Recipe – Vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free deconstructed “cinammon apple pie” with ice-cream

Oh, yeah. You read that right. Ice-cream. Cinnamon. Sticky apple pie. And all sugar free, vegan, and mostly raw. My food photos are really shocking (and I apologise), but I tried to document it as I went along.

This is how it looks when it’s made:

IMG_0432Mother may I.

IngredientsFor the base:
Dried dates, cashew nuts, raisins, pecan nuts.
For the apple bit:
Apples, raisins, 100% pure maple syrup, cinnamon, Himalayan pink salt (but any salt is fine)
For the ice-cream:
Ripe bananas (and, added for taste: honey and ginger)

First you need to make your base. If you didn’t see our recipe for that here, do go and have a quick look. It’s competely raw, just fruits and nuts and it has a texture like gooey, chewy brownie. ‘mazing. And it’s gorgeous on its own, not just as the base for something else. For this recipe, we made maple pecan because I thought it might go with the cinnamon apple really well. It did. Go me!

Once your base is made, slice 3 apples into thin wedges. You could cut them into any shape, really, but these cook quickly: a really speedy, alternative way of “baking” them. They were done in a non-stick pan with cinnamon, 100% pure maple syrup (if you can get the pure stuff, it is really worth the extra money – there is so much unnatural guck in the other varieties), a handful of raisins and a pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt. Let them sautee (I don’t know if that word is allowed when it’s fruit) until they’re golden brown, soft and lovely and slightly syruppy.

IMG_0424I did warn you about (and apologise for) my photos. Our kitchen is really small and gets very little natural light… these photos were actually taken by bats.

Once your apples are cooked, let them rest in the pan on the lowest heat – enough so they they keep warm and the syrup caramelises a little.

Now, the ice-cream: this is our secret weapon for puddings. You will need: bananas.

Really. Just bananas.

(For this recipe I added honey and ginger as that used to be one of my favourite ice-creams. My lovely husband likes peanut ice-cream best and I’ll mention that one again at the end.)

You need to slice your bananas in advance. Slice them and put them in the freezer, ideally overnight. They need to be ripe. The riper the better. Spotty is perfect, but once they’ve gone brown, they’ve gone bad. It’s amazing how much ice-cream they make so 20 or 25 thick slices should be enough to feed 3 or 4 peeople.

Put your frozen slices in a food processor. (Wee tip: when we first made this, I microwave defrosted them to try to separate them but I don’t recommend it. It alters the texture of the final result. There’s probably some science behind compromising the integrity of fruit.)

IMG_0425Possibly the most unnecessary photo ever used. It’s, like, bananas in a blender. But still, it was taken by bats so it’s cool.

Set your processor to Pulse. You will need to scrape down the sides a lot. You’ll look at it and think it’ll never happen, but just keep pulsing. In a couple of minutes it’ll look like this:

IMG_0429Almost like chopped nuts. Scrape down the sides again and set your food processor to its highest setting. This is the time to add your flavouring. I added honey and ground ginger and, actually, the honey helps it to become creamier. You’ll look at it and think I made this up. But do it for another minute or so and it ends up looking like this:

IMG_0430It’s a miracle!

IMG_0431It holds its shape like whipped ice-cream… that’s almost exactly the texture. It’s an absolute marvel!

Another tip: don’t freeze it once it’s made. It is never ever as nice as it is when you’ve just done it. Freezing makes it crystallize and lose creaminess, like frost-bitten ice-cream.

Plate up, and eat up! Properly tasty, lovely, clean-eating dessert. Completely vegan and with no added sugar whatsoever – though obviously it has fructose from the fruit. Sweet, sticky, that lovely combintion of hot and cold at the same time… really gorgeous.

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OthersI mentioned my husband likes peanut butter ice-cream. For that, just add a bunch of salted peanuts and a tablespoon of honey to your banana mixture once it’s at its “chopped nuts” stage. We like it to have a bit of a crunch so we don’t mix it until it’s smooth – equally, the bananas don’t stay frozen for too long so just a minute or so is perfect for us.

You can also add vanilla pods or dark chocolate/cacao powder or natural lemon flavouring… the choices are endless, and pretty much all of them are delicious.

If you have any questions or any recommendations, please let me know in the comments 🙂 (Unless it’s to tell me my photos are bad. Cos I already know.)

Recipe – No-Bake Sugar-free Lemon Coconut Fruit Bars

Ingredients250g dried dates
150g cashew nuts
~ 30g raisins (but these make it v sticky so quantity depends on consistency)
100g dessicated coconut
a capful of natural lemon flavouring

First off, I should say I APOLOGISE FOR THE TERRIBLE FOOD PHOTOGRAPHS. This is why people earn a fortune doing that. Also my questionable knife skills. I always seem to cut them wonky.

How toPut your dates into a food processor and pulse them until they turn into a bit of a goo. I tried to take a photo of the various stages but given how my food photographs turn out… Then add your cashew nuts and put your food processor on the top level. (11, if your food processor is cool.)

You want the mixture to have mixed and blended into one big ball, but it mustn’t be hard. Your bars will harden (in a good way) and go chewy as they cool in the fridge so they need to be soft (but not sticky) at this stage. It depends on your dates, though, as the different brands vary ever so much. Raisins go very gooey and sticky when they’re mashed, so add them very slowly in small quantities. And make sure to taste it often as you go along. Just to make sure it’s working.

Make sure to scrape down the sides of your bowl.

That forms the base – the flavours are up to you! This batch we made was lemon and coconut and it is gorgeous. It tastes like chewy lemony/coconutty cheesecake almost. Add your flavour/s at the end so the base mixture has blended thoroughly.

Once you’ve made up your mixture and added your flavours, put some grease-proof paper into a baking tray and squidge your mixture down into it. Flatten it, and spread it out – ideally it will be about 15mm or 20mm thick. Be aware you will have lots of oil on the surface of it – nuts generate oodles of it – so use paper towel to soak up the excess. Dap and pat dab and pat. Once it’s all flat and de-oiled, place another piece of grease-proof paper over the top and weigh it down with come cutley or a bowl. Something that will keep it relatively air-tight.

Leave it for 4 or 5 hours, until it’s set, then put it in a piece of tupperware to keep it fresh and tasty. We keep ours in one big slab, then slice it as we eat it, but you can pre-slice it and wrap the separate bars in cling-film. They are perfect for lunch-boxes! It will keep for about a week in an air-tight container and the flavours seem to intensify as the days go on.

They can be frozen, but they’re never qute as nice once defrosted.

OthersSome of the other flavours we’ve tried that worked amazingly:

Salted caramel
Peanut butter
Carrot cake
Honey and ginger
Chocolate orange
Almond

If you want to know how we made any of those, just leave a comment 🙂 (And if you can think of any others, please leave a comment!)

We avoid sugar as much as possible, and these are a lovely, very, very yummy way of satisfying our sweet tooth. Plus, they’re much more affordable than the ones you can get in the shops. And the flavour combinations are virtually unlimited!

Cue another food photo attempt…

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SO wonky.

And a quick thank you: I mentioned on our page a few months ago that one of my dreams was to get a food processor so we could make our own bars and other healthy things but that we couldn’t really justify it while building a business. An amazing lady emailed to say she had one that was still sealed and boxed and did we want it. It arrived a wee while later and it is now one of my prized and most valued possessions. Thank you again so, so much!

Perfect Moments – Five ice-creams

It’s almost too hot, only it’s not too hot… I think that probably makes it perfect. The sky is a true-blue blue, rich and clean and I imagine how my car would look in that colour. I would paint clouds on it and on windy days, I would whizz along the motorway.

I look around and all I see is happiness. Families, couples, people on their own; people walking; on bikes; in cars with tops down and windows open, playing their music loudly enough to make sure everyone can hear. I went through a phase of doing it when I first got my driving license. Partly pride; partly love of the music; mostly wanting people to know something about me without my having to tell them: this is what I listen to. This is my identity. I remember driving through Muswell Hill, music exploding from the windows of my little red car, and 2 women started dancing as they walked. I wondered if they were dancing sarcastically so I turned the volume down after that. Now we have air conditioning.

I wasn’t going to come today. I was going to stay at home and work. But we decided that, even if you are self-employed and love being able to pay your bills, it’s ok to bunk off if it’s a Saturday and the sky is true-blue blue and it’s probably perfect-hot.

Two Cornettos (one: vanilla, one: mint chocolate); two 99 Flakes (one: as long as it’s Mr Whippy, one: any is fine) and one ice lolly. Two Cornettos (one: vanilla, one: mint chocolate); two 99 Flakes (one: as long as it’s Mr Whippy, one: any is fine) and one ice lolly. I didn’t think to ask what I should get instead if anything isn’t available and I daren’t leave the queue. One of the 99 Flakes is mine. Or, at least, that’s what I said I would get. Actually, I am getting one of the giant double Flakes. The cone looks like an ice-cream bra.

The sound of an ice-cream van still makes me giddy with anticipation. I think perhaps it’s a small piece of childhood all adults are allowed to hold onto. Outwardly we walk to the van nonchalantly; inwardly we are cartwheeling towards the music as if the Pied Piper himself was driving. It reminds me of being a child; of hearing the beckoning song in the distance and looking dolefully at mum and dad, without needing to say a word. The bouncing on the balls of my feet, worrying I’ll miss it if they don’t say yes quickly. The half seconds seeming like HOURS and WEEKS and MONTHS as they hold back a smile. The rushed “I’ll get you one, too!” to try to persuade them, even though they’d made their decision as soon as they heard the chimes and inwardly cartwheeled, and my pure, unadulterated joy when their hands go into pockets and come out with loose change and flavour choice.

There was a time when they really did cost 99p… now they’re double that which makes me nostalgic.

A sweet breeze dances through and it carries the scent of fresh linen and the river. It brushes over my bare arms like a string of butterfly kisses and rustles the leaves overhead, creating glittery shadows on the pavement. I want to keep this moment in my pocket – I want to keep it and treasure it and smile when I think back to it. The roads here are narrow, and bunting hangs everywhere, like everyone in town agreed we should have a party – one town-size street party, where the colours seem brighter and the air crackles with expectation; where hope sweeps through the streets, whispering faith and promises to everyone it passes.

“Hey, you…” it says quietly, “Believe for more; hope more; expect more; rejoice more; dance more; taste more; laugh more; sing more; love more; forgive more…”

The air smells like coconut – or, at least, coconut suntan lotion. It makes me want to go to the beach. We could go in a small convoy of 3 cars and beetle along the motorway like the characters in an old movie. We would wander down to the water, flip-flops in hand, and one person would splash someone who would splash someone else, and within seconds we would all be drenched and laughing and combing sand out of our hair. I will ask them if we can go once we have our ice-creams. I won’t mention that I plan to splash someone.

The young girls ahead of me are walking away already licking their Magnums… I think it’s an unwritten rule: you start licking your ice-cream immediately. You don’t even wait for your change. I place my order and bounce lightly on the balls of my feet and I know that this is a Perfect Moment.

I am so grateful.

Holiday/Voucher/Giveaway Things and a Jar of Joy

Since we started Buttonsy in January of 2012, we’ve not had more than a day off at any one time. We’ve tried, but we always ended up answering emails, or making things, or doing accounts (we still need to do our accounts), tinkering with the website… something something.

So, we’re taking next week off. A week without Buttonsy. We both LOVE what we do; we are so, so blessed, and so grateful to be able to do what we do, but we want to keep feeling that way, and a little time away is necessary sometimes.

So, we’ve added a 10% discount code to our Etsy shop which is valid until we’re back next Monday. Just enter HOLIDAY10 for your discount.

HolidaydiscountAll orders ordered this week will go in the post when we’re back next week.

Also. We have scheduled 5 giveaways to run this week on our Facebook page. One on Monday, one on Tuesday, and so on, for 5 days.

HolidaygiveawaysIt’s partly to make sure we don’t lose touch with all our lovely Likers, and the reach on FB nowadays can suffer if you don’t post for a while. But, mostly, it’s because we’re happy, and excited, and want to share that with the wonderful people who spend time with us. You know how I mentioned a few lines ago that we’re blessed? And grateful? We really, really are, and we acknowledge it every. single. day.

So, we’ll be back in a week – hopefully refreshed, re-energised and having re-captured lots and lots of our joy ❤ Have a very beautiful week, lovely person who read this.

Also.

Jar of Joy Entry – 12/07/2015: We read about something called “Barley Green” a while ago; it’s essentially barley leaves and grass in powder form – all the green bits and none of the grain. It’s AMAZING stuff health-wise, but all the reviews said it tastes appalling. We ordered some through Prime and just got done drinking it and it’s honestly not as bad as we expected! It made us both very, very happy, because we’re absolutely committed to getting and staying properly healthy, and being able to have this every day is going to be hugely beneficial.

Making Chums – Little Black Heart

Sal Thomson of the wonderful  Little Black Heart is one of my Facebook besties. She is extraordinarily lovely, funny, and a dab-hand with a teeny, tiny paintbrush…

Hello!

How did you start down the crafty path?
i’ve always been creative, and have been drawing and doodling funny characters and weirdy things since i was barely old enough to clutch a pencil. i didn’t do anything with that until my early 30’s though! one day i suddenly decided that maybe i should try to sell some of my drawings, and things took off from there.

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Are you a full time designer/makerer?
i am! and i’m so grateful to be able to do what i love full time now – my previous jobs include being chief poop shoveller at a stable yard, a vegetable technician at a frozen foods factory, and a retail assistant, all of which made me super miserable! i didn’t know what to do with myself for so many years, but now i feel i have finally found my way back to doing what i was always supposed to do.

Are you self-taught or have you one of dem fancy edjacations?
entirely self taught – in fact i left school at 15 with no qualifications! i then dithered about with my life for the next 15 years, working at all those horrible jobs i hated, and only got back to drawing seriously in the last few years – so, i’m learning as i go. (and loving every minute of it!)

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What do you ultimately want from your business?
well, i really just want to be able to carry on as i am – creating, drawing, and making the things i love to make. it makes me so happy, and ultimately that is all i could wish for. i hope people will continue to enjoy my work, and enjoy collecting the originals i produce!
that’s it, really – no big plans for global domination, i like to keep things simple 🙂

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Do you have one very most favourite piece of your work?
i produce so many things, from cute birds to grumpy pandas and lots of things in between. i’m not sure i can decide on any one piece in particular – but i must say i enjoy working on my zombie girls especially. i get lost in creating all the detail and linework! zombie marie antoinette has huuuuge tall hair with lots of bits and pieces hidden away in it, so maybe she is secretly my very most favourite? then again, i never met a zombie rock i didn’t like, either…!

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What one piece of advice would you give to anyone who wants to create for a living?
be original! create from the heart, find your own inspiration, develop your own style, and don’t worry about what everybody else is doing. also, work hard and be nice 🙂

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Have you ever had a creative block? If so, what did you do?
so far, not yet. i usually have more ideas than i know what to do with.
but if i do ever start to feel a little bit flat, then i take a step back, go for a walk in the countryside, listen to some music or read a good book… nature never fails to inspire me, and some time out is always refreshing, and helps to recharge the batteries.

Is there anything you want people to know about you or your business?
oh, just, how super pleased and appreciative i am that people enjoy my work! most days, i can’t quite believe it – i’m just so glad my drawings are no longer sitting in a cupboard gathering dust, and nothing makes me happier than knowing i have happy customers, who like what i do!

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Quick-fire Round

Duvet or blankets?
both! live a life without limits and all that.
What do you think of when I mention: the ‘80s?
terrible music, safari suits and bad perms. (i lived in africa in the 80’s, it was an interesting time!)
Celebrity crush?
hehehe, sandra bullock maybe? shh.
Do you have any bad habits?
OCD, dithering, being indecisive, being impatient, rushing into things, being contradictory.
Favourite word?
it’swineo’clock?
PC or Mac?
PC! i’m an old-skool kinda gal. would still be using DOS if i could 🙂

You see why I heart her so much. If you want to know more about Sal, her Facebook page is here and her Folksy shop full of yumminess is here.

Pricing your work – a race to the bottom?

Being a small handmade business is increasingly competitive, and one of the hardest things to work out is pricing, so I wanted to talk about it for a minute. If you’re crafting – either for a living, or you’re hoping to do it for a living one day – you absolutely have to earn enough to make a living.

4 of Folksy‘s top sellers recently did an interview with a blog called Best2KeepItSimple – it’s a 10-part series, and the most recent one was on pricing, which got me thinking, and got husband and I talking.

Basic manufacturing cost = materials + HMRC tax + electricity + gas + rent/mortgage + internet + a dozen other things. Then there’s your time, and your time is valuable.

ValueThere’s a common problem nowadays: if people see a hand-crafted business is successful, someone will try to re-create it, and chances are they’ll make sure they under-cut the original designer. We’ve seen this dozens of times, and the temptation is always to lower prices to “stay competitive”. Don’t lower your prices.

It’s a race to the bottom. There will always be someone who is willing to sell for cheaper than everyone else, just to make a sale, even if they make a loss – it’s inexplicable, but there it is. Unfortunately it cheapens all of our work collectively, for everyone whose full time job is handmade, but there’s really nothing to be done about that. Resist the temptation to be the cheapest – focus on the detail and the quality, and become the best.

BestAll you can do is keep your eyes fixed ahead and run your own race. If you’re successful in your field, you’re essentially winning a race. Stopping to see what others are doing – whether they’re undercutting you, or copying you – is the same as letting spectators heckle you into leaving the race to argue with them. Don’t do it! Just run your race.

Next big thing is deciding whether you want to be a wholesale supplier or not… this is a big topic and stockists will generally want about 50% off the retail price if they’re buying your work outright. Meanwhile, sale or return means you’re sending out precious stock with no guarantee of it selling. You might do incredibly well with SoR, though, so if wholesale is the route you want to take, just make sure you can afford to earn 40%-50% less per piece. That’s not always easy when it’s handmade as you can’t manufacture volume enough to make up for the shortfall. So if you can’t earn enough, but that’s the route you want to take, consider increasing your retail prices. It doesn’t matter if others are charging less – if you’re the best at what you do, people will seek you out.

RunHandmade goods shouldn’t be about bargain basement shopping – unfortunately the prevalence of handmade nowadays means the market is flooded and, again, there will always be someone willing to be the cheapest option. Cheapest options are fantastic at a supermarket; less so when it’s handmade.

That’s really the most important stuff I’ve learned when it comes to pricing. Value what you make and charge a fair price. You’re worth it, your customers will value it, and the handmade industry deserves it.

Why the Box of Happy

I wanted to write about what led us to design the Box of Happy. There’s a bit of talk about depression so if that’s a trigger for you in any way, please be aware ❤

BUTTONSY_0118It was borne out of our daily Jar of Joy entries… when we share them on our Facebook page every day, dozens and dozens of people share their happy moments, too. But we get so many emails from people who say they don’t comment, but they do read, and it’s something they’ve almost come to depend upon at the end of their day.

And it made me realise, sometimes we all need a little help finding our joy. I really include myself in that… I’ve only just started being open about it after talking about it briefly in a Folksy interview but I was clinically depressed from the age of 19, until I was 27. Clinical depression really isn’t the same as feeling glum sometimes – it’s a flat, ugly, greyness, where nothing seems to matter (even if you want it to) and you swing between despair and indifference and sleeplessness and sleeping-all-the-time, and life is an endless cycle of having to see your GP about medication even though you’ve not been out for months, and having to be reminded to shower, and to eat, and to breathe… it is truly awful. I’ll do a blog about what changed one day (though, am still learning what is and isn’t acceptable in a business blog.) But I remember it so clearly, and now I actively, consciously choose joy – every single day.

10458838_905371199527779_9195721518805480763_nWe weren’t sure whether to turn the Jar of Joy into a journal (though, keep your eyes peeled) or possibly a calendar, but we wanted it to be something people can keep on them all the time; something to interact with throughout the week. Cos, I think that’s the difficult thing, sometimes: it’s easy enough to be happy for a few minutes, it’s the keeping hold of it.

11111561_888870514511181_3619765276872895724_nSo, we made them slightly smaller than a business card – they’re small enough to slip into your wallet, purse or pocket.

Each box has 52 different cards – one per week. I’ve been going through a box, too, and I’ve started sharing my week’s card on our page… it’s been so fun. But I’ve been surprised at how it’s challenged me a couple of times.

IMG_9491The cards range from silly to important; there’s colouring in; doodles; prompts to say thank you; challenges involving jokes and high-fives; things to do with books, and songs and food and games; and then there are quotes, and reminders of how precious and valuable we are, and how beautiful life ought to be. There are also cards that prompt us to bless others and, actually, I think as people, we are at our happiest when we’re doing a kindness for someone else.

I think my favourite card is the forgiveness card:

IMG_9549“This week, choose to forgive someone who has hurt you. You’re just too lovely to be holding onto it. Holding onto unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Let it go.”

We designed these for people that love to celebrate the little things, and for people that need a little help in seeing the little things, but a few months ago, we got a wonderful email from a doctor who works in the psychiatric department of a prison, and they’ve been using the cards to encourage the men to experience compassion, and empathy… hubby and I walked on air for the entire day.

11053376_887853524612880_3413292016993346724_nI don’t know if the Box of Happy will change the world! But I do know committing to it can change our tiny corner of it, and that’s enough for now. Buttonsy is absolutely a jewellery business, but I’m aware that, ultimately, jewellery is just stuff. I think we’re increasingly convinced that our hearts’ desire is to be a blessing for people; to encourage joy, and I think our Box of Happy is the first lily on the lily pond.