Thursday, January 31, 2008

It's so good

For vegans in Townsville, there is not much variety in vegan processed foods. One grocery store in town carries Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese. There is no vegan sliced or block cheese. And there is one brand of ice cream to choose from: Sanitarium So Good. Luckily, they’ve just come out with a new flavour: Coconut Mango Swirl.

When you see the ‘97% fat free’ label, you might think it’s not so good. Especially if you’ve tried their chocolate ice cream, which was more like frozen yogurt, in my opinion (good in it’s own right, but not ice cream). But the new flavour is creamy and rich, yet somehow manages to stay light and delicate. The coconut flavour of the ice cream is not overwhelming, but just tickles the taste buds. The mango swirls make for a surprising burst of mango flavour, with pieces of real fruit. Natural fruity flavours mean the ice cream doesn’t need to be overwhelmingly sweet.

Healthy as well as delicious, and great on its own, or alongside fresh mango or brownies: this ‘frozen dessert’ is the perfect antidote to a tropical vegan sweet tooth.

P.S. Kevin Rudd, Australian PM, has set a date for an apology to the Stolen Generation on behalf of the government. Maybe the police should apologize for the alarming number of indigenous deaths in custody, including the one on the Australia Day weekend. Unrelated, I know, but these are the things I contemplate while eating ice cream.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chickpea Cutlets, two ways

Thanks to Celine for pointing out the online version of the much-blogged-about Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon, I have finally tried them out. After hearing numerous excellent reviews, I had scribbled down the recipe and then came across a few not-so-great descriptions.

I decided to try them anyways, and to stick to the recipe for the first test. My only change was to use fresh sage instead of dried, and to form them into nuggets, rather than cutlets.

I thought they were surprisingly easy to make, and they didn’t take long at all to cook. The flavour was fairly simple, and was perfect dipped into a mixture of tofu mayo, hot sauce, and tomato sauce. They were a bit chewier than I expected, almost stringy even after they’d been cooked; not a downside per se, but a bit weird.

The next time around, we had less than a quarter cup of wheat gluten but decided to make the recipe anyways. This time, I mashed the chickpeas a bit more than before. Instead of water, we used a salty veggie stock. We added probably twice as much multi-grain bread crumbs than the recipe called for, and filled in for missing wheat gluten with plain flour. Instead of lemon, sage, and paprika, we opted for lime and coriander chickpea cutlets. We replaced the soy sauce with lime juice, used lime zest instead of lemon, and added a healthy amount of chopped fresh coriander. These were formed into cutlets and fried up.

These are a winner. Andy and I both found the texture much more appealing with the addition of extra bread crumbs. The flavour combination of lime and coriander is always a winner in our house. I topped my cutlet with plain tofu sour cream, and Andy had BBQ sauce. Andy envisions chickpea cutlet burgers in the future, since they are so much easier to make than our current seitan burgers. I think we’ll keep playing around with this recipe, trying out different flavour combinations and textures.

Chickpea cutlets are definitely a winner, I think.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A day of food with the Tropical Vegans

I’ve seen some bloggers do food diaries in the past few months, and I think it’s a good idea so I’m stealing it. Here’s what we ate over the course of one day…

We started the day off with a bowl of cereal and a cuppa tea. Meusli and Sultana Bran for me, and Vita Brits, Corn Flakes, and Nutrigrains for Andy (we are cereal mix-masters). Whenever we have cereal, we have to fight off the cat, who loves snagging oats, flakes, and nutrigrains from our bowls. Her breakfast is 2 scoops of Veganpet dry cat food.

For a mid-morning snack at uni, we each brought a hot cross bun spread with Nuttlex margarine and lightly sprinkled with nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla sugar. Both Woolworth’s and Cole’s hot cross buns are vegan*, and if you shop at the right times, you can find them marked down to half price or lower.

Lunch for me was a leftover chickpea cutlet with some leftover pasta. There wasn’t enough pasta sauce, so I supplemented with some salsa. For Andy, a salad sandwich on a Soy Linseed roll.

When we came home from uni in the early afternoon, Nacho got another scoop of Veganpet, mixed with a bit of snipped cat grass. Andy had a pot of tea. We each had a Berry Chocolatey Blondie. These are basically the Raspberry Chocolate Chip Blondie Bars from Vegan with a Vengeance, but with a few changes. I used blueberry flavoured soy yogurt; I subbed just under half the flour with whole wheat flour; instead of the raspberry layer I used a mix of raspberry and blackberry jam; and instead of chocolate chips, I chopped up 2/3s of a bar of Lindt 70% cocoa.

A little while later we split an orange and a half. Andy started putting together a marinade for some seitan, which consisted of soy sauce, orange juice (the other half), garlic, and hoisin sauce. Nacho got another scoop of Veganpet (are you noticing a trend?).

An afternoon bike ride got our hunger up for dinner, but we kept it fairly light with a stir fry. It featured carrot, capsicum, mushrooms, marinated seitan, and noodles. Alongside dinner we each had a glass of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, which did not go well at all with the flavours in the stir fry. For Nachito, a scoop of Veganpet mixed with a little bit of mashed carrot.

After a day full of food, we still found room for dessert. A mango sundae, to be exact. So Delicious coconut mango swirl ice cream (review forthcoming) and some fresh diced mango. Yum. And for Nacho, yet another scoop of Veganpet.

Aside from all the sweets, and the wine, this was basically an average day. Most days we bring a banana to uni rather than a hot cross bun. Anyways, I find that whenever I try to record my daily food intake, I’m having an ‘unusual day’, so I’ve realised that I don’t know what usual is anymore. But in general, this is a pretty good snap shot of what we eat.

*The hot x buns from Woolie’s in Townsville are vegan. But check the ingredients at your local store, just in case.

Friday, January 25, 2008

My shiny new...

I’m pretty much a tight ass. I don’t like to spend money on things. Generally, if Andy and I can live without something, we do. When we do purchase stuff, it’s either used, or reduced to clear.

I bought my bike at a garage sale for $10. It’s too small for me. It squeaks. When we were changing a tire one day the back brake broke. It’s hot pink, and rusty. At first, I thought it was the bomb diggity. I felt so punk riding around on such a piece of trash. I didn’t even need to lock it up, because you’d be crazy to steal it.

But, with petrol prices going up, Andy was thinking about getting a bike to ride to uni. After looking around at a few shops, we both agreed it would be completely unfair for him to wizz around on a flash new bike while I chugged away on the old gal. We considered buying cheap bikes from Kmart or Toys R Us. But after a few conversations with Andy’s cycling-fiend brother, we decided we should get a proper, bike shop bike. Because, in some cases, you really do get what you pay for. Anyways, we both feel better about giving our money to a small, local bike shop rather than an American corporation.

And what a great decision it was. The guy at the bike shop spent probably 2 hours total talking to us about different types of bikes, the brands he liked best, what we needed it for, and you could tell he wasn’t trying to rip us off. We felt comfortable with him, and we liked the looks of the bike he suggested, so we ordered two of them--mine in 56 cm, Andy's in 60 (he's super tall).

Andy and I are now the proud owners of two Kona Dews (dew dew, heehee). It’s sleek, it’s sexy, and it’s so much easier to ride than my old beast of a bike. It's a commuter bike, so it has many features of a racing bike but without all the expensive extras. With tires that are designed for asphalt, and a frame that makes pedalling much easier, I envision a lot more bike riding in my future. And every time that Andy rides his bike is one less car ride.

Photo from Kona website

In terms of petrol costs alone, it may take a while for these bikes to pay for themselves. But, when you factor in the health benefits (we both spend a lot of time sitting in offices at uni), environmental effects, and all those other unquantifiable benefits, I think we’ve got an incredible value.

And anyways, sometimes when you spend money, you get good deals. In addition to the bikes we got a helmet, lock, and pump all for half price, and our first service is free. All up, I think it was worth spending a bit of extra cash. But I’m still not paying $5 for veggie hot dogs.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


This weekend, Andy went out to the reef for a research trip. Usually when he's away, I eat lots of crap, especially carbohydrates. But I just spent a month doing that in the name of christmas, so I didn't really need to eat more crap. So I planned a short detox for myself.

It was nothing official, just a self-designed 3 day thing. I read lots of websites and gathered information from them about what types of food I should eat, as well as exercising and other details. Especially informative was all the tabs on this website.

The parameters I set out for myself included no caffeine, no refined sugar, no salt, no wheat, no soy (not that it is bad for you, but I consume a whole lot of it and wanted to give my body a break), and no processed foods. Mostly, I planned to eat lots of whole, raw fruits and veggies. I also aimed to drink at least 2 litres of water per day. And, I would avoid uni, and thus the internet, and get caught up on some back work I had to do.

The first day was easy. The second wasn't too bad either. I ate lots of mango, fresh pomegranate, bananas, and oranges. For dinner I had garlic soup full of fresh tomato, carrot and eggplant; or miso soup with wakame. I went for a few walks, and did some pilates and other stretching exercises. To add some variety in textures, I made some mango banana sorbet. Basically, I peeled and chopped one banana and two mangos, then squished it all up with my hands and froze it. Very easy.
I also made this banana sesame pudding, aka a banana mashed with some tahini, maple syrup, and sesame seeds. Sure, it looks like mushy baby food, but it tasted good.

By the third day, I was really craving some starchy food. All I wanted was a piece of toast. But, that would be cheating, so I had to find another way to satisfy that urge. Almonds and dried fruit didn't do it for me, but plain organic popcorn made a fair effort.

For my last detox dinner, I had plain brown rice with lentil capsicum salad. It was okay, but really, I just wanted some salt on it.

Everything I've read and heard about detoxing has implied a horrible few days, full of 'healing crises' and headaches. That didn't happen to me. I don't even feel particularly better--though I didn't feel bad in the first place. I think next time I'll do it for longer, or do something a bit more drastic--all juice or something. I did find that I drank 3 litres of water a day, plus tea. Maybe that's because it was 36 degrees out. All told, I don't really see what the hype is with detoxing, but I'll give it another go in the future.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hell yeah

When I was visiting the AK Press website to order my Slingshot, I noticed a vegan cookbook for only $3: Hot Damn and Hell Yeah: Recipes for Hungry Banditos by Ryan Splint. I'm often hungry, and I would like to be a bandito, so I decided to add it to my order.

The day it came in the mail, Andy flipped through and decided we had to try the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos from the cookbook (in my last post). We got some silken tofu to make the Almost Sour Cream, and with the leftover tofu we made the Mayonnaise recipe. We both loved the burritos. The filling was thick and creamy and flavourful. The Almost Sour Cream was fairly different to cow sour cream, but it was good alongside the burrito filling nonetheless. Andy wasn't sold on the mayo, but I think it's pretty good. We also used the Easy Gravy for our meat pie (also in the last post). Four recipes down.

The next night as I made a side salad and tried to think up a dressing, I thought: we have mayo in the fridge finally. I tried to recreate Thousand Island Dressing. But considering that I've never even seen a recipe for the stuff, this may be completely off. It is Hot Damn Mayo, some diced gherkins, dijon mustard, and tomato sauce. The mayo made a great base for the salad dressing since it coats all the veggies, and Andy decided he likes it.

Saturday morning I woke up well before Andy did, and I felt like baking. Hot Damn and Hell Yeah was still on the countertop, and I remembered it had a recipe for Cranberry Rockcakes. We didn't have any dried cranberries, so I used dried mixed fruit instead, and replaced the lemon zest with cinnamon. These were quick to make, fun to pull apart, and delicious warm from the oven. The description of the recipe says these are good for lazy Saturdays at the bandito hideout, and I think Ryan hit the nail right on the head.
The next recipe we tried from the new cookbook was Potato Salad. It utilised some more Mayo, along with chopped gherkins, mustard, celery (I used celery seed for the flavour since I didn't have the veggie on hand) and shallots. My only other change to this recipe was using a mixture of regular potato and purple sweet potato (which I loved and Andy didn't). This potato salad recipe was the most reminiscent of the potato salad my mum used to make. We had it alongside some glazed beets and stir-fried zucchini and carrots.
Finally (so far), corn bread. I followed the recipe exactly, because last time I tried making corn bread it turned out like dense, flavourless polenta. I used Ryan's suggested egg replacer: a mix of baking powder, bicarb soda, flour and water. I don't have an 8 inch square pan, so I thought a round pan would work... I don't know whether to blame the pan or the egg replacer, but this got so big. I was not expecting it to rise so much. But, I guess the excessive rising just means more corn bread to go around. The texture and flavour of this cornbread was exactly what I had in mind. It brought back memories of eating cornbread alongside split pea soup that my mum made.
So far I've made seven recipes from this cookbook, and I've only had it a week. That should be enough of a rave review. But seriously, this cookbook is awesome. Many of the recipes remind me of childhood comfort foods. It has a serious dessert section, including Apple Enchiladas, which I can't wait to try. The recipes all call for ingredients which are easy to find, and they are quick to prepare. I strongly recommend buying this cookbook. For $3, you get lots of yummy recipes, cool drawings of skeleton banditos, and, the whole thing is written in a southern accent. But since it was written by an Australian, I imagine an Australian trying to sound southern, which is hilarious.

On an unrelated note... yesterday I looked out my office window and the view was pretty much like this one, except that the car that I saw was blue instead of silver. The main road of the uni became a raging torrent (well, maybe that's an exaggeration, but there was quite a current!). A BIG tree fell down near Andy's office. Today, I see blue sky. Gotta love the rainy season.Photo from this article in the Townsville Bulletin.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A week of black beans

Last weekend Andy and I took an exciting trip to the Asian grocery where we picked up all sorts of goodies, most notably, a kilo of black beans. I don't know why, but black beans are practically impossible to buy in Townsville. Not one supermarket in the whole city carries them. Weird.

Pretty much as soon as we got home, I cooked up a batch. Probably 200 or 300 grams worth. And we've been eating black beans ever since. Not every single day, but close.

The very first black bean meal I've had in ages was enchiladas. I sauteed together some onions, carrot, capsicum, potato, and black beans with some cumin and a little bit of mole sauce. I rolled up the filling in some tortillas and topped it all off with lots of mole. And, since the oven was on, we threw in some tots.

Next up came a pot of chilli. The inspiration for this came from a few places, especially Kristy's blog, and the VwaV recipe for Chilli sin carne al mole. But the impetus to cook came from a package that arrived from my parents, full of lots of stuff, as well as two packs of Frito's Scoops. My mom had brought some with her when they visited, and Andy was impressed with how much dip he could get in each corn chip. Anyways, the chilli flavours are copied from VwaV, but instead of seitan chunks I used TVP granules and chunks of carrot and zucchini. And I used black beans instead of kidneys, naturally.

Lunches were also blackbean heavy, with lots of leftovers and a quickly made rice and beans--leftovers of both mixed with tomato sauce, bbq sauce, and nut yeast. Sorry, no photos, but it was nothing spectacular.

Next up, burritos. Sweet potato and black bean burritos from my newest cookbook obsession, Hot Damn and Hell Yeah: recipes for hungry banditos. This is a great cookbook. Expect a post in the next week or so. The burrito filling was tasty and thick. And his suggested accoutrements--shallots, fresh coriander, salsa, and Almost Sour Cream (also from this cookbook) were perfect. It's a bad photo, but here's the burrito, pre-folding:

And a money shot:And finally, black beans made a cameo in this meat pie. We froze some leftover enchilada filling, and when Andy felt like a pie we decided to mix it through. Other pie fillings: eggplant, TVP, and mushroom-vegemite gravy. Right before the top crust went down, Andy added a layer of tomato sauce. Yummy.
Happy black bean week, everyone!


Andy doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, so our sweets are not as sweet as most sweets. Sweet sweet sweet.
Coffee cake. Essentially the recipe for Blueberry Coffee Cake from VwaV. But, I cut it in half. I used half whole wheat flour (which I forgot was self-raising, hence the incredible leavening of the cake). I used blueberry yogurt and no actual fruit. And for the topping, I replaced walnuts with coconut. The result was fantastic.

More often than baked goods, we fulfill our sweet cravings with fruit. These mangos are called "Nam Doc Mai". They are a thai variety, and the flavour is very different to your standard Bowen mango. They have a milder mango-ness, and almost a hint of vanilla. They are juicy and fantastic.
Here's one, cut into. The photo doesn't really do it justice.

I've saved the prettiest for last. A dragon fruit (or, rather, two dragon fruits) from the Old Hippy at the market. I love the contrast of hot pink, white, and black. The texture is like a kiwi fruit, and the taste is mild, not quite as zingy as a kiwi. Fresh dragonfruit is completely different to it's bottled juice form which was trendy before I left the US. When I drank the juice, I thought dragonfruit tasted like cranberries. Now I'm pretty sure they just flavoured it with cranberry, because the fresh stuff is so different from cranberry. Try fresh dragon fruit!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Purposefully vegan

There's nothing accidental about this--only I didn't notice it till afterwards. At the supermarket last week we found this Wild Mushroom & Port dip, reduced to clear. For $1, we were totally game to give it a try. After searching for the ingredients, which are around the outside of the label, I determined it was vegan so it got thrown into the cart.
When we got home and started digging in, I looked more closely at the lid... It actually says "Vegan" right on it! On the same label where I scoured the ingredients looking for animal products! The next time we went in the shops, we looked at this brand again, and all their dips have the vegan label. How cool!

I'm a bit obtuse sometimes, but when I make these discoveries I get very nerdily excited.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Nacho is Green

Not only does she love our green shopping bags, Nacho's diet is more eco-friendly than most cats.

I know the issue of vegan pets is a controversial one, even amongst vegans. But before we even adopted our kitten, I knew that I would be terribly uncomfortable about buying and feeding her dead animals. Especially after I've read in a few places that pet food often contains downed slaughterhouse animals, the leftover bits from abbatoirs, and sometimes even euthanised shelter animals. I didn't want to force my dietary choices onto a carnivorous animal (dogs are omnivores, and most people have no qualms about veganising them, but cats are a bit trickier), but I knew I had to at least give Nacho the option.

I did a bit of googling, and found a vegan animal food supplier in Australia.
Veganpet is Australian-owned and operated, making Nacho's diet local when compared to multi-national pet food companies. It offers complete nutrition for dogs and cats, and puppies and kittens. The ingredients are human-grade, organic where possible, and entirely plant-based. It is more expensive than the crap you buy in a supermarket, but comparable compared to the veterinarian-recommended brands. When I compared the nutrition information with Hill's Science Diet, it is almost identical--except the ingredients in Veganpet don't come from 'chickenmeal', 'beef fat', and other deadly sources.

Cats have a few specific dietary requirements, namely tuarine, which are not naturally found in plants. But, what the big pet food companies don't tell you is the tuarine contained in their food is artificial and plant-based, so Veganpet is on par.

But would Nacho like it? We started her on the food she was eating at the shelter. After a week, I was sick of the terrible smell of that death-food, and started mixing in a bit of Veganpet. She didn't bat an eyelid. I mixed in more Veganpet. She still paid no attention. Eventually we switched her entirely. She loves it. If she had rejected the food, I would have given up on the idea of a vegan cat, but luckily, she made the ethical choice :-)

To give Nacho some variety, we occasionally mix her food with veggies like mashed pumpkin or potato. We're still experimenting with foods to see what she likes and dislikes, but beans (specifically the water they're cooked in) are a popular item. She also regularly steals cereal from our bowls in the morning while I'm making the tea. If we have cake on the counter she licks the crumbs from the plate. Nacho's willingness to devour Veganpet means that her ecological footprint is much smaller (she's very glad about that), and she can live a healthy, happy life without cruelty to other animals (this makes her even more happy).

If you're not convinced, check out the website. There is interesting information about the dietary requirements of animals, the nutritional information about the food, and other info.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Adventures in Uncheese

Just after I got my copy of the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, I posted about some of my experiments. At first, I was cooking mainly uncheese sauces. We went a little crazy and had them more than once a week, on top of bakes, or on pizza. Then when I visited Canberra, I found some agar at an Asian grocery, which made the block uncheeses finally do-able.

But, when we had agar, we ran out of tahini. Or we didn't have raw cashews. Or we were out of lemons. Andy got impatient and made the Gouda anyways. He cut the recipe in half. He used hazlenut meal instead of cashews. He used dark, unhulled (very bitter) tahini. And he just chopped and mashed everything, but didn't blend or process (due to our lack of a blender or a processor). The result? Tasty, but more like a pate than a cheese. Note to self: use the proper equipment and ingredients.

When we finally got all the proper ingredients, we decided to make the Colby Cheez. Instead of roasted capsicum, we subbed tomato paste, as per the suggestion in the book. We boiled the hell out of the agar, blended everything with our new (well, used) stick blender, and poured it into a tupperware to take shape.After a few hours we tried a bit. It was okay.... the tomato paste flavour was almost overwhelming. We had some on crackers, which was better. We sliced it thinly and made grilled cheez and tomato sandwiches.It was good in sandwiches. We cubed some and put it in a salad, which was not so great. Then, Andy minced up half the block and mixed it into a veggie and refried bean mixture and turned it into a mexican bake. This was probably where it shined the most, which is sort of a waste of agar.

Determined to stay happy with the book, we tried another recipe, for Gooey Grilled Cheez. This is probably my favourite recipe from this book. The cheez was thick, gooey, and the perfect yellow colour. We made some sandwiches, as well as quesadillas.My current opinion on this cookbook? The cheez sauces are great. The pie crusts are fab. The block uncheeses? Maybe we lack some equipment to make them just right, so we might steer clear for a while. Still, the book was definitely worth getting.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

2 Fruit & 5 Veg

That's the recommended daily intake of produce in Australia. I think it's a bit low, but then, I'm a kooky vegan.

1. Look at this super ripe, red tomato. Andy was having mouth-gasms over this farmer's market find. "This is the way tomatoes should be!"How does one eat such a perfect specimen? Simply--on toast with salt and pepper.
2. From red to green... leafy greens. Spinach and tofu calzones, with a bit of red capsicum thrown in for colour and crunch.

3. Funny little eggplants, another farmer's market find. The man at the market told us they were good in stirfries, or cut in half and tossed in a salad. He said they grow on big trees. We put them in a stirfry, some cut in half and some left whole. They were disgusting. Maybe we got a bad batch, but they were so bitter and gross.4. Mahogany Eggplant, a recipe from Vegan Planet. Instead of just eggplant, I used some zucchini and carrot as well. Served with fluffy jasmine rice.
5. Pumpkin vindaloo, based loosely on a recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. Lots of fresh mint on top, because the mint grows much quicker than the coriander.
For fruit? It's obvious...
1. Mango. Actually, coconut pancakes (from VwaV) with a fresh mango sauce. The sauce is just mango, about a T. of brown sugar, and a pinch of ground ginger.
2. Our fruity christmas bounty, a buttload of mangos for $6. We worked it out--25 cents a mango. Now we're talking! And you can't forget about the lychees. $6 for a "farmer's kilo" from the friendliest couple at the market. Nacho is actually yawning, but it looks like she's being very overprotective of her fruit. She loves pumpkin, but barely sniffs at mango.
And what better side dish to fresh produce than some left-leaning news? A friend sent me this article and I thought I would share. I think the most interesting part is towards the end, so don't forget to flick to page 2!