Saturday, 25 April 2015

Cake Liberation Front Manchester Meet Up

We had a Cake Liberation Front Manchester meet up this week and in the five years we've been doing it I have to say that I think it was one of my favourite meet ups so far! The format is that people bring vegan goodies to share. There's a emphasis on sweet baked goods but savoury and raw items are very welcome too.Once everyone arrives and the dishes are labelled and set out it's a big all you can eat buffet! Here's just a selection of the goodies we got to try.

It's always good to see some classics alongside more experimental dishes and these chocolate and cherry brownies were absolutley melt in the mouth heaven! Apparently the secret was lots of melted chocolate alongside cocoa powder to make them extra chocolately.

We had a good showing of raw and also gluten free dishes with raw cookies, gluten free fruity soda bread, gluten free strawberry cheesecake and this amazing raw and gluten free banofee pie.

Sometimes you can't beat simple good quality ingredients. This lemon and olive oil cake was beautifully light. Co-incidentally I'd tried some tasty Greek olive oil and walnut biscuits earlier in the day and I'm now keen to explore using olive oil further in sweet baking.

There was a good balance of sweet and savoury. We had aubergine pate with soda bread, almond and chives cheeses with rye bread, pizza rolls and quinoa and kale cakes. We also had the most amazing homemade seitan sausages I've ever tried. As well as vital wheat gluten they were made with kidney beans and delicately flavoured with a hint of fennel. I've never heard of baking seitan sausages before only steaming them. What was even more impressive is that Lucy their maker said she'd just made them up! I think that recipe needs writing down and sharing asap!

The showstopper of the night had to be Sara's meringues. She made them using the chick pea brine method that's taking the vegan world by storm and filled them with non dairy cream. How cute are these mini meringues!

And it didn't stop at mini meringues as we were treated to this huge strawberry pavlova too.

Finally here's the most talked about dish of the night. Keith is an experienced forager and often leads vegan foraging walks around the North West area. You might have spotted him on telly too a few months ago talking about his amazing wildlife friendly balcony garden which he also blogs about. He'd foraged for and cooked with something that I'd never have guessed was edible in a million years - Japanese Knotweed! Apparently it has lots of health giving properties and it tasted good (a bit like rhubarb) served in a crumble with some vegan custard.

If you want to hold your own Cake Liberation Front meet up event there are posters on the website that you can use and fill in with your own details. There's a regular meet up group in Adelaide in Australia and one hoping to start in Edinburgh soon and other people have held one off events. We meet up at V Revolution in Manchester who kindly let us use their cafe for free in the evenings but it could be equally fun just to hold an event at home with friends if you don't fancy organising a public meet up and it would be a good way to get non vegan friends to expand their baking reportoire!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Fun with Quinoa Flakes

I thought I'd blog about a product that's new to me which I discovered this week. I've been making a big effort to shop locally recently and we're lucky to have both an independent greengrocers and a health food shop in our little town where I can get most of our weekly shop. I picked up these Quinoa flakes from the health food shop - Peak of Health the other day. I've never used them before and I admit that I had to Google for ideas of what to use them for.

Whilst I was in Peak of Health I also picked up this new flavour of Provamel yoghurt - orange redbush!

First up was a big smoothie made with banana, mixed berries, almond butter (I'm in love with Meridian Almond Butter), Orange Redbush yoghurt, Oatly, flax oil, maca and a quarter of a cup of the quinoa flakes. This was tasty and fuelled me for a good few hours.

The second breakfast I made was Coconut, Mango Porridge. I used half oats and half quinoa flakes which were cooked in a mix of water and tinned coconut milk. I topped these with chopped fresh mango, toasted flaked coconut and drizzled Sweet Freedom Dark over the top. Mmm, I'll definitely be making this again.

Has anyone else used Quinoa flakes? What do you use them for?

Friday, 3 April 2015

Pistachio Cake with Orange Blossom Water from Easy Vegan by Sue Quinn

If anyone is looking for a cake to bake for Easter weekend and you have a copy of the current Vegan Life Magazine then I can totally recommend the Pistachio Cake with Orange Blossom Water that's pictured below.

I made this a few weeks ago for Mother's Day and I'm still thinking about it! As well as being topped with chopped pistachios you grind some up to a fine powder and add these to the cake batter which gives it a lovely unusual texture. The cake is full of fragrant flavours from the nuts, orange blossom water and cardamon and is really delicious.

The recipe is taken from a new book called Easy Vegan by Sue Quinn. The mag features four recipes from the book and we've also tried and enjoyed the Potato and Spinach Vindaloo recipe as well, albeit a tamed down version minus most of the chillis and with mild instead of hot curry powder so I could eat it too. Has anyone else made any of the recipes from the magazines that you'd recommend?

Friday, 27 March 2015

Review - Trek Bars

Recently Natural Balance Foods sent me a mixed box of Trek protein bars to try. Whilst their sister product Nak'd Bars are a staple part of my diet (and always to be found in my desk drawer) I wasn't familiar with Trek bars at all. I think the reason I've shied away from them in the past is that they are protein bars which I tend to associate with people who spend a lot of time in the gym which isn't me at all!

However, Trek's are definitely going to be on my shopping list now too. I loved the taste of these bars. I've found with some protein bars I've tried in the past that they can have a bit of a chalky aftertaste but there was none of that going on here. It's hard to believe that these bars are only sweetened with fruit as they are super sweet. The Berry Burst ones actually reminded me of the taste of fruit chews! The Banana Blast ones also have a big hit of sweetness from a fruit cocktail of dates, bananas, apples, pears and raisins. I think my two favourites though were Peanut Power and Cocoa Chaos. The bars also contain soya protein crunchies. This means that Peanut Power tastes like a delicious cross between a rice crispy treat and peanut butter fudge. Cocoa Chaos is like a healthy, fudgy chocolate crispy cake. I found them quite filling and liked that each bar is divided into 3 big chunks meaning I ate one or two chunks at a time as a mid afternoon snack.

Trek's really are a bar that tastes like more than the sum of it's parts. There's lots of selling points in that they pack a punch of protein (10g a bar), are low in saturated fat, gluten free and free from added sugar. What's sold me on them though is the great taste and texture. I'm also pleased to discover a new bar that I can take when we go out walking. They will also be great for those trips when you're not sure that you might find vegan food!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Probably the Tastiest Overnight Oats in the World!

If your local Home Bargains/ Quality Save has any of these left then grab them! I think there were a few other flavours as well but the blood orange is the one you need for these overnight oats. I make overnight oats around 3 days a week, usually for the days when I'm working in the office rather than working at home. I can make up the jar the night before and then just grab it from the fridge in the morning to eat when I get into work.

The joy of overnight oats is the infinite combinations of nuts, seeds, fruits and sweeteners you can add the oats and plant milk so it never becomes boring. Matt and I both agreed though that this was our favourite combination so far with it's delicious choco, orange flavours.

Serves 1

1/2 cup of oats
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
1 tablespoon of cranberries or raisins
1 dessertspoon of cacao nibs
3/4 cup of almond milk with blood orange (half the carton)

Place the oats, chia seeds, dried fruit and cacao nibs in a glass jar and give them a good stir together.

Pour in the almond milk with blood orange and mix until it's all well combined.

Put the lid on the jar and leave it in the fridge overnight.


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Boozy Risotto and Vegan Vegas!

A few weeks ago I heard about a Las Vegas hotel with a vegan food offer. I was interested to discover this as it's unusual for a hotel to do this and hopefully a sign of things to come. One of my best mates also wants us to go to Vegas for Viva Las Vegas the Rockabilly Festival to celebrate a big birthday so I'm starting my vegan research early! The Hotel is the called The Wynn and menu looked great with dishes such as Chick'n Breast with toasted almonds, green beans and mushroom sauce, Old Bay 'crab cakes' and American classics such as Pot Pie and Vegan Meat Loaf. There were also a couple of tasty sounding breakfast dishes such as Peach Pancakes and a Tofu Eggs Benedict. There was also one of my favourite things to make a home - wild mushroom risotto. Here's my take on risotto which has a good glug of red wine in it.

Red Wine and Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients - Serves 4
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 red onion
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 red pepper chopped
120g of sliced chestnut (cremini) mushrooms
1 cup of vegan friendly red wine
1 and a half pints of stock
8oz of risotto rice
1 teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup of nutritional yeast

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and garlic and stir for about five minutes.
Add the pepper and mushrooms cook for a few minutes more. Add the fresh thyme.
Add the risotto rice and the cup of wine and stir until the liquid cooks down. Then start adding the stock a ladle at a time until the rice is cooked. Continue to  stir whilst it is cooking, It will take around 20 minutes for the rice to cook through. Stir in the nutritional yeast and season with salt and pepper.
Serve with a side salad.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Vegan Life - Issue 4

I have to say the thing I am enjoying the most about Vegan Life Magazine is the selection of recipes in each issue. I've tried out recipes from each issue and been delighted with them all. I blogged in my issue 3 post about the salad recipe I tried and I've since made another from the same issue with this amazing roasted broccoli salad below. This was seriously restaurant standard!

From issue 4 I've already bookmarked a wheat grass guacamole, fruity chocolate cake and a gorgeous looking spinach and potato curry. There's one thing I've already made though, the amazing almond butter fudge.

The weather was terrible last Sunday and we decided to have a rare day on the sofa watching box sets. I nipped into the kitchen between episodes of Portlandia and this came together in minutes. The recipe serves 8 but as there was just two of us I quartered all the ingredients and this made a small box of fudge which was just right for two people. It needed an hour in the fridge to set then it was good to go. Wow, seriously, this is amazing fudge and semi healthy with the coconut oil and almond butter with the sugar just coming from the chocolate chips. I will definitely be making this many more times!

As well as recipes there's the usual wide mix of articles ranging from beauty products and tips to interviews with inspirational vegans to information on animal farming practices. We're all familiar with what goes on in dairy and egg farming but there were informative articles in this issue on lesser discussed practices such as angora wool farming and the plight of Moon Bear who's bile is taken from them to use in traditional Chinese medicine.
It's encouraging to see that with the current huge rise in interest in the vegan lifestyle that the magazine is going from bi-monthly to monthly after only 4 issues. It's available from various newsagents and supermarkets or by subscription as a digital or paper copy. The current subscription offer even includes a free vegan perfume.