Thursday, 31 January 2013

Playpen Ethics

I tried to resist, I really did. Before I was a parent I didn't see the point, thought it was even lazy perhaps to have a playpen for your child. I mean why coup them up when you could be playing with them, right? Errrm yeah, this was before I learnt the value of getting to go to the toilet alone or even at all!

Now she's 8 1/2 months she gets into everything! Her latest obsession is figuring out how to open the nappy bucket, I've tried hiding it - but she finds it and she's bound to figure it out sooner or later. Certain things were just a bit easier before she was so very mobile. Bathing, popping to the loo, cleaning the house - whatever. It was all easier. Sure there are plenty of benefits to her being where she is now, mostly that she sleeps through for at least 8 hours each night.

So yes, I brought a playpen. I still play with her just as much, but it's a safe place for her to play - and for now it means I can cook the dinner again whilst keeping an eye on her, nip to the loo and operate almost normally. Dare I say she even seems to like it. I really understand now all the things I just didn't get before I was a parent. Stay at home moms really don't have loads of time on their hands, even though as the label suggests they are at home a lot of the time. Being a parent is the most demanding job I've ever had - but most certainly the most rewarding.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Raw Nacho Cheese Kale Chips

Since my trip to Wholefoods Cheltenham, I've been obsessed with kale chips. I tried a microwave recipe, but besides the fact that it didn't have the benefits of being raw - it didn't taste very nice! So I begged and begged and Mr B gave in - so our new dehydrator arrived yesterday!

The first thing I just had to make was kale chips. I adjusted my nacho cheese sauce recipe so that it was totally raw (I normally use roasted red peppers from a jar) and the results are fantastic!

Recipe

For the 'cheese' topping:

1 cup raw cashews (soaked for around 2 hours before using)

1 cup nutritional yeast

1 chopped and de-seeded red pointed sweet pepper

Pinch of natural sea salt

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1/2 cup water

You'll also need: 2 or 3 bags of Curly Kale

Add all the ingredients for the sauce to a food processor and combine until smooth.

Wash all your kale well and remove all the stems. If already shredded leave as is, or if not tear the leaves into good size pieces.

Pour your 'cheese' mixture over the kale and massage into the leaves so it's all evenly coated.

Line the trays of your dehydrator with nonstick sheets and spread out all your kale evenly across the trays. If it seems like you've put too much on each tray, don't worry - it shrinks down quite a bit.

As my machine is an Excalibur they advise for raw foods to dehydrate at 145 F for the first hour, then reduce to 118 F for the remaining time - I'd say it took around 6 or 7 hours to dry in my 4 tray machine.

I promise you - these won't last long. They're also much much cheaper made at home than ones that are store brought. My favorite brand can be up to £6.99 per pot depending on where you shop!

Friday, 25 January 2013

She Can Stand!

Just two days ago, I caught my daughter doing this.....

Mr B snapped the picture a few minutes after whilst she was still happily standing up! Who knew that the first time she'd stand by herself would be to get the remote from the sofa?!

She proceeded to then do her 'pressing the buttons and looking at the tv' trick. It looks like she's going to be into gadgets/technology just like her dad!

The thing is, that now she can do this we need to step up with baby-proofing the house. We'd only just got everything done for crawling, but now she can pull herself up on things we thought ere out of reach... time for another rethink!

It's so wonderful seeing how she is developing as a little person. I can't believe she can stand up already!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Makin' Soya Milk

Whilst Mr B and I were discussing kitchen gadgets last night he casually dropped in that there was an unused and long forgotten soya milk maker at the back of the kitchen cupboard. I'm a sucker for gadgets and I went straight in there to dig it out!

The problem is - it's made by a company called 'Soya Fresh' which don't seem to be about anymore and I don't have any instructions! It's digital and has four modes - if anybody knows which cycles are which number I'll love you forever!!! I think I have it worked out and I've made a couple of batches so far.

My first experiment was with unsoaked beans on what I think is the right setting - it was a quick and easy process and I sweetened it at the end with agave syrup. It tasted... ok. It was a lot more 'beany' than I am used to, as we normally buy Alpro products which are soya 'drinks' rather than wholebean 'milks'.

I've also had a go with beans that I soaked overnight. I'd read that removing the skins from the beans would reduce the strong flavour, so that's what I did. I have to say for some reason this batch came out worse than the first!

I'm not sure if this was because I used the wrong mode, or that I'm just not going to like homemade 'milks'. I am hoping to get it right though, as I really want to make my own tofu with it!

I'm going to try and make some nut milks next - hopefully they'll be more successful! I wouldn't recommend giving these 'milks' to young children as they aren't fortified like the ones sold in supermarkets.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Wholefoods Market Cheltenham

So, I love Wholefoods in America - last time I was on holiday there (in 2009) I couldn't get enough of the place. So I know they've had stores open in London for awhile, but when I realised this one was only an hour away - I had to go!

It was a really pleasurable shopping experience, I was impressed by their selection of vegan make-up and beauty products (they also sell non vegan things too so you still have to read the back!). They had a while aisle of baby products and plenty of vegan foody goodies. Small was distinctly unimpressed by the whole trip!

They even had some lovely members of staff making food samples to try - which were vegan! I picked up a few recipe sheets and it definitely gave me some inspiration!

Here's just some of my haul!

The downside? It's kind of expensive. I could have easily spent a LOT, but I didn't - I was good and restrained myself. It was lovely to go for the afternoon though and pick up some of the 'harder to find' vegan items. I'm sure I'll be off there again soon.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Hopes and Dreams for 2013

Last year was a pretty hectic one - it also kind of sucked health wise for a big part of it. The best part was obviously the birth of my wonderful daughter (and then getting engaged!) I've got many wonderful things to look forward to this year - the most immanent being my wedding!

Getting Married!

We didn't give ourselves long to plan our wedding. We got engaged in July last year, but didn't start planning the wedding the wedding until October really. Now with only around 2 months to go it's pretty hectic - with a baby to take care of I have to admit that Mr B is doing most of the work.

There really is so much to do with a wedding. My words of wisdom at the beginning of the process were 'Let's keep it calm & relaxed', but that has kind of gone out of the window. Chair covers, table plans, table decorations, signage, stationary, dresses, bouquets..... it never ends. As you might expect, we are having a totally vegan wedding - which hasn't posed many obstacles to get around really. I'll be sure to fill you in on it all after the big day!

At the end of the day though, getting married is really about two people and their love for each other.... and that's what I'm looking forward to.

Baby Milestones

My daughter has grown and changed so much already since she was was born. I think it's SO SO important to savor every moment and enjoy each stage as much as possible. Just seeing her sitting happily and playing with her toys is special - even if it means she's now longer that smaller (she was never tiny!) newborn lying helplessly in my arms.

This year she'll learn to do so many new things and I'm looking forward to each and every one of them. Crawling (she's almost mastered it already), walking, new words & skills - they'll all be just as special as each other.

Blogging

I've been writing this blog since 2009, and my life has changed massively since then. When I started out I didn't really know what my 'end goal' was - I was just sharing my vegan student life & recipes. Since I've become a mum my blog has become much more important to me. It's a lovely way for me to document things for family & friends, share vegan tips & baby recipes and it's something I can look back on and smile.

I guess my goals for this year blog wise are: be more creative with baby friendly recipes, occasionally post recipes for the grown ups, connect with more blogging moms and just have a good time with it!

I'd really love it if you could vote for me to be in the top 25 Vegan & Vegetarian Mom Bloggers - you can vote once every 24 hours and the voting ends on the 7th Feb!

Circle of Moms Top 25 Vegan & Vegetarian Moms - 2013 - Vote for me!

Ergo Baby Winter Cover

I was sent this cover by a reader of the blog after I wrote the post about how much I loved the carrier I'd purchased. It seems it arrived at just the right time as currently it's very white and snowy outside!

I've had chance to use this a couple of times and I love it! It's been permanently attached to my carrier since I've had it. I'm really impressed with how well it fits and complements the carrier.It keeps my daughter lovely and snug and has a great hood, which isn't waterproof, but it's good enough for dashing from the supermarket to the car (which by the way - supermarket shopping is my favorite way to use the Ergo).

After I'd looked at several other winter babywearing solutions (Peekaru, Mama coats & babywearing fleeces) I think this is the best solution for me. It allows me to wear whatever coat/outfit I want, but also keeps baby warm. My favorite part is that it keeps those little legs warm!

Finally..... the nappy washing saga continues!

If you read my blog often you'll be well aware that in our house we use cloth nappies and have gone through many washing powders and methods to clean them in the 8 months since my daughter has been with us.

The main problem I think is that we have a super eco almost new washing machine that just doesn't use enough water to prevent the dreaded 'build-up' in our nappies, no matter what detergent we use! I loved Rockin' Green and the Tots Bots Potion, but even those after a while left our nappies leaking and nonabsorbent.

Enter Ecoballs...... I tried these on a recommendation from one of my fab twitter friends (thank you!). I strip washed all the nappies and boosters and then began using them.

They come in a package that has 3 wash balls and a small size of stain remover. They are really simple to use, just pop the balls in the drum of the machine with your washing and go. I was a little bit unsure, as I'd previously used soapnuts - which worked for a while, but then gave everything a musty smell.

I've actually ended up using these for all our washing for the past couple of weeks and everything has been really lovely and clean. They seem perfect for the nappies and they are supposed to leave no residue.

The jury is still out on the dryer balls. I think claims that they might reduce your dryer time aren't exactly accurate. However they do seem to soften your clothes - I've not been using and fabric softener with any of our clothes and they have come out feeling lovely.

I really hope this is the final solution for nappy washing!

(This isn't a sponsored post - product was purchased by myself for own use)

Thursday, 10 January 2013

It's All Just Child's Play Isn't It?

She's almost crawling. Goodbye 'baby phase'!

Ok, so in reality she's been mobile for a little while - she's been rolling, shuffling and dragging herself around the living room for a couple of months now. She wants to play with everything she shouldn't, drags things out of 'tided away' places and it seems nothing is safe anymore. We've begun baby proofing the house. The stair-gates are up (all four of them!), and the rather annoying catches are on the kitchen cupboards.

I just know it's only a matter of weeks before she's mastered it and then there will be no stopping her!

(Ps: The Ramones T-shirt is courtesy of H&M Baby. They are one of my favorite bands, when I saw it I just had to get it!)

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Ergobaby Carrier

So my long awaited Ergobaby carrier in the Night Sky design arrived this morning! I'd wanted one since my daughter was born, but wasn't sure how much I'd like babywearing so didn't want to invest a lot of money into it.

I'd first purchased a Petunia Picklebottom 'Evening in Innsbruck' carrier from Amazon, but when it arrived I looked it over and just couldn't be sure it was genuine. There are so many stories of very convincing Ergobaby fakes going around and I didn't want to trust the safety of my baby to a possibly fake item, so it was promptly returned.

I originally had my eye on the 'Galaxy' design, but wasn't sure how much I liked the grey. 'Night Sky' is a pretty new design - but it was perfect (I had to have it!) but couldn't find it for sale many places and definitely wanted to buy from an authorized seller. In the end I purchased from First Signs. I'd really recommend them, they had an excellent choice and I received mine the very next day.

My daughter has really entered a clingy phase, I can't even pop into the kitchen without her getting upset so this will be really useful. I've recently been using a Babasling, but I don't find it terrible comfy. THESE are the carriers I've previously tried out. Now I have the Ergo the rest are definitely being consigned to Ebay! I absolutely loved the Moby but found it too much of a faff in car parks and taking it off/ putting it on whilst out and about.

I really prefer this carrier over the Petunia Picklebottom design as it has a zip pocket on the front which is ever so handy. If I'm nipping out quickly I like to be able to do it without a bag and this pocket is perfectly sized for phone/keys and maybe a small wallet. She's already began to chew on the straps though so I just know I'm going to need the teething pads!

It's really adjustable and the waistband goes up to about 55 inches. This is a little unclear as it says 55" on the US website and 49" on the European site, so just thought I'd clear that up!

I'll try and get Mr B to take some pictures of us using it!

(This isn't a sponsored post. I purchased the carrier myself for genuine use)

Friday, 4 January 2013

Equiptment for Baby Food Making....

Having lots of kitchen equipment isn't really necessary. As a student I didn't have very much, maybe an oven and a slow cooker at my disposal.However I quickly learnt that although having lots of gadgets isn't necessary, having the right ones saves a lot of time and makes it a lot easier.

When it comes to making food for your baby, this is especially true. I just don't have time to stand in the kitchen for hours whilst watching my daughter, but I didn't want so many kitchen gadgets that there's nowhere to keep them. Myself and Mr B are keen foodies and our cupboards are already full!

These are the essential items which I've found genuinely useful.

Beaba Babycook

This is a steamer/blender in one unit. If you already own a steamer and a blender then you might not need something like this. It depends what your intentions are - if you're going to make big batches of things and freeze them in portions, then you'll definitely want to stick to your bigger models. However I've ended up cooking a lot of food fresh, as what she loves today isn't necessarily what she'll love to eat tomorrow - plus all those pots take up a lot of freezer space!

The Babycook will still make 3 or 4 portions of something if you so desire and it's convenient. I also have the attachment which allows it to cook rice/pasta/grains, this is excellent as it'll cook and you don't have to stand over it.

The best part? It's footprint is small. It can always stay out on the counter top as it's small enough to not get in the way.

Bowls & Cutlery

There is a lot of choice out there, I've tried out a few different brands and Oxo Tot bowls and spoons still come out on top.

Their bowl sets come with one large & one small bowl - both with lids. The small bowls are great for 'pudding' portions and all the bowls have nice grippy bits on the bottom.

These soft tip weaning spoons are the best that I've tried, though it's a shame I've not seen them on sale in any stores and I had a job find these (in pink to match our bowls) online. They were around £6 for a set of two.

The snack pot is lovely and very useful for taking bits out with me in my handbag. Mini ricecakes fit wonderfully! I wouldn't think you'd need more than one of these though unless you go on lots of day long outings.

The training cup looks really good, but states 12+ suitable so we've not tried it yet.

I do have some Tommee Tippee 'basics' bowls and spoons as spares to use when visiting relatives etc, they do the job - but I'm not such a fan of these. You really don't need to buy so many different kinds of bowls and spoons that you've nowhere to put them!

Food Storage

There are all kinds of weaning pots and trays out there for storing your creations in the freezer, and how many you'll end up needing really depends on how much you plan to make and store. It's helpful to remember that food should be used up within a month so don't go overboard!

If cost isn't an issue then I'd go for these Brother Max storage pots in the 2nd stage size (170ml). The ones you'll see being sold in most stores are the smaller 1st stage pots, but you'll need to move onto the bigger size soon enough and they don't have to be filled to the top. I've only seen the bigger size online and they're around £5.99 for six. They clip together and come with a dry-wipe pen for contents and date.

If you need to buy a lot, or need something a bit more cost effective then these Tommee Tippee 'basics' ones are an excellent choice. They're sturdy, dishwasher safe and you get 3 for £2.99. They're available in a lot of supermarkets. As you can see, I write on these with a dry-wipe pen too and it works really well.

Rice Cooker or Small Slow Cooker

This isn't something you'll see in a standard list of equiptment for making baby food, but I've found it excellent. I have a 0.6L Crock Pot rice cooker, but a 1 or 1.5L slow cooker would also work. I use it for recipes like Indian Baby Rice and Split Pea Soup. It's also excellent for adult meals and cooks so much without much supervision, there are also excellent books that help you get the most out of it (not vegan books but it's easy to adapt!)

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Adverture into Sprouting.....

I like sprouts, sometimes buy them from the supermarket and thought... well why not have a go and grow my own?

I brought this to get going.......

It cost me around £7 including delivery and comes with just the jar and an instruction booklet.

I decided to try and sprout soya beans first. I washed up all the parts of the jar and set my weighed out amount of dried soya beans in water to soak overnight (12 hours).

Tomorrow the rinsing/draining/growing process will begin, but for now they've just got to sit. I'll keep you updated on how it goes!

Rice Cooker Rice Pudding

I love rice pudding. It reminds me of being a child and hating the stuff from a tin, but loving the homemade nutmeg kind my nan used to make. This is my veganised version of the good stuff!

It's perfectly possible to make this on the hob, but I just prefer to use my rice cooker. It's easier, and if you eat a lot of rice it's an amazing bit of kit to have in your kitchen.

Note! When I say 1 cup, I'm referring to the cup measure you'll get with your rice cooker. I only have a 6 cup capacity rice cooker as I wanted something small to use primarily for cooking for a baby, but if you have a bigger machine you could make bigger quantities.

Ingredients

1 cup sushi rice

2 cups water

4 cups soya milk

2 tsp Nutmeg

1 tsp Cinnamon

100ml soya cream

4 TBSP sugar

First, you'll want to cook your rice. In my machine for sushi rice it's 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice.

Once the rice has cooked and it's clicked off onto the warm cycle you'll want to add all your other ingredients.

Give everything a good stir and set onto another cook cycle.

Once that has finished, check it over and give it another stir. If it needs longer let it sit with the lid on on the warm cycle until set.

For a relatively small quantity in my machine it took from start to finish about 45 minutes, but depending on your machine the time may vary.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Baby's Split Pea Soup

If you've read my blog for a while you'll know I've read an absolute ton of books about feeding vegetarian/ vegan babies. Whilst I know very well all the nutrition basics, I'm constantly searching for new meal ideas for my daughter. I really want her diet to be healthy - but full of variety.

'The Farm' are a community in Tennessee, USA. I believe they've been around since the 70's and live by a 'pure vegetarian' diet. In their cookbook they share some interesting ideas about raising vegan children and one of the first protein foods they recommend are split peas. Their recipe however includes quite a bit of onion, and my daughter plain refuses to eat anything containing it. This is my own version which she loves.

This will make enough for about six portions which can be cooled and frozen. Use within a month.

Ingredients

60g yellow split peas

100g sweet potato

1 TSP crushed garlic

1 Bay Leaf

1 baby suitable stock cube

2 cups water

1/2 TBSP vegan margarine

1/2 cup of Alpro Junior milk

Place the split peas, sweet potato, garlic, bay leaf, stock and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil - then turn down the heat to a low simmer.

Let cook for around 40 minutes, until everything is soft.

Remove the bay leaf, add the milk and margarine and blend to a smooth consistency. Go slowly when adding extra milk as to not make it too runny.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Khicheri (Indian Baby Rice)

I've seen recipes like this one in various places, but none suitable for vegans. I was keen to try something different as I'd had resistance from my daughter when it came to introducing new or 'stronger' flavors - but I'm happy to report that despite this being pretty fragrant, she loves it!

A few variations are possible - you could try adding some spinach or substituting the lentils for pre-soaked soya beans (this would significantly add to the cooking time, but is a good way to add to the variety of legumes your child eats).

This makes enough for one portion for my daughter, but you might need to alter the amount of rice and lentils according to appetite.

Ingredients

25g rice

25g red split lentils

2 chopped and de-seeded tomatoes

1 TSP crushed garlic

1 TSP crushed ginger

1/2 TBSP vegan margarine

2 TBSP plain soya yoghurt (Alpro etc)

Cook white rice (you can use brown but cooking time would be around 45 mins) and lentils in two cups of water for 20 minutes on a medium heat.

Once cooked, drain and add back to the pan. Add the margarine,tomatoes,garlic and ginger and 'fry' for around 3 - 4 minutes.

Add your fried mixture to a blender, along with the yoghurt and pulse until smooth. If it is too thick, add a little soya milk suitable for infants (Alpro Junior/ formula) until you have the desired consistency.