A Weekend of Sunshine, Bike Rides & Almond Cookies (Dairy Free, Egg Free, Vegan)

After one of the coldest Springs on record, the weather is finally starting to warm up.  Like us, the garden is loving it!  The Aquilegias (‘Granny’s Bonnet’) are out in full force…

Aquilegia - June 2013

and the peonies have started to bloom.

Peony May-June 2013

We had zero fruit on the apple and plum trees last year due to the poor weather conditions, but things are looking better this year.  Even the tiny apple tree growing in our rockery is covered in blossom.

Apple Tree & Peony - May-June 2013

Hopefully we’ll have lots of homegrown apples come September 🙂

Apple Blossom - May-June 2013

The weather is still very patchy at the moment though.  One day we have glorious sunshine and it’s warm, while the next day it can be cold and dark, with non stop rain.  I don’t know when (or if) the weather is going to settle down this year, so we’re just going to have to make the most of the sunshine when it appears.

This morning, before heading out on our bikes, Lil’ L and I decided to bake some Cinnamon Fruit Loaf and Almond Cookies.  As soon as the cookies were baked, we headed out into the garden to enjoy them along with a cup of raw hot chocolate.

Lil L, Almond Cookies & Hot Choc in the Garden 1

In fact, it was so sunny this morning that we needed to wear sun glasses!

Lil L, Almond Cookies & Hot Choc in the Garden 2

The almond cookies were really yummy!  Straight from the oven, they were crunchy on the outside with a softer centre.  We used chapatti flour which is so fine that you wouldn’t even guess that these cookies were wholegrain!  To boost the almond flavour, we added a little almond extract which gave them a hint of marzipan.  Next time round, we’re going to toast the almonds first to see if we can boost the almond flavour even more.

Vegan Almond Cookies

Here’s how we made them:

Fuelled up from our ‘elevenses’, we headed out on our second bike ride of the weekend, this time along the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal…

Riding along the Kennet & Avon Canal Towpath

passing through the lush green countryside and wildflower meadows round Monkton Coombe, followed by a ride through the Bath Two Tunnels (it was so cool in there!)

Two Tunnels

then onto Bath city centre for cappuccinos & smoothies.    It was absolutely glorious!

I hope you had a lovely weekend too and I wish you all the best for the week ahead 🙂

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Deer Spotting and Biking at Ashton Court (plus WIAW!)

Due to all the rain we’ve had lately, I haven’t been out on my bike for weeks. So, when we woke up on Sunday morning and saw that the sky was bright and clear, we decided to make the most of it and head to Ashton Court with our bikes 🙂

Before we set off, we all had a huge bowl of porridge to fuel us up. Me & Lil’ L opted for cocoa porridge, which is one of our current favourite breakfasts. As you can see, I add lots of toppings to my porridge, including flaked almonds, chopped walnuts, goji berries, citrus peel, ground flaxseed and a sprinkling of grated raw chocolate. Yum!

There are two ways I make cocoa porridge depending on what milks I have available. I either use Alpro’s Chocolate Milk (which is really yummy!) or add 1 tbsp cocoa to the porridge along with some non dairy milk (I use Alpro’s Almond or Soya milk) and a drizzle of agave syrup to sweeten it up. Both methods are equally scrumptious!

After breakfast, we strapped 3 bikes to the car and headed to Bristol. As soon as we arrived at Ashton Court I paused for a few moments to say hello to the deer.

Check out this little cutie.

I then hopped on my bike and did my best to catch up with the others!

I might still be able to beat Lil’ L on hills, but it’s impossible for me to catch him on the trails. Yes that’s me in the pic below, trailing behind…

Here I come!

It was so exhilarating to be out on the bike. I’ve really missed it!

For lunch, we stopped at the Golf Hub Cafe, which is near the mountain  bike trail. It had a great selection of food for veggie mountain bikers 😉

‘Doorstep sandwiches’ and all-day cooked veggie breakfasts are great re-fuelling foods. However, this time round, Lil’ L and I opted for the veggie burger. We both agreed, though, that next time we’ll have the cooked breakfast. That was M’s choice and it looked amazing!  For dessert, Lil’ L chose to have a piece of Victoria sponge cake. The slice was huge. And this is what a 9 year old boy looks like on a sugar rush 😉

Luckily the sugar didn’t wear off until he was back at the car 😉

Even though I’m very rusty at mountain biking, I managed to get round the trail without falling off.  However, back at the Ashton Court manor house, whilst stationary with my left foot on the ground, I managed to lose my balance, fail to unclick my right foot from my pedal, and slammed down on the ground.  Durgh! So not cool!  I cut and bruised my knees but fortunately I managed to avoid tearing my leggings. phew!

Back home, we fancied something warming and filling for tea so we opted for a butternut squash, chick pea and apricot tagine served on a bed of couscous. This is one of our all-time favourite Moroccan tagines and I promise to post the recipe soon!

For dessert, we had fresh pineapple, served with a drizzle of Alpro soya cream. Delicious!

So that’s a rundown of Sunday’s activities and eats for the WIAW foodie party. Thanks, as always, to our wonderful host Jenn. If you want some inspiration for new eats, do check out her WIAW posts, published every Wednesday. There’s literally hundreds of entries to browse through!

Have you ever had a Moroccan tagine before? If so, what’s your favourite?
I had my first tagine in Istanbul a few years ago and I loved the combination of sweet and savoury flavours. Last Christmas, a friend of mine bought me a tagine pot and it’s been put to a lot of use this year.  I love trying out different combinations of veggies, dried fruits and spices. I’ll write up the recipes for our favourites and post them very soon!

Enjoy the rest of the week everyone 🙂 xx




Lake District Camping, Mountain Biking & NKT International Buddhist Festival

We last camped three years ago. The three of us spent five nights squashed in my ‘3 man’ tent in the Lake District. It rained a lot, the tent leaked, I woke up to find my pillow was soaking wet and vowed that I would never camp again.

Three years later, here I am again, camping in the Lake District. It wasn’t exactly my preferred choice of accommodation but it was super cheap and all the B&Bs in the area were full (yep, as usual, I left planning to the last minute). 

We borrowed our friend’s slightly bigger tent and pitched it in the middle of a farmer’s field. After a night of relentless rain, I woke up to find that the rain had flooded in on my side of the tent and I was laying in a pool of water. You see, me & camping just don’t get along 🙁

But, despite the less than favourable camping experience, we had a fantastic time in the Lakes. Me & Lil’ L had a very special day at the NKT International Buddhist Festival in Ulverston. Thousands of people from all over the world attended the festival and the atmosphere was incredible. Everyone was so friendly. I never seen so many smiley faces 🙂

A lovely diary of the festival with video clips and photos is available at http://kadampafestivals.org/summer-2012/.

While we were at the festival, M went mountain biking. He had a fantastic day of exhilarating riding and beautiful scenery. 

Here are some of his favourite shots of the day…

When the three of us met up at the end of the day, we were buzzing from our experiences and had lots to chat about over dinner.  For our evening meals, we went to Ambleside which has an array of restaurants and cafes with menu options for vegetarians and vegans.


 This small town has two highly popular vegetarian/vegan restaurants – Zeffirellis and Fellinis – and we sampled the menus in both.

The food was fantastic, especially in Fellinis. There are three dishes in particular that I’d like to try and re-create at home:
–  Sweet potato, broccoli and lentil sambar served with coriander and lime flatbread
– Chestnut, leek and wild mushroom filled pastry with baby roasted vegetables (Lil’ L loved this)
– Sweet potato and chickpea tagine with lemony couscous

We’re now back in the South where it’s actually been hot and sunny for a couple of days. It’s been perfect weather for the start of the Olympics. Let’s hope it continues!

I hope you’re having a great summer wherever you are. And if you’re camping somewhere in the UK, make sure you don’t forget your waterproofs. Next time I’m going to take waterproof pyjamas. Knowing my luck, I’ll need them 😉

School’s Out! Planning Summer Activities on a Shoe-String Budget

The school summer holidays officially start for us today. I can’t believe that another school year has finished already. These years are flying by!

I’m really looking forward to spending some quality time with Lil’ L over the next six weeks. However, as I’m not working at the moment, I need to make sure that we keep spending to a minimum. 

We did lots of great free/ low cost activities last summer that we’re hoping to repeat or improve on this year. Here’s what we’ve come up with so far…

– Bike Rides
Inspired by the Tour de France, we’re going to devise our own ‘Tour de Bath’ where we explore different areas of the city by bike and record our ‘stages’ on a map, noting the distance and time.

– Hiking
There’s so much local countryside that we’ve yet to explore.  We’re going to pack some sandwiches, binoculars, a map, and waterproofs, and hike along footpaths and bridleways in the hills around Bath. Luckily my ‘smartphone’ has got GPS, just in case we get lost 😉

– Photography
Lil’ L loved the challenge I set him over the Jubilee weekend of photographing red, white and blue images. This summer I’m going to set him some more photographic challenges and show him how to edit photos and make online albums.

– Creating in the kitchen
Lil’ L has already devised a list of 15 new smoothies and milkshakes that he’d like to try making. During the holidays, we’ll work our way through his list, photograph the successes and blog about them.
I’m also really looking forward to teaching him how to make other treats, such as granola bars, chocolates, ice cream sundaes and so forth.


– Summer Reading Challenge
Last weekend, the children’s summer reading challenge was launched in Bath by Olympic Gold Medallist Amy Williams. It was such a pleasure to meet her! I didn’t get to hold the Olympic torch (like my mum did!) but I have now held an Olympic Gold Medal. It was beautiful… and way bigger and heavier than I imagined it would be!

The library reading challenge has really fired up Lil’ L. The first thing he wanted to do when he broke up from school today was to go to the library and borrow some more books!

– Maths Challenge
To keep our ‘maths brains’ ticking over, we’re going to take part in Carol Vorderman’s Online Maths Factor Summer School (I need this as much as Lil’ L 😉 ). The school costs £15 but is so worth it. Carol Vorderman has got to be the ultimate Maths teacher. Not only is she fantastic at explaining maths, but she actually makes maths fun. Her online schools are perfect for kids like Lil’ L who are yet to develop a passion for numbers.

– Summer Diary Writing
Lil’ L has recently started to get interested in writing and his stories are way more creative than anything I’ve ever written! I’d love to encourage him to keep writing over the holidays, maybe in the form of a summer diary or scrap book. As well as writing, he could add photos, ticket stubs, drawings and so forth.

– Family Activities at Local Museums and Galleries
There are lots of drop-in activities on offer at the museums and galleries in Bath which are free for residents, and I’m planning to make the most of them!  Does anyone fancy investigating Roman gods and goddesses and making Minerva’s wise owl? Or how about learning some Roman language and make a Roman book mark? I know I do! 🙂 
If you’re planning to be in the Bath area over the school holidays, you must check out the family activity programme. Here’s the link.     


– Play Dates
It’s really important that I arrange some play dates for Lil’ L so he gets to spend time with his friends during the summer. I need to do this ASAP as I know diaries get filled really quick.

– Quality time with grandparents
Lil’ L rarely gets to have one-to-one time with his grandparents and this is something that he mentioned he would really like this summer. Next week, he’s going to spend a couple of nights with his nan and her two dogs in Dorset and he’s really excited about it! Hopefully, at some point during the summer, he’ll be able to have some one-to-one time with his other grandparents too.

– Family quality time
The three of us (me, M and Lil’ L) are really looking forward to spending a couple of weeks’ of quality time together during the school hols, which means switching all the gadgets off (phones, computers, etc) and giving each other our full attention. We really value our quality family time. For me, it’s priceless 🙂

– Buddhist Festivals and Daily Meditation
There’s lots of Buddhist festivals in the UK this summer, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to attend at least a couple. As well as inspiring teachings and meditation sessions, there’s always lots of fun activities arranged for the kids. Lil’ L made some great friends at the festivals last year and hopefully they’ll meet up again this summer.

I’m also hoping that we’ll get into the habit of daily meditation, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. With Lil’ L’s help, I’ll set up a dedicated ‘meditation space’ upstairs. We’ll make it cosy with cushions and blankets, and light incense and candles. It’ll be great 🙂

 So that’s just a few ideas of what we’ll be able to do this summer on my shoe-string budget.  I can’t wait to get started!

I wish you all a wonderful summer. 🙂 xx

p.s. If anyone’s got a bit of sunshine to spare, we would really appreciate it if you could send it over here. Thank you 🙂

WIAW Fun, Food & Fitness

Fun and Fitness

Since July is the month of WIAW Fun, Food and Fitness, I thought I’d begin today’s post with a quick rundown of my current exercise regime.

When I left salaried work a few years ago to set up my own business, I stopped my gym membership to save money. Ever since then, I’ve been exercising in the great outdoors. When I went to the gym, it was all about the exercise. Now it’s so much more. As well as helping me to stay fit, exercising outdoors gives me the opportunity to get some fresh air and take in the beautiful views. It helps me to feel connected to my local environment.

It gives me the opportunity to recite mantras and get connected spiritually.

I also love the opportunities it gives me to interact with members of the local community. There’s lots of smiles, ‘hellos’ and words of encouragement as I make my way along the road or tow path. 


For me, exercising outside has had a huge, positive impact on my well-being, both physically and mentally. I used to love going to the gym. Now, the thought of being cooped up in a sweaty room, with no fresh air, and with only machines and screens to look at just doesn’t appeal anymore.

At the moment, I’m running on average twice a week. I have two favourite routes, one flat route along the Kennet & Avon towpath, and a second hilly route up to St Catherine’s Court.


4-5 mile runs suit me perfectly and I run around 10 miles per hour now (a whole minute quicker than this time last year. Woo hoo!)

I also cycle 1-2 times a week. I love mountain biking at the weekends with the family, and tend to cycle into Bath once a week too.


I sold my car a few years ago (to cut costs) so these days  cycling, walking and running are my modes of transport. I love getting about this way, for the same reasons as I love exercising outside.

Over the past decade I’ve found the optimum level of exercise to suit my body. In my teens and 20s I was prone to knee injuries and seemed to always be at the physio. For the past ten years, I haven’t had a single injury. Long may it continue!

Fun and Food

For this week’s WIAW foodie party, I thought I’d show our eats from today.

A delicious bowl of porridge for me & M. In mine, I added ground cinnamon, mixed spice, almonds, walnuts, pecans, Brazils, ground linseed, shelled hempseed and goji berries. It was made with Alpro Original Soya Milk (the version sweetened with apple juice) and I lightly drizzled some Sweet Freedom Fruit Sweetener on top.

For some people, porridge is a winter breakfast but I can happily eat it all year round 🙂

Lil’ L chose to have a mix of granola and Shreddies, and I added in some flaked almonds, chopped walnuts, shelled hempseed and ground linseed for a nutritional boost.

The night before, while we were washing up, I quickly made some tomato pasta for lunchboxes. It only took a few minutes to prepare. While the organic wholegrain pasta twists were cooking, I finely chopped some veggies – carrot, fine green beans, mushrooms, red pepper, red onion – and let them gently cook in a frying pan with a little olive oil. When the pasta was cooked, I mixed in half a jar of Seeds of Change Organic Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce and the veggies. I also added some sunflower seeds, shelled hempseeds, pine nuts and nutritional yeast for a nutritional boost.

Marigold Nutritional Yeast with Vitamin B12 is one of my all-time favourite health food/vegan products. It’s got a delicious cheesy/nutty flavour which works really well in pasta dishes. I also use it for savoury crumbles, pizzas, pesto and, ground with raw cashews, as a vegetarian replacement for parmesan.

It’s got an amazing nutritional profile. As well as being high in protein, it’s packed with B vitamins and zinc. Just one small 5g serving provides 220% of your B12 RDA.

You can buy the Marigold Nutritional Yeast from health food stores and online. I tend to buy mine from Harvest in Bath, or online from Goodness Direct.

Lil’ L morning snackseeded flatbreads with home-made humous
Lil’ L post-school snack – small bowl of raw cashews (he loves these!)
Lil’ L pre-swimming snack  3 mini banana pancakes (leftover from Sunday) with chopped pecans and a drizzle of Sweet Freedom Fruit Sweetener
My post-school snack – a mixed bowl of raw nuts (cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds) and raisins.


I’m loving this snack at the moment, but I end up eating a pretty big bowlful. I’ve heard that raw nuts are actually a negative calorie food but I must check this out for sure!

For dinner, we had one of our all-time favourite meals …. Veggie Fajitas.   This is my favourite kind of ‘fast food’ – it’s ready in less than 10 minutes, only uses one pan (gotta love the ‘one pans’!), it’s really tasty and healthy! I wish all ‘fast food’ could be like this!

You can make veggie fajitas simply by using veggies and seeds, but I also like to add in half a pack of Fry’s Vegetarian Chunky Strips for added flavour and texture. These can be bought in the freezer section of health food stores like Holland and Barrett.


 To make the fajitas, I simply stir fried some veggies, seeds and the vegetarian chunky strips in a little olive oil. I then sprinkled on some fajita seasoning mix (not too much as Lil’ L doesn’t like his dinners too spicy). Once I’d removed Lil’ L’s portion I added some Linghams Chilli Sauce to add more heat for me & M.

Just look at all those beautiful colours in the pan 🙂

The fajitas were served in Tesco wholemeal seeded tortilla wraps. We had two each, and Lil’ L took the leftovers to school the next day for his lunch.

For dessert we had some fresh pineapple chunks and a fresh strawberry jelly. Lil’ L absolutely loves these jellies…. and I love the fact that they’re sugar-free, gelatine-free and contain real strawberries (which he normally runs a mile from!) Recipe coming very soon! 

After dinner Lil’ L and M tried one of the raw chocolate-coated lime creams that I made yesterday.  They got a big thumbs up 🙂 

Here’s how they looked before I added the chocolate coating…

They really do make a refreshing after-dinner treat.  Both M and Lil’ L loved the raw chocolate coating I added after the pic, whereas I prefer them without. Lil’ L said that I’m over-ruled so the chocolate’s staying!

Well, that was another great day of eats. Time to head over to the lovely Jenn’s and check out the yummy WIAW food gallery.

Happy Wednesday everyone! 🙂 xx

Do you enjoy exercising outside or do you prefer hitting the gym? 

Biking at Ashton Court & WIAW Fun, Food & Fitness

First off, I’d like to wish all my lovely American friends a very happy 4th July! I hope you’ve all had lots of fun today 🙂

So it’s July already? Unbelievable! With all this rain we’re having here in Bath, it doesn’t feel like July at all! I feel totally out of sync with my American and European foodie friends who have moved onto sorbets, granitas and popsicle making. I’m still making soup and big bowls of warm porridge!

The crazy English weather continues!

Last weekend was yet another weekend of mostly rain. However, on Sunday, after a morning of heavy rain, it suddenly stopped and the sun came out! To make the most of it, we decided to head to Ashton Court Estate in Bristol with our bikes piled high on top of the car. It was the first time we’d ever been there and we were looking forward to checking out their (fairly new) mountain bike trail.

The Ashton Court Estate is a beautiful, historic 850 acre parkland….

… with the most fantastic views that stretch right across the city of Bristol.

Check out how lush the grass is (thanks to all that rain!)

There are two deer parks on the Estate, one with fallow deer and the other with a large herd of red deer.

There are ancient woodlands and beautiful meadows filled with wild flowers.

There’s lots of wide, smooth paths perfect for walking and family cycling.


And for the more adventurous, there’s the Blue (intermediate level) mountain bike trail.

This is where the fun really began for us 🙂

Lil’ L absolutely loved it! As soon as we’d finished the trail he asked if we could go round it again.

I thoroughly enjoyed it too and the technical level was just right for me. It was very ‘twisty turny’ through the trees, with the occasional step to ride off, but nothing too scary. Along the trail, there were a few forks where you could choose to do the red (advanced) sections, then re-join the blue trail. This suited M, and even Lil’ L had a go at some of the red sections, while I was happy to stay on the blue.


On the Estate, there’s a new cycle centre with a cafe that I’m looking forward to checking out next time we go. There’s also a cafe at the Ashton Mansion house, where we did stop for a drink.  As a post-ride snack, we had a couple of these spicy little gingerbread fellas that I’d made the night before.


We had such a great afternoon at Ashton Court and I’m looking forward to heading back there as soon as the weather cheers up again. It’s such a beautiful place to visit!  For anyone else that’s interested in visiting, here’s the website www.ashtoncourtestate.co.uk  and postal address for sat navs: Long Ashton, Bristol, BS41 9JN.

Moving onto….

WIAW Party Time!


The theme of July’s WIAW parties is Fun, Food and Fitness. What a great theme chosen by Jenn over at Peas and Crayons!

Well I’ve already mentioned the fun and fitness highlight of our week so far, so it’s now time to move onto the food 🙂

For this week WIAW party, I thought I’d share our eats from yesterday (Tuesday).

At the moment, one of my favourite breakfasts is my ‘Buddha Breakfast Bowl’ where I basically go along the line of cereals and seed/nut jars and tip a little bit of everything in 🙂

On Tuesday, into my bowl went some Shreddies, Mornflake Superfast Oats, Granola, Muesli, flaked almonds, gojis, hulled hemp seeds and ground linseed. After I took the pic, I added a cup of Alpro Soya Milk. It was totally lush!

Lil’ L had a similar bowl (minus the gojis) and M had porridge (as usual!)

For lunch, I had a spinach pancake, topped with avocado, tomato puree, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds and a drizzle of Linghams Chilli Sauce. Lil’ L and I created this pancake topping after school last Friday. He ate it as a snack (without the chilli) and I ate it for my (very late) lunch. It tasted so good that I chose to have again for lunch on Tuesday 🙂

In their lunchboxes on Tuesday, both M and Lil L took home-made spinach and tofu ricotta filo parcels. They loved them so much that they took them again for lunch today 🙂 

Before heading to my study class, I made a big pan of veggie chilli, which we served with brown basmati rice and toasted tortilla segments. Apologies for the rubbish picture, but I only had a couple of seconds to quickly take a snap of it before I had to serve it and head out.

Every time I make chilli it comes out slightly differently as I use whatever ingredients I have to hand. In this chilli I added:
1 red onion
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
1 medium courgette (zucchini)
handful mushrooms
1 finely grated carrot
1 can black beans
1 cup red split lentils
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1.5 cups of vegetable stock
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp agave syrup
salt & ground black pepper

After I served Lil’ L’s portion, M and I added some Linghams Chilli Sauce to our portions to spice it up a little more.

The chilli was really tasty and we had enough left over to freeze for next month 🙂

I didn’t have time for dessert, but Lil’ L and M had blueberry muffins and pineapple smoothies when they came back from dropping me off at my class.

Snacks & Drinks
Me: 1 apple, 1 black coffee, nettle tea, cherry & cinnamon tea, lemon & water
Lil’ L’s morning snack: 2 sunflower seed crackers with humous
Lil’ L’s afterschool snack: 1 banana pancake (leftover from Sunday) with chopped pecans, ground linseed and a drizzle of agave syrup.

Right, it’s time to head over to Jenn’s, check out the gorgeous eats and get inspired 🙂

Enjoy the rest of your week everyone! xx

This time last year…. Colourful Vegetable Pastry Bake