Quick Chickpea and Mushroom Mediterranean Stew

I threw this together last night and I just have to post the recipe. It is so quick, easy and delicious.

The Ingredients
2 small cooking onions (or one big one!) roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic roughly chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin chickpeas
250g mushrooms
300ml stock
2 TBSP ground almonds
1-2 TBSP tomato puree

1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
Pinch cayenne
1 tsp paprika

The How To
  • Fry the onions and garlic until soft
  • Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and ground almonds
  • Add the stock gradually until you get a consistency you're happy with (I went for a little watery, but not swimming)
  • Stir in the seasoning and tomato puree, then add the mushrooms. Cover and cook until mushrooms are soft.

THAT'S IT. So easy, so yummy and if you're serving it to guests they'd never know it was so simple. I served mine with cous cous that was cooked in stock with added tomato puree for a change in colour and depth of flavour. Once the cous cous is ready to serve I add a little oil to improve the texture - it works so well.


Coronation Tofu Recipe: Royal Wedding Special!

Happy Royal Wedding Day to you all!

To celebrate I have a vegan Coronation Tofu recipe for you to make and share for this happy occasion. It's so simple and delicious, I hope you enjoy it.

1 large block of firm tofu, pressed and cut into triangles

2 cloves of garlic grated
1 inch piece of ginger grated
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red chilli powder

Spiced Sauce
280g vegan mayo
1 tsp garam masala
50ml vegetable oil
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp salt

The How To

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
Line a baking tray with foil.
Mix all ingredients for the marinade into a bowl.
Cover the tofu with the marinade, place each piece on the foil-lined tray and leave to marinade whilst preparing the sauce.

Mix the spices and salt with vegan mayo.
Add the oil slowly, ensuring it doesn't start to curdle (if it does, you can sieve the oil from the sauce)

Place the baking tray into the oven and cook until the tofu reaches your desired consistency. I cooked mine for about 45mins so it was crispy on the edges. The last thing you want is your tofu to fall apart when you mix it in to the sauce!
Leave it to cool then mix into the sauce and serve. Voila!

Have a very happy Royal Wedding Day!

This recipe has been veganised from this meaty original.

Your Knitting and Crochet Time - 2KCBWDAY7

Ah, today on the final day of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2011 (I nearly wrote 2007 then. I always thought I was a bit behind) I'll be talking about my precious knitting and crochet time (2KCBWDAY7).

Last year I talked about how I was an exhibitionist knitter but this year the subject has more of a twist and requires more depth. Not just where am I, but what do I do to really set the scene.

There are two key places where I knit and crochet at the moment. The first one is at home, on the sofa. Not having a job leaves me time to mosey around at my own pace and pick up my work whenever I feel like it. The key ingredients to my knitting success at home relies on two things: throw away TV and a nice mug of Masala Chai (I no longer drink regular tea, it's so incredibly dull!).

The throw away TV usually tends to be something trashy and of the reality kind. I'm a seasoned Jerry Springer fan. I know, it's utter trash and some people tell me it's not real but that really doesn't matter to me. I love Jerry Springer, I love the car crash brainless entertainment it provides and it's perfect background noise for my knitting and crochet endeavours. This video is quite tasteless, but I must admit it's perfect creative viewing for me (don't judge me, please).

Other new television trash I'm into includes anything with the Kardashians and Holly's World.

The second place I find myself being creative is in the car. Not what you'd expect but I'm always the passenger, so when I'm traveling between Oxford and Bournemouth to visit my friends I have a couple of perfect hours to kill. This usually involves crochet, rather than knitting and I can finish more than a couple of hexagons in this time. Here, the scene doesn't really need to be set, I can lose myself completely to it, so long as my other half doesn't taunt me with his much loved Timmy Mallet tape.

So that concludes it for another year. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and the few of you who left comments. It was great to discover new blogs to read and I hope to keep up with you all until next year!

Something to Aspire to - 2KCBWDAY6

As soon as I saw today's topic, Something to Aspire to (2KCBWDAY6) I knew immediately what I wanted to write about. Charts.

I first attempted to knit from a chart about 9 months after I'd started knitting. It was the beautiful Tiger Eyes Lace Scarf.

This is not my scarf.

I remember it was over Christmas, I was at my parents house in the Highlands in Scotland and I had shut myself away in my room determined to master the pattern. I'd researched how to read charts and was confident but for some reason I just couldn't get to grips with it.

It may have been that I just hadn't been knitting for long enough but it was enough of an ordeal to make me avoid charts until this very day.

Now, this is becoming more of a problem. There was a pattern that I was particularly interested in recently; a crocheted bikini, but the written instructions were in Russian (I think) and the only other way I could have completed the pattern was by following the chart. Needless to say, I didn't do it.

Writing this now has inspired me a bit. I'm not usually one to sit down and accept defeat so easily. Maybe it's time for me to treat myself to some more lovely Araucania cotton and finally master this pattern.

Embellishments - 2KCBWDAY5

Today, whilst I take up the wild card of discussing embellishments (2KCBWDAY5) most people will be doing something different in their blogging: videos, poetry, pictures only etc, but I just couldn't think of anything that wouldn't be too time consuming. I wanted to make a puppet style show with some of my finished projects (including headless dude of course) but I would need a script and time to edit the video, and as it's my boyfriends birthday today, I just don't have time (we're currently laying on the futon watching Anaconda - much more serious business than being creative!)

Instead, I've decided to focus on something that I truly believe for all my creations. The eyes have it. You can make any old toy, but if you don't get the eyes right then the toy is not right. They add character, personality and depth to the creation.

Here's an example of not quite getting the eyes right. For me, they lack depth and look a bit boring. Later I added some circles of felt behind/around the eyes and they looked much nicer but I don't have a photo of it.

And here's an example of using the same eyes, with a little addition which makes all the difference

It's amazing how a little extra detail around just one eye can make the world of difference.

But then sometimes simple can work. I just get a feel for whatever it is I'm creating and let them do the talking, like my little cyclopse monsters. The orange one is Kurt, who still lives with me and is famous for being my blog mascot.

As always, thanks for reading and I'll see you all tomorrow (hopefully a little earlier than today!). Until then I'll be laying around, watching crappy horror movies tonight and eating Chinese. Nom.

Where Are They Now? - 2KCBWDAY4

I have fond memories of making the project that is the subject of today's blog (2KCBWDAY4), in which I'll be talking about an old project that has gone to new pastures. It's a neckwarmer I made for a friend of mine and is based on the popular Manly Lace Scarf pattern.

I'd used the pattern already once before and it's great. Challenging enough to keep you interested and easy enough to remember the pattern a few repeats in. One thing I had hated about it though, was that it just took toooo long and making a full length scarf was out of the question for Little Miss Zero Attention Span here. Lucky for me, I'm inventive and so I stopped as soon as it was at the length of a neckwarmer, added some buttons and used the lace as button holes.

This friend had seen my original version and liked it but wanted a chunkier, more manly version with a vintage feel (or maybe his girlfriend did, I'm not sure... ;) ) and this was the final product, using bulky yarn, 6.5mm needles and vintage New York military buttons from Etsy.

I remember being on the train to Bristol knitting this project and getting a comment from an older lady who was really impressed with it. It's nice to get random compliments from strangers.

So, where is it now?

I got in touch with Chris and he still has the neckwarmer! I'm impressed that it still looks so great and, more importantly, how great it looks on him! I'd sent it in the post originally so this is the first time I've ever seen it on him.

Shameless plug: If any of you want to see or hear more of the lovely Chris he's in a band called An Axe, who have been described as a blistering Surf Noir Rock band. Find them on Myspace, on Twitter or at a venue near you.

See you tomorrow for a blog about something completely different!!

Tidy Mind, Tidy Stitches - 2KCBWDAY3

It's day 3 (2KCBWDAY3) and today we're talking about how we organise our stash and stuff! I've been living in this house for 6 weeks and right now I must admit I have no organisation for my yarn stash or my projects. Most of my stuff is in boxes or bags and, being jobless, it means that buying nice storage solutions is not really an option right now. I'm also, by nature, quite an untidy person. It is how it is...

Some picture proof...

Presently, a large amount of my stash is in a big plastic bag which lives in a cubby hole in my bedroom. I got the bag from my laundry lady in India. It's been very helpful, although it actually looks like some kind of death trap with those needles sticking out of it. I need to get my needle holding vintage footstool from my old place.

 Some of it is in a bag on the stairs right now.

My rather round looking hexagons are living on the bottom tier of my coffee table.

And the headless dude is living in a sealable plastic bag that was once used for cotton wool (also from India).

I dream of having a lovely wicker basket tucked into the corner of one of my rooms, filled with my neatly balled yarns. Le sigh.

In my old place I had a divan bed and it was ace. I kept all my yarn in one draw and in the one next to it, I kept all my fabrics. It was the most organised my yarns had ever been and I really hope once I'm a bit more settled that I can reach the same level of organisation again.

See you tomorrow, when I'll be reminiscing about an old project that's long gone.

Skill + 1UP - 2KCBWDAY2

Today, I should be talking about how I've improved so much. How I have learnt new skills, pushed myself and finished amazing projects but alas, it is not the case.

I'm out of work at the moment and prior to this I was volunteering and traveling in India. I have time on my hands but for some reason I just can't find the motivation.

The most challenging thing I started when I was traveling was crocheted hexagons but, having had a problem with the pattern I've been using for a while, I finally realised last week that I'd written it down wrong and had put the ch2 in the wrong place, meaning the corners weren't really corners. They're more circular than anything.

Still nice though huh?

I'm also struggling to find the inspiration for a head for this guy

I've had some ideas for his head but when I've tried to put them into practice they haven't come out as hoped. I guess that's the problem with organic craft rather than following patterns, sometimes inspiration and ability runs dry and you have to start following patterns to learn more.

I'm not going to make any empty promises for the future. I know that I'm so busy with other projects I might never live up to my fancy aspirations as a knitter or crocheter but what I do make is made with love and is of quality, which I guess is all anyone can really ask for.

A Tale of Two Yarns - 2KCBWDAY1

Welcome to the start of the 2 Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. If you're wondering what the weird code is (2KCBWDAY3), it's a tag so that other bloggers can find those of us who are doing the same thing!

I'm not the most impressive knitter/crocheter and I have my fingers in a lot of other pies but I loved being part of this last year and I'm hoping to enjoy it as much now in 2011.

Today's theme is a tale of two yarns. I'm going to discuss one yarn I love and one that I kinda like, but sometimes is just not right.

The One I Love

First off, let's talk about Araucania. These guys make some delicious yarns but my favourite colourway has to be this one:

Cottons are famous for not having that much give when knitting so when I decided on the pattern I used a slightly larger needle and it's coming along nicely, it's easy to knit with and has a lovely drape. The only problem is that it seems to be in hibernation... I am really bad with sticking to a large project. I started this in July last year and I haven't got really far at all. Maybe I should have just kept it as a stashed yarn and taken it out to marvel at it's beautiful colours every now and then.

The One I Kinda Love

Acrylics. I know, it's naughty especially for an environmentally savvy girl like me but sometimes I just can't help myself. I'm not the richest chick in the world and as a result, sometimes I buy nice bright and soft acrylic yarn can ease my yarn buying blues. They're great for crochet and knitting and I've made some fab projects with acrylics.

Sometimes though, it's just not good. Sometimes a pattern can be so nice that you need to invest in a quality yarn to help it's beauty shine through, like this one from Son of Stitch 'n Bitch:

So there you have it. My love affair with Araucania and my love/hate relationship with the boring old acrylic.

See you tomorrow!
The world, or maybe just those of us here in the UK, has woken up today to horrifying footage of circus animals being beaten, specifically an elephant.

The video not only shows Anne, the final remaining circus elephant in the UK, being beaten but also horses and llamas too.

Oxford Vegans Circus Demo

For me it's quite a topical issue as on this Friday just passed I was in South Park, Oxford protesting Zippos Circus' use of animals, namely horses and budgies.  
Nessa and I resting our legs in between shows

For the most part we had a really positive response, especially from young people, however one thing that was mentioned a couple of times was (and I quote): "They have animals at this circus? I thought it was only horses." Duh!

On first glance the sentence seems utterly stupid but when it's dissected to get to the root of the meaning it states: "Horses being in captivity is not as bad as a tiger or an elephant being in captivity". No mention was made by the circus-goers of the birds being held captive and their value as individuals, it seemed, was regarded as zilch. A picture of the birds standing on the Ringmaster was used on all the posters around the city.

At present, the public and the government are backing a ban on the use of wild animals used in circuses but I believe a ban on all animals used in circuses is the way forward. No animals, wild or domesticated, deserve such an uprooted existence and all animals are at risk of being mistreated and forced to perform highly unnatural stunts that are of no educational value and teach disrespect for animals (www.captiveanimals.org.uk).

Unnatural behaviour forced upon horses at Zippos

Choose Humans! 

My final words will be to never forget the awesomeness that lives inside of humans. We have an amazing ability to defy belief and exceed all expectations in performance. If you really want to be blown away, or take your child to something truly magical then head to something such as Cirque du Soleil which will fill you with awe and give your children something positive to aspire to.

A Positive Lent: Week 2 Update

Hello me hearties and welcome again to an update on how my Positive Lent is impacting my daily life!

Things are going well and I think I owe a lot of it to the simple weekly planner I made, as featured in my last blog. Exercising regularly has been the main thing that's keeping this lent positive for me. I notice that the more I do, the happier I feel. I just need to make sure I rest sufficiently in between (especially between runs) so I don't screw myself up. I'm dying to go running today but instead I'm doing yoga at home with the help of the YogaToday podcast (which you can subscribe to via iTunes).

I've been baking a little less because I was the one also doing most of the eating. I was getting paranoid about my weight so I've been putting more effort into vegan advocacy and continually educating myself on vegan principles and figuring out where mine lie (yep, 2 years on and I'm still growing and pondering on the vegan lifestyle.)

I think it's safe to say that my principles are firmly rooted in practicing Ahimsa in my daily life. Ahimsa means to do no harm and I try to use this every day, not only by not consuming animal products but in how I treat others. Being nicer to people is much harder than it is to be nice to animals but I work on it every day and continue to grow.

On the subject of non-violence I found this article today which has one of the greatest comments of all time. A must read:


Also, for those of you who are wondering where vegans get their nutrients from I found a nice song/video to inform you and debunk those silly myths! In addition, it could be really helpful for vegans who are tired of answering those questions (which I think is probably the vast majority of us - sorry non-vegans!).

Hopefully everyone wil have left this blog a little more informed today. I hope you all continue to have a happy and positive lent!

A Positive Lent: The 7th Day

So, I hear you ask, how's this Positive Lent malarky going? You'll be pleased to hear it is going rather well!

Let's break it down in to sections, because they're easier to read:

The Mushroom and Walnut Pie
My folks visited last week and for the first time since I've been vegan (nearly 2 years) I had the chance to cook for them. The recipe is from this book, which is jam packed full of over 90 delish dishes. I substituted some of the oyster mushrooms for chestnut mushrooms as I'm a bit short on cash and I also forgot to get the pastry out of the oven to defrost (cue hungry family members and a wine-guzzling, empty stomached and drunk me, doing my best Keith Floyd impression) but, eventually, it was a success!

I somehow haven't managed to do much crafting. In fact I don't know if I've done any. I might have sewn some limbs on to a currently headless amigurumi creation but that's about it.

I'm in a bit of a creative funk I suppose. It happens, it'll pass. I have a knitting group I go to called the Oxford Bluestockings on a Wednesday night so that should help, even if I do only crochet hexagons whilst there.

Job Hunting
Still no job but it's not like I'm banging down people's doors and begging. I handed my CV in to Holland Barrett last week for a part time position. It'd be perfect for me but now I guess I just have to do the waiting game. In the meantime I'm sucking up my distaste for office work and am going to put my CV on job sites and go to local agencies for part time work. It's been a month since I got back from India and I need money and routine now. I also need a hair cut. The sub-tropics have not been kind to my locks. Le sigh.

More Exercise (and everything else)
I need exercise, both physically and mentally and have created a little chart to help run my life a bit better whilst I don't have a job. The chart includes exercise 4 days a week and also reminds me to do things like cleaning and crafting and baking. To some it might seem a bit mad but to me it's like a tiny slice of heaven. I need order and routine in some parts of my life because so many other parts are all over the place (like my brain). 

The 'Vegan' bits don't mean these are the days I'm vegan, I'm vegan all the time! These are the days I'll fit a little advocacy or organising of advocacy into my life whilst I have the time. I do this quite often anyway. In fact this weekend a friend who I hadn't seen for ages asked me for some help in transitioning, which was awesome. Hello and good luck if you're reading - you can do it!

Date night is special time for me and the man. No distractions (apart from Tony Cat, but that goes without saying).

Finally, today I dropped a cake in to a local cafe to see if their customers like my cakes. If they do there's a chance of setting up a partnership and spreading vegan delights to the unassuming tastebuds of Oxfordshire!

Well, that's about all for now. I hope that whatever you've decided to do for lent that it's going well (apart from the guy who has pledged to subsist on beer alone. Whatever your reasons, you're a bit of a numpty if you don't mind me saying)

Ooooh. As I was writing this closing passage I got a phone call for a potential job!! Watch this space...

A Positive Lent

Every now and then I get down (like, really down) but I have this ability to pick myself up again and carry on like an 18 year old boy in the bedroom.

I had a flash of inspiration as I was coming back from Waitrose (yes, I'm shopping at Waitrose now. Lah-di-dah) as I was thinking of Lent. Lent is always about giving something up, about penance basically, but what if you could turn the idea on it's head and make it more positive? What if you could inject positivity into your life every day throughout lent, by trying something new, challenging yourself or helping others? Surely the benefits of this would massively outweigh giving up sugar (as I had intended to do) or bread (which had also crossed my mind).

So, with this idea (which I'm sure isn't new, but it's new to me) I'm having a positive lent. It's not strict (really, I can't be strict when the fairies so often take me away) and I'm not going to write myself a rota of all the awesome things I need to do every day. I'm just going to keep a positive frame of mind.

Amongst the things I hope to achieve this lent include:

  • More crafting. I've been lazy, it's fun and it's time to step it up
  • Getting out of my comfort zone in the kitchen and going even more wild. This starts tonight with a walnut and oyster mushroom pie. Oh my noms...
  • Job hunting. Must keep going. Must not be put off by the discrimination I have recently faced.
  • More exercise. Yoga. Running. Kissing. That kinda thing ;)
  • Smiling. It's no secret that the power of a smile is beyond comprehension. You can smile at someone, they'll smile back, then smile at someone else and before you know it, the world is infected with beautiful smiles!
So feel free to join me. Why give up anything when you can gain so much more?!

If you do decide to join me, I have created this gaudy looking desktop so every time you turn on your computer you're reminded to be positive (if you're not sick just from looking at it)


Monster Makes Shop Back in Business!

Hello! So, for those of you who didn't already know, the Monster Makes shop is back in business.

I'm hauling out all of my non-vegan stuff, made a long time ago in my pre-vegan days (2 years - WOW) at a very discounted price in order to get the shop 100% vegan, from yarn to glue.

Some of the non-vegan things you might like include this interchangeable neckwarmer and mini shawl.

The huge flower pin is knit from 100% mohair and can obviously be taken off and used on other items, not just the shawl. I don't know why this hasn't sold yet. It really is nice, even if I say so myself. The pictures don't do it justice I suppose.

There's also this tweed style long-strapped mini satchel adorned with some lush vintage buttons

For the vegans among you, my personal favourite is this completely adorable poo keychain

I really don't think I'll ever get over my love of crafting poops... Oh well. I could be in to worse things! So anyhoooo, take a look. Everything is cheap right now, even the vegan stuff, and it will remain so until all the non-vegan stuff is sold.

So go ahead, help a jobless vegan out and buy a nice little something :)

Volunteering Entries Moved to New Blog!

I've moved all my posts from my time in India to Monster Volunteers, so though it looks like I have been a lazy blogger over here, I haven't. Click on the link to find out what happened between October and February (if you didn't know already) and prepare yourself. It gets ugly.

I felt, given everything that happened and my extremely strong views against the so called rescue charity International Animal Rescue, it was best to clean things up here and keep the blogs separate. There are still things I feel I need to clarify, especially the chain of events. When that happens, it will happen there, not here.

In other news, lots of things are moving forward in my life. I have a new project I'm working on which may become not only my main focus for blogging, but for my life! I'm moving away from dreary old office work into something far more delicious...