HERE’S TO A HAPPY NEW YEAR! (my annual visualisation mood board)

My New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be complete without the creation of my annual visualisation mood board! It is the perfect way for a “visual person”, such as myself, to set a positive intention for the coming year! And it works.

MissMarzipan_2015_moodboard_lg

 

 

You can easily create your own using images sourced online** and a page layout program such as InDesign, make one using magazine images and ye olde cut-and-paste method or, if really pressed for time, why not create a Pinterest board called “2015” and cram it with pins of the things you’d like to fill your life with this coming year?

Here’s to the New Year! May your 2015 be happy and love-filled!

<3 MM xx

*Borrowing yet again from my post back in 2012! Lazy ;)
** Picture credits: I have included images by Poh Ling YeowI Quit Sugar, La Tartine Gourmande, Matlida Lindeblad, Jasmine Dowling, Minimalist Baker, Ditte Ingemann and loads of others (without credits attached, sourced from Tumblr). Please let me know if one of these images is yours so I can credit you! x

Previous mood boards:
2013
2014

 

SWEDISH (NO)MEATBALLS (a vegan version of the Swedish favourite)

Famously, Sweden has a long tradition of meat, seafood and dairy-rich cuisine. Its inhabitants, however, seem to be increasingly more interested in plant-based eating. My newly-vegan husband- who was raised on köttbullar (Swedish meatballs), sill (pickled herring) & kilos of cheese- is a testament to this trend.

On our first study “date” during our university days in Australia, my future husband attempted to woo me by offering me a midnight feast in the kitchen of his student share house. The only problem was the fact that all he had on hand was slices of plastic-y processed cheese, a packet of Black & Gold generic supermarket brand frozen hamburgers (the cheapest money could buy) and, I recall, a handful of Jatz crackers. Not even bread. Basically, it was my absolute nightmare “meal”! I forgave him this major flaw and, 12 years and 2 kids later, we remain happily together… and eating a far better diet!

This Christmas I was determined to make a vegan, IQS-inspired version of the classic Swedish combo of meatballs, mashed potato and lingonberry jam.

MissMarzipan_vegan_meatballs

I will post my Sugar-Free Lingonberry Jam and Creamed Kale Mashed Potato recipes soon, but in the meantime, here is the recipe for…

SWEDISH (NO)MEATBALLS

Makes: approximately 20

INGREDIENTS

2 organic eggplants
3-4 slices of sourdough bread*
60- 75 ml of non-dairy cream (I used Oatly‘s iMat**)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small organic carrot, grated
2 tbsp organic plain flour (a touch more, if needed)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds***, ground using a mortar and pestle
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

Salt and black pepper for seasoning to taste
Chickpea flour for coating (approximately 150 ml)
Olive oil for frying (at least 3 tbsp)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 210 degrees C.
  2. Wash the eggplants and cut them in half lengthways. Place on a foil lined baking tray, skin side down.
  3. Make a few cuts into the flesh of each eggplant half (lengthways), then drizzle over a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake in oven for around 30 minutes.
  5. Remove eggplant from over and scoop out the flesh with a spoon before chopping up.
  6. Slice (or pulse in a food processor) sourdough bread slices into small pieces.
  7. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggplant, bread, crushed garlic, grated carrot, spices and a good pinch of salt and pepper.
  8. Add vegan cream of choice and mix.
  9. Add flour and combine well, then let the mix stand for a few minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, tip the chickpea flour onto a large plate.
  11. Using a tablespoon, take heaped tablespoons full of mixture and form them into balls****, popping each onto the chickpea flour-covered plate and rolling them around until each ball is coated evenly.
  12. In a frying pan over medium heat, fry the no meatballs in olive oil for around 5 minutes, turning occasionally to make sure they colour and cook evenly.

 

Leftover (no)meatball toasted sandwich with avocado, sautéed field mushrooms, a drizzle of olive oil, seasoning and fresh herbs

Leftover (no)meatball toasted sandwich with avocado, sautéed field mushrooms, a drizzle of olive oil, seasoning and fresh herbs

 

*For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free bread and gluten-free flour.

**For an IQS touch, try using coconut cream.

***For a more traditional Swedish flavour profile, try replacing the cumin, parsley and fennel with 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of organic powdered vegetable stock, and add half a grated white onion to the mix.

****This mix can also be used to make flatter, patty-style forms, which would be a great veggie burger option.

Recipe inspired by one from Djurens Rätts bästa recept

A VEGAN, SUGAR-FREE TAKE ON SWEDISH CARAMEL COOKIES

A while back I wrote a very short, sharp update about my adventures in pastry school. Unfortunately, time ran away from me and I have yet to go into further detail about my classes and what I learned during my diploma course.

One thing that was covered quickly was the traditional Swedish kolasnitt (or caramel cookie), made from a very simple cookie dough that is baked whole, then sliced into individual cookies whilst still warm.

The special texture of the original cookies was not quite replicated, but I was quite happy with the taste. And I think they make a nice alternative for those who don’t eat sugar or dairy.

Try dipping the cooled cookies (to halfway) in your favourite super-dark, vegan chocolate for an extra special treat!

MissMarzipan_sugarfree_caramel_cookies

 

VEGAN, SUGAR-FREE SWEDISH CARAMEL COOKIES

Makes approximately 40

100 ml birch sugar*
100 g vegan butter** (such as Earth Balance)
1 tsp organic vanilla powder
4 tsp rice malt syrup (I used PureHarvest)
200 ml plain organic flour
1 tsp baking powder

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 175 degrees Celsius (fan).
  2. Whisk vegan butter and birch sugar until it fluffy and slightly porous. Add vanilla powder and syrup. Fold through flour and baking powder and combine quickly with your hands to form a dough.
  3. Divide dough into quarters.
  4. Using your hands, form 1/4 of the dough into a rough rectangular shape on a baking paper-lined tray. Place another sheet of baking paper over the dough and, using a rolling pin, flatten the rectangular shape out to be approximately 15cm long by 10 cm wide.
  5. Pop the tray in the oven and bake dough for approximately 10 minutes.
    Remove from oven and, with a long, sharp knife, immediately slice cookies on an angle (on average, mine worked out to be around 1.5 cm wide by 9-10 cm long).
  6. Repeat the process with the remaining portions of dough.

 

MissMarzipan_cookies_Christmas

Christmas baking: Sugar-free Swedish Caramel Cookies, Poh Ling Yeow’s Chewy Choc-chip Cookies and Snowflake Stamped Cut-out Cookies… something for everyone!

 

If you celebrated Christmas, I hope you had a fabulous one, filled with love and good food!

<3 MM xx

*I should mention that I rarely bake with butter substitutes or birch sugar these days, but I have a packet of birch sugar left from older baking experiments, and in cases such as this, I feel it can be a useful alternative to refined, white sugar.
**Regarding vegan butter substitutes, I tend to prefer coconut or nut based alternatives to anything heavily processed/refined, but if they are to be used (for the sake of effective baking chemistry), I always try to stick with the non-GMO, zero trans fat and organic alternatives.

 

SIMPLE LAVENDER SALT SCRUB (a quick, thrifty and beautiful homemade spa-in-a-jar gift)

Allow me to jump right in and begin this post by stating that this scrub works. It really works. Not only will it leave your skin cleansed and moisturised, but you will smell gorgeous too (if lavender is your thing, as it is mine).

Moreover, it is inexpensive to make, simple to prepare (my toddlers helped me make it!) and is a lovely homemade gift*.

As someone who has worked rather extensively within the beauty industry**, I am familiar with the old technological innovation = high-performance pitch. So I forgive myself initially questioning the efficacy of such a simple homemade skin care preparation. Thankfully, I had the good sense to try this scrub out myself before packaging it up for gifting purposes. Now I’ll be sure to make this scrub for myself too!

If you’re looking for a last-minute, DIY-style Christmas stocking filler or hostess gift, this is just the ticket.

MissMarzipan_lavender_salt_scrub_lg

SIMPLE LAVENDER SALT SCRUB

INGREDIENTS

350 ml epsom salts
150 ml gently melted organic coconut oil
15 drops organic lavender essential oil
2,5 tbsp organic lavender flower buds

DIRECTIONS

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients well. Spoon into containers/jars of choice. Place descriptive label or tag on them if giving as a gift.

USAGE

Use this scrub on feet, elbows, legs, arms… anywhere that can do with a bit of exfoliation and a moisture boost.

  1. Apply warm water to the area of the body you will be applying the scrub to (doing this in the bath or shower is ideal)
  2. Massage the scrub over the skin lightly. Approximately 1 tablespoon of  the scrub mix per area of the body should be sufficient. Rinse off with warm water.
  3. Towel dry skin gently.

 

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER

  • If you have a known issue with sensitivity to essential oils, please stick with using the lavender flower buds only.
  • If you have experienced skin sensitivity to epsom salts, please try making a sugar-based scrub instead of this one.
  • Of course, you should never use anything of an abrasive/exfoliating nature on chapped, raw, sensitive, broken (cut/scratched) skin.
  • If you have found your skin irritated after the use of any exfoliating product, consider using this scrub as a relaxing bath soak/foot soak instead, adding 200 ml or so to a warm bath/foot bath as it is being filled.

 

LABEL DIRECTIONS

Simply download, print, cut out and adhere to jar or swing tag!

MissMarzipan_lavender_salt_scrub_gift_label-01

** Well, I’d be happy if someone gave me a jar of it!
* As an art director.

 

For other easy, inexpensive DIY festive gift ideas, see these previous posts:

ROSEMARY-INFUSED SEA SALT (a perfect pantry staple or homemade gift)

CHRISTMAS HOT CHOCOLATE MIX IN A JAR (instructions for easy, pretty homemade gifts + FREE printable labels)

FROZEN BERRY JAM (no doubt the easiest, yummiest way to use up frozen berries!)

VEGAN CHOCOLATE SNICKERDOODLES (yummy spice-laced, sugar-coated, crackly-topped cookies)

FROSTY SNOWFLAKE-STAMPED SUGAR COOKIES (possibly the easiest way to “cheat” your way to a decorated festive cookie without candy, chocolate or icing!)

 

 

 

I QUIT SUGAR… AGAIN! (IQS 8-Week Program, weeks 3 – 8 in review)

Hello friends! I have been meaning to post a review of my last round of the IQS 8-Week Program for a couple of weeks now, so before this truly becomes “old news”, let’s get right down to the nuts and bolts of it, shall we?

WHAT I ATE

 

Week 3 kicked off and, despite being at the tail end of recovery from a strange virus, I was excited to present Chilli Lime Kebabs with Herb Quinoa to hubby for his birthday dinner (his plate featured sunflower seeds and avocado to replace the feta). The Root Vegetable Rosti with Pea Salsa were a hit (not just with me; reports from other 8WP participants were positively glowing!). I experimented with making my own Salt & Vinegar Sweet Potato Chips (which I should get around to posting here, in case anyone is interested). Nutty Broccoli Pasta became an instant family favourite. The children helped prepare this easy dish, taking turns to measure out the pasta, pour the olive oil and juice the lemon. I don’t know who was more proud, them or me! The IQS take on Shakshuka was a perfect post-yoga, weekend brunch dish. Vegetarian Pad Thai was a true surprise, though I should know by now that IQS dishes are delicious. My husband loved this dish. The kids, who I encourage to at least try a little of everything I cook, did too (although they weren’t completely sold on the tofu). Once again the week wrapped up with one of my new favourite activities; Sunday Cook-up time.

Week 4 began with a touch of trepidation putting a slight dampener on my enthusiasm for “Clean Week”; a complete detox off of sweet things of all kinds (berries included), gluten AND caffeine. Breakfast #1, the Make-Me-Over Mojito Smoothie was my very first IQS-style green smoothie experience! I must admit, I have always been a green-smoothie-sans-fruit sceptic. No longer. I genuinely loved this and could easily have one every day! Of all the meals I have tried during 2 rounds of the 8WP so far, I was possibly most surprised by this one, having been so sceptical about the flavour profile before trying it. I spent the week still revelling in the fact that kale is now stocked in the supermarket across the road, and I added loads of it to my Super Green Paleo Fried Rice. I finished the week in gluten-free style. I was bound to love the Grilled Vegetable Wrap (because I am not a complete basket case) and, indeed, I did!

Week 5 arrived and I became acquainted with the Grilled Vegetable and Ricotta Stack with Pesto. Just. Yum. I made the mistake of saving a portion of the Stuffed Field Mushroom with Cauliflower Mash for 2 days instead of 1. *Sad face*. It really should be eaten within 24 hours (the texture became unpalatable after too much time in the fridge + reheating… but, made fresh, this dish was yummy). On the upside, the leftover cauliflower mash was a hit with my son, who demanded cauliflower mash for the rest of the week! I’ll freely admit that I went a little astray around this time and started including non-program IQS treats in my cook-up (IQS-style Caramel Slice and Vegan Chocolate Mousse). I blame Halloween.

Week 6 highlights definitely included the Mushroom, Chilli + Spinach Pasta. What can I say? Simple, easy, family friendly yumminess! Cooked up a double batch of the delicious Quick Moroccan Chickpea Stew, which is a perfect freeze and reheat kind of meal. The Apple Cookies were amazing. I can’t say enough good things about them; crunch factor, sweetness (not too much), kid friendly, peanut butter… you can’t go wrong!

Week 7 and Roasted Cauliflower + Chickpeas with Dukkah Kale came into my life. Hello, one of my new favourite dishes! Making my own Dukkah was a delicious revelation, and an activity I plan to repeat. My husband has been converted to cauliflower now, thank you IQS. Green Mac + Cheese was the inevitable success it was destined to be. The gorgeous Blueberry Paleo Pancakes, likewise!

Week 8 saw the return of some tried and true 8WP favourites, including the  Sesame Carrot + Pecan Salad and Breakfast Bruschetta (which was a hit during the last round). I was very surprised to find that I actually preferred the berry-free Make-Me-Over Mojito Smoothie (of Clean Week) to the stunning Strawberry Daiquiri that was raved about by IQSers at the start of this week. I never thought I’d prefer fruit-free over berry anything! The Coconut + Lemon Powerballs were a success; easy to make and moreish. I got around to making the amazing Zucchini Cheesecake + Summery Quinoa Tabbouleh. The tabbouleh alone is fabulous (fresh, light and vibrant), but combined, these dishes are a formidable duo. The Vegetable Free-Form Pie was a suitably festive and yummy way to celebrate the program’s completion! The Chocolate Brownie Biscuits with Ganache, created from a recipe sent via email to participants as an extra gift, were every bit the delectable treat you would expect them to be!

HOW I FELT

Overall, during weeks 3-8 I felt pretty good! I didn’t have traveling to contend with during this round of the program. I did, however, have adjustments to make to my routine upon returning to work after maternity leave. My energy levels were fairly evenly maintained throughout the course of the program (barring the very end of Week 8) which, in itself, is pretty amazing.

Week 4 *drum roll*… Clean Week! If you read my post detailing my experiences during this stage of the program last time around, you will have noted that it was basically a total write-off! In fact, my last “clean week” was rather quite the opposite. So this was my chance to give it a real go. I am amazed that I managed the caffeine detox during a working week. Despite normally drinking less than the equivalent of a standard cup of coffee per day, during Clean Week I had a particularly busy work schedule, plus very early starts at the office coupled with stupidly late nights working on personal projects. I survived being completely caffeine-free, nevertheless.

And the most amazing thing? Clean Week threw some challenges my way in the ol’ detox symptoms department, but I trusted the process and it was totally manageable when I did the things that were suggested. Detox headaches started on the first afternoon of Clean Week (I very rarely get headaches at all) and became progressively worse as the day went on. Walking helped. Drinking water helped. Green smoothies helped (I made a small one as an after work snack). Then I did hot yoga, sweated it out and killed that headache completely! Amazing! The detox headaches never returned after that hot yoga session. It must have been THE shortest caffeine detox I have ever been through (from start to finish, it lasted a matter of hours!). I still experienced a touch of “brain fog” at work for a couple of days, but I stuck with herbal infusions and water. I was still snacking… healthily, but snacking nonetheless.

By Week 8 I was taking on too much and “compensating” by seemingly putting sleep/rest/myself last on the list of my priorities. This wasn’t how I had hoped to end the IQS 8-week program; more sleep-deprived than I’d been since I-don’t-know-when after literally zero hours (or even minutes) of sleep on the last Saturday night of the program! After 6 hours of repeated attempts at meditation, breathing exercises and good old-fashioned sleep, I found myself in tears, my body physically shaking. I surrendered eventually and, taking myself out of bed, feeling like absolute rubbish, I started to organise my bedroom.

It was then, whilst sitting on my bed amidst a pile of personal papers and newly folded clothes, that I had one of many a-ha moments that have come to me recently. The realisation was that, despite the many issues I encountered during both of my pregnancies, when I was pregnant I approached matters concerning my wellbeing in the most loving, gentle and nurturing of ways. Recently I have been doing rather well in the food department and with training too. But some basic needs (such as sleep!) and gentle self-nurture have been demoted on my list of priorities. It is fitting, then, that on the last day of the 8WP I had a spiritual (read rude) awakening regarding the sustainability of any kind of healthy lifestyle.

I need to switch off. I need to simplify. I need to say “no” more often to the things that cause me undue stress. And “yes” more often to the things that bring me joy and contentment.

How does this fit in with my IQS-related journey/experiences?

I have always felt that one of the major benefits of IQS is the increased level of self-awareness it brings. This process is not always “comfortable”, but it certainly helps to shed light on aspects my life (not necessarily food-related at all) that need a bit of a shape-up!

On the upside, during Week 8 I ran my last race for the year; the greatly anticipated Stockholm Tunnel Run. I was joined by over 42,500 other participants, all crazy enough to brave the cold for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to race through the newly constructed Stockholm Northern Link Tunnel before its official opening. Miraculously, despite the cold, the often crowded conditions inside the tunnel, my layers of winter clothes creating the effect of a personal sauna, and not keeping track of the pace I was running at, I managed to beat my personal best time for a 10 km race by 44 seconds.

This was a fitting way to end the program and a suitable metaphor for my IQS8WP experience; not trying or striving for a particular result, just giving it a go… and coming out on the other side feeling good, surprised that reward was gained with relative ease!

WHAT I LOVED

  • The inspiration I have gained from working with new cooking techniques and ingredients
  • Connecting with inspiring, kind and motivated people via the IQS forums, Instagram and other channels <3
  • The heightened level of taste/body/self-awareness
  • Being organised. I can’t stress enough how amazing getting into the practice of a doing a weekly/ Sunday Cook-Up has been. It has changed our lives.
  • The increasing consciousness around our consumer behaviour that is being nurtured in both myself and my husband (and as result, our children)… not just when it comes to food, but across the board.
  • That somehow moving outside of my comfort zones with food seems to have inspired me to do the same with training, so I am trying new gym classes with new instructors, keen to change things up a bit (though CrossFit still terrifies me!)

 

WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE SO MUCH

  • That I remained (and still remain) an after work/pre-dinner “snacker” despite being snack-free and satisfied from my IQS-style breakfasts and lunches everyday.
  • That chocolate (even in its healthiest forms) never left me during this process, or rather, I never left it! :P

 

 SUMMARY

As much as I loved IQS from the moment I was introduced to it, I never pledged it would be something I’d embrace “forever”. In recent years, I have been one of those yo-yo detox types; generally fairly health-conscious, but doing the occasional “hardcore health” lifestyle experiment here and there when seized by moments of incredible motivation (usually after a binge of some kind; work, food, etc.). When I read that Sarah Wilson suggests approaching quitting sugar as an experiment, I thought “Yep, that resonates. I can deal with that…”, but I was quick to place conditions on my decision!

It is now, after using I Quit Sugar for Life, recipes and tips from Sarah’s blog and iquitsugar.com, doing two rounds of the IQS8WP and experimenting in my own kitchen that I can see how sustainable this really is. Not a fad. Not a diet. IQS is a common sense lifestyle approach .

It’s all about living consciously and fully.
It’s certainly not about denial or deprivation.

Many years ago, someone told me that the Latin root of the word “addiction” comes from a word meaning “to enslave”*. The things that are familiar crutches (hi sugar!)- things that we may falsely perceive as treats/freedoms/friends/momentary comforts- can actually be the very things can are keeping us chained to unhealthy patterns and preventing us from finding true and lasting happiness. IQS is about “true” food freedom.

In this way, I find it easy to pay no mind to the naysayers. I would feel confronted too if I was in their shoes. In fact, I did when this whole quitting sugar thing was first raised with me by a friend! If we are hooked on something, if we are desperately clinging to denial (because we know that once it’s gone, it’s gone) in order to avoid accountability, we will fight for our right to be right, right?

I still find myself hesitant to shout “I quit sugar for life!” from the rooftops (and, having studied pastry, I am sure to bake the odd cake or two in the future!), however it is evident to me and everyone who knows me, that I am a BIG fan of this program. And, to be honest, I can see myself continuing to largely embrace the IQS philosophy moving forward, despite the fact that my husband and I are both heading in a plant-based direction**.

I am so happy to have given IQS a go… not perfectly at all times, perhaps, but I have tried it. Moreover, I have seen the benefits. I have become part of a community of like-minded people, I have become more confident in the kitchen, cooked/eaten new things, I have run my first half marathon (a year and a bit before doing so, I honestly couldn’t run 3 minutes without feeling like I would die), I have seen my hormones start to balance out (after many, many struggles in this area), I have seen my kids get excited about food in a whole new way, I have seen my vegan husband adore the meals I have shared with him from the veg 8WP meal plan, and I have been hugely inspired in all areas of my life.

I have become more “me” than I have ever been.
And that, for me, is the greatest success.

I’d like to extend my best wishes and warm regards to the IQS team, my fellow 8WP participants and all those IQS-curious folks who have been sweet enough to follow along. Many thanks for the support, inspiration and encouragement!

I promise to play catch-up with everyone soon and see what exciting things you’ve been up to! I am so happy to be counting down to Christmas, celebrating each day of advent in simple, delightful and cosy ways with my children. Living in pitch blackness and freezing cold is kind of ok right now. ;)

<3 MM xx

 

*In case you’re interested:
Addict, v. < Addict, adj. < classical Latin addīctus assigned by decree, made over, bound, devoted, past participle of addīcere to assign, to make over by sale or auction, to award, to appoint, to ascribe, to hand over, surrender, to enslave, to devote, to sentence, condemn < ad ad- prefix + dīcere to speak, say”

**IQS is a program ideally suited to omnivores, but very accommodating to those adopting a standard ovo-lacto vegetarian approach to eating, with many IQS vegetarian recipes offering vegan alternatives. I seem to find myself in a strange little boat of my own, embracing many of the IQS principles (which have much in common with those of the Paleo and LCHF movements) and, simultaneously, an increasingly plant-based approach to eating (which, popularly, has a high-carb, high-fructose, low-fat leaning). It is an interesting place to be, with lots of room (and need) for experimentation. 

***The next round of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program starts on January 22, 2015.

 

A LITTLE CHRISTMAS COMPETITION (+ many thanks and lots of love)

*This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for your interest!*

‘Tis the season to give back*. That’s what I think, anyway! And I am so incredibly grateful for the support I have had here and via Instagram, I thought it would be nice to host a little competition giveaway as a token expression of thanks.

If you like cosmetics/fashion and if you care about kindness, this one is truly a win-win.

Italian eco fashion label Miomojo produced this gorgeous, exclusively designed set of two Moon Bear Love make-up bags for Animals Asia. Perfect for travel and everyday use, they are durable and have been constructed in an ethically sound manner, free from toxic, carcinogenic chemicals and substances. And of course Miomojo products are cruelty free; fashion-forward in every way!

I fell in love with these make-up bags as soon as I saw them, but as we are not buying things we don’t immediately need à la Sarah Wilson (I have two bags in good condition and in use right now), I wanted to gift them to someone else.

 

If you haven’t heard of Animals Asia, do check out their website and you will be moved (perhaps to tears, as I was) when you read about the amazing work they are doing to end the cruel, frankly horrendous practice of bear bile farming and give rescued moon bears a chance to experience kindness from humans after years of torture.

HOW TO ENTER THE COMPETITION

  1. Leave a comment to express your interest in entering, ideally with an email address so I can contact you promptly**.
  2. Simply agree that when you receive your moon bear bags, you will post something online -visible publicly – (via your blog/Instagram/facebook or what-have-you) giving a little shout-out to Animals Asia.

 

I will pick the winner by using the ol’ name-in-hat trick to make it fair.

The competition will be open for one week from today (Sunday, December 7 to Sunday December 14).

At this point, the competition is open internationally. I am awaiting confirmation that shipping to any location is possible, so my apologies if there is an issue with this.

I will be posting some Christmas freebie downloadables soon too, so everybody will be able to get a little something!

<3 MM xx

 

*Giving back makes one jolly! :D
** As the winner, you will need to provide me with a shipping address too.

 

This competition is NOT being sponsored by Animals Asia or Miomojo. I am purchasing these bags as any other Animals Asia contributor/online shopper would, and personally paying to have them shipped to the winner at the address provided to me.

 

ROSEMARY-INFUSED SEA SALT (a perfect pantry staple or homemade gift)

This was the salt that I used to season my “epic” (to pinch a Daniel Churchill term) Crisp(ier) Sweet Potato Fries the other day. The lovely, subtle rosemary taste/aroma makes this salt a versatile pantry staple or, prettily packaged in cute glass containers, an ideal party favour/hostess gift/homemade Christmas gift; an aromatic salt that can be used for sea salt bath soaks as well as culinary purposes.

In fact, I gifted the very containers you see in the photographs here to girlfriends who joined me for a Thanksgiving-themed, IQS-style brunch on Saturday.

MissMarzipan_Rosemary_Infused_Salt2_sml

I am rather taken with rosemary right now (as I am with cinnamon, clove, orange zest and other flavours/scents that I associate with this season). Rosemary essential oil is purported to have invigorating, energising and stimulating properties, all of which I can do with massive doses right now as we fast approach the darkest day of the year. At the moment I am using Faith in Nature’s Rosemary Shampoo (which is certified vegan, organic and cruelty-free). I happen to love the product (and the company), but perhaps I am subconsciously hoping it will improve my energy levels too!

Aside from tasting and smelling rather wonderful, rosemary’s health benefits seem to be many and varied. A recent study of plant-based anti-inflammatories has shown that rosemary significantly inhibits the inflammatory responses in the body. It contains high levels of calcium, iron, and vitamin B6 and is a powerful antioxidant.

MissMarzipan_Rosemary_Infused_Salt

ROSEMARY-INFUSED SEA SALT

Makes 125g

INGREDIENTS
125 g sea salt (I used Falksalt)
A few large stems of fresh rosemary (I used 5 whole stems) plus smaller sprigs for decoration

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large pan over medium heat, combine salt and rosemary and warm through for around 10 minutes. Allow salt to cool uncovered in pan then cover with lid and stand for 24 hours.
  2. Discard the rosemary from the salt mix. Fill attractive airtight glass containers with infused salt, adding a fresh sprig of rosemary before sealing.

 

*Recipe adapted from this one by Martha Stewart

MINI PUMPKIN PECAN PIES (quick, easy, IQS-style, low-fructose, gluten-free, vegan deliciousness in mini pie form!)

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and relatives (and anyone else who may be celebrating today)! It was 2 years ago (and with a touch of trepidation), that I decided to celebrate Thanksgiving for the first time. Since then it has become a tradition for me to host a cosy crafting/seasonal eating event for my Stockholm besties around this time of year.

With lots to be thankful for, and still riding the wave of sugar-free inspiration after my latest round of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Plan, I came up with these little treats yesterday. So far they’ve been much-appreciated by my vegan husband and food-loving kids, and I plan to defrost/warm through the pies I have frozen when the girls are around on Saturday for our annual pre-Christmas crafting day.

This pumpkin pie filling is creamy and has a lovely texture (non-vegans: you will not miss eggs, I promise) and, as it’s been a long time since I made my own pumpkin pie spice mix, I decided to wing it, adding a pinch of just about every spice I tend to use in baking at this time of year (with the exceptions of allspice and saffron).

I am so pleased with this recipe and I really do hope you’ll give these mini pies a go!

And back to gratitude…
Regardless of whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, if you’d like to drop me a line and share what you are thankful for this year, it would be lovely to read about what is making you happy!

<3 MM xx

 

MissMarzipan_Mini_Pumpkin_Pecan_Pies_Vegan_lg

MINI PUMPKIN PECAN PIES 

Makes 16-20 (depending on size*)

INGREDIENTS FOR THE PIE CRUST

80 g almond flour
50 g pecans (blitzed in a food processor to a crumb consistency)
125 g desiccated/finely shredded coconut
45 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (juice from approx. half an orange)
Freshly grated zest of half an orange
A good pinch of organic vanilla powder
45 ml coconut oil
2 tbsp rice malt syrup

INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING

150 g pure, unseasoned pumpkin puree (made from baked pumpkin)
1,5 tbsp rice malt syrup
A pinch each of cardamom, nutmeg, clove and ground ginger
2 tbsp raw, unsalted cashew nut butter (at room temperature)
1/4 tsp vanilla powder

Approx. 20 pecan halves for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (fan).
  2. Cut small squares of baking paper (mine were approximately 5 cm x 5 cm). Cut slits from each corner of each square almost to the middle of the square, but not quite. Place in a mini tart/pie tray (of the kind you might make Christmas mince pies in).
  3. In a food processor, blitz all dough ingredients until the dough comes together.
  4. Using a tablespoon (I used an actual measuring tablespoon for this) scoop out a tablespoon’s worth of mixture, shape it into a flat-ish round disc and place it on top of one of the baking parchment squares in a pie hole. Use the back of a teaspoon to shape the dough further and even out if necessary. Repeat until you have filled the tray.
  5. To make the filling, blitz (or mix vigorously with a fork, as I did) the filling ingredients until well-combined.
  6. Spoon just a tad more than 1 teaspoon of filling into each mini pie shell. Top each pie with a pecan half.
  7. Bake mini pies in oven for approximately 10 minutes or until the pie crust is golden brown and the filling looks just set.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving (they are delicious freshly baked and still warm).

 


* Using the above measurements and directions, I made 19 pies of equal size exactly.

**I suspect that these pies can be made in advance and frozen in, but I can confirm this on Saturday if my reheating experiment works!

****I have called this an “IQS-style” recipe as it is inspired by my recent experiences in doing the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program and it relies upon certain principles and key ingredients featured in many IQS recipes (rice malt syrup, coconut oil, nut flour/butter). When I talk about “sugar-free”, I mean it in the IQS sense of the term, which is essentially no/very low-fructose.

***Although oranges don’t feature in IQS-style food prep very often, I love the combination of the zest with pecan nuts and spices. For me, orange works perfectly in this flavour combination, but if you’d rather omit the juice, try replacing it with a couple of tablespoons of water and use only the zest. You can also try cutting the syrup in the filling by half, although the dough might rely on it too much for binding to be able to make a successful cut there.

****For a Paleo version, try using maple syrup or honey instead of rice malt syrup.

CRISP(IER) SWEET POTATO FRIES (seasoned with Rosemary-Infused Sea Salt & Fresh Parsley)

On my final Sunday of the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program (program review coming soon!), prompted by Sarah Wilson‘s plea for participants to keep experimenting and avoid wastage by using up leftovers, I made these yummy sweet potato fries.

Now, I think it’s important to state from the outset that I am pretty sure deep-frying is the only way to guarantee that every single fry will be super crisp. But what I know for certain is that there are a few tricks to achieving a “crispier” result when baking fries/chips.

I have looked at and experimented with a few methods. At the end of this exercise, more of the fries I made in the following manner had a “crispness” than did not (though most were soft-ish in the middle, which is how I like them). That is a win, as far as I am concerned.

But then again, if it’s baked and sweet potato is involved, it’s already winning in my book!

MissMarzipan_crispy_sweet_potato_fries_rosemary_salt_lg

INGREDIENTS

3 large sweet potatoes
2,5 – 3 tbsp cornstarch (approximately 1 tbsp of starch per potato, depending on potato size)
Organic olive oil (I used a mister, but allow for at least 2 tbsp of oil regardless of application method)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C* (fan).
  2. Peel and slice sweet potatoes uniformly (you want a matchstick-style shape, as opposed to a wedge).
  3. Place sliced potatoes in a large bowl, cover with water and place in refrigerator .
  4. Drain and rinse the fries, then lay them out on sheets of paper towel to dry, blotting with more paper towel to remove remaining moisture.
  5. In a large bowl, toss potato slices in corn starch to evenly coat.
  6. Arrange potatoes on a greased sheet of baking paper on a baking tray. Do NOT over lap the fries. Don’t even let them touch each other. This is one of the crucial keys to a crispier “baked fry”.
  7. Use an oil mister to evenly coat with oil**.
  8. Bake for around 10 minutes. Remove tray from oven, turn fries and then bake for approximately another 15 minutes (until the edges are browning).
  9. Season well/to taste. I used homemade rosemary-infused sea salt (recipe coming soon!) and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
  10. Serve immediately.

 

SUMMARY OF TIPS FOR ACHIEVING A CRISPIER RESULT

  1. Cut the slices uniformly and into a stick shape, not a wedge.
  2. Soak the sliced potatoes to be rid of the natural starch on the outside, which can hinder “crisping up” if it is not removed.
  3. Dry the slices prior to coating.
  4. Ensure an even coating of oil (this is where a mister can help).
  5. Do NOT let the slices touch on the baking sheet

 

Recipe inspired by my IQS experiences, the multitude of sweet potato inspo-yummies I have seen around Pinterest (by Sally’s Baking Addiction, Paula Deen, The Merrymaker Sisters, etc., etc.) and my own experiments.

*All ovens seem to have their own “personality”, so you may want to try adjusting your oven temperature if you notice your fries browning too quickly … or the baking time if they haven’t browned enough after 25 minutes.

**If not using a mister, after soaking and drying, place the slices of potato in a large bowl and coat them lightly but evenly with olive oil (start with 1.5 tbsp and add more if necessary). Then toss the slices in corn starch to evenly coat.

***For a Paleo version, you could try using just enough coconut oil to coat the sliced sweet potatoes, before tossing them in arrowroot powder (instead of corn starch) to coat evenly.

 

 

THE BEST VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE BY IQS, SPOOKIFIED (Happy Halloween… BOO!)

I made this yummy IQS chocolate mousse (purportedly the best vegan chocolate mousse around) after seeing it suggested as a healthy Halloween treat on iquitsugar.com the other day. I loved their suggestion of turning the chocolate mousse cups into spooky little diorama treats!
 
These were super-easy to assemble; approximately 100 x less labour intensive than baking and decorating Halloween cupcakes. ;) So if you’re looking for a healthy, vegan, raw, gluten-free, sugar-free, chocolate treat that’s both festive AND delicious, look no further!
 
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THE BEST VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE, SPOOKIFIED 
Recipe only slightly tweaked from the amazing I Quit Sugar recipe, which you can find at iquitsugar.com

 

INGREDIENTS

400 ml can coconut cream
100 ml raw cacao powder
35 ml rice malt syrup
60 ml chia seeds
1-2 tbsp cacao nibs
A few large mint leaves, chopped finely

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine coconut cream, cacao powder, rice malt syrup and chia seeds in a large mixing bowl, whisking until smooth.
  2. Pour into 4 serving glasses. Chill in the fridge for around 2 hours, or until firmly set.
  3. Add little headstones*, sprinkle some chopped mint (grass!) around the inside edge of each mousse cup, then add Halloween characters (I used Lego** skeleton figures), pushing them just the tiniest way into the mousse so that it looks as though they are emerging from it. Finally, sprinkle some crushed cacao nibs around the figures to create small piles of “earth”… and, voilà; a slightly scary, IQS-style, sugar-free treat!

 

If you’re celebrating Halloween, enjoy!
If not, I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

<3 MM xx

 

*I can upload free printable headstone graphics if anyone is interested. They can, when adhered to toothpicks or ice-cream sticks, be used as pictured, or as cupcake toppers.
**Obviously Lego pieces are not edible decorations and MUST (it should go without saying) be removed before serving. Our children had no access to the small 
pieces at any point of the assembly or serving of this dessert, but still loved and appreciated the look of them prior to serving.