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!

Seed Crackers Recipe – Vegan

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At 20 months, my toddler has started enjoying toasted seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds. He also enjoys eating a good amount of crisps. So incorporating healthy seeds into a crisp seemed natural and way forward.

These crisps are perfect for playdates,  picnics or a party. They are great with hummus or any other spread of your choice. Full of fats and antioxidants, feed them to their toddlers and yourselves if you can.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of linseed

1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup of Chia seeds

Salt and pepper (2 pinches)

Sufficient water

Method:

Mix all the indregients in a bowl and let it sit for an hour or so until all the Chia seeds have turned into a jelly like texture. You can use flax instead of Chia seeds or both and any choice of seeds for that matter.

Spread the mixture in a well oiled baking tray and flatten the mixture with a knife. Pop the tray in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 20 mins or until brown on one side. Remove and flip it over and cook for another 20 mins or until crispy.

Voila!

 

 

 

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.

 

Raising Race – Conscious Children

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My husband is white English; my step-children are half-Korea; our youngest is half-Indian; our close friends are quarter-English, quarter-Dutch and half-Algerian and my husband’s godson is half-British/Nigerian, quarter-German and quarter-English.

Suffice to say, there is no getting away from talking about race.

Even though in an ideal world, I would like to just get on with life and not have my children realise that some people around them will look at them differently owing to their racial difference, the reality of life is different.

Racism exists and always has; so does “colourblindness”. Ideally, we need to eradicate both. Colourblindness assumes everyone has the same experience and is a way of avoiding tough conversations about race. Children notice differences in people’s skin colour, behaviour or cultural differences from very early on in life. They make comments and ask questions that can’t be denied. Giving them the tools to deal with racism in the future is very important.

We need to provide them with enough knowledge, experience and tools to not only cope with racism directed towards them, but also to stand against any form of racism towards others. Here’s how I try to do it…

1. Build Self-Esteem

Make your children feel proud of who they are and how they look. Teach them about their culture, practice it at home by cooking yummy food, celebrating different festivals or whatever that your culture entails. Once they have a strong self esteem and confidence in themselves, they will be able to face life with ease.

2. Avoid Stereotypes

Start early and bring diversity into your reading. This is often easier said than does – the same applies for gender stereotypes – but is important to do.

3. Keep Multicultural Friends

Break out of your cultural ghetto, whatever that is. Hang out with people of different races. Make friends with people from different countries, cultures and ethnicity. Children at an young age notice differences but don’t judge. This is the best time to help them embrace differences and learn about commonalities at the same time

4. Talk About Racism

If the kids are a little bit bigger then talk about racism with them. Tell them about different races, their history, how the society treats them and how there is nothing fair about treating people with prejudice based on their skin colour or ethnicity

5. It’s OK To Say Black

Nothing makes the English more uncomfortable than directly addressing race. You know what? It’s OK to say the words “black”, “white” or “brown”. Just know when to do it…

6. Derogatory Racial Terms

Blackie, whitie, brownie? Rather less so… And you know what, children need educating on racially derogative terms because they may well end up hearing them. Nigger, Paki, Chinkie. Talk about those words, their provenance and abuse.

One day in my child’s school, a kid asked my son if he knew the word, ‘Chinki’. My child was as innocent and as unaware as any kid to be honest. He laughed at the word and came home asking me about it and that opened that particular conversation…

7. Read Books

There are many books out there these days that have mixed race and mixes of races among their characters. Rapunzel with an Indian prince and an Indian Rapunzel is a colourful favourite in our house though yes, Irene still likes a blonde princess­­­…

8. Look For Opportunities

Children don’t need to necessarily be sat down and told that this beautiful and wondrous world is full of ignorant, judgemental people. But look for opportunities and good stories that help explain it. Make race-consciousness a part of life, not a lesson in life!

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How do you deal with conversations about race?

Cloth Nappy no0b? My Top 10 Tips

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I have been advocating cloth nappies since baby Roshan was teeny weeny. The more I use them, the more I believe in them. It is a learning process and a very satisfying journey too.

For a beginner, the world of cloth nappies can seem like a minefield. And that is exactly how disposables became a successful industry. It is easy to not have to research or think twice –  just buy a packet of disposable nappies that require no prep, no laundry and no maintenance (none of which is actually as tedious as it may sound).

I remember as a newbie, asking my friend Ashleigh scores of questions about the nappies as she had been using it for months. With her help and a lot of research, I finally settled for the cloth nappies I wanted and never looked back.

Here are some of my handy tips for anybody who wants to consider cloth nappying their child:

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1. Try them all

There are a variety of cloth nappy brands. I would recommend picking a few popular brands and trying one or two of each before you build or buy your stash. What may suit one baby may not suit another. What your friend may find easier to deal with may not be your cup of tea.

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2. Embrace secondhand nappies

The whole idea of reuseable nappies is not just to reuse it on your own child. Cloth nappies have such a long shelf life that there’s a huge second hand market for it where you can buy very expensive brands for cheap to try on before investing. I brought many a brands for second hand before naming my favourites. They tend to come very clean and very well maintained.

Nappy Libraries are also very helpful. Seek advice there. You will be amazed!

3. Always pre-wash

New or second hand, always pre-wash your nappies. New nappies often get better in terms of absorbency with multiple washes. And with second hand stuff, you want to make sure that there isn’t any debris, bacteria or dust (in case it’s been sitting in someone’s cupboards for a while).

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4. All-in-ones

Even though rumours abound about all-in-ones not being as efficient as the others, some of them are very good indeed. TotsBots easyfit stars are my favourite British brand – suitable for use overnight or for outings when we know we won’t be back within 2 hours. And always have some ‘all-in-‘ones handy for travel. It makes changing quicker and less bulky to carry!

5. Doesn’t have to be all or none

If you are into your disposables or are finding the idea of going all out with your cloth nappies, then don’t. We still use disposables from time time especially when camping or going for a weekend stay at a friends. So ease yourself into using cloth nappies. Maybe start with night time nappies or pop one on when at home.

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The best way to dry your washed nappies is to let them dry in the sun. Sun is known to remove stains and kill harmful bacteria too. In England, sunshine seems like a joke, but the weather in England is, on the contrary, really beneficial for the nappies.

Just sunshine tends to leave the nappies very crisp and slightly rough, whereas a bit of sunshine followed by shade is perfect to keep the fabric soft.

7. Let it rain

Every now and again, it is a good idea to strip wash your nappies. I do it maybe once every couple of months, sometimes I leave them for a bit longer. In England, strip washing simply happens accidentally to be honest.

Strip washing is basically a process where you wash your nappies completely clean of any detergent residue or any general wear and tear to make sure the nappies are as good as new, and it helps improve the absorbency too.

One of the best ways to strip wash is to leave the nappies out for couple of days or more when it is raining. This should be done after the nappies have been washed once in the machine with detergent. Instead of bringing the nappies back home after they have dried, the idea is to let it get rained on for a few days.

This can be done by using washing machine too. Simply wash the nappies once with detergent and then do a few more washes without any detergent. It is just that rain is free of cost.

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8. Get organised

Cloth nappying is not just about choosing and buying nappies. Make sure you have a bucket for soiled nappies, wet bags to carry soiled nappies back home when traveling, a non-bio detergent and a washing machine (basic I know)

One other essential I would recommend is an electric clothes hanger. During winter this little technology works wonders.

9. Laundry Routine

Laundry really doesn’t have to be so tedious. Make sure you have a routine though. It is very easy to get used to and if you have bigger kids, they can help too. I wash my nappies every other day (it is especially helpful if you have a small stash). And I do clothes in between. The only time I skip doing any laundry is when it has been raining and my nappies haven’t dried yet.

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10. Cloth Wipes

Not only is it environmentally friendly and chemical free, it is also very practical.

Just how disposable wipes can be chucked into the bin along with disposable nappies, cloth wipes can be chucked into the cloth nappy bin after use and washed along with the nappies in the same wash.

The only time I use disposable wipes is when outdoors. So again, it doesn’t have to be all or none. A little bit of both works quite harmoniously for us.

Please let me know if you have any more tips to add in the comments below.

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.