Dark Chocolate & Apricot Spelt Muffins

Happy Monday!

And what better way to start off the working week than with a muffin recipe?

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We were visiting my parents this weekend so I thought I’d take advantage of the extra Theo-watchers and become reacquainted with my baking past.  Plus it was a friends birthday BBQ on the Saturday night so I just had to bake something.

Since I hadn’t baked for a little while I thought I’d bake muffins- these are my foolproof baked goods.  I made a batch of double chocolate muffins for the BBQ.  Then decided to experiment, which is when this recipe was born.  I love happy mistakes.  Whilst I love the double chocolate muffins, I wanted to make a healthier muffin and one that would work for breakfast.  Also, the new gold standard I apply when I’m creating any recipe is “Am I happy to give this to Theo?”.  Some may think I’m a bit strict when it comes to what Theo eats, but I try to give him as healthy a diet as possible, with minimal processed foods, salt and sugar.  He also eats a vegetarian diet, and I try to make sure he doesn’t have too much wheat.  Thus, I decided to make a wheat-free, sugar-free, vegan muffin that I would happily share with Theo.  The addition of oats is more of a psychological bonus rather than a taste or texture thing; in my mind the muffins seem more breakfast-y because of the oats; anyone else have these strange food notions?

These don’t take long to make at all.  Time is of the essence, after all.  I usually end up squeezing blogging, baking and other tasks into the small windows of time when Theo is either asleep or happily playing on his own.  Thus, there is very little time!  Theo’s going through another sleep regression (why didn’t anyone warn me about these before Theo was born???) so we’re all sleep-deprived.

Dark Chocolate & Apricot Spelt Muffins

Vegan, nut-free, wheat-free, sugar-free and wholegrain.  These can also be made soy-free by subbing the milk and yogurt.

Makes 10.

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Ingredients

1 1/2 cups wholegrain spelt flour
1/4 cup oats
2 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 cup organic, unsweetened soy milk (or your preferred non-dairy, unsweetened variety)
1/2 cup rapeseed oil (or your preferred baking oil)
2 tbsps vanilla or plain soy yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 dark chocolate chips

Method

Preheat oven to 180C, and line 10 out of a 12-muffin tin with liners.

Sift together dry ingredients (down to salt) in a large bowl, stir to combine.

Whisk the wet ingredients together in a large jug.  Add to the dry ingredients and stir to combine; careful not to over do it.  You just want to make the dry ingredients wet.

Stir in the dried apricots and chocolate chips and transfer back to the jug.  Pour mixture into the muffin cases and bake for 18 mins/until knife inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Enjoy!

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Green Rocket Cafe, Bath

Sorry a whole week has passed since I last posted.  Things got a bit busy and exhausting.  Not much new otherwise.  Food budgeting is going well and we’ve stuck to our (relatively) newly negotiated food budget for 4 weeks in a row.  High-five!  The bank balance is, without a doubt, happier for it.

Last weekend was one of my closest friend’s hen weekend.  I’d been a bit nervous about it leading up to it.  I think this was mostly because of pregnancy hormones, I was anxious about leaving Theo overnight, and I wasn’t sure how being surrounded by drunk people would be when sober and pregnant.  Luckily, 2 of my other closes friends organised it and did an amazing job.  I failed to take photos of most of it; however, the one part of the weekend that I did remember to was the Saturday evening.  Our dinner at Green Rocket Cafe, Bath.  Guys, this place is so good!  The hen is veggie thus we ate out at a veggie restaurant (score!).  I love it when you have loads of choice on a menu without having to request a single alteration to a dish.  So many vegan options.

Since everyone these days fancies themselves as a restaurant critic I thought I’d share my review of the place.

For starters I chose the Courgette ‘Spaghetti’ with raw salsa romesco.  I’m generally not a fan of courgettes but have always loved it raw, spaghetti-style.  I was defo getting salsa vibes from the sauce as it had the right amount of chilli to compliment the dish and bring out the other flavours.

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Since I love asian food I went for the Indonesian Tempeh for my main.  Rice croquettes with wilted spinach, satay sauce, home made tempeh and drizzled with roasted red pepper puree.

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I love satay sauce and tempeh, but I found the dish needed something to lighten it up or cut through the richness of the sauce and croquettes, and the natural bitterness of the tempeh.  Perhaps a squeeze of lime here and there or to thin out the satay sauce.  Or perhaps more of the red pepper puree.  None of this prevented me from enjoying the dish, however.

I went back to raw for dessert: Raw Raspberry Cheesecake with vegan ice cream.

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Sorry, forgot to hold back before taking a photo!

I can’t resist a good raw dessert.  And this did not fail to disappoint.  My lasting memory of this dish was that it tasted amazing.  That’s it.  Just truly great.

The starter and dessert were defo the highlights.  Raw vegan food for the win!  On this occasion, at least.  Good job, Green Rocket Cafe!

Quinoa, Roasted Veg & Edamame Salad with Balsamic-Tahini Dressing

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Good evening!

Phew, that’s a long recipe title.  I should probably think of something short and snappy but I have toddler and pregnancy brain combined.  I’ve been really looking forward to sharing this recipe with you as it’s a winner.  I dreamed it up last week but it needed tweeking before sharing.  And I needed to take some decent pics of it.  So tonight was the night: the hen weekend for one of my closest friends is commencing tomorrow with a BBQ and I am in charge of bring a side dish (as well as greens and veggie burgers/sausages).  Unfortunately, my decent pics are on my SLR and I can’t find the cable to upload the photos (that’s how long it’s been since I’ve used my SLR!).  My iphone pics will have to do until I can find the cable and edit this post.

Anyways, Quinoa.  How I love thee.  I need quinoa on a weekly basis.  Who doesn’t since it’s full of so many nutrients, minerals and protein.  Red quinoa is my fave type; I find it less bitter than the yellow(?) variety.  One night last week I fancied the heartiness of edamame, the tanginess of balsamic contrasted with the bitterness of tahini (as well as tahini’s healthy fat and nutrient profile).  And roasted veg are always a winner in my book.  I roast a bunch on a weekly basis.  I usually fancy something sweet after dinner but i feel so nourished and satiated after this dish that I just don’t want anything else after it (and that’s saying something).

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It’s not a very fancy recipe and there are 4 super easy parts that come together simply.

Quinoa, Roasted Veg & Edamame Salad with Balsamic-Tahini Dressing

Serves 4 as a side or 2 generously as a main

Dressing

2 tbsp light tahini
3 tbsp balsamic
2-3 tbsp water (depending on thickness of tahini)

Roasted veg

1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 red pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 large or 1 small red onion, slices into thinnish wedges
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 tsp italian herb mix
1 tsp smoked paprika
2-3 tbsp EVOO
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
A handful of cherry tomatoes

Quinoa

1 cup uncooked quinoa
1.75 cups of water

1 cup cooked edamame

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Method

Firstly get the roasted veg on the go.  Preheat the oven to 150C.  Put the first 7 ingredients for the veg (everything minus the balsamic and tomatoes) into a roasting pan and roast for 30-40 mins until almost done.  You want them to be soft but not caramelised and browned yet (note that the paprika can deceive you into thinking the veg are more browned than they are).  Remove from the oven, turn the oven up to 175C, add the tomatoes and balsamic and stir.  Return to the oven for another 15 minutes or until caramelised.   When you give it a stir at the end the tomatoes should burst to create a lovely self-sauce for the veg.

Whilst the veg are in the oven cook your quinoa.  I make mine in the rice cooker by just dumping the rinsed quinoa and water in and hitting quick cook.  If cooking on the hob, just simmer until done.

Whilst everything is cooking combine the ingredients for the dressing. It will look suprisingly thick but when combined with veg and quinoa it works out since the veg already have their own little sauciness.

Once everything is cooked combine the edamame, quinoa and veg in a bowl.  Pour the dressing over and stir well to combine.  Season to taste and enjoy!

Food Budgeting 101 – Make Your Own

Good afternoon!

Hope your week has started well.  The week commenced far too early thanks to my poor teething toddler but I still feel optimistic.  My mission to keep our food budget down and still eat well continues.  I thought I’d share the tips I’ve been learning and make it more of a regular feature.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs to work at budgeting.  Let me know what you think and if there are any particular budgeting issues/stuff you’d like me to share.

Food Budgeting 101 – Make Your Own

There are quite a few things that you can prepare or make yourself at home (apart from the obvious like making dinners from scratch) that will help keep your costs down.  Granted this may take a bit more time, but the benefits for your health and budget make it worth it.  Here are just 3 food items we consume on a regular basis that are cheaper to do at home.

Make your own bread.

When we first started budgeting more seriously back in February I blogged that I make all the bread we consume.  This takes no time at all if you have a bread machine.  I really recommend buying one if your household eats bread regularly.  They’re so worth the initial outlay of cash.  Regardless of whether you make bread from hand or with a machine the bread tastes so much better, it doesn’t contain any of the nasty preservatives that you find in shop bought bread, and you can limit the amount of salt and sugar it contains.  My foolproof recipe to make a good, healthier loaf in your bread machine can be found here.  If you don’t have a bread machine, the process of making bread by hand does become quicker the more you do it.  When we were growing up my dad used to make a batch of bread by hand every Sunday and freeze the loaves for the week.

Make your own snack bars

I mentioned in my last post that I had tried to make Theo snack bars last weekend but failed.  I made my second attempt this weekend and it worked!  I used a different recipe inspired by one of my new fave blogs Bonzai Aphrodite.

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They’re everything-free; vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, sugar-free.  They taste great (far better than they look).  Theo hasn’t tried them yet but I’m sure he’ll love them as they’re sufficiently sweet.  I just need to tweek the recipe before sharing.

Prepare your own dried beans

I’ve just started trying to prep my own beans.  Buying tins of beans is still cheaper than buying meat products as a protein source but I’ve found that the cheaper varieties of tinned beans either have salt added to them or they don’t taste as good as the more expensive ones.  Regardless of whether you buy the cheaper or more expensive variety of beans, it’s still more cost effective to prepare your own.  And you have more quality control and are able to cook them to your liking.  Wednesday was my first attempt at prepping chickpeas, and like my snack bars, I failed.  I know, prepping beans is foolproof right?

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Well…  I did my research beforehand, read books, searched the internet.  I soaked the beans overnight, then wednesday morning I put the chickpeas on to simmer.  It took ages.  After 2 hrs I took them off the heat as they were done if you like them with a bit of bite, and we needed to head out.  Then I read the back of the pack which said you need to fast boil the beans for 10 mins first to get rid of any toxins in the beans.  I didn’t do this.  Always one to air on the side of caution I chucked them.  The last thing I want to do is make my family sick.  The liklihood is that we’d all be fine if we ate them, but I didn’t want to risk it and my paranoia would have eaten at me.  Anyway, I prepped them again this weekend and they taste so much better than the tinned variety!  We had them in our thai curry last night.  Defo worth the effort.

So there you have it; some of our regularly consumed foods prepared the cheaper way.  Hope it’s been helpful.  As I mentioned earlier, let me know if there are any other budgeting things you’d like me to feature in this series.

Happy Monday!

Disclaimer- I am by no means an experts on money matters and budgeting; I’m just a stay-at-home mum trying to keep costs down and live ethically.  It’s all trial and error with a few successes along the way!

Failed plans

Good evening!

The last few days have been so busy (actually life feels particularly busy at the mo).  My parents stayed Sunday and Monday.  Theo had a ball of a time with all the attention.  Then Tuesday Tom’s parents visited and looked after Theo whilst Tom and I went for my 20-week scan.  All is looking good!  Relief.  We haven’t found out the sex of the baby yet.  Tom and I are in two minds about it so the sonographer wrote the sex on a piece of paper and put it in an envelope.  It’s currently sitting on our dining table until we decide what to do.  I’ll try to do a pregnancy update soon.

I’ve had so many grand food plans recently.  I’ve been meaning to make snack bars for Theo for a while as it’s cheaper.  I found a recipe for a raw bar to adapt so that it would be nut-free but it was a massive fail.  I subbed walnuts for pumpkin seeds but I couldn’t pull it off.  Time was short so I didn’t have time to try again; I’m saving my second try for next weekend.

As for food, we’ve already reached our food budget for this week!  And I still need to buy a few fresh produce.  I think this may be because my parents stayed with us so there were more mouthes to feed.  Luckily, I underspent on our budget last week so I’m going to carry over the remainder in order to buy a few essentials for Theo.  Onto the meal plan!

Sunday – Down-Home Curry (from Isa Does It)

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This was brilliant, and the spice was mild enough for Theo so I’ll put some aside for him next time.

Monday – Jamie Oliver’s Veggie Chilli (picture fail)

Tuesday – Roasted veg & potatoes with tofu

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Sorry about the dreadful picture.  I wasn’t that hungry for some reason so this portion size is rather pitiful!

Wednesday – Thai Chickpea & Veg Curry (same as last week)

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Thursday – Pasta dish (haven’t decided on the specifics yet)

Friday – Wing it (Tom’s out so it’s easy enough to cater for me)

Saturday – Fajitas

I’ve also been meaning to take photos of my daily eats so I can participate in WIAW but yet another fail.  Hope you’re having a good week so far!  See you on the weekend.

xxx

 

Meal planning recap

Happy Sunday!

How’s your week been?  This week’s been a mixed bag for us but mostly good.  And the meal planning has gone excellently.  We’ve even saved money this week… by saved I mean I kept comfortably within budget.  Let’s recap.

Sunday – 40 Clove Chickpeas and Broccoli, with brown rice (from Appetite for Reduction) SUCCESS

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Monday – Bean & Veg Stew, with quinoa FAIL (Tom was out, I just had cereal instead)

Tuesday – Pasta & Veg with White Sauce from Fat Free Vegan SUCCESS, though I doubt I’ll make it again.

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Wednesday – Thai Chickpea & Veg Curry SUCCESS

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Thursday – Fajitas SEMI SUCCESS

Friday – Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes FAIL

Thursday I made roast potatoes with salad and veggie sausages since we had potatoes to use up,

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so we had the Fajitas on Friday instead.

IMG_2404Saturday – Wing it. SUCCESS obvo.

Meal planning definitely helped with keeping within our food budget.  And even though I did deviate from it sometimes, I made sure my doing so wasn’t going to cost us any more money.  I also made an effort to walk to our local shops to buy ingredients as and when we needed them.  That way I found it easier to control what I was buying, and I got some exercise in.  Win, win!

Hope you’ve had a good weekend.  I’ll be back some time soon with this week’s meal plan.

Not Just Skin Deep – Current Favourite Beauty Products

I thought I’d take some time out from food to write about personal care products.  I’m gradually trying to overhaul my collection (as well as my clothing and accessories) to replace them with animal-friendly ones.  I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to do so, but it’s better late than never (as the saying goes).

First up, shampoo and conditioner.  I’ve tried a couple of natural and vegan alternatives but they’ve been a disappointment and have resulted in many a bad hair day.  Luckily, Sal from Love Lipstick recommended the Naked range to me.

I used them a while back but completely forgot about them.  Thank goodness I’ve rediscovered them; they’re so good!  And affordable.  Some of the brands I’ve been looking at cost more than I’m happy to pay for shampoo and conditioner but not these.

Next up is face products.  I’ve tried lots of different ranges, and I’m happy to pay more for skincare products as I have sensitive skin.

 

Regardless of price, I keep coming back to the Simple range.  When I started looking into kinder alternatives I was pleased to find out that they are vegan!  I don’t know why they don’t advertise this on their packaging but their website states they are.  It’s the only range that doesn’t irritate my skin or make it too greasy.  Their eye make-up remover does irritate my eyes but I’ve yet to find one that doesn’t and removes make up.

As for soaps, both Tom and I love the Original Source range.  I always stock up on them when they’re on offer.  At present we are loving their Vanilla Milk and Raspberry handwash.

And their Pink Grapefruit shower gel.

This is where I’m at with my personal care range.  I’ve just started replacing my make up but this job is proving a bit of mine field!  Luckily  Sal’s blog helps a great deal.

Can you recommend any animal-friendly beauty products/personal care products and make up that you love?  I’m thinking I need to try out The Body Shop‘s range…  I’ve only ever used them when I’ve bought the travel packs as gifts.

Disclaimer: These views are my own, and were bought with my own money.  Unfortunately I was not sent these products for review (who doesn’t love free stuff???).