lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
I might not be doing this quite right as I'm making these links a bit more like a blog roll than the sort of 'I saw this interesting/appalling post' type links. Oh well, this evening I will tell you again about a website I've linked to a lot on my blog before, but it deserves linking to again as it is awesome. is the best place on the internet I know of to find great vegan recipes. It's where I send people whenever I receive a plea for help finding an animal product free recipe. My particular favourites include Wheat gluten sausages, which I'm making tonight for dinner, and Dilly stew with rosemary dumplings which tastes as good as it looks.

Another site I like for recipes is This week my packed lunches have included: tofu dumplings, dry curry, onion and pepper confit, stir fried cabbage with cranberries and scrambled tofu.
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
I am quite curvy*. This leads a problem with finding shirts for work. I generally have a choice between shirts which are only a little bit too big at the waist but gape at the buttons over the chest and shirts which are roughly the size of a tent (and still somehow manage to gape at the chest).

I have found the solution: poppers! The problem I have is that there is enough fabric in the shirt to fit around my chest, but the contours make the fabric pull at the buttons, leading to gaping. To solve the problem I sew a popper half way between the buttons where it gapes the most. Not only does it stop the shirt gaping between those two buttons, but by changing the tension on the fabric, one popper will often cure all of the gaping problems. It's rather magic and if you're neat enough to sew through just the inner layer of the double fabric around the buttons, the popper is invisible when the shirt is being worn.

*In a E cup size rather than a euphemism for fat way.
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
I've succumbed to Pioneer Woman. Well not really.

This Friday we had an old school friend of mine and her husband over for dinner and I decided to make what Alec and I have come to refer to as luxury pie. This requires puff pastry and like all normal human beings we bought the ready rolled frozen stuff from the supermarket. (Another great thing about living in a Jewish area: Tescos sells kosher puff pastry.) This left the dilemma of what to do with the rest of it which would have to be defrosted to get enough for the pie top. We figured maybe we could make some kind of apple tarts or something with it (my words were "think vol-au-vents but with apples in them") and to check that this wasn't a terrible idea I googled "puff pastry apple tarts", which took me here. We didn't quite follow the recipe in that we had a lot of puff pastry to use up so we just cut out a bit as big as our entire baking tray and layered the apples on top. But it was tasty and super quick and easy. Anyway, here is slightly out of focus, not that food pornie photo of the one I made this afternoon to use up the last of the puff pastry.

Blurry apple tart

My journal has become a little quiet and dull recently. I moved to a new town and started a new job, which means I am busier and my job places limits on what I can say in public forums. I'm still getting a feel for where the line is and in the mean time mainly sticking with posts about food.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)

This isn't a particularly impressive bento, but it was yummy. I made stir fry for dinner and after dinner, wanting to go to bed rather than overthink the bento, I realised that I could just eat the remaining noodles and put the veggie and tofu part of the stir-fry in my bento box along with a pre-frozen portion of rice.

Stir-fry is one of my favourite quick yummy dinners. Grab random veggies from the fridge, soya sauce, onions, maybe miso and 30 minutes later there's yummy healthy food. In this case I particularly wanted to cook this because the steamed tofu dumplings only use less than half of a pack of tofu so when I make them I have to make something else with tofu in within the next few days. I'm trying to plan ahead to ensure that I use up ingredients and minimise waste.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)

This was my lunch on Monday. Short grain brown rice which I cook in big batches and freeze in 1 cup portions to defrost in the microwave to put in my bento in the morning. The tofu dumplings are one of my favourite bento items and so yummy it's hard to not eat them all when I make them. The recipe is from Just Bento and I make them with wanton skins which I buy frozen from Yarden, which is why I think mine have a bit more skin to filling than Maki's. The carrot kinpira is also from Just Bento but I think I left out the chilli and soya sauce when I made this batch to just have the carrot and sesame goodness.

The box is a Bento Colors box and you can just see the head of a of the duck Animal sauce bottle poking out from under the rice.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
I decided to post about the bentos I make for work. Maybe it will provide inspiration to others.

This is pretty much a replication of the Vegan dry curry bento on Just Bento.

I made the dry curry with chickpeas rather than tempeh because I had a tin of chickpeas whereas tempeh is a slightly more exotic ingredient which requires a trip to Muswell Hill. As Maki says, the dry curry freezes really well. I made a batch weeks ago, bunged it in the freezer in some tuperware and just pulled it out to spread on top of rice in my bento box. I didn't need to defrost it when I packed it in my box. I've also taken to cooking big batches of short grain rice and freezing it in one cup portions, then I just defrost it in the morning in the microwave as I make breakfast.

If you're interested, the box is a 800ml Lock & Lock box which comes with the dividers. Annoyingly the dividers don't reach up to the lid so there is a little bit of movement between the sections as I carry my lunch to work, but not as much as you'd expect. Future posts may contain pcitures of my cute bento accessories.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
I've been doing reasonably well at making myself bentos most work days for the last three weeks. The carbohydrates are easy because the potato salad lasted ages and I've been cooking extra rice and freezing it so that I always have some to go in a bento. The thing I find trickier to think of and have on hand are veggies and to a lesser extent protein items. To help me come up with more variety here is a list of recipe I want to try out.

Sweet pepper and carrot confetti
Miso tahini and nut paste on vegetables
Carrot and sesame salad
Stir fried cabbage with garlic and cranberries

Misoyaki tofu
Two colour spicy lentil salad with cucumber and radish
Vegan iri dofu
Mochi tofu nuggets
Spicy lentil snacks
Vegan turnip cake
frozen tofu cutlets
Dry curry

This week I'm trying out the turnip cake and stir fried cabbage.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
In the original Bento Challenge you're supposed to take photos of your bentos at lunch time and post them on your report. I did take a picture of one of them but I can't work out how to upload photos off my phone yet, so you'll have to make do with my descriptions.

I made two bentos. The first was rice, curried kidney beans and carrot kinpira. I took two little sauce bottles of soya sauce to put on the rice. I made most of it the night before and went as far as putting it in the boxes apart from the soya sauce. One snag that I hit was that I planned to put some pickled ginger in the rice but in the morning I couldn't get the jar of pickled ginger open so had to go without. It was nice though.

The second bento was originally going to be potato salad, sausages and dipping sauce and carrot sticks and homous. However, we ate all but one of the sausages the night before so I had one sausage and had curried kidney beans left over from the previous bento. For this one I did more of the work in the morning. I had cooked potatoes but I chopped them up and made potato salad in the morning. I had some left over salad from the night before but cut up my carrot sticks and used slices of carrot to separate the sausage from the curry. It took a while to do, particularly as I had to work out how to fit it all in. I didn't use the dipping sauce in the end when I ate it but I did discover that my panda sauce holder is just the right size to hold enough homous to dip one box of carrots.*

So I think the main lessons I learnt from that week was that I should do as much prep as possible the night before and just do things like peeling and chopping carrots in the morning. I should also take photos with my camera in the morning as then I will actually be able to upload them.

The challange for week 2 is to make one more bento than the week before and look at how nutritious your previous weeks bentos were. I have to say that my bentos were pretty nutritious as my box has three compartments which are 250, 200 and 200 ml and I've been filling them with one each with carb, protein and veg components.

Next week I'm planning to make three bentos. I've got a rough plan of what I'm going to do, but I may change that depending on what happens. The first one I'm planning to use up the potato salad and make some kind of bean salad to go with it and have it with carrot sticks, homous and a bit more salad. The second one I was thinking of making kinpira out of the slightly less than fresh carrots and broccoli stalks in the fridge and have it with rice and fried tofu, maybe with some pickled ginger. The third I'm not sure of yet. I'm planning to make tempeh chilli on Thursday evening so I might keep some of the tempeh and beans to go in my bento and have it with rice and some kinpira if I have any left.

*All of these references to pandas etc. will make more sense when I add pictures.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
My work has a nice reasonably good value canteen, but it's still cheaper to bring a packed lunch and that way you can have a bit more control over what you're eating. I've decided to kick start my making of lunches by doing the Just Bento Bento Challenge. In fact that was one of the things listed in my 101 things in 1001 days. To motivate myself I've bought a really cute bento box which fits upright in my work bag and some accessories.

This week I plan to make two bentos, for Tuesday and Thursday. The first will be brown rice, curried kidney beans, carrot kinpira and broccoli. The second will be potato salad, veggie sausage and mixed salad. That's the plan anyway.
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
We have a wardrobe which is too narrow to fit full sized hangers in. Consequently it is pretty empty, with only trousers hung in it on trouser hangers, and our other wardrobe is overstuffed. I'd like to hang more stuff in the narrow wardrobe and, as it's not full length, the obvious things to hang in there would be skirts. Most of my skirts have ribbon loops on the waist to hang them by and I hang them on wooden shirt hangers with notches. I prefer doing that than using hangers with clips, as it makes it quicker and easier to get the skirts on the hangers. I came up with a cunning plan recently, when it occurred to me that children's hangers would be small enough to fit in the narrow wardrobe and I could buy wooden ones with notches and hang my skirts from those in the narrow wardrobe, leaving the other one free for shirts, jackets and dresses.

So, can you see a glaring flaw in my cunning plan or suggest an alternative way of hanging skirts in wardrobe too narrow to fit standard hangers?
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
I still haven't finished my 101 things in 1001 days list. I've got to come up with 17 more things, but as I have over two years to do it all in, I'm sure that I can come up with some more stuff as needed.

Anyway, without further ado, my first two completed items:

Pictures under the cut )


Jun. 17th, 2011 05:53 am
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
Do any of you know of a good pattern for a knee length 1950s style petticoat?


Jan. 20th, 2011 08:20 pm
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
Last night I sewed some buttons back onto a jacket. It was much easier than I thought it would be so I think I'll get back into sewing. So that I don't end up with lots of things half done I'm going to try to finish things off before I start something new.

Sew a spare button onto my coat.
Dye my coat to cover up the faded bits. (I'm not going to do this until it gets warmer so that I don't have to go without my coat.)
Sewing up the seam which has gone on one of my jumpers.
Sew up Alec's trousers. (Alec normally repairs his own clothes, this pair would probably be better done on the sewing machine, which I Alec doesn't know how to use.)
Patch up tear in sheet.
Replace bottom button on cardigan.
Replace button on velvet jacket.
Replace button on blue top.
Take in the waist of my corduroy skirt.

Finish the seams of the skirt I made for my brothers wedding.
Sew together the pieces of the black dress.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
It may shock people to hear that despite being vegan for about a decade (my I'm old) I've not been much of a fan of green vegetables. I've eaten broccoli, but that was about it. However, over the last few months my omnivore husband has been winning me over to them. It started with bubble and squeak. Surely no one can object to a bit of cabbage or spinach if it's mixed with fried potato and onion. Gradually I got over my aversion to leafy veg to the point where I was willing to add a small serving of plain cabbage or kale to my plate. This is a Good Thing because we are entering the time when the main veg in season are 101 brassica variations on the theme of leaves.

This week on my trip to the local organic veg stall I was adventurous enough to buy a sprout top (the leaves at the top of the sprout stem). Inspiration for what to do with it struck when I decided that I'd also like to try the recipe for Ethiopian Spicy Tomato Lentil Stew on Post Punk Kitchen. I wanted some kind of vegetable side dish and a bit of googling turned up recipes for gomen wat, which is Ethiopian style greens. I amalgamated a bunch of recipes to make my own.

Serves 2-4 as a side dish

One spout top
One small red onion
One clove of garlic
One green pepper
Vegetable oil
Spices (I used a pinch each of turmeric, ginger and ground cardamon)

I boiled the sprout top leaves for about ten minutes until they were done and then chopped them into small pieces. I chopped the onion and fried in some oil in a small saucepan. I minced the garlic and added it and then chopped the pepper into 1-2cm chunks and added them. Once the onions are translucent add the greens and spices and stir until heated through.

I served both on this deeply inauthentic imitation of injera, which takes 15 minutes to make as opposed to three days for the real thing.
lavendersparkle: (Lady Garden)
We decided to grow some fruit and veg in containers, as it's now the end of the growing season I'll go over how things did and plans for next year.

Things we grew this year:
Strawberries We grew these in a hanging basket, which kept them safe from the slugs and snails. They were quite fun but I don't think they managed to produce a bowlful between them. This may have been due to neglect, but I don't think they'd be worth repaeting.

Chillis We grew these in pots on the windowsill in our kitchen. We enjoyed having them there so I think we'll grow them again, but next time I'll be less sentimental and only grow on the strongest three in nice big pots.

Coriander This took ages to germinate and bolted pretty quickly. I still think it's worth growing, but next time we might sew successive crops.

Basil Grew quite well. It flowered pretty soon after it was planted outside, but I still think it's worth growing.

Parsley Our parsley plants are still growing well in a container outside. We'll keep them going over the winter if they survive.

Tomatoes The tomatoes grew and we got a reasonable crop from them but they were a bit of hassle. The main problem was that as they were in pots and rather tall, they kept falling over and made a bit of a mess, so I don't think we'll be growing them again.

Lettuce This is definitely the sort of thing to grow, because you can have just a single portion of fresh mixed leaves when you want it. We grew them in wooden veg crates, which worked quite well, so I think we'll do that again next year. The only different I'd make would be to grow varieties designed to be cut and come again, instead of whatever random seeds Aldi had.

Marigolds These seemed to well at keeping the aphids away from the tomatoes.

Cucumbers These were the stars of the year. They grew so fast. It was entertaining to watch them grow practically in front of our eyes and grab hold of the netting we'd put up for them to climb. They provided us with lots of really yummy cucumbers over the summer.

Stuff to grow next year:
Tomatoes I've heard of tomatoes which can be grown in hanging baskets, so I think I'll put those in the hanging basket next year.

Mange Tout I think we'll use the pots we used for tomatoes this year to grow mange tout, us they're a bit shorter and prettier than tomatoes. Also, it's harder to get non-imported mange tout then non-imported tomatoes.
lavendersparkle: (Tofu)
Today I went to the organic farm stall, which is in Cambridge market every Sunday and I highly recommend. Lots of the things he sells still have their leaves attached. Rather than just add these leaves to the compost, I decided to investigate whether they could instead be added to my tummy and it turned out that they could. I bought two fennel bulbs. I'm aware that the leaves are edible and go well with fish. They have an aniseed taste and one of my friends like adding them to her drinking water. Next was beetroot, which also, it turns out, has edible leaves. They can be cooked and eaten like spinach, which is what I did this evening. Radish leaves are a bit trickier. They are edible, but I've seen mixed views of them on the internet. Apparently they're quite bitter and are somewhere between watercress and nettles. I might have a go at cooking some later this week. On the topic of eating all of the bits of the vegetable, broccoli stalks are edible, I like to put them in veggie chillis because they can sometimes be a little tough but they add a lovely flavour to the dish.

A more obvious way to avoid waste is to eat whatever bits of the food you've decided are edible before they go off. There seem to be two competing approaches to this. Under one approach, you make a careful meal plan and buy your week's food with an exact plan for how each item will be consumed. Another method is to buy your food each day and only buy what you'll eat that day. I don't follow either of those plans. Usually I go to the market/shops/supermarket website with no idea what meals the food I'm buying is going to turn into, just a vague knowledge of what sorts of things we typically get through. I waste surprisingly little food despite this shopping strategy because I keep an eye on what's in the fridge and am happy to base meals around what has to be eaten today, because if we leave it another few days it'll start growing new lifeforms. Here are some of my favourite 'it's still edible but it won't be tomorrow' meal ideas:
1) Mushroom risotto. This is what I cook when I find a bag of mushrooms in the fridge, which are past the stage when I'd eat them raw. The recipe I use calls for a pepper, so it can also use peppers which are starting to go a little wrinkly.
2) Bubble and squeak. I must confess, I like bubble and squeak so much that I cook potatoes and cabbage specifically to make it, but if you've got some left over cooked potatoes and green veg it can't be beaten.
3) Pasta sauces. These can be home to all manner of tomatoes and peppers which are on the turn. By the time they're cooked they'll be squishy anywhere, so it doesn't matter if they started off that way.
4) Veggie chilli. Almost any veg which is safe to eat but not appetising to eat can be turned into a delicious meal if chopped up and mixed with tinned tomatoes, beans and chilli.

What are your favourite recipes for using up stuff that's about to go off?
lavendersparkle: (Good little housewife)
I'm about to make my first attempt to make an item of clothing without a pattern. I'm a bit inspired by my successful attempt to make a snood a couple of weeks ago (I'll post about that later). I'm armed with the Readers' Digest Complete Book of Sewing and some skirts I already own. I've got a clear idea of how I want to skirt to be and what fabrics I want to use. I worked out yesterday how much fabric I needed and it came to 2.8m, which is a ridiculous amount for a skirt, but I want it to have a big flare and the fabric I want to use is patterned. I think, given that I may make mistakes and want to play around with seams it's a good idea to have a lot of fabric to work with.


Mar. 31st, 2010 12:54 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Rat)
This year I tried not to get too stressed about Pesach prep but failed and still ended up having a couple of sleepless nights. Despite that, by the time it got to the time for the seder I was feeling happy and relaxed and energised by the arrival of my guests (particularly Alice who arrived early to help and made the ratatouille). This year we expanded from last year and had four guests. As well as Alice, who came last year, there was: Xose, a Spanish Roman Catholic and Alice's boyfriend; Beccy, an Israeli leftist, who, due to her upbringing on a Socialist kibbutz had minimal experience of religion prior to meeting some members of the Cambridge Egal Min crowd; and Anthony, an Australian PhD student who is trying very hard not to overrun and was a great help with the singing.

The menu was vegetarian and almost vegan. We had a roasted beetroot instead of a lamb bone and lentils instead of an egg. I also tried to make as much as possible from raw ingredients so that I didn't have to spend too much on kosher l'Pesach certified food.* The menu was:
boiled eggs in salt water (and a boiled potato for me)
carrot and coriander soup
Nut loaf** with rosemary roast potatoes, broccoli, curly kale and ratatouille
Tea pouched pears with chocolate sauce

The seder went well, particularly with the addition of Anthony for the singing. Alec was against fiendish in his hiding of the afikomen. Xose did appear at one point that he might die due to not realising what horseradish was until he had a big chunk of it in his mouth. We had Kedem rather Palwin this year and I prefer it's super sugery goodness although the rest of the guests (apart from Beccy) found it a bit much. I made the mistake again of forgetting that, despite all of the jokes and moaning, the seder actually isn't that long and that I need to put the roasties in earlier. Next year I shall try putting the over on when we begin and putting the potatoes in about 20 minutes after that. At the end of the seder we sang The Land which Alice was unamused by as she is still in denial about the Lib Dems being better than the Labour party.

*I still somehow managed to spend over £70 at Kosher Kingdom for one basket of groceries.
** I used this recipe but I used kosher l'Pesach falafel mix rather than stuffing mix because I couldn't find any. I also used smashed nuts rather than sliced nuts because shoving them in a bag and whacking them with a sturdy bottle is easier than slicing.


Mar. 12th, 2010 02:45 pm
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
I must confess that I didn't do my own laundry until I left home. I learnt to launder clothing at university. I clearly remember growing up getting the impression that one was supposed to launder different colours separately. At university I found that shoving everything which was machine washable into the machine together worked reasonably well. Now that I am a Grown Up Married Lady my household has a laundry system with four categories: Alec's shirts, which need to be washed at 60 with stain remover to get the collars and cuffs clean; woollen jumpers and the odd other delicate item, which get washed in the 30 wool cycle; hand wash only items, which fester at the bottom of the hamper until a day when I have the patience to wash them and a sunny enough day to dry them; and everything else, most of our laundry which goes on a 30 cotton cycle. Colour doesn't feature in the system, other than that most of the hand wash only stuff is so uncolourfast that it runs in cold water so I have to wash each item separately or only with other items of the exact some shade.

I don't understand where this lights and darks idea comes from. Everything I put in the washing machine is colour fast. If I'm not sure whether something is colour fast I'll wash it by itself with a sacrificial white 'canary sock' to check. I don't think that anything's run after the first wash except for hippy clothes you'd buy at Strawberry Fair which are so clearly uncolourfast that they dye your legs if you wear them in the rain. Even if things weren't colour fast I don't see how dividing clothes into lights and darks would help. Most of my clothes are neither white not black. Most things I wash are dyed but pale enough that they would show if a different colour die run into them. The only way to get around this would be to sort things into a red wash, orange wash, yellow wash etc. but I don't think that I own enough clothes to make a full load in any one colour except turquoise because that's the colour of our towels.

So, is there something in this whole "sorting laundry by colour" malarkey which I'm just missing?
[Poll #1537213]
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
As I said in my last post, I want some more formal dresses. To achieve this aim I've bought Simplicity pattern 3673 and am planning to make view C. In an attempt to look a bit more like a well-dressed sophisticated adult rather than a Grayson Perry wannabe, I'm going to make it in plain black rather than some of the much more exciting fabrics available at John Lewis. I'm thinking that I'll make it out of black cotton sateen and use black cotton lawn to line the bodice.

Does that sound like a good plan for making a sophisticated little black dress?