Chocolate lime non-dairy ice cream

img_20160429_164655714.jpgBeing an indoors kind of day I felt like spending time making food.  I decided to dust of my ice-cream maker and start making ice-cream again.  Knowing several people who are either vegan, or lactose intolerant, I was keen to try  my first non-dairy version an opted for a coconut milk base.  Coconut milk is full of fibre and vitamin’s, so that totally cancels out all the sugar, right?

I’ve tried experimenting with no-sugar ice cream and it just doesn’t work.  Not because of flavour, but because the sugar is needed to make sure it does not freeze solid and remains scoop-able.  I ended up with a blueberry cinnamon milk stone.  The other ingredient that can keep the ice cream at the right texture while freezing is alcohol, but that wouldn’t really work for my eight year-old.

We’re just going have to accept that ice-cream is going to have a lot of sugar and calories in it. Everyone needs a treat now and again.  This is my favourite flavour combination I’ve made so far.  The lime and chocolate compete against each other in a dance off on your tongue.

Ingredients

400ml can of coconut milk

150g dark chocolate (I used 60% coco in this one)

86g golden syrup

zest and juice of one lime

pinch of salt

Step 1

Melt the chocolate by placing it in a glass bowl set above a sauce pan of boiling water.

Step 2

Add the chocolate and all the other ingredients to your blender and blend.

Step 3

Put mixture in ice cream maker and follow instructions.

Step 4

Freeze.

Step 5

Eat.

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Rich Chocolate Mousse: No flour, no dairy, no added sugar.

My attempts over the years at making healthy sweet treats have been rather hit and miss, but always a fun experiment.  This rich chocolate mouse however is all hit.  I’d defy anyone to find a chocolate mouse recipe which is more healthful while still giving you the satisfying taste and texture of the more traditional desert.  Of course the flavouring with orange is optional and you can add whatever additions you wish to try.  This recipe serves two very generous portions, or four, if you like the people your eating with enough to have less yourself.

Ingredients

2 ripe avocados

100g dark chocolate (I like about 75% coco)

1 tablespoon coco or cacao

Zest of one orange

A squeeze of orange juice

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Step one

Break up the chocolate into pieces and place in a glass bowl.  Rest the bowl above a pan of boiling water, without it’s bottom touching that water (I have no idea what happens if they touch, but everyone appears to think this is really important so I’m not going to try).  Once it has all melted move to Step 2.

Step 2

Scoop the avocado flesh out of the skin and put in a blender.  Add all the other ingredients including the melted chocolate and blend until it is all combines.

Step 3

Serve.

Step 4

Eat.

 

Talking to children: Sex, masturbation, homosexuality

One of my friends has been urging me to write more parenting blogs.  She has been particularly keen for me to write about how I discuss masturbation with my daughter.  While we were having a general conversation about sex and the body masturbation came up, and here is how it went.

Daughter:  “I sometimes touch myself there.”

Me:  “Yeah, it’s a bit like picking your nose.  Everyone does it, but no one talks about it.”

That was it.

However, for the sake of having a slightly longer blog post here are my own personal rules for talking to my child about sex.  Please note, these are my own rules based on my own world view and personal circumstances – they won’t necessarily fit yours.  I’m not a doctor, psychiatrist or an expert.  You don’t have to follow them, or even agree.  No one is forcing you to read any further…

  1.  Let the child lead.  Children’s job is pretty much to discover the world and what place they want to take in it.  They are always learning and absorbing information.  Generally they will ask for the information when they are ready for it or need to know it.  With my daughter, who adores babies, all the questions started with “How do you get babies?”  “How do babies come out?” etc.  The trick is to answer honestly, but without being dogmatic.  Use tact, kindness, flexibility and compassion.  With this method by the time my daughter got to seven she’d put it all together herself and found it “Gross!”  A completely age appropriate response.  It all happened naturally because information hadn’t been either thrust upon her when she wasn’t ready, or withheld from her when she was.
  2. Make consent part of the talk.  I believe that talk about consent is necessary and vital with children.  However it can be a tricky one to negotiate.  I love the NSPCC underwear rule.  It’s a very helpful website, with loads of advice for parents so you don’t have to do the tricky stuff all on your own.
  3. It’s a continual conversation. Learning about your own body and sex is not something that happens once and never again. My daughters questions started when she was three, and they’re still going.  I believe that both gender and sexual orientation are fluid, which means discussion should be fluid.   I feel as a parent this also takes the pressure off me.  If I phrase something badly, I can come back to it.  If I realise I could have explained something better, I’ve not blown the only chance to get it right.  As your child grows, so will their personal boundaries and knowledge.  It’s important to adjust to those changes, and let the child lead.  It’s kind of like a slow dance.  I think of parenting as being a bit like Tai Chi.
  4. Talking about homosexuality.  “Some boys like to hold hands and kiss boys.  Some girls like to hold hands and kiss girls.”  My daughter has pretty much accepted this at face value.  It also helps that we watch TV together with openly gay characters.  We were both quite gripped by the Alec/Magnus, will-they-won’t-they story line in Shadowhunters.  When we talk about the future I try to include lines like “When you have a boyfriend or girlfriend you might…”  Although I have to fess up and say that giving these signals to my daughter, that whomever she becomes is ok with me, isn’t my strong suit.  Growing up in a homophobic household and hetronormative society takes a while to break down. I do need to improve on this.
  5. Children follow your emotional ques. If you think something is scary, and you model it being scary in your behaviour, your children will find it scary.  If you are confident in an area of your life, it’s likely your children will pick up on that confidence and feel the same way.  The same is true for sex, if you talk about it in a relaxed way that makes it a normal healthy part of everyday life, this is the que your child will take from you.  It’s not quite so cut and dried though.  Emotions are messy, slippery little things, that jump out on you and surprise you, and get all tangled up in each other.  Being an adult is absolutely no guarantee that you will always model the best emotional behaviour in every conversation and interaction your child observes.  If you think it does, you are probably in some very deep form of denial.  Two phrases I say to my daughter “I’m sorry,” and “I realise I could have done that better”.  Both have the plus side of also showing your child it’s ok and forgiveable to make mistakes, and to learning how to adjust behaviour is a normal thing.
  6. Make yourself a safe space.  It’s my belief that the main role of being a parent is to make yourself a safe space for your child.  If they know they can come to you with anything and they will not be judged, or ridiculed or punished, then they will.  This is really important when it comes to sex.  Children are negotiating a tougher world than the one I grew up in.  You can never protect your child from the world, but you can give them the tools to deal with it, and a safe haven where they can rest.  When they are older, if you’ve mainly done it right, they may even forgive you for the parenting mistakes you’re bound to make.

Happy parenting!

 

Scottish National Portrait Gallery: Faces, Features and Creatures Trail

It’s now half term in Edinburgh.  As always there is a need to find something to do with children, that doesn’t cost too much money.  A friend and I decided to take our daughters to The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and try out their Face Features and Creatures Trail designed by award winning artist and illustrator Sara Ogilvie.

Location:  Central Edinburgh so easily accessible by public transport.

Cost:  There is no cost, although you do need to leave a £10 deposit for the trail bag.  The bag includes colouring pencils, costumes to dress up in at certain portraits and objects.

The objective:  The trail takes you round the different floor of the galleries, stopping at eight different places to find specific things, then followed by a drawing task.

Time:  It took both girls two hours to complete.  Importantly though, it didn’t feel like two hours.

Is it fun for the parents:  Well, I have to admit while the girls dashed from gallery to gallery us Mummies trailed behind them having a chat.  If you get some catch-up time will largely depend on where your child is on the independence spectrum.  Our two girls were eight.

Child’s perspective:  When I asked my daughter what she thought she said “Good.  Really fun to dress up.  That was the best part.  Now I want to watch more TV.  I cant believe you’re writing that Mum!”

Downsides:  Fortunately one of the pictures on the trail, of Queen Charlotte, had been moved so we were no longer able to find it in the gallery.

Staff:  I’ve found with the staff of the various National Galleries in Edinburgh are always very kind to children.

Overall:  There are a series of different events for children, free, fun and time consuming.  We’ll definitely be going back

Learning to accept the peel

For me at least, I’ve found parenthood the biggest catalyst for personal growth.  It’s taught me patience, and responsibility, what really matters to me – all things I was lacking before I became a mother.  Even though I found things very difficult in the first year as I had post-natal depression, I came to love the role of mother and see it as a defining part of who I am.

However there is always a danger when we allow ourselves (or allow those around us) to define ourselves solely in relation to one other person.  Especially when they are your child – they have this terribly inconvenient habit of growing-up and changing.

Right now my daughter in eight.  She is beginning to establish her independence, and I can feel her slowly peeling away from me.  There is a distance between us.  It’s not large, and it’s not uncomfortable.  It is new.  This is happening naturally for my daughter, it is the age when she should be making these changes without much thought.  However it’s not happening without thought from me.

I had already felt the first peeling several months ago.  Then a few weeks ago I woke up without having had my normal morning hug.  This generally means my daughter is ill.  I got up to find her watching cartoons.

“You didn’t come through for your morning hug?”

“I didn’t need to.”

That sums it all up.  It’s about need.  Suddenly I realised that although I have spent years grumbling about how I never get a lie-in, I had come to need that morning hug as well. A song from My Fair Lady started playing in my head.  Where Henry Higgins, a most cantankerous misogynist, starts to realise that although he had spent all his time complaining and degrading Liza Doolittle, he had really come to enjoy her in his life and missees her.

I have a choice, I can accept that my daughters slow walk to independence is natural, and that as a Mother it is my job to support it and encourage her.  Or, like unhealthy parents do, I can try to stop any signs of independence, and keep my child as dependent on me as possible to satisfy my own need to feel both needed, strong, valuable and to distract myself from my own frailty and weakness.

It isn’t really something I need to think about.  As ever, it is my daughter who is teaching me.

No Meat March. The verdict

I have now completely finished with No Meat March, so I’ve listed below some of my thoughts, and reactions.

I didn’t feel the desire to gorge on meat at the end…

I grew up in a family that was pretty meant heavy, and especially red meat heavy in it’s diet.  Meat was almost seen as a virtue by some of its members, and there was a time when I saw things that way too.  However when I was coming up to the end of No Meat March there wasn’t any part of me that felt I needed to go out and gorge on meat because of the enforced abstinence.  This however could be down to the fact that I am specifically trying to outgrow having an all or nothing mind set.

I missed fish most of all…

I had expected to miss traditional meat dishes, and especially the comfort foods, such as lasagne, bolognaise.  However I didn’t.  Probably because there are plenty of veggie comfort food options.  I found I did keep on thinking “I’d like some salmon,” or “I fancy a tuna salad,”.  I could definitely be pescitarian.

Worst of all was the running…

Having not balanced out my diet to include the needs of running was probably the lowest point of the month.  However, this problem can happen for both meat eaters and vegetarians, its just slightly more likely to happen for vegetarians.  A poorly balanced meat diet can result in the same.  There are plenty of vegetarian protein alternatives, and once I’d done a little research and adjusted it was fine.  The need to adjust diet is something that will hit everyone at some point, given all the changes our bodies go through in a life time.  Which brings me onto the next point…

I’ll definitely continue to include soy mince in my diet…

Cheaper than beef mince, able to store it for longer, less fat, and lighter, this feels to me to be a fantastic alternative.  It will definitely be part of my store cupboard from now on.

When eating out, you need to explore other cultures…

European cultures are often quite meat heavy, and if you want more than one option you need to explore other cultures food.  Which is great fun.  Turkish is particularly recommended, but I can’t praise Yo Sushi enough for it’s amazing Tofu Katsu Curry and fried aubergines.

Lunch is the saddest time…

If you haven’t got your act together to bring you own lunch into work and end up having to pop out for a sandwich you have two options, egg and cress and cheese and pickle.  Which leads me on to…

It’s healthier because…

Often you have to do things like prepare you own lunches and cook from scratch, which are essentially healthier ways of eating because you can avoid over processed foods.  I’ve always eaten vegetables and fruit, but because I was eating so much more, I felt really good about what I was putting in my body.  Yes, it is possible to be an overweight or unhealthy vegetarian, but as a diet it does draw you more towards increasing health (if you’re doing it right).

Vegans…

Respect!

Conclusion

It was a mainly positive experience, and one I would recommend people try.  I always knew from the beginning that it would not turn me into a vegetarian.  It’s expanded my horizons and helped me come to know myself, and my own food preferences better.