Wednesday, May 27, 2009


It’s been a bit chilly here, and I know that it is all relative—most people would love a daily high temperature of 24 degrees C—but we’ve been indulging in lots of comfort foods and wearing sweat pants. Especially Andy, who is only recently back from field work in PNG, a mere 5 degrees south of the equator and with average ocean temperatures of 28 to 30 degrees C.

One such warm, cosy meal was a chickpea tetrazzini bake. It is based on the recipe from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook but we changed it up based on the veggies in the fridge and opted to make the whole thing pretty chickpea-centric. This is especially easy with a cast iron pan, or any pan that can go from stovetop to oven. This leaves you with just two pans to wash up (one for cooking the pasta). If you don’t have one, just transfer everything into an oiled casserole dish before baking. It was pretty good the way it was, but next time we make it I think we’ll use something like spirals or penne instead of fettuccini, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Chickpea Tetrazzini (makes enough for 6 to 8 serves)

400 grams fettuccini, broken into thirds
2 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, diced
2 small blocks frozen spinach
1 T. dried mixed herbs
1 c. chickpea flour (aka besan or gram flour)
4 c. low fat soy milk
½ to 1 tsp. salt
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 cups cooked chickpeas
½ c. almond meal
coarsely ground sea salt and black pepper

Heat oven to 180C (350F). Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet, sauté onion until translucent. Add garlic and stir for one minute. Add carrot and zucchini, sauté for about 5 minutes. In a jug, stir chickpea flour with about 1 cup of milk. Stir or blend with a stick blender until smooth. Add remaining 3 cups of soy milk to veggies in the skillet, and then add flour mixture and frozen spinach. Stir well, then lower heat to low and continue cooking until thick and bubbly, about 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain well. When the chickpea sauce is nice and thick, add pasta, green peas and chickpeas to the skillet. Stir everything up really well, then smooth down the top. Sprinkle with almond meal, salt and pepper. Bake until the edges start to get crunchy, 35 minutes. Take photos before serving with salad.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A feminist, vegan, anti-consumerist wedding.

My camera batteries have been dead for a week, so I’ve missed out on photographing lots of comfort food meals—mac & cheese, vegetable chowder, shepherd’s pie (topped with bright purple sweet potato!), lentil loaf… I do have a backlog of photos from before, but they are on my home computer, and I am currently at uni. So I will use this opportunity to let you all know about some wedding plans.
Andy and I went through a lot of different ideas on what we wanted to do. After a few months we both agreed that eloping to the rainforest was the most agreeable plan… but then I spent a few days with Andy’s mum in January, and started seriously second guessing myself. We changed dates and plans about a million times, but finally, six months after getting engaged, we made a final decision. Instead of eloping, we are having a small, private ceremony in the rainforest… a year from now. We were trying for this year, but I realised my PhD is my first priority, and I don’t have the brain capacity to think about both things right now.
So, next June my parents will come over from the US and Andy’s parents will come up from New South Wales. We’ll all congregate in the Daintree Rainforest, which is a 135 million+ year old rainforest about 5 hours north of Townsville. It is literally a relic of Gondwanaland. Andy and I will stay at the Daintree Eco Lodge, a low-impact but super swish resort in the jungle--we get a jacuzzi on our balcony!
That is also where we will have our ceremony, and dinner afterwards (when asked if they can cater for an entirely vegan meal, as well as daily breakfasts, they said “of course”). I nearly wrote off the concept of resort wedding packages, but this one works out to be cheaper than doing things ourselves, and it is still very personalisable. Plus, look how pretty.
The ceremony will incorporate rituals we like the idea of while rejecting things we think are lame. We’re avoiding anything that implies that two people “become one” when they are married—we both intend to stay separate individuals well into the future. We’re avoiding such patriarchal relics as the “giving away” of the bride. And we’re also avoiding shoes.
We’re also trying to avoid excessive consumption. The easiest way to do this is to have virtually no guests. There are no expectations of wedding favours, or gifts, or place cards, or invitations. We’ll try to DIY whatever we can, and whenever possible farm things out to our highly skilled friends. For instance, I have a friend who designs and makes clothing, so I’ve asked her to design a dress for me. I’ve been looking into eco-friendly fabrics for the dress as well.
Since it’s still so far away, we haven’t really done much planning. Like I said, I’m focusing on my PhD for now. I don’t expect to have that much planning to do ever, though, since we’ve consciously chosen the most low-key option that suits our relationship, our individual personalities, and our values.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pantry Food

When I came back from England (almost a month ago now... damn, I’m far behind) I had pretty much no food in the house. But I was fairly sick, suffering a lingering sinus infection that got a foothold as a result of cold weather, lack of sleep, being on an airplane and not eating as well as I should (and still hasn’t said goodbye, weeks later). And I was home alone, since Andy was finishing up a field work trip in PNG. And I was at uni during the days, and by the time I got home and had a shower I was ready to put sweatpants on and not leave the house again. All of these forces combined into a giant lack of motivation to go grocery shopping. I managed to survive for a week on meals put together solely from the pantry and the freezer.

One of the stand-out meals was this yummy chilli. Diced tomatoes, kidney beans, baked beans, TVP and spices from the pantry teamed up with a bit of frozen spinach and some veggie stock to make a delicious and hearty, slightly spicy stew that kept me warm against the chilly 22 degree weather (I’m only being a little bit ironic).

I was also impressed with my ability to piece together this yummy plate of spaghetti and tofu balls. Improvised following the model of chickpea cutlets, the tofu balls consisted of tofu (from the freezer) blended with garlic and herbs, balsamic vinegar, some oats, and gluten flour. After frying them for a little while I added a tin of tomato puree and some more herbs and then put the lot over some cooked pasta.

These were really good, but they were even better the next day, after the tofu balls had a chance to sit in the fridge and get all firm and stuff.

These meals are probably not the most nutritionally sound and I wouldn’t recommend them on a regular basis, but I reckon they’re healthy enough (especially compared with the SAD).

Monday, May 11, 2009

La fiesta vegana

To celebrate le seis de Mayo (or was it a belated cinqo meal?) I decided to host a Mexican vegan potluck for the local vegan group. Unfortunately, the group has been pretty hard to motivate and only a few people RSVPed. Then at the last minute some of those people couldn’t make it, so the potluck turned into dinner at my house with my friend, Mel. We had stacks of fun and way too much food between the two of us. While it would have been nice to have a bigger crowd, it was a good night anyways.

When I was still expecting a few people I made some sangria. Yellowtail red wine with pieces of apple, orange and carambola and topped up with lemonade. I’m sure it wasn’t authentic by any means, but I enjoyed it. Mel was driving so she didn’t imbibe, which meant I got to enjoy it for the next few days.
I had a trio of condiments to have with chips and with our main meal. Salsa, guacamole and ‘Almost Sour Cream’ (from Hot Damn and Hell Yeah).I also made some corn bread, following the recipe from HD&HY, which is probably the best cornbread I’ve ever made. I put the leftovers in the freezer and have been snacking on it since then, and even Andy likes it—he’s a notorious corn bread hater.For dinner I made enchiladas filled with rice and tofu and topped with a tomato-beany sauce. Mel made yummy Spanish rice. Unfortunately I forgot to photo any of our food... but I got a shot of my lunch the next day, topped with sour cream and guac. Not a great picture, but the food was super yummy.
And for dessert, we enjoyed Mel’s Mexican Chocolate Cake. This was seriously good, with a hint of spice and a cinnamon-y kick.
It’s always nice to share a meal with friends, especially when the friend is vegan, too.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Kitchen gadgets.

Although things have improved since I first moved over to Australia, my kitchen is still pretty poorly equipped compared to most people I know. We have acquired such useful tools as measuring cups, a baking sheet, and a mixing bowl. We’ve even gotten some toys that aren’t found in a standard kitchen, like our bread maker, juicer and yogurt maker. But there are still a few things that I have been able to live without, even though they would be nice—a food processor (we make do with a stick blender), a rolling pin (old wine bottle!), etc.

But I’ve been thinking lately about expanding my culinary toolkit, and I’m leaning towards getting an electric mixer. Thus far I’ve been fine without it—my stirring muscles are pretty ripped. But it would make baking much easier... But this begs the question—should I get a stand mixer or a hand mixer? I can see the obvious pros and cons: the stand mixer is probably better quality but takes up counter space, whereas the hand mixer is more mobile. What do you prefer? And do you have any brand recommendations (either positive or negative)? Any advice would be very helpful, as Andy and I don’t like to buy things that are likely to suck or break quickly.

On an unrelated note, I have two more pictures from my Britain trip to post. The first is for Liz2, who asked a few weeks ago to see the “new” coat I mentioned. Well, I’ve finally gotten a picture of me in it (and my fuzzy pink scarf), taken on my friend Nick’s camera phone (as seen on Flight of the Conchords) while we were in Piccadilly Station waiting for our respective trains.

The other is a cool sticker I saw in Liverpool. I don’t really have any explanation for posting this, except that I like it.