Tag Archives: lifestyle

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.

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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!

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.

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!

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!

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Challenge #25

16 May

Challenge #25 is currently under way. This challenge was to cook every recipe from one cookbook. The inspiration for this came from a film called Julie and Julia, that I saw and is based on a true story. A bored New Yorker (Julie) decides to cook all 524 recipes from Julia Childs’ “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year.

My challenge is not so daring. There was no way that I was going to choose such a long and complex book to cook but I thought it was an interesting challenge because: don’t we all have at least one cookbook at home that we have tried only a handful of recipes from?

Because I was new to being a vegan, I decided (with the persuasion of my friend, Stefan) that a vegan cookbook would be a book to chose. Then I could use recipes from book during my three months of being vegan. The book I chose is called Vegan on the Go. I don’t consider this cheating – I still have to cook all of the 100 plus dishes.

If you make a quick calculation, 100 dishes into 90-ish days means that I should be able to complete this easily in the time that my other challenge is running.

In practice, this hasn’t really happened. If I make a salad for lunch, I will make it to have for a couple of days. To cook 100 dishes while I am working full-time is also difficult because some of the recipes take a while to prepare. 14 of the dishes are desserts so these can’t be eaten for breakfast or lunch, even if I want to.

So, I will be cooking as many of the recipes in the coming months and then finishing off with the rest later.

Here is my progress so far:

Spinach and Banana Smoothie – I have had a lot of smoothies and this one was very similar to what I normally make. I did substitute the orange for grapefruit as we had this ingredient at home and needed to use it.

Guacamole – this is one of my favourites and the recipe was very similar to the one that I normally use.

Hummus – again I have made this a lot in the past and the recipe was almost the same as what I normally use.

Brocolli cakes with Mango and Avocado Salsa – I made these and put them on the grill and they were really easy to make. I was a bit worried that they would disintegrate during cooking but they didn’t. The salsa was delicious and I have made that again to have with grilled vegetables.

Gazpacho –  this took ages to make. I had to peel fresh tomatoes, deseed and core them. It took a long time and the kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off after I had finished. The result was good. It was the first time that I had even eaten Gazpacho. I enjoyed it, especially as we ate it on the balony in the sunshine.

Brocolli Cream Soup – in case you are wondering the cream in the soup was coconut milk, which does not come from a cow. Brocolli and Stilton is one of my favourite soups but this was a nice alternative. I would happily make this again and again.

Creamed Carrot Soup – again this was made with coconut milk. The recipe also had ginger in it which gave the soup a refreshing kick to it. Delicious!

Spicy Quinoa Chilli – I made this back in November last year. The recipe is basically the same as a chilli with meat but the meat is substituted with Quinoa. I made far too much of it and was eating it for about four days. It was a good job that it was nice or it would have ended up in the bin!

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) – I’ve made this a couple of times to take into work with me. It is so easy to make and so tasty as well. The receipe says to take the dressing in a bottle and then add it to the salad. I had to take an unused travel shampoo bottle with me because we didn’t have any small bottles to transport the dressing. Putting the bottle in the dishwasher was a mistake because it was too hot and the bottle melted a bit.

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Sweet Potato Burgers with BBQ sauce – as I am yet to find a vegan BBQ sauce in Switzerland and I am not a huge fan of it anyway, I missed this bit of the recipe out. The burger was easy to make. The main ingredients were sweet potato, courgette and breadcrumbs. It really didn’t take too long to make. I now have to convinced my boyfriend that these are worthy of a regular place on our BBQ.

Sweetcorn frittatas with Mango Chutney

This was a bit messy to make. You have to salt and then squeeze water out of the courgettes which takes time. The actual making of the mixture was pretty straight forward and they were cooked quickly. I made a jar of the chutney because we had two large mangoes to use and I thought it would be nice to have with other dishes like a curry or on the side of a salad. I think I was heavy-handed with the curry powder but apart from that it was delicious. I served it with salad as well.

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Asparagus Quiche – rather than make a one large quiche, I made four smaller ones so that I could take them into work. I cheated slightly because I didn’t make the pasty myself but used shop-bought vegan pastry instead. I should have added chillis to the filling but there weren’t any in the shop, so I used chilli flakes instead. I think the fresh chilli would have enhanced the flavour but it still tasted good.

Fruity Macadamia Cream – I made this back in November as well. I didn’t like the texture of it. Maybe I hadn’t blitzed the macadamica nuts enough but the others said that they liked it. I wouldn’t make this again, unless I had to.

12 recipes from just over 100 done!

One month down…

13 May

It has already been one month since I started my vegan challenge. The past four weeks have flown by (while I have mainly been in the kitchen preparing things to eat) As I predicted last week, I have now hit a plateau with my enthusiasm of trying new recipes. So, this week I haven’t many any new or exciting things to eat. Here is what my week was like…

Eating Out

I didn’t eat out at all this week because our day to go for a team lunch fell on a bank holiday. I was quite glad of this because we have already exhausted a hefty chunk of the restaurants that are within walking distance of the office.

Supermarket-bought sandwiches

I found myself getting really annoyed this week when the choice of sandwiches in the local supermarket was virtually zero at 12.10pm. I am pretty convinced that the meat-eating population are taking a few vegan sandwiches on the sly and leaving very little choice for vegans. Luckily, I spotted right at the back of the chiller a falafel burger, which I took with me to the park to eat. I like falafel. I like burgers. But I wasn’t convinced it was relatively dry, despite the huge serving of beetroot on the top of it, and took quite a bit of chewing. The weather outside in a little garden that I discovered last week made it palatable.

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BBQ

Our BBQ game is still going strong and I think it will stay that way until the weather decides to change. Along with the usual suspects this week we have also grilled sweet potato. My boyfriend surprised me on Friday when I came home to homemade vegan spring rolls. He did confess that he hadn’t made these but that they were gifted to us by a friend of the family who owns and runs a Thai food stand. We didn’t cook the spring rolls on the grill but ate them outside with grilled vegetables and salad as the sun was setting.

Family celebration

My boyfriend’s dad had a birthday this weekend so the whole family went round for a dinner on Saturday afternoon. I was worried about how I was going to manage with the food aspect and offered to bring my own food with me. Apart from missing out on having a slice of birthday cake, I didn’t feel I was missing out at all. I actually felt really full by the end of the evening.

Weight loss

I had the feeling that I have lost a bit of weight. My boyfriend bought some scales because we didn’t have any. It turns out that I have lost more than a bit of weight – more than 5 kilos or 11 pounds (if you are imperially inclined). It was a bit of a shock, especially as I haven’t feel hungry or as though I have been denying myself for the last four week. And I have been out of action in a sporty sense because of a knee injury. So all of that weight loss has purely come from eating better. I have been trying for at least the last couple of years to lose some weight and it looks like I have managed it without even realising.

Just two more months to go!