Vegan Coconut Chocolate Truffles

I’m not vegan but I do like to cook with coconut cream and I had a bunch left over. I kept wondering if you could make ganache with coconut cream, just like you do with regular cream.

vegan coconut chocolate truffles recipe

In the end my curiosity got the better of me and I tried it, super simply just by sticking some cream and some chocolate in the microwave until the chocolate melted. Turns out coconut cream ganache works out just as well as the usual kind, with a coconutty flavor that was just begging to be exploited.

vegan coconut chocolate truffles recipe

So, these coconut chocolate truffles were born! There are only 4 ingredients and 3 of them are coconut in various different forms.

vegan coconut chocolate truffles recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 can coconut cream (take the thick stuff off the top)
  • 3 oz dark chocolate
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 2 cups shredded coconut

vegan coconut chocolate truffles recipe

These are ridiculously easy to make! Melt the chocolate with the cream (in the microwave or saucepan on low) and mix it up well with the coconut flour. Leave it to cool for an hour or so and then roll the mixture into balls and coat them well with the shredded coconut.

Vegan Chocolate Coconut Truffles

Almost Strawberry Time!

In the last few weeks most of my little plants have suddenly started to flourish! We had a few weeks of good sunshine, and then the weather turned cold and cloudy, but I think those warm weeks were a wake-up call.

Strawberry plant ripening

It looks like I’ll be eating strawberries in a few weeks’ time!

oregano plant grown in a pot

My oregano has gone absolutely crazy since I repotted it.

potted herbs, basil, sage and lavender

My sage is finally starting to thrive and has really grown fast in the last few weeks. This picture was actually taken just after I chopped off loads of leaves to sprinkle over a roasting chicken.

I decided my new lavender plant looked large enough to go outside and so far it’s been doing well. Fingers crossed this one manages to stay alive longer than my previous attempts!

cherry tomato plant grown in a pot

My little cherry tomato plant just suddenly took off and now it really looks more like a bush. I’ve been nipping out the new growths at the base of each branch but I think this type of tomato is supposed to be a lot bushier than the beefsteak tomatoes I grew last year. I was also excited to see the first bud forming on it!

blackcurrant bush

My blackcurrant bush seems to be loving the conditions so far, it’s certainly grown a lot since I got it. My lemon tree blossomed all over but I decided to clip off all the newly-forming lemons because the tree is still young so I want to let it put its effort into growing bigger for another year.

purple chive flowers

My chives recovered and I even got a couple of flowers (which I used to decorate the bacon & gruyere quickbread I made last week).

onions grown in a small pot

The spring onions I planted out from cooking scraps seem to have turned into full size onions so I’m sure the pot must be too shallow for them. I’m curious to see what happens with them so I’m just leaving them be for now.

potted herbs, peppermint, chocolate mint, thyme and oregano

Sadly, not all my plants have flourished. My 2 mint plants are still hanging in there and I think they’ll be fine but they’re not exactly thriving.

parsley plant

My parsley bolted but it is a biennial on its 2nd year so I guess I’ll be sowing parsley seeds next spring!

herbs growing from seed. basil seedlings

My Greek basil really hasn’t changed much but it still looks healthy. Unfortunately a slug or snail just slurped all the leaves off my lemon basil so I’ve had to start a new bunch of seeds.

My violas had some sort of mysterious accident. One day the seedlings were looking healthy and growing fast, the next my pot was completely empty! No trace of green left anywhere so I’ve had to start those from seed again as well and I’m going to keep them indoors this time.

I’m also experimenting with an olive cutting taken from a neighbor’s tree. I think I chose a branch that was too skinny but I’m going to keep it just in case. If it doesn’t work out I’ll try with a thicker branch later in the year.

Bacon, Gruyere & Onion Quickbread

Not many people actively dislike sugar and sweet foods but I have a friend who is one of the lucky few. It was her birthday this week so I wanted to bake her something. Obviously a traditional cake was out of the question so I scoured the internet for something suitable and hit on this bacon, gruyere and onion quickbread recipe.

Bacon, gruyere and caramelized onions baked into a savory cake

I caramelized the onions really slowly in the bacon fat, on a low heat for about 20 minutes until they were soft and then I turned up the heat to brown them off.  I went with a cave-aged gruyere because I figured a strong, nutty cheese flavor would be important to the balance.

The only change I made to the original recipe was to add a layer of cheddar cheese to the top just before I baked it, to leave a crispy, brown crust on the loaf.

bacon cheese and onion quickbread

What do you use to frost a savory cake? I decided it best to keep things simple so I decorated it with a sprig of parsley and a chive blossom. I didn’t have a chance to eat any of it myself but my friend assures me it was delicious!

bacon, gruyere cheese, and caramelized onion quickbread (savory cake)

5 Healthy Yogurt Toppings to Spice Up Your Breakfast

I know I’ve mentioned it before but breakfast is a meal I really struggle with. I’m not hungry first thing in the morning and there just aren’t many things I want to eat at that time. Yogurt is pretty much the only quick option that isn’t full of sugar, but it’s actually a really good option. Plain, Greek yogurt and fresh fruit makes for a delicious, healthy combination!

Delicious yogurt toppings for a tasty breakfast or even a yogurt bar

I’ve put together 5 different tasty yogurt topping combinations to turn breakfast into the best meal of the day! You can find them over on Brit + Co.

Birthday Trip to Lake Berryessa

It was my birthday last week and it’s become something of a tradition for a group of us to drive up to Lake Berryessa and rent a boat for the day. It’s always beautifully warm and sunny up there and the lake itself is cool but just nice for swimming in on a hot day.

Since there’s always a bunch of us we rent out a large patio boat, complete with gas barbecue, sunbathing deck and slide! We always get there around lunchtime and bring meats to grill and snacks to munch, all in all making for a very fun and relaxed day.

Fish & Chips with Mushy Peas

Well, this is peas month and I am British so I pretty much had to cook this at some point. Although it is probably the most renowned British dish, it’s a long way from being my favorite and, in its authentic state (battered fish, greasy fries and overcooked peas from a fish n chip shop), I won’t even eat it!

Mushy peas recipe

My version uses breadcrumbs (panko again) for the fish and I avoided boiling the peas into oblivion by mushing them with a hand blender before they reached the soggy stage. I especially like doing it this way because you can leave plenty of peas whole to give a bit of variety in texture and flavor. What can I say, I’m a lumpy mash kinda girl, if that’s not what you want then by all means, blend them into a puree.

For the fish (for 2):

  • A couple of pieces of white fish, cod for preference
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 egg
  • spray oil

Preparing breaded fish cod recipe

Preheat your oven to 450F and prepare a tray. Beat the egg in a small but wide bowl and add the juice from the lemon. Mix the zest from the lemon with the breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt to taste. Spread the breadcrumbs on a small plate or a piece of foil or baking paper. Dip the fish in the flour and then the egg mixture. Make sure it’s completely coated then press into the breadcrumbs, turning several times to press more breadcrumbs each time. You’d be surprised how much extra you can get on each time! Spray the breaded fish with the spray oil until it’s covered on both sides, then put the fish on the tray and bake for roughly 20 minutes depending on how thick your pieces of fish are.

For the peas:

  • 2 cups of peas
  • 2 tbsp fresh, chopped mint leaves
  • 1 tbsp malt vinegar or lemon juice
  • or 2 tbsp mint sauce
  • 1 tbsp butter

English fresh green peas

Cook the peas to your liking. Personally I stick mine in the microwave, with a little water and butter, for 2 minutes. Mush them with a fork if they’re soft enough or whizz them up with a blender. Mix in the mint and vinegar (or cheat and use mint sauce) and then serve straight away because they tend to go cold quickly.

I’d love to say I made my own chips but I definitely didn’t. “Fries” baked in the oven are delicious but not the same, and I wanted a fairly quick dinner. Trying to fry or deep fry chips at home seems to result in the most disgusting, greasy (or burnt and raw), inedible chips ever. I’m sure I could do some research and experiment a bit to get some good ones but that is a challenge for another day. For this meal I used Ore-Ida Steak Fries. Yes, they do taste like oven chips but they are the nicest I’ve found.

Traditional British dinner - fish & chips with mushy peas

Chocolate Mint Chip Cupcakes with Mint Ganache

Despite my best efforts ideas for desserts and sweet treats seem to come to me much more easily than ideas for sensible, healthy meals. I was recently inspired by Alter Eco’s ‘Dark Mint’ chocolate bar to create these minty-chocolate-delicious cupcakes. Sort of like mint choc chip icecream but in cake form and way more chocolatey.

Alter Eco chopped mint chocolate fair trade

The base is a chocolate cake but with chopped up pieces of the Dark Mint bar mixed in as chips. The frosting is ganache made minty with the addition of peppermint essence.

Freshly baked chocolate cupcakes

You can find the full recipe on Alter Eco’s recipe site and I highly recommend giving it a go next time you need a delicious treat for a special occasion, or just the next time you need a chocolate fix. As they point out, you could easily switch out the mint bar for a different flavor and match the ganache accordingly.

Mint chocolate chip cupcakes with mint ganache frosting recipe

Fresh, Simple Pea Salad

Ok, my first #monthlyveg recipe for May is this delicious, lettuce-free and super fresh pea salad. It doesn’t have any dressing because, in my opinion, it’s got enough different flavors already, but, if you can’t live without dressing, go ahead and put something simple on it.

Fresh, simple salad with peas, pea sprouts, carrot and radish

As with my other salads this isn’t a recipe as such. Just combine the ingredients in roughly equal proportions and add a bit more if something seems lacking. You’ll want some freshly-shelled peas, pea sprouts, thinly shaved carrot (I use a vegetable peeler to get thin strips) and finely-sliced radishes. Delicious!

Pretty salad. Peas, pea shoots, carrot and radish

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Cake

This gluten-free cake was inspired by Ferrero Rocher. For a few weeks I just couldn’t stop envisioning chocolate and hazelnuts mixed together in crunchy, creamy perfection, so in the end I gave in and made the cake. Funny thing is, the finished cake, though completely delicious, doesn’t remind you of Ferrero Rocher in any way. This cake is darker, richer, more chocolatey, less sugary and, weirdly, less hazelnutty. I think perhaps a teaspoon of hazelnut essence in the cake would have helped but I foolishly thought that making it out of hazelnuts would be enough!

Gluten-free chocolate hazelnut truffle cake recipe

There are 2 layers to this. The truffle top should definitely be considered a layer in its own right, not frosting. The bottom is a gluten-free chocolate cake made with ground hazelnuts instead of flour.

Baking with cocoa powder

For the base:

  • 4 oz hazelnuts
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tbsp milk

Gluten-free chocolate hazelnut cake ready to go in the oven

Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a large high-sided cake tin (or 2 smaller ones), using a circular piece for the base and a rectangular strip to run around the sides, to make sure the sides are smooth. Add another rectangular strip long enough to pass under the base and stick out over the top on both sides. This will make it easier to get the cake out of the tin later since you won’t be able to turn it upside down. Use a food processor to grind the hazelnuts into a coarse flour and then mix in the rest of the ingredients. Transfer the mixture to your tin and bake for about 30 minutes until fully cooked. Allow the cake to cool in the tin until fully cool before making the ganache layer.

Chocolate hazelnut ganache cake gluten-free

For the top:

  • 5 oz heavy cream
  • 5 oz dark chocolate
  • 1-2 oz hazelnuts

Grind your hazelnuts briefly until you get coarsely chopped pieces. Break or chop your chocolate into pieces. Pour the cream into a shall saucepan and heat gently until it just starts to boil. Remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate then allow it to cool for a few minutes before pouring it over the cooled cake. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the top to decorate and then leave to cool and set completely. Finally, remove it from the tin and peel off the baking paper.Gluten-free chocolate hazelnut truffle cake recipe

This cake is very rich so you only need a tiny piece at a time, although you’ll probably come back for another pretty soon! If you still need a treat for mother’s day, this would be the perfect, chocolatey choice.

Chocolate hazelnut ganache cake gluten-free recipe

Anniversary Weekend in Vichy Springs

Over the weekend we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. Crazy how time flies! Since it’s something of a milestone I wanted to plan something special, although I knew it’d be difficult to top last year. My requirements were relaxation and sunshine and I found the perfect place!

Vichy Springs Resort is a site of natural hot springs nestled in the beautiful hills of northern California wine country, near the town of Ukiah. There are several hiking trails on site and place is sparsely built with beautiful gardens and pools. They only have a few rooms and, even though they accept day visitors as well, it never felt busy or overcrowded. The hot spring water is piped into 154 year old tubs and flows continuously as you bathe. It’s naturally heated, carbonated and drinkable and quickly forms tiny bubbles all over your body, although the water wasn’t warm enough for my liking!

We had an incredibly delicious steak dinner at Crush in Ukiah on the Saturday and then we headed into Healdsburg on Sunday afternoon because I wanted to check out the town and get dinner slightly closer to home. On the way to Healdsburg we took a little detour to Lake Sonoma Overlook, which was even more impressive than we’d expected. Finally we had a yummy tapas selection at Bravas before heading back to San Francisco.