Sunday, 26 February 2012

Pancake Pandemonium!

Cooking on the AGA...they are done quickly so move fast!
Everyone loves pancake day. How could you not? It is the perfect opportunity to stuff our faces with sweet, sugary goodness without our motives being questioned...wonderful. 
This was my first 'Shrove Tuesday' as a vegan and being at school and surrounded by people eating pancakes and shoving it in my face that I can't (Bitter? Me? Not at all) I knew I had to figure out a recipe to make my own. I looked up a few recipes and found it was surprisingly simple to make vegan pancakes. In the end, I chose a recipe from one of my favourite vegan cook books: 'Vegan with a vengeance' by Isa Chandra Moscowitz. 
They do fall apart slightly more easily but taste just as good!

First of all, here is the recipe and directions:
1 1/4cup all-purpose flour
2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp salt 
1tsp cinnamon (You could also use coconut)
2T canola oil (any cooking/vegetable oil will work)
1/3cup water
1 1/4cup soy milk (I used Kallo) 
1tsp vanilla extract

1. Oil a large skillet and preheat over medium-high heat about two minutes.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in one bowl. In a separate bowl combine all other ingredients.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry until just combined. Do not overmix or the pancakes will be tough (a couple lumps are okay).
4. Cook pancakes until browned on the bottom and bubbles form on top, about four minutes. Turn over and cook until the bottoms are browned and barely firm to the touch. Add more oil as needed.

The first pancake...always looks a little strange!
I found this recipe so easy to use and the pancakes tasted gorgeous. Using the ingredients given, it makes 7 pancakes so adjust the amount you need accordingly. The cinnamon was definitely worth putting in although I think it would also be tasty with coconut (she has a seperate recipe for coconut pancakes if you prefer!) They are slightly harder to flip than normal pancakes so be careful not to break them although I personally think that, broken or not, a pancake is a pancake and it will taste just as good! A final word of warning is that you do need a reasonable about of oil on the pan before cooking because they become sticky FAST and you do not want burnt pancakes because you cannot unstick them from the pan to flip them.
Plus, remember...the first one never goes right so don't be disheartened...practice makes perfect (or makes us fat...either one)

Toppings wise (the best bit) I personally love the classics...sugar and lemon or maple syrup but I dared to be a little more adventurous, just for you guys, and tried out chocolate spread...YUM. My mother had brought me some dark chocolate spread and I was super keen to test it. It was fantastic, very dark and slightly bitter but you could still taste the milkiness. It was the perfect combination with the sweet pancakes. Here are a few more photos to make your mouth water...

Stawberries and chocolate

I could eat this with a spoon and...nope, just a spoon will do...
Just a side note that if you want to buy the chocolate spread, it is called 'whole earth dark chocolate spread' and I also used maple syrup called 'Sweet Freedom natural syrup'...sinful but sensational!

I hope you all had a wonderful pancake go on, make all those non-vegans jealous!

Plus, my cope of 'Skinny Bitch' arrived today...will do a review of it later, so excited to read it!

I apologise if the posts are a bit delayed, it is time for mock exams once again so sadly there is more studying, less cooking but see you all soon!

Happy pancake flipping...:)

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The most wonderful time of the day...:)

Breakfast. Love it or hate it? 
Most of the population skip breakfast, as I used to, simply because they don't have time or energy, or don't like breakfast foods and believe it is one less meal each day and therefore the key to weight loss. WRONG. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I was lucky that my mother made sure that was ingrained in my brain from a very young age; she always told me that my brain would not start working until I had eaten my breakfast and now that I am older I know that your metabolism also slows down without breakfast because your body goes into starvation mode after 8 or so hours of not eating (because you are sleeping!) which actually promotes weight gain. However since becoming a vegan, I have grown to LOVE breakfast. I am a fruit fanatic and I have found so many ways to get my portions of fruits into my breakfast each morning. Now I tend to wake up an hour earlier than I used to, have a shower and get ready then settle down and have breakfast slowly. It is so relaxing and peaceful, gosh, I just love it! 
Anyway so here are a few of the dishes I have been trying out- bear in mind I am a student at school and cooking crazy, complicated things in the morning is just not feasible so these are quick, easy but healthy dishes!

With cooked fruit
First up...porridge oats and berries! This is super quick and easy:
1) Buy any porridge oats (the microwave ones tend to have milk in them, like quakers, so steer clear of those!)
2) Boil the kettle then add boiling water to the porridge oats until they are soft and cooked
3) Add some cold soya milk, as much as you like- depending on how creamy you like your porridge
4) Decorate! Add fresh fruit, dried fruit, chocolate, honey...whatever tickles your taste buds! 
The great thing about porridge is that whilst being really healthy, it never gets boring because you can vary what you put in it so much. Plus, it will keep you full until lunchtime because it has great fibre and carbohydrates, although calories are relatively low, especially compared to sugary breakfast cereals! 
Tip: If cooking with fresh fruit, add it before the hot water so they cook a bit too, they taste much nicer!

Porridge with added strawberries and blueberries

Next on my favourite, quick breakfast dishes is Weetabix chocolate minis/crisp! These ones are a bit of a naughty breakfast but then again, as my mum says, if Weetabix minis are the naughtiest your breakfast gets, you must be pretty damn healthy! Alright so I cannot express my love for these enough. They are HEAVEN IN A BOWL. I love them with cold soya milk and blueberries best but any combination will work, even them on their own or with hot milk for some people! They do not go horribly soggy and fall apart but they do absorb the milk in a way which makes them taste divine. I like to put my milk in first and then add the Weetabix. The one complaint people may have is the amount of calories. They are a cereal so the calories are high and 40g is never enough. However they contain lots of essential vitamins and iron which is so important for vegans and it will keep you full all day so having a 500 calorie breakfast with all those benefits is really a no brainer! 

Heavenly Weetabix minis and blueberries

However for some people the best option in the morning might just be fruit. If you are really not a breakfast type of person and all you can manage is some fruit in the morning then something is always better than nothing at all! Plus, fruit can be delicious and healthy. My personal favourites are strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and persimmons (if you have never tried so...NOW) However as these are all seasonal fruits, they can get expensive and so a good old banana or apple slices can go a long way in the morning. 
If you are just sticking to fruit in the morning, why not try a smoothie? I will be posting more about that later, or maybe even adding a yogurt. Adding a soya yogurt (Alpro soya do some fantastic fruit yogurts and low fat plain or vanilla ones for those watching weight) will give you protein, vitamins and calcium which are all essential nutrients in your diet. 
I hope this post makes you want to at least give breakfast a try and that it's shown you breakfast can be low calorie, simple, filling and super tasty with very little effort required! So wake up and have's going to be a great day!

Some of my favourite fruits...yummy...

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Mountains of Mushrooms...

Tonight my mother and I tried making a new recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's vegetarian cookbook called: Mushroom Risoniotto (with only 391 calories per serving and you get A LOT in a serving.) Here is the recipe:

Mushroom risoniotto (serves 2)
2 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil (we used fry light oil, keeping it healthy!)
A knob of butter (Not needed, I did not use it but if you want to then of course, vegan butter required!)
500g mushrooms, thickly sliced
150g risoni or orzo pasta
2 garlic cloves, chopped
A few sprigs of thyme (leaves only)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
About 175ml dry white wine
About 50ml double cream or creme fraiche (obviously adapt this part, I used alpro soya cream)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (again, not needed unless you want more flavour)
A good handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped, to serve

It is really simple and easy to make but it tastes fabulous. I am a huge fan of mushrooms and mushroom risotto so for me, this was heavenly. The pasta which looks like rice is called orzo pasta and for those in the UK, it can be found cheaply in Waitrose. The dish was surprisingly filling and I did not miss cheese in the way that I often do when eating risotto. It is easy to prepare (about 30-40 minutes preparation time) - the longest part is chopping up all those mushrooms but I find chopping mushrooms to be quite relaxing...maybe that is just me- and easy to serve. We served it with a plate of rocket (underneath the pasta in the picture!) and then topped it with the parsley. Perfect.

The finished product
Unfortunately, as hard as my mother and I have tried to wean my father and brother off meat, today they went to the meat market and came home with a pheasant EACH. It was horrific. The only good thing I can say is that at least they went to a proper farmers market where they are wild birds that are killed, not factory farmed birds. It does not excuse the killing, but it could have been worse I suppose. Anyway, the reason I mention this is because I felt rather smug, whilst completely horrified and disgusted of course, when they were picking bullets out of their roasted pheasant and the worst I was  picking out was the parsley in between my teeth...god, I'm such a vegetable shipper!

Either way, enjoy this recipe and be sure to check out more of Hugh's recipes, I adore them! 
Have a great weekend :)

Lordy Lord how I love chocolate...

Hello again...yes, another post involving chocolate, I'm sure there will be a lot of these! However I think it's very important to find delicious chocolate that my fellow vegans can enjoy and I am more than happy to trial and test it for you are welcome! 
When I was a meat eater or even a vegetarian, chocolate was a huge part of my life. And no, not proper chocolate, I'm talking galaxy, celebrations, fox's chocolate chunk cookies, Maltesers...all that. I was so worried that when I became a vegan, chocolate would be off limits and without chocolate, how would I survive? But thank goodness I followed my heart, not my taste buds, and became a vegan for it taught me to love the taste of true, rich, pure dark chocolate. Now I wouldn't even think of trading my dark chocolate for a piece of galaxy...PAWS OFF!...and believe me, both my transformed taste buds and healthier body are thanking me for it, not to mention all those smiley cows who are very grateful they are having to provide milk for one less person!
Anyway so, as naughty as it is, this half term I have been testing out a new chocolate each night. So far, we have tasted three: 1) Green and Blacks 2) Divine dark chocolate and 3) Montezumas dark chocolate. I got my brother and dad to taste them and whilst they are all fabulous, the winning chocolate came out as Montezumas. It is so delicious- slightly bitter yet with a hint of sweetness and not nastily milky but not too strong either...perfect! 
The next step was to dig further...try out all their flavours suitable for vegans! (Not all of them are so read the labels carefully!) Tonight I tested out the 'Dark chocolate Lordy Lord with cocoa nibs'. Heavenly. The cocoa nibs give it that extra pang of chocolateyness -yep, pretty certain that is not a word. Nevertheless, the chocolate is fabulous and even more perfect coupled with a nice cold glass of soya milk, go ahead, indulge...(oh and for those watching calories or anything, dark chocolate releases endorphins and makes you smile :) besides the calories aren't that high, not really...)

So naughty you can't resist

I love you more than chocolate cake...

The completed cakes!

Happy belated valentines day!
This was my first valentines day as a vegan and I really wanted to make some vegan valentines goodies. 
I spent a while looking up various recipes but then I found this super easy one which was perfect as I am not a very experienced cake maker! 

The recipe (makes 20 cakes): 
225g of vegan butter (I used Pure)
100g of Caster Sugar
250g Self raising flour
125ml of Soya milk (any will do, for this I used Kallo milk)
25g Desicated coconut 
1 tbsp of vanilla essence

Optional extras for filling:
200g of raspberries
50g (half a bar) of Vegan white chocolate
50g (half a bar) of Vegan dark chocolate

All you need to do is mix all the ingredients together either in a bowl or a food mixer. I used a food mixer because it is much quicker but you can use whatever you want! Once you have made your batter you can either choose to have plain cupcakes or you can spice them up a bit and add some chocolate chunks or raspberries into your mixture for that extra fruity and chocolatey goodness when you take a bite!

The next step is to find some cute valentines cupcake holders and then fill them with your cake batter. They will rise a bit but not as much as normal cakes so don't be too afraid to fill the holders up. 

The cakes only took 15 minutes in my standard AGA cooker. I recommend that for other cookers you put them in for 10-15 and then check on them every 5 minutes or so after that. Don't forget the best way to check if they are done is to use a knife or fork and stick it in the cakes and see if they leave any residue. If the cutlery comes out clean...the cakes are done! 

Next comes the fun part...decorating! Of course, you don't have to decorate your cakes and, as I had added raspberries to my mixture, I found that some of the cakes looked rather pretty undecorated. However I love decorating so I went to town! I used strawberries cut into heart shapes, hundreds and thousands, some more raspberries and I also melted some 'Divine dark chocolate and raspberries' chocolate and then drizzled it over the cakes as a topping. Yummy!

If you are interested they are pretty low calorie considering how good they taste! With all the fillings and toppings I used, each cake is 197 calories, obviously without these it would be much less! I found that they lasted pretty well (Never put cakes in the fridge- it spoils them!) as long as you put cling film on them. However they were so delicious that they were gone in two days- my father and brother didn't even notice they were vegan!

You can use this recipe all year round and adapt it for any occasion. I hope you all had a wonderful valentines day and spread the love to the people around you!