Tag Archives: food

Challenge #25 update

11 Aug

I am continuing in my quest to cook every recipe from one cookbook. As I also recently took up the challenge of eating a vegan diet for three months, I chose a vegan cookbook for this challenge.

As the challenge stands I have now cooked and eaten 57 recipes out of a possible 100. The end is getting closer. Here is a quick review of the recipes that I have recently completed.

Tuscan Bean Salad

This was a really easy recipe to make. I have never cooked with Haricot Beans before so it was good to get familiar with another ingredient. I made enough of this to feed about 30 people so it was good that it kept in the fridge for a while which enhanced the flavours.

Arabian Lentil Salad

After finally perfecting the art of cooking green lentils, this recipe was also easy to make. It is a good accompaniment to vegetables because we ate it with grilled peppers and sweet potatoes but you could also eat it on its own as a big salad.

Vegan Mayonnaise

This was my second attempt at making this; the first time went horribly wrong and I had to throw it all away. Although the consistency was like mayonnaise, I found the taste a bit odd and it took me a while to get used to it. I must say that there are much easier recipes for vegan mayonnaise on the internet and on Youtube with fewer ingredients and processes so I am not sure that I would use this recipe again. Also a lot of supermarkets now have the vegan equivalent for mayo. I’m inclined to be of the opinion that life it too short to be making mayo from scratch anyway…

Tartare Sauce

I had no idea that tartare sauce had capers in it. You learn something new everyday. The base of this sauce was the vegan mayonnaise and then cucumber, herbs and capers were all added. It was easy to make and surprisingly tasty.

Thousand Island Dressing

Again the basis of this sauce was the vegan mayonnaise and then tomato ketchup, chilli and herbs were added. A really delicious sauce that would be a good addition to a sandwich.

Smoky Paté

I wasn’t too sure about this. Part of the problem was that my blender wasn’t quite big enough for all of the ingredients and the resulting mixture ended up being a bit on the coarse side. However, it was nice on the top of some bread and some vegan crackers that I found.

Spinach Tofu Scramble Wrap with Rocket

This is possibly the greatest triumph so far. When I presented this to my boyfriend, he asked when I had gone to buy eggs. That is how convincing the tofu scramble was as an egg scramble substitute! I had some tofu left over from another recipe to use to make this so it is a simple way to use up some leftover ingredients.

Homemade Hot Dogs

The whole way through this recipe I was thinking, “There is no way that this is going to remotely resemble a hot dog at the end. It was fairly complicated and it was only when I came to cook them that I realised that you had to steam them to cook them. We don’t have a steamer. Luckily, Google was on hand to help me “build” one at home and that did the job. I was very surprised at how well they turned out and they tasted better than I thought they would.

Homemade Currywurst

The recipe used the Hot Dogs from the recipe above and was basically a sauce to eat with the hot dog. The curry sauce really was delicious and I could see me making it again and again for vegetable and meat dishes.

Mezze Green Beans

Such a simple dish but tasty, especially as now is the season for green beans so you can get them in the supermarkets for a reasonable price. As the recipe called for garlic, I think I might have put too much in the dish (definitely more that what was stated in the recipe) so it kept the vampires away at night!

Redcurrant and Coconut Turnovers

I left out the coconut in this recipe because I am not a big fan of coconut. It is also coming to the end of the redcurrant season so I knew it would be good to get this recipe finished or I would have to wait a year for this to come into season again. Although this is a dessert, we actually had some of them for breakfast. I am still amazed that it is possible to make pastries and cakes without dairy products. This recipe used baking soda, bicarbonate of soda and lemon mixed with plant-based milk as a raising agent.

img_3392-e1533977769760.jpg

Juicy Mandarin and Chia Seed Muffins

As I couldn’t find mandarins in the shops, I used a blood orange instead. The recipe called for three different types of flour in this mixture and the cake itself is heavier than a traditional sponge recipe but it was yummy to eat.

Raspberry and Chocolate Windmill

This was a disaster and such a pain to make. I had to use fresh yeast (for the first time) and the dough itself ended up ok. The problem was that the recipe needed vegan custard powder which I couldn’t find here in Switzerland. So I made my own vegan custard. I think that the custard wasn’t thick enough and it didn’t end up looking like it did in the book. I was disappointed with the result because the cake ended up being heavy and too rich. I might try this another time if I can find vegan custard powder because I think it could be a good recipe for parties and so on. But with my substitute custard powder it definitely wasn’t a crowd pleaser!

Vegan BBQ

27 Jul

Last weekend to celebrate the end of my vegan challenge, I invited some friends round for a vegan BBQ. I say vegan but there was steak and chicken on offer for those who wanted it. However, all of the other dishes that I prepared were vegan (and that included not one but two desserts).

I was glad that everyone was keen to come round and see what food would be on offer and no-one backed out because they thought that the food would be so bad that they would go home hungry.

There is no way anyone was walking away from the party hungry because I grossly over-estimated how much food that I needed to prepare for 10 people. Here is a list of the food that I prepared:

  • Vegan Bratwurst
  • Green Lentil Salad
  • Tuscan Bean Salad
  • Guacamole
  • Hummus
  • Courgette Spaghetti
  • Greek Green Beans
  • Spicy Salsa
  • Smokey Tofu Pate
  • Homemade flatbreads
  • Orange and Chia Seed cupcakes
  • Raspberry and Custard Whirl
  • as well as a range of vegetables for on the BBQ.
  • b349ec96-0fb3-4d54-a6c1-b51aaee9ff43.jpg

Everyone was complimentary about the food. However, I was really disappointed about how the Raspberry and Custard Whirl turned out. I think that the custard wasn’t thick enough and I was happy to admit that it was a failure (which I guess you shouldn’t technically say to your guests but it was true).

To make things a bit more fun, I asked everyone to bring an exotic vegetable to go on the grill. I was so surprised about how everyone was happy to get involved. People turned up with vegetables that I have never even heard of before. Have you ever heard of a dodi, for example, or a zebra tomato?

There was a unconventional prize for the winner. I am not sure how to describe it so I will just show you this picture here.

img_3325.jpg

Hanna was the lucky winner of Mister Melonman. She was literally lost for words!

Thank you to everyone who came to the BBQ and to Stefan who took the photos because I forgot to take any!

It just goes to show that you don’t always have to put meat on the grill. I have found that there are lots of alternatives that you can find which are just as good if not better!

 

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!

thumbnail_image3-1.jpg

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.

thumbnail_image1-1.jpg

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!

thumbnail_image2 (1)

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.

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!

6 weeks to go

2 Jun

On Monday I will only have 6 weeks left of my vegan challenge. I thought that this challenge would drag and would be marking off the days one by one but actually it’s not been so bad.

Here is how the last week has been…

Supermarket offerings

I have got a bit lazy with preparing all of my food from scratch and I have tried a few vegan products from the supermarket. Some of them have been great, some I definitely wouldn’t buy again.

I tried a rice drink with matcha powder in and it tastes like someone put grass in a blender and liquidised it. But I had more success with a vegan cheese and a spicy bean burger. I was hoping to make a vegan cheese burger but the cheese didn’t actually melt so it wasn’t the same but was still pretty tasty. If you are wondering the cheese was made out of, it was made out of almond nuts.

Eating Out

My friend, Araz, told me about a new pizza place that serves some vegan options. I was so happy to have lunch with her and Mark this week and enjoy a vegan pizza. The pizza itself was made from wholemeal flour and was topped with tomato sauce and vegetables. I also had some vegan cheese as well. By the time the pizza arrived, I had forgot I had ordered it and thought the pizza had artichokes on it. But actually this was the cheese. I think it was made from cashew nuts. Next time I wouldn’t pay extra for the vegan cheese because it wasn’t all that special but good to try.

I went to see The Nutcracker Reloaded last week with Johanna, who I used to work with about 3 years ago. We had a nice burger at a British- style pub. The sauce on the burger was actually made from soya so it was also vegan-friendly. I guess it makes sense for restaurants to make vegetarian food also vegan because then they kill two birds with one stone (pardon the expression!)

I also ate at Hiltl this week. It’s a completely vegetarian restaurant which has a big buffet and a lot of the items are also vegan. It was the first vegetarian restaurant to be opened in the world. It’s no surprise that it is so successful and is still going today (it first opened in 1898) as the food is really good.

Lunches

I have gone for the convenient option this week and mainly bought my lunches from the supermarket. I totted up how much this cost this week and it would be far easier on the pocket if I made my own. So next week I will be making some nice salads and wraps to take into the office for lunch – especially now that the weather is nice and I can sit outside and enjoy my packed lunch alfresco!

Another week full of veggies

23 May

I’m now so into this challenge that it almost feels like I have been a vegan forever. It’s been a busy week and I haven’t had a lot of time to try new recipes so I’ve been reusing old recipes and eating soups, salads and grilled vegetables. Of course, I haven’t really been missing meat and dairy products, until I went home at the weekend…

Cheese cravings

When I went to South Asia last year, I was craving cheese on an hourly basis. I thought that I would be craving cheese a lot more by now and that I would have tried to make my own “cheese” from cashew nuts. But I’ve so far refrained. I also learnt that the local supermarkets stock a vegan mozzarella. It’s on the shopping list for next week already.

Who ever said that eating cheese made you have strange dream was totally off the mark. All cheese products must be out of my system by now and I’m still having dreams so weird that Sigmund Freud would be scratching his head at what my subconscious was trying to tell me.

Eating Out

I only ate out once this week – for our work team lunch. The menu wasn’t vegan-friendly so I had to ask for the roasted aubergine with tomato and potatoes without Feta cheese. It was a shame because a sprinkling of salty Feta would have made the dish sensational. However, my vegan-ised version was pretty good without it.

Going Home

I haven’t been home nor seen my family in the flesh this year so this long weekend we planned to go back for a visit. I was a bit nervous about telling my mum that I wouldn’t be able to eat animal products. But actually she has been scouring the supermarket aisles for vegan options. She now knows what tofu is but I can’t imagine this making its way onto her weekly shopping list.

I’m relatively sure that my mum had managed to buy one of every type of vegetable in the world for our 3 day stay. We could have had a vegetable festival and I was glad. Everything was delicious!

As I have mentioned before, I have been surprised by how supportive people have been about my challenge. This challenge has been so far made so much easier by the words of encouragement and understanding that have been thrown my way. So thank you so far!

However, I was severely tempted by English food. This sounds like an impossibility but when you grow up eating certain foods, you end up being very attached to them even if you know that some of them aren’t all that healthy or even all that tasty. Here is a list of things that almost tempted me to the dark side: sausage rolls, pork pies, roast chicken, bacon sandwich, everything in Pound Bakery, rice pudding… The list goes on. But I stayed strong and I am glad I did.

 

Compliments

As well as losing some weight, a few people have told me how well I look. I had read about people getting a “vegan glow”. I guess I must have it because people don’t necessarily say that I have lost weight but more that I look well. This does mean I have to learn to take a compliment better but that is a small price to pay for people to say that I look good!

vegetables-2898523__340