Monday, August 31, 2009


The official VeganMoFo is in October, or possibly November. But Amy, aka IronChefVegan has suggested an Aussie version, to take place in the month of September. Her rationale is that she isn't quite as busy in September as she is later in the year, and the weather is still a little bit cooler, so we are able to cook more exciting things. I've decided to join Amy in her quest for more regular posting for a few reasons.

1) I've always been a bit intimidated by VeganMoFo; the whole daily posting business kind of scares me a little. So, in the true Aussie spirit of "no worries", I'll be aiming to post at least four times a week, rather than every single day.

2) Andy has just gone to PNG for virtually the whole month of September. Sometimes when he leaves I get lazy and eat toast or cereal for most of my meals. I don't want to do that, and I'm hoping that OzVeganMoFo will inspire me to get a bit more ambitious and creative in the kitchen.

3) I have a few new-ish cookbooks that I haven't used nearly enough.

4) I've been in a bit of a blogging slump lately, if you haven't noticed. It isn't because I've been working so hard, because I really only started doing that again about 2 weeks ago. Before that I was majorly slacking for a few months.

5) I have a free(!) personal trainer at my disposal for the next 6 weeks, and he is super keen. More movement = more hunger, so I will be eating more food. Might as well take photos of it, no?

So, starting tomorrow, tune in for my addition to OzVeganMoFo. And, if you feel like it, join in. Even if you're not in Australia. No worries, right?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

You're sweet.

A few vegan sweet treats.

First, chocolate cups with raspberry coulis and custard. I got these chocolate cups reduced to clear from the grocery store--I saw that bright green sticker and crossed my fingers and was pleased to find they were ninja vegan. I filled the cups up with cinnamon custard and then topped it with simple rasbperry coulis for a sweet and fancy-feeling end to a meal (with actually very little work).

My other sweet on offer today wasn't a dessert... it was dinner. You know how kids have this dream that when they are grown-up they'll eat chocolate for dinner and stay up as late as they want? Well, that's what Andy and I did a few weeks ago. These chocolate pancakes (from Vegan with a Vengeance) were begging for an ice cream topping, but unfortunately we got to the grocery store 20 minutes after it closed. Instead, we whipped up some strawberry syrup with silken tofu for a creamy strawberry topping that went really well with the chocolate pancakes. I wouldn't suggest eating like this on a regular basis, but for a naughty Saturday night it was a great dinner.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Northward - III.

See the first few days of the trip in posts I and II.

On Friday morning Andy and I woke up for our last morning in Port Douglas and packed up our things before heading to Cairns for a night. We had to check out of the hotel in PD at 10 am. We couldn't check in to the hotel in Cairns until 2 pm. The drive only takes an hour. Thus, we took our time, stopping for the view along the way.

The highway between Port Douglas and Cairns is pretty impressive. As far as highways go, it is pretty weak--one lane of traffic in each direction, super hills and curves and very few passing lanes. There are mountain back roads in Upstate NY which are better than the Captain Cook Highway. But the view is gorgeous. It is squeezed in between tree covered mountains and the ocean. We pulled off the highway for a minute to take some photos of the view. This is literally what you see from the road:

We got close to Cairns and still had 3 hours before we could get into the hotel, so we decided to drive west for 22 kms and visit the rainforest village of Kuranda. It's a tourist mecca, really popular with daytrippers, and it was crawling with visitors from Australia and overseas. There were three markets, all claiming to be "original" or "heritage", selling hippy-esque clothes, rainforest products, local food, and cheap trinkets. We wandered through a rock museum, drawn in by the dinosaur in the doorway.

After wandering around every inch of the village, we got away from most of the tourists who were car-less and drove out to get a look at Barron Falls Gorge. A 1.7 km hike along a rainforest boardwalk took us to a viewing platform. I'd love to see it in the wet season...

On the drive back down the mountains into Cairns, we stopped to enjoy the views.

Then we checked into our hotel, which was comfy enough but no where near as flash as the Port Douglas place. We showered and had a rest and then we headed out to see Cairns. Although it's only 4 1/2 hours north, this was my first time in the city. For a tropical beachside location, the beach is actually non-existent--it's more like a mudflat. Luckily they have a nice big oceanside pool.

To be honest, I wasn't all that impressed with Cairns. It reminded me of Townsville with more backpackers. We went out for dinner at a mexican restaurant--thinking I could order any bean dishes sans cheese and sour cream. I was disappointed to find out that the only vegan option was the veggie fajitas, which were basically warm tortillas, a serve of stir-fry veggies (the kind that come frozen and pre-mixed!), salsa and lettuce. I was disappointed. Andy got spinach & cheese enchiladas and found them dry and not very good. Our entree was pretty delicious--prickly pear cactus fries with sweet chilli sauce. I was looking forward to the mango daquiris which were buy one get one, but they tasted like pineapple juice and were questionably alcoholic. It was a good reminder that mexican restaurants are pretty disappointing in Australia (except for Trippy Taco!). The highlight of the meal was sitting on the balcony, listening to the lorikeets in the trees and watching hundreds of fruit bats fly over head as night fell.

That was basically the end of our trip. We drove back to Townsville the next morning, making the obligatory stop at Frosty Mango for a sorbet. Andy got Jackfruit and I got mamey sapote. While we were there we stretched our legs and wandered through the orchard looking at the fruit trees.

It was nice to get away for a few days, and nice to see part of the country I hadn't been to yet, but it was very nice to get home at the end of it!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Northward - II.

See this post for the first part of the trip...

After all the driving of the previous two days, we were ready for a very relaxing day, so we found a shady spot on Port Douglas's Four Mile Beach and laid down with some books. This was, once again, a no swimming area, but we were comfy enough anyways. Instead of dragging about annoying beach chairs, I've taken to building them in the sand for a comfy alternative.

After a few hours we started to get hungry, so we headed back to the hotel to make lunch. Luckily the place we stayed was right in the middle of the main street, so it meant we didn't have far to go. We spent the afternoon wandering around Port Douglas, looking in shops that were full of useless and expensive goods, passing restaurants that were very vegan un-friendly, until we found a gelato place that advertised several dairy- and egg-free options. I tucked into a coconut-lime cone while Andy ordered a mango smoothy. Both were delicious.
Despite the richy feel of Port Douglas, it had a lovely tropical, laid back atmosphere with palm trees and little beaches everywhere.

Then we headed uphill, walking up to the lookout. We could see the full stretch of Four Mile Beach, and realised we had spent our morning at about mile-three, nearly down at the end.

We cooked dinner at the hotel again, barbecuing tofu, zucchini, cauliflower and corn. In Townsville, I had put the tofu and some garlic-herb marinade into a container and froze it, so that it would stay cold on the way up until I could fridge it again. It worked really well, and Andy dubbed it better than his non-vegan restaurant meal the night before.

I'll save the rest of the trip for another post, so watch this space for Kuranda and Cairns...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Northward - I.

Last week Andy and I headed north. The original reason was to submit my permanent residency application (yay!) but we decided to extend the stay and have a relaxing holiday as well.

We drove through sugar cane fields, banana plantations and rainforest, over creeks and rivers and up and around hills. After 4 1/2 hours, we were in Cairns.

The Immigration Office was a breeze--I expected an interview and a long meeting, but found out when I got there that Cairns can't process those applications. So off it went to Brisbane and we just wait... it could take up to six weeks, but I'm not really concerned anymore. It's out of my hands!

Because the meeting was so short, we made it to our accommodation in Port Douglas by late afternoon. We stayed at the New Port on Macrossan, which was infinitely better than our accommodation in Airlie Beach (yet only $30 per night more). A king sized bed, a balcony and a giant spa bath were enough to make us happy. But there were some smaller touches that made our stay extra comfortable, like vegan organic toiletries in the bathroom and free movie channels.

Our first stop was the pool, solar heated to a cool but swimmable temperature. And we had planned ahead so that we could make the most of the poolside BBQ. Dinner on the first night was some chickpea burgers and grilled corn.

The next day we slept in (black out blinds! no cat to feed!) and then proceeded further to the north. We went as far as Daintree Village--any further north requires a ferry crossing, and we weren't up for that kind of adventure. We wandered through some local shops and checked out the river. I kept my eye open for swimming crocs but all I saw were a few logs.

Then we stopped in at the Daintree Eco Lodge, where we'll be getting married next year (located in a 140 million year old rainforest left over from Gondwanaland). We hiked up to the waterfall where the ceremony will be held. It's not as full as it should be in June, but it was still very pretty.

Then it was on to Wonga Beach, where we sat in the shade and made some salad sandwiches for lunch.

The beach was signposted as a croc habitat, so we decided not to go for a swim. Instead, we went back down to Mossman for a look at Mossman Gorge. The water here was absolutely freezing but the views were pretty!

We made it back to Port Douglas in the afternoon so we had a wander around the village. It reminded me a lot of Lake George, New York--full of expensive boutique shops, flash restaurants and resorts with day spas. We found a place (ironically, a seafood restaurant) with a few vegan options and had dinner. It was overpriced, but my pasta was yummy and my apple crumble cocktail was even better!

Stay tuned for the rest of the trip...

Monday, August 03, 2009

Feelin crummy

Some of you may remember that Andy and I went on a schnitzelling adventure shortly after christmas last year. Since schnitzelling is still fun to say and good to eat, we haven’t stopped with tofu schnitzels.

One of our new favourite meals, since we’ve been getting giant eggplants for $1 at the markets, is eggplant schnitzels. We decided to experiment with baking them, rather than frying, and it was a success.

It’s really easy. Dip eggplant slices in a batter of soy flour and water (pancake batter thickness) and then dredge in crumbs. We use crushed up cornflakes, which are nice and crunchy. Then bake them in a lightly oiled pan for about 30 minutes. These are great topped with anything from a tomato-ey sauce to aioli.

Here are some served up with roasted beetroot wedges and sautéed radish greens.

Why let the crumbs stop there? At the shop the other day, Andy picked up a few big jalapeno peppers. We couldn’t decide what to do with them until I realised we had tofutti cream cheese in the fridge (a rarity in our house). I immediately thought of jalapeno poppers. But I wanted them to be a bit less greasy than the ones I used to eat in my pregan days...

For the filling, I toasted some cumin seeds and sautéed some spinach, and then mixed this up with a few tablespoons of tofutti cream cheese. I filled up the jalapeno halves with this mixture, and then dipped it into some crushed rice crispies and baked them.

The result was yummy. Fairly spicy, but the heat was offset by the cream cheese. The cumin seeds comfortably took the place of the cheddar cheese and gave the filling a smoky flavour, and the crumbs on top were crunchy without being completely greasy. All up, a success!

In the background of the poppers is a salad, a few radishes from the garden, and a new favourite—cauliflower popcorn. Small bits of cauliflower roasted until browned in just oil and salt... it sounds simple, but it’s one of those dishes where the whole is greater than the parts.