How to make two great side dishes at the same time

Breakfast

Jam sandwich, nectarine, soya latte

If you’re feeling organised, making a sandwich in advance is quite a good way to guarantee a nice packed breakfast on an early morning journey. I would never have been that organised, but my Mum made this one for me! In terms of vegan breakfasts on the move, I see that Cafe Nero do porridge with soya milk, so this might be a good option. It’s also possible to buy vegan goodies from e.g. Sainsbury’s bakery (just ask an assistant to check whether your item of choice contains dairy or egg),  and freshly baked bagels are surprisingly good without any spread, although combining with a banana would be another good option. For a really virtuous vegan breakfast on the go, you could just buy a fruit salad. Maybe most importantly though, soya lattes (and other types of coffee) are available in almost every coffee shop, so you never have to go without!

Lunch

Pitta bread with garlic and herb ‘cream cheese’, nuts, greengages, flapjack

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Another vegan cheese discovery! I’ve been (unreasonably) excited to discover the Tofutti brand of vegan cream cheese, which is so great for sandwiches, bagels etc.. It turns out that the garlic and herb version is really lovely too and perfect in a pitta bread. I just added a few slices of cucumber and the effect was great. The nuts were salt and vinegar peanuts, which I couldn’t resist trying. They were nice, but I don’t think they actually beat salt and vinegar crisps (and probably aren’t any healthier). The greengages were from a local fruit stall and were really soft and juicy. I haven’t had one for years, but they definitely lived up to my expectations. The flapjack was one of the Blackfriars range, which do quite a few vegan options. They also come in really chunky bars, so you’ll probably find that half is often enough.

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Dinner

Homemade potato salad. Broccoli, lentil and pine nut salad

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Homemade potato salad is a seriously quick side dish that only uses four ingredients. The lentil salad is also really quick, tastes delicious and is probably pretty healthy. You can easily make these two dishes at the same time- just prepare the lentil salad while the potatoes are cooking. They both work well cold, so if one is ready before the other, you can just put it aside without worrying that it will spoil.

Ingredients for homemade potato salad (serves 3):

– 1 packet of new potatoes

– 1-2 small cartons of soya cream

– Zest of three lemons, juice of one

– A good handful of parsley, chopped

Method:

1. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, scrub the potatoes, roughly chop them and boil until tender.

2. When they are ready, drain, run under some cold water, then place in a mixing bowl.

3. Add enough soya cream to make a good sauce, then add the lemon, lemon zest and parsley. Mix together well. Black pepper is always  a good last minute addition.

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Ingredients for broccoli, lentil and pine nut salad (serves 2):

– One broccoli

– 1 cube of veggie stock

– 1 tin of green lentils

– 1 small packet of pine nuts (you may need less)

– A good handful of dried cranberries

– Olive oil

Method:

1. Chop the broccoli and place in a pan. Crumble the stock cube over the broccoli and add a good splash of water, but not enough to cover it. Simmer gently with the lid on until the broccoli is tender, stirring regularly. Add some more water if the broccoli seems to be drying out.

2. Meanwhile, rinse and drain the lentils, then place in a large mixing bowl.

3. When the broccoli is ready, drain and add to the lentils along with the other ingredients. Mix together, drizzle with some olive oil and enjoy.

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Dessert

Raspberries, dark chocolate

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An unbeatable combination!

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A summer version of a winter classic

Breakfast

Porridge with golden syrup and summer berries

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Although this is a bit of a winter breakfast, I had some blueberries and strawberries that needed using up and thought that a bowl of porridge would be ideal for this. To make it for one person, I just put 40g of porridge oats into a pan, added 280ml of soya milk/water (mainly soya milk but a bit of water), then simmered for about 3 mins, stirring constantly. I left it to cool for a while, then added a little golden syrup and a generous handful of chopped berries. It made a really nice breakfast and was filling without being overwhelming.

Lunch

Bagel, hummus, celery, crisps, salad

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A toasted sesame seed bagel always makes a great lunch. Hummus and chopped celery make a tasty filling, and if you want to extend your lunch you can always dip some celery sticks in the hummus. The crisps were just good old Walkers salt and vinegar,  and I thought some  olives and tomatoes would be a nice extra.

Dessert

Fruit, dark chocolate

Strawberries and a nectarine. It’s nice to enjoy a bit of seasonal fruit, although ripening nectarines is not a task for anyone in a hurry!

Dinner

Polenta with sweet tomato and ginger sauce, salad, oatcakes with hummus

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This was another great meal prepared by my Mum. Polenta is so delicious and I do think it’s a much underrated Italian staple. For this dish, you need the blocks of polenta (not the bags of p0lenta grains), which can hopefully be found next to the dried pasta in supermarkets.

Ingredients for polenta with sweet tomato and ginger sauce (serves 4):

– 2 packets of polenta

– 2 tins of tomatoes

– 1tbsp grated  root ginger

– 2 tbsp brown sugar

– A little mixed spice

– Fresh basil

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to around gas 7 (220 C)

2. Brush the polenta with a little oil (on both sides) and spread out on a baking tray. Roast for around 30 mins (this is a bit of an estimate) turning once.

3. When the  polenta only has about 10 mins left, pour the tomatoes into a pan and add the root ginger, sugar and a sprinkle of mixed spice. Simmer gently until the polenta is ready and stir in a handful of fresh basil leaves at the last minute.

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Dessert

Coconut and apricot pots, small slice of  vegan shortbread

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My mum created this lovely dessert from a few spare ingredients and the end result was really delicious. You just build up layers of soya custard, desiccated coconut and fruit, then top with some finely chopped vegan chocolate (we happened to have some vegan chocolate raisins).

A couscous you might not expect

Breakfast

Muesli, soya milk

I find that ice cold soya milk is a nice way to start a really hot day, and muesli is great for energy.

Lunch

Salad, bread/mini chilli crackers, pineapple, fruit bar

I’d bought something labelled as a ‘living lettuce’ and thought that it would make a good salad for a packed lunch. I knew that making a salad before 8am was probably unrealistic though, so prepared it the night before, feeling very smug that I’d literally just have to grab the box from the fridge and go. I’d added some roasted peppers (from a jar), plus handfuls of dried berries and mixed seeds. I think the heat may have been a little too much for it though, as I opened the box to find a rather weary looking bunch of slightly wilted leaves. I’d also brought a wholemeal roll to have on the side, but this turned out to be a little dry (hence the purchase of the chilli crackers as an alternative option). Homemade salads are definitely a good lunch option, but I’d suggest storing them in the fridge during the morning and maybe staying away from the lovely (but rather sensitive) living lettuces!

Dinner

Coconut and ginger couscous, asparagus, hummus, tortilla chips

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Couscous is a fabulous vegan staple that can usually be combined with roasted/chargrilled veg for very good results.  It’s always nice to branch out though, and this recipe focuses on fruit instead, which makes it really light and refreshing. My mum made this for me tonight, so it was especially delicious and included a few extra ingredients.

Ingredients for coconut and ginger couscous (serves 4):

– 225g couscous

– 200ml coconut milk

– Around 1 tsp fresh root ginger, finely grated

– 2 nectarines or peaches

– Around 100g sultanas

– 20g desiccated coconut

Method:

1. Put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl or dish.

2. Pour the coconut milk into a pan and gradually bring to the boil, stirring frequently. Stir in the grated ginger.

3. When the coconut milk is bubbling in the centre of the pan as well as at the edges, remove from the heat, pour over the couscous, stir until just mixed and cover. Leave for about 10 mins or until most of the coconut milk has been absorbed. Meanwhile, dice the nectarines.

4. When the couscous is ready, fluff up with a fork and mix in the nectarines, sultanas and desiccated coconut.

Dessert

Strawberries, watermelon, dark chocolate

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Summer fruits and dark chocolate seem to be a natural combination and also make a very good instant dessert.

Snacks

Almonds

Just some that I had left over from yesterday. I always find they’re great for energy, especially combined with a nice drink like a still lemonade.

The animal-friendly approach to pizza

Breakfast

Maple & pecan crisp cereal, soya milk, strawberries, banana

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The strawberries were left over from last night  and went really well on some cereal. I always find that bananas are great for keeping you going if you know that lunch will be a little on the late side.

Lunch

Animal-free pizza

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This was a family Sunday Lunch at Pizza Express. They’ve assured me that their pizza bases are animal-free and they’re very happy just to leave off the mozzarella. I’ve never had a dry cheeseless pizza, as they always add a goodly (but not overwhelming) amount of tomato passata, and the bases themselves are really moist.

Dessert 

Part two was at Costa Coffee, where you can get a great range of animal-free drinks (just ask for soya milk). Their vegan dessert range could probably do with a little expansion, but the fruit salads are very good and make you feel slightly healthier after a pizza!

Tea

Wholemeal pittas with peanut butter and apricot, tortilla chips, hummus

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My previous version of this unusual (but delicious) combination was peanut butter with slices of tinned peach. I had a couple of apricots that needed eating though, and they were just as nice. In fact, their slightly lower juiciness rating might make them a better choice for a sandwich that needs to be transported, as the risk of sogginess would be lower. I always find that fruit and peanut butter is a really good combination, probably because it’s basically a (slightly) healthier version of peanut butter and jam. I had a few spoonfuls of hummus that needed eating, and this seemed like a good excuse to open up a packet of tortilla chips. Many of the Doritos chips seem to contain dairy, but these ones were from Aldi and just have maize, vegetable oil and salt. They’re definitely a great addition to a vegan buffet or picnic.

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Dessert

Watermelon,  dark chocolate

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Watermelon makes such a refreshing end to any meal, and it goes really well with bittersweet dark chocolate. You may have thought that going vegan would mean giving up Lindt chocolate, but they actually do a really good animal-free dark variety, which you can  buy in Tesco (and probably lots of other places too).

How to energise your morning

Breakfast

Soya latte, oatcakes, banana

Travelling again this morning, which was my excuse for another slightly uninventive start to the day. Whilst there’s no shortage of more interesting animal-free breakfast ideas, oatcakes and a banana certainly leave you feeling thoroughly energised (especially when combined with a coffee)!

Lunch

Vegan buffet (potatoes, salad, bread, rice, roasted veg etc.)

This lovely vegan lunch was provided at a seminar I went to today. The general concept was a small spoonful of everything, which was a great way to try out the various dishes.

Tea

Hummus and tomato sandwich, salad, crisps

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Yesterday’s salad ingredients needed using up, so I added the beans and roasted butternut squash to some leafy salad. The crisps were the less healthy side option.

Dessert

Apricots, chocolate

I feel I’m under-representing vegan desserts this week, as I’ve had record shortages on shopping time. You might like to check out my instant dessert ideas (link at top of page) or head over to Poppy’s Patisserie for some impressive and delicious recipes.

Snacks

Various lovely vegan biscuits were provided at the seminar.

How to squeeze in some squash

Breakfast

Soya latte, oatcakes

Not a shining example of a balanced breakfast (oatcakes are definitely not the only option for an animal-free start to the day), but I was eating on the move and the individually wrapped (if not very green) packets of oatcakes are more convenient than dashing along a platform with a bowl of cereal. In fact, there are plenty of other options for animal-free breakfasts on the go (e.g. bagels, bread, sandwiches, fruit etc.) but I didn’t have a chance to prepare or buy anything other than a coffee (which is a non-negotiable essential).

Lunch

Hummus and falafel wrap, rice coated peanuts

Another consequence of a slightly hectic schedule was not being able to prepare a packed lunch. This resulted in another shop sandwich, so I went for  Tesco’s falafel wrap which is one of my favourites. The rice coated peanuts are pretty addictive and probably not that much healthier than crisps but they’re certainly very nice.

Dinner 

Butternut squash, bean and seed salad, bread, bombay mix

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When I went into Tesco to buy my lunch, I was slightly dismayed by the huge queue that went from one end of the shop to another. I decided to use this positively and try to grab some dinner ingredients as I passed the various isles, but this didn’t prove quite as easy as you might imagine. Despite the queue moving very slowly,  I ended up with a single butternut squash and a packet of salad. I didn’t really have time to inspect the squash, and when I got home I found that it was rather shriveled. This didn’t seem to make a lot of difference though, as it still tasted great. The beans were actually a mixture of various ready cooked pulses and were on offer in the Co-op (I felt the need to supplement the single squash).

Despite the dubious appearance of the squash, it actually roasted really well. I put it on gas 7 (220 C), but failed as usual to remember  what time I’d put it in. I’d say that cubed squash takes around half an hour to cook, and needs some olive oil added (I just drizzled some over the top and used my hands to mix it in).

To make the salad for one person, I just threw some mixed leaves into a bowl and added half the butternut squash cubes, a few cherry tomatoes and generous handfuls of  beans and seeds. I always find that olive oil is essential to drizzle over the top, and I served the salad with some seedy bread (lightly toasted), plus a few handfuls of Bombay mix.

Butternut squash may seem like a time consuming vegetable, but if you invest ten minutes or so in peeling and chopping it, you can then leave it to pretty much roast itself while you go off and do something else. I’d check on it after about 20 mins though, just to be sure that the edges aren’t getting too dark. If you combine the squash roasting with a salad that takes only a few minutes to throw together then it’s easy to squeeze some squash into a busy schedule!

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Dessert

Banana, dark chocolate

Not hugely creative I know, but it was very nice. The chocolate was more of  the Fairtrade bar that my grandparents had brought for me (amongst many other amazing items).

How to create a delicious buffet without cooking

Breakfast

Mixture of cereal (muesli and maple and pecan crisp), soya milk

I find it can work really well to add a very sweet type of cereal to another kind. I only had a little maple and pecan crisp left so this seemed like a good solution.

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Lunch

Couscous, mini falafels, salad, hummus, whole grain crackers

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You might not think that supermarkets stocked many ready-to-eat animal-free items, but actually even a trip to a tiny Sainsbury’s can provide you with a delicious vegan buffet that you won’t have to cook. This is ideal if you’re expecting both guests and time shortages.

The mini falafels were from Sainsbury’s but Tesco also do a frozen version and all supermarkets tend to stock the Cauldron brand. The couscous salad was also from Sainsbury’s and can be found next to the potato salads. The leafy salad was rocket based (nice and peppery) but I also had some olives (tinned) and cherry tomatoes. The wholegrain crackers were from Aldi and went well with some plain hummus from Sainsbury’s. Other instant and readily available buffet items include:

– Crisps

– Nuts

– Bombay mix

– Rice crackers

– Avocadoes (mash to make guacamole)

– Mini pitta breads

– Chopped veg e.g. peppers, cucumber and carrots

You might also like to check out some of the 5 minutes salads (links at the top of the page)

Dessert

Nectarine, flapjacks, iced soya latte from Costa Coffee

I still have a few flapjacks left over from the amazing batch that my Nan recently baked for me. Even though nectarines tend to take an incredibly long time to ripen, I generally find that it’s worth the effort.

Tea

Hummus and vegetable sandwich, crisps, salad

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This really was the ultimate vegan sandwich, as it had been made by my Mum and included just about everything you could ever want to put between bread. The basic filling was hummus, but this was combined with chopped peppers, grated carrot and olives, all in very small amounts so as not to overwhelm. I must admit, I was so enthused by its appearance that I initially forgot to photograph it, but the partially demolished sandwich is hopefully hidden by the slightly odd pile-up arrangement.

Dessert

Strawberries and soya cream, a few squares of vegan chocolate

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This was actually a bit of a research mission (if not a very arduous one), as I wanted to see how the long life version of the Alpro soya cream tasted on strawberries. Tesco is currently giving away a free carton of dairy cream when you buy a punnet of strawberries, and I’d like to ask that they extend the offer to soya cream, at least giving people the option of an animal-friendly alternative. Many stores only seem to stock the long life soya cream though, so I wanted to check whether this was a viable option for strawberries, or if chilled soya cream would need to be part of the request. The long life cream was pretty good, although I’d say that the chilled version possibly has the edge.