Vegan Basil and Spinach Pesto

Thursday, 25 February 2016
Vegan Basil and Spinach Pesto

Pesto is one of those things I always like to have on hand, whether it be a shop bought jar stored away in the cupboard, or a fresh homemade batch. I love having it with a big bowl of pasta, stirred through salads or in a sandwich. It's also much easier to make than you may think so I'd definitely encourage you to have a go at making your own. It freezes really well too so you can double up the ingredients below and make a big batch to put away for another time.

You will need (makes one small jar): 
1 cup fresh basil
2 cups spinach
2 small cloves garlic (minced)
the juice of half a lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional) 

Method: 
Simply pop all the ingredients into a food processor and mix until you get a pesto consistency. If the mix is too thick just add a little extra olive oil.

Vegan Basil and Spinach Pesto

Tomato, Red Pepper and Lentil Soup

Monday, 15 February 2016
Tomato, Red Pepper and Lentil Soup

I love soup. In fact, I could easily live off it, especially during the winter when it's getting colder. There really is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of homemade soup after coming in from the cold. This recipe combines tomato, red peppers and lentils to make a lovely hearty soup with a wonderful flavour. You could also add a decent sprinkle of chilli flakes to give it a nice kick if you fancy a bit of a spicier dish. 

Tomato, Red Pepper and Lentil Soup

You will need (makes 5-6 portions): 
1 onion
2 red peppers
1 carrot
1 + 1/2 cups dry red lentils
3 cups vegetable stock
3 cups water
1 tin chopped tomatoes (400g)
2 teaspoons ground coriander leaves
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons tomato puree
dried chilli flakes and ground pepper to taste

Method: 
- Chop up the onion, carrot and red peppers into small chunks and then add to a large pot with a little olive oil. Fry the veg over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes, until softened.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, veggie stock, water, lentils and spices to the pot and bring to the boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and leave to simmer for about 35 minutes.
- Use a hand blender to blend the soup until it's nice and smooth.
- Serve with a sprinkle of ground pepper and a side of fresh bread. 

Tomato, Red Pepper and Lentil Soup

Pancake Day! Banana and Cinnamon Pancakes

Monday, 8 February 2016
Vegan Banana and Cinnamon Pancakes

Happy (the day before) Pancake Day! I'm personally more of a pancakes for breakfast type person than pancakes for dessert, so this recipe uses banana and oats to make a super filling stack of pancakes that will put a smile on your face first thing in the morning. Serve with more banana (because you can never have enough banana) and lots of maple syrup because there's really no other way to eat pancakes.

Vegan Banana and Cinnamon Pancakes

You will need (serves 1): 
1/2 cup plain flour (or another flour of your choice)
1 banana 
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup oats 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Coconut oil for frying 

Method: 
- Mash up the banana in a bowl. 
- Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. 
- Melt a teaspoon of coconut oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Once the oil is melted, spoon the mixture into the pan to make the pancakes. I use around two tablespoons of mixture per pancake and this makes about five. Fry on each side for 1-2 minutes - it's ready to flip once little bubbles start to appear in the mixture. 
- Serve with banana slices, a sprinkle of cinnamon and maple syrup. 

Vegan Banana and Cinnamon Pancakes

Going veggie

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Vegetarian. 

A word I never thought I would use to describe myself. I grew up in a family of meat eaters and all of my friends eat meat. I did too up until a few months ago, although it was very rare and only ever chicken or mince. I've never particularly liked red meat - steak, ribs, lamb, pork - I didn't like the taste at all and there was just something about having such a vast chunk of meat on my plate that made me feel a little uneasy. I would eat chicken perhaps a few times a month but as the prices got higher and higher I started eating it less and less. 

Since changing my lifestyle and eating healthier I've loved experimenting in the kitchen and creating new and delicious foods. I'd say the second part of last year was when this really took off because I moved from a shared house to my own little flat and having my own kitchen really made a difference. With more space I could easily spend hours in the kitchen every weekend cooking up different things and trying new recipes. I started to explore more veggie options and I loved discovering new ways of cooking vegetables and grains. It didn't take long before I realised how delicious vegetarian food could be and that you really don't need to have meat in your diet. The more and more I looked into it and after watching a few food documentaries (anyone else love watching these?!) the more I realised I didn't want to eat meat. The last time I ate meat was September and I decided in December that I was going to give myself the label and go veggie.


A lot of people who are vegetarians do so because they are animal lovers but for me this wasn't the main reason, although I do love animals and it was definitely a factor in my decision. No, for me the main reason was health related - I simply felt better when I didn't eat meat. I love eating huge plates of vegetables, grains and fruit filled with goodness because it just makes me feel so wonderful. I have more energy, feel less lethargic and just all round better. I've also spent a long time on antibiotics for a health condition but I'm hoping now that I've come off these that I can use diet rather than drugs to fend this off. 

I would also say environmental factors played a role in my decision too. After watching documentaries including Food Inc. and Cowspiracy I was pretty shocked at the sheer amount of resources that go into producing meat for human consumption. I won't go into the facts and figures here but I would say if you're interested then go and do a bit of research because it is so interesting.

And of course the animals. It breaks my heart to think about the awful things that happen to animals during their short lives. Animals that are born purely to be reared for human consumption can be treated so badly and I just can't support that. I think when you eat meat you tend to turn a blind eye to these things, but the more I found out I just knew I couldn't support the meat industry anymore. 

Vegan?

It's only been a month or so since I became vegetarian but I am already considering going vegan or plant-based. I watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives and it just really opened my eyes to the benefits of a vegan diet - I'd really recommend watching it if vegan is something you're considering because it is so interesting. There's also the issue of animals who are used for creating products like milk, eggs and cheese and how unnatural this is and how cruel it can be. There's just something about living solely off plants that really appeals to me. It seems a lot more natural and I would love to see how it makes me feel, if just going veggie has already made me feel so great. 

But, at the moment, I'm not vegan but I am trying to eat a more plant-based diet and have been experimenting with different ways to make my favourite dairy-based foods with plant-based products. If you are vegan I would love to know how you found the transition and if there's any advice you would give to someone considering the change?

I'd just like to finish off by saying that each and every one of us has the right to choose how we eat. Just because I am now a vegetarian doesn't mean I will be trying to convince any of my friends to do so too. I believe we should all eat what makes us feel wonderful, whether that be meat, eggs, fish or a huge plate of vegetables. I just wanted to share my thoughts on the subject and give a little insight into why I decided to change my diet.

x

Almond, Date and Cacao Energy Balls

Monday, 1 February 2016
Almond, Date and Cacao Snack Balls

I've wanted to make energy balls for so long having seen them pop up on food blogs everywhere for the past year, however, up until very recently I didn't own a food processor. I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt excluded from the delicious energy ball craze by my lack of equipment and so this recipe was born after I discovered the soaking dates in hot water trick and I'm so pleased with how they turned out. You could make these in a food processor if you have one but I really wanted to create a recipe that was accessible to everyone. I'm sure I'll be making lots of yummy energy balls in my new food processor in the weeks to come but, for now, this one is for the old food processor-less me and everyone else out there who can relate to this struggle. I hope you will enjoy them! 

You will need (makes 8 balls): 
6 Medjool dates
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup oats
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 heaped tablespoon almond butter
2 teaspoons cacao powder (optional)

Method: 
- Pit the dates and pop into a bowl of boiling water for 10 minutes to soften.
- Once the dates have softened and are starting to break down, mash them up using a fork until they form a paste.
- In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together (apart from the cacao powder).
- At this stage I split the mix in half and add cacao powder to one of the halves to make a chocolatey tasting ball, but you can leave this out if you prefer or make all the mixture chocolate by doubling the quantity of cacao powder - it's up to you!
- Roll the mixture into eight balls (four of each flavour).
- On a plate put a small amount of ground almonds and roll each ball in this to give it a nice coating, this also takes away the stickiness of the mixture. If you've made chocolate balls, add a little cacao to the ground almonds too when you roll the chocolate balls. 
- Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge. They should keep for up to two weeks.

Almond, Date and Cacao Snack Balls