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.
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.
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!
Adapted from Kids’ Baking by Sara Lewis
Why are these flapjacks fancy I hear you all cry?! Because you will need TWO saucepans people to make these. Not just the one you might be expecting, but two whole saucepans. Fancy, right?? (Note: if you only have one saucepan, do not despair! There is nothing to say you can’t just wash up your one saucepan in between making the two bits of this. I’m just lazy.) The reason you will need two is because they have a special layer of apple and date goo and it makes them fabulous. I like flapjacks well enough but sometimes I can find them a bit dry. No chance of that with these. The extra layer makes them moist and moreish! I think the book they came from is out of print, and I came by it when the book van came to our office. It feels like a million years since I worked out there in the big real world (actually it’s been getting on for 5 years) but I can’t imagine the book van isn’t still a common thing. I think the premise is books that have been published for a while are sold at discount prices because the stock has been bought wholesale. Anyway, as soon as I saw this book I knew I had to have it. I didn’t have a child then so I didn’t buy this so a youngster could make the recipes, it was entirely for me! What I liked was how easy the recipes seemed, no unnecessary faffing about, and no fancy ingredients you’d never use again. A solid workhorse of a cookbook. I even bought a copy for my mum after she ate the banana gingerbread (another recipe that is really good). If you happen to come across a copy you should pick it up as it won’t disappoint.
Adapted from The Go Lightly Gourmet’s Vegan Ginger Cookies
Is it a cake? Is it a cookie? Is it a bread? Hell, this recipe doesn’t know what it is! These little treats are too dense to be a cake, too puffy to be a cookie and too fluffy to be a bread. I guess the best way for you to know what they are is to make them. Answers on a postcard! What I like about them is how they are reminiscent of the gingerbread men I used to get from the bakers when I was a child. They are not quite as sturdy on the outer edge as I remember, but the inside is the same fluffy texture I’ve been craving. Fashioning this super soft dough into a man shape feels like an impossible dream. But I feel happy to have found this recipe as I’ve tested quite a few gingerbreads and none have cut it until now. See chocolate-covered gingerbread bites if you don’t believe me! It did need some help in the gluten-free department and I know there are other recipes out there that suggest just subbing out a gluten-free flour mix, that you buy ready mixed, would work fine. But I liked the look of this one and I’ve added a few tweaks to make it work. I hope this transports you back to a childhood memory as it did for me.
Adapted from Martha Stewart Oatmeal-Date Cookies
If I tell you something about how I live, will you promise not to judge me? No, no this isn’t more ‘I hate x vegetable’ weirdness (although lettuce, raw onion and raw tomato are just WRONG people). This is about making time for a cup of tea. So, there are little things I do that supposedly make my life easier. First, I could drive to a local village and pick up my gluten-free flours BUT… I hate the shop’s car park (it’s pokey) and it’s not near anything else. I can’t go there on the way to, or from, another thing so it feels inefficient. I can, however, sit at home enjoying a nice cup of tea while I order my flours from a fine internet establishment and have them delivered direct to my door. Now that seems like acceptable multi-tasking! I also buy a vegetable box that is delivered weekly. Initially I did this because I had a 9-5 job, no car, and I was much more likely to cook a meal from scratch if I didn’t have to go the supermarket on the way home to buy ingredients before slaving away in the kitchen. I still get a vegetable box but I also take C to the store because she loves it. Identifying things on shelves from the list is super fun, if you’re nearly 3, and we scan our own shopping and bag it as we go round. She loves holding the ‘bipper’. The fact though is that it is easier to have something coming to the house every week without me doing too much thinking about it. We regularly fail to do any shopping because other things just get in the way! In my next life I promise to be more organised… Anyway, the plus is that I can also update my weekly order while enjoying a nice cup of tea! However, there is a teeny, tiny flaw in all this tea drinking and that’s sometimes I forget. I have lists, sure I do, but you have to remember to write on the list or it’s not much use. And you know how toddlers are, I get a regular order of things she’s really into, and then suddenly she’s not and it takes me a while to realise. Thus, the great date glut of April 2013 is caused entirely by me not noticing that C has pretty much gone off dates and yet they come in my weekly order regardless and now we have four bags. Luckily I love dates, and cookies, and C isn’t really off dates when they are in cookies, so there you are. Lovely with a nice cup of tea. Now what else was supposed to go on that flour order???
So who couldn’t do with losing a few pounds every now and then? I have to say I’m not much of a ‘dieter’ – I don’t have the patience or inclination (if I’m really honest!) to count things – but I’m happy to get on board with the friends that it works for. I won’t be the girl stuffing down a giant cupcake while everyone else nibbles a cracker! Last week I had a stab at making some ‘1 point cookies’, and by that I mean WeightWatchers points. Unfortunately they were truly dreadful. One friend said she liked them although I still maintain she was just being nice. Why anyone would want to eat one of them, let alone treat themselves to more I have no idea. The birds quite liked them though! So, we had a discussion and I’ve agreed not to bring anything worth more than 4 points. Knowing that the treat will be worth that my friends can plan accordingly. And because a 4 point cookie will taste delicious it really will be a treat, even if they have just one. So, today’s cookies are worth 4 WeightWatchers ProPoints or PointsPlus according to the online calculators I used (one to work out the nutritional value of the recipe, and one to calculate the points for that). Please note I haven’t been using officially branded websites and thus I cannot be completely sure of their accuracy. So if you know otherwise please let me know and I’ll update the post. Otherwise enjoy your crumbly on the outside, soft on the inside, almond cookies because they really are delicious.