Monthly Archives: April 2012

Of Portobello Mushrooms, Pizza, Pine Nuts and Plastic Cheese

… and other such vegan-related endeavours that do not begin with ‘P’.

So here are some of the dairy-free meals I’ve been enjoying this week:

Baked sweet potato with sautéed spinach, kale and pine nuts – stab your potato with a fork several times. Cover it in olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 200 degrees C for an hour. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add chopped garlic, pine nuts, spinach and kale. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar and sauté for about 5 mins. Add to potato.

Spinach is high in iron, which many vegetarian and vegan diets lack due to the elimination of animal products in which iron is rife, particularly red meat. Both greens along with the sweet potato are packed with too many vitamins to list, and the sweet potato itself is a particularly good, non-dairy source of calcium. So it’s good to know my bones aren’t about to disintegrate just yet. And I chucked the pine nuts in for a bit of protein and mono-unsaturated fat.

Grilled portobello mushroom “cheeseburger” – preheat grill to medium-high. Remove the gills and stem from one large portobello mushroom and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Finely chop some olives, garlic and spinach and fill mushroom cavity with mixture. Grill for 6-8 minutes, then top with dairy-free mozzarella or other vegan-friendly cheese of your choice. Bake for a further 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and has started to colour. Serve with ketchup in a wholemeal bun.

Mushrooms, as well as being a good source of B vitamins, and a variety of disease-fighting minerals, are hearty and filling and therefore good for combatting the satiety issues I’ve been experiencing since turning vegan, which thankfully seem to be waning.

… I was too excited to eat this to take a picture.

(Vegan-friendly!) pizza – make some pizza dough and allow to rise for 1 hour. Chop 10 cherry tomatoes and blend in food processor. Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add tomato mixture to oil, plus chopped garlic, a tablespoon of tomato purée, fresh basil, salt, pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Heat through and leave to stand. Put some onions on to caramelise on a low heat. When dough has risen, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Roll out pizza dough onto a foiled/oiled baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and top with tomato sauce, spinach, olives, caramelised onions and dairy-free mozzarella. Bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes.

The not-zzarella is really tasty ! I was a bit sparing with it on the pizza and mushroom in case it was horrible, but it really wasn’t ! I really couldn’t much tell the difference. I mean, obviously it’s not mozzarella and it never will be, but it definitely didn’t feel like a compromise and I enjoyed this pizza as much as I would have enjoyed one with real dairy cheese. I was too scared to use it when I baked the potato but next time I make one I am definitely topping it with this stuff.

Sadly, its protein powers pale in comparison with the real thing, with mozzarella packing 2.2g per 10g serving, and my Cheezly proffering a paltry 0.5g of protein per 10g serving. Not good, but all the vegetables that I piled on top of this beauty seem to have done the job of helping me stay full and feel satisfied tonight.

My mum had a mini freak-out that I was going to die of malnutrition, so I blinded her and consequently you, Dear Reader, with my unnecessary stores of food-science-knowledge. I think I managed to convince her that protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals are available in a wide range of non-animal-derived foods and it is possible to obtain them all with the exception of vitamin B12, which remains elusive in the vegan world save for fortified cereals… and Marmite. And so Mama Squirrell bestowed upon me the biggest tub of Marmite I have ever laid eyes upon. And I had some on my toast this morning. So all is well, and I remain alive and kicking indefinitely.

I hope this post goes towards proving that you absolutely can follow a balanced and varied diet without consuming animal products. At least, you can for a week. We’ll have to wait and see what the next three have in store…

Until next time,

Amy x


Feeling Peckish

Okay. It’s nearly the end of week one of Vegan Challenge Month and contrary to the numerous accounts of feeling “lighter,” “healthier,” “energised” and “rejuvenated” after eliminating all animal-derived products from one’s diet, at this point in time all I can report is feeling TOTALLY, INSATIABLY, CONSTANTLY HUNGRY.

So I did my research, and I suspected as much:

Both animal and human studies show that consuming protein, as compared to carbohydrate and fat, promotes stronger feelings of satiety and suppresses food intake at the next meal. In humans, visual analogue scales (which use a scale to measure how hungry a person is) and food intake are often used to measure satiety. In addition, changes in hormone levels that affect appetite can provide a closer look at how the three macronutrients impact satiety and hunger. Cholecystokinin (CCK) is an intestinal hormone that is released after a meal and signals satiety. Increased levels of peptide YY (PYY) signal satiety, and ghrelin levels increase when we are hungry. In addition to altering our feelings of satiety, protein-rich meals stimulate CCK and inhibit ghrelin, providing a biological explanation for how protein works to influence satiety.

(Spano, 2009)

There you have it. Protein consumption stimulates the satiety hormone and suppresses the hunger hormone. (I suddenly get the feeling we’ve been over this before…)

I can’t say I didn’t already feel energised, healthy and light – I do a lot of running and not a lot of eating meat anyway, but I wasn’t expecting such a marked increase in my appetite. Vegan Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday went swimmingly. On Thursday I was hungover and have been at home for the last few days. I’ve been racking my brains and have come up with a combination of explanations as to my recent bear-about-to-hibernate-like eating patterns…

1. I’ve inadvertently reduced my protein intake and am therefore releasing more hunger hormones – coming home on Thursday to my parents’ not-so-vegan-friendly house (love them though I do, of course) where your best bet for protein is chicken or cheese probably didn’t do much to help matters.

2. The colossal amount of sugar I consumed in the form of cocktails on Wednesday night resulted in spending Thursday constantly craving quick-fix carbohydrates which in turn resulted in a vicious cycle of hunger and cravings and bingeing.

3. Carb0loading and running the marathon did something weird to my hunger levels for the following week and a half, and now my appetite has suddenly returned with a vengeance.

These things coupled with the fact that I’ve been exercising like a mad thing – and really was eating next to nothing at the beginning of the week because, in a strange, sick way, I relished the notion of not having to eat in order to fuel a marathon training plan – have apparently resulted in an explosion of hunger that needs to be addressed.

It all seems to have been a little too much for my body, my metabolism and my brain to handle – eating an extra meal a day, running 26.2 miles, suddenly losing that ‘extra meal’ and then losing all dairy products the week after, in which I also embarked on my new run/yoga/cycle/swim exercise regime – maybe I just need to tone it all down a little bit.

Having said that, I don’t actually feel all that guilty about the entire punnet of syrup-covered dates that I ate whilst waiting for my train the other day…

See you in Wagamama’s this evening with my not-vegan and not-happy at not-being-able-to-get-pizza-tonight boyfriend ! (Love you, Gareth !)

Amy x

Marie Spano, 2009, Protein and Satiety, available at (accessed 28th April, 2012)

Dairy-free Tea Party

KP came to visit. She is my best friend, other half of our band, KP and Squizz and she turned 21 on Monday ! (Happy Birthday, KP !) There was only one thing for it. Dairy-free tea party !

Yes. A dairy-free tea party with presents, four different types of tea, jam, soy buttercream, raspberries, scones (rustic cupcakes that I intended this time to be scones, ie. bigger) and banana muffins from Joy the Baker‘s banana mango bread recipe minus the mango and plus some dried fruit and seeds.

A dairy-free tea party that escalated into dairy-free vodka lemonades in The Mashtun…

Dairy-free mojitos and japanese food in Pompoko…

Dairy-free tequila and blueberry vodka in The Pav Tav…

Dairy-free cocktails in The Twisted Lemon…

More dairy-free drinks and excellent (hideous) dancing in Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar…

Oh, and then a visit to the all-night Market Diner café, which was dairy-free because I was too drunk and too tired to eat or drink anything even if they’d had soy (I didn’t think it appropriate to ask).

I pondered the practicality of a soy White Russian. I had to pass on a delicious-sounding cocktail entitled ‘Banoffee Pie’ because it was made with cream. I almost ordered one until Alex kindly pointed out that my crazy new diet restriction would not allow it. Then Will had two and I have to say I eyed them wistfully. And now as the hangover slowly nibbles away at my good humour all I want to do is fry myself up a couple of eggs BUT I CAN’T BECAUSE I’M A FECKING VEGAN THIS MONTH.

I cycled to university and felt like utter death. The lid to my salt shaker fell off while I was cooking and thus emptied its entire contents into my sautéed spinach and kale recovery lunch, rendering it totally inedible. I think I must have consumed about a million calories in cakes and alcohol. Me and KP had a conversation about chocolate Philadelphia in the car on the way home and I died a little inside at the thought of having to wait a month to try some.

The saga continues, the plot thickens, the challenge goes on.

Oh, also, we apparently climbed into an olive grove at some point during the evening. I remember none of this…

Never Drinking Again

Vegan Baking Pt. II: Rustic Cupcakes

Yup, that's bona-fide dairy-free "butter"cream you see there.

I call them “Rustic Cupcakes,” because they were always intended to be cupcakes, except they’re nowhere near dainty or cute enough. They are the overweight child and I am the pushy mother who squeezes them into their leotard and drives them to ballet class week after week with disconcerting enthusiasm. (If you’ve just stumbled across this, please check out this post for the recipe and somewhat of an explanation for the weird series of events that led to this abomination.)

Maybe I should call them “Fairy-Scones.” As in fairy-cakes. That taste like scones. They are nice with the buttercream and a good cuppa – turns out hazelnut milk is really nice in tea. On some I just used plain buttercream (soya spread + icing sugar), others I used chocolate buttercream (soya spread + icing sugar + cocoa powder) and some I put a layer of fig jam in too !

Now for some photo evidence of me forcing my friends to enjoy my Frankenstein’s Monster of a batch of cupcakes… sorry, rustic cupcakes. If I say that it makes it sound intentional…

Today has been my last day of pesca-vegetarianism* for at least the next month. The milk is gone, the cheese is gone, the salmon is in the freezer; my kitchen is free of dairy indefinitely.

Next stop, Vegan Town !

Amy x

*I made this word up

Vegan Baking Pt.1

It’s 4pm on a sunny April Saturday in Brighton and today I have achieved the following things:

1 cup of Earl Grey tea.
45 minutes of yoga/pilates workout
My first run since the marathon ! 25 minutes
1 multiseed bagel with peanut butter and a banana
1 load of washing in the machine
1 shower

…and one weird batch of dairy-free cupcake/scone/bread thingies.

I went into town yesterday and bought an array of culinary delights that will enable me to continue cooking and baking my favourite foods in a vegan-friendly manner, suffering the reproachful glares of the Infinity Foods staff for reasons I can only assume concern my lack of dreadlocks and hemp clothing… seriously, why are the people who work there so bloody miserable ?! It’s like you can never be hippie enough to get your groceries in Infinity Foods and thus must suffer the withering looks of people who will always have more difficult and complicated eco-friendly idealist lifestyles than you.

My wholefoods supermarket reputation may not have necessarily been helped along by my housemate’s incredibly loud remarks on vegan cheese (Tom: “So it’s cheese with no dairy ? Isn’t that just… plastic ?” Me: “Shh ! You can’t say that here, the hippies will get you !”) but nevertheless we march onward. I now have in my stocks some egg replacement powder, a block of dairy-free ‘mozzarella’, dairy-free ‘parmesan’, some vegan-friendly coriander/basil and mixed nut pesto and enough UHT soy milk to render the cow obsolete (sorry, cows). So before vegan pizza, vegan cheeseburgers and a variety of vegan pasta dishes occur, here is the first installment of my experimental dairy-free lifestyle (despite having milk, cheese and a salmon fillet still to use up before this whole thing becomes official on Monday)…


Except they don’t look much like cupcakes. More like scones.

Also I was so confused by the fact that the mixture formed a dough instead of a cake-mix that I got tired halfway through putting it in cupcake cases and just made a loaf.

If you are interested in baking this strange egg-less, butter-less, sugar-less bread-cake-thing, then follow these instructions, pilfered from Coconut Oil Cooking.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

3 cups plain flour (I just used an approx. 200ml tumbler, I could literally not be bothered with scales today)
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Then mix together:
1 cup honey (the original recipe called for sugar but I don’t have any)
1/2 cup coconut oil (soft but not liquid)
1 1/2 tsps of egg substitute powder
3/4 cup of hazelnut soy drink (I used this instead of regular soy milk)

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until lightly browned on top. Actually I had to bake the loaf for about 45 minutes and I played around with the temperature on both, moving it between 180 and 200. Also I went for run in between baking the scones and the loaf so had to turn the oven off, and when I got back I didn’t really give it a chance to reheat. I would suggest keeping an eye on them, I really have no idea.

I’ve actually yet to taste these, and until that happens I will be unsure of their destination – (vegan) cheese ? Jam ? Icing ? Or bin…

Watch this space to find out !

Amy x

Going Vegan

Yep. That’s what I’m doing, for the next month at least anyway.

It isn’t unknown that I’m somewhat of a vegetarian and have been for the past 10 years; what started off as an earnest adolescent assertion that animals were our equals and that we must stand up for their rights has since become watered down – I have eaten meat on occasion during my teenage years but I can honestly say now I no longer enjoy it and definitely do not miss it. I have however recently resolved to eat more fish, mainly because I just was not getting the protein I needed from my diet.

So I’m a pretty shoddy vegetarian. Actually I’ve stopped really referring to myself as such because people tend to get a bit sanctimonious about it, especially omnivores ! It’s like they love to see a veggie ‘fail’, as it were, because they themselves aren’t capable of a little self-restraint and are jealous of the fact that you choose and are able to live your life a little differently. Truth is, I just don’t eat mammals that much. Which happens to be none of the time. Sometimes aquamarine-life passes my lips. Get over it, what I do and do not put in my mouth is my choice.

Have any other veggies out there experienced the hawk-eyes and acid-tongues of the meat-eater, poised and ready to pounce on anything you do that could possibly be deemed a sacrilege against a ‘religion’ that was only opposed upon you by them in the first place ?

So I’m not going vegan for any moral reasons; as outlined above, they withered and died a long time ago. I actually agree with the notion of the food chain and I totally advocate the eating of animal products, as long as obtaining them doesn’t become unnecessarily cruel. I just don’t like the taste of most of them, personally.

Truth is, I don’t know whether being meat, fish and dairy free is a healthier diet choice than my current one, or anybody else’s. Sure, you cut out the saturated fat found in a lot of dairy and meat products – by default I will not be allowed to eat cheese, ice-cream, chocolate, milk, eggs – but what about nutrition ? Calcium, vitamin B12, iron and vitamin D are just some of the nutrients that are either difficult or impossible to get from non-animal sources (at least, this is what I’ve read and by all means correct me if I’m wrong).

I just wanna do it, see if I can. To be honest, I just feel like a bit of a detox – I went back on to real milk as opposed to soy during training, and months of carb-loading and generally stuffing my face to enable all my exercising has taken its toll on my appetite. Basically, it’s gone. Which is very unlike me.

Maybe afterwards I’ll become a raw foodist…

In other news, its been a few days since the marathon and I’m still feeling a bit fragile, but recovering nicely; ie. my leg muscles have ceased their constant burning sensation and I am now able to walk/stand/get up and down stairs at a vaguely human pace and with minimal pain. I’m eager to get back into regular long-distance running – I’ve already written out my next training regime and am hoping to get out on the road for a nice 20 minuter tomorrow (that’s minuter, not miler). Except I’m looking forward to not having to do the training; not being bound to it – not that I’m planning on skiving, but I mean I’m happier about not having a 3 month goal that means having to force up my calorie intake in order to guarantee success. I can just eat what I want, when I want as opposed to having to eat breakfast, this snack here, that snack there if I’m not hungry, and if that means only being able to run for half an hour instead of an hour then that’s fine, I’m running for me and my enjoyment now.

I love the purpose and structure running gave my life and am unwilling to give that up. So we’ll just see where this takes my body and my appetite. I lost a dress and a bra size during training so I’m not especially excited to see that creep up again !

So expect a continued stream of running blogs, and of course an array of tasty vegan recipes, at least for the next month as of next week when I’ve used up all the non-vegan stuff in my kitchen (including an as of yet unopened Dairy Milk easter egg – shouldn’t be too much hard work to ‘use up’ that by Monday).

Happy Spring (from a grey and drizzly Brighton)

Amy x

Things I eat after a run


Free chocolate milk and getting a leg massage in my space blanket was totally worth running 26.2 miles for

It took me 4 hours, 56 minutes and 41 seconds. Not enviable, but I finished, and I finished running. And I’m going to do it again next year. Faster. Thank you to everyone who believed in and supported me with love and donations, you are all awesome.

I currently have the body of a 90-year-old. Stairs are my nemesis. But I feel amazing. Everyone should run a marathon, seriously.

So you know that post-workout feeling. Exhausted. Hot. Sweaty. Your legs feel like jelly, your hands are shaking like milk and all you can think about is getting that clammy running kit off and some good hydration and nutrition in.

…at least this is what exercise does to me.

Needless to say, a lot of energy is spent during cardiovascular exercise, which, if you’re training for fitness and endurance, needs to be replaced as quickly as possible after a workout to re-stock your glycogen levels and enable muscle repair.

To replenish your glycogen stores after a heavy workout (to avoid post-run head-rushes, headaches and lethargy) you need something with a high glycemic index. High GI foods – things like refined grains and sweets (see this post for more info) – are usually the ones to be avoided, as their quick sugar-release is more readily stored as fat if munched mindlessly. But in this instance, they are allowed, nay, encouraged, shock horror, because your body will be in desperate need of some energy !

In terms of GI, foods are allocated a sort of rating on a scale between 1 and 100 according to how quickly their carbohydrate energy is released into your system – the higher the number, the higher the glycemic index and the faster its energy is released when you eat them. Some exercise plans tell you to eat high GI foods post-workout such as jelly beans (80), sports drink (90 – 100), and white bread (70), but all of these make me feel sick and I prefer a more natural fix such as an over-ripe banana (50-70 depending on ripeness), a few slices of watermelon (80), or medjool dates (60) (which, if you’ve never eaten them, are DIVINE and I cannot get enough of them at the moment. The thought of them fuels my running).

(Find the GI numbers of your favourite foods here.)

Fruits or vegetables are important after a run, and not just to replace carbs. Along with the water you lose as you sweat, you also lose minerals, which you can find in fruit and veg. I also use these fizzy mineral replacement tabs dissolved in about a pint of water which have no calories, only super-hydration.

You also need protein to repair your muscles and help them to retain the strength you build into them by training. Yoghurt, peanut butter and milk are examples of quick protein fixes (ie. you don’t have to cook them). You see, after you finish training, you have a 15 minute window in which consuming these kinds of things is most beneficial for workout recovery – its when your body needs them most. But who can cook a meal in under 15 minutes after a 16 mile run ? As I said, I can barely spread peanut butter on a bagel.

So I decided that something easily made, consumed and digested was the way forward.


Okay, so I didn’t invent this, I’m sure. But you won’t care once you taste it.


Half a banana (I’ve usually eaten the other half before the run) – for carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals such as potassium
3 medjool dates, chopped and pitted – high GI for quick sugar release
150ml of milk – for protein
A tablespoon of peanut butter – for protein, carbohydrate and a little salt – OR a few tablespoons of chocolate-flavoured yoghurt

Blend all ingredients.
Recover like a boss and be the sexiest mo-fo’ on the mo-f’in’ beach.

Another taste sensation across which I stumbled during my treacherous training regime is:

No-bake Vegan Oat Energy Bars

Get: 5 tablespoons of oats
3 tablespoons seed/dried fruit mix
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar

Mix all ingredients together until all combined. If the mixture is too dry and isn’t sticking, add more honey/agave.
Pack tightly into some kind of dish lined with baking paper and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

These are great for protein, but as honey and especially agave nectar are in fact low GI, eat it along with 2 or 3 dates or a slice of watermelon if you’re consuming post-workout. The slow-release energy in every ingredient makes them a perfect pre-run snack.

And some more ideas…


Peanut butter and sliced banana on wholewheat toast

Tuna on rice-cakes

To put it simply, think protein and sugar. Bam.


Amy x