Tuesday, 27 March 2012

This time last year...

...Spiderman and I became British citizens. It was a long and expensive process that included a difficult written exam which we had to swot up for ages in order to pass. But we did it. And on this day last year we were sworn in and promised to be loyal and true to Queen and country.

This is an emotional time for me, the anniversary of my father's death looms ever closer which always makes me feel sad and empty, but remembering this day and the joy it brought lifts me up.

Today Spiderman surprised me with 2 pieces original art by Skottie Young who illustrates all the Oz books for Marvel comics! What a surprise--and it genuinely was a surprise--that brought tears to my eyes.

He bought me a page from the Wonderful Wizard of Oz with the whole gang on the yellow brick road, but a close up of the Tin Man accidently stepping on a ladybird, which makes him cry and rusts his jaw because he was a vegan and Quaker (ok, that bit is subtext, but he was kind to all living creatures. Remember  how he wouldn't let Ojo have the left wing of a yellow butterfly, not even to save Ojo's Unk Nunkie from being a statue? Of course you don't. but I do.)

He also bought me a humourous drawing of Eureka the pink kitten sitting on the head of Jim the cab horse from Dorothy and the Wizard. We have often joked that this is who we are--me the sassy mouthed cat and Spiderman the grumpy one who carries the heavy stuff. So this is perfect for us.

I am overwhelmed with joy and warmth. We love art. We love supporting artists. We love Oz. Yes, Spiderman is really enjoying the Marvel comic versions of all my favourite books so he is now a confirmed Oz-ite.

Thank you my love. Thank you for everything.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Friendly Cookies

Everyone loves cookies, right? But they can be loaded with fats and sugars and white flour that makes us have a sugar high then a terrible crash. Just because something is vegan does not automatically mean it is healthy. This is why I love Dreena Burton’s cookbooks so much (her new one is released in the UK at the end of the month and I am doing a wee wee dance in anticipation because all my lucky US peeps have gotten theirs already!)

Anyway, her baking uses wholesome wholegrain flours and has reduced sugar. But I was looking at this recipe from her cookbook The Everyday Vegan and I saw a recipe for Bill Friendly Cookies. Bill apparently eats no refined sugar and so these are perfect for him. Also the main flour was oat four made from grinding oats in your food processor until they form a course flour. I figured this would be great for me as gluten free baking can be a bit of trial and error and I still tolerate oats really well. But I adapted it to make it more gluten free and cut back the oil by half (and it wasn’t all that much oil to begin with anyway.)

Here is my interpretation of these friendly cookies.

Preheat oven to 180C/350F

Dry ingredients:
1 cup ground oats (grind one cup of oats in your food processor until it forms a course flour)
2 TB flour (I used 1 TB quinoa and 1 TB teff flour to make it GF but feel free to use regular flour as she did)
2 TB sunflower seeds (she called for 2 TB nuts but that seemed like it would be about 4 nuts so I did seeds to fit more in)
1 TB chocolate chips
1 TB dried cranberries
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp stevia (which in my stevia is equal to 2 tsp of sugar. I might next time go wild and do ½ tsp stevia)

Liquid ingredients:
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (One orange for me was a scant 1/3 cup and I just topped up the measuring cup with a slosh of milk)
1 ½ TB oil (she used 3 TB I felt 1 ½ was plenty)

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and then puree the raisins and OJ in the blender until the raisins are not raisin-y anymore. Add the wet to the dry and stir. It was still a bit dry so I added a few sloshes of milk and then stirred in the oil to mix.

Drop by rounded TB on a pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 14-16 minutes.

These cookies were really good. Hardly sweet at all really. The wet dough tasted more orange-y than the cooked ones but it was still really good. Next time I might add in a few drops of orange oil to try to keep that orange flavour. I might even go wild and sub cocoa powder for the GF flour!

If you are looking to make you go into a diabetic coma then this is not what you want. If you are looking for something with wholegrain to lower your cholesterol and sweetened with fruit to make it diabetic friendly then this is your cookie.  Not being overly sweet you really notice the natural nuttiness of oats and the tang of the cranberries and the crunch of the sunflower seeds and then pop of sweet with the chocolate chips.

Sometimes less sugar can be sweet.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Somewhere that's green

Cue music:
A matchbox of our own
A fence of real chain link,
A grill out on the patio
Disposal in the sink
A washer and a dryer and an ironing machine
In a tract house that we share
Somewhere that's green.

That’s from the musical Little Shop of Horrors where Audrey dreams of her ideal suburban life. But that’s me as well as I long for a little place of our own and some pretty gardens. The problem is I can’t grow anything.  In the US they say successful gardeners have a green thumb and in the UK we say you have green fingers. Whatever you call them--I don’t have them. I can whither a plant stone dead from 50 paces just by thinking about it. But I long to be a green gardening gal like my dear old mum who has the complete opposite effect on plants. When one knows she’s in the vicinity it perks up and does a little dance. Seriously.  

 My friend Lena recently gave me the most adorable gift I have ever seen. It was a little matchbox shaped like a house. It’s tiny! You opened it up and inside were little bits you could cut out to accessorise your house.  It’s crafty!  It also had a packet of cress seeds that you could grow to give your little house a garden. It’s green!
click on this so you can see it bigger and really appreciate the lovely details of the house and garden
Look how adorable that is! I added a bicycle and a steeple to my house to personalize it. After all we do live at Church House so it needed a steeple! And look at my cress! It’s growing like mad. I was really scared it would fail to grow. Only I could fail to grow cress. Pre-schoolers everywhere grow cress because it grows so darned easy. But Pre-schoolers have better gardening skills than I have so there was a chance this might end in disaster. Thankfully, it did not.

 I spent the first several days like Toad in Arnold Lobel’s children’s classic Frog and Toad Together shouting, “Now seeds, start growing!” and pacing up and down. Then suddenly one night I noticed a few seeds had a teeny green shoot coming out and the next day over half did. Cress grows really quickly and my garden is a couple of millimetre taller every day.  This may be the first successful thing I managed to grow in my life.

Thank you Lena for the adorable house and wee garden. Growing a bit of green has made me very happy indeed.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Wipe that cheezy grin off your face

You know how you can get stuck in a food stereotype? Like the belief that some foods are meant to be sweet and other foods are meant to be savoury. For example, I always think of rice as a savoury food. It goes with gravy. But Spidergrrl, you cry, don’t you know  you can have sweet rice pudding?  Yeah, I know, I’ve never tried it so it doesn‘t count. In my mind, it’s gravy all the way. 

The first time this conundrum appeared to me was when I was a child reading a biography of  the author Louisa May Alcott who wrote the classic book Little Women. She and her sister were complaining that there was no sugar for the rice. What? SUGAR? For the RICE? The father then said there were plenty of poor people who would be happy to eat their rice sans sugar and he frogmarched them, bowls of rice steaming in their tiny hands, to a poor section of town where a widow and her small, very thin children lived. The children gobbled the rice down and were so grateful that the Alcott girls were quite subdued. They thought they lived in poverty because they had no sugar and here were children who had no rice. They vowed on the spot to give away one meal a week to this truly poor family. This lesson stayed with me for a long time, just not the bit about the sweet rice.

Oatmeal (or Goatmeal as it is referred to in my family)  is something I always think of a sweet. You put dried fruit in it or a drizzle of maple syrup. Of course it’s sweet. Was I not brought up in the south to know that grits=savoury, oatmeal=sweet? Or better still, that pie are round and cornbread are square???? But then I ran across this idea on Oh She Glows blog about a savoury, cheezy oatmeal and I wasn’t sure if I could change my perception of the role of goatmeal in life. But I tried it and I am sooooo glad I did.

Here’s her original post http://ohsheglows.com/2010/03/03/youre-so-cheezy/  and I basically did what she did but I used powdered broth not a stock cube and I made mine to be more instant rather than cooking on the stovetop cos to me goatmeal is a grab-and- go affair.

This is 3 TB oats and 3 TB Ready Brek which is basically fortified porridge oats ground up into a fine flour. It helps to make instant goatmeal creamier.
 Marigold Swiss Vegetable Organic Vegan Bouillon Powder  500g
Then I added ½ tsp Marigold bouillon powder (I mix the regular vegan and low salt vegan together in a big jar)

Next I added 1 TB nutritional yeast flakes to give it that cheezy flavour.

Lastly a good sprinkle of something I bought from Sainsburys called Garlic Pepper--which does what it says on the tin. It is course ground pepper mixed with dried garlic granules.      

That’s it. Just add boiling water and stir and let it sit for a few minutes and Mmmmm, mmmmmm, good. This is definitely my new favourite flavour of goat. Dried fruit goatmeal is for boring people. Savoury goatmeal is where it’s at

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Eat Yer Greens

I’ve  blogged before about my love of kale. Who would have ever thought I would grow up to be a vegetable loving vegan? My mother is rolling around on the floor clutching her sides as she reads this as she knows I was the pickiest eater on the planet growing up. Would not touch anything green but peas. Ate nothing but Spaghetti-o’s for years. The story goes that I came home all cross from first grade complaining that the day they served boiled-to-death mustard greens or collard greens in the cafeteria  suspiciously coincided with the day they cut the lawn. I am reported to have huffed indignantly saying, “You know what they served us today? Cooked grass.”  There was also an incident where I reported to my mother that there was “something irritable” in my salad. Probably anything but carrots. Carrots weren’t green.

But truly I love kale as it the powerhouse of the greens world. It is hugely high in absorbable calcium and tastes yum. We have a big old wodge blended up in our morning smoothie by Spiderman, but sometimes a grrl likes to taste the leaves, you dig? Now some people get kale attached to the thick fibrous stems and you have pull the leaves away from the stem to prepare it. I have never seen it like that here--ours comes already de-stemmed in a giant bag for £1 at Waitrose.

Here is my skillet piled high with green-y goodness.

All you do is throw some kale leaves into a medium hot skillet and stir/flip with tongs for a few minutes until it starts to wilt slightly and turns a brighter green. I tend to drizzle in a TB of water at this point and it really wilts down to just the right texture--not raw, but not cooked to death either.

Then take it off the heat and drizzle 1 tsp toasted sesame oil and 1 tsp maple syrup over the greens and a pinch of smoked sea salt. I know that may seem weird but it really is an amazing combination of sweet and smoky flavour. Don’t you trust your Auntie Spidergrrl?

Then scoop into a bowl and eat it all for yourself. Nom, nom, nom.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Breakfast any time of the day or night

I’ve been having one of those cravings. Not for meat, per say, but for SHONEY’S BREAKFAST BAR. Are there any Shoneys left in the United States these days? I know the one in my hometown is gone. Shoneys was a staple of our college years--they were open late and there was the breakfast bar. It was full of things like fluffy scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, tender biscuits that you could drown in savoury milk gravy. Mmmmmmm.

But now-a-days I believe that that eating food that comes from animals is cruel to the animals as well as unhealthy for the body. The idea of eating the muscles and skin of another living creature really makes me feel ill (as well as the thought that the animal most likely lived a horrible life. Even those who live “happy” lives are still murdered in the end.)  Being a vegan I really don’t want to eat dairy or eggs because their industries are full of violence and unspeakable cruelty such as separating babies from their mothers and raising them for veal whilst stealing the milk intended for baby calves for humans. I don’t know about you, but I stopped breastfeeding ages ago. As for the egg industry, chicks are sexed and male chicks are killed--gassed or ground alive or suffocated as they serve no purpose. No one needs a rooster. And don’t get me started on the misleading definition of “free range”--30,000 birds in an airless unlit shed with one tiny door open at the far end open for a few hours a day that they could conceivably get outside through--provided they can make their way past 29,000 other birds all with the same idea. But anyway. (steps off soapbox)

Sometimes you want good, old- fashioned, down- home cookin’, know what I mean? Sometimes you want the full breakfast bar.

A few nights a go I whipped up some gluten free potato scones using cold mashed potato like you would use butter or shortening. They were not too bad, I must say. We had them with the PPK recipe for tempeh sausage and smothered them in savoury, cheesy, cashew gravy found here http://spidergrrlvstheworld.blogspot.com/2010/09/stick-to-your-ribz.html . Slurp. But picture it over biscuits not with potatoes on the side, yeah?
Tonight with the leftover biscuits I cooked up some Amazing Soy Free Fakin’ Bacon that I previously blogged about here. http://spidergrrlvstheworld.blogspot.com/2011/05/are-you-achin-yup-yup-for-some-bacon.html  It tastes nothing like real bacon, I am the first to admit it. But it adds a savoury, smoky crunchy taste to breakfast-y meals. I also made some tofu scramble using the PPK recipe found here. http://www.theppk.com/2008/10/scrambled-tofu/   I cut the tofu amount suggested in half as that would have meant using a second packet (which I didn’t have) but with the onion, pepper and mushrooms there was plenty to eat. 

Here is the crumbled tofu before it has been cooked.

Here is a picture of the onion and mushrooms cooking.

Now here’s a bit of the onion mushroom pan but with the bacon cooking in the back.

Here’s the final product--the tofu scramble. Doesn’t that look yumilicious?

I had never made tofu scramble but it was very good. Not like what I remember scrambled eggs tasting like all those years ago, but completely delicious in its own right.

If you care about the environment, the welfare of animals and your health then vegan is the way to go. Any food you really like as an omnivore can be made in a cruelty free way.

Compassion tastes delicious.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Wonderful, Wonderful, what can I say but Oh Wow

To celebrate World Book Day our school asked all different sorts of people--teachers, teaching assistants, the caretakers, parent volunteers, the sport leaders and even the nice lady vicar who does assemblies for us occasionally--to give a 2 minute talk about their favourite book just to show children that we are all still passionate reader as adults. There was talk of a voting at the end to see which book the children liked most. Well, with that thought in mind I set my sights on winning. Nobody can enthuse on books like me. FACT.

I made the obvious choice and talked about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Here is a transcription of my speech:

Anyone who knows me knows that my favourite book is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. This book was originally written in 1900 and is currently being printed in comic book format by Marvel Comics.
This was my favourite book as a child and it is still my favourite book today. I am an Oz collector and I have about a dozen different illustrated version of this book on my shelves. I even have Oz Barbie dolls! If you look at my water bottle there is a picture from the book.

Many of you think you may know the story if you have seen the film. Raise your hand if you have seen the film The Wizard of Oz? (lots of hands go up)

If I were to ask you what colour Dorothy’s shoes were you would say….(everyone shouts RED!) and I would reply WAH WAH! (annoying buzzer sound like you get on game shows when you are wrong) because they are only red in the film because red looked better on camera. In the book they are silver.
this is from The Wiz

But it is the story of Dorothy Gale who is whisked away by a cyclone and flies over the rainbow to the Land of Oz where her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East and kills her. She meets a talking scarecrow, a man made out of tin and a cowardly lion and they travel to the Emerald City. And why was the Emerald City green? (produces green 3D glasses) Because everyone in the city had to wear green tinted spectacles to make everything seem green even when it wasn’t. That’s from the book. (puts glasses away)

The wizard tells them they have to kill the Wicked Witch of the West. Now if you’ve seen the film at this point Dorothy starts to cry. A lot. (does best whingy Dorothy impression)
oh Boo hoo, save me. The witch has locked me in the castle. Help me. Boo hoo hoo.”
Well it’s not like that it in the book. For one thing Dorothy is only 7 years old not a teenager like she is portrayed in the film. And she’s not a blubber-box. In the book Dorothy is brave and clever and resourceful--she’s not sitting around waiting for someone to save her--she's out there doing the saving! 

This is a wonderful adventure book for both boys and girls who enjoy fantasy and imaginary worlds with a little bit of danger and scariness thrown in. If you like the book then you’re in luck because the author wrote 13 other books about the Land of Oz. We have the second book, The Marvellous Land of Oz, in audio library--so come see me on Tuesday.

I believe that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is the best and most magical book in the world and if you don’t agree then,

“I’ll get you my pretty--and your little dog too!”
Ok, that last bit was a shameless piece of theatrics that is not even found in the book. I just happen to do a mean Margaret Hamilton impersonation. Well, I brought the house down. Out of 200 kids, one or two voted for The Secret Garden, Black Beauty and The Witches and the rest but  about 190 kids voted for me! But really they were voting for the book.

Many children spoke to me afterwards and wanted to know more about the book, the rest of the Oz books or to share something Oz related with me such as the fact that saw the revival of the musical in London. Because the book were written so long ago I believe all of them are in the public domain and can be downloaded for free on your Kindle or other e-reader device and so I am preparing a sheet that explains where to go and what to get for the children who can access that. I also hope to purchase a few copies for the school library--perhaps with some other Oz books like The Tin Woodman of Oz or the Patchwork Girl of Oz (my other 2 favourites)

Happy reading!