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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DSC_0264Having had such a lovely week at home seeing all my friends and family, I am back in Paris, but sadly not feeling as fresh and rested as I might like…! I crammed a lot into my few days at home and with all the Christmas and New Year parties, lots of cooking, eating and travelling around, I feel like I hardly stopped to sleep! It was completely worth it though and I saw 2014 in with a whole load of my best friends, and feeling drained is a lot more bearable when you feel so lucky and happy.

On arriving back in Paris, I remembered that I no longer have the use of a juicer or an oven, and to top it all off, my hob has decided to quit on me! I can only think that this is a sign, and I need to embrace it by feeding my body with lots of salads and raw goodness. Luckily I managed to get some recipes photographed while I was at home, so I will share those while I am living off gazpacho, vegetable spaghetti and other raw treats.
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My big news before I get to the recipe is that I have signed up for the Paris Half Marathon in March! I will be running to raise money for La Fondation Motrice and you can see my page here. I have never done anything like this before, so I am really excited. I think it will be a great challenge for me, and I am proud to be running for such a good cause – La Fondation Motrice fund research for Cerebral Palsy, as well as forming a support system for sufferers and their families.

So the juice – I know it is not a very appealing colour, but it tastes so much better than it looks, plus it is extremely nutrient dense, and will literally flood your system with much needed vitamins and goodness, perfect for a good old January detox. Whilst juice lacks the insoluble fibre you get in a smoothie, it is absorbed much quicker by your body, leaving you healthy, energised and glowing.

Ingredients:
(makes one large glass, or two small ones)

1 cucumber
2 sticks of celery
2 carrots
2 tomatoes
2 big handfuls of kale
2 apples

Method:

Wash all ingredients thoroughly and then juice!
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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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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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Raw Spaghetti with Almond Spinach Pesto

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I went to the market on Boulevard Raspail today and it was AMAZING. I never knew that my favourite vegan restaurant in Paris has a stall at the market, selling all the exciting ingredients that they use in their cooking. So we had a delicious raw juice from them, filled with warming ginger, which we sipped whilst we strolled around the stalls.

 

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The market sold any fruit or vegetable you could think of, as well as nuts and dried fruits, superfood ingredients, essential oils and freshly prepared pies and tarts. It was impossible to walk around without feeling hungry, despite having only just had breakfast. After such an indulgent weekend I decided it was best if I bought some of the lovely fresh veg and came up with something light and pure for supper.

 

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The best part of the market however was not the fruit. We got chatting to a very enthusiastic french man selling vegetable spiralisers, and having wanted one for so long, I couldn’t resist. I am so over excited! I had to come straight back and use it, and this is what I came up with.

 

I think a lot of health conscious people really like to eat a completely raw meal every now and again because it feels so cleansing, and so this is for those people. Since gluten intolerance is such a common problem, a big bowl of pasta may seem tempting, but actually leaves you full of regret and half digested wheat. When your spaghetti is made of vegetables, you can eat as much as you like, and all you are filling up with is fibre, vitamins, minerals and natural goodness! 

 

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I also found kale for the first time since I have been in Paris, so I had to buy some for my sauce because it is super healthy and I love it! As well as being packed full of vitamins, kale plays an important role in both our bodies’ detoxification process and digestive systems, and teamed with delicious juicy tomatoes and crunchy carrots, it is the ultimate treat for your poor, hardworking body. I appreciate that some people have problems with labelling food incorrectly, and if this applies to you, then think of it as a salad with an almond spinach dressing.

 

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Ingredients:

Serves 2

2 courgettes

1 carrot

1 handful cherry tomtoes

1 handful of spinach

1 handful of kale

1 handful basil leaves

1 tbsp almond butter

1 clove garlic

A squeeze of lemon juice

A pinch of salt

Water (use to reach you desired consistency)

 

Method:

Shred the carrot and courgettes with a vegetable spiraliser and half the cherry tomatoes. Blend remaining ingredients into a smooth sauce, trickle over the vegetables and scatter with more torn basil to serve.

 

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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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