Friday, April 27, 2007

Mexican Lasagna

Andy is off diving this weekend, so I get the house to myself. Woo hoo! This is actually the first time we've been apart overnight since I got back to Australia--11 months ago. I'll miss him and stuff, but I'm so looking forward to having some alone time. I'm going to listen to girly music and eat cookies and all that stuff.

Here's a picture of some food that Andy made a week or two. It got stuck on the camera when the batteries died, and then it got shuffled to the bottom of the folder, hence why it's so late. This is a Mexican-style bake that he calls "Mexican Lasagna". Layers of spicy, tomato-y veggies and refried beans, between layers of tortillas. The topping is crunched-up stale hard taco shells. We had some lime-y, garlicky avocado on the side to take away some of the spice from our mouths, and since the oven was on, we threw in some tater tots as well!

We have some variation of this meal about once a week. Sometimes the beans and veggies are mixed, wrapped up in tortillas and covered in salsa before they're baked. Sometimes it's layered like this. Other times we just eat burritos or tacos the regular way. We <3 Mexican food, however bastardised this is.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Body Casting

The really cool thing I did on Saturday at the Women's Centre was the last in a series of body casting workshops. Plaster castings--the kind of plaster strips that can be used for casts. A bit over a month ago, a few women got together with Kim, the health and well-being counsellor, and Sari, a kick-ass artist. We spent a day discussing female images, body image, and stuff like that. The first day, Kim cast Sari's butt, to show everyone what was involved in the process. The next day, we all got to do ours. One woman did the front of her torso, with her arms crossed over herself. That looked really cool. One woman did her hands and feet. I did my left side.

It was great. Aside from feeling totally awkward, laying down on the floor of the Women's Centre bare-ass naked, while Kim rubbed cold wet plaster strips all over my body, I really enjoyed the experience. It was a really cool feeling, actually--the plaster starts wet and cold, but after the first layer the feeling of the cast-er gets further and further removed from your body. The plaster starts to harden pretty quickly, and heats up as it goes. By the time she was finished, it felt like I had a shell. Once it hardens, it starts to come away from your skin--bad if you're standing up, since it means you need to work really quickly and can't move at all. But in the laying-down position, she had time to smooth it out and make it really good.

After they were allowed to harden, and Kim had reinforced them with plaster on the insides, we got to take them home. I set mine up on my desk that I never use.

That's a bowl of sea shells in front of the cast, and some photos from PNG in the back. It's very abstract, but I love the way it looks. I think it's a bit clearer when it's standing up:

The bottom is the start of my thigh/butt, and you can see my ribs and the side of my boob there at the top. The edges are pretty fragile, so I had it sitting on some old tee shirts to take some of the weight off.

So, we were supposed to get together the following weekend to decorate them, but something came up. Something came up the next weekend, and the weekend after that as well. I'm glad we didn't decorate them straightaway, because I had no idea what to do! But when I did come up with an idea, I started to get antsy. So antsy, in fact, that I bought my own paint and started doing it on my own. I found this cool, metallic blue acrylic paint and put on a few layers.

It sat like that for a few days, propped up on two tins of spaghetti, drying out fully. Then we finally got together for the decorating. I had gotten some stationary paper or something, and cut out a few flowers and vines that I wanted to paste on. I painted some streaks along the curves, glued on the flowers, and added some glitter. I took it home, then sealed it with some clear acrylic stuff (maybe you can tell that I am no artist). This is the final result:

I love the way it came out. The other women weren't finished with theirs yet, so I'm curious to see the end results of all of them. But I'm really pleased with mine. Here is some more detail:

That's the top.

Here's the middle. The flower at the edge is right under my ribcage. Everything sort of comes out of there.

And this is the very bottom. When I was finished, Andy said "I didn't think you were going to pull it off"--very supportive, but he was referring to my normal lack of creative genius. Actually, I didn't think I would be able to pull it off, either.

P.S. Happy ANZAC Day :)

A weekend in food...

On Saturday morning I had to go to the Women's Centre for something really cool, which I'll give its own post in a day or two. To get my creative juices flowing, I started off with a nice big brekky.

Now that it's cooling off a bit here, it's citrus season. I've been getting massive, super red grapefruits from the markets, 3 for $2. This one was only 50 cents. I found out why when I cut it open:

White grapefruit is still nice, but not when you've been having sweet, juicy red ones all week. Grapefruit hardly filled me up at all, so I followed it up with a small bowl of cereal. I didn't feel like NutriGrains or CornFlakes or Meusli, so I just stuck with the Vitabrits. Americans, think Shredded Wheat, but the wheat is pressed instead of shredded. They come in little bricks, which I usually break up and put underneath whatever other cereal I'm having. They're also nice cut in half and spread with vegan buttah and vegemite. But Saturday, I put a teensy bit of my auntie's homemade maple syrup on the brits, and covered them with soy milk.

Somehow, I still wasn't super full, so I had a bit of toast as well. Multigrain bread with Nuttelex (vegan margarine, based on non-hydrogenated sunflower oil). On top of the Nuttelex, I put Vegemite on one piece of toast, and tomato sauce on the other. Andy stole nearly half of each piece of toast.

And no breakfast would be complete without a pot of hot black tea. Here's our shiny teapot with its friends, the kettle and the old spaghetti jar full of tea leaves.

If you rub it, maybe a genie will come out?

After that three course breakfast, I went off to my cool thing at the Women's Centre. Andy picked me up in the early afternoon, and we had some yummy avocado on multigrain toast for lunch. Then we went grocery shopping, where we found some strawberries marked down to $2.

We ate a few, and then put the rest in the fridge for later. Dinner was baked eggplant (with some herbs & spices, and breadcrumbs), grilled sliced potatoes (again with spices, and cooked under the griller/broiler), and some super garlicky, creamy silverbeet (marked down to $1 at the grocery store). The eggplant was a bit plain, because I was planning on covering it with sweet chilli sauce before it baked--but we were out. But it was yummy when you took an eggplant bite and a silverbeet bite at the same time.

After dinner, we did some Winsor Pilates together (ouch!), and to reward ourselves we had some ice cream. The strawberries from earlier, sliced plus a little sugar, and half a baggie of frozen mango, made a good topping. Chocolate and vanilla So Good Bliss ice cream, plus fruit topping and crushed peanuts made for a really nice end to Saturday.

Sunday was boring food day; cereal for breakfast, fruit and hot cross buns for lunch. For dinner Andy made his favorite veggie burgers. The bulk of it is mashed potato, and there is all kinds of veggies mixed in: zucchini, carrot, spinach, garlic chives, and beans. Underneat the patty is beetroot, cucumber and tomato. On top is some sauteed onions, and on the other side of the bun is some mashed avocado and tomato sauce.

Now it's Monday morning, and time to get back into the swing of things. But there is something to look forward to this week... public holiday on Wednesday!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Cow Escape

Though the news headlines for the past few days have been focused on the shootings in Virginia, Townsville still managed to find humour in the slaughter of cows on Wednesday. The Townsville Bulletin from 18 April featured this as its cover story. The story was also all over the local radio, and even made it as far as the UK, where it showed up in the Weird Headlines here.

The story goes like this: nearly 18,000 cattle were being loaded onto a ship in the port, to be sent to a slaughterhouse in Indonesia. In total, four escaped. Three were quickly rounded up again, but one managed to run away from the port, through a pedestrian mall in the city center, across a busy road, and into the newspaper's parking lot. This is where the chase ended, because the carpark is fenced in. They built a pen around the frightened cow, but he broke through the fence. Unfortunately, there were two 'ringers' waiting for him to do just that, and they tackled him. After that, he was loaded onto a fork lift and put into a transport pen. The ringers had this to say:

"We had it sorted out – I'd be on the head and he'd be on the tail, simple as that, job done.

"We just reckoned if he got on to the street there then somebody's got to get him.

"It's bred into us, we can't help it."

"It was exhausted when it got here so hopefully it can calm down a bit and have a drink of water and accept the fact that he's going back to Indonesia."

I read this article, and was very disturbed. The story itself is horrifying; that cow must have been scared out of its mind. On top of that, the lighthearted attitude of the Townsville Bulletin is disturbing. Numerous puns and jokes, as well as the use of "it" and "the steer" throughout the article imply that this cow is an object, just waiting to be turned into burgers. They even picked it up using machinery that typically carts around masses of newspapers. Putting a living creature onto a forklift? I know there were probably not many options, but come on.

I shouldn't be surprised. Australian culture places a lot of emphasis on meat-centric diets. Townsville especially has a long history with agriculture, and the 'ringer' is a figure that gets respect around here.

But, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A friend told me that a man in Charters Towers, a few hours west of Townsville, has rescued the runaway steer. This man bought him, and has promised that the cow can live and graze peacefully until the natural end of its life. (I looked online for this update, but couldn't find any mention of it. Goes to show how much the newspapers care.)

Good news for this one cow, but unfortunately the other 18,000 didn't have the same kind of luck.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rice and Thongs and Turkey

Anyone who thinks that vegan food is boring is crazy. Last night's dinner was super colourful. Yellow, white, and green zucchini, green capsicum, purple cabbage, and orange carrots.

All these colours, plus chickpeas and brown rice, equals dinner. Andy took a few bites before smothering it in sweet chilli sauce; he was surprised at how flavourful it was. My secret: saute onions and garlic in a bit of oil, add brown rice and let it get a bit toasty, then add stock. Just before it's done, mix in the chick peas. Then separately saute the veggies ever so slightly, and mix in the rice.

Brown rice with chick peas and zucchini made a good hearty dinner, and it kept me going all evening. We went out for beers with a few people, and just after we'd gotten off the bus, my thong broke. By thong I mean my shoe--flip flop. And of course no stores were open at 8 pm. Stupid Townsville. I had to walk around barefoot, and put my broken shoe on just before we walked into a new pub. We went to three or four places, and let me tell you: walking around in a broken thong is not easy. I had to sort of squeeze the little rubber part in between my toes. Luckily, a few weeks ago my office mate gave me an extra pair of thongs that she had, so I didn't have to go barefoot today. Now, if these ones break, I'm screwed, because they are my last pair of shoes.

Now for the turkey. When I was walking in to my office this morning (in my one and only pair of shoes), I saw one of the many campus bush turkeys. I had my camera in my backpack, so I tried to take a photo. My crappy camera, in combination with a very mobile wild animal makes for very bad pictures. So here are some blurry photos of an Aussie Bush Turkey. There is a family of these guys that walks around the garden outside my building, scratching around in the dirt for bugs. Sometimes they also get into the rubbish bin to get old sandwiches and stuff.

They're super ugly, but very cute at the same time. Big, black bodies and little red heads, plus scrawny legs with big claws at the end. What a sight! I love sitting outside watching them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pita Pizza

Last night for dinner we had some little pizzas with pita breads for the crust. This is a super quick, super easy way to do pizza. We toast the pitas a bit under the griller (broiler), then take them out, flip them over (so the crispy side is on the bottom), and top them. Then lower the heat on the griller (or oven, whichever) and put the pita pizzas back in for a few minutes, to let the toppings heat up. If you had vegan cheese (which is impossible to get in Townsville), you would presumably wait for that to melt.

For an entree (appetiser) we had pizza sauce, shallots (scallions), avocado and tomato. Yum. I meant to take a photo, but got too excited and only remembered when there were a few bites left.

The main course pizzas featured pizza sauce, tofu ricotta, shallots, black olives, pineapple, green capsicum and fresh tomato.

I'm surprised that Andy refrained from eating for long enough for me to take this picture. He loves pita pizzas.

And he hates shirts. Has anyone noticed that, in every picture I have of him, he is topless? He complains about being cold, but he scoffs at any suggestion of putting clothes on.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Two Quick Dinners

First up is the spicy peanut noodles. We sauteed a bit of onion and garlic, then mixed in a little massaman curry paste (careful when buying pre-packaged curry paste--many have shrimp paste or fish sauce as ingredients). Then we chucked in some zucchini, carrots, purple cabbage, and mushrooms and let those cook for a few minutes. A few hearty scoops of chunky peanut butter, about 1/2 c. soy milk, and a handful of chopped peanuts for the top. Fresh coriander as a garnish would have been great, but we're having a bit of trouble growing it lately.

When I ate the leftovers for lunch, the purple cabbage had turned everything into a gray-ish blue. Not very pretty, but still tasty!

Last night's dinner was a salad full of local baby spinach, avocado, zucchini, carrots, tomato, sauteed onions, and pan-fried tofu. We first started making this on Tuesday for dinner, but found that none of the 6 avocados we got from the market were ripe. So the tofu marinated for about 3 days in a simple mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, and the juice of one lemonade fruit. For dressing, I mixed the leftover marinade with a bit of Australian mustard and balsamic vinegar. The salad was flanked by Andy's bruschetta--stale bread, toasted and covered in leftover spaghetti sauce, or avocado + tomato + black olives. This dinner was quick to put together, and left me feeling very full and satisfied.

Monday, April 09, 2007

1 year blog-iversary!

With a recent spate of blogging anniversaries around some of the blogs I read regularly, it made me think to check when I actually started blogging. Today's the day--one year ago I started this humble little blog. And it conveniently falls on the second public holiday of the Easter weekend--Easter Monday. So, I don't really feel bad about not doing work.

Though, I suppose that it's not really until tomorrow, or at least until later today, since it's still yesterday in North America, where I was when I started blogging. Anyways.

Let's commemorate the occasion with some more food from Easter Weekend....

All in all, it's been a very fat holiday weekend--especially Saturday. In my last post I posted a picture of the pancakes we had. When we got home from uni at 3 that same day, Andy and I mashed up a huge avocado with some garlic chives, salt, and pepper, and spread it onto multi-grain toast. Then, for dinner, I decided to try a recipe from an old VegNews, for Indonesian tempeh. I didn't follow the recipe very closely at all. If you want to see the original, you can try to find it on their archives or something, but this is what I did:

1 package of tempeh, cubed
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 or 3 T. fresh ginger, minced
1 chilli, minced
1 big tin of plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 red capsicum, chopped
1/2 green capsicum, chopped
1 handful greenbeans, chopped
1 handful baby spinach leaves, chopped
1 tin of coconut cream
juice from 1/2 a lemonade fruit (a slightly sweet, green lemon)
salt and pepper

Fry the tempeh and onion in some oil over medium heat, until they start to get brown. Add the garlic, ginger, and chilli, cook for a minute or so. Mix in the chopped veggies and tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and lemonade juice, turn heat to low and simmer for a few minutes. Serve over jasmine rice.

This is what it looked like:
I thought the recipe itself was quite nice, if a bit heavy. But I am so disappointed with Australian tempeh. It's horrible! Instead of being nutty and full of texture, it's this uniform mushy brown cake of yuckiness. And, it's $4.50 for one package. The only reason we got this package is that we saw it for half-price at the grocery store. Gross.

Since I made dinner, Andy decided to make dessert. (Like we needed it after all that we ate on Saturday.) We got some So Good soy ice cream because there is a mail-in rebate offer going on this month. That, plus lots of hot cross buns, equals hot cross buns a la mode. I was expecting him to toast the buns and then just stick a scoop of ice cream on top. However, when Andy starts cooking, he tends to get super creative. First, he toasted the buns. Then, he put a teensy scoop of ice cream on each, and covered that with some dried mixed fruit and chopped peanuts. That all went back under the griller. When that ice cream was a bit melty, he took it all out and topped it with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, some little dabs of chocolate, and then... a scoop of peanut butter.
When I was taking the photo of mine, he started eating his and realized that peanut butter does not go on ice cream so well. "It's for aesthetic reasons", he said, and told me to eat the peanut butter separately from everything else. What a unit.

Sunday morning, before heading out to the markets, we had a typical Aussie breakfast of tinned spaghetti on toast.Though most tinned spaghetti has cheese in the ingredients, the home brands from both Woolworth's and Cole's have 2 varieties--tomato, or tomato and cheese. This picture shows Cole's brand. We like it best, because it's super saucy and the spaghetti is cut up.

Sunday was finished up with some candy (one of the chocolate bunnies is now ear-less), some hot cross buns, and some veggie burgers with chippies.

Now, I think it's time I start eating less crap!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easter Weekend

I haven't celebrated Easter in ages. When I was little, we got baskets full of candy, as you do, and we had to find the hidden eggs, as you do. It was a bit of fun, a bit of sugar high, and that was it, really. In the past few years, Easter weekend has passed without me noticing--Easter eggs are so not vegan, and my parents stopped giving us candy, so I often forgot that it even happened.

Then I moved to Australia, and found out that Easter is a big holiday here. Starting just after Christmas, grocery stores and bakeries start selling hot cross buns. I read the ingredients of the Woolworth's bakery buns, and found out that they are vegan! They're ridiculously overpriced, so we wait till Saturday afternoon when they are marked down--$2 for 8 buns. For the past few weeks we've been getting a pack or two a week and taking them to uni for lunches and snacks and things. Yum. In addition to hot cross buns, you get a 4 day weekend. Now, neither Andy nor I believe in Jesus, but as Andy so eloquently put it, "I believe in public holidays!"

So, to embrace the spirit of the season, we're taking it easy this weekend. We went to the beach for Good Friday and I marvelled at all the people getting wasted on their front patios (it's illegal to serve alcohol on Good Friday here). We read a bit, and watched some movies.

This morning I made some pancakes, using this recipe from vegweb. I cut it in half, and found that the batter was WAAAY too runny, so I added another 1/4 c. of flour. Once I got that sorted, the pancake making went beautifully. They are light and fluffy, yet hearty because they are full of oats. They were a perfect vessel for my auntie's homemade maple syrup, which my parents sent over for me. The only thing I might do next time is chop up the oats in the food processor beforehand, or just use quick oats rather than rolled.

I love cooking pancakes.

First, one side browns and the batter on top gets dried out around the edges and bubbly all over.

Then you flip it. When it's done, put it on a plate in the oven (the lowest setting, obvi) to keep warm.

At the end, you've got a stack of hot brown pancakes, just waiting to be smothered in maple syrup. Accompanied by a nice pot of tea, they make the perfect breakfast for a lazy weekend morning.

And, my parents sent a package full of Easter candy that arrived on the doorstep on Wednesday afternoon. Some of it was not vegan (when will they learn?!), but half of it was. In addition to some vegan jelly beans, they sent these cute dark chocolate bunnies. Andy thinks he's going to get one. What a sucker.

Happy Easter/Passover/Sugar High, everyone!

Monday, April 02, 2007


Just last week I blogged about my mixed relationship. Over the weekend it got slightly less mixed. That's right, Andy has decided to fully make the switch to soy milk.

This is actually something that has been coming for a while--when I first got here, he admitted that he likes the taste of soy over cow when he's drinking milk for milk's sake. A few months ago he randomly decided to put soy on his cereal, but staunchly defended the cow milk in his 123957 cups of tea each day. In the past few weeks, however, Andy has been slowly transitioning to soy in his tea. He started out by mixing cow and soy, and then switched back and forth for a little while. We gradually bought less cow milk with every trip to the grocery store--from 6 litres a week (it's insane how much milk he goes through!), to 3 litres, to 2, and finally, this week, we bought 0 litres of cow milk.

On Sunday, a day after we went shopping, I told Andy how I noticed and appreciated the lack of cow milk in the fridge, and he said (somewhat frustratedly), "I don't like cow milk anymore. It's not beany enough." I couldn't help giggling, because that was the very reason he didn't like soy milk tea in the first place! Then later that morning we went out to a coffee shop, and he got a soy cappuccino.

So, while he hasn't committed to giving up dairy (I'm sure if he goes out on a dive boat, for example, he'll be drinking cow milk since soy isn't available), he has made a big step that neither of us really expected.

Three cheers for my soy milk guzzling partner!!

**Now, I need to find a place where I can buy soy milk in bulk. We're probably going to be going through about 10 litres a week!**