mini recipe | roasted broccoli…

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So if there is one thing you should know about August it is that it is going to bankrupt me. Two weekends away on the trot, a big old payment on the old credit card bill, and things like driving lessons and trips to Venice in the autumn all make my purse want to squinch up tight and refuse to let go of any cash unless it absolutely has to. Months like this happen, when everything (and every bill) seems to come all at once. It’s month like this that I thank god I’m a vegan (admittedly not always a very good one) with incredibly simple tastes. Sure you can get all fancy with your health food shops and every pulse under the sun, but like I’ve said many times before, the best way to keep on track and to keep your bank balance happy, is to eat simply. And what can be more simple than Broccoli?

I must admit, in the past I’ve over looked broccoli as an over cooked thing. Is there anything worse than soggy greens? But since going vegan, I’ve started to see that basically all veg has infinite amount of potential (except sprouts). So here’s the story, the other night I came home to look in my fridge and see food in there, but not necessarily food that came together to make a meal. Broccoli, spring onions, sweetcorn, a chilli, potato, hummus, garlic. Sure these things all have their part to play, but where’s the leading role, the one with that extra something special? This is when not so skint me would normally head to the shop, to find something that acted as the main star of the event to compliment the small parts. But not so skint me said ‘there’s no such thing as a small part, just a veg that needs seasoning’ or something like that. ANYWAY the point is, I decided to take shy old broccoli out of the wings, and put it centre stage and this is what happened…

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The cast…

1 medium broccoli
2 spring onions
1 mild chilli
1 large clove of garlic
The zest of a quarter of a lemon
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to season

The production process…

1. Dice the spring onion and the chilli up and throw into a mixing bowl with the minced garlic clove and lemon zest.

2. Add your teaspoon of soy sauce, and cover the ingredients in olive oil.

3. Cut off the florets of the broccoli (you can use the stem too, but this does take longer to roast so just be aware of that when cooking) and throw into the bowl.

4. Make sure all the broccoli is rubbed into the olive oil, chillies, lemon and onion, you can add a little more olive oil if you need to.

5. If you have time, stick the bowl in the fridge to marinate for half an hour (or longer if you’re preparing in advance. I didn’t bother with marinating because I was hungry and it was still delicious, but marinating literally makes everything even better.

6. Line a baking tray with grease proof paper and pop your florets on to it in a single layer. If there are still chillies, garlic and onion at the bottom of the bowl make sure you get this onto the tray too, but try not to have any excess oil slithering around, as this leads to soggy broccoli and I’ve already made my feelings on that perfectly clear.

7. Pop into a preheated oven for about 15 minutes and voila, Broccoli’s Hollywood makeover is complete.

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I ate my broccoli with a baked sweet potato, a corn on the cob and some hummus, and while it might not sound like much, it was SO satisfying, in fact I’m thinking of printing out the above picture and sticking it on my fridge to remind me just how much I enjoy eating food without any fuss, or drama queen antics!

This was also delicious,cold the day after for lunch, and I’m also thinking that for a picnic, it would be perfect served up with some new potatoes also roasted the same way. Maybe some sour dough bread. Ooo and pearl cous cous.

Now I’m hungry, and I also completely lost track of my stage conceit, but you can’t say I’m not at least trying to bring my two loves of theatre and food together!

Let me know if you try this, or roasting any other veg in the same way. I’m thinking maybe some cauliflower would compliment it perfectly?

Live life & never underestimate the humble broccoli x

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going vegan… the vegan hangover…

Let me start this post by saying, I am in no way a ‘perfect’ vegan. As I’ve spoken about in the past I find the label ‘vegan’ itself problematic. I eat a mainly plant based diet, and I want to protect animals, and save a little bit of the world while I do it. However, sometimes I slip, sometimes I presume something is vegan friendly only to check the ingredients afterwards and find some unnecessary animal product included, and sometimes there is cake.

I see my relationship to food a little bit like I see my relationship to alcohol. I know some thing’s, like gin, aren’t good for me but every now and then I still indulge.

One thing I don’t indulge in anymore is cheese.

And I know this is where a lot of none vegans out there will have let out a gasp of pain and horror. Cheese is delicious, I know this. I never gave up cheese because I didn’t like it. I gave it up because I did some reading, and could no longer separate the cheese from where it came from. Don’t worry I’m not about to go into that.

However, I also read into meat, and where the ingredients in my beloved cake, and fish come from and yet I can still eat those, so why is cheese my one no go area?

Because physically, cheese, makes me feel dreadful.

One weekend a couple of months back I was caught out in a coffee shop. I had the shakes and needed to eat something solid pronto. It was late in the day and the only option they had that didn’t involve meat was a cheese toastie. I couldn’t get home so I ordered the toastie, and guiltily ate (and admittedly enjoyed) my first cheese binge in nearly 6 months. Later that day I was back home, in bed with crippling tummy pains. I told myself I’d been ill all day and this must be part of that. A week later I was out celebrating my dads birthday, and the veggie option I’d ordered arrived with a cheese topping. Not wanting to kick up a fuss, or have to explain again to my family why I’d changed my diet, so drastically, I again ate (and still enjoyed) my meal. Later that night. Crippling tummy pains again. I couldn’t deny it. It was the cheese.

When I first told people I was thinking about going vegan, they warned me this would happen that I would make myself intolerant to things, that just to be safe, I should eat cheese or drink milk every now and then. Something that originally made a little bit of sense to me. I didn’t want to go to a restaurant and find that I absolutely could not eat anything, not out of choice, but because my body would buckle over in pain. But the more I think about it, the less sense it makes.

I haven’t made myself intolerant to cheese, over 24 years, I’d MADE myself tolerant to it, now my body has had a break it no longer what’s to put up with that, regardless of how delicious it is. And this is where I come back to my alcohol analogy.

You’re body isn’t meant to process alcohol, but it can, until you drink too much and you end up with a dreadful hangover. This is what happens to me and cheese. I can eat one slice and feel fine the next day, if I eat a whole toasties worth, well lets just say it isn’t pretty. I’ve never told somebody ‘oh I’ve got a hangover’ to be met with the response ‘you should drink more often, so that your tolerance is built up’  but with cheese or dairy it’s a different story.

I’m not trying to tell you, don’t eat cheese. And I’m not telling you to stop drinking. I still drink, often more than I should, and the only reason I don’t get the same vegan hangover from a cake as I do from cheese, is because I’m guilty of having kept up my ‘tolerance’ to it. What I’m trying to say, is that with all food, we should question it’s effects on us more, because we’re all clued up on the dangers of alcohol, and a bottle of wine comes with a health warning, but food doesn’t. Those little traffic light labels, are still gobbledygook to most of us, and to be honest the idea that one size fits all, doesn’t really work for me.

Like with you’re favourite beverage, you have to work out where your limit is, whilst also being aware, that just because one gin and tonic doesn’t give you a hangover that doesn’t make it ‘good for you.’

I never wanted to be the ‘fussy vegan’ visiting friends and saying point blank I don’t eat cheese, but that is what my body tells me to, and do you know what, once I explain actually I’m not being fussy, it makes me ill, nobody bats an eye lid. Much like when I tell people ‘I don’t do tequila.’

Live life & please drink/eat responsibly x

going vegan… am i a fraud

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Happy Wednesday everyone! How are you this week? Today I have another post about going vegan for you and how presuming that a label has one meaning for everyone can be hugely detrimental, so hopefully even if you’re not thinking of going vegan, this will give you some food for thought.

When I started thinking about going vegan I was worried that it would be too big a commitment and how it would effect my life. I have incredibly inspiring amazing friends who commit their entire life to being a vegan, and as much as I completely admire them for that, I wasn’t sure that THAT level was for me. I spent a long time worried that going vegan would change my whole life in a way I wasn’t ready for. Did ‘going vegan mean I would have to throw away my favourite shoes and hand bag? Would it change other peoples view on me? What about dating – would I now have to only date vegans, because they would be the only ones who understood? And then I realised that I wasn’t interested in becoming a label, and I hadn’t begun to think about things like vegan cosmetics or materials, because for now, those things were not on my radar. Primarily I was interested in changing my diet, to a plant based, healthier regime that, if it wasn’t entirely vegan, definitely resembled it. I wasn’t going to let a label define me, but instead set my own definition, and that in turn made the changes I wanted to make, so much easier to do.

For one month I ate strictly vegan. No slip ups, no exceptions. At the end of the month I felt great. I’d lost weight and I had more energy than I had had in months. I knew that a vegan based diet was for me. However, I wasn’t sure how strict I wanted to be with this. I love eating out, and not a single other person in my family is even a vegetarian, let alone a vegan. Did I want to start enforcing my lifestyle choices on others? Did I want to be the only person at the table not having a slice of cake? In truth? The answer is no I didn’t. So I set some rules of my own:

  1. I would eat entirely vegan at home
  2. I would eat vegan when I was out as much as possible
  3. If the cake looks truly worth it I’m going to have a slice
  4. I never want my lifestyle choices to cause anyone any bother

What do these rules mean? They mean, at home I live by a plant based diet, I don’t buy meat or dairy products, or anything that has any animal produce in it. When I go out, I scour the menu for anything that fits the same diet I live by at home. Sometimes that means ordering several sides, sometimes you strike lucky with a specific ‘vegan option.’ I don’t ask to see a list of ingredients, but I do ask them to adapt things if it is easy enough (eg. pizza without cheese). I love eating out, the whole idea is that it should be an enjoyable experience, and for me, that means not making anything too difficult for myself or for the restaurant.  I don’t order cake when I am out very often. Lets face it, cake from chain coffee shops isn’t that good anyway, and unless I’m in a super nice independent cafe, where I know the cake hasn’t been ordered in I just don’t think it is worth it. But my boss at work is an incredible baker, and for everyone’s birthday he makes us a cake. A cake I know will be delicious, and is only really once a month, so yes, I will have a slice.

And as for not wanting to cause any bother, here is my thinking…

Most of the time I tell people I am a vegan, because for me, being a vegan is actually really easy. Cook me a plate of veg and I will be happy. But would my nan cook me a plate of veg and feel like she had given me a meal? No she wouldn’t. She’d want an extensive list of things I do and don’t eat, and she’d spend hours trying to find something elaborate and impressive to cook me, and would still fret that it wasn’t a ‘real dinner.’ Veganism is getting more and more widely acknowledged by people, it’s even, thankfully, understood by a growing amount of people. But still, sometimes it is easier to just say you’re a vegetarian, especially if your nan is nearing her 90’s.

Maybe then, this makes me a fraud? And I do worry about this. For a start I only eat a vegan diet, I don’t live a vegan lifestyle. I am still ignorant as to what is in my make up draw, and my favourite shoes are made of leather. This isn’t something I’m proud of, and it is something that in the coming years I do want to change but for now, I can’t claim to truly be a vegan in the purest sense of the word. As for the rules of my vegan diet? Well I am getting stricter in that, the more I find my feet with it, and the more confidence I have in explaining to other people what veganism is, and why I do it, but for now I still have the occasional slip up where I will be halfway through eating something only to read the ingreedients to find milk or egg hiding in there.

I don’t live vegan, and I’m not perfect in my vegan diet. But this doesn’t make me a fraud. I made my own rules and I live by them. Sometimes giving something a label can be detrimental, because while it can help identify something, as with all the choices we have to make in life, there is no one size fits all.

For me, going vegan meant, doing the best I could for my diet and the planet around me, but also accepting that I am human, and that I still want to live my life in a way that I enjoyed. One day that may mean living a vegan life in all areas, and being as amazing and inspiring as my friends are, but for now I am doing my best with good intentions.

So if you are thinking of going vegan, but worried about what this really means, take a step back, and ask yourself, why you want to go vegan, and also how you think going vegan will change your life, in both positive and negative ways. Once you’ve done that you’ll soon be able to find your own rules. And remember there is nothing fraudulent in being honest, but also that just cutting down your intake of meat or animal produce by 50% is making a difference.

Live life & be honest about making your own rules x