You don’t need a fancy camera – photo quiz!

Hopefully this is proof that you don’t need a fancy camera to take great photos – I get fed up hearing of this!! Especially all of you that have I-phones!

As promised, I’m going to expand on the photographs of my last post and share with you some of my favourite images of the evening walking around Forvie NNR. I did take photos with both my phone and my camera. I still am impressed by the quality of the HDR mode of my Samsung S5 neo. See if you can guess which ones are which. Answers at the bottom….

 

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Old derelict green railway cart
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Evening sunset over the dunes

One of these following two is my £300 phone, the other, my £900 camera. Do I feel a little cheated?!

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Looking south over Forvie towards Aberdeen – 1

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1 or 2….1 or 2…?! Which one do you prefer?

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The old buried church

This was my favourite photo of the walk – but what did I take it on?

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Looking south over Forvie towards Aberdeen – 3
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Sunset over the dunes
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An old fence at the beach
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Evening through the marram grass

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Please leave your thoughts in the comments and share with your friends to prove a point 😉

Annette

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Reveal the answers:

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Days 5,6 and 7: 50 miles in!

Sands of Forvie

Walking and/or running 50 miles in 7 days isn’t too bad! I must say that my legs are feeling it a little though.

Days 5 and 6 of my John O’ Groats to Lands End Challenge went pretty well. A few miles walking round at work and a 6 mile run from the nearest local town home each day helped bring in a few miles. Cue sunset number one…

Ythan estuary sunset
Ythan estuary sunset

Day 7 took me on a beautiful evening through Forvie NNR this time with camera in hand. I’m just going to show a few photos here to give you an idea. I’ll write a longer post with more images at a later date, but this will whet your appetite hopefully! The advantages of getting outside are now becoming evident to me….

Looking south towards Aberdeen
Looking south towards Aberdeen
Sunset over the sand dunes
Sunset over the sand dunes

These photos on this page were actually all taken with my phone. I never cease to be amazed by the quality of photographs that phones can churn out nowadays. Despite the fact that I had my big camera on me, most photos I took were in HDR mode on my phone.

It’ll be interesting to compare them to those taken in RAW on my camera, especially the ones looking down the coast.

Hopefully you had some nice walks outside too over the last few days!

Annette

 

Day 4: A Day of Discovery

After yesterday’s very wet rather rushed walk, I decided to venture back again along the Forvie NNR coastal path. Initially I was going to loop back to the visitor centre but I decided instead to go further along to Hackley Bay.

I remember seeing it years ago as a student and wanting to go back to see it again. It’s a small sandy cove surrounded by marram covered cliffs. The only way to access it is to walk through the reserve. Although I was eager to see it again, I didn’t realise how much in awe I would be once I reached the damp sands.

The thick fog provided an eerie backdrop as it was just I and some early fulmars on the beach. That sense of isolation, dramatic edging and wide reaching sand has put it on my top 5 if not possibly top 2 beaches to visit (so far) in the UK.

I didn’t spend long as clothing was not something I had on in abundance, but I will be back with a book and a blanket and a snack or two. I also didn’t have any picture taking device with me so alas, sorry no photos. Yesterday’s photo will therefore have to suffice.

Hackley Bay, Forvie NNR on a soggy day
Hackley Bay, Forvie NNR on a soggy day

It’s one of those iconic type of beaches you imagine from the movies with people walking hand in hand or horses galloping through the surf….The picture above doesn’t do it justice at all (but it was pouring rain) therefore a camera will also be on my list for next time!

If you’re in the area, pop by for a visit – you will not be disappointed as its truly idyllic.

Today’s walk-run put another 10k on the clock for my John O’ Groats to Lands End Challenge.

Day 3 on the Virtual Challenge

A stylised photo looking out to see at Forvie NNR. Looks like it could be a lovely summers day!

I’m certainly racking up a few miles more than normal the last few days. Today’s big adventure took the form of starting out on a wet, but nice walk through Forvie NNR which ended up with me running in full waterproofs (two jackets), jeans and winter boots the last two miles in order to vaguely make a hair-taming appointment. Cue 10km added to my virtual challenge total. And cue ending up extremely embarrassed, sweaty, soaked through and red-faced whilst apologising profusely for being (at least) 10 minutes late for a 9am appointment.

Still the lady at the Ythan Waves hair salon was wonderfully lovely and cut my hair really nicely therefore I would not hesitate in recommending this hairdresser! If you can trust a review from someone who gets a haircut maximum once a year… The place was clearly well visited by the locals which is always a good sign.

I plan on going back to do this walk again, perhaps in a loop when the weather is nicer and when I don’t have to be somewhere at a certain time. Here’s a soggy pic of Hackley Bay. The scenery is fantastic, especially when you see the sandy beach stretching out in the distance. Forvie NNR is definitely somewhere you want to be in the summer evenings when the sun is low glancing over the dunes and there is a gentle breeze. Aah bliss.

Hackley Bay, Forvie NNR on a soggy day
Hackley Bay, Forvie NNR on a soggy day

 

My total today is just under 12km! Making progress on this one! Would love to hear about any nice walks you’ve been on today.

Annette

 

Cashew Nut, Coconut Milk and Sweet Potato Soup with Crispy Skins

The finished soup and crisps

This smooth yet really filling soup is perfect for a cold winters day. It’s rich and thick and lightly spiced which is what you need to take the chill off a day spent outside.

Although I have specified peeled sweet potato, feel free to add the skin in too. Alternatively use the sweet potato peelings to make yummy, yummy crispy skins to have with your soup. You may even find yourself peeling a little extra sweet potato than normal!

It’s even great as a base for a ramen – I used one portion for this, adding extra water and stock, green veg like broccoli and thick udon noodles. Cook briefly and voila!

A fully vegan feast!

Follow me on Instagram for more tasty pics like this ;)
Follow me on Instagram for more tasty pics like this 😉

MDM’s Roasted Cashew Nut, Coconut Milk and Sweet Potato Soup

100g roasted cashew nuts, chopped roughly

1tbsp olive oil + 100mls for sweet potato crisps

250g white onions finely chopped

2 sticks celery, approx 100g

1 med-large sweet potato, peeled and chopped

200g carrots

2 tsp ground mixed spice

1tsp chinese 5 spice

1.5pt vegetable stock (more if you want to thin the soup a little)

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 can coconut milk

Salt and pepper

Cashew nut, coconut milk and sweet potato soup fresh ingredients
Cashew nut, coconut milk and sweet potato soup fresh ingredients
  1. Heat the oven to around 150oC fan and put the cashews in and stir around regularly. Roast for around 10-15 minutes until they start to brown ever so slightly.
  2. Meanwhile fry the onions and celery in the olive oil until softened.
  3. Add in the sweet potato and carrots and cook for about 5 minutes. Add in the spices and cook for another 3-5 mins. Add in cashews.
  4. Add in the vegetable stock and tomato puree. Simmer for 30 minutes until all veg is soft.
  5. Take off the heat and blend everything until smooth. Make sure it has cooled a little and add in the coconut milk (allowing it to cool stops the soup from splitting).
  6. Heat the soup up again a little before serving. Swirl in some coconut milk which is left over in the tin.
  7. While soup is cooking, lay potato peelings out on a small tray. The aim is really just to dry them out a little before frying later. Cook for around 10 minutes in the oven (after the cashews). Stir around once or twice.
  8. Remove from oven and lay out on kitchen roll to cool and dry out further.
  9. Heat oil in a small pan and once hot place in potato peelings. They will only take a minute or two to cook. Once cooked scoop out of the oil and place on kitchen roll to drain off excess oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  10. Eat.

Serves around 6 people, or more if you thin it down a little.
Serves around 6 people, or more if you thin it down a little.

Let me know if you try it! I’d love to hear what you think.

Annette

Day 2: John O’Groats to Lands End

The Ythan at Newburgh

I’m making some progress on this one! Despite having a fairly sedentary day in the office doing data analysis I still managed to make up 6.9 miles today.

We had a lovely wee walk at Newburgh, down onto the estuary when there are hundreds of seals – it’s well worth seeing if you are in the area. Apparently in the summer when there are thousands and the wind is blowing in the wrong direction the smell in Newburgh is pretty overpowering!

The estuary of the Ythan river
The estuary of the Ythan river – all those ‘rocks’ on the other side of the river are seals!

There was also a small float (?) of eiders and some shore waders of which I weren’t sure what they were! Note to self – improve bird identification!

Lots of seals with those little grey wading birds in the foreground....
Lots of seals with those little grey wading birds in the foreground….

Once we got home, I dusted off the running gear and went out for what I’m going to call a run-walk up the coast a little. Unfortunately I hadn’t quite mastered the headtorch (i.e. I wasn’t holding the button down for long enough :/ ) so proceeded to walk back in the almost dark. It was light enough for walking but not enough for anything faster.

Therefore this was a successful second day, bringing my total up to …. 12.2 miles! Not too shabby!

 

Annette

Day 1: John O’Groats to Lands End

Sun setting

The virtual version….

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The Overall Challenge

Well Day 1 went OK. I was on my feet all day teaching an analytical lab class (not feeling quite so rusty after session no. 4 today) so a few steps were counted there starting me off with 2.2 miles. I did a longer walk than usual, which added on a mile or two to my usual saunter home. This brought the Day 1 total to 5.3 miles! Not a bad start.

I have 233 days to complete the challenge and at this rate I’ll be finished in 175! But I’m going to finish sooner than that aren’t I?!

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First submission – woo hoo!

It was a really lovely evening, warmer and calmer than it has been in previous days therefore it was a pretty pleasant affair.

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Moon over ploughed fields

Anyone fancy joining me on this journey?

Annette

John O’ Groats to Lands End

This may seem like a ‘thing-you-must-do-at-some-point-in-your-life-but-probably-never-will-because-it’s-too-much-effort/been-done-before-anyway-so-what’s-the-point’ kind of challenge but tomorrow I embark on this adventure. If you can call it that. You see I have like 6 months to do it and technically you don’t have to leave the house if you don’t want to. It’s all part of my works’ efforts to make their peoples more healthy and fit etc. But in the efforts of good spirit and enthusiasm I am going to give it a go and start. Expect a few weeks of feverish blog posting and then nothing for 6 months as i fail miserably to actually complete something vaguely worth achieving, again. 

However miracles do happen. Meet the vegan cheese scone which actually rose and I felt actually could pass as, ‘a cheese scone.’

That aside, lets see what happens. No promises of anything apart from maybe, failure?

Have you done any challenges recently? Any chance of some motivational ass-get-in-gear to keep me going for more than a day?

Annette 

Loch Lomond in Black and White

Black and white photo of Loch Lomond

It was a pretty grey uninspiring day when I took these black and white photographs of Loch Lomond on Saturday. They aren’t great but just thought I’d share them with you 🙂

Black and white photograph of the old jetty at Balmaha Loch Lomond
The old jetty at Balmaha Loch Lomond
Black and white photo of Loch Lomond with path
Tree looking out over Loch Lomond
Black and white photo of Loch Lomond
Misty views out over Loch Lomond on a grey day.
Black and white photo of Loch Lomond
Views out over Loch Lomond on a grey day.

I guess this kind of weather is to be expected in this part of the world – but don’t let it put you off walking The West Highland Way as even on a grey and rainy day its still beautiful!

Annette

Yum Vegan Protein Pancakes

Who loves pancakes as a special treat on a Sunday – I do! Here’s my recipe for tasty vegan pancakes with a protein boost.

I bought some vegan protein the other week – this stuff from Bulk Powders. I had some just with water in the free shaker supplied (!) and it actually tasted all right. It was a little chalky but perfectly palatable. This time I decided to add it to this tasty pancake mixture for some added extra protein.

These were, I admit, pretty moist so if you are looking for something light and fluffy you may want to look elsewhere but what they lack in fluff they make up for in flavour.

Cinnamony, appley and peanuty chocolate goodness – what’s not to like here?

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Yum, yum yummy vegan pancakes

Here’s the recipe:


MDM’s Protein Packed Cinnamony, Appley and Peanuty Chocolate Pancakes

1 cup plain flour

1/4 cup Complete Vegan Blend Protein Powder in Peanut Chocolate flavour

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 cup applesauce (like this yummy homemade one)

1 1/4 cup of almond/soya milk (I used 50:50 because that’s what I had left/open)

2 tbsp cinnamon and nutmeg infused sugar (I keep this in the cupboard – see here. Alternatively add 2 tbsp any sugar + 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp nutmeg)

  1. Mix dry ingredients well together.
  2. Add in wet ingredients and mix to a loose batter.
  3. Spoon mixture into an oiled, cool to medium frying pan and cook for a couple of minutes on each side.
  4. Drizzle with maple or agave syrup, some more cinnamon sugar and serve with a selection of fruit. Yum!!

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Enjoy!

Annette

‘Perfect Vegan Brownies’ by Fried Dandelions

What a great idea to use the leftovers from one vegan brownie recipe or this one  for another! This is the first time I have used aquafaba (essentially bean-juice-water) in a recipe. I was rather skeptical. Another vegan-in-training tried making meringues with it and lets just say it was a bit of a disaster! Anyway, not to be deterred I thought I would have a go at this ‘Perfect Vegan Brownies’ recipe by another dandelion, Fried Dandelions!

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Dual purpose tin of beans!

I was actually surprised at how frothy the aquafaba went when it was whisked up. These brownies had an excellent texture and the cinnamon is a nice touch. However there is too much coffee in them. Either that or my half quantity of espresso powder was still a little too over powering…I also dropped the amount of chocolate chips – about 1/3 to 1/2 cup is plenty and halved the vanilla. I think in future I would also be tempted to drop the sugar a little as they are on the sweeter side.

Still a very good recipe overall..

Here’s a photo of how many bubbles appear when you whisk the aquafaba:

It's surprising how many bubbles you get when you whisk up aquafaba in a brownie recipe
It’s surprising how many bubbles you get when you whisk up aquafaba in a brownie recipe

I would definitely consider using aquafaba in future vegan brownie recipes.

The verdict:

  1. Cakiness: 9
  2. Gooiness: 7
  3. Crispy top: 6
  4. Chocolateyness: 7
  5. Sweetness: 7
  6. Ease of making: 8
  7. Ingredient complexity: 7
  8. Overall taste: 8

One to consider if you fancy having a go at baking over the next few days.

Vegan Butterbean Brownies (and gluten-free)

Vegan brownies made with butterbeans, cranberries and nuts

I skipped to page 10 of a Google search for vegan brownies on the search for some more vegan brownie recipes to put to the test. I found this one and thought it was time to try another bean brownie recipe.

This was from Coconut Merchant and is a slightly modified version of their ‘White Bean Brownies’. Basically I added butterbeans rather than white beans (because I didn’t have any and it was the next best thing – they’re white and beans right?!). I also added mixed chopped nuts rather than walnuts and a few cranberries to add to the flavour.

So, the verdict. Not a great fan of these I must admit. They need to be sweeter. Even with agave syrup which is incredibly sweet, these tasted a little too bitter. The texture isn’t too bad and they cooked quickly but I don’t think I would make them again.

Saying that, they are pretty healthy being low in sugar and fat with, for a brownie at least, decent amounts of protein and fibre. And of course not forgetting they are gluten free.

Vegan butterbean brownies
Vegan butterbean brownies

Here’s my stats:

  1. Cakiness: 5
  2. Gooiness: 3
  3. Crispy top: 3
  4. Chocolateyness: 4
  5. Sweetness: 3
  6. Ease of making: 8
  7. Ingredient complexity: 7
  8. Overall taste: 4

PS – save your aquafaba for my next recipe – it’s a pretty good one!

Fun over, back to work now! X

Rawsome Vegan Cupcakes.. Cake…

Rawsome vegan 'Super Sexy Cacao Cashew Cupcakes'

This tasty cake requires no cooking apart from the melting of the coconut oil, which I had to do in the microwave. Despite this slight flaw to the whole ‘raw’ subject it was really simple and easy to make (I suppose one could melt it in one’s hands?!)

I have made just a couple of things from this recipe book before, like these S’mores cupcakes. It really is a great book with ‘rawsome’ photos too. All the recipes are based around nuts, dried fruit and coconut (oil mostly but also cream/milk, flesh and shredded). Generally if you are lacking in any one of the three then you’re kinda screwed. Que me running out of peanut butter and coconut oil -nooooooo!

This was designed for four separate cupcakes but I decided to make it into one large sliceable cake as I thought it would be more appealing and go further. There was plenty of the base mixture of dates, almonds and cacao powder but not enough of the filling quantities recommended to cover the entire single cake. These need to be doubled.

Raw base for the vegan cake
Raw base for the vegan cake – I neatened it a little after this photo!

This would be fine if I had enough extra peanut butter to cover the base but I ran out half way…. I also ran out of coconut oil which is used in the chocolate-style topping so ended up having to substitute the remaining required with Vitalite which I guess is not really ‘raw’ either. Even though this modified mixture tasted a bit margariney when it was warm, once it had been in the fridge you couldn’t really taste the difference.

The completed cake before entering the fridge
The completed cake before entering the fridge
I'm calling this raw vegan and gluten free chocolate torte
I’m calling this ‘raw vegan and gluten free chocolate torte’

The recipe recommends cashew butter for the filling and I substituted it for peanut butter – the OH liked the half with just chocolate topping and base but I loved both. It tastes just like those chocolate tarts you get. Yum.

 

Annette

Fougasse with Faces

Fougasse bread dough made into silly faces

Anyone watch Great British Bake Off this week? Don’t worry there are no spoilers here on who went out but only on the technical challenge recipe… They had to make fougasse which is a French variation of flat bread (think of how similar the name is to the Italian version, focaccia which we all know so well). It usually has slashes in it. I have managed to make just two of the technical challenges so far – the jaffa cake recipe will be along at some point.

This is the recipe for Paul’s Herby Fougasse and this is my attempt:

Ingredients required for Great British Bakeoff's Botanical Technical Challenge
Ingredients required for Great British Bakeoff’s Botanical Technical Challenge

I woke up in the middle of the night, as you do, and thought it would be really fun to make ’emoticons’ out of this recipe….beats doing a leaf shape…. Mine aren’t quite emoticons as it is very difficult, wet and sticky dough to work around but ended up being fun faces anyway.

The recipe recommends using a pizza cutter to make the slits so since I don’t own one I used scissors instead which actually worked really well. A knife just doesn’t work.

They started off having eyes and open mouths….

Close-up of jam, crumble and almond topping
Close-up of jam, crumble and almond topping

But ended up mostly squinting….

Fougasse bread dough made into silly faces
Fougasse bread dough made into silly faces

Even this dough is a bit/very/incredibly sticky to work with, it makes a really nice crisp outside and a soft centre. The added fresh herbs are really great as are the oregano and salt on the outside. They would make a really fun addition to a bowl of soup.

Super tasty.

Annette

 

Vegan Fruit Crumble Cake

Vegan fruit crumble cake topping

Sometimes taking an educated risk pays off. This recipe has been altered from the original Blueberry Crumble Muffin to transfer into a lovely fruity cakey crumble. If you fed this to your unsuspecting cake munchers they would have no idea that there are no animal products in it. It is perfectly cakey and light.

I used nectarines and peaches because they needed using up but any fruit would do – cherries, apples (mmm it would make a great apple cake) or even tinned fruit (though make sure it’s not too wet).

The thing I really liked about this cake is that it is attractive from both the top and from the bottom. You can serve it either way up or on its side so it’s perfect for that ups-a-daisy moment when you plate it up and it tips over just as you make it to the plate….

The top of MDM's Fruit Crumble Cake
The top of MDM’s Fruit Crumble Cake
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The base of MDM’d Fruit Crumble Cake

MDM’s Vegan Fruit Crumble Cake

For the crumble/topping:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 50g margarine
  • 2 tbsp blackcurrant jam (or any jam is fine)
  • 3 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 1/4tsp ground nutmeg plus extra for dusting

For the cake:

  • 250g self raising flour
  • 40g almonds
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 140g granulated sugar
  • 250ml unsweetened soya milk (if using sweetened drop the granulated sugar a little)
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 1tsp vanilla bean paste (I much prefer this to essence or extract)

For the fruit layer:

  • 2 nectarines (substitute these for a fruit of your choice if you prefer)
  • 2 peaches
  1. Make the crumble by mixing the flour, sugar, nutmeg and margarine in a bowl until they form large crumbs. Set aside.
  2. Thinly slice the fruit and thinly layer in an attractive pattern on the base of two 7 or 8 inch lined and greased baking tins.
  3. To make the cake, combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a jug. Add the wet ingredients to all the dry and mix well.
  4. Transfer on top of the sliced fruit.
  5. Make a swirl with the jam on the top of the mixture you have just added. Then add the crumble on the top also, sprinkle over the almonds and finally provide a liberal dusting of nutmeg.
  6. Place into a 160oC fan oven. (Can’t remember how long I baked these for but it’s probably around the 35 minute mark). Test the cake with a skewer which will come out clean if it’s done. If the top gets too brown turn the oven down a little and cover the top with some foil to prevent burning.
  7. Once out the oven and cooled for around 10 mins cool upside down (fruit side up) on a cooling rack.
  8. Eat hot or cold.

Cakes cooling
Cakes cooling before being removed from the tins

This is a really good vegan cake and it received good reviews from everyone I fed it to!

Annette

Strawberry Jammin’

Fresh strawberries

I haven’t made much jam in the past – that which I have was either too solid or very runny. We ended up with a lot of strawberries (both fresh and in the freezer) so thought I could have another go at some homemade jam. I used this Silver Spoon sugar with added pectin and handily, a recipe for strawberry jam on the side!

What often puts me off is the cleaning and sterilising of the jam jars. I usually wash them with washing up liquid in the sink, then rinse them in hot water, then sterilise them for 15-30 mins in a sterilising solution (I currently use Milton tablets) and then into an oven around 100oC to dry off before cooling and then using. I find it takes about as much time as making the jam!

Nevertheless the jam was really simple to make. I followed the instructions exactly on the side, apart from maybe adding some more strawberries, an apple and some granulated sugar, but apart from those I followed it to the letter……

If I made it again I would probably puree the apples first. Because they were quite hard I ended up with whole chunks of apple in the final jam. It’s not really an issue as I chopped it quite small anyway.

I will definitely try using this Silver Spoon Jam Sugar again as it was great fun to make some propa’ jam. The packet sugar cost £1, the strawberries were all reduced and were past their best and I used a small knob of Vitalite. This amount would have made about 4 jars though I made a little extra because of the added ingredients. The jam set perfectly though and tasted great on some toast. Yum!

Homemade strawberry jam on toast
Homemade strawberry jam on toast

Annette

 

Doughnut Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar

Spiced sugar doughnut-style muffins

I made these Doughnut-style muffins this morning to keep hungry family at bay for a little while. They are really good although incredibly sugary! You may feel the need to brush your teeth afterwards.

Mini muffins
Mini muffins

I used a recipe from ‘Baked in America‘ a great book if you like some American-inspired recipes.

Cinnamon sugar and butter for coating the muffins
Cinnamon sugar and butter for coating the muffins – notice my super messy worktop 🙂

The coating is really easy to do. Just dip the whole muffin or just the top in melted butter or vegan spread (I used Vitalite) and then coat liberally in a spiced sugar made from spices, e.g. allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. and 50:50 granulated to brown sugar.

Doughnut style muffins with cinnamon
Doughnut style muffins with cinnamon

Also, just to balance out all the sugar, albeit it  before any contemplation of these muffins, I completed The Beast race (10k obstacle course) last weekend! The medal was pretty great although a little to similar to one that we made a few years ago…..!

The Beast Race 2016 medal
The Beast Race 2016 medal

 

It was great fun to do as a team if you ever fancy it!

Annette x

Another Vegan Brownie Recipe Tested

food.com vegan brownies

Doesn’t time fly? I have realised that since the beginning of August I have posted only six times – oops! Sorry readers. I have lots of photos ready but just haven’t done any writing. Well now that I am on holiday for two weeks I have less of an excuse not to write.

I did make a brownie recipe a couple of weeks ago and I forgot to add one of the ingredients therefore I didn’t think it would be fair to compare it. However I am very excited as it may have led to the most amazing vegan cookie recipe ever! Watch this space!

This ‘Rich, Fudgy, Vegan Brownies’ recipe comes ‘pollen’ from food.com. It tempted me because it said it was going to be fudgy and it had lots of coffee in it (do like a bit of coffee in brownies).

Vegan brownie mixture
Vegan brownie mixture

However, sorry to say, I was a little disappointed. They just didn’t have the depth of flavour required. They turned out very well, with a really good cakey texture, with a bit of fudgy-ness but they were a bit bland I found. I definitely need to consider coffee in my perfect recipe as an added flavour profile, but now I’m convinced more than ever that the recipe needs to have real chocolate and not just cocoa powder. I’m also tempted (Christmas list hint) to get some really good quality cocoa powder and investigate the impact that that has on the flavour.

Vegan chocolate brownie after cooking
Vegan chocolate brownie after cooking

I’m eager now to find something awesome that will blow my socks off! I’m thinking I might make something with some more complex ingredients…

Vegan brownies from pollen @ food.com
Vegan brownies from pollen @ food.com

Here’s my verdict for these:

So the verdict:

  1. Cakiness: 10
  2. Gooiness: 6
  3. Crispy top: 3
  4. Chocolateyness: 5
  5. Sweetness: 7.5
  6. Ease of making: 8
  7. Ingredient complexity: 9
  8. Overall taste: 6

And some others you should try:

Interested in the others I’ve made so far for comparison? Click on these links!

 

And finally it was our four year anniversary this week, so we went for a walk around Balmedie and the sand dunes. It was a very foggy day.

Balmedie sand dunes, Aberdeenshire
Balmedie sand dunes – could be in the Sahara desert, it was so misty

 

 

Ta ta for now,

Annette

Sweet Chilli, er, sauce?

The finished article

The OH and I both love sweet chilli sauce so it was high time that I tried to make some. My brother-in-law’s auntie makes the most amazing version but we have yet to get the recipe! It’s sweet, tangy with the perfect amount of chilli and looks really colourful – more so than many of the red soup-looking varieties which are around.

I chose to base mine around Nigella’s recipe and then make some modifications as appropriate.

Ingredients for sweet chilli sauce
As you can tell from this photo my jam sugar is a little past its best…

Unfortunately my jam sugar was rather out of date and I didn’t have enough, so substituted 150g of sugar (out of 750g) with granulated. (Side note: there is mega sugar in sweet chilli sauce). This was probably why my sauce was pretty saucy and not very jammy! Jam sugar has pectin added to help everything set. Still tasted good – it just changes how you use it – more as a drizzle or a flavour addition.

I roasted some garlic and onion in the oven until they were soft and mushy and added these in, along with some fresh ginger blitzed with the chilli and peppers. The jury’s out as to whether they have added anything.

Garlic and onion for roasting
Garlic and onion for roasting
Blitzed chilli and sweet peppers and ginger.
Blitzed chilli and sweet peppers and ginger. This smelt so good.

I probably should have boiled the mixture a little longer. I did it the recommended time but heating for more would probably have helped the thickening process.

Boiling chilli sauce
Chilli sauce-a-boiling

I made 3/4 of the recipe and it filled 3x 300-400g jam jars and 2x smaller 100g jars, perfect if you want to give a few away. Because it was so runny I wasn’t sure about it, but it tastes pretty good, nowhere near as good as ‘Auntie Lorraine’s,’ although there is plenty of room for improvement.

The finished article
The finished article

Also on a side note, wear gloves when you are handling chillies. My hands were hypersensitive to heat for almost 2 days after I deseeded these 8 or so chillies! They were burning for a lo-ong time! I thought I would be tough … and I regretted it 😛

 

AnnetteX

 

 

‘Foosty’ Banana and Apple Spiced Muffins

Ever wondered what to do with a practically mouldy (foosty) banana? And apples which are getting towards the wrinkly stage? Make muffins! Well matured bananas make great cakes.

Well ripened banana and apples
Well ripened banana and apples

These are slightly on the savoury side. I deliberately held back on the sugar because of the banana and apples both of which go sweeter as they ripen. To be honest I could have added a little more sugar, but the icing on the top I think balances them well. They are very light. I made these for a lady at work who very kindly brought me in some homemade strawberry jam.

Here’s the recipe:


MDM’s Foosty Banana and Apple Spiced Muffins (makes 12)

1x egg

1 super ripe banana

110g sugar

170g flour

145g margarine

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

185g over-ripe dessert apples (3x very small ones) chopped into 1cm3-sized cubes

  1. Preheat oven to fan 160oC.
  2. Weigh all ingredients (apart from apples) into a bowl and mix well – a hand blender is ideal.
  3. Stir in the apples gently.
  4. Spoon into paper cases.
  5. Bake in oven for 25 minutes. Remove when skewer inserted into cake comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool.
  7. Ice with water-icing.

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Also how cool is this stop clock? Obviously it counts up rather than down, so you have to pay attention but it’s so cool that I just had to use it for these cakes – the joys of finding random things you didn’t know you had when moving house!

Rustic stopclock
Rustic stopclock

Enjoy!

Annette

The Vegan Society Chocolate Brownies

Cakey brownies

It’s great to have a day off once in a while. My first port of call on my to do list was to make another brownie recipe on My Quest. This week’s recipe comes in the form of The Vegan Society’s Chocolate Brownies. I haven’t tried any other recipes from this site yet, but I do quite fancy this meringue one with aquafaba.

The making of these brownies are really split into two parts – the initial making of a thick chocolate sauce and then the more traditional combining of all the ingredients. Making the chocolate sauce was quick and easy. It thickened and cooled pretty quickly, ready for the next part.

After that it’s a pretty much straight forward combining of ingredients, including more sugar and fat! Mmmm.

Glossy mixture for vegan brownies
Glossy mixture for vegan brownies

 

The recipe says to put these in the oven for 30 minutes but mine were ready after 20 minutes, using the tray in the photo above. To be honest they would probably be fine with less. Unlike other recipes I have made, these were really easy to get out the tray and cut into portions.

Cooked tray of The Vegan Society chocolate brownie
Cooked tray of The Vegan Society chocolate brownie

And what about the taste? These are almost the ultimate cakey brownie – rich and dark and very cakey,’ would be how I describe them. I was worried these would be too sweet with the amount of sugar going in but they weren’t. The flavour was all there but there was no goo! And no crispy top either! This was definitely a chocolate cake – but an excellent chocolate cake nonetheless. It would be amazing with a gooey fondant centre or made into a round version with layers, or cupcakes.

The Vegan Society Brownies
The Vegan Society Brownies

So the verdict:

  1. Cakiness: 10
  2. Gooiness:4
  3. Crispy top: 4
  4. Chocolateyness: 8
  5. Sweetness: 8
  6. Ease of making: 7.5
  7. Ingredient complexity: 8
  8. Overall taste: 8

In summary taste is great, cake is great, gooey brownie not so much.

Why not try the best recipe I’ve found so far: A slightly modified recipe originally by Kris Holechek.

Annette

Cat approved recipe
Cat approved recipe

 

 

 

Spicy Chilli Bread Garlic Bread

Spicy Chilli Bread Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is a great way to use up dry and/or stale bread. As a result I find home-made garlic bread often turns out a bit dry but that’s because I don’t add enough fat to prevent it drying out in the oven. This time however I clarted it on (Aberdonian for ‘putting on plenty’) to make this spicy chilli bread garlic bread so good!

To the margarine (probably about 70g) I added a good large handful of finely chopped basil and curly parsley, a big squidge of garlic puree, 3 finely chopped garlic cloves and about 1/4 tsp of garlic powder. Mix this up really well in a bowl. This makes enough to cover one of those 10-inch-ish long squat loaves that you get.

Then take spicy chilli bread, or whatever you fancy of course, but the chilli really goes well with the garlic. I think it’s what takes this to the next level! I used bought bread but you can of course make your own.

Clart (cover) thinly sliced pieces on one side with plain margarine to stop it drying out. Turn over and put an even better covering of the garlicky herby butter.

Place on a wire rack over a baking tray – a grill pan would probably be fine. This is to prevent it going soggy on the underside. Put in a not-too-hot oven (fan around 160oC) for about 15 mins but keep an eye on it for any burning.

Cooked garlic bread on roasting tray wire rack
Cooked garlic bread on roasting tray wire rack

Once you have the perfect balance between crispy outside and slightly soft centre, whip them out. Eat hot where possible!

Spicy Chilli Bread Garlic Bread
Spicy Chilli Bread Garlic Bread

These are so good! I hope that you enjoy too. There’s even enough for another day too. Spread the bread and keep covered in the fridge ready for putting straight in the oven.

 

Blueberry and Almond Crumble Cupcakes

One thing that we learnt shortly after moving into our new hoose was that the OH, as a meat-eater, is now outnumbered. Our nearest neighbours are both vegetarians and the others are vegan and vegan-most-of-the-time-but-possibly-has-a-bit-of-meat-occasionally. How novel it is to move into a place where it’s the norm! Maybe it says a little something about the place we have moved to….AMAZING!

Anyway, what better way to introduce ourselves to the neighbours than to take round some Blueberry and Almond Crumble vegan cakes! This time I tried them before giving, just in case….

Blueberries
Blueberries

This second bake in the new oven was, again from Ms Cupcake – read “I have no internet and can’t find any other cookbooks.” These were actually pretty amazing as they were really cakey and light, had a hint of that richness that is difficult to replace without using eggs, and tasted great! I will definitely use this recipe again and probably modify it for some other tasty ideas. After the Victoria Sponge recipe from this book didn’t turn out that well, I was a little apprehensive about this one but I thought it would actually make a much better Victoria sponge.

Ingredients for Blueberry and Almond Crumble Cupcakes
Ingredients for Blueberry and Almond Crumble Cupcakes

The only thing I didn’t quite negotiate was that the recipe in the book is huge – it made a large set in the normal 12x muffin tray and a whole other tray of 12 silicone cases! It could easily be halved. I would also add more blueberries too than the stipulated amount.

The cumble on top is a lovely idea and one I would take forward to other recipes. I’m thinking perhaps adding some cinnamon and making apple and cinnamon crumble muffins or maybe raspberry….mmmm. It feels great having a go-to cake recipe.

Vegan Blueberry and Almond Crumble Cupcakes
Vegan Blueberry and Almond Crumble Cupcakes

Until I modify it, I won’t post the recipe here as that’s kinda plagiarising so you’ll have to wait for a new MDM version of this one. If you can’t wait, it’s in their book, here.

Annette

 

 

 

 

 

Whirlwind Week

Suri meeting her new neighbours

I haven’t written a blog post in over four weeks (thank goodness for scheduled posts) or posted in three! It’s been a pretty crazy few weeks:

  1. I went to Ethiopia – this was a trip I will never forget (if largely for number 2).
  2. I picked up some kind of Ethiopian super vomiting-diarrhoea virus (my stomach is not yet back to completely normal after several weeks…)
  3. And best of all – I have moved house to a beautiful cottage in the country! Currently with no internet access or phone signal, hence the silence!

I’ll cover each of these separately over the coming weeks but here’s some photos to whet your appetite.

Hawassa - Ethiopia
Hawassa – Ethiopia

 

View from Old Slains Castle
View from the new hoose

Expect some Ethiopian inspired recipes over the coming months (once my body actually becomes interested in food again…).Also with an awesome new kitchen hopefully there will be some as awesome bakes!

Sheep - the new neighbours
The new neighbours

Also today I’m in Bognor Regis also so expect some photos from here including a wee bit on my first Airbnb experience!

Keep tuned!

Annette

 

 

 

 

 

Black and White Photo Study

The intimate nature of a Gunnera leaf

Here are a few black and white photos I took last weekend. What do you think?

A mallard duck paddling into the distance
A mallard duck paddling into the distance
Close-up of a chunky post
Close-up of a chunky post
Gunnera leaves
Gunnera leaves
Eryngium alpinum flowerhead and bracts
Eryngium alpinum flowerhead and bracts
Backlit head of an Umbellifer
Backlit head of an Umbellifer
Gunnera leaf with rain droplets
Gunnera leaf with rain droplets

Black and white photos can be so soothing. Not all photographs will work as black and white but I think these do. They are particularly good when there is texture involved and that texture has many shades of grey.

Do you take black and white photos?

Annette

MDM’s Recipe – Vegan Prune and Almond Brownies

Vegan almond and prune brownies

After last weeks Vegan Cherry and Almond Brownies  I had an urge to have another go at something a little bit different and for some reason I thought that prunes would be a great idea. I wouldn’t say that I was wrong but nor was I right either.

These were slightly better overall I would say than the BBC Good Food version above, mainly with vast improvements being made in the not-so-crumbly category but they didn’t quite have the depth of flavour I was hoping for.

So here’s my recipe.


MDM’s Prune and Almond Brownies

2 tbsp chia seeds

8 tbsp water

2 tbsp soya milk

2 tsp hemp powder

 

80g vegan margarine such as Vitalite

120g dark chocolate

75g soft brown sugar

75g caster sugar

70g ground almonds

40g cocoa powder

120g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

100g chopped dried prunes

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Vegan prune and almond brownie mixture – it’s quite thick
  1. Switch fan oven onto 150°C fan and line and grease a 10×8″ baking tray.
  2. Mix the chia seeds, water, soya milk and hemp powder to make an MDM vegan egg. Mix up well and allow to sit for a few minutes.
  3. In a large saucepan melt the chocolate and margarine and allow to cool a little.
  4. Add the sugar into this and stir well. Add the MDM egg and mix well.
  5. Add the flour, almonds, cocoa powder and baking powder and mix. Stir in the chopped prunes.
  6. Put in the tray, levelling the surface and cook in the oven for 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out almost, but not quite clean.
  7. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then cut into pieces. Allow to cool in the tray.
  8. Eat. Or eat when they are cool enough to put in your mouth.

Vegan prune and almond brownies
Vegan prune and almond brownies

I’m not a great fan of raisins especially in cooking and the prunes tasted a little too close to raisins for comfort. These were quite good in consistency but lacked a little gooiness and the crispy top. Dropping the sugar helped a lot from the previous ones I made. These have actually made me go back and downgrade the last ones.

These were definitely missing something. I think it could be that eggy richness. Time to get my thinking cap on as to what I could use to replace that.

Here’s the verdict:

  1. Cakiness: 8
  2. Gooiness:7.5
  3. Crispy top: 6.5
  4. Chocolateyness: 8
  5. Sweetness: 8
  6. Ease of making: 8
  7. Ingredient complexity: 6.5
  8. Overall taste: 7.5

The Spider – Another Excerpt from my book!

Canterbury Cathedral windows

She was on a high, such a fucking high that she felt she would never come down. People were clouds. They floated by and she didn’t really care. They would glide past her pretty much oblivious. They would be there one minute and gone the next. A passing observance perhaps. They had no substance, they didn’t care. They could be innocent and light one minute and the next they would be pouring all their grief so that your soul felt as wet and soggy and depressed until the next one. Why did they do this to her?  Was it funny? Did they like to watch as she stumbled around dumbfounded, stupid and oblivious? Was it an experiment? Did they actually even care? They were there in their lab coats and with their clip boards but she didn’t know what went on behind that. Did they joke? Did they make notes to compare at a later date? Or did they just not care. They had lives, just like she had one. It’s just that hers wasn’t one. It was a life, it just wasn’t living. Did they really care? Right now she didn’t. There was only one thing in this world right now and that was the small spider she was watching struggling, failingly to climb the wall of her room. She laughed, shallowly, inwardly. With a skinny finger she poked at it. Its attempts were feeble. Her attempts were feeble. It kept trying. She had given up trying. It grasped and pulled and scrambled. She felt dejected. There was no hope. But she was high and she didn’t care. What had they given her? She didn’t care. It was nothing. She was nothing. There was, nothing beyond anything she could think of. There was something at some point she briefly considered. She tried to remember but no thoughts came. There was nothing in her mind. It had been erased or she had erased it. There was a time when things were different, when she didn’t know what they knew now. She was different, she had come to realise that and somewhere within herself she had accepted that. In fact, that was what had given her hope. What she hoped Gail had believed in. But why did they put her here in this place? Why did he put, no allow, no accept her to be here in this place? Whatever. But again, right now, she didn’t care. She glanced at the spider. It desperately tried to escape. She had long since given up. The straws and grooves it now desperately tried to grasp had long since gone for her. Gail had seen to that. Was he like her now, like she was in that room with that spider, laughing at her? Standing upon high, like those clouds she watched imaginatively float past, laughing at her struggling? Did he have not a care, like she did now? Did she rain grief upon him, like those clouds she saw? He had changed. He grieved, she could tell but every day she saw him was a thunderstorm. His emotions, his actions, his intentions came everyday with an almighty crash and a rain that crushed her to the ground. Her power, her being was no match for his overwhelming actions. Her soul had washed away. It was as clear as the blue sky she hoped one day those rain clouds would leave behind.

Want to read more? Try ‘Everything’

7 More Ways to Change How You Take Photos: Part 3

Astrantia peering over a log

With Part 1 and Part 2 out the way, this is my final post on how to change the way you think about taking photos. Hopefully through the three posts you will be inspired to go and take photos. I’d love to see what you have taken – feel free to leave links to your photos below in the comments section.

Nineteen: Use your fellow photographers as models

Although photographers don’t always make the best models, feel free to grab someone you go out photographing with and get them to pose for you.

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Using models for photography

Twenty: Look for complementary shapes

I don’t think this is a great photo but I love how this Allium head reflects the clipped ball Buxus in the background.

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Allium, Buxus and Araucaria

Twenty-One: Be empowered by archways

Archways are so photogenic.

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Archways can add a frame to a photo

Twenty-Two: Look for repeating patterns

Repeating patterns can look great in a photo often in black and white.

The pattern of these leaves is repeating but adds a nice balance to the photo
The pattern of these leaves is repeating but adds a nice balance to the photo

Twenty-Three: Shoot flowers

If it’s a grey day, then it’s perfect for photographing flowers. Don’t worry if you can’t get close, photograph them in their surroundings.

Honeysuckle - Lonicera
Honeysuckle – Lonicera

Twenty-Four: Give an idea of environment or context

Find something interesting in the foreground and allow the background to fade out into the distance.

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Astrantia on the river edge

Twenty-Five: Take a ‘frothy’ image

I’m in love with this style of image at the moment. The style where nothing in particular is in focus, but the frame is filled with lots of a similar thing. Great for background images with a blurring filter.

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Frothy Cow Parsley

That’s it for just now. I’m sure I will share some more images and ideas in the future. This is where we visited. Why not go down to your local park with a few interested friends or colleagues and have a go?

Annette X

 

 

A Healthy Shade of Beige and Sage

The different shapes and sizes of Sage leaves

Beige or even yellowy-orange. That colour of food that screams processed, deep fried, mass produced. Well I made a ‘beige’ supper the other day that is probably the healthiest beige thing I’ve eaten in a while, apart from possibly, the deep fried sage…

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Squash, orange, carrot and pea cous cous with Spicy Bean Burgers, Romaine lettuce and deep-fried sage leaves

To the cous cous I added roasted butternut squash, grated carrot, peas, tomatoes and fresh pieces of orange along with some of the oil I used to fry the sage, salt and pepper.

Well, the deep fried sage leaves may not have been so healthy. I had them at a restaurant once and i thought they were great. Therefore I thought I would have a go at making my own.

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Sage leaves
Deep frying Sage leaves
Deep frying Sage leaves

You only need to fry then for about 5 seconds – and that was too much! All mine seemed to come out burnt!

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Deep-fried sage leaves

Still, they add an interesting bit of decoration to a plate. I may try them again but only pretty much dip them in and out of the hot oil. That should help keep their colour too. It’s always fun to experiment otherwise you won’t discover anything new!

Annette

 

What’s Looking Hot in Gardens in July (UK)?

Digitalis purpurea - the common foxglove

Gorgeous things in full flower at the moment (mid July) in Scotland, UK (or is it….)?

 

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Digitalis ferruginia
Thalictrum flavum - Yellow Meadow Rue
Thalictrum flavum – Yellow Meadow Rue
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Himalayan lily – Cardiocrinum giganteum
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Dactylorhiza sp.
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Lupins of varying shades
Aconitum napellus - Monkshood
Aconitum napellus – Monkshood
Iris sibirica - Siberian Flag Iris
Iris sibirica – Siberian Flag Iris
Lavendula - Lavender
Lavendula – Lavender
Eryngium alpinum - Sea Holly
Eryngium alpinum – Sea Holly
Lychnis coronaria - Rose Campion
Lychnis coronaria – Rose Campion in white and pink
Linaria purpurea (pink version) - absolutely loved by bees
Linaria purpurea (pink version) – absolutely loved by bees

 

Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens'
Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’ – Purple-leaved sage

There are of course many more things but these will at least inspire you.

Annette x