Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sheese Louise

A few months ago, I tried some Kingland Soy Cheese, which was just horrible. My post about it prompted Susan, in Brisbane, to very kindly offer to send me up some Sheese, which is shelf-stable so post-able. I was getting ready to go overseas, so I asked for a rain check, and eventually Susan and I engaged in some package swappering shortly before Christmas.

The package I received from Susan had way more than just Sheese in it. It also had some vegan gummy sour snakes, some Primal Strips soy jerky, and a Go Max Go Joker bar. All things were massively appreciated - gummy candies have always been my favourite, and were one thing I was very sad to give up upon adopting vegetarianism. Candy bars - hello, who doesn't want a vegan snickers? But I love a good savoury snack, and vegan jerky made Andy and I think seriously about how we can make some in our dehydrator.

But the Sheese was really the star, and for a few weeks was the gift that kept giving. I was pretty happy to see that it is grate-able.

For our first try of it, we put it on pizza, along with some BBQ sauce, grilled onions, and vegan bacon bits (which we souvenired from the US). The Sheese didn't melt, as such, but since it was grated and we didn't layer it on too thick, it didn't matter much. It did add a really nice layer of flavour that our normal cheeseless pizzas don't have.

The smoked cheddar flavour is exceedingly good on crackers.
Sheese and Crackers

And it made a tasty, if not melty-gooey, toasted cheese sandwich.
Toasted cheese sandwich, with smoked cheddar sheese

The plain cheddar found homes atop nachos, more pizzas, mixed into our Christmas breakfast hash browns, and in a wrap with some BBQ "Pulled" Jack fruit.
BBQ jackfruit wrap

Susan - thanks so much for all of this! Vegan bloggers really are the best :-)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Faux Injera

I love Ethiopian food, and Andy and I have been eating it semi-regularly. It's also a really good thing to cook for guests, because a lot of people haven't tried this cuisine, or at least they don't have it often. Plus, it's yummy, so people tend to like it.

In an effort for authenticity, I bought some very expensive teff flour ($12 for 500 grams!!) in November so I can make injera. But at that price, I'm afraid to screw it up - so I haven't actually opened the pack yet. I am aware that it's been more than 2 months, and I should get over my fears and just dive in. But in the mean time, we had people coming round for dinner and I was serving mesir wat, and I wanted something *like* injera to serve with it.  Here's what I came up with - easypants, gluten free, and spongy like injera. They were missing the sour undertones of teff-based injera, but these chickpea breads were a good accompaniment for those of us who haven't tackled proper injera yet.

1 c. chickpea flour
1 c. water

That's all. I told you they were easypants. In a bowl, mix these two things together. The batter should be like crepe batter - thinner than pancakes, thicker than milk.

Heat up a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Brush the pan with a tiny bit of oil. The idea is to cook these quite slowly, so they cook through (because raw chickpea flour tastes terrible) but don't get crispy. Using a ladle, pour a scoop of batter into the pan and immediately spread it out with the back of the spoon. Cook it until bubbles appear and the top is basically completely set. Just like cooking pancakes, but without the browning.

Flip the bread over, and cook for another minute or so before transferring it to a plate.

I had two plates - one for the bread that's just come out of the pan, and one for cooler ones.

After removing the first bread from the pan, start a second one. When it's ready to flip, roll up the one on the plate and put it on plate 2.

Hopefully that makes sense. Letting them cool just a bit before rolling makes them more pliable and less likely to crack.

Once the breads are all cooked, and then fully cooled, wrap them up and store them until the rest of the meal is ready.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Around the world in... Ceilings

I am not a short person, at 5'7, but Andy is still almost a foot taller than me. In addition to repeated requests from strangers to get things from high shelves while we shop, and being asked ALL THE TIME "How tall are you?!", his 6 foot, 6 inch stature means that I spend a lot of my time looking upwards. Aside from Andy's lovely face, I also notice a lot of ceilings.  Here are some!

At the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, the ceiling is epic - about 5 floors above the ground-level atrium, this is the view upwards.

I liked it so much I took two photos.

At loads of temples in Hong Kong, giant spirals of incense hang from the ceiling - even when the ceiling is temporary scaffolding and some fabric.

At the Po Lin Monastery in Hong Kong, they've replaced incense with all of these lanterns and banners.

The church at Dublin Castle has angry angels glaring down at you from on high.

This old cathedral in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, had the tallest ceiling but almost no decorations. Good for instilling a feeling of dread and despair, I think.

At a protestant church in St Gallen, Switzerland, the ceiling is the most awesome blue I've seen.

And when you pop next door to the Catholic cathedral, things are just ornate as hell (see what I did there? hell, church...)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Looking for Lunch

During the week, our lunch routines are pretty well established. Andy has a salad sandwich, while I eat leftovers from dinner the night before. What we struggle with, though, is lunch on the weekends. I don't find salad sandwiches all that fulfilling, and after 5 days in a row Andy is ready for a change. We are usually pretty stumped about what to eat, often falling back on standards like noodles (for me) and leftovers (for Andy, usually eaten while standing over the bench top). But, sometimes we do get creative, and I want to document them, mainly as a reminder to myself about the options.

When we feel like wraps but don't have tortillas on hand, we use sheets of nori instead. This one is filled with a chickpea salad. It's harder to bite than tortilla, but full of iodine, so at least there's that.

Sometimes we creatively combine a series of leftovers - here we have leftover hummus, some puy lentil salad, and a few veggies in a tortilla.

20cent tofu makes a reasonable lunch, especially on a bun with veggies - here, with shaved sweet potato, grilled onions, cucumber and tomato.

Shaved sweet potato makes another appearance in this easy pants salad - with cucumber and sun dried tomato, and splashed with balsamic.

Andy came up with the idea for these "sushi crackers" - hummus flavoured with nori, wasabi and rice vinegar, with pickled ginger and biscuits.

Those are a few ideas, but I want MOAR. What are your favourite lunch ideas?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

In west Philadelphia, born and raised...

After NYC, we spent about 24 hours in Philadelphia. Since our time there was short, and since we didn't really know where it was or have anything in particular to see there, we didn't get to West Philadelphia. But I did have the Fresh Prince theme song in my head for pretty much the whole time.

In Philly, we stayed at the Alexander Inn - a bit of a splurge, but not too much, and it was in a really great spot. And it was a boutique (not a chain!) hotel, and it had free breakfast and a 24 hour snack bar. So fruit and bagels for everyone!
This isn't our hotel. It's just a picture.

Upon walking the five or so blocks from the bus station to the hotel, we stumbled into what looked like a street market. Closer inspection revealed that it was actually OutFest. We dropped our bags, stopped at a few stalls, and walked on to Govinda's, a hare krishna restaurant that is not the usual Indian-food buffet, but rather a delicious takeaway shop with really good vegan chicken cheese steaks ($7.95). We had a funny experience there when the man taking our order asked if we wanted to dine in or take away. I said, "I don't know, are there any good parks nearby?".  He responded, incredulously, "What for?!".... Uh, for eating in. Then he understood, and recommended Rittehnhouse Square, so we walked there and shared a sandwich.

Only, on the walk, we just so happened to pass a vegan bakery! And how could I pass that up?  So we looked at all that Sweet Freedom had to offer, and settled on a choc mint sandwich cookie ($3.75, and gluten free).

We spent the day looking at Philadelphia's old stuff, skipping anything that had a queue or an entry fee. I'm proud to say that Philadelphia was probably the only place where we didn't get hopelessly lost in our wandering. That William Penn must have known what he was doing when he designed the city!
Occupy Philadelphia

We walked through the Reading Terminal Market, which was huge and had piles of produce.

And when we came back to our hotel, we found that the subdued, street-market-esque OutFest had turned into a massive street party.

After some free condoms, an invitation to Vote Obama!, and some poking through the stalls, it was time for dinner, with Dynise from Urban Vegan.

Dynise was one of the first two people to ever start reading and commenting on my blog, and hers is one of the first blogs I ever started reading regularly myself. That was about 6 years ago. Then I tested recipes for her first cookbook. And, we're facebook friends. So Dynise is one of those people who I feel like I've known forever, even though we only met in person this one time. She recommended we eat at the Memphis Taproom, which is a vegan-friendly restaurant/bar. Apologies for the fuzzy photos, but I had a Smoked Coconut Club, which consisted of grilled lemon garlic tofu, smoked coconut, and tomato herb mayo. The smoked coconut was a revelation! It was so bacony - it was crispy, smoky, and just a bit fatty. But virtually unprocessed, so much nicer than storebought vegan bacon substitutes. Seriously good.

Andy and Dynise (I think) both had the Chicken Fried Portobella sandwich. The chips that came with both sandwiches were thin, handcut (or at least, they looked it), and were really good.

For dessert, the three of us shared a slice of vegan peanut butter pie, which was a bit homemade and not *fantastic*, but was very good. And, hey! Vegan peanut butter pie at a non-vegan restaurant!

Thanks, Dynise, for the driving tour, and for dinner! And then our trip to Philly was basically over, and it was on to DC...

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Total Request Live

When I was in year 10 or 11 at school, we took a day trip to NYC. As this was around about the year 2000, and we were all around about 16 years old, we felt like we just *had* to stand outside the MTV studio during the show TRL. Carson Daly waved at us! This post is my version of answering your requests. I tend to be bad at (1) posting recipes and (2) responding to specific comments on this blog. I'm trying to change that!  So in this post you will find recipes for tattie scones, olive & basil dip, fig & pecan stuffingmango granola, and candy cane slice. Apologies in advance for the often vague-ness of my recipes - we tend to put in a scoop of this, a shake of that, and a bit more of these.

Tattie Scones
This Scottish breakfast staple is actually much easier than I thought it would be. They're not that good for you, but they sure are tasty. Just be sure that your mashed potatoes don't have milk in them, because that makes them too wet.

1 c. mashed potatoes
salt to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil (or to taste)
1/2 c. plain flour

Mix the salt and oil into the mashed potatoes and adjust the flavours until you're happy. Add flour and mix until fully combined. It should be a soft dough, but not too sticky. Add more flour, if you need to.  Divide the dough into three balls and press them out with your hands onto a well floured surface, until they are a circle about 1/2 cm thick.  Cut each circle into quarters and dust both sides with flour.  Heat a frying pan with a thin layer of oil over medium-high heat. Fry tattie scones until golden on both sides. Serve straight away, or refrigerate and reheat, or freeze for later use.

Olive & Basil Dip
A combination between tapenade and pesto, in creamy dip form. Obviously not for olive haters, but Andy and I really loved this.

1 bunch of fresh basil
1 small drizzle of olive oil
1 small clove of garlic (more, if you don't mind raw garlic)
1/4 c. pitted kalamata olives
1/3 c. vegan cream cheese

Using a mini chopper, blender, or food processor, or by chopping everything *reallly* finely, mince up the basil, garlic, and olive oil into a paste.  Pulse in olives, so they are still a bit chunky. Add cream cheese and blend until all ingredients are combined.  Good with crackers & veggies.

Fig & Pecan Stuffing
Our stuffing recipes tend to be variations on a theme - bread, dried fruit, and some kind of nut. Because bread gets mouldy in Townsville before it gets stale, we dry out our bread by leaving it open in the fridge for a night or two. This year we used white bread, but other years we've used whole grain.  Basically, use what you have and it will be good.

~10 slices of stale bread, cut into cubes
1 c. soy milk, other non-dairy milk, or veggie stock
drizzle of olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
some fresh thyme (we have a plant, and I think I cut three or four stems? maybe a teaspoon of leaves once they've been taken off the stems?)
1 celery stalk, minced
1 carrot, grated
6 or 8 dried figs, chopped up
1/3 c. pecan crumbs, toasted

In a bowl, soak the stale bread in the milk. In a frying pan, gently saute the onion with the black pepper and thyme, until the onion is translucent. Add the celery and grated carrot, cook until they are tender, and then remove from the heat. Add the veggies to the bread, and then stir in the figs and the pecans.  Stuff into something, or press it into a baking dish and bake until it's crunchy on top.

Mango Granola
This recipe is another variation on a theme, and is my daily breakfast. I 'cook' the granola in my dehydrator, but the oven way works, too. Granola is a good way for soy milk making folks to use up okara, but if you don't have okara, try using some kind of yogurt, or perhaps a weeny bit less non-dairy milk, or maybe just more fruit puree. This size recipe fills up all five dehydrator trays - for a version that can fit onto two oven trays, just cut everything in half.

6 c. oats
1/2 c. rice flakes
1/2 c. barley flakes
1/4 c. wheat germ
1/4 c. shredded coconut
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 - 1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c.-ish dried currants

1 1/2 c. wet okara
1 c. pureed mango-banana blend
3 Tbsp. orange oil (made by putting the peels of an orange into some rice bran oil and fridging it until you want to use it - or, for orange haters, just use regular oil)

In a very big bowl, mix up all of the dry ingredients.  In a jug, stir together the wet ingredients. Then combine the two, using your hands to make sure every bit of dried stuff gets coated in the fruity okara. For dehydrator granola, spread onto sheets and put into the dehydrator at 45-ish degrees, for about 4 hours, turning the trays 90 degrees every hour.

To make it in the oven, spread onto two baking trays and cook in a 160 (275F) oven for 60-90 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until it reaches your preferred level of crunchiness.

Candy Cane Slice
I was inspired, last year, to make Vaala's recipe for mint slice, except for utilising candy canes instead of peppermint extract. This is a variation on that, with the candy canes left crunchy. Andy doesn't love that about this slice - he would prefer a smoother texture.  For Christmas, my mum got me a ginormous multi-function mix master thingie, so I used that for the mixing. Before I've done everything by hand, and it was just fine.  It's a good way to use up that box of candy canes that you bought on special after Christmas, without remembering that you don't love to eat candy canes.

125g margarine, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup shredded coconut

Heat oven to 180, line a slice tin with baking paperCream together the margarine and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the rest of the ingredients until just combined and then press into the prepared baking tin.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes. Let cool.

1/4 c. vegan cream cheese, at room temperature
3 c. icing sugar
1 Tbsp. non-dairy milk
10 candy canes, chopped

Beat cream cheese until it is soft, then slowly incorporate icing sugar. Drizzle in milk until you get the consistency of icing, and mix in the chopped candy canes. Spread this onto the cooled base and chill again.

100 g. dark chocolate (we used Lindt 70%)
1 Tbsp. soy milk
2 candy canes, chopped

Melt the chocolate and soy milk together in a bowl over steamy water. Pour over slice, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle with candy canes. Fridge again, until ready to eat. Slice into slices, but this is tastiest if you let each piece come to room temperature before eating.

So that was a lot in one post, but I will try to be more efficient at this in future!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012


Happy 2012, everyone!

They say what you do on New Year's Eve is what you'll be doing for the year ahead, and if that is the case, then Andy and I will be doing a lot of cooking, a lot of eating, a lot of reading, some movie-watching, and just a little bit of drinking.

Here are some of the things we ate, over the course of an afternoon and evening, on the last day of 2011.

Candy cane slice.
Candy Cane Slice

Crackers & Dip. I find champagne goes really well with sharp flavours, like this basil and olive dip.
Basil & Olive dip

We also had some cheese & crackers - smoked cheddar sheese, to be exact, which I received as part of a package swap with Susan (which I will post about soon).  This is really yummy, nicely textured vegan cheese.

Sheese and Crackers

I made sushi! It was my first time making it, and it really wasn't as daunting as I expected. My only tip is to have wet hands, so the sushi rice doesn't stick so much.  I made my sushi with brown rice, following the recipe from Celebrate Vegan by Dynise Balcavage, except filling it with zucchini and tofu.

The results were a bit bland, in both colour and flavour, and next time I will have zippier fillings. But, I can make sushi!
Brown rice maki

The best part of the night was easily when we ate ice cream sundaes. I bought some Soyatoo! Whipped Cream on my birthday, back in November. Because it was so freaking expensive, I wanted to use it on only the most perfect dessert. I decided, more than a month ago, that it had to be an ice cream sundae. But it was only this week that the right confluence of ingredients found themselves in our home. Some vanilla spice ice cream in the freezer.  Some Macho Fudge Sauce (from Urban Vegan by Dynise Balcavage) in the fridge. Some sprinkles in the pantry. And the result was everything I expected, and more. So, so good.
New Year's Eve Sundaes

That wasn't all we cooked on New Year's Eve, though. We also made some preparations for breakfast the next morning.  I made these parsley breakfast sausages in the frying pan, because I couldn't be bothered steaming them.
Breakfast sausages

And we made some tattie scones. These are essentially mashed potato flat breads, which we ate every day for breakfast in Scotland. And they are easy to make!
Tattie scones

So with a bit of reheating, opening a tin, picking some spinach, and chopping some mushrooms (including this well-endowed specimen)...
Conjoined twin mushrooms.

We had our first meal of 2012.  It was good.
New Year's Day breakfast

My "resolutions", if you want to call them that, are simple. I plan to wear gloves when I was dishes, to make my own laundry detergent, and to keep my Flickr account up to date. I'll add a brief promise for the next week or so to this: I will post a recipe for fig & pecan stuffing, and for mango granola, because Hannah has asked for them.  Remind me if I forget.