Wednesday, October 18, 2017

VeganMoFo 2017 #18: Cheerful Chocolate

18th: Chocolate – Today is Chocolate Cupcake Day, but you can make anything you want with chocolate!

Chocolate Cupcake Day... sure thing America! I am endlessly amused by the different food days that the US always seems to have, they sound like so much fun! Some are also oddly specific (I'm looking at you spicy guacamole day and blueberry cheesecake day...).

Child slave labour is a huge issue in a lot of chocolate production, and since the beginning of the year I have been trying to only buy chocolate that is truly 'fair trade'. The Food Empowerment Project's Chocolate List has been hugely helpful with this. The good news is that all of my favourite chocolates (Justins, Theo, Endangered Species, Eli's Earth Bars...) are on the approved list! The bad news, none of these are available in Australia. But I have been having fun exploring some of the options that we do have here. A note, I am a very picky chocolate eater. In general I like my chocolate dark, angry and bitter with the world. I find a lot of the vegan 'milk' chocolates to be far too sweet, and don't even get my started on the abomination that is white 'chocolate'. Even a lot of supposedly dark chocolates are not dark enough.

Alter Eco chocolates are quite widely available, even in supermarkets! Most of their dark chocolate varieties are vegan, and I am happy to report that their very dark chocolate (not pictured here) is excellent. Although they could be a little darker for my idea world, I also very much enjoy their sea salt chocolate and crunchy quinoa chocolates. There is a decent amount of salt in the salted one (I love salted chocolate, but a lot of them don't have enough). The quinoa one in any other incarnation would be on the too sweet side, but it is redeemed by the delicious, crunchy quinoa puffs through it. It is super fun.

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Seed & Bean is a British (I am pretty sure) brand that is very hard to get (I only seem to find it in Melbourne) but that I really like. Smith & Deli normally have some flavours in their shop, but last time I was in Melbourne I stumbled into a random shop that seemed to have almost the entire range! Most of the dark chocolate ones are vegan. Again, they could be a bit darker for my tastes, but their flavours make up for that. My favourites are the sea salt and the fennel (tastes like liquorice bullets!).

I never through I was a raw chocolate fan (Prana is a popular brand here, but I just don't enjoy it), but Loving Earth converted me. They have a range of flavours in blocks and single serve hearts, and they recently released a fancy pants range as well. My favourite is the Buck and Berry in the fancy pants range, and the Turkish Delight is very nice as well. They also do a very good 85% dark chocolate block. They have a lot of other fun flavours as well, though they tend to err on the side of too sweet for me. But I don't mind a little snack on a raspberry or hazelnut heart now and then. Loving Earth is becoming pretty widely available here, so that is good. Speaking of raw chocolate, The Chocolate Yogi also makes an amazing dark salted Astral bar that I love.

Chocolate Haul

I was sent this amazing care package from my amazing friend Dana, who lives near Boston. Dana is one of the researchers for the FEP, and sent me a fun selection of local to her chocolates. So far I have eaten the chocolate orange one (always a good combination) and the lavender sea salt one (really nice and floral!). I have been saving the maple pecan one for last because I suspect that one will be my favourite, but I haven't gotten to it yet. She also sent me a bunch of other fun stuff - Buffy, cats, Hufflepuff. She knows me well.

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There are a couple of local chocolate makers that I also enjoy (Treat Dreams, Noosa Chocolate Factory), their information indicates that they use fair trade chocolate. However as I have discovered from FEP, just saying something is fair trade doesn't necessarily make it so. I am going to ask FEP to contact them to confirm. I really hope they are! I bought this stash of Treat Dreams chocolate on the last Vegan Day Out, and I am looking forward to trying them.

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This is a work in progress for me, I certainly am not perfect at it. I still sometimes order chocolate desserts when I am out at restaurants or cafes, and who know where that came from. Sometimes if I need to make something chocolate-heavy for a bake sale I will use a chocolate brand from the 'working on the issue in various ways' list because of the amounts involved (also very hard/impossible to find a FEP chocolate chip here). I subscribe to a vegan mystery box for the first half of the year, and it includes chocolate sometimes that are not on the FEP list. But I have definitely come a long way and I am going to keep on trying.

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post - Month of Sahara

Sahara serious face

Sahara has her serious face on to remind you that even if they are FEP approved, no chocolate is approved for cats as it is toxic to them!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

VeganMoFo 2017 #17: Boozy Suzy

17th: Let’s get boozy! – Food involving booze, like beer brats, Welsh rarebit or a boozy dessert. Feel free to make a non-alcoholic version if you prefer.

I don't drink, but am happy to use alcohol in cooking (where it will be cooked out). Sometimes I might use an extract instead of the alcohol itself (like in rum dishes), but I almost always have some wine or beer on hand for cooking, as well as the occasional spirit.

Here are some things I have cooked involved beer, wine, and spirits!

Welsh Rarebit Casserole from Vegan Casseroles by Julie Hasson: This is a super easy casserole, that can be served as an appetizer for 4 or you can bulk it up with some sides for a main for two people. The booze here is beer, with Julie's Pub-Style Cream Sauce the crucial creamy part of the recipe. The cashew-based sauce is amazing! It uses a pale ale, and is is cheezy from nutritional yeast. This is poured over cubes of crusty bread (I toasted mine a little first to avoid it going too smooshy), and dusted with paprika and pepper.
Rating: Rarebit :), Sauce on its own :D

Welsh Rarebit Casserole

Welsh Rarebit Casserole

Roasted Cauliflower Piccata from Veganize It by Robin Robertson: When I think of wine, I think of piccata. I love this lemony, capery, white wine sauce! Robin puts a vegetable twist by using a slab of roasted cauliflower as the 'meat', and adding sliced mushrooms. It is served over a mound of her Mashed Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives, and I also roasted some green beans to go alongside. So delicious!
Rating: Piccata :D, Potatoes :)

Roasted Cauliflower Piccata

Rigatoni with Vodka Tomato Sauce from Everyday Vegan Eats by Zsu Dever: Ever since I fell in love with the vodka sauce recipe in Vcon, I am always keen to make different versions. This recipe calls for almonds to be blended and strained, but I am lazy and my blender is powerful so I didn't bother with the straining. It was maybe a bit thicker, but it was good! The sauce also has finely grated carrot sauteed along with the garlic. The recipe called for 1/2 cup of vodka, but I only had 1/3 cup left and that seemed fine. Everything is then blended up with an immersion blender before being poured of the pasta. I also added some peas to my pasta, and served it over baby spinach and with some vegan sausages on the side. It wasn't as good as the one of Vcon fame, but it was very tasty indeed.
Rating: :)

Rigatoni with Vodka Tomato Sauce

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post - Month of Sahara

Sahara in her wheelbarrow

We have a cat enclosure for the girls, and Sahara loved using this wheelbarrow as a bed. We put in some pillows and towels for her to make it extra comfortable.

Monday, October 16, 2017

VeganMoFo 2017 #16: Apocalypse Nowish

16th: Survival food – There’s a zombie apocalypse! What can you make from just canned or foraged food?

I am pretty sure an apocalypse of one sort or another is coming, and let me tell you my top apocalypse tip. Die in the first wave. I am not a survivor, I don't do well without the basic necessities (like electricity and plumbing and heat), and my knees are bad so I can't really run for my life. Pretty sure if I had to forage food for myself I would end up eating the poisonous whatever. Having to run around and be chased and rough it... ugh. No thank you. Other people can do that, I will just be dead. :)

I do have a large stash of food though, so I would recommend a stop by my house (excuse my corpse) for anyone who needs to grab some supplies. First up, my freezer is full of Field Roast, Tofurky, Beyond Meat, Frys and others, so I would suggest having a huge fry up (I have a gas BBQ out on the deck) of these before they spoil. Hopefully the smell won't attract the zombies. Oh, and eat the So Delicious cashew ice cream as well because that is super expensive here in Australia and it would be a shame to go to waste.

Then there are my cupboards. I have rice, pasta, and several grains (including some fancy ones). I have tins of beans, tomatoes, pumpkin puree, and jackfruit (if they are slow moving zombies you probably will have time to make a nice pulled BBQ). I have jars and bottles of sauces, spreads, condiments, and sweeteners. There are bags of nuts and dried fruits. I also have a large collection of different flours and sugars (as well as assorted other baking things), should you fancy making some experimental damper on your travels. Oh, lots of gluten free flours as well, so everyone can share. I have cartons of oat milk, noodle cups, lots of chocolate, and a huge collection of snack and energy bars. In short, I've got you covered, I'll be dead, you are welcome to it all!

Here is a quick photo of my cupboard, so you can vaguely see what is in there (not all vegan, I live with omnivores). But also be sure to check out the cupboard under the stairs when you get here, and the bag of snacks on the wine rack (there is lots of wine there, though not all of it is vegan... oh, there's a liquor cabinet as well... you know... if you want) to get everything!

My cupboard

In the spirit of MoFo, I did make some food using almost all stuff from the cupboard.

Perfect Pantry Pasta from More Quick-Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson: This book includes a chapter using almost only pantry ingredients. These is a simple pasta dish using crushed tomatoes, red wine (excellent as I had a tiny bit to use up), olives and seasonings. It does use fresh garlic, but you could easily use garlic powder instead. I left out the chile, of course, and added some kidney beans. Served over spinach fettuccine (and some very non-pantry baby spinach). I didn't measure out the olives, just kind of plonked them in. I think I didn't use the full half cup, which I would recommend as the olives added a delightful salty burst. I topped it with nooch after the photo (yes, I have lots of that as well).
Rating: :)

Perfect Pantry Pasta

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post - Month of Sahara

Sahara toes

Sahara had the most glorious rosy pink bean toes.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

VeganMoFo 2017 #15: Five Spice

15th: Spicy! – Talk us through your spice rack or cook with your favourite spice.

For MoFo 2015, I talked about how much I loved cinnamon, and it is indeed my favourite spice. But I've already posted about that, so for this year I thought I might talk about my favourite spice blend, which is Chinese Five Spice. It includes cinnamon! There are different variations on this blend, and recipes for making your own, but I normally use a store bought one that has cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel and pepper. It is very good!

To celebrate five spice, here are a few dishes I made from different cookbooks that feature it.

Five Spice Teriyaki Bowl from Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking by Celine Steen. I was lucky enough to test for this cookbook, and this was one of my favourite recipes. Celine has a super quick teriyaki sauce recipe in the book, which forms the base of the sauce. She also has a five spice blend recipe, but I used my pre-made one. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons, I used the full amount being a five spice lover, and I could have maybe added a touch more. I served mine over rice rather than noodles, and I left out the capsicum and added a bit of celery for crunch.
Rating: :D

Five-Spice Teriyaki Bowl

Flying Massaman Curry from Vegan Eats World by Terry Hope Romero. This curry uses a combination of garam masala and five spice to make a quick curry paste with shallots and garlic. Mixed with peanut butter and coconut milk, it was a quick and easy way to get a really nice flavour. The curry also has tofu (I used the savoury baked tofu recipe from the book), potatoes, broccoli and cherry tomatoes. The curry paste was meant to have chile and cayenne added, but I left them out for a nice mild result. I did have to add a bit of water to the curry paste to get it to blend easily, but it didn't seem to dilute the flavour.
Rating: :)

Flying Massaman Curry

Vanessa Kabocha Salad from Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero. Another coconut, peanut and five spice creation, the sauce for this salad is absolutely delicious. The salad itself is a mix of steamed kabocha, edamame and green beans. It is meant to be served over red cabbage, but I served mine over a mix of cabbage and baby spinach as too much raw cabbage is not good for my stomach. I think this would benefit from roasting the pumpkin, rather than steaming, and you could easily use butternut instead. The recipe calls for steaming the pumpkin, then adding the edamame and beans on top to finish steaming, but then to remove the beans and edamame from the pot at the end of cooking to blanch. Removing them from the pot with the pumpkin was quite time consuming!
Rating: :) (but sauce alone is :D)

Vanessa Kabocha Salad

I had hoped to make some five spiced cookies (Wholegrain Vegan Baking, also be Celine, has a couple of recipes with five spice in the mix), but I ran out of time. But definitely keen to make them in the future. Five spice scented ginger cookies? Yes. Peanut Butter Five Spice Sriracha cookies? Yes. One day in my future!

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post - Month of Sahara

Sahara sniffs flowers

Speaking of cinnamon, my favourite cinnamon of all was of course Sahara. Her colour is called cinnamon here in Australia (in the US they just call it red). Her fur perfectly matched the colour of my hair! You always had to be careful about any flowers or plants that Sahara could get access to, because as you can see she loved to sniff them. I love this photo of her.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

VeganMoFo 2017 #14: Leftover Lunches

14th: Repurposing food – Show us what you do with mushroom stems, stale end bits of bread, carrot tops, etc.

Often for lunch on days I am home, I will make a big sautee of whatever is in the fridge. Staples tend to include frozen peas, baby spinach, and celery if I have it. But then anything extra lying around gets thrown in. I love using up diced broccoli stems, bits of mushrooms, any left over bits of grains or beans or tofu. I often add a ton of nooch and some BBQ sauce. Then I will use up any avocado, dressings or relishes as dollops on the top, and can sprinkle with some seeds or nuts. While I mostly have a green theme, you will see below that sometimes I have other things as well (hello lunch poutine). In preparation for this, I shared a bunch of photos in my Instagram stories of my leftover lunches as I made them. So I will let these pictures do the talking.

Leftover Lunches

Leftover Lunches

Leftover Lunches

Leftover Lunches

Leftover Lunches

Leftover Lunches

Leftover Lunches

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post - Month of Sahara

Sahara says feed me

Someone who almost never had leftovers was Sahara! She loved to eat!! She had several set meal times per day (her IBD meds made her very hungry), but would often suggest that perhaps she should be fed more often. She had a range of amusing methods of getting her point across. This was her special pretty bowl for crunchies.

Friday, October 13, 2017

VeganMoFo 2017 #13: Recipe Round-Up: Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day

13th: Sell yourself – If you were going to market a food you make, what would it be? How would you package it, and who would buy it? (Or if you have already done this, tell us about the creative process.)

I have had many assorted fantasies about making food my business. I even had a phase where I had a bakery inspiration/planning journal! But actually thinking about the logistics of getting a place and putting that into practice... sheesh. Lately, when I let my mind drift off and dream a happy little day dream, I like the idea of a sandwich and baked goods truck. I love sandwiches! They are easy to prepare, and can be simple or fancy, classic or inventive. At my little sandwich cart, as well as sandwiches I could have rotating sides (soups, salads, mac and cheese) as well as baked goods. And lots of iced tea.

However, I have zero marketing or business sense, so daydreams are all these will ever be. In lieu of any actual sandwich truck or bakery plans, please enjoy this mini round-up of Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day, by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes. I can have sandwich fun in my own home!

Radish and Cream Cheese (Bagel) Sandwiches: These were meant to be served on bagels, but on the day there was not a bagel to be found! So I had to make do with grainy bread. The spread is made from Tofutti cream cheese mixed with raisins, chives, vinegar and seasoning. Also raw shallots, but I left them out as they hurt my stomach. I found the cream cheese mix to be quite salty on its own, but it went nicely with the cool radish and cucumber (which was not in the original recipe, but I added it). I also used baby spinach instead of arugula, due to preference.
Rating: :)

Radish and Creamy Cheese 'Bagel' Sandwiches

Tofu Pomegranate Pockets: These combine salty, sweet, smoky tofu bits with a cashew dressing, cucumber, spinach and fresh pomegranate seeds. Also raw onion according to the recipe, but I left that out. The dressing started quite sweet, but mellowed over time and was very nice either way. I love pita bread, but I hate stuffing pita bread because I always seem to tear it no matter how careful I am. I had loads of filling left over that wouldn't fit, which was nice on its own, but what I could fit into the pita bread worked very nicely with it.
Rating: :)

Tofu Pomegranate Pockets

Bean and Nut Burgers: I used cannellini beans and walnuts in these patties, that also include BBQ sauce as well as spices (I left out the cayenne) and panko. The patties themselves are a little fragile, but held up fairly well to pan frying. I served them on wholemeal buns with mayo, spinach, beetroot, tomato, caramelised onion and more BBQ sauce.
Rating: :)

Bean and Nut Burgers

Marinated Eggplant Sandwiches: Unfortunately I found that the eggplant in these got a bit to oily for my liking. I think after removing them from under the broiler, I would just brush with a straight up sauce mixture rather than adding more oil to it. They tasted good right out of the oven, but once they cooled and sat, they did that oily eggplant thing. I really liked the tofu, which is a bit noochy and a bit sweet, it went nicely. I also used baby spinach rather than lettuce. I would have liked to have added some tomato or relish to these, to give them a bit more freshness.
Rating: :)

Marinated Eggplant Sandwich

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post - Month of Sahara

Morning oat milk

I mentioned previously that Sahara loved oat milk. Before her IBD got really bad and I had to get super strict with her food, we shared a glass of oat milk together every morning before I went to work.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

VeganMoFo 2017 #12: Brisbane vegan shopping.

12th: Grocery store tips and tricks

I live in Brisbane, more specifically on the south side of Brisbane. We are lucky to have two completely vegan shops here - The Cruelty Free Shop opened a Brisbane branch in West End (close to heaps of vegan-friendly food places) a bit over a year ago, and of course we have the Brisbane institution, The Green Edge, which is in Windsor. While CFS is technically closer to my house, I tend to go to The Green Edge a bit more often (they are both not too far from work). They have bulk nooch there! Also they have a pretty great cafe. New owners took over at the end of last year, and they have done wonders with the place!

Of course, shopping at specialty vegan places does tend to come with a bit of a price tag. I can drop a lot of money at The Green Edge or CFS. No complaints, they have an amazing range of local and imported vegan goodness, but I do have to be a little mindful. There are also some health food/organic shops that sell vegan foods (like Flannery's and Wrays), but they can be quite pricey too. There is a health food shop very close to my work called Fundies, and twice a month they have a members day where you get 15% off, so that is a good tip if you are near! Though it doesn't include fridge or freezer vegan foods.

Next step down, a lot of SupaIGA stores have quite a good vegan range these days. Including Tofurky, Field Roast, Gardein, Daiya, FYH, green box Frys, and more, as well as lots of vegan or 'health food' staples. They tend to cost a bit less, though it still can get pricey. However I've gotten some great deals on close to expiry Field Roast there before, so it always pays to check it out! Just stick it in your freezer and it will keep forever.

Australia has two huge supermarket corporations - Coles and Woolworths, and you will almost always find yourself close to one of these. The good news is that they have been expanding their vegan ranges as well. As well as a range of tofu, they also have quite a few plant-based meat and dairy options now. Though not everything is vegan, so always check the labels. Oh, and don't get anything from the Alternative Meat Company because it tastes awful. Also of note, there is an Australian brand called Vegie Delights, that makes mock meat. They have recently started rolling out their new completely vegan range, but their old range is a mix of vegetarian and vegan, so be sure to check the label for the vegan tick (at a glance the vegetarian tick looks similar). Here are some things I found in some local ones lately!

Supermarket finds

Supermarket finds

I am lucky enough to live in an area that has a lot of Asian grocery shops, and this is my final suggestion to everyone. Hit up your Asian grocery stores, they are a treasure trove of awesome vegan things! And often much cheaper than you would find elsewhere. Mock meats, tinned jackfruit, taro cookies and more!

On a final, final note, if you are peckish and find yourself near a Baker's Delight, they have several vegan options beyond the usual rolls and loaves. Most of the savoury snacks are not vegan, but many of the sweet ones are, you can ask and they will print off a thing that tells you if it is vegan or not. My favourite is the un-iced apple scroll.

Apple Scroll from Baker's Delight

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post - Month of Sahara

Sahara bear hugger

Sahara loved to be picked up in a bear hug, and walked around. This is how she ended up with her nickname Bear.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

VeganMoFo 2017 #11: Kitchen Tour

11th: Kitchen tour!

I did a kitchen tour prompt for VeganMoFo two years ago, and it hasn't really changed that much. In fact, I also did a kitchen tour back in 2008, when my kitchen was a brand new baby. Mostly, over time, I see that the benches have become more and more cluttered!

Here is the most exciting corner of my kitchen, which has had some excellent upgrades in the last two years. Of course, the double oven remains, as does my beloved pink Kitchenaid mixer. Back in 2015, I was sad about my crappy blender. No more! I now have an amazing Froothie Optimum high powered blender, that makes all my smoothie and cashew cream dreams come true. And next to it there now lives a glorious Breville Whiz Pro food processor, which is so good. Oh, happy happy kitchen bench indeed!

Kitchen Tour 2017

The next two kitchen sections are pretty much the same as before. The sink, next to the toaster oven, next to the small appliance cupboard (which has had a toaster and kettle upgrade, but nothing much else), and then the induction stove (meh) and the servery (which is a lot more cluttered now). The drawers are still pretty much the same as well on the inside.

Kitchen Tour 2017

Kitchen Tour 2017

The dining room is kind of the same as well, still with the chest freezer and pantry. Though there has been some rearrangement of the shelves. I keep a lot of appliances in the bottom half of the pantry cupboard. There have been a few changes. Clockwise from top left there is the iron, mini food processor, spice grinder, large slow cooker, medium slow cooker, rice cooker, Belgian waffle maker, food processor bits, weird tupperware containers my mum bought, a thermos, pizza stone, silly flower waffle maker, sandwich press, jaffle maker, and a George Foreman grill. I also have a bread maker, crepe maker, and ice cream machine that don't fit in the kitchen. Seriously, I love appliances.

Kitchen Tour 2017

Kitchen Tour 2017

I have also added this super cute veggie print I got from Lydia Beamish.

Kitchen Tour 2017

Finally, my cookbooks. I still have the tall bookcase in the dining room full of cookbooks (except for the very bottom shelf which is Mum's), but I have also taken over half a shelf in the lounge room. You can see there are some spaces, they are from books I have taken out for MoFo planning. It is actually all pretty full and I will need some more space soon for any future books.

Kitchen Tour 2017

Kitchen Tour 2017

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post - Month of Sahara

Sahara taste testing

Sahara was an extremely helpful kitty in the kitchen. From supervising to taste testing, she took her responsibilities very seriously.