Experimenting with vegan

Since Beyoncé published pictures of her and her hubby Jay Z’s 22 day vegan challenge just before Christmas veganism has seen a rise in popularity. 

Apparently she enjoyed it so much that she has started it again. It would appear she isn’t alone either, with more and more people wanting to try either going vegan or vegetarian for a couple of days a week.

Campaigns such as Meat Free Monday have taken off after research showed that having a vegetarian diet at least one day a week comes with health benefits.

Eager to feel these health benefits after a pretty extravagant weekend in London (which put significant stress on my back balance as well!) I decided to try out some vegan recipes.

I could never be vegetarian – I love meat too much – so for me it wasn’t an ethical change, it was purely to see if the health benefits the expert’s claim you feel are true.

It was a lot easier to avoid meat than I thought, especially at tea time. Dinner time was when I struggled though as I usually have salads so at first it was quite tricky to give up my favourite salmon salads and Nando’s chicken. But I stocked up on tofu and made a really tasty broad bean, bean sprout, cucumber and spring onion salad which was very tasty.

After a week I did start to feel the benefits which I was surprised at. I felt full of energy and generally less sluggish on a morning which was great and I found that I hadn’t really missed red meat all that much. Plus, I saved money from not buying chicken as well which was an added bonus.

Here are two examples of vegan dishes I made for tea:

The first is Mediterranean veg and bean mash.
I used:
– aubergine
– courgette
– pepper
– mushrooms
– artichoke
– haricot beans
– vegetable stock
– garlic

Whilst the vegetables are roasting, boil a tin of haricot beans in some vegetable stock with the garlic and simmer for about 10 minutes. When it starts to thicken, take the beans off the heat and mash until you’ve got a consistency you like and voila – a simple, really tasty and surprisingly filling tea.

Vegan Mediterranean veg and bean mash

Vegan Mediterranean veg and bean mash

The second was my favourite of the week – apricot and orange baked quinoa with roasted vegetables.

See above for the roasted veggies recipe, but you can add whatever you want to roast and whatever flavouring you fancy.
I’m a big fan of quinoa (or keen-wa as my flatmate recently told me it was pronounced) but I had never baked it before.
Add the quinoa to a casserole dish with the juice of one orange, fresh apricots and vegetable stock. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes, stirring once in between.

Baked quinoa with apricot and roasted veg

Baked quinoa with apricot and roasted veg

And there you have it – two really simple, tasty and healthy meals made in less than 30 minutes.
I liked the results and the new tasty dishes I had tried so much that I’m trying out more this week. I’ll post my new recipes as the week goes on.

If you’ve got any vegan/vegetarian recipes you think I should try let me know.

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Spicy black bean soup

I’ve been waiting all week to try  this spicy black bean soup I found on the meat free Monday website.

It didn’t disappoint that’s for sure.

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I did slightly adapt the recipe on the website though, substituting some ingredients which I didn’t have for others.

Here is what I used for my slightly adapted version of the recipe:
– dash of olive oil
– 1 red onion, chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 tablespoon cumin
– 1 teaspoon oregano
– black pepper to season
– 1 tin chopped toms
– 300g black beans
– 2 veg stock cubes
– 1 green chilli, finely chopped

What I did:
– Start by heating the oil and adding the onions, garlic and cumin until soft.
– Once softened add the rest of the ingredients and simmer gradually for 30mins.
– Depending on whether you like a smooth or chunky soup, use a hand blender to finish off the soup and voila, it’s done!

I topped mine with some rocket but the recipe on the website has loads of tasty suggestions.

The only down side was that the beans needed to be soaked in water for eight to 12 hours before you could cook them – but in my opinion it was definitely worth it.

Happy meat free Monday! If you have any vegetarian recipes you think I should try comment below and I’ll give them a go.

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Meat free Monday

Every Monday morning when I get in to work my Twitter feed is scattered with #meatfreeMonday Tweets.
Intrigued, I decided to check it out.

As a devoted meat eater I personally think I would struggle to be vegetarian but this initiative, of going meat free for one day a week, seemed like it could be doable and with added health benefits I decided to give it a go.

Not only that, but the campaign is dedicated to helping the planet by reducing carbon emissions of meat production.

I’ve often heard that too much red meat is bad for you yet too little can leave your iron stores depleted meaning you are left feeling tired with little energy. It’s a tough balancing act but according to Oxford University’s department of public health eating meat a maximum of three times a week could prevent an astounding 31,000 people dying from heart disease.

Added incentives to join Meat Free Monday include the cost. By skipping your daily meat one day a week you could save some pennies as meat free alternatives are noticeably cheaper – an ideal time to save money with the festive season ahead.
And of course there are the animals to consider as well.

With all that in mind, I checked out the McCartney’s website and my meat free Monday began.

My meals today were far from inventive but were more quick and easy due to being back at work after a week off and a training session to cram in – but I’m looking forward to trying out some new and exciting recipes, many of which can be found on the website, next week.

So today, I had:
Breakfast: Porridge with blueberries
Morning snack: banana and raisins
Lunch: Cottage cheese salad
Afternoon snack: carrot sticks and rice pudding
Dinner: Spinach, mushroom and tomato omelette with vegetables

The recipe I’m going to be trying next week is Deep Dark Black Bean Soup. Check it out here and I’ll post how I got on with making it next week.

Have you tried meat free Monday? Have you felt any health/bank balance benefits? Comment below and let me know 🙂