Baking a cake with multiple children…

So baking a cake is easy some would say. If baking comes easy to you that is.

But what about baking a cake with the kids? Now multiply that to 5 kids!

Now there are two ways of doing this in my opinion.

1. Get 5 bowls, 5 whisks, 5 spoons…..you see where this is going.

Now this idea seems like the fairest way but what about you?

Can you really watch as 5 children do 5 things at the same time? Not to mention how you then turn this all into one cake..or are you planning on making 5!!?

2. The sharing method which your kids love to hate. Which comes with its own set of complications…”Can I go first?” “He’s already had a turn, can I go now?”

“She got to mix for longer than me, I wanted to do the egg!” You get the drift. (Although in my world there is no egg as we’re vegan)

So you get through all that and survive, the kids haven’t killed each other and the cake is sufficiently burned (sorry i mean cooked!)

Now it’s time to decorate it!

Decorating a cake with 5 children is most parents idea of hell. Until i came up with this life saving tip.

Divide the top of the cake into however many sections there are children. In this instance 5. Using either an icing pen or food colouring pen.

Share out equal amounts of the topings and icing to each child and mark their section with their name if you like.

All of a sudden you have 5 happy children all decorating the same cake at the same time with no fuss, no arguments and no issues!

Whats more is once they have finished they each know exactly how much is theirs. No arguments over which slice of the cake they get to eat either!

All that’s left to do now is relax with a cuppa….. whilst thinking Why didnt I divide it into 6 so I could have a piece!? 😄

And to tidy the kitchen of course…suddenly 5 little people are not so keen on hanging round.

Going from meat eater to vegan….the step by step process

It always frutrates me when i hear people say “I can’t go vegan, the fake meat isn’t meaty enough.”

As a fully fledged vegan who doesn’t like eating animal flesh and doesn’t particularly want to be reminded that a) I used to eat flesh or b) others still do eat flesh every time I sit down to eat, therefore I am more than happy for the ‘mock’ meats to not taste or feel EXACTLY like the real thing.

Just because vegan food doesn’t taste the same doesn’t mean its not as tasty. You like meat because you are accustomed to it.

Take a baby for instance. Their first taste of food is usually a puree. Which ones did your infant lap up and prefer?

Well having had 4 children myself I happen to know all of mine loved fruit purees but were never overly keen on the meat variety. But they became accustomed to the flavours as we present them with them daily. We dont tell our children not to try new foods so why do so many adults fear trying a new healthier life style? Is it really just because something tastes slightly different?

As it happens, I do get it. I WAS that adult once. So heres the process of how I changed….

When I initially decided to become vegan just over 1year ago, I too kept shouting out about wanting more meat substitutes that tasted exactly like the real thing. Yet i felt so passionately about the cause that it wasn’t enough to put me off being vegan.

Firstly i found I needed to shop around more to get good substitutes. Its all very well to try one supermarket brand of ‘fake’ meat and say “yuck Im not trying substitute meat again!” But would you do that if it was a pack of real chicken nuggets?

No. You’d make sure you didn’t buy that brand again but it wouldn’t put you off all together.

So my advice through knowlede learnt the hard way is dont give up after one fail. Yes there are some rubbish alternatives out there, and yes most of these rubbish alternatives seem to be stacked up in shops instead of some of the better ones, but dont let it put you off! Shop around, shop online and you will find ones you like.

What I noticed start to happen to myself was that after a few months of not eating the real thing, Id go back and try again with certain substitutes i’d previuosly disregarded and to my amazement I found i liked them.

I can only put this down to my own natural way my body and tastebuds adjusted to my new diet. Slowly i started to not desire foods I once couldn’t live witout and I started to realise that vegan wasn’t tasteless or too smelly or squishy or any other sense I had experienced. I was simply only very used to certain foods and changing was different. Not worse.

Now that I’ve been vegan for as long as 1 year, which lets face it is no time at all, I am now very accustomed to the vegan diet and can’t bare the idea of eating certain foods i once loved.

The hardest part was cheese and eggs for me.

I started replacing cheese in my sandwiches for marmite and I could begin to stand the smell of the vegan parmesan cheese on my pasta instead of my usual mature cheddar and although I do eat alot of vegan cheeses I haven’t yet found one i like enough for my sandwiches. But that’s ok. I prefer fresh salad these days anyway and there are some amazing cheese spreads.

Ive always loved a fry up. Bacon and eggs were a big part of that! As I said above, I am accustomed to vegan bacon and really enjoy eating it. I never feel its not good enough or tasty enough. More than that, my husband and 4 children eat it too with no fuss so it must be good. We tried egg replacers to make scrambled egg at first but then I slowly realised we dont need eggs. At first i couldn’t imagine a fry up without eggs! But then after a while I stopped liking the idea of eggs all together.

Tonight for dinner my family of 6 all sat down for a fry up. Vegan sausages and bacon…no eggs.

Do you know not one family member asked for egg. Its the natural process, they dont even realise its missing, its just not needed any more.

The journey my family have been though has facsinated me, watching each individuals perspective change slowly at their own pace. How we’ve all adjusted to a new healthier life style and now try so many new foods, textures and flavours.

My children fought it at the begining and now they embrace it. (Almost all of the time. Lets not kid ourselves)

Milk was a big issue for me at first. I tried every plant based milk going, starting with soya. “Yuck, yuck yuck.”

I stopped drinking milk and stopped having cereal. Breakfast was toast for about 4 months! Still not a reason to refuse veganism. Still not a good enough reason to fund the toture and pain inflicted on animals. So I endured my new diet doing exactly what i always tell my children to do…try and try again.

I slowly I guess forgot the taste of cows milk and when trying soya milk again in cereal one day, I found i liked it. I found it tasted “normal”. I guess drinking it in my tea all this time was just enough for me to get used to the taste without realising it. That was the start of me realising that my taste buds were begining to accpet my new diet and not only that but the realisation that all those years of being conditioned to meat and dairy could be easily undone with a bit of determination. Dairy free is not worse..just different. Different in a good way, as now if i was asked to drink cows milk, my tastebuds would not like it one bit!

So my advice to all who moan that substitutes aren’t exactly the same….give them a chance, they are not worse, you have become conditioned to eating certain foods. Lets now condition ourselves to eating healthily for us, our children, our animal friends and for our planet!

Thank you.

Simple Vegan pudding ideas for kids

As a mother of 4 children who were once meat and dairy eaters, I find i’m constantly looking for ways to prove to them that vegan foods taste just as good as dairy.

So we have been making a few of the kids favourite puddings ourselves.

1. Yoghurt Fruit corners.

The kids weren’t overly keen on the lumps of fruit in the original shop bought fruit corners anyway so this has ended up being even better than the original and very simple to make!

I just buy big tubs of Alpro Simply Plain soya yoghurt and mixed packs of frozen fruit such as peaches, mango and strawberries. But you can use any.

I blend up my fruits of choice along with some fresh banana and watermelon. Mix in a bit of warm apple squash which helps the frozen fruit to melt and there you have it. A fruit puree. I thicken it up with a small spoon of Alpro cherry yoggurt which gives it another sweet flavour. The best bit is you can blend it as much or as little as you like depending on whether your children like lumps or not.

I pour some plain yoghurt in a small pudding bowl along with some puree on the other side and the kids love it. And again you have more freedom if the kids love the fruit you can do half and half opposed to a small amount of fruit.

Depending on where your conscience stands with honey (I know theres a mix of feelings in the vegan community) You can drizzle a little honey on top. But certainly isnt necessary.

2. Brown Sugar fruit yogurt.

This one is great to do with the kids and very simple.

You can do individual bowls or one large bowl to share out.

First put a layer of Alpro Simply plain yoghurt then a layer of melted brown sugar. (To melt, put a teaspoon of water in to a pan and and add brown sugar as required. Stir constantly until melted) Pour on top of your yoghurt and leave to set in the fridge for 10 minutes. Whilst cooling cut up some grapes. Just in half. Green or purple or even both.

These then get layed on top of the brown sugar.

Repeat these steps until your bowl is full. Each layer being roughly 1cm.

The outcome is one sweet and delicious pudding!!

3. Fun Happy Face ice cream

Choose your vegan ice cream flavour.

Our favourites are Swedish Glace vanilla and strawberry ice creams. The strawberry is full of taste.

Then put a scoop or two in a bowl and we like to put this on a tray for each child. Along with an aray of toppings such as strawberries, bananas, vegan mini marshmallows, dark chocolate drops and a cone.

Again we have very happy customers.

4. Chocolate Fondue!

This is great fun and a family favourite.

We use kebab sticks for the adults and forks for the kids if we dont have any fondue sticks to hand.

There are plenty of vegan chocolate options out there now and especially around Easter!

Tesco do dairy free milk chocolate and white chocolate easter eggs which can be melted down in the microwave. Be sure to break the chocolate down in to small peices before melting.

We cut up strawberries, bananas, apples and buy vegan marshmallows. Rich tea bicuits are fun for making biscuit sandwiches too.

5. Fruit turnovers.

These are my 7 year olds favourite pudding. He can do most of it with ease and often asks if he can make them for pudding.

We use ready rolled puff pastry and cut them in to as many squares as we like. Some times we make large turnovers and other times we cut them smaller and make party sized mini turnovers.

We put a dollop of jam in the middle o each square. We often choose lots of flavours including lemon and apple too. The house favourite is apple and raspberry mixed.

Fold the pastry in half, corner to corner and press down at the sides and cook in the oven on 180° for approximately 13minutes.

Once cooled mix up and drizzle icing sugar over the top before eating.

Yum!

I have plenty more easy to make vegan pudding plans so keep an eye out for more…. would love to hear feed back from anyone who tries our quick and simple puddings for their children.

Vegan meals for fussy eaters.

With four children aged between 3 and 13, I know only too well about fussy eaters.

Remembering which one dislikes what is the hardest part.

One loves marmite, the others hate it.

One refuses to eat baked beans, while another refuses spaghetti hoops.

One dislikes all veg and another wont eat any fruit…it goes on!

We sit down as a family of 6 every evening for dinner. One meal for everyone. I daren’t ask what anyone wants as none of them would want the same meal. We dont force the children to eat anything they dont like but there is no alternative.

Feeding 4 very differnt and fussy eaters is one thing. Feeding them on a vegan diet at first was another.

We’re 1 year into our vegan life style and I would never go back! They all eat far more fruit and veg than they used to and are far more willing to try new foods.

My advice is if they don’t like something the first time, dont stop putting it on their plate. The more they see it the more normal it becomes and slowly but surely they start to try new things.

My 3 yr old will eat all her veg and fruits and happily accepts why we dont eat meat. She has no real understanding about dairy yet and probably doesn’t know that the milk and yoghurt she has at home differs from the dairy versions. What she wont eat is mince which is a reoccurring visitor to our dinner table. We have chilli and rice, chill and tacos, spaghetti Bolognese, mince in gravy….always fuelled with plenty of mixed vegetables and pulses including blended kale and celery among other healthy alternatives to meat and dairy.

But what to do when your 3yr old will only eat the rice, potato and pasta?

We initially started them off on basic processed meat substitutes such as nuggets, burgers and hot dogs. But as you can see, a year on in and these rarely appear on our dinner table (unless we have friends for tea. These substitutes are great for those meat eating fussy eating guests!)

Here’s a few of our vegan meals that the children love.

Vegan Hunters Chicken

For this we smother Quorn Vegan chunks in a bbq sauce of our choice.

Lay Vegan bacon strips on top. Preferably Moodleys Bad Ass Bacon which we shallow fry first to give that crispy edge.

Then melt vegan mature cheddar on top. Vegankind.com is a great source for all these alternatives.

Next we make a home made chunky coleslaw using a dairy free mayonnaise.

Then finish the plate off with the kids favourite chips whether it be curly fries, chunky chips or straight fries and their favourite vegetable on the side. In our house broccoli is always a safe bet.

This way there is something for everyone. Those who arent keen on coleslaw have broccoli to fall back on. All of our children like the substitite meats in this meal and they are all avid lovers of bbq sauce so its a safe bet in our house. But if that doesn’t appeal to your brood heres some more meals…..

Home made Pizza

I find the children are far more likely to eat if they have input in the making process first. This is a great meal to get all the children involved as they can all make their own individual pizzas.

First to decide on the base.

Making their own dough is probably the most fun but also the most messy. It doesn’t take very long and is a great learning experience. (My children are home educated so any excuse to turn something into a learning experience and ill do it. – Time permitting!)

The quick option is Pitta bread. Or Puff pastry ready rolled.

Pitta bread is great as they are the perfect ready made size for individual pizzas.

Puff pastry always goes down a treat but you have to make sure you check the ingredients as some have egg in.

With a ready rolled puff pastry we either cut them into smaller pieces for individual pizzas or make one large one. Depending on how many kids are helping.

The best bit about making your own pizzas is that everyone can have their own topping.

I like a tomato base with all the vegetables I can find to put on top.

The boys prefer bbq sauce and meat substitutes. We have our favourite meat substitutes but you may already have your own favourites.

Again thevegankind is a great place to bulk buy meat substitutes to freeze for these occassions.

Cheatin chorizo style bites are one of the boys favourites. The younger children like Quorn southern style vegan burgers chopped into strips. My husband likes Quorn hot and spicey vegan burgers chopped into strips and they all like chopped sausage on top. Vegusto farm house sausages are their favourite for pizza toppings.

To get vegetables on their pizza i encourage them to make a face which of course needs some colour.

If you really struggle then the best option is to blend up one or two vegetables and mix into the bbq sauce for the base. The strong flavour of the bbq sauce and dark colour means they can’t tell there is veg hidden inside. I tend to choose kale as this is a great source of calcium and is one of the few vegetables they wont eat otherwise.

There are plenty of mozzarella style cheeses to grate on top but some times the simple cheddar style cheese are just as good.

Some salad or carrot sticks on the side and meals a good’n.

Humous is a great side with this meal along with a caramelized onion Chutney which the kids love!

Spaghetti Bolognese

For those who will eat a vegan mince and vegetables then this is a fairly obvious meal.

For those who dont, there are some tricks.

Fisrtly my favourite and obvious choice is to blend as many vegetables and pulses as possible, including baked beans into a sauce. (Either home made or bought) In this instance I tend to leave out mince altogether. Cheatin meat balls are a good option which go down well and only take a few minutes to cook for more substance.

But those children who can’t be tricked into eating a sauce?

Baked beans! Spaghetti and baked beans with some chopped vegusto farm house sausage or chorizo style sausage chopped on top go down quite well.

A trick that works even better is to involve them in the cooking again.

Chop up the sausage and carefully peirce each infividual peice with 3 or 4 strands of uncooked spaghetti. Push the spaghetti through so that the sausage peices are in the middle of the spaghetti.

You can cook these together and come out joined together which add some extra fun to their plates!

We always cook up our veg fuelled sauce too and put a dollop on their plate. 2 out of 4 children will eat most foods without needing tricks thankfully….the other 2 are slowly following suit.

I could go on for ever with our vegan meal ideas for fussy eaters so please comment for more food blogs!

Working from home with a 3yr old!

Anyone who tries working from home with a 3 (almost 4 yr old) will know what im talking about!

How much work can you actually get done with a child that age?

Well the answer is: Not alot!

Most of the day consists of..

“Mum can you play with me?”

“Mum look at this”

“Can you sit with me?”

“Can you dress this doll?”

“Mum I’m fiiinissshed!” (From the toilet seat)

“Can I do painting?”

“Can we bake a cake?”

The list goes on…

So as a dedicated mother who feels all the normal things such as guilt and….well mainly guilt.

I find myself trying the usual…

“Why dont i set your toys up in your bedroom for you?”

“Would you like to watch a film?” (I may get an hour to work if she agrees, is my thought process but who am i kidding? )

“Darling we’re not going to the shops today” (sad face staring back at me)

“Im not playing today darling, mummy really needs to work toady as we spent the last week playing and mummy still hasn’t got any work done.”

“I know! what about CBeebies!?” (With my best pretend excited face!)

But as always she wins….So I get short 5, maybe 15 minute bursts to work in between painting and dressing dolls and answering important life baffling questions such as “why is the house square?” Erm, I wasnt aware that it was square exactly so now to figure out what shes trying to ask and answer accordingly. Does she mean the square window? Or that the house is I suppose in some way cube shaped? Has she seen a square house in a book and this is what she’s remembering?

Well it doesn’t really matter because by the time I’m half way through stumbling a half intelligent answer together shes on to the next!….then, can I have lunch now?

Yes dear!

So shes finally sorted for a few minutes….the door bell goes, my older children are home and dumping bags and shoes in the hall and demanding “whats for dinner mum?” “Mum can my friends come over?” Not to mention the squabbling and arguing two boys aged 10 and 12 get up to.

My 3 yr old walks back in..”Mum have you finished work now?” (I haven’t actually started yet!)

Sigh, ill pack up and try again when they are in bed…if I dont fall asleep before them…again! 😃