Bento Du Jour – Autumn

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Kim Chi Fried Rice – Nori-wrapped Tofu ‘Fillet’ – Edamame & Petits Pois – Pak Choy & Coriander Stalk Gyoza – Sugar-free Blueberry Coconut Mini Muffin – Grandma’s Cucumber, Tomatoes and Table Grapes – Mandarin

 

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Red Lentil & Chard Dhal with Steamed Basmati Rice & Paratha – Coconut & Raspberry Chia Pudding – Brown Rice & Quinoa Crackers – Vegetarian ‘Ham’ – Home-pickled Gerkin – Sauerkraut

 

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Green & Yellow Courgette Fritters – Red Bean and Kale Cassoulet – Tomato ‘Escargots’ – Roasted Beet Cubes – Fermented Gerkins – Pitted Dates – Crackers – Fairtrade Banana

 

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Spicy Black Beans with Baby Leeks and Spinach – White Quinoa with Capsicum – Avocado – Tomato & Cucumber Salsa – Corn on the Cob – Herb Wrap – Black Boy Peaches – Sauvignon Blanc Grapes

 

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Quinoa & Rice Fusilli with Wild Mushroom Ragu – Raw Capsicum – Avocado – Petits Pois – Vegetarian Sausage – Roasted Cauliflower with Cumin & Nigella Seeds – Courgette, Basil & Spinach Mini Muffins – Kalamata Olives – Kiwifruit – Pear Compote

 

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Maple & Miso-Glazed Aubergine with Sushi Rice and Edamame – Roasted Nori – Pak Choy & Coriander Stalk Gyoza – Quinoa Crackers – Nut-free Tahini & Linseed Raw Balls – Avocado – Wild Apple Compote

 

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Ratatouille with Wholemeal Cous Cous – Garlic & Herb Fried Spaghetti Squash – Pickled Lebanese Cucumber – Beetroot Leaf Fataya – Wholemeal Pita Bread – Hummus – Kalamata Olives – Fairtrade Banana

 

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Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Agria Potatoes and Nutritional Yeast – Golden Beets – Petits Pois – Courgette, Basil & Spinach Mini Muffin – Avocado – Cucumber & Capsicum Sticks – Fejoa – Coconut Yoghurt  – Pear

 

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Miso Fried Rice – Nori-wrapped Tofu ‘fillets’ – Garlic & Sesame Broad Beans – Crackers – Tahini & Vegemite Mini ‘Escargots’ – Fairtrade Banana – Sugar-free Coconut & Raspberry Cake

 

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Penne with Roasted Vegetable Ragu – Fresh Tomato – Crumbled Broad Bean and Chickpea Falafel – Brown Rice & Quinoa Crackers – Wholemeal Ciabatta – Nut-free Tahini & Linseed Raw Balls – Roasted Nori – Homemade Cornichons – Fairtrade Banana

 

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Red Rice Noodles with Japanese Turnip, Pak Choy & Spring Onion – Baked Sesame Tofu Fingers – Courgette, Basil & Spinach Mini Muffins – Mandarin – Tahini, Cucumber & Vegemite Petits Escargots – Spray-free Grape Halves – Coconut Yoghurt

 

Bento Du Jour – Autumn

Tumeric Pickled Courgettes

*I used 2x medium-sized jars – about 270ml

2 medium courgettes, halved (or quartered lengthways) and sliced

1/2 finely sliced red onion (or 1 spring onion)

2 tbs cheap salt (approx)

2 jar-fulls of vinegar

4 tablespoons sugar

1 tsp dried dill

1 tsp peppercorns

2 tsp black mustard seeds

1tsp ground turmeric (or use fresh if you can be arsed, I can’t)

1/2 tbs good salt

So, here’s what you do:

Use your jars to measure out some vinegar into a saucepan and then sterilise jars in boiling water or oven (google it). Chop your courgettes and onion, sprinkle thoroughly with salt, toss to coat and leave in a bowl for 10-20 mins. Move courgettes into a colander, rinse under cold water then leave to drain in colander for 10-15 mins. While these are draining, get your pan of vinegar and add sugar, peppercorns, mustard seeds, tumeric and salt. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes. Check your salt-sugar ration by giving it a wee taste. Adjust if needed. Add dried dill. Stuff the drained courgette pieces into your jars, top with hot pickling liquid, close lids tightly and store in fridge.

I have no idea how long these last for as we keep eating them too quickly! They’re already delicious after 24 hours but best after 10 days.

Bon Ap!

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Tumeric Pickled Courgettes

Early Autumn Savoury Muffins

I never want to see another courgette. Ever. Or at least until next Summer after several months of limp-dick supermarket zucchs at a million dollars per kilo. This year we had a glut. It’s been great but I have pickled, preserved, frittered, fried, gratin-ed and made a freezer-load of rattatouille and I’m officially over them. Here is my last-ditch effort to use up the final few while sneaking green stuff into my toddler’s lunchbox.

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 Courgette, Spinach and Basil Mini Muffins

1 Cup grated zucchini
a few spinach leaves
1/4 small red onion or 1 spring onion
2-3 sundried tomatoes
a handful fresh basil leaves

3/4 Cup soy or almond milk (preferably unsweetened)
5 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

2 Cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon mixed dried herbs or fresh chopped parsley (optional)

Finely grate courgette (if you squeeze liquid out of the courgette you’ll need to add slightly more milk later on.) Finely chop onion, dried tomatoes, basil leaves and spinach, mix with courgette and set aside.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Combine milk, vinegar and oil in a small bowl.

Mix flour, yeast flakes, pepper, salt, baking powder, baking soda and dried herbs in a larger bowl then add liquids and veggies. Stir to combine but don’t over-mix. Add a little extra liquid if the mixture is too thick. Spoon into mini muffin tray and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden. Makes roughly 20 mini muffins.

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Early Autumn Savoury Muffins

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream.

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Sleep deprivation is not what I had imagined. Before having a child I was pretty sure I knew was tiredness felt like .. I’d partied, and run half-marathons, and taken double long-haul flights. Turns out this assumption is just another to add to a list I like to call, “Things I Was Wrong About Before I Had A Baby.”

The unrelenting, insidious, consuming reality of baby-induced sleep deprivation is quite unrelated to ‘tiredness.’ It’s another beast altogether.

It is never, ever resting.

It is ending a busy day shift with a needy baby or a busy toddler – exhausted and ready to collapse, only to start the dreaded Night Shift.

It is spending every evening whispering, tip-toeing and on edge, waiting for your child to wake.

It is watching the clock for the ‘end of the hour’ so you’re mentally prepared to get up and settle the baby.

It is going to bed with the anxiety of not knowing if you will have 2 seconds of rest, or 4 hours before you have to force your eyes open and drag yourself out of your warm horizontal heaven to deal with the needs of another human, who cannot tell you why they are not asleep and who may be awake for 5 minutes or 2 hours.

It is whisper-fighting with your partner about who’s turn it is, how much noise they’re making, the light, the temperature, who is in more desperate need of sleep, that time they accidentally flushed the toilet.

It is knowing exactly how many hours of sleep you have had, because for 14 months you have spent every night counting the hours – knowing that if you have less than 4 you will have to cancel everything but more than 5 and you can have a reasonable day if you drink enough coffee.

It is exhausted, murderous thoughts in the middle of the night – not the kind that you could actually do, but the, “oh, the baby’s face is getting close to that pillow, I’d better move it… well at least it would shut her up and I could go to the fuck to sleep,” *moves pillow* kind.

It is lying awake when the baby actually sleeps because, 1. you’re worried they’ll wake, 2. you’re worried they won’t wake and it probably means they’re dead, 3. you’re worried about climate change.

Yes, this is the ‘natural parenting way’ and yes, we chose to have a child and no, parenthood is not a daytime-only thing, and apparently we’re not the only parents in the world that aren’t sleeping even though it usually feels like it, and it’s temporary and blah blah blah.

But here’s the plot twist – I wish we’d trained. I wish we’d cried-it-the-fuck-out. Maybe not at 6 months but 10 months for sure. By then the baby mostly cried from habit and displeasure rather than actual issues. But we don’t let our baby cry. What kind of monster does that? Friends would tell us about holding each other down to stop them from attending to their screaming baby and honestly, that sounded sick to us.

So we let the madness continue, and then she was 14 months old and I had not slept one entire night since her birth. I was getting 5-6 hours of broken sleep per night. I couldn’t work effectively, or even follow long conversations. Our whole family was suffering. And worst of all, my daughter was exhausted, constantly overtired. Her 1 year old sleep regression had stretched into 4 months of extra sleeplessness, with 2-3 unsettled hours per night, regardless of cuddling, rocking, feeding, co-sleeping. I watched as she desperately wanted to fall back to sleep but was unable to. She cried and grizzled and tossed and turned. She would fall asleep only to wake again after 10 minutes. Until the day I reached my ‘natural parenting’ limit.

My husband was at work. My daughter had woken three times in the two hours since I’d put her to bed and I knew she was ramping up for a long unsettled period so I wouldn’t get any downtime that evening. I heard her stir…and I.just.didn’t.move. I couldn’t. I could not spend one more second leaning over her cot with my back throbbing in pain. I could not shhh or pat or cuddle or feed for 1 second more. I just couldn’t. So she cried. And I listened. It wasn’t blood-curdling as I’d feared. It was complaining. It was grizzling and then it was pissed off. And I sat and listened – my heart breaking but my mind firm. After 15 minutes I went in. I gave her a quick cuddle, explained that she was now old enough to fall asleep alone, I told her I loved her and she was safe, I tucked her in and walked back out of the room. And after two more visits, one nappy change, a very large glass of wine, a lot of second-guessing, encouraging self-talk, and intellectualizing, she stopped crying. She fell asleep on her own for the very first time.

That was almost a month ago and she has slept for 11-12 hours per night ever since. Just that one hour of crying and our lives have completely changed.

I recognise my face again. I’m nicer, and so is my toddler. I care about the problems of my friends again. I like my husband again.

I spent so long believing that it can’t be kind parenting to let your baby cry because it goes against your instincts, but the problem is ‘instinct’ is one hell of a fuzzy concept. What can feel like instinct is sometimes closer to emotion (especially when you’re tired AF), and emotions are not the same as instincts.

The truth is, because I let my child suffer for one hour, we have both suffered FAR LESS since. She cries a fraction of the amount that she used to. At some point in her first year we decided we had a ‘bad sleeper.’ We did every single gentle training technique. We bought shushers and Lulla Dolls, we co-slept, but she would not sleep. That was our family’s karma, and would be our life for as long as it took. And yet here she is – sleeping. Sleeping like a ‘good sleeper.’ And we are free from zombie-parenting, back-crunching, co-sleeping-from-2am Hell.

So yes, it turns out, we do let our baby cry. We are those monsters. It seems so obvious (now that I can string a thought together) that kind parenting can and must include teaching important, difficult lessons (at appropriate stages).

One of the truest things I heard when I was pregnant is that you don’t know what kind of parent you’ll be until you are one. It seems to be a lesson I need to learn over and over again – that listening to my own gut and paying attention to my own child is far more useful than any article, myth, study, mum’s group or blog. I only hope that the next time my daughter needs me to be a hard-arse for her own good, I can ‘woman-up.’ I’m sure  this new toddler phase will offer an opportunity or two…

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream.

Bento Du Jour

My toddler has started attending crèche one day per week. One of the (many) unexpected highlights of this new phase is lunchbox preparation – although I must confess that if I had more than one child attending school five days a week this activity would quickly become tedious. If you’re in that boat and need some inspiration, feel free to take a peek into these lunchboxes:

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Sticky Rice with Toasted Nori – Spring Onion and Sesame Omelette (from Grandpa’s happy hens) – Avocado with Fresh Salsa-  Brown Rice Crackers – Organic Homemade Ciabatta – Grandma’s Cucumber – Heirloom Tomato – Peach Slices – Coconut Yogurt.

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Sesame & Shiitake Rice Noodle Salad – Hummus on Wholewheat – Ratatouille – Herb-Crusted Vegetarian Sausage – Brown Rice Crackers – Fairtrade Banana

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Quinoa Spaghetti with Basil and Carrot Top Pesto & Grated Courgette – Organic Green Pitted Olives – 5 Grain Bread with Sun Dried Tomato Hummus – Herb and Tomato Lentils – Grandma’s Cucumber Slices – Wholewheat Crackers – Roasted Nori Sheets – Auntie Liz’s Fresh Peach Slices.

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Fusilli with Broccoli & Sunflower Seed ‘Cheese’ Sauce – Cherry Tomatoes – Pitted Kalamata Olives – Homemade Fermented Gerkins – Plum – Avocado – Homemade Organic Ciabatta with Vegemite & Hummus.

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Potato & Courgette Gratin – White Beans with Garlic and Herbs – Sesame Stir Fried Green Beans and Frys ‘Chicken’ Strips – Wholewheat Crackers – Plums – Fruit Salad – Coconut Yogurt.

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Black Lentil, Pea and Potato Curry – Paratha – Coconut Yogurt – Avocado – Fresh Cold Tofu – Plums – Cucumber Sticks

Bento Du Jour

On Breastfeeding and Dairy Products

As I’ve spoken about before on this blog, I had a really hard time breastfeeding my daughter. It hurt like hell for weeks, then just a little for months and months. On top of that I suffered from a little-talked-about condition where my hormonal response to milk let down was backwards, causing a wave of sadness to come over me every time I fed my baby – which is a massive downer when you’re feeding all day and night! But as the months passed I almost started Not hating it. By 10 months I almost even enjoyed it.

Now my daughter is 1 year old – the point where I was sure I would stop breastfeeding – and I’ve actually started to savour our feeds. She feeds far less and can happily skip a feed or take a bottle of plant-milk, so I am officially released from my ‘breastfeeding prison,’ and now, I can finally say that I understand why people are ‘into’ breastfeeding.

But along with that understanding comes an increased bafflement that any lactating human woman on Earth could possibly drink milk from a cow.

Boom. There it is. Cow milk lovers will no doubt click elsewhere at this point but I hope you don’t, as I don’t intend to attack. I am simply baffled. When one understands the hormones, the relationship, the science and the spirit of breastfeeding one’s child, how does someone willingly deprive another mother and child of that experience simply to sate a desire for cheese?

I want to mention at this point that this is not about breastfeeding vs formula. If there were decent plantmilk formulas available in NZ I ABSOLUTELY would have stopped breastfeeding prior to now. Without good alternatives, cow or goat milk formulas are often necessary. And I honestly have not an ounce of ‘see, I hung in there and it got easier’ smugness… only ‘thank Christ this isn’t awful anymore’ relief. This conversation is purely about seeing your own body create milk and then downing a big ol’ glass of breast milk from another species.

I do understand the cognitive dissonance people use daily to consume meat, to buy cheap clothes or throw plastic bags into the landfill, but when you’re a mother, particularly when breastfeeding, how do you mentally disconnect from the reality of what cow milk is and who it is really intended for?

I would go so far as to say that the consumption of dairy products is entirely anti-motherhood. The dairy industry exploits and destroys the mother-child biological bond, and, after personally experiencing pregnancy and breastfeeding, I can honestly say that being kept pregnant, having my babies taken from me, and being hooked up to a milk pump every day is literally my idea of the worst kind of hell.

Mothers Against Dairy expresses it well: “At its core, animal agriculture is based on sexual violation, reproductive subjugation and exploitation, and on the objectification and violent domination of vulnerable bodies. It is also based on the destruction of animal families.”

After almost 20 years of veganism, I have become exhausted and mostly private in my activism. I tend to promote vegan food and ‘set a good example’ these days because outrage, anger, aggression and debates can feel futile and even counter-productive. But this is one topic I have to discuss. It feels personal. It literally makes me feel sick in the stomach and heart.

So I’m asking the question: as women in the world, as people who can understand clearly what the modern dairy industry is and does, isn’t it our responsibility to bring attention to this topic? Is it not up to us – as the carers, as empathetic humans, as the lactating sex, and as the main shoppers in most households, to do everything we can personally do to stop this unnecessary cruelty? Even if that is through the very simple personal action of choosing plant milk at the supermarket.

For advice on dairy free products visit:  NZ SAFE or Go Dairy Free

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On Breastfeeding and Dairy Products

Mushroom and Cranberry Stuffed Seitan Christmas Roast

 

Serves 4-8 (depending on greed)

I don’t own any measuring cups due to some weird anti-exactness rebellion, but in an attempt to add order to my recipes I have included measurements in the form of spoons. Feel free to ignore/adjust quantities. This dish is Vegan and most certainly not glutenfree.

Seitan dough:

Dry –

7 Tablespoons gluten flour

1 Tablespoon white or wholemeal flour

2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon Smoked paprika

2 teaspoons Onion powder

1 teaspoon Garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Wet –

4 Tablespoons smashed borlotti beans – With liquid! (pinto beans are also good)

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

200ml vegetarian chicken stock

2 Tablespoons light soy sauce or tamari

2 teaspoons tomato paste

Stuffing:

Oil

1/2 brown onion (finely chopped)

8 brown button mushrooms (crimini) (finely chopped)

3-4 dried sage leaves

1/2 teaspoon Dried mixed herbs (such as herbs provencal)

1 Tablespoon vegan margarine

1 Tablespoon white or wholemeal flour

1-200ml Porcini or shiitake stock

1 Tablespoon dried cranberries

8 Tablespoons cooked (short or medium grain) brown rice

2 Tablespoons chopped cashew pieces

Glaze:

soy sauce

maple syrup

vegetarian chicken stock

salt and pepper

Method:

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.

Smash the beans with 1-2 tablespoons of cooking or can liquid and combine with olive oil, chicken stock, soy sauce and tomato paste.

Mix wet and dry ingredients together to form a dough – adjust with extra flour or water as needed. Knead the dough for 2-5 minutes (or as long as you can be bothered – it’s still good without kneading) and set aside while you prepare the stuffing.

In a wide pan, cook the chopped onion for a few moments, then add chopped mushrooms, a little salt and pepper and cook on medium heat until soft. Add dried mixed herbs and crumble in your sage leaves, stir. Add margarine and then flour, stir to create a roux. Slowly add your mushroom stock, stirring to avoid lumps. Add cranberries and cashews and cook for 3-5 minutes until sauce thickens and cranberries soften. You want the consistency of a thick gravy – add liquid or cook off some liquid to adjust. Take off the heat and stir your cooked brown rice into the sauce. You should end up with a thick, even slightly gluggy stuffing mixture. If there is too much liquid put it back on the heat for a few moments.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Roll out the seitan dough on a large sheet of tin foil. As much as you can, try to create an oblong sheet of dough about 1 inch thick. It won’t be exact, gluten dough is tricky to work with but even if it looks super rustic at this point, it will look better when cooked! Spread the stuffing across the dough and carefully roll the dough around the stuffing to make a log, pinching the ends if stuffing tries to escape. Use a little water to seal the log and wrap the whole thing tightly in the tin foil – ideally like a candy wrapper with twisted ends. Put into a roasting dish and cook for 50-60 minutes, turning 90 degrees every 15 mins.

Mix the glaze ingredients together, taste and adjust until you like it. Maple syrup is best but sugar or strong fruit juice would work. Set aside.

After about an hour, take the roast out of the oven, remove tinfoil and pour glaze over the roast, coating all sides and leaving the roast sitting in a little liquid. You can score and/or decorate with cloves or orange slices or rosemary at this point if you want.

Return the roast to the oven uncovered for 10 minutes, then remove and rest somewhere warm for at least 10 minutes before carving into slices – serve with a good vegan gravy and an excellent Pinot Noir.

Merry Christmas!

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Mushroom and Cranberry Stuffed Seitan Christmas Roast