25 March 2015

Edamame, Feta and Beet Pasta Salad

Edamame, Feta and Beet Pasta Salad - a one pot pasta salad

I think you may have noticed my love of pasta salad. It can be so much more exciting than your average pasta dish and this Edamame, Feta and Beet Salad is no exception.

I would serve this pasta salad for dinner, but it's great for lunch too and the perfect dish for a picnic or BBQ.

Cooper often requests buffet for dinner. It's his ultimate meal, lots of little bowls full of goodies such as pasta salad, green salad, sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, baby beets, pickled onions, hummus, crusty bread and oatcakes. He's easy pleased and it usually means great leftovers for the next day.

Pasta Salad with Edamame, Feta and Beets

You may notice a wee sneaky bit of extra green in there.  I  added some spinach along with the edmame beans to the pasta cooking water towards the end of cooking time. I'm all for simplicity and less washing up.

In case you haven't come across edamame beans before, they are sometimes called soya beans or soybeans. I have a bag of them in my freezer, they are super handy for adding to salads, soups or stews. They're low calorie and one of the few plant based complete proteins. They're also a  rich source of folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamins C and K, as well as the minerals calcium, phosphorus and potassium. What's not to love?

I tossed the pasta with pesto and sprinkled the pasta with some crumbled feta. The beets are pickled, but plain beetroot would be good too. I personally like the sweet zing from pickled beets in a salad, but you choose which you prefer.

Edamame, Spinach, Feta and Beet Pasta Salad

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Edamame, Feta and Beet Pasta Salad
Pasta salad tossed in pesto, spinach, edamame, beets and feta cheese. Perfect for lunch, dinner, picnics and BBQs.
  • 400g shell pasta
  • 100g frozen edamame beans
  • 100g frozen spinach
  • 4 tbsp pesto, more if you like
  • 12 pickled baby beets, halved
  • 50-100g feta cheese (add as much as you like)
  • a good grinding of black pepper

1. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. It should still be firm. 2. Add the beans and spinach to the cooking water 2 or 3 minutes before the end of the cooking time. 3. Once the pasta is ready, drain and toss under cold running water until the pasta is cold. This is the secret of good pasta salad with glossy firm pasta. 4. Stir the pesto though the pasta, beans and spinach and season with black pepper 5. Serve each bowlful topped with a generous amount of beets and feta cheese. 6. Enjoy!
Total time:
Yield: Serves 4-6

Here are four of my favourite pasta salads for you to try: 

  1. Conchiglioni Pasta Salad with Sautéed Mushrooms and Goats' Cheese 
  2. Herbful Pasta Salad with Mushrooms 
  3. Summer Pasta Salad  
  4. Rocket and Mozzarella Farfalle Salad

    22 March 2015

    Atholl Arms Hotel, Dunkeld - A Family Post

    Atholl Arms Hotel

    Last weekend, we made the trip up to Dunkeld for a fabulous couple of days at the Atholl Arms Hotel. Well, when I say made our way up, it sounds like quite a trip, but actually it's only a 40 minute drive from Dundee.

    We set off after Graham finished work, with the car loaded up with us, our bags, walking gear and one super excited puppy. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, so do excuse the slightly grainy phone photos.

    We were there in a flash. We parked and had a walk along the River Tay with Huxley to let him stretch his legs before we ventured into the hotel. You can see Cooper and Huxley having great fun in the gardens in front of the hotel.

    We were given a warm welcome in the hotel and shown to our room which was gorgeous. Tastefully decorated in a traditional style with modern twist, a theme which carried on through the whole hotel.

    Atholl Arms Hotel

    Once settled into our room, we got Huxley snuggled into his bed for a nap, then we freshened up and changed for dinner. We decided to have dinner in the bistro instead of the restaurant as it was more informal, but spent a little time relaxing and having a look at the menu in the lounge first.

    I had a lovely chat with the owner Christine Sinclair over a glass of wine while Graham and Cooper did a spot of drawing.  

    Christine is passionate about food and a vegan herself, so we had lots to chat about. She was really interested to hear what I thought about vegetarian and vegan dining in Scotland. We could have happily chatted all night, but the bistro was calling us, so we bid each other farewell.

    The hotel caters for everyone with it's menu, but the veggie and vegan dishes aren't a hastily added after thought, they are on a stand-alone exciting and regularly updated menu. Christine has a lot of input in the menu and I have to say I was really impressed by what was on offer.

    Here's is a wee taste of the menu (5 March - 1 April 2015):


    Atholl Sunrise - orange, pineapple, ginger ale and grenadine £3.95


    Homemade Soup of the Day with homemade bread £3.75
    Sharing Platter - olives, roasted peppers, artichokes, sun blushed tomatoes and hummus £8.75
    Garlic and Rosemary Foccacia with oil and balsamic vinegar £4.95
    Roasted Vegetable Salad with puy lentils, red peppers and hummus £5.95

    Salads (small £5.95/large £8.95)

    Seasonal greens, candied walnut, roasted pear dates and balsamic dressing
    Warm kale salad with roasted butternut squash, parsnips and caramelised red onions
    Seasonal greens with roasted artichokes, puy lentils, cherry tomatoes, aduki beans and persillade dressing


    Roasted sweet potato with sauteed chickpeas, sun blushed tomatoes and pesto £12.95
    Vegetarian haggis with parsley mash, steamed vegetables and garlic soya cream sauce £11.95
    Bean and vegetable burger with sauteed mushrooms, onion marmalade and chips £11.95
    Vegetable lasagne with chips and salad leaves £10.50
    Roasted tomatoes and courgette with mint ricotta, spinach and yellow pepper puree £10.50


    Graham and Cooper shared the foccacia and I had the roasted vegetable salad with puy lentils, red peppers and hummus. My mouth is watering just thinking about that starter, it was so full of flavour and the dressing was divine. Graham tucked into mine too!

    For main course Graham and Cooper had the haggis, but Cooper had chips with his instead of parsley mash and no sauce. Graham said it was the best meal he could ever remember having in a restaurant. 

    I had the sweet potato dish. The contrast of the sweet and creamy texture of the potato against the spicy chickpeas and the fresh zingy pesto was wonderful and very, very filling.


    For dessert I had the white chocolate and coconut cheesecake with ice cream and rhubarb compote, which was really decadent. Cooper had chocolate ice cream and Graham had roasted baby pears with chocolate sauce. As a vegan Graham rarely gets a dessert when we dine out so this was a real treat for him.

    After dinner Graham gave Huxley dinner and took him out for a walk, while I got Cooper ready for bed and read him some bedtime stories.

    We all slept well and longer than usual, then headed down to breakfast in the restaurant where we had a full cooked breakfast including tattie scones and vegan sausages. Graham was given a choice of dairy free milks to drink and vegan margarine for his toast. We were very impressed.

    After we checked out and said our goodbyes we headed out of Dunkeld and did the Hermitage and Braan Walk to see the rather fabulous waterfalls.

    The Hermitage Walk, Dunkeld

    We give the hotel five stars and plan to head back there again for my birthday. I can see it becoming a regular haunt for us on special occasions or just weekends away and we'll definitely be doing the Hermitage walk again soon.

    The Atholl Arms Hotel
    PH8 OAQ

    Tel: +44 (0) 1350 727 219

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    The Atholl Arms Hotel is Vegetarian Society approved and is a member of Eat Scotland and The Gourmet Society. They were awarded best in the region 2014 for Informal Dining from Scottish Hotel Awards and awarded best Seasonal and Local menu 2013 as well as Hospitality Gold Medals.

    Disclosure: The Atholl Arms invited us to experience their hotel. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own.

    18 March 2015

    The Ultimate Chocolate Green Smoothie & Optimum 9200 Next Generation Review

    I made this chocolate green smoothie this morning.

    It's amazing!

    It's rich, but has the tang of berries. It tastes luxurious, but is super healthy and chocolaty. I'll be making it again, ahhhhhh maybe tomorrow. Yes, definitely tomorrow.

    So what's in it I hear you ask and why is it so healthy?

    Let's start with ripe juicy pears, then add a creamy avocado and then some kale. The chocolate flavour is organic cacao powder and the extra nutrients come from baobab powder and wheatgrass powder although these are optional. It's topped up with water and ice, then whizzed until smooth and sipped through a paper straw with a smile.

    Funnily enough Cooper quite liked the slightly bitter flavour of the chocolate and finished a large glass of smoothie before heading to school. My husband Graham, the wuss that he is, found it too bitter, so to stop him pouting, I added some agave nectar to sweeten it a little.

    Of course I made my smoothie in my favourite gadget, my power blender.

    I actually have a new beast in my kitchen. He's the Optimum 9200 Next Generation. He's even more powerful than the Optimum 9400. If you can believe that?

    Have a look at this comparison with the Vitamix Pro 500. It's quite something. I always thought the Vitamix was a powerful beast, but I had to think again.

    The 9200 Next Gen is also much cheaper than the Vitamix and on sale  just now with a price tag of £329 (that's £100 off).

    It may seem like a big price ticket, but it's worth every penny. I use mine every day. My dishwasher is the only kitchen gadget I use more and my beast (blender) doesn't even need to go in the dishwasher as he's self-cleaning.

    A difference between the 9200 next gen and the 9400 (which I've been using up until now) is the 9200 has a programmable timer and it's really easy to use too. All it has is 3 speeds, 3 times and a pulse button. You can choose a  speed and blend for as long as need to, select one of the time buttons or use the pulse button for short bursts.

    SLOW Speed: To chop or juice. Always switch to slow speed when adding food or liquid during blending.

    MEDIUM Speed: Good for harder to blend mixtures and to avoid the contents heating.

    FAST Speed: Use this to grind grains, chop ice and blend frozen fruit as well as whole fruit and vegetables.

    So what can you make in this beast?

    Smoothies, shakes, soup, sauces, purees, dips and spreads, cocktails, frozen cocktails, ice cream, slushies, nut milks, peanut butter and other nut butters, homemade nutella, cake batter, bread dough, pizza dough, falafel and burgers.

    You can also chop fruit and veg.

    Have I missed anything?

    Oh yes, it makes amazing jam and curd. No standing over a pot stirring, just pop the ingredients in, turn it on, walk away and let it do the business.

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    The Ultimate Chocolate Green Smoothie
    A fruity green smoothie made chocolaty with the addition of organic cacao powder. Sinfully healthy!
    • 4 ripe pears
    • 1 ripe avocado
    • 150g blueberries
    • 1 generous handful kale
    • 2 tbsp organic cacao powder
    • 2 tbsp flaxseeds (linseeds)
    • 2 tsp baobab powder
    • 2 tsp wheatgrass powder
    • top up to 3/4 full with water
    • a tray of ice
    1. Core the pears, leave the skin on, pop in the blender. 2. Remove the flesh from the avocado and add to the blender. 3. Add the kale, blueberries and powders. 4. Top the blender jug with water until it's 3/4 full. 5. Add the ice and blend until smooth. I used the 30 second timer on my 9200, Don't add ice if you don't have a power blender like mine, it could burn out the motor. 6. Pour and enjoy!
    Total time:
    Yield: 6 large glasses

    Here are some more green smoothies for you to try:
    1. Green Smoothie - Hungry Healthy Happy  
    2. The Post Workout Green Smoothie Quencher - Fuss Free Flavours
    3. Key Lime Pie Smoothie with Barleygrass - Little Miss Meat Free   
    4. Pear, Almond & Coconut Green Smoothie - Simplify Your Health
    5. Green Mango and Spinach Smoothie - Tinned Tomatoes
    6. Green Ginger Peach Smoothie - Recipes from a Pantry
    7. Green Valley Elvis Smoothie - Allotment 2 Kitchen
    8. Spring Tonic Nettle Smoothie - Tin and Thyme

    Disclosure: I was sent the 9200 to review. If one is bought through my affiliate link I will gain a commission. I was not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are my own. I truly do love these blenders. Move over Vitamix, the big boys are in town!