Sunday, December 31, 2017

Cruelty Free Shop December 2017 Vegan Mystery Box

My final Christmas present was a 6 month subscription to the Cruelty Free Shop Vegan Mystery Box. My mum has given me this for the last few years, which is always fun. This year, she ordered it before the cut off for the December box, which meant that I had a box waiting to open on Christmas day. Let's see what's in the box!

CFS December 2017 Vegan Mystery Box


  • Fabulous Freefrom Choc Sea Salt Covered Fudgee Bites: Apparently this new product is a huge favourite, so I am curious to try it. Mostly I like sea salt and chocolate, so I hope it has a good enough salt hit. Unfortunately they are on the FEP's 'Cannot recommend but at least responded' list, so I won't be buying them for myself.
  • Cruelty Free Pantry Cheese Sauce: I am pretty good and making quick cheese sauces, but opening a packet is even easier! The packet makes two cups worth of sauce, but I will split it up into smaller servings as the need strikes. Planning on trying it out today with some vegetables.
  • Nestar Chocolate Coated Hazelnuts: Who doesn't love some coated nuts? I imaging the hazelnuts will be like a less sweet nutella combination. This brand does not appear on the FEP list at all, so I will be emailing them to find out.
  • Chef Soraya Katmandu Curry Lentils & Rice Cup: Another new product that I have seem around. I love quick cup meals for emergency lunches at conferences or conventions or other places where I am probably not going to be fed very much, so I will add this to my pile.
  • Sweet William Chocolate Santa: Sweet William is 'not approved but working on the issues in various ways' list for FEP. However in the past I have not been a fan of their 'chocolate', which if you read the ingredients is barely chocolate. So much sugar, soy flour and other things, cocoa appears way down the list.
  • Gaia Men's Shave Gel: I realised that this must have slipped under something and isn't in the photo. It is just a small sample sized sachet. Anyway, this is usable regardless of gender, and I will try it out for my underarms at some point.
  • Constant Craving Christmas Chocolate Coconut Truffle: I really love the truffles this brand makes (they have a jaffa one that is so good), and I am excited to try their Christmas offering. This brand is also not on the FEP list at all, so I guess I have some more emailing to do!
  • Organ Vegan Easy Egg: This seems to be like another FYH Vegan Egg. I am not a huge fan of FYH as a scramble, but I am keen to try it in quiches and frittatas, so I imagine that is what I will be doing with this as well. The box included a recipe to make frittata with it.
  • Funch Chocolate Bliss Ball Mix: Add water and sweetener, mix together, make balls. This will be a good snack.
  • Choose Cruelty Free Booklet: A bit of a cheat item, as this information is available online!


Anyway, pretty happy with this box, and looking forward to my next five! The January one should be here next week, so keep an eye out.

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Sahara with Mystery Box


Here is a cute flashback to Sahara contemplating a mystery box last year. This was my first Christmas without her.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Christmas Day 2017

For the last few years, I have started my day with a 7.30am bikram yoga class. I find it a really lovely way to start the day (though yes it is hot and sweaty and sometimes makes me regret my life choices), and afterwards they always have a big fruit platter that makes up my breakfast. In previous years I have come home and made a smoothie afterwards, but this year I was so full of fruit that I didn't feel the need. I came home, showered, we opened presents and then I spent a few hours pottering around in the kitchen getting a late lunch ready. At some point I had a Rebel Kitchen Chai that had been kicking around my fridge for ages and some cherries when I got a little peckish, but I knew we had a substantial lunch coming up. But first, my presents! The pink mushroom is a kitchen timer.

Presents


My parents are not vegan, but for the last several years we have had a vegan Christmas lunch, which is lovely. For this year's 'centerpiece', we had the Field Roast Celebration Roast, stuffed with butternut, apples, and mushrooms. We just had the little half roast, but that was plenty for three people after we baked and sliced it, and we had some left over as well. We all really liked it.

Field Roast Celebration Roast


I have a dwindling supply of precious frozen cranberries (they are almost impossible to find here most of the time), so I made a half batch of the Orange-Scented Cranberry Sauce from The Superfun Times Cookbook. This was OK, I am glad I made it the day before to let it mellow, as it was super tart when I first tasted it after it came off the stove. I used bottled fresh OJ for it, so I didn't have any zest to add. A decent sauce, though not as good as the one from Keep It Vegan that I have made for the last couple of years.
Rating: :)

Orange Scented Cranberry Sauce


We normally make the Potato Squashers from Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan, but this year the potatoes were too big. So I made the Crushed and Crispy Potatoes from Eat Like You Give A Damn, which are basically the same thing but with bigger potatoes. My potatoes were slightly different sizes as well, but they baked up perfectly, squashed easily, and then crisped up. I did flip them and give them a final 10 minutes at the end. The smaller ones are a bit better, as there is a higher crispy to creamy ratio, but these were still great.
Rating: :)

Crushed and Crispy Potatoes


Because Christmas is in summer here, the rest of our spread was made up of salads. Starting with the Wheat Berry and Green Bean Salad with Dried Cranberries and Celery from Food52 Vegan. But wait, you say, where are the green beans. Well, some doofus (me) forgot to write them on the shopping list, so I had to make it with frozen peas. It worked fine, and there was still some crunch from the celery and toasted pecans in it, but the green beans would have been nicer. The recipe calls for 1 cup of dried wheat berries, but I only had 2/3 cup and it made loads. I switched the ratio of walnut oil and lemon juice in the dressing to have more lemon juice, otherwise it was a bit dull. I also think I would have liked a few more cranberries. But I loved the wheat berries, they were so nice and chewy. A good festive salad!
Rating: :)

Wheat Berry and 'Green Bean' Salad with Dried Cranberries and Celery


I also made the Creamy Broccoli Salad from Blissful Bites, which is an old family favourite. As well as broccoli, it has grated carrots, sliced radishes and chickpeas in a creamy mustard and mayo dressing. I've posted about how great this is before. And it keeps well, so great to take along for a potluck!
Rating: :D

Creamy Broccoli Salad


The final salad I made was the Festive Roast Vegetable Salad with Tahini Lemon Drizzle from Dianne's Vegan Kitchen. We normally have hot roast vegetables, but with a prediction for 35dC on Christmas day (that ended up being even hotter), I was glad we decided to try this cooler version. It was delicious! I used carrots instead of the beets, and I sadly had to throw out a lot of my sprouts because they were gross inside, but everything roasted up great and the dressing is delicious! I made a half batch of the dressing, which was plenty to mix through the vegetables with some left to drizzle on top. Super yum.
Rating: :D

Festive Roast Vegetable Salad with Tahini Lemon Sauce from Dianne's Vegan Kitchen


And here is our full Christmas spread! Including some sliced cucumbers.

Christmas Day lunch


And my plate, with a bit of everything.

Christmas Day lunch


It was a late lunch, so we were pretty full for a while afterwards. We watched Christmas Inheritance on Netflix, which was terrible! And then we had our dessert for dinner. I had bought a Pud Vegan Christmas Pudding, which was delicious (though expensive for being so small!). I drowned my piece in some Alpro custard, and it was perfect.

Pud and Alpro Custard


I went back to yoga again on Boxing Day morning, and then spent the day pottering around, watching Buffy, and eating leftovers from the last two days. A nice break from the kitchen! But I am back in it again this weekend for New Years!

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Dim Sim with presents


What to get the 17 year old cat who really doesn't want anything? She is indifferent to toys and beds, and she is rarely food motivated except for Greenies. She doesn't get to eat them much because she is on her special kidney diet (and she seems to swallow most of them rather than crunch them, defeating their purpose!), so I gave her some and she was happy to have them. Her favourite game of all time is to play with an old ribbon that I dangle for her, so I also gave her this cute bright pink string for us to play with together. She doesn't ask to play often, but she is not adverse to sometimes joining in if I start. Here is a bonus picture of her!

Dim Sim playing with Ribbon

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas Eve 2017 (Recipe Round-Up: Keep It Vegan)

Hello friends, and welcome to the first of a few seasonal posts. It is that festive time of the year. I mostly enjoy it for getting a bit of time off work, but also for making some fun but not too complicated food. As Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday this year, I didn't have to work so had some time to make an easy spread of snacking foods for dinner. Most of my inspiration for the savoury dishes came from one of my very favourite cookbooks, Keep It Vegan by Aine Carlin, so consider this a mini recipe round-up!

Crusty No-Knead Carrot and Courgette Bread: This is essentially a quick bread, with no yeast involved. I had to bake mine for 10 minutes longer, and it was still quite moist in the centre when it came out of the oven. Maybe because my zucchini or carrot were a bit too big? It doesn't specify weights for the recipe. However, once it had cooled a little (and even after a couple of days in the fridge), it was a lovely loaf for spreading with dips and smoked sesame cheese. It is a blend of white and wholewheat flour, and also has nuts, seeds and some thyme in it as well as the vegetables.
Rating: :)

Crusty No-Knead Carrot and Courgette Bread


Creamy Aubergine Dip: I made a half batch of this (using one largish eggplant) and it made plenty, so a full batch would make a load. But it is a delicious load. The eggplant is roasted (I had to roast mine for an extra half an hour, and I also ended up pricking the flesh side of the cut eggplants, and this resulted in beautiful, soft roasted goodness. The recipe doesn't call for a food processor, but calls for the eggplant to be mashed with a fork until there are no lumps. I gave it a quick blitz with the immersion blender to get it smooth. I also used garlic powder rather than a clove of raw garlic (raw garlic no longer agrees with me), and I used some water from simmering the chickpeas for the hummus (see below) instead of oil. I also skipped drizzling oil on the top of it, that always leaves me feeling a bit gross. It was ver delicious without it! This also kept quite well for a couple of days in the fridge.
Rating: :)

Creamy Aubergine Dip


Thick 'n' Creamy Hummus: If you had told me five minutes before I did it that I would be individually peeling a tin of chickpeas, I would have laughed. All the way through the initial simmering step for the chickpeas, I thought I'd just skim off whatever skins had come off and be done with it, but the peeling step ended up being a very zen moment, and very satisfying. And it does indeed make the hummus super creamy. The recipe uses some of the water from the simmering step to help thin out the hummus, so don't drain it all away! As previously, I used garlic powder instead of raw cloves, and I skipped the drizzle of olive oil on top.
Rating: :)

Thick 'n' Cream Hummus


As well as the bread, I served the dips with a variety of raw veggies for dipping. I love a big plate of colourful veggies and dips!

Christmas Eve platter


It was a really fun dinner of snacking, with the dips and bread and Fenn Smoked Sesame Cheese and vegetables!

Christmas Eve


But wait? What is that extra platter there? Wouldn't be a snacking dinner without some sweets to snack on as well! Lots of fresh cherries, some gingersnaps (from a box), some rum balls (made by a lovely client), and some Cranberry-Spice Oatmeal Cookies from The Superfun Times cookbook (which I'll be reviewing in a soon to be upcoming post!).

Christmas Eve sweets platter


It was quite a delightful dinner. During the afternoon, we watched A Christmas Prince on Netflix, which was pretty bad but kind of in a good way but also just oddly hollow. And then after dinner, we watched my favourite super problematic Christmas movie, Love Actually. Yes, I have read all the articles and yes, I agree with everything that they say. But I still love to watch it!

Stay tuned to see what we ate on Christmas day!

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Gizmo at Christmas


Christmas is always tinged with sadness for me, as it is for so many who are missing those who are no longer with us. Six years ago, I spent the last Christmas with Gizmo, which was also her last happy week home between hospital stays before she passed away. I am always missing this beautiful girl.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Molly Adventures Part 10 (Brisbane)

Friends! The end of our adventures are here. 10 posts later. What an epic food adventure we had!

But of course it wasn't all food. On Friday morning, Molly's last morning, we went out to Cleveland Point, which is a lovely little park. It also had a lot of little crabs scurrying all over the rocks and concrete down near the water, and lots of sassy seagulls.

Cleveland Point


Cleveland Point


Cleveland Point


For lunch we went to Cafe O'Mai, a vietnamese place with many vegan options. I had been there once before for breakfast, but was excited to try their lunch offerings. We started with some Lychee and Mint Frappes, which were wonderful. Though drink carefully, they are cold. So cold and with a metal straw, I gave myself a few brain freezes!

Lychee Mint Frappes at Cafe O'Mai


We shared the Tofu Rice Paper Rolls and the Vegan Banh Mi. The rolls are so lovely, with a hoisin peanut sauce. The Banh Mi was also great, though we both wished that it had some vegan mayo on it (the vegan one is tofu and veggies, no mayo or pate). Though as we were halfway through it, Molly spotted a sign in an obscure and hard to see place that said they did do vegan may on request, so I'll remember that for next time.

Tofu Rice Paper Rolls at Cafe O'Mai


Tofu Bahn Mi at Cafe O'Mai


We both had the same thing for lunch, each ordering a Buddha Bowl Bun (which had lemongrass tofu, crispy tofu and vegetarian spring rolls as well as salad, noodles, and dressing). This was just lovely, so refreshing, and I loved all the different tofu textures.

Buddha Bowl Bun at Cafe O'Mai


Afterwards we went past Kiah Organics, an organic and wholefood shop that has a lot of vegan things, but also had this one flavour of Dr Bronners liquid soap that Molly loves and apparently is not available in the US. I also got a Cloud Latte (based on blue pea protein) to take away (after this we went to Kmart so that Molly could buy a second bag to take all her treasures home in!).

Cloud Latte at Kiah Organics


The afternoon was spent at home so that Molly could pack everything, before heading back into West End for dinner and a final trip to The Cruelty Free Shop for Molly. For dinner, we went to Eden Garden Indian Cuisine, a new to me place that has a separate vegan menu. We started with some Samosa Chaat and some Pakoras. The samosas were interesting, sliced and served on top of chickpea curry and spices. A bit spicy for me, but yummy.

Samosa Chaat at Eden Garden Indian Cuisine


Pakoras at Eden Garden Indian Cuisine


They make some exciting vegan breads, and I was super keen to try the Vegan Kulcha, stuffed with soy cheese, onion and coriander. Sadly, this was not good. I believe they use one of the very old brands of vegan cheese that don't taste great or melt well, so it was a disappointment. Thankfully the Garlic Naan was great.

Vegan Kulcha at Eden Garden Indian Cuisine


Garlic Naan at Eden Garden Indian Cuisine


They also have a lot of vegan curries, including many that are traditionally vegetarian rather than vegan. Unfortunately it turned out the way they do this is through using coconut cream, so I avoided that. Some also have soy cheese in place of paneer, but after the soy cheese in the bread I think best to steer clear of that. And the biriyani did not have a mild option. So we ended up ordering those vegan old faithfuls, Daal and Aloo Gobi. However, these were delicious. I think the best Aloo Gobi I've ever had, so we had no complaints!

Aloo Gobi at Eden Garden Indian Cuisine


Daal at Eden Garden Indian Cuisine


We were pretty full after dinner, so ended up going for a long night-time stroll through South Bank. I'd taken Molly there at the beginning of the trip during the day, but it really is quite lovely to see at night as well. The bridges get lit up, and the river is so pretty at night when you can't see how brown it is. We saw a heron who was also out for a stroll around the cultural precinct!

White faced heron


Brisbane River from South Bank at night


We even walked far enough and across a bridge so I could see the twinkle tree! The council has put fairy lights in certain trees, and every night when I drive home from work I see the tops of these trees as I am driving. This day I got to stand at the bottom of them, and it was magic!

Goodwill Bridge Fairy Lights


Our final place that we visited was I Should Coco for a final ice cream. We both got the Berry Merry.

Merry Berry from I Should Coco


And then it was over. The next morning I took Molly to the airport, and she went home. Brisbane was so sad that the sky cried hard all day, there was so much rain! I had such a wonderful two week with Molly, getting to show her around my home and adventuring in Melbourne together. If anyone else wants to come visit, I am always in favour of that!

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Me and Dim SIm


Adventuring is fun, but my heart belongs to my baby girl. I missed her a lot when we were in Melbourne, and was glad to get to spend a few days with her hanging out at home before I had to go back to work. Here is a terrible selfie attempt of the two of us. At least she looks amazing, as always!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Molly Adventures Part 9 (Brisbane)

We were back in Brisbane for a few days before Molly was due to leave, so there was still a chance to get some eating done! Wednesday morning, we had a little sleep in and I went off to yoga while Molly caught up on some things before we went out for lunch. We went to The Green Edge, to experience their cafe and also so Molly could enjoy Brisbane's first ever vegan shop (you can see my other visits here. Molly was keen on trying the Mega Matcha Burger, which I had eaten at a previous visit and posted on Instagram.

Mega Matcha Burger at The Green Edge


I had a Skin Brightener juice (apple, beetroot, carrot, spinach, parsley) to rehydrate after yoga, and to eat I picked the Cheesy Gnocchi with Crispy Sausage off the specials board. This was so yummy, and so saucy that I asked for a spoon so as not to miss any of it!

Skin Brightening Juice at The Green Edge


Cheesy Gnocchi with Crispy Sausage at The Green Edge


Afterwards we went to Ciao Gelato for more vegan ice cream! I had been there once before and was excited to go back. I got a double scoop, with peanut butter chocolate chip on the bottom and acai pomegranate on the top. The acai pomegranate ended up being my favourite, it was so refreshing. Kind of reminded me of a berry pear mix. All on a vegan-friendly dark chocolate dipped waffle cone, of course.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and Acai Pomegranate at Ciao Gelato


That night, after a big lunch and several days of overindulging in Melbourne, we kept dinner super simple. Molly had a few leftover bits and pieces she needed to eat up, and I just made myself a bowl of stir-fried green and rice.

Bowl of greens and rice


The next day was a very important day. It was YUM CHA DAY! I normally work every Thursday, and Thursday is the cheap yum cha day at Easy House, my favourite place! We started with some Steamed BBQ Pork Buns and some BBQ Pork Pastry Buns.

BBQ Pork Buns and Steamed BBQ Pork Buns at Easy House


Then my beloved Steamed Beancurd Rolls and some Coriander Dumplings (my favourite dumpling flavour).

Steamed Bean Curd Rolls and Chinese Coriander Steamed Dumplings at Easy House


Some Dim Sims and my precious Radish Cakes.

Radish Cakes and Dim Sims at Easy House


Sesame Rolls and Mushroom Dumplings.

Sesame Rolls and Steamed Mushroom Dumpings at Easy House


And finally some sweet Steamed Custard Buns.

Steamed Custard Buns at Easy House


And of course no trip to Easy House is complete without stopping off at Flour of Life on the way home to pick up a box of vegan baked goodies! My box included a Vegemite Scroll, Apple & Rhubarb Crumble, Berry Danish, and my favourite Strawberry Flan. You can see my other visits to Easy House and Flour of Life here.

Vegemite Scroll, Strawberry Flan, Apple & Rhubarb Crumble, Berry Danish from Flour of Life


After spending some time at home resting and digesting, we went out for dinner to my favourite Thai place, Khot Thai, which has lots of vegan options (see what else I've ordered here). We started off by sharing some samosas and the excellent fried tofu with peanut sauce.

Samosas and Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce from Khot Thai


And also refreshed ourselves with some coconut juice.

Coconut Juice from Khot Thai


Of course I ordered the Pad See Ew, my favourite Thai dish and one of my favourite dishes in general! Their one is very good. And Molly got the yellow curry. We shared, though I just had a bit of curry and stuck mainly to my Pad See Ew. Even when asked for mild, sometimes the yellow curry can be a little on the too spicy for me side, and this was one of those days.

Pad See Ew from Khot Thai


Yellow Curry from Khot Thai


This is the penultimate post of this series, I have been pushing through to get it done by Christmas. Final post to come soon!

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Momo


Remember Leigh's cat Momo in Melbourne? She loves a tummy rub! Here she is lying on her back, enjoying a nice belleh massage. What a cutie.