Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014: Kicking things off

Just one month after my sister's London visit, we are fortunate to have my Mum in London over this weekend. She is heading south to spend time with her parents tomorrow, and we will be joining in a mass family gathering next weekend. Australia and England are seeming very close with the regular family visits!

Vivid London flowers

Around family time and London sightseeing, I have been preparing for the 2014 Vegan Month of Food. My first Vegan MoFo was in 2012, and I loved both the challenge and camaraderie of near daily vegan-focused posting. Last year we were in North America over Vegan MoFo month, but I am pleased to be back participating this year. Things start tomorrow and run across September.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jerk spiced sweet potato fries with lemon-paprika lentils

Are you familiar with jerk seasoning? Our new neighbourhood has a strong Caribbean influence, so Jamaican dishes are common and jerk chicken is available on every other corner. Obviously jerk chicken doesn't hold much appeal to me, but the spice mix itself is full of things I like: chilli, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, lime and pepper, amongst other things. You could make the spice mix up from scratch, but I opted to pick up a prepared version from the supermarket. It is spicy, salty, a little sweet (the mix I bought has some added sugar) and very moreish. When the spice mix is paired with sweet potato fries, the result is very moreish!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Welcoming Vegan Life magazine - my highlights

I received a complimentary digital copy of Vegan Life, which has allowed me to post this review with screenshots included. My delight in the magazine is entirely my own.

You may have heard of the recent release of Vegan Life, a new magazine that is celebrating all things vegan. I am pretty excited by its arrival. The magazine has a broad focus, and considers the social, economic, ecological and political aspects of a plant-based diet. It aims to 'bring vegan into vogue', and is certainly working to achieve that aim. In this first issue alone, there are recipes, new product alerts, interviews with athletic, activist and chef vegans, and articles that highlight how veganism works in real life - whether that be in a family, solo, or with animals in tow.

Screenshot courtesy of Vegan Life

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Indian-spiced lentil and vegetable pastry puffs

This post has been sitting in draft form for some 9 months now. That may highlight the frequency (or infrequency) of our pastry-based meals! Still, every now and then pastry does appeal to me. It is an easy way to turn standard ingredients into something a little bit special, and it makes for classic homemade comfort food. 

Pastry puffs with a simple kale salad

The first time I made these lentil and vegetable pastry puffs, the flavours weren't quite right. We agreed that they needed some kind of relish or chutney, perhaps tomato. I thought the filling could do with more spice too. The recipe was shelved for future revisions, and there it remained until this month.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Maple tahini dressing

There are two products that are proving elusive in standard UK supermarkets. One is carob powder, and the other is tahini. Both can be ordered online or picked up in larger health food stores, but I have been surprised at not being able to find them readily (although it is possible it is just my local stores!).

I will source both of these ingredients eventually, but while I'm waiting, I thought I would give homemade tahini a try. After all, it is just processed sesame seeds. I have made nut butters before; how hard could it be to make tahini?

The (potential) makings of tahini

For me, it turns out, quite hard! With hindsight, I should have toasted my sesame seeds to facilitate easier processing and enhanced flavour. My mix did not reach a buttery state. Moreover, I didn't like the taste. I remembered too late that I like unhulled tahini. My sesame seeds were hulled.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Out and about in London #2: Vegan food from Beatroot Cafe, Ruby's of London, Lujuria Vegana, and the Greenwich Market falafel stall

I have a list of vegan / vegan friendly eateries that I'd like to visit around London. In a quandary that isn't really a quandary at all, I may not be able to visit everywhere unless I make visiting cafes a full-time job. If anyone knows of such a let me know. In the mean time, here are some snapshots of recent eats while out and about.

Caramel pecan cupcake from Ruby's of London

The main theme of this post is 'casual'. There are also three cupcakes / muffins (!). All items were bought to take away, generally consumed in a park with either a book or Mr Bite for company. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chocolate reviews - an enormous chocolate-filled post!

I loved reading your comments on my last post. Some of you have never been gym people, others have made a similar transition to my recent one, and of course there is a group in the opposite position, enjoying what a gym has to offer. It goes to show that what suits one person will not necessarily suit another!

From exercise, I am moving to another of my favourite topics: chocolate. I have waxed lyrical about UK chocolates in the past. Now that I live here, I am having a great time working through the range of dark (dairy free) blocks on offer. This post reflects some two months of chocolate purchases and will be a whirlwind, snapshot review post!

Let's start with Tesco, which has several tiers of home brand chocolate to choose from. The cheapest, their 'every day value' and 'rainforest alliance' blocks, include milk and so I haven't tried those. However, their standard Tesco range includes dairy-free 74% cocoa and 85% cocoa blocks, which cost £1 ($1.80) for 100g.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fitness Fridays - Giving up a gym membership, and loving it

Back in May, and in good timing for our mid-June move, my Australian gym membership expired. At the time, I mentioned to a friend that I had been a member for over 5 years. When I later reflected on that statement, I realised that I had been a member for 13 years. Clearly I am losing track of time in my old age! 

My new 'gym'

With that length of membership, you may imagine that giving the gym up was unsettling. In fact, the transition has been surprisingly lovely. It has also been very freeing. With being a member for so long, I'd come to view the gym as something I 'needed' and an essential lifestyle feature that I would always indulge in. Before I discovered running, the gym provided my main (sole) source of exercise, and it was one of the few places where my thoughts could wander or work through problems in peace. But then I did discover running, and in particular, the joy of running outside. I gradually gave up some gym days so I could fit in outdoor runs, but there was an uneasy tug-of-war between my desire to run and my desire to get good use out of my gym membership. In May, I was running outside 3 days per week and using the gym 3 days per week; as previously, I was struggling to fit in pilates. I would have liked to run more, but didn't want to use the gym less.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Nectarine and apple spelt bread-cake

You may be wondering about my title for this post. The truth is, I set out to make a cake but as a consequence of too little sugar, ended up with something more bread-like than cake-like. It still has a decent dose of cake in the mix though, and as I baked it in a round cake tin, it looks like a cake. Basically, it is a hybrid baked good! The texture, taste and ingredients intersect in a way that justifies eating this for breakfast, even as it is enjoyable with ice cream for dessert.

If you wanted this to pass as a standard cake, you could obviously rectify my sugar issue by adding more. I used a mix of coconut sugar and maple syrup, and probably could have doubled the quantity of each. I'm still a bit unsure of coconut sugar and seem to expect it to be sweeter than the regular type - goodness knows why!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Australia to England - 2 months in

Today marks 2 months (by date) since we arrived in London. This week also marks the start of my new English job. It seems like a good time to pause and reflect on our move, and the things that have gone as expected, as well as those that have as not. For good measure, I'm throwing in some recent photos too.

I love the cat's expression in this painting (seen in The National Gallery)

As some of you may remember, Mr Bite and I bought a flat in London 2 years ago, aided by a great Australian-UK exchange rate, and spurred on by ridiculous property prices in Western Australia. Having somewhere to move to obviously made our shift much simpler, and meant we didn't need to navigate an unfamiliar rental market. I feel very fortunate in that regard, especially as London house prices have since sky rocketed. The other big plus for us was having an existing English bank account (with HSBC), something we set up when buying our property. If you are planning to move overseas, I'd really recommend trying to arrange a local account ahead of time. HSBC made the process easy for us.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hazelnut carrot cake oats

I haven't spoken about exercise on here for quite some time. I have a post on the topic in the making (or at least, I have a post in my mind...) but a key point is that I am registered for a half marathon at the end of September. It will be my third half marathon race, and my first organised running event for 2014. This means that my long runs are getting longer again, and nutrition is even more important to me than usual. Sometimes 'nutrition' means "I need carbohydrate now", but I do try to strive for the more balanced sense of the word most of the time!

Hazelnut carrot cake oats

My long runs happen on Saturday mornings, which mean Saturday breakfast is an important meal. Sometimes a jam-packed smoothie is the star of the show, but other days I want solid food. Yesterday was one such day and these hazelnut carrot cake oats were the result. I think they may now be my favourite porridge recipe of all time. Yes, they even surpass my recent chocolate zucchini oats! You don't have to be a runner to appreciate them either - I think this dish will be featuring across my weeks from now on.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Red velvet smoothie

I didn't understand the appeal of red velvet cake until I saw a recipe that used beetroot to provide the crimson colour. Cake plus food colouring isn't really my thing, but cake plus a vegetable ingredient that turns everything a vibrant hue? I am very much in favour of that.

I am also very much in favour of this red velvet smoothie. As you may guess, beetroot also provides the colour here. However - don't panic! You would have to work very hard to detect any beetroot flavours. Instead, the drinking experience is akin to that of a chocolate thickshake. The thick texture comes from the use of both banana and sweet potato, whilst cocoa and dates provide the chocolate experience. The result is surprisingly decadent.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

365 project: July photos

I think I say something similar every other month, but how is it August? Not only are we more than half way through the year, but it is nearly 2 months since we left Australia for the UK. I think I'll be remembering 2014 as the year that flew by, even more than usual.

With another month behind us, I do have another set of photographs to share. As always, there is a little overlap with images shared elsewhere, but hopefully enough new content to provide interest too.

I think my favourite images this month are days 8, 29 and 31. I also love the planting featured in day 28.

1st: Measuring post / 2nd: Queen Alexandra / 3rd: Literary bench / 4th: Spirals / 5th: Under the Thames

Saturday, August 2, 2014

In my kitchen - August 2014

I am linking this post in to Celia's monthly In My Kitchen event at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

In my kitchen, there has been a batch of vegan 'pebble road' (rocky road minus the nuts and cherries, and with biscuit chunks and dried fruit).

Vegan pebble road

You see, I finally went to Whole Foods. What is more, London's largest Whole Foods. As you may understand, it was a trip I made without Mr Bite. I exercised great restraint, but did come away with vegan marshmallows and a few other luxury items. I enjoyed some of the mallows plain and put the rest into the above chocolate slice.