When I saw this new cookbook by Nicole Maree, I was super excited because she was a contributor in our 15th issue - so I had to check it out. The concept behind the book is admirable, being that it’s all about replacing potential allergens in baked goods. Not only is this book vegan, but it’s also a mix of sugar, flour, egg, oil, dairy, and nut-free as well. (Minus one or two small mentions of honey.)
Yes, this book will be a good addition to your cookbook shelf even if you don’t have allergies, but I think it’s an especially standout book for those who do. After I try a few more recipes, I will definitely be passing this book onto my friend and frequent Chickpea assistant Rachel, who is severely allergic to all nuts and has other food sensitivities, and could really benefit from having this in her collection.
This book is filled to the brim with very decadent desserts - the kind where you only need a few bites to feel satisfied. They are mainly created through the use of food processors and blenders, rather than an oven, so the amount of time you have to spend investing in making a recipe is quite low. Conversely, though, because they’re more on the raw side of baking, the ingredients can get expensive. But the fact that they’re so rich makes them stretch further, I think. To get through a whole cheesecake would take one large party, or you could stick it in the freezer and eat it yourself over the course of a few weeks. So really, I think the price kind of evens itself out.
In no other cookbook do I find a real desperate need for pantry lists or recommended tools - but for one that’s emphasis is on replacements, I really found the first portion of the book to be super helpful. She gives ingredient replacement suggestions and in what situation they’d work best, then also includes conversion tables so you can really do it yourself. I love this section of the book because it’s very efficient and well considered when trying to achieve a real resource for people looking to alter what they’re consuming. It’s not just a pantry list, there is utility baked into it.
Even though the recipes are easy to make, I don’t necessarily think it’s a book for beginners to cooking/baking. Because it’s baking and the author’s Australian, the recipe measurements are by weight, not volume, so a cheap kitchen scale is necessary. (Ours was $10 and works like a dream!) And like I mentioned, a lot of the ingredients might be a little pricier or hard to find (like cocoa butter or vegan white chocolate), so if you’re a beginner this might be a little intimidating. But if you’re a beginner who’s not afraid to dive into something, this book will reward you for it with some really amazingly delicious desserts. If you meet it halfway with finding those right ingredients, it will take you easily through each recipe. They’re not super complicated or require advanced techniques - just a lot of melting, blending, and chilling.
There are a number of baking recipes, but I’d say the majority are more on the raw/refrigerated side - but even the baking recipes are ones I’d feel comfortable trying on a weekend evening. (There are a couple vegan meringue recipes in here, though, that I’ve never tried before, but they look amazing enough that I would want to take the time to learn them - like the Rainbow Meringue. It looks so so beautiful.)
I wanted to try a range of recipes from The Healthy Convert, so I went for a “raw” dessert, a baked recipe, and a breakfast.
- The pancakes from page 143 were great - they didn’t taste “allergy free” whatsoever. (I topped them with maple cream, because I didn’t have the ingredients on hand for the accompanying Chocolate Hazelnut Butter.)
- I also wanted to try the Strawberries & Cream Smoothie - I’m awful at coming up with smoothie recipes on the fly, and I wanted to see if this one was anything special, because they’re so ubiquitous in cookbooks. I really enjoyed the smoothie - it was well balanced and tasted like strawberry ice cream, without needing to freeze or thaw anything.
- The caramel slice was the more “intimidating” recipe out of the three, but when I went to actually make it, it was super easy - just filled my food processor a few times, and let it chill for a few hours. And now I have enough of them to keep me rich in desserts for a long time. (Or, I need to host a party, haha.)
As someone who is not naturally good at baking, and lives for raw desserts, this book is the best of both worlds of decadence and health, and raw and baked. It’s a useful resource for anyone looking for allergen-free sweets, for sure, but I’ve found through trying the recipes that it’s just a great book for modern desserts that just happens to be more health conscious. Just don’t try eating one whole cheesecake in a sitting. :P
where to get it
The Healthy Convert by Nicole Maree
Hardie Grant Books (ISBN 9781743792988)
Get it at Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Convert-Allergy-Friendly-Sweet-Treats/dp/1743792980
becoming a healthy convert (guides to replacing sugar, flour, eggs, oil, dairy, and nuts)
slices & bars
cakes & cheesecakes
puddings & tarts
who this book is for
Anyone who is into desserts, wants to explore deeper into them, and isn’t scared of a few new ingredients or techniques.
People with food allergies that want a good resource in making vegan desserts.
the best part
The portion dedicated to explaining all the possible substitutes, even including recipes for them. (Like gluten-free flour blends or easy egg replacers.)
strawberry blonde bars
lemon meringue cupcakes
Recipe excerpted with permission from The Healthy Convert by Nicole Maree, published by Hardie Grant Books.
CHOC CARAMEL SLICE
DAIRY FREE, GLUTEN FREE, VEGAN
Oozy, gooey and full of sticky goodness, this slice is for the fussy eaters who criticise allergy-friendly treats. Prepare to be converted.
Makes 16 large slices or 32 small slices
- 230 g (8 oz) raw cashew nuts
- 40 g (1 1/2 oz) desiccated coconut
- 115 g (4 oz) soft medjool dates, pitted
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 40 g (1 1/2 oz) tinned coconut cream
- 200 g (7 oz) soft medjool dates, pitted
- 150 g (5 1/2 oz) hulled tahini
- 30 g (1 oz) coconut oil, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon ground sea salt
- 55 g (2 oz) cacao powder
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) coconut oil, melted
- 85 ml (2 3/4 fl oz) maple syrup
NOTE: You can also use 130 g (4 1/2 oz) of vegan milk chocolate to melt on top instead of making your own.
- Line the base and sides of a 17 cm x 17 cm (6 3/4 in x 6 3/4 in) square cake tin with baking paper, ensuring the paper hangs over the sides of the tin for easy removal.
- Blend all the base ingredients and 30 ml (1 fl oz) water in a food processor until a dough is formed and the mixture sticks together when pressed. Add more water if the mixture is too dry.
- Using a wet spoon, press the base mixture evenly into the prepared tin and freeze for 30 minutes.
- Blend all the caramel ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor until smooth. The mixture will look a little split. Transfer to a small saucepan over a medium–low heat and cook until the mixture comes together and forms a smooth, thick caramel. Spread the caramel on top of the base. Freeze for 30 minutes.
- Mix all the chocolate ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Spread on top of the caramel. Freeze for 2 hours.
- Remove the slice from the tin, slice and serve. Store remaining slices in an airtight container in the fridge for 1 week or in the freezer for up to 1 month.