I can’t breathe. Sometimes life just seems so busy, so hurried. My mind is like a bullet train going nowhere and I want to get off, or at least sit down with a cup of tea and a newspaper, but nobody will give me a seat.
Maybe it’s leaving my job to go part-time. Maybe it’s that we’ve just moved into a beautiful Victorian house that needs a LOT of work. Maybe it’s that I need to calm down and write more to-do lists out, perhaps go and find an early-blossoming rose and smell it. Whatever it is, I just don’t feel like I can fully relax. I’m sure many of you feel the same. I take comfort in that.
Often I bake to relax, but our new house has The World’s Worst Kitchen® (officially recognised), so until the new one is built it isn’t the most relaxing of pastimes. I need another outlet. I need life without a four-page to-do list. Maybe a massage.
I baked these cakey, chocolatey brownies with the kids. In a rubbish kitchen. Not relaxing. The flour flew, the kids fought over who got to stir first and the cleanup was rather excruciating. But the brownies turned out great, the kids were entertained and I was able to feed them brownies long enough to take a few pictures before the sun went down.
Sweet potatoes go so well with cinnamon that I thought I’d roast them in spice and sweet, gloopy maple syrup. They turned out magical. I could have eaten them as a treat on their own, but I haven’t baked cake in ages so… coconut oil chocolate brownies with maple-roasted sweet potato chunks. You can’t taste the potato, but the cinnamon flavour comes through and the coconut oil instead of butter gives these brownies a lovely cakey texture with that classic brownie-esque crispy top.
So sit with me a moment. Let’s relax together. Let’s eat brownies.
Pancake day, you beautiful ode to carb-laden breakfast. How have you not crossed the pond to North America yet? In the UK, every year we merrily celebrate this holiday (Shrove Tuesday), unquestioningly. Most aren’t really sure why, something or other to do with using up what’s in the house before lent. But nevertheless, we consume pancakes on this day.
Buckwheat? Scotch? Crepes or fluffy American-style? Whatever your pleasure, today is all about the pancake.
For these, I’ve shredded courgette (aka zucchini) into them, alongside great big chunks of dark chocolate. For the topping, I’ve made a maple yogurt to add that lovely sweet/sourness to offset the sweetness of the chocolate. Oh, and you do know, don’t you, that the addition of a vegetable completely counteracts any naughtiness in the chocolate? Definitely.
I hadn’t even heard of kale a few years ago. Then, suddenly, it is my favourite vegetable EVER. As a massive vegetable lover I don’t say that lightly – even in the run up to Valentine’s day. In smoothies, soups, stews, cold salads, hot salads and… in zingy, lemony muffins!
I do love a muffin. They’re like the cupcake’s studious big sister who excelled in school and never went off the rails. The one who really wanted to sneak out of the house at night to meet boys but never did. The one who never saw the inside of the detention room. But mostly I like muffins because they’re the acceptable face of cake for breakfast. Especially when there’s vegetable in that cake. And even more especially when that vegetable is kale, the trendy younger sister who was in a band and hung out with the skaters (sound the 1990s-reference klaxon).
When I was young, my parents grew tomatoes in containers out on the back porch. Any that fell from the vines of their own accord were left in brown paper bags on the windowsill to ripen. There I was, so lucky to have a steady stream of freshly-picked ripe tomatoes, but I remember wishing that we could have pale ones that didn’t smell, like I got at my friends’ houses. How young, how foolish. Now, if I’m perusing a farmer’s market and I get that familiar strong smell of vine-ripened tomatoes, instead of rolling my eyes and wallowing in teenage angst, I always pick up a few. My perfect sandwich is a ripe, dark tomato, pickled gherkins and American mustard. A bit of red onion if I’m feeling feisty.
I’ve been juicing, smoothing and souping for Jumpstart15. I’ve got together with some blogger friends to squash vegetables and get healthy for 2015. Not a detox, not a diet (Hi, dark chocolate! *waves and munches on a piece*), but eating veg and feeling better.
My breakfasts have been a beautiful rainbow of vegetable juices or smoothies and my lunch has been soups. I’m also doing Veganuary (eating vegan all month), so my dinners have been stews, stir fries and hot salads.
Smoothies are often sweet, so for this one I thought I’d go savoury. With a few beautiful, pungently-ripe tomatoes in the kitchen, there was only one thing for it: Bloody Mary Smoothie!
I’ve been eating more vegetables for January. I’ve never really been one for New Years resolutions, but this year I decided to take part in Jumpstart15 and Veganuary. I’m so glad that I did. I’ve been squashing vegetables, squishing vegetables, juicing them, pureeing them, chomping on them raw. I always know that eating more veg will make me feel better, but after hitting the cheeseboard with too much gusto over Christmas it has been great to go back to my beloved veggies. No calorie counting, and not dieting. Just eating vegetable smoothies in the mornings, soups for lunch and making sure it’s all vegan.
I’ve been a vegetarian for years, but now I’ve gone completely vegan for January. I really thought that it would restrict what I eat more than it has. I’ve had my usual smoothies and soups and for dinner we have had Moroccan chickpea and squash stew, hearty bean and kale soups, adzuki bean and spinach chilli, wholemeal pasta with cauliflower alfredo sauce… I’ve swapped out the sneaky bites of cheese that I sometimes had for snacks and have a steady supply of veggies to dip into hummous. Treats? I have dark chocolate, dark chocolate covered rice cakes (I LOVE these) and there are plenty of vegan biscuits in the shops should I so desire. Almond Dream kindly sent me some samples vegan almond-milk ice creams that are delicious. I often have nut milks in the house, store-bought or homemade in the blender, but I haven’t found one that I like in my coffee so I’ve started to have it black. I’ve been trying to start my days with hot water, lemon and ginger and also to remember to drink more water. So far, going vegan has been quite easy. Wait, there was that blip in a cafe the other day when I forgot and had a cappuccino that wasn’t vegan. But I forgive myself.