No news is good news…

… As it usually means I have been busy doing things I enjoy and/or need to do, training hard, and eating lots of delicious vegan things.

However, as new as I am to this, even I know that 11 days without a post is an eternity in the blogging world. But while I was off doing things other than writing, I was soaking up all sorts of things to write about. If there is anything my brain does well, it is remembering what I ate and how it was.

So let’s start with last weekend (I’m still skipping the bit where I reveal all the vegan treats I got on my birthday – did I mention that all but one of my gifts were edible?!). I spent the weekend on a 9-5 pitch-side first aid training course. It was very good and I highly recommend it if you have £200 and 14 hours to spare – which really, when you think that over the following 3 years you could potentially contribute to saving somebody’s life, is actually something worth considering.

Now after a long week I had gone to the pub on Friday after work to say goodbye to a couple of my close colleagues, and after that I briefly met Ben in Costa where I enjoyed a chai latte which turned out to be vegan (they often aren’t due to milk powder and/or honey being added to the ready-made powder often used). It was the perfect treat on a rainy evening but having just found out they provide 250kcal I might not be doing that too often! Sadly, not all vegan food or drink is healthy or promotes weight loss.

Anyway I got home tired and wet and dreading a full weekend followed by a very busy week of early starts. But I somehow mustered up the courage to make myself a packed lunch – yes it’s mainly because if I don’t have vegan-friendly food with me I may not eat, but it does help to know that that way I guarantee myself a healthy and satisfying lunch, and save money – and threw together a salad composed of half a bag of mixed leaves, half a finely chopped pepper, a couple of cooked and chopped Linda McCartney sausages, and some sort of seasoning… think I probably just went with olive oil and Tabasco. Breakfast on the way there was the remainder of a 500g pot (about one third) of soy yoghurt, half a sliced bananacinnamonground flax seed and crushed walnuts. I also at some point had half a scoop of Nature’s Whey Ignite Ultra-V, and some soy protein mixed with pea protein. I may also have snacked on some almonds and/or a Nakd bar.

That evening Ben and I dined at Manna for my birthday. I will post a full review of this incredible restaurant when I get a page up of places to eat in London, but for now all I will say is that it remains my favourite restaurant in London, and Ben has reiterated that it is possibly the best place he has eaten in London. I had a quesadilla with cashew cheese as a starter, while Ben had their basil-cashew cheese croquettes, which obviously I sampled. I then had their seasonal special of hazelnut and some other nut balls, served with kale and snow peas and a tomato sauce of some sort, while Ben went for the spaghetti and “veat”-balls that made such a good impression on him last time. Though by that point both of us were already beginning to get uncomfortably full, it would have been impossible to leave without a dessert, so he had their fruit crumble (pear, peach and something else) with vice-cream, and I had their Irish cream cheesecake with vice-cream. We soothed our protesting stomachs with their own hot drinks – I had a lemony gingery mint tea and Ben had their cinnamony clovey orange drink. As I said, this is not a full review as I haven’t done justice to the beautiful tasteful presentation of each dish, or the vast selection on offer, but if you are anywhere near London you may as well go and see for yourself!

The following day was spent in the first-aid course again, where I had a much tastier lunch of mixed leaves, chopped pepper, sundried tomato, and half a can of butter beans, with oil from the sundried tomatoes, pepper and Tabasco. Breakfast was muesli with soy milk on the way there, and snacks were a couple of Nakd bars and a handful of almonds.

When I got home, Ben came over and presented me with a homemade vegan chocolate-peanut butter cake with vanilla frosting! It was delicious, not overly sweet, and the frosting was incredibly smooth, rich and creamy. I believe he may have used the same recipe my colleague Peter used for my work birthday cake, but substituted the apple sauce for peanut butter. The result was surprisingly good, obviously less sweet and a little less moist, but still very satisfying. Everyone has commented on how it “doesn’t taste vegan”, which unfortunately I guess is a good thing.

So that was my manic weekend.

I have done well on getting a little more adventurous with my food and especially my lunches, so this week was a mess of tricolour quinoa with Morrisons own-brand chicken-style pieces, red and yellow pepper, mushrooms, chopped frozen spinach, the remainder of the above-mentioned can of butter beans which needed to be used up, and then just salt and a little Tabasco to taste. The result was pleasingly colourful, light but surprisingly satisfying.

I am particularly impressed with the chicken-style pieces first of all for being vegan, but secondly for being tasty without being overwhelmingly flavoured, and really quite a similar texture to chicken as far as I remember.

The tricolour quinoa was almost disappointing. I think I was expecting too much from it. It was tasty, but not overly different from standard quinoa. Slightly crunchier obviously, in the same way that brown or wild rice is crunchier than white rice due to not having the germ removed. However, in the same way that brown or wild rice is more nutritious, the added nutrition from tricolour quinoa plus the pretty colours it adds to a dish (as well as the extra crunch and slightly stronger grainy flavour) make it worth the addition. Go for it, just don’t believe the hype that it will change your life or whatever else quinoa-worshippers are saying these days.

Any just while I’m reviewing things, just a few words about a new chocolate I got as a birthday gift – Amelia Rope’s Dark Ginger. If you take a look at the website, I’m sure you’ll find it immediately appealing. The bar is the same, it is an object of beauty and refinement, encased in its copper-coloured foil and delicately wrapped in a sheet of brown paper. I was expecting a taste explosion, a sensory experience unlike any other. Unfortunately I have so far been very underwhelmed by this product. Of course it is good, but the texture doesn’t stand out as anything particularly smooth or creamy, I haven’t found it to melt particularly well in the mouth, and perhaps the most disappointing is that there is no sharpness to the ginger, none of the fiery kick I expect from a ginger chocolate. It is pleasant, but in no way does it justify the £5.60 price tag for 90g. Now this was a present so I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth here, I do enjoy it and I love trying new (vegan) things either way, but I really wouldn’t recommend it. Which is a shame, because I do like to support independent chocolatiers and I like her mission statement, but unfortunately based on taste alone I can’t say I am too impressed. Maybe I just need to try a few more flavours… 😉

Well that’s all from me for now, I’m going to make the most of my free weekend to watch some TED talks and get some sleep, but as always I do have plenty more to come so I will try not to leave it so long this time!