Monday, November 30, 2015

Yoghurt and goji berry baked oat bars

Sometimes I imagine a dish, make it, and it matches my imagination exactly. Other times, I imagine a dish, make it, and it is nothing like what I expected to make. These oat bars are somewhere in between. When hot, they were too soft and crumbly and I was disappointed not to have achieved the texture I wanted. When allowed to chill in the fridge, they firmed up beautifully and came into their own. A lesson in patience - and trusting ingredients even if initial impressions aren't quite right!

The bars feature oats, puffed cereal, yoghurt, goji berries, coconut oil, rice syrup and vanilla. You can taste each of the flavours and they come together harmoniously. It is the coconut oil that allows for the firm texture when chilled. I used soya almond yoghurt, but coconut yoghurt might be a nice way of continuing the coconut theme.

I can only describe the chilled texture as a cross between baked oat bars and raw no-bake slices. If that sounds odd, it wasn't. I found it very pleasing and a nice way to enjoy a bit of both styles of slice.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Vegan Life Magazine, issue 11 (November 2015)

I receive complimentary digital copies of Vegan Life, which allows me to post reviews with screenshots included. My reflections on the magazine are entirely my own.

Another month and another jam-packed issue of Vegan Life Magazine. It was an especially good month for desserts, as in addition to the triple chocolate brownies on the cover, there was a stunning matcha mint cheesecake within. Isn't the green colour amazing?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sweet potato, berry and pecan breakfast bowl

I feel a little sheepish sharing this before Thanksgiving. The blogging world is filled with intricate, dramatic recipes for tomorrow's holiday and this is very much neither. It's also very similar to my sweet potato breakfast pudding of earlier this year (this dish is even simpler!). At the same time, after Thanksgiving is over, some of you may want a simple breakfast to recover with. For those of us not in America, this breakfast can offset some of the rushed and/or food heavy days that characterise this time of year. It also tastes really good for something with three core ingredients.

I got extra pleasure from this because I was aware, while eating it, how much it characterised the difference between my tastes and those of Mr Bite. Mr Bite dislikes sweet potato and nuts and he barely tolerates berries. I couldn't resist sharing my ingredient list with him as we sat opposite each other over the weekend papers. Not surprisingly, he said he was happy to stick with his simple toast.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

November running highlights - Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon

This is the second post in my new 'running highlights' series. As I am showcasing one run per month, today's post is actually about a race I did in October. It was such a delightful run that I wanted to showcase it anyway. Better late than never, or at least that was my reasoning.

The Royal Parks Foundation half marathon is a race I'd hoped to run last year, but as it is so popular, they operate a ballot system for entries and in 2014 I didn't get a place. Fortunately, I did get one for 2015. The race has been going since 2008 and the course winds through four of London's eight royal parks: Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens. Along the way runners pass Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Downing Street, and are given glimpses of the Houses of Parliament and Marble Arch. You can't really ask for a better central London route.

The race was on the 11th October, which was 2.5 weeks after we returned from Italy. I planned my training schedule accordingly but knew I wasn't going into the race with a 'perfect' running lead up (not that there is really such a thing). I was also very aware of slowing my pace down for the London marathon back in April. Whilst I'd tried to speed up again over the subsequent 6 months, I was't expecting to get a personal best in this race. At the same time, having run four previous half marathons and one full marathon, I did have more confidence in my capacity to finish.

Waiting to start

Friday, November 20, 2015

Vegan banh mi sandwich

After my delicious bahn mi lunch at Mono, I returned from Scotland determined to make bahn mi at home. This led me to look up the dish and learn that bahn mi really just means bread. To be specific, baguette made with rice flour as well as wheat flour. A bahn mi sandwich, on the other hand, refers to the complete dish: a filled Vietnamese baguette with meat or tofu, picked vegetables, chilli, and coriander (cilantro).

My version used a standard wheat baguette, but I tried to stay true to the spirit of Vietnamese sandwich fillings. Online information suggested I could pickle the vegetables quite briefly - for an hour or so - rather than needing an extensive pickling process. I used carrot, cabbage and radishes but cucumber and daikon would be authentic additions to the mix. Fresh coriander isn't in season here, but if you can find it, it would be a great finishing touch. As it is, I used the dried variety in my tofu marinade.

I've shared a few recipes lately with the note that you don't really need to press your tofu. Here, you do. Allow time to press it in advance and then marinate it for 30 minutes or so before cooking. The result is crispy thin slices that really make the sandwich.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Glasgow, including vegan food at Mono Cafe Bar and Nippon Restaurant


Like so many places, Scotland has a bit of an east/west divide. This is particularly true for Edinburgh (the eastern capital, which is refined and elegant) and Glasgow (the larger western city, which is edgier and scruffier). I ought to love Edinburgh, but I hope I won't offend anyone by saying that in fact I love Glasgow.

Central Glasgow

My views of Glasgow may have been shaped by the weather and the food. The weather was autumn showcased to perfection. The food was boosted by a host of vegan eating options, and the particular appeal of Mono, a fully vegan cafe / bar that we ate at twice.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Lani Muelrath's The Plant-Based Journey: Review, give away + recipe for cranberry sauce with dates and oranges

I am delighted to share this review and give away of Lani Muelrath's new book The Plant-Based Journey. Whilst there are many vegan-focused recipe books out there, this contribution stands out because it focuses more broadly on the whole lifestyle of plant-based eating. There is easily accessible science (reminiscent of The China Study but in summary form); helpful descriptions of plant-based food groups and how they can combine to give different meals; an actual meal plan example; and then both recipe templates (including customizable bases for burgers, soups and bowl meals...) and specific recipes.

Lani Muelrath has an impressive reputation as an author, speaker and teacher on plant-based and mindful living. She has a qualification in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University and is active in promoting a plant-based lifestyle in the US. In The Plant-Based Journey. she draws on her own 40-odd years of plant-based eating experience.

Cranberry sauce with dates and oranges

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Purple vegan lasagna

If I'd been more organised, I might have shared this post for Halloween. Purple lasagna would have been particularly fun then, but as it is, we're having it in mid-November. I'd like to think it is fun now too - difficult to photograph well, but fun.

As with my previous purple meals, the colour in this dish comes from purple carrots. It amazes me how much colour they are capable of providing. They usually cost a little more than regular carrots, but I get such pleasure from them that I think they're worthwhile every now and again.

Other than carrots, this dish drew inspiration from the lasagna with hummous I made earlier in the year. I used tahini here instead of hummous, but either would work well. Whilst purple carrots don't taste very different to regular ones, their dark colour conjures up a depth of flavour that tahini complements nicely.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

South-west Scotland

Before our recent trip, I had been to Scotland twice, but both times only to Edinburgh and both times only briefly (a day trip and an overnight trip). I am sure it goes without saying that there is a lot more to Scotland than its capital city, but I will note it anyway, because the rest of the country was so very different. It blew me away and if you haven't visited Scotland, I urge you to go, and go west and north in particular!

Culzean Castle, Scotland

I'll get to the north of the country in a future post, but am starting where we started - in the south-west corner. We based ourselves in Dumfries, which is a small town 30 miles north of the English border and 75 miles south of Glasgow. We chose it as a base for the south-west and because it was one of the closest Scottish towns we could drive to. However, as we only had 1.5 days in the region we didn't spend much time in Dumfries itself, and even less there in daylight. What we did see was pleasant enough but I can't pretend to have a good grasp of the town.

Dumfries' 15th century bridge

What we did see in the area were two magnificent castles. Culzean Castle, pictured top and below, is the flagship property of the Scottish National Trust. As English National Trust members we could visit for free, and got in just before the property shut for winter (it shut in November and we visited on the 30th October!).

Culzean Castle

Sunday, November 8, 2015

In my kitchen - November 2015

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

We're back! Scotland was wonderful and I look forward to sharing photos and highlights in future posts. For now, though, I am joining Celia's monthly In My Kitchen series to summarise some of what is happening in my kitchen this November.

In my kitchen, there is the tried and true mix of (soya) yoghurt with oats and fruit. I go through phases with this combination - sometimes I can't get enough and then suddenly I'm over it for a little while. Right now, I'm in the can't get enough phase.

In my kitchen, there are assorted products from Morrisons. Until recently, this was the British supermarket we didn't shop at, on account of not having one within walking distance in London or particularly close to our new home in Kent. In Scotland, though, they were the most frequent chain and we enjoyed discovering their products. I was especially pleased to see vegan millionaire's shortbread (caramel slice) in their own brand 'free from' range. I liked it a lot and more so than the other vegan millionaire's shortbread I've tried.