Halloween presents Veganopoulous, the complete amateur who comes up a winner

I hope my readers that celebrate Halloween had a fabulous one!  Or have a fabulous one, given the timezones and stuff.  Unfortunately Husband and I did not get invited to any Halloween sci fi themed parties this year so I miss out on my dream of the two of us heading out like this:

twikigary

This is the first year Arthur and DeeW took part in a neighbourhood trick or treating.  That may sound bizarre to my overseas readers, but Halloween is not really considered an Australian ‘thing’.  Sure, some families do it and the supermarkets stock Halloween stuff, but there are plennnty of doors that get knocked on where the residents have no idea what is going on and kids go away empty handed.  Kids that door knock here are often told “sorry, we don’t celebrate Halloween”.

In my neighbourhood (well, the surrounding four streets) a group of parents drop notes in all the letterboxes advising people that kids will be going around on Halloween and if you’d like to participate, leave your porch light on and perhaps have a decoration.  The children will not door knock when a house does not have a light on.  Although I admit to having been a bit uncomfy with it all (the trick or treating/general Halloween stuff considered more of a North American thing here, though I would have no problem participating if we were holidaying overseas), I saw that this year Arthur and DeeW really wanted to dress up and go along with their friends.  And we can’t exactly keep the curtains closed and insist the kids stay away from the windows for another year:

fitacover

Now as someone who has never participated in Halloween, ever, let me explain my thought processes:

– how many treats do I buy? (I thought I bought waaaay too much and was quite alarmed by it, but I was left with a handful of stuff at the end).

– do I give the treats out or do the kids choose?

– if I give them out, how many does each child get?  If they choose, do I set a limit?

– will anyone take the cheap chocolate coins?

– do I insist the little kids get first dibs on the Tiny Teddies?

– do I buy individually wrapped treats in case some kids are snotty and grubby? (the answer was YESSSSS).

Finding vegan stuff that wouldn’t have cost a fortune was close to impossible so in the end I went for the standard non-vegan treats.  I had considered making caramel popcorn and putting it in mini cardboard Chinese food containers but ran out of time to make a trial batch and then I couldn’t find the smaller containers.  I think I’ll do that next year as I want to give out vegan treats.  Next year I also hope to be more organised.  I might have popcorn in some of the containers and other vegan treats and the kids choose randomly from a table or something.

I usually have some kind of Halloweeny food or decorations in our house, just for us.  This year, as we were joining in the neighbourhood opt-in doorknocking, I made these… let’s face it, pissweak attempts at decorating the front of the house:

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I made jelly for our dessert in oranges:

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I made some gingerbread folks using a Dreena Burton recipe, unfortunately I kinda forgot about them and took them out four minutes over time.  I wanted to give these to our lovely neighbours so I’ll have to make another batch and blog about it, because this was a really good recipe:

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That’s a My Little Pony next to a Super Mario Toad:

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My hat wearing readers will be pleased to know I received many compliments on my choice of head wear.  The secret to my success?  An Ikea hand puppet and bobby pins:

hat

DeeW was a witch and Arthur was the Emperor from Star Wars. Witches were a very popular theme.  I saw lots of little ghoulish characters, scary masks, some teenagers who just wore black (that’s not a costume in my books!) but my favourite costume of the night belonged to a girl who looked around 14 who was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz complete with sparkly red shoes.  Husband took the kids out and said there was a man dressed as Darth Maul (Arthur thought that was way cool) and another guy in a pumpkin suit.

The highlight was when a group of eight kids said mine was the best house EVER (as in, quote, “oh my Gorrrrrrrrrd this is the best house evahhh!”) because apparently I had the best selection of treats and I let them take three things each.  I demanded they all show me a double thumbs up as proof.  Then when they went around the block and I saw them on the other side of the street, they yelled out to me and gave me two thumbs up AGAIN.  I am SO GOOD at doing Halloween.

And that was our Halloween.  The kids declared it one of the best days ever and I’m looking forward to scrubbing their teeth for the next few weeks 😉

Sweet Potato, Peanut and Chickpea Stew from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan

Back in August, before our trip to Sydney, I’d made a bunch of meals to freeze so I wouldn’t have to cook when we returned.  One of those meals was the Sweet Potato, Peanut and Chickpea Stew from ‘Eat, Drink & Be Vegan’ by Dreena Burton (and it froze well!)

This was really easy to make, like every other Dreena recipe I’ve made.  I wish the family ate chickpeas but secretly I’m glad I had this to myself 😉  This is something I’d make again, though as I’m a bit forgetful (and maybe a bit lazy) when it comes to putting things on the side, I’d throw in a bunch of veggies.  I hope I have the recipe title correct, my sister is borrowing my copy of ED&BV so I can’t check:

chichpeastew

Now, for someone who visits libraries as often as I do, I’m waaay behind the times.  See, many of the libraries here have a self checkout system.  There are a range of languages to choose from represented by flags, so one day Arthur asked if he could press the skull-and-crossbones.  He did, we then fell around laughing, and this is what we got when we left.  WHEEEEEEZE:

piratelibrarian

And my business here be done.  Signed, Pirate Yoda.

Random What-I-Ates and the Never Ending De-cluttering

I’ve been feeling so very lazy when it comes to cooking lately.  I’ve been relying on the old faithfuls which are too boring to list on the blog.  A lot of my time has been spent cleaning and de-cluttering the house even more, in preparation for a good deep spring clean.  We’ve been in this house for seven years and every year I say the massive spring clean will happen inside and out.  Except it never does and I stick to the same old daily chores.  But there are those big jobs that need to be done once and for all, especially outside.  On the plus side, we did finally get our roof replaced, so we no longer have to put up with the leaking kitchen ceiling:

Even though it was a short term job, I found myself slightly annoyed with the skip bins and broken bits of tile and concrete littering our front yard:

skipbin

The crazy discarding-of-stuff continues.  I think I’ve donated about eight garbage bags worth of clothes, toys, books and general stuff.  I’ve sold a filing cabinet and storage shelf on eBay as well as some other things that were taking up space.  I’ve packed up a box of Dora the Explorer (SSSSHHHH) and if they don’t get asked about for a few months, well Dora is gonna go exploring eBay.  With de-cluttering, I’m always gobsmacked at how much stuff we accumulate.  Our recyling bin gets emptied once a week, but when I de-clutter I refill it the day it has been emptied.  Which means for the rest of the week I’m playing a kind of rubbish bin reverse Jenga, trying to slot cans and cartons inside the bin.

DeeW has been very accident prone lately.  She found out the hard way that you shouldn’t walk in the path of an oncoming bicycle.  Luckily the rider was a little girl, all wobby on her bike and not going fast but DeeW still ended up with lots of bruises and scrapes.  Out came the ‘hurt box’, which is an old retro plastic sewing box I bought cheap with all the contents.  I took everything out and made it our first aid kit:

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Speaking of DeeW, do you think she likes to wear a tutu to ballet class?  Ho ho. Fortunately a ballet uniform is not compulsory at the classes she goes to.  More fortunately, she does remove the ski boots (which are big for her, they were her brother’s):

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Arthur and I went to see ‘James and the Giant Peach’ at ACMI.  To kill time before the movie started, we did some Mad Libs.  This is the Adventure Time (a funny tv show) Mad Libs book:

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Mad Libs has been around forever.  If you’re not familiar with it, it involves one player asking the others for some words like a noun, adjective etc. These then get plugged in to the story where the blanks appear, then you read it back aloud (nobody knows the story to begin with):

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Food adventure time! During the week my mum cut up a bunch of red and green peppers and fried them with a little garlic and onion in olive oil.  Simply but tasty on pasta:

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Mum also made some stuffed vine leaves:

dolmades

Now for some vegan food products.  I tried the Lamyong vegan hot dogs.  I don’t know how else to word this apart from “it’s not to my liking”.  I ate two in a hot dog bun but binned the rest:

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I was given a packet of Linda McCartney sausages.  These were nice, the kids said they were okay.  I ate mine like a hotdog, with tomato sauce and American mustard:

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In search of a good vegan hotdog, I bought the Redwood version and really liked them.  I didn’t have hot dog rolls (buns) so I used a tortilla heated in a frying pan and threw in some red onion and a Tofutti cheeze slice:

redwoodhotdog

I made some zucchini carrot fritters with chickpea flour but the kids didn’t like them, arghghghhhh:

chickpeafritters

The mega bag of sweet potatoes I asked my parents to buy me from Costco.  Don’t you think the super dude looks like an orange Mr Hankey?

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the colostomy version:

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I made a gluten free chocolate cake using a recipe I found online that called for some vegan yoghurt.  I didn’t like it at all, it had that ‘this is a gluten free cake’ taste about.  Know what I mean?  The sort of cake that makes people think GF cakes are yuck, when of course that is far from the truth!

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Arthur and I had a dvd movie night.  We watched the original ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ate home made pizza:

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A smoothie made with strawberries, spinach, hazelnut, banana and cacao:

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I made roasted cauliflower with almond meal and nooch and kinda forgot about it:

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And I made another batch of Sweet Potato Spiced Blondies, with less sugar.  Muuuch better with the reduced sugar in my opinion:

teablondies

Today I read that Lou Reed passed away, so I’ll leave you with Perfect Day.

Marbled Halva and the A-Z Bookish Survey

My parents visited this week to bring a bookcase over for Arthur’s bedroom.  Which meant lots of funtastic book sorting FOR ME, wheeee!  And dusting, boo.

My parents have always had the store bought halva, which is the grey variety made with tahini and sugar.  It’s popular around Lent as it is free of animal products.  A special treat when I was young was ‘halva sandwich’, which is as you may guess, a piece of halva between slices of bread.

‘Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free’ by Ricki Heller contains a much better halva recipe so I made it for my parents.  By the way, have you ever eaten halva followed by a mouthful of soft drink (fizzy drink like Coke)?  Do it and tell me if the sensation in your mouth is completely weird.  I’ve only tried this with the grey store bought halva.  DO IT DO IT.

So in case you can’t tell, I am really in to this cookbook and marbled halva was one of the top three recipes I just had to try.  It’s very simple to make (food processor, woo!) though the really difficult part is two fold: 1) not eating the mixture from the bowl and 2) not going to the fridge to ‘trim the edges’ when you know you will be serving it to guests the next day.

My parents really liked it even though they never buy the chocolate swirl halva.  I want to make this as part of Christmas gifts for people but I have to be able to keep it cool, which might not be easy in an Australian Christmas!  Looks like some people will be getting ice bricks and miniature cooler bags for Christmas too:

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Now truthfully, I’ve made this twice.  The halva above was made with the runny tahini.  It was runny because I didn’t realise that at the bottom of this big tub was a solid ball of tahini.  Whoops.  So I made it a second time using the Tahini Blob, to see how it would go.  The first batch with the runny tahini came together in a ball in the food processor, as the recipe states.  The second recipe, made with the big solid blob of tahini, did not come together in a ball.  It was still okay enough to pat in to a rectangle shape for chilling, but it would crumble more than the runny tahini version when I picked it up.  No difference in the super taste though!

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And now for something fun, thanks to Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe who dobbed me in on her blog for the A-Z Bookish Survey (of course I don’t mind as this was fun thinking about and I got to take photos of books so it’s all super).  Oh, ‘dob’ is Australian slang isn’t it?  To dob on someone is to tattle.  You know how Cindy Brady was called a tattle tale?  In Australia she’d be called a dobber.  If you want to tell your parents that your big brother has made a face at you (heaven forbid) you’d say to him “I’m dobbing on you”.  Okay cool, now you’re all Aussies.

Survey time!

Author you’ve read the most books from: Enid Blyton, both as a child and to my children.  And I know this isn’t one author but as a kid I read all the Choose Your Own Adventure books and the Trixie Beldens.  Does that count?  Is this where I admit to having read all those Sweet Dreams books and trying to work out which cover was the most insipid?  Jeepers! That honour goes to Laurie’s Song:

lauriessong

Best Sequel Ever: The Harry Potters!

Currently Reading: Nothing apart from cookbooks, which I like to read cover to cover when I first get them. A new cookbook means I find some quiet time and lie on the couch.  Though I’ve just been sorting out all the bookcases today and found stuff I want to read.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Nothing, I don’t want to risk spilling something on my book.

E-reader or Physical Book? Physical.

Physical

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: I don’t know about high school but boy that Julian from ‘The Naughtiest Girl is a Monitor’ books sure made an impression when I was a youngster. I wonder if he’s the reason I always ended up attracted to the brainiacs?

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman.  A long time ago it seemed everyone I knew was telling me to read Neil Gaiman and I was all yeahhh whateverrr your hero worshipness is FREAKING ME OUT.  So I never bothered.  Then one day I picked up American Gods cheap and really enjoyed it and other Neil titles since.  See, we’re on a first name basis now.

Hidden Gem Book: ‘The Potato’ by Larry Zuckerman.  Yay for potatoes!

Important Moment in your Reading Life: Reading ‘The Snow Queen’ when I was a child. It made me wonder how many people had slivers of glass in their eyes and hearts.  When I was older, I read ‘The Bell Jar’ and it really affected me.  Negatively, ha ha…

Just Finished: I recently finished ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ by Joan Didion.  I found this so moving and was astounded at reviews saying Joan Didion writes in a cold, clinical way and doesn’t show emotion.  I was shocked that these reviewers couldn’t see and feel the emotion, particularly grief, flying off the pages and smacking the reader in the face.  I’ve read a little of Joan Didion’s work and love the way she writes.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Romance novels, detective/CSI style books, goth horror type stuff, vampire stuff (I won’t watch those vampire tv shows either, I just got so sick of the whole Twilight vampire cashing in thing), books about war/war experience (too sad) or celebrities who consider themselves experts on parenting and publish a book after having their first child.

Longest Book You’ve Read:  Not sure, probably the Lord of the  Rings books one after the other 🙂

Major book hangover because of: probably Harry Potter. I loved the interviews with JK where she spoke about the feelings of loss she felt when she finally finished and I thought lady, I feel like that as the reader!

Number of Bookcases You Own: Quite a few: a bookcase that holds all my educational stuff (photo shows half of it as I’m moving furniture around):

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One small bookcase in DeeW’s room:

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I have a book display rack, as I’m moving books and games around this surface is all messy like:

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Then there are two large ones in Arthur’s room.  We started off with one, then my parents decided they didn’t need the matching one dad had made yeeeears ago (hence the colour, grey would not be up there (or down there) in my choice of bookcase colour).  So this week we got the matching case and I had to move books around the house to fill it:

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Arthur’s shelves contain a lot of my books from when I was young.  Only a few of the Trixie Beldens are mine, I always borrowed them repeatedly from the library.  Years ago I found an almost complete set on eBay.  That was a fine day, let me tell you:

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Then a big wall length lot of book cases we had built.  I’ve been going through these books in the last few days working out what to keep and what to move to Arthur’s bedroom.Please forgive the mess, I’m still sorting all these shelves:

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Then there are the cookbooks in my kitchen dresser.  My sister has a few of my vegan cookbooks so I’m missing some:

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Four mini bundt tins I found for a few bucks at Savers recently.  Did I need to buy them?  Of course not!

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One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: Oh this one’s easy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Years go by and then I’ll read it and laugh all over again.  Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ is another I enjoy.

Preferred Place To Read: In bed or on the couch with complete quiet, so I either have to be home alone or the kids have to be asleep.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: I don’t often remember the actual quotes but I remember how I felt and for this I don’t think I can go past Anne of Green Gables for so many things but this is the stand out: “Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn’t talk? If you say so I’ll stop. I can STOP when I make up my mind to it, although it’s difficult.”  I was often told to stop talking so much when I was little, and I do have the kind of name where I have to say “with an E”.  So I’m like “Anne with an E” and would have loved a kindred spirit bosom friend like her!

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Reading Regret: I read the first few pages of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.  ONLY because some friends were forcing me to see just how bad it was.  It was worse than I imagined and I feel robbed of those ten minutes I’ll never get back.

Series You Started And Need To Finish: Probably the rest of ‘The Eyre Affair’ by Jasper Fforde.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: The Hobbit, Stig of the Dump (Arthur loved both of these when I read them to him) and HHGTTG.

Stig

Unapologetic Fangirl For: Vegan cookbook authors!

Very Excited For This Release: MORE HARRY POTTER.  Please?

Worst Bookish Habit: borrowing stuff I never end up reading.

X Marks The Spot: (go to a bookcase and select the 24th book across) My cookbooks shelf is the closest to me right now so I’ve selected ‘Vegan on the Cheap’ by Robin Robertson.  From Arthur’s bookcases I randomly chose a starting point then ended up on ‘Thimble Summer’ by Elizabeth Enright.

Your latest book purchase: Some sewing and craft books for DeeW’s birthday present.  My latest cookbook purchases are Ricki Heller’s ‘Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free’ and ‘Vegan Food Gifts’ by Joni-Marie Newman.  I always order from Book Depository.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): Oh man… that would have to be *cough* ‘The Da Vinci Code’.  It was a case of “just one more chapter… just one chapter more…”

Thanks again to Johanna, it’s been fun reading other responses too.  It seems Harry Potter is a popular response!

Best Bean Brownies from Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free

So lately I’m on a baking roll with Ricki Heller’s ‘Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free’.  I’m really enjoying these recipes and seeing how Arthur and DeeW react.  Their reactions, and this book, are proof enough that you don’t need to bake with refined flours and sugars.

A recipe I marked was the Best Bean Brownies.  I’ve made brownies with beans before from different websites and cookbooks and they’ve all been blah.  You can either taste beans, or the final result was just moosh inside, or you were left feeling like “I may as well have poured a heap of sugar on a bowl of beans and eaten that”.  If I’m going to be baking something like bean brownies, they better be damn good!

And so it came to pass that I, not a lover of brownies, now consider these one of my favourite treats to bake.  First of all, things are thrown in the blender.  BRILLIANT.  Secondly, the recipe contains tahini and I loooove tahini and chocolate (I used my raw cacao powder).  Thirdly, I finally got to use the packet of teff flour I bought a while ago and it has been sitting in the freezer doing nothing.    I used canned cannellini beans so it really was so very easy.  Mix your wet ingredients with your sifted dry ingredients (which include psyllium husks), bake for about an hour, walk around the house Hoovering up the amazing baking-brownie smell and then sit down to stuff your face with THIS (yeah, I cut a big piece as soon as they were out of the oven, stuck it in the freezer and hopped around impatiently for it to cool down enough):

bestbeanbrownies

I love this recipe (the white choc chips made an appearance again) and Arthur loved it too.  I did use slightly less coconut sugar and they were great.  You absolutely can not pick up the flavour of beans.  I could taste the sunflower oil so if you don’t like that taste, perhaps another neutral flavoured oil would suit you.  I didn’t mind it at all, which is why I polished off most of the finished product.

I will definitely make this again and perhaps add some pecans or walnuts.  I’m planning on baking for Christmas gifts this year so if it’s not too hot to use the oven, these brownies will be a main feature  😀