What I Ate (and got rid of, including food disasters) This Past Week or So

This past fortnight has been decluttering time.  About once a year I do one of those big declutters and my front hallway is filled with boxes of stuff to get rid of.  Then over the year I seem to accumulate enough stuff so that the process is repeated again twelve months later.  And I always say WHERE? HOW? WHY DO WE ACCUMULATE SO.MUCH.STUFF???

I’ve been reading some home organisation books and websites to get inspiration.  I honestly can not sit down to do work, or meal plan, or even craft activities with the kids if I don’t have a large cleared table or surface to work on.  If the kids are trying to do schoolwork, stuff around them distracts them.  I find it very distracting too. I’ve also been reading about minimalist homes and take my hat off to people who do it and do it well.  But I’m guilty of liking stuff too much and I have lots of little knick knack dust gatherers that I’d never part with.

Anyway, I’ve been ruthless with getting rid of stuff and here’s the list of what has been given away, donated, eBayed or binned:

– a drawer’s worth of kitchen utensils.  Goodbye, silicon pancake shaper thingies in the shape of a circle and a star.  Goodbye wooden ginger grater that I never used.  Goodbye metal template thingies that sit over a mug of hot chocolate so you can create pretty shapes with sprinklings of cocoa.  Goodbye metallic contraption where I don’t even know what the heck you were.

– slow cooker.  I barely used it before I was vegan.  Now it’s not worth keeping as nobody eats the vegan stuff I’d cook in it! My sister in law will be getting this one 🙂

– a big box of about 30 plastic coathangers.  I use those velvetty/felt lined thin coathangers that take up less space in the wardrobe.  They do make a bit of a difference.

– nappies and assorted baby items.  These are going to my niece.

– lots of Arthur’s clothing and shoes that no longer fit him, or that he just never wore.  I give things like this to St. Kilda Mums.  They’re a great organisation, please consider giving them your unwanted baby/kids goods!  Please also consider casting your vote for St Kilda Mums to help them win $5000 that will be put towards providing essential items for babies and children experiencing hardship, so they have a safe, warm place to sleep: http://sunsuperdreams.com.au/dream/view/providing-a-safe-place-to-sleep

– food serving stuff.  A melamine food container I never used that just took up space and a metal platter that has always been a pain to store.  A faux silver serving dish engraved with “thanks for your work”– it was a gift to my sister when she finished her two week year 10 work experience at a pharmacy.  She passed it on to me and now it’s time to go.  But as I type I feel like keeping it.

– mini food chopper: Used once.  I use a knife or food processor most of the time so this has been given to my sister.

– clothing.  Lots of stuff I no longer wear is heading to the op shop or Fitted For Work, another charity I recommend you consider if you have work/business attire to get rid of.

– shoes.  A few pairs that seemed like a good idea when I bought them but highly uncomfortable after wearing them for ten minutes.

– books. On their way to the op shops.

– paper stuff.  I went through the drawer where I throw in warranties and instruction manuals.  I found manuals for electricals I got rid of ages ago.  I found the manual for the microwave and now know how to use the power level setting instead of randomly punching numbers and hoping I get the sequence right.

In addition to physical clutter, I’ve also tried to cut down on the mental clutter.  For such a long time now I’ve toyed with the idea of no longer reading the news.  All it takes is for me to see an article, or even a headline, that then causes me to feel upset/depressed/sick– things relating to children (particularly those with special needs) or animals being hurt is enough to kill my mood, cause trouble sleeping and all sorts of other stressful stuff.  I’m very sensitive to all that.  A couple of weeks ago I read one such article that affected me so badly that we changed the configuration of our internet servers to block my access to the popular news sites (I never watch tv news or listen to the radio much so that wasn’t a problem).  I found that all the bad news I was reading really began to take its toll.  I also unsubscribed from various online services and Facebook pages to reduce the mental clutter and stress triggers even more.  Do I really need to be subscribed to a dozen recipe services when I barely read them?  Nope!  I always wanted to stay on top of world news and current affairs, but when so much of that is just bad news, I’m happy to skip it.  I figure I’ll find out about things anyway but at least I won’t load up news sites and be confronted with distressing images or headlines first thing in the morning.

Okay, so here’s a look at what I’ve been eating this fortnight or so.  Oh my gosh you guys, lots of disasters.  And I swear I don’t eat crap all the time.  I’ve been pretty sick with a bad cold so my appetite wasn’t the best.  In an effort to start using up food supplies instead of shopping for more, I made the ‘Chesapeake Crab Cakes’ from Vegan Brunch.  There was vegan mayo in the fridge that had to be consumed soon as well as tempeh that had been in the freezer for too long.  I used half the tempeh called for and subbed the rest with chickpeas.  The kids didn’t like the cakes at all and I don’t think I’d ever make them for myself.  I still can’t bring myself to like tempeh enough to buy it again and I don’t like mayo in such quantities:

crabcakes

For Mothers Day, I received some items from Vege2Go on Lygon Street in Brunswick.  I got the pear and blueberry quinoa breakfast.  This was okay as I’m not crazy about quinoa and only eat it because it’s a good source of plant protein (remember folks, you absolutely do not need to eat animals for protein, you can get more than enough from plants.  I believe Harvard and Cornell U will tell you so).  The sweetness was just right in that it wasn’t too sweet at all.  If you love quinoa I’m sure you’ll like this.  I served mine with some stewed plums made by my mother in law, with plums from her tree:

quinoaplums

I also received Vege2go’s hazelnut tiramisu.  On first tasting, I thought hmmm there’s something about this that makes me think it should not be called tiramisu.  A couple of bites in and I was really enjoying it.  It was hard work not eating it all in one sitting:

vege2gotiramisu

The Vege2go coconut lemon slice was an absolute winner.  I love anything that has lemon and coconut in it.  I really hope I find a recipe for something like this because it would absolutely win over the people who don’t believe desserts can be made without egg or dairy:

vege2golemoncoconutslice

Finally, I received the Vege2go lasagna.  This was nice too but I could easily make one similar myself.  Still, it was nice to have a few meals out of this for myself without having to cook anything.  Note the microwave splatter pattern:

vege2golasagna

The family wanted pizza one night so I asked the local place if they could make a vegan pizza.  They did, but it was pretty bland:

veganpizza

For Mothers Day, I treated myself to a movie (Star Trek: Into Darkness).  I have not been to the cinema in years (I’m not including taking Arthur to see The Croods, I’m talking about films I want to see).  Beforehand, I killed some time eating this from Little India, located in the food court at the Crown complex. Little India is in a few food courts around town, I blogged about another Little India outlet here:

littleindialunch

While I was sick I felt like eating something hot and spicy so I made Black Pepper Tofu that I’ve blogged about before and ate it with rice:

blackpeppertofu

For one late breakfast I had the leftovers from Magic Mint:

magicmintleftovers

I visited the lovely Cafe Sarabella again and came away with a vegan laksa and rice:

laksarice

I tried the Jerk Chickpeas from Dreena Burton’s ‘Let Them Eat Vegan’.  The kids and husband, as expected, didn’t like them but they never eat chickpeas.  I thought they were okay, although allspice is one of those things I’m really on the fence about:

jerkchickpeas

I decided I would try to make my own corn tortillas.  I found the packet of maize flour that has been sitting in the cupboard for a year and the best before date was two days ago.  Now this will tell you what a hack I am.  I have a metal tortilla press I bought months ago but haven’t used yet.  I thought you put the tortilla dough in it, squash it down and have the whole thing sitting on the stove over a flame.  Thank goodness I used the recipe from ‘Vegan Eats World’ where Terri mentions using plastic wrap.  And I thought oh… that must mean the tortilla press is not supposed to get hot.  NO VEGANOPOULOUS. NO.  It’s just a tortilla press.  Anyway, I made up the mixture and did this:

tortilla1

Step 2.  Give it a squish, open, and let out an expletive. More photography for blog:

tortilla2

Fry it anyway, just to see what it tastes like:

tortilla3

… and realise it tastes disgusting.  Go to google, type in “is maize flour the same as masa harina” then read lots of comments saying  NO THEY’RE NOT.  Throw dough in the bin.

Here’s a picture of DeeW’s dinner.  Macro brand curry corn pumpkin puffs (she doesn’t like them, Arthur does) and vegies (she likes them, Arthur doesn’t):

deewdinner

After ballet class, Husband sometimes takes DeeW to buy some avocado maki hand rolls.  They picked up a couple for me.  They’re not very fresh looking:

avocadomaki

I made blueberry breakfast muffins with buckwheat flour I ground myself (in the blender of course).  They weren’t very sweet which is fine with me but Arthur wasn’t that thrilled:

blueberrybuckwheat

I found a vegan mushroom pie in the freezer.  It was okay but I don’t really like to eat stuff like this.  Even as an omni I was never in to the meat pie thing.  There’s a reason why meat pies are called ‘gristle ‘n gravy’.  I’m so glad that being vegan means I will no longer have to bite in to something hard in a meat pie and wonder which bit of the animal it is:

veganmushroompie

Another disaster.  I made the lovely Mac-Oh-Geez recipe from one of Dreena Burton’s fantastic books.  Everything went great until I tasted it.  And realised the rice milk I used was obviously the sweetened variety.  The kids said it was awful and I agreed.  Sorry Dreena, next time I will read the plant milk carton and use the unsweetened variety like your recipes states.  I’m certain it is a fantastic recipe with the right milk:

pastabake

I love roasted hazelnuts and lately my breakfast has been a smoothie made with frozen bananas, cacao, plant milk and hazelnuts:

chochazelnut


I went in to the city as well during the week. Here are some photos taken around the Flagstaff area in Melbourne, where you’ll find the law courts and the lovely Flagstaff Gardens:

city2

city3

city4

city1

This is the lobby of the Hellenic Museum:

hellenic1

One of the old trams in Melbourne:

oldtram

No, this isn’t the wild Australian bush.  It’s in the eastern suburbs somewhere:
eastbush

This week I am going to try and create menu plans based on what I already have.  I just read a post over at Happy Herbivore where a reader says she made every recipe from Happy Herbivore Abroad and that her family were all on board.  I suppose I shouldn’t have a defeatist mindset but I really don’t think my family would go along with something like that.  Both kids and Husband have food related sensitivities, as I’ve mentioned before, that qualify them as very fussy eaters.  This is really difficult for me sometimes, as I can rarely cook one meal that everyone will eat.  Naturally, we all agree on dessert but in terms of nutritious meals, it’s incredibly challenging and I’m often struggling to keep my head above water there.  It’s crazy, having to cook separate meals.  So I’m constantly having to try different recipes in the hopes both kids will like them.  If I can get both Arthur and DeeW to like the same meal, that’s a big problem solved right there.  With Husband, at least he can eat the same thing for days in a row so if I make something he likes, or he makes something himself, that problem is solved.

Well, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?  I may never have a table setting like this, where I serve up vegies in lovely serving dishes and the kids argue over who gets the leafy greens first:

family-dinner

but I’m trying lots of different recipes and I’m sure I’ll find more the kids like.  Tomorrow’s plan is chickpea flour pikelets with vegies– the ingredients are chickpea (besan) flour, water, seasonings and whatever grated veg I can come up with.  On the plus side, the kids are willing to try more stuff!

Meal planning: Week 1 that was

My weekly meal planning plan, which I discussed here, has gone mostly pretty well.  More veggies were consumed by the family (unknowingly in some cases) and I felt so much more organised.  I love not having to stress out about what I’m going to make.

On Monday the kids had sausage rolls.  Husband and I had black pepper sneaky tofu and veg on plain steamed rice.  Arthur’s snack was a smoothie made with non dairy milk, cinnamon, Udo’s Choice Essential Oil Blend, overripe banana, baby spinach and cooked pumpkin.  He didn’t know about the veg.  I made him these smoothies throughout the week.  I also made a banana bread based on the recipe by Joann over at Woman In Real Life.  I had some passionfruit to use up so I had a bit of vegan margarine on my slice of banana bread, topped with passionfruit:

smoothie2

kidssmoothie

blackpepperveg

bananabread1

bananabread2

For Tuesday’s breakfast Arthur had asked for toast and hazelnut milk.  Lunch for Husband was the leftover rice and black pepper veg.  The kids had a sausage roll and the sausage roll filling made in to a burger (baked along with the sausage rolls).  Ultimately I want the kids to move away from the puff pastry and just eat the filling although a once in a while sausage roll is fine by me.  My lunch was packet mix falafel (just add water and cook) on a bed of salad greens and tomato, with homemade hummus to help wash it down.  Those packet mix falafel are really dry.  Dinner plans were leftovers but Husband had stopped at a Lebanese bakery and got me some zaatar bread so I had that instead:

falafelsalad

zaatar

Wednesday’s breakfast was just fruit, it was more a brunch as we all woke up late.  For lunch we made vegan Hawaiian/Tropical pizza.  In Australia this pizza is topped with ham, cheese and pineapple.  I used a vegan bbq ham and the pale Tofutti cheese slices with a tin of sliced pineapple.  They turned out okay but they weren’t great enough to repeat.  Dinner was kritharaki and some veg:

vegantropicalpizza

kritharakiveg

Thursday’s breakfast was supposed to be ‘breakfast crumble’ which is more healthy than your traditional crumble.  The fruit layer was made up of apples, sweet potato, rhubarb (these three finely chopped in the food processor), currants, cranberries and frozen blueberries.  The topping was a mix of oats, ground pecans and walnuts, a flour made from a five-grain porridge mix, a little brown sugar (not much), cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves (ground), coconut oil and some vegan margarine.  Dinner for me was supposed to be falafel, hummus and veg sticks but I had an ulcer in my mouth which made it painful to eat foods with a crunch, or falafel.

I had a nice unexpected treat (well, as unexpected as you can get with “Husband, you’ll be driving within a 50 kilometre radius of Mr Nice Guy’s and I see he has the peanut butter brownie cheesecake today, you know what you have to do”).  This is the first time I’ve tried a peanut butter chocolate version of a cheesecake and it was lovely.  The base is chocolate and the filling isn’t, so there was no overpowering chocolatyness for me, yay.  I wanted to photograph it in suitable surroundings, like a glorious field full of lavender with humming bees and fluttering butterflies but all I had were the lavender bushes in my front yard.  And I had to zoom in so you wouldn’t see my rubbish bins.  Anyway I had half the cheesecake and put the other half aside for my mum.  Arthur had his usual cinnamon bun.  Mr Nice Guy’s told Husband to inform Arthur that the recipe had changed.  Arthur’s verdict? “This new cinnamon bun version 2 is even better than version 1, HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?”  Geez he cracks me up:

peanutbutterbrowniecheesecake

For Friday, I hadn’t filled in my meal planner as I wanted to see how I would go with leftovers.  As expected, this was a more disorganised day in the kitchen.  I took note of the things in the fridge that needed to be used up: the mushrooms, coriander, dill and wonton wrappers (or wanton wrappers as we call them in my fam, I went to Costco with my mum once and she was asking the staff for the ‘wanton soup’, I just stood by and let her keep on askin’).  I’d been leafing through ‘Vegan Brunch’ and noted the pierogi.  So  I made two fillings, one with mashed potato, onions and dill.  The other was food processor-chopped mushrooms and coriander.  They were okay but too fiddly and time consuming for me to repeat again, unless I had fifty hands on deck:

pierogi

On Saturday I made up this monkey platter of fruit for the kids which, mercifully, they ate most of.  What didn’t get eaten made it in to a banana bread cake (leftover zucchini and broccoli also disappeared in to the cake, ssshhh.  Yay for blenders). Dinner was again unplanned so I made some packaged chickpea-sunflower seed burgers and packaged curried pumpkin-corn balls, served with veggies.  As expected the kids didn’t like the burgers but Arthur scoffed down the pumpkin corn balls so hallelujah, I now have something else he will eat and I will try to make my own version.    I also made myself some cheezy coconutty chickpeas and kale, one of my favourite quick kale recipes:

fruitmonkeyplatter

bananavegbread

chickpeaburgersandkale

Here’s a closer look at my kitchen cooking area:

kitchenalcove

My house was built in 1930 and this is the original cooking alcove.  Now, I found that people who have never used a little alcove like this often say oh how gorgeous!  People who have experience cooking in an alcove often say “when are you getting rid of it”.  Our last house had an alcove too and when we were buying this house I inwardly groaned.  I love original features of homes but cooking this way is a complete pain.  I can’t see the contents of pots on the rear burners properly.  Husband is really tall and has banged his head too many times.  One time I was sticking my head in the alcove to see what was in the rear pan and oil splattered in my eye.  My instant reaction was jumping back and I banged my head hard.  Not only that, the mortar from inside the chimney keeps falling off in chunks so my pots and pans must always be covered.  And that little window doesn’t let much light in, at least not where I need it.  I love the white tiles though and the new kitchen will have the same. We’re hoping to renovate this year and I am getting a much bigger stove-oven setup, this one is way too small and I can’t fit larger pots and pans together.

Tomorrow (Sunday) will just be leftovers.  Must admit I get sick of leftovers.  For next week I’ll try spaghetti for the kids (I’ll use buckwheat noodles) with some kind of healthy veg-lentil sauce sweetened with roast sweet potato.  I’m also hoping to try a lasagna where the ‘meat’ sauce is made from cauliflower and walnuts.  See you then!