A few of my favourite things…

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It’s been a bit of a ‘meh’ running week for me. Maybe because it’s been hot, maybe because I’m still recovering from my epic swimming session on Monday, maybe because it’s the ‘off-season’, who knows? I did enter a 100km track event which takes place next month, so I do at least have a short-term goal to focus on!

I didn’t even run on Sunday morning. The trail group ran at 6am – much too early for me! I couldn’t even drag myself out to the SARRC end-of-year race, which I somehow managed to win last year! Saturday night I was out at Le Diner en Blanc, and had spent much of the previous few days preparing food for that.

Which got me thinking… even though it would mean 2 straight weeks NOT writing about running, why not dedicate this week’s blog to another of my great passions, FOOD!

Almost 3 years ago I made the New Year’s Resolution to quit eating meat – at least until my planned trip to the US 3 months later. I thought vego in the USA would be a bridge too far! Well as it turns out, that trip never happened, so I kind of just kept going! In 2014 I decided to try vegan – well that’s still a work in progress, but at least all the food I make for myself is plant-based.

In the past 2 years I have ‘discovered’ some fantastic ingredients and recipes, and found that you can eat really really well on a plant-based diet!

I’ll admit I have a few weaknesses. Especially in the current hot weather, I find it hard to say no to really good gelato!

Anyway, today I thought I’d share some of my favourite ingredients and what you can do with them!

CHICKPEAS
I think chickpeas would have to be top of the list. I eat them pretty much every day in some form. Half a can with a salad is great for protein. Smashed up with avocado and either some Himalayan salt (another new ‘discovery’ for me) or dukkah, is divine, and on a sandwich or toast is the quickest, easiest lunch you’ll ever make! Then of course you can use chickpeas in dips – you can’t go past a good hummus! I’ve never tried it but I’ve seen a few cookie recipes using chickpeas that I’m keen to try!

Speaking of sweet things, did you know that the canning water from a can of chickpeas can be used to make meringue? It turns out that the juice has very similar properties to egg white so can be used as an egg white replacer, including in meringue! I’ve made them several times – so light and airy! And so much fun to see the look on people’s faces when they try one and then you tell them what they’re made of!

Finally there is chickpea flour which can be used to make eggless quiches – super easy and surprisingly good! The texture is a little different but with the right seasoning they can be really tasty.

AVOCADO
Smashes up really well with chickpeas. I usually have half an avocado in a salad for lunch. Others use it as a spread, in smoothies, and of course guacamole. Sooo creamy and delicious… I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to decide I like it!

I still haven’t got around to trying it in a dessert (eg chocolate mousse) but I can now see how it would work. I have tried some incredible avocado gelato (not vegan – as I said I’m still a work in progress!)

COCONUT
I love coconut! It can be used in so many ways. There is the ubiquitous coconut water which is supposedly the best thing ever – for me, the jury is still out and I haven’t quite got my head around the flavour. I use coconut oil a fair bit – great for cooking, and AMAZING in raw desserts. Desiccated and shredded coconut (I’m still not sure exactly what the difference is) is great in cakes, cookies, energy balls and also in salads. Coconut chips are pretty tasty! Let’s not forget coconut milk and cream, used for desserts such as chocolate mousse, and also in curries and soups. Then there’s a slightly different type of coconut milk, the one that is used as a substitute for dairy milk. I’ve used it in smoothies and it has a definite coconut taste but seems to work really well!

CASHEWS
I love raw cashews but the main thing I use them for is cashew cream – the best! I use it in raw desserts – so easy to make and so creamy people will struggle to believe that there is no cream in it! I also throw a handful into my homemade rice milk to add a bit of creaminess.

CAULIFLOWER
Where do we start? Steamed cauliflower. Cauliflower curry. Cauli puree as a substitute for potato mash. Cauli ‘rice’ in ‘fried rice’ or ‘risotto’. One of my all time favourite soups – curried cauliflower. Cauliflower ‘steak’. So versatile. (I’ve written ‘cauliflower’ so many times I’m now looking at it, wondering if I’ve spelled it correctly!)

DATES
Who doesn’t love a hot date? Dates are a fantastic natural sweetener and binder, making them the ideal base for most vegan energy balls. I also use them with ground almonds to form the base for raw cheesecakes/tarts. You can also make caramel with them but I haven’t got around to trying that yet!

So there you have it. Just a few of my favourite versatile ingredients. Do you have any favourites?

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