Thursday, 28 October 2010


As I may have mentioned previously, I work at McDonalds.  I get a free meal every shift, and I'm lazy - I don't want to make a packed lunch every day.

However, since January, I've been bringing in at least part of my lunch, on most shifts.  This doesn't have to change as a vegan.

When I started going vegan at work, I chose the M burger, with no meat, cheese, or dressings on it - essentially, a lettuce and tomato sandwich.  Since this was a special, it's now been discontinued.  So, I've been having a Chicken Legend, again with no meat or dressings - essentially, a lettuce sandwhich, but my coworkers would normally put some tomato on it for me.  I've just (today) found that the Chicken Salad Deli comes with, apart from mayo and chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber, so I'll probably switch to that.  I'm not a big fan of cucumber, but hey - before two months or so ago, I never ate lettuce.  I also thought that I didn't like tomato, but it's slowly growing on me.  I can try cucumber again.

I have to admit, I've yet to finish all the tomato that comes on a deli - I still prefer the bites without any.  But I'm getting better.  I'm sure I can reach the same point with cucumbers, and deli's are available year round.

I like the items made with nicer breads.  I don't like the classic McDonalds hamburger buns - I find them too sweet.  I used to eat them with the meat, but I really don't think they'd work without them.  I'll be sticking with the ciabattas and  deli and bakehouse rolls.

A manager at a different McDonalds told me today that the onion rings have butter in them.  She didn't seem to understand my question - it's not in the ingredients list, and it's not in the oil, so where exactly is the butter getting in?  She just kept repeating that it's in there somehow.  I'm going to go ahead and ignore that.

I generally try to take water and fruit to work - usually apples and bananas.  I've stopped craving the desserts.  I could eat the apple pies (they're cooked in oil which may be contaminated with the chicken or fish oil, but that doesn't actually bother me), but I just don't want them.  I don't want brownies or ice cream, or even a spoonful of chocolate pieces.  I just don't crave them any more.

 I usually get some kind of sandwich made up, and have fries, onion rings, or ready salted crisps (from home).  I generally end up getting a coke as well, even if I have water with me.  I've tried the salads, but I find them unappetizing, and a bit of a vegetable overload.

You can check out the ingredients and allergen lists here.   I would be wary of anything that lists "flavouring".

I wasn't given much variety in food as a child.  I was fussy, but, as I've shown, I can grow to like foods by continual exposure.

I used to always get either a totally plain cheeseburger or fishfingers.  It was a big step for me to try the sour cream and chive dip (not vegan or vegetarian, since they can't guarantee that the factory is free of animal products), and I'd never have dreamt of eating the burgers with vegetables and ketchup on them.  I'm getting better.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010


Flapjacks are nice and easy.

You'll need;

  • 6oz Butter Substitute (again, I used Pure's dairy-free sunflower oil spread)
  • 6oz Sugar (I used demerara, but it doesn't matter)
  • 8oz Porridge Oats
You can also add in things like glacé cherries mixed in, or a layer of vegan chocolate (I used rice milk chocolate bars from here) on top.  No reason you can't use vegan chocolate chips either.  I like to add in a tablespoon or two of golden syrup because I am a Sugar Junkie.

In my latest batch, I used ground (that is, blended) hazelnuts as a replacements for 2oz of porridge oats.  I see no reason why other kinds of nuts couldn't be put in as well, especially if you wanted to up the protein content.  I assume nuts are more proteiny than oats - I'm not sure.

I just checked, and the oats I use have 10.6g of protein per 100g.  From this list you can see that this is lower than quite a lot of nuts.

Incidentally, I made these for David, following his running the Birmingham half-marathon, along with a few protein shakes.  One was chocolate and one had strawberries and raspberries in it instead, which was yummy. 

As for method;

  1. Melt the 'butter' in a saucepan.  
  2. When the butter is melted, turn the heat off and add in the other ingredients.  Mix them together, and place them in a baking dish, like a brownie dish.  This mixture perfectly filled my 6 by 8 dish.
  3. Bake at gas mark 4 for 20-25 minutes, until the top goes golden brown.  The flapjacks will still be very soft at this point, and they'll harden up as they cool.  Take this opportunity to slice them into pieces.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Easy Vegan Lasagne

I'd never made lasagne before, so I googled a couple of recipes for ideas.  I knew I wouldn't have any trouble with vegan pasta, and I had a good idea for the cheese, but the sauce was eluding me.

Most of the recipes seemed to be overly complicated, so I just made one up.  This one serves four, and came out with a good mix between flavours.  I'm not the biggest fan of mushrooms, but cut them tiny, and you won't even notice that they're there.  On the other hand, if you do like mushrooms, add a few more and cut them bigger.

Cook the pasta sheets while making the sauce.  I used a baking dish that was 6 by 8 inches, and needed six pasta sheets to cover it twice.  They stuck together when I boiled them, but I just pulled them apart.  There's probably a better way of doing this.

For the sauce;

1 Onion
1 Tin of Chopped Tomatoes
2/3 Cup of Button Mushrooms
Spices; I used a premixed spice called Garlic Italian, which contains basil, herb, sage, garlic, and lots of nummy things.  I also added freshly ground black pepper, and some sea salt.

  1. Chop the onions and the mushrooms, and fry them in oil.
  2. When the onions start to go translucent around the edges, add the tomatoes in their juices, and simmer.  Season to taste.  
  3. Simmer for ten to twenty minutes, while the liquid reduces slightly.

To make the cheese topping;

1/2 Cup of Cashews and 1/2 Cup of Water, OR, 1 Cup of Milk Substitute
1 Packet of Silken or Extra Silken Tofu (between 300-350g).
1/2 Tsp Garlic Salt
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Rice Wine Vinegar

  1. Blend the cashew till liquid, if using them, and then add the water.  Otherwise, just pour the milk into a blender.
  2. Add the other ingredients and blend.

To assemble;

  1. Make a layer of sauce in the baking dish, and cover with pasta sheets.  Add another layer, cover with more pasta sheets, then pour on some of the cheese mixture (I suggest using the rest to finish this recipe, and set into cheese).  Salt and pepper the top, if you want.  I did.
  2. Bake at gas mark 4, until the cheese mixture goes all bubbly and sets into a nice crust.  About twenty minutes.

I served this with pre-mixed salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, and the Purple Foodies' garlicky baked fries.

Easy Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is quite easy.  My method is as follows.

English Muffins (1 per person)
Butter Substitute (I used Pure dairy-free sunflower margarine, but up to you).
Powdered Garlic
Flat-Leaf Parsley (that is, the tiny little leaves chopped in a spice jar.  You could also use powdered parsley or fresh parsley).

  1. Slice the English Muffins into fourths (lengthways).  This bit is optional.
  2. Mix the garlic butter in the following proportions; 1 tablespoon "butter", 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon parsley. 
  3. Spread the butter onto the english muffins.
  4. Put under the grill and toast until the butter is all melty and nice.

You could also just microwave it for ten seconds.

I like to add fake cheese.  Grate/slice it on and nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds so it melts properly.

Dinner (Italian)

Last night, I made dinner for David.  A proper, three-course, Italian meal, with wine and mints afterwards.  All totally vegan, and all fairly easy, since I am a Lazy Cook.

The starter was cheesy garlic bread.  I went for Bella Italia style, rather than pizza hut.  That is, soft breadsticks rather than toasted slices of french baguette.  All recipes will be in later posts, to keep things neat, but I'll come back and link.

The main course was lasagne, with garlicky baked fries (using the purple foodies' recipe) and a salad consisting of pre-mixed salad leaves and some baby tomatoes.  I had salt and pepper grinders on the table.  These are new!  I've had the salt grinder for a while, but I bought the pepper one with the other ingredients.  I also tried my cider vinegar with it, which went really well with the salad leaves.  I'd never actually tried it before, although I've had it for a while - I use it to condition my hair and make cakes.

The lasagne was tricky, at first, but then surprisingly easy.  I googled a lot of recipes for lasagne and vegetarian lasagne, to get an idea of how it was made.  They all seemed really complicated, so I ignored them and made one up.  It tasted amazing.  The garlic fries came out really well too, especially for a first attempt.  I served them with a McDonald's Sweet Chilli dip which I got with some onion rings (vegan incidentally - it's a tempura batter, not a chip-shop batter), decanted into a little pot.  It went really well, but next time, I'm thinking guacamole.  I think the creaminess will work.  Or, I could probably make some kind of garlic-herb dip using tofu.  I know you can approximate Dominoes garlic and herb dip with mayonaise, mustard, garlic and parsley - I wonder if I can sub in silken tofu for the texture of the mayonaise?  Maybe some onion powder or something instead of the garlic?  Almost every part of this meal involved garlic.

For dessert, I got a tin of pineapple chunks, added a bit of boiled water and chopped strawberries, and set it with agar agar.  I cut it into chunks, and put this in a bowl with some fresh chopped strawberries and raspberries, and served it with coconut milk flavoured with vanilla and icing sugar.

Finally, I got a few pieces of Turkish Delight, from the Cranberry stall in the Bullring.  These weren't cheap - they were £1.39 for 100g, which worked out to about thirty pence each.  Incidentally, real Turkish Delight is vegan, but the cheaper stuff uses gelatin, and isn't.

I got two pieces of mint (actually, David did), and two of rose, and sliced them up on a little plate.  There was also Spanish chocolate.  And wine.  David chose the wine, because he's good at that.

Oh, and I made flapjacks the other day, and a berry-flavoured protein shake.  I may post those up as well, depending on time.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Basic Chilli

The following is my favourite chilli recipe.  It's a work in progress, since I generally experiment with the spices.  You can add other stuff to it, too.  It's based on this one.

2 Tomatoes
2 Tins of Chopped Tomatoes (in their juices)
1 Onion
1 Cup of Mushrooms
2 Tins of Kidney Beans
1 Green Bell Pepper
Dash of Cayenne Pepper

Spices - I used salt, pepper, a mixture of Indian spices (don't ask me which ones, it was a pre-made mix), and garlic salt (there is nothing bad about garlic salt).

You can also add in various other vegetables - just go with what you like.  This recipe is very open to customisation.

  1. Slice everything (except the tinned tomatoes and kidney beans, obviously), and deseed the tomatoes and bell pepper.  
  2. Fry the onion, mushrooms, tomatoes, and bell pepper together.  When the onions start to go translucent around the edges, add the tomatoes and juice, and bring to a simmer.  
  3. Add the (strained) kidney beans and leave to simmer for about twenty minutes.  Season to taste.

The liquid should reduce as it simmers - if you want it thinner, add the water from the kidney beans.

I find this freezes really well, and lasts in the fridge for about a week.  It's quite proteiny, especially if you go ahead and add a few more tins of beans (any kind, really).

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Vegan Cheese

Based on JenShaggy's recipe, here.

1 cup of Vegan Milk (I used soy) OR 1/2 cup of Cashews + 1/2 cup of Water.
1 packet of  Silken Tofu (between 300-350g, or around 12oz).
1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar
4 tsp Agar Powder

You'll also need a blender, a saucepan, and a bowl for the cheese to set in.

  1. If using the cashews and water option, blend the cashews into powder.  Add the water, and blend a bit more. Otherwise, just pour the milk into the blender and go to step two.
  2. Add tofu, garlic salt, salt, and rice vinegar, and blend till smooth.
  3. Add the Agar powder and blend again, just to mix it in (I find I get lumps if I don't do it this way, but I suck at mixing).  Lumps are a very bad idea in this mix.
  4. Pour into a saucepan and let the mixture sit for five minutes.
  5. Bring to mixture to the boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally.  The mixture should get thicker, and the flavours will change, and become more cheesy.
  6. Pour mixture into a bowl, smooth over the top like brownies, and let it set in the fridge for about four hours.
You can make this without the Agar powder, in which case it becomes a cheesy-flavoured sauce, a bit like a roux or bechamel.   If you use garlic powder rather than garlic salt, you may want to adjust the amounts.

When set, this mixture should slide easily out of whatever it's been set in, and you should be able to grate it and slice it.  It does have a slightly garlic aftertaste, so you may want to only use a pinch of garlic salt, adjust the amount, or melt it on toast for cheesy garlic bread.  Oh yeah, it melts.  Agar powder does that.

As for where to get the ingredients; you can get pretty much everything except the agar powder and the tofu from a high street supermarket.  I go with tescoes.  However, the rice wine vinegar is cheaper from a Chinese supermarket, which is where I got the tofu.  Theoretically, you can get the Agar powder there too, but my local was out of stock, so I bought it from here.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Vegan Fast Food

A comment I submitted to one of PETA's info pages, here;

As a vegan working in McDonalds, I sometimes find myself having to take advantage of the free lunch offered each shift.

(In Britain) the fries are vegan. All of the soft drinks are, except the fanta, which contains gelatin (smarties are also not vegetarian or vegan, and nor is the sour cream and chive dip). A hamburger with no meat is vegan (although some ingredients are made in a factory containing milk, and it can't be guaranteed that it contains no dairy products at all). An M burger with no meat, cheese, or sauces is also vegan (it's a lettuce and tomato sandwich). Generally speaking, the buns alone are vegan, so you may be able to build an option, depending on how helpful the staff are.

A veggie burger, at McDonalds, is not vegetarian unless you specifically request that it is cooked in the fry vat. Otherwise, they can't guarantee that it won't come into contact with the oil from the chicken or fish (same applies to the apple pies, but I suspect they contain egg too - I'd have to check). A veggie burger cooked in the fry vat with no sauce is vegan. A veggie deli without the mayonnaise is also vegan (remember the fry vat).

A garden side salad with balsamic dressing is vegan, but none of the other salad options are.

On the breakfast menu, bagels, hash browns, oatmeal, jam, and golden syrup are vegan.

Edit;  Sorry, the oatmeal isn't vegan, but the apple pies are if they're cooked in the fry vat, or if you don't mind the risk of their coming into contact with the chicken or fish oil.
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