Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Chilli-ng Tale

Probably about two years ago, Andy planted some cayenne seeds. Chillis are supposedly one of the plants that grow so easily, they sprout up from bird poop. But in the past, we've had trouble growing them. They would flower when the plants were tiny, then drop all their leaves after the fruit had set. With this plant, our problems seemed in the past.

It grew tall and vigorous in a pot in our front garden. It had loads of flowers, but they never set. And it had those white fluffy bugs, no matter how much we sprayed with soapy- oily-water.

This year, we googled to try to diagnose the problems, and decided that a lack of pollination was the likely culprit - damn lazy bees! - so I spent a few early mornings in the driveway with a cotton bud, hoping that none of the neighbours came out, as I wiggled around in the flowers, hoping to complete the pollination process and get some chillis.
Check out the trunk on this plant

My efforts were met with success when I saw a flower with a fat base, and watched for a few days as it showed decisive signs of becoming a chilli. But then it fell off, and my hopes were dashed. I completely gave up on the chilli.

Then a few weeks later, I noticed a dark green spear that didn't quite match the rest of the leaves. And then I noticed 4 more.

Chillis! I don't know if it was my efforts, or just chance, but we had finally achieved success with this plant.
Nacho paws in the background

But sadly, this is where the chilli's tale ends. Last week Townsville had a tornado, and although we were unaffected at my house, the wind did tip over the poor, top-heavy chilli plant.

So we picked off the fruit and put them into Mexican and curries.
Rice and beans

We could try to rehabilitate the chilli. But, Andy and I are buying a house! The contract goes unconditional tomorrow, and we move in April. So, unfortunately, this chilli plant won't make the move with us.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hemp Winner

The magic of internet random number generators has told me that the winner of my hemp seed giveaway is commenter #6, Kari! Congratulations to Kari, and I am looking forward to see how she uses them.

Those who didn't win but want to try out hemp seeds can purchase them online from Hemp Foods Australia. Sure, they're not legally able to sell them as food for human consumption, but I really like their attitude towards the legislation:
Yes, hempseeds are legal nearly everywhere in the world, except Australia (2011). As soon as you put it in the ground to grow, it becomes illegal – so best to eat it :) The dehulled hemp seeds, hemp oil and hemp protein are legal everywhere in the world that we are aware of. In Australia they are legal to have ‘for non-human consumption’. Therefore we cannot and do not promote hemp as a food in Australia. Yet.
They're not a budget product, at $17 for 250 grams, but I can tell you from my experience that a little goes a long way with these. Our 250 gram pack is still half full, despite lots of breakfasts, a few dinners, and those cinnamon buns. So ultimately I think they are worth the price (and probably not really that much more expensive than other seeds and nuts, like chia seeds, though I don't have a good baseline to compare with since I've only bought chia once...).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Fairy Princess

An Australian thing that I love the idea of is fairy bread. It's a thing that is common, I understand, at children's birthday parties. It is, essentially, bread with (vegan) butter and rainbow sprinkles. How is this not part of American cultural practice?

For my friend's 30th birthday, Andy and I contributed fairy bread (along with some hemp seed cinnamon rolls - which reminds me, you should enter that competition). It is a seemingly simple thing to prepare, but there is actually a trick to getting the sprinkles to stick.

Butter bread, put sprinkles on a plate or shallow bowl.

Dip bread, butter side down, into sprinkles.

Slice bread into triangles, removing the crusts if your crowd is picky.Stack artfully onto a plate.

And the real trick - let them sit around (covered, of course) for an hour or two before you eat them. The sprinkles kind of melt into the butter and the whole thing is much greater than the sum of its parts.

This is a birthday tradition I would like to see incorporated into more grown-up parties.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hempy Campers

Life has been a bit hectic lately, for various reasons, and on top of that our home internet has been a bit wonky - blogs are slow to load, and the comment pages almost always "Cannot Be Displayed", so my presence in the blog-o-sphere has been limited. But, I will hopefully make up for it with a giveaway post!

Hemp Foods Australia recently sent me a sample of their hulled hemp seeds, and have offered to give another pack to one of you, readers (if you live in Australia, that is. If you live elsewhere, stick around for a recipe).

Prior to this, we had only tried hemp as food once (though we both have a few items of hemp clothing) - as hemp milk, purchased in Toronto and consumed for breakfast in Upstate NY (which also reminds me that I still haven't posted about the last few weeks of our round the world trip...). For the last few weeks, though, we have tried hemp in various other forms.

For breakfast, I have added a spoonful of hemp seeds to smoothies, or to a bowl of granola.

I mixed some in to soy burgers, which we served with fried potatoes and sauteed pumpkin.

Hemp seeds are meant to be really good for you, and a good source of omega-3. I won't pretend to be a nutritionist here, because I am not one, but I was pretty happy with these hemp seeds. I felt healthy when I added them to food, and they add a nicely nutty flavour to things.
Toasted hemp seeds sprinkled on seitan & black bean stir fry.

My only complaint is that, although these were 'unhulled' seeds, there were a lot of hulls still in the mix. They were like tiny little egg shell pieces - you can eat them with no real trouble, but they aren't that nice.

When I was toasting seeds for baking which I would share with friends, I tried to get as many as I could out of the pan.
Hemp seeds, toasting.

 My favourite thing to do with them was, unsurprisingly, adding them to baked goods. Conveniently, a friend turned 30 and I offered to bring cake. Except, instead of cake, I made Maple-Banana Cinnamon Rolls with Hemp Seed filling.

These were sweet, and fruity, and soft, and chewy, and nutty, and delicious. They seemed to go down pretty well at the party, so I would call these a success. These are definitely dessert buns, and should probably not be considered breakfast by any but those with the sweetest of sweet teeth.

I will post the recipe below, but first, the rules of the giveaway:
  • You have to live in Australia.
  • Post a comment on this blog post for an entry.
  • Only one entry per person, for ultimate fairness.
  • Contest open until 10.00am on Friday, 23rd March (that's QLD time).
  • I will choose one commenter at random after then and let you know the winner.
  • Get commenting!

Maple-Banana Cinnamon Rolls with Hemp Seed filling
2 smallish (mediumish?) bananas
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. soy milk
1/2 c. hot water
2 T. vegan butter
2 T. dry yeast
3 1/4 c. plain flour
3 T. gluten flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

1/3 c. hulled hemp seeds, toasted
1 banana
3 T. maple syrup
1 T. vegan butter
4 tsp. cinnamon

Glaze: 1 c. icing sugar, 1 T. maple syrup, 1 tsp. soy milk

Blend 2 bananas, maple syrup and milk together until smooth. In a large mixing bowl, combine hot water and butter, stir until butter is melted. Add blended mixture and yeast, and set aside for 5 minutes. Mix in flour,gluten, cinnamon and salt and knead until well mixed, stretchy and smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rest until doubled in size, about 90 minutes. Punch down the dough, knead for a few minutes, the let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, generously oil a baking tray. Also, prepare the filling: blend together the banana, maple syrup, butter, and cinnamon and then stir in the hemp seeds.

Roll the dough into a long, thin rectangle. Try to make it even, and as thin as you can get it. Mine was about 20cm wide by maybe 40cm long.  Spread filling over the dough, leaving 5cm along the long edge filling-free. Roll the dough into a pinwheel, along its long edge (starting with the side where the filling comes right up to the edge).  Squeeze it to seal the end and make it cylindrical, then slice into 3cm pieces and place onto the oiled baking tray. They should be near each other, but not too close, since they rise. Cover, and let rise for another 30 minutes. In the meantime, heat your oven to 190 (375F). Bake the rolls for 25 minutes until they are golden and sound hollow when tapped.

As soon as you take the rolls out of the oven, mix together the glaze ingredients and pour over the rolls. Let them cool for 15 minutes and then remove from the pan. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.


Sunday, March 11, 2012


Having a blender/mixer thingie has revolutionised the way we cook.

Okay, I may be exaggerating a leetle bit. Or perhaps I'm exaggerating a whole awful lot. But a blender is better than a stick blender for things aside from smoothies.  Things like...

Tofu mayo. Caper and garlic chive flavoured. Which made a totally beautiful potato salad dressing.

And pesto. Yeah yeah, pesto is totally make-able, and arguably better, when done by hand in a mortar and pestle, but let's be honest. I haven't made pesto by hand in years, so a blender is pretty awesome. Plus, Andy went on a field trip which was wayyyy over-catered, and brought home some pinenuts. So we stuck those into our little "Magic Bullet-ish" attachment with some basil, garlic, salt and olive oil, tossed it onto gnocchi, and dinner took less than 10 minutes total.

Chocolate mousse! Though, this version probably doesn't deserve an exclamation mark. It should have been good - 1 block of silken tofu; 100gms of dark chocolate, melted; a big scoop of peanut butter; a shake of cinnamon. Blended. But it was just missing some essential sweetness. The bitterness of the chocolate overpowered everything else, so that you couldn't even taste peanut butter or cinnamon. So, no win there, but lots of ideas for future mousse experiments. And, smooth & fluffy-riffic, thanks to the blender.

Despite being disappointing, it was still good to eat with some Soyatoo whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles. Because really, what isn't?

And I will leave you with this photo of Andy draining the final dregs of the Soyatoo, which were no longer aerated and tasted overwhelmingly sweet and vanilla-y. 
You'll have to ask him if this was a good life choice or not.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Of the 20 discrete commenters on my giveaway post, I could only choose 5 winners. The following random numbers were generated, meaning the winners are....

#18 Unknown
#8 Lisa
#17 Shawna
#14 Mel
#10 Rebecca

I'll try to email you each, but if you don't hear from me soon it's because I can't find your email address. So, get in touch with me! tropicalvegantheresa (at) gmail (dot) com. Let me know whether you want the PDF, Kindle, or ePub format.

To those of you who didn't win, better luck next time (and there will be another giveaway soon-ish on this blog, so stay tuned). Also, you can buy a copy for $3, which is really not very expensive, and I would say is worthwhile.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Green Smoothies - A Giveaway

As you know, I recently became enamored with smoothies for breakfast as an easy, tasty way to start my day with loads of fresh produce. Although I haven't eaten a smoothie a day since Andy has come home, I have still had a few each week. Andy doesn't love them as much as me - he eats too fast and suffers brain freezes, and also he likes to eat cereal in the mornings.
Frozen pineapple, a banana, a Ya pear, an orange, and spinach, blended with water. This made about a litre of smoothie, and I drank the whole thing for breakfast by myself. That was a bad idea - I was so full.

Green smoothies are especially good, since they mix some veggies in with the fruit. Hilary Greenleaf has released a book on the topic - The Green Smoothie Diet: Going Green Never Tasted So Good   and she's given me five e-copies to give away to you, readers. The book has info on trying green smoothies for the first time, using green smoothies to detox, and has recipes throughout, including some that are good for skin & hair, and some that are full of energy.  The book is all about green smoothies in their purest form - fruit, veggies, and a bit of water, and that's it. And "green" really doesn't just mean the colour - it refers to the addition of veggies to a smoothie in a more general sense.

So, to enter! In the comments, tell me the weirdest ingredient you've ever included in a smoothie. Or, if you're not a big smoothie person, what is one often-ignored smoothie ingredient you think might be good? Anyone can enter, until Monday, the 5th of March at 11.59pm, QLD time. I'll pick the five winners randomly. So, get commenting!