Sunday, December 27, 2009

Plant Essentials

I don't go in for paid advertisements or anything like that on my blog, but I wanted to take a minute to rave about a local shop that I love.

Plant Essentials in Townsville city is a natural beauty store, and they also sell a bit of food, including excellent raw chocolates. They carry lots of vegan and organic product lines, but they also make their own, which is what I really like.

The ingredients are straightforward, mostly organic, and all plant-based.

And they are made locally, which I love.

They even sell their own mineral makeup which is far more affordable than the other aussie brands I was using before.

Last time I was there I grabbed some stainless steel waterbottles for Andy and I, which I've already plastered with my Edgar's Mission sticker.

They have an online shop if you're interested (but seriously, I'm not advertising or getting anything in return for this plug).

I'm also a fan of their spa because they use all vegan products, and it's cheaper than many of the other spas in town. Andy and I dropped in before christmas for a massage -- a great way to relax before the craziness of christmas!

Friday, December 25, 2009


Back when we bought our breadmaker, one of the features that the annoying salesperson chirped out to us was the jam setting. At the time, I was irritated and just wanted a moment without someone in my face to decide about the purchase, so I brushed it off as something I wouldn't need.

Flash forward 18 months when I was trying to think of handmade christmas presents I could give to people this year. I thought of all the tropical fruit we have at this time of year and wondered if you could make mango jam. A quick google indicated that you can, and then I had a lightbulb moment when I remembered the jam setting. That sealed the deal -- we were making jam for christmas presents.

We got packets of fruit pectin that make jam from 1.5 kilos of fruit, but that was too much for the bread pan. So first, we mixed 1 kilo of chopped mangoes with 500 grams of chopped pineapple, a kilo of raw sugar, a tablespoon of lemon juice and a packet of pectin.

Then we cooked the jam in two batches. The bread maker stirs for 5 minutes.
Then it cooks for an hour.
I stirred with a wooden spoon every five or ten minutes, and then simply poured into sterilised jars.

To seal, I used these plastic covers.
The idea of boiling jars kind of scares me, and these were really simple to use.
Then we made labels for our "Pango Jam".
Of course, 1.5 kilos of fruit makes a lot of jam.
So we had extras leftover for our own use. Anyways, we had to check for quality before we give it away, right? It's good on bread.

It's good on english muffins.

So good Andy couldn't wait to get to the table before he started eating.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Nacho beats the heat.

By laying in a very ungraceful and shameless manner on the tiles or in the garage.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Salad Days

The day after I got back from Sydney, Andy got back from his field trip, so the past week has been spent lounging at home, running errands around town, but mostly taking a holiday from uni. But it's also been a bit hot (especially compared to Sydney). And, given that Andy has spent the last two months eating food that gets shipped to the island on a barge, fresh veggies have been a big part of our recent menu.

First up, a pile of salad featuring lettuce, basil, tomato, cucumber, and lightly sauteed carrots, onion and zucchini, topped with a Fry's vegan chicken schnitzel. The dressing on the salad was my favourite sunflower butter and miso combination, and it was so morish. Served with a giant piece of bruschetta, this was a light but very filling and satisfying dinner.

We love mexican-inspired food, so even though it isn't authentic, this Mexican-ish salad was super yummy. Lettuce, the crunchy bits from a wombok, some spinach from the garden, capsicum, lightly sauteed carrots, zucchini and onion, topped with a spicy and tomatoey refried beans and a fried green tomato salsa. Yum!

And finally, Asian Cole Slaw--wombok, grated carrot and grated sweet potato with a sesame oil and five spice dressing. Served with broccoli with peanut sauce, and Andy's invention of rice croquettes. This whole dinner was delicious.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vegan Chicken

I often don't bother looking too closely at the freezer section in the grocery store, because the vegan pickings are slim and I try to avoid (expensive) packaged food products. But the other week I was at Woolworth's in Hermit Park and they carry several products I've heard mention of from Aussie city bloggers. Fry's veggie burgers, Syndian veggie burgers, a Fry's cottage pie, and chicken schnitzels. I wanted to buy them all but showed some restraint and decided on the schnitzels.

They are really easy to make, and totally awesome. Much less oily than Sanitarium Not Burgers. Went well with my baked sweet potato + sunflower butter.

Hermit Park Woolie's also carries tofutti cream cheese, so even though it's a bit further away, I may have to bike up there for groceries every few weeks!

Monday, December 14, 2009


One of the things I love about being in academia is taking advantage of conferences to explore new places. Last week I headed to Sydney for an anthropology conference, and while I'd spent a few days in Sydney before, it still felt like a very unfamiliar city. So, we (a few other postgrads from my uni and I) planned our trip to give us a few extra days to look around.

Monday afternoon we were met at the airport by the generous and amazingly friendly Mandee of Cupcake Kitteh. She dropped us off at our fantastic accommodation in Kirribilli, on the north side of Sydney Harbour. After dumping off our stuff, we took a quick stroll through the neighbourhood and got about ten metres before being greeted with this view.

That evening we headed back out with Mandee to Basil Pizza in Newtown for some vegan feasting. We were joined by a few other Sydney vegans, a Vegan Freak Forum friend from Wollongong, and one my friends from Townsville. The table was full of pizza (and a pasta dish), all of it vegan. It was a glorious sight. I got the potato and rosemary pizza, with cheezley. It was fantastic. (Mandee's photo.)

Tuesday morning we took full advantage of free breakfast at the hotel, sitting in the garden and filling up on toast, baked beans, cereal and tea.

Then we took the ferry across the harbour to Circular Quay...

From there we wandered up through the city, looking in shops and just being in a city. Mid-morning we stopped for bubble tea, black tapioca pearls in the bottom of a mango-green tea.

It was very refreshing, as were the views in Town Hall Square where we stopped.

After a bit more shopping I met up with Andy's brother for lunch, a gigantic roasted veggie sandwich which we ate in Hyde Park surrounded by birds and business people. Tuesday afternoon was a bit of a disappointment. I met back up with my JCU friends for a trip out to Jura Books in Petersham, an anarchist collective/book shop. When we got out there, it was closed--despite the sign indicating we were there at the right time. We looked longingly through the windows at all of the anti-capitalist and animal rights books, but instead retired to a nearby pub for consolation. Tuesday night was a very interesting lecture, followed by dinner at an Indian place and then a long wait for the ferry home. At least the harbour is pretty at night.

The next three days were dominated by the conference, out at Macquarie Uni and a bit far from good vegan restaurants. But for me, part of the novelty of being in a city is being able to easily find vegan (or veganisable) items in a standard restaurant. I got noodles, falafels, roasted veggie salads, and soups. And the conference dinner started with a really tasty roast veggie stack, was followed with a weird but yummy (though a bit salty) mushroom rissole-type thing with mango chutney, and ended with a boring but good enough fruit plate. But to be honest, I didn't go to the conference for the food -- the papers were mostly really interesting, I caught up with some friends, met lots of new people and did some proper networking with hopefully future employers.

Saturday was my last day in the city, but rather than scheduling an early morning flight I left plenty of room to get brunch. It was back out to Newtown with Mandee to Naked Espresso with another bunch of Sydney vegans. (Mandee's photo)

I got the hot chocolate to start, which was literally melted dark choc and Bonsoy milk. So rich, and so good. (Mandee's photo, because I was slack with my camera.)

I followed it up with the Aussie Vegan Feast-- baked beans, sour dough toast, roasted pumpkin, grilled tomato, spinach, smoked tofu and mushrooms. I managed to eat nearly all of it, and it was amazing. (See Mandee's post for a full recap of both brunch and pizza.)

I also got a takeaway pie to eat on the plane. I went with Primal Pie's mad mushroom flavour, and it was the yummiest pie I've eaten (not a hard competition, since I've only ever gotten one takeaway pie before this, from Ykillamoocow in Brisbane). The filling with chunky and had a great texture, with a deliciously spiced gravy. The pie made the flights bearable, as did being bumped up to premium economy for both flights. But I was definitely very happy to get home!

Friday, December 04, 2009


Since moving to Australia, one of the things I have definitely not missed is Thanksgiving. To be honest, I was never a huge fan of the holiday, even before going vegetarian. I know that the meanings behind the holiday are nice, and giving thanks for people we appreciate is something that we all need to do more often. But the idea of celebrating overeating, when so many people in the world--and even in America--go hungry, just never really felt right. I blame the sociologist in me: I can't do anything without critiquing it. (Ask Andy. When we were just starting to get together I couldn't even watch Shrek 2 without a racial analysis of the characters.)

My lack of love for the holiday, coupled with being home alone, meant that not celebrating was a no-brainer.

But... in my lazy week which involved not much time at uni, I watched a few episodes of the show Pushing Daisies, which I kind of love. If you haven't seen it, you should. I won't rehash the plot here, but the main character is a pie-maker and a lot of the story takes place in his pie shop. All of the pies in the show gave me a serious craving for pie. And, reading all the blog posts and facebook updates about Thanksgiving from my US friends confirmed that the pie I was craving was pumpkin.

Townsville is currently too hot for successful pastry-making. The ingredients can't stay cold for long enough to make a good crust. So instead, I made a half-batch of oatmeal-raisin cookie dough, and pressed that into the bottom of a springform pan. On top, I poured my pumpkin pie mixture, then popped it all in the oven for an hour.

The result was delicious (especially with a bit of chocolate ice cream), and something I will definitely be doing again in future.