Sunday, 17 December 2017

Black Forest Cupcakes

Got this original recipe from Wallflower Kitchen who got the cake recipe from my baking idol Nigella Lawon...
Coconut Cream recipe by Minimalist Baker.

Black Forest Cupcakes

175 g all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
A pinch of salt
50 g cocoa powder
225 g coconut sugar (vegan brown or regular sugar will work too)
275 ml hot water
60 ml sunflower oil or other mild-tasting vegetable oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar


Black cherry jam I used a fruit-sweetened one
optional A few drops of Kirsch or brandy


Whipped coconut cream* (I added a bot of liqueur to this too)
Fresh cherries (I soaked mine in the alcohol)
Dark chocolate grated


To make the chocolate cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 180c. / 350f. and line a muffin tray with 12 cases.
Mix the first five ingredients together until well combined.
Stir in the remaining wet ingredients until the mixture is smooth and lump-free.
I mixed together the filling ans swirled it into the mixture before baking but if you want the filling in the middle of the cupcake filling the after baking instructions.
Divide the mixture equally between the 12 muffin cases/or greesed tin and bake for 15 minutes.
Use a cake tester or skewer to test the middle of the cupcakes come out clean.
If not, bake for a further 5 minutes.
Leave to cool before decorating.
If filling with jam, then cut small holes in the centre of the cupcakes. You can use a cupcake corer, apple corer or a small sharp knife to hollow out the centres.
Fill the cupcake holes with the cherry jam (and Kirsch, if using).
Make the coconut whipped cream, according to these instructions, then pipe or dollop onto the tops of the cupcakes.
Decorate with a single cherry then serve!
These are best kept refrigerated and can be stored for up to 3-4 days.

* Coconut Cream

1 14-ounce can (414 ml) coconut cream or full fat coconut milk*
1/4 - 3/4 cup (28 - 84g) icing/powdered sugar (use organic to ensure vegan friendliness)
optional: 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Chill your coconut cream or coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight, being sure not to shake or tip the can to encourage separation of the cream and liquid. See notes for more insight / troubleshooting.
The next day, chill a large mixing bowl 10 minutes before whipping.
Remove the coconut cream or milk from the fridge without tipping or shaking and remove the lid. Scrape out the top, thickened cream and leave the liquid behind (reserve for use in smoothies).
Note: if your coconut milk didn't harden, you probably just got a dud can without the right fat content. In that case, you can try to salvage it with a bit of tapioca flour - 1 to 4 Tbsp - during the whipping process. That has worked for me several times.
Place hardened cream in your chilled mixing bowl. Beat for 30 seconds with a mixer until creamy. Then add vanilla (optional) and powdered sugar and mix until creamy and smooth - about 1 minute. Taste and adjust sweetness as needed.
Use immediately or refrigerate - it will harden and set in the fridge the longer it's chilled. Will keep for up to 1 - 2 weeks!

I found this fruit juice sweetened jam at Walmart.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Australia Trip - 2017

I was lucky enough to get to see family and friends this November in Sydney, Australia. It's my favourite time of year there, the Jacaranda trees are still in bloom, there is a plethora of flowers (I love the smell of Jasmine everywhere) and wildlife and the weather is perfect.

Here are the vegan eats and treats I found during my stay...

Places to Eat

The Australian Hotel - I usually like this place for two reason; they always have GF vegan options and they have a "Ladies Lounge" which is perfect when you have a toddler and don't want to disturb other patrons! I went twice this trip and they had two gluten free beers on offer, this Wilde one was pretty good and I had never seen it before.
They don't have a vegan pizza on the menu but you can ask them to make it for you, they might resist at first but they will make it ;)
Their fries/chips and garden salad are also delicious, my toddler definitely got a taste for pub chips while we were away!

I went into Chippendale (just near Central Station) to a friends gallery opening and had dinner afterwards at this charming little secret gem...Spice Alley! It's on Kensington St, off Broadway next to Central Park Towers which are pretty good in themselves with all their greenery!
Basically it's like a replica of Asian street food, so cute!!! There were a few different places with vegan options and you can bring you're own alcohol which you can get from Central Park Mall. 

IKU is always a great go to eatery when you're out and about. Dotted around Sydney in food courts it's 100% plant based and mostly GF as well. I love the Balls!

My dad took me to Last Train to Bombay and they are great with showing you what's vegan/GF on the menu and making things especially for you.
That impressive looking chickpea pancake is called Dosa.

Japanese is one of my favourites and HaNa Ju-Rin in Crows Nest was on the nicer end of the Japanese restaurant spectrum, quite a few vegan options though!
I had the avocado rolls, plum & cucumber rolls, edamame, spinach salad, Nasuden (eggplant) and maybe some sneaky sake ;)

The Sunflower Lounge on Spofforth St, Cremorne was a place we went to a couple of times because it was in walking distance of our house, was close to a fenced in kid's park, had a good selection of vegan/GF options and had a box of toys for the kids! I had the breakfast plate one morning and just asked them for all the sides and GF bread and the next time had the Falafel Plate that has quinoa falafel.

Oh Newtown, oh Newtown, you have my vegan heart! This is the vegan hub of Sydney and I'd been dying to visit Bliss & Chips and all vegan seafood take away. Almost everything on their menu was GF too, and really wasn't pricey.
I had (wait for it); Seafood Basket (2 fish cocktails, 2 calamaris, 1 crabstick), 2 garlic prawn skewers (AMAZING), 2 potato scallops, chips, tartare sauce and a vegan gozleme for later.

Gelato Blue in Newtown is now a completely vegan gelato place! It was seriously amazing! I can't remember the flavours I got and they don't have a website but from memory it was coconut, choc mint and the last one was a an amazing mix that had caramel in it.

Saw this sign outside a store - even though I didn't get any Coco Whip I was very excited LOL

I love Vegan's Choice grocery in Newtown, their vegan yum cha (dim sum) place next door called Green Gourmet is amazing too and does lots of GF options. 
They have vegan baked goods, their own vegan meats (the ham is still the best I've tasted) and a few pantry items. I got the vegan Jelly packets for my son's upcoming second birthday. I've been wanting to try the mushroom

THIS is the reason I trek to Newtown every time I'm in Sydney. The Vegan's Choice Vegan Fish Sauce is AMAZEBALLS! I just wish I could carry more of it home. It's so essential for making all your Thai favourites like Red/Yellow Curry and Pad Thai!

Was very impressed to see these posters on almost every bus I got on! Nice work Animal Liberation Australia!

Grocery Items

Very importantly, wine!
I tried these three wines while in OZ and I have to say I miss Aussie/NZ wine so much. The stuff they send to the States is miserable and I miss being able to just read the back of the label to know if it's vegan!!
My favourite was the Catalina Sounds (NZ) SB, but the No Evil (AUS) Organic SB & La Boheme (AUS) Pinot Gris were gorgeous too. I also had a lovely vegan SB at a wedding at Ripples, Chowder Bay while I was in Oz called Aramis Pinot Gris.

I love, and toddler loved these Fry's vegan GF chicken nuggets. I've had them before and begged the company to sell in the States were there aren't many GF vegan foods but to no avail :(

Taste Organic in Crows Nest have been carrying these Addiction Food GF vegan brownies for as long as I can remember (at least 8 years) and there's a reason. And it tells you why in the company name, they are SO addictive!

Got this Lo Bros Organic Kombucha on sale from IGA and it was really good, tasted like ginger beer so went down a treat!

My brother and sister-in-law always have me over for dinner while I'm visiting and are so sweet to get me a plethora of vegan items for my enjoyment. 
Dessert is of course a staple LOL
These Weiss Dairy Free Dark Chocolare & Coconut bars were heavenly!!!

They also got me these Smooze Coconut Milk based ice blocks too because I had loved them last time I was there. At least these are available in the theory.

I got this Paw Paw Ointment from Aldi and it tasted horrible so probably fine for cuts/nappy rash etc but not nice for lips which is what I like Lucas' Paw Paw Ointment for. I know a lot of people don't like Lucas' because of the petroleum but I like the way it works. 

This Organic Suvana Paw Paw & Coconut Balm was recommended to me when I went into the pharmacy to get Lucas' well loved version. I didn't love it honestly, it was much thinner and oilier than Lucas'  and tasted sweet and I didn't like it on my lips at all. Back to old faithful!

Got these Syndian Curried Pumpkin Bites from either Coles or Woolworths. They felt a bit dry but other than that were fairly tasty. Toddler didn't like them though.

I've always loved this Japense style tofu by Soyco. It's just perfect for stir fries and my favourite Japanese Tofu & Carrot dish

Had a hard time finding something suitable for my toddler to drink but I did really like these Nutty Bruce organic nut milks, especially the almond/coconut blend which is what we normally like to drink by Califia Farms.

I found these Tasti Smooshed Wholefood Balls (from NZ) in Aldi or IGA (sorry I can't remember!!)
The Berry, Cashew & Cacao were my favourite - tasted like Cherry Ripe bars, definitely going to try to replicate!

Found these Moser Roth dark chocolates in Aldi - LOVED orange almond - so creamy! I loved that inside it wasn't a block but individually wrapped portions. Not very environmental of me, I know but it made it easier for travel!

Found these Blackstone Gourmet Snack Co. Rosemary & Garlic kettle chips at Aldi - SO GOOD!!!!

Choceur Mint Thins from Aldi - these do contain a small amount of gluten but I decided to take the risk and they were so amazing!

These Beanfields Bean & Rice Chips, Nacho Flavour were from Woolworths. So delicious. Can't remember when I last had cheesy corn chips!

Vege Deli Crisps - Chia tasted like prawn crackers to me. Really addictive! From Woolworths also.

These are the vegan cheeses I go while in Australia from IGA, Coles and Woolworths.
Bio Cheese is always good, a nice block/sliced cheese for sandwiches or crackers. 
Sprout & Kernel tree nut cheese - Herb Nut Cheese was a nice spreadable cheese from Thomas Dux.
I don't remember where I got the Follow Your Heart Parmesan but I prefer the shredded version they have in the States.

With cheese must go a fruit paste of course! This Tuckers Fruit Paste from IGA was even marked vegan and had two separate serves which was great.

Toddler/Baby Items
The Baby Puffs went down fairly well but he wasn't loving the Rice cakes, not sure why. They were overly sweet which maybe he didn't like as much as savoury.

I always eat my body weight in vegan chocolate biscuits when I'm back in my homeland because the States really doesn't offer anything like these in terms of gluten free & vegan. The Woolworths brand is now doing a Tim Tam, Mint Slice & Oreo version and of course the go to is always Leda's version of Tim Tams and Mint Slice (IGA) which I prefer but only slightly ;)

I ALWAYS get Suzy Spoons vegan meats when I'm in Sydney. They are now available in a few health stores which is where I got mine but honestly at the prices they were charging it would have been cheaper to buy them directly from Suzy and pay the postage costs! Live and Learn! And eat lots of delicious vegan food ;)

A friend bought me these Blooming Beautiful bath bombs by Lush which was very sweet and were marked "vegan" :)

I saw someone post about these Alternative Meat Co. faux meats from Woolworths so I thought I'd give them a try. They are already pre-flavoured. I didn't love any of them because of the texture but the seasonings they used were nice. I think my preference would be the chicken, followed by the beef. I think the shredded pork should be left to mushroom or jackfruit!

Hand luggage full of snacks!!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Toddler Zucchini Brownies

I'm a bit weird about giving my toddler caffeine or sugar so I adapted my zucchini brownie recipe for him.

Toddler Zucchini Brownies


2 cups whole wheat flour or your own mix
¾ tsp. xanthan gum (omit if using a flour blend that has xanthan gum)
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup melted unsalted butter or margarine, or coconut oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup carob powder
2 cups shredded zucchini
1/4 cup hemp seed hearts (for topping) - you can add these into the mix to if you like.


Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Grease a 7"x11" cake dish, I use a piece of baking paper at the bottom as well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat sugar, maple syrup, applesauce, butter/margarine/oil, and vanilla extract for 30 seconds.
Add carob powder & flour mixture and continue beating for about 1 minute, until mixture resembles wet sand.
Add the shredded zucchini and mix on low until combined.
Pour brownie batter into pan and smooth down.
Sprinkle extra hemp seed hearts over the top of brownie batter.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until brownies are set. This will have a soft center, if you want a harder brownie, leave in for an extra 10mins.
Allow to cool slightly and slice with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

A Vegan Diet for Cancer Patients – How a Plant-Centric Diet Has Helped me Heal

A piece from guest writer Virgil Anderson...

A Vegan Diet for Cancer Patients – How a Plant-Centric Diet Has Helped me Heal

A brief introduction… My name is Virgil, andI have been living for the last few years with one of the rarest but most difficult types of cancer, Mesothelioma. This cancer grows in the lining of the lungs and is the result of having worked unprotected around asbestos form much of my career. Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer. On top of my treatments, I’ve adopted a some healthier wellness-based practices. The main one has been a move to a more plant-based diet.

Embracing a More Plant-Based Diet
When I looked into the health benefits of plant-based eating I realized I could start to feel better if I ate better. I’ve incorporated more vegetables into my diet and have been consuming more plant-based protein, specifically more nuts, seeds, and legumes. Having been a meat-eater my entire life, cutting a majority of meat products out of my diet hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth the effort. I find I have more energy and the side effects of treatment have become more easily managed.

How a Vegan Diet Can Help Cancer Patients
I like to share my experiences in the hopes that I can help others, and that means reaching out to talk about different things I have learned and tried. Eating a more plant-based diet is working for me, but I also did my research to find out why and to be sure this wasn’t just something I was imagining. Here are some of the important things I learned:

·       Animal fat affects cancer survival. I did my research and found out that more fat in the diet, especially animal fats, can negatively impact survival rates for all types of cancer. I actually have a chance to live longer by eating less fat and more vegetables.
·       Boosting the immune system. I have learned a good deal about the immune system while researching cancer. The immune system is important in the body’s fight against cancer cells and tumor growth, and it turns out that a diet without animal products helps the immune system function better, specifically against cancer cells.

·       Better for overall health. Studies have shown that diets rich in  vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and other whole foods are better for health when contrasted with diets heavy in meat, dairy, and processed foods. By consuming more plant-based foods I have noticed improvements in my health, from less fatigue to better recovery after treatments.

During my research, I was fortunate to come across Vegans Have Superpowers and have the opportunity to speak with Jacqueline. She has been a ray of inspiration to me, and I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to collaborate with her in spreading cancer awareness!