Thursday, 30 January 2020

Breakfast & On the Go Degustabox (January 2020)

It felt like January will never end, but here we are, ready to say Good bye to the grey winter month. The evenings may still be rather dark, but have you noticed the mornings are getting light earlier?!
For many people January was the month of abstaining - perhaps you've also joined in the Dry January and Veganuary.
January Degustabox is a reflection of these two food trends - it is alcohol-free and has several vegan products.
This monthly food and drink subscription box is an excellent way to discover new products which have only just appeared in the shops, or those which might have been around for a while, but you haven't had a chance to try them yet.
Thanks to Degustabox, I have found new favourites to add to our shopping list, including some products which I probably wouldn't have tried otherwise.
Each time the monthly box arrives, it's a total surprise. You get a good selection of foods and drinks. If you haven't tried Degustabox subscription box yet, and would like to have a go, I have a whopping £7 off discount from your 1st box (and you can unsubscribe any time), just use a code 8EVI8 when you place an order.

What did we receive in Breakfast & On the Go box?

Chez Maximka, subscription food box

Sun-Pat peanut butter (£1.79) is the nation's best tasting peanut butter. Packed with 96% peanuts, Sun-Pat is a great source of protein to fuel you through the day.
It is a palm oil-free product, and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Subscribers will receive 1 of 2 items, while reviewers get both varieties.

palm oil-free peanut butter, Chez Maximka

Enjoy it in a classic peanut butter and jam sandwich, on toast or crackers, or use as an ingredient in baking (how about a batch of peanut butter choc chip cookies?).
I used a jar of smooth peanut butter to bake peanut butter and chocolate brownies.

Chez Maximka, baking with peanut butter

Eat Natural Simply vegan peanuts, coconut and chocolate (£1) is a gluten free bar, which combines chunky peanuts, coconut shreds and creamy seeds.
Unsulphured apricots add a note of sweetness and chewiness, while roasted chickpeas deliver an extra protein boost. An undercoating of dark chocolate turns this healthy snack into a more indulgent one.
Available at Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, Boots and WHSmiths amongst others.

healthy snacks with peanuts, Chez Maximka

Bounce Energy Ball Peanut (£1.79) is "the alpha-male of the Bounce Ball range". Weighing 45g, this gluten-free ball contains an impressive 13g protein, with healthy fats and antioxidants.
Nutritional information: 184kcal and 13g of sugar per ball.
I'm not a big fan of protein balls, but my husband said it was good.
Available at Waitrose, Ocado, Holland and Barrett, Planet Organic, BP and Shell.

Yorkie More & KitKat Chunky More (£1.29) are the latest addition to the range.
Kit Kat Chunky includes a layer of raspberry & hazelnut, while a chunky Yorkie bar has a layer of Oats, apple and cinnamon.
Both have 30% less sugar than similar chocolate bars, contain real fruit and are a source of protein, with Yorkie also being a source of fibre.

chocolate bars UK, Chez Maximka

While I am all in favour of less sugar in chocolate products and do love fruit, I cannot say we were very enthusiastic about the added fruit.

Chez Maximka, chocolate bars with fruit

Whitworths Shots Berry & white Chocolate (£1.60) is a tasty mix of dried cranberries sweetened with fruit derived syrup, raisins and creamy white Belgian chocolate buttons.
Each pack contains 98kcal and 15.7g of sugar. It's a handy little snack to keep in a bag for when you're feeling peckish.

Chez Maximka, fruit and chocolate snacks

Kallo Organic Honey rice and corn cakes (£1.89) is a new addition to the Kallo range. Long gone are the days of the boring rice cakes.
Honey rice and corn cakes contain 37kcal per cake, no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, are low in fat, gluten free and vegetarian friendly. Taste-wise, they are mildly sweet and pleasant.
Lovely for breakfast or when you're feeling peckish.

Chez Maximka, healthy snacks

Wholesums Fresh Veg Popped Chips (£1.75) are a first to the market innovative snack. Made from whole potatoes, whole peas and whole carrots, they leave none of the good stuff out.
Wholesums are only 86kcal per serving, as well as being Vegan and gluten free.
You will receive 1 of 4 flavours in your box,
22g bags are available from Sainsbury's local.

healthy snacks, Chez Maximka

Chescots SuperGut Porridge Pots (£1.99) are on-the-go porridge pots. Chescots brand was founded by the doctor and nutritionist Dr Jamie Mills. SuperGut pots contain half of your daily fibre and prebiotic fibres to support your gut, with over 3x the average fibre content of the other porridge pots.
It comes in two delicious flavours - Raspberry or Blackcurrant & Coconut.
They are vegan, dairy free and gluten free.
You will receive 1 of 2 pots in your box.
Available on Ocado, and Amazon.

Chez Maximka, porridge with extra fibre

PrepCo Mediterranean Couscous/Indian Rice/Thai Green Curry/Mexican Rice (£2) are a solution to a quick an easy lunch break dilemma. Convenient to take with you as an office lunch, it just needs some boiling hot water and a few minutes to make a quick and easy meal.
Made with tasty natural ingredients, they contain enough veg to tick off one of your 5 a day.
You will receive 1 of 4 flavours in your box.
Available at Sainsbury's and on Ocado.

I used a pot of Mediterranean couscous as an ingredient for stuffed peppers, which I roasted in the oven.

Chez Maximka, easy office lunch ideas

Zest Vegan Basil Pesto (£2.20) is another vegan product to bring to your attention. It's made of the leaf of the basil and without cheese, or any other animal products.
Free from anything artificial, suitable for vegans and vegetarians, this product is available on Ocado, Amazon, Morrisons and independent stores.
Ingredients include basil, rapeseed oil, ground cashew nuts, white wine vinegar, garlic puree, concentrated apple juice, salt, black pepper, toasted sesame oil and chilli powder.

Chez Maximka, Degustabox January 2020

Crafted Blueberry & Blackberry fruit juice drink (£1.50) is a fragrant refreshing blend of fruit and water. Best served cold, or over ice.
All Crafted juice drinks are made from natural ingredients, with no added sugar, sweeteners or preservatives. They are certified by the Vegan Society and count as one of your five a day.
A pleasant drink, not overly sweet and very flavourful.

And finally, product of the month:
Nescafe Gold Almond Latte (£2.98) is a delicious dairy alternative almond latte, made with a blend of high quality coffee and almond. Each sachet is easy to use and prepare, just add some hot water and stir well.
It has a smooth creamy taste.
Available at Tesco and Ocado, and soon will be available in ASDA, Morrisons, JS and Co-Op.

vegan coffee, Chez Maximka

Disclosure: we receive a monthly food box for the purposes of reviewing.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Photo diary: week 4, project 366

It seems only yesterday we were greeting the new year, and January is almost all gone.

Last Sunday we all went out together, helping Sasha and his Dad in the café. While we were in a long queue to be served, Eddie has spotted Diet Coke bottles with the urban lingo messages, like Totes Emosh to appeal to the YouTube generation. He found it funny. And before anyone says anything, Eddie doesn't drink Cola or Pepsi (his choice), it was a drink for Sash.

Chez Maximka

It was a misty blue morning on Monday. This photo of St Mary's church is taken without any filters, it was just blue like that.
Eddie had to go back to the dentist to have the work on his tooth finished. It cost an arm and a leg - over £800. I'm still reeling from this crazy amount. In comparison, it's more than Sash's PIP and my carer's allowance taken together per month.

Chez Maximka, churches of Oxfordshire

Walking in the garden on a frosty Tuesday morning, all fallen leaves on the ground and plants were covered in frost.

Spotted this little book in the local vintage shop, with a bit of info on king Edgar. Unfortunately, it was in a pack of  five books for £25, and this month I'm officially broke.

Ladybird book of kings, Chez Maximka

This tree with the evergreen creeper at the neighbours' garden always reminds me of an elephant on its legs, roaring into the sky, a sort of crazy Dumbo. In summer "the elephant" disappears under the foliage.

Chez Maximka

Catkins are known in Russia as "earrings". That's the hazel tree in our garden.

We went to meet the solicitor to try to figure out what we need to do to get a power of attorney for Sash. It sounds rather convoluted, and there's a lot of hoops to jump through. I'm so not looking forward to all the palaver. But it has to be done this year.

Chez Maximka

If you remember the photo I posted earlier this month of a jar, where I am growing a hyacinth bulb, here is the progress. The flower bud has "sprouted", it's such an intense bright pink colour.

Chez Maximka

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Saturday, 25 January 2020

Peanut butter and chocolate brownies

Emma Bridgewater, Andrea Camilleri, Chez Maximka

Peanut butter and chocolate is a classic combination, and there are plenty of recipes online which look tempting. Years ago, in 2011 to be precise, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall wrote an article with Brownie recipes for The Guardian.
I cooked the peanut butter and chocolate brownies only once, they were pretty good, and it was time to revisit the recipe. I don't have the magazine cutting any longer, but the Internet is a wondrous thing, you can find anything you want.
I have adapted Hugh's recipe by cutting down the amount of sugar and also almost halving the cream cheese. I used one pack of Original Philadelphia, and it was plenty. Mixed with peanut butter, it gave a lovely fudgy taste and consistency of a cheesecake. Not sure more cream cheese would necessarily be a bonus, but do check out Hugh's recipe (link above).

Peanut butter and chocolate brownies
for the chocolate brownie layer:
2 x 100g chocolate bars (I used one milk and one dark bar), broken into pieces
100g butter, diced
90g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
120g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/2tsp ground cinnamon

for the peanut butter cheesecake layer:
1 tub of Philadelphia Original
1 jar of 200g smooth peanut butter
80g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1tsp vanilla
2tbsp plain flour
1tbsp cornflour

Melt broken chocolate and diced butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water until smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool.

Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Sift in the flour and baking powder, add a pinch of salt and cinnamon. Add the chocolate butter mix to the batter, and combine well.

In a separate medium sized bowl prepare a peanut butter layer by beating together cream cheese with peanut butter and sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla, flour and cornflour and mix well until well blended. You can skip the cornflour, and add an extra tbsp of flour instead.

You will now have two dough types.

Chez Maximka, making brownies from scratch

Pour the chocolate brownie dough into a greased brownie tin (I lined it with a foil, so that it's easier to take out of the tin once the brownie is cooked), leaving about 1/4 separate.
Then spoon in the thicker peanut butter layer over the brownie layer.
Dot the peanut butter layer with chocolate brownie mix.

Chez Maximka

Using a wooden toothpick, make swirls through the chocolate batter, making a pattern.

Chez Maximka, peanut butter bakes

Place the brownie tin in the oven preheated to 180C, bake for about 30+ minutes, until the edges are firm and puffy. If you like gooey brownie, take out now, if you prefer it slightly more set, keep it in the oven for another 5 minutes, though you do want the fudgy texture.
Cool on the rack before slicing into pieces.

Chez Maximka, peanut butter bakes

The brownie got mixed reviews from my family. While my husband and elder son loved it and asked for seconds, my younger son wasn't very enthusiastic and said he prefers my salted caramel brownies.

Chez Maximka, easy brownie recipe

In this recipe I used a jar of Sun-Pat smooth peanut butter, as found in the latest Degustabox food box delivery. It's packed with 96% peanuts and is palm oil-free. It's a good source of protein too.

If you don't have this particular brand of peanut butter, use any other peanut butter, preferably without palm oil. You can also use a crunchy peanut butter, though it would change the texture of the brownie.

baking with peanut butter, Chez Maximka

Emma Bridgewater, Andrea Camilleri, Chez Maximka

Anca from CookStyle made a variation of these brownies, using a coconut yogurt rather than cream cheese. Have a peek at her Peanut butter cheesecake brownies, don't they look delicious?!

Monday, 20 January 2020

The Factory Made Boy by Christine Nöstlinger

best books for children, Chez Maximka

"Are you glad I'm here, Mummy?" Conrad asked.
Mrs Bartolotti looked at Conrad. Needs affection, she thought. Well, of course he does - everybody needs affection! And he's very nice too..."

It's not often you start reading a book, and fall in love with it at once.
The Factory Made Boy by Christine Nöstlinger (English translation by Anthea Bell) is a pure joy of a book. The story is wonderfully playful, whimsical and empathetic, with the most endearing characters.

It was my Mum who asked me if Eddie and I have read this book. She mentioned a book review which she had recently read and thought we might enjoy it. I haven't heard of this book, and cannot understand why this book and author have escaped my radar before.

Mrs Bertie Bartolotti is an artist who creates colourful rugs. She lives on her own, surrounded by a creative chaos and bright colours.
She has a gentleman friend, Mr Thomas, who visits her twice a week and they go to the cinema or theatre together. Bertie is content with her life. She can wear as much make-up as she wants and choose bright clothes, have a family pack of ice cream for dinner and be free from anyone's censure or judgments.
"Mrs Bartolotti never told anyone how old she was, so no one knew, and that meant she was several different ages."
She is also known for having a weakness for ordering things by post, whenever she comes across an order form in a newspaper or magazine, most of them totally random, like an animal encyclopaedia in 17 volumes, a subscription to a fish-breeders' magazine or a nudists' journal.

One day she signs for a big parcel. She is puzzled, as she doesn't recollect anything that she might have ordered in this size. Inside the parcel there is a big tin. Reluctantly she opens it.

"It was a very good thing the kitchen stool was just behind Mrs Bartolotti, because she got a considerable shock... She swayed, and collapsed on to the kitchen stool.
The creature who was crouching inside the tin can said: "Hullo, Mummy", and gave her a friendly nod".

It's a seven-year old Conrad, who comes complete with a birth certificate.

Though Bertie is horrified, she kindly accepts Conrad's presence in her life. She knows she has never ordered a child from the manufacturer, but thinks the order might have been placed a long time ago by her ex-husband.
The letter which accompanies the boy, tells that all manufactured children are "particularly easy to handle and control, and being the products of a highly developed technology, are quite free of those faults or defects which can occur in nature".

Bertie is overwhelmed by her new responsibilities. She is a free spirit, and doesn't know much about children. In a delightful spree of shopping, she tries to buy things that she thinks would please Conrad, but gets it spectacularly wrong. He expects to wear grey trousers and checked shirts, while Bertie presents him with the most colourful outfit she could find in the shops.

Conrad is a very sweet boy, who wants to be loved and gives love freely in return.
He is "made" to be a perfect child, he goes to bed early, doesn't want to leave any food on his plate and refuses sweets, he gets upset at the mere notion of rude words or slightly inappropriate songs.
Needless to say, for the freedom-loving Bertie, her whole world is reshaping fast, with the arrival of Conrad.

Her boyfriend Mr Thomas is smitten with the polite and obedient boy, and wants to be his father. Unlike Bertie who thinks children should enjoy life, do naughty things and make mistakes, he cannot find fault with anything about Conrad.
In a way, Mr Thomas and Conrad are kindred souls, they like order and quiet pastimes. They are also pretty conventional in their way of thinking.
For example, Conrad asks Bertie if it's right for a girl to protect a boy.
To which wise Bertie replies:"It doesn't make a bit of difference, Conrad... It's all nonsense about boys having to do the protecting! The important thing is for the person who needs protection to get it".
What a strong message! And how modern it sounds, considering the book was written in 1975.

Bertie Bartolotti is my hero. She comes up with a sage advice: "Now, you listen to me! Some things in this world are far more important than other things... and one thing there is no need to bother about at all is what other people say!"

Conrad goes to school and becomes friends with his neighbour Kitty (she protects him from bullies in school).

And then one day they are shocked when a letter arrives from the manufacturer: there was a mistake, and Conrad will be taken away to go to the correct parents.

Conrad's wishes are not taken into consideration by the factory, he is their property, and legally Bertie and Mr Thomas cannot do anything.

Will they submit to the merciless decision or fight for the right for their special boy to stay with them?

This quirky magical tale was the winner of Hans Christian Andersen award in 1984. It is captivating, original and full of heart.

We absolutely adored this book. My son said he wished there was another book of Conrad's adventures.

It's a truly unforgettable story, and if you come across it in a charity shop or can source or on ebay, snap it.
It was first published in English by Andersen Press in 1976. You can find other editions online - from 1999 and 2012.

My only criticism is the translation. I don't see the point of anglicising foreign names in translated books for children. It annoyed me greatly when we read Astrid Lindgren's Karlsson on the roof trilogy.
Just why do the translators think it's a good idea? Do they think that the British children are not able to read foreign names? That would be rather patronising and galling.
Frau Bartolotti's boyfriend Herr Egon is renamed into Mr Thomas. Kitti Rusika becomes Kitty Robertson.
Even the name of the name character is slightly changed from Konrad to Conrad. I would like to know the translator's reasoning behind this.

Minor irritants aside, this is one of the best books for children we're read in the last few years.

best children's literature, Chez Maximka

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Photo diary: week 3, project 366

I'd like to say something deep and profound at the beginning of my weekly post, but my brain doesn't co-operate.
Last week we were reading a wonderful story called A Factory Made Boy by Christine Nostlinger. The main character of the book, a boy called Conrad, is made at the factory and posted to his new parents in a big tin. It's so quirky but very sweet, with endearing characters. It's also amazingly feminist and modern, if you think that it was published in 1976.
While we were shopping on Sunday, Eddie pretended that he's on offer, asking me to buy him. He said he's a real bargain. And that's how we rock.

Chez Maximka

On Monday we walked through the fields, which later in the week got flooded yet again. Not surprising really, given the amount of rain we had.

Chez Maximka, winter in the UK

That evening I had a surprise delivery, with tropical foods. This is a hamper I won after Christmas on Insta. You had to say what you were grateful for. I said that on Christmas day I wasn't planning on cooking anything special, as it was just two of us, and my son doesn't eat any Christmas food. I would have been happy with cheese and crackers and fruit. But my friends brought me a big hot plate - a whole Christmas dinner, with all the trimmings. And they also brought a delicious brownie with cream. So, I said I was grateful for having kind friends who care about me.
When I told Eddie how I won, he said it was a very sad story. Now I wonder if I have joined the ranks of people who post sob stories to try to win prizes. It wasn't meant to be a sob story, it was such a lovely thing really, and rather uplifting, I thought. This kind gesture of my friends truly brightened my Christmas.

Chez Maximka

On Wednesday morning we visited one of possible respite centres for Sasha. He's turning 18 soon, and sadly the place where he stays overnight twice a month is only available for up to 18, and now we have a huge issue of finding a new place. There are hardly any choices in the county. 

We visited the local one, in town. It's smaller than a place where he goes currently which wouldn't be too bad, but there is just not enough space. The dining room and sitting room are quite small, there is no play area (for obvious reason, as it's for grown-ups), the garden is tiny and has a table and benches, and nothing else. My worry is that Sash would be bored to death there, and ultimately he needs to enjoy a place where he would stay.
There are two more places to check out, both at a distance. One would take an hour and a half to travel by bus, another one we'd need to go to Oxford, take a train, then a taxi etc.

There is so much to do and organise in the next few months: we need to apply for the power of attorney, try to find a future college placement if possible for after 19, when the current school will come to an end, explore different respite options. So many worries.

I only took photos of the respite place that day, so here is a picture from the day before, taken in UE Roasters café.

Chez Maximka

Having helped Sash to get on the school transport early in the morning, I saw the crescent, and the bird looking in its direction, as if watching the Moon.

Chez Maximka

Friday snap - a shadow selfie, taken in the hall by the mirror.

Chez Maximka

I started the week with a photo of Eddie, and ending it with another one. It's not because I don't take photos of Sasha, but I feel reluctant posting his photos. Eddie gives his consent for now, who knows how he would feel about it when he is a teen.
Yesterday we walked all the way to McDonald's, which is on the outskirts of town. On the way back we stopped at the playground, which was so muddy, our boots looked awful afterwards.
Edgars Limited never ceases to amuse us, simple souls.

Chez Maximka

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Thursday, 16 January 2020

Reading goals for 2020

Providence has delivered me of every worldly passion, save this one; the desire to acquire books, new or old books of any kind, whose charms I cannot persuade myself to resist.
John Henry Newman

I'm no saint, but when it comes to books, I share Newman's evangelical fervour.  I cannot resist buying books, even knowing I have mountains of unread paperbacks waiting for me at home. It's an obsession really.
I buy books online (The Book People is a great source of temptation). I try to find older editions on ebay. I scour the local charity shops every week, looking for something exciting.

Our local Waterstones shop has a wonderful team of people who love books and read extensively. I love their window displays as well.
One of my favourite window displays of last year was for The Way of All Flesh. They even bought a skull on ebay, especially for the occasion.

Gemma and Patti organise fun events - you might have seen my photos from the Harry Potter-themed evenings, when children would arrive dressed up as their favourite characters from J.K.Rowling's books. There were quizzes, prizes, sorting hat bakes etc.

Chez Maximka
Eddie as Newt Scamander

There is another Harry Potter event coming soon in February, and Eddie and I plan to attend.

Needless to say, I do spend quite a bit in the shop.

In the last weeks I've been reading passionate discussions online, with references to the arguments that book bloggers are not "real" readers, because apparently they are paid to read and hence they are happy to sell their souls to the Devil and praise whatever they read.

I've never been paid to write any book review. And I don't know anyone who is, unless they do it as a job, like writing for a magazine, or work as a PR promoting books.

I had a discussion with a friend recently, who saw a big stash on the window of our dining room - books I received for reviewing in the oncoming months. She asked me if I were paid for reading them, and then couldn't quite comprehend why I would agree to do it. I told her that I enjoy discovering new names, and many of the books which I received for reviewing, might have passed my attention otherwise.
For example, two books which I reviewed last year got into my top reads of 2019 list, and I haven't heard of the authors before. Storytellers by Bjorn Larssen is not just in my top 10 reads, I would say, it's no.1 (sharing with The Girl Who Speaks Bear).

A year ago I wrote a post about my reading goals, and looking at it now I see that my goals haven't changed - I still need to declutter, I would like to read more non-fiction, as well as books in Russian.

Chez Maximka

If you have a look at the list of books I read (and finished) in 2019, out of 77 books, only two are non-fiction. I did start several more, but either stopped mid-way, or decided I might return to them at some point again. So, I failed my goal of 5 non-fiction books.

I read only one book in Russian - My Siberia (Memoirs) by Anastasia Tsvetaeva (sister of the famous Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva). That's also pretty abysmal, I really should make more of an effort.

As for the genres, I read 25 thriller/crime mysteries, 32 children's/YA fiction, 7 - romance.

I did slightly better with my goal of reading more classics with Eddie - Treasure Island, Around the World in 80 days (abridged) and Oliver Twist (so abridged that I didn't add it to the reading list).
Plus two classics of crime - The Iron Chariot and The Forest Lake Mystery - both of which are regarded as the classics of Scandi Noir.

Chez Maximka

It would be good to expand on the classics' promise. And to definitely try harder on reading non-fiction.

Chez Maximka

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Chez Maximka, best reads of 2019
The Reading Challenge on GoodReads gives you all the stats you might want be curious about, though some of them are slightly arguable.
For example, The Ice Monster appears to be the longest book on my list. Yes, if you count the pages, but most of them have pictures, some with just a word or two, so if you do a word count, it won't come as the longest.
Apparently, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief was the most popular book. We did love the book, and plan to read the next book in the series very soon.

Chez Maximka

Last year we went to several book-related events, and met three great authors - Sophie Anderson and Candy Gourlay, and Cressida Cowell.

I'm a big fan of Sophie Anderson. Her books are brilliant, and I can't wait for her third book.
She is also a very-very nice lady, and if you follow her on social media, you will know that she interacts with her readers with great kindness and enthusiasm.

Chez Maximka

Eddie was thrilled to meet Cressida Cowell, and he gave her a drawing of Toothless, which she kindly praised. She is a real trooper. The queue to have books signed was like a long serpent, we had to wait quite a bit to have a chance to talk to her.

Chez Maximka

She signed all books and also got up from her seat to have photos taken with everyone who asked for this chance.

How to train your dragon author, Chez Maximka

I'm hoping we could attend more book signing events this year. That's a new goal for 2020.

Do you have reading goals and plans for the year?

Monday, 13 January 2020

Tofu with Teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds

Veganuary recipes, vegan recipes, Chez Maximka

I've decided to declutter several boxes of recipes torn out of weekend magazines and food supplements, including a big stash of Feast magazines. I might still keep some of Rachel Roddy's column pages on the Italian food though.
Reading last year's Feast while sipping my coffee, I nodded in agreement with Fiona Beckett who wisely says "I know it's an unfashionable view these days, but January is not a time for abstention. Moderation maybe, but no booze at all? That makes an already miserable month even more dismal."

It's not that we drink much. Certainly not on par with numerous Insta and Twitter posts, announcing it's Gin o'clock to the world. Last week when I was sorting out the recycling, I realised we only had 2 empty bottles to put in the black box - from a sweet dessert wine we opened days before Christmas, and champagne which we had for the new year's eve. Nothing like the full, overflowing black bins I've seen around in town. They must have been partying at full steam, lucky devils. 
I had a small sherry on the 7th to celebrate the Russian Christmas.

Then tomorrow, on the 14th of January, the Russians will be celebrating the so called Old New Year (the start of the new year according to the Julian calendar). It's not a formal holiday, but is traditionally observed with parties and having family get-togethers. I might raise a glass of something like a G&T to mark the occasion, though that would depend on what I'm going to cook. I usually make evening meal plans in the morning.

So, not a Dry January for me then.

I have had no plans for Veganuary either, but that doesn't mean we don't eat meals which happen to be vegan-friendly.

There was a Blue Dragon Teriyaki Street Food Skewers kit in the latest Degustabox.
Last Monday I cooked tofu, using the kit, which includes a Teriyaki sauce sachet, a Teriyaki marinade, sesame seeds and skewers. The kit has the advantage that all the necessary ingredients are present. The only thing I didn't use is the skewers.

vegan recipes, Veganuary recipes, Chez Maximka

Tofu with teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds
1 pack of Cauldron tofu
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 sweet pepper
1 kit of Blue Dragon Teriyaki Street Food Skewers
Teriyaki marinade
Teriyaki sauce
sesame seeds
rice and peas

Put cubed tofu in marinade for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, chop a couple of carrots and a red sweet pepper. After cooking them for about 5 minutes in a big frying pan, add tofu, splash the Teriyaki sauce and finally sprinkle sesame seeds.
Cook for another 5 minutes stirring frequently.
Serve tofu with rice and peas.

My younger son loved it so much, he requested it for the next day. And while I could easily find all the other ingredients, I couldn't find Blue Dragon kit in the local Waitrose.

Rather than change the plans, I simply bought a bottle of Teriyaki marinade, a jar of Teriyaki sauce and a small bag of sesame seeds.

It's not much of a recipe, I agree, but do give it a go, if you haven't tried tofu before.
The brand I used is Cauldron (it's organic and GMO-free).

My son asked me today to cook the same dish again, so I promised to oblige him one day this week.

vegan recipes, Chez Maximka, Veganuary recipes

Are you observing Dry January or Veganuary?