Friday, 28 September 2012

Vegan "Butter " for Spreading and Cooking

As shown above, this vegan butter can be used in baking, for instance, flapjacks or for spreading 
My husband's scientific approach to cooking always pays off! Here is a recipe for something I'm really excited to share with you as it's potentially so versatile and useful. It is a vegan "butter" that is less processed than margarine, adaptable to your needs as you can make it either salted or unsalted, and choose the oil you make it with. It is quite liquid, like melted butter; I'm wondering if using coconut oil would make it more solid. My husband has devised this to contain (as near as possible) the same proportions of oil, protein solids and water as butter, therefore it should be fine as a straight swap for butter in recipes. The first time he made it he didn't use salt and it made crisp vegan flapjacks which held together perfectly (I admit defeat!) Then I made it according to his instructions and added a little salt and tried it spread very thinly on homemade soda bread. Then we put it on jacket potatoes. It tasted yummy! So far these are the only things we have tried it in; it has yet to be tested in pastry, the big challenge. ( I'm thinking it might be difficult to handle because of the nuts, and my husband thinks it might be too dry; I'll test it out this weekend and let you know. ) The following recipe makes 250ml. 

50g plain cashew nuts
25ml water
150ml oil (we used extra-virgin olive oil, but you could use ricebran for a less intrusive flavour. This oil also has a high smoke point so it is safe for baking.
a pinch of seasalt (optional)
  • In a food processor or blender, grind the cashews into a fine flour.
  • With the motor still running, add the water.
  • Next add the oil and salt if using.
  • Make sure the mixture is thoroughly blended.
  • Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until needed, Stir well before using as it tends to separate.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

My Fitness Diary 2: Achieved a milestone! Plus 10 benefits of running

Buying or borrowing a book about your chosen form of excercise can be a useful motivator
It's Saturday morning as I write this, and I've just got back from a morning run. Now this may not seem much to you, but today I -literally- reached a milestone in my fitness journey; I managed to run a mile. Yes, run, not jog! It was a slow-ish run as it took me 13 minutes from start to finish. I had to cross a main road twice, which meaning pausing very briefly, and at the halfway point I stopped (for less than half a minute) to stretch out my calf muscles, but nevertheless, I ran a mile!!! This means so much to me because I thought I could never do it now, as about 5 years ago I started to get arthritis in my knees, hips, ankles and wrists after getting a flu-type virus. Now there has been no sign of arthritis for well over a year now (virally-induced arthritis can go away completely) and I no longer feel resigned to a less active and healthy middle and old age :)
I thought it would be useful to post about the benefits of running along with my good news so here are 10 of them:
  1. Weight loss: Apparently you burn 1 000 calories an hour when you run. You build lean muscle and speed up your metabolism. which result in burning more calories, even when resting. And the slimmer you are, the faster you will be able to run...
  2. Heart health: Running is a great way to excercise your heart muscle and keep it healthy, plus your circulation will improve, cutting down the risk of heart attack and stroke.
  3. Stronger bones: Taxing the bones by running regularly stimulates them to remain stronger, so you are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis.
  4. Mood uplifting: Running can even  alleviate mild depression, such are its mood-uplifting qualities. It can certainly improve your self-esteem about your shape and your sense of achievement (I can vouch for this). Excercise releases endorphins into your system, which give you a sense of wellbeing and even elation.
  5. Less stress and anxiety: Running reduces the activity of the brain's serotonin inhibitors which regulate mood. Stress and anxiety become easier to cope with. 
  6. Better sleep: People who run report that they sleep longer and can get to sleep more easily.
  7. Stronger immune system: Runners have a stronger immune system, making them less susceptible to colds and minor infections. (Although over-excercising can weaken your immune system.)
  8. Brain power: Running boosts blood flow to the brain, thus supplying it with oxygen and nutrients. This potentially means you'll be thinking faster and more clearly.
  9. Glowing complexion: The increased circulation that results from running helps nourish your skin and get rid of toxins.
  10. Hormone regulation resulting in diabetes/ cancer prevention for women: I have found that pre-menstrual breast tenderness and bloating/ potentially perimenopausal symptoms virtually disappeared since I have been running. I have now discovered that a scientific study has found that the oestrogen produced by women who run is less potent than that of non-runners. This apparently halves the risk of breast and uterine cancer.  (Could this also be why my monthly symptoms went away and I've felt so much better? The same study also showed that women can cut their risk of diabetes by two thirds for the same reason.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Carob-Vanilla Zebra Cake- vegan

This post has been waiting in my drafts for weeks now, as despite making it 2 or 3 times, I have so far totally failed to get the zebra stripes as good as I would like, plus I didn't manage to get a decent photo either...the first time I made it with date syrup, so the stripes hardly showed up at all :/ But what makes this blog different from a cookery book I guess is that it's a true-to-life story of what I've been up to in the kitchen, so in the interest of truth and keeping it real, here goes...
Using my basic cake recipe, divide the mixture in half and add a couple of tablespoons of carob powder to one half. Then drop alternate spoonfuls of the two mixtures into the centre of your prepared cake pan. If you do it right, you should get the striped effect as the mixture spreads out. If you have any advice for me on how to improve my zebra cake technique, then please do let me know via the comments below....!