Random Food… Gooey Vegan Chocolate Cake at Bella Italia!

Did you know that Bella Italia have some fantastic vegan options? Well, not only do they have lovely pizza and pasta, they also have this gorgeous decadent morsel of a chocolate cake, the Morello Cioccolato…

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The even better news is that as well as being vegan, this cake is entirely gluten free. Happy days! It was rich, moist and oozing with gooey chocolate sauce and morello cherries. Heaven!

And yes, it is OK to just go in for tea and cake – that’s exactly what we did …

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It’s fantastic that so many high street chains are now offering tasty vegan options. The only thing missing from Bella Italia was some soya milk, as a latte would have been an amazing accompaniment, and a touch of extra indulgence!

Thanks Bella! 🙂

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Random Books… Interview with Vegan Author – Martin Treanor

Today, I have something a little different for you – an interview with  vegan author Martin Treanor. There are not many books out there with a hard hitting vegan cop as a main character, and I think this is a great way to further launch veganism into the mainstream. Martin is an Irish fiction writer and guest blogger for The Huffington Post. His published works include his recent novel: Hellmaw: Dark Creed ( The Ed Greenwood Group, 2017) and his Amazon bestselling, début novel: The Silver Mist (BK Publishing USA, 2011).

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Hellmaw is Ed Greenwood’s (creator of Forgotten Realms®) darkest setting to date, and Martin’s book introduces us to Boston Police Detective Charlie Delaney as she investigates a modern day sect, the leader of which may not be as innocent as he first appears.

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Martin has also published stories and articles in Canadian & US speculative fiction magazines Spinetingler and Zahir, The Spinetingler Short Story Anthology, Carillon (UK), Tivoli Magazine (Denmark and Greenland), and The Dubliner Magazine (Scandinavia and South Africa). He was also contributor to Jonathan Maberry’s non-fiction book: They Bite; Citadel, 2009.

Martin, What made you decide to go vegan?

The animals – simple as that. I became vegetarian when I saw how pigs and calves were being treated in the meat industry. I think I fooled myself that, if I only bought home produced eggs and milk I could trace back to the organic farm, I was doing enough for animal welfare. My opinion changed when I looked closely at how these farms work, and became vegan.

In your latest book, DARK CREED, you have a vegan main character – was this intentional?

Yes – absolutely. My publisher – The Ed Greenwood Group – was keen to have protagonists and antagonists that are not mainstream or overdone. I thought it would be good to have a hard hitting cop, in Boston, who is tracking a shape-changing daemon, and who was also vegan. Charlie Delaney likes to be out there. She is conscious of everything, and logical, which helps her see the conspiracies going on around her. She was fun to write.

Will we see more vegan characters in other books?

Yup – definitely. Writing is about reflecting society in all its diversity. And the stereotype is getting a bit tiring now – the prerequisite lentil eating, airy fairy loon who at every turn has to go and ‘drain the tofu’. Cue looks of confusion and pity on the faces of his/her meat eating friends. Oh – and ‘what about bacon’.

In reality, this is a dead concept, and I think weak writing. Vegans are like Charlie Delaney: strong, motivated, normal people. Veganism also adds a dimension to a character that leaves the reader thinking – and that is what writing is all about.

How have your characters been received and have you received any criticism?

Very well actually. In that I haven’t received a single negative comment. Veganism is mainstream now – and growing. It might take a while but, like vegetarianism, it will continue to grow. The health benefits alone will see to that.

Do you think literature is a good platform for spreading the vegan message and raising awareness?

It is – in that literature must reflect the human condition: good, bad, indifferent, the whole hog. A book isn’t, and shouldn’t be a manifesto. It is fiction and should stay that way. But, within it, there should be elements of everything that makes humankind the wonderful pool of diversity it is. It should expose the warts and celebrate the shininess. It’s all about the story – and whatever helps make the story can engage the reader.

What’s your favourite vegan food?

Oh – bloody hell. I love food. I’m a big grub-o-phile. If I had to pick – and I suppose I do – I would say tofu chow mein, done with vermicelli rice noodles – oh, and ice cream. Vegan vanilla ice cream (especially the new one from Fry’s) is the best – way creamier than the cow stuff. It’s the dog’s doodahs.

Where’s the best place you’ve travelled to when touring for finding vegan options?

Without a doubt, Berlin. They really know how to do it there. Practically every café or restaurant – those that aren’t fully vegan – have, as a standard, many vegan options on the menu.

Also Leicestershire and Nottingham – I know, who would have thought? But, yes, even in a small village called Sileby there are vegan option in all 3 cafes, in particular one I came across called The Green Place, which is totally veggie/vegan. Leicester is terrific (not just the curry houses – there are many pubs and restaurants offering vegan food), as is Nottingham. In my opinion, both cities have way more options than London.

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Martin in his element exploring a creepy old house

Other than veganism, do you have any other areas of ethical or environmental concern?

At home, we are totally chemical free – dish-washing, laundry, personal cosmetics, it’s all made natural and biodegradable. It wasn’t hard to transfer to either. I try not to buy things I don’t need. We buy organic and fair trade where possible. Our power is totally renewable – and I have a Fairphone.

I’m of the opinion that life means much more than a race to accumulate as much stuff as we can before we snuff it.

And, it’s way more fun when we’re free to think and play.

What are your biggest successes?

I am over the moon that my first novel, The Silver Mist, became an Amazon Bestseller. And I hope it went some way to changing how we look at people with Down’s Syndrome. And I am very happy with the way Dark Creed turned out. Working with Ed Greenwood (the creator of Dungeon and Dragons Forgotten Realms) is both a privilege and an honour. The guy is a legend – and a pleasure to work with.

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently running down the final redraft of my next, stand alone book. And will be starting my first Stormtalons novel for TEGG – which is sword and sorcery type of setting. I have another Hellmaw novel to begin later in the year – so it’s a busy time. My poor wee fingertips will be red raw by Christmas.

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Dark Creed is currently available in e-book format with paperback and special limited edition hardback to follow in the future. You can purchase on Amazon and other good e-book retailers.

To find out more about Martin and his writing, you can visit his website.

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My Yuyo Yerba Mate Mission

I’m on a mission. And that mission is to spread the word about the wonders of yerba mate. A wonderful South American beverage made by steeping the ground leaves and stems of the yerba mate plant.  This ‘super plant’ has a host of fantastic health benefits, yet it’s simply not as famous as tea or coffee here in Europe – and I think it deserves to be!

The lovely people at Yuyo want this to be the month you start to hear about yerba mate. As a yerba mate ambassador, I have a selection of Yuyo’s lovely loose leaf mate, as well as their simple infusion bags to sample. I’ve tried the bags before, but the loose leaf is new ground for me.

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Health Benefits

High in theobromine – the feel-good compound found in cacao.

Natural caffeine – roughly the same amount as a cup of coffee.

More antioxidants than green tea.

A huge number of micronutrients and anti-inflammatory saponins.

Metabolism boosting.

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Its unique composition means that each cup gives a more sustained lift than a cup of coffee – without the crash – and more antioxidants than herbal and green tea.

How to Drink Yerba Mate

I’m very familiar with making a lovely morning refresher with the infusion bags, but the Mateo was all new to me…

 

 

 

The Mateo is made from – BPA Free – silicone, and is a modern twist on traditional South American yerba mate cups, traditionally carved from hollowed out gourds. The metal ‘Bombilla’ is a straw and sieve all in one – so you can drink through the filter.

All you have to do is spoon enough yerba mate into the mateo to cover the ball at the base of the bombilla (straw), then add water at around 70-80 degrees (slightly cooled kettle). You then keep topping up with water over a period of time, so you use the same leaves for several drinks. It’s good to remember to space this out, as that’s quite a dose of caffeine!

I love Yerba Mate, because despite by usual lack of ability of tolerate caffeine, I can actually handle this without the shakes, or the slightly woozy feeling that drinking a cup of coffee would usually result in for me!

I was very impressed with the loose yerba mate – it’s much more of an experience than when using the bags (although the grapefruit zing and mint flavours are divine). The infusion has a really grassy, slightly smoky flavour. I found that the roasted loose leaves had a much more earthy taste and this was definitely my favourite.

Lots of people in the office were curious about my mateo, so it gave me a good chance to spread the yerba mate word!

I’m still to try some more creative ways to use yerba mate – I’ve been given a lovely smoothie recipe to try, and I’m definitely going to give that a shot at the weekend. So there will be more posts to come on my experiments!

If you’d like to find out more about Yerba Mate and enter Yuyo’s fantastic competition, just click here. You can buy Yuyo from the Yuyo website, Ocado, Planet Organic, Wholefoods and some independents.

#yerbamatemission

I am a Yuyo Ambassador and have therefore been sent these products free of charge for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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Random Competitions… Goodyfull Giveaway!

Have you heard of super-foods? Chia seeds, goji berries, acai berries and the like? Perhaps you want to try them, but you’re not really sure how. Maybe you’re a new vegan taking part in Veganuary, and super-foods are on your list of all the new and exciting tastes to explore. If you’re already an aficionado, the box and recipes may just give you some inspiration. Maybe you’ve never even heard of them. Super what? Well, if any of those apply, keep reading – I’ve got a great giveaway coming up!

You may remember a while ago, I shared some recipes using tasty super-foods from the lovely Goodyfull. If you’re not familiar with them, you can find the recipes for Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding and Coconut Banana Choc Chip Cookie Cakes by clicking on the links.

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Now for the exciting news. Goodyfull have recently launched the Goody box – this is a starter kit of all of their delicious super-foods, which were previously only available to order separately. It’s the perfect bundle of portion sized pouches – ideal for those who may not have tried super-foods before.

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And, as an added bonus, for those of you who are a little unsure of how to incorporate  super-foods into your diet, there are 5 wonderful recipe cards in each box – all of which are easy to make, with ingredients which are commonly available in the kitchen. All at a launch price of just £7.98 per box.

For those of you who are Veganuary participants (trying vegan for January), I hope you are enjoying experimenting with new foods and recipes (they are not all vegan recipes, but can easily be veganised). And if you’re staying vegan after 31st January, hooray! I hope you continue to enjoy the bounty of vegan foods on the market.

 If you wish to dabble into the world of super-foods without the expense of buying lots of full size packets, the Goodyfull Box is perfect for you.

Would you like the chance to win the box pictured above? You will get 50g pouches of chia seeds, goji berries, cacao powder and coconut flour and 5 simple recipe cards. Simply click here to enter.

In case you need more convincing, here are the wonderful properties of the four super-foods contained in the prize:

Cacao Powder

Cacao powder’s dark chocolate taste is ideal as a hot drink, as well as for smoothies, desserts or on cereal.

High in calcium, ironvitamin C and magnesium to boost your metabolism.

3 times more antioxidants than green tea.

Chia seeds

Chia Seeds are the perfect selection for people striving for both goodness and taste in their diet.

5 times more calcium than milk,

High in ironprotein and more omega 3 and 6 fatty acids than any other plant

Goji berries

High protein content makes them an ideal choice for vegetarians and vegans looking for a good quality protein source.

Full of antioxidants and over 20 vitamins and minerals (A, C, E, iron, copper, selenium, potassium, zinc and phosphorus).

Can improve your energy levels, quality of sleep and feelings of happiness. 

Coconut flour

Coconut flour is ideal for the more health-conscious baker and ideal for people sensitive to wheat and allergic to gluten.

more fibre than any other flour

high in protein

Enter now for your chance to win. Competition closes one minute to midnight on Friday 3rd February. Open to UK residents only.  Be quick, before you turn into a pumpkin!

You can find out more about Veganuary by visiting their website. It may be nearly the end of January, but it’s never to late to try vegan!

I was sent a box free of charge by Goodyfull, and the prize will be sent directly to the winner from Goodyfull. All opinions are my own.

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Random Food… My Vegan Pantry

The Vegan Pantry

When you are new to being vegan, a whole wonderland of flavours and product ranges open up before you. It can be a little like being lost in a sea of  new goodies, with so many choices, you don’t know which way to turn. So I’ve written this post of those of you taking part in Veganuary, The Leicester Vegan Challenge, Viva’s 30 Day Vegan Challenge, or anyone, at anytime going vegan for the first time.

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With foods you’ve never heard of before, it can be easy to shy away. Or perhaps you don’t know how to cook tofu, so it looks like big white soggy blocks of scary-ness and you can’t quite bring yourself to throw it in the basket and see what happens.

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Tofu Scramble Recipe

I probably won’t recommend too many brands by name here, but I will say that personally, I always go for organic products, and those with limited e-numbers (it’s not only kids that end up like Tigger with these little nasties). Organic is not only a personal health choice, but a vegan choice too in my opinion. All of the chemicals, pesticides and fertilisers used when growing crops can also harm the wildlife and get into the ecosystem through the water table. I know that there are arguments about driving cars and killing flies, killing insects when ploughing fields, but there’s only so close we can get to being perfect in an imperfect world. I personally feel that eating organic wherever possible is something within my control.

It can seem very daunting when you first start to shop for vegan foods, as unless you’ve already got an allergy, you may never have paid too much attention to food labelling before. Trust me, those labels will open your eyes to more than just vegan/not vegan – you’re going to have many a “What the heck is that doing in there?” and “Why oh why is there milk in THAT”! Seriously, sometimes I think there’s a mad goblin in every food manufacturing plant that goes round sprinkling nonsense into foods for the hell of it!

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TIP: ASK ASK ASK! Never be afraid to write to a company via their website or social media and ask about their ingredients. If you’re not sure it’s vegan, you can make sure and it takes the panic away!

You’ll find in my list that I’ve included certain fruits and vegetables. Please don’t send me hate mail if I’ve left your favourite one out. All fruits and veggies are of course, wonderful, but it would be far too obvious to list them all. I’ve therefore picked ones I use the most and that I find most versatile.

I’ve also included sweet stuff, goodies and some processed foods in my mix. I’m no angel and I’m not going to pretend I am for the sake of looking great. We all know that too much of certain things is a bad thing, and if you want to be amazing and perfect, just don’t tell me and I won’t have to feel bad!

If you fancy a raw or wholefoods diet, these “sins” will be out, and good on you! I find myself somewhere in the middle, with a healthy mix of wholefoods, raw and things that are a little naughty. Try to eat raw and/or home-made foods more often than processed ones.

Plant Milk

Soya = Protein

Coconut = Best Natural Taste in Tea/Coffee (Koko)

Non Dairy Creams (Soya, Oat, Coconut)

I personally don’t choose almond milk, because many of the almonds are grown in the arid desserts of California, and the environmental impact of the quantity of water needed to produce almonds in this climate is huge. But if you can find a supplier who source their almonds in a sustainable manner, then go for it!

Nuts & Seeds

The veritable protein tea chest.  I particularly recommend cashews for raw cooking (cashew cream, raw cheesecake etc…)

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Ground & Whole Almonds

Brazil Nuts

Pistachios

Peanut Butter

Ground Flaxseed

Chia Seeds

Walnuts

Cashew Nuts

Tempeh & Tofu

Get it smoked, get it herby, get it naked. Anyway you want it, tofu is there and it’s really not scary! It can be scrambled, fried, baked or eaten out of the pack.

Soya Mince, Burgers & Sausages.

Soya pieces.

Baking

Flour – I use gluten free and coconut blends.

Coconut Sugar

Raw Cacao Powder and Nibs

Smoothie Making

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Smoothie Powders

Superfood Powders

Avocados

Bananas

Berries

Greens (Kale & Spinach)

Spreads, Sprinkles & Flavourings

Nutritional Yeast

Yeast Spread

Stock Powder

Himalayan Salt

Herbs & Spices

Vegan Mayo

Corn Flour

Vegan Margarine

Tahini (for houmous making)

Organic Gluten Free Soya Sauce

Fruit & Veg Favourites

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Potatoes

Ignore the propaganda – Potatoes are your friends!

Lemons

Raisins

Garlic

Onions

Spinach

Kale

Avocado

Broccoli

Berries of all types.

Sweet potatoes.

Dates.

Beans, Lentils & Pulses

Kidney Beans

Mixed Beans

Chickpeas

Puy Lentils

Red Lentils

Frozen Peas

Quinoa

Other Meat Replacements

Dee’s Vegan Sausages – made from luscious pea protein.

Fry’s Rice Protein & Chia Nuggets (Gluten Free option)

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Sweets & Snacks

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Raw Chocolate

Lentil & Houmous Chips

Houmous & Veggies

Popping Corn

Oils

Coconut Oil

Olive Oil

Walnut Oil

HINT: Keep an eye out for things that say ‘dairy free’ as they often still contain egg.

HINT: Gluten free breads often contain egg white.

I think that my list of favourite things to keep in the cupboards doesn’t even touch the surface – but it will be a great help if you really don’t know where to start.

Please send me any questions you may have in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading!

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Winter Immunity Tips from Neal’s Yard

It can be hard to keep on top of everything during the winter months. From dry skin, to chapped lips. Too many hours of darkness and lots of time spent indoors trying to keep warm.

Your immune system can also take a hint during the cold months, and it’s great to be prepared.  No-one wants to be sick – it spoils our fun, takes up our time and generally makes us feel rubbish. There are several things you can do which will help boost your immune system and your overall resistance to bugs.

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Essential Oils

Vaporising essential oils or wearing them around your person (on a scarf or handkerchief) is a quick, simply and enjoyable way to keep away the germs. NYR Organic Cleanse Blend contains a mix of antimicrobial and antiseptic oils – great for a sick room, stuffy office, or to keep your air clean and fresh at home. Tea Tree Oil is another commonly used immune-stimulant, and is also a great addition for the medicine cabinet.

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Two other wonderful products are the Defence range – with a lovely blend to diffuse, along with my personal favourite, a handbag sized hand-spray which kills 99.9% of bacteria.

Tea

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Tea is my answer for everything, and one of my favourites for immune boosting in Winter is the gorgeous Echinacea Tea. It’s a deliciously refreshing tea, packed full of vitamin c and antioxidants, to fight that cold before you even know it was near! A real winter warmer.

Herbs

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Herbs are a wonderfully natural way to stay healthy, with no side effects and no nasties. The delicious tasting Elderberry Syrup is another antioxidant packed immune booster and also suitable for children, so you can keep the whole family on tip-tip form.

I’ll be publishing more posts on keeping well and healthy during the winter, with tips for keeping your skin soft and moisturised, and remedies to help you fight any bugs you don’t manage keep at bay.

Please be careful if diffusing these oils around pets, as animals can be very sensitive to essential oils.

I am an independent Neal’s Yard Consultant and will earn commission on products purchased through my links.

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Nutri-brex – A Gluten Free Way to Start Your Day!

Do you miss the flavour and texture of Weetabix? When you can’t eat wheat, it’s something you get used to, and you patiently await the day that someone, somewhere, invents a wonder product that fills the gap in the market (and in your tummy).

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Sorghum is an ancient grain, which grows tall like corn, and has most often been used as a sweetener or animal feed. However, sorghum can also be used as a substitute for wheat when ground into flour. It can also be popped like corn, used in risotto or made into tasty breakfast cereals like Nutri-brex – hole in the tummy solved!

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Nutri-brex is gluten free and completely vegan. It comes in two varieties – plain, 96% sorghum with a little golden syrup, salt and some lovely B vitamins. Or there’s the tasty Coconut & Crispy Rice option – this contains a little more sugar.

My favourite is actually the plain one – I find it almost exactly like Weetabix in texture and flavour. And it’s super filling and satisfying for breakfast. It doesn’t need much extra sweetness, but I like to add a little low GI coconut sugar, and I eat it with my favourite planet milk, Koko. A healthy and delicious breakfast.

You can pick up a box of Nutri-brex in many local stores including Holland & Barratt, Tesco & Sainsbury’s. It’s also available if you do your online shopping with Ocado, like me! And it’s coming to Waitrose very soon.

 I was sent this product free of charge by Nutri-brex. All opinions are my own.

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