Thursday, May 31, 2012

Publication Cake

At Andy's new job, his bosses have a tradition of celebrating all publications with cake. They buy fancy cake from a bakery somewhere, but the principle of the idea is a good one, I think. So last week when a paper of mine was published online, I decided to replicate the practice with some cake of my own.

We had an excess of limes, so I decided to make a lime syrup cake. For the cake part, I adapted a recipe from Joy of Vegan Baking. For the syrup, I searched the internet. Here is what I came up with.

2 c. plain flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. bicarb soda
zest of 2 limes
egg replacer equivalent to two eggs
1/3 c. lime juice
3/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. sunflower oil
1/2 c. coconut milk

Heat oven to 180 (350F) and lightly oil a deep, round pan. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk up the egg replacers (powdered kinds work best here) until they are frothy - plan on whisking by hand for 2 or 3 minutes, or use electric beaters for a minute or two. Add the rest of the liquid ingredients, and whisk again for another 2 or 3 minutes. Pour these wet ingredients into the dry, whisk for a minute or so until combined, pour into the pan and stick it in the oven. Mine took about an hour, but check after 45 minutes - the baking time will depend on your pan size, and how deep your batter is. It should get golden around the edges and a skewer should come out clean when stuck into the centre.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prepare the lime syrup:
1/3 c. water
3 Tbsp. sugar
juice of 1 lime

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring it up to a boil, let it boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to simmer. Add the lime juice, stir and simmer for another 3 minutes. While the syrup is still hot, pour it over the hot cake. Cool the cake fully.

At this point I topped my cake with toasted coconut, which was a bit of a mistake I think. The lime flavour was delicate and lovely, but was overpowered a weensy bit by the toasty coconut.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hello Tika

A bit over a week ago, Andy and I went up to the RSPCA and picked up our newest family member: Tika, the sharpei x cattle dog (x other things, probably). We weren't necessarily planning on bringing a dog home after that visit, but when we met this darling, she was so clearly sweet natured, gentle, and perfect for us that we couldn't risk someone else snapping her up.

In the 10 days since we've had her, Tika, who is maybe 4 years old, has done a fair amount of sleeping.

She's extremely affectionate, and Andy, who has never had dogs before, has had to get used to being licked.

As she settles in, Tika's personality is coming through more and more. She's a bit of a goose, and she loves flopping down on her back and laying with her feet all up in the air.

On Sunday we took Tika to the river, where she was *so excited* and distracted by all the people running, cycling, rowing, and walking dogs. We sat outside the dog park for a while, and then went in - but we didn't let her off lead. (On her second day at home she had a bit of an, ahem, incident with my friend James's tiny dog, so we want to know she can peacefully play before we take that risk with strangers' dogs.)

And to answer the question on everyone's mind: how does bossy Nacho, who has a serious reputation around this city, get along with the dog? So far they have mostly stayed apart. Nacho is largely indifferent, sometimes angry, and sometimes accepting of the dog. They've sniffed each other a bit, but for now we're happy to encourage distance between them. The dog very clearly knows Nacho is at the top of our house's food chain!

She's still a little nervous about loud crashy noises, and movements that may be perceived as about to inflict violence, but overall she's settling in beautifully, and she is just what we all needed.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Baked Potato Bar

Friday night. Home a bit late. Andy's home even later. Leftovers in the fridge to use up, and not much else besides broccoli and potatoes in the fridge. Not much motivation to put effort into dinner, but no viable takeaway options around. (As an aside: I think I feel like a grown up these days, and the reason I've identified is because I look forward to Friday evenings in sweatpants, flicking between Better Homes & Gardens and Masterchef.)

Solution: baked potato bar.

Because I was in a hurry, I put the two plain potatoes in a pot of water, brought it up to the boil, then turned it down to very low for about 20 minutes. After taking them out, I pricked them all over with a fork, and did the same to two sweet potatoes. Rub all with oil, sprinkle with salt, and put in a baking tray. Since there was space in the tray, I added some chopped broccoli, sprinkled with lemon juice. 200 degrees (400F) and 45 minutes later we had soft-inside, crispy-outside baked potatoes.

To put on top, tomato chutney; leftover burrito filling; creamy mashed avocado; and hummus.

One of my potatoes, with hummus, avo, and chutney.

Good, easy, and not terribly unhealthy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Growing Season

Contrary to logic, the coldest months in Townsville are also the best months to grow and harvest a huge array of produce. Of course, since moving into our house a month ago we have been planting things here and there, but so far nothing is ready for us to eat. No matter - we go to the markets, where the last few weeks have seen masses of people selling lots of things they grow nearby. The choice is nearly overwhelming! And the price is certainly not. This week, we spent a bit under $25, and got this:

Brussels sprouts, a monster zucchini, a cucumber, carrots, daikon radishes, red potatoes, orange sweet potatoes, and purple sweet potatoes. Not pictured, because we didn't wash them, are a small watermelon, 4 ears of corn, a large bunch of bananas, and a bag of avocados. Enough to keep any vegan happy, no?

Our dinners lately have looked a little something like this.

Roasted Brussels sprouts, soy & sesame daikon radish, corn on the cob, and veggie slice.

The slice is basically like a veggie loaf, and was really easy to do - a lot of grating, but almost no cooking skills required. I made it with bulgur, and with a mix of wheat & gluten flour, but it could easily be made with another grain (cooked quinoa, maybe?) and gluten-free flour -- the gluten didn't add much to the slice. I also used okara, because we always have some to use up, but a good substitution would be mashed tofu, or even mashed beans.

Here's the recipe...

Veggie Loaf

1/2 c. bulgur
1 c. boiling water
300 grams (1 medium-ish) sweet potato
1 regular sized carrot
200 grams (a small, or part of a huge) zucchini
1 1/2 c. wet-ish okara (replace with mashed silken tofu or blended up beans)
1 Tbsp. dried mixed herbs
1/2 c. wholemeal flour
1/2 c. gluten flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. tomato sauce (ketchup)

In a large bowl, combine bulgur and boiling water. Let that sit. While the bulgur absorbs the water, grate the veggies into the bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients and adjust the flavours to suit your tastes - I left this quite bland so we could serve with tomato chutney. Press the mixture into a greased slice pan, brush the top with oil, and bake at 200 (400F) for about 45 minutes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Party People

Andy and I are both introverts, and we get along well because of it. But I'm more social than Andy is - I like being around people, in small, conversation-centric settings, and I especially like hosting.

When we signed the contract on our new house, we were drawn to the big patio area with a shade sail over the top. A week later, a tornado came through Townsville, and the wind knocked a tree branch on to the shade sail, rendering it unusable. We will replace it, but luckily it's autumn, and the patio is really only sunny for about 2 hours in the middle of the day, thanks to a tree.  For me, the patio is the perfect entertaining area, especially once we visited the second-hand shop for a table and chairs.

Having a patio and a new house strikes me as a good opportunity for a house-warming party, but less-social Andy is less enthusiastic about the idea than I am. I'm still working on a proper housewarming party, but last weekend we had a little get together with some people I work with. Visitors from Denmark, a long weekend, and nearing the end of semester all seemed like good excuses for me to do some baking and have people round for drinks.

I made "Elvis Blondies", from Vegan Bake Sale, which are of course peanut butter, banana, and chocolate. They were a bit underwhelming in the peanut butter category, but I was the only one with that complaint.

And coconut cookies, also from Vegan Bake Sale. These were really yummy, and super coconutty thanks to coconut oil, coconut milk, and shredded coconut.

Green fruit - honey dew melon and star fruit - were also popular. The flavour of star fruit isn't anything special, but how can you go wrong serving star-shaped fruit, really?

We rounded off the table with hummus and crackers, an easy party stand-by. It was exactly our kind of party - a dozen people, food, interesting conversation, and everyone was gone by dark, leaving us plenty of time to unwind. I think Andy enjoyed himself. So although our house hasn't been properly warmed yet, I think our patio has proven how enjoyable it will be for future parties. In the meantime, it's also a great place to read in the afternoons.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Finished Product Friday

By way of following up the Work in Progress Wednesday I posted several months ago, I give you, Finished Product Friday! I can't show the finished version of the blanket, because I'm still working on it. But my giraffes have been done for a while, and I finally got my hands on some spray paint to transform what I affectionately call the "ugly elephant".

 It wasn't so ugly - Andy quite liked it. But, I specifically bought it with visions of a brightly coloured ceramic elephant in my life, so I got my spray paint on and transformed the pants off this elephant (heh, imagine an elephant in pants).

I think the elephant and the giraffes are getting along just beautifully, don't you?

Especially when you add in the gorgeous blooms given to us as a housewarming 'bouquet' by Dee and BoaB.  It feels good to finish things!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Quick meals.

To prove that I do eat vegetables, here are two post-moving meals that we scraped together despite our diminished pantry. Both quick to prepare, with minimal hands-on cooking time. This is both a good and a bad thing - I love cooking, and love eating food that has been lovingly prepared. But, Andy and I are increasingly busy at work, and with a house and garden to spend time on as well, quick & easy meals become a necessity. That they are still healthy is the positive thing to focus on, I guess! (Incidentally, both of these meals are gluten free, and soy free.)

First, a pressure cooker risotto. This time it worked beautifully - we used a red onion, and a bit of balsamic vinegar, which gave the rice a pleasantly pink hue. The risotto also had butternut pumpkin, broccoli, and aniseed. It was very delicious.

The second meal is an improv ful salad. Ful is a dish made from fava beans, with the consistency of refried beans. When I was in Ethiopia, we ate ful for breakfast, straight up in a bowl, topped with chilli and tomato, with crusty bread. We had this from our favourite cafe, called Yeshi Buna, one of the many places in Ethiopia where they roast, grind, and brew coffee beans all in the middle of the restaurant. The smell, as you can imagine, was pretty amazing. When I returned home from Ethiopia, I posted the recipe for ful onto VegWeb. Last year, I googled the recipe and found that it had been copied, verbatim, to several places on the internet. Including my commentary about Yeshi Buna. At first I was a bit stroppy that I wasn't attributed, but now I'm a bit meh about it all - it's the internets, afterall. Anyways, we still make ful the same way, except with cooked beans instead of tinned. It's as delicious as I remember. This day, though, we didn't have any bread of any kind, so we served on lettuce, and topped with avocado & cucumber. It was still delicious.
Kitty paws not recommended as a side dish.

What are your healthy but quick go-to meals?

Friday, May 04, 2012

Puddin Cake

I realise that posting this may convey the impression that all I eat these days is cake, since my last two posts have involved polenta cake and rainbow vanilla cupcakes. I promise I do eat more than just cake, but last Friday it was rainy and cold in Townsville (got down to 17, brrr!). I was at work and I didn't really feel like being there. I presented a seminar, and then in the afternoon had a quick squiz at a few blogs. DJ's description of fudgy, sauce, chocolate puddin' cake immediately struck my fancy. And the stars were aligned - we have that cookbook! and our pantry would surely contain all the ingredients!

When we got home that afternoon, I told Andy that I was absolutely baking cake that evening, and that we should arrange some oven-based dinner. Or, I suggested, we could just eat cake for dinner. Andy was not supportive of that decision, but when he filled up the empty oven shelf with slow-baking seitan, our oven dinner options were limited. Still, he insisted we eat something with vegetables, so he whacked together a potato & wakame soup while I made cake.

I followed the recipe, from La Dolce Vegan, pretty closely, except that instead of nuts I used a whole heap of fresh ginger that one of Andy's co-workers had brought in from his garden. The batter was good, and then I did the weird part of the recipe - pouring boiling water over the batter in the pan. When it comes out of the oven, the cake floats on the surface of the pudding-y sauce, and looks like this.

I scooped a generous portion for myself, then another slightly larger bit for Andy... and we had nearly finished the whole cake... so we ended up just finishing the whole cake! It was a bit gluttonous, and I may have had a food baby afterwards, but it was exactly what I wanted - warm, gooey, gingery, and chocolatey. What else is there in life?!