Sunday, February 28, 2016

Winter running highlights - Garmin Forerunner 225 and avoiding mud

It's been 3 months between running highlights posts. In part, this reflects the challenges of running in winter. There have been some beautiful moments - like running in snow, and on clear crisp mornings with the sun coming up - but also lots of grey skies, drizzle, and mud. Mud is a new challenge for me as this is the first winter I've run in England outside of a city. London parks provided mud too, but the Kent countryside excels at it!

However, I have hit on a couple of scenic routes that are mostly mud-free. It has also been 3 (nearly 4) months since I received a Garmin Forerunner 225 as a birthday present. Today's post combines one winter route highlight with some reflections on the new watch.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Winter vegetable and kidney bean stew

This is not a recipe that will win points for beauty, innovation or excitement. It is, however, a recipe that may win you over with its hearty but nutritious simplicity. You probably have all the necessary ingredients to hand and it is budget-friendly to boot.

Sometimes, dinner is about what the cupboard can provide with minimal fuss. It is always a bonus when those meals are fuss-free but taste-filled and this was definitely such an example. It isn't radically different to other stews I have shared, and I have no doubt you make similar things yourself, but I'm a big believer in sharing the simple dishes as well as the complex ones. The flavourings in this come from oregano, paprika and maple syrup - as well as the vegetables themselves, of course. I know I'll be pleased to have the recipe to refer to again in the future.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Vegan Life Magazine, issue 13 (March 2016)

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 always love dipping into the latest edition of Vegan Life Magazine and this month was no exception. For instance, I learnt on the Vegan News page that Costa (one of the biggest UK coffee chains) now stock a vegan fruit crumble bar! Until now I've found Costa to have very little to offer vegans in terms of food, so this was a  welcome discovery (especially as I like their coffee and vegan-friendly soy chai lattes).

I was also really taken with the idea of sweet potato roulade, or cannelloni. The recipe below advises cutting the skin and ends off a raw sweet potato so it is roughly block-shaped, and then slicing thinly using a mandolin or very sharp knife. You then cook the slices briefly in boiling water, as you would pasta, before filling with tofu 'ricotta' or another filling of choice.

Equally appealing, if a different sort of recipe, was a banana-coconut cake that sandwiched coconut cream between two layers of banana cake. It would take banana bread to a completely different level.

In the new products section, I was interested to read about the Pip & Nut nut butter range - as I had spotted the jars that very morning in Sainsbury's. Apparently the supermarket has just started stocking them. The range uses only whole ingredients (no refined sugar, palm oil or other additives) and comes in intriguing flavours like coconut almond. I didn't buy a jar when I saw them as they are a little pricey (£4.95), but I'll look out for an opportunity to buy them on special.

I was also really interested to read a feature on the Fry family - the makers of Fry's vegan products which I think many a vegan (and non-vegan) know and love. Certainly Fry's schnitzels are generally to be found in our freezer. I knew the company started in South Africa but hadn't realised the original founder, Wally Fry, began creating vegan products after he was commissioned to build a pig plant. He ended up being so horrified by what he'd help create that he turned vegetarian as a result. Wally started making meat-like but fully veggie products in his home kitchen but over time, demand from the family's social circle led to an initial appointment with a supermarket rep. The company has since gone from strength to strength but has remained family-run and continually works to assist vegan-friendly charities and causes. It was an inspiring story and makes supporting the brand even more appealing.

So there we have it - another month of vegan news, trivia and inspiring recipe ideas.

What are you enjoying reading at the moment?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cacao pecan truffle balls

When I shared my recent round-up of chocolate recipes, I realised I was quite some time since I'd shared a new chocolate snack or dessert. There was hot chocolate a month ago, but my last really chocolatey recipes were in December. Too long! These cacao pecan truffle balls are to make up for lost time.

These balls differ to previous ones I've made by virtue of using pecans (in my view one of the most decadent and delicious nuts out there), raisins instead of dates (which I think give a more truffle-like texture), and both cacao powder and cacao nibs. They're easy to make and very pleasing to eat.

Pecans are a rather expensive nut so if you prefer, you could substitute almonds or walnuts for half of the nut quantity. However, I recommend keeping at least 1/2 cup of pecans because they really do make these truffles a little more special.

Cacao pecan truffle balls
Easy, delicious and beautifully chocolatey
Makes about 20 balls

Food processor required

Author: Bite-sized thoughts

1 cup pecan nuts
1 cup raisins / sultanas
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp cacao powder
1 tbsp cacao nibs

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and clumping together. 

Roll dessertspoons of the mixture between your hands to form individual truffle balls. The balls can be eaten straight away but are best after an hour or so in the fridge.

Submitted to Healthy Vegan Fridays.

What snacks are you enjoying at the moment?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Satay tofu noodles with snow peas

I have previously shared recipes for satay tofu and satay sweet potato noodles. However, this dish manages to be different from - and better than - both of those past meals. In fact, I liked it so much I am already planning a repeat batch.

I use the term 'satay' quite loosely here as I know authentic satay dishes will have a few extra ingredients. I could have called this peanut butter tofu instead as there is a very generous quota of peanut butter in the mix. Between that and the tofu it is a great source of vegan protein and the snow peas and noodles make delicious accompaniments. You could use a greater range of vegetables if you prefer, and broccoli comes to mind as a particularly good alternative or addition to the snow peas.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Top 10 chocolate recipes from Bite-Sized Thoughts

It is the time of year where chocolate recipes and heart-shaped products abound. In the past I have shared a chocolate strawberry tart in honour of Valentine's Day and in 2014 I posted a round up of chocolate recipes from various websites and blogs. This year, I thought I'd share my favourite 10 chocolate recipes from Bite-Sized Thoughts.

So, in no particular order, here are my all-vegan, all-chocolate highlights, for whatever you have planned this Sunday.

Tiered orange sponge cake with chocolate ganache icing. As a bonus, it is diabetes friendly.

Chocolate cranberry layer cake with a cranberry ganache icing. A different, equally delicious, cake option.

Chocolate thumbprint biscuits with jam and peanut butter. Easy, tasty, and fun to make.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Apple, pear and raisin quinoa pudding (or rice pudding)

Two (mild) British winters in and it has happened: British pudding cravings. Rice pudding cravings, to be exact. Not even the cold, yoghurt-like rice pudding snacks I sometimes enjoyed in Australia (Le Rice, anyone?) but actual, proper, hot rice pudding. If I'm not careful, I'll soon be wanting steamed suet puddings with custard.

As it turned out, my rice pudding became quinoa pudding, because when I looked up how one made the original I was perplexed by references to "pudding rice". I could have used risotto rice instead, but didn't have any of that either. I know myself well enough to avoid buying ingredients on a whim if possible, so quinoa pudding it was. 

I have actually made a quinoa breakfast pudding before, when recipe testing for Ricki Heller's Living Candida Free. However, that was an oven-baked dish and this is a creamier, stove-top affair. This is also firmly suitable for pudding, although by virtue of the ingredient list, you could have it for breakfast too. By using two forms of fresh fruit as well as dried raisins, you hardly need to add extra sugar and there is nothing to stop you enjoying this first thing in the day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In my kitchen - February 2016

I am linking this in to the monthly In My Kitchen event, hosted by Maureen of The Orgasmic Chef.

In my kitchen this month, I have a surprising number of coconut products. I've obviously been in a coconut milk phase without even realising it. There are two flavours of the Rebel Kitchen coconut mylk drinks (chocolate and banana), which aren't cheap, but are nice to have in my handbag or on standby in the fridge at work.

My kitchen has also housed my favourite coconut yoghurt, the chocolate flavour by CoYo. It is delicious and very satisfying. 

To round out the coconut products. Tesco have a new coconut rice pudding with strawberry puree. I like it a lot, and also like that the puddings come in sturdy plastic tubs that are good enough to wash and re-use.

Another new and exciting product is vegan Quorn pieces, which some of you may have seen me mention on Facebook. I've been waiting for the vegan Quorn range for months and this is the first product I've seen. I love the pieces, which mimic chicken in texture exactly, and from memory taste pretty similar to it too. I've used them in a tomato-based spaghetti dish and had some plain with soy sauce (they're that good!).

Also in my kitchen, as well as elsewhere in the house, are new books. By 'new' I mean 'second hand'; my grandparents are trying to downscale their belongings and I visited on the weekend and took some 60+ books away with me.

Our bookshelves are now at capacity, but we're delighted with the new reading material, and it's a bonus to have these books linked with my grandparents.

In my kitchen there have been several melons. I seem to be in a melon phase - honeydew and cantaloupe are featuring regularly.

Last but not least, in my kitchen there have been English muffins with marmalade. Joey of Flicking the V's mentioned eating them in one of her recent posts, and it sparked off a major craving in me. They're delicious.

What is happening in your kitchen this month?