Thursday, September 25, 2014

A's 2nd Birthday

Wow 2 already! I can bearly believe it and I have to admit it's very emotional for me. Much more then the 1st birthday. The last 2 years were such a blessing to watch A grow and develop. Words cannot describe how much I love him and how he teaches and inspires m to be a better person.

But the last two years were also challenging and a big adjustment for me. I also have to admit that I wasn't sure that I wanted more children. I could bearly understand how people had 2 kids, 3 were just wow. Now I want more, many many more. lol. But Id efinately want another one. And if it wasn't for DH's PhD I think we'd start sooner. I just have to be patient and try to get healthy.

The last two years have been amazing, can't wait to see what the next one will bring.

Anyway here is a list of things A can do now:
  • A can now RUN. He crawled for 6 months and I can barely remember any of it. Now he RUNS!!!
  • He had his first haircut a week ago. Also emotional and bittersweet. (A hated getting his hair cut so I'll try to wait a long while before I go again)
  • He is enjoying jungle gyms. Loves to climb ladders and stairs. Recently he's even learned to go down the slide without my help.
  • With mixed feeling I have showed him some shows and he's really enjoying them. His favourite are: Blue's Clues, The Jungle Book and Winnie the Pooh.
  • His playroom is starting to get good use. Loves to hammer things and can build a mean tower. Also shows affection to his stuffed toys.
  • He is doing the movements at Kindermuzik when we say hello to each child. E.g. Stomp feet, clap, stars, hammer, boxing, etc.
  • Is starting to talk more and more. Says two words like "Pooh Bear", "Baby Bear", "New Car", Hot Day". 2 Syllable words like "Daddy", "Puppy".
  • Has learned "No!" :) :(
  • Still likes books, we're enjoying Dr Suess now.
  • We've had 3 flights since his 1 st Birthday! The flight to the US nearly killed my, the others were local and were easy peasy :) He loved the Aquarium, Scratch Patch, beach and the Penguins in CPT.
  • Is actually getting a bit less messy, especially during mealtimes.
  • Doesn't like bathing. I normally have to bride him with strawberries or chocolate.
  • He can pull his pants off. But has no interest in potty training.
  • Points to objects and correctly identifies it to Mama, Dada and Baba. (He especially loves doing that to dinner plates.)
  • Loves fruit and oats.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A @ 18 Months

Looking back at my last post that mentioned what A is able to do, he is growing and developing so quickly!

A can:
  • Walk with no problems. The otherday he was even taking a few steps backwards.
  • Loves books, especially rhymes. And stories with different voices and repetition like "3 Little Pigs", "Goldilocks and the three Bears" and "Chicken Licken"
  • We started Kindermuzik this year, in the beginning he could get a bit overwhelmed at times. But he's really getting into it now. Even immitating some of the actions we are doing.
  • He's vocabulary is growing, can say: amongst other words I'm forgetting: flower, avo, onion, "Old King Cole", puppy, alpacha, Ozzy.
  • He knows his body parts like eyes, head, nose, chin, mouth, teeth, face, hands, toes, etc.
  • Can make animal sounds, like gobble gobble and hee haw.
  • Pointing to mama and saying mama. It melts my heart!
  • He's copying things that we are doing. I was folding and putting away plastic bags. He took a bag himself and was scrunching it up and put it away in the cupboard.
  • He canget scared of loud animals and strange voices.
  • Can scribble with crayons, on paper, floor and walls.
  • HE had a small cold that come with a snotty nose. After a couple of times he actually gave me his nose to use the baby vac! Afterwards, he would pull it out of the vacuum cleaner and point to the sink for me to clean it.
  • Hates getting a check up at the doctor.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review: Zanoni Dark Coconut and Lime Chocolate

I am a total cliche when it comes to chocolate. "Hi, my name is Natalie and I'm a chocoholic".  My go to chocolate has been Lindt, love almost all of their ranges, especially their dark chocolate (the salt, orange and coconut are my favourite). However, maybe you've noticed I'm trying to be more concious of the food I'm eating. I also want to go past the mass produced food and give the little/local guy a chance. And if I have to be honest Lindt is a bit over mass produced for my liking.



So I was at my local Spar looking for my next chocolate fix. And this new chocolate range caught my eye. The brand is called Zanoni from Chocola j and they had a range of dark chocolates: Coconut and Lime, Chilli, and Pear and Ginger. What was also cool that the packaging was clear so you could see the chocolate. It's produced locally and the list of ingredients was short, simple and sweet. So I thought I'd try it.






Now the taste, was really yummy, very smooth, chocolaty with a bit of texture and sweetness coming from the coconut. I could compare it to Lindt coconut dark chocolate, but the Zanoni chocolate flavour was more delicate and the coconut not as over powering as the Lindt. The added lime was working in the backround to compliment the flavours. I will definitely be buying the chocolate again and I highly recommend it to any chocoholic. I might even be adventurous and get the ginger and pear next!

Monday, March 3, 2014

The quest for an ethical cupcake

As I'm trying to eat better and make better food for my family I have come to realise that there are many facets to "good" food.  An apple can be a good food, an organic apple would be even better, and an organic apple from your own back yard would be best. Also with so many "revolutionary" diets on the market one does not even know what good it anymore, at least health wise. So what is healthy for you is one aspect of good, another is the environment and where the food comes from and this ties into the ethics part of my post. Food that grows closer to you obviously contributed less carbon emissions getting to your kitchen. I have also been thinking about dairy a lot, especially since becoming a mother. I have grown up with milk and eggs, have been told that cows like to be milked but there more I find out about factory farming and the more I think about what cows have to go through, it feels wrong to me. Some once pointed out to me that it is the sexual exploitation of (female!) animals.

This is where I come into conflict with traditional baking. You need butter, you need eggs and you need milk. Up until not too long ago sugar was part of the slave drive. Suddenly the traditional art of baking does not seem so appealing. When I bake it's almost always a dessert for a special occasion, a celebration, something I make to be enjoyed with people close to me. One should not get joy at other's expense just for a cupcake or a piece of cake.

So I decided to try my hand at vegan baking. So at least my baking will be ethically and hopefully taste wise "good". There will still be fat, sugar and for now gluten involved, but like I said it's meant for special occasions.

 I found some really easy cupcake recipes on Chef Chloe's site and decided to do a hybrid coconut and chocolate cupcakes. I think this cupcake turned out great and no one could tell there were no animal products in it. The coconut flavour did not comeout tht much but I do think it added a nice richness. It also kept well for a couple of days. I made the cupcakes on Friday, the buttercream on Saturday and everything still tasted fresh Sunday, when the last cupcakes were polished of.

No animals were harmed in the making of this cupcake

Ethical Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with a Chocolate "Buttercream"

Makes 20 medium cupcakes
Prep time: 10 min
Baking time: 15 min

 

Ingredients

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup sunflower oil
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180deg C.
  2. Lightly grease 20 cupcake liners.
  3. Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and wisk.
  4. Place all the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and wisk till well combined.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and wisk till just combined. Do not over mix!
  6. Fill the cupcake liners aprrox 2/3 with the batter.
  7. Bake for 15-18min, or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

Chocolate Buttercream 

Makes just enough batter to ice 20 cupcakes. (If you plan on doing elaborate piping I would double the recipe)
Prep time: 10 min
Icing time: at least 10 min

 

Ingredients

½ cup unrefined coconut oil (should be solid at room temperature)
1 tablespoons cocoa powder
1½ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons coconut milk


Method:

  1. Using a hand held or stand mixer mix the coconut oil until smooth.
  2. Add the sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla extract and beat until combined
  3. Add the coconut milk if you need to loosen the icing.
  4. Ice those cupcakes!



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Special moments: Nursery rhymes

One evening I finished getting A ready for bed a little before his bed time so I asked my then 17 month old if he would like "milkies" or to play. He looked at me pensively and replied "Old King Cole". What he calls his nursery rhymes book. He wanted to be read to before bed!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Book Review: Vegan Cooking for Carnivores

As a new year resolution DH and I would like to greatly reduce meat and dairy from our diet. Now we have gone virtually vegetarian before but with the business of a new baby we fell of the wagon and with a new year and a new house with a new kitchen we want to get back at it again. I also wanted a new cook book to be inspired again. Browsing the books of Nigella, Jamie and Gordon I felt disappointed I would not be able to cook from much. The title of Vegan cooking for carnivores grabbed me because we sometimes miss the meat and it can sometimes be daunting to completely change your diet and eliminate it when you've been eating it almost everyday. So when I saw this book in the book shop it looked great so we bought it.

"Vegan Cooking for Carnivores" is written by Roberto Martin, the personal chef of Portia de Rossi and Ellen DeGeneres it's published in 2012. The photographs were done by Quentin Bacon. The book came out in September 2013. It is published by Grand Central Life and Style. It is also available as an ebook. The book has over 125 recipes and they include: breakfast, lunch, appetizers and snacks, soups, salads, pizza and pasta, entrees, sides, beverages, desserts and condiments.

Now I have made quiet a few recipes from the book already, including red beans and rice, shepherd's pie, mushroom pasta, rueben sandwich, arrabiata sauce, lentil soup, tofu egg sandwich and garlicky mash potatoes. And overall I am quiet happy I, DH and A have enjoyed everything we have made. (Well except for some reason I have not enjoyed the mushroom sauce pasta, I felt the mushrooms were a bit too strong but I used mushrooms and not shiitake like the recipe stated.)

I would say most recipes are simple to medium difficulty to prepare. He also has a lot of basics like sandwiches, tomato pasta sauce, tomato soup. I think a novice cook or a an everyday cook would easly master them. Martin is South American so a lot of his recipes are spicy and are Latin. I enjoyed cooking the food from that region. I think if someone is starting out as a vegan or a vegan starting to cook or a vegan living with a carnivore this book is great. If you are an experienced creative vegan cook you might find this book a bit boring. Not every recipe has a picture but there are a number of good photographs.

The one problem I have with this book is some of the ingredients it asks for. As I said some recipes are pretty basic and simple but being in South Africa the ingredients aren't so easy to find. For example there is a recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich. You need vegan cheddar cheese, I've seen vegan cheese once, it wasn't cheddar but it was expensive. A lot of recipes, especially desserts asked for vegan butter, I haven't seen vegan butter and I don't want to use margarine. Same problem exists with vegan mayonnaise. So that would require making your own substitutions and hope it works in the recipe. The Americans are lucky to have som many vegan alternatives.

So If you're in the US and the book looks enticing, get it the recipes are tasty. Anywhere else be warned that you might have trouble finding some of the ingredients!


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Vegeterian Lentil Shepherd's Pie

When it comes to comfort food there's not much better than a warm hearty shepherd's pie. Traditionally it is made with lamb mince but since we want to cut down on meat I've been looking for a good simple lentil shepherd's pie for ages. I love eating it out of a bowl, it makes it even more cosy and tasty. I adapted this recipe from Vegan Cooking for Carnivores by Roberto Martin.

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

  Vegetarian Lentil Shepherd's Pie


Ingredients
1 cup brown lentils
5 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup warm milk
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon thyme
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1.5 cups vegetable stock
0.5 cups frozen peas



Method
  1. Preheat your oven to 220C or 420F.
  2. Place the lentils in a pot and cover with water. Cover and simmer for 20 min. Sieve and reserve.
  3. Meanwhile boil the potatoes until soft. Turn the stove to low, drain the potatoes and put back in the hot pan. Shake the potatoes in the pan to scruff them. Mash the potatoes. Add the warm butter, milk and salt and pepper and quickly mix with a spoon. 
  4. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and fry until it starts to become translucent. 
  5. Add the garlic, carrot and celery and fry for a few minutes.
  6. Add the flour over the vegetables and mix well to coat the evently and to get rid of the bumps.
  7. Slowly add the vegetable stock and stir well.
  8. Add the lentils and let simmer for 5 minutes. 
  9. Add the peas and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Transfer to a 2.5 litre ovenproof dish and spread the mash potatoes on top. Make sure to seal the edges so the mixture doesn't spill over.
  11. Bake the pie for 25 minutes. Let it stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy.



Saturday, February 8, 2014

Special moments: Toddler laugh

There is nothing more earnest and joyful sounding than a toddler laugh. And it does lift your spirits to laugh more.

Yuppiechef The Art of Baking: Lesson 3

I'm really enjoying the Art of Baking online class from Yuppiechef. Did I mention it is free and easy to follow? so far I made (a half successful) cake in lesson 1 and biscuits (which turned out very very yummy) in lesson 2. I was very excited about lesson 3: BREAD!

I always thought it's difficult and complicated. Now I've learned you only need 4 ingredients to make bread; flour, yeast, salt and water. Well a pair of loving hands does help! The recipe was for a whole wheat bread. I found this great GMO free flour from Eureka Mills.

It was really fun seeing the dough rise while waiting for the yeast to make it's magic.

Whole-wheat bread dough before rising
The yeast doing it's magic after 45 minutes
The bread turned out great. The crust was amazing, nice and crispy. It would re really cool to experiment with different flours such as rye. I think in a year or so I'll be making bread with A regularly :)



My yummy bread

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A's teeth

A's teeth are not popping up like all those charts I have seen on pinterest. So I thought I's start documenting just in case someone else's child's teeth come out in a funny order. I'll update every time A gets a new tooth.

Upper Right Central Incisor - 8.5 months
Upper Left Central Incisor -8.5 months
Lower Right Central Incisor -9 months
Lower Left Central Inscisor -9 months
* Comment: the first four teeth started popping out one after the other. A was a bit irritable before the first one came out. The rest went ok.
Upper Left First molar - 13 months
Upper Right First molar - 13 months
*Comment: I've heard people complain that the molars cause a lot of pain when cutting. For us it wasn't that bad really. Hardly noticed really
Upper Right Lateral Incisor - 16 months
*Comment: We barely noticed the previous teeth cutting. But we certainly noticed this one! We were up quiet a lot for about 2 weeks. I shudder thinking about the rest of the teeth.
Lower Left First Molar - 16.5 Months
 *Comment: Guess all the suffering the last few weeks was also for this molar.
Lower Right First Molar - 19 months
*Comment: THat one tooth was really hard on him.
Lower Left Second Incisor - 20 months 
Upper Left Canine - 20.5 months
Upper Right Canine - 20.5 months
*Comment: It wasn't too bad waiting for them to cut actually

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Special Moments: First Steps

A took 3 whole steps on Christmas day and just started walking more and more since. Although he started crawling since he was six months, walking is quiet different :) He certainly has a new confidence and independance. It is very sweet watching and chasing a toddler around.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Quinoa Salad with Sweet Potato and Baby Spinach

I'm always on the look out for new ways of cooking quinoa. This is a lovely warm salad and the pumpkin seeds give it a lovely crunch and the raisins a dimension. I adapted this recipe from one I found on food52. It uses butternut instead of sweet potato and is equally yummy. Our vegetarian friend enjoyed it, so it's 3rd party approved.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
500grams sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, dice
1/2 brown onion diced small
1 and 3/4 cups vegetable stock
pinch of salt
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 handfuls baby spinach
1/2 cup raisins 
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)





Method 
  1. Put the quinoa in a bowl and cover it with cool water. Rub it between your hands and pour off most of the water. Add fresh water and repeat two or three times, until the water runs clear. Drain thoroughly in a fine-meshed strainer. Set the strainer over a bowl until you are ready to cook the quinoa.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large  pot. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until it begins to soften. Add the sweet potato and carrot and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the quinoa, stock and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, set a small plate next to the stove. Pour a few drops (about 1/2 teaspoon) of olive oil into a small skillet. Heat the oil over medium heat and add the pumpkin seeds. Stir and shake the pan until the pumpkin seeds turn from green to olive to slightly golden brown. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and immediately scrape them onto the awaiting plate.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and add the spinach, pumpkin seeds and raisins. Cover the pot and let rest in a warm place for 10 minutes. Mix and fluff up the grains with a fork. 
 



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Heart Felt Bunny

After Christmas we have Valentine's day to lift our spirits, especially after January when we're waiting for our paycheck. Valentine's day might be seen as commercial but it doesn't have to be. I think it's nice to stop and think of the ones we love. And you don't need to spend money to show that. I like a quiet evening with DH and now A with a nice meal at home. And if I get flowers out of it, I'm not complaining.

Since A's Birthday I have really neglected my crafting. Now that we are somewhat settled I am rearing to go again. I thought I would make a cute Valentine's Day Bunny ornament. The idea is to hang it on the front door knob for DH to see when he comes home. It also fits nicely into A's fist. So maybe I should have put a little bell inside it. 

The front of my Valentine Felt Bunny

The back of the Bunny

Anyway, here is the template if you like my bunny. It's the first one I'm posting on the blog. So please let me know if you have suggestions to make it better.

template

 

 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Yuppiechef The Art of Baking: Lesson 2

I was very excited and inspired when I found the Art of Baking course from Yuppiechef, you can read about my outcome of Lesson 1.  Now I wasn't particularly excited about Lesson 2: Cookies and Biscuits. They have never came out WOW for me and I also found the whole process tedious rolling the dough, cutting the shapes, baking a batch, then again rolling, cutting, baking... 

The recipe in the lesson was for Lemony Butter Biscuits and OMG they came out amazing! These are really the tastiest biscuits I have ever made and probably one of the best I've tasted. Can't believe I made them LOL. Funny how sometimes in life you find a treasure when you don't expect to. So this recipe is a definite winner and I can't wait till A gets a bit bigger so he can help me with the cookie cutting. 

I also learned a neat tip that you can freeze the biscuit dough. So I can keep some dough in the freezer and make the biscuits when I need them, and not have to roll, cut and bake for hours.   

On to lesson 3:Bread :)

Simple and really really yummy lemony butter biscuits

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Special Moments: Little Walking Moster :)

A finally took a good three steps on Christmas (that's the day before he turns 15months if you're wondering). What a great present for mommy and daddy! Since then he's been walking more and more everyday. Right now nothing is cuter then him rushing towards me on his two feet :)

Red Beans and Rice

For the past few years J and I have been trying to eat less meat and dairy. I don't know if we'll ever become true vegetarians/vegans, some patches of the year are better then others. But we're motivated because it is the start of the new year.

I recently bought a cookbook called "Vegan Cooking for Carnivores". It is written by Roberto Martin, who is a personal chef to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. Portia said that "instead of making vegan food, he made food vegan". After I make some more recipes I'll write a review of the book. Now the book claims that if you're going to make one recipe from the book, make red beans and rice. So I decided that one would be it.

I have never heard of red beans and rice before and it doesn't really sound very promising but I was proved wrong. The dish is very exciting visually and taste wise.


I used Frys Vegeterian Spicy Sausages in the recipe. The dish turned out great! I think it could definitely fool a carnivore! The sausages did make it nice and spicy, I think I'll try to make it with some Frys Traditional sausages next time to make it milder. The recipe made a hearty amount so luckily we had left overs for lunch the next day. Yum!

I have vegan chili recipe that I make in the slow cooker and this one definitely replaces it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Peeling Tomatoes Tutorial

Lots of recipe's call for peeled tomatoes. From simple tomato sauce to soups and stews. I would normally then reach for a can chopped and peeled tomatoes. But I learned it is really quick and easy to peel your own tomatoes.

So here's how to do it:

1. Make a criss-cross on the under side of the tomato with a knife.


2. Place to tomatoes in boiling water for about 3 minutes.


3. Put the tomatoes under cold water to cool them down.


4. Peel the tomatoes where you made the criss cross


Tah-dah!