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Updated… almost Vegan, but not quite.

I’ve made a lot of vegan meals and experimented with vegan ingredients in old favorite recipes since I’ve been back from vacation… I have to say without a doubt they have all been delicious, using egg substitutes in waffles and baking was easy, and cutting down on oil in cakes using apple sauce has worked well, although I have been doing that for quite a while… I can even say the vegan, soy free provolone cheese is ok as long as it’s melted, but it’s good for that odd craving of something melty over your pasta or in a sandwich.

I plan nutritional breakfasts for Paul to take to work with him every day, this is one of my favorites gluten free, now vegan waffles, of course if you add dairy chocolate it makes it not vegan but as Paul is in no way vegan I treated him to a few chocolate nibbles to go with the unsweetened coconut on top of his waffles. I have made him vegan, dairy and gluten free breakfast every morning for the past two weeks including a vegan omelette and he has not complained once. I try to make my breakfast for the day with enough for two then Paul has it the next day… it’s worked well so far.

I have been almost dairy free for many years now, using nut or plant based milks in everything, but I had never thought to make it myself… until I started researching this Vegan trend, it was a complete surprise just how easy it was, you take your nuts or seeds and soak them for a few hours then you blend them in a blender with water, the amount of water depends on the consistency you require, I was making a cashew nut cream so obviously the liquid was less, but the outcome was delicious and I have used it in all my recipes instead of cream or yogurt. I also made a broccoli cream soup using the same technique, as you cooked your broccoli in broth you had sunflower seeds cooking with it soaking in the broth, once the broccoli was cooked you blended everything together including the sunflower seeds giving a nice creamy soup consistency… just delicious.

Now as any Vegetarian/Vegan knows a plant based diet includes a lot of chopping and prepping and when you have a super large family you need a little helping hand… I was on Facebook one day and this super fast chopping machine was being advertised, well I’m not usually one to watch the shopping channel or get hooked into buying something on screen, but this had me hooked, Paul was trying to tell me he found chopping therapeutic, but I guess when you do it once in a while it could be, but day after day, it really is not so much fun, or indeed therapeutic, so I took the plunge and ordered it… Paul was worried I would slice my finger on the blades and his worries were not unfounded as within the first 24 hours of owning my Veggie Bullet I have sliced my thumb twice, but you learn very quickly from your mistakes. After a shaky start, slicing my thumb, using the wrong lids for slicing and spiralizing, I have finally mastered my veggie bullet and I love it, there is quite a bit to wash up but my plan is to prep my veggies once a week looking at all my recipes… onions sliced thinly in seconds, eggplant sliced in less seconds than it took me to wash it, sweet potatoes spiralized before I could even heat the oil… it’s crazy and I will use it for a weeks worth of chopping preparation each week, with only one wash up required for the whole week.

So far each recipe I have made has been very tasty and nutritious, we have had Vietnamese noodle bowls, roasted veggie bowls, green lentil and spinach curry, roasted tomato soup with roasted rosemary potatoes, creamy broccoli soup, super easy green pasta and tonight we are having black bean taquitos with an enchilada sauce… each meal I make has to be planned with precision, gluten free, dairy free and a meat protein to accompany the dish, as I cannot make everyone give up meat, even though I would secretly love that and my food budget would sigh with relief if I didn’t have to include meat. Even when I made a creamy broccoli pasta no one guessed it did not contain milk or cheese, the roasted tomato soup was full of flavor and the broccoli soup was creamy just by using sunflower seeds, so even the veggie haters in my house have enjoyed the vegan dishes plus a little meat on the side for good measure.

On a final note… I came across this Pumpkin oatmeal cookie recipe when baking with my children the other day, I’ve never used arrowroot in my baking before and I wasn’t sure about it, but these gluten free, dairy free, vegan cookies were so delicious not one person guessed quite how healthy they actually were.

Am I going to declare myself a Vegan? Not quite, my love of sushi and a good cheeseboard occasionally are something I just don’t want to give up… but on the whole, day to day it feels good to eat like this, healthy, nutrition that is plant based, it is definitely much easier than I thought to leave out the dairy, including cheese and eggs, the recipes are delicious and flavorful… so almost a Vegan is just good enough for me.

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Naturally delicious…

Is it just me or has this world become just a little bit crazier than when we were children? It’s getting back to our roots that is important… Do we really need all the convenience of modern living… I think not in many cases!

Don’t get me wrong there are many modern conveniences I could not live without… the internet, what would we do without that these days, my trusty Kitchen-aid mixer, a must have in my kitchen and air conditioning, on those hot, hot humid days when you need to just cool off, but the convenience of pre packed food is fast becoming a nightmare, why oh why do companies feel it is perfectly ok to fill our food with chemicals and dyes! What happened to good old fashioned healthy food products? Farmed salmon is full of horrible dyes and chemicals, simple products like a loaf of bread has potential cancer producing chemicals added, canola oil is advertised as a healthy oil… Well guess what? it really is not, I try to avoid this oil at all costs, I always like to use an oil that is actually derived from a plant not something that is man made… It’s all a horrible maze that has become very scarey!

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In our house I have stepped up home baking, Bread making, muffins, cookies and my ultimate favorite, Brownies all get baked and disappear as fast as they come out of the oven.
My favorite recipes…
chocolate chip muffins
This is my go to muffin recipe, I adjust it to the muffins I want to make, strawberry, apple, coconut… The options are endless!
brownies
This is my ultimate brownie recipe… To this I add whatever I feel like I fancy, a caramel swirl topping, chunks of chocolate and crispy salt… Or just as they come… Delicious!
the Pioneer Woman’s brown sugar oatmeal cookies
I recently found this recipe… Now my favorite cookie recipe ever!
Ina Garten’s shortbread cookies
With or without the chocolate these cookies are oh so good, they don’t usually make it into the tin in our house!

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I want to thank another Mom of a large family of 7 children for my new found love of easy bread baking, I do not personally know her but I follow her on Instagram and she has her own blog that I have been using for my bread recipes… A Farmhouse full … She has made me realize how easy bread making really is, especially with my Kitchen Aid mixer! Her pizza dough recipe is not only easy but delicious too!

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With Fall just around the corner, the long summer days are now numbered, I really need to get back to menu planning too, these days I seem to buy less and less pre-packaged foods and when I do just for convenience I try to buy the more natural options when I can! Yesterday I planned my menu for the week and shopped too, so here is what we are having for dinner this week, bare in mind I have two Birthdays next week, so Mabel has asked for a Pioneer Woman’s Pasta bar and Blu can’t decide between steak or ribs on the grill…

Flatbread sandwiches … This turned into chicken curry, rice and naan bread
Homemade pizzas
Pasta bar and grilled lemon chicken
Ribs… Garlic bread sticks and wedges (or steak)
Polenta brats and salad
Cous cous chicken salad
Left overs

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Whatever you are cooking this week… Have fun!

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My first freezer baking day…

I have just found pure joy in filling my freezer to the brim, not with store bought boxed produce, well there is a little of that in there, but with home cooking trays of yummy goodies! I have always been someone who freezes leftovers, freezes excess bread, well I love to freeze anything for later really, but having a freezer baking day was something I had never thought of until recently when I started reading blogs about preparing ahead of time, so after watching another episode of the Pioneer Woman, yes I am addicted to her show, I decided it was time to fill my freezer with goodies so that my children cannot utter those famous words ever again, well just until next time my freezer looks bare… ‘There is nothing good into eat!’

I decided baked goods would be my freezer products this time around, with 5 more weeks of summer recess still on the horizon, sweet baked products are something I never have time to do along with cooking dinners, so why not fill my freezer with yummy gooey easy peasy baked goods that just need throwing into the oven, and then just for good measure I threw in some pizza dough for the odd pizza or flatbread side and two pasta tray bakes for those nights when you just need a quick dinner that’s made and ready to heat!

Here is a list in order of how I made them ready for my freezer, complete with links to the recipes…

The great British Flapjack … Melt 8oz of butter in a skillet, add 4oz of sugar and 4oz of golden syrup mix together then toss in 12oz of oats stir until combined, pack down into foil dish cover with foil and freeze. Defrost when ready to use, heat your oven to 300f and bake for 40 minutes!

Oatmeal breakfast bake … I froze this oatmeal unbaked, it is then ready to defrost then bake so it will be fresh and hot when we eat it!

Easy Brownies … I did some research and found that brownie batter does not freeze well, the butter separates when thawing, so it will not make a good brownie when baked, so for these I pre cooked them before freezing, then I will top with a chocolatey butter icing and chill before serving!

chocolate chip cookies … These I took the dough formed into balls using a small ice cream scoop and then placed each ball on a cookie sheet with parchment paper then flash froze them before placing the cookie dough balls into bags in the freezer… Add approximately 5 minutes cooking time to bake frozen cookie dough!

Chocolate, chocolate chip muffins … This is by far my most favorite muffin recipe from the great Nigella Lawson, I have made these with and without the cocoa powder and they are delicious every time! I baked these muffins before freezing in ziplock bags!

Easy, no knead cinnamon rolls … These were so good, be warned there is a lot of dough, I made three trays of gorgeous rolls, which is a good because one tray was so good it did not last in my house! I made these up to the point the rolls were made and risen in the trays, then I covered them with cling wrap and then froze them! I did cook up one tray and I changed the glaze to a more traditional cinnamon roll glaze… I added one cup of powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of cubed room temperature butter, then add one teaspoon of vanilla essence with 3-6 tablespoons of boiling water mix until you get the desired consistency… Then pour over your lovely buns, serve and enjoy!

Easy, no knead pizza dough … This is an excellent, easy, delicious pizza dough, I made it to the point before it was risen, divided it into two balls, put them into ziplock bags and froze them, ready to defrost, then let rise in an oiled clingwrap covered bowl, roll out then bake. I have made this crust many times, it not only easy but once the dough is risen it keeps in the refrigerator for up to three days!

If you do try to fill your freezer in one day, be warned it is messy, something I don’t usually cope well with, time consuming… But totally worth doing, now I can sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of my labor… Well for a couple of days at least, until my hungry children get their hands on all that delicious food!

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