Friday, 29 November 2013

Friday Foodstuffs

If you read my blog often and follow me on Instagram then you have almost certainly noticed that I quite often post pictures of what the toddler is eating for lunch or dinner. In fact, I'll be honest there are loads pictures of those little divided plates popping up everywhere. It's because of this that I've decided to start posting meal inspiration every Friday and show you some of what Small has been eating that week. If I have recipes I'll post them separately!
As this is the first one it's a collection of all the pictures from the last month or so that have been cluttering up my desktop whilst I decided what to do with them. The thing is, I'd like to see your vegan kid's meals too. If you use Instagram use the hashtag #matryoshkavegankids and #vegantoddler so we can all have a look at what you've been cooking!

Veggie Fingers, Organic Ketchup and a mix of Rice, Edamme, Spinach & Quinoa

Tofu Sausages, Organic Ketchup and 50/50 Toast with Pure Sunflower and Low Salt Yeast Spread

Falafel Balls with Pitta Pockets, Salad, Houmous and potato chips

Tofu & Veggie Korma with Rice

Baked Tofu, Veggie Fingers with Broccoli, Peas, Sweetcorn, Parsnip mixed with soya cheese

Sweet & Sour sauce with Pineapple, 'Chicken' Balls and Rice

Vegg and Toast Soldiers

Tofu Scramble

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Brighton Birthday Weekend

I've talked about many of the awesome v*gan places that Brighton has to offer before, but we seem to visit every year at some point and this time it happened to be for my birthday. I'm really really lucky that Small has amazing grandparents - they offered to look after her for the weekend so that Mr B and I could spend some time together. I've said it before but being a parent is a wonderful and amazing thing, but I also really value time spent with Mr B (even if usually it's not very much!). I know most parents with toddlers don't get to do this, but it's really important to me for Mr B and I to spend time on our relationship too.


We normally stay at Paskin's however this time we decided to try somewhere different! We stayed at the Sea Spray and had a lovely room with a view of the pier. They also offer vegan breakfast which included soya 'butter', soya milk, toast, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans and homemade sausage. After a little confusion and almost being served fried eggs (!) I really enjoyed it - it's always lovely to be able to eat the breakfast as usually it's not an option.


Almost as soon as we arrived we rushed out the door to make our dinner booking at Terre a Terre - I've had my grumbles about lack of 3 vegan courses available before but I'd still say it's my favorite restaurant in the UK. We had cocktails and a lovely meal. I'm not going to go into much detail as I've done it before - and so has Mr B.

 
We had a vegan tapas to start, I always love to get this as it's for two and allows you to sample lots of different items from the menu in small portions so you're not missing out. 
I ate;
Terre à Tapas Plate (vo/gfo) 23.00 - A selection of lovelies from around the menu
- For two to share.
Fundamentally Fungus (gfo/vo) 14.95Chestnut and horse mushroom, merlot and truffle thyme risotto with porcini sherry vinegar ketchup topped with seared abalone, glazed chestnuts, pickled shimeji and mixed leaf tangle. Accompanied with chestnut cream and finished with Camargue rice chestnut salt.
Churrosimo (vo) 8.30 or triple dip for two! – 11.60Cinnamon sugar spice dusted doughnut straws served with one of the follow - you choose!
•Rain vodka cherries with chocolate dipping sauce (v)
•Double dip salt caramel sticky and chocolate dipping sauce (vo)
•Arabica and cocoa dipping sauce with brandy Chantilly and sugar crackle (vo)

Salty Dog 7.50
Organic Gin, grapefruit and cranberry juice shaken with lime juice.



We shopped and ate cake and drank coffee at Infinity........


One of the best parts of this trip was getting to try some new places. As we'd stayed at Paskin's before we'd seen the Metrodeco Tea Salon as it's very nearby but always assumed they'd not have anything vegan, but at the end of our visit last year we saw in the window they did an afternoon tea! So this time we made sure we booked in (I think you have to book in advance for vegan offerings) and popped along mid afternoon on Saturday.


The interior of this place is lovely - like stepping back in time! It's 1930's themed and has a selection of comfy sofas and tables.


They also use cute vintage tea sets and every table seemed to have a different matching set. I actually can't remember the last time before this I drank tea with a cup & saucer - but I definitely need to do it more often!


Our afternoon tea was made up of cute little sandwiches with pesto, hummus, artichoke, cucumber & tomato followed by scones with soya butter and jam, and then lovely fruity 'carrot' cake. I had a pot of Topsy Tea with mine which was a delicious vanilla roobios blend.

We also visited the new V Bites location in central Brighton (former Aloka restaurant). When I think about it, it was hearing about V Bites years ago that first alerted me to the fact that there were lots of vegan places in the area - but it used to be in Hove and closed out of season so I never ended up visiting. We decided it was about time when Mr B saw them talking about their vegan Yorkshire puddings on twitter!


The decor hasn't changed much from it's previous days as Aloka - but that's no bad thing as it feels lovely and fresh and they've kept some of the gorgeous lighting! They also have a 'shop' area downstairs selling V Bites branded foods (Redwoods) and a few other bits too. 


The whole place is 100% vegan which is nice, as it's not something you see too often in the UK. I had the 'gammon' Sunday dinner which a vanilla milkshake. My favorite part? The Yorkshire Puddings! It's been years since I've eaten one, as all attempts to create vegan versions have failed and resembled hockey pucks. I'm lead to believe it's not just me, but a wide vegan problem. My only criticism of the ones at V Bites were that there wasn't enough of them! I could of just eaten a whole plate of them with gravy.......

In the spirit of trying new things we also tried out Pizza Face which we'd heard good things about. (Forgive the late night slightly blurry photo here!)


We both had garlic bread made vegan and I had a mushroom pizza with vegan cheese. I'm sad to say this is the only bit we didn't really enjoy! Maybe we've just been spoiled with Mr Singh's and maybe Pizza Face is better on vegan night where they offer more toppings..... but I just found it to have too little cheese and sauce and way too many mushrooms. It was also quite expensive for take away pizza.  
I had a great weekend and we even came home a little early on the Sunday so I could hang out with Small! 


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Our Vegan Wedding


It's taken me ages to write about my wedding - it happened back in April but oh my the time has just flown by! I've had my daughter (who's now 18 months) keeping me really busy, and you know... Just life. 
I was really lucky when planning the wedding that I found an amazing bunch of super cool and lovely suppliers and that my husband turned out to be a wedding planning wizard! Yup, that's right.... Not traditional at all but he ended up planning 90% of the wedding. It was super special that he was able to do this whilst I was busy with our daughter, and it's an amazing testament to how well he knows me that he was able to create such a perfect and special day. 


We found our venue really quickly (ahem, or I should say Mr B did) - Buckland Hall in Wales is a 100% vegetarian country house venue which we took over for the weekend with our family and friends. I was really worried about finding good vegan catering as so many venues insist on you picking from their list of approved companies and we didn't want to end up with salad or stuffed peppers! It was also our decision that as it was our special day everything would be vegan. That's why we were so lucky with Buckland Hall as they were able to create us a wonderful menu for the meals and breakfasts during our stay. 


We actually found most of our suppliers by visiting the first EWE wedding fair at the Custard Factory in Birminham. We'd visited a wedding fair pretty soon after we got engaged at the N.E.C and it was just hell - everything we didn't want. In fact we walked out after only about 5 minutes! EWE was lovely though (they've held several more since) and full of independent businesses that suited our alternative tastes. 


All our photography was by the lovely Shelly from Toast of Leeds, my dress from The Couture Company and my all vegan felt bouquet (and the pins for my husband & guests) was made by Jamball Creations. I even had vintage hair and make up by The Vintage Salon (Lekeux Events) who I still visit to get my hair cut.


Mr B found a lovely company based in Wales to make our vegan wedding cake & cupcakes. We had a rainbow layered top cake covered in white icing (so there was a surprise inside!) and our cupcakes were carrot cake and red velvet. Our cake topper robots were found by Mr B on Etsy and were custom made to represent Mr B & I with our daughter.
As some of our guests stayed the night before the wedding, and most stayed on the evening of the wedding we were concerned about getting our timings right - but I think in hindsight it's easy to get overly worried about these things. We made all our table centerpieces ourselves (with the help of Mr B's mum and the lovely Sarah Beth) which included wrapping glass bottles we'd collected in red synthetic wool and making our own paper flowers to be displayed in them. We also made our name card holders from vintage cotton reels (to reflect my sewing & crafty interests) and I designed our namecards and had them printed on Moo Mini Cards. 
Mr B put loads of effort into creating our all vegan candy bar - everybody thought it was a really nice touch.
We also set up a children's room inside the venue. Since I've been a parent I've almost seen the world through the eyes of a child again and we realised that events like this with loads of people they don't know can be boring for them. We hired an adult safe bouncy castle and kitted the room out with toys & games and a Nintendo Wii plus projector. We had lots of lovely feedback from parents saying how much their children had enjoyed our efforts. Also for the same reason Mr B put together activity books and vegan crayons which were placed at every child's place setting during the meal to keep them entertained!


On the evening we had both a DJ and a band. We had the totally amazing 'Johnny Cash Show' providing us with live music which was amazing. We also had fireworks outside - There were limitations in place as the venue is in a National Park but luckily Sky Dazzle had done displays at the venue before so were able to create us something great.


It was a truly amazing day. We both put so many months of effort and planning in it that on the day it's suprising how fast it all goes by! We were also lucky enough to be featured on Rock n Roll bride which you can see HERE 

Monday, 18 November 2013

Tall Poppy Foods


On Saturday we headed over to Tall Poppy Foods (Selly Oak, Birmingham) to give it a go. We'd heard of them a while ago and tried some of their cake at the West Midlands Vegan Festival, but we're not often over that side of Birmingham so it's taken us a little while to get around to it.

It's a 'hole in the wall' cafe I guess. They sell hot drinks, sandwiches & burgers as well as baked goods. The single item I had heard the most about was the BBQ Jackfruit burger - so I just had to try it. 


I really enjoyed it, although Mr B wasn't as keen. It was more of a 'sloppy joe' than a burger with some kind of coleslaw and a lovely ciabatta bun. We had a meal deal along with a large amount of bake goods and it all came to less than £14! Really good value for money. 

I also tried out their low gluten blueberry and chocolate muffins, chocolate chip cookies and molasses cookie (not all at the same time!) and really enjoyed them all. If I had to pick a favorite it'd have to be the blueberry muffin. 

If I was in the area I'd definitely return. They are 100% vegan, which is really nice to find as most places in the UK you are likely to find are vegetarian and they cater for vegans. They can be found at 492 Bristol Road, Selly Oak, B29 6BD.

UPDATE: I've just heard that they've closed down, but will hopefully be back in the near future!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Vegan Toddler Korma


I'll admit it - this recipe is a little cheaty. No matter what our intentions sometimes when it comes to cooking you need to be able to make something quickly that is still good nutritionally and most importantly tastes good. Small loves this - the base is a Korma paste pot from Organix. The paste pots are vegan (please check the ingredients as 'accidentally vegan' products like this could change), but the recipes they give you to make them up aren't - so this is what we do with them.

Ingredients
You'll need one of these:


1 package smoked tofu
1 Tsp coconut oil
1/2 cup soya cream
1 peeled and grated carrot
2 Tbsp pre soaked raisins
Handful thinly sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup spinach
1/2 cup brown rice (or we sometimes serve it with quinoa)

Set rice to cook according to package instructions.
Pat dry the tofu and slice into fingers. Fry until brown on either side in a pan with the coconut oil.
Add the mushrooms, raisins and carrot and cook for a few more minutes.
Add the korma paste pot and stir so everything is well coated. 
Add the soya cream and spinach and cook until spinach has wilted. Serve with rice.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Vegan Toddler Friendly Not-sotto

Mushrooms are lovely things. Full of lovely vitamins and minerals, yet my daughter is very reluctant to eat them. One day Mr B let her try some of his mushroom risotto and she ate every bit - so I came up with this simple and quick toddler friendly version. 
As I'm not using actual arborio rice in this recipe it doesn't need to be constantly stirred - to make it as effort free as possible I cook mine in a rice cooker. I only have a small 3 person machine so this recipe is sized to fit that. If you don't have or want to use a rice cooker this will cook just as well on the hob. 


Ingredients

1/2 white onion diced
Handful of sliced mushrooms
1 crushed garlic glove
1/2 cup frozen soya beans (or peas)
1 low salt toddler friendly stock cube
1 cup of grain (I used a mix of long grain white rice, spelt and quinoa)
2 cups boiling water
A splash of oil
1 Tbsp vegan cream cheese
Sprinkle of nutritional yeast flakes (optional)


Sauté the garlic, onion and mushroom in the oil for a couple of minutes in the bottom of your pan until soft. Add the soya beans and grains and give everything a good stir and let cook for 1-2 minutes.


Make up the stock with the cube and boiling water and add to your mixture. Place the rice cooker (or saucepan) lid on and let cook. It should take around 30 minutes and all the liquid should be absorbed.
Take off the heat and stir through the 'cream cheese' and sprinkle a little of the nooch flakes on top of each portion if using. 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Garmin Swim Review

This isn't the kind of post that I would normally do, but a while back I mentioned I'd been kindly sent a Garmin Swim to try out and help me on my journey back into the gym. I'll admit it, I haven't completed the 0 to 1650 in Six Weeks challenge, but as my gym membership only really got sorted out a couple of weeks ago I think I can be let off. I have however been putting the swimmers watch to good use and found it has been a really useful insight into my swimming.


This is my summary of my first swim with the watch once uploaded to Garmin Connect. I'll have to admit, having been away from swimming since before I was pregnant (over two years) I was pretty impressed I managed 1500m which is only 150m off from the target of the challenge. Granted, I've some work to do on time and swim efficiency - but hey we've all got to start somewhere! If you follow me on Instagram you'll have noticed I post my swim summaries on a watch - this is it!



There are lots of really in depth technical reviews of this product out there, but my goal is to review it as a newbie just getting back into swimming. The important things to me are the number of lengths, distance, time and calories. I have set up my custom screen on the watch to show me what I find important DURING the swim which is distance, number of lengths and calories. I cannot tell you how liberating it is to swim without having to worry about counting laps in your head and glancing at the clock on the wall! I spent many hours of my youth doing just this, whereas now I swim with this watch and a waterproof mp3 and I actually find the whole experience really relaxing.



The watch is waterproof to 50m and is powered with a button battery which I've heard will last the average user around 12 months. This is really handy as it means I never have to remember to charge it! It comes out of my gym bag to swim with it and sync it after and that's it - no forgetting it! It comes boxed with manuals and an ANT+ usb dongle for your computer so you can wireless sync to Garmin Connect. I do wish you could sync the watch with your phone, so many 'fitness' trackers these days do so. I find I mostly use mobile devices as the toddler loves to play with the laptop keys so I generally end up not using it, so I've had to make a special effort to start it up to sync my swims.



My only other gripe isn't anything to do with the function on the watch, but how it looks. It's quite chunky on my wrist, which isn't a problem as I don't wear it as a day to day watch (although you could) but I wish it came in a slightly more feminine version as they do with many of their running watches.



Overall I'm really happy with it so far - it's helped me keep track of my swims and I'm starting to very slowly improve my times which I wouldn't know if I wasn't using this. The menus are simple enough to get used to and the display is nice and clear so I can see it with a quick glance whilst swimming to see how I'm doing. You really don't have to be an athlete to find something like this useful! The other plus point for me is that it (albeit unofficially) syncs with my Fitbit dashboard. As Fitbit doesn't work in the water previously it was a case of estimating my swimming workout - now I can sync the data to it's dashboard I have an overall picture of my activity levels which is a little more accurate. Yay!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Raw Vegan 'Cream' of Mushroom Soup

As the cold weather has started to set in, raw soup has become a favorite quick meal for me. It has to be said, I didn't realise until recently how quick and easy yet tasty raw soup can be. I'm not a fan of some of the recipes in 'gourmet' raw food books which have high fat & nut contents and favor raw food as a way to eat more fresh produce so once I had my head around the idea of raw soup I set to work creating some recipes.


I'll admit that mushrooms where one of the last big hurdles for me when it comes to eating them uncooked. Sure I loved mushrooms - but they have a totally different texture raw. Here I've been quite adventurous and used a selection of exotic mushrooms, but in the beginning I found it was easier for me to eat oyster or chestnut mushrooms - both of those types will work equally well in this soup. In my recipe I used a selection which contained golden and white Enoki and brown Shimeji.


Ingredients

1 cup washed and prepared raw mushrooms
1/3 cup pre soaked cashew nuts
1/3 cup water
2 cloves garlic
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 Tsp fresh parsley (optional)

Place all your ingredients in a higher powered blender and blend until smooth. I use a Kitchenaid blender at the moment and blend it for about 4 minutes to get the desired consistency. If your soup is too thick, add a touch more water and blend a little longer.