Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Month Vegan Challenge: Day 9

   I am posting now and it is very late, when I suppose to be in bed and sleeping: early start tomorrow at work. But I wanted to write a couple of quick things about today and the Vegan Challenge.

   Fist, the benefits that I think I am getting with the challenge. As I said before, I am enjoying this challenge as I am learning quite a lot: cooking new recipes, finding substitutes for meat and diary, knowing new places where to eat. But I was waiting for a health benefit or some physical changes. I noticed that I am sleeping better lately. And that's a big improvement for me! I have sometimes difficulties to sleep: it takes me quite a lot time before I fall sleep, then I wake up a few times during the night and, even though I go late to sleep, I always wake up early: conclusion, many times I don't get enough sleeping hours and you pay that during the day! But since I started the Vegan Challenge, the quality of my sleep has improved. Maybe it is a coincidence, but it has happened, so I prefer to think that the diet has something to do.

   Second and last thing...dinner. It was a quick and different dinner tonight at work: a mix of 'healthy' grilled marinate tofu and salad with the 'mistreated' fries. Yin and Yang. But with a yummy result!

Grilled marinated tofu with salad and fries

   Good night for now, my eyes are getting heavy!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Month Vegan Challenge: Day 8

  Well, it's been a week since we started the Vegan Week Challenge first, that became finally in a Vegan Month Challenge. And I have to say that it's getting easier everyday. First days there were no much things in the fridge, sometimes we didn't know what to make or buy and it was difficult to decide about snacks. But since this weekend things have been easier, both in shopping and cooking, and more than a difficult challenge it's now a pleasure! Learning, changing recipes, enjoying meals, realising that we can cut meat and dairy a lot but at the same time loving cooking and eating! I'm not saying that I'm going to become vegan (though you never know) but the options of spending periods of times being vegan/vegetarian are now very clear. It's true that I am not a person that eat a lot of meat. In my normal diet, days without meat are not rare. I can say that probably I eat more fish/seafood that meat. So I guess that this has helped in this challenge.

   Today one of my chefs made me a real good udon noodles dish with fennel, chillies, menma, tofu and mushrooms. I like the soggy texture of udon, slippery in your mouth. Together with this noodle dish, I had a miso soup.

   Back home, it was time to cook. And tonight I made for the first time something very spanish but in its vegan version: Spanish Omelette (or Potato Omelette).

Vegan Spanish Omelette

   Spanish Omelette is a big institution in the whole country: one of the most popular tapas, eat outside or at home, for lunch and for dinner...and in some regions, like in Madrid, delicious breakfast! I have to admit here that I was a bit worry making this vegan version as I love Spanish Omelette and the idea of replacing one of the 2 main ingredients was a bit concerned.

   This vegan spanish omelette was made with potato, onion and the egg substitute was chickpea flour with water. The process was exactly like a traditional spanish omelette and the result was...amazing! Of course you can say it's not a egg omelette or maybe because I knew that but it was just delicious. Consistency and flavour. So its going to be a must in my home cookbook from now on. Just need to make it a few more times and adjust quantities and cooking times and I'm sure it will be a great recipe!

Good night for now!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

7 Days Vegan Challenge: Day 6

   Here I am again after skipping yesterday post, but I was busy day before work,  and after I got back home and collapsed in bed :-) Food wise, it was was good day, having again some rice with vegetables in a paprika stock. But the big news yesterday were about this week vegan challenge: a week might have became a month! After chatting with Maria, a week doesn't feel a big challenge and we want to see the health changes and benefits, so a week is not enough to show real changes. So here it comes the Month Vegan Challenge!

   I had at work today a cold udon noodles salad with tofu, mandarin slices and vegetables with a black pepper and mandarin dressing. Really felt today to get some cold noodles: in Japan, during summer times, there is a popular dish called Hiyashi chūka (冷やし中華), literally "chilled Chinese" consisting in cold ramen noodles with different toppings. This was similar dish but with dressing.

Not mine, but you can get an idea about Hiyashi Chuka

  The other decision I took today, and after extending the Vegan Challenge to a month, was to start taking some vitamin B12. I have being taking some B12 in the fortified cereals and soy milk but I am a bit worried about not taking enough, so I decided to top it up with some tables.

   And dinner was again a cold dish: quinoa, alfalfa sprouts cauliflower, sun dried tomatoes and hummus salad. I don't know if I said that weather is still incredible hot here in Ireland. It supposed to chill down a bit during the weekend but good news came in the morning: another week of summer! So this two extension good news, vegan diet and weather, deserved a proper celebration. And nothing better to celebrate than a cake: a chocolate and lemon cake!

Chocolate and Lemon Cake

   It took me not more than 1 hour to make this vegan cake. You can see I've already tried it, and I can't say no other thing that it was and it is delicious. Chocolate and lemon, what can go wrong? I need a few friends to share it with if I don't want to put a few pounds!

Friday, 12 July 2013

7 Days Vegan Challenge: Day 4

   It seems that this Vegan Week Challenge should had been called Hot Vegan Week Challenge:  one week vegan diet, one week very hot weather at the same time! For those of you not leaving in Ireland, having more than a week with temperatures close to 30 C celcious would be an amazing topic to talk all day long, like 99% of the Irish population is doing now.

Deric Hartigan tonight (3e weather presenter)

   But, let's back to talk about food! Usual cereal breakfast, with fruits time. Lunch was a exiting time cooking and eating. Last week it was my birthday and Dermot gave me a few presents: one of them its a wonderful cooking book called 'Supergrains' by Chrissy Freer. Very informative recipe book with most of the top grains: quinoa, barley, chia, amaranth, millet, faro, etc. It is not a vegetarian or vegan book, but most of the recipes can be easily adapted (when not already) to a vegan diet. Based in two of the recipes, I cooked two dishes, or better, a dish and a drink.

Supergrains, by Chrissy Freer

   First one, a wholemeal quinoa and barley salad with zucchini, cauliflower, mint and alfalfa sprouts. Dressing, soy yogurt, tahini and dill. And on the side, hummus. Great taste, full of energy and nutrients and very refreshing dish. I made quite a lot, so next few days it will be used as a side salad with other dishes.

barley and quinoa salad

   The drink: I made exactly the same recipe that you can find in the book. A barley and lemon water. Simple, quickly and, served very cold, more than perfect for these hot temperatures. Bit sweet but not too much, bit bitter, but just enough. I really liked the flavour.

   Dinner was bit more simple as I was working in the restaurant: vegetable paella. A good mix of vegetable with short grain rice, cooked in vegetable stock and paprika. No time to make a picture this time, but I can tell you that it was as simple tastefull.

   Fourth day is gone, and still not missing meat or fish. Maybe some times it comes to my mind milk or cheese, more because it would be easier (o lazier I guess) to make some of the dishes. If you are not vegan, diary products are very handy in the kitchen. But every day, and tomorrow is the fifth, things are easier, finding great alternative products. I am very exited about tomorrow, because, working day time, it ll give me more time to make food. And I have already a few dishes on mind that I want to cook tomorrow.

So, good night!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

7 Days Vegan Challenge: Day 3

   Today post it's going to be short, as I was working until late tonight. Even though I wanted to post something small about day 3 of the Vegan Week Challenge.

   I had this morning for breakfast some pasta from last night, it was still amazing and my body was asking for some savoury when I woke up. I spent most of the morning at home getting ready for work and organising a few things in the house.

   For lunch, potatoes and some alfalfa sprouts. I was reading about potatoes in the morning and it came to my head a very typical potato tapa from Spain: Patatas al alioli (alioli potatoes): basically, it consists in boiled potatoes covered with garlic mayonnaise (alioli). Most of them have as well chopped flat parsley, but its optional. Simple but delicious. It is always a bit difficult to me here in Ireland choose the right potatoes to boil and so they stay in one piece and don't smash. Today I almost got it 100%. Once covered in alioli, all was ok!

patatas alioli

   Straight to work after that and not much time to think about food. But loads of non vegan temptations in the kitchen...although no for me, I successed! My dinner was one of my favourite dishes in the restaurant: saien soba, a ramen dish with vegetables and tofu. Only variation I did swapping rice for  ramen noodles (they contain egg). Together with the ramen, I have a portion of yasai gyosa grill (vegetables dumplings, first steamed and then grilled). Beautiful combination!

   Back home, I treated myself after the long and hard work with some diary free chocolate ice cream, one of the favourite desserts. Very rich chocolate ice cream, no missing the diary based ones!

diary free chocolate ice cream

     Tired now after working late, so time for bed and rest for getting ready for another day. Tomorrow is already Day 4, time is flying!, I passed the ecuador and feeling great!

   More tomorrow, thanks for being here and good night!

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

7 Days Vegan Challenge: Day 2

   Another very warm today this morning. Actually I slept all night with the window open, something not very common here even in summer. Forecast for today: Hottest day of the year. This is probably helping the challenge, as salads and fruits are easy meals to prepare.

   So usual cereals in the morning with soy milk, chia and flaxseed seeds (its not lack of imagination or laziness but what I like more for breakfast) and out of the house, this time went to Ben of Howth (long walk over there with amazing views of Howth, Dublin, Malahide, etc) and North Bull Island (another walk this time in Dollymount Beach). Both walks awaked hunger on me and I realised how important are snack between meals so next time I wont leave the house without them.

The Ben of Howth

   Back to the house, Maria had prepared a Gazpacho, the spanish cold tomato based soup (although the dish is not cooked and all the ingredients are raw), a very refreshing summer meal extremely popular in Spain. There are many different variations of Gazpacho in Spain (Portugal and some other countries have similar dishes) but the mail ingredients are tomatoes, olive oil, salt and cucumber. Then, green peppers, onion, garlic, vinegar and bread can be in the recipe.


   Together with gazpacho, I have a salad (with alfalfa sprout that I was growing for the last two days) and falafel (dip in the vegan mayonnaise I made yesterday.

   Great time for dinner: another summer favourite is homemade lebanese hummus. Last night I put in water some chickpeas and today, after cooking them for almost 2 hours, made this great, simple a versatile dish.

lebanese hummus

  For main dish, quinoa spaghetti with sausages, cheese and sun-dried tomato pesto. Great surprise with the vegan parmesan-style cheese, wonderful flavour.

quinoa spaghetti with sausages and sun dried tomato pesto

   And the big surprise of the night was the Hugo's Vegan Rhubarb and Strawberry is where we didnt miss at all any non vegan options: simply delicious!

Hugo's Vegan Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble

   This second day of the challenge was a day to discover some great vegan substitutes and deserts. Not missing any meet and diary so far!

Thanks for reading!

7 Days Vegan Challenge: Day 1

   Dublin woke up this morning with an amazing blue sky and warm temperatures: 25 Celsius degrees, not bad at all! And I woke up very excited with Day 1 of my 7 days vegan challenge. What a perfect occasion for cold vegan dishes. We have tons of salads and cold vegetables dishes back home in Spain. Af of course, fruits.You know, the hot weather! 

   Bur fist things first, a good breakfast: organic wholemeal bran flakes with chia seeds and soy milk. A big bowl to give me energy for the rest of the day. And that was a big walk in Greystones beach, co. Wicklow. Quiet, beautiful, a time to refresh the feet. Being in Greystones means also another thing: The Happy Pear. One of the best places to have the first lunch of this vegan challenge. Today, I had a very tasty, full of flavours vegan indian stew with rice and salad. For refreshing, coconut water. I seized the occasion and bought some products in their shop.

Indian vegan stew from The Happy Pear

   Back home, one of the things that worry me more in the challenge are snacks between meals. I've been reading few books and taking advice about this point but finally it wasn't a problem a all today: with this hot temperature, I was carving for fresh fruits, so cut a big sweet watermelon. Later on it was time too for some homemade olive oil vegan mayonnaise that I made before. Maybe the taste of this mayonnaise is not for everybody, because I used a strong extra virgin olive oil (and just soy milk, salt and lemon), giving a bit of bitterness, but it reminds me the one that my mother used to make and brings back childhood memories.

Olive oil vegan mayonnaise

   Finally a bit of cooking for dinner. Dermot brought some magnificent artichokes so together with sweet potatoes chips I roasted them, just with a bit of salt and oil. To accompany them, some vegan sausages and tofu-hazelnut cutlets.

   Not that I made a huge effort today, but we celebrated the end of the first day with a small treat: Dermot Watermelon Cocktails.

Watermelon cocktails

   The question now is: how did I feel today with a vegan diet? Did a miss meat and dairy products? Was it difficult to cook vegan and find places with vegan options?

   Good, no and no.

   I felt good all day, full of energy although it is too early to say it was because of the vegan diet. I'd say more because of the hot weather, which gives everybody a positive energy; more because I love challenges, and this makes me feel better. But I am willing to accept that in a few days, if I feel better, one of the causes could be the vegan diet.

   No, I didn't miss at all meat. That happened during the whole vegetarian week last month, so now I was more concern about milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs. But I didn't feel the impulse to add to my meals any of those. Soy milk and yogurt were perfect substitutes (or alternatives) to the dairy ones, eggs weren't necessary to made a great mayonnaise. Only wondering about cheese, I real must in my diet, Would be the vegan alternatives as good? But do not anticipate the future.

   And no, it wasn't difficult at all cooking or finding places were to eat. First one, I am chef so thats an advantage. And one that love to try new things and can eat any thing. About the second one, places were to eat, I only try today The Happy Pear, a vegetarian shop-restaurant, so it was easy. I want to try during the week a few more restaurant, and not only vegetarians, to say how it is to be vegan and eat out.

    Happy end for day 1, looking forward to day 2!

   Hasta mañana!