To help safeguard our nutritional intake and strength our immune system, we need to keep our hearts healthy, but what foods are actually good for our hearts?
Veganuary Day 6 and I haven’t leapt face-first with my mouth open into the cheese counter at Tesco because of any overwhelming cheese-addiction withdrawal pangs – hurrah! Not that I was expecting to; although, seeing as I’ve used Violife vegan cheese three times already during Veganuary, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’ve got a bit of a thing about cheese.
Where I would find cheese tempting, however, is in restaurants but, as old Billy-no-mates me hasn’t got any nights out planned for January, temptation shouldn’t get in my way. I did, however, meet a friend at lunchtime yesterday in Wetherspoons and checked the menu beforehand, in case we were going to eat. Do you know what one of the first things on the Wetherspoons menu is? It’s halloumi. Yeah, halloumi. You know, halloumi – one of my most favourite food things ever. So, I thought I might get some chips (even though I read here yesterday that the chips in Wetherspoons are barely vegetarian as, even though some of the branches cook the chips separately to meat, the oil is all filtered together at the end of the day, so there’s always going to be a problem with cross-contamination) but the 955 calories put me off. I’m not a calorie-dodger on the whole but 955 CALORIES IN ONE PORTION OF CHIPS? Jeez.
You can filter the menu on the Wetherspoons website to show only vegan menu items. There aren’t many, I can tell you. If you filter down the burger category, you’re offered the avocado topping and BBQ sauce – that’s just the avocado topping and BBQ sauce, not the burger. Woo.
Still, it wasn’t really relevant to my particular circumstances at the time, as I didn’t think we were going to eat but I just wanted to have a nose anyway, out of interest. What I did want was some hot chocolate and although when I filtered out hot drinks containing milk on the website, hot chocolate was left, I was sceptical and thought I’d be brave and ask when I got there.
It may not sound like a big deal to you, asking the bar staff if something’s vegan but, although I’ve been vegetarian for 24 years and have no problem asking if something is vegetarian, I’ve always felt shy/embarrassed about asking if something’s vegan. I don’t know exactly why this is – maybe it’s because I’m not a vegan and feel like I shouldn’t be asking if something’s vegan, or maybe I’m just too timid. Anyway, I was brave and asked the barman if the hot chocolate contained milk and he said yes, it did. Bah. Still, the pint of lime and soda I bought instead was a lot cheaper at just 80p.
Anyway, back to my food diary and, for breakfast, I had a – yes, you guessed it – a Nutriblast. This morning’s one was my usual spinach, clementine, apple, chia seeds and coconut water. You’re only getting a bog-standard photo today though, not a pretty one, sorry. I gave my inner David Bailey (or should that be Lebovitz?) the day off.
As mentioned above, lunch was two pints of lime and soda in Wetherspoons, then I came home and had hot chocolate and an Oat Flip. Oats are healthy, yeah?
For dinner we had tacos. Tacos are my new favourite thing (after halloumi, obvs), ever since Old El Paso sent me their Stand ‘n’ Stuff Soft Taco Kit to review. On top of the tacos, I had some grated Violife and a couple of blobs of home-made vegan sour cream (for more information on the sour cream, see my first Veganuary post). I accompanied the tacos with home-made spicy potato wedges and steamed broccoli and green beans. I’ll share the recipes for the tacos and home-made wedges with you below.
- 4 Old El Paso Soft Stand 'n' Stuff Taco Shells (heated as per packet instructions)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 150g vegan mince (I used Tesco's own meat-free mince)
- 2 tbsp Old El Paso Taco Seasoning
- 50ml water
- 2 baby onions, sliced
- Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the baby onions and fry for a few minutes until soft.
- Add the vegan mince and fry for about three to four minutes.
- Add the taco seasoning and water and bring to the boil.
- Simmer for about five minutes.
- Share the mince between the heated taco shells and top with jalapenos, salsa, salad, cheese and sour cream.
- 4 medium potatoes, cut into wedges
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- a few drops of liquid smoke
- Cook the potato wedges in boiling water for about 5 minutes, then drain and put in a roasting tray.
- Mix together the other ingredients and pour over the potato wedges, turning to coat thoroughly.
- Bake in the oven at 200C, turning occasionally for approximately 45 minutes.
It’s not too late to take part in Veganuary – for more information and to sign up, visit the Veganuary website.
Confession time: I’ve never had a taco. I’ve had a chimichanga, an enchilada, a tortilla, a burrito and a quesadilla, but I’ve never had a taco. So, when Old El Paso sent me some of their products, including their Smoky BBQ Stand ‘N’ Stuff Soft Taco Kit, I finally had my chance to have one.
I haven’t tried a taco before because the shells in the supermarket look crispy and make me think they’ll fall apart, with the filling falling out, but these Stand ‘N’ Stuff ones are user-friendly – as you can guess, they stand up and you stuff them.
For some reason, I thought the tacos would be the size of the box but they’re quite small. You get eight in a box (although I was ripped off as there were only seven in mine) and two is a perfect portion.
I stuffed mine with meat-free mince – seasoned with the seasoning mix that comes in the box of tacos, the sauce that’s also supplied, jalapenos, salad, grated cheese and topped with Old El Paso Sour Cream Topping. After I’d posted on Facebook about my tacos, a friend said something along the lines of, ‘yum, except for the mince’ so, if you don’t like mince, you could use refried beans or mashed up kidney beans instead.
In keeping with the Mexican theme, I served the tacos with some Cajun spiced potato wedges. I loved these tacos – they were so quick and easy to make and the leftover mince and taco shells are in the freezer, to be used another day.
Thank you to Old El Paso for sending me some products to try.
A word of warning: if you’re thinking of buying an Old El Paso Stand ‘N’ Stuff Soft Taco Kit, make sure you check the box for the vegetarian symbol as Old El Paso sent me their Extra Mild taco kit a few months ago and although I couldn’t see anything un-vegetarian in the ingredients, it didn’t have the vegetarian symbol on the packaging, so I asked them if it was vegetarian and they said it wasn’t.
Cheese on top of a stew? Weird. But this is a Mexican-inspired stew and Mexicans put cheese on top of everything, don’t they? Mexican restaurants do anyway which, apart from the silly moustaches which I believe are compulsory to grow, would be a good reason to move to Mexico.
If, however, you have no immediate plans to move to Mexico, you could make this stew instead.
Slow Cooked Bean, Potato & Cheese Stew (serves 4)
(taken from The Skinny Slow Cooker Vegetarian Recipe Book)
1 400g tin sweetcorn
1 400g tin mixed beans
1 red pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp each cumin and coriander
75g grated cheddar cheese
150g potatoes, diced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker except the cheese. Combine well, then sprinkle the cheese on top. Season, cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
Serve with flat bread/pitta bread and sour cream.
I was supposed to be writing a script so, obviously, instead I did my washing, sent photographs of wallpaper to the decorator, went to the Post Office, emptied the cat litter tray and, most importantly, satisfied my urge to make a vegan crustless quiche.
I’ve had the urge to make a vegan crustless quiche ever since my friend Gemma said on Facebook she wanted to make one. This made me curious so I found this recipe for Mini Crustless Tofu Quiches, which Gemma duly made and pronounced delicious.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any firm silken tofu in my local supermarket and buying nutritional yeast would have meant a trip to Holland and Barratt, so I had another look for a recipe that didn’t require tofu and found this recipe for Mexican Vegan Crustless Quiche which, as well as being dairy-free and egg-free, it’s also gluten-free which, although I don’t have to avoid gluten, lots of my friends do.
I’ll have to admit, I was dubious. But I’m going to take back my dubiousness because this was amazing. It’s firmer than an eggy quiche but because it’s the eggyness that’s the worst bit of a quiche for me, that’s fine by me.
The way I did it, is pretty much the same as the original recipe, except Laura’s uses coriander (bleurgh) and she mixed up the chickpea flour and water mixture with the vegetables, whereas I didn’t have a bowl big enough to do that in, so I poured the vegetables into the dish, then poured the chickpea flour mixture over the top.
Mexican Crustless Chickpea Quiche
(adapted from www.sprint2thetable.com)
- 4 cups loosely packed cups spinach, de-stemmed and chopped
- 1 large tomato, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 red chilli, chopped
- 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
- 2 cups chickpea flour
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1.5 tsp ground cumin
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 cups water
- Pre-heat oven to 200C. Lightly grease a 9″ spring-form pan or other oven-proof dish.
In a medium bowl, mix together the vegetables.
Using a handheld blender or food processor combine the chickpea flour, oil, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic and water. Blend until smooth and frothy.
Pour the vegetables into the ovenproof container, then pour the chickpea mixture over the top.
Bake for around 45 minutes until the quiche is brown on top, and a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the dish.
Approximate nutritionals (per slice): 175 calories, 4.8g fat, 24.1 carbs, 5g fiber, 5.7g sugar, 8.8g protein
You all know Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Tomato Soup cans. Now those cans have been brought to life for a limited time.
Campbell’s are also offering everyone the chance to win their own ‘15 minutes of fame’ (or should that be 15 megabytes of fame?) by creating a recipe using a can of Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup.
The winner will receive:
a set of LE CRUESET cookware
a set of CAMPBELL’S LIMITED EDITION SOUP CANS
and a month’s supply of CAMPBELL’S SOUP
Also, the winning recipe will be professionally photographed and featured on the CAMPBELL’S website.
If you want to enter, you’ll have to be quick as the competition closes on Monday 14 October, with the winner being announced on Wednesday 16 October.
For more information and to enter the competition, visit the Campbell’s competition page.
So, am I entering the competition? Of course I am. When it comes to tomato soup, my recipes usually consist of:
1. Open can.
2. Pour into mug.
3. Microwave mug.
4. Drink soup straight from mug.
Or, if I’m feeling posh:
1. Open can.
2. Pour into saucepan.
3. Heat contents of saucepan.
4. Pour into bowl.
5. Drink with a spoon.
So I had to get creative. I decided to use the soup in a slow-cooked Quorn chilli and it was a delicious addition.
Slow-cooked Quorn chilli (serves 6)
500g Quorn mince (or other meatfree mince), leave frozen
1 large onion, chopped
1 can Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic
1 red chill, chopped
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
Put all the ingredients in the slow-cooker and heat on LOW for about 7-8 hours.
Serve with basmati rice, sour cream or yoghurt, and pitta bread.
Quorn soaks up a lot of water, so if it seems really thick when you add everything, add more water.
I’m not the world’s best photographer (I must get round to reading my ‘Food Photography for Bloggers’ books), so you’ll just have to take my word for it that these potato wedges taste better than they look. Usually, I just boil new potatoes or heat up some chips, but I decided to be more adventurous last night and make a spicy side to go with the smoky bean chimichanga (the recipe for the chimichanga is here) and I’m glad I did. So much nicer than something out of a packet.
Cajun spiced potato wedges (serves 4)
Taken from The More Veg Cookbook
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Cut 4 unpeeled floury potatoes into thick wedges. Cook in boiling salted water for 3 minutes; drain. Place in a roasting tin with 1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges, 12 garlic cloves, 3 red onions, cut into 8 wedges, and 4 bay leaves. Whisk together 3 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp tomato puree, salt and freshly ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp each cayenne pepper and ground cumin, 1 tsp each paprika, dried oregano, and dried thyme, and 6 tbsp each olive oil and water. Pour evenly over the potatoes and toss. Roast for 30-40 minutes, turning the potatoes frequently.
The Meat Eater looked at his plate and said ‘what is it?’ ‘A chimichanga’, I said. He said that didn’t really tell him much so I explained it was a tortilla filled with kale and beans and peppers and he relaxed a little.
When I got to the ‘carefully fold up the sides of the tortillas to make parcels’ bit, I thought it was going to be a disaster (you should see me trying to wrap presents) but, yay, they came out perfectly.
I served them with plain rice and a tomato salsa.
Smoky bean chimichangas (serves 4)
(Taken from Vegan – 100 Every Day Recipes)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
400g canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for frying
150g kale, shredded
Juice of 1 orange
4 large soft tortillas
salt and pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat. Fry the onions and peppers for 10-12 minutes, or until the onions are translucent but the peppers are still quite firm. Stir in the drained beans and chilli powder, cook for a further minute, then remove from the heat.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a small wok over a high heat. Stir-fry the shredded kale with the orange juice for 4 minutes, or until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Divide the cooked kale between the tortillas, making a neat pile in the middle of each flatbread. Top the greens with a layer of the bean mixture. Then carefully fold up the sides of the tortillas to make parcels.
- Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the chimichanga parcels briefly on both sides (starting with the side where the folds are visible) until crisp and golden.
(Taken from BBC Good Food website)
4-6 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 – 1/2 medium red onion, very finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed
Small splash of white wine vinegar
Squeeze of lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients together and leave in the fridge until it’s served.
The only enchiladas I’ve ever made before were the spicy bean enchiladas from Anita Bean’s Food for Fitness, which are made with beans. Going through another back issue of Vegetarian Living, I stumbled across this recipe which used veggie mince, so thought I’d give it a go. I’m glad I did, as I think I prefer it to the other one.
Spicy enchiladas (serves 2)
Taken from the November 2010 issue of Vegetarian Living
400g canned chopped tomatoes
150ml tomato juice [I didn’t have any tomato juice, so swirled some water about in the empty chopped tomato can and used that]
50g tomato puree
1 large red onion, finely chopped [I used a white onion]
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried or frozen oregano
2 mild green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch of unrefined sugar [I left this out]
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
150g Linda McCartney VegeminceTM [I used Sainsburys own brand meat-free mince]
150g vegetarian mature Cheddar, grated
4 soft corn tortillas
- Place the chopped tomatoes, tomato juice and puree in a medium-sized saucepan. Add half the red onion, cumin, oregano, chillies, lemon juice, sugar and coriander. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Heat the oil in a small frying pan and sauté the mince for a few minutes until lightly browned. Keep to one side.
- Spread 4-6 tbsp of the tomato sauce in the base of an oblong ovenproof dish. Spread one of the tortillas with 2 tbsp of sauce, sprinkle with cheese, top with a quarter of the mince and sprinkle with chopped red onion, reserving some cheese and onion for garnishing. Roll carefully into a tube.
- Place in the dish on top of the sauce, seam-side down. Repeat with the other tortillas and spoon over the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese and the chopped onion.
- Bake the enchiladas at 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 for 15-20 minutes, when the cheese should be bubbling and starting to brown.
The Blue Anchor in Ruckinge (update 2015: it’s currently shut) does fantastic food and last week we went there for lunch to celebrate The Meat Eater’s 40th birthday with his parents. I’d been there before and know how big the portions are: more than enough for two people and some of the meals come on three plates (one for the main, one for the potatoes, and one for the vegetables). Because I had this knowledge, I opted for the jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw (which came with about a lb of cheese on it, along with a massive salad), while The Meat Eater chose their chilli cheese pie (which the owner assured him was superb). The Meat Eater said it certainly was superb, so I decided to recreate a vegetarian version using the Chilli Con Quorn recipe from the Quorn Kitchen Cookbook.
And here it is.
Quorn chilli cheese pie
1 ready made pastry case
300g Quorn Mince
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
2 bay leaves
400g tin chopped tomatoes
300ml vegetable stock
1 green pepper, de-seeded and chopped
400g tin red kidney beans, drained
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp water
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the onion and garlic until soft and light golden brown. Add the Quorn Mince, spices and bay leaves, fry for 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, vegetable stock and green pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the kidney beans and cook for 5 minutes.
- Mix the cornflour with the water to a smooth paste. Stir into the Quorn chilli to thicken. Cook gently for a further 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and discard.
Pour some of the chilli into the pastry case (there will be loads left over, so freeze it to use in the future on rice, jacket potatoes or make more pies out of it), top with grated cheese and put in the oven at 200C for about 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has browned.
I served it with purple sprouting broccoli that I never knew went green when cooked.