Saturday, 29 November 2008

Christmas fayre

Tomorrow is the day of animal aid's chistmas fayre in Kensington.
Have been to past years' fayres and this one will no doubt be very similar, a brilliant opportunity to get christmas shopping done, get some great gift ideas especially on the chocolates and toiletries front, not to mention the wonderful food to taste. Sadly, don't think we will get there this year, but this will do my purse no harm whatsoever as I would without a doubt get carried away, especially seeing that Bourgeois Boheme will be there! However, most of the companies and organisations are online...

A moment for Mumbai

Thoughts are with all the individual people caught up in the Mumbai atrocities. Thankfully all the family on Mit's side are ok. One family friend was in the Taj Mahal hotel but managed to get out, amongst one of the lucky people. Mit and I were in Mumbai in 2004 and I've just been leafing through some of the pictures. We had such happy experiences driving through the heart of the city with Mit's cousins savouring directly the buzz of the atmosphere and warmth and kindness of the people, which really was a heady mix. The main station was modelled on London Victoria, only more majestic and spectacular and the Taj hotel so symbolic and statuesque across from the Gateway to India; cannot believe this place has been targeted and tainted in this way. Hoping the healing and the restoration will be as swift as can be. God bless, jsk.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Eating healthily to allow for chocolate...

Coming to realise that my camera isn't really up to food photography. It's very good for outdoor pictures, but not so sharp for other things. Still, will do as no plans to replace for now.
Haven't done any wildly exciting cooking lately, been trying to have a healthy phase after the cake and chocolate fest of the boys' birthday, plus this wintery spell has called for lots of simple, hearty fare. We usually have cooked breakfast at least one day of the weekend, on Sunday it was scrambled tofu, toasted soda farls and baked beans. Some grilled tomatoes and redwood vegan sausagues would have made this a veritable feast!
We were sitting eating watching the snow settle in the garden. Sunday was a very sleepy day. In the evening had an unusual night out with some of the girls from Twins Club, which was nominated for 'best community organisation' in the town's 'Night of Honour' organised by a local, very community orientated church. It was a very spectacular night, black tie dress, red carpet, music and dance performances... was so great for the club to get an award, especially for the people on the commitee and who've kept it running at times when the numbers were dwindling. Its thriving now!

Starting to think about Christmas, its mostly thought though (can never really enter into the spirit of it until it turns December!) although I did order some presents of the chocolate variety online today here, almond butter chocolate cups and raspberry chocolates amongst other things. I once got Mit a Sjaak's dark chocolate heart filled with chocolates for Valentine's day. Of course I helped him eat it, and I think it was the nicest chocolate I have ever tasted. Therefore, this will be a very excting package in the post!

Made dahl and rice this evening, always a dead cert that the boys will love. Lovely comfort food:

cupful or two of lentils (usually use yellow lentils called 'toor dal', available in Tesco in the Asian section) or any lentils really, red work well too
juice of half to 3/4 of one lemon
tablespoon brown sugar
handful of chopped coriander
half teaspoon cumin seed
half teaspoon ground coriander
half-1 teaspoon turmeric
half teaspoon of black mustard seeds
ground cinnamon
half teaspoon cardomann
little chilli if you like

Cook the lentils separately according to packet instructions.

Gently heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add all the spices and the fresh coriander. Heat for couple of mins, covered, until the mustard seeds start popping.

Add the cooked lentil mixture, should be quite thick and glupey. Heat and mix into the spices.

Add as much water as thickness you would like.

When the dal starts to boil, add the lemon juice and brown sugar, to taste. Let it boil for a few mins for flavours to blend.

Cool and serve.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Now the birthdays are over for now, and so is our appetite for cake I think! When I picked up the boys yesterday they they had chocolate coated faces and a little girl ran out holding hers, full of glee, which was a lovely lift... been feeling debilitated by this week's news stories, and trying to turn my mind to other things.
Vegan faux stress cupcakes from Vegan with a vengeance and chocolate ganachey icing. The icing, was vegetarian though, because I used milk chocolate blended with some dark. I'd thought that dark chocolate might be too bitter for little ones. I might be wrong, it just seemed safer and I haven't experimented much yet with milk-style vegan chocolate. Also the smarties were the milk chocolate ones, only because I didn't have whizzers in stock, which the boys love. (I can't keep chocolate supplies in the house unfortunately, because they get guzzled far too soon, and that's by me not the boys).

So, I'm photographing vegetables now... please don't think I am not busy enough or something : ) But this beauty of a red/green pepper turned up in the abel and cole box (kettle in hindground for scale!) and I'd just thought I'd snap it in all its glory before finding some suitably yummy way to cook with it.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Birthday baking

Rohan and Luca turned three today! Its been an extremely happy day, spent at a Kent Hop Farm with their twin friends.

Yesterday, we had a small tea party, and last month there was a joint party for all the tots in the post-natal group. All in all, this birthday has not gone unmarked!

For the boys first birthday we had ordered gorgeous vegan chocolate cakes from this company. They were SO good, really tasted as if made with dairy and we had them decorated with the boys names. Last year I made cupcakes from:
vegan cupcakes take over the world
which turned out dreamily sweet and fluffy.

This year, I thought I would have a go and made a 'Maisy mouse' cake, one of Rohan's favourite characters, and a seemingly straightforward image to sketch! Making the cake was a learning curve. It was totally vegan; the sponge I made was okay, though ever so slightly bitter tasting, although the icing did help balance this a little bit. So next time I'll try to find a more light, fluffy sweet recipe, as that's what toddlers really go for. In terms of the decoration, well, I was very unambitious. Just wanted the boys to recognise it as Maisy Mouse. And they DID, I was disproportionately pleased : )

The baking goes on because I now want to make some cupcakes for the boys' preschool, there's a cake tradition there whenever there's a birthday. I have turned the house upside down looking for my copy of 'Vegan Cupcakes', to no avail, much to my frustration. I was hoping to make basic vanilla ones, they would have been perfect. I've found another cupcake recipe now, so better go and get started soon with the first batch, tomorrow's quite busy and I've got to allow for cooling and icing time.

Monday, 10 November 2008

No such thing as bad weather...

I'm sure it was Billy Connolly who once remarked: 'There's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes,' and I cling to that thought on bad weather days. I mean, the boys love splashing in puddles! However, today did push that a bit! I finally took steps to replace our hole-ridden buggy raincover this afternoon, which I'd been putting off! I was a bit late to collect the boys from preschool after work at lunchtime- the train platform digital display read 'delayed' which you get to know means ' may never come at all'! Got a black cab.. my oh my, that was an expensive journey! I've always thought that even thought they are pricey at least the drivers are knowledgeable. Well, the traffic was bad, but on top of that we had to keep stopping so the taxi driver could check his map! He mumbled something about not charging me for the time, even though he did at the end, when I was too keen to dash out and get my boys rather than stay and quibble! Grrr...

Still, we dried out soon enough. The boys got their Bookstart treasure chests today and have already started enjoying its contents, really lovely books and such a fantastic scheme.

Made some soup by roasting some jerusalem artichokes (from Dad's allotment) with some onion, and adding mushrooms, brown lentils, seasoning and other vegetables from the fridge. (The boys ended up eating some coating pasta!) Had ciabatta topped with 'cheezly' (melting mozzarrella style) and paprika with it. I hadn't heated cheezly before, and we thought it made a really good cheese substitute. I am now on the look out for the perfect vegan macaroni 'cheese' recipe. The boys love it (Barney the dinasour has a whole song about it on one of their dvds) and Luca asked for mac cheese almost every day when he was getting over chicken pox. His identified comfort food. I made it with organic dairy cheese but would like to see how they like a vegan version.

Tonight we made a sweet banana smoothie and they had ginger biscuits with it:

1 banana

half cup soya milk

2 scoops Swedish glace (vanilla)

2 walnuts

handful linseeds.

Was really nice- will make enough for all of us next time. The ginger biscuits are part of an attempt (when I remember) to give the boys some ingredients which I always perceived as ‘adult’ tastes as a child.

Looking back, when I was veggie, I remember seeing a vegan diet as possibly nudging towards the extreme but am quite embarrased I had that view now. Since following an almost vegan diet, my eyes have been opened to so many amazing ingredients and my tastebuds are loving it. Another misconception I held is that the vegan diet is on the lean side, whereas actually, , its just like any other diet, you can follow healthy options, or indulge in loads of unhealthy treats. Have defnitiely been having too many of the latter recently and its starting to show!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Great things come in threes

Can't believe Cara Dillon, Seth Lakeman and Ryan Adams (three of my very favourite musicians) are all playing in Brighton soon within a few days of each other!

I am not sure we will be able to get to any of the gigs though, we've only left the boys with a babysitter before when they're already tucked up in bed, and gig start times would mean leaving home well before. So probably not this time. But I don't know which one of the three I would book anyway, I love them all! So dilemma probably resolved before its properly unrolled.

Filled with relief, Luca has passed the worry window with his self-dosing calpol episode! He's had a horrible 24 hours with the pox, spots in very cruel places, but today he was more like his usual self. And my parents visited today, so we had plenty of company.

My mum brought pizza, which we ate with
these - talk about how to make cabbage look good and taste palatable. I had been unsure what to do with the savoy in the abel and cole box (yes, I know, my day can't have been too bad if this topped my list of troubles...) and here was the answer. I found the vegan family house website not long after the boys were born, when I started to explore veganism more. It's an amazing resource, and really got me going. Check out the kitchen section!

Off to watch 'La vie on rose'- hmm, just read a review. 'Exhausting' titles one. A good sleeping pill then- we'll see!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Persistent pox and staying in

Luca hadn't really had chicken pox properly- a small cluster of spots which never dried out. They've come with a vengeance now so we are couch potatoes as they are both staying home from preschool. Would have been too convenient to get it all wrapped up in half term! Luckily, Mit was able to juggle his work hours so he could be at home whilst I did my couple of hours work this morning.

I'm not so worried about the chicken pox as I am about the possible effects of calpol the boys helped themselves to yesterday. Stupidly I left the bottle on the window ledge in their room temporarily forgetting it whilst I went downstairs because one of them wanted the potty. When I came back up, almost half a bottle was gone, but there was loads of it over the windowsill and on their pyjamas. I think we were unlucky with who we got on the end of the phone at the Emergency doctors, but I couldn't be totally sure the boys drank any. All I know is that a certain amount of calpol is unaccounted for! Doing a google search on paracetamol overdose is the worst possible thing to do I can confirm. So, just hoping for the best. Big wake up call.
Didn't do much cooking today, doesn't it always take a reason to really sit down and do very little? And when you do you realise its not dull like you feared? We watched The Iron Giant
We've had this video for years but I've never watched it from start to finish. The boys loved it, and it was really moving- very topical theme to do with aggression and war. Made me cry!

Yesterday, we had 'chocolate cheesecake', a chocolate mousse (made with melted chocolate and silken tofu onto a biscuit base) based on a recipe in this brilliant guide and recipe booklet from here: with some delicious soya cream we got from the local health store, have also seen it in some of the supermarkets

We also had tofu scramble with jacket potato (see scrambley salad pic above). There are loads of versions of this, but this was basically half an onion sauted for 10 mins, two garlic cloves added, pinch of turmeric, then stirred in steamed, mashed cauliflower florets and a block of silken tofu. Its a great scrambled egg alternative. It resembles it too (thanks to the turmeric) yet the pan it's made in isn't such a nightmare to scrub as actual scrambled eggs always were!

Our Abel and Cole delivery arrived today. We've been having this delivery since just before the boys were born, and used to get the baby box, now its a small mixed veg box fortnightly. I love this because it a) means there's a bit less shopping, b) I often end up with some unusual items I hadn't used before and c) they do gorgeous soya deserts and yogurt by sojade. These yogurts are so delicious amd moreish all the order is usually gone within two days and I have to put some to the back of the fridge to make sure Mit gets any at all.

Now got to do a little work and start reading more in the evenings. I've a shelf full of novels to read for my next course. It doesn't start until next September (had a year off this year so could think about house move and preschool etc etc) but they are all doorstop size and I am a very slow reader.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

New nephew and taste of India

One of those weekends when the weather didn't matter! I met our week-old nephew yesterday, a gorgeous bundle of calm and cuteness, who slept blissfully whilst a room full of visitors chatted around him.

Today we headed to Wembley, Ealing road specifically. Possibly the nearest to the Gujurat state of India you can get to in the UK! We met family there for lunch and ate gorgeous food at Sakonis vegetarian restaurant.. eat as much as you like at the buffet for £8. A real assault on the taste buds that was too! I meant to take a photo but only remembered when the plates were empty....then quickly trailed the vegetable and grocery markets ( very bustling, couldn't browse too long with the boys, although they did enjoy the busy atmosphere, and colours). Great quality vegetables really cheap (50p for an aubergine) and great variety too, got one of two more unusual ingredients to experiment with....

Stopped off on the way home because the boys needed a loo stop. Was an unexpectedly nice break because Dulwich village (very nice too) was on the way home, and we popped into 'The Crown and Greyhound'. A lovely family friendly pub, where at five pm we sat alongside groups of couples with babies, and lots of guests from a nearby wedding. Got the boys some juice, came back from helping the boys out and there was a glass of pinot waiting for me on the table. My husband is fab.