Here we are again.

Once more I find myself guiltily apologising to no one in particular about my lack of activity on this sweet little blog of mine. A quick swatch of my last post notified me that it was written on September 8th 2014.

Didn’t seem like too long ago, right? WRONG.

September is not, as I though, ‘just a few months ago’. It is in fact SIX MONTHS AGO. It’s partly my own fault- I’m of the opinion that it was only New Year a few weeks ago. I’m still bearing the brunt of holiday weight and have been telling myself it’s OK, it’s not like I’ve had THAT much time to recover. Turns out I have.

I’d actually written a lengthier post that I was going to drop, detailing my whereabouts the last few months and why, when it comes to making myself write for fun, I tend to fall apart like a bad sandwich. I thought it had autosaved. It hadn’t.

So here we are again.

The point of the last post, for fans of brevity, was that previous efforts at blogging have faltered because I tend to get distracted writing about just one thing. I loved blogging about film at uni, back in 2009 when I still had to explain that it was short for ‘weblog’. When I graduated, I stopped, because quite simply my cinema habits had dried up in the last dying light of my degree.

When I rebooted this bad boy, I was committed to being vegan for a while. I tried hard, I really did. This was great for keeping myself on track, sharing recipes, making admittances to finding things hard and how I resolved cravings for cheese (at original time of writing, nothing. Now, Violife. Violife is queen). Once I started juggling a Masters degree with two jobs, I had less time to cook things from scratch and, yes, fell off the plant based wagon on occasion.I was tired of feeling guilty about it, and foodie things were taking up less of my time, so I stopped.

That’s basically what was a 600 word apology condensed into two paragraphs. The final thought, then. Why now? Why kick start a dormant blog? I believe the answer lies in the previous paragraph. “Masters degree”. I’m hurtling towards the end of my second trimester. The D-word is becoming a very real threat (starts with D, rhymes with shmissertation, don’t say it out loud). I want to be a good student and say I’m casually picking up my blogging habit because I’m studying journalism and it’s good to write.

This is partly true. But, like all of my assignments this year, it’s split 30/70, and it’s 30%. The other 70%?

I have five assignments due in the next month. Don’t say I don’t know how to do work avoidance properly.

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…!

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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.

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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!

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May or may not have signed a copy at the SWG3 launch party and left it lying. Clue: may have.

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!

There was also a really engaging Q&A afterwards with director Liz Marshall, which made the film's impact more hard hitting and tangible.

There was also a really engaging Q&A afterwards with director Liz Marshall, which made the film’s impact more hard hitting and tangible.

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!

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SO THESE ARE THE GREATEST THINGS EVER, EVEEERRR.

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Chipotle and chickpea falafel bean and bean stew- my post-car buying celebratory dinner. Daaaaayum.

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Got in from work one random weekday evening and there was nothing to put on my toast, so I made some houmous. Because why not.

It’s been unnaturally warm recently in bonnie Scotland- we’ve actually had something resembling a summer and rain has, thankfully, been pretty minimal. I’ve missed out on alot of it so far thanks to working full time- not only have I been working in an office, but an editing room within an office. The only window I had looked onto the inside of the building. Hardly the frolicking and soft focus laughs that cider adverts would have us believe make up a Scottish summer.

On Friday, I finished up in my full time job and decided it was time to take advantage. My mum and dad are away touring the Highlands and islands for their 30th anniversary, leaving me with a car to myself. The thing I love most about Scotland is how little time it takes to get anywhere, and the boy and I thought we’d take advantage. Sunday was our 18 month-aversary and since we’ve both got some holiday time to use, we figured a road trip was in order.

We trawled Abandoned Scotland looking for spooky castles to go exploring, and discovered the relatively nearby Buchanan Castle in Stirlingshire. I only passed my test in January, and thanks to limited car access don’t have a huge amount of long-distance experience. A few wrong turns later, we ditched the castle idea and found ourselves in the tiny village of Luss, upon the beautiful shores of Loch Lomond– not a bad trade off, I’d say!

The glorious weather held up for the whole day, and I decided it merited a treat. In hot weather nothing beats a cold ice-cream, but for obvious reasons it’s not vegan friendly. Or, indeed, waistline friendly. There was only one thing for it- I had to go DIY. I’d stocked up on a tonne of silken tofu from ASDA’s reduced section, with packs going for a mere 30p each. I’d wasted one with an utterly boggin’ raspberry/coconut concoction that was fit only for the bin, and had to make this one count. Having used firm tofu in savoury foods, I was a teensy bit apprehensive about using it to make something sweet.

It didn’t take much of a search to find some easy silken tofu recipes- and almost all of them were for dessert shaped dishes. Alot of them were really simple, and the same ingredients kept cropping up in the most basic recipes. The best part? All of them were within reach.

After making my peanut butter/chocolate/banana milkshake to boost my flagging energy when I had the flu, I figured it couldn’t be that hard to adapt this to a frozen treat. The result was pretty goddamn delicious- the only difference I’d make would be to make it earlier in the day so I could stir it more continuously, rather than leave it to freeze overnight.

Silken Tofu Vegan ‘Ice Cream’

  • 2 ripe bananas, cut into chunks
  • 1 block of silken tofu
  • Cocoa or chocolate powder 
  • 1 tbsp of hazelnut butter (optional but super tasty… the hazelnut gives it a kinda Nutella-like taste)

Put the chopped bananas, silken tofu, chocolate powder and hazelnut butter in a bowl and give it a quick stir to combine it all.

Blend it with a hand blender until all ingredients are properly combined and you’ve got a nice smooth texture.

Pour into a container and pop it in the freezer. Check it every couple of hours and give it a stir so that it doesn’t freeze into one massive block.

When it’s ready to serve, leave it out for a couple of minutes to thaw slightly and serve up with fresh raspberries, strawberries or just on its own.

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.

This image has nothing to do with the rest of the post, except that I'd taken it on a stroll around Glasgow Green and kinda liked it.

This image has nothing to do with the rest of the post, except that I’d taken it on a stroll around Glasgow Green and kinda liked it.

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…

While I was never one for cooking, I used to bake all the time. Whether it was a birthday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Thursday… there was something about the progress I enjoyed, and always went down a treat. It helped when I couldn’t think of what to get someone, and everyone appreciates home made cake, right?

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I’d tried my hand at gluten free baking before, and it turned out pretty well- my mum was having some friends round at Christmas time and I had various intolerances to work with. There wasn’t a crumb left, but thankfully I’d used some of my excess batter to make cupcakes.

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I made my dad cookies and a birthday cake, with two different kinds of frosting. For my boyfriend’s birthday I’d sprung for two tickets to see The Cure in London, so in order to save pennies I made Valentine’s Day muffins. If there was an occasion, I would bake for it, I guess is my point.

Vegan baking should’ve been a relatively easy transition, but there was a reason why baking was always a cheap alternative: I pretty much had all of the staples at home anyway. I just had to add embellishments. Vegan baking meant buying in a whole load of new ingredients, and from the offset it seemed like it could be pretty costly. Alot of cake recipes seemed pretty oil-heavy too, which I wasn’t keen on.

When my best gal Claire asked folks to bring along food-shaped treats for Sheri‘s surprise birthday, I was a little stumped. Surely most folk’s instincts would be to bring sweet thangs? Should I just bring hummus? Does anyone like ‘that guy’?

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After agonising over some recipes I’d printed off, it hit me. I’d pretty much perfected my ol’ brownie recipe. I’d always managed to nail the crust on top/chewy on the inside ratio. Adapting it to a raw, vegan recipe was just crazy enough to work. I’d also found a three-layer cake recipe which I, umm, borrowed my idea for a base from. Not only that but it tasted exactly like a Nakd Cashew Cookie bar, meaning I’ve stumbled upon a way of saving myself a fortune. A little late and unsurprising, really- the Nakd bars have all of two ingredients. Why I never thought that before, I dunno.

These aren't the vegan brownies- they were gone so fast I didn't manage to get a picture. Which can only be a good complaint, no?

These aren’t the vegan brownies- they were gone so fast I didn’t manage to get a picture. Which can only be a good complaint, no?

I wasn’t sure about flavour combos: when making brownies before, I’d tossed in some cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. But I’d also tossed in eggs and milk. Without this, or actually baking the recipe, the dark chocolate taste was pretty strong. Then I remembered I had some peanut butter to use up and raspberries are in season, so PB&J it was. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.

PB&J Raw Vegan Brownies

For the base: 

100g(ish) dates

150g cashews

Desiccated coconut (optional, but damn tasty)

1 tbsp peanut butter

For the Brownies:

150g coconut oil

150g cocoa powder

1 punnet of raspberries

2 tbsps peanut butter (or however much you want, really)

100g(ish) dates (I could’ve used more than I did, but I’d only bought one packet so…)

  • Soak the dates and cashews in some warm water for at least 20 minutes to soften them a wee bit (in separate bowls, that is).
  • Chop the dates to make it easier to blitz, and mix them with the cashews and coconut. Give it a good seeing to with a hand blender- any blender is fine, but I only have a hand blender, and it’s easier to gauge consistency.
  • Stir in the peanut butter to retain its crunchiness, mix well and spread the whole lot in a tray. Put it in the fridge or freezer until it sets. Mine didn’t set properly because I added the chocolate mix too quickly, so don’t rush it.
  • Put some hot water in a bowl, and put your coconut oil in a jug. Put the jug in the bowl until the oil has completely melted, or it’ll be weird and lumpy.
  • Put the cocoa powder in a bowl with the dates, and add the coconut oil. Give them a quick blend until they’re all nicely mixed.
  • Toss in the raspberries and peanut butter and blend until they’re as smooth as you like.
  • I tossed the raspberries in some sugar before adding a couple of teaspoons in. If it’s a wee bit on the bitter side, vanilla extract or liquid sweetener will sort that right oot.
  • Spread on top of the (hopefully now set) cashew base and leave in the fridge until firm. Sprinkle some icing sugar over the top, cut it into squares and try not to eat the whole goddamn tray.

As I said before, I didn’t leave my base to set for long enough. It wasn’t a total disaster as I flipped the brownies and claimed it was frosting, but I’ll definitely leave it longer next time- I just didn’t leave myself enough time to do so.