Wednesday, July 22, 2009

When life gives you capsicums...

Make capsicum-ade? Well, I suppose you could. Andy and I were presented with such an option when we scored a $10 box of local capsicums on our way back from Airlie Beach last week. We opted not to try capsicum-ade. So what do two people do with about five kilos of capsicums?

The first thing that we did was choose three for stuffing. I made a quick stuffing of bulgur, walnuts, and some veggies (also from Bowen) and filled up the cups. Then I spooned a bit of nooch sauce over the top and finished with a walnut for a classy garnish.

We’ve also been enjoying lots of capsicum side dishes...

To go with some of SusanV’s seitan ribz, we had a mix of sautéed Bowen zucchini and capsicum strips, and a salad of Bowen spinach, Bowen tomatoes, Bowen capsicum and olives.

Another capsicum-centric salad graced the side of this plate, of fava bean balls, roasted corn, and roasted veggies. Note the fresh dill from our garden, a wonderful addition to salad.

Even more capsicum and dill salad went alongside some mac’n’veggies’n’yeast. There is also some oil free garlic bread, made by spreading roasted garlic on some bread and toasting under the griller. This is amazingly yummy, and is possibly better than our usual butter and garlic creation.

Later in the week, Andy made another stuffed capsicum creation, and he stuffed some tomatoes while he was at it. The stuffing here was a blended navy bean mixture with sautéed onions, herbs, and capers. Topped with more nooch sauce, this was an interesting and yummy way to use up some veggies.

Finally, capsicum strips made a great addition to these sweet potato and black bean enchiladas.

If you're thinking to yourself, 'Well that doesn’t seem like 5 kilos worth of capsicum', you're right. We actually froze the majority of our bounty on the day we bought it. If you cut it beforehand, frozen capsicum is a quick and easy way to add a bit of pizzazz to a meal. I cut the capsicums variously into strips, chunks, and fine dice so we have plenty of choice in the next few weeks.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pizza pizza

One of our favourite meals to eat all year round is pizza. It's relatively easy, it can be done with as few or as many toppings as we have on hand, and it's kind of fun.

Our go-to crust is from Vegan with a Vengeance, with the addition of a few tablespoons of gluten flour. Our toppings vary depending on what we have on hand. Andy prefers his pizza chockas with toppings and sauce...

This was an interesting, Mediterranean-style pizza. Topped with sauteed eggplant, roasted pumpkin, tomatoes and tofu fetta with a herb-filled tomato sauce.

Here is a BBQ pizza with sauteed mushrooms, seitan, tomatoes and a bit of diced avocado. Served alongside some tater tots and roasted corn on the cob, this was a very yummy meal indeed.

And finally, a lighter, Hawaiian-esque pizza topped with seitan, capsicum and pineapple.

They're all good, but our new favourite pizza side dish has quickly become this 'cheesy garlic bread'. Pizza dough spread with a mixture of olive oil, nutritional yeast and roasted garlic and baked until it's crunchy around the edges...

This is a morish snack that isn't particularly healthy, but at least it's got B vitamins!

What are your favourite pizza toppings?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Going South.

As I hinted at in my last post, Andy and I just had a weekend away. Things lined up perfectly--Townsville was hosting a V8 Supercars race on the weekend, which meant the city was crowded full of rev heads, and we could hear the engines revving from our place, which is probably 5 kms from the race track. The same weekend, a National Geographic Student Expedition--a group of high schoolers from the US--was heading to Airlie Beach and through a few convoluted alumni connections I was asked to speak to the group about Aboriginal activism. I offered Andy's services as a marine biologist, which they snapped up without hesitation, and we had a room for two plus petrol expenses covered courtesy of NatGeo.

Airlie Beach is about 260 kilometres south of Townsville, a four hour drive. We headed down on Saturday and took our time, stopping in a few places along the way. In Bowen we went straight for the beach. Although Bowen is a sleepy town and is often overlooked for flashier Airlie, the beaches are just gorgeous.

Then we headed up Flagstaff Hill to have a look at the coast from up high. Look how blue the water is.

We ate lunch near the marina (cold pizza leftover from the night before) and then continued on our journey.
We checked into our accommodation, Bush Village, which was a total dump. We'd looked at their website and realised it was a backpacker's, but the description of amenities and facilities gave us high hopes that it would be comfortable at least. But it totally sucked, and was overpriced to boot. The cold water tap came off in my hand while I was in the shower; we had a private kitchen, but the kettle was covered in some sketchy black scale and the stove had no handles to turn on the burners; the bed was about as hard as the floor, and creaky. We were disappointed, but we headed out to the town of Airlie Beach to see what was around. Airlie Beach is a total backpacker's town, full of travel agencies, cafes and souvenir shops. The beach itself is fairly dumpy, but Airlie is popular because it is a jumping off point for the beautiful Whitsunday Islands.

After wandering around, we returned to our slum cabin and popped open a bottle of champagne and cooked up some veggie hot dogs for dinner. It was a weird combination, yes, but it was oddly satisfying.
The next morning we woke up tired from the terrible bed and took advantage of the free breakfast on offer (toast with jam) before going out for a walk. We wandered down the hill to Cannonvale Beach. Like I said, the beach itself is pretty undesirable but it was a beautiful day and the sun was shining.
From Cannonvale Beach we followed the path around the headland, past the marina and into Airlie village. We saw loads of fish jumping out of the water, gawked at excessively large yachts, and passed hordes of European and American backpackers.
Later in the day we gave our lectures, enjoyed dinner (veggie sausages, bbq-ed corn and pumpkin) with the group, and went to bed. The next morning there was a bit more group-time before we headed back north to Townsville. Again, we took our time coming up, keeping our eye out for roadside veggie stalls--Bowen is an agricultural town where lots of tomatoes, capsicums, potatoes, beans, and especially mangos are grown. Of course, we had to stop at Bowen's Big Mango. It is actually huge, as you can just see me at the bottom left of the mango.
We also found a roadside veggie stand where we giggled at the public toilet...

and then we loaded up on produce. We got spinach, zucchini, limes, beetroots, tomatoes, and capsicums. Some of our bounty, including a $10 box of capsicums and $1/kilo tomatoes...
And then we were home, where Nacho was happy to see us, and we were glad to have a comfy bed and a good shower once again.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baked goods make the best gifts.

Last week I was visited by the postie-fairy and it felt like gifts were showering down from the heavens. I may possibly be exaggerating a little, but it's been an exhausting few weeks--I've had to revisit my honours thesis from 3 years ago and edit the hell out of it because it's being published as a monograph (aka, a little book). That was a fairly draining exercise, so I was elated to come home from uni one afternoon to find not one but TWO parcels sitting on my doorstep. One was a nerdy anthropology book, a gift from a friend. The other was not one but TWO kinds of cookies from Iron Chef Amy.

Snickerdoodles and Choc Chip Cookies. It's been so long since I've had a snickerdoodle, so these were a delicious blast from the past. Andy had never eaten one, and he astutely pointed out that they taste a little like donuts. The choc chips were chewy and molasses-y and just how I like them. I won't disclose just how quickly we ate these, since it's a little embarrassing. And now I have Amy's address for stalking returning the favour.

I also gifted myself a slightly healthier snack--pumpkin spice bread. I sort of followed the recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking but the main difference was that I used all pumpkin puree instead of apple sauce, and I added dried mixed fruit. As soon as this cooled I sliced it and froze it, so it's the gift that keeps on giving. Whenever Andy or I feel like a snack we just take a slice out of the freezer and 20 minutes later it's as fresh as new.
My final recent baking project was a gift for someone else. One of Andy's office-mates generously fed Nacho Cat for us while we went away over the weekend. Coincedentally, Saturday was also her birthday. So to say thanks, and happy birthday, I baked her a batch off Raspberry Chocolate Blondie Bars from Vegan with a Vengeance. My favourite part about this recipe is that it makes enough to share, so we took a few with us on our road trip (ooh, I'll tell you more about that soon).Now I'm off to bake some more cookies to send down to Andy's oldest brother in Sydney, who has requested a batch. Maybe it will be vegan cookies, rather than vegan cupcakes, which eventually take over the world...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Welfarism vs. Abolitionism

I've recently come across a blog, Unpopular Vegan Essays written by Dan Cudahy. He writes about things that I often think about (and I assume most vegans have thought about at least once). My thoughts about activism and reforms echo his. From his disclaimer: "I promote vegan living as the only viable way of abolishing the property status of animals in society and the inherent and unnecessary cruelty inevitably resulting from animals’ status as property and economic commodities." This is the essence of why I choose to eat only plant products and live a life that relies on animal products to the smallest possible extent.

An excerpt from his most recent post (thanks to Matt for sending this my way):

The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions and a Permanent Non-profit Business Cycle: Welfarists "Versus" Industry’s Strength

Industry’s strength is its financial wealth and power, which translates into media, advertising, and information power, as well as political and legislative power. Industry’s weakness is that it is morally deplorable and environmentally disastrous (the eco-disaster will become ever more obvious as huge Asian markets increase demand for animal products). We cannot defeat an opponent of industry’s size and power by mostly avoiding their weakness and attempting to take on their strength, yet this is exactly what the new welfarist movement tries to do.

With welfare reform campaigns, the new welfarist movement seeks to at least weaken industry through legislation, and more ambitiously, legislate and regulate industry away. Most new welfarists call their approach the “two track” approach, and they believe that regulations are an integral part of ‘dismantling’ the giant. One track for them is ‘vegan’ education (albeit ‘vegan’ being merely a ‘boycott’ or ‘tool’); the other is welfare regulation.

But this approach of making welfare regulation a substantial part of eliminating animal agriculture plays to industry’s strength by 1) taking them on where they’re strong (in politics, legislation, and deal-making; see above), 2) diverting resources from the attack on where they are weak (diverting from vegan education), and 3)
reinforcing the legal structure and regulated property rights paradigm that animal exploitation is founded upon.

As long as animals are considered property and commodities, it is impossible to balance their interests fairly against human interests. This is not “merely legal theory”, as some new welfarists claim it is (although even in legal theory alone the property status problem is overwhelmingly supported as insurmountable due to the legal trumping power of property rights over regulations, as a matter of the inherent hierarchy of legal concepts [which have very real consequences]).

Rather, we also have overwhelming empirical evidence that this is the case by observing the endless efforts over centuries to regulate chattel slavery, which remained viciously cruel to its very end. As additional evidence, animal welfare laws have been attempting to regulate use for 200 years now, and animals are treated more cruelly and in greater numbers now than ever.
I highly recommend checking out the whole blog. There's a lot there to digest, so sit down with a nice vegan muffin or cookie and have a read through what he has to say.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sausage rolling.

Sausage Rolls are a proper Aussie staple food. Along with meat pies, they are available just about everywhere, from bakeries to servos (that’s gas stations to North Americans) to fancy-pants cocktail parties. The filling can be as basic as a sausage, or gourmet.

I went vego before I moved to Australia, so I have never eaten a meat-based sausage roll. But I am positive that I’m not missing anything with the yummy vegan versions we create (and they get Andy’s stamp of approval, so they must be at least all right).

We’ve made red lentil sausage rolls before, and they were very tasty but Andy said the texture wasn’t quite right. So this time we made the filling from TVP. Rehydrated in hot water mixed with vegemite, a dash of soy sauce, and some dried mixed herbs, the TVP was then mixed with some sautéed onions, grated carrot, bulgur and tomato paste.

Then it was time for rolling. Making sausage rolls is actually pretty easy. Cut a few sheets of puff pastry in half. On each half, put some of the filling in a line down one side, making sure to leave a centimetre or so along the edge. Press the filling with your hands into a firm mound. Then, fold up the small edge and then the large edge. Press the seam together well, and cut each pastry roll to the desired size. Here are some sausage rolls in various phases of rolling.

Bake the sausage rolls in a 180 (350F) oven for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and beginning to brown.

Serve with loads of tomato sauce.

While the oven is on, why not bake some biscuits? These are chocolate, coconut and peanut biscuits. The recipe is based on the ‘Chocolate Coconut Biscuits’ from Wild Morsels but I cut down on the sugar and oil involved. Also, the dough was a little blah, so I added peanuts which brought them to a whole new level. I fridged the dough overnight, as per the suggestions in this article. The dough was really great to eat raw, and the baked cookies were delicious too. Chocolate!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A few more recent meals.

These ones nearly got lost in the mess of my pictures file at home, so lest they be lost forever I will do another mostly-photos post.

This is Urban Vegan's recipe for Cameroon Mafe from her upcoming cookbook. Testing has officially been over for months, but we really love a lot of the dishes we've made so we keep revisiting them! I can't wait for the cookbook to come out. You may recall that I've made this once before; that time I used TVP chunks, this time TVP mince. I think I prefer the chunks.

For breakfast one lazy Saturday morning, we whipped up a batch of pancakes with raspberry-apple sauce. A great way to start the day!

Deconstructed sushi salad--for that delicious sushi-ness without all the rolling. This was my first attempt at making sushi rice, and I followed the method provided in The Tropical Vegan Kitchen cookbook... and it was a bit of a dud. Maybe dud is too strong a term, but the rice was still super sticky. I've downloaded some instructions from an authentic looking website for my next attempt. The sushi rice was mixed with roasted nori flakes and then topped with avocado, shredded carrot, cucumber and pickled ginger. I made a salad dressing from mayo, wasabi, brown rice vinegar and soy sauce that accompanied the salad perfectly.

More fried gnocchi. This time, prior to adding the gnocchi to the skillet, I sauted some onions, mushrooms and seitan. After the gnocchi fried for about 8 minutes I added some baby endive and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Very quick but delicious.

This last meal was a joint effort. I made the brown rice. Andy made a rendition of 'Chickpeas and Lentils' from The Alternative Vegan. And I made eggplant bharta with the addition of radish greens at Andy's request. The chickpeas and lentils combination was SO good. The smoky spices and tomato were subtle yet sexy, and made love to my tastebuds. The bharta was only okay. From now on we'll leave out the radish greens.

If anyone needs proof that a non-vegan can survive on plant-based meals, I'll leave you with Andy's opinion of our vegan lifestyle: