Wednesday, 31 December 2014


Food Wall Decals Autumn Cornucopia - 24 inches x 18 inches - Peel and Stick Removable Graphic
The dictionary defines the word Bountiful as :

Large in quantities, abundant or plentiful

 That is how I feel about food. There is a bounty of amazing, delicious healthy whole foods out there to eat. I am obsessed with food. I love to plan meals and cook them, I dream about them and then eat them. I am a foodie.

I wasn’t always this way. As I child I lived on spaghetti-o’s and in college I ate nothing but Belgian waffles and sugar puff sandwiches. Seriously. It is no wonder I had so many health problems and mood swings.

Becoming vegetarian and then vegan put me on a path of wellness--mind, body and spirit--that I never dreamed possible. Yes, I am vegan because I care about the suffering of all living creatures, but also because a whole foods, plant based diet has been scientifically proven to be the healthiest diet not just ON the planet, but FOR the planet. It is the environmental choice as well. What’s not to love?

I have often had people say I could never go veg as I would have to give up so many things. Okay, I can count on one hand (meat, dairy, eggs, honey, animal parts for clothing like leather, fur, wool or silk) that I have given up but the amount of foods that I have embraced is…well…..bountiful.

Some people ask me, “But what do you….eat?” Like they can’t think of what other foods are out there beyond meat, dairy and eggs. When I was in hospital having the horrible hysterectomy, the dietician asked me about my diet. She was so hesitant as she was thinking must eat…..I dunno…..leaves and twigs that she didn’t know what to plan for me. So I said,

“Um….fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils, mushrooms, nuts and sometimes tofu.”  She seemed so surprised and relieved like, “Hey! Those are real foods! I have heard of real foods! Those are good foods!”   She talked to me for ages after that about what a healthy diet it was and she had never actually met anyone who ate like that.


I often get the most sympathy around the holidays where people think because we eat a plant based whole food diet we can’t enjoy a delicious holiday meal. Because it’s not a holiday without turkey, right? I will be the first to say that once turkey was my favourite meat. I looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas and only ever ate the turkey and the white yeast rolls.

No wonder I was so constipated as a child.

But now, turkey doesn’t look like a meal, it looks like the body of an animal who was bred to get so fat so quickly it could barely walk. It doesn’t look like food anymore. It looks like death.

So what did we eat? Well…..we started with amazing food on Christmas Eve and ate our way to Boxing Day.

Christmas Eve:

Savoury Chestnut and mushroom risotto with roasted parsnips and carrots in a maple syrup glaze.

Christmas Day:

 Nutroast made from black beans and walnuts, golden crispy roast potatoes, tangy orange cranberry sauce and peas. Oh and gravy. Lots of gravy.

I love the juxtaposition of green peas and red cranberry sauce. It looks so festive.

Boxing Day:

Left over nutroast, a huge portion of roasted parsnips and carrots in a maple syrup glaze, fluffy mashed potatoes and leftover gravy and cranberry sauce.

For pudding we had the Choc Chunk Cookie Pie from Including Cake‘s blog:  (you may need to scroll down to see the recipe) I didn’t manage to get a picture but since it was made with chocolate and hazelnuts it was like eating a nutella cookie. Yum.

My crap photography do not do justice to the deliciousness of these meals. They were amazing. Plus I discovered that I am in love with parsnips.

My childhood self would have laughed her socks off to think that should would later actually dream about vegetables. I actually dreamed about roasted parsnips so much that I ended up composing a love song to the parsnip in my dreams.


But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear it.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

RIP Lily Rose

As I mentioned in the last post, our beloved Lily Rose has shuffled off this mortal coil and gone to that great web in the sky.

She was named after the John Singer Sargent painting Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose.

It has hit me particularly hard as she was our first. Not our actual first, Spiderman had Shirley when we met and later we had Charlotte, but our first in the UK. Our first “rescued” spider. Our first “second hand” spider. 

We weren’t looking. We didn’t plan it. It just happened. Spiderman was walking through town and saw a notice on a shop window. A Lasiodora Parahybana, the Salmon Pink Bird Eater, one of the three largest species in the world. They can grow to have a leg span in excess of 10 inches (25 cm) and so need larger space to live. There was a photo of her, all burgundy with pink highlights, and she was so beautiful. Just perfect.

We fell in head over heels love. How could you not? This lovely creature was so obviously one of God’s most beautiful and graceful handiworks.

We went in to enquire and she was being sold by a woman named Sue who was having financial trouble and needed to sell her as she could no longer take care of her.  She was heartbroken because she had raised her from a spiderling, when she was no bigger than your thumbnail and now was as big a as a man’s hand. We had to have her.

She was our first. She was our big girl. She was often everyone’s favourite due to her size and grace.

It just sort of snowballed from there. We picked up a few more rescued spiders when Sue could no longer afford to keep them and we picked up a few more new ones down the line. At one time we had eight. In the last few years we lost Pirouette and Tibia.

Now we have five.

I think maybe we secretly knew it was coming. She hasn’t been the same since the move. She had looked old and shrunken. It was like the tank dwarfed her--something that never happened before. She always has such…presence….I don’t know. She just seemed to “own” the space like a model “owns” the catwalk. Lately, she seemed lost.

She had stopped eating and her colour had dulled and darkened. Her knees had gone all scabby. These are all signs that a healthy spider is going to moult and then emerge from shedding her skin like a butterfly, bigger with new and glorious colours.

It never happened.

She was increasingly sitting in the corner on the heat mat looking frail. She wasn’t cruising the glass walls of her tank anymore or (thankfully) trying to hang upside down from the mesh roof and breaking a fang like she did one other time. Naughty girl. 

On Christmas eve we were giving all the girls the gift of an extra cricket and that’s when we found her.

Sitting still on her heat mat. Too still. We didn’t want it to be true.

She didn’t respond to drops of water or gentle blowing nor to a very gentle poke with a paintbrush.

She was gone.

And she ponged. So it probably had happened the night before and the heat mat had made the smell worse. Poor Lily Rose.

She was approximately fourteen years old and we had had her for over six years. That’s a good life for a spider.

But I am so sorry that it happened at Christmas.

We buried her on Christmas day in the soft earth under a thorny rose bush. We sang Jesus Loves Me as that is the law for pet funerals (at least in my family).

But it hurts. More than Tibia and Pirouette. Maybe because it was Christmas or maybe because she was so big and majestic. Maybe because she was the first.

Oh the lovely Lily Rose, we will miss you. Your tank will be cleaned and our second biggest Blanche Dubois (who has legs like Cyd Charisse) will move in. Will it ever feel like hers and not yours?

Probably. She needs the space. She will unfurl like a flag and we will be surprised at how big and beautiful she really is.

But she won’t be you.

Go in peace my big girl. We loved having you as part as our family.

Monday, 29 December 2014

A Charles Dickens Christmas

This was our first Christmas in Wales or Nadolig am Cymru, if you prefer. It was a bit of a Charles Dickens Christmas and by that I don’t mean we were visited by three ghosts and we changed our miserly ways after being shown the past, the present and the future.

No, I’m thinking more of A Tales of Two Cities, you know:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.


 The good:

We had a wonderful three days of celebrating from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day where we ate ourselves silly with all this amazing, delicious healthy cruelty free food. I have a new favourite vegetable--the parsnip. I love it so much I have composed a song in its honour. Seriously. More on that later.

The bad:

Our Lily Rose was found dead on Christmas Eve. She was our oldest spider--somewhere in the range of fourteen years old or so--and she was our first spider in the UK.  She was also our first second hand spider that we got from a lovely lady named Sue who could no longer care for her. Our first rescue. It just broke out hearts.

The happy:

Despite having to watch our pennies, we each had a pressie under the tree as well as a joint gift. Siôn Corn (Father Christmas, literally Chimney John) did not forget his little chickadees! Spiderman got a new key chain with a Welsh dragon as his old one had broken and I got a Welsh children’s songbook of traditional Welsh tunes that came with a CD, a book of chords so you can play along at home and (thankfully) a translation. I can now play three songs!!!! Go me! I’d also like to thank Tallulah who actually makes the music. I am only as good as my ukulele and she’s fabulous. Together we got the new CD by our favourite comedy blues band Jonny and the Baptists entitled the Satiric Verses from their Stop UKIP tour.


The sad:

We had to bury Lily Rose on Christmas day as she was beginning to stink. Sorry old girl. Thankfully, it had been raining (when does it ever bloody stop here????) so the ground was quite soft which was good as we don’t own any sort of digging apparatus.  My heart was very heavy. I am writing a full eulogy for her, but am finding it emotionally hard.

Despite the sadness of the loss of Lily Rose, we have had pockets of sunshine where we rushed out for errands, but mostly we just had lots of Duvet Days where we snuggled up on the sofa and watched DVDs or read books. 

Life is just like that--the good with the bad. The happy with the sad. So I guess our first Christmas in Cymru just wasn’t that bad after all. Together we can bear all things.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The tale of the curious kitten and the ginormous box

Once upon a time there was a little kitten who was very curious. She loved to get her little kitty claws into anything and Rawr Rawr Rawr take the wrapping paper off. Opening parcels, unwrapping presents and peeling labels were just some of her favourite things.

She lived in the magical upside down house in the far away kingdom of Wales and one day she was sitting in her crooked front room playing with a ball of string when she heard the doorbell. BING BONG! Oh how she leapt up and rushed to the door to open it, but unfortunately she had been a rather silly kitty and not hung her handbag with the keys inside by the front door like she was supposed to! Quickly she raced up the stairs and darted into each of the rooms swearing Rawr! Rawr! Rawr! as she searched for her handbag.

Luckily, her downstairs neighbour was home and he opened the door and spoke to the friendly postman and signed for the parcel so when the embarrassed little kitty finally managed to get her front door open (being thankful it was only the postman and not a house fire and vowing to always leave the key by the door) she was stunned to see a ginormous parcel waiting for her.

 Rawr Rawr Rawr! she cried in delight and carefully carried the ginormous box up the crooked stairs. She set the box on the table and looked curiously to see who had sent such a big, lovely box.

It was from Friends. Most people only have friends with a lower case f but the little kitten was blessed with Friends with a capital F who were also friends with a lower case f.  These were Friends from another kingdom far, far away whom she missed greatly since moving to the upside down house in the kingdom of Wales.

Doing what kittens like to do best she tried to rip open the exceedingly well taped parcel with her claws and when that didn’t work she resorted to a pair of scissors. Rawr Rawr Rawr!  She tore into the box. Inside were mountains of beautiful lavender tissue paper--just the colour of Hitchin lavender from that far away kingdom that she missed. She carefully folded all the lavender tissue paper to use again (she may have liked to tear things up, but her Mama didn’t raise no fool) and peered inside the ginormous box.

Oh what she beheld there! Cards and individually wrapped pressies all in beautiful paper. Here is where she was struck with a dilemma, oh best beloved. (a dilemma is not a type of anvil so do not fear for the little kitten’s safety here!).  She knew the box was actually addressed to the little kitten AND the big tomcat that she was married to. But the tomcat was away in Lampeter doing whatever big cats do all day at work. He wouldn’t be home for aaaages  and the little kitten wasn’t sure she could hold out with all those lovely pressies with wrapping paper just *waiting* to be torn off. She paced the floor, she fixed a pot of tea and tried to wait. But as the kettle was boiling she saw the kindly face of the big tomcat who smiled at her and said, “of course you should open it--kitties do such things.”  and she knew it would be alright because the big tomcat did not derive pleasure from opening gifts, but got his pleasure from seeing the little kitten happy.

So she was off like a shot! Rawr Rawr Rawr! Wrapping paper was flying and the little kitten was squealing  and much excitement ensued. There was a small moment when she sneezed a dainty kitten sneeze a few times because another curious cat named Bella had been fond of the box as well (who could blame her? It is in a kitten’s nature to be curious about everything, but most especially boxes).

In the end she felt overwhelmed with joy and did a little flappy dance as if she were a bird for inside the ginormous parcel was all sorts of the kittens favourite things. Not raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens (although she was rather fond of the whiskers on her tomcat) but

Books to read

Beautiful ornaments and decorations for Christmas, perfect for the little tree

Interesting old badges such as the one from the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977

 A tiny silver ring box so small the fairies must have made it

CDs of favourite children’s stories to listen to

Delicious delicacies such as pine nuts, Nak’d bars and dairy free chocolate covered raisins

Little cases to bake fairy cakes in

A packet of wonderfully terrible/terribly wonderful Christmas cracker jokes because the little kitten loved to laugh

A box of chocolate mint tea! Who even knew that even existed?

A game of Nun Bowling!

The little kitten was overwhelmed, excited, thrilled and suddenly very hungry so she nibbled a few of the treats from a heart shaped tin and then emailed the tomcat with all the news (not as easy as you think typing with paws on a tablet) and then she sat down to give thanks for love and Friendship (and friendship!)

Thank you dear Friends for making our Christmas so beautiful and special. We miss you all, but we are happy here in the far away kingdom of Wales. Our lives were very good when we lived by you, but they are also very good living far away.

Happy endings all around. Rawr Rawr Rawr.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Once, twice, three times a pizza…

…..and I lo-o-o-ve you.

Yes. It is safe to say I am having a love affair with pizza. Ever since I got that cookbook called Vegan Pizza we have had a different pizza every weekend. Each one different but all equally delicious. Every fortnight on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I make a big batch of dough and then half it and freeze it. For the next 2 weeks all I have to do is take the dough out the night before to defrost and BAM! Practically instant pizza. Honestly, it takes less time than ordering from Dominoes.

 The three most recent varieties we have had were:

1) Spinach, onion and spicy mushrooms. Sorry the picture is pretty crap, the steam kept fogging the camera lens. But the pizza was good.

can you see the steam rising off that hot pizza?

You layer the spinach close to the sauce and cashew cheese and then add onions, regular mushrooms and spicy mushrooms. I made the spicy mushrooms by cooking the mushrooms in a bit of tamari soy sauce and liquid smoke and some Italian spices plus lots of paprika. Lots and lots of paprika. Perhaps too much paprika. Will cut back next time. I also think I might try just marinating/coating the mushrooms in the spices and then putting them on the pizza to cook in the super hot oven instead of pan frying them first to save a step. But the spinach on there was yummy and we’ve almost always got spinach so that would be good to just tuck onto any old pizza.


2) PB/BBQ pizza I know you are thinking ????what???? But trust me on this.

Mix ¼ cup Peanut butter with ¼ BBQ sauce and add 2 cloves minced garlic and 1 tsp maple syrup and 1 TB very hot water to help it mix up and you have a crazy good sauce. Top it  with cashew cheese sauce, bell pepper, onion and sweet corn and yum it up. 


3) Taste of India pizza. Oh my goodness this was bloody amazing.


For the sauce you mix 2 TB curry paste, 2 TB tomato puree (paste) 4 TB cashew cheese sauce and 1.5 TB mango chutney. Top with onion, bell pepper, carrot and mushroom. The sauce was eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head delicious I just wish I had put on more veg as they shrank up considerably in the super hot oven.


We almost always have Patak’s Balti Curry Paste in the fridge as it last for 6 weeks after opening and makes many a quick healthy dinner. Cook up some lentils and veg and throw a bit of curry paste in there--POW! Instant curry. I prefer curry paste to curry powder as it has more depth of flavour. It does have some oil in it but also tomato puree and spices. In my humble opinion, curry powder can make a meal taste “chalky” but curry paste makes it rich. Curry paste is a cheaper buy economically but I spend roughly £2.19 on a jar of curry paste and it lasts 6 meals so that is really only 36.5p per meal. The chutney on the other hand was a new brand for me. We used to buy Geeta’s spicy mango chutney because it used sugar and not high fructose corn syrup like many of the cheaper brands.  But it cost £2.09 and we are on a budget so I tried a new kind from Lidl. It was a brand I did not know but used sugar and not HFCS, you got 50g more than the Geeta’s and only cost 89p. That is a big savings.

The verdict: The budget brand (Kanpur Garden) was delicious. It was sweet, tangy and spicy like a chutney should be. There was a real depth of flavour because it had the exact same nine spices that Geeta’s did (mixed spices, garlic, cumin, kolonji seeds, fenugreek, black pepper, paprika, cloves and cardamom) but it was smooth rather than chunky.  I can live with that.

I have to say every unknown brand we have bought at Lidl has been delicious. Some have slightly strange names (Crusti Croc comes to mind--it sounds like an alligator with impetigo) but they sell tortilla crisps that tastes almost exactly like Doritoes Chilli Heat Wave but without the MSG and less than half the price. Plus the El Taquito brand of salsa is really delicious and every few months goes on sale for half price making it 32p a jar so we stock up.

So that has been our pizza weekends. Just because we are on a budget doesn’t mean we still can’t have fun food that is delicious and nutritious and with a homemade wholemeal spelt crust and lashings of veg, it is a pretty good deal.

Oh and since all the recipes use the cashew cheese sauce, here it is again for viewers at home who want to make it.
Cashew Cheese Sauce
1/2 cup cashews (if you don't have a high powered blended soak them for a few hours to soften them and then drain)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast like Engevita
½ cup plant based milk (we like Oatly)
2 TB lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard (we like Grey Poupon)
Pinch salt
1 tsp onion powder (optional)
1 clove of garlic, minced (optinal)
Put it all in a blender and whiz until smooth. That’s it. This freezes well and can be defrosted overnight in the fridge for additional pizzas. It is less pourable after being frozen so I “blop” it on the pizza and smoosh it around the sauce a bit. Freezing doesn’t affect the taste, just the thickness.
Bon appétit! Possibly Bwyta'n dda! in Welsh but don't quote me on that just yet.