thursday update (v)

post it note good jobSporadic blog posting does not equal decline in everyday efforts at a plant-based life. Here’s a snapshot of latest progress.

1. Butter proves to be the agent-saboteur. I still buy proper butter for DD whose favourite food apparently is fresh white crusty bread with a good slather of soft golden creaminess. Have to say when I have a migraine, it is exactly the food I crave when I start to resurface. Anyway, I have to put my hand up, if there is a round of toast being prepared I still enjoy it best with butter. Will try better.

2. Juicing and Smoothing. I no longer have these once a day as I try to reduce sugar intake. I still love fruit but choose to crunch apples, chew bananas and chomp my way through a punnet of blueberries to get the fibre benefits, rather than blitz the lot to a mess. Then, on juicing days it’s about fruit-combos, green blends, and extra ingredients like cashew nuts, dates and coconut milk.

3. Dining out is not easy, but social networking groups are a great source of tips and scare stories.

4. Talking of social networking, receiving retweets and likes continue to be great in several ways not least of all because by following up on the tweeter or blogger I get to see what they and their followers are up to. This leads me on many informative trails and time-wasting opportunities.

5. Never buy any of those sachets of Chinese stir fry sauce from the supermarket with modified starch, colourings etc – i just made the MOST delicious sauce that I stirred into veg, noodles and tofu as they finished cooking and spinach leaves were wilting: blitzed up 2 cloves garlic, an inch of ginger, 2tsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp agave nectar (bit less next time) and 3tbsp soy sauce. Easy.


dining out

menu cover designI always enjoy the prospect of meeting up with friends and sharing a meal at a restaurant. I have a date to look forward to quite soon with friends who are ex-colleagues, who escaped a world I am still somewhat entangled in, so there will be a sharing of tales from life on the outside and inside.

Busy women, it usually takes a few emails to find a lunch date but here we are with a mark in the diary.  The only outstanding question is where? There are  plenty of restaurants and watering holes in town and finding something vegetarian has never been a problem, but mining the menus for something vegan could be problematical.

A call out on social media has come up with a couple of certain options and a couple to be confirmed. It seems it’s time for more vegans to eat out and create a bigger demand. It is not that difficult to cook something interesting without resorting to animals and their products.


Image source via

messy business

paniniThe most difficult challenge of late is dropping into cafes for a mid-shopping light lunch with darling daughter. I usually look forward to a break from the cosmetic counters as much as my DD looks forward to a break from book browsing – at least we both share a passion for the stationery stores.

Our go-to light bite is a toasted panini. Of late the options have strayed beyond the obvious sundried tomato, pesto and mozarella into more interesting combinations like goats cheese, spinach and beetroot chutney, but none as yet have strayed into the vegan zone. We usually choose two different options and then share half and half. I wash mine down with a herbal concoction while DD chooses a creamy mocha that leaves a frothy, chocolatey residue to be spooned out and enjoyed. More dessert than beverage.

Not wanting to cause a fuss on our most recent retail lunch, I convinced myself that it would be easy to pick out circles of melted goats cheese and just set them aside. It isn’t. It’s a messy business, totally unsuccessful and not to be repeated. Next time it’s no lunch or, at the risk of mystifying the barista, get the cheesy bits removed before the panini sees the heat.

from Russia with love (iv)

russian dollsLast day in Moscow until I return for a longer trip at the end of February. I have promised myself to learn a few more Russian phrases so that I won’t panic about venturing into the city to explore other eating places. However, the studio cafe did not let me down again today; a pumpkin soup seasoned with chilli and ginger to start, followed by some tofu slices wrapped in nori and then fried in a tempura batter. Very good and very filling, so much so that tonight I just steamed the last of my broccoli, loaded it on top of a small  dish of quinoa and tamari toasted seeds, and called it a day in the kitchen.

Home tomorrow and just realising that I have made it through the month of January with a only few minor vegan lapses. One of the biggest positives to take away so far is that I find myself actively looking for more variety in taste, texture and colour, as well as new and interesting flavours. Food in a way has got more interesting, if not exciting, which is an unexpected surprise.

from Russia with love (iii)

seaweed saladI have landed on my feet in terms of lunchtime eating in Moscow. There is a vegetarian cafe in the same building as the studio. This means that even if I wasn’t lunching with colleagues who can translate, I would be safe with a bit of sign language and pointing.

Yesterday, the set menu was totally vegan: a seaweed salad with a sesame dressing followed by a roasted vegetable ragout, i.e. stew, with a caraway-scented bread on the side. There could have been other spices like coriander or cardamon, I wasn’t sure, but it got me thinking about how to experiment with rye breads at home.

Today I ate a salad with warm tofu, aubergine and courgette all marinated in ginger, soy and sesame, and then chose a fruit and ginger tea which strangely cost more than my salad. It was a good tea, served in a transparent teapot so that the everyday alchemy of allowing fresh ingredients to infuse with hot water was visible. So much nicer than whatever they put in those lemon and ginger teabags.

dream v reality

gado gado saladWith a bit of extra time between appointments today I thought I’d sit down for lunch in a small veggie restaurant away from the usual cafe chains. I was imagining taking my time with a big colourful quinoa salad or a plate of steamed veggies sprinkled with crunchy seeds and serving of nutty rice, but it turns out veggie restaurant menus are not what I thought they would be. There’s a lot of cheese, and  a lot of beans and spices.

Having ruled out the specials as being too big for lunch, although they did include a tasty sounding Caribbean-inspired curry, and not being able to choose from the supper menu which did have an interesting sounding Indonesian dish, I turned to the light-bites. Now, a lot of people like chilli I know, and beans are an important nutritional component of a vegan diet, but I just do not like it. At all. So, with variations of chilli in three of the five options I was left with risotto or pasta and to be honest I cook those frequently at home. This left me with the soup menu and I finally settled for a satisfying root veggie concoction and a mixed salad that seemed to be suffering from SAD, but was rescued by the dressing.

Verdict, yes I will go again as the restaurant has a lovely atmosphere and friendly staff, but I will time it for the supper menu and try that Gado Gado.


Image via Indochine Kitchen