Thursday, 31 October 2019

Fairy Tale Halloween--Cinderella Skeleton

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Halloween. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.

Normally I publish a Fairy Tale post on a Friday, but as today is Halloween I wanted to post a day early.
Image result for cinderella skeleton
This is truly one of my favourite picture books. Cinderella Skeleton was written by the delightful author Robert D San Souci. He was a consultant at Disney Studios and wrote the story for Mulan. He studied folklore and often worked with his brother Daniel who was a children's book illustrator. He is responsible for some of my favourite folk tale retellings--The Talking Eggs and Cendrillon. Both of those are beautifully illustrated by the talented artistic family The Pinkneys with father Jerry Pinkney illustrating The Talking Eggs and son Brian Pinkney illustrating Cendrillon.

This story is perfectly illustrated by David Catrow who was a visual developer for animated films such as Despicable Me and Horton Hears a Who. To be honest, these illustrations *make* the book what it is. It is written in verse and Catrow's perfect illustrations compliment the text.

In this tale Cinderella Skeleton was "foulest in the land" and everything a ghoul should be with her dankish hair, yellow nails and teeth of green. She is forced to do all the work in their mausoleum--hanging cobwebs, arranging dead flowers in vases and putting dust and leaves on the floor. When they are invited to Prince Charnel's Halloween ball she is not allowed to go. What I like here is that she is a plucky heroine with some initiative. She doesn't sit and cry and wait for a fairy godmother to rescue her to make her dreams come true. She marches off without delay to the witch in the woods to ask for help. She is given a funeral wagon made from a jack-o-lantern pulled by nightmares (part horse/part dragon) and a beautiful dress that looks like it made of cobwebs. But the piece de resistance is the dandelion flower growing out of the top of her head like a crown. (See picture above.)

As in many of these stories, our heroine has a midnight curfew. After dancing with Prince Charnel all night she runs away. However, instead of leaving a shoe behind she leaves her whole foot which snaps off when the Prince tries to stop her from departing. This is a hilarious and charming detail that is rendered so well in the illustrations. Our Prince travels the land and every maiden snaps off her foot at the ankle for a chance to be his wife.

Finally, she hops into the room and our lovers are reunited. He says to her the funniest compliment I have ever heard and always want to quote:
"Your gleaming skull and burnished bones,
Your teeth like polished kidney stones...
you make each day a Halloween."

 My only complaint (if there is any) is that there are several spiders featured in the illustrations, none of which are remotely anatomically correct. Not even close. But the rest of the story is delightful.

Stay tuned next week for a Wild West version of this classic tale.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--The Irish Cinderlad

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday.  Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.

This week we look at another story by Shirley Climo. It's a nice inversion of the traditional Cinderella story as our protagonist is male.

There is not much in the story that indicates that this takes place in Ireland, but it is still an interesting retelling. I would have liked a bit more Irish culture as we had last week in the retelling of the Korean Cinderella.   In many of the female driven stories our heroine does not have a name. It should come as no surprise that this tale names our hero. His name is Becon and he was raised by his mother. His father is a peddler and is often away from home. After his mother died his father comes home from his peddling with a new wife and new sisters who predictably treat him badly.

As in other tales our hero is starved of food and affection and is befriended by a bull who acts as magical helper providing him with food and friendship. He then runs off and shows his bravery by defeating a giant and a dragon who was menacing a princess.  He saves her and then runs away leaving his boot behind.

Now, in the female versions where a glass slipper is involved we are told how small and dainty her foot is and how no one's feet were small enough to fit into the shoe. This tale subverts this by having Becon's feet be really large. The princess says she will only marry  the man who fits the boot. After much searching, they are reunited and married.
That's all for this week. Stay tuned next week for the tale of Cinderella Skeleton.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Korma Roasted Vegetables

Hello lovelies! I am a big fan of curry paste and it seems to have more depth of flavour that curry powder which can sometimes be chalky. There are lots of varieties of curry paste--we have used balti for years because the first recipe I ever cooked with curry paste suggested that one.

The newest Tesco magazine had lots of really good looking recipes that were vegan or easily adapted. One of the soup recipes called for korma curry paste. I have avoided korma curries when we have been to a restaurant as korma is a creamy curry and so is often filled with dairy, but as it turns out--the paste is vegan. Woohoo! It also has less oil than the balti paste, which is good as we are reducing our oil intake.

The one we buy is Patak's and a jar lasts for about 5 or 6 curries. Korma paste is slightly sweet, contains coconut and is mild. We tried the soup from Tesco magazine using the korma paste first--it was delicious but I didn't get a good picture. Well...I will just have to make it again then won't I? But this one was adapted from a recipe for Super Simple Chicken Curry Traybake. Like I usually do, I substituted chickpeas for chickens (they both start with ch, after all!) and it was a huge hit.

Except I accidentally forgot to put in the chickpeas. Oops. In my defence I was trying to have a video call with my mum at the time. It was still absolutely delicious and will be even more delicious with the addition of chickpeas.

Korma Roasted Vegetables
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F
Add the following to your largest roasting pan:
1 large onion or two smaller, roughly chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 500g?) diced
punnet cherry tomatoes, cut in half
tin of chickpeas, drained and well rinsed (or not if you are talking to your mum on the phone!) 
1.5 TB korma curry paste

For later:
small tin of coconut milk or half a regular tin--around 3/4 cup
brown rice to serve

1. Put all your veg and chickpeas in your big roasting pan and add the curry paste. Stir well to coat all the veg with paste.
2. Roast for 15 minutes, remove from oven and stir. Add the coconut milk and stir again. Roast for an additional 15 minutes.
3. Serve over brown rice.

That's it. Most of it is hands off leaving you time to video call your dear old mum.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--The Korean Cinderella

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.

For the last few weeks we have been looking at picture book versions of Cinderella. This week we look at a version from Korea. It was written by Shirley Climo and exquisitely illustrated by Ruth Heller. 

Shirley Climo has written several different Cinderella variations as well as some lovely books about spiders. We own her Someone Saw a Spider and the delightful Cobweb Christmas which is a tale about how we get tinsel. It's made from spider silk. Didn't you know? 

Harper Collins says of the illustrations:

"it should be noted that all the illustrations—from those depicting Korean rituals to the smallest clothing details—are the result of the illustrator's extensive research and passionate interest in Korean culture."

This tale takes place at a time where "magical creatures were as common as cabbages" and it is these magical creatures who help our protagonist Pear Blossom in her time of need. When her father remarries it is only with Pear Blossom's welfare in mind--he wants her to have a mother and a sister, but the text says her stepsister Peony was "worse than having no sister at all." 

As her father grows older and more feeble, her stepmother and stepsister make her life more miserable. As in many of these tales, our heroine is forced to toil in the kitchen and do dirty work and wear rags.We forget that Cinderella is really Ella of the Cinders and not her actual name. In this story Pear Blossom is called Pig or Little Piglet because of her dirty appearance.  Here she lives under the constant threat of being sold at market or being sent to China if she does not complete the impossible tasks set before her. She is ordered to fill a broken jug with water, collect and polish the grains of rice that have been scattered over a field and weed the rice paddy before she can go to the festival. She is aided by a toad, a flock of sparrows and a large black ox in these tasks.

She does go to the festival but does not have any special shoes or clothes to wear. She is given a basket of fresh fruit from the ox to take as her picnic. In all the other tales it is either at the ball or at church where she is seen and the Prince falls in love with her. Here a young nobleman is passing by on his palanquin being carried to the festival where he frightens Pear Blossom who is shaking a stone from her shoe by the side of the road. She loses her straw sandal and runs away. In the other tales she runs home after losing her shoe, but here she just goes to the festival with one shoe. 

Her stepmother and stepsister Peony find her at the festival eating fresh fruit and accuse of her of stealing it. The magistrate comes and is looking for the woman wearing only one shoe. In other tales they try to hide the heroine so that she might not try on the shoe, but here thinking she being arrested as a thief they gladly point her out to the magistrate in an effort to get her out of the way. This backfires spectacularly when they discover she is being sought so she can marry the rich nobleman. 

It is a satisfying story and we will look at a few more of Shirley Climo's retellings over the next few weeks. 

That's all fr this week. Stay tuned next week for a tale of an Irish Cinderlad. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--5 Ingredient Snack Balls

Hello lovelies! I do like a little smackerel of something sweet after dinner. We have gone to hilariously titled "Bliss Balls" as our go-to source of sweetness as they are quick and easy to make and more healthy. Plus they are ball shaped. Who doesn't love balls?

The unfortunate problem with balls (especially chocolate balls) is that they look like...well--balls. Dung balls, to be precise. They do not photograph well in my tiny, poorly lit kitchen.

But they taste delicious.

Therefore, I have taken a photo of the ingredients so you can enjoy and not be like "Where's that dung beetle gone?"

Now, the recipe calls for half a cup of peanut butter. Eagle-eyed viewers may spot extra peanut butter in the photo. I got distracted as i was measuring ingredients while training to be a disco queen to achieve my childhood goals of being an artist, an author and a fabulous glitzy dancer. If this should happen to you I recommend the following steps:

1. Swear. Loudly and with intent.
2. Get a bit tearful that you've ruined the recipe and it will require maths to sort it out.
3. Roughly upbraid yourself for being so stupid, then quickly remind yourself to be kind and give yourself a hug.
4. Bung in a bit of extra cocoa powder and liquid sweetener and roll 'em up.
5. Tell everybody they have extra protein because we all know someone is going to ask you "Where do you get your protein?" If they do shove a snack ball in their mouth to shut them up.

This recipe comes from a library book I had called Bliss Bites by Kate Bradley.

You don't even need a food processor...just a bit of elbow grease.

5 Ingredient Snack Balls
In a bowl stir together until combined:

1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut shreds
1/2 cup peanut butter (or more if you have Dance Fever) 
2.5 TB cocoa powder
2.5 TB liquid sweetener (I used golden syrup)
pinch salt
might need a splash of water or juice if too dry

Roll 'em up. This made 13 for me...but only 12 fit in my container, so what's a Disco Queen to do? Pop it in my mouth and put on my Boogie Shoes.

Friday, 11 October 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--Adelita (Mexico)

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. then I'll begin.

We are now looking at picture book versions of Cinderella. This week we look at a tale from Mexico entitled Adelita. It was written and illustrated by one of my favourite children's illustrators Tomie dePaola. You may know him because of his Caldecott honour book Strega Nona (Grandma Witch) or his Bill and Pete series about a crocodile and his best friend who is a toothbrush bird. My favourite book of all times by him is The Clown of God. He has written and illustrated many religious books including a beautiful one about the life of Saint Francis of Assisi but the Clown of God always makes me cry with its beauty. I used to read it to my class every year and we would get to a certain page (if you've read it, you know the one) and tears would be streaming down my face. My children would exclaim, "Why are you crying?" and then i would turn the page and we would all be crying--first from sadness and then from wonder.

Adelita is the tale of a young woman in Mexico whose mother dies in childbirth. She is raised with love by the nursemaid Esperanza who also looked after her father when he was a boy. Esperanza, while not magical, functions as the magical helper in this tale.

When her father remarries, her new stepmother and stepsisters are cordial to Adelita, but Esperanza declares them to be cold hearted. She is not wrong. When Adelita's father dies, the stepmother no longer has to pretend. She fires Esperanza and forces Adelita to be a servant.

An invitation arrives to a big fiesta which is a homecoming for the neighbour's son Javier. Adelita remembers Javier from her childhood as they used to play together, although it has been many years since they have seen each other. As you would expect, she is denied the right to go. Here is where Esperanza appears and enacts the role of magical helper. I liked that the kitchen illustration featured a few pumpkins prominently as a nod to the Perrault version  where the pumpkin turns into a coach. But in this version there is no magic dress or transformed objects--Esperanza brings her the key to a trunk that contains a beautiful but plain white dress that had belonged to Adelita's mother which she dresses up with a red shawl embroidered with birds and flowers. Esperanza fixes Adelita's hair with ribbons making her look uncannily like Frida Kahlo and she sets off for the fiesta in a little wooden cart that Esperanza borrowed to get get her there.

It goes on as you would expect and dePaola adds in several winks and nods to the Perrault tale.  When Javier is travelling around looking for his sweetheart, she cunningly hangs the red shawl out of the attic window as a sign that she is there. When he sees her in her home, he remembers their childhood friendship and they are soon married. Esperanza comes to live with them to care for their children.

This is beautifully illustrated and the story is peppered with Spanish.

Stay tuned next week for a tale from Korea.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Coconut Mango Chickpeas with Broccoli

Hello lovelies! I was browsing recipes on the internet (as you do) and I came across this recipe by VEGAN RICHA and I was like "Hello! I have all the ingredients in my kitchen for this!" so i thought I would give it a go.

Me being me I didn't follow the directions particularly well and chopped and changed it a bit. I didn't have a tin of pureed mango, I had some frozen mango that I defrosted. I thought it needed much more garam masala and I never use a bay leaf on account of a childhood trauma where it was served to me in a school spaghetti and I became extremely suspicious of foliage in my food.  I didn't measure out 1 and 1/4 cups coconut milk, I just bunged a whole can in there. I also added the red pepper and broccoli.  You get the idea.

It was really good. You do need to taste at the end and adjust according to how your mangoes are--does it need a drizzle of something sweet or a touch of something sour?

Coconut Mango Chickpeas with Broccoli
The sauce:
1/4 red onion, diced small
1 TB ginger root, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tap cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tin coconut milk
flesh of one mango, tin of purred mango, heaping cup defrosted frozen mango...whatever mango you have basically

The rest:
the rest of the red onion, sliced into rainbows
half a red pepper, diced
half a crown of broccoli, cut into bite sized bits
1 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-3 tsp garam masala 
salt and pepper to taste
maybe a drizzle of something sweet or a teaspoon or two of vinegar. 

Serve over brown rice. 

1. Blend everything for the sauce in the blender and set aside.
2. Cook the red onion, pepper and broccoli in a splash of water until they are losing their raw edge and then add the chickpeas and the sauce. Simmer in the sauce until the brown rice is done. Taste for spices--does it need more garam masala? Sweetness or sourness?  Serve over rice.

It was lovely and creamy and filling.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Fairy Tale Friday--The Rough Face Girl

Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I'll begin.

Last week we began to move away from literary versions of Cinderella and started to look at picture book versions. This story The Rough Face Girl was written by author and professional storyteller (as well as Zen Koan teacher) Rafe Martin and is based on an Algonquin Indian tale from the shores of Lake Ontario.  It is exquisitely illustrated by David Shannon who is probably best known for the delightfully silly No, David! series of books. These dark illustrations really compliment the beautiful writing by Rafe Martin.

This is a well told tale with elements we recognise in traditional Cinderella stories--a poor man had three daughters and the two oldest sisters make the youngest sister's life very lonely and miserable. They make her sit by the fire and feed the flames and the burning branches cause the flames to pop and sparks to burn her skin. Her hands,arms and face become marked and scarred by fire and her hair becomes rough and charred. The father seems as if he is intimidated by the two older sisters and does nothing to stop their torment. He gives them everything and has nothing left for his youngest. Perhaps he knows she will make the best of what she has, no matter how small it is.

In this village everyone wants to marry the Invisible Being ( a God who takes the place of the Prince) but you have to have seen him to be able to marry him.  He is fiercely guarded by his sister who  fulfils the role of magical helper as she can see the true beauty of the Rough Face Girl despite her outward appearance and helps her to be rid of her scars.

After her sisters' failed attempt to lie and say they had seen the Invisible Being, our heroine would like to try as she sees his face everywhere because she is pure at heart. Her father has no beads or new clothes to give her because he already gave everything away to the two sisters. Therefore she seeks audience with the sister of the Invisible Being wearing a dress make out of birch bark that she made, some broken beads and her father's old moccasins which are way too big for her. Despite her bizarre appearance, the sister sees her inner beauty right away. It is a wonderful tale of how inner beauty can be seen by those who are looking.

My favourite part of the whole book is the picture of how she sees the face of the Invisible Being everywhere. David Shannon has done an excellent job of making a face of God in Nature. As a Transcendentalist Quaker, this is the face that I picture when I think about God.

This is a beautifully told and illustrated tale and one of my favourite versions of Cinderella.

That's all for this week. Stay tuned for the tale of Adelita from Mexico.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

What We Ate Wednesday--Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes with Parmesan Kale and Potatoes (Or Gnocchi)

Hello lovelies! As I am now working the evening shift to close at work I get home around 6pm tired and hungry and am always looking for easy and quick meals. This is sort of a hybrid of other meals I make and definitely will go in the rotation for easy dinners.

We had a lovely day out in Swansea last week and we went to the vegan market shop Brontosaurus where I bought some vegan and gluten free potato gnocchi. I hadn't had gnocchi since I had to give up eating wheat several years ago, so this was a treat. We got the spinach kind and it was fun to have those pillowy potato dumplings again. But as they are not available locally and are a bit expensive (not to mention the plastic they come in) as well as the fact that they are less whole food and more processed, the next time we eat it I will just use potatoes boiled in vegetable stock.

Make no mistake--the gnocchi was a huge treat, but I know just good ole spuds will be just as good, cheaper and better for us. But you can make it either way, depending on what suits you.

Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes with Parmesan Kale and Potatoes (Or Gnocchi)
1 onion, thinly sliced into rainbows
as much garlic as you like (we did about 6 cloves, crushed)
100g kale, de-stemmed and torn into bits
3 TB vegan Parmesan like Good Carma or use recipe below

punnet cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
mixed Italian herbs

potato gnocchi or 400g potatoes, diced
*Note* if you are doing gnocchi, boil your kettle and add it to your pan and when the water boils again add the gnocchi and cook as the directions say (basically, for about 3 minutes until they begin to float then drain.) If doing potatoes, start them when you start the onion and then boil them in vegetable stock. Potatoes take longer than gnocchi so adjust accordingly. 

1. Preheat your grill/broiler to about 220C/425F. Move your oven rack up to the top.
2. Start cooking your onion in a splash of water so it has time to soften.
3. Add the tomatoes cut side down to the pan then add the oil and vinegar. Smoosh them around so the cut sides have all got the O and V mix on them then flip them over to cut side up and shooka shooka shooka lots of Italian mixed herbs and pepper on them.
4. When the grill is hot and ready, roast your tomatoes for 15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, add your garlic and kale to the onions and cook until greens are reduced and softened. Add 3 TB Parmesan and stir to coat the greens.
6. Mix in your gnocchi or boiled potatoes and top with the roasted tomatoes.

1.5 TB ground almonds
1.5 TB nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Blend to combine.  

This is surely going to become one of our regular meals. Fast, easy and delicious.