Monday, 31 October 2016

Taking A Break

I'm taking a little holiday from here for a couple of weeks. We're going away to somewhere with no internet and I'm actually looking forward to it. Living with a chronic health condition can be both mentally and physically tiring and I am really in need of a break. I try to keep cheerful but there are days when I feel like my body is fighting me. There's been lots of those days recently and I've also been feeling regrets for jobs I can't do anymore and how it limits my stamina so I don't have the same social life I once had. Anyway I don't want to sound all doom and gloom, I know a change of scene will perk me up and bring me back feeling more positive. There will be stuff appearing on here as I've prepped some stuff in advance for Mofo. I'm not expecting to manage the whole month this year but I'll do what I can and enjoy it and come mid November I'll be catching up on everyone's Mofo posts once I'm back. In preparation for our break I've been stockpiling a few new things to try whilst we are away. Do you remember in my last post that I'd won an organic food competition where the prize also included a wheel barrow? Well I sold the wheel barrow and used the proceeds to buy this little lot amongst a few other things.

I'd seen this Primrose Kitchen muesli on the internet and thought it sounded interesting. Matt's not so sure but I am intrigued by the thought of beetroot in a muesli! Another breakfast item I picked up were these Pumpkin Tree pouches which were 39p in Home Bargains. I've not seen these before and they seem to be American. I'm thinking that they might be nice to squeeze into overnight oats - US readers can you advise? Have you tried them?

This Chi Caffe Latte is another new to me drink. It was also another 39p bargain this time from Heron Foods. I haven't tried this yet but we did try the chocolate version that they also had. The drinks have a coconut milk base and I found that a bit like the Rebel Kitchen drinks you did get clumps in them despite lots of shaking. It was really tasty though. I'm going to try giving them a whizz in the blender before I try the next one.

If you read my Chocolate Week post you'll know that I am a massive fan of the Raw Chocolate Company. I had a trip over to Chorlton to see a friend last week and we popped into Unicorn where I was delighted to pick up this new addition to their range. I am so looking forward to trying this!

In my pre-vegan days I used to love Horlicks especially the chocolate version so I had high hopes for this Choc O Malt drink I found in Unicorn. Whilst it didn't really recreate the Horlicks flavour when I tried some in some vanilla rice milk it was lovely and I will be experimenting trying it in different plant milks. For those not in the know, Unicorn is an awesome vegan supermarket. For years I lived minutes walk from it and I do miss it.

Still on the chocolate theme, here's a few finds from Marks and Spencer. I recently signed up for a Sparks card. It's a bit different from a normal loyalty card in that you don't collect points or get money back vouchers but you get different discount offers. My opening offer was money off food and drink so I had to try a few new items in their range such as this hot chocolate which is flakes of chocolate flavoured with vanilla.

I was excited to spot this liquorice and blackcurrant chocolate. We found some amazing hand made salted liquorice chocolate when we were on holiday a few years ago in Suffolk but I've never seen any liquorice chocolate anywhere since.

And finally as we're going further North and we're well and truely into Autumn I had to pick up a carton of this mulled winter warmer. It's made from cloudy apple juice, cranberry juice, elderberry juice and cinnamon and a hot mug of this sounds just the ticket to follow a brisk afternoon walk.

See you all soon x

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Tea and Workshops

Bit of a tea related post today and news of some workshops I've been doing. First off, kombucha. For those not familiar with it, Kombucha is a fermented tea drink which is good for getting pro-biotics. I've been brewing my own green tea kombucha at home for around a year and have just started to try a few shop bought flavoured ones. V Revolution sometimes stock it and I picked up this maple flavoured booch the other week. It was delicious, lovely and fizzy with a smokey maple taste.

In other beverage news, we got a new kettle. I've never had a stove top kettle before but when I spotted this for £3.50 in a charity shop I couldn't resist it. The make is OXO and I love their kitchen equipment. It's a delight to use and I think I've been drinking more tea than ever. Especially after I won an Organic September competition in which the prize was Whole Earth cereals and peanut butter, Kallo rice cake products and a whole load of lovely Clipper Teas. Oh and a wheel barrow. I hadn't realised when I entered that the prize actually included the wheel barrow in the picture holding the food until a super duper wheel barrow turned up too.

A few weeks ago I had a little trip to London to see some things that were part of London Design Festival. I got to spend the Friday hanging out with my dear friend Helen. On the way to a design fair at Old Trueman Brewery we were sucked into the amazing T2 tea shop in Shoreditch and spent a good half hour sampling teas including some made with veggies!

Helen bought a great tea flask and I was sorely tempted but couldn't afford one just then. To my delight I managed to snap up the same one I'd been eyeing up in the shop a week later for a bargain price on eBay. This sparkly beauty definitely brightens up my morning commute.

Recently I've been trying to make the five ways to well being part of my day to day life. Specifically I've been tying to focus on the Keep Learning bit as it was an area that had become stagnant in my life.

I've been signing up for some free creative courses. Manchester Art Gallery hold a free workshop after work the first Thursday of every month. I went along with a couple of friends to the October one and loved it. We worked with artist Daksha Patel who is interested in using light in her practice. The picture below is by my friend Debbie. It started off as a simple line drawing. We then used a drawing pin to make pin pricks along the lines we'd made and then we put our pieces of paper onto an overhead projector and this is what they looked like projected large scale on the wall. It was such a fun thing to do and  I'm really looking forward to the other workshops. I used to do loads of creative things and I've realised how much I miss that sort of activity and how much I need to do it.

I've also done a little craft workshop at my local library and most excitingly a cake decorating course!

I saw this on the Vegan Manchester facebook group and decided I had to do it. I've always been at a loss on how to do proper piping and always just end up spreading frosting on with a knife and then covering the top with sprinkles so it was fantastic to learn how to make my cakes look prettier.

The course was run by Georgina of the Cake Creamery who was a great teacher. Over two hours we learned how to do frosting roses and hyacinths, create fondant leaves and butterflies, use colour in different ways and how to assemble the cakes into a cupcake bouquet. Georgina had made vegan cupcakes and vegan buttercream frosting in advance so all we had to do was concentrate on the decorating techniques. It was an excellent afternoon and I felt a real sense of accomplishment by the end. If you live in the area and are interested in improving your decorating skills I'd definitely recommend you getting in touch to see when the next vegan course is running.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

It's Chocolate Week!

Yep, that's right. It's UK Chocolate Week from 10-16 October 2016. Now, every week is chocolate week in my house but saying that there are still vegan chocs I've yet to try there is such a huge range available now. In the ten years that I have been vegan I have tried lots though and am always up for sampling new ones. Here are my favourites that I've discovered so far broken down into categories by style.

Dark Chocolate

I came across this bar when I was the vegan reviewer for Can I Eat It? App and I got sent a range of Seed and Bean chocolate for review purposes. Vegan chocolate is very well represented in their range and the bars are great quality, Fairtrade, Organic and widely available. I fell in love this Cornish Sea Salt bar where the crunchiness of the salt pairs brilliantly with the malty flavours of the chocolate.

White Chocolate

I don't eat a huge amount of white chocolate but I do fancy a bit now and again. Organica was one of the first brands I came across in my local health food shop when I was newly vegan and I was so glad they existed! They make a milk bar that is a pretty good pass for a Galaxy style choc but my favourite is their white chocolate, generously flecked with vanilla seeds.

I've actually gone for a joint first place for white chocolate as although I remain loyal to Organica I also recently discovered this White Nougat Crisp proving that vegan white choc can be done in different style. Like the Organica bar with this one there is something about white chocolate that is seriously moreish and a bar doesn't hang around for long!

Milk Chocolate

Probably the style I eat the least of is vegan milk chocolate. I think that would change though if Ethico oat milk chocolate was in my local shops! Although it's not that widely available luckily you can buy it online and sometimes at vegan fairs. I was delighted to receive some samples when they first started out and I found their oat milk bars seriously mind blowing! Here's a link to the review I did back then and check out their website as there are some other amazing sounding flavours on there.

Raw Chocolate

Now, onto raw chocolate. I've long been a fan of raw chocolate and it's been fascinating to see the different brands develop over the years. One company that I come back to over and over again is the Raw Chocolate Company. I love everything they do from their bars which manage to create the snappy texture of non-raw chocolate to my favourite little treats which are these raw chocolate covered mulberries. I find mulberries on their own can be a little sharp tasting but wonderful things happen when they are coated in this signature raw chocolate.

Caramac Style

And finally onto something that I'm not sure is familiar to people outside of the UK. According to Wikipedia Caramac bars were temporarily available in Canada in the 1960s and 70s but remain primarily a UK product. I loved them when I was a kid and always looked forward to a Caramac Easter Egg even though they didn't have anything inside them! Imagine a caramel flavour white chocolate and you're sort of there though technically I don't think Caramacs actually qualify as chocolate they have the look and texture of a chocolate bar. Well, the Raw Chocolate Company's Vanoffee bars remind me a bit of how I remember Caramacs tasting and I love them and as they do qualify as chocolate I'm including them here.

What's your favourite vegan chocolate treat. I'd love to know!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Quorn Soup Review

We've sampled the new Quorn Soups with vegan pieces over the last week. I'd heard about these but hadn't spotted them anywhere but when they cropped up in Heron Foods for 89p I grabbed a tub of each. Thankfully ours were not from the dodgy batch that accidentally had the non-vegan pieces added but if you've bought some recently check that it isn't dated October 14 or 16. It's a long, long time since I've had Quorn. Funnily enough I was probably one of the first people in the world to sample it. Quorn has been available on the retail market since 1993 but when I worked as a cashier and food server in British Home Stores cafes in Chester and Newcastle (1989-90) we had a couple of vegetarian dishes that included this new myco-protein that was yes, you've guessed it - Quorn! BHS, probably one of the last places you'd expect to be ground breaking with regards to veggie food but there you go!

So, onto the soups. I have to admit I love making soups and don't often buy ready made and to be honest my hopes for these weren't that high but I was very pleasantly surprised. There's a Moroccan soup and a Red Thai Soup. Both are nicely flavoured but not over the top heat wise. There are really generous amounts of Quorn pieces and lentils (Moroccan) and rice noodles (Red Thai). Often with tins of soup where it says 2 servings I eat the whole thing but these did give 2 decent sized servings. They do come in plastic containers but they do say they are recyclable and I've actually saved them to put homemade soups in for the freezer. I'm not about to give up making my own soup but I would buy these again. We've also got hold of some of the Quorn fillets so I'll be digging out my old pan fried chicken book for ideas on how to cook those. First the new Linda McCartney range and now Quorn starting a vegan range, change is definitely in the air! I can imagine that all these products will be especially great for people starting to experiment with a vegan diet. Have you tried any of the vegan Quorn range yet?