Chilli Non Carne

So I’m sure most people can make a bean chilli but I thought I’d share my recipe. When I say ‘my recipe’ it suggests I follow a strict method every time I make it, I definitely don’t! Regardless, this is what I made tonight, it’s still bubbling away but it looks hot and tasty and should keep me warm and satisfied for the whole weekend!

Ingredients

Splash of oil – I used normal olive oil but you could use any cooking oil; sunflower, vegetable or even coconut if you’re fancy!

1 onion – I used red tonight, my preference would be white but I buy them in multipacks from Aldi and I’m not gonna buy a bag of white and red onions each week! There’s only so many onions a girl can use.

2 peppers – I always like to include a green, mainly because I know that’s the one that will be left in the fridge out of my 3 pack if I don’t and also the slight bitterness goes well in a chilli, I also used a yellow

About 5 medium-sized mushrooms – I don’t always add these but had a craving tonight and they add an earthy note that I guess makes it a bit ‘meaty’ (I wouldn’t really know!)

2 – 3 cloves of garlic – mmmmmm garlic!

A fair bit of dried oregano and paprika if you have it (smoked paprika would be best)

A sprinkling of frozen/tinned sweetcorn – or fresh (again if you’re fancy!)

1 tin of kidney beans

1 tin of borlotti beans – I don’t usually use these but I have a new-found love for them so they’re going in!

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

Ok so controversial bit of the recipe….. Instead of fresh chilli or chilli powder I used Sriracha hot chilli sauce – firstly because I have neither of the aforementioned and secondly I love Sriracha and thirdly I didn’t want it to be too spicy – I’m going to be eating this on a hangover and I can’t be dealing with too much spice. Basically use whatever you want here to add as much or as little spice as you want!

Method

  1. Chop the onion, peppers and mushrooms into whatever size chunks you wants – I like sort of 1cm cubes
  2. Sauté the veg in a large pan in the splash of oil, finely chop the garlic and add (this is where you would add fresh chilli)
  3. When the veg is soft and starting to go a bit brown add the sweetcorn, paprika and oregano
  4. Follow with the tins of beans (drained) and tomatoes
  5. If you are using hot sauce stir in now and leave to simmer from anywhere between 20 minutes and an hour
  6. Once it’s looking thick and amalgamated have a taste and add seasoning and maybe more spice if it needs it
  7. I’m going to serve with brown rice and my new favourite vegan alternative – soya yoghurt. I’m waiting until tomorrow though by which time my chilli non carne should have had time to sit and get even tastier

How do you make your chilli?!

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300kcal Mexican Bean Pitta

About 2 ½ weeks into my weight-loss/fitness plan and I’m still pretty motivated. On my 500kcal days (5:2 diet) I’m having 200kcals of raw food (fruit/veg/nuts) for my breakfast/dinner. Today this consisted of – 1 carrot, 2 clementines, 100g cherry tomatoes, 100g red pepper, about 5 green olives, a few slices of pickled jalapenos, 2 spring onions and 8 almonds. This is actually quite a tasty and fulfilling lunch – I used to just eat a tin of soup for the same calories and it was nowhere near as satisfying.

Then for tea (dinner/supper….whatever you want to call it) I have 300kcals to play with.

*See my previous post for one option: Moroccan-style Vegetable and Chickpea Stew – I actually made this a 2nd time but changed the carrots & squash to cauliflower and substituted the cinnamon for curry powder and hey presto I had chana gobi for same number of kcals 🙂 *

Tonight though I tried something a little different….

Mexican inspired pitta pizza type thing

Ingredients

1 wholemeal pitta

150g re-fried beans (one of my favourite things ever)

2 or 3 spring onions

About 4 cherry tomatoes

1 heaped teaspoon of capers

2 teaspoons of jalapenos

Some fresh coriander

NB This is a rough guide! If you’re wanting to keep the calories down I wouldn’t mess too much with the amount of pitta or refried beans but an extra tomato or two isn’t going to make much of a difference. Also, if you don’t have capers or jalapenos or spring onions for that matter it shouldn’t impact too much; you could easily slice a bit of red onion or sprinkle a few chilli flakes on instead.

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C
  2. Slice the pitta in half so you have two thinner pitta-shaped pieces of bread – put them on a baking tray
  3. Spread over your beans
  4. Slice/chop the tomatoes, spring onions, capes, jalapenos (or whatever other toppings you may be using) and sprinkle across your beany flatbreads
  5. Cook in the oven for around 10 – 15 minutes, you just want them to be hot and a little crispy
  6. Sprinkle with coriander and enjoy!

For non-dieters you may want to add cheese/vegan cheese or sour cream

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This is another adapted recipe from 5:2 Vegetarian by Celia Brooks

Another Low Calorie Recipe for January

One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to try to eat healthier and lose some weight (original ey!?). I’m hoping that reverting back to a mainly vegan diet (only sometimes picking the vegetarian option when eating out) will automatically contribute to this but I’m also going to make an extra effort by doing the 5:2 diet.

I know it might be ‘faddy’ but to me intermittent fasting makes some sense and I feel like I need structure otherwise I too easily drift into eating rubbish again. So, twice a week I am only eating 500 kcals. I am also going to do ‘rawtill4’ on these days – any raw recipes welcome!

Anyway I made this for my low calorie evening meals this week and it’s pretty tasty and filling so I thought I would share….

Moroccan-style Vegetable and Chickpea Stew

Totals 600 kcals – either 2 large portions or 3 or 4 smaller ones

Ingredients

8 spring onions

600g vegetables – I used celery, carrots and butternut squash but you could also use cauliflower, courgette, celeriac, peppers, turnips or swede etc…

200g tomatoes – I only had baby but it would be easier to use big ones

1 tin of chickpeas

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp chilli flakes

4 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Method

  1. Slice the spring onions and chop veg into bitesize pieces
  2. Put the onions and veg in a pan on highish heat with 4 tbsp of water and a sprinkling of salt, cover with a lid (or baking tray like I did) and steam
  3. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes and assemble the rest of your ingredients
  4. When the veg is starting to soften around the edges chuck in the rest of the ingredients (nicely pre-assembled) and 250ml water
  5. Give it all a stir, bring to the boil and simmer until the veg is cooked.

Adapted recipe from 5:2 Vegetarian by Celia Brooks

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Vegan yoghurt by The Coconut Collaborative

Tried one of these the other day…..

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Since my month of being vegan in November I’m still always on the lookout for vegan options when I’m food shopping or eating out.

Last week I came across this dairy-free alternative to yoghurt in my local Sainsburys. Despite its fairly hefty price tag (£1.50 for a little pot) I thought I’d give it a shot and feedback to the vegan massive and whoever else might be interested. Here are my thoughts…

Now you have to bear in mind that I’m not exactly a yoghurt connoisseur in the first place, I quite often buy them thinking they will be a healthy alternative to other puddings then end up having to throw them out once they’ve gone way past their use by dates. So for any yoghurt fanatics this might not be the review for you.

Basically, I thought it was delicious! The yoghurt part had a bit of a grainy texture but it wasn’t unpleasant and you could really tell it was made from coconut with a nice coconutty background flavour (a negative or positive depending on whether you like coconut I guess). In this case I thought the coconut flavour really complimented the passionfruit and mango compote at the bottom and I mixed them up to make a lovely tropical treat. I knew for sure I’d definitely liked it when I realised I was scraping the empty pot for remnants….!

The Coconut Collaborative look like a fairly wholesome company and claim to plant coconut trees, help farmers and support charities on their website, which is nice and probably goes some way to explaining the slightly elevated price. I also found natural and raspberry flavours in my local Sainburys if they’re more to your taste. It also looks like they also do a berries and seeds one as well as various flavours of frozen coconut yoghurt (must…find…..this!)

Overall, delightful! Although probably only justifiable as a treat 4/5

Guerrilla Eats

I stumbled on an absolute beauty of a find a few weeks ago. Since the Manchester Food & Drink Festival 2014 I have been following The Hip Hop Chip Shop (Untraditional Fish & Chips) on Facebook. When I saw a picture of them squeezing their van into a tight spot at ‘Guerrilla Eats’ I was intrigued.

Guerrilla Eats has been going for 2 years apparently so I’m well behind the times but basically they get together a collection of street food vendors under the same roof every Saturday evening (5pm – Midnight) with a bar, some music and seating to provide food, drink and a bit of a party…..sounded good to me and a perfect spot to take my non-vegan friend to get some scran.

I tweeted @Guerrilla_Eats to ask about vegan options and they got to back to me pretty much straight away….isn’t social media marvellous!? I was pointed in the direction of @Manjitskitchen who indeed confirmed that they would have something for my tea that evening.

Me and my friend headed out. The venue is in Ancoats around the same area as Sankeys in a big open warehouse type place. I think it is also based outside sometimes depending on the weather.

A chalk board near to the door listed the different street food possibilities that were available and coloured-coded strips lead along the floor to guide you to each one. Inside included a raised platform with a tropical themed bar and deck chairs, long tables with benches and a DJ in the shell of a black cab! I surveyed the various options before heading across to Majit’s Kitchen; a beautifully decorated yellow chaat cart and asked what I could have that was vegan.

Turned out that all the options except the paneer were vegan-friendly so I had choice! I opted for a lentil dahl with rice and some sweet potato and spinach pakoras. Dahl is always a favourite of mine and this one was particularly good, not too spicy but warm enough and the rice was perfectly cooked too. A garnish of some raw onion, coriander and tamarind was a nice touch. The pakoras were also yummy; freshly fried, crispy and soft at the same time.  My friend had a Jian Bing from MeiMei’s Street Cart an interesting Chinese pancake thing which I think was equally tasty.

The atmosphere of the whole place was impressive, I didn’t expect many people to be there; the location isn’t exactly central and we went relatively early on in the evening. It was quite busy and if we didn’t have other plans for the night I reckon we could have stayed for a good few hours.

I am definitely going back to Guerrilla Eats and the beauty is that with their ever-changing selection of food stalls there’s going to be something for everyone – vegans, veggies and omnivores alike!! I could definitely see it as a good spot for an evening of food and drinks or even pre-drinks before a night in town. They’re also putting on a NYE party which I’m tempted to suggest to friends.

If you’re into food I definitely recommend you try it out… just don’t get too jealous of the street food vendors living out the dream so many of us have!20141108_185207

Lentil Dahl

GO GO GO TO GO Falafel!

I can’t remember how I came across Go Falafel recently but its existence certainly wasn’t news to me. When the branch on the ‘Curry Mile’ opened I was student and I’d see it every day through the steamed up, rainy, Magic Bus window. Although it intrigued me a little at this point – what vegetarian isn’t drawn in by falafel?! – I already had a favourite Middle Eastern takeaway joint just a few doors down (namely Falafel – this is going to get confusing). Like I say my falafel needs were already catered for and the fancy exterior and offer of fresh juices and smoothies seemed gimmicky and more suited to the student population (I, of course, was different to them – only interested in legit Arabic snacks)

That was until I decided I was going to go vegan and began doing my research…..where could I eat out easily as a vegan?

I knew plenty of places in and around Fallowfield, Withington and Didsbury (Fuel, Greens and The Hub to name a few) but now I’d moved to town I was out of my depth….oh the struggles of a young vegan in a big city!!

Anyway Go Falafel cropped up somewhere along my internet search and I was surprised to read that everything sold in there is 100% vegan. I was excited to test it out and decided to treat myself last Friday lunchtime.

The menu is pretty straightforward; the main options are falafel wraps, a falafel lunch box or a salad box. I opted for the falafel lunch box – it was lunchtime and given it was the most expensive thing on the menu (£5.50) I guessed I’d get a big portion. I also ordered a smoothie – mango, passionfruit and peach.

The lunch box consisted of a selection of delicious and imaginative salads. I can’t remember them all but there was a grated carrot salad with a lemony dressing, a pasta salad coated in a herby pesto, tabouleh, mixed roasted veg and spinach with red onion. I love when salad isn’t just lettuce, tomato and cucumber and Go Falafel really excelled here. In the centre of the salads was a pot of houmous – an essential with falafel! This was drizzled with some olive oil and paprika which was a nice touch. Then to finish off, 4 freshly fried falafel and a warmed flatbread. I hurried back to the office in the rain with my salad and smoothie and tucked in. I wasn’t disappointed and the wonderful variety with each component kept my interest until the end. The smoothie was also great; tropical and sweet as you would expect.

Go Falafel is a great place to grab a bite to eat – vegan or not – and they’re open late too (Piccadilly: 10am – 10pm and Rusholme (Curry Mile): 10am – 2am) so could provide some hangover-reducing sustenance after post-work drinks.

The only downside I can think of is that they are only takeaway – there are no tables or chairs inside and so not a great option if you want somewhere to go and have lunch with friends – then again you could buy your falafel and sit in Piccadilly Gardens (if it isn’t raining!). Overall I was very impressed and I’m looking forward to going back and trying the rest of the menu!  And like I said GO GO GO TO GO Falafel!  5/5  gofalafel.co.uk

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A couple of vegan ready meal reviews

Sorry for the delay with these reviews….another pretty heavy weekend meant I’ve only just got round to writing again.

 

Amy’s Kitchen Black Bean and Vegetable Enchiladas

One evening last week (I think it was Thursday) I came home starving and wanted something quick and easy to eat. Thankfully, and as you will know if you read my last entry, I stocked up last week on vegan goodies to stick in the fridge and freezer. I opted for the frozen enchiladas by Amy’s Kitchen. I had a bit of salad and some frozen sweetcorn to go with it and seeing as it could be microwaved I thought I’d give it a go.

Taking it out of the box it didn’t look particularly appealing and the frozen chives sprinkled on the top didn’t do much to whet my appetite. I wacked it in the microwave and after artistically arranging my salad leaves on the plate and defrosting some sweetcorn it was done.

I’m afraid it pretty much lived up to the appearance. The sauce was ok, the texture was a bit grainy but overall the mildly spiced and slightly smokey flavour was good, if a little salty. The filling was also mediocre. It was nice to have little bits of tofu in there; something I don’t think I’ve had before in a ready meal and I could also pick out some beans and sweetcorn but it was all much of a muchness. Worst of all was the pancakey outside. I don’t know if it’s just me but I expect a tortilla when buying an enchilada but this was definitely more of a pancake. Maybe it had something to do with it being gluten-free or whether it was down to it being American but it really wasn’t to my taste. The pancake seemed rubbery and had no flavour and half way through I was really struggling to eat it. Overall a bit of a disappointment but what can you expect from a frozen readymeal?! Maybe it would be better in the oven (but I’m not going to hang about for 50 minutes to find out!) I’d eat it again if I had to but definitely not one for the shopping list! 1/5

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VegiDeli Meatless Feast Pizza

This was my Sunday evening treat. After very little sleep and far too much intoxication across the weekend, comfort food was needed!! The result of cooking this little (definitely only enough for one) frozen pizza was better than expected. The base – was as predicted and indistinguishable  from a non-vegan base – it was medium thickness, nothing fancy but crispy and tasty. The tomato sauce was also good and pretty standard for a frozen pizza. The cheese definitely didn’t look great  – it remained in solid strands and wasn’t particularly appetising. However, this was my first taste of vegan cheese and actually it wasn’t too bad. There wasn’t tons of greasy melted cheese as you might expect in a non-vegan version but the flavour was definitely there – if anything the cheesey flavour was quite strong! Then the various meatless toppings were all pretty good too, probably nothing like the processed meat they are trying to replicate but then who wants that?!?!  Instead they were soft and salty and smokey and sometimes spicey. Not the best pizza I’ve ever eat but served a purpose and depending on the price I might buy another…. 3/5

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Oh and just as an aside…. I was going through my Vegan Society emails last night (I signed up to their 30 day pledge) and came across this a link to their Making the Connection film. Made up of 8 short clips the film explores the various reasons behind veganism. Although a bit like an educational film that you might watch in school I was really drawn in…. find it here https://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=932A35B5E6B8965A

6 days into veganism; so far so easy

Ok so granted I haven’t exactly pushed the boundaries of vegan cooking over the last 5 days but I really thought I’d be finding it much harder than I am.  I have loads to say already but I will just pick out a few of the main things I have experienced so far….

I spent 2 of the first five days hungover and mainly stuffing my face with bagels, peanut butter and crisps but I have constructed some meals and most importantly not felt like I was missing out!

I’d say the hardest moment so far was Sunday evening, usually I’d order a big cheesy pizza to try and dull the realisation that the weekend is over. After sulking for approximately 3 minutes I decided I would have to find a similarly stodgy vegan alternative. Instead, I stuffed my face with a bagel, Pom Bears dipped in houmous and Metcalfe’s Sweet ‘n Salt Popcorn…I felt pretty satisfied with that and better for not spending money on takeaway and consuming a disgusting amount of calories/fat.

Yesterday I popped into Holland & Barrett (I can barely walk past there without heading inside these days) and perused the vegan fridge/freezer section. I think my favourite part of this challenge is discovering new foods that I haven’t eaten before. I came out with VegiDeli’s Gourmet Meat-free Meatballs and Meatless Feast Pizza, Amy’s Kitchen Black Bean and Vegetable Enchilada and Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Country Pies. I had no need for any of them but felt like having some quick and easy meals in my fridge/freezer would be a good idea for the days where I can’t be bothered to think about what I want to eat. I justified the expense by saying to myself ‘it’s better to bulk buy at the start of the month when I still have some money left than wait until the week before pay day’.  Plus I’m not buying the usual cheese and eggs which cost money! I haven’t tried any of them yet (although my mum did used to buy the country pies when I was growing up and they’re delicious) but I’m hoping I will find a new favourite! Reviews to follow….

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I also popped into Tesco – mainly to see what they have to offer a new vegan and partly because I’ve heard so much about Violife Dairy-free Cheese on the vegan-grapevine and supposedly Tesco is the place to find it. There was no sign of the Violife L and I didn’t come across anything that particularly excited me. I might not have been looking hard enough. I have a Sainsburys close to my flat and to my work and have really been impressed with their vegan labelling of own brand products. Tesco don’t do this which makes everything 10x harder! I did however buy a couple of Glorious! SkinnyLicious Soups (2 for £3.50) I got ‘Starry Thai Sky’ flavour which apparently is a pumpkin and coconut cream soup with carrot, coriander, ginger and less than 1% fat! They were marked vegan and this fact alone probably encouraged me to pick them up – take note food companies!

Fancy soup

A highlight of the week so far has been my first vegan chocolate bar! I’m not what you would describe a chocoholic but when I closed a deal at work I was upset to think I wouldn’t get to have my earned dip in the ‘deal bucket’ (literally a bucket filled with chocolate and sweets). I thought I’d have a look anyway….pretty much everything had milk or gelatine EXCEPT a Fry’s Chocolate Cream bar. I’d always thought it was an old-fashioned sort of bar and given it was launched in 1866 I guess it is! Nevertheless I was impressed by my first chocolate experience as a vegan. The dark chocolate had a lovely snap to it and the centre was a bit like a solid Crème Egg filling.

Old Man Chocolate

Like I said I’ve not been hugely inventive with my meals so far. I accidently bought a second pot of houmous when I already had some in the fridge and coupled with falafel, pitta breads, cous cous, olives and salad it has made a number of tasty meals. I’ve had a couple of Innocent Veg Pots and porridge made with almond milk and dried cranberries for breakfast every day.

A few of my meals have looked like this..

A few of my meals have looked like this..

Next week I hope to be a little bit more productive and maybe follow a few recipes…..watch this space

Preparations for Vegan November

Again a slight diversion from the initial intended use for this blog…After introducing myself as a vegetarian only yesterday, I am now preparing to go vegan for the month of November and therefore this blog will follow suit…

I can’t really remember what made me decide to try veganism. For years now I’ve understand why people choose to be vegan and fully admired them for doing so but the thought of giving up cheese and butter just seemed too hard! More and more over the past year or so I’ve thought about it though and I must have been Googling something vegan to come across Animal Aid’s ‘Go Vegan’ website (http://www.govegan.org.uk/). I absent-mindedly signed up to the ‘Great Vegan Challenge’ and (half)committed to give up eggs and dairy for the month of November to tie in with World Vegan Month (if that’s actually a thing).

I say half-committed because I was dubious I’d be able to do it, I imagined it would be costly and complicated and I didn’t know if I had the will-power or drive to actually stick it out. Anyway, a few days later I received an unexpected package in the post….a little welcome pack with lots of info, help and recipes from Animal Aid.  By this point I had mentioned that I might be going vegan to a few people at work and was talking myself more and more into the idea. The more people recoiled in horror or told me it was a bad idea the more I wanted to do it. So here I am, tomorrow is my last day of dairy and eggs(and the rest) before I start my vegan adventure on Saturday.

I don’t want to ramble on about veganism but I think I will quickly outline some of my main motivating factors.

Animal Welfare: This might shock some of you but I’m not exactly an animal lover. I mean I don’t mind animals but I’m not one for giving £100s to the donkey sanctuary – obviously they do a good job but I prefer to put people first. However, industrial farming is disgusting and seeing the way animals are reared and kept would put Ronald McDonald off his Big Mac. But it’s not only the meat industry that contributes to awful animal welfare – countless male calves are killed because the dairy industry has no need for them and similarly male chicks are killed at just a day old because they don’t lay eggs. If I can opt out of this industry, even if it’s for my own peace of mind then I will do.

Environment: The food industry as a whole is out of control. Farming so many animals for meat, eggs and dairy puts huge pressure on the environment; from growing crops to feed the animals to the methane produced from all the cattle we rear, to transporting all of these animal products around the world. This is a hard one because in some ways I think we’re already fucked but I don’t think I’d be a very good human to just give up on the world.

Health: I don’t really know what’s going to happen with my health during this month but I do know that the majority of the saturated fat I have consumed throughout my life has been through cheese! I’m planning on not using too many cheese/milk/yoghurt alternatives and really cutting back to pulses, beans, vegetables and nuts….surely that’s got to be good for you! And if I’m really honest I’d love to lose a bit of weight during this month.

So preparations so far have included purchasing this lovely looking recipe book; ‘Keep it Vegan’ by Áine Carlin. I’ve flicked through it and some of the recipes sound delicious. I also really enjoyed reading about Áine’s conversion to veganism. She has such a positive outlook on veganism and reassured me that going from a full-blown omnivore to a vegan really wasn’t that hard. So hard can it be for me? As and when I get round to trying her recipes I will let you know….

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In addition I went shopping tonight. This weekend is busy….I’m out straight after work with friends tomorrow evening then have to get up Saturday morning and jump on a train to Reading for a Halloween party. I will no doubt be hungover and in need of immediate food Saturday morning and didn’t want to fail on 1st November so I have been and got a few easy to grab bits and pieces which should keep me going until I’m ready to start cooking lentils and what-not.

vegan provisions

vegan provisions

Overall I’m excited! I love food and I’m seeing this as a new challenge. I’m interested to find out how easy/hard I’ll find it and what meals I will come back to  (the blog won’t be very interesting if I have peanut butter on toast everyday). I don’t know how I’m going to feel when November is over but regardless of whether or not I remain vegan I hope to take something away from it.

For more info on veganism see http://www.vegansociety.com/