VegFest London 2014

P1040599At the end of September a friend and I went to VegFest in London (with the babies!) It was busier than I expected, which was difficult with the babies, but I am not suprised because the event had a lot to offer. Whether you are interested in vegetarianism, veganism, you are dairy-free or just interested in healthier eating or greener living, it was a great place for information, tasters and discussions. In fact the less you know about veganism the more you will gain from the event! I will definitely go again next year, when I can hopefully leave Poppy behind! Because there were so many talks, demonstrations and workshops we would have loved to stay for, but the babies were getting restless. We managed to pick up loads of leaflets though, all reaffirming my reasons for going (mostly) vegan and motivating me to try harder! As for the dairy debate, all I can say is that I am so glad we no longer consume that junk, and I can’t believe how brain washed people are into believing it is good for them! I will put some links at the end of this post if you want to educate yourself further on this matter.
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For those of you who haven’t got a clue what vegan’s eat then take a look at the photo’s below and know that it is not just slop or lettuce leaves! Granted, the doughnuts are not going to be the healthiest choice, but my point is that you don’t HAVE to be health obsessed to make positive changes to your diet, and you can still have a treat when the mood strikes. On the other hand, healthy choices can be delicious too! We had a wrap filled with all sorts of healthy goodies for lunch. I was completely stuffed and yet could probably have devoured another it was beyond delicious. The choice of food was amazing, from chocolate to cheesecake, burgers to burritos. If you think veganism is restrictive, think again!
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There were also stalls with beauty products, clothing, petitions and more. The children’s area looked like good fun with cooking classes and other activities, and there was a cinema area that was showing informative films. And it wasn’t limited to vegetables! There were also discussions on raw food diets, lots of information about healthy and not so healthy fats, sugar, juicing and even green products such as cloth maternity pads! Overall it was well organised, despite the queue to get in and the broken lift fiasco, and I would have loved to have spent more time there. However, I don’t think I would want to take kids again as it was too busy to focus on everything and them! For the price of the tickets it was well worth a trip, although be warned, you could easily spend a fortune on all the tempting stalls.
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Some of the posters and flyers were eye-opening. I initially chose to cut down on meat for health reasons but I can’t deny that the facts on farming make me feel pretty sick and they do make me think twice if I ever get a meaty craving. It is too easy for us to detach ourselves from the reality, when we buy our meat all neatly packaged up in the supermarket with pictures of happy animals on the front. We are allowing outrageous torture to animals and damaging our environment at the same time. If you do eat meat, at least know exactly where it comes from and how the animals are treated. But even organic doesn’t always mean cruelty free due to the very fact that farming is a business and therefore certain procedures have to take place in order to meet demand, and don’t be fooled by the words ‘free-range’ either.
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There is loads of information out there on the health benefits of vegetarianism, veganism and going dairy-free AND it is better for the environment. It makes me laugh when people think that vegan’s don’t get enough nutrients. Sure, there will be unhealthy vegan’s out there, but if you are following a plant based diet with plenty of variety, some raw foods, good fats and natural sources of protein…you are bound to be getting exactly what you need. People often wonder if Poppy will be bought up as a vegan, as if they are worried that she won’t grow properly or have lifelong problems because I am so irresponsible I am depriving her of protein! But I am not worried in the slightest because I know that everything she needs is available in the fresh, wholesome foods we eat. Most of the information we are given about dietary requirements are inaccurate and even worrying. The popular eat well plate for example has a small section suggesting that we need some foods high in sugar and fats (with photo’s of fizzy drinks and biscuits). No one in the world NEEDS these sorts of processed foods, ESPECIALLY not a baby! Of course you can enjoy them in moderation if you choose, but this information is given out in schools which I find irresponsible and misleading for parents who don’t know any better. I have taken Poppy’s health into my own hands so that I can be absolutely sure she only gets the best.
P1040537 They weren’t as energetic on the journey home!

For more info take a look at the following links:

http://www.viva.org.uk
http://www.milkmyths.org.uk
http://www.vegansociety.com/try-vegan/why-go-vegan
http://www.grownathomewithlove.wordpress.com/tag/food-intolerances/
http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/cows/dairy-industry/
http://www.vegsoc.org/
http://www.govegan.org.uk/
http://www.london.vegfest.co.uk/

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Cocoa-nut bites

photo 2-1There are hundreds of these delightful little balls circling the blogging scene! I usually just make them up as I go along, but this one was particularly good. I haven’t been updating you on my sugar free challenge at all! But because of little lifesavers such as these nutritious snacks, I have managed fairly well. It hasn’t been as hard as I imagined, but then again we haven’t cut out natural sugars, so I can still satisfy my sweet cravings. Although many people say sugar is sugar, processed or not, I have to disagree. The foods that I get my sweet fixes from have so many health benefits that far outweigh the sugar content, and the extra goodness in them helps your body to process the sugar more efficiently anyway. I do feel better as a result of the challenge, with no more energy dips mid afternoon. I slipped up yesterday when I was testing a brownie recipe for the party this weekend, and today I have been feeling so lethargic! The other girls are doing great too and the online food diary has helped us to share ideas and really evaluate what we are putting into our bodies. I have realised that I really don’t snack as much as I thought! Michelle has lost a heap of weight and we have both said we want to make it a more long term change. I am also pleased that I have managed to, pretty much, cut out all processed bread (and haven’t eaten anything else processed the entire time!) and am now considering asking for a bread maker for Christmas!

If you have ever thought about going sugar free you should definitely try it. If you are happy to eat natural sugars in fruit, honey and maple syrup, for example, then you may find it is a piece of *sugar free* cake!

So to get you started here is a quick recipe for those moments when you just need a treat:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup soaked cashews

2-3 cup soaked dates

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon coconut oil

Handful raisins

Desiccated coconut to coat balls in

Method:

Puree or blend your dates, cashews and coconut oil (I used my juicer to do this which makes them much smoother than blending, but either works ok) If the mix seems too crumbly add more dates. It should be sticky, holding together easily but not wet.

Put mixture in a bowl and stir in cocoa powder and raisins until mixed well. You can add more or less cocoa depending on how chocolatey you want them.

Roll into bite sized balls and then roll through the desicated coconut.

Refrigerate for an hour before serving (unless you are desperate to eat them straight away, but they really are better after being in the fridge!)

Store them in an airtight container and pack them in a picnic, in your child’s lunch box, for a long journey. You could even put them in a pretty box and give them as a gift…or just demolish them all whilst watching your favourite tv!

Enjoy!
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Raw Vegan Cheesecake

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So at the start of my sugar free challenge what better than a sugar free cheesecake to get me through my sweet cravings?! 

I took this recipe from http://www.therawtarian.com and it was a huge success. My Mum loved it (non-vegan) and I have loads left over for tomorrow which I know will please Tim. It wasn’t a perfect replacement for the cheesecake you might be used to, but I think it was nicer, and far healthier! It also could have been because I used maple syrup which has a distinct flavour, and I didn’t use a high speed blender. The base was quite crunchy and textured, but we really liked it like that. 

I did find that there wasn’t quite enough base mixture to cover a normal cheesecake dish, and so I used a smaller square pyrex dish, but then found there was too much ‘cheese’ mixture, making the layers quite thick in the smaller dish. It just meant we had smaller slices as it is quite rich, but we still both managed to have 2 of them! 

I will be trying this again with different fruit combo’s and think it could also work great with crumbled diary free ginger biscuits as the base and pineapple on top, for when the sugar free month is over. So here it is, simple and suprisingly healthy cheesecake! 

Ingredients:

Base:

1 1/2 cups macadamia nuts

1/2 cup dates (soaked over night to soften)

1/4 cup desiccated coconut

Pinch of salt

Cashew cheese filling:

3 cups cashews (I soaked mine over night to activate them and soften them)

3/4 cup lemon juice

3/4 cup agave/honey (I used maple syrup and honey)

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Water if you need to blend, I didn’t need any but use as little as possible

Topping:

2 cups frozen strawberries (I used raspberries!) 

1/2 cup dates (softened over night) 

Method:

Sprinkle your dish with the coconut and set aside

Using a high speed food processor, blend your macadamia nuts and dates until they are well processed but still airy. 

Press the nut mixture to the bottom of your dish (over the coconut which will stop it from sticking)

Blend all of your cashew cheese filling ingredients until smooth and pour on top of the nut base. 

Place in the freezer whilst you make your topping (the original recipe said an hour but I skipped this part completely and it still worked fine.)

Blend your fruit and dates in a high speed blender until smooth. It should look like a sorbet! Pour on top of the cheese filling and place back in the freezer, or the fridge like I did, until it reaches the desired consistency. The recipe says 5 hours in the freezer but I only put mine in the fridge for about 3 hours and it was perfect, the cheese had firmed up nicely.)

Mum left hers out of the fridge for a while before eating to take the chill off but I had mine straight away, your choice!  

Enjoy, guilt free! 

Thanks to http://www.therawtarian.com/raw-cheesecake-recipe for an amazing recipe!

The best thing since sliced bread!

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Recipe wanted for rye bread like this that is simple and healthy!

Poppy has gone from swallowing barely anything to an eating machine overnight! Ok that is a huge exaggeration, but it feels that way!

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We went shopping yesterday and I decided to try her on a couple of new things, and they have gone down a storm! The first was Biona organic rye bread. It is really dense so easier for her to hold than bread and probably a better texture for her to manage than toast. I spread avocado on it for her breakfast and she ate two whole squares! She also munched on a couple of strawberries.

This afternoon I gave her some Kallo organic rice cake with a teeny bit of peanut butter on top. She demolished it! I mean she ate half of a big rice cake, which is huge for her! She crammed way too much in her mouth which made me slightly nervous but she managed to figure it out herself. She also had a couple of bits of tomato which got squished and some melon which she liked gnawing on but nothing went down.

This evening she had some red pepper which wasn’t successful and some orange which she just loves to suck the juice out of. And a few organic alphabet biscuits we had leftover from the cafe. I don’t want to give her too much packaged food, even organic, but she absolutely loves these and puts the whole thing in her mouth then lets it go soggy. She at about 5 of them, again, loads compared to usual. She definitely prefers things that don’t squish in her hand but do squish in her mouth! Which is annoying because I guess she won’t be getting much fruit and veg for a while. But I will keep trying! She must have been pretty full after all of that…and she hasn’t woken up yet after going to bed at 6….wishful thinking?!

Dairy Free Essentials

So I have had a few people request more information on my dairy alternatives. As I said in my previous post, it hasn’t been easy, but gradually you get used to what you can and can’t eat and food labels become a breeze. There are some things I use on a daily basis and a few other things I have found that have surprised me in that they are ‘safe’ foods. I am only human and so have discovered a few treats that I am allowed, although I have no excuse really seeing as there are loads of tasty healthy options that I can make myself! Always good to have a few options though, especially when you are having visitors over and want to put a plate of biscuits out! Of course most of the items below are soy free too as Poppy was intolerant to this too. If you are choosing to cut out dairy and/soy completely then make sure you familiarise yourself with all of the hidden ingredients that become out of bounds. It is not as simple as changing your milk and butter! Use google to find a list of dairy/soy ingredients to look out for, it is long, but amazingly you memorise is pretty quickly!

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Pure spread – I don’t tend to have butter in sandwiches, but this is the best thing for baking. In fact my mum has always used it even though she is not dairy free. I have never liked margarines; they are not good for you at all. I have heard this is much better, but seeing as I don’t have too many options and don’t use it all that much, I haven’t really looked into how healthy this is. It is good value at about £1.50 and it is often on offer, buy 2 for £2 or similar. It means that most cake recipes are no longer out of bounds, and even if you struggle with eggs, you can substitute these with an egg replacer (try orgran no egg from Holland and Barrett). I use an egg replacer in baking anyway because it is such good value for money and otherwise we would use way too many eggs! The Pure spread is also good for frying, as it is made with sunflower oil, and of course you could just use it as your regular spread on bread or toast. I have come across a much more extravagant butter, made with very healthy things, but can’t remember the name of it because it cost over £5 for a tub! Sometimes I have to draw the line on my health addiction and think about my bank account.

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Almond milk (unsweetened) – by far the best option I have found for tea and coffee. I now much prefer it to cows milk. I have it everyday on my porridge too, although you can use any milk for this really. It also goes in to many of my super smoothies. Almond milk contains 120mg calcium per 100ml, compared to 124mg per 100ml in cows milk, and the bioavailability of the calcium is no doubt much higher in the almond milk, so your calcium absorption would probably improve.

Coconut milk – You can buy cartons of coconut milk along with all of the other milk alternatives, and I do enjoy a lovely coconut milk latte at our favourite café, however I don’t tend to choose this at home as I find almond milk more palatable in tea and coffee. However the thicker coconut milk that you buy in cans is used regularly at our house. Since we can no longer eat the cheese sauce which seemed to accompany so many of our staple meals, we had to have a bit of a menu change (which is never a bad thing seeing as it is so easy to cook the same things week after week). I didn’t want to give up my warm, hearty, comfort foods and start living on salads and steamed vegetables (my appetite is far too big!) so I started making quite a few curries. We absolutely LOVE Thai green curry and use half a can of coconut milk and stock for the sauce. There are loads of variations for Thai curry but mine includes loads of fresh ginger, leeks, spring onions, spinach, garlic, lemon zest and coriander so it is pretty healthy. Serve with wholewheat noodles or brown rice for a wholesome meal.

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Oat drink – Just another everyday milk alternative. Oats are very healthy so this is a good one to include in your diet, use on cereal or in porridge if you don’t fancy it in your tea.

Rice milk – Same as above! Also good for rice puddings surprisingly.

Hazelnut milk – This is my favourite milk for when I am feeling indulgent. I make hazelnut lattes with this using all milk, coffee and sugar. You could also try Ferrero Rocher hot chocolate just by using hazelnut milk instead of normal milk! If you don’t have dairy free hot chocolate try using cocoa powder instead, adding a natural sweetener such as agave syrup or maple syrup, a drop of vanilla essence and a pinch of cinnamon.

ImageOatly cream – I use this fairly regularly to add creaminess to a dish, for example in soups, curries or risotto. A very quick risotto recipe is Arborio rice cooked in vegetable stock, with loads of chestnut mushrooms, garlic and chorizo and finish by oatly cream. It is really easy but very delicious. Can also be used in puddings. A quick caramel sauce to add to deserts is made with 100g pure butter and 150g soft light brown sugar melted together in a pan, add 125ml of oat cram and simmer until heated through. I never used to use much cream at all when cooking, but I feel that oat cream can’t be all that bad for you!

Bread – Not a dairy one but I have only included this because I found it difficult to find a SOYA free bread. Ideally it is best to make your own, and occasionally my lovely Dad brings me a fresh loaf from his bread maker, but the rest of the time I have found wholewheat pitta breads to be brilliant alternatives and one brand of multiseed bread to be safe; Wheatfield Bakery as pictured. Tip: Try buying fresh bread from farmshops which shouldn’t usually contain soy. I also found that the tesco organic white bloomer (not the brown one) has no soy in, so we occasionally had this as a weekend treat!ImageDairy free treats – Nature valley oat bars (the healthiest option in this list by far), Oreos (contain soya!) Jammy dodgers, Ginger nut biscuits and Nice biscuits. There are probably many more but I haven’t bothered finding many as we rarely eat biscuits. A lot of sweets are fine but watch out for soya, I found they were in starburst amongst other popular sweets! Of course anything caramely or buttery is a no go, I am yet to come to terms with the loss of werther’s originals.

Nakd bars – I haven’t put these under treats, although I do think they are delicious. But they are 100% healthy! Raw pressed fruits and nuts, no additives, no added sugar, no baking involved. If you are avoiding soy as well be careful as some of them do have soy and some don’t. My two favourite are cocoa delight and cashew cookie which is literally just dates and cashews. They are rather pricey though at over £2 for a box of 4.

Shortcrust Pastry by Jusrol – We don’t eat much pastry, even though Tim is a big fan of pies. But every now and then I love a homemade quiche with loads of salad. I was sad when we had to give this up, but then I read the ingredients on the pastry I used and was very surprised to discover it doesn’t contain any butter or soy!! Oh and yes this is lazy but I really don’t have time to be making pastry from scratch! I actually think this pastry tastes really good, even though I am not a big pastry fan (Tim always gets my crusts once I have eaten the best bits of the quiche!) You could also use this pastry to make jam tarts or apple pie to add to your collection of dairy free treats!

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Raw Cacao Powder – You can also use normal cocoa powder for baking. But I love this healthy chocolate ingredient, it gives you the same endorphins as that unhealthy bar of milk chocolate, with none of the guilt! You can use it in pudding recipes, cakes and smoothies, or even in your porridge! Try blending a handful of dates, oats, a tablespoon of cacao and a splash of water, then rolling mixture into balls and refrigerating: Healthy chocolate truffles! Yum.

Ice cream and yoghurts – I am yet to try any dairy free yoghurts, but there are plenty available, whether you choose soya yoghurts or the healthier coconut yoghurts. Ice cream will definitely be tried this Summer! I did struggle to find any without soya in them, although there are a few expensive brands available online, but I tried plenty of dairy free ice creams when I was younger in a poor attempt at going dairy free, and they were mostly delicious. All major supermarkets should stock these.

Cheese – I am afraid I am not much help here either. Cheese was definitely the hardest thing for me to give up. I had it on a daily basis! There are cheese alternatives out there (look online) but I just don’t know if they would cut it for me. I have got so used to it now that I don’t really miss it, but maybe one day when I am feeling flush I will invest in some vegan cheese. If you have tried it let me know what you thought! Goats cheese may be ok for some people, other people may still find this causes problems.

I hope that helps. If there are any other dairy items that you miss or do not know how to cut out of your diet then comment below and I will see if I can help! Remember the blogging world is rife with dairy free recipes for al of your favourite dishes! Do not assume you will never be able to enjoy puddings again!

Welcome

Hi and welcome to my brand new shiny blog! I have been meaning to start one for a while, but now that we have finally moved away from the town we both grew up and our nearest and dearest, I decided it was time to put pen to paper (or the virtual equivalent) and give everyone we have left behind a chance to keep up to date with our family adventures. Of course those I am referring to know that they are always welcome at our new abode, but as you all know Poppy is changing everyday, so I will attempt to capture her growth and special moments so that you can all share our journey no matter where in the word you may be!

Those of you who know me well will probably already understand my reasonings behind the name of this blog. ‘Grown at Home’ not only conjures up images of an idyllic organic lifestyle but also sums up the natural approach we take when it comes to raising Poppy: providing her with the most nurturing environment and freedom to learn, from the people we believe are most capable of giving her the best education and experiences possible; ourselves!

Mostly this will act as a sort of diary, where I can write about our life but also anything that I feel passionate about. If my ramblings happen to reach a wider audience than friends and family then even better! Perhaps you are a Mummy or Daddy with similar ideas or interests? Or maybe you have some unanswered questions about a particular parenting topic or just want to hear about someone else’s experiences. As well as our day to day adventures I will cover all sorts of things including attachment parenting, breastfeeding and extended breastfeeding, elimination communication, milk soy protein intolerance (MSPI, specifically in breastfed babies), low chemical lifestyle, baby led weaning, home education, Montessori and more! All of the above are things we are experiencing every day or still learning about ourselves, so I am sure they will all crop up at some time or another. I will also post regular healthy recipes because I just love cooking and for some reason can’t help but photograph my creations! We have recently started getting organic fruit, vegetable and meat boxes delivered which I am super excited about and love the variation of the seasonal veg which forces me to experiment all the time. I welcome new ideas, Poppy is about to start solids so there is lots more experimenting to come!

But for now it’s time for me to relax in front of the fire with a fast asleep baby who is practically glued to me lately, and Tim who came home early as a treat. Happy Friday! Good night x