Friday, April 21, 2017

Vegan Life Magazine - issue 26 {April 2017}

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.

This month's Vegan Life edition is jam packed with recipes I am keen to make. I often admire the ideas shared, but this month is particularly full of inspiration!

To start with savoury, I love the sound of these roasted vegetables with a lemon tarragon sauce. I imagine the sauce would make a delicious marinade for tofu too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Banana, carrot and sultana mini muffins {vegan, no added sugar + non fat}

I was hesitant to put 'fat free' and 'sugar free' in the title of this post, because those labels may conjure up images of bland, flavourless muffins. The texture of fat free baked goods is often different too. However, these muffins are fully flavoured and beautifully textured. The use of lots of bananas and natural sugars simply removes the need for added fat or sugar. (For the sticklers among you, there is some fat in the oat milk and oats.)

I recently had lots of bananas to use up, thanks to my clumsiness when unpacking shopping and a bag of bananas being dropped on the floor. They all went a bit mushy and prematurely brown - good for freezing, smoothies and baking but not so good for eating in their natural state. These muffins used 3 of the bunch so they are good and banana-y!

Whilst I made these as mini muffins, you could, of course, make regular sized ones instead. Just increase the cooking time accordingly (adding 5-10 minutes at an estimation).

Friday, April 14, 2017

A carob recipe round-up {vegan}

I know, I know - if you aren't a fan of carob, you will be wrinkling your nose at this post (or skipping it altogether!). Carob is one of those products that seems to divide people into love/hate categories. Personally, as this post highlights, I adore the stuff. I have my mother to thank for this, as she gave us carob as children when trying to ration our chocolate intake. I love chocolate too but carob has a firm place in my heart alongside it.

Hazelnut and cherry carob cookies

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Herby lemon and pea fritters

At the risk of tooting my own horn, I am rather proud of these fritters. I made them on a whim, without a recipe, and surprised myself with how well they turned out. They taste of spring: fresh, lemon-y, light yet satisfying, and a little bit fluffy.

These take some of my staple ingredients (like besan flour and chia seeds) and give them a new twist, thanks to the lemon and fresh basil and parsley. The fritters come together quickly and make an easy meal if paired with salad. 

I used mashed sweet potato in these, but in future I would probably use regular potato. You can't really detect the sweet potato flavour and potato seems a better match for the other ingredients. However, either would work and you could even try mashed squash or celeriac.

I think these are best warm from the pan, but they will also keep for a few days in the refrigerator and are enjoyable cold or reheated.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sweet potato and spinach nuggets

'Tater tots' are one of those American products that I have heard of for many years without quite knowing what they are. (Other examples, although I set these ones to rest when I visited America a few years back, include graham crackers and Twinkies.) It turns out, according to Wikipedia, that they are "pieces of deep fried, grated potatoes". I am saying all of this because I adapted today's recipe from these spinach sweet potato tater tots on Physical Kitchness. I could have called my adaptation tater tots too, but as I am such a novice to the term and these don't feature frying or grated potato, I am using the more generic 'nugget' instead.

Terminology aside, these are delicious whatever you choose to call them. Since making them the first time, I have done a repeat batch with kale instead of spinach and they were just as good. They are a very easy side dish and, if you have children, perfect for little hands to grasp.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Loving this week {April 2017}

It has been too long between these posts. To make up for lost time, here are six things that I am loving at the moment...

1. Spring scenes. I think Spring may be my favourite English season. It is certainly glorious at the moment, with blue skies, sunshine and flowers everywhere. I am delighted to have flowers re-blossoming on my apple tree and tulips growing in my garden.

The longer daylight hours are wonderful too - the photo below was taken at 7.50pm!

Monday, April 3, 2017

In my kitchen - April 2017

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

Another month and another peak into my kitchen, thanks to the fun round-up currently hosted by Bizzy Lizzy.

It is officially spring in the UK and with the warmer weather comes an embarrassing amount of ice cream in my freezer. No, really, a truly embarrassing amount:

In my defense, all of the above items were new-to-me options that were dangled in front of me by Ocado. In an example of good marketing, Ocado offered me 3 months of free home grocery deliveries and, like a good consumer, I have made multiple orders that I otherwise wouldn't have done. (To non-UK readers, Ocado is an online grocery chain that offers lots of gourmet and vegan items.) I love all of the above ice creams, although the two Fry's tubs are not very sweet and Mr Bite was not a fan.

In addition to new ice cream flavours, the Fry's company have released some new frozen savoury items. I loved their stir fry strips made from rice protein and chia seeds (you can't detect either in the flavour, which is of rosemary and sage) and also enjoyed their Asian spiced burgers. Both are very faux meat-y and so aren't something I'd eat too regularly, but as faux meat products go they are excellent.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Coconut rough chocolates

Easter is on the horizon and with my love of chocolate, that provides a good excuse to indulge in chocolate making. I got in early with sharing my vegan creme bunnies / creme eggs and today's recipe provides an alternative Easter treat that would also go down well at other times of the year.

These chocolates were inspired by my recent discovery of the Waitrose dairy free Indian Ocean Dark Chocolate with Coconut. I mentioned in my March In My Kitchen post that the chocolate reminds me of a Golden Rough, but without the crunchy texture. (For non-Australians, a Golden Rough is a round milk chocolate disk studded with desiccated coconut.) Today's chocolates blend the crunchy texture of a Golden Rough with the dark chocolate tones I favour as an adult. The use of coconut oil adds an extra coconut tone and means that these are very easy to make.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Banana chia coconut bread

I will say upfront that I didn't expect to share this recipe. I made it on a whim, to use up bananas and some of my recent fig paste. Even by my standards it is very minimally sweetened. I hoped it would be suitable for Mini Bite and edible, but not necessarily exciting, for me. In the end, I loved the bread so much that I hastily scribbled down the recipe so I could post it here.

The star of this bread is not the banana or coconut, and in fact neither are a strong presence in the loaf. Instead, it is the chia seeds that make this wonderful, giving the loaf a fantastic texture and reminding me of poppy seed cakes. I will definitely be baking more chia loaded breads now!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lentil potato cakes (version 2)

I have shared a recipe for lentil potato cakes before. This one makes a few tweaks to the original and offers much better photos! I am pleased to update my Recipe index with this new version.

My previous recipe involved cooking the cakes on the stove top in a frying pan. This version bakes them in the oven instead, which frees you up to do other things while the patties are cooking. I also used dried green lentils for these, although if you prefer the tinned variety it would be easy to swap back to using a tin. Dried red lentils would be nice too.

The potato cakes are seasoned with nutritional yeast, paprika, coriander, parsley, lemon and tahini. Most of these are regular seasonings in my kitchen and they come together beautifully here. The patties work well on top of salad but could be included in a burger for an even heartier meal. They are complemented nicely by chutney or tomato sauce, but will stand up on their own if you are condiment averse.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Satay chickpea stew with grains

This recipe is really an adaptation of Angela's Oh She Glows 'Soul Soothing African Peanut Stew'. I mentioned last November that I had tried and enjoyed that dish, and realised on making this that I was channeling Angela's flavours. My version is a little simpler than the hers though, and is designed to be served with grains rather than as a stand alone meal. I liked it a lot and am documenting it for my own future reference as well as to share with you!

To me, meals like this are the ultimate comfort food. As is obvious from this site, I love chocolate and desserts and they are comforting too in their own ways. However, there is something warming and comforting about a big bowl of full-flavoured vegetables and grains. It's like a wholesome hug.

I used tinned chickpeas for this, in part from laziness and in part because I wanted to use chickpea water to thicken the stew. If you cook yours from scratch, just reserve a little of the cooking water to add to the mix.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Life with a 7-month-old, baby led weaning, and four adult and baby friendly recipes

I have noted before that I have no intention of moving Bite-Sized Thoughts to a baby or family-focused site. However, it has been 4 months since my last baby-related post and much has changed since then. I thought I would share some updated reflections, as well as experiences to date with baby led weaning. For those of you who aren't interested in either topic, I also share four recipes that would suit adults and babies equally well - porridge fingers, carrot-chickpea mini pancakes, chickpea scramble with turmeric and paprika, and a simple avocado salsa. Simply scroll to the end if you want to skip ahead to those!

Chickpea scramble

In November, I spoke of the enormous adjustment that pregnancy and parenthood had required. My expectations of both were completely off and I will readily admit that the first three months of motherhood were, for me, hard going at times.

Fast forward to March and things look very different. It is probably obvious that life with a 3-month-old (as Mini Bite was in November) is different to life with a 7-month-old, but I didn't understand what those differences would look like until I navigated through them. These days, Mini Bite is a mini person as much as a baby. She is interactive, knows what she does and doesn't like, will smile and giggle, and shows great interest in her surroundings. I find the days infinitely more enjoyable now that this is the case - we are no longer in a loop of feeding, changing and settling with little feedback from her except basic cries. I take genuine delight in her laughs and smiles. We have a structure to our week, with most mornings featuring an activity (baby swimming lessons, parent/baby groups, parent/baby fitness classes...) and this makes a difference too.

Courgette noodles with avocado salsa 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Figgy banana soft serve parfaits

Today is one of England's glorious spring days. The sunshine is warm (but not too warm!), spring flowers are out, the sky is blue, and I am consciously and joyously grateful that we live where we live. It is a good day to be outside, and consequently, a good day to be on maternity leave and not in an office.

I can't share our weather with you, but I can share this easy ice cream recipe that will help you herald in your own spring sunshine. If you are in the southern hemisphere, it can help you cling on to summer instead!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Scenes from Somerset

We have just returned from a week in Somerset. It's a part of the country I hadn't visited before, but it proved to be a delightful one. Tucked into a south-west corner of England with the Bristol Channel to the north and Devon and Cornwall to the south, the county has gorgeous scenery and plenty to see and do. We were fortunate to have (mostly) spring-like weather, which facilitated lots of walking and outdoor exploring. I share some photo highlights below...

Typical Somerset scenery

The Tarr Steps clapper bridge

Walking near the Tarr Steps

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Vegan Life Magazine - issues 23 and 24 (February and March 2017)

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 enjoy downloading the latest copy of Vegan Life and am pleased to share highlights from the last two editions. Back in February, I was inspired by a mushroom twist on Vietnamese Banh Mi... well as this recipe for apple bircher muesli with spelt and rye flakes as well as oats.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Sweet potato overnight oats

Some of you may have seen recent findings that link 10 serves of fruit and vegetables a day to reduced rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke, as well as overall mortality. The current UK guidelines advocate 5 serves a day and that level offers protection too - but 10 gives significantly greater benefits.

There have been predictable responses to these results, including comments about it being too hard to achieve a 10 per day intake, and I enjoyed this lighthearted Guardian commentary on the topic. I grew up with the Australian recommendation of 5 vegetable and 2 fruit serves a day, so 10 of both food groups isn't such a shift for me, especially as plant-based eating naturally gives a higher intake than meat-based diets. However, it can be tough to get enough serves in when you're busy and/or if buying food on the go. Thus, getting off to a good start at breakfast can make a big difference.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

In my kitchen - March 2017

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

Spring flowers - visible from my kitchen

Happy autumn to my Australian readers. We have a few weeks until spring officially starts in the UK, but it is starting to feel spring-like as the days grow longer and spring flowers start to appear. Indeed, some are visible from my kitchen, thanks to the bulbs I planted last year starting to sprout.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Pecan pie squares

I am surprised to see that nearly a week has passed since my last post. Alas, our household has been ill again this week and it seems that illness affects one's sense of time. We have had a poor winter when it comes to bugs. I had hoped that child-related illnesses would be held at bay until Mini Bite was a bit older, but I suspect our baby groups and activities are a hotbed for germs. Hopefully all of this exposure will be good for our immune systems in the long run!

Fortunately, these pecan pie squares are easy to whip up even if you aren't feeling entirely well. I actually planned to title them 'fruity pecan squares' as it seemed unlikely they would actually taste of pecan pie - and yet, somehow, they do. With a simple, whole food ingredient list they make for excellent snacking.

The topping for these is made from mixed dried fruit - the type that comes with multiple fruit varieties in the one bag. Mine had roughly equal parts of dried pears, dried apricots and prunes. I imagine different mixes would work just as well, with associated variations in flavour profile..

Monday, February 20, 2017

Vegan creme bunnies (or eggs)

With time whizzing by, Easter is on the horizon again. We have had mild sunny weather in the UK this week and so spring is on the horizon too. It is a nice time of year. It is also a time of year for chocolate (although, for me, any time of year is a time of year for chocolate!). 

Lest you think I am impressively organised with an Easter post, I will say upfront that I am actually very disorganised. You see, I made these creme bunnies last Easter but didn't have time to post them before Easter Sunday. They were so enjoyable that I saved the recipe and pictures in a draft post, and so, nearly 12 months later, I can share them with you now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Triple chickpea stack

I had such fun making and naming this dish. There is something about three layers of chickpeas, in three different forms, that appeals to my kitchen creativity. If the photos don't immediately give it away, the three forms here are chickpea flour (besan flour) pancakes, whole chickpeas, and hummus.

This can be as easy or complicated as your life permits. I cooked chickpeas from dry and made the hummus myself, but then took a short cut with ratatouille and used a commercial tin for that. If you needed a meal in a hurry, you could use tinned chickpeas and store bought hummus; if you are more organised than I was you could whip of ratatouille yourself.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Blueberry and sweet potato mug cake {vegan + fat free}

Mug cakes are excellent for when time is short and/or you want cake in a hurry. They are also handy for making single serve treats and, in this case, using up small amounts of leftover ingredients. I don't really need help with using sweet potato or blueberries - both are foods I'll happily snack on plain - but they are given a boost in this easy recipe.

In truth, this should probably be called a mug pudding as the texture is softer than a traditional cake. With a third of a cup of sweet potato in the mix that is perhaps not surprising. Happily, as you will eat this from the mug with a spoon, a pudding-like texture presents no problems.

This is not overly sweet, which allows the natural sweetness of the sweet potato and blueberries to shine through. However, it would be easy to increase the added sugar if you so desire. As I made it, this could almost be served for breakfast, which I think is a winning outcome.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mango chutney roast cauliflower and broccoli

From mango cookie balls we move to mango roast vegetables! In truth, I made these recipes a few weeks apart but my blogging places them in rather closer proximity.

With thinking about starter foods for Mini Bite, I have had broccoli and cauliflower on my mind lately. This particular recipe is not very baby friendly, but it is a delicious way to boost your intake of the vegetables. Indeed, this reminds me that I don't roast cauliflower and broccoli often enough as they are delicious with an oven-lent crisp.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mango cashew cookie balls {vegan + no bake}

I am a big fan of raw fruit and nut truffle balls, but sometimes I like to mix things up a little. These no bake cookie balls take the classic fruit and nut combination - mango and cashew in this case - but add oats and banana to the mix. The result? Soft, chewy cookie balls that are eminently satisfying yet full of whole food nutrition.

With mango and banana in the ingredient list, these could also have been titled 'tropical cookie balls'. They taste of sunshine regardless of what the weather is doing outside. A version with dried pineapple would be equally delicious, or you could use half mango and half pineapple.

These are softer than pure fruit and nut balls but hold together if kept in the fridge. Or alternatively phrased, they are squishable but won't fall apart on you!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

In my kitchen - February 2017

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

We are through January and into the second month of the year. In our part of the UK, January was cold with maximum temperatures often around 0'C. In contrast, my Australian family have described 40'C temperatures in Perth. My long term readers will know what I prefer! Whatever your current weather is, I hope you are keeping appropriately warm or cool.

Indoors from the cold, my kitchen has seen some new vegan products from Marks & Spencer. An M&S foodhall has opened within walking distance of us, which is exciting for me if not for our finances. Fortunately it is a half hour walk so my visits and spending will be moderated! I was pleased to pick up their new vegan sandwiches, shown above, after a long period where M&S lagged behind other food chains in providing vegan sandwich options. I expected to like the Rainbow Veg option best, with its red pepper bread and chilli squash filling, and it was enjoyable. However, I preferred the Super Greens pack with minted edamame and pea crush on linseed and chia bread.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Super dark chocolate blocks: Reviewing 85% to 100% cocoa options

It's no secret that I love chocolate and my In My Kitchen posts often feature my lastest chocolate discoveries. However, it has been many months since I've done a proper chocolate review. Today's post aims to make up for lost time with reviews of four dark chocolate options. And by dark I really do mean dark - these blocks range from 85% to 100% cocoa.

Starting with the 85% choices, one of my Christmas presents was the M&S 85% cocoa 'Intense Dark Chocolate' block. I featured it in my January In My Kitchen post but didn't elaborate on flavours then.

For a long time I avoided 85% cocoa blocks because I don't like the Lindt 85% cocoa option, and it put me off other chocolates of the same cocoa level. Happily, I am now a convert and know that the Lindt flavours don't generalise to other brands. This M&S 85% cocoa block is delicious. The packaging describes the flavours as bringing "aromas of ripe fruit and a flavour of mixed berries, with the slight acidity balanced by overnotes of honey". I wouldn't have come up with this exact description but agree that the tartness of the berry-cocoa tones is offset by a more mellow sweetness.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cocoa and paprika split peas

In the spirit of reducing food packaging and preparing ingredients in advance, I cooked up a batch of yellow split peas on the weekend. Some have been eaten plain or simply, but this cocoa and paprika mix gives a more adventurous variation. Borrowing from the concept of a mole sauce, the split peas are flavoured with cocoa powder, paprika, cinnamon and tahini. If you are in the mood for something spicy (oddly for me, I wasn't) then a dash of chilli powder would be a great addition too.

I enjoyed this with a new bread discovery - Polish sunflower seed sourdough bread - but the mix could also top rice or quinoa, fill a wrap, or balance out some sweet potato fries. Indeed, it is tasty enough to be eaten plain if you so desire.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Cinnamon vanilla latte

As the pictures in my last post showed, we have had cold weather here lately. Two days of snow were followed by nearly a week of below freezing temperatures and very frosty mornings. It is weather for hot drinks and I have been drinking a lot of hot drinks.

Spiced ginger latte

With this liquid consumption comes drinks that extend beyond my usual tea and coffee choices. I've been enjoying repeat cups of my spiced ginger latte as well as easy hot chocolates. Today's cinnamon vanilla latte will now be added to my rotation. It is easy, delicious and fit to rival flavoured coffee shop lattes - for a fraction of the cost and with less sugar.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Reflections on 2016 and looking ahead to 2017

I have tended to post reflections and aspirations around this time of year, as one 12-month cycle draws to a close and another stretches out ahead. Last year I did not set goals or aspirations because I was in the early stages of pregnancy, and figured that (and the associated arrival of Mini Bite in August) would be challenge enough for 2016. Indeed it was. The ongoing adjustment to parenting may well provide sufficient challenge for 2017 too, but I am keen to look beyond motherhood and consider other things that I would like the year to hold.

Recent snowy scenes

First, though, 2016. Mini Bite's arrival was a momentous occasion and I have already posted some of my reflections on that adjustment. However, the year also involved other events and milestones. I acted up into a higher level at work (and then thanked my workplace for the privilege by going on maternity leave...); we had family visit who we hadn't seen since leaving Australia in 2014 (my mother-in-law in April; my brother-in-law and his partner in August; my brother in October), as well as a return visit from my parents; we had a week in the Forest of Dean; and we explored more of the countryside around our new (now new-ish) home in Kent.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lentil and apricot tagine

I may be taking liberties with the term 'tagine' here, as I do not have a tagine dish and this is not a traditional North African recipe. Tagine-stew is probably a more accurate term. Whatever you call it, the dish is enjoyable and combines vegetables, lentils and dried apricots to pleasing effect.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Chocolate and tahini baked oat bars

When I shared some favourite porridge / oat combinations last year, it was my chocolate tahini porridge that got the most enthusiasm. With good reason, too, as it makes for a wonderful way to start the day.

Whilst I always enjoy traditional porridge (oatmeal to Americans), I also enjoy oats in other formats. English flapjack is one example. These chocolate and tahini bars are another. Inspired by my chocolate tahini porridge, they are semi-sweet, gorgeously chocolatey, studded with tahini tones, and utterly delicious. They would provide a perfect make ahead breakfast or an easy snack on the go. I've been enjoying them at pretty much any time of day.

If you have tried baked oat dishes then you will be familiar with the texture of these. They are chewy rather than firm, with a soft but dense texture that holds together well without being crispy. You could easily use a nut butter instead of tahini but I recommend tahini if you have it, because the flavour pairs so well with the other ingredients and really contributes to the overall finished product.