Thursday, March 31, 2011

Leftover Oatmeal Pancakes

The other day we were running low on soy milk, so I made oats for breakfast instead of cereal.  I put in the amount that I thought Andy usually makes - I filled up a drinking glass with oats, and then added two full drinking glasses of water.  And some brown sugar, cinnamon, and dried mixed fruit.  Only, when I poured it into our bowls, it was much, much more than we could eat in one go.

Instead of letting that leftover porridge go to waste, though, we made pancakes!  I followed this recipe, except that I used egg replacer powder instead of eggs (overripe bananas would probably be very yummy, if bananas didn't cost so much at the moment!).  And a mixture of soy milk + water instead of cow milk.  They were super easy to make, and they cooked up nicely. 

And the results were yummy - chewy, moist and full of flavour from the fruit and cinnamon in the porridge.

We had ours with jam. And they were delightful.  I think I'll make too much porridge from now on...

It's a big batch, though - we got 14 regular sized (maybe 4 or 5 inch circles) and one bigger one.  So now we have leftover leftover porridge pancakes

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kalamata Olive and Sundried Tomato Bread

Have you read Emma's excellent blog, Vegan Food for the Hungry Student, yet?  If not, you totally should - Emma is a kickass Brisbanite who makes her own bread, grows food and has cool cats.  And she regularly posts recipes for seriously cheap meals.

Last week was a bit rainy, and I read Emma's blog post about Kalamata Olive and Herb Bread.  I thought it sounded pretty wonderful.  I ended up 'working from home' on Wednesday (that is, doing some reading, but also watching Glee.  What? I'm only parttime, anyways!) and as it was grey and cold and pouring rain when I woke up, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to bake this bread.  Only, I hadn't written down the recipe, and didn't want to turn on the computer.  So I actually used the recipe for Olive and Sundried Tomato Bread from Vegan Planet.  Except I didn't even follow that exactly - I increased the wholemeal flour, added some gluten for that great, chewy-bread texture, and added herbs, a la Emma's bread.  And I put it all in the breadmaker to mix up.  Now, that may have been a mistake - there was clearly too much bread, and it had some troubles mixing.  It needed lots of help, and a bit of extra water.  But, it did get all of the flour incorporated, which is something I struggle to do when I mix by hand.  So even though I had to take the bread out and knead it by hand, I don't necessarily regret my breadmaker decision.

Anyways, after a few hours of rising, and then some baking, I was rewarded with two beautiful loaves of yummy bread.  It was very soft, thanks to the extra water, and chewy.  And so yummy!

And, two loaves meant that we could slice one and put it in the freezer, so even though we ate a whole loaf in one day (uh, yeah, we're greedy gutses), it is still the bread that keeps on giving.  Goes great with  bubble & squeak, and "Scrambled Eggless Eggs" (from How it all Vegan, and a great name for a recipe!).

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Tropical Vegan Home - De-cluttering the hallway closet

One of the (many) things I don't like about renting is the lack of good storage space in our unit.  We have a store room for big stuff, like empty luggage, but since we don't own our place, we can't do things like build cupboard/shelving units into the walls, like I would like to.  And since we're in a unit, there isn't heaps of space for furniture like cupboards/shelving units.  And we don't like buying things, generally - partially because we don't like to spend money, and partially because we know we won't live here forever, so it seems silly to buy lots of heavy stuff that we will need to move.

But we've lived in the same place for almost 4 years now, so we've managed to accumulate lots of stuff that needs storing, even though we haven't accumulated any place to store it.  The result of this is that our hallway cupboard has become a catch-all - it is a pantry, a tool box, a craft cabinet, a place to stash cleaning supplies and cat food and anything else that we can't find a home for.  It looked like this:

The top shelf was mainly tools, some craft supplies, and some food.

One level down was a medicine cabinet, of sorts - sun screen, panadol, insect repellent, bandages, etc. And our main 'pantry' items.  And our cookbooks.

Below that was gardening stuff, paperwork, and some more food.

Second from the bottom was linens and cat stuff.

And on the bottom we had the vacuum cleaner, dive gear, and some electronic stuff.

And don't be fooled by my simplified descriptions - there was lots, lots more than this on each and every shelf.  It was a mess.  And, it was a cockroach heaven.  When I had first moved over here, I had the North American mentality that cockroaches are an indication of a filthy lifestyle.  Eventually I realised that they are just part of life in the tropics, and there is little you can do about them, really.  But that doesn't mean I want to make their lives easier by giving them a comfy mess to live in!  And anyways, clutter gives me the heebie-jeebies.  So, I set about fixing the problem.

First, I took out all the paperwork, and filed away things that needed filing.

Then I took out everything from the closet.  I got rid of a fair chunk of stuff, but it was pretty amazing to see just how much stuff we've managed to amass - especially considering that when I moved over here, all of my belongings fit into two suitcases.  This is just the food, and just the food from the hallway closet.  You see, we have a tendency to buy food en masse when it's on special, and we pay no mind to such trivial matters as expiry dates.

We also have a giant plastic box hidden behind the dining table that stores extra bags of flour and spices and so on.

When the cupboard was empty, I cleaned and cleaned every shelf.  I cleaned with bicarb soda, and with vinegar.  Then I wiped with eucalyptus oil, which is a disinfectant and hopefully a cockroach deterrent.  Then Nacho had a final check to make sure everything was sorted as I started putting things back.

Except instead of putting things all willy-nilly, like we had done before, this time there was a method to my madness.  I'll shamefully admit that I even mapped out every shelf on paper to make sure that things fitted properly.  With a bit of careful planning, I could squeeze all of the food, booze and cookbooks onto a single shelf - instead of spread across three or four.

Finally, a few hours later, I had everything that was going back put away.  A lot of stuff was re-homed to more appropriate places, like craft stuff in my craft box in the other room.  A lot of stuff was thrown out, or set aside to be donated.  What went back in, then, was the cream of the crop.  On the top, I put the tools and electronic stuff - Andy uses those more than me, so the fact that I can't really see the shelf isn't such an issue.  I also moved our filing system to the front of the top shelf, because that's easy enough for me to grab.  Below that is all of our food, and then the next shelf down has garden and random household stuff (extra toilet paper, candles, etc).  And our medicine cabinet supplies - with plenty of room to grow.  Further down, linens, office supplies, and cat stuff.  The bottom shelf changed the least - it still houses the vacuum cleaner and Andy's dive gear (which I hadn't yet replaced when this photo was taken).

It's still not perfect, and I still long for the day when I can build a shelf into a wall without forsaking my bond, but at least now I can find the things I am looking for!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Although Andy and I have had success with making our own hot dogs, and we typically think that homemade beats store bought every time, we want to reduce our smug emissions so we buy pre-made veggie hot dogs when we see them on sale.  They are good to keep in the freezer for those days when you just don't feel like cooking much, or you crave junk food.

When I was home alone in January I took a pack out of the freezer.  Since they come in bunches of 6, it lasted me for three meals.  The first round, wrapped in puff pastry with tomato sauce, was exactly what I wanted (though I don't have photos).  The other two were a bit stranger, though.

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to saute some hot dogs with butternut pumpkin, spinach and gnocchi.

Yeah.  As I was cooking this, I was aware that it didn't even sound good.  But I forged ahead.  And the results were to be expected - the components didn't go together very well, but my belly was full, some nutrition made its way to my body, and that was that.  I don't suggest this as a meal for anyone else, ever, at all.

My final hot dog meal was slightly more inspired.  Franks & beans is a thing, I thought, so why not put that on a pizza?

And so we have this pizza, which had potential but just didn't work out.  Baked beans, left over from another dinner, served as the sauce for this pizza.  And hot dogs made up the topping.  Some more veggies, or some kind of cheesy substance may have helped this be better.  But as it was, it kind of just repeated on me and made me feel not that good.

Our freezer is devoid of hot dogs at the moment, and I'm happy to leave it that way for a while!  They're a food that I think will be great, but the results rarely live up to my expectations.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hey, look at this

I can't take credit for this idea, but it was really good so I want to share.  Andy decided that he wanted to make baked tofu, but in the style of our christmas seitan roast - in other words, wrapped in yuba.

He put slices of homemade tofu inside of dampened yuba, and then basted them in a soy, sugar and oil mixture before they went into the oven.  The yuba was a little sloppy, I suspect because we bought the cheap stuff, but it did the job and once it crisped up you could barely tell that it wasn't perfect.

It was a yummy, crispy wrapper to soft, sweet tofu.  And easily gluten free - just use wheat-free soy sauce as a baste.  These weren't completely perfect - the inside was a bit bland, but that is an easy fix.  We'll just marinate the tofu before wrapping and baking in the future.  But this was a great idea, and I highly recommend it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Chia Goo.

When Andy goes away, I get the idea that I should buy grocery items that are a little bit fancy - to treat myself, and since we save heaps on groceries (since I alone don't eat even half as much as we eat together) anyways, it just makes sense.  And then I wander through the grocery store, picking up things like biscuits or fancy nuts, and putting them back on the shelves.  And I walk out with a few potatoes and some tofu, or something similar. 

When Andy was away in January, though, I followed through.  I bought a jar of chia seeds. 

Then I went home and googled them.  Apparently they are very good for you, but I won't rehash the nutritional stuff here because I'm no nutritionist!  I also read that the best way to make use of them was to soak 1/3 c. of seeds in 2 c. of water.  Kept in a jar in the fridge, this supposedly lasts for at least three weeks.

Well, mixing chia and water is exactly the preparation for growing chia pets, and if you have ever done that, you may remember the gooey slime that is created from this simple mix of two ingredients.  It's kind of cool, more so than gross.

I added some to smoothies, but then we had a cyclone and bananas became ridiculously expensive, so smoothies stopped happening in my kitchen.  So I've been eating my chia goo on granola, and on breakfast brown rice pudding. 

My first jar went off when we lost power for 5 days, which we expected.  But then I made up another batch and in two weeks it had a sour milk smell.  Maybe I just need to make smaller batches...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

One Dish Round Up

For the past few months, I have been testing recipes for Carla's in-the-works cookbook about one-dish meals.  Andy and I tested a bunch of recipes around christmas, and then took a few weeks off from testing, before another big spurt in the last few weeks.  Carla has recently discussed a slight change in direction with her publishers - so I won't be testing any more.  However, I have really loved the recipes we have tested, so I'll post some photos here to give you an idea of the excellence that Carla manages to come up with.

 White bean peanut dip tastes like yummy peanut sauce, in dip form.  What else could you want?

Carla's spiced oven wedges have become a popular side dish, like here with sausage rolls.

Baked lemon tofu with green beans reminded me of an excellent flavour combination that I haven't taken advantage of in a while - lemon pepper.  Duh, but yum.  

Cream Sausage & Tomato Pasta was really easy to pull together, and very yummy.

The sauce, bubbling away on the stove after maybe 10 minutes of prepping and cooking.

Franks & Beans, which we actually served as "Bangers & Beans" using sausages, was super tomatoey and hearty.  Served with a side of creamy mushrooms, and some toast, this was almost brinner.

One of our favourite recipes is Carla's Crumbed Seitan.  The crumb mixture is a lot more interesting than our usual, so we've had this a few times.

 All fried up, these schnitzels are crispy and tasty.

We had them once with garlic mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy.

Then another time we served them up with mashed sweet potatoes (the ones with purple-red skin and white insides) and Easy Cheesy Gravy from Ultimate Uncheese.

And the leftovers from that were turned into parmas - a jar of enchilada sauce and some leftover cheesy gravy, and popped in the oven for a few minutes.

Two cuisines meet in Ethiopian Sweet Potato Stew, which matches the spices of Ethiopian cooking with the peanut stews of Western Africa, with sweet potatoes and chickpeas.

Seitan, marinated overnight in Thai BBQ marinade and then baked with some veggies and frozen spring rolls, made for a really yummy and really easy weekday dinner.

Red Seitan Curry required more effort than the last meal, but was well worth it on a Sunday evening.  The seitan is cooked in the curry itself, so it is full of flavour with a texture that is quite different to typical seitan.

Corn bread scones were simple to make, full of flavour, soft and delicious.  Declared by Andy to be the best corn bread I've ever made.

We served our scones with Kidney Bean & Sweet Potato Chilli, a thick and herby stew which we topped with jalapeno slices.
We made the chilli with a mix of orange sweet potatoes, and these beauties with an ugly white exterior but a brilliantly violet inside.

The chilli was reincarnated later in the week as Chilli Muffin Loaves, light little muffins with chunks of sweet potato and bean throughout.

Home made tofu is beautiful when marinated and baked, and Carla's Pan Pacific Marinade didn't disappoint.

My advice is to keep your eyes peeled for Carla's cookbooks, because if the recipes I've tried are anything to go by, they will be excellent.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Friday Night Dinner.

The end of a long week.  A friend is preparing to head to the Amazon for a year, so there are drinks to be had.  Come home at nearly 9pm, not drunk by any measure but just not that inspired to cook.  Check cupboards, fridge, and freezer.  Inspiration: crumpets.  With ice cream.

In this case, candy cane & choc chunk ice cream.

Being a grown up isn't so bad sometimes.