Carrot and Apple Breakfast Muffins [VEGAN, SUGAR FREE)

Carrot and Apple Breakfast Muffins [VEGAN, SUGAR FREE]

Carrot and Apple Breakfast Muffins [VEGAN, SUGAR FREE]

The other half is admirably continuing to eschew processed sugar in the run-up to Easter. I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen, trying to come up with something he can take into work to stave off temptation when his colleagues raid the biscuit box. The current favourite is this carrot and apple muffin recipe. After eyeing them with the mother of all dubious expressions, my previously sugar-besotted partner finally tried one and decided “they’re not very sweet, but I actually really like them.”

Will he continue to avoid sugar after Lent, I wonder? Possibly not, though I’ll continue experimenting if he does. But these little fruit and veg-filled powerhouses will still work well for breakfasts on-the-go or a mid-morning snack with a brew, any time of the year.

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Slow Cooker Apple Sauce [VEGAN, SUGAR FREE]

Slow Cooker Apple Sauce [VEGAN]

Slow Cooker Apple Sauce [VEGAN]

I love my slow cooker.

It’s the one kitchen gadget I truly wouldn’t be without – and that’s coming from a family who chose not to replace their expired microwave when it gave up the ghost! It’s pretty well-loved these days, especially since it was second-hand when we were given it – but it’s been a reliable bastion of easy dinners when long work days, a newborn baby and a whole host of other hurdles to healthy eating have reared their heads.

It’s such a relief some days to be able to prepare food quickly in the morning while everyone’s eating breakfast and then come back later to a magically-ready, steaming bowl of soup, bolognaise or stew. And no, sadly I am not one of the dedicated cooks who saute their veg before adding to the slow-cooker.  Yes, it may add to the flavour, which is all to the good. But if I have to faff around frying off an onion, I might as well carry on with the rest of the meal. The idea here is simplicity. Chop it up, chuck it in, get on with the day, dollop on a plate.

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Three-Ingredient Dark Chocolate and Almond Mousse [VEGAN]

Aquafaba Dark Chocolate and Almond Mousse

Aquafaba Dark Chocolate and Almond Mousse

Impossibly light and airy, this is not the mousse to which I’ve become accustomed as a vegan. Wonderful as the heavy chocolate desserts based on coconut cream or avocado can be, it’s such a novelty to have a mousse that resembles those made with egg-whites. Not to mention it uses only three ingredients, one of which you were probably going to pour down the drain anyway.

The secret: aquafaba. It sounds so much more palatable than ‘bean water’, right? A little application of Latin always makes things better!

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Raspberry and Coconut Sponge Cake [VEGAN]

Raspberry and Coconut Sponge Cake [VEGAN]

Raspberry and Coconut Sponge Cake [VEGAN]

There’s something deeply comforting about a good wodge of sponge cake. And they’re so satisfying to make as well.

Whipped up in a flash, this raspberry and coconut sponge is an easy “bung it in a bowl and mix with whatever implement comes to hand” option for lazy weekends when you don’t want to spend forever baking but just fancy a slice of something with your afternoon cup of tea.

The basic sponge mix is a fairly flexible “Victoria Sponge” alternative based on one from Ms Cupcake’s fantastic cookbook The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town (buy it – you won’t regret it) with the oil and vanilla slightly reduced and the addition of tart frozen raspberries and dessicated coconut to flavour.

Vegetable oil and soya milk replace the dairy and eggs without leaving the final cake dense, dry or stodgy as vegan cakes can often be – the crumb is light and fluffy enough to pass for a standard sponge and easily passed the ‘omnivore test’ when we shared with friends.

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Chocolate and Beetroot Tart [VEGAN]

Chocolate and Beetroot Tart

Chocolate and Beetroot Tart

I’ve always adored beetroot. Whether pickled in vinegar and added to salads or roasted with herbs and carrots – it has a beautiful, wholesome flavour and packs a punch with its vivid purple hue. Recently however, I’ve had a hankering to add it to a dessert (my favourite cakes often feature a hidden vegetable, usually carrot, pumpkin or parsnip, so beetroot was only a matter of time).

So with the in-laws due for dinner it seemed like the perfect opportunity for this beetroot and chocolate tart. Sadly, we’ve now all come down with lurgy and dinner has had to be cancelled… the only upshot being that I have been forced to self-medicate with a plate of dense, chocolate-laden pie. Come to think of it, I still feel quite unwell. Perhaps another slice is in order?

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FREE Cookery Conversion Printables

Free Cookery Conversion Printables

Let me say it straight: I love maths. I have great respect for number-wranglers.

Maths, however, does not love me. Despite my best efforts, something about the subject eludes my grasp and I’m probably better leaving well alone.

And what exactly does that have to do with cookery? Well, if you’re baking meringues there’s a big difference between a gentle drying out at 220 degrees Fahrenheit and a terrifying incineration if you opt for Celcius instead. All too often I have to pause, mid recipe, to parse out the correct temperature or swap from pounds into grams.

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Homemade Play Dough (with beetroot and turmeric!)

Homemade Play Dough with Beetroot and Turmeric Colouring

Homemade Play Dough with Beetroot and Turmeric Colouring

It’s been bitterly cold today, so the littlest chickpea and I abandoned our original plans and looked indoors for activities. Mounds of laundry folded later – not to mention the construction of an epically complex train track – and he was bored.

Cartoons wouldn’t cut it and he didn’t fancy baking, so we went to the cupboard for our trusty Play Doh. The little one loves to make a mess with the dough – squashing it, stamping it, cutting it out with cookie-cutters. It’s creative play and I’m more than happy for him to get his hands dirty. Unfortunately, the creative aspect of melding the different colours together (while clearly fun and educational) leads to a less than perfect results when it comes to clean-up. Somewhat predictably, the blues, reds and greens had merged into an unhealthy-looking conglomeration which Mr 3-year-old declared unsatisfactory and refused to play with.

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Spinach Pesto Cubes [VEGAN]

Spinach Pesto Cubes

Spinach Pesto Cubes

Despite careful menu planning, we always seem to have something lurking in the back of the fridge which is just about at the end of its life. On this occasion, half a bag of spinach was watching me woefully from behind the tomatoes every time I went to make a cup of tea. A little wilted but still edible, it had no place in the rest of our meals for the week – but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away perfectly good greens.

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Olive, Garlic and Tomato Soda Bread [VEGAN]

Olive, Garlic and Tomato Soda Bread

Olive, Garlic and Tomato Soda Bread

Here’s a secret: I’m a restless soul and haven’t the patience for bread-making. Our airing cupboard is for drying the laundry, not proofing a loaf – and I suspect I’d come back to find the dough littered with child-sized fingerprints and full of lego pieces if I tried.

Soda bread, however, is right up my street. No labourious kneading (just a quick once-over to knock it into shape) and no tapping of feet while waiting for the dough to rise.  Fresh-baked bread with a minimum of preparation? Yes, please.

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Parsnip, Pear and Almond Soup [VEGAN]

Parsnip Pear and Almond Soup

Parsnip, Pear and Almond Soup

This soup was an experiment in recreating a meal we ate in a wonderful vegetarian cafe in Manchester. I remembered the parsnip and pear soup so fondly that I’ve been meaning to try it for a few weeks, and some parsnips left over from last weekend’s roast gave the perfect opportunity.

There’s probably a golden ratio when it comes to soup making, but as a home cook I often abide by the “chuck it all in a big pot and blend” school. It generally works out with some degree of success. Lately though, I’ve been forcing myself to combine flavours more intentionally in my soups – so they are less about using up the veg languishing at the back of the fridge and more of a meal in their own right. While “mystery vegetable soup” will almost certainly remain on rotation out of necessity, this dish confirms why deliberate combinations are so much more rewarding.

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