Monday, 11 October 2010

Grumplestiltskin the bear.

I started this guy a while ago and I have put off and put off finishing him...not sure why, as I have got all the arms and legs and discombobulated bits finished already, but just not sewn together. I liked how his face turned out, even grumpier than I thought it would.

I've been reading some really great blogs that I wanted to share. Each one fits my idea of a fantastic blog - thought provoking, inspiring, funny and human.

Thora Thinks: author of a delightful book

GimmegimmeAmigurumi: very, very cute crochet pictures

Biotic: trees, plants, nature pictures

Mitten Machen: Vegan food and crafts!

and a catch up!

So, no posts since january...what have I been doing all this time? Not so much exciting stuff early on, but I am trying my best to make up for that now!

I started a new job in February, with regular daytime working hours and weekends off, and it has taken much longer that expected to settle into a routine. Not much exciting cooking, and lots of pasta sauces from jars and ready made salads. I've still been cooking at weekends, but it has been hard to get into the habit of making decent homemade lunches to take into work. I imagine this is a common problem, and I will give it my best attention till I figure it out.

I have been crocheting like bonkers though, on the bus, on my lunch break, at the library, everywhere! I have started a few exciting projects for Christmas, like this:

A big star shaped hug for my mum. And this 3dc shell scarf:

And this highly tasteful (I think!) square blanket, for my bed:

I took up crochet when I graduated and spent four months out of work, and I never stopped. I recommend it to everyone!

I've got a pot of red lentil, sweet potato and onion stew simmering on top of the hob at the moment, but I have been unable to take an apetising photo of looks like a swamp in a pan. If it looks any better in the bowl, you can see it, but don't get your hopes up.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Espresso Chip Oatmeal Cookies

More proof that I am of the best sort of flatmate. These cookies were not just great, they were Super-Great. I made a half batch of them to take to the pub with us when we went to meet a friend I havent seen for a while. Everyone who tried one said they were incredibly tasty. Great recipe!

Almond Pancakes

I am such a pro at making pancakes, and I am so despicably smug about it, that I feel no shame in telling you that I dont even measure when I make pancakes. Thats right. (As I type, I have a self-satisfied grin on my face. You know the one...its the kind of grin that makes people hate you. For good reason.) Okay, sometimes I end up with what looks like a fried scone, and other times I end up with fried soymilk with a dusting of flour. But whatever. These pancakes turned out great!

I added a tiny bit (1/4 tsp maybe) of almond extract to the batter, and then poured out the pancakes into the pan as usual. Then I sprinkled the wet side with almond meal and flaked almonds before I flipped it. And they were even more amazing than my pancakes usually are. If I become any more of a smugger I think I will explode.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

YUM. And so easy to make - they cooked in 6 minutes...I would have put a modest amount of money on that being a typo, but I would have lost that modest amount of money. These were good, and although the baking soda gave them a bit of a funny taste (its kind of old) they didnt hang around for long.

Veganomicon Food

Here we have Chickpeas Romanesco and lemony baked potatoes. Terrible picture, but the food was AMAZING.

I cooked for me, my boyfriend, and flatmate 4, and it was really, really good. And best of all, it was different from the things I usually cook. Definitely going to make this again. I was a little sceptical about the almond meal in the sauce, but it was delicious.

Friday, 8 January 2010

The joy of NEW, FREE cookbooks

Well, free might be a slight an effort to Get Rich Quick in my first summer break at uni, I signed up to do surveys on the internet. The surveys trickled in ever so slowly, earning 25p here, and 10p there. Fast forward over two years, and I am not rich, and it certainly wasnt quick, but today I got a £20 amazon gift voucher as recompense for my time and trouble! So I immediately put in an order for two things I have been lusting after, but unable to justify buying - Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and Veganomicon. I am incredibly excited! VWAV and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World are my two favourite cookbooks (believe the hype) and amazon says I will have their companions in under a week. I am going to celebrate by eating one of the second batch of apricot-glazed almond cupcakes and drinking a big mug of coffee (I have been baking like a madwoman). Life is sweet!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes

I told you there would be more! TO celebrate and further welcome my new cupcake pan to my home, I made these Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World...I love this book more than I love most things. These cakes were easy to put together, quick to bake, and while they squidged a little, they rose well overall and kept their shape. I put buttercream vanilla icing on top and then spprinkled with flaked almonds for decoration.

I have never eaten a Red Velvet cupcake, or even heard of one. Maybe theyre not a UK thing? So I was a little dubious about the colour, but I liked the look of them once they'd cooked. And the taste is good - not too chocolatey, not too almondy, not too anything. But yummy.

(I took photos, but blogger is being broke, Ill add them later)

Monday, 4 January 2010

Almond Apricot Cupcakes

So, long time no update. I have not been in the kitchen much, and I have been eating alot of things from packets that need only boiling water to become 'food' - nothing to write home about. But I am meaning to cook more and eat better, and today I found the perfect cupcake tray for £1.50 in the newsagent near my house, so I have been baking! This tray is seriously perfect, and I was sad that they did not have another one, so for now I can only make six cupcakes at a time. The tin I had before didnt really support the cupcake case enough so it spread out and collapsed. Still yummy, but not cupcakes.

I wanted to make something Battenburgy, so I looked up 'almonds' in the index of VCTOTW, and I came up with Apricot Glazed Almond Cupcakes. I made six cupcakes, and I put the other half of the batch into a loaf tin to make a bigger cake. The cupcakes turned out PERFECTLY, springy, moist, light, with the apricot glaze and gooey preserve inside - seriously good.

The loaf cake was fully cooked in 25 minutes, which I was impressed with. It turned out perfect too, as my housemates can verify.

I am definitely 100% going to be making these again. And there will be more cupcakes coming up new cupcake pan is that good. Result!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


Well. Blog, you have been neglected. I have been making the same old tired pasta and sauce meals for the last...long time. It all started with a cupcake disaster. To cut a long story very short, I made cupcakes and for whatever reason they came out tasting like egg. So gross was this, that I have not cooked since. Alas. But i'm going to try and do better, and I will post again once I have gotten out of this slump.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Vegan MOFO Post #11: In celebration of new cook books!

So, today's post was inspired by finding a vegan cookbook in a cut-price book shop on Charing X Road (the one which is a bookshop upstairs and a XXX shop downstairs). It's called 'The Ultimate Book of Vegan Cooking' - a pretty bold title.

The big pull for this book is the 'more than 750 full colour photographs' the book claims to have. Too many vegan cook books don't have photos, and I for one really enjoy looking at pictures of food. There are a few repeats, there are a few photos that dispite using fancy crockery, lighting, and camera FX still show food that looks stomach-turning. But the majority of the photos (of the food - there are some really dodgy ones of 'real life vegans'. Including a woman wearing head to to beige. And a beige bumbag.) are good and amazing and delicious.

There's a fair bit of nutrition information at the beginning, which would probably be useful if you are taking your first faltering steps into a vegan lifestyle, but for the rest of us...well. We've heard it all before. There's only so much vitamin B12 info I can reread and stay sane. There is also a page on why people go vegan, which is pretty weak in my opinion.

As for the recipes, there is a definite 'health food' feel to this book. Health food as an idea is not something I am particularly bothered about either way, but if you hate health food, this is probably not the book for you. If you are a health nut, this probably isn't the book for you either!
The recipes are, on the whole, interesting - Scooped Pear and Red Wine Sorbet, a Parsnip Cake, a few curries and a few stir frys, a few breakfast ideas. Somed of the nutritional information is listed below each recipe, which is kind of cool.

The book itself is massive - way over A4 size. It's big, and substantial, and very heavy.

I've got my first recipe in the oven at the moment, so I will give that a full review when it's done.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Vegan MOFO Post #10: In celebration of all things orange

This is a picture of the meal I just finished eating. I had my camera on the artsy black and white setting, so this picture kind of misses the point of this post.

This one, however, illustrates it nicely. Everything on my plate, pretty much, is bright orange!
I've got a jacket sweet potato, baked beans, grated raw carrot, and grated carrot and chopped bell pepper in a chilli spice seasoning. This was one hell of a meal.

I don't usually go in for alot of crazy modern ideas about food, like I will never do the Atkins Diet (how would you do that, anyway, as a vegan? Chug olive oil?), I do not believe that my blood type bears any relationship to my nutritional needs, and I do not believe that carbohydrates, salt, sugar, fat, or processed foods will kill you immediately the second you look at them. (not saying I am a fan of high fat, high sugar, processed-salt-carbs, but you know, everyhting in moderation). One such philosophy that I do see some merit in is the whole 'eat a rainbow' idea. Even though the name is so cheesey!

From what I have read, the thing that makes orange foods orange is alpha- and beta-carotene. When we eat orange foods, our body converts the alpha- and beta-carotene into vitamin A. One of the big jobs of vitamin A is to keep the liningd and coatings of our tissues strong. Think of it as a sort of polish, that makes it impossible for germs to get a good foothold! Orange foods tend to be full of vitamin C, selenium and zinc. Even better, orange foods tend to be very tasty.

Well, my lunch wa very tasty, and because I cooked the baked potato in the microwave, it was all done in under ten minutes. Bonus!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Vegan MOFO Post #9: In celebration of Pancakes!

Pancakes are one of the foods I thought I would really really miss when I went vegan. I didn't make them all that much, but my mum would cook them whenever I went home, and I felt sort of bereft when I gave them up in pursuit of veganizing. How wrong I was.

I was very excited when I found my first vegan pancake recipe. Now, I am not the kind of person to name names, so I will not be disclosing the name of the recipe book concerned here, but the pancakes were truly awful. I thought it was my fault, so I tried to make them again and again, without success. It was just a bad recipe.

Months went by. I still had not found an edible vegan pancake. Very sad.

Then my flatmate bought me VWAV for christmas. I have tried other recipes since that have been much better than that first pancake tragedy, but none compare to the VWAV pancakes. They are MONUMENTALLY AMAZING. No exaggeration.

Now, I make pancakes regularly, and I always use this recipe. Today was no exception.

I didn't want loads of pancakes, just a reasonable luncheon amount, so I made the batter in a teacup rather than a jug. Here is the mixture. I had no granulated sugar, so I used icing sugar instead, and just so you aren't in complete suspense, it worked perfectly. VWAV recipes are on the whole very very robust, which I appreciate because I hate measuring stuff.

Here is pancake numero uno right after I poured it into the pan. I love watching the bubbles come to the top of the pancake, it's mystical. Oh, I learned the hard way: never, ever, ever use those lo-cal sprays to fry pancakes on. Sure disaster. These I fried with lashings of Vitalite.

This is pancake numero uno shortly after being flipped. I flip pancakes with a fishslice rather than the jazzy way cuz I am a wuss.

And here is pancake numero uno covered in vitalite and agave nectar, waiting to be eaten. Note that I do not have time to mess about with forks, not when there are pancakes involved.
Pancake number two was d-formed beyond recognition and went from pan to digestive tract in about two seconds so it got no photo.

Pancake number three was hideously ugly too, but it tasted the best.
They were real real real good.

Vegan MOFO Post #8: In NONCELEBRATION of food with a propensity for arson.

I am sorry to report that this post will be a sad post. An angry post. A post filled with tragedy and betrayal. The subject of this post is a certain chilli that I mentioned in my last post. Before we really begin, note that I had big plans for this chilli, namely that I would take it in tupperware, with couscous and jacket potatoes, for a surprise picnic with my boyfriend after work. Noble plans indeed.
The first problem I found when I opened the cupboard was that there were no canned tomatoes. Ok, I thought, I'm equal to this. I will use out of date (un)fresh tomatoes instead. Aha! Didn't I feel smug?

So I fried onions and garlic and kidney beans and said tomatoes and cumin and paprika and sea salt and pepper up together. It smelled wonderful.
Then I let it bubble away gently for a few hours.

The sauce thickened up wonderfully and it began to smell really really great.

I crushed up some dry tortillas and added that, with a little more water, to the pan, and put the lid on.

Then I went for a bath. Big mistake.

When I came back to the kitchen, everything was a haze of smoke. It smelled like a bonfire, and didn't look much better. Somehow, my chilli had actually set itself on fire. No joke. I panicked and threw a jug of cold water over it (first I turned off the heat, so don't be alarmed) and in about a second the water had gone from cold to steam. I have no idea how the pan got so hot.

The result: no chilli. The house was visibly smoky for four hours after that. And I smell like an arsonist. I was NOT HAPPY!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Vegan MOFO Post #6: In celebration of ignoring sell-by dates

It turned out I can't count so we are having post six now, as apparently i missed it out. Whoops! This post is in praise of ignoring sell-by dates and using out of date food and not dying from it! I used to be really finnickity about sell by dates and I would always throw food away a day before it reached the 'best before'. Wasteful! Stupid! It took a long while for me to realise that sell by dates are not always correct. Something can't possibly turn from perfectly edible to catastrophically-calamitously-poisonous just because the clock struck midnight and the 'use before date' has come up.

I am not, by the way, condoning eating things that are so gone off they are injurious to your health. Don't eat mouldy food, for example, even if it is within its sell-by. You can push the bounaries a bit, but don't go way out there!

Here are some examples of food I have recently eaten out of sell-by. And I lived to tell the tale.

These are the green beans I ate with my pie and mash. Two days out of sell-by and still delumptious.

These are the tomatoes I used in a chilli which will be the subject of my next post (#8! Ha!). I completely forgot I had them. I don't like raw tomato at all, I bought these to make a pasta sauce and completely forgot about them.

Three days out of sell-by and still fine.

The more suspicious side of my brain thinks that sell-by, use-by and best-before dates are part of a supermarket conspiracy to make us waste food and buy more. The less suspicious side believes they are just over cautious because supermarkets don't want people to get ill ("because they care!" says trusting-brain-side; "because of the cynical fear of litigation" says conspiracy-theory-brain-side.)

I hate waste, I think it is unnecessary and unethical. So this is my post in celebration of being fearless, and daring to eat out of date.