Sunday 8 January 2017

Marks and Spencer Vegan Meal Deal - New M&S Vegan Sandwich

As soon as I saw news on instagram of M&S having quite a few vegan options in their food to go range and which you can get as part of their meal deal, I just had to try it. There's lots of drink , which are obviously vegan and a few snack options but they have always lacked mains. New to the range are things like the M&S sweet potato nourish bowl, a cauliflower trio pot but the key items of interest for me were the two new vegan sandwiches - one, a supergreens with edamame and pea crush on linseed and chiabread and this rainbow veg one with chilli squash and pumpkin seeds on soft red pepper bread. Both contain no mayo, no dairy and are 100% plant based.

I also picked up one of the cauliflower trio snack pots, apple wedges with peanut butter and a carrot juice shot with turmeric and a cold pressed apple, beetroot and celery juice. The meal deal currently is £4 , which is reasonable value.

This rainbow veg sandwich certainly looks colourful and with roasted red and yellow peppers, courgette, red onions, avocado and spinach along with the butternut crush makes this one of your five a day and the whole thing is only 311 calories.

It's a great mix of flavour, colours and textures and just a delicious sandwich in its own right, regardless of it being plantbased. I love the roasted red pepper bread and could happily eat this on its own - it's soft with a lovely gentle meditteranean flavour with a hint of sundried tomato tanginess.

With no dairy or eggs, the butternut paste makes for a lovely plant based spread and is soft, fresh tasting and perfectly spiked with a bit of very mild chilli heat. The peppers are roasted to perfection and are soft and juicy which provide a nice contrast to the cool, creamy avocado.

Spinach adds freshness and a bit of leafy crunch and the pumpkin seeds actually work really nicely in the sandwich, again providing a nice textural counterpoint and amazingly they don't fall out or scatter everywhere.

M&S have created a sandwich masterpiece here. With so many different things going on, they all work well individually but also work together in harmony for a very well balanced sandwich.  Forgot dry boring old vegan sandwiches, this is one of the best pre-made sandwiches I've seen that's 100% plant based.

Saturday 7 January 2017

Veganuary at All Bar One

I've really noticed that this year Veganuary has become a lot prevalent across mainstream shops. Whereas last year, I only really noticed specialist health food places like Holland and Barrett talking about it, there are even burger chains like Gourmet Burger co offering a Vegan January special.

All Bar One have a specialist vegan menu this month and are also doing a set menu deal where you can get 2 courses for £10 or 3 courses for £13. So not only good for your health and the planet but your pocket too, There were loads of nice looking things on there but I settled on the patatas bravas for starter and the miso rice bowl as I'm obsessed with Japanese style food.

The patatas bravas made a great starter. Nice and light but also perfect for grazing and picking at. The fried cubes of potato were cooked to perfect with a really, nice crunchy outer and were soft in the middle with the perfect texture contrast of fluffy and crunch. I also tried some of my companion's avocado and tomato bruschetta which was tasty and fresh. You can never go wrong with avocado on bread!

The miso rice bowl I had for main was the star of the meal. It's so easy to make plant based choices when they taste this good. There was so much going on with this, it's hard to know where to begin. The rice itself was cooked to perfect, really sticky and fragrant. I could quite easily have devoured a bowl of this just by itself.

As a vegan choice, obviously it was packed full of veg with broccoli, mange tout, soft jucy strips of pepper and pak choi that was wilted and fresh tasting.This was all covered in a lovely Japanese style sauce with sriracha and soy providing the dish with bags of flavour - lots of heat and punch from the sriracha with a good umami savoury flavour. It worked wonderfully with the vibrancy of the veg and made the delicious sticky rice even better.

It was all topped with a lovely fresh salad of on trend spiralised carrot and peashoots and coated in sesame seeds for a bit of crunch. Adding a cool, fresh, crisp salad on top of the warm comforting main dish creates a lovely taste and texture sensation in the mouth.

Unfortunately I was too full for dessert but the coconut vanilla rice pudding and the chill and cardomom chocolate cake both sounded wonderful and just the type of dessert I love. All Bar One have done a fantastic job of creating a mainstream and accessible vegan menu and at this price I would definitely recommend checking it out!

Thursday 5 January 2017

Banana, Kale, Lemongrass and Mango Protein Smoothie - Aldi Banana, Kale, Mango, Lemongrass Frozen Smoothie Mix Review

One thing I was maybe a bit concerned about when I first went plant based is getting enough protein and refuelling after the gym as I work out around 4 times a week and would usually have a post workout shake. However, it's more than easy to get a good refuelling drink and making something yourself is a lot more fun and really requires very little effort especially if you buy ingredients and products to make your life easier.

The protein source I used this morning is pea protein. I bought the Pulsin and initially you might think 'Peas? Protein?' but actually the product is a whopping 82% protein and a 10g serving gives you over 8g protein, which is about the same as an egg! It's a fine powder which mixes easily with a nutribullet or blender. It does have quite  a strong taste but is easily masked with other ingredients.

I simply blended it with almond milk, PPB's peanut butter powder sweetened with stevia (another easy source of protein at over 5g plant protein per serve) and a big helping of a frozen smoothie mix I got from Aldi of all places! Plant based definitely doesn't have to be expensive. It's a mix of banana, mango, kale and lemongrass that you can just blend from frozen. I also added a little vanilla extract and this along with lemongrass and the sweetness of banana covers any taste of the pea protein and the kale.

Because the fruit is frozen when blended it makes the smoothie super cold and refreshing but also adds real creaminess and thickness along with the almond milk for something that tastes really luxurious.

It tastes fantastic and it's great to see Aldi offering this type of product to make healthy and plant based eating so easy and also so affordable. It's not only cheaper than other supermarkets' frozen smoothie mixes but also a bigger bag at 600g so handy for stashing in the freezer and making sure you always have something nutritious to hand.

Banana, Kale, Mango, Lemongrass Protein Smoothie - Serves 1

100g of Aldi frozen banana, kale, mango, lemongrass frozen smoothie mix
100ml of almond milk
250ml water
2 heaped tablespoons of pea protein
1 heaped teaspoon of PPB peanut butter powder (or 1 tablespoon of normal peanut butter)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Put all the ingredients in a nutribullet or blender and blitz until all ingredients are blended and you have a thick, creamy smoothie texture.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Vegan Snacks - Marks and Spencer Vegan Cranberry and Strawberry Bar with Cacao Nibs

One of the things I've found surprisingly simple as I start my move to a more plant based journey is just how easy it is to treat yourself. I made a little trip to Wholefoods Market and found loads of great, little products, which I relished trying and got excited to. Going plant based doesn't have to mean deprivation, it's just about finding things that really excite you

These were just a few nice little drinks and snacks that I picked up - dairy free milkshakes are easy to whip up but this cacao orange drink by Rebel Kitchen is really sweet and a great little pick me up and actually really quite low in sugars. The Daily Cultures tea is just normal green tea but with good bacteria in - unlike bacteria used in dairy cultures, it's unaffected by boiling water or stomach acid. Other finds which I'll talk about in later posts are delicious ginger and turmeric oaty biscuits by Rude Health and really delicious alternatives to crisps.

But healthy and plant based doesn't have to mean trips to the health food store, I was delighted to find these cranberry and strawberry chunky bars with cocoa nibs in Marks and Spencers of all places. Now often a lot of supermarkets have vegan products but don't label them as such but this clearly and proudly states suitable for vegetarians and vegans on the back.

Initially I thought this might be an M&S take on a Nakd bar but it's a really different kind of bar. It's much bigger (hence the chunky name) and whilst 45g vs a 35g Nakd bar might not sound a lot, in size it is a lot bigger as it's made up of less heavy ingredients with no nuts so not as squat and dense as a Nakd bar.

They're a lot less firm and very sticky, it takes a little skill to peel it away from the wrapper and it's a lot softer and chewier. It's made up predominantly of dried apricot and dried cranberries with a ittle dried apple, strawberry puree and some oatflakes, soy beans and cocoa nibs for added texture, bite and a bit of crunch.

It's extremely moist and really full on fruity flavoured. The cocoa nibs don't really add a chocolatey flavour but more temper the natural sweetness. The soy beans although small in percentage of ingredients do add an unexpected texture and are maybe a little hard but help stop this being a purely squidgey eat.

It's really nice to see M&S offer a tasty, convenient vegan snack bar made up of only natural ingredients. It's a little high in (natural) sugars and could do with more oats or nuts to reduce the dried fruit sugars but overall a really tasty bar and one I bought quite a lot of

Tuesday 27 December 2016

The beginning of a more plant based journey and Cheat's Gingerbread Porridge

Why go more plant based? It's something that is becoming more prevalent in society as we understand the impact a heavy meat and dairy based diet has on the world, our health and of course on animals themselves. The number of vegans in Britain has increased by 360% in the past decade and there over 1 million vegetarians. Going more plant based benefits you and the world and whilst in the past, eating in this way was seen as odd and restrictive, it's becoming more mainstream with even supermarkets selling own label almond milk and chia seeds. With a host of celebrities like Ellie Goulding and Jennifer Lopez going this way, it should be a movement that is becoming easier to be a part of.

And it is something that I have been toying with for a while now but have never quite fully committed to myself to do. So I have decided right now, rather than in 2017 as a failed New Year resolution I am trying to become more plant based. This will be a slow process for me but at the very least I would like to go vegetarian with a focus on plant based. I've barely eaten much meat over the last couple of months and in the last few weeks have cut down to zero and even went Christmas day without the roast turkey so hopefully this should be possible.

One thing that makes this world very inaccessible is how overly complicated it can be and over pricey to the exclusion of others. I really rate a lot of the big health bloggers out there but their recipes can be overly complicated with hard to source ingredients and this can put people off. The other thing I've found is that this wellness movement is really dominated by girls. There's some great male health bloggers like Joe Wicks out there but not as many high profile plant based guys so I'm hoping to offer something a bit different by documenting by journey as a guy into the plant based world.

Typically men and health has always been about bulking up, protein and muscle and of course this is inevitably going to be more meat and dairy based. I hope to try and approach health for guys from a more holistic point of view with the focus on nourishing yourself and being healthy rather than looking good or 'gains'.

The other thing about me is I can be quite lazy. I do like to cook but I see nothing wrong with using everyday, simple ingredients and mainstream big name brands to help me achieve my health goals. Sure, you can make your own almond milk but I'm happy to buy it - there's less mess, it's cheaper and actually if you're going to be cutting back on dairy, I want one that is fortified and contains calcium even if the more extreme health bloggers take a more militant line on this.

And of course it has to be tasty. An example of quick, easy plant based meal is the breakfast I had today below. All normal items you can get from the supermarket, not overly expensive and it tastes lovely and is ready in a couple of minutes with the microwave - again I have no problem with a microwave if it helps me eat healthily. It's nice festive recipe for gingerbread porridge using Dorset Cereals Gingerbread porridge mix, which is actually plant based. It's a little high in sugars (mostly from dates, which are a healthier, natural sugar) so I only use half a sachet and cut it with other ingredients to still get the taste but with less sugar - it also makes the recipe more affordable by bulking it up with cheaper, standard oats. The gingerbread Nakd bar is a seasonal little extra I add but feel to top with nuts or whatever takes your fancy - granola might be good 😊

Cheat's Gingerbread Porridge (Dairyfree, Wheatfree and Vegan)
Serves 1

40g oats
1/2 sachet of Dorset Cereals Gingerbread Porridge (21g)
1 tablespoon of flaxseed
1 small teaspoon of gingerbread powder
150ml of almond milk and 150ml of water - or increase the almond milk for a thicker, creamier texture
1/2 gingerbread Nakd bar

In a bowl, mix the oats, dorset cereal gingerbread porridge, flaxseed and ginger powder
Add the almond milk and water and give it another stir
Blast in the microwave for  1 minute 20 seconds, remove , give it a stir
Blast in the mircrowave for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until it's the texture and consistency you like
Top with crumbled up bits of a Nakd gingerbread bar

This is the type of recipe and food I like to eat. Healthy, low in sugar with lots of goodness from the oats, dates and flaxseed but also tasty and quick and easy to make.

Going more plantbased is a journey so any tips or ideas or support will be greatly appreciated.