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Whispers Beneath the Pines

Twenty two year old classroom assistant Eve leaves England for sunny Turkey with her four childhood friends and Kevin; her first love who she hasn’t seen for six years. The group plan to have one last adventure before they have to finally succumb to adulthood. What they think will be a week of sun, parties and romance soon becomes sinister when they take a trip to the mountainous province of Mugla for the day.

Eve soon realises that things are not what they seem. She sees that something isn’t right but her friends are oblivious. Can she convince them all before it’s too late?  

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Bristol International Balloon Fiesta – 2017

All I can say is that this is a fantastic event. After seeing the Night Glow on the Thursday night, I though nothing could top it until the Dawn Launch. What’s more impressive is that this event is free with the exception of paying to park your car. The cost of most car parks was £5 per day. We parked right next to the event and it cost us £12.

If you have children, this is a fabulous event and they’d love it. The Night Glow itself was presented by Heart FM. During the run up, we were treated to a model plane show, the air ambulance landing, fair rides, stalls, food vans galore and a mobile phone light Mexican wave. Be sure to put this one  in your diaries next year. Well done Bristol!

Check out this dawn launch video by Big Frog Films Ltd

While you’re at it, check out the Night Glow. 

Toodle pip,
Carla Kovach

Looking for a holiday crime thriller? Look no further. 

Whispers Beneath the Pines
Twenty two year old classroom assistant Eve leaves England for sunny Turkey with her four childhood friends and Kevin; her first love who she hasn’t seen for six years. The group plan to have one last adventure before they have to finally succumb to adulthood. What they think will be a week of sun, parties and romance soon becomes sinister when they take a trip to the mountainous province of Mugla for the day.

Eve soon realises that things are not what they seem. She sees that something isn’t right but her friends are oblivious. Can she convince them all before it’s too late?

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Vegan Delights in Shrewsbury.

We had a short break in Hoylake last year and I called my blog post, A Rainy Day in Hoylake. Typically British, we’ve chosen the wrong day again. We are having another little break and this time we’re spending a rainy day in Shrewsbury. Check out the common theme. 

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that my husband Nigel and I went vegan for a month. Guess what? We’re still vegan two months on. We decided to adopt veganism as a permanent lifestyle as the food has been magnificent. He has also lost a whopping 24lb in weight. I’ve stuck at a loss of around the 6/7lb mark. The thing is, we’re not on a low fat diet so the weight loss is an incidental bonus. We are eating absolutely tonnes of foods. I’m not using any low fat products when cooking. It’s healthy oils, nuts and seeds all the way. The food we’re feasting on is rich, indulgent and includes a daily dessert. We’re not spending any more money on food and my cooking skills have improved. I can knock up either a fruit crumble, a pie topping or a batch of biscuits within 15 minutes. 

Anyway, back to lovely Shrewsbury. Lovely rainy Shrewsbury. I must say, it does look stunning but I wish the rain would do one. We do however have two restaurant bookings today – woo hoo – I love eating more than life itself! We are going all out on the food to see how easy it is to be vegan and eat out in Shrewsbury.

First stop, La Lanterna Italian Restaurant.

We turned up and declared that we wanted to partake in their fantastic lunch special for £8.50 per head after being lured by a sign on the roadside. This included a pasta main, a bowl of salad, bread and a glass of wine. Making it easy, we said, we’d eat anything as long as it was plant based. 

The salad was pleasant. Fresh dill laced the mixed leaves and to vary the texture, mixed beans added a bit of bite and protein to the carb heavy offering. The main course, a tomato based fusilli pasta, tasted fresh. The hint of garlic and chilli lifted the dish. All in all, lovely budget meal made with fresh ingredients. The coffee was good too. As far as ambience goes, the owner must be a real sports fan. Football and motor racing photos adorned the walls as well as Italian tea towels etc. La Lanterna is cosy and quirky, and seemed suited to couples seeking a little romantic restaurant. For vegans, the lunch menu was limited but they adapted to our needs well and made us a tasty plate of food. The addition of the beans to the salad was a welcomed delight. 

Our next stop was vegan/vegetarian restaurant, O’Joy’s Wellness.

This is the perfect place to be if you are a vegan. The menu is mouthwatering and offers a variety of dishes including tapas. The food smells delicious and the place is bright, airy and centrally located. After a heavy going lunch, we were just about ready for a main course when we arrived. My husband enjoyed the Cajun bean burger and sweet potato chips, I had the stewed chick pea tacos. These little delights were perfectly seasoned and dressed with fresh herbs. If you’re in Shrewsbury, give it a visit, whether it be for lunch or breakfast. This was by far the tastiest offering of the day and the easy listening background music was lovely. If you’re heading to O’Joy’s, you can expect to pay around £10 each for a main course. I have included a link to their website below as they do breakfast and lunch too. 

As for Shrewsbury, I can conclude, it’s a good place to be for a vegan. If you find yourself in this part of the world, the place I’d wholly recommend is O’Joys without a doubt. They did seem fairly busy, so I’d recommend booking first. I must just add that the staff and service was exceptional too. It was definitely O’Joy to be there and when we’re next in Shrewsbury, we’ll be popping in for more of that lovely food. Their website is as follows http://www.ojoywellness.com/#eatdrinkbemerry

Toodle pip,
Carla Kovach

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https://www.facebook.com/CarlaKovachAuthor/

Fancy a holiday thriller? Look no further …

Whispers Beneath the Pines
Twenty two year old classroom assistant Eve leaves England for sunny Turkey with her four childhood friends and Kevin; her first love who she hasn’t seen for six years. The group plan to have one last adventure before they have to finally succumb to adulthood. What they think will be a week of sun, parties and romance soon becomes sinister when they take a trip to the mountainous province of Mugla for the day.
Eve soon realises that things are not what they seem. She sees that something isn’t right but her friends are oblivious. Can she convince them all before it’s too late?  

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My Vegan/Veggie Blog – Weight Loss, Energy and Delicious Recipes.

Okay, I’m well into week 3 and this is how it’s going.

Weight Loss

The first thing most people tend to ask is have you lost any weight. I can answer that question with a simple yes. The answer becomes more extraordinary when I tell you that, we’ve not only been enjoying huge and satisfying meals but we’re also having desserts every night. By desserts, I don’t mean a bowl of chopped fruit. We’ve been having full-on crumbles or chocolate banana aquafaba cake topped with Alpro cream.

Right, down to the figures. In 2.5 weeks Nigel has lost a whopping 9lbs, I have lost 6lbs. We’re both thrilled to have lost a combined total of 15lbs so far.

Health Benefits

We’re both sleeping better. Speaking for myself here, I have suffered heartburn for years and have crunched my way through mountains of antacids and swallowed loads of Zantacs. My overuse/occasional misuse of these products has been worrying me terribly. Not terribly enough to go to the doctor I must add. I have a severe phobia of choking and the thought of an endoscopy fills me with ‘death preference’ levels of dread. Since my lifestyle change, the symptoms have gone. It’s like a miracle has happened and I genuinely feel like a new person. This is not something I’m prepared to give up after a month as I don’t want to go back to my Rennie crunching, Pepto Bismol swigging old self again. I’m ready to adopt this lifestyle from now on. I can confirm that a plant based diet has fixed me. I have also noticed an increase in my energy levels and I’m more alert. On the downside, I have noticed that my hair seems really dry but my skin is better – go figure that one out. As a precaution, we are taking B vitamins, Iron and adding a little linseed powder to some foods.

What Have We Been Eating?

We tend to wander out for breakfast at the weekends. Wetherspoon’s do a lovely smashed avocado bagel and it is delicious. We take a little bottle of almond milk and enjoy the top up filter coffees. This cost us £3.05 each so not a bank breaker either. Don’t let anyone tell you that smashed avocados are an unaffordable middle-class dining experience. The English breakfast was dearer. If you’ve never tried them and are thinking yuck, give them a go. They are absolutely delicious – if you like avocados that is.

Over the past week, we have enjoyed butternut squash risotto and the aforementioned aquafaba chocolate banana cake. Here are the recipes below.

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto. (For 2 people)

Butternut squash ingredients:
1 butternut squash peeled and cubed.
A glug of olive oil.
Salt and pepper.

Risotto ingredients:
1 cup of Arborio rice.
1 onion, finely chopped.
A handful of mushrooms and or garden peas. (I added them because I like them).
2 cloves of garlic, crushed.
1 large jug full of vegetable stock made to your taste including salt and pepper if needed.
Half a carton of Alpro soya cream.
2 table spoons of olive oil.
2 tablespoons of vegan margarine. (Pure/Vitalite).
Salt and pepper.
A small amount of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped.
A few shavings of Cheesley. (Vegan cheese – optional).

Cooking the squash.
Add the squash, the oil and the salt and pepper to a bowl and mix. When the squash is coated, pour the mix into an oven dish and roast on about 150 for approximately 25 minutes. Check after 10/15 minutes as you may need to give the squash a shake. This needs to be cooked at the same time as the risotto. When the squash is soft and lightly browned around the edges, it’s cooked perfectly.

While the squash is in the oven, you make the risotto.

Cooking the risotto.
Put your stock on the hob and keep it warm.
Grab a large frying pan. Add the oil, margarine and a sprinkling of salt.
Add the onions, (mushrooms) and garlic. Fry them for a minute.
Pour in the rice and lightly toast.
Pour 2 cups of the hot stock over the rice mix and allow to simmer away.
If using peas, I add them at this point.
When the liquid is fully absorbed keep adding a little more (about ¼ of a cup each time) every time it is absorbed.
There’s no getting away from the fact that you can’t leave a risotto unattended.
After about 5 minutes add a splash of the soya cream.
Stir the mix off the bottom of the pan regularly. After about 20-30 minutes your risotto should be done.
Taste as you go.
The rice should taste rich and creamy and the consistency shouldn’t be too runny. It should be able to hold its shape on a plate with just a nice bit of ooze.
Add more cream until it suits your palate.
Pour 2/3 of the roasted squash into the mix, along with a couple of pinches of the chopped parsley and stir.
Serve in a bowl and top with the rest of the roasted squash, seasoning, a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a few shavings of vegan cheese.

This is a rich, indulgent dish and should be savoured slowly. Enjoy – it’s one of my favourites. If you’re making it now and about to tuck in – I’m jealous.

Chocolate Banana Sticky Aquafaba Cake

Ingredients:
6oz self raising flour.
6oz sugar.
2oz cocoa.
About 3 eggs worth of drained bean juice (from chick peas, kidney beans etc. – I take an educated guess at 3 eggs worth).
6oz vegan margarine.
2 mashed bananas.
2 tablespoons malt.

Making the cake.
Preheat a fan oven to 160 or a few degrees more if you don’t have a fan oven.  
Line a loaf tin with grease proof paper or grease well with margarine.
In a mixing bowl, cream the margarine and sugar.
Stir in, bit by bit, the bean juice.
Add the flour and cocoa in bits and stir the mix as you add.
Finally, add the mashed bananas and malt to the mix and pour into your loaf tin.
Place the cake in the oven and it should be ready in 30-40 minutes. Poke a cocktail stick or fork into the mix and when it comes out without too much mess, the cake is done.

Please note that this is a very moist cake. It is absolutely rich and delicious. It’s tasty when still hot with a bit of Alpro cream poured over it or it’s great cold also.

Toodle pip,
Carla Kovach. 

https://www.facebook.com/CarlaKovachAuthor/

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Office Girl

My musings and thoughts of the day expressed in poem form. Not particularly full of form but it is what I feels so here goes.

Office Girl

You might picture her, behind her desk, filing her nails?
After all, she will never be recognised for her work.
You fail to see that she keeps the company running,
Takes work home, deals with all the shit that the job brings.

You imagine her to be sweet, compliant and good at making tea.
Not like you, the man, the big he.
It’s okay to speak in a demanding tone,
After all, being a she, she’s used to it. She’ll get the phone.

She should be your boss, she’s more qualified than you,
So why the hell do you ask clients to call and ask for the f****** office girl?
I define a girl as a female minor, a child.
She’s not a child, she’s thirty bloody six.

Underneath her clothing, she is built of skin and blood, just like you.
She’s strong, competent and has a mind of her own.
For once shut up, leave your self-importance at the door and ask her opinion,
You might just be surprised, it might make you think.

Office girl, she’s not a girl.
Don’t call her that, call her the company marketing manager,
The credit controller, the shipping clerk, the supervisor.
Call her by her workplace title unless being condescending is in your nature.

The good news is, if I’m describing you,
It’s not too late to change, and become one of the enlightened few.
Go to work tomorrow, have that chat, admit you’ve been a knob,
Show some respect, start again and in turn you’ll be respected.

Carla Kovach

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My Veggie/Vegan Diary – Aquafaba, Couscous and a Husband in Distress.

Well, vegan month rolled around fast. I can honestly say that vegetarian month was a doddle. As a vegan, I can’t use any of the artificial sweeteners in my cupboard. Cheap biscuits, cakes and chocolate bars are out, and I can’t eat eggs but the best thing has happened, I’ve recruited my lovely husband Nigel as my sidekick in this experiment. We’ve both weighed in and have high hopes of feeling full of energy and dropping a bit of weight in the knowledge that we are doing good for the environment and not harming any living creatures. We’ll report our loss (or gain) at the end of the month. This was his reaction (below) when I told him of ‘our’ plan for the month. He is going to miss everything especially when he finds out that most beer isn’t suitable for vegans. Month in front of the telly? I’m thinking, what we spend on vegan substitutes, we’ll save on not going out.

 

How did vegetarian month go?
Finding food that is marked up ‘suitable for vegetarians’ is easy and vegetarian food is available in abundance. Most restaurants have a few options on the menu and will adapt to your dietary requirements with ease, making the vegetarian’s world a good one. Everyday convenience foods are cheap and the frozen food selection is vast, from bean burgers to pies, to soya protein. As for my weight over vegetarian month, I put on 3.5 lb. I could’ve approached the month with a healthier mindset but I chose not to. I can’t blame vegetarianism for my weight gain but I can blame my holiday and my increased reliance on cheeses and ice cream.

How does vegetarianism compare to being vegan?
Well shopping was difficult. All my weekday evening shortcuts to quick meal making have been scuppered. The bean burgers and veggie sausages are suitable for vegetarians, not vegans. Most of them seem to contain egg. The substitute chicken I used during vegan month does have a vegan option – is however more expensive.

So – what next?
I’m going to have to back to basics. Instead of bean burgers, I’ve bought many tins of beans. Butter beans, kidney beans, chick peas, borlotti beans etc. Tonight will be a chick pea and Indian spiced rice night. I have 3 bananas that are on the turn. I hate waste. I’ve discovered that vegans use something called aquafaba as an egg replacement in baking. Aquafaba is the gloopy bean juice that you drain from the can. The stuff that normally ends up down the plughole! I’m going to make a chocolate (cocoa) banana sponge using chick pea juice as an egg substitute. This could be interesting. I’m worried it will end up in the bin. It sounds so wrong but then again why do eggs sound so right? Fun night in for me. I’ll keep you posted on my aquafaba chocolate banana cake.

My lunch today.

Roasted vegetable couscous with kidney beans. Yesterday, I roasted a pan full of thinly sliced carrots, sliced courgettes, peppers, onions, a chilli and mushrooms for about 20 minutes at 180. I threw in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, some cumin and my beloved chilli powder.

While the veg was roasting, I made up a bit of couscous, adding vegan stock powder, tomato puree and a bit of onion powder to the mix. When the veggies were roasted, I added them to the couscous along with a tin of kidney beans and sweetcorn. This concoction is my vegan lunch for the next four days and it is rather tasty.

 

Hope your day’s going well. Hope you’re enjoying your cheap convenience foods while I’m slaving in the kitchen. I’m not jealous of all your extra time – honest. I’m jealous of your cheap bakery cookies though – humph!

Tootle pip,
Carla Kovach.

Meet Me at Marmaris Castle – only 99p on Amazon.

With the help of best friend Beverley, forty-five-year-old primary school teacher Annie Henderson, is hanging up her beloved cardigans and rediscovering her sexy inner-siren. Why? Because of a proposition made ten years ago. Jason’s words have never left her. ‘Meet me at Marmaris Castle, ten years from now, seven in the evening.’ 

As she battles with killer heels, bikini waxes and ill-fitting underwear, she toils with the doubts that swim through her head. ‘Will he turn up? If he does turn up, will he like me? Will I like him?’ After all, her only dream is for a happy ever after. Corny, yes – but it’s true. She wants her dream man, she wants him to fulfil all her desires and most of all she wants him to be the one. Is ten years too much of a gap though? 
Meet me at Marmaris Castle is a romantic comedy full of mishap, awkwardness and severe problems with fashion. 

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My Veggie/Vegan diary continued – Plums and Aubergines.

I’ve been maintaining a vegetarian diet for almost four weeks now. In case you were wondering, I did manage to use the lime curd in my edamame bean savoury rice dish and it went down a treat. Edamame beans are something I’ll cook up a lot more.

Rice has been my latest fad. Indian spiced rice with chickpeas, and Spanish style rice with peppers, onions and butter beans have taken centre stage on my plate. I have rediscovered the versatility of rice and beans – my husband has too, much to his dismay.

The downside of my vegetarian diet. 

It’s not all roses and harps. Even though I don’t react brilliantly to dairy, I have increased my intake. Why? Because I can. Stomach cramps and mucous throat aside, it’s been fun but it can’t continue for much longer. My sleep pattern is poor and my stomach feels like a balloon. I suppose doing vegan month in May is a good thing (for my body) really. As a vegetarian, I’m certain my weight has shot up, but then again, I can’t complain when I’ve added cheese and ice cream to my diet – two ingredients I hadn’t previously eaten often. I’ve been treating myself to ice cream sundaes most nights – not good. It has to stop or I’m going to have to buy bigger clothes!

How did the holiday in Devon go while being vegetarian?

Eating out was a little tedious. Why do most veggie dishes come with salad and garlic bread? and why are they mostly chilli and lasagna? I hate garlic bread. Bring back the stuffed pepper. At least I could have had my beloved savoury rice fix.

I have an exception, the Terrace Tapas Bar in Ilfracombe. I managed to enjoy paella rice, aubergine baked in tomatoes, patatas bravas, Spanish tortilla, nachos, deep fried mozzarella sticks, beautifully dressed salad, and sourdough bread dipped in oil and vinegar. They get ten out of ten for accommodating veggies. On top of that, their customer service was second to none. I made a note, reminding myself to make the paella rice and the aubergine bake when I returned home. I forgot how much I love Spanish flavours. 

The next morning, I asked Wetherspoons if they’d make me a vegetarian Eggs Benedict as Eggs Benedict is one dish I love (as if I hadn’t eaten enough the night before). They replaced the ham with a veggie sausage and I can tell you, it works a treat. Wetherspoons are highly accommodating to individual needs. If you ask and they can do, they will do. Top marks to them too. 

As guessed, the ice cream was exceptional and the flavour choices were amazing. It’s ice cream heaven in Devon. I have to stop thinking about ice cream.

Thoughts of going vegan in May.

I’m going to miss cheese and ice cream. It will be like saying goodbye to old friends. I know there are substitutes but I’m not yet sure they’re in my price range. I’m contemplating making a rice pudding with soya or almond milk. Time to adapt maybe? Who needs cheese? My body is telling me to quit cheese anyway. On the upside, I’ve found vegan chocolate for a reasonable price at B&N and it tastes lovely. Happy days – hopefully. 


What have I been cooking? 

Since returning home from Devon, I’ve made an aubergine bake (below) topped with a mix of grated cheddar, chopped fresh coriander and breadcrumbs; paella rice with Quorn chicken, and a rose water plum and ground almond crumble. The crumble was star of the show and is actually a vegan dish. Check out my recipes below. 

Baked aubergine with cheese and coriander topping. (See photo below).

Ingredients (feeds 4 as a veg side or 2 as a main).
1 aubergine – sliced.
1 tin of tomatoes or 6 tomatoes.
2 onions.
4 cloves garlic.
Olive oil.
Tomatoe purée.
Dried oregano.
Sugar, salt, pepper to taste.
Cheese – grated. (I used cheddar but mozzarella would be good too).
Coriander – finely chopped. (optional but tasty).
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs.

Method.
Fry onions and garlic in olive oil. Add salt to taste. Add dried oregano and peeled/tinned tomatoes. Cook down for a couple of minutes. Taste and season further with sugar, salt and pepper. Keep tasting.
Get a frying pan and add olive oil. Fry the aubergine slices in batches. 
When the tomato sauced has cooked down and you’ve fried your aubergine slices, layer them, tomato sauce first, in a baking dish. Tomatoes then aubergine until you run out. 

Mix the grated cheese, coriander and breadcrumbs in a dish and pour the mix over the aubergine. 
Bake for half an hour at 160 or until the aubergines are all soft and the cheese is grilled. Serve and enjoy.



Rose water plums topped with ground almond crumble.

Ingredients (serves a generous 2).
1 punnet of plums, halved and with stones removed.
4-6 tablespoons of rose water.
Caster sugar.
3 tablespoons of self raising flour.
2 tablespoons of Pure Sunflower Margarine. 
2 tablespoons of Demerara sugar.
2 tablespoons of ground almonds.

Method.
Lay the plums face up in a small baking dish. Sprinkle caster sugar over the plums to suit your palate. Spoon the rose water over the top, making sure that each plum has a slight covering. 

Put the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix. Add the margarine and rub until it resembles crumble. If you need a bit more margarine, go ahead and add a little. If you need more dry ingredients, do the same. Pour the crumble mix on top of the plums and put in an oven set at 160. My plums took about 25 minutes. When the plums are soft and the crumble is crumbly, it is ready to eat. I served it with some Alpro Soya single cream and it was yummy. Plums and rose water are a combination to die for. 

Anyway, I’ll let you know how vegan May is going very soon. 
Toodle pip – and do try the plums. 
Carla Kovach.  

And if you’re going on holiday and fancy something scary and holiday themed to read. …..

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