Sunday, 13 December 2009

Happy birthday Gizmo!

n the 1st of November, the same day I had my Girls Day In... Gizmo had her birthday. She turned 13! I have a teenager. Oh, woes. How do my babies grow so much? Stop it, world! ;) Gizmo thought it was fantastic that all the girls from work came over to celebrate her birthday with her! She sat on her sofa and received guests, accepting pats and snorgles and happy wishes. Here are some photos of her on her special day...

'Good morning world, it's my birthday!'

Sitting on her sofa, receiving her adoring public.

But my, my... what is this fascinating object?

Ooooooh! It is a super duper catnip rainbow! It goes with my super duper rainbow heart from last year! Hurrah!

Birthday dinner. Normally she just gets half a tin but this night she got a whole tin and then got to finish up with some mince that Possum left over.

What an exhausting day!

So happy birthday to my beloved Gizmo. It 2001, when she was 4 years old, I rescued her from a vet clinic where she was a last chance kitty. Abandoned by her owners and unwanted because of her age. But she charmed my heart and when I discovered that her fate was set for three days time, I took her home with me. I have never looked back. I love you Gizmo!

Food Photo of the Post

So normally I have a kitty photo for every post. But this has been a completely kitty post! So here is a photo of...

Behold The Elvis, a variation on the Banana Split Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. A banana cupcake, filled and topped with a massive amount of peanut butter buttercream frosting. Oh my god! Delicious! Though a warning, bu the end this cupcake is about 75% icing, so be prepared to be sugared out. Have a large glass of water at the ready, and take it slow. ;)

Monday, 7 December 2009

Cooking for a Cure

Every year, the Cancer Council hosts a 'Girls Night In' to raise money for women's cancer, and for the past few years I have held an afternoon with the girls to contribute. Last year was my first year holding it in Brisbane, with the girls from work coming over. This year I did it all over again, with many hours of cooking and baking to give them what I hoped would be a fabulous vegan spread!

First up, the dips! This is Baba Ganoush from The Garden of Vegan, which to be honest I was not super impressed with. It didn't have that glorious creamy texture or wow flavour that I like in my eggplant dips. And it was kind of plasticy too! I would suggest giving this one a miss, there are much better ones out there!

This Avocado Salsa, also from The Garden of Vegan, was a total stand out! I had several requests for the recipe. It is delicious - creamy avocado, sweet corn kernels and salty olives all blend together to equal NOM! I left out the icky capsicum, of course. I made a double batch of the recipe and it was eaten all up.

A Hummus Recipe, from Veganomicon was well received. How can you have a party without hummus?!? Again there were requests for the recipe, which I think confirms its status as pretty damn awesome hummus. ;)

And of course, a delicious platter of pita bread and carrot sticks (there were also cornchips in another bowl) to scoop up all that fantastic dip!

Some Tomato Basil Bruschetta from The Garden of Vegan was rather nice. Especially served on my sourdough baguettes from Sol breads!

Onto some sweet stuff, and the Blueberry Coffee Cake from Vegan With A Vengeance was a hit. It makes a huge amount in a 9 x 13 inch cake tin, and was cut up into many more squares than the 16 suggested in the recipe (how big are your cake slices Isa?). It was also quite an expensive cake to make, with the blueberries and a whole cup of maple syrup. Here in Australia, a 250mL (1 cup) bottle is between $8 to $10 a pop! I think it could easily be halved for a cheaper and smaller cake. But it was delicious! Not too sweet but really flavourful. Quite a few people took home chunks of leftover cake with them.

Nice Krispie Squares from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan were a fantastic way to use up a bag of my recently acquired Dandies, though to be fair the whole bag didn't make it in as I had to snack on a few first, of course. ;) It is ridiculously sweet and sugary, which one would expect from such a treat. People were impressed that vegan marshmallows were available - vegans totally rock. ;)

Here those last two are on my cute coloured tier stand. I love this stand! It is kind of leaning though because when I was assembling I got one of the screws in on and angle and was too lazy to go and get a screwdriver at that point to undo it and start again. So it was a leaning tower of noms.

Oh... sorry, were you waiting for cupcakes? Well, I suppose so....

Lemon Macadamia Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. I love these babies, they are tangy and delicious! I also added some chopped vegan white chocolate, but not too much. The icing is fantastic - the lemon-ness (is that a word? It is now) of it really counteracts the feeling of ingesting a thousand kilos of sugar that usually freaks me out and gives me a sugar headache with other buttercreams. The icing does make a fairly small amount compared to other icing recipes in the book. Using the amount of icing you see on the cupcake here, it only had enough to top eleven of the twelve cupcakes. So be sparing.

The second cupcakes I made were Chocolate Mint Cupcakes, also from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. These were also awesome, a perfect mix of chocolate and mint. And super cute! A few notes, if I may. I found that the mint icing was really soft, even after I had left it to firm up in the fridge. As a result, even though I used a pretty star tip to pipe it out it really just looked like a tube. Leave out the extra tablespoon of soy milk and see how it goes. Also, when I was colouring it green in my pink bowl it looked like a nice greed colour, but as soon as it hit the dark chocolate of the cupcakes and ganache it got washed out. So make it greener than you think you need it to be so it still stands out. Thirdly, time you ganache cooling carefully. Too hot and it will obviously melt the mint icing, but I let it sit a bit too long so it wouldn't run attractively over the cupcake but more had to be dabbed on. But, despite all these minor issues I still think we had a super delicious and rather cute little cupcake!

I displayed the cupcakes on my newly purchased cupcake tree! Hurrah! It only carries 23 cupcakes, which was good because I could leave off the naked lemon one for me to eat later.

And a random shot of the table, full of food. It was a fun afternoon, and we raised almost $300 for cancer, so win! Now I need to start planning what to make for next year's one... must outdo myself! ;)

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Today's Cute Kitty Photo comes courtesy of Sahara, my favourite little red kitty. I have chosen a photo of her today because at this very moment I am the subject of her intense 'feed me dinner, the time is now' campaign. She's so cute! ;)

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Well, didn't my post-MoFo declaration of blogging a couple of times every week just fall down and get lost somewhere. No real excuse, just time going by at a rather alarming rate! I am also horrendously behind on reading blogs, but don't think I am neglecting you! I am slowly working through, so when I get to your blog you will see about a bunch comments from me on all the posts I have missed. ;)

I have a lot to blog about - there have been some exciting events and I have had some sort of a social life! I know, it boggles my mind too!

The last thing I blogged about was my fantastic trip to Sydney, which involved a lot of fabulous food and fun times with my wonderful Browncoats! The next weekend was Halloween. Halloween isn't really a thing in Australia, though some people and some shops seem to think it should be. I am glad, I have no desire to have people knocking on my door demanding lollies! But still, it was a Saturday night and it was an excuse for a bit of a spooooooky party! A How to Host a Murder, to be precise.

Our murder party was called 'The Good, The Bad and The Guilty', and was a wild west themed event. My character was Butch Chastity, the famous outlaw. Apparently my character was meant to be totally butch, but being that the one thing I am not is butch I went for the cute cowgirl look. After all, did Buffy not teach us that we girls can kick some serious butt, save the world and still look damn adorable while doing so? Sadly, I don't have a photo to give you right now! I need to get some pictures off Jen's camera, but she is overseas right now. But I will put one up when I do get them. I will tell you though - sequined pink cowgirl hat!

I can show you a picture of my trusty steed though. This is 'Spot-O-Silver', the Appaloosa of Sin. For those feeling strangely nostalgic upon seeing him, he is a Grand Champion from years ago, and he also makes neighing and galloping noises when you press the button on his back! If you don't understand that Appaloosa Of Sin reference, then shame on you and go and download Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog immediately. For those who do, welcome geek friends of awesome! Sing it with me now... 'Bad Horse. Bad Horse! Bad Horse. Bad Horse! He ride across the nation, the thoroughbred of sin...'.

Here are a couple of the other guests. We have Elias Truist-Heath, the heart-throb gunfighter with a mysterious orphaned past and the delightful Elvira Lynn Fekshin, inspiration for the song My Heart Burns For You And Other Places Too, aka the whore. Oh sorry, did I say whore? I meant madam. ;)

Food wise, we were going to keep it western and simple with a barbeque. The other kids had general charred meat products (you know what they say about that!) and I fried up some Sanitarium vegan sausages for myself. I also provided the salads.

Amazing Grace Pasta Salad from The Garden of Vegan. I love this salad, it is your basic creamy pasta salad with asparagus, cherry tomatoes, snow peas and basil in it. So yummy. Apparently you can also put red capsicum in it, but we all know how I feel about that.

Fantastic Dijon Potato Salad from The Garden of Vegan. Fantastic indeed - this thing is five stars of awesome! This is not a creamy potato salad, rather the dressing is made up of oilve oil and red wine vinegar with dijon and garlic. And lots and lots of dill! Nom. The recipe calls for 14 small new potatoes but I found this made a teeny amount when you are wanting to serve for a crowd (to be fair the recipe does say this makes 2-4 servings). I doubled the amount of potatoes, but still used the original amount of ingredients for the dressing - it makes more than enough to go around the extra potatoes!

Here is my plate - with some baby spinach and some cooked onion as well. It was nom.

For dessert I pulled out the mighty Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World and I made Brooklen Brownie Cupcakes. These were lucky to make it to cupcake form - the batter of these is fantastic and I could have just eaten the whole lot with a spoon! It contains melted chocolate, enough said! It also has black cherry preserves. I could only find really chunky jam with whole cherries, so I just gave it a quick blend up with the hand held to make it smooth, as the cherries are there for depth of flavour rather than actual cherriness. I had to leave out the bourbon/whiskey, as I found we did not have any and there was no time to head out for some. I got a bit confused with the making of though. It says in the introduction it makes 15 cupcakes, and not to overfill the liners or they will sink. But in the instructions it says to fill the liners full with batter. Following the instructions only gave me 12 cupcakes, and once cooked the tops were quite spread out. So maybe next time only fill three quarters full! The Chocolate Brownie Frosting make about twice as much as you need to top the cupcakes. I just used pecan halves rather than chopped walnuts to top them. The result is an insanely rich, decadent brownie. Keep a glass of water next to you!

Well, it was the Wild West. And in the story we were all gathering to attend a hangin'. I wonder what the graduation bear did??

And finally a random food photo, which was actually my lunch for that day. I had a big weekend of cooking and baking going on, which you will see more of the results of in my next post. I started cooking on Friday to get everything ready in time. All this prep work makes a girl hungry!

Sleepy Sunday Morning Scramble and Cajun Tomato Potatoes from La Dolce Vegan. Yummy! The tofu in particular gets a great flavour.

Stay tuned for the results of my mammoth bake-a-thon for the next day!

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

What would a halloween post be without a black cat? It is my Dim Sim! Who is in no way a giver of bad luck if she crosses your path, that's just silly. Dim Sim dislikes halloween because I make her stay in side for a couple of days because I am a paranoid mother and worry about sickos out there looking for black cats. She also dislikes Friday the 13th, where I do the same thing. Maybe I am crazy, but at least I know my baby is safe. ;)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Sydney part 4 - Sunday.

So I totally fell at the final hurdle for VeganMoFo, coming in at 18 posts... so close, so far! But I have a really good excuse, I promise! The last couple of days of October for me were a mad rush of baking, socialising and eating! So no time for blogging. I have really enjoyed participating in AusNZVeganMoFo and VeganMoFo this year, and it really has got me back into the blogging mood! I hope to continue blogging at least two or three times a week from now on.

I had one more Sydney tale left to tell. Sunday morning came along and Di and I were up early (the others were sleeping off the afterness of a bad night of badness... e.g alcohol and a late night) to head back to Naked Espresso for more brunch - hurrah! We had already decided that Sunday would be PANCAKE DAY!

I started my brunch with some hot chocolate. I don't drink coffee, it's gross and makes me feel sick. Hot chocolate at Naked Espresso is an experience! When the barista came over, he had a glass filled with some brown sludge on the bottom. WTF? Melted chocolate, my friends! He then proceeds to half fill the glass with hot soy milk, pausing for you to stir it up, and then fills the glass all the way and tops it off with some freshly shaved chocolate sprinkles... AWESOME! And delicious. :)

Now for the pancakes, how gorgeous are they? A delicious stack of buckwheat pancakes with fruit layered between them and maple syrup drizzled all over. Nom, nom, nom. But I knew early on this wouldn't be enough to sate my hungry vegan appetite! So, what is better than a stack of pancakes?

A stack of pancakes with Redwood bacon, extra maple syrup and hashbrowns on the side! Oh yeah. This sounded so good that Di ordered it as well. The result? Absolutely delicious!

And here is our experiment: Pancake, hashbrown and bacon in a stack covered in maple syrup. Pretty darn good! We suggested they could serve a pancake, hashbrown and bacon stack with fruit on the side for future brunches. ;)

After this we caught a bus down to Circular Quay for the Sydney Opera House Open Day. At about this time it started absolutely bucketing down rain! Even with my umbrella my shoes were soaked through and the bottom of my pants were wet! Thankfully the waiting area to get in was undercover. We did the behind the scenes tour, which was pretty nifty though kind of claustrophobic - it is a rabbit warren in there. Were the people who designed it on some sort of crazy drugs? There were also a lot performers roving around... musicians in the stairwells and goblins and gargoyles traipsing the halls. Pretty fun!

When we got out it was still raining... only HARDER! More soggy feet and pants followed, though it was worse for the others that didn't have an umbrella at all!

The Sydney Harbour Bridge on a grey and drizzling day. Still pretty!

After this we hustled on down to City Extra, a cafe at Circular Quay. Not really vegan, but when the lovely waitress asked what I would like I ordered a strawberry milkshake with soy milk and no ice cream, no dairy of any kind. She was very good and clarified exactly what I wanted in it - strawberry and soy milk only! My drink came and I took a great big sip... only to regret it as soon as I had swallowed. I checked and my drink was suspiciously thick and when I stirred it a bit glob of white floated to the top. I asked the waitress who went and asked the kitchen and she was mortified to tell me they had put CREAM IN IT! Blergh. After about 5 minutes my stomach decided I needed to take an impromptu trip to the bathroom. As a result, the restaurant comped the bill for the whole table. Which was a bonus for the others but didn't really help me. The poor waitress seemed to be copping the blame for it, but she took such meticulous instructions I can't see how it was - it wasn't her fault the moron in the kitchen can't read.

So home we went, and I reclined on the sofa feeling all rather ill and disgusting. To take my mind off the misfortunes of self-induced lactose intolerance (hello nine years no dairy) and that crazy irrational guilt I feel after accidental consumption of animal products I introduced myself finally to 30 Rock. Hilarious!

But my salvation was at hand. Normally when I go to Sydney we all get together for a massive yum cha at Green Gourmet. But recently information has come to light indicating that Green Gourmet has been LYING about the animal content in some of their mock meats. In fact if you go and buy them in the store next door, they have simply blacked out the egg and dairy ingredients. *sigh* So to make up for it the wonderous Leigh was going to make one of her famous Mexican feasts for me!

From left to right - multicoloured corn chips (yellow corn, blue corn, spinach and I can't remember what the red ones were), refried beans, guacamole, jalapenos and queso (made with the famous casheeze). Also pictured my peppermint tea for tummy soothing properties.

And from left to right again - Mexican not-pork, stir-fried cactus, salsa and olive salsa.

It was a fantastic and delicious feast! And totally revived me and made me feel human again. Apparently she didn't have enough time to make as much as she wanted to - how big could such a feast possibly be?? Nom, nom, nom!

That was my last night in Sydney. The next morning I was up and off to Newtown to stock up on Larabars, then to the airport and home. It was a wonderful weekend, I love my Sydcoats and cannot wait to do it again!

On another note, for about three days after my dairy experience I was mildly nauseous and felt extremely sluggish and often lightheaded. I wondered if this was how I felt before I went vegan, but I was just used to it and didn't realise? Anyway, I am happy to report that I am all back to my happy happy self now.

Cute Kitten Photo of the Post

All the boys - Fray, Wesley and Caleb. I had this bay window in my room, which the cats loved to sit on and watch the world go by!

Friday, 30 October 2009

VeganMoFo #18: Sydney - Saturday shindigs

Argh! Somehow yesterday totally slipped my mind for my blogging... I don't know how or why, I wasn't actually doing anything else really! And then I almost ran out of time today, so now I am posting late at night and tomorrow I shall have to post twice to make my 20 post quota!

Anyway, back to the happier times of Sydney. Saturday morning dawned and I was SO happy because I was finally going to have brunch at Naked Espresso! Then I was going to go to the Sydney Vegan Bakesale and meet Mandee and buy lots of food... or so I THOUGHT! Until I found out that some climate change protest had taken the spot and turned our bakesalers out... so they could make an ice sculpture and sell sausages!! *sigh* But, all was not lost! Read on...

We trundled on down to Naked Espresso to watch the lovely Leigh in action and order some fuds. Here is the list of breakfasts:

Brendan ordered the Builder's Breakfast, which is a joke Leigh suggested one fateful day that has since become a wildly popular brunch item. It is a pie (plain, mushroom or pepper) with a vanilla slice. Brendan had the pepper pie and I tried a wedge - delicious! Not sure how I feel about this first thing in the morning! (OK, I admit that my brunch wasn't actually first thing in the morning, I had had a pre-brunch breakfast before I left... I get really hungry you know... hee).

Diana ordered the Bacon, Lettuce, Avocacado and Tomato sandwich (BLAT), which is her favourite. Doesn't it look just great? The bacon is Redwoods.

I ordered the Aussie Feast, which was three slices of smoked tofu (I love smoked tofu), baked beans (not out of a can either - hurrah), has browns (mmm.... potato goodness), mushrooms (delicious), two slices of sourdough toast with Nuttelex and also some spinach, tomato and pumpkin. Hey, where are those last three?

Oh, there they are - they were under my bread! It is a great breakfast, everything is so tasty - nothing oily or bland here! But I was having one of my super hungry days because about 30 minutes later I was starting to feel peckish again!

Leish ordered The Morning After, which is the same as the Aussie Feast except that it has two Redwood sausages instead of the smoked tofu.

Now I mentioned that I was sad the bake sale was canceled as I was looking forward to meeting Mandee. However, Mandee wisely also had decided that brunch was an excellent plan!

A CupcakeKitteh and a dimsimkitty together at last! It is always great to meet people in the non-cyber world. :)

Mandee also very thoughtfully brought me some goodies from the bake sale! Gingerbread, Banana Split and Chocolate PB cupcakes! There was also a gingerbread horse, but his head fell off so I didn't photograph him in case it disturbed young children. All were DELICIOUS! Plus Mandee also got me onto some vegan 100s and 1000s, so now I've been eating fairy bread like it's going out of fashion!

After brunch we took a stroll around Newtown and then headed back to Di and Brendan's to get ready for their housewarming/Sydcoat shindig that night. The shindig was great, and I was able to catch up with even more Sydcoats and also a friend from work who moved to Sydney a while ago! Awesome.

The theme was BBQ, so us vegans had some Sanitarium sausages, marinated mushrooms and an awesome retro rice salad provided by the lovely Mim!

Leigh also brought some spare pies from work, and I had a mushroom one. Delicious! Alex, one of the omnis, liked them so much he took one home! And so the day ended on a glorious note of friends and food... bliss!

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

The third cat of the Brendan/Di household is Wesley. He is younger than the others and is a real little scamp. His nickname is Kitten.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

VeganMoFo #17: Sydney part two - Friday's mains

When I left you yesterday, we had just finished our large order of delicious friend entrees and salads and waiting for the main courses...

Mock Chicken with Curry Sauce - This was great. A sweet and slightly spicy curry sauce, so yummy. You can also get the Fried Tofu and the Mock Beef with this sauce.

Mock Chicken with Sweet and Sour Sauce - I am normally not a huge fan of sweet and sour, but this was quite good. Sour with just a hint of sweet, not that horrific sweet and sticky stuff that normally comes with sweet and sour. The sauce also comes with Fried Tofu.

Mock Squid with Lemon Grass and Vegetables - Hmmm... Ummm... OK. So, probably best to skip the mock squid. It is kind of rubbery and gross. Di ordered this in a fit of exceptional braveness. Unfortunately, the lemon grass sauce is ridiculously hot and she doesn't handle chili well. Be warned! You can also get the sauce with Fried Tofu, Mock Chicken and Mock Beef.

Mock Meat with Combination Vegetables on a Hot Plate - Nice and simple, with a great tasty sauce. But be warned - may contain some freaky mock prawns. Sorry, I am just not into mock prawns! You can also get this with tofu and mushrooms instead of the mock meat.

Fried Tofu with Mushroom Sauce - This was my pick and was announced the WINNER of the table! The sauce is crazy good - salty, mushroomy goodness. Drink it up goodness! Mushroom sauce also comes with Mock Chicken, but I think the tofu is the winner.

And then there was NOM! What a great dinner it was, I highly suggest you go and check it out if you are in the area. The only downside, and rather annoying thing, is that while the main part of the menu is vegan the desserts are not. This sort of thing does make me annoyed - how hard is it to buy some soy ice cream instead of dairy and some agave instead of honey? They say they can make some of them vegan, but what they mean is they will leave out the ice cream and will give you just a banana fritter on its own.

Not fancying deep fried fruit we decided to take a stroll up King Street. Some of the kids went for gelato, but Di and I went up to Naked Espresso with Leigh (who is now a part owner - hell yeah) and bought some of Leigh's Vanilla Slice to take away!

And it was delicious! The funny thing is that Leigh doesn't like vanilla slice and has never actually tasted her masterful creation, which is SO scrumptious! And was excellent enjoyed on the sofa with a gaggle of Sydcoats passing the laptop around and generally geeking out!

Then there came the sleeping, to prepare for another day of nomming the next day!

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

This is the adorable Fray, the second of Brendan and Di's kitties. Fray is a fraidy cat, and his main activities include hiding out in the wardrobe. He does come out and give some snuggles with time though!