Friday, 31 October 2008

Nuts and on a roll....

Got some mundane stuff to do in the morning tomorrow, but then the day will pick up as off down to Sussex to see my brother and new family and my parents. It'll also be a great chance to catch up with a friend en route. I'm going on my onesome, even though we should be in the clear with chicken pox now, can't risk us all going and passing it on to newborn nephew.

Been cooking for tomorrow. Its 'nutty lasagne', a dish the boys have (mostly) liked since they were babies, probably because it contains parsnips so has a sweet taste to it. I make this every so often as its got good stuff in especially ground walnuts on top, good source of omega oils. Big plus, its one easy lasagne recipe, because it doesn't require a bechamel sauce, so not fiddly at all.

Can't find the Sainsburys' vegetarian recipe book its in (still in an unpacked box) but I had the recipe on my computer, it's as below. Have veganised it by using toffuti garlic and herb 'cream cheese' instead of cottage cheese, and Marigold 'Engevita' flakes on the top. Though I did put some cheese on part of the top, as Mit and the boys are veggie, and eat some cheese.

Nutty Lasagne

750g parnips, diced

25g butter

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

6 sheets of no pre-cook lasagne

340g carton cottage cheese

500g chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained

¼ teaspoon of nutmeg

50g cheddar cheese, thinly sliced

25g walnuts, roughly chopped

1 large tomato, halved

Cook the parsnips in boiling water for 12-15 mins or until tender. Drain and mash in the dish with half the butter and the parsley.

Cover with half the lasagne, then the cottage cheese, then the remaining lasagne. Cover with the spinach and season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the cheese slices along 2 sides of the dish.

Cook in a preheated moderate oven, 180c fas mark 4, for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the walnuts down the centre and dot with the remaining butter. Arrange the tomato on either side of the walnuts.

Serves 4

Made some vegan sausage rolls (packet of puff pastry) with Granose meat free sausage mix, these are for a fireworks gathering we're possibly going to tomorrow eve.

Mit took most of the afternoon off work, it being half term. We strolled into town and had coffee and cake at M&S. Lovely cafe, they do lovely soya capuccinos. And they don't charge you for having soya milk unlike some of the coffee chains- I think its quite off that some charge 30 or 40p for soya milk, when so many people request it now instead of cow's milk and for a range of dietary reasons. It shouldn't be the case that they have to buy it in for a tiny minority any more.

Rohan had a 'gingerbread man' and Luca a 'gingerbread lady'- funny, they usually ask for exactly the same thing!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Against the grain and pizza feasting

We've definitely cottoned on to discovering more of our county so am feeling a Kent resident as much as an outer London one this week! With the train being so quiet, really felt like we were going against the grain by not going London way. (This is partially a post-chicken pox choice, but also not brave enough to be caught up in half term crowds).
Tonbridge was where we headed today; we walked a small part of the weald walk up to and around Tonbridge Castle. Its a small castle, I followed the boys as they meandered around, they being a bit young too appreciate the activities on offer there at the moment. We spent quite a while at a large playground, which they enjoyed, although it was definitely eclipsed by a cluster of tractors parked nearby. Luca informs me that he needs a tractor. At the playground, Rohan found that the slides were a bit muddy hence not very conducive to sliding, and he quickly became engaged in using up lots of baby wipes in cleaning them! I am in awe of his sense of tidiness and order, its not a trait that I recognise, and, as has been pointed out, we need someone like that in our family : )
It was so cold, after our packed lunch we had drinks at starbucks, and chocolate coins for the boys. We had comfy seats right in the front window. Luca spontaneously said ' I love this coffee shop, mummy! Hmm, think my hopes of cultivating two coffee partners are working out so far.....
We had a pizza fest this evening, having recently found a recipe for what's become one of our favourite vegan pizzas, 'Isa Pizza' from this book:
The toppings combine deliciously together, the author of this book must be a sort of food artist. The combination of flavours and ingredients always seem to create brilliant flavours. 'Vegan with a vengeance' includes a page on how to make basil tofu ricotta, which I personally find a brilliant cheese alternative. Tofu isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I think its well worth trying in different ways because what you do with it can alter it so much. I think this pizza would be fabulous for anyone wanting to cut down on cheese, but looking for a substitute.
I cut corners from the full recipe, the base was a packet of ciabatta flour, and I didn't make the pesto but used a jar of aubergine pesto. I forgot to buy kalamata olives which was a shame because they make this pizza! The boys enjoyed rolling out their own dough and spreading the tomato sauce on. Nice to have some recipes they can join in on. Eases the quandry of relying on dvds and videos whilst I cook, although they were quite tired out from today and probably the coldness out there added to the effect.
I haven't worked out yet how to display photos properly blogging. Also, maybe there is a quicker way rather than having to download them one at at time?!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Red dragons and the woodland walk

Red dragon pie was on our menu for tonight. For the last few months, I've been doing a menu plan, partly to help me budget but its really helped to see what we all eat over the course of a week, to check its balancing out ok vitamin wise.

In the last week or so there's been a turing point in Rohan and Luca's eating. Its as if they've really identified the meals that they like, and got used to them. I am so happy, they both ate really well, red dragon pie, and broccoli ('little trees' to them!). We had it with cherry tomatoes and the pie was with vegan gravy granules. The intro to the recipe in the book alludes to the Chinese name for aduki beans being ‘red dragon’ or ‘red wonder’ beans as they've been noted as so nutritionally beneficial.. . but its when Sarah Brown suggests 'Maybe you will have the power of the dragon after eating it!' that made me realise its potential pulling power for two toddler boys. They are now two little red dragons!

The pie is a from a Sarah Brown cookbook from 1984- 'Vegetarian Kitchen'. The copy is my mum's, she bought it when I must've been about ten around the time I became properly veggie. I saw this recipe, though, when flicking through the book for inspiration about a year ago. I was so happy on seeing this recipe! Mit and I ate this once in a lovely Glastonbury cafe called 'Spiral Gate'. It was Autumn, we'd just been for a long walk and ended up at the cafe at dusk and had this with an amazing salad and chips, with a mug of warm ginger cordial. It was about five years ago and we remember thinking, this is real vegetarian food, really wholesome and hearty and filled with flavour. Its topped with potato as in shepherds pie, but is much more gorgeous, texture wise and flavourwise...

We are not mixing much this week whilst chicken pox is on the way out, and took off on our own to Sevenoaks on the train, a little place very reachable where we had never been. The boys loved the train and digger spotting, whilst I felt my head clear as we approached the hills and the stops became smaller villages. Had to look at least twice at one village name- 'Bat and Ball'!

Coffee Republic here was large, in a great setting, we stopped for soya capuccino and fruit smoothies. I asked another mum at the next table about playgrounds and she told us about a nearby playground which the boys loved. We found it next to a really sweet woodland walk, where leaves were collected. Met some friendly families, a lovely town, very, very leafy so suits Autumn perfectly. Unfortunately my camera battery was 'exhausted' and I just managed the one picture before its exhaustion gave way. Its a very affluent town though. The houses were stunning, and very large, we saw as we walked up the hill. Took some apples from outside a house which were left with a sign 'Windfalls, please help yourself'. Brilliant! Apple crumble tomorrow. Funny though, how its hard to accept things for free. I felt a bit like I was stealing even though the sign gave permission, so put a little change below some of the remaining apples, just in case another sign with a suggested fee had been there but blown away!

On my mind a lot are lots of new little arrival of family and friends' babies : ) Because of the pox we can't visit in a hurry. I might have to pop down to sussex on my own for part of next saturday to meet my new little nephew : )

Monday, 27 October 2008

clearing and colcannon

Mit's been home from work today recovering from an intense couple of days of flu. He's on the mend, but I'm totally thrown. Its put me into weekend mode, I was so certain it was Sunday, I felt a bit bereft when I thought Tescos would be closed so I couldn't buy in some chocolate and other bits when I realised stocks were low. Chocolate, and bananas. I cannot stop eating bananas at the moment, and probably eat too many, they are such an easy and convenient fast food!

Spent most of the afternoon in the garden, clearing. Its half term, so no work or pre-school. Our new garden (a new and recent treasure) has two wide borders with lots of mature plantings. Now Autumn's set in, its easier to see where to cut back and clear. Rohan and Luca 'helped' by trundling their wheelbarrow around and making 'chocolate cake' with the compost, which did uncannily resemble a rich chocolate... to look at only! No one actually sampled it, I kept a very close eye : )

Made colcannon tonight, the famed Irish dish of sexed up mashed potatoes! Mashed spuds mixed with some soya cream and leek, with spinach and greens mixed in, topped off with some melted vegan butter. We had Frys schnitzels with it. The boys had some cubed tofu lightly sauted with olive oil and soy sauce (because they didn't want to try the schnitzels, quite normal for the first time I put something in front of them.) Colcannon seems to magically convert the less esteemed veg like cabbage into a luxurious dish. Cabbage- the word alone just doesn't exactly stir up excitement, it sounds so dour and laden... like baggage...

Well, the boys ate several forks of the colcannon. This amount is always a relative success. I did read somewhere, in one of those baby/toddler guide text books- that your toddler should be able to put away similar portion sizes to you. Well, we have a long way to go then! But to get some green vegetable into the boys (that isn't peas) feels good, and can't be bad for a Luca who sometimes says ' I don't like green food, mummy'. But therein lies a common toddler/child suspicion of green food!!

Took a colcannon pic. Probably not the best culinary subject for a first blog image! Mit summed it up well- 'I think food photography is an art'. Hmmm, where can I do a short course?!!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Chilli autumn fare!

I've always seen chilli-con-carne as synonymous with spag bol and wasn't interested in making it firstly because I saw it as a meaty recipe, and secondly because I thought dishes with chilli added gave them a kind of blanket, overpowering taste whereby you couldn't taste any of the ingredients or fellow flavours. However, my mother-in-law, (who is an amazing almost vegan cook!)got me into chilli over time.

I was checking into the VIVA website the other day and looked up recipes.. and I saw a one here: I've got one of Rose Elliot's books already so I was armed with the knowledge her recipes are always fab!

Another thing, we moved in the summer to our new gorgeous little home, and we have an elderly neighbour, J, who is brilliant. Anyway, he is a lifelong meat lover and the other day he was showing me his recipe book and it included chilli. (M had happened to mention to him that I am vegan but that's not true yet, as there are a couple of food items I've not yet been able to give up- milk chocolate being the main obstacle.) He remembered and jokingly said ' so what do you eat, carrots?' It was just a joke but I don't know where to start really in trying to convey how fantastically varied and tasty a vegan diet can be. I started to a bit.. then thought lets leave it... then I saw the chilli recipe. To cut a long story short, I made a big batch of it in two different pots.. more fresh chilli for M, mild for me, the boys and J. Then I delivered it to J, with some steamed rice. We joked about meals on wheels. But, whether he likes it, doesn't mind it, or throws it away, I suppose I would really like to show that a vegan (or near vegan diet in our case) can stand alone, and not be left lacking. Infact it can be massively improved!!

We've eaten it twice, and loved it. Nice one Rose! The boys ate some pureed up (well, R doesn't eat whole beans) and they like dahl so thought I would present it as that.

Both R and L are attached to different things at the moment. R can rarely be separated from a box of breakfast cereal. Usually 'flakes' (he loves 'nature's path's 'mesa sunrise') but today he has gone to bed with a full box of chocolate stars on his pillow. Ok, so maybe I should discourage this more actively, but it's a harmless thing really and toddlers are notoriously eccentric aren't they? Luca has gone to bed with a big red car on his pillow. Both items I will go and remove when they are properly asleep!!

Going to start snapping so can illustrate with pics. Too late for the chilli! Shame, because it was a great colour mix with green lentils, the burgundy of the beans and red pepper