Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Denim jeans bag - I made it!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I planned to make a “jeans bag”, and, after hunting in several charity (thrift) shops and at car boot sales, I finally found a pair of children’s jeans that I bought for the healthy sum of 30p – talk about frugality – I was really pleased. Recycling and creating an individual, useful “designer” product, how much better can it get?

I decided on a child’s pair of jeans because I wanted a middling size bag that I can take out shopping with me. It will hold my handbag initially, then, assuming I buy anything, the bag will come out and the shopping will go in.

I like the decorative pockets on these shorts, and cute tie through the belt loops. The pockets themselves are useful additions to any bag, and the tie becomes the bag's strap. I’m not going to give detailed instructions for creating the bag – others have already produced lovely video clips – but I will point out some aspects of my creation.

Above you can see that I've used a seam ripper to remove the stitching down the centre front and back seams and opened the fabric out.

The new centre seam sewn down.  There were existing "jewel" studs, so, to hold down the loose pocket linings, I used my "BedazzleIt" machine to insert a few studs, which do the job nicely.

This shot shows what a mess they look when you turn them inside out!!!  See how uneven the hem edges are?  don't worry, they get chopped and straightened out.

Once I'd levelled the edges, I sewed a French seam, which means all the rough edges are enclosed, so no messy threads to catch and pull when the bag's in use - cunning, I thought:-)

As you can see above, I used the age old trick of simply sewing across the corners to create some depth to the sides of the bag - much easier than inserting a panel in the base - I don't need a massive bag, so this is quick and ideal for me. I caught the points of the corners down inside the bag so that they are flush with the base.  I sewed the French seam down along the base to add a touch of extra strength and make it neater, too.

Remember the cute tie?  Here is it next to some upholsterer's webbing which I sewed on to one side to give it some body - I hate shoulder straps which are insubstantial, don't you?  they tend to end up digging into my shoulder and are uncomfortable.

I sewed in a D ring at each end of the strap, as I thought it would be quite effective, and, I admit it, lazy of me, to use the existing belt loops to suspend the straps from.

I simply ran a few rows of stitches at the top of the belt loop to stope the strap from being to loose and free.

The bag, slung over my shoulder - neat eh?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Vegan tofu "cheesecake". low cholesterol but just as tasty:-)

When I became vegan I was determined not to give up the foods I enjoyed - I love my food, including desserts, and cheescakes were always amongst my favourites.

This very easy mock cheesecake, based on one served at On The Eighth Day in Manchester, hits the spot each time, and is the one I make most often.  The top can be decorated in any way you choose, I like to use poached frruit, particularly blackcurrants, as the contrast in colours is so dramatic, but you go for whatever you like - chocolate curls?  strawberries?  raspberries?  mandarin segments?  Indulge yourself safe in the knowledge that your cholesterol intake is fine, despite the indulgent taste - yay:-)

300g of either sweet biscuit (cookie) crumbs, or, as I prefer, plain rye crackers
175g melted margarine, I use soya

Crush the biscuits and mix with the melted margarine.  Told you it was easy!

1 x 297g pack of soft, firm tofu - drain off the excess liquid
2 x lemons - you need to zest them, then juice them
50g cornflour
3tblsps golden syrup, or other sweetener
450ml water
You may want to add a little sugar to taste, depending on your tastebuds, this is not a super-sweet dessert.

Pack the crumb base into a well-greased 8" diameter flan dish.  I use one with a loose base so that it's easy to de-mould, but then, I'm lazy:-)

In a pan, heat the water, golden syrup and cornflour until boiling, make sure you stir constantly to avoid lumps forming - you do want a smooth cheesecake, don't you?  Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened.

Remove from the heat and add the strained tofu and lemon zest and juice.  Blend well, I use a stick blender in the pan, then pour onto the base and place in the fridge to chill and set.

It's as simple as that.  It tastes lovely and fresh as it is, but, as I say, you can tart it up with fresh or poached fruit, in which case, serve a little of the fruit's liquor with it as a sauce.

Why do I feel hungry now????????  Enjoy:-)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Pepita-Sunflower-Sesame Burgers - a quick vegan supper dish

I've just come across this recipe, and since it's a miserable, rainy sort of day, they appeal to me;-)

I'll use some rye crackers instead of the breadcrumbs, as I'm intolerant to wheat and don't fance writing in agony!  I'll also substitute ordinary pumpkin seeds for the pepita as it's easier than trying to track them down, as we don't have a local Hispanic store.

Let me know what you think:-)

Pepita-Sunflower-Sesame Burgers
Vegetarian Times Issue: March 1, 2001 p.52
These protein-packed burgers are loaded with the flavor, texture and nutrition of three kinds of seeds. Pepitas are hulled green pumpkin seeds and are available at natural food stores and Hispanic markets. Try these burgers with a raita (Indian yogurt salad) sauce.

Ingredient List - for 4 servings

1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch cayenne
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 Tbs. olive oil, or more as needed
2 tsp. tahini
1/2 cup hulled sunflower seeds
1/3 cup pepitas
1/4 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup cooked lentils
4 scallions (spring onions) (white and light green parts) finely chopped ( 1/4 cup)
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


In food processor, combine sunflower seeds, pepitas and sesame seeds and process until coarsely chopped. Add lentils, scallions, parsley, tahini, salt, cayenne and bread crumbs; process until mixture is blended.

Shape mixture into 4 patties and place on platter. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook burgers until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

Nutritional Information

Per serving: Calories: 323, Protein: 11g, Total fat: 23g, Saturated fat: 3g, Carbs: 21g, Cholesterol: mg, Sodium: 353mg, Fiber: 6g,

Copyright © 2008 Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc.
an Active Interest Media Company.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

easy vegan chocolate(or carob) truffles with almonds

I went to a birthday party yesterday, and took along some home made chocolate truffles.  They are truly easy to make, yet melt in the mouth and are delicious:-)

and did I mention they're chocolate????

All you need is:

100g dark chocolate
25g vegan margarine
1tblsp brandy or other spirit
1tblsp soya cream
150g icing sugar, sieved - yes, it is worth it, honestly!
25g ground almonds

Cocoa powder to roll them in and petit four cases to sit them in.

Melt the chocolate and margarine for about one minute in a glass bowl in the microwave until just melted.  Stir in all the other ingredients except the cocoa.  Mix together then put in the fridge for an hour or so to chill down.

When you're ready put out some petit fours cases ready, about 15, but it depends on how large you make the truffles, obviously!!

Take about a teaspoonful of the mixture and roll it between your hands to form a ball, then roll lightly in the sieved cocoa, put into a paper case, the keep repeating until the mixture is all used up.  The mixture will soften in your hands as  you roll, and you will end up with sticky fingers and hands, so it's a good idea to have a bowl of water ready to wash them in, this saves getting chocolate all over the taps ... now how do I know this???

Put them back in the fridge to store them.  I told you it was easy, didn't I?

If you are unable to eat chocolate/cocoa or tolerate caffeine, you can substitute carob, you'll see a bar underneath the bar of chocolate, it works just as well, but without the caffeine.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Pea shoots grow up!

I sowed some peas in the spring so that I could eat delicious, tender pea shoots with my salads and in stir fries.  I sowed them in the new herb border, as it didn't have much in at the time.  I was very logical and popped the peas into the soil in amongst the onion sets I'd bought for a bargain price of 90pence the bag.

It was great to walk out and snip a few inches of succulent green shoot and tendrils to add to my oft-served avocado salad.

Then we went away for a week.  Then it rained.  And rained.  And rained.  And the pea shoots shot up, entwining themselves around the onion leaves, if, indeed, they are called leaves.  Good point, that - does anyone know what the green shoots that arise from an onion are called?  They appear to perform the function of a leaf, yet are not what one would commonly recognise as a leaf.  Interesting.

However, back to the shooting pea shoots ... white flowers appeared in no time at all, the red splashes you can see are the pelargoniums behind them, on the patio! 

Then the cutest, tiniest peas thrust away the white flowers, and I picked the tiny pods and ate them like mangetout - so sweet, and crisp - delicious. 

I've allowed the rest to swell - all the rain in our hose-pipe banned area is doing a wonderful job for them!  Now I crop a handful of peas every now and then, and this makes up for the fact that I no longer have the pea shoots on my salads:-)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Butternut Squash

Do  you remember I told you how I harvested the seeds from a butternut squash that I had bought?  I sowed the seed in the greenhouse, and planted the young plants outside when the danger of frost was past, and they'd been hardened off for a few days by sitting them out in the garden during the day, then putting them back in the shelter of the greenhouse overnight.

I planted a couple directly into the soil, and some into old chimney pots.  Those in the soil have developed far more quickly and look much stronger than those with a restricted root run at this stage.

You can imagine my excitement this week to spot bright yellow flowers amongst the large, hairy leaves.  The flowers are similar in colour and texture to those of a marrow or courgette, but the flower buds are more rounded, and the flowers are squatter, less elongated than the courgette's.  Whilst stuffed courgette flowers are common enough, I doubt it would be worth stuffing a butternut squash flower, unless it was to make canapes, I suppose!

So far, all the flowers are male.  You can tell as they all have long stems before the flower, whereas female flowers have a small swelling behind the flower bud, which will swell into the fruit, if fertilized.  It's strange, but there always seems to be a flush of male flowers before the first female shows herself to the world.  I wonder why this should be?  If you know, I'd be grateful if you'd share!!

I can't wait until the auumn, when, with any luck, I'll be harvesting my very own butternut squashes to turn into soup, casseroles or roast vegetables.  Yummy:-)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Sanity Savers when travelling with children

It's the school holidays, and you're probably travelling around more than  usual with the children.  Sometimes you'll feel like throttling them chastising them gently, admit it, most parents do when they're in a confined space with one or more children for extended periods.

When my daughter was small I solved the problem to a large extent by using bribery a few tricks. 

Buy a book of games to play in the car/train etc that don't need anything except you, such as variations on I Spy, spot the pub signs, numberplate lottery etc.  It's amazing the games some people have thought of, and they really can be sanity savers:-)

Always have a notebook for each child and a pen/pencil each - plus a pencil sharpener if you've opted for pencils - buy one which catches the shavings to reduce the mess - obvious, yes, but so easy to overlook!  This way some of the games from the above book can be made into team games if there is more than one child in the car - you might get a small breather here, if you just act as umpire:-)

Throughout the year, as you're out and about, keep your eye open for offers on small games, books, cds, felt tip pens/crayons, notebooks etc.  Charity shops are excellent places to find small toys/games at low prices - only buy small items, and make sure that they're complete, otherwise you'll defeat the objecct of the exercise!!  Store all these little treats in a safe place where your little horrors child/ren won't come across them.

When a journey is planned, select the items most likely to be useful and wrap each one so that you've got a "lucky dip" selection for the children - it's a good idea to save wrapping paper from Christmas and birthday presents so that they look cheerful, but you can use newspaper, tissue paper, wallpaper etc.  Place all the goodies in a strong bag, and every half hour or so, or whenever you feel it's necessary, allow one child to dip in to the bag and choose one gift.  Simply having something "new" to do can make such a difference!  Do make sure that you know how to play any of the games you've bought so that you can help get things going.

Also, stock up on small edible treats - preferably non-sticky/non-staining - think about having to clean the car afterwards!!!  *Remember any potential allergic reactions if you've got someone else's child/ren with you, avoid peanuts especially*  Again, keep them in a bag and allow a dip in to choose something.  Have a supply of small cartons of drinks, too - but not too many unless you know there are plenty of suitable toilets on your route!

Only take music that you can bear to listen to, unless you have a portable cd player with headphones for them, so that you're not obliged to hear their horrendous, deafening catterwauling wonderful choice of melodic performers.  If you can manage to provide a music player for each of them, that's even better, then there are no murederous arguments rational discussions about what to listen to, they can decide for themselves:)

Remember to take a supply of wet-wipes and tissues with you.
Take a strong carrier bag for rubbish, and make sure they use it on pain of death or miss out on the next treat, or have to clean the car out when they get home.

Some or all of the above should help to make your travels more painless - you might even survive the journey without getting a headache, and not murdering still liking your children :-)