Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Meal Planning Monday (okay...mid-week) 10 December 2012

It's freezing outside, which means its freezing in my kitchen too so I have treated myself to a little fan heater. Sadly the freezer is empty so I need to do some batch cooking but spending more than a few minutes at once in a persistently cold unheated room at this time of year is very unappealing!

My little boy is just emerging from a month long bout of heavy teething and heavier cold which hit his appetite very hard. I am still tempting him back to proper meals instead of constant snacking so this week is all about his favourite meals. At 18 months old, breastmilk is a great extra and fall back for when he's ill, but its not nearly enough without a good big dollop of solids.

So here's my plant based / dairy free / vegan toddler tempting cold weather meal plan.

Spaghetti Bolognese
(red and green lentils, mushrooms, olives and spinach)

Coconutty potato and mushroom curry with cumin dhal and rice

Mexican Bean Macaroni

Lentil, quinoa and root vegetable stew, with potatoes and peas

Slow cooked root vegetable soup and bread

Pizza with mushrooms, onions, beetroot and greens

Date and Orange Flapjack
(great for a boost at breakfast)

Chocolate Beetroot Muffins
(okay so those might be for me...)

For a looksy at what other people are eating this week, head over to At Home with Mrs B or if you are Stateside, go to I'm an Organizing Junkie 

Monday, 3 December 2012

We're back! And this time we have glitter! Oh...and a meal plan.

We've been through the mill a bit recently, what with the fire, teething, horrible colds, heavy workloads and over-committing ourselves a tad (well, I'm guilty on that score) and so the blog has had to take a back seat.

My little boy is now just into his third week of molar teething (three at once and very slow progress) and tonight as he tried to eat some soft bread he screwed up his face and said 'oooowwwweee' and spat it out. That was the end of dinner. He's not eating a lot which isn't great, but thank heavens for us still breastfeeding as at least he gets enough to keep him going. Poor sausage. And now he has a very heavy cold too, which even makes the breastfeeding hard going as he's completely blocked up, as am I so we make a sorry pair!

Sorting out the aftermath of our thankfully small house fire still rumbles tediously on but I am hopeful we are nearly there. I can at least now use the toaster without getting twitchy about the cooking smell...

Alongside managing to get elected as Chair of our new village Play Association (still not sure how that happened) and being asked to join our weekly playgroup committee (anyone willing to sell me some of their daily hours? please?) I have been organising our village's first Christmas Tree and Turning On of the Lights event. It's a last minute affair to cheer us all up after a difficult year and is a fabulously Blue Peter affair (sticky tape, toilet rolls and lots of enthusiasm). It will be alright on the night (please don't rain) but it's nerve-racking in the run up as NOTHING is completely ready. Yikes!

Anyway, a few festive photos and then I promise I will show you my meal plan!

Yesterday we had a load of the village kids round to make decorations for the Christmas Tree. Lets just say there was a lot of glitter, a lot of glue, and some rather impressive parental crafting ideas!

The decorations look fabulous and I am going to have to force myself to take them out of the pub and put them on the tree! We had a lot of fun making them, and a right giggle at the end when we realised all the kids were at one end of the pub playing pool while the adults fiddled with tinsel at the other end...

Finally, this is our Christmas Tree being adorned with lights. Honestly. Can anyone spot the tree surgeon manhandling some flashing bulbs? Oo-eer!

Now I just have to hold my nerve and hope the trombonist finds some friends to make up a mini-silver band to help us celebrate on Saturday when we turn on the lights!

So onto my meal plan - finally! I haven't planned our food properly for the last three weeks and things have really gone to pot. I even feel like I haven't had enough vegetables, which is ridiculous as all I eat is vegetables, but there's been way too much grabbing of snack food and it stops here! Hopefully...

Roast Dinner with Quinoa, Borlotti Bean and Walnut Croquettes

(packed full of toddler nutrients like greens and flax seeds and tooth-soothingly cold)

 Mexican Bean and Tomato Pasta
(hubby's new favourite simple dinner)

Mushroom Pie with mash, veg and gravy
(gotta love those freezer meal days)

Curry - potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, dhal...

 Slow-cooked winter vegetable soup

Sandwiches, fruit, muffins, flapjack...

That's more like it :)

For more on Meal Planning Monday head over to At Home with Mrs B or if you are Stateside, go to I'm an Organizing Junkie (link up soon).

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Mid week meal plan (14 November 2012)

When times get tough....the tough get meal planning. This week's offering is a distraction meal plan, or a distracted meal plan. Probably both.

On Friday evening we had a fire in our flat. Thankfully, I found it and my husband put it out (big time hero) before it got much further than the airing cupboard but it was a horrible night. To be honest, the aftermath isn't working out too nicely either.

So here I am, trying to get back to normal a little and thinking about food. Our meals have been rather slapdash the last few days, to say the least, and the organisation of a plan will do me (and the family) good.

Since I am not really in the mood for fancy pants experimenting with new ideas, it is a conservative easy to execute plan with a strong emphasis on comfort food. Thankfully, I have a stash of chocolate muffins and flapjack, though the flapjack has taken quite a hammering. I will have to bake some broccoli muffins for the babe when I have a moment as he finished the last one today and I fear tomorrow will not go well if he finds the freezer bare...

Comfort food Meal Plan

 Spaghetti Bolognese
(in freezer already, yay!)

Cheat's Veg & lentil or bean Curry
(curry pastes are jalfrezi and biryani which is a new one for us)

Potato and Vegetable Hash
(nothing like a big pile of carbs, veg and baked beans when it's chilly)

Roast Dinner
(didn't have one this Monday as we resorted to takeout)

Mexican Bean & Tomato Macaroni
(an accidental creation from last week which wowed us all)

Hopefully I will be back to normal on Monday with a more inspired plan and a happier tone. I certainly have recipes piling up that I want to share - not the least of which is the Red Bean Patties filled with coriander and coconut chutney which were simply divine

In the meantime, see who else is eating what over at Meal Plan Monday with  At Home with Mrs B.  

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Meal Planning Monday (5th November 2012)

I had some mixed results with last weeks plan. I had forgotten that one of the cookery books I rediscovered so excitedly was actually rather peculiar and contained unreliable recipes that tended to list ingredients and then forget to mention them at all in the method...most annoying! So my Refried Beans were guesswork and turned out too bland. Next time (and there will be a next time) I will put in more oomph.

The Sweet and Sour lentils (which were really just fancy dhal) were not particularly sweet or sour. However, they did have one saving grace. Combined with quinoa and a few other flavours, they made the loveliest little croquettes! I am working on a really good recipe which I will post in due course.

This week I am going back to basics to cut down on cooking time and get a few other essential tasks out the way that have piled up (accounts - bleurgh - and fitting cheat's secondary glazing to some old windows for winter). As usual all the food is meat and dairy free.

Black Bean fridge stew
(Beans need using as do a few other bits and pieces)

Spaghetti Bolognese
(Mushroom and green lentils)

Spicy Bean Soup

(an old favourite from Delia with added greens)

Bulgar Wheat Vegetable Risotto
(will finally pin down the recipe and post)

Mixed Bean Chilli
(need to make a big batch for the freezer)

Red Bean patties filled with coconut and coriander chutney
(didn't get round to this last week so if I have time I will try this week)


(baby has Breakfast and Broccoli muffins in the freezer)

(have promised husband I won't eat this batch so quickly...)

(cold days means more hot breakfasts)

For more on Meal Planning Monday, visit At Home with Mrs Band hello to Stateside meal planners at Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday (29 October 2012)

This week I am organised, efficient, early out of the starting blocks, inspired. Why? I have been rediscovering my cookbook collection, as you can read here. I am trying to keep smugness to a minimum, but this mix of readiness and enthusiasm is so unusual it fair makes me giddy!

In order not to get overwhelmed by the number of cookbooks I now have at my disposal, and to avoid spending four days on the sofa reading them, I have picked a handful to pick this week's menu from. In case you are interested, they are:

Indian in 6 by Monisha Bharadwaj
A Taste of Heaven and Earth by Bettina Vitell
Chinese Cookery by Ken Hom (I aaaaammm the One and Only...)
The Indian Kitchen by Monisha Bharadwaj

These were the first to hand that I couldn't put down without salivating which I reckon is a pretty good sign. I am being good and designing this week's menu according to what's in the cupboard, together with veg I will be able to get at the market. As usual, it's all meat and dairy free. So, from the books we have:

Sweet and Sour Bengali Lentils, with Gujarati-style carrot and cabbage stir fry, and rice
(no chana dahl but yellow split peas will do fine)

Refried Bean Burritos
(attempting to get brownie points with husband with this one)

Stir-fried vegetables in black bean sauce with rice noodles
(am hoping this is a good replacement for a lost recipe)

Red bean patties filled with coconut and coriander chutney
 (very excited about this one!)

And to go with this we will have:

Lentil Herder's Pie
(lovely from the freezer easy dinner)

Spaghetti Bolognese
(need to make a big batch for the freezer)

A lunch brought by my mum
(lovey lady)

Spicy Bean and Tomato Soup
(leftovers from today)

Sandwiches, fruit, muffins, smoothies etc...

Yum! I am also hoping at some point to try out some Quinoa Breakfast Muffins I have been mulling over and it might be time to treat myself to some of my much loved Chocolate and Beetroot Muffins, so long as I can get beetroot. 

All this and a child with chicken pox, and a room full of junk and boxes to sort out! Better start eating to get the energy up...

For more on Meal Planning Monday, visit At Home with Mrs B.

Cookbook Frenzy! Rediscovering recipes you already own.

This week we are having a big push to sort out the Black Hole that exists in our flat: one of the yet to be renovated rooms that is officially a store room but has become an impossible to navigate dumping ground. I am not posting a photo of it because, quite honestly, it's just too horrible to share.

My parents are coming over in a couple of days to help occupy the baby so I can dive in there and not emerge until it's respectable. And usable. Lucky me...

Anyway, today I have been doing some preparatory clearing out around the edges and I decided it was time to dig out my cookbook collection that has been languishing in there for far too long. Time for a streamlining session, or so I thought.

As you can see, there's a fair few books here: 38 to be precise. I already have around 20 in the kitchen that I use regularly or have more recently acquired and then there is my magazine cuttings collection which is, to put it mildly, extensive.

It seems that despite the fact that this collection was acquired during my meat and dairy years, there's vegan life in them there books. Quite a lot, in fact. You see, one thing I have learnt since giving up meat and dairy is that it is actually easier to convert meat dishes than vegetarian dishes. It's all that cheese. Some vegetarian books have very few recipes without cheese, many of them so fundamentally reliant on the cheese that it's fairly pointless to try 'veganising' them. Sorry, I hate that word but it has its uses.

One such book I looked at tonight seemed to take cheese obsession to extremes. The great Italian cheese Gran Padano featured in every single recipe and it was a while before I twigged and noticed it was in fact an advertising brochure for - yes - Gran Padano. I'm tired, okay? But my point still stands. The inventive Simon Rimmer is one that springs to mind. Less cheese, please Simon, because other wise I love the food!

Needless to say my streamlining session did not go as planned. In each book there was an immediate selection of very tasty sounding meals. A really good sounding recipe for refried beans ... a stonking black bean sauce ... a book that tells you every single way imaginable with potatoes ... smoky lentils ... sweet and sour lentils ... coriander dahl ... mushrooms with curry butter ...

I want to eat it all now! You may notice the Indian slant to my choices but that's no surprise to me. It is our favourite food and we spent some time in India a few years ago so we have a knowledge of it that goes way beyond the British curry house (which I love, by the way). And now I come to look at them altogether, I have a pretty good selection of Indian cookbooks!

Lucky, lucky me. My only problem now is how on earth do I choose what to do first! Menu planning may take some time this week...

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday (22 October 2012)

Okay, so Thursday might be pushing it for joining in with Meal Planning Monday, but this week is not a normal week.

The babe has chicken pox so I am more than a little disorganised. He's not sleeping, not eating and not self-entertaining. In short, he is Always There and always needing me, poor pickle.

Still, food needs producing regardless so this week the theme is definitely 'Easy Meals and Stuff I found in the Freezer'. Sadly, I haven't found as much in the freezer as I would like so as soon as the babe is better I shall do a big batch cooking session.

Anyway, meals we have had or are going to have this week include:

Lentil Herder's Pie 
(big batch made so that's a start with that freezer)

Winter vegetable stir-fry
(I know, only Autumn, but there you go)

(dairy free, delicious, won me many brownie points with husband)

Spicy bean and tomato soup

Cheat's mushroom, spinach and lentil Curry
(only cheating because it uses bought curry paste, of which I am a big fan)

Cheat's mushroom, spinach and chickpea Curry
(spot the difference...)

For the babe so far: medicine, breast milk, grapes and pizza (yes, even with a sore mouth!)

For more on Meal Planning Monday, visit At Home with Mrs B. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

Perfect toddler friendly flapjack - dairy free and no added sugar

I have been on the hunt for a no added sugar flapjack recipe for some months and have had several failed attempts. However, thanks to Mamacook I have now figured out how to make no-added sugar that is tasty and - importantly - doesn't collapse into granola every time!

I have tinkered a little with the recipe as I love orange flapjack and the flavour works so well with the dates. Its easy and reliable. The only problem, and it is rather a big problem, is that it won't last long so consider making a double batch!

15 Feb 2013 update: try my new version of this recipe with added veg. Yes! Veg!

Orange and Date no-added sugar Flapjack


150g stoned dates, chopped fine
5 tbsp orange juice
zest of 1/2 medium orange
150g dairy free butter / spread (I use Pure sunflower)
100g raisins or sultanas
225g porridge oats
1/2 tsp allspice

Preheat the oven to 170 C fan ovens or 180 C for conventional ovens.

Line and grease or oil a 9 inch round cake tin, or similarly sized tin.

Pour the orange juice over the dates and add the orange zest. Stir well to coat the dates and then leave to steep for at least 1/2 hour if you have time, even a few minutes is good though. Once steeped, mash the dates as much as possible (I use a fork or you could try a hand blender) until you have a lumpy sticky mixture (many of the dates won't mash but that's fine).

Melt the butter / spread in a saucepan and add the date mixture and raisins / sultanas. Heat gently until it is all combined.

Add the oats and allspice and then turn into your prepared tin. I used a 9 inch round loose bottomed cake tin and it was perfect. Lightly press down the mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top, but keep on eye on it after 15 minutes. Cut into 12-16 squares (depending on the size you want) and leave in the tin until fully cooled or it will break apart.

Seriously delicious and about as virtuous as flapjack gets!

If you're cooking for toddlers and older babies, why not try these dairy and sugar free Broccoli Muffins? They make a great snack or meal accompaniment. My boy likes to start the day with one!

Top tips for buying thrifty secondhand toys!

If you don't have a lot of money, buying toys for your children can seem a stretch too far when you look at the prices. But with a little bit of effort and the right attitude, you can still keep your child in toys they will love whether it's for birthday Christmas or just an occasional treat.

Toys have a long life span and will serve several children if looked after. Charity shops, jumble sales, online parent sites, Ebay and Nearly New sales are all excellent places to look for toys.

Top Tip 1 - Know what you are looking for

Make a list and stick to it. If you're short on ideas then do some research online: putting 'best toys 6-12 months' in a search engine gets you loads of choice. You might have some very specific wants, but if you can be flexible - any pull along toy rather than a specific one - you are more likely to get some good bargains. One shape sorter is much the same as another in a child's eyes.

Baby Meccano

Top Tip 2 - Buy when you see the right toy

If you see a fantastic toy at a great price, but your child won't be ready for it just yet, buy it anyway if you have space to store it. You might see it again but especially with unusual or older toys, you'll kick yourself if you don't go for it.

I saw this fabulous baby meccano set in a charity shop for just £2 back in the spring but didn't get it out until this summer. Big hit and a really satisfying buy.

Although some of my finds seem lucky, I am persistent and rarely walk past a charity shop without having a quick look. It definitely pays off.

Top Tip 3 - At birthday and Christmas give toys they will grow into over a few months

My son is usefully born in the middle of the year so I can buy for 6 months at a time, but whenever your child's birthday this is still a great tip that my mum gave me. Children can surprise us with which toys they are ready for so having a selection that will last a few months makes sense. Also, a huge pile of presents looks very exciting, but one child can only play with so many at once without getting toy overload!

Activity toys

Top Tip 4 - Buy durable toys

Wooden toys are great buys so long as they are physically in good condition. Tops buys we've found are wooden vehicles, pull along toys, puzzles and building blocks. These can be very expensive to buy new but as always check the price of new ones to make sure you don't pay too much secondhand.

Solid plastic toys are also good, including bath toys, tea sets, activity blocks and

Books are also a great buy, especially board books as they last a long time (so long as not too much chewing has taken place!).

Top Tip 5 - Check toys carefully before buying

If you are buying books, look through each page to check its condition, especially if it is an activity book (such as lift the flap books). Another one to check carefully is 'doing' toys. We recently found a little wind-up submarine for the bath but got it home to find that it the internal ratchet had gone and it didn't work. Instead it just bobs there. Disappointing!

Brightlings Exploration Station
Sometimes, though, it doesn't matter if something is missing. I picked up this Leapfrog Brightlings Exploration Station earlier in the year for £2. I checked over the electronics and they all worked, but it was missing the three little Brightling figures. Since they were only really there to chuck down the shute, I decided the baby could chuck lots of other things down there and bought it anyway. It was a good decision.

Top Tip 6 - Check new price (for current toys) and watch out for postage costs

When you've decided what you want to look out for, do your research on the price of your items new. This is especially important when buying on Ebay as it's all too easy to get caught out with the budding process. A lot of people buying on there don't seem to do their research and, when you put it together with the postage, pay way too much.
Less than £1

When you check prices, check out some alternatives to your first choice as the difference in secondhand price of one wooden pull along toy can be significant. Some toys are more fasionable or timeless and hold their price. But the others are generally just as good, certainly as far as a young child goes.

Top Tip 7 - Look out for unusual places to find toys
Toys from the tip

One of my favourite places to pick up sturdy bigger toys is the tip. Ours has an area for items still in good condition and you pay a very small amount of money that goes to a local charity. A large number of larger plastic toys end up here, as well as baby equipment, so it's worth checking out regularly. We got this wheelbarrow and stool, great for indoor and outdoor use, for £1. 

This amazing car, which is my son's passion and much loved by any visiting child, came from a charity that gets a lot of donations they don't need themselves so they sell on. This beautiful wooden ride-in car , with swivel wheels and a lift up bonnet that reveals the engine (complete with working oil dipstick!) cost £5. Definitely our star find this year.

Star Car Buy

Have you found any particularly good buys, or do you have any good tips about where to find secondhand toys? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday (15 October 2012)

So given that it's already Wednesday, it won't surprise you at all to find that I don't have a proper meal plan this week. I just didn't get round to it. In my defence, I have been doing some lovely baking!

However, all is not lost. For one thing, there will be food this week (before my husband despairs...): I have recently done a big veg shop so there is plenty to work with. I have got some targets for things I want to make, or have had requested from my husband, and I have food to eat up. I also don't want to shop apart from topping up on essential vegetables and fruit.

I suppose it's rather like Ready, Steady Cook but without the audience and the stop clock (baby needs notwithstanding). Hopefully the food won't be quite so weird either.

Foods needing eating

1 aubergine
1 celeriac
1 butternut squash
Tomatoes (care of a lovely neighbour)
Green Beans (care of same lovely neighbour)
2 parsnips
2 sweet potatoes
2 carrots
1 head spring greens
1/2 swede
1/2 can apricots
Big bag of apples
Leftovers including a bowl of mashed potato, small portion bolognese sauce and curried lentil stew
1/2 pack puff pastry
1 plantain (from another lovely neighbour)
1 tin ackee (came with the plantain)

Actually, that's quite a good selection, if thin on the greens. There is also at least a couple of freezer meals to fall back on (though they will be pot luck since I've lost my freezer pen and they are unidentified...).

So, here are some meals and snacks I think we will definitely have, plus a few ideas of what might come to pass with a bit of luck and a following wind.

Oven baked plantain slices (more of a snack or a side dish)
Leftover curried lentil stew
Mini puff tomato and olive tartlets
Butternut squash soup
Vegetable pizza
Slow cooked root vegetable stew with dumplings
Open aubergine and garlicky white bean toasties
Apple muffins
Apple and apricot crumble
Potato cakes with added greens
Curried ackee pasties
Broccoli Muffins (already made for the babe...recipe here)

That's more than enough to be going on with!

For more on Meal Planning Monday, visit At Home with Mrs B and hello to Stateside meal planners at Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Toddler friendly Broccoli Muffins - dairy free!

I first made these little muffins several months ago and my son (then about 9 months) ate them up enthusiastically. Recently I have been trying to make our food work a bit harder for us in terms of being nutritious, without losing any of the deliciousness, so I have made a couple of adjustments.

These are easy to make, healthily packed with calcium and a big dose of wonderful broccoli. No added sugar or salt (there's a tiny amount in the yoghurt), Nutritional Yeast for vitamin B12, healthy rapeseed oil for fat, flaxseed for omega 3 oils and soy yoghurt for protein. Great for a snack or as part of any meal.

The recipe is adapted from this one on the Baby Led Weaning website.

Broccoli Muffins

Makes 21 toddler sized muffins or 26 mini muffins

200g broccoli
1 1/2 cups plain soy yoghurt (fortified with calcium and vitamins)
2 tsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup rapeseed oil (or olive)
1-2 tbsp tahini (this is a strong flavour so use less if you're not sure your little one likes it)
2 flax eggs *
1/2 cup Nutritional Yeast
1 3/4 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup ground almonds (if making nut-free replace this with same amount self-raising flour)
A few sprigs of fresh herbs like parsley or thyme, chopped

2-3 tbsp fortified soy milk (or other dairy free milk)

Preheat oven to 190 C for fan ovens.

Make up flax eggs and refrigerate before starting on rest of recipe.

Cook broccoli. Cook finely and squash any pieces of stalk so no big pieces remain whole.

Mix yoghurt, cider vinegar, oil, tahini and flax eggs together.  Fold in the broccoli and nutritional yeast.

Add the flour, ground almonds and herbs and gently fold together (don't over mix, it will look lumpy). Add in the milk if needed to mix all the flour in. The mixture should be quite moist but not liquid.

Spoon into muffin cases (I use silicone cases, if using muffin tins or paper cases oil well to prevent sticking).

Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned with the top springing back when pressed. Let cool for a few minutes before tipping out and cooling on a wire rack. Store in an airtight box or freeze (they freeze and defrost very well).

* To make 1 flax egg: mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds with 3 tbsp cold water and whisk until it starts to get gelatinous. Refrigerate for 1/2 - 1 hour.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday (8 October 2012)

Last week I did quite a lot of cooking. With Kev off searching and not being able to concentrate on much I retreated to my kitchen. Quite a bit of the food was not great early in the week as I didn't concentrate, but later in the week I got some good batch cooking done. 

We didn't exactly stick to our meal plan but the Curried Lentil, Potato, and Cauliflower soup was surprisingly good, though in no way would I call it soup! Will refine it and post it. It wasn't a slow cooker recipe either, no idea why I thought it was...! I also made the best Lentil Herder's Pie yet but failed to take notice of what it was I did that made it so good. Grrrrr.

I'm planning to do more baking this week, plotting with a friend to experiment with breakfast muffins suitable for babeis and toddlers so no sugar, no dairy, healthy high calorie and lots of lovely fruit and extras.

Lunch: Vegetable flan and bread - leftovers donated by my mum :)
Dinner: Curry leftovers 

Lunch: Spaghetti Bolognese
Dinner: Fried vegetable & bean rice with lots of greens 

Lunch: Curry
Dinner: Soup and sandwiches

Hot white bean and aubergine open toasted sandwiches (didn't get round to these last week)
Dinner: depends on what nice veg I find in the market on Wednesday

Lunch: Leftover curry
Dinner: Roasted vegetables, quinoa and something else I can't think of now

Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Bean chilli with greens and rice


Lunch: Out for vegan roast dinner with friends
Dinner: leftovers

Snacks & puddings
Tinned, fresh and dried fruit, smoothie, crackers or rice cakes & nut butter or hummus or marmite, whole nuts, yoghurt, muffins (full meal muffins for the baby).

For more on Meal Planning Monday, visit At Home with Mrs B and hello to Stateside meal planners at Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Candles for April

Last night at 7 pm I lit three candles.

One for April Jones and her family. Missing for a week, 5 years old, an innocent child.

One for Machynlleth and the community that has been devastated but has also shown its strength.

One for my village and all my good friends who have been innocently caught up in this tragedy.

April, you are in our thoughts.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Meal Planning Monday (1st October 2012)

I'm really not sure what happened this week but by Thursday I had lost the plot as far as food goes and completely failed to stick to my meal plan. I think I was foxed by having made a huge batch of curry on Monday and then for reasons unknown to man, not frozen it. We were eating leftovers well past the limits of our initial enthusiasm, which was a pity as it was pretty fine curry. I think I need to build in slack to my meal plans for leftovers, although perhaps not always on this scale.

Also I was most perturbed to find that a recipe I had so much looked forward to making - garlicky greens in black bean sauce with rice noodles - was nowhere to be found. I looked through every piece of paperwork (there are a tad too many piles around the house at the moment for optimum tidiness), searched my computer for saved files and then finally wildly searched every corner of the internet I could reach. All for nothing. It's like it never existed. I know it was a recipe rather than something in my head but I have had to admit defeat. It all makes me rather sad, so if anyone sees a likely sounding recipe, please let me know? I feel like James James Morrison Morrison. Not sure why.

I am full of renewed determination to use my slow cooker which has languished for far too long. It is also a menu to tempt my babe into eating a bit more as he's been under the weather the last few days and off his food which is most unlike him.  

Lunch: Lasagne (leftover from last night) and broccoli (because it was there, and I wanted greenery!)
Dinner: Roast with last minute flung together quinoa, walnut and borlotti bean fritters (not bad actually, but 
still need a bit of work )

Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Slow cooker Curried lentil, potato and cauliflower soup (with added experimental curried dumplings)

Lunch: Giant hash (biker husband can never eat enough on bike days) 
Dinner: Bean stew with pearl barley, potatoes and lots of veg

Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Lentil Herder's Pie (in which she daringly shoves in loads of red cabbage...)

Lunch: Hot white bean and aubergine open toasted sandwiches (please let me get round to these, I do love them)
Dinner: Curried lentil, potato and cauliflower soup leftovers

Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Bean stew leftovers

Something at my mum's while I watch my brother run a marathon!

Snacks & puddings
Tinned, fresh and dried fruit, smoothie, crackers or rice cakes & nut butter or hummus or marmite, whole nuts, yoghurt, muffins (full meal muffins for the baby).

For more on Meal Planning Monday, visit At Home with Mrs B and hello to Stateside meal planners at Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Swapshop - the new freecycle but with bells on!

My local town has some kindly people who run the Swapshop email service. It's a weekly email sent round free to subscribers listing items offered and wanted, as well as local events. The idea is that items are offered or requested for a swap, though some are listed as free to a good home.

I love it! I am signed up to a few local freecycle groups but haven't yet dived in to them and the emails clutter up my inbox annoyingly. Plus in our area, all the good stuff goes on Swapshop.

This week I have swapped two jars of my mum's chutney (of which I have a bit of a surfeit) for a cupboard and changing table for the baby's room. It's in great condition and the perfect size.

In a couple of days I will be picking up a bike that is all ready to ride, for just a packet of biscuits and some veg for the owner's lovely donkeys.

I am also using Swapshop to rid us of some of our unwanted items. So far I have swapped two radiator dryers for some baking goodies, and an old SLR camera for toddler toys and books.

It's a great idea, well organised, that makes this hard up mother feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

Chocolate and Beetroot Muffins - dairy free

Of late I have been fancying a really good treat and buoyed up by last week's fantastic Chocolate Avocado Pudding success I decided this weekend was the time to do some baking.

I also wanted to use up some roasted beetroot that I had tucked away in the fridge. Finding a memory lurking in the back of my mind that beetroot and chocolate were a good combination I went on the hunt for recipes.

Seems I was not wrong: I found bucketloads of chocolate and beetroot cake recipes online. I would have been spoilt for choice if I didn't have such particular conditions to meet.

Firstly the recipe needed to be vegan or easy to make vegan. Secondly, it had be sweet enough without having refined sugar in it (or having very little), as I am trying to cut that out of our diet, and no artificial sweeteners.

Too much of a challenge? Fear not. Not only did I find a lovely recipe, but I also found a lovely new blog which I am now happily exploring. So here is the recipe from The Savvy Sister stateside. Next time I will try it with chocolate chips as that is the only way I can think of making it better!

Chocolate and Beetroot Muffins

Set oven to 180 C
  • about 1 1/2 cups cooked beetroot (roasted or steamed)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup melted dairy free spread
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk (or almond or rice milk)
1.  If steaming the beetroot, scrub them then lightly peel any rough skin. Cut off top and bottom.  Cut into cubes and set  in steamer or placed in a metal colander on top of pot filled with about 4-5 inches of water covered on med high heat.  Beetroot should not touch the water.  Steam for about 30-45 minutes.  Pieces should be soft when pierced with a fork.  Set aside to cool completely.  This step can be done the day before.
1a. If roasting the beetroot, scrub them then lightly peel any rough skin. Cut off top and bottom and quarter. Toss in oil (I use rapeseed or olive oil) and put into a roasting pan, cover with foil and roast for about 40 minutes at about 180C until soft when pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool completely.
2.  Place cooked beetroot, syrup and vanilla in food processor and pulse to mix,  then process on high for a couple of minutes until very smooth. 
3.  Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add beetroot and coconut milk to mixture and stir to combine.
4.  Add in melted spread and stir well with a spoon.
5.  Line cupcake tin with paper cups or grease with oil spray and fill 3/4 of the way full with batter.
Bake at 180 C for 16-18  minutes. (11 minutes for mini cupcakes) Top should be firm to light touch.  Let cool for 15 minutes.

There is a frosting recipe to go with this on the Savvy Sister website, which I haven't tried yet. 
Try not to eat them all at once... 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Meal Planning Monday (24th September 2012)

This week I have made a lovely new food friend: roasted broccoli. Oh my word, how good is roasted broccoli? I made a batch of it with cauliflower and me and the babe scoffed the lot as a snack. Divine even when stone cold.

I have also rediscovered pearl barley. I used to chuck it in with a lamb stew I made pre-vegan days but that only worked if you were eating the whole stew in one go. I found that the barley just kept expanding and sucked up all the sauce so leftovers where gloopy rather than saucy which made me sad. This time, I cooked it on its own and served it with lentil stew and it was lovely. Great texture and good flavour in its own right.

Finally, and most importantly, yesterday I made the most scrumptious vegan chocolate muffins. My life is now complete. I will post the recipe this week so you can all share in my excitement! Oh, and no refined sugars beyond maple syrup which makes me an even happier bunny.
Lunch: Crumpets & grapes (had big brekkie and having big dinner)
Dinner: Curry!!! homemade mushroom kadai, saag aloo and dhal with a little takeaway boost for husband's birthday feast :)

Lunch: Soup and sandwiches
Dinner:  Mixed bean chilli with buckwheat and quinoa

Lunch: Curry (leftovers from Monday which will taste even better now) 
Dinner: Garlicky greens in black bean sauce and rice noodles

Lunch: Curried lentil, potato and cauliflower soup (trying a new recipe in the slow cooker!) 
Dinner: Roast veg and potatoes, red cabbage, greens, quinoa

Lunch: Hot white bean and aubergine open toasted sandwiches
Dinner: Red lentil and mushroom spaghetti bolognese 

Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Lentil stew, bulgar wheat, potatoes and greens

Lunch:  Hash

Dinner: Something experimental but stew-like in the slow cooker!

Snacks & puddings
Tinned, fresh and dried fruit, smoothie, crackers or rice cakes & nut butter or hummus or marmite, whole nuts, yoghurt, muffins (full meal muffins for the baby and chocolate for me - yes! vegan!).

For more on Meal Planning Monday, visit At Home with Mrs B and hello to Stateside meal planners at Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Notes from a Womble Garden - 1

You can read the introduction to my Womble Garden Challenge here.

As I watched the rain wash over our village today, as if someone was pouring a never emptying bucket out, I decided I needed a plan of action for the garden that didn't entail going outside. As it is, that's fine for now. The plot that will become my garden has a lot of nesting birds on it and I want to be sure they are completely finished before I start to hack it about.

I have already been getting into the Womble mindset as we clear out five years of clutter and debris from the unrenovated part of our flat. From the stuff we no longer need, I have squirreled away the following, potentially useful, items:

  • two very large flat metal gastronorm kitchen trays (bit like baking trays) from the kitchen for use in a potting shed (will be great for watering small seedling pots in).
  • one wire grill rack (could be useful for raising plant pots up or as a climbing plant support).
  • one metal ladle, also for use in the potting shed (spooning soil and so on).
  • two waiter's aprons (short ones with two deep pockets) for organising gardening apparatus about my person!
  • various wooden window frames that might be turnable into cold frames.

I am also doing an inventory of gardening items I already possess to ensure I don't double up on anything. Here it is so far:
  • several packets of vegetable and complementary flower seeds that are still in date.
  • plenty of small and medium sized plastic plant pots
  • smaller number of large plant pots
  • trowel, fork and hoe
  • two compost bins (one in use)
  • one worm compost bin (not in use)
  • one bokashi compost system (not used, might try swapping for something more useful)
  • small amount of horticultural fleece
  • various packets of plant food
  • lots of gardening books, including one very good one about the allotment year and my beloved permaculture book
  • one watering can (on it's way out but still useable)
  • one wheel barrow
  • one tub of Diatomaceous Earth (why? Why?!)
  • plastic plant ties
  • pea netting
  • bamboo canes (20+)
  • one miniature greenhouse which has lost its plastic cover
  • lots of plant pot feet 
  • one water butt (in use on our roof terrace)

Not a bad haul for starters, is it? I haven't finished excavating the flat yet so there will be more to come, and I will then turn my attention to our crumbling outhouses. I have started tracking how the sun reaches the plot, but I didn't finish before the weather broke so am now waiting for a fine day... 

Next up will be my autumn plan of action.

Good plant iron sources

Here are some great plant iron sources.

Beans & lentils
lentils, soy, chickpeas, pinto, kidney, black (turtle), baked beans

Cashew nuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts

Sesame seeds & tahini, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed

Mushrooms, potatoes (baked)

Fortified non-dairy milks & yoghurt

Fortified cereals


Apricots, Figs (dried), prunes, raisins

Blackstrap molasses

Rye flour

About Iron:

+ Iron is essential for a healthy blood supply as it helps form haemoglobin in red blood cells, which in turn transports and releases oxygen around the body, and  disposes of build ups of carbon dioxide.
+ Vegan and vegetarian diets generally contain more iron than omnivore (meat and dairy) diets because of the higher amount of fruit and vegetables, but it is important to eat Vitamin C at the same time to improve uptake.
+  Absorption of iron from certain vegetables and fruit can be reduced by phytate (a compound in plant cells that interferes with nutrient uptake) and oxalic acid (present particularly in spinach, Swiss Chard, cabbage and rhubarb).
+ It is best to avoid taking zinc (i.e. supplements) or drinking tea,cocoa or coffee while eating iron-rich foods, to further improve your uptake.

Sources of Vitamin C
Fruits: citrus fruits, strawberries, papaya, mango
Vegetables: potatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, tomatoes

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Chocolate Avocado Pudding - dairy free!

This divine dairy free recipe is an adapted version of this one at an edible mosaic and comes highly recommended! In a mood of high excitement at how good it tasted, the pudding was scoffed before I remembered to take any photos, but I don't doubt I shall make it again...

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Serves 4

1 1/2 ripe avocado
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup nut butter (I used almond but choose your favourite, or if you don't do nuts just leave it out)
4 tbsps maple syrup
3 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder
40g dark dairy free chocolate
3 tsps vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt

Break the chocolate into pieces and process in a food processor until finely chopped. Add all other ingredients and process until smooth and creamy (there'll still be a few bits of chocolate but that's fine). I used Green & Black's dark chocolate and cocoa powder.

If you want it more chocolatey, taste and then add more cocoa powder. Likewise, if you want it sweeter, adjust the amount of maple syrup. You can also make it less sweet if you prefer, or use other sweeteners. It's a very adaptable recipe!

Serve and enjoy! I served it in wine glasses with raspberries. Gorgeous.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Meal Planning Monday (17 September 2012)

I have fallen off the wagon big time with meal planning recently and have sorely missed the grip on food organisation it gives me. To complicate matters, last week we spent most of our time with friends holidaying nearby which was lovely, but as one of them has a severe nut, soya, bean and lentil allergy our plant based diet was necessarily altered. It was lovely seeing them but I did miss my regular food and am happy to be once again embracing my lentils, as it were.

My current challenge is to eat more, particularly protein and grains so it's extra portions for me and when the baby has a high calorie snack, so do I. I am happy with the weight I have lost since we turned to the plant side, but I don't want to lose any more. I think clever baking is a good way forward, if I can just find the time!

Anyway, enjoy the menu (I certainly will!).

Lunch: Mushroom soup (baby's new fave) & sandwiches
Roast Dinner with quinoa & black bean croquettes

Lunch: Hash
Dinner:  Mushroom & lentil Spaghetti Bolognese

Lunch: Curry (trying a Mushroom Karahi recipe, prob with a chick pea curry, rice and flatbread) 
Dinner: Bean Fajitas

Lunch: Vegetable soup & sandwiches 
Dinner: Bulgar wheat leek & mushroom risotto, with greens

Lunch: Curry (hopefully leftovers from Wednesday)
Dinner: Roast veg, greens and quinoa

Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Lentil stew, bulgar wheat, potatoes and greens

Lunch:  Pizza 
with salad
Dinner: Lots of veg (depends on what's left)

Snacks & puddings
Tinned, fresh and dried fruit, smoothie, crackers or rice cakes & nut butter or hummus or marmite, whole nuts, yoghurt, muffins.

For more on Meal Planning Monday, visit At Home with Mrs B and hello to Stateside meal planners at Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.