Snacks in, snacks out

Date-cashew balls

It’s that time of the month again… UK Vegan Food Swap time! As I did last time – which was two months ago because of my trip to Australia – I’ll start with what I sent first, before going through the lovely package I came home from a tough strength & conditioning session to find waiting patiently for me.

This month I had drawn Samantha’s name out of the metaphorical (or even metaphysical) hat that is the internet. I dropped her a quick email to introduce myself, to get her address and to find out if she had any dietary requirements. Turns out she did, going through a 3-month detox to give her digestive system a break. Some people might wring their hands at this thought but I was delighted to have a bit of a challenge on my hands.

Sugar and processed food was off limits, which suits me just fine as I am in the business of writing nutrition guidelines for people trying to get into shape or just get a bit healthier, and also because I happen to be taking a little bit more of a lean towards the wholefood side of a vegan diet, after a few months of stumbling among the cookies and the chips (which is fine, but there’s only so long I can let myself whinge about feeling fat and sluggish before I realise I need to take responsibility for my own health and fitness).

However, not only did I not want to just shove a whole load of overpriced healthy raw food products into a box, but I noticed from her address that Samantha a) didn’t live too far from me and b) lived very near to a big health food chain where she would no doubt have access to all the same healthy treats I had seen time and time again.

So after picking up a few things that I was personally a fan of – notably a Pulsin Bliss Bar which is packed full of healthy ingredients but deliciously rich, and a few packs of Bear Nibbles Yo-Yos which are healthy, natural and fun – as well as a packet of Gourmet Raw Spicy Thai Flax Crisps for when the savoury tooth cries and those times when one needs a bit of crunch, it was time to take matters into my own hands.

Now who better to turn to for healthy wholefood snacks than the amazing Angela at Oh She Glows? It didn’t take me long to find something healthy, easy, and sendable (I know that’s not a word): enter Happy Trails Adventure Cookies – even Ben got excited because they had “adventure” in the name! The best thing was that I had almost all the ingredients I needed, apart from having run out of syrupy sweeteners.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the cookies because mine didn’t look that pretty, and my food photography skills pale in comparison to Angela’s, but let me tell you they got everyone’s seal of approval despite looking a little alien and healthy!

I made a couple of substitutions – I used Sweet Freedom syrup instead of brown rice syrup, and agave instead of maple syrup, because they are both more “natural” and unrefined, and also easier to find than brown rice syrup, yet with similar consistencies and baking properties. Next, I used baking powder instead of baking soda, only because I forgot to buy baking soda and had an entire tub of baking powder at home… Oh and I also forgot vanilla essence, because I thought I had some then it turned out it was almond essence and I didn’t want to risk doing anything too crazy with the flavours since I was making these for someone I didn’t know! Lastly, I used goji berries instead of cranberries because they are unsweetened but still add a pretty glint of colour, didn’t use pumpkin seeds because I had none, and omitted chocolate chips to avoid adding too many processed elements. Phew! Luckily, they still turned out delicious – crunchy on the outside yet surprisingly chewy on the inside, just as Angela described them! I can’t wait to try making them again properly, especially with chocolate chips and cranberries. Thanks Angela!

I knew that I couldn’t escape making some sort of raw fruit and nut treat though – they are the ultimate healthy sweet snack! However I didn’t trust myself or my food processor not to make a mess of it, so I stuck with simplicity – cashews and dates. Initially I worried that I had managed to mess that up too, as my cheap old food processor just chopped everything really finely then threw the mixture round and round until I got bored of the white noise. A few more pulses later though, and somehow I decided it looked right – I tested it by rolling into a little ball, and it stuck! So out came the little paper cases, and in went the hands for some rolling. As I had left the dessicated coconut (which I had specifically built the idea of these treats around) at Ben’s, I decided to roll them in a little flax seed to avoid them being too sticky, and to give them an extra little nutritional boost. I added cinnamon to the flax seed for a little extra flavour, and voilà:

Date-cashew balls close-up

So I put a few of those in there too – hopefully all the baked goods made it in one piece, and hopefully they will last until Samantha gets her hands on them!

And of course, it wouldn’t be a UK Vegan Food Swap without some tea, so I popped in the packet of Dilmah Acai Berry with Pomegranate and Vanilla tea that I had picked up in Australia.

Hope you enjoy it Samantha, and that your detox is going well!

Now for my parcel from Michaela:

May Vegan Food Swap box

Michaela sent me a real mix of sweet, savoury, crunchy, fruity, healthy, not-so-healthy… Clockwise (ish) from top left we have: a Coco-Jack flapjack, made with coconut oil and chia seeds; a couple of Tropical Wholefoods bars (good choice on the mango and pineapple flavours, these are definitely the ones I would have chosen for myself!); Humdinger dairy free chocolate buttons which are always a winner; Doves Farm gluten-free organic lemon zest cookies; a Rhubarb&Custard Nakd Bar which I’ve been meaning to try again as I think I devoured it a little too quickly last time; sesame sticks and Japanese rice crackers from Arjuna Wholefoods, Cambridge’s oldest vegetarian wholefoods shop; a sachet of Clipper “Love Me Truly” infusion, which I had never had before; and a big bar of Ryelands plain chocolate.

And I love that Michaela put a lovely card in there too – thank you, Michaela!

Apart from the Nakd bar and the Humdinger buttons, all of these are new to me, so I am looking forward to trying them all – look out for them trickling through into my Sunday posts.

I already can’t wait until June’s UK Vegan Food Swap, thanks again to Mitsu and Sasha for putting it all together – if you haven’t tried a Vegan Food Swap yet, sign up now on To Happy Vegans, whether you are vegan or not!