MUSHROOM SERIES 1: LEMON, POPPY SEED AND CHAGA MUSHROOM COOKIES (V+, GF, NF, ChF)

Let's talk about the elephant in the room, shall well? Mushrooms in cookies, what's up with that? Before I explain, let me just say:

1. No, I'm not going mad. Not yet anyway ;)
2. These cookies taste AMAZE!
3. Your kids won't know there are mushrooms inside these cookies, I promise. 
4. And YES, it's TOTALLY worth adding in this weird but wonderful Chaga mushroom.

As you may remember I am not a massive fan of the 'superfood' tag. Basically I feel it's so overused. BUT after my encounter with a raw food expert (more about that in this blog post) and a fascinating lecture about medicinal mushrooms (not magic mushrooms, medicinal mushrooms ok?:)), I can honestly say that I am completely sold on them. So much so, that the next 4 recipes I'll post here on the blog (this one included) will contain a different medicinal mushroom.

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GLUTEN-FREE NO-BAKE GRANOLA BARS (V+, GF, NF, ChF)

"I know one thing: that I know nothing" - Plato

It's MEAT-FREE WEEK here in the UK and guess what? I'm in. Wholeheartedly. Completely. Totally ;)!

So I gotta thinking how best to use this really cool and important week in the foodie calender. Of course I'm gonna share a cracking plant-based recipe with ya'll, right?! But I also thought it would be a great excuse to finally talk in detail about the what, why and how I eat. I've been meaning to do this for donkey's years (ok, maybe just 10 months aka since launching this blog), but up until now it didn't seem like quite the right time. As my readership has grown though I feel it's so important for me to continue to be open, honest and transparent about my food philosophy. I owe that to you, my readers and I owe it to the integrity of my blog :).

To be clear, I'm under no illusion that my writing in this post is 'the ultimate truth'. It's just my personal view as I hold it in the here and now. However, I'm always open to learn and explore other ideas and thoughts; I want to keep developing my knowledge about food and hence should I learn something that challenges what I presently think, I'll be sure to let you know ;).

WARNING: This is a long post. Please skip to the recipe section at the bottom if you want to. I won't mind :)

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Are you a raw foodist?
I LOVE raw food and I strongly believe that everyone can benefit from increasing the amount of raw plant based foods in their diet, which is why there are lots of raw recipes on this site. But I don't exclusively eat raw foods. I did a blog post a while back about why. Check it out here if you want to :).

Are you a vegan?
Nope, I'm not a vegan.

So are you a vegetarian then?
Nope. Like 'vegan' it's a title that doesn't fit me 100% and actually doesn't quite describe what and how I choose to eat. So, I'm uncomfy with it.

What about paleo?
You'll find lots of paleo recipes here, but that label definitely isn't 'me'. I ADORE legumes and grains. They form a major part of my diet.

But you constantly use hashtags like #vegan, #vegetarian and #paleo on instagram and twitter. Isn't that a bit misleading?
I hope not. I use these hashtags to help people who are curious about vegan, vegetarian and paleo foods find my recipes. If a recipe is vegan, I will use the vegan hashtag; so in essence I'm trying to describe the food, rather than define who I am with the chosen hashtags. Does that make sense?

I occasionally use the hastag veganmom not because I am a veganmom, but because the recipe is especially family and kiddie friendly and something I think a vegan parent would like.

So how DO you describe yourself?
Firstly, I'm a human being ;).

Secondly, if I HAVE to put myself in a foodie camp, I'd say I eat a mainly whole food plant-based diet. This means that the fast majority (around 95%) of what I eat are seasonal, local, organic, whole, plant-based foods such as veggies, fruits, legumes, grains, etc.

And what makes up the rest of your diet?
I LOVE honey and bee pollen, which aren't strictly 'vegan' foods. I can also be a bit naughty and bake cakes that includes refined sugar or be really naughty and have something pretty vile like ketchup (I LOVE that stuff) or soya products. I eat eggs, probably 1-2 every week, and use mayonnaise occasionally. A couple of the ingredients I cook with might not be organic or seasonal and sometimes you'll even see me nibble on a piece of raw, oily fish. Not often, but it can happen.

Fish? Isn't that cruel? Doesn't it go against everything the blog stands for? How do you justify eating that?
Some people choose to eat a vegan or plant-based diet because their main concern is the welfare of animals. Though it is something I think about A LOT, it's not how I ended up where I am now. Instead my drive towards a plant-based diet came out of my desire to be healthier. I suffered from really bad constipation after having my son and was eager to try and figure out what was going on with my body. Furthermore, when my son stopped breastfeeding and moved on to finger foods, I wanted to be sure I was giving him the best and healthiest meals possible. One thing led to the next and before I knew it, I'd read every book about food and health I could get my hands on.  

The more I read, the clearer it became to me that a whole food, plant-based diet was the way forward. I tried it and felt like a million dollars. I haven't looked back. Now I'm in my second year of retraining as a nutritional therapist and the course has just confirmed what I already experienced for myself: that the power of plant-based food is fascinating cool and super healthy!

The second most important driving force towards the diet that I presently follow has been my deep love for Patch Mama (Mother Earth). She feeds us and looks after us and you know, we need to respect, honour and care for her. Eating a whole, seasonal, organic plant-based diet – I feel – is the best way to do that.

Lastly, I did a lot of reading about farmed animals, their suffering and you know what? I just didn't want to be a part of that. I don't judge anyone who is. And I don't believe that omnivores are 'cruel' or 'bad' or 'ignorant' or that vegans are necessarily more 'enlightened', 'compassionate' or 'better' human beings. I have met lots of omnivores (including my husband) who have a heart of gold. (Though rest assured, I'm working on him ;).)

More importantly, I think it's my role as a plant-based blogger to spread love and acceptance, not hate and anger, which is something I know many other plant-based, vegan and vegetarian bloggers are commited to.

Which leads me to the issue of eating fish. It's a very tricky one for me. Because healthwise, I feel that the small amount of raw fish that I do eat has more positives than it does negatives. In particular fish's vitamin D content is something that does me good.

I feel that eating more than the occasional piece of wild fish puts a tremendous pressure on our oceans. It breaks my heart that we're depleting our marine resources the way that we are. And hence - despite my joy of eating fish - I know I need to keep it in close check. Will I give up fish completely? I don't think so. Do I feel eating fish is cruel? Honestly, I don't. But things shift and change so watch this space.

Any more confessions?
Nope, but I will do a post about how I feed my family at some point as that's a whole different topic in itself...

Just for the record though I don't do red meat, chicken, turkey, duck etc. And I am really not into dairy. I can't see that ever changing. But something like this could happen, right!? Other than that, you can safely bet your bottom dollar you won't see me sneaking a piece of spam into my mouth;). 

Finally, does that mean you'll include egg or fish recipes on your blog?
I have unintentionally never included (free range, organic) egg recipes, but I will because I do eat them and find them very versatile. My baking recipes however will remain 100% egg-free.

I can promise that you won't see fish here. 


They say boredom is a great excuse to eat. So let's eat, shall we?
Thanks for reading everyone.

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GLUTEN-FREE NO-BAKE GRANOLA BARS (V+, GF, ChF, NF)


IMPORTANT: This recipe is adapted from one I found in Angela Liddon's truly wonderful book The Oh She Glows Cookbook. It's a firm favourite! Also, please check the tips at the end of the recipe for substitutions and other suggestions.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 20 minutes
Makes: 12 scrumptious bars

Ingredients:

½ cup (65g) (organic) sesame seeds
1 ½ cups (125g) (organic) gluten-free oats
1 ¼ cup (180g) (organic) buckwheat
¼ (25g) (organic) goji berries
¼ cup (35g) (organic) raisins
1tsp (organic) ground cinnamon
¼ tsp pink Himalayan Salt
½ cups (120ml) maple syrup
¼ cup (60ml) light tahini
1 tsp pure (organic) vanilla extract

Instructions:
Get all the ingredients out onto the kitchen counter and ready to use.
Line a square baking tray with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the oats, buckwheat, goji berries, raisins, cinnamon and salt.

In a little pot, gently heat the maple syrup and tahini until nicely combined. Take this mixture of the heat and add the vanilla.
Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and combine well.

Transfer this onto the prepared baking tray, spreading the mixture as evenly as you can. (Feel free to use your fingers if need be).
Pop in the freezer for 20 minutes or until set.

Remove from the freezer and cut into 12 bars.

You can store the bars in the fridge, but I'd recommend storing them in the freezer (for up to a month) and taking one out when you fancy it. They are GREAT for breakfast on the go or as a filling snack.

Tip 1: When you take a bar from the freezer wait 5-10 minutes before eating. However, I did notice if I left it out too long, it didn't hold together that well. When that happened, I transformed the bar into a chunky granola and enjoyed it with some almond milk. Yummy.
Tip 2: I used toasted buckwheat, but you could use raw buckwheat too. Just soak them overnight before using.
Tip 3: I know some people who are gluten intolerant don't do well with oats, regardless of whether the oats are gluten-free or not. If that's you, just swap them with millet flakes.
Tip 4: I used black sesame seeds, but there's nothing stopping you using white ones.

Looking for more breakfast ideas? Just click here:)

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PART II: THE BEST VEGAN COOKIES EVER AKA GLUTEN-FREE CARDAMOM AND PISTACHIO COOKIES (V+, ChF, GF)

When I started 2015 I put together a little 'wish list' for the blog, full of dreams, hopes and ambitions. One of these wishes was to have my recipe featured in a magazine. Initially, I was ambivalent about writing down this very personal dream on my blog for everyone to see – what if I failed and didn't get published? Wouldn't I look utterly silly? But, trusting in the power of positivity and affirmation I went for it and wrote it down. So what if I didn't suceed and never got featured? You live and learn, right? 

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