Imagine my delight when I was invited to sample the new vegan menu at Vapiano, the Manchester branch. It’s not the first time I’ve been to Vapiano, we had lunch a couple of months ago, I’ve been to a blind taste test and I’ve been involved in their Eat Pasta Run Faster campaign. Not only I think the food is great, but I also loved the idea of the vegan specials. I’m vegetarian, but I try to incorporate as many vegan meals as I can, daily.
These are the vegan options. The thing I loved most about these dishes is that they made sense. Sometimes with veg*n options you end up with something puzzling and not in a good way. There wasn’t any vegan cheese and I liked that a lot. It’s very easy to take the meat out and replace the cheese with vegan cheese and call it a vegan meal. These three dishes aren’t anything like that.
I’m going to talk a little bit about the restaurant and then I’m going to talk about each dish.
The food at Vapiano is prepared from scratch in front of you. This is the pizza station. There are two options, you can wait to see how it’s prepared or get a pad that will light up when the food is ready to be collected. With pizza it’s better to get the pad, but I stayed and looked at the way the pasta and the risotto were cooked. It’s a treat in itself if, like me, you love cooking.
Because everything is prepared then, you can chose the type of pasta you like. The pasta is made fresh everyday in a huge machine which can be seen. Not only that you can pick if you want spaghetti, fusilli or penne, but you can also choose spelt if you fancy that option.
This is the last post I’m making about local farms, from my Blogging Goals. I managed to go to a farm or mill each month, I got fresh lovely local produce and I also went to farms in Scotland and near London. It was a very enjoyable experience and I will continue going to local farms.
This month I’m going to talk about Inglenook Farm, a farm I’ve been to before for their lavender harvest. Unlike a regular farm, they are making essential oils. In the farm shop there are a few teas, nougat and chocolate to buy, but the most important things are the oils and the creams.
Last year I bought a face cream from them and I was delighted with it. I used it in the Winter months, it was nourishing and it kept my skin moisturised and healthy. I finished it and I went back to Inglenook to buy another one. They didn’t have my cream anymore. So, instead, after chatting a lot with the lady that sells the oils, after looking at all their creams, I’ve decide to make my own cream.
It sounds complicated, I just got a cream-base for a night cream and another one for a day-cream. I also bought 2 essential oils, Bois de Rose and May Chang. Now the only thing that I have to do is to mix the oils into the cream. I didn’t get the chance of reading how much I should I add of each. The lady told me that I can add between 3 and 10 drops for the amount of cream I have.
For all these I paid £13. It’s less than a good face cream and I can use the remaining oils in some other way.
They have lots of oils, you can have a look on their oils website essenciaoils.
Inglenook Farm is on Moss Nook Lane, Rainford Bypass (A570), WA11 8AE. There are a few signs to it and it’s within easy reach, between Liverpool and Manchester.
Today in some parts of Europe people are celebrating St. Nicholas Day. I was surprised when I did a little bit of research to find out that in The Netherlands it’s celebrated too. Usually the traditions are similar within an area. I made a couple of Dutch desserts because I wanted to try something new and my husband loves desserts. In Romania, traditionally children are given sweets as gifts or a stick if they were naughty. The gifts are left for the kids in their shoes and only if they are cleaned. As a child I was adding my slippers to the mix, only to help St. Nicholas with extra space for all the gifts he was giving me. My mother and I used to have a lengthy conversation about shoes vs. footwear on St. Nicholas. I did that again this year, I put my slippers, for extra space. I was making fun last night that, if I get up earlier than my husband, I will move all my high heels shoes in front of the fireplace. He said I wouldn’t as he didn’t think of getting enough gifts for 20+ pair of shoes. This is what we got last year for St. Nicholas Day.
These are our gifts this year, ready to be unwrapped.
On our trip to Edinburgh a couple of months ago I saw this picture at the Scottish National Gallery. Three Legends of St. Nicholas was painted in the early 16th century by Gerard David. St. Nicholas was Archbishop of Myra in Asia in the 4th century and he was the patron of children. He is also known as “Santa Claus”. In the left panel he appears as a baby and he is thanking God for his birth. In the centre panel he saves three impoverished girls by giving them dowries to be able to get married. On the right panel he is depicted as a bishop that revives three boys who have been killed.
In The Netherlands, for the children the most important day in December is the 5th, when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) brings them their presents. Sinterklaas travels with his servants Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters) through The Netherlands from the middle of November, as he usually lives in Madrid, Spain. He will arrive in The Netherlands in a different harbour each year.
Children were told that the Zwarte Pieten keeps records of all the things they have done in the past year in a big book. Good children will get gifts and bad children will be put in a sack and the Zwarte Pieten takes them to Spain for a year to teach then how to behave. Not much of a punishment if you ask me.
In The Netherlands parties are held on the 5th with treasure hunt games, the treasures being little presents left by Sinterklaas.
It was fun to read about their traditions and baking Dutch desserts, like Kerstkrans.
I got a Le Creuset stoneware dish! I can’t wait to make my first pie in it. It’s so exciting.
Festus loved his healthy desserts too. He picked a carrot as his first choice.
Last year I’ve wrote Vegetarian Christmas, a post with 10 recipes for Christmas, some of them were mine and some were from other bloggers that I follow. This year I’ve decided to make a similar post, with 10 recipes, 5 mine and 5 from other bloggers.
I will start with one of my own recipes for vegan Brussels sprouts and Chestnuts. I used frozen sprouts because I had those in the freezer and cooked chestnuts, so prep time wasn’t an issue and cooking took only 10-15 minutes.
I sometimes make soup for Christmas and this Creamy Asparagus and Pea Soup with Coconut is exactly what I have in mind. After quite a heavy starter with cheese and hearty dips and maybe a little bit of salads with mayo, I feel the need for something refreshing and light. A vegan soup packed with green veggies and some healthy fats must be on my menu for this Christmas. Angela made this delicious looking Christmas Stuffed Butternut Squash. I like the idea a lot and it’s something I might try. The best part is that it can be prepared in advance and only baked on the day. It saves a lot of time.
She also made these cute fondant decorations for mini-Christmas cakes. Here is the recipe for the Christmas cakes. She mentioned she saw tutorials on youtube on how to make the decorations and I agree, youtube is amazing for this sort of thing. It’s how I’ve made my fondant flowers a couple of months ago. I will try to make other figurines for Christmas, as those also can be made in advance.
Last year I made a huge snowflake cinnamonbread (instead of gingerbread) biscuits, but this year I was a little more traditional with The Gingerbreads.
For starters I am making dips and salads and this Broad Bean, Pea and Mint Hummus made by Lucy sounds delicious. It takes very little time to make and it’s something different to have on the table for Christmas.
Cozonac is a sweet loaf made out of enriched dough with cocoa, raisins, walnuts and Turkish delight. This recipe was passed down from my grand-grandmother on my mother’s side. The recipe is not difficult to make if you have experience with breads. If it’s the first time you are attempting bread, make it with strong white flour instead of the mixture I say in the recipe. It’s easier to work with white flour as it doesn’t have as many fibres as the other one.
Another dessert I love the look of is this KESAR ELAICHI SHRIKHAND. Anupama posted a video recipe of this dessert that is made with strained yogurt and flavoured with cardamom and saffron. It looks lush and indulgent.
Mince pies, of course I had to mention a recipe of mince pies. This is my recipe and it’s made with apple and cranberries. I love making mincemeat for mince pies and it’s so easy to modify it so it’s more to your taste.
I should mention drinks too and Christmas Pudding Vodka must be one of the best ideas. It’s also lovely as a gift. I recently made Visinata, it’s a Romanian drink made with sour cherries and alcohol, very similar to the Chistmas pudding vodka. Both my husband and I liked it a lot and we talked about different flavours that work with Vodka, to make more infused alcoholic drinks.
The last recipe is one I made recently, Festive wreath doughnuts. I love how well they turned out and the baked doughnuts are so easy to make. While doughnuts aren’t usually on the Christmas menu, they might be a good option for Christmas Eve, easy to make and really really cute.
At St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, from 26th November and until 15th January is the DreamWorks Lights Lantern Experience*, for the first time in UK. It took me a while to decide which pictures I’m going to share because there are so many scenes and so many figures. Also, I don’t want to spoil the surprise by showing too much, so I picked only 10 from inside.
On display, that it’s bigger than I was expecting, there are over 100 figures in 20 scenes, all based on the three well-known DreamWorks productions Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar.
The scenes have a small description, just to refresh the memory. The lanterns have so many details, they are wonderfully made. There is a lot of attention to details, for example all the trees are different, not only the characters. The thing I like the most about them is that they have the same attitudes like the characters in the comedies. There is a trail and that is very helpful as there are a few rooms to go through. The tickets booked online have a time slot, so it makes everything easier when visiting.
Enjoy the pictures.
At the exit there is a small gift shop. They offer a green screen experience, so customers can have their picture taken with a scene from the movies in the background.
There are a few funny things to buy that would make great stocking fillers for Christmas.
An interesting thing on offer were these life-size cut-outs. It’s definitely something I didn’t expect to be able to get from the gift shop.
DreamWorks Lights can be visited between 10am and 7pm and the price per adult is £10, for children under 15 is £8 and babies go in free. In my mind, it’s good value for money. In front of St. George’s Hall there is a Christmas market with lots of food stalls, cheese and gifts, so make sure you have plenty of time to check them out if you want to visit DreamWorks Lights before Christmas.
Did you see Shrek, Madagascar of Kung Fu Panda? Would you like to visit the DreamWorks Lights?
* I was invited for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own and I wouldn’t recommend it if I wouldn’t think it’s great.
I hope this is not my last 10 good things post this year as I plan to write another one closer to Christmas. It depends on the time I have, so let’s see. Please ignore No10 on the list if you are not a fan of F1, it might be boring (very boring).
1. Wrapping gifts for Christmas. I started wrapping gifts for Christmas and it’s so exciting, I love it. I found something I hope my husband will love, so I bought that for him. I also got gifts for Secret Santa, yay. Now we have to set up the tree and put the gifts under the tree, so we can stare at them till the 25th.
2. Bumping cars. We went on the docks and we got into a bumping car. It was so much fun. I can’t wait to go to ride again. There were other rides too, also there is an ice ring, an ice slider and rides for kids too.
3. The neighbuor’s cat. Everybody in our house likes the neighbour’s cat, but for different reasons. I like her, but I don’t interact with her because I don’t want her in our garden as this can lead to problems with Festus. Festus loves the idea of chasing her and he even tried to jump the fence after her. That was hilarious because he didn’t jump as hubby was holding him. Festus also learned that the cat can be found on the fence and he will look outside on the fence to see if she is there or not.
My husband is not bothered and he will pet the cat. If I say something, he will just reply that he actually saved money because he petted the cat for free unlike the ones from the cat cafe. I laugh and that is it.
4. New lipsticks from No7. I got some new lipsticks and I’m happy with them. It took me ages to decide on the shades, but I did it in the end.
5. Baking season. I think this is how December should be called. I have so many things bakes in mind, I only need volunteers to eat my food or I will put a few pounds on this month.
6. NYE. We are going to London! I can’t wait. I considered Edinburgh, but my husband thought it’s better to go to London. We want to go in the centre for the fireworks. It’s exciting.
7. Advent calendar. This is our first advent calendar and I like that we can share it. I though it’s better to get one and make two small cups of tea instead of each having a calendar.
8. The light bulb on the street. I don’t have a lot of things to say about the light bulb, it was broken, my husband sent an email to the council. In two or three days they were changing the bulb. I can’t be happier with the council, it made us feel that our monthly payments were good value for money.
9. Plans for next year. I have some exciting plans for next year, work related and personal too. I am thinking of the goals that I set up this year and they were mostly a success.
10. Rosberg won the F1 title. This one is a little strange, but I’m really glad he won. Hamilton was very disappointing for me this year, with his constant moans, taking Rosberg out in the 1st lap in Spain and throwing the steering wheel out of the car (a steering wheel that costs up to £50,000 and it was perfectly fine before being trowen out). Of course, the constant flattering by the guys at Channel 4 didn’t help, they made him even more annoying for me. He might be a great driver, but the way he finished the last race showed, again, a not-so-pretty side of him. He backed up his team mate into the other drivers hoping that they will pass him. They didn’t, Rosberg had a wonderful race and proved he fully deserves his title.
While other teams just let their drivers do their own race, like Red Bull, Mercedes is different. They don’t have different strategies and for me that is bonkers, but this is their way and they have the best car on track. I looked over the team transcripts and it was quite surprising. During the race I didn’t realize how soon they told Hamilton to speed up to make sure they get their win. The first instruction was in lap 32! In lap 35 Rosberg mentions the pace is slow. In lap 36 he is told that Vettel will be on better tyres and that he can loose the win. Hamilton gets another notification from his mechanic in lap 42 that Vettel is very fast, repeated after 2 laps. Rosberg suggests switching the cars so they can get the win. In lap 47 Hamilton is told again that he must speed up, he replies that they should be left to race. In lap 51, Paddy intervenes and tells Hamilton they need to make sure they will win the race. Nothing changed and in lap 54, with only 2 laps to the chequered flag, after the last instruction to speed up, Hamilton’s reply is amazing: “Right now I’m losing the world championship so I’m really not bothered if I’m going to win or lose this race.”.
I found that answer appalling. F1 is a team sport because there are hundreds of people working on those cars, he is paid millions of pounds to win races and he is acting as a 4 years old with a tantrum.
Do I think Mercedes was right to tell him from lap 32 that he needs to speed up, that meaning he will not win the championship? Well, I don’t, but that is not the point. As I said, Mercedes is Mercedes, they have their values. Others, like Red Bull have different values and different strategies and there are different options for them.
So, in the end, I was happy Rosberg won because he was the only one in the position to win the championship beside Hamilton. Verstappen was fantastic in the last 2 races, he is a star. He made a mistake in the first lap, but recovered and from the last position finished 4th. I saw people saying that he made a mistake, so he is not that good. I disagree, everybody on that track made a mistake at one point and he managed to bounce back, not everybody can do a job as good as him.
It’s the 1st of December and this is the last month in my 365 (366) Project. So far I took at least a picture every day and I’ve posted it on Instagram. I enjoyed doing the challenge a lot. It’s very likely I will continue with it next year.
November was a great month, I baked the last bakes for GBBO, I celebrated my birthday, we’ve been to London, I started buying gifts for Christmas, we went to a Christmas fair, to a opening for a new Japanese restaurant in Manchester and we tried the bumpy cars. December should be very exciting too with the holidays and lots of new things to do, some related to work.
Day 306. I made the plan for baking the final challenge at the Great British Bake Off. Day 307. This is how it turned out. I was so happy with everything. Day 308. The last cake I’ve baked for GBBO: British Crown Meringue Cake, tasted amazing too. That day we had the last slice of the cake. Day 309. A pot of tea after a very long and busy day. Day 310. Fireworks on Mersey for Bonfire night. Day 311. My plans for tonight include fluffy slippers, tea, movies and a tired dog at my feet. Day 312. Christmas fruit with Courvoisier, yummy. Day 313. Mushrooms were on menu. I love King Oyster mushrooms. Day 314. Modelling my new Christmas socks with a little help from Festus. Day 315. A cute kid at the Festive Gift Fair at the NEC. Day 316. A cake inspired by the ones my grandmother used to make for me.
Day 317. My husband and I visited Tate Modern in the evening and it was lovely. I loved this display made out of couscous. Day 318. A path in the woods we’ve walked Festus. Day 319. Having coffee in an Igloo near the Tower of London, on my birthday. After that we went to the Tower for the ceremony of keys. Day 320. A busy evening on Oxford street. Day 321. Bridge cafe, the famous cafe where the loosing team of The Apprentice is going to talk before going into the boardroom. Day 322. My dinner, stir fry Mediterranean veggies with a duck egg. Day 323. I tried the chocolate bars I got from Liberty. Delicious! Day 324. I got the first gifts for Christmas for my husband from TKMaxx. I didn’t expect starting the Christmas shopping so soon. Day 325. My homemade sour cherry liquor. Day 326. The coffee plant I got from Kew Gardens a couple of months ago.
Day 327. Me, having Prosecco at the Revolution event at Victoria Warehouse. Day 328. Fresh bread, homemade tomatoe sauce, veggie burger, cheddar, pickled walnut, baked fries and a homemade onion, mustard and cream sauce for dinner. Day 329. My boy & his treats. Day 330. Breakfast of ancient grain muffin with crushed avocado with olive oil and sundried tomatoes, poached duck egg and mustard and single cream sauce. Day 331. Poinsettia, the first Christmas decoration for this year. Day 332. Bumping cars, on the docks. It was so much fun. Day 333. I finally got some lipsticks, after trying a lot of samples. Day 334. I was at the opening of a new Japanese restaurant in Manchester. Day 335. Festus.