Monday, 28 May 2012

It's all in the context

Why is a word like CRUSTY a good adjective when you are talking about fresh baked bread

but a bad adjective when you are talking about impetigo????

Just saying.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Occupy the Oil Aisle

We love shopping at Waitrose. It is one of the most (if not THE most) ethical supermarkets in the UK. They were first in so many things--from serious emissions targets to fairtrade and local products, right through to its model of worker co-ownership and shared profits, it is clear shopping at Waitrose is one way to love the planet.They really seemed to care about the environment and human rights.Unfortunately, they are looking to expand and have opened 2 trial stores with petrol stations. They have partnered with Shell Oil-- the oil company responsible for human rights abuses and massive oil spills in the Niger Delta and skyrocketing carbon emission who were rated most carbon intensive company by Friends of the Earth in 2009.  Read the report here. Waitrose, you are breaking our little green hearts.

But all is not lost. those of us who love Waitrose are not calling for a boycott, but rather a sit-in. People are encouraged to do sit-ins at their local shop to convince Waitrose to break up with Shell.
There is an "Occupy the oil aisle" sit-in at our local Waitrose on Friday 25 of May at 1:45 and I plan to be there. If you live in our area, please consider coming to help send a message.

If you can't go try doing one of these:
Sign the petition to the John Lewis Partnership: Persuade Waitrose to Dump Shell
Use Twitter and Facebook to raise the issue publicly – see our Dump Shell Twitter Campaign for inspiration! Tweet @Waitrose or write a message on their Facebook wall,
You can also email and call Waitrose’s Head of Sustainability, Quentin Clark, on, direct line 01344 824892.

If you are into twitter:
Messages of support for Waitrose:
@waitrose we love you but not who your relationship with @shell is making you become
@waitrose don’t you see that by partnering with @shell you are hurting people who care about you
@waitrose remember those beautiful days when we were green together before you got oil in your bloodstream
@waitrose your addiction to oil will push everyone who cares about you away
@waitrose if you stick with @shell it won’t be just us you hurt but future generations

Don't just sit there, do something!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Cheeze Please Soup and Sun Dried Tomato and Olive Bread

We have been making this soup for ages and I genuinely don’t know where the recipe came from. I got it off the internet several years ago and I do not know the source from whence it sprung. I think it might have been the Uncheese Cookbook, but having not seen that I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that it is delicious and always omnivore approved. 

Cheeze Please Soup

You need:

1 small potato, diced (I tend to use 2-3 small new potatoes and don’t bother to peel and they work just fine)

1 onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

½ a red pepper, chopped (optional but adds to the orange-y colour)

2 ½ cups vegetable stock

1 tin small white beans such as haricot or navy, rinsed and drained (I use 1 ½ cups of haricot beans I cooked from scratch cuz I’m a smarty pants)

½ cup nutritional yeast flakes (called Marigold Engevita in the UK)

2 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice

½-1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp EACH ground cumin and coriander

1 jar salsa (we like sainsbury Smoky BBQ dip)

1 ½ cups frozen corn, defrosted

½ to 1 cup non dairy milk

 1. Put potato, onion, carrot and pepper (if using) in a saucepan with the 2 ½ cups vegetable stock and bring to the boil, reduce heat and then simmer until the veg are soft.

2. In the meantime pour boiling water over the corn and let sit for a few minutes then drain in a colander and await further instructions.

3. When veg are tender, remove from heat and stir in half the corn and everything from the beans on down--EXCEPT the “milk”

4. Puree with an immersion blender until it is smooth as you like--we like it a bit chunky. Then add the rest of the corn and the “milk” until it is as thin as you like it and reheat until piping hot.

 That’s it! This is really good and tastes like queso dip.  If you are frugal and have it with a salad it lasts for 2 nights. It thickens up in the fridge so add a bit more milk to thin it and reheat.

 On the second night I like to serve with bread. This is easy to make and it can be made gluten free! Bonus! My version is GF, but since most of you don’t have an issue with what I’ll do it the regular way first and show you how to make it GF later.

Sun Dried Tomato and Olive Bread

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F

You need:

1 1/3 cup plus 2 TB wholemeal flour, sifted (or use your favourite commercial GF blend!)

3 tsp baking powder

2 TB nutritional yeast

Pinch oregano and basil (optional)

¼-1/3 cup sun dried tomatoes (not the oil packed kind but the ones you re-hydrate in water)

4 spring onions, chopped (I use the white onion-y bits and some of the green tops cut with scissors

1/3 cup olives

Non dairy milk

2 TB olive oil  (optional)

Squidge tomato puree (optional)

Pinch sea salt

You need to:

1. Snip the sun dried tomatoes into wee pieces and pour a bit of hot water over them until they are just covered and let them sit.

2. Sift your flour and baking powder, Add the nutritional yeast and herbs, spring onions and olives.

3. Squeeze the water from the tomatoes (save the soaking water!) and put them into the dry ingredients and mix well until covered in flour.

4. See how much tomato water there is. Use “milk” to get the liquid up to 150ml. If you’d like it with a bit more umph! Then add a squidge tomato puree and mix in. Now add your optional oil. I forgot it this time and it was fine so I think I’ll leave it out in future.

5. Mix the wet into the dry and mix until a soft dough forms. If too wet then add a few more shakes flour, if too dry a glug of “milk.”

6. Shape with your hands to form a small circle and score into quarters. Sprinkle on the sea salt and pat it into the dough.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

 First GF advice:

You can use a commercially prepared mix like Bob’s Red Mill or Dove’s Farms or do what I do and make your own. In things like brownies you can get away with using just healthy, wholegrain GF flours, but in bread I find a bit of starch really does help to give it a lighter texture so it doesn’t appear you are eating a brick. But starches are high on the glycemic index and have no nutritional value so use sparingly. The GF mix that seems to work for me combines several highly nutritious flours with some starch. Here it is if you like to mix your own.

 Spidergrrl’s GF flour mix

1 ½ cups buckwheat flour

1 cup quinoa flour

1 cup teff flour

2 cups chickpea flour

1cup masa harina flour

2 ½ cups corn starch (called corn flour in the UK)

Mix really well until no one flour can be seen. It comes up to a nice light brown colour. Transfer into a storage container. This makes 9 cups and so gives you plenty for recipes all mixed up and ready to go. There is nothing that puts you off GF baking more than spending 3 hours mixing flour every time you want to bake something. On my next batch I plan on trying to reduce the starch a bit more--down to 2 cups from 2.5. The original recipe called for 3 cups which was one-third of the flour--but I just can’t cope with that little nutrition.

Note: If I had a choice I would use tapioca starch instead of corn flour--but I can’t find it any more so corn flour it is then. Besides corn flour is cheaper.

 Second GF advice:

As bad as you want to tear into fresh, hot bread if you have baked it GF try and resist. When hot the bread seems all “gluey” but settles down into bread texture once cooled. If making this GF, bake it ahead of time and let cool. If you can eat wheat, you lucky bastard, then chow down on it hot.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Baby Potatoes with Sesame and Peanuts

I adapted this recipe from an omnivore cookbook called something like Cooking Low Fat Indian Food For People With Diabetes. I got it from the public library and I neglected to write down the exact title. But I changed it up so it doesn’t really matter if I lost the title--the idea is there. It was just potatoes but I added some chickpeas to make it a meal.
 We’ve had this several times and it never fails to please. We’ve served it with the “half plate of salad” trick I mentioned in my last post as well as some roasted broccoli. I don’t know exactly what kind of “baby potatoes” I bought. Halsey’s Deli sells locally grown produce and so I got these slightly oblong new potatoes with thin skins and a creamy yellowish interior. They were more like waxy potatoes--like the kind that hold up best in salads.

Baby Potatoes with Sesame and Peanuts 

400g baby potatoes

1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed and set aside (or be a smarty pants  and cook your own from scratch)

Cut potatoes into chunks and boil until soft and a knife can easily pierce them  and then drain. In the meantime, get all the spices ready. I like to put each Spice Mix in a separate ramekin to make it easy to tip in at the right time. There’s no time to faff about with this recipe as it cooks quickly so just do the spices up in little pots already.

 Spice Mix 1

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp red pepper flakes (or less…or more if you are really brave)

1 TB finely chopped fresh gingerroot

Spice Mix 2

3 cloves garlic, minced

Yes, I am aware that garlic is not technically a spice, but you have to add it separately so just humour me.

 Spice Mix 3

¼ cup roasted,salted peanuts (the original recipe called for them to be crushed, but I can’t be arsed and just add them whole and they are fine)

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp smoked paprika

1 TB desiccated coconut

1 TB sesame seeds

1 tsp garam masala

Several grinds of pepper

½-1 tsp (smoked) sea salt

 This is how you make it:

Heat 1 TB oil in a pan until hot.

Normally I would use considerably less oil--but this much really gives them a good crispy coating. The other half of the meal is veg so don’t try to skimp on the oil.

1. Tip in Spice Mix 1 and stir to coat with the oil for a minute or 2 and then add Spice Mix 2 (the garlic)

2. Tip in the potatoes and chickpeas and stir to coat.

3. Tip in Spice Mix 3 and cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously.

 That’s it! We find it quite spicy with 1 tsp red pepper flakes so we like to add a blop of cooling greek-style soya yoghurt.

Here it is up close. Doesn’t that look yumilicious? It makes 3 good servings so there is some to have for lunch the next day.  Now go and make it.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Greedy Guts

That’s what I am. I will fully admit it. I am a foodie who loves my delicious vegan culinary experiences. I take after my mother with the ability to have an orgasm over food. Seriously.
 I wasn’t always this way. Having grown up being the pickiest eater in the western world there was so many things I wouldn’t eat. I was sensitive to texture and things that I deemed “irritable.” I lived on nothing but grits and egg and spaghetti-os for years. But having grown up to be a vegan I have learned to enjoy and savour different textures, tastes and foods.

 Saying that, I have a tendency to overeat all that delicious food. It is easy to say “It’s ok to have a second helping because the food is so healthy!”  I tried the theory that a smaller plate “tricks” your eye and helps you to eat less, but a smaller plate makes me eat seconds. Sometimes thirds. When I pile on a third helping then I know I need to sort myself out.

 I have gone back to a large plate, but I fill half the plate with salad. This is no real hardship for me as I really like salad. Even in pickiest days I liked the salad bar. My dear old dad and I had a standing monthly date when I was at uni where he would take me out to lunch at a “Big Cow” place (this was so called because in our town there was a steak house with a giant statue of a cow in front. This somehow morphed into any steak house being called a Big Cow place even with no statue) I was an omnivore then, but I always loved the salad bar and would pile my plate high with shredded carrots and chickpeas and all sorts of goodies. And then drown it all in Italian dressing. Oh well nobody’s perfect. My dad used to tease me about being a cheap date because unlimited trips to the salad bar were half the price of a steak.

 Spiderman has also gotten on board with this and it really does fill you up. The problem is prep time. When I am “in the zone” cooking some fabulous meal and coordinating the time to start this bit or add that bit I don’t have much time to be getting the salad ready. So I have started to “pre-prep” most of it.

We buy a huge bag of mixed  salad leaves and as soon as we get back from the shops we divide it evenly into 4 ziplocks. Then Spiderman grates a carrot and I chop a red pepper. Put those in the fridge and dinner is practically ready.  The carrot and pepper will be fine for 2-3 days in the fridge making the next few meals easy-peasy. I cut a quarter of a cucumber right before the meal as I find that cukes don’t do as well refrigerated after being chopped.  That’s it. After dinner we rinse out the ziplock bag and hang it to try and the next day we take it down stow it away until we have 4 empty bags and then we buy more salad leaves.

 We’ve been doing this as well with the kale for smoothies--dividing it into 4 bags--and Spiderman (who does the honours) says it makes the morning green smoothie go much quicker. 

 But what about dressing? My youthful mistake was to pour it on. I find I am sensitive to oily dressings these days. They seem to clog the leaves making them soggy. Spiderman often doesn’t even use dressing. But we have discovered that a dusting of home-made vegan “cheezy sprinkle” parmesan on top does the trick. It adds an umami flavour that boosts the taste and adds some calcium and B vitamins.

 To make it:

Zoosh in a food processor or mini chopper the following things.

3 TB nutritional yeast

3 TB ground almonds (or 1.5 TB ground almonds, 1.5 TB sesame seeds)

 ¼-½ tsp (smoked) sea salt

 How do you eat your greens?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Male pattern baldness is NOT a disease

"That's because you're not a bald man," I hear you cry. Well I don't believe it. You can't die (not even from embarrassment) from being bald. I get really annoyed when animals are exploited for "scientific" reasons. Check out this poor mouse:
According to an article form Huffington Post:
Japanese researchers investigated whether stem cells could create pigmented hair follicles by testing on a group of bald-bred lab mice.

You see right there, this poor mouse was bred in a lab to be bald and then hair folicles from some bloke were transplanted onto his back. The poor mouse will have to live with that and then when he is no longer useful be killed without a thought.

Animals are living, breathing creatures who can feel pain and fear. They are as much God's creatures as we are. Who would someone choose to make them suffer? Being vegan means that we have compassion for all creatures, not just ourselves.

And before you start saying, "But Spidergrrl, we NEED to do animal research for medicines." No we don't. Check out the Dr Hadwen Trust (the UK's leading non-animal research charity)  to see what alternatives there are.

Lastly, why do we need a cure for baldness when there is Patrick Stewart?

I rest my case.