September 30, 2014

Vegan MoFo 2014 - Sink or Swim?

I'm gonna flatter myself and decide swim. Barely. Lets say treading water. 

I BARELY got my 20 MoFo labelled posts in. 

My posts were of horrifically not brilliant quality. 

My pictures weren't always of a quality I'm happy with. Some got lost. 

My laptop and phone (my main photo taking source) both broke in MoFo month. 

I was ill- a lot of cooking opportunities were missed. 

We've been keeping my college timetable as light as possible- I needed less packed lunches than anticipated (and the ones that I did have weren't always post able). Fine, except my theme was lunch boxes. 

I have a bank of posts that were supposed to be posted this month but didn't happen. 

HOWEVER

I have posted the required 20 posts

I am proud of (admittedly a very few) of my posts

Some of my pictures I was happy with. 

I got a new, working laptop and my phone is being fixed

I still did some cooking

I still needed some lunches- some were post able

I now have a load of posts for you guys that you can enjoy in the coming months. 

SO

I didn't do perfectly, but I did enough. 

Perfect is overrated. 

Yeah, this was my first Vegan MoFo, and I wanted it to go a lot better than it did. 

BUT this was my first MoFo, and it could of gone worse. 

And I am 18- I have been blogging for 1 year. I go to college. 

I have not much life/food experience. I have not much blogging experience. I am not a professional full time blogger. 

AND I DIDN'T FAIL. 

I did it. 

Yes there is room for improvement, but if there wasn't, next year would be a bit boring? No?

THIS WAS A BIG STEP FOR ME

I shouldn't, by any means, have signed up for MoFo. I wasn't ready. I'm not really good enough at blogging to. I'm not that good at cooking to. It's for professional bloggers. Its for full time vegans. It's for people who can dedicate more time. People aren't interested in what I have to say. 

There are so many reasons why I should not have signed up. 

BUT I DID. 

Why? Well, for a start, and an end, I'm bat crazy. 

And because I wanted to have a go. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to see what I could do. And cause it looked fun. Stressful, but fun. 

And I wanted to learn.

(Boy, have I learnt.)

I've learnt that a load of stuff you wouldn't think are vegan are vegan.
I've learnt that a load of things that should be vegan aren't. 
I've learnt that I should learn to back up my pictures better.
I've learnt to be more prepared.
I've learnt that I should not forget my water bottle. 
I learnt that I need to speed up with typing.
I've learnt that I have a lot more to learn
I've learnt that there are more vegan bloggers in the UK than I thought
I've learnt that I don't have to read every post by every blogger I follow- cause in MoFo you can get a lot
I've learnt that I like listening to music again
I've learnt that even though I didn't do so well this year, it's okay

I've learnt that I can do better- and that's okay. Because I can do better. 

Because I've learnt that I want to do this again next year

A different year, a different theme, and a more experienced me 

Because this has been fun- and I want to join in again, cause vegans are apparently a friendly bunch who like making new friends. 

People who don't know me have commented on my blog. That's practically unheard of. I have almost doubled my all time page views this month- and although it really shouldn't matter, it's fun to see just how many people have read something that I've written. 

So thank you to anybody who's commented on my blog- and thank you to everybody who's read my blog. 

See you again next year?

The Pumpkin Pasty: Sweet or Savoury?



A pasty is savoury. Full. Stop. 

No arguments. A pasty is savoury. It is pastry shell filled with a savoury filling.

Everybody got that? 

Good. 

Just in case you haven't, I'll go over it one more time. A pasty is a savoury thing. 

Actually, just once more. Pasties have savoury fillings. 

That is pasties have a filling which is not sweet. 

So when in Harry Potter they talk about Pumpkin Pasties on the Hogwart's Express, I don't think that they are talking about some sort of handheld pumpkin pie. Its a pasty. It is not a pie. 

However, I saw a post on line (can't remember where, sorry) that said that it is commonly assumed that the pumpkin pasty is sweet. WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? There are soooooo not sweet. I mean really, what? Sweet? Nada. Apparently something to do with it almost being a pumpkin pie, and also the fact that it being sold on a trolley which seems to be predominately sweets...

Nah... Sorry, ain't buying it. You get a load of sweets on the trolley on real trains (of course, I'm not saying that the Hogwart's Express isn't real...) but you also get sandwiches and crisps. So, I am making an executive discussion (okay, I have no authority to make such a decision, but...) that they are SAVOURY. I mean, there a pasty for goodness sake. 

So I decided that I would just have to make my own, most definitely savoury pumpkin pasties. This has nothing to do with the fact that there is a can of pumpkin that is sitting in the cupboard calling my name for well over a year now. I was too ill last year to use said can of pumpkin. Plus, me and my Mom couldn't find a recipe that we both liked for pumpkin pie. So... I am opening the can!



I have never used canned pumpkin before. Neither can I remember anyone using canned pumpkin before. But all my favourite bloggers love canned pumpkin, and I have been itching to open it and delve into the world of orange delight. 

Plus, it's either do something with the canned pumpkin, or I do something with my butternut squash, but I just look and think... I'm too tired. 

So, back to pumpkin pasties. And how to make it a definitely savoury pasty. Apart from anything else, I'm not that big on really salty stuff, so, how to make it savoury?

Well, for a start, I am banning all pumpkin pie spice. And cinnamon. And ginger. Yes, I'm even banning the fresh ginger that normally goes into savoury recipes. And anything that is going to add any sweetness or bring out the sweetness in the, to be honest, very sweet pumpkin. 

So... what ads savoury notes? Well.... how about some fresh, green taste from some herbs. Fresh herbs taste too strong for me at the moment, so we will have a look at the herb rack... Basil? Nah, I don't want an Italian pasty. Oregano... May-be (I am unconvinced) Parsley? Well... to be honest I have run out of options now, so we'll use parsley. Parsley's kinda a universal herb right? So we'll role. 

Now, I don't want a garlicky pasty; especially if you take them in your lunchbox. So... what else can we use if we aren't using garlic? Now, I appreciate that you are all much better cooks then I am, so my ramblings are no doubt annoying. So ignore me... but I do find that onion adds a very savoury note. I've never heard of onion ice cream for example... 

So we have onion and parsley. Now... I want to add a bit of a kick... No, I don't want to turn this into a spicy pasty, I just want it to have a bit of hot to counteract the sweetness. So, lets add some black pepper and some smoked paprika- and lets hope that creates a smokey peppery note not a hot one. 

One of the surprisingly vegan supermarket finds almost everyone knows about is puff pastry sheets. Now, I am all for homemade, but quite frankly, they wouldn't be anywhere near as good if the pastry was homemade. So.... it's not. (Surprise surprise).

Mini pastries are good to put in a lunchbox for an occasional treat. For a start, theres no crusts to be left when the box comes home (well, there kind of is but let's ignore that fact). They are a make the night before ordeal. They can be frozen and taken out as needed. You can make bigger ones for bigger appetites and smaller ones for smaller appetites. 

And if you really must, you can make a sweet pumpkin pasty. 

Pumpkin Pasties (I made 5)
  • 1 package puff pastry sheet
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 unbelievably small onion- basically a shallot- or half a onion (less than that for a large onion)
  • Several grinds pepper
  • 1/2 t Smoked Paprika
  • 1t Parsley
  • 1/2 t savoury seasoning of choice (i.e. vegan Worcester sauce)
  • Preheat the oven to 200C. 
  • Measure out the pumpkin into a jug
  • Chop the onion into a very small dice
  • Saute the onion until cooked. I didn't do this step- however, that left my pasty tasting of raw onion- so I'm going to have to leave the logistics of this step to you!

  • Add the COOKED onion to the jug and mix in

  • Add the seasonings and mix together well

  • Roll out the pastry. Yes, I know it comes pre rolled, but if- like me- you're making small pasties, you don't want the puff to puffy. 

  • Cut circles about 4-6 inches diameter. Place a 'blob' (yes, so technical) of filling in the centre of each circle. Fold over or bring both sides up to join, then seal the edges- either by crimping or edging with a fork.

  • Place on a baking sheet and cook for about 20-30 mins. It all depends on your pastry and the size of your pasties. They should be mostly a golden brown colour, and probably have dark edges

Note

You don't have to make individual pasties if you aren't packing these in a lunchbox. If you want a larger pie, spread the filling in the bottom of a ovenproof dish (you quite probably will want to double the filling) and lay the pastry across the top in one sheet. (Or cut out shapes and have them floating in the pumpkin).


September 29, 2014

Fingers Bento


If you can't see, that's an Alpro blueberry yogurt, apple crisps, mini breadsticks, cucumber fingers and 2 fish less fingers. 

I thought that putting fish less fingers in my lunchbox would be a good idea- but this is a post about what's not a good idea to put in your lunchbox- not what is. They went chewy and horrible.

I used Making Waves Fish style fingers (website currently undergoing maintenance so I can't like) by Vbites. They are nice hot- just don't put them in your lunchbox. I took some dipping sauce to go with them, but I still didn't eat them. My Dad was jubilant that I didn't like him. He told me so. 

I know that some people have very strong feelings against eating "fake meat". I'm sorry if I've offended you- but I don't mind. Mostly. That vegan turkey shaped thing I saw last year freaked me out. And I wish they were called something else fingers, not fish style fingers. But they're not, and I have to live with it. Cause they go better with chips and baked beans that grilled zucchini. 

But I tried to go with a fingers theme for this lunch. Fish style fingers, bread stick finger, cucumber fingers. 

Also, don't put wet cucumber in a box with apple crisps. You end up with not crisp apple crisps. As well as soggy breadsticks. 

To be honest- this lunch was just a bit of a fail.

Never mind- this is a lesson in what does not work. It's called learning from your mistakes (and boy have I learnt from mine today). 

Marking then? (I'm not hopeful)

1. TIME This was actually quite quick to put together (if you discount the cooking of the fish style fingers). So one star (cause I'm going to need it!)

3. RECORDING I'm recording this the day that I ate it, so two stars.

7. CUTENESS There is non. Loss a star Ana

9. EATING It was rubbish. Things that shouldn't of been soggy were, and cold fish style fingers were horrid. I didn't really enjoy eating it- I only had a few bites of the fish style fingers. Loss another star. 

Which puts me on zero stars. Told you I wasn't expecting great things. 

Treat Time

Sometimes everybody needs a treat. Fact. Espessially fact if you are a kid and everyone else has those blue wrapped rice cereal ones. 

Also espesially fact if you are an 18 year old and you want one- but for hopefully slightly obvious reasons you can't have one of those blue wrapped ones. They are two expensive any way. 

A while ago I got a packet of Freedom Mallows from Holland and Barrett's on a mostly a whim. And also mostly Mom's existance. All I wanted was cashews- and out I came with sweets. And cashews. The trouble is- these marshmallows? Definitely needed to be saved for a special occasion. Definitely needed to be saved for a treat. (Much to my mother's annoyance).



So- if these mallows are all they are made out to be- they should make some treats- yeah? So it's great- girl decided to make a vegan version of Rice Crispy Treats

Then she realises that we do not have any crispy rice cereal- vegan or no. 

[Enter swear word of choice.]

So what cereal do we have? My brother's Frosted Flakes- not to be touched under peril. (Unless you are really quick so that he doesn't know.) Bran flakes? Not quite the 'treat' atmosphere I was looking for. Chocolate alphabet cereal? Well- that would make it a purple wrapped treat not a blue wrapped one- but the alphabet theme ties in with back to school, right? 

Yeah, well. Why not?

Now is NOT the time to give me a list of all the reasons why not.

Um... I'm not going to give you a recipe here, mainly because I used the one from the Kellogg's website. (I switched the butter for margarine, marshmallows for Freedom Mallow's and crisped rice cereal for BEAR's Alphabites. I also scaled it down. A lot. So to be honest, the ingredients were changed quite a bit, but the process remains the same.

They turned out like this:


Okay, they taste better than they look- my phones broken so I'm using my less than stellar camera in bad light. 

If you put a Treat in your lunch, it's up to you if you go full out treat mode and fill your box with all sorts of other treats, or you can go damage limitation mode and fill the rest of your box with healthy stuff.

I try not to be a dictator, I leave the future of your lunch to you. 

September 28, 2014

Homesickness Crumble

A good thing to pack into a lunchbox (especially of someone not so sure of their new surroundings) is  something that reminds them of home. This is going to be subjective... spend a moment thinking about what reminds you off home... Then think about what reminds them of home...

For me? Well... the first thing that comes to mind is sweet and sour and rice made the way Dad does it... But that's not quite lunch box friendly....

So... lets think again. 

Crumble. More specifically... crumble for breakfast. Even more specifically... leftover crumble for breakfast. It really reminds me of home. Or... leftover leftover crumble sneaked straight from ovenproof dish with a spoon when no ones around...

Okay... enough rambling... The packable thing that reminds me of home? Cold crumble. 

This is also sort of something for my friends who just went of to uni... something that- even if it isn't exactly what reminds them of home- at least I hope it reminds them of home a little bit... Bearing mind that they are all students now; I tried to keep the cost down... and it serves 1 not a family of 8. 

I had that in mind when I was deciding what fruit to use... so I went with a tinned peach crumble. 

I am at a loss as to what to suggest to cook it in. Just hunt around your kitchen until you find something. I used a silicone ramekin. So... go search and knock yourself out. 

Basically... the moral of this post.... put something that reminds you of home in your box. It makes you smile. 

(P.S. sorry, this isn't actually in a box... but I was restricted to when I could make my crumble as to when the oven was on... and it wasn't in harmony with lunchbox packing)

Homesickness Curing Peach Crumble

Ingrediants

  • about 5/6 tinned peach slices
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 T margerine
  • 1 T rolled (porridge) oats
  • 1 t sugar

Method


  • Turn on the oven to about 200C. If you're cooking something else at the same time (I was) just work it around that. If your container needs greasing, then grease it (mine didn't)
  • In a small bowl, measure out the flour and rub in the margarine ('tickle' the two ingredients together until they start looking like yellow breadcrumbs)

  • Add the oats and sugar and mix together

  • Cut the peach into bitesized pieces and put it into the baking container. Tip the crumble mixture out on top

  • Bake the crumble for 30-40 minutes - keep checking until its ready
  • Store in the fridge after cooling until ready to eat (or eat straight away)






September 27, 2014

Innocent Kids Fruit Tubes


Edit: Innocent have contacted me to say that there "is an incredibly small chance that there is a tiny trace of Shellac in our products" . I'm really sorry if this has caused any problems, I had been informed that these were vegan products, and had checked the ingredients, and so I thought I had taken all necessary precautions. I obviously hadn't- sorry MoFo'ers.

[Okay, this is not an excuse (well, I guess it is a bit), but I haven't been able to get quite a few of the pictures I was using for Vegan MoFo posts off my old laptop. I haven't even been able to log onto my old laptop. So... Vegan MoFo has become even more of a fail from me. So... this post is missing some pictures. Also, I just filled out as much as I can on my UCAS application (That actually isn't a lot) and so my brain has turned to brain juice. Just to warn you.]

When I was a kid, I really wanted those yogurt tubes in my lunchbox. They were, however, a verily rare occasion, as my parents thought that they were a waste of money. If you are a vegan kid; they are pretty much guaranteed to be an even rarer occurrence. 

Mainly because I haven't seen any vegan yogurt tubes. Vegan yogurt companies (or anyone who wants to form one), will you PLEASE get your game on with that? 

And I know that a lot of people don't like Innocent, but these fruit tubes are the best substitution for yogurt tubes that I have found. Ethical decisions are something that I will leave up to you. Personally, I don't mind. 

For a start, if your kid wants to blend in, then the tubes themselves work in exactly the same way as those yogurt tubes. Same shape and size, same rip top opening... I mean, because the contents go straight from tube to mouth, how would you even know that it's fruit and not yogurt? Unless they read the packaging, but still, it's a squeeze-y tube, right? 


Exactly. 

They come in two varieties; Strawberries and Raspberries and Mangoes and Pineapples. Now, I am going to admit right here and now, that I've never had a Mangoes and Pineapples one. I don't like mango. So there is not much point me reviewing one, I am EXTREMELY unlikely to actually have much good to say about the taste. However, unless you too are dealing with an extreme aversion to mango, I'm sure they are lovely. I think even my brother liked them and he is hard to please. 

I love the Strawberries and Raspberries one. I like squeezing them from the tube straight into my mouth, I've also squeezed them out onto porridge and enjoyed them that way. They taste yummy, and fruity. They are relatively thin- perfect for from tube slurping. 

Mom's looking for a bread bin. May I go hide please? (We lost the cracker box we used to use) I have a feeling this is going to be a very big decision- almost as big as what colour to paint the living room. It may take years. 

They are 40g. That's half a portion of fruit, or a child's portion. Yeah, that's not like, half of your five a day, but they are a start, and a nice little vitamin kick if you that's the only fruit you will eat. There is no added anything- just fruit, so you're not putting anything bad into your kid, just fruit. 

I like the packaging. Simple, yet fun, bright and colourful, and interesting. They come in a cardboard box containing six tubes. I know that as of yet, there isn't a way to make recyclable tubes, but I like the fact that at least some of the packaging isn't going to end up in landfill. 

They are a bit expensive. (Isn't everything). £2 for 6, about twice the price of those little yogurt tubes. A nice (and convenient) treat though. Maybe for the throw away packed lunch required for school trips? I got mine on half price- they are usually on offer around back to school time. Yeah, a banana is cheaper, but a banana doesn't come in a tube. 

They are also currently running a promotion- you get 3 alphabet magnets in every pack, and if you have six bar codes they will send you 3 names in magnets. Yeah, you need to buy six packs, but I'm a sucker for promotions. (Also, I'm pretty sure they apply to all Innocent kids products, not just the fruit tubes). 

Yes, I buy them. No, not all the time. They are fun, to be honest, possibly more a bit of a gimmick. Yes, if you want something to put in a kids lunchbox, I would definitely recommend them. Not every day, cause kids do need to know what fruit ACTUALLY looks like, but they are a good lunchbox item for younger kids. And a nice treat for me. 

Plus, I like the magnets. 


September 26, 2014

Awesome Sauce

Apple sauce is awesome sauce. But applesauce has been done before. So we are just going to talk about awesome awesome sauce. Sound awesome? Awesome. 


When I went on the French Exchange (Year 12, so we were 16/17 years old) there were a few days when our partner's family had to provide us with lunch. I loved it. A amazing sandwich on french bread (some of the families got 'English bread' for their students. No one liked it. It was not English bread) and trust me, french bread tastes so much nicer in France. My partners mother went out at 6:30am to get my fresh bread. I know. A pot of applesauce and leftover apple crumble. Give me my favourite food, and then give me my favourite food in my favourite form, I'm a happy girl. There was some other stuff in there, and she constantly tried to put even more in, but what was the best? What do I remember? The sandwich, the applesauce, the apple crumble. I was a happy girl. 

What was the other best bit? We sat outside in the sun and had a lazy picnic. All together. Our teacher overbalanced and rolled (like, a roll-y pole-y roll) down the ill (don't worry, she wasn't hurt). We all shared our food. It was good. It was brilliant. I was wearing factor 50 and enjoying the heat on my skin (I was wearing skin colored tights for the first time). 

Oh, and it was snowing back home. 

Yeah, try explaining that to your partner. "Yeah, that's cause it was Febuary when we came to England." No, it's SNOWING today. She thought I was speaking bad French. No, we just have bad weather. 

(We went in April) 

It was one of the best days ever. And what made it even better? Awesomesauce. Most families sent their student with a squeezey pouch of applesauce. To most everyone else, they had been presented with something that was just wrong. But it's okay, they all knew to give the 'baby food' to me. It's okay- I gave them my orange juice. 

It was a good time.

Plus, coconut milk sorbet- have to recreate that for you some time. 

Most English don't do applesauce. Applesauce is an over sugared condiment you get in a small jar to go with pork. Most English should do applesauce. And most definitely NEVER with pork, or any other kind of meat. Really people, try proper applesauce. It's not baby food (almost). 

And it's easy to make. Chop up apples and other fruit as desired. I used a bag of apples and a punnet of peaches. The awesome thing about this awesome sauce is that your fruit doesn't have to be beautiful. It can be down right ugly fruit if you want. I specifically ask for cheap apples when I know I'm making apple sauce. Looks really don't count because your gonna mush it up anyway. You can use any type of fruit you want with the apples. Soft fruits and berries are safe choices, though try anything you fancy- if it goes wrong than oh well. I really want to try apple, cherry and kiwi. 

Cook them. Yeah, I know, such precise instructions. Cook the fruit like a casserole in the oven, on the hob, in the slow cooker if you have one, or a microwave. Whatever works best for you. You may need to add a bit of water, especially if you're cooking it on the hob, but that depends on how much juice comes from your fruit. Don't add a lot, just a bit. We all know the rule, you can add but you can't take away. The fruit should be soft, and cooked, and there should be some "sauce", but it doesn't have to be a complete mush. 

Liquidise or mash your sauce. This is the point where it beomes sauce. How you turn it into sauce and to what state of mush-ness you do is up to your own preference. I use a stick blender to turn it very smooth because I like to use it for baking.


[Okay, there were meant to be more pictures, but I can't get them off my old laptop.]

September 25, 2014

Laugh All

Fa-la-fal. (Fa) Laugh All. 

Get it? 

Yeah, I probably need help. But you still love me, don't you? (Maybe lets all not answer that one).

Felafel's are a really yummy lunch people. Plus (as I found out today) you can eat them whilst doing your homework (always a good point). 

If you have a picky (in eating methods) eater who doesn't like sandwiches, you can just pack the felafel's and veggies in separate containers (like I did). If you are a sandwich person, they are good in wraps and pitas with salad, veggies and (although its chickpeas and chickpeas) hummus. Pack some fruity chutney for a dip, or put it in the sandwich. If you cut up the felafel's, then you can even put it in a sandwich sandwich (a good quality crust bread roll would be good.) 

See people; there's loads you can do with felafel's. It's such a good situation were all laughing. 


I had my felafel's with a wrap, cucumber coins (I tried to do some sort of wavy peeling thing but it didn't work. Another time perhaps.) an Alpro cherry yogurt and an Innocent fruit tube (more on that another day.) 

One thing to mention about packing felafel's in your lunch box is that you need to make sure that they aren't dry, especially if you aren't packing them in a sandwich. Also, if you usually have them warmed, bear in mind that felafel's which are perfectly fine when warmed in the oven can be dry when cold. And dry felafel's ain't much fun!

Just in case you're interested, I'm listening to Taylor Swift's new single. It makes me want to do some sort of sat down dance when typing. 

One of the good things about felafel's is that it doesn't matter if you are a make it all ya'self type of person, or a toss it in the supermarket trolley type of person. There easy to make yourself, and can often be found in stores. 

So, shall we mark it? (I'm back at college, so know we call it marking.) I'm going for a gold star people. 

1. TIME This one was a quickie. As long as you have the felafel's all ready to go (and you can store them in the freezer) it takes less than five minutes. The longest thing was cutting up the cucumber. Yes, I could of spent more time making everything more pretty, but... If you want a quick fix lunch, this one fits. One star to me (happy face). 

3. RECORDING I ate this lunch today. Nuff said. Two stars. 

4. BALANCE I thought that getting everything in (mainly getting the calcium and protein) could prove a challenge everyday, but I've done it today. So that puts me on three stars.

5. BOXABILITY Um... you may have noticed that its not in a box. So I'm going to loose a star for definite. I may even loose two. (Can I even loose two). I could have put it in a box... but the box was in the wash. The only reason I'm still marking it as a bento is that it would go SO WELL as a bento. Really, this would translate really really really well to bentohood. 

7. CUTENESS This is lacking cuteness. Spectacularly. There is no cuteness factor what. so. ever. The only thing I could have done to make it less cute is to have left the cucumber as one. big. chunk. I did try to do something fancy with the cucumber but as mentioned above, it was not to be. So... Down another star. 

9. EATING I think I could have made this one a bit of a more fun eating experience. 

Side note: Dad doesn't seem to like the Taylor Swift song.

9. EATING (CONT.) I should have gone with a full mezze theme. All middle eastern type flavours. Some salad-y things. I quite enjoyed my lunch, so I'm not going to dock a star. But on felafel bento mark II (and there is going to be one) (although I have already done a felafel wrap, so it will actually I guess be felafel bento mark III) (I might wait until I have one of these. I think it would work so well.) I am so going to up my game. 

That is... by my calculations... 0 stars (because if it's not in a box... its not a bento... so i docked two stars). That is... not such a good score. It deserves more than no stars. That darned not being in a box thing. So near... yet so far....

How's everyone else's MoFo going? Hopefully better than mine. Only 5 days left! (And I've still got 6  more to go!) Wish me luck (really, please, I'll need it!) 



September 22, 2014

Au Pair


This "salad" is "au pair" (at equals with) with any meat filled dish. Maybe that's why I called it "salad au pair". Maybe 'cause it was around the time that I wanted to become a au pair (that phase lasted for a couple of years). Maybe I called it that because...

To be honest, who knows? Because I sertainly don't. It was a long time ago. 

"Salad au pair" was probably the first recipie that I created. And just to let you know, we're using the term "recipie" very lightly. It's more a combination really. But you don't get "combination"s. You get "recipies". So just pretend it's a lot more complicated than chop, boil, mix. Just pretend people. Use your imagination. 

I do believe that this "recipie" started of being called "noodles au pair". Well, I know that it was. It was me who called it that. So, I don't actually here you asking, why did you change the name from "noodles au pair" to "salad au pair"? Well, because by the time its assembled, it's cold. If it's cold, it becomes a salad. 

I think. I need some good foodie bibles. At would stage does it go from a noodle dish to a noodle salad? Please, I think I need some help over here! On that conundrum and some suggestions for the books that would answer that type of conundrum as well.

Right, so we've assessed it's not a recipie. It's not a hot noodle dish. It's not a salad. Well, it is, maybe, but there's no lettuce. Shall we get onto what this actually is.

Noodles/Salad Au Pair is...

  • Vegan
  • 4 of your 5 a day (No, really)
  • VERY filling
  • Tastes just as good cold as it does hot
  • Perfect for packed lunches
  • One pot (plus a chopping board and knife. Make it in a microwavable bowl and that's even less washing up.)
  • Customisable. Use whatever noodles you have- soba, rice, gluten free, wholewheat, spaghetti (if you really must), instant. 
  • Quick (How long does it take you to boil your noodles?) 
  • Easy
  • Requires no specialised equipment. If you haven't got the required equipment, then what you are calling a kitchen is NOT a kitchen. Just to let you know. 
  • Made with ingrediants you can get in just about any supermarket. 
  • Low fat and low salt, if you're into that kind of thing. 
  • Made with all natural ingrediant (check you're noodles)
  • Yummy (In my humble opinion.)

I don't have The Flavor Bible. I can't guarentee to you that you will find the combination as good as I do. To be honest, this is just a happy marriage of the things that I can almost always find in my kitchen. (My parents do most of the shopping. The fate of what I chuck in my noodles is in their hands.) Most of the ingrediants are fairly sweet, and so I quite like the touch of sharpness and saltiness that the olives add. I like the crisp crunch of the apple, the sticky consentrated sweet of the apricots (plus that little bit of iron), and the watery coolness of the cucumber. I like the way that they each add a different element to the combination. Oh, and then you add the noodles, and who doesn't love noodles? (Actually, I have met someone...) And the noodles seem to add a subtle base flavor that melds all the components together. And they add a nice texture too. To repeat, who doesn't like noodles? (Apart from that one person I met...) 

I will admit that this salad is completely full of fruits. But 2 of them are fruits that masquerade as veggies. So, if we feign ignorance, that's two fruits and two veggies. Also, due to the fact that it's so full of vitamins, you can have vegan pepperoni pizza for tea. Nothing like a bit of good stuff to balance out the fun but not so good stuff.

Not that this stuff isn't fun, but sometimes you want that pizza, right?

Right.

So these are all things that we pretty much always have in. I mean, the dried apricots and the olive and the noodles are STORE CUPBOARD ingredients.

So, since you PROBABLY have all the stuff in your kitchen, if you want to make this, I better give you the "recipe".

Salad Au Pair

Ingrediants

* 1 Green Apple (Okay, so it can be red, but it has to be green) 
* 1 1/2 " of Cucumber
* 3/4 Dried Apricots
* 7 Green Pimento Stuffed Olives (Also called the green ones with the orange stuff in) (Okay, they can be black, okay, they don't have to be pimento stuffed, but it looses something if they're not) 
*1 serving of your favourite noodles, or which ever ones you have in your cupboard

Method

  1. Start the noodles cooking. I don't know what type of noodles you are using, so cook according to packet directions (I've always wanted to say that). If your packet doesn't have directions, consult the mystic Google
2. Chop up the cucumber. Cut it into rounds, then cut each round into 6 chunks.


3. Chop up the apple, into pieces about the size of the cucumber.


4. Chop the dried apricots into small dice


5. Drain (and possibly wash, depending what they are in) the olives. Slice them into about 4/5 slices widthways. Yes, some of the orange stuff will fall out, don't worry about it.


6. Drain your noodles. REALLY WELL. 

7. Choose your container. If you're packing it up, choose one with a lid. If you're not, I don't know why you would want a lid. Try a bowl. To give you an idea, I used a 1.2l box. 

8. Chuck it all in you're container, and mix it up. (Carefully, Dad gets angry if he finds bits of noodle on the kitchen table). 

Note

Okay, so you might have noticed that there's no dressing on this salad. Please, leave it like that. Let the flavours of the produce provide the flavour, don't drown them out. 






September 18, 2014

Breakfast for Lunch

I started off MoFo for such great plans...

I was going to post EVERY DAY. 

I had half posts all ready to be finished and posted. 

And then I basically got the flu. 

And started college. 

And it just ain't happening. 

I can GUARANTEE that I will have the required 20 posts all published BEFORE the required September 30th. 12 down, 8 to go. You never know, I may ever surpass the 20 required. 

They won't be brilliant, but I CAN DO THIS. 

However, due to restraints placed upon me as stated above, my packed lunches have been less than stellar. I mean, when you've got 5 minutes to eat breakfast AND get dressed AND make your lunch AND get your bag ready, that lunch isn't going to be all that good, to be honest. 

It's also not going to be that good if you have been sat at the kitchen table for 30 minutes wondering what you are going to have for lunch. If you're brain switches off, it can be real hard to switch it back on again. Trust me. 

My Dad was just reading over my shoulder. Is it the new laptop or is he interested in the content of my blog?

Oh yeah, by the way, I've got a new laptop. To add to all the other problems, all my pictures are on my old laptop. 

So, what did I have for lunch today? 




Breakfast cereal. It's hardly an inspiring idea for you. But that's what I had. 

Do with it what you will. 

If you're looking for an idea that you can take great places, go with cereal. You can't get any more simple. 

If you are looking for the quickest lunch prep ever, go with cereal. The longest bit of the process is finding the right container. 

Mines a Sistema. Anything leak proof will do. But that's leak proof with a capital L. But unless you want soggy cereal, you will either need two containers, or a fancy split container. 

Need variation on the theme, to make it slightly more post worthy? Well, if you are looking for themes on the variation of taking breakfast cereal in your packed lunch, here are a few:
  • Simple, mix up the cereal. Go to the store, choose something new. Or just alternate the cereal you buy. Otherwise theres a possibility that it might get boring. 
  • Mix up the milk, almond, soy, oat, coconut, hazelnut.
  • Go granola. Homemade or store-bought.
  • Go fancy granola; make a parfait. Layer yogurt, fruit and granola in any way that you want. 
  • Muesli and yogurt. 
  • We've already talked about porridge
  • Make the milk more interesting. Make a sort of very thin smoothie from some berries and your favorite milk and use that. (Cherry milk and chocolate cereal anybody). 
  • Forget the milk, just have cereal. 
  • The cereal necklace? (You know, with Cheerio style cereal?)
  • Add stuff. Fruit, dried fruit, vegan marshmallows (if you are craving that marshmallowy cereal), crushed up cookies (if you are craving that cookie ish cereal), peanut butter blobs. 
  • Heat the milk, carry it it a flask, have warm milk and cereal.
  • Chocolate or peanut butter milk. 
So it's not some sort of vegan caviar, its kind of some happy marriage between comfort food and easy to do food (really easy to do food). 

But it's comforting. If you have had a bad morning, eat cereal for lunch, and you're day can have a new start. 

And all your blog posts will magically get published.

Okay, I have tried REALLY hard to add the pictures to this post, but they won't load onto my computer. The next chance I have, I'll come back and add them, but until then, can you use you're imagination please?

September 14, 2014

Can It!

No, I'm not being rude. No, I'm not telling you to be quiet. I'm just telling you to can it. 

As in, open a can, heat it up, put it in your food jar, eat. 

It looks like this:


Except honestly, it's hard to make canned soup look good. It really is. It smelt yummy. Someone invent a way to smell what I smelt, and you're golden. It did taste yummy. It just looks a bit...

Yeah. 

Okay, so canned soup doesn't look the best. 

But it's a good alternative to real soup when you've forgotten to take a portion of real soup out the freezer. OR when it's almost soup veggie season, but not yet and you've run out of soup in your freezer. Cause, you don't want a dead sophisticated soup in your lunch. You want something basic but good. The kind of soup I presume would be good when camping. Just heat and eat. Nothing fancy- none of that spring veggie soup with 5" spears of asparagus floating on top. 

You want something that fills you up and warms you up. And comes out of a can for when you need something out of a can. 

It doesn't even have to be soup. Baked bean's, spaghetti, ravioli, veggie chili. But it's soup which will give you the most options. 

And yeah, I know- who knew supermarkets would have vegan canned stuff in their shelves. I'm not talking about the free from "weird food" isles either. THEY ARE OUT THERE. They are on the shelves with the other stuff. Okay, that means you need to do a bit of digging, but it's uplifting. Vegan is mainstream people! 

My top tip for finding these mysterious vegan cans? Don't go out there and look at every can until you find the ones that are vegan- be a boy scout, "be prepared". Get the vegan list. Sainsbury's updates there's monthly- M&S is good too. (Posh, but they have an easily accessible one). If there isn't one on your store of choice's website, don't be afraid to e-mail them and ask. What's the worst that can happen? They ban you from shopping there? Not likely- so go ahead and ask! And read the whole list, even if you are only looking for one thing. Some of the things on there might be a nice surprise! (Any body like ginger nuts- go to Sainsbury's). You do have to make sure your list is up to date- ingredients change, so don't be going around using a list you printed of 5 years ago. 

And if your looking for baked beans- don't go to Sainsbury's. Why, I don't know. 

So- get your list, go pick up some cans, then stick 'em in the back of your cupboard. Mine are on top of my cereal. Forget about them. Don't do what my Mom does and panic and eat anything that's been there over a week cause you obviously don't want it. Then, the morning you've forgotten about lunch, or it's the middle of August but for some reason it's cold and cloudy outside and you want something WARM and something that isn't salad, open, heat, eat. 

I'm not saying do this everyday. But it's called convenience food for a reason. It's meant to be there for those moment's when you need them most. A bit like your Dad when you've left home. Don't see him often, but if you need to be told how to change a light bulb, he's just one phone call away. Always there when you need them. 

And I do know how to change a light bulb btw. Go open, heat, (don't eat) for someone who does. Free food goes far. 

September 13, 2014

Nakd Crunch Bars

Okay people, it's time for a review of some good olde fruit and nut bars. 


These are like the traditional Nakd bars (I really must do a review of those some time) except that they contain soy crispies, making them higher in protein, but not one of your five a day. Depends what your priorities are I guess. 

I've no idea how I am supposed to describe the texture of these bars. I want to describe them as both hard and soft at the same time. The thing that strikes me as most similar in texture is the fudge that my brother likes from Thornton's. The 'harder' type of fudge as opposed to the 'softer' kind, but not hard like a cracker, or a biscuit, or a cereal bar. A solid-y fudge texture. If you try and squeeze the bar between your fingers, it wont give any; and it will bend slightly before it 'breaks' ('snaps' didn't seem to fit here.)

The soy crispies? I admit, I was worried. Really worried. Soy is a very versatile substance- it can be made into many terrible terrible things. (Have you ever tried Aldi soy milk?) Were my deepest fears with these bars realised? Nah. The easiest way to describe the soy crispies is like mini, solid rice crispie cereal. (FYI, I like rice crispies.) They were small enough that you weren't biting into some big hard lump, they blended in nicely to the rest of the bar, but still adding nice 'pops' of texture- I will stick with saying more crispy than crunchy though.


What else is great about these bars? They're made in the UK!

Nakd had 4 different varieties of their Crunch bars, Cocoa Crunch, Strawberry Crunch, Banana Crunch and Apple Crunch. I've tried all of them apart from the Apple Crunch, because I couldn't find that one anywhere. :(

My favorite was definitely the chocolate one!


The taste of the the coco crunch bar was a pleasant surprise! I hadn't tried any of the chocolaty Nakd bars before, I was very apprehensive due to the high possibility of a too dark, slightly bitter, highly powdery coco taste/aftertaste. I need not of worried. It's taste reminded me of chocolate tiffin. Definitely chocolaty, but not overpowering. All the components just happily meld together to make a nice chocolaty tasting bar. Not to 'dark' and bitter, and not too sweet either (so basically the nice medium between how my Dad and my Mom like their chocolate). And their was definitely no powdery aftertaste!


Don't get me wrong, I wasn't disappointed with the taste of this bar. It was really, really really lovely. It's just that I'd just (well, not right that second, I mean a couple of days before) tried the Berry Delight Nakd bar, and the flavour of that bar is really, really, intensely berry-ish. And so after that, the flavor of this bar seemed a bit 'pale'. Which is about right really, it's a strawberry bar, not a mixed berry bar. It is a lovely flavor, but if you want an intense berry taste, go with the Berry Delight. If you want the extra protein, this bar really does taste lovely.


The banana taste of this bar mixed together with the other fruits and nuts nicely, so that although you could definitely taste the banana, it wasn't overpowering, and you could taste everything else in the bar too. This means that the banana taste isn't too 'fakey'. It was a nice banana-ry taste. 

These bars are kind of high in sugar. However, they are mostly dried fruit, which is high in sugar. There is no added sugar, just the sugar that comes from the fruit. And if you are going to have a load of sugar, dried fruit is the way to do it, because it's full of good stuff, like iron. And fruit sugar is better than sugar sugar. And to be honest, they contain about the same amount of sugar as most cereal bars anyway. They aren't "low fat" bars- they contain good fats from the nuts- but they are kinda low in fat. 2.6g per bar really isn't that much. Also, unlike many other "snack/cereal" bars, there is no added salt. Again, just that that occurs naturally. They are (for a snack bar) fairly high in protein. 5.5g per bar, although not 'high' like half a block of tofu, is not to be laughed at! (I'm using the numbers from the Cocoa one btw). And there is no artificial stuff, which is always nice. 

Okay, they are not cheap. Bout 70-90p per bar. Yeah, not cheap, but worth it. Not something that I could afford to eat everyday, but sometimes, yeah. 

So, to sum up, nice texture, convenient and portable (no bruised fruit syndrome here, nor is it obliterated into crumbs). Good taste (Cocoa is my fave). A bit expensive for a snack bar, but worth it for a not-every-day thing. No added horrible stuff, and good for you. So- all good, yeah?

I mean, it would be nice if the apple one would be more widely available so that I could try it, but we can't have everything, so just go try which ever one you can find, and be impressed. 

September 10, 2014

Porridge New Man

One thing I would say is pretty essential if you are going to be doing this vegan packed lunch thingy? A good (i.e. one that actually works) insulated food flask. That means one with a wide mouth, not that type with slits you pour thin liquid out of. 

I, if any body is interested, use a Thermos Foogo. It's the right size, it keeps food hot, and it doesn't leak (though if it did leak the laws of physics suggest that it wouldn't keep food hot.) It cost me just under £20. There were cheaper ones out there (I saw some for about £5) however, this one had received constant good reviews, and I could buy it in a store. (I got mine in Boots, though it was in the Baby section.)

Of the many things that go in Foogo, the two most common are soup and porridge. The good thing about porridge is I can use the same bowl to make the oats/milk mixture once, then use different add in's  to mix it up enough so that I can have it for breakfast and lunch and not get bored. 

Saying that, I really like porridge. You might get bored of it. 

So, even if you don't love porridge enough to have it twice a day, it's still a good option for lunch. It fills you up till tea time. It's warming on a cold miserable day (and that's most days round here). It's very customisable- there are so many possible combinations for add ins. It doesn't stain like tomato soup. It doesn't spill as easy as tomato soup. It doesn't have an overpowering smell for those who like to be discrete with their lunch choices. As long as you have oats (cause you can technically make porridge with water) than it doesn't matter what else you have in the kitchen- you are all set to go. It doesn't take up any precious freezer room. It is a one pot meal. It's cheap. It's easy to eat out a food jar. 

The combination that I have most often in Foogo is the New Man combination. 


1. Chop up a load of dried apricots. When I say a load, I mean about 3-4, depending on size. I chop them up fairly small, but not minuscule. 


2. Cook the dried apricots in along with the porridge, to whichever recipe you like best. If you don't have a favorite recipe, the instant stuff is fine. You do need to make sure that you add about 2 tablespoons more liquid than you would normally though, as it will thicken up by lunch. 


3. As you are cooking the porridge, cut up a peach or a nectarine. Not as small as you cut the dried apricots, but still small enough to fit on the spoon. 


4. When the porridge is cooked, transfer it into your flask, then add a spoon of peanut butter (unless you are taking this to a nut free environment). Don't try and stir it in, leave it in a blob. 


5. To finish, layer the peach/nectarine on top. By lunch time, the heat and steam from the porridge should have made the peanut butter go all melty, and just started to "cook" the peach/nectarine so it goes softer and juicer and a more vibrant color. Ready to enjoy. (P.S. enjoy layered, not mixed in. Like a porridge parfait). 





September 09, 2014

Safer Sushi

The original bento boxes contain a whole load of sushi rice. 

I, however, am slightly dubious of packing rice in my lunchbox. Something about food safety. I know that I whole load of people do it, and do it perfectly well, however, I'm just not that confident. 

Enter Safer Sushi, the no-rice alternative to sushi. I would direct you to the web page where I found out how to do this, however I have seen this on several web pages and can't remember the exact one where I found it first. So... Just to let you know that this is not my idea, and whoever worked it out, they are a genius. I really wish I knew you. 

The premise is that you make a sushi-like thing, but with a slice of bread and not rice. So it's kind of like a tortilla pinwheel sandwich, but more like sushi in the starches-to-filling ratio. Kind of like a great compromise between the two. 

Also, it's a lot quicker to make than real sushi. And you need less stuff. And what you do need, you are more likely to have on hand. 

Not that I don't love real sushi (it's weird, but I'm learning to love it) but I don't find that, for me personally, it's great lunch box material. Safer sushi? Yup, that's cool. 

To make Safer Sushi, lay one (or several) pieces of bread flat on your work surface (white looks more like rice, but use whatever you have), cut of the crusts and then flatten them a bit with a rolling pin (you don't want them so fin that they will break, just fin enough that they roll up a bit better.) 

Next, spread whatever you want to spread all over the piece(s) of bread-right up to the edges. Basically, if you spread it, you're golden. Nut/seed butter, vegan pate, jam, hummus, dip. Again, if it spreads, you're golden. One thing to remember though is that the color will show, and so you may want to choose something which has a brighter, bolder color that contrasts with the bread. 

Then, add the fillings. If they are tiny fillings (like sesame seeds) scatter them everywhere. If they are chunkier fillings (like carrot sticks) just put them at one end. Make sure you scatter evenly and put them right up to the ends of the bread. (Don't overfill, otherwise you won't be able to roll!)


Roll. It you included a chunkier filling, start there and roll that into the centre. Roll as tightly as possible. 

Place the rolled edge down towards the chopping board and cut into bite sized pieces. They shouldn't be too thick so that they don't fit into the box with the cut edge facing up. Because you want to see the spiral, you don't want to see just a boring bit of bread.


You can't see the swirl very well with mine. The mushroom pate that I used was pretty much the same color as the bread. Which was a bit of a fail. I do think that white bread works better here, but we had brown bread in, so... 

So I had brown bread, mushroom pate, sesame seeds and nori safer sushi; carrot coins and apple slices. Not very exciting apart from the 'sushi' but there you go. 

2. LEFTOVERS Great (she says sarcastically) I loose a star here, cause I haven't worked out what to do with crusts that I cut off yet. So great, just great. 

4. BALANCE This is another bento where, although it doesn't look particularly balanced, it is. The mushroom pate has protein, and the sesame seeds have calcium. They are not necessarily the best sources, but they will do all the same. So that's no stars (-1 + 1 = 0).

5. BOXABILITY I am quite proud of how everything fitted in my box today, I quite like that diagonal sandwich wall, so I'll award myself a star here. 

6. PACKAGING No excess packaging in my bento today, and so we'll go up to two stars! (Yippee)

Which ends us on two stars. Which is not bad I guess.

September 08, 2014

P-urger's

I was going to talk about taking a veggie burger/sliders in your lunch, however, we did not have any bread buns. We did have pittas. So instead I'll talk about p-urgers. Deal?


The moral of today's post is: you can mix it up a bit. If you have a veggie burger and you want to put it in a pitta: go for it! It's a bit like Mexican pizza. It's not how it used to be done, but you can do what you like it. As long as you like it, go for it. 

My Dad was highly dubious about me having a (cold but cooked) veggie burger in my lunch. Apparently, they look bad enough warm never mind cold. He likes organ music, I don't eat meat. We each must learn to deal. And that a cold veggie burger is surely much better in my lunchbox than a jam sandwich every day. 

So, if people look at you funny, just ignore them. Veggie burgers are fine cold. 

I like cold veggie burger's because it makes a change from hummus, while I still have the satisfaction of having made my lunch myself, and my sandwich filling hasn't come packaged in a store. I do like all the "meat replacers" (when I say "like all the", please don't take that literally. Some of them are foul. I just mean I don't oppose them, and usually quite like the veggie pepperoni.) but that doesn't mean that I want to eat them everyday. Also, if I did eat them everyday, that would become quite expensive. 

Veggie burgers are quick to eat, and don't require cutlery. Good because a) as a general rule, I don't like cutlery and b) it's easier to eat something handheld if you are using your right hand to do your homework. It's quick to eat (sorry, I'm a babbling parrot I know)- I mean the burger is the ultimate fast food! (Though those are usually made of who knows what, and not beans and mushrooms), and when you are out at school/work, as a general rule, fast is good; whether it's because after 8 minutes the red faced dinner lady will start yelling at you that you're taking too long and to get out, or because you have sixty thousand e-mails that need dealing with because SOMEWHERE in there is one very important one from your boss that you need to read before you're meeting with them at 2. 

It's very easy to customize a burger. Want pickles? Add pickles. Want vegan cheese? Add vegan cheese. Want four different kinds of sauce? Add four different kinds of sauce. Like green stuff? Add green stuff. Like pencil sharpenings in your burger? Possibly go see your doctor. If I had been anything more then completely tired after starting back at college, my p-urgers would have been a lot more inspired, believe me. They would have had some of the lettuce that is now probably dying in the bottom of the fridge for a start. See, I even manage to kill dead stuff. You can have a veggie burger however you want it. If you're making lunch for more than one person? You can make the same lunch for everyone but still achieve perfection in making everyone's favorite lunch. (Which you may not want to do- they'd be begging for you to do lunch everyday). 

If you are just making them for yourself, because you can make a batch, then shove (sorry, carefully store, or, if like me you can't manage the freezer yet due to mobility issues, get your Mom to carefully store) them in your freezer, and you have a burger to pull out for those days when you're fridge is full but contains nothing that you can use to make lunch. Or tea. Or breakfast. Which begs the question what is it filling up the fridge?

Plus, who doesn't like veggie burgers? (Apart from maybe my Dad.) 

And how many star's do p-urgers get on the bento marking scheme? Well... we'll see won't we! 

So, I had two p-urgers, both made with half a veggie burger and a mini pitta, a container of salad, and a chopped up apple. 

1. TIME I was two tired to spend much time on this bento, and it suffered as a result (no burger fixings for one). So I'll loose 1 star. (I. Hate. Minuses.)

4. BALANCE Um.... yeah. I forgot the calcium because see "TIME". So that puts me on minus too stars. 

6. PACKAGING Nothing came individually wrapped. So now I'm just on minus one star. 

7. CUTENESS There is a lack of it because see "TIME". Back to minus two. 

8. PLANNING Because of see "TIME", I forgot to check we had burger buns. Minus three. 

So that puts me on minus three. 

Despite the fact that my bento today got minus three stars, please don't think that taking a veggie burger in a packed lunch is a bad idea. It's a really grate idea. If you have TIME. And you really don't need that much. Apart from the cooking the burger, I think I put my lack-luster bento together  in about 30 seconds. If I'd of spent another 2 minutes, I would have totally aced this box. However I didn't, and I'm sorry that I don't have a totally ace box to show you. But homework comes first (frowey face). But it was still pretty tasty, and that's the main thing, right?