Best ever banana brownies (vegan, gluten-free, no added sugar)

vegan-gluten-free-banana-brownies

I’m not even kidding you – these are the best brownies ever. Gooey, chocolatey, banana-ey and gloriously guilt free, because they’re packed full of nutritious ingredients, with no added sugar.

As most of my brownies, they’re based on chickpeas, oats and dates. I don’t follow a gluten-free diet, but I prefer using chickpeas because it means you don’t need eggs and can still get a dose of protein. (I’m not vegan either, by the way, I just like to avoid dairy and eggs as much as I can.)

These can be whipped up in a food processor in five minutes and are a great way to use up very ripe bananas.


HEALTHY BANANA BROWNIES (VEGAN, GF)
Makes one 24cm square tin – ca 16 brownies

100g oats*
1 can (240g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
150g dates
30g agave nectar
70g peanut butter (or other nut butter)
30g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder*
2 large ripe bananas (or three small ones)
250ml milk alternative (I use Oatly or Rice Dream, but nut milks work too
1 tsp coconut oil for the tin

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Brush a 24cm square (or equivalent size) brownie tin with coconut oil.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and process everything into a smooth mixture.

Fill the mixture in to the brownie tin, spread evenly, and bake at 170°C for around 30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean. It’s ok if you still get a slight wobble in the middle; that will ensure you get a brownie-like consistency.

Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares or slices.


Store in the fridge. They’ll keep up to a week.

* To ensure the brownies are gluten-free us GF-certified oats and baking powder.

banana-brownies-photo-session

Quick breakfast: Nectarine Melba protein toast

Here’s some quick inspiration for a healthy summer breakfast: homemade spelt and sunflower seed bread, topped with vanilla protein soya yogurt*, nectarine and raspberries.

nectarine-melba-protein-toast

* For the protein soya yogurt I use 5 tsp of plain Alpro mixed with a 3/4 scoop of PHD Diet Whey vanilla protein powder. It’s my go-to breakfast protein boost that I rely on pretty much daily for my toast topping. The vanilla flavour works well with peaches, nectarines, raspberries, blueberries and grapes. And chocolate flavour protein powder is great paired with bananas and strawberries.

The best ever healthy brownies! (Vegan, GF, no added sugar)

vegan-gluten-free-brownies

Not going to lie: I love cake. One of the biggest challenges of consistent healthy eating is to resist the temptation of sugary treats. Of course I eat them – occasionally. But cutting down on sugar has done so much good for my health – happier stomach, clearer skin, no more insane blood sugar fluctuations – and I’d like to keep it that way. I can’t go long without sweet treats though, so to prevent the inevitable sugar binge I have integrated a load of healthy sweet alternatives into my daily diet.

One of them is this brilliant cake alternative, which is not just utterly delicious but also incredibly versatile. I always have a batch in the fridge and rely on them for my daily afternoon snack – you know, that 3pm low in the office when everyone gets their Snickers out and you’re just dying for a quick energy boost.

These brownies are based on chickpeas, dates, nut butter and oats, making them vegan, gluten-free and refined sugar free. My version is medium sweet, so if you have a very sweet tooth just up the amount of agave nectar a bit. You can also add chopped nuts, a mashed banana, a couple of shots of espresso or chocolate chunks to jazz things up a bit.

The recipe is very flexible and has already evolved into an exciting range of other cakes. My favourite variations so far are apple and cinnamon cake, spiced carrot cake and a total showstopper of a vanilla protein blondie. My friend took the basic recipe and turned it into a spiced pumpkin cake, and is also experimenting with a savoury version. This cake offers a lot of room for experiments.

So give it a try and get creative, throw in your own ideas and let me know in the comments if you come up with new variations!

Sundays are for cake, coffee and good books
Sundays are for cake, coffee and good books


THE BEST HEALTHY BROWNIES
Makes one 24cm square tin – ca 16 brownies

100g oats*
1 can (240g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
100g dates
40g agave nectar
50g peanut butter (or other nut butter)
30g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder*
250ml milk alternative (I use Oatly or Koko, but almond milk works too)
1 tsp coconut oil for the tin

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Brush a 24cm square (or equivalent size) brownie tin with coconut oil.

Put the oats in a food processor and blitz until they are finely ground. Add all the other ingredients and process everything into a smooth mixture.

Fill the mixture in to the brownie tin, spread evenly, and bake at 175°C for around 30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean. It’s ok if you still get a slight wobble in the middle; that will ensure you get a brownie-like consistency.

Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares or slices.


Keeps in the fridge up to one week. (They might keep longer but I haven’t tested that as they never survive more than a week in my fridge!)

* To ensure the brownies are gluten-free us GF-certified oats and baking powder.

Vanilla protein blondies: a gluten-free, low-fat, healthy treat

vanilla-protein-brownies-vegan-glutenfree-1

Of all the chickpea-based alternative cakes, these indulgent but guilt-free vanilla blondies are definitely the most popular variation so far. They are as sweet and delicious as real cake, but low in fat, gluten-free and high in protein as the rely on chickpeas instead of the usual flour-eggs-butter basis.

The more I experiment with chickpeas, the more amazed I am at the versatility this little pulse offers for baking sweet treats. For the past half year or so, I’ve had a batch of chickpea-based cake slices – flavoured with different ingredients, from cocoa to apple and lemons to almond – in my fridge in any given week. They’re my go-to energy-boosting snack for long afternoons in the office, and a healthy treat for whenever I fancy something sweet.

This blondie version happened when I threw some of my favourite vanilla protein (Diet Whey from PhD) into my basic brownie recipe to see what happens. What happened was simply awesome cake!

vanilla-protein-brownies-vegan-glutenfree


GLUTEN-FREE VANILLA PROTEIN BLONDIES
Makes one 24cm square tin – ca 16 pieces

1 can (240g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
100g dates
100g vanilla flavoured protein powder (I use PhD Diet Whey)
50g oats*
40g agave nectar
50g peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1 tsp baking powder*
250ml milk alternative (I use Oatly or Koko Dairy Free, but almond milk also works)
1 tsp coconut oil for the tin

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Brush a 24cm square (or equivalent size) brownie tin with coconut oil.

Put the oats in a food processor and blitz until they are finely ground. Add all the other ingredients and process everything into a smooth mixture.

Fill the mixture in to the brownie tin, spread evenly, and bake at 175°C for around 30 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean. It’s ok if you still get a slight wobble in the middle; these are nicer slightly undercooked so they don’t go too dry.

Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares or slices.


These blondies keep in the fridge for around a week.

* To ensure the cake is gluten-free us GF-certified oats and baking powder.

Wintery squash soup with herbs

winter-squash-soup

Now that Halloween is over, what to do with those decorative pumpkins and squashes? Throw them away? Not on my watch…

This year I picked up a random pumpkin at the market simply because it looked pretty. After keeping it as a kitchen decoration for a few weeks it was time to make good use of it. I don’t really have any experience of cooking with pumpkins, so I applied my granny’s mantra: If in doubt, make a soup.

carnival-squash

A bit of research revealed that my pretty pumpkin was actually a squash – a carnival squash to be precise – and indeed edible (as most of them are). I cooked it with thyme, a little bit of smoked paprika and coconut milk and the result is pretty damn good. This squash has a lovely, savoury flavour and the addition of smoked paprika makes it taste like there might be bacon involved somewhere. (There isn’t; I’m vegetarian.) It’s especially nice when served with a bit of cream cheese or creme fraiche stirred in.

So if you’re just dismantling your Halloween decorations, try this idea and cook up a big pot of warming winter soup.

winter-squash-soup-overhead


WINTERY SQUASH SOUP WITH HERBS
Makes 4 generous portions

600g squash (I used one carnival squash)
2 celery sticks
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
300ml coconut milk (I use Koko Dairy Free)
300ml water
1 veggie stock cube
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
A few springs fresh thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Light cream cheese or creme fraiche, to serve
Pumpkin seeds, to serve

Peel and chop the onion and garlic. Chop the celery. Fry them in a big saucepan in the olive oil until soft.

Meanwhile peel the squash, remove the seeds and chop into small chunks. Add the squash to the pan and pour over the coconut milk and water. Stir in the stock cube and spices and bring to the boil. Pick the thyme leaves off the stalks and add to the pot.

Simmer on a low heat until the squash chunks are soft. Puree using a food process or or stick blender and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with a dollop of light cream cheese or creme fraiche and sprinkled with some pumpkin seeds.


mini-pumpkins-pot
Yep, I bought some tiny pumpkins just to take soup photos, so I’ll have to figure out what to cook with those next…

Gorgeously nutty carrot cake (vegan, gluten-free, no added sugar)

vegan-protein-carrot-cake-3

This week’s healthy treat is a lovely carrot and hazelnut cake with a warming kick from cinnamon and a bit of cocoa. These slices of guilt-free goodness are vegan, gluten-free and free from refined sugar, relying only on the natural sweetness of the ingredients.

This is another variation on my recent experiments with cakes based on chickpeas. Yes really. The humble chickpea eliminates the the need for eggs and flour and adds some extra protein, and you can’t taste it so nobody will ever guess your healthy secret!

The carrot flavour isn’t too obvious in this recipe, but adding a couple of finely shredded carrots will add lightness and moisture, and the crunch from the chopped hazelnuts brings it to perfection.

carrot-cake-carrots-2


VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE CARROT AND HAZELNUT CAKE
Makes around 24 slices

100g carrots, in chunks
100g dates, pitted
1 can (240g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
100g oats*
1 heaped tsp baking powder*
20g cacao (or vegan-friendly cocoa powder)
2 tsp cinnamon
50g smooth hazelnut or peanut butter
200 hazelnut milk (or other nut / oat / coconut milk)
30g agave nectar
100g hazelnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Brush a 24cm square (or equivalent size) brownie tin with coconut oil.

Put the oats in a food processor and blitz until they are finely ground.

Add all the other ingredients, except the hazelnuts, and process everything into a smooth mixture. Stir in the chopped hazelnuts.

Fill the mixture in to the brownie tin, spread evenly, and bake at 175°C for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares or slices.

Keeps in the fridge up to one week – if you can manage to not eat them sooner.

* To ensure the cake is gluten-free us GF-certified oats and baking powder.


vegan-protein-carrot-cake-2

Carrot and celeriac soup: a simple winter warmer

carrots2

Last Saturday I went to my local farmer’s market to try out my new camera and came home with a load of veggies I didn’t really need, simply because they were so beautiful. I love the market in autumn. It’s an absolute feast of colours – from rosy-cheeked apples to vibrant pumpkins, deep violet cabbages and dark green leaves, there’s just no end to the food inspiration it provides.

Among the things I picked up was a bunch of multi-coloured carrots and a celeriac, so I decided to throw the two into a pot together, with minimal fuss and spice. The result was a soup that wins with a simple combination of earthy, autumnal flavours – the sweetness of carrots and the aromatic kick from the celeriac. One to curl up with on a rainy autumn day.

celeriac-carrot-soup-3

SIMPLE CARROT AND CELERIAC SOUP
Makes 4 portions

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 celeriac
1 bunch carrots
300ml coconut milk (I use Koko Dairy Free)
1 veggie stock cube or 3 tsp Marigold Swiss vegetable bouillon powder
1 handful parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Veggie prep: Chop the onion and garlic finely. Wash and roughly chop the carrots. Clean, peel and roughly chop the celeriac.

Heat the olive oil in a big pot and fry the onion and garlic until golden. Add the carrots and celeriac, pour over the coconut milk and 300ml hot water, add the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook until the carrot and celeriac chunks are soft.

Turn off the heat. Roughly tear up the parsley and add to the pot, then puree the soup until smooth using a stick blender or food processor. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with toasted bread. Goes very well with this lovely rye and spelt bread.

carrots1

Vegan, gluten-free, super healthy apple and cinnamon cake

vegan-gluten-free-apple-cinnamon-cake

I’m on a mission to prove that healthy cake can be just as delicious as traditional cake, and this recipe definitely is a case in point.

Imagine all the goodness of sweet, moist apple cake with the warmth of cinnamon and a hint of chocolate, but without any butter, flour or refined sugar. This recipe uses chickpeas instead of flour, which makes it gluten-free and has the added benefit of swapping out some of the carbs for protein. You won’t be able to taste the chickpeas, promise. As my friend said after she tried these, “I can’t believe it’s chickpeas!”

I rely on these cakes for my mid-morning snacks, for a light energy boost before workouts…and basically for all my cake needs.

The basic recipe also works in all sorts of other flavour combinations, and over the next few weeks I’ll be posting a brownie version, a vanilla protein blondie version, and carrot cake variation on the apple recipe. So stay tuned for more gorgeous cake!

vegan-gluten-free-apple-cinnamon-cake-2


VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE APPLE AND CINNAMON CAKE
Makes one 24cm square tin

100g oats*
1 can (240g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
100g dates
30g agave nectar
50g peanut butter
30g cocoa
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder*
250ml milk alternative (I use Oatly or Koko, but almond milk works too)
2 apples, chopped, half put aside
1 tsp coconut oil for the tin

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Brush a 24cm square (or equivalent size) brownie tin with coconut oil.

Put the oats in a food processor and blitz until they are finely ground.

Add all the other ingredients (reserving half of the chopped apples) and process everything into a smooth mixture. Stir in the remaining apples with a wooden spoon.

Fill the mixture in to the brownie tin, spread evenly, and bake at 175°C for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean. It’s ok if you still get a slight wobble in the middle; that will give the cake a brownie-like consistency.

Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares or slices.


Keeps in the fridge up to one week. (They might keep longer but I haven’t tested that as they never survive more than a week in my fridge!)

* To ensure the cake is gluten-free us GF-certified oats and baking powder.

Two grain baked apple flavour porridge with cinnamon

Aaah autumn. The season of tea, soups and warming breakfast porridge. For tonight’s Saturday dinner I made baked apple porridge (because why the hell not) and it’s the ultimate winter warmer!

baked-apple-cinnamon-porridge

The combination of apple, cinnamon and a crunchy topping gives this porridge all the goodness of a baked apple dessert. And by cooking half the apple in the porridge until it breaks down and using the rest for the topping, and adding some roasted rye flakes and seeds as a topping, you get a wonderful mixture of textures. It’s seriously so, so good. I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For this one make sure you use whole (chunky) porridge oats and not the fine ones, because the porridge needs to cook a bit longer for the apple to break down.


TWO GRAIN BAKED APPLE PORRIDGE WITH CINNAMON
Makes one portion

For the porridge:
3 tbsp whole (chunky) porridge oats
1 tbsp rye flakes (for example from Holland & Barrett)
1/2 apple, peeled and chopped finely
200ml oat milk
100ml water
1 tsp honey (or to taste)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the topping:
1 tbsp rye flakes
1 tsp brown linseed
1/2 apple, sliced

Put all the porridge ingredients in a small pan and cook until the apple chunks start to break down. If the consistency gets too thick just add a splash more hot water as you go along.

While the porridge is cooking, roast the remaining rye flakes in a pan until golden and crispy. (This only takes about half a minute once the pan is hot so keep an eye on them!)

To serve, put the porridge in a bowl, sprinkle the linseed and crispy rye flakes over it, top with the apple slices and give the whole thing a dusting of cinnamon.

Vanilla protein porridge with banana and crunchy rye flakes

This year, ever since going back to veggie in summer, I’ve been experimenting with adding some whey protein to my food, because I just wasn’t getting enough protein for my level of training from my vegetarian diet. (My IBS-prone system puts a limit to how many pulses I can eat…) I’ve discovered a surprising number of tasty ways to add protein powder into my diet – because I’m not a fan of the shake – and throwing a scoop into my morning porridge is one of them. It has the added benefit of making this porridge super filling, so I don’t even feel the need to snack until lunchtime.

So here’s my new favourite porridge!

banana-vanilla-protein-two-grain-porridge

TWO GRAIN VANILLA PROTEIN PORRIDGE WITH BANANA AND CRUNCHY RYE FLAKES
Makes one portion

For the porridge:
3 tbsp whole porridge oats
1 tbsp rye flakes (for example from Holland & Barrett)
200ml oat milk
100 ml hot water
Up to 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use PhD Diet Whey)
1/2 banana

For the topping:
1 tbsp rye flakes
1 tsp brown linseed
1/2 banana

Peel and slice the banana. Set one half aside for the topping. The other half will be cooked in the porridge for extra flavour and creaminess.

Put all the porridge ingredients (except the vanilla protein) in a small pan and cook until the porridge has your favourite consistency.

While the porridge is cooking, roast the remaining rye flakes in a pan until golden and crispy. (This only takes about half a minute once the pan is hot so keep an eye on them!)

When the porridge is ready, add a scoop (or half a scoop) of vanilla protein and whisk until it has dissolved. If the consistency gets too thick, add a splash of hot water.

To serve, put the porridge in a bowl, top with the remaining banana and sprinkle the linseed and crispy rye flakes on top.