Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snow Days

Not much going on in the Velovegan household at the moment. It's been snowing for 2 days, so I thought I'd share some lovely pictures of what we've been up to recently...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ikea Goodies!

We went to Ikea today, to get a few Christmas presents, some of their adorable wrapping paper and gift bags, as well as some food. Here's a picture of my haul:

From the left, clockwise:

Elderflower Cordial - I love Elderflower and it's normally so expensive to buy the cordial, so this decent sized bottle at under €3.00 was a steal.

Applecider Vinegar with Lingonberries - I've never actually used applecider vinegar. Does anyone have any ideas what I can do with it? It looked really nice and was only about €1.25 if I remember correctly.

Oat Biscuits & Cappuccino Thins - I've had the spiced orange version of these so I expect they will be just as yummy. The Oat biscuits are gorgeously crumbly and very moreish. They are quite rusk-like and not too sweet, and I tried them with some jam spread on top of them - delish!

Sour Cream and Onion Kettle Crisps - These are vegan despite the "cream" mentioned in the title. They are so good, really crunchy and crispy. I've had the ready salted version of them too, in smaller packets from their canteen.

Filter Coffee - For only €2.00 I couldn't really resist buying some.

Mustard Dressing with Dill - Surprisingly vegan, this is usually served over smoked salmon. I love it so much, it's so tangy and sharp, with a sweet mustardy taste. I'm not sure what I'll do with it, maybe use it as a raw vegetable dip or a salad dressing.

Dark Chocolate - The usual Ikea favourite, I can't not get one at only 45c a bar!

Strawberry Laces - My German friend, if you remember, sent me the toffee version of these and I hadn't seen them in Ikea before, but they were there this time so I decided to try a different flavour.

And below is a Non-Alcoholic Mulled Wine and some Blackcurrant and Raspberry Jam. The wine can be mixed with vodka and served hot with raisins and almonds... can't wait to try this traditional Swedish drink!

And guess who couldn't stop looking at me as I ate my oatie biscuits with blueberry and raspberry jam??? YES... GERRY. He had a taster and give it the Gerry Seal of Approval (the GSA).

Here he is in his new little Christmas jumper! ^_^
He doesn't look impressed...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Field and Vine Salad Bar

I went to sample the salad bar at Field and Vine that I blogged about here a while back. It was sooooo good! Not that expensive either. I was quite cautious at how much I put in to the tub at first, but it only came to €2.50... so next time I filled a medium sized tub and it came to just over €3.00 which was still decent enough. Their chickpea salad is gorgeous, it comes with roasted red peppers, mint and parsley (from what I can deduce), and the tabbouleh is really nice too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gerry's Diet Update

Since swapping Gerry onto Connolly's Red Mills Junior complete dog food he's been doing really well. As I mentioned before, it is made from pretty simple, organic, pure ingredients sourced in Ireland, with hypoallergenic qualities. The chicken in it is the only 'meat' he gets at the moment, and since stopping feeding him treats with any dairy or any cheap animal derivatives in them, his skin has improved greatly. I have read up extensively on vegetarian and vegan diets for dogs with skin disorders, and think that after Christmas has been and gone I will be swapping him onto Yarrah complete dog food which I have heard works wonders with dogs with food allergies. Originally I thought it was quite expensive, but I've come to realise that you have to pay more to get any decent quality dog food, and it works out the same as the Red Mills if I buy in bulk. I am also aware that some dogs can be allergic to soy however, so his transition onto Yarrah will have to be rethought if this is the case.

At the moment, although he is still on a meat based kibble, he is extremely happy with all his vegan treats that I have managed to find in local pet shops and over the internet - these range from dried sweet potatoes, to toughened rice bones, to vegetable based crunchy biscuits to chewy dental stars. He goes crazy for them! I'm still mixing some rice, beans and peas into his Red Mills as well. He's one happy, bright, sparky doggie! :)

Stuffed Courgettes (Zucchini)

I love courgettes so much, as you know from my last entry. Best of all I love them steamed with a bit of butter, you really can't get any better than that... but of course that wouldn't make for a very exciting entry... so tonight I decided to have a baked courgette stuffed with a mixture of puy lentils, tomatoes, onions, garlic and salt & pepper to season. One if the halves is pictured below, and I made so much of the filling that I'll be serving the rest of the mixture with some yummy brown spaghetti tomorrow. Happy Days! :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Survey Thingumy...

1. What is one food you thought you’d miss when you went vegan, but don’t?

Definitely cheese. I didn't think I'd miss meat much as I love meat substitutes, but I thought cheese would be something I'd be craving all the time. I used to love sitting down with a chunk of brie on some crackers and dipping it into warm vegetable soup... but I really don't miss it at all! I prefer pizzas without cheese (with refried beans instead) and I love tofutti cream cheese on crackers with cranberry sauce at Christmas and melted cheezley on pitta bread. I don't know how I used to like that smelly, salty stuff before!

2. What is a food or dish you wouldn’t touch as a child, but enjoy now?

I pretty much used to like everything as a child... but dark chocolate has really grown on me, as well as things like dates and prunes.

3. What vegan dish or food you feel like you “should” like, but don’t?

Since I was a kid I've hated raisins, sultanas, currants and rhubarb. So anything with those in is a big no-no for me. I never used to like bananas and was convinced I was allergic to them for about 28 years of my life! However I discovered I was ok when I ate one a few years back but I still don't like them in their raw fruit format, only mixed into baking and desserts. Also, I got pretty sick after eating tempeh not so long ago. I used to love the stuff but now I can't even bear the thought of it.

4. What beverage do you consume the most of on any given day?

I am really bad at drinking water. I really just don't like the taste of it. So I'd say coffee is what I usually drink, especially on work days! However whiskey may come a close second ;)

5. What dish are you “famous” for making or bringing to gatherings?

I am not famous for any dish I don't think!

6. Do you have any self-imposed food rules (like no food touching on the plate or no nuts in sweets)?

I like to eat desserts with a teaspoon, and sometimes I leave the best thing on my plate until last :)

7. What’s one food or dish you tend to eat too much of when you have it in your home?

Bagels with vegan nutella! I try not to buy them very often nowadays...! I'm also a big sucka for crisps and marzipan :)

8. What ingredient or food do you prefer to make yourself despite it being widely available prepackaged?

Pretty much everything. I love cooking from scratch as it always tastes so much better, but sometimes I'm just too lazy to do that, so I make do with the prepackaged stuff. Homemade soup is just THE BOMB though, but sadly I'm just way too lazy to make it all the time. Hmm, this reminds me - I really need to make some winter stews again soon!

9. What ingredient or food is worth spending the extra money to get “the good stuff”?

I don't really ever spend huge quantities of money on any groceries. I just try to find the best quality foods at the best prices possible! Asian and Indian markets are a real gem when it comes to this. However, that said, I do love to shop in gourmet shops from time to time but mostly won't buy something if it's extortionately priced. Although I do spend a long time sourcing the best alcohol, there's no compromising there!! ;)

10. Are you much of a snacker? What are your favorite snacks?

Yeah I snack all the time! I prefer to eat small portions throughout the day than eat big meals. I find it keeps me ticking over throughout the day. Nakd bars are my favourite snacks, or a toasted bagel, dried wasabi peas and broad beans, or some soya yoghurt. NOM!

11. What are your favorite vegan pizza toppings?

Definitely pineapple, refried beans, gherkins, sweetcorn, onions and BBQ sauce. Sliced seitan sausages are great too!

12. What is your favorite vegetable? Fruit?

It's impossible to choose one of each. I'm more of a veggies person than fruit though. I love butternut squash, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, parsnips, roasted peppers, onions and courgettes. The fruit I like most are raspberries, melons, pineapples and mangoes.

13. What is the best salad dressing?

Balsamic vinegar, or just plain salt and pepper.

14. What is your favorite thing to put on toasted bread?

Pure sunflower oil spread, raspberry jam, blackcurrant jam, peanut butter or vegan nutella.

15. What kind of soup do you most often turn to on a chilly day or when you aren’t feeling your best?

Sweet potato and butternut squash, lentil, carrot and coriander, creamy broccoli or chunky vegetable. I love all soups!

16. What is your favorite bun flavour? Icing flavour?

Coffee, hands down!

17. What is your favorite kind of biscuit?

I love bourbon creams, hobnobs, pink wafers and anything homemade from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.

18. What is your most-loved “weeknight meal”?

Lentil or textured vegetable protein bolognaise with spaghetti is a favourite comfort food of mine. Or vegetable thai curry. Then again pizza is good too!

19. What is one dish or food you enjoy, but can’t get anyone else in your household to eat?

Aubergines! Everyone else seems to hate the texture.

20. How long, in total, do you spend in the kitchen on an average day?

Probably a couple of hours, if I'm not super busy.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

THE Nicest Pumpkin Soup

1 small Pumpkin
4 small Onions
2 medium Sweet Potatoes
Olive Oil
Vegetable Broth
Garlic Purée

Dice the pumpkin, onions and sweet potatoes. Stir fry them in a pan for 5 minutes with some olive oil and garlic purée. Add vegetable stock and water to cover the veg, bring to the boil and then simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft. Grind in some pepper to taste, then put everything into the blender.

Result - two portions of amazingly sweet, comforting, yellowy, homely, warm, mushy goodness. It's so creamy and light it's hard to believe there's no soya milk or cream in it!

I also made Gerry some Sweet Potato Chews of my own:

I sliced them raw and put them in the oven at 140 degrees for almost 3 hours. They were really good, I ended up stealing some from him, and he went CRAZY over them, begging for more (hence the blurry photo)! I will have to wait for the ones I ordered to arrive in the post, to see what kind of texture they are meant to be. They are meant to be a veggie alternative to rawhide, so they are meant to take a while to chew, but mine were gone in an instant - maybe because they were too small (they shrank a lot as they were dehydrating). I'll have to experiment more...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cuppa Soups, Bones & Sweet Potato Chews!

Everyone's blogging for Vegan MOFO (Month of food) at the moment. I feel like I should be joining in, but it's not really me. I've always been one to go against the grain and refuse to participate... not in a bad or selfish way, I mean I just prefer to do what I want, when I want. Is that so bad?? It makes sense to me!

After my last entry I revisited the shop in Terenure (Nolan's Food Fare, if anyone is interested) and while stocking up on another couple of cans of soup for work I also noticed these babies: Organic cuppa soups by Just Wholefoods. They are both vegan and apparently there is also a carrot and coriander flavour available. They cost around €1.50 for a packet of 4 sachets and are really delicious. It's so difficult to find vegan cuppa soups as most seem to contain milk protein or powder of some sort even if they are vegetarian. The only other, which I've blogged about before, that I've come across, is the minestrone flavour from Lidl.

I made another couple of vegan purchases for Gerry today as well. When we stopped at the pet shop after his run in the park and splash in the lake, I noticed this Marrow Bone treat by Yuppy Puppy. It's like a Nylabone, so lasts for ages, and is filled with a vegetable based jerky flavour paste. It's great for conditioning doggie gums and keeping teeth healthy. Here's my little monster doing his best advertising for the Yuppy Puppy company. I reckon he should get paid!

The other vegan treats I purchased were from the Treatsfordogs Ebay Shop - a few Antos Cerea rice bones which are hollow and can be filled with peanut butter or veggie paté, and some dried sweet potato chews which are a vegetable version of rawhide and apparently last longer! I'm going to try making some of my own for Gerry, according to instructions over at Sable's Supper.

I've been eating pretty unhealthily and sporadically over the last few weeks, I need a kick in the butt to make me start cooking again. I think it's just a temporary hitch, brought on by the new lifestyle of owning a dog. Now that I have someone else to feed and worry about I've been neglecting myself! I am determined as of tomorrow to get back into the swing of things, I can't be setting a bad example for the furry dogchild, so I must start being more healthy from now on!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Workday Autumny Warmers

Here are some new lovely Winter (Autumn!) Warmer discoveries for you. I went to a local Gourmet shop today in Terenure and picked up some Carrot & Coriander soup by Suma, and some Moroccan Chickpea and Shrilankan Lentil & Coconut soup by The Really Interesting Food Co. All soups state that they are suitable for vegans on the labels, and are ideal organic lunches for me to have quickly at work. Really tasty and quite a bargain at just over €1.50 each. The Suma soup was oddly watery, I'm more of a fan of a stodgy carrot and coriander soup, but it was still tasty and is fine soaked up with some brown bread.

I'm really slacking in my updates recently due to trying to save money and eating quite cheaply and unadventurously. I haven't really made anything new and interesting to blog about, just sticking to my old staple favourites. I didn't even do anything on Hallowe'en to warrant an update - horrific in itself, I know! I did see quite a few bonfires and fireworks, played with sparklers with my boyfriend's nieces, stole their sweets and watched The Evil Dead, but we didn't go to a party this year and I mostly stayed in and made sure Gerry wasn't scared. He actually didn't mind the fireworks one bit... probably because he's used to us being noisy most of the time, and our doorbell miraculously ceased to function for one night only, so I don't know if we got any Trick or Treaters! My cute little pumpkin is still sitting in the kitchen waiting to be hollowed out, carved, and turned into a delicious soup. I won't get around to it til the weekend, but I'm still going to do it! I'll have to think of a different design to carve on my lantern, as it's a bit late for something frightening...

Below are my last two years' Hallowe'en costumes. A Flight of the Conchords Style Robot and Old Gregg from the Mighty Boosh. I love dressing up so much and put all my effort into my costumes. I just adore rifling through charity shops to find everything I need, it's such a challenge and I enjoy anything creative so wherever possible I try to make what I wear.

Gerrywise, I do not have much news on his diet. I still have not managed to swap him onto fully vegan food. I think it is going to take more time than I anticipated, because at the moment I am still trying to determine what is causing the rash on his belly and mouth. The DSPCA vet thought it may be mange, and gave him an injection, but it doesn't seem to have cleared it up, so I am convinced that it's an allergy of some sort. I am giving him some Piriton allergy tablets and keeping him away from long grass. I don't know whether it's an environmental allergy or a food allergy, so I've swapped him to the best food I can find locally at the moment, with the purest and simplest Irish ingredients available. This food is Connolly's Red Mills Leader Junior, which is much better than the Bakers' Puppy food that he was raised on, as it has no sugar, salt, artificial colourings, flavourings or preservatives. The fewer ingredients in his kibble the better, so as to reduce the risk of allergies. He seems very happy and healthy on it so far. I am going to see how he copes on this food for a while, and continue to research the best vegan / vegetarian kibble to buy him. It's extremely hard to get hold of here in Ireland, and what you can get hold of (Yarrah or Wafcol) is quite expensive. So at the moment the best I can do is to feed him organic meat kibble of the simplest and healthiest ingredients, supplemented with fresh rice and veg, with some special vegan treats from the Veggie Pets website now and again.