PSA: Pumpkin Spice is back!!

Nothing signals the start of Autumn more than the return of the pumpkin spice latte. Or just pumpkins in general really. I must admit I can’t remember the last time I actually ate a pumpkin – they’re normally only available during Halloween and even then, they’re the HUGE pumpkins that are made for carving – but there is just something so comforting about pumpkin smells and flavours.

Unfortunately though it is at that weird time of year in the UK, where it is 2 degrees in the morning and then 20 at midday. So I decided to try the frappaccino this time. The pumpkin spice is vegan friendly, and you can have the frappaccino mixed with any non-dairy milk you like – I went for almond to add to that Autumnal flavour combo. At some Starbucks as well you may also be able to get vegan whipped cream: My local one doesn’t stock the whipped cream though so I had to do without.

This will definitely wake you up. It is weirdly sweet – I’d say a lot sweeter than the hot latte version – but is also very refreshing. Almost like a pumpkin smoothie. Come to think of it I don’t think it had a single drop of coffee in it at all, although I am sure if you asked they would happily add one for you. It made me feel excited for Autumn to arrive, but also let me feel like I had enjoyed some sort of summer at the same time. Naturally it did nothing but rain all through the actual summer, so frappaccinos were the last thing I could think of in torrential downpour.

Starbucks is of course really expensive: £4.50 for a drink?? Mate….no. As someone who is not a big coffee drinker, Starbucks is not really somewhere I go to very often. That being said, a pumpkin spice latte has become a tradition for me. I feel like I can’t really enjoy Autumn until I have had one. It also signals to me that Autumn has truly begun and I can finally break out my fluffy socks, cosy oversized knit jumpers and all the fuzzy beanies I can get my hands on. So £4.50 once a year (maybe twice if I feel like splurging a bit) is pretty manageable.

Would I have the frappaccino again? If the weather next year is still as oddly hot as it is currently, then absolutely. However the latte still wins overall for me.

Overall: 8/10. Not as good as the latte, but a pretty good pick-me-up for the warmer Autumn months.

T xxx

Wicked! Katsu kiev

I know, I know…I said I would not give Wicked! must of a chance again but they found my weakness! There is just something so warming and satisfying about a katsu curry, and since the wait for my local Wagamama’s seems to be an average of 2 hours every single day, I decided to try this to curb my cravings.

I am actually very surprised that I like this. Normally with Wicked! kitchen, they say ‘mild’ and actually mean ‘diabolical’. It seems they use nothing but chilli flakes for flavouring in all of their meals – even if that meal is mac and cheese. So I was expecting this to be really really overpowering with the spices and the chilli, but it really was mild. You could taste the slight kick that katsu has, but it didn’t melt your mouth.

The outside is a crispy coating – exactly what you would expect with a kiev – and the inside had the usual Wicked! tofu meat substitute. I am assuming it is tofu because it had that very flaky texture, I imagine to try and replicate a chicken kiev? I also think it was tofu because it just absorbed a lot of the katsu flavour while it was cooking. It was very light and the outer shell of the kiev gave it a nice, crunchy texture.

As I say the sauce does kick a bit, but no where near enough to be overpowering or unpleasant. There is a decent amount of sauce in the kiev, however I wish there could be just that little bit extra: It could just be my oven cooking things unevenly, but we had quite a few burnt edges of the outside of the kiev, and that extra little bit of sauce would have worked quite nicely to negate a lot of the burnt flavouring in some areas. Again, that’s probably my fault for having a not-so-great oven, but it something to consider if you (like me) like to drench most food in a sauce of some sort.

You get 2 in a packet and the packet costs £2.50. Which is actually quite cheap for the amount of food you get. The kiev is a great size, and is perfect for one person. It fills you up without being heavy in your stomach, so doesn’t then leave you feeling bloated or ‘stuffed’. We had it with some veg and a little bit of pasta (it had been a busy day!) and it was a really satisfying meal. If I saw these again, I would definitely pick them up.

Overall: 7/10. Not as good as a Waga’s, but a very close competitor!

T xxx

Birds Eye Chicken-free dippers

When you think of Bird’s Eye, you do not think vegan food. You think of that fisherman with the big white beard selling you fish fingers. However it appears that they too have now released a plant based selection of frozen food. At the moment it seems to only have about 5 different items for sale, however I am still amazed at how far-reaching the vegan movement is. To think that one of the biggest sea food companies has now embraced vegan food is amazing. Imagine what will happen in 1 year? 2 years? It does make me hopeful that in the near future, meat products will be the minor market, with the majority of foods being plant based and vegan friendly.

We decided to try the chicken dippers, which are basically like slightly smaller chicken nuggets. I guess the whole design though is to be ‘dip friendly’. We did not test this, but perhaps next time we shall try them with dips – I shall report back with an update!

These were really good. The outside was a light and fluffy batter, that really crisped up once cooked. The inside I think may have been tofu-based, as it had that very thick – almost stodgy – texture to it that you get when you drain and re-drain tofu for a long period of time. The texture was slightly thicker than chicken, but I really enjoyed them for having more weight to them.

They are also alarmingly filling. You get about 15 pieces in a pack and honestly I can handle about 3 before I am full. They are light enough to not make you feel bloated, but substantial enough that they actually make a great addition to a meal. We had these with some veg and rice and while it does not sound like a lot of food, I was full for the rest of the evening.

They do not, however, taste of much. They taste like nuggets. They don’t taste bad by any means, but they also don’t have anything that jumps out at you. I do feel that these would be quite good to add to curries or stirfrys. They don’t have any taste on their own, so you would hope that it means they take on the flavour of whatever they are mixed with. Maybe try these with a nice katsu sauce? Or perhaps they are meant to be finger food dippers, with a load of different sauces to dip into to see how they taste. I will have a play with them and get back to you!

Also, 15 pieces per packet?! How insanely good is that! The packet cost £3, so you’d expect maybe 2 meals worth for a £3 pack usually. But no, these have so far lasted about 3 meals, and that is with two of us eating them. These are really good value for money, because you definitely get a deceptive amount of food out of the one packet. I may even go so far as to say that these should be a regular buy, just to keep in the freezer for those days when we don’t feel like cooking much.

Overall: 5/10. Good on their own, but definitely need something extra added to them to kick them up a gear.

T xxx

Vegan Butcher Pepperoni Pizza

Another day, another pizza. As you have all worked out by now, I am 100% vegan for the animals – my health is really a tiny little factor. I have however been trying to work on that, and to try and eat more wholefood meals rather than processed. But if any of you have ever tried to ‘eat clean’ then you will know that it is very hard to maintain indefinitely. I think health is about balance, so if I eat wholefood all week then on my weekend I can enjoy a pizza and a little bit of grease. I have found this is the only way I can really sustain a healthy eating meal plan, and I am finding that one greasy pizza is usually more than enough to satisfy me for another week or so.

Another find at The Vegan Butcher and as with all of the Vegan Butcher foods I think they are all worth at least a try.

Unfortunately this was not the best. The pizza crust is way too think, because I think the base was cooked within about 3 minutes of being in the oven. But obviously the rest of it is not cooked, so by the time you do take it out (the instructions said 15 minutes cooking time) the base is basically charred. It was SUPER crispy, to the point I think I may have actually chipped a tooth on the crust it was so solid.

The cheese was also a bit weird. It didn’t appear to melt at all, yet when you bite into it, the cheese is like lava. It did melt as you were eating though, and had quite a thick texture to it. I am not sure what type of cheese they used but it didn’t taste like any I’ve tried before. It tasted ok – not overly cheesy, but it didn’t have any sort of powdery taste to it like some cheese can do. Not the worst cheese, but not the best either.

The pepperoni was pretty good though. It had a nice kick of spice to it, and when cooked the edges were nice and crispy. I was actually quite surprised that I enjoyed the pepperoni as much as I did. Without the pepperoni slices, I don’t think this pizza would have tasted of anything. Unfortunately therefore there wasn’t enough pepperoni on the pizza to make every bite worth while, but if they sold the pepperoni seperately I would definitely recommend trying it on a home made pizza.

For £5.50, it is also quite a bit more expensive. This was not a great pizza, and you could probably make your own at home for less than £5.50 that would taste way better. The base was too thin, so just turned to a massive crisp once cooked. The cheese was nothing special – at least nothing that would make me want to pay £5.50 for it. The pepperoni however, if it came as one big long stick of pepperoni, I would buy that on it’s own for £5.50 because that was the best part. I also think it had a really nice flavour and texture to it that I reckon you could use in all manner of recipes.

Overall: 3/10. Way better options on the market, however that pepperoni is definitely worth another visit.

T xxx

Snuggle Sundays

I visited my parents the other day, which means I got to see my kitty!

I called for her out of the back door, she came running and then decided that this was the perfect spot to stop and lie down.

Of course she refused to move at all and I had to go to her.

Dogs have owners….cats have staff. And she neevr lets me forget it!

T xxx

Vegan Butcher Mock Lamb

My very first experience of veganism was when I was told to eat lamb. I was probably about 8 or 9, and like most kids I was BIG into my animals. I had more animal encyclopedias than was probably healthy. Then for dinner my mom cooked lamb and I made that connection: a lamb was a baby sheep. A baby sheep is a baby animal. There was a baby animal, on my plate, and I was meant to eat it. If you’d have handed me a real living lamb, I would have hugged it and probably have let it sleep in my bed as my new pet. I would never have wanted harm to come to it, and definitely would not have wanted to eat it. So I didn’t eat the lamb in front of me.

Now before this I had eaten lamb, so I know roughly what to expect. They say that lamb is meant to be very tender, and it meant to melt away when you eat it. Even before my epiphany, I was never that big a fan of any meat at all, so choked it all down purely because I would go hungry if I didn’t. Plus as a kid, I didn’t really know any better.

I imagine that the texture of lamb must be quite hard to replicate in vegan version, but then again people have managed to do wonderful things with soya. My mom actually picked this up for our visit so that I could finally give it a try. The meat replacements I have tried from The Vegan Butcher have always been pretty good in my experience, so I was quite excited to try this.

It was indeed very good. It had that lamb texture I remember, where it practically melted in my mouth and required little to no chewing. Mom cooked it into a lemon grass Thai curry, and it complimented the spice of the curry wonderfully. It also soaked up a lot of the sauce which just made it even more tender to eat. Taste wise, it did just take on the flavour of the sauce so there was nothing that really set it apart. It did add a pleasant texture to the whole curry though, and made for a very delicious meal indeed.

I’m not too sure on the cost of these, as mom bought them without me there. But based on most Vegan Butcher products, I imagine these were around £3-£5. They also came in a huge box, so you definitely got your moneys worth. One packet managed to serve all 4 of us – and that was with multiple helpings as well! So definitely enough for a few different meals.

Overall: 7/10. They take on whatever flavour you add to them, so probably some trial and error involved in the cooking.

T xxx

Slug and Lettuce chocolate orange tart

Another little treat from my Slug and Lettuce venture the other day. As I mentioned in my mac’n’cheeze post their vegan menu is pretty good and also just a bit more decadent than your usual pub food. Needless to say I was very excited to try this little baby!

Now I don’t know if it is because most places make vegan desserts using dark chocolate, but they are always so rich! This was no exception. This tart was more like a really thick cheesecake….it had a very rich, creamy and thick texture to it, but way thicker than your usual tart filling. I didn’t get any orange flavour from it, because that dark chocolate was so rich it completely overpowered anything else. The base was like a brownie – whether intentional or not, I can’t say – so really added to the chocolate shock of it all.

I couldn’t finish it. Trust me….I really wanted to. But it was so rich and so filling that my stomach could barely handle half of it. Granted it probably didn’t help that I had also just had mac’n’cheeze. Maybe next time I should stick with either or and not get too excited. The filling was also very very thick – almost like caramel in that it genuinely felt like my mouth might glue shut there was so much thickness to it. You will definitely need a drink to help wash this down.

Price wise, it is actually a steal. This dessert alone was £2.99. TWO NINETY NINE. For a really big portion of very decadent tart. That alone makes it worth while, because normally for this level of dessert you’d likely have to go to a specialist baker or very posh cake shop. It also meant that I don’t feel like I have really wasted money when I can’t finish the whole plate. I still felt wasteful, as I left at least half of it (before my stomach burst) but at least I didn’t also feel the guilt of spending a lot of money on something to not even finish it. If you fancy something special though, I would recommend maybe sharing this one.

Overall: 5/10. It was lovely for the whole 3 mouthfuls I could stomach. Way too big a portion.

T xxx

Vegan Kit Kat

I finally found the motherload!! I have heard that these were a thing but had never been lucky enough to find one. The only reason I even got this one is because one of my lovely work colleagues got lucky at her local Sainsbury’s. Apparently you should be able to find them in m,ost supermarkets, but either they are too popular or I am just unlucky because it seems to very hit and miss as to which stores actually stock them and which might get a lucky delivery every so often.

I forgot how good a kitkat is. For those of you who do not know what a kitkat is, it’s a stack of long crispy waffle layers covered in chocolate. They come in long strips as you can see and there is only one correct way to eat them: You split the bars apart, and eat each finger one by one. Anyone who just takes one big bite out of a kitkat without breaking them apart first, is clearly on the brink of mental collapse and you need to run away from them immediately.

The vegan version is identical to the original. I honestly could not tell you any difference in them. They are crunchy, and rich and the most moreish chocolate bar out there. Honestly I could eat these non stop. Aside from a Bounty and a snickers (I am still praying to the plant based gods to finally make a vegan version of both), Kitkats are easily one of my favourite chocolate bars. I nearly forgot how much I love a kitkat and yet one bite and I feel like I am back in secondary school studying for exams or working on coursework: Kitkats and 2 litre bottles of Diet Coke were all that would get my through the really hard subjects some days!

The only downside to these is of course the vegan tax that has to be paid. This bar was £1, which I know is not much at all, but the non-vegan version is only 70p so it does feel a bit cheeky of them to charge more. Surely they contain the same (if not less in the vegan version!) ingredients so why charge me more?! But alas, at the moment you will find that most vegan options do tend to be slightly pricier than the non-vegan options. Not by much, but it can suck having to pay 50p more for an item purely because it says ‘vegan’ on it. Hopefully as demand continues to grow and sales start to even out between vegan options and non-vegan options, the prices will start to become more uniform.

And if to lower the prices it means I have to increase demand and eat these kitkats on a regular basis…I shall do my duty.

Overall: 10/10. Identical to the original and therefore an instant winner.

T xxx