How to liven up a hummus sandwich

Breakfast

Wholegrain malties, banana, soya milk

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Always an energising way to start the day.

Lunch

Wholemeal rolls with hummus and sundried tomatoes, apple, soya yogurt

This is a really great sandwich combination that I’ve recently discovered (although I’m sure it’s not entirely original). As you’ve probably guessed, you literally just spread the bread/rolls with vegan margarine and hummus, then add some sundried tomatoes from a jar. If, like me, you don’t have time to rinse and dry the tomatoes, it’s probably worth using a roll or some crusty bread as flimsier varieties may be subject to sogginess!

Dinner

Broccoli, pumpkin seed  and olive spaghetti, hummus and veg

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This is a super-quick dish that tastes great. Traditional tapenade seems to contain anchovies but Sainsbury’s do a version that’s marked as vegan so is evidently fish-free. It also works well spread on toast (in my opinion at least). Hummus and veg sticks are always a great combination and make a nice alternative to leaf-based side salads.

Ingredients for broccoli, pumpkin seed and olive spaghetti (serves 2):

– 1 red onion

– 1 largish broccoli

– 150g spaghetti

– Olive oil

– 2 garlic cloves (crushed)

– 1 veggie stock cube

– 1 pack of pumpkin seeds

– 2 generous tablespoons of olive tapenade

Method:

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, chop the onion and broccoli (keeping them separate).

2. When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti along with a splash of olive oil. Simmer until tender (about 10 mins), stirring occasionally.

3. While the spaghetti cooks, heat a good splash of oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Sautee gently for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the onion is soft but not brown. Then add the broccoli, stock cube and a generous splash of water. Cover and simmer until the broccoli is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed. This should only take about 10 minutes.

4. When the spaghetti is cooked, drain and set aside, then when the broccoli is tender, combine the two. If the broccoli has a lot of liquid left, you may need to drain some of it off.

5. Finally, stir in the pumpkin seeds and tapenade, heating the whole thing through gently and stirring constantly.

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Dessert

Fruit, biscuits

The biscuits were the accidentally vegan chocolate chip hobnobs. They confusingly seem to do both vegan and non-vegan versions of the same biscuit, so I’d suggest just checking the allergy advice section to see whether there’s any dairy (I don’t think they often have egg in).

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An unconventional salad

Breakfast

Wheat biscuits, strawberries, soya milk

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A great combination, although I really will be branching out with breakfast cereals in the near future. Wheat biscuits can lead to breakfast-related apathy as the packets last for ages and you end up working through them for days on end in a very un-creative way!

Lunch

Tortilla wrap with butternut squash dip and cherry tomatoes, fruit (apple and greengages), licorice

This was the butternut squash dip that comes from Sainsbury’s and is quite a good option for packed lunches with minimal morning effort. I used a square, wholemeal tortilla wrap (not that I think the shape makes a huge amount of difference!). The licorice was the Panda brand (raspberry flavour), which seems to be highly addictive. I’ve been foolishly keeping a packet in my bag and it inevitably surfaces every lunchtime.

Dinner

Bean, banana and cashew salad, tortilla wrap with ‘cream cheese’

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This was pretty much a repeat of the previous day’s salad in my continued effort to finish up the contents of the fridge before going away. It was just a leafy salad base, plus some bean shoots, tomatoes, banana and salted cashews (drizzled with olive oil). The ingredients do sound a little unconventional but it works really well and tastes great. If you need a side bread, tortillas spread with vegan cream cheese are a great option. I used the Tofutti brand (garlic and herb), and I do think you’d have trouble detecting that it’s not dairy cream cheese.

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The new system of writing up previous days’ blogs certainly works better from a practical point of view, but it does have drawbacks. One of these is that it’s easy to forget what you actually ate. This applies to dessert, but I would imagine that dark chocolate and fruit came into it!

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 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.

How to make your lunchtime feel like a holiday

Breakfast

Toasted sandwich, strawberries

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Strawberries are always a lovely way to start the day and a wholemeal toasted sandwich gives you a good supply of energy (especially when filled with jam).

Lunch

Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce, strawberries, dark chocolate

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This was the pasta I made yesterday, but the cold version was ideal for lunch. I’d suggest leaving it out of the fridge during the morning though, as the cold does tend to dull its flavour.  If you can manage to eat lunch outside in the sun, this pasta dish might almost make you feel like you’re on holiday in Italy!

Tea

Pepper, seed and sultana salad, pitta bread, tortilla chips/Bombay mix

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I didn’t have time to shop today, so this was just thrown together out of the ingredients I had in the fridge/store cupboard. It worked really well though, as the sweet sultanas contrasted nicely with the slightly sharper peppers. To make it for one person, I just used a handful of crunchy salad, one tinned, roasted pepper (sliced), one large tomato (sliced) and good handfuls of seeds and raisins. I find that a drizzle of olive oil is always a good last minute addition.  Wholemeal pitta breads tend to go really well with salads, especially when toasted and spread with a little soya margarine.

Dessert 

Mango and strawberries, biscuits

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Strawberries and mango go really well together for a super-sweet fruit salad. The biscuits were a vegan variety that I found in the Co-op (morning coffee biscuits apparently).

Snacks

Nakd fruit bar, wholemeal crackers

More of the wholemeal crackers from Aldi, which I’m finding are really good for a mid-afternoon energy boost.

The perfect alternative to meringue?

Breakfast

Peach and apricot balance, soya milk, strawberries, banana

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I’d almost reached the end of the packet of cereal, so had to bulk it out with some fruit but it was just as filling and probably much healthier.

Lunch

Pitta bread stuffed with marinated tofu and tomato salad,  pretzels, apple, dried mango

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I’d say that this is definitely one of the best sandwiches around. This morning I just briefly posted a wholemeal pitta bread in the toaster to warm it and make it easier to cut, then spread it with some soya margarine and added rocket salad, sliced cherry tomatoes and some marinated tofu pieces. The whole process only took around 5 mins, so it’s not the type of packed lunch you have to get up early to make. The marinated tofu peices are one of my favourite tofu products, and they’re great added to sandwiches and salads. This was the Cauldron brand, and I generally find that they’re available in the larger supermarkets (although some sort of tofu can generally be purchased in any supermarket). The pretzels are just a very addictive crisp  alternative, and dried mango is good for a sweet, but maybe slightly healthier, end to a meal.

Dinner

Thyme, seed and cherry tomato pasta, marinated tofu and cucumber salad

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When I made a roasted pepper pasta salad for Sunday lunch, I cooked slightly too much pasta. To avoid swamping the Mediterranean veg with excessive amounts of plain pasta, I stowed some of the surplus pasta in the fridge. During the week, I’ve considered taking it for lunch, but the thought of preparing a pasta salad before 8 am never really appealed. Its days were numbered, but it came into its own tonight when I wanted to save time by avoiding a shopping trip. I still had plenty of the lovely herbs that my grandparents had brought over from their garden, so I thought that these would do a pretty good job of perking up the pasta.

This turns out to be a great way to use up excess cooked pasta (which often results from the wise decision to gradually add  pasta to sauce and avoid the risk of dryness).  Keeping the pasta for nearly a week was probably pushing it though, and I wouldn’t suggest that anyone else does the same! I have an incredibly zealous fridge which is great for stopping things from going off (if slightly annoying when it produces icy strawberries etc.).  As well as saving time on supermarket trips, the whole thing was definitely ready in under 15 mins.

Ingredients for thyme, seed and cherry tomato pasta (serves 2):

– 150g dried pasta, cooked

– 1 onion

– 2 large garlic cloves

– A good handful of thyme

– Olive oil

– A generous sprinkle of seeds (e.g. pumpkin, sunflower)

– A good handful of cherry tomatoes

Method:

1. Chop the onion, crush the garlic and take the thyme leaves off the stalks.

2. Heat a good splash of oil in a pan and add  the onion, garlic and thyme. Sautee for around 5 mins, stirring constantly, until the onion is soft and transparent. Add the seeds and continue to sautee for a few more minutes.

3. Add a good splash of water, plus the cherry tomatoes (whole). Simmer for another 5 mins, stirring almost constantly. Add more water if necessary. It’s not to create a sauce, but just  to stop the mixture from burning.

4. Finally, add the  pasta and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until the pasta is hot through.

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I served this with some cucumber and marinated tofu pieces, as there wasn’t quite as much pasta as I would usually cook. If using more pasta though, a leafy salad would probably suffice.

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Dessert

Halva with strawberries and pomegranate seeds, a few pieces of dark chocolate (with ginger)

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The Cypressa brand of this traditional Greek dessert definitely seems to be animal-free. I’ve just been informed that some halva contains albumin though  (which comes from egg), so I guess it’s one of those cases where you have to do a quick scan of the ingredients to be sure.

I’d never tried it before, but thought it was really delicious. It’s made from crushed sesame seeds (and a lot of sugar), so it’s almost like a sweet version of tahini. The ‘serving suggestion’ shows it cut into neat cubes, but my block just crumbled when I tried to cut it. It still tasted great though, especially combined with fresh red fruit. It also strikes me as the perfect alternative to meringue, as it has the same sweet, fairly dry, crumbly texture. For this reason, I think it would have been even better with a moister topping (e.g. some tinned fruit or a fruit compote) and would also be a great ingredient for an animal-free Eton mess, combined with some whipped coconut cream.

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Snacks

Vegan chocolate

Not much explanation needed, but it’s not a snack you can go far wrong with!

What to do if your watercress wilts

Breakfast

French bread with jam

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This was the second of the Sainsbury’s Basics par-bake baguettes that I’d bought at the weekend. The picture is a little misleading as I actually left the banana and went for the rest of the baguette instead. My vague reasoning was that the banana would keep better than the bread. It made a nice breakfast time treat, although it probably wouldn’t be the healthiest way to start every day.

Lunch

Rye bread with banana, crisps, apple, dried mango

This was a repeat of my lunch the other day as I needed to finish up the lovely sunflower seed rye bread that my grandparents had brought when they came for Sunday lunch. The bread goes really well topped with  some sliced banana, and it’s a packed lunch you don’t even have to prepare- you can just bring along the bread, a banana and a knife.

Dinner

Apple and watercress dhal, salad

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Apple and raisin dhal is one of my favourite recipes, but tonight I did a slight variation and I’d say that this version is even nicer. This new version was prompted by the presence a packet of watercress  that didn’t quite look salad-grade. It hadn’t gone yellow, but it just didn’t look as fresh and perky as it should have done. I didn’t really want to throw it away though, as it’s such a nutritious and tasty variety of greenery. I couldn’t see any reason not to treat it like spinach and stir it into a savoury dish, and this ended up working really well. In fairness though, I don’t think that the lovely flavour of the dhal was really the result of any watercress related innovation. My grandparents had brought me a box of fresh herbs from their garden, and I think it was these that really made the dish. I used a little sage, rosemary and thyme, and they really made it into something special. If you don’t have access to garden grown herbs (my own attempts have been enjoyed by many snails but few humans), then I’d go for sage and/or rosemary in the supermarket as I think these were the key herbs to include.

Ingredients for apple and watercress dhal (serves 3):

– 250g red  lentils

– 1 litre veggie stock (2 stock cubes)

– 1 onion

– 2 large cloves of garlic

– A small handful of sage leaves and a little fresh rosemary

– 3 apples (Coxes are ideal)

– Olive oil

– 1 smallish packet of watercress

– A good splash of soya cream

– (Optional) a few seeds to sprinkle over the top

Method:

1.  Rinse the lentils, add to a pan along with the stock and simmer until tender (around 15 mins)?

2. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion, apple and herbs. Crush the garlic cloves.

3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and garlic. Sautee on a low heat, stirring constantly until the onion softens and turns transparent. Then add the apple and herbs, and continue to saute for a few minutes. Next, add the  watercress and soya cream, and stir until the watercress has wilted fully.

4. When the lentils are ready, stir into the apple mixture. It’s best to leave the dhal to cool a little before serving, otherwise it’s just too hot to appreciate all the flavours. Sprinkle each serving with a few seeds if you’re using them.

I just served this with some salad, topped with a little Bombay mix, plus the last of the mini ryvita crackers. If you’re feeling in need of a more substantial meal  though, you could always serve it with pitta bread.

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Dessert

Chocolate and strawberry dessert, a few squares of chocolate

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I had a little Alpro soya dessert left over from the Sunday lunch effort and had managed to find some strawberries in the Co-op for 50p. I literally just chopped the strawberries, put them in  a plastic wine glass and topped with the remaining soya dessert, plus a few chopped hazlenuts sprinkled over the top. It certainly doesn’t taste like the low-budget dessert that it really is!

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Snacks

Mixed nuts

I think nuts are the ultimate energy snack as they’re really effective at keeping you going in between meals, and quite healthy too.