Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Dinner

A week before christmas I asked Andy if he wanted anything special food-wise to celebrate the holiday. He definitely said it was just another day and he was happy to treat it as such.

Fast forward to 1 pm on Christmas Eve, when Andy looked at me with sad eyes and said "So you're not making anything?" We decided on a stuffed seitan roast, so walked up to the store to buy a few things. As I started making stuffing, we decided to just go ahead and have christmas dinner the day before christmas, since we were already cooking.

Nacho made sure I didn't screw up the cranberry walnut stuffing.
Andy made a tossed salad, with lettuce, tomato, avocado, cucumber, uncheese, mango and orange.
As the seitan was roasting, I glazed it with a mixture of orange marmalade and cranberry jelly, so it got nice and crispy on the outside.
We made our favourite coriander-lime potato and cucumber salad.
Some extra cranberry orange sauce took the place of gravy, since it complemented the cranberry walnut stuffing so well.
Here's Andy's plate. He also made some garlic butter baked mushrooms. Luckily, I didn't make dessert, because all we had room for was a tiny square of Maya Gold chocolate.Christmas morning we opened a present from Andy's mum--a jigsaw puzzle--and then spent the day putting it together. Well, sort of. We got it mostly together and then got bored.
We munched on leftovers and fruit and cookies. We played with Nacho. We turned on the aircon in the bedroom and watched a movie in the cold.

Boxing Day, I was ready for some new food, so I made rice paper rolls. They are filled with bean vermicelly, mango, cucumber, lettuce, and mint. For the dipping sauce, we had a dip-off. Mine was sweet chilli, soy sauce, and peanut butter. Andy's was sesame oil, cayenne, soy, sugar, vinegar, and mint. Both were good. (Mine was thicker and better for dipping. In your face!)
Boxing Day was cold and rainy, so we turned on the oven for dinner and simultaneously baked a cake. Orange Rum Tea Cake from VwaV. Very sticky, sweet, and delicious.
Nacho got a few new toys for christmas. Wrapping paper, a champagne cork, a box.

We ate tons of food, didn't leave the house for two days, and had a great time. How was your christmas?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Christmas!

To everyone who acknowledges 25 December as something special--either as the Jesus' birthday, or a day to spend with family, or a day off work, or a bit of a headache--and to those who don't, I hope you enjoy yourselves tomorrow, whatever you're doing.

Andy and I won't be doing much. But last week we had this red and green lasagna that seemed quite festive. Spinach noodles, red sauce, topped with blended spinach and cannellini mixture, and sliced tomatoes. Imagine it isn't all flat and limp, because it was tasty!

Nacho wants to wish all you blog-readers a Happy Cat-mas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Food for hot weather

It has been hot in Townsville lately. Most days get up to 34 degrees, or 92 fahrenheit. And, the thing about summer in Townsville is that it doesn't cool off much at night. And the breeze is hot too. So you turn on fans and leave the windows open to no avail. Despite most people around thinking we are crazy, Andy and I have avoided turning on the air conditioners. In fact, we haven't turned them on since we moved in to our place in July. They might not even work, for all I know.

When it's hot like this, dinners tend to be light. Like this seitan burger, topped with sauteed mushrooms, onions, and red capsicum. Lots of salad underneath keeps it cool and crisp.
Veggie sausages feel like summer food. We scored when we went to Cole's earlier this week and found all kinds of veggie snags marked down from $4.95 to $1 a package. We got 6 packs, and I wish our freezer was bigger so we could have cleaned them out. The sausages were topped with a mix of sauteed onions, mushrooms, and tomato, and served alongside a zucchini/carrot/capsicum mix. And we also had some baked mushrooms, since the oven was on earlier in the day (keep reading...). The mushrooms were marinated in a mix of soy sauce, garlic, and orange juice. Yum.
Two ways with Mexican salad. A big bed of lettuce keeps the dinner lights. Top with a mix of veggies and refried beans. Add some tomato and fresh corn salsa, and finish with a dollop of guacamole.
Or, change up the veggies, and top with mango salsa instead. I preferred the mango, Andy preferred the tomato/corn/avocado version.
What not to do when it's hot as hell? Bake. But, with Christmas coming up, and with Andy and me not visiting his family this year, I wanted to send some cookies down. So, on went the oven, despite the heat. I made three recipes from VwaV. Sparkled ginger cookies, which stayed quite soft and spicily delicious. Crunchy peanut butter oatmeal cookies, which I made small to fit in tupperwares.
And Buttery lemon cut-out cookies. But, I swapped the lemon for orange, and topped the cookies with some melted Maya Gold chocolate (dark choc with orange and spices). Andy did the drizzling. What is a poor kitty to do when her stupid humans turn on the oven on a hot day?

Happy culturally appropriate December holiday, everyone! Whether you're in oppressive heat, or frigid cold, or somewhere in the middle, enjoy yourselves!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

cat toys

Just to overwhelm with cuteness a little bit more...

The day we brought Nacho home, we also got her some flash furniture. It's two scratching poles connected with a kitty hammock. One the top of one pole is a perch with a rolling scratchy thing. We replaced the bottom furry stuff with a bit of carpet, and tied on some ribbons and bells.
Does she play with it, or sleep on it? No. I think she'd be happier with the plastic bag it came in. This bag doubles as entertainment and a comfy place to nap.
Eventually the hammock came down, though we might put it back up once she gets more comfortable with the scratching poles. She is starting to use the whole set-up a bit more, but it was frustrating the first few days when she avoided it like the plague!

But, we've learned our lesson. There is no need to spend money on cat toys when she's amused by the cheapest entertainment. Like ribbon.
Or the ring from a jar of Vegemite.
Other favourites: a bit of cardboard with yarn wrapped around it, and with a long tail so we can drag it around. Toilet paper rolls, especially if they have a *little* bit of toilet paper left on them; she attacks these with her full body, front and back legs. Buckets, either empty (she crawls inside and rolls around) or full (she sits on the edge and dips her paw in). Wadded up paper balls. And the fishtank. This last one is a bit problematic. She's tried jumping on it a few times. Mostly now she just bats at the fish as they move inside the tank. They're not too fond of her.

I was really hoping she would lay in the hammock. Imagine how freakin' cute that would be?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fancy food

I'm not sure why, but some of our meals have had a very fancy feel to them lately. Like this pasta, from the Gourmet Vegan cookbook. I think the recipe is called "Fettucini with zucchini, almond and mint" or something equally as creative. The main ingredients were... fettucini, zucchini, almond, and mint. We also added carrots and capsicum, and used veggie stock instead of wine. The mint gave it a lightly zingy flavour, but neither Andy nor I were totally impressed with this dish. A good summery meal, though!
We had the pasta along with this fancy salad Andy made. Although I've done it heaps of times before, fruit in a veggie salad makes me feel very posh. I love grapes, strawberries, and mango in salads. For this one, Andy cut up some orange. Other ingredients are lettuce, cucumber, tomato, avocado, and beetroot, and dressed with Apple Balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.
Another night, we had a veggie-full meal. Asparagus spears are much more elegant than cut-up asparagus. These were sauteed in olive oil, salt, and pepper. The bruschetta has tomato, parsley, olives, and capers. The glowing white blob is garlic and parsley mashed potatoes.
For dessert, how about a brownie sundae? I made SusanV's fatfree and fabulous fudgy brownies, to send along with some cookies for friends. Andy and I kept a few that wouldn't fit in the box. Since I used mango flavoured silken tofu in the brownies (which you can't really taste), we served the brownies up with So Good's new Mango Coconut Swirl soy ice cream, and some fresh mango chunks. Yum!
And don't worry about washin up, Nacho's got that covered.
I couldn't resist, I'm obsessed with her! And she is obsessed with water. She loves playing in the bathtub after we shower, climbing up on buckets of fishtank water, climbing around the sink... I thought cats hated water!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Thanks everyone for your comments. I'm very happy to join the ranks of Vegan Bloggers With Cats. Nacho is a great kitty.

A quick note on the RSPCA (thanks, Kristy, for reminding me!). All animals from the shelter (at least Townsville, and I assume everywhere else) are put up for adoption only after they've been de-sexed, microchipped, wormed, and started on their vaccinations. That goes for puppies, dogs, kittens and cats (and maybe some other animals, too!).

So, in Townsville, we paid $125 adoption fee, which includes all of those things which, combined, cost a lot more. Plus, we were given a few discount vouchers for Greencross Vets. And that money goes to a good cause. I don't think I'll ever get an animal from anywhere else.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Not that kind of nacho.

Instead of buying each other gifts this year, Andy and I decided our christmas would be better spent adopting a cat. We decided to do this before my parents came to visit, but decided to wait until after they left. Then we realised we needed real estate approval, since we rent and hiding a kitty in our place wouldn't be successful. Friday, we finally got an approval letter in the post, so we raced off to the RSPCA and tried to choose between the 25 kittens they had available. 25! Plus a few who were just desexed and weren't quite ready, and three grown up cats (one of whom was adopted while we were there).

We settled on this little girl, a quiet, sleepy kitty who doesn't use claws when she plays. Her name is Nacho.In her first night at home she refused to be shut out of the bedroom--she meowed and meowed whenever she thought she was alone. Then she woke up every 2 or 3 hours and meowed in the middle of the night. She made up for it by taking lots of naps the next day.
She often lays like superman--back and front legs spread as far as they will go. We think it's either because it's been quite hot, and she likes the cool tiles on her belly, or her desexing scar (which got the stitches out just before we got her) is a bit sore. Either way, it's cute.
When she's falling asleep, she alternates between clenching and stretching her paws.
I've never been much of a cat person. I grew up with dogs, and was always a little nervous around cats. During my week in Canberra with Anna and her three cats, I realised I quite liked them. Still, a kitten is a completely different story. I'm surprised at how quickly she bonded to Andy and I, how little she eats, and some of her mannerisms.

Adopt-a-Cat christmas is so much better than Buy Nothing Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Vegan Cookie-Off

Instead of buying presents this year, I've decided to give the gift of baked goods to my Australian friends and family. To kick off the baking season, I planned to make some brownies (more on these in a later post) and jam-drop cookies. Simply baking wasn't enough for Andy, who was a bit bored. He wanted a contest. I was reading the paper, so I let him go first (since we've only got one mixing bowl).

He opened up VwaV, looked at a few recipes, and then ignored them all. He dumped in some flour, and lots of cinnamon and nutmeg. He soaked raisins in tea to rehydrate them. He took some leftover silken tofu out of the fridge, which was just enough for the brownies I had planned. When he realised he couldn't use it, he started to lose interest in the competition. When I offered to take over, the competitive streak took back over. To the spicy flour, he added some sugar, a bit of cocoa powder, bicarb soda, and chopped peanuts. In went the raisins, some vegetable oil, and the raisin-y tea. For no measurements whatsoever, the texture was only slightly stickier than an average cookie dough.

Then Andy looked at the dough and wondered how to bake it. Well, inspiration took over again as he envisioned a giant cookie. Out came the springform pan, and in went the dough. Oh, but it didn't stop there. Before baking, he sprinkled the giant cookie with shredded coconut, and blobs of raspberry jam (in the hopes that the jam would melt and spread in the oven).

My by-the-recipe jam drop cookies seem boring in comparison!

Not to mention tiny! Look at the size difference between our cookies... (And some Belgian style homebrew)

So how did Andy's giant cookie extraVEGANza turn out? The texture was somewhere between a slice, a storebought fruitcake, and a cookie. It got better the next day. The flavour was like nothing I've ever had before. The jam was definitely the star ingredient.

I hope all your holiday cookies adventures are as exciting as mine!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention the winner! Thanks for reminding me. Whenever we have cook- or bake-offs, we don't really decide on a winner. There isn't much of a partial observer to decide in the house... but I'll give the award to Andy, for being incredibly creative and somehow pulling it off despite completely winging it!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mango Madness

As promised, I've started to get creative with mangos.

We got this tray of 18 mangos for $8. That's $0.45 each! And they are good-sized, so it is a bargain. This tray was from some kids selling them by the roadside. Are we supporting local agriculture, or future venture capitalists?
Using some leftover mango sauce from VwaV Mango-Ginger Tofu, I made Curry Mango Lentils.
It was easy. Cook brown rice. In a separate pan, saute some onions, then mix in carrots. Stir through a spoonful of curry paste--we used yellow curry paste. Then add 1 cup or so of lentils and twice as much water. Cover, simmer till the water is absorbed, and then mix in as much mango sauce as you can handle. We used a good sized jar of it and found it wasn't too mango-ey. Then we mixed in some green peas and red capsicum, for colour, and topped the whole thing off with more fresh mango! The sweet and spicy combination made for a yummy dinner.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Choko Loco

Andy isn't loco about chokoes (called Chayote, Chouchou, mirletons, and various other names, depending on where you are), so my experience with them has been limited. Very limited. The only time I've eaten one was over a year ago, when our mexican housemate-at-the-time cooked one up and let me try a piece. A few months after that, I saw SusanV post a recipe for stuffed choko, and I really wanted to try them out. But then they went out of season and I forgot all about them.

Until last week. They must be back in season. They are 50 cents each at the market. So I grabbed one.

When deciding how to use it, I looked at a few recipes online. There were two main camps--choko/seafood combinations (or sea vegetables) or tex-mex style. Since we had some fresh corn from the market, I decided to go the tex-mex route. The first step (unless you're eating the choko raw in salad) is to cook it. I kept it whole and boiled it in salted water for 20 minutes or so, till it was just tender. Then let it cool, cut it in half, and eat the seed. At first bite, Andy thought I was crazy to eat the seed, but then he came back for more.

For my choko loco casserole, I sauteed some onions, then added corn, capsicum, and the choko. I stirred through some cumin, chilli flakes, and salt and pepper. Then I mixed in a tin of diced tomatoes and some refried beans. The whole thing was topped with wholegrain breadcrumbs (tip: if you make crumbs and don't use them all, freeze them. They come in handy for a meal like this) and baked for about 30 minutes.
We served it up with a side salad.

The verdict? Andy's still not loco about chokoes, but I'm determined to try this veggie out some more.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Easy Peasy

Sometimes I don't feel like cooking elaborate meals. If I'm busy, or the weather is particularly hot and muggy (in Townsville? NO!), or I'm just lacking inspiration, I just can't be frigged. There are a few things easy enough to eat on those days...

Premade falafels, just heat and eat. Does it get much easier? These were reduced to clear so we snagged them, and served them on potato flat breads (frozen from an earlier venture) with hummus and salad.
Sweet potato chippies. Chop sweet potatoes (in this case, a mixture of orange and the purple skin, white flesh variety). Mix with olive oil and spices. Bake. Eat.
If you've got the energy to chop, stir fries are always a good option. Before heading out to a movie, Andy quickly threw some seitan into a marinade of soy sauce, chilli, lime, palm sugar, and green curry paste. It was spicy. We came home and chopped up a few veggies, opened a pack of pre-made hokkien noodles, and cooked it all up in the wok.
Although I'm stirring, it was really Andy's creation.

What do you cook up when you can't be frigged?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Cupcakes vs. Muffins

What's the difference, anyways? Is a cupcake smaller than a muffin? But, what about mini-muffins? Is a cupcake a muffin with icing? Are muffins healthier? Denser? Fluffier? Are cupcakes for dessert, whereas muffins are for breakfast?

I don't know the difference, but I like to make arbitrary distinctions. Since Andy's mum sent me some silicon muffin/cupper pans, plus silicon liners, for my birthday, I have plenty of opportunities to play around with the two now.

To christen the new baking equipment, I made Coco-Mocha cupcakes. I used the standard Wacky Cake recipe (thanks Bazu, for the history lesson on this cake!), but instead of water I used coffee. I planned on just doing mocha cuppers with chocolate icing, but Andy revealed a secret: he doesn't like icing! GASP! I feel like I don't even know him anymore!! So, before they went in the oven, we sprinkled some shredded coconut on top. Does the lack of icing make these muffins?

On the weekend, I made some low-fat berry muffins. I replaced the egg and butter in a standard blueberry muffin recipe with mango-flavoured silken tofu. And instead of just blueberries, we had half a pack of frozen mixed berries.
These were tasty, but they didn't rise much or get crispy on top. That meant the muffin top was only marginally better than the stump. And I wanted really good muffin tops. It's my favourite part of the muffins. I even filled the cups to the very top with batter, in the hopes that the tops would be ginormous. I think the lack of crispiness is because our oven heats from the bottom, but does anyone have any suggestions on how to remedy this?

What are your favourite muffin and cupcake recipes? Do you prefer one form of snack-sized cake to the other? When eating muffins, do you start with the top or the stump? Did you really expect muffins and cupcakes to generate this many questions?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Mango season is back....

I posted about mango season last year, twice actually. But really, this is a big deal in my life. If you look on my facebook profile, one of my interests is "mango season". This is the time of year we look forward to all year. Last year, Andy and I bought tray after tray of fresh, local mangos, and cut them up to freeze, and we enjoyed frozen mango for the rest of the year.

The start of the season is a bit of a tease. You watch the mangos show up on the trees, too small and green to pick. Then you see a ripe one on the ground, of course half eaten by a bat. They are too expensive in the shops and markets, so you wait. But then, they start to get bigger. They develop a gentle blush. And all bets are off. Andy picked these when my parents were visiting. Most are common mangos, but the three bigger ones are Bowens.Here's a common mango being cut into. Their flavour is okay, and the flesh is a bit stringy. If you bought these you might feel a bit ripped off, but it was a good way to ease into the season.Since we had so many, we made the Mango-Ginger Tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance. It was pretty good, especially considering the mangos were mediocre. But the recipe made so much marinade! We've got a full spaghetti sauce jar of it full in the fridge.
We've got a few months of mango season left, so expect many more mango-y creations...