Thursday, 28 November 2013

..Why celebrate Christmas?


Christmas is coming.......but how many actually, really, TRULY question 'WHY' they are celebrating?

I bet the no. 1 answer is....'well, we do it every year...tradition ain't it?'

There is alot to be said for keeping traditions alive, but why this one and why does the advertising industry and all forms of media bombard us with Christmas 'programming' from as early as the SUMMER TIME..?

Why don't people go..."hey, you know what, we have been celebrating Christmas for ALL OUR LIVES...I wonder how much we have spent in all?  Can anyone remember what they got, say 4 years go, and what you gave?? I bet the answer is NO!  SO...why are we bothering this year?  Lets NOT, let's find something else to do...especially if we get to save LOADS of money and time!"

The true meaning of Christmas is (apparently) to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ...so why has a big old fat man in a white beard hijacked it??
good old Santa Claus..??
If Jesus DID exist, then I am sure the last thing he would be making sure happened was people getting themselves into DEBT over his birthday, or jumping in front of a train, because they are so alone and everyone else is having a 'right good old time'.  I am sure he would want his birth remembered for the reasons of love, forgiveness, happiness and peace...a TRUE meaning!

December time has had a long tradition of celebration, primarily the Winter Solstice.  There is a myriad of info online with regards to this celebration and it is from this that our modern traditions around 'Christmas' emerge.  It is no coincidence that the date of Jesus's birth coincides with the timing of this.
There is also the theory that the origins come from Ancient Egypt and their Sun God Worship.

Here is a link to a great website, giving all sorts of explanations...read at your leisure!
..'Where did Christmas originate? From the Bible or paganism? What is the real origin of Santa Claus—mistletoe—Christmas trees—holly wreaths—and the custom of exchanging gifts? Many are concerned about putting “Christ back into Christmas.” Was He ever there? Here are the stunning answers!'

Alternative Christmas!

If you really do want to celebrate, then how about this...

If you are going to have a gathering this year, friends family, why not do the 'secret santa' idea, decide which of you is going to get the ONE present and MAKE IT YOURSELF, NO SHOP BUYING!  That way alot more thought and effort would go into the whole occasion.  Everyone brings round food, everyone shares...or you give the host/ess a set sum for her to go and buy the food...that way you are not individually spending shed loads in excess when you really do not need to....

...Or...

...FORGET THE WHOLE THING ALTOGETHER!  I mean, it is not as if you haven't given THE WHOLE OF YOUR LIFE to this 'celebration' and no doubt, a WHOLE LOAD OF MONEY AND TIME to it as well!

And last, but not least...the FOOD!!

Do you honestly think that Jesus would want you to have round your table the sacrificial remains of a dead animal, in his name??  How many times have you seen Jesus pictured like this....
..so why is it acceptable to have this as a centerpiece.....?
...or this....

..OR THIS, I should say.....
one of God's 'precious creatures'.  
It is truly shocking that of all the times of the year, love peace..and all that...that the mindless ritualistic slaughter of so many innocent animals happens...and why?  AGAIN..it's the 'well it's tradition, ain't it' mentality! To have a little thing called 'empathy', if more people had that, the meat industry would go into massive decline...and that would be bad thing?  I think NOT!

There are also many so called 'Christians' who still enjoy the sacrifice, and gladly tuck into their Sunday roast and their Xmas dinners.  I found it quite shocking last year, our local church, in the poster for the 'free Xmas Day Lunch '...a roast turkey was shown!  How can that be right??  Are not turkey's 'God's creatures' also?  Should not the churches be advocating their 'flock' all go vegan?  For is it not one of the greatest 'sins' to commit.'thou shalt NOT KILL'?  Or should the bible be re-written to say.."thou shalt not kill HUMANS..but it's perfectly fine to kill others of God's creations...." Hypocrisy at it's finest, on display, every year!

..So...just where did it originate that a turkey was 'the' sacrifice of choice', on Jesus's birthday?

..here is a little snippet for you, as an explanation...(courtesy of Yahoo Answers)

At one time in this country the traditional Christmas meat was goose. They were plentiful and the fat from them gave a wonderful dripping. If you want to know what dripping is then ask the question. 

Wartime saw the decline in meat eating and I can remember having sausages for Christmas dinner. After the war Chickens came to the table as goose was escalating in price then somehow the American holiday of Thanksgiving at which the turkey was and is always served influenced the British. Turkey farms sprang up and suddenly turkey was on offer. It was cheap and they were easy to breed and fatten. 
One turkey would feed a whole family and have loads left for tea time and boxing day. Then maybe a risotto just before New Year. The frozen turkey helped everything along as it could be purchased and stored well before Christmas. I think that now people are going on to beef,lamb etc as it is, due to it's cost, more of a treat. 

Have a happy and blessed Christmas.


It is very telling, just from this one paragraph, that people are still so indoctrinated into the 'traditions' of animal murder at Christmas.  See how this writer is referring to it as a 'treat'.  Well, I am sure the poor turkey is REALLY looking forward to Xmas this year....NOT!

Many people will argue FEROCIOUSLY with me on these last few paragraphs stating "well it is OUR choice what we eat and if we want to eat meat, we are entitled..."  "Animals are here on this earth for our food, we are at the top of the food chain...so if it's there, gonna eat it.."  and the classic..."can't do without me meat and after all, where would I get me protein from??!"  That old chestnut! LOL

It could almost be that the real meaning was hijacked, somewhere along the way, and turned into one great big money making commercial scam!  What better than to sucker the masses into believing they have to join in and buy, buy, BUY..and if they don't there is even a name for them ( and my good self, no doubt...).....Scrooge!!


Saturday, 23 November 2013

How To.....Open a Coconut!

There will be times when it will be really handy knowing 'how to' do certain things.

Not everything is necessary, and not everything you will need, but, sometimes it is just 'handy' knowing and learning new skills.

Today...how to easily open a...coconut!

What you will need:

Coconuts
Hammer or heavy knife/cleaver
Sharp knife
Large bowl
Measuring Jug
Sieve or nut milk bag
High Powered Blender (preferably..)



Lovely, fresh, healthy looking coconuts! Firstly try to get hold of some really lovely, healthy looking coconuts.  Make sure there is no sign of mold growth anywhere on them.  I was fortunate enough to be at my local market, when they were selling 6 in a bowl for the princely sum of....£1!.....
.......Which lead me to explore further on how to open them myself and use the insides!


You are going to need a hammer or a heavy knife/cleaver. Hold the coconut in your hand and tap the nut with your hammer, around the centre, until you hear a 'dull thud', that will mean you have found the point in which the coconut has 'cracked' open.  Keep tapping until it is fully opened.


Make sure you hold your coconut over a bowl, so as to catch the water as it comes out.

Eventually you should have your coconut looking like this, free of the water
 
Get your sharp knife and start to cut out small pyramid shapes, and gently ease the flesh out, piece by piece....

...until all the flesh is removed.
Drain the water into your sieve or a nut milk bag

There you have it, lovely fresh coconut water.
You may want to now just go ahead and freeze the rest of the chunky flesh...or...you could....

.....Place the chunks into a high powered blender, with some water,
 you can easily transform it into coconut milk! 
Perfect for curries and other recipes, or simply...drinking!  
You could freeze by pouring  into ice cube trays, then taking out only the amount you need each time.
So, there you have it, how easy it is to have your own, fresh, coconut, straight from the shell!




Very Frugal Vegan Chilli



Here is a great recipe if you would like to create something, tasty AND frugal  for these autumnal and, winter days, just ahead.  It takes store cupboard staples (with a twist!) and makes a hearty,  healthy, tasty and spicy, winter warming dish.  Why not try my Very Frugal Vegan Chilli!

This will make around 4 servings:

Ingredients:

2 cups Dried Red Lentils
5 fresh tomatoes, or 1 tin whole, or chopped, tomatoes
1 medium onion, sliced or chopped
3 cloves (or more, to your taste) fresh garlic, crushed or chopped.
1 tin of kidney or other beans of choice.  You could also used dried beans, soak overnight, then cook to soften.
1 tbsp of coconut oil, or any other 'healthy' oil.
1 tbsp tomato puree or tomato ketchup.
1/2 tsp mustard, fresh or powdered.
1 Fresh chilli, or dried chilli flakes or powder.  Paprika is good, if you prefer it to be milder.
Dried or fresh herbs, salt, pepper to taste.


Method

Heat up a large pan, add some oil, coconut is good..and healthier!

Add the chopped onion and fry until golden.

Add the herbs and chillli, combine with the onion and fry for a minute, this will  help release the flavours more.

Add the chopped/tin tomatoes and stir.  Cook for about 10 mins on a low heat until reduced.

Now add some water and the lentils.  You should add enough water so that the lentils and tomatoes are covered with at least 1 1/2 inches of water.  The lentils will expand during cooking, so keep checking and stirring, if it starts to look to thick at more water.  Lentils are a GREAT dietary staple for anyone and a great response to anyone that says "where do you get your protien from...".  If you are transitioning away from a meat based diet, then lentils are a good starting point...so versatile!



At this point you can add some yeast extract, soy sauce or brown sauce for extra depth of flavour (these are 'once in a while' additives, use sparingly as contain quite a bit of salt, or just leave out)  and colour.  The yeast extract will also give it more of a 'meaty' flavour and thus resembling more of a 'traditional' chilli. In place of those, you could use some blended dates and tamarind, which will give a great flavour, as well as being on the healthier side.

{Eventually you will be looking to drastically cut down, then cut out, anything that is overly processed with salt.  Natural salts, in small quantities, are fine, but if you can go without adding any salt or salt products, only relying on the natural salts in raw and living foods, you will be doing yourself a great favour.  But, as this recipe is for those that are still on a standard 'cooked' diet, but wish to transition to a more healthier, vegan, lifestyle, this is a great start..small footsteps!}

After about 15 mins, add the tin/dried & cooked beans, continue cooking for a further 5 minutes.

Taste!  Now is the time to adjust those flavourings, add more salt, add more pepper, add more garlic.   If the mixture is a bit runny add some thickener, I use arrowroot or potato powder, just add a teaspoon and mix it with some water to make a 'slurry', then add to the pan to thicken up.

Like it a little more...'fancy'?  Why not add a tbsp of ..chocolate!

Traditional Mexican chilli can have chocolate in the mix...and it makes for a more lucsious flavour!  I have in my cupboard some hot chocolate flakes with added chilli.....perfect!  Or you could also just finely chop some solid chocolate that you may have in your cupboard.  You could also add some 'liquid smoke' and some smoked paprika for added flavour and yumminess!


I made up a jar of coriander (cilantro), ginger and garlic sauce, which goes nice drizzled on top.

Here's how..so easy and a great refrigerator staple, will last at least 2 weeks.

2 large bunches of Fresh Coriander (cilantro)
1 whole head of ginger
6 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup vinegar
Juice of two limes or lemons
Pinch of salt.

Chop all the fresh ingredients and combine everything into a blender and liquidise.
Should keep in the fridge for at least 2 weeks, or longer!

Serve with rice,  tortilla chips, potato, or sweet potato, wedges, or just simply.....on it's own.



Enjoy








Friday, 15 November 2013

Windfall Chilli Sauce

Wondering what else to do with those leftover windfall pears and apples?


 How about making a hot and spicy Pomegranate, Apple & Pear Chilli Sauce!


You can either make this raw or cooked. The cooked variety will last in the fridge, but I have made many uncooked sauces that have lasted a very long time. Make sure you keep them in the fridge, and make sure you use fresh ingredients and that the jars/bottles you decant it into, is spotlessly clean. If you don't adhere to these tips, you could end up with mouldy sauces that only last a very short time. This will make approximately 4 pints of sauce

The Recipe:


4 pears, 4 apples, Seeds from 1 medium pomegranate
120ml vinegar.  Regular distilled, wine or cider, or  unpasturised cider, if keeping raw
4 cloves garlic, or more, if you like.
1/2 tsp good quality salt
1 tsp mustard powder
1tsp horseradish powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Juice of two limes
Small Handful of fresh chillis, use a few if you like it milder, more if you like hotter, whatever variety you like, {I used birds eye}
Natural sweetener of choice, dates, raw cane sugar,agave, coconut sugar, stevia, or honey (though then will not strictly be vegan)

Method:

First, peel your fruit if you wish, if the skins are a little on the 'rustic' side, or you can leave the majority of skins on, your choice. Core and chop into small chunks.  The smaller the chunks, the easier it will be to process.


Add everything else into the food processor.  
I have a 'Vitamix', which is a high powered model, it makes EVERYTHING you put into it SO much easier to liquidise down.
 Add enough water to make up to to 'thin' it down, to a runny consistency.

If you cooked your fruit first, use the cooking liquor instead of extra water. To cook the sauce (for the longer shelf life) place into a pan, bring to a simmer and add some natural thickener, such as arrowroot, rice or potato flour. I would not use cornflour. ..

Decant into pre-sterilised jars or bottles, label up with the details, ingredients, date, etc., 

There you have it! Another great use for your autumnal produce!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Halloween 2013, in View



Halloween to some may symbolise all that is bad in this commercially driven world, taking an ancient tradition and turning into a money making scam!  Maybe because it falls a few days after my birthday, or I just generally enjoy the Autumnal energies, whether you like it or not, Halloween was all around us...again this 2013.

'The most haunted pub in the UK, in York...I didn't notice too much!
York, party go-ers queuing up for the 'big fancy dress event'...
Kings X, Halloween Market



Toffee Apples!!
..were provided c/o 'The 'Cow' @ Westfield, Stratford


Lidl's were out in force with their 'spooky' selections!



Google wishes me Happy Birthday!

Wow, what a surprise to wake up at the end of last month to find the really LOVELY people at Google had wished me 'Happy Birthday'!  It made me feel SO special!!

Isn't technology...amazing?
Wow...Thanks Google, you made my day

Even the resident 'teds' joined in the fun!






Thursday, 24 October 2013

Craft Ale Revolution!


Whether you are aware of it or not, there is currently a craft ale revolution...worldwide! 
One of a number of 'craft' ale houses springing up!  The Craft Beer Co., Brixton
Gone are the days when all you could hope for was a slightly 'cool' pint, with cheese and pickle ploughmans!
Some fine 'pub grub (& ale, to boot!) @ 'Holyrood 9a', Edinburgh
My love affair with pubs and all things 'tasteful' began many years ago!  I have ALWAYS had a love of pubs, alot of the time they are the central hub of a community, where you could get together with your fellow patrons, over a pint, gossiping the evening away.  It is also an amazing part of the tradition of alot of countries.  Unfortunately these days alot of the older and less commercially viable pubs are being closed down at a rate of now around 26 A WEEK!

But all is not lost, there are some pubs (and other establishments) that are being revamped, renovated into craft ale houses, gastro pubs etc.  Old dilapidated establishments are being revitalised and new life is being breathed into them!
North Laine Brewery in Brighton (UK)  Breathing new life into old buildings!
With regards to the beers, real and craft ales are becoming more and more popular, and rightly so. If you do fancy the odd pint, then you could probably give your reguler lager and holiday and try some of the amazing craft brews that are now hitting the scene, all over the world!

I have visited many beers festivals, pubs, ale houses, craft beer establishments over the past few years and have been amazed at how things have really progressed over the years! It is also attracting a new, 'trendy' crowd of drinkers, those that are really starting to appreciate the good taste of good beer.

The Beer Festival, where you can enjoy great beer, in laid back surroundings!
Some good pubs that serve good beer can be featured in 'The Good Beer Guide', which is a CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale)  publication. which is updated once a year.  You can (more or less..) be assured that the beer 'should' be of a very good quality!  It is always worth reading, especially if you a planning a trip and quite often you can choose an area to visit specifically down to the recommendations in the Guide.  In all my years of visiting pubs due to it featuring in the Guide, I would say at least 97% of the time it was worth my while!  Only on a few occasions has the pub and it's beer, been a bit of a let down.  There are many other institutions that are trying to preserve the 'old style' of beer making, like 'The Preservation of Beer from the Wood Society'


Here are a few pubs 'of worthy note' that I have visited recently and enjoyed some very good beer!  I always try my best to make sure the beer is 'vegan' (i.e. no fish finings used in the production..) but on the assurance of most brewers, the animal finings are filtered out of the process, so it really is a matter of personal choice with regards to whether you want will want to consume it or not, if you are vegan.

Herewith are some of my forays recently...featuring great beers, and great pubs.

I had the real pleasure recently of visiting a pub in Brighton named the Hand in Hand. This amazing pub has all the features you would really love to experience, in a traditional English pub, in a traditional English seaside town!


One of the brewers from the Brighton Bier Company was at the pub recently brewing some ales and was show around part of their brewery, in house!  It was a great opportunity to see 'behind the scenes' and it never ceases to amaze me how each brewer can concoct such different brews!

Brighton Bier Company, and Inside the workings of a brewery!
 I will write more on my ale and pub travels....but I could not end this post without mentioning a wonderful addition to pubs....the 'furry' residents...the pub cat!  You can see more of my cat travels here, in my other Blog, Feline Patrol....they certainly (well, for me anyway...) really MAKE the pub feel like home!

And here we have, ladies & gentlemen...the REAL landlords of the pubs!