Friday, 22 September 2017

Super Quick Cosmetic Pouches

I hope you'll excuse this deviation from my usual food-based posts, but I've recently got back into machine sewing and wanted to share my latest creations. They make great gifts, are very cheap to make and take just one afternoon, or a couple of hours to make.
This particular design makes two large and two small purses from just two fat quarters of fabric - so that's a cost of around £2-3 for all four pouches, depending on the price of your material.

The patterns for both pouches are made from a single sheet of A4 paper (folded in half for the smaller one). I hope you can follow my picture tutorial and notes...
  1. For the large pouch, take one sheet of A4 (letter-size) paper. Place a dinner plate at one end, so the edge of the plate is touching one short and two long sides. Draw a curve around the top of the plate.
  2. Fold the paper in half and cut around the curve, then open back out.
  3. Put your two pieces of material together and pin the pattern to them.
  4. Cut around the pattern, then remove.
  5. Place the wrong sides of the material together and pin all around, except for around 7.5cm/3" at one corner (see bottom right photo).
  6. Sew all around (except for the gap) leaving a small seam allowance.
  7. Turn the fabric inside-out and poke the corners out using a chopstick or dowel.
  8. Iron to flatten the seams, being careful to press under the unsewn section.
  9. Fold up to make an open envelope and top stitch close to the edge all the way around, including the unsewn section.
  10. Finally sew on a press stud and press the purse one last time.  
To make the smaller pouch, simply fold a sheet of A4 paper in half lengthwise and use a large mug to make the top curve of the pattern. The larger purse is ideal as a make up bag or pencil case, whereas the smaller one is just the right size for sanitary products! I reckon a teeny one, half the width of the small one would be the perfect size for an asthma inhaler.

If you make these, do let me know how they turn out and post a picture on my Facebook page.

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Off to University - an Essential Kitchen List for Vegetarian Students

tin of baked beansI started this blog 7 years ago when my older daughter was 11 years old and had just started high school. She's now 18 and off to university. Where have the years gone?

Anyway, as she's going to be self-catering in her halls of residence, I've been helping her buy some essential kitchen equipment (Home Bargains and IKEA are your frugal friends!) and have drafted a basic food shopping list. As I don't know if she'll find anyone to food-share with, I'll be buying many of these items to fill her cupboard in the shared kitchen, so that I know she'll be eating OK for at least the first couple of weeks.

I thought I might as well share the list, in case it helps anyone else. As you can see, most of the items are cheap and cheerful, but nutritionally sound, providing plenty of carbs and protein for hard-working (and partying) students!

From my experience at uni, many years ago, it might also be worth name-labelling any food left in communal areas (such as the fridge and freezer) with a sticker or Sharpie pen, unless you want all and sundry to eat it!

Obviously vegan students can made the necessary changes to their list, but this would mainly be the fridge and freezer items.

You can also find lots of simple recipes and tips for veggie students here.

Not food-related, but if you're off to uni, do make sure you get your meningitis ACWY vaccination before you go.

Medium frying pan
Medium sauce pan
Non-stick baking tray
Small pyrex dish
Plastic spatula/fish slice, serving spoon, potato masher
Small cheese grater
Potato peeler
Garlic crusher
Can opener
Sharp knife
Knife, fork, spoon, teaspoon x2
Dinner plate, side plate, bowl x2
Large glass, small glass x2
Biscuit jar/tin
Plastic lidded containers to store food
Kettle (for own room)
Refried beans
Baked beans
Tinned new potatoes
Tinned beans
Dried lentils
Tomato puree
Tin of soup
Tinned tomatoes/passata
Pizza base mix
Jam/peanut butter/Marmite etc.
Cereal bars
Vegetable/olive oil
Herbs and spices
Tea bags/coffee/hot chocolate
Long life milk individual (for own room)
Veggie bacon
Bean burgers
Veggie sausages
Frozen mixed veg
Fruit juice
Fresh fruit
Fresh veg
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Sunday, 3 September 2017

Toffee Apple & Carrot Upside-down Cake - Suma Blogger's Network

Toffee Apple & Carrot Upside-down Cake
We've had a good crop of discovery apples this year, so I've been trying to come up with different ways of using up the windfalls. This fruity upside-down cake, which was inspired by this week's episode of The Great British Bake Off, makes a lovely autumnal recipe for the Suma Blogger's Network and must almost count as a 5-a-day!

Serves 6-8
  • 2-3 dessert apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
  • 100g/4oz toffee sauce - I used Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding Sauce from Suma
  • 100g/4oz butter
  • 100g/4oz soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g/6oz SR flour
  • 1 medium-large carrot, grated
  • 50g/2oz raisins or sultanas
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4.
Grease and line and 8" baking tin.
Spread the toffee sauce over the base of the tin and then cover with a single layer of sliced apples.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then mix in the rest of the ingredients to make a thick mixture.
Carefully top the apples with the cake mixture, being sure to spread the mixture over evenly to cover all the apples.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and firm to the touch.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, before turning out, to allow the sauce to soak into the cake.

Serve warm with custard, cream or ice cream.
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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Courgette, Green Bean and New Potato Salad

It's that time of year again and my home grown courgettes are fruiting in abundance - the yellow variety are doing particularly well.  As I'm not a fan of traditional potato salad, coated in mayonnaise, I devised this recipe instead.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish
  • 200g/8oz baby courgettes/zucchini, sliced
  • 100g/4oz green beans, sliced
  • 500g/1lb new potatoes, halved if large
  • 2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
For the dressing:
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • a good handful of chopped, fresh tarragon or a mixture of any fresh, green herbs you have to hand (parsley, oregano, basil, mint etc)
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 heaped tsp coarse grain mustard
  • Himalayan pink salt to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/190 C Fan/400 F/Gas 6 and heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a baking tray or dish.

Boil the new potatoes for around 15-20 minutes (until tender), drain, then add to the hot roasting dish. Turn to coat with the oil and sprinkle with salt to taste.
After 5 minutes in the oven, add the sliced courgettes and garlic. Roast for  a further 10 minutes, or until beginning to turn a golden brown.

Meanwhile, boil the green beans for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente.
Drain and set aside.

Once the potatoes and courgettes are nicely browned, add the green beans to the baking dish and roast for a further 3-5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

Make the dressing by blending or mixing the crushed, roasted garlic, oil, herbs, vinegar and mustard.
Pour over the warm vegetables and turn gently to coat with the dressing.

Serve warm or cold for lunch or with barbecued food.

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Sunday, 4 June 2017

Pinto Bean & Chickpea Falafels - Suma Blogger's Network

After recently making refried beans, I wanted to create another recipe which used dried pinto beans, for my latest Suma Bloggers post; pinto beans are great as a cheap, vegetarian source of protein because they don't require pre-soaking.

Although I've always used canned, cooked chick peas for falafels, it turns out that traditional recipes use soaked, raw chickpeas. I didn't have the time or inclination to soak my pulses for 12 hours, so I decided to boil them along with the pinto beans, without pre-soaking. This actually worked really well and I was pleased with the end result, which not only tasted good freshly cooked, but also worked well cold in wraps for my packed lunches.
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 cup dried pinto beans (from Suma)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus extra for frying
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp. chickpea/gram flour (from Suma)
  • 1 chilli, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
Rapidly boil the pulses for 10 minutes. Then cover and simmer for a further hour.
When cooked, drain.

Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil for a few minutes, until softened.
Add the spices and cook for a further minute.

Blend the chickpeas with the cooked onion and spices, plus the gram flour, until you have a fairly firm, dough-like mixture.

Roll into 20-24 small balls, using your hands.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.

Heat a few more tbsp. oil in a large frying pan on a medium-high heat. Cook the falafels for around 5-8 minutes until golden brown (you can deep fry if you prefer).

Serve in wraps, with salad and hummus.

 Suma Blogger's Network
Top Tip: A word of warning - these vegan and gluten-free falafels are quite fragile as they don't contain egg or breadcrumbs to bind them, so you need to turn them carefully when cooking!

Integrity Statement
As a member of the Suma Blogger's Network, I will receive a selection of complimentary products from Suma every two months, to use in recipe development, and will blog an original recipe for the Network. 

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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Easy Homemade Refried Beans (Frijoles Refritos)

Spicy Refried Beans
I've been meaning to try making my own refried beans for some time now and finally got round to doing so...just in time for National Vegetarian Week!

In case you don't know, the term refried is actually a mis-translation of refritos, which actually means well-fried, not fried twice.

My recipe is for a spicy version, similar in taste to the expensive, small tins you can buy in the UK. Providing you have most of the ingredients to hand, it works out at around £1 to make this recipe, equivalent to around 2-3 large cans. You could, of course, make a larger batch which would be even more economical.

Serves 8-10 as a starter, or side dish
  • 2 cups of dried pinto beans (no need to pre-soak)
  • 6 cups of boiling water
  • 6 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tbsp. pickled jalapeños
  • 2 tsp chipotle paste (optional)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
Place the beans and water in a large pan.
Boil rapidly for 10 minutes (uncovered), then reduce the heat and simmer for a further hour (with the lid on).
Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid, then mash or blend the beans, adding back some of the reserved cooking liquid until you have the texture and consistency you prefer.

Finely chop or blend the onions and chillies.
Heat the oil on a medium heat and add the onion and chillies  Cook for a few minutes until softened.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
National Vegetarian Week
Finally stir in the mashed beans and mix well to combine the ingredients.

Serve warm with tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole or use to stuff burritos.

Top tips: Eat half and freeze half of the mixture. Defrost and heat in the microwave, adding a little extra boiled water if needed.
For a mild, child-friendly version, omit the salt, chillies and chipotle paste from the main mixture. Serve the adult's portion with the above ingredients added to taste.

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Monday, 1 May 2017

Sri Lanka: The Cookbook - Review & Giveaway

Sri Lanka: the Cookbook
I've only recently discovered the joys of Sri Lankan food, so I was delighted to be offered a copy of this book for review. Sri Lanka: the Cookbook gives a comprehensive introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine and explains the ingredients and cooking techniques.

Written by husband and wife team Prakash Sivanathan and Niranjala Ellawala, the book shows their knowledge of and passion for the cuisine of their former homeland:

“My wife and I have lived in London for many years, but I was born a Tamil in the Jaffna peninsula in the north of Sri Lanka, and Niranjala is a Sinhalese from the south. Between us, we have a deep understanding and love of the unique styles of cooking that together make up our island’s cuisine. We hope this provides a record of Sri Lankan history and diversity for generations to come.”

One thing I must say is that this probably isn't a book for novice cooks as the ingredients lists tend to be longer/more exotic and some of the recipes are a little more complicated than other books I've reviewed. You also need to be fan of coconut/coconut milk as similar to Thai food, these feature heavily. Having said that, if you already have a well-stocked spice rack and are used to cooking Indian or Thai food, I'm sure you'll love this book.

I also need to point out that this is not an exclusively vegetarian book, but as Sri Lankan food is naturally vegetarian-friendly, many of the recipes are either vegetarian, pescatarian or easy to adapt. All of the recipes are marked as to their suitability for vegetarians, but I did notice a few non-vegetarian (fish-derived) ingredients in some of these. They are easy to omit though, without losing any the authentic flavour of the dishes.

I've only tried out a few of the recipes so far, but I particularly liked the pol roti (spicy, coconut flatbreads) and poosanikai kari (pumpkin curry), both of which were fairly easy to make, but tasted very different to the Indian-style food I often cook.

SRI LANKA: THE COOKBOOK is published by Frances Lincoln, 6th May 2017, RRP £20.00
Also available from Amazon and other book shops.

I have one copy of this book to give away. Simply add your details to the Rafflecopter widget and comment below, stating your favourite spice. UK ENTRANTS ONLY. Closes 12am 12th May.

Integrity Statement I was offered a copy of the book to review plus another to give away. All views expressed ere genuine. 

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Monday, 17 April 2017

Risotto with Green Beans & Butternut Squash

Risotto with Green Beans & Butternut Squash

I was looking back through my blog the other day and realised that I've not posted any risotto recipes; that's probably because my girls aren't keen on risotto.

Anyway, I recently made this dish to share with friends, which went down very well. It certainly made a change from the ubiquitous mushroom risotto!
  • 1½ cups risotto rice
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • ½ butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 150g/6oz green beans, cut into 2.5cm/1" pieces
  • 150g/6oz Manchego cheese; half grated, half cubed (or an alternative strong-flavoured, hard cheese)
  • 75g/3oz semi-dried or sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley or oregano chopped (or ½-1 tsp dried herbs)
  • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped (or ½-1 tsp dried herbs)
  • olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to season
Heat the oven to 180C Fan/190C/Gas 5/375F

Roast the butternut squash (drizzled with olive oil) for around 25-30 minutes, turning occasionally, until soft and browned. Sprinkle with the sage before the final 5 minutes of cooking time.

Cook the beans in a pan of water for around 8-10 minutes, until just cooked; drain.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large pan.
Gently cook the onion and garlic until soft. Add the rice and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the white wine and stir well.
Add the stock, a little at a time, stirring occasionally. Cook for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is al dente. Stir in the cooked beans and parsley/oregano.

Gently, mix in the grated cheese and chopped tomatoes. Season to taste.

Spoon into a serving dish and top with the roasted squash and remaining cheese. Return to the oven for a minute or so to allow the cheese to melt slightly.

Vegan version: simply omit the cheese or swap the grated cheese for 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes.

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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Churro Waffles with Caramel Sauce

Churro Waffles with Caramel Sauce
These churro-style waffles are cooked in a waffle maker rather than being deep fried like traditional churros. I made mine in my trusty Sage Waffle Maker, however there are cheaper gadgets on the market. You could cook these like drop scones on a large non-stick frying pan, if you don't have a waffle maker.

Makes 4-5 large waffles
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups SR flour
  • 1⅓ cups milk  
  • ⅓ cup soft brown sugar                   
  • ⅓ cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • a pinch of bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
  • a pinch of cinnamon
For the cinnamon sugar, mix ingredients together.
  • ½ cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
For the caramel dipping sauce, heat ingredients together in a pan or in the microwave and stir thoroughly.
  • 1 cup dulche de leche/caramel condensed milk
  • 1 cup evaporated milk or double cream
Beat all of the waffle ingredients together to make a smooth, thick batter.
Heat your waffle maker or frying pan on a medium-high heat.
Cook waffles until golden brown.

Whilst warm, dust on both sides with the cinnamon sugar.

Serve drizzled with the hot caramel sauce.

Top tip: Make a chocolate sauce by melting chocolate and mixing with double cream or evaporated milk. Heat gently until you have a smooth, warm sauce.
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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Black Bean Chilli Burritos

Black Bean Chilli Burritos
Since I've been back working full time, I've had less time for both blogging and cooking, so I've been devising some really quick and easy family meals down to necessity. This recipe uses store cupboard ingredients and can be made in around 15 minutes.

Fills around 6-8 wraps
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 100g/4oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tin sweetcorn, drained
  • 1 tin black beans, drained
  • 1 tbsp. chipotle paste
  • 1 handful fresh coriander/cilantro roughly chopped
To serve:
  • a pack of tortilla wraps
  • 1 pack of Mexican-style microwave rice
  • 100g grated cheese
  • salad/salsa/avocado/jalapeños etc. to serve
Heat a drop of oil in a pan, on a medium heat.
Fry the onions for a few minutes, until soft. Then add the peppers, garlic and mushrooms and cook for a further 5-7 minutes, until the peppers are almost tender.
Stir in the remaining ingredients and warm through for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the rice and warm the wraps.
Fill each burrito with some rice, beany mixture and cheese.
Serve with the optional extras.

Vegan version: simply omit the cheese and check the wrap ingredients.
Top tips: Look for black beans in the World Foods section of your supermarket, as they're usually around half the price of the branded version.
Use the same mixture to top nachos.

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Thursday, 23 March 2017

Pasta with Aubergine & Mozzarella

Pasta with Aubergine & Mozzarella
Aubergines (eggplant) are in scarce supply at the moment, due to adverse weather conditions in Europe, and the quality has been quite variable. However, I spotted some lovely plump specimens in Tesco's the other day, so came up with this recipe to use them in.

This is a really simple, vegetarian pasta dish. The aubergine  takes a little while to cook, but everything else can be thrown together in minutes.

You could swap the aubergine for courgettes, mushrooms or whichever vegetables are cheap and in season.

Serves 4
  • 2 large aubergines, sliced thickly
  • 1 ball of mozzarella, roughly torn
  • 500g packet of fresh pasta
  • olive oil for frying
For the herby dressing:
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • a handful of fresh basil
  • a handful of fresh parsley
  • ½ tsp dried mint
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 small chilli, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
Fry the aubergine in batches until soft and brown in colour (alternatively, brush with oil and bake in the oven.). Remove from the pan and chop roughly.

Make up the dressing by whizzing all the ingredients together in a mini-blender until fairly smooth, like a pesto. Warm the dressing through, in the pan which you cooked the aubergine in, while the pasta is cooking. Do not allow the garlic to colour, as this will give a bitter taste.

Cook the pasta and drain.

Mix the pasta, aubergine and dressing together. Top with the cheese.
Pop under a hot grill/broiler for a few minutes or microwave for 1 minute, if you want to warm the cheese though.

Serve with a seasonal salad.

Vegan option: Replace the cheese with some toasted pine nuts. For extra protein, add a drained tin of chickpeas to the dressing to warm through, before combining the remaining ingredients.

Variations: For a tomato sauce, simply add a can of chopped tomatoes to the dressing. Simmer for 10 minutes, before combining with the pasta and cooked aubergine.
Swap the mozzarella for feta.

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Saturday, 18 March 2017

Saag Paneer Parathas

Saag Paneer Parathas
Unfortunately, work has been taking priority recently and blogging has had to take a back seat. I've been meaning to post for a while and finally managed to finish writing up this recipe...

Although I made it through January without a morsel of cheese passing my lips, I'm afraid to admit that cheese is well and truly back on the menu.

As street food is becoming more and more popular, I thought I'd blog another one of my favourite Indian snack recipes. The same filling could also be used to stuff chapattis, tortillas or even paninis if you prefer. I use a mini-blender to chop all of the spice paste ingredients, but you could chop then by hand if you don't have one.

Fills 4-6 parathas

For the spice paste:
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 1-2 green chillis, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
For the filling:
  • 250g/10oz fresh spinach (or frozen, defrosted)
  • 200g/8oz paneer, cubed
  • 150ml/ cup passata
  • 4-6 frozen, uncooked parathas (check ingredients, if vegan) 
Microwave or steam the spinach as per packet instructions. Cool and squeeze as much liquid out as possible. Chop roughly, if using fresh spinach. 

Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil on a medium heat.
Fry the paneer for a few minutes, turning regularly, then remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Add the mustard seeds to the pan, along with a drop more oil. Cook for 30 seconds, then add the onion and spice paste.
Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the onion is just starting to colour.
Add the cooked paneer and spinach and stir though.
Add the passata and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, until you have quite a dry, thick filling.

If you have a panini press or George Forman-type grill, heat it up. If not, cook the parathas one at a time in a large frying pan on a high heat.

Take one frozen paratha and heat it for 1-2 minutes on the press/grill/pan. Turn over and fill with a generous spoonful of filling. Fold in half, or roll like a burrito and cook for a further minute or two on each side, until golden brown.

Serve with onion salad and your favourite chutneys.

Vegan version: swap the paneer for a tin of chickpeas to make a chana saag filling.
Top tip:  double the amount of passata to make a saag paneer side dish.

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Saturday, 7 January 2017

Veganuary 2017

A slightly belated Happy New Year! 
I can't believe all the festivities are over and I'm back at work already!

This year, both Miss K (now aged 15) and I are attempting Veganuary. In case you don't know, Veganuary is a campaign in association with Viva! to encourage people to go vegan for January and "Eat delicious, healthy food, save lives and help the environment."

As a long-time vegetarian (myself) and a lifelong one (Miss K), I reckon we've done our bit to save more than a few farm animals' lives between us, however the dairy and egg industry does, of course, play on our minds from time to time. It's something which I don't often blog about, as I try not to be a 'preachy' type of vegetarian; I am married to an omnivore after all.

After a week of eating a vegan diet, I've only encountered a couple of obstacles. One is that you can't easily buy vegan cakes and I haven't had time for any guess what I've been craving? The second is eating out as a vegan; this seems to be incredibly difficult if you're a strict vegan but the Veganuary website has this covered for a variety of chain restaurants.

If you've recently discovered my blog, you might like to know that I try to avoid fussy recipes and fashionable 'out-there' ingredients, as I work full time and have a family to feed, who want wholesome, tasty but not weird, vegetarian meals. I don't have time to faff around for hours, or to knit my own quinoa, goji berry and spirulina brownies, but I do enjoy cooking.

Although not all of my recipes below are vegan, they are all budget friendly, relatively low in fat and can all be easily adapted (for example, if the recipe uses Quorn or cheese, simply swap for a vegan alternative.) I hope you enjoy them. Please let me know what you think, by leaving me a comment if you do try any of my recipes.

Veganuary meal plan - week 1
Veganuary meal plan - week 2
A cheap and lower-fat meal plan for Veganuary

For an amazing array of vegan recipes, take a look at the Veganuary recipe index.

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