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!