Leek and butternut squash soup

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Adpated from Delia Smith’s Leek and Butternut Squash Soup

I eat a lot of soup.  Most days this is what I have for lunch and there a few reasons for this.  Firstly, if you make a big batch of soup it’ll last you 3 days (assuming you don’t mind eating the same thing several days in a row).  When you’re pressed for time there is great value in this, and if you vary the toppings and/or accompaniments (bread, breadsticks, cheese shavings, garlic croutons, chives, yogurt swirls, chilli oil, olive tapenade… the list is pretty much as endless as you want it to be), then you are almost eating a different soup every day.  Secondly, I’m feeding a pre-schooler and you can get all sorts of veggies in them via soup.  Not that C has a problem with vegetables in their original format, but there’s limits to how much she will eat and you know, every little helps.  Lastly, you can do a lot more damage to your calorie intake eating a cheese sandwich every day, so soup is often a more sensible option, especially if you also bake as much as I do.  This soup has a delicate flavour and the almond milk gives it a comforting texture akin to a cream of soup.

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Date, honey and walnut cake

Date, honey and walnut cake

Adapted from Walnut, date & honey cake by Mary Cadogan at BBC Good Food

I’ve adapted this recipe primarily to test out for the next camping trip to the Isle of Wight.  Upon arrival a nice cup of tea and a restorative slice of cake is required to ensure the smooth erection of a tent!  Chocolate cake does not go down well with this audience so I’ve been investigating other options, and in this case something with dates and walnuts, which should meet with approval.  It is also super easy so I should be able to whip it up, get it in the oven, cooled and spread with a little honey topping before I set off for our afternoon sailing.  Then we can have a nice fresh slice on arrival.  Yum, yum.  This cake, as with many other gluten-free cakes I’ve found, looks a little like it is curdling after you’ve whisked it up.  Don’t panic!  If you find you’ve left it in the bowl a bit too long before tipping it into the tin, just give it another quick whisk before pouring it in.  It’ll be fine – just trust me!  You should wait until this loaf is completely cold before spreading the honey on top or it’ll just slide right off AND before cutting it so you get the best texture.  I bet you don’t hold out long enough… 🙂  This cake also doesn’t keep terribly well so you’ll have to just eat it all.  Such a shame!!

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Quinoa moussaka

Quinoa moussaka

Adapted from Quinoa moussaka with garlic cashew bechamel by Spabettie and Vegetarian quinoa moussaka by An Edible Mosaic

This was very nearly vegan.  And then I sprinkled some parmesan on it and then it wasn’t even vegetarian.  This bothers me a fair bit but sometimes that’s just how it goes.  Now, if you are a veggie then go get yourself some of that Italian hard cheese made without animal rennet.  If you’re vegan then get yourself some Redwood Parmy or similar (not that I’ve ever tried it but I’ve heard it’s THE vegan parmesan substitute).  You could just leave it off and I’m sure you’d like this well enough.  But, although the moussaka was lovely without cheese it was OUTSTANDING with it.  When I first tasted it from the oven I thought, “this is nice but it could do with something” and that something was parmesan. Also, if you’re vegetarian, why would you make a dairy-free bechamel?  You don’t have to after all.  Well, you know I’m avoiding lactose, so the dairy-free bechamel was almost a given for me (I could have used lactofree milk but I planned for this to be vegan, and then I went parmesan crazy – sighs).  There’s miniscule amounts of lactose in parmesan, due to the method used to make it, so I can just bung it on.  It is a mixed up, crazy world when I cook.  Whatever you decide to use you should make a version of this.  I received some lovely graffiti aubergines in the veg box, and I wanted something that when cooked would show off the pretty stripes.  That didn’t work out so well, but it still looked good I think.  I’m also going to share my top tip for reducing the fat in a dish like this.  Steam your aubergine slices.  It is true you won’t get the pretty charred bands you get with griddling but you do get lovely soft aubergine for layering that hasn’t soaked up a pint of oil.  Also, as this recipe calls for making a cashew cream it is probably worth mentioning that I’ve managed to achieve a very smooth cream using a combination of a food processor followed by a stick blender.  Until I win the lottery and get that Vitamix, it’ll do me.

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Marbled banana and chocolate buns

Marbled banana and chocolate buns

Adapted from Post Punk Kitchen’s Marbled Banana Bread

I’ve called these little treats buns, although they are not yeasted.  I derived the recipe from one for a banana bread, and they don’t rise as much as a muffin and retain a heavier texture than a regular sponge.  So I’m going with buns and you can’t stop me!  I’ve also left these nut-free so it would be safe to feed a herd of kiddy-winks over the summer holidays without fear of anyone whipping out their epi-pen.  I’m starting to get pre-school nut fear.  Not because C is allergic, but because almond milk is my go-to non-dairy milk and I just don’t think about it being ‘nutty’.  I know people can be allergic to pretty much anything so it’d be difficult to avoid everything that might set someone off.  They play with salt dough made with wheat at pre-school so I’m thinking of sheep dipping C at the front door on her return every day!  We’ve been told though to avoid nuts and kiwi fruit.  I should be able to do this very easily, but I still have the fear that I’ll send C off one day with some fairly boring leftovers to consume and then be running back down the street some minutes later shouting, “Nooooooooooooooooo”, because I’ve put almond milk in a biscuit I made four days ago and just forgot.  Maybe I’ll have to tape a note to the front door.  Perhaps it should just say, “NUTS”, because some days that could help me on a number of levels.

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Broccoli, cauliflower and leek soup

Broccoli, cauliflower and leek soup

Adapted from Frugal Feeding’s Broccoli, cauliflower and leek soup

It’s raining so it’s time for comforting soup!  I might have mentioned before I’ve got friends doing WeightWatchers and some seem to regularly eat zero point soup.  The basic concept being that most vegetables (though not all apparently) are worth zero points and therefore these can be included in the diet without having to count them against the day’s allocation of points.  This is within reason obviously – I’m sure if you ate a mountain of anything, including broccoli, you could still put on weight.  But anyway, the idea is to cook a soup without fat and plain starches, like potatoes, rice or pasta which incur points.  If you like broccoli soup, and normally sweat onions in butter or oil, then I still think you’re going to be surprised how good this tastes without them.  I was inspired by the beautiful soup made over on Frugal Feeding, and that did come with a caveat about the large chunk of butter included!  This soup still looks, tastes and feels creamy, which I think is the magic properties of cauliflower when cooked and blended.  You get a more vibrant colour if your broccoli is fresh and green, but this is an excellent way to use up anything that has got a bit bendy in the fridge.  I’ve included an optional sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a cheesy garnish if you are so inclined, what with all three vegetables having a natural affinity with cheese.  Still vegan then, still with no added fat, still zero WW ProPoints per serving and super quick to make as well!

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Chocolate cookie and coconut ice cream sandwiches

Coconut and chocolate ice cream sandwich

Adapted from Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s Ice Cream Sandwich Chocolate Wafer Cookies and Vegan Coconut Ice Cream by Cate Alexandra on She Knows

A while back I got an ice cream maker because although Swedish Glace is delicious, the choice of flavours is a bit boring after a while.  I wanted to be able to make versions of all the Häagen-Daz and Ben & Jerry’s flavours I used to love but without the lactose.  Swirls, chunks, sprinkles and sauces – I want them all!  But we’re starting with the basics.  Here is a plain coconut ice cream, unsurprisingly made from coconut milk, with a bit of sugar and a bit of cornstarch.  It is creamy and delicious.  And, although I had my gluten-free ice cream cones on order (I’ve got to draw the line somewhere on homemade, and since I don’t like waffle cones I can’t imagine how I might recreate a rice paper one at home), I knew I needed something to hold my ice cream.  A bowl, you say?  Too easy!!  Plus I wanted something portable that C and I didn’t have to sit still to eat.  After some searching I decided on the ice cream sandwich cookies from Gluten Free on a Shoestring.  I was convinced by Nicole’s description of the perfect ice cream cookie not shattering on the first bite.  Sold!  I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly to remove the xanthan gum, and I make only half the amount as I’ve not got that many mouths to feed.  A quick mention of cocoa powder – in the USA they distinguish between ‘Dutch Process’ and ‘natural’ cocoa powders and we don’t do that in the UK.  The way to tell here what you are buying is to look at the ingredients to see if an alkalising agent has been added.  If yes, then it is Dutch Process, if not then it is natural.  I use Green & Black’s cocoa powder which is Dutch Process.  If you have an ice cream maker with a built in refrigeration unit (fancy!) then you don’t need to plan ahead, but with mine you chill the bowl before use and it’s got to be really cold or the ice cream won’t form and you’ll just have coconut soup.  Also you’re making a kind of custard with the ingredients which also needs chilling down before you try to make the ice cream.  So this recipe actually takes two days to make unless you have a posh ice cream maker, which is worth bearing in mind.  The cookies can be made on the day but I’ve found they keep quite well so you could make them advance.  The ice cream is vegan by the way, but the cookies have an egg and butter and so are not.

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Black bean and quinoa burgers

Black bean and quinoa burger

Adapted from Bake Your Day’s Black Bean Burgers

I am a sucker for a veggie burger and would generally choose such a thing over a meat burger every time.  It’s not that I don’t eat meat, obviously, but there is something about a veggie burger done right that ticks so many happy boxes for me I struggle to describe it adequately.  If you too find great joy in such things YOU MUST MAKE THESE BURGERS.  I cannot implore you enough to have these in your life so you will feel better about, well, everything.  I’ve tweaked them a bit, had them spicy and not so much.  Go to the original recipe and, if you can have all the ingredients listed there, then just do it.  I’ve never made them with panko, what with it being all wheaty and that, but if you can then you probably should.  I’m sure the original way is the best.  That said, even with my tweaks these burgers almost want to make me cry they are that good.  Now, I only had shop-bought white gluten-free burger buns this time, and to be fair they are as dry and flavourless as eating a small block of polystyrene.  BUT I did not care because they served their purpose of keeping the yummy burger, guacamole, saucy, salady goodness stuck together enough to get into my mouth without disintegrating into a pile of mush.  If, however, you have the time and the inclination to make your own buns then it would be totally worth it. (I like these buns from Allergy Free Alaska).  My other tweak (in addition to using gluten-free breadcrumbs) was to remove some of the spiciness.  I put in just one teaspoon of sriracha and omitted the cayenne from the original.  I’m sure if the recipients of your culinary efforts were adults or older children you’d be good to go with the original amounts.  But C isn’t terribly keen on properly hot food so I tone it down a bit in the burger, and then make up for it by adding more sriracha to normal Heinz Tomato Sauce for mine and slathering that over the bun.  A bit of slightly garlicky chunky guacamole, a slice of tomato and some lettuce and we are good to go.  I bet a spicy mayo, or hummus would work just as well in these.  So go on, make them.  You know you want to!

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