Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Raw Mexican Soup

I'm still ill. Yeah.... Apart from that being the title of a Smiths song it sucks. I've been trying to eat (when I can!) healthy & raw but whilst still satisfying that comfort food craving. The answer? Raw soup. I've experimented with it before here and have been trying to improve my recipes since. It's not really the taste I've had a problem with (I've made some awesome concoctions) - it's been the texture. It seems despite that fact that we own a pretty pricey blender (Kitchenaid) it's still no powerhouse and I've been struggling to achieve the silky texture that people say they get with things like a Vitamix or a Blentec. In fact, the Kitchenaid even broke after not many uses at all but Mr B being wonderful managed to fix it. If anybody has any tips on texture it'd be greatly received! 
I've had the greatest success with avocado based soups and this one is a little Mexican inspired. As with all raw soups, it's really quick and easy to throw together.


Ingredients

1 Ripe Avocado
2 Large Tomatoes
Handful of fresh Corriander 
1/4 English Cucumber
Juice of 1 Lime
2 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 onion chopped
2 Tsp sunflower oil
1 Tsp Cumin
1 Tsp Smoked Paprika
400ml water
1/2 tsp salt 
Dash of Pepper


Prepare all raw ingredients and place in your blender. Unless you have something super high powdered - start off slowly and work the power up. You may need to blend for a little while to combine everything. Garnish with a little Corriander and lime juice. Enjoy.

Monday, 28 October 2013

West Midlands Vegan Festival

Despite feeling slightly under the weather we all headed off the The West Midlands Vegan Festival in Wolverhampton yesterday. We've been a few years in a row now - it's an annual event held in the Wulfrun & Civic halls. There is always a good mix of charities, fashions, cosmetics and food stalls with many local companies as well as those from further afield.


It'd be a superb event to attend if you were thinking about becoming vegan - I really wish I'd gone along to something like this as in the early days I was just armed with one or two cookbooks and it took me ages to discover many vegan alternatives. I didn't know vegan ice cream could be brought in the supermarket for at least my first 6 months as a vegan - I know....... 


As we already know about many of the companies who hold stalls (although we still have a good look around!) the highlight for us is always getting lunch followed by being spoilt for choice with cake! We all had a burger from Veggies - but there was loads to choose from! I was very tempted by the amazing looking raw food offerings and Change Kitchen had some lovely looking curries too. 



For desert we had cupcakes from Tall Poppy Foods (which I forgot to take a photo of! Oops) and Mr B brought me a Ms Cupcake to take away since I'd not tried them before. I adored the Tall Poppy one and will be stopping by the next time I'm in Birmingham as I've heard good things about jackfruit burgers.


At this point I was feeling pretty poorly so we picked Small up an advent calendar from Moo Free, grabbed emergency coffee and jumped back in the Beetle and headed towards Mr Singh's for some pizza. We were slightly confused as the branch has moved into West Bromwich (right next to The Public) from Oldbury so it took us a while to figure out where we were going!


I've talked about Mr Singh's before but in case you missed it - it's an all vegetarian pizza place (one branch take away, the other eat in or take out) and they do vegan cheese. It's pretty good and satisfies a certain type of craving although I try to generally stay away from those types of foods these days.

I wish I'd had more time to check out Rainforest Creations  raw food and the good stuff Shambu's had on offer!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Noticing Things Around Me......


Recently we've been making good use of our National Trust memberships and having mini afternoon adventures to keep Small occupied and give her some time to run around outside. We headed to Baddesley Clinton as I'd heard they had some Halloween scarecrows and thought it'd be fun.



They had a wide variety of scarecrows - my absolute favorite was Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas. Small wasn't a bit frightened and loved every minute of it shouting 'Hello' at all of them.




Something I've really been enjoying this year is noticing all the seasons. In the past I didn't have time to notice the little things and with work and other things going on I'd just let things pass me by. I'm really lucky that Me B works so hard so that I can be at home with Small and enjoy these things with her. We played with acorns, chestnuts and conkers and in all the flame coloured leaves.



If you have any National Trust properties nearby it's so worth getting a membership - it's great value if you use it and many of them have nice kid's playgrounds. We don't have much of a garden so it's nice to get outside, but visiting these places is way more fun than a garden anyway!

The Life of A Parent is Certainly Not The Same As it Was Before.....


This is my best friend and I on a night out. This me had no worries and few responsibilities, I'd just graduated from uni. In fact I was single too and life was good. 
Obviously since then I met my husband, had a baby and have gotten married. My life is full of responsibility now and very very differant from the one I led when that picture was taken. I wouldn't change it for the world, my daughter and husband are wonderful. I love my family dearly - but I don't just consider the 'traditional' idea of family, and my best friend is like family too.
I first met her in 2005 and she's been there for me and we share some amazingly funny memories. I'm only sad that I don't get to see her more these days. It's not always easy to claw back some time for myself and friends as the mother of a toddler and with a husband who has a rather demanding job. 
Certain parenting books and even parents I've met would have you believe you are being selfish if you ever want any time away from your children. I know many many parents who get through the first two years at least of their child's life and haven't been away from them for a single minute. Seriously though, I just couldn't be the parent I am without taking a little time for myself now and again to reflect and recharge. The baby and toddler stages are full on, 24/7 times of your child's life where you need to provide them with all your attention, all of the time. I refuse to feel guilty if I occasionally need time to take care of myself too. 
Lately this can take the form of going swimming for an hour, or seeing my best friend for a coffee and a much needed chat and catch up. This is self care at a very much needed basic level, what use would I be to my daughter if I was exhausted mentally all the time? I am very lucky that I sometimes get to do this, I know many mothers just don't have the option. I really believe in a lot of the attachment parenting principles and I'm lucky in the fact that my daughter has a really strong bond with her grandparents, perhaps if she was upset by my absence for a few hours then I may feel differently. I'm not sure how I'd feel if it was somebody I didn't really know (baby sitter, nursery teacher etc) but I guess I will have to cross that hurdle at least when she goes to nursery in 18 months time. I guess it depends how you interpret it, but to me leaving my daughter with other people who she also has a very strong attachment to (my parents) does not make my attitude any less 'attachment parenting' - besides, who needs labels anyway? I think so many people get into the trap of striving for an unrealistic perfection portrayed in a book instead of doing what feels right and natural for them.
So I'm not going to feel guilty about 'looking after myself' as well as my daughter. It helps me be the parent I want to be.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Raw Almond Milk

Making your own nut milks doesn't have to be as expensive as it sounds. I really like Alpro Almond, but am trying to have less processed foods and want the benefits of raw foods. If you look in the ethnic aisles of supermarkets you can often find bulk packages of Almonds. You'll only need 50g per 1.5 litres of milk.
I've made oat milk before which I've blogged about, but nut milk is a nice alternative and almonds are rich in vitamin E and calcium.


I used my Blend Active to make mine this morning, but as long as you've got a blender you are good to go. Depending on your preference you might want a nut bag or cheesecloth to strain the tiny remaining bits of almond once blended.

Ingredients

50g raw almonds
1 TBSP Agave Syrup
1.5 litres filtered water

Soak your almonds in some water in a sealed container in the fridge overnight. When you come to use them, they'll need to be pealed - it's takes a little time but it's worth it!
Add all your ingredients and blend well. If you want to, strain your milk and use right away or keep in a sealed jug in the fridge for a couple of days.

Toddler Friendly Cauliflower Cheese

I've posted the recipe I used to use for Small when she was younger HERE, but now she's well into toddlerhood I make one that the whole family can share (at least Small & I - Mr B hates cauliflower!). I wanted to include a source of protein, so I started making a version of my 'cheese' sauce with a tofu base.



Ingredients

1/2 white onion
2 cloves garlic
1 package silken tofu
1 cup nutritional yeast (I always make sure I buy the kind with B12)
1 TSP lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of ground pepper
1/2 TSP mustard powder
1 TSP mixed herbs
1/2 TSP turmeric 
2 TBSP cornflower
500ml plain soya milk

1 or 2 heads of cauliflower

Vegan 'cheese' or breadcrumbs for topping

Fry the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes in a little oil until soft, then add to food processor bowl. Put in the tofu and soya milk and blend until smooth. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and blend.
Boil or steam your cauliflower until tender, drain and add to an oven dish. 
Pour over your 'cheese' sauce and make sure it's all coated. Don't worry if the sauce looks too thin at this point, it will thicken up in the oven as it cooks - or you could heat it for a couple of minutes before mixing in.
Add your toppings and cook for around 25 minutes at 200C. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Life is a cycle: you go from strangers, to friends and then back to strangers again

This is rather an unusual blog post for me. I usually try to keep things light and reflect on the happier milestones of life, but thought it was a worthwhile subject as I'm wondering how other parents handle similar situations. 


After a lovely weekend and night away we returned home to find one of our beloved guinea pigs had passed away. I was terribly sad as I always am when something like this happens. She'd been in my life for four years and had been around when some of my saddest and happiest memories had been made. It's obviously not the first time I've lost a pet - my beautiful bunny Lola died last year which was also incredibly sad. 
It had me wondering though, as an adult I am able to rationalise that it is all part of nature and everything has a life cycle - yet as a child I found it particularly hard to deal with. In a way I was relived that Small is not yet old enough to really understand that anything has happened. 
It got me wondering, how do other parents explain the death of a companion animal to their child? I am keen to be honest with her about it, but don't want to upset her too much. It's not a nice thing to have to consider, but we still have our two rabbits Miffy & Molly and Cecil the guinea pig - as Small gets older it's sadly a situation we are going to face sooner or later. She loves watching our furry friends, and even loves to stroke and play with my mum's cats - hopefully it's something I won't have to face for a few years yet!!
I'd love to hear how you deal with similar situations!

RIP Betsey <3 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

This Week's Raw Treats


I've been making a big effort this week to include more raw food in my diet as part of my trying to be healthier. I've been starting my day with a smoothie and trying to have one other fully raw meal. As a BIG treat Mr B brought me these lovely Raw Health truffles home one evening after work.


I've mostly been keeping it simple - this lunch was made up of pre made raw Italian crackers topping with avocado, red onion, tomato & romaine.

Now to the thing I'm most proud of. This week I not only made my first raw pizza, but that involved making my first pizza crust and nut cheese! 


I think I've got some room for improvement, next time I'm going to try using rejuvelac and making a slightly fermented cashew cheese. I used marinated oyster mushrooms and a simple tomato sauce made up of just tomatoes, garlic, basil - with a dash of sea salt & oil blended until smooth.


The base is a simple mixture of almonds, ground flax and herbs - spread out and dehydrated for about 8 hours.


I'll post the recipe once I've practiced a bit more, but I'm pretty pleased with my experiments so far.
 

 


 

Breville Blend Active

I've been trying to make some healthy changes recently and part of that is getting back to having smoothies for breakfast. I've been using our trusty Kitchenaid blender, but I was really pleased to be offered the chance to try out the Blend Active.



Included in the box are two sports style bottles, screw on blender blades and the base unit. It's a pretty clever idea - you fill the bottle upto the line with whatever ingredients you fancy, screw the blades on and then the bottle goes upside down into the base unit to blend.


It actually works really well. It handled frozen fruit, wheatgrass, protein powder, nut butter & 'milk' really well and it all came out nice & smooth.


The best thing about it? The ease of cleanup after. Usually I'd have to clean out the jug & lid, but all I had to do with this was rinse the blades - after you've used the bottle you can just pop it into the dishwasher. Easy.


I will definitely keep using this. I see it being especially great for making up protein powder for the gym - shaker cups just don't do the job. It's also a great price - it's normally around £30 but has been on offer recently for about £20.

This product was provided to me for review purposes, however all opinions are my own.
 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Dabbling With Raw Food


Here's a shot of the inside of my dehydrator full of nacho style kale chips. I thought I'd start off with this, as it was trying Inspiral Kale chips from Wholefoods Market earlier this year that got me interested in raw food. I'd had brief glimpses into it before mainly through Aloka in Brighton, but apart from the raw mint choc chip ice cream I shared with Mr B the weekend we got engaged I wasn't really impressed. I had the strangest meal I've ever had at Aloka which I suppose put me off.
During our Honeymoon we visited Pure Food & Wine in New York. I'd been dying to try it out after loving the 'Raw Food, Real World' cookbook. We tried the chef's tasting menu and it was really inspiring.


I've been since experimenting with raw soups & smoothies (as well as making lots of kale chips!), but have found it difficult to branch out as I haven't really known where to start. There seem to be lots of raw 'cookbooks' out there that rely heavily on nuts & oil and don't actually use as much fruit and veg as you'd expect. Oh and every recipe takes 3 hours to prepare! With a toddler taking up much of my time this wasn't very realistic - I mean I don't mind that things take 12hrs or whatever to dehydrate, but I needed ideas that were pretty light on the prep time before that.


Raw soup is great because it's SUPER quick and easy. Just prep your vegetables and whiz them in the blender. I'm still struggling with texture however - we have a pretty high powered Kitchenaid blender, though I'm led to believe I won't get the creamy smooth texture I'm after without a Vitamix. If anybody has any tips, please please share!


I'm loving reading. 'Eat Smart, Eat Raw' by Kate Wood (Kate Magic) at the moment. The recipes seem to be just what I've been looking for - quick and easy! I'm going to set up my sprouting jar and make some raw crackers later in the week - I'll let you know how I get on! 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Autumn Adventures ........ Take 2


Today we yet again headed off to our favorite National Trust property. It's nice to have somewhere a short car journey away that we can visit on a whim for a couple of hours adventure.
Although busier today it was still lovely and we picked up a new stash of windfall apples.


Small had great fun charging around the grounds and playing her version of stone skimming from a little bridge.


I'm really hoping we get some more nice Autumn days (without rain!) so we get to have some more adventures. I've got my eye on several more National Trust places that are still open at the time of year.


We also picked up some more lovely vegetables to experiment with. Spinach for smoothies & I'm loving the cauliflower at this time of year. Mr B picked up some smoked garlic and salsify - I can't wait to see what he does with it!

Friday, 11 October 2013

The Vegg


I was kindly sent a packet of The Vegg & their cookbook by the kind folks at Vegg HQ. It was part of an offer for bloggers who took part in Vegan Mofo this year. When I saw it I jumped at the chance. Mr B has tried it before, but I hadn't - I think I was pregnant at the time and off almost all food.


The book looks amazing and has loads of really creative ideas which I can't wait to try! The realistic fried egg looks crazy! I wanted to try something simple to start with and see what it actually tastes like. I went for simple Vegg dip & soldiers.

Recipe

1 TSP Vegg
1/4 cup boiling water

Simply blend the water & Vegg well and serve with 'buttered' toast soldiers!


I really didn't know what I was going to think of this - I've not eaten eggs since 2007 so it's been awhile! Small on the other hand has never ever had eggs as she's been vegan from birth and even she joined in!


To my suprise Small absolutely loved it! I've never seen her eat something so fast! I thought it tasted a lot like egg yolk, not exactly the same but super close. It was a little strange as there's so many vegan faux products out there but none with that eggy taste (until now) so it's been years since I've had anything similar. I'll be trying out some of the recipes from the book & I'll let you know how I get on.
 
 


 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Autumn Adventures

I feel like I really haven't used my National Trust membership enough this year, which is a shame. I guess 4 or 5 years ago I would have laughed if I was told I'd enjoy things like that in the not so distant future - but there you go, it's a part of growing up. Add to that Small's  desire for adventure - so we headed off to Charlcote Park. It's one of my favorites, and has day as it 's not too far away.


Although it might not look like it, it was a lovely Autumn afternoon. I think if I had to pick, it's my favorite season. I love the colours of the trees, wrapping up in scarfs and Samhain. It's a nice time to reflect on all the wonderful things that have happened this year now that it is approaching it's end.


As I discovered, there are many benefits to National Trust in the Autumn - the best one being windfall apples. We found a huge display of lovely cooking apples to take home for a donation. We also went on a 'Deer Safari' - which involved a tractor trailer ride around the park to see all the animals. Small didn't want it to end!


After a nice walk, playing with conkers & pinecones and gawping at sheep (not to meantion some awesome finds in the second hand bookshop) we popped into  Charlcote Plants & Flowers.



We've been to Charlcote loads of times before, but never realised the little garden center at the entrance sold fruit and vegetables - but I'm glad I took a look. They had so much amazing produce and it's all either grown on site or as local as possible.


I left with a small haul including local cauliflower and kale for Small's Lentil & Veggie Bake tonight.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Little Adventures


She's really not a baby anymore. I know, she hasn't been for a while - but she can just do so much now that it's really started to hit home. She's 16 months (closer to 17) and yesterday was her first go on the playground. She's been on the swings too many times to count, but I mean the slightly bigger part with slides and rope bridges!!
I stood nervously by - I want her to learn to accomplish things by herself. She's very determined and makes it quite clear that when she's exploring she really doesn't want my help. I guess that makes me both sad and proud all at the same time. 


I'm really pleased she's so willing to explore new situations and is in awe of the word around her. I don't want to be the type of parent that helps her do everything (even though I get 'the glances' from other parents) as I want her to learn - and plus she's always that much more pleased when she manages to do something by herself.


We've also been hanging out some more at our favorite windmill. Small adores it there: there's such nice views and it's a mini adventure making our way through the field and playing with the tall grass.