Sunday 22 February 2015

Chickpea-nut butter chocolate blondies

Having hit upon the recipe on Ambitious Kitchen (via Pinterest) - and subsequently tweaked it a little to suit my own taste - this not-so-naughty take on the peanut butter blondie has been a near daily fixture in my kitchen of late. Gooey, sweet and a piece of cake to rustle up (ha ha), it's hard to find fault with this gluten-free, refined sugar-free, dairy-free treat.  

First things first: do not be deterred by the chickpea base! With their mild flavour and easy-to-blend character, chickpeas form the basis of the blondies' dreamy consistency and honestly can't be discerned in the flavour (as my unsuspecting housemates will testify). Plus, these beauties don't even tenuously contribute to your five a day, since chickpeas constitute a key ingredient. A delectable dessert with an undetectable veg portion inside - what's not to love? 

You will need:

> 1 can chickpeas, drained 
> 4-6 tbsp natural peanut butter (or any nut butter of your choice)
> 6-8 tbsp agave nectar (I like to split it ½ and ½ with maple syrup)
> 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
> ½ tsp baking powder
> ½ tsp sea salt 
> few squares chocolate with high cocoa content, broken up (Green & Blacks 85% is a good bet)
> 3-4 tbsp cacao nibs 
> virgin coconut oil (to grease baking tin)


1) Preheat oven to 180ºC. Grease baking tin with melted coconut oil.
2) Put chickpeas, nut butter, natural liquid sweetener(s), vanilla extract, baking powder and sea salt into mixing bowl. Blend until cake batter consistency. Test to check it's to your taste - if not, add extra of whatever you feel is missing!
3) Add chocolate and cacao nibs. Mix well. 
4) Pour mixture into baking tin. Smooth out evenly. 
5) Pop tray into oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown on the outside and gooey on the inside. If anything, it's better that you slightly undercook it and leave to rest outside the oven for 15 mins or so (since it has no raw ingredients), to ensure its squishy texture. 
6) Slice and eat (best served warm)! I love them with a little yoghurt and blueberries. They also work a treat when cut into bars, to eat as a sweet snack at any time of day. 

Friday 20 February 2015

Weekly wisdom #4

Today: Keep your inner space at peace, and no outside influences can mess with ya. Easier said than done, I know, but so worth mastering. Manage your mind, and you'll be unstoppable.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

This week I'm lovin'

It wouldn't be a proper weekend without my weekly escape from the uni bubble (quaint as it might be). This Sunday's outing took me to treasured North East film and all-round culture hub, Tyneside Cinema. The only full-time independent Kino joint in Newcastle, it's a cultural breath of fresh air amid its crowded city centre setting. As well as screening mainstream and indie films from across the globe, not to mention old school newsreel footage, the Grade II listed building houses a whole host of regular - mostly free - art-based events too. From their sweet third floor exhibition space, The Gallery, to their popular Knitting Club and culture quizzes, Tyneside Cinema is quite the gem in the Newcastle arts scene. A trip to the bar and coffee rooms never goes amiss, either (but that's just me). 

Sunday 15 February 2015

Choco-chai chia

   If there's one kinda sweet treat that never fails to bring me a little chia - sorry, cheer - it's this pudding right here. Aside from being loaded with all the protein, omega-3 and fibre a nutrition nerd could wish for, chia seeds are a very versatile ingredient indeed. Once you've got the fundamentals down (and they really are a breeze), you can experiment to ya heart's content with flavour combos and toppings. Enjoy this choco-chai number for starters!

 As someone who goes to sleep with tomorrow's breakfast already on my mind (I don't think I'm alone on this), it's always a delight to wake up to ready-prepped morning fuel to kick start my day in the best way! All it takes is a little forethought the night before. 

For a one person portion, you will need:

>  2 tbsp chia seeds
>  1 cup milk (I usually opt for coconut or almond)
>  1 tbsp cacao powder 
>  1 vanilla bean (the seeds!) or 2 tsp good vanilla extract
>  1-2 tbsp maple syrup (the carob fruit blend variety from Clarks is a winner)
>  1 tsp all spice powder 
>  1 tsp maca powder (not essential) 

Optional extras as pictured: cacao nibs, mixed seeds, goji berries, bee pollen.


1) Put chia seeds into airtight container (a jar is great), pour in chosen milk, stir. 
2) Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. 
3) Seal and place in the fridge to thicken - overnight is best, but 3-4 hours will suffice if necessary.
4) Sprinkle any additions on top.

    If you're not a fan of its frogspawn-like consistency and appearance (I appreciate it might be off-putting for some), try blending the mixture - once it's had time to set - as a happy compromise; all the goodness and taste, minus the texture. I like it both ways, but see what works for you! Bon appétit.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Weekly wisdom #3

Today: Unapologetically, bona fide, no half measures. 
Be really, really you

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Pink Lane Coffee

This weekend, my ongoing North East coffee quest brought me to an adorable spot that's caught my caffeine- and design-oriented eye more than once. I don't know what took me so long to open their inviting lil door, but thank goodness I got around to it in the end. Priding themselves on "the best coffee in Newcastle," Pink Lane is without doubt a winner on the coffee bean scene.

Aptly placed on - you guessed it - Pink Lane (number 1 to be precise), the Toon's answer to my Berlin fave Silo has got it very right indeed. A tiny hop from Central Station, this cosy caffeine haunt deftly strikes the balance between minimalist and characterful, its industrial interior a treat for aesthetic appreciatin' visitors. Pink Lane offers a neat mix of seating, from cute communal benches, to sofas, to intimate little nooks, all housed within the most welcoming of hang-outs. 

All this, of course, is before you sample their grade A coffee. Ranging from £2.20 for ya standard espresso to £2.50 for a fine flat white (my beverage of choice), the union of more than reasonable prices and a top-notch brew leaves nada to complain about. While the coffee will always be my first port of call in these kinda establishments - it is their speciality after all - the hot chocolate and tea choices looked pretty tantalising, too. For those in need of a little sustenance, they also serve up a resplendent range of savoury and sweet indulgences that'll pick you right up. 

In response to my cheeky request to take photos of the place (too photogenic not to), the affable and easy-going baristas couldn't have been sweeter, making my preliminary Pink Lane Coffee jaunt all the lovelier. No doubt it won't be the last. 

Sunday 1 February 2015

Weekly wisdom #2

Today: It's not what you have, it's what you do with what you have! 
Do more with less.