What We Ate – Meal Planning Week 1: The New Years Day version

Okay so I’m determined to get back in to weekly meal planning.  For this past week, things went pretty much according to meal plan.  I definitely stress less about meals when there’s a plan in place so I hope this continues for a long time yet!

A cornucopia of terrible food photography follows.


– a special breakfast of pancakes (followed by a green juice), using the Gluten Free Buckwheat Pancakes recipe from Vegan Brunch.  I kept them warm in a low oven but forgot to cover them so by the time I served them, some were crunchy on the edges.  Whoops:

gf pancakes

– for lunch I made pasta for Arthur and DeeW.  Arthur refuses any kind of pasta sauce and DeeW prefers plain.  After the pasta is cooked, I toss it with a little vegan margarine and a good amount of nutritional/savoury yeast (no, not the stuff you make bread with!).  If my children will be eating blergh pasta then mark my words they’re gonna get some B12 in there:

plain B12 pasta

– for dinner I made sausage rolls from Where’s the Beef? though I change the recipe to use oats instead of breadcrumbs and I plop in some very fine food-processor’d raw cauliflower or broccoli (or both):

sausagerolls with veg

– whenever I use puff pastry, as I did with the sausage rolls here, I get strange ideas.  So I put some nooch-roasted cauliflower in half a square of puff pastry, drowned it in zaatar spice and served it with the last of some eggplant dip.  It was okay taste wise for a ridiculous experiment but maybe it’s because I was hungry:

cauli zaatar parcel


– My breakfast was a cherry coconut cacao smoothie with hemp protein:

cherry cacao smoothie

– the kids had leftover sausage rolls for lunch.  I had some No-Fu Love Loaf from Let Them Eat Vegan! plus one of my favourite quick kale dishes, Fannetastic’s Cheesy Coconut Chickpeas and Kale:

cheesy kale chickpeas

– Scallion Pancakes from Veganissimo!:

scallion pancakes

– I made the Lancashire Hotpot from Veganissimo! for dinner:


– special NYE dessert was the Lemon Self Saucing Pudding also from Veganissimo!:

lemon pudding


Happy New Year!

– breakfast was a smoothie for me and I think the rest of the fam had toast, because we were to have a late lunch with my parents.  Here’s the lunch spread:

nyd lunch spread


– my plate:

nyd lunch plate

– we didn’t really eat dinner as lunch was so late and we were hanging around picking at stuff.


– a non sweet green juice for me.  I could have made it bearable with a date or two but I’m trying to move away from sweetening my green juices.  Truthfully, when I have the unsweetened green juices they taste blergh and by the bottom of the glass I feel a slight urge to barf:

green juice

– for lunch I had some spelt pasta with tomato and walnut mince:

walnut mince pasta

– for dinner I made the Mini ‘Beef’ Wellingtons from Vegan Lunch Box:

wellingtons with veg


– we skipped breakfast because we all had a bit of a sleep in and were heading out.  Though I ended up not getting anything and waited to eat at home.

– lunch for me was toasted ‘cheese and bacon’-ish sandwiches for lunch, using Tofutti slices and some tempeh, using the Tempeh Tickle recipe from Let Them Eat Vegan! with a little (vegan of course) mayo inside:

toasted cheeze facon sandwich

– a nice big juice made with leafy greens, watermelon, orange, carrot, apple, tomato, grapes cucumber, nectarine.  In other words, I had lots of fruit and veg that really needed to be eaten fast:

green juice

– dinner was leftover over Mini Wellingtons plus the Potato Scones and Tempeh Sausage Patties from Veganissimo! Husband really likes mashed potatoes turned in to patties and pan fried so he liked these.  I thought the kids would like the patties but unfortunately they didn’t (they have food sensitivities based more on textures and smells). Luckily I only made half the recipe and it’s a good recipe at that:


tempeh sausage patties


– for breakfast I made Arthur and DeeW plain oat porridge with some golden syrup on top (I had the last of my cherries in a choc-cherry-banana-spinach smoothie):

oat porridge

– for lunch I decided to try the Sunflower Mac recipe from Isa Does It, in the hopes the kids would like it.  My hopes were dashed as neither made it past the first spoonful and both requested I stick to ‘regular plain pasta’.  I explained that I like to get them to try new things in case they discover something new that they like.  Arthur diplomatically argued that it would be far faaaaar less work for me if I just stuck to regular plain pasta.  Sometimes it sucks when teaching your children thoughtfulness backfires:

sunflower mac

– for dinner Husband and the kids ate out, I wasn’t hungry and didn’t have anything.


This was a special day because it is the birthday of the Brothers Grimm.  In our house, something like that is considered a special occassion and so we had a German themed menu for dinner, as well as hanging out reading the original fairy tales (some were edited as I read!) from a tattered old 1967 Readers Digest book of fairy tales my aunt gave me when I was little.

– we had a light not-very-German breakfast of smoothies (for Arthur and I) and fruit (for Deew):

fruit salad

green smoothie

– we made the German Apple Cake from The Joy Of Vegan Baking, yet another great vegan cookbook I have hardly used.  I think this may actually have been my first time using it.  Anyway, the cake was easy to make but unfortunately it hardly rose.  Did that stop us from eating it?  Ha!:

German apple cake

– for lunch I made some vegan sausages:

sausage in roll

– for dinner we had some Fry’s shnitzel and some Kartoffelpuffer (German potato pancakes) using the recipe over at Seitan Is My Motor.  All to the tunes of German folk music:

German themed meal

People of Germany probably hate me now.

So, that’s week 1 of meal planning out the way.  I have to say things ran so smoothly with a plan in place, though trying new recipes can get tiring.  It’s all in the pursuit of finding things the kids will like, and the upside is that there is often one thing I can make again.

I’ve got week 2 planned, this time taking it easy and making meals for myself that can last a few days.


Vasilopita: New Years Bread in the Bread Maker

Vasilopita is a cake, or a bread, served on New Years Day in many Greek Orthodox homes.  A Vasilopita is named in honour of St. Basil and St. Basil’s name day is celebrated on January 1st.  A coin is placed in the Vasilopita and whoever gets the piece with the coin is said to have good luck for the year.  My grandmothers always made a Vasilopita and we nearly always celebrated New Years Day at my Papou (grandfather) Basil’s house, which was more a celebration of his name day than the first day of the year 🙂  Husband and I do not observe religious events, but this was a very important day for my grandparents and so I like to make a Vasilopita to teach Arthur and DeeW about their family’s history.

Last year, I  made my Vasilopita as a cake:


This year, I used this recipe I found at http://vvoc.org/2012/01/03/new-years-bread-vasilopita/

I followed the recipe pretty exactly as stated though I had a 7g sachet of dried yeast (the recipe states 8g).  So I will paste the recipe here but with ingredients and instructions based on what I did. All credit for the recipe goes to the authors of that link, not me!


from http://vvoc.org/2012/01/03/new-years-bread-vasilopita/

3 teaspoons of orange zest

2 Tablespoons of orange juice

Egg replacer (Made up to be equivalent of one whole egg and one egg white.)

65ml soy milk

6 Tablespoons of Nutellex (or other vegan margarine)

2 teaspoons of aniseed juice (see below)

90g caster sugar

425g plain white flour

1 x 7g sachet of yeast

3 Tablespoons of warm water


  1. Prepare the aniseed juice I bought a packet of star anise, measured out a tablespoon in a teacup and covered it with boiled water, just enough to touch the tops of the anise and I let it sit for a few hours. I used this liquid in the recipe.

  2. Finely zest enough orange to make 3 teaspoons.  Set aside.

  3. Juice the orange and set aside.

  4. Prepare the egg replacer as per instructions on packet and set aside.

  5. Prepare yeast by placing the 3 Tablespoons of warm water in a glass bowl and dissolving a pinch of sugar. Sprinkle the contents of the sachet into the water, swish about a bit then cover with a cloth and set aside out of drafts.

  6. Measure out milk and set aside.

  7. Measure out margarine, melt and set aside.

  8. Weigh the flour and set aside.

  9. Weigh the sugar and set aside.

  10. By now, the yeast should have started to activate (It will look a little bit fluffy/frothy.)

  11. Place ingredients into the bread machine in the following order:

    1. zest

    2. juice

    3. aniseed juice

    4. egg replacer (you may need to whisk as it may have settled)

    5. margarine

    6. soy milk

    7. caster sugar

    8. flour

  12. Make a small well in the top of the flour and tip the yeast on top.

  13. Place pan into bread maker and select the sweet bread setting.


Ha!  You whacky Veganopoulous!  As I pasted in this recipe I just realised I did not melt the Nutellex!  Yep, I missed that bit and added it in unmelted.  It didn’t cause a problem luckily:

bread maker Vasilopita

The Vasilopita bread turned out great.  Nice and sweet and the Greeks that ate it said it tasted like tsoureki (a sweet egg-rich brioche-like bread often served at Easter).  I think I’ll use this dough to make my tsoureki at Easter.  Perhaps I can have it rise in the bread maker then transfer it to the oven in the traditional plaited shape.

bread maker Vasilopita

I’m so pleased to have a Vasilopita recipe for the bread maker that turns out so well! I think I will make this when my mother and her Greek friends are fasting during Lent, to amaze them with this I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter-and-eggs tsoureki!


The No-Resolutions New Years Resolutions

In recent years, I’ve given up on creating a new years resolutions list.  Mostly because, you know, I never followed them.  I think “lose weight” has been a resolution since about 1990.  For 2014 though, there are some more mental health related resolutions I’d like to make and stick to, more to help me stress less!  They are:

Meal Planning

Oh boy, is this a biggie.  When I meal plan, I swear everything is just about stress free with the added bonus of everyone eating healthy meals.  In the past I’ve planned for a month at a time which really did work well but I think I’ll stick to weekly as we often have some last minute interruptions to plans.  The meal planning definitely makes me stress less!  I use the meal planner pad from Kikki K:

kikki k meal planner pad

No More News

Technically this is something I’ve done for about six months now, but I no longer watch or read news.  I found it was triggering periods where I’d feel really blah, particularly when the stories involved children or animals being hurt in some way, or some kind of injustice.  The final straw came when I read an article that upset me so much that Husband and I decided to configure our server firewall to disallow my computer access the news sites.  I don’t care about celebrity news and if there’s something major I should know about, I’ll no doubt find out pretty quickly from Husband or a family member.  And I can always check out the positive/good news sites!


Heavily Reduced Social Media and General Computer Distractions and Especially Never-Read-The-Comments

I’m not big on social media at all.  It makes me feel very anti social, but I’ve always been a rebel like that.  I have a Facebook account I forget to log in to these days, though I used to be quite active on it earlier in the year.  I found that when I’d meet new people at an event, everyone started friending each other.  So I felt obligated to do the same (which leads me to the next resolution of assertiveness, ha ha…) even though I didn’t know these people and I only wanted close friends and family on my fb.  And then these people would start posting links to articles or comments that I really disagree with and in some cases found personally offensive, particularly when it referred to matters my family deals with.  I found that these comments, images and whatnot really spoilt my mood and all by people I don’t consider buddies.  So I nuked just about everyone and stripped it right back (though like I said now, I barely use it and prefer email!).  I have also started cutting way down on my google+ hangouts.  The hangouts are great but even with notifications turned off, I was still checking them far too often.  If I know something is there, turning off notifications doesn’t stop me from checking!  I’ve now removed myself from most of the hangouts and have kept family hangouts to a minimum (which are very low traffic anyway) and only one social event hangout.  Already it feels so much better.

I’m not in to playing games on my computer or phone.  I got as far as installing Angry Birds and quickly got bored with it so uninstalled it, so I’m thankful for that at least!  But I am very easily distracted by computer stuff.  A typical example would be I am doing something else (like housework) then stop to look up say, a recipe.  While I’m looking up recipes, I might also refresh my blog reader.  Oh look, six new blog posts to read!  I’ll do that quickly.  Each of those blog posts contain links.  I read the links.  My email pings.  I check my email, google some information, reply.  I check hangouts while I’m at the computer.  There’s a discussion going on, I contribute to it… etc.  And before I know it, something that should have taken five minutes at most has ballooned out past one hour.

Cutting down on this stuff helps too.  I will be turning off all notification sounds, closing the door to the study, putting the phones on silent– this usually happens when I’m doing school stuff with the kids but if a friend or relative calls, I tend to answer it. I’m a worrywart like that, the last time I ignored the phone when it rang three times in fifteen minutes was someone calling to tell me a relative had passed away.  If family are trying to contact us urgently, they now have other ways.

I found that when I wasn’t getting my stuff done because I ran out of time, it would usually always be a time management issue where I pretty much wasted time!  Now, I’d rather make myself a cup of tea and settle down to do non-essential computer stuff.

Also, I will try harder to Never Read The Commentson news articles. So much ignorance!

Happy Grover!


I like to imagine I’m confidently assertive but truthfully,I’m just a big old wuss who hates confrontation. I think I’m more assertive-after-the-fact.  Like when I get really bad customer service somewhere and I’m too stunned to say anything because my brain is saying “did I just hear that no I must be wrong surely someone wouldn’t be that rude” sort of stuff.  And five minutes later, when it’s often to late to say anything, I am fired up and figure out then what I should have said earlier.  Whenever I have been assertive, it has ended badly.  There have been times when I’ve had to stick up for myself and my family and no matter how polite or diplomatic I am, some people take it very badly or react in a fashion where I end up being public enemy number one over things like “you have the flu right now I know, but would you mind not kissing my baby while you’re sick?  It’s just that I don’t want to risk him getting sick I’M SO SORRY DON’T HATE MEEEEE”.  As a homeschooler and a vegan, I’ve had plenty of sillybilly comments made to me and most of the time it’s smile-change-the-subject.  I am practicing feeling comfortable with saying “we find that homeschooling is the perfect fit for our family and has worked really well” and repeating it with a slightly firmer yet still polite tone if the comments keep coming.  Ditto for being assertive where veganism is concerned! I usually answer “check out vegan body building” when people ask the protein question.  So yep.  Assertiveness is something I will try to be mindful of now.

Anne and Gilbert

Exercise is another one that is always on the list.  Since I stopped going to the gym regularly, I must admit there has been a definite change in my body and mood, and not for the better!  I do have the stuff at  home to continue being active but the truth is I’m lazy.  So I’m planning out some family fitness activities utilising the park and playground up the road.

Life. Be In It logo

More Raw and Green Juice!

I’ve said it here before (and here I am saying it again) that overall I feel so much better when my diet consists mainly of wholefoods, often raw.  I’ve slacked off on the green juices/smoothies but I’m back with a vengeance now.  The family have a cack-coloured juice every day which is the green plus carrot.  I sleep better, I look better, I feel better!

They’re really the main issues I want to tackle in the new year and hopefully they’ll set the tone for the rest of the year.  With other things, well, sure I’d like to stick to my organisation systems but I prefer not to sweat it when things don’t go according to plan.  Life never goes according to plan!

So here’s to more realistic and mental-health positive goals for 2014!


Vasilopita and What New Years Day 2013 Looked Like

Growing up, New Years Day was always an important event in my family.  January 1st is also St. Basil’s Day .  St. Basil was (if I remember correctly) a forefather of the Greek Orthodox Church and well loved for his kindness to the poor and underprivileged, animals and children.  My grandparents were devout Greek Orthodox Christians and although I’m not religious in any way, I still like to include some of what made January 1st special for them.

 It is also the name day for people named Basil/Vasillios (often named ‘Bill’ in English) or Vasilliki (‘Victoria/Vicky’).  My grandfather was named Vasillios, which is why January 1st was such a big deal in our family  🙂  The vegan foods served would include fresh garden salad (my grandparents grew the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes from a garden they started in 1953), pilafi rice, fried zucchini, dolmades and roast potatoes.  Everything else was very non-vegan.  My grandparents have all passed away and my dad still likes to have small family get togethers on January 1st, although it’s pretty much just immediate family and no longer the big celebration where you only see other relatives that one time a year.

Here are the vegan foods my mum served today.  First up, her awesome roast potatoes.  I used to whine about how the oven in my new home never worked properly because my potatoes never turned out beautiful and crispy like my mum’s.  Then one day I accidentally plopped too much oil in the roasting tray and then forgot about the potatoes so they were slightly burnt.  Result?  Amazingly crispy delicious potatoes:


Mum makes her version of fried rice for me:


My sister made the vegan sausage rolls I’ve blogged about here:


My plate.  My sister made a salad with baby spinach, roast potato and tomato with a dressing of orange, tahini, maple syrup.  I could have eaten the dressing itself with a spoon.  My mum made her standard garden salad with extra virgin olive oil tossed through:newyearplate

For dessert I made a chocolate cashew cream with 2 cups of soaked cashews, about a cup of almond milk, raw cacao powder and enough soft Medjool dates for sweetness.  Forgot to take a photo of that.

Now, on to the Vasilopita!  On New Years Day it is traditional to bake a Vasilopita.  ‘Vasilo’ refers to Vasilli/Basil and a ‘pita’ is a kind of pie or cake.  Think spanakopita– ‘spanaki’ is spinach, ‘pita’ the pie/cake.  ‘Karithopita’– ‘karithi’ means walnut, so Karithopita is walnut cake.  Anyway, the Vasilopita contains a coin hidden in the cake somewhere.  Whoever gets the piece with the coin is supposed to have good luck for the coming year.  Some people make the Vasilopita as a bread, using yeast.  Others make it more like a cake.  A lot depends on the region one is from, or family tradition.  For me, I initially opted to make the bread version as it’s less sweet but when I looked up some recipes, I realised I left it too late to do the whole dough rising, then rising again thing.  So I had to switch to the cake-like Vasilopita.

I don’t think I’ll post the recipe officially as it really is just a vegan version of a standard plain butter cake and I feel not something worth replicating.  I used plain white flour, vegan margarine, sugar, soy milk, egg replacer, almond essence and orange zest.  For the topping, I chopped up a combination of pistachios, almonds, walnuts and pecans then threw in some whole pine nuts:


So I was merrily going along and during the mixing with my awesome Sunbeam Mixmaster (this belong to my grandma, the wife of my grandpa Billy) I thought hmmm this is a LOT of batter.  As in, I don’t have a cake tin big enough and I can’t bake two separate cakes as it’s already really late and I want to go to bed asap.  So I had to use this big sunflower shaped cake tin.  The problem with a tin like this for Vasilopita is that you’re supposed to sprinkle the nuts on top of the cake before baking, but with this sunflower tin it’s shaped of course, so you have to turn the cake out upside down.  So I took a gamble and sprinkled the nuts on the cake tin before pouring the batter in.  Then I crossed my fingers and hoped the nuts wouldn’t burn.  Much relief when the nuts turned out just right:


Not a pretty looking cake by any means.  I cut a slit in to it and inserted a silver coin (real silver).  Husband said coins should never be baked in with a cake and that it’s best to just put in a silver coin after the cake has been cooked.  So he got a silver coin from his collection (the coin was made in 1898) and well, we had to say okay whoever gets the coin must give it back *cough*  Anyway, the cake was dusted with icing sugar to make it a little more attractive:


It turned out okay but as I said, just a standard plain cake with a hint of the orange and almond.   The nut ‘topping’ added a nice crunch but the cake was too sweet for me.  My parents ended up winning the coin (and giving it back…):


And now we’re back home again.  Tomorrow I’m looking forward to getting back in to my raw juices and smoothies.  Tonight I’m looking forward to a lot of sleep!


New Years Eve Visit to Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop

Yep, another visit to Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop!  Because today is New Years Eve and well, they had the babkas.  And I’ve always wanted to try a babka ever since I saw that Seinfeld babka episode years ago.  And if I didn’t go and try the babka I’d be wearing this face for all of 2013, because my grandmother used to say that whatever face you made on New Years Eve would stay with you for the following year:


On our way to the bake shop:



I enjoyed watching the animated conversation of this woman and man, who appeared to be neighbours.  I could make out a little of their conversation in Italian.  I love where I live, we have a great community of senior citizens with marvellous stories to tell.  I thought this woman was adorable in her knee high pantyhose.  Lame hack attempt at an artsy photo:


Union Road, Ascot Vale.  I love the older buildings:





Arthur got his usual cinnamon bun.  I asked if he’d ever get sick of these and he said NO WAY.  Clearly, he won’t get sick of sticking his fork in the bun when I’m taking photos.  He said today’s cinnamon bun “is one thousand billion out of 100, which is technically not correct but these are really good and deserve an impossible rating”:


And I tried the chocolate babka (yum!):


Demolition!  With finesse:


Our view:


On the way home we stopped in at the library.  Arthur insisted I take a photo of the book he was reading:

The weather was gorgeous.  When we got home we just relaxed a bit and Arthur got stuck in to his library books.  He saved some of his cinnamon bun for DeeW.

We’ll spend a quiet new years eve at home.  I have to prepare something for dessert as we’re heading to lunch tomorrow.  I think I’ll make some chocolate cashew cream.  I’m also hoping to make a Vasilopita.  Stay tuned if you want to know what that is  🙂

Have a great new years, wherever you are!


I previously wrote about Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop here and here.

Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop is located at 151 Union Road, Ascot Vale and very close to public transport.  Here is their stockists web page: