Monday Meditation: Family Matters

 7B409BAD-D2AA-4704-857F-413F20F7CC1FA very quick post today to explain and apologise.

We are currently in the throes of trying to move my mum into sheltered accommodation just around the corner from us. It is taking up all our time and energy. Mum is finding it all overwhelming, she doesn’t want to move but knows she has to if we’re to be able to take care of her needs. It is causing her a lot of stress.

She is calling us every day several times a day with the same concerns and not retaining any reassurances I give her. She can’t keep hold of the relevant dates when things are happening.

She is insisting on sorting out all her belongings immediately – even though we haven’t even seen the property she’s been offered yet – and spending sleepless nights trying to decide which furniture to take etc. when she doesn’t know the size of the rooms.

In the 10 days or so since she found out she’d been offered a home, she has injured her back, her kitchen light went and we had  on Good Friday, and then on Easter Monday, she found a key in a drawer, tried it in the back door and got it stuck, so we had to pay a locksmith £70 to spray WD40 on it to free it! She then twisted her knee.

She keeps promising me she won’t do any more, but then phones me up to ask if so-and-so in the family would like such-and-such that she’s just found in a cupboard or wardrobe! Later, she will forget that she has given something to someone and worry she can’t find it.

As I write, my husband has gone to pick her up and also meet two estate agents who are coming to value her current home. He will then bring her here, and we will take her to look at the new home on Friday. It is very nerve-racking. The authorities will also be approving her at the same time and if they don’t think she can live independently, they will rescind the offer and then I don’t know what we will do.

So, I apologise for not being able to read everyone’s posts or comment as frequently as I’d like. There may be a hiatus in my own posts as well, at this point I don’t have any more scheduled. I am exhausted and worried about how all this is going to play out. Even if we manage the whole move, our lives will no longer be our own. Mum will have more security and hopefully be able to live independently for longer, and she will see more of the family. But we will be on call 24/7 and I’m not sure we’re up to the task.

It’s a huge emotional, as well as physical, responsibility. I worry that it will all be too much for her to cope with, leaving everything and everybody she knows at almost 88 years old, and if she is dreadfully unhappy in the new place, that will be on me, as I’m the one who has instigated it all.

By the time you read this, she will have seen her new home. It will be much smaller than her present home. She is not a joiner, and is worried ‘they’ will try and tell her what to do or make her join in activities or classes or ventures she doesn’t want to do. She likes to keep herself to herself.

I am normally a postitive person, but the weight of this is extremely heavy. What if she hates it and doesn’t want to move… What if she moves and hates it…

I know, I know, what if it all goes well and she is happy here…

Positive thoughts would be welcome 🙏🏻

Update: Mum saw the bungalow and felt better about the move, we even chose paint colours for all the rooms. Then last night (Saturday), she had a TIA (mini stroke) and has since been in hospital.  We are hoping she will be discharged tomorrow (Monday). The Earth is spinning just a little too fast at the moment.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Advertisements

Curried Squash & Leek Soup

FAE055D1-284B-457A-9C2B-29EAA17FEC71During the block of snowdays recently, we did a lot of baking and soup making (see Our Snow Days Became Baking Days – Is The Gym Open Yet?), the kitchen became a hive of activity, partly to keep warm and partly for something to do! I’m going to attempt to post some of the recipes; I hope I can remember, or at least decipher the brief notes we scribbled down at the time! I always think the photos will be enough, or my Instagram posts listing the ingredients, but then I forget the quantities. So bear this in mind and don’t take the recipes too literally if you try them.

This soup came about because we had a butternut squash from our organic veg box that had been waiting a while to be used, but it was small, and I had bought some much-reduced leeks that needed using, plus there were a couple of cauliflower florets left from Sunday, when we’d used the rest of it, and the middle bit of a bunch of celery. They turned into a lovely warming soup on a freezing, snowladen day. My husband also made bread rolls that morning, which you can see in the photo, but they weren’t gluten-free, so I’m not featuring them here.

This soup is full of healthy ingredients and is anti-inflammatory. (Butternut squash provides vitamins A and C, B6, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium, as do leeks). No cream or butter, just a little coconut oil.

As always, the recipes are vegan and gluten-free, organic where possible.

Makes enough for 4 servings.

Ingredients

Coconut Oil for frying

1 Small Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 Leek, trimmed, washed and sliced (keep as much of the greenery as is usable)

2 Cauliflower Florets, chopped

3 Large Carrots, scrubbed and chopped (peeled if not organic)

The middle stalks of Celery with leaves, chopped

Approx. 1.5 Pints Vegetable Stock, with 1 Tsp Yeast Extract dissolved in it

Half a Tsp each of Cumin, Ginger, Turmeric & Curry Powder

 Black Pepper

Pink Himalayan Salt if required for taste when cooked

D3C44198-2988-4D9D-A048-C401850C4360Method

Melt the oil until hot but not smoking

Add the spices and all the veg, mix well, add black pepper, place the lid on and sweat for a few minutes on a low heat, stirring occasionally

2B810F41-36DB-40BA-8413-01CC69A4E2C3Add the hot stock with the yeast extract, enough to cover the veg

Replace the lid, and cook on a low heat until the veggies are soft but not mushy, stirring occasionally.

Blend with a stick blender, leaving some texture to it, taste and adjust the seasoning

Serve with warm rolls or flat bread

 

Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

Monday Meditation: St Luke’s Village Church, Hodnet

29400880_Unknown

St Luke’s Church is next door to the beautiful Hodnet Hall Gardens, sitting just beside the entrance. This small, intimate church was open for visitors when we were at the gardens in the summer and is well worth a look if you like historic buildings and richly-coloured stained glass windows.

This Grade 1 listed building is Norman in origin and listed in the Doomesday Book. Much of the original Norman nave still exists. It has the only octagonal tower in Shropshire, with octagonal wooden clocks on each side. I had never seen a tower like it. I warmed to this unusual church instantly before venturing inside the porch, its open door inviting us in.

The stained glass windows were beautiful. One is in memory of Mary Heber, an ancestor of the current family in residence, and the other tells the story of The Holy Grail.  It was really difficult to find the right angle to do justice to the vivid colours and images, the sun was streaming through windows and washing out some of the colour. We were the only ones there and took our time, not feeling in anyway rushed by person or event.

29400944_Unknown29400992_UnknownIMG_3988

The aisles and chapels are tiled in various colours and intricate patterns. They are in wonderful condition. I spent a lot of time just sitting, contemplating, taking everything in, all the magnificent beauty and craftmanship.

 

 

IMG_3995The families who have owned the Hall have been – and still are – long-time patrons of this church, supporting its upkeep. Many of them are buried there or memorialised within the church. There are some very elaborate marble memorials on the walls and in the family chapel. Unfortunately, my camera battery died and I didn’t realise it had given up on the marble sarcophagus in the family chapel.

I’ve never seen pews like these before, they were all across the front of the congregation, no doubt there for the great and the good! I found them incredibly uncomfortable, forcing me to sit up rather than lean into them.

IMG_3994

I don’t know exactly what it was about this church, but it had a very welcoming feel to it. It’s quite small which makes it more intimate, less intimidating, for all its imposing stone and sense of history. There was a sense of continuity through the family names that you get in small villages, and lots of notices addressed to visitors and parishioners inviting them to look around, providing information and histories, a visitors’ book, but also framed photographs of the current incumbents and articles about local people and activities.

A lovely touch was the invitation to request a prayer for, or thoughts be sent to, someone who needed it, whatever the circumstances, no names necessary, and there were candles and matches if you also wanted to light one on their behalf. No charge. I requested a mention for our dear friend, Terry at Spearfruit.

(Please Note: I wrote this post some time before Terry passed away and I hope it doesn’t cause distress to anyone close to him. He was very much on my mind at the time of our visit).

One project I particularly warmed to was some research conducted by the local Scouts group into the names on the War Memorial in the church yard. This research was left out for all to see and filled in the details behind the names, turning them into real people not just ciphers. The project was at the back of the church for anyone to leaf through, with an invitation to contact the authors if any information is incorrect or if the reader had more up to date details to include.

There was a small piano alongside the ancient organ, and really old prayer books, Bibles, registers in full view, not locked away or removed for fear of vandalism, as in many churches these days. This added to the welcoming atmosphere of this beautiful church.

29400960_Unknown

I was reluctant to leave, but we had been out all afternoon and now it was approaching evening and the gardens where we had parked the car would soon be closing. If you click on the link in my first paragraph, you can read about this magnificent estate, one of the most stunning and unspoiled places I’ve visited.

A final look up towards the church from the entrance to the Hall:

29400848_Unknown

Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

Vegan & Gluten-Free Oat Crumble Scones

In my previous recipe for Vegan Gluten-Free Mango & Raisin Crumble, I used leftover crumble topping to make scones, and they turned out well, far exceeding expectations. All I did was add almond milk (or was it tiger nut milk?!) to the mix until it made a sticky dough. Any plant milk will work – tiger nut is sweeter and creamier – even coconut milk. (See below for posts on how to make dairy-free and some nut-free plant milks). There was only enough left to make two, but I’ll certainly be making them again.  You can see them to the right of my husband’s bread rolls on the cooling grid:

7287E7C4-E379-45D6-AE48-F9F12E3D41A6

They’re not the prettiest, but if you like wholefoods, and texture, and a high nutritional content, then why waste the leftovers?

I’m short on time as my mum is coming to stay, so I won’t write out the whole crumble recipe again, you can click the link above if you’d like to try them, and enjoy the relief of a short post from me for a change 😉

0D9D9516-E038-4A4C-AB3D-0D226EF4EF3AI had them with some vegan spread (I rarely use it, but when I do I use Pure), and St Dalfour Strawberry Spread, which has no sweeteners at all.

They were delicious, crumbly on the outside but moist on the inside. Full of texture and flavour.

Next time I might try adding some dried fruit. I wonder what my mum would make of them. Not exactly the Cornish cream tea she’s more used to when scones are involved! I’ve always preferred wholemeal scones to the traditional bland and textureless white kind, like you get in supermarkets. Many people have problems making scones, but for me they are the easiest and quickest of things to bake. The trick is for the dough to be sticky and to cut them very thickly, at least an inch. If they come out a bit dry and over-baked, cover them in fruit spread and thick yogurt for a healthier cream tea.

Here are some links to other scone recipes and how to make plant milks:

Vegan Gluten-Free Almond & Apricot Scones – oh yes!

Savoury Vegan Glutenfree ‘Cheese’ & Herb Scones

Vegan Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Scone Recipes: 1 Sweet, 1 Savoury

How to Make Cashew Nut Milk & Why You Should!

How To Make Almond Milk

Horchata (aka Tiger Nut Milk)

Smooth and Creamy Hemp Milk

 Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Vegan Gluten-Free Mango & Raisin Crumble

F285BFFB-8C3A-4FB1-8B4F-3B9714EEC31BAn unusual topic for a Monday Meditation, but if left to my own devices, I find baking a very meditative occupation.

I don’t particularly enjoy the hustle and bustle of a crowded busy kitchen, needing to produce several different items in record time! I do however enjoy creating recipes using just what I find in my cupboards or fridge/freezer, often using up small amounts of this and that, so as not to let them go to waste.

I can let go. I can relax. I can enjoy the sun streaming through the kitchen window even on freezing cold snow days, as this one was. I can play my favourite music and sing along at the top of my voice or enjoy the quiet and let my mind wander where it will, with no demands made of it. I can be as creative as I like and no-one is going to pull a face or disapprove. I like experimenting and rarely make the same thing twice with exactly the same ingredients. I’m not one for following recipes, even my own!

I’ve been asked for recipes for the baking I did during our week of snowdays, so I’m gradually working my way through them (see Our Snow Days Became Baking Days – Is The Gym Open Yet?)I made only sketchy notes or sometimes asked my husband to write things down and his notes are usually only compehensible by himself alone! So I’ll do my best, but all quantities are approximate.

I love mangoes. The fragrance, the juiciness, the soft flesh. They are high in vitamins A and C, and also contain some B6, iron, calcium and magnesium. Great on their own, in smoothies or ice-cream.

However, I find mangoes as frustrating as avocados. You wait forever for them to ripen and just when you think it will be perfect, it’s gone. They are best kept out of the fridge to allow the ripening process to continue, which I did, but this one was defying all the laws. It appeared to be ripe on one side, unripe on the other and developing a black spot on the end. I decided to peel it and see.

It was too unripe to use straightaway and I didn’t want to waste it. I had never heard of mango being cooked before but I decided I had nothing to lose, so I chopped it up onto a pan, added a little apple juice and some raisins – I may have used a little maple syrup too – put on the lid and cooked it on a low heat.

I didn’t want to use it immediately and so I put it in the freezer – and forgot about it! I found it on a snow day and decided to try and make a fruit crumble with it.

86B02C47-8A7C-4C21-AEE2-2FB40AE6A223I let it thaw for a couple of hours – it doesn’t look very appetising, but it tasted good. I then devised the crumble topping.

Here’s what I came up with:

2oz Tiger Nut Powder*

4oz Self-Raising Gluten-free Flour

2oz Poridge Oats (I left them whole as they were quite small, but you could grind them to a flour if preferred)

2oz Vegan Spread (I used Pure)

2oz Coconut Sugar**

Method

7394C255-4B0D-49A2-9249-9C594B5DDD8DMix together the flours, sugar & oats, rub in the spread with the fingertips until it resemble thick breadcrumbs.

Place the mango and rasin mixture in an oven dish and top with the crumble.

Place in a medium hot oven and cook until golden and bubbly.

9D4DC69F-4FDA-467C-A5E2-65F1ED6E4392We had it first with coconut yogurt and then next morning, having got up late, we had it with homemade custard while we sat huddled in front of the woodburner!

Homemade custard:

This was made using cornflour, a little coconut sugar and a drop of vanilla extract, which was mixed to a paste with a little almond milk, then I poured in some warmed almond milk, stirred and returned it to the pan and heated, stirring until it thickened.

I used some leftover crumble mix to make scones, see next time!

Vegan, Gluten-Free Plum Crumble – Nice, But Not Too Naughty!

‘What Do You Eat If You Can’t Have Anything Naughty?’ – What Vegans Eat

*The Tiger Nut Company

*The Raw Chocolate Company

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: My 10,000 Steps (and very sore feet).

A very personal post this week. I hope you’ll bear with me, I am writing this the night before posting in place of the scheduled one. Typos may happen as I’m pretty tired and sore because yesterday (Saturday), this happened:

80DFCC4B-1E87-4A19-A7E2-86E58299E2E6

This is the first time I have ever reached this goal and this is how I felt when I saw the stats:

💃🏼🎈🎉🎊🥇🍾✨🙊👑

To put it into context: I’ve had a severe back injury that goes back (sorry) to when I was 20, and has been exacerbated by numerous other injuries, surgery, medications and treatments. I have spent months in a plaster cast, weeks in traction, years wearing a steel reinforced corset, and spent most of my adult life lying flat on my back rattling with pills that didn’t work, unable to have anyone touch me due to intractable pain.

I’ve missed countless family events.  I have gone to bed in my trainers because there was no-one around to unfasten them for me. I have frequently slept in my clothes because either I couldn’t move or the pain was too severe to have someone help me. There are times I can’t even clean my teeth because raising my arm is too painful. I didn’t have a bath, shower or hair wash for 5 years – I eventually had my son shave my head, very liberating! I can’t travel to see my mum. I can’t hold a book. There are still days when I can’t get out of bed. But just occasionally, with a lot of hard work over a long period of time, with fingers crossed and all the planets in alignment, I manage to go for a walk. Usually they are short. Once in a blue moon and usually in warm summer weather, they become longer.

Saturday was one of these days.

To cut a long story short, my husband needed me to go with him to take a parcel that was being returned and the address needed to be scanned, but he doesn’t have a smartphone and wanted to use mine. He has a (justified) reputation for losing or breaking electronic devices and I didn’t trust him with mine!

Had I known how far we would be going, and end up going via a circuitous route along the canal, I would have gone by car. I wasn’t feeling the best, but knew I should try and have a walk. In the event, I was distracted by swans and ducks – flying overhead and sitting on the water –  crocuses, snowdrops and canal architecture, smallholdings with geese, old buildings, and my husband pointing out where various people lived and so on.

69ADD371-5182-4E01-9CD2-C6E9D8917A9E

By the time we arrived home, I had done 7,000 steps. SEVEN THOUSAND STEPS!! In winter when it’s impossible to leave the house, I struggle to make a few hundred; previously when I did go out, I was delirious if I made 1500. Lately, with hard work, I’ve been managing 3-4,000, that’s how momentous this is. I couldn’t believe it and knew immediately there would be payback. I could feel myself stiffening up as soon as I sat down.

It had threatened rain, so it had been damp, which didn’t help. The next time I stood up, I couldn’t straighten my legs, and my feet and ankles felt like they would break with the pressure. My back was not happy at all. I knew I had to keep moving, hard as it might be. So, even though my husband kept offering to fetch things for me, I doggedly shuffled about trying to keep the bodyparts mobile. I felt like I was in my nineties! Injections of WD40 would have been appreciated.

Later, as my husband made dinner, it became a lovely evening with a peach-toned sky and I decided I had to try to walk around the block or I would never get out of bed in the morning. I was rewarded by the most beautiful song from an overhanging tree as I rounded the corner. A robin was in full voice right above my head and I had my own private concert. I was glad I made the effort.

181063D3-E814-47ED-AD92-EDA97CDBC455

Can you see him? I wish you could hear him, but my blog won’t support video. I took this still from the video I took with my phone camera.

His song lifted my spirits and I walked the rest of the way with a smile and a metaphorical if not literal spring in my step.

By late evening, my husband and I compared notes, we had both done just over 9,000 steps! I couldn’t believe it. My competitive genes kicked in and I knew, if I tried really hard, I could manage the final 1,000 before bed, just walking around the house. I knew I would be sorry next day, but I didn’t care: I also knew that my sense of achievement (and the fact I beat my very fit husband!) would be worth all the pain and discomfort.

I had a long and very hot shower, smothered myself in arnica gel and set about my task. Eventually, I looked at my stats and it said 9,951! So close. I shuffled and counted. I was sure I had made it. I checked again. 9,951. What was going on? Again I counted. Still 9,951. I knew I had made it but I needed the visual evidence! I walked around and around the kitchen as I waited for the kettle to heat up for a couple of hot water bottles, I was going to need them! I was dead on my feet, they would ever forgive me for abusing them this way.

Finally, finally, the stats changed. 10,360! That was so cruel. I could have been in bed 360 steps ago! But I was ecstatic. And so proud. I have been trying for years to improve my walking and kept being kicked back to the starting point. This was incredible. I was so happy.

All I needed now was a good night’s rest and to take things easy next day, try to keep moving but not push myself. So, what happened? A dog barked all night. The temperature had risen and I was overheated with the shower and hot water bottles. I was over-stimulated by the exercise and my mind wouldn’t stop recalling my efforts and everything I’d seen that day. I was so stiff, I found it hard to change position. By the time I felt like I had just managed to drop off, a blackbird was singing his heart out and it was still pitch dark!

It took me an hour and a half to get up this morning. Another long hot shower. More arnica gel. My feet didn’t want to touch the ground. I felt like I’d been in the ring with Ali. My husband went on a 50 mile bike ride and I could barely lift a cup of tea!

And yet, I was smiling. I couldn’t wait to show my also very fit cycling son and my kick-boxing daughter what I had achieved. They wouldn’t believe it. I still had trouble believing it. I keep having to look back at the stats.

I may never manage it again. But if I don’t, I will always have this feeling. I will always remember this euphoria. I will always be grateful for the chance to prove that despite all the ‘can’ts’, this time I could.

Ps Plus the added bonus of beating my husband!

PPs I could never have done this before I started juicing and became vegan. There has been a marked improvement in my overall health in the last 4-5 years. I think there has been a reduction in the inflammation throughout my body, plus the added nutrients feeding my muscles, nerves and so on.

Thank you for reading. I just had to tell someone!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Easy Vegan, Gluten-Free Pink Pancakes!

img_3293We first made these 2 years ago when I discovered the basic recipe at Masala Vegan and although I’m not a big pancake-lover, my husband is and it’s Pancake Day, so we revisited these lovely Pink Ones.

We were better at cooking them this time, they were crisper and thinner.

Last time we had them with blueberries and Coyo coconut yogurt, this time we went with homegrown apples stewed with raisins and cinnamon, topped with Sojade soya yogurt and an optional small drizzle of organic maple syrup.

The original recipe calls for Xylitol as a sweetener, but I don’t like it and we prefer to add the sweetness via the fruit on top, and if you have a particularly sweet tooth, there’s always the maple syrup.

The recipe is very simple, all measurements are very approximate:

Ingredients

2 Cups of blended Watermelon Pulp

1 1/2 Cups Gluten-free Self-Raising Flour (last year we improvised with cornflour and gluten-free baking powder as we didn’t have the SR flour, it worked fine)

Coconut Oil for cooking

We added a pinch of salt

We also think they’re good with a pinch of spice, ground ginger or cinnamon, or baobab powder.

Method

In a large bowl, gradually whisk the flour into the watermelon pulp.

Heat a teaspoon of coconut oil until a drop of the batter sizzles.

Add 1/4 Cup of batter at a time and swirl around until it is thin. Cook until golden and crispy on the bottom, gently lifting the edges and turn over to cook the other side.

This amount made 8 small pancakes, we reneged after 3 each! Very filling and very tasty with the topping.

(See This Spicy Watermelon & Grapefruit Juice Will Help Stave Off Those Winter Bugs! for information on the many health benefits of watermelon – and grapefruit).

img_1468

Copyright: Chris McGowan

A Word About Phone-Scamming the Elderly and De-stressing Me!

1069FBA1-3F3D-438F-B4F6-FBA06F8D5F13Just a quick post to say I’ll be away from my blog for a little while. I need some time out to straighten out the kinks in my body and spend some Me time. Real life is demanding more and more of my time and energy as my elderly mum needs more support.

An example: she was scammed on the phone on Monday afternoon. She gave her card details to someone who called her by name. She knew something was wrong but she became confused because he gave his first name as that of a cousin she had been worrying about. She was too embarrassed to tell me (it’s the second time it’s happened), and wanted to try to sort it out herself. Early next morning, she swallowed her pride and called me. She was really shaken up and could barely put a sentence together, she was so angry with herself.

 I literally spent the whole of yesterday on the phone or iPad sorting it out with her, the bank, the telephone company, keeping an eye on her bank account, moving the bulk of her money elsewhere, making her ex-directory and so on. My back is still screaming at me.

But so far, so good. I think she may have inadvertently prevented him from using her card: her sight isn’t good, especially in dim light, and I think she may have misread a number or two on the card.

B44F3FD6-CC3C-4B08-BCF6-5797D6A7131EThis was the closest I got to the welcome sun – through the kitchen window this morning – as today, I spent most of my time finding out about the cousin she has been worrying about, to try to put her mind at ease. At one point I had him talking on the iPad and her on my landline on speakerphone, trying to enable them to talk to each other while I interpreted: they are both 87 and very deaf, neither is tech-savvy, so you can imagine how that went!

So please warn your elderly relatives, or anyone actually, the lady at the bank said these people are very good at what they do and they can catch out the best of us.

B1A75EB8-482D-479D-B1D7-36ED53C16536I’m off to have some osteopathy, listen to some relaxation music, an audiobook, and enjoy some new juices that We Are Juice UK, have kindly sent me to try. It will also be a relief to take a break from the juicer! My husband is on mother-in-law watch for a couple of days while I get my breath back. I have scheduled some posts for the next few weeks.

This freezing weather will not be changing any time soon (we had snow again all day yesterday), so I will be hunkered down in bed with a couple of heated wheat-bags, two hot water bottles, woolly socks and a duvet I have to fight my way out of!

See you soon.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Two Year Old Frank’s Berry Good Smoothie – Made With Love & Smiles

011DD6C8-E951-4474-BE0D-59A3DD11B990Two year old Frank watching his Berry Good Smoothie blending in the  Froothie Optimum, he has his own special ear defenders just for creating smoothies 😊 As soon a I mention making a smoothie he’s there like a shot, dragging the kitchen stool up to the counter, washing his hands and ready for action. Just like his dad at the same age, though he likes to make chilli-with-everything these days!

When cooking with Frank, I am always glad to have the opportunity of this time together, one on one: yes, it’s messy and yes, he can get a bit over-enthusiastic – I think we got about a third of a tub of baobab powder in there! – but I love watching him taking it all in, soaking up whatever I tell him and storing it away. I love his enthusiasm. I know that at some point in the future he will use it all and hopefully remember some of these times together.

He (and his older sister) have been cooking since they were literally babes in arms. They have always been willing to taste anything, and although they still go through the picky two-year-old stage, the fact that they have always been encouraged to be present in the kitchen and help with preparation means that they are familiar with cooking from scratch, using a wide variety of fresh foods.

They are already creating their own recipes: Frank’s four-year-old sister decided to try banana on her pizza and Frank likes the idea of dipping carrot sticks in strawberry spread! He loves homemade chips with balsamic vinegar and juices that contain ginger and turmeric. Olives and almonds are also favourites. The fact that actual vegetables are not allowed on his plate at the moment is irrelevant (except cucumber and raw carrot), he gets everything he needs in other forms* and is slowly acquiring the knowledge and skills to transform them into healthy meals when he does eventually give them house room. I have seen a photograph of Emily standing on a stool at the counter rolling pizza dough and chopping vegetables, and Frank sitting on the counter chopping cucumber! Children love to be involved in the kitchen and will be all the healthier – and self-sufficient – for it. Emily recently sliced a mushroom so thinly and precisely, with perfect control of the knife, just by copying her dad.

This is Frank’s smoothie recipe:

Large handful of frozen cherries, large handful frozen mixed berries, more than we wished for baobab powder, about 3 tablespoons oats plus what he spilled 😉 most of a medjool date minus a bite for tasting, a banana, a carefully tilted amount of cashews from the jar (with ‘help’ from Grandad), 2 tablespoons soya yogurt and a lot of coconut milk! It made enough for 3 of us and he had seconds and thirds, he said it was ‘berry good!’ Unfortunately, he doesn’t do washing up, our dishwasher is defunct (and so is my husband after a weekend without it!).

7F0B0417-D0FB-484D-87C0-1FEBCCD91140

*Frank doesn’t eat vegetables – apart from raw carrot and cucumber – but he will have juices and smoothies, even green ones, so seeing him have so much fun in the kitchen leads us to hope that one day he will be as much of a foodie as his dad and grandma.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Going Vegan: Keep Calm & Lead by Example + Tips

F8D68843-623C-4F1E-A097-C4C02293352CI was vegetarian for 40 years for all the usual reasons: ethics, sustainability, health, and thought that was enough. I gave up milk a long time ago, for health reasons. I still ate cheese and eggs. A couple of times, when I became a raw foodie and when my son lived in a tree (don’t ask), I almost became vegan, but couldn’t sustain it. I didn’t have the support and there wasn’t as much by way of articles, products or recipe ideas all those years ago. I finally became vegan accidentally after doing a 14 day juice challenge.

I realised after 3 months I hadn’t wanted to eat cheese or eggs, and I was a real cheese addict. Now I was vegan. And if I could do it for 3 months, I could do so permanently. But I was scared of committing myself and actually saying, I am vegan.

D09AC6B8-9C45-40EB-A436-2382AE979ECEI started following vegan accounts and began reading about the cruelty of egg production and dairy farming. There is so much information available now on social media, via blogs, in the press and documentaries. All I had back then was a library book and a cookery book to turn me on to becoming vegetarian. I had no idea then that male chicks are surplus to requirements in the egg industry or male calves to the dairy industry. I thought that if I bought organic, free range eggs, that was ok.

After several months, I took the plunge and in great trepidation began writing vegan recipes and informational posts on my blog. I fully expected to lose a lot of followers. It didn’t happen. In fact, quite the opposite happened, I gained a whole host of new ones!

The current wave of interest in sustainable living is being driven and adopted by young people in droves, because they now have access to educational tools, support, recipes and like-minded groups.

1AF63E27-2F18-436B-B556-CFD924E73DFFFive friends and family have  become vegan, are transitioning or making gradual changes, from observing my experience, seeing how healthy I am and that it is possible to be vegan, enjoy food and not waste away!

I have never tried to persuade anyone to be vegan. I only engage in the issues if it comes up organically and I know they are in a receptive mood. People need time to process and to work out how it will affect their lifestyle and family obligations. Being aggressive or judgemental is counter-productive. Being calm, understanding and the healthiest you can be is more likely to have people follow your example.

Education is the key, and support and encouragement. It was relatively easy for me as I was used to a vegetable- based diet and already bought cruelty-free toiletries and cosmetics. It can be very difficult for people unused to cooking from scratch, relying on processed convenience foods, on a tight budget (see link for Jack Monroe’s site below) or who don’t have family support.

F7CBF554-7687-422C-AC60-94ABF557C5FABecoming vegan also doesn’t necessarily mean you become healthy. It is quite possible to be vegan living on predominantly processed foods and be quite unhealthy! Food manufacturers and retailers are producing increasing amounts of fake meat products and convenience meals to cater for those who like meat-based meals. These products – not all, but some – can often read like a chemical experiment.

FF65FC84-2504-4B4B-9074-49D2637251A9It’s important to learn about nutrition, to know what constitutes protein and good complex carbohydrates, where to get good plant-based sources of calcium, iron, B12, D3, and so on, so that you have a balanced diet – and so that you have all the facts to hand when you inevitably get asked the questions! Because people who rarely allow a fresh fruit or vegetable to pass their lips will suddenly become concerned experts on your nutritional input. You don’t need a diploma, just Google it!

D47273E0-A5FF-452A-8FF8-C6AD4639A4AEYou can take baby steps by swapping to cruelty-free household products, toiletries and cosmetics. You can reduce your dependency on plastic packaging and this will often automatically mean you include more fresh food in your shopping as well as helping reduce the plastic waste that is filling our oceans, seas and water supplies.

IMG_8582Adding more fresh vegetables and fruit will reduce your intake of sugary and fatty foods which will help reduce inflammation and pain, provide more energy and fewer slumps, and make you more alert. Your skin will be amazing! Skin loves fresh food, especially avocados.

Why not try Meatfree Mondays? Plantbased rice, pasta or quinoa dishes like curries, for example, or pizza (there are some great vegan cheeses*), are often acceptable to families not yet on board with giving up meat. We sometimes give meat-eating guests Quorn or Linda McCartney pies without telling them and they are often uncomfortable and somewhat puzzled, believing they are eating meat, and very surprised when we reveal the truth.

imageBeing vegan is not all brown rice and lentils! Just look at any of the many vegan Instagram accounts and you will find colourful, appetising meals, snacks, treats, desserts, smoothie bowls and cakes for all occasions.

There are many websites, Instagram accounts, blogs and so on where you can find facts, recipes and support to help you make small changes that can eventually lead to bigger ones. Do you know, for example. you can substitute a chia ‘egg’ or flaxseed ‘egg’ for a hen’s egg in cooking? Just soak 1 Tbsp of seeds with 3 Tbsps of seeds to form a gel. Or use mashed banana. I have several informative posts here on the blog and I’ll include some links at the end.

All the recipes on this blog are vegan and gluten-free, just look in the Menu or among Top Posts and Pages, there are also posts on how to make Nut & Seed Milks & Smoothie Recipes

We Are Veganuary have a best-selling hardback book ‘How to Go Vegan’ and The Guardian’s Jack Monroe has a great blog with budget vegan recipes called Cooking on a Bootstrap.

 3C80CBB1-C6B6-4695-B227-0738ECAD1C08Over 165,000 people signed up this year to try being vegan for a month. If you were one of them, well done! You have helped save hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, hundreds of kilograms of grain and dozens of animals, not to mention the reduction in greenhouse gases, just in a month!

img_6589If you missed it but would like to give it a go, Veganuary is open all year, providing support whenever you’re ready – see link below.

I hope you found this post helpful.

Remember, there is no failing. You do what you can. Everyone is on their own journey, we are all at different points on our journey, don’t be put off because you think it’s all or nothing and you wear leather shoes. Baby steps.

***

The Vegan Society  Lots of info, nutritional advice, supplement advice, articles

The Green People Company for award-winning vegan skincare, toiletries, cosmetics

*Bute Island Foods for Dairy-free Cheese – available in Waitrose, Holland & Barrett, online & other retailers – and recipes

 Veganuary for Recipe Book, Support, Information & to sign up to try being vegan for a month

Environmental Benefits of Adopting a Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

Vivolife – a great resource, Josh does supportive, informative videos, newsletters, blogposts as well as selling good quality organic, vegan protein powders.

Where to Get Nutritional Advice for Young Vegans and Newbies 

Where Do I Get My Protein on a Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get My Calcium On A Vegan Diet?

Where Do I Get Iron on a Vegan Diet?

Copyright: Chris McGowan