Friday, 30 January 2015

Sneaky Shakes

Lately I have been looking for a filling smoothie to help me make it through the morning without snacking. The mistake often made is too much fruit which is undoubtedly delicious but sends your sugar levels skyrocketing and then crashing and you feel hungry a few hours later. I was trying to develop something with more staying power.

I know from experience that protein and a bit of healthy fat are the keys for me. It is what keeps me full and my blood sugar even. Many vegetarians and vegans hear the annoying ill-informed question of “But where do you get your protein from?”  more times than we would like. Actually, every food has some amount of protein in it. But that’s why if you add beans or a sprinkle of nuts to a salad you feel more full than with lettuce alone.  More protein.  The next question we often hear is, “But where do you get calcium from if you don’t drink milk?” which for me is a combination of fortified foods (many soy milks and orange juices have added calcium) naturally high in calcium foods such as kale and sesame seeds or almonds.

Could I make a breakfast shake that was high in both protein, healthy fat and calcium? Yes I could. Most recipes call for a scoop of protein powder. Now protein powder is hella expensive and often full of weird bulking agents and fillers. Whey protein is the cheapest, but who the hell wants to eat that? Whey is a by-product of the cheese making industry and it is illegal to dump it in rivers and streams because it is toxic to fish and aquatic life. Why would I want to put something poisonous in my body?  But millions of people do every day because whey powder is sold to the food industry as a cheap filler in processed convenience foods. Check your labels and see if I am wrong. 


So how could I have the desired outcome I needed for cheap making sure it was healthy as well?


Well duh. Beans to the rescue again. Wait! Don’t run away screaming just yet. Hear me out. Have you tried my amazing black bean brownies and all the other variations?  Everyone who tries these raves about them. Can you taste the beans? No. Would the same be true for the smoothie--could you really not taste them? No, not at all.

First I rinsed and drained some white beans and some black beans. I blotted them with a tea towel to take off any moisture and froze them in a single layer for several hours.


Then I scooped them all up, loosened up the stuck together ones and plonked them in a ziplock bag. Sorted.

So right now I have two breakfast shakes--a chocolate one and a gingerbread one. Oh mama.

1) Start by putting 200ml  fortified plant milk in a blender. I use Oatly. Boom! That’s 60% of your vitamin D, 30% of your riboflavin, 30% of your B12 and 30% of your daily calcium. Sorted.


2) Add ¼ cup frozen beans. That’s fibre and protein that will keep you fuller longer (4.1g fibre and 3.62g protein in black beans and 2.6g fibre and 4.01g protein in white beans) plus ¼ cup white beans contains 4% of your daily calcium 8% of your daily iron and ¼ cup black beans contains 4% of your daily calcium, 11% of your daily iron and 4% of your daily vitamin C. Who knew?

3) Blend until the beans are dissolved which is like adding lots of little ice cubes as the beans are frozen.

4) Add ¼ cup of oats which adds 1.9g of fibre, 1% of your daily calcium and 4% of your iron plus 3.03g of protein. Or you can add ¼ cup of something like Ready Brek which is super smooth porridge oats that have been fortified with extra calcium, vitamin D, iron, B2, B6 and B12. . 

5) Add 1 Tablespoon tahini paste made from sesame seeds. You could use peanut butter as we are going for fat and protein, but why not use tahini as it is so high in calcium? I prefer the richer complex flavour of roasted unhulled sesame seeds personally as the hulls make it higher in calcium. If you don’t dig tahini then go for almond butter as it is also high in calcium. But 1 TB tahini will give you 2.55g protein, 64mg of calcium and 8.06g fat. Don’t freak out on me. A bit of healthy fat is good for you. The fat will make you fuller longer.

6) for a chocolate smoothie add 1 TB unsweetened cocoa powder (1.06g protein, 1% daily calcium and 4% daily iron!) , a date or a Tablespoon of  raisins if the cocoa makes it bitter and ½ tsp cinnamon

And for a gingerbread smoothie add 1 TB blackstrap molasses and 1 tsp cinnamon (or use a chai spice mix like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and nutmeg-super yum!) The molasses MUST be blackstrap as it has the highest amount of nutrition. I Tablespoon of blackstrap molasses contains 200mg calcium--seriously! That’s nearly one quarter of your recommended daily amount right there! Plus 4.5mg  iron which is nearly a quarter of your RDA. Plus 45mg magnesium and 510g potassium plus a host of trace minerals like copper and manganese!

7) Add a frozen peeled ripe banana and whiz all together. One banana is one of your “five a day” fruit and veg! Plus it makes it sweeter without adding extra sugar.

Serve in a mason jar because that's how all the cool kids drink it.





The smoothies are delicious and thick and filling thanks to all the high fibre, protein and fat. After having one I can go hours and hours without eating. I am not weak and starving by 10am. I am fuelled for the day. 

I swear you can’t taste the beans.

Give this a try and start your day right. And if you don’t want to faff about every morning opening up a bajillion containers then pre-pack your dry stuff like oats and cinnamon. So you can just dump it in there and only have to add the liquid or sticky stuff.

Oh and one more tip. If you oil the spoon the molasses sliiiiiides right off.

No excuses. Make this and start your day off right.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Comfort Food

I don’t handle disappointment very well. Never have. I am one of those people who feel things in a BIG way. Every encounter, no matter how large or small, is taken to heart. I feel elation and despair in equal measures. FACT.

As you all know Spiderman and I moved to Wales five months ago so he could take up a fascinating post at the UWTSD (University of Wales, Trinity Saint David). We figured I would be able to find a job with relative ease.

We were wrong.

Five months on and I cannot seem to find work. It is hard to try and fail. It is hard to live on one income, but we have managed. It is hard to have meaning in your life when you don’t have a job (which often seems to define who you are. You know that terrible question that is like a punch in the solar plexus--”What do you do?”)  or a reason to get up and get going in the morning. I know in my heart that Wales is grand and that we are blessed with a fantastic and affordable house to live in, delicious healthy home cooked food (this is thanks largely in part to my budgeting, shopping the sales and planning so that not food gets wasted) and we have friends that feel like the sort of friends we’ve known all our life even though we have just met. I get it that we have lots of good things going for us.

But I want a job.

Then our lives would have everything we need to feel settled in.

After months of searching and being rejected I finally got an interview for a fantastic job that ticked all the boxes for me.

I didn’t get it.

They were really impressed with me and my personality made a huge impression on them. I got excellent feedback which I know will help me do even better in my next interview.

It is tempting to say if I get another interview instead of when I get another interview because we’ve been here five months and despite applying for dozens of jobs I have only managed to get two interviews. I don’t want to wait another five months for another chance.

But I may have to. I have to believe that this is all part of God’s plan and that there is a reason I didn’t get this amazing job and that something even more fabulous is in the pipeline.

But frankly, it is hard to believe it.

Every day I search the job advertisements and very rarely is there anything I am qualified to do. On the other hand there are many jobs I am overqualified for and can’t seem to get hired for either. It is discouraging to say the least.

But I’m hanging in there. I love Wales and I don’t want to leave. I just want to find a job.

So I was feeling rather down (which is a polite way of putting it) and I needed some comfort food. Some down home country cooking.

So we ate this:

Vegan sausages, mash, peas and carrots and onion gravy.


I do not normally buy processed convenience foods as they are super expensive and often full of crappy ingredients. But I saw these Linda McCartney Vegetarian Red Onion and Rosemary Sausages on sale for 99p a box (6 sausages) at Lidl and I thought I would give them a go. 


Many processed vegetarian meats have wheat gluten in them but these don’t so they are kind to my tummy. They have five recognisable ingredients plus a list of five spices so that seems less bad than many I’ve seen. They are low in fat but high in protein and fibre.


Plus sometimes you need some comfort food that is smothered in gravy.


Surprisingly, it did make me feel better.

There are lots of good things about my life--if I listed them all it would take pages and pages of writing. There is only one bad thing in my life so on balance it is not so bad.

I still want a job.

I still need a job.

Something good has to be coming. Doesn’t it? I just need to be patient and that has never been easy for me. Five months unemployed seems like forever. But I have to remind myself that we have a roof over our heads and we have never gone hungry. Dealing with this crushing disappointment (and it is crushing. People use that term loosely but really that is how it feels—like I am Giles Corey being pressed to death in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Like all the breath has been taken out of my body) has reminded me how much I am loved by Spiderman. He keeps my grief in balance. When I in anger throw up straw arguments, he calmly and kindly points them out and helps me let go of them. When I cry over real disappointment he holds me and lets me grieve.

So right now, my life is not good or bad. It just is. To quote the band Youthmovies and their song If You’d Seen a Battlefield:

It's not going well and it's not going badly it's just going along.

I can live with that.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A Trip Down Memory Lane (or rather a trip down the cereal aisle)

Money is a little tight this week. Why do all the expensive staples in my pantry always run out at the same time? I’m talking to you gluten free flour and tamari soy sauce. So we were running low on cereal and my first inclination was to just make sure we had other things to eat for breakfast this week, but at Lidl my eye was caught by a box of buckwheat cereal at a low price. They were having a special on some gluten free food. I was suddenly struck with a memory that said, “Didn’t I used to eat buckwheat cereal?”

I bought the buckwheat cereal and mixed it with the small remaining bit of our favourite cereal Mesa Sunrise (which I already dilute with budget cornflakes to make it last longer) and I was instantly transported back. There *had* been a buckwheat cereal in my life! I was sure of it!

 So  a few searches later I found this:


This was the cereal! I remembered it so well. I am sure I convinced my family to buy it on the sole fact that it was called Buc Wheats as I had a mild obsession with Buckwheat from the Little Rascals.


I actually named our cat Buckwheat which everyone immediately  shortened to Bucky. I had a poster on my wall with a picture of Little Buckwheat and his giant unkempt nappy afro that said: Buckwheat say crack not o-tay! Which I genuinely hope wasn’t racist because I loved that poster.

So I started reminiscing over all the cereals I had ever loved in my life. Spiderman kept sniggering under his breath that it was sad when a person had nothing better to do than to dream about the cereal aisle of her youth, but soon he was joining in.

“What was that cereal that was so good but looked like dog food?” he asked.

 “Oh yes!” I cried. “It was made from oat bran and brown sugar and was delicious!”

A few google searches later and we had come up with it. Kellogg’s Cracklin’ Oat Bran.

It was delicious, but it sure did look like dog food.


But the surprising thing was due to some heavy amounts of modified palm oil in it, the cereal weighs in at 200 calories a bowl. Yikes.

Then I started to remember the cereal that we only ate when we visited my grandmother. It was made of corn and like little pillows and stayed crunchy forever in milk. It was Quaker Corn Bran.


I used to love to put one in my mouth and then press it with my tongue as hard as I could to the roof of my mouth to feel it pop. It was like corn flavoured pop rocks.

“Did you ever do that?” I asked Spiderman dreamily.

No, I did not you insane woman, I just eat my food I don‘t play with it” his look seemed to say. 

I used to also sneak some little crunchy corn pillows and use them for tiny doll pillows for a set of miniature worry dolls. I didn’t bother to mention *that* to Spiderman.

I also used to love this cereal because the adverts were a complete rip off of the Wizard of Oz

With a scarecrow whose costume and make up were the spit of Ray Bolger. Watch the ad here and see if I am lying: 

I can recall asking my mother to buy me this cereal and she told me it was only available in East Texas. I am not sure that was true. I think she just didn’t want to buy it.

Then I got to thinking about Chex Cereal. How I loved chex, because without chex there could be no Party Mix. Mmmmm…party mix.

You remember Party Mix don’t you? Chex cereal and pretzels and nuts all cooked up in a savoury salty sauce. Oh my days. How I loved it. My grandmother used to make it (the one with the Crunchy Corn Bran cereal) but hers was always slightly burned and full of wheat chex. Pooey. Tiggers don’t like the wheat chex. My dear departed Mother-In-Law Etta made the best party mix, hands down. Hers was always just golden and fragrant and full of corn chex and rice chex and deliciousness. She used to make us a special batch all to ourselves (I suspect I didn’t share it very well with Spiderman) at Christmastime.

Now I know now that Party Mix isn’t vegan because you normally use butter and Worcester sauce which contains little fishes in the form of anchovies, but there are ways around it. You can by fish free Worcester sauce or use tamari or soy sauce. You can use margarine in place of butter. But the one thing  I can’t seem to find here is Chex. SOB! I was all set to make us some veganised Party Mix when I realised you can’t find Chex or the equivalent here. BOO HOO HOO! If I find something I will let you know because we will be making it and eating it if it can be found.

The thought of my two favourite  flavours of Chex (Rice and Corn) made me think about another cereal.

“Do you remember…” I began.

“It was called Crispix,” he said and went back to his puzzle.

How did he know? But yes--Crispix was like Chex but with one side corn and one side rice and not a yucky wheat chex in sight. And you use Crispix cereal to make the rather oddly named but never off putting treat: Puppy Chow.


Mmmm….. puppy chow. Basically you melted chocolate chips and peanut butter and covered the crunchy cereal and then dusted them with powdered icing sugar.

Another treat I fantasised about veganising until I recalled you can’t get any kind of crispy hexagonal cereal here! SOB!

I recalled fondly that during the 1984 Olympics there were bumper stickers inside boxes of cereal and when I was at The Mountain on holiday with my folks it was the cool thing to do to get the bumper sticker and wear it. I can remember wrestling with a boy called Robin in the breakfast queue over some Special K for a bumper sticker. Many of the pictures of me that summer show me sporting asymmetrical earrings (it was the rage to wear one extremely long one and one short), converse hi-tops and signs saying Have ’em for breakfast America emblazoned across my chest.

 Those were the days.

 But enough with my trip down the cereal aisle of memories. I leave you with this joke.

When the third body turned up, stabbed with a spoon and covered in cornflakes the chief of police was heard to say, “Boys, I think what we have here is a cereal killer.”  

What were your favourite cereals and why?