After a bad week and a good week I was a little worried how this one was going to go. I thought they might alternate and I’d have to ride this one out and wait for next Monday. As it turns out, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. Like the preamble to bigger and more exciting things: necessary, full of potential but not quite there yet.
When I first started this blog, I threw myself into it much in the same way as I did veganism: headfirst and with aplomb. I was super smug with myself when I posted more than one article per week. Even though I was working full time, I still found time to write. Armed with determination, I was convinced I wouldn’t abandon this blog like I had so many others.
Cut to a few months later and… yeah. Not so frequent with the blogging. To be fair, alot’s changed in that time. I had planned on writing a big catch up post, but sitting thinking about how much has happened is giving me crampy fingers already.
I’ve started a new job, which is pretty sweet. I spent alot of last year ‘in between jobs’, and when I did work it was in sound production. I really didn’t enjoy it, and dreamed of doing something more… well, I hate to lazily toss in ‘creative’, but yeah. I was lucky that my current job started a mere week after my last one, so I had a cheeky week of downtime then it was back to it again. Since my work is in the back of beyond, in deepest Ayrshire. I’m now a car owner- it only took me six months after passing my test…!
My other big change was getting accepted into uni. My last course didn’t qualify me for much apart from working in technical film production, so after months of endless failed applications I figured I would give education another bash. As of next week I’ll be studying for the MA Creative and Cultural Business at Glasgow Caledonian uni and, even better, I can still work around it.
Since losing our old dog Eddie last year, the house has been a bit empty. Without the sound of tippy tappy feet creeping about looking for cuddles and treats it just felt like there was a huge void. Not anymore! We adopted another lhasa apso in the form of Lemmy, and he’s settled in like he’s always been here. There’s something about having a pet that brings so much happiness and energy to a house. Plus, they’re pretty much the best little confidantes.
Blogging has been great for getting into writing again, and so have my posts for Scotcampus. However, my dreams of being an actual, publish writer were actualised with the creation of IN BLOOM- a creative snapshot of youth culture in Glasgow and beyond. It’s quite surreal seeing my name in real, physical print. I’ve been showing off my copy to anyone who’ll listen- I’ve never spellchecked anything so thoroughly in my life and I’m actually pretty proud of it. You can support local culture and read more about it here!
Last month the boy and I also went to see a pretty awesome/heartbreaking piece of film at favourite vegan haunt, Stereo. The Ghosts in Our Machine documents photographer Jo-Ann McArthur and her gut-wrenching journey as she exposes the animal face behind the food and entertainment industries. It was a pretty difficult watch, but not as in-your-face traumatic as alot of animal rights films. There are plenty of beautiful scenes as Joanne visits a friend who runs a farm sanctuary, rescuing animals deemed unfit for ‘purpose’ and giving them a chance at a life. If you’ve never seen an animal rights film, this is a really great, accessible start.
Stereo also put on a free buffet, which was pretty amazing. I’ve never seen people dive upon a table of food so fast- well seeing we’re never really given that much of an option!
Sooo… I think that’s me pretty much caught up (on everything that I can remember for now, anyway!). In between everything else I’ve also been cooking ALOT. The beauty of my work being pretty far out from anything convenient means that I’m making more of an effort to make proper dinners and take leftovers for lunch. I’ve also been working hard to perfect the recipe for vegan macaroni cheese. It’s been a
hard slog delicious mission so far and I reckon I’ve just about cracked it. Now I’m all about tarting it up- after all, the best part of mastering a basic recipe is breaking the rules and chucking in whatever takes your fancy. Especially now we’re fast approaching autumn- my FAVOURITE season. Perfect time for stodgy comfort food to keep out the chill!
I’ve got into full on rambling mode now, so I’ll wrap it up here. Here’s some foodie type pictures, because they’ve been clogging up my phone and I need to delete them so I can refill it with doggy photo spam. If I can remember the recipes, I’ll post them soon. And definitely not leave it so long in between blogs again!
So it’s been quiet on the blogging front for me lately, although with good cause: I’m finishing up in work this week and there’s a chaotic push to get everything done. I’ve been working with a visual arts charity, making short films, writing blogs, helping to manage social media and, apparently, not bothering to organise the mountains of material I have into date order. Blarg.
I’m only on a four month contract so I’ve also been frantically applying for jobs in my spare time- I know, the fun never ends, right? I’ve written various drafts of cover letters so frequently that I’m worried I’ll start sleepwalking and reciting them aloud like a modern day postgraduate somnambulist.
In between all of that I’ve also been doing some guest writing (keep your ears to the ground for the launch of IN BLOOM– it’s gonna be pretty special, and I’m not just saying that through bias) and taking a week off work unexpectedly to do nothing but paint my garden fence and attempt jogging. I know that taking a week off seems counteractive to all of the everything that needs doing, but I had the days to use up and I was pretty much told to take it. Fair ‘nuff.
So, what to do for fun in between times? Well, catch up with pals and get a good scran and chat in over a cider or two. While many of Glasgow’s new restaurants are including more and more non-meaty options, the choice of all-vegan or vegetarian joints is still pretty thin on the ground. Presumably because everyone’s losing their shit over burgers and pulled pork. Hey, I’m not judging, after our trip to Stereo I even offered to accompany the boy to one of yon burger places. As long as their chips and side salad are OK, that is.
In any case, finding somewhere I can peruse an entire menu without fear is always a relief. In fact, it’s downright overwhelming. I’m so terrible at making decisions that even when I go somewhere like this, I will inevitably end up ordering a burger of sorts. On the many occasions I’ve visited The 13th Note before, I’ve went straight for sweet falafel-y goodness because I know I like it.
But on this particular occasion, I was feeling bold. I’d had a good day in work, successfully bagged a funding application and was having a decent hair day. You could hear the 70’s funk soundtrack playing behind me as I strutted… well, around the corner from my work in the Trongate round to the Note. I figured that if I was going to stray from my usual dinner choices, this would be the place to do it- at least they would do it well.
After being presented with a shiny new menu, I was faced with an important decision- almost too many. Our poor waitress didn’t get an order out of me until her third trip over to our table. My self-imposed burger ban had me scanning frantically for anything else that I knew I liked. I like trying new things and all, but baby steps- I like a little something familiar. In lieu of falafel, I went for a twist on that other standard veggie staple- risotto.
However, this wasn’t just risotto, it was lemongrass and ginger risotto cakes with a Thai green curry sauce. I’m never sure if I like Thai green curry- it’s a bit too fragrant and watery for me, and not nearly punchy enough. I needn’t have worried- this was properly creamy, without being heavy, and it worked really well with the delicate flavours of the risotto cakes. The cakes were pretty big too and- Hallelujah chorus- there was more than enough sauce to cover them. I didn’t even have to add any from the table, or ask for any extra.
In fact, it also came with an enormous flatbread- which at first I didn’t eat because I thought it was a napkin, oops- which I used to mop up the saucy remains. Classy, right. The good thing about the Note is that there’s no sort of pretence, it’s authentically grungey without being made to look like it was styled that way (i.e. it doesn’t look like a G1 attempt at a grunge bar)- therefore it’s perfectly OK to use a flatbread as both a tortilla and sauce scooper. Judgeth me not.
The portion size was enough that I felt full without being overloaded, as is often the case with a burger- usually in part due to the roll, coupled with chips, combined with deep carb-laden regret. Probably helped that it was a gluten-free option, too. I still didn’t have room for a pudding, but I didn’t feel so full that I should be asking bus passengers to give up their seats for me.
For the wary, put your minds at ease- the menu clearly states that all items are vegan, except those marked ‘vegetarian’, and all vegan and non-vegan items are stored and prepared separately. While I’m not overly fussed about that kind of cross-contamination, a lot of people are, and I dug that they made a point of saying so.
The whole experience reinforced again to me that changing lifestyle is all about trying new things, and opening up to new tastes and experiences. For me, I like new things as long as there’s a little bit of assurance. A safety net, if you will. But baby steps are better than no steps at all. Vegan or vegetarian diets shouldn’t just be about “eating the same but replacing the meat”- although don’t get me wrong, I still do that if I’m feeling lazy. It’s about seeing what you like outwith the usual. Otherwise, what’s the point?
For the size of it, this was a pretty bargainous find too- my dinner clocked in at a wallet friendly £7.75, which was very welcome mid-month. I’m already looking forward to trying out the rest- maybe on a Saturday so I can partake in a soya milk White Russian too. At time of writing it’s the only place I’ve found one so far, but I’d be more than willing to be proved wrong…
I seem to get ill at annoying times of year. I can go all winter without as much as a sniffle, while everyone around me drops like flies. Sure, I might get stuck at Phase One: The Blocked Sinus for weeks at a time, but it never develops any further. I’m either in the very early stages or none at all. I drag myself through freezing cold, ice and rain to work and other places (I’m always extra pious when I walk to the gym in winter time).
But by the time summer rolls around, it hits me. The bugs everyone else has shed along with winter coats somehow find me. It sucks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the biggest fan of the sun- we get so little of it here that I feel guilty for admitting that- but I like to at least go a lunchtime stroll. Or start running, like I keep threatening to. Instead, I’m currently writing to you surrounded by discarded hankies and Lemsip capsules.
After my recent bout of ill health, I admit I fell off the vegan wagon a little. I’d sworn off all things non-planty after Easter, but before eating my eggs. Whoops. I was feeling pretty crappy when disaster struck. My Hello Kitty shaped egg toppled from a high shelf in my cupboard and got decapitated. I couldn’t leave her like that. Plus I was feeling pretty crappy. Not to say that it’s an excuse: it’s like with any transition, though. You trip up, make mistakes. Show me someone on a diet who’s never guiltily nibbled a biscuit. All that happens is that you pick yourself back up again.
In any case, I was determined to get back on track, but with ill health came a delay in exercise. I know, boo, hiss. I’m racking up the black marks all over the joint here. So I skipped a week of classes to let antibiotics work their magic, and over the weekend picked up a nasty cold. Missing classes is something I don’t want to make a habit of- despite my hesitation in the beginning, I now enjoy them. I find any form of exercise a great way to clear my head, and classes give me structure. I need them as opposed to the gym: if someone isn’t telling me what to do, I will sit on a spin cycle and read (and believe me, I’m speaking from experience).
My week of indulgence last week culminated in a trip to the pre-opening of Usha’s, a new vegan and vegetarian Indian restaurant on Byres Road. The place was packed, and the banter was flowing… as was the free champagne. It was a great evening, and my first experience of meeting up with other bloggers- but that’s a post unto itself. My thumping head the next day ruined my good intentions of double class Sundays and instead eased in the dawn of the cold.
So here I am feeling lethargic, snuffly, low on energy and on a bit of a downer about my general health and fitness. What’s a girl to do in such a situation? Make a pick me up, of course. And what better way to do so than with something not only healthy, but a wee bit on the naughty side too. I’d read countless peanut butter recipes, and felt like a big ol’ glass of smoothie would be a good idea. I also wanted to incorporate some fruit and a teeny bit of sweetness. The results weren’t too shabby- for a first attempt, anyway!
Peanut Butter, Banana and Chocolate Smoothie
- 2 tablespoons of smooth, no added sugar peanut butter (remember and check its got palm oil from a reputable source too- Whole Earth are a good brand and their peanut butter is pretty damn guid)
- One ripe banana (I like ’em ripe because they’re sweeter. I hate the taste of green)
- 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
- 250 mls of non dairy milk (I used sweetened almond milk, because it was all I had)
- A sprinkle of cinnamon
Slice up the banana into smallish chunks and put it in a pan. Add the peanut butter, cocoa powder, cinnamon and give it a mash with a fork.
Add the milk and blend it all together until smooth. That’s it. It’s THAT easy.
I think I’d like to make this again but play around with the consistency. For a start, I added a pinch of salt to bring out the chocolate flavour but with the peanut butter, this wasn’t necessary. I also think I added a wee bit too much peanut butter- I know, I never thought I’d say so too.
The sweetened almond milk worked well; unsweetened might have been a bit too blarg. I’d also make a point of picking up some agave syrup, for some added sweetness to counteract the peanut butter and bitterness from dark chocolate cocoa powder.
Still, it was a decent stab at a first attempt and it lifted my mood and energy… until about an hour ago. I’m now back in bed, alternating between napping and watching Batman: The Animated Series. Because I’m ill, and I can do what I want.
The best thing about sick days as a child was comfort food. Not junk food, but stodgy nutrition to get me through the worst of whatever ailment was afflicting me that month (I got colds alot, as well as several nasty bouts of tonsilitis). Even as recently as last year, when I went through seemingly endless rounds of dental trauma, I wanted nothing more than Heinz tomato soup and sugary tea.
My favourite sick day comfort food though, was scrambled eggs. There was just something about it that made me instantly feel better. As much as I tried to avoid being an emotional eater, there was something about ill health that dragged me back into the habit. I hadn’t been feeling well recently- a combination of busy work times, being wiped out with a flu bug, a blocked ear, sinus problems and a late night trip to A&E. I’d also put my back out by over-exerting myself in exercise class and was generally feeling a bit bleurgh.
Sick days aren’t a luxury I can afford to take though: my current job contract is full time but temporary, and there are alot of big projects coming up that I’m taking part in. I needed something comforting, healthy and easy to make. I’d managed to make a decent attempt at roasted sweet potatoes and with mashed lentils and chickpeas- a combination which only took me about half an hour- but I wanted my sick day comfort food.
I’d read countless recipes for scrambled tofu, but admittedly I was a little sceptical. Cutting it into chunks and chucking it in a pan was easy enough. But I’d made scrambled eggs so often that I wasn’t sure how adapting the technique to something else would fare. As it turns out, it wasn’t any more difficult than using eggs and was all the more delicious for it. I also swapped buttery white toast for something a little more nutritious and tossed a load of vegetables in for good measure.
Alot of recipes were pretty fancy, but I wanted to stick to the basics. I figure if I get good at making vegan versions of current favourite recipes, I can afford to start experimenting further down the line. But for now I’m keeping it simple. I was also pretty hungry when I made it so I didn’t want much fuss- I just wanted it in my face.
Scrambled Tofu with Veggies and Mashed Avocado
- 1 block of Cauldron Original Tofu
- 1 wholegrain rye bagel
- Houmous (hummus?)- any kind will do but I used plain with sun dried tomatoes because, umm, it was £1.
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 a red pepper, chopped
- 1/2 an onion, chopped
- A handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced up
- A generous glug of oil
- A decent shoogle of spices: I used turmeric and paprika
Drain and press the tofu according to packet instructions. While it’s drying out, mash the avocado in a bowl with some salt, pepper and paprika.
Heat the oil in a pan and sautee the mushrooms, onion and pepper for a couple of minutes until they’re soft.
Once the tofu is pressed, crumble it into the pan along with the veggies and give it a right good stir, whisking it like you would scrambled eggs. Add in the turmeric and a little salt and pepper and leave it for about 8-10 minutes until it’s cooked through. Stir it every now and then to stir the oil and spices through it.
Toast the bagel and smear it with the houmous. Tip the tofu out and top it with the mashed avocado. BOOM- a mere 15-20 minutes and you’ve got a nutritious, vegetable and protein packed version of an old dairy favourite. Eat it right away because cold scrambled anything is gross.
I was really happy with the results- the tofu was nice and firm, and even when scrambled it held its texture better than regular ol’ eggs. You’d never even notice the difference.