Saturday, April 14, 2018

Whole dried fruit cake

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Ingredients
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

Method
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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Vegan pear upside down cake

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This is a cake that I need to make again. In part this is because the cake was delicious and I would like to eat it again. In part, though, it is because my current photos do not do the cake justice. Poor winter lighting, hastily snapped images, and a camera battery that died at the wrong moment all contributed to sub-par photos. I apologise. However, I am sharing this anyway because the cake really was delicious and poor photos shouldn't get in the way of recipe sharing.


Friday, January 26, 2018

Lemon and artichoke spaghetti with spinach

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Having my parents visit inspired me to make some different meals to those in our usual rotation. This spaghetti dish was adapted from the recipe for lemon, artichoke and baby spinach spaghetti in Adele McConnell's The Vegan Cookbook. I won this book back in 2014 and posted at the time that I wanted to make almost all of the recipes it contains. Four years on and I haven't made even half the recipes, but those I have made have been great.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Spiced courgette fritters

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Life is returning to normal in the Bite-Sized household. My parents are now back in Australia, we are all back at work and nursery, and Christmas feels a long time ago (and Spring a long time ahead).

In the middle of winter, it can be nice to eat summery foods as well as relishing warm stews, soups and porridge. These fritters offer a summer feel whilst still being hot and comforting. The only downside is that they are best eaten straight after cooking, as they go a bit soggy if stored over multiple days.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

From 2017 to 2018: Reflections and aspirations

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I am not a fan of stereotypical New Year's resolutions, but I do like to use January as an opportunity to reflect on the year gone and the year head. Last year I outlined six goals, which I return to below. This year I have identified four. Before getting to those, here are some general comments on 2017 and a summary of key events and highlights (also some lowlights).

Somerset (March)

2017 was our first full year as parents and I returned to work from maternity leave. We started and ended the year with visits from my parents, and also welcomed my mother-in-law in spring and my sister in summer. We traveled to Somerset and Suffolk. Goodreads tells me I read 40 books, which is less than I'd have predicted (I read 67 in 2016) but is probably an accurate tally. I am fortunate to have reading time on my commute to work, but these days I have little time to read at home. We didn't visit the cinema but watched 19 films at home (10 fewer than in 2016).

Sunday, January 7, 2018

In my kitchen - January 2018

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

It is surprisingly easy to write 2018. We are a week into the new year and I am enjoying the freshness that January brings, even as the festive atmosphere of Christmas fades and leaves us with dark mornings and nights that are unadorned by Christmas lights.

In my kitchen this month are old favourites and new products. Berries are high on the 'old favourites' list. With winter fruit options revolving around apples and citrus, they are a welcome alternative.


Also welcome is soup. I have recently discovered the refrigerated range of soups in supermarkets, many of which are vegan. Clearly they are not as good as homemade, but they are much nicer than tinned and very easy for a quick winter lunch. Mini Bite is now able to manage chunky soups on a spoon so they are a useful new lunch option for her too. Sainsbury's lentil dhal soup, pictured below, was a recent favourite and we also love the Glorious Indian cauliflower, chickpea and turmeric option.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Zizzi's vegan eats - Salad and cake

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We continue to enjoy my parent's company, although after today they are off visiting other family before returning to us for their final few nights in mid-January. Mostly we have relished the time with them, but an extra bonus last week was the opportunity to head out for dinner with Mr Bite and not Mini Bite. We have never left Mini Bite with a babysitter and this was our first night out as a couple in over 17 months. Quite the novelty!


Being the laid back pair we are, we didn't head anywhere fancy. Rather, we went to the local Zizzi so I could expand my experience of their vegan menu and Mr Bite could enjoy his usual pizza favourite.

Zizzi paved the way for vegan pizza a few years back, offering any of their pizzas with a 'vegan mozzarella alternative' instead of regular cheese. Said 'alternative' is made with coconut oil and I liked it well enough when I tried it, which is significant given I don't usually like cheese or non-dairy cheese. However, for me, I still prefer vegetarian pizza without cheese at all.

More recently, Zizzi has gone a step further and ensured that vegan customers can choose from a range of options for starters, mains and dessert. For some time I've wanted to try their sticky chocolate and praline torte, and last week was my opportunity.

Green goddess salad

To ensure I had room for dessert, I bypassed vegan pizza or pasta for the green goddess salad with broccoli. Despite sounding super-healthy, this is a delicious salad full of flavour and contrasting texture. It includes tenderstem broccoli, cannellini beans, tomatoes, mixed leaves, crunchy 'winter slaw' and a pesto with purple basil, pea shoots and toasted seeds. It's a salad, but a hearty one.

Fortunately, it isn't so hearty that dessert can't fit in too. In addition to the vegan torte, there is a vegan dessert calzone on offer and one day I will try this too (it features banana, berry coulis and crushed honeycomb). However, I had my heart set on torte this time around. It consisted of a super creamy, mousse-like chocolate cake on top of a date, hazelnut and walnut base and it came with coconut and chocolate ripple gelato. Both components were utterly delicious and enjoyed by me as well as Mr Bite.


All in all, it was a wonderful meal out and has motivated us to try Zizzi again before too long - even if the next visit may be a lunchtime with a toddler in tow!

On an unrelated but timely note - wishing all of my readers a very happy start to 2018 and a wonderful year to come.

Have you enjoyed any recent meals out?