Mental health, travel & loved ones.

I originally called this post ‘here, there and everywhere’ but after rereading the post I realised I have had a month of doing all the thing I love to do. This month has been filled with talking about mental health, exploring, seeing friends, family and somewhere amongst that finding gluten free, vegan goodness to. I am so very grateful.

As you will see I seem to have spent more time on a train than I ever have before, not that I am complaining! It has been wonderful, even the train part, giving me chance to read ‘Everything Everything’ by Nicola Yoon, I have only a few chapters left, so please no spoilers.

Continue reading “Mental health, travel & loved ones.”

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October’s Free From Favourites (gluten-free & vegan)

A little early, with a few added rambles. Last week I saw a woman standing in the free from aisle, staring aimlessly at the limited selection of food choices as she asked the shop assistant “is this all?” The shop assistant looked at her, sighing with sympathy, she replied “I will take you to the refrigerated items to”. The woman followed the shop assistant looking disappointed at her basket filled with expensive and pretty-tasteless items. This was one of the many scenes I have noticed since being gluten free; the confusion, the frustration and the disappoint of the newly diagnosed, or even more so, the pity of the non-diagnosed, ‘normal eating’ family member.

This reminded me of why I write these ‘free from favourites’ posts, because I have been there. I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance over two years ago now. My first time to the supermarket resulted in me crying whilst squishing every rock-hard loaf of bread, desperately trying to find something edible and inexpensive.

Since then, I have become very supermarket savvy, you know those television programmes, supermarket saver? I could own an allergy friendly one! As could some of the other people I have met whilst both staring at the free from aisle. The amount of conversations I have had there, each person either welcoming advice and tips or offering them.

Enough of the ramble and onto the post.

Beginning with Tesco’s frozen Vegetable Patties, £1 for six, what a bargain? Since going gluten free, every vegetable burger I can find seems to be coated with bread crumbs or is made with gluten free bread crumbs, resulting in them being very overpriced. With a new recipe, making these burgers now gluten free (I thank you Tesco!), not the most luxury of burgers I know but I love them! They make the perfect quick and easy, childhood meal. Perfect with added sweet potato, beans and peas.

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Whilst in Tesco, I found BFrees pitta pockets, I love the brand BFree, personally I think they are one of the best gluten free brands out there. Top tip, always use your freezer, BFree’s bread and pittas both freeze well, I just take what I want out and pop them into the toaster or in the oven for a few minutes. The pitta pockets are great for packed lunches, without those gluten free holes, they can hold a decent sized filling without falling apart as soon as you look at them. My favourite filling is hummus and falafel, basic but delicious.

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Of course, to get the best deals you have to shop around and Aldi is always my go to, Aldi’s free from range just gets better and better. Aldi’s cashew nuts, raw fruit and nut bars, falafels and 55 pence- hummus, are always on my list.

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A slightly more expensive but trust me when I say they are worth it, is Livia’s Kitchen Raw Millionaires Bites, perfect for those ‘coffee and cake’ moments. Not overly sweet but sweet enough to leave your sweet tooth feeling satisfied. With a lot of ‘raw’ foods, I can tell they are raw, they taste great but I can tell that it is different, unlike these. I honestly could not tell the difference, actually I could, these taste better! I found these little packets in Sainsbury’s free from aisle. Our of the two the Chocolate Orange are my favourite, hopefully I will come across more from Livia’s Kitchen to try, have you any recommendations?

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Moving on to my non-free from aisle finds, the woman I mentioned earlier also asked about crisps. As she picked up the overpriced ‘free from packet’ before seeing the price and putting them back. People who are diagnosed do not realise the amount of gluten free items on the ordinary aisles, with more brands becoming naturally or ‘accidentally gluten free’.

As for crisps/snacks, there are many out there, Tyrrells (not all flavours but you will be surprised at how many), Yushoi pea snacks, Hippies chickpea puffsPom-bears, Propercorn popcorn (most popcorns), Sainsbury’s own pop chips, Popchips (not all) to name a few.

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Rice, pasta and noodles, with most free from aisles only stocking a handful of choices, more often than not the higher priced brands to, you are best of looking on the normal aisles. Of course, rice is naturally gluten free but I often find the microwavable rice packets containing either wheat or milk, Tilda are usually my go to for things like this. It would seem that more and more supermarkets branching out with pastas made from peas, lentils, brown rice and even buckwheat to, all naturally gluten free. As for noodles, most rice noodles are gluten free, even the instant ones.

Also, most sauces, spreads and condiments can be found without a ‘free from’ label and ‘free from’ price. Supermarket own brands are great for things like tomato sauces, jams and now even nut butters! What ‘accidentally free from’ item have you found?

As for being gluten free and vegan on the go this October, Pret a Manger has been my ultimate ‘go to’, with their vegan friendly options growing, I have been able to spot a few new gluten free options to. Featuring in free from favourites before, it is no surprise that I love Pret a Mangers soups, especially this time of year, I highly recommend trying their vegan chilli  or the spiced corn and quinoa, both making the perfect autumnal lunch.

That is all for this month, I am sure Novembers addition will be starting to look a little more Christmassy (how exciting?!).

Nicole

More of my vegan posts

Home Comforts.

Looking at my previous posts, I am sure you can tell I have had a touch of those ‘post adventure blues’. It would seem my plan to throw myself into all things work did not work as well as I had hoped and searching for employment is no easy task. It is not all bad though, I have had a few weeks to enjoy some home comforts, or at least try to without comparing everything and anything to New York.

But of course, nothing quite compares to exploring the beginning of autumn with my four legged friends! I have loved returning to jumpers, tights and all the autumnal colours. Nothing beats seeing Archie running in and out of the colourful leaves that are quickly falling. Being mindful of my surroundings and seeing the seasonal fruit appearing on the trees and enjoying that cosy feeling of coming in from a crisp walk.

Speaking of cosy feelings, a few weeks ago I went to visit my great grandmother. We popped into a cosy pub, it was a surprise to see vegan options, and gluten free to! I had the lentil cottage pie and it was a lot nicer than it looks. Don’t you think it is becoming easier and easier to be vegan?

With having to purchase a new car, being unemployed and well, trying to be somewhat independent, I am also feeling the ‘post adventure pinch’, as I am sure I am not the only one? Not that I am complaining, I mean I have been forced into getting creative in my kitchen and with the help from Deliciously Ella, forever browsing her app for inspiration, I have made a couple of lovely and very affordable dishes.

These recipes are very similar and simple to make.

Sweet potato and mixed bean stew, serves three
(two medium sweet potatoes, two tins of mixed beans, a handful of cherry tomatoes, one table spoon of tomato puree, one vegetable stock cube, a pinch of rosemary, cumin, chilli flakes, ground black pepper and steamed vegetables to serve)

First peel and chop into squares the sweet potatoes, part boil and roast for around 25 minutes.
Half way through, chop tomatoes and add to sweet potato for 10 minutes.
Whilst waiting for the sweet potato and tomatoes, rinse and boil the mixed beans, once boiled rinse again and transfer back to pan.
Mix in one crumbled stock cube along with enough boiling water just to cover the beans, put on a low heat and add tomato puree and seasoning, stir well and leave simmer for 10 minutes.
Add in sweet potato and tomatoes and leave on low heat for around 10 minutes, stir well and take of heat, allow to cool.
Once cool use a soup pulse or part blend, as if you were making soup, leaving a few sweet potato chunks and beans whole.
Once ready, for a crispy edge place into ovenproof dishes and cook for 20-30 minutes (or around 4 minutes in the microwave or hob).
I served this with steamed spinach, green peas, broccoli, roasted cashew nuts and nutritional yeast.

Warming green lentil and sweet potato soup, serves two
(one tin of green lentils, two medium sweet potatoes, two servings of sugar snap peas, a handful of cherry tomatoes, one table spoon of tomato puree, a tea spoon of gram masala, a sprinkle of cumin, turmeric, ginger, a pinch of chilli flakes and ground black pepper)

First peel and chop into squares the sweet potatoes, part boil and roast for around 25 minutes.
Half way through, chop tomatoes and add to sweet potato for 10 minutes.
Whilst waiting for the sweet potato and tomatoes, rinse and boil the green lentils, once boiled rinse again and transfer back to pan.
On a low heat add just enough boiling water to cover the lentils, stir in spices and tomato puree before adding the cooked sweet potato, tomatoes and sugar snap peas (cut to own preference).
Stir well and leave simmer on low heat for around 10 minutes.
Pulse or blend, adding water until you achieve your preferred consistency, I enjoy this soup quite chunky.
Enjoy straight away or let cool and reheat later.
I served this soup with some crispy kale and sprinkling of toasted almonds.

Like most of my recipes these can be left to cool and transferred into plastic containers, popped into the fridge or freezer until ready to be served.

There is no free from favourites this month but I have got to mention Rhythm 108’s tea biscuits, found in Aldi but also available online. I do not usually enjoy gluten free biscuits as they often taste like they are trying to be an alternative, non-gluten free biscuit but these are a biscuit in their own right (okay slightly over the top, but you should try them). The lemon and ginger are my favourite and are fitting for this home comforts post.

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Let me know if you try any of these recipes or if you also have any allergy and budget friendly recommendations?

Thank you for reading,

Nicole

May free from favourites (gluten free & vegan).

Before we start this ‘free from favourites’, I want you to know that I am not sponsored by any of these companies, I just like sharing with you all a few of my favourites in the hope it can help. I remember all too well how frustrating and difficult it was when I discovered my gluten intolerance and whilst being vegan seems easy enough, pairing the two started of being quite hard.

Continue reading “May free from favourites (gluten free & vegan).”

January free from favourites. (gluten free & vegan)

After not writing a ‘free from favourites’ in such a long time, this month I have decided to, attempt to, bring them back, I say attempt because well, my months seem to be getting busier and busier.

I find posts like these so helpful wether it be vegan, dairy free, gluten free or both, I always find reading posts such as this great for not feeling like ‘the fussy one’, finding new foods and places I didn’t know were allergy friendly and with Veganuary seeming more popular than ever I thought it was the perfect time to get started.  Continue reading “January free from favourites. (gluten free & vegan)”

A few days in December.

The last couple of weeks have been much busier than expected and I do apologise for the lack of festive posts, and to think I was going to attempt blogmas! Although busy and at times quite hectic I have managed to say somewhat calm and mindful to. My business has been filled with plans for the new year, all very exciting and hard work to but with balance in mind I have found time to enjoy with my loved ones and for me that’s what this time of year is all about.

Here are a few December photographs I would like to share with you, of course, if you follow my Instagram you will have seen my adorable Syd and Archie all wrapped up and looking cosy. This day was filled with putting the Christmas decorations up, listening to festive songs, wrapping presents and my mother and I even enjoyed some roasted chestnuts (my favourite).

Another lovely day was spent visiting my Aunty (kind of like my great grandmother), I feel like I have spoken about her many times before and well, she is a truly inspiring woman. The fact that she has lost her sight and is still baking Christmas cakes from scratch just shows you how wonderful she is. I always enjoy visiting her and leave feeling not only grateful but also inspired, she reminds me never to give up. On returning home my family and I all watched Hairspray live and it was just a lovely evening, nothing special but all together.

Throughout December I have also enjoyed some beautiful winter walks, although too cold to take my gloves of to take any photographs, each walk has been filled with bright, colourful skies and twinkly lights. One of my favourite things about dark, winter walks is walking past homes, seeing the warm glow from the windows, I imagine families to be all cosy, winding down for the evening and I know it probably sounds silly but it gives me a feeling of peace.

This month I finally met up with my friend Jessica, we ‘met’ over four years ago, and have not only been on very similar journeys but we are also kind of scarily similar. Meeting up in London was truly wonderful and we did so much, catching the tube here there and everywhere, seeing all the hustle and bustle of London life and enjoying a much different kind of beauty, the high buildings, the different smells (not all beautiful I must admit) and of course the sparkly Christmas lights.

I also got to visit The Mae Deli (sorry Liv), it was not what I expected at all, like a touch of home amongst the city business, it gave me a similar feeling to my winter walks, only I was the one escaping into a warm, cosy home. I enjoyed one of the Mae bowls, filled with four festive dishes, now I realise none of my attempts and Deliciously Ella’s recipes will ever be as good as the real thing. It was very strange to have more vegan, gluten free dishes than not, I guess either I will have to visit London again or hope for another deli opening up North.

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For more on my time in London please read my ‘More than a training day’ post, also it never fails to surprise me in how easy it is to be vegan and gluten-free in cities. Whilst in Pret a Manger, enjoying my breakfast of their new five grain porridge (I highly recommend, does anybody know how to make this at home?), I noticed the amount of people ordering soy coffees, compared to when in coffee shops up North. Also, how easy it seemed to have an allergen friendly lunch, instead of the usual ‘ooo that must be so hard’ response.

As for this week, I shall be hopefully spending more time with my loved ones and enjoy a couple of days to relax before the beginning of all the exciting adventures this new year will bring. Just in case I do not write before, I wish you all a truly wonderful Christmas, be kind to yourself and others.

Nicole

The 1st of December.

The magic of December is finally upon us and with a gentle reminder that this month is not a month for pressure nor stress, I have come up with an idea for advent, to reflect on each day with: an act of kindness for myself and another, something I am proud of and something I am grateful for. No matter how small, looking at these four things at the end of my day, as a way to be reminded that there is more to Christmas than the hustle and bustle that can often overwhelm us.

First, my act of self kindness, this has to be my breakfast, okay I know, I might be cheating slightly as I have a good bowl of porridge every morning however, today I took a little more time than I usually would and allowed myself time to enjoy it. Also the addition of a cup of Christmas coffee along with my  moo-free advent calendar chocolate gave it that extra bit of kindness. There is just something about advent calendars and breakfasts in pyjamas that make me feel all cosy.

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My act of kindness has been harder than I thought it would be, which being completely honest saddens me a little. Maybe I am unsure what an ‘act of kindness’ really means, or how small it can be. I mean, does taking my dogs walking count? Or making my father a cup of tea? Perhaps the raffle tickets I sold? I think this one needs some work.

Something  I am proud of, after a few months without running, this week I have got back to it. I have only been on two very short runs/walks but I am very proud of myself for allowing myself time for me and I am so happy I have. I am not only proud of myself for starting again but also for not pushing myself too far too soon, small steps. Ps, I did not start that fire, I simply stumbled upon it and stood there for a little warmth.

As always I am grateful for the sky and I apologise these photographs were taken last week and yesterday, I was in the woods whilst the sun set this evening but of course I feel very grateful I have been able to see such beautiful skies and grateful I am surrounded by such beauty. I could go on with a whole list of what I feel grateful for but today I choose the sky, the colours and the beauty that surrounds me (that counts as one, right?)

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I hope you have had a lovely day,

Nicole