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.