Friday, October 26, 2007

Eat your veggies

We've had a very veggie-full week. There are a few more photos than this, trapped on my camera, but I guess you will have to wait to see those!

First, twice-baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and salad, made by Andy. The insides of a baked potato were scooped out and mashed with hot english mustard, cayenne pepper, parsley and onions, then topped with tomato sauce and bread crumbs.

Big fat salad, also made by Andy (with some help from me). From the bottom up: couscous, fresh raw corn, tomato, cucumber, beetroot, capsicum, basil leaves, garlic chives, olives, sauteed eggplant, and some previously baked pumpkin. The pumpkin was infused with rosemary and lots of black pepper. On the salad, it was topped with freshly toasted bread crumbs and parsley. This was quite a dinner!

So, that's it from me for the next week. Tonight is Reclaim the Night (Take back the night in North America), so I'll be marching down the night club strip and MC-ing a rally. Then Sunday, I fly to Canberra for a conference. I'm sure I'll have plenty to blog about when I get back, including some vegan blogger meet-ups and restaurants and other fun stuff. Have a good week, everyone!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I was torn about publishing a new blog post. I posted yesterday and there has been some interesting discussion going on, and I would like to hear more opinions on the subject. But, I gotta get on with my life. So I'll just request that people read the post below this one and leave lots of comments! But for now, on with this one...

Inika cosmetics are an Australian owned, vegan, mineral make up. You can order online, or through a few stores in Australia, the UK and the US. Be warned: they are expensive! More than I would have ever considered paying for make up. I had to convince myself that it's worth it to support a vegan company, that it is a good product, that I spend money on nothing else so this is my luxury item... I still feel bad about the price, but DAMN I love the product.

I use Mineral Foundation #17, Passion. I also purchased the mineral setting powder, which can go under the foundation on oily complexions, or over for a more 'matte finish'. I also bought their vegan make up brush, which is the softest and most luxurious feeling brush I've found--and it contains no animal hair!

The foundation leaves my face feeling smooth, and it stays put all day. Even after a sweaty bike ride home, my face is still looking good. A little goes a long way, too, so it makes me feel a bit better about paying so much. Plus, the company purchases carbon offsets to neutralise their shipping emissions.

If you're looking for a bit of luxury, or you don't mind spending a bit on quality make up, check out Inika cosmetics.

(And check out the post just below and tell me what you think!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sex sells...

Aussie singer/actress Sophie Monk has put out this advertisement in conjunction with peta. (Click for more details.)

This isn't a new tactic. Peta has put out sexy ads featuring Alicia Silverstone and other celebs, and they use women wearing only lettuce leaves to promote vegetarianism. What do you think about using sexuality to sell animal rights?

I am torn on the issue. On the one hand, it is attention grabbing, which is the goal. It refutes the idea that vegans are all sickly and pale, or hippies. On the other hand, it's playing into patriarchal values--women's bodies can be ogled and used. To me, this is part of the same system of exploitation that allows meat-eaters to remain disconnected from the suffering they cause; how many vegans have heard the argument, "They're only raised for food". To top it off, they only seem to use models and actresses who fit into very narrow definitions of sexy. What about all the sexy veg*ns who don't fit into that cookie cutter?

So, are they simply playing the system by using the most effective ad campaigns there are, or are they supporting one form of oppression while arguing against another?

Update: Rather than replying to comments on other people's blogs, as I sometimes do, I'm responding here because I think the discussion is a good one. If you've left a comment, check back every now and then!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Weekend eats

Lots of cooking happened in my kitchen this weekend.

It started with three fresh ripe strawberries we picked off our potted plant.
We shared, 1 1/2 strawberries each, sliced over a bowl of cereal. In my bowl is Vita Brits, Tropical Muesli, and Corn Flakes, with low-fat soy milk.
For dinner on Friday, Andy made some 'Kung Pao Seitan', based on a recipe from the back of a noodle package. We subbed seitan for pork, added extra veggies like Chinese Broccoli, mushrooms, and carrots.
Saturday breakfast was more sharing. We split a bakery hot dog bun, topped with avocado. We shared a bakery fruit bun (most Woolie's and Cole's are vegan, check the ingredients list) with nuttlex, cinnamon, and vanilla sugar. We split a tomato and cooked it under the griller. And we split a round of watermelon, cut into wedges here. Sharing food is a good way to get lots of variety and start your day off right :-)
What to cook for dinner the night before the markets? We had a bit of wilty Chinese Broccoli (marked down to $0.85), two limp carrots, a BIG capsicum, a small handful of fresh mushrooms, and some green beans. We added to that with some pantry items: dried shiitake mushrooms, and udon noodles.
They were combined in the wok with lots of ginger, some garlic, chilli flakes (dried from our chilli plant), and a sauce of golden syrup, apple cider vinegar, and soy sauce. The combination of sweet and tart was delicious, and the kick of ginger rounded the whole thing off.For dessert? SusanV's Pineapple Coffee Cake (thanks, Amey, for pointing it out!). When I made this, Andy thought I had to add coffee to the batter. Apparently coffee cake doesn't exist in Australia; here, it's tea cake. Regardless, this cake was delicious. My version had extra goodies for the topping--desiccated coconut and almond meal. High fat, I know, but delicious. The cake got moister and yummier the second day.
Sunday afternoon. I think Andy was bored. He cooked up a feast of Mexican Lasagna. Between layers of tortilla was refried beans, carrot, eggplant and tomato. The whole thing was topped with slices of fresh tomato, BBQ sauce, and some sliced black olives. When it came out of the oven we topped it with avocado (which takes the place of cheesy toppings really well!).
Those pumpkin wedges in the background? They are still to come. Andy cut slits in them and stuffed them with rosemary. While the oven was on, we baked those, as well as some sweet potato, and two baked potatoes for later in the week. Doubling up on oven meals is sorta what we do; it's cheap, it's efficient, and it keeps the house cooler later in the week!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Veganism is beautiful

I shop for personal products at the Discount Chemist Warehouse. First, because it's cheap. But more importantly, because I have the choice between 3 or 4 different vegan brands. This is in a mainstream store, and they are very clearly labelled, and no more expensive (oftentimes cheaper) than the non-vegan products. It's amazing! In America, I had an easy time finding processed vegan food in stores, but had to order products online. Here in Townsville, it's the other way around.

You can choose from Freeman Botanicals, which specialises in fruity skincare products like this Hot Sugar Body Scrub...
Or products from the Purist Company. Their haircare products are called Al'chemy. All ingredients are organic, and plant-based. There are no sulfates or other yucky things. You can choose from Rice Amino & Wheat Protein Shampoo for dry hair, or Ylang Ylang for colour treated. Conditioners like Avocado and Calendula, or Macademia and Wheat leave your hair feeling silky smooth. Their body and skin line is called A'kin. Jasmine aromatherapy bodywash smells divine, or Rose and Geranium hand lotion moisturizes without that greasy feeling.
Natural instinct is another organic, vegan product. Their packaging is as no-frills as their product. I've used their shampoo and conditioner, and wasn't really happy with it. It did the job, but left my hair feeling a bit dry. The facial scrub is full of gritty stuff and leaves me feeling fresh.

The one thing I don't buy from the Chemist Warehouse is my toothpaste. They have no completely vegan options. But, luckily, Woolworths (a major supermarket chain) does! It's made with parsley seeds, so it tastes a bit funny but I love it.
Speaking of beautiful, there is a big shrub outside my front window which is covered in these purple flowers. In nurseries it is called a 'Geisha Girl'.
We've also got a smaller bush full of gorgeous and aromatic jasmine flowers.
I've just ordered some new vegan makeup, so I'll post a review when it comes in the mail.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Back to the food

Two quick dinners.
First, couscous. Mixed with a mixture of sauteed onions and eggplant, garlic, chickpeas and green peas. The couscous was hydrated in a mix of veggie stock, curry powder, lots of paprika, and lots of black pepper. While we ate this, Andy said "This tastes like Morocco, having never been there and not really knowing what their food is like". I concur--Moroccan Couscous!

Gnocchi (sorry they glow, but I was too hungry to fiddle with lighting). Covered in a red wine and garlic tomato sauce, and topped with fresh basil. Served with garlic bread, and the real star of the meal, the asparagus. Fresh asparagus was sauteed in some vegan butter, then mixed with lemon juice and capers. Delicious! Andy made this meal, and it was fantastic.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

While we're talking about the environment...

A snippet from this media release about World Vegan Day...

To produce a kilo of beef it takes 50,000 litres of water (that's equivalent to almost 1,400 four minute showers with a water saving showerhead) compare this to a kilo of rice (2,385 litres) or a litre of milk (4,000 litres) compared to a litre of orange juice (780 litres).

Australia is in the grips of a massive drought. So massive that they are making cheezy dramas about it on the ABC. But the cattle and sheep industries refuse to let go, and people in general refuse to make connections between their dinner plate and the environment.

According to this article,
The livestock sector is a key player in increasing water use, accounting for over 8 percent of global human water use, mostly for the irrigation of feedcrops. It is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance and many others. The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feedcrops, and sediments from eroded pastures.
Or what about this one:
A pound of beef requires around 12,000 gallons of water to produce, compared to 60 gallons for a pound of potatoes.
It's time for people to stop kidding themselves that their organic or humanely raised meat, dairy and eggs is any better than the worst factory farms. If anything, I think these things are worse because they lead to a sense of complacency, where people think, "I'm doing enough, my eggs are free range".

Ethics aside (though ethics are my biggest reason for veganism, I'll focus on the environment again), veganism is good for the environment. Vegan diets use less water, and in this country, that is a huge deal. Ask anyone from Brisbane. (Maybe they should incorporate daily diet into the water meters, so vegans can take longer showers....)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Notes from a cheap, green household

Today is Blog Action Day, the theme of which is environmentalism. I won't be explicit about the connections between veganism and the environment. All of my readers know that a vegan diet produces less greenhouse gas emissions, uses less water, and is generally MUCH better for the planet. (Look it up if you don't know about it.)

To be environmentally friendly doesn't mean paying lots of money. In fact, I think it really means consuming less and, therefore, spending less. The Australian
government is currently running ads that encourage people to turn off their computers when they're not in use, or to take 1 minute less in the shower. While these are important things that *everyone* should be doing, it's not enough. If we want to make a change, it has to be radical, and we need to address the underlying assumption that humanity can keep consuming for all of eternity. We need to remember those three R's we learned about in elementary school--Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. People often get caught up on the last one, but it is probably the least effective of the three. The other two are more important, in my opinion.

Reusing takes no energy, and it's so easy. We save all of our empty jars to store leftovers, or to use as vases, or for keeping homemade sauces. We buy used where ever possible. ALL of my furniture is used, probably 75% of my wardrobe is
second-hand, and our kitchen gear was purchased at op-shops as well. This weekend we took some time to help the environment and support the local hospital, at the Townsville Hospital Book Fair. We got all these books for $10. Included in the stack is Francis Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet, written in the 70's but still incredibly timely (though very heavy on dairy and eggs!). We also got a tofu book from the 80s, a veggie book from the early 90s, and a baking book from the 80s.

Even better than reusing? Reduce. Reduce the amount of packaging you use by buying in bulk. Reduce the distance things need to travel by purchasing locally. Simply reduce the amount of stuff that you buy. For dinner the other night, we had seitan chicken salad--homemade seitan, local avocado, tomato, cucumber, and lettuce. The dressing was a local lime, homemade vegan worcestershire, and some home-grown coriander.

We did the math, and figured out that it costs less than $10 to make 8 pounds of chicken-style seitan, which usually gives us a base for 16 meals. We also buy our gluten flour from the local Organic Buyers Network, and turn it into seitan ourselves, cutting down on processing and transportation.

Keeping on with this theme, we buy just about all our fruit and veg from the farmer's market, and turn it into delicious vegan food in our kitchen. For example, these local tomatoes. Andy reckons, "This is the way tomatoes are supposed to be".
Topped with homemade vegan cheese, and a basil leaf from the garden, these were a nice summery dinner.This meal probably cost $3 for the two of us.

Although organic food and vegan food is sometimes more expensive, it isn't always. Local sources are often cheaper, and better for the environment. Plus, if you cut down on the other things you're purchasing, you'll have extra money to spend on more expensive organic things.

Now that we've dealt with consumption, we need to do something about the producers (who are really in charge of supply and demand, in my opinion). I think we can take 'em. Who's with me?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Two new favourites

Eggplant parm, one of Andy's new favourite dinners. We used Buffalo Mostarella from the Ultimate Uncheese, spread onto grilled eggplant and then covered with tomato sauce and herbs. In the oven at the same time was asparagus, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and cooked to tender perfection. When I first made asparagus like this, Andy asked "What is this sauce? I could drink it!" Drinking salty oil maybe isn't the healthiest choice!
Jerk tofu with sauteed zucchini and carrots. The jerk marinade was based on a recipe from Vegan Planet. It calls for 1/4 c. of oil, so when I dumped everything into the frying pan together, the tofu was sort of crispy-fried. Yummy, spicy, sweet, rich, this marinade is going to become a regular in my house.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ultimate Uncheese

On Friday I received the 10th Anniversary Edition of Joanne Stepaniak's Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook. I know this is an older cookbook that many people have seen, but if you haven't--Go get it. This cookbook has only been in my life for 5 days, and it's already been rocking my world. I was expecting the recipes to be all vegan cheeses or vegan versions of cheesy dishes, but she also offers alternatives to cheese (for example, using avocado in place of vegan cheese). And while there are many recipes for block uncheeses and uncheese dips and spreads, there are tons of recipes for pasta, baked goods, and even desserts. Here's what I've made so far....

Buffalo Mostarella, from the Block Uncheese chapter. This uses oats and cornstarch to set, but I think I didn't cook it for long enough. I was worried it was sticking and burning, so I took it off the heat but I should have let it get super stiff.
Here it is in the pan where it was supposed to take shape. Instead, it's more like a spread, but it's tasty. My one complaint--holy mother of god, 1 T. of onion powder! Maybe Aussie onion powder is more concentrated than American, but according to the pack of onion powder 1T. is the equivalent of three onions. Next time I'll cut down on that.

Buffalo Mostarella spread on rye bread, heated under the griller, and topped with fresh basil. Yum!
Buffalo Mostarella in blobs on top of pizza. It didn't really melt, so it meant getting a mouthful of uncheese every now and then. In the future, I'll spread the uncheese on the crust in an even layer, probably under the sauce.
Fettucini Alfonso. Instead of lots of fat, this cream sauce relies on blended cannelini beans for its creaminess, and corn and tahini for its flavour. A very mild tasting sauce, we matched it up with sauteed zucchini, capsicum, and fresh asparagus. Topped with generous amounts of fresh basil and garlic chives. Yum.
A black sapote pie. The crust is Granola Nut Crust from the dessert section. Super simple, deliciously sweet and nutty, this crust was the star of the pie. I baked it till golden, then filled it with a mixture of black sapote and mango-flavoured silken tofu.

The sweetness of the pie crust matched beautifully with the mild flavour of the mango-sapote filling. Here it is, nestled amongst some banana-melon sorbet.
In addition to great recipes, this book has a really interesting foreword about dairy, and why it totally sucks ass. It focuses mostly on health, as its written by a doctor, but it also examines the ethical and environmental aspects. Get this book!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Lots of pictures

Somehow I ended up with a bunch of photos I haven't posted, so I'll keep words to a minimum.

Roasted Corn Chowder. An amalgamation of 'roasted corn soup' from The Vegan Gourmet, 'roasted corn chowder' from Vegan Planet, and 'springtime corn soup' from the newspaper. Also, I mixed in some zucchini and capsicum for a heartier dinner. Garnished with tomato and basil.

Sushi, not made by me. This is from a new Japanese restaurant near my house. Avocado roll, tofu roll, and vegetarian maki.
A yummy snack bar I found on the clearance rack at Cole's. Slightly sweet, with a chewy texture and a fruity/nutty flavour, this was good, but hardly worth paying full price for (~$2 for one).
Potato gnocchi tossed with olive oil and some sauteed garlic, carrots, capsicum and zucchini. And lots of freshly ground black pepper. Yum.

Lasagna, step by step. The bottom layer was tomato sauce with eggplant and capsicum. In the middle was tofu mixed with spinach, carrots, zucchini and green peas, topped with white sauce.
The very top layer was noochy white sauce topped with fresh bread crumbs and fresh parsley.
Here it is, cut open.

And finally, I was riding my bike home the other day along the river, and what did I see....
Take a closer look. It's a pelican, out enjoying the late afternoon sun!

Monday, October 08, 2007

SusanV's omelette for one

I tried to make this recipe with one big change--I made it a vegan omelette for two. I followed the recipe exactly, which is a rare thing in our household. I put it in the pan, waited and waited for it to cook, but it just wasn't working. When I tried to peek under the edges to see if it was cooking, it ripped. In one spot, it was starting to burn. So Andy poured the other half of the batter into the pan and we turned it into scrambled eggs instead. But, because it was so liquidy and cornstarchy, it was still fairly gooey even when it was fully cooked. Here it is, my disaster of a vegan omelette for two, with mushrooms, red capsicum and tomato.

It's obviously not the recipe, because it worked for Susan and a few other bloggers, but maybe turning it into a vegan omelette for two fundamentally changed it or something. That's all I can think of, anyways...

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Black Sapote Post

I've blogged about it before, and maybe even posted a picture or two, but this post is dedicated to one of my favourite fruits, the Black Sapote. Originally from Mexico, it grows really well in tropical North Queensland so it's a great market buy. Related to the persimmon, it is often called the Chocolate Pudding Fruit. When ripe, the flesh is soft and creamy with a mild flavour that is reminiscent of mellow chocolate.

Buy sapotes when they are green and hard, and then leave them on the counter until they get very soft and mushy. Then cut them open, pick out the seeds, and scoop the flesh from the skin.
The market people suggest making it into a milkshake or an ice cream. One former housemate from Mexico suggested mixing it with the juice of an orange, which sweetens up the flavour. You could very easily make a raw pie filling, pudding, or ice cream out of this gem of a fruit. My favourite way to eat it is plain: we usually cut it in half and scoop it from the skin straight into our mouths.
If you're ever in a tropical location and see black sapote (apparently they're grown in Florida, even), give it a try. In addition to being delicious and versatile, they are also low in fat and packed with vitamin C--about 4 times the amount found in oranges.

Monday, October 01, 2007

High as a kite

This weekend Townsville hosted a kite festival, so we went down to have a look. There were tons of people around, and lots of BIG kites up in the air, but they were just sort of... sitting there. They were tied off and just hovered like big balloons. After 5 seconds we were a bit bored.
Luckily, on the other side of the footpath some stunt kites were flying.

Later in the day, there was 'kite ballet' and kite surfing on the water, but the sun was hot and the kites were mostly just sitting there, so we decided not to wait around. Either way, it was a fun afternoon.

Curing a cold, tropical style

Friday I mostly zoned out in the beanbag because I felt pretty awful, so on Saturday morning I decided: enough! I'm going to get over this freakin cold. Ever see the South Park episode where everyone gets SARS, and Stan has to go on a vision quest to find the Middle Class White cure--chicken soup, cough syrup, and ginger ale? Well, I took advantage of the Tropical Australian cure.

First, on Friday night, Andy made a stir-fry for dinner featuring his cure-all combination of chilli, ginger, and garlic. He also threw in some lime juice for vitamin C, and soy sauce for taste. He marinated some chicken-style seitan in this mix, and then cooked it all up in the wok with some carrots, capsicum, and zucchini.

The next morning, we hit up the chemist for some cough syrup, and then went straight to the beach. We spent the first half of the day reading in the sun, swimming, and watching people play with the dogs in the surf.
Make sure you bring a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of water and suncream.
This No-Ad stuff is great, because it's cheap, effective, and vegan. I've got a bunch of it still from the States, and I may be asking my parents to bring some more over when they visit in November.
After the beach, I didn't have much of an appetite, so we had a nutrient-dense lunch. Avocado mashed up with lime juice, coriander, and garlic chives, on 9 grain toast.
The cure must have worked, because by Saturday afternoon I felt so much better that I cooked and baked! For dinner, eggplant parm. Fresh, unfried slices of eggplant, topped with a chunky tomato sauce, and covered in a simple, creamy nutritional yeast sauce.
Andy reckons, "If you didn't know this was vegan, you would wonder what kind of weird cheese is on top".
For dessert, banana bars, similar to Susan V's Banana Coconut Bars. Instead of using soft tofu, I used peanut butter. And rather than coating them in icing sugar (we don't have any), I just sprinkled on some cinnamon before they baked. Yum, yum, yum!
So, maybe it's not the most medically sound cure. I still have a nasty cough, but I really do feel much better. A little vitamin D, some salt water, and lots of healthy vegan food is good for the body and the soul!