Sunday, 28 March 2010

Busy weekend

A very busy week with People's Kitchen film night in Hulme and an Oddbins wine tasting followed by a very busy weekend. Friday night was a peated whisky tutored tasting by the Whisky Lounge at the Briton's Protection. We got to sample whisky from Wales, Japan, India, Ireland and of course Scotland.

Saturday I was up early and headed to Earth Cafe to see if there was anyone from Manchester Vegan Society who needed help to get over to Chorlton in Manchester for the Big Green Festival. We did a cupcake stall last year and I was disappointed that no one else had done one this year. Had a fantastic hotdog though from the guys who have the stand outside the Unicorn on a Saturday. Lots of stalls, alternative therapies, bands and even a scarecrow competition.

I spent the evening with my sister watching films and eating delicious barbecued baked tofu. It was nice to spend some relaxing time together. We work in the same office but things are currently so busy we can go days without having a proper conversation!

Sunday we went to see Alice in Wonderland which was fun. I even managed to get a spot of baking in - another of the Babycakes banana chocolate chip loaves and these maple flax cookies from Get it Ripe which are incredibly simple and quick to make.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Mad March Hatter

My mum has this teapot on the kitchen window ledge. It seems the whole world is Alice in Wonderland mad at the moment. I am aiming to get to see the film before March is out. Clipper teas have just released 3 'Alice' themed loose teas and have a competition to win lots of nice tea related items. Twinings have just released some new teas too and I am definitely going to try the limited edition rose garden tea perhaps with some Turkish Delight on the side!

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Mmm chocolate chip banana bread

Modelled here by actress Marie Louise Parker is simply divine chocolate chip banana bread. Another recipe from the Babycakes book. This was my first foray into using gluten free flour and I was a bit worried that you'd be able to taste it as I am not a fan of gluten free flour and have even been known to be unable to eat a gluten free cupcake!
I used the gluten and wheat free plain white flour blend from Doves Farm and it was fine. I took it into work for our team meeting. We are all still finding it a bit new and overwhelming at times so hopefully the mood lifting effects of the chocolate and banana helped! The raspberry scones from this book froze really well so I've popped a few pieces of this in the freezer for next week elevenses too.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Tapas Fantastico!

I went to dinner at my friend Jo's last night. I didn't know what was going to be on the menu so I played it safe and took this bottle of South African Reserve Sauvignon Blanc from the Co-Op. I like this range of their wines as they are Fairtrade, good quality for the price and most of them are suitable for vegans and labelled accordingly.

I should have taken a rioja because we were served a tapas feast. Seriously there were too many dishes to fit on the table! Unfortunately I didn't have my camera to get an image of the delicious colourful food. There were 2 different mushroom dishes, patatas with chorizo, roasted peppers, spinach with chickpeas, asparagus spears, salads, crusty bread etc. And for dessert a divine peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake from Unicorn served with oat cream.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Vegan Treats

This hasn't been the easiest of years so far and I've been tucking into comfort foods more than usual! Last week I ordered a box of treats from Veganstore. A couple of things were disappointing - the amaretti biscuits were nothing like their non-vegan equivalents in taste or texture and the almond butter cups whilst ok didn't taste like the Reece's version.

However, the rest of the box was fantastic. Whilst they will never win any graphic design prizes for their packaging these bars from Go Max Go are outstanding. Made with rice milk chocolate they are delicious versions of Mars, Milky Way, Snickers and Bounty. In fact the Mahalo is probably my favourite and I've never liked Bountys!

I've tried a few different makes of gelatine free marshmallows now and I even got a make your own kit for Christmas which I've not been brave enough to try out yet - it involves very hot temperatures, thermometers and lots of whisking! The best brand by miles are these handmade ones by Sweet Vegan. They taste great, melt in hot chocolate and work in cooking - I've made rocky road brownies with them in the past. I bought the mini ones this time as the large ones were a bit sticky to cut up.

Right I'm off to pop some in a lovely mug of Spanish thick hot chocolate before bed.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Babycakes 2

Work is quite intense and we are all very busy as the new centre gets under way. I made these blueberry muffins last night to take in for my team to keep our strength up. The second recipe I've tried from the Babycakes cookbook and another winner. Once again I followed the recipe but subbed sunflower for the elusive and expensive coconut oil. I was a bit worried as the batter seemed denser than normal but I think that's maybe because they have agave syrup as the sweetner instead of sugar. They actually turned out lovely and light though with blueberries bursting in your mouth. Two of my colleagues asked for seconds! I will definitely be making these again.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


I went to New York for my 40th birthday a couple of years ago. One of my must see places was Babycakes bakery in the Lower East Side. We bought a selection of pastries and cake which we enjoyed with champagne for my birthday breakfast and the staff even threw in some candles! All their baked goods are vegan and are mainly sugar and gluten or wheat free.

I was really pleased to get the Babycakes cookery book for my last birthday and today had my first go at one of their recipes. I must admit that I subbed sunflower oil for coconut oil as the cheapest oil in Eighth Day was nearly £9 and the recipe would have used most of the pot! But I did use agave syrup and spelt flour and these fresh raspberry scones were lovely and light.

Since the trip to New York, the vegan soda fountain Lula's Apothecary has opened, I can feel myself being called back!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Earth First - for vegan cake

My new office is a few streets away from the Earth Cafe underneath the Buddhist Centre in the Northern Quarter of Manchester which has an all vegan menu. I popped in this afternoon as I had a craving for chocolate cake, had a preview after work and needed something to keep me going until I got home. I was almost tempted by a new cake they had added to their range - Beetroot - but the craving for chocolate won out. My sister used to make an amazing non vegan beetroot cake years ago and I think I might need to find a dairy free recipe for it soon!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

We need cake!

I baked last night as I knew we would need cake at work today. Mainly to celebrate the birthday of one of my colleagues who sits in our little group of six off the main office. Also, it was our first day of doing 'live' assessments. We've had a two month intensive training/ bootcamp but now the new organisation is up and running and it's all very real!
As we have been needing cake/ chocolate quite regularly and also to stop our blood sugars spiking and crashing I went for this healthier recipe Lemon and Poppyseed cake from the book Get it Ripe. I've been following Jae Steel's blog Domestic Affair for a while. She's a qualified nutritionist and focuses on using the more healthy versions of ingredients. Everything I've made so far from the book has been wonderful, quick and delicious. This was the first dessert recipe I've tried and it was great with agave syrup substitiuting for sugar.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Good Enough To Eat

Just finished knitting a cupcake for a new friend in colours of her request. Will be popping this in the post tomorrow to send to her workplace to hopefully arrive in time for a tea break. This pattern is super easy and you can easily knit one up in an evening whilst watching telly. It can be found here on the Beeknits blog. If you try them, I recommend casting on 6 not 7 stitches to start.

I made some for a two and a half year old for Christmas and apparently although he insists on taking them to nursery everyday in the felt picnic set my sister made him, he will not have the cakes in the cases. Takes after his dad I think, the focus is on the contents not the wrapping!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Free tea for your friends

A friend of mine suggested through Facebook that I became a fan of Yorkshire tea. Whilst I was checking out their website I thought I'd register to try a free sample of their decaf as I'm trying to drink less caffiene at the moment. If you register to become a friend you can also send free samples to up to 10 of your friends.