The Herb Diaries

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Gooey Chocolate and Caramel Bars

DSC_0356I know, without any doubt, where my sweet tooth comes from. I have a certain family member who just LOVES chocolate. Not only is this an annoying addiction to have inherited, but she makes a brutally honest judge. Nothing sweet that I have made so far has really impressed her. The usual response is that it is ok, but she would rather have a square of chocolate. Until I made this…
DSC_0328DSC_0334It is sweet, sticky and incredibly indulgent. And it is completely sugar-free, gluten-free, raw and vegan, packed full of amazing healthy coconut oil, lots of fibre from the dates, and tons of nutrients and vitamins from the nuts. Words cannot do justice to how good it tastes – something this delicious shouldn’t give you glowing skin, a clearer mind and a natural energy boost! So put down the chocolate and go and make this…

Ingredients:

For the base

1 cup of dates
1 cup of hazelnuts
1 cup of almonds

For the caramel

1 cup of dates
2 tbsp cashew nut butter
Pinch of sea salt

For the chocolate

1/2 cup of coconut oil
1/2 cup of raw cacao powder

DSC_0329 Method:

Blend all the ingredients for the base until a sticky crumb forms. Line a baking tray with grease proof paper, then pour the base mixture in, and press down evenly. Put the tray in the fridge so the base can firm up.
For the middle layer, blend all the ingredients until a completely smooth caramel forms. Spread this over the base, and put the whole thing back in the fridge.
For the chocolate layer, melt the coconut oil over a very low heat and stir in the raw cacao powder. Pour/spread this evenly over the caramel.
This should really all go back in the fridge for an hour to fully firm up and make it easier to cut, but when we make it at home it doesn’t often get that long…

For anyone who is new to The Herb Diaries – thank you for stopping by! You can follow the blog by putting your email address in at the top of the side bar, and you can follow me on Instagram – @theherbdiaries

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Sticky Ginger Oat Cookies and a Festive Shake

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It is so nearly Christmas! I am so excited, not just for Christmas, but to go back to England for a few days. I can’t wait to see all my friends and family, plus it will be so good to get out of the city, have some fresh air and be able to use an oven! Even more exciting than all the parties and delicious food is the fact that I get to see someone who I haven’t seen in far too long… I CANNOT wait to see this beauty.
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There doesn’t seem to be such a festive buzz in Paris as in London, and I just don’t feel Christmassy yet. Rosie and I watched Love Actually last week and even that didn’t really help, so I have been trying to help the festive feeling along with lots of Christmas flavours. I have made this shake everyday this week and I LOVE it. I would love to have made the cookies everyday too, but I can’t make them quick enough for how quickly they disappear.
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Everyone is in such a mad rush with the lead up to Christmas, so I made this recipe super quick, with only a few ingredients each. It is all raw and can be made both gluten-free and nut-free but switching almond butter for your favourite plant milk, and swapping the oats for gluten-free ones. Christmas is not a time to be preachy about healthy eating, but with these its irrelevant, because they contain only natural, clean ingredients – so tuck in!
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Sticky Ginger Oat Cookies:

Blend 12 pitted medjool dates until smooth caramel forms. Add in 1-2 tsp of ground ginger, 1-2 tsp of cinnamon and 1-2 cups of oats and blend for a few more seconds. (You can blend them longer if you want a smoother consistency, but I like having whole oats in there). Roll into balls, squish them down a little with your hand, then put in the fridge until serving.

Festive Shake:

Blend 1 banana with a spoonful of almond butter, 1/2 tsp of ground ginger, 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1-2 cups of water until completely smooth. These quantities are for one, so times them by the number of shakes you want to make. I like my shake quite cold, but they are also delicious warm before bed.

Happy Happy Christmas everyone!IMG_1232
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Raw Fruity Flapjacks

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I have been wanting to make a healthy flapjack replacement for ages, but flapjacks are my absolute favourite, and I was worried that they could never been as good without masses of golden syrup and butter, but both Rosie and I were seriously over-excited with these. They are so much better than we ever imagined, and are the perfect cross between flapjacks and granola bars – sweet enough to satisfy any craving, but healthy enough to make a guilt-free breakfast on the go! They are amazingly sweet considering they have no added sugar, and can easily be made gluten free if you would rather.

 

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I expected this batch to last us a few days, but when they turned out even better than expected (and then a friend I bumped into invited himself and his friend for dinner) I knew it was never going to happen! Because they are so quick and easy to make, it really doesn’t matter, and they use fairly standard store cupboard ingredients, so they can always be knocked up in a hurry. I very nearly made them with a layer of raw chocolate on top too!

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Not only are they super healthy, raw, nut-free, sugar-free and delicious, they also make such a good snack on the go, as they are so easy to transport and don’t leave any crumbs behind. It can be so difficult trying to find healthy food and snacks that aren’t all prepackaged, with hundreds of ingredients that you can’t even pronouce, so I like to make enough flapjacks for the week, so that they are ready and waiting if I need to eat on the move.

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Ingredients:

1 cup of raisins

1/2 cup of coconut oil

1/2 cup of sunflower seeds

1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup of dried apricots, chopped

2 cups oats

1 tbsp ground flax 

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Method:
Blend raisins and coconut oil until a smooth paste forms. Remove mixture from the blender and mix in a bowl with the oats, dries fruit and seeds. Press into a lined backing tray and put in the fridge for an hour or so to firm up, then slice and serve!

 


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Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Truffles

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After making my first jug of homemade almond milk at the beginning of last week, this weekend I made hazelnut milk. It was so creamy, and deliciously nutty, and tasted so much purer than all the shop bought versions. Homemade nut milk doesn’t last as long in the fridge, but I think most people love it so much that they use it all pretty quickly anyway! It couldn’t be simpler to make, and is so worth the effort. I made these truffles when I was trying to think of something to do with the left over ground nuts from making the milk, but you could use fresh nuts instead.
 
I think people are almost a bit dubious of raw chocolatey treats, thinking that they will never match up to the real thing, and for a few people maybe they never will, but I am a total convert. I much prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate so I love the rich taste the raw cacao gives these truffles. They are so smooth, and the texture is somewhere between a chocolate truffle and a gooey brownie.
 
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Hazelnuts are super rich in flavonoids which are good for your brain and your circulation, plus they are high in healthy fats and vitamin E which will give you glowing skin, glossy hair and strong nails.

Cacao actually raises seratonin levels and stimulates the release of endorphins so it really is a mood booster – the beauty of raw cacao is that you get all the benefits without the horrible guilt and sugar low that follows eating far too much processed chocolate! 
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup of ground hazelnuts
 
1 cup of pitted dates
 
2 tbsp raw cacao
 
1 tsp coconut oil
 
Agave syrup to taste (or other liquid sweetener)
 
Coconut flakes (to decorate)
 

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Method:
 
Put all ingredients into your blender and blend until completely smoothy and sticky. Roll into balls and roll in coconut flakes. Keep in the fridge until serving.


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Lemon Sherbet Squares

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This is another of my recipes to come out of my weekend spent in the smallest kitchen in Paris. Luckily, it is fairly simple – all you really need is a good blender. Since I don’t have an oven at the moment, I am trying to cheer myself up with lots of yummy raw food to try and kid myself into thinking that I’m not missing out. Up until now, I haven’t done very well at this, and I was craving roasted peppers, courgettes and red onions, slow cooked cherry tomatoes and baked potatoes. I wanted homemade warm, nutty bread and fruity carrot cake. And I still want to make all those things, but these lemon squares will definitely cheer my up until the weekend, when I am going to invite myself over to my friend’s apartment to make him lunch/cook all the things that I can’t at home!

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This is without a doubt my favourite sweet recipe to go up on the blog so far. The base is sweet and sticky (and does not taste at all how you would imagine a raw vegan treat to taste) and the top is deliciously sharp and creamy, it tastes just like lemon sherbet. If there is any dessert you can make to convert non-vegan skeptics, I think this has to be it.

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Seeing as everyone is starting to get a bit fluey, it seemed a good idea to come up with a recipe packed full of vitamin C, to try and fight all the bugs that are flying around. Lemon juice has been found to have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, and it is thought to help clear skin from blemishes, and increase alertness which is great if you are beginning to feel a bit lethargic and ill. It also has a strong alkalising affect on the body and is very cleansing for your stomach, which is why so many people like to drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning. It is also a good way for people who don’t drink enough to make sure they stay hydrated, because it tastes so refreshing.

Coconut oil is another ingredient with some really amazing health benefits. It boosts immunity, speeds up your metabolism. It is also thought to have a soothing effect on bacteria, helping digestion and reducing bloating. The best part is that it isn’t just good to eat – it is the best natural moisturiser, giving you super soft skin and gorgeously glossy hair!

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Ingredients:

For the base:

1.5 cups of oats

1.5 cups of medjool dates

2 cups of coconut shreds

0.5 cup of coconut oil

For the topping:

Juice if two lemons

1 banana

0.5 cup coconut oil

1.5 cups of coconut shreds

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Method:

Blend all the ingredients for the base until the oats are almost smooth and press the mixture down into a baking tray. Place in the fridge while you make the topping.
Blend all the ingredients for the topping into completely smooth then put in the fridge for an hour to firm up before spreading it onto the base. Cut into squares and keep in the fridge until serving.

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Blueberry Pancakes with Agave and Goji Berries

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I have had such a busy weekend, seeing friends and doing a LOT of cooking. I have spent two days going to all my favourite markets, stocking up on lots of ingredients and trying out loads of different recipes. I have been using my flatmate as the tester, and she said that a few recipes I tried on her this weekend were some of the best things I had ever made!

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I have never thought that pancakes could be healthy so even I was a bit skeptical making these, but they could not be more delicious or easier to make. They were so good when I made them yesterday morning that I had to make them again today. They are the perfect Sunday brunch, and since the weather is really starting to turn in Paris, it was really nice to have something warm rather than my usual smoothie.

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With pancakes it can be tricky to know when to stop – they are so moreish, and sometimes my eyes are just bigger than my stomach! But the beauty of this recipe is that they are so filling. Even if you happen to overindulge, all the ingredients are completely natural and will be doing wonders for your body.

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I find that regular pancakes don’t actually taste of much, and that people one really eat them as an excuse to eat vast amount of Nutella. Despite my initial worries, these turned out so well that I would quite happily have eaten them plain. They are surprisingly sweet and warm, but the cooked blueberries are pleasantly sharp and juicy – the contrast is delicious!

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Blueberries are a well known superfood, packed full of vitamin C, manganese and fibre, but most importantly, they are one of the the most antioxidant rich foods in the world. The bananas will give you a real potassium boost , whilst the oats have cholesterol lowering properties. Cinnamon works with your body to slow down the rate of digestion, which helps you feel fuller for longer, and helps maintain a steady blood sugar level.

I chose to top my pancakes with goji berries, almond butter and a squeeze of agave syrup, but you can change it to suit you, with bananas, fresh berries…..

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Ingredients:

2 cups of oats

1/2 cup ground nuts (I used almonds)

1 cup water

1 tbsp ground flax seeds

2 bananas

1 tsp cinnamon

2 cups of blueberries

Agave syrup

Dried goji berries

Almond butter

Coconut oil

(More banana, blueberries, strawberries)

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Method:

Blend bananas, oats, flax, water and ground units until a smooth, thick batter forms. Stop blending and stir in the blueberries. Heat some coconut oil in a frying pan, and spoon the mixture into the pan (I did one big spoonful per pancake). Cook both till both sides of the pancake are golden brown, then drizzle with agave, almond butter and goji berries before serving.

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Salted Caramel Sesame Balls

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I have discovered a shop that sells the best dates I have ever eaten, they are insane. I didn’t know dates could get so big. And they are so sweet, they taste like caramel. I’ve been trying so hard recently to think of a healthy alternative for salted caramel, and when I tired these dates, I knew!

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I’m not sure I can start explaining health benefits for this recipe when everyone knows how bad it is to add too much salt to your food, but since I just ate so many of these, I did some research to make myself feel better! The RDA is 6g a day, and there are a variety of bodily functions which require salt, from water regulation in our cells to the transmission of nervous information. So whilst salted caramel mustn’t become a daily habit, there are plenty of worse things you could be eating.

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Before I give you the recipe, I’d just like to say that I have started using Instagram! I’m still sussing out how to link it all up to the blog, but I think I’m nearly there, so if you are enjoying the blog please follow me on Instagram too!

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Ingredients:

20 pitted dates

1 cup of walnuts

1 cup of pecans

1 dessert spoon of tahini

2 pinches of good quality sea salt

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Method:

Blend the dates and tahini until completely smooth. Add the nuts and blend until almost smooth (leave a little longer if you like, but I think they were great with a little bit of crunch). Then just at the last second before you turn the blender off, add in the salt. Shape into balls and refrigerate until serving.

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