Friday, February 29, 2008

Eating from blogs

In addition to being a good form of procrastination, blogs provide an abundance of great new food ideas and recipes. In less than a week, Andy and I have found three new favourites from different blogs.

First up, my favourite metal vegan femme, Ashasarala, posted her mum’s recipe for black bean burgers. I made these exactly as the recipe said, but the end result was a bit dry—I blame my oddly cooked black beans, a result of experimentation with a new pressure cooker. To make up for the dryness, I added about ¼ c. of veggie stock with a teaspoon of cornflour, to make the mixture the right consistency to form into patties. These were good. Really good. We had them in tortillas with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, sautéed onion and mushroom, bbq sauce, and sour cream. We’ll definitely make these again.

Next up, I made Liz2’s recipe for Aloo Paratha, posted at her blog Kamutflake Girl. Tangy, spicy potatoes warmly embraced by whole wheat chapatti = heaven, plain and simple. I made the potatoes a day or two ahead of time, so they didn’t even feel like much work. I thought the process of stuff the bread with the filling would be complicated, but it was really much easier than I thought. The perfect accompaniment to dhal!

And for dessert, how about some pie? When I saw Emmie, aka VegBitch, post about strawberry lime no-bake pie, I knew I had to make this. The only problem was, we didn’t have many of the ingredients on hand. One evening Andy went up to the shop to buy marked down bread so I asked him to get some frozen strawberries and vegan biscuits. He came home with raspberries and blackberries. We got yogurt, and found some vegan Nice biscuits (Cole’s brand). There is no such thing as vegan whipped topping in Townsville, so I used some mango flavoured silken tofu. The only problem was that I didn’t really measure, because the cup was full of sour cream in the fridge. I think I had way more filling ingredients than the original recipe called for, because there was definitely not enough agar to gel the pie filling (we stuck it in the freezer to make it keep its shape). The end result was vastly different to the recipe posted, but it was good. With some tweaking, it will be really good. Andy and I are both imagining the different fruit and flavour combinations we can create with this basic pie recipe. For now, here is a picture of my Raspberry Blackberry Lime Mango no-bake pie!

All of these recipes will be getting a workout in our house in the future, and I suggest that you try them, too!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Survey says?

This survey has been making the rounds in the vegan blog-iverse, so I thought I would jump on the bandwagon. As I was filling it out, I asked Andy many of the questions, and his answers made me laugh so I included them for you all.

1 . If you have to choose between locally grown or organic, which do you usually choose?
I would probably choose the cheapest option, but if they were both the same price, I would go local.

2. Favourite way to prepare potatoes:
I love potatoes in every shape and form. My favourite way for me to make them is probably mashed. My favourite way to eat them when someone else has made them is roasted and crispy—I can never seem to get them to go crunchy when I roast them.

3. Do you press your tofu before preparing/cooking it (if you eat soy)?
I have once or twice, but I generally find it’s a waste of time and I just skip that step in the recipe. If I’m using frozen tofu, I squeeze the hell out of it, but don’t press.

4. Name your favorite recipe that is a tradition in your family:
We’re not really a food tradition kind of family, though my grandmother’s recipe for peanut butter frosting has served several generations of cake-eaters quite well!

5. Any food allergies?
No, thank god. I have seasonal allergies, and possibly a wee little cat allergy.

6. When you want to go to a fancy dinner, where do you go?
I’ve never, ever been to a fancy restaurant—vegan or not. So I suppose my house is where we get the fanciest food when we feel like it. Andy has an aversion to any restaurants with a table cloth, because he says they give you tiny food on a huge plate, and charge a buttload of money for it. “I don’t care that they charge so much, but I want to be full at the end of it.” I’m inclined to agree with him.

7. When you have a cold, what do you crave?
Toast. Toast with avocado, toast with just margarine, toast with vegemite, toast with banana… Andy swears by a tea of chilli, ginger, garlic, oil, lemon, and hot water—chug it down and you’ll feel better straightaway.

8. What kind of water do you drink? (Filtered, spring, tap, etc.)

These days, either straight out of the tap or from a jug in the fridge (which gets filled straight out of the tap). I would like to get a filter, because I’ve always been a bit of a water snob—I grew up drinking the yummiest well water, and now chlorinated water doesn’t really do it for me. Plus, Townsville’s water is fluoridated, which kind of squicks me out. Do brita filters get rid of fluoride?

9. Name a flavor of soda you'd love to see:
I don’t really drink soda, but… maybe strawberry lemonade? Andy says ‘soy and mushroom… not garlic, not in a fizzy drink, it will go up your nose and hurt’.

10. If the recipes you ate as a child were compiled into a cookbook, what would the title be?
Convenience foods and creative leftovers

11. If you were allowed to grow one food that can't grow in your climate, what would it be?
Hmm… I think maybe cherries. And other stone fruits like plums. Andy reckons nectarines.

12. Favorite type of mushroom?
I’m not much of a mushroom connoisseur—we usually just eat regular button or flat mushies, but my favourites were some of the crazy looking ones I was fed in Thailand.

13. Most frustrating part of your kitchen?
There’s no pantry! Our cabinets are overstuffed because the food competes with pots and pans and other kitchen stuff.

14. Last food you burned?
Some toast I was making for breakfast, but then it was topped with tinned spaghetti so you could barely taste the burniness.

15. Usual response to a veg*n's favorite question, "But where do you get your protein?":
I haven’t gotten this question in ages. I always wish I had a witty response to that question, but I just kind of blabber about protein being in everything, like beans, veggies, grains, etc.

16. If you were baking your own birthday cake today, what flavor would it be?
Lime, coconut, ginger. That’s just what I feel like today, it isn’t always my most favourite combination. Andy says: Blue!

17. Favourite brand of chocolate chips?
No vegan chips that I know of in Townsville shops, so I buy vegan chocolate bars when they’re on special, usually Lindt 70% or 80% dark and then I smash it up.

18. You have $200 of your tax return reserved for Williams Sonoma - What do you buy?
I’m torn between buying a nice food processor, and cashing it in to head to thrift stores and garage sales to get all kinds of kitchen stuff like baking dishes, cake and cupcake tins, sifters, utensils…

19. Do you plan your menus in advance? Any tips to share?
If there’s a recipe I see on a blog or something that I really want to try, I will plan that ahead. And sometimes we’ll think about various things to have throughout the week after we get back from shopping. But nothing is set in stone, and it usually changes.

20. You have 3 minutes before you have to leave the house and you're starving- What do you eat?
Toast with peanut butter. Says Andy: Bread.

21. If Martha Stewart, Paula Deen, and Rachel Ray got into a fight, who would win and how?
Martha Stewart. She spent time in prison, remember? She’s hardcore.

22. If you eat oatmeal, what do you add to it before serving?
We make oatmeal the night before and let it soak in the fridge, so it doesn’t take so long to cook in the morning. Usually Andy makes it, and he adds various amounts of brown sugar, dried fruit (which gets really plump overnight), jam, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, bananas, coconut, etc. I always sprinkle on some ground LSA before we eat.

23. If you got to travel to one country and learn all the traditional dishes there, where would you go (ignore commitments in your current place of residence)?
I think Ethiopia. It’s easy to get good, cheap Thai or Indian food. But great Ethiopian is hard to find, and usually expensive. Plus, they spend half their year in fasting mode, which is just a vegan diet plus fish, so there would be heaps for me to eat! Andy chose Thailand.

24. Favourite late night snack?
I usually eat so much at dinner that all I have room for before bed is a cup of herbal tea.

25. Favourite springtime food?
There’s no real spring here, rather just dry and wet seasons. But, I think fresh corn was really good at the market during the technical springtime, that and asparagus.

26. Favorite food-related magazine?
I read Vegan Voice, which is slightly food related. That’s the only magazine I buy.

27. Which do you prefer: shoyu, tamari, conventional soy sauce, or Bragg's Aminos?

28. What vegetable or fruit do you dislike the most?
Peaches and apricots. I hate the taste, and the smell. Especially artificial peach scented things—ack. Andy hates ‘those yellow button shit mushy things, disgusting, those green ones as well’—he means button squashes. He also listed artichokes, orange sweet potato, mushy pumpkin, leeks, those weird little eggplant things, durian… ‘they’re all shit’.

29. Name a holiday food you look forward to all year long:
Cranberry jelly.

30. If you could convert anyone to veganism with your magic wand, who would you convert?
Oprah. She has such wide-reaching influence that veganism would be a lot less ‘freaky’ if she were herbivorous. Andy thinks a vegan butcher would be funny.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Lately, we seem to be eating a lot of food that is either on a roll, or in a roll…

Soy Hot Dogs, reduced from $5 to $1! We bought a few packages and stuck them in the freezer, but then the freezer got really full and really icy, so we were on a mission to eat some stuff. The result, soy hot dogs twice in two weeks (and a bit of a belly ache each time). The first time, we ate them quite plainly, with just tomato and bbq sauce.

The next time, we had them with ‘the works’: mustard, tomato sauce, sautéed onions, and baked beans.

Now in a roll. During an exciting trip to the Asian grocery a few weeks ago we bought some yuba, aka tofu skin or bean curd skin. According to Vegan Planet, yuba is the skin that forms on the top of hot soy milk as it cools. We didn’t follow a recipe for these, but the filling is eggplant, leftover rice, capsicum and diced tofu, flavoured with hoisin and plum sauces. Yuba is funny to work with, and funny to eat—it’s chewy and so salty! We were gulping down water all night.

One rainy day when I was stressed out with some uni stuff, Andy made me a gorgeous meal from Vegan with a Vengeance: Sweet Potato Crepes with Coriander-Tamarind Sauce. He added spinach to the filling, and a bit of red dye to the crepe batter, but this recipe was basically followed completely. Except instead of coconut milk, he used coconut cream, which made the sauce really rich. I thought these were good, though not spectacular. Andy was so disappointed. He spent 2+ hours making this, and he just wasn’t bowled over with the results. This is a meal that looks much better than it actually is, I guess.

Our most recent rolled food, mango and beetroot rice paper rolls. In addition to the fruit and the root, these have mung bean threads and shallots. For such a simple combination, these were very good, though it was only halfway through rolling that I realised I wasn’t sure mango and beetroot would go together! Luckily, they do. The beetroot provides a delightfully earthy crunch to the sweet, soft mango. Andy made two dips for these, one soy-sweet chilli, the other peanut satay. Both were excellent.

Food on a roll is definitely easier to prepare than food in a roll (especially for me, I can’t seem to roll a pretty roll for the life of me! They are all so sloppy), but food in rolls is tastier and more fulfilling, in my opinion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The last weekend of summer. In words and (cat) pictures.

This past weekend was the first dry, sunny weekend in a fair while, and it’s also the last summer weekend (Australian autumn officially starts the 1st of March). Andy and I saw it out in an appropriately summery manner.

The weekend started on Friday night with a trip out to Thuringowa’s Riverway.

Photo courtesy of my mum and dad.

They were having a Friday night market and a ‘dive-in’ movie. We wandered through the market, entered a competition for a new bike which we don’t need, and then hopped in the pool. The movie that was playing was Open Season, and though I couldn’t hear much over the splashing and yelling, the gist I got was that it was a pretty vegan film. Basically, a bear is living a cushy life with a forest ranger but something happens and he is forced to move into the wilderness. At first, he doesn’t fit in with the wild animals, but they eventually band together to fight off the evil hunters. His wild side comes out when his annoying deer sidekick is injured, and at the end he is forced to choose between a return to the log cabin or life in the woods. Of course he chooses the natural life, because even a loving human isn’t a good enough excuse to keep wild animals in captivity! If you have children in your life that need to be indoctrinated with animal rights messages, this is probably a good film to show them. ;-)

After we dried off and came home, we enjoyed the very last fresh (giant) mango of the season…

Luckily we froze a few mangos so we can enjoy them all year long.

Saturday morning was an opportunity to give the house a big end-of-summer clean. With all the rain we’ve been having lately, everything got very damp and mouldy. Plus, with a kitty in the house now, it’s easy for cat hair to build up in corners and carpets. We washed all the sheets and put them out in the sun with our pillows to let ultraviolet light work its anti-microbial magic while we got our sweat on. Andy vacuumed the whole house (vacuuming is just as effective against fleas and other pests as chemicals) and shook the dust and hair out of furniture while I scrubbed surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom. All our cleaning supplies are cheap, vegan and environmentally friendly: salt, vinegar, bicarb soda, eucalyptus oil, and lots of elbow grease.

I also made some herbal mothballs from dried cloves, rosemary, thyme and mint, tied up in a tissue.

To cool off, we headed to the Townsville Rockpool

Photo courtesy of my mum and dad

and after the swim, we swung by the Townsville City Council building for a Sustainability Expo. We each got a free greenbag and compact-fluoro lightbulb. We got info about hybrid cars, solar panels, a natural pest control business in town, and we got a free shower timer. There was a stall giving away free native plants, so we grabbed a Palm Lily, a Stiff Jasmine, and a Paroo Lily. There was also a sausage sizzle, and while there may have been veggie sausages available (I didn’t ask), I always find it amusing and also depressing that people are so unwilling to make the connections between meat consumption and the environment.

When we came home, I planted our little plants in the front garden. Andy installed our two new CFLs in the last two vestiges of incandescence—over the stove, and in the toilet. Now all of our light bulbs use less than 40 watts—there’s one big fluoro in the kitchen, the rest are 10 or 12 watt CFLs.

Sunday began with an early morning trip to the farmer’s market where we gave our new bags a workout. We didn’t get much because the pickings are still slim, but there were glimmers of a produce-filled future. New season avocados were for sale! They were $1 each, which is too much, but soon they will come down. I can’t wait. Then we had a leisurely day of reading the newspaper, flipping through the new Vegan Voice magazine, screwing around in the garden and getting ourselves ready for Monday.

Unfortunately, Sunday was our last leisurely summer day for a while—Monday saw me teaching qualitative research methods to physiotherapy students for 8 hours. Andy had to wake up at midnight to head out for a diving daytrip to do counts of bull rays. The new semester is starting, and much busy-ness is predicted for the future. At least this last weekend was a relaxing end to my most favourite season.

Farewell, summer! Come back and visit soon!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Happy birthday to...

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Today, the 21st of February, is the 160th anniversary of the first publication of The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. I think it’s safe to say this has been one of the most influential books in the world we know today. Over the course of 16 decades, a lot has changed. But I think the basic argument of the Manifesto is still incredibly salient in the world today. This isn't the communism that we know from China or the USSR. This is a critique of capitalism, and a hope for a better world.

As is pointed out by Marx and Engels in the text as well as in prefaces to several editions, “the practical application of the principles will depend … on the historical conditions for the time being existing, and, for that reason, no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II” (from the Preface to the German edition of 1872). So, if the idea of all workers of the world uniting in the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie sounds a bit far-fetched, fret not, the nuts and bolts of the revolution isn't the important part of the Manifesto.

Despite the change in conditions, much of the critique still remains pertinent. For example, the Manifesto argues that capitalism reduces humans to their monetary value [I would argue that it does the same to animals, as well]. It argues that capitalism is out of control, no longer led by the bourgeoisie--it's become an entity of its own volition.

One of the things that I find the most appealing about the Manifesto is that it doesn’t just critique; it also offers a vision for the future: Communism, that is, the abolition of bourgeois property (not property generally). Marx and Engels saw a world in which no one can make profit from the work of others. In fact, the whole notion of profit would be thrown out the window. Exploitation of men and women alike would become extinct, and likewise, “the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to.” As vegans, let's take that one step further and make exploitation of animals extinct.

The other great thing is that Marx and Engels wrote with the average joe as the target audience. The argument is clearly laid out, and though the critique is incredibly potent, it isn’t hidden amongst high-fallutin’ theoretical jargon. The point of the manifesto was to incite a revolution, and that won't happen if everyone is left scratching their heads and searching for a dictionary.

Sure, there are problems with Marx and Engels and the Manifesto. It is very andro- and euro-centric (though some of these issues are addressed through footnotes added later, mainly by Engels). Marx’s idea that every society must go through very specific stages is narrow and has been argued against by many, especially third world scholars. And the notion of violence and bloodshed doesn’t really appeal to me, nor to most people.

But still, the idea that there is a better way for the world breathes life into my inner idealist and revitalises my commitment to ending exploitation and injustice—to animals, to women, to black people, to poor people, to all people.

Happy birthday, Communist Manifesto. Whether you’ve ever read The Communist Manifesto or not, get thee to the nearest library and check out a copy today!

All of my quotes come from the version of the Manifesto which was printed in The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker (1978). I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More hot damn and hell yeah

My obsession with my newest cookbook is still going strong. Probably our two favourite recipes are for mayonnaise and almost sour cream. They have graced the table for a lot of meals in the past few weeks. One thing we’ve discovered, though, is that using lime juice in the sour cream is much better than lemon juice. The best part about them? They only use a little bit of oil, so they are leaps and bounds better for you than their cruelty-filled counterparts.

Fajitas. Tofu strips marinated using the ‘beef style’ marinade. Served with salad, and with almost sour cream and salsa.

Leftover salsa was mixed with fresh raw corn and sautéed onions, and put on top of boiled whole potatoes (we wanted baked, but the oven heats the house up too much). The potatoes were topped with more almost sour cream.

Layered nacho dip. Refried beans, a layer of fresh raw corn, a layer of ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Cheese’ Sauce (from the Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook), a layer of almost sour cream, and a dollop of salsa. The whole lot was topped with some diced cucumber and made a perfect dip for crunchy corn chips.

A Mexican-style pasta bake—pasta with refried beans, tomatoes, corn and capsicum, topped with a mixture of bread crumbs and polenta and baked. We served it with lots of almost sour cream, as well as salad and garlic bread. Yum!

Last night I had a human rights group meeting and I came home to couscous and roasted vegetables with dressing. Though the cookbook was open on the counter, I’m pretty sure the only part Andy read was the title before he started making this—aside from couscous, just about none of the ingredients in this dinner were the ones in the recipe. Still, it was delicious!

Though we’re quickly making our way through this cookbook, we have yet to make it into the dessert section… but I’ve still got my eye on the recipe for Apple Enchiladas!

But of course, my favourite vegan Nacho isn't found in this cookbook. She’s nearly five months old now, and more than 2 kilos!

And, for all the aussie vegans out there, nominate your favourites for the aduki aussie vegan awards!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The way to my heart...

…is most definitely through my stomach.

For Valentine’s Day this year, Andy and I didn’t do much. Neither of us likes buying things, and we’re both quite tricky to buy for. Most of the VD regulars are unappealing to me, what with most flowers coming from chemical-intensive sweatshop-like greenhouses in developing countries, chocolates often containing milk, and diamonds (as well as other gems and precious metals) often bloody, or at the very least, only available through an incredibly invasive extraction process. Sure, there are vegan, environmentally friendly and socially conscious alternatives (green jewelry, vegan chocolates, and organic flowers, for instance), but I’m just not interested enough in these things to bother (though I do love chocolate, don’t get me wrong).

And who says that gifts are the only way to express one’s love? Andy cooked instead. First, he cut this little Japanese pumpkin in half. I thought it looked really pretty.

Then, he made an entirely original stuffing—cranberry, orange, mint and chunks of bread. He pushed rosemary down into the pumpkin, to let it infuse with the orangey flesh. And the whole thing was baked at 180 for one hour.

Alongside the pumpkin, he made Chickpea Broccoli Casserole from Vegan with a Vengeance. With a few substitutions. Instead of oil, he used a little bag of roasted capsicum which were packed in herbed oil (reduced to clear at the shop earlier that day). Instead of bread crumbs, he used polenta. And as a topping, he mixed some dry polenta with a bit of oil and sprinkled it over the casserole before it baked.

The result was a delicious and filling dinner. I thought the casserole was bland at first bite, but it grew on me really quickly. Andy smothered his in tomato sauce (I really think sauce, and not me, is the love of his life). The pumpkin was perfectly cooked, tender but not mushy, and the flavours of the stuffing went beautifully together.

The next night I reciprocated by making Spanikopita, based on the recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. Though, the end result was probably pretty different from the recipe. Our filling was 500 grams of tofu, one package of frozen spinach, diced fresh broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, shallots, and the spices from the recipe. This was my first experience working with phyllo dough, and it was tricky but I think it worked out all right. Just next time, we might mix a thick cream sauce through the filling to make it a bit less dry. Since we had the oven on, I threw in some tater tots, and Andy made a quick plate salad with cucumber, beetroot, and green olives.

I know it's not the sexiest picture, but this was yummmm-tastic.

Is there anything more romantic than sharing a nice, warm, vegan meal on a rainy Valentine’s Day? I don’t think so.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Breakfast has always been my favourite meal. Before going vegan, visiting my local diner for breakfast was a common activity—at any time of day or night. As a vegetarian, breakfast out was still easy, but eschewing all animal products makes restaurants a bit trickier, especially for morning meals. Visits to the diner meant a side of home fries with butter-free toast and loads of ketchup and hot sauce.

When cooking at home, the vegan breakfast possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Smoothies, pancakes, waffles, French toast, tofu scrambles, breakfast burritos, muffins, scones… But, since moving back to Australia, I seem to have fallen into a breakfast rut. I blame it on a few things. One is lack of kitchen equipment—no waffle iron means no waffles, no blender means no smoothies, and I’ve only very recently gotten a muffin pan. Another reason is a lack of ingredients. How can I make tempeh bacon when the only tempeh in the shops tastes like mush? The main reason, though, is Andy’s narrow thoughts on breakfast. For morning meals, he likes cereal, porridge, or stuff on toast (namely, spaghetti).

Every now and then I try, gently, to push him outside of his breakfast comfort zone with a tofu frittata or a breakfast burrito, but he thinks it tastes like a dinner, rather than a breakfast. Sometimes I make muffins or scones, but he doesn’t like pastry for breakfast. Mostly, though, we eat cereal, porridge, and spaghetti on toast—not the most photogenic of meals.

On the weekends, we sometimes make pancakes. I generally stick to recipes, sometimes playing around with different spice and topping combinations. Andy, on the other hand, lets his imagination run wild. These pancakes have pureed mango, shredded coconut, orange marmalade, nutmeg, and I don’t remember what else. They are coloured bright blue thanks a whole bottle of blue food dye we acquired from a friend who was clearing out a kitchen before moving interstate. I called them smurf pancakes—they are so blue they match the plate!

Oatmeal is a great breakfast, especially on the days when we bike to uni because it leaves us feeling full all morning. Plus, it’s easy to play around with different flavours to keep it from getting boring. Strawberry jam, cinnamon, and dried fruit are a good combo.

Our basic, fallback porridge is dried mixed fruit, soy milk, cinnamon, and brown sugar.

When we had all those mushrooms the other week, I decided I wanted to have a big cook-up brekky. I sautéed the mushies with soy sauce and maple syrup. I also made some home fries with onion, potato, shredded carrot, and diced tomato, all spiced with caraway and wattle seeds. And, to add some much needed sauciness to the plate, baked beans (aka a tin of cannellini beans mixed with a tin of tomato soup). The piece of toast was perfect for mopping up all the flavours that were left on the plate.

Walnut date bread—for those really good dates, this is the perfect thing to serve for breakfast the next morning. Just kidding. Sort of. Dates and walnuts and LSA and oats and whole meal flour. It’s a hearty, filling bread that made great toast.

It also made great Fronch Toast, the VwaV recipe. I thought this was great. It reminded me of all those late night trips to Denny’s and ordering Fabulous French Toast with lots of maple syrup… yum. Andy didn’t love it. I tell him he’s a breakfast grinch.

Who doesn't love to read some news with brekky? Here's a really good article about why we still need feminism--here's a spoiler: women are still oppressed!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mushroom Fest

Last week Andy and I must have chosen a good time to walk up to the grocery store, because there were some pretty good finds.

Wait, is that...?

Nacho loves to play inside of every empty bag or box that she can find.*

Seriously though, we made out like bandits. Most significant were these mushrooms.

We ended up buying a whole kilo of sliced mushrooms for $3, plus 200 grams of organic whole mushies for $0.50. However, reduced to clear means they will go off soon, so we had to use them quickly.

First, one whole package of sliced mushrooms was turned into a mushroom and garlic cream sauce, which was poured over gnocchi (our dinner the night we went to see Les Mis).

Thursday, the first day of the Chinese New Year, we made mushroom wraps. To add a bit of chinese flavah, the mushrooms were baked (since I had the oven on for a cake) with five spice powder and soy sauce. After they came out of the oven, I drained the juicy stuff and stirred through a few scoops of plum sauce. Then I sautéed some onion and capsicum in the juice drained from the mushies, and we wrapped it all up with some cucumber and tomato.

After a late night on Friday, mushrooms were a welcome addition to a big cook-up brekky.

[I seem to have left this photo at home, so expect it in a future post.]

Finally, the organic buttons were stuffed with some roasted red capsicum and asian spinach (as an entrée to soy hot dogs… gourmet meets bogan, I guess).

* Yes, those are plastic bags—we almost always use green bags, but need plastics to line the rubbish bin so we get a few every now and then.


Two more things... Blogger's current #1 blog of note is Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. If you are unfamiliar with them, be sure to check them out. I totally dig their low-key sound, and, I went to uni with Gracie before she left to pursue her musical career.

Also, I saw a cool feature in Sunday's paper, so in honour of V-day (a day late), here it is...
Love in new places
  • Count the stars instead of the number of carats in a diamond ring.
  • Join an animal rights organisation such as PETA instead of buying a fur coat.
  • Stretch out on the grass instead of lying on the latest leather sofa in a designer showroom.
  • Walk barefoot through the morning dew instead of buying the latest stilettos.
  • Smell flowers from your garden instead of the latest perfume.
  • Love yourself instead of changing to fit in with the crowd. Then settle for nothing less than someone who feels the same...

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Yesterday was a big deal for Australia. Kevin Rudd, the new prime minister, made a formal apology to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Parliament. The 7.30 Report offered really good pre- and post-apology coverage which is worth a watch. This was a big step, but yet, a lot of people are still sadly misinformed about what, exactly, he was apologising for. Even fewer non-Australians have any clue what the Stolen Generations is. If you’re curious, check out this site, or read Kevin Rudd’s speech here. As a researcher studying Aboriginal activism, I had to go to all the celebrations around Townsville (in the name of duty, afterall) and was regaled by dancing and speeches. I’m glad I was in Australia to see this bit of history unfold.

On the theme of Indigenous Australians, I wrote a short article at the end of January which I'm thinking of submitting to Vegan Voice, Australia's premiere (only?) vegan periodical. Before I send it off, though, I'd like to get some feedback about it. So if you're interested, have a read through and let me know what you think--does it make sense, can you follow the argument, should I expand on anything, that sort of thing. I've tried to keep it short, because there are a whole lot of examples that could be brought in, but here it is...

Getting rid of the cages

On Saturday, 26 January, 2008 an Aboriginal father of five was arrested for drink driving. Since he was serving a suspended sentence for an earlier driving offence, he was remanded to the nearest jail—over 900 km away[1]. He was driven in the back of a paddy wagon which has been described as ‘in a parlous state’, with air conditioning that was very likely not working[2]. During that trip, he collapsed and later died in hospital[3]. The cause of death was a heart attack, and with daytime temperatures of 43 degrees it is hard to believe that transport conditions played no part in the death[4].

This Aboriginal man’s journey sounded strikingly similar to the transport of farm animals. A Canadian animal rights group reports that over 600 million Canadian farm animals are loaded into the backs of semi-trailers and transported for hours on end in the heat of summer and the cold of winter, with no concern for their health and welfare[5]. The Animal Freedom Foundation reports that pigs are transported to slaughterhouses in violent and stressful conditions; and laying hens are “pushed violently into crates for transport, risking fracture, and transported to the slaughterhouse in trucks under stressful conditions”.[6] The Fremantle group, People Against Cruelty in Animal Transport (PACAT) calls for an end to live animal exports from Australia because of stress, injuries, illness and disease which leads to the death of tens of thousands of sheep, cattle, buffalo, goats, deer and camels every year[7].

Stressful, unnecessary transportation in hot conditions leads not only to the death of animals, but also Ian Ward, the Aboriginal elder from Warburton.

This isn’t the only case of Australia’s Aboriginal population being treated like animals. Any history book (or current events, it seems) will indicate a similar disregard for both black people and animals. For example, a 16 year old boy was killed while in police custody in the 1980s; witnesses saw four police officers and one police aid hitting the boy and then they dragged him to a van and ‘threw him in like a dead kangaroo’[8]. No wonder average police officers think of Aboriginal people as animals; the Sydney District Police Commander, Executive Chief Superintendent Alf Peate, in 1990, was quoted: ‘normal surveillance activities can’t operate in a place like the black community . . . Where do you survey the activity of people when they are all the one breed’[9]?

This type of treatment is well represented since the start of colonisation. Monaghan describes some disturbing evidence of trade in Aboriginal body parts:

A deathbed memoir written by Korah H Wills—gold-rush immigrant who became mayor of Bowen in Queensland and a candidate for the colonial parliament—found five years ago in a Surrey attic, contains a confession about the killing of an Aborigine who was later dissected for display[10].

Evans et al. provide observations made in 1871 that clearly indicates the utter lack of disregard for Aboriginal life:

Another occasion, I was travelling on a road where for more than a quarter of a mile, the air was tainted with the putrefaction of corpses, which lay all along the ridges, just as they had fallen. It is true that the offence here was the murder of five shepherds, on one station, in a week, but such wholesale and indiscriminate vengeance seems rather disproportionate, to say the least[11].

This is just one example of large-scale massacres held all over Australia in the first century of white invasion. The imagery is reminiscent of descriptions of rotting bison carcasses in the plains states of the United States during the 19th century, where bison were left to decay until the bones could be collected easily[12]. It is common to read of Aboriginal people being shuttled to reserves on cattle trucks[13], or having their food and water sources poisoned[14]—much like poisoned food left out for stray cats[15].

Point out these connections to Aboriginal people, and they’re not surprised. As Rintoul bluntly states in his recollections of the past, “That’s the kind of thing Aboriginals had to put up with. They treated us like animals”[16]. When I sat in the Human Battery Cage in Townsville last July, an Aboriginal friend came up and expressed his support, saying he feels for the chickens: ‘they live their whole lives in confinement, just like us blackfellas.’ He said we need to get rid of all the cages in the world, whether they are imprisoning animals, black people, or women.

It’s easy for vegans to become complacent; we think that we’re doing all we can simply by changing our consumption habits. It’s also easy to view problems like racism and speciesism in isolation (and sexism, classism, etc). But the issues are inextricably linked. The blatant disregard for the life and well-being of animals is mirrored in the structural injustices experienced by Aboriginal people in Australia. Ethical vegans need to be aware of these other injustices.

As Lorna Lippman says, “The whole Australian community is at fault for allowing monstrous injustice towards a small minority to continue for so long without stern measures for its amelioration”[17]. In my opinion, this statement can be applied to any number of injustices. Since ethical vegans are already aware of these injustices towards animals, we are ideally seated to bring attention to other injustices in the community and work towards the amelioration of all of them. How do we do it? Join email lists like Women for Wik[18] or WGAR[19] to keep up to date on national happenings. Most importantly, ask around in your local community; there is sure to be an Indigenous action group of some kind. Go to a meeting, or if that makes you uncomfortable, go to an event like Sorry Day or NAIDOC Day. Bring vegan treats to share. Listen to their problems and offer them support in any way you can.

Because really, if society can’t treat fellow human beings with respect and compassion, can we really expect compassion to animals?


[8] Lippman, L. (1991), Generations of Resistance, Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, p. 105.
[9] Lippman, L. (1991), Generations of Resistance, Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, p. 117.
[10] Monaghan, D. (1991), “Angel of Black Death”, The Bulletin, 12 November, pp. 31-8.
[11] Evans, R., Suanders, K. and Cronin, K. (1979), “G Carrington 1871”, in Beyond the Act. Queensland Aborigines and Islanders: What do we want?, L. Malerzer, M. Foley and P. Richards, Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action Ltd, Brisbane.
[12] "Cherokee Outlet Cowboy--Recollections of Laban S. Records" by Laban Records b. 1856, d. 1941
[13] Reynolds, H. (1989), Dispossession: Black Australians and White Invaders, St Leonards, NSW: Allen and Unwin.
[14] Reynolds, H. (1989), Dispossession: Black Australians and White Invaders, St Leonards, NSW: Allen and Unwin.
[16] Rintoul, S. (1993), The Wailing: A National Black History, William Heinemann, Victoria.
[17] Lippman, L. (1991), Generations of Resistance, Melbourne: Longman Cheshire, p. 132.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Eating out of season

First—don’t forget to head along to the Fatfree Vegan Kitchen to drool over all the entries in the Vegetable Love competition, and to vote for your favourite!


Living in the tropics, I expected to have a vast array of fresh, local produce to choose from at all times of the year. And most of the year, that’s the case. But alas, summer in Townsville is far too hot and far too wet for most fruits and veggies. The number of stalls at the farmer’s markets dwindle, and the variety becomes sparse. Sure, we could supplement with things bought from supermarkets, but they are transported pretty far—which is often reflected in the price.

Still, there are a few veggies which are available even during the hot and wet season. Potatoes and pumpkins are easy to get your hands on from the market. We supplement those with our pantry and well-stocked freezer—a few weeks ago, tofu and soy sausages were reduced to clear for $1 (a savings of $4 on soy sausages and hot dogs!), so we bought a buttload and we’re slowly making our way through them.

Here are some of the meals we’ve made during the off-season.

Green curry. Chunks of tofu, kabocha pumpkin, and potato simmered in coconut milk and curry paste.

An out-of-season risotto. Dried shiitake mushrooms, frozen green peas, carrot, and green beans (which were surprisingly cheap at the shops).

Since it is the rainy season, some days it gets cold. Especially after a wet trip home from uni. Granted, by cold I mean 25 or higher, which most people think is hot, but compared to 34 it’s chilly! I’ve even broken out the sweatpants a few times in the past several weeks. Yesterday was one of those days. Rain bucketing down, jeans all wet from walking between the office and the car, I came home and immediately changed into my favourite red sweats. After dinner, the power went out, so we lit some candles and huddled around a battery powered radio, sharing one pair of earbuds, to listen to Australian Story on the ABC, featuring Ben Potts--the guy who boarded the Japanese whaling ship, and wasn't allowed off. Later, we went for a walk around the very dark block and marvelled at the branches and palm fronds that had fallen on powerlines and houses, and watched the wind through the wires and the trees. It probably wasn't the safest decision, especially since we weren't wearing shoes, but luckily we didn't die.

Sweatpants weather calls for comfort food. Like mashed potatoes and gravy. More specifically, a mixture of mashed plain and orange sweet potato, topped with a gravy made with soy sausages and one leftover seitan burger.

Instant falafel mix is a quick and easy meal. Since we had the oven on one afternoon, Andy baked his balls. Then at dinner time we heated them up in a frying pan and they were fantastic.

At least February is the last month of summer, and avocados (and many more veggies) will be back in season soon!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Veggie Love

While browsing through various blogs last week, I saw that SusanV is hosting another Vegetable Love competition in honour of Valentine’s Day. I’ve never entered a blog competition before; quite frankly, I’ve never felt creative enough. I nearly wrote off this one as well, as I read through the rules: entries must be healthy and low in fat, and must feature at least one vegetable. I thought that a large majority of the dinners we eat fit these criteria, and I just wasn’t inspired enough to come up with something competition-worthy.

But then I thought, why limit myself to dinner? We add fruit to savoury dishes—could I put veggies into a sweet? I thought through my options, and figured I’d be best with either carrot, pumpkin, or beetroot, or a combination. I narrowed it down to beetroot, because the colour seemed appropriate for Valentine’s Day. I googled some recipes, I thought about my substitutions. I chose four options and then let Andy decide which one I would ultimately make.

His choice: beetroot chocolate cake. I saw a few recipes for this, and I compiled them and veganised and fat-freeised and uniquised, and I think the recipe is pretty good—and definitely different enough to call my very own. A combination of beetroot, orange, cinnamon, and cocoa provides the flavour base for this cake. I expected a texture similar to carrot cake, but was pleasantly surprised to find that my recipe yielded a dense, rich torte.

I know, beetroot in cake sounds pretty weird. But, somehow, the healthy ingredients all combine to form a sinful-tasting treat. This is something to share with the one(s) you love without feeling bad about making them fat and unhealthy. Andy recommends serving it with some sort of cream or sauce or ice cream, because it’s so dense.

Here’s the recipe:

“I love veggies so much, I’m having them for dessert” Torte

What you need:


1 c. wholemeal flour
1 c. white flour
¾ c. cocoa powder
1 ½ T. baking powder
1 T. cinnamon
¾ c. raw sugar
2 T. orange zest
200 g. beetroot, peeled and grated (try to pick the smallest beets you can find as they are the sweetest)
2/3 c. apple sauce
¾ c. freshly squeezed orange juice
250 g. silken tofu (I used almond flavoured, which really just tastes slightly sweet. If you use plain, you might need to up the sugar.)


½ c. orange juice
¼ c. icing sugar
1 T. cinnamon

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Spray your pan with cooking spray. I used an 8 inch springform, and then got 4 cupcakes as well. Or you could make just one in a slightly larger pan—say 9 or 10 inches. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa, baking powder, and cinnamon. Stir in sugar, beetroot and orange zest. In a separate bowl or a food processor, combine apple sauce, orange juice, and silken tofu. Blend (I used my handy stick blender) until smooth. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, and pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 1 hour and test with a skewer—if cake is still gooey inside, cook for up to 90 minutes total. We left ours a bit gooey, because Andy hates dry cake. While the cake is baking, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze. When the cake is removed from the oven, pour on the glaze and let cool for an hour before removing from the springform pan. Store in the refrigerator.

I didn’t want to leave Nacho out of the veggie-lovin’ fun, so I made her up some special cat treats. They combine her three most favourite foods—oats, pumpkin, and oil—with a bit of soy milk, wholemeal flour, and ground LSA for nutrition.

Pumpkin Oat Kitty Bickies

What you need:

1 ½ c. oats
½ c. whole meal flour
¼ c. vegetable oil
½ c. lowfat soymilk
1 T. ground LSA (that’s linseed/flax, sunflower, and almond)
2 T. mashed cooked pumpkin
Optional ingredients: nutritional yeast, catnip, veggie stock

What you do:

Combine all the ingredients. Form into kitty-sized biscuits and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 180/350 for 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container in a cupboard or the freezer.

My first blog competition proved inspiring; I think I just may have to do this again. And I think I’ll play around more with beetroot for dessert…

Friday, February 08, 2008

A night out.

On Wednesday night Andy and I went to see the Townsville Choral Society’s production of Les Miserables. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Mis is just full of social commentary. It questions the law, skewed notions of justice, and the prison system. It depicts the greed and corruption that is rife within capitalist systems. It features class struggles and insurrection—but set to music. The battle is a bit glum, but then, much of history isn’t happy. And for the romantics in the audience, there’s also a love story involved.

I must say, though, it was a bit weird sitting in a theatre full of Townsville’s bourgeoisie while watching this musical. During intermission—just after hearing the students’ tirade against the bourgeois who ignore the plight of every day people—everyone was sucking down champagne and wine. It was the same thing when we got free tickets to see a stage production of Animal Farm in November. For both plays, Andy had to wear proper shoes instead of his usual ratty black thongs. Neither of us feels very comfortable in those situations—we’re definitely not a closed-toe couple.

Despite feeling out of place, Les Mis has been my favourite musical since middle school, when I sang young Cosette’s solo for the high school chorus concert (yes, I was a music geek—I was in the choir and I was lead clarinet). I went to see it on Broadway with my mum in year 10. We watched the non-musical version starring Liam Neeson and Claire Danes in high school French class. Rather than limiting itself to a simple love story (like many musicals seem to do), Les Mis tackles issues like suffering, greed, and poverty all in 3 hours.

I can’t help but make comparisons with my other favourite musical, also about class conflict and insurrection—Newsies.

(Okay, so the ending of Newsies is pretty much the exact opposite of what happened in real life, but it is Disney.) Although this film was released when I was in 2nd grade, I watched it for the first time in 2005. The songs are catchy and far more cheerful than those from Les Mis (again, it is Disney), and perfect to sing when facing down the police at a protest.

Like this one:

And our ranks will grow
And we’ll kick their rear
And the world will know
That we’ve been here!

Or this one:

Friends of the friendless, seize the day
Raise up the torch and light the way
Proud and defiant
We'll slay the giant
Let us seize the day

Maybe that’s the secret to a successful revolution—catchy song and choreography. So, creative vegans, get to work writing us some music we can sing and dance to as we turn the world herbivorous!

Since I’m a bit too busy with my PhD to write the score to the vegan revolution, here’s my contribution: anarchist pancakes.

More specifically, pancakes made with both white and (reduced to clear) wholemeal flours, coconut milk and nutmeg and topped with local mango slices and maple syrup made by my auntie in upstate NY.