Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Jim Morris - A 78 Year Old Inspiration

Vegan Bodybuilder Proves You Can Be Buff at 78

A 78 year old body builder is inspiration enough but a 78 year old vegan body builder is even better.  That is not because it is impressive that someone can be vegan, 78 years old and a body builder; after all we all know that being vegan is not only healthy and life giving but can easily be packed with more than enough protein to support activities such as body building. No, it is more the fact that Jim, by his very inspiring nature, is getting all these messages 'out there' and people are taking notice.  Being Peta's oldest pin up has kind of helped with grabbing the headlines too!

The vegan bit aside, Jim is an inspiration on many different levels as revealed in the short film below. Sometimes being 'labelled' can hinder life's progress and other times it can reveal new pathways for yourself and many others.  Jim has experienced both but the bottom line is, it's not what you are but who you are that matters.  He has a gentle, inspiring, passionate and humble way about him and that is the essence of what makes him special.  

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Tablespoon Vegan Fudge

Grab your tablespoon; you've pulled........or you will do if you make this for a loved one! This quick and simple recipe requires no cooking, a few vegan cupboard staples (or equivalents if you haven't got the exact things) and only a tablespoon to measure it all out. The only inconvenience is waiting for it to set before you can eat it, although there would be nothing to stop you attacking it beforehand with said tablespoon!

It was as usual a Driftwood Vegans 'rummage in the cupboard' job to see what we had. The coconut oil and cocoa powder I would say are the only two ingredients that you couldn't swap or leave out but even then you could use raw or normal cocoa powder or even carob powder.  I used almond butter but any nut butter could be used.  The maple syrup could be swapped for agave for example (although I favour the taste of maple).  You wouldn't have to put in vanilla paste or salt (although I think both tastes are nicely decipherable in the end result) and any nuts or fruits could be used.  I used milled chia seeds, dessicated coconut and ground almonds to 'bind' it but again, any different combinations of all or some of these or other similar ingredients could be used in the same way (protein powders, milled flax seeds).  Basically, as usual, I encourage you to experiment.  As long as the mixture looks relatively thick when you are mixing it all up, it stands a good chance of creating a big block of fudgey loveliness at the end.

Tablespoon Vegan Fudge

4 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon milled chia seeds
2 tablespoons dessicated coconut
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground almonds
2 tablespoons walnuts (crush them in your hand a bit)
1 tablespoon sultanas
Pinch of salt

In a bowl, mash up the coconut oil if it is still solid then add the almond butter and continue the mash up vibe until well incorporated.  Add in the vanilla and syrup and mix before adding in the dry stuff and mixing it in good and proper.  Turn it into whatever sized mold you desire and stick it in the freezer for a couple of hours and then the fridge to store.  Cut as desired to serve.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Chard Mushroom and Leek Cheesy Tart

It was one of those evenings when neither of us had any particular plan of what to cook for dinner.  Phil went for a surf as soon as we got home and I was left studying the kitchen cupboards and fridge for inspiration.  

The inspiration however, came from the garden in the end. Last years colourful planting of rainbow chard, now pushing upwards with full springtime force, caught my eye through the kitchen window and at that point I knew that had to be part of the plan.  

We had, rather lazily, a packet of shortcrust pastry in the fridge and the plan developed into some kind of chard tart. A further rummage in the fridge resulted in a leek and three medium sized mushrooms.  I fancied a bit of creamy cheesiness so reached for the cashews as the base....and I was off. 

A few roasted rosemary potatoes on the side and a random mixture of courgettes and tomatoes (from saved freezer stocks) completed the plan.

Chard Mushroom and Leek Cheesy Tart
Makes one 8" tart

1/2 packet of ready rolled shortcrust pastry (188g approx)
Oil for frying
1 medium leek
3 medium mushrooms
6 large chard leaves (colourful is good!)
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lime (or lemon if you don't have)
1 large handful of cashews
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tablespoon brown miso
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup (approximately) plant milk (I used oat milk)

Thinly slice the leek and start frying in oil.
Slice the mushrooms and add to the leeks once they've started to soften and brown.
Thinly slice the stems of the chard and add in, along with the minced garlic.
Once the mixture looks softened, add in the thinly sliced chard leaves and wilt down.
Add in the juice of half the lime and cook for another couple of minutes or so.
Set aside to cool slightly.

Grind the cashews to a powder either in a food processor or spice blender. 
Tip into a bowl and add the remaining lime juice, yeast flakes, oregano and miso.
Mix together as much as you can to incorporate the miso eveningly.
Add in the milk a bit at a time until the sauce has a 'single cream' consistency.

Roll out the pastry and line a greased tart dish with it.
Fill with the chard mixture and then pour the sauce on top, spreading it evenly.
Bake at 200 degrees C for approx 30 minutes or until nicely browned and set.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Bluebells and Foxes

The weather was kinder to us this weekend (last weekend was a wash out) so it was time to catch up on garden tasks once more.  In relative sunshine yesterday but a stiffer, yet not too chilly wind today, we cleared, planted, and generally sorted.  By mid afternoon today we had everything in the back garden as set as we could beyond waiting for seedlings to grow. The task of making further badger fortifications/adaptions in the front garden could wait for another day.  It was time to reward ourselves with an amble around 'our wider patch' so we set off for the coastal path.  

We were only 10 minutes into our walk before a fox jumped out on the path in front of us and sprinted for about 20 metres before diving into the beach side scrub land.  We stopped and followed its progress but lost it briefly behind a rise.  A rabbit scarpered on the opposite side, indicating the invisible pathway the fox was taking below.  The fox then reemerged into view with a small rabbit in its mouth.  It must have got lucky and gained a meal on its journey, although all be it not very lucky for the unfortunate rabbit.  As hard as it is being vegans, to see a life being taken, nature is nature and the fox needs to feed itself and the cubs it might have been heading in the direction of.

Having lost sight of the fox, we continued on our walk along the coast path.  Further along the headland, and out of the dunes, we began to see more and more wildflowers.  Bluebells were very much in evidence, their blue haze mirroring the every changing blue hue of the sea below as the sun intermittently appeared from behind the dark clouds.

We finished our walk at the local pub, sat supping a pint whilst overlooking the beach.  The landscape of the beach is ever changing through the seasons and from year to year.  This year the river mouth has moved to the centre of the beach with, in addition, several river-lets being dispersed along the beach.  In previous years when this has happened there has been an attempt to 'dig out' the old course of the river again at the eastern cliff edge to make it safer for the impending tide of tourists but invariably this has never been that successful. The river chooses its own path; tourists or not. 

We watched as a lone SUP'er (stand up paddle boarder) had some fun on tiny waves and also commented on the amount of seaweed that had built up on the beach recently, before finishing our pints and starting on the 15 minute walk back home.  It was good to be out and about in the wild after a weekend spent confined to bringing some order and vegetable growing potential into our own garden.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Nature Inspired Art

In nature, mathematics, and the arts, two quantities are said to be in the 'golden section' if the ratio between the sum of those quantities and the larger one is the same as the ratio between the larger one and the smaller. Yeah.....whatever!!!!

Yes, I did indeed learn about this 'rule' when I was studying photography and yes, I do find myself subconsciously applying this when taking photographs a fair amount. However, the bottom line is that nature is endlessly creative, and people create art inspired by nature. So enough of the science, rules, and explanations and let's just be creative and appreciate nature.  I hate maths anyway.

The above video of strobe animated sculptures is just one such example of nature inspired work that utilises the 'golden section' to hypnotic effect.

Phil and I are hugely influenced by nature; physically, emotionally, and therefore creatively.  After all, isn't surfing a wave a form of art? And I have lost count of the amount of times a small patch of light, texture, or shape, that has momentarily appeared in my pathway and field of view, has stopped me in my tracks and had me reaching for my camera.

Phil spent many a happy moment on our recent trip in Portugal creating and 'playing' with rocks Michael Grab style on beaches whilst I roamed at the opposite end searching the details of nature for beautiful forms to capture and photograph.  This is how nature can be appreciated, entertaining and creatively inspiring.  In addition, Phil found that the practice of placing the stones needed a calm mind and a steady hand, which created a sense of grounding and balance within himself. Interacting with nature in this way produced an unexpected harmonising and healing effect. You could say it was natural art therapy.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Cornish Bank Holiday Soundtracks

It's the first May bank holiday weekend and this signals the start of 'silly season' in Cornwall, when the city dwellers charge down in their shiny 4x4's panicking at the mere sight of a Cornish hedge and moaning about the lack of interweb signal just at the moment they were going to 'strike their next deal' whilst eating a plastic wrapped  'rustic' pasty from Ginsters that they bought from the 'genuine' Cornish pasty van at Exeter services.  Nuff said.

We drove in the opposite direction laughing at them.  Our laughing faltered slightly at Saltash when we hit roadworks and traffic jams before we had even crossed the border. Luckily our local knowledge (many years ago Scooby worked in Saltash), had us diving behind the back streets and out over the Tamar Bridge before you could even say 'dreckly'. It did however bring to mind a recent Cornish musical discovery to us; Bagas degol.

Bagas degol are a modern Cornish folk music trio who use a bagpipe and dub powered fusion to blend traditional tunes and modern rhythms.  We like a bit of dub so this unusual Cornish take on the genre really caught our attention.  As we drove through Saltash, one particular track sprung to mind as, by their own admission, it is a 'wry nod to the joys of summer traffic congestion'.

Whilst their music seems to have an embedded Cornish individuality to it, each track has a different mood and flavour. From the humorous 'Saltash Dubbing' we move to the more serious, haunting yet warm 'Descending Dub' which incorporates a hint of Cornish Moroccan guitar vibe.  Its simplistic beat draws you into a foot tapping, eye closing moment of reflection.

Next up is a cheeky little number which demands even the shyest of dancers get up and at least have a self conscious wiggle in full dub 'stylee'.  Only last night we planned and booked our next trip in Miles the Camper to take us to the shores of Brittany.  If there was any song that held the excitement and promise of what Breton treats might lay in store in July, then this is it.  

Back to the shores of Cornwall but still with a slight hint of our Celtic neighbours.  You get the feeling that they don't take themselves too seriously; there is a real sense of enjoyment, fun and play within their music that at the same time embraces all that is individual and independent about Cornwall.  

We will be exploring and looking out for more music from Bagas degol in the future.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Vegan Mediterranean Buffet Vibe

We were missing the Mediterranean food vibe after only having been back in the UK a few days.  We were also missing the whole Eurasia buffet thing.  This coupled with the delight of having a whole kitchen to stand in and an oven to cook in (as opposed to the seated cooking position over Miles' two hob kitchen), meant I had a sudden desire to spend a leisurely couple of hours of culinary creativity.

First off I really fancied tofu steaks, a simple oven baked delight we hadn't had for a while.  I also hadn't had my favourite polenta for a while so a bake was in order to slice up and enjoy hot or cold.  Seeing as I was aiming at a 'MedVeg' vibe meal I added in the treat of sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, roasted artichoke hearts and a good sprinkle of oregano to the basic crust for polenta pizza.  Before you bake it just stir in all the extras before it starts setting too much and then top off with a few naughty slices of vegan cheese (I used Mozzarella Teese).  

Then it was on to sorting out a selection of salads and healthy accompaniments.  We still had carrots growing in a patch that we needed to reseed so this was a perfect excuse to pull a few up.  Our annual rocket patch was well and truly greening up too.  This meant we had at least two of the ingredients on hand for a superfood salad so that went on the menu along with some beetroot and some lovely olives brought back from Portugal, as well as the simple avocado and tomato salad we had made during our time in Portugal.

Now it was time to venture forth and create some new things instead of just revisiting old favourites so no more links to past recipes and here are the other four salads/dishes I made to complete my little MedVeg buffet.  All the recipes below made a good quantity (enough for the two of us for this meal and also a big lunch).

Warm Mediterranean Chickpea Salad 
Splash of lovely olive oil for frying
1 small red onion 
1 can (400g) of chickpeas
Approximately 1/2 smallish jar of roasted artichoke hearts
Approximately 12 pitted olives
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of lovely olive oil (for dressing)

Chop the onion to the size you prefer (depending on whether you like big or little chunks) and fry in the oil until slightly browning.
Add the chickpeas and stir until heated through and even slightly browning too if you like that vibe.
Roughly chop the artichoke hearts and stir in along with the olives (halved or not - it's up to you!).
As the dressing, finally add in the lemon juice and olive oil and stir.
Done.  Keep warm, or actually it tastes good cold too.

Mushrooms with Coriander and Mint
I didn't write the amounts for this dish down so I say, just make it up as you go along like I did but basically........

In olive oil fry up a small onion and some garlic then add in sliced mushrooms (perhaps about 10 or so big ones for a dish for two) and continue frying until slightly browning (not too much though).  Add in the juice of one lemon, a good handful of chopped fresh coriander and about half a handful of chopped fresh mint. Let it simmer away for about 5 minutes gently and there is only a small amount of juice left. Serve warm but as with the chickpea dish, it's good cold too.

Apple, Celery and Sesame Seed Salad
This is super quick and simple and I'm sure everybody has made this already but I'll mention it all the same.

Chop up an apple (skin on), about 3 stalks of celery and mix with olive oil and cider vinegar to taste.  Slightly roast up or dry fry some sesame seeds and then throw them in to the mix, and stir it up.  Either leave it at that or add in a sprinkle of dried flat leaf parsley and dried dill and give it a final stir.

Quinoa Nutty Raisin Salad
Again, a simple and probably much made variation on the theme but worth making a big batch up to keep for those 'healthy but snacky' moments.  As per the norm with me; amounts are random but you get the idea I'm sure.  Pretty much any other grain would work with this too.

Cook up some quinoa (if you were feeling super lazy you could buy one of those ready cooked packets).  
Soak some raisins in a bit of water to plump up.
Roast or dry fry some cashews till starting to brown.
Finely chop up a few spring onions (we had some of these in the garden growing too).
Finely chop up a red pepper.  I like to use roast pepper for this but you could just use raw too.
Add all of the above into a big old bowl.
Stir in soya sauce (or Braggs Liquid Aminos) and toasted sesame oil to taste and give it a massive mix up.  Sprinkle in some dried flat leaf parsley too if you fancy.

Phew, before I knew it that was two hours gone but in front of me on the table was an array of colourful dishes to tuck in to.  Even better was the lunch box it filled the next day too!


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Cococaravan Welcome Home Package


How wonderful it is to return from holiday to a big package of vegan raw chocolate courtesy of Coco Caravan. 

Before we went away we got involved in a Kickstarter project with Cococaravan and now we have received this chocolaty delight of a package with the added bonus of a box of unexpected Easter Eggs. 

How very lovely and thanks Jacques!!

So with the help of those who got involved Cococaravan have now bought a small tempering machine, allowing them to increase their output, (which is always good!), they are talking to the Vegan Society to get an official logo on their packaging and are now stocking more shops thanks to the attention from the project (so get it down here in Cornwall Jacques!).  

Read all about their progress here.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Views from Our Window Part 6 (Final)

By day

It is with sadness that our trip to Portugal finally draws to a close and we offer you the final 'Views From Our Window' of Miles the Camper Van.  Once more we found ourselves on top of the mountain and looking towards the south coast.  We sat sipping our wine, soaking up the sun, taking in this view.  As the light started to fade, the local cicada and frog population kicked in to their evening song and the human light display below sparked up.

Meanwhile we reflected on how lovely our time had been here in Portugal and how Miles had taken us to ever more wilder and quieter places.  We also reflected on however hard it is to come to the end of a much enjoyed holiday, returning to our life in our little village by the sea in Cornwall ain't all that bad either!

By night

Friday, 24 April 2015

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

Oranges look and taste amazing in Portugal and as an added bonus, they are super cheap to buy too.  So as well as enjoying them during our trip regularly, we also bought a pile to take home with us.

The lemons are amazing too. They might not look as 'cutesy' as the ones we get over here but their big and gnarly appearance does well to hide the juicier and more fragrant properties of these citrus beasts. A couple will be coming home with us too.

I've enjoyed the odd lemon tea here and there in the past but have never been hoopla about it.  Whilst we have been in Portugal, Phil and I read a quirky little book called 'Portugal Unveiled'.  The author seemed very fond of his chá de limão; lemon tea basically.  However, it wasn't lemon tea as we know it; that is a wedge or slice of lemon topped off with boiling water. It seems we may have been doing it wrong all along as in Portugal lemon tea not only tastes better but is actually made with just a thick slice of the zest alone.  We ordered it at our favourite Portuguese veggie restaurant Eurasia and inquired as to whether they used just the zest. The 'of course' look we got confirmed that there was no other way as far as the Portuguese are concerned.  The result was just so much tastier and fresher than any lemon tea I had tried before. Who would have thought that such a small change could make such a difference?  

We are hoping that once our Portuguese lemon stock has gone we can continue to get similar results with the lemons available over here.