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!

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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…

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!