How did Veganuary go?

This January I officially signed up for Veganuary (going vegan for January)- you were sent an email each day with tips and recipes, and could join a facebook group (which was far more supportive than another vegan group that I had joined previously). I thought I’d put my thoughts on the month into one post.

Context- I’ve been vegetarian since I was about 13, and pretty much didn’t eat meat for a few years before then- I was super fussy and just used to leave it. (My mum finally let me be vegetarian after I did a project for school about it to prove that you could get your nutrients still). I knew a few people who were quite militant veggies (one school friend had a mum who threw red paint in McDonalds to symbolise the bloodshed…) and I never wanted to be like that- this is for me but I am not trying to persuade anyone else. Andy does eat meat occasionally, and that’s his choice and it’s fine. This is just my thoughts and what is right for me.

So I am coming at Veganuary from my perspective. As a child I didn’t want to eat meat once I found out that it was dead- the idea just freaked me out. I also never liked the taste or smell, so people asking about missing bacon and things like that just didn’t apply because I didn’t like it. When I was really little I’d have to “hide” the meat taste with sauces. I was quite strict (compared to other veggies I knew)- I would only eat vegetarian cheese because I didn’t want the rennet, I wouldn’t eat gelatin and so on. The hardest thing was being given things that people thought were vegetarian- eg veggie afternoon teas containing salmon (and no, if you eat fish, you are not a vegetarian, you are a pescatarian and don’t say otherwise because it confuses everyone), or tomato soup with beef stock.

For years I’ve not had dairy milk, I’ve had a mixture of almond, oat and soya,  because to me when I thought about milk, and what it’s for (eg to fatten up calves- even adult cows don’t drink it, so why do adult humans?)it just seemed stranger the most I thought of it, and at the end of 2019 I started having vegan cheese.  I don’t eat a lot of cheese anyway- I might sprinkle some on top of pasta or have cheese and piccalilli on crackers at Christmas, so again that was an easy swap.

I’ve still had milk if it’s present in things, and if my mum gave me eggs from her hens I would bake with them, but I’ve been very close to vegan for a long time.

I’m adding all this in to show my perspective, because for me it wasn’t a huge change.

I was glad I did a bit of prep- for example the Christmas cake that I made this year were vegan (and everyone loved them as normal- I honestly think that compared to the amount of dried fruit in a cake, the eggs and butter would make up such a small percentage that it’s an easy swap).

I did get a lot of chocolates from my class for Christmas, and most of them were not vegan. Andy did tell me to eat them in December before Veganuary started, but when I thought about it, I didn’t like the idea of it, so ended up sorting them into two bowls- one for me and one for Andy (still working through them now!).

We’d had a vegan Christmas dinner from Cook (butternut squash stacks with roasted potatoes and gravy, and then we added veg and stuffing), and ordered a few other bits too.  I’ve also found a few new (to me) websites- my favourite being A Virtual Vegan– so many delicious recipes on there and all we have tried so far have been excellent.

I was given Happy Vegan by Fearne Cotton for my birthday last year, and so lots of recipes have come from that book too.

A veggie burger has often been a Saturday meal of choice, and taken to the next level with Leon Love burger sauce which happens to be vegan.


In the week this is easy- I have porridge / overnight oats usually and I make it with soya or almond milk anyway, so no changes there. At the weekend we sometimes have a brunch-style breakfast, and in fact these were easy to swap. No Gail’s croissants (not that I had been near a bakery for months) but Sainsbury’s and Ocado stock vegan croissants which are really tasty. I’ve made a vegan version of baked French Toast from A Virtual Vegan (AVV), as well as pancakes from the Happy Vegan book. I’ve not made it for a while but the babka I’d made a few times is vegan anyway, so lots of options for us.

Lunches and snacks:

Well, Crosstown Doughnuts do a vegan box, so we treated ourselves as an end of January treat! Nush cream cheese (made from almonds) is my absolute fave, so that on a bagel is so good. But usually it’s standard hummus and carrot sticks and oat cakes, so again, no changes there and all very easy.

I signed up to a subscription box which had some really good snacks- that NOMO caramel chocolate was gorgeous (made with rice milk in the chocolate), and I love anything salt and vinegar flavoured.

We do sometimes buy biscuits, but happily lotus biscuits, bourbons and Bournville fingers are all vegan (and Oreo’s I think?) so when I get them I’ll just need to check.


Most of my dinners were vegan anyway, but we have tried lots of new recipes which I’ve really enjoyed. This is the braised red cabbage from AVV, and was super tasty with some veggie sausages. Some of the ready-made products we had to be careful with- eg sometimes if we have wraps we might add in some quorn pieces, but some are veggie and some are vegan.

Green pasta, nut roast, beans on toast, lentil bolognaise 

Of course good old beans on toast (plus marmite and a little grated violife cheese) is vegan. Andy makes an excellent lentil bolognaise (from Happy Vegan), and this green pasta is from that book too (lots of spinach, basil, miso, tahini and other things blended up).

There is a delicious tofu recipe in the Happy Vegan book (a peanut and ginger sauce) which we often have, and we’ve had things like veggie chilli or bean stews. Cook did a vegan lasagne which we ordered alongside the Christmas bits, and it was super tasty so I think we would treat ourselves to it again. I think it was about £7 for one that served 2, but compared to going out to eat, or even the time to make all the layers etc, it was good for a treat.

After enjoying the Cook Christmas lunch, we bought a few nut  roasts and have been enjoying our version of a roast on a Sunday- the cranberry and  pecan one has been our favourite so far.

My mum made us vegan caramel shortbread which was really good

We used to buy a katsu sauce but Ocado stopped stocking it. We bought Leon Katsu ready meals to have one day, and they were nice but we thought we’d have a go. Andy bought some katsu paste and then luckily checked the label- he is so good at checking for milk and eggs, but it ended up having chicken in it! Luckily he noticed before he started cooking so he had it on his own one evening!

What has been hard?

Being at home has made it much easier, versus being at work and having to avoid the staffroom biscuits (not that we can have “shared” food at the moment anyway). Of course there isn’t any being away for the weekend, so no worries about finding a vegan option in a café or restaurant. We also used to keep a few tins of tomato soup in the cupboard, for a nice lunch or easy dinner, but it has milk in it. We’ve now found replacement tins (so many of them were fresh soups but we wanted something for the cupboard that would last longer).

I’ve missed honey, especially if I’ve had a sore throat. I did get some “honea” as a replacement which is pretty good on crumpets still. It’s also in a few cereal bars, and in the delicious sticky chai from Bird&Blend, so I think I might use the things I have that contain honey, but not buy any more.

Toiletries have been the main thing that I’ve had to consider more closely- since the autumn I’ve had vegan toothpaste (isn’t it a bit gross that not all toothpaste is vegan?), and signed up to Smol for washing and dishwasher tabs (again, isn’t it weird that some fabric softener contains animal fat? I was veggie for years and had no idea).  As I use Tropic for skincare, that’s all vegan so that was OK, and Lush/ Maui for haircare which is vegan (the ones I use are), Eden perfume is vegan so that’s fine too,  but I need to check shower gels because they aren’t all.

As someone who is quite fussy, I actually feel I have been more confident to try new foods. I think I have always been a bit worried about being accidently given something that contained animal products, whereas now I might not like something if I try it, but the idea of it is fine, if that makes sense. Also, so many veggie things are eggy or cheesy, and I don’t like either of those things, whereas now they are off the table it’s so much easier to choose a recipe or food.

Overall I am really pleased that I signed up, and I am going to aim to continue with it going forwards.  I really liked the emails because they were not pushy or shocking (I’ve read some veggie/vegan info that likes to show you pictures of chickens being slaughtered and so on- I don’t want to look at that and would imagine it would make people who eat meat more defensive about it?). They had links to lots of good recipes, and information about health (vitamins and so on), as well as positive things like the amount of CO2 saved by avoiding dairy. As I mentioned at the start, the facebook group was super supportive, with people asking to help with recipes, replacements for certain dishes and info on things beyond vegan food (Brooks running shoes are vegan, but not all brands are due to the glue etc.).

Would you consider signing up for something like that? Are you adventurous with food or do you stick to the same few meals?

Running in the rain and the best cookie recipe

My routine for last week was pretty much the same- yoga on Monday in the morning, early runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (4 miles each time), a yoga class on Wednesday evening via Zoom, and then walks most evenings. As it’s so light in the mornings, the 5am wake up isn’t too bad and I really like the time when I get home and can have some tea and chill out, or do some jobs around the house. I don’t think I’ll continue it in the winter for several reasons- the main two being the streetlights aren’t on until 6am and I don’t have time to dry my hair so it stays damp all day (I dry it for around 10 mins) so in the warm that’s fine but I’d get so cold in the winter.

I also get to see some lovely sunrises.  If you don’t listen already, I would recommend Running is BS as such a good podcast- the presenters “love to hate running”, but really they call out all the nonsense surrounding running (eg all those stupid click-bait articles such as one they mentioned recently- will your headphones give you coronovirus…). Anyway, there is the legend of a guy who was mentioned by a listened before who is known as pin skin man, because he was seen at an ultra race with his number pinned to his bare chest. Well, they only went and tracked him down for an interview! Loved it!

On Tuesday evening we did the next stage of the lego Disney castle- we now have some posts and it’s looking a bit more 3D. We also have a mini Mickey as well as some little frogs (to kiss princesses I think).

After my morning run I have been heading into the garden for a few minutes to cool down- it’s very peaceful in the morning, with lots of birds flitting about. More and more flowers are blooming too. Top right is a bit of a rose bush- it was in a pot and would maybe have one or two flowers and always looked a bit sorry for itself. Last year we put it in the ground in an attempt to rescue it, and it’s suddenly taken off with hundreds of little flowers.

We got to eat our first home-grown courgettes of the year. First in a lovely tofu noodle dish (from the Happy Vegan cookbook) and then in a lentil bolognese (again from that book).  There are loads more forming, and the tomato plants have a few green tomatoes on them too- it’s all coming along nicely.

I was awake a lot in the night before Thursday morning- hearing all the heavy rain. Although it had eased off and wasn’t raining too hard there were huge puddles going across the road. At times I had to wait to make sure no cars were coming before running along, because I would have been totally soaked in dirty road water.

Pink tea and my cute hand santitiser holder that arrived from Enchanted Cosy Co (Etsy) this week.

On Friday after a walk and a cup of tea (Red Velvet) I did a lot of baking. I had prepped the sourdough the night before, and in the morning it needed shaping and leaving in the basket, to be baked in the afternoon. I made a batch of cinnamon and cardamom buns ready for not parkrun breakfast, and then later while Andy was watching the football I made some of the Pret almond butter and dark chocolate cookies. These are now my all time favourite cookie recipe. If I went into a Pret I would always be tempted to buy one if they had them, but that isn’t a regular occurrence as there isn’t a Pret where we live. Now they released the recipe I can make them whenever I like. It does have a long list of ingredients but it isn’t complicated at all and they are sooooooo good.

We had been watching the dramatisation of Waco which was very well done. So interesting, and I didn’t know much about it so was totally shocked and appalled by the final episode. Well worth watching but very tough in places.

On a lighter note we watched the next Queer Eye episode- it’s good to have something so cheerful and uplifting to watch.

Do you have any favourite recipes?  Do you mind running in the rain?

Chocolate peppermint candy cane cookies

When we went to the giant gingerbread house in the Disney Contemporary hotel, we bought a couple of cookies including a chocolate peppermint one. This is my attempt at re-creating it. I based it on this cookie recipe, and oldie but goodie.


125g butter

100g light brown sugar

125g caster sugar

1 egg

1 tsp peppermint extract

175g self raising flour

50g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

100g chocolate chips

100g dark chocolate

2 crushed candy canes


Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper.

Cream together the butter and sugars.

Add the egg and peppermint extract.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, salt and chocolate chips.

Spoon the mixture onto the tray- walnut sized balls approx.

Bake for 7-10 minutes- until pale golden in colour-they will continue baking on the tray for a little.

Leave to cool on the tray.

Melt the chocolate and crush the candy canes. Dip each cooled cookie in the dark chocolate, then put back into the baking paper (the chocolate won’t  stick). Sprinkle over the crushed candy canes.

I was really pleased with how they turned out. For extra mintiness I think I would add a bit of peppermint extract to the melted chocolate.

I bagged them up and gave them as little gifts for my team at work- they seemed to go down well.

Do you like chocolate peppermint? When we went to Boston we had the most amazing chocolate candy cane cheesecake, which sounds strange but it was delicious.

Christmas Pudding Fudge (recipe)

I have been making this fudge for years, but realised that the recipe on my blog needed a little update as I now use a stand mixer for the mixing at the end (instead of a hand whisk in the pan).

It does sound a bit difficult, but I think the key is preparation (having everything ready before you start).

The recipe is a combination of one from The Pink Whisk website and one from a Rachel Allen cookbook.


100g butter (unsalted)

450g brown sugar

1 tin condensed milk

1 mini Christmas pudding (the ones that are already cooked and you would just re-heat in a microwave)



Brownie tin lined with baking paper

Heavy saucepan




Preparation! I use my stand mixer so I put the attachment in and turn the plug on. Line a baking tray with baking paper, weigh out the ingredients and cut up the pudding and leave it on a plate (the pieces don’t need to be small because the mixer will mash them up).

Put the butter, sugar and condensed milk in a pan and heat gently, stirring regularly.

It will eventually bubble away and appear more smooth. The sugar thermometer needs to reach 235F. Once it reaches that, leave it for a few seconds before pouring it (carefully- it’s very hot) into the stand mixer.

Turn on the mixer and whisk away. It takes a while, but eventually the mixture will thicken- if you stop the mixer and lift up the attachment it will leave ribbons in the mixture and drip slowly off. Add in the Christmas pudding and mix a little more until it is evenly dispersed.

Pour into the lined pan and smooth the top- it won’t set too quickly so you have time to even it out. Leave it to cool for a few hours/ overnight, and then cut into lots of little squares ready to put into little bags.

Do you like to make gifts? What is your favourite fudge flavour? I do like peanut butter and chocolate fudge, and I am tempted to do a different festive one with maybe cranberries and white chocolate chips.

If you make it, let me know how it turns out!

Peanut butter caramel slices

I have still been loving the Bake Off. Yes, I love Mel and Sue and I miss them (and Mary) but Noel and Sandy are funny too. And really I watch it because I find it so relaxing- I don’t mind who goes home or who wins. I like to see them bake new things and decide that I will never attempt something that looks such a faff (mini swiss rolls) or maybe give something a go (I think the first time I tried to make a Battenberg was because I had seen it on Bake Off). Anyway, the other week was caramel week and inspired by it (because I think they made it look harder than it actually is) I have created my own recipe for peanut butter caramel slices.


150g soft margarine (Pure spread)

6 tbs brown sugar

165g plain flour

60g rolled oats


125g butter

1 tin condensed milk

75g brown sugar

1 tbs golden syrup

Plus 3 tbs peanut butter (to add later)


200g dark chocolate

1 tbs peanut butter


Preheat the oven to 180C

Line a square brownie tin with baking paper

Cream together the margarine and sugar for the base. Stir in the flour and oats, then press into the bottom of the tin.

Bake for around 25 minutes until golden

To make the caramel, put the butter, sugar, condensed milk and syrup in a pan. Gently heat and stir for around 10 minutes. The mixture will bubble but it should not spit. It will gradually turn darker as it thickens. I don’t use a thermometer for this bit- to test if it is thick enough put a little blob on a plate, leave for a few seconds and then push it with your finger to see if it has thickened. Once it has thickened, turn off the heat and stir in the peanut butter. Pour the peanut butter caramel over the base and leave to cool.

To make the topping, melt the dark chocolate (I have a nice thick bowl that I can use in the microwave) and then stir in the peanut butter. Pour over the caramel and leave to set again.

Once set, slice and enjoy.

Do you like caramel slices? What would your ultimate flavour combination be?