Delicious Vegan Stocking Fillers Omnivores Will Love

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Have you done most of your Christmas shopping, but there’s maybe a few little extra things you need to get for your family and friends?

This totally applies to me this year.

I did a lot of my Christmas shopping online on Black Friday. Win-win right? Ridiculous savings and you don’t have to trawl around crowded shops that blast out obnoxious Christmas ‘music.’ I was trying desperately not to be a consumer on that day, in protest at our greedy capitalist society, but once I saw the savings to be had I went a little…er…crazy (ok, a lot crazy) and decided I’ll have higher principles when I’m rich and can afford to be revolutionary! 🙂

What I’m trying to say is, as a result of my savings, a lot of the gifts I bought came in under-budget, so I feel like I want to top these up with an extra little treat for the intended recipients.

If this is you too, then here you’ll find a few ideas for deliciously decadent, vegan, chocolatey, truffley, praliney stocking stuffers.

Because hello? What says love at Christmas more than chocolatey goodness?

NOTHING, that’s what!

Please consider these gifts ESPECIALLY for non-vegans. Good food is good food right? You can’t argue with scrummy chocolate. The idea is that it will help them see that vegans do not deprive themselves and can easily enjoy decadent treats.

As we know, good food talks!

If you are worried that dark chocolate may taste bitter, avoid any product with over 70% cocoa. Good dark chocolate however, should NOT taste bitter.

You also need to know that I am not getting paid by any of these companies. Although quite frankly I really should be considering the amount I’ve spent on some of their yummy products! 🙂

I have 3 top ideas for my UK friends and 3 for my Northern American pals:

Here are my UK suggestions:

Booja Booja

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Oooh, What would I do without Booja Booja? It is an all-vegan company, and their small boxes of truffles make the sweetest little stocking fillers, which come in a range of flavours. They are £3.99 each. If you want to splash out a little more, they have bigger boxes for £9.99, or super fancy boxes for £12.95

Available at: Holland & Barrett, Whole Foods, Ocado, Booja Booja online.

I recommend: The hazelnut truffles are scrumptious, as are the champagne, and the almond and sea salt caramel flavours.

Hotel Chocolat

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Hotel Chocolat isn’t fully vegan, but they have a ton of vegan products – see full vegan selection here. Usually (though not always), the staff can point you in the direction of the vegan chocolates if you are in store.

The vegan products ARE marked ‘vegan,’ so if the staff are a little clueless, just check the packaging.

They have quite a few cute stocking-filler size gifts around the £3-5 pound mark.

Available at: Hotel Chocolat outlets are in most UK cities, or shop online.

I recommend: Gianduja Bombe Selector (hazelnut pralines).

Montezuma

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Again, Montezuma are not an all-vegan company, but very vegan-friendly, see their vegan selection here.

Again, several great options at stocking-filler prices.

Available at: Some supermarkets stock Montezuma products, otherwise Whole Foods, Holland & Barrett, Ocado, or online.

I recommend: The chocolate buttons!!!!

 

And if North America is the continent you call home:

Whole Foods chocolate truffles

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You may have seen these at the artisanal chocolate counter in Whole Foods. I’m pretty sure most Whole Foods have these – though it’s possible the smaller ones don’t.

They have several flavours that are vegan, so it’s easy to make up a small bag of the vegan choices. You really don’t need to buy many, they are very rich and decadent, so don’t think you need to fill the bag.

Don’t worry if your local Whole Foods doesn’t sell these single truffles at the chocolate counter – they should also carry these boxes of organic chocolate truffles. When I last checked, these were $6.99/box.

Available at: uh…Whole Foods.

I recommend: Everything. Yup, everything.

Hooray Truffles

Courtesy of Hooray Truffles
Courtesy of Hooray Truffles

This Canadian online company is all vegan. They have 3 types of truffle; some made with different flavoured balsamic vinegars such as raspberry and blackberry, some with essential oils (I’ve been drooling over the peppermint one); and some gold ol,’ plain ol’ chocolate truffles.

These are a little pricier, but you can pick up a stocking filler size bag for C$10.99

Available at: Hooray Truffles

I recommend: I haven’t tried these, so I can’t recommend any in particular, but a safe bet would be the plain (Simply Naked) chocolate truffles.

Lagusta’s Luscious

Courtesy of Lagusta's Luscious
Courtesy of Lagusta’s Luscious

Oh man, did I have fun browsing these goodies! Lagusta’s Luscious is an all-vegan artisanal chocolatier, with several outlets across the states – but they ship everywhere too.

From Selma’s Peppermint Patties, to Furious Vulvas (yes, you read that right!), to Cardamom Caramel Bars, to Fig & Caramelised Fennel Bark, just about everything sounds delicious.

For more moderately priced gifts, see the bars and barks.

Available at: Here is a list of the outlets, otherwise online at Lagusta’s Luscious

I recommend: Again, I haven’t tried these, but I’d definitely be willing to try every single product given the opportunity!
For a safe and sure bet stick to more classic flavours, otherwise take a risk on a Furious Vulva!

 

And on that note dear readers, Merry Christmas!!! May your year ahead be rollicking, and stay tuned for exciting, new, RIDICULOUSLY AFFORDABLE programs appearing here at Vegan Coach. I hope to bring you a weight-loss freebie, and a program based around ethnic vegan dishes. I can’t wait to share these with you all!

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Review Of Living Food Kitchen’s Raw Beetroot Hummus

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During my weekly Whole Foods shop last week, in the interest of trying something new, and for something I knew I could snack on immediately when I got home; I picked up a tub of Living Food Kitchen’s raw beetroot hummus.

I love beetroot; and I love hummus (is there anyone who doesn’t, seriously?); and though I’ve tried several different flavours of hummus, beetroot flavour had never crossed my path.

I don’t normally buy ‘raw’ anything (unless it’s fruit and veg obvs). I live in the UK and my body needs hot foods lots of the time, but I thought that this could only taste good. And it was so pretty; so, so pinky purple and pretty. So in the bag it went.

This is what it contained:

Ingredients

Beetroot (41%), cashews, sprouted chickpeas (18.5%), sunflower oil, lemon juice, tahini (sesame seeds), herb salt (Himalayan crystal salt, thyme, oregano, rosemary, chives, basil, tarragon), garlic powder, cumin, coriander powder, extra virgin olive oil.

As you can see, the ingredients are as pure as the driven snow, just the way I like ’em. And if it tastes good too – win-win!

Later on, I toasted some Cranks wholewheat bread, and covered it in this purple delight.

It was soooooooooo good. No, that’s not an imaginative description, but that was my first reaction. The beetroot taste is very subtle; sweet but not overwhelming. and there is just a hint of each herb in the ingredient list. It’s this subtleness that makes you just have to have more.

The texture (which is possibly what worried me about it being raw) was perfect.

I don’t like hummus when it’s super smooth and creamy, I like a bit of ‘texture’, and this had just the right amount.

I can’t begin to describe how moreish this is. You better share it with one or two others or you’ll find yourself all of a sudden at the bottom of the pot; purple all round your mouth, whistling fake innocently when someone walks in and asks who ate all the hummus.

 

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Killer Snacks (That Were Already Vegan), Part 4: Toast ‘n’ …

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Toast rules.

You know this already of course.

There is nothing like the smell of fresh, wholewheat bread, toasting away in the, er, toaster.

If you weren’t hungry before, once you get a whiff of the toast your partner is fixin’ you want some yourself amirite?

I remember being in a theatre in Paris when I lived there, oooh, a long-ass time ago, being really stoked to see a play in English (Sam Shepherd’s True West, since you ask). I spoke French fluently, but sometimes it was just nice to see something in my own tongue.

Halfway through the play, as part of the scene, one of the characters starts making toast (for realz, not fake prop toast). Though I was at the very back of the theatre, the gorgeous smell of it entered my nostrils – I’m not sure whether it wafted that far back or if my nostrils actually involuntarily suckered it back there.  I hadn’t eaten before going out and was STAR-VING. The minute that smell hit my nasal passages the play was over for me. I couldn’t concentrate on anything anymore, only fantasise about toooooaaaaast!

When you first go vegan it’s important to have killer, quick, easy snacks to hand, so you don’t feel like it always takes an age to get some good, tasty grub down your throat.

You need to know there are as many amazing, quick bites for you as there are for those who consume animal products.

Though ideally, when first transitioning to a plant-based diet you’ll spend at least a few nights a week in the kitchen cooking from scratch making simple, yet incredible tasting meals (this is the best way to realise that being vegan isn’t difficult or bland), there needs to be something you can grab those times you come in late from a gig/match/play/party and NO WAY are you gonna cook anything at THAT time.

IMG_20150726_123031I found myself desirous of a savoury snack yesterday afternoon (uh, I hadn’t come in late from anything, it was just a regular between-meal snack),  and with bewilderment, realised I had too large a choice of toast toppings, each one equally delectable, each one calling my name as loud as the others.

This is a fabulous (yet confusing) dilemma to have – but one that people think doesn’t apply to vegans. ‘What DO you eat?’  is the first thing many new vegans get asked. Yesterday I really needed to decide what NOT to eat.

I weighed up my options:

  • Tapenade. If you don’t know what this is, it’s crushed olives with garlic and capers. You can get both black and green olive tapenade, and you’ve never had anything more delish on a thick slice of artisanal wholewheat toast. It’s available in Whole Foods and in most big supermarkets – you might need to look in the world food section as it’s often with Greek products, and may also be called ‘olive meze.’
  • Guacamole. One of my favourites. Of course plain old ‘avo toast’ is excellent, but you can either buy ‘guac’ from a deli, or make it yourself with some avo’s, salt, coriander/cilantro, lime juice, chopped onion  – and chilli if a little kick is what’s called for.
  • IMG_20150726_123223Kimchi. I’ve spoken of the spicy, pickle’y’ delight that is kimchi here, and here I show you how to make it. You can also find it in Whole Foods or other supermarkets (though you’d need to check it’s vegan as it can contain anchovies or fish sauce). It’s soooo good on toast, especially when the toast is well done and the juice from the kimchi soaks down into it. You get the burnished taste of the browned toast with the salty, ginger of the kimchi –  *’MWAA’S’ on fingers and gesticulates like an Italian*
  • IMG_20150725_191714709Peanut butter. You might think humble old PB is the runt of the litter here, or pure filler, and I can see why you’d think that. Admittedly, you need quality peanut butter, preferably organic. Crunchy or smooth? Up to you. I prefer crunchy for added texture. Spread it liberally while the toast is still hot, maybe add a few drops of soy sauce and smoosh it into the PB with the spreading knife. Add some chopped spring onions if desired.

 

 

What did I choose? One slice guac and one kimchi. I’d had toast with tapenade that morning.

SHUTUPITWASTHEWEEKEND

 

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6 Easy Ways To Incorporate Plant-Based Habits Into Your Life

With meat and dairy-strong diets being a prime contributor to climate change; pretty much all chronic diseases; and of course to the unhappy, short, brutal lives of animals; it’s no wonder many of us are considering how we might either go plant-based ourselves, or at the very least make a shift in that direction.

For some, it’s not too difficult. I, personally, was not particularly red meat-oriented; I always preferred chicken or fish options; and I never liked milk, so when I went vegan it was not too drastic a change for me.

However, this is a world in which most of us have been encouraged to eat meat and drink milk from a very young age in the belief that it was good for us, so it’s understandable that for lots of us, it’s not so easy making a change.

How can we all, even the most bacon-loving of us, incorporate some changes into our diet, to help us tread lighter, feel better, and maybe even reap a few of the health benefits a plant-based diet offers?

Here are 6 very manageable ways. You can try one of them; several; or all if you’re feeling it:

 

1. Make sandwich filling an animal product-free zone.

Use a vegan spread in place of butter, then top or fill your bread with mashed avocado, a sprinkle of soy sauce and chopped spring onions; or hummous, sliced tomatoes and arugula; or sliced veggie sausage and sauerkraut, or good old peanut butter and jelly.

Avocado Dream Sandwich from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Jennifer, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

 

2. Have greens (kale, cabbage or broccoli are great choices) and two other colours of vegetables with every main meal.

For example; radishes or red pepper, orange carrots, or purple beetroot. This way you’ll maximise your nutrient intake while crowding out the animal products.

Kale Olive Salad from Flickr via Wylio
© 2009 Kari Sullivan, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

 

3. Try having vegan breakfasts.

Making the first meal of the day plant-based is a synch. Try plain porridge oats (not jumbo oats, these are harder to digest uncooked) topped with raisins, 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds, and berries or other chopped fruit; just add non-dairy milk or water and you’re set.

A toasted whole wheat bagel spread with peanut butter and topped with chopped banana and sprinkled with cinnamon is another idea; or throw some chopped spring onions on the peanut butter and pour a few drops of soy sauce on top if you prefer a savoury start to your mornings.

A plain coconut milk or soy yoghurt with any of the same toppings as the oatmeal is another great plant-based start to the day.

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4. Have a weekly burger craving? Switch the burger for a portobello mushroom!

Yes, there are some excellent veggie burgers out there, but you’d be very surprised just how good a big portobello mushroom grilled with a touch of olive oil, salt and garlic can taste. Slap it in a whole wheat bun with a couple of slices of tomato, a couple of lettuce leaves and some vegan mayonnaise and you’ve got yourself a rockin’ PLT!

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5. Instead of adding cheese or bacon bits to your salads, make them more hearty and substantial with plant food.

Add taste and texture with walnuts, avocado, olives, chickpeas or sunflower seeds for example.

Avocado Wasabi Rocket Salad from Flickr via Wylio
© 2011 VegaTeam, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

 

 

6. Try the Buddha bowl.

Once a week, or as often as you feel you can, make the basis of your main meal consist of a grain or a root veg, and a pulse. Choose from brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, white potato, corn, beans (any), lentils (any), squash or whole grain noodles or pasta.  Add some greens, or a selection of veg if you’re hungry, and a tasty dressing of your choice – miso-tahini for example, or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

After this you’ll feel pleasantly satisfied, with no food hangover to dread.

Lunch from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 NatalieMaynor, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Just picking one of these and doing it consistently until it’s become as much a part of your lifestyle as the meat or dairy based habit it replaced, is major. Any shift towards a healthier and more planet-friendly way is more effective and transformative than you think.

Once you’ve incorporated one of these new habits – try another. You might be surprised just how easy these tips are to integrate pretty seamlessly into your daily life.

 

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Yummy, HEALTHY Banana Bread Recipe. You’re So Welcome.

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I don’t know about you but at the weekend I haven’t got time to be experimenting with lots of different cake recipes (though I truly wish I did have).

Sometimes I make something different to shake things up; but mostly, if I don’t have too much time, I’ll make some good old banana bread.

This particular recipe is genius. I discovered it two years ago, and I’ve made it pretty much every weekend since.

It’s SUPER easy, and it’s practically healthy. You can keep it gluten-free if you need, and it’s absolutely free of refined flour and sugar (but doesn’t taste like it!).

You can sex it up by adding chocolate chips, or keep it virtuous and plain.

You can spread your favourite non-dairy spread and some jam on it, dip it in your tea or coffee, or just munch it as it comes.

It makes an ideal addition to a packed school/work lunch. Grab a coupla’ slices and go!

It lasts pretty well too, but if you’re in a hot place, or if it’s summer, I’d probably keep it in the fridge after the first day.

The recipe is from the Babycakes NYC cookbook, but I add a little nutmeg, and change up half the flour type to make it a wee bit more economical (but you can totally make the original version if you want it super light, or specifically need it to be gluten-free).

Look how well-worn and, er, cake-mix spattered these pages are!

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Mary-Louise Parker loves banana bread too!

 

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour (As this can be quite pricey, I use 1 cup of Bob’s and 1 cup of whole spelt flour. If you are gluten-free and/or want ultimate lightness of sponge, use 2 cups of Bob’s Red Mill; but you’ll still get a decent enough texture with 1 cup of Bob’s and 1 cup of whole spelt)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda (bicarb)
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I like 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup agave nectar
  • 2/3 cup rice or soy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups of pureed bananas (I usually use around 4 bananas for this)
  • To take this recipe ALL the way to heaven, add 1 cup dark chocolate chips at the same time as the banana

If you’re wondering what the heck xanthan gum is, it’s a plant-based binder. It replaces egg so well you’ll wonder why you ever used eggs in cakes in the first place.

You can get it from any supermarket, witness:

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What you do:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Lightly grease a 7x4x3 inch loaf pan with oil (or two smaller loaf pans). Use greaseproof paper if the loaf pans are a little past their best!

Measure all the dry ingredients out into a medium bowl and whisk them together.

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Add the coconut oil (this is my brand)

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Other brands are available 🙂

You may need to melt it in a pan first, as it’s solid at room temperature or from the fridge – don’t let it get too hot!…

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Yeah, kinda looks like lard!

…then add the agave, milk and vanilla extract. Stir with a wooden spoon or desert spoon until mixture is smooth and lump free.

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Blitz your bananas and add them to the bowl. This is also the time to add the chocolate chips if you’re gonna do this. DO IT!

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Lightly FOLD the blitzed banana into the rest of the mixture with a thin spatula. You’ll need to do this for a good two or three minutes so it gets well incorporated into the batter.

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Dollop(!) the mixture evenly into your oiled or lined loaf pan(s). The mixture should fill the pan(s) halfway – trust me it will rise like nobody’s business.

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Bake your banana bread in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan(s) and bake for another 15 minutes.

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Can you even wait 15 more whole minutes?

You’ll know for sure it’s done as it’ll bounce back lightly when pressed, or an inserted toothpick or skewer will come out clean.

Let it stand in the pan(s) for 20 minutes or so to cool, then carefully run a knife around between the cake and the pan and empty it onto a cutting board.

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Eat warm or cool. It’s good any which way!

Behold my pal Lisa, loving on the banana bread…

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My Favourite Everyday(ish) Cheeky Sweet Snacks

I don’t know about you, but I need a little something sweet to keep me happy on a daily basis.

I’m not talking about ice-cream or chocolate cake or those things we induldge in at weekends or on holidays; I mean the times when you’re walking home, right past a shop that you know sells something that would be good to munch on while you’re walking; or when, during the week when you’ve just eaten your main dinner dish and hadn’t planned to have dessert, but just fancy a mouthful of something sweet to balance the savoury.

I’m thinking of foods that quench that desire for something sweet and lush, but don’t do too much (if any) damage health-wise, so we feel satisfied and like we’ve just had a sugary treat, but there’s no icky down side. The snacks I’m writing about are so good, I swear you’ll feel like you’ve cheated the system.

Here are my favourite cheeky bites. Some of them are products you can buy in and keep in the fridge; others are universal snacks that are easy to whip up at any time.  I am not getting paid by any of the companies mentioned (I wish!) – I actually really should be, as I am sure I’m giving them enough money from my pocket for them all to retire early!

(The products I mention are UK centric, but US friends – I know you have a wealth of similar products in your lovely Whole Foods and Trader Joes. The bars are based on dates, raisins, almonds and cashews, and for the coconut yoghurt, try and find one that is naturally sweetened and with minimal ingredients).

 

Nakd Bars

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These wee mofo’s are good, and come in a huge range of different flavours. They are made out of dates, cashews and raisins, with added natural flavours. I just discovered the rhubarb and custard, and bakewell tart flavour – both of them very evocative of those classic British desserts. I also love the cocoa orange flavour – perfect for when you don’t want to buy actual chocolate, ‘cuz you’re saving yourself for the weekend, but just really, really need a quick fix of that chocolate’y’ taste. These bars are fast becoming my new obsession. They are small, but trust me, they pack a punch.

 

Dates

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Weirdly, considering the length of time I’ve eaten plant-based, only recently did I try some organic medjool dates. I’d only before ever tried sub-quality dates from the market, or the ones that come in a long box with a plastic fork that people buy at Christmas. I didn’t hate them, but wasn’t that fussed about them either. It really is worth spending extra for some quality organic Medjool dates. They really are nature’s candy. Two or three of these after a meal and you feel like you’ve had a lush, rich dessert. Bonus – they are ridiculously nutritious too!

 

Beond Bars

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The one I particularly recommend as it’s, um, the only one I’ve tried, is the acai and raspberry flavour. It tastes like a lovely sweet mixture of raspberry and almond. I just bought one to photograph for this post, and since I last had one, the bars have gotten noticeably smaller. I think a new company has bought them. I still want to include them in this post because they are a delicious cheeky treat, but given the price (99p) and the fact that they’ve shrunk, I’ll probably just buy them once in a while now.

 

Coyo

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I’ve mentioned Coyo before, but if you haven’t tried these yet, you really need to. These yoghurts made from coconut milk are just such a treat. They have several flavours, I mostly get the vanilla. They are so thick and creamy, you’d NEVER know it contained absolutely zilch dairy. OMG as I’m writing this, I just had the idea to dip a Nakd bar into Coyo, now I can’t wait to try this!

 

Popcorn

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Don’t forget good old popcorn. Cheap, quick to make and easy to flavour, it serves as both a cheeky snack or an after dinner sweet bite. You can buy it pre-made of course, but there’s nothing like fresh popcorn, just add a sprinkle of salt, and drizzle with agave or maple syrup for a delicious sweet n’ salty flavour.

 

Rice Cracker PB&J

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When I want a lush sweet/salty taste, but don’t want to overdo it in terms of volume to be consumed, I just grab a rice cracker and fix a peanut butter and jam slice. You could use wholemeal bread or toast instead of a rice cracker of course, but we’re talking ‘cheeky’ snacks, and a rice cracker is the appropriate ‘cheeky’ size. Didn’t you know.

 

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Can You Host Kids While Maintaining A Vegan Home? Of Course! Kids Just Love FOOD!!!

Are you newly vegan or transitioning and wondering how you’ll feed your young nieces/nephews/grandkids/friends kids when they pay you a visit?

Afraid you’ll have to buy some chicken nuggets, fish fingers or dairy yoghurts just to get the kids to eat?

Are you scared that if you don’t buy things they know, they’ll hate you and think you’re the weird vegan person who gives them strange food?

Don’t worry. Not even a bit. And don’t underestimate kids!

(You can also get ideas from this post if you have your own small kids and are wondering how to transition them or raise them on a plant-based diet – but you may want to focus more on slightly healthier foods if the kids are yours long term! This post is more about kids that visit you for a few hours, or a few days, and about feeding them well – but incorporating plenty of treats so they have a fun impression of the way you eat).

I just had the pleasure of hosting two kids (aged seven and eleven) of a friend, for the weekend. Both are non-vegan. One eats ANYTHING (so that was easy!); the other is a slightly pickier type to say the least! A good (mini) cross section right there!

The truth is, it’s easy to nourish and satisfy even the pickiest kids on a whole-foods vegan diet, and we succeeded in keeping them well-fed and happy. They were essentially vegan for three days, and didn’t know – or even if they suspected (which they probably did – they’ve known me for a while!), they didn’t care. They were eating tasty and fun food, that’s all that mattered to them.

These kids are well-known to us and would definitely NOT have been shy about speaking up if they were unhappy or hungry.

At home they already eat lots of fruit, and have been exposed to lots of different foods, so that was a great start.

If you know the kids you’ll be hosting are adventurous and open, food-wise, then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t just eat whatever you’d be making for yourself.

Otherwise, or if you want to play it safe and include a few more treats than you’d ordinarily have in the house; I share below just what we did.

(Don’t forget to consult my previous post  ‘How To Answer Questions From Other Peoples Non-Veg Kids’ if you anticipate any questions. If you don’t have time to read this, the main take away was – stay truthful, simple and kind in your explanations).

OK, let’s get to the food:

 

First up – Snacks

These kids were avid and enthusiastic snackers.

There are a TON of vegan snack products out there. I can only speak for UK products in this post, as I shopped for the kids here – but I know there are even more amazing vegan snacks in the US (try Whole Foods, or the health food section of any major supermarket), and no doubt in Australia too.

I bought:

There are PLENTY of other options, these are just what I happened to choose.

 

Treats

Funnily enough, these kids were also partial to a treat or three. Here’s what I bought:

  • Sainsbury’s dairy-free chocolate buttons (Asda do a version of these too).
  • Swedish Glace ice cream (you can top it with agave nectar or maple syrup). There are other, coconut-based ice creams out there, but Swedish Glace is a good, affordable option. In the US you’re spoilt for choice – So Delicious, Coconut Bliss, Purely Decadent, Almond Dream etc – any kid should be so lucky to be visiting YOUR vegan house!
  • We were out and about, so treated them to Starbucks frappucinos. They come in strawberries and cream flavour, caramel or vanilla. Ask for them to be made with soy and hold the cream. This is a nice enough treat, creamy and sweet – dairy cream is not needed.

 

Breakfasts

These particular kids are not fond of soy or rice milk, so cereal wasn’t an option. Instead they had:

  • Toasted wholemeal bagels with Pure (Earth Balance) and fruit sweetened jam (or you could use peanut butter and banana)
  • A clementine
  • An apple

Breakfast of champs!

 

Lunches

  • Wholemeal pasta, and sauce made of fried onions, chopped mini red peppers and passata (salt and garlic to flavour). Fresh radishes and cooked beetroot (from a jar) on the side.
  • Peanut butter and jam sandwiches in wholemeal pitta pockets. Cherry tomatoes, celery and cucumber batons and hummous.

 

Dinners

 

Desserts

  • Alpro caramel/vanilla/chocolate desserts
  • Soy fruit yoghurts (these are available in pretty much any supermarket these days)
  • Fruit – take your pick! Apples, melon, grapes, clementines are all good!

 

At no point did I get any complaint about the sausages not being made of meat, or the desserts not containing dairy. I even had no complaint or comment about the wholemeal pasta (which I was expecting), even though these kids would usually eat white pasta. It even elicited the comment ‘…Mmmmm, THIS pasta is good!’

Don’t announce that any food you might make is ‘vegan.’ It’s all just FOOD, and kids know this better than most of us, why make it sound different?

And if they are up for it, get them to help you make the meals – if they’re involved in the process, they’re more invested in eating the results!

Also, don’t sweat it. If someone doesn’t like something, try something else. Remember; they wouldn’t necessarily enjoy everything that was non-vegan, so just calmly move on.

Most of all – enjoy yourself! And though it’s not ideal to eat high- sugar treats often, you now have an excuse to indulge along with the kids! It’d be rude not to!

 

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Killer Sides, Part 1 – Easy Sweet Potato Fries

These are just one of my favourite foods EVER. So simple and so, so tasty, and if baked (yes, pedants, I know they’re called fries, but in my book it’s the fry size that makes them fries, not the cooking method) then they’re not that blinking bad for you either.

I discovered them on one of our trips to the US a few years ago, and my first thought on trying them was ‘why would anyone ever make a fry out of potato when you can make them out of sweet potato and they taste like THIS?’

They were unheard of in the UK a few years ago, but word is slowly but surely crossing that big pond, and they are now becoming more and more widely available on restaurant/cafe menus here.

There are lots of different ways to make them. One thing’s for damn sure, I’ve never had a bad one.

They are great deep fried, but they are honestly just as delicious this way. The most time-consuming thing is chopping and slicing the sweet potatoes, but once you’ve done that, you’ve nearly done. I’d say overall prep time is around 25 minutes.

You will need:

– A couple of big sweet potatoes, or three smaller ones

– Spraying oil (I prefer sunflower for this purpose)

– 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

– 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

– Salt

– Baking tray

– Greaseproof paper

 

What you do:

– Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.

– Chop and slice the sweet potatoes into skinny, fry size lengths. If you have one of those fancy gadgets that does this, good for you. If not, get slicing! Don’t worry in the least if your fries are all different sizes, they are kind of meant to look a bit rough and ready. Just try to keep them skinny, around .5 of a centimetre thick.

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– Line your baking tray with greaseproof paper, and lay out your fries as best you can.

– Spray your fries liberally. I find it’s better spraying oil than drizzling it from a bottle. It’s quite hard to gauge how much drizzles out and you can end up with your fries swimming in oil when you come to turn them.

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– Mix the garlic powder and paprika in a small bowl.

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– Sprinkle this mixture evenly all over your fries.

– Salt your fries thoroughly. Don’t be shy.

– They should now look something like this.

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– Place in oven and bake for approx 20 minutes, turning them after 10. Take them out when they start to brown.

– This is how I accompanied this batch:

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Sweet potato fries are a great side to, oooooooooh, ANYTHING, and amazing just as a snack on their own. You don’t even need to dip them in ketchup they are so delicious naked (of course you can if you need to). Need a crowd pleaser? Got kids/in-laws/friends coming over? They’ll love you forever for making these. Show me someone who doesn’t adore them and I’ll show you a big fat liar!

 

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Killer Snacks, Part 3: Fried Plantain

Once you discover fried plantain, you won’t understand how it hasn’t always been a part of your life. You may even wonder why you ever bothered with chips or fries.

Not seen plantain before? They are those things that look exactly like bananas, but a bit bigger, and the skin is more angular.

It’s very easy to mistake them for bananas.

I did this once, years ago while living in Paris. For breakfast, I used to grab two bananas every day from a grocer, on my way to work. This particular day I accidentally grabbed two plantain – I was probably  thinking ‘ Yay, bigger bananas.’

If you bite into a raw plantain however, you very quickly realise it’s not a banana – they suck all the moisture out of your mouth, it’s VERY uncomfortable, trust me!

I learned what plantain was that day, but it was still a while before I tried them properly.

These days, living in south London, there are plenty of places for me to buy plantain. Even my local big name supermarket sells it. Look in your nearest Asian or Caribbean grocers.

At my local Sri Lankan grocers, I can buy 3 plantain for £1.20. This is, in truth, more than we need for two portions, but what can I say? My partner and I are plantain-a-philes. That is officially a thing now. Didn’t you know?

You can buy your plantain green (unripe), yellow, or black (over ripe). My preference is middle-of-the-road yellow; the green ones are a bit too dry for my taste, and the black ones a bit too sweet.  Experiment though! I had fried black plantain with hot creole sauce in New Orleans, and I loved it, but if I’m making it at home, I just find the yellow ones easier to work with. If you’re making it for the first time, definitely start with the yellow ones, then branch out!

You will need:

– 2 or 3 yellow plantain (1 per person generally speaking, and don’t worry if they have bits of black on them, that’s fine, you just don’t want them completely black, at least this time).

– Oil (I use sunflower, groundnut or coconut, as these are best for frying)

– Cajun seasoning (I use Slap Ya Mama , which can be ordered from here in the UK). Otherwise you can just use salt and garlic granules, it will still be delicious.

-1 frying pan

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What you do:

Slice your plantain(s) diagonally, with pieces around 1.5cm thick, like so:

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Heat your oil till it starts bubbling gently.

Place your plantain in the pan (gently, to avoid painful splashbacks!). You can cover the bottom of the pan with the plantain, but don’t let pieces overlap.

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Sprinkle your seasoning fairly liberally all over.

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Fry for 8 mins, or until golden brown, then turn plantain with a spatula, season the other side, and do the same.

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Lay a piece of kitchen roll on a plate, and transfer plantain pieces onto it. The kitchen roll will soak up any excess oil.

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Use the same oil to repeat the process if you have any plantain left over, but reduce the seasoning because there will be some left in the oil from last time.

Enjoy your fried plantain! They are delicious on their own or dipped in ketchup (go easy though, ketchup is full of sugar – I’m on the lookout for a sugar-free ketchup right now, I’ll report back when I find one).

 

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Killer Snacks, Part 2: Cinnamon Grapefruit

This recipe is so easy, I feel slightly ridiculous posting it. The only reason I am is because up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know you could put cinnamon on grapefruit, and that it was delicious. I can’t remember how I found out about it, but I’m pretty sure it was from a blog. So, I’m hoping this reaches anyone who has still yet to discover this tantalising snack. Of course, it could always be a dessert, or part of a breakfast too.

 

You will need:

-1 fresh pink grapefruit (don’t worry if you only have white, that works too), cut in half horizontally

-ground cinnamon

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What you do:

Use small serrated knife to separate sections, and cut them away from their skins. Then cut round between the segments and the outer peel of the grapefruit.

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Sprinkle cinnamon all over to taste.

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Grab teaspoon and dig in!

 

Note: You can also make baked cinnamon grapefruit. Simply preheat oven to 350 degrees, and once you’ve ‘cinnamoned’ your grapefruit half, place it cut side up on a baking sheet, and bake for 10-15 minutes. I have tried this once, and it was delicious, but it’s so yummy as it is, I can never be bothered turning the oven on.

If you need a bit more sweetness, or just fancy a more decadent treat, pour on a touch of agave nectar or brown rice syrup before sprinkling on the cinnamon.

 

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