Vegan Aubergine and Chickpea Penne Recipe

I made something healthy, hurrah! Okay, so I served it with a most definitely unhealthy homemade vegan garlic bread but the thought was there. This vegan aubergine and chickpea penne is a dish I’ve made before but I’m going to post it again because it’s Veganuary and, as you might have noticed, I’m posting each – or at least almost each – day to show you what I’ve eaten and if I don’t post what I ate last night, all you’ll have to look at is this photo of the kiwi, frozen summer fruit, cashews and dates Nutriblast I had at lunchtime.

Kiwi, frozen summer fruits, cashews and dates nutriblast
Kiwi, frozen summer fruits, cashews and dates

Vegan Aubergine and Chickpea Penne 

Vegan aubergine and chickpea penne

This aubergine and chickpea penne recipe was another from the Vegan – 100 Everyday Recipes cookbook that I’ve been getting a bit of use out of so far during Veganuary. This is the third dish I’ve made from it – the others being Vegan Smoky Mushroom Burgers and Vegan Thai Red Curry (as I’m typing this, I’m flicking through the book and have seen a recipe for a sparkling wine sorbet. Oh my).

The original aubergine and chickpea penne recipe calls for cinnamon and coriander, both of which I left out of my version.

Vegan Aubergine and Chickpea Penne Recipe
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Vegan
Serves: 4
  • large pinch of saffron threads
  • 450ml vegan stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 350g aubergine, diced
  • 1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 300g dried penne
  • salt and pepper
  1. Toast the saffron threads in a dry frying pan over a medium heat for 20-30 seconds. Place in a small bowl/ramekin and crumble with your fingers. Add 2 tbsp of the stock and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in the frying pan, add the onion and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and fry for another 20-30 seconds, then add the aubergine, yellow or red pepper, chopped tomatoes, saffron liquid and the remaining stock. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the chickpeas to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Uncover and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  4. Serve with pasta.

And now it’s Friday again, which means I get another excuse to make my tofush to go with my chippy chips. Yay.

pasta please linky

I’m adding this post to the Pasta Please linky, hosted by Thinly Spread and Tinned Tomatoes.


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Summer Fruit Superfood Smoothie with Acai Berry Powder

Acai berry powder smoothie

I may not know whether they do any good or not but I do like to add superfoods to my smoothies. Except for spirulina – there’s just no disguising the rancid taste or smell of that stuff.

I’m happy to say the acai berry powder Selva Organic sent me neither smells nor tastes rancid. It’s also a dark purple colour, which pleases my inner goth. Acai berry powder is loaded with omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, fibre, protein and other nutrients and yesterday a spoonful of it went into my lunchtime smoothie.

Despite moaning inwardly there weren’t any bananas left to have in my smoothie, this smoothie of kiwi fruit, frozen summer fruit, cashews, dates, acai berry powder, soya milk and water is now up in my top ten smoothies. It goes to show you should always keep a bag of frozen fruit in the freezer for those bananaless emergencies.

Selva Organic don’t just sell acai berry powder – they have a 14-strong range of South American superfoods starting at £5.99. To check out their range and for more information on the benefits of superfoods, visit the Selva Organic website.

Veganuary Day 13 – Dinner 

For dinner last night we had vegan chilli on jacket potatoes again, with mine being topped with Violife vegan cheese and home made vegan sour cream. As I made it last week and posted a pic of it then and it didn’t look any different last night, in true Blue Peter style, here’s one I made earlier.

Jacket potato with vegan chilli, cheese and sour cream
Jacket potato with vegan chilli, cheese and sour cream

Tomorrow (Friday), I’ve decided I’m going to go into town and be brave and order a hot chocolate in Caffè Nero with soya milk (I know… I know… on a bravery scale of 1-10, it’s not even on the scale. My scale begins at minus-something). I’ve checked Caffè Nero’s website and they do a vegan houmous and falafel wrap and if they’ve sold out of them when I get there, I’m going to have the hump as it will be my first purposely vegan meal outside of the house.

I’ll report back on my vegan food foraging on Saturday.




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One Week Into Veganuary!

Vegan stir-fry with spring rolls and wontons

Veganuary banner

I’m a week into my first Veganuary, so how do I feel? Have I missed eggs and dairy? Have I lost any weight? The answers to these questions are:

  • no different;
  • no;
  • and no.

Was I expecting to feel any different or to miss eggs and dairy or to lose weight? The answers to these questions are:

  • maybe;
  • maybe; and
  • hell, yeah.

In relation to the ‘hell, yeah’, with regard to my weight – I wasn’t expecting a vegan diet to help me lose weight, especially when my diet over the last week has consisted of tacos, pizza, pie and mash, potato wedges, Oreos, Oat Flips, crisps and chocolate but, considering I haven’t had any alcohol this year yet and it’s Janathon, I thought I might have lost a pound or so but, alas, I started January weighing 10st 4¼ and that’s exactly what I weighed this morning.

I can honestly say I haven’t missed eggs or dairy (I don’t consume much of either anyway), but as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I haven’t got any plans to eat out and that’s when I’ll struggle, especially if I’m out with a group I go walking with as it’s rare enough finding something vegetarian on the menu in the pubs we go to after – if I asked for something vegan, the owners would probably kick me out the door and bolt it behind me.

The only difference having a vegan diet has made to a normal week is checking labels for milk and eggs, and remembering not to buy any Quorn products (yes, I know there are a couple of vegan Quorn products in the UK now, but I haven’t found them yet). There’s been no hunger, disruption, inconvenience or side effects – all is good!

So, here’s what I ate on Veganuary Day 7:


Spinach, clementine, apple and coconut water Nutriblast
Spinach, clementine, apple and coconut water Nutriblast

Yep, my usual Nutriblast. I’ve taken to drinking my morning blasts in the front room, reading my Kindle, with my cat on my lap. Not a bad start to the day.


Vegan salad sandwich in a Warburtons Thin
Salad sandwich in a Warburtons Thin

I couldn’t decide what to have for lunch. I didn’t fancy a Nutriblast and I was saving the tofu for a stir-fry, so I ended up having a salad sandwich containing spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, olives and home made hummus in a Warburtons Sandwich Thin (please forgive the nasty 70s-inspired photo).


Vegan stir-fry with spring rolls and wontons
Vegan stir-fry with spring rolls and wontons

Despite saving the tofu for the stir-fry, I got caught up writing yesterday’s post, so The Meat Eater said he’d cook dinner but didn’t know what to do with the tofu, so that got left out. Still, this stir-fry with mushrooms, mange tout, baby sweetcorn, red peppers and beansprouts was seriously filling. The vegetables were fried in peanut oil for a few minutes, then two sachets of Blue Dragon Spicy Szechuan Tomato Stir-Fry Sauce was added. Accompanying the stir-fry were rice noodles – instead of the usual egg ones I buy – and Tesco Mini Vegetable Spring Rolls and Tesco Sweet & Sour Vegetable Wontons (and I wonder why I don’t lose weight).


Vegan hot chocolate and Oreos
Vegan hot chocolate and Oreos

After falling over on the way to the gym, I went home and sulked and drank hot chocolate and ate Oreos (okay, so *this* is why I don’t lose any weight).

So, that’s week one of Veganuary done – if you’re also taking part, please leave me a comment and let me know how you’re getting on – I’d love to hear from you.

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Veganuary 2016 – Day 6

Veganuary banner

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.

Calories in a bowl of chips from Wetherspoons
Calories in chips from Wetherspoons

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.

Spinach, clementine, apple and coconut water Nutriblast
Spinach, clementine, apple and coconut water Nutriblast

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?

Green & Black's hot chocolate and an Oat Flip
My healthy lunch

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.

Vegan tacos with home-made spicy wedges
Vegan tacos with home-made spicy wedges

Vegan Tacos
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Please note this is a rough indication of the ingredients - I didn't actually measure anything, so go by your own instincts.
Recipe type: Mexican
Cuisine: Vegan
Serves: 2
  • 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
  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the baby onions and fry for a few minutes until soft.
  2. Add the vegan mince and fry for about three to four minutes.
  3. Add the taco seasoning and water and bring to the boil.
  4. Simmer for about five minutes.
  5. Share the mince between the heated taco shells and top with jalapenos, salsa, salad, cheese and sour cream.

Vegan Spicy Potato Wedges
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Please note the quantities for the ingredients are approximate - I made this up as I went along and didn't measure anything.
Recipe type: Mexican
Cuisine: Vegan
Serves: 2
  • 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
  1. Cook the potato wedges in boiling water for about 5 minutes, then drain and put in a roasting tray.
  2. Mix together the other ingredients and pour over the potato wedges, turning to coat thoroughly.
  3. 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.

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My First Veganuary – Day 5

Spinach, apple, carrot, clementine, chia seeds, coconut water Nutriblast

Veganuary banner

Veganuary Day 5 started off with a Nutriblast as usual (for my review of my Nutribullet, go here) and today’s Nutriblast was a combination of spinach, apple, carrot, clementine, chia seeds and coconut water. I haven’t had a carrot in a Nutriblast before but I had half of one left over from Monday’s stew, so I chucked it in. I’ve said before, it doesn’t seem to matter what I chuck in my Nutribullet, it always turns out fine, unlike when you juice without a recipe to guide you and it turns out like swamp water (she says, immediately before posting a photo of something resembling swamp water).

Spinach, apple, carrot, clementine, chia seeds, coconut water Nutriblast
Spinach, apple, carrot, clementine, chia seeds and coconut water Nutriblast


Lunch was another Nutriblast but, unlike my breakfast ones which I make into more of a juice, I like my lunchtime Nutriblasts to be more substantial and to contain more protein, so I filled up the tall Nutribullet cup with spinach, banana, kiwi fruit, passion fruit, dates, cashews, cacao and topped it up with soya milk and water. This filled me up to the verge of needing an afternoon nap.

Deconstructed Nutriblast
Deconstructed Nutriblast


Despite my Facebook friend Pete declaring a pie isn’t a pie unless it’s made of lard (forgive him, he’s northern), dinner was a Linda McCartney Country Pie, mashed potato (mine mashed with soya milk and Vitalite) and baked beans.

Linda McCartney Country Pie, mash and beans
Linda McCartney Country Pie, mash and beans

For a snack, I had hot chocolate and an Oat Flip (see yesterday’s post for hot chocolate and Oat Flip info and photo).

There’s nothing I’ve missed yet (what’s to miss when you can still eat pie and mash, huh?) and I definitely haven’t been hungry – I haven’t been snacking as much as I did before taking part in Veganuary and although I was having a couple of Oreos a day before January, a packet remains unopened in the kitchen (that’s probably because I’ve discovered how nice Oat Flips are).

Come back tomorrow to read about my bravery in Wetherspoons.


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Recipe: Citrus Coconut Nutriblast

Clementine, kiwi fruit, pineapple and coconut water nutribulast

I thought I was making a citrus smoothie. But then I found out that a kiwi fruit isn’t a citrus fruit, but a berry, and then I found out a pineapple isn’t a citrus fruit either because citrus fruit belong to the Rutaceae family and a pineapple belongs to the Bromeliarceae family. So there you go. And no, I hadn’t heard of the Rutaceae or Bromeliaceae family either. The only family name I usually hear about is ‘Mitchell’, and I now I’m imagining Phil sitting at the kitchen table at breakfast time, picking up an orange and telling Ben how citrus fruit are from the ‘rutter-see-er faaaaaaaaaaaaaamily, innit’.

Still, despite the clementine being the only citrus in this citrus smoothie (which isn’t even a smoothie, as it’s more like a juice). it only took a few seconds in my Nutribullet to blend it all together with some Buko organic coconut water.

Buko organic coconut water

Citrus Coconut Nutriblast
Recipe type: Nutriblast
  • 1 clementine, peeled
  • 1 kiwi fruit (I don't bother peeling them)
  • ¼ pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 330ml coconut water
  1. Put everything in the tall cup of your Nutribullet and blast for a few seconds

Thank you to Buko for sending me some of their organic coconut water to try.

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Chia Bia Milled & Whole Chia Seeds

Chia Bia Chia & Cranberry Mix
Chia seeds are great in smoothies

Chia seeds are known as the ‘superfood of the 21st century’ but, unlike some other ‘superfoods’ such as spirulina, chia seeds are tasteless, so you get all the nutrition without any of that ‘I’m only eating this because it’s good for me’ nonsense. (My apologies to anyone who thinks spirulina tastes nice.)

Because chia seeds are so high in omega 3, protein, fibre and antioxidants, people use them for:

  • digestive disorders
  • heart health
  • increased energy levels
  • joint pain or arthritis
  • improved memory and concentration
  • weight loss
  • lowered cholesterol
  • increased endurance
  • hydration
  • protection against muscle cramping
  • reduced fatigue

And, because chia seeds are tasteless, that means you can use them in all sorts of ways such as adding them to flapjacks, sprinkling over your breakfast cereal, stirring into yoghurt and – something I do every day – adding them to smoothies.

Banana, mango, pineapple and chia seed smoothie
Banana, mango, pineapple and chia & cranberrry mix smoothie

I’d bought a load of single-use sachets of chia seeds that had been reduced in price from 65p to 16p in Tesco the other week but, coincidentally, just as they were about to run out, Chia Bia (the leading supplier of high quality chia seed products in Europe) asked if I’d like to try their range of chia seeds which includes not just the whole seeds but also milled chia seeds and chia seeds in powder form, including cranberry and blueberry.

The Chia Bia chia seed range
The Chia Bia chia seed range

I used some of Chia Bia’s powdered chia & cranberry mix in today’s lunch of a tropical smoothie of banana, mango, pineapple and soya milk. Another benefit of chia is that it absorbs up to ten times its weight in water so, as well as keeping you hydrated for longer, it also keeps you fuller for longer, too.

Chia seed recipes

If you fancy doing something other than bunging them in your smoothies, here are a few more ways to use chia seeds.

For more information on the Chia Bia range and on chia seeds in general, visit the Chia Bia website.


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Recipe: Smoothies Containing Blueberries

I generally don’t plan what goes into my smoothies – as I mentioned in my Nutribullet review the other day, it doesn’t seem to matter what combination of fruit you add, it always turns out delicious.

These two smoothies were no exception – I randomly chucked in whatever fruit I could find in the fridge and freezer and out of the Nutribullet came fresh, creamy smoothies. You can see what they were made with in the captions.

Spinach, clementine, raspberry, blueberry, chia seeds and Alpro coconut drink Nutriblast
Spinach, clementine, raspberry, blueberry, chia seeds and Alpro coconut drink
Spinach, blueberry, frozen summer fruit, Alpro coconut drink Nutriblast
Spinach, blueberry, frozen summer fruit, Alpro coconut drink
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Review and Slideshow: Nutriblasts from my Nutribullet

Tall cup not shown, as it’s waiting to be washed

After months of watching Nutribullet demos on the Ideal World TV shopping channel, I finally *ahem* bit the bullet and bought one. I’d put off buying one because I thought the Nutribullet was just an expensive blender – no matter how much they advertised it as a ‘nutrition extractor’ or whatever it is they call it – and I already had a blender to make my smoothies in.

Although the Nutribullet is just basically a blender (whether it’s expensive or not is relative; it is, after all, about £400 cheaper than a Vitamix), it’s a flipping good blender and it doesn’t seem to matter what combination of fruit and veg you put in it, the resulting smoothie is always delicious, unlike when you put a random combination of fruit and veg into a juicer and the output is akin to swamp juice.

I’m sure you all know the basic premise behind a Nutribullet: Fill half the cup with leafy greens, the other half with fruit, top with nuts and/or seeds and – if you really hate yourself – a ‘superfood supplement’ such as spirulina, then top up with liquid such as water, milk or coconut water.

Unlike a juicer, you’ll have to peel some fruit such as oranges and lemons first (although I left the skin on a kiwi fruit and the Nutribullet didn’t mind at all) but its 600 watt motor will pulverise most things you chuck at it, including nuts and seeds, leaving a smooth, creamy smoothie. The only thing I’ve found it doesn’t break down is strawberry seeds.

When you’ve bought your Nutribullet and opened the box, inside you’ll find the power base, a tall cup, two smaller cups, a lip ring, a handled lip ring, two lids, an extractor blade, a milling blade (for grinding nuts, making breadcrumbs, etc.), a user manual/recipe book and a pocket nutritionist.

I’m now a total Nutribullet fangirl convert and below is a slideshow of a few of my concoctions.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more information on the Nutribullet, visit the Nutribullet UK website. The 12-piece set is currently £99 on there, but I bought mine from Curry’s for around £80, so it’s worth shopping around.

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