'The Virtuous Tart' Giveaway! plus 'seedy soldier' recipe
What an insanely topsy turvy week. I've been up, down, basically all over the shop and can't seem to get my head straight ... I blame the heat - and the fact that last Sunday was my first Father's day without Dad. I don't want to dwell too much on that here but obviously it was a tough one and this week has kinda sucked because of it. The house renovations (or lack thereof) probably haven't helped either and so I found myself procrastinating on just about everything - including getting dressed ... jammies featured heavily but I'm grateful I still had the will to get my daily yoga practice in. I guess I haven't really talked much about yoga on here but it has been something of a salvation for me on and off for a number of years. Until we moved house though it had definitely fallen by the wayside, mainly due to the lack of room in our previous flat - there was literally no-where to get a good stretch going on. Something changed though when we moved into our new home. I suddenly felt the need to integrate it back into my life on a regular and more consistent basis. I know the 'yoga every damn day' mantra has been toted a lot on the internet (particularly instagram) and seeing it in hashtag form was previously a sure fire way to make me instantly feel terrible. Worse still ... useless. How do these people do it(?), I would think to myself ... it seemed so unobtainable at the time I completely dismissed the mere prospect of it.
Granted, I'm not exactly your typical self-styled yoga queen quite yet, however, I have found a way to make it work for me on a daily basis - whether it's a series of simple sun salutations or a mini compilation of poses that change regularly, I've been trying to do something to keep my hand in (almost) everyday. I even went as far as to buy a mat in LA just so I could keep my practice going. It's now gotten to the stage where I feel my day is incomplete without it. Even as I type, I'm planning to hit the mat as soon as I finish this post. My advice is to start small and don't put yourself under any pressure to do a set amount of time or a particular series of moves - go with the flow and let your body decide what it's comfortable doing on any given day. This flexibility will mean you're more likely to stick to it. I'm only two months in but already I'm noticing changes, not only physically (although I am getting stronger and leaner) but also mentally ... being prone to anxiety etc. means I can get overwhelmed very easily but I've surprised myself (and my Husband) lately by how well I'm dealing with certain social situations. I'm calmer, less fraught and I can only put that down to the yoga and mediation I'm working into my routine.
I've also been getting a lot of renewed pleasure from being in the kitchen (despite it's currently ramshackle appearance) and have been lapping up all these wonderful new cookbooks on the market. One such book is the new paperback edition of The Virtuous Tartby the incomparable (and hilarious) Susan Jane White ... the mistress of all things healthy and sweet, in my humble opinion. Her treats are uniquely awesome and the book is simply crammed with delicious recipes that will make you feel as 'virtuous' as that half hour on the yoga mat. Almost. Having already made her AmazoniaN Truffles (which are legit 'to die for') I thought I'd give her seedy soldiers a go ... not just any old granola slice I can assure you - everyone that's sampled them (Husband, Husband's work colleague and our lovely central heating guy, to be precise) has had an 'eye widening' reaction to them. That good. And now I only have two left. Sob.
Almost entirely vegan, this is a cookbook for any keen baker that wants to eschew refined sugar and dairy but still enjoy the odd slice of cake. With substitutes for virtually everything (bar 2, maybe 3 recipes) Susan guides you through all the ins and outs of dairy-free baking, making it feel like an absolute cinch. Food aside, her writing alone is enough to make you want this book. Her witty titles and intros had me seriously lolling and that humour feeds straight into her recipes too ... everything about it feels effortlessly lighthearted, approachable and fun - plus the images are flippin' gorgeous, just like Susan herself. Luckily for a few of you, I have three copies to give away (hurrah!) - all ye have to do is leave a comment below, telling me your all-time favourite sweet treat (well, why not?!) ... I'll then pop the entries into one of those number generator thingys and I'll announce the winners in a week. In the the meantime, why not head over to Susan's instagram/twitter accounts and show her some love ... oh, and definitely go check her out on youtube - I'll eat my hat if you don't instantly fall in love with her effervescent personality too.
*This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who took part! The lucky winners were Louisa, Laura Buckley and Sarah McKenna.
chocolate seed soldiers
taken from The Virtuous Tart by Susan Jane White (my comments are in italics)
what you'll need
1 cup (140g) pitted dates, chopped
1 cup (120g) milled sunflower and pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (140g) cashew nut butter
1/2 cup (75g) raisins
1/2 cup (65g) coconut flour
1/2 cup (125ml) maple syrup
2 tbsp. raw cacao nibs
2 tbsp. goji berries, plus extra to decorate
up to 1 tbsp. tamari or raw coconut aminos
130g 75% dark chocolate
what you'll do
In a food processor, combine everything except the dark chocolate and decorative gojis.
Spread it out over a parchment-lined shallow tin. The perfect size tin is a 20cm x 25cm rectangular one, a little larger than the traditional 20cm x 20cm brownie tin. I place another piece of parchment on top of the base mixture, pressing down firmly with my fingers, Once the base is smooth, you can ditch the top piece of parchment. Chill in fridge - I refrigerated it for 30mins.
Meanwhile, slowly melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. This is basically a pot of simmering water, 2.5cm in depth, with a heatproof bowl sitting on top where a lid might otherwise have gone. The contents of the bowl will gently melt form the steam of the water underneath. The trick is not to let the water boil or let the bottom of the bowl touch the water underneath.
Smother the base in melted chocolate and parachute a few goji berries on top (I minced mine with a knife) for colour. Refrigerate overnight ... I can also confirm that these actually get even better with time. Side note: when you initially remove it from the fridge, let it sit for a little while before cutting to avoid cracking the chocolate on top.