April 15 2017

Vegan and Gluten Free Chocolate Fridge Cake (Dairy Free No Bake Cake)

No bake cakes are quick and easy to make and this vegan and gluten free chocolate fridge cake is no exception. These are good activity for young children as they do not require an oven to be used. Fridge cakes can be varied in many ways to suit your individual or family’s taste. Other items such as dried fruits, vegan marshmallows, chopped or whole nuts and flavourings such as mint or orange essence could be added to the mixture.

The finished vegan and gluten free chocolate fridge cake can also be decorated in a variety of ways: for example with fresh or dried fruits, nuts, piped icing (made using icing sugar and water), grated vegan chocolate, vegan chocolate buttons or with any commercially available cake decorations that are vegan and gluten free such as sprinkles or edible glitter.

 

Vegan and Gluten Free Chocolate Fridge Cake

 

Vegan and Gluten Free Chocolate Fridge Cake

  • 200g (7oz) vegan and gluten free biscuits
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp vegan margarine
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup or agave nectar
  • pinch salt
  • 100g (3.5oz) vegan dark chocolate, (or vegan milk chocolate if preferred)
  • Strawberries, halved, to decorate

 

  1. Line a container with foil or cling film.
  2. Put the biscuits into a mixing bowl and break into small pieces using the end of a rolling pin.
  3. Melt the margarine, syrup or agave and chocolate over a low heat, stirring.
  4. Pour the chocolate mixture over the biscuits pieces and mix well so that they are all coated.
  5. Pour the mixture into the lined container and press down firmly. Place the halved strawberries on top.
  6. Cover and place in the fridge for 3 hours (or overnight is fine).
  7. When you are ready to serve, remove the container and foil/cling film and cut the cake into squares with a sharp knife.

If you have made my vegan and gluten free chocolate fridge cake it would be great to hear what you think or what variations you have given a try. I really like the cake made using mint dark chocolate as I am a big mint fan. My son loves marshmallows so is always happy when we have some to add. Honeycomb is also a really nice addition and makes the cake extra crunchy!

 

Ingredients Profiles For Vegan and Gluten Free Chocolate Fridge Cake

Cocoa

Cocoa is the substance that is left after cocoa butter is extracted from cacao beans and is also known as cocoa powder, cacao or cocoa solids. This brown powder contains several minerals including calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc as well as being rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are believed to be helpful in preventing illness such as heart disease and stroke. Cocoa contains phenethylamine which acts as a mood lifer and natural anti-depressant. Cocoa may also have the ability to boost endorphin and serotonin levels which both increase feelings of happiness.

The flavonoids in cocoa are part of a group of antioxidants called polyphenols. These are particularly high in minimally processed and raw cocoa powder as they have bitter taste and so are removed in some products. An article in Science Daily stated that drinking cocoa can help to fight cancer and heart disease. Cocoa may also be useful in lowering LDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of blood clots, lower high blood pressure and in boosting cognitive performance.

In contrast to all its potential health benefits cocoa does contain caffeine which can have a negative effect on the health of many people. Caffeine can cause insomnia, increase heart rate and blood sugar levels and can result in a physical dependence if used regularly, especially in sensitive individuals.

 

Dark Chocolate

When eaten in moderation dark chocolate has a number of health benefits. Studies have shown that eating a small amount of dark chocolate 2-3 times a week can help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow and help to prevent the formation of blood clots. It may also help to protect against hardening of the arteries. The phenethylamine content of dark chocolate encourages your brain to release endorphins which increase feelings of happiness.

Dark chocolate has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain and so may aid cognitive functions. It does contain caffeine; however it is much less than is found in coffee. 1.5oz of dark chocolate contains approximately 27mg of caffeine compared to the 200mg of caffeine contained in an 8oz cup of coffee.

The mild stimulant, theobromine is found in dark chocolate and has been shown to lower the risk of dental cavities (as long as good dental hygiene is followed) as it hardens tooth enamel.

Dark chocolate contains several vitamins and minerals that are needed for good health. These include potassium, copper, magnesium and iron. Iron helps to prevent anaemia, magnesium helps prevent type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease and copper and potassium are known to protect against stroke and heart ailments.

 

Strawberries

Strawberries are a commonly used and loved fruit, popular with children and adults alike. They are rich in vitamins and minerals including folate, potassium, manganese, fibre, magnesium and vitamin C as well as antioxidants.

Strawberries contain flavonoids, phenolic phytochemicals and elagic acid, all of which help to ensure good eye health and help prevent eye damage and problems caused by harmful oxidants. The potassium found in these berries can also help to correct any issues relating to the pressure within the eyes.

The vitamin C in strawberries is a great boost to the immune system and is a well-known cure for common coughs and colds as well as having a role in the healing of infections. Vitamin C helps the body to neutralise free radicals and prevent healthy cells from becoming diseased or cancerous. The flavonoids present in strawberries have excellent antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties.

Strawberries are a rich source of potassium and magnesium which are both good at lowering high blood pressure. Potassium eases the flow of blood around the body by relaxing the arteries and so helps to keep cells oxygenated and working to their full potential.

 

vegan and gluten free chocolate fridge cake
Photo source – AgelessVisionsPhoto, [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 


 

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April 11 2017

Stained Glass Crochet Blanket – Current Project

This stained glass crochet blanket is another project that has been on my to-do list for a while now. My ten year old has a baby blanket that is a similar design and I have been planning a larger one, with an added touch of magic 🙂 I am not sure what the finished size will be but due to the way it is made, it is very easy to make in any size you wish.

I have decided to add a little number magic into the blanket and use multiples of seven and three were possible within the design. However I have decided to keep to the standard six stitches on the corners for ease of following the pattern and keeping things balanced and even. Each of the squares in my stained glass crochet blanket is made up of seven rows of colour and one row of black border. I am considering adding another two rows of black border as that would mean each square consisted of seven rows of colour and three rows of black. I’m not sure if that will be too much black but will test it out once I have made a few more squares. I will then sew these squares together and then add a row of two of black border around the whole blanket. I will most likely add two rows in keeping with the numbers as there will be three outer rows of black. I haven’t yet decided between two rows of stitches to match the blanket or one row of these and then a row of scallops or another border stitch. On my last blanket I added a row of normal crochet and then a row of scallops in the same colour and was really pleased with how it came out.

 

Stained glass crochet

 

I have not decided on a final size for my stained glass crochet blanket. It will be made up of the smaller squares in either a multiple of seven or three. I am temped to make another large blanket but at the same time to go for something smaller. A nice size for using on the sofa would be good. I suspect that Rowan may claim it once it is finished as he loves blankets.

 

Stained Glass Crochet Blanket Instructions

These granny squares are the first thing I learnt to crochet, many years ago. They are great as they are so versatile and can be made in so many sizes and colour combinations. My eldest son has a blanket made up of lots of small squares whereas the blanket I made my daughter is one huge square that I went round and round. Getting towards the end of that blanket was great as I was able to use it to keep warm too. I was first shown how to make these by a friend when I was at school and made several cushions and blankets. Then I did n;t crochet for several years and had to try and remember the best I could how to create them. I found that they would often come out a little lop-sided or wonky and so I have tweaked what I remember to get a neat square that stays flat and neatly square.

Please note that all terms used throughout the pattern are UK versions. I am using double knitting yarn from various brands. Most is what I have in my stash but I am always on the look out for nice yarns to add 🙂 I used approximately 20g of yarn for each coloured section, to give you an idea of how much is needed.

If you are unsure how to do a treble crochet stitch there are some nice instructions here
Start at step 1.

1. Magic loop

2. 12 triple crochet into loop

3. Join with a slip stitch

4. Chain two, five treble crochet in same hole

5. Skip 3 stitches, 6 treble crochet into next stitch. Repeat twice more so you have four lots of six treble crochet. Join with a slip stitch.

 
Teble crochet square

 

6. Slip stitch along two stitches (like on C2C decrease) so you are in the middle of a group of six treble stitches.

7. Ch 2, five treble crochet in space

8. Skip three stitches, three treble crochet in space.

9. Skip three stitches, six treble crochet in space. (The blocks of six treble crochet form the corners).

10. Repeat steps 8 and 9 twice more.

11. Skip three stitches, three treble crochet in space

12. Join with a slip stitch.

 

Granny square

 

13. Six treble crochet into corner

14. Continue adding blocks of treble crochet in this way until you reach the end of the row (six treble crochet in corners and three in all other spaces) until end of the row.

 

Stained glass crochet instructions

 

15. Repeat steps 13 and 14 three times more.

 

Finished crochet square

 

16. Change to black

17. Crochet one full row

Join with a slip stitch and fasten off. Sew in yarn ends.

 

Stained glass crochet blanket

 

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April 7 2017

Craft Project – How to Make Shell Candles

I saw a picture of this shell candle project online a while ago, pinned it and like with so many then forgot to go back to it. Saw it again yesterday while looking through my account for a home ed art/craft idea and decided to give it a try. I have a large box of shells that I have collected over the years. I collected these when we lived near the sea and thought they would be perfect. Any shell that has a bowl like shape should work out fine. The whole project took me less than an hour to complete so it really is a nice, easy and not too time consuming craft to try out. I did it myself but it could also be done with a child, just as long as care is taken with the hot wax.

I decided to use some vanilla scented tea light candles that I had but these could be made using bought wax pellets and wicks. The shell candles could also be made using leftover bits of other candles. If you are using wax pellets or candle scraps you will need to buy fairly short wicks to go with them. I reused the wicks from my tea lights and they have worked out fine. That was another advance to using the readymade tea lights, as I do have some wax pellets but no wicks. This post has instructions based on using tea lights but the steps are very similar whatever source of wax you have.

 

finished shell candles

 

Making Shell Candles using Tea lights

  • I used six tea lights to make my candles but the amount of wax needed will depend on how large and deep your shells are.
  • Remove all of the packaging, including the metal tray.
  • Break the candles into a microwave safe bowl or other container. The container should be easy to pour from or it may be difficult to transfer the wax to your shells. As you remove the wicks check for any glue as some are stuck down. Remove this and discard.

 

wax for shell candles

 

  • Place the wicks into your shells. Try to position them as centrally as possible. This helps to ensure that the finished candle will burn evenly.

 

shell candles

     

  • Heat the wax in a microwave, in 30 second increments. Timings may vary depending on your microwave and wax. My 800 watt microwave took two minutes. Once the wax is almost melted you can simply stir it for a short time to finish melting the last small pieces.You could also melt your wax in a pan on your hob over a gently heat. I chose the microwave as it’s quick; I could use a disposable container and didn’t have to worry about any possible damage to my cooking pans or about cooking food in them afterwards. I really should buy a cheap crafts only saucepan for these kinds of projects. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for years but always forget!

    Depending on the shape of your shells you may find that you need to support them to stop the wax spilling. This is just until the wax has hardened. I used the metal containers from the tea lights to do this.

  •  

shell candles waiting to harden

 

If a shell is very unstable it may be best not to use it, as it may be hard to burn it safely. When being burnt the shell candles will need to be placed on a heatproof surface. This could be a glass, stone or metal candle plate or if appropriately shaped a tea light or other candle holder.

 

Do not worry too much about spills of wax or if any is on the outside of the shells. This can be mopped up with kitchen towels now or is easy to remove once hardened.
Leave the candles in a safe place until the wax is completely hard. The time list takes is dependent on various factors such as the heat in the room. Once it has begun to harden you should find that you can move the candles and they will not need supporting to prevent the wax spilling out. The wax I spilt came off the table easily using a plastic modelling tool (for clay). I wasn’t happy with how one of my shell candles looked so once the wax was hardish but not completely hard I used the modelling tool to gently scrape away the excess. I also added a small amount of melted wax to the dip in that candle. I used a small piece from the spillage and gently added it the shell candle.

My candles were dry enough to feel hard and not spill within 20 minutes but I left them overnight to be sure they were dried all the way through. Other than the top centre one, they all stand up pretty well by themselves now. This is due to the wax helping to balance them out. However it’s best to place the shell candles on a safe surface before lighting, just as you would any candle. It will also make any spills of wax easier to clean. I will use a glass candle plate when burning mine. However, I really like the candles and feel like they are too sweet to light! I can’t see any reason why the shells won’t be okay to use again with fresh wax and wicks once these are burned down. I am wondering if the shell will be weakened by the heat but guess I will have to wait and see and experiment carefully.
 

 

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April 3 2017

Millet and Bean Gluten Free Vegan Falafel

gluten free vegan falafel

I created this gluten free vegan falafel recipe as I really like falafel and find them a versitile food. They can be served in pitta bread with salad, with chips and veg, with salad or even in a sauce as you would meatballs. Unfortunatly I have a mild allergy to chickpeas and so rarely eat them. They also often contain wheat flour, especially when bought. I started out making this gluten free vegan falafel and then decided I could boost these delicious balls some more with the addition of millet. I chose the healthier option of baking rather than frying the falafel and squished them flat a little but you can leave them the more traditional ball shape if prefered.

 

Health and Nutritional Benefits

Millet

Millets are a group of grasses that are grown as cereal crops for animal and human foods. Millet can be eaten as a grain and is also available as flour. Millet is rich is iron, copper, manganese and phosphorus and has a similar protein content to wheat. However it does not contain gluten so is a useful choice for anyone who wishes or needs to avoid gluten.

Millet has a good level of B vitamins, especially niacin, B6 and folic acid. Millet can be used in a similar way as rice and can be eaten hot or cold (cooked and then cooled). Millet is easy to digest and can help prevent constipation.

Haricot Beans

These beans are also known as navy or Boston beans and are generally very easy to find in the United Kingdom and USA. Haricots are a small, oval white bean and contain a high percentage of protein as well as other nutrients including carbohydrates, fibre, calcium, zinc, potassium and iron. They are low in fat and 1 half cup of cooked beans contains approximately 100 calories.

Onions

Onions have a great range of nutritional and health benefits. They are high in chromium which can help to maintain good hormone levels and be effective in treating pre-menstrual tension symptoms. Studies on diabetes have also shown that chromium can also be helpful in decreasing fasting blood glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance, lower insulin levels and decrease triglyceride levels. Eating raw onions also encourages the production of good cholesterol (HDL) which can help to keep your heart health.

There are also many natural remedies that use onions. One of these is too apply onion juice to bee stings in order to reduce pain and the sensation of burning. Rubbing a raw onion on mosquito bites is also said to help relieve the itching and any allergic reaction. This is due to the anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties contain in the onion.

gluten free vegan falafel
Knoblauch 2995, [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Garlic

Garlic has been long valued for its culinary use and health benefits. Sanskrit records show that garlic was used it remedies as far back as 5000 years ago and stories suggest that a daily garlic ration was given to the pyramid builders in Ancient Egypt in order to help keep them fit and strong. Garlic contains many vitamins and minerals including manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, selenium, phosphorus and calcium.Garlic is useful for fighting bacterial and fungal infections as well as viruses. Allergies and adverse reactions to garlic are rare though some people may experience indigestion, intestinal gas and diarrhea when eating or using large doses of garlic in remedies.

 

Gluten Free Vegan Falafel Recipe

  • 1 400g (15oz) can haricot beans, drained
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup millet, cooked
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp millet flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/360F/Gas Mark 4.
  2. Pulse the beans in a food processor until there are no more whole beans.
  3. Fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until they are soft and cooked through.
  4. Combine the pulsed beans with the onion, garlic, millet, millet flour, paprika, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  5. Shape heaped tablespoons of the mixture into balls and flatten slightly.
  6. Place the falafel onto a greased or lined baking tray and cook for 10 minutes at 180C/360F/Gas Mark 4.
  7. Once thoroughly cooked serve the falafel with salad and gluten free pitta bread or wraps.

 

Recipe Notes

Other gluten free flours can be used to replace the millet flour if you wish.

The water content of the beans and other ingredients can vary so if you find that the falafel mixture is too wet to shape stir in more flour a little at a time. If the mixture is too dry add more water a teaspoon at a time.

Beans other than haricot can also be used in this recipe but may change the final taste. Dried beans can also be used but will need to be soaked overnight and then cooked first.

 

 

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March 29 2017

Sweet Potato, Bean and Spinach Vegan and Gluten Free Curry

My favourite plant based curry is sweet potato, chickpea and spinach. A restaurant we sometimes go to has a delicious one on their menu so although they don’t have many vegan and gluten-free options I don’t mind so much. However, a few years ago I discovered that I have a mild allergy to chickpeas and although it’s not serious and medication does help, I prefer not to eat them very often. Sometimes I make this vegan and gluten free curry and just leave out the chickpeas, but it’s never quite the same. In several other recipes I have successfully swapped chickpeas for beans so I decided to give that a try here. It’s not exactly the same, of course but the beans help to keep the look and texture very similar and it’s still super yummy.

 

vegan and gluten free curry

 

The recipe makes two good sized portions and would most likely stretch to three if served with rice, nann bread, chapatis or poppadoms.

The baby broad beans can be swapped for any type of beans you like. I have used tinned haricot beans in the past or you could cook your own from dried. I had these frozen baby broad beans in the freezer left from another recipe and so thought this was a good opportunity to finish them off. This vegan and gluten free curry could also be cooked in a slow cooker so is great for busy days. So nice to come home to the smell of home cooked food and know you can eat a tasty nourishing meal. If cooking this way you can skip the frying if you wish. Add all of the ingredients except the spinach to the slow cooker and cook on high for approximately 3 hours or low for 5 hours. Add the spinach 20 minutes before the end of cooking.

The finished curry can be frozen and used at a later date.

 

Sweet potato, bean and spinach curry

 

Sweet potato, Bean and Spinach Vegan and Gluten Free Curry

150g (5.3oz) sweet potato, cubed (approximately 1cm cubes)
50g (1.8oz) red onion, diced
400g (14.1oz) tin of chopped tomatoes
200ml (7fl oz) tinned coconut milk
60g (2.1oz) spinach
150g (5.3oz) frozen baby broad beans
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 cloves garlic
Oil for frying

1) Fry the onion, sweet potato and spices in a little oil for three minutes, stirring.

2) Add all of the remaining ingredients except the spinach and simmer, covered for 30 minutes or until the sweet potato is cooked.

3) Add the spinach and stir into stew. Cook for 2 minutes.

 

vegan and gluten free curry

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March 21 2017

Chakra Healing with Crystals Infographic

While browsing Pinterst this morning I came across this great infographic on chakra healing with crystals. It provides clear information on each of the seven major chakras and examples of five crystals that can be used to heal inbalances in each. The crystals chosen for chakra healing include:
  • Clear quartz
  • Amethyst
  • Blue lace agate
  • Sodalite
  • Amazonite
  • Citrine
  • Rutilated quartz
  • Carnelian
  • Amber
  • Hematite
  • Black jasper

Chakra healing with crystals is a gentle and univastive method to rebalance the energy field and address any blockages. It is safe for use by anyone regardless of age, gender, disabilities and whether they are already having other treatments or taking prescribed medications.

 

Chakra Healing with Crystals

From Visually.

– See more at: https://visual.ly/chakra-healing-crystals#sthash.QjKaTlFK.dpuf

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March 15 2017

Types of Incense and How to Use Them

Incense sticks

 

Throughout time cultures across the world have been making and burning incense. This can be done in a number of ways using ingredients found in nature such as herbs, fruits, seeds, peels and spices.
Of the five human senses, the sense of smell is often the most strongly associated with memories. Even the smallest hint of a smell can bring back memories of a certain time, place or person. Incense can be used to recall memories and access certain areas of your mind quickly and with great precision. It can be used to adjust the atmosphere of rooms, for example as well as the atmosphere in your mind and spiritual bodies. This makes it a useful tool for meditation you need to create an uplifting calming or even stimulating atmosphere. Scents such as Japanese Cedar,  amber, sandalwood and camphor are highly effective at putting the mind in a calm meditate state which can help aid and deepen your practice. These calming aromas can also be used outside of meditation to help bring peace and harmony to your home and other areas.

 

Sheesham wood incense holder

 

A common use for incense, particularly in past times is creating a sacred space for ritual and ceremonial work. From Buddhist temples in Japan China and Tibet to Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches you will often see incense used as a tool to create a powerful and purified ritual space. Incense is also often used in this way buy followers of pagan religions and paths. The rising smoke is considered a symbol of prayer by many and as an offering rising up to deity. The smoke is also believed to have the ability to remove negative stale and unwanted energies from a space. These energies are collected and carried away as the smoke rises.

 

Incense smoke rising to deity

 

Incense can of course simply be used as a practical and highly varied method of creating fragrance within your home. The huge range of scents available means that there is something to suit every taste,  environment and situation. It can also be used to mask unpleasant odours such as cigarette smoke or caused by pets. Incense is used as part of the spiritual practices of many cultures and can be burnt to inspire creative thought, set a certain mood, aid meditation or simply to create a pleasing fragrance indoors and out. In fact incense can be used safely in almost any environment as long as appropriate holders are used and the safety of the surrounding area and occupants is taken into consideration.

There are two types of incense that are used, known as combustible (sometimes called direct burning) and non-combustible (or indirect burning) incenses. Non combustible varieties include loose incense as well as incense cones and pellets. These can be used without the heat source actually needing to touch the incense itself. The cones, pellets or loose material are placed above a heat source and this heating causes the aromas to be released into the air. One method of achieving this is by using an incense stove or oil burner. The incense should be placed in the top section just as you would essential oils, and a lit tealight candle is placed in the section directly underneath. The candle flame will create a gentle heat without causing any smoke or burning. Care should be taken when using incense in this way as the burner can become very hot. They should always be placed out of the reach of children or animals and on a heat proof surface. Incense burners should also not be placed anywhere where they could be knocked over or forgotten and care should be taken regarding other close by items. Check for any flammable items such as curtains.

 

Burning incense

 

Special charcoal disks can also be used to burn loose incense, cones and pellets.  Unlike the stove or burner, these may burn the incense producing unpleasant smells and smoke. One way to try to avoid htis is to place a layer of sand or salt directly on top of the burning charcoal and then to place the incense on top. To be used, the charcoal disks are lit and placed in a heat proof container until they turn white. The incense of your choice can then placed on top. To be extinguished do charcoal discs can be placed in cold water. The charcoal discs any container used will be incredibly hot so it is important to use caution while handling these.

Combustible incense is the form that more people are familiar with and is found mainly as sticks and cones. This type is lit directly, for example using a lighter or match. The flame is then gently extinguished leaving the end of the incense glowing. As the incense burns down it’s aroma is released and only ash will remain. There is a wide range of holders and burners available for this type of incense. These range from simple wooden trays to intricately carved boxes and statues and are often made from sheesham wood. Incense sticks can be bought in many shops and in a wide range of fragrances. Some examples include fruity scents, nag champa, floral fragrances, frankincense and sage. Varieties can also be bought with themed aromas such as based on star signs on natural environments such as the sea a forest.

 

 


 

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