A Trifle Unhealthy

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As the title suggests, I have been a trifle unhealthy of late. I am not proud of it. Personally, I blame the fact I have been using snacks to placate the children on trips and outings during the holidays and therefore chowing down on them myself. Although really it is all my own fault.

I don’t actually feel guilty about this because a. that creates a bad relationship with food and b. I simply refuse to look at instagram and therefore cannot see all those rainbow bowls of fruit and vegetables which sometimes make me feel inadequate. I love bread. There I’ve said it.

So, to celebrate this I am giving you my vegan trifle recipe that I made for my daughter’s first birthday. I admit, I cheated by buying instant jelly and pre-made custard* so it wasn’t really that complicated but I needed uncomplicated. We had a house guest the night before when I tasked myself with preparing a triple layer, sugar-free, vegan vanilla cake that all went tits up when I didn’t clasp the cake tin together properly and one layer leaked all over the freshly cleaned oven. I wasn’t the one who cleaned the oven so decided to let the other layer bake. My husband was less impressed with burnt on cake mix at the bottom of the oven. However, it all turned out for the best.

This trifle brings together a number of recipes from other sources including the vanilla cake recipe on the Vegan Society, custard from The Good House Keeping cook book**

Ingredients:

For the sponge layer:

100g self raising flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

50g sugar (or enough agave to make it sweet if not using sugar).

60ml vegetable oil

160ml cold water

1tsp vanilla essence

For the Jelly layer:

1 sachet of vegan jelly

A handful each of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

For the custard layer:

Either vegan pre-made custard such as Alpro or:

2tsp vanilla essence

1 1/2 tbsp cornflour

1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

300 ml soya milk (use vanilla if you want)

1 x banana***

For the cream layer:

1 x carton of coconut cream. You could use the tinned coconut milk too. Pop two in the fridge the night before to ensure good separation and then spoon out only the hard cream at the top. I just bought a carton of solely the hard cream.

1 good squirt of agave

sprinkles

Method:

  1. Following the instructions to make a vanilla sponge, pre-heat your oven to 375 /gas mark 5. Mix all the ingredients together  in a bowl.
  2. Depending on size preference either spoon the mixture into a yorkshire pudding tray to make 4 discs or into a cupcake tray. Make sure you grease the bottom with oil or non-dairy butter before hand, even if it is non-stick. Bake for approx 15 minutes or until your knife/skewer pokes into the middle and comes out clean.
  3. While the sponge is cooking, prepare your custard. Mix the cornflour and sugar together with a little (put in by the teaspoon) milk until a smooth paste is achieved.
  4. In a non-stick pan heat the milk until boiling and then add the cornflour mixture. You must stir all the time from this point. Bring back to the boil and cook for 2 minutes where a custard consistency should have formed.
  5. Put the custard into a jug or bowl. Allow to cool a little and place in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  6. Once your sponge has fully cooled you can start assembly and jelly making. Place the sponge layer at the bottom of the bowl and sprinkle your fruit over the top.
  7. Prepare your jelly grains according to the packet. Normally this involves stirring water into the grains on the hob for 5 minutes. Once ready and before it has cooled, pour over the fruit and sponge. Place in the fridge to set.
  8. Once the jelly and custard has set, pour the custard layer over the jelly. Then slice the banana width way and layer on top of the custard.
  9. Put your coconut cream into a bowl with a good squirt of agave and maybe some vanilla essence if you wish. Using a hand blender (you can use a whisk but it will take longer) blend the cream until it is a creamy consistency. Pour over the banana and smooth down with the back of a spoon or a knife.
  10. Add sprinkles and refrigerate until serving.

So, after a summer of baking and eating it is time for me to start another 30 Day Shred. Follow my progress on here, Twitter or Instagram. Feel free to join in too. I’ll be tracking how I physically look rather than my weight because I can be the same weight and widely differing dress sizes. This is about confidence, health and completing the challenge.

* I have managed to make custard before from the Good House Keeping recipe and it turned out great.

**A note on this cook book belonging in my collection. It was a christmas present from my step-Grandparents one year. I think I may have been 14 years old. I was neither in the least bit interested in housekeeping or cooking and thought it was black humour on the part of my grandmother. My mum assured me it wasn’t and I shouldn’t have been so ungrateful as to laugh aloud at such an expensive and thoughtful gift. Given that my grandmother had a wicked sense of humour and often took the mick out of my parents, I still feel it was a joke present given to a teenager who could burn a pan of water. I shall treasure this book forever.

*** I have no idea if banana belongs in a trifle. I had a long drawn out discussion about this with a friend before the making of said trifle. However, I believe that bananas and custard belong together like tea and cake.

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It’s Not All Hummus and Quinoa: A response to the Telegraph and Becky Dickinson

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Telegraph writer Becky Dickinson went vegan – sort of – with her family for a week to see what all the fuss was about. I was curious, having very much enjoyed reading about Guardian foodie, Jay Rayner’s week of veganism back in 2008. It was a funny and honest account. Vegan food is slowly becoming more mainstream and I hoped that it wouldn’t be approached as some alien matter in 2015. I was wrong.

I am sure that Becky Dickinson did her research for the article before committing to a week of a new diet, as you would expect anyone to do when entering a new diet. She had certainly contacted the Vegan Society as a first point of call and made contact with a nutritionalist; whose comments I will address later. Although it doesn’t seem like she has talked to any vegan families about what they eat, how they transitioned. Or if she did then she went into this with her mind set that it would be awful that there was really no point in her doing it.

“What’s more, I’ve always harboured a secret view that those who abstain from major food groups, often under the guise of self-diagnosed intolerances, are at best a tiny bit annoying, at worst, neurotic.”

I am very aware of public perception of vegans but it is important to say that people chose to not eat meat and dairy for many reasons, not just ethical and health ones.

If you’re going to get your family to change your diet for a week, you have to plan, adapt food from what they already like. Get a few cookbooks for a start and find out what easy oven dishes are available.

Cook books: a source of knowledge and tasty food.

Cook books: a source of knowledge and tasty food.

Of course kids can be tricky eaters at time. My own son had started to refuse onions in everything. This makes for some interesting meal concoctions at times. But the thing about vegan cooks is they love sharing what they do, they want to celebrate the wonderful food they are making so you don’t have to be creative. Just check out Vegan Dad or the PPK for starters.

What you don’t do is try replace fish fingers and chips with quinoa. It is setting the whole thing up for failure. It read to me as though the writer simply googled ‘what do vegans eat?’ and got the answer ‘lentils and quinoa’. Sure, not everyone’s child will eat lentils because they’ve probably not tried them before. It takes time to introduce new food. Why make life hard for yourself? And why reference the much discredited Gillian McKeith?

If Becky Dickinson had truly wanted her kids to give the vegan trial a go, why not start simple? Linda McCartney sausages with chips or mash. Fishless fingers, or some of the other great vegan frozen food that the major supermarkets and smaller health stores are producing these days. Ease into it before plating up the “frog spawn”. If the writer herself was going to be negative about the food, then the kids really weren’t going to get behind the whole thing.

Then there was the quote from Dr Eva Detko:

“Putting growing children on vegan diets is not the best idea and I certainly wouldn’t do it to my child.” 

It is almost a step away from saying a vegan diet is a danger to a child. This is certainly not the case. I have two very strong, healthy, well-developed children raised on a vegan diet fully for one and in the majority for the other. If humans couldn’t grow and develop on the plants around them then why are some cultures across the globe who exist on a plant-based diet still in existence? Or putting it in more scientific terms than I can, read up on two doctors who can explain why a vegan diet is healthy over at Forks Over Knives.

These comments just remind me of the eternal conversation I have with my health visitor over my very healthy vegan daughter. I will be asked where she gets her dairy from if not from animals. I respond that she is still breastfed and gets all the dairy she needs but perhaps the question to be asked is where she will get omega-3, calcium, iron, protein. If meat eaters get theirs from animals, where do the animals get their nutrients from to produce it in their bodies for us? Okay that is putting it in very simplistic terms but it is worth thinking about. Plants give enough nutrients for humans to live and thrive.

When my son was younger and still vegan we needed to take him into hospital. He had blood tests taken to check what was wrong with him and his nutrient levels came back as perfect as could be. His vegan diet was helping him thrive.

As I had been stewing over the article all day and the missed opportunity it was I realised that this is what most people think when going vegan. They go to extremes to crack and give up. They don’t understand the point of meat replacements (erm, it is not meat), and a week of being vegan probably would be hell. I just wish that Becky Dickinson had gone into this with a bit more positivity and planning.

So here is my day of being vegan with my daughter and the tasty, nutrient-packed meals we ate to help her grow and have a great relationship with food.

IMG_3543We eat as a family so the kids get a version of what we are eating in the day. It helps them try new things. My lunch today was a bean burger made with vital wheat gluten, which give it a meaty texture and look. I got the recipe from a vegan athlete blog. It was served with a potato salad and a green side salad with alfalfa sprouts. The kids grow the sprouts a few times a week, it’s fun and they like eating what they have grown. Sprouted beans help the body absorb vitamins and minerals.

IMG_3547This is my daughter’s easy-to-make and not very creative lunch.

IMG_3553And this is her enjoying it.

Friday night is pizza night in our house. Often I make tofu ‘ricotta’ from a recipe, occasionally buy fake cheese or if I am being lazy just use olive oil and nutritional yeast. It tastes cheesy and contains the illusive vitamin B12.

IMG_3576I forgot to get extra bases in. When I have time, I get my eldest to help make our own dough but it is rare we get chance. So we pop to the supermarket for pre-made if I remember.

IMG_3578Instead I got to eat some quick comfort food.

IMG_3581 IMG_3586Empty plates all round and not a spot of hummus all day.

We love our food and we love trying new things. I just wish the Telegraph had given the article to someone who seemed more positive about a week long trial. It might have opened a whole new world of food to them as it did to me when I took the plunge 10 years ago. I still miss cheese and cheap chocolate but I love the great choice of vegan food I get these days. Even in my little market town out of London.

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The London Coffee Festival

 

Coffee

Coffee and motherhood go together like wine and Friday night; one could not comfortably exist without the other. So, when coffee is needed to get through the day, without waking from an accidental nap to find every surface of the living room covered in red pen, you quickly come to appreciate good coffee and what makes a great coffee shop.

So, an outing to the London Coffee Festival to celebrate all things coffee-related was a welcomed experience this weekend at the Truman Brewery. The trade show opened on Thursday evening and to the public yesterday. Today was the first full public day and it continues on into the weekend.

It is not just about the coffee, although finding new great coffee products was a clear high light, there was also a lot of tea, chocolate, talks and music with samples to keep you going. The queue stretched half way down Brick Lane before opening time; coffee appreciation is taken very seriously in London with both parents and the care-free alike. It was good to see so many little people in there, expressing their love of the babyccino or ‘hot milk’ for the rest of us.

LCF_PressImage_CoffeeFestival2013_Day4__LowRes-88Some of the highlights were the Volcano Coffee Works, who put a lot of care and thought into every stage of their coffee-making process, which clearly comes through with the taste. The Roasting Party were as good as their name, affable people passionate about their products. An intriguing concept was Grower’s Cup; great tea or coffee in a pouch that you add water to and pour. Pretty smart for being out and about while not wanting to compromise on your beverage quality.

Alpro were offering out vegan coffee and porridge, which was damn tasting and a good respite from the flurry of free espresso shots from the rest of the show. Vegan soft-drinks brand Fritz-Kola were also offering out samples of their drinks. High caffeine content and Mischmasch being pegged as a great hangover cure. Coming from Hamburg, it is probably a trustworthy claim. Mischmasch was damn tasty mix of cola, lemon and orange.

LCF_PressImage_DCS2409Tea was well represented there as well. Tea Pigs are always reliable on flavours but London Tea Company does some wonderful blends. Personally, I am addicted to their Vanilla Chai. Tea discovery of the day goes to Brew Tea Co who really nailed good old builders tea and had these great little Brew Cards to ensure no one gets your tea preference wrong again.

However, the nicest stall of the day and my favourite find was Jaz and Juls Drinking Chocolate. It can be a tricky thing finding great vegan drinking chocolate but this brand doesn’t put powdered milk into the blend and it was superb. It is organic, ethical and run by two lovely women who were really passionate and engaged about what they were doing; a total inspiration and making great hot chocolate too.

It would be amiss to not point out the sofas and chairs dotted by the stage made from reclaimed wood. The pallet sofa was surprisingly comfortable and looked damn good too.

There was plenty of beer, whiskey and coffee-related cocktail tasting going on too but being pregnant, I cannot really comment on these. Downstairs was the coffee-lifestyle room: designers, accessories, pop up cafe and furniture sellers who are synonymous with East London and knowing where to get your good coffee from. It’s not just about the drink anymore. London Coffee Festival was an intriguing day out with wonderful discoveries made. Expect some more to come on the wonderful Jaz and Juls Chocolate.

The London Coffee Festival continues throughout the weekend at the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane.

A bit of vegan food porn.

I’ve been in Barcelona this past weekend with some wonderful friends, eating amazing food. My friends aren’t vegetarian but indulged me in picking the eateries on the first day. Vegan fast food heaven, Cafe Gopal, was hit up after a few beers for a sausage sandwich and nachos. It must have opened my friends’ eyes to just how tasty vegan food can be as they let me pick Teresa Carles for the evening meal; a meal so good we went back. It is highly recommended for anyone visiting Barca, whether meat-eater or herbivore.

Rolls RawceThis was my main on the first night, a delight of raw cucumber rolls that were incredibly flavoursome and the right level of filling.

CakeMy dessert was the sole reason I wanted to eat at the place; vegan white chocolate topping. Heavenly. The nut cake was matched against the chocolate and fruit dressing. It felt healthy and perfectly rounded the meal.

A 3 course meal with cava (shared between three), came to 25 euros each. Just off the tourist traps on Las Ramblas and a short walk from a cluster of Modern-styled bars with great mojitos, it was perfect for our break. It also inspired me to be a bit more enthusiatic with my cooking when I returned home.

home cooked foodNot quite on the same level of taste and presentation, this is my attempt at my own recipe. We have a glut of yellow courgettes at the allotment right now. They are super tasty, stuffed with mushrooms, tomatoes, garlic and pesto.  Baked in the oven with nutritional yeast topped on them and served with blanched spinach and chard. The chard came from a neighbouring allotment plot so it was cheap and tasty. I have work to do on the vegan cooking; a lot. My poor son has become my inadvertent tester for getting vegan Yorkshire puddings right. Tonight was a fair disaster on that front but I will figure out how to get a passable pud without the eggs.

Good Things Come to Those Who Bake.

Here is the result of last night’s baking:

They are all iced up now and ready to eat. I thought I had some sprinkles for them in the cupboard but they seem to have walked off.  Although I am all baked-out. Licking the spoon, bowl and icing bag was not the best idea. I will simply have to share them out. I dread to think what this plus no exercise for the last week has done to my goal deadline. Somehow I do not think I will be a size 10 in 2 weeks’ time.

I doubt I can fit into some of the clothes that I could 2 weeks ago with my total lack of serious movement. I shall make up some of that this afternoon with a brisk walk up to and around the best park in London: Waterlow Park. Plus I got to eat some tasty chocolate buns.

Buns

Being Northern I get a lot of stick for my dialect down in London. I have breakfast, dinner and tea as my three meals (this has caused some confusion in the past around what time a friend has been expected for dinner), a ‘pot’ is something you get put on your broken bone as well as things you wash up, to take a short cut between houses you go down a snicket, I have chip butties in baps, and I never, ever call a bun anything other than a bun.

This once caused a great debate in my office before I left for parenthood. I declared I was craving chocolate buns and no one had the faintest clue what I was on about. I was told that this was a very specific Northern term and they should be called cakes, fairy cakes to be exact, cupcakes if you were born in America or post 1980’s but not a bun.

My wedding cake was a tower of buns, this was at a time before it became fashionable to have a bun wedding cake. The baker told me in no uncertain terms that should I bring my haughty London ways back to Bradford with me and even suggest this is a fairy cake-cake, muffin-cake or cupcake-cake then she would refuse to bake the thing entirely. These are buns and they always will be. Such is the strength of feeling towards the term where I come from.

So imagine my glee when I turn to some of the recipes in my go-to vegan mum and baby book and I see this:

This comes from the indispensible Rose Elliot’s  Mother, Baby and Toddler book. Aside from its use of the word ‘bun’, this was the only down-to-earth book I returned to during the whole ‘new mum’ phase. It was the only book that explained about constant feeding and what to do if you had a very hungry boy, (get a mountain of sandwiches, tanks of water and a big pile of magazines).

It doesn’t give you a day-by-day outline of what to expect but explains what you actually need to know in a quick, concise manner. Focussing on the important stuff, like how to breastfeed, when to expect growth spurts and teeth, games to play and how to still feel human.

I found that other books spent chapters explaining in intricate detail about what the standard baby will be doing now. I had no time to read all that. What I wanted to know was if I pop this dummy in my child’s mouth will the world still turn and I get sleep tonight? And it gave an honest, reliable answer. Plain-speaking with great recipes in the back that I have alarmingly only just discovered. I have no idea if Rose Elliot is Northern but her straight forward style for starting a family is just as wonderful as all her other books (of which I own many).

My husband bought me this book to combat some of the concerns other people were having about my veganism and pregnancy when they found out that I still intended to stay vegan throughout. Knowing full well I had a healthy diet, I simply ignored all the arguments that I should have fish or some red meat.  My blood tests always supported my beliefs and my lovely son has now conquered any left over idea that somehow a vegan diet is not a healthy diet all of the time.

I have passed on many of the books that I was kindly given during pregnancy, finding my own instinct to be just fine and not reading them helped more. I sent off Ina May to a friend who just had a successful home birth. Yet, the Rose Elliot book I still refer to from time to time and am keeping it just in case accidents happen. Besides, I need to know how long to leave those buns in the oven.