Tag Archives: 40Before40

V is for Victory (and Vegan) – Part II

17 Jul

As I mentioned yesterday in this blog post, I have now completed Challenge #14 on my #40Before40 list. Although the challenge is over, I will be continuing to eat vegan (at least part-time) for a while into the future. And these are the reasons why:1.If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that I have been simultaneously this challenge along side my challenge to cook every recipe from a cookbook which is the 25th challenge on my list of #40Before40 challenges. I am about half-way through this challenge so there are still plenty more dinners, desserts and salads that I need to eat in order to complete this challenge as well. Come back soon to hear how I have been getting on with the latest recipes I have cooked.2. In order to celebrate my achievement, I will be having a vegan BBQ for some of my friends to enjoy some of the new recipes that I have learnt over the past few months. I really do think that this is an achievement. Before I started the challenge, I was a meat-eater and I went cold turkey for this challenge. (Possibly not the best turn of phase in the instance – perhaps cold tofu is more apt?) There will be some meat options at this BBQ party but more than 90% of the food will be vegan.3. I recently read an article on BBC about the growing rise of flexitarianism, which is people who eat vegan or vegetarian part-time. As my other half is keen to get back to eating meat (even though he has not gone hungry during this time), it seems like this would be a reasonable solution: I can chose to eat vegan but when we eat together we can eat meat and dairy products.4. I have lost quite a lot of weight during the past three months. I am a little worried that if I switch back to my diet from before that I will put all of the weight on again. However, I haven’t felt like I have been starving myself in the same way as I have felt when I have been on other diets. Being at least a part-time vegan would mean that I would be able to continue to control my weight.5. It may sound arrogant to say it but I know that this challenge has had a positive impact on the environment. I have been eating a lot more locally grown products. I won’t bore you with details about how much water, carbon dioxide and grain I have saved during this time. But there are lots of details about this on the internet if you are interest. This alone is motivation for keeping to a vegan diet for at least some of the time.6. I haven’t found it too difficult to refrain from eating meat. My Achilles heal is cheese. Living in Switzerland with the thought of not eating cheese during the winter fondue season would feel like Hell on earth for me. This is the reason why I chose to do this challenge in the summer months. So never having cheese again is not something that I could contemplate. If you hear news from Switzerland by the end of the week that there is a cheese shortage then you know that I have been making up for lost time!7. Being a vegan isn’t that bad. It can be tricky to eat out sometimes but more and more restaurants are catering for people with different dietary requirements. As I have said, I have never been hungry (apart from the very first week) and there are definitely lots of options, if you can plan ahead and are creative!Those are the reasons why I will be sticking with veganism for the moment. Come back soon to see if I do manage to complete my 25th challenge of cooking every recipe from a (vegan) cookbook!salad-2756467__340.jpg

V is for Victory (and Vegan) – Part I

16 Jul

After 3 months or 13 weeks or 91 days, I have finally completed my 14th Challenge on my #40Before40 list. I have spent the last 3 months eating a vegan diet which means I have completely abstained from eating anything that is produced from animal products. That means no meat, no dairy products and no honey.

Rather than feeling relieved that this challenge is over, I am actually a bit sad. Although the challenge hasn’t been always easy (mainly when eating in restaurants), I have really grown to like preparing a lot of my meals from scratch and learning new recipes.

So, for the last time, here is what I have been eating this week.

Mastering Lentils

I have always struggled to cook lentils properly, which sounds a little bit strange because you just put them in a pan and boil them. But mine have always turned to mush and, although they have been edible, they haven’t had a really nice texture and don’t look good either. Thanks to my friend, Melina, I have now completely mastered the art of cooking lentils. Her advice to me was not to put salt in the water and it has worked a treat. I also read online that you don’t need to aggressively boil the lentils in the water, which I was probably doing the whole time. With the combination of these two gems of advice, I ended up with these perfectly cooked lentils for a salad this week. Finally!

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Korean pancakes

Melina also gave me a packet of Korean pancake mix which is vegan (depending on what you add into it). I added some diced red pepper, spring onions, coriander and some garlic. The pancakes weren’t very round but I think perfection is overrated. They tasted good which was the main thing. I ate them with a spicy salsa dip that I made.

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Pomegranate Debacle 

I had a recipe for a chickpea and pomegranate salad which I wanted to make. It seemed like it would be a nice alternative, especially as the weather is so hot and the recipe didn’t need any cooking. I have had pomegranate before but I have never bought one and prepared it myself. Perhaps there is a specific way that you should prepare it because I found it a complete hassle. I also found that whenever I cut into it juice would squirt out and all over the kitchen. By the time I was finished, the kitchen looked like it had been the location for the filming of a slasher movie. Also I was wearing a white T-shirt so that went straight into the washing basket as soon as I had cleared up the “blood” splatters! I did enjoy the salad but I think that I will be buying the pre-prepared pomegranate from the supermarket next time, even if it is a bit more expensive.

Amazing Homemade Sandwich

I made an amazingly good sandwich this week. It was so full of flavour and only took a few minutes to make. It was tomatoes, cucumber and a thin layer of vegan cream cheese, with a smoked tofu that had been cooked in a mixture of maple syrup, soy sauce and a pinch of chili powder. I will be making this again in the future!

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And that is the challenge over. Tomorrow I will be reflecting on this challenge and what is means for the future so come back and find read Part II soon.

The final week

9 Jul

Today marks the start of the last seven days of my vegan challenge for my #40Before40 challenge. It is crazy to think that three months is almost finished. Although it has been, at times, tricky to stick to the challenge, I have managed it. Fingers crossed that the next seven days are equally successful.

Here is what I have been eating for the past few days:

Stir-frys

I recently found a stir in stir-fry sauce that is vegan-friendly. This has been a refreshing alternative to grilled vegetables on the BBQ and is really quick and easy to do. I have also tried to make them so that they are as colourful as possible. Here is a picture of one that I made at the weekend with carrots, yellow pepper, courgettes, onions, glass noddles and beansprouts. (It looks a bit blurry because the steam got in the way of the camera lens on my phone).

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Noodle soup

I don’t know why I decided to make a hot and spicy noodle soup in this weather but I did. It was packed full of vegetables and was really spicy. I ended up eating it with all of the windows open because it did bring on a hot sweat. Luckily I was able to have a gin and tonic afterwards to help me cool down!

Birthday celebrations

My friend, Stefan, had a belated birthday celebration this week. We went to Pilatus, a mountain in Luzern, for some outdoor activities and a picnic. I did bring some of my own food with me because I didn’t want to be a complete pain but Stefan was kind enough to make some vegan treats just for me. A huge mention has to be made for the blueberry muffins that he made. They were deliciously moist and I managed to eat more than 2 of them but the actual number remains a closely guarded secret.

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Vegan-izing recipes

This week I decided to make a recipe that I know vegan. It is a kind of fruit tart and I haven’t had it for more than three months. It is quick and easy to make so I thought that I would try to do it and see how it turns out. The pastry was shop-bought but was certified as being vegan. I then replaced the eggs and milk that are poured over the top with chickpea flour, water and a plant-based milk. I recently discovered that you can replace one egg in baking by using 4 tablespoons of chickpea flour and 4 tablespoons of water. I must say that I was a bit skeptical about the result but I shouldn’t have been. If I hadn’t have told my boyfriend that it was vegan then I am sure that he wouldn’t have released that it was. Of course, I did tell him that it was vegan, otherwise he would have told me that I couldn’t have a piece of it! I took a picture of it but only after we had had a slice or two to make sure the taste was just right.

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So, seven days to go. This week I will be trying to cook some more of the recipes from my vegan cookbook and enjoying the season fruits and vegetables as much as I can.

Nearly complete!

2 Jul

As of today, I only have two weeks left being an official vegan. I took on the challenge of being vegan as part of my #40Before40 challenge. I must say that I am sad that the challenge is almost over. I have really enjoyed the challenge, even though there have been some difficulties along the way, and I would like to keep going with eating this way because I feel so much healthier and better about myself.

Here is what I have been eating over the past few weeks:

Date Night

I have been trying to introduce a Date Night because my boyfriend and I always seem to be doing things without the other and I thought it would be nice for us to take time for us to enjoy dinner together. Obviously, I chose the restaurant because it has mainly vegan dishes. I had already heard good things from a few people about Bebek. It is a Middle Eastern place in the centre of Zürich.

Brunching Disappointments

When I went to Lausanne to stay with my friend, we wanted to have brunch. We managed to find somewhere that was described as a vegan café. I managed to book a table for us online. We drove there, parked up the car and then found that the place was closed for that particular Sunday. We then had to do a rethink and ended up in a nice place called Blackbird.

The menu only had one thing that was vegan but the beauty of having a friend with you who is a native French speaker in the French-speaking part of Switzerland is a God send. She managed to get the waiting and kitchen staff to make me something that was vegan-friendly. However, they didn’t have anything sweet to eat so we went to another place where I had a fruit bowl called “You’re Kiwing Me”. Delicious!

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream

I haven’t had any ice cream since starting the challenge, although I have had a few sorbets. I noticed in one of the supermarkets that they were selling vegan Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s in Switzerland costs an absolute arm and a leg but as soon as I saw it, I had to have it. I must say that the taste wasn’t the same as normal ice cream. It wasn’t very creamy as you might expect because it is made from plant-based milk. I still enjoyed it though!

Missing out on Team Lunch

Last week are team lunch was at an Italian restaurant and I decided not to go. Nothing on the menu was vegan-friendly and, although there were salads that I could have asked to be made meat or cheese-free, I would end up paying the same price that was on the menu and not getting anything extra in its place. Paying 20 Francs for a few lettuce leaves and a bit of tomato seemed like a dumb investment. So, I went alone to Stripped Pizza (where I have been a few times already) so that I could enjoy a vegan pizza.

I haven’t had time recently to do a lot of my own cooking and the recipes from my vegan cookbook but I will be making myself busy in the next two weeks with more delicious vegan food.

Cookbook challenge

16 Jun

Thanks to my vegan diet challenge, my Challenge #25 of cooking every recipe from one cookbook is going well because I chose a vegan cookbook!

Here are the latest recipes I have made:

Almond and Cinnamon Drink

This was basically a smoothie and easy to make. It wasn’t all that special and I didn’t include the star anise in the recipe because I don’t like the flavour of aniseed.

Little Potato Cakes with Yogurt Dip

This was so easy to make and so tasty. I somehow managed to make about 3 times as many as the recipe said it would make and I though that we might be able to freeze some for another day. But nope, we ate them all in one sitting!

Roasted Chickpeas

This was a spicy snack and only took 20 minutes to bake in the oven. It was my idea to take these into work as a alternative to snacking on fruit and nuts in the office. However, they were so moreish that I ate them all soon after they had cooled down in the oven.

Soba Noodle Summer Rolls with Tofu and Coriander

I have only made spring noodles once before and that was on a Vietnamese cooking course that I went on last year. These are called summer rolls and not spring rolls because they are not deep-fried so they are a bit healthier. They were easy to make but a bit fiddly to get all of the ingredients in the wraps and wrap them up neatly. The recipe also suggested making a peanut butter dip made with soya sauce and agave syrup and was a nice accompaniment to the summer rolls.

Asian Noodle Salad

Making good on my promise to make and bring more of my lunches into work with me to save money, I made this Asian Noodle Salad. I didn’t use the specific noodles that the recipe stated. I used the soba noddles that I used for the summer rolls above. Our cupboards are so full of ingredients that I have had to buy to make one dish from this book that I am running out of space to put things. The salad itself was a nice alternative to a salad with lettuce and tomato and didn’t take long at all to make. The peanut butter dressing was ok but it turned a bit solid by the time I was able to pour it over the salad. I would definitely make this again.

Mexican Pepper Salad

Another lunchtime option (and we also had a portion of it with dinner one evening as well) that was very easy to make. Because the weather has been recently good in the last few weeks I was able to eat this outside in the sunshine. I’m not sure why this was a Mexican salad because I always associate Mexican food with spicy, hot food.

Quick Ajvar

This a Serbian roasted red pepper and aubergine relish. It’s really nice and spicy and goes well with toast or just on the side with vegetables. It really was quick to make – the vegetables are roasted and then puréed with oil and seasoning.

Colourful Little Toast Spirals

The quick ajvar was a main component of these. The ajvar is spread onto wholemeal bread that has been squashed flat by a rolling pin. The bread is then rolled up and baked in the oven for 15 minutes. It was a quick and easy snack to make and delicious too.

Sandwich spread

I was slightly nervous about this recipe. The ingredients (vegetable stock, rice cakes, onions and tomato purée) seemed a bit unusual to put together to make anything that would taste nice. However, I made some sandwiches with this spread and grilled vegetables. The mixture also kept well in the fridge so I could have it a few days later on bread or with vegan crackers.

Little Quinoa Balls with Mint Sauce

Like many of the things that I have made from this book, my creation looks nothing like the pictures in the book. In this case, I used multi-coloured quinoa whereas the book used the normal variety. The next problem with this recipe was that it said that the quinoa needed to be made into balls the size of tennis balls – I’m not sure then were the “little” part comes from. When I tried to move the balls around in the pan while frying them, they are started to disintegrate. I decided to make small burger-like patties so that they would definitely be cooked in the middle. It meant that I ended up with about 20 of these quinoa “burgers” which didn’t last for very long!

That’s 34 recipes out of a total of 100 already finished!

My week of vegan eating

10 Jun

Another week has again flown by and my vegan challenge is one week closer to completion.

Here are some of the highlights of my vegan eating this week:

More Supermarket Offerings

This week I tried a soya substitute on the grill that really did look exactly like a marinated chicken breast. I’m pretty sure that someone could pick it off the shelf without realise that it was vegan (apart from the huge Vegan symbol on the packaging!)

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I’ve had hardly any sweet treats in the past 7 weeks but I spotted these in the supermarket this week, so I thought I would try them. They were surprisingly good, although the taste of the cola bottles wasn’t quite like the Haribo ones but I could certainly have these as a substitute and not miss the “real” ones.

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Vegan-ising Recipes

I found a recipe for red lentils burgers but the recipe contained eggs to bind the mixture together. I had read that 4 tbsp of chickpea flour and 4tbsp of water is a substitute for one egg in baking so I replaced the egg and I made the burgers. The mixture made more burgers than I thought and I ended up freezing a few for another day. Here are the burgers before I cooked them:

Eating Out

As it was my turn to choose the restaurant for our Team Lunch this week so I took us back to Stripped Pizza where I went a couple of weeks ago with Araz and Mark. Everyone seemed to like the place, even though I was the only one of us to enjoy a vegan option.

Last weekend we had a Christening to go to because my boyfriend became a godfather. I was a bit worried about the meal to celebrate afterwards but I was delighted to find out it was a buffet. It meant that I was able to enjoy a lot of vegan options. Unfortunately all of the sushi wasn’t vegan and there was some amazing roast beef which was extremely tempting! However there was plenty of options for me and I didn’t go home hungry.

Weight Loss

This week my weight dipped under a certain number (which I can’t reveal as women don’t like to make their weight public) that I have been trying to dip under for about the last 4 years. Although this number isn’t my goal weight, I’ve been surprised by how easily I’ve lost week considering I haven’t been regularly exercising for the last 5 or more weeks due to a knee injury. In the past I have always tried to manage my weight through exercise and largely failed. It just goes to prove that you can’t out-train a bad diet.

Only 5 more weeks to go!

Rubik’s Cube

6 Jun

Number 30 on my #40Before40 list is to complete a Rubik’s Cube. There were a number of reasons why I decided to do this.

  1. I have never properly attempted it before. As kids, my brother and I used to peel the stickers off the cube and rearrange them which ironically means that there is no way you can solve it.
  2. I do not know anyone personally who has completed it before
  3. It could be an interesting party trick
  4. I saw a TV programme where kids manage to do it in a few minutes –  so hard could it be?

The answer is, of course, very hard. These small kids on the TV made it look deciptively easy: just a few twists and turns and they were done. The reality is that it’s not so straight forward.

I learnt that it took Rubik’s himself more than a month to solve it after he had invented it and that the chances of just playing with the cube and being able to solve it are probably lower than you winning the next Euromillions jackpot. I am now thinking that it would have been better to have chosen something else easier to do. But if it’s on the list I have to do it.

When I started the challenge, I didn’t own a Rubik’s cube. It was when we were in Bolivia and I saw them on a market stall that I decided to take the plunge and buy one.

As evidence, I took a photo after I had bought it to show that it is possible to solve.

Here is the evidence that the cube was mixed up. I did it and then my boyfriend mixed it as well so that there was no way that I could remember how I had mixed it up myself.

What I didn’t realise is that there is a set of specific instructions that you need to do in order to solve the puzzle and the solution of the puzzle is based on algorithms.

The first thing that you need to do is to solve the white cross on the top of the cube. I didn’t realise that the middle square of the cube doesn’t move so if you try to solve the white cross on the side where a green square is in the middle, you will be doomed to fail.

Solving the cross was relatively easy and the thought crossed my mind that I would be finished within ten minutes. I was so wrong.

The next task is to put the white edge pieces in to complete the white face. Again I managed to do this without too much difficulty. This was turning out to be a walk in the park. It was only when I then tried to complete the next stage that I realised that the white corner pieces have to be solved in a particular order. You can’t just put the corners in wherever they will go because the colours on the other two sides have to correspond to the right face of the cube.

I then left this for a few weeks because I was a bit frustrated by the whole thing and it seemed impossible to put the corners in a specific order. I have now finally managed to solve the white cross and put the corners in the correct order.

Then next thing to do is to solve the middle layer. Now I am stuck. It seems that everything that I try to do ends up un-solving the white layer. In this stage you need to use more complex algorithms to solve it. Just twisting and turning won’t help solve anything unless you have the best luck in the world. And if you do have the best luck in the world, why aren’t you in a casino instead of playing with a Rubik’s cube?

So the current status is that the Rubik’s Cube is gathering dust on the coffee table, while I consider my next move, with a Post-It note attached to it saying “If you even thinkabout touching this, I will kill you.” My other half thinks I am joking but I don’t think I have ever been more serious about anything in my life.