Friday, 19 December 2014

Five Festive Favourites

In no particular order of preference here are five of my favourite seasonal vegan products that I thought I'd share. I did a review of the Divine vegan festive range for Can I Eat It? and they were all great products. There's chocolate coins, after dinner mints, after dinner ginger thins, a pear and ginger bar and my favourite which is these dark chocolate stars that make fab cake decorations as well as for munching on.

I'm a longtime fan of Elizabeth Shaw mint and orange crisps which are vegan friendly and can often be picked up in discount stores. If you see any of these seasonal edition gingerbread crisps grab them! They are amazing and highly addictive.

I must we haven't tried these yet as we've only just picked them up from Morrisons. I also have to admit that bacon frazzle type crisps always give me heartburn but I'm prepared to risk it as these sound ace even if I do ending up devouring them with a gaviscon chaser!

I have tried these though and they are fab. Turkey and stuffing style tortilla chips from Tesco. We served them as part of my birthday buffet tea but I want to give them a try as part of a chilli platter with guacomole, salsa, cheezy sauce, chilli and rice. My local Tesco was out of stock the other day as they are obviously proving popular. Hopefully they will return.

I've also been lucky to try the VBites Vegideli Festive Range for Can I Eat It? The big new addition to the range this year is the Festive Pizza which is pretty good as a convenience product but my heart lies with the Festive Pasties which were part of last years range and thankfully have returned again this year. They are basically Christmas dinner in a pasty form which is best served with roast dinner trimmings and lots of gravy.

Other honourable mentions must go to the Inspiral Raw Christmas Cake dessert pots and the Foods Of Athenry Gluten Free and Vegan Mince pies. At over £4 for both products they are on the pricier side of treats but the quality of the products and ingredients used is excellent.

What are your favourite festive vegan treats?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

December Detox

I was recently contacted by two companies offering me some free samples of their products which fitted really well with the pre-Christmas detox I've undertaken for the last 5 years. My birthday is mid November and once that's out of the way I always try and eat really well for the next four weeks. This means lots of fruit and veg, more raw meals and limiting the amount of sugary treats. It's not about weight gain/loss but more about keeping my energy levels up and fighting off colds. First off was Amazing Grass who sent me some sachets of their Green Superfood blend

I'm quite a fan of these type of blends and have used Prime Directive on and off for years. I can be prone to acid reflux attacks even from healthy foods, for example my body cannot tolerate cucumber or iceberg lettuce at all! When I have flare ups I do find these type of probiotic powders help calm things down.

You can mix the powder with water and drink as a shot or add it to juice or a smoothie. Here's my green smoothie made with banana, mango, spinach, water and a sachet of the Amazing Grass Green Superfood. The powders are strong tasting and I have to admit my favourite way to have them is in a smoothie where the sweet fruit covers some of the 'grassiness' of the flavours. As well as the tummy calming digestive enzymes the powder is also packed with anti-oxidents and even a little caffiene boost from the inclusion of green tea in the blend. A green smoothie with these little extras is definitely a great way to kick start winter mornings!

I'm a big fan of loose tea herbal teas and was excited to get one of these ultra cool Alessi tea diffusers for my birthday. I've been getting more and more interested in the health properties of herbal blends since successfully using tea blends from Neal's Yard and Viridian to help clear up acne I developed at the age of 42! I also suffer with post nasal drip and have found recently that chamomile tea really helps lessen the symptoms.

I was therefore very interested in the second company Teatonics who are based in Dorset. They sent me some samples of the two blends they sell and I must say that the packaging has a real wow factor. It costs £12 for the box which contains two weeks worth of each tea blend and they would make a lovely present. In fact I've already asked my sister to order me some for Christmas. There are various tea packages you can order and you can even take out a monthly subscription.

The idea is to have one cup of each blend every day. The morning blend is the Mind Awakening Yerba Mate which also contains Yerba mate, grapefruit, peppermint, citrus peel and rosehips. I never, ever eat grapefruit but I loved the lift it gave to the Yerba mate blend. The evening blend is called Laid Back Botanicals and is made up of green rooibos, lavender, chamomile, hops and elderflower. I'm a fan of all these elements and really enjoyed a cup of this as a soothing bedtime drink. They're more pricey than some of the herbal teas you can pick up in supermarkets but a big selling point of these teas is that you know the blends are made in small batches with fresh botanicals which therefore means that the health benefits will be high.

Friday, 12 December 2014

New Choc on the Block - Ethico Oat Milk Chocolate

I got sent a couple of blocks of Oat Milk Ecuardorian chocolate by new vegan producer Ethico recently. The block is part of a range of four flavours. They also do a block which is oat milk with raisins and two Peruvian dark chocolate blocks one of which also contains cranberries. The blocks range from £2.99-£3.99 and there's free postage on orders over £20. 

Picture the scene. It's a Friday night and Matt and I have finally sat down on the sofa at the end of a long, busy week. We were watching 'Have I Got News For You' when we both popped a piece of the chocolate into our mouths. Seconds later we turned to each other and exclained 'WOW'! With this chocolate Ethico have brought a great new addition to the vegan chocolate range. It's serious melt in the mouth stuff. Matt uttered the words 'dairy milk' but for me it surpasses dairy milk and reminds me more of what I remember a good quality Belgium milk choc with a fairly high cocoa content tasting like. There's good news for allergy sufferers in that the chocolate is manufactured in a nut free environment and the bar we tried was soya free although not gluten free. At the moment the bars are just available through the website although I suspect we'll be seeing them at vegan fairs and other places in 2015.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Christmas Shopping - Get Your Bake On!

Do you love vegan baked goods? Are you looking for something a bit different for a Christmas present? Our Cake Liberation Front t-shirts are still available via the Philosophy Football website. You'll find them in the Dissenters section of the site and there are 4 different designs to choose from. They are great quality t-shirts that wash well and as an extra bonus our proceeds from each shirt go to Dr Hadwen Trust.

There are also some wonderful limited edition really cute t-shirts for sale over at our friends Deerly Beloved Bakery.

This highly successful vegan bakery is run by Kayleigh Baddeley-Read and was started in Norwich in 2011. The bakery has gone from strength to strength winning business awards and supplying lots of local businesses including Norwich University and Waterstones with vegan baked goods. You can even order some of their fab Christmas range by mail order. Check it out here.

Friday, 5 December 2014

On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at

 If you're puzzled by the blog title it's the name of a traditional Yorkshire folk song and Ilkley was the destination for a surprise birthday day out the other week. We had a great day mooching round the charity shops and stocking up on Christmas treats from the Booths supermarket there.

One of the reasons that Matt had picked Ilkley was Veggie Cafe. The food was wonderful. Fresh and flavourful, well presented and had some nice little touches. I loved the little dishes of dips that came with both our choices containing mango chutney, homemade hummus and tapenade and almond and pea puree.

The first plate is a portabello burger in a tasty grilled bun and the bottom dish is a meze plate that as well as the aforementioned dips also included falafel wontons and cauliflower fritters.

Although they were labelled as dairy free rather than vegan we were delighted to find out that all the cakes on offer were SFV. After some deliberation we went for a cardomon and pistachio cake and a triple chocolate cake.

Both were excellent and the cafe has a great range of teas to accompany them. We will definitely be back for another visit.

Finally here's my birthday cake that I made for my family visiting. It was a simple chocolate cake livened up with chocolate black forest buttercream made with flavoured icing sugar from Sugar and Crumbs and topped with dark chocolate stars which are part of the Divine Christmas range.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Topaz Cafe - Another Great Lunch and Their Christmas Menu

If you saw this recent blog post you'll know that we are big fans of Topaz Cafe in Ashton. This veggie cafe is part of the Mind Centre in Ashton Under Lyne and serves up beautiful fresh, veggie food with lots of the ingredients grown on their own allotment or sourced locally.

On a recent visit Matt went for this colourful meze whilst I had stuffed pepper. One of the things I love about this place is that they will cook to order veganising vegetarian dishes and in this case omitting the chilli for me. It was still full of flavour though and my pepper was stuffed with tofu in a homemade pesto sauce.

We noticed that Topaz had started advertising their Christmas offer. They are doing Christmas lunches through December and also this one off special evening event on Thursday 18 December. We've booked our tickets and are looking forward to sampling three courses of delicious vegan Christmas food.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Holiday food - Week 2

We spent week two of our recent holiday in the seaside town of Aldeburgh. We were delighted to discover on the main street the little gem that is Delphines Diner. Small but perfectly formed would be the phrase to describe this place. It also has no web presence so it's a bit of a well kept secret!

There wasn't a lot for vegans on the menu BUT they did offer a vegan hotdog. This was our last lunch of the holiday and we really enjoyed it.

I'd been to VegFest just before the holiday and attended Jojo's talk on vegan travelling. I'd taken Jojo's advice to ask for recommendations on Twitter and was so glad I did when I got a tweet mention the Dolphin Inn at neighbouring Thorpeness.

The Dolphin Inn is a gastro pub that offers a vegan option for each course on their regularly changing menu. We had a shared starter of grilled vegetables and olives and a main of risotto. Risotto is a staple veggie option when eating out and sometimes I find it a bit bland as if leaving out the cheese leaves out all the flavour. However, this was a great risotto, creamy but packed with flavour from butternut squash and leeks.

I think the dessert may have been my favourite part of the meal though. This was a delicious tea poached pear with a homemade ginger biscuit. The Dolphin also offer gluten free options and it was great to see somewhere making efforts to cater to a variety of diets. We were sat next to a large group of women and one of them ordered a veggie dish. Her friend said 'Oh, I didn't know you were a vegetarian?' to which she replied 'I'm not, it just sounds really nice'. Yep, good food is good food and the staff at the Dolphin understand. Definitely one to visit if you're ever in the area.

I mentioned in my last blog post how great the weather was for October.

We enjoyed a day out to Southwold which has the poshest pier I've ever been on! The cafe even did a nice soya latte, great tea and my favourite vegan friendly Corkers crisps.

Instead of the usual amusement arcade the pier has the Under The Pier Show which is a roomful of interactive entertainment made by artist Tim Hunkin. It was brilliant fun.

I don't know what The Booth of Truth told Matt but he came out smiling!

We wondered if the designer was a veggie when we saw the Pet or Meat machine that decides the lambs fate!

There was a deli in the town where we picked up some bits and bobs for tea but we fancied a sit down lunch. We were pleased to discover Enzo's Pizzeria offered a cheese free pizza. It was simple Italian pizza at it's best. A thin crispy base, topped with homemade sauce, mushroooms, fresh basil and black pepper.

Finally here's a few vegan products we found in the shops in Suffolk that were new to us. The East of England Co-Op's carry this range of vegan friendly cakes from Norfolk based Riverbank Bakery. This cherry and almond cake was lovely and good value at around £2.50. We were pleased to discover when we got home that we can also get this range from the food hall in our market in Glossop.

Woodbridge has a great independent wine shop in Woodbridge Wines and we were also impressed by this range of local, handmade chocolate from Deep Mills Chocolate that they carry. The Dutch Salted Liquorice flavour is an inspired idea! The chocolate is really well priced and you can order it online.

The shop also had these amazing crisps made from pasta called Pastinos! These were so good and incredibly moreish. We're down to our last bag so I'm hoping to find a Northern stockist soon!