Monthly Archives: May 2012

Accidentally Still Vegan (and other weird things I do)

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So a bizarre thing appears to have happened…

Shortly after finishing the Vegan Month, I went to the supermarket, it being Sunday and having emptied my fridge of fresh greens (something I like to keep in stock at all times or I start to feel… I don’t know, unclean or something). Towards the end of the last week my body (or my brain, one or the other) was starting to crave cheese and eggs quite unrelentingly, probably as a result of being able to see the end of the 30-day vegan challenge drawing tantalisingly closer. Sunday was the day I was to finally allow myself to eat all the things that I had for some reason banned over the course of the last 4 weeks. There was still half a carton of soy milk in my fridge to use up but ultimately I went shopping with an array of creamy, cheesy, gooey, squishy dishes filling my mind, intending to fill my basket with as many dairy products that I could possibly get my hands on…

… 2o minutes later I was walking out of the supermarket with another carton of soy milk and a bag full of vegetables. Not a piece of cheese or an egg in sight.

The weird thing is, on that Sunday I ate a salmon fillet for lunch and a crayfish salad for dinner. I have since that day eaten another crayfish salad, and yet still have not felt compelled to consume cheese or milk.

Turns out I’m a vegan who eats sea-life. Is that a thing ? I think I’m going to have to stop labelling myself before I get yelled at by all the omnivores. I’m not averse to eating dairy anymore,  I just haven’t felt the urge to. But I was really craving fish, so I ate some.

In other news, the weather has been gorgeous and I have had an insatiable desire to eat as much sweet, juicy fruit as I can lay my hands upon. I’ve made my way through two mangoes this week, as well as several apples and my habitual daily banana. Yesterday I bought a punnet of dark, ripe plums of which I have polished off half, and a pineapple, whose tropical yellow flesh I have yet to sink my teeth into.

Summer is awesome.

Amy x

Orange and Ginger Loaf: A Citrusy Tale

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“I made bread today ! Well, actually, it’s more of a cake – ”

“Every time you tell me you’ve made bread you say it’s actually more of a cake. Stop lying to yourself, you’re making cake !”

… was how the conversation went yesterday and I must admit, it is entirely true. It seems a common occurrence now that should I decide to make bread, some sort of sweetness ensues and I end up making a cake, and when I attempt to make what I think is going to be a sweet loaf, bread happens.

My reasons for referring to this as bread are as follows:

It contains no eggs.

It is baked in loaf form, in a loaf tin.

… eh, that’s about it.

In support of this concoction as a cake:

It contains a lot of brown sugar.

It was batter when I poured it in said loaf tin, not dough.

So what is this ? You decide. I am calling it a loaf. A tasty citrus loaf with ginger and cinnamon. Like banana bread, but with orange pulp. Why ? you ask. Well, let me tell you a story.

As a child/young adult, I never liked oranges. I’d drink orange juice and eat orange flavoured things, but would never eat a real orange. Recently – let’s say last year or thereabouts – I decided, for reasons that escape my memory now, to eat one. And it was an entirely delicious and refreshing experience ! I began to incorporate oranges into my daily life, cutting them into quarters, pressing each one eagerly to my mouth and chewing off every last bit of pith and flesh and slurping at the juices like a hungry and overzealous monkey.

(Just so you know I should be writing an essay about 20th century avant-garde performance art right now…)

I revelled in my new-found love of oranges for a few months until one fateful day, I think it was around this Easter, back at my parent’s house. I cut up my orange as usual and sat myself down in front of the television, a bowl in which to discard the skin placed on the arm of the sofa, unaware of what was to come. I lifted an orange segment to my face and was met with the most utterly tasteless, textureless, pithy disgusting mess I never thought my precious citrus fruit wonder capable of producing. I spat it right out, shocked that I could be so betrayed by my fruity friend. It was obscene. Denied my orangey treat, I threw the remains in the bin; I put it down to an unfortunate anomaly of nature, how queer. But the next time I ate an orange, the same thing happened ! And again, and again. A bad batch, perhaps ? Wait a few days or so for the supermarket to restock. But no. Ever since the initial incident, I have yet to sample an orange that I did not immediately spit into the bin. Not again ! Where have all the good oranges gone ? So I abstained from oranges for a period of time.

The other day, I thought it time to readdress my complex, and spent a whole £1.50 at the supermarket on 4 British Navel oranges. I ate one. It wasn’t perfect, but it sufficed. I ate the whole thing. The next day I ate a second one. Unnacceptable. One bite, then straight into the bin, I’ve been cheated again ! Left with two scheming and deceitful oranges I had no intention of eating on their own, I headed straight for the internet for some kind of baking punishment for the pair.

In the end I just used a vegan banana-bread recipe, with a few tweaks.

Here’s what you need:
1/3 cup butter or vegan spread
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large oranges, juice, pulp and zest
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup regular or soy milk
A teaspoon vanilla extract

Do this:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

Cream together the butter/margarine and the sugar

Sift in the flour and the baking powder

Add the orange zest, cinnamon and ginger and combine

Stir in the orange juice and soya milk, alternating a dash of each one at a time to ensure the mixture doesn’t become too runny, but you still want it quite gloopy. You might not need all the orange juice.

Pour into a greased loaf tin and bake for 40 – 45 minutes

Amy x

Red Red Red Bean Curry

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Sending veganism packing with a bang in two ways this week by:

1. Planning a celebratory cheese-and-wine afternoon on Sunday;

2. Making my last meal, as it were, in the form of vegan-friendly kidney bean coconut curry !

What can I say about being dairy-free for a month ? Not a lot, to be honest. I don’t know if this was because I was already vegetarian before I started. Do I feel more healthier and more energised ? No more than usual. Did I lose weight ? About 2 lbs, so not much to speak of. I’ve enjoyed the challenges posed by egg-less baking. I had a few occasions where I really just fancied a bit of cheese or a fried egg, especially during hangovers; don’t miss milk though, soy is tasty.

Going out for dinner when you are a vegan but your boyfriend is the both the biggest carnivorous cheese-appreciator the universe has ever known and adamantly rejects/is terrified of all forms of cuisine that do not emanate from within a 1,500 km radius of the UK is trying to say the least, but with regards to eating/not eating certain things, I’ve found it neither easy nor difficult. Despite watching a few PETA anti-meat industry videos (possibly holding some truth, possibly just crazed propaganda) I don’t imagine I’ll stay strictly vegan forever, although I may keep my dairy intake to a general minimum from now on, save for special occasions. Being vegan/vegetarian is largely good for the environment and all in all, tofu-cheese is pretty yummy.

So anyway, back to curry. Really this recipe came about because I have a tin of economy kidney beans in my cupboard, and it’s been sitting at the back for a long time. I was thinking soup, chilli… rice and beans ? But in the end I decided to tackle the Great British Curry again. I threw this together after reading a combination of recipes from the internet, and was so taken in by the idea of everything being red that I adapted and combined them so that this curry would be as red as it could possibly be, yippee !

Makes 4 servings

You need these red things (and non-red things):
2-3 tbsps red curry paste
1 red onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Olive oil
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 can of kidney beans, drained
1 carton chopped tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsps lime juice

Optional fresh coriander/rice to serve

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onion, pepper and garlic for a few minutes

Add the curry paste and stir through

Add the potato and fry on a low heat for 5 minutes or so

Add the beans, coconut milk and tomatoes, followed by the soy sauce and lime juice

Put your rice on and cover the curry to simmer for 25-30 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring through a few tablespoons of chopped coriander about 5 minutes before the end. Serve over rice, sprinkle a bit more coriander on top and another squeeze of lime and you’re laughing.

Mmm… fragrant.

Amy x

White Bean and Pesto Burger

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Argh, just everything about this is sheer perfection in my eyes.

Greens. Salt and pepper and balsamic vinegar. Rosy red ketchup. Fresh tomato, red onion. Chewy wholemeal roll. And last, but not least, my adorable little butterbean burger with pesto.

So simple and easy and cheap and healthy and filling and delicious. Woo !

Basically, you just:
Blend together a tin of cooked butterbeans, drained, with:
1 tbsp of pesto (I made sure it was vegan – no parmesan in this baby)
1/2 a red onion
1 clove of garlic
50g of breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Roll into patties – you should be able to get about 4
Coat with olive oil and bake in the oven at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.

Butterbeans work incredibly well as burgers, because they’re so… buttery ! They form a good patty, is what I’m trying to say. These would have been nice with a bit of mayo, but none for Gretchen Wieners as I had not the foresight to buy any of the egg-free stuff in town yesterday. Asparagus was half price though, as you can see.

Decided to be less hard on myself exercise-wise lest I continue to dwindle in mass to the point of illness. So instead of running 10 miles today I’m going to run 8. Baby steps. I’m going against what my warped opinion believes is my better judgement and I know my brain won’t be happy with this, so I just need to keep repeating to myself that not executing a 16-mile run every week does NOT mean I am going to gain weight. Save that for the next marathon. Save it for the next marathon…

If anyone wants to just casually slip that mantra into conversation when I’m around, or like, whisper it to me while I’m asleep, that’d be fab.

Amy x

Yoga for Breakfast

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…mushroom soup for lunch !

No, but really, I had a real breakfast. Peanut butter toast and a banana, to be precise.

I am slap-bang in the middle of that part of my week in which I have all the time in the world to focus on exercising, cooking, composing, practising, writing and revising, which is useful and all that but I’m telling you, Cabin Fever is imminent. The weather has been terrible lately, and it really, really makes me feel horrible when I have to run in the rain, or I look out of the window to be met with nothing but grey, drab skies. I know this shouldn’t bother me as much as it does, but it does, so there.

I reacted too quickly back in March when we had that all-too-familiar bout of unusually sunny days to which the UK is so often subjected during the early days of Spring, causing everyone to be too hasty in getting their skin out and eating salad outside. Then suddenly the weather snaps back to, well, standard Britain and you’re all like, Oh, what have I done with my winter coat/umbrella/thermal underwear ? and I really fancy some soup.

Which is what I did today. Yes, my winter coat has indeed made its way back out of storage, much to my disgruntled mumbling and cursing. And yes, mushroom soup has occurred ! Aren’t mushrooms pretty ?

I know what you’re thinking, “But mushroom soup has to be creamy, and you’re vegan, so this recipe is going to suck.”

Well, it is creamy. And it is vegan. And it most definitely doesn’t suck. So read on, oh, sceptical one.

Mushroom Soup with Cashew Cream
(by Joy the Baker)

Serves 2

You need:
Olive oil
1 onion (I only had red, so I used it)
2 cloves of garlic
250g mushrooms (you choose the type. I used chestnut)
1 tbsp soy sauce/2 tbsps Worcester sauce (fish-free – I know right ? It really exists !)
Salt/black pepper
375ml vegetable stock
30g cashew nuts
60ml water

Method:

Finely chop the onions and garlic. Fry the onions in olive oil for about 5 minutes on a medium heat, then add the garlic and stir through on a low heat for a further 1 minute.

Add the mushrooms, chopped. Stir for a further 5 minutes.

Stir in the soy and Worcester sauce, salt and pepper. Then add the stock and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend together the cashews and water in a food processor, until creamy (see where this is going now…?)

Transfer cashew cream to another container and blend the soup.

When smooth, you can reheat in the saucepan, lightly stirring through the cashew cream.

This really was good, if a little salty. In hindsight, go easy on the salt because of the soy and the Worcester, and especially if like me you use cheap stock cubes that are mainly salt. Also, you really have to work at blending the cashews. If you’re finding it hard to get the lumps out, sieve the mixture and scrape and mash it through with a spoon. Transfer pulp back to blender and whizz again, add a little bit of the sieved cream and process again, and repeat until you have a decent amount of creamy cashew-y cream.

It is completely and utterly worth the effort.

Shroomy-love,

Amy x

A Message from my Coma

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Monday: 8am: wake up. Tea. 1 hour of yoga. 50g of porridge made with water; mixed seeds; agave syrup. Essay. 1pm: cycle in to town for 3 hours of health and safety training for volunteering at Boomtown Fair festival with Oxfam this summer. 5pm: cycle home. Apple. Banana. Hot chocolate. 1/2 a homemade pizza. The Emperor’s New Groove. Bed.

Tuesday: 8am: wake up. 50g of porridge made with water; banana; agave syrup. 10 mile run. 3 medjool dates, hot chocolate. 80g of green lentils; 1/2 an avocado; watercress; roasted red onion/cherry tomatoes. Cycle to uni. Apple. Essay. Composition. Lecture. Cycle home. Tea. Make/eat tofu lasagne. Pub. Glass of red. Home. The Nightmare Before Christmas. Bed.

Wednesday: 9am: wake up. Pillow talk. 1/2 an avocado, chocolate soy smoothie. Leftover lasagne. Apple. Walk into town. Shopping. Cinema. Walk home. Banana. Vegan linguine carbonara. TV. Bed.

Thursday: 8am: wake up. 35 minute run. 3 medjool dates. Soy yoghurt; banana; agave syrup. Cycle to uni. Lecture. Cycle to supermarket. Cycle home. Tea. 1 1/2 hours of yoga. Lasagne. Cello. Tea. Apple. Extended sleep. Linguine carbonara; steamed spinach. Cello. Banana sorbet; dark chocolate chips; agave syrup.

Which brings us to now.

I’ve spent the latter part of today lying on my bed, watching sitcoms online that I’ve seen a hundred times, too tired to move. Falling in and out of sleep with my music on. It’s been quite nice, except for I’m cross. For no apparent reason.

I’m exhausted. I’m irritable. I haven’t eaten a dairy product in 11 days. I’m simultaneously starving and have lost my appetite entirely.

I’ve been Facebook-stalking myself (does anyone else ever do this ?). A particular set of pictures from August last year has caught my attention. Being in the state in which I find myself recently, I find the fact that I have even noticed this at all rather distressing.

I look so happy…

… and yet I was at least a stone heavier last August, than I am now.

Looking through the series of pictures and seeing my laughing face in each one just sends an entirely surreal feeling through me. Like it’s starkly obvious how miserable I’ve become, comparing my current mood to how carefree I seem in these pictures. And I remember that day; we drank gin and lemonade out of a plastic bottle and ate chips on the beach – I wasn’t demon-free then but I did these things nonetheless, and I obviously enjoyed myself.

I saw a skinny girl in the cinema eating popcorn and it troubled me for at least 5 minutes how she could possibly allow herself to eat that and still be so slim, when I myself had just passed on a soy cappuccino because I just could not be bothered with the calories. Even though I’ve not been counting, and I feel okay with that. But I got ratty because I had to rearrange my running schedule. Then I got sad that I was ratty about something so ridiculous. I cried on my boyfriend about the same old thing; I’m scared of eating. I make stupid food rules for myself that I cannot allow myself to break. It’s turning me into a bitch.

The counsellor that I saw a few months ago (and who was the reason I decided to quit voluntary counselling after one session because he was so irritating) stopped me as I traversed campus and offered me a promotional stress ball with the university counselling services contact information on it. I wonder if he recognised me. Probably not.

I had this weird dream where I was doing my A levels (I already did them 3 years ago and got all Bs…) but I didn’t know when any of my exams were except that they were definitely all that day, and everyone was naked, and they told me to get naked so I did but then suddenly no one was naked anymore and I was the only one who was naked, and then I got my exam timetable and my performance recital was in 10 minutes and I hadn’t practiced with my duet partner. Running my hands over my body all I could feel was skin and bones and it was terrifying and I was disgusted. Then I was running around my neighbourhood but the floor wouldn’t stay still.

Is this too angst-ridden ? Yeah.

What have we learned ? That my friends and I have excellent taste in films. And that I need to sort my life out.

When the sun comes out I’m going to the seafront with the first person who will accompany me, and we’re going to buy a huge portion of chips and eat it on the beach and I’m not going to give a monkey’s how it may or may not affect my figure.

Who’s up for it ?

Amy x

Tofu Lasagne

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Piercing the film lid of a Linda McCartney vegetarian lasagne ready meal, placing it lovingly into the microwave, shutting the door and pressing ‘Go’ is about as close as I’ve ever come to making this dish. I can’t really believe that I’ve never done it before, shame on me ! Well today is the day that I changed that part of my life forever, by making…

VEGAN TOFU LASAGNE !

(What a strange combination of letters combine to form the word ‘lasagne,’… lasagne, lasagne, lasagne… so weird !)

You will need:
Wholewheat lasagne sheets (mine you can just put straight in the dish without pre-boiling – check your packet instructions)
200g spinach
400g pack of firm tofu, drained
60ml soy milk
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsps lemon juice
2 tbsps fresh basil
1 tsp salt/pepper
A double batch of the tomato sauce I detail under the pizza recipe in this post (so about 20 cherry tomatoes worth)

Optional: a few handfuls of grated not-zzarella (I used Cheezly); a sprinkling or two of vegan imitation parmesan; a handful of pine nuts

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Blanch the spinach (place in boiling water for a few seconds, then remove and plunge immediately into cool water). Leave aside to drain.

Place the tofu, milk, garlic, lemon, basil and seasoning in a food processor and blend until fairly smooth but slightly textured. I think the idea here is to create some kind of imitation ricotta…

Stir the spinach through the mixture.

In a baking dish, layer tomato sauce, then your lasagna sheet, followed by tofu and cheese/pine nuts if you’re using. Repeat until dish is full/ingredients are gone. Finish with pasta sheets and tomato sauce, and cheese if you wish.

Bake for 45 minutes

Makes 4 servings. Adapted from The Daily Green.

Things I learnt from making this dish:

Drain your tofu like a mother. I mean really drain that badboy – take it out of the packet in the morning, squeeze it, wrap it in paper towels, stick it under something heavy in your fridge. Go for a 10 mile run. Take it out. Squeeze it again. Wrap it up. Put it back in the fridge. Repeat. Check it throughout the day and change the paper towels if need be.

Make more tomato sauce than you think you need. I ran out. It’s better to have too much – you can always put it on some pasta for lunch the next day.

Season this like you’ve never seasoned before. I enjoyed this but because of the tof-overload it was a bit bland, next time, MORE EVERYTHING. Especially tomato sauce because I reckon this is where the most flavour is in this dish.

Other than that, I totally am not missing dairy products anymore. I’m no longer starving either. And it’s sunny.

Life is AWESOME.

Amy x