Thursday, August 19, 2010


When Andy is home, we do most of our fruit & veg shopping at the local farmer's market (the one at Willow's, if anyone is interested).  Especially at this time of year, most of the produce is grown locally by people you can have conversations with, and it is very often better tasting and cheaper than what you get at the supermarket, or even at the fruit & veg store.

One of my favourite things about shopping at the market is when the sellers throw in a few extras for free -- usually overripe, damaged, or tiny produce that is still perfectly fine.  We were recently sent home with a few free very ripe bananas.  With a fair few bananas already in the freezer, I wanted to use them up quickly.  Anyways, we like to have muffins in the freezer to take to uni as a snack during the week.  So I concocted these "Branana Muffins".  They are based on the recipe for 'Jam-Filled Oat Bran Muffins' from The Joy of Vegan Baking, which Andy has made once before.  That time, we didn't have oat bran so used ground up oats.  The result was yummy but heavy and a bit chompy.  This version is much better.  Healthy tasting, but much lighter with a pleasant texture, and a surprise inside.

Branana Muffins
2 c. oat bran
1 c. plain flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large banana, mashed very well
1 1/4 c. non-dairy milk
1/3 c. rice bran oil (or other neutral-tasting veg. oil)

1 large banana, mashed very well
2 T. peanut butter

Heat oven to 210 (425), lightly grease 12 muffin cups.  In a large bowl,  combine oat bran, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Mix until no lumps remain.  In a separate bowl, combine mashed banana, milk and oil.  In a third, small bowl, mix filling ingredients.  Add banana-milk-oil mixture to dry ingredients and combine until just mixed.  Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them not quite half full.  Then put a tsp or so of filling mixture into the center of each muffin tin.  Spoon remaining batter on top, and then bake.  The recipe says 15-20 minutes, but mine took almost twice as long, so check them after 20 minutes and see how they are going.  Cool in the tins for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Banana-PB filling!  It doesn't stay very gooey, but it is a moist flavour burst in the centre of these muffins.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mustard Burgers

These burgers are adapted from a recipe in Vegan Gourmet and they are pretty tasty.  They are not chewy, but they are firm enough to hold together.  Good as patties on their own, or as burgers in buns.

Mustard Burgers

3/4 c. dry bulgur (for gluten free burgers, I suspect that a similar amount of millet or quinoa would work just as well)
1 1/2 c. boiling water
350 g. okara, or crumbled tofu
3 T. corn flour
1/2 T. onion powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. dried parsley
2 T. wholegrain mustard
1 t. hot english mustard
2 T. soy sauce

Soak bulgur in boiling water, covered, for 10 minutes.  Combine bulgur in a large bowl with all remaining ingredients and mix well.  Form into patties (you should get 8 to 10, depending on how big you make them).  Cook in a lightly oiled skillet until golden on both sides.

These are especially delicious served with a mustard-miso vinaigrette:

1/4 c. miso paste
3 T. whole grain mustard
2 T. cider vinegar
1 T. sherry

Mix all ingredients, and if you have time, set aside for about an hour before serving.

Monday, August 16, 2010

500 kilometres

Since April, I have been taking part in the Bicycle NSW Commuter Challenge.  The challenge is to cycle 500 km by December.  I suspect the aim of it is to encourage people who don't already cycle, but I played along because I was curious how long it would take.  Given that I live just under 7 kms from uni by bike path so our daily ride is 13.8 kms, I could hypothetically do this in less than 2 months of just riding to uni.

But, we don't ride five days a week.  Andy and I usually drive in one day a week, most often on Wednesdays to break the week up and keep our legs from getting too tired.  And we try to ensure that we match our errands up with that driving day -- so if we need to go grocery shopping, or stop by the post office, or bring a laptop to uni, we save that errand until we drive.  Of course, some weeks we feel really tired, or it looks really windy outside, or we come up with another reason not to ride in at least 4 times.  We always feel a little guilty, but get over that pretty quickly.

Not at all related to this post, but I don't have any photos that do.  And look how cute!

Last week I finished the Commuter Challenge, ending the week on 524.4 kms.  This took just under 4 months, but included a few weeks that we were away for our wedding and honeymoon, and a few weeks where I took a few days off uni.

I'm going to keep my own commuter challenge going until the end of the year.  My challenge is to ride 500 km in a shorter period of time than the first 500 km took me -- which shouldn't be too hard, but will motivate me.  The target I'm setting for myself is 3 months, so I will be less likely to convince Andy that it's too windy to ride, or that our veganity means our carbon footprint is already low enough.

I realise that serious cyclists would probably complete this challenge in less than a month, but let's face it -- I'm not a serious cyclist, and I probably never will be.  I like my bike for transport, but I don't go on long rides for fun.  But, given the health and environmental benefits, not to mention the cost savings, I'm happy to keep motivating myself to ride.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thoughts on Soy Milk Making

Andy and I have been playing with our soymilk maker for a few weeks now, and we seem to have come up with a relatively easy and successful formula which results in yummy milk.  We've reached this point through reading blogs -- Bryanna Clark Grogan & Steph Davis were particularly useful -- but mainly through trial and error.

Before I get started, I also want to say that we do consume soy pretty much daily, and no, this does not concern me.  Of course, any kind of mono-dieting is unhealthy, but I think that our diet is varied enough that even daily soy intake could never count as mono-dieting.  We eat plenty of veggies and grains every single day, and our weekly meals contain a mix of protein sources including non-soy beans, soy, gluten-based products, seeds & nuts, etc.  There are some scary reports out there about soy, but I take all science with a grain of salt.  The China Study is a really well-written book about the problems with animal protein, and to be honest I find that far more believable than any of the scary soy studies.  This may be me rationalising, and believing what I want to believe, but isn't that what we all do anyways?  If you want to read a bit more about this, I recommend Bryanna Clark Grogan once again.

Now, I will give you our recipes for our favourite soy milks and then explain the steps.

Soy Milk for Cereal, Baking, Sauces, etc.
100 g. soy beans
4 teaspoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Soy Milk for Tea
120 g. soy beans
5-8 almonds
4 teaspoons shredded coconut
4 teaspoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Step One - Soaking
Put the beans into a glass jar and add enough boiling water to cover by a few inches.  Let these cool, and then put in the fridge overnight.
When you add boiling water, the beans get all wrinkly.

Step Two - Skinning
This is the most annoying part, but it is really important for milk that doesn't taste like beans.  Drain the soaked beans and put them into a large bowl.  Add hot water and then grab handfuls of beans and rub them between your palms.  Be rough -- this is what makes the skins slip off the beans.  When most of the beans have lost their skins, fill the bowl up with water.  Swirl it around, and the skins should float up.  Then tip off the water into a colander.  Ideally, the skins should make their way into the colander while the beans stay in the bowl.  This takes a few goes before most of the bean skins are separated from the beans.  For this step, we often skin two batches at once and then separate them back into batches.  At this stage, we often put the beans back into the jars and soak them again, mainly so we're not in the kitchen making soymilk for such long periods; we'll skin on a Saturday and make milk on a Sunday, for instance.

Step Three - Making milk
This step is the easiest.  For our model of soymilk maker, we put the beans in the basket, with the almonds and coconut if we are making milk for tea.  The newer models of milk maker don't have a basket.  Close up the machine, plug it in, and press the button for soy milk.  The machine cooks for 10 minutes, grinds a few times, and then cooks again.  Ours takes 30 minutes for a soymilk cycle.

Step Four - Pouring and Straining
When the machine beeps, take off the lid and put it into a bowl.

Using a tea towel so you don't burn your hands, unscrew the basket and wash the heating/grinding part straightaway.

Now you need two bowls -- a big mixing bowl, and a smaller bowl lined with cheese cloth.  Tip the milky-okara sludge into the cheese cloth, and wash the basket.

Then we pour the milk from the jug through a fine wire mesh strainer.  Because it has sat for a minute while we wash up the machine, most of the sediment is at the bottom and doesn't clog up the strainer.

As soon as it starts to, we stop pouring.

Whatever milk is left in the jug gets tipped into the cheesecloth.

To the mixing bowl of well-strained milk, add sugar and salt and stir well.  Then when things have cooled down a bit, pick up the cheesecloth and squeeze it until most of the liquid is gone.

This can be added into the mixing bowl.  The result is between 1.3 and 1.5 litres of strained soy milk, depending on how much you squeeze (and how much you spill, sometimes).

At this stage, we let the milk cool in the bowl for a bit and then pour through a funnel into our jars.  And that's it!  It's not too time consuming, especially if you skin the beans on the weekend -- then when you make milk throughout the week the only real work is the straining.

Now, the cost.

We have paid between $2.75 and $2.90 a kilo for soy beans from the Asian grocery store in Townsville.  Almonds and coconut have also ranged a bit, so I have a range of calculations.  It's a bit un-scientific, especially because the amount of soy milk you actually get varies a bit as well.  But here it is:

Soy milk for cereal ranges from $0.40 to $0.42 per batch.  This includes beans, sugar, salt, and electricity (11.5 cents per batch).

Soy milk for tea ranges from $0.51 to $0.70 per batch.  This includes beans, almonds, coconut, sugar, salt, and electricity.

So even our most expensive batches cost less than 50 cents per litre, which is pretty good compared to the $1.50 we paid for the cheapest possible soy milk in the shops.

The pros and cons of making your own soy milk...

Pro - the cost, obviously.
Pro - We use a lot of soy milk, which was very wasteful in terms of the cardboard cartons.  Now we have a lot less trash each week.
Pro - We know exactly what goes into each batch -- no chemicals, no excessive amounts of sugar or salt.
Pro - Each batch of tofu comes with a free batch of okara!

Con - We do have to plan ahead, to make sure there are beans soaked and skinned when we need a new batch of milk.  This isn't such a big deal, it just means that we always have jars of beans in the fridge.
Con - It is more time consuming than buying milk pre-made, but this is something we're willing to wear.
Con - It isn't the best ever in tea.  At first, Andy was sure he wasn't going to make the switch in his tea.  But the almonds and coconut help.  We've also adjusted our tea making to suit the milk -- the pot is a bit weaker, and each cup of tea has more milk in it.  This makes for a reasonable cup of tea that we are now used to and happy to drink.
Con - The machine is a bit noisy, and sometimes freaks out the cat.  But, this is only for the few minutes while it's actually grinding.  And the cat freaks out a lot anyways.

All up, I recommend homemade soy milk.  The machines are a bit of an initial cost, but in my opinion it's totally worth it.

Monday, August 09, 2010

When I feel like cooking...

Now that I am lecturing and having full days at uni, Andy and I have been eating mainly simple meals -- stirfried veggies, food from the freezer, pasta, etc.  But sometimes I super-feel like cooking.  When this falls on the weekend, the result is often a multi-part meal, like this one.

Early in the afternoon we decided that we would have dhal for dinner.  That started me on a roll of Indian-inspired dishes.

First up, I made flat breads.  These are based mainly on a recipe from Vegan Planet, but I kneaded some cumin and sesame seeds into the dough.  I cooked these up and then wrapped them in a tea towel while everythign else was cooked.

After the flat breads were finished it was still too early to cook dinner but I still felt like creating.  I decided a chutney would be good.  I've never made chutney, and rarely even eaten them, but I desperately wanted chutney that night.  But with almost nothing in the house, our chutney options were limited.  I jokingly said I could make a carrot chutney, as we had a few carrots laying around.  Then I quickly realised that I *should* make a carrot chutney.  Carrots and raisins spiced with coriander and cinnamon cooked together for an hour into a beautiful, sweet chutney.

Then it was finally time to cook the main part of the meal.  At this stage I was a little tired of standing in the kitchen, so this turned out a wee bit half-assed.  But it was still good!

Red lentil dhal, and brown rice cooked with tumeric.  Although I'm no Jimmy Seervai, this was a good dinner, and all the components made a really yummy wrap for lunch the next day.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


The other day I thought it would be fun to click on the new template wizard, or whatever it is called, and now this blog has changed and I can't get things back to the way they were.  So please bear with me as I try to make things look a bit better!

As I mentioned in my first post on making soymilk, one of the by-products of milking beans is okara.

Our first few attempts at turning okara into mock meat were bad bad bad.  They were mushy and stringy with no good qualities.  At that stage I was happy to compost the okara, knowing that it isn't really going to waste, it's just turning into dirt.  But Andy was having none of that, and was determined to cook with okara in a way that didn't make me want to eat noodles & toast for dinner.

First, he tried to hide it in things like sauces and stews.  This was fairly effective -- the okara thickens things a little bit, and adds almost nothing in the way of flavour or texture.

This is a five-bean pasta sauce -- Andy defrosted a jar of three-bean mix we had cooked up in the pressure cooker, cannelini, borlotti and kidney beans; he added red lentils to the sauce; and the soy bean okara made 5.  It was yummy, and a good way to use excesses of soybean pulp.

Likewise, okara is a great addition to vegan cheese sauce because it's nice and thick and takes on other flavours well.

This cheese sauce is spread over a red lentil & brown rice loaf, with roasted beets and a multigrain breadroll.

We also realised that our early attempts were flawed because they were too thick, leaving the middle of the okara-seitan doughy and wet.  So in an attempt to fix that, we made a pepperoni-flavoured okara-seitan which we pressed into a baking tray so it was really thin, and then baked.  This made it crunchy instead of chewy, which was an improvement.

This okaroni has featured in our house on meals such as pizza, crumbled on top of stuffed capsicums...

and sprinkled on the top of a vegetable lasagne.

Andy also had success when making some of Vegan Dad's Thai Chickpea Cakes with some okara in place of some chickpea (he also mixed in some frozen peas for texture, which was really yummy).  These were delicious -- soft inside, and we baked them so they weren't greasy.

Finally, we have realised that we can use okara in place of crumbled/blended tofu, or blended beans in recipes.  After making a few batches of soy milk one weekend, we made a giant batch of vegan sausages.  We followed the recipe for vegan hotdogs that I posted about before, but changed up the spices a little to make them less hot doggy.  The other change, obviously, was to use okara instead of tofu, and to pressure cook them so they were done very fast.

Here are some of the sausages being cooked in a mustard-beer glaze.  (These were basically the same as this recipe, but with beer instead of stock, which is a very good substitution.)

Since discovering that okara doesn't necessarily suck, I'm happy to cook with it instead of feeding it to the worms.  So far we have used it in place of the beans in Real Food Daily's chicken-style seitan, and in place of tofu in a burger recipe.  This is actually coming in very handy because Andy and I are both pretty busy this semester -- so having easy meals ready to go is something we definitely appreciate.

Some handy okara resources:
The Messy Vegetarian Cook
Real Food Living
Okara Mountain
Ellen's Kitchen
Just Hungry

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Spicy celebration

About a week and a half ago, I submitted my thesis. This is very, very exciting, a seriously major milestone.  But it's not quite right to refer to it as a one-day event, because it stretched over a few days (even weeks, maybe).  I finished a draft before Christmas last year.  I finished revising in April or so of this year.  I made my final edits a few weeks ago.  I waited around while we sorted out examiners (still waiting on that one, actually).  Then my supervisor said "submit anyways".  That was a Friday.  I had to come in on Saturday to print out the required four, single-sided copies of my thesis for examination, because it took about an hour and stealing the work printer for that long would make me very unpopular in my new, upstairs, staff office.
About 1300 pages total.

That night, Andy and I had a mini-celebration for the submission which was due to happen on Monday morning.  We opened the bottle of Ginger Wine that we purchased from Shannonvale Winery the week before our wedding.

This wine is seriously yummy.  And vegan.  And it's made where the ingredients are grown, on a farm which uses no sprays or other yucky things.

The winery owner suggested that ginger wine is perfectly suited to spicy foods, because it has its own kick.

So we crafted a spicy dinner to go along with it.

First up, spring rolls.  These are storebought, frozen spring rolls (Woolworth's homebrand, I think), with cabbage, noodles, and little TVP chunks inside.  With these, Andy made a very spicy dip (and had a plate of cucumber on the side, in case things got a bit too hot).

After that it was time for a stir fry, made with chillis, chilli bean sauce, homemade tofu, reduced-to-clear bean sprouts, and a few other veggies, all served over jasmine rice.

This was a yummy way to celebrate, and a good excuse to drink that wine.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Pizza Party

Andy and I have pizza pretty regularly -- like about once a week.  Lately, it seems that Friday night has positioned itself as pizza night in our house.  Our preferred base of choice is the pizza dough recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance, with the addition of an extra tablespoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons of gluten flour.  We just throw everything into the breadmaker, and then after the dough cycle is finished I stretch and throw the crusts (for real!) to get them nice and thin.  To avoid repetition, however, we mix up the toppings (and also because we often have limited veggies by Friday).  Here are a few of our recent pizza creations...

Here are two foccaccias -- caramelised onion and kalamata olive; and roasted garlic and herb.

Sauteed veggie pizza with tomato sauce.

Mexican pizza.  Instead of sauce, refried beans.  Topped with capisicum and tomato, and then guacamole when it came out of the oven.

BBQ Capsicum Lovers Pizza.  Tomoto sauce, red and green capsicum, and vegan pepperoni drizzled with BBQ sauce.

Cheesy garlic bread pizza.  To make this, mash together a whole head of roasted garlic, 1 T. margarine, 3T. olive oil, and 2T. nutritional yeast.  Season with salt and pepper, and spread onto the crust.  This is so yummy we always eat the whole thing, straightaway.

Two pizzas here: Broccoli; and Za'atar with fresh tomato.

Here's a close-up of the broccoli pizza.  Melty White Cheese from Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook and mince broccoli.  This was a bit of a throwback to the broccoli and mozzarella pizzas they served in my high school alongside cheese & pepperoni, and which I ate while convincing myself I was so sophisticated.

Thai Pizza -- peanut sauce, homemade tofu drizzled with a spicy soy sauce mixture, red capsicum and cucumber.

Roasted garlic and caper foccaccia.

This is a deep dish cheese & pepperoni with capsicum, and a tomatoey sauce underneath.  The pepperoni is one of our favourite ways to use okara (which I will post about soon).

And another Mexican pizza, this time with beans and corn, seitan chunks, capsicum and guacamole.

What is your favourite pizza topping?