Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas...

Christmas decorations in Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Christmas decorations at home

The annual tradition of iced spiced Christmas biscuits (here with chocolate instead of icing)

Christmas porridge (featuring cranberries and chocolate chips)

Shopping centre Christmas festivities (Bluewater, Kent)

Local lights (apologies for the blur)

Outdoor ice skating (I didn't partake)

Wishing you all a very happy holiday period and a wonderful start to 2017!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Festive apricot spiced flapjack

Flapjack is something I think of making quite often, but actually make infrequently. I am not sure why. You only need one mixing bowl and there is no electric beating - two things I value in a sweet recipe. It is also an economical treat and oats pack more nutritional value than flour. Whatever the reason, though, I did make flapjack recently. I am consequently pleased to share this recipe with you.

This version is given a Christmas twist by the use of mixed spice and cloves. I am not sure if mixed spice is found worldwide but it is always in my kitchen. Most versions feature allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cloves, coriander and ginger. You can easily make your own (example proportions are here) but I prefer to buy it because I don't usually have all of the individual spices. For this recipe I used mixed spice and extra cloves, which ups the spice deliciousness.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Barley salad with kale, walnuts, cranberries and an orange-maple dressing

When I bought cranberries for my cranberry and chocolate chip banana bread, I had more berries than the bread required. I used the leftovers for this barley salad. Whilst completely different to the sweet bread, I liked it just as much and have been eating it for lunches across the week.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cranberry and chocolate chip banana bread

On Sunday we went to a pot luck Christmas event, organised by one of the mother's I met through a local mother/baby group. Mr Bite and I are not the most sociable couple (I think it's safe to say we are both introverts!) but with moving to a new country and then a new town, I have tried to make an effort to build our social networks. Our school and university friends are back in Australia, as our are families, and I don't think it's healthy for us to be completely isolated. The pot luck event was enjoyable and a nice opportunity to socialise with other couples with babies.

I took along some hummus and vegetable sticks, as well as this cranberry and chocolate chip banana bread. I adapted it from a non-vegan cranberry banana bread, but opted to swap out the walnuts used in the original for more decadent chocolate chips. I really loved the bread and am pleased to share the recipe now.

Friday, December 2, 2016

In my kitchen - December 2016

I am linking this in to the monthly In My Kitchen event, hosted by Lizzy of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things.

It is most surreal to find myself writing a final In My Kitchen post for 2016. I'm sure I'm not alone in finding it hard to conceive that 2017 is on the horizon. Here is what my kitchen features in this final, December edition of the year.

Besan flour pancakes with Choc Shot chocolate syrup and banana

In my kitchen were some besan flour (chickpea flour) pancakes. We periodically have a pancake night for dinner where Mr Bite makes traditional pancakes and progresses through a reliable string of fillings (tuna and cheese, followed by banana and nutella, jam, lemon and sugar, and/or chocolate syrup). I vary my pancakes each time and on this occasion made a batch with besan flour - simply 1 cup of flour with 1 cup of water. I had enough for dinner and some the next day, so enjoyed various savoury (tahini, sweetcorn and paprika) and sweet (diced apple with cinnamon and vanilla soy yoghurt; lemon and maple syrup; banana and Choc Shot chocolate syrup) fillings. The banana chocolate version, pictured above, was probably the best.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Malt vinegar and paprika vegetable fries

Everyone knows how to make vegetable fries (or chips, as I prefer to call them). However, sometimes it is nice to be reminded of how delicious they can be with just a few simple seasonings. These malt vinegar and paprika fries are such an example and were a hit with me and Mr Bite. I used a mix of regular potato, sweet potato and carrots, although left the sweet potato variety off Mr Bite's plate (he is not a sweet potato fan).

One nice thing about cooking your fries with vinegar is that you need less oil than you otherwise might. Another nice thing is that you get a subtle vinegar flavour with each mouthful. Vinegar lovers can add vinegar after cooking as well, if you really want to pack a vinegar flavour punch!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Easy ingredient mixes (two sweet, two savoury)

If there is one good thing about being sick, it is that feeling well again (even partially well, as in my case at present) feels pretty amazing. Another is that illness can lead you to lazy food shortcuts that actually work very well. I'm sharing four such examples today.

The first is an incredibly simple stir fry using tinned bamboo shoots, fresh baby corn, fresh tenderstem broccoli, about a tablespoon of soy sauce, and about a tablespoon of pureed packaged ginger. You could throw some other vegetables in there as well, and the mix pairs well with all sorts of accompanying proteins and grains.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Vegan Life Magazine, issues 20 and 21 (November and December)

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.

I hope you'll forgive a moment of self-pity at the start of this post. I mentioned last week that our household was unwell with colds, but wanted to document the state of our November thus far. First, Mr Bite was ill with a bad cold and so avoided me and Mini Bite for a week in an effort not to pass it on (=single parenting for me). Then, Mini Bite and I caught the cold anyway. Then, just as I was feeling my worst, Mr Bite developed a gastro bug (=single parenting for me whilst ill, with an ill baby). With all of this I have been sick now for nearly a fortnight, something I blame on not being able to stop and rest when I would have liked to (parenting doesn't include sick leave!). I am grateful I made my barley and chickpea stew before things deteriorated further, and am hoping against hope that Mini Bite and I don't develop gastro to round November off.

With all of that out the way, I am pleased to share some more positive news thanks to the last two editions of Vegan Life magazine. 

The November magazine included a feature on Thug Kitchen, the sassy vegan website and book franchise I only recently learned about. Their crispy spaghetti pie isn't a dish that calls to me but it did make an impressive image!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Illness fighting barley and chickpea stew

I already have a few barley recipes on Bite-Sized Thoughts and pearl barley is one of my favourite grains for adding into soups. At the same time, I have a tendency to forget about it so it can be many months between barley appearances in my kitchen. With being ill this week, I craved it and set about making what was to be a barley containing soup. I packed so much into the saucepan that it turned into a stew as there wasn't room for any more water!

Barley itself doesn't have proven illness fighting benefits, but like all whole grains, it is full of fibre and a mix of vitamins. This stew is then boosted by curry powder, featuring both turmeric (which has proven anti-inflammatory properties) and cumin (with less proven but still reputed benefits), garlic (well documented benefits for immunity and colds), ginger (good for nausea and inflammation), paprika (which contains a mix of vitamins), and heaps of vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals. In addition to all these features the stew is delicious.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Loving this week {November 2016}

It's been a long time (possibly 15 months!!) since I've done one of these 'loving' posts but I am in need of the positive focus this week. Between Trump's election and our household being ill with colds, life has felt a wee bit depressing.

1. Berries. 

My body is clearly craving vitamin C and in the last few days I've demolished two punnets of blueberries and one of raspberries. Also most of a tin of pineapple!

2. The John Lewis Christmas ad.

I'm not ready for Christmas, but since moving to the UK I have enjoyed discovering the phenomenon that is Christmas advertising here. Australia just doesn't have the same equivalent. The John Lewis one is always eagerly awaited and this year's didn't disappoint, even if it was less poignant than some of the previous I've seen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Reflections on pregnancy and new parenthood: Modifying expectations, emotions, vegan eating, exercise, body image, and lessons learnt

Bite-Sized Thoughts won't be changing to a parenting / baby-focused blog, but I did want to write one post summarising some of my thoughts and experiences with pregnancy and new parenthood. In large part this is self-indulgence, as I wanted to organise my thoughts and this is a way to do so. However, I hope the content may be relevant to others too, even if they are not my regular recipe-focused readers. This is a long post and so I have organised it by the headings included in the post title.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

In my kitchen - November 2016

I am linking this in to the monthly In My Kitchen event, hosted by Lizzy of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things.

Another month and another peek into my kitchen. November brings cold weather, dark evenings (daylight savings has ended) and Christmas items in shops (but not yet in my kitchen). It also brings lots of autumn colours and there are some gorgeous scenes around us.

To balance out the dark and cold days, November sees even more new vegan products in my kitchen. It is a good time to be vegan in the UK! The Linda McCartney range has several new vegan additions, including the pulled 'chicken' pictured below.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Chocolate sweet potato cheesecake truffles

For inexplicable reasons I attribute to breastfeeding, I have recently craved vegan cheese. This is inexplicable because cheese rates as one of my least favourite foods and has done since childhood (with odd pre-vegan exceptions, like soft cheeses with dried fruit in them). With these cravings I have bought Tesco soya cream cheese and the new Sainsbury's coconut-based cheddar cheese (or Gary as it's popularly known). I can say with some confidence that the Sainsbury's dairy free cheddar must be close to its dairy counterpart, because despite my craving I don't like it very much! I've had it on toast and on pizza and whilst it's tolerable in my current cheese-friendly state, it's not likely to feature in my kitchen regularly.

The soya cream cheese, on the other hand, was a nice discovery. I like it in sandwiches with spinach and jam (not together!) and it allowed me to make a vegan carrot cake with cream cheese icing. I don't know if my enjoyment of the product means it tastes different to dairy versions, as per my love of vegan cheesecakes but dislike of the traditional sort, or if my taste buds are acting out of the ordinary. Regardless, I'm enjoying the tub while I have it.

These chocolate sweet potato cheesecake truffles are a seasonally appropriate use of the soya cream cheese. Pumpkin could also be substituted if you are on the autumn pumpkin bandwagon. You probably know me well enough by now to realise that once I enjoy a flavour combination (like chocolate and sweet potato in my last post) I want it again - which is why I'm sharing sweet potato recipes in quick succession. Whether you use pumpkin or sweet potato, it's not a bad system to hide vegetables in cheesecake form.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Chocolate orange sweet potato pudding (optionally for Halloween)

All over the blogosphere, Halloween recipes are being shared showing cute treats and spooky meals. I had notions of joining in with some sweet potato witches, decorated with raisins and chocolate sauce. Alas, my creative talents were clearly not up to the task and I post the image below for your amusement only. I can't recommend the product as something worthy of sharing with anyone other than yourself!

A slight fail...

Given the messiness of my so-called witches, I turned them into a pudding instead. This worked just fine although no longer looks particularly Halloween like. It is, however, enjoyable to eat. I'm going to claim that is the main thing, especially as I associate Halloween with the US and I am not American!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pear and ginger quinoa porridge

I know, another quinoa porridge recipe in quick succession! However, I wanted to share this now because it also follows on from my recent pear and ginger crumble recipe. It seems a lot of you enjoy pear and ginger flavours and this offers a way to get them in at breakfast time. Mind you, I won't judge if you choose to have crumble for breakfast too...but if nothing else, this can step in on the days you want a healthy but delicious option.

Like my apple and peanut butter quinoa porridge, this uses pre-cooked quinoa. Thus, it is handy if you have leftover quinoa to use up or if you have a batch made for using across the week. The porridge then comes together very quickly although you could obviously cook the quinoa at the time of making it if you need to.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Vegan-friendly Italian sausage stew

I wasn't going to post this recipe, because it is only lightly adapted from the sausage and mixed bean casserole that Dannii recently shared on Hungry Healthy Happy. However, I ended up making more adaptations than intended, and because I enjoyed the stew I wanted to document the ingredients for future reference. If I'm honest, I also managed to take photos in good daytime light conditions and thought it a shame to waste them!

This isn't the sort of dish I grew up eating, and indeed sausage stews or casseroles are fairly new to me. As a child, we had (meat) sausages fairly infrequently at barbecues. They were a novelty and eaten in a bun or with barbecue themed side salads. Perhaps as a result, vegan sausages now frequent either in buns or alongside potato and salad. However, Dannii's casserole caught my eye as a hearty cold weather dish and as something suited to my current preference for make ahead dinners. (The time immediately before our dinner is usually taken up with bathing and feeding Mini Bite.)

Dannii's casserole used turkey sausages so an obvious adaptation in my dish was to substitute veggie ones. I used the Linda McCartney brand, which is one of our most frequently purchased vegan sausage options. I also put one potato into the stew and paired it with pitta bread instead of a mashed potato side. I left out the beans as I eat so many of them in other formats, added some additional vegetables (carrot, pepper, spinach), and tweaked the seasonings.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Apple and peanut butter quinoa porridge

With the changing autumn leaves and cooler air, I am drinking lots of hot drinks at the moment. Current favourites include ginger tea, black decaf coffee (after the all essential morning caffeinated coffee!) and a DIY chai latte using a chai tea bag, almond milk, cinnamon and vanilla.

Local autumn scenes, just because

I'm also having lots of hot bowls. I'm still loving oat-based porridges, but after bulk cooking some quinoa recently, quinoa porridge varieties have featured too. This apple and peanut butter version was a winning mix.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Pear and ginger crumble

Autumn is the perfect time for warm desserts, and I think fruit crumbles are one of the best warm desserts available. This pear and ginger variety makes a nice change from standard apple and/or berry crumbles. Jamie Oliver provided the inspiration but I made a few tweaks and so am sharing my version as well as linking to his.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Red pepper and lentil bolognese

I have previously shared an aubergine and pepper bolognese that offers a satisfying mid-week (or anytime) vegetable-packed meal. This red pepper and lentil bolognese is a worthy alternative. I paired this version with pasta spirals instead of spaghetti and really enjoyed the result. I know pasta shapes don't matter that much, but somehow they change the feel of a meal and I think this one suits spirals!


Friday, October 7, 2016

Apple cashew weetabix bites

Warm weetabix (or weetbix as they are known in Australia), made soggy with milk and mixed with grated apple, was one of my favourite childhood winter breakfasts. As an adult, I find myself drawn back to that mix at this time of year, now made with almond milk and chopped rather than grated apple. These days I often add sultanas or nut butter to the mix too.

Warm soggy weetabix might not be your thing, but these snack balls take the best of my breakfast bowl flavours and turn them into a delicious alternative to standard fruit and nut energy balls. I suspect you do need to like weetabix to enjoy them but I found apple and vanilla to be the dominant flavours. I made them for snacking, but if you were short on time, they could even step in as breakfast on the go.

Whilst I made these with cashews, any nuts would work. Similarly, I used sultanas but raisins or dates would be other dried fruit options.

Apple cashew weetabix bites
A breakfast-inspired alternative to raw fruit and nut balls
Makes approximately 24 balls

Food processor required

Author: Bite-sized thoughts

4 weetabix
1 large apple, quartered
1 cup sultanas
1/2 cup cashews
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in your food processor and process until fully combined and the mix is clumping together.

Roll teaspoon-sized scoops into balls and allow to chill in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

Submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Do you have any favourite breakfast-inspired snacks?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

In my kitchen - October 2016

I am linking this in to the monthly In My Kitchen event, which has a new host in Lizzy of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things.

Another month! I am reluctant to start with the stereotypical "I can't believe it's [new month]" but I really can't. Life with an infant seems to drag incredibly slowly at times, but then in a bigger sense time is disappearing. It's nearly 3 months since I started maternity leave and nearly 2 months since Mini Bite was born. It's also well and truly autumn, with the long hot days of summer fading into memory as cooler temperatures arrive and autumn leaves become more prominent.

In my kitchen this month there are rather a lot of store-bought items. Our local Sainsbury's had two flavours of Nakd fruit and nut nibbles on a clearance special for 40p per pack. They usually retail for £1.50 each and I'm not sure I could make an equivalent for 40p, so I snapped up rather a lot!

I also tried Sainsbury's 'Free From' fruity granola slice (vegan although the marketing is about being gluten free). They aren't new, but in the past I figured I could make an equivalent myself easily. Making things myself is a bit harder now my time in the kitchen is governed by Mini Bite's naps (or lack thereof!) so I was pleased to give them a try. They were nice, but I do think homemade would be better. I'd favour more fruit and a softer texture.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Porridge and oat combinations: Current favourites

It is that time of year where hot porridge (oatmeal) features as often as cold oats made milk or yoghurt. Truthfully, the cooler weather would have me tipped more to favour porridge by now, but with a little one in the house it is not always possible to find the time to make and eat porridge hot. Made ahead oats are easier. This post features some current favourite combinations of hot and cold oat varieties.

If you liked the sound of my peanut butter chocolate avocado pudding you may be drawn to peanut butter oats topped with chocolate sauce. I mix one-third cup of rolled oats with approximately 200g of unsweetened coconut-soya yoghurt and 2 tablespoons of PB Fit powder. Drizzle with Choc Shot sugar-free chocolate sauce (or sauce of choice) and top with berries or banana. Extra peanut butter is optional!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Vegan Life Magazine, issues 18 + 19 (September + October)

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.

The latest edition of Vegan Life Magazine acknowledges and celebrates the arrival of autumn. Traditionally autumn was my favourite season and I still love the cozy evenings and brisk outdoor walks it provides, as well as the beauty of changing leaves. However, since moving to the UK I have also loved spring and summer for their long days and the increased outdoor options that mild sunshine permits. So, it is with mixed feelings that I welcome autumn this week - but full enthusiasm that I share some of the autumn highlights from Vegan Life. I also share some highlights from the September edition, which I haven't posted on yet.

The cover for this month features an impressive autumn and Halloween themed triple chocolate cheesecake. I love the candied nuts decorating the top and the drizzle of chocolate down the sides, even as I know I'm unlikely to manage either myself!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Peanut butter chocolate avocado pudding

I think the chocolate-avocado combination has become a well-known classic. I've enjoyed it in pudding, mousse and cheesecake-style desserts before. Today's post is a variation on the theme but adds the additional classic mix of chocolate and peanut butter. Using peanut butter powder helps to avoid a too thick dessert (peanut butter and avocado both being rather dense) but you could use traditional peanut butter and thin the mix out with additional almond milk if needed.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Creamy blackberry vanilla smoothie

If I had to compile a list of the top 10 things I love about the UK (and it would be a difficult list to compile), I suspect picking wild blackberries would make it on there. To someone raised in Australia, blackberries are a novelty in their own right. To be able to walk 20 minutes from my house and pick them freely from bushes is amazing.

This smoothie features blackberries picked in such a way, but if you're not able to gather wild berries yourself, store bought, frozen or a different type of berry could be used instead. The other ingredients are simple: kale (for nutrition), avocado (for the creaminess), and vanilla (for a delicious flavour). You can make this with water or your milk of choice. It's not a super sweet smoothie, but it is sweet for a green smoothie in disguise. If you like sweeter drinks, adding a few dates or some liquid sweetener would do the trick.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Easy chicken-style vegan burritos

This is a meal with many shortcuts. The burritos and salsa were store bought, and the chicken-style pieces come courtesy of Quorn. It is also easy to make in advance, something I have found helpful if Mini Bite naps during the day. Whereas workday dinners needed to be made from start to finish as efficiently as possible, maternity leave dinners benefit from two-stage preparation! I confess this is also a meal with photography shortcuts but the recipe was good enough that I am posting it even with the poor images.

The advance preparation here meant cooking up the vegetables and Quorn pieces in the afternoon, and compiling the burritos then, before cooking everything through in the oven in the evening. The dual cooking time means you can get away with chopping rather than grating the vegetables. A bonus if you are avoidant of manual vegetable grating and dirtying your food processor unnecessarily!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

In my kitchen - September 2016

This In My Kitchen post can't really compete with the August edition, but by focusing entirely on baby news last month, I do have two months of food-related kitchen items to share now. An advance warning: there are lots of bought items!

Before I started maternity leave I made a visit to Ms Cupcake in South London, taking advantage of its relative proximity to my workplace and figuring I wouldn't manage to visit again during the year I am off work. Ms Cupcake is a fully vegan bakery specialising in cupcakes, and I bought carrot cake and peanut butter-chocolate varieties of those. However, the store also stocks lots of vegan products and I snapped up a vegan wagon wheel and some peanut butter cups. Both were excellent.

Once I did start maternity leave I found the adjustment out of work a little challenging and some of the pre-baby days rather long. (Although, I do now have moments of wishing I appreciated those lazy, uninterrupted, empty days!) They did give me a chance to wander supermarkets I don't usually get to, with more time than I usually have for food-related browsing.

Whilst we have an Asda near us it is horribly busy on Saturdays and so we rarely visit - going mid-week was a less chaotic experience and allowed me to discover Asda Free From millionaire's shortcake squares and caramel rice squares. They are effectively an Asda take on the Lazy Days brand squares / slices, and good for a less pricey option, although I think I prefer the Lazy Days ones.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Black forest mug cake

I hit publish on this post with a certain amount of pride, as it is the first recipe I've made and posted post-baby. However, there is a poignancy in said recipe featuring 1-1/2 minutes of microwave cooking time and no washing up to speak of! Whilst I have done some more labour intensive cooking in the 3 weeks since Mini Bite was born, microwave mug cakes are definitely appropriate to this stage of life.

This is the third mug cake I've shared on Bite-Sized Thoughts and it is nicely different to the last two (which were sticky date pudding in a mug and banana peanut butter cake in a mug). I'm tempted to say this black forest version is my favourite, but really they are all good in their own ways. Certainly this version is very good, and delightfully chocolatey, with just the right mix of chocolate to cherries to cake.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Thai bean burgers

This is another pre-baby meal and, again, another meal I look forward to recreating one day. Some of the pictures also reveal my late pregnancy craving for vinegar. I was making homemade chips regularly for the primary purpose of smothering them with the stuff! I had very few pregnancy food cravings (just aversions in the first trimester) but in the final weeks I seemed to want malt vinegar in copious quantities.

As for the actual burgers, I have previously shared two Thai-style veggie patty recipes flavoured with ginger, chilli and soy sauce. Clearly I know my burger tastes because today's recipe is really a third variation of the same concept. However, I think it is the best variation yet. These burgers are bigger, heartier, meatier, and sturdier than the patties I've shared before.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Smoky barbecue calzone with aubergine and peppers

Many thanks for your lovely comments on my last post. It's safe to say that parenthood is a whole new world, with many ups and downs, and that I have a new appreciation for the effects of persistent sleep deprivation. However, Mini Bite is delightful and I am learning to ride out the challenging moments and savour the cute, lovely, satisfying ones.

This post shares a recipe from before we had a newborn. I am definitely not rolling out dough or finely chopping vegetables at the moment! However, I hope I can re-create this one day because it was a meal we both enjoyed and I absolutely loved the smoky vegetable filling.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

In my kitchen - The new baby edition


This month brings a rather special In My Kitchen edition, as Mr Bite and I welcome a new addition to our household. With hindsight, some of you may now spot a shift in my posting frequency over the last 9 months - a serious drop early in the year, accompanied by a reduction in recipes (as I felt constantly sick!), followed by a recent increase in recipe posts as I started maternity leave and waited for Mini Bite to arrive.

She graced us with her presence early on Tuesday 9th August, defying many predictions from others that she would be a boy (we didn't find out the sex ahead of time) and ending my impatience at pregnancy stretching on (she came at 40 weeks + 3 days). Our kitchen and house is now significantly more chaotic, but we are loving getting to know her.

I share these early photos with the expectation that I'll be posting a little less over the immediate term!