Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The Om Yoga Show

Thorough being a subscriber to Vegan Life magazine I got sent a free one day ticket to the Om Yoga Show in Manchester last weekend. Om Yoga magazine is the sister magazine to Vegan Life and they hold big yoga shows in Manchester, London and Glasgow every year. Great! However, there was just one issue with this - myself and exercise are not natural bedfellows!   After being diagnosed with three chronic health conditions in the last twelve months I was feeling a little overwhelmed recently and decided to seek some counselling. I am very lucky in that my employees do value staff well-being and we are all entitled to six free counselling sessions a year which take place outside of the workplace. So, I've been seeing a counsellor and one of the subjects that has come up is exercise. The conditions I have are chronic but not life threatening. They will not go away, I will always have to deal with them, but diet and exercise can play a big part in managing them. I've never exercised regularly though and have always had a thing that I hate exercise.

 Digging through the layers of thought around this two things came up. Firstly there was school. When I was younger I actually loved sports, both playing and watching. However hard I tried though I just was never very good at physical stuff. PE was always my lowest grade on my school report. Instead of focusing on the fact that I enjoyed it I felt that I was rubbish at it and gradually stopped doing anything physical instead focusing on creative pursuits that I knew I was good at and which weren't competitive. The second issue around exercise for me is fear. When I was seven I had two bad accidents within a year in PE lessons at school. These involved breaking both wrists, breaking my right arm and dislocating my elbow. My arm was reset badly resulting in a deformity and lack of flexibilty in that arm that I have to this day. A couple of years ago I did start a little exercise routine at home using DVD's and I was really getting into it for the first time in my life but then one morning I got up and my foot really hurt and I turned out that the repetitive movement had caused my heel to fracture. I also found out recently from x-rays for osteoarthritis that I have fractured my pelvis in the past. I have low bone density and that rules out any sort of exercise that puts too much stress on my bones such as running.

So, as a result of these realisations I am trying to cultivate a new attitude towards exercise and find something that I can safely do! I must admit that on the way to the show I wasn't looking forward to it. My head was full of preconceptions of how yoga people would be! Thankfully the reality was not that everyone was like these amazing acro-yoga folk. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were people of all shapes and sizes and ages too. In fact I was really pleased to see plenty of women my age and older which helped me feel that yoga is definitely something that can help me with my health issues as I age.

I'd picked out a few of the less strenuous sounding free classes from the programme on the way there. Sadly although I arrived on time the Laughter Yoga class started early and I missed out on that but it looked like a lot of fun. I did a class with Dru Yoga who claim to help with back pain. I really enjoyed the class, I felt well stretched out without it being too difficult for me and my breathing was definitely calmer and easier afterwards. The other class I did was Face Yoga. This is a regime devised by a woman called Danielle Collins with moves with names like hamster cheeks and flirty eyes! The idea of face yoga is that it exercises your face muscles giving you a natural face lift effect. It is taught locally by Susan in Manchester and was really fun to do.

As well as the exercise and meditation I was really looking forward to checking out the vegan food and drink offerings. Sadly there wasn't a great deal in the way of food. I was expecting juice bars and the sort of wonderful raw food stalls you often get a vegan fairs selling interesting salad boxes but there wasn't anything like this. I know the weekend clashed with the big Vegfest event in Bristol so I don't know if that may have been the reason why. Herbal teas were well represented though and two of my favourites - Yogi and Pukka both had stands. I brought home a box of the latest Yogi flavour, Choco Mint, which is wonderful, like liquid After Eights!

The Pukka slipstream caravan was fab and I tried a sample of their turmeric tea. I was hoping to buy some but they had sold out. I did purchase something from their Turmeric Revolution stand though.

This Active 35 oil is made from a blend of different herbs and is said to relax muscles and support joints. I've been using it on my hips since the show which is where I get most pain and it's pretty good so I'm pleased I picked a bottle up.

I was also pleased to see two raw chocolate brands there that I really like. Pana Chocolate is an Australian brand which is starting to become more available in the UK and they have some really interesting flavours. I recently won a gift box in a competition and Matt who doesn't always like raw sweet stuff declared it the best raw chocolate he'd tasted. I brought two flavours home that we'd not tried before, the orange and the hemp and nib.

I also sampled some flavours in the Conscious Chocolate range that were new to me like rum and raisin and my favourite this Lions Raw bar which was flavoured with citrus fruits. Conscious have been around for a while and I think they've gone from strength to strength continually refining their packaging and product.

The show was a good experience for me and I was glad I'd taken the time out for myself to go to it. I left feeling that I definitely want to explore yoga further. I can't really afford to go to classes at the moment but I imagine there is a wealth of stuff online I could easily access. If there is anything that you would recommend for a beginner please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Friday, 20 May 2016

Bits and Bobs

A little round up of things I have been making, buying and enjoying. The other week I blogged about the Yoga Kitchen book I'd got from the library and the green tea energy balls I'd made. I'm going to try another energy ball recipe this week and I have my eye on an unusual recipe involving mushrooms and chocolate but I don't think there is much else I'll make from it. Apart from that is ......panna cotta! I've only ever made panna cotta once before when I first met Matt and was trying to impress him with a fancy meal. This recipe used Vege Gel rather than agar and is flavoured with chocolate and coffee and topped with cacao nibs. The recipe recommends almond milk but I used Marks and Spencer soy which is really creamy and vanillary (not sure if that's actually a word other than a name of a Lush product). It would be interesting to experiment with other plant milks and I've got 3/4 of the packet of Vege Gel left so I intend to do so!

The kitchen is starting to resemble a lab more and more. As well as my ongoing experiments with kombucha and sprouting I have entered the world of fermented foods. The green jar in the middle is cabbage which should be sauerkraut by the weekend to go on the burgers that we'll be having for tea on Sunday. I used this super easy tutorial from The Kitchn called How To Make Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar and it was lots of fun to do.

I've been getting some good finds in a local charity shop that does 3 books for £1. A few weeks ago I got the Sophie Dahl book from her tv cookery show a few years ago and I've already made some great things from that. Last week I picked up a novel, a nutri bullet smoothie recipe book and this book by Tony Weston and Yvonne Bishop. This book was produced in association with the UK Vegan Society and I almost didn't buy it as I thought it might be a bit basic for my tastes.

In fact the only thing I've made so far is a super simple granola. Despite being super simple it is fantastic. It's just 3oz of oats mixed with a tablespoon each of rapeseed/canola oil, blackstrap molasses and soya milk. After spreading on a baking tray it baked for 15 mins at 180c.

It has a lovely treacly taste that reminded me of Lizzie's Granola but without the price tag. The recipe says to serve one but as I prefer to use granola more as a topping rather than the main event this did for four servings of breakfast. It filled a coffee jar or rather it should have filled a coffee jar but I couldn't stop eating it as it was cooling!

We had it with some plain soy yoghurt, Sweet Freedom and a Prune, Apricot and Sultana compote from the Sophie Dahl book where the dried fruit is soaked in Lapsang Souchong tea and cinnamon. This is soooo good and I've already made a second batch with Earl Grey this time. I will definitely be making the granola on a regular basis and on looking through the book more closely there are some really inventive recipes using unusual ingredients and techniques and it's not at all the simple basic book I thought it was on first glance. Maybe the clue should have been that one of the writers is Tony Bishop the  author of the infamous Rainbows and Wellies vegan cookbook. If you haven't read it you must check out Hasta La Vegan's post on this book from a few Mofo's ago. I actually bought a copy of R+W after reading it but have never actually cooked from it. I think I really need to explore this two books of Tony's further as he is a really great, inventive British vegan chef.

And finally as I mentioned in the last post we went to a friends 40th birthday party over in Sheffield last Friday. What I didn't mention was the fab vegan food we had. Our friend Maggie who organised the party for her partner Craig always makes sure we are well catered for and the buffet was great. There was lots of different bits and pieces for us to try and some lovely different things from the usual fare like a mashed avocado and olive pate on mini bagels.

Craig is a massive Star Wars fan so he had a Star Wars cake and there were also lots of themed cupcakes featuring lightsabers, Chewbacca, Yoda etc. Most excitingly the Death Star cakes were vegan and not only looked beautiful but tasted great too. If you are in the Sheffield area and looking for vegan cakes and/or catering you should definitely check out Cutie Cupcakes by Helen and Top Notch Nosh who did a fantastic job of both the cakes and buffet.
Tomorrow I am off to the Om Yoga Show for the day. I must admit I am more attracted by the vegan food at the show than the hard core yoga stuff but I am trying to establish an exercise routine which yoga is part of so I'm hoping to attend some of the mini yoga and meditation sessions too. I shall report Back!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Day We Did A Juice Blast

About two years ago we watched the film Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Afterwards we talked about trying a one day juice fast sometime but then forget all about it. To be honest even though I found the film interesting I didn't think that there would be any way that I would manage to only drink juice for a day. We moved house around that time and my juicer has been in the shed in our backyard since then! Last Monday at work something made me start thinking about trying a day long juice fast again, in fact feeling really strongly that I wanted to do it. On the way home from work I popped into Home Bargains and right by the till were the perfect reusable insulated juice containers at a bargain price. I took that as a sign that the time was right!

We picked last Sunday for the day to do it and bought all the ingredients in advance. I looked around the internet for a plan to follow. I actually ended up ditching the idea of using my juicer and decided on using the Vitamix instead keeping in all the fibre from the fruit and veggies. I've not ruled out trying a juice fast in the future but I felt like it was more likely to be successful if we started with smoothies. We had really late nights on Friday and Saturday with a friend's 40th birthday party and Matt playing at a festival. There was alcohol, lots of cake and crisps, burger and chips for both evening meals and lots of caffeine. Sunday morning we looked like this.......

.....a tired, grumpy Matt who muttered that he'd rather be doing  real ale cleanse and a bleary eyed Caroline.

Despite the bleary eyes I did wake up feeling excited about the experience. Before body brushing and jumping in the shower there was a cup of boiling water with lemon and ginger. Body brushing is recommended alongside fasts. I've been doing it for years and highly recommend it. I takes a minute and always helps me wake up as well as giving you lovely soft skin.

I opted to follow a free plan from the Blender Babes website. The plan I found appealed to me because there were 6 big juicy smoothies, the recipes were for 2 people and there was a ready to print shopping list. The breakfast drink actually made two extra glasses and I opted to use half the amount of ice in the other smoothies and found this made just the right amount for our two cups. This one contained coconut water, orange, carrot, apple, pineapple, turmeric and ice. I enjoyed this a lot. It tasted quite exotic to me as I've avoided oranges for years after they gave me eczema as a child but have started to use a little bit of orange juice as a flavouring and am hoping to bring it back into my diet.

Drink number two was a mid morning snack juice. This one had coconut water, strawberries, raspberries, cooked beetroot, a pinch of chilli or cayenne, stevia (I subbed a couple of teaspoons of Sweet Freedom) and ice. This was lovely. The earthiness of the beets set off the sweetness of the berries and the beets gave it a nice velvety texture. By this point in the morning I was struggling with coldness. This wasn't to do with the fast as I do have issues with body temperature and suffer from chillblains and raynauds and often seem to hit a cold dip mid morning. I managed it as usual by putting on a extra layer and getting a hot water bottle but I did really miss being able to get a coffee. I find that a cup of coffee gets my body temperature back up and although I don't drink much coffee I nearly always have some at this time of day. I tried not to think about it and resorted to some more lemon and ginger hot water instead.

Mid way point and our lunch juice was our first green one of the day. This consisted of coconut water, kiwi, banana, pineapple, kale, cucumber and ice. At this point I was still craving coffee and had a bit of stomach ache. I was distracting myself with a day of watching films on the sofa. Matt was still in bed (an incredibly rare occurence) and was alternating between napping and reading. We'd deliberately made no plans for the day. We've got a very busy few months coming up so it felt really nice to have this quiet time.

The plan gave all the drinks names and the mid afternoon juice was another called I Am Spice and Hot. Ours weren't really hot as I didn't include the suggested jalapeno chilli as it's a cough trigger for me. I can get away with mild chilli powder though so I added a pinch of that and it also contained a good chunk of fresh ginger. There was also coconut water, pineapple, banana, apple, orange, lemon juice, spinach, kale and ice. We had this around 4pm and by this time my coffee craving has gone and the stomach ache eased. I didn't feel any more tired than I usually do at this time and the drinks were keeping me full enough. Matt said he was feeling some hunger though and was tired.

Dinner juice was made from coconut water, red grapes, orange, apple, fresh ginger, dates, cinnamon, ice and surprisingly to me some cooked sweet potato. I was expecting this one to be a little odd with the sweet potato but I absolutely loved it. It was so sweet and creamy and actually felt like a bit of a decadent treat.

We started with the juices at 10 in the morning and had our last one at 8.30pm. They spaced out nicely through the day and it didn't feel that there were big gaps between them. We had a few Pukka herbal teas throughout the day too. The final drink was made from water, dates, almonds, vanilla, cinnamon and ice. It tasted a bit like vanilla ice cream and was a nice one to finish the day on.

I'd be up for doing a day like this again sometime. It was quite expensive, although we have got lots of fruit, spinach, kale etc left that will see us through the week. I loved the use of spices in the drinks and it's got me enthused about making drinks like this again. I feel like I've not been eating much fruit recently and this has been a good way to get excited about fruity drinks again. Especially as we are going into summer I can see myself taking drinks like this into work for breakfast instead of overnight oats. I coped with it quite well and didn't really miss food. I did a bit of yoga but sat on the sofa for the rest of the time so I don't know if it would have been a different story if I'd had lots to do. Matt said he found it more difficult but he enjoyed the juices and we've decided we will definitely carry on making them. I picked up a Nutri Bullet smoothie recipe book for pennies the other day in a charity shop so I'll be checking that out for ideas too. I went to bed on Sunday and woke up on Monday with a slight coffee withdrawal headache. A small cup of coffee when I got to work on Monday sorted that out. I don't want to give it up as I believe in moderation that it has it's benefits. Where I really noticed the after effects from the day was on Tuesday where my energy levels were great, much higher than normal and I feel that has carried through to today too. Have you ever done a juice fast or do you have any favourite juice combos?

I am linking this post to Mid Week Munchies over at Blissful Yoga Journey blog. Check out what other vegan bloggers have been eating and buying.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Roundup - Deliciously Ella Every Day

I've just had the second Deliciously Ella book out of the library. Like the first book the emphasis is on easy to prepare veggie food with fresh, wholefood ingredients and there's no sugar, gluten or dairy in any of the recipes. Ella is a plant based eater rather than a vegan and she does include honey in some of the recipes but that is easy to substitute with agave or Sweet Freedom.

One thing Ella does exceptionally well is breakfasts. I've blogged in the past about my love for Baked Oatmeal which was born from recipes in her first book and on her website. The picture below is a recipe from the Speedy Porridge Four Ways section of the book and is Cinnamon and Date flavoured. Her porridge method involves soaking the oats for 10 minutes before you cook them, just like with her baked oatmeal recipe. This dish is made with soya milk, dates, cinnamon and a little coconut oil and drizzled liberally with my favourite Sweet Freedom which has become such a must have item in my pantry! It made a thick porridge that was quite similar texture wise to the baked oatmeal. I loved it.

I've been playing around with a few different Bircher Museli recipes recently. This one is different in that it doesn't contain any yoghurt. It's oats, raisins, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, grated apple and Sweet Freedom. Instead of yoghurt you use cashew milk. Of course any other plant milk would work too. I'd picked up a small carton of Provomel Cashew milk to try the last time I'd been in a Waitrose so I used that here. This was a really filling breakfast with lots of good textures going on. I really liked the inclusion of sunflower seeds which are something I don't eat very often but they went really well here with the apple.

This smoothie was nice and thick and creamy with the inclusion of banana, frozen berries, cashews and oats. It wasn't quite as sweet as I like but that was easily remedied with the inclusion of a couple of dates.

These banana and oat bars were easy and quick to cook. They were also ultra healthy with no added sugar and just the mashed banana to sweeten them. They made a really different breakfast and went well with a nice mug of Earl Grey.

I was pleased to see a bowl recipe in the book cos who doesn't love a good bowl recipe. There's something about that combination of a protein, a grain and some greens that really makes you feel you're looking after and nourishing yourself. This Buddha Bowl jumped out to me straight away when I first flicked through the book and was the first thing that I made. It consists of brown rice nestled up to a mix of black beans, tomato puree, garlic, miso and spinach. Alongside it is some mashed avocado sprinkled with chilli flakes and I added a touch of steamed broccoli too.

This chickpea, quinoa and turmeric curry was the standard dish out of everything I made. Seriously you must give this a try. It's a wonderfully comforting one pan dish which is really well balanced nutritionally. It thickened up nicely when cold and made a great filling for a wrap.

Also from the big batch cooking section of the book is this Spiced Sweet Potato Stew. It was a good, hearty dish and the leftovers froze nicely. As with all of Ella's recipes, the portions sizes are nice and generous.

Finally check out the colour of this hummus! This is Spiced Turmeric Hummus. I have recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and am experiencing pain in my lower back, hips and foot after having fractured both my heel and my pelvis in recent years. I've been reading up on the painkilling properties of turmeric and finding more ways to sneak it into food and drinks. I loved the colour of this and the recipe makes loads, about four tubs worth so some has gone in the freezer. We've another music alldayer this weekend so it will come in handy for feeding us then.

Ella seems to polarise people's views and I've seen some vegans on social media seem quite angry at her promoting a plant based diet when she isn't vegan. I don't think she has ever labelled herself as a vegan though but has been quite clear about how she used a plant based diet to help her recovery from PoTS. I don't think it can be underestimated what an impact her best selling books have had. I know several people who aren't veggie who have bought her books and bringing this type of food into the mainstream definitely contributes to people in general eating more meat free meals and shops and restaurants increasing their vegan offer. Visually the books are beautiful and a pleasure to read. You're not going to find the complexity of flavours and inventive recipes that you'd get from someone like my hero Isa Chandra Moskovitz. You will however find some good, solid, easy to prepare and healthy options.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Mid Week Munchies and Energy Balls

It's that time of the week again for a round up of bargains I've been discovering, treats I've been enjoying and things I've been making.

In this first picture are a couple of things from Netto. I remember Netto appearing in a few places in Manchester back in the nineties and they were always at the lower end of the discount supermarkets and not somewhere I ever felt drawn to want to shop at. I didn't even think they were still going until one opened on the road out of Glossop about six months ago. I also wasn't aware that they are actually a Scandinavian company. They don't have the range of stuff that Aldi and Lidl have but there are some good bargains to be have and the specials often include really nice homewares stuff. It's too far out of town to walk too but we sometimes stop in if we're driving past like last Sunday. I picked up a good, cheap planter for the plants I've won that I mentioned in my last post and also these fruit and oat bites and some red onion marmalade. I love red onion marmalade on a sandwich with vegan cheese and it can also work surprisingly well with hummus. You always need to read the ingredients as sometimes the onions have been slow cooked in butter. This is actually marked as vegan and was only 99p. The fruit and oats bites are like the new Nak'd Nibbles and were an absolute bargain at £1 for 5 mini bags. In comparison the Nak'd bags are around 90p a bag. They taste great and I wish we'd bought more!

I also popped in Aldi during the week. I've found them to be really good for cut price baking ingredients and the cheapest place for dark chocolate chips with 100g bags for 49p. I always like to browse the specials section and I picked up these sundried tomato and basil pitta chips. Inside the big bag are 5 smaller bags and they cost £1. They tasted just like the homemade version and would be great for scooping up dips as well as enjoying on their own.

Aldi has got lots of healthy snack type things these days. We really like these fruit bars. They are around £1.90 for 5 bars so again well priced compared to bars like this that are sold singly.

I also picked up some bags of dried fruit so that I could have a go at some recipes from the latest book that I've got out of the library. All the recipes are vegetarian and a lot of them are vegan. To be honest I don't think I'll make that much from it as some of it looks a bit fancy for every day or would work out expensive in the way that gourmet raw stuff can. 

I have made a lovely turmeric mylk though and also these matcha, lime and coconut energy balls. I've also got my eye on a recipe for cacao, tahini and date energy balls and a mocha panacotta dessert with baked figs.

When I was in work last Friday afternoon I felt like a bit of chocolate so I popped round the corner to V Revolution. They have a really wonderful selection of vegan chocolate but I ended up buying this coconut jerky instead. It was a product I'd never seen before but I can report that it is really good! They also do a BBQ and a Teriyaki flavour. It's pricey for a 15g snack at £1.85 but I appreciate that it's made by a small company and food made in a dehydrator doesn't come cheap. I definitely want to try the savoury flavours as well.

From pricey snacks to free or almost free food! I got my sprouter out of storage this week. I never seem to have the same success with sprouting in the winter as I do in the summer. I had loads of alfalfa seeds left from last year and should have enough to have a continuous supply through the summer. All these seeding have come from just one dessert spoon of seeds. Does anyone else do sprouting and what seeds do you use? I prefer alfalfa to the mixed seeds ranges with chickpeas that I've tried but wonder if there is something else I should try as I actually have two sets of these sprouting trays.

I have yet to enter the world of foraging for wild food but feel it's something I really should start to explore as I live on the edge of such amazing countryside these days. A friend at work had a vegan guest coming to stay and asked me if I knew of any vegan pesto recipes she could use to make some pesto with wild garlic she'd foraged. I found a few online and she very kindly brought me in a jar of the finished product. I've never had wild garlic before and it tastes delicious! I'm planning to use this with gnocchi and also on a pizza.

I've been continuing to make things from the latest Delicously Ella cook book from the library so watch out for a blog post about that at the weekend. I also made my first cupcakes  in ages. My friends Rachel and Liam got married last weekend and as there was a whole table of vegans at the wedding I offered to make cupcakes. They were chocolate with banana, chocolate frosting and vanilla with vanilla, cinnamon frosting. The flavoured icing sugars and the cute heart shaped sprinkles were all from Sugar and Crumbs who are great for vegan friendly baking ingredients.

Finally check out the wedding favours - vegan friendly sweets!

For anyone not from the UK, these are Love Heart sweets and each one has a little message on it. They are a very popular traditional English sweet. Who knew you could get personalised versions!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Mid Week Munchies and thrifty vegan living

These days I have to live pretty thriftily. I work 3 days a week. I chose to go part time a couple of years ago and it suits me well. My health condition saps my energy and having time to rest between the days I work (I work Monday, Thursday and Friday) does help and has definitely increased my productivity and concentration levels on the days I do go to work. It leaves me with very little disposable income though. Most of my life I've worked in pretty low paid jobs, currently I do an admin role, so I'm used to watching my pennies and I'm pretty good at it. Ebay and charity shops are my friends. I make stuff for presents, I enter competitions and I am a big fan of discount food shops. I would even go as far as to say that I get a shoppers high from these places and can often be found entering our house shouting to Matt - 'Just wait til you see what I've got for 29p!'

We cook from scratch a lot and eat lots of healthy wholefoods dishes. Shopping at discount shops allows us to also enjoy some treats and convienience foods too. Normally I would not buy shop bought smoothies but when Heron Foods (the main discount food shop in my town) had these big Innocent Super Smoothies for 69p recently I had to give them a try. I've not had the one above yet but we had a mango based one that was lovely. The carton had two breakfast sized servings. Normally they retail at £3.39.

More drinks were to be had this week from Heron with these cartons of coconut water and organic ooling tea flavoured with peach puree. I love coconut water and like to add it to home made smoothies and I was impressed with the tea drink which wasn't overly sweet and let the tea flavours still come through. These retail at £1.75 and £1.69 respectively. They cost me 39p each.

Jus Rol is a friend for vegans looking for quick convienient pastry items with a lot of their range being SFV.  They often crop up in Heron and we've had the croissants and apple pastries in a tin before as well as the sheets of pastry. The shortcrust sweet pastry above has gone in the freezer so it's ready to whip up something like a quick pecan pie when we have friends over. It retails at £1.75 but I picked it up for 39p. Are you starting to see a pattern here! Also, pictured are some Foxes Golden Crunch biscuits. Quite a few packs in the Foxes biscuit range are accidentally vegan. These golden munch biscuits are one of my favourites and are buttery tasting and great for dunking. A total bargain at 29p a pack.

Also, picked up in Heron this week were these vegetable based quarter pounders and the new Linda McCartney vegan friendly soy based burgers. The EatWell burgers were £1.39 and the Linda's were £1. This is actually the first time I'd seen the Linda's anywhere. I've heard good things about them and am excited to try them. They look like they'd be a great burger to take to summer barbecues.

I did deliberate over buying the next item. I am not a fan of oven chips and felt that a £1.69 a bag it was cheaper to buy a bag of sweet potatoes and make my own wedges which is what I normally do. However, I can never get crispy sweet potato wedges and these have the words 'vibrant and crunchy fries' on the front. The crinkle cut reminds me of childhood and the excitement of my mum getting a crinkle cutter so we could have crinkle cuts chips from the chip pan at home. They also have a coating that includes paprika which I love on sweet potatoes and they are even gluten free so after they'd gone in and out of the basket several times they stayed in.

Take aways are a very, very rare thing for us but items like the ones below help make a home made curry or Chinese dinner feel more like a take away treat. Both the spring rolls and the samosas bake in the oven in around 10 minutes and are great value at £1 a pack. We've had standard vegetable samosas recently and also the dahl samosas pictured which I absolutely loved and which are very moreish.

Products in Heron change from week to week but there are nearly always crisp bargains to be found. We often get big bags of vegan friendly flavours of Walkers Sensations, Tyrells or Kettle Chips for 39p-59p which would usually retail at £2. They even had Ten Acre crisps on one occasion with 5 bags for £1 (usually 90p each). These Skips and Hula Hoops were 6 bags for 99p.

I do shop at other places too. We are lucky to have a great little independent health food shop run by our friends Steve and Ann. These sour cream and chive quinoa chips are a big favourite of ours and reminded me to ask Ann if she could order some of the Kale Straws from my last blog post. Ann knew of them and said they had been out of stock for a while and the one time she'd managed to get them a customer bought the lot! I told you they were amazing. Anyway, the good news is that they are back in stock and a consignment is on the way to Glossop.

We have a fantastic coffee shop in our train station called Twig. They offer a range of plant milk, serve excellent coffee and sell some vegan friendly snack bars and also the Ten Acre crisp range. I was so excited this week to see that they also now have some of the Ten Acre Popcorn.

I am a huge popcorn fan and I tried this new vegan friendly popcorn range when I used to write reviews for Can I Eat It App about a year ago but I hadn't seen it for sale anywhere since. The wasabi is my favourite but the whole range is great and definitely worth trying if you spot it anywhere.

As I mentioned earlier I also enter food competitions. Last month I won a gift box of Panna Chocolate, an amazing raw choc from Australia, the month before I won a selection of Laboko chocolate and excitingly earlier today I got an email saying I had won a window box garden from Rocket Gardens worth £25. The plants I'll get sent include various varieties of salad leaves, green beans, spinach, spring onions, beetroot and a selection of herbs. I've never grown things like this before so watch out for a future blog post letting you know how I get on.