During our Spring vacation to Andalucia, we were planning a day trip to Malaga. I was even more excited than usual about this trip as I’d recently discovered that El Piano had a cafe there. After a glorious morning of sight-seeing, I couldn’t wait for lunch!
El Piano is a small tapas caféand take-away located on Calle San Juan de Letran. Despite being tucked away down a side street, we had no trouble finding it. There are a couple of small tables inside the café and a couple more outside. Fortunately, we were early enough to grab a table right next to the food counter.
With just over a week until Easter, our minds have been on all things egg and bunny shaped, and preferably made of chocolate. We’ve been scouting the shops and online stores, checking out what’s on offer for vegans and the dairy free. Every year, the selection gets bigger and bigger. I remember not so long ago that it was impossible to find a dairy-free egg (even the dark chocolate eggs contained dairy :/). This year, whether you’re a milk, white or dark chocolate lover, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our top picks for 2015.
Hotel Chocolat Milk-Free Milk Chocolate – NEW for 2015! As soon as I heard that Hotel Chocolat had launched a range of milk-free milk chocolate, I headed straight to our store in Bath to check it out. It didn’t taste quite as I expected… it’s got that quality cocoa flavour that we know and love about Hotel Chocolat, but it didn’t have the creaminess (or sugary sweetness) that we associate with dairy chocolate. When Lil’ L tried it, he said that it was more like a dark chocolate than a dairy chocolate. If you’re a milk chocolate lover, I’d recommend trying a sample before you buy to make sure it suits your tastes. I like it… but then again I’m a dark chocolate lover 😉
I’m not usually one for setting New Year’s resolutions but 2015 is going to be different. This year I’m going to set resolutions, goals, monthly targets, in the hope that it will stop me procrastinating. I’m one of the world’s biggest procrastinators and I’m not proud of it. It’s time to change.
I still haven’t finished setting my resolutions. I haven’t even started planning out my goals and targets. And yes, I’m very aware that we’re almost at the end of January. But hey, I’m a procrastinator and old habits die hard.
I did set one resolution on 1st January though (and I’ve managed to keep it so far!) and that’s to do some regular yoga practice. For years, I’ve been one of those people that reads yoga magazines… but never actually does any yoga.
At Christmas, my friend Nicky gave me a copy of Tara Stiles ‘Make Your Own Rules Diet’. It’s an oddly titled book (especially as it’s not about dieting!) but that aside, I found it a thoroughly great read. The book covers three key elements that Tara believes are important for well being – yoga, meditation and food (all vegan recipes, yay!)
Of the three sections, my friend thought the yoga would be the least appealing to me but, surprisingly, it’s the one that’s left the biggest impression. I’ve been to a few yoga classes in the past but I’m so inflexible that I really struggled in them. However, Tara has such a gentle, encouraging approach that I wondered if it was time to give yoga another try. She says ‘If you can breathe, you can do yoga’. Really? Is that all you need to be able to do? Just breathe? Well, I thought, I can do that.
On Christmas morning, my hubbie and I decided to try one of Tara Stiles yoga sessions. We searched YouTube and spotted Flexibility and Range of Motion Beginner Yoga, which sounded perfect for us. In a flash, this stunning, strong, super bendy Tara appeared on our TV, flowing gracefully from one position to another… And then there was us two. I thought I was inflexible. M was miles worse. He could barely bend over. ‘How did this happen?’ he called out in horror.
I decided I must have super short arms… either that or Tara has abnormally long arms because how on earth does she reach her feet like that? Laying on the floor, she encourages us to lift one leg and hold onto whichever part of the leg feels comfortable. I can’t even get my legs perpendicular. I can barely grab onto my thigh let alone my foot. M can get his leg about 2 inches off the floor. We try desperately to reach for our legs. Any part will do. We catch sight of each other and we look so utterly ridiculous that we can’t help but burst out laughing.
Our first session is 9 minutes long but it goes by in a flash. We wave goodbye to Tara and evaluate what happened.
Well, we definitely need to start some daily stretching. I’m pretty sure most 80 years olds are more flexible than us.
We make the determination to do a couple of sessions a day with Tara over the course of the Christmas holidays – one in the morning and one in the evening – and see how we go. We both actually look forward to the sessions. Tara has got such a calm tone to her voice and she’s super encouraging. She keeps reminding us to stay within our limits. No strain. No pain. Now that’s my kind of yoga!
There are tons of Tara Styles sessions to choose from on YouTube but, for now, I’m sticking with a couple of the beginners sessions. I’ll move onto something more challenging when I feel ready. I especially love this one, filmed outside by a beautiful infinity pool. Just looking at that gorgeous sunshine, blue sky and water is really uplifting on a cold, dark January morning.
After just a week of doing Tara’s beginner sessions twice a day, I was already a touch more flexible and I definitely felt like I was walking taller. Imagine how tall I’ll be if I keep this up all year!
It’s now week 4 of January and I’m still enjoying these mini yoga sessions. I love the fact that I get to do them in the privacy of my own living room. It feels like I’m having personal 1-2-1 sessions with Tara. And it’s free too!
Considering where I’m starting, I’ve set three modest yoga goals for 2015… (a) Touch my toes from standing (with legs straight) (b) Touch my toes from sitting (with my legs straight out in front of me)
(c) Get my heels on the floor in Downward Dog
Here’s how far off I am at the moment…
(a) 7 cm
(b) 4 cm
(c) 5 cm
Once these are checked off, maybe I can up the stakes and aim for one of these handstands. How cool would that be?
Do you yoga? If so, I’d love to hear what kind of practice you do. Do you attend classes or practise at home?
Have you set any resolutions or goals for this year?
It’s so much fun getting surprise gifts, and the fact that this box is filled with vegan, planet-friendly, cruelty-free products, means it couldn’t be more perfect for me.
TVK has introduced so many amazing brands to me these past 12 months. Snacking moved onto a whole new level of deliciousness, thanks to Landgarten’s dark-chocolate covered raspberries, seeds and nuts, Propercorn’s Sweet and Salty Popcorn and Hoots Pickled Onion snacks.
And how about that almighty Vego Hazelnut Bar in TVK9 and Ombar Coco Mylk Raw Chocolate Bar in TVK11? Pure yumminess ♥
The boxes have introduced some new treats for Lil’ L too. He’s especially loved the Rebel Kitchen Choco Mylks, Landgarten goodies, Vego bars, Hoots snacks, Propercorn, Ten Acre crisps, Choc Shot and Freedom Mallows. Thanks to TVK and Freedom Mallows, last Christmas he enjoyed his first marshmallow topped hot chocolate 🙂
As well as the snacks, I’ve loved experimenting with the ingredients and spice mixes. The Coconom Coconut Sugar in TVK6 and Mr Organic Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto in TVK8 were particular favourites of mine. The recipe cards have been awesome too. I love how they’re printed on quality, wipe clean card and come with a handy storage binder. I was more than delighted to share one of my family’s all-time favourite vegan pizza recipes in TVK8.
Through TVK, we’ve also got to try products that aren’t yet readily available in the UK. I’d heard a lot about CocoBacon in ‘foodie world’, so I was beyond excitement to find it in TVK9. I especially loved it sprinkled on BLT style salads. I was so gutted when I came to the end of the packet. Not everyone enjoyed the Cocobacon as much as I did though. It definitely seemed to have the ‘Marmite effect’ on TVK readers 😉
The TVK boxes are not all about food though. They also include toiletries, beauty, personal care and household products. In TVK2 we received a full-size bottle of Greenfrog All Purpose Natural Cleaner. Its neroli scent is so lush that I actually look forward to cleaning my kitchen and bathroom now.
One of the biggest ways TVK has impacted my life is on the home laundry front! I’d tried and failed with so many ‘eco friendly’ laundry detergents and ‘solutions’ in the past, that I wasn’t holding out much hope for the soap nuts that arrived in TVK1. I was really surprised and happy with the results though. Not only do they clean our clothes, but they seem to soften them too. For the best part of a year now, detergent and softener has been ditched in favour of soapnuts and a few drops of lavender oil 🙂
It’s been a real privilege to share in TVK’s first year. And what an incredible journey it’s been! From starting in their kitchen, sending out a couple of hundred boxes in the UK, they moved to warehouse premises where they now mail out thousands of boxes worldwide! Did anyone see the video footage on Instagram of the boxes stacked floor to ceiling? Honestly, my jaw dropped!
Whether you’re already vegan, just starting out, or simply curious to find out more, the TVK community is a great place to connect with like-minded folk. You’ll find them on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram and Pinterest.
As part of its month of celebrations, TVK has kindly offered to send an anniversary box to one of my lovely readers. It’s an international giveaway, so everyone can join in ♥ To be in with a chance of winning, simply leave me a comment under this blog post answering the question featured in the Rafflecopter below. Do make sure you tick the box in the Rafflecopter to register that you have done so. There are a number of additional ways you can enter in order to increase your chances of winning. You will find these listed in the Rafflecopter. All entries will be verified prior to the winner being selected. This giveaway is open to residents aged 18 and over.The closing date is Thursday 13th November 2014 at midnight GMT. The winner will be selected at random and notified by email. The winner will have 7 days to respond. If they fail to do so, another winner will be selected at random. New to Rafflecopter? It’s pretty easy! Simply click on ‘Use Your Email’ and enter a name and your email address (rest assured it won’t be published anywhere). You can also log in using your Facebook account, if you wish. A quick demo of how to use Rafflecopter can be accessed here. * If you experience any technical problems when trying to enter the Rafflecopter, let me know in the comments section below and I’ll submit your entry for you * a Rafflecopter giveaway
And if you’re already a TVK subscriber, you could always be super generous and pass on the prize. It would make a fab Christmas present for a veggie friend ♥
Of all my kitchen gadgets, hands down it is the blender that gets most use. At least once a day I use it for blending smoothies or soups, as well as for grinding oats, nuts, seeds, making ice cream, chia puddings and much more besides.
Until now, I’ve always used mid-range blenders but, since the beginning of this year, I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with them. I don’t know if it’s just bad luck, but I’m finding that after about a year of use (usually just as the warranty expires), either the motor burns out or the jug starts leaking. I need a blender that’s powerful, reliable and going to last a good few years. After all, it’s not great for the environment (or my bank balance) if I’m having to buy a new blender every year.
When the jug on my latest blender started leaking a couple of months ago, I seriously started to wonder whether it would be worth taking the leap and investing in a high-end professional blender. I started to look around at options and was excited to discover that the Australian company Froothie had just launched in the UK.
I’d heard great things about Froothie, and their Optimum 9400 blender has been pitched as the number one rival to Vitamix. While it has a similar spec to the Vitamix 500 series (even slightly better!), with a price tag of £399, it’s over £200 cheaper. Though double or triple what I’ve spent on blenders in the past, if the Froothie lasts even a few years, then it would actually be saving me money in the long run.
As well as looking for reliability and longevity, I also had a few niggles regarding the performance of my mid-range blenders which would hopefully be resolved with a professional high-end blender.
I was recently in touch with the Managing Director of Froothie UK & Ireland and he kindly arranged for an Optimum 9400 to be sent to me so I could check it out for myself. For the past month, I’ve been using the Froothie and comparing it with my existing blender. It’s now really obvious to me what you get for the additional investment. Here’s a lowdown on the main differences I’ve found…
Power My mid-range blender is described as having “an incredibly powerful 1,200W motor”. With a 2,238W motor, the Froothie has almost double the power. In fact, it is so powerful, that it can blend stones! You can imagine how Lil’ L’s eyes lit up when I told him this. He was dying to try it out but since I didn’t fancy filling my Froothie with stones, he had to be satisfied with watching the video demo instead.
“The Optimum 9400 has an extraordinary 3 Horse Power motor able to easily withstand the toughest ingredients and outlast most other domestic blenders”
Noise With my mid-range blenders, I’ve found that more power = more noise. My existing blender is so noisy that it makes my ears ring. The Froothie is noticeably much quieter.
The Blade All my mid-range blenders have had a four prong blade which, in my experience, hasn’t been wide enough. Food gets stuck around the sides of the jug and I have to keep stopping to scrape down. The blades also tend to sit too high from the base of the jug, which means that unblended food gets stuck under the blade. Compare this to the Froothie blades which are so wide that they almost touch the sides.
The Froothie also has two extra blades positioned underneath the four blades, which means that nothing escapes the blend. Never again will I finish the pouring of my smoothies with a ‘plop’ as rogue pieces of banana land in the glass.
Speed I’m not sure of the speed of my existing blender, but I know it’s not fast enough to blend cashews into a smooth cream. I can never get beyond a ‘gritty’ texture, which isn’t nice for frosting or ‘cheesecakes’. The Froothie has a speed of 44,000 RPM, which is even faster than the Vitamix. There’ll be no gritty creams in this kitchen from now on.
The Jug Mid-range blenders tend to come with a plastic (BPA) or glass jug. Since I’m not a fan of BPA plastic, I chose glass jugs for my last two blenders. The trouble is, they’re extremely heavy (2kg). When full, I have to use two hands to lift them and it’s tricky to pour. The Froothie comes with a BPA free plastic jug which, at 1kg, feels positively light compared to my glass one.
Tamper Tool My mid-range blenders have never come with a tamper tool, which means that I can’t add large amounts of light ingredients like spinach, nor can I fill them with frozen ingredients, as the blade just whizzes round and never touches them. I’ve used the Froothie tamper tool so much this past month that I can’t imagine going back to a blender without one. In the Froothie, soft whip ice cream and frosted smoothies are blended in a flash.
Heating and Freezing Incredibly, the Froothie has the ability to heat soups and freeze ice cream. My mid-range blender doesn’t have these magical powers.
Reliability As I mentioned at the top of this post, I’ve wasted a lot of money on blenders that have lasted little over 12 months. My latest blender lasted even less time. It started leaking from the base of the jug within 10 months. It was still under warranty so I got the jug replaced. I’ve only been using it for a few months, and the new jug has already started leaking. Though I’ve only used the Froothie for a month, I have confidence that it’s going to last years. It’s a commercial grade blender that’s used by juice bars and cafes to churn out hundreds of smoothies each day. Though I’m classed as a ‘heavy domestic user’, I’m sure it’s going to cope with my 1-2 times daily usage.
“While ordinary blenders have a fan motor that runs at maximum power at all times, leading to rapid motor burn out, the Optimum 9400 uses a proprietary carbon brush motor optimised to only use the power demanded – so you get a motor life of decades rather than months.”
Here are a few of the extras that have given me further reassurance…
One Month Trial – Froothie offers a 30-Day Money Back Guarantee (including postage). No questions asked.
5 Year Warranty – This comes as standard but can be extended to ten years (for a fee), or an additional two years for free (see end of post for details).
Support – An expert team is available by phone, Monday to Saturday, 9am – 7pm, with plans to extend the opening hours to 7 days a week, 6am-5pm.
I am so impressed with the Froothie – the design, the quality of the build, the power, the speed, the customer service. When they invited me to become one of their Ambassadors, I was happy to jump on board. I’m very careful about the companies I promote on my blog (hence why there are so few adverts) but I’m proud to display my association with Froothie.
Bit of the Good Stuff Reader Offer
As a Froothie Ambassador, I’ve been able to negotiate a couple of great offers for my readers. If you purchase a 9400 blender via a link on my blog, you can receive an additional 2 years warranty. That means a total of 7 years warranty! To qualify for this offer, at the time of purchase you need to mention in the comments section that you’ve been offered an extended 2 year warranty via the Bit of the Good Stuff Ambassador (Code 1946).
As a Froothie Ambassador, I’m delighted to pass on a special discount code for you… enter code AMB20 at checkout to receive £20 off 💫 This offer applies to any blender, juicers, vibration plate and pressure cooker on the Froothie website.
In return for introducing my readers to Froothie, I will receive a commission which I’ll re-invest back into Bit of the Good Stuff. Many thanks in advance for your support.
If you’d like to find out more about the Froothie Optimum 9400, and watch it in action, check out the video below. They even show a fork lift truck driving over the jug and it still doesn’t crack!
More Bit of the Good Stuff Blender Reviews and Offers….
The market for tasty, healthy snacks and dairy-free alternatives seems to have exploded this year! Honestly, every time I visit the supermarket the ‘free from’ aisle seems to grow bigger and bigger! I love checking out new products and sharing my favourites with you in these posts. I also love to hear about your new discoveries so please do share them in the comments section below. I’m always on the look out for new things to try!
Here are five yummy goodies that me and the family have been loving lately…
Ombar Organic Coco Mylk Chocolate Bar Dairy free / Gluten free / Vegan
Individual bars (35g) £1.99
Ombars are no ordinary chocolate bar. They’re made with raw organic cacao which not only gives them rich flavour, but also means that each little bar is packed with antioxidants and minerals. The bars are gently sweetened with organic coconut sugar (perfect for me as my body tolerates cane sugar less and less well these days) and some of the bars, like the Coco Mylk and Strawberries & Cream, also include probiotics (‘friendly bacteria’).
I’ve loved all the flavours I’ve tried so far but my absolute favourite has to be Coco Mylk. With its creamy flavour and melt in your mouth texture, it’s like a high quality milk chocolate, yet its 100% vegan. While the bars might seem pricey for their size, the chocolate is incredibly satiating, so I find that a little goes a long way. Since Coco Mylk is my favourite flavour, you can imagine how delighted I was to find a bar in my latest TVK Box!
Ombars are currently available in the UK in independent health food stores and online.
Propercorn Sweet & Salty
Dairy free / Gluten free / Vegan
Individual bags (30g) – 75p, Family bags (90g) – £1.59
Lil’ L and I had never tried sweet and salty popcorn before, so when a packet arrived in our August TVK box, we couldn’t wait to tuck in! We were amazed at how well the flavour combo works, and loved how the brown sugar coating gave the popcorn a light ‘crunch’ as you bit into it.
Since Lil’ L discovered that Waitrose sells Propercorn, a family size bag seems to magically appear in my shopping basket every week. It’s his favourite treat for movie nights and, since it’s so light, he also likes to stash a bag in his backpack for school trips and biking adventures.
Propercorn individual and family bags are currently available in Waitrose; individual bags are available in Tesco.
Dairy free / Gluten free / Vegan
Individual bars (35g) 75p; Multipacks (4 x 35g) £2.70
My family are big fans of Nakd bars and I like to keep a stash in backpacks and handbags for snacking on the go. I love how they’re made of 100% natural ingredients (basically raw fruits and nuts squashed together) with no added sugars, syrups or oils. They come in nine flavours and there are three in particular that I absolutely adore – Cocoa Orange, Cocoa Mint and Caffe Mocha. The packaging’s really cool too!
In the shops, you can buy individual bars and four bar multipacks. Selection boxes are also available from the Nakd website. I love the ‘Find Your Favourite’ box which has one of each bar in the range. It makes a yummy treat for health conscious friends. I recently sent one to a friend that was going travelling as a ‘bon voyage’ gift.
You can get great deals on Nakd bars in the UK supermarkets, so I stock up whenever I spot them on offer. This month, Waitrose are offering two bars for £1 and two multipacks for £4.
Oatly Dairy free / Vegan
Oat drink (1 litre) £1.39-1.49; Organic Creamy Oat (250ml) 75p
I’ve only recently discovered the Swedish company Oatly, but they’ve been making oat drinks since the early 90s. In Sweden, Oatly is the number one milk substitute, and they’re rapidly growing in popularity here too. There are currently five Oatly products available in the UK. The Organic ‘milk’ only has three ingredients – oats, water and a little salt. For those that prefer fortified ‘milks’, the one in blue packaging comes fortified with calcium and vitamins D2, riboflavin and B12. There’s also a dairy-free alternative to single cream called ‘Organic Creamy Oat’, which is perfect for drizzling on desserts and can also be used for cooking.
Oatly has recently had a re-brand and the new packaging is really cool!
The Oatly ‘milks’ are available in most major UK supermarkets, and the cream alternative is currently available in Tesco and Waitrose. Since they have such a long shelf life, I like to stock up on the UHT ‘milks’ when they’re on offer. Both Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are currently offering multibuy deals (3 for £3; 2 for £2).
Dairy free / Vegan
Individual bag (38g) £0.60
We first discovered Hoots through the September TVK box, and were delighted to meet the team behind this delicious snack at London VegFest last weekend ♥ Hoots sell a range of oven baked snacks made of wholegrains and mixed seeds (all free from added colours, flavours, preservatives and MSG). The pickled onion flavour is lush! For me, it tastes like a healthy version of my favourite childhood junk food – Pickled Onion Monster Munch! Lil’ L loves them too, and has enjoyed taking them to school and on trips as a ‘treat snack’.
They’ve only recently launched in the UK and aren’t widely available, so I’ll update this post once they launch nationwide (Fingers crossed that will be soon!)
Over to you, lovely readers ♥ Have you discovered any new yummy plant-based products lately?