Tag Archives: vegan

Carrot Flax-bread

Well, this is certainly not what I had in mind in terms of making an impressive return to the blog scene, but since it happens to have been the first time camera and kitchen have met since, well, Pizzaphilia, I suppose it will have to do.

Let me preface this by saying that I made a quite frankly disappointing batch of flapjacks this week, friends.

Disappointing flapjack…

They contained shredded coconut, ginger and dark chocolate. Which should be yummy in itself, and I don’t think it was this flavour combination that ruined these would-be treats. No, I blame the absence of taste and feelings of OMG-give-me-more before you even swallow your first bite that flapjacks usually nail, on the total lack of butter and sugar (I’m still afraid of these things, you know) in these babies. Flapjacks should be golden and sticky. This one looks, well, anaemic, soggy, sad, and it was nowhere near sweet enough.

I’ve been doing a TON of exercise to get this summer weight OFF me, Christ, I want to SCOOP OUT the contents of my disgusting sagging pot-belly but sadly, that’s not possible, so it’s off to kickboxing/gym/circuit training for me until I have sufficiently reduced in size. Oh, and tomorrow I start swing dancing classes, which, along with melting some of this disgusting fat, should provide some hilarity as I am the least co-ordinated person ever; having kickboxing in the dance studio in which one wall is entirely mirror has well and truly confirmed this for me… sigh.

I recently returned from spending five days with the love of my life in Naples – the land of fat, carbs and alcohol. I ate the most delicious food on the planet and I left no stone unturned when it came to sampling the delights of Italian cuisine; let me tell you, the mozzarella is to DIE for; the gelato, the coffee and the red wine, utter perfection. I ate pizza upon pasta upon gnocchi upon ice-cream, upon more pizza and more ice-cream, drizzled with olive oil and washed down with countless espressi, cappuccini and bicchieri di vino rosso. Half-board at the hotel meant we were treated to a buffet breakfast every day of cornetti, little biscuits and pastries, even cake, for goodness’ sake, as well as the best scrambled eggs I think I have ever tasted. And with marinaras and margheritas for €3 a pop, well, we could afford to eat a pizza a day, and we did. I totally forgot what it was to even be aware of what I had eaten in a day, let alone count calories or worry about things like double-carbs or fat content.

But the sheer gluttony didn’t end there. When we got back it was our three-year anniversary as a couple, and the day saw us polish off burger and fries and iced coffee that for some reason had ice-cream in it at Brighton’s infamous American diner; a large chocolate milkshake tided us over to red wine, calamari, bread, and yet another pizza in the evening at our favourite Italian restaurant. Needless to say, this summer has left me feeling somewhat… squishy.

I have had enough junk to make up for all the sugar and fat and carbs that I have not allowed myself to eat over the course of the last few years, and should probably see me through the next lot of neuroses to come as a result of gaining I don’t know how much weight from the careless, foolish but oh-so-much-sinful-FUN of Summer 2012. (Well, my BMI said I could have done with gaining a few lbs but of course, that does nothing to comfort me. Oh well, roll on next week’s kickboxing session). The good news is, despite feeling incredibly anxious at the concept of actually having gained real proper mass, I feel wholly more relaxed around junk. It’s not going to kill me. And actually, I feel much happier and can exercise a lot harder when I eat. I know now where I’d rather be.

Anyway, here’s a healthy thing that I made tonight that shouldn’t be marred by the absence of butter and sugar (seriously, what was I thinking? Flapjacks should be made with these things or not at all). It all started with a carrot glut and a recipe for Jamaican Carrot Juice (more on that later). I call it, Carrot Flax-bread.

You see, when you make carrot juice (I freakin’ LOVE carrot juice), you end up with a lot of pulp. It takes like, ten carrots to get one tall glass of juice. Then you take the lid off your juicer and you’ve got the semi-dried out remains of ten carrots, and dumping it all in the bin just makes me feel like a huge wasteful cow.

So here’s what you do:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
Take the contents of your juicer after you’ve made your delicious carrot juice.
Scoop them into a bowl.
Add a few tablespoons of flaxseed, a teaspoon of cinnamon and half a teaspoon of ground ginger. Mix with a spoon.
Roll it together to form a ball with your hands. If it doesn’t stick, add more flax and keep stirring.
Flatten out mixture onto a baking tray lined with parchment.
Bake for 30 minutes or until crispy and sort of solid.

Eat as a snack, for breakfast, with soup, salad, with jam, peanut butter, hummus. Whatever. Gluten-free, protein-rich flat bread for you, courtesy of leftover carrots.

I think it would be equally nice as a savoury with a bit of minced garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper and lemon juice, maybe drizzle a bit of olive oil on top before you bake it to make it extra crispy. You could use it as a cheeky no-rise, lowest-of-the-low-carb gluten-free pizza base. Wow. Who knew carrot-pulp could be so versatile ?

Well, now you do.

Hope everybody had a wonderful summer.

See you at circuit training.

Amy x

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Breakfast Party for One

I spend a lot of time on my own when I’m in Brighton.

Now that university is on hold for another summer, I find myself short on cash and long on time, which means taking up my old job back in Kent as a clinical assistant/receptionist in an independent optician.

Which means revisiting the 9-5 lifestyle.

Which means moving back in with my parents.

Which means sharing a room with my sister. Sharing meal times. Sharing the TV, stories of each others’ days. Sharing a house with people (ie. my parents) who are more morally qualified to get their own way than I am when it comes to running said house. You see, at uni, my housemates and I assume an equal level of responsibility and entitlement when it comes to household matters, because we all arrived at the same time, we all pay the same rent, and are all the same age with similar lifestyles, commitments and incomes. At home, my parents pay the mortgage, the bills; I was born of them and regardless of the fact that I am 21 and am perfectly capable of looking after my own finance, health and cleanliness, when I live under their roof, I must do as I am told. That’s fine, I get it. They built this family, they should be the ones in charge. They love my brother, my sister and I and they look after us admirably. Family life just all gets a bit much every now and then.

Which is when I escape to my Brighton hideaway.

Gareth has Wednesdays off, so if I’m not working, we travel down to Brighton and spend Tuesday night together. He goes home Wednesday evening in time for work at 7am on Thursday, and I stay for another day or two teaching cello lessons, and having the silent alone time that I come to crave so desperately after living in what feels like such a crowded house. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. I love spending time with them; it’s lively and fun, there are four other lifestyles to learn about – the mechanics, the fireman, the nursery nurse, the student. The teenager, the young woman, the married couple. I thrive, but I get stressed with the compromise this vibrancy entails. I can’t live my life in the way I have become used to living it.

My kitchen in Brighton has it all. I have white flours, brown flours, rye flour, gluten-free flours. I have flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seeds, pecans, macadamias, walnuts. I have rice, pasta, lentils, quinoa, oats. I have prunes and raisins and dried sour cherries. I have edamame beans in the freezer. I have dark chocolate hidden away in the door of the fridge, should I feel the need. I have two round pizza trays. I have kitchen foil, cling film, greaseproof paper. I have cardamom pods, vanilla extract, caraway seed, dark brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda. I have agave nectar and maple syrup. I never run out of peanut butter or garlic. This is a list of all the culinary things I feel I need to conduct my activities, the absence of which I find it hard to overcome when trying to cook in my family home. I am a kitchen prima donna, I know. But I can’t help it. Cooking is my hobby, and I am very particular.

I rent this house despite not having much time to enjoy it this summer. My money goes into my bank account and straight back out again. The opticians gives me numbers in exchange for my time, presence and good manners. The letting agent, the phone and the energy companies take away my numbers. Different combinations of numbers and the absence or presence of a minus sign dictates how many pairs of silver, high-waisted leggings or second-hand American Apparel wrap dresses I can buy at any given time. Numbers go up at the pump. The dial goes up in my car’s petrol gauge. The dial goes down in my car’s petrol gauge. I impart what knowledge I have gained from my 13 years of playing the cello to a charming autistic 12-year old in exchange for paper that represents some other numbers, but that doesn’t really represent anything because the bank made too many I.O.Us and that’s why spinach has gone up from £1 a bag to £1.75, and why I now buy kale, which still costs £1 in my local supermarket. Who cares, it’s just numbers on a screen, false promises on paper, needles on a gauge, and one day we’re all gonna die.

What matters is that I made gluten-free pancakes for breakfast (adapted from Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef).

First, make sure you are fresh out of bed. You must retain cockatoo bed hair, and the pancakes will taste better if all you are wearing is your bed t-shirt and knickers. After all, everyone’s gone home for the summer. Get a cafetiere on the go, this is true me-time. You can see your friends later.

Eat the pancakes in bed.

Maybe stick on some crap TV…

… around this point was where I started to feel full.

… fuller still…

… but I finished them all anyway.

That’s the thing about bouncing back and forth between abodes; you never get a decent food shop in. The best thing about a giant, extravagant breakfast is knowing there’s no food in for lunch.

Banana Maple Pecan Pancakes (gluten-free, dairy-free)

You need:

70g sweet brown rice flour

30g tapioca flour

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

1 teaspoon baking powder

A pinch of salt

A dash of cinnamon

100ml of buttermilk (or milk/soy milk with a few drops of lemon juice, left to stand)

A drop of vanilla extract

A tablespoon of mild olive oil/vegetable oil

Method:

Mix the dry ingredients. Mix the wet ingredients. Combine.

Heat frying pan with oil. Make pancakes.

Top with delicious morsels; I used maple syrup, banana and chopped pecans.

Eat pancakes.

This would probably serve 2. It served me just fine. Pig.

I spend a lot of time on my own when I’m in Brighton. But don’t worry, I like it.

Amy x

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