I love my freezer (and typing, it seems!).

Phew, it’s been a crazy few weeks. I went on a cruise holiday, then developed both a sinus infection and a chest infection at the same damn time within a few days of getting home, which totally wiped me out for a fortnight. I’ve been back at work since last week, and figured an update was necessary.

So, cruise ships then. They are to vegans as garlic and crosses are to vampires. While there is an entire lack of photographic evidence, it’s entirely possible to eat well and be vegan on a cruise, despite their “catering for vegetarians, but not vegans”.

While I may have had a both a good choice of cruise company (Royal Caribbean) and a little repetition in my meals, I ate like a king while on board and was not once made to feel like an awkward guest.

Breakfast:

We went buffet style every morning. My plate largely involved a trip to the huge fruit salad bar, plus fried potatoes and mushrooms from the grill, then a sweep over to the bread baskets for fresh rolls and margarine. No soy milk, unfortunately, so orange juice and herbal tea for me.

Lunch:

When on board, we went back to the buffet for lunch, and I had loads of options. Huge salad bar, including multiple kinds of salad leaves, lots of different vegetables and awesome toppings like sunflower seeds and walnuts and dried fruits, with an assortment of dressings – though I stuck with my “boring” favourite of balsamic vinegar for the most part. I usually went with a vaguely small portion of pasta and tomato sauce of the day after that, often with some sauerkraut on the side as they had dishes of it for hot dog toppings and I took advantage of it being accidentally vegan! I could have asked for a pizza to be made up without cheese, but I didn’t bother as I couldn’t have eaten a whole one by myself!

Dinner:

Formal dining room for dinner, except one night when we hit up Johnny Rockets upstairs and I got to have my first vegan boca burger, which was good, but not as good as my usual Fry’s burger. Still, I’m glad I have now tried one and can move on with my life (unlike my obsession with getting my mitts on some Veganaise and Justin’s PB cups). Service in the formal dining room was amaaaazing. There was always a vegan starter and the mains included a vegetarian special which changed each evening, and was pretty much all vegan without the condiments. I had homemade soy meatballs in lentil chilli, tacos (minus the sour cream), an amazing spinach salad…if by some chance the main veggie option wasn’t vegan, their “classic” menu always had a pasta dish with tomato sauce. The only thing lacking was dessert, which was very heavy on the dairy and eggs. I asked on my first night if they had anything vegan and they made me up a fabulous fruit platter, which I had most nights.

Downsides….you’d want to like veggies and fruit, as you’ll eat a lot of them. Probably for the best though – I didn’t put on any weight during my trip, which is possibly a record for me.

Repetition does happen, especially on the pasta front, but I ate really well for the week. I’d really have liked a non-fruit dessert on even one evening (that wasn’t just cookies in my bunk that I brought on board myself). If you can do strawberries, and you can do strawberry souffle, then you can dunk a few in some dark chocolate without too much hassle.

Whole grains. With the exception of the (non-vegan) soda-type bread, there were none. Pasta was white, bread was white, rice was white. I’m used to brown rice and pasta and not much white bread these days, so my stomach got a little unhappy towards the end of the week.

If you’re not ok with filling your salad plate within ten feet of cheese pizza or a carvery station, then this might not be for you. Personally, meat doesn’t make me feel ill (with the exception of really disgusting things like veal or foie gras) so I can just look past it and get to the good stuff.

Another note – it’s best to avoid looking at other people’s plates. The sheer gluttony is astounding. I’m not talking about a second slice of pizza here…I’m talking about people eating 3 double cheeseburgers with sides for lunch, then getting seconds. Yes, it’s personal choice, but I just don’t get it….eating oneself to death just seems like an awful waste.

 

The day after getting home, some vegetable-and-bean overload was required, along with some cake, in as short and low effort a manner as possible :)

2013-10-08 18.06.49Giant cauliflower from the organic farm down the road. Best bargain I’ve ever had!

Apply rice of choice to rice cooker, or to pot.

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Chop (some!) cauli into small, bite sized florets (makes for fast cooking!) and sprinkle with salt, turmeric and whole cumin seed and dribble over a little olive oil, if that’s your thing. Stick in oven.

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Take that tub of leftover chana masala out of the freezer, run under the cold tap….

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…then upend into saucepan over the lowest heat possible. Once it begins to loosen up, have at it with a butter knife to break it into smaller chunks. Once it has defrosted, turn up the heat and warm through, watching for rogue ice cubes.

Stick all of the above unceremoniously on plate, with some chutney if you have it, wish that the lighting was better, then shrug and devour.

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Remember that your cat missed you too as he purrs like a steam engine.

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Then have some cake and tea on the sofa…

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…before cursing when you remember both the giant pile of washing and the  block of tofu in a tub of water in the fridge that you meant to chuck out before you left and will now be demanding voting rights. (It’s Isa’s pumpkin muffin from VWAV, turned into a cupcake, with cream cheese frosting).

Nothing’s ever perfect!

 

Portable treats.

I am a big fan of chocolate, and thankfully it is one sweet snack where vegan types fare well here as it is all over the place and pretty damn tasty to boot.

I have previously mentioned the institution that is Butlers in my tour post. There are branches all over Dublin and I loved their hot chocolate in my omni days. Unfortunately their coffee is rather sucky and I have yet to get a decent soy cappuccino from them. First world problems, eh?  On the upside, they have some tasty offerings for vegans which are labelled clearly and are available in all branches.

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I’ve had the whole almond dark chocolate before and it’s really delicious. Good dark chocolate with plenty of lovely fresh almonds – nothing dried out or skinflinty about it. The other bar is one that I’m trying for the first time, and I fear that it may be the chocolate version of a leprechaun suit. Dark chocolate with a nip of Jameson. It’s clearly aimed at tourists but I’m willing to give it a try in the name of science. Tasty, tasty science.

These two will be added to my vegan snack stockpile for my trip. It’s not that I doubt the chocolate-creation abilities of other countries or that I’m one of “those travellers” who demands food from home when abroad, but I do doubt my ability to translate ingredient lists in other languages. I can spot things like eggs and milk, but there are a whole other range of flavourings and additives that are much trickier to spot. Sure, I’m probably being over-cautions, but it’s my first trip overseas since becoming vegan and I’m erring a little on the safe side. These should hit the spot nicely!

Vegan MoFo day 25! Supply run.

I can’t believe that VeganMoFo is 25 days in! It has been a really fun month so far and I’ve hugely enjoyed reading everyone’s blogs and getting inspiration for all sorts of delicious dishes.

So this evening I did a quick snack attack run. We’re off on holiday this weekend, so my final MoFo posts will be from a warmer and drier location than my current one! The flight isn’t long enough for a meal to be included but it’s early in the morning and some form of snackage will most certainly be required in case I don’t have any decent breakfast options (…and paying a fiver for two pieces of droopy white toast with a scrape of jam is not a decent option, in honesty).

I’ve been scoping out our travel destinations and I’m very hopeful that I’ll eat pretty well. When I first started eating a vegan diet I always said that I could “just be vegetarian” on holiday, but I’m actually looking forward to sticking with my vegan ways. I guess I’ve become more comfortable and more confident with my decision over the last few months – plus vegan food is yum!

The first of the first snack bag was assembled this evening. This is for the airport and flight over (which means a 3.30am wake up call for a 6.30am flight. Argh) as from my previous experience the vast majority of airport breakfast options are egg and pig heavy, and there’s a distinct lack of non-dairy milk. Planning ahead is the key to avoiding belly rumbles and I’ve learned well from JoJo‘s post about travel snacks this month!

snacky

 

The current pile starts with a bag of sweet and salt popcorn. I’ve not had this flavour before but I like sweet and salt together, so I reckon I’m pretty safe. In truth, there was also a bag of the spicy and sweet, but that accidently got eaten on the way home. Delicious stuff and not hot spicy but more delicious-medley-of-warm-flavours spicy. Beside that is a pack of chicken that isn’t chicken. It may look like some sort of fancy jerky, but it’s made from tofu. In front is one of my many foodie downfalls. Chocolate and coconut covered rice cakes. These may resemble chocolate covered coasters but they’re insanely tasty and rather more-ish. It’s going to take some serious willpower not to crack into the packet before getting to the airport! I’ll be expanding on these tomorrow evening, as I’m guaranteed that someone I’m travelling with will think that my snacks look better than the rubbish ready made and over-chilled omni sandwiches when they’re over the ocean. I only wish that there existed such a thing as single serving nut butter packets in this part of the world…

I’m going to bring my (empty) bobble bottle with me as well, and give someone at a concession stand puppydog eyes until they fill it for me.

Right, time for some sleep. I still have a horrible cold and really want to kick it in the pants before the weekend.

Beer and sympathy

First post using the smart phone app, so bear with me!

I have been feeling a bit unwell for the last couple of days and today I must admit that I am just a little ill. Blargh. I still went to work today – the downside of freelance work – but dosed myself with Panadol hot lemon and cough syrup. Deeply attractive stuff.

On the way to the tram we passed the beer tents of Oktoberfest and my better half suggested we stop for sustenance, which would mean not having to worry about dinner later. I was easily swayed.

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Thanks to strict German purity laws with regard brewing, everything at the festival is vegan. In terms of beer, at least. The food was distinctly not veggie friendly and I was left with a bowl of fried potatoes and onions, liberally doused in mustard. On the up side, it was pretty tasty and the beer was delicious – its the Erdinger Oktoberfest brew which i try to get a couple of pints of every year in the brief window that it’s available.

Right, am already in pajamas so going to attempt an early night and hopefully beat this cold into submission. I refuse to be sick for my upcoming holiday!

Bonus MoFo

I meant to take some photos of this evening’s dinner, but it got scoffed before I remembered the camera. Nothing too fancy though. Brown rice, broccoli and crispy fried tofu in panko, with curry sauce and homemade chilli jam for dipping. Delicious, if not entirely attractive looking. It has been a crazy busy day – we’re trying to spend part of every weekend getting rid of “stuff” so that moving house later in the year is less of a pain in the bits. I even recycled three years worth of college notes today, which I was expecting to be a bit wibbly-enducing but it turned out to be very cathartic.

I also got a lovely, lovely email from the VeganMoFo team last night to say that a hamper of Vegusto products would be winging its way to me shortly, which I’m delighted about. I haven’t been vegan long, and one of the biggest achievements of my “career” to date has been adjusting to non-dairy cheese. Some taste like bath sponge. Some are more like play doh. I had really given up on all of them, apart from nooch, until I found Vegusto. It’s really hard to get around here – I manage to get a pack about every two months, and it’s always the no-muh melty, which gets rationed out for pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches. Now I’ll have the chance to try a whole range of their products – I’m so excited! I have the perfect showcase recipe in mind…

 

VeganMoFo Day 22 – Spice World

One of the main reasons that my top five pantry items post had no herbs or spices is that I couldn’t pick just one. Physically impossible. I’ve expanded my collection hugely over the last few years, particularly as I set myself the challenge of learning to make curry from scratch instead of using ready made curry pastes (though I still use these – they’re awesome for a fast dinner).

During the summer, having been assaulted once too often by jars and bags falling out of my cupboard, and having discovered that I had not one but three containers of ground cinnamon,  I decided that something needed to change. So I cleared out the dreaded junk drawer and turned it into my spice rack.

spice drawer

Best decision I’ve made in years. Everything in jars that fit nicely in the drawer and hold a full Asian market sized bag of most herbs and spices. Everything is visible at a glance. The majority of the jars, which originally contained one of my favourite brands of jam, are recycled and look pretty pretty. The remaining few were donated to me by a friend who was having a clear out, in exchange for a jar of my apple butter.

It’s a rather large collection, but it’s not all of it. This little caddy is also filled with herbs and spices and generally lives on the worktop. Some of these aren’t used often (cayenne pepper) or only come in either very small bags (40g) or very large ones (5kg) (like oregano) or are things that need to be used quickly (most dried herbs).

caddy

My running total then!

In the caddy I have black peppercorns (use quickly), dried oregano (use quickly, bag size issue), herbes de Provence (same as oregano), cayenne pepper (don’t use often), green cardamom (don’t use often), and star anise (end of a big bag).

Working left to right, front to back in the drawer, we have…

Garlic granules, ground fenugreek, ground coriander, onion granules, ground ginger, a tin of whole nutmegs and a little yellow tub of asfoetida. These get used quite a lot, particularly if I’m going through a curry kick.

Next row there’s ground cinnamon, whole cumin, bay leaves (from my parent’s bay tree!), turmeric, and a giant (half kilo) tin of smoked paprika. These get used a lot making Mexican, Tex-Mex or Southern food. I get through a lot of cinnamon in baking and preserving as well.

Next back there’s whole fenugreek, garam masala, Chinese five spice blend, ground cloves and a small tin of mixed spice. These are largely used in curries, but the cloves and mixed spice also get brought out for baking – especially anything involving apples like crumble or pie. The couple of unlabeled jars have a bbq rub and “steak” spice blends in them, made by a friend of mine.

There’s actually another row of jars behind the visible rows, in the same format. These are whole yellow mustard seeds, kala namak (black salt, which I’ve yet to play with) dried chilli flakes, dried (English) mustard, a small jar of ground allspice (as opposed to mixed spice) and (Indian) curry masala.

Some jars get used very regularly (oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, nutmeg, cumin, bay); some are the less used but critical ingredients for certain dishes (asafoetida, fenugreek, dry mustard, star anise) and even fewer are largely around for when I’ve run out of something, or it’s late and I need “pantry dinner” or when it’s close to payday and I’ve moths and gum in my purse (dried chilli flakes, onion and garlic granules, ground ginger).

I find that I reach for the drawer almost every day and I’ve not had a “smashed in head by falling tin of paprika” or a “breakable item of kitchen kit smashed by jar escaping from press” incident since I moved them down from the press. For the record, I’m currently down a sugar bowl, two Wedgewood plates, two measuring cups (on different occasions), the rim of a kilner jar, a nice water glass and one of my favourite mugs thanks to several years of divebombing spice jars.

Anyone else have creative storage for spices? Any herb or spice that you couldn’t live without or that makes you want to run a mile?

Friday Falafel!

This is rather late, but the last couple of days have gone crazy due to real life stuff (friend breaking up with girlfriend, spending lots of time at our house). Yesterday the weather also picked up quite a bit, which is awesome as I was thoroughly depressed by the darkness and rain that we’ve had all week.

Down by the Royal Canal there’s a pop up market on Thursdays and Fridays. It’s strictly a food stall thing, which I was a bit disappointed with at first – I think I’d been dreaming of big loaves of sourdough. While it’s mostly a carnivore’s dream, there are some really solid vegan options. These two stands are my favourite…

market

The one named Falafel wrap sells great falafel. The one beside it sells baked potatoes with a variety of fillings. Most are omni, but they do a great Moroccan spiced chickpea stew thingie that they pour on top (no butter, no cheese). It’s really tasty and hugely filling.

The falafel stall sells three options. A wrap, which involves flatbread spread with hummus and chilli sauce, with three smushed falafels and salad. The other options are a falafel plate or a meze plate. My heart entirely belongs to the falafel plate.

falafel

Four big homemade falafels, made on the spot by a very nice man. (I, unsurprisingly, call him The Falafel Man) Underneath those delicious pucks of joy is half a large flatbread and some iceberg and tomatoes. Top row of compartments has (on the left) a kind of red cabbage coleslaw that comes naked, i.e. with no mayo or dressing. Next is fresh parsley chopped up with garlic and a little lemon juice. Next is a big scoop each of homemade baba ghanoush and hummus, all topped with some pickled hot peppers.

This plate is a little bit of heaven for me. I could eat the baba and hummus til they came out my ears. The falafel are hot and crispy and substantial, though not overly salted like many I’ve tried. The salads aren’t the fanciest, but they balance everything out nicely. My only complaints about this plate are that the flatbread isn’t hot (boo!) and that it comes in a styrofoam container with plastic cutlery.

Next time I get it, I’ll be able to skip the cutlery now that I have my shiny bamboo to go ware. I’m a little hesitant to wave a reuseable lunch box under his nose for my own portion though, despite having serious issues with the packaging of choice. Any suggestions as to the best ways to broach the “styrofoam is evil” topic, without calling styrofoam “evil”? Should I just “get over it” given that I have this maybe once a month? Should I just get the damn wrap, which is packaged in paper?

A big part of the reason I became vegan is because of the environmental impact. I recycle like a woman possessed. I only use eco cleaning products. I use public transport as much as possible. I turn off light switches and compost and all that jazz. At this point, lunch is my biggest failure when it comes to recycling (and type 5 plastic, but that’s another rant). I understand that my styrofoam plate is a drop in the ocean compared to all the people queuing up for pulled pork rolls served in plastic boxes with plastic cutlery, but it’s one I’m interested in starting a conversation on.