Vegan Meaty Stuffed Bell Pepper Tacos

I love stuffed peppers! They’re such an easy way to get more vegetables into your diet and this recipe is super-healthy. This was an experiment in changing things up, because I usually make stuffed peppers with rice, but today I wanted something different, so I filled my peppers with a taco-style filling of soy mince (TVP), sweetcorn and salsa, and topped with my vegan no-blend guacamole but you could also add grated vegan cheese if that’s your thing (or if you have any… I don’t, because my local Sainsbury’s has mysteriously stopped selling all vegan cheese since the lockdown began). This recipe is also perfect for when you are craving tacos but don’t have any taco shells.

IMG_2107b

IMG_2108b

And finally, top with my easy no-blend avocado:

IMG_2113b

Ingredients:

  • 2 bell peppers
  • Half a cup of dried TVP (soy mince)
  • Half a cup of sweetcorn
  • A pinch of cilantro (leaf coriander)
  • A pinch (or three) of garlic
  • A big dollop of salsa (you can substitute this for some chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon or two of Piri Piri sauce or a teaspoon of any other hot sauce if you don’t have salsa)
  • A teaspoon of Vegemite (or another yeast extract)

 

Method:

  1. Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds.
  2. Reconstitute the TVP with boiling water and add the Vegemite, garlic and cilantro. Mix thoroughly to avoid any Vegemite lumps and leave the mixture to sit for 10 minutes to absorb the hot water fully.
  3. Drain off the excess water from the TVP and mix with the sweetcorn.
  4. Put the TVP and sweetcorn mixture into the halves of the bell peppers, taking care not to knock them over. If you have peppers that won’t lie very well in the oven, balance them carefully against each other for support.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes in a fan oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 6.
  6. Serve with chilled guacamole and salsa.

What’s your favourite thing to put in stuffed peppers? Let me know in the comments!

 

Home made avocado face mask

One of the most fun things I did while I was in the US was to make my own avocado face mask. It was SUPER moisturizing and all you need are these things:

  1. Half an avocado (per face).
  2. One sprig of fresh rosemary (finely chopped)
  3. A hand blender, smoothie maker, full-size blender or food processor (any of these will work).

Method:

Open your avocado by cutting around it in a circle from top to bottom then from bottom to top. Twist the avocado, and pull it apart. You should now have two neat halves of avocado (no drama).

Scoop out the insides from half the avocado (ignore that big seed in the middle). Put it in a bowl, if you’re using a hand blender, or put it straight into the jug/container for your blender/smoothie maker/food processor.

Make sure that rosemary is finely chopped. You don’t need much of the stem. When it’s all chopped up, there should be about a big teaspoon’s worth. If not, you may need to chop up another sprig. I use scissors to chop herbs because they don’t seem to cut as easily with knives. Add it to the blender.

Blend the ingredients until they have formed a smooth, creamy paste. If your avocado was unripe, it won’t turn creamy, in which case, add about a tablespoon of coconut milk and blend it again. Luckily, if you put it on your face before you realize (like I did… the hazards of inventing recipes I guess) you always have another half an avocado to work with. ūüėČ

 

Now it’s ready, apply to your face and leave for 10-15 minutes. I found cotton wool helped remove it. As well as eliminating dry areas, I also found this face mask really helped my skin with redness. This mask gets very messy, though, so make sure you’re not wearing anything that might stain with avocado, and I applied it with my fingers, and then I couldn’t take any pictures because the avocado got all over my nails so I couldn’t unlock my phone!!

 

 

Southern Fried Catfish and Hush Puppies

Has anyone tried this dish? I really want to make it, but I don’t know where to get catfish in the UK! It sounds very delicious.

And I could listen to this lady’s voice all day:

Grandma’s Blackberry Jam Recipe

So I made blackberry jam, and I canned it, which I’ll talk more about at the bottom of this post.

Blackberry jam.
Blackberry jam.

Here’s the recipe I used (it was very simple). This is a standard jam recipe but it’s vegan and gluten free:
1. Go pick some blackberries. I got 300g. Blackberries grow wild on brambles.
2. Weigh them (and wash them thoroughly, throw out any bad ones).
If you didn’t get many (you need at least 200g really – that does an 8oz jar of jam, when you subtract the stuff that will burn to the bottom, but for lots, preferably 500g-900g), freeze them and wait for more to ripen, then pick/wash more.
3. When you’re ready to make jam, weigh all your blackberries together.
4. Measure out the same amount of golden granulated sugar (it’s a 1:1 ratio blackberries to sugar). Maybe other sugar types also work, I used golden granulated.
5. Put the berries in a pan with a big tablespoon of lemon juice (this will help preserve the fruit) and about 1/4 cup of water, and bring to the boil.
6. Simmer straight away for 15 minutes.
7. Add the sugar. It will take a lot of stirring and a lot of waiting to get it all to dissolve.
8. Once it’s dissolved, turn the heat up as high as you can and boil for 10-12 minutes, until the blackberry gloop reaches 105 degrees C (220F) which is the setting point. Don’t stir, but if you smell burning, it’s done.

Blackberry jam.
This is what it looks like when its set after the white froth was scraped off.

9. Take off the heat, skim off any white froth from the top, and let it settle for a few minutes (you can put it straight in jars at this point but I wanted to check it had worked.
10. Put in (sterilized with HOT water) jars, seal them if you want to.

About canning, storage times and such:
I used these quattro stagioni jars in 8.5 ounce size, which I found for a good price on the shelf at Homesense (they’re one of those places that has different stuff each week), I liked them because they’re made to take the high temperature and they’re vacuum sealable for food safety (although one of mine didn’t seal) and they sell replacement lids (70mm or 2 3/4 inch is the size for the 8.5 oz jars, although that is NOT cheap for 2 jar lids, so I hope somewhere starts doing them cheaper). You can use any old jar for jam, but you should use a fresh lid each time because you can’t fully clean the lids, which is why I bought jars to use.
If you want to read about home canning in more depth to ensure you’re doing it safely, this free guide from the USDA is phenomenal (I’d start with this section). I highly recommend it for people thinking of canning (which means putting in jars – that confused me for a while) other garden produce, although I’m still undecided on what to do with my carrots when they’re fully grown.

If you vacuum seal the jar with the blackberry jam in it, and don’t open it again, it’s good for 1 year (the jars I linked to have specific instructions to seal them in hot water, I managed to follow them using a bucket as I didn’t have a big enough pot). If it doesn’t vacuum seal (the popper in the lid still pops up) it’s good for 1 month. When you open it, it’s good for 1 month.

Anyone else done any canning or jam making? Got a different recipe/method? Let me know in the comments!

blackberry jam
Sterilized jars.

Ten ACTUAL uses of coconut oil as tested by me.

Ten ACTUAL uses of coconut oil, as tested by me.

After seeing a lot of articles about 101 uses of coconut oil (or more) I decided to write a list of what I’ve used coconut oil for. All of the things I mention here are things I’ve actually used coconut oil for, because there’s a lot of embellished “uses” for coconut oil floating around the internet that aren’t quite verifiable (I wrote about this yesterday in my article 10 Myths About Coconut Oil That Just Need To Die).

1. To cook food. It’s especially good to fry stir fry if you’re having Thai food. I tried spreading it on toast but I didn’t like it. I’ve never tried it in coffee, but in tea, it just sits on the surface as an oily blob even if you use a blender. ¬†People say it’s flavourless in cooking – I disagree, I think it tastes like coconut.

2. As a moisturiser / lotion. Just rub it on your skin. Too much can cause breakouts on sensitive skin (e.g. my cheeks). Bear in mind it sits on the surface a bit, so it will cause grease stains on your clothing, sofa or sheets unless you want to stand upright for several hours after using it. Coconut oil and silky fabrics REALLY don’t mix.

3. As the base for homemade cosmetics, such as DIY lipbalm. Actually that’s the only one I’ve used it for but it was really easy to add some rosewater. I’ll make a video of how to do this real soon.

4. To clean and possibly whiten your teeth via the oil pulling method, which is an Ancient Ayurvedic technique (i.e. they use it in India and have done for a while). I’ve made a video where I investigated the claim that coconut oil can whiten your teeth.¬†Watch the video¬†here.

5. To moisturize dry hair as an intensive conditioning treatment: Melt, slather over hair, leave on for at least 30 minutes and wash out with normal shampoo and conditioner.

6. As a home-made dandruff prevention and scalp soother. Melt a small amount in your hand, rub between your fingers and rub it over your scalp. I found this sped up hair growth as well.

7. To smooth frizz/flyaway hair. Using a small amount regularly prevents split ends so hair appears to grow faster.

8. For hayfever and seasonal pollen allergies. Rub it on the inside of your nose instead of Vaseline to soothe allergies. ¬†This isn’t going to be as effective as Benadryl; it catches the pollen before it gets a chance to get up your nose where it would usually wreak havoc, but of course it’s not going to catch all of it. ¬†When I worked at a pharmacy we used to recommend this to pregnant women as they were unable to take allergy tablets.

9. To make natural home-made tea light candles instead of using beeswax. Melt it, mix with the scents or colorants you feel like, add a wick, set it on fire.  I only did this once and I found the coconut oil melts too quickly unless you do this in a tea-light foil dish thingy.  Do those things have a name??

10. To make natural home-made soap instead of using glycerin. Melt it, mix with the scents and colorants you feel like, and rub it on you in the tub (but remember it’s still going to melt at relatively low temperatures).

Please consult a healthcare provider before using coconut oil if you feel ill.

What have you used coconut oil for?  Did it work as you expected?  Let me know in the comments!

Meat Free Monday: Lentil Moong Dal

The first time I had dal (or dhal, never sure how to spell it) I hated it!  I was at a fancy restaurant where they served up mushy, flavourless stuff that was like yellow mash potato!

The second time I had it, I was at a Nepalese restaurant (the Yak and Yeti Gurkha Restaurant, York, loads of vegan options and very good value for money) and it was wonderful.

Tasty dhal at the Yak and Yeti Gurkha restaurant, York.
Tasty dhal at the Yak and Yeti Gurkha restaurant, York.

I went home and did a few experiments before landing on my own lentil dhal recipe, something delicate but tasty:

1. Yellow mung dhal (moong daal) lentils. ¬†I buy the ones that don’t need to be soaked.

2. Fresh (chopped) or dried coriander (aka cilantro) (2 tsp)

3. Bhuna or balti paste (a tablespoon is ample), or if you can’t find the paste, use a quarter of a¬†jar of the sauce instead. ¬†Patak’s do a nice one.

Get a fine meshed sieve and wash your mung dhal lentils until they are clumping together – this removes some of the starch.

Pop them into a saucepan and cover with boiling water.  Add a teaspoon of coriander (cilantro).  Simmer for about 30-50 minutes, depending on how mushy you want it.

When it has softened enough, drain and add the bhuna paste or sauce (or balti), and stir it into the dhal, stirring in the rest of the coriander (cilantro). ¬†Leave on a very low heat for at least 10 minutes so the flavour penetrates the lentils. ¬†Stir regularly so it doesn’t burn the bottom of the pan.

Serve in a bowl, either on its own or with rice.

Nutrition: Gluten free, dairy free, 80g of moong dal lentils are one of your five a day (and a separate one to regular lentils because they come from different species of plant), 30g of protein per 100g of uncooked moong dal lentils and 45g of carbohydrate per 100g of uncooked moong dal lentils.

Oregano Pesto?? Vegan Pesto??? You better believe it!

I did an experiment yesterday; I wanted to know whether I could make vegan oregano pesto, and whether coriander pesto would be remotely tasty.

Ingredients for Oregano Pesto:

1. A tablespoon of dried oregano (can use fresh, in which case you don’t need the boiling water).

dried coriander (cilantro, left) and oregano (right).
dried coriander (cilantro, left) and oregano (right).

2. A teaspoon of boiling water.

3. Half a tablespoon of olive oil.

4. A tablespoon of hazelnuts.

hazelnuts ready for making pesto

5. Half a tablespoon of walnuts.

walnuts
Walnuts.

You will need a (hand) blender for the nuts.

Method:

1. Put the oregano in a cup.

2. Add hot water to the oregano to rehydrate it (if using fresh oregano, skip this).

3. Crush the hazelnuts and walnuts with the blender.

4. Add the nuts to the oregano and mix in with the olive oil.

Before I added the garlic and walnuts.
Before I added the garlic and walnuts.

5. Add a sprinkle of garlic to bring out the flavour.

6. Leave to stand until the oregano has softened.

7. Mix about a tablespoon into a bowl of pasta. ¬†Mmmmm….

This was very delicious.
Oregano pesto over spaghetti with peanuts sprinkled on top.  Very delicious.

This oregano one was very, very tasty with my pasta yesterday!  You could substitute basil for the oregano if you wanted a more traditional pesto and I think that would be just as tasty, maybe fresh herbs would add a less strong flavor Рa little of this went a long way!

I made some cilantro/coriander (they’re the same herb) pesto (same method, no garlic, use¬†cilantro instead of oregano) and I had a little taste of that and I’m not sure it’s as nice as the oregano one, but I wondered if it was the cilantro I’d bought because it seemed to have taken on the odor from the packaging it was in. ¬†It was my first time not buying a glass jar of dried herb so it didn’t occur to me that this may happen, but the whole lot tasted a little plasticky. ¬†I will try again with fresh cilantro/coriander when I next get any because I know it has a very delicate flavor. ¬†There was supposed to be some growing in the garden but it came up as parsley even though the packet said coriander!!!!

I didn’t use pine nuts (which is traditionally used in pesto) as I think they’re hideously expensive and the quality available has gone right downhill in the past few years, but hazelnuts and walnuts seemed to add a really nice taste to the oregano one. ¬†I also sprinkled my pasta with a handful of peanuts for extra protein.

Do you have a good vegan pesto recipe to share?  Link to it in the comments!

The Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna) Challenge

So I wanted to know if there was a quicker way to do lasagne than this. ¬†That’s how, on Saturday, I set myself the Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna) Challenge.

Using just the ingredients I had in the kitchen, I had to make a vegan lasagna in 20 minutes or less (prep time).  I had no dairy free cheese and no tomatoes, passata, puree or even pasta sauce, so I was winging it to the highest level.  To time me, my husband put on an episode of American Dad, and I had to be back in the living room before the end credits were rolling.

Here’s how it turned out:

20 minutes to prepare, 100% vegan 100% tasty lasagne.
20 minutes to prepare, 100% vegan 100% tasty lasagna (lasagne).

And here’s what I did:

1. Pre soaked 2 lasagna sheets in the bottom of the Pyrex lasagna dish.

lasagne 93

2. Taking a big bowl of spinach, I tore it up into tiny pieces, pulling out any obvious stems but not going overboard.  I covered the bottom sheet with the spinach.

This is how much spinach I used and how much I tore it up.
This is how much spinach I used and how much I tore it up.
This is what it looked like once it was all in the dish
This is what it looked like once it was all in the dish

3. I had no tomatoes, so covered the spinach in 1/2 a jar of Spanish Chicken sauce!! ¬†Turns out, it’s basically tomato sauce (and it’s vegan if you don’t pour it over any chicken, obv, otherwise it would not be in my kitchen).

4. Next, I soaked 2 more lasagna / lasagne sheets in boiling water from the kettle, holding them carefully over the sink and rotating them to get the bit I was holding, until they started to flex.  These went over the spinach/spanish sauce.

If you want this to be even quicker, go straight to step 8 after this and just pour on top of this sheet.

lasagne vegan

5. Next, I poured a whole tin of sweetcorn (drained) over the middle layer of lasagna. ¬†That’s right, this is going to be a three layer lasagna.

vegan lasagne sweetcorn lasagna

6. I covered the sweetcorn in the rest of the Spanish sauce.

vegan lasagne lasagna sweetcorn

7. I soaked 2 more lasagna sheets using the same method as step 4, then put them over the sweetcorn/sauce combo.

8. I made some vegan white sauce (bechamel sauce), as follows: 1 dollop of vegan butter, sieve in some flower and mix until it goes golden yellow.¬†Then add the soya milk very gradually, keep stirring! ¬†Once the white sauce has thickened, it’s done.

vegan white sauce bechamel sauce

I poured it over the top of the most recent lasagna sheets

lasagne lasagna vegan uncooked fresh

I put my whole lasagna in the oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes.

Before...
Before…
And after!
And after!

The bottom most lasagna sheets were not quite as soaked as they could have been, but otherwise it was a great result.

This proves that you neither need vegan cheese nor vegan cheese sauce to make a tasty lasagna. ¬†Serves 3 meals or 6 as an accompaniment with some other stuff on the side. ¬†If you’re super hungry, it would probably only do 2 meals.

Nutrition: There is no protein in this. ¬†Have some peanuts with it or something. ¬†It’s worth 2 of your 5 a day per 1/3 of the whole thing. ¬†I used gluteny lasagna sheets because I’m broke but you can buy gluten free ones and make the white sauce with gluten free flour (Dove Farm do a nice one) to make this totally gluten free.

What do you think? ¬†Would you take up the Vegan Lasagne (Lasagna)¬†Challenge? ¬†Let me know in the comments or link to your article if ¬†you’ve got a faster lasagna recipe!

Meat Free Monday: Vegan Lasagna

Dairy Free Vegan Lasagna (In England, we spell it lasagne, but I’ve used the American spelling as I know most of my readers are American/Canadian):

This post contains an affiliate link.  This recipe takes some time (I take just over an hour) so do it on a weekend day!

What better way to celebrate rabbit awareness week than to start it off with a meat free, animal free lasagna?

You will need:
A box of lasagna/lasagne sheets,
A block of dairy free hard cheese that can be grated/melted,

The ‚Äúb√©chamel‚ÄĚ sauce (method here):
Flour (or gluten free)
Soya milk (or alternative of your choice)
Vegan butter
Grated vegan cheese (optional depending on whether you prefer traditional or cheese béchamel sauce)

Alternative béchamel (if you are in a hurry):

Some cream cheese,
Cornflour,
A tablespoon or two of soya milk,

The ‚Äúinnards‚ÄĚ of the lasagna:
1.5 cups Vegan mince or TVP,
1 Onion (or 1 cup frozen onions),
1/2 carton Tomato passata,
1/2 tsp of vegemite or yeast extract,
Herbs: a sprinkling of basil (OBT),

You will also need a square glass dish. You may need to change your measurements to fit your glass dish, mine is medium sized and serves 4-5. If you don’t have one, this lasagna dish set looks perfect.

Make the innards first:
1. Soak the TVP in some boiling water and mix in the Vegemite to add flavour.
2. Fry the onions and add the (drained if necessary) TVP, herbs, and the passata, mix well and set aside.

Then start to work with the lasagna sheets:
1. Follow the pre-soaking guidelines for the lasagna sheets. I usually pre-boil mine before using them so they’re not too hard.
2. Line the bottom of the glass dish with a layer of lasagna sheets, tearing and overlapping where necessary.

Then pour the innards over the first layer of lasagna sheets to totally cover it.

Next, put more lasagna sheets over the top of the innards.

Make the béchamel sauce next:
Here is the recipe you will use for the traditional b√©chamel sauce. If you’ve got all the ingredients, this one is the best one to make because it’s by far the most realistic. It’s your choice whether to include the grated cheese.
Alternative béchamel sauce using vegan cream cheese:
Put 1/3 of a tub of cream cheese in a pan, and heat it to soften. Mix in the soya milk and stir well. Add about 1 teaspoon of cornflour (sieve with a fine-mesh sieve to ensure no lumps, or just bung it in and live with the lumps) and mix well with a fork. Add more cornflour to thicken if needed.
Once the mixture is thick enough, pour over the top layer of lasagna sheets to completely cover them. You may need more sauce than this, depending on your dish size.

Grate the hard cheese over the top of the béchamel sauce to completely cover it with a decent layer of cheese.

To cook:

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes on 180 degrees C or Gas Mark 6.

Remove from oven and cut into square slices to serve. I use a wide flat spatula to get it out of the lasagna dish and a spoon in the other hand to stop the filling falling out.

To serve:

If it’s just to serve one, let the rest cool and cover then put in the fridge. When you wish to reheat, remove the amount you want to eat, and either oven it or microwave, depending on what you prefer.

Nutrition:

Approximately 1 of your 5 a day per serving and about 1/3 of your daily protein. For more of your 5 a day (so more vitamins), add some salad on the side or serve with a baked sweet potato and some boiled carrots.

Tips for success:

1. Get used to making the béchamel before you attempt the whole lasagna.
2. To save time you could pre-cook the b√©chamel for a different recipe the day before and set some aside for today’s lasagna.
3. Stir the vegemite fully into the TVP so you don’t get any lumps of yeast extract in your finished lasagna.
4. You can apparently just put the lasagne sheets in dry but I’ve always pre-soaked them and find this to make them cook better in the oven, as vegan cheese sauce tends to be a little too dry to soften the sheets in the oven.

Notes:
With the exception of the actual pasta itself, none of my pasta recipes contain gluten, so if you’re gluten free, replace your pasta with gluten free pasta and follow the rest of the recipe as normal.¬†Most shops stock gluten free lasagne or lasagna sheets.

Next week: Pizza!

Bene cena!