Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Mama's Weekly Plant Based Meal Plan (29 April 2013)

I'm having a little difficulty accepting that it is now May. A little more sun might help...please? I'm still not feeling very well - this cold is a right humdinger - and have absolutely no sense of taste or smell, which is making my cooking erratic to say the least! Poor husband has grimaced his way through some rather odd meals this week.

I went to my mum's on Saturday to meet up with some old friends of theirs and had a lovely day. But I did feel tired and driving home was a bit much so I stopped for a break and to get something to eat. Because I was tired I didn't do what I should have done which was get some fruit, instead I headed to the cake section and bought some dairy free chocolate slices. They are nice enough and used to be a treat, but I have been gradually knocking sugar out of my diet in the last 8 months and it's been a while since I had these cakes.

Blimey. I had forgotten:

a. how sweet these things are once you stop eating sugar regularly
b. how sick they make you feel after only a couple of small pieces
c. how quick the energy rush from refined sugar fades
d. just how much eating sugar makes you want to eat more sugar.

A year ago I never would have noticed any of this, but since having nothing more than moderate amounts of maple syrup in baking and the tiny bit of sugar that goes into a loaf of bread, for so long your tastebuds really do change.

In giving up sugar I am extending this to my son. I have had quite a bit of criticism for this - always politely put of course - which does annoy me sometimes but mostly I shrug it off. I believe sugar is damaging to our health and I don't want my son to develop a  palate that requires large amounts of sugar. It's pretty simple really: my son, my choice. No need for anyone to get defensive and instantly start justifying their own choices, let alone tell me I am being mean to my son by not giving him sugar filled treats.

There's a nice little rant for a Wednesday morning! If you're still with me, here is my first extended meal plan showing what my little (poor deprived :) plant eating boy gets to eat. There are five lunches and dinners to leave space for repetition and leftovers.



Boy's Lunches:
  • Lentil & Vegetable Soup with toast
  • Mexican Bean Pasta Soup with toast
  • Baked beans, toast & avocado
  • Dhal, roasted butternut squash & flat bread
  • Hummus, avocado, & lettuce sandwiches with tomato wedges
Boy's Dinners:
  • Creamy greens pasta
  • Hummus, avocado, broccoli, carrot, potato or rice
  • Roast dinner (roasted veg, broccoli, carrots, bean stew, potato)
  • Vegetable & lentil gratin with brown rice,shredded greens & tomato
  • Lentil & vegetable soup & breadsticks

Snacks & puddings

  • Yoghurt
  • Fresh fruit (apple, orange, grapes, bananas)
  • Toast & yeast extract / nut butter / hummus
  • Hummus & breadsticks or vegetable fingers
  • Chocolate quinoa muffins & almond quinoa muffins
  • Flapjack
  • Avocado
Our lunches:
  • Lentil & Vegetable Soup with bread or sandwiches
  • Mexican Bean Pasta Soup with bread
  • Dhal, greens, rice & flat bread
  • Hummus, avocado, & lettuce sandwiches with tomato wedges
  • Hash with mushrooms, peppers & beans
Our dinners:
  • Roast dinner with nut cutlets, yorkshire puds & lots of veg
  • Oriental mushroom cottage pie mix with added greens & rice
  • Vegetable & lentil gratin with brown rice and salad
  • Curry (not decided what type yet), rice and dhal
  • Bean chilli , rice and salad

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

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Mama's Weekly Plant Based Meal Plan (22 April 2013)

I know, I know, it's Wednesday not Monday but a combination of general family sickness and bleurgh, and being impossibly busy on a community project means I am somewhat behind this week. My little man is at least nicely on the mend, leaving two cold-ridden sorry parents in his wake. Feels a little like stumbling haphazardly from one task to the next and never quite completing any of them, but at least I can still meal plan!

What I should be doing right now is writing up a project plan for a funding bid for our soon-to-be born village play area but the brain is feeling tired and uninspired. Another cup of tea and I'm hoping things should feel more lively up top. It's a fantastic project but has been having teething problems the last two weeks which mean extra time and effort and a big dollop of frustration. We will get there. It's easier to keep going when you have the end point of a wonderful open space for our kids to play in, important in a village with nearly 30 kids and not even a bit of flat open space to run around on (I don't really count the road...). Yes we are surrounded by forestry, but that's not actually a great environment for young kids, though great for walking sheep focused dogs in!

So, to food. I decided today that hopefully as of next week, I will start posting meal plans for my boy. He does share many of our meals but not all, and has lots of extras we don't. I thought it might be useful for people who are interested in feeding their kids less meat and dairy, or non at all, either for ethical or health reasons, to see what a plant based toddler diet actually looks like.


Monday
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Roast Dinner with nut cutlets, Yorkies and veg

Tuesday
Lunch: Vegetable & lentil soup and bread
Dinner: Vegetable Biryani and Dhal

Wednesday
Lunch: Vegetable curry, rice & dhal
Dinner: Mexican-ified Quinoa Bolognese with homemade tortillas

Thursday
Lunch: Oriental Mushroom Cottage Pie with sweet potato topping, greens or beans
Dinner: Soup and Sandwiches

Friday
Lunch: Fried bolognese rice
Dinner: Leftovers

Saturday
Lunch: Cottage Pie for Husband, I'll be at my mum's
Dinner: Mushroom & green vegetable bake, with brown rice and greens

Sunday
Lunch: Soup and sandwiches
Dinner: Curried root vegetable pie, beans and potatoes

I won't get round to any baking this week, but we have chocolate muffins and almond muffins in the freezer so we'll survive! I really want to find a good recipe for sugar free biscuits but might leave that for another week when there is less going on. Otherwise we have our daily smoothie and I am going to make a rhubarb crumble as I have a sneaky idea for a sugar free version which I really want to try!


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

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Mama's Weekly Plant Based Meal Plan (15 April 2013)

My poor wee man is teething ferociously at the moment and also has balanitis so he's not feeling too chipper. Needless to say the nights aren't brilliant either so I'm an interesting mix of bleariness and nervous energy. So far I've put it to good use with a good push at laundry (perfect drying conditions today with beautiful sunshine) and some mega dusting and tidying in the play room. I am averting my gaze from the state of my desk - I'd need mechanical diggers to get through to the desk surface - and just concentrating on what I can do in small chunks of time.

I have also prescribed myself a nice big slice of slightly stale banana fruit loaf which is perfect with a good covering of (non-dairy) butter!

This week's meal plan is easier on the cooking than it looks and what cooking there is will stock my freezer, which is sadly bare. Just so long as little man lets me get in the kitchen occasionally for more than two minutes at a time, we'll not starve!




Monday
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Roast with nut cutlets, Yorkshire puds and lots of veg

Tuesday
Lunch: Mexican Bean & Tomato pasta soup
Dinner: Bulgar Wheat & Quinoa Risotto (leftovers) with veg

Wednesday
Lunch: Curry with dhal and flat breads
Dinner: Some kind of pie. With veg.

Thursday
Lunch: Vegetable soup with sandwiches
Dinner: Curry, rice and veg

Friday
Lunch: Soup and bread
Dinner: Homemade tortillas with mexican beans and greens

Saturday
Lunch: Homemade pizza and salad
Dinner: Leftovers

Sunday
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Quinoa Spaghetti Bolognese

Breakfast extras and snacks
Polenta breakfast slice
Smoothies
Banana Loaf

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


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Quinoa bolognese - plant based so dairy free, vegan and packed with tasty goodness

Since we adopted our plant based diet just over a year ago, I have tried many different ways of making a vegetable bolognese. Some of them were nice, some were really not, but none came close to the texture and depth of flavour of traditional beef mince bolognese and so a few weeks back I decided to give it a break.

Normally I wouldn't be seeking to replicate in vegetable form such a meat dependent dish, but spaghetti bolognese is a lovely dish and a great one to have in the freezer for easy dinners. Plus, in vegetable form it would be a great one for little eaters who always seem to love spaghetti!

So I was very happy this week to have been given the leap I needed, via the wonderful Savvy Sister website. Cruising through her recipes I noticed one for Vegan Sloppy Joes with quinoa. For those not in the know, Sloppy Joes are essentially beef mince, tomatoes and onions served in a bun. A great idea to use quinoa and I was able to come up with a lovely saucy bolognese, packed full of vegetables and with that lovely traditional texture.

To say I was happy with this recipe would be understating it. So, thank you Savvy Sister, I am now sorted for bolognese and even my quinoa hating husband was very impressed!

Quinoa Bolognese
this amount serves 3 adults, or 2 adults and 2 toddlers

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced fine
  • 3 sticks celery, diced
  • oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 175g mushrooms, diced
  • 4 small tomatoes, diced
  • 3oz tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup passata
  • 250ml stock
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsps choped parsley
  • water from the pasta
1. Cook the quinoa. Cover the quinoa well with water and heat to boiling. Reduce, cover and simmer for about 10-12 minutes until cooked (when the quinoa is translucent and the white sections are starting to separate). Drain and set aside to dry.

2. Heat a little oil in a large saucepan or stock pot and sweat the onions, carrots and celery until soft and the onions are translucent. Stir regularly, but put a lid on for a few minutes to help the carrots steam a little. About 10 minutes.

3. Add the garlic, green pepper and fresh rosemary. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

4. If you are having pasta, put it on to cook now.

5. Add the mushrooms to the bolognese and stir until they are starting to soften. Add the tomatoes, oregano and basil and cook for another 5 minutes.

6. Add the tomato puree, passata and stock. Season to taste with pepper and sea salt (if you use it, I tend to use Seaweed condiment instead). Mix thoroughly and let cook at a simmer for about 5 minutes. 

7. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it but retain the water. Add the quinoa to the bolognese and mix to thoroughly coat it. Add as much pasta water as required to get the level of sauciness you want. When you have it right, make sure it's hot enough and serve with your pasta!

This is a very adaptable dish so you can play around with different herb combinations and put some heat in if you fancy. Just don't cook the quinoa until it's mush... Next time I will get some greens in, and then it will be even better.

Let me know what you think!





Monday, 8 April 2013

Mama's Plant based Weekly Meal Plan (8 April 2013)

This week I have done a more detailed meal plan as things have felt a little disorderly in the kitchen of late. In response I have finally worked up a proper pantry list which will help with large dry goods shops and I might even branch into fortnightly meal planning, but no promises!

I have felt pretty perky this week and am loving my new domestic focus. It feels very satisfying to work steadily through the house sorting, decluttering, tidying and cleaning. And that, people, is a sentence I NEVER thought I would say! Some kind of magic is at work and we are all very much liking the results of a good looking home that doesn't have you constantly staring at things that yell "clean me!". Yes, of course, a lot of people can do this kind of thing without even thinking about it but that is not me so it is both novel and a relief to find myself getting organised.

To add to my perkiness, I had a lovely Easter weekend with family and am being taken out to dinner tonight by my lovely husband!

So, onto food. As ever, the menu is plant based (vegan friendly).

Monday
Lunch: Soup and bread
Dinner: Out! Yay!

Tuesday
Lunch: dhal, cabbage & carrots and flat breads
Dinner: Quinoa Spaghetti (based on this recipe)

Wednesday
Lunch: Soup and bread
Dinner: Roast dinner

Thursday
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Homemade tortillas with mexican beans and greens

Friday
Lunch: Soup and bread
Dinner: Curry, rice and veg

Saturday
Lunch: homemade pizza
Dinner: Leftovers

Sunday
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Pie, mixed veg mash and...more veg!

Breakfast extras and snacks
Polenta breakfast slice
Smoothies
Banana Loaf

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, 25 March 2013

Monday Meal Planning (25 March 2013)

I'm sorry not to have been here for a while. Life has been a little challenging of late and I had to pause on a few things, including the blog, to take stock and sort out where I went from here.

Basically, the last three years have been a real rollercoaster for me and my husband. Cancer, business-threatening recession (which would mean home-threatening too since we live above the pub), the highs of a first baby coupled with almost losing him soon after his birth, and a small house fire are just some (albeit the biggies!) of what we have been through. Having to be a cook while pregnant and suffering from Hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme sickness) wasn't something I'd recommend either!

For most of that time I handled things well, or did a good job of putting off handling them, but recently I have realised that I actually have a lot of issues to work through. Consequently I have been feeling very blue and having had a few panic attacks I know I need to get some help. I've been somewhere like this before, although for different reasons and to a different degree. I had treatment for depression a few years back and what I learnt in the talking therapy (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) has served me very well in the last few years. Sometimes, though, the most important thing is to know when to ask someone to help.

So I have been to the doctors and asked for a referral to a therapist. I just need to talk to someone and work out exactly which of my lovely recent life experiences it is that is causing me difficulties so I can sort it out. I'm actually really looking forward to it as I had such a positive time with talking therapy last time round. I wish more people had access to the techniques in their everyday lives!

While I wait for the referral I am concentrating on the basics: healthy eating, enough sleep, fresh air and exercise, avoid the things that cause me most stress (as much as possible), and tackle those I can't avoid as best I can. So, sorting out the mess our house is in is my current project. I have my sister coaching me and a wonderful website called FlyLady to keep me going. But that's a post for another day.

Since this is supposed to be my Meal Planning post I'd better get on and talk about food! I am leaving two days free for eating leftovers or a 'throw together something from the cupboard' day. As ever the food is meat and dairy free.

Dinners

Roast dinner with nut cutlets, broccoli, roast veg and potatoes, and Yorkshire Puds

Vegetable & bean sausages in a tomatoey vegetable stew

Mushroom and quinoa pie, sweet and white potato mash, greens and carrots

Oriental Lentil-herder's pie

Curry of some kind

Lunches

Slow-cooked vegetable soup with homecooked bread

Sandwiches 

Dhal, greens and flatbreads

Bean hotpot with homemade tortillas (I had NO idea they were so easy!)

Baking & extras
Almond Quinoa Muffins (yum!)

Banana, fruit and chocolate chip Bread (double yum! recipes on their way...) 

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

Oat, almond & fruit breakfast smoothie - dairy free and delicious!

My little boy loves his smoothies. The whole process from chucking in the ingredients, eating the results and then playing (extensively...) with his great love, the blender, is all done with great enjoyment.

Here is our current favourite smoothie for breakfast. It tastes great and is very healthy. It's plant based so dairy free and vegan friendly. It's full of essential goodness like calcium, omega oils, vitamins C, B12 and D2, plus much more!

If you don't eat nuts, just omit the almonds and put in an extra tablespoon of oats.

This amount gives you a thick smoothie for 2 adults and a toddler. For a thinner smoothie, just add more milk.

Oat, almond & fruit breakfast smoothie

1/2 banana
1/2 medium-large orange
2 handfuls (about 1/2 cup) of mixed berries (I use frozen)
3-4 tbsps oats
2 tbsps ground almonds
1 tbsp omega oil (or flaxseed oil if that's what you've got)
2 tsps maple syrup
several shakes of lemon juice
2 tbsps chopped parsley
2 cups dairy free milk (use one fortified with calcium and vitamins)

Bung it all in and blend until smooth. Best eaten the same day (never lasts long in our house). Enjoy!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Meal Planning Monday (5 March 2013)

Despite the fact that we just eat plants, I am feeling a lack of greens at the moment. Sounds silly, I know, but I can always tell when our greens quotient has fallen as I begin to fantasise about plates just piled high with plain cooked vegetables, rather than cooked up into particular dishes. So, this week, there will be lots of side veg and lots and lots of greens.

With this in mind, yesterday we headed to our local(ish) Morrisons store, which has recently refitted its fruit and vegetable section. We'd heard some really good reviews of it, but even so I was amazed at what I saw. A run of the mill supermarket selection transformed and extended with piles of exotic vegetables that I actually need to look up to remind myself of what they are! And the greens section has water misted over it continuously to keep things fresh. Never seen that before!

I know it is a little sad to get excited about a supermarket, and in general I am not a fan of the places, but I had to seriously restrain myself from cramming too much into the trolley. The prices could have been a bit lower, but you can't have everything. Turmeric root - they actually had turmeric root! And the mushroom selection...well, I just hope it sells well enough to continue so we can indulge ourselves there once a month.

Onto this week's meals. As ever they are plant-based, with a little room in the schedule left for leftovers which I am trying to have more of to lighten the daily cooking burden.



Black eyed pea & vegetable lemony stew
enough leftovers to have for lunch with bread

Dosa (Indian crispy pancakes) with vegetable curry and dhal
never made these before but I loved them in India

Lentil Herder's Pie with sweet potato topping
with...greens!

Mushroom & lentil pie, potatoes or sweet potatoes and greens
the filling is leftover from our roast dinner on Sunday

Vegetable & bean burger, with a bun and mixed veg fries
am determined to crack a 'chewy' texture burger, rather than a squashy one

Slow cooked vegetable soup
...with added greens

Mexican Bean pasta soup

Smoothies
we're back on the daily smoothie wagon

Baking
Chocolate muffins
Almond & quinoa muffins
Omega rich flapjack (new recipe I'm working on)

 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

Thursday, 28 February 2013

CHocolate & Quinoa muffins with butternut squash or sweet potato - great for kids parties!

For the origins of this recipe, and my thoughts on which version is best, see my post about the taste test. There is also a beetroot version of this cake (divine, one particularly for chocolate devotees) here.

This recipe would be a great choice for a children's party, suitable from first birthdays onwards. Its a lovely chocolate flavour, not too rich, with lots of healthy ingredients. Plus, there's little here to trouble most kids' allergies or food issues: no egg, no soy, no dairy, no nuts, no refined sugars. Not bad!

Chocolate and quinoa muffins, with either sweet potatoes or butternut squash


Set oven to 180 C
  • about 1 1/2 cups roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2  tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (about 1/3 cup uncooked)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt or seagreens*
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup rapeseed oil or melted dairy free spread
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk (or almond or rice milk)
1. When roasting the vegetables, cut them into 1 inch squares, toss in oil and roast uncovered for about 30-40 minutes at about 180C until soft when pierced with a fork. Don't let them get too crispy. Set aside to cool.
2.  If using uncooked quinoa, place it in a pan and cover by at least 2 inches with hot water. Bring to the boil and cook at an enthusiastic simmer for 10-15 minutes until the quinoa is soft and the individual seeds have turned opaque and the white section is starting to come away. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside to dry out (important not to use wet).
3. Place roasted vegetables, syrup and vanilla in food processor and pulse to mix,  then process on high for a couple of minutes until very smooth. 
4..  Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add quinoa, vegetable puree and coconut milk to mixture and stir to combine.
5.  Add in oil or melted spread and stir well with a spoon.
6.  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 16-19 minutes (this amount makes 22 small-medium cupcakes). Top should be firm to light touch.  Let cool for 15 minutes.
* What are Seagreens? They are a finely ground combination of seaweeds which can be used widely in cooking. They are an excellent source of iodine, which is very important to the body and can be hard to get adequately as a non-meat and dairy eater. Seagreens have slightly nutty and salty flavour and can be used instead of salt so long as the salt isn't having a chemical effect (as in bread making). I chuck it in anything and everything, but especially baking as I love making traditionally treat-type food more healthy.

This recipe is shared at Allergy-Free Wednesday at Laura's Gluten Free Pantry

Chocolate Muffins - the Sweet potato vs Butternut Squash experiment (with an oil vs spread twist)!

I love my beetroot and chocolate muffins, especially since I started putting quinoa in them to feel that bit more virtuous about eating prodigious amounts of cake.

However, this winter I have been a little frustrated at not being able to always get beetroot and therefore not getting my muffins! It's my fault for not always remembering to buy it at the weekly market, but it's very annoying that even in the height of the beetroot season my local supermarket does not stock this lovely vegetable. It also got me thinking about what I would do when it wasn't in season.

So I decided to have a little experiment and selflessly eat many muffins in the name of deciding on a decent alternative. I also wanted to try using rapeseed oil rather than sunflower spread as on a plant based diet you need to be careful to keep your omega 6's (lots in sunflower oil, less in rapeseed oil) in balance with your omega 3's (easily swamped by omega 6's).

The two most obvious candidates to replace beetroot are butternut squash and sweet potato. Neither fulfill the 'homegrown' ideal but are at least pretty much always available. And once roasted, they are both lovely and sweet and easy to puree. I made a half batch of muffins with each, and in both batches I used an equivalent amount of rapeseed oil to replace the melted sunflower spread.


And....?

Both muffins were thoroughly tested by myself, my husband and my 20 month old son. We all agreed (ok, maybe not my boy - his language skills aren't quite at that level yet) that we couldn't detect much difference at all. Husband slightly preferred the sweet potato, and I slightly preferred the butternut squash. All three of us have happily have eaten both. The oil made no detectable difference, the muffins seemed exactly the same in texture.

What about the beetroot comparison...?

Well, this is just me as I have definitely eaten many more of the beetroot muffins than my husband...but I would say that the new versions didn't have quite the same depth of chocolately flavour. The pairing of beetroot with chocolate is a divine one, as the beetroot noticeably enhances the chocolate. Having said that, from the way he has stuffed these new muffins down without hesitation, my boy prefers the new versions. I think the beetroot ones are a little rich for him.



So, final thoughts...?

I would happily eat any of the versions, and confidently give them to other people as they are all lovely chocolate cakes in their own rights. I was really pleased with how successful the oil substitution was.  The best thing though was my boy's reaction. With the healthy oil, the quinoa and the vegetables, these are pretty healthy muffins and great for getting good calories into little tummies! This would also make a great cake choice for a children's party.

I have posted the recipe for both varieties here.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Meal Planning Monday (25 February 2013)

When I looked in the fridge this morning I was astonished to see quite a bit of food. I didn't think I'd done that much cooking recently, but there were pots of leftovers all over the place. The next two days are easily taken care of.

It got me thinking, too, about what the contents of our fridge said about what we'd been up to. Eccentric thought, perhaps. I might be guilty of being a little brain dead today and that's about all I was capable of! Still, let's play it out shall we?

Leftover 1: soup. Vegetable & lentil. Cooked yesterday so our little boy could have a nutritious and delicious supper. Quite tasty, but he didn't eat it. Typical.

Leftover 2: bean chilli. Very tasty but not actually hot at all on account of the boy being off chilli right now as I couldn't be doing with cooking two different meals on Saturday. Still, everyone enjoyed it, though it did make one too many rice based meals in a row which always make my husband twitchy. He's a potato man really. Preferably two types in one meal, which I never do, so he's permanently disappointed.

Leftover 3: dhal. I'm never really happy unless there is some kind of curry leftover in the fridge. It's a comfort thing, since it makes a grand meal any time of day. Yesterday I even had curry for brunch. I must do that more often.

Leftover 4 & 5: roasted butternut squash and sweet potato. Leftovers from an experiment I am conducting to see whether chocolate muffins made with either of those vegetables can match chocolate muffins made with beetroot, which I can't always get in these wastelands of vegetable-ness.  Said muffins are now tucked away in a box and I will publish the results of this exciting experiment in the next couple of days.

Leftover 6: mushroom risotto. Smaller amount than expected due to us and the friends we had round to dinner being utter pigs in clover with this delicious dish. A happy dinner all round.

Now, what did that achieve? Not a lot really but I found it quite amusing.

So, once we've motored our way through those leftovers here's the plant-based plan for the rest of the week.

Bean & Sausage Casserole
Using our newly discovered homemade vegan sausages 
(tweeking recipe before I post it)

Potato, mushroom & spinach curry with (more) dhal & (more) rice

Bolognese
I didn't get round to this last week so my freezer is still sadly bare

Flapjack
(I'll be pushing the boat out and trying to make it without butter. Really, yes!)

Doesn't seem like much, but those leftovers will go a long way. There'll probably be more soup and sandwiches.

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, 18 February 2013

Chocolate, quinoa & beetroot muffins - dairy and egg free

These muffins are a variation on these Chocolate and Beetroot muffins, slightly altered to deliver a nice shot of protein. They are dairy free, egg free and low in sugar having only some maple syrup in them. Perfect for children and adults, anyone on a plant-based diet or if you just fancy a guilt-free chocolate cake (and who wouldn't want one of those!).

And they taste delicious! Surely this is about as good as chocolate cake can get?

Chocolate, quinoa and beetroot muffins

Set oven to 180 C
  • about 1 cup cooked beetroot (roasted or steamed)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2  tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (about 1/3 cup uncooked)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt or seagreens*
  • 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.  If using uncooked quinoa, place it in a pan and cover by at least 2 inches with hot water. Bring to the boil and cook at an enthusiastic simmer for 10-15 minutes until the quinoa is soft and the individual seeds have turned opaque and the white section is starting to come away. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside to dry out.
3. 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. 
4..  Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add quinoa, beetroot and coconut milk to mixture and stir to combine.
5.  Add in melted spread and stir well with a spoon.
6.  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 16-19  minutes. (11 minutes for mini cupcakes). Top should be firm to light touch.  Let cool for 15 minutes.

* What are Seagreens? They are a finely ground combination of seaweeds which can be used widely in cooking. They are an excellent source of iodine, which is very important to the body and can be hard to get adequately as a non-meat and dairy eater. Seagreens have slightly nutty and salty flavour and can be used instead of salt so long as the salt isn't having a chemical effect (as in bread making). I chuck it in anything and everything, but especially baking as I love making traditionally treat-type food more healthy.

Meal Planning Monday (18 February 2013)

This week, milestones are on my mind. On Tuesday I had an MRI scan on the arm where I had a bone tumour removed two and a half years ago, with clear results. This leaves me scan free for the next 18 months which is lovely and the clear results are a big relief.

The day itself was difficult as the scan meant I couldn't breastfeed for 24 hours. It turns out breastfeeding is still massively important to my little boy and he was very distressed, and of course didn't understand why all of a sudden he couldn't feed. Sometimes, 24 hours is a very long time.

This week also sees a milestone for my best friend, whose twin girls have just turned one. They say the hardest year with twins is the first one, and it's certainly been a challenge. I miss living close to her but we work hard at keeping in daily contact and sharing the little details of our lives despite the distance. Good friends are to be celebrated, like good news, especially if your time together is fleeting.

None of that has much to do with food let alone meal planning, but posting about the coming week in food is making me reflective! This week's meal plan is simpler than it maybe looks. Lots of greens, lots of root veg, and a big batch of (hopefully nicer than the last batch) bolognese sauce for the freezer. My freezer is pretty bare and needs so loving attention to stock it back up. I feel like experimenting a little as well (spurred on by my new flapjack variation) hence the mango muffins plan...and my new Meal Planning Monday logo (still deciding if I like it)!


Slow cooked vegetable soup
For lunches, along with sandwiches

Root vegetable and green lentil stew, served with mixed greens and bread
Pepped up with a few dried mushrooms, a splash of wine and some sage

Vegan Sausages, with mash and greens and mushroom gravy
I'm having a go at homemade ones using vital wheat gluten to give them some bite

Roast dinner
Nut and quinoa roast, roasted root veg, greens, Yorkshire puds and gravy

Mushroom pie
If I can get a good deal on nice mushrooms at the market

Spaghetti Bolognese
Too many lentils last time, I need to pin down my recipe and concentrate!

Almond Smoothie
I have a challenge to fulfill, but more on that later!

Mango and quinoa muffins
The boy has rejected my tinned mango so it needs using up

Not had any for far too long and am pining...

What do you think? I might even make a first attempt at my plan to adapt my chocolate avocado pudding recipe into an even healthier super-pudding for baby and toddler plant eaters who need lots of healthy calories, vitamins and minerals. I like a good challenge!

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 

Friday, 15 February 2013

Toddler friendly no added sugar flapjack with added vegetables!

It's alright, I haven't gone mad with the title: this is flapjack cranked up to the next level. Just as lovely, but that bit more virtuous. If you've already tried my Orange & Date no added sugar Flapjack you'll see it's virtually the same recipe, just with a different spice and some added veg.

You may ask why vegetables in flapjack, which after all is a treat food and not an essential. Fair question.

A few months ago I set myself a personal challenge: to make our food work as hard as possible for our bodies and our health, without losing out on the taste or even the satisfaction of eating treat foods.

I have come to believe that it is a bit bonkers to eat things we know harm us, when they are not essential or even always all that satisfying to eat. We all go bonkers from time to time, me included (I found a white chocolate snowman in my rucksack last night someone had given me for the boy and let's just say, it didn't last long, dairy or no dairy) and my husband's weakness will always be the all day breakfast when we're out and about.

This is why I am teaching myself to bake without refined sugars and weaning us onto the healthier fats. Its an ongoing project and will probably never be completely finished, but its an increasing passion of mine. So, enough waffle, here's the recipe.


Orange & Date no added sugar Flapjack with Carrot & Spinach

Ingredients

150g stoned dates, chopped fine
5 tbsp orange juice
zest of 1/2 medium orange
150g dairy free butter / spread
100g raisins or sultanas
225g porridge oats
1/2 tsp mixed spice
75g grated carrot
60g finely chopped spinach

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

Line and grease or oil a 10 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, mixed spice, carrots and spinach and mix. If it looks a little dry, add a bit more melted butter but it shouldn't need it. Turn into your prepared tin. A 10 inch round loose bottomed cake tin (or equivalent square one) would be perfect. Lightly press down the mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top. Cut into 12-16 squares (depending on the size you want) and leave in the tin until fully cooled or it will break apart.

Taste tested and approved by 20 month old and 43 year old boys. Enjoy and feel good!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Taking Slummy Mummy to a new low

I actually mistyped the title of this post the first time around, but on consideration think I should have left it as it was: Slumpy Mummy. Oh yes, that's me.

I have never been one for fine tuning my appearance. If I manage to remember all my clothes I chalk it up as an achievement. Motherhood is not to blame for this as I have been this way for time immemorial, but it certainly hasn't helped. It turns out that having to get the child and myself ready to go out, while helpful husband is sitting in the car with the engine on, is beyond my meagre organisational capabilities.

Yesterday was a prime example. I'd actually done quite well. There were nappies, water, coat and a hat for the child. Money in my wallet. Dogs let out and their pretensions to joining us on our trip nicely squashed. I'd not been able to locate any shoes that fitted the child but wellies were a great last minute find.

I settled into the car to only mild irritated tutting from the husband (who had no legs to stand on since he installed the child in the car without noticing he had no shoes on). We roared off to our wonderful holiday day trip out (otherwise known as the only play barn in the area).

It was only when we were half way there that I looked down and realised I was wearing the manigan. In a panic, I scanned the car to find a suitable alternative, the play barn being frigidly cold at all times, but there was nothing beyond a scarf. This would come in handy but couldn't by any stretch of the imagination replace the manigan for warmth.

For those of you who don't know, a manigan is a cardigan for men. Stylish, hip and trendy at times, but our manigan is a breed in its own league. The manigan to beat all manigans.

I wear it because it is warm and our stove-heated flat is cold in these winter mornings. What my husband's excuse is I don't know, but the garment has achieved cult status in our house. It's awful. It's grey, bobbly and shapeless. It has nasty big plastic buttons on it. It never gets washed often enough. I frequently button it up wrong and fail to notice. We spot manigans when we are out near clothes shops, but none have so far replaced the dreadfulness that is our family manigan.

And if you're wondering why I didn't provide a photo of me in said manigan I will just say this. My standards might be low, but not that low. As for the play barn, at least it was quiet and I could brazen it out without hip trendy mothers (who have nowhere else round here to take their precious ones on a wet Wednesday in February) shrinking from me in horror.

On the plus side, realising I was wearing the manigan took away any feelings of worry about the fact that I had yet again failed to brush my hair.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Turning a house into a home without spending a penny!

We finished the bulk of our flat renovations last summer but haven't had a chance before now to really start to make it a home, so it's been bare walls and much talked of shelving plans all autumn and winter. But my husband has taken advantage of our current two weeks holiday to nail some of those plans down (ha ha!) and I am loving the results!

We don't have any money to spend on the flat right now so we are using things we already own and can restyle.

Here, Kev has made an over-window shelving unit to make better use of a deep window recess. He has also fitted a computer table and shelving above so I can blog in comfort. All the picture frames have come from charity shops over the years.



The shelving is all made from floorboards we've taken up from various parts of the building and the computer table was an old kitchen table that had spent two years in someone's front garden and then another two in our not very watertight shed. It's scrubbed up very nicely!



Our lovely new bathroom has also had some attention. Some generous neighbours gave us some bathroom paint they didn't need and this time the shelving is leftover from flooring we laid in the pub some years ago (good solid oak). We already owned the big mirror and the little shaving mirror was a charity shop find.



More bathroom shelving is being manufactured as I type. It is amazingly satisfying to still be able to get our home in order while not spending any money. It also helps no end with tidying the place up...!

What projects have you been up to recently?

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Meal Planning Monday (4 February 2013)

Shockingly this is my first Meal Planning post of 2013! I must admit to have been a tad distracted so far this year, but I really need to get back on track with the meal planning so here we are.

So far my distractions have been pretty good, which is everything I hoped for after a rough year last year. Hubby has had a follow-up cholesterol test after two years and I am still dancing the fandango around the room because his cholesterol is down from a fear-inducing 7.3 to a very respectable 4.3! All hail to the plant based diet.

I have also been having fun with finances which is very unlike me (massive understatement). But thanks to a lovely new super-efficient accountant and me finally getting to grips with sites such as confused.com and moneysupermarket I have had a very satisfying prune of our finances, not to mention a socking great big tax refund.

Plus,we are on our annual two week shut down of the pub so we get our evenings to ourselves day after day! Such a luxury for us, as two weeks is not much to get in an entire year.

So, onto food. I have two themes this week. The first is exploring the darker reaches of my store cupboard to use up those things which have been hanging around for far too long. The second is a cookbook called the Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, which I haven't really tried out enough and feel the need to bond with.

As ever, all meals are meat and dairy free and (hopefully) delicious!

Mushroom, leek & quinoa pie
with mash and purple sprouting broccoli

Vegetable & bean cutlet

Red lentil & cauliflower curry 
with flat bread and rice

Mexican Bean soup

Mushroom & wild rice soup
got some wild rice on offer ages ago and never used it so here we are

Fragrant yellow split peas with carrots
(another store cupboard adventure...)
with flat bread and rice

Roast dinner with nut & quinoa loaf
new favourite thing to have with a roast, seriously good

To make my life a little less hectic and less kitchen orientated, I have instituted a 'always have a pot of soup available' rule. The standard is my slow cooked vegetable soup which we all love and I can easily add quinoa to if we want a protein boost. Makes a great snack, easy to put with sandwiches for a bigger lunch and a very happy meal since my boy (19 months old) says 'Hmmmm' with a big grin after every slurped mouthful!

We are also enjoying baking together at the moment. Recent hits which I will post soon include almond & quinoa muffins (excellent) and chocolate quinoa cookies (still need a bit of work). I also have a new variety of flapjack with added vegetables. Yes, really!

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 

Enjoy your week and I'd love to hear your comments. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Welcome to 2013 - get comfy because it's time for some therapy!

Hello 2013. Yes, I know, I'm a little late to the party but there's plenty of time left in the year!

I am going to say upfront that this will not be a post about my New Year's Resolutions. I'm not a fan, you see, of New Year celebrations, never have been. And I have spent too many years making and breaking unattainable and ill-timed resolutions: it's a bad habit I have now officially given up.

Instead, I have developed a kind of periodic review habit where I look at my overall goals and my more pressing requirements and tinker as I go along. I also learnt a few years ago that it is good to take a look at how things have been going - good or bad. You can then lay anything to rest that you need to let go and take forward the good things in life.

Sound a bit weird? I promise you it's pure therapy and everyone should give it a go! Here's a few examples to illustrate what I mean. I won't do the whole year as I don't normally do a year at a time, and this has been a humdinger of a year which needs a lot of processing.

2013 - A year of a few key highs and some massive lows which will make us stronger

January - financial meltdown
Put bluntly, we came very close to going under. If it weren't for the help of my amazing parents we would have been in trouble. Business has really been hit by the recession, much more so than previous years and we were hit by some unexpected bills. Turns out our financial management skills were far from useful and we'd gotten into some very bad habits.

Since business did not really pick up throughout the year, it has been incredibly hard to keep things going but we have just about pulled it off with some ongoing support from my parents and some in depth self-taught lessons in thrift. That part I have actually enjoyed and seeing how little I can pay for things has turned into a satisfying hobby.

Need to let go: what's done is done and guilt about past actions can be crippling. We got into a mess and we are slowly getting ourselves out of it. It will take a long time, but it wasn't completely our fault. Turns out this is our recession.

Good things: thrift - I love it! New financial management skills are slowly bedding in and we will continue to work on this. A new openness with my parents has been an unexpected positive.

Carry forward: building up other income streams is the top priority.

April - adopting a plant based diet
This is definitely a high, though not one I anticipated. Turning vegan was a long time in the making and I had no idea how much I would love it. I feel much more positive about food these days, I am maintaining a good healthy weight, and I am learning loads about nutrition and connections between food habits and health which I love.

Good things: everything! This is my diet. Plus it has given me the strength to sort out two bete noirs - caffeine (gone for good) and sugar (running scared out of my kitchen). I feel very positive about this.

Carry forward: learning about nutrition and food options as a vegan family, which can be a little complicated and expensive. Just needs a little effort though.

March & October - Healthy me
Three years ago I discovered I had a malignant bone tumor in my upper arm. There followed lots of scans and biopsies and a couple of operations, first to get the tumor out and then to get the metal supporting plate out. Throw in a frozen shoulder, some full on physio, being told you had a year to have a baby or potentially wait at least four years (it worked - yay!) and then more scans to see if the operations worked and you have a rather scary and stressful three years. But I had two healthy scans in 2012 and if I have another in the spring, they may leave me alone for two whole years.

Need to let go: me having cancer knocked us sideways and impacted hugely on our ability to run our business and our life well. We weren't just being useless.

Good things: It doesn't get better than this.

Carry forward: Being healthy, just be happy.

August - Flat renovations finished
This is another high. After four years on and off renovating and 2 years hard core renovating we finally had the whole of our flat back (the main part anyway...long story). Living in two rooms for so long was no fun, and we are reveling in the space (even though it's a modest flat it feels huge to us ). Again, I have to say a huge thanks to my parents as we would still be living in a building site if it wasn't for them.

Need to let go: guilt over how much money we had to borrow from my parents. We budgeted hard to get the best value for them as possible.

Good things: a lovely home for our little family. Warmth in winter is a huge step forward!

Carry forward: as my dad says to me, enjoy it and be happy otherwise what did we do it for? 

Autumn: a local tragedy
I live four miles outside a little town called Machynlleth. Sadly we shot to the headlines in October when April Jones was abducted. The man suspected of taking April lived in my village so we have had a particular and horrible perspective on the whole thing. Two months of living opposite a police camp and having your garden and all your favourite countryside haunts finger tip searched is not good. Nor is knowing something dreadful may have happened so close by. Seeing your village and home on Sky News Live as part of a murder investigation report is hard to comprehend.

I never realised, when hearing about things like this elsewhere, how much of an impact it has on the wider community. I didn't know April or her family, and I can't imagine their grief, but I know my village and it has been devastated.

Need to let go: dwelling on what has happened which is easier now there are not police vehicles constantly in the village. Also anger and helplessness that after going through so much, and having our business under siege from so many different angles, we now became the village no-one wanted to go to.

Good things: a community pulling together despite some wide differences. Christmas lights for the first time in the village which have united us, lightened our hearts and has made me personally very satisfied for organising something that has genuinely helped my friends and neighbours.

Carry forward: strength to stay positive this year during difficult times like the trial. Hope that April is found and found soon.


This has turned into an epic so if you are still with me congratulations and thank you for reading. If you have found this an interesting read I can heartily recommend having a go at this exercise for yourself. It is a very powerful way to look at key events in your life and understand how they have affected you and what you can learn from them. There is nothing like writing things down to see the truth in them.

Happy New Year!