3 February 2017

Buckwheat Pancakes, Vegan and Gluten Free

Hmmmm, the difficulty for me with eggless and gluten free pancakes isn't getting them to taste nice, it is trying to get the perfect mix so that they don't stick to the bottom of my so called 'non-stick' pan! So, I have been tweaking and perfecting and trying and eating and selling my mashed up pancakes, or perfectly round pancakes, depending on how well they decide to turn out.

I have now, finally tweaked this recipe, I have done the hard work so that you don't have to!

Get all the ingredients NOW!

1/ Mix the following ingredients together in a large mixing jug:

1 and a 1/2 cups of Buckwheat Flour and then 1/2 a cup of Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour.

2 teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons of raw cane sugar

2/ Into a smaller jug put in:

3 cups of Almond Milk

1/2 a cup of unsweetened apple puree

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Mix well and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir in.

3/Heat half a tablespoon of coconut oil in a frying pan or wok, then pour the hot oil from the frying pan into the batter mixture.

4/ Put another half a tablespoon of cooking oil into the pan to heat until very hot, almost smoking.

5/ Pour a little of the pancake mixture into the pan, and gently swirl the oil around to make sure that the base of the pancake is covered.

6/ Heat until the pancake is cooked all the way through and won't fall apart when turning it over.

7/ Keep cooking the pancake mixture one by one, heating up a half a spoonful of Coconut oil to the right temperature each time.

30 January 2017

Easy Chocolate Brownies, Vegan and Gluten Free!

This is a nice simple recipe, you'll need to have a small baking dish, as it just makes a small batch but being a small size, it doesn't take too long to whip these up for some friends coming round to tea and maybe you can cut them into bite sized pieces, for a tasty, sugary but not too over-indulgent treat. Balancing out the guilt of raw cane sugar is the secret ingredient of half a mashed up avocado, which has to be adding something good and beneficial to the overall mix.

I might also add that being a small size, these don't stay around for too long either.

1/ Preheat the oven to 180°
2/ Line a small baking dish, (mine is a 9" x 7")  with grease proof paper and then grease well with vegetable oil.
3/ Put the following ingredients into a large jug and stir well:
1/2 a cup of Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour
1/2 a cup of raw cane sugar
2 heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder.
A pinch of salt
1/4 a teaspoon of Baking Powder
4/ After mixing the dry ingredients together, in another jug mash up half a rip avocado, then add 1/2 a cup of Almond Milk and a 1/4 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract and mix well.
5/ Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed.
6/ Add 1/2 a cup of smashed up dark chocolate into the mix.
6/ Scrape the batter out into the greased and lined baking tray and pop into the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
7/ Take the cake out of the oven and cover with foil, then bake for another 10 minutes, or until a knife stuck into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
8/ Leave the cake to cool, with the foil taken off.

18 January 2017

Vegan and Gluten Free Carrot Cake Recipe

Vegan and Gluten Free Carrot Cake with frosting.

Ok, everyone loves Carrot Cake, according to everyone on Facebook, that is! It's not something that particularly appealed to me, however, I have tasted my own slice of carrot cake before the frosting and I must say that it is absolutely delicious, it is warm, spicy and moist. So if you love carrot cake, you will love this recipe!

I can't wait to try it with the frosting on top too!

The Cake

1/ Preheat the oven to 180°
2/ Line a 9" x 9" brownie tin with greaseproof paper and then grease it with vegetable oil.
3/ Put the following ingredients into a large jug and stir well:
1 cup of Essential Buckwheat Flour
1/2 a cup of Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour
1/2 a cup of raw cane sugar
1/2 a cup of dark brown sugar
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 a teaspoon of Baking Powder
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon of Ginger powder.
4/ After mixing the dry ingredients together, add one cup of grated carrots and coat with the dry ingredients.
5/ Put the following wet ingredients into another jug and mix together:
1 cup of water
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
3 tablespoons of apple puree
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
2 tablespoons of Biona Apple Cider Vinegar with Mother
5/ Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
6/ Pour the batter out into the greased and lined baking tray and pop into the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
7/ Take the cake out of the oven and cover with foil, then bake for another 10 minutes, or until a knife stuck into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
8/ Leave the cake to cool, with the foil taken off.

The Frosting

1/ Soak 2 cups of cashew nuts in hot water and leave for at least 2 hours
2/ After 2 hours or so, drain off the nuts and but them into your blender.
3/ Add the following ingredients to the nuts in the blender and then blend into a creamy paste:
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil
1/3 cup of agave nectar
Add as little water as possible, when necessary to help the processing along.

Spread the creamy mixture over your cooled down cake!

You'll probably need only about half of the actual mixture for frosting, depending on how thick you like it. The other half can be poured into cup cake cases and frozen, then melt a little chocolate, dab in the centre and stick a frozen cherry on top, then you have created another little vegan delight!

Creamy Vegan Cherry Bites

9 January 2017

Our Veganuary Journey.

I am really enjoying a group on Facebook, called Veganuary, it is the official Facebook Group for Veganuary itself. There are conversations, recipes and inspirations. In fact this blog post is taken, with just a few tweaks from an original post that I was inspired to write on that group, to try and help others on their journey understand that they don't have to be so harsh with themselves and they don't have to fall out with their friends and family over what they are doing. 

I admire Vegan people but didn't think I could ever be one but Veganuary has given me the opportunity to have a go with no pressure, just one meal at a time. I decided to write about my decision on my blog and whilst I was writing inadvertently ate some milk chocolate coins, without thinking about it, so I just started again.

I actually thought I would find it hard but I am finding it delightful and interesting. I am in a situation where my partner is a 100% meat eater, one of our sons is the same and our other son has chosen to be pescatarian.

We run a family business, which is a coffee and health food shop. Right from the beginning we decided that our business would be 100% vegetarian, as we wanted to embrace all members of our community and not let religious dietary laws get in the way of socialising and feeling comfortable, we also knew that this would be a greener option, less damaging to our environment.

We have some very special customers who are vegan and very non-judgemental. They are inspiring, rather than challenging and we have a very special relationship with them. They have had us over for supper and we have even had a film evening in our shop showing Cowspiracy, with them bringing in amazing Vegan food. I respect them and their life decision so much and somehow or other they manage to respect us, despite our eating habits. They are away at the moment, so I am not even sure if they know that I am doing Veganuary. I call them 'My Vegan Family' and I am sure if they knew that I was doing this they would feel proud and be very supportive.

I feel the need to let you know what my story is because everyone doing Veganuary is at different stages and I know some of us are struggling with negative comments from family and friends, some of us have a meat eating partner, some of us have a whole vegan family, some choose to eat locally produced honey, some of us are wearing leather shoes maybe but as we are all trying.

In my story there are major areas of conflict, I am in a coffee shop pouring out cow's milk, buying cows milk but all our cakes are vegan, most of the products on our shelves are vegan. My partner eats meat, I don't (I am pescatarian normally). How does this fit together? How is this logical? Well it isn't logical and it isn't perfect but I am doing the best I can in these circumstances. If I were to reprimand myself for every imperfection, I wouldn't get very far but if I am kind and gentle to myself and look at all the positives, the chances are that I will get there in the end. My vegan friends haven't preached to me and they haven't been aggressive with their views, they are as kind and as delightful to me as they are to all animals and that is why I look up to them so much and find them so inspirational.

What I am trying to say is that if you find that your partner doesn't support you, if your friends challenge you, if you are judging yourself harshly, please don't get grumpy and argumentative. Build bridges, not walls. Be patient, be kind, be understanding and remember your choice may make other people feel uncomfortable with themselves. You do NOT have to justify yourself, or have intellectual debates, just as you will not ask others to justify themselves and their choices. Please don't let others upset you. I know it is hard, just remember this is about having a peaceful and kind existence, not about getting ourselves all emotionally upset and arguing with our nearest and dearest. 

Sending love and goodluck to you, no matter where you are in your journey. Xxxx

4 January 2017


Oh! I have just spontaneously signed up to this: VEGANUARY I am a pescatarian but I really admire the Vegan friends that I have made through our shop. They seem to me to be the most ethical of all the people that I know. When we first opened My Coffee Stop, nearly 8 years ago now, we made a commitment for everything to be 100% suitable for vegetarians. The reasoning behind it was inclusive eating and drinking, so that people could meet with their friends and all enjoy the same things without having to worry. A vegetarian diet leaps over many boundaries to eating communally that religious food laws may set up and we want people from all sorts of backgrounds and beliefs to enjoy coming together and we want to embrace people from all different backgrounds into our coffee shop community. We also had it in our minds that we wanted our business to make a positive contribution to our local and global community, so this meant being as green as we possibly could and eating meat and using animal products is just not good for the earth on any level.
Over the years, I have devised my own recipes for Vegan Cakes, Vegan Pizza and have a whole range of delicious Vegan hot drinks for people to enjoy and I am proud that just recently, we made the decision NOT to charge extra for using a plant milk, instead of cows' milk in a drink. That is a massive step forward for veganism, as logically why should we charge people extra for making an ethical choice, even when almond milk and the such like are more expensive to provide? Well, yes, looking at it on a business level, it's obvious we should charge more but taking a more holistic and worldly view, we shouldn't charge more for a decision that is a much better choice for the planet and for everyone. In fact, maybe we should be charging more for cows' milk maybe and putting people off it?
On a personal level, attempting to do Veganuary could be hard! I love eggs! I find them a really handy snack and surely, if they are unfertilised and the chickens are running free, then they are ok, aren't they? If you are going to comment on this blog post and correct my way of thinking, please be gentle, I am an animal too. I have just found out that I will be visiting my Mum and Dad next week, something to do with my extra work career, that I have just started recently, after having a break from the world of entertainment for a few years, whilst concentrating on our children and our coffee shop! Now, that is going to be full of pitfalls! I might have to bring along my own meals. What about protein, how do Vegans get their protein? I am scared of being hungry and then eating loads of sugary crap things. How do you prepare for that? On the other hand being Vegan and Gluten Free is easy isn't it? I mean, there's plants and vegetables and most dark chocolate is Vegan and Gluten Free! that should be ok then. Oh no! I have just glimpsed two gold coin wrappers on the side, I have just mindlessly put them into my mouth, whilst chatting to a customer and not even thinking about what I am doing, I have just EATEN MILK CHOCOLATE! NOT VEGAN and NOT GOOD! Ok, I am going to start again.....from NOW. Right NOW! I can see that doing Veganuary is going to be a FULL time occupation and I am going to have to be EXTREMELY mindful of what I am putting into my mouth, even more mindful than usual. I think that I am going to find this HARD! How about you? Will you join me on my journey?

Vegan Chocolate Cake topped with a Ginger and Chocolate Ganache.

24 October 2016

When your supplier becomes your competitor...

What would you do, if you found out that one of your suppliers that you've been with for years and years was now supplying one of your customers and selling to them at the same wholesale prices that they sell to you?

I am writing this with a sinking feeling in my heart, as I try to untangle the threads of making a living, running an ethical business, dealing with ethical suppliers and having fun. Two of my friends have set up a buying group and my supplier is selling to them at the SAME wholesale prices as they are selling to me! It is an unusual situation where I am very good friends with the two people that they are supplying and they have been very open with me and as their friend, why would I want to sell them stuff at a higher price than they can get it for? So, they are only doing what they need to do in these hard times to get by and who can blame them. I wish that I could be the one that could be providing them the service that they need, buying food at affordable prices.

I called the supplier today and it seemed to me the obvious solution would be for them to give me a bigger discount on the things that I am buying from them, so that I can offer my friends a more competitive price and then it is a sustainable solution for everyone. Everyone knows that to get wholesale prices you need to be a business and prove that you're a business and that some wholesalers sell directly to the public but they sell at the Recommended Retail Price, so that you are competing on a level playing field and the final decision is up to the customer. 

The supplier told me that they were not competing against me, or undercutting me....but I explained that if I buy a packet of tea at £2 and then sell it for £2.50 to the public and then if they sell directly to the public, for £2, a wholesale price they are most definitely undercutting me. They asked me what I wanted them to do and I suggested that they changed their pricing tiers so that their direct to the general public prices are Recommended Retail Price, their prices to buying groups are a bit lower than that and then the wholesale price is to businesses only.

Sometimes, when you phone up as an individual to offer feedback and suggestions, they can see you as just an individual with a one-off problem but this to my mind is a massive problem that could effect small, independent retails businesses across the UK, as if we are not already having a hard enough time of it already. You see, if the supplier shifted their prices ever so slightly, to protect their business customers, the supplier wouldn't lose out, the buying groups would still get a good price, if they wanted to put the work in and the retailer would still have a sustainable business. If the retailer is not supported by the supplier's pricing structure, then the supplier will lose their retail network and have to deal with individual buying groups and members of the public, which is fine, if that is their business model for the future but the business model that this supplier is using at the moment is not sustainable for all parties involved, which leaves me with the following questions as a retailer:

1/ Do I want to keep using this supplier?

At the moment, there is no motivation for me to keep using this supplier. In fact, for my business model to survive, I will have to track down a supplier that has cheaper prices for wholesale, lower minimum orders and does not supply to buying groups, or the general public at wholesale prices.

2/ Is it financially viable to keep using this supplier?

It is not financially viable to use this supplier, as they are more concerned about getting their income from anyone, no matter what, rather than having strict trading boundaries and price tiers for different buying groups.

3/ How can I make it more attractive for my friends to buy from me, rather than having a buying group? 

The only way that I can make it more attractive for my friends to start buying from me again is to either encourage suppliers to put up their prices for buying groups, or to bring down their wholesale prices even further for retailers. This doesn't seem to me to be a very imaginative answer but maybe there is another solution that I haven't thought of.

This situation, to me, is just a sign of the times, people are trying to live as good a life as they possibly can on the low income that they have and the internet has made finding information easier. Also, I am very open in business and get my catalogues out for people to choose things they want to order, Then when they see the name on the catalogue they go straight to the supplier themselves, who wouldn't. Then because times are tough, the suppliers are welcoming any business be it from traders, or individuals on equal terms.

When I called my supplier they told me that small, independent businesses are very important to them, I just hope they back that up by setting up a sustainable situation, that is beneficial to all the parties involved.

What do you think the solution is, what would you do if you were faced with this challenge, has this happened to you before, what solution did you find? Please let me know by commenting on this blog.

I have to say my suppliers got back to me really quicly and have offered to shift my pricing structure so that it is a fairer and more sustainable situation. I am now in a position where I can offer bulk items to my friend's buying group at the same wholesale prices that they were paying. This is great for me, as I don't lose trade, this is great for my friends as it should make it easier for them to budget and not have to accumulate such big orders, just to meet the minimum order level and it's great for the supplier too as they are protecting their independent retail customers and have made me feel the warm glow of loyalty towards them.

This is why I love dealing with ethical companies, made up of people who really do look at the bigger picture and the long term implications, rather than the short term gain. 

28 September 2016

Copy Cat Businesses and how to Cope!

Picture by Anne-Marie Sanderson

I am feeling so annoyed having read one of my friend's posts on Facebook where she tells us that whole chunks of her website copy and ideas have been stolen and placed on someone else's website and business literature.
It's made me think about all the times that Gunter and I have suffered from this same copycat syndrome. It doesn't stop there, they will go after your client base too. We even had a business that tried to steal our name and our logo, let alone the ideas!
The gratifying factor is that they copy the things they see but they will never know the true secret to your success that they try to emulate, that's not to say that copying doesn't undermine your business and take the bread out of your mouths but it does mean their days are numbered, their longevity is questionable and their ethical sensibilities are none, even if they insist their business is ethical.
When someone copies you, the usual response from well-meaning friends is that you can choose to see it as flattering, however if someone steals your car, no one says that is flattering. I prefer to look at it this way, the threat to your business is a challenge for you, a challenge for you to focus on the positive and not the negative. Choose to concentrate on your business and all the good things you do and choose to ignore the other business, do not support it, or help to promote it. The one thing that I have noticed is that people that copy are intrinsically negative thinkers and struggle to realise their own brilliance, when they realise their own brilliance, they won't have to rely on yours and in that lies their weakness, if they take on you and try to compete against you, with your own ideas, not their ideas, then how will they ever win that battle? They can't! Their days are numbered because once you cut them from your circle and you are not so generous with your time and your ideas, they will have to stop copying you.
It is a long, slow and painful lesson for them to learn but copying just does NOT WORK. It is a simple equation a business that copies = FAILURE. That business will not last long because copying someone else means that faced with their own challenges in business, they will not have the resources, the though processes, or the experience of how to deal with challenges, they only know how to copy.
So, to anyone, especially my friend, who feels copied in business and stolen from, please take comfort in this, as long as you focus on your business and your positives, you will succeed no matter what, unfortunately I cannot say the same for business owners that copy. They say jealousy is the sincerest form of flattery, that's what they say about copying too......but copying only cheats everyone involved, the business owners and the public.
The one that copies will almost always be a friend, a friend who asks your advice and then takes your secrets for themselves, they'll treat you kindly and then take from you, rather like a conman....'He always seemed so nice', people say after their life savings have been taken, think about it, he wouldn't have been able to take your life savings if he seemed nasty, would he! Yes, it will feel painful cutting them out at first because you're a human with a conscience.
Having been in this situation many times over the past 7 years in Enfield and in Shepton Mallet. I know the way forward for you is to know your positives and concentrate on them.
It is hard to focus on the positive but keep going and blank that business out from your radar. Focus on your goals and your aims and what you are doing.