Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Salad Days

Do you remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that I'd won a garden? Well it arrived last Friday. I got home very late due to a broken down train so I'm afraid I didn't open immediately and unpack as instructed. The instructions said to do this within 24 hours though so I was up at 7am on Saturday morning and on it!

The prize was one of these Window Box Gardens from Rocket Gardens and the plants arrive packed in damp straw.

It was like an exciting lucky dip going through the box and discovering the different layers.

The first task was to lay everything out, identify the plants and give the roots a dunk in a water bath.

The beetroot, dwarf beans and herbs (chives, parsley and basil) have all gone into pots whilst the leafy greens have their own bed.

There's rocket, various types of lettuces, mizuna and spinach. I posted a picture on Facebook and said how I was worried that the local cats might be tempted to use it as a litter tray like they have done on occasion with our raised flower bed. My friend Tams posted back a picture of her solution to the issue which was strategically placed chippy forks. A trip to the Pound Shop later and we had the same effect. I mentioned that I thought it looked like an art installation and I had to laugh when she called it Forks Over Knives'!

Yoga Kitchen finally went back to the library this week after I'd renewed it once. I made a few things before it was returned though. This mushroom ragu served on a baked sweet potato was one of the first things I'd bookmarked and it was really tasty. The mushrooms are cooked in coconut oil and the sauce is made from stock, tomato puree, fresh thyme and a small amount of raw cacao. I will definitely be making this again. The leftovers were great stirred through pasta the next day with some added spinach.

I made it for my sister when she came for a sleepover. Matt was away in Scotland all week and it was lovely to have her company. Dessert was also from the book and was Avocado and Lime Mousse topped with chopped pistachios. This was really easy to make with everything just going in a blender and then left to set for a couple of hours in the fridge.

We enjoyed the dessert with this vegan friendly and Fairtraided Moscato Rose from the Co-Op. It was only around 5% abv and cost £3.49. I don't drink much these days though I do like the odd glass of wine. I also like finding things that are lower in alcohol like this but still taste good!

This last dish from Yoga Kitchen was a masala dahl which took a bit longer to make as you make your own curry paste. It was served on a bed of brown rice and rocket and topped with Coconut Collaborative plain yoghurt and some homegrown alfalfa. I was especially glad to have leftovers of this the night of the train breakdown.

The curry theme continued over the weekend as I made a couple more to welcome Matt back from his week away. These were both from an Indian book I picked up in a charity shop recently that has some good veggie curry recipes in it. It's the first time I've tried any of them and I picked out this mushroom, pea and cashew nut one.

Alongside it was this fried spiced potato dish which was finished with fresh pomegranate seeds and chopped coriander. I'd really like to get some more good vegan curry recipes. Has anyone got the Vegan Richa book? I'm thinking of getting it.

As soon as he got back Matt cracked open the Follow Your Heart vegan egg for this breakfast bagel. We are planning to have it again soon with an attempt at rice paper bacon. That's if I can track the rice paper wrappers down. I tried everywhere in China Town today with no luck.

Finally I got a lovely gift from Scotland. It's lemongrass bath salts and a matching candle and they smell gorgeous. Matt found this company called Purdies of Argyll and all their products are suitable for vegans. Check them out, it all sounds lovely and they do mail order too.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Weekly round up - What I've Been Buying, Making and Eating!

These choccies were actually from a few weeks ago but somehow got missed off a post and I've just noticed the picture on my phone. For those not from Manchester, Bonbon Chocolate Boutique is a fabulous little chocolate shop in the Northern Quarter. I've blogged about it here before. They sell lots of artisan and handmade chocolate including some made on the premises and also the best hot chocolate ever in several different flavours most of which are vegan friendly!

Matt visited with a friend a few weeks ago and brought these home. They were salted caramel truffles which they had just started selling and are made by the staff at Bonbon. They were seriously stunning and I am still thinking about them now weeks later!

I have been all about the chocolate in the last week. I went out and bought a bar of Seed and Bean Cornish Sea Salt after seeing this review by new blogger Hayley Loves which reminded me how much I love this bar. We also ordered a bar of this amazing sounding raw chocolate via the Real Foods website. I say amazing sounding as it arrived just as Matt went away for a week so I am patiently waiting for him to return to try this and the other things in the Real Foods order.

One of Matt's nephews had very kindly got us a Real Foods gift voucher for Christmas so we cashed in to get some ingredients (carob and vital wheat gluten) and also some treats such as the aforementioned Ailey Maes raw choc and some of this gourmet nut butter. How delicious does this sound as do the others in this range by Almighty Foods!

We have been wanting to try the Follow Your Heart vegan egg for ages so we are looking forward to a breakfast with this next weekend.

I've been really enjoying making frothy coffees with the Oatly Foamable from last weeks round up. I hope some coffee shops start to offer this as an alternative to soya.

There's been a bit of baking going on too recently. We hosted a Defiance Sessions the other week and I made some cakes to sell for donations at the gig for the first time. There were gluten free brownies from the Oh She Glows cookery book.

This is the Lemon and Poppy Seed cake from Get It Ripe. I really like a couple of the cake recipes from this book and they always turn out great.

I also made for the first time a Chocolate and Beetroot cake from the BBC recipes website. I wasn't sure about this as you basically chucked all the ingredients in a blender but it turned out really well and the recipe is definitely a keeper. I used ready cooked beetroot so it was nice and quick to make too!

One of the reasons I ordered the carob from Real Foods is that it seems to crop up in quite a few recipes from the Vegan recipe book I recently picked up in a charity shop. I've been regularly making the easy granola recipe from this and I turned next to something else form the breakfasts chapter - croissants!

These were fun to make though I would have liked as little more detail in the recipe such as what size to roll things out. The fat you use is coconut oil which you spread on the dough and then fold it and roll it before putting it in the fridge for a while to rest. The process takes about an hour and a half but most of that is just waiting for the dough to do it's thing and you can go off and do something else.

The recipe recommends filling them with chocolate so I tried this with some chocolate chips and I couldn't resist trying some with a bit of leftover smoked violife and some onion marmalade.

As you can see mine weren't quite as photogenic as the picture in the book. They also didn't have a croissant like texture it was definitely more of a filled bread roll. I enjoyed making them though and would probably have another go and experiment with fillings. I've popped a few in the freezer to take on a camping trip in a few weeks for a breakfast.

I lucked out again at my favourite charity shop last week that does 3 books for a pound. I got a couple of novels and a copy of Chocolate Covered Katie's book. How cool is that! I've only made a granola so far and I need to invest in some healthier sweeteners before I try anything else (xylitol and stevia feature heavily).

Talking of stevia I also won a sample box of Purition raw vegan smoothie mixes in a Facebook competition. The mixes all feature a small amount of stevia as a sweetener as well as a blend of nuts, seeds and hemp protein. They are designed to be a meal replacement drink or an after workout smoothie and they recommend adding fruit to them.

So far I've tried the vanilla (adding banana and cinnamon) and the chocolate (adding banana and frozen cherries). I liked both drinks and they did keep me full to my next meal. Although they can be used as part of a weight loss regime or as a protein drink I also think these would also be great for anyone who is poorly or recovering from an operation. I was really ill about five years ago and struggled to eat well over a few months living on sandwiches a lot of the time as they were easy. Something like this would have been brilliant then as another food option. I know you can make up your own blends but when you are ill the ease of having something like this cannot be underestimated.

So that's it for this week. I'm curious to know if anyone else has ever tried to make vegan croissants and if so what recipe you used?

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Snacks n Stuff

This week's round up of what I've been buying and making is quite heavily snack based! This little haul was from Aldi. The big bags both contain mini bags of lime and sea salt tortilla chips and rice sticks and cost a £1 each. The Trek bars were 75p which is cheaper than the RRP. I love these protein Trek bar with their crunchie soya crispies. The Pulsin bars were amazing raw chocolate brownies and were not so cheap at £2.29 a box for 3 small bars but they were a really delicious treat and I will definitely buy them again.

Here's a close up of the Snapea rice sticks. I am in love with this snack and can recommend the salt + vinegar and chilli + lemon flavours too. They are low cal and have 4g of protein per bag too so pretty much my ideal snack! On the walk back to our house from Aldi we go through some woods and I'm afraid we didn't even make it home before breaking into this little stash and having an impromptu picnic on a bench in the woods!

Last week we also had a trip over to the nearby town of Ashton to use some cinema vouchers we had got for Christmas. We stopped in at ASM which is an Indian vegetarian supermarket to stock up on cashews, fresh ginger and turmeric and were delighted to also spot these vegan friendly Cheese and Onion crisps that were on offer at £1 for two big bags.

Whenever we go to ASM I always pick up a box of my favourite chai tea which is this Rooibos one which I'm enjoying as my train drink in the mornings. I love chai as it always reminds me of being at festivals.

Pay day for me is the 25th of the month so I always like to get some pay day treats from the fabulous V Revolution which is in the next street to work. These two products are new to me and I'm excited to try them. I've been hearing great things about this barista style Oatly and I am really hoping that these Soja Schnitzel are going to be like soy curls. I've only ever had soy curls once when I got some in a vegan food swap parcel from Jojo from Vegan in Brighton and I fell in love with them.

Very excitingly V Revolution had both evaporated coconut milk and also condensed milk. I got the evaporated milk to try first and am still thinking about what to make with it. I would be tempted to just spread the condensed milk on bread to bring back memories of my dad making us condensed milk butties when we were kids! I featured some of this coconut jerky on the blog a few weeks ago and there were complaints from Matt because I ate it all at work and he didn't get to try it so I picked up a different flavour and managed to get it home unopened this time.

I finally got round to making the other energy ball recipe from Yoga Kitchen that I'd bookmarked. These balls contained dates, raw cacao and tahini and were rolled in sesame seeds. For something so simple they were surprisingly delicious and my new favourite thing is to chuck one into the blender when making a smoothie.

My sister has a rhubarb patch in her garden and as she's the only person in her house who likes it there was some going spare.

I made rhubarb compote from Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights which was very quick and easy and involved cooking the rhubarb in orange juice and Sweet Freedom for a few minutes and then serving it with natural yoghurt pimped up with some more Sweet Freedom and some orange flower water and some chopped pistachios.

We also tried it with my current favourite yoghurt which is this orange redbush one by Provamel. I think they do yoghurt really well and have been impressed by all the ones I've tried so far.

I had more Provamel joy this week when I found cartons of their organic almond and rice milks at 2 for £1 in Heron Foods. Hope you've all had a good week filled with tasty snacks and bargains and if you have any great soya curl recipes please share in the comments!