Sunday thoughts: 6th March 2016

You know you’ve been away from your blog for a little while when you don’t recognise the post editor (is that even what the bit where I type all my words in is called?) anymore.

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Mounds of seaweed amassed after severe weather in New South Wales, Australia

It’s obviously a bit late to be wishing you all a happy new year, but I do hope everyone has had a good start to 2016. I know it sounds like such a massive lie, but I have been thinking of anyone who reads this blog, and about what I could tell you that would add anything to your lives, and feeling both proud and a little ashamed with each notification of a new follower, as I don’t feel like I have provided a very warm welcome. So to anyone who has joined us in the last six months, and everyone who has stuck with me, an extra warm welcome and a super sincere thank you!

Now, in addition to a Vegan in Paris round-up, I owe you guys a Vegan in Brisbane round-up, as Ben and I spent about 48 hours in January roaming the city on foot in search of food. You might have followed along with the highlights on Instagram but if a picture paints a thousand words, words can be pretty handy for filling in the gaps when the lighting wasn’t quite right for a photo (or when you visited a vegan doughnut in Topshop but didn’t buy it because you didn’t actually want a doughnut, you just wanted to check they actually sold vegan doughnuts in a clothes shop, and you didn’t want to take a photo of a vegan doughnut sitting on a shelf in a clothes shop, because that would have seemed like the weird bit at the time).

I started this year in one of my favourite ways; half asleep on an aeroplane with a bag full of snacks at my feet (since I shared some air travel tips a few years ago, I have gone on to totally nail my on-board snacking preparation, something I have been regularly congratulating myself on for the last couple months). January generally consisted of a comfortable amount of warmth, an equally comfortable amount of family, a startling amount of rain, a sensible amount of coffee, giant smoothies, many cookies, swimming, yoga, walking, running, and one lost-key-that-turned-out-to-be-in-your-handbag-the-entire-time incident.

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It was lucky that January was such a fun and restorative month, because February was a bit of a tough one. But there have been silver linings to the February cloud, including lots of running, some solid simple cooking, and one very long hot bath with Magnesium Flakes.

Some examples of what I have been particularly into:

Homemade pizza: we looove our takeaway pizza in all its salty, greasy, convenient goodness, but eating more homemade food over the last few months drove an increasingly thick wedge between how we felt after a home-cooked meal, and how we felt after takeaway pizza. After one much-needed Village pizza on the day we landed (see reference to lost-key-that-turned-out-to-be-in-your-handbag-the-entire-time incident, above), it became harder to justify the choice. That’s how I found myself, one Saturday evening, kneading half-whole wheat pizza dough (I can’t recommend this recipe enough, best followed with additional guidance from Angela Liddon), simmering some tomatoes and oregano for sauce, sautéing some peppers and sweetcorn for topping, and blending soaked cashews with nutritional yeast, salt, a touch of balsamic vinegar, and I forget what else, for a creamy cheese-esque topping. It was a process, but a fun one, one that allowed for housework to occur in the time that dough was rising, and one that resulted in enough of everything for two batches of delicious, wholesome, satisfying pizza when you live too far from Santa Maria for that to be your weekend go-to.

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Stir-fries: featuring tofu cubes sautéed in coconut oil, broccoli florets (I also julienne the stems and throw them in), julienned carrot, thinly sliced red pepper, cashews, chili flakes, lots of soy sauce and a splash of vinegar. Fresh ginger and garlic non-negotiable.

Tofu scramble with sautéed potato: crumbled tofu + salty peppery sautéed potatoes + vinegar-drenched greens + something spicy + optional tahini drizzle = all boxes ticked thankyouplease. Season the tofu with black salt (kala namak) if your jar of it didn’t somehow end up went and clumpy in the back of the cupboard, and a sprinkle of turmeric for colour and because it’s the “in” thing.

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Madécasse chocolate: Toasted Coconut is a work of art, all buttery and sweet, but I’m not always in the mood for coconut. For all other times there is Sea Salt & Nibs. The chocolate is always smooth, glossy, and just sweet enough that it hits any spot any time, and from a company with strong ethics.

Lemon drizzle: as we head into spring (apparently), something bright and tangy might start to seem more appealing – or maybe you just have a bunch of lemons sitting around because you once wanted a bit of lemon zest, and you want to make the most of them. How many “lemon recipes” are there that call for the tiniest grating of zest or a few tablespoons of juice?! Ridiculous. I went nice and straightforward with this recipe for vegan lemon drizzle contributed by Sharon from Bit of the Good Stuff, though I used muscovado instead of caster sugar and golden syrup instead of maple/agave because that’s all I had in the kitchen. It came out beautifully – if you’re scared of vegan baking this is definitely a good place to start!

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One reason for my 5-month absence was that I’ve never been great at balancing uni work with anything that isn’t sleeping, training, cooking, eating, housework, or a limited pre-scheduled amount of downtime. October through to March have coincided with three deadlines (one essay, one client case study report, one critical review presentation) and two exams, and apart from the three weeks I was on holiday I find it really hard to get away from the awareness that there is always something “productive” I could be doing.

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I wish I could tell you more about everything I’ve learnt, but most of it is really nitty-gritty researchy stuff that is barely relevant to humans living in the real world, and the rest of it is really common-sense stuff that revolves around the concept of us all being very different and there not being one set of guidelines that covers everyone. I’m mainly learning how to critique scientific papers as pedantically as possible, manage my caffeine and cookie intake to last comfortably throughout the day, and how quickly I can get to or from train stations.

However, the following may be relevant or useful to you:

The China Study: Known to me for a while but never read until this year, this was a bit preachy for my liking – I’m vegan for ethical reasons and I’ve never been a fan of arguments to go vegan for health or weight reasons – but it certainly contained some interesting studies and anecdotes as well as a helpful introduction to the research. To my surprise, my aunt picked this up and started flicking through it, and was really inspired to start adding more plant-based meals to her diet, so worth remembering we all have different triggers and motivations!

Bad Science: I think everyone who has ever read a news article – particularly a health-related one – should read this book. Albeit at times a touch smothering, I can’t argue with any of Ben Goldacre’s opinions, and although I had just gotten to grips with the basic concepts of study designs and statistics, I wish I had read this years ago as it provides just the right tools for contextualising research (and the reporting of it by the media), without being overwhelming. If reading isn’t your thing, you can get the condensed version in his Ted talk, and I highly recommend you do if you haven’t already.

Make Donald Drumpf again: although I disagree with mocking the name of somebody’s ancestors as much as I disagree with blaming somebody for crimes committed by unrelated individuals belonging to the same ethnicity, nationality, or religion, John Oliver’s segment on Last Week Tonight was overall highly amusing and I applaud the sentiment of “breaking the spell” that the Trump brand seems to conjure.

Lip Sync Battles: start here, then watch this, and save the best til last. That is all.

Stainless steel bowls: we got a couple of these on sale and they have changed our kitchen lives. Before roasting anything, toss thoroughly with any oil and seasoning in the bowl before laying it out on a baking sheet: more of the flavour and juices stay stuck to the vegetable rather than to the tray. I promise it’s worth the extra washing up!

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I hope you have something hearty and wholesome roasting for dinner tonight, a hot bath to slide into, and/or a good book to curl up with, or whatever else helps you recharge. I’m currently taking book and/or movie recommendations!

Thank you for sticking around xoxo

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