Monday, 27 January 2014

Kale and Parsnip Soup

It's another soup recipe! Until the weather changes and gets warmer I'm sticking to my soups for a work day lunch. There are so many different vegetable combinations you could try. Making your own soup is easy, healthy and cheaper than buying ready made.

My latest soup recipe was based on what vegetables had been reduced in my local supermarket! Is it just me, or are there others out there who quite look forward to a quick trip into the supermarket on the way home from work to see what has been reduced? You know the type of thing I mean, every supermarket has a section which showcases the battered and 'close to sell by date' vegetables desperate for someone to buy them.

On this occasion I picked up a bag of parsnips, a bag of coriander and a big bag of curly kale (even though my garden is full of it!) I think I just felt sorry for it. The grand total £1.45
  • Kale - normally £2 - reduced to 60p
  • Parsnips - normally £1 - reduce to 45p
  • Coriander - normally 80p - reduced to 40p
The best bit is, I only used half of each bag in the recipe, so I have some left over for another meal. Most of the other ingredients were bought the day before from the same reduced section, bargain!

1 Leek, sliced
2 Sticks of celery, sliced
4 Parsnips, diced
1 Choi sum (optional), stems chopped, leaves left whole
250g Kale, roughly chopped, stalks and all
1 Bay leaf
1g Fresh coriander, chopped
1½ Litres water
6 Tsp Bouillon powder

First saute the leeks in a little oil of your choice for 5 minutes, add the celery and saute for another 3 minutes. Add the parsnips with a splash of water to stop them sticking and give everything a good stir.

Make your vegetable stock by mixing the bouillon powder with the water and stir.

Add the choi sum stalks, bay leaf and vegetable stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and add the kale and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until the parsnips are cooked through. 

Add the coriander and turn off the heat. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender.

Transfer the blended soup to a clean saucepan and add salt and pepper to taste and heat through before serving.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Pumpkin & Ginger Soup

While the weather is still wet and windy, all I seem to want for lunch is soup. So for the past couple of weeks the blender has been living on my kitchen worktop! Soup is a great packed lunch to take to work, either in a thermos flask, eek remember them, or heat the soup up in a microwave if your work has one of course. A hot bowl of soup and a hunk of home made bread to either dip in or use to wipe the bowl clean makes a great lunch for a work day.

I still have a couple of pumpkins in store, they really do make marvelous soups, but are also great roasted, mashed or used as an ingredient to make a delicious meal. See below for more recipe ideas with pumpkins.

Ingredients - Serves 5-6
1 Onion, diced
2 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 Pumpkin, diced
1 Tsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Soy sauce
500ml water
2 Tsp Vegetable bouillon powder
Salt & Pepper
500ml Almond milk

Saute the onion in a little oil of your choice for 5 minutes then add the garlic and ginger and saute for a further 2 minutes.

Add the chopped pumpkin and continue to cook for another couple of minutes, adding a little water if it starts to stick. Add the cumin and soy sauce and stir to combine.

Mix the vegetable bouillon powder with the water and add to the pumpkin mixture. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes or until the pumpkin is cooked.

Transfer to a blender and process until smooth. Pour into a clean saucepan and add the almond milk. If the soup is a little too thick add more vegetable stock or a little more almond milk depending on how big your pumpkin was.

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Why not try one of my other vegan pumpkin/squash recipes?

Friday, 24 January 2014

Lentil & Kale Loaf

By now, you must have heard about the health benefits of kale. It's all over the place, the new superfood! Don't get me wrong this vegetable is SUPER, and I'm glad that everyone is finding out about it, but to some of us, "the grow your own crowd", it's been a staple vegetable grown in our gardens or allotments for some time. 

Personally, I would never not grow it, it really is so versatile. It looks after itself, it can tolerate drought, heat, wet and cold weather and has a long growing season. For the lazy gardener it is one of the best vegetables you can grow, just sow the seed and wait for the magic to happen.

What other vegetable do you know that makes a fine smoothie, a crunchy crisp, tastes fantastic in a soup, stir fry or salad and tastes great just steamed? OK, so there are a few.............

My kale has fed me over the winter months and I still have some growing, last weekend I decided that I would try something new and I created the lentil and kale roast. I was really pleased with the results and you should definitely give this one a try.

If you've never tried kale before and the thought of it in a smoothie sounds weird then this recipe is the one for you. Rather than packing the roast full of kale I decided it was best used to dress up the lentils, ready for a party on your plate! 

Ingredients - Serves 6
1 Aubergine, about 225g
75g Kale, leaves only
150g Red lentils
400ml Water
1 Tsp Vegetable bouillon powder
1 Tsp Fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tsp Fresh mint, finely chopped
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 Cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 Tsp Dried mixed herbs
75g Rolled oats
2 Tbsp Ground flax seeds
4 Tbsp Water
Black pepper
½ Tsp Herbamare salt

Wrap the aubergine in foil and put in a moderate oven and bake for 1 hour or until very soft to the touch and the skin peels off easily.

Mix the ground flax seed and water together and set aside.

Put the lentils in a saucepan, add the bouillon powder to the 400ml of water and pour over the lentils. Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes, remember to stir a lot towards the end to stop the lentils sticking to the bottom of the pan. After 20 minutes add the chopped rosemary and mint and stir through the lentils.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the kale, boil for 5 minutes and drain, set aside and leave to cool. Once cool squeeze all the water out and chop up the kale into smaller pieces.

Saute the onion and celery in a little olive oil for 5 minutes and add the garlic, saute for another 5 minutes over a low heat and then add the dried mixed herbs. Add a splash of water to the pan if the vegetables start to stick.

Remove the aubergine from the oven and leave till it is cool enough to handle. Peel and chop/mash the flesh.

Transfer the lentils to a large bowl, add the onion mixture, chopped kale, oats, aubergine and the flax egg. Season with black pepper and herbamare salt. Give everything a good mix making sure that everything has been combined and transfer to a prepared loaf tin. Push the filling down so that the mixture is compact. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes and the top is golden brown. Serve with vegetables and an onion gravy.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Spaghetti with Five Vegetable Sauce

Just a quick posting tonight folks, it's been a heck of a day, in a good way but it has left me shattered and I'm ready for bed! However it is Veganuary and I didn't want to miss sharing another recipe with you.

Today's recipe is super quick, super tasty and super healthy! You can't get better than that can you? 

Ingredients - Serves 2

120g Dried spaghetti
½ Red onion, finely diced 
4 Baby Corn, finely sliced
½ Red pepper, finely diced
5 Chestnut mushrooms, diced
8 Cherry tomatoes, chopped
Handful of kale, shredded
2 Tsp Paprika
½ Tsp Chilli flakes
1 Tsp Porcini powder
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Mushroom ketchup
2 Tbsp Almond milk
Water, as required

Add the spaghetti to a pan of boiling water and cook as per packet instructions.

Meanwhile, saute the red onion, red pepper and baby corn in a little olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add a splash of water if the vegetables start to stick.

Add the soy sauce and mushroom ketchup and stir, then add the paprika, chilli flakes and porcini powder and stir again. 

Add the mushrooms and continue to saute over a low heat for another 3 minutes adding another splash of water if the mixture is too dry. Add the kale and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and milk and cook over a low heat for another 5 minutes or until the tomatoes have broken down into a sauce.

Drain the spaghetti and serve at once.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Quick and Easy Breakfasts

Last week I shared my top ten ideas for a vegan packed lunch and I thought it might be a good idea to do the same for breakfasts. I know a lot of us, me included, get stuck in a rut when it comes to breakfasts and normally have the same thing everyday. Hopefully there are some new ideas for you to try here, which are healthy and tasty! There are some fairly obvious ones but hopefully there are some things you've not yet tried. 

If you're new to veganism and what to ask me a question, please feel free to leave me a comment at the bottom of the page, tweet me or send me a direct message through twitter. I'm happy to help.

1)  Fruit Salad 
In my eyes you can't beat a fresh fruit salad with a little yoghurt drizzled over, especially during the warmer months of the year. Mix together different fruits depending on the seasons and you will get a different fruit salad every 3-4 months. This one is a mix of cherries, strawberries, green and black grapes and apple. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

2) Fruit Smoothies
I love smoothies! You can't go wrong with a smoothie, they are very forgiving. If your smoothie doesn't taste quite how you like it, throw in another ingredient and process again! 

My favourite fruit smoothies are Strawberry & Banana and Pineapple, Mango & Banana. You really can't go wrong with these two, just add the ingredients to a blender with a little water and vegan yoghurt and blend.

If you can find a little space in your garden to grow your own strawberries, there's nothing like popping outside harvesting what you need and then popping them into your blender! You can't get fresher than that can you?

If you haven't the room to grow a lot of strawberries the next best thing is to find a 'pick your own' fruit farm. How many of you used to pick strawberries as a kid to get some pocket money? I sure did, back braking work but today they are grown at shoulder height so no more bending down to pick them. 

3) Green Smoothies 
These are just as easy to make and tasty. As you get used to the flavour of green smoothies you can be a bit more adventurous with the vegetables that you add.

My current favourite is Kale, Pineapple and a handful of grapes you can't taste the kale. The title link will take you to another favourite which uses Pineapple and Spinach and if you like that one why not try the Caribbean version of it. If you know someone who doesn't get there 'five a day' smoothies are a fantastic way to get more fruit and vegetables in your diet.

Once your taste buds have warmed up a little try adding another vegetable to one of the above smoothies. I've made one with broccoli and cucumber and surprisingly it tasted scrumptious. The options are endless, just experiment and you'll be amazed at what flavours you grow to love.

4) Muesli 
This is my favourite breakfast at the moment and I take this to work at least 3 times a week. It is easily transported in my nifty two pot stacker with vegan yoghurt to be mixed together when I arrive at work. I posted my recipe yesterday, which is enough for 8 servings, just double up the quantities if you want to make more.

5) Pancakes 
I made this during Vegan Mofo on a "Sleepy Sunday" theme, which was breakfasts, brunch or lazin' in bed snacks.

Personally, I'm not a massive fan of pancakes, I never have been. Even the vegan pancakes taste too 'eggy' for me, strange but true. Even as a vegetarian I never ate eggs unless they were heavily disguised in cake and even then I could sometimes pin point the taste. I've just never liked the taste and I couldn't get out of my head what they actually are. Rant over - sorry!

However, I did eat these two pancakes as the filling on top was divine, perfect for a late breakfast or brunch. You could use it to top toast if you don't like the idea of pancakes.

6) Morning Bruchetta 
I made this one sunny morning last year and memories of walking bare foot on a beach, sun beating down on my back came flooding back. It really is sunshine food and perfect food to eat sitting outside on a warm sunny summer morning. Although this photograph was taken early April last year!

Full of Mediterranean flavours, fresh and vibrant, you could do worse for breakfast! 

7) Bean Hash 
Once again this recipe came about during Vegan Mofo last year on another Sleepy Sunday theme. 

I love beans and there is more to life than baked beans although they are awesome.

This dish mixes Borlotti beans with potato, onions and mushrooms and served with baked beans it really is beantastic!

8) Tofumlette 
For all of you who used to love omelettes, fear not, you can still enjoy them but using tofu instead of eggs.

With my indifference to anything 'eggy' I found that adding salsa to the top influenced my taste buds and I actually enjoyed the tofumlette. You can add any vegetable to a vegan tofumlette, see what you can come up with. This recipe uses spinach and mushrooms perfect for breakfast.

9) Mushrooms on Toast 
I had this for breakfast this morning, I love mushrooms, I could have quite easily eaten double the amount. There is no recipe as such for this but all I do is saute ½ a finely chopped red onion until translucent in a little olive oil. Then add 5 diced chestnut mushrooms, a splash of unsweetened almond milk and saute for another minute before adding a splash of soy sauce, ½ Tsp smoked paprika and a good grind of black pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked. Serve on top of toast with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. For me heaven on a plate! Of course there are so many other things you could serve on toast, baked beans, avocado with black pepper, tomatoes, homemade jam, marmite or peanut butter to name just a few. 

10) Homemade Bread and Jam 
You can't beat freshly baked homemade bread, the smell that comes from your kitchen is fantastic. There is just one slight problem though, it tastes that good you will go back for more and more and more!

I love putting my bread maker on over night using the timer function so that I wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread. It really is something that will get you out of bed in a morning! That first slice, still warm, spread with your favourite jam just can't be beaten. You can use more slices for your lunch too and its great toasted the next day.

I hope that has given you some ideas, or jogged your memory as to some of the most simple breakfasts in life. 

If you're looking for vegan packed lunch ideas then take a look at my lunches to take to work.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Homemade Vegan Muesli

What do you eat for breakfast? Some say its the most important meal of the day, for me though I have never been able to eat straight away on waking more like an hour or so later. Weekends isn't a problem for obvious reasons but for weekdays it becomes more of a problem, well maybe problem is to stronger word. I need something transportable so I can take it work and eat breakfast at my desk. 

You could argue that everything is portable but I don't want to carry multiple items to and from work every day. My solution is homemade vegan muslei, which I transport in a nifty 2 pot stacker with vegan yoghurt. When I get to work I mix the two together and voila breakfast is served!

Ingredients - serves 8
150g Prridge Oats
70g Chopped mixed nuts
30g Seed mix*
50g Raisins**
50g Hulled hemp seed
50g Milled chai seed
* My mix contained sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, pine nuts and goji berries
** You could try different dried fruit, there is plenty to chose from

Simply mix all ingredients in a bowl and transfer to a sealed container. Serve with vegan yoghurt.

As well as tasting very good, this muesli is very good for you and it is so quick and simple to make up. It doesn't contain the sugars that shop bought muesli does nor does it contain dried milk like many do. What it does contain and provide is fibre, protein, amino acids, essential fatty acids, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc, folic acid, vitamin C, E, and K and much much more.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Green Fruit Smoothie

I'm hooked on Green Smoothies and my favourite green ingredient to use is either kale or spinach. But what happens when you have neither, or put it another way it is absolutely chucking it down and the last thing you want to do is go into the garden and fetch some!

Today I fancied a pure fruit smoothie, so I added apple, grape and banana to my blender and gave it a whizz up. I'm not a massive fan of banana but I can cope with banana in smoothies, it gives the smoothie a creamy texture and taste. My favourite banana smoothie is with strawberries or pineapple, but this one surprised me. Even though it was very "banana-ey" I liked it, perhaps it was due to the green grape sweetness?

1 Apple, cored & chopped
20 Green grapes
1 Banana
150ml Water

Whizz all ingredients in a blender, simples!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Pea, Spring Onion & Mint Soup

I don't think I'll ever get tired of my Vitamix, but this soup can be made in any blender, you don't have to own a Vitamix!

When you need to make something fast for lunch, you can't beat a quick and easy soup, especially if this uses up leftovers. It's a win win! Anyone that knows me knows that I hate to waste food, food is precious and we shouldn't just throw it away because we have forgotten about it and left it to rot in the fridge. Keep an eye on what you have in your fridge, make a list if you have to! Plan your meals ahead if you know you won't use all of something or use the internet to look for recipes that contain a certain food. Or if you're like me just wing it, what's the worse thing that could happen, nothings inedible if you spice and herb it up!

In my fridge I had some peas that needed using up, 3 sorry looking spring onions which had been hiding beneath a whopper of a cauliflower and some mint that was looking past its best. It was an easy decision to make as the three ingredients just love each other, so soup it was.

200g Cooked frozen peas
3 Spring onions
50g Raw mange tout (If yo don't have a Vitamix I would cook these first)
½ Tsp Vegetable Bouillon powder
200ml water
3 Sprigs of mint

Put all the ingredients into your blender and process until you have a silky smooth soup. Easy!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Curry in a Hurry

Do you remember the Three Lentil Soup I made on Sunday? Well hubby and I have been enjoying this for lunch on Monday and Tuesday, with the spicy potato and onion bread, but there was still some left over. I hate to waste food, so I had to come up with another recipe which used the remainder, which was about a portion and a half. 

The soup was fairly spicy and had thickened in the fridge, it reminded me of a curry sauce, which gave me an idea, curry in a hurry. Jamie Oliver isn't the only one who can use leftovers to make another meal! You don't have to use the vegetables listed any will do, you could use the left overs from your Sunday dinner. 

After adding the vegetables the one and a half portions of soup turned into a meal for 4 people so we can enjoy it for lunch tomorrow too, bonus!

2 Red onions, cut into wedges 
Handful of frozen peas
1½ portions of three lentil soup
1 Tsp Chipotle paste
2 Tsp Ground coriander
1 Tsp Ground cumin
½ Lime, juiced
2 Carrots, sliced
100g Green beans
Small head of broccoli, broken into florets
2 Small potatoes, diced
12 Sprouts, halved
100ml vegetable cooking water

Fry the onions in a little olive oil for 5 minutes, add the frozen peas and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the chopped vegetables to a pan of boiling water and simmer for 5-8 minutes until vegetables have cooked but still have a little bight to them.

Add the soup to the onion and peas along with the chipotle paste, ground coriander and ground cumin. Stir to combine and cook over a low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently to stop the sauce sticking to the bottom of the pan. If it starts to stick, add a little of the vegetable water a bit at a time. Add the lime juice and stir.

Drain the vegetables and reserve the cooking liquid, see I don't waste anything! Add the drained vegetables to the pan and stir through. 

Add the desired amount of the vegetable water, I used 100ml to thin down the curry sauce and coat the vegetables.

Serve with rice. I served it with a mixture of brown basmati and basmati pilau rice.

Any vegetable water you don't use save and use as a stock base for your next soup.

To those of you who are thinking sprouts in a curry, no! Try it, you will be surprised.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Three Lentil Soup

I spent Sunday morning in my kitchen, baking bread and making another soup, pure bliss. Isn't that what Sunday mornings are all about? While the bread was baking, Marco and I went for a stroll in the wind and the rain and it was lovely to return to the smell of baking bread. OK so I used a bread machine! The bread was absolutely delicious, a spicy potato and onion bread from 'The Bread Book' by Sara Lewis. 

All I needed now was a soup to compliment the bread and I created Three Lentil Soup. To be honest I didn't start out to make a soup using three different lentils but when I came to make the soup I only had a third of a cup of red lentils! I topped it up with continental lentils, now I had two thirds of a cup and no more continental lentils, disaster! I need not have fret though as I also had a few green lentils too and that made it a cup full of lentils. Disaster averted. Must add lentils to my shopping list.

This soup is so simple to make and you can make it while your bread is baking. You'll have lunch on the table in no time. The best thing is, if you're using a bread maker you can put your feet up with a cuppa while the lentils are cooking. The soup will easily feed 6 people and you will still have leftovers.

1 Leek, sliced and quartered
1 Red onion, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 Cup of mixed lentils, only use "no need for soaking" lentils
1 Tsp Ground cumin
½ Tsp Turmeric
½ Tsp Smoked paprika
1 Dried chilli
1 Tin chopped tomatoes
1 Tsp Vegetable bouillon powder
700ml Water
1 Can of coconut milk
Additional 500ml Water

Add all ingredients to a large saucepan apart from the coconut milk and additional water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 35 minutes.

Let cool for a while then add the coconut milk and stir through. Blend and add extra water to your desired consistency. 

This soup is rich and velvety smooth, I like my soups thick but just add more water if you prefer yours less thick. The soup has got a kick to it but if you like your food extra spicy just add two dried chillis.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Green Smoothie Update

My Green Smoothies to date have mainly been made with fruit and either kale or spinach. However, there are lots of other nutritional green vegetables out there and I needed to investigate. My palette is not quite there yet so I need to still add the fruit to give me a sweeter taste!

Having looked in my fridge after shopping yesterday, it was bursting with fruit and vegetables, I was actually spoilt for choice, but sitting on top was 2 florets of broccoli that looked a little lost. Now, what goes well with broccoli in a smoothie? OK next question what is also green? That was easier to answer, grapes, avocado, peas, etc etc. 

After deliberating for what seemed an age I went with the following.

¼ Cucumber
20 Green grapes
2 Florets of broccoli
1 Clementine peeled


Add the ingredients to your chosen blender with ½ cup of cold water and blend until smooth. Add a sprig of mint for decoration, if you fancy it!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Lunches to take to Work

Well, like many of you I'm back at work tomorrow after 2 weeks off, which has been lovely. It's meant that I have been able to enjoy time with family and friends and take Marco on longer walks than normal, bliss!

Getting something to eat for lunch in the small town where I live is rather difficult so you need to be organised and take a packed lunch to work with you.

Whilst putting together a menu plan for next week I thought it might be a good idea to share my top ten ideas for a vegan packed lunch.

1) Bean & Noodle Salad

I made this during Vegan Mofo on a Work with it Wednesday theme. I never used to like peanut butter, I'm still not a massive fan but I have come a long way. I used to retch after tasting just a little dollop, I'm sure this stems from a very early memory. At my friends 6th or 7th birthday, we were all blindfolded and given something to eat and we had to guess what food it was. I was sick after tasting peanut butter for the first time! However, I am pleased to inform that it's a work in progress and I am using it more and more.

2) Houmous
Houmous is so versatile and so easy to make yourself in no time at all. You can eat it with vegetable sticks, such as carrots, celery, red pepper or cucumber. Or eat it with crackers, I like it with the No-No Guacamole crackers, but any vegan crackers are good. My all time favourite though is in a sandwich or granary baguette with lettuce, tomato, spring onion, beetroot, pickled gherkin, olives and vegan mayonnaise. Absolutely delicious. If you fancy making your own houmous try this recipe.

3) Refried Beans
Like houmous, refried beans can be used as a dip with vegetable sticks or crackers. I also use it when making fajitas, chillis or even a spicy cheese sauce! For lunch though when you need a go to lunch that is quick, you cant beat a wrap with refried beans, salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce. This is easy so easy to put together using store cupboard and fridge staples.

4) Falafals
These can easily be sourced in most supermarkets but be careful some brands aren't vegan. They can easily be made at home too although I've never posted the recipe that I always use. [Note to self must photograph and post recipe]. Again these can be enjoyed with salad or in a wrap with rocket, homemade tomato salsa, sweet chilli sauce and vegan mayonnaise. They always feature as part of a picnic too! Whether it is a simple lunch for Mum or a vegan girls lunch!

5) Bean Sushi
Now you don't have to use beans in your sushi, but once again I put this together during Vegan Mofo and the beans worked really well. Try it and see what you think. In this version I used green beans, avocado and grated carrot but there are plenty of other ideas out there. I've also used shredded lettuce mixed with a little vegan mayonnaise instead of the beans which works well too. Other combinations include cucumber, carrot and smoked tofu strips or basil tofu strips, red pepper and marinated aubergine. Just try a combination of three ingredients and serve with a little wasabi or pickled ginger and you have a very tasty lunch. Your work colleagues will be envious.

6) Mushroom Tart
Puff pastry is a handy thing to have in you fridge or freezer, especially the ready rolled version. It can be used to whip up a tasty tart in just a few minutes. Be careful which puff pastry you buy though as not all are vegan, I use the 'jus roll' puff pastry which is vegan as long as you don't buy the "all butter" variety! The mushroom tart can be enjoyed hot or cold and I've used leftovers as a packed lunch many a time. This recipe uses just three ingredients to whip up a tasty topping and is seasoned with salt & pepper. There are plenty of other tasty combinations you can use to top puff pastry, why not try Mediterranean vegetable medley, red onion caramalised tart, or puff pastry pizza

7) Broad Bean Pate
This is one of my more popular recipes and I'm not surprised because it is delicious even if I say so myself. I have been know to eat it before it even makes the plate! Serve with crusty bread, salad or as one of a number of dips. 

The plus side is that I have found broad beans are one of the most easiest vegetables to grow. You can't get fresher than picking your own and within 5 minutes cooking them and making a delicious pate. 

If you haven't tried this then it's a must, go buy some broad bean seeds and sow to your hearts content.

8) Olive Tapenade
Yet another vegan pate come spread depending on how smooth you like it. You can buy this ready made and even vegan varieties, but in my experience it tastes so much better when you make it yourself. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy your lunch in a sunny place, it will transport you back to Greece in an instance, well it did me! Of course when you make it yourself no fish are harmed, the majority of Greek tapenade contains anchovies, so I'm told. 

9) Guacamole
Yet another dip, I feel there is a pattern emerging here! Dips are so easy to transport, and all you need is a vehicle to scoop them up with! When that dip is guacamole there is no other vehicle than a tortilla chip in my eyes. Now, that doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a bag of chips full of nasty MSG, you can make your own using pitta bread or flour tortillas. Cut them up to the desired size and bake in a low oven until crisp, simples. If you want to jazz them up a little spritz with a little olive oil spray and sprinkle with paprika, chilli, garlic or mixed herbs.

10) Lettuce wraps
I suppose you can stuff anything into a lettuce leaf, but I rather like them stuffed with a Thai coleslaw. It is crunchy, light and refreshing with a hint of spiciness. Of course you don't have to use it as a stuffing it's very nice on its own with salad and grilled tofu. 

If you don't fancy the Asian variety coleslaw you could always make the traditional variety but make it more colourful by using red cabbage instead of the traditional white cabbage. 

Use different vegetable combinations and make your own, influenced by flavours from a different country. Why not try Chinese Five Spice with water chestnuts, babycorn, spring onion and beansprouts.[Note to self, must try this combination!]

I hope this has given you some great healthy lunch ideas, of course if you have access to a kitchen and a microwave to heat food up the world is your unharmed oyster! 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

My Favourite Green Smoothie

Today I started the day with yet another green smoothie, this one though is my favourite at the moment. It comprises of 2 fruits and 1 vegetable mixed with water and a twist of lime, simples!

All you need is ½ cup of water, a good handful of kale, about 15 grapes more if you like your smoothies sweeter and ¼ pineapple. Blitz in your blender until smooth and serve with a twist of lime.

It's a great way to start the day. It is reported that Kale is one of the most beneficial vegetables you can eat. According to the Natural Health magazine it is one of the top 5 nutritionally-dense vegetables. It is high in vitamin A, C, K, iron and calcium. 

On top of all that it is so easy to grow!

Go on treat yourself.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Showing off and Making Yet More Soup

Today, my sister popped round to see what all the fuss was about with my new Vitamix. Before she arrived I asked her to bring a vegetable and we would make soup for lunch. She brought round a packet of mini veg which consisted of baby carrots, green beans, tender stem broccoli and babycorn.

Basically all of the above was put in the vitamix, raw, along with a little chilli, garlic, parsley, cashews and water and blitzed for 4 minutes until steam came out of the ventilation holes in the lid.

The soup was very fresh and light tasting with a kick of heat, just what we needed on a damp and miserable day!

I must start experimenting now with other recipes and not just soups and smoothies!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

My New Vitamix

Yes, I've finally gone and bought one! After years of wanting, and watching the price climb every year, I took the jump and ordered my very own Vitamix just after Christmas. It arrived New Years Eve, what a way to start the new year!

Yesterday I used it 4 times, yes 4 times! It is AMAZING, I love it! I washed it New Years Eve and had it ready and waiting for me on New Years Day morning. I couldn't wait to get up!

The first thing I made was a green smoothie, packed full of vitamins and nutrients. First I added about half a cup of cold water, followed by a handful of Curly Kale, 10 green grapes, ¼ Pineapple, 1 Apple and juice of 1 Lime. The beauty of it all is that the pineapple wasn't cored and the apple wasn't peeled or cored just quartered, pips and all!

It was delicious, just what I needed after walking Marco in the wind and rain for 1½ hours!

I can't believe how excited I am at owning one of these, it's going to get used everyday and probably more than once. I sat down with my smoothie flicking through the recipe book that comes with it. But, alas I was far too impatient as soon as I'd gulped down my smoothie I was back in the kitchen riffling through my fridge to see what needed using up!

I decided to make butternut squash soup, two ways. The first was using the vitamix with raw ingredients and the second with cooked vegetables. The vitamix is that powerful that you can add raw ingredients and make soup, it doesn't cook the vegetables as such but the blades rotate that fast that the machine will heat up the liquid to steaming hot.

Can you guess which photo is the raw vegetable and which is the cooked?

The one on the left is the soup using raw vegetables and the one on the right is the soup using the cooked vegetables. The raw soup is a more vibrant colour as the cooked one used roasted butternut squash. The soups used exactly the same ingredients bar one, I forgot to put the onion in the raw soup!

Ingredients - Serves 4   
165ml Coconut milk  
½ Butternut Squash, cubed
1 Onion, quartered (cooked version only)
½ Chilli
1 Garlic Clove
1 Knob of ginger
1 Cup of vegetable stock
1 Tsp Cumin
Handful Cashews
Salt & Pepper

Pour the coconut milk into the Vitamix, add all the other ingredients bar the salt & pepper in the order shown and blend as per manufacturers instructions. Blend for 3-4 minutes or until steam is coming out of the ventilation holes in the lid. Add salt and pepper to taste, pour into bowls and enjoy. 

Add the butternut squash and onion to a roasting dish and spray with a little oil. Add the cumin and stir to coat the squash and onion with the spice. Roast for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.

Pour the coconut milk in to the Vitamix and add the roasted butternut squash and onion. Next add the remaining ingredients bar the salt & pepper and blend. Add salt and pepper to taste, pour into bowls and enjoy.

If you don't own a vitamix then I would add the chilli, garlic and ginger to the roasting vegetables, before you puree with the coconut milk, cashews and vegetable stock.

The soups did taste different, whether this was due to the onion in one I'm not sure. The soup using raw vegetables was lighter in taste, and actually tasted 'fresher'. Both were delicious and I ended up merging the two, which provided a substantial dinner for the two of us with a little bread and vegan spread. There is plenty of left over too.

I also made some houmous in the vitamix but used sesame seeds instead of tahini as I had run out. I didn't 'peel' the chick peas either and I didn't notice the difference as I would in a standard mixer.

Overall I love my new Vitamix - can you tell? 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

I can't believe how fast last year flew by and today I am also celebrating my 1st veganniversary! Yay! It has been far easier than I first imagined. I had been vegetarian for 26 years and hadn't eaten eggs or milk for a long time as the thought of them was enough to stop me eating them. The only time I did consume eggs or milk were if they were a hidden ingredient in food like chocolate or cake! However I really thought that I would miss cheese! I was a cheese monster, breakfast, lunch and dinner, I would eat it any time of the day! After the first couple of weeks past, I slowly started to realise that there was life after cheese and my cheese replacement became houmous. I love the stuff! It is far better for you too, especially if you make it yourself. 

I have tried various vegan 'cheeses' over the last year and although I use them sometimes to top pizza I can honestly say that I haven't found one that I can say that I love. The best I have found for my personal taste is the smoked cheese from Tesco, which I use to top a pizza or some nachos. I only use it cooked, in its 'raw' state I'm not a fan.

When visiting the Wolverhampton Vegan Fair, I was introduced to another cheese, Vegourmet Jeezini Cheese Slices, which were the closest to what I remember dairy cheese to taste like. I have used them in sandwiches and they even melt fairly well too. After sourcing them on the internet, and buying 3 packets, yes 3! I feel that I have eaten far too much of them over the Christmas period.

After looking at the ingredients list of the vegan cheeses I had in my fridge I have decided that, in my opinion, it is probably better that I only eat them in moderation and therefore revert back to my first cheese replacement, houmous! I bet I could make a 'cheesey' houmous by adding nutritional yeast. Over the past year I have also made various cheese sauces with different vegetables and white miso, nutritional yeast, nuts and beans and I shall be experimenting more with this healthier option.

Something remarkable has happened to me since I went vegan and removing dairy from my diet. I haven't had a headache! Not one, even after I have drank a few glasses of wine. Now before you go shouting from the roof tops, I'm not saying its a hangover cure as I still have all the other symptoms, so moderation is the key here! I used to suffer with headaches quite a lot, tension headaches, sinus headaches and the occasional migraine, but for a whole year, not one headache. Isn't that remarkable?

To celebrate my 1st veganniversary here are my top 5 recipes which have received the most visitors.

1) Coldsore Busting Smoothie 2

And here are my top 5 recipes from the last year, ones you really must try! They're in no particular order, I love all of them!
Mushroom Stroganoff

Happy New Year to you all, I hope that 2014 brings you and your loved ones, health, happiness and good cheer!

Jasmine x