Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Meal Planning Monday (20th August 1012)

Okay I know it's Wednesday, but I'm only late posting not actually writing the meal plan...honest!

We're having a big push to promote my husband's art at the moment and I'm so busy I don't know if I'm coming or going. I'm trying very hard to hang on to some semblance of organisation, but with finishing moving into our newly renovated flat properly and keeping up with the babe who seems to be developing much faster than I thought possible it's a close run thing! It's all good fun though.

Anyway, back to food. As usual last week's plan got rather jumbled up and I never got round to the Calzone on Sunday as I made pizza for the visiting masses on Saturday. Nor did we try the Sloppy Joes, so both of those feature again this week. However, the aubergine and white bean puree sandwiches were a triumph and I will post about those soon. Definitely a keeper recipe.

My mission this week is to eat more greens and to try to find a sugar free diary free but somehow still delicious chocolate cake or brownie recipe. I will find a way!

So here's this week's main meals (lunch planning in detail has been beyond me so far, but there will be sandwiches and fajitas and Sloppy Joes).

Roast dinner with roast veg, yorkshire puds and creamy savoy cabbage

Bean and vegetable summery stew, with quinoa, new potatoes and broccoli

Veg and bean hash with watercress

Chana masala, saag aloo, rice and (maybe) flatbreads

Noodles with black bean sauce and garlicky greens

Egyptian lentil stew with pan fried carrots & spring greens


Tinned, fresh and dried fruit, smoothie, crackers or rice cakes & nut butter or hummus or marmite, whole nuts, yoghurt, muffins, oat & fruit chewy bars (am refining a new recipe). 

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.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Just call me Noah...

Tonight I am feeling aggrieved with my home. Quite often, living here is something like how I imagine Noah's ark to have been: damp, full of mess and never entirely sure where you are all headed.

Damp because dear old Wales can, at times, live up to it's sodden reputation and today has been such a day. But also damp because this building is, in far too many places, crumbling at the edges.

We have leaks that happen in particularly heavy rain, leaks that happen in wind driven rain, leaks that happen in a south-westerly and leaks that happen in a northerly. We have condensation due to inadequate heating, inappropriate ventilation and bad choices of materials. We have dodgy plumbing and a malfunctioning roof. During the big thaw in the winter before last we had no less than 15 burst pipes. 15!

In short, we are living in a sieve.

Tonight my gripe is particularly with the kitchen plumbing and I have now had enough. Although we are in a patch it up phase rather than a sort it out properly phase due to a lack of finances, there are some things that you just have to find the money for. And since my plumbing leaks are starting to affect the bottoms of the walls I can leave it no longer. Sadly I am not entirely sure what is leaking, apart from one or more sections that are - of course- behind the sink unit and dishwasher.

So tomorrow's task is to dismantle that part of the kitchen and test every piece of pipe and every joint until we run down the sucker that is dripping. It will then be taken outside and ritually destroyed.

I will enjoy that last part very much.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Meal Planning Monday (13th August 2012)

So after writing my lovely meal plan last week I had to throw it out the window as the babe took sick. I found it just too hard to do much interesting or new cooking with a teeny cling-on who was not eating and therefore breastfeeding on and off all day long. Poor little man. He is on the mend now so hopefully this week will go a little smoother.

Thank heavens for freezer food! I do now need to do some batch cooking to replace what we ate but after all, that's what it is there for...

Some of the meals from last week I have just transferred onto this week's plan. I have also been ultra efficient and written down what veg we have to use up in the next couple of days so I can plan properly. Amazing for a completely disorganised woman!

Lunch: Vegetable soup & sandwiches
Vegetable, potato & lentil stew with soft polenta

Lunch: Aubergine & white bean puree toasted sandwiches (never got round to these last week)
Dinner:  Roasted veg, bulgar wheat risotto & nutty greens 

Lunch: Avocado pesto & new potato pasta (yes, it was gorgeous and yes, you don't need cheese in pesto!)
Dinner: Vegetable gratin, quinoa salad & green salad

Lunch: Vegetable soup & sandwiches 
Dinner: Lentil herders pie, baked beans & potatoes

Lunch: Sloppy Joes
Dinner:  Lentil herders pie, baked beans & potatoes (yes, we did just have that but Fridays are mad)

Lunch: Visitors coming and bringing well behaved is that?
Dinner: Depends on what food visitors bring...

Calzone (not entirely sure how or what flavour but there will be mushrooms and peppers and something clever with tofutti instead of cheese...) 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.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Foodie Friday (10 August 2012)

This week has not gone to plan food-wise, despite having a lovely meal plan. The babe has had a tummy bug so I couldn't get out shopping until yesterday morning, and as a result everything is topsy turvey.

However, yesterday's dinner saw a return to plan (albeit a meal planned for Wednesday lunchtime) with Avocado Pesto and New Potato Pasta.

Seriously, seriously good! I've not been impressed with the commercial vegan pesto I've found so far, but this one was so good that my husband thought there was cheese in it! My version has grown from recipes by a new discovery -  Chloe Cascarelli  (chefchloe) - and an old favourite - Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall. It's a very flexible recipe with several possible substitutions, which I've listed below. The avocado makes the pesto incredibly creamy and I defy anyone to miss the cheese!

Avocado Pesto

Serves 2 generously (or 2 and a toddler)

1 avocado (riper the better), pitted and peeled
1/4 cup walnuts
Large bunch of basil (leaves only, about 25g)
Small bunch parsley (leaves only, about 10g)
Generous squeeze lemon juice
1 clove garlic, chopped & squashed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Put avocado, walnuts, herbs, lemon and garlic in a food processor and process until smooth. With the processor still running, slowly pour in the oil until the mix is thick and sloppy. Season with salt and pepper. That's it!


  • You can use the more traditional pine nuts in the same quantity, and you can toast them gently in a pan if you like for a deeper flavour.
  • You can use different combinations of herbs, coriander is also good, and add some mint for a different flavour.
  • If you like more garlic, put more in!
  • Feel free to use regular olive oil if you prefer or are on a budget.

Because of the avocado, this is a recipe to make and use on the day.

For our meal, we cooked up 160g pasta to 140g new potatoes (cut into chip size slices), lightly pan fried some courgettes and fresh peas (green beans are also are a great summery veg to use) and just combined everything with the pesto at the end. Gorgeous!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

When building products beat all else

So, it has come to this. I am finding myself excited by a new plasterboard product.

Yes. I did say plasterboard.

Given that we have been renovating our flat on and off for about 3 years now, you would think I was over such things, but no. This morning Kev came home from the market and a visit to a friend's with a sample piece of plasterboard-type stuff made from plastic leftover...well, bits.

It's thermal, it's paintable, it's glueable.

It will transform the dreadful external wet wall we have in our dank kitchen that suffers from condensation and worse. It will keep the kitchen warmer (no heating, no insulation, ceramic tiles on floor, no sun in winter...brrr!). It won't cost very much to buy.

Could this be my favourite buy of the summer? How did it come to this?

Ah well, I'm off to have a barley cup (there's no help for me now, I'm not even drinking coffee...)

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Good plant calcium sources

Here are some great plant calcium sources. We aim to fit in at least 3 from this list each day.

kale, broccoli, okra, watercress, bok choi, turnip,chinese mustard greens, spring greens, parsley

Almonds & almond butter

Figs (dried)

Sesame seeds & tahini

soy, pinto, haricot (navy), white, black (turtle), chickpeas, baked beans


Fortified nondairy milks & yoghurt

you can also get fortified orange juice


Blackstrap molasses

White plain flour & white flour products

About Calcium:

+ Calcium is essential for building strong bones, but it is also needed for other functions such as blood clotting and  muscle relaxation.
+ Some foods, such as protein, sodium and grains cause calcium to be lost from the body so with calcium it is all about balance.
+ Calcium needs other vitamins and minerals to be absorbed properly and do its work, particularly vitamins D and K, and potassium.
+ Calcium is best absorbed when you eat small amounts several times a day.
+ Take plenty of exercise as this helps to build bones and retain calcium levels. If you do your exercise outside you also make Vitamin D (from the sun).

Sources of Vitamin D
Exposure to sunlight so your body can make its own supply
Fortified products such as cereals, milks and yoghurt

Sources of Vitamin K
Vegetables: leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, pumpkin, lentils, peas, seaweeds

Sources of Potassium
Avocado, mushrooms, potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes, green beans, bananas, flax

Monday, 6 August 2012

Meal Planning Monday (6th August 2012)

I seriously don't know where the time has gone this week. I do know that the cut on my middle finger makes typing really awkward, and that I have Pooh Bear's 'The more it snows Tiddly Pom' poem going round and round in my head. Tiredness is an odd thing...

Anyway all of that has very little to do with meal planning! This past two weeks I have been mugging up on nutrition. I had been suffering from a slight waiver of confidence in my knowledge about plant power, mostly to do with my appalling memory rather than a real lack of knowledge. In a bid to not have to reread all my books every three months, I am sorting out prompt sheets on the key info. Perhaps now my poor overloaded baby brain won't have to work quite so hard.

I have also recently discovered Chloe Coscarelli's website so I'm going to try some of the great-sounding recipes from there this week.

Monday - My Birthday! Yay!
Breakfast: ooh la la! Is that brunch out and about? I think so!
Lunch: A little sandwich and cake perhaps to keep us going until...
Dinner: Curry! My fave meal. Not quite figured out where from but somehow, somewhere, there will be curry...

Lunch: weekend odds and sods: veg & lentil soup with sandwiches or lentil stew & spinach wraps
Dinner:  Black Bean burgers with mango & avocado, potato wedges, corn on the cob & salad...grrrr

Lunch: Avocado pesto & new potato pasta (yes, carb central but hubby cycles far Wednesday ams)
Dinner: Roasted veg, bulgar wheat risotto and greens

Lunch: Aubergine & white bean puree toasted sandwiches...chef chloe says they are delish
Dinner: Bean & vegetable stew, quinoa & potatoes

Lunch: Dhal, flat bread, potato & spring green curry
Dinner: Vegetable gratin, quinoa salad & green salad

Lunch: Soup or sandwiches (depending on weather)
Dinner: Mushroom & lentil bolognese

Lunch: Pizza (second experiment with no cheese! building on success of first ones which were yum....)
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.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sugar free heaven!

I think I have just died and gone to heaven...

A little bit of surfing online searching for something along the lines of a date and fig vegan slice has led me to a blog called Anja's Food 4 Thought.

I am in love! So many gorgeous vegan or easy to convert into vegan recipes that are sugar free! People think I am horribly worthy not to want to cook with processed sugar, especially not wanting to give it to Felix, but it's my choice and I am happy with it. It is not easy though to find delicious recipes that haven't just replaced regular sugar with some outlandish sugar syrup that's actually just fructose in disguise (agave syrup is NOT the answer to your sugary problems).

Date brownies.....chocolate banana courgette bread.....almond butter granola bars.....cherry chocolate lemon honey cake.....carrot coconut banana loaf....chocolate cinnamon hazelnut spread....

I am like a kid in a sweet shop, I literally don't know where to start. instead I shall just sit here for a while with a happy little smile of anticipation on my face.

Thank you to another new discovery for taking me to Anje's blog:

Friday, 3 August 2012

Baby Plant Eater basic building blocks

At 14 months, Felix is a great eater and for that I am very thankful. I am a big believer in Baby Led Weaning (except the's just self-feeding really, but I'll cover that in more detail in another post) and I do think we have been able to lay the foundations for really positive eating habits at no great effort to us! That said, babies often start getting picky with food later on so we take things day by day and just enjoy our food.

Last time we looked at the four big essential vitamins - Omega 3, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Iodine - that you have to be careful to fit into a plant diet. Today I want to look at three of the core building blocks of a plant diet: protein, calcium and calories. These three elements often cause concern in people unfamiliar with the diet.

When you say your child is on a plant diet (or vegan, as most people call it) you can guarantee some stock questions. The first is "where will they get their protein?", quickly followed by "but they need dairy for calcium". Lets lay these ones to rest now.

Babies do indeed need a high protein diet as their high rate of growth is based on this. Much is made of the claim that animal foods are needed because they are complete proteins (containing all eight amino acids). However, so long as you eat enough variety and volume, the plant world offers all you need.  Some of them - soy beans and quinoa - are also complete proteins.

Beans and pulses (legumes) - these are really important and all provide different amino acids, so mix them up and eat every day. Beans must be one of Felix's favourite foods and he alternates between delicately picking them up one by one, and cramming big fistfuls in his mouth at once! Beans and lentils are also an important source of calcium.

Nuts and seeds - we used ground nuts and nut butters (almond is a favourite butter) from the early days of weaning and at a year Felix also has finely chopped nuts. Never feed a young child whole nuts and read up about allergies before you decide when to start feeding peanuts.

Soy -  Much is said about the pros and cons of soy, but my attitude is that soy is a really important resource for plant eaters, and a little bit of it as part of a varied diet is a good thing. We most commonly use soy milk (fortified with Vitamin D, B12 and calcium), yoghurt (also fortified) and tofutti (cream cheese, brilliant for stirring into sauces and stews). We occasionally use tofu but not very often.

Grains - these are an everyday essential, preferably at every meal. Like beans and pulses, there are so many grains to choose from you shouldn't get bored with them. The big daddy of them all - Quinoa - is not actually a grain but a seed used like a grain. It tastes great and is a complete protein so is a win-win. Toast it gently in a pan before putting in water to cook for even more flavour. Get creative too, like substituting bulgar wheat for rice in risotto.

Just remember, while wholegrain is the standard for plant diets, with young children it is important not to fill them up with too much fibre before they've had enough calories. Some processed (white) grains such as white bread and pasta are a good idea to avoid this. I make our wholemeal bread with at least 30% white flour for this reason.

Our most used grains are quinoa, bulgar wheat, rice (mostly either brown or basmati), cous cous, a mix of white and wholewheat pasta, and bread. On my list to use more are spelt and pearl barley.

The debate on just how good the calcium you get from dairy products is will rage on for as long as the dairy industry exists (and that's as political as I'm getting...) but there is a vast array of plant based foods that offer great sources of calcium.  As with all things, the most important thing is to eat a wide variety and eat it everyday, especially with little toddler tummies. Breaking away from the dairy products = calcium mentality can be a challenge if you've been raised on it like I was, but I feel more comfortable now (especially with a good crib sheet) that I can give Felix what he needs. Good calcium sources include:

Blackstrap Molasses (see Full Meal Muffins for a great recipe, also brilliant for iron)
Beans and pulses (baked beans are great, also chick peas, black eyed peas and lentils)
Seeds (sesame and tahini - creamed sesame seeds - are packed with calcium, I put them in soups, sauces, bread...anything really)
Fruit (figs are particularly good so I use dried ones in baking, also oranges, raisins and apricots are good)
Vegetables (greens greens greens...such as kale, broccoli, okra)
Fortified soy products (make sure you buy fortified milk and yoghurt)
Bread (if you buy bread, check the label to see the calcium content)

Concerns about there being too few calories in a plant based diet can be genuine, but it is also easy to resolve. There are plenty of healthy energy dense foods that provide both calories and essential fats, so I make sure Felix has something from this list at least twice a day (in addition to the breast milk).

Hummus (full fat)
Nut and seed butters (i.e. almond, cashew, pumpkin seed, tahini, peanut if you are using it)
Avocado (brilliant food for young plant eaters)
Breast milk (over 50% calories from fat so it's a great idea to carry on feeding longer)
Tofu (Tofutti - soy cream cheese - is great, or just mashed tofu)
Soy yoghurt
Olive, rapeseed and flax oil

Also important for keeping up energy, whatever the diet, is for babies and toddlers to eat regularly. We work on three meals a day plus at least two snacks and breast milk on top.

Please note that I am not a healthcare professional, but a mum who has done a lot of research. If you are considering changing your child's diet I recommend going to the sources direct yourself to be sure of what you are doing. 

I find these sources really useful:

'Feeding your vegan infant - with confidence' by Sandra Hood (The Vegan Society - their website is great too)
'Becoming Vegan' by Brenda Davis & Vesanto Melina (American, so the recommended daily amounts can vary and tend to be higher than UK) (loads of nutritional info)