Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Veggie houses and choose shoes blues

Half term last week was decidedly unadventurous because friends that did brave it to some of the attractions in town hinted it was almost impossibly busy, so we went against the grain, as usual, and will plan some trips maybe next week or so. We did local things- baking, soya capuccinos out and venturing into the garden and staying out longer than the cold has allowed for a while.

The boys made vegetable puff pastry houses after seeing them on cbeebies 'Big Cook Little Cook':

If the boys had eaten a quarter of the vegetables they swathed over the puff pastry I would have been waving my arms around with joy! The puff pastry and lentils went down very well but the vegetable pieces were viewed almost solely as artistic materials...

Still getting sorted from the new kitchen installation. For some reason I can't work out, it seems impossible (at least everywhere I look!) to buy recycling boxes, for indoors, that aren't made of plastic. I know that plastic is easy to clean and durable, but doesn't this defeat the purpose quite a lot?!

Took the boys to buy new shoes after preschool, and for the first time they really enjoyed it! Before now they were quite scared of the Clarks' shoes foot measurer and got really distressed even when helped along by chocolate buttons...but this time, they loved choosing some shoes... they picked colours they liked and styles which have lights on!

The boys shoes aren't vegan; their shoes are made of leather; I have always taken them to Clarks' because of the fitting service and to date haven't found any companies that specialise in children's shoes. Adults are so well-served. Mit and I only buy shoes that are not made of leather but we are totally spoilt for choice now with so many good companies, especially Bourgeois Boheme, and vegetarian-shoes. From what I've searched in the US, Moo Shoes and Alternative Outfitters look fantastic.
I also have seen some nice synthetic shoes at shops like Debenhams and Marks and Spencer. How cute are those?!

Really appreciating some signs that Spring isn't far.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

hearty food affairs

Well, the chocolate cake sunk again! So it's down to my baking ineptitude- not oven trouble as I'd hoped! Not sure why... think cakes can cave in if you open the oven door too quickly... but I only opened it after the full recommended cooking time. Still, the chocolate frosting went a long way, it filled the cavity so it was hardly noticeable! But I want to crack this cake because it tastes so good and is perfect for special occasions.
It was rich chocolate cake, covered with a chocolate frosting, decorated with Montezuma's dark chocolate buttons with Alpro soya cream poured over. I used almond milk (which the author lists in another chocolate cake recipe) which is gorgeous. Its a little pricey so just an occasional buy but the boys like drinking it on its own so it doesn't go wasted. One of the wet ingredients is canola oil, which haven't always found that easily but Waitrose sell rapeseed oil, which I think is the same thing?

Anyway, the above was our Valentine's meal pudding at home. The other courses were:

Pasta with garlic, sundried tomatoes, asparagus and coriander from a Viva booklet called 'Get healthy with Heather', and pea, spinach and mint pithiviers with salad (the pithiviers were a Rose Elliot recipe within an old copy of 'Lifescape' magazine. The filling is a lovely mixture of fresh mint, peas, spinach and vegan cream cheese). The boys ate the pithiviers renamed as 'space ships'- saved me trying to pronounce their actual name!

Our Valentine's day meal was actually the day after; I was too tired to cook much on the day, it was punctuated with tasks to do with putting things back in the kitchen, and such excitement as changing the fridge door around......but we did enjoy our little feast on Sunday.

Rohan, Luca and I did some baking for when one of their friends came to visit this afternoon:

These are fluffy white cupcakes from Jennifer McCann's wonderful 'Vegan Lunchbox'. I've just unearthed the book from unpacking, hadn't unpacked it in this house yet. I also found 'Vegan cupcakes take over the world' which made me very happy as I really missed this book on the twins birthday.

Enjoyed the visit of a very old friend who came via Wing Yip. I really need to make a trip to this big chinese supermarket. She brought amazing fruit and veg, like a whole bag of red chillis for £1 and lovely things such as white radishes and pak choi. Mit made a lovely stir-fry with black bean sauce and soya beans added:

So after all this feasting I have an antidote: after a rare eve out with a friend (cinema- 'Benjamin Button'- loved it! ) I had a glass of red wine which served as a confidence boost to register for a half marathon. Eeek! I only ever run in an ambling fashion and for about 3 miles at a time. So, I've got work to do before April!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

kitchen at the ready...

Am looking forward to making vegan chocolate cake this weekend. I've a recipe that hadn't worked each time I've tried to make it in this house so far! Hence I've blamed the cooker each time. Now that excuse has gone, I really hope it doesn't sink! Valentine's day seems to be a good day to try it out!

So happy with the new kitchen. It feels like someone else's at the moment, or that we've won a competition. We didn't quite get what we ordered- the cupboards are painted in 'vanilla', a paler shade than the warm, light 'saffron', I chose... but it looks good also, and we've chosen green for the walls which we like. Very much into green!

Dinner tonight was vegetable moussaka veganised from Sarah Brown's 'Vegetarian Kitchen'. Doesn't take much adapting, just vegan butter and soya milk in the white sauce, plus vegan cheese on top. It is delicious, although note to myself: only make this at weekends when Mit's around to play with R and L; its a bitty recipe which has you in and out of the kitchen for best part of two hours. R and L watched tv quite happily, but the guilt pangs were there!

On another quick note: there was an information evening at the boys' preschool recently. I was with the boys so Mit went.. it was great to learn more about the Montessori approach, which is working wonders with our little poppetts. Mit found us a tip in conflict resolution; apparently, the school have those egg timers with sand running through. And if two children fall out over a toy, they put the egg timer on to help with 'taking turns'! Well, I think that's genius! Haven't got an egg timer but I've been setting my mobile phone for three or so mins at a time! It works! The alarm acts as some external decider and I feel less of a referee. Hooray!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

almost vegan little travels

The kitchen's almost ready... one more day of finishing touches, but since Saturday, we've had running water in the kitchen again : )
Did any part of the UK escape the snow storms? It's been so picturesque, all the cars and houses look regal iced, the quantity of snow is just so unusual- it was amazing to see it drifted rightup to the front door!

Of course the cold calls for some real comfort food:
We've enjoyed lentil pie- a lovely red lentil and veggie mixture topped with potato as in shepherds' pie, plus mung bean dahl mixed with shortgrain brown rice today. (Cooked mung beans, sauted with some spices, water, lemon sugar... forgot to add the jar of passata I'd bought today, which makes it richer, but the boys happily devoured it anyway: )

Broadstairs was beautiful (we hired a cottage for the first week of the kitchen work being done). Cold of course, but still wonderful and more or less we got into a routine of spending an hour on the beach making sandcastles before going to one of the cafes. The boys loved 'Morelli's' in particular. A real old style ice cream parlour, which apparently hasn't changed in decor since the fifties. The boys really do love ice cream. At home, we only buy swedish glace because its vegan and we all love it, but when we are out and about its very unlikely to find vegan ice cream, unless of course you're in a veggie or vegan establishment. Morelli's, being Italian, offered gorgeous looking coffees, however no soya milk. (When I asked the lady behind the bar if they had it, she shook her head, her body language signalling 'don't be ridiculous!') No matter. I developed a love of americanos. Sometimes all the froth of a capuccino gets a bit much anyway!

Broadstairs was full of lovely cafes, with no chain in sight, and although I love 'Costa' etc for a quick fix, it was nice to be in a place with independent cafes. In the holiday cottage (it was very, very nice, I'd recommend it... a three minute walk from the beach) there were some copies of a local rag called 'the broadie' and there was an article within which made an interesting read. Called 'How to spot a dfl ( 'Down from London') it went on to list several ways of spotting them... including descriptions of young families with posh buggies, blackberry owning, skinny cappucino seeking people who couldn't appreciate the essence of the town because, somebody claimed, it takes twenty plus years to be accepted as a 'broadie' by the locals! Quite an insight into local views of visitors... although there was some ambivalence because the article did acknowldege the boost to businesses that tourism brings to the town. Well, our buggy is old and tired, I don't have a blackberry, and we were just visiting (not buying a house for a holiday home! But ah.. dream on!)

It was a beautiful place to be...of course things really open up in the summer, but there were plus points to a January visit- it was easy to get around, and we were the only people making sandcastles every day!