Thursday, 22 August 2013

Lychee & Banana Cake with Coconut Rum Cream (Vegan & Sugar Free)

Sometimes I buy silly amounts of things when they're really cheap. Guilty. At the end of last summer (yes, I know, a while ago now!), my supermarket sold off huge tubs of lychees really cheap. I love lychees, but I don't have them often because they're generally a bit expensive. So I went a bit stupid and bought four huge packets. I didn't actually have any plans for them so I shelled them all (it took me about an hour) and put them in plastic containers in my freezer so that they would be there when inspiration struck. I forgot about them for a while.

Then, I was faced with the challenge of making a sugar free birthday cake. I'm happy cooking sugar free because I'm keen to eat less sugar myself, but what made this difficult was that it also had to be free of dried fruits including dates! Dates are the go to ingredient for the sugar free cake maker so my initial thoughts of an easy chocolate date cake evaporated. Then I remembered the lychees in my freezer - one of the most naturally sweet fruits you can buy! Combined with banana, it made a perfect birthday cake. Definitely sweet enough but not sickly sweet, my partner (who generally doesn't like cake because it's too sweet) loved this cake better than any other cake I've made..... and I've made a lot of cake.

For the icing I used whipped coconut cream with rum extract (because I looked at the ingredients and couldn't find anything which looked like sugar) - but if you're not being strict about your sugar than go ahead and add a splash of the real stuff instead!

Lychee & Banana Cake with Coconut Rum Cream

1 cup very ripe mashed banana
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup lychee juice (from the lychees you just shelled ideally - or from the can if you bought it in natural juice or a bottle if you can find unsweetened lychee juice)
1/2 cup unsweetened oat or soy milk
1 cup drained lychee flesh, roughly chopped
2 1/2 cups plain wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 can coconut cream, left in the fridge overnight (or longer)
1 tsp rum extract (or actual rum, if you prefer)

To Make
1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
2. Whisk together the banana, canola oil, lychee juice and oat milk. Stir the lychee flesh through.
3. Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt and mix well.
4. Grease a medium sized cake tin well and pour the batter in. Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
5. When you open the tin you will notice that the top is a very solid thick cream. Scoop out all of the solid thick cream on top (you can reserve the rest of it to use in another meal – like a smoothie or a curry).
6. Put the thick cream into a bowl and mix well using a hand held electric mixer. Move the beaters up and down to try and get as much air into the cream as possible. Add the rum extract and beat until it pretty much resembles thick cream.
7. Spread the cream over the top of the cake. If you've got some more lychee flesh you can decorate the top with fresh lychee.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Chocolate Cranberry Cashew "Cookie Dough" Balls

A quick little recipe for you for this month's Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. The theme this month is "Cookie Monster", but I'm on a bit of a health kick at the moment and I'm currently feeling really good about myself. So the last thing I want to eat is biscuits. I tried my hand at a healthy alternative though - healthy vegan cookie dough bites. Raw, vegan, no flour but with a bit of sugar (nobody's perfect). They make a lovely healthy sweet snack.

Use the links below my recipe to check out the other biscuit-y entries in this month's hop!

Chocolate Cranberry Cashew Cookie Dough Bites

2/3 cup raw cashew pieces
1 tbsp dried coconut
2 heaped tbsp rolled oats
2 tsbp cocoa powder
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp dried cranberry pieces (if you have whole dried cranberries, chop them up a bit) 
2 tbsp chopped dark chocolate pieces (about 20g)

To Make
1. Place the cashews, coconut and oats in a food processor and process until they form a flour consistency.
2. Add the cocoa, maply syrup and vanilla extract and pulse until the mixture all comes together.
3. Transfer to a bowl and stir through the cranberry and chocolate pieces.
4. Roll out into balls using your hands and chill for at least 10 minutes before eating.

Makes 10 balls.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Chilli Tofu Lettuce Wraps

You saw that last post I did about all the cake I ate in Sweden right? So it shouldn't come as a surprise to hear that now I'm back home I am on a serious health kick! I've been very strict and serious since I got back - absolutely no desserts or sugary things and severely reduced carbohydrates in general. I'm living on a diet of vegetables, fruits, beans, pulses, tofu and healthy fats (such as coconut oil and olive oil).

Just before I left for my trip overseas I received an exciting package in the mail. Bertolli sent me some bottles of their different types of olive oil so that I could experiment with using different types for different uses. I'll confess, I have never in the past given thought to which type of olive oil was better for different styles of cooking. So, although I went overseas immediately afterwards and didn't actually get a chance to use any of it, I was really looking forward to trying it out when I got back.

In a healthy eating plan such as the one I've put myself on over the past couple of weeks it is really important to make sure you're getting some good fats and some proteins into your diet to help you feel full. If you just live on little salads and veggies you're going to find it hard to feel satisfied and you're more likely to fall off the wagon because you're feeling so hungry! Coconut oil, olive oil and avocado are real winners to help you feel satistied after your healthy meal. Olive oil is also a really important element in a vegan diet - because vegans don't get any fats from animal sources (meat, butter, cheese, yoghourt etc.) sometimes vegans actually find themselves in the position that they need to consciously add more fats into their diet. I can tell you though that eating more cake and sugar isn't the healthy way to do it! Try to pick naturally occurring and unprocessed fats!

Bertolli sent me three different types of their olive oil - Extra Virgin, Classic and Light. I had a hankering for a tofu and salad wrap for lunch yesterday but I didn't want to eat the actual bread of a wrap so I went for a lettuce wrap. They fall apart a little bit sometimes but they do the job pretty well and I felt much better after this lunch than after eating the wheat and starchy carbs of a traditional wrap. To add some protein and healthy fats to my lunch I wanted to fry up a bit of chilli tofu.

I fried my chilli tofu in the Light Olive Oil, because it's ideal for frying. It has a light flavour which doesn't detract from the flavour of the chilli tofu and the tofu came out crispy and not oily at all. Even though I used plenty of olive oil in my pan, the light olive oil cooked the tofu without actually coating it all in oil. So most of the oil remained in the pan (and I used this chilli oil to cook something else in later than night), which meant my lunch tasted fresh, healthy and not doused in oil!

Chilli Tofu Lettuce Wraps

300g hard tofu, drained and squeezed (just squeeze as much of the liquid out of it as you can)
2-3 tbsp Bertolli light olive oil (I used 2 tbsp in a non stick saucepan, if your pan isn't non stick you may need more)
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 small zucchini, sliced into ribbons (use a potato peeler)
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 medium carrot, grated
Alfalfa sprouts
2 tbsp pepitas
6-8 big iceberg lettuce leaves (you'll need the big softer outer leaves of the lettuce - if you use the crunchy inner leaves your rolls will split apart the moment you roll them)

To Make:
1. Slice the tofu into 1 cm thick slices and pat away any moisture with a paper towel.
2. Heat the light olive oil in a frypan and when it's hot sprinkle the chilli flakes over the oil. Let fry for about 30 seconds.
3. Add the tofu slices and fry until crispy, turning once or twice during the cooking to ensure they're cooked on both sides. Once crispy and golden set aside on a plate (I didn't need to drain mine on paper towel as they were not oily at all - but if your seem a little oily then you can place them on paper towel after frying).
4. In a small saucepan dry fry the pepitas over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes so that they pop and become round. Remove and set aside to cool down.
5. Assemble your wraps: take a big lettuce leaf and add zucchini, carrot, alfalfa, avocado, tofu and pepitas to the middle of it. Roll up as best you can (you may need to employ some toothpicks if they don't hold together well enough).

Makes about 6-8 rolls (this will depend on how much you stuff them).

Making the lettuce wraps is mildly fiddly - so if you can't be bothered doing that then you can always just toss all this together in a salad instead, it's also pretty delicious (although without the added fun/mess of eating the lettuce wraps!). You can make yourself a simple dressing of extra virgin olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice to go with it. 

A quick note on this post: I received free olive oil from Bertolli to use on my blog, however, I am not being paid for this post nor am I an ambassador for this brand. 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Sweets in Sweden - A Photographic Diary

Coming home from overseas holidays is always a mix of feelings for me. Usually I'm quite glad to get home to my own bed, my own shower, my own kitchen, my veggie garden and my own language. Travel can be so exhausting even when it's the best time of your life! On the other hand when you're away seeing amazing things, eating awesome new foods and spending your afternoons relaxing in cafes watching people go by, it's hard to come to terms with the idea of going back to the old normal and (comparatively!) boring everyday life back home. This trip it was especially difficult to come home - Europe was summery, delicious, full of great people and wonderful things to see. Coming home to winter and all the boring things that so often fill our time ("We'd better go and see the bank about that account", "I really should call that store and chase up that refund they haven't given me yet", "The car insurance is due", "Oh, you've been called for jury duty.....again") was so not appealing - especially as we were having unseasonably warm and sunny weather in Sweden, Denmark & Norway.

But - back I am! It's not so bad, really. I'm actually really happy to be back at work (which some may find it hard to believe - but really I love my job!), the weather has actually been really nice (more like spring than winter) and we're having some gatherings for my upcoming birthday. It's also probably good for my waistline to be home - because oh my goodness we ate a lot of food. The food was so amazing! Particularly in Sweden, Denmark, Tallinn (Estonia) and Riga (Latvia). Yes, we indulged a lot. After all, I'm only going to have the chance to taste all these things once right?

I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine who had studied in Sweden when I was doing Swedish Food Month on the blog. She said "the Swedes have an insane sweet tooth - and their sweets are soooo good!". She was right - there were amazing cakes and tarts everywhere you went. I've put together a photographic diary for you.

A quick note: These cakes are not very vegan friendly - but I think every one of them could easily be made vegan (and I'll be giving it a go, you can be sure!). So if you're one of my vegan readers then just imagine the vegan versions and let your mouths water anyway :)

Firstly - Kladdkaka. The classic Swedish chocolate cake. It's name translates as "Sticky Cake" - rich, gooey and absolutely fantastic. I made a vegan version of Kladdkaka for Swedish Food Month and I'm pleased to say the real thing tasted pretty much the same! I ate quite a bit of Kladdkaka during our time in Sweden!

Chokladdbolls (Chocolate Balls) are another Swedish delight which I made for my Swedish Food Month so I was excited to try the real thing when I got there. Of course, mine were a tad differently because I added some aniseed spirits to it, but otherwise they tasted pretty much the same. Although, now that I have seen the real thing I can see that I rolled mine way too small - next time I'll make them at least twice the size! Here are my vegan Chokladdarraksbolls :)

A speciality of Visby in Gotland, this Saffranspannkaka. The name literally translates as "Saffron Pancake", but it's not a great translation because it's not what we would call a pancake. It's more of a sweet rice pudding which is cooked in a pan and served in slices like a cake. Served with solberry jam and whipped cream, it was something pretty special - I'm also thinking it would be pretty easy to veganize!

Another Visby speciality - Wisbytårta (literally "Visby Cake"). Rich and unbelievably delicious, this tart like cake is served in small slices because it's so rich and is perfect with the fresh raspberries on the side. 

In Göteborg, we found the most amazing cake shop. Piles and piles of cakes and biscuits, rows of pies and tarts and pretty much everything you might want ever. It's almost too much, how could you pick what to have when it all looks so amazing?

The same shop in Göteborg.

The same shop in Göteborg.

In Malmö - another tough choice at an amazing cake shop. I had the Pecan Cheesecake: awesome. 

In Malmö.

In Malmö.

Of course, if you're not in the mood for cake there is always plenty of this too:

And just in case things weren't sweet enough around here, I thought I'd share this with you. Check out the pick'n'mix lollies section of a convenience store in Lund. It was actually bigger than this - there was another whole row that I couldn't fit in the picture. Some choice!!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Grapefruit Mojito (Guest Post by Big Fat Baker)

Today I have another wonderful recipe courtesy of Erin from Big Fat Baker (isn't she awesome?!). This one positively makes my mouth water just looking at it! It's a perfect spring cocktail, and even though it's not quite spring yet (only one more month to go!!) in Australia, it's a good time to sit back and sip a cocktail and pretend that it's spring already! Of course, if you're living in the Northern Hemisphere (like Erin!) then this is perfect for you on your long hot summer afternoons! As you read this I'll be nearing the end of my trip and just arriving in Tallinn to spend a couple of days.

It is summertime in the US and the heat is really kicking in. Cold fruity drinks are the perfect way to cool off.

Grapefruit is a tangy alternative from some of the sweet fruits, and it’s great with mint. Can’t have grapefruit? Try a mix of lemon and lime juice.

This cocktail is beautiful and simple. All you really need is some juice, mint, sugar and rum. If you like bubbles in your drink, or want to make a kid friendly version, try adding a splash of soda water.

Grapefruit Mojito
Yield: 7 - 8, 10 oz drinks

  • 4-5 cups grapefruit juice*
  • 1 cup mint simple syrup
  • 2 cups white rum
  • 1 cup mint leaves, torn
  • soda water (optional)

* I used fresh squeezed juice = 3 or 4 large grapefruits


1. Make Mint Syrup - Boil 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar over medium high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cook for 5 minutes then turn the heat off. Mix in 1 cup torn mint leaves and steep for 5 - 10 minutes (it will just continue to get more minty with time). Strain out the mint, reserve the liquid.

2. In a large pitcher combine the grapefruit juice, simple syrup, and rum. Mix well and taste. Adjust as needed with simple syrup or rum. Chill in the fridge for an hour or two.

3. In a large glass combine; a few torn mint leaves, 1/2 cup ice, and about a cup mojito mix. Stir well and top off with soda water if you like yours bubbly.