Why vegans don’t have to bring packed lunches

Breakfast

Maple sunrise cereal, soya milk, strawberries

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This is a vegan cereal that I’ve recently discovered and is also gluten-free. It’s satisfyingly sweet (maple syrup based), so perfect with unsweetened soya milk. The brand is Nature’s Path and you can find it in the gluten-free section of supermarkets.

Lunch

Couscous salad, nuts, pineapple

I picked up a couscous salad (the one with butternut squash and wheatberries) from the M&S at Paddington Station. It was nice and felt like a very healthy option, especially combined with a decidedly overpackaged ‘nut selection’ pot.

From going into shops and seeing row upon row of meat/fish/dairy/egg sandwiches, you might think that vegans had to go around with Tupperware boxes of animal-free options. Fortunately though, this isn’t the case and it is possible to buy vegan food in ready to eat form. On this occasion, I had to buy lunch and dinner, which was a good (if pricey) way of illustrating the point.

Dinner 

Hummus and salad wrap, vegetable chips, banana

I was travelling home at dinner time, so bought a wrap from the Camden Food Co. shop at Charing Cross Station. It was helpfully labelled as dairy-free as well as vegetarian, which is definitely a step towards vegan-friendliness. Hummus and/or falafel is often available, although some shops seem determined to add a yogurt dressing. If your cafe of choice is completely devoid of animal-free sandwiches, there’s usually something like a couscous salad to fall back on, and suggestion boxes might lend themselves to a polite request for increased vegan-friendliness.

Dessert

Strawberries, chocolate

More of a snack than a proper dessert, but ideal for a sugar boost when I finally arrived home.

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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!

A reminder about pizza

Breakfast

Wholemeal sandwich thins with jam, banana

Eaten on the move but still very nice! These wholemeal sandwich thins were the Warburtons brand and make a nice light sandwich option for lunch or breakfast.

Lunch

Animal-free pizza, salad

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I know having two pizzas this week might look a bit like labouring the point about vegans being able to eat pizza, but it wasn’t deliberate! This one was in Pizza Express, and had pine nuts, raisins, red onion, olives and capers- a really delicious combination of ingredients. They’d evidently decided we needed an extra large pizza (it was 3pm so maybe we looked hungry), but it was very thin and surprisingly easy to get through.

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Dinner

Salad, ciabatta bread

Not much dinner needed after the pizza, but this was a nice light option that continued the vaguely Italian theme (admittedly a coincidence)! The salad was the Co-op crunchy variety and I added a few cherry tomatoes to brighten it up, along with a drizzle of olive oil. You might think that ciabatta was difficult to find in animal-free form, but it actually seems to be fairly widely available. This one was from the Co-op, but you can also find a vegan version in Sainsbury’s.

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Dessert 

Grapes, mint chocolate

This was the Plamil brand of mint chocolate, which is one of my favourites. An incredible range of Plamil chocolate (and other brands) is available from the Animal Aid Ethical Shop.

Why being vegan doesn’t stop you eating pizza

Breakfast

Wholegrain malties, soya milk

A repeat of yesterday, I know, but this cereal does make a nice light start to the day. It’s labellled as vegan and available in Sainsbury’s.

Lunch

Salad, pitta breads, fruit, vegan chocolate

These salad pots from the Co-op only cost £1 and make quite a nice lunch if you add some olive oil and have something a bit more filling on the side (i.e. some sort of bread). The vegan chocolate was the Plamil brand which is one of my favourites and can be bought in Holland and Barrett.

Dinner 

Animal-free pizza, salad

You might think that going out for a pizza was something that vegans couldn’t really do, but you’ll be relieved to know that this definitely isn’t the case. Pizza Express have said that their pizza bases are animal-free and they always seem happy to leave the cheese off. It seems that some other pizza restaurants might be equally willing to offer animal-friendly options, and this was certainly the case at Pizza Luxe in Stratford, London. The waitress confirmed that their pizza bases were egg and dairy free and they left the cheese off.  It was a great pizza too- lovely and moist with a spicy tomato passata and lots of veg on top. In fact, a pizza restaurant in Oxford (Pizzeria Trattoria Mario), has a pizza that’s actually advertised as vegan so maybe awareness is growing. I guess the next step would be restaurants adding vegan cheese to pizza, but it’s still pretty nice just with tomato and a veg topping!

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The rise of the vegan takeaway?

Breakfast

Improvised cereal, soya milk

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When I went to make toast  this morning, I found that my bread had gone mouldy, probably as a result of the rare heatwave we’ve recently been having here in the UK. I didn’t have much else in the way of breakfast material, so just just combined some fresh fruit (mango and strawberries) with some dried fruit, seeds and chopped hazelnut pieces. Even if it lacked some of the most fundamental elements of a conventional breakfast cereal, it still tasted pretty nice combined with soya milk and was probably reasonably nutritious.

Lunch

Falafel and salad box

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This was the vegan takeaway. There’s a stall just outside Canary Wharf station (called Organic Chickpeas), which sells falafel, hummus and salad. The hummus, salad and falafel boxes cost about £5, which isn’t exactly something you’d want to spend on a daily basis, but is fairly cheap when you consider how substantial the boxes are (easily sufficient for the main meal of the day). I think this particular stall is independent, but there are definitely other falafel takeaways available. I’ve certainly seen a Just Falafel shop in Baker Street, (even if it looks as though you might have to watch out for cheese and yogurt dressings in there), and I’m sure there are others.

Falafel always makes a filling (but not overwhelming) meal, especially combined with hummus and some nice salad. It traveled fairly well, although the hummus did look a bit scraped about by the time I opened the box!

Tea

Wholemeal rolls with roasted pepper salad, crisps

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Unfortunately my toaster was a little over-enthusiastic tonight and the first of the rolls got rather burnt (hence the bit missing from the top)! They were still nice though, and I find that these roasted peppers (sold in a jar) make a great sandwich filling. The salt and vinegar kettle chips didn’t exactly add to the healthiness of the meal but they were very nice.

Dessert

Chocolate soya dessert,  strawberries

You can’t get more instant than one of these Alpro soya desserts, and they really are lovely. You can normally find them in the free from section of supermarkets.

 

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).

Turkish food: putting the herb into herbivorous

Breakfast

Peach and apricot balance, chopped kiwi fruit, soya milk

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A repeat of yesterday, but I had a final kiwi that needed eating and thought it went well with this type of cereal (lucky really, as that was the only kind I had in the cupboard).

Lunch

Cranberry and watercress salad, french bread, vegan chocolate

Sainsbury’s seem to sell a nice par-bake bread that’s labelled as vegan. It’s the Basics range, but the packet boasts that it uses real French flour. Last night I’d thrown together a quick salad, and this morning I gave the par-bake loaf 10 mins in the oven. I had to pack it into my bag while still warm, but I don’t think it did any harm (and made my bag smell really nice). The salad was just watercress, cucumber, dried raisins/cranberries and a few stray pine nuts that were left over from a batch that I’d previously roasted. It made a filling but quite refreshing lunch, although some olive oil would definitely have benefited both the salad and the bread. I tend to avoid adding oil to packed lunches though, knowing my track record for spillages.

Dinner

My parents were up in London for the day so very kindly offered to take me out to dinner. I opted for Tas (a London chain of Turkish restaurants) as I’d been impressed by the vegan-friendliness of the menu when I went there for a drink a few months ago. It definitely lived up to my expectations, and the great food starts before you even order your meal. The pre-order appetisers include some lovely marinated olives, and after informing me that the bread contained milk, the waitress came straight back with a lovely plant based alternative in the form of hummus and cucumber/carrot batons. They had a great selection of vegetarian dishes, and were happy to omit the side serving of yogurt, as well as checking that there was no dairy in the veg dish I’d set my sights on. It was really delicious and included so many lovely herbs, as well as being piping hot and looking amazingly colorful. I’ve included the melon juice in the pictures as it looked so pretty.

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Dessert

Cherries, (later) some dark chocolate

I’d expected the ‘preserved cherries’ to be more like the glace variety, but these had stones and were probably closer to (but much nicer than) the ones you can get in a tin. They tasted great and made a really lovely dessert that was light and refreshing. There was no need for any chocolate after such a great meal, but I tend to be drawn to it when I open the kitchen cupboard.

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Snacks

Vegan chocolate

This was the other half of the bar I had at lunch. It was the Sainsbury’s free from brand, which includes lovely vegan chocolate made with rice milk, available in both bar and button form.