latter). Add the butter and sugar mixture and stir until combined but take it easy with the mix and don’t over-stir.

Pour into your cupcake cases or cake tin. If you’re making a large cake, bake it for about 45 minutes, cupcakes should be ready in about 15 – 20 minutes depending on your oven.

In a separate bowl cream the butter and vanilla extract and add icing sugar gradually until you end up with a thick butter cream. Spread or pipe the icing onto your cake(s) and decorate with fresh raspberries or chocolate chips (or both!).

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Now it’s your turn…

I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing me babbling on so I thought it would be refreshing to hear from some other vegans. First victim/interviewee is an inspiring young vegan, Emily Bennett. Like me she is relatively new to veganism but extremely passionate about it, taking part in demonstrations and grasping any opportunity to share her vegan enthusiasm – to good effect. Thanks to Emily, several people, including her own mum have now adopted a vegan lifestyle. So let’s find out more about her:

1. How long have you been vegan?

8 months (since early April 2011)

2. What made you decide to become vegan?

I made the decision to go vegan 8 months ago and I can honestly say that it’s one of the best decisions that I have ever made. There are so many good reasons for going vegan but my main reason was for the animals. Having been vegetarian beforehand, I read up on the dairy and egg industries and was outraged to find that as much suffering to animals exists there as it does within the meat industry. I came to the realisation that if I’m truly a person who does not believe in cruelty to animals then I just shouldn’t fund it, on any level. With so many vegan alternatives to all kinds of products (from chocolate to ice-cream, cheese, milk and even cream), I’ve found the transition from vegetarian to vegan quite straight forward. Shopping for new foods that are free from animal ingredients has proved exciting and I’m enjoying experimenting with new dishes and adapting old ones. I’ve even shared my new-found knowledge with my mum who has embraced the vegan lifestyle with me! As vegans, we have never felt healthier or happier. But the best part, for me, is knowing that animals have not been harmed in order for me to eat and drink. Going vegan is the single most important thing that you can do for the lives of animals (not to mention your own health!). I would urge anyone to give it a try; you’d be surprised by how easy and rewarding it is.

3. Was it a gradual transition or an overnight decision?

Overnight. I pledged to be vegan for 30 days and gave myself a start date of the 2nd April 2011. I had it in mind to be as strict as possible for my 30 days and to monitor the effect of how I felt. At the end of my 30 days I found that I had enjoyed my vegan journey so much that I just wanted to carry on. I did not have strong enough reasons to go back to being vegetarian so I decided to keep up being vegan. 8 months in, I’m still going and I feel very happy.

4. Did you encounter resistance to your decision and if so, how did you overcome it?

At first my partner was not happy about my decision to go vegan as he felt that it would make things very hard for us when eating out. This proved not to be the case however and I love all the veggie/vegan friendly restaurants that I have visited so far! In my experience, most people’s resistance to veganism stems from knowing very little about it. Veganism means making conscious decisions that aim to minimise suffering to others (both animal and human) as much as possible. Sometimes people may have the perception that choosing vegan living is odd and that’s because sadly in our society (ab)using animals is the norm. Vegans can be accused of being extreme but if you look at what’s happening in the meat/dairy/egg industries, then that’s what is actually extreme. Factory farming is extreme and it’s seriously damaging the Earth. Veganism is about living a life that seeks to exclude suffering; what could be so extreme, or odd, about that?

5. How would you define your veganism?

This is a really great question. For me being vegan has become a part of who I am. I feel much more connected to animals now that I no longer use them. I feel at peace knowing that animals don’t suffer for me. I empathise and sympathise more. I feel I have a new outlook on life now that I have learnt what it fully means to respect and love all sentient beings: animals have evolved with us, not for us. Veganism gives me a foundation and grounds the most basic of morals (like responsibility and compassion) into my everyday living.

6. How has it changed your life – negative and positive?

The only negative that I can think of is that sometimes I feel overwhelmed by having a more realistic understanding of how badly animals suffer at human hands and on the staggering scale that this exists. I am now aware of so many issues that had never crossed my mind, and some days I feel down when I think of the millions of animals living in battery cages, in slaughterhouses and on dairy farms worldwide. On the positive side, I feel relieved that despite the horrors which persist I can say that I no longer contribute to their misery as I choose food, clothing and toiletries that do not come from cruelty.

Veganism has changed my life in countless positive ways. As before, I feel more connected to animals and I have a stronger ability to empathise with others. I also feel more at peace with myself knowing that I am not making animals suffer in order for me to live. I have met so many wonderful friends since going vegan and this has been a major positive – meeting like-minded people and knowing that others share my passion for helping animals and minimising harm. On the health side of things, I feel more energetic within myself because I eat more healthily. I have glowing skin and I sleep better. Lots of positives!

7. What are your top tips for anyone considering veganism?

Understand what being vegan means and understand your own reasons for wanting to explore it. Make changes little and often, for example by choosing a plant-based milk (e.g., rice milk or soya milk) the next time you shop instead of buying dairy milk. Take your time to check out the vegan options that your local supermarkets and health food stores have to offer by reading packaging carefully and making cruelty-free purchases as much as possible. Focus on what you can have, not what you can’t have, and stock up on plenty of natural, fresh food like fruits, vegetables and nuts. Countless vegan alternatives exist for literally any non-vegan item that you can think of, so feel free to rely on good alternatives like veggie sausages and dairy-free chocolate. Online shopping is also wonderful – Goodness Direct is a treasure trove for all kinds of vegan products and you can even search to see vegan items only (http://www.goodnessdirect.co.uk/cgi-local/frameset/diet/V-Vegan.html). Enjoy making new dishes and adapt old ones. Share your veganism with others. Rejoice in knowing that you are choosing a lifestyle that seeks to cause as little suffering as possible whilst reaping the benefits of improved health!

Top websites to explore:

http://www.chooseveganism.org/index.php

http://evolvecampaigns.org.uk/evolve/default.aspx

http://www.govegan.org.uk/

Thanks Emily!

Date and Sultana Cake

Fellow vegan Jenny Hynd posted a variation of this recipe recently on a forum, having adapted it from a non vegan recipe from her mum. The original vegan version has 1 cup of sultanas and I’d like to say that it was a strategic decision to sub the dates but the truth is I just ran out of raisins and had to search the cupboards for a replacement! I have to say though that it worked rather well and of course dates are extremely nutritious – I’m having a bit of a love affair with dates right now so I’m happy for any excuse to use them and to get the kids eating them too!

2cups self raising flour

1 cup caster sugar

4oz vegan margarine

1/2 cup sultanas

1/2 cup chopped dates

1tbls apple sauce

Preheat your oven to 180

Melt the margarine and sugar in a pot but be careful not to let it boil. Add all the other ingredients, folding together rather than mixing. The original recipe calls for grease proof paper to line your baking tin but I had also run out of that (not doing so well today am I?!) but my non-stick loaf tin handled the job nicely and after 40 minutes in the oven, the cake slid right out of the tin. We each had a slice after lunch while it was still warm and it was AMAZING!!

I think next time I may try a variation with some chopped fresh apple and some cinnamon added. Because you can never have too much cake…

Thanks to Jenny for allowing me to share the recipe with you lovely folks.