Friday, December 30, 2011

Vegan Christmas

It seems appropriate to end 2011 with a summary of our Christmas, because if I leave it until 2012 I will feel slack (even though I'm still posting about our travels which happened in OCTOBER, but whatevs).

Our Christmas promised little in the way of either excitement or decoration - it was just Andy and I hanging out in Townsville, and we had a stack of novels to keep us company, and the limit of my cheer was this little display on the table (which is a major step up from most years).

For dinner, which Andy and I have on Christmas eve, we decided to be modest so we could save room for dessert.

There was a yuba-wrapped seitan roast, made as per last year's recipe, except this year stuffed with a fig & pecan stuffing, which was wonderful. There were some oven-roasted potatoes, which Andy declared "tates awesome" (get it?). There was a crunchy noodle cole slaw - you know the recipe on the back of the crunchy noodle pack, with a sesame-soy dressing. And there was cranberry jelly, from a jar, which I resisted buying because the homemade version is much better, but it was on special and Andy can't resist a bargain.

As per our plan, there was room for dessert, in the form of tropical trifle, but which I forgot to photograph. Here is a photo of my first go, but the Christmas version was made in a rectangular baking dish - partially because that's how Andy's mum does it, but mainly because our usual trifle bowl was under a friend's house and we'd been too slack to pick it up.

On Christmas morning, I woke to put on some bread - cranberry fig bread, a dried fruit combination which, to me, seems more festive than dried mixed fruit, which we always have on hand. I found a recipe for vegan panettone, but decided to just make it like a regular loaf in the breadmaker. Only, when the beep signalled our bread finished, the result was flat in the pan (despite loads of yeast), it was reluctant to come out, and when it did, it collapsed into a heap:

The reason was because it was still pretty doughy in the centre. We ate it anyways, in chunks, though my lofty goal of having cranberry fig french toast on Boxing Day was dashed.

The rest of Christmas Breakfast centred on mango mimosas - champagne with melty mango sorbet.

And on food, too. Hash browns with smoked cheddar sheese and (vegan) bacon bits. More cranberry jelly. Creamy breakfast mushrooms. And see the chunk of bread? Also, Vegan Dad's breakfast sausages. I made a half batch of this lightly sweet but mainly savoury recipe, but made the mistake of steaming them wrapped in baking paper, rather than foil - to me aluminium foil seems wasteful, and the whole thing about aluminium and health... But the baking paper wasn't tight enough so they were a bit flat, and not as dense as they should have been. But still good.

The rest of the day involved cocktails, potato chips, more trifle, novels, It's a Wonderful Life, and leftovers.

Boxing Day saw Nacho throwing up all day, and not eating. One of the throw-ups involved a 20cm piece of shoe lace. She perked up a bit after that, but then got sick again, so when she was still sick on Tuesday morning, we took her to the Emergency Vet - because it was the Christmas Day public holiday, you see, and the regular vet was closed.

While we worried about Nacho, we occupied ourselves by making some mango-beetroot spring rolls. I originally planned to have these for Christmas, but the Christmas Day public holiday is close enough, no?  In rice paper I put 20cent sweet chilli tofu...

And mango...

And a big pile of grated beetroot, grated carrot, and rice vermicelli.

Then I rolled them up.

And after we heard that Nacho's surgery went just fine, and they removed a 60cm piece of shoe lace from her guts, we ate our spring rolls for dinner.

Nacho came home the next night, full of her last dose of pain meds, and with a shaved arm where the IV had been, which I think makes it look like she has her sleeve rolled up.

And with a shaved pink belly.

She's done a lot of laying around since Wednesday night, which is good, but she's also back to eating lots, licking herself, and purring adorably.
 Happy end of 2011 to everyone, and see you next year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Some more things to do with mango

We've been busy the last few days, between Christmas, and medical emergencies of the feline variety (now sorted... Nacho ate a loooong shoelace and had to have it surgically extracted, but will be home 1 hour from now, which makes me happy). So I will get to holiday-ish posts, eventually. But, for now, I leave you with some photos of mango-creations. The season seems to be tapering off for us here, but there may be some alternative varieties at the markets in the coming weeks.

We recently grabbed this stellar bargain: fill a bag for $4.
That bag was filled, to the brim.

Most of the mangoes were very ripe, so we peeled and blended up something like 14 of them, mainly for fruit leather.

Some of the blended mango went into mango-ginger muffins.
Another scoop of the mango, blended with banana, went into the mix for granola. Served with, of course, more fresh mango on top.

Fresh mango, fresh pineapple, fresh mint, and Cointreau makes an easy but fancy grown-up fruit salad.

In preparation for a mango-coconut upside down cake, my mango slices were so pretty. Then, I poured in the coconut cake batter and baked.

When I poured, the prettily arranged slices got messed up.  Woops.

In the world of savoury foods, Andy made this "mango three way" (his name for it, not mine). Mango jerk seitan, with grilled mango cheeks, and a mango noodle salad.

Throwing mango in to a chickpea curry at the last minute is pretty delicious.

Mango, pineaple and avocado with soy & sesame dressing made a very tropical, Asian-ish side to the very traditional, Western-ish meal of seitan schnitzels with potato mash.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eating the Big Apple

New York City is kind of it when it comes to vegan eating. Sure, there are lots of great cities for vegan food, but from all the blogs and magazines and other things I read and here, NYC has a vegan version of ANYTHING you could possibly want. For reference, we used Super Vegan's restaurant finder.

We could have eaten in restaurants/street carts/takeaway shops for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between and still not even come close to sampling the variety that New York offers, but we had just come from Scotland and Ireland, where we had no kitchen. So we (mainly Andy) were getting a bit restauranted out. So we did eat out, but we also took advantage of the other thing NYC offers that we are not used to -- good, vegan-friendly grocery stores.  So, how did we do?
This is the fat cat who lived in the apartment we rented. 
Her name is She-Ra and she makes Nacho look puny.

We went to Whole Foods on our very first day in NY, because we saw it and I couldn't resist. And I'm glad I didn't! It is pretty incredible - so many things, like regular grocery stores, but mainly organic, and/or local, and/or hippy-ish versions of regular groceries.  So fun! Like this Road's End Mac & Chreese which we ate with mushrooms on our first evening in NYC, and which I posted about earlier.

In Central Park, we sought out the Good to Go Organics food truck for vegan hot dogs. They serve Smart Dogs brand, with a variety of toppings. We ordered the Two Dog Deal, one with saurkraut & mustard, and one with vegan chilli, for $14 including chips & a drink.  These were okay, but not the best ever.

In the East Village area we went to Viva Herbal Pizzeria. There were so many choices to make - crust, toppings, cheese, size... we opted for the October Special, because there was a 15% (I think?) discount. The Vegan Picante, plus Daiya cheese. Large, please. (Because an Australian large pizza is usually enough to feed Andy, just.) With a whole wheat crust. We should have picked up on the fact that most people ordered one slice only, sometimes two. Not a whole pizza, not even for two people.  Because, here's the thing: a large pizza is massive! And the toppings weren't light - soy meatballs, capsicum, and red onion, all mixed up together into tomato sauce, and topped with so much cheese. Our first experience with Daiya, and our first soy cheese in a long time, this was a bit rich, and a lot of food. But that didn't stop us (mainly Andy) eating the whole pizza! Which was a little disappointing, because it meant no room for the vegan desserts they had on offer, like whoopie pies, tiramisu, and cannoli.  What was I thinking!

In Greenwich Village we queued up at Murray's Bagels - I got multigrain with tofu cream cheese, and Andy, for some reason, ordered one with jam. I had enough cream cheese on my bagel to share, lucky for him.

In the East Village (again) we caught up with a friend from high school at Curly's Vegetarian Lunch.  I forgot to snap photos, but this was what I think of as classic greasy spoon food. There were loads of choices, but I went for a nostalgic cheese burger with curly fries, and a root beer float. Andy had, I think, the Avocado & Jack burger. Both came with Daiya, at our request. Again, too much food. This time I couldn't finish mine, probably because I basically had dessert before and during dinner, in the form of my root beer float. This meal is where it started to sink in that American portion sizes are SO MUCH bigger than my belly has gotten used to in the past 6 years of living in Australia.

In the Upper West Side, we had some delicious Ethiopian food at Awash Restaurant. We went for combo 3, the veggie platter, which was everything veggie they have, served with injera. The photo is shockingly bad, but the food was shockingly good. Ethiopian food is seriously the best, especially when it's served with proper injera.

$24 for both of us, plus extra for some St George, the beer I drank way too much of when I visited Ethiopia in 2005.

Saturday morning saw us head back downtown, really near Washington Square Park, where we met up with VKO for brunch at Sacred Chow. Again, so many choices! I opted for Banana French Toast, described as "A thick slice of our banana pound cake grilled up warm and crisp, with blueberry sauce." Really, though, this was basically a piece of cake. For lunch. It was awesome.

I couldn't finish it all, but Andy came to my aid. Even after finishing all of his Peppersteak Hero (which VKO had as well): "Grilled seitan strips, peppers, onions, w/bean cheese sauce, served on toasted whole wheat baguette. Served w/a side of home fries". As good as the food was, though, it wasn't the best part of the morning - the best part was meeting VKO, whose blog I've read for years and who is such a lovely person.

In the Upper West Side, we went to Trader Joe's, which was kind of the yin to Whole Foods' yang. It was crowded, and small, and it felt like they didn't have much of anything besides junk food and organic dead animals. We were overwhelmed, and quickly grabbed some Tofurkey Italian sausages for dinner, along with some mushrooms and pitta bread. The sausages were a lot like homemade seitan sausages, even with the chewy-stringy seitan texture to them. But for some reason (possibly all the food we'd already eaten), I could only eat half my dinner before I started to feel a bit bleh.

So. That was how we ate in NYC. I'm seriously disappointed in our lack of dessert, ice cream, and so on. But, we did pretty well, I think.  Plus, it gives us plenty of excuses to go back and eat more. Though next time, we will have to stay closer to the downtown area, since all of the awesome-est food was there.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

New York, NEWWWW York!

From Ireland we flew to New York (via Manchester and Zurich, on annoying SwissAir with an annoying teenager in front of Andy trying to lean his seat back ALL flight long, and annoying flight attendants telling Andy it was the kid's "right" to lean back, even though Andy's legs are just barely long enough to squeeze into the seats and his knees bump up against the seat in front of him no matter how straight upright he sits).

We stayed at another AirBnB place, as far uptown as you can get before you hit water, in Inwood. It was a great apartment, but because it was a bit far from the NYC action, it meant staying out ALL DAY instead of popping in for an afternoon rest before heading out again for the evening. That, in combination with jetlag, and our propensity for going to bed early at the best of times, meant that we never "went out" at night in NYC. This seems to disappoint some people, but I was okay with it!

What we did do in NYC was a whole lotta other stuff.  We started at the bottom of Manhattan - the financial district.

We had a squiz at Occupy Wall Street, which was massive and impressive and inspiring.

We rode the Staten Island Ferry, ate a sandwich, and then came back.

It's free! And look what you see:

We walked through China Town, Little Italy, and the Lower East Side.
I like the golden croquembouche next to the Buddha.
We went to Times Square, because, I know, but it's what you do when you're a tourist in NYC! Our primary goal was to find cheap theatre tickets, but those suckers are still damn expensive, even when they're half off! So we skipped the theatre. And we skipped cheap comedy, after getting bullied by a guy trying to give us a "great deal" to comedians "of the same caliber" as the hilarious (sarcastic NOT) Wayans Brothers.

I pretended to be Tina Fey at Rockefeller Plaza.

But I kinda liked Lego Atlas better than the real one.

We window-shopped along 5th Avenue. Even the mannequins are hipsters.

Andy ate a chilli he found growing in Central Park. I don't know how wise that was.

Also, Central Park!

And Chrysler Building.

And UN - which was such a let down. After insane security, and leaving a backpack after it had been scanned and searched, we found that you had to pay something like $15 each(!) for a tour. So we looked in the bookshop and then collected our backpack and left.

The Union Square Green Markets were similarly expensive, but much more fun. And, free samples!

Highline Park is totally cool.

The Museum of Natural History misleads you by saying "entry is free, donation only", but then making you pay at a cash register, with people who look disappointed in you for paying less than the suggested amount even though the museum closes in an hour and there's no way you can see all the dinosuars let along everything else.

Washington Square Park was all fenced off - no getting close to the arch! Or the fountain!

Coney Island was sunny, and sandy, and totally surprising.

(And of course Andy touched the water - his first touch of the Atlantic!)

But the most exciting part of all (besides the food, which I will give its own post), was this black ninja squirrel we spotted!! We ended up seeing more in DC and Canada, but hello ninja squirrel!