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I used to be one of those people who thought that podcasts were for total losers. Like, no way would they ever catch on; who wants to listen to stuff when you can watch stuff? Turns out I couldn't have been more wrong because podcasts are totally my new thing. I am so sorry I ever doubted them because they really do make my life (and gym sessions) a hell of a lot more interesting. The wonderful thing is, when you get into a pod that's been going for a while you get binge listen back to all the past episodes and it's just the best thing ever. So, if you're a pod skeptic or are just looking for a new listen, here are five I'm totally hooked on at the moment.

This is the podcast that got me into podcasts. If you've had enough of all the nutrition BS around, and let's be honest there is a whole lot of that, and want someone who will tell it as it is then you need Laura in your life. Laura is a registered nutritionist and a kickass woman who takes a no nonsense approach to food and nutrition. It's not all about food though, there's also a really strong body positivity vibe and discussions around things like mindfulness, exercise, and the health industry. The pod is all about having conversations with game changers, so basically incredible people who are doing inspiring things, with a whole lot of ranting and humour. Don't Salt My Game is a good all rounder that covers lots of interesting topics and important issues with a good dose of inspiration, creativity, and fun. Would recommend 110%. 

Evan and Hannah are both vegans so obviously that is a huge part of why this podcast is a winner for me. Aside from that though, they speak to some super cool guests and discuss topical issues in a way that makes you feel like you're just sitting having a chat with some good friends. They talk about the things and ideas that have motivated them to lead more compassionate and meaningful lives, ranging from veganism and ethical shopping to parenting and traveling. I always feel really inspired after listening to an ep of this pod so I'd definitely recommend giving it a go. 

If you're a vegan or would like to learn more about veganism then this is a great pod to start with. Filled with info, facts and vegan food hacks (rhyme totally unintended), each episode of the podcast is only around 30 minutes long so perfect for when you want a little burst of decent chat. The VS pod always covers things that are happening in the here and now of the vegan world and will arm you with a hell a lot of good points for when people ask/question/debate you on veganism. I feel like it gives me the ammo I need to talk about why being vegan is so wonderful, plus you'll learn a lot. 

How to live a more meaningful life with less is the tagline of The Minimalists and after watching their documentary I pretty much became hooked on their pod. I find that a lot of my values align closely with minimalism and although I wouldn't label myself one, I am really enjoying learning more about how to declutter my life and mind and focus more on the things that really matter. I urge everyone to give this podcast a go, even if you think minimalism is a load of rubbish. Give it a chance, because these guys speak a whole lot of sense. 

Another vegan one, but it's another good one. Andy and Paul have some great chats, mostly about vegan issues, although that's kinda obvious given the name. I just love listening to people whose values align with mine and who are so passionate about the lifestyle I choose to lead. The Bearded Vegans pod isn't one I listen to that often but when I do it always makes me smile and teaches me something - whether it's 'segans', 'veggans', an argument about the moral case for eating meat (spoiler: there isn't one) or whether we should stop using the word vegan, the episodes are always interesting, topical and pretty damn funny. Definitely one to listen to if you're vegan.

What are your favourite pods to listen to? 

Before we get into this week's recipe, I really need to tell you guys about the most delicious vegan afternoon tea I had at the weekend. I went with two of my lovely blogger friends, Charlene and Mimmi, to the Hidden Lane Tearoom in Glasgow to try out their veganised afternoon tea and it was just wonderful. I could probably write a whole post about how good it was but let's just say when you get a stand filled with vegan sandwiches, scones, and cakes it's pretty heavenly. The cakes were perfect (banana, carrot and raspberry flavours) and I honestly think that if they'd given this afternoon tea out to everyone nobody would have known it was vegan, apart from maybe the lack of meat and cheese in the sandwiches. If you're ever in Glasgow the Hidden Lane is definitely worth a visit - you do need to book in advance for the vegan tea though so give them a call beforehand. Plus it was only £12 each which is pretty unheard of for afternoon tea. Yup, I'm going to be dreaming about it for weeks.

Enough talk about cake though, onto soup...

Whatever the weather, soup is always one of my favourite dishes to eat. Call me crazy but even on a really warm summers day I can still enjoy a big bowl of soup with crusty bread. It's just one of those meals that always makes me feel wonderful so I tend to always have some stored away in my freezer for when the soup cravings hit. This recipe is one I am really into at the moment and (as usual) I've made it a lot of times in the past few weeks. It's adapted and veganised from The Soup Book by Sophie Grigson, a book that I used to use a lot but which isn't very great when it comes to vegan recipes. The original recipe uses chicken stock and cheese, and no lentils so I've changed it up a bit but it's still pretty similar to the soup I used to make a few years ago. I love having this one for lunch because the beans and lentils keep me full up for ages, and it's full of veggies so packs in quite a few of your 5/7 a day. Serve with lots of warm crusty bread (optional but totally recommended!).

You will  need (serves 4): 
1 onion 
3 carrots 
1 leek 
2 cloves garlic
400g tin
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1/3 cup red lentils 
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock (made with 2 stock cubes)
200g spinach 
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
ground pepper

- Chop up the onion,
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over a low/medium heat and add the veggies. Fry for 10 minutes to soften. 
- Very finely chop up the garlic cloves, add these to the pot and fry for a minute. 
- Mash up half the beans with a fork and add these to the pot along with the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, vegetable stock, and lentils. Season with black pepper to your taste. Bring to the boil and then simmer over a low heat for 40 minutes. 
- Add the rest of the beans, spinach and nutritional yeast to the pot and simmer for a further 15 minutes. 

The memories I have of rice pudding as a child are not the best, probably because it involved the type that comes out of a tin, generally served with fruit (also from a tin) and it's juice which kind of created a weird separation situation between the warm rice pudding and cold fruit juice. I didn't like it. This rice pudding, however, is exactly what I deem to be a bowl of heaven.

Ever since I visited All Bar One back in January to try out their special Veganuary menu, I've been dreaming about their coconut and vanilla rice pudding. The obvious answer would be to go back and get more, and I wish I could, but the delicious dessert was only there for Veganuary and is now gone from the menu. With cravings that could only be solved by creamy rice pudding, I had a bash at creating my own and I am pretty damn proud of how it turned out. I love having this as a lazy Sunday super indulgent breakfast or as a dessert. The coconut and vanilla go so perfectly together and it's just so creamy I kinda can't believe that it is vegan. Topped with a sweet blueberry compote and some coconut and pumpkin seeds, it makes the perfect bowl of deliciousness. You guys are going to love it. 

You will need (serves 3-4):
for the rice pudding 
3/4 cup pudding rice
1 cup tinned coconut milk
2 1/2 cups soya milk 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons caster sugar

for the blueberry compote 
1 cup blueberries
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons water

- Add all the ingredients for the rice pudding into a pot and mix well. 
- Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down and simmer for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.
- 10 minutes before the rice pudding is ready, add the blueberries, sugar and two tablespoons of water to another pot and leave this to simmer over a low heat for 6-7 minutes to make a compote.
- Top the rice pudding with the blueberry compote and some pumpkin seeds and desiccated coconut.

I'm pretty happy this week because I have the week off work. Not that I'm unhappy otherwise, I'm just really excited about having a little break and getting away for a few days. It's going to be a bit of a digital break too because where we are going has no wifi so it's a good opportunity to just cut off and escape the internet and social media for a while. I'm looking forward to days filled with long walks in nature, evenings spent by the fire with good food and better company, and the absence of the pressures of everyday life and constantly feeling like you need to be doing something. The country is definitely where I feel most at home, walking through beautiful woodland, climbing to the top of hills and seeing the world from above, getting your shoes muddy and being able to find pure silence and peace. The cities may have the best vegan food but the country has the beauty that will forever capture my heart.

This week I thought I would share one of my go-to lunch recipes. Roasted vegetables are such a simple pleasure and this is a recipe I've been making for a while now, and one of my favourites to make in advance to take to work. Make a big batch on a Sunday and you're set for a few days, which is my favourite because ain't nobody got time for prepping lunches every night. If you fancy something a little different this also works really well as a filling for a wrap (I am so into wraps right now), or on the side of a main dish.

You will need (serves 2): 
for the roasted veg 
1 large sweet potato 
1 carrot 
1 courgette 
1 red onion 
2 sweet peppers
mixed herbs 
olive oil 
salt and pepper 

for the couscous 
1/2 cup whole wheat couscous 
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 teaspoon mixed herbs 
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules 
1/2 teaspoon paprika 
1/4 teaspoon dried chillies
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast 
10 cherry tomatoes 
3 sundried tomatoes
the juice of a thick slice of lemon  

- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. 
- Peel and chop the sweet potato and carrot into small chunks and put onto a baking tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and mixed herbs and pop into the oven to bake for 40 minutes. 
- Chop up the onion, peppers, and courgette into small chunks and put onto another baking tray. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and mixed herbs. Put into the oven to bake for 25 minutes. 
- Once the veggies have all roasted, transfer them into a large bowl. 
- To make the couscous, add the 1/2 cup couscous to a pot with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. Bring this to the boil for 4-5 minutes and then remove from the heat and leave to sit for a few minutes. 
- Add the tomato puree, mixed herbs, garlic granules, paprika, dried chillies, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice to the couscous and stir through with a fork. 
- Chop up the cherry and sundried tomatoes and add these to the large bowl along with the couscous. Mix everything together well.

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