allergies, gluten free, Nutrition

Healthy Vegan Carrot/Celebration Cake

This cake isn’t the crisp white that people may be used to with a celebration cake, but then it isn’t full of processed sugar either. I like the rustic look of the icing, and it looks especially pretty when decorated with fresh fruit.  If you just want to eat it as a wholesome but plain carrot cake, make it without the icing, and if you want something extra special for an occasion, double up the recipe.  This cake freezes beautifully without the icing, so you could make one half in advance and make the second half of the cake on another  day.  You can ice the cake while frozen and allow to defrost once the icing is in place.

For the carrot cake:

  • 2 cups buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 and 1/3 cups grated carrot
  • 1 cup dates
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 medium/large bananas
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder or extract
  • 1 orange (zested and juiced)
  • 1 cup ground walnuts (grind in coffee grinder or food processor)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 cups water

For the icing:

  • 200g dates (soaked in warm water for 30 minutes)
  • Fat from a can of coconut milk (you will need to leave in the fridge overnight so the fat solidifies at the top)
  • Juice of one lemon (optional)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade (fan oven). 180 degrees without a fan.
  • Grease 1 10” cake tin or 2 7” cake tins, and line the bottoms with greaseproof baking paper.
  • Blend banana, oil, dates, vanilla, maple syrup, orange juice, lemon juice, zest and 1 cup of water (in a blender or food processor). 
  • Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a mixing bowl.
  • Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then add the walnuts and carrots.
  • Allow to stand for a minute or so, and if the mixture is too dry, add more water, a little at a time.  Remember to not over-beat.
  • Put into the cake pans (I prefer the larger 10 inch pan).  For this larger cake bake for 45-50 minutes before testing. If a toothpick is inserted and doesn’t come out clean, cook for another 5-10 minutes.
  • If using the 7” trays, cook for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • All the cakes to cool on a cooling rack
  • For the icing, blend the dates, coconut milk fat and lemon juice.
  • Once the cake is cooled, decorate with the icing.  You have a few options here:
  1. For the 10 inch cake – simply put the icing on the top and sides, or slice the cake horizontally down the middle and ice the middle of the cake as well as the top and sides.
  2. For the 7 inch cake – ice the top of one cake, then sit the other on top, then ice the top of the second cake and the sides.
  3. For a bigger (celebration) cake, double up on the 10 inch cake recipe (and the frosting recipe), then decorate as for the 7 inch cakes.

You will have plenty of icing left over, and this can used as be a nice dip for apple or pear slices.

NB. You may want to use other gluten free or wholegrain flours, but please be aware that the liquid ratio may change.  Buckwheat tends to soak up quite a lot of water and become quite thick.

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Ways To Up Your Greens – Part 1

Getting more green leafy vegetables into your diet needn’t be difficult.  Personally, I find it’s all in the  planning, so that I’m not having to overthink it, or spend all my free time preparing and cooking.  (Please see my previous post if you want more information about what exactly a green leafy vegetable is, and what benefits they offer).

  1.  Chop up a salad and store it in the fridge for a few days.  Use rocket, spinach, watercress, romaine and, if you’re feeling adventurous, even kale!  Herbs such as parsley and coriander (if you are a fan) also offer a new flavour dimension. Add salad portions as a side to your meals, or even better, eat it before your meal to kickstart your digestion.
  2. Stir-fry spring greens, broccoli, pak choi, sliced Brussels sprouts or savoy cabbage with onions, garlic and your favourite spices to make a delicious side.  It’s also great with added soy sauce or tamari.  If you make a large batch you can store it in the fridge and add it to your meals.  I really like greens stir-fried this way with added cashews or as a bed for a home-made fat spicy bean burger to sit on.
  3. I find a really quick way to get in the greens is to add them, finely chopped, at the end of cooking.  They add texture and colour to soups, stews and casseroles.  I particularly like adding a big bunch of spinach to a sweet potato and chickpea curry.  Or kale or spring greens are great in a chilli.
  4. Make a green smoothie.  Fill up the blender beaker with at least half leafy greens (I like kale and spinach the best for this purpose), then top up the rest with other vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds or anything else you enjoy or will satisfy you.
  5. Finely chopping parsley and/or coriander is a highly effective way to add nutrients, colour and flavour to a pilaf made of brown rice or quinoa. You could also boil up some wholewheat or red lentil pasta, or buckwheat noodles for a change, stir-fry some onions and garlic, then add in a chopped bunch of gorgeous herbs (or other greens, such as spring greens, savoy cabbage, or pak choi) for a really nutritious but simple meal.

Next time I’ll be giving you some more tips on how to up your green leafy intake. See you then.

If you found the information here useful or if you have any requests for future blog-posts, please post in the comments below.

Sally

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Eat Your Greens!

Greens come in all shapes and sizes, each offering a unique combination of nutrients and phytochemicals, that not only work independently of each other to offer your body a multitude of health benefits, but also synergistically, in ways we have yet to fully discover.

One thing people really struggle to get into their diet is green leafy vegetables. This is a shame because they are extremely nutrient-dense.  Rich in vitamins A, C, K and many B vitamins, as well as magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron and fibre, these nutrients are an important component for many of our body’s processes, and play a huge role in our mental and physical wellbeing. Nutrients in greens also repair damage from free radicals, help to balance  blood pressure, help protect against cancer, and support our gut health.  Green leafy vegetables also have a high omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, which is exactly what our bodies need to fight inflammation.

Examples of green leafy vegetables are spinach, kale, broccoli, swiss chard, savoy cabbage, spring greens, Brussels sprouts, rocket, pak choi, watercress, romaine lettuce, beetroot tops and even herbs like fresh coriander, basil, chives, and parsley.  It’s also important to vary the types of greens we eat because each type also offers a different balance of nutrients and phytochemicals that help our bodies maintain health in a variety of ways.

There are various ways of getting more of these highly nutritious vegetables into your diet, which I’ll talk about in my next post.  As a rule of thumb, I’d recommend 2-3 portions per day, especially if you are on a dairy-free diet (green leafy vegetables are rich in calcium and magnesium – important for bone health!)  If you can’t manage this at the moment, start with 2-3 portions a week.  Simply eating more of these nutrient-rich vegetables will make a huge difference to your wellbeing then, if you can, build up more portions as you get used to your new routine. 

In the next post we’ll be looking at exactly how to introduce more greens into your diet.

If you found the information here useful or if you have any requests for future blog-posts, please post in the comments below.

Sally