Sainsbury’s vegan mac and cheese

Sainsbury’s vegan mac and cheese

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Sainsbury’s reported earlier this year that sales of their newly launched vegan cheese exceeded expectations by 300%. This is not bad at all considering the vegan market has always been viewed as small and somewhat niche. I decided to give their vegan macaroni cheese a try.

It’s a ready-made meal for one which you heat for five minutes in the microwave. It’s also gluten-free and wheat-free which is a disappointment for me since I’m not in the 1% of the population that has coeliac disease. Why does it matter, you ask? Gluten-free foods tend to have a higher glycemic index (GI) than foods made with wheat. Wheat is often replaced with rice or potato and both are very starchy and have a high GI. Wheat has more protein in it than rice and therefore a lower GI. I will always choose wheat over rice and potato for this reason. I also prefer the taste of wheat. Pasta made with rice is often sticky and doesn’t have the same flavour. It annoys me when vegan food is made gluten-free. I guess they are trying to boost sales by capturing two different markets but when I see gluten-free I usually put my wallet away. I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Daniel and people who follow a gluten-free diet are at a slightly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

I purchased Sainsbury’s mac and cheese without realising it was pasta made with rice but I ate it nevertheless and it was very tasty. If I hadn’t known it was made with rice I probably wouldn’t have realised. The texture was good and suitably cheesy. If I was a coeliac I’d definitely buy it but given that I’d prefer pasta made with wheat for health and taste reasons, I will not buy it again. Now to go and do 300 star jumps to combat the sugar rush…

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Is pearl barley the perfect food?

I love pearl barley. It’s one of the oldest cultivated cereals and was an important source of food for Europeans up until the end of the 19th century. It has a very low glycaemic index and is high in soluble fibre making it excellent at regulating blood sugar. It’s also higher in protein than rice and corn and can apparently help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduce the risk of colorectal cancers.

Pearl barley is very nutritious and one serving contains calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, zinc, selenium, folate, niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. It’s also very cheap with a 500g packet costing just 55p and producing 20 servings. The Whole Grains Council has a list of research studies on the health benefits of barley here:
http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/health-benefits-of-barley

Pearl barley could be the perfect food and yet most of what we grow gets fed to farm animals. According to this article in Nature, 75% of global barley production is used as animal feed, 20% is malted into things like beer and whiskey and only 5% is used by humans in cooking. Humans eat it in soup but not much else. But barley makes a tasty replacement for rice and pasta and this evening I adapted one of my pasta recipes to include pearl barley instead and it turned out really well so I thought I’d share it:

Pearl barley with cashews and vegetables

* 1 cup of pearl barley
* 1 vegetable stock cube
* 1 leek
* 3 tomatoes
* 2 stalks of celery
* 2 tblsp soy sauce
* 1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
* juice of 1 lemon
* 2 carrots
* 1 cup cashew nuts finely ground
* about 1 cup of water

Bring some water to the boil and cook the pearl barley until soft. This will take about 40 minutes. Once the barley is soft, drain it and put aside.

Fry the leek in olive oil until soft then add the other vegetables and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add all the other ingredients. If it’s too dry add some more water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Eat!

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Vegan for more than 10 years and still alive

The best thing about having all our belongings back is that I’ve got all my cookbooks again. I’m not that good at just making recipes up and I also like flipping through cookbooks for inspiration. We had visitors over last Sunday and so I really needed some inspiration. I ended up making four vegan dishes: Moroccan Chickpeas, Chewy Indonesian Rice, Revive-Dorf Salad, and Honey & Soy Tofu Steaks. They were all delicious and I think our visitors enjoyed them too as they went back for seconds and thirds.

Here’s what we ate:

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These are all recipes from The Revive Cafe Cookbook. It’s a cafe in Auckland (which we never actually went to) but their cookbook is fantastic. I’ve shared a recipe from this book once before, the Vegan blueberry and cashew cheesecake.

Having visitors over and cooking yummy dishes is a great way to share vegan food with other people and dispel the myth that you need to eat meat to eat well. I should do it more often.

Every year I have a blood test to test for diabetes. It’s called the HbA1c and it gives an indication of blood sugar levels over the previous three months. This is because I had gestational diabetes when I was pregnant with Daniel and I’m at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes. I didn’t have it with Elizabeth which is unusual because it tends to be something that gets worse with age. But I changed my diet during my pregnancy with Daniel as a result of this diagnosis and completely gave up orange juice and other sugary drinks. I’ve never been someone who consumes fizzy drinks but I used to like the odd gin and tonic. I haven’t had one for 8 years now.

My HbA1c test result was 34 which is within the normal range of 20-42. I was quite pleased because last year it was 39 and lower is better. Perhaps it’s all the cycling on Busby I’ve been doing? I’m running less here than I was in Auckland but I’ve got stronger muscles in my thighs now from peddling a bakfiets with two children, uphill. Strength training is supposedly good for managing blood sugar levels. This is because lifting weights develops white muscles which help to lower blood glucose, according to this study –

http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/21363-lift-weights-to-lower-blood-sugar-white-muscle-helps-keep-blood-glucose-levels-under-control

My iron levels are 21.2 which is on the low side of normal and not surprising given that I don’t consume red meat or take regular supplements. My B12 is 561 which is great and my folate is >24 which is very high because I eat plants rich in folate like beans and lentils. So despite everyone telling me when I first went vegan about 10 years ago that I’d get ill and die (ok, I exaggerate a bit), I’m in very good health.