Friday, September 28, 2007

Break out of your kitchen slump Pie

Maybe blogging about my lack of enthusiasm was cathartic or something. Last night, despite a long day at uni and the worst day of my cold yet, I really, really wanted to make a pie for dinner. On the bike ride home from uni I was thinking of how I would make the filling quite thick. Here's what I did.

First, take 2 small potatos, chop and boil, then mash in a big bowl.

1 onion, minced quite finely
1 small eggplant, minced quite finely
2 small zucchinis, grated
1 medium carrot, grated
1 red capsicum, minced quite finely

Saute the onion with a bit of salt till it's cooked to your liking, then add the eggplant and let it cook down for a bit. If it's sticking, add some water. Mix in the zucchini and carrot, and let those cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir in the capsicum. Add the veggie mixture to the big bowl with the mashed potato. Stir till it's all mixed up.

Take two sheets of vegan shortcrust pastry out of the freezer. Or, if you're feeling ambitious, make your own. I used Pampas brand, which uses only vegetable fats. Heat the oven to 200/375.

Make some gravy. First, melt some nuttlex (or other vegan margarine) and then add about 1/4 c. of flour. In a pyrex measuring cup, mix 2 c. boiling water with a big scoop of vegemite (or your favourite stock mix), some paprika, black pepper, and dried parsley. Add that to the butter/flour and stir stir stir. Let it bubble for 5 to 10 minutes, then add that to the veggies and mix through. Have a taste. If it's a bit too bland, like mine, let your partner add some mustard and minced garlic to the mix while you're doing the pastry. Put one sheet of dough in a pie pan. My pastry was square, but the pie pan was round, so I had to cut off the corners and rearrange until there was enough pastry to go all the way up the sides. Then pour the pie filling into the crust.Put the other sheet on top, cut off the excess, cut some vents, and brush with soy milk. Put it in the oven for about 30 minutes. Got some extra pastry? Roll it out, sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and roll it up for a little sweet treat. Bake it for 10 or 15 minutes, and see if you can resist eating it before dinner is ready.
While you're waiting, make a salad. Andy made this one. He combined the leftover couscous with some basil and mint leaves, beetroot, cucumber, tomato and green peas. Topped with a squeeze of lemon juice. The beetroot turned the whole thing pink!
When the pie is nice and golden, take it out of the oven.
Serve with a salad, topped with lots of tomato sauce.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Blase' blogging

I think it's this weird in-between season. The wintery veggies are done, but the summery ones haven't yet started, so there are no stand-out ingredients for cheap at the markets. When we have only the usuals in the crisper--zucchini, carrot, eggplant, capsicum--I find it hard to think creatively about dinner. Plus I have a cold. But, here are some new food finds, anyways.

Vegan Mac and "Cheese" from Vegan Planet. We followed the recipe fairly closely, but didn't have any miso paste so subbed more nut yeast and mustard, instead. And we added some veggies in. Creamy, but very bland. The search for the best mac and yeast continues.

Colourful couscous. Kidney beans, green capsicum, and carrots added the colour, and this was served up alongside some veggie burgers.
Who needs to be creative in the kitchen when fruit and veggies are so good in their natural state? Rock melon in Australia, aka Canteloupe in North America.Tahini banana pancakes, of all different sizes.
We felt like baked potatoes the other day, but didn't want to have the oven on for an hour. We don't have a microwave, so we decided to boil the whole potatoes. Then we cut them up and topped them with a mixture of leftover refried beans and leftover tomatoey veggies & chickpea sausage. And avocado, for some fatty goodness.
Curried silverbeet and potatoes on brown rice, with some chopped almonds chucked on top.
Three-flavor Pancit from Vegan Planet. We were low on groceries, so I subbed eggplant for the tofu, and zuchhini for the tempeh. I used RFD 'chicken-style seitan' for the seitan. It's basically those things, some green peas, and some rice vermicelli with sesame oil, ginger and soy sauce. Neither Andy nor I were super impressed.
Eh, it's not food, but to mix things up, here is my super cute nephew. He'll be a year old on 4 October.

Monday, September 24, 2007

read this!

Here is a great article about commoditization of food, and the impacts it has on both the overfed and the hungry of the world.

Read it!

Updated to add a snippet:

"Our choices are not entirely our own because, even in a supermarket, the menu is crafted not by our choices, nor by the seasons, nor where we find ourselves, nor by the full range of apples available, nor by the full spectrum of available nutrition and tastes but by the power of food corporations."

That's my emphasis, by the way, because I think it's the key. Talk about food for thought.

Great big soymilk post

It's lecture recess, so I have no tutoring this week. I should still be working on my paper, but first, which Australian soy milks are worth trying? (I think I have my priorities straight, no?) All of these are the long-life kinds, because the fresh stuff is too dear and it doesn't taste any different in my opinion.

I'll start with our favourites. You'll Love Coles brand 'soy drink'. Regular price is $1.50/litre, and on special every few weeks for $1.30. Creamy, beany, and delicious. Coles Lite is the only low-fat soy milk I have *ever* liked. It tastes just about as good as the full-fat. The cartons are a bit annoying, and sometimes leak. The blonde lady on the full-fat soymilk looks like my high school friend, Bria. In terms of flavour, texture, and price, You'll Love Coles is hands down, the best soy milk you can find in Australia.

Australia's Own. Normally around $4 a litre, reduced to clear for $1. The flavour is good and beany, the texture is creamy (sometimes lumpy), but it's not quite as good as Coles. Neither Andy nor I can pinpoint exactly why, but Andy reckons "Even if the price is the same, I would go with Coles".

Smooth White used to be Andy's favourite, back when he first started drinking soy milk. It tastes the least beany of any soy milk I've tried. For people who like the taste of cow milk, Smooth White is probably the best buy. Normally around $2/litre.

Vitasoy Soy Milky. This soy milk is the best in terms of packaging. The lid is twist-off, instead of the little foil thing and plastic latch that most of the rest have. The soymilk itself is mediocre. It leaves a funny aftertaste. It's almost... too sweet. Screws up tea, because the aftertaste overwhelms you. Okay on cereal. Around $2.20/litre.

Vitasoy Lush Chocolate. So. Damn. Good. Chocolatey and rich, but less fat than plain soy milk. We got this one, reduced to clear, for $1.50. Normally more than $2/litre. If you have a chocolate craving, this soy milk is a good way to feed it. Yum, yum, yum.

Woolworth's Home Brand Soy Drink. $1.50/litre. In terms of packaging, this soy milk is a big fat loser. I know the white/black/red is Home Brand's 'thing', but seriously, it looks disgusting. And to open it, you have to stab it with the back-end of a spoon. Once it's opened, it gurgles when you pour, so it splashes all over. The milk itself is sort of sweet, with an almost honey-like taste, but it's not great for tea. Good on cereal, but especially for oatmeal or pancakes. Despite the annoying packaging, we usually have some of this on hand because it's so cheap.

And, finally (so Vegetation and the other soy-frees don't feel left out!), PureHarvest Rice Milk. I love rice milk, because it's thin and sweet and great for drinking plain. But it's usually much dearer than soy milk, so we only buy it on special. I think this was marked down to $1.80/litre. Andy hates rice milk, for the same reasons that I love it. Not good for tea, as it makes it look watery.

I know there are heaps of other brands, but we only buy soy milk that is cheap, so these are the ones I've tried! What's your favourite soy milk? Do you prefer a beany taste, a creamy texture, a bit of sweetness?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Reduced to clear...

There's nothing better about a trip to the grocery store than finding an abundance of those green or yellow 'reduced to clear' stickers. It's better than a regular sale or special, because there are a limited number of items that are tagged. The excitement isn't just in terms of getting cheap stuff, but also, the challenge of what to do with it before it goes off? There is always a little internal dilemma: "Should I buy all 8 of these sliced when they already look a little brown? But they're only $1.50!" Of course, with many items it's possible to prolong their life by chucking it in the freezer.

That's what we did with a package of Eatwell Chickpea and Spinach sausages that we found for $2 (less than half price!) a few weeks ago. Yesterday while I was listening to a lecture by Boori Pryor, Andy defrosted the sausages. He sauteed them with some veggies and made a tomatoey gravy, and served it all up over rice. The dish also featured some tinned mushrooms we got for sale, also less than half price.

On the luckiest of days, you can even find dessert reduced to clear. We found this Soy Life Vanilla Creme yogurt for $1.50, which seems steep for only 2 little tubs, but it was also less than half price. In addition to a great deal, it was an opportunity to try a new vegan product. The flavour is really intensely vanilla, without that chalky aftertaste that other soy yogurts leave you with (ahem, Kingland).Although it's good on its own, this yogurt was best when paired with some fresh kiwis ($1.50 for 10) and banana, and some farmer's market strawberry jam.
Don't you just love bargains?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sunday food, and a new product review!

Before the food, a random photo. Yesterday afternoon the sun was coming in the window and I really liked the lighting, so I took a picture of Andy rummaging around in the cupboard.

For lunch, pizza. A thin layer of nutritional yeasty sauce, a thick layer of BBQ sauce, chicken-style seitan, red capsicum and tomato. Andy's creation, modelled on BBQ Chicken pizza from his pregan days.

Potato salad. I made this last week, and Andy was so impressed with it he wanted me to make a huge batch to last us all week. It's simple, so I was happy to oblige. Chop and boil potatoes. Drain. Combine juice from 1 lime, about 2 T. vinegar, and 1/2 c. or so of oil. Pour over warm potatoes. Mix in 1-2 c. chopped cucumber, a handful of chopped coriander (cilantro for all the North Americans), and salt and pepper. Let it chill for at least an hour, but the longer the better. Voila! (And a pair of sunglasses and a pineapple in the background, because I'm a Queenslander. That's how we roll.)

We had the potato salad along with a North African inspired Lentil and Zucchini dish, based loosely on a recipe from the North African Vegetarian cookbook I got out of the library. We have, like, 1000 zucchinis because Andy and I both grabbed a bunch at the farmer's market, without realising until after we'd paid.

And finally, a new vegan product. I don't often buy things like this, because I am a tight ass, but it was on special for $2.40 (50% off!!) at Woolie's so I grabbed one. Sweet William Chocolate Spread. Dairy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, lactose-free. Apologies for the fuzzy picture.

The texture is like Betty Crocker Icing, and the flavour is super chocolatey. Delicious on a bit of fresh, soft baguette, and pretty good on toast as well. This spread is the perfect way to satisfy a sweet-tooth or a chocolate craving, and I don't feel too bad about doing it because of the bright red and yellow "60% less sugar" label. My only criticism is that the flavour is a little shallow. I guess I prefer my chocolate paired with something else--any sort of nuts, fruit, cinnamon, chilli--so a plain chocolate spread feels... unsophisticated. Still, totally worth $2.40! Maybe even worth the full price....

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ahhh, the weekend

Amazing weekend. Good food, good fun, good music. But my camera batteries died.

Friday night we had fajitas featuring the Real Food Daily seitan chicken (thanks, Anna!). I'd heard the seitan can be dry, so I marinated it in some lime juice and spices, and it was delish. But no pictures.

Saturday we woke up early and caught a ferry to Magnetic Island.

View Larger Map

It's only a 20 minute ride off Townsville, but I haven't been over there since I was studying abroad here as an undergrad. This weekend, though, was the Great Tropical Jazz Party, a 3-day music festival. Andy entered me in a contest, and I won two free tickets, so we went over and had a day of cheap entertainment. Before the jazz started at midday, we went to Alma Bay for a bit of swimming and sunbaking.

I took this picture three years ago, but it still basically looks the same. The water was super clear this weekend, and cold, but we went for a quick swim and then climbed up on some of those rocks and soaked up some vitamin D.

For lunch, we had some PB&J sandwiches, and we picked up a carton of soy yogurt which we ate with bananas instead of spoons. Then it was on to the jazz!

Imagine: sitting in the sun, feet dangling in the pool, drinking a cold beer, kookaburras and cockatoos flying around, listening to great jazz with some friends. Have I mentioned I love the tropics?

We got back to Townsville in time for a late dinner at Chilli Jam, a noodle bar. I got the Udon Noodles with plum and pineapple sauce. Andy got a 'hot and spicy box' with hokkien noodles. Both yummy, and relatively cheap. We wondered why anyone would eat McDonald's when healthy spicy noodles cost a similar amount of money...

The camera batteries are charged again, so stay tuned for some Sunday food photos!

Thursday, September 13, 2007


I've been tagged by Elizabeth, aka Veggie Girl, to participate in a meme. It's similar to those 'poems' in elementary school where you write your name vertically on a sheet of construction paper and write one word for each letter. But this is without the construction paper. Here's the rules:

# Players must list one fact, word, or tidbit that is somehow relevant to their life for each letter of your first or middle name.

# When you are tagged you need to write your own post containing your first or middle name game facts, word, or tidbit.

# At the end of your post choose one person for each letter of your name to tag.

# Don’t forget to leave a comment telling them ,they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

# If I’ve tagged YOU (the bloggers that I've tagged are listed at the end), please join in on the fun!

T is for tropical. There were a lot of words I was choosing between, but this one seems the most appropriate for my life, right now. Maybe it's just because it's super sunny out right now, but I love the tropical lifestyle. I love having fresh fruit and veg all year round, from local farmers. I love going to the beach, even in winter. I love the slower pace of life. In my experience, the closer I get to the equator, the more relaxed I get.

H is for home-body. I tend to be pretty anti-social, and I have been all my life. I'm just as happy with a good book as I am with a group of friends, and crowds make me a little uncomfortable. Shortly after I turned 21 I gave up on the bar scene, and now Andy and I spend most of our time at home.

E is for eating! Specifically, eating vegan food. Because cooking and eating without animal products is one of the most important decisions I've made in my life. Of course, my veganism doesn't stop at the dinnertable; I don't buy products with animal ingredients or testing, I don't wear wool, leather, etc. But eating is the most obvious and regular reminders of my commitment to a cruelty-free lifestyle.

R is for roaming. It may seem contrary to being a home-body, but I love to travel! I love spending time in new places, especially areas that are off the beaten track. I was bitten with the travel bug when I was 19 (I'd never even been on a plane before then!) and now I've been to 6 countries (not including airport stopovers) and I live on the other side of the world! It's only been 4 years. I can't wait to see more interesting parts of the world.

E is for easy-going. I haven't always been--I was ridiculously high-strung when I was younger. I used to freak out about little things, and I was the kind of person who wrote 3 drafts and still turned things in early. What calmed me down? The letters R and T--when you're roaming round the planet, things are bound to go wrong. Flights are late, traffic is crazy, plans go awry. When you're living in the tropics, it's hard to get stressed out. Something about the perpetually blue skies and the fresh air keeps me much more sane these days.

S is for simple. My lifestyle, that is. Andy and I live in a two-bedroom unit with no TV, no phone, no internet, and no frills. Our kitchen is stocked with essentials only. For example, we use an old wine bottle for a rolling pin. I don't know how to drive, so when Andy isn't behind the wheel I ride my bike. We listen to the radio, watch the fishtank, and have conversations. It's lovely.

A is for academic. Because, basically, my whole life so far has been in school. I went to Head Start when I was 3, started kindegarten when I was four, went straight to uni after graduation, and took only a year off before starting my PhD. And the rest of my life will likely be filled by academia, as well. After I get my PhD, I hope to get a teaching/researching job. I totally understand that it's not for everyone, and I don't judge people who don't excel in institutions like these. But it's definitely the path for me, and I'm looking forward to an exciting future of researching, writing, and teaching.

So, there I am. I'm going to tag some bloggers I don't know much about yet. So, Kumudha, Paulina, Doug, Monika, Tippitappi, Amy, and Bethany, consider yourselves tagged.

Mac&Yeast and Veggie Burgers

During my second-last semester of uni, my friend Nicole and I would make vegan mac'n'cheese just about every week. At first we started simple, then we experimented with different veggies mixed in, and then we used the sauce for everything we could think of--sandwiches, dip, etc. The only problem was the name. The sauce didn't really taste like cheese, but was delicious in its own right. One of our friends called it "Mac'n'Sneeze", but something about that name just doesn't sound appetising. But when my professor, Bob, called it Mac and Yeast, we had a winner.

Since I've been basically a year without nutritional yeast, however, I haven't had it in a long, long time. So now that we've found a local source of the delicious yellow powder, Mac and Yeast is back on the menu. This time, with broccoli stems, zucchini and red capsicum mixed in, and topped with a healthy layer of toasted bread crumbs.

Last night Andy made me a veggie burger with lots of toppings. A toasted bun with beetroot, cucumber, tomato, red capsicum, a little yeasty sauce, mustard, tomato sauce and bbq sauce. The patty is mashed potato, spinach, carrots, garlic, and a bit of gluten flour mixed in, coated in polenta and baked.
It's really starting to heat up here in Townsville, so expect many more summery foods for the next few months...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A rant. And then some food.

Yesterday in the mailbox we had a booklet about "Talking to your kids about illicit drugs", courtesy of the Australian government. Contents aside (they are silly!), there was a letter along with the booklet from John Howard. This letter was two pages long, printed on shiny magazine-quality paper. Why couldn't he double side it? He claims to be committed to the environment, but then he sends out a letter to every household in Australia with two sheets of paper that could have been just one. Even better, the government could have made this booklet readily accessible without sending it to EVERYONE. We read through it and laughed but just chucked it in the recycle bin. We don't have kids, and there are many households like ours. Why did they waste money sending us all booklets? What an idiotic thing to do.

Hokay, now that I've got that out of my system, some foooood.

Some bread, inspired by the Pleasantly Plump Vegan's crazy bread. Instead of a sweet glaze, ours had herbs and sesame seeds in the dough and on top. Though it was delicious and the look was cool, ours didn't separate the way hers does in photos. The balls all sort of stuck together. Maybe it was the dough I used, maybe it was my double-layer technique, but either way, my bread was only a little crazy. Still, it was good enough to eat half the loaf still hot with vegemite...

Andy made the Three-Seed Lemon Tea Bread from Vegan Planet, but baked it in a cake pan instead of a loaf pan. The texture was sort of weird, but it was very tasty! After so much bread and cake, we wanted a small dinner, so Andy made a concoction of beans, veggies, and tomato sauce to have on toast.
Zucchini-Tomato Fritatta from Vegan Planet. It didn't quite set, but this was great scooped up with garlic bread.
Coconut lime rice pudding, inspired by Veganista, topped with frozen mango from last season.
Last night, what felt like an All-American Summer Dinner. SusanV's seitan ribz with steamed broccoli and cheez sauce (made by Andy), and potato salad. The ribz were good! I did them under the griller since we don't have a bbq, and they got crunchy around the edges but stayed chewy inside. The pictures were not working, though. With the flash, the potato salad glows. Without it, the ribz are too dark. So here's both. First, with the flash.
Now in natural lighting.The potato salad was maybe my favourite--Potatoes, cucumber, lime juice, olive oil, coriander and salt and pepper. It was a nice cooling side to the slightly spicy bbq sauce. For dessert, supa green fruit salad, aka kiwi and honeydew melon.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oxfam Australia National Close the Gap Day

Tuesday, 18 September is Oxfam's National Close the Gap Day. If you're in Australia, have a look through the website and find an event near you. If there aren't any, consider hosting one. A 17 year difference in life expectancy between Black and White Australians is appalling.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


So my first experiment with seitan went well. Aside from snacking on the Seitan o' Greatness, we had it on pizza (which was yummy!). Mainly, though, I cubed it, cooked it in a mushroom gravy and stirred in some peas. Then we poured it over garlicky mashed potatoes, and served it alongside glazed carrots. It was good, especially for a dreary day, but I think the So'G is better in something like pizza.

In one of the library cookbooks I saw a recipe for vegan crepes. I wanted crepes for breakfast the next morning, and I know they are better when the batter sits, so I made it the night before. The recipe called for gram flour. I'd heard someone somewhere say that gram flour is just ground-up chickpeas, so I thought I would use some 'besan' chickpea flour that I just got. Well, I mixed it up, half chick-pea flour and half wholemeal spelt flour. I added a pinch of some stevia that I've dried, and then stuck my finger in to see if it was sweet enough. Sweet Baby Jesus, the taste I got in my mouth was terrible. It tasted like falafel mix before it gets cooked. The chickpea flavour was overwhelming! I was tempted to tip it out and start again with plain flour, but Andy wanted to keep it.

The next day we had cereal for breakfast, but then made the chickpea crepes for lunch. We filled them with a mixture of spinach, mushrooms, jarred spaghetti sauce and a bit of nutritional yeast. It was okay... pretty good, actually, but next time I think I'll use a lower ratio of chickpea to other flour!
One of the things I've missed since moving to Townsville is tempeh. You can buy only one brand in the shops here, and it is this terrible mushy brown lump of yuck. We ate it one time and couldn't do it again. So when I placed my order on the Organic Buyer's Network, I thought I would order a block and see if it was any better. At first glance, I could tell it was heaps better--the texture felt nutty even through the package. I combined my craving for tempeh with Andy's craving for sweet and sour with some fresh veggies and jasmine rice:

The verdict: I thought the tempeh was heaps better, but not the best I've ever had. Andy thought it was good, but didn't think it was any better than tofu. He seemed to feel the same about the seitan. I'm going to keep experimenting, though! I've just been given a recipe for chicken-style seitan by the lovely Veganista, and I have a few more recipes that I've seen on the internet to try out before we settle on a favourite!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Lazy Townsville Weekend...

Saturday morning started off with some cinnamon rolls. I found the recipe through Johanna, who got the recipe from here. I was a little surprised that the recipe didn't call for rising time, even though they used yeast. Next time I think I will let them rest for a while, and also make the filling a bit more gooey, with apples or dates or something--Andy thought they were too dry. But anyways, they made a great breakfast alongside some fruit and tea.

After cinnamon buns we went to a few garage sales and second-hand shops. Then in the afternoon we went to see the movie Half Nelson, part of the Sydney Travelling Film Festival. Good movie, but the filming was quite shaky. It was a good effect, because the main character is leading quite an unsteady life, but by halfway through I felt a bit ill, and it just got worse. But aside from that, it was a good movie and the characters felt real and the plot was compelling. See it if you have a strong stomach.

After the movie, I cooked up a North African feast, inspired by another Library cookbook.

Tomato couscous with caramelized onions and raisins.
Vegetable and fava bean stew.
And garlicky eggplant salad.

Sunday morning we went to the market, and stopped at uni to call Andy's dad to wish him a happy Father's Day. Then we came home and read the newspaper, drank lots of tea, and ate some fruit. We snacked on one of these honeydew melons, which are no bigger than a softball.

We split a black sapote, aka chocolate pudding fruit, which we got for free when we bought some limes.
Then, something marvelous happened. We got a delivery--earlier in the week I'd discovered the Organic Buyer's Network, which bulk-buys and delivers around the area. I ordered some wheat gluten, some nutritional yeast, and a few other items that are impossible to find in shops.

The excitement took over--I could finally try my hand at making seitan. I know, I'm so painfully behind the times, but I've only eaten seitan a few times. I decided to make the Seitan o' Greatness that swept through blogland quicker than the horse flu debilitated the Australian racing industry. Kneading seitan dough is completely different to kneading bread--so rubbery and tough! But it was relatively easy, and after a LONG time in the oven, we had this...
Rather than waiting for it to cool, we tried a bit straight away. Andy's first comment: It's nothing special. After the second bite: I can see how it would be good in things. After another try: It's pretty good. And so on. It's not called Seitan o' Greatness for nothing; this really is a great tasting log o' goodness. Andy tried to break off the crispy end (the cracklin'), and ended up ripping a little hole.I can't believe I've waited so long to embrace Seitan! I'm a new convert--up next, I'm going to try making the seitan ribz that everyone in the world except me has tried.

While the oven was on, Andy made some chippies.

Because we'd snacked all afternoon on fruit, chips, and seitan, we had a light dinner. Stir fry featuring zucchini, carrot, capsicum and green peas. Tossed with rice noodles in a soy-sweet-tangy sauce and coriander and sesame seeds. Hope your weekends were as good...