Monday, 29 December 2008

Christmas Day Feastings.

I woke up on Christmas Day at the clinic, after spending the night on call with the company of the lovely kitty Daphne. She indeed is a sweet little girl, and spent the night all snuggled up sleeping soundly.

I was ravenous by the time I got home for our family Christmas Day breakfast!

Here is my breakfast. Pancakes with fresh strawberries and blueberries, vanilla soy yoghurt, maple syrup and fresh orange juice. It was so yummy! My omni parents and veggie brother had eggs, croissants, haloumi and ham... so I had my pancakes all to myself and didn't I just eat them all... tee hee!

Breakfast was followed by present opening, which was fun. I got some books and DVDs, some pretty stuff and the black and pink cat mugs that I have been coveting ever since I saw them on Mandee's Cupcake Kitteh blog. They are so CUTE! The kitties also got a stocking full of toys and Greenies.

After presents came time to start the preparations for the late lunch! Last year I had made the pot roast from Vegan Vittles, and in previous years I had just munched on lots and lots of vegetables. This year I decided to try my hand at a stuffed seitan roast. I chose Roast Seitan With Ginger Peach Stuffing And Glaze from Vegan Dad. It was a bit of an exciting time, as I hadn't had any time for a test run before the big day! I chose it because peaches are a summer fruit, so it was kind of seasonal... even though it was still a honking big roast in the middle of summer. Hee.

And here it is! It doesn't look as pretty as the one on the page. I found that the stuffing recipe made way too much to actually stuff the roast with. Maybe I wasn't rolling it out enough, but any more rolled out and it would have been too thin and started tearing. It was a bit fragile, so care was needed to roll it and move it to the alfoil. Then I steamed it in yet another makeshift steamer. Once steamed and safely transfered into the baking dish, it was basted with the glaze and then baked according to directions. I found I also had loads of glaze left over as well. I think I have enough stuffing and glaze in the freezer to make another one. It fell apart a bit in the cutting and moving, but it was well received. I found the glaze incredibly sweet thought, I might add some soy sauce next time to up the salt a little bit. Also, I would have liked it to be a bit firmer and chewier in texture. It's a shame it is too fragile to crisp up quickly in frying pan before putting in the oven, but I might try baking first without the glaze to see if I can get a bit of a crust going. But all up, it was pretty tasty and the entire family enjoyed it. And it made for tasty leftovers too!

And here is the Christmas lunch plate! What is on it? Well, clockwise from the top there is slices of the stuffed seitan, sauteed mushrooms and peas (which were covered liberally in nooch after this photo), Christmas Day salad (baby spinach, asparagus, green beans, olives and cherry tomato) and roast vegetables (potato, parsnip, pumpkin and lots of garlic cloves). It was delicious! An exciting milestone is that this is the first Christmas lunch ever in my life that there has been no turkey or duck or similar. I was stoked! Not even a plate of ham made it to the table! Though my parents did have a prawn and mango salad, but I think that this is a great trend for years to come. See... our plans for vegan world domination are slowly but surely working! Let us all laugh our evil laughs! Mwahahaha!

After lunch was our Christmas Day Trivial Pursuit match... parents vs. kids. Alas, parents won. Evil. And it was one of those matches where Greg or I often had the right answer first, then talked ourselves out of it. Which is way more sad then just no knowing the answer at all. But still, it was a lot of fun and it was very close at the end. Next year we shall crush them like bugs, I am sure. You know, with Christmas Spirit and all!

Snacks during the game were a very pretty plate of the Santa Hats I made earlier in the week. And then there was fullness. And peppermint tea. And a fridge full of left overs. We didn't even manage to touch the Christmas Cake or the non-vegan Christmas Pudding until days later! Normally I make a vegan Christmas Pudding, but this year I just ran out of time with work... Next year I shall be back!

So I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas Day with lots of food and presents but most of all, with the people and critters that they love.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Santa's Little Helpers

Hurrah, Christmas time is nearly upon us! And every year for me, this means one thing... time to dress up the cats in Christmas hats! Tee hee! The cats do not love this tradition quite so much. However, I never dress up cats under any other circumstances and I think the girls can cope with the slightly miffing circumstances of having something attached to your head for 30 seconds. Plus, it is so cute!

First up, we have some SANTA CLAWS... Three Santas? Who could the true one be??

Gizmo says: 'Surely it could be me! For Santa is round, and so am I. Did someone say milk and cookies were left out tonight?'

Sahara says 'It might be me, for red is a very Santa colour, and I am red. Did you say cookies?'.

Dim Sim says: 'It certainly isn't me. I am so totally outraged with this entire situation. In fact, just don't even talk to me.'

Hmmm... whoever it is, they'll have a very cute team to pull their sled!

(Again, Dim Sim says: 'Don't close your eyes tonight. You might not wake up. I am so bitter about this.')

Oh... my girls are adorable! Alas, this Christmas Eve I am not at home with the girls, eating Christmas Eve dinner and going out to look at Christmas lights. I am on call at the clinic. And with the flu! But I do have a little someone to share my night with...

This is Daphne. She is BOOOOOTIFUL! She was brought into the clinic a few months ago as a stray who was hit by a car. She had a fractured pelvis and a ruptured cruciate. And now she is fixed! Yay! And she is so very sweet. So we shall spend Christmas Eve together. Wish me a phone call free, sleep full night!

And if anyone wants to see something just adorable for the Christmas time, go over to the Super Special Festive Friday Feature at I Am Not A Rabbit, it will put a massive smile on your face!

Happy Christmas Eve, and a wonderful Christmas Day for tomorrow! I can't wait to read about everyone's yummy food!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Baking for Christmas.

Yesterday I woke up, felt in a bit of a funk, and then pulled myself out of it with a mammoth baking extravaganza. It. Was. Awesome! So much fun, and so very zen. Here are the goodies...

In all its cooling on the table glory. Tee hee! Let's see what they made?

Here are some truffles. Sorry about the horrific photo, I had about three seconds to take it. Anyway, the ones with coconut on the outside are Rum Truffles (with raisins) from The Vegan Cookbook (my very first vegan cookbook ever so many years ago). The ones that are just covered in cocoa are a variation I made up - Cointreau Truffles (with chopped dates). They are both very yummy. And very high in alcohol!

Isa's Gingerbread Men, though they are sadly nekkid and undecorated. I was going to make some royal icing to make them pretty today, but my intentions were thwarted. Boo hiss. While they may be nekkid, they are still yummy though.

From the second I saw them, I had to have them! They are Strawberry Santa Hats from Wing It Vegan. They are so adorable! I made the coconut cake from the recipe on the blog, and it is so very easy and tasty. I used the Buttercream recipe from The Joy Of Vegan Baking. And they taste great - I love the freshness of the strawberry with the coconut and the buttercream. But... if you think that they are cute...

REINDEER CUPCAKES! Oh, they are so adorable. Again, I got the inspiration from Wing It Vegan. So cute I could *die*. I used the basic chocolate cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and I iced them with Chocolate Ganache (also from VCTOTW) rather than buttercream. The nose is a halved fresh cherry and the eyes are spots of buttercream with chocolate chips as pupils. The antlers are pretzels. They have no mouths, because everything I tried just looked kind of strange. So they are silent.

And here is a (slightly blurry) close up, just to revel in the CUTE! Tee hee.

This morning I woke up full of plans for more baking, including dressing my gingerbread men. Alas, I woke up with the headache that Nurofen would not budge. Which seems to be evolving into the slight feeling of ookiness that may come before a flu. Hmmm... not for Christmas!

Oh well, the stollen, mince pies and shortbread will have to wait until next year. Or, more likely, until June when I make winter solstice Yule festivities.

Monday, 22 December 2008

'Summery Middle Eastern Supper'

I love menus. In fact, I am something of a menu tart. I love putting them together, and I love following other people's suggestions. So for me the 'menu suggestions' in my cookbooks are always super exciting - I can't help myself.

I made this menu, the 'Summery Middle Eastern Supper', on Friday night. It is from 'The Vegan Gourmet', a great little cookbook. Some seriously yummy and easy stuff in here! As it is indeed quite summery here at the moment, it seemed like a good choice of menu. The menu was made up of three recipes...

Curried Eggplant And Garbanzo Patties, seen here posing on a sandwich with mixed lettuce and chutney - AKA my lunch for the following day. These are pretty easy to make, but are a bit fragile. I added extra breadcrumbs to them to help them stay together more, but they definitely need to be treated with care. They are baked, rather than fried, so that at least stops them falling apart in the pan when you are trying to flip them! Fragility aside, these are tasty little morsels. I only made half the patties on this night, the rest of the mixture is currently frozen awaiting future use.

Bulgur With Tomatoes, Mint and Toasted Pine Nuts was a great salad and extremely quick and easy to make. It has wonderful flavours, and was made with mint picked from my own herb - hurrah! The pine nuts really add all sorts of nummy tastes to it. I kept the left overs for various lunches and it keeps extremely well.

Cauliflower Sauteed With Peaches And Cardamom. Interesting. I really did like it, but I think with the sweetness involved you would have to be in the mood for it. It was really fast to make, and can be served at room temperature as well if you want to make it ahead of time. I think it is better warmed though.

And here it is, all done up and ready to jump into my belly. There's also some raw cucumber spears on the plate, and I served it with iced peppermint tea (so good on a hot day). It was a pretty nommish dinner, and all came together very nicely. It's a great dinner to put together ahead of time. Both the salad and the saute can be served at room temperature, and the patties can be mixed and shaped ahead of time. So all that is left to do is pop the patties in the oven when the time comes, and then practically instant dinner. Well, not really instant because you spent the time beforehand putting the rest of it together. But that was then, and this is now. So instant.

And now I must be off to bed. I spent all day baking Christmas themed goodies, with more to go tomorrow. So expect a sugar-laden post tomorrow night. I have to say, I am seriously chuffed with some of the stuff I have made. Tee hee!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Sydney munchies.

It has been a little while since I have been blogging, even though I seem to think of things I must blog about all the time. I blame insane working for some of it. Also, this weekend just past, I went down to the wonderful place that is Sydney! While I love my BrisVegas, I lived in Sydney for 6 years up until this last year and I miss my friends and the yummy food I could get down there.

I stayed with the lovely Leigh (ZB). We were going out to a Christmas party that afternoon, and Leigh the goddess of vegan cooking had generated masses of food in her kitchen.

We headed out to Mim's house for the Christmas party. I wish I had photos of the fabulous food, but I don't. So I shall just describe. Leigh had made for us her amazing tofu balls and a yummy tomato sauce, which we enjoyed in sub-style on bread rolls. To go with it was potato salad (with three different types of potato, including sweet potato) and a green salad of leaves, avocado and peaches in a lemony-flax oil dressing. Can you say NOM? For sweets, Leigh had outdone herself with three types of Melting Moments - chocolate, ginger and lemon. The lemon ones were my favourite. She also made chocolate cherry cheesecake, which tasted amazing!

The following day Leigh and I had a light Crunchola breakfast before strolling down King Street in Newtown, poking through some vegan cookbooks in the shops, trying to say hello to Shakespeare the cat in Books On King (but he wasn't there - boo), doing some emergency shirt buying for the silly Susan who had forgotten to pack enough clothes (hurrah for 50% off day at the Salvos) and finally settling down at Green Gourmet for my favourite - vegan yum cha!

So scrummy! Again, no photos and I can't even remember everything we ate. I do know some of it included: rice paper rolls, BBQ 'pork', 'sausage' buns, pumpkin cakes, sticky rice in bean curd skin, fried pumpkin balls, mushroom steaks and numerous steamed and friend dumplings. Oh. So. Yummy.

Afterwards the essential vegan grocery shopping one must do when one goes to Sydney. At Vegan's Choice I picked up some Blue Sheese and some Cheddar Style Cream Sheese as well as some Vegan Organica Golden Coconut & Dark Chocolate bars. Down to Dr Earth and I picked up a Cherry Pie and a Cinnamon Roll Larabar as well as some raw peppermint chocolate and a bag of Lotus Savoury Yeast Flakes. I wish I could have bought so much more, but I had to fit it all in my carry on bag for the plane.

Dinner on Sunday night was leftovers from the Christmas party, before heading out to the main reason for my being in Sydney - the Kylie X 2008 concert. Totally amazing! I do love Kylie concerts a *lot*.

The next day I was heading home, and stopped off at Iku to get some lunch to take to the airport. I had one of their amazing Rice Balls. And I also tried their Laksa for the first time. It was a nice Laksa, but not particularly brilliant I must admit. Tragically, I have just found out that the main Iku kitchen is in Marrickville, where I used to live. And they welcome customers interested in seeing it. Why did I not know this then? Think all all the food I could have snaffled. Oh, cruel fate!

Then it was home to Brisbane. And on with life. But a truly fantastic weekend. I just wish I could have eaten more food.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Thai Style Tofu With Butternut Pumpkin

Dinner tonight came thanks to Tofu 1-2-3, a great little book that I picked up a while ago. Every recipe contains some form of tofu, and the recipes range from snacks to desserts to breakfasts to soups to mains.

The 'Thai Style' I can only assume comes from the coconut milk involved. A mix of curry and chili powder plus ginger, garlic and some other spice that evades my memory make up the main flavour of the dish. It is also nice and chunky with tofu, butternut pumpkin and broccoli! The recipe also called for red capsicum, but as I rarely if ever actually enjoy this vegetable I left it out. I served it over brown basmati rice.

It was pretty easy to make. There was some chopping involved in the prep work, but once everything is all lined up and ready to go there is very little effort. All up the cooking time is about 40-50 minutes, but a lot of this is simmering while covered time and it only needs occasional stirring.

The verdict was pretty tasty. My parents both enjoyed it.

And for an added bonus, here is another dinner I recently made from the same book. Captain Tofu!

Apparently it is based on some East Indian Chicken Curry thing, according to the little blurb in the book. The tofu is coated and fried first, and then mixed in to a yummy tomato sauce and baked. I left out the green capsicum (foul under any circumstances) and put in some zucchini instead.

An afternoon of baking.

I've been in a bit of a baking funk of late. But today I got back into the kitchen and cranked up the trusty double oven. The music was Kylie Minogue, her latest two albums - X and Body Language. Loud and repeated. I am going to the Kylie concert in Sydney on Sunday night, so I am training myself back up in all the Kylie ways. But on to the baking!

Hello Blondie! Macadamia Blondies With Caramel Maple Topping from Vegan With A Vengeance, to be precise. Given that this recipe used three and a half bags of macadamia nuts, and macadamias are somewhat on the pricey side of things, I have been slowly amassing a super secret macadamia stash over the past couple of months. When you spread out the cost it is not that scary. And given that I have had them all for the last couple of weeks now, it is practically like using them for free. If you follow my logic there.

The caramel maple topping didn't quite go thick and caramely as the book suggested it should Instead it sort of soaked into the blondie base and left a nice sweet glaze over the nuts on top.

It was really, really yummy. They are gooey and rich and sweet and awesome.

And here are some Banana Wheat Germ Muffins from Veganomicon. I had wanted to make these a few days go, however there seemed to be a wheat germ shortage in south east Queensland that foiled my plans. Until today! Which is good, because my bananas were so black and soft that they didn't have much time left.

They are sweet and tasty and make me feel very healthy.

So nice to be back into the baking. I am sure the kids at work will be grateful when I take them to work tomorrow to share!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

A Tale Of Two BBQs.

Alas my friends, this is an almost photo free post because the battery on my camera died. Woe! Doom! Despair! Agony!

So today I attended not one but *two* BBQs - breakfast and lunch. That would bring my grand total of BBQs attended this year to... ummm.... two! Anyway, I turned up and showed how much vegans totally rock.

The first BBQ was the annual extended family breakfast BBQ. It was held at my cousin's house out at Chappel Hill, and her balconies overlook beautiful views of bushland. It was a good morning, with lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. Though there seem to be a disturbingly large number of children now popping up at these family events. I'm sticking with the cats, thanks! Thankfully the kids kept themselves occupied with TV and the swing set. I don't really do children.

For my vegan breakfast, I enjoyed rolls with tempeh bacon (using again the marinade from Vegan Vittles) and fresh tomato, stone fruit salad with vanilla soy yoghurt and Applesauce And Oat Bran Muffins from Veganomicon.

And here is the one photo for the post. It is one of the muffins, with Nuttelex and raspberry jam. After this, my battery decided it was all too much, so you'll have to imagine.

Let me say, I was stuffed full after this breakfast! It was great. There was a lot of interest in the tempeh bacon, and a couple of people even ventured to try it and really liked it! Alas, my brother was not one of those people. It turns out he cannot stand the texture of tempeh. Give me time and I'll change that - hee.

Me and my full belly then waddled home to pick up the food for the next BBQ, which was my work's Christmas party. It was held at a bowls club, so some barefoot bowls insanity was enjoyed. I took along some of the vegan sausages of awesome and the Lighten Up Macaroni Salad from Vegan Planet that I made on Thursday. I fried up my sausages on alfoil on the BBQ before the meat fest began. There was a lot of interest in the sausages. Next time I shall tape the ingredients on my forehead because I repeated them so often!

I also took Rum Truffles from The Vegan Cookbook. These are amazing. And are not stingy on the rum. Especially because I always add a few extra splashes to make the flavour better. And all that rum is in no way cooked out of it. They were quite popular! Tee hee. I'll be making these again closer to Christmas, so I promise I shall have photos of them then.

Now I am at home. My belly was very full. I enjoyed a cup of peppermint tea from the beautiful T2 teabags my secret santa got me (I drink a lot of peppermint tea at home and at work), then I had some salad and some fries. And the left over rum truffles. And now I am going to bed!

A great day of BBQs. Looking at the meatfest that the omnis were eating, all I can say is that I am really glad to be vegan. We rock!

Vegan in an Omni World: Michael's Oriental

Saturday was Mum's 60th birthday, so to celebrate Dad took us and all her brothers and sisters out to dinner at Michael's Oriental in Eight Mile Plains. Chinese restaurants can either be fantastic for vegans, or a nightmare. Chicken stock and oyster sauce seem to sneak their way in to the most innocent of looking dishes in some places. So I rang in advance to make sure I would be able to eat there. I have to say the staff were very helpful. They already knew what a vegan actually was, which is always a bonus! When we got to the restaurant, I spoke to the woman behind the desk and she made sure the wait staff and the chefs knew all about how my food was to be prepared. The fact that she could list to me all the things they didn't use if there was a vegan dining there was very reassuring.

The parentals and the aunts and uncles all partook of the 'Ultimate Feast', which quite frankly was just a parade of different sorts of dead critters, so I will not even bother to recap any of it here. Even their vegetables had some crab sauce thing on it. For myself and my brother, who is a fledgling vegetarian, we had out own little veggie feast.

For out entree we shared the vegetarian spring rolls. They were OK, as far as vegetarian spring rolls go, though certainly not the best ever. That honour for me still belongs to Jasmine Rice in Wollongong. Although I have had a few close seconds recently. But there weren't those. They were perfectly pleasant, but a little bit gluggy.

For our mains, we shared two dishes. Which was fun because normally I just end up having one dish to myself. So it is nice to have someone to share with for a bit more variety!

This is stir fried vegetables in a chilli plum sauce. The vegetables were cooked so that they were still a bit crunchy, which I love. The sauce was nice, but there was no chilli in it that I could really taste. I guess we should have asked for them to make it a bit hotter!

And this is Fried Tofu, Bok Choy and Mushrooms, which is in a thick soy sauce. This was great. The fried tofu was particularly excellent! And this was all served with rice in the cutest little bamboo buckets. I wish I had a photo of them!

So overall, not a bad vegan dining experience. Pretty darn expensive for some vegetables though, so I really doubt I'd be going there again on a regular basis with so many other yummy cheap options around the area. But nice for special occasions for the meat eaters, and good to know that the vegans and vegetarians are looked after so well.

In other news, there was a wedding reception there as well and they played 'The Glory Of Love' not once, but twice. Frakking awesome! It's my favourite cheesy love song!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Silly Sausage!

Sometimes, meals start with a side dish. I have been flicking through Vegan Planet a lot lately - I do love that book - and seeing as it is now summer I am looking at some salady type stuff to be making. I love a pasta salad, so I decided I should make Lighten Up Pasta Salad on Thursday evening. But what to go with? Pasta salad does not equal dinner. Well, sometimes it does, but not this night. The book suggested it is a great side for vegan sausages, and I remembered reading a homemade vegan sausage recipe not too long ago. I was sold!

The recipe in question comes was Homemade Sausages from Vegan Dad, which in turn seem to come from Isa's blog at The PPK. I made a double batch, because that was how much my tin of beans would make and also because I have a work BBQ on Sunday and wanted some extra sausages to take along to that.

The recipe is easy enough to follow and make. While other spice combinations are suggested, I followed the recipe to the letter for this first attempt. For those of you used to making seitan-type proucts before, this mixture is a lot more moist compared to if you are making seitan chunks or cutlets. I have to say, when you are forming the logs on the alfoil sheets, it is not the most appetising thing to look at! But don't let that put you off!

This recipe called for the sausages to be steamed. VeganDad and some other blogs I've seen have bought handy steamer trays that fit right into their saucepans. I didn't have the exact perfect steamer to use here, but I cobbled one together. I only have one of those vegetable steamers that expands to the size of your saucepan. For this recipe you work you need a large flat steamer to fit the sausages. What I did was I used this steamer in my 10L stockpot. The stockpot was big enough so that the steamer basket was completely extended and flat. That alone didn't really leave enough room to add much water underneath for the steaming, so I propped it up using a small round metal cake rack. That gave me room to add a good inch or so of water underneath. I then steamed it on medium heat with the lid on.

Here is a picture of the sausages placed in my makeshift sausage steamer. What dazzling silverness! It actually worked great, and could be used for any steamed sietan recipe. The only thing is that my steamer has a permanently attached spike in the middle with a ring to allow you to remove it from your saucepan, so that would make this unable to be used for large seitan roasts. However you can get these vegetable steamers with detachable hooks. I used to have one in Sydney, but I don't know where it is after the move, so I will go and buy another one. Much cheaper than buying the actual steamer component to the stockpot. Hurrah!

Here are the sausages, all steamed and awaiting their next fate. I had to steam them in two batches because I had doubled the recipe and only 6 at a time would fit in the steamer. One thing I wasn't sure is if I was meant to unwrap them from the foil to let them cool, or if I was supposed to let them cool in the foil. So for each batch I did a different thing. No really huge difference, but I think that the ones that cooled still wrapped in foil held up a bit better.

And here's dinner! I fried the sausages in a fry pan with just a smidge of olive oil. I also fried up some sliced onions to go with them. So homemade sausages and onions in a roll with ketchup and mustard. Also pictured here are the Lighten Up Pasta Salad and the Sweet Baby Salad from Coles. I know, prepackaged salads = evil. Bit I really like this one because it has lots of fun and interesting green stuff in it. Also I baked some frozen French Fries. Which weren't strictly needed but I saw them in the photo with the sausages from Vegan Dad and thus my craving was born!

The verdict? The sausages are amazingly wonderful! So tasty, amazing texture, completely cruelty free and you get to feel incredibly smug for having made your own sausages from scratch. Tee hee. They were maybe a little heavy on the fennel, so I might tone that down a bit next time. The Lighten Up Pasta Salad from Vegan Planet was quite a nice side dish, but did just seem to be lacking a little something in flavour. I like the Deli Macaroni Salad from Veganomicon better. But all around a great dinner!

And tomorrow I am taking both left over sausages and salad to my work Christmas BBQ, to show them all how much it rocks to be vegan!

Oh yeah, do yourself a favour and go and make the sausages if you haven't already!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Cooking with LJ Part 1- Tragedy to Triumph

I have a lovely friend. Her name is LJ, or Lil' Jen. Not to be confused with Jen, or Big Jen. BJ is currently across the seas at the moment living the life in London. So LJ and I must fill the time of her absence by amusing ourselves so we don't sit around missing her. Which we do!

On Monday LJ and I got together to make cupcakes. LJ claims she does not cook. It is effort to cook. Plus her fiance cooks and there are a zillion great places to eat out, so really there is no need. But she confessed a desire to bake for her fiance. And so that is what we did! Interesting results... Come with us, gentle reader, on the story of our Monday....

This is LJ with her special pan she bought. It is a red silicon heart-shaped pan. Very cute! The recipe we chose was Peanut Butter Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. I had hoped they would be firm enough to hold up to not having cupcake liners, as we couldn't find anything heart shaped in that department. Hmmmm...

Carefully reading and preparing the ingredients.

And beating together the liquid ingredients. Mwahahahaha! Take that liquid ingredients.

And, finally, placing the batter into the treasured red heart pan. What happened next.... was... ummm... well, a bit sad really!

Sad Peanut Butter Cupcakes! Not only were they not strong enough to hold themselves together without the liner, but for some reason the silicon pans refused to let go of them. The ones pictured here are from a regular round silicon pan. Sad, smooshed cupcakes. *sniffles*

So, the moral of the story is don't try cupcakes without a liner. If you want something heart shaped, try muffins instead!

But, what to do with this mess? LJ was taking hers home to try nestling them in ice cream so you couldn't see the malformed bottoms. As for mine, I knew I wanted to do something with chocolate. So I made the Chocolate Fudge Sauce from The Joy Of Vegan Baking. I took the smooshed cupcakes and smooshed them into my cute cupcake ramekins. I didn't have any soy icecream in the house (sad) so I topped each with a Sweet And Sara Vegan Marshmallow. Then I poured warm fudgey sauce all over it and sprinkled with chopped peanuts. Behold:

Oh. So. Good. So rich and sugary sweet, so only something to be eaten in moderation. But... wowzer! So, from tragedy to triumph! Hurrah!

Monday, 1 December 2008

Family Night Funsies

I live at home with my brother and my parents - I know, how very Gen Y of us - and Monday night is family night in our house. We all get together and eat and talk and do whatever.

Tonight I made Eggplant And Chickpea Kibbeh from Vegan Planet. It's a layer of sauteed eggplant and pine nuts sanwiched between a spiced bulgur and chickpea mix. It was really rather good!

I served it as suggested, with hommus thinned with a bit of soymilk to make it a bit saucier. I made the hommus from a recipe in The Complete Vegan Cookbook (the hommus component of the sandwiches with hommus and tomato culcumber salsa - I made the entire thing last year and it is amazing!) and thinned it out. It was still quite thick though, I didn't want to make it too runny or dilute that marvellous taste too much. I also served it with some steamed broccoli, because you can never have too many greens.

After dinner we put up our Christmas tree. Yes, that is right happy people! It is now December, so I can now officially acknowledge that Christmas is coming upon us. Hurrah! It was a lot of fun. Afterwards, Gizmo became entranced with the tree and started rubbing her little nose all over the lower branches. Then she started trying to jump up the trunk! Naughty kitty cat. Cute kitty cat. As it is we don't put any ornaments dangling from the bottom brances. It is just too tempting for a certain little red cat named Sahara.

In any event, here is our angel:

She's a bit lopsided, but she always is. When she's not swan diving off the top of the tree that is. Something she does with surprising frequency!

After dinner we had the most ridiculous dessert. It was one of those things that you cobble together to make something decent out of a cookery malfunction. However, I am going to leave that to the next post, as there is quite a fun story behind it!

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookie Fest!

Ah yes, more chocolate chip cookies. They really are that ultimate go to cookie of awesome, are they not? Anyway, hot on the heels of last weeks Isa's Chocolate Chip Cookies, I decided to try another recipe I'd been reading about on blogs. I was reading what the lovely Becks had to say over at I am not a rabbit, and her delicious experiences with Dreena Burton's Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies. And seeing as I had an entire eight hours off from work during the day on Saturday (oh, luck me!) I thought a batch of chocolate chip cookies was just the ticket.

And here they are! Once again, the dough was not super thick. But as the recipe didn't mention anywhere that it shouldn't be, I didn't worry too much. I baked the cookies for 11 minutes as requested, and they were indeed a golden colour when I removed them. They were also very soft when I took them out. This tends to happen, then I tend to pop them back in for short amounts of time and hope I don't accidentally over do it leading to the crispy cookies syndrome. Not that crispy cookies aren't great in their own right, but sometimes you want chewy. This time I decided to go with the recipe, and so took them out. They remained very soft and melt in your mouth evenwhen cooled. And were definitely handle with care cookies. I prefer my chocolate chip cookies a bit crisp on the outside but chewy on the inside, so next time I will definitely bake for a few minutes more.

But yummy! The Sunday crew at work also really enjoyed them today as well.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Black Bean Bonanza!

I think I speak for most people when I say that I like to keep my pantry stocked with a range of tinned beans. Kidney beans, chickpeas, borlotti beans, cannelini beans, butter beans... so on and so forth. But there are some types of tinned beans I just can't get a hold of easily. Adzuki beans... navy beans... and black beans! When I lived in Sydney I could get quite a lot of choice at the GNC on Glebe Point Road, and I'm sure that Macro stocks a whole bunch. But since coming to Brisbane, I've been a bit stuck. I've been to Mrs Flannery's, but of late the selection has been very sad and one of their stores doesn't stock tinned beans at all in winter!

I was sick and tired of not having black beans, and so I bought a big bag of dried beans. A lot. And then I cooked them. Cooking beans from scratch is super fun and makes you feel very virtuous. The dried beans were beautiful, shiny and black. And when you first put the water on to soak them they look like pretty black river stones. So nice! By the next day they had expanded quite a lot! So I ended up cooking them in 2 batches so there would be enough room in the pot. Most of the books I have said that it would take 1.5-2 hours to cook, but mine cooked in under an hour, so the moral of the story is always check your beans regularly for being done.

I'm not sure how much I started with in dry weight, but I ended up with 14.5 cups of cooked black beans! Hurrah! I divided them up into snaplock bags in 1 cup, 1.5 cup and 2 cup quantities to put in the freezer, so now I can make black bean recipes whenever I wish - tee hee! Here they are all packaged up and ready to go in the freezer.

And here is my first black bean recipe!

Black Bean Burgers, from Veganomicon, which I had for lunch. Yummy! I had it on a turkish roll with baby spinach leaves, fresh roma tomatoes and ketchup, and it was absolutely wonderful. After years of dodgy vegan burger and ball recipes that just crumbled before they were even formed, it is wonderful to have recipes that form and stay formed.

Stay tuned for more adventures in black beans! 12.5 cups worth of adventures, in fact.

On my vegan soap box.

Normally I blog about light and fluffy stuff - vegan food, kitty cats and those exceptionally beautiful Supernatural boys. I'm not normally one for the serious blogging. But I read something in the paper this morning that just really made me cranky.

It comes from a new cookbook called 'Meat'. You can imagine this will not be on my shelf. In it he describes 'a stroll through an abattoir that is not for the squeamish'. I firmly believe that all meat eaters should indeed be confronted with the reality of how their meat goes from living, breathing, feeling animal to that slab on their plate. How many more vegetarians and vegans might there be if a trip to the abattoir was compulsory for all high school kids? So, let us read on...

'I'm not denying it's a confronting and even brutal experience, but slaughtermen are skilled professionals and I've always been impressed by the pains that they take to give the animal as stress free and as comfortable death as possible. The whole process is surprisingly quick. The animals are received into holding pens at the abattoir a day or two ahead of time to let them settle. When the times comes they are herded, single file, through a corral. At the end of the line each animal reaches a small restraining pen screened from the animal behind it. It is held firm and the 'knocker' holds a bold gun to the forehead, which stuns and kills the animal instantaneously.'

Sounds lovely. Stress free and comfortable death? How nice. Letting them settle? Absolutely. And screening the animals? Perfect... you know, if they also happened to lose their sense of smell, sight, hearing, I am sure they have absolutely no concept of what is happening.

Anyway, I am possibly scaring off some of the nonvegans who read this blog, but I am sure all the vegans reading it will have their own thoughts on it. To be honest, I just found the entire passage really disturbing trying to sugar coat the abattoir experience.

So now I will get off my little vegan soap box, and back into the kitchen.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Everyone's doing it. Isa's cookies that is.

A while ago, Isa over at the Post Punk Kitchen posted her new chocolate chip cookie recipe of awesome. It became a world wide cookie making crazy. So, not one to shy away from peer pressure under the right circumstances, I gave them a crack. And YUM!

I found that my dough was not as firm as Isa's recipe implied it should be. It was actually quite runny still. I have this issue a lot. I am not sure why. Maybe because I use lite soy milk? Maybe because I used arrowroot instead of tapioca? Who knows! As such, it took me a bit longer than the 8 minutes to bake them, but only a bit longer. I might try and add a bit more flour next time to stiffen the dough up a bit.

They are delicious. Chewy on the outside and soft of the inside and scrumptious all over. And considering they take 15 minutes to make, one bowl to wash up and they bake in a snap, there really is no reason not to make them. Right. Now. Go on!

And on a completely random note, I am thinking that Van Helsing might be one of the worst movies *ever* made. So why not turn off the TV and make cookies instead? See how I totally tied that in to the main theme of the post? See?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Can't go past the pasta.

I haven't really been blogging too much about what I have been cooking of late. Bad Susan. But here I shall make it up with a feast of CARBS. I love pasta in all its forms. I love that it is generally super quick to make, that it generally includes lots of fresh vegetables and interesting tastes, plus all the fun you can have with different types of pastas. The pasta section of my pantry is practically bursting with fettucine (I love the spinach variety), spaghetti (wholemeal - yum), fusilli, macaroni (straight and elbow), penne, ziti, linguine, vemicelli... it goes on and there are still more out there to try. Just the other night I stumbled across this fantastic pasta glossary. The different types of pasta available are just insane!

Anyway, here are some of my favourite pasta dishes that I've been making over the past few weeks, and a couple of old favourites as well. I will mention that, as a general rule, I always use less pasta than the recipe states. 1 pound (or 450g, which lets face it is pretty much just going to be a 500g packet) is what most cookbooks use for a 4 person recipe, and this just makes way too much for me, even with my big appetite and love of carbs. I also prefer it this way because it means it is saucier, which is always a good thing! I probably use a half to three quarters of the pasta required by the recipe.

This is meant to be Orecchiette With Cherry Tomatoes And Kalamata Olives, however at the time I was unable to find orecchiette (curse you Roselands shopping center and your lack of exciting pasta shapes!), so I made it with, umm, macaroni. Oh well. The fact is that this is blow your mind tasty. It's practically a tapenade all mixed up with your pasta, and then the cherry tomatoes add this burst of freshness. So yum! Oh yeah, and it is from Vegan With A Veangeance.

It's kind of blurry, but it is Spinach Linguine With Basil Mint Pesto from Veganomicon. I haven't made that much homemade pesto yet, and this was one of my first. And OMG - do eeeet! It was amazing. I think this dish would also be great with some strips of chicken style seitan or Fry's Schnitzels or something along those lines.

The next three recipes are all ones I have made in the last few weeks, and they all come from Vegan Planet. I am on quite the VP kick at the moment. Though there are 400 recipes in it, so it has lots to offer.

This is Alfredo-Style Fettucine. The Alfredo sauce is based on onion, white wine (or a teeny splash of white wine vinegar in my case, or just leave it out all together), almonds, silken tofu, miso, soymilk, nutmeg and cayenne. It is a really nice, creamy sauce that is not too heavy and sits really nicely with the spinach fettucine I used. It was excellent with liberal sprinklings of nooch, and with a nice salty green, like sauteed broccolini as pictured here. The sauce takes a bit of preparation, but the whole thing still comes together pretty quickly.

I am always a bit skeptical of anything with tahini, because the truth is I am not really a tahini fan. Sure, I love it all whizzed up into hommus and things like that, but otherwise I am always a bit worried that the taste will be overpowering. Not in Tahini Rotini (or fusilli) with Broccoli and Lemon. The sauce is basically a hommus-style sauce - in addition to the tahini there is chickpeas, garlic and lemon, but it is thinned with vegetable stock. It is wonderful. I also increased the broccoli content of this recipe from the required 2 cups to however much my two large heads of broccoli yield.

On another note - other excellent tahini recipes include the tomato tahini pasta sauce from Easy Vegan Cooking and Isa's tahini sauce recipe from one or possibly both of her cookbooks.

This final dish of the Vegan Planet Pasta Trilogy is Ziti, Artichokes and Kalamatas with Spicy Tomato Sauce. This is a really, really tasty little pasta dish. And it is insanely easy and quick to make. The recipe calls for 9oz frozen artichoke hearts that have been cooked according to packet directions. As far as I can tell, these just aren't available in the places I regularly shop in Brisbane. So I used a 400g tin of artichoke (the ones from the tinned vegetable aisle, not the fancy marinated ones from the olive aisle) which I rinsed and drained. I also chopped up the artichokes roughly. The recipe calls for chopped kalamatas, but who doesn't love big juicy olives all through their pasta? So I left the kalamatas whole. I served it with a side of roasted green beans, but I think steamed broccoli or a good green salad would rock it too.

And there ends this current musing of pasta. And I haven't even touched baked pasta dishes or noodles yet - no doubt topics of the future.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Vegan in an omni world: Thai Pochana Cafe

Last night I was restless, so I rang a friend to see if she wanted to do something. She was going out to dinner with her housemate, so I came along too. The plan was to mosey down to Oxford Street in Bulimba to get some food. Possibly Thai, maybe Mexican. I was quite happy to come along and see what sort of vegan options I could ferret out for myself. After all, we can't go to the vegan places all the time.

There are a lot of different restaurants down that strip. After stopping off at the pub for a drink, the restaurant we went to was Thai Pochana Cafe, a nice little Thai place. As the girls took the table, I marched up to the waiter to have the 'vegan chat'... you know the one. Wow, what a lovely guy! Totally understanding, wonderfully accomodating. They have a vegetarian menu with some vegan looking stuff on it. After clarifying there was not hidden nasties like fish sauce, animal stocks or shrimp paste, I settled on Pra Ram Pak (steamed mixed vegetables topped with peanut sauce) and asked if they could add some tofu to it as well for extra yumminess. All not a problem

Here it is. I finally got over feeling strange about taking photos of food in restaurants. Though I didn't think about this until after I had already taken some, which is why there's stuff missing at the back. And it was lovely! Served with steamed rice and jasmine tea, as all things should be. The only thing missing was a glass of coconut juice! Sadly, not on the menu.

I would head back here again if I was in the area. They have a few other vegan friendly dishes - Pad Pak (stir-fried mixed vegetables in soy sauce), Pad Prawn Wan (stir fried mixed vegetables in a sweet and sour tamarind sauce) and Pad Tofu (stir fried beancurd flavoured with garlic and chili with vegetables. They also have a couple of vegetarian starters (spring rolls and corn cakes), but futher investigation would be needed as to the vegan-ness of these.

Anyway, it was a lovely dinner. It is nice to have the freedom as a vegan to go to omni restaurants and be met with understanding, respect and options! To top it all off, on the walk back to their place I picked up a scoop of vegan mango sorbet. Bliss!