Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Rise and Shine! It's MoFo Time!

Good morning! It's Vegan MoFo time again and this year they've mixed things up a bit with daily prompts and the ability for people to sign up (or not) and participate via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Periscope, Snapchat etc etc as well as the usual blogging and vlogging platforms. The idea behind this widening of the net is that it'll enable more people to participate in what is, in my opinion, a super fun challenge as well as a great way to connect with people online and to show everyone just how great veganism is in the process.

Today's prompt, as you might've guessed from the title, is about breakfast! As my regular non-mofo readers probably know I've been living in a van in Europe since June 25th. I've been all over the place - from Brighton to Berlin, from Slovakia to Skopje and much much more. One thing that has been a constant companion throughout the trip has been soya (or soy, whatever) yoghurts which have made up the majority of my breakfasts in the van. Why? What's so good about these yoghurts? I hear you ask. Well, Europe has a really strong soya yoghurt game, nowhere compares. The yoghurts here are thick, creamy, not too sweet, or too coconutty (a huge problem in the US) and they come in a huge range of fun and interesting flavours. I would say that yoghurt and bread are the two things I missed the most when when I was in South East Asia for the first four months of the year and as I fly back there in around a month I feel like I needed to honour my one of my favourite foods by a) Writing about it here and b) Making sure that I eat as much of it as possible until the moment I go through security at Heathrow. Keep me accountable peeps!

Without further ado here's my rundown of the trip's greatest yoghurt moments.

When I was living in Brighton Alpro Creamoso Cherry yoghurts were my go-to but for some reason when I swung through the city in June there was some sort of horrible Creamoso drought. I couldn't even find the Peach flavour. It was almost a disaster but regular Alpro came to the rescue with their old faithful flavour Peach & Pear. These come in a four pack with Strawberry Banana which I hate because they're too sweet but thankfully Nick (my partner in crime for those of you new to the blog) loves them so it all worked out.

Eaten in Preston Park where we definitely didn't sleep, honest guv!

Our first detour of the trip (on day one, we're pretty renegade!) took us to Amsterdam where I learnt about Alpro Creamoso's mainland European flavours. I found the Apple Strudel and fell head over heels. It tastes like pie and is creamy yoghurt perfection.

I really thought that nothing could ever be better than a yoghurt that tasted like an apple pie but oh boy was I wrong. They also make a yoghurt that tastes like lemon pie. Lemon. Pie. Only one of my favourite desserts in the whole world and one that I really don't get to enjoy as often as I'd like.

This one had me wishing that the fridge in the van was just a little bigger as it's max capacity (if I wanted to fit in all of the other necessary food items) was three tubs. Sadness soon abounded as I haven't seen these since Vienna which was around five weeks ago now. I'm hoping to find and devour this flavour again as we drive back through Switzerland, France and perhaps Italy.

Sojasun have stepped in and filled the gap on occasion, not my favourite brand of yoghurt but a solid choice and Blueberry is definitely a fun flavour option. 

Joya are another favourite brand of mine, their yoghurts are slightly thinner in consistency than Alpro and they don't have a huge range of flavours but the ones they do have are great. I usually choose Peach or Strawberry but they also make Natural and Mixed Berry. I first discovered Joya in Vienna many years ago and they've been popping up in random spots ever since - I was particularly excited to find them in Belgrade when my yoghurt stash was running dangerously low, by Lake Bled where they were a very unexpected surprise, and in Bangkok when I hadn't eaten a yoghurt for three and a half months.

One of my favourite ways to enjoy a breakfast soya yoghurt is with granola. I usually stir the yoghurt to get rid of any lumps, cover it with as much granola as will fit in the tub and then once that's gone I add more. it's a great start to the day and I'm genuinely surprised that I don't have more pictures of the soya yoghurt granola combo. I suspect that it's because I really do not have my shit together in the mornings until I've eaten something!

Lastly Sojade are another Euro brand that I've been loving on this trip - they have the widest range of flavours for sure and I've previously enjoyed Cherry, Mango and Apricot and Guava and I'm currently working on a large tub of Mango Peach. Delicious.

After reading that I am sure that you're all in agreement that yoghurt makes the best lazy breakfast so lemme know your fave' brand or flavour so that I can check it out sometime!

Since I've been travelling and soya yoghurting my way around Eastern Europe wifi has been a little hit or miss, even getting my weekly blog post out there on time has been a challenge at times. Sometimes I'll go a few days without wifi and only find it at a cafe or bar when I only have my phone with me so blogging every day definitely isn't an option this year. Because of this I'm super glad that MoFo is officially happening on social media this year and as well as participating here when I can I'll be taking part on my Twitter and Instagram accounts. Follow me on one or both to keep up to date with my MoFoing and don't forget to use the official 2015 MoFo hashtag #vgnmf15 to tag your social media posts.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Vegan in Slovenia: Ljubljana and Beyond

If you've ever seen a picture of Lake Bled online you might be thinking "wow, there's no way that it can be as beautiful as it looks" but it can and it is! I was lucky enough to spend a few nights camping there before heading to the Punk Rock Holiday festival. I swam. I walked. I hiked. I took far too many photos. It was a blast. 

One of the best things about Lake Bled is that despite it being one of Europe's more popular, not to mention beautiful, tourist attractions it really wasn't all that busy. There's a super easy to navigate path running the whole circumference of the lake, about 6km, and then there are some more challenging trails just off of that.

Our campsite choice for this adventure was Camping Bled mainly because it's the only campsite in the area. It's fantastically located right by the lake though and there's a little jetty, a beach bar & cafe and a shop right there. The shop was stocked with a surprisingly large amount of vegan products including Joya yoghurts and milkshakes as well as soya milk, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices, pulses, legumes, rice cakes etc. 

One afternoon we took one of the more challenging trails from the southwest corner of the lake up to the Osojnica viewpoint which was described in our copy of Lonely Planet as a short but steep climb which I almost agree with, it sure was steep but I'm not so sure about the short part. At times it was incredibly steep but there were more mellow patches and the the view down to the lake and the island makes it so worth it. On the route Nick and I took you caught glimpses of the lake the whole way up, it was wonderful.

I enjoyed a Clif bar when we stopped at the top! I'm addicted to the Crunchy Peanut Butter version, it's one of the only kinds I buy now because they can't confirm that their chocolate isn't sourced from child slaves in west Africa so that means no more choc chip for me. I was also super irritated to discover that the banana bread flavour contains chocolate chips because I really wanted to try it. I use The Food Empowerment Project's list to check out my chocolate and whilst I'm not perfect at only eating chocolate based things from the good list I am trying my hardest.

After our time exploring Lake Bled Nick and I headed to Slovenia's capital city Ljubljana to meet up with Tabitha, one of my BFF's, who we were going to the Punk Rock Holiday festival with. If you haven't checked out my blog post about that already you can read about the ups and downs of the fest' here

Despite being a capital city Ljubljana is one of the more peaceful places I've visited on this trip. Tabitha treated us to a couple of night's in an Air B&B because she's too nice and also because she cares more about being able to shower the morning before heading to a festival for five days than we do. When we drove into the city late-ish on a Saturday night I was sure that we must be in the wrong place or at least staying on the outskirts of town because whilst I wouldn't call the streets deserted they were so empty. It felt strange! 

Because I've taught her well Tabitha used the map function on Happy Cow when picking out the Air B&B (aren't vegan friends the best?) which meant that we were an easy ten minute walk from 100% vegan restaurant Nyama. We rocked up for breakfast and ordered smoothies and sandwiches which is a great way to begin any day especially because with your sandwich order you get not one but two sandwiches!

I went for a classic combo of Cheese and Ham whilst Nick went for a more breakfasty (or so he claims) Peanut Butter and Banana. These were such a great start to the day, I need to get my shit together and make breakfast sandwiches more often. Usually I'm not functional enough to make a sandwich until I've eaten which leaves me in a tough spot when it comes to the breakfast sandwich! One of the best things to do after such an epic breakfast is to head out and walk all over a new city so that's exactly what we did.

The streets were definitely busier that day as we made our way around the city's main tourist attractions but not a whole lot busier, not the kind of busy I've come to expect from a capital city in the height of summer. We explored the castle, made Tabitha take her first selfie, checked out numerous dragon based statues, drank radler (okay, that was only me), wrote postcards and walked through all of the city centre streets and over all of the city's bridges. We had a super fun afternoon.

Does every single city with a bridge have one of these now? I suspect so!

We decided that as we'd enjoyed the food, friendly service and convenient location so much at breakfast that we'd head back to Nyama for a late lunch. The great menu also factored into our decision making, we were so tempted by so many things when we were there at breakfast time that we kinda had to go back! I chose the carbonara because in my mind it is pretty much the perfect meal. Pasta, creamy sauce, faux ham and a few veggies for colour / decoration. 

It wasn't the best carbonara I've ever had, I use a helluva lot more cream in mine, but it was filling and tasty and I definitely enjoyed it. Nick also rated his curry and Tabitha her mushroom stroganoff with polenta both of which certainly looked great. After some maxing and relaxing at the Air B&B our stomachs started rumbling again and as we were situated within a reasonable distance of the city's main Loving Hut we headed there for some more food.

As it was late in the day they were out of a lot of the menu items we were excited about so we settled upon hot dogs and burgers. These didn't seem like the most exciting choices especially as we knew we'd be eating a whole lot of burgers over the next week but these are always solid options right?

Well lemme tell you that the cheeseburger was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten. I've literally never been more pleased that a restaurant was out of everything I actually wanted to eat! I'm actually still upset that Nick and I were sharing both things and I only got to eat half of one of the best burgers in the world. I wouldn't recommend the hot dog because it comes with salad (nooooo!) and also I just told you that the cheeseburger is one of the best I've ever eaten so if you don't order it you're basically an idiot.

I decided to take a punt on dessert too as the burger thing had worked out so well and I choose something that I normally hate, tiramisu. My dessert nemesis! People are always shocked when I tell them that I hate tiramisu but I don't like coffee or rum or, normally, cream so it's not super surprising that this dessert is usually low down my must eat list. It also usually contains some kinda cream cheese which is a flavour that I hate in sweet food, like, seriously detest. Never make me cheesecake. I'm not kidding. Anyway, as I was on some kinda cheeseburger high I thought what the hell, let's give this one a whirl and holy wow. I thought that it was so perfect that I suspect you'd hate it if you like traditional tiramisu.

It was Speculoos Tiramisu (something else I also usually dislike... well, I like the biscuits themselves but strongly dislike the spread) and it was neither overly sweet nor cheesy. It was just a very light and airy whipped cream (I'd guess it was rice based) in-between two slices of speculoos flavoured cake topped with a mix of sweetened cocoa powder and speculoos crumbs. It was perfect. If I could have fitted in two I definitely would have.

As well as having the one of the best cheeseburgers ever and the only tiramisu I've ever liked this branch of LH has a fridge stocked with vegan meats and cheeses (get some VioLife slices and any of the frankly enormous Uzená sausages) and it's right by both the train and bus stations making it the perfect place to grab some take out if you're travelling around Europe by train.

After out brief sojourn in Ljubljana it was time to hit the road and head for Tolmin to spend a week hanging out in a field by a river listening to ear shatteringly loud punk rock. We were excited and raring to go but we needed to stock the van up with food just in case the festival's vegan options were lacking / expensive. We hit up the Mercator supermarket close to Ljubljana airport and found one of the best stocked selections of vegan food we'd seen in any European supermarket. 

As well as there being accidentally vegan items dotted all around the store there was also a huge refrigerated section full of vegetarian and vegan products. We loaded up a basket with crackers, tofu, seitan steaks, seitan burgers, freshly squeezed juices, chocolate puddings, soya yoghurts, garlic bake rolls (imagine a snackable garlic toast!), Manner wafers, Pom Bears, savoury spreads, margarine, peanut butter and even a brand of Radler made with vegan Union beer. As an aside I use the Vegaholic app to check out which types of alcohol are vegan - it has all of the info stored offline so you don't need a wifi connection or 3G to scope out the list. You can check out all of Barnivore's recommended app's here to find the right one for your device. 

As I mentioned already I wrote a whole blog post about Punk Rock Holiday but it was basically a whole week of watching bands, reading by the van, chowing down on ridiculously delicious tofu burgers and hanging with my homies. Good times. Mostly.

Read this book!

Beauty tip: Haven't washed your hair for five days? Throw on a bandana!

Whatever your reasons; punk rock, a love of beautiful scenery, a desire to explore a city that isn't stuffed full of tourists, I would highly recommend heading to Slovenia. It might be a small country but it's packed full of so much natural beauty that it's almost unbelievable. I kinda want to move there just so that I can wander around marvelling at how gorgeous everything is whilst eating tiramisu!