Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Vegan Cheerio chocolate crackles with coconut

It's nearly Easter! I don't quite know how it got to be (almost) April, but I am enjoying my first spring Easter season. It's funny that I grew up to learn that winter pairs with Christmas, and spring pairs with Easter, but I never actually experienced those associations in Australia.

Easter is, of course, not only associated with Spring. Chocolate also features rather heavily, and these easy Cheerio chocolate crackles fit the chocolate theme with minimal fuss. They are a fun twist on traditional chocolate crackles made with rice puffs. They also swap coconut oil for the traditional copha, and use rice malt syrup for sweetness. The coconut topping is optional, but highly recommended.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ireland travels - Cornucopia Wholefood and Vegetarian Restaurant, Dublin

The Cornucopia Wholefood and Vegetarian Restaurant has graced Dublin's streets since 1986, which means it is almost as old as me. It also means that if you are vegetarian or vegan and have been to Dublin, you may well have visited this place. If you haven't, it is very much worth visiting.

Cornucopia; the long take away queue, cozy seating, and salad selections

I had Cornucopia marked as a potential spot to visit and managed to fit two visits in over our three days in the Dublin area. Not a bad hit rate! It helped that it is centrally located in the south city area, around the corner from Trinity College. It also helped that there was a (non-veggie) crepe restaurant nearby. On the two occasions I got food from Cornucopia, Mr Bite had crepes. We ate in the grounds of Trinity College on trip one, and in the nearby St Stephen's Green on trip two.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ireland travels - Dublin and surrounds

Why, hello! I didn't intend to drop off the radar for nearly a week. However, Ireland has been rather lulling and between sight-seeing, 20 mile running and catch up sleeping, blogging hasn't really fit into my schedule. I suspect it will take me a while to work through our trip (and there are still 4 days to go), but I'm taking the opportunity to share some of our time in Dublin today.

Dublin's River Liffey

Ireland has been full of surprises thus far. It isn't as green as I'd expected, and there are sections of shrub and heath that almost remind me of Australia (although not quite). The people are amazingly friendly. The roads are generally wide and often empty, and there are lots of runners and cyclists. Houses are often painted in attractive vibrant colours.

Colourful architecture, near Dublin Castle

Thursday, March 19, 2015

5 minute banana peanut butter cake in a mug {London marathon fundraising}

When I compiled a list of popular posts from the last year, my healthier sticky date pudding in a mug recipe was second on the list. That reminded me of the concept of cakes-in-mugs and made me think I needed another one on this site! This banana peanut butter version is it. It probably doesn't even take 5 minutes to make, and it is delicious enough for dessert but healthy (and quick) enough for breakfast. Win, win, win.

I'm pleased to say that this has been a better week, health wise, than the last one. I downscaled last weekend's run from 22 miles to 12, but am feeling 99% fit again now and ready to tackle 20 miles on Saturday (in Dublin no less!). I have also revamped my plan to get the 22 miles in over the Easter long weekend. That will be the longest distance I run, and it's probably better doing it a little bit closer to marathon day anyway. I'm glad my training plan is stretched out enough to allow for reshuffling of schedules, and to include several attempts at 20 mile plus distances.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Green recipe round up, for Saint Patrick's Day

I suspect I'm revealing personal shortcomings by saying that, until this year, I didn't really know what Saint Patrick's Day was all about. I tended to associate it with reckless drinking and green. It wasn't a particularly big event in Western Australia (except as an excuse for said drinking) but now we live relatively close to Ireland, I thought I should learn what it's actually about.

As you probably know already, Saint Patrick's Day was made a Christian feast day back in the 17th century. Saint Patrick was (is) the patron saint of Ireland. He is thought to have died on the 17th March, lending that date to the annual festival. Saint Patrick's Day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and whilst it is a religious holiday, it is also about celebrating the heritage and culture of Ireland more generally. So, there is rather more to it than alcohol and green...

Green spaghetti

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Devon and Cornwall part 2 - Polperro, the South West Coast path, and National Trust properties

In part 1 of my Devon and Cornwall recap, we saw Dartmoor national park and the Eden Project. Today, we have Polperro, coastal views and several National Trust properties.

Polperro, Cornwall

As a child, I decided I would live in Polperro when I grew up. I loved the colourful town with its narrow, twisting streets and smuggler history. I also loved a tree-lined walk high above the town and adjacent to the sea. My childhood plan was to buy a plot of land in the trees, build a cabin, and live happily ever after.

Things change, and I no longer feel a burning desire to live in Polperro. However, I was glad to visit it again after many years. It was as attractive as I remembered, if oddly quiet out of season. 

Polperro harbour

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Chocolate, hazelnut and cranberry truffle balls {London marathon fundraising}

It has been far too long between fruit and nut truffle recipes. These go some way to making up for lost time. I think they are now amongst my favourite truffles (although I have a tendency to say that with all new truffle ball recipes!). The mix of hazelnut, cocoa, dried cranberries and coconut is gorgeously balanced, and utterly delicious.

Alas, my running this week has not been quite as perfect. I discovered the meaning of "hitting the wall" last Saturday, when I had an experience at mile 17 (of an intended 21) that I hope not to repeat in a hurry. My legs didn't want to move, I felt light headed and dizzy, and I wanted to sit on the pavement and cry. Having run 20 miles the week before, it was a disconcerting experience, only offset slightly by coming down with some kind of virus since. I'm glad to have a possible reason for my Saturday experience, but being unwell means I've missed some shorter runs too. I'm trying to remember that one disrupted week of training won't make or break the marathon, but it is frustrating.

Hopefully next week will bring full health and a smoother long run. In the meantime, these aren't a bad way to top up energy levels, irrespective of physical health.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Vegan custard tarts (and Bite-Sized Thoughts turns 4)

Today is the 4-year anniversary of Bite-Sized Thoughts. Coincidentally, it is also the 9-month anniversary of our move from Perth to London. I think both deserve celebration, and vegan custard tarts are my celebratory item of choice.

Before getting to the tarts, though, forgive me if I reflect just a little on the last blogging year. The top 10 posts of 2014, as per Google Analytics statistics, are...

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Fluffy pear and besan flour pancakes with a caramel pear sauce

I have had the concept of a sweet pear and besan flour dish in mind for some time now. I'm not sure where the idea came from, but it is an idea that got stuck! I thought about making a cake or slice, but in the end these pancakes won out. It helped that I could eat them for breakfast. I'm not averse to the idea of cake for breakfast, but it is a bit harder to justify.

These feature spelt flour as well as besan, in equal parts. I added baking powder for a fluffy, thick texture, and cinnamon and vanilla just because. Apple cider vinegar helps with the fluffiness too.

There is pear within the pancakes, but I served these with a caramel pear sauce as well. It is easy to make, although a food processor or blender is required. Simply blitz dates and fresh pear until smooth, and - voila! With that said, if you aren't in the mood for blitzing ingredients first thing in the morning, maple syrup could provide an alternative.

I highly recommend serving these with berries, but if you can't get hold of any, stewed fruit would work as well.

Fluffy pear and besan flour pancakes with a caramel pear sauce
A sweet spin on besan flour, perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast
Vegan, low fat and wheat free (although note that spelt does contain gluten)
Makes 6 thick pancakes

Small blender or food processor required for the sauce

Author: Bite-sized thoughts

For the pancakes
50g (1/3 metric cup) besan flour (chickpea flour)
50g (1/3 metric cup) spelt flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
165ml (2/3 metric cup) unsweetened almond milk, or milk of choice
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pear, chopped into small pieces

Oil spray, for cooking

For the sauce
4 dates (mine were regular dried dates, not medjool)
1 pear, roughly chopped

Berries or stewed fruit, to serve

Combine the flours and baking powder in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the vinegar, milk, vanilla and cinnamon and whisk well. Add the pear pieces and stir through. Allow to stand while your pan heats.

Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat and spray with oil. When hot, use a ladle or 1/4 cup to scoop batter into the pan. Tilt the pan to distribute evenly, but don't distribute too thinly - think hotcakes rather than crepes. Cook for 2-3 minutes before flipping and repeating for the other side. The pancakes should be golden when cooked. Repeat for the remaining batter.

While the pancakes are cooking, blitz the dates and pear in a small blender or food processor (I used a Nutribullet), until smooth.

To serve, layer the pancakes with a dessertspoon of the caramel pear sauce between each layer. Use a spoon to drizzle more sauce over the pancake stack. Serve with berries or other fruit. 

 What is your favourite way to use besan (chickpea) flour?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sweet chilli tortillas with falafel balls, aubergine, pepper and tahini {London marathon fundraising}

I really loved this meal. The tortillas are great in their own right, but when served with falafel, vegetables and tahini they are really great! Mr Bite had his version with mayonnaise instead of tahini, and he gave his meal a tick of approval too.

I used to be scared of making tortillas, but they really are quite easy. Mine are always misshapen and messy, but I like to pretend that adds character. The ingredient list is half the length of commercial brands, and you can tweak flavourings to suit - like adding sweet chilli sauce in this case.

If you serve the tortillas straight from the plan, they are warm and delicious but still quite fragile. However, they do firm up on standing, and I find that they keep find for a day in the fridge if well sealed or wrapped.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Samphire Brasserie vegan restaurant, Plymouth

Before our recent trip away, I made a note of several vegan-friendly restaurants in Plymouth. Plymouth is one of the largest cities in the south-west of England, and so it has plenty of restaurants to choose from, vegan and non-vegan alike. We ate at Samphire Brasserie, which is located in central Plymouth and was about 30 minutes from the small village where we stayed. 

Samphire Brasserie. We liked the herb pots on the tables.

On the restaurant website, the menu refers to vegetarian and vegan dishes. There has been a recent change such that everything is vegan - good news for me! There are also a few extra dishes not referred to online, expanding the menu choices even further.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

In my kitchen - March 2015

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

Do you remember all the apples I had in my February In My Kitchen post? Some of them were turned into apple pie. It's not in my kitchen any more, but it was delicious while it lasted.

In my kitchen, there are signs of spring. The days are longer, the sun is brighter, and flowers are starting to pop up in local parks. It's rather nice.

Not in my kitchen, but near it...

Perhaps as a result of the weather shift, my kitchen is seeing lots of fruit, yoghurt and cereal. It's replaced porridge as my breakfast of choice, and I'm alternating between fresh blueberries and frozen mixed berries.