Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Monday, 27 June 2016
Vegan Curried Sweet Potato Soup

I first curried sweet potato soup a few months ago when I was on a little overnight stay with a friend. We came across a lovely cafe in a tiny village, pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was the cutest place, filled with vintage decor, bright colours, and a really homely atmosphere so, of course, we decided to stop for lunch. The soup of the day was curried sweet potato and it was the most delicious soup I'd tasted in a long time, the contrast between the sweetness of the potato and the spicy Indian flavours from the curry was just wonderful and I knew I had to try recreating it at home, which is where today's recipe comes from.

I love this soup and probably make it every few weeks. I sometimes eat it by itself with some bread or crackers as a lunch, but more often I eat it as a dinner, adding rice, broccoli, sweetcorn and spinach to it. That maybe sounds a little odd but trust me, it is so good! It also works out to be a really cheap meal as the ingredients are so basic, and you probably have all the spices and herbs in your house already so you just need to pick up the veggies. It makes a huge pot too so it will last you for the whole week, or you can freeze it and use it at a later date. 

Vegan Curried Sweet Potato Soup

You will need (serves 6):
2 large sweet potatoes
3 carrots
1 onion
1/2 cup red lentils
7-8 cups vegetable stock made with 1 1/2 stock cubes (add more water if you prefer a thinner consistency of soup)
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon herbs de provence
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
ground pepper to taste

Method
- Cut the sweet potatoes and carrots into largish chunks and finely chop the onion.
- In a large pot, fry the onion in a little water for 2-3 minutes to soften it.
- Add the stock, sweet potatoes, carrots, lentils and herbs and spices to the pot and bring to the boil.
- Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 40-45 minutes.
- Using a hand blender, blend until smooth. If you find the soup is too thick for you then add some extra water.

Optional: serve with added rice and veggies for a yummy dinner!


Vegan Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Vegan Favourites #1

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Hello, and welcome to my first vegan favourites post! I love watching vegan favourites videos on YouTube but as I am no video maker I thought it would be a nice idea to start making regular little posts on here about the vegan products I have been loving recently. Since becoming vegan, I feel like I am discovering so many wonderful products and also being pleasantly surprised that some of the products I already loved are actually vegan too. Finding all these new brands and products to fall in love with is making me so happy so I really want to share a little of the love on here and hopefully give you all some ideas for some great vegan products you can buy, use and also fall in love with. 

Original Source 

I've always loved Original Source products, mainly because they smell so incredible, but until going vegan I had never actually clocked the little vegan symbol displayed proudly on the front of their packaging. All of their products are vegan, not tested on animals, contain only natural ingredients and smell like heaven. Finding out these products are vegan was definitely a highlight and I know I will be using a lot more of their range now that I know. Their new shower milk range looks so wonderful too so I can't wait to try that!


Lush Herbalism 

I've tried quite a few of the Lush face and body scrubs now but I think Herbalism is my favourite so far. It's not too rough in texture so is more of a gentle scrub, which makes it perfect for using on your face. I love using this every night, it makes me feel so clean and fresh. This one contains rice bran and ground almonds to act as the exfoliator along with nettle and rosemary extracts. The ground almonds create a smooth milky feel when mixed with water so it feels wonderful on your skin. I was using the Let The Good Times Roll scrub before I got this one, which although smelled incredible, I found it to be a little too rough for using on my face so Herbalism is a much gentler alternative.

Salt of the Earth Deodorant 

I swapped to using a natural deodorant a few months ago now and I can hand on heart say that I have never looked back. I wrote a full post about this over on my lifestyle blog which you can read so I won't go into too much detail here but it's just wonderful. I use the Salt of the Earth one which is totally vegan-friendly and I love it. I've struggled with a skin condition that affects my underarms for years, which was part of the reason I wanted to try a natural deodorant, but I'd also been reading a lot about all the harmful chemicals that are in deodorants and how they can affect your skin. Since using this I've had no problems at all. I was a little sceptical at first as it is completely unscented so I wasn't convinced I actually had any on, and how can a natural crystal act as a deodorant anyway? But it does actually work, even for going to the gym and working out. I'll never go back after using this, it's become a firm vegan favourite.


Missy's Vegan Cupcakes 

Okay, this one is probably only going to be of interest to people who live in Scotland, sorry! These cakes were just too good not to include in this post though. This month I went to the Flying Duck Fete in Glasgow for the first time, which is held once a month and involves a lot of seriously yummy vegan cakes. Missy's Vegan Cupcakes was one of the stalls and all the cakes looked incredible. It took me a long time to choose but I eventually decided on the peanut butter cupcake (no surprises there) and oh-my-god, it was the best cake I have ever eaten ever. I was so upset I only bought one because I could easily have eaten 10. I'm definitely going to become a Missy's stalker, following them around everywhere they go to buy all the vegan cakes. If you live near to Glasgow or Edinburgh you need to check them out! They go to the Flying Duck Fete every month in Glasgow and also the Leith Market Vegan Quarter every month in Edinburgh, plus a few others listed on their Facebook page. SO GOOD.

T Plus Teas

I've loved these guys for a while now so they absolutely had to feature in my first vegan favourites post. T Plus make green teas which are filled with vitamins and different fruity flavours. I never used to be a fan of green tea but after discovering this brand through Twitter I have become a total convert, swayed by all their fruity flavours. My favourite one is the orange and blueberry but they are all so yummy. And, they contain 50% of your RDA of essential vitamins, including B12, so they are extra vegan-friendly - yay! I also guest blog over on the T Plus website once a month so be sure to pop over to read my posts (and buy lots of tea) - this month I'm sharing my tips on how to drink more water this summer.


Vegan Aminos 

Vegan Aminos is a vegan community-based app that I have recently fallen in love with. It's basically a whole lot of passionate vegan people coming together and sharing their food, recipes, stories, questions, suggestions, advice and love. You have your own profile and can post blogs to it, which can be whatever you fancy - photos, recipes or just text. You can also search for people posting near you which is great for finding other local vegans and you can get involved in discussions, chats and polls. This was one of the first apps I downloaded when I got my new phone having been eyeing it up for ages (my phone before was so old I couldn't download any new apps!). I've just loved speaking to other vegans and getting lots of new recipe ideas, food tips and advice. If you are vegan then this is the perfect app for you! 

What vegan products have you been loving recently?


Banana Granola

Monday, 20 June 2016
Vegan Banana Granola

I think bananas are possibly my most used ingredient. They are just perfect because you can do so much with them, plus they taste incredible and add so much delicious natural sweetness to things. I also love granola so it was really only a matter of time before banana granola became a thing. I wanted to create an oil-free granola recipe because although I do love coconut oil and do usually use this when making granola, I fancied trying an oil-free version and thought banana would make the perfect replacement. Now I think this may be my favourite granola ever, so much so that since creating this recipe a good few months ago I've constantly had a jar filled with it ever since, baking up big batches when it runs out to keep me going. It makes the perfect breakfast with milk and fruit, a really yummy smoothie bowl topping (which is possibly my favourite way to eat it) and also a nice dessert with some soya yoghurt. I really just can't get enough, sometimes I even eat it out of the jar with a spoon because it's that good (anyone else do this? Just me?...).

Vegan Banana Granola

You will need (makes one large jar): 
2 1/2 cups jumbo oats 
1/2 cup almonds 
1/2 cup pecans 
1 very ripe banana 
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons maple syrup 
1 cup sultanas (optional) 

Method: 
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. 
- Roughly chop the almonds and pecans using a food processor. 
- Add the oats, chopped nuts and seeds to a large bowl and mix together. 
- Mash the banana using a fork and combine this with the maple syrup in a small bowl. Mix until a smooth liquid forms. 
- Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well, ensuring that everything is coated. 
- Split the mixture between two lined baking trays and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, stirring halfway, until the granola is golden brown and crunchy. 
- Leave to cool and then mix through the sultanas if you are adding these.

4 tips to find the time to workout

Thursday, 16 June 2016
4 tips to find the time to workout

I only started taking exercise seriously around two years ago when I began working full-time. Before that, I rarely did any proper exercise, but I did have a job that involved being on my feet all day so I didn't really notice because I always felt like I had been pretty active. It was when I started working full-time in an office that I really noticed a difference. I felt so inactive, like I was just moving from one chair to the next all day and I really felt like I had to get my body moving again, so one evening after work I decided I was going to join the gym. I'd had a few gym memberships prior to this while at university but I never went because at that time exercise just wasn't really that important to me, I was more focused on getting good grades and having fun with my friends, and that was fine back then.

Since joining the gym and really making an effort to do regular workouts, I've fallen in love and I go at least three times a week, usually four, and I also run during the summer. I've realised the importance of exercise and of staying active because it makes me feel great. I love the feeling of pushing myself to go further, faster and to lift heavier. I love how a good workout can make me feel so wonderful even after a rubbish day. I love having time to just focus on myself and clear my head. They say that once you catch the exercise bug you just can't seem to stop and I used to think that was rubbish but now I get it and it is definitely a little addictive, you just need to get past the initial feelings of dread and find the happiness it can bring. 

I know exercise for some people can feel like a chore and I hear so many people complaining that they just don't have the time so today I wanted to share a few little tips for how you can find time to workout among your busy schedule. It's a little about changing your mindset but there are also some really easy things you can do to simply make more time to workout.


Make exercise a priority

When it comes to exercise, you need to make it something important to you because otherwise it can become so easy to push it to the side and prioritise other things. Exercise has become so important to me since I started making an effort to look after myself because I know how amazing it makes me feel. You need to remember that you will never regret going for a workout, but it's quite likely you will regret not going. Doing an hour workout is only 4% of your day, which really is nothing. Of course, there will be some days when you really just don't have the time, or you've had a really busy day and don't have the energy and that's okay too. Listening to your body is just as important as exercising. As long as you find time for exercise on at least three or four out of seven days you're doing great. 


Plan your workouts into your schedule

I know this one works really well for some people who love to plan their time down to the hour. If you write your workouts and exercise plans into your diary then you kind of set it in stone that it's going to happen. Seeing it written down makes it a solid plan and you're more likely to do it, and if you don't you'll probably feel bad for the rest of the week because it will be staring back at you every time you open your diary. There's no harm in swapping days, though, maybe you planned a workout for a Tuesday evening but ended up having to work late so couldn't do it - move it to the next day or the weekend so you're still getting in all your planned workouts for the week. 


Get up an hour earlier

This is one of my favourites. It really is amazing what you can fit in before work if you just get up a little earlier. In the summer, I love going for a run first thing in the morning and I only need to get up half an hour earlier than normal to fit this in. Sometimes if I know I won't have time for the gym after work then I'll get up an hour earlier and go in the morning when it opens at 6am. You could also do a workout video or even some yoga in the morning before work without even having to leave your house. It might be difficult to get yourself out of bed at that time but once you're up and doing your workout you will realise how worthwhile it was. I love sitting down at my desk at 9am knowing that I've already done my workout for the day, it really is the best feeling.  


Use your lunch break

I only get a half hour lunch break at work so I'm limited with what I can do in this time although sometimes my colleagues and I will go for a walk if it's a nice day. Although it's not an intense workout, going for a walk is still great exercise and it gives you an opportunity to clear your head and get away from the work environment for a little while, which is so important. If you get a bit longer for your lunch break then you could fit in a more intense workout. I know some places offer classes during lunch time which people can pop along to during their break, or you could go for a half hour power walk or run. It's just about using what time you have most effectively.

Do you have any other tips on finding time to workout?

Lentil Bolognese

Monday, 13 June 2016
Vegan Lentil Bolognese

This recipe has been one of my favourites for a long time now. I first made it shortly after becoming vegetarian last year and it's become a regular go-to meal, and luckily it was vegan too so I didn't need to change the recipe at all when I changed my diet. It's one of those ones that I just make time and time again because it's so easy and tastes so good, and it freezes really well so I always make it in big batches and freeze the leftovers in portions for another day. You can serve it with pasta, spaghetti, salad or rice and it makes a really good lunch for taking to work too. I always feel that you can never go wrong with a really hearty and satisfying meal like this one, and I'm sure you've realised by now if you are a regular reader of this blog that I have a soft spot for anything that can be cooked in one pot with minimal fuss, which luckily for me, so many vegan dishes can be.

Vegan Lentil Bolognese

You will need (serves 6): 
1 courgette 
2 carrots 
1 onion 
2 cloves garlic
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes 
5 tablespoons tomato puree
1 cup red lentils 
1 cup green lentils 
5 cups vegetable stock/water (made using one stock cube)
2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes 
pepper to taste 

Method: 
- Finely chop all the vegetables and mince the garlic. 
- Fry the onion in one tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute. 
- Add all the rest of the ingredients to the pot and leave to simmer for 45-50 minutes, stirring regularly. 
- Serve with your choice of spaghetti, pasta and veggies. I love mixing a handful of spinach leaves through the sauce just before serving and serving it with lots of whole wheat spaghetti.

Download recipe

Vegan Lentil Bolognese

Should vegans take B12 supplements?

Thursday, 9 June 2016
Should vegans take B12 supplements?

Vitamin B12. It's something we all need, although it is something that is talked about a lot more among the vegan community because it's the only vitamin that you cannot get naturally from a plant-based diet. Before I started to consider going vegan and began researching more into the vegan lifestyle, I really wasn't aware of vitamin B12, and I'm sure many others aren't too. If you eat meat, dairy and eggs then you will get your B12 from these sources without even realising it. Vegans, on the other hand, don't and so it's something that is a lot more important for us to think about and be conscious of.

I wanted to write this post to try and share a little of what I've learned about B12. There is so much information out there about this vitamin and, like most things, all the guidance tells you different things. I've read a lot and I've pulled this post together using the sources I consider to be the most reliable, plus a little of my own personal experience. I hope it will be helpful, but I would encourage you to go and do your own research too if B12 is something you would like to learn more about. I will leave links to all the sources I have used at the bottom of this post so you can have a look at those too. 

Why is B12 important and where do you get it? 

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in our bodies, including making red blood cells, keeping the immune system healthy and helping to release energy from the food we eat. The NHS list good sources of B12 as being: meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs and some fortified breakfast cereals, which of course, aside from the latter none of which us vegans eat. 

The reason for these products containing good amounts of B12 is because it is created by bacteria within the animals bodies. Many animals are also given B12 supplements. Both of these sources then make their way into the animal products that humans eat.

B12 Deficiency  

A deficiency in B12 can make you pretty damn unwell if your levels are dangerously low. Symptoms of B12 deficiency can include: tiredness, a feeling of not having enough energy, a sore tongue, irritability, personality changes and poor memory. Low levels of B12 can also cause anemia, nervous system damage and complications during pregnancy.

Your body can store vitamin B12 for between two and four years (crazy, right?!) so it might take a while for you to show any symptoms of a deficiency after you have changed your diet. Because of this, you might not make the connection between your vegan diet and how you are feeling, so it's super important to start getting good vegan sources of B12 as soon as you change your diet to ensure that you maintain your body's supplies.

Should vegans take B12 supplements?

Vegan sources of B12

The two best ways to ensure you are getting enough B12 as a vegan is to either eat fortified foods throughout the day or to take a supplement of the vitamin. Vegan foods that are usually fortified include non-dairy

There are lots of different types of B12 supplements that you can take whether it be in tablet form, a spray or an injection. I personally choose to take a daily supplement pill, which you can almost always pick up from your local health foods store, alternatively, there are lots of options available online. The ones I buy usually cost around £5 for 100 tablets so they aren't expensive at all, and it is always worth spending money for good health.

A little about my experience 

Before I became vegan (although I had been eating a mostly vegan diet for many months prior to finally cutting out dairy and eggs completely), I went through a period of feeling like I had no energy at all. I couldn't understand what was wrong because I was definitely eating enough and getting enough sleep. After a few visits to the doctor, I was put on iron supplements as my levels were very slightly lower than normal but this made no difference at all. It was only once I started learning more about the vegan diet that I stumbled across the importance of B12 and thought that it was quite likely I was running a little low on the vitamin as I was vegetarian, didn't drink milk or eat eggs and rarely ate cheese or yoghurts, and had eaten a diet like this for over a year. I started taking a supplement a few months ago and I actually do feel quite a bit better now. I wouldn't say I am 100% where I would like to be but I definitely feel a lot more energised than I did before. I can't say for sure that it was a lack of B12 that was causing my symptoms as I was never tested but it's really the only thing I've changed so it must have had a little something to do with it. I'm totally no expert though. 

So, B12 is pretty bloody important and is definitely something that vegans need to be aware of. It's nothing to worry too much about though as it is easy to get enough and put your mind at ease. The main thing is that you are taking steps to keep your levels up in whatever way works best for you.

What are your thoughts on B12? 


Sources

The information contain within this post was gathered from the following sources as well as from my own personal experience:  


Raw Goji and Walnut Brownies

Monday, 6 June 2016
Raw Goji and Walnut Brownies

I really can't believe that it's June already. I'm sure you've read that on countless blogs already or heard people saying it over and over again but it really is crazy how fast this year has gone. It's been wonderful having a bit of good weather in Scotland recently and I am really loving the light mornings and nights.

Since I started this blog, I've aimed to post once a week, sometimes twice if you're lucky, and so far it's been going well. I really want to push myself to create more content though and really put my all into this little space, so I've decided I'm going to set myself a challenge this month of posting twice every week instead of once on Mondays and Thursdays (and might even keep it up going forward if it goes well). I'd love to know what posts are your favourite to read and if there are any posts you would like to see on here so please let me know in the comments!

Anyway, onto the brownies, which I am sure is the reason you are here. This recipe is my first raw brownie one and I am really happy with it. Raw brownies are so easy to make and they taste so good! These ones are quite basic and you probably have most of the ingredients in your cupboards already (apart from maybe the goji berries, but these can be substituted for any dried fruit if you don't have any).

Although this is a raw brownie recipe, I have found that eating them a little warmed is incredible too. They are really good cold but I was intrigued and popped one into the microwave for about 20 seconds before eating it and oh-my-god, it just took it to a whole new level of deliciousness and fudgy brownie gooeyness - just wow. So, if you're not too bothered about eating them raw, I'd recommend trying them warm too.





Raw Goji and Walnut Brownies

You will need (makes around 9 brownies):
10 pitted Medjool dates
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons cacao powder
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/4 cup goji berries 

Method: 
- Put the dates, oats, pecans, 1/2 cup walnuts and cacao powder into a food processor and mix until everything is well combined and the mixture is starting to clump together - you might need to add a little water to get it to this stage, I added around 2 tablespoons as it was mixing. 
- Remove the mixture from the food processor and put into a bowl. 
- Add the 1/4 cup of roughly chopped walnuts along with the goji berries to the brownie mixture and mix well. 
- Line a dish/tray with grease proof paper and then put the mixture into this. Pop into the fridge to set for 2-3 hours before serving. Store any leftover brownies in the fridge.

Download recipe

Raw Goji and Walnut Brownies