Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Winter Warmers

Inspired by my friend over at the My Cat Loves Daiya blog I've been using my local library for recipe inspiration. The weather has been awful this week, so wet and windy, and I was drawn to this little book of recipes for Hot Toddies.


The book has large section of alcoholic hot beverages with things such as mulled wine and cider, glogg, hot buttered rum and of course hot toddy. Towards the back is a non-alcoholic section and I was attracted to the recipe for Moroccan Spiced Coffee first.


I used decaff coffee for this as it is what Matt drinks at home. I usually drink one cup of caffeinated coffee a day and then switch to decaff if I want anymore. I also don't like caffeinated first thing in the morning so this was a good breakfast blend for me. To two ounces of coffee you add a spice blend made from a cinnamon stick, two teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds, a quarter of a teaspoon of fennel seeds and the seeds from three cardamon pods. We tried this as both black unsweetened coffee and also with milk and a teaspoon of Sweet Freedom and enjoyed it both ways. A packet of this would make a nice quick and easy gift for a coffee lover too!


We are still working our way through Mad Men and are on series 6 at the moment. If you've seen the show you'll know how much alcohol and cocktails feature so sometimes we like to join the cast in a drink whilst we're watching. This spiced hot chocolate came from the Nogs and Creamy Drinks section of the book.


I altered it slightly to make it vegan and less alcoholic than the recipe suggested and it was a wonderful treat on a wet Wednesday afternoon huddled in front of the fire with a box set. In a saucepan you warm two cups of almond milk with two ounces of dark chocolate, the zest of half an orange, a tablespoon of your desired honey substitute (I used Sweet Freedom) and two whole star anise. After it was heated through and the chocolate melted I removed the star anise and frothed the mixture in the blender along with two dessert spoons of rum and two of orange liqueur. It tasted amazing and we'll definitely be making it again.


The final drink of this post comes from the Non-Alcoholic Warmers section of the book and is Saffron Milk. This recipe uses dairy milk and also condensed milk but it was easy to make with vegan substitutes. I warmed a cup of almond milk with a good pinch of saffron, two crushed cardomon pods and a tablespoon of maple syrup. After bringing to the boil I switched off the heat and let it sit for five minutes then gave it a quick rewarm before straining into a cup. Oh wow, this is such an amazing sweet and comforting drink. I often avoid hot chocolate at bedtime as I find the caffeine in the chocolate keeps me awake but I can see lots of cups of this in the future! It's also a great way to use up saffron. I don't know about anyone else but I rarely use saffron, maybe for a paella once a year and it ends up languishing in a drawer. This box is nearing it's best by date so I'm pleased to have found a new use for it.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Comfort Eating

The other week we both had stinking colds that started on a Monday and lasted a whole seven days. By the time it got to the weekend we were fed up and in need of some serious comfort food. Here's a selection of what went down in our kitchen.


I did an oats based breakfast post the other week in which I raved about the Apple and Cinnamon Porridge Bake from the first Delicously Ella book. I tried another baked oats recipe, this time from her website and this was amazing as well. This is Baked Banana, Blueberry and Raisin Oatmeal served with some coconut yoghurt and some toasted coconut chips (picked up in Home Bargains for 49p). Seriously, this was such a nice breakfast that I was still thinking about it at teatime!


I occasionally break out the toastie bags for a toasted sandwich and this was one such occasion. I'd made leek and potato soup and it was accompanied by these avocado, tomato, olive, spinach and parmesan toasties. I've never put spinach in a toastie before and it was a bit of a revelation how well it worked. The parmesan was shavings of the Violife Parmesan which we finally got round to trying after having it in the fridge for a few months! It's great stuff and we had it in risotto for our tea too. You don't need much to add flavour to a dish and a block will do you for a fair few meals.


Sunday was all about reading, watching tv and a cooked breakfast. We had a batch of Matt's special home made baked beans in the freezer made using Hodmedod's fava beans and we had these with herb roasted potatoes (from Vegan Brunch) and some mushrooms cooked in Hendersons sauce.


I also finally got around to using the Apfelbrater or apple baker that I got for my birthday back in November as a present from work.


You core an apple and stuff the middle (I used marzipan chocolate) then light the candle and leave it to burn.


Once the candle has burned through the apple is cooked. There's the bonus of delicous apple and chocolate smells filling your house too!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

My Space

We've been in our house for a year and a half and we've had to do a lot of redecorating after an extensive rewire when we moved in. We are nearing the end with just the living room left to do and I thought I'd show you what our spare room looks like after decorating it. I loved reading everyone's Kitchen Tours during Mofo so I thought it would be fun to see where people's blogging spaces are as well as their cooking spaces. This room is at the back of the house and overlooks the yard and those of our neighbours. It's a cosy little room and gets some nice light on a sunny day. I decided on a blue palette for this room but keeping with warmer tones of blue although that might not be clear form my bad iPhone pics! The photo of the door below gives the best colour match.


The first thing I did was get rid of the double bed that we had in here as it took up most of the space in the room. We donated that to our local furniture project and replaced it with a sofa bed. I spent a long time researching sofa beds before choosing one. We often have people to stay, either friends or musicians for gigs Matt is promoting so I wanted the bed to be a decent standard but I also wanted it to work well as a sofa so that this room will be somewhere I can chill out with a book and a brew. A lot of sofa beds don't seem to be built for everyday use so I went to a specialist company called Furl. This is great and so easy to pull out. It even a proper sprung mattress and some built in storage for bedding. The cushions are made from fabric by Scion and I got from eBay. I love the 1980's vibe of this pattern.


When Matt left a job a couple of years ago his leaving present was a load of vouchers to spend a Manchester Craft and Design Centre. He used them to buy two pictures of local Derbyshire landscapes from Northern Scapes and we've hung them in this room.


This print I bought a few years back through the Own Art scheme. Basically this is an interest free loan which lets you pay for an artwork in monthly instalments. I had this in my old place and chose the blue mount which I think started my love of this shade.


A couple of years ago we went to the degree show at Manchester Metropolitan University and saw some amazing lightshades made from wood. They've always stuck in my mind and I was pleased to find this shade in a similar vein on eBay.


Holmfirth is a town not too far from us that is famous for the television show The Last of the Summer Wine. I tend to go there in the Summer when there is a bus that runs just on weekends between Easter and September. It is an absolutely stunning journey over the hills. Once there it's a nice little town with plenty of charity shops and independent shops. My favourite is Fair Trader which sells food, clothes, house stuff and children's toys. I picked up this blue ceramic hook there on my last visit and a bag with craft projects hangs from it.


And finally here's my little desk. The chair is one of a pair that were eBay finds and the desk is an old teacher's desk that Matt's dad restored.


I hope you enjoyed this little tour. What's your little blogging corner like?

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Sweet Dreams are Made of These .....

January 8 was Elvis's birthday. Because I live with an Elvis obsessive who now since Christmas has a grand total of 106 biographies of the man, this of course had to be marked in some way.


The collection is gradually taking over our attic room!


To mark the occasion we watched an Elvis film, That's The Way It Is, a documentary about the Vegas years and chowed down on some Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana Pie.


I used this recipe from the One Green Planet blog and was impressed with how straightforward it was to make compared to some of the other recipes that came up in my google search!


In other sweet treat news my package from Sugar and Crumbs arrived on the same day as I made the Elvis pie. Sugar and Crumbs make an amazing range of flavoured cocoa powders and icing sugars as well as selling sprinkles and all sorts of baking stuff. Their products are vegan and gluten free.They were kind enough to slip in a free sample bag of banana split icing sugar too!


They also have a SALE on at the moment so if you need some Cherry Bakewell or Salted Caramel icing sugar you know where to go!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Getting Your Oats

Making the Pudla in my last post on New Year's Day morning seems to have ignited an enthusiasm for trying new breakfast ideas. I've been specifically looking for things to make with oats. We are watching our cholesterol and on a limited budget these days so oats are a great choice for us. However Matt's not that keen on standard porridge and we've done overnight oats to death so I needed to go in search of a little inspiration. The bottom two books in the pile are from the library whilst the top one Keep It Vegan by Aine Carlin has been languishing on my bookcase. This fab round up of recipes from it by Susan at Kittens Gone Lentil inspired me to revisit it again though.


First up was Wake-me up Porridge from The Chakra Kitchen. The foreword to the book is a bit new-agey for me with talk of using crystals but each to their own and the porridge was delicious and different. It's got chia seeds, ground ginger, maca, coconut, hemp seeds and cacao nibs. All the recipes in the books are vegan, gluten free and only use natural sweeteners. This had no sweetener but I added a little of my favourite Sweet Freedom to the toppings. We ate it quickly before dashing off for a hospital appointment and I forgot to take a picture so here's the picture from the book itself. The actual recipe is on-line here.


I've made two recipes from Keep It Vegan. This is Coconut, Date and Almond Granola just out of the oven. It uses maple syrup as a sweetner and only 1 teaspoon of oil. I was also impressed that it seemed to take less time than other granola recipes I've made in the past at around 30 minutes oven time.


It made a jar and a half (8-10 servings) and we'll eat this with fresh fruit and yoghurt. I've also made the Bircher Museli from this book but forgot to photograph that too! If you've not had bircher museli before it's basically oats soaked overnight in plant milk then in the morning you add grated apple, and other flavourings which in this case were raisins, chopped hazelnuts, Sweet Freedom, toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, toasted coconut and some coconut yoghurt.


I think my favourite of them all though is the Apple and Cinnamon Porridge Bake from the Deliciously Ella book. The oats were soaked in almond milk for 10 minutes then you add grated apple, chopped medjool dates, cinnamon, Sweet Freedom and some nut butter. She suggests almond butter but we only had peanut butter and it worked great. Once it's been baked for 10 minutes it's served with a blob of coconut yoghurt and some fresh blueberries. I used a small pot of the natural flavour Coconut Collaborative for the yoghurt and it did us for 4 servings as we had this both days at the weekend.


If you've got any favourite ways to eat oats for breakfast please leave a comment below, thanks!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

New Years Bits and Bobs

Wishing a belated Happy New Year to everyone. We only returned from our break this week hence the lack of blogging. We had a good, restful break albeit it not the one that we were expected! You may remember that we had booked a week for new year at the castle apartments in Harlech where we had such an amazing break back in October. We were so excited to be going back but when we arrived there was water damage to the apartment and we had to be moved to alternative accommodation. All this happened in the start of a big storm that raged for 24 hours and was a bit stressful and disappointing to say the least. However, the customer service from the rental company was really good and they found us a nice apartment in Criccieth to stay in and have offered us a complimentary mini break in the castle apartments for later this year. Considering the devastation that was happening in the North of England and Wales due to the flooding over Christmas we were thankful to be somewhere warm and dry. My Auntie and Uncle suffered severe flooding at their home and have had to move out. It's just awful what has happened to large communities and hopefully lessons will be learnt and better measures can be put in place to prevent this sort of devastation happening again.


The weather was pretty bad whilst we were away and we spent a lot of time in the apartment. I was glad we'd done quite a bit of food shopping and meal planning beforehand. I got The Abundance Diet for Christmas and enjoyed making some lovely breakfast smoothies from there as well as the Lightened Up Laksa pictured above. We had this for our tea on New Year's Eve and it left plenty of room for our now traditional cheese and crackers board. The Nutcrafter Creamery cheeses we tried were nice and up there with the Midas ones we had last year might


Our New Year's Day breakfast was also from the Abundance Diet and was Pudla - a type of Indian breakfast omelette made with chickpea flour. We absolutely loved this and will definitely be experimenting with more Pudla recipes.


One of the advantages of relocating to Criccieth was that we discovered Dylan's. Dylan's is a restaurant housed in an original art deco building right on the seafront. I loved the naturally inspired decorations they had like this printers tray of beach finds.


Their Christmas trees were made from driftwood and fairy lights.


There were a couple of options on their menu labelled vegan and some others that could be easily veganised. I ordered this wild mushroom and caramelised onion pizza without the cheese. It was tasty but I think I would ask for an extra veg next time. I had a really similar one at HOME the new arts centre in Manchester just before Christmas that had artichoke with wild mushroom and it was one of the best pizzas I've ever had.


Matt order the tacos which were labelled as vegan and we ended up sharing both dishes. We agreed that these were the stand out dish. They are actually a starter that we asked them to double up to make it a main and we were a little surprised that they were served as a cold dish. The flavours were excellent though and they comprised of sweet potato and coriander corn tacos with mashed chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, mojo picon and burnt lime.


We managed to eat out one more time on the holiday at the Black Cat which was somewhere that we'd visited for a drink back in October. It's a cafe with a shabby chic vibe serving homemade food set in the grounds of Glyliffon Parc near Caernarfon. We went for the 2 for £10 meal deal of vegan Shepherds pie served with slaw, salad and corn chips. From what we've read the Black Cat do great vegan cake but sadly as on our last visit there was none to be had.


As with our last visit we ventured into Porthmadog when we needed supplies. The health food shop Vegonia on the high street is amazing, one of the best I've been in. We found some new to us snacks such as this Cheezy Kale popcorn.


These chickpea chips were so moreish and great to accompany a Bloody Mary.


Here's one final find to leave you with from Vegonia which has blown my mind. I've never been the biggest fan of fruit teas but I was feeling a bit sniffly and thought the Vitamin C hit from this Pukka Blackcurrant Beauty tea might be useful. Also I was intrigued to see what a tea blend with beetroot in the ingredients would taste like.


Guys, it tastes like these!!!!


Seriously, it tastes like blackcurrant and liquorice sweets. Best tea ever! Go buy some now.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

My 10th Vegan Christmas Dinner!

I was surprised the other day when I realised that this was actually my tenth Christmas dinner as a vegan! We started the day with a brunch around 10.30am opting to eat our main meal mid afternoon after a quick trip to our local pub for a drink. I helped with the planning but can take no credit for any of the cooking. The food you see is all Matt's work. For brunch we had these bagels. I recently discovered thin bagels which are the same width a normal bagel just half as thin and they are great for a breakfast sandwich. There was a layer of V Bites ham topped with chive studded scrambled tofu from The Starch Solution which was then drizzled with some Vegg. It was great and a good start to the day.


There was much debate about what to have as the main in our Christmas dinner. In past years I've enjoyed things this Mushroom and Chestnut Wellington, Forest Foods Nut Roasts and V Bites Turkey. I've tried Tofurky before too but not at Christmas, it was when I was in Canada at Thanksgiving. In the end we went with this idea of Matt's and it worked out brilliantly and was super rich and tasty. The filling is a layer of caramalised onion marmalade topped with Isa's Olive and Lentil Burger mix wrapped in shortcrust pastry.
It was served with roast shallot, brussel sprouts roasted in maple syrup, purple sprouting brocolli, green peas, roast potatoes, stuffing, red cabbage cooked with spices and apple, steamed carrots, bread sauce and a pig in blanket sausage. There was of course port gravy to top it.


We didn't have room for dessert but I can't finish without showing you the vegan Vienetta ice cream cake that my sister brought to my mum's for a Christmas Eve buffet. These can be found in the UK in Tesco's in areas with a big Jewish population and seeing as my sister lives in Prestwich she struck lucky and spotted this in the kosher dessert freezer section. It was fab and huge and cost just £5.


Any finally just in case any of you are looking for some new music to listen to for New Year here's a cheeky plug for Matt's alter ego 'Quiet Loner'. There is a Christmas/ New Year sale on all three Quiet Loner albums. All three are available as downloads (£4 each or £6 for all three) and the first two as CD's for £5 each (the third one has sold out). Check them out here.