Butternut Squash Lasagne


I’m mainly sharing this recipe with you because I have found the perfect quick and easy Bechamel sauce recipe and it’s all thanks to Sainsburys vegan cream cheese. Did you hear about #garycheese?This sauce is a real game changer and it’s just like the real thing (if not better!). The cream cheese gives the sauce a brilliantly cheesy and creamy flavour and it only needs a little almond milk added to create the required consistency. It is golden once cooked and bubbles up nicely like any other lasagne – very exciting indeed!

Filling

1 glug of olive oil

Soya mince – vegan friendly

1 punnet of mushrooms

1 onion

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp maple syrup

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

4 cloves of garlic

1 tsp maple syrup/sugar

Bechamel Sauce

1 tub of vegan cream cheese

2 cups of unsweetened plant-based milk (I used almond milk)

salt & pepper

Lasagne sheets

6 – 9 butternut squash lasagne sheets (Sainsburys) or dried pasta lasagne sheets – drum wheat, egg free

Make the filling by frying the onion, mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil. Add the soya mince and continue to cook for a  few minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, herbs and sugar and leave to cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the meantime make the Bechamel sauce by adding all of the cream cheese to a sauce pan along with 2 cups of unsweetened almond milk and seasonings. Heat and stir everything together until it’s smooth and the consitency of double cream.

Once the filling and sauce are prepared start to assemble the lasagne. Start by putting a small amount of sauce on the bottom of a lasagne dish, then place some butternut squash sheets on top, followed by half of the mince filling. They put another layer of lasagne sheets on top of that followed by the remaining mince filling. Finally top the filling with some more lasagne sheets and cover the lasagne with the rest of the Bechamel sauce. It doesn’t really matter how you decide to assemble your lasagne this is just the way I do it.

Cook for around an hour on 190 degrees or until the top is golden and the lasagne sheets are tender. I hope you enjoy!

Nutty Chocolate Breakfast Bars 

Sweet, nutty, chocolatey, chewy…oh boy, these are good! These breakfast bars are great for when you are on the move, you can just pop them in your bag and eat them on your way to work if need be! They are delicious, filling and nutritious and the best thing is that you can experiment with what fruit and nuts you include. There’s no exact science with this, that’s why I just throw in the fruit and nuts as I please – you can find the combination and quantities that work best for you!

Ingredients – makes up to 8 bars

150g oats

5 neglet dates, chopped

Handful of almonds, chopped

Handful of raisins

Handful of pumpkin seeds

3 tbsp peanut butter

3 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp water)

1 tbsp cocoa powder

Simply put all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt the coconut oil and add this along with the maple syrup, peanut butter and flax egg to the mixture. Combine well and then transfer to a lined 20cm tin. Press down the mixture tightly, making sure the sides have defined edges. You might doubt whether the mixture will set at this point but when the coconut oil solidifies in the fridge the bars will hold there shape perfectly. Put in the fridge for at least 2 hours before cutting into bars.

Enjoy!

Eating Vegan in Italy

 

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We travelled to Limone a small village in Lake Garda, Italy in September and it was hands down the most beautiful place we have ever visited. We stayed at The Hotel Splendid Palace which has the most amazing views of the lake, mountains and Limone. We spent a lot time on our balcony looking out and watching the boats go back and forth from other areas of the lake such as Malcesine and Riva – it was probably the most relaxing holiday we’ve ever been on! With a view like this, if we had spent the week on the balcony it would not have been wasted.

Before our trip we were a little worried about what we would be able to eat in Italy which would be vegan friendly. I had done a little research to see if I could find any blog posts on this subject but  I only came across one or two. I knew that when I returned I needed to share my experience and tips to help other vegans who plan to visit Italy. We were half board at the hotel which meant that our breakfast and evening meal was included. I contacted Thomson Lakes before the trip to ask if they could cater for dietary requirements and they said the hotel would be happy to do so. The hotel were great and made sure we had soya milk on our table each morning for cereal and coffee and on a night there was always something we could have. We usually mix and matched the side dishes such as potatoes, cous cous, salad and vegetables to create a kind of Buddha Bowl if you like. The hotel even made us vegan desserts on 3 on the nights, one of which was a selection of energy balls!

We ate out at various different restaurants in Limone, Malcesine, Riva and Verona for lunch and sometimes evening meal if we wanted a change from the hotel. We were surprised at how many dishes were already vegan friendly, without being labelled as such. On most menus at the top of the pizza section there is the option of a pizza without cheese but this often came without any toppings so we chose a pizza with lots of veggie toppings and asked for ‘no formaggio’. There is quite a few vegan spaghetti options and my favourite was the Peperoncino which was simply spaghetti with chilli oil, garlic and parsley. I loved it that much I recreated it when I got home! There was also the option of Arrabiata in some restaurants which is also delicious. The menus are very detailed in terms of stating what is included in each dish. It will clearly state if there is cheese in something and if you order pasta they bring out a separate pot of Parmesan on the side, so they don’t just presume you will want it or add it on for you. One thing to point out is that the Italians are not shy with the olive oil and all of the pasta dishes are practically swimming in it so if you are not overly fond of olive oil a pizza without cheese would be your best option. Bruschetta is another great option because it is totally deliciously, fresh and light which makes it perfect for lunch. One of the restaurants we walked past actually had an advertised vegan option on their specials menu so we knew we had to come back and try it. We came back the following night and ordered the vegan dish which was a mezze of  polenta, tofu, vegan ‘beef’ burger, millet and aubergine. It was lovely to have something different and you could tell how much thought and effort had went it to creating this option for the menu. It wasn’t cheap at €16.50 each but if you are to create a niché meal such as this with non-mainstream Italian ingredients I suppose this price is justifiable.

Extra Tips

– One thing to be careful of is the cocktails. I noticed that the Strawberry Daiquiri was made using strawberry ice cream and because we don’t include this ingredient in our cocktails in the UK you wouldn’t expect it.

– A lot of the shops sell dark chocolate and crisps so if you are fancying some home comforts they have got your back.

– The pasta is usually dried so it does not contain egg but be careful as some of the pasta is fresh but it should specify this on the menu.

– Contact the hotel or holiday company before your trip to let them know your dietary requirements. Liaise with the rep directly if possible.

– Verona airport has a burger restaurant which has a veggie burger option (minus the pesto and you have yourself a pre-flight vegan delight).

I hope I managed to cover everything food wise in this blog post but if you have any questions please let me know as I would be happy to help – I know how hard it is to find info on this subject on the Internet! Now excuse me while I go and make myself some lunch…

Blueberry Cheesecake {Raw, Vegan}

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I’ve been making the most of the bank holiday weekend and spending some time doing what I love to do most, cook! Or in this case blend lots of raw ingredients together. I had some blueberries I needed to use up so I decided to create a raw vegan cheesecake that also happens to be incredibly nutritious.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can change the fruit to suit your taste. I think that raspberries and strawberries would work really well or why not mix different fruits together to make a summerfruit cheesecake!

Crust

1 1/2 cups of raw cashews

8 Medjool Dates, pitted

1/2 tbsp chocshot 

pinch of Salt

Filling

2 cups soaked raw cashews

pinch of salt

Juice of 1 lemon

1 1/2 cups blueberries

8 medjool dates, pitted

1 cup of water

20cm Spring form cake tin

– blend the crust ingredients in a food processor until the mixture sticks together between your fingers. Press down the mixture tightly to the base of the tin then put in the fridge while you make the filling.

– put all of the filling ingredients apart from the water in the food processor. Slowly add the water until the mixture is smooth.

– put the filling on top of the crust and then freeze. Take out of freezer 10 minutes before you wish to serve. It’s best to slice the cheesecake when it is still half frozen to keep the slices neat.

Enjoy! Katy X

Recipe. Taste. Repeat

So this week I wanted to share with you some of the meals / desserts i’ve been loving lately. I’m making these things over and over again because 1) they are delicious 2) easy to make – win win!

First up – the pizza. Well me and Chris have dabbled in a bit of fake cheese in the past but to be honest, I wasn’t feeling it. I’d much prefer to make something different than try and replicate with a poor substitute. So I came up with a ‘recipe’ for a cheese free pizza, I use the word recipe loosely as I used a store bought pizza base mix (you just add water) ha! I added chilli tomato paste, nutritional yeast, onions, sundried tomatoes, lots of chopped garlic and then drizzled cheese-free pesto mixed with extra olive oil all over the pizza. I then put it in the oven on 180 degrees for about 10 minutes.

I find that the extra oil keeps the pizza moist and indulgent – standing in for the cheese. I can honestly say, hand on heart that we didn’t miss the cheese one bit. The pizza was absolutely delicious and went well halved with some home made chips! Well, it was Saturday 😉

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Deliciously Ella’s Chickpea, Quinoa and Turmeric Curry.

Oh this is very good, very good indeed. You can just throw everything in and within the hour you have a delicious and nutritious curry which will make six portions. We’ve been taking this to work for our lunch and I was surprised to see how well it reheats. It also keeps well in the fridge. Another bonus is that you don’t need to cook rice or cous cous in addition to this as it already has quinoa in. It’s an all round super curry, really.

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Deliciously Ella’s Sweet Potato Brownies

When I first heard about these I wasn’t completely convinced they would be for me as I have love hate relationship with sweet potato but I gave them a go and today I’ve just made my third batch – so good! You forget that there is sweet potato in them but they add a moistness to the brownies. They are also very chocolatey, which is great. I would recommend buying a good quality cocao powder as it makes all the difference. For the second batch I made a chocolate frosting to go on the top which was amazing. For the frosting I used 1 tbsp cocao powder, 1 tbsp coconut oil, 2 tbsp of pure maple syrup and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt. Mix it all together and spread on the brownies once they have cooled, then pop in fridge to set. We’ve been taking these to work for breakfast as they give us loads of energy and fill us up until lunch. I think these will be a staple in our house for the months to come.

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Accidentally Vegan

So it’s Friday night, you’ve eaten well all week but now you’re in need for some serious, not-nessassarily-good-for-you-but-you-don’t-care, treats. Well I thought my store bought treat days were over when I became vegan nearly 2 months ago but I’m pleased to share just some of my findings above. For those of you who are just starting out like me, you might find these discoveries very comforting indeed – I know I did!

There are lots of snacks available that are labelled vegan, which is great, but sometimes discovering a snack which is accidentally vegan is the best feeling! It took a little time to get used to checking the labels of things but once we realised that everything to watch out for as a vegan i.e. eggs and milk is in bold, you can quickly scan for these ingredients (NB Gelatine and meat are not usually in bold so look out for this!). Don’t be put off by the name of some products, for instance Prawn Cocktail Skips do not contain prawns and Smokey Bacon Pringles do not contain Bacon – hurrah!

We have eaten out a lot since becoming vegan so I thought it might be useful to list the choices we made in the following  chain restaurants.

  • Nandos – veggie burgers *ask for no mayo* with chips
  • Handmade Burger Co. – Tex Mex Burger, Thai Burger, chips and Oreo Milkshake *ask for vegan ice cream and milk* This restaurant has amazing choice for vegans!
  • Las Igunas – Three Mushroom Fajita and Tembleque for dessert.
  • Leon – Sweet Potato Falafel Wrap *no non-vegan sauce* hummus on the side.
  • Wetherspoons – Pasta Pomodoro

So far we haven’t found it difficult due to the surprising amount of choice and options available in restaurants these days. The only thing that I miss and haven’t been able to find a substitute for is Pain au Chocolat, ahh man the M&S freshly baked ones were my weakness! If anyone knows any vegan versions please let me know!

 

 

 

The Mae Deli

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While we were in London last week for an ACDC concert we visited The Mae Deli and it was definitely one of the best cafes I have ever been in. Deliciously Ella is one of my favourite food bloggers and I cook from her books regularly so I was really excited to check the cafe out. With its clean and bright interior and relaxed atmosphere it really is the perfect place to visit if it’s a healthy breakfast or lunch you’re after.

We visited the cafe around 9pm on the Saturday morning, there were a few people already seated having breakfast and we were welcomed by a friendly face. There was so much choice and the presentation of the food behind the counter was beautiful. Some of the options included porridge with compote and lots of toppings, avocado on toast and lots of cake and desserts. We decided to go for two different cakes to share and iced coffee. The service was quick at the counter and we then made our way downstairs to a lovely homely room which could probably seat around 20 people. The decor is fresh and minamilist but at the same time very personal and well thought out. The cakes we tried were out of this world – sweet, filling and nutritious. Washed down with the iced coffee, it was the perfect Saturday morning breakfast!

We would have loved to go back for lunch during our stay, I have seen amazing pictures on Instagram of the options available but unfortunately it was just a fleeting visit. We will definitely be returning here (multiple times) on our next trip to London, I think we may need to stay in a hotel nearby! 😉

Sweet Potato Burgers

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After visiting the Sky Apple Café last week I decided to try and recreate the Sweet Potato Burgers I had tried there as they were so delicious! It took a couple of attempts to get these right but I’m really happy with the way these turned out. The burgers are tasty and satisfying and are very easy to prepare and cook. This is a lovely light and summery meal to have on a weekday evening and only takes around 40 minutes to make, including prep and cooking time. Happy days! I hope you enjoy 🙂

To make 4 medium burgers…

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1/2 red onion chopped finely
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp sweet corn
  • handful of panko breadcrumbs
  • handful of fresh coriander
  • salt and pepper
  1. Peel the sweet potato into even slices and put into the microwave for 10 minutes or until soft. NB: I boiled my sweet potato on the first attempt and found that the potatoes retained too much moisture, despite being drained, so the burgers did not hold their shape once cooked.
  2. Mash the potato up with a fork and mix through the rest of the ingredients until evening distributed.
  3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, brush olive oil on the tray.
  4.  Mould out four evenly sized burgers and place them on the tray.
  5. Cook for 25 minutes in a 200 degree oven, flipping over half way through. Take out once crispy on the outside.

I served the burgers with kale which I had sautéed in salt and pepper, along with some avocado, sweet corn and a cashew nut dressing (recipe below). I also think these burgers would be great served in a bun with hot salsa and guacamole.

Cashew Nut Dressing

  • 1 cup of cashews, soaked
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1.5 tbsp apple cidar vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • black pepper
  • 1 cup of water (add slowly to desired consistency)
  1. Soak the cashew nuts in hot water for at least 15 minutes
  2. Put all of the ingredients, apart from the water, in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Add cold water slowly until it reaches your desired consistency for salad dressing.

 

 

Vegan Delights in Newcastle

The Sky Apple Cafe, Heaton Newcastle

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We decided to try out the Sky Apple Cafe in Heaton this week as we had heard really good things about it. The menu is both vegetarian and vegan and there is a lot of choice – we struggled to decide! I ended up going for vegan Sweet Potato Burger with Asian slaw, which was so amazing I tried to recreate it the next day at home (tasted great but burgers fell apart a little!). My husband got the Sky Apple Classic burger which he said tasted great. We spotted another diner tucking into The Volcano dish which looked delicious, we both said we would try that next time! Even though we visited on a week day around 2pm it was fairly busy, I would recommend booking for weekend or night time visits. The service was great and we would definitely go back!

Tea Sutra, Newcastle

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Tea Sutra is one of my favourite places to relax, drink interesting tea and eat delicious food. Both the day and night time menu is very select and consists of wraps such as falafel and butternut squash, salads and soups. The night time menu has such options as the Lebanese Bowl and Sweet Potato Curry. Tea sutra has always been busy when I’ve arrived but have always managed to get a seat. The service is brilliant and the desserts are amazing! I’m delighted to hear that Tea Sutra are now doing take out options. I will definitely be taking advantage of this since I work in Newcastle city centre!

Las Iguanas, Quayside Newcastle

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This was my first visit to Las Iguanas and I was blown away by the vegan options that were available on the menu. I had the Three Mushroom Fajita which was lovely and the Tembleque for dessert which was like a coconut pana cotta – this blew my mind! Las Iguanas is a all round people pleaser due to the options available to vegans and non-vegans alike. Again the service was great and atmosphere was very relaxed – will definitely be returning!

The One-Pot Wonder

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This spicy veggie sauce is one of the most versatile things you can make in batch form.  I usually make a big batch of this on a Sunday evening and mix it into pasta to take to work for lunches throughout the week, but there are so many other pairing possibilities! We have used this sauce as a fresh salsa dip and can even be used to cook fish in (or chicken if you prefer). It can be used as a base sauce for lasagne or even on its own as a Ratatouille. It can also be added to wraps or fajitas. The sauce freezes well and will last up to five days in the fridge.

Recipe for 6-8 portions (as a pasta sauce)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tomatoes quartered
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pepper
  • 3 courgettes
  • 2-3 chillies (optional and to taste)
  • basil
  • salt and pepper
  • dash of red wine
  • 1 tbsp on fruit sugar

Sauté all of the veggies with the garlic and olive oil until they have softened. Add the chopped tomatoes, red wine and basil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Leave to cool before freezing.

The great thing about this sauce is that you can customise it to your liking – why not add extra veggies such as mushrooms or aubergine or crank up the heat if you like it really hot.  It’s a great way to use up vegetables which may have otherwise been wasted and with only one pot to clean it really is a winner 😉