Vegan Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Cookies

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“This is by far, as tasty a cookie (if not more) as your non – vegan ones”, my non – vegan husband. Now that’s a compliment because it is NOT always easy to get a 100% approval from non –  vegans!

These cookies have aquafaba in them and I think that made a huge difference. Aquafaba iz the liquid from a tin of chickpeas.

If you soak dry chickpeas overnight, don’t throw away the golden liquid.

Aquafaba is by far the best natural and cheap egg replacer. I used a non vEgan recipe for my cookies but simply replaced eggs with aquafaba.

Aquafaba can stay in a clean air tight or sealed glass jar for a week or so in the fridge.

Measuring it is fairly simple too.

3 tablespoon aquafaba = 1 egg

It takes a good 15 minutes to beat the aquafaba to fluff up just like a beaten egg. So be patient. It does come together. Good luck.

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Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 cup cacao powder(or cocoa)

1 1/2 cup coconut sugar (or brown/white)

1/2 – 1 cup pumpkin seeds (or nuts)

2 tablespoons margarine (or 1/2 cup of oil)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (not powder)

6 tablespoons aquafaba

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

Half a bar of vegan dark chocolate, chopped ( I used bournville)

Method:

In a saucepan, using an electric whisk blend in the butter and sugar. Now add aquafaba little bit at a time. Keep whisking until the mixture is fluffy. Don’t worry if it’s a bit runny. It will still work. But give it a good go first.

Now add all the other ingredients apart from the flour and seeds. Blend it all in.

Next add the seeds and flour. Using a wooden spatula or spoon combine the ingredients.

Once combine, refrigerate for 30 mins. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 160 degrees.

After half an hour, spoon the cookie dough onto your baking tray. Either lay reusable baking sheet or grease the tray first.

Pop them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. They should be still soft when you take them out. Leave them on the train for a minute before you transfer them on a rack. It will crisp up as it cools.

Viola!

 

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Play Shifu Augmented Reality Game Review

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It was Christmas Eve and the house was smelling of mince pies, the log fire was sprinkled with frankincense and the grownups were busy with their last minute Christmas shopping.

Adding to the Christmas mood was a nicely wrapped pre-Christmas present sent to us by the lovely people at Play Shifu. (A Secret Santa of sorts).

Play Shifu is an augmented reality (AR) game for children between two and seven years old. Baby Ro is only 20 months old and my bigger kids are above nine years old now. Having said that, the safari park game kit sent to us attracted all three equally.

The Play Shifu safari park kit came in a box. The box contained 60 animal cards, a handy travel bag for the cards and a stand for your phone or tablet.

AR is really taking off at the moment, and to think that toddlers as young as two can now use this new technology to learn is mind-blowing for me.

So once you download the app on your phone and activate the game (with the code provided on the inside of the box), you are ready to rock and roll.

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It is pretty simple and user friendly. You simply have to put the phone on the stand and place the animal card in front of the phone camera. As soon as the phone detects the card, you see a 3D animated version of the animal on your phone screen. You can see the animal in it’s own habitat, you can see what sound it makes and what it eats. You can always use your touch screen to get a 360 degree visual of the animal too.

We have been using this game for about three weeks now and it is still a popular one in the house. All three come running downstairs when I offer them to help little Ro’s play with it.

The two positives for me of the game are:

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Bonding:

I like how it brings all my three children together and sit and do an activity together. You can hear them squeak, roar and giggle together and engage not only through technology but with each other.

Education:

It may seem silly but my older children were fascinated by some of the animals and to have found their habitat. Little Ro is learning names of different animals and birds and the sounds of the animals. That said, 60 cards can get a bit overwhelming, so the trick I reckon is to take out only a few cards at a time. This way the game will be less overwhelming and more interesting.

A few questions spring to mind though. Is it bringing us close to nature or towards technology?

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I am a bit sceptical about screen times and over-exposure of young minds to too much technology. There’s a lot of research out there about the negative impact of too much time on smartphones as well

Augmented reality when applied well like Play Shifu has great potential for educational purposes. There are still many advancements to come I am sure, but even at it’s current stage it is a pretty nifty technology in hand.

My only worry or criticism is the captivating effect augmented reality brings. Having an animal-shaped toy or visiting an animal sanctuary or reading about various animals from books teach the kids exactly the same things that AR games do. But unlike AR games they do not make the child directly associate the animal with a phone or a tablet.

The first few days when I took the cards out for Ro Ro, just to play with or to use as memory cards/flashcards, he kept asking for the phone as if these animals make no sense without the app. This to me is a huge negative. Over time I have almost weaned him off this association. And now we travel with just the cards and talk to him about the animals. We have also limited his time on app to once a week. It is working but it took a while.

 

Technology is at our disposable. It has the power to backfire, but there is a lot of learning for us as a parent to do in terms of using it to our benefit. Technology in small doses, paired with a lot of old-fashioned activities like making dens and playing imaginary games, actual cards games, colouring, long walks in the woods, making sand castles, reading books etc. can be a huge resource towards educating the future generation.

Just make sure that you augment your augmented reality, with, well; reality!

How Motherhood Has Changed Me

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Once carefree and even a bit of a thrillseeker, I now settle for Netflix, a nice cup of tea (three sugars; sue me) and if I’m feeling naughty, a bar of chocolate. High octane stuff!

I am happy if I can get my first coat of nail paint on and dry without smudging and I feel extremely grateful if I can manage to get my eyebrows threaded once every two months.

Once an insatiable, irresistable sex machine – OK , that hasn’t changed! (If-I-could-just-get-this-baby-back-to-sleep-and-stop-the-dogs-barking…)

Jokes aside, motherhood has changed me twice-over, I think.

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Stepmother First

For those who don’t know, motherhood came to me in two instalments: I became a mother to my stepchildren seven years ago at the age of 22. This made me realise my strengths, my ability to love unconditionally and to empathise, with patience.

Giving Birth

Six year later, I gave birth to a lovely little brown baby in our home on our sofa. The hormones, the rush you feel within you, the overwhelming love that you feel all over your body – even eyelids – is indescribable.

Self-Reflective

What’s changed over the years in which I’ve had both of these experiences and seen my life change so much? I think, to start with, that I have become more self-reflective and learned to see my weaknesses and mistakes. I have grown the strength to acknowledge them and own them: I strive to raise children that will become kind, loving and caring grown ups and to be able to achieve that I have to try to embody that myself and walk that talk too.

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Improved Relationship With My Stepchildren

Motherhood has changed the way I interact with my stepchildren. I have a new-found empathy for their loss ( i.e estranged mum). Giving birth brings out a special instinct to care, protect and nurture your baby and I think that that has extended to my bigger two as well. I feel less of a caretaker and more real mother to them than ever.

Holy Cow!

I have always been an animal lover. There is no doubt about it. But I did not have the empathy I have for animals now. I always saw ‘Mother Cow’ as a holy cow in the Indian sense for its bounty to us, but not as a mother to a calf. Now as a breastfeeding mother, I can never consume dairy from another species and neither do I want my children to…

Relaxed Person

I used to get very agitated when things did not go my way and I used to get frustrated with my big kids when they rebelled. But since giving birth, I can see there is no reasoning with a rebelling toddler and no amount of frustration from within me achieves any peace. So I have become far more relaxed about rebellious behaviour from all my children now. I am more tolerant and I try to see the upset in them than how it upsets me.

Social Justice: Theory To Practice

Before having children, I was a silent observer and opponent of misogyny, racism, child sexual abuse, body shaming etc. Now realising how vulnerable my little ones are to the social issues that exist in our world I try to much more actively to speak up against these issues and advocate awareness of them.

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Slow Living

I love practicing life as per my child’s pace (work in progress though). This is also why I also chose to homeschool this year. That way I do not have to tear them away from their play, reading, woodwork or whatever that is keeping them engaged.

Be Kind (to yourself)

I have also become very aware of how important I am. My baby depends on me for his sustenance, now that is something! My big children depend on me for their emotional needs, their basic needs etc. I can only provide everyone with kindness if I look after myself and I am kind to myself first.

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I cannot just be carefree and go sky-diving! It is not that I have become boring, I am aware that my life has more meaning. It has meaning for the ones I have chosen to bring into this world and raise! In Motherhood, I have in many ways completely lost the me I was before it; but I have found a new me. A better version of me that is more grown up, non-judgemental, kinder and more conscious than ever before.

I like to think I still have a naughty streak left though. It’s just… “Your socks? In the top drawer!” “No I don’t know where the car keys are!” “Put that down please!” “Did someone say ‘foot massage’?”

 

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P.S: This post is a part of a Mums and Babies blog train organised by Pooja Kawatra where 41 mothers from all over the world have come together to write together. Do read her blog post on ‘How Motherhood Had Changed Me’.

IMG-20170922-WA0004Tomorrow Nayantara from Mumbai will be sharing her thoughts on motherhood. Nayantara talks about her journey “Mommying” her son babyT at MommyingbabyT. She has been blogging for over a year and loves talking about all the fun while breastfeeding, cloth diapering and babywearing lil T. She says her life changed when she saw how beautifully nature intended the whole mothering process to be. A natural mama, who tries to be as less interventional as possible when it comes to raising her son she believes in letting nature take its course.

 

Review & Uses: Tots Bots Happy Mat And Wet Bags

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In16 months of my child’s life, I have never once used a changing mat. Don’t be alarmed: it hasn’t all been dirty floors, green fields and absorbent sofas :/

My mum made some amazing handmade quilt-like mats out of old cotton sarees and believe it or not, I have been relying on those all these months.

So when Tots Bots offered me to try out their Happy Mat and Wet Bag, I was pretty pleased. Old sarees are great, easy to wash and colourful, but not very waterproof…

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The new addition to Tots Bots Happy Mat and Wet Bag collection is in my favourite print, Kaleidoscope. The mathas three layers: super-absorbent fluffy top layer, a squishy padded middle layer and a waterproof bottom layer.

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If you are a cloth nappy user, you’ll be familiar with the vital wet bag: these are used to keep the dirty, wet and soiled nappies separated from the dry ones. Tots Bots’ wet bags are completely leak-proof, just like their nappies, and can hold up to 8 soiled nappies. They have a zipper to lock the nappies in and a little snap-on handle.

More Than Just A Nappy Accessory

In the past few weeks that we have been using these products we realised that they have more uses than just one.

Here are some of the different ways in which we have been using the happy mat and the wet bag:

1. Play Scene 

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My kids enjoy creative play and we entertain a lot of child-led playing. The other day I found my children had turned  the  colourful happy mat into jungle! The blue kaleidoscope prints were a massive ocean and the fluffy orange was sand. Wooden animals were running rampant.

2. Play Mat

Baby Ro also uses the Happy Mat to simply sit and play on when the floor isn’t cosy on its own.

3. Picnics

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We took both the happy mat and the wet bag to the picnic with us. The mat was perfect for little Ro to sit on and enjoy a few snacks whilst the wet bag was perfect to store some picnic food.  Before heading home from our picnic we used the same mat to change nappy and stored the soiled nappy in the wet bag. It totally saved us from carrying the extra baggage.

4. Swim Kit

Living by the seaside means we find ourselves on the beach quite frequently. We also find ourselves wet very often whether from a small splash in the waves or a swim in the sea, the wet bags come handy in packing up those wet clothes whilst keeping rest of the nappy bag dry.

5. Food Shopping

As a baby wearer I often use a rucksack for carrying extra nappies and other supplies. I also use the rucksack for storing any small food shopping that I have to do. I do not like to purchase plastic bags when shopping, so I sometimes use the wet bag to store food items especially frozen bags of food. It helps keep the rest of the stuff in the bag dry whilst still keeping my hands free as the wet bag fits perfectly in my rucksack even when full.

For the ones who have a buggy, can simply use the snap handles to attach the wet bag full of shopping on to the buggy.

6. Cushion

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The happy mat rolls up easily and the attached strings helps to hold it together by tying a knot around it. This makes it super convenient to pack in the bag but has also been providing my eldest with great neck/head support whilst reading outdoors or simply resting.

7. Mattress Protector

Recently, I have realised my son manages to take his nappy off in his sleep and wakes up bare bottoms every morning. There is a risk of him peeing in bed and I have been using the happy mat as a mattress protector of sorts. I simply place it under his bottoms when I realise that he has taken his nappy off. I prefer this over risking waking him up whilst trying to put the nappy back on. He has managed to pee once on the mat in our bed but the mattress was dry and the sheets were clean too.

Tots Bots is selling their new Kaleidoscope Happy Mat and Wet Bag as a set for an absolute bargain at £22 exclusively available on their website.

 

 

Why Vegan and Am I Imposing My Beliefs On My Children?

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When I first became a mother to my stepchildren, I was just 22. I didn’t want to make any mistakes in raising them. I used to strive every day to find a balance between being their friend and a responsible adult taking over the role of a mother. I always felt a subliminal social pressure that whispered that if I made any mistakes, all fingers would be pointed at me as a wicked stepmother.

It took me nearly 7 years to realise that there is no parenting without mistakes and there is no society without opinions, whatever one does. One simply has to be mindful about it and be optimistic.

Whose Life Is It?

Fast forward a few years later, I gave birth to a rambunctious little baby who is from me but not mine. He is a person of his own. I think about this a lot. For years, I had an insecurity that my stepchildren will never be mine, and that I could raise them, provide for them and just like that the biological mum could come and take them away from me, while I stood helplessly. But it was only after giving birth to my baby I realised that life is not ours to own.

It is with this thought that I started to become mindful about life: mine, yours and theirs. It is the exact same thought that also made me realise that if life is not for us to own, it is also not for us to take. I want my children to know that it is not ok to kill or pay someone else to kill an animal (or any living being for that matter) for you. I don’t want them to think that it is okay to kill some animals for your food and entertainment and not some others.

Like them, all lives are free spirited or should be. If they have a will to want to live, they are not ours to take.

The Holy Cow

In India, the cow is a holy being. She is also called “the mother cow”, because people feed off of her milk. But guess what? She is not our mother, and her milk is for her calf. In saying so, I am not denying how cow’s milk may have come to the rescue of many human lives, and it had or perhaps has its place. Having said that, in a rich, evolved and developed world, we do not need it for our survival or even sustenance.

As a breastfeeding mother, I feel quite strongly about this subject. I personally don’t like the sensation or idea of breast pumps and so to think of the cows forcibly being impregnated, and then separated from their calves only to then be constrained and milked day in and day out while they bellow for their babies disgusts me.

I don’t know why we think it is acceptable to take away the milk from a baby cow (to whom the milk belongs and is formulated for), and give it to a human baby. How is that fair?! Nevermind fair, but it isn’t even healthy. (Check out my post on how to go dairy free)

Am I Imposing my beliefs on my children?

I suppose that is a matter of perspective.

I also imposed meat on my children or rather, “eat what’s on your plate”, to be precise. For years, I imposed a glass of milk on them every day, I also imposed (still do) restraints on how much TV they can watch, I imposed that they must keep away from fast food chains etc. We all impose our beliefs on our children in some form or the other until they grow to a certain age and start making or demanding to make their own choices.

Baby Ro has been raised vegan so far. I plan to keep him vegan through his childhood but he will of course have the option when he can fully comprehend the reasons behind being vegan. Reuben and Irene, like all of us in the family, were preconditioned into eating meat, seafood and all things dairy. It is not only a hard transition for them but also a choice they have to make for themselves. They are big enough to understand as to why I chose to be vegan, and they are free to transition slowly or not. They know that mummy will not pay for a dairy ice-cream but happily buy them an ice-lolly or any other non-dairy option.

I try to practice mindful living all the time. I believe in reducing waste, growing your own when you can (failing miserably at the moment) , shopping locally and organically if you can, being compassionate towards others and standing up for others in need. I am aware that as a parent, I have a big responsibility on my shoulders to model an image that I’d like to see in my children. I make mistakes too, but I am working on them and I am so very optimistic that my kids will pick up on some of it if not all to contribute towards a better, cleaner and gentler future.

Are the kids simply going vegan to honour my choices or to please me?

Well who is to say but them!

Firstly, I don’t think my children aged 10 and 9 years old are so naive. Irene accepted veganism right away but Reuben has only just transitioned pretty much completely after watching me be consistent for almost a year and after visiting the animal sanctuary. (Reuben says he will be flexible when traveling and that is fair). So I think they have made a conscious choice.

And even if they are going vegan for me, I don’t see why it is a bad thing. I appreciate their respect for me and my choices. I appreciate that they want to follow my spiritual journey and to be honest, so far I am well impressed. My positive perspective suggests if they are going vegan to honour me, that’s great because it is only leading them to live a healthier, more compassionate and a life that involves a lot of thinking and mindful eating.

I am vegan for my children, I am vegan for the animals, I am vegan for our health and I am vegan for the environment.

 

Vegan Kimchi Recipe

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Kimchi is a global culinary phenomena. I was introduced to it by my husband a few years ago. We have a jar of kimchi in our household as a staple, partly because of my step-children being half-Korean but mostly to do with its health benefits.

Kimchi is a spicy fermented pickle that is really good for your gut. I swear Kimchi will resolve all your health problem. As a kid, I grew up on my grandma and mum’s homemade Indian pickles; packed full of turmeric and ginger and all sorts of other fermented food like steamed dhoklas (lentil cakes) and dosas (lentil pancakes) — and I am aware of how these superfoods are a labour of love. Kimchi is the same, and you can’t rush it.

Traditionally kimchi has anchovy paste in it or shrimp paste, but I wanted to make a vegan version that tastes like the real deal. Making it at home is cheaper, healthier and more customisable. Most store brought imports are far too sweet for our palette anyway. Also making it at home and having it in the fridge means not having to go to the Asian supermarket (which for us isn’t very close and often shut at the weekends).

So here is a recipe that finally worked after years of trial and error. Hope it works for you. Making kimchi is an art. So if it goes wrong, don’t be too disheartened and try again. It is totally worth the effort.

Ingredients:

1 head of Chinese Cabbage, Chopped in big chunks

2-3 Tablespoons of Korean Hot Pepper Flakes (or more depending on your taste)

10 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped

2 Inches of Ginger, grated

1 tablespoon sugar

1 Big White Onion, Sliced

3 to 4 Spring onions, chopped

2 teaspoon of tamari

a handful of dried seaweed or kelp, crushed or torn into pieces

1-2 eating apple, sliced

A whole Lot of Salt (or about 12 tablespoons)

Method:

After chopping up the cabbage wash them thoroughly. Apply and massage a lot of salt onto the cabbage and let it rest for a couple of hours. Then wash it again.

Next, soak the cabbage into salted water preferably overnight.

In the morning, wash the cabbage thoroughly, this is an important stage, because by now the cabbage must have absorbed a whole lot of salt and you don’t want your kimchi to be too salty.

In the final stage, make a paste with half of the onions, ginger, garlic and all of the apples.  Now mix in the red pepper flakes and combine. Massage the cabbage and the rest of the onions, garlic, ginger and tamari along with all of the seaweed with this paste.

Put this kimchi mix into a clean and sterilised mason jar or any air tight container. Let it ferment for about 12 hours and then store it in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. As it rests in the fridge, you will notice an organic brine being produced which is referred to as “kimchi juice”. This juice means, your kimchi is fermenting well.

Tips: If by any chance your kimchi is not fermenting, you may need more sugar or longer period of time outside the fridge. Simply take it out of the fridge and let it rest for a few hours and pop it back in the fridge. 

And if you notice your kimchi has fermented too much, don’t throw it away. Koreans often use over-fermented kimchi to cook with. They make for a great ingredients for kimchi chigae (soup), kimchi pajong (pancake) and kimchi bokkum-bap (fried rice).

Vegan Victoria Sponge (Basic Yellow Cake)

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One of things I missed since going vegan was baking. I tried and failed at baking good cakes so many times that I gave up. I used to bake some really good cakes before, and I used to find baking very soothing so I have missed it for a while.

Vegan cakes were so difficult to bake that I was this close to baking a non vegan cake for my not so vegan husband on his birthday but I ended up baking nothing. Anyhow, I did not want to do the same for my daughter’s upcoming birthday so I experimented until I nailed it!!

Chocolate cakes seem to be much easier and forgiving than yellow sponge cakes. But here is a recipe for a perfectly soft and moist yellow cake for your victoria sponge.

I am not going to share the recipe for the buttercream because there’s too many online. Just google it and you will find many.

So here it goes:

Ingredients:

300g dairy free margarine (plus extra for greasing)

300g self raising flour

300 g caster sugar (I used granulated)

200g soya yoghurt (I used alpro)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground flaxseed (or xanthum gum)

any vegan milk (optional)

2 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence

Method:

Preheat the oven on gas mark 5/190ºC.

In a bowl, beat the margarine and the sugar for 4-5 minutes (this stage is important, unlike buttery eggy cake vegan cakes require some work). Now mix in the vanilla and the yoghurt.

In a separate bowl mix in the rest of the dry ingredients with a fork.  Once combined, mix in the dry ingredients with the wet. Mix it all in thoroughly so that there are no lumps.

Now grease two 6 inches cake tins with some margarine and dust it with some flour. Now divide the mixture half and half into the two tins.

Bake the cakes for about 20 minutes and then check if the middle is cooked with a skewer. If it comes out clean the cake is ready. The cake must have a light brown hue on it and it should come away from the sides of the tin quite visibly (don’t sweat if they don’t).

Let the cake sit in the tin but outside the oven for ten minutes and then take them out of the tin and cool it completely on a rack.

Once cool, decorate it whichever way you like. You can make your own buttercream or buy some from the supermarket. I simply out some raspberry jam in between the two cakes.

Please try it and let me know how it was!!

Tip: With Vegan Cakes I have learnt that it is best to divide the cake batter into two batches and then place them one on top of the other when ready. If you try and bake one fat cake, it end up very stodgy.