A Very Merry (Vegan) Christmas!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

I've been vegan for around nine months now, although it kinda feels like forever. I've learned a lot, eaten a lot and made some seriously wonderful friends. Being the only vegan, and actually the only non-meat eater, in my family though means that on Christmas day I'm going to be having my own little feast of vegan food, so I thought I'd share with you guys what I plan on eating for the main event, in case you are looking for ideas or are just really nosey like I am. I'm pretty sure my family is expecting me to turn up with a bowl of salad and a few avocados,

What I (plan to) eat for Christmas dinner.

I haven't really planned a starter as I'm not too bothered about one (dessert all the way), but my dad did mention he might make a

So while the family eats whatever meat it is they are having, I've bought a box of the Linda McCartney veggie pies, which are suitable for vegans and only cost £2 in Tesco, and will be having one of those instead. I'll have the same roasted potatoes, veggies and trimmings as everyone else alongside as I asked my dad not to cook anything in duck fat again like he did last year. You totally won't even notice I'm the odd one out. 

I won't lie, this is definitely the course I am most excited about. Thanks to Instagram, I found out that The Coop fruit pies are vegan and oh my gosh, I can't wait to try one. I can't decide which flavour to get yet but I'll be having a giant slice of one of those alongside some Alpro custard, which is pretty much liquid heaven. 

Little extras: 
I'll also be taking up some vegan mince pies to munch on throughout the day (thank you to Lucy who let me in on the fact that Morrison's regular mince pies are vegan!) and maybe some of my gingerbread cupcakes to share with everyone to show that vegan cakes are bloody delicious too.

So that's what Christmas dinner on my plate is looking like. I did think about putting my domestic goddess into force and making something myself but it's Christmas so I'm being lazy. I'm also going to enjoy every last bite because I bloody deserve it. Ain't no guilty vibes going to be filling my head this Christmas! 

What are you guys planning on eating for your Christmas meal? I hope you all have a lovely day and indulge in all the vegan food and treats. I'm going to be taking a little break around here over the next week to enjoy the holiday and spend time with my faves so I'll speak to you in the New Year. 

Much love x

Ps. If you haven't already, check out my Christmassy vegan recipes!

Cranberry, Orange and Pistachio Biscuits

Monday, 19 December 2016

Six days until Christmas and of all my shopping is done, wrapped and looking pretty and isn't that just the best feeling? I'm quite often running around during the week before Christmas trying to find something for that one awkward person who you have totally no idea what to buy so I'm pretty happy that I've been on it this year. I finish up work on Friday and then I'm off for a week and a half so I am really looking forward to that. I'm going to go on lots of long walks, eat all the Christmas food and spend plenty of evenings snuggled up watching movies. 

I actually want to get real with you guys for a sec here because for a long time Christmas really scared me. All that unhealthy food, having to eat in front of lots of people and constantly thinking about how much exercise I needed to do to burn it all off. It really did ruin it for me but it can be so difficult to get out of that mindset and actually allow yourself to enjoy it. Since going vegan earlier this year I feel like my relationship with food has improved a lot. Yes, sometimes I still get anxious about eating out or not being able to get to the gym, but on the whole, I feel so much better about what I am eating and have stopped restricting myself and labeling foods as 'good' or 'bad' because nothing good ever came from doing that. Christmas is a time to spend time with the people you love, relax a little and eat a whole lot of delicious food. Please don't deprive yourself of that because you are scared. Don't listen to those negative thoughts eating away at you. Embrace it, enjoy it and do not feel bad about it. You 100% deserve to enjoy yourself and to not feel guilty about indulging a little. Eat all those mince pies and love every second. My blog post this month for my friends over at T Plus was on this topic so if you want to read a bit more about it then head over to their website. 

And onto the recipe - I first made this one last year, before I was vegan, but it was shortbread rather than biscuits. Turns out baking vegan shortbread is really bloody hard and despite using the same recipe and trying it a few times, I kept baking biscuits rather than shortbread. It's okay though because the flavours are so good that it doesn't really matter. They taste so Christmassy, the slightly sour cranberries give a little kick alongside the festive spices and sweetness from the orange. I just love them, even if they aren't shortbread as intended. 

P.s, if you know the secret to baking vegan shortbread then please do let me know! 

You will need (makes 14): 
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup dairy free spread (I use vitalite)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/3 cup pistachio kernels
zest of 1 orange + juice of half the orange 

- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- Finely chop the cranberries into little pieces and roughly chop the pistachios. Zest the orange and set all these ingredients aside while you prepare the biscuit mixture.
- Add the flour, cinnamon, mixed spice and sugar to a large bowl and mix together. Add in the spread and rub in using your hands. The mixture should begin to resemble breadcrumbs as it combines.
- Add the cranberries, pistachios, orange zest and juice of half the orange and mix together using your hands, being careful not to overwork it.
- Put the mixture out onto a floured surface and roll out using a floured rolling pin until it's around 1cm thick. Cut out biscuits using a cookie cutter and then place these onto a lined and greased baking tray. The mixture should make around 14 biscuits.
- Place into the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. 

Maple Cinnamon Roasted Cashews

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Honey roasted cashews used to be one of my favourite ever Christmas snacks before going vegan. I could so easily sit and munch my way through a whole tub of these little gems in one sitting. They are dangerously addictive. So I had to create a vegan version and I think they are maybe even better than I remember. This recipe is so simple and you only need four ingredients. I'm planning on making a few batches of these to put into jars and give as Christmas presents too, because who wouldn't love some homemade festive spiced nuts. I think handmade presents are just the cutest, and it totally shows you put in a lot of effort because you actually spent time to make it. I just need to find some nice jar lids or coverings to hide the fact that I've eaten many, many jars of peanut butter this year... no regrets.

You could also use this same recipe with any nuts you like, cashews are just my absolute fave but I reckon this would also be wonderful with almonds or peanuts, oh or maybe a mix of all three - I need to try that!

You will need: 
1 cup cashews
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- In a bowl, mix together the maple syrup, cinnamon and mixed spice.
- Add the cashews and mix until they are all coated with the maple mixture.
- Put the nuts onto a lined baking tray and roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes, giving them a mix halfway through.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

Monday, 12 December 2016

Christmas is officially on guys! Okay, I know the shops have been full of Christmas things for months now and it has been in the back of my mind for ages but it's never until just a week or so before that I fully embrace the season, which in my eyes means eating all the Christmas foods. This is my first vegan Christmas so I'm really getting into discovering all the vegan treats I can have, and obviously making lots of my own too. Thanks to the wonderful world of social media, I've been getting lots of tip-offs about where to get the best vegan things - some of my favourites so far are the Sainsbury's free from mince pies, Lidl's spiced biscuit spread, Aldi's dark chocolate reindeers and the Tesco free from selection box. If you have a fave vegan Christmas treat let me know in the comments below so I can try it too! 

So, in the spirit of the festive season, all the recipes I'll be sharing from now until the big day will be Christmassy themed, and will probably be mostly sweet because Christmas and sugar go pretty much hand. The first I'm sharing today is for these super spiced gingery cupcakes. I've made these quite a few times over the past few weeks and just can't get enough. They seriously taste just like gingerbread but in cake form and what's not to love about that? Plus, the icing is incredible and I may have just eaten a load of it out the bowl with a spoon until I felt a little unwell... so worth it. 

You will need (makes 9): 
for the cakes 
2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup light muscovado sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 chia egg (1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water)
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1/3 cup coconut oil (solid)
1/2 cup soya milk

for the icing 
1 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup dairy free spread
2 teaspoons ground ginger

- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- Make a chia egg by mixing 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water. Leave this to the side while you prepare the other ingredients.
- In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, baking soda, ginger and cinnamon) and then sieve this through to get rid of any lumps.
- Add the coconut oil and blackstrap molasses to a pot and heat gently until combined. Add this to the dry mix along with the soya milk and chia egg. Mix well.
- Split into cases (I used around 2 tablespoons of mixture in each case) and bake for 20 minutes.
- While the cakes are baking, make the icing by combining the icing sugar, dairy free spread and ginger together in a bowl and mixing until smooth.
- Spread the icing onto the cakes once they are completely cool.

Smoked Butter Bean Stew

Monday, 5 December 2016

After months of anticipation (yes, this is exciting stuff), Vegfest was finally here in Scotland at the weekend and as I've only been vegan for around 10 months now, it was my first time going. It was amazing. There was quite literally incredible vegan food around every corner - pop tarts, donuts, sticky toffee pudding, burgers, cheese, chocolate, raw cakes (what was that about veganism being restrictive?). It was such a fantastic day and for the next few weeks I'm going to be trying super hard not to eat all the chocolates I bought for Christmas presents. The temptation is real guys.

This week's recipe is a little different from the usual. I was asked to take part in a recipe campaign for Paymentsense and create a recipe that feeds four people for £5 (easy). Their research found that a third of people change their eating habits towards the end of the month because they find themselves with less money left than they maybe need. So, they want to put together a pack of recipes to show people that they can still eat nice, tasty meals even when money is a bit tight. There seems to be a bit of a misconception that eating vegan can be expensive, which couldn't be further from the truth. Generally, vegans eat a lot of veggies, fruit, whole grains and legumes, which are some of the cheapest foods you can buy. This smoked butter bean stew tastes so good, costs very little to make and is a really nice hearty meal for a cold winters night.

You will need (serves 4-5): 
3 carrots (20p)
2 leeks (34p)
1 courgette (36p)
1 red onion (10p)
4 cloves garlic (10p)
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes (62p)
1 400g tin butter beans (50p)
1/2 cup pearl barley (10p)
2 vegetable stock cubes - I use the Kallo low salt ones (20p)
3 teaspoons smoked paprika (15p)
1 teaspoon oregano (5p)

4 baking potatoes to serve (79p)

Total cost: £3.51 for four people (and some leftover stew for someone's lunch the next day - win!) 

- Finely chop the garlic cloves and chop up the onion and leek. 
- Put a little hot water into a large pot and add the onion and garlic. Fry this off for 3-4 minutes. 
- Add the leeks and fry for a further 2 minutes until softened. 
- Dissolve the stock cubes in a little water and add this to the pot along with the chopped tomatoes, smoked paprika, oregano, pearl barley and 3 + 1/2 cups of water. 
- Bring to the boil for 10 minutes and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes.
- Chop up the carrots and courgette into small chunks. 
- Add the carrots, courgette, and butter beans to the pot and leave to simmer for a further 30 minutes.
- If serving with baked potatoes, pop these in the oven to bake while the stew is cooking. They will take 50 minutes to an hour.

You can serve the stew with whatever you fancy. I like using it as a baked potato filling but you could also serve it with rice, pasta or just a lot of crusty bread! 

Using and Wearing Non-Vegan Products as a Vegan

Monday, 28 November 2016

Confession: I'm a vegan and I still wear leather boots. 


Let's just talk about this for a minute though. I bought the leather boots years before becoming vegan, even before I was vegetarian. They were bloody expensive and are really good quality. The damage was done when I handed over the money for said boots so, now that I'm vegan, is it still okay for me to wear the boots? 

Yes. It totally is.

Because the damage has already been done, I've already supported the brand by buying the product and it would be so wasteful for me to throw the boots away; a waste of that animal's life and a waste of a good pair of boots. 

Likewise, I use non-vegan beauty and cleaning products quite frequently because again, I bought them before I was vegan or was gifted them from someone. And that's okay. 

It's okay because I would never buy the products myself with my own money. It's okay because to throw them away would be horribly wasteful and would do no good for the environment. Once the products wear or run out then I will replace them with vegan alternatives. 

I'm still learning every single day about what ingredients are vegan and the sneaky ones to watch out for. I've made mistakes and bought things without thinking because they are things I have always bought. I still have a whole pile of beauty products that I've had for ages and am slowly making my way through that are not vegan. Does that make me not vegan? I wouldn't say so. 

I've seen people talk about how they threw away all their non-vegan products because they wanted to dive right into the lifestyle, which just seems like such a waste to me. You could give things away to friends or family if you really wanted to get rid of them but please don't put them to landfill. 

Veganism is a huge learning curve and it really does take time to make the full transition to living a 100% vegan lifestyle.

As long as you are doing the best you can, that's all that matters.

What do you think about this topic? Let me know in the comments below.

Apple, Blueberry and Cinnamon Porridge

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Hey guys. So, I'm sorry there wasn't a post yesterday. I was away at the weekend and since we were planning on coming back on Sunday I hadn't bothered to schedule this, but we were having such a lovely time that we decided to stay for one more night, hence why this is coming to you on Tuesday rather than Monday. I really had the most wonderful weekend, though. We were down in Galloway which is a really beautiful part of Scotland, especially at this time of year with all the autumnal colours, frost lining the ground and snow on the hilltops. It was a weekend to just totally switch off and enjoy living in the moment without worrying about other things. We did some fantastic walks, snuggled up watching Fawlty Towers by the fire and ate a whole lot of yummy vegan food - I even whipped up my first ever vegan roast dinner and finally managed to get my hands on those coop jam donuts! Coming back to reality after such a lovely time away can be difficult but I am so grateful for the time I spent away and the really great company I spent it with.

Anyway, onto the recipe. There's absolutely nothing more satisfying than a big bowl of hot porridge when the mornings are dark and cold. There's also not much better than cinnamon at this time of year. Yes, I'm pretty obsessed at the moment but you guys understand, right? It's so good and goes so perfectly with apple. This porridge makes me feel all autumnal and makes a nice change from my usual banana based porridge.

You will need (serves 1): 
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup soya milk 
1 apple
1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 tablespoon date syrup 
2 tablespoons sultanas 
a handful of blueberries
1 tablespoon Linwoods milled flax, chia seed, apple and cinnamon mix (optional)

- Chop the apple up into small chunks. 
- Add all the ingredients, except the blueberries and flaxseed, into a pot along with 1/2 a cup of soya milk and 1/2 a cup of water. 
- Simmer over a low-medium heat, stirring regularly, for 4-5 minutes. 
- Add the blueberries and mix through. Allow to simmer for a further two minutes, or until the porridge reaches your preferred consistency - add more water if required.
- Once the porridge is cooked, mix through the flaxseed or sprinkle it on top. 

10 Minute Tomato Pasta Sauce

Monday, 14 November 2016

I've always been a firm pasta lover. When I was at university I practically lived off the stuff, partly due to my lack of cooking skills back then and partly because I just absolutely loved it and it was cheap. Even through all the chat on how you should avoid pasta because carbs, I've always stuck by it because how can anyone not eat something so bloody amazing. Maybe it's a comfort thing, throughout my childhood pasta was a firm staple in our house and both of my favourite meals that my dad cooked were pasta. So basically, I eat a lot of pasta and it's delicious. Don't be scared of it, carbs are good and filling and delicious. 

Normally, I would spend an hour one day making up a big batch of tomato pasta sauce that I would then freeze in batches to be taken out when needed. I still do sometimes but after coming home one evening and having those pasta craves but no sauce in sight I thought I'd try to throw together something quick. It came out so good that my carefully prepared sauce has been shunned in favour of this super lazy 10 minute method. I'm not complaining. This sauce is filled with flavour with a nice kick from the chilli flakes and a hint of cheesiness from the nutritional yeast. I think I've made it every week for the past few months! 

You will need (serves 1): 
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped 
1 grated carrot 
3 tablespoons tomato puree 
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs 
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion granules 
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes 
1/4 teaspoon garlic granules 
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
a handful of spinach (optional) 

- Put the cherry tomatoes into a pot with a little water and fry for 3-4 minutes over a medium heat. 
- Add the tomato puree, sundried tomatoes and all the herbs and spices with a little extra water to make a paste. Leave this to simmer for around 1-2 minutes. 
- Add the grated carrot and 1/2 a cup of water and leave to simmer over a low/medium heat for 5 minutes. 
- Stir through the nutritional yeast and spinach if adding and then pour over some cooked pasta.

Vegan Favourites #2

Monday, 7 November 2016

It's unintentionally been quite a few months now since I posted my first vegan favourites so I definitely think it's time for another. Does anyone else feel like time is just going past at lightening speed? I thought about posting one of these every month but nope, time goes past way too fast for that! Anyway, so many wonderful things have been happening in the vegan food world recently so this post has ended up being almost all food items. Food is my number one love though so that's okay, right? 

ConsiderIt Chocolate (and salted caramel donuts) 

This is another of my vegan market finds. ConsiderIt makes the most delicious vegan truffle bars - the cinnamon and vanilla are my personal favourites so far. AND, they make vegan salted caramel donuts, which are quite honestly heaven. If you're from Scotland you need to track these guys down. I've also just discovered they have a store in the town where I live, which is so exciting because this town is severely lacking in good vegan food, but could also be very dangerous for my bank balance. Must control myself. 

Zizzi Vegan Pizza

I won't talk too much about this one because there's a whole post where I talk in great depth about my love for Zizzi's vegan pizza. It is the best pizza though, and the caramelised onions were to die for! 100% going back really, really soon. 

Geo Organics Satay Curry Paste 

This is the second curry paste I've tried by Geo Organics (the first was their red Thai curry paste, which is so good: recipe here) and it did not disappoint. In fact, it is so good I've been telling almost everyone I know about it. I made a curry using the paste, coconut milk, tofu, courgettes and carrots and it was out of this world, I've been dreaming about it ever since. All of Geo Organics' products are vegan, organic and made with ingredients you will recognise. I can't wait to try more of their range and will most definitely be stocking up on the satay paste.

Sainsbury's Caramelised Onion Cheese 

There isn't a Sainsbury's in the town where I stay so when I was over in Edinburgh a week or so ago I made sure to pop into a store and pick up some of the new vegan cheeses having been dying to get my hands on them since they launched! The caramelised onion one is possibly the best vegan cheese I've tried so far. The flavour is so good and the texture is really similar to regular cheese as I remember it, perhaps just a little softer. It goes perfectly with some crackers and grapes. It's a serious game changer - thank you Sainsbury's!

Laura Thomas' Don't Salt My Game Podcast 

Okay, so this isn't actually a vegan thing, although Laura is plant-based/vegan/doesn't eat anything with a face, whatever, anyway, I had to mention it here because you guys definitely need to know about it! I can't remember how I came across Laura's podcast but I can tell you that I am totally loving it at the moment. I discovered it around episode 15 so I've been binge listening back to all the past episodes and listening to the new ones as they come out each week. Each one is an interview with a different person who is doing wonderful things in the world, all centred around health and wellbeing. The best thing about it though is that it's all based on evidence and science, not just rubbish that's totally made up or 'shit that bloggers say'. I really can't get enough of it right now and it's totally been making my 6am gym sessions more exciting. It is most definitely my jam right now (if you listen to it, you'll get that). 

What are you guys loving at the moment? 

Cinnamon Apple Crumble

Monday, 31 October 2016

My current obsession is fruit crumble. There's just something about autumn and winter that makes me want to eat all the crumble all the time. This cinnamon apple one has become one of my favourite breakfasts at the moment. Yes, breakfast. When I tell people I have crumble for breakfast they look at me like I'm mad but this recipe isn't really sugary like a dessert crumble is so you can totally have it for breakfast and it is so good. Serve with some soya yoghurt or a little soya milk and it makes the perfect breakfast for a cold and dark morning.

You will need (serves 2-3 as breakfast or 4 as a dessert): 
for the fruit layer
5 apples (I use Gala)
1/2 cup sultanas 
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1 teaspoon mixed spice 
1/4 cup water 

for the crumble topping 
1 1/2 cups oats 
1/2 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil 
2 teaspoons maple syrup 

- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. 
- Chop up the apples into chunks and pop into a pot with the sultanas, cinnamon, mixed spice and 1/4 cup of water. Put this over a low heat with a lid on and leave to simmer for 10 minutes. 
- While the apples are cooking, make the crumble topping. Put the oats, oat flour, cinnamon and flaxseed blend into a bowl and mix. 
- Melt the coconut oil and then pour this along with the maple syrup over the oat mixture. Mix well to ensure everything is coated. 
- Once cooked, pour the fruit mixture into a baking dish and then top with the crumble. 
- Pop in the oven the bake for around 25 minutes.

Going Ape + Vegan Lunch in Stirling

Thursday, 27 October 2016

['Life life more adventurously.']

I decided that I am going to start saying yes to all the opportunities that fly my way, even if it means stepping outside my comfort zone and putting myself out there. I'm done with letting fears or worry hold me back from doing things that could turn out to be incredible experiences and wonderful opportunities. I'm taking the yes man approach. So, when my lovely friend Charlene invited me to go along to Go Ape with her I kinda had to say yes, even though inside I was screaming 'no way on earth are you getting me up there'.

Go Ape is an outdoor forest adventure experience. An adventure that encourages you to take risks, challenge yourself and inject some excitement into your life. It's something totally different and unlike anything I have ever done before. It was also something I, at one point, said I would never ever do.

We went to the site in Aberfoyle, which is home to two of Britain's longest zip wires, each stretching over 400m across stunning forest and a river. Nestled in among the Trossachs National Park, the setting was beautiful, especially at this time of year when the leaves are golden and everything looks so autumnal.

Once we were all harnessed up and had done the safety demonstration we found ourselves standing on a tiny platform high above the forest with a guy standing beside us saying 'yup, just step right off and enjoy it'. Wondering why on earth I had agreed to it, I somehow managed to jump off and found myself flying through the air across the most lovely forest and waterfall, trying so hard to appreciate the wonderful scenery around me while also holding on for dear life, praying that I'd make it across in one piece.

The course is filled with lots of obstacles up in the treetops and a whole lot of zip wires. Some are really easy and others are pretty damn hard but that's all part of the fun. You definitely get a good workout from your day out and you might get a little muddy if you are as bad as I was at landing off the zip line. There are pictures at every obstacle showing you what to do and reminding you where your clips need to go to ensure you don't fall off!

So, having been something I never thought I would do, I am so happy I did it and took a step outside of my comfort zone. I do think you need to try everything at least once. I'm not sure you'll find me swinging from the trees again anytime soon but if you are looking for a bit of adventure then Go Ape is most definitely the place for you.

After we finished the course, we headed back towards Stirling in search of some vegan cake to satisfy our sugar cravings. A Google search later and we came across Simply Nood, a little cafe in Bridge of Allan just outside of Stirling that serves up vegan options. Outside the big cities it can be pretty hard to find vegan food so we were really happy we found somewhere to go.

We both had avocado and pesto bagels and then split two vegan cakes between us - a gingerbread cupcake and a raw truffle brownie - to go with our hot chocolates. Everything was incredible. The avocado bagel was so yummy and filling, the cakes were delicious and the hot chocolate was the perfect mix of sweet and rich. I really couldn't recommend this little spot more if you find yourself in Stirling, vegan or not! It isn't a vegan cafe so they do have lots of other options too. I was seriously impressed and also gutted that this little gem wasn't open when I was a student at Stirling.

Doing something different can be scary (especially when it involves literally throwing yourself off trees!) but it can also be wonderful and exciting. Take a step outside of your comfort zone and do something that scares you, just make sure there's a bit slice of cake waiting for you at the other end! 

A massive thank you to Go Ape for having us along. I was invited as Charlene's guest as part of their Autumn Adventures campaign but all views, thoughts, and fears expressed in this post as completely my own. 

Is unrefined sugar better for you?

Monday, 24 October 2016

Sugar. It's become a dirty word. Well, the refined kind of sugar because unrefined sugars are healthier and better for you, right? 


For a long time I've tried my best to stay away from refined sugars (white, brown and caster), choosing things like maple syrup and agave nectar instead because that's what all the health bloggers were doing. Unrefined sugar or 'refined sugar free' have become buzz words and we've become obsessed with 'natural' and 'clean' sugars. Maple syrup, date syrup, coconut sugar and agave nectar are the healthy sugars and anything refined is bad.

Or at least that's what myself and many others were lead to believe.

This was something that always bothered me, it just didn't feel right because surely regardless of the source of the sugar and whether it is refined or not it is still sugar? I tried looking up more about it but became so bombarded with information and facts that I didn't quite know what to believe. From what I could tell, there really is very little benefit to having maple syrup over cane sugar in terms of their nutritional values because at the end of the day it's still sugar.

I've wanted to write about this for a long time now but I just felt I didn't have the knowledge or credibility to do so - I'm not a scientist or a nutritionist, all I know is what I've read online. A few weeks ago I came across a wonderful blog post written by Pixie from Plant Based Pixie who is a scientist and who knows her stuff on this topic and I just felt so happy that someone had finally set the record straight and said that actually, unrefined sugar is not better or healthier for you. Laura Thomas, another kick-ass woman of science, has also written about this topic busting the myth that 'refined sugar free' is a thing. It's definitely not a thing.

I used to be scared of refined sugar, brainwashed to believe that everything had to be refined sugar free and that using unrefined sugars is much healthier and better for you. Health bloggers everywhere were shunning cane sugar and instead using a litre of maple syrup in their baking to make 'healthy' cakes. I'm no expert but I was pretty sure that didn't make the cake healthy...

Now I know that sugar is sugar, refined or unrefined, it doesn't matter. So, I'm going to stop worrying and embrace it. Obviously, too much sugar isn't great for you, I'm not saying you should all go and start guzzling down all the chocolate in the world, but we need to stop fooling ourselves into thinking that certain types of sugar are healthier. If I want something sweet and sugary it really doesn't matter what the source of the sugar is. I'm still going to enjoy eating cakes and chocolate when I fancy them but I won't be spending a fortune on 'unrefined' sugars to make them healthier.

I'm done with 'refined sugar free'.

To find out more about the actual science on this, head over to these wonderful posts:
Does Being Refined Sugar Free Make you Healthy?
Natural vs. Artificial Sweeteners
We Need To Talk About 'Refined Sugar Free'

'Nutella' Filled Banana Muffins

Monday, 17 October 2016

A few weeks ago I posted a recipe on here for vegan chocolate hazelnut spread, or 'Nutella', and having made a lot of it because it's so good, I thought I'd try using it in a recipe rather than just eating it all out of the jar with a spoon (no regrets). These filled banana muffins were the result. The chocolate hazelnut spread goes so well with the moist banana muffin, especially when eaten warm from the oven. You can also use this recipe without the nutella spread to just bake banana muffins, which are delicious too. 

You will need (makes 6): 
1 1/2 cups wholewheat or plain flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 ripe bananas
1/4 cup coconut oil (solid) 
3 tablespoons soya milk
1 teaspoon vanilla paste 
chocolate hazelnut spread (recipe

- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- Combine all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. 
- Mash up the bananas and melt the coconut oil. Combine these together along with the soya milk and vanilla paste. 
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine together. 
- Line a muffin tray with six cases and spoon around 2 tablespoons of the mixture into each case. Add 1 tablespoon of the chocolate hazelnut spread into each case and then add the rest of the banana mixture on top. 
- Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Lentil and Spinach Curry

Monday, 10 October 2016

I've made quite a few different vegan curries this year, always trying out different spices, vegetables and pulses in search of that perfect combination and this one is by far the best I've come up with. Making this was the first time I had tried cooking with creamed coconut rather than coconut milk and I think it works much better. It's also much more cost effective as I managed to make this curry four times using one block, which was the same price as one tin of coconut milk, whereas I would have used four tins of coconut milk. I am absolutely in love with this dish and have made it so many times since coming up with the recipe a few weeks ago. It's definitely become my go-to curry and probably will be for a long time to come! It's great for cooking in a big batch to eat throughout the week and it also freezes really well so I always pop a portion or two away for another day. It's just so yummy!

You will need (serves 4): 
1 onion 
2 carrots 
1 cup red lentils 
200g spinach 
50g creamed coconut 
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1/2 vegetable stock cube 
2 teaspoons mixed herbs 
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric 
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules 
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

- Finely chop the onion and peel and chop the carrots into small chunks. 
- Add a little water to a large pot and fry off the onion for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat. 
- Add the carrots, tomato puree and all the herbs and spices to the pot to make a paste. Add a little extra water if required and fry all this together for 4-5 minutes. 
- Add the chopped tomatoes, lentils, creamed coconut and the stock cube to the pot along with 2 1/2 cups of water. 
- Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. 
- Stir through the spinach.

Scottish Vegan Festival + Zizzi Vegan Pizza

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Last Saturday was a wonderful food day and we all know that those are the best kind of days. I went to the Scottish Vegan Festival in Edinburgh with my lovely friend Charlene (her blog tartanmouth is one of my favourites so you should definitely all pay it a visit) where we bought one too many vegan cakes, sampled some incredible chocolate and went heart eyed over almost everything that was there. The festival was pretty similar to the Edinburgh Vegan Festival back in August but there were definitely quite a few stalls and brands we hadn't seen before too which made it a bit different.

There were so many exhibitors so we went around the whole lot around three times, just to make sure we weren't missing anything (and to make sure we sampled everything that was on offer). We even got the chance to try some of the new Sainsbury's vegan cheese at the Go Vegan Scotland stall, which we were so excited about having not been able to get our hands on it yet. The two we tried were delicious so I can't wait to try the rest of the range. It was so lovely to meet some of the GVS team too as until then I'd only ever interacted with them on social media. 

After stocking up on all the cakes, brownies, and salted caramel donuts (yes, VEGAN SALTED CARAMEL DONUTS!), we went along to the chocolate tasting workshop that was being run by Pacari because as if anyone can resist a tasting workshop. Pacari wasn't a brand I had heard of before this workshop but it is one I have been totally converted to. Unlike other chocolate makers who simply import the beans from growing countries, Pacari makes their whole product from tree to bar in Ecuador meaning so much more of the wealth stays in the country. As a small family run company, they really do go the extra mile to ensure their product is delicious, high quality, and that it makes a difference too. It was wonderful to hear about a company who truly cares about the local community. If you ever do spot Pacari chocolate then I'd definitely recommend giving it a try, it really does taste even better when you know how much of a difference it is making to the lives of others. 

We headed back into the city centre after the festival and popped to Hula Juice Bar for a drink before going for a wander around the lovely Edinburgh streets in the sunshine. Due to some unexpected train problems, we decided to head up Calton Hill and ended up going to Zizzi for dinner to try out their new autumn menu (and because I was dying to go having never been before). 

It was incredible. I got the classic vegan margherita topped with caramelised balsamic onions, fire roasted peppers and spinach and I think it was one of the best pizzas I have ever had - not just the best vegan pizza. The toppings were so tasty, especially the caramelised onions, and the cheese was so cheese-like, perhaps not quite as stringy as mozzarella is but that's the only difference. I truly think that if you gave this pizza to a non-vegan, they wouldn't notice the difference. Despite having a bag full of cakes from the festival under the table, we obviously just had to try the new vegan calzone dessert. Warm dough stuffed with banana, caramelised pecans and blueberries served with coconut ice cream - we just couldn't say no! I think it could have done with a sauce along with the ice cream (I'm sure the non-vegan version comes with a sauce) but other than that it was perfect. It's so wonderful that such a big chain have introduced a vegan menu and have so many options on it. Everything was incredible, like 12/10 good, and I can't wait to go back! I'm going to be dreaming of that pizza for weeks to come. 

Here's a little tip too - I used my Tesco clubcard points and traded them into Zizzi vouchers using the clubcard boost. There are quite a few restaurants you can do this with and some you get better value than others, Zizzi is one of the best because you can trade £2.50 of Tesco points into £10 food vouchers. I had £20 worth so this whole meal only cost us £5.50! Thanks to my dad for that little tip. 

It was a truly wonderful day out, filled with lovely company, beautiful scenery and lots of delicious food. It's always a good sign when the 'mmm' noise and the words yummy, incredible and wow come out of your mouth constantly all day.

Being vegan - six months on

Monday, 3 October 2016

['How would you feel, if the day that you were born, somebody else had already planned your execution?'] 

I've been fully vegan for six months now and I'm just sat thinking, really, is that all? Well, it's probably closer to seven months but still, it feels like much, much longer than that. I feel like I've always eaten this way, it's become who I am and it just feels so natural.

All vegans must sound like broken records when it comes to this because I think every single one of us does say the same thing, but it really is the best decision I have ever made. I have never felt as happy and at peace with myself and my lifestyle as I do now.

According to the vegan calculator, in six months I have saved 198,000 gallons of water, 5,400 square feet of forest and 180 animals. Being vegan does make a difference. Even if, in the grand scheme of things, these numbers are tiny, they still matter. To know that I have saved the lives of around 180 animals is just incredible.

Being vegan is about so much more than the food you eat, it's a whole lifestyle change and that change takes time. Six months on and I am still using up old products that aren't vegan. My diet has been completely vegan for the whole time, but I still have makeup products, toiletries and shoes that aren't vegan. I'm slowly using these up because I wouldn't want to waste them and when they need to be replaced I always buy vegan instead. I've given some things away to friends too so I'm almost there. Changing your lifestyle isn't something that happens overnight but it's so exciting to discover new brands and products. There really is a vegan alternative to everything. It's so much more than a diet, it's a lifestyle and one I don't think I could ever turn my back on.

Vegan - it is a word that can spark negativity and hateful comments. It can create debate and cause disagreements. It's also a word that can instantly unite people and bring them together through an underlying compassion and understanding. Since being vegan, never before have I felt more accepted and like I am a part of something huge. The community is filled with so many wonderfully inspiring people and I feel so lucky to be a part of that.

I've learned that as a vegan you won't always fit in, that sometimes you will be judged for your views, but that's okay because you know yourself that you are doing what is best, even if others can't see it. 

I've also learned that it's okay to make mistakes. A few months into being vegan I ate some coconut peanut butter than contained honey. I was so excited to try it that I completely forgot to look at the ingredients, generally peanut butter doesn't contain honey so it really didn't even cross my mind to check. I was a little annoyed at myself at first but then I thought about it: it was a mistake and if I'd known I would never have eaten it. Everyone slips up every now and again and that's okay. Being vegan is about causing the least harm possible and you really can't do any more than try your best.

A year ago I was one of those people saying 'oh, I could never go vegan', 'I could never give up cheese'. I was someone who thought veganism was excessive and a little mad. I just didn't understand why anyone would do it. A year ago I was nieve and still hidden behind the wall the dairy and meat industry have created for us to shield us from the truth. I was clueless to the harm being caused, the unnecessary cruelty and that fact that I could make a difference and stand up against it.

Now, here I am six months into the best lifestyle change I have ever made.

If you are thinking about going vegan I only have one thing to say: do it. The only regret I have is not having done it sooner (says ever vegan ever).

Ps. If you want to find out more about why I went vegan, have a peek at this post. 

Banana Bread Energy Balls

Thursday, 29 September 2016

These energy balls are inspired by my absolute love for banana bread. I love anything banana flavoured, they are such a staple in my diet, so I'm always trying out new recipes using them. These energy balls are so easy to make and taste just like banana bread, just in a slightly different texture and form. My fridge has been stocked with a tub of these for the last few weeks, I just can't get enough.

You will need (makes 10 balls):  
1 small/medium ripe banana
5 Medjool dates
1 cup oats
3/4 cup cashews
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

- Start by pitting the dates and then add these along with all the other ingredients to a food processor.
- Blend everything together until the mixture combines and starts to stick together.
- Roll the mixture into 10 snack sized balls and pop in the fridge for a few hours to set. Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

New Alpro Vegan Ice Cream: First Impressions

Monday, 26 September 2016

Something really exciting happened in the vegan world last week: Alpro brought out their new range of vegan ice creams! Alpro is one of my favourite brands and since going vegan has been a total life saver. Their huge range of insanely delicious yogurts, desserts and milks have become a staple in my life so when I spotted on Instagram that they were bringing out ice cream I was beyond excited. 

There was that background thought, though, that maybe this would be like when Ben and Jerry's announced their new dairy free range and it's still nowhere to be seen on the supermarket shelves (cry). I went down the freezer isle while doing my weekly shop, praying that I would find it. It was nowhere to be seen in the usual vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free section and just as I thought I wasn't going to find it, there it was in among all the regular ice creams! 

There are three flavours: vanilla, hazelnut chocolate and coconut and in my local Tesco they were only £3.50 each, which is a total bargain compared to some other ice creams. I did want to try them all but I managed to control myself and just bought one - the hazelnut chocolate, of course. 

Guys, it is SO good. I haven't actually had ice cream since going vegan, like proper creamy ice cream. I love banana nice cream and have had sorbet but not real ice cream. The shops near me don't have much to offer in the way of vegan ice cream and I just could never bear to shell out £6/7 odds for Booja Booja (despite how utterly incredible it looks).

It's so creamy and tastes so indulgent, and also a little like Nutella. If you gave this to a non-vegan in a bowl they genuinely would not know the difference. The flavour is delicious, so chocolatey with a hint of nuttiness. It's totally smooth too - I'm not sure why but I expected it to have some chunks through it. Some chocolate and hazelnut chunks in the ice cream is the only way it could have been better. You can just add some toppings on yourself though and it's totally like you're having Ben and Jerry's.

Alpro, you are amazing. It's so wonderful to have an affordable and delicious vegan ice cream on the shelves. This just proves that as a vegan you really don't miss out on anything. I can't wait to try the other flavours too - I think I'll go for vanilla next because if their vanilla soya yoghurt is anything to go by then it is going to be incredible. 

Have you tried the Alpro vegan ice cream yet? What did you think?

Is veganism a trend?

Monday, 12 September 2016

[Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.]
The Vegan Society.

Do you think veganism is just a trend? 

This was a question I got asked by a friend not long after going vegan. I was going to include it in my 'things people ask when you go vegan' post but I thought it would make a good post in itself, so here we are. 

According to The Vegan Society, today over 500,000 people in the UK follow a vegan diet, which is a 350% increase over the last decade. So, why the rise? 

People go vegan for so many reasons. It could be for the animals or the planet, for health reasons, for an experiment, even for a 'cleanse'. What tends to keep people vegan though is that underlying ethical connection, the realisation that this diet is the only one that makes sense. Having spoken to so many vegans, the main thing that always comes up is that once you make that connection between the meat and dairy you are consuming and the pain, cruelty and damage it causes, you simply can't go back.

If people just give veganism a try then they may never make that ethical connection and may revert back to eating meat and dairy. Of course, any passionate vegan would be disappointed at that but is it as awful as it seems?

I would love it if every person who tried being vegan stayed vegan but sadly that isn't always the case. To be vegan you need to really know your stuff. You need to know how to get enough nutrients and to always make sure you are eating enough. You need to be able to stand up for what you believe in and be able to explain that to others who might not understand. 

I think social media has played a huge role in the rise of veganism. I know myself if it wasn't for social media I may not have become vegan. It is so powerful, allowing you to connect with likeminded people so easily. It's a place where you can share your passions with people who understand and who respect you. I don't know anyone in my life outside of social media who is vegan but online I feel like I am part of a huge movement where vegan is the norm, and that is just incredible. Instagram can make veganism look glamorous and desirable, Twitter can provide you with facts, YouTube can give you inspiration, and across all platforms you are given the opportunity to connect with new people and share your stories. 

However, social media can also make veganism look like a trend as more and more people start to adopt this lifestyle. Some of the 'big' Instagramers and YouTubers have such a huge influence over people and can play a massive role in bringing people to this lifestyle. Social media can make veganism look cool but what happens when people start to lose interest? 

Let's say someone tries out veganism for a few months and then decides it's not for them and goes back to how they lived before. During the time they were vegan they created demand for vegan products and they would have talked about the lifestyle with their friends and family. Although they didn't stay vegan, they helped the lifestyle gain attention and showed that there is a growing demand for vegan products. 

Even if, for some, veganism is just a trend, they helped us for a little while to raise awareness and create demand and I really don't know how that can be a bad thing. I know there is a concern that when people go vegan and then go back it can make it look like it was too hard, not sustainable and not healthy, but being vegan for a little while is still better than having never being vegan at all. And even if people do stop being vegan, they might come back again.

Being vegan is all about creating the least harm possible. It's about compassion and about love. Once you make that connection, it's almost impossible to go back. Even if veganism is a trend, people trying this lifestyle is raising awareness of it, creating more demand for vegan products and sending a message that being vegan can be pretty great. 

For most, being vegan is a lifestyle, not a fad diet. It's for the animals, the planet and ourselves. It's also the best decision I ever made.

What do you think about veganism being a trend?

Ps. How cute is this t-shirt? I got it from The Vegan Society for only £3.99 if anyone is interested :) 

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Monday, 5 September 2016

Who else used to adore Nutella before going vegan? Nutella used to be what peanut butter is to me now - the kind of food you ate on everything and could easily sit with a jar and a spoon and be blissfully happy. So, this is my attempt at a vegan Nutella of sorts. I haven't titled the post Nutella because it's not exactly like Nutella in that the texture is not quite as smooth and it's a bit thicker, but it tastes pretty similar and you still get that feeling of wanting to sit and eat the whole lot out the jar with a spoon, so I'd call that a success. It's so yummy spread on strawberries or banana slices, on toast or swirled into porridge. This recipe makes a jar worth, but if you are anything like me then half the mixture won't even make it into the jar...

You will need:
1 cup hazelnuts* 
8 Medjool dates 
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1 teaspoon vanilla paste 
3/4 cup water 

- Roast the hazelnuts at 180 degrees celsius for 10 minutes. 
- Remove the skins from the nuts if required and then pop them into a food processor with the rest of the ingredients. 
- Blend until smooth - this takes around 10 minutes to get the right consistency.

*I use hazelnuts with the skins still on to make this recipe because they are cheaper to buy and the skins come off so easily once the nuts have been roasted (just rub the nuts and the skins flake off - the skins don't need to be completely off as long as most of them are) but you can also use blanched hazelnuts if you prefer.