Friday, 2 December 2016

Nina's Popcorn Review

Whilst I am a big lover of crisps and nuts my favourite snack has got to be popcorn. So, when new company Nina's Popcorn asked if they could send me some bags to review I didn't hesitate to reply, yes please! Matt works from home so I don't get much time in the house on my own but when he has an evening gig there's nothing I like more than to stretch out on the sofa to watch a film with snacks to hand. Needless to say he didn't get a look in with this popcorn!

I decided to work my way through the savoury popcorn first. The lemony kale and pepper had a fun tinge of green to it. You can definitely taste the kale and there's a slight citrus tang and actually quite a bit of a kick from the black pepper. The pepper was a little too much for my palate to be honest. It's certainly a grown up popcorn maybe one to pair with a Bloody Mary as a bar snack.

The other savoury flavour in the range is Spicy Sriracha and Spirulina. I was a bit apprehensive about trying this one as my hyper sensitive cough reflex syndrome is super intolerant of chilli or anything with heat and can cause me a lot of discomfort. I nearly gave it away but I'm glad I didn't as the good news is that I tried this after started my new meds and had very little reaction. The meds suppress the cough reflex pretty well. This is amazing for me and I couldn't stop smiling. It's ten years since I've been able to eat anything with this kind of heat and believe me with was hot, hot, hot!

 The other two bags in the range are sweet rather than savoury and I have to say that these were my favourites. The Sweet Coconut, Himalayan Pink Salt and Maca had lovely buttery, maple, coconut flavours with just a hint of maltiness from the maca.

The absolute stand out flavour for me was the Cacao, Goji Berries and Pistachios. As with all of the range the popcorn is cooked in coconut oil. It's sweetened with maple syrup and I thought that this was a really inspired flavour combination where the tastes blended really well. The nuts also gave an interesting crunchy texture to the coating. I really liked that there were only healthy natural ingredients in the products and I would definitely buy them again. Hopefully they will become more widely available. At the moment you can buy them online as a taster pack or by the box from Nina's Popcorn and Yumbles.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Exploring Green Tea with Teavivre - Teas To See You Through The Festive Season

I'm back! It's been quite a long break from blogging as I prepped all my Mofo posts in advance in October. There were some gaps and I had hoped to do some more throughout the month but life kind of got in the way. I've started a new drug treatment for my hyper sensitive cough reflex syndrome. It's sort of the last resort in the drugs they give patients as I've tried everything else and nothing has worked. It's morphine therapy where I take a controlled low dose twice a day. So far it is having really good results with my cough being about 30% of what it usually is which is great news. I'm still in the stage of dealing with side effects (and hoping they wear off) so that's fatigue, brain fog, nausea, anxiety, headaches, stomach cramps and other fun things! I am trying to feel positive though and trying to incorporate self care practice into my day to day life more than ever.

One of the things I'm doing is making sure I stay hydrated. Alcohol is off limits whilst I'm on this treatment so I've been exploring the world of nice teas more than ever. One type of tea I've always shied away from a bit is green tea. You might remember that I blogged about a wonderful afternoon that I spent tasting and learning about Chinese teas that I was sent from a lovely company called Teavivre. I was excited when they contacted me again to say they were sending me some more samples, this time of some of the green teas that they stock. I wondered if I would be converted!

I loved how the teas in the selection that they sent all looked so different. These flat leaves were from the Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing. They recommend on the website to drink this when you need calming so that will be a good one for me over the next month. This has sweet, grassy aromas and a sweet, buttery mouthfeel with hints of chestnut.

The Xin Yang Mao Jian had twisted spindly leaves. There was nice freshly cut grass aromas and a refreshing palate. It was slightly vegetal, think of spinach with a hint of smoke and a very slightly salty aftertaste.

Different in appearance again were these tightly twisted black/green leaves of Charcoal Baked Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong. This tea needed a longer steep than the others. The Teavivre website is really helpful telling you how to brew each type of tea. This produced a bright yellow brew with toasty, seaweed aromas. It had a big, smooth mouthfeel with floral flavours with just a hint of smokiness.

I think my favourite of all the samples was the Organic Bai Hao (White Downy) Green Tea. I've nicknamed this Sweetcorn tea as it really does smell of sweetcorn! This carries through onto the palate and it's really light and refreshing. It was very different to anything I've tried before and has become a new favourite.

I really enjoyed exploring the world of green tea and am definitely converted. I'll be carrying on drinking it through December. Another thing I like about these teas is that they are reviving without having such a big caffeine hit as coffee (around 10% in most cases).  They are going to be useful in helping me deal with fatigue without giving me an anxiety spike like coffee can do. There's going to be a review focus on the blog over December and I've got several more reviews coming up focusing on vegan friendly products made locally to me that would make excellent gifts so stay tuned!

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Vegan Mofo Day 29 Gingerbread Granola

Day 29 is holiday test run day. I like to make my own granola now and again and I've been thinking about trying to come up with a seasonal flavour for a while. I kept coming back to something that I like to make at this time of the year - gingerbread!

I was pretty happy with the result but think I would like to tweak it still further. It's not overly sweet so I think next time I'd try adding a little more maple syrup, maybe 1/4 cup. I'd originally wanted to use dried apples but they seem to be out of favour at the moment and I could find dried fruit of all descriptions except apples! The dried pears tasted good but were a little too chewy for my liking and stuck in the teeth a bit! I think I would possibly try this again with some dried pineapple as pineapple and ginger is such a great combination. Anyway the texture came out great and I loved the pecans in it. I'll put the recipe below for people to play around with and I'll continue to refine it until I get it just perfect. I quite like to give glass jars of home made granola as gifts so maybe this will even make it as a Christmas present this year. We enjoyed it mixed into plain yoghurt that had been drizzled with Sweet Freedom.

Gingerbread Granola

Makes 4 servings

2 teaspoons of ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 1/2 cups of oats
1/4 cup of dried pears
1/2 cup of chopped pecans
2 tablespoons of vanilla soy milk
2 tablespoons of rapeseed (canola) oil
1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses
2 tablespoons of maple syrup

Pre-heat the oven to 350f/ 180c

Stir the spices together in a cup and add them to a bowl along with the oats, pecans and dried pear and mix well.
In another bowl whisk together the soya milk, oil, maple syrup and blackstrap molasses.
Add the liquid mix to the oat mix and stir to combine.
Line a backing tray with greaseproof paper and tip the granola mixture onto it.
Bake for around 25 minutes giving it a few stirs and keeping an eye on it so the nuts don't burn.
Let it cool and store in a glass jar.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Vegan Mofo Day 27 Cherry Chia Bricher Museli

So today's Mofo prompt asks 'Was there a food you used to hate and now don't?' As I'm sticking to my breakfast theme I struggled a bit with this as I couldn't really think of any breakfast foods that I don't like, if anything I feel I am discovering new ones all the time. 2016 has definitely been 'The Year of The Breakfast' for me. But then I remembered the first time I ever heard of Bircher Museli. It was about 15 years ago and I'd gone round to my friends Robert and Corinne's house. Now this pair are fantastic cooks and know their food so when Robert was talking up this Bircher Museli that he had started making I should have known it would be great. However, the picture that popped into my head of oats soaked overnight and then eaten cold in the morning just made me think, urggh, cold porridge! Now years later and a regular overnight oats eater I am pleased to say I am a huge fan of Bircher Museli too. Basically anything that takes a few minutes prep in the evening and yields a wonderful tasty, healthy breakfast in the morning is a winner in my book.

Cherry, Chia Bircher Museli
Serves 2

1 cup of oats
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
1/2 a cup of dried cherries
1/4 cup of flaked almonds
1 1/2 cups of plant milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Sweet Freedom/maple syrup/ agave to taste
2 grated apples (in the morning)
Yoghurt to serve (optional)

Prepare the bircher museli in the evening by stirring together the oats, chia seeds, dired cherries and almonds in a tupperware container. Add the milk and vanilla extract and stir again then place in the fridge overnight.
In the morning stir in the grated apple. Portion out into two bowls. Drizzle with the sweetener of your choice and add a little more plant milk / yoghurt to taste.

Are you a fan of overnight oats or bircher museli? What add ins do you like?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Vegan Mofo Day 23 - Roasted Apples and Applesauce

The prompt for today is Autumn traditions. For me that would be roasting apples to use in recipes throughout the winter. I am lucky in that for the past few years I've had people give me organic homegrown apples. I use the recipe from Babycakes to prepare them.

Roasted apples - From Babycakes by Erin McKenna

2lb apples peeled, cored and diced into 1 inch cubes
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
1/2 cup of agave nectar or Sweet Freedom
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice

Mix everything together and spread on a baking sheet covered with greaseproof paper and bake for 35 minutes.

Once baked I like to keep some of the apples as chunks. There's a tealoaf and a muffin recipe in the book that uses them like this.

The rest I blend up with a little more sweetener and some hot water to make applesauce. Most of the Babycakes recipes use applesauce so I tend to bag them up into various cup sizes ready to grab from the freezer when I need them. I've come to love doing this as a Sunday afternoon Autumn tradition and the house smells amazing. Who needs scented candles when you can have the aroma of roasted apples and cinnamon!

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Vegan Mofo 2016 Day 19 Blackcurrant and Blueberry Chia Pudding

Day 19 - Goth Day – Blues, purples, blacks? Let your dark side shine. As a former teenage Goth I got a little bit excited when I saw this prompt and immediately set about thinking about how to create a purple breakfast. I'd picked up a couple of bags of these Urban Fruit blueberry and blackcurrant mix a few weeks ago in Home Bargains and they seemed perfect for today's suggestion.

Here's what they looked like straight out of the packet. I popped 2 tablespoons of them in a cup and added a little hot water, just enough to cover and let them re-hydrate further for about 20 minutes.

I then blended the berries and water mix with 3/4 cup of soya milk in a blender. In a bowl I mixed this with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds and 1 1/2 tablespoons of maple syrup. Then I poured the mixture into one of my favourite cups and popped it in the fridge overnight. In the morning I served it with a few dried berries as a topper and this was really tasty and blackcurranty. I'll definitely be making this again and experimenting with other dried fruits in chia puddings.

The photo looks a bit brown but it was more of a lovely mauve colour in real life! And here you go for good measure - a blurry picture of 16 year old goth me circa 1984/5. Complete with purple tie dyed dress from Afflecks Palace and purple lippy (Boots 17).

Today is actually my birthday and I can tell you that despite being 32 years older than I am in this photo I have never, repeat never lost my love of black liquid eyeliner!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Vegan Mofo 2016 Day 15 Mulitcolour Meal - Donut time!

If you've been reading up to now you'll know that as well as following the prompts I'm trying to do a breakfast theme which also features fruit and nuts in some way!

Fairly recently I had a great charity shop score of a brand new 12 hole mini donut pan for £2. I am a massive fan of Erin McKenna's books Babycakes and Babycakes Covers The Classics. After trying donuts from the Babycakes Bakery in New York City many years ago I was so pleased to see donut recipes when I got the second book a few years ago but until now have not had the right equipment. On my first go I made the classic cinnamon sugar dusted donuts as pictured above. These were delicious and I can report that they froze well too.

For my second attempt I made these for a visit from my niece and nephew and went the multi coloured decorating route. They loved these and asked for seconds. Yep, that's 6 year olds asking for seconds of vegan, gluten free baked goods, love it!

And the fruit or nut element of this breakfast treat? Well, like most of Erin's recipes these contain some apple sauce. Here is a link to the recipe if anyone fancies a go. I can see many more baked donuts in my future and look forward to experimenting with different flavours. What sort of donuts do you like?