Saturday, 29 January 2011

Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with Nutella Icing

Image © Onykahonie
It was 9 year old Miss Kahonie's turn to bake this weekend and she decided she wanted to make some chocolate fairy cakes. Whilst browsing my favourite blogs this week, I happened to notice that Cass from the Frugal Family had started up a cooking with kids linky, which sounded like a great idea to get involved with. I also spotted her recipe for Nutella frosting and thought that sounded rather yummy.

Both Miss Ony and Miss Kahonie love baking and have been cooking with me since they were able to stand up and hold a spoon! They especially like baking anything with chocolate. If that includes icing as well, they like it even more; The only thing they like even better, is an iced, chocolaty confection with extra added chocolaty-ness!
This cupcake/fairy cake recipe includes all of their top baking requirements!

Miss Kahonie used a basic fairy/sponge cake recipe (100g each of sugar, butter and SR flour, plus 2 eggs and a tsp of vanilla extract).
For chocolate coconut cupcakes, she removed 2 tbsp of the flour and replace with 2 tbsp of sieved cocoa powder and added 25g/1oz dessicated coconut.

She decided to use the all in one method in the food processor, and mixed all the ingredients together until blended.
She spooned the mixture into a greased bun tin (you could use cake cases in a bun tin, or divide between 2 greased and lined 18cm/6" sandwich cake tins)
She then baked them for 10-15 minutes (20 minutes for sandwich cakes) at 180 C/Gas 4 or until they were firm to the touch.

Nutella butter icing:
  • 50g/2oz softened butter/vegetable spread
  • 75g/3oz icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp Nutella
  • 1 tbsp sieved cocoa
  • ½ tsp  vanilla extract
  • A drop of boiling water if needed
Miss Kahonie creamed the softened butter and Nutella together.
She added the vanilla extract, icing sugar and cocoa, and mixed well.
(If needed, add a drop of boiling water and mix until you have a smooth, spreadable icing)

She then tasted the icing (just to make sure it was yummy enough!) before spreading onto the top of each cake.
Next, she scraped out the bowl and licked the spoon!
Finally, she topped each cake with a chocolate button.

Image © Onykahonie
Suitable for freezing.

Alternatives: Add any other ingredients you like to the basic sponge mix instead of the coconut eg: 50g chocolate chips, raisins, chopped dried apricots, pecans, glace cherries, chopped fudge etc.
Swap the Nutella in the icing for 1 tbsp strong coffee, orange juice (plus grated orange zest), lemon juice (plus grated lemon zest).
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Thursday, 27 January 2011

Shepherdess Pie

It's turned cold again, so I thought I'd post a quick, cheap and easy comfort food recipe that all the family love (well maybe not love, but the kids will eat it, without moaning too much!)

  • 1 portion of pasta sauce
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained
  • 50g/2oz dried red lentils
  • ½ pack of quorn mince or a tin of drained beans
  • Mashed potato
  • 75g/3oz grated cheese (optional)

Make up the pasta sauce, adding the lentils and carrot before simmering.
Meanwhile boil your potatoes for the mash - When cooked, drain and mash with a drop of milk and 25g of the cheese.
When the sauce is cooked, add in the sweetcorn and quorn/beans and stir.
Put the sauce into an oven proof dish, top with the mashed potato the remaining cheese.
Cook for 30-40 mins at 180 C/Gas 4, until the cheese is lightly browned.

Alternatives: Add a glug of red wine, chilli sauce or a stock cube to the sauce for extra flavour.
You can also use the sauce to make lasagne or bolognese.

For a vegan version, make the mash with a spoonful of dairy free spread and season with paprika and herbs for flavour.

Suitable for freezing.
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Monday, 24 January 2011

Peanut Butter Traybake Bars (Vegan)

Peanut Butter Traybake Bars (Vegan)
These chocolate-coated peanut butter bars are really quick and easy to make. My kids reckon they taste like Snickers bars.  
  • 100g/4oz crunchy peanut butter
  • 25g/1oz dairy-free spread
  • 100g/4oz soft brown sugar
  • 50g/2oz SR flour
  • 50g/2oz porridge oats/oatmeal
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup/corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon or ginger (optional)
  • 100g/4oz plain (dairy free) chocolate.
Cream the peanut butter, spread, syrup and sugar together.
Add the flour, oats, vanilla and cinnamon/ginger.
Mix well until you have a firm dough.
Add a drop of  water if the dough is too dry to stick together.
Press the dough into a shallow (approx. 15cm) square greased baking tray. The dough should be around 1-1.5 cm thick.
Cook for around 12-15 mins at 180C/170C Fan/Gas 4/350F until golden brown around the edges.
Leave to cool.
Melt the chocolate and spread over the base. 
Allow to set before cutting into bars and removing from the tray.

Suitable for freezing.

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Sunday, 23 January 2011

Rose Elliot's Cheese Scones

Image © Onykahonie
I was very happy to receive a hard back copy of Rose Elliot's New Complete Vegetarian cook book for Christmas (from Mr O). As you can imagine, I have a fair collection of cook books, some of which I use regularly and some of which gather dust before taking a trip to the local charity shop!

I already own a couple of Rose's books, but the great thing about this book, is that it covers everything from starters and soups to main courses and puddings and the majority of recipe use everyday ingredients. I've tried a few recipes so far, and they've all been simple to prepare, and have worked really well.

When Miss Ony asked to make some cheese scones this evening, I was confident that I'd be able to find a recipe she could follow in the book...and I was right!

The recipe is as follows:

  • 200g/8oz SR flour
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 100g/4oz grated cheese (we used a mixture of gruyere and strong cheddar)
  • ½ tsp mustard powder (we also added ½ tsp paprika)
  • 150ml/10 tbsp milk
Miss Ony used the food processor to mix the butter, mustard, paprika and flour, she then added the cheese and mixed it in.
She carefully measured out the milk and added it a little at a time, but found that 10 tbsp was exactly the right amount to make a firm dough.
She rolled out the dough to around 2cm thick and cut out the scones with a round biscuit cutter - the mixture made 8 large scones.
She baked these for 15 mins at 200C/Gas 6. Smaller scones would obviously cook quicker.

The scones were delicious served warm with soup.
The remaining scones will be used up in packed lunches this week.
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Saturday, 22 January 2011

Tasty Tofu - part 4, The finale!

Image © Onykahonie
If you've been following my  tasty tofu quest you'll know that I had a complete tofu disaster followed by a moderate success with Thai Tofu Cakes, but I still hadn't managed to cook the kind of tofu that I like to eat in restaurants.

I concluded that I needed to try a different brand of tofu, so despite the lack of Chinese supermarkets in my area, I managed to track down some rather unappetisingly named Clear Spot (yes, really!) Organic Tofu in a local health food store.

On opening the packet, I was slightly scared...the tofu looked and felt softer than Cauldron's. I drained the tofu and and blotted it well on kitchen roll to remove as much moisture as possible, and then cut it into pieces. From my in depth tofutastic research, I had deduced that I first needed to marinate it and then fry it, so I made up a marinade of dark soya sauce, grated fresh ginger and crushed garlic. I also made up a basic batter with plain flour, egg and water.

After an hour bathing in the marinade (the tofu, not me!) I dipped the bean curd chunks into the batter and fried them for a few minutes in hot vegetable oil. They sizzled gently and turned a beautiful golden brown. I scooped them out and drained them well, before tentatively biting into a piece. The kids were slightly wary, but after some gentle persuasion and the promise of another mention on my blog, they tried it. Mr O showed no such trepidation and ate a whole piece in one mouthful.

And the result...whoo-hoo...everyone liked it!!! TASTY TOFU - crisp and tanned on the outside, pale and soft in the middle, and packed full of flavour! My tasty tofu quest is over (for now).

The recipe

Take a small block of firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into chunks. Marinade for 1 hour in: 
  • 2-3 tbsp dark soya sauce
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Then dip into a batter made with:
  • Heaped ½ cup plain flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ cup cold water
Fry in hot vegetable oil until golden brown, then drain on paper towel.
Serve with rice/noodles, stir-fried vegetables and a sweet chilli dipping sauce.


Alternative: Veganise the batter by omitting the egg.

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Monday, 17 January 2011

Music I want my children to listen to...

OK, so I know this doesn't sound like it's much to do with food, or vegetarianism, but I was inspired to write a rather random post about music by several other blogging mums, who mis-spent their formative years listening to similar music to me! 

Mr O and myself already inflict our taste in music on the kids at home (which they don't always appreciate) and take them to festivals at least once a year (which they love). We both have an eclectic taste in music, but the majority of our collection consists of rock, grunge, punk, 60's and folk! Miss Ony and Miss Kahonie do actually like some of our 'old' tunes, including The Levellers (Beautiful Day), They Might Be Giants (Istanbul) and Pop Will Eat Itself (Def Con One).

I've always loved music. I remember making up dance routines on the playground with my primary school friends to the latest hits by Blondie and Adam Ant. After a slight wobble in musical taste (ahem Wham!), I returned to decent music in my mid-late teens, when I wore black ("I wear black on the outside 'cause black is how I feel on the inside"), wallowed in teenage angst and played records by The Smiths, The Cure and The Jesus & Mary Chain at full blast on my music centre - sorry Mum & Dad!

Reading about Morrissey being vegetarian (in Smash Hits of course!) and singing along to the Meat is Murder lyrics "And the flesh you so fancifully fry, Is not succulent, tasty or kind, It's death for no reason, And death for no reason is MURDER" actually played a significant part in my first steps towards going veggie. I'm still a big Morrissey fan, but unfortunately my kids still aren't impressed.

On a similar theme, this isn't one I'll play to the kids just yet, but it was the hard hitting lyrics from the song Liar by Riot Girl band Bikini Kill that prompted me to take the final leap to full vegetarianism. I won't post the lyrics here, but they can easily be googled!

My girls both seem to be developing their own personal music preferences and can often be heard singing away to their favourite songs. I hope that when they're older, they'll read and sing along to The Smiths' lyrics and understand why they played such an important part in my life.

So, who do YOU want your children to listen to? Add your entry and don’t forget to visit the rest! Join in the discussion and linky your post here. Pin It

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Shloer Review...Fizzy, fruity and best served shared

Much to my kids' annoyance, I only allow them to have fizzy drinks occasionally. I'm always on the look out for healthier alternatives, so I was excited to be chosen to review two of Shloer's most popular varieties - white grape and red grape.

I'm a keen label-reader so that was the first thing I checked out. I was delighted to find that all varieties of Shloer are suitable for vegetarians & vegans; The ingredients vary slightly between flavours, but they all contain around 30% fruit juice with no added preservatives, artificial colours, sweeteners or flavourings. They are however pretty high in sugar.

The glass bottles look elegant and sophisticated, and wouldn't look out of place on the dinner table as an alternative for those adults not wishing to drink wine. Shloer can also be used as a mixer for delicious alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails!

So to the taste test...we shared Shloer and our verdict was:

White grape - We all thought that this variety tasted erm...grapey! It was light and fruity with just the right amount of fizziness. Both of the kids liked the level of sweetness, but Mr O and myself thought it was a bit too sweet for a 'grown up' soft drink. A bit more zing and zestiness would have been more appealing to us.

We rated the white grape variety 6/10. It was perfectly drinkable, but we felt it didn't have enough of a distinct flavour or appearance to make it stand out from the crowd.


Red grape - We all enjoyed the red grape Shloer "It's really fruity and refreshing" said Miss Ony (12). "It's fizzy and delicious" said Miss Kahonie (9). We rated the red grape variety 8/10 as we all felt that it was more visually appealing than the white variety and that it tasted fruitier, with subtle berry flavours.

So, would I buy Shloer? Yes, I would buy the red grape or one of the new varieties (we particularly like the sound of the white grape, raspberry & cranberry flavour), but this would mainly be for the kids as a treat, not for myself or Mr O (unless we were using it as a mixer!).

For more information, visit the official Shloer Facebook page at www.facebook/shloer where you can find recipes, shopping lists and information on the latest promotions.

Integrity Statement
I received 2 free bottles of Shloer to review. I did not receive payment, and the views expressed are genuinely those of myself and my family.

Images courtesy of Shloer © Pin It

Friday, 14 January 2011

Vegetarian weaning - first foods

So, weaning's in the news again. Just after we all thought that there was an internationally agreed 'official' recommended age to wean, the blooming scientists have gone and changed their minds!

When my girls were babies, baby-led weaning was unheard of and the recommended weaning age had just gone up from 3 to 4 months. A couple of years later it had jumped to 6 months, making some of us 'early weaners' feel like we'd harmed our babies! Meanwhile nans and grans were still advising to wean at 6-10 weeks and put a bit of rusk or baby rice in baby's bottle to help baby sleep through the night ("Well, it never did you any harm!")

It looks like we all need to follow our own common sense and wean sometime after 4 months, providing baby is showing the signs of being ready to wean: Trying or able to sit up, wanting to feed more regularly, wanting to chew and put toys and other objects into their mouth, and reaching and grabbing accurately. 

Here are a few ideas for first foods, which my kids liked. Cook and puree or leave in chewable chunks depending on the age of your baby and your weaning approach. Add baby rice and breast/formula milk if wanted.

Make up in batches and freeze in little pots or ice cube trays. Transfer into air-tight bags or plastic tubs when frozen, and label. Defrost/reheat as needed.

Savoury
Carrot & potato
Butternut squash & cauliflower
Broccoli & potato
Parsnip & sweet potato

Sweet
Apple & pear
Banana
Peach & pear
Date & apple

For more information and recipes, visit the Vegetarian Society or NHS websites. Pin It

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Tasty tofu - part 3, Thai tofu cakes are ok!

Image © Onykahonie
Determined not to let the beancurd get the better of me (after my tofu disaster), I began phase 2 of the tasty tofu quest and started looking for recipes to use up my remaining half pack of tofu. As I was using Cauldron's tofu, I looked on their website and found this lovely sounding recipe for Thai Tofu Cakes, which uses grated firm tofu.

My first thought was "How on earth am I going to grate the tofu?"  I knew from yesterday's attempt than my 'firm' tofu was a little on the flabby side, so I googled and found various methods to drain and press the tofu to make it firmer. The most common method seemed to be to put it between several sheets of kitchen towel and place a plate on top with a weight on...so that's what I tried. After an hour of draining, the tofu, was definitely drier, but definitely not grate-able!

I decided to go ahead with the recipe, but bunged all the ingredients in the food processor (swapping the spring onion for a small red onion). My initial thoughts on reading the recipe, were that the mixture was going to end up too wet to form patties and I was right! To rectify the situation, I added some wholemeal breadcrumbs (25g), but the mixture was still too wet. I then added some gram flour (25g) which I had left over from making pakoras. That seemed to do the job, but I wasn't sure how it would affect the taste!

So here's the verdict: 2.5 out of 4 - Not bad, but the kids weren't keen! Crispy on the outside chewy in the middle, with a nice spicy kick.

Alternatives: Make these without egg, or use really firm tofu, that you can actually grate.

I still want to make proper crispy tofu chunks though, so the tasty tofu quest continues...

Image © Onykahonie Pin It

Friday, 7 January 2011

Tasty tofu - part 2, the disaster!

Well, I'm ready to admit that phase 1 of the tasty tofu quest was an unmitigated failure! The rest of the dish was fine (quite nice actually), but the tofu was bland and chewy.

Here's the recipe I used:

Vegetable (& Tofu) Mild Thai Green Curry 
  • ½ pack of firm tofu, drained (I used Cauldron's)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 aubergine cut into quarters and then sliced quite thinly
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 2 tbsp vegetarian Thai green curry paste
  • 1 tin coconut milk
I attempted to cut the tofu into chunks, but it kind of crumbled!
I then fried the tofu in a little vegetable oil in a hot wok, hoping it would turn golden brown and crispy...it didn't! I drained the tofu on kitchen roll and put it in the oven to crisp up...it didn't!
(Edit: try my tried and tested tasty tofu recipe instead!)

Meanwhile, here's the successful bit:
Fry the aubergines in a 1-2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a hot wok, turning frequently, so they don't burn (you want them to soften and go golden brown, which will take 5 minutes or so).
Then add the carrots, onions and peppers and cook for a few more minutes.
Then add the mushrooms.
Stir in the curry paste and cook for a minute, then pour in the coconut milk and stir well.
Allow to simmer on a low heat while you cook the rice.

I made the mistake of stirring the bland tofu into the curry, in the hope it would absorb the flavours (it did a bit but it was still pretty horrible!)

So here's the verdict: 1 out of 4 - Miss Kahonie was the only member of the family who liked the whole curry. The rest of us left most of our tofu, but ate the veg.

Alternatives: Make this curry without the tofu, unless you can make it taste nice!

The tasty tofu quest continues.... Pin It

Monday, 3 January 2011

On the quest for tasty tofu!

I've made up an extra New Year's Resolution: To learn how to cook tasty tofu!

Now, I reckon I'm a pretty good cook. I can turn my hand to Indian, Greek, Italian and even English food...but Chinese and Thai dishes are not my forte! I first experimented with tofu, many years ago in my student days, long before the invention of Quorn and the many other meat subs now on the market. My efforts were somewhat bland and uninspiring though, which put me off.

I've recently been tempted back to the bean curd since eating a couple of fab spicy and crispy tofu dishes at Chinese and Thai restaurants. I want to have a go at recreating those textures and flavours at home, so this week I'm going to try for a Thai tofu dish. I'm not a big fan of convenience foods and cook-in sauces, but I've bought a jar of Asda's vegetarian Thai green curry paste (look out for fishy ingredients in other brands) for my first attempt.

Find out how the quest ended here. Pin It

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Vegetarian food on a budget - meal planner

If money is tight, meal planning could really help cut the cost of your weekly food budget. There are loads of meat-free food options available now, but these processed products are fairly expensive, especially compared to good old root vegetables and pulses. If you do want to include meat substitutes, try the dried veggie mince/burger/sausage mixes you can buy in supermarkets and health food shops, as these are much cheaper than the ready-made versions.

If you're a new vegetarian, and aren't quite sure how to exclude meat and fish without missing out on flavour, the ideas below may help. You could also try the Vegetarian Society for information, recipes and advice. 

My top tips for cheap and great-tasting veggie food are:

  • Buy stores' own cheap fruit and veg...or shop at your local fruit and veg market.
  • Look for marked-down products at the end of the day. 
  • Add plenty of herbs and spices - buy in a few basics such as garam masala, cumin, chilli powder, mixed herbs, oregano, black pepper, garlic and ginger. Don't buy these in the cute little jars that cost around £2 each...look in the stores' own range and the world/ethnic food aisle and buy larger packs for half the price (go for brands such as Rajah and East End). Fresh ginger can be frozen, and garlic will keep in the fridge for several weeks. 
  • Grow your own herbs either in your garden or in a window box ...basil, parsley, sage and rosemary are all easy to grow. 
  • Buy cheap tins (or dried packets) of pulses for a budget and nutritious protein source.
  • If you like meat substitutes (Quorn etc.), bulk buy them when they are on special offer and freeze them until needed.
  • Use up left-over veg, by making them into a soup and freezing.
Here's my budget conscious and low(ish) fat vegetarian family main meal planner for a week. If you're single, a student, or cooking for 2, just reduce the quantities stated. You can cook these dishes in any order, but don't throw away leftovers. Use in another meal, or freeze until needed.
  • Pasta with sauce: Make up a double batch of tomato & vegetable pasta sauce, but omit the herbs. Use half over pasta (add some herbs) and save/freeze half for the following two recipes:
  • Vegetable curry: Use half of the pasta sauce in a vegetable curry - Fry 1 chopped onion in a little oil. Add 1 tbsp garam masala, or curry powder/paste, ½ a chopped green chilli, the pasta sauce, 100-200g of mixed frozen vegetables and a tin of drained chickpeas, lentils or mixed beans. Cook until the vegetables are soft. Serve with boiled rice.
  • Veggie chilli: Use the other half of pasta sauce to make a chilli - Add 1-2 tsp mild chilli powder, 1 tsp ground cumin, ½ a chopped green chilli, ½ a small tin of drained sweetcorn, a few sliced mushrooms and a drained tin of red kidney beans, or baked beans. Add  a handful of Quorn/veggie mince if available. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve with boiled rice, or wraps.
  • Vegetable pizza: use my the bread recipe for the base. Top with tomato purée, dried herbs, finely sliced vegetables, the remaining sweetcorn and a sprinkling of grated economy mozzarella/cheddar. Serve with salad.
  • Jacket potatoes: Cook 1 large baking potato per person. Serve with left-over curry, chilli or tinned baked beans and a sprinkling of grated cheese.
  • Veggie roast: Cook a roast dinner with 1 veggie/Quorn sausage per person, stuffing and/or Yorkshire pudding. Serve with roast potatoes & parsnips, boiled seasonal vegetables and veggie gravy.
  • Bottom of the fridge soup: Peel and chop all your leftover veg (you'll need around 500g-750g, including at least 1 onion or leek for flavour and some root vegetables to thicken). Fry the veg in olive/vegetable oil for a few minutes. Add 2 tbsp tomato puree and a good handful of dried red lentils, or ½ a drained tin of lentils/beans. Pour in about 1 litre of vegetable stock (use a stock cube). Season to taste with black pepper and herbs (½ tsp ground cumin, ginger or chilli powder will give it a kick). Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins, or until the vegetables are soft. Cool slightly and blend. Bring back to the boil before serving. Serve  with crusty bread.
  • Pesto Pasta: Cook some dried pasta, drain and stir in ½ a jar of vegetarian pesto or 50g of cream cheese or soft goats cheese. Flavour with black pepper and fresh chopped herbs. Serve with garlic bread, seasonal vegetables and/or salad.
To save even more money, buy dried beans and lentils. Soak overnight in cold water, drain, rinse, boil for 10 minutes and then simmer until soft. 
After boiling to remove toxins and soften the pulses, cook for:
  • Lentils (don't soak), boil and then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Black eyed beans, black beans 30-35 minutes.
  • Kidney beans, flageolet beans, mixed beans, soya beans 45-60 minutes.
  • Borlotti beans, butter beans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, haricot beans 60-70 minutes.
To store cooked pulses, drain, cool quickly and refrigerate (for up to 2 days) or freeze (for up to a month).

Find more cheap meal ideas on my student food post. Pin It

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New year's resolutions

Happy New Year!

So it's 2011 and that means resolution time...As my close friends will tell you, I never seem to manage to stick to my resolutions for more than a month, but here goes anyway. As usual I'm thinking that I should try to eat more healthily, especially after seeing my choco-cheesy tag cloud text (on this blog) growing larger each week!
I also want to get fit in preparation for our Disney holiday this summer. When I say want, I actually mean should, as unfortunately, I hate 'official' exercise as I find it sooo boring! I don't mind walking, so long as I have someone to chat to, but the idea of running and getting all hot and sweaty for fun is alien to me...besides, running is bad for the knee joints!

I love this outside gym idea from the National Trust (so much cheaper than indoor gym fees and with much nicer views!), but I think I may just go walking round the grounds with the family, rather than doing the full-on exercise routines in public!

I actually find it much more enjoyable to make resolutions for the rest of the family, although for some reason, they don't seem to appreciate the effort that goes into this! I have decided that Mr O is going to do more some DIY this year, while Miss Ony and Miss Kahonie are going to have to start earning their pocket money. That means keeping their bedrooms tidy, putting their own clothes away and taking turns to unload the dishwasher.
I wonder if their resolutions will last longer than mine?!

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