Cardiff

My time in Cardiff Wales was very short, only one full day, but it was a lovely city with less hustle and bustle after coming straight from Liverpool.

The first place I visited was Cardiff Market, which was great because I got there early enough to avoid a big crowd. There was a great variety of interesting stalls including things like Indian spices, vintage records, palm reading, fresh produce, and my personal favorite, the yarn shop. It was called the Wool Pack, but she had a massive collection of acrylic yarn (all of the shelves on the left side), which I got a beautiful teal skein from.

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After getting lost (thanks, Google Maps) and having to ask for directions at a craft beer shop, my first food stop was at Crumbs Kitchen. It was worth the hassle though, because I had a very good lunch there. The first floor of the restaurant is a bit chaotic, due to that being where the orders take place, but there is a second story with extra seating away from the main crowd. I got the chili over brown rice, with rose lemonade and chocolate cake. The whole grain goodness of the brown rice was a nice welcome, due to my Workaway host at that time only feeding us less filling white rice. The serving was huge though, and I ended up taking half away for my dinner later.

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I gotta admit, part of the appeal of Cardiff was being a Torchwood fan. I never managed to get into Doctor Who (though I still find Weeping Angels terrifying), but I was addicted to Torchwood when I found it in Netflix. Because of this, I decided to brave the rain and wind and march two miles from my hotel to the area where they shot the show. It was odd to look at all these buildings in real life when before I’ve only seen them in panoramic filmed shots. Definitely worth a trip if you’re a fan.

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A place you must visit in Cardiff is Cinnamon Sticks, an almost painfully adorable tea room shop. Everything ranging from the wallpaper to the servers’ outfits is either floral, pink, or dainty. Though I’m not a huge tea fan (unless it’s cold, sweet, and Southern), but I did partake in their cake, which is beyond amazing. I got a piece of their chocolate peanut butter masterpiece and can say that it was probably the best piece of cake I’ve ever had. The peanut butter frosting was the perfect amount of rich and fluffy, and the chocolate cake was the perfect spongey texture. I was sad I didn’t have time or the stomach space to try their savory vegan options, but I’ll just have to get them next time I go to Cardiff, since I will definitely be visiting Cinnamon Sticks again.

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Liverpool Pt. II

My second day in Liverpool started with a nice breakfast at Brasco Lounge. They have an entirely separate vegan menu, and I ended up settling on their vegan breakfast plate. This was my first time trying baked beans since getting to Britain, and I was pleasantly surprised that I liked these. I usually find the American kind much too sweet. I’m more of a fan of savory breakfasts, so this hearty plate was right up my alley.

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The restaurant was conveniently located near the Liverpool Museum, which is a great free (!) place to explore. The best part for me was their large exhibit on the history and movement of transgender people.

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Albert Dock is also nearby and holds a few entertaining things to see. My favorite of which was the giant Echo Wheel. Although I’m not a huge fan of heights, I rode it anyway and had a great time being terrified on the squeaky ride.

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While wandering around the dock, I was drawn into a candy shop due to their amazing jelly bean portrait of The Beatles. Inside, I found some vegan vanilla Liverpool candy canes, which my inner tourist insisted I try.

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As a bonus: here’s a yarnbombing I saw at St. John’s Gardens.

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Last Meal (Vegan MoFo #21)

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I decided to end Vegan MoFo with an entire book-based meal. Main dish, sides, drinks, and dessert are all mentioned in the book, so I cooked it all! I’ll miss the challenge this month has been, but it will also be nice to be able to not worrying about blogging five days a week. I’m already planning my theme (*cough* Disney movies *cough*) for next year.
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The genre of vampire fiction has grown rapidly these last few years. But the first vampire series I remember getting truly invested in (before all the Twilight hubub took over)  was Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan. The first book in the series is A Living Nightmare, in which the main character is a young boy, Darren. Darren’s obsession with the supernatural and outlandish prompts him and his friend, Steve, to visit a traveling freak show that has just rolled into town. Due to their encounters at the show, Darren and Steve end up over their heads and thrown from their mundane everyday lives into being involved in the dangerous vampire world. Now Darren must choose between saving Steve’s life and sacrificing his own human future.

In the same vein as Goosebumps, but with much better writing, A Living Nightmare (and the rest of the Cirque Du Freak books) tells a harrowing story involving vampire mythos, a dash of sarcastic humor, and good old fashioned gore. Great for anyone wanting to read a vampire story that does not involve romance or sparkles.

This would be my last meal with them and I wanted it to be special. When I was looking back on it in later years, I wanted to be able to remember us together, at home, a happy family.

Mom cooked my favorite food: chicken, roast potatoes, corn on the cob. Annie and me had freshly squeezed orange juice to drink. Mom and Dad shared a bottle of wine. We had strawberry cheesecake for dessert. Everybody was in a good mood.” – Cirque Du Freak (A Living Nightmare) (paperback) page 225

I won’t tell why (I hate spoilers), but Darren is having his last meal with his family. Because of this it’s a very important dinner and I wanted to make sure I captured that in my last Vegan MoFo meal. For the chicken I used PETA’s cruelty free Chick-fil-a recipe, the potatoes were just thinly sliced and baked with Lawry’s seasoning salt and pepper, and then some fresh corn on the cob. I served it with barbecue sauce and orange juice.

cirque du freak mealThe best part of this meal though was the dessert. I decided to adapt my lemon-berry cheesecake recipe and make it into strawberry cheesecake. I wish I’d done this recipe earlier in the month when strawberries were more in season, but it still turned out well with the mediocre selection that was available.

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Strawberry Cheesecake

Serves 8

Ingredients:

One graham cracker crust (store-bought or home-made)

1 cup silken tofu

2 cups fresh strawberries

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor blend together all the ingredients (except the pie crust) until smooth.

Pour the strawberry mix into the crust, place on a cookie sheet, and bake for 60-75 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Chill for at least 5 hours and then slice and serve! This is also great garnished with strawberry sauce or vegan whipped cream.

Arya’s Vegan Tart (Vegan MoFo #15)

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AGAMEOFTHRONESnewHCEveryone and their mom has been talking about Game of Thrones lately. The HBO show has done a lot to advertise the series and, in my opinion, it’s just as good as the books. But if you want to read the stories, then start off with A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. In the book, each chapter is dedicated to a character and focuses on their actions, thoughts, etc. I like this aspect of it because it seems like everyone gets a fair share of story and no main character is neglected.

The land where the story is set, Westeros, has extremely strange seasons. Summers and winters can last for years. Now the end of a long seven-year summer is upon the land and a hard winter is coming. With the winter dangerous creatures will come creeping things from the north (usually kept out by the giant ice Wall), and nobody knows how many years the cold will last.  The story focuses mostly on the Stark family, who are the Lords of Winterfell, located in the far north. After the King’s Hand dies under mysterious circumstances, the King calls upon Lord Eddard Stark to come to the capital (which is located much further south) and become the new Hand. Despite his wife and children’s reservations, Eddard accepts the invitation and brings his two daughters, Sansa and Arya, with him.

With the cold intensifying and the family divided, plus the rumors of betrayal and war on the horizon, the Starks face more trials than ever. Whether any or all of them will survive remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure. Winter is coming.

A passing septon was looking at her askance.”Here’s the best place to find pigeon,” Arya told him as she brushed herself and picked up her fallen stick sword. “They come for the crumbs.” He hurried away.

She tied the pigeon to her belt and started down the street. A man was pushing a load of tarts by on a two-wheeled cart; the smells sang of blueberries and lemons and apricots. Her stomach made a hollow rumbly noise.

Could I have one?” She heard herself say. “A lemon, or… or any kind.”

The pushcart man looked her up and down. Plainly he did not like what he saw. “Three coppers.”

Arya tapped her wooden sword against the side of her boot. “I’ll trade you a fat pigeon,” she said.

“The Others take your pigeon,” the pushcart man said.”  – Game of Thrones (paperback) pages 716-717

I’ve made this tart previously, but I never posted the veganized recipe. It’s based off of the recipe in The Unofficial Game of Thrones Cookbook. Fresh apricots are really hard to find around here, so I used canned fruit. But feel free to use the fresh version if it’s available to you.

Arya’s Apricot Crumb Tart – Veganized

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Ingredients:

For crust:

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup applesauce

1/4 cup mild oil (I used canola)

For crumble topping:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup margarine, cubed and chilled

For pie filling:

2 15 oz. cans apricots in juice

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons full-fat canned coconut milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons margarine, melted then cooled

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl mix together the crust flour, salt, and sugar. In a smaller bowl mix oil and applesauce. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix thoroughly. Press into a greased pie pan.

For the crumble topping mix flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut the margarine into the flour mixture until crumbly. 

Drain canned apricots and lightly rinse. Cut into small bite-size pieces. Put them into a bowl and combine with brown sugar, cornstarch, coconut milk, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and margarine. Gently mix until the apricots are all coated.

Pour the apricot mixture into the prepared pie crust and them sprinkle the crumble on top.

Bake for 35-50 minutes or until crust and crumble are golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

Let cool to room temperature before serving.

Magical Chocolate Chip Cookies (Vegan MoFo #13)

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The House With a Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs is probably the most peculiar book I’ll be writing about this month. It’s creepy and bizarre, but in a good way. The story start with recently orphaned Lewis moving into his Uncle Jonathan’s spooky old house. When he finds out his eccentric uncle and their nice old neighbor, Mrs. Zimmermann, are actually wizards, Lewis is ecstatic. But when he wakes up one night to find his uncle looking for a ‘clock in the walls’, things start to get strange.

Uncle Jonathan soon tells Lewis that a pair of evil wizard lived in the house before them, and the clock is ticking down to doomsday. Soon Lewis takes it upon himself to help find the clock and destroy it, before it can destroy the world. Add to that some awkward friend-making, necromancy, late night car chases, and creepy Edward Gorey illustrations, and you’ve got yourself a fantastically weird children’s book that is also fun for adults too.

“Oh by the way,” he said, “you might bring Lewis a glass of iced tea, and get me a refill. No sugar. And bring out another plate of chocolate chip cookies.”

Mrs. Zimmermann stood up and clasped her hands subserviently in front of her. “How would you like your cookies, sir? Stuffed down your throat one by one, or crumbled up and sifted into your shirt collar?”

Jonathan stuck out his tongue at her. “Ignore her, Lewis. She thinks she’s smart because she’s got more college degrees than I have.” -The House With a Clock In Its Walls (paperback) page 13

In the book, Mrs. Zimmermann serves freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on at least four different occasions.  So it was only right that I keep up with this theme and make cookies myself!

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It’s been a while since I’ve had just a plain classic chocolate chip cookie. About.com has a great vegan recipe that is super easy and delicious. It also made a ton of cookies, around 48. That way there’s tons to snack on and share with friends!

Plethora of Pie (Vegan MoFo #10)

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Thief of Always was the first book I read that was written by Clive Barker, so it holds a special place in my heart (and personal library). It is an enchanting story of a regular ten-year-old boy, bored from school and a dull home life, being swept away to a magical place called the Holiday House where he can have fun all day long.

Harvey loves this new place and enjoys the special treatment. Mrs. Griffin, the House’s care taker, explains that this is a get-away for unique children like him. There are only two other kids there with him, Lulu and Wendell. Wendell is near Harvey’s age and gives him a big tour of the House and explains that every day is full of holidays. Every morning is spring (which usually consists of playing in the tree fort), followed by afternoon summertime (full of naps and exploring), fall in the evening (Halloween and trick-or-treating), and lastly Christmas (with any toys you desire magically appearing under the tree). Other than Mrs. Griffin, there are other strange adults there who don’t seem to be normal humans. But Harvey is willing to look past this oddity since the Holiday House is so wonderful.

Harvey would like to spend the rest of forever here, until things start becoming weird. Lulu, though never particularly friendly, starts acting oddly secretive. And when Mrs. Griffin and the other adults refuse to answer his questions, he becomes suspicious. Then any attempts to leave the House are thwarted by mysterious powers. Now all Harvey wants is his dull life back, but he might not survive another attempt at escaping the Holiday House.

Harvey set himself down at the kitchen table, and within sixty seconds Mrs. Griffin had set a dozen plates of food in front of him: hamburgers, hot dogs and fried chicken; mounds of buttered potatoes; apple, cherry and mud pies, ice cream and whipped cream; grapes, tangerines and a plate of fruits he couldn’t even name.” – Thief of Always (paperback) page 20

I always imagined Mrs. Griffin being the perfect grandmother prototype with her elderly age and love of cooking pies. I didn’t want to choose a more ordinary pie (like the aforementioned apple or cherry), so the recipe below is for a rich and creamy mud pie!

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Mud Pie

Ingredients:

2 cups chocolate pudding (homemade or Jell-O brand is accidentally vegan)

1 graham cracker crust (either store-bought or homemade)

1/2 cup Smuckers marshmallow topping (it’s accidentally vegan and is found in the ice cream topping area)

1 cup vegan cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons original soymilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup raw pecans

Directions:

Set oven to 375 degrees. Bake the graham cracker crust for 3-5 minutes, just enough to let it brown and bake together (especially for looser homemade recipes). After baking, set the crust aside to cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together the marshmallow topping, cream cheese, soymilk, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar.

Next layer the pudding and cream cheese mixture into the pie crust. Put down a layer of pudding, then cream cheese mix, rest of the pudding, then drizzle the last of the cream cheese on top. Sprinkle with pecans and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour. Then slice and serve! It’s quite messy, but very delicious.

Narnian Delights (Vegan MoFo #5)

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narniaThe Chronicles of Narnia is yet another classic book series. One of my pet peeves is that most people assume (due to the order they were written in) the first book of the series is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But towards the end of his life C.S. Lewis said he preferred the books in chronological order, so The Magician’s Nephew is actually the first in the story and is about the origins and beginning of Narnia. But alas, today is about the second book and not the first!

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, four siblings travel through a wardrobe to the magical land of Narnia. There they encounter the infamous White Witch, who rules Narnia with an iron first and keeps the land in a perpetual winter. As the children fight to overthrow her they meet wonderful allies like Aslan the lion, fauns, centaurs, talking animals, and more. Full of symbolism and extraordinary adventure, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a good classic to pick up.

The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle onto the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green silk ribbon, which when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very center and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious.” – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (paperback) pages 36-37

Towards the beginning of the book, Edmund (one of the four siblings) encounters the White Witch. She is fascinated to meet a human boy (aka a “son of Adam”) and tries to win his favor by providing him any treat he desires. Edmund chose Turkish Delights, so that’s what I made today!

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The recipe I used was very simple, and turned out quite good! When cooking it, the Delights looked like a mix between jello and taffy, and I wasn’t sure I’d like the end result. But they were actually really tasty! The lemon extract is an unexpected flavor, and they kind of melt in your mouth.