Saturday, 26 March 2011

Agave Almond Slice- vegan and sugar-free

I bought a bottle of agave nectar today, and as I've never used it before I thought I'd try it in cake... with very pleasing results, I might add. I think agave will now become a regular in my storecupboard. Many of my old sugar-free recipes contain crystalline fructose, which has now been found to be harmful to health, so agave may just be the perfect substitute.
Here's the recipe (makes 18 rectangular slices):
400g self-raising flour
175g ground almonds (I grind the almonds myself because they are fresher that way and I quite like getting the odd larger piece)
4 tsps baking powder
400ml soya milk
150ml sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla/ almond essence (almond essence gives a more intense flavour)
150 ml agave nectar
50-75g flaked almonds
  • Oil and flour a medium-sized deep baking tray/ roasting tin and preheat oven to 180C
  • Mix all dry ingredients except the flaked almonds
  • Mix all wet ingredients in a separate container
  • Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well, beating for at least a minute.
  • Put in the tray and scatter the flaked almonds on top. 
  • Bake for about 20 minutes. or until the top is browned and a thin skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  • Cool and cut into slices.
Possible tweaks: This is a new recipe that I have only made the one time, so I'm now thinking of ways to change and improve it. Almond essence instead of vanilla essence would be good- this was my original intention until I discovered I had run out. I definitely would have used it otherwise. It would be healthier to use a wholemeal self-raising flour if you can find one.Or you could make them wheat-free by using all almonds and/ or another type of flour, you could make them soya-free and use rice milk, or maybe you could find an alternative to the sunflower oil...
What about a "Bakewell tart"? make a pastry case, line with sugar-free jam, and fill with the mixture topped with the flaked almonds.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Why eat good food?

This post is about what eating good healthy food can do to improve your quality of life. I was reading a great book the other day; "How to Simplify your Life" by Tiki Kustenmacher. It's full of easy-to-implement practical suggestions for a healthy and hassle-free everyday life. When I looked at the chapter on the body, I found some interesting tips on eating to improve your body-mind wellbeing...but why are you writing about this in a blog about food and spirituality? you might ask. Well, yes- I'm cooking to try to serve God (Sri Radha- Krishna) but of course we have to not only eat to survive but to keep healthy to be able to do this properly. Moreover, if we are not our bodies but souls inhabiting bodies and we are trying to practice devotion to God (bhakti yoga) then surely we should view these bodies as God's property which we are using to try to serve Him. Out of respect for that which is not our own, then, we are duty bound to treat our bodies well and maintain them in good working order as best we can.

Our well-thumbed copy!
Justification over then: I'll get on with the information! There was meat, alcohol and seafood on the original list, but I've omitted these for obvious reasons.
  • Improve concentration: avocado, asparagus, carrot, grapefruit
  • Enhance memory: milk, nuts, rice
  • Improve your mood; orange juice, paprika, soya beans, bananas
  • Reduce stress: cottage cheese, almonds, brewer's yeast
  • Enhance wellbeing: beans, peas, tofu
  • Aid sleep: bread, noodles
  • Enhance social skills: wheatgerm
  • Strengthen immune system: garlic*
  • Increase vitality: peas, beans, lentils 
    * Not offerable to Krishna as it is in the Mode of Passion (see previous posts for more info).

    I'm sure there are many other foods to add to this list; I can already think of blueberries and elderberries for your immune system, honey to reduce stress and seeds to help memory and learning.
    Thinking about what I happen to have eaten today, this means that I must have improved my concentration by eating avocado and grapefruit, enhanced my memory and reduced stress with the ground almonds in my home-made sweet, improved my mood mid-morning with a banana and increased my vitality and wellbeing after work with a bean pate. I wonder how my day would have turned out if I'd eaten cake and crisps instead?