Friday, 30 December 2011

5 portions a day

I've been trying to be more healthy recently, more vitamins = less chance of getting an icky cold, but my love of toast and potatoes means I often don't make it to the magic 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
My solution? Cheat!

Charlotte's cheeky cheats for a champion constitution.

  • Dried fruit - just one tablespoon is a full portion according to the NHS.
  • Fruit Juice - who doesn't love a glass over cereal?!
  • Frozen sweetcorn - In the pan whilst pasta is cooking, too easy.
  • Banana & custard - Pudding lovers (Alpro ready made cartons- wonderfully comforting on cold days!)
  • Tinned fruit - Sugar on grapefruit or maybe cinnamon on pears.
  • Satsumas/Clementines - Can anyone tell the difference?! Their natural outfit means they can go travelling!
The NHS site I linked suggests the fruit and veg in pre-prepared food counts too but we don't need to count that now we have soooo many options!

Despite trying to avoid traditions, I'm hoping that I can stick to a resolution this year to think more about what I eat, what nutrients it contains and what I miss out on when I'm lazy and eat naughty food... we'll see.


Excuses, excuses.

Oh you wonderfully faithful few, my loyal blog readers, I can only apologise for leaving you so empty handed on these cold winter nights.
Perhaps this might cheer you up? It's a list of all the vegan own brand products that Sainsbury's stock, neatly ordered under their departments. Don't use Sainsbury's? The other main supermarkets have lists too, have a google.
I've been looking into vegan ready meals recently, and i'm always on the look out for vegan fast food. Might also mention here that my new years resolution is to start planning my meals with the aim of becoming healthier...
Anyway from the list I've just linked there's just one frozen meal: Basics Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce
Not the most appetizing. Wouldn't it be nice to have a hearty curry or pie in the freezer? - at least by making our own we know exactly whats inside, healthy or otherwise.
Despite the poor choice of frozen meals there's a surprising amount of fresh meals, all the obvious Indian snacky bits, mediterranian pasta, all sorts of pots of beans and some couscous which I've had before, good for a snack on the go, shared with a lovely vegan companion of course!
Anyway although the list takes some sorting through it's worth a look. It's always nice to find inspiration in the form of something you haven't eaten in years or hadn't even thought to investigate (raspberry sorbet - mmm)

Tonights dinner - Tesco's prepared stir fry mix with cauldron marinated tofu and a chow mein sauce. Fridge to plate in under ten minutes :) x

Who knew a photo of lions could hold such emotion?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Unannounced hiatus

I've had a wonderfully hectic month off blogging, dissertation meetings galore, organising SL, running for environment officer with the student union and trying to fit some lectures in too. Over the coming weeks I'm hoping to give more tips on making vegan lives/changeovers easier and try not to bombard with too many recipes.
I'm gunna hit you with one now tho, as it's my first ever cooking video! The SL team promoted a meat free meal as part of our project and we sold the all the ingredients for this casserole at our university farmers market for 50p! (Normally would cost around a pound)
Surprisingly tasty for something so simple x

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Quick Beany Lunch

I <3 quick AND healthy food so I thought I'd share my lunch (not literally!) with you today.

First I spread a couple of tortilla wraps with houmous, added some 'napolina five bean salad', chopped green pepper and baby spinach leaves. It's as easy as that. Minimum time, minimum washing up, minimum ingredients... Maximum yummyness! :D

Monday, 31 October 2011

Swede & Parsnip Bake

Finally a new recipe! That incidentally received 9/10 from a local food critic ;)
I found (and then adapted) this one on the BBC good food website which has quite a few almost vegan meals if you’re willing to have a search. I’ve looked at every recipe on The Vegan Stoner now. I love how simple it is and how cute the illustrations are! Defo worth checking out, recipes usually need a specialist ingredient though.
Cooking Time: Just over an hour, only need to be in the kitchen for the first half.
1 medium sized swede
1 large turnip
3 tablespoons of golden syrup
About 4 slices worth of breadcrumbs
A hefty chunk of marg
2 eggs worth of egg replacer (I use no-egg)
A drizzle of Olive oil
A generous shake of thyme
Serves two
1. Chop the turnip and swede into small cubes and boil for around 14 mins. (put the swede in by itself for the first few minutes... I forgot.) Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2. Drain and mash the veg with some marg. Add ¾ of the breadcrumbs, egg replacer and goldon syrup. Mix well.
3.Place the mixture into a baking dish and smooth the surface. Mix the remaining breadcrumbs with a little oil and lots of thyme. Layer this on top and dot on some marg.
4. Place in the oven for 35 mins, keep an eye on it near the end, boil up some veggies and use the water to make gravy!

I am pre-empting a big shop at Single Step tomorrow so perhaps I’ll be making some new adventurous things next week...

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Caribbean Bean Stew

Found this uber healthy and filling dish at Vegan Village and I pretty much stuck entirely to their recipe minus tabasco and bay leaves. I also left out the black pepper as I haven't got round to buying any yet (quite a faux pas for a food blogger, no?) and the carrot as I didn't quite feel it fitted with the recipe.

The ingredients are all easy to get hold of and once you have done the frying;

you just need to add all the other ingredients and stir occasionally for 30 mins.

I cheated and used Uncle Bens 2mins microwave rice (possibly my last white rice for a while if my boyfriend, Josh, has anything to do with it!)
And this was the finished result:

Perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing but still a hearty and really easy dish to prepare as long as you don't mind quite a bit of chopping. The recipe made about 4 portions this size so if cooking for less the ingredients could be halved. (Provided you don't mind using half a tin and saving the rest, it's a pet peeve of mine as I can never use the remainder before it goes off!) Having said this, I kept the leftovers of the stew in the fridge and heated it up in the microwave and it still tasted great.

This week I've also cooked Pizzas, Mish Mash Ratatouille and my favourite Mint and Pea Soup. I'll hopefully get round to blogging about the former two soon, somewhere between film editing, travelling to Dartmoor for the weekend, writing my dissertation and helping to run LU people & planet society!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Freshers Week

A week of chips, vodka, chips, soup, Chinese takeaway, chips, cider, and chips.
A very enjoyable but wonderfully unhealthy week. I have a lovely clean new kitchen and new flatmates who I haven't actually used the 'V' word around yet and I'm really looking forward to doing some cooking! I haven't got round to making peanut butter cookies or crisps yet so hopefully I'll find some time next week in between multiple societies and meetings.
I went for lunch today at the Whaletail in Lancaster (my second visit this week) and ate Thai carrot soup, spicy but sooo tasty and hopefully going some way to getting rid of my freshers flu! I also called in at Single step, the wholefood store in Lancaster to stock up on vegan cheese as well as some instant Miso soup and a Ginger cake to take to people & planet society on Wednesday. That's all folks, hopefully I'll have something a little more exciting for you next week!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Bourbon Biscuits.

empty packet hehe.
I was getting some bourbons for my omni-friends the other day and decided to check the ingredients just on the off chance that they didn't contain milk/egg. I've always assumed bourbons would so I stick to rich tea as they're usually a safe bet but these bourbons were vegan!
My mum picked them up from Iceland so I won't be able to get them once I get back to Lancaster (tomorrow) but I'll check a few packets in Sainbury's/ASDA and see if I have any luck there. I was never actually that much of a bourbon fan but it's just exciting to find something new to snack on. In fact I really wanted to make some peanut butter cookies the other day but I ran out of time so perhaps that might be a good way to make some new friends in freshers week ;)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Potato and Mushroom Blintzes.

‘What the hell is a blintz?’ Exactly what I was thinking when I noticed this recipe in ‘Veganomicon’. It is, in fact, just a posh name for a pancake parcel but it makes food sound so much more gourmet so why not use this fancy label? I used ‘No-egg’ to make the pancakes but there are loads of different egg substitutes on the market as well as homemade options. The rest of the ingredients are all things you’ll have lying around so it’s a good last minute option if you cba going to the shops.

Cooking time: 5 mins making pancake mix earlier in the day and then about 45mins before serving.
1½ [360ml] Cups of soymilk (or rice milk)
¼ [60ml] Cup of water
1 Cup of plain flour (or combinations of chickpea and plain if you feel like being fancy)
½ Teaspoon of salt
1 pancake mix (I made blintzes for 2 so only used about ¾ of the mix and had the rest for pudding)
½ Pound of potatoes, roughly chopped
1 small onion, chopped.
½ Pound of mushrooms, sliced (I used chestnut mushrooms and they were lush)
Salt, pepper and olive oil
Serves 3

Earlier in the day:
1. Whisk all the pancake ingredients together to get a smooth viscous liquid. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour.
About 45 mins before you want to eat:
2.Get the potatoes boiling (leave for about 25 mins or until they get squishy enough to mash)
3. Start frying the onion in a little olive oil. After 12 mins add the mushrooms and continue to fry until the mushrooms are cooked. (Try one!)

 4. Fry the pancakes, you should hopefully get about 8 out of the mix, layer them on a plate.

5. Drain and then mash the potato, adding a little salt and pepper. (I’d recommend adding wholegrain mustard here as I’m addicted to the stuff but as I was cooking for my dad as well I just added it on the side of our plates)

6. ‘Fold’ the mushroom mix into the mash potato.

7. Place 3 tablespoons of this mixture in the centre of a pancake in an oval shape, fold over the two long sides of the pancake and then the two shorter sides over these.

8. Fry this package, folds facing downwards, until it has sealed well then turn over for a further 30 seconds frying and then remove and plate up. Do this with the rest of the pancakes; three or four can be frying at once depending on your blintz-making-speed.  I made some ‘Bisto favourite’ gravy to go with them and added wholegrain mustard on the side but green beans would be a nice addition for a bit more variety.
Feeble attempt at a fancy finishing touch.

It’s probably worth mentioning here that I always put my plates in the microwave or oven for a while before serving to warm them a little as more often than not there’s one part of my meal which isn’t quite ready at the same time as everything else and this helps to keep everything hot.

I had enough batter left after the blintzes for three more pancakes so I loaded them up with some dark brown sugar and lemon juice for pud. ‘Veganomicon’ states that the pancakes can be kept in the fridge for just over a week so it might be worth making double the amount and heating them up in a frying pan for a breakfast treat later in the week!

Monday, 26 September 2011


So I was doing some exploration of other vegan blogs last night and I came across Chocolate-Covered Katie. There are A LOT of things I need to try out on here once I'm back in Lancaster and I have access to Single Step, the wholefoods shop I use. I've kind of gone off desserts since I became vegan as I didn't think there was much variety but it seems I couldn't have been more wrong. Oh and I made an incredible cake yesterday which I will post about soon. Cake and a cup of tea for breakfast, lush.
Feels like I need a picture here...
Big love x

p.s. Finally a post with no exclamation marks(want to put one here so badly)......!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Tagliatelle with pan-fried pumpkin and red pepper oil

A fancy meal genuinely worth the time and effort. This really impressed my (admitably easily impressible) family. The pumpkin was a delicious change to the normal veg I use and using chili in my cooking almost never happens so this was a bit of an experiment. Luckily it paid off with delectable results!
This is again stolen (and then adapted) from 'Easy Vegan' - only the second time I've used the book as I've found that almost all the recipes are too much hard work and require too many specialist ingredients for everyday so I'm just trying a few and I'll use these when I want to impress.
Having said this, this tagliatelle dish didn't require anything out of the ordinary, except perhaps the pumpkin but luckily it's in season right now. New years (Septembers) resolution #1: eat more seasonal veg.

Cooking time: Just over an hour with a couple of ten minute breaks whilst the oven’s on.
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 small pumpkin - about 450g (I used half a medium sized pumpkin and hopefully I’m going to use the rest to make this!)
Enough tagliatelle for 4 people – about 400g
Juice of half a lemon (you might want to use more but I only had half in the kitchen)
A large handful of rocket
A slightly smaller handful of parsley (I followed the recipe’s instructions of a large handful and it was a touch too much)
Salt and Pepper
n.b. The ingredients list also included the grated peel of a lemon but I was just too lazy to go to all that effort, maybe I’ll do it next time and then I can report on the difference it makes.
For the red pepper oil:
1 small red bell pepper
3 large red chillies, sliced (the recipe stated 6 but I didn’t want to ruin it with too much spice so I stayed on the cautious side with good results. It had a slight kick but add more if you like things hot)
1 small red onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
Serves 4
1. To begin with mix all the red pepper oil ingredients together in a roasting pan and put in the oven at 160­°C. Leave this for around 40 minutes, giving it a stir after every ten. When it’s ready the edges of the pepper will just be starting to brown. During this time peel and de-seed the pumpkin and chop into bitesize pieces. Then give your leaves a wash and chop up the parsley.
I’ve got a fan oven so all future temperatures and cooking times will be based on this. For a conventional oven increase the temp by 20°C and the cooking time by about 10% but keep an eye on things towards the end of the cooking
 2. While the mixture is still quite hot, blend in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until you get a smooth paste, I had to be quite patient at this stage as I was using mums old blender which took its time!
 3. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the pumpkin for 10 mins turning occasionally to ensure it cooks evenly. Whilst this is happening cook your pasta* to the recommendations given on its packaging. Mine took 9 minutes which was ideal.
 4. Drain the pasta and add 3-4 tablespoons of the red pepper oil. Now add the pumpkin, rocket, parsley and lemon juice and ‘toss’ the mixture. Add a little salt and pepper and you’re good to go!

A fun dish which provides good practice at time management as well as a few other kitchen skills!

*My friend Lauren asked me about the tagliatelle, which I haven't really explained. I used the dried kind that comes in little balls. Its only ingredient is durum wheat semolina so it's completely vegan friendly. :)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Quick and Easy Mint and Pea Soup

One of those delightful recipes with less than 10 ingredients! This soup is absolutely gorgeous and is lovely on a cold winter/autumn (let’s face it anytime in England) day. The original recipe is taken from The Vegan Family who also include nettles in their version. I tried it with nettles once and it didn’t taste much different so I haven’t bothered since (I'm too much of a wimp and plus who has nettles just lying around?). I've found The Vegan Family to be a great resource for vegan recipes, in fact, I think I got my Christmas dinner - Cashew nut roast recipe from this website so it’s well worth a browse!
Anyway, no more rambling just onto the easiest, most filling and yummy soup ever!

Cooking time: I’ve got it down to 20mins but 30 for beginners ;)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
500g of frozen peas
A good handful of fresh mint, chopped
Salt(I remembered these all off by heart!)
Serves 4 hungry family members!
1. Start by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan and then fry the onion and garlic for 3 minutes.
2. Add the peas and mint and cover with water.
3. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Wait for the mixture to cool slightly(or put the saucepan in a basin of cold water to speed things up – Nice trick from my Granny there!)
5. Blend until the soup is as thick/thin as you like. (The soup can now be put in the fridge to keep for later)
My blender broke before I'd finished blending today :( I decided to leave it in its thick state and it was as delicious as ever! Had to use mums blender for dinner though, nowhere near as good as my £7 Argos one was!

6. Heat on the Hob and add salt to taste.
It's as easy as that!

Limited Edition!

Stumbled upon this in TESCO yesterday, so nice to divert from the generic 'roasted vegetable' and 'red pepper' houmous so I'm making the most of it with some sesame seed bread sticks for a cheeky snack.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Bidding a hasty farewell to my blogging virginity

I decided to start this blog after cooking one of the most fancy sounding meals I've ever attempted: 'Pan Roasted Carrots with Arborio Risotto'. It's adapted from 'Easy Vegan: simple recipes for healthy eating' and the ingredients were easy to come across once I'd made a few changes. I did set out to do things 100% by the book but as I couldn't find the barley it requested in TESCO, I opted for normal risotto rice as well as a few other adaptations which I'll mention later.

Best to just jump right in I reckon.
Cooking time:50 minutes in total including ten minutes whist things are cooking for washing up (or a cheeky glass of wine!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 Chantenay carrots halved longways (or 12 baby carrots which were double the price in TESCO)
2 tablespoons of vegan margarine
2 sprigs of fresh thyme (kindly picked from the garden by my father)
2 garlic cloves peeled and sliced longways
125ml water
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I realised at the last minute that we didn't have a bottle in the kitchen so made do with two little sachets from pot noodles)
160g risotto rice (I used 220g and ended up with waaayy too much!)
As much vegetable stock as your rice requires (written on its packet) probably around 600ml
Salt and pepper
Serves 2

1.Start by heating the oil in a frying pan that has a lid, add the carrots and cook for 8 minutes, turning every two mins.

2. Whilst these are cooking make your risotto as directed on its packet but with your vegetable stock replacing the water and with the addition of the soy sauce.

3. Add the margarine, thyme, garlic and water to the carrots, give it a stir and put the lid on. Leave on a medium heat for 15-20 mins stirring regularly. This is your chance to get some washing up done but don't forget to keep stirring the risotto!
4.Check the risotto by having a taste, I once heard Antony Worrall Thomson say 'every chef should try his food before serving it' (or rude words to that effect!)  
5.If all has gone to plan everything is ready at once and you can layer the risotto into (pre-warmed) dishes before draining most of the remaining liquid from the carrot mixture and arranging it in a fancy way.
Et Voila!

The book mentions a variation by serving the carrot mixture 'on a bed of couscous' which could be a good shout but as I'm yet to have attempted couscous from scratch I'll have to let you know! As already mentioned I used far too much rice and I think presentation could have been improved with a couple of sprigs of thyme on top but the taste and texture of the carrots and garlic more than made up for it.
So although it needed a few adaptations, this has become one of my go to dishes for last minute meals to impress!