Friday, November 21, 2014

Fitness Fridays - getting back into cycling, and heading off for another half marathon

With our shipment arriving last month, I was reunited with my bike and able to add cycling to my mix of gym-free activities. I was concerned my bike would need to go back into storage as it would be hard to fit in our flat, but fortunately we've hit upon a solution with locking it and covering it in our shared front courtyard. It takes me about 5 minutes to take the cover off and undo the two locks, but at least I can use it!

Clearly an Australian bike photo...

I haven't used my bike much for serious exercise, but I am now cycling to work 3 times a week. When I wrote my August post about giving up a gym membership, I was running 4 times per week and considering going up to 5 times. That mix included a run home from work once per week. That was a novelty at first, but I will confess to getting tired of it quite soon. I am really not an evening / after work exerciser...

I did end up increasing my running to 5 days per week in the lead up to my Ealing half marathon in September. However, I found the higher mileage sparked some niggling pains and also running fatigue. My bike arrived the week after that race, so it was a good time to re-think exercise routines.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Vegan sticky banana pudding

The next time you have some over-ripe bananas to use up, may I suggest this pudding as an alternative to banana bread or banana muffins? It will take you from 'healthy snack' to 'decadent dessert', but I don't think you'll regret the shift.

Better suited to the northern hemisphere autumn than approaching southern summer, this is effectively sticky toffee pudding with banana. It is sticky, and comforting, and very sweet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Aubergine and pepper spaghetti 'bolognese'

I have made this dish twice in the last month, which is a high hit rate when considering that I usually leave pasta dishes to Mr Bite. The first time I made it with relatively large chunks of aubergine (eggplant), but on my re-run I chopped the vegetables into smaller pieces to give a bolognese type sauce.

As you might guess from the frequency of our eating it, we both really enjoyed this dish. It is a satisfying match for cooler, darker evenings, and a delicious use for aubergine. The meal is not very high in protein, but it does provide a great hit of vegetables. Mr Bite has added cheese to his servings, and you could also increase the protein content with a scattering of pine nuts or slivered almonds.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chai spiced chocolate truffles

Do you think it's too early to start Christmas themed posts? Usually I reserve anything Christmassy until December, but London is starting to seem rather festive and, if I'm honest, I rather like it.

If you are Christmas inclined, these truffle balls are perfect for the holiday season. However, they are also perfect for anytime, so you don't have to be in the Christmas spirit to enjoy them. These are surprisingly like commercial chocolate truffles, but are fruit and nut based and coated in cocoa powder (and lucuma powder in my pictures) rather than a solid chocolate coating.

The chai flavours here are subtle but enjoyable, and come from brewed black chai tea and extra mixed spice and vanilla. I thought afterwards that some chilli would have been nice too, so if you like chilli chocolate, that could be an enjoyable twist to try. Of course, you could also choose to coat these in solid chocolate if you prefer your truffles that way.

These are best stored in the fridge, but are firm enough to be packaged up in layers if you want to put together gift boxes. They will also stay firm if left at room temperature for a while, so you can put them out for people to nibble on and not worry that they will collapse!

Chai spiced chocolate truffles
Delicately spiced truffle balls that are perfect for the holiday season, or any season
Makes about 24 truffle balls

Allow at least 4 hours for preparation
Food processor required

Author: Bite-Sized Thoughts

1 cup (250ml) strong chai tea, made with hot water and a tea bag or tea leaves (no milk)
1 cup (140g) sultanas or raisins
1 cup (140g) raw almonds
1/2 tsp mixed spice (pumpkin pie spice, or 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Cocoa powder or other powders, extra, for coating (I used a mix of cocoa and lucuma)

Allow the chai tea to brew for at least 15 minutes, and then add the sultanas/raisins to the tea mixture and allow to soak for at least 30 minutes. 

Transfer the tea and sultanas/raisins to a food processor along with the almonds. Process until the ingredients are finely ground and starting to clump together (due to the tea, the mixture will be easier to process and quite moist compared to standard fruit/nut truffles).

Add the mixed spice, vanilla and cocoa powder to the food processor and process to incorporate. 

Place the truffle mix in the fridge for approximately 30 minutes to firm up.

When the truffle mix has refrigerated for 30 minutes, place your preferred truffle coatings (cocoa powder / lucuma powder / coconut) in separate small bowls. Use a teaspoon to scoop out small truffle balls, and then roll in your hands to shape. Coat in your powder of choice and set aside. Repeat for the remaining balls.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Tell me - are you in the mood for Christmas yet, or is this just too early (I know Americans still have Thanksgiving to come!)?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Banana-maple muffins with potato and spelt flour

After making potato-based fudge for Vegan MoFo, I knew I wanted to progress to try mashed potato in baked goods too. I decided on muffins, and to add to the fun, muffins without oil or processed sugar. These make use of almond butter and maple syrup, with extra sweetness coming from the banana and some raisins.

As the pictures below show, my muffins have a collapsed look about them. This is entirely my fault. Having made the recipe up, I estimated 15 minutes cooking time but didn't take into account the different consistency that potato gives over flour. The muffins weren't anywhere near cooked at 15 minutes, and opening the oven door interrupted their rising process.

If we overlook the collapsed tops, these muffins came out nicely. I was impressed at the texture, which was similar to a regular muffin but a little moister and a little chewier. There is no discernible taste of potato, and instead the muffins hum of banana, maple syrup, almond butter and vanilla. They are sweet enough, but not too sweet. They are obviously and messily homemade, but I look forward to trying a repeat batch where I keep the oven door shut for the necessary amount of time. I expect that would give a far neater result!

Banana-maple muffins with potato and spelt flour
A twist on standard muffins that is vegan, oil free and refined sugar free
Makes 12 muffins

Author: Bite-Sized Thoughts

1 large potato, weighing about 330g
1/4 cup almond butter
2 medium ripe bananas, roughly mashed
1 cup (250ml) non-dairy milk of choice
1 tbsp (15ml) vanilla
1/4 cup (62ml) maple syrup
1 cup (140g) spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (70g) sultanas or raisins

Ahead of time, peel and chop the potato and add to a saucepan of boiling water. Simmer until soft, approximately 30 minutes. Allow the potato to cool slightly before preparing the muffins.

When the potato has cooked and cooled, preheat your oven to 160'C (320'F) and prepare a 12 pan muffin tray.

In a large bowl, beat together the cooked potato and almond butter using electric mixers (a blender or food processor would work too). The resulting mixture will be very thick. Add the mashed banana and non-dairy milk and beat to incorporate. Add the vanilla and maple syrup and beat to incorporate.

Stir the spelt flour and baking powder into the muffin mix, and then stir through the sultanas / raisins.

Transfer the mixture to your prepared muffin tray, and bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the muffins are golden and the tops bounce back when touched.

Potato in baking - is it something you have tried?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Homemade chai latte and caramel latte

Until last week, I didn't realise it was so easy to make cafe-esque hot drinks at home. I suspect I'm behind the times and everyone else has been chai latteing and caramel latteing in their kitchen for years. I don't have a coffee maker, but it turns out you don't need one to turn a cup of tea or coffee into something special.

I actually gave up milk in my coffee a few months ago, finding that I quite liked it black and very much liked the convenience of not needing specialist milk at work. Recently, though, autumn weather has made all hot drinks appealing and the (non dairy) milk varieties have drawn me back in.

Home made chai latte