Bits & pieces 9: Coconut yoghurt & baked oats

I've written here before about my love of breakfast. I don't understand those people who rush out the door with nothing in their bellies. Lately, I've gotten into preparing my breakfast the night before so I just need to assemble in the morning. While I love a berry or green smoothie as much as the rest of the smoothie-drinking world, at the moment I just want oats. Be it porridge made with soaked steel cut oats, raw with nut milk or yoghurt, or baked the night before into a delicious cakey goodness. Baked carrot cake oats

Above is my adaptation of Baked Carrot Cake Oatmeal from the wonderful Green Kitchen Stories. I omitted the nuts, added desiccated coconut and poppy seeds to the topping, and made it with chia seeds instead of eggs. Delicious. It's definitely good enough for both dessert and breakfast.

This week I'm going try out this recipe for homemade coconut milk yoghurt for the second time. My first attempt at making it a couple of weeks ago, failed miserably for some unknown reason. It kinda curdled. Ew. I'm determined to make it work though as I love yoghurt but, like most dairy products, I don't really eat it much as it brings me out in eczema. Secondly, we actually have an Easiyo yoghurt maker that I bought the boyfriend a couple of years back. He got bored with it though and would rather spend his kitchen time perfecting a loaf of sourdough than faffing around with yoghurt. Said yoghurt maker is sitting unloved on top of our kitchen cupboards so I'm determined to use it by making my coconut milk version.

Have you ever tried making your own coconut milk yoghurt? How do you like oats? Baked, raw or cooked stove top?

X c

Boozy spelt Christmas cake and Chickpea magazine

Vegan Spelt Christmas cake See ya 2014! You've been a good-un. I'm in bed with a rotten cold and am trying cheer myself up with this stack of brilliant inspiration from friends and family, near and far. My bedside reading today includes the gorgeous and brilliant vegan quarterly magazine, Chickpea. And it features a recipe for boozy spelt Christmas cake - written by me! (Hooray). Soon I'm going to drag my sorry self from my sickbed and whip up some coconut oil frosting for said cake which is now nicely boozy with brandy. It's become a bit of a tradition to cut my Christmas cake on New Year's Eve over the last couple of years, and while I'm not a fan of traditional Christmas cakes, I do like making my own version. We're planning on staying in this evening and cracking open the bubbles - should mix well with the cold and flu tablets. It's the first time in a very long time that I haven't gone out partying on New Year's Eve and I'm looking forward to it. Fingers crossed I can keep my eyes open 'til midnight. Wishing you all a wonderful 2015. x Photo for Chickpea magazine by Arthur Ravenscrag

Feeling lighter

IMG_2948 After four weddings, a funeral, a 40th in Wales, a hen do, a trip to Paris and Amsterdam, a visit from my sister, multiple trips to Edinburgh for work, too many nights out and general too-much-to-do-ness, I've been feeling somewhat knackered and weighed down. Now things have calmed down and before the silly season kicks in, I've decided to get back to basics, get organised and get my routine sorted.

After chatting about it with my sister, I've started reading Dr Libby's book Accidentally Overweight. And my god, it just makes so much sense. Since starting it, I haven't eaten one ounce of dairy or had a single drop of alcohol. And  it's been easy. Dairy hasn't been any great sacrifice as it's always bought me out in a rash so I tend to not have much anyway. But booze, well, there really is nothing nicer than a glass of red on a chilly evening or an Aperol spritz on a hot day. Even so, I've found this no great loss either.

I've also started meal planning for the week ahead, which I always thought sounded like a total chore and something only bored American housewives would do, but actually it's been brilliant. I downloaded a free online planner and just planning what eat for the week ahead. No scrambling for ideas, trips to Pret or last minute trolley dashes to the supermarket. A visit to the farmer's market on Sunday, a scoot around the vegetable patch and a few bits from the local shop on the walk home from work. It's been somewhat of a revelation and I'm loving it. It's certainly saved us money too. I just print it out, stick it on the fridge and meal an ingredients list in Trello. That way I don't get distracted by anything else and buy/make what's on the plan.

I'm not going teetotal but I have decided I'll save the booze for special occasions - birthdays, catching up with friends, parties and weddings, Christmas etc. Just no more I'm-bored/ had-a-bad-day/ it's-6pm-drinks anymore. I'm off to another wedding (5th this year!) soon so I'll definitely be indulging but hopefully not too much!

As for the dairy, well, I'm not going to say never-again but for now it's off the menu. I'll still eat eggs but the cheese, cream and anything else moo-related can stay away from me. After only two weeks, I'm less bloated, my skin is clearer, the dark circles under my eyes are going. I generally feel lighter and brighter, and my clothes fit better.

I don't feel like I'm on a diet, like I'm depriving myself or that I'm missing out. I'm eating yummy food that makes me feel good. Getting out of bed in the morning isn't a breeze (it never will be) but it's certainly easier. Let's see how long I can stick with it.  I'm also still walking to and from the office where I'm working at the moment, and back at yoga once a week.

Dinner tonight? Leek, greens and cannelini bean soup with rye bread, and nasturtium, apple and almond pesto.

Reading: Anything by Dr Libby

Eating: Green smoothies, oats and nut milk, rye bread, loads of vegetables and soups.

Photo: Nasturtiums growing in Monet's Garden last month.

Bits & pieces 2: January blues

A few things that are helping me chase away the January blues:

1. Eating cake and buying ribbons at the lovely Ray Stitch on Essex Road. I really need to find a permanent home for my sewing machine.

2. Reading about the gorgeous Alexa, while in bed with a cold.

3. Listening to this guy, after seeing him play a smashing show at the Hackney Empire last Wednesday. (Sorry about the rubbish iPhone pic - it was dark).

4. This is Mr Ukulele's bike. I'm spending my days looking at lady bike's on eBay, and hoping the perfect one will crop up just for me. It's time I replaced my old one.

5. Eating fancy mushrooms from Sporeboys at Broadway market. Reading and making yummy stews and soups my Christmas present cookbooks, this and this.

6. Loving our new old writing bureau. It was old and scummy when we bought it from a nearby charity shop. It looks much better with several licks of paint. It's nice to have another place to sit as sometimes we're fighting for desk space. And it doubles as drawers in the bedroom, which we had been annoyingly living without.

7. And which also doubles a sort-of dressing table for my pretty things. I'll share a before and after of the bureau on here soon.

8. Dreaming of drinking Blood Orange Gin Sparklers in my garden, when Spring has sprung.

9. Being addicted to Instagram. Completely, utterly addicted actually. You can find me by looking for @theteapotexplodes.

10. And finally planning a city break to Paris in March. The Eurostar is super cheap this month and it's a couple of years (far far too long) since I last went to the city of Serge Gainsbourg and Chanel. This was a tea party my sister and I had at the apartment we stayed in on my last visit. I've been looking up new places to go, away from the usual tourist trappings - any suggestions?

xxx

Pics all by me, except 4. by Luke and 8. from 101 Cookbooks.

More Bread & Butter

Here are some more photos taken on my recent weekend in Bruges, staying at the wonderful B&B  - Bread & Butter. You can see my last post about our weekend away here. Belgium chocolate for breakfast? Yes please! Fresh melon and peaches, cheeses, pastries, homemade museli and yoghurt was all served on gorgeous mismatched china, including Zara home, Wedgewood and hand made pottery pieces. Multigrain and rye breads were served in mini wooden boxes. A giant glass jar of homemade museli  sat at the end of table. All glowing golden in soft candlelight, it looked like it was straight from the pages of an interiors magazine. We sat down to a  gloriously beautiful feast each morning. Breakfast at my work desk is just not the same!

The resident cat was a bit shy but would sit safely on the other side of the doors to the back garden and watch us drinking our coffee through the glass.

This is unfortunately the only shot I have of the amazing vintage wallpaper that was in our loft bedroom.

I couldn't resist adding another shot of the bath tub.

We had amazing perfect blue skies.

We spent many hours getting happily lost in the winding cobbled streets along the pretty canals, fuelled by the delicious breakfast and strong coffee at the Bread & Butter.

Cake - one of your five a day

I have a thing for cake recipes that contain vegetables.  My favourite cake recipe for the last couple of years has been a beetroot chocolate cake. It's completely decadent and mouth wateringly good. I've made it for many birthdays and even dinner parties. Beetroot and chocolate - yum.

Recently the beetroot cake has been surpassed by the Pistachio Chocolate Cake from Harry Eastwood's book 'Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache'.  It is probably one of the best cake recipes I've used and has been a success each time I've made it.  It has ground up pistachios and grated courgettes in it, which give it an amazing texture.

It doesn't rise much, probably because it's made with rice flour, but once filled with 'Naughty Chocolate icing' you don't even notice.

I'm not sure that you could count the courgette in this cake as one of your five a day but it's definitely worth the effort. So far this is the only cake I've attempted from the book as I just can't imagine any of the others being better.  Perhaps I should give the Red Velvet cake a try next.... it is made with beetroot after all.