Thursday, 31 March 2016

Leftover Love: Curry Ramen

I am pretty much living on noodle soups these days, they are my absolute favourite thing right now for a weekday lunch. Fast and healthy, and cozy, and yum. I like to throw them together with whatever I have on hand, leftover or fresh, so here's an idea to use up some leftover veggies!

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

A Long Weekend, A Living Kitchen

She kicked off the 4 day weekend with Peppa and George, naturally. Opted to stay in pyjamas for most of the morning.

While we got the house ready for guests! 

I was telling my sister-in-law that we had a Kombucha explosion (yeah, that happened. Rite of passage?), and she said that we had a "living kitchen". I thought that was a lovely turn of phrase, and a lovely thing to say in light of the mini-disaster that prompted it! Anyway, that's my new goal, a living kitchen.

Easter Sunday, my old stand-by Jambalaya and a new roasted veggie salad with basil sauce. 

Living kitchen? Certainly a full kitchen. 

Apple crumble for dessert, which I didn't photograph. It was nice though. 

I won't lie, I love it when people bring us flowers. I broke my big vase last year (boo), so sometimes I have to break down nice arrangements into a few smaller bunches. It works, and then we have flowers EVERYWHERE. 


Marks and Spencer's apple hot cross buns are accidentally vegan, FYI. 

Talking poetry with my father-in-law. 

And she finally, FINALLY, ate an avocado. My avocado. That I really did want. So I was happy, but still kind-of hungry.

So we had a good time. She ate too much chocolate, and played with her cousins, and stayed up too late - basically the toddler equivalent of a 4 day bender. And the boy, I'm almost too scared to report, started sleeping through. Success, all around! 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Fourth Trimester

Have you heard the term 'fourth trimester'? See, the idea is that our babies are born too early, an evolutionary trade-off for having such big brains in their big heads, while they can still fit through relatively narrow upright-walking pelvises. So they are helpless in way that the babies of other species are not. And we as mothers remain their home in a very real way after birth. We can somewhat arbitrarily think of the first three months of a baby's life as the 'fourth trimester' of pregnancy. I like this idea, because it makes you reevaluate the cultural expectation to 'get back to normal'. It's an intense period - it's supposed to be intense. Why should my babies be 'learning independence' when they, really, are so small and helpless they shouldn't even be out in the world yet? Of course they don't want to be put down, or left on their own. That said, I've got things to do still - I want to play with F, bake our bread, and you know, shower and sleep occasionally. Some thoughts on getting through it:

Friday, 18 March 2016

Scenes From Our Table

Something of a backlog! It's definitely still an adjustment period around here (and maybe it always is with children in the house? As they are always changing?), and one thing that really makes me feel 'normal' is getting down to the farmer's market on Sunday. Some of that bounty above, and below. 

Killer onion focaccia. Focaccia is actually easy to make, but I bought this one - which is just as well, because then I can pretend that I don't know how much oil goes into it. Along with a couple of Tofurky sausages and sliced apples, that was our simple Sunday lunch. 

Breakfast is also less complicated these days. Mostly commercial cereal! I'm eating a lot of nutty granola. 

And she's into either Weetabix, or lately oats, chia seeds and soy yogurt. When we get up I will ask 'pancakes today? French toast?' And she'll go 'NO!!! YOGURT!!!' Ask and ye shall receive...

Lots of green smoothies. Still one of the only reliable ways to get green vegetables in that child, so while I don't personally think that smoothies are the last word in healthy living, they sure come in handy with toddlers. 

Thai curry paste and coconut milk, noodles, tofu and whatever veggies I have on hand. My new favourite! I made this for my man and I one day he had to work from home. 

Kimchi. Obsessed. How did I get through my life up until now without Kimchi in the house? I'm throwing it on everything.

On toast, with greens and tempeh bacon - calling it a BL-Chi, because I'm a nerd. 

And in every vegan-bowl-type-thing. This is leftover fried rice, greens, kimchi and pickled chickpeas. Eaten at our newly carved out desk area while I try to get to grips with Lightroom - am a long way off competence there, but it's interesting. 

Snacks. Bread and peanut butter, kukicha tea. Have ditched the paper products again now that the dust has settled. I can cope with dishes and linens again. 

And my reward for coping with dishes and linens is having a cute table again.

Lastly, a scene from another table. We went to the Gallery Cafe for Mother's Day brunch the other week, which was absolutely lovely. I love that place. Obviously, we had to share a cupcake. My heart.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Our Bread Making Routine (With Quick Yeast)

I'm often asked about how we find the time to make bread. Truth is, bread takes time, but not much active time. So with a little planning, it's possible - we make bread twice a week on average, and I sometimes buy a nice loaf on Sundays. I haven't yet cracked sourdough (will try again once the weather warms up - I think our kitchen is too cold to get a starter going right now), so this is the easy stuff - flour, water, quick yeast and salt, sometimes olive oil:

Basic Bread Recipe:

500g of organic, wholegrain flour. My favourites to mix and match are plain old Strong Wholemeal Bread Flour, Rye, Malthouse and Spelt. I also keep Strong White on hand to mix in sometimes, if I feel like a fluffier loaf (especially with rye, which can be a little heavy or gummy, or with something like buckwheat, which doesn't contain gluten), but I never make plain white bread. I've specified organic - the pesticide levels are actually higher in whole grain products because they aren't stripped of the outer husks, so it's really worth springing for. Also, we're saving money by making bread, right? So let's make something nice. 

1 teaspoon quick dried yeast. Make sure it's reasonably fresh - it might not work well if it's been in your cupboard for yonks.

1 teaspoon fine sea salt. 

325 mls warm water. 

About a tablespoon of oil, I use olive or rapeseed. Optional.

The timetable goes roughly like this: mix and knead for 10 minutes, proof for an hour, light knead and shape for 5 minutes, proof for half an hour in the loaf tin, bake at 200C for half an hour. So, as you can see, it takes a bare minimum of two hours, but with only 15 minutes active. Now, let's say it's a Monday. Maybe we are planning to go to a playgroup or something. Before we set off, we'll make our dough. This isn't a chore, it's an activity! It's messy play! We sing about 'Dough a Deer' and enjoy ourselves.

I won't lie, having a stand mixer helps. I let the Kitchenaid do the first knead. So again, I'm not actively working - I'm usually tidying up, actually, and F is usually playing with her small portion of dough. Then, depending on our timetable and the weather, I either set the dough to rise on my heat mat or at room temperature. Our kitchen is really cold, so I keep a heat mat for my Kombucha, and it also comes in handy for bread. A warmer temperature will mean that the dough doubles in size faster. SO, if I know that playgroup is an hour and half, I might leave the dough in a cooler spot to deliberately slow the process down - as long as it's not so cold as to halt the rise completely. Kneading and shaping by hand takes very little time, and again, you leave it alone for a while (you can even refrigerate it at this point to use later on - we often do for pizza dough). We might then start to make and eat our lunch - so we are home anyway - and put the oven on to pre-heat. Then I can bake the bread in between lunch and nap, which will cool down sufficiently to be ready to eat as a post-nap snack!

Alternatively, if we're home in the afternoon, we can have fresh bread in time for dinner just by popping into the kitchen every so often. I might start the dough before her nap, but really there's time after as well. 

*The times are a guideline. Really, you want to knead until the gluten is sufficiently developed (it will be nice and springy), and proof until it doubles. You can manipulate your timetable with the temperature - just don't push it too far. 
*Dough freezes. Yup. I especially like to freeze pizza dough (same recipe as above, just use '00' flour instead of bread flour. I really like a 50% spelt, 50% '00' pizza dough - and I pretend it's authentic because spelt was eaten by the Romans!), which also makes a decent flatbread. Just flatten a smallish ball of dough, brush with oil and throw on the grill pan. Little fresh flatbreads with hummus and vegetables makes a nice dinner if you ask me. 
*If you're vegan, you might already have vital wheat gluten in the house - so if you find that your whole grain bread isn't as chewy or springy as you'd like, you can add a tablespoon. I don't use it anymore, but it's a common bread additive and worth experimenting with. You'll also get a good feel for the gluten content of your bread by manipulating it deliberately.  
*Flour seems to vary not just by grain, but brand as well. I'd rather add more flour than more water. In a stand mixer, the dough should form a big stretchy ball that's slapping the sides of the bowl. By hand, again, you're looking for stretchy - not just sticky. 
*For a crustier crust, you need steam in the oven. A little roasting tin with some hot water works a treat, but make sure to put it in BEFORE the bread. It works it's magic in the first few minutes of baking.  

Eat a slice or two (or five) while it's still warm, if at all possible.

But get in there quick!

Shared Nursery - In Progress

Want to see their nursery? We're trying to make the most of a fairly small space, and it's not finished, but we like it! More piccies: