Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Minority and majority

All the important things in my life have been shifting lately. Almost veganism is no less important but I seem to be churning out the same repertoire of recipes, the ones which work for the boys- Luca will eat lots of fruits and veggies now, and is adventurous, Rohan is a bit hesitant to try new foods and whole fruits etc, unless a banana! So the blender churns out the smoothies and he eats a variety in this form. Smoothies are quite useful though as I've been adding the seeds mixtures you can buy at health food stores to add some omegas. Also, the boys have started school. Luca likes to have school lunch a couple of times a week, which he likes (vegetarian). Rohan has his packed lunch which is vegan. The main challenge for his lunch is to put nutritious fillings in sandwiches because peanut butter isn't allowed because of allergies. I mostly put grounds almonds in with the pure marg, for some protein and he has a carton of smoothie, soya yogurt, banana, some type of rice cake or cereal bar etc.

One vegetable the boys aren't keen on is mushrooms. Hard to present prettily, really! But I've craved them lately and made separate dinners for us so we can savour a creamy mushroom risotto and similar. So good!

So school is interesting. It's a good one, and all seems well so far. The vegetarian lunch options seem good- there is definitely room to raise some vegan ideas though. As for me, I suddenly feel in the minority. Maybe because the mums night out, first one arranged is to be at a seafood restaurant, a serious one at that, so I'm not going, but hopefully the next one will be somewhere that caters for wider tastes. We don't eat out a lot, but when we do 'Pizza Express' ticks all our boxes- the boys love the children's courses, and I pick a veggie option and ask for the cheese to be omitted but extra olive oil added. Excitingly, on a competition on the Pizza Express website, where customers can vote for their favourite pizza topping out of 5, one is vegan, and it is doing very well. It would be amazing if it won, as it would then be on the regular menu!

I have taken up my fourth year of OU study towards my degree and trying to get some study done inbetween other things. I love the course; I haven't worked out the juggle yet but will... last Monday when I should have been home swotting away I took the books and got a train to Brighton! Time for a coffee with a family friend and a mooch around the wonderful lanes, americano and vegan tart at the Infinity wholefoods cafe (yum!) then back on the train in time for school pick up! Very sneaky! A real treat, something I mustn't do too often, I did feel a bit unseasy being miles away from the boys should anything come up.... but oh it was bliss to be in Brighton and I stocked up at Infinity Wholefoods. It was also world vegan day! Someone had taken the trouble to make some delcious mini cupcakes (chocolate and peanut butter and blueberry and lemon) which were absolutely gorgeous and available to try free in the shop. Gave me renewed determination to make the oncoming 5th birthday party of the boys as vegan as I possibly can! I will report back on that soon. I'll make lots of little cakes but have ordered Rohan and Luca a cake each from Blue Lotus. I know they will be DIVINE (we ordered the boys first birthday cakes from there!) and I won't be staying up all night making the them and then be too tired to enjoy their day with them!

Brighton was bliss. Somewhere where you can just enjoy feeling in the majority if you're on the vegetarian spectrum!

Friday, 6 August 2010

An eggcellent morning

I have to start with an apology for the title! I'm not sure where the last four months have gone...infact, the last year..I worked the three days the boys were at preschool, so it felt a short week to cram in keeping the house hygienic and playing and just being together... but from next September I know there is going to be an easier balance. It's never perfect whatever life stage is it? But some years maybe the puzzle just links up better than others..

We are still almost vegan....the boys have slightly different tastes, Rohan is more of a natural vegan, Luca likes mock meats such as the veggie sausages, and quorn 'ham' etc....anyway, one day the other week Luca woke up with a real bee in his bonnet about eggs! 'Can we buy eggs?' 'When can we buy eggs?' He was really persistent. It was after seeing a children's tv character going off to buy some, I'm sure of it. It's incredible how many times eggs seem to mentioned in children's stories and programmes- someone is always 'just off to get eggs' it seems! Don't know if it's coincidental or symbolic but the references are there. And Luca's a child who identifies closely with some of these characters...

Anyway, so we were in our neighbourhood and I had just reconciled myself to the idea of buying some (free range) eggs (I'm certain that denying requests to try new foods could push children away from the idea of an almost-vegan diet) when an alternative arose quite out of the blue. In short, a friendly woman who stopped her car so the boys could scoot across a road, stopped to chat with us. She was saying how well the boys look... at the end of the conversation I told her how well she looked and her reply was 'Maybe it's because I'm vegan'. Well, therein prompted a good chat, during which I mentioned the eggs dilemma. She regularly drops in at her friend's animal rescue centre where rescued chickens run free. Within a week, this lovely lady delivered a box of these eggs for Luca.

The whole thing just made me smile! Isn't it just so good when you have answers to your predicaments so quickly and so neatly...
.. Luca did like the eggs scrambled. He was a bit uncertain of the yolk.
I won't buy them habitually, but if he asks for them again.. I will sort something out...

And J, the lovely lady, is going to come round for coffee and vegan cake soon!

I haven't got any relevant pics, so will just leave you with this view of my birthday afternoon... it was sheer bliss by the river in Richmond with Mit at the Tidetables cafe.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Where I’m veganlly at

The Winter has been so long, for lots of people in a lot of places hasn’t it?! Time’s flown by in a slightly crazed flurry…
It’s a good job that I didn’t change the title here to declare my complete veganism..I haven’t stayed 100% vegan as I aspired to I’m afraid…am probably about 99%. My weaknesses can be whittled down to two areas- chocolate (when I buy it, there are times- probably hormonally related- that I crave milk chocolate- but I am getting into dark chocolate so I buy it about half the time when I need chocolate!) On that note have found Starbucks do a very nice dark chocolate bar with vanilla in, it’s very nice and not at all bitter…
Occasionally too- cake.

For baking at home, it’s always vegan. Completely. If we are out, and there is no vegan option I have had cake which will almost definitely contain eggs… (The pictured chocolate muffins turned out very velvety and pretty rich. Actually, very rich, because the boys could only manage a nibble before giving up, which says a lot!)

Recipe was from the booklet 'mmm......yummy cakes.. Vegan Cake Book'-
350g self-raising flour
1 table spoon baking powder
120g caster sugar
100g drinking chocolate powder
200g chocolate drops (I used dairy free white chocolate buttons too)
375ml water
135mo sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, 190 degrees C, 375 degrees fahrenheit. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with deep muffin cases.
sieve the flour, baking powder, caster sugar and drinking choolate powder ainto a bowl and stir.
Measure the waterinto a jug, add the oil and stir.
Add teh liquid to the dry ingredients a bit at a time and stir thoroughly, making sure the liquid is fully mixed in before adding more. Beat until smooth.
Fold int he chocolate drops.
Spoon into the muffin cases and put into the oven immediately.
Bake for 30 minutes, until well risen and springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.

So- phew, I’ve admitted it. There’s no point in berating myself too much though, it’s an onward journey, and I just have to do my best.
The children are at a slightly different place. They eat vegetarian and vegan. They will happily eat vegan macaroni cheese, and also the dairy version. Pizza with vegan cheese or dairy. Lots of beans, vegetables, lentils, wholegrains, smoothies, soy and oat milk (no dairy milk).
I’ve booked a few days holiday in August at a Swanage Vegetarian Vegan B&B  Beyond that, unbelievably primary school is on the horizon. So at some point we’ll have the packed lunches versus school dinner debate…
I’ve done two school talks in the last few months (one of them kept getting cancelled because of the snow!)- fabulous experiences, will write up in a separate post.
Aside from that I’ve spent the some Winter nights getting familiar with the sewing machine that had been awaiting use since my Summer birthday. Using the manual and books (which are VERY good ones, I must say, because I have very little nonse about machines…)

so I got going with some little imperfect projects before I made some roman blinds. Two down, one to go.
The first one- good (ish) but a little wonky. The second one, good (ish) but a little gathered.Hmmm. Next stop, the boys’ room, and it’s going to be perfect. Hmmm….

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Quince Jelly What I learned about making quince jelly- a) you need a decent number of them! Around 20 quinces, many of them quite small, made enough to amount to one jar! The fruit is very tough, much like cutting into butternut squash, and there was a small white case area around the pips which was tough and took up a lot of the fruit.. and b) it's so true that you don't have to add pectin. I couldn't resist adding the tiniest bit of powder thinking it would increase the chance of success, but actually the result is verging on solid! Here is the end result: two jars of jelly (spattered into the jars... always in a hurry, when I was jam making I was supposed to be on my way to the other side of London!- and two of marmalade). The scent of the fruit, as it neared the end of cooking time was heaven, such a luxurious, unique perfume! I have to say, sentimental as it is, that it took me straight back to my Grandmother's kitchen, nudging thirty years ago. Only on scent scores though, as that jelly was clear, and just set.The scent also confirmed for me that they really were quinces (I'd had my doubts, as they were more appley in appearance, and not the yellow-gold pear shaped types). On the plus side, it yielded two jars of marmalade. Lovely mixed into plain soya yogurt. The recipe I used was from here . Found the original recipe and the blog with pictures really helpful. I used the butter muslin cloths and seive method. So... no presents for neighbours and family as hoped! But, lots of lessons learned. And I WILL try again next year! Bread Have made more since attempt one, and found the right balance... half strong white bread flour, half wholewheat spelt, with a handful of sesame seeds and a handful of linseed mixed in, plus poppy seeds to coat...

Discovered yesterday that Waitrose's individual blackberry and apple pies are vegan. I think the large versions are too : )

So a yummy Autumny pudding was had. R only wanted the smooth custard though, but three out of four aint bad.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Treats, treats, treats (London Vegan Festival)

Doing a wholly inadequate quick overview of my trip to London Vegan Festival today...(I was lucky enough to go thanks to one wonderful friend who looked this up and suggested I go and she'd have the boys..)

Did some chocolate tasting- tried the rose petal one, as remember trying the chilli last year.... their own description says it all; the outer shell's texture will contrast beautifully with the smooth texture of the inner truffle'. This is dream chocolate, and a velvety delicious dream! It is also gift type chocolate though, so didn't buy any but will, however, make sure I keep the website at hand!

Tasted a couple of wines too- and bought a bottle of sauvignon blanc for afore-mentioned friend.

It was great to see the company who make Sheese. They do a blue cheese version of the hard vegan cheese now, which is really nice. I remember liking blue cheese in pasta sauces when I ate dairy, so I'll definitely be getting this sometime. I got a list of stockists from the lovely people running the stall, but it can also be bought at 'Goodness Direct'.
They were also offering samples of the cream cheese- dolloped on a biscuit (digestive or rich tea) with some jam- yum- instant 'cheese'cake!

As ever, there was a great atmosphere; I stopped long enough for a zingy chick pea salad for lunch and got to chat with some lovely people from Manchester who own this cafe.
Apparantly, it's vegetarian with many vegan options, they serve up bangers and mash and all-day breakfasts. Hmm, haven't yet been to Manchester- it must be time to go!

Picked up some fab Winter boots (I walk everywhere so comfort and warmth for the winter ahead were on my mind!). However, I managed to come home with two right foot boots! Ooops! I've emailed Vegan Store, I'm sure we'll be able to sort it!

First day back at preschool tomorrow for the boys. I am not looking forward to it as I don't have work to distract me, I start back next Monday. I have some fruit and nut bars baking in the oven from 'Vegan Lunchbox'. Having a go at making cereal bars. R doesn't like raisins or sultanas and it seems 99% of shop-bought ones have those in! Will report back if they go down well...

Monday, 31 August 2009

Completely vegan

VIVA's school speaker training day was a friendly day, bursting with information and meeting others doing the course who were veggie/vegan. I hadn't realised it would be led by Juliet Gellatley, VIVA's founder; am in total admiration of her and all she has done and is doing!
The day was split really into four main areas from which to talk around- Health and Nutrition, Animal Welfare, Environment, and Feeding the world. It also included an example of a cooking demo to include in the talk, showing a video (which we would play when giving the talk) and a very gorgeous buffet lunch with amazingly creative sandwich fillings!

It was a real pleasure to feel in the majority in terms of diet!

I came away from the jam packed day of information with a folder full of information and literature to match it which I'm currently devouring...

So I think by the time I've assimilated that, plus with some strong preparation.. I think I could give a school talk a really good bash. Isn't it always easier give talks on areas that ignite real passion? So, the main objective of the course is complete... the way it works is that sometime in the next weeks or months I should receive a phone call from VIVA giving me details of a teacher, leading to giving a talk to GCSE or possibly A-level students as part of Food Technology lessons or something similar.

On a personal level... from that day I am a proper fully fledged Vegan! That did it for me- got all the reasoning, I think the motivation for that last push had been lying dormant. I bought a small bar of DIVINE dark chocolate on the way home to celebrate! Seriously though, it feels GREAT!

Haven't got any pictures today. Think M must've taken the camera to Argentina. Never mind, the pea souflettes I made were lovely, but tasted much more gorgeous than they looked!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Greens are great! Today at least.

Isn't it amazing when toddlers embrace a food unexpectedly! I shouldn't even be writing this, it'll probably jinx it but they have just devoured spinach within tofu basil ricotta with wholemeal pasta spirals. It's like taking a mild anxiolytic (I imagine!!), the effect it has on me, when they are going through a good eating moment, or phase!

Have been stocking up on portable snacks (dried crisp bread, peanut butter, nut and seed bars, divine dark chocolate and soya milk) for M who's off to Argentina for a week on Sunday- someone described Argentina to me today in an email as 'land of steaks', sounds like it could be similar to Spain...

Before he jets off, I'm in London tomorrow to do VIVA's course on being a school speaker. Something I booked when the end of August seemed ages away; looking forward to it, hope I can cut it!