Friday, September 21, 2018

Medway Valley Walk - 16 miles between Tonbridge and Maidstone

Long-term readers may know that whilst I am poor at organised sports, I am very fond of being active and being outdoors. In a day-to-day and week-to-week sense, this translates to family walks in the Kent countryside and runs both in London, as part of my commute, and in Kent, on the weekend. (No prizes for guessing which gives the nicer scenery.)

In a bigger pictures sense, I harbour dreams of doing a long-distance walk, the type where you either camp out overnight or find accommodation along your route.

Medway Valley Walk, a few miles out from Tonbridge

I have never done a truly long distance walk and my only experience of walking, camping out, and walking some more was as a 14-year-old working towards the Duke of Edinburgh award. I have done a variety of long single day walks but even those have been fairly rare since we had Mini Bite two years ago.

Last week I managed to rekindle my walking enthusiasm by covering half of the Medway Valley Walk. This is a 28.5 mile route from Tonbridge to Rochester in Kent. Maidstone is roughly half way and I did the 16 mile stretch (25.5km) from Tonbridge to Maidstone.

Locks over the Medway River

Sunday, September 2, 2018

In my kitchen - September 2018

I am linking this into the monthly In My Kitchen round-up, hosted by Sherry of Sherry's Pickings.

After missing a few In My Kitchen posts, it is nice to be back for September. Here are some recent highlights from my kitchen, from new products to old staples.

A new product and an old staple comes in the form of tinned barley by Napolina. I love barley, but don't always love the time taken to cook it. Having a tin on hand is excellent when I need a quick meal (which is often).

Tinned barley

Every work day I buy a coffee from the coffee shop at my local train station. (I know this is a luxury). While they are making my oat milk latte, I ponder the cabinet with pastries and muffins. It has been years since I had a Danish pastry, but recently, they have been taunting me and making me wish a vegan alternative was available. I'm not aware of any vegan Danish pastry offerings so I made a version myself with Jus Roll puff pastry, Alpro custard, stewed apples and strawberries. I can't pretend these were authentic but they were tasty.

Vegan 'Danish pastry' variants

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Checking in, recent meals out and a vegan vanilla caramel butterfly cake

Well, hello. It is odd to log onto Blogger after nearly 2 months away. I confess that I haven't missed the act of blogging but I have missed the outlet for sharing food-related news and for connecting with regular readers. I hope you are all well.

I have been less active than I expected in reading blogs too. I opened Inoreader this week with a little apprehension - how much would have built up? - but found it freeing to look at 2 months of others' activity and know I could pick and choose what to read and what to comment on. It was a lovely surprise to see Johanna's reflection on blogging as part of my catch up. Her post captures many of my views and it summarises how blogging has changed and time can feel stretched for all of us.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London

I think and hope I may be in a position to return to posting a little more often, but will make no promises in this post. I am pleased, however, to announce one update: Bite-sized thoughts is now on Instagram (@bitesizedthoughtsuk). I resisted Instagram for a long time because I thought it would be another thing to monitor and manage, but I like that I can share snapshots of products and meals when I wouldn't manage a full post. If you're on Instagram, let me know and I will look you up.

For now, I am pleased to share some highlights from the last 2 months.

Mini Bite in action

Sunday, July 1, 2018

(Not) in my kitchen - July 2018

This post will be short and sweet, and somewhat bittersweet. After 7.25 years and 1,035 posts I am taking a step back from blogging for a little while. Bite-Sized Thoughts will still be here and I will post intermittently, but the frequency will be less and likely variable.

With more demands on my time these days (a toddler-sized one, in particular!) blogging is still an enjoyable activity, but it also tends to feel like something on my To Do list. I hope in the future that will change and I will post regularly once more, but for now I am reducing the number of things I try to squeeze into each week and freeing up time for family, life and the occasional bit of relaxation (rare, with a toddler!).

I can read others' blogs on the train and so you may still see comments from me, or I may read and not comment, but for those of you who have read Bite-Sized Thoughts for weeks, months or years - thank you for your support and enthusiasm along the way. I look forward to checking in occasionally and perhaps reconnecting regularly in the future.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Center Parcs and visiting family

It's been a busy two weeks in the Bite-Sized Thoughts household, as we followed a long weekend away with a visit from my sister and her boyfriend from Australia. Both were wonderful. My sister is now in France for a wedding but we're looking forward to welcoming her back for two further nights next week.

Coffee #1 in Warminster

We spent most of my sister's visit around our town and the adjoining countryside, but also made a day trip to Bodiam Castle. This is one of my favourite English castles with its intact exterior and impressive moat, but semi-ruined interior that you can climb around and explore without the confines of a tour. The picture below shows Mini Bite taking advantage of the opportunity to clamber. I first visited Bodiam as a 10-year-old and my family have returned regularly over the years, so it was also nice to go back with my sister and add to childhood memories

Mini Bite exploring Bodiam

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Red lentil dhal

How do you spell dhal / dal / daal? I vary back and forth but seem to favour dhal. I couldn't tell you why though and I am not aware of a rationale for one spelling over another.

However you spell it, dhal is a classic lentil dish and a recent addition to our regular meal rotation. I started making it as an alternative to the spiced carrot and red lentil soup that everyone in the house still loves, but which I got a bit sick of having every week. This dish is a great alternative that is still a hit with Mini Bite and Mr Bite (and me) but is a bit simpler to make, and nicely versatile in that you can pair it with rice or bread or even enjoy plain.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

In my kitchen - June 2018

I am linking this into the monthly In My Kitchen round-up, hosted by Sherry of Sherry's Pickings.

We are half way through 2018 and summer is in the air. I have had lunches that mix warm soup with fresh summer produce (above) and my first green smoothie for the year (below). I also seem to have purchased an enormous number of new vegan-friendly products this month, so this will be a very full IMK post!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Easy, everything, summer salad

This weekend is another long weekend in England (we get two in May) and, again, we are blessed with amazing weather. Indeed, it is more summery than spring-like but with the bonus of the vivid greens and bright flowers that spring provides.

Sissinghurst Castle Gardens (National Trust)

After losing most of our last long weekend to illness, we are soaking up outdoor time this time around. A repeat visit to Sissinghurst Castle Garden provided perfect picnic weather, and Mini Bite has taken to moving pebbles and stones around our garden and any other setting that offers the opportunity. She's getting good and messy in the sunshine.

Perfect picnicking

With the summery weather, salads are an appealing choice. Today's recipe offers a bit of everything and is more an idea than a recipe. I added new season tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, local Kent strawberries, celery, walnuts, tofu and chickpeas to a bed of spinach and finished things off with a scattering of alfalfa sprouts and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette (for the observant amongst you, the photos were taken pre-vinaigrette).

Summer and spring in a bowl!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

New product discoveries: Vegan eating when out and about

Most of my supermarket product discoveries appear in monthly In My Kitchen posts, but foods I buy out and about often get neglected. I thought I'd summarise a few recent highlights in this round-up, featuring two restaurant meals and two take-away items.

First up, Fego. Mr Bite and I had a day off together earlier in the year, enjoying some solo time while Mini Bite was in nursery. We enjoyed a long country walk and then headed to Sevenoaks, a neighbouring town, for lunch. Fego was a new-to-us discovery in the Sevenoaks centre and there are 8 other restaurants around England.

Fego vegan-friendly vegetable curry

Friday, May 18, 2018

Carrot applesauce muffins

I'm pleased to say that Mini Bite and Mr Bite are back to full health. Mini Bite, in particular, is eating to make up for lost time and it is sometimes difficult to fill her up. I made these muffins to help get us through days of meals, snacks and more snacks!

We have also managed our long awaited first bike ride of 2018, and I hope to get out again this weekend. The weather is perfect for cycling and it is joyful to be on a bike again after so many months. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Giant wholemeal couscous salad with a tahini-maple dressing

I look back at my last post with a certain amount of wry acceptance. Alas, my hopes of long weekend bike riding and picnicking were not to be. Poor Mini Bite came down with a stomach bug early on Sunday morning and was unwell for the next 3 days. Poor Mr Bite had the same thing on Friday through to Saturday, and I am desperately hoping it ends there. (I had 24 hours of nausea but nothing more dramatic - at least to date!)

On to happier topics. This meal is, to me, the epitome of comfort food. 'Salad' usually conjures up images of crunchy greens but this dish is hearty and soothing. It pairs giant wholemeal couscous with sweet potato and peas, plus seasonings of paprika, turmeric and cinnamon and a simple tahini-maple dressing. You can enjoy it hot or cold, and as a side or main dish.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Orange and date pikelets (mini pancakes)

It is a long weekend in the UK, and contrary to stereotypes of rainy bank holiday Mondays, the weather is set to be glorious. I hope to do our first bike ride of 2018 and fit in a picnic.

These pikelets would work well for a sunny spring outing, but equally, they could cheer you up if the weather is cool and rainy. They are easy to make and easy to eat. Whilst sweet from the dates, they are also free of added / refined sugars.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

In my kitchen - May 2018

I am linking this into the monthly In My Kitchen round-up, hosted by Sherry of Sherry's Pickings.

We all say this regularly is it May? We're more than one quarter of the way through 2018 and I don't know where the days and weeks are disappearing to.

With the new month upon us I am sharing another peak into my kitchen, which this month brings a mix of old and new products.

'Old' includes these red onion and chive bagels from the New York Bakery Co. I've enjoyed them at various points over the years, moving through phases when bagels appeal and then phases when I'm not too interested. Mini Bite actively disliked these, which is unusual for her, but I find them a nice (if denser) change to bread.

Another rediscovered product is kiwi fruit. I have spent the last 25 or so years actively avoiding them, after I ate a kiwi fruit every day for months as a child and then got thoroughly sick of them. It seems 25 years is enough time for my kiwi interest to return.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Easy bean salad with corn and avocado

After the blazing sunshine of a week ago, we are back to more typical April weather with cooler temperatures and some grey skies. Nonetheless, there is progress towards warmth and the sunshine of last week offers a glimpse of what is to come.

Outdoor eating from a week ago

This salad was a perfect match for the sunshine and it would be a great barbecue side dish for the summer months. It is extremely simple - kidney beans, sweetcorn kernels, coriander and avocado. I served it with sweet potato on the side, but you could mix it all together if you prefer. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar is all the end product needs and even that is optional.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Satay sriracha vegan pizza

Homemade pizza remains on our weekly meal plan and most of the time I use a standard mix of toppings: tomato paste, oregano, nutritional yeast, spinach, peppers, tomatoes and pineapple. If we have mushrooms I add some of those too.

Last week, I mixed things up a bit and swapped the tomato paste for peanut butter and the oregano for coriander. Sriracha provided a bonus topping. Using the term 'satay' is a bit generous but I thought 'peanut butter sriracha' might put people off as a title! That would have been a shame, because this flavour mix was delicious and a nice change from a tomato base.

I honoured my usual toppings with spinach, pepper, tomatoes and pineapple. As we had portobello mushrooms I grilled a couple separately and served them as a side to the pizza. However, you could mix up the vegetables to suit what you have to hand. I do recommend the pineapple though!

If you aren't a fan of too much spice you could use sweet chilli sauce instead of sriracha here - or any chilli sauce of choice if sriracha isn't to hand.

Satay sriracha pizza
A vegan pizza with a kick
Makes 4 small pizzas

Allow approximately 45-60 minutes of advance preparation time to make the dough

Author: Bite-sized thoughts

For the base (makes 4 small individual pizzas) -
1-1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup (63ml) + 1/4 cup (63ml) warm water, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups plain flour
Pinch salt

To top -
Peanut butter, approximately 1 tbsp per pizza (I use 100% peanut versions)
Nutritional yeast, approximately 1 tsp per pizza
Fresh coriander, chopped, approximately 2 tbsp chopped per pizza
Baby spinach leaves, approximately 1/2 cup per pizza
Red or yellow bell pepper, sliced, approximately 1/4 pepper per pizza
Cherry tomatoes, sliced, approximately 4 tomatoes per pizza
Tinned pineapple pieces, approximately 8 pieces per pizza
Sriracha, to taste

For the base -
Combine the yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup warm water in a cup or small jug and set aside for 15 or so minutes. The mix will froth up.

After 15 minutes or so, add the oil to the yeast mixture. Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and pour the yeast mix over the top, along with the additional 1/4 cup warm water. Stir with a wooden spoon and then knead the mix together using your hands. Add a tablespoon or so more of water if needed, to achieve a thick dough-like consistency. 

Cover the dough, in your mixing bowl, with a tea towel and set somewhere warm to rise for approximately 45 minutes.

When ready, heat your oven to 160'C and prepare baking trays (you made need to cook your pizzas in batches of two, depending on the size of your oven).

Knead the risen dough for a minute or so. Divide into four balls and roll each one out on non-stick paper to 1-2cm thickness. 

To top -
Spread each pizza base with peanut butter and a drizzle of sriracha. Sprinkle over the nutritional yeast and coriander. Add the spinach leaves, then the pepper, tomato and pineapple. Drizzle over more srirarcha as desired..

Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the base is golden and firm.

What are your favourite pizza toppings?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Loving this week - Spring 2018

After a snowy start to spring, the UK has now leapt into warm weather. The sun has been shining, we have had maximums around 24'C, and the atmosphere is not even spring-like - it is decidedly summery.

Long time readers may recall that one reason we left Australia is that Mr Bite and I don't like hot weather. We burn easily, we aren't inclined towards lying on beaches, and we dislike the long hot Australian summers. Now we're in England, though, both of us are more kindly disposed towards sunshine. I am relishing the current warmth and the opportunity to go outside without coats and scarves. (Nonetheless, I will add that this is probably enough warmth for me. Mid-20's is perfect.)

I have soaked up the sunshine this week at home in Kent, around work in London, and on a work day trip to Cheltenham in Gloucestershire. Here are some photo highlights of England in its sunny glory. Mini Bite features a few times and you can see her clothing requirements decrease as the temperatures have increased!
Mini Bite exploring the Tonbridge riverside (still in a jacket but no longer a winter coat)

Our apple tree is starting to blossom

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Whole dried fruit cake

While I dislike Christmas-style fruit cakes, I very much enjoy cakes and breads that are studded with dried fruit. There are many traditional baking recipes of this type, from the Welsh bara brith to the Irish barmbrack and plenty in between. This cake doesn't follow any of the traditional recipes exactly, but does employ the tried and true method approach of soaking dried fruit in tea ahead of time. It includes some sugar, so is more cake than bread, but doesn't add any fat. There is plenty of flavour and plenty of dried fruit.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Vegan Life Live - pass giveaway!

Regular readers will know my affection for Vegan Life magazine, which I continue to read and enjoy each month. Given this, I am delighted to host this giveaway for a weekend, 2-person pass to the upcoming Vegan Life Live event in Manchester.

The event will be hosted in Manchester at EventCity on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of April. The pass will admit two people to the main event and to the Om Yoga Show and Mind Body and Soul Experience.

Vegan Life Live features a vegan food court, lots of stalls to try new products and undertake some shopping (food and non-food related), cookery demonstrations, and talks on varied topics. I was offered a pass to attend myself and would have loved to, but unfortunately can't make it this time around. (So if you go, please report back!) Full details are available on the event website.

I know not all of my readers would be able to get to Manchester on the weekend in question, but if you can - or know someone who can - and would like to enter, please leave a comment below letting me know. I'll select a winner at random on Friday 13th April and you will be notified soon after.

Enter away!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

In my kitchen - April 2018

I am linking this into the monthly In My Kitchen round-up, hosted by Sherry of Sherry's Pickings.

In my kitchen there is an impressive amount of chocolate. I could attribute this to Easter, but that would be somewhat unfair. In truth, there is always a lot of chocolate in our house and Easter has just increased the quantities further.

Vegan friendly hazelnut chocolate bars, thanks to Marks and Spencer

Not directly related to Easter are dairy free chocolate bars from Marks and Spencer, as pictured above. UK vegans may know the hazelnut studded Vego chocolate bars, which are delicious and moreish and akin to Nutella in chocolate bar form. M&S have brought out a comparable bar of their own, the Gianduja bar. As shown below, it even looks the same as the Vego equivalent. It is also just as tasty and just as dangerous to have in the house! The Novi' block, pictured in the middle above, also features hazelnuts but I'm yet to try this.

Also not Easter-related, albeit bought when buying other people Easter chocolates, are the sour cherries in dark chocolate sold by Lidl. I've had these before and they strike a nice balance between sweet dark chocolate and sour dried cherry interior.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Vegan Easter recipes on Bite-Sized Thoughts

Are you looking forward to the Easter weekend? I know my US readers won't get the 4 day break granted in Australia and the UK, but I hope that wherever you are, you enjoy the opportunity to eat chocolate and celebrate the start of spring (in the northern hemisphere) or changing season (in the south). If you are religious, then of course there will be much more to commemorate too.

Carrot and apple cake with a lemon drizzle dressing

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Deal, Sandwich and The Lane Cafe / Restaurant - The Kent Coast

I'm glad so many of you liked the carrot and red lentil soup of my last post. I made it again this morning and it is equally good this time (fifth time!) around. Mini Bite even managed two bowls of it this evening, despite being under the weather with a temperature.

Lunch from The Lane Cafe/Restaurant, Deal

Like the soup, this post has been sitting in draft form for a little while. It relays sights and memories from a day trip Mr Bite and I made back in February, when we each took the day off work and left Mini Bite in nursery while we went exploring. It is the second time we've done this, and while it feels a bit mean as parents, it gives us much needed and rather rare time as a couple.

On this occasion, we drove the 90 minutes to the nearby towns of Deal and Sandwich on the Kent coast. For those not familiar with England, Kent is a south-east county bordering London on one side and the coast on the other. We are on the London side, and despite living in the area for 2.5 years, we have yet to explore many of the coastal towns.

Deal Castle

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spiced carrot and red lentil soup

I have made this soup four times now, which isn't bad going in the space of two months. It is a hit with all three of us and Mini Bite also enjoys helping me to make it. This is because I pull out the food processor for grating the carrots, and the NutriBullet for blitzing the soup later on, and what self-respecting toddler doesn't enjoy feeding carrots into a food processor and pushing buttons on things that whiz? These steps do make the soup more labour intensive than the chunky vegetable, non-pureed variety, but it is so tasty that I don't mind. Getting Mini Bite involved in the kitchen is a fun development too.

The soup itself is really simple and packs a hearty punch thanks to the lentils. You can play around with the spices and seasonings, and even throw extra vegetables in if you like. This mix is a winner in our household though.

Spiced carrot and red lentil soup
A delicious, satisfying soup that makes 4 generous servings

Blender or food processor needed

1 tbsp dried ground ginger
1 tsp mild dried ground chilli
1 tsp dried ground paprika
1 tsp olive oil
1 bunch leeks, trimmed and sliced
1 L (4 cups) vegetable stock
3 sticks celery, trimmed and sliced
600g carrots, grated (no need to peel)
1 cup dry red lentils
125ml (1/4 cup) unsweetened almond milk

In a very large saucepan or soup pot, dry fry the ginger, chilli and paprika over medium heat for approximately 1 minute. Add the oil and leeks and saute for 2 or so minutes.

Add the stock, celery, carrots and lentils and bring the mix to simmering point. Stir, reduce heat to medium-low, and allow to cook, covered, for approximately 30 minutes (until the lentils are soft). Add the milk at the end and stir through.

Allow the soup to cool before blending in a blender or food processor. Reheat before serving.

Keeps well in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Do you have a favourite soup recipe?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Springing into Dorset

Lulworth Cove, Dorset

We returned yesterday from five days in Dorset, which provided sun, sea and sand if not the weather for swimming (that would have been too much to expect in early March). After our snowy start to spring it was delightful to have 10'C days without rain - especially as this weekend brings yet more snow both at home and around the UK. We were fortunate to have our holiday when we did.

Here are some highlights from the week away...

Lulworth Cove, Dorset

Sunday, March 11, 2018

New(ish) vegan lunch and convenience options

Vegan options are so readily available these days that I am taken by surprise if we are somewhere that doesn't have vegan choices. Generally this only happens in independent cafes or restaurants in relatively small towns. If you are somewhere big, or have access to chain restaurants, there are likely to be multiple vegan choices. Below are some of my recent discoveries and highlights.

An unexpected winner in my recent tastings is the tandoori style beetroot flatbread from Boots. This is one of several new vegan additions to the Boots meal deal range, and I have yet to try the other new flavours because I like this one so much. It features roast beetroot, spicy tikka hummus, a tomato, chickpea, onion and coriander 'kachumber mix' plus vegan mint and cucumber mayonnaise and spinach. I love the fresh flavours and the option of a lighter wrap, with this having half the energy, fat and salt of many options. Perfect for allowing room for snacks/dessert!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

In my kitchen - March 2018

I am linking this into the monthly In My Kitchen round-up, hosted by Sherry of Sherry's Pickings.

I mentioned snow in my February IMK post and March has started the same way. Spring is yet to spring in the UK and last week brought the heaviest snow I've seen. My kitchen overlooked white scenes and a good foot of snow that lasted several days.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Liverpool sights and vegan eating from The Egg Cafe

Last week I had a trip of three firsts. It was my first overnight work trip in the UK (my role doesn't usually involve much travelling, but for various reasons will have a bit more this year); my first overnight stay away from Mini Bite; and my first visit to Liverpool.

Liverpool docks

At 18 months, I know many parents will have left their children overnight before. However, it felt like an enormous milestone for our household. I confess to feeling some excitement as well as apprehension - the excitement mostly centering around uninterrupted, extended sleep. I was rewarded with exactly that: 10 hours of blissful sleep after a prior hour reading in bed. Poor Mr Bite had the opposite scenario at home, with Mini Bite being awake from 1-3am and then starting her day at 5am. It is probably for the best I have no more overnight travel planned.

World Museum, Liverpool

Thursday, February 22, 2018

African sweet potato and tomato quinoa

I've become very partial to the African flavour mix of sweet potato, smoky tomato or paprika, and creamy peanut butter. This dish is a simple twist on this classic combination and it is satisfying, comforting and tasty. It's also very easy.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Best ever fluffy vegan pancakes

A few weeks ago, I took a day of annual leave over a 'normal' weekday. By this I mean a day when Mr Bite was at work and Mini Bite was at nursery. It gave me the opportunity to catch up on various things and have some very rare time in the house alone. As part of the day, I enjoyed a leisurely late breakfast after a morning run. These pancakes were the breakfast in question and they were delicious.

'Best ever' is a serious claim but these are the best vegan pancakes I've tried. I credit this to the magic of aquafaba (tinned chickpea liquid). Aquafaba has a huge following these days and there is a reason for this! It provided a beautiful fluffy texture here.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Eat Dairy Free: Cookbook review + recipe


I was recently given the opportunity to review Eat Dairy Free by Alisa Fleming (BenBella Books, 2018). The book isn't vegan (or even vegetarian) but it includes many recipes which are. The author also includes details of her personal experiences cutting out dairy and offers lots of tips on how to make the transition.

Monday, February 5, 2018

In my kitchen - February 2018

I am linking this into the monthly In My Kitchen round-up, hosted by Sherry of Sherry's Pickings.

In my kitchen, the days are getting longer. Last week it even felt a bit like spring - but then this morning it snowed, proving we are not quite there yet.

To offset the wintry weather and the reduced variety in winter fruit, my kitchen regularly has imported berries. I ease my guilty conscious slightly by trying to find ones that come from southern Europe rather than south America (fewer air miles).

In my kitchen are new vegan 'chicken' slices by Quorn. I was very excited to see this addition to the vegan Quorn range. The slices are very reminiscent of chicken, although a little too processed for my usual tastes.