Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Go Max Go Candy Bars

A package popped though the mail slot recently and, eagerly opening it, I couldn't help but be taken back to one glorious Christmas morning, when I woke up to find a rather large looking box sitting under the Christmas tree.  Could it be!? Could Santa really have gotten me the deluxe Petite Pony palace complete with electric elevator!?    This was the excitement level I was working with as I opened my little parcel from the Veganstore.co.uk and, like my six year old self that Christmas, I was not to be disappointed.   Out of the package tumbled bar after bar of what I now know to be the most amazing vegan chocolate bars EVER, Go Max Go Candy Bars.

Now I realise whenever I write about a new chocolate bar I always say 'it's the best yet', but that's just because I don't want to hurt the other bars' feelings.  Like a mother who tells their children she doesn't have a favourite while secretly winking at the cutest one, I think Go Max Go Bars are definitely the cutest of the lot.

When I said goodbye to the candy isle back in 1999, I never dreamed I would eat anything that would compare to these amazing creations.  All of my old favourites have been remade with no animal products whatsoever and, while I know its been a while since I've had the real thing, I completely couldn't tell the difference as I demolished all of them in record time.

Describing the bars is easy, albeit a little lazy on my part: the Jokerz bar is just like a Snickers, Twilight a Moro and Bucaneer a Mars bar.  Sadly the Veganstore had sold out of the Mahalo bar so I didn't get to try it yet, but as it's made with a coconut filling it's sure to be nothing less than fantastic.  Looking at their official web page, they now have two new products to add to their distinguished line up; Cleo peanut butter cups and their SNAP! rice crispie bar.  I feel another order coming on...

Stir-fried Dried Tofu with Green Pepper 青菜炒豆干

Working in a Chinese takeaway for most of my teens (shhhh, don't tell the vegans), I thought I was pretty up with the what's what in Chinese cooking. Little did I know when I actually made it to China the culinary wonders that awaited me.  There was not a deep fried wonton or black bean beef in sight and sweet and sour, the king amongst most Western style Chinese cuisine, didn't even get a look in amongst all the other amazing flavours.

Perhaps the most unexpected thing about my first encounter with authentic Chinese food though was a group of starter style dishes called Leng Cai 冷菜 (literally 'cold dishes').  Found at the start of nearly every menu, a good deal of them were vegan friendly, and it was here that I discovered the delicious little tofu variety that is Dou Gan 豆干 ( 'bean dry').

A bit of an odd looking tofu in the packet (it looks like perfectly square slabs of squished livers - hmmm, appetizing...), it has a relatively hard texture, with a light marinated skin and is almost sweet in flavour.  I thought I might have seen it for the last time when I said goodbye to China, but thankfully nearly all the Asian grocery stores around Ireland seem to stock it.  Don't pass it by in the store just cos its a little ugly -  like the 3 legged puppy at the pound, you really should just give it a chance (sorry, I've been volunteering at a dog sanctuary recently!), and with this simple little recipe hopefully you will be able to look past it's odd exterior and give it a go.

Stir-fried Dried Tofu with Green Pepper     青菜炒豆干


1 green pepper, sliced thinly
5 squares of dried tofu, sliced into thin slivers
3 star anise
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
A splash of rice vinegar


Heat the oil in a wok and fry the star anise until fragrant.

Add the pepper and fry for a wee bit, then whack in the tofu and all the other ingredients.

Fry for two to three minutes on high heat, then plate up and serve.

It can be eaten hot, but I like it best at room temperature, so if you are doing a few dishes make this one first.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Caramel Flavoured Choices

In the small town of Tuam, just down the road from my fiance's family home, there is a wee supermarket called Joyces, which, to my utter amazement, I recently found to be rather abundant in vegan goodies.  Scanning her shelves a few weeks ago I came across what could possibly be THE chocolate highlight of my entire vegan career, Caramel Flavoured Choices.

Wrapped in golden foil, like all the best chocolates are, these succulent chocolate coated balls of soft caramel are a sweet-toothed vegans dream.  Twelve to a packet they were gone in an instant, to leave me wallowing in a sugary chocolate haze of content.

Now, whenever I’m back out at the In-laws, I’m always the first to put my hand up to run into town on an errand just so I can nip back to Joyces and stock up.  In the process I have become quite the favoured daughter in law - little do they know! 

Having never seen them anywhere else, I am hoping now that we have moved to Galway to hunt these bad boys out in a more convenient location to home.  Produced by the same people who make Celtic Chocolates in Co. Meath they should be around somewhere, but my advice to you if you stumble upon a packet is to stock up!!  For if you are anything like me, they won’t last past the hour.

If you can't get 'em locally you can order them online at Alternative Stores.com

Monday, June 13, 2011

Spicy Cucumber Pickle

While I was on exchange in Malaysia, I couldn't wait to get home everyday from school to see what my Thai host mother had whipped up for dinner.  Out of her tiny kitchen she produced some of the best food I'd ever eaten and made sure I ate it, all.  After prodding me to 'finish, finish', with a proud little gleam in her eye she would then poke me in the belly and tell me how fat I was.

While slightly traumatic at first, I soon learned to take it in my ever heavier stride and gave it my all when it came to dinner time (yeap, I'm just a trooper that way).  One of my absolute favourites was her fried rice, not complete without a bowl of spicy cucumber pickle.  In fact, I'm not sure I really remember what her rice tastes like at all it was always so covered in the stuff!  Sour, sweet and spicy all at once, I'll never eat fried rice without it again.

Spicy Cucumber Pickle


½ large cucumber, halved down the middle and finely sliced
1-2 small shallots, sliced
½ small red chilli, sliced
2 tbs sugar
½ tsp salt
¾ cup white vinegar (I use Chinese white vinegar if I want it very sour, or rice vinegar for less of a kick)


Mix all ingredients together and let sit for about half an hour before serving at room temperature.

Faith In Nature

When I first became vegan back in my rather isolated home town in New Zealand, even if I had wanted to use vegan friendly toiletries I wouldn’t have been able to find them.  My mother was willing to put up with me not eating dairy but actually smelling like a cow would have been a different story.  Since moving over to Ireland however, I have stumbled across a whole host of different vegan products and after much deliberation in my bathroom come testing lab one brand has definitely come out a winner, Faith In Nature.  I simply love the stuff!

Quite picky when it comes to fragrances, I am hooked on their Chocolate Shampoo and Conditioner, which not only makes me smell like a cake but leaves my hair feeling fantastic.  Their Aloe Vera and Tea Tree Hand Wash is also a favourite - there is just something about eucalyptus that I find irresistible, like petrol and maker pens, but good for you!

Also a constant in our bathroom repertoire is their Aloe Vera and Ylang Ylang Shower Gel and Foam Bath, which smells just divine (and is rather amusing for our childish selves to try and pronounce, ylaaang yllaaaannnggg).  They make it in chocolate as well, which at the shop I always go to reach for first and then think better of it – probably best not to smell that much like a cake, however much I want to.

All of their products are paraben free – something I didn’t even know existed until recently but that may be linked to cancer.  While there is no hard evidence that this is the case, I’d say there is no harm in keeping dodgy chemicals away from you if you can.

And last but not least, the final reason our place is littered with Faith in Nature's fabulous products is the price – extremely reasonable, smelling so good without covering yourself in animal by-products and chemicals has been made quite affordable.  So I entreat you to go, buy, lather (and try not to eat) these wonderful products, because, quite simply, you just 'gotta have faith faith faith' (I know, I'm sorry).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Broccoli Soup

Ah the humble soup. Previously rather under appreciated in our household, I have recently been caught in the midst of a wee obsession with this unassuming appetizer.  A handy way to use up any left over vege and the best excuse for whipping out the ol’ hand blender (I would blitz all my food if I could – I can’t wait to be old), soup has become a treasured friend in times of culinary laziness (so rather often!).

Not a fan of chunky soups, I follow the same steps each time, ending with a good zap of the hand blender and they always turn out amazing.  Whack in some pesto, or sprinkle on some toasted nuts and you look like a proper professional without the least bit of effort!

Broccoli Soup


Olive oil
1 med onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 small head of broccoli, chopped
Vegetable stock
Salt & pepper to taste
Soy cream or toasted almonds for decoration


Sweat off the onions and garlic in a deep pot by frying them in a good bit of olive oil for 4-5 minutes.

Add the potatoes and broccoli and fry together for a few minutes.

Add enough vegetable stock to cover the vegetables, cover with a lid and bring to the boil. 

Simmer until the potatoes are cooked, let cool and then go at it with a hand blender until nice and smooth.

Add salt and pepper to taste and heat until hot enough to serve.

Sprinkle with toasted almonds and/or a dollop of soy cream.

Note:  For a different soup, just swap vegetables.  Current favourites include leek & potato, carrot & orange, and curried squash, yum!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Indian doesn't get eaten in our house unless accompanied by a big, overflowing bowl of riata - mostly because I have a habit of making things too spicy, but also because I think it's just delicious!  I always make a whole load the stuff because, if it doesn't get eaten at dinner, it makes a great dip the next day with any left over poppadoms.



1 tub of soy yogurt (I use Sojade 400g tubs)
½ large tomato, chopped finely
¼ small cucumber, chopped finely
2 spring onions, chopped finely
2-3 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs cumin seeds, roasted
¼ tsp cumin powder (or more if you are a big cumin fan like me)
1 tsp of salt (or to taste)
Handful coriander, chopped finely


Toast the cumin seeds until fragrant, finely chop all the vege and then whack it all together and refrigerate - it's that easy!