(Thai Red Chickpea Curry)
(Vegetable Moroccan Tagine with Giant Cous Cous)
(Sweetcorn Fritters with Sweet Potatoe Fries and Hummus)

(Avocado Red Onion Breakfast Quesadilla with Hummus) 
(Perkier Breakfast Bar with Hummus and Vege Dippers)
(Red Pepper Pasta With Olives and Vegan Cheese)
(Vegan Brownie Mix)
I Went Vegan For 1 Week And This Is What I Learned

Okay I know what some of you are thinking, 'oh here goes another one jumping on the band wagon' because honestly I used to think the same. 

I'll be the first person to hold my hands up and admit I used to think that Veganism has simply become a term to describe health trend and in some ways I still think it has but I'd never overshadow those that have their reasons and opinions for doing so.

Many people want to go vegan for the health benefits of consuming more plant based foods and that's okay but there's also more reasons for going vegan than just believing the slaughter and farming of produce from animals is inhumane and cruel. 

Now, I've always eaten meat and dairy but I'm particular about where it has come from. It has to be free range and it has to of had a long enough life (I won't eat a young animal) but something recently completed changed my opinion on an economic activity that's essentially bullshitting us... the meat and dairy industry. 

Last weekend I watched a presentation on YouTube from the Humane Educator of The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, James Wildman. The video is titled '101 Reasons to Go Vegan'. I watched it just out of interest and was completely surprised by my reaction and feelings at the end of the 1 hour 11 minute video.

I won't push for you to just watch it but just give it a chance because you'll completely rethink your own opinions and realise how gullible you've been. I personally thought I'd need to see the extreme slaughter or mistreatment of animals to rethink eating meat or dairy but in that whole 71 minute video there's only a 3 minute insight into the animal industry and there's no blood in sight. Just facts. Facts that make you question how we look at animals we consume to those we keep as pets, why we're farming them, what it's doing to our health and how the meat and dairy industry is painting a picture to make us feel like we need it.

But aside from it completely opening my eyes to a fabricated trade, it's also changed a lot more than that...

What I learned from going vegan for 1 week... 

I fell in love with cooking again
Taking meat and dairy out of my diet meant that I become more experimental in the kitchen. My previous diet was the usual commercial influenced plate of protein (meat), vegetables and carbohydrates which lead me to eat the same combination of foods and meal times had gotten incredibly boring.

I ate more
Because my consumption was mainly vegetables, lentils, legumes, grains and seeds I was able to eat high quantities of these or spread them out and snack more throughout the day without any worry.

I didn't need condiments
My fridge was previously stocked with every condiment under the sun and I'd always have more than one with my meals. But James Wildman's point has stuck with me; "I'd got to McDonalds and get a slab of meat, that meat would have herbs and spices...then it came with a bun, lettuce, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard and onions and a pickle. We put those on the meat to make it taste better, what would meat be without plants? It would just be a dead animal"...

I stopped counting calories
I never counted calories by writing them down but I know the average calories in certain foods and therefor know how much I should eat. When I dropped meat and dairy and started cooking more with vegetables I never gave calories a second thought.

I felt lighter 
Meat is a heavy form of protein. You can consume a steak and instantly feel twice as heavy. By cutting that out and getting my protein from greens, quinoa, lentils, beans, nut butters, soy milk (which contains the same amount of protein as milk without the cholesterol) and bananas, you instantly feel lighter.   

I had a clear conscious 
I love animals and the way in which James Wildman describes and questions the way we look at a pig compared to the way we look at a dog made me completely rethink my view.

My food shop was cheaper 
I was surprised that my food shop came in 1/3 cheaper than normal with 1/4 more meals and food purchased. Some vegan foods like vegan cheese, vegan mayo  aren't as cheap as the animal based alternatives however if you're no longer picking up that £4 pack of chicken then than £3 jar of vegan mayo is still cheaper...

My meals became more varied 
I try to eat as healthy and possible but that usually means that I get stuck in the same old boring circle of salad, fruit, chicken and vegetables. By taking meat and dairy out of my diet I've become more creative with food and my meals have become incredible varied.

I never felt restricted 
I previously thought the vegan lifestyle was too fussy. "What do they even eat?!" I used to ask myself. I'm such an idiot. There are so many alternatives to your usual meat based meals that throughout the 7 days I've actually felt like my mind has been opened to more foods than it was when I ate meat and diary... weird right?

I had more energy 
I noticed that even though I'm still mentally tired when I get up in the morning I had more physical energy throughout the day. I also noticed that my usual afternoon brain slump happened later on in the day.

My meals where tastier 
I started to use more ingredients in my meals, put together different varieties of food that brought out the flavour and made my meals tastier. In the whole 7 days I've never once wanted to eat meat or missed eating anything dairy. I've had milk alternatives in my tea (soy, almond and oats milk) and actually preferred the oats milk in particular to cows milk.

After watching that YouTube video there's no way I can go back to tucking into a beef burger or gulping down a large cow's milk latte but on the other hand I won't box myself off under a dietary term. By not consuming large portions of meat and dairy I feel healthier, I enjoy my food more but I'm also not fuelling a cruel industry and therefor feel as though I have a clear conscious. 

I may tuck into a bag of crisps (that contains milk), nibble on some milk chocolate or have a cheese pizza, but by being aware of what I'm consuming, knowing what's happened to produce it, and considerably reducing consumption on the whole, I'm being less of a contributor and feel better about it.

Beki Xo

"I think I'll take this, yes thank you"... 😂

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What I've Learned About Owning A Miniature Dachshund (*)
Bed - Apple Crates, Feeding bowl - Bryher Timber, Toys & Treats - Monster Pet Supplies

We had been planning to get a puppy for around 5 years but wanted to wait until we had a house with a garden and our lives were a little less hectic. We went back and fourth between about 3 different breeds before we finally did our research and ultimately found the perfect fit, a long haired miniature dachshund... AKA our little puppy 'Digit'.

Miniature dachshunds have a bold and independent temperament, They're intelligent, faithful and good tempered which means the breed would fit perfectly into our 'coffee shop crawling' lifestyle. But the breed is also very head strong so that does mean they can be incredibly stubborn and sensitive however, having easily trained my family dog I'm up for a challenge and to be honest I think it gives them more personality!

The breed is also incredibly loyal and will attach him or herself to one person in the family in particular which means that they may not like being left alone. We're very keen to eventually have two (this number will increase) dogs for companionship so this wasn't a problem for us at all.

So what have I learned about owning a miniature dachshund?

I ain't saying you're a gold digger...
They love to dig and by digging that doesn't just mean in the garden. Cushions, carpets, throws, walls, chairs... nothing is off limits.

What are you eating?
Their diet is incredibly important for their backs. Dachshunds have long backs and can put on weight easily. Since their backs are like a suspension bridge you need to keep it strong. I feed Digit a BARF (raw) diet that not only keeps her happy but provides her with all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients she needs.

There's no point in shouting...
Dachshunds are sensitive so they don't take well to aggressive tones. They do however love praise, so cheerful tones for all the little things do really count.

Why are you ignoring me?
Dachshunds are independent thinkers which also means that if they want to they will ignore you repeating their name over and over to get their attention.

That was quick! 
They're incredibly bright and clever, Digit learnt to 'shake a paw' within 10 minutes and the 'sit' command within 5 minutes which is great for getting her to be patient when waiting for her dinner.

You should be a comedian! 
Their unpredictable and lively nature along with those random bursts of energy and running around the kitchen island 10 times faster than the speed of light will set you into a fit of giggles. They get themselves into the stupidest predicaments and their little sausage like appearance just makes things even more funnier. 

You've left the baby gate open!

Dachshunds love to jump, bounce around and run up and down stairs but this isn't healthy for their backs as it puts strain on their spine. 1 in 4 dachshunds are prone to IVDD (Intervertebral disk disease) and so for prevention it's not only about diet and exercise it's also about the stairs being off limits and NO jumping off of the couch.

Watch your step! 
Of course miniature dachshunds are low to the ground and can sneak up on you easily which does mean that they can easily get under your feet. We've had to pop a little cat bell onto her collar so we can hear when she's near.

Pick me up please, I'm tired...
Dachshunds don't need a lot of exercise, in fact too much exercise can be bad for them. The Dachshund Breed Council recommends their daily exercise should be between 5-10 minutes walk until they're 4 months old then it's 15-20 minutes until they're 6 months then 30 minutes until they're a year which it can then increase to 45-50 minutes a day. If they're tired they will jump up to be picked up so a dog bag is recommended!

Sleeping beauty... 

Long haired miniature dachshunds in particular are laid back and sweet-natured. They love to snooze, snuggle up to you on the couch and have the most adorable sleeping positions ever.

Beki Xo 

(*) As part of this blog post I was gifted the toys and treats from Monster Pet Supplies however all opinions and reviews are my own 
Top 3 Winter Fashion Trends That Made 2016 (*)

Every year there are certain winter trends that make their way out from the back of the wardrobe: the oversized fur coats, the leather boots and of course the array of tartan patterns. This year, there were three looks that really caught my eye, and now that we’re into spring, I still find myself turning to them when the weather is still frightful outside. Let me know what you think about these top three wintry trends that are making waves into 2017…

1.     Cape coats

I am loving the caped coat look right now, especially now that the evenings are a little warmer and it’s all you need on a night out. They’re a welcome alternative to the usual over-sized trench coats and military jackets that we see each and every year, but from a practical point of view, they’re also incredibly good at locking in heat!

Plus, you can get caped shawls which are perfect for occasion wear. If you have a Spring wedding on the horizon, I’d recommend leaving behind your standard shawl and opting for a blush pink fur-lined cape instead. It will be far better for keeping out the cold, but also help you achieve a look that screams opulence.

2.     Gemstone Jewellery

Gemstones have always been a favourite for pendants and charms, but they were given a new look towards the end of last year. For 2017, it’s all about incorporating their rough-cut forms into large pieces of statement jewellery. It could be a cuff-style bracelet with a large stone set into the centre, or a collection of gems strung together in a necklace that looks like something straight out of an Aztec warrior’s wardrobe.

This trend may remind us of ancient cultures past, but it makes a beautiful addition to plain outfits that are in need of an edge. Of course, you’ll still be able to find plenty of elegant gemstone designs too, as ChloBo, the luxury jewellery retailer, have recently launched their Gypsy Dreamer and Luna Soul collections. With plenty of Labradorite greys and the pink hues of Aventurine to hand, you can add a touch of sophistication to your festive outfits.

3.     V is for velvet

Up until now, the main focus of evening dresses has been the Great-Gatsby-inspired look. Although I love the heavily beaded and sequined dresses, everyone seems to have one now, so I was thrilled to see this new velvet trend start to trickle into the shops.

Think sleek, slimming and seductive; these simplistic velvet dresses will be perfectly complemented by a retro choker necklace and some black heels for a throwback to the 90s that people will love. If you’re still making the most of the sales looking for evening outfits, opt for darker colours like forest green or sapphire blue for a more expensive look. Then add a glittering clutch and you’re good to go.

You can find more top trends from 2016 here. What are your top spring combinations? 

(*) Collaborative Post

Pink Grapefruit and Peppercorn Cocktail ft Colombo Gin (*)

Colombo Gin is a dry gin created by a young Asian distiller inspired by the history of Ceylon and handcrafted in the UK.

Back when Sri Lanka was Ceylon, British Excise Officers didn’t believe that a good London Gin could be produced outside of the UK. However a young Asian distiller thought otherwise and fought until he could create a gin using local botanicals. His successes lead to creating the regulations of Ceylon Made Foreign Liquor as well as Indian Made Foreign Liquor laws that stand to this day.

The gin itself contains 7 native lead botanicals that create its war time recipe; Ginger root, coriander seeds, angelica root, juniper, liquorice root and Sri Lankan cinnamon bark and curry leaves.

Tasted neat the profile is distinctive and complex. Juniper leads the way with a burst of citrus and coriander followed by warming notes of cinnamon and the peppery heat of ginger. However when you add tonic the profile seems to become a lot smoother, juniper still maintaining its strength but with the other botanicals coming together to create a sweet, fresh and warming notes.

When creating a cocktail I wanted something that would keep those fresh and spicy notes. The gin compliments Asian cooking incredibly well so I was researching ingredients that would refresh the palette but maintain that peppery taste to embrace the gin.

So I created the...

Pink Grapefruit & Peppercorn Gin Cocktail 

50ml Colombo Gin
½ Fresh grapefruit juice
2 Cubes of ice
3-5 Peppercorns
Top with Fevertree tonic

Squeeze the juice of half a fresh grapefruit into a cocktail shaker

Add two cubes of ice and 50 ml of Colombo Gin

Shake until cocktail shaker becomes misty and pour into a couple glass (or a short glass)

Top with Fevertree tonic and add 3-5 black peppercorns

The perfect fresh and simple cocktail that could be enjoyed before or after a meal to cleanse the palette and give you that 'pick me up' taste with it's crisp flavour.

Beki Xo

(*) As part of this review I was gifted the Colombo Gin however all opinions and the recipe itself are my own
Orange and Thyme Gin Cocktail ft Siegfried Gin (*)

Siegfried Gin is a German gin founded by Gerald and Raphael from the Rhine region.

The name Siegfried comes from a character in a poetic saga. After slaying the dragon Siegfried bathed in its blood which rendered him invulnerable. Unfortunately for him a leaf from the linden tree fell onto his back leaving one small patch of skin not covered by the dragon’s blood, leaving that single spot vulnerable. Hence why the founders of Seigfried have given a created a gin that uses the blossoms of the Linden Tree among 17 other botanicals.

The other botanicals include juniper, angelica root, orange zest, thyme, cubeb berries, lavender, ginger and cardamom.

The key flavours of the gin are juniper and linden blooms giving a bitter orange and earthy taste followed by spicy notes of ginger and angelica root.

When creating the gin cocktail I wanted something that would pull out those earthy and sweet flavours, complementing the key juniper taste. Scanning through the list of botanicals I pulled out two flavours (orange zest and thyme) that I knew wouldn’t overpower the gin but would create a fresh, earthy cocktail.

Orange & Thyme Gin Cocktail 

50ml Siegfried Gin
50ml Freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Sprig of thyme
1 Cube of ice
Top with Fevertree tonic

Add 50ml of Siegfried gin and 50ml of freshly squeezed orange juice (don’t forget to save a segment to garnish) to the cocktail shaker

Pop in 1 large cube of ice and shake until the cocktail shaker becomes misty

Pour into a coupe glass and top with Fevertree tonic

Garnish with a sprig of thyme and a segment of orange

The perfect fresh, citrus cocktail that adds an extra something to your typical summer G&T. The great thing about this cocktail is that it's incredibly easy to make and you can swap out the orange for any citrus fruit whether that'd be grapefruit, blood orange or clementine.

Beki Xo 

(*) Disclaimer: As part of this review I was gifted the Siegfried gin however all opinions and the recipe are my own.
What's New At The Body Shop? (*)

The Body Shop are infamous for their fruity new ranges that smell so good you wish you could eat them however their latest range is a little less fruity and a little more caring.

The Almond Milk & Honey Body Care collection is formulated for those with sensitive skin and dry skin. According to their research 1 in 3 people have this skin type and have racked up over 270,000 Google searches for remedies over the last year – wow.

But they can’t stray away from their signature scented ranges and rather than create a sensitive product that is stripped down (like most sensitive skincare products) they’ve added their own twist. Their range combines nourishing and restoring ingredients with textures and a subtle hypoallergenic fragrance for a more enjoyable experience.

Using trade almond oil from Spain and trade honey from Ethiopia, The Body Shop has created yet another range that cares for the environment as well as your skin.
So what products are in the range? As well as a cleansing bar, hand cream and bath milk they have…

Soothing & Restoring body Lotion
This stuff is incredibly light weight, has a non-greasy feel and helps to protect against uncomfortably itchy or dry skin.

Gentle Exfoliating Cream Body Scrub
Infused with crush almond shells to help gentle buff away dead skin cells without harming the skins surface.

Soothing & Caring Shower Cream
A soap free shower cream specially formulated to moisturise and cleanse the skin whilst balancing out the skin’s PH levels.

Soothing & Restoring Body Butter
A heavenly rich body butter helps to deeply nourish and protect the skin with a non-greasy barrier.

What else is new at The Body Shop?

As well as their latest Almond Milk & Honey Body Care Range, there’s also my new favourite facial exfoliate that I just can’t get enough of…

Drops Of Youth – Youth Liquid Peel
This product is a revolutionary skin peel that contains natural ingredients such as citric acid, castor oil and samphire. The peel itself helps to lift dead skin cells to leave your skin clear, soft and feeling fresh. I’ll be the first to admit that the application is a little weird. The gel like liquid turns into tiny balls of product (or dead skin - I’ve no idea which) once massaged into the skin. However it’s so satisfying to know that your skin is removing any unwanted dead skin cells and the results of smoother, brighter skin are totally worth the messy application.

The Body Shop Fragrance – Bowhanti Spicy Woods
Inspired by the world, The Body Shop has created a five immersive new eau de parfumes created from natural scents. Natural scents that could if not protected might disappear from the world altogether. Using non-destructive technology the essence of each botanical is extracted without harm, allowing it to live on.

The scents themselves are from Switzerland, Polynesia India, Amazonia and South Africa. I was kindly sent the Bowhanti scent inspired from French Guiana, Amazonia. A spicy wood scent that contains a blend of smoky patchouli that creates a deep, fully bodied scent that has a mysterious seduction.

Beki Xo

(*) As part of this blog post I was gifted The Body Shop products in return for an honest review
The Romantic Rose-Berry Cocktail ft Pinkster Gin (*)

A bottle fit For Valentine’s Day!

Pinkster gin is the latest bottle to be added to my vastly growing gin collection and I’ve been lucky enough to be gifted one of their limited edition ‘Let the love beGIN’ bottles!

It’s an agreeable British Gin that packs a lot of character. At first glance you’d think that they’d purposely packaged everything up to box it off as a pink gin but there’s more to the story than that.

Pinkster was created by Stephen Marsh who began creating his own gin after contacting a yeast allergy which meant he could no longer indulge in his favourite tipple – wine. A keen maker of sloe liqueurs, he turned his attention to spirits and started experimenting at home. Stephen tried and tested large amounts of assorted fruits and spirit strengths and discovered that raspberries delivered the best flavour and unintentionally creating a pink gin.

In 2014 founder Stephen Marsh approached Charles Maxwell (a man who has created hundreds of gins over 30 years from Thames Distillers) to collaborate on another gin. This time it would be infused with raspberries as a signature botanical and keeping juniper strongly present. In 2014 Pinkster switched distillers to scale up and use the traditional method of the copper pots from the distillery that also produce BLOOM and Ophir.  

The gin itself is made up of 5 botanicals but only 3 of which known: juniper, raspberry and black peppercorn. The gin has a dry but fruity flavour with the leading taste of juniper and a smooth jammy finish of raspberries. The great thing about Pinkster gin is nothing goes to waste and the raspberries that are used to create the gin are popped into jars and labelled ‘Boozy Berries’ to pimp your prosecco, add to cakes or dip into chocolate!

When creating a cocktail for Pinkster I wanted to make something that would complement the leading notes of juniper and pull through that smoothness of the raspberries. Of course it’s Valentine’s Day coming up so roses instantly come to mind and therefor I created the Romantic Rose-Berry Gin Cocktail.

The Romantic Rose-Berry Cocktail Recipe: 

50ml Pinkster gin
25ml – Rose syrup
5 – Fresh raspberries
2 – Cubes of ice
Top with Tonic
Garnish with edible rose petals

Add 50ml of Pinkster gin and 25ml rose syrup into a cocktail shaker

Add 5 raspberries and 2 cubes of ice

Shake until the cocktail shaker becomes misty

Pour through a strainer into a glass (preferably a balloon glass)

Top with Fever Tree tonic and add a few edible rose petals as garnish

This is the perfect romantic cocktail for Valentine’s Day but it tastes incredible too! If you love the flavours of a sweet Turkish delight with a twist (sharp, pine flavours of juniper) then you’ll love this as much as I do!

Beki Xo

(*) Disclaimer: As part of this post I was gifted the Pinkster Gin however the cocktail recipe and all opinions are my own
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