My Journey to Veganism

A lot of vegans are asked why they choose the vegan lifestyle and I thought I’d use this post to tell you about how I ended up becoming vegan.

Growing up my Mum had always had an interest in vegetarian cooking and we had a couple of vegetarian cookbooks at home. (Good old fashioned 70s/80s style!) We ate Quorn probably about once a week, either as mince in a bolognese/chilli or pieces in a stir fry. Talking to my Mum about this she said the reasons were mainly health ones but also it was convenient and it gave us another option food wise. We also had a number of vegetarians/pescatarians in the family so my Mum was used to catering for them when they visited.

I had never been a great lover of meat. I didn’t eat pork or ham and I couldn’t stand bacon. I think this was somewhat influenced by having to walk behind the kitchens when I went into school every morning and the smell of bacon frying at that time of the morning just turned my stomach. I wasn’t particularly fond of beef and found chicken boring/bland.

I started drinking soya milk when I was at uni in 2003/4 again as I wasn’t particularly fond of cows milk and I’m glad to see the dairy free milk industry has come on leaps and bounds in terms of products and availability since I shunned dairy milk.

I decided to go vegan at the end of 2009. I had been eating less and less meat throughout the year and it just seemed right. My reasons were more environmental at first and it just seemed so unnecessary to use all these resources to produce food I wasn’t particularly enjoying when I could eat a wholesome vegan diet. In November 2009 my Mum and I went on holiday to Vienna and we came across a lovely vegetarian restaurant and my eyes were opened to high end vegetarian catering!

I had decided the last meat I was going to eat was at my work team’s Christmas meal. I had steak and it was alright but it didn’t make me doubt my decision at all. I went into plant based eating full on and although I had read a lot I did find it quite difficult and limiting at first. After about 9 months I faltered and decided it would be easier to be vegetarian. I was still drinking soya milk but introduced cheese/eggs etc back into my diet. I had also had a flair up of anxiety following buying my flat and as I was getting a lot of help from my now husband and family I didn’t think it was fair to expect them to cook fully vegan meals for me. I was still drinking dairy free milk and all the baking I did was still completely vegan.

I was vegetarian for about 18 months after that but it still didn’t sit right with me. I continued to educate myself online about the dairy and egg industry and joined a couple of groups on Facebook. In 2012 I decided to transition to veganism but this time I was going to do it differently. I started eliminating the animal products I still ate slowly one by one and not beating myself up if I accidentally ate something or gave in to temptation. This started with not buying or cooking eggs, but I would still eat products that contained eggs. This took the pressure off as I didn’t have to frantically scan every packet I was buying. I then stopped eating cheese on weekdays, allowing it only at weekends as a treat. Then it easily became none at the weekends either. I replaced products I used regularly containing milk/egg/honey with animal free alternatives and then checking new products didn’t seem so overwhelming. I would say by May 2012 I had fully transitioned to a vegan diet and I have assigned May 15th as my veganniversary!

“But, Plumes” I hear you cry! “veganism isn’t just a diet! What about other lifestyle changes?”

Well in terms of clothes I didn’t own much leather/wool/silk to begin with but equally I didn’t throw anything out as I didn’t want to create waste. I just started checking any new items I bought and investigated vegan brands. (I’ll have to do a whole other post on my fave vegan retailers!)

By joining communities on Facebook and in real life (!) via the London Vegan Meetup Group I found my knowledge expanding through word of mouth and lots of my questions were answered in passing. I found this a lot less isolating then when I had initially tried veganism on my own.

I don’t wear a lot of makeup but again like clothes I didn’t have a huge clear out either. I just replaced my items as they ran out with vegan alternatives. Like many I was naive regarding animal testing in the beauty industry and as it seemed such an antiquated idea to me I couldn’t believe it was still so widespread!

Again I didn’t beat myself up as I learnt new things. I particularly remember someone asking a group for vegan toothpaste recommendations and thinking to myself “What?! Toothpaste’s not vegan either?” But you just adapt as you go along.

I have already blogged about my preferred cleaning products here, but this was another learning process of asking what other people used and recommended and trying things out for myself.

I said at the beginning that my initial reasons for going vegan were environmental but as I’ve learnt more about production methods in the agriculture industry I feel like I have become more compassionate towards animals and by not causing them pain, suffering or death I feel a closer affinity with them. I have also seen health benefits since turning vegan. I used to suffer from bacterial ear infections frequently as a child and into my mid-twenties. I also found I took a  long time to recover from colds and had a lot of mucus (gross right?) as well as what I call an itchy inner ear which caused me to do this weird thing with my throat to try and scratch it. I have heard this referred to as clucking but my brother named it goomping due to the noise it makes! Since I have been vegan I have not had a bacterial ear infection and I definitely have a lot less mucus. I do still goomp occasionally, but I think this is usually when I am dehydrated and it is a lot less than I used to!

The support I have received has also really helped me. My Mum is a total star and if you are a regular visitor to my blog you will know I go swimming and have dinner with her every week and she is forever coming up with new meals from recipes she has researched  online or looked up in her now growing vegan cookbook collection! She has been really responsive to all the information I have given her and in January I challenged her and her partner to go vegetarian for a month. She really enjoyed it and both of them have to decided to no longer eat meat although they will eat fish. My Sister-in-law has been vegetarian for over 20 years and transitioned to veganism over the last couple of years, its great to have a partner in crime at family events and I love discovering new vegan eats with her. My husband is not at all vegetarian but he eats mainly vegetarian at home and is becoming more and more willing to try new things. My Mother-in-law also goes to a great effort to cater for me when we frequently visit her home and she also introduces me to new products I haven’t been aware of before. I also love the online vegan community, especially on Twitter. I have chatted with so many great people and its great to share recipes, ideas and tips with other like-minded people. #veganhour is Tuesdays 7pm – 8pm UK time and is great place to chat to vegan peeps.

At my 30th birthday I decided to offer a totally vegan buffet. It was my party and I wanted to be able to eat everything! Some people had asked me prior to the event whether it would be fully vegan and I think they were pleasantly surprised (or they just ate before they came!) My vegetarian great-aunt sent me card after saying how much she enjoyed the party and how lovely it was for her to be able to eat everything. Something she had never experienced at a party.

Veganism moves more and more into the mainstream as time goes on. There is a lot more exposure of the lifestyle in the media and supermarkets and restaurants are offering more and more options to our growing demographic. Part of the reason I started this blog was to show people what vegans eat and how its not all weird ingredients you can only get in specialist health food shops. The feedback I have received has all been positive. I try to share information in an encouraging, non-judgemental way and although I don’t claim to be an expert I’m happy to try and answer any questions or let you know where you can find the answers.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post and learning a bit more about me!

Plumes x

 

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My Journey to Veganism

Round up of the week’s food 160327

Happy Easter everyone!

This week I haven’t been great at remembering to take photos of my food so this post will be a little bit more text based.

Last Sunday after swimming my Mum and I went to a local Japanese takeaway/cafe. I’ve had takeaway delivered from there before but never eaten in. They do a great build your own option where you pick your own rice/noodles, protein option, vegetables and sauce. I went for thai fried tofu, udon in mild curry sauce with butternut squash and hoi sin aubergine. Mum had the same but with broccoli instead in butternut. The tofu was really crispy and the sauce was tasty and really light too.

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On Sunday night I had a bit of a mishmash of things from the freezer. A lorne sausage from More than Meat, garlic dough balls from Tesco’s free from range, hash browns and sweetcorn.

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On Monday night I had a Fry’s country pie (chicken style and mushroom) with loads of veg. An easy weeknight dinner.

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On Tuesday I made pasta, I had an avocado that needed using up so made a sauce by mashing it up with the juice of a lemon and black pepper. I added red onions, peas, olives and a tofurkey kielbasa sausage I had left over. This is the first time I’ve made avocado pasta sauce but I’ll definitely be doing it again.

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On Wednesday we had an issue with our dishwasher so had nothing clean to cook with; I decided to just go to the chip shop rather than do some washing up! I just had chips and salad so not really photo worthy!

On Thursday I went swimming with my Mum. She made a lovely lentil stew but as I had been fasting I was really hungry and had wolfed it down before I remembered to take a photo!

On Friday my husband I spent the day in London and went had lunch at Top Dog and then icecream at Yorica! You can read my full review here.

We then went to see Batman V. Superman at the cinema, it was alright, not as bad as some of the reviews made out anyway! By the time we got back to our station it was quite late so we just got a McDonalds, I had the spicy veggie deluxe (no mayo) with fries and a bottle of water.

Yesterday I had a bit of an odd day food wise. I had a late breakfast of hash browns and then grabbed a couple of burritos for my husband and me and a fruit salad which we ate mid-afternoon once I got home from shopping. I wasn’t really hungry enough for a big dinner so just ended up having the other Fry’s pie I had in the freezer.

I took forever to get to sleep last night and coupled with the clocks going forward it was quite late by the time I got up this morning (at least it was still morning!)  So I decided to make a brunch frittata using onions, courgette and a couple of slices of violife cheese I had left over. This is one of my fave recipes and great for using stuff up.

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I’m enjoying my Easter Sunday afternoon watching the classic 80’s Pretty in Pink. Hope you’re having a good one too!

Plumes x

Round up of the week’s food 160327

Review – Top Dog and Yorica!

I had been really excited about trying the offerings at the new vegan ice cream parlour Yorica! in Soho since I heard about its opening and started seeing all the pics popping up on my instagram feed! I saw a few people had coupled this with a trip to Top Dog a hot dog joint that also serves vegan hot dogs and burgers which is just around the corner and, as I am very fond of a vegan dog I thought we’d follow suit!

I had seen mixed reviews of Top Dog online but the owners had responded to most of the negative comments stating they were trying to improve and welcomed constructive feedback. They also seemed to have had a bit of a refurb as the restaurant looked different to the photos I had seen online. I had a look at the menu online and was pleased to see the extent of the vegan options including fried pickles, Kentucky fried cauliflower and onion rings as sides as well as a couple of main options which were available either as a hot dog or a burger.

When we first arrived we were asked if we were vegan as they were awaiting a delivery of their gluten free, vegan buns. They said they could either work something out serving on a bed of lettuce or if we wanted to come back we would get a discount. I was really hungry so we decided to stay and work something out. When we were seated the waitress went through what was vegan on the menu, I was a bit confused as what she said did not correspond with the labelling on the menu. She advised that the labelling was incorrect and they needed to get the menus updated but said she would check everything with the kitchen to make sure it was vegan. I chose The American hot dog with sweet potato fries and had fried pickles to share with my husband. After we had ordered she said they had found a couple of gf buns so I was able to have a proper hot dog.

Both my husband and I love gherkins, we, well mainly he (!) have gotten through two jars in the last week and I love absolutely anything pickled (vegan of course!) so we were looking forward to the deep fried pickles. The batter was crisp on the outside and they tasted delicious dipped in the barbeque sauce that accompanied them. The only negative thing I would say is that the portion seemed a little stingy for £4, but I do appreciate this is in a central London location.

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When my hot dog arrived it didn’t look like what I expected. On the menu The American is described as “House sauce, onions, lettuce, homemade pickles and relishes”. The waitress had said the vegan version wouldn’t have the house sauce, but there were no onions or lettuce to speak of and a lot of what I assume was the homemade pickles and relishes although I couldn’t distinguish between them. I didn’t query it as at the time I couldn’t remember exactly what the menu had said. As soon as I picked up the bun it split in two as did the hot dog sausage. I ended up forking the sausage and relish onto the bun in pieces. I didn’t say anything to the waitress at this point as I knew I had had the last of the vegan buns! The bun tasted quite dry which I think was because it was gluten free, unfortunately the trend for brioche buns has has followed from burgers to hot dogs so the regular version wasn’t vegan-friendly. Also because there was so much cold relish on the hot dog it made everything else cool down as well. After I had finished my hot dog I looked across at another table and saw there was a ketchup and a mustard bottle on there and thought mine would have been much improved if I had thought to ask the waitress for some. Afterwards I did think it was a bit strange not to have ketchup and mustard on every table with the condiments in a hot dog restaurant. My sweet potato fries were nice but again I didn’t think they were great value for money at £4.

I was really hopeful for Top Dog and hope they do improve in future as it is great to have a place to grab a vegan hot dog in London. I might have to go back just to try the Kentucky fried cauliflower and have the pickles again!

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After a walk around Soho Square to let our food go down we headed to Yorica! I had already decided I wanted the matcha and chocolate frozen yogurt (froyo!) with marshmallows but I also fancied trying a couple of the ice cream flavours. Unfortunately it was really busy and didn’t feel like I could hold up the queue taking my time perusing. The shop was full to the brim so we sat on the bench outside to enjoy our froyo. I love anything matcha flavoured since we went to Japan last year and this did not disappoint. I also enjoyed the chocolate flavour (you can’t go wrong with chocolate!) and the marshmallows (I think these were Freedom Mallows brand) were a great addition. It is so lovely to walk into a place like Yorica! and know you can have absolutely everything they have to offer. They offer three sizes, we went for the middle one expecting the standard (the smallest size) to be on the stingy side. Our preconceptions were completely unfounded and we struggled to finish, so next time I know the standard will be enough for me! I really look forward to going back and trying out some of the other flavours and toppings. I have been told its less busy in the week and as they are open until 10pm on Monday to Wednesday and midnight Thursday to Saturday I might have to stop by after work one evening!

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Have you been to either Top Dog or Yorica? what did you think?

Plumes x

Review – Top Dog and Yorica!

Lentern Learnings

As we’re nearing Easter I wanted to take a moment to reflect on Lent and what I’ve learnt through the season. I only started going back to church regularly when my Dad became sick. In my younger years I was quite devout – I studied Religious Studies for A-level and was the President of my university’s Catholic Society for a year which saw me heavily involved in church activities and usually speaking at mass every week. As I got older I still held my beliefs but didn’t attend mass regularly usually due to logistics and laziness. Since I have started going back I have really enjoyed the services and the time they give me to stop and reflect. I have also enjoyed sharing the experience with others when I have attended services with family and friends.

For Lent I decided to give up coffee. I don’t drink it daily but it is a treat a couple of times of week to go into a coffee shop and get a latte. I managed really well with lentern promise the only coffee I have had was after church on my birthday at the coffee morning with my grandparents. When I have gone to a coffee shop when my husband has wanted something I have usually just had nothing at all and I haven’t felt like I was missing out.

I also decided to try and reduce my sugar during Lent. This worked well for the first few weeks. Even when I went out for meals I wasn’t tempted to have dessert. I did let myself off for my birthday but even then I didn’t go mad I just had some cake. The real issue I had was when I came down with a bad cold, I had a temperature and was feeling very sorry for myself! I had a stock in the cupboard as I had been saving up treats people had bought me for my birthday to have at Easter. and just went a bit mad! After that I found it hard to get back on the wagon, but I have learnt I can easily go without sugar and I don’t automatically need something sweet to end a meal. I was having a cup of tea after my dinner and I really looked forward to having it every evening!

My last lentern promise was to fast for a day, usually Thursday or Friday and go to mass rather than having lunch. I hadn’t done this since I was at university and was a bit apprehensive about how this would affect me at work. I would have an early dinner the night before and fast for 24 hours having a late dinner. Some weeks this was easier than others. I tried not to concentrate on food and sipped on hot water throughout the day. I also tried to not talk (or complain!) about it too much. I found going to church helped me focus on why I was doing it. I also enjoyed going to church at lunchtime and it was good on the weeks I was unable to attend mass on Sunday. There is only one Catholic church in the borough my office is in and luckily it is inn walking distance of my workplace. When my company has been in different offices I have wanted to attend lunchtime mass but it was just a bit too far to get to and from in my lunch hour. I will definitely continue to go to lunchtime mass when I am unable to attend on Sundays and I’m glad I have another option for services.

Looking forward to Easter I am looking forward to spending time with family. We are heading down to my in-laws today to spend the weekend with them, my Sister-in-law and Brother-in-law and our nieces and on Monday we are going to my Aunt’s to spend some time with my Dad’s side of the family.

I got a white chocolate egg and mint crisps from Sainsburys from my husband. I was searching out the Choices caramel egg but I must have been too late as I couldn’t find it in Sainsburys or two Holland and Barrett stores I looked in!

My Mum got me some bits from Bomb Cosmetics. I hadn’t heard of this company before but will definitely checking them out in future. She got my a pack of soap chunks and I’m looking forward to trying out all the different kinds. Think I’m gonna need a new soap dish! They clear state their credentials on the pack stating “At Bomb Cosmetics, we make sure we use recycled packaging wherever possible. None of our products are tested on animals and we operate a fixed cut off date in line with leading animal rights organisations guidelines.”

She also got me this gorgeous set of bath bombs. Which I am gonna start as soon as I finish writing this blog! They are chocolate themed and look (and smell!) so gorgeous and tempting I have to remind myself they are actually bath bombs!

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Hope you all have a great Easter!

Plumes x

Lentern Learnings

Round up of the week’s food 160320

I’ve had a horrible cold this week so I’ve had a lot of comfort food while I’ve been feeling sorry for myself!

On Sunday evening we had this lamb style casserole from More Than Meat you can read my full review of their product range here.

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On Monday we shared this jumbo sausage roll for breakfast.

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On Monday evening we had a cooked breakfast for dinner trying out some lorne sausages and Follow your heart’s vegan egg. It’s made from a seaweed derivative and gets thicker as you scramble it. I found it smelt more eggy than it tasted so I might spice it up a bit more next time I cook it.

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Tuesday we had burger and chips. I don’t eat burgers very often so this was a nice change and I love all the condiments with the fried onion and pickles etc.

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At work my team of about 14 only includes 3 women so I arranged a lunch for us so we could go out and not have to talk about football the whole time! I chose wagamama as it’s really close to our office and there are a number of dishes that are vegan or can easily be veganised. Be sure to ask your server they’re usually very helpful. I had the spicy tofu salad which I’ve had before. it’s lovely and fresh and has a spicy but sweet chili dressing. I also had some miso soup and pickles. I had one of their juices to drink made up of kiwi, avocado and apple.

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Everyone has been raving about the new vegan cheese at pizza chain Zizzi, so when my friend suggested we go out for dinner on Wednesday night I thought we must try it out. We had a vegan garlic bread to start and then I went for the pizza, you have a margarita and select what toppings you want. I asked for balsamic onions, olives and mushrooms but they forgot my olives! Even without them my pizza was lush. Unfortunately the service was so slow we didn’t have time for dessert but I’m looking forward to the baked nectarines with coconut and mango swirl sorbet next time!

On Thursday we still had burgers and buns to use up so we had a re-run of Tuesday’s dinner. Still great the second time round!

Friday we decided to have a Chinese takeaway. Our local one has a great range of vegetarian dishes and many have options with or without egg. I went for vegetarian satay skewers, sweet and sour deep fried aubergine balls and seaspice beancurd with boiled rice. A real Friday night treat!

Yesterday we had an active day, we went over to the cemetery to visit my Dad’s grave and then went over to the country park opposite. On our way home we popped into town as well and picked up a few bits. I had some potatoes to use up so decided to have bangers and mash. I used these sausages from Dee’s Wholefoods which I bought in Holland & Barrett. They have a really great flavour and go well with fried onions and gravy!

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Today I’m off swimming as it’s been a couple of weeks since I last went. I’m also going to try and pop in to Tesco as I’ve been seeing lots of new exciting free from products pop up on my time line that I want to try!

Have a good week!

Plumes x

Round up of the week’s food 160320

Review – More Than Meat

More than Meat describe their products on their website as-

More Than Meat burgers and casseroles are high-protein, zero-cholesterol meals, containing no added fats, no eggs, no dairy and, of course, no meat.

My husband and I had the lamb style casserole for dinner one night with mashed potatoes. It was really easy to cook, just heated up on the hob. The sauce was more tomatoey than I was expecting but it was really herby and I loved the addition of the butter beans. The seitan was in small pieces and had a nice texture. This is a really quick and easy nutritional meal for when you don’t have much time.

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Next we tried the jumbo sausage roll. The pastry was nice and flaky after we’d heated it in the oven for 30 minutes. The filling had a pleasant savoury flavour to it but the texture was quite soft. I also think there was quite a lot of filling compared to the amount of pastry so I’m glad I shared this with my husband as I don’t think I would have managed a whole one.

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We had the lorne sausages as part of our breakfast for dinner! I fried these in a pan for about 10 minutes. They had a similar flavour to the sausage roll filling and were still quite soft but crisped up around the edges where I had fried them.

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Last night we had burger and chips, I used the beef style burger and my husband had the jerk burger. These had a much firmer chewy texture compared to the lorne sausage. These were definitely my favourite products out of the whole range. I’m a bit of a wimp spice wise but my husband said that the jerk burger had a mild spice flavour so I might go for that one next time.

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All the products cooked quite quickly and I would recommend them to make quick and easy nutritious meals. The packaging clearly states all the nutritional information and I was pleasantly surprised by the calorie content! You can order direct from the website or look up your nearest stockist.

Plumes x

Disclaimer – this review has not been paid for. The products were sent to me free of charge. All views expressed are my own.

 

Review – More Than Meat

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I’d already decided to make a pie on Tuesday when I found out it was British pie week! On Monday my husband was out for the evening so I wanted an easy dinner before I watched some rubbish TV! I found this VBites turkey style, ham style and leek pie in the freezer that my Grandparents had given me. It was a bit salty for me but went well with my roasted and steamed veg.

On Tuesday I made chicken style and mushroom pies using the vegan Quorn pieces I had bought in Asda. The Quorn had a nice texture and soaked up the flavour from the herby gravy I had made. My non-vegan husband also enjoyed the meal.

As I had made four individual pies we had them again on Wednesday, (it was pie week after all!) this time I had lovely fluffy mustard mash with mine.

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On Thursday I had been invited to a screening of the film Pride by a former colleague as part of her new company’s inclusion week. If you haven’t seen the film about the Lesbian and Gay support the Miners campaign it is a must. I first saw it on an aeroplane so it was nice to see it on a bigger screen and have have your tissues ready as I cried both times! They provided catered and did me these lovely chinese buns with red pepper and chili sauce and nachos with avocado and caramelised onion relish. As I didn’t know what would be available I also bought a baguette from Pret a Manger. They always carry a vegan sandwich and this one is avocado, olive tapenade, sun dried tomatoes and rocket. It’s really substantial and great to grab when you’re on the go.

On Friday I came down to Bournemouth to spend the weekend with my friend and her family. She told me she was making homemade pizza so I bought some violife cheese and Tofurkey Polish sausage to go on top. The base was really well risen and this was great after a long journey down from London.

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On Saturday after a morning shopping, (see post here) we had lunch at Mad Cucumber  (see review here).

On Saturday evening we had a lovely meal at with my friend’s daughter at Zoukinis (see review here).

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This morning I had my Amy’s Kitchen breakfast sandwich to set me up for the long journey home. (Don’t you just love Sunday train services!)

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I had a pretty good week foodwise and I’ve got a couple of meals out planned for this week coming, so I look forward to telling you all about those!

Plumes x

 

 

 

Round up of the week’s food 160313