Meal Plan Monday : The wings that weren’t, and the cookies that were.

I made these beautiful cookies last week :

In the name of science and not wanting to make a flop of the cookies I’m planning on making for gift-giving, of course. These lovelies are the pignoli cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  I’ve had Italian pignoli cookies before, but it’s been ages, and I wanted to give them a try.  I’m a big fan of the pine nut – it’s a fatty little bugger, but jam-packed with iron.  I usually add a tablespoon to top pizzas or salads, so Guppy was a bit leery seeing it in a sucré posture, but was won over instantly.  Monsieur-half-French-half-Italian-Fish, however, was not so inclined.  So much for his Italian roots.

As you can guess from my title, the seitan wings didn’t happen last week, and I was rather put out about it.  The beauty of the meal plan is in its non-contractual nature: I’m not going to get in trouble if I don’t stick to it. They’ve been re-slated for this week, however, because I’m not giving up!  Next week I’ll be very pleased to bring you a review of where many of these tasty recipes came from.

Monday : Caramelized Tofu, Brown rice with pineapple and green onions

Tuesday : 2 potato Shepherd’s Pie, green salad

Wednesday : Sushi Rice Balls, Japanese Pancakes and Teriyaki Mushrooms

Thursday :Seitan Buffalo Wings with Super Slaw (hoping!)

Friday : Pizza night!

If you haven’t already, please stop by my friend Ricki’s blog and leave a comment on this post.  She’ll be giving a donation to Second Harvest for every comment left.  What a great way to bring a little food and cheer to those in need this holiday season (oh, and you could also win some Simply Bar yummies, but that’s just a perk).

Sewing Basic Holiday Ornaments Step By Step : W.I.P. Wednesday

Last week I blogged about the famous “Cookie Cutter” ornaments I make every holiday season, and about how quick and easy they are to make.  Then, after an email and a few comments it dawned on me that easy is a rather subjective word.  For someone who has never tried to thread a needle or tried to sew (gasp!) for fun, well, not so much.

If you’ve got sewing experience then this post will probably bore you, but if you’ve got pointers or URLs with other more basic holiday projects to share in the comments section, please do.

So let’s sew up an ornament together!  It’ll be fun, promise.  You’ll need a few basic things to get started, things you may already have around the house!

What you’ll need :

  • Cookie cutters or other shapes you can trace as patterns, unless you’re going to free-hand your drawing, which is also fun, especially if working with little kids who love seeing their drawings “come to life”.
  • Sharp scissors
  • Thread – So many choices!  Cotton thread, or thicker, more durable craft thread, embroidery thread (you’ll want to use about 2 or 3 strands) or even some thin cotton yarn.  I have also used very thin satin ribbon which is pretty, too.
  • Fabric – Before you run out to buy some, or think you can’t give the project a go because you haven’t any, just stop.  You can use nearly anything!  A re-purposed dish towel, the sleeve of a torn cotton shirt, bits from a stained table cloth, etc.  You can also use heavier craft paper – it looks lovely sewn.
  • A needle for sewing and some pins to hold your fabric together.  In a pinch you can use tape to keep the pieces together, and even paper clips.

Get your fabric and fold it in half, with the right sides together.  This just means that the side of the fabric you’d like to see once your decoration is done faces the inside for now.

See what I mean?  The red-checks are facing in and the boring backing is facing out.  Perfect for drawing or tracing on.  Because we make a few new decorations every year, they are like little snap-shots of the past.  We love dinos, so we make a few each year.  If your child (or husband) likes super heroes, try a cape with an S on it, or maybe an outline of a car.  Don’t worry about it not being traditional!  I still need to make a zombie for Monsieur Fish, because that’s what he loves, but haven’t got it worked out yet.

Once you’ve traced, pin the fabric together and cut it out, going through both layers of cloth.

Now put the wrong sides together, right sides facing out, and pin to secure.  Ready to sew?  First, let’s look at your needles…

Notice how the top needle has a rather large eye and a blunt end?  That’s an embroidery needle, so it can handle thicker threads, embroidery thread, yarn and ribbon.  The tinner, sharper needle will work with cotton or nylon thread. Let’s thread your needle!

You want to have a workable length of thread, not too long or it’ll get tangled up, too short, and you’ll be re-threading often.  About from your hand to your elbow is a good size I think.  If you’re using regular cotton thread, just feed one end through the eye of the needle, then bring it to meet the other end so you’ve got a double-layer of thread (more sturdy).  If using embroidery thread, take two or three strands, feed one end through the needle and pull to about half-way the total length, then knot the long end.  It’s already sturdy enough so you don’t need to double up.

For your first stitch, you’ll begin going from the inside of your “sandwich” of fabric from the wrong side of one piece to its right side (meaning outside the dino here).  Gently pull until the knot is against the fabric, and tuck in or carefully trim any little tails that are left.  We’re going to do a straight stitch here, but to make things even easier, think of it as an in and out stitch. You just bring the needle through from one side to the other, all the way around your shape.  Stop a bit before getting all the way around to stuff it if you’d like.  You can use scrap yarn and thread, or cotton or nylon batting. Then sew up the hole and tie a knot to secure.

I hope this is helpful, and inspires you to make a few ornaments for your tree or window or potted plant or whatever.  The tutorial for the Felt Doughnuts may also be helpful for you, too.  They also make cute decorations for you tree, Jeni Treehugger says so herself!

Here are a few flashed-out examples of other shapes to try…

 

Carrot, Sweet Potato & Coconut Casserole (with Almost Fat-Free option)

This casserole was one of my post-long run inventions a few years ago when I found myself with no plan and random vegetables in my pantry.  Lucky me it turned out to be a hit with both Guppy and Monsieur F,  and, it’s great recovery food to boot.   Protein from the garbanzos, carbs from the starchy veggies and al small bit of fat from the low-fat coconut milk makes this a wonderful post-run meal.  Sometimes I serve as is, others accompanied with some quinoa or rice.

There is about an hour of cooking time, but the initial preparation is minimal and there is so much you can do during that hour (besides shower and stretch).  Catch up on some blogs, email your mother or even do the dishes!  You’ll need to give it a stir once or twice, so don’t take a nap, or if you do, be sure to assign someone to stirring duty.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get an aesthetic photo of this today.  Yesterday’s photo is much, much better.  Just believe me.  It’s delish.

Carrot, Sweet Potato & Coconut Casserole

530 grams/18.5 ounces cooked garbanzo beans (rinsed if from a can)

1 red onion, diced

2 to 4 cloves garlic, diced

2 medium carrots, chopped

1 medium parsnip, chopped

1 medium yukon gold-type potato, chopped

1 medium sweet potato, chopped

a large handful of frozen peas, rinsed

400 ml/1 1/2 cups light coconut milk*

200 ml/3/4 cups soy milk*

curry paste to taste

1/2 tsp ground cumin (optional)

salt & pepper

Fresh chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

First a note one the coconut milk : if you want to make this casserole virtually fat-free, go with a non-fat or low-fat coconut milk if you have that in your area.  Another possibility is to use only low-fat soy milk.  The results are still delicious, though we would technically have to change the name. If you do opt to skip the coconut milk entirely, just a few bouillon granules or half a bouillon cube to give your casserole a little zip.

Combine all the ingredients except the peas in a deep casserole dish.  Cover and bake at 190°c/375°f for about 30 minutes, then take it out and give it a stir.  Bake for another 15 minutes, then add the peas and stir again.  Bake for another 10 minutes or so, then serve garnished with fresh chopped cilantro or parsley.

Now that your belly is full of yummy food, go visit sweet Kelly and check out her amazing give-away! I’m crossing my fingers and toes for this one, but really, I can’t keep the hoping to myself – go leave a comment!  You might win!

Meal Plan Monday : What’s on your plate?

Though I haven’t stopped planning our week’s meals, it’s been forever since I’ve  actually published a Meal Plan Monday, n’est-ce pas? This is a week of trying some new recipes and relying on old favourites.

Monday : Carrot, Sweet Potato & Coconut casserole. (I’ll be sharing the recipe for this family-favourite later in the week.)

Carrot, Sweet Potato & Coconut Casserole

Tuesday : Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragu and Sun-Dried Tomato Biscotti.

Wednesday : Seitan Buffalo Wings and coleslaw.

Thursday : Left-overs

Friday :  pizza night

Has anyone guessed which new cookbook I have?  I need to make a few recipes before I can properly share what I think about it, but I’ve got a good feeling so far.

Also, there’s a holiday sale over at the Thora Thinks store (where you can purchase a copy of the great children’s book I reviewed last week, Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice).  There’s also a free winter-themed colouring page up for grabs as well.

Will you be trying any new recipes this week?

W.I.P. Wednesday on Thursday & We have our winners!

The lack of light has been reeking havoc on my photos, and I know many of you can relate.  I had a great post prepared for making holiday ornaments and decorations, but didn’t get to shoot it properly, so that’ll be for next week, and hopefully on Wednesday.  Whatevers.

I’ve blogged about these ridiculously easy felt ornaments before.  You just use your favourite cookie cutter (or anything) and use it to trace your desired shape onto your chosen fabric and sew it up.  Tah-da!

But you don’t so much care about that – you want the winners!  I’m not offended and totally understand.

The winner for the chocolate bar post was number 5, and for the tea it was 20.  You’ll just have to believe me folks, I still don’t know how to take a still of the random number thingy.

Jojo of Vegan In Brighton will be sent some a dark chocolate with quinoa (so good!) and Fanny from Vegan Up North is getting some tea.  Which kind? I’ll decide!  Ladies, would you be so kind as to email me at fishbowlmusings (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll get your goodies off to you soon.

 

Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice

Now that Buy Nothing Day has come and gone, it’s time to start ticking off that  holiday gift list.  If you’ve got any little ones on that list, you’re going to want to pay close attention. What better way to end Vegan MoFo, than to tell you about one of the best children’s books I’ve read in a long time.


Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice is the tale of a not-so-typical family, who lives in a not-so-typical house.  Our protagonist, Thora, well, thinks. She thinks a great deal.  She might be called the brains of the family. Her two Viking family members, Aksel and Krog, however,  are less pensive and a bit more physical.  The brawn, if you will.  They get pumped.  Totally pumped, even.  About, well, lots of “stuff” from heavy metal music to kale.  These two “non-hairy Vikings” are reminiscent of Bill and Ted in all the best ways.

They also get pumped about juicing.  Yes, juicing. Thora grows concerned when Aksel and Krog learn about a new ingredient that could make their juice even healthier for them (to get them even more PUMPED!), because what is good for them, well, isn’t good for everyone, particularly for the little beings about to become collateral damage.

There are no good guys, no bad guys, no preaching or judging.  Just a family who wants to do the right thing and be healthy.  Author/illustrator/publisher VanBalen articulates all this and more through a quirky story with off-beat and unexpected characters and a sense of humor.  What could be better?

This book is the synthesis of so much of what I love :

Creativity – Nathalie (can I call you Nathalie?)  not only drempt-up the characters, but she’s  sewn them into  plush doll-protagonists!  This is 3-D creativity, not simply a linear story with a beginning and end.

Art – The drawings, mixed-media illustrations and photos throughout the book are visually interesting, and do more than simply accompany the story – I think they reflect a child’s imagination (and mine) as they use photos and illustration, which dove-tails nicely reality and fiction.

Critical thinking - (ie : questioning the dominant paradigm) – We want to be happy.  We want to be healthy.  We try to make the right food choices, but is eating everything that could be  good for our health a good idea, especially when it harms other beings?

Renegade spirit – Ms. VanBalen self-published and created ThoraThinksPress to do it, taking DIY to a supreme level which frankly, gets me pumped!

Though Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice is suggested for readers age 6 and up,  kids of all ages like to colour, right?  I know I do.  Check out these free colouring pages that accompany the book. They’ll keep little ones creating and thinking, too.  You can also read more about Nathalie or find out more about the book here.

Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice is a visual and intellectual delight – the Dr. Seuss-esque title alone still has me giggling aloud.  It would make a wonderful holiday gift for children of all ages, vegan or not.

And speaking of gifts, if you’re looking for a unique and handmade original  present,  visit the Thora Thinks Store and order yourself one of the characters from the book, buttons, or veggie magnets (I really love the magnets).

And that concludes this year’s Vegan Month of Food!  It was a lot of fun, but whew, am I beat.  See you tomorrow for the winners of the tea and chocolate give-aways!

Vegan MoFo : Apricot Oat (Granola) Bars

Who wants some apricot oat bars? I do!  You’ll have some of everything you need in these babies : fibre, vitamins, even iron from the pepitas! (Libby, I said pepitas!).  I like to wrap these individually in waxed paper and keep the wrapped bars in a sealed container.  Keeps them fresh and ready to go, perfect fuel for a hike or a long bike ride.

Chop your nuts!  This time it’s almonds…

Apricot Oat Bars

110 g Steel-Cut oats/2 cups

100 g dried apricots/1 cup (diced)

50g nuts chopped/1 1/2 tbsp

25g pepitas/scant 1/2 cup

2 tbsp/20g sesame seeds

2 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp/15g molasses

2 tbsp/30ml oil

3 tbsp/45ml agave

3 tbsp/45g peanut butter

Put all the ingredients from oats to chia seeds in a medium sized bowl and stir to combine.

Seedy Goodness…

Heat the peanut butter, agave, oil and molasses in a sauce pan over medium heat until it gets bubbly, then pour over the dry ingredients and stir until combined.  Resist the temptation to taste, you’ll burn yourself.

Pour mixture into a prepared pan (20 x 25 cm) – you can grease it, but I find clean up and detachment easier when I use parchment paper.  Let this cool about 15 minutes, then cut into desired size/shape (if you wait until it’s completely cooled, it’ll be harder to cut).  Let cool completely before enjoying!

These are a little crumbly, if you don’t like that just add more oil (maybe 2 tbsp more) and a little more agave (same) it’ll help hold it together better.

Vegan MoFo Day XXVIII : Cookies & Doughnuts

First the doughnuts!

These doughnuts are great because they are calorie free, fat free…well, you can’t really eat them. They would make a fun little holiday gift for little (or not so little) ones.  I’ve finally put together a How To page, with lots of tutorials and fun things to make and do.  Go check it out!

And now the cookies…

These are the chocolate crinkle cookies and the black and whites from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  Making these I had lots of help from Guppy and her friend who took turns rolling the cookies in the powdered sugar.  The recipe calls for corn syrup to help the cookies to spread.  Corn syrup is easy to find in North America, but not here.  I used golden syrup since it’s easier to find, but they didn’t spread as much as I’d have liked.  I think I have an idea for next time, and I’ll let you know if it works.  Taste-wise they were delicious, and Guppy brought some to her teacher who asked for the recipe.  I’d never heard of crinkle cookies before but I am so glad I gave them a try.

The black and whites were nothing like the black and whites I’ve had from the Jewish bakeries in Paris, but they were still very yummy.  Normally they are more crispy, but these were very cake-like.  Guppy and friend helped with the icing, which explains the lumps, but they had so much fun frosting them who really cares about aesthetics…

I’m sure you’ll be seeing other cookies from VCIYCJ as we get closer to the holidays!

Vegan MoFo Day XXVII : Soja Sun Steaks de Soja or What to eat in France?

 

In my continuing series “What to eat in France?” I bring you today one of my favourite convenience foods…

Soja Sun is a brand name to remember if you’ll be heading to France any time soon – they make everything from veggie burgers to soy yoghurt.  We are all fans of everything they make, though they do make some non-vegan things so keep an eye out for the ingredients.

These are just good, honest and true tofu and veggie goodness.  Guppy likes them with mashed potatoes and peas, and I admit if I’m crunched for time  these come in very handy for a quick and nutritious lunch.  They are gluten-free and totally vegan, and so is the sauce that comes with them.  With only 140 calories each, they are very low in fat and have no trans fats, either.  There are lots of different flavours, too.

The best thing about the Soja Sun brand is that it’s very mainstream and you can find their products everywhere.  This is a big advantage, especially to tourists who need food on the fly, but don’t always know what to buy or where to find it.

Bon appétit!