Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hot and Cold

Although summer doesn’t technically start in Australia until Monday, it has reached Townsville with a vengeance. It has been hot here. Like, really stinking hot. Yesterday it was 34 degrees, which is about 94 Fahrenheit. And since it’s been raining every few nights, the air is thick with humidity.

To give you an idea of the sort of heat I’m dealing with... the sun heats up all the pipes, which means that water coming from the cold tap is warm enough to wash dishes in. I leave the house at around 7:30 in the morning to get to uni before the sun gets up too high—but for the past few days, I’ve been sweating before I even leave the house. Thank goodness there’s a shower in my building!

In this kind of heat, appetites are very different than they are in winter. I’ve been juicing lots of fruit and vege in order to get lots of nutrients without filling myself up too much.

A good meal in summer is simple grilled seitan. Real Food Daily chicken-style seitan, marinated in Urban Vegan’s Classic Marinade, charred in a skillet and served with tomato sauce is quick and easy and requires very little hands-on time in the hot kitchen.

An Urban Vegan Tester recipe

Similarly, Urban Vegan’s Hearty Adzuki Bean Soup was a good meal to make on a hot day. Wait... hearty soup, on a hot day? Really?! Well actually, yes. To make this soup, you literally throw everything into a pot and let it simmer for an hour or so. I stirred occasionally, but most of the time this was cooking I was sitting with my feet up, writing christmas cards.

An Urban Vegan Tester recipe

And today, I got caught in a serious rainstorm on my way in to uni. Warm leftover soup was more than welcome!

But really, what I mostly feel like eating is ice cream. So I jumped at the opportunity to test Urban Vegan’s Unfried Ice Cream. Chocolate ice cream with a yummy coating is a perfect end to a hot day.

An Urban Vegan Tester recipe

I hope that wherever you are, whatever weather is being thrown at you right now, you're dealing with it well!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Testing, 1-2-3

As I’ve said, I’m trying not to be a lazy cook when Andy’s out of town. A really good way to make sure I’m not? Commit to trying several new recipes a week from an upcoming cookbook. As Urban Vegan has revealed, she is writing a cookbook and I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen as a tester. Urban Vegan is one of the oldest and most regular readers of my blog (she and bazu were my first readers!) and I’ve been following her blog for more than two years now (maybe three?) so I’m honoured to take part in the testing phase of her cookbook. And they are all so good! Have a look at some of the recipes I’ve been able to test...

Spaghetti con Salsa Fresca, which is really simple—one of those meals in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Focaccia, which I made in four variations—plain, rosemary, olive and roasted tomato.

Moroccan Millet Timbales, served here with avocado yogurt and tofu scramble.

Deconstructed Monkey Bread, which is a very sweet treat, and super quick to put together.

And finally, Cameroon Mafe, with chunks of veggies and tvp in a velvety smooth peanut sauce.

I’ve been trying lots of new foods and I have lots more recipes bookmarked to try in the coming weeks. Check out the Flickr group for more photos from testers.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Birthday? Pleh. Birthweek!

To extend my birthday celebrations well beyond my birthday, I cashed in a gift certificate from my mum and sister on Saturday and spent an hour and a half at the spa.

Plant Essentials is a locally-owned shop and wellness spa in Townsville. Their products are free from animal products and are not tested on animals. (The shop isn't entirely vegan as they sell some organic dairy and egg foods.) This is what their website says about their spa products:
All the products used in our treatments are blended in small hand made batches in our Townsville store. Using plant derived ingredients and no animal testing . Where possible we source local, organically farmed & wildcrafted [collected from the wild, not farmed] ingredients. We use recyclable packaging, & most products can be refilled in store for a discount.

These products are not only better for the environment, but better for you. We prefer to choose cruelty free products & ingredients. We believe in fair trade. We believe in uninterrupted treatments, that's why our salon is separated from our fully attended retail store. We are here to help you be and feel as beautiful as you can be, naturally.

I was really happy with my spa experience. The half-hour massage was a welcome break in my usual routine of sitting at a computer desk and riding my bike. The facial left my skin smooth and glowing. And the "feet treat" was a relaxing experience for my toes... and I now have painted toenails, for the first time in several years. I must say, I am theoretically uninterested in things so frivolous as toenail polish... but I love it! My feet feel dressed up, even when I'm barefoot. And since I don't own polish-remover, my toes will be dressed up for a while!

If you live in Townsville, or will ever be near Townsville, I highly recommend a visit to Plant Essentials. Unless you don't want to feel this relaxed:

Now, to counteract some of the self-indulgence I've been guilty of in the past week, I'm lucky enough to have been "tagged" in another meme, of sorts. Vegan_Noodle from Walking the Vegan Line posted about a new blogging phenomenon called "Pay it Forward". Here are the rules:

The rules are simple:
I will send the first three people to leave a comment on this post a handmade gift within the next 365 days (that’s my kind of time frame!)
I am willing to post anywhere in the world, so don’t let that stop you commenting.

The catch is that you have to have a blog and be willing to do the same thing....

If you’ve got a blog come and join in the crafty fun, I promise Ill make something special! Leave me a comment and make sure to leave me a valid email address/link to your blog so that I can contact you for your address.

So, it's pretty simple. The first three people to comment on my blog will get something for free. As long as you're willing, of course, to play along. I'm sorry that I can't give something to everyone who comments... so I offer you another photo of Nacho, doing something weird to Andy's car.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Vanilla Chai

I love chai in all forms. When I go out for coffee, I don’t usually order coffee—I get a chai latte. I recently made some chai-spiced cookies to send to Andy... and I helped myself to a few before posting.

Needless to say, when I glanced at the soy ice cream in the supermarket recently and saw Vanilla Chai, I couldn’t resist.

Sweet, creamy, flavoured like cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg, and with a lingering taste of vanilla, this ice cream feels a bit more sophisticated than traditional chocolate or vanilla.

And considering it’s 97% fat free, it doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Happy birthday to me

My birthday was this week, and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. But, with Andy out of town, my main options were (1) to stay home alone and do nothing as I have conversations with the kitty or (2) organise something with a few friends. I’m still a bit young for the crazy cat lady thing, so I opted for a small gathering at my place.

I made four kinds of dip.

First, hummus. This wasn’t from a recipe, but I added cumin as I’ve seen in some recipes and I loved it.

I also defrosted some coriander (cilantro) pesto and blended it with some tofu and soy yogurt for a tangy, creamy dip.

I also took the opportunity to test out some recipes from Urban Vegan’s forthcoming cookbook. First, the Easy Tahini Sauce, made a bit thick to be dippable.

The other test recipe was the Creamy Avocado Dressing, which was tangy and creamy and really yum.

For dipping, I had sliced sourdough bread and water crackers. I told my friends about the recipe testing, and they took their job very seriously. Both new recipes were tried individually (palates were cleansed with beer between tastes), and on both bread and crackers. While both were delicious, the tahini dip was the clear favourite of the night.

Daria brought a tray of cut up veggies, corn chips, and the yummiest tomato stuff I’ve ever had. Fresh ripe tomatoes from her parents’ garden, charred and cooked down in olive oil. Somehow such a simple concept gains so much in the process. I’m currently pestering her for a recipe, which she says doesn’t exist.

And what’s a birthday without a cake? I tried to make Boston cream pie I saw bazu blog about ages ago. But, the cream didn’t thicken much at all, so I filled the centre with peanut butter and some of the chocolate topping instead. This is a flavour combination which is fairly foreign to most Australians but my friends all thought it was great.

I had some leftover cake today, topped with the runny cream filling and strawberries. Yummy.

And, over the course of two days (time difference and all) I’ve been absolutely showered with birthday wishes via facebook, email, and text message. Andy hid my favourite chocolate in the closet before he left (but I found it a few days early). Heather got me a shirt from New Internationalist... it didn’t photo well, but it has a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

Viv got me a cool book full of great ideas about making changes which lead to environmental and social changes.

A few friends, some food and some drinks is a good way to spend any night, but especially a birthday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Seven Facts

I’ve been tagged to participate in this meme by The Totally Bad-Ass Little One, so here are seven random facts you probably never thought you wanted to know about me.
  1. This year, my birthday happened to fall on the day in which the sun was directly over Townsville. It was cloudy all day.
  2. When I lived in the United States, the furthest west I’d been (not counting places where I never left the airport), is Buffalo, NY and Niagara Falls (whichever is further west). The furthest west I’ve been here in Australia is probably Ravenswood, a little (formerly big) gold mining town in Townsville’s outback.
  3. When I wash dishes, I don’t rinse the suds off (except for drinking cups and glasses). I expect this to shock and awe Americans—I was both shocked and awed that Andy didn’t rinse when I moved over here. But our detergent is all kinds of natural and organic, and the suds slide off anyways. Plus, it’s a good way to conserve water.
  4. I spent the first two years of my life living in Maryland. For the next 19 I lived in the same small town in upstate NY. Now I’ve called Townsville home for two years and six months.
  5. I love doing crossword puzzles. I love words in general. Yet, somehow, I’ve never played real Scrabble. I’ve played Scrabulous on facebook a few times, but I’m no good at it.
  6. Towards the end of high school, I decided I wanted to go to university to major in Psychology and ultimately become a school counsellor. In my first semester of uni, I took Intro to Psych and two sociology classes—Embodying Gender and Deviance and Social Control. Psych bored the bejeesus out of me, but I felt at home in sociology. I decided then that I wanted to do postgrad and become an academic. Six years later, I’m 15 months away from finishing my doctorate in sociology/anthropology. Maybe (maybe??) there is a job in academia for me when I get out...
  7. We have to shut the windows every other night because the block of units we live in is irrigated, and the sprinklers spray right into the kitchen and living room.

I know a lot of people have already done this meme, or have done memes like it. I also know that some people don’t particularly like memes. But I’m going to go ahead and tag some bloggers I don’t know much about. Feel free to ignore my tag, but if you do participate, let me know – ŀĀŘ¡ŝ∫Á from LaTin Veg Bites, wanting kneading, and David J from Through Balanda Eyes. If anyone else would like to partake, please let me know so I can read your facts!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


For the past few weeks, asparagus has been on serious sale. We’re talking $1 a bunch (normal prices are $2.50 or more). The asparagus isn’t exactly local—it’s grown in Victoria—but it’s heaps better than the usual stock which comes from South America. Asparagus is good in so many ways, especially those in which it can shine without competing with a lot of other flavours.

In this dinner, we roasted asparagus with radishes in soy sauce and garlic. Roasted asparagus is sweet, which went beautifully with the mellow spice of radishes. This dish was served alongside roasted potatoes with kalamata olives; a raw salad; and (the poop-looking things in the back) pulp nuggets.

Asparagus is no doubt the star of the show in this Asparagus Tart. And this was the epitome of easy. A sheet of frozen puff pastry, a thin layer of vegan alfredo sauce (leftover from pasta the night before), and asparagus spears, baked for 20 minutes.

The asparagus gets tender, the puff pastry gets flaky and the tang of the alfredo sauce ties it all together without overwhelming.

And finally, steamed asparagus spears with salt and olive oil. Serving whole spears of asparagus feels very gourmet, in my opinion. It also makes me think of that scene in American Beauty where the husband tells his family he blackmailed his boss and quit his job.

These spears accompanied a not-so-gourmet mixture of mashed sweet potatoes and sautéed onion, crumbled tofu, grated carrot and fresh corn.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New recipes

I’m home alone again for a few weeks, but this time I’m trying to avoid the unhealthy laziness (and busy-ness) that took over last time Andy was away.

At the same time, I am fairly busy, and it’s stinking hot here... so I don’t want to spend heaps of time in the kitchen. So I’ve been trying out a few new recipes that don’t take much effort—I’ve found La Dolce Vegan a key resource for this style of cooking.

To use up the baby wombok from the fridge, I flipped through cookbook indexes until I found La Dolce Vegan’s Tomato Cabbage Soup. It was too hot for soup, so I left out the stock and served it over rice. I also added 5-spice powder, because I was using chinese cabbage and it just seemed appropriate. It was good, and took about 10 minutes on the stove.

With the leftover rice and the other half of cabbage, I put together a variation on Indonesian-Style Rice with Tempeh from Vegan Planet. Instead of tempeh, I crumbled up some seitan from the freezer. Topped with cucumber, this was a perfect meal for a hot day.

Cooking for one, at least for me, means constantly trying to keep up with using veggies before they go off. Somehow I ended up with about 12,000 potatoes (maybe I exaggerate) so to use them up I tried a recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance—Stewed Tofu and Potatoes in Miso Gravy. Instead of tofu, I used more seitan, and I added some corn to the mix as well. I expected this to be a very heavy meal, but I was pleasantly surprised. The combination of white wine, thyme and miso makes for a delicate and tangy gravy.

Expect even more new recipes in the weeks to come, as I've been taken on board by Urban Vegan as a tester for her upcoming cookbook!

Friday, November 14, 2008


Noodles are a quick and easy foundation for a meal, which can be done without turning on the oven and hotting up the house, or even much time standing over the stove. Here are three ways we’ve had noodles recently.

This is a quick stir fry of onion, zucchini, green capsicum, mushroom spinach, and corn mixed with rice noodles. These noodles are soaked in boiling water for 3 minutes and then drained and they’re ready to go, so they’re a great ingredient when you want food fast. The flavour in this stir fry comes from chilli and some leftover sunflower-miso salad dressing.

This is an adapted version of the ‘Green Bean, Asparagus and Tofu Stir Fry over Couscous’. The main change, obviously, is that I subbed more rice noodles for the couscous. I also added black sesame seeds for pizzazz. This was a really yummy way to use some fresh, springy asparagus.

Finally, the quickest kind of noodles yet. I came home from an animal rights meeting to a lovely raw lunch made for me by Andy. Zucchini ‘noodles’, fresh spinach from the garden, and tomatoes were the base of the salad, and the dressing was probably technically not raw but had Bragg’s, miso, chilli, rice bran oil, sesame oil, and lots of ginger. I think this meal was inspired by a recipe in the recent food issue of VegNews, but don’t quote me on that.

I love noodles!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

They're back...

Longer-term readers of this blog will know that Andy and I are kind of obsessed with mangoes (see all my mango-tagged posts). So we’ve been watching the mango blossoms turn into tiny mangoes, and waiting for the days when they get big enough and ripe enough to eat.

Well, the time is here. I saw a sign advertising Cheap Bowen Mangos outside a barber shop so I went in and got four littlies for $2. We waited impatiently as they ripened on the benchtop, picking them up daily to sniff them and feel for the tell-tale tenderness.

When they finally ripened, we didn’t bother with recipes, juicers, or any fuss whatsoever—we just cut them open and ate them plain, juice dripping down our hands as we went.

It’s still early in the season, so cheap mangos are few and far between, but expect to see more of them over the next few weeks and months.

The funny thing is – it was only a few weeks ago that we used up the last of the mango in the freezer from last season.

Monday, November 10, 2008

My fridge and freezer.

I had a hard time keeping up with everyone’s VeganMoFo posts, but a post I saw doing the rounds was the “in my freezer” post. I like it, so now that I’ve got a bit more free time I thought I would let you peek into my fridge and freezer.

Andy and I got our fridge from a guy who sells refurbished second-hand appliances, and we haven’t had a problem with it in the nearly three years we’ve had it. The outside is covered in photos, takeaway menus, postcards, a free movie ticket, heaps of magnets, a budget for November and the bit of paper on which Andy asked me to marry him.

Sitting on top we have: our wok; regular soy sauce; dark soy sauce; balsamic vinegar; a roll of paper towels we never use; cooking salt; and our oils—olive, rice bran, homemade chilli, and sesame.

Continuing down from the top, our uppermost freezer shelf houses: 2 tubs of ice cream—one nearly empty chocolate, and one nearly full vanilla chai (post on this coming soon); a bag of tater tots; a Tupperware of roasted pumpkin; reduced to clear noodles; a jar of farmer’s market coriander (a bit of an experiment; it freezes fine, fyi); organic broccoli we bought on special and chopped and froze; chicken-style seitan, cut into meal-sized pieces; a bag of green broadbeans; 2 jars of cooked fava beans (we pressured cook big batches and store the leftovers in jam jars in the freezer); 2 containers of mango-flavoured silken tofu; a package of puff pastry; a jar of cooked chickpeas.

In the bottom shelf of the fridge you can find: Filo dough, chopped spinach, carrots (cut and frozen by Andy); a blue ice block; a jar of coffee; pizza dough; sliced bread; reduced to clear bread rolls; 2 bags of green peas; about 6 blocks of firm tofu; a jar of cooked white beans; a jar of coriander pesto; and more reduced to clear noodles.

In the freezer door we keep: ground LSA mix; ginger; chillis from the garden; yeast; a jar of cat treats; and some gross fish food.

Down in the fridge, the top shelf keeps: soy milk; a brita filter; a bowl of bread waiting to become crumbs (that’s not usually in there); a few jars of jam; a few jars of olives; and a can of redbull I was given on the very first day of my PhD that I have yet to drink. We usually have a litre of soy yogurt in there as well, but on the day of the photo it was out becoming yogurt.

In the middle fridge shelf, which is a bit bare right now, we have: granny smith apples; a jar of dill pickles; apple sauce; nuttelex; and a bag of jelly beans my parents sent last easter.

The bottom shelf of the fridge is where we keep: a bottle of Yellowtail Pinot Grigio; two bottles of homebrew beer; a cucumber; and a rockmelon.

The fridge drawers are also usually more full, but at the end of the week they had: apples; potatoes; oranges; and a wombok.

The fridge door is where we keep lots of condiments to make dinner taste good, like (top to bottom): fresh rosemary; ginger; garlic; limes; lush lotion (Townsville is too hot for handmade cosmetics); Tandoori paste; tamarind puree; pickled ginger; four types of curry paste; probiotic capsules for yogurt-making; the leftovers from a tin of pineapple chunks; plum sauce; minced garlic; chilli capsicum deli spread; sunflower butter; miso; a block of chocolate; a box of nerds my parents sent at christmas; a bottle of white wine for cooking; basil oil; hoisin sauce; and reduced to clear juice.

Phew! Who knew it was possible to squeeze so much stuff into a relatively small space? And this is when it's on the empty side...

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Ever since we got our juicer, Andy and I have been drinking various combinations of fruits and veggies. But juicing feels so wasteful, even knowing that the leftover pulp goes into the worm farm and makes us good dirt. The first pulp-recycling experiment (pulp nuggets!!) was a success so we decided to try some more...

These are stuffed mushrooms. The stuffing is made from onions, spinach, and the pulp from (I think) carrot, sweet potato, and zucchini. The picture looked alright on my laptop, but here at uni the screen is different and it seems really dark. Hopefully you all have better monitors than I do!

This was a yummy dinner of baked tofu (marinated in hoisin, plum sauce, and a few other surprises), roasted green beans with kalamata olives, and broccoli-chickpea casserole. The casserole sauce is a simple white sauce--turned purple with the addition of beetroot and carrot pulp (Andy's idea). While I thought this was a very yummy way to use pulp, the colour threw Andy off a bit.

Finally, we have some more stuffed veggies. This time, Hawaiian-stuffed zucchinis. The stuffing is made from pineapple and carrot pulp, flavoured with tamarind paste, chilli oil and a few other things. With the zukes we had roasted radishes and beets, and a yummy salad of baby spinach and marinated portobella mushrooms.

Does anyone have suggestions on how else to use some of the pulp produced by the juicer?