Monday, 26 January 2015

Breakfast Banana Bread

Apparently it's National Breakfast Week here in the UK. It seems it stated yesterday, but my week starts on a Monday so here's my first breakfast recipe!

I do love a good breakfast. This morning, I had half a bake-at-home baguette packed with Violife vegan cheese - great start to the day! The recipe I have for you today is a little healthier than my breakfast was this morning, but just as tasty. It's also a great way to use up any avocado you have lying around - that's how it came into being in the first place!

Breakfast Banana Bread
(serves 8)

1/2 avocado
3 bananas
8oz self-raising wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp salt
3oz raisins
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp soya milk
at least 2/3 cup soya milk
2 tbsp liquid sweetener plus extra to drizzle (I used Sweet Freedom)
2 tbsp chopped nuts

1. Grease and flour (or line) a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F.
2. Mash the bananas and avocado together in a large mixing bowl.
3. Sift the flour and salt into the banana mixture. Add the raisins, vanilla extract, flax seed mixture, 2/3 cup soya milk, and liquid sweetener, and mix.
4. Add additional soya milk if needed to make a smooth batter, Try not to overmix.
5. Sprinkle with the chopped nuts and drizzle with extra liquid sweetener.
6. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1.5 hours, until the cake is golden brown and has a springy texture. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

A Very Vegan Birthday - Part Two

The second part of my birthday celebrations took part on Saturday, when my mum came up to see us and take us out for lunch.

I thought it would be nice to try somewhere new, so after a bit of research I settled on the vegetarian cafe at South Square in Thornton, Bradford. South Square is a little cobbled square, set back from the road, and houses some artist studios, a cafe, a craft shop, and a gallery.

The menu was pretty standard, with a selection of sandwiches, baked potatoes, etc, but the specials board was what really caught my eye. All the vegan options were clearly labelled on both menus.

I opted for the Mediterranean Vegetable Crumble, which was lovely. There was a nice selection of vegetables, and the savoury crumble was delicious. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo as we were halfway through a conversation when the food arrived and I just started eating! Oops!

I did manage to take a photo of my dessert though... I think it was named as a Berry Slice, and it was effectively another crumble, only sweet this time! It was gorgeous, and came with soya cream - YUM! (Again, this was the only vegan cake option but, oh my, it was a good one.)

We found the prices very reasonable, and decided that it's definitely somewhere we would like to come back to. As well as the food being tasty and good value for money, the cafe itself was a lovely place to be. It was cosy, with enough tables to make good use of the space but not so many that it felt crowded, and art on the walls. It was also nice to look around the gallery and craft shop.

I also received a lovely selection of vegan bits from my mum and sister, some of which seems to have disappeared already!

The Vego chocolate bar had no chance of lasting more than a day. I love that stuff. There was also a little bar of Ombar chocolate but that disappeared before I took the photo... And a lip balm which I had used and left on my desk, so that didn't make it into the picture either!

The white chocolate bar was very tasty, and it's one I've not tried before, It wasn't as sweet as the vegan white chocolate that I have previously tried, which was nice as they can be way too sickly. To be honest, I don't remember what dairy white chocolate tastes like (despite it being one of my favourite types of chocolate in my non-vegan days), but Mr Hatter liked it so it must be good! He tends not to like vegan chocolate that much, but he liked this one so much, we split the bar down the middle!

The Pea Aubergines are something I'm really looking forward to trying as they sound so strange. I'm imagining them to taste like tiny little aubergines, but I have no idea really. Not sure what I'll be using them in but I will think of something...

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A Very Vegan Birthday - Part One

I turned 30 last weekend. I was planning to throw together some sort of celebration but I've been so busy at my day job the last few months that my birthday sort of crept up out of nowhere. I didn't want to just go out drinking, and the only thing on at the theatres near me in January is panto. No.

Luckily, Mr Hatter got fed up of waiting for me to make a decision and decided to go ahead and organise something for me. YAY! A non-decision-making-day could possibly be the best present I've ever had. (Can you tell I'm somewhat indecisive?!)

Before we start, I'm going to warn you that the photos in this post may not be the best quality, as I was focussing on enjoying the day rather than finding the best lighting for my photos...

The day began as any birthday should - with friends and cake for breakfast!

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you've probably heard me swoon over the cakes from That Old Chestnut a number of times. This time, I got a whole cake of my very own. And it wasn't just any old cake, it was a caramel apple cake, and it was BEAUTIFUL! Also, this is the first time since I've been vegan that I've had a proper birthday cake that I haven't made myself. I was SO EXCITED! Mr Hatter didn't think he would manage to bake a vegan cake, but he made an amazing choice in this.

At lunchtime, I was taken to The Bear in Todmorden, which is a vegetarian cafe that has been recommended to us previously but we hadn't yet got around to going. A birthday is always a great excuse to go somewhere new and we're glad we did! We shall definitely be returning at some point.

The menu has all the vegan options clearly labelled, and at the counter there is a list of the salads available, a specials board, a huge selection of drinks, and a range of cakes - again, vegan clearly labelled where applicable.

We ordered some very tasty bread for the table,

and I opted for the "Cauliflower Kofta, Roast Veg and Hummus Mezzalina" from the specials board for my main.

I always forget how much I enjoy cauliflower when I've not had it for a while. This was amazing, and I would definitely order it again.

I did also order a fancy drink and a slice of cake but completely forgot to take photos of them... The drink was called "Golden Milk" and was a mixture of heated coconut milk, agave nectar and turmeric. It was very tasty, and I found it lovely that there were warm alternatives to tea and coffee, as I don't like either! I usually end up with a hot chocolate as a replacement but that doesn't really work with a meal, so to have some other hot options to choose from when we'd got in from the snow was great. The cake was a chocolate cake which was covered in seeds. It was a nice cake, but I'm not sure the seeds really added anything - although this might be because the chocolate cake on display was just topped with chocolate frosting/drizzle and that's what I was expecting. (The only vegan cake option was the chocolate cake.)

All in all, the food was really good and I'm sure we'll be going back there. The service wasn't amazing and it seemed to take a very long time for our food to arrive. They were constantly busy and all the tables were full, so I guess we can't blame them - but it did feel a little like we had been forgotten. Maybe it's just because it was a snowy day and everyone wanted somewhere warm to chill out!

Another vegan surprise came that evening in the form of some rather fancy champagne.

According to Barnivore, Lanson have stated the following:

Company email (July 2013): 
"We confirm you that we do not use any products from animal origins including eggs and dairy products in the production of our champagnes. As a consequence they are suitable for vegetarians and vegans."

Wow! I love it when brands are accidentally vegan! And this champagne was NICE. Even Mr Hatter, who doesn't normally like champagne, enjoyed it. So we had pink champagne out of My Little Pony themed champagne glasses... how grown-up we are! Haha! (I wouldn't have it any other way.)

It's not a great photo of the pretty glass, but you should check out Miss Orcky's Etsy shop, ChicUniqueGeek. She makes some beautiful products, perfect for us geeks! She kindly brought a few along so we could match. Of course, Fluttershy is my spirit-pony.

Lastly, I just want to show you a couple of my birthday presents:

I love getting new cookbooks! I often feel guilty buying them for myself as I already have so many, so it's really nice when I get them as presents because I can enjoy them guilt-free! I've heard great things about both of these books, so I'm looking forward to getting stuck in. 

A note on Thug Kitchen - Mr Hatter and I had discussed this book months ago when the pre-release hype was getting going, as the idea of a recipe book where they incorporated swearing sounded like a fun idea. However, I read a blog post the other day about Thug Kitchen, which started out as an anonymous blog. Personally, I have never read the blog and haven't even started on the book yet but I had heard a buzz surrounding the release of the book about how good it was meant to be - and the slogan on the cover "eat like you give a f*ck" spoke to me. Reading some articles that have been written since the release, it seems that this book has offended many people. The style of writing includes many phrases that would usually be associated with African-Americans, but the authors have come out of their anonymity and are a young white couple from Hollywood. This was a shock to a lot of people, and has been seen as a form of racism which hasn't been helped by some of the comments the couple have made (for example, verifying that the intention was that you read the recipes in an African-American accent). Apparently even the title gives this suggestion, although I didn't pick up on it. One article suggest that the word "thug" is associated with black people, but this isn't an association I would make, so this is maybe more from an American perspective? For me, the word thug calls to mind the stereotype of a football hooligan, so it never crossed my mind that this could be considered a racial slur. I'll let you know what I think when I've read the book...

Sunday, 11 January 2015


Here's the first box of the year from The Vegan Kind, and I'm not disappointed!

In the box this month, we have...

1. Hectares Sweet Potato Crisps Sea Salt and Black Pepper
2. Power of... Supoerfoods Cereal Pots (Various Flavours)
3. Greenfrog Soap Nuts
4. Pulsin Raspberry & Goji Raw Choc Brownie
5. Clearspring 100% Organic Fruit On The Go
6. Creative Nature Tropical Treat Bar

1. Hectares Sweet Potato Crisps Sea Salt and Black Pepper

I made the mistake of opening my box as we were preparing lunch, so these crisps made it onto our plates before I even took a photo! (Yep, that's an empty packet in the pic above!) I've had Hectares crisps before, and they do make a nice sweet potato crisp. I think this flavour is my favourite so far - It even won over Mr Hatter, who isn't the biggest fan of sweet potato!

2. Power of... Supoerfoods Cereal Pots (Various Flavours)

This breakfast pot is made from 50% superfoods and 50% gluten free organic oats. You can eat this hot or cold, by adding the amount of your chosen temperature water to the relevant line on the tub. I got "Power of Brown" - Cacao Maca as my flavour. It sounds tasty - I'm looking forward to a tasty hot breakfast one morning!

3. Greenfrog Soap Nuts

I've had Greenfrog cleaning products before, and I've had soap nuts before, and found both to be good - so I'm expecting good things from these soapnuts! If you've not heard of them before, soapnuts are a natural way to clean your laundry. You just pop 6-8 half shells into the bag provided, put it in the machine with your washing and away you go. You can use them for 2-3 washes and then just throw them in the compost/veggie recycling.

4. Pulsin Raspberry & Goji Raw Choc Brownie

I really like Pulsin. They make some great tasting snack bars that are also super healthy for you. Even Mr Hatter thought this was fantastic, and I wouldn't have pictured him as the raw chocolate loving type. This little brownie bar is packed full of anti-oxidants, vitamin C, protein and iron - with no added sugar! And it tastes great!

5. Clearspring 100% Organic Fruit On The Go

I'll be honest, I'm a little skeptical about this one. It's a pouch of fruit puree that you can take "on the go" and eat through a tube in the top. To me, that just sounds like eating a pouch of baby food and I can't get my head around it. I have had their pear puree before and know it tastes great though, so I'll be baking something with this rather than eating it straight from the packet.

6. Creative Nature Tropical Treat Bar

Creative Nature is another company where I'm always happy to try their snack bars. The ones I've tried tend to be fruity, and this one had the texture of a soft flapjack - yum! The description calls it a "detox bar", but you could enjoy this at any time you would have a regular snack bar. It's full of nutrients, so works a great pick-me-up.

This month's recipe card came with two (!) recipes from Fresh Heather. We got a recipe for Homemade Almond Milk, and a Brownie recipe that uses the leftover almond meal from the milk-making process. I've been wanting to try my hand at making my own nut milks for a while now, but I don't think my food processor would be strong enough. Maybe I'll just chance it and test this recipe out! The milk and the brownies both look yummy, and good for you!

This month's charity is Veganuary, who run a campaign throughout January to help people try out a vegan lifestyle. They seem to be gaining momentum and support, which is fantastic.

If you like what you've seen, you can subscribe to your own monthly box here for a cost of £10 per month plus shipping.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Chocolate Heaven Gift Box (Review)

Just before Christmas, two of my favourite vegan companies got together to create something amazing...


I was lucky enough to receive my box before Christmas, so this chocolate got eaten with the other Christmas chocolate we had in the house... meaning we can get back to our usual reasonably-healthy eating now!

First up we have some snowflake-printed chocolate shards. One of the (many) things I love about Considerit Chocolate is how smooth their chocolate is, and the fact that it's never bitter like some non-dairy chocolate can be. It's just the right level of sweetness, with a real melt-in-your-mouth feel to it. There were two bags of these but as Mr Hatter isn't the biggest fan of dark chocolate (and he already had a huge stack of his own treats), I got to eat both bags!

Next we have the mini truffle bar, in the "Christmas" flavour. I was a little sceptical about this as I'm not always hugely keen on Christmas-flavoured things (like Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, mince pies...) but I was pleasantly surprised. The Christmas flavour was nicely offset but the creamy chocolate and truffle and was not too overpowering.

The star of the show for me was the Orange Chocolate Truffle Bar. The truffle inside was a beautiful texture - ever so smooth and creamy. "But what about the flavour?", I hear you cry... The flavour was perfect! Orange is my all-time favourite flavour for chocolate, and this captured the combination wonderfully. I would definitely buy this again, along with one of their amazing salted caramel bars.... YUM!!

Coincidentally, I had already ordered some chocolates from Considerit Chocolate the morning before this offer came up. I bought a cute 4-pack of truffles for my mum and a mint-chocolate version of the orange-chocolate bar above for Mr Hatter. Mr Hatter may say he doesn't like dark chocolate but I heard no complaints about the Mint Chocolate Truffle Bar!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Breakfast Banana Muffins

What better way to welcome in the New Year than with some home-baked muffins? (Well, we actually started the year with some vegan French Toast and had these later, but still...)

We also had this beautiful face to help us bring the year...

These muffins are not only delicious but also good for you, so if you've started a healthy eating plan for the new year, you can rejoice and eat these anyway!

Breakfast Banana Muffins

2 tbsp ground flax seed
100 ml apple juice
225g oat flour (if you don't have any oat flour you can make your own by whizzing regular oats in a food processer)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbinate of soda
75ml olive oil
100g cherries, destoned and halved (you can replace this with any type of berry you fancy)
2 large bananas
100ml oat milk

1. Preheat the oven to 175C and line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper liners.

2. In a small jug, whisk the ground flax seed into the apple juice and set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oat flour, salt, baking powder and bicarbinate of soda.

4. Add the olive oil and apple juice mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.

5. Add the cherries, bananas and oat milk and stir until just combined. You don't want to overmix as that could make the batter gummy.

6. Using an ice-cream scoop, divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffin liners. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the muffins are golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out reasonably clean (it may come out with some banana or cherry on it, which is okay).

7. Leave to cool or eat warm straight from the oven!

(Don't burn your mouth though... as a wise (?) man once said, "If it's too hot for your hands, it's too hot for your mouth".)