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)

Method
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.

Enjoy!

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

Method
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.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Cake, Cake and More Cake!

It was Matt's birthday last week so we had both our families over to celebrate. We made two huge roasted vegetable lasagnes served with green salad and garlic bread. If you've not discovered this super easy bechamel sauce recipe from Deerly Beloved Bakery you should definitely check it out. It's brilliant and is all done in a blender with no heating and stirring involved! It went down well and most people had seconds. 


For dessert I made two cakes. The first was a coffee and walnut cake from the Cake Scoffer. This is an old favourite that I've made many times and is a great cake recipe particularly for new vegan bakers. The Scoffer series of booklets were written by Ronny who lives near me in Glossop and they are all brilliant. The sequel Return Of the Cake Scoffer is still available but the original Cake Scoffer is now out of print. There's a few copies on Amazon for over £20 so if you do spot one at a vegan fair you should definitely snap it up! There's also the Salad Scoffer and the Breakfast Scoffer.


Matt requested a Victoria Sponge and I had to admit that I'd never attempted a vegan one before. I used the recipe from the Ms Cupcake cookbook and it was a great success. It's an easy recipe and came together quickly. I will definitely make this again although I would halve the frosting recipe. As I ended up with loads of frosting leftover I whipped up a batch of peanut butter cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World for Matt to take into work.


I started on a bit of a health kick last October and everything was going great with healthy eating and daily exercise until the week before Christmas. I was feeling better than I had done in years until I got up one morning with a bad pain in my left foot whenever I put weight on it. After hobbling around for a week I went to the doctors who put me on prescription painkillers over Christmas and told me to come back in the New Year if it hadn't improved. It didn't and got worse with my ankle continually swelling up too. An x-ray didn't give any clues and then a week ago I had an MRI scan which showed that I had fractured my heel! Seems like it was a combination of rubbish trainers and repetative exercise on my hardwood living room floor. It seems to be finally on the mend and I'm hoping to start using my exercise bike next week. I've been pretty fed up with it all in January and February and my good habits went out of the window and there's been lots of carb heavy food and sweet treats. I found this book Sweet and East Vegan for £3.99 in a discount book store recently so I'm going to be trying out some of the healthier treats from this. Has anyone come across this book and made anything from it?

Friday, 27 February 2015

Vegan Sunday lunch - The Oakwood

Glossop the town where I live is famous for having a pub with a completely vegan food offer called The Globe. The only lunchtime that the Globe is open is a Sunday and they've not had much competition until now. However, the pub nearest to my house, The Oakwood, has recently had a refurbishment.


It's not just the decor, the menu has had a revamp too and I was excited to see that they have several vegan options. Even more exciting was that they do something that nowhere else in Glossop does, not even the Globe - they offer a vegan Sunday lunch.


The food is of the home cooked and hearty persuasion. On the day that we went the roast part consisted of fritters made from nuts and pulses, lovely fresh veg and perfect roast potatoes. I was also impressed to get a big jug of gravy on the side. This hit the spot and I'll definitely be going back.


I also loved the new light fittings. Can you tell what they are made from - yep, old cut glass drinks decanters.

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Kitchen and Village Greens - Co-Op Day out in North Manchester

Matt's nephew has a business buying and selling vintage guitars and amps and Matt did a favour for him the other week by picking up an amp from just outside of Bolton. I went along as well as it was a great excuse to visit somewhere I've been hearing good things about for a long time.


The Kitchen is on Great Moor Street in Bolton town centre. It's a vegetarian cafe run by the Lakamka Workers Co-Op. They sell the usual veggie fayre and also specialise in Turkish food with dishes such as Gozleme which is a  turkish bread stuffed with things like spinach, mushroom or potato. As it was around Brunch time when we got there we opted for breakfasts.


These were great with particularly tasty bread and lovely sausages.


On the way back home we came through North Manchester so we took a detour to another Co-Op that we hadn't visited before. Village Greens is in Prestwich and reminded me of a mini version of Unicorn Grocery. Unlike Unicorn it's not exclusively vegan and they do sell meat and dairy products. These are kept in separate fridges though and the majority of the products they sell are vegan.


The strong vegan offer extended to the cakes that they sell with the majority of them being suitable for vegans and baked by Manchester favourites such as Lily and Dilly, Teatime Collective and Black Cat Bakery. Sadly they got a bit bashed on the journey home but I can vouch that this didn't detract from the taste! I wanted to try the strawberry topped Victoria sponge as Matt's requested one for his birthday in a few weeks. Strangely in all my years of vegan baking I've get to make a Victoria Sponge! I've earmarked the recipe in the Ms Cupcake book to try,


This yummy bakewell slice also hit the spot with a nice cup of tea. I also have to give a shout out to the gorgeous rye bread and home made hummus we picked up too.  I was really impressed with the shop and the range of goods that they carry. All the veg that we picked up was top class too. Although it's quite a drive from where we live, Village Greens is close to my sister's house so I'm sure we'll be back very soon.