IT’S 2018! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I wanted to start the new year as I intend to end it- doing things for myself, filling my time with self care and not worrying what everyone else thought about me.
2017 has been tough- it’s been a bumpy road full of unhappiness, loss, unexpected news and stress. But I’m finally starting to care for myself, appreciate the small things and take my time.
So, with this in mind, I decided to partake in Veganuary! I’ve been veggie on and off for a couple years, but after some self-disciplined research, I looked into the mess that is the meat and dairy industry, and decided I wanted to make my own tiny impact on the world by putting a halt to meat and dairy intake, and to stop caring what anyone else thinks about my diet.
Luckily for me, going vegan was easy- my boyfriend, Cam, has been vegan for over a year now, and cooking for him to begin with was a nightmare, because every meal I wanted would contain either Quorn, milk or cheese. As the months went on, it got easier to cook for him, and for myself, and these are recipes that I have claimed my favourites since, like chickpea balti, three-bean chilli, courgetti bolognese and so much more!
Thanks to Cam, I now love things like aubergine, courgette, lentils, onions, fresh garlic, tofu, kidney beans, spinach: so much more, too, that I had never tried until I met Cam.
Cam has been Vegetarian his whole life, so for him, it was absolutely ridiculous that I had never tried any of these things. I must have seemed absolutely bonkers!
These have become the nutritional bulking ingredient that I thought I would never need- I was very wrong. I couldn’t imagine my meals without lentils now, and when I have a meal that doesn’t need lentils, it weirds me out.
These little grains are packed with things like B6 vitamins, iron and zinc, as well as being the second highest-ratio of protein in a legume!
Chickpeas are also rich in B9, iron and protein, but also in B6 and zinc, too, and make amazing additions to curries, soups, jacket potato fillings and can also be turned into falafel and hummus dip! I actually once had an amazing chickpea and veg pie made by a friend, and it was served with soy sauce & garlic fried kale and it is all I dream about.
Marmite has always been a firm favourite of mine! Toast, roast potatoes and so much more. Cam actually made me the most amazing Linda McCartney sausage & mushroom pasta with cream cheese and Marmite before, and I would recommend it to any lover of Marmite.
It’s super rich in protein, B vitamins and folic acid, and can be enjoyed any time of the day!
I remember blowing my friends minds in work before Christmas with the roast potato trick- roast them in the oven, and then 5 minutes before they are ready to come out, just blob a little 1/2 a teaspoon of Marmite onto each one, and bake for another 5 minutes! YUMMY!
4. VEGAN CHEESES (FEESE)
Okay, so this is going to seem super vague. There are tonnes of vegan cheeses, but not all taste…cheesy. It’s been a personal goal of mine to find the ‘cheesiest’ and strongest vegan alternative, and so far so good. Also for further information, thanks to a friend of mine, I actually call vegan cheese feese, like fake-cheese, which I loved and adopted asap.
Along the way, I have discovered new flavours, new feeses and new textures, as well as new recipes, uses and favourites!
I think the main thing you need to remember when eating vegan alternatives, is that it will never be cheese. It is, and only will be, an alternative. Think of it as dairy cheese’s more ethical, lighter/milder distant cousin, because feese is a whole new pallet of taste, but for positive reasons, definitely.
TESCO BRANDThe Tesco vegan cheese-alternative is probably my favourite ranges ever. In my local store, I have tried the Mature Cheddar, Soft Spread and *drum-roll and drool* Jalapeno and Chilli Cheddar. The Mature Cheddar is by far the strongest of all the alternatives that I have tried, and I absolutely love it! I mean, sure it smells of feet and it stinks out your fridge, but ignoring that part, it’s totally worth the buy!
The Soft Spread has been perfect for pasta dishes, for making tomato pasta into a creamy texture, for feese sauce and for simply adding onto crackers or toast!
(BRAIN STORM: as I was typing this, I suddenly thought about making a vegan hazelnut cheesecake…or should I say feesecake YAAAAAAS)
They are relatively cheap, too, ranging from £2.25-£2.50 for 200g-250g worth.
* ADDED: Cam also had one at Christmas that was a cream-style feese with cracked black pepper on top, which was super yum!
So, Sainsburys seem to have nailed the strength of their alternatives, and I was loving my Christmas feese board thanks to them this Christmas gone.
We trialled the following: Cheddar-style original, Cheddar-style with Chives, cheddar-style with caramelised onions, Garlic & herb coconut alternative to soft cheese, and Wenslydale-style with cranberries, and I can safely say I vouched for every single one I tried. I’m not a big fan on cranberries, but I really loved the Wenslydale-style feese for it’s taste & texture.
My favourite by far, though, was the caramelised onion cheddar. Oh my goodness. I love onion enough as it is, but that was just the cherry on the cake (Or the cheddar on the cracker, should I say).
Violife was the first cheese-alternative that I tried, and back then, I thought this tasted like stale quavers compared to cheese. But that’s just it: You cannot compare these alternatives with dairy cheese, because they are different, for all the best reasons.
Violife is actually one of my favourites to have with food- it’s taste isn’t overpowering, it’s easy to melt, and binds a lot of foods together, making foods thicker and stickier.
It’s also nicer than always having the strongest feese ever on top of your food, I mean, I love feese, but it can get sickly.
I have tried the mozzarella, original and Parmesan, which all had their fair qualities. The original Violife was by far the blandest, but did the job for when you have that feese craving. The mozzarella was the best, ideal for melting on pizza, bakes and toasties, and tasted equally as mild. The Parmesan was a trial whilst at a friends house, and it tasted pretty close to it’s dairy original, which I thought was clever, as I love Parmesan on spaghetti bolognase!
5. ALMOND/OAT MILK
To begin with, I hated almond milk. I thought it tasted salty, stale and weird, and never would I have imagined me using it as the sole base of my hot chocolates, cereals or teas. But here I am, buying carton after carton loving the stuff!!
I also started buying oat milk to put in my tea, as it tasted slightly better than unsweetened almond milk. But it works in anything where dairy milk used to be. To make mashed potato, cakes, tea, and so much more!
6. VEGAN CHOCOLATE
DO NOT get me started on my loss of chocolate. What sort of monster would create a ‘dairy industry’ so cruel and wicked to create something so delicious and addictive?
I think a good part of getting your head around Veganism is that everything has a more ethically sourced alternative, and chocolate is one of them.
I mean, I am an overweight woman in her early twenties, so talking about chocolate and how it’s hard to source (and hard to source cheaply) is probably a good thing, but a girl is allowed to treat herself sometimes, yo. Here’s a list of all my favourite chocolate finds:
- Vegó Bar – A bar of soft chocolate with whole hazelnuts inside, and it absolutely fuels my love for Nutella
- Moo Free – There is actually an entire range of these, from hazelnuts to banana chips, and they’re actually really nice! They’re replicas of ‘milk’ chocolate, so taking the bitterness away from dark chocolate and keeping it creamier.
- Tesco Free From Milk & White chocolate – AMAZING. Although the white chocolate kind of tastes custardy, but luckily, that’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. They’re dinky too, so it allows me to eat it in moderation, rather than gorging on an entire bar to myself.
- Booja Booja – some of the most amazing truffles I have ever eaten in my life! These little cubes of delight were gifted to me from work as a thank you, and I naturally selected the hazelnut option. They also come in Rum Soaked Sultana, Almond Espresso and Stem Ginger flavours, too!
It’s a necessity, I know, but more so than before, fruit and veg has really gotten me through this month so far. I have replaced most processed foods like Quorn mince and Quorn chicken-style pieces with things like diced mushrooms and fried courgette, and re-found an old love cooking from scratch. For example, I made a roasted vegetable soup last week, using a whole butternut squash, two red peppers, a whole courgette, a whole onion and three tomatoes, roasting them in rapeseed oil, boiled in a litre of water, blended and then added chickpeas and red-split lentils to it to bulk it up!
Mushrooms and Courgettes are my go to veg, and no matter what, almost all meals I make at home with contain either one, and more often, both of them.
I’ve also found a new love in banana’s as of recently. I’ve never been too keen on their texture or mushiness, but I’ve been eating a banana for breakfast/lunch at least twice a week, or blending it into a smoothie.
I knew that cutting meat and dairy out of my diet was a big step, but I also knew that I needed to keep an eye on what I was eating and whether I was eating the right things. Here’s a list of my favourites, and reason why I eat them regularly:
- Spinach – Absolutely PACKED with iron, calcium, magnesium and multi-vitimins
- Courgette – low in calories but high in potassium and provitamin A
- Butternut Squash – High in Vitamin A, C & E, and a good source of fibre
- Red Bell Pepper – High in Vitamin C and a good antioxidant
- Garlic – Rich in Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and an amazing antioxidant. Garlic has been proven to help prevent stomach, intestine and prostate related cancers, as well as cardiovascular diseases. It cleanses the blood, keeping your body happy and healthy!
- White & Portabello Mushrooms – Rich in B Vitamins and Phosphorous
- Bananas – Packed with vitamin B6, carbohydrates and Vitamin C, also a natural source of energy & sugar
I’ve also been really into broccoli, avocado, pak choi, apples, strawberries, blueberries and carrots, and even peas, which I used to hate, but it’s all a learning curve and all good for the body!
I went into my local Vegan store, Ethica, and they have one pot of this Drink Me Chai Latte left for around £2.50, and I think the shopkeeper eyed me up as I squealed with delight!
It’s 99% caffeine free, dairy free and has no added sugars, and tastes absolutely divine. I warmed up a cup worth of almond milk in the microwave, then poured into a mug that has 3 tsp of Chai Latte powder in it & a spoon of sugar, and I’m instantly sent into a cinnamon induced slumber.