Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Festive Recipes

I had hoped to come up with some new festive recipes this year but it turns out that morphine therapy is a bit of a bugger and whilst it is definitely helping to lessen my cough it's also totally zapping me of energy. On top of that there's random bouts of stomach cramps and nausea and my appetite has not been great. I am delighted though not to be coughing so much. So instead here's a little round up of some previous recipes from past years.

Home made truffles

This is such a quick and easy recipe. I have managed to make a batch for gifts. They are inexpensive to make and taste great. You only need a tablespoon of liqueur/spirit so it's a great recipe for using up the ends of bottles. The recipe calls for a tablespoon of soya cream but I always find I never end up using the rest of the carton so I just sub with a tablespoon of whatever plant milk I have on the go these days and that works just as well. Recipe is here.

Winter Spiced Tea Loaf

I've not made this tea loaf yet this year but I will prob make some after Christmas when I can pick up  jar of luxury mince meat for pennies when it is on sale. I found some with chocolate in it last year which was lovely! Recipe for this is here.

Amaretti-style Biscuits

I love Amaretti biscuits but have never seen a vegan recipe for them until now. I found a copy of Easy Vegan by Sue Quinn in a charity shop a few months ago and snapped it up. I couldn't believe someone had given it away! The book only came out last year and I'd made a couple of recipes from it when they were featured in Vegan Life magazine which I had been impressed with. I was so excited when I spotted this recipe and I can report that they are a great veganised version of these classic little Italian biscuits. They have just the right flavour and crunch. I've  whipped up a batch and bagged them up in some little cellophane bags from a craft shop for gifts. I'd planned to make more stuff for gifts but life just gets in the way of plans sometimes.

I'll be back in the new year with a review of the brand new Pizza Express that's just opened in Glossop but until then wishing you all lots of Vegan love xxx

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Derbyshire Christmas - Raw Halo Chocolate

This week I've been sharing some beautiful, vegan friendly products that are made in Derbyshire like these gourmet marshmallows or have links to Derbyshire like this Peak District themed range of teas. They would all be great for gifting or for treating yourself. I couldn't let my series of posts end without featuring some chocolate! So here we have Raw Halo who hail from Matlock.

I discovered Raw Halo a few weeks ago when we visited The Garden in Hale for lunch for my birthday. As well as being a cafe they also have a range of chocolate and snacks to buy to take away and I picked up a bar of Mylk and Crispies to try.

This organic bar is sweetened with coconut sugar and lucuma with some cashew butter added to the mix. The crispies are courtesy of buckwheat and although the word milk is in the name I'd say it's closer to a standard dark with cocoa solids of 48%. I really enjoyed the bar and how it was a bit different from other raw bars I buy. The bars are free from refined sugars and have less natural sweeteners than other brands on the market. That being said the bar still felt like a treat and like you were getting a good hit of cacao.

The Garden is not too far from the hospital where I see the cough specialists so I'll be picking up some more Raw Halo to try next time we visit. I've got my eye on ginger + pecan, salted caramel and cinammon + raisin to try next!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Derbyshire Christmas - Anandas Foods

This week I am focusing on Derbyshire businesses who are producing beautifully crafted artisan products. Yesterday was the turn of Birdhouse Tea Company and their delightful Peak District tea range. Today I am very excited to bring to you Anandas Foods. I love the story of how their company came about. Ananda and Russell who were both working as professional photographers at the time set about making vegan marshmallows for their children to enjoy with hot chocolate on bonfire night. Vegan marshmallows are a relatively new thing in the UK and these guys have been real pioneers. They then progressed to doing some stalls at local fairs and have slowly grown the company without any bank loans or credit, winning awards along the way. The whole family is involved with their daughter coming up with the Round Ups name and their son hoping to run the company when he is older.

Up to now I'd only really come across Round Ups from their range of products. We are big fans and always buy some for Christmas presents and whenever we see them at Vegan Fairs. I had only tried the original Round Ups and was delighted to discover that they also come in other flavours.

Chocolate and mint is always a winning combination.

Chocolate and orange is such a great flavour for the festive season. They are also got two special flavours for Christmas this year in Rudolph's Cherry and Berry and a Marc de Champagne version!

There is even a gluten free version.

They are based on the Wagon Wheel snack  (but are much, much better and more substantial). The quality of the chocolate they use is excellent and you get a thick layer around the edge of each Round Up and a lovely squiggle of it on one side.

It always makes me smile when I see this on the other side!

Here's a cross section of the limited edition Halloween Round Up that was packed with a thick layer of marshmallow and some blackcurrant jam. There are also some special gift tins available for Christmas so if you have any friends or relatives wondering what to buy you I suggest you give them a nudge in the direction of the website.

They also sent me a range of their hand made marshmallows to try. These included Coconut, Raspberry and Blackcurrant + Liquorice. They come in these beautifully designed gift cubes. I loved all their packaging design and how recyclable it all is. I've saved the boxes to reuse for homemade gifts.

In addition to this there was also some choca mocha mallows with a generous drizzle of dark chocolate.

These peach marshmallows were delightful.

The mini bites were super cute.

Just perfect for two steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

I loved everything about these handmade marshmallows. The texture is excellent and they hold up well in hot chocolate, softening nicely but not dissolving to mush like some other brands I've tried. They toasted well too. I was really impressed with the use of natural and organic ingredients. The colour of the raspberry and blackcurrant + liquorice marshmallows were lovely and vibrant whilst still using natural flavouring and colouring. They use Madagscan vanilla extract and you can taste the quality. I was also impressed by the range of flavours. I was crazy for the blackcurrant + liquorice ones in particular and had to restrain myself from eating the whole box in one go! All in all I can't recommend these products highly enough. They even sell kits to make your own marshmallows and condensed milk too. If you are looking to support vegan run businesses then check them out. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Derbyshire Christmas - Birdhouse Teas

I'm featuring some companies this week that are either based in Derbyshire or have links to the area. They are all wonderful artisan producers carefully crafting quality goods that would make perfect vegan friendly gifts. I'm starting today with Birdhouse Tea Company. They are based in Sheffield in Yorkshire but among their many handcrafted tea blends they have a Peak District collection. I came across Birdhouse when we popped into the fantastic, cosy Grasshopper Cafe in Hope, Derbyshire one rainy afternoon. I had a cup of tea that was so mind blowingly good that I had to ask the owners who their tea supplier was. I messaged Birdhouse to find out if they were interested in a blog review and they very kindly sent me the whole* of the Peak District range of teas to try.

*Please note that one tea - Moorlands, does contain honey so is not featured here.

Blue John is named after the famous Blue John mines and is a blend of assam and darjeeling with gorgeous vibrant cornflower petals in the mix. This makes for a great breakfast tea with a subtle fruity, maltiness to it.

The Edge is an unusual green tea blend which has cardamon seeds, ginger, clove, black pepper, cinnamon and mint. For my palate it would have worked better without the mint. The smell made me think of roast dinners!  If you are a fan of green teas though and looking for something a bit different this might be up your street.

White Peak is a blend of white tea and peppermint. I've never come across white tea with mint before, fruit yes, but not mint. On opening the packet you get a big hit of peppermint. It's a really refreshing brew which is gentler and more subtly flavoured than regular mint tea which I liked.

This tea blend is named Secret Recipe. Any guesses what that might be referring to? I'll give you a clue that it's referring to a famous Derbyshire baked treat. Yep, it's Bakewell pudding. The tea is a blend of black tea, almonds, rosehips and raspberry and subltly captures the essence of Bakewell pudding. This would make a perfect afternoon tea drink.

Duchess Georgina got a mention last month when I made a Derbyshire style breakfast during Vegan Mofo. Duchess is a gorgeous smelling blend of black tea, grapefruit, rose, marigold and mallow petals. The grapefruit adds something special and the mallow flowers round out the blend beautifully to make a very elegant cup of tea.

There's two herbal teas in the Peak District collection. The Trail pictured above is a blend of chamomile and lemongrass. The bright, zesty lemongrass is the dominant flavour here so if you are someone who appreciates the calming benefits of chamomile but isn't keen on the flavour this could be one for you. I drink chamomile most evenings. As well as it being a great aid to sleep I find it really helpful with the post nasal drip condition I suffer from. I found this a fantastic change to my usual brew.

Dressed Well is the other herbal tea in the collection. It's a colourful blend of hibiscus, rosehip, apple, mallow, safflower, cornflower and marigold petals. It smells absolutely amazing, like a sweet shop! The taste was lovely and reminded me of sherbet lemons mingled with strawberries. I think that this would make an excellent iced tea too for the summer months.

And finally, the tea that started my journey of discovery with Birdhouse Teas - Muddy Boots. This is a picture of me on a walk we took up to Coombes Edge. We popped out one afternoon last week for an hour for a little walk and to watch the sun set. It was absolutely freezing and we were glad that we'd brought a flask. Muddy Boots is best drunk without milk and is a blend of black tea with roasted cacao husk, cacao nibs and vanilla which gives the tea a creamy edge. I was the perfect tea for the walk and was of course accompanied by a few squares of dark chocolate.

If you're a tea fan I highly recommend checking out the Birdhouse website. The quality of the teas is excellent and the packaging lovely. And don't forget to pop back tomorrow when I'll be featuring an impressive range of handmade marshmallows!

Friday, 2 December 2016

Nina's Popcorn Review

Whilst I am a big lover of crisps and nuts my favourite snack has got to be popcorn. So, when new company Nina's Popcorn asked if they could send me some bags to review I didn't hesitate to reply, yes please! Matt works from home so I don't get much time in the house on my own but when he has an evening gig there's nothing I like more than to stretch out on the sofa to watch a film with snacks to hand. Needless to say he didn't get a look in with this popcorn!

I decided to work my way through the savoury popcorn first. The lemony kale and pepper had a fun tinge of green to it. You can definitely taste the kale and there's a slight citrus tang and actually quite a bit of a kick from the black pepper. The pepper was a little too much for my palate to be honest. It's certainly a grown up popcorn maybe one to pair with a Bloody Mary as a bar snack.

The other savoury flavour in the range is Spicy Sriracha and Spirulina. I was a bit apprehensive about trying this one as my hyper sensitive cough reflex syndrome is super intolerant of chilli or anything with heat and can cause me a lot of discomfort. I nearly gave it away but I'm glad I didn't as the good news is that I tried this after started my new meds and had very little reaction. The meds suppress the cough reflex pretty well. This is amazing for me and I couldn't stop smiling. It's ten years since I've been able to eat anything with this kind of heat and believe me with was hot, hot, hot!

 The other two bags in the range are sweet rather than savoury and I have to say that these were my favourites. The Sweet Coconut, Himalayan Pink Salt and Maca had lovely buttery, maple, coconut flavours with just a hint of maltiness from the maca.

The absolute stand out flavour for me was the Cacao, Goji Berries and Pistachios. As with all of the range the popcorn is cooked in coconut oil. It's sweetened with maple syrup and I thought that this was a really inspired flavour combination where the tastes blended really well. The nuts also gave an interesting crunchy texture to the coating. I really liked that there were only healthy natural ingredients in the products and I would definitely buy them again. Hopefully they will become more widely available. At the moment you can buy them online as a taster pack or by the box from Nina's Popcorn and Yumbles.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Exploring Green Tea with Teavivre - Teas To See You Through The Festive Season

I'm back! It's been quite a long break from blogging as I prepped all my Mofo posts in advance in October. There were some gaps and I had hoped to do some more throughout the month but life kind of got in the way. I've started a new drug treatment for my hyper sensitive cough reflex syndrome. It's sort of the last resort in the drugs they give patients as I've tried everything else and nothing has worked. It's morphine therapy where I take a controlled low dose twice a day. So far it is having really good results with my cough being about 30% of what it usually is which is great news. I'm still in the stage of dealing with side effects (and hoping they wear off) so that's fatigue, brain fog, nausea, anxiety, headaches, stomach cramps and other fun things! I am trying to feel positive though and trying to incorporate self care practice into my day to day life more than ever.

One of the things I'm doing is making sure I stay hydrated. Alcohol is off limits whilst I'm on this treatment so I've been exploring the world of nice teas more than ever. One type of tea I've always shied away from a bit is green tea. You might remember that I blogged about a wonderful afternoon that I spent tasting and learning about Chinese teas that I was sent from a lovely company called Teavivre. I was excited when they contacted me again to say they were sending me some more samples, this time of some of the green teas that they stock. I wondered if I would be converted!

I loved how the teas in the selection that they sent all looked so different. These flat leaves were from the Organic Superfine Dragon Well Long Jing. They recommend on the website to drink this when you need calming so that will be a good one for me over the next month. This has sweet, grassy aromas and a sweet, buttery mouthfeel with hints of chestnut.

The Xin Yang Mao Jian had twisted spindly leaves. There was nice freshly cut grass aromas and a refreshing palate. It was slightly vegetal, think of spinach with a hint of smoke and a very slightly salty aftertaste.

Different in appearance again were these tightly twisted black/green leaves of Charcoal Baked Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong. This tea needed a longer steep than the others. The Teavivre website is really helpful telling you how to brew each type of tea. This produced a bright yellow brew with toasty, seaweed aromas. It had a big, smooth mouthfeel with floral flavours with just a hint of smokiness.

I think my favourite of all the samples was the Organic Bai Hao (White Downy) Green Tea. I've nicknamed this Sweetcorn tea as it really does smell of sweetcorn! This carries through onto the palate and it's really light and refreshing. It was very different to anything I've tried before and has become a new favourite.

I really enjoyed exploring the world of green tea and am definitely converted. I'll be carrying on drinking it through December. Another thing I like about these teas is that they are reviving without having such a big caffeine hit as coffee (around 10% in most cases).  They are going to be useful in helping me deal with fatigue without giving me an anxiety spike like coffee can do. There's going to be a review focus on the blog over December and I've got several more reviews coming up focusing on vegan friendly products made locally to me that would make excellent gifts so stay tuned!