Thursday, 30 December 2010

It's Oh-Ficial. I am a Geek.

There's no turning back from this point. The time has arrived that forces my Geekdom status from "Wannabe/Poser" Geek to "Full Blown/Ain't No Denying It Now!" Geek.


I've been fighting this for a looong time. Hoping against all hope (and evidence to the contrary) that I wasn't a Geek. I wasn't a Brain. I wasn't someone who was defined by their brain, their intellectual hobbies, their "quirks", if you will. I wanted to be "normal", "average", "standard" but the clues were all there... Seeking out Mensa for an in-person, not-online, actual IQ test... Using very "cerebral" methods when explaining, organising, planning, creating things... Becoming quite "geeked" in my hobbies (seeking out the new tools/methods, developing new concepts, pieces, tools, investigating every aspect of them...

One of these hobbies happens to be playing the Professor Layton games on my DS. I'm absolutely hooked. I love the animation, the cheesy "plots", the improbability of the story lines, the challenge versus simplicity of the puzzles. I even enjoyed the movie Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva and agreed with murmurs that the story was insane, improbable, ludicrous, absurd because it was all of those things. And more. All of the Professor Layton stories I've encountered thus far have been and I've loved them all!

The proverbial final nail in my Geekdom coffin happened recently. I'm nearing the end of Professor Layton and the Unwound/Lost Future and I wanted to know what was next... What was out there to feed my need for/obsession with Professor Layton... I did a little reconnaissance...

Just a few short weeks later I received a package from Japan. (I'm choosing to block out the details of the actual purchase because without them I'm still in a state of semi-denial so you'll have to do without them, too, I'm afraid.)

But what's in it, you ask? I knew. I knew what was in the box as soon as MrB brought it up the stairs and handed it to me in bed. I was almost vibrating with excitement and refused to open the package until I was dressed, downstairs and had my camera to hand...

Isn't he perfect?!

*hangs head* Yes. I know. My name is "Tanya" and I am a Geek. I blame this website. (OK, I now admit, with hindsight, that the name of that website held some sort of portend about the ultimate level of my Geekiness.) But, I bought an -action figure- based on an Anime movie that's based on a -video game-! I'm certain that that's the final step in attaining Full Geek status. *sigh*

(But I can't help but swoon at his perfect little plastic Professorness!)

Something's not quite right...

I often pretend I know what I'm doing in the kitchen and this is most evident when I attempt to fancily decorate a cookie, cake or cupcake.

This is never more frustrating than when the tools I have don't work the way I believe they should.

Case in point:

In early May of this year I purchased a "Master Tip Set" and was very excited to get started on some super-cool and savvy decorating. It was a 57-piece set that came in it's own storage case.

I was quite disappointed to discover, however, that it didn't work the way I had wanted/expected. Some of my tips didn't fit on the "standard" couplers that came with the set. The tips were simply too large. Boo! *insert Sad face here*

I searched all over the company's website and couldn't find much information about the set that pertained to the particular problem I was having. I then discovered that there was, indeed, another size coupler. A "large" coupler. OK, at this point I'm annoyed that I have to buy another piece to make full use of the parts of a set. In my opinion, that set should have been ready to rock and roll when I bought it (i.e. all parts work with all parts) but I can see, from a sales point of view, how it's good business sense to "encourage" the purchase of other parts or pieces.

Begrudgingly, I decided to purchase a Large coupler. I would not, however, pay UK prices for one when MrB and I were scheduled to make a visit to the US that summer (where this brand's products are almost infinitely less expensive). I did, indeed, find and purchase what I needed.

I came home excited about many things but, in part, about being able to use some different tips from my set. Yes, I am a geek. I have accepted it, it's time you do, too.

I discovered, however, that this new addition to my arsenal wasn't the Be All and End All of my icing/piping problems. Yes, there were some tips that had been too large for my Standard Coupler that now worked/fit using the Large Coupler so I was on my way to Happy Decorating Land. The road had a few more sinkholes, however, and I didn't quite make it there. There were a few of my tips that didn't fit either coupler! Seriously?! *insert Very Angry face here*

I decided it was time to send the company an email...

Dear ****** Customer Service,
I'm a beginner at cake/cupcake decorating and I have a question.
I own the ****** Master Tip Set and it comes with two standard couplers for the "smaller" of the tips. Some of the tips in the set, however, are too large for the standard coupler so I purchased the "Large Tip Coupler". This coupler is too large for the larger tips. I'm at a loss. I can't see where you have a different size coupler but some of my tips, the 124 for example, just don't seem to work with either coupler.

Can you please tell me what I'm doing wrong/failing to understand?

Many thanks and kind regards,
Mrs B bakes
And got this reply:
Dear Mrs. B Bakes,

I apologize for this inconvenience. All of our tips should fit on either the small coupler or larger coupler. Sometimes with use, they may bend and not be able to fit. I am sorry for the confusion. Please let me know if you have further questions.


Stephanie F
****** Brands Customer Care
Hrm. I've barely used my tips and I'm certain that they haven't been bent because I am quite the perfectionist when it comes to things I value and I always treat the parts of that set with utmost care.

So, I inspected them, just to be sure. Of course, there was no bending, no warping yet there were several tips that definitely didn't fit "on either the small coupler or larger coupler".

I decided a more comprehensive approach might be needed and photographic evidence was obtained...

I then sent another email to ****** telling them of my issues and included the pictures as proof that I knew of which I spoke.


I\m sorry it's taken me so long to respond... I am still having issues with a few of the tips in the set that fit neither the standard coupler nor the large one.

The tips are 108, 109, 124, 143 - there may be more; I stopped checking (and I'm presuming there would be more of the ****** tips that I don't own that would have this problem).

I've attached pictures of what I'm talking about but if you can't view attachments, please let me know and I'll try to host them online and send links.
[The above pictures had been inserted here]

All of the four tips have the same problem... Their bottom diameter is too large for the standard coupler (the ring won't go down over the tip and attach to the base) and too small for the large coupler (the tip only rests on the coupler and the ring slides on right past it and attaches to the base leaving the tip completely not secured to the coupler).

None of the four tips are bent - I haven't used them because of this problem - so they're all new and perfectly round.

I eagerly look forward to your advice on this matter.

Kind regards,
Mrs B bakes
I got this reply:
Hello there Tanya!

Thank you for getting back to us with this information. In regards to your questions I have some help for you. Tip 108, 109, and Tip 134 do not work with couplers. They are to be used with parchment paper or uncut bags. Tip 124 fits with the large coupler. We do not have a tip 143 but we have a tip 134 and again it fits with no coupler, just the paper or bag. I hope this helps and we appreciate your business!

Have a great day!


Customer Service Representativ
OK, so let me get this straight... When I emailed the first time and Stephanie replied to tell me that "All of our tips should fit on either the small coupler or larger coupler. " apparently, I shouldn't have taken this at face value. *insert Not Amused face here*

I'd like to end this post on a less annoyed note and share with you what happens when I decide to make "DIY Cupcakes" for a Christmas celebration of about 16 people...

That's the "ash" of the Powdered Sugar Volcano that erupted in my kitchen. (I went through about 4.5kilos of powdered sugar in making the TEN (all Vegan) batches of frosting for the 89 cupcakes! (One Almond Buttercream, coloured red. One Mint Buttercream, coloured pale green. Double batch of each Vanilla and Chocolate Buttercreams. Quadruple batch of the Cream Cheese frosting.) I say it was "ten" batches of frosting but I actually made four more that I tossed out and replaced as I became convinced that the cream cheese had been open and in the fridge too long to be 100% trustworthy. That's a LOT of sugar.

Why 89 and not 90 cupcakes, you ask? I have, honestly, no idea! I made four batches each of the chocolate and vanilla cupcakes (from ...Cupcakes Take Over the World ) which should have equalled 72 cupcakes. I think the batter grew/ multiplied/ spored/ spread/ reproduced/ something in order to create an extra 17 cupcakes. They did not go to waste, however, and I was rewarded with many a smiling face and even a marriage proposal! DIY Cupcakes are something I'd definitely do again! It was much less daunting than baking and decorating and transporting those cupcakes.

If you were hosting/revelling at a DIY Cupcake party; which flavours would you like?

Finally, a usable space...

Winter has descended upon us here in London and we're cosy inside our little home...

Taken 2nd December 2010
Taken 18th December 2010

I finally have visions of barbecues, brunches "on the patio", summer evenings reading The Book du Jour in the cooling air...

Yes, folks, our garden is finally complete! (OK, it has been for a couple of months but I allowed myself to get distracted with some end-of-the-year craziness and haven't told you about it in good time. I'm sorry.)

Before I show you pics of the Landscaper-Finished version (we still need to buy the accessories - BBQ, table, chairs, plants, etc) I'll remind you of the enormity of the task that was set before the man...

I think he did a very admirable job...

So, we're planning to (I should say that I am planning to and MrB is quite indulging at this early He-Doesn't-Know-What-This-Might-Cost stage) get a chimnea (that's just a link to show you what one is, ideas for type and style are gratefully received!), a BBQ, a large-ish table, some chairs, some potted plants (and, perhaps, a new clematis depending on how this one has faired being cut back a-little-further-than-it's-used-to coupled with an earlier-and-more-than-usual-for-London snowfall)... Is there anything you recommend we add to our new Outdoor Living Area?

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Introducing "Mud" - a vegan chocolate dessert

Mud, mud, I love mud.
I'm absolutely, positively, wild about mud!
I can't go around it, I've gotta go through it.
Beautiful, fabulous, super-duper mud!

If you're not familiar with the above little ditty you've probably never been camping nor were a member of a "scouting" organisation as a child. The song has been sung around many a campground fire and repeated with glee after numerous strong rainstorms.

I love mud. I love what can be done with mud... facial masks, pore cleansing, house building, children entertaining. Take some earth, simply add some water and it's amazing what you can accomplish with the resulting product.

Did you ever make MudPies as a child? Dirt in a pail, water added and served to loving, patient family members willing to pretend it's the yummiest dish they've ever consumed - what could be better?

How about serving them "mud" they'll actually want to eat?

Introducing "Mud" - a vegan chocolate dessert (free recipe!) from Mrs B bakes! It's a rich, velvety, sweet dish that's nothing like a mousse (no air), thicker than a custard or pudding and absolutely delicious!


1 (12.3 ounce/349 grams) package extra-firm silken tofu (I used an aseptic pack of long-life tofu called Blue Dragon) drained of excess liquid
1/4 plan milk replacement (I used oat milk but soya, almond, rice... would all work)
1 tbsp Simple Sugar Syrup (recipe follows) or 2 tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
300 grams (about a cup and a half) semisweet chocolate chips

Break up tofu into a food processor. Add the milk, sweetening syrup and vanilla. Puree until completely smooth.

Bring a small saucepan half-filled with water to a boil and reduce heat to low. Place a metal bowl over the saucepan while it's simmering (not a rolling boil). Put chocolate chips in warming bowl and stir with a spatula while it melts. Once completely melted (no solid chips left) remove from heat (don't forget to turn off burner).

Scrape down the sides of your food processor, replace lid and turn on. Using the feeder tube, pour melted chocolate into the running food processor and blend until fully incorporated.

Using your spatula, transfer the mud into a bowl (or an airtight container) and cover with plastic wrap (see photos for a handy tip!) and chill. Mud is ready to eat after just an hour!

(Caution: Mud is not a pudding; it's much richer. Please keep that in mind when serving Mud as too much could overwhelm the palate.)

Instead of placing the plastic wrap over the rim of the bowl/container - lay it flat directly on top of the mud, creating an airless space between the mud and the plastic.

Push the plastic wrap to the outer edges of the mud and smooth to ensure no air is trapped between the mud and the plastic.

Curl/fold edges on top of centre inside the bowl, again to ensure no air contacts your mud.
These simple steps can help keep your puddings, custards and muds from getting a strange film across the top or simply drying out!

Simple Sugar Syrup

1 cup white sugar
1 cup water

Bring both to a boil in a saucepan (you may need to stir a bit to ensure sugar is completely dissolved) then remove from heat and allow to cool.

Store in refrigerator.

That's it! It's that simple (hence the name) and can be used to sweeten any number of things. Works especially well in cold beverages such as iced lattes, iced teas... it dissolves a lot faster/more easily than solid sugar granules so now that you've discovered it I'm sure you'll turn to it again and again!

Prepping for our photo shoot...

Friday, 22 October 2010

YES soup for you!

Being unable to eat milk products has left me with a wanting for certain foods such as pizza, mac'n'cheese, cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches...

Thankfully, the list is small and I've stopped craving cheese so I'm able to find easy substitutes for these comforting foods.

Pizza is easy for me; I just use a yeast-free base and don't add cheese to my toppings. Problem solved.

Mac'n'cheese used to be an issue when I really wanted cheese but now it's OK. I sort of miss it but not enough to even take a bite of someone else's.

When it came to cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches I was really stuck. I can't have the cream in the cream of tomato soup; can't have the cheese in the grilled cheese sandwich and even finding the right bread for me can be tricky. Nightmare.

That is until last week when I decided to just wing it. Thankfully, for the first time I started writing down what I was throwing into the pot instead of guessing afterwards. This also allowed me to take accurate measurements so, if the experiment worked; I could share it with confidence that what I told you wouldn't result in something horrid!

Well, it definitely worked. It worked so well I decided that night was officially Date Night and (pardon the pun) made a real meal out of it!

Thick and Creamy Tomato Soup

In a large pot add the following:

1/4c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 400g (14.5 oz) cans of chopped tomatoes (please approximate if your can size is different)
1 cup chopped spinach (mine was frozen)
2 bags of Steam-Fresh type mixed vegetables (I used Broccoli, Sweetcorn and Carrots by Birds Eye)
1tsp mix dried Italian herbs
1tsp Oregano
1/2tsp onion powder
1tbsp minced garlic (I use Very Lazy Garlic)
1.5L (about 6.5 cups) vegetable stock
Set aside 1 - 1.5 cups soya cream (I used reduced fat to great effect)

Bring this all to a boil allow to do so for about 10 minutes. Reduce to low heat and leave to simmer for about an hour (I left mine for about two hours and simply added some more stock later to thin it a bit but I like heavy soups).

Use food processor to blend the soup (make sure not to over-fill the food processor, this may mean you have to do two batches) and return it to the pot over low heat.

Just prior to serving add soya cream and stir to blend well.

I served this with garlic bread and it was a hearty meal that I intend to make a lot this winter. YUM!

Our backyard/garden/behind-the-flat/house-area is coming along nicely, the ground work is all completed and all that's left is to finish the decking!

I've been baking a bit lately:

Basic Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Mousse topping

Almond Cupcakes with Vegan Cream Cheese frosting...

...and a surprise Chocolate Mousse filling

(Why do I feel the need to add the word "Vegan" when I say "cream cheese" considering the entire dessert is Vegan? I only bake Vegan but I worry that people will see "Cream Cheese" and get the wrong idea, I guess, so it's a little added emphasis that it's still OK even though it's called "cheese". I worry, though, that stressing the Vegan bit only there will lead to people to think that that's the only part that is Vegan. Oh, well. Can't please them all, as they say!)

See you soon!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Laundry "spiders", cookies and other life detours...

When I started this blog it was with the intention of showing you, dear readers, what it is that I love to do and how that love affects my daily choices, especially regarding my eating habits.

What I love to do is bake. I love to bake vegan sweet goodies that people are surprised about and utterly melt over.

This blog isn't very old and yet I already have a plethora of tags that aren't at all related to baking. This, for me, is a bit annoying but completely not surprising. I've always had many "layers" in my life and having begun to share more of them here seems, now, like a natural progression.

I'm sorry if you came here wanting only vegan goodies (sweet or savoury) and aren't that entertained by the rest of me. I wish you well on your own personal journey but this is a journey that I must make and, therefore, am taking the wheel and consciously deciding that it shall be reflected in this blog. All the layers. All the Me-s I have to offer.

If you don't mind and/or enjoy seeing more of my layers; welcome! We're in for a strange and wondrous trip, indeed!

Since it's been so long since I last posted I have a few things I'd like to share today so stay tuned or tune out. Either way I've numbered them so you can skip topics (or refer back to them) as you like....

1. Laundry "Spiders"

I have long hair. Very long hair by some standards, though it's not yet as long as I'd like it (and yet, simultaneously, I wish I could sport a chic, shorter style that better befits my physical age but alas, the build of my body makes longer hair aesthetically necessary *sigh*).

Because I have long hair I end up with it everywhere. On the floors, in the shower drain, on MrB's back as he's leaving for work, worked into a knitting or crochet project. That part's a nuisance, certainly, but OK as they're in small numbers and easily contained and removed.

What utterly annoys me, however, is the little balls of hair that I find in the laundry. Every. Single. Time.

I call them Laundry Spiders and toss away several of them every time I do a wash. (The record for one load is 7. SEVEN! from one load of mostly socks.)

Am I the only one who gets these?? Surely I can't be!

What do you call them?

Do you have any hints, tips, tricks for getting rid of them? I'd LOVE to know!

2. Baking

And now for something you may or may not have been waiting for. My original Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

1cup dairy-free margarine, at room temp
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (when I mix it up a little I use 1 teaspoon vanilla and one teaspoon almond)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose/plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or vegan carob chips)
3/4cup vanilla soy yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 F

Cream the margarine and sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy

Add the molasses and vanilla and incorporate. Add the dry ingredients to this mixture and mix until a dough forms. Fold the chocolate chips into the dough.

Drop by tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets or an ungreased, unlined cupcake tin. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (my oven is -definitely- 8 minutes) until lightly browned. (Two notes: Due to their vegan status and chemistry, the cookies will not spread as much as normal cookies but that's good! Also, Don't worry about under cooking them as there's no raw eggs to worry about, though, the 8-10 minute rule, for me, leaves a cookie that's gently soft-crunchy on the outside and wonderfully soft and gooey on the inside!)

Allow to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes then transfer to cooling rack. (At this point baking sheets can be rinsed under cold water to prepare them for the next batch.)

I know there are a ton of other good, vegan chocolate chip cookie recipes out there and respect that they are probably very good. I only decided to invent my own recipe when I realised that most of the better recipes which yield a softer cookie contain flaxseeds/linseed and I know a lot of people have seed allergies so wanted to avoid them if I could.

If/when you make these, please do let me know what you thought of the recipe. I live for feedback and won't necessarily know I need to change something unless you tell me. Yes, you.

3. Life

Just recently (last Thursday, to be exact) I went to see a psychiatrist who has diagnosed me with Adult (Inattentive) Attention Deficit Disorder and my life has been quite strange since that moment.

I went to him thinking I had it or something akin to it (Would it really be me if I had gone to a doctor without investigating the jeepers out of something first?! I thought not.) but when he confirmed that I do, indeed, have it I can't accurately describe what I was thinking or feeling.

There was some relief, some disbelief, some shame, some anger, some fear, some impatience... gosh, the list is virtually endless.

At the suggestion of a dear friend I purchased some books by Edward M. Hallowell (Driven to Distraction and Driven from Distraction - both can be purchased from and from what I've read so far I truly believe my life will change for the better with this diagnosis. I'm almost through the first book and it's almost as though this book was written specifically for me. Mr. Hallowell certainly seems to understand the condition (as he well should, he suffers, too).

I'm sure there will be a lot more written on this blog about ADD in the future so I'm going to stop here now that I've introduced it.

4. AOB

Stay tuned because in the next few days I'll be introducing a Tomato "Soup" recipe!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Those poor, neglected cupcakes!

Mr Landscaper has taken a week "off" (he's working on someone else's garden that was booked before we hired him) and so I spent last week "cleaning".

"Cleaning" consisted of taking everything out, sorting through it, tossing what should be tossed, shredded what should be shredded, donated what should be donated and finally (and most importantly!) organised what was left!

It took me more time than I care to admit but it was fun! I thoroughly enjoyed the work that went into getting everything sorted, streamlined, easier to find/use/clean. I have a deep feeling of satisfaction from having everything in its place and a place for everything. I am, however, more than a little embarrassed at having let things get in such a state that it took so long to pull them back together in some sense of non-chaos.

During this past week I've also done some cooking and baking.

The first thing I baked was Green Tea Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World - I've since discovered that simply baking them isn't enough. While I was so busy cleaning I left the poor things sitting for a week. No love, no icing, no photo shoot, not even a bite taken to test how they tasted. The poor things just went to waste. I feel so horrid. They were lovingly created and then quickly forgotten. Left to sit in a bag, unable to live to their fullest potential. Their lives unfulfilled. Their destiny the trashcan instead of satisfying some lonely tastebuds some where. Poor things. I'll have to make them again. Soon. And this time actually pay attention to them!

I've also made some delicious Veggie Burgers from a recipe created by this talented lady. With her permission, I'm now going to share the recipe for these little beauties with you.


Smoky Tofu and Red Bean Burgers

(makes 6 patties)

1 14oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed 7 oz. firm tofu, squeezed of excess water and crumbled 1 carrot, grated 1/2 onion, chopped finely 2 cloves garlic, minced handful of parsley, chopped 1/2 cup whole grain vegan breadcrumbs (I use a little more to hold the patty together) 2 T flour 1/4 tsp liquid smoke 1 tsp soy sauce 1 tsp all purpose seasoning (like Mrs. Dash or Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute) 1/2 tsp each of garlic and onion powder (you may add less if you like) 1/2 tsp paprika salt and pepper to taste

Mash beans in a bowl and add the crumbled tofu. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. I like to use a blender/masher or fork to help chop and smoosh the mixture which will make it form into patties easier. You may have a taste in order to adjust seasonings.

Refrigerate mixture in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Shape into patties and place on oiled baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway at 400 degrees F or until browned and crispy. (I actually fry mine in olive oil), Serve on a bun w/ caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and sauce below:

Thousand Island Burger Sauce With A Kick

1/2 cup vegan mayo 2-3 T ketchup 1 T chopped dill pickle or relish a squirt of lemon juice 1/4 tsp all purpose seasoning blend salt and pepper to taste 5-6 drops of hot sauce

Combine all ingredients and chill. Is great on the tofu burger and with seasoned fries.

I made mine a little differently. I placed my ingredients in my food processor and sort of pureed them. This meant I had to add more dry ingredients so I increased the flour by 1/4 cup and the breadcrumbs by 1 cup.

I really loved the way these tasted and can totally see them as "meatballs" in a pasta recipe! I will definitely make these again. And soon!

Now, for those of you wondering how I can have breadcrumbs since I can't have yeast I'll let you in on a little secret; I cheat.

Every once in a while (less often than I like, to be honest) I get to a Whole Foods and buy their sourdough bread. (It's amazing and light and not the least bit sour. I don't understand how this is but I don't argue!) When I slice it I don't like the ends as they're too thick for sandwiches or the toaster. Because of this I specifically leave the ends extra thick and throw them in the freezer. Then, I forget about them until I throw more into the freezer. Then I forget about them again and again until, eventually, I need breadcrumbs and I lament about not being able to have yeast. This happens for about 20 minutes before it finally dawns on me that I actually have yeast-free bread that I can use to make my own breadcrumbs! Yeah, sometimes I can be pretty slow. Don't ask. We don't like to talk about it.

I take the bread ends out of the freezer, let them defrost and then stick them into my food processor. (I find it's a lot easier to cut the thawed bread into golf-ball-sized pieces and use the "pulse" button on my machine. It cuts down a lot of the frustration and it makes the whole process take a lot less time.)

I then bag them in one cup portions (most recipes seem to call for this amount, why is that?), label the bags and store them in the freezer.

So, this week the landscaper is back (mid-week) and I can't wait. The closer we get to the finished product the more antsy I get to see it, use it, adore it.

I'm also getting a couple of little health nigglings sorted out in the next few weeks and working on my nutrition as I work on a vegetarian/vegan way of eating. (It's becoming more and more difficult as I'm having difficulties digesting beans without intense gas/wind and associated pain. Considering I'm allergic to lentils and don't want to over-do soy... I'm running out of ideas for proteins *frown*)

That's a savory recipe shared and the infamous vegan chocolate chip cookies recipe is on its way (hopefully this week) - so what would you like to see me make next?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Still plugging along...

I'm still at home babysitting the landscaper as he transforms our backyard/garden into a space we can not only use but are actually proud of. No small task, I can assure you... Before pics can be seen here.

Here are some pictures of the last few days of work...

Just this evening the paving stones were finished and pointed but there wasn't enough light left in the day to take a photo so I'm going to do another photo shoot this weekend. I can't wait! Next stage: Decking!

In other news; I'm working on some new projects that have sort of fallen into my lap and I'm excited about the prospects they bring. Here's a sneak peek...

Yes, those are old 45s! I found them next to our skip outside and rescued them from the landfill! They're badly treated and scratched. Totally unplayable but heck! I don't want to play them. I want to play with them!

I plan on transforming them from the shapes they are to some that are more form than function and some shapes that are both form and function!

(On a side note; whomever had these beauties as a similar taste in music to myself! It's all 80s/early 90s Pop... Right Said Fred, Spandau Ballet, The Human League, Prince, Paul McCartney to name but a few. And those are just the few with labels I could save! There's a ton of other ones just as impressive but, sadly, the labels didn't survive. (When I found them, they were so wet they were mouldy and stuck to their covers/each other. Ick.)

Look for them in my Etsy shop, soon! Hooray for Up-Cycling!

Also, I'm in the process of "finding" my sewing machine. It's not actually lost, it's more...hidden buried. It hasn't seen the light of day since I made my wedding dress a while back...

It will be nice to use it again. And boy, will I use it! To continue with the above theme of up-cycling and in the vein of organising my craft space/office/Geek Room I'm getting together all of the no-longer-wearable clothing I've accumulated over the last few years and will be making some cute bags from old jeans, saving them from the landfill, too! I can hardly wait but it is getting tricky trying to find enough hours in the day and days in the week to accomplish all that's spinning around in my little brain. At the moment I have lists. Lots and lots of lists!

One of the main things on that list is "What to bake next?!" I'm thinking I'll bake a vegan cornbread (largely because I know it will go well with the vegan Boston/New England Baked Beans). Do you have any suggestions of dishes you'd like to see me make (or attempt) to make vegan? I'd love to hear your ideas!

And then there's these yummies...

That's right! The now all-but-famous Mrs B bakes totally Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies! The recipe has been perfected, tested and approved and will be shared with you darlings very soon so "stay tuned" for that!

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes

A week or so ago I envisaged gorgeous Carrot Cake Cupcakes so vividly that I dreamt about them. Twice. This meant I had to buy fresh carrots, of course, because summer is coming to an end and my favourite season is upon us.


Blissfully cool, sunny days. Chilly, clear nights. The smell of leaves, wood fires, cinnamon, pumpkin, maple syrup... Delicious.

I'm already jonesing for Pumpkin Pie, Mashes Potatoes with Gravy and a host of traditional Autumn/Thanksgiving treats that I can now no longer have. What a bummer. It doesn't take away my love for the season, though, because my taste buds aren't my only sense that is so gloriously engaged this time of year.

I can hear the kids giggling on the way to school in the mornings, I long for the crunch of the leaves beneath my feet, the sun caressing my face as the cool breeze ruffles my hair and am relaxed in the knowledge that it won't be long before they're here... bliss.

My "fresh" carrots weren't so and decided that they'd support their own little colonies (several of them) before their expiration date so they were sacrificed to the bin (cannot compost mouldy food!) and I felt quite disappointed.

What to do?? How on earth would I be able to cope without spicy cupcakes now that I'd so clearly been sent a sign that I needed them??

I couldn't. It's that simple. I had to have my fix! So I did a little deductive reasoning, a little chemistry, a little experimentation, a little praying, a little mixing, a little baking and a little sharing and what emerged is a tender little cupcake with wonderful textures. The sugar crystalises on the top, the fruit stays soft and moist, the cake fluffy and spicy. So, I now introduce (with full Mrs B bakes Taste-Tester approval, of course)...

Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes with Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
(makes 12)

2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons plain/all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup soy yogurt (I used vanilla, if using plain; you might want to add a little more sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 coarsely grated apples (I used Granny Smith and the tanginess of the apples worked really well in this recipe. If using additional options below, reduce apple to 1 1/2 coarsely grated cups)

Optional: (If adding these options, reduce apple to 1 1/2 cups, coarsely grated apple)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 175° C (350° F) and line cupcake pan with liners.

In a bowl mix together sugar, oil, yogurt and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, spices) into the same bowl and mix until no lumps remain. Stir in grated apple. (If using; also fold in walnuts and raisins.)

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake for 25-30 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted through the centre of one comes out clean. Try to choose a cupcake in the centre of your oven or in a known "cool spot".)

Remove from oven and place on rack and allow to cool completely. Frost generously with Vegan Cream Cheese frosting and voilĂ !

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine, softened
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners'/powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream together margarine and cream cheese until just blended (don't over mix). Using a hand-held mixer; whip margarine mix while adding the sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time. Mix until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly. Keep tightly covered in the fridge until ready to use. (Handy hint: put frosting in a bowl and use plastic wrap to cover the frosting inside the bowl so that there's no space or air between the frosting and the plastic wrap. This will keep it from drying out and becoming crusty.

Now, what shall I make next, any suggestions?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

That's more like it...

Some of you know the trouble MrB and I have had with our backyard/garden. For those who don't: We've never really used it. I think we've sat out on a blanket on the grass on two separate occasions in the almost four years we've lived in this flat.

The main trouble was in that last sentence. There's -grass-. I'm very very allergic to grass pollen and being near a freshly mown lawn is quite problematic for me. For this reason, when we moved in, I asked MrB if we could get rid of the grass, deck it over or something because I wouldn't cut/mow it. It's not something I've ever done and something I'd rather not do, if I can help it. Especially on a weekly basis (or however often grass needs to be cut. See? I don't even know).

When we moved in in November 2006 the response I suggested decking over the garden and what I got was basically "no, no, no, I'll cut it. I'll be responsible for it. Don't worry. I don't want to deck it over."

OK, said I. Your deal. No problem. Problem solved.

Cut to August 2010 and this is what we were looking out at every time we lifted the blinds on the back doors...

The grass had been cut all of three times. With a weed whacker/strimmer. We own a lawnmower. A small, electric one. But it's never been out of the box. Ever. It's sitting under the stairs as I type, mocking me. The green tarp is there (in the garden, not under the stairs) because we were killing said demon grass and weeds because A. Year. Ago. I finally convinced MrB that decking the lawn would be best in the long run.

A. Year. Ago.

Just last month I finally got our bums in gear about getting someone to do the work we wanted done in the garden (are you sensing a theme, here? Read: Procrastination) and I spent two weeks sending and responding to emails that were bordering on the utterly ridiculous. One landscaping company wanted to charge ten to fifteen thousand Pounds to dig up what was in the garden and put some decking in after only seeing pictures of it, not knowing it's size! Another company had a much lower cost (about half of the low estimate) and even came out to see the space but every time I tried to ask specific questions about pricing for the extras we want (clothes line, shed for the bikes, etc) those questions weren't responded to in their return emails. Seriously? I'm asking specific questions and even outlining them for you and you completely leave them out of your reply? Thanks, but no thanks.

Anyway, the guy we chose to do the work not only answered all of our questions and gave a layered, detailed quote(s) but he was about half the price of the middle guy's estimate, too! Here's what he managed to get done after only about 3/4 of Day 1...

Amazing isn't it?! The only plants left are the ones we specified that we wanted to keep/had special plans for. I'm getting so excited.

I've also been working on things for my Etsy shop and have started my Winter Seasonal Celebration Cards (was that totally non-denominational, or what?!)...

I'm keeping it rather simple this year as last year I did cards that were very decorated and involved and I'm going for more ... how shall I put it... "reserved" this year. I'm also making twice as many as I ran out last year and that was quite annoying, especially considering how much I'd put into the ones that I did make.

The Mrs B bakes test kitchen is also working on a super new recipe for Apple Cinnamon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. Vegan, of course. (And the recipe is actually, technically, officially done, but I didn't take pictures of the test batch of cupcakes before they were devoured and I don't feel it would be fair to share a new recipe with you all without the accompanying, tempting photos!) So stay tuned for that! *grin*

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Added to the list of baddies...

As you probably know I am allergic/intolerant/sensitive to a plethora of foods which makes an "alternative" diet a bit tricky. IN an effort to streamline my life and make final decisions about what I can and cannot, will and will not eat; I dragged myself back to the allergy specialist for more testing on some foods I've been avoiding largely based on fear, cloudy childhood memories and a lack of willingness to test some of these foods and "fail" by having a potentially severe reaction.

I bought 7 tonnes of food, most of it dried, and brought the specialist The Sadist little sample bits of my fears.

After pricking my arms twelve times it was diagnosed that I am, indeed, severely allergic to some of the foods I was scared about. These are the culprits...

"Puy Style" Dark Speckled Green Lentils
Red Split Lentils
Brown Lentils
Green Lentils

Shall we just say .... all lentils? Grr, so frustrating.

On the other hand, we've learned that I'm -not- allergic to chickpeas, pine nuts, flax seeds, mung beans, aduki beans or millet!

(Sorry for the mush but the dried foods weren't conducive for testing as we couldn't guarantee that any of the allergen entered my skin. The mush ensured that it would.)

That's -fantastic- news but I must admit that some of those (along with the list of nuts OK'd at my last visit) I'm still afraid to eat because I've spent a lifetime avoiding them and thusly have almost brainwashed myself a bit. I -will- try them, I just need some time to convince myself that to do so will be OK ;)

**DISCLAIMER** I'd like to take a moment here to make this important PSA... Just because someone has a "negative" skin prick result (meaning that your skin isn't allergic to the allergen introduced) doesn't mean that you won't have something like OAS when you eat it. Consider yourselves warned/reminded.

I've been a busy little beaver doing all sorts of "chores" today... laundry, dishes, cooking two meals, assembling

and baking cookies!

Vegan Zucchini/Courgette Cookies
Stir together in a bowl:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup grated zucchini/courgette (I think I'll add a bit more next time)
1/2 cup canola/rapeseed oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together in another sized bowl:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup toasted, chopped pecans or walnuts
1 cup raisins)

Preheat the oven to 350 F (150 C). Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. (Stir in the nuts and raisins.)

Drop spoonfuls of dough on parchment-/baking paper- lined baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove cookies and place on wire rack to cool.

Mine, pictured above, probably look a little darker than you'd prefer in a cookie. That's because I actually set my oven hotter (by about 50 degrees C) than I should. They still taste good (they're not burned) but I will make sure I check the required temperature versus the actual temperature of my oven next time!

After my adventures today I've declared the rest of the evening for knitting *grin*