Sunday, 28 June 2009

Good things come...

... to those who buy them on the internet and then wait for them to come! I always get so thrilled when I receive a package, it's like getting a present! OK, so I know I paid for it, but that was then. And when it arrives is now. Somewhere in the lag time, my brain forgets the part where I paid for it and it is like my birthday!

Anyway, the lovely Vegetation got me on to this fabuous site - The Book Depository. They don't charge postage, they get posted to Australia very quickly and with the current exchange rate they are a pretty fabulous place to get books from!

So, you can imagine my joy when 6 days after I ordered it, my very own copy of Vegan Brunch arrived! I have had a fabulous time looking through it and I can't wait to get the chance to make some recipes! Isa very rarely steers me wrong.

I also put in an order to The Cruelty Free Shop, which also arrived in good time. I swear they must think I am the biggest sweet tooth there, because I always seem to order sweets! But really it is just because it is hard to get the sweet stuff in the shops, a lot of the other food they sell I can get reasonably easily here. Here is a photo of my goodies:

OK, so you will notice 4 bags of Tropical Source Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, a total of over 1kg! No matter how hard I tried and bugged people, I could not find any since moving to Brisbane. There were some accidentally vegan brands, but they all either ended up adding milk or stopped being stocked. The only other stuff available here is Sweet William chocolate, which I hate hate hate - too sweet and fatty! So I always get excited when I get some real chocolate chips, a bake-a-thon is coming! I also got some Soyatoo Whipped Cream in a can, which I curious about. I tried a little bit in the UK and it was OK, much nicer than dairy cream which always made me sick. Some strawberry jelly crystals, for some sort of trifle dessert I feel the craving for. Some vegan merignue mix (anyone know if you can pipe this to bake into nests rather than just little blobs?). Chocolate frogs and chocolate drops for decorating things, and a little jaffa truffle just because! I have already nearly used up one bag of the chocolate chips.

Good things also come to those who consistently stalk the vegan sections of Borders and come bearing 30% off vouchers! I picked up Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. I have been searching for this book for a while, and the recipes look great! Now I just need to get a slow cooker. Or four of differing sizes and shapes, if I want to make everything in the book. Hee.

The other book I found is Great Chefs Cook Vegan. I love the idea of this book - it is collection of three or four course meals prepared by some of the top chefs in America. I love it that these chefs embrace the prospect of having a vegan come and dine with them, and want to excel in providing amazing food for everyone! The recipes in there are incredible and each has a stunning full colour photo. The level of detail involved in the recipes mean that I am probably unlikely to make much from here, and definitely not more than one recipe at once! But I am in love with the idea of this book!

Good things also come to those who have lovely friends! Allularpunk made more than a few of us jealous with the amazing pot luck her friends put on for her! Well, in the space of two days I had two different friends offering to cook me vegan dinner. Hurrah!

First was Jen and her fiance Ryan. I went over to spend the day scrapbooking, and they spent the evening cooking me dinner!

Here are my faithful minions, slaving away in the kitchen to bring me food!

First up was Jen's famous pumkin soup! I love it because she makes it so thick and so spicy. Yummy!

Followed up by some mushroom, barley and wild rice risotto cooked in their slow cooker, with some fresh bread made in the bread maker. It was fabulous! I bought along my own nooch to sprinkle on top.

A few days later, I went over to a friend from work's house before we went to a seminar on feline pancreatic lipase (oh yay, we are SUPER exciting people). For starters she made some hommus and some delightful marinated mushrooms. I didn't get photos of those, woe.

But here is dinner! It was based on a smoky baked bean recipe, which she modified to be vegan for me. She got rid of the meat and replaced it with eggplant and tofu. It was great! Really nice flavour, and served with some toast. She had never cooked for a vegan before, she did a really fabulous job of it!

So, finally in this epic post of random, sadly Wednesday night was a farewell dinner for the lovely Megan from work, who I will be missing a lot! We went to Grande Piatto in Camp Hill. I rang them in advance to discuss my vegan dining experience. They were a bit horrified by the list of things they couldn't use (how many times do you need to be told that cheese is an animal product?), but overall the did an alright job.

My starter was bruschetta. Which was really nice, the tomato was so fresh and the bread was crusty and good. There was so much onion in it though that I was suffering from onion breath ever the following morning despite brushing, flossing and gargling. Hee.

My main was just a fairly standard pasta dish of penne and mixed vegetables in a tomato sauce. It was fine.

And a side salad of spinach and rocket with fennel and beetroot. The beetroot was from a tin though, which was a bit of a let down.

Overall it was an OK meal. And it was pretty on par with what the others were being served (bruschetta and garlic bread for starters and several pasta dishes for mains). Not outstanding though, certainly something I could do at home for a lot less than the $25 it cost me and with very little effort.

Here ends the randomness. I am being a bridesmaid next weekend again and I am working a zillion hours until then, so if I may be a bit away from the blogging side of things for a bit!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Recipe Round-Up: Vegan Planet #2

I'm currently on call at the clinic, however this week I had the foresight to bring along Vegan Planet with me so I can do another recipe round up post at least! I am a pretty big fan of Vegan Planet, it has many great recipes in it and generally I am always happy with what I make from it. Last time I did Vegan Planet round up it focused on Asian-themed dishes. Today I am doing a bit of a round up on some pasta dishes with a couple of extras as well. So, let us get on with the photos.

Tuscan-Style Pasta with Chickpeas, Zucchini and Rosemary. Served with roasted asparagus, my favourite way to eat asparagus! I added some mushrooms to it, just because I could. It is really quick to make, and a great option for a day when you get home from work late and want something easy and yummy to eat.

Spring Vegetable Gratin. I am sad I don't also have an inside shot of this, because it is fabulous! The vegetables involved are potatoes, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and asparagus. It is wonderful, and develops this buttery flavour even though there is nothing remotely buttery in it! It's not filling enough on it's own. I cannot remember what I served with it but I think it may have been vegan sausages and bread roll. The book suggests a bruschetta for a side with a garlicky bean topping, which I think would be great.

Mac and 'Cheese'. I am on a mission to try every single vegan mac and cheese recipe in the world. There is something I just love about it. It is real comfort food for me. This was an excellent representation of this beloved dish. It is quite saucy. I also increased the amount of nooch the recipe called for, because I am addicted to the stuff. I served it with some sauteed broccolini (which I saute with some Maggi seasoning, nom).

Linguine Tetrazzini. I haven't written anything in my notes section on this, except a smiley face. It was pretty nummy. The recipe suggested serving with a bread roll and steamed green beans. I made it roasted green beans because they are awesome.

'Sausage' and Fennel Cannelloni. I haven't done much cannelloni before. I buy the standard dry cannelloni rolls from the supermarket, which may be smaller than the ones you can get in America because I had a lot of mixture left over, even with downgrading the 2 medium-sized fennel bulbs to one small fennel bulb. Be sure to chop your fennel finely otherwise it is too chunky to fit in your tubes! Also I used reconstituted TVP mince instead of crumbled soy sausage. It was not bad overall. I served it with a rocket and corn salad with balsamic vinegar.

Linguine with Sage and White Bean Sauce. I found the sauce a bit dry in this recipe, though overall it was still fairly nice. Not protein-y enough or vegetable-y enough to make a full meal on its own, I served it with a Fry's Schnitzel and a green salad.

Mushroom-Soy Pastitsio. I ended up increasing the amount of tomato paste and seasoning for this because otherwise it might be a bit bland. I also decreased the amount of pasta by half from 500g to 250g because I generally find that 500g of pasta makes a way too huge amount and I prefer to have more of the rest of the meal and a bit less of the pasta. I tend to always do this with all pasta recipes calling for 500g! Served with baby spinach leaves.

Brown Rice and Chickpeas with Broccoli Rabe. And last but not least for this post is this tasty dish. It makes you feel really warm and healthy and satisfied when you eat it. It doesn't have a strong flavour, so it lends itself to a variety of sauces. Here it is modeling some Apricot BBQ Sauce from Veganomicon. I also served it with some vegan sausages, but baked tofu would be awesome as well. And, of course, a green salad.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Recipe Round-Up: Eat, Drink and Be Vegan

Time to clear out some more archives! Let me begin with a tale. Once upon a time there was a girl called Susan. And for many moons she would skip into her local Borders and look at The Everyday Vegan by Dreena Burton. Susan kept on putting off buying this book, because at $55 it seemed just a tad pricey, even though she knew that buying vegan books from Borders in Australia is never cheap. Then one day the magical interwebs sent Susan a Borders voucher, buy two cookbooks and get a third for free! Susan was full of glee, and skipped into Borders. But woe, the book was gone. Susan's woe was short-lived, however, for upon searching through the shelves she found Eat, Drink and Be Vegan by Dreena Burton. And she rejoiced. And she bought it. They went home together and the book provided delicious, delicious meals. And they lived happily ever after. The End!

So yes, Eat, Drink and Be Vegan is a new addition to my cookbook collection. I have not made that much out of it yet. But so far what I have made, I have been pretty darn happy with! I love that Dreena gives lots of suggestions for things that go together, because you all know menu plans (mine or other peoples) fill me with glee! So, let us take a peek and what has been cooked up, shall we?

This was the first thing I ever made. It is Garlicky Broccoli, Corn and Bean Burritos, topped off with some Smoky Avocado Sauce and a big green side salad for scurvy-fighting properties. The Smoky Avocado Sauce is delicious, and really pulls the whole thing togehter. I loved the beans for the burritos - you make your own pureed beans and it includes balsamic vinegar. It certainly makes for a scrumptious taste sensation!

Pictured here is Cumin Lime Tofu with Autumn Puree and a green salad topped with Polenta Croutons. The flavour of the tofu was awesome. Unfortunately, mon pere had purchased the wrong type of tofu (silken firm rather than real firm), which just refused to soak up as much marinade and it should have. It was still pretty tasty though! I found I was all out of pepitas, so I crushed up some sunflower seeds instead. The Autumn Puree was great, especially smothered in left over marinade. It is quite sweet and I think would also make a nifty quick pie filling. But that might just be me. The left over marinade also made a fabulous dressing for the greens. But I must now just take a moment to talk about the star of this dish.

Behold. The golden perfection. What happens when 5 ingredients, a bit of time and almost no effort combine. Polenta Croutons. Make them. Eat them. On their own. Holy cow, in case you cannot tell, I am in love with these things. They are seriously NOM and it is a miracle there were any left to go on the salad, I spent all afternoon just snacking on them!

This little number is Savory French Lentils with Roasted Winter Squash Rings, Lemon Broiled Green Beans and brown rice. So, the squash rings were more squash half moons because I could only find halved butternuts. The beans are super quick and easy to make. And the lentils require almost no effort and are really tasty. No wonder it is a mainstay in the Burton household, if we are to believe the blurb.

And finally the Bean and Corn Tortilla Lasagna with Avocado, served with a salad with Cumin-Cinnamon Vinaigrette. I used cheddar Cheezly to top this dish, but I have heard about the nacho flavour and I suspect it would go very nicely with it too. I did have a brief urge to splot some 'sour cream' on it, but in the end didn't. The salad dressing is amazing though! I put the extra in a jar and every lunch time I give it a shake and pour it over more salad. It is certainly inspiring me to eat lots and lots of my greens!

So, there is the current line up of dinners provided for me. They have all been fabulous. I will definitely be looking to get my hands on her other books if they are anywhere near as good as this one!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Here comes the bride (and the food)...

It has been a little bit since I last blogged. Part of that is because I have the lurgy and am ookey. Another part is that something very exciting took place over the weekend! Some of you who have read from the start may remember my lovely friend LJ (aka Little Jen) and our ill-fated cupcake day. Well, on Saturday our lovely Jen got MARRIED! And I was honoured enough to be asked to be a bridesmaid along with her sister Mel and our other BFF Jen. Yes, there are two. That is why one is Big and one is Little. Though I just call them both Jen, which confuses everyone except for me and them. ;)

The day before the wedding involved massages, spas, saunas, nails being done, eating, girly movie watching and dancing around to hilarious songs! And then the day of days dawned, and it came time to see what this hungry little vegan could expect from the venue.

The morning of the wedding, Jen's brother Brendan cooked us up a BBQ breakfast, including making me tomatoes and mushrooms far from any part touched by ookey meat and eggs. Here they are along with a muffin with red miso and avocado (best toast combo ever!).

We toasted with classy purple plastic tumblers. They with champers, and the non-drinking vegan with soy milk!

No photo of lunch, because it was a rather hurried affair after hair and makeup were done and we were trying to get off on time. But it was bagels with vegemite and avocado and muffins with peanut butter and jam. Yum!

I did have to have a quick snack bar during the photos being taken after the wedding and before the reception.

So, the venue for the reception was at Diana Plaza. I had spoken to the events manager Kylie about my veganism, and she was super helpful and very eager to please. I did mention I was a hungry vegan. ;) The reception was a lot of fun. They had a magician at the beginning who did some funny tricks. And then there was dancing to our awesome crafted playlist. There were two dancing highlights. The first ( a prelude to the main event) was LJ and I dancing our world famous Tango With Butter Knife, first seen one drunken night a very many moons ago. The main event, however, was Jen and Jen and I (along with junior bridesmaid and LJ's neice Drew) doing our very own choreographed dance to Five's song Let's Dance. Which was originally conceived on another drunker night slightly less moons ago, and perfected the night prior to the wedding. Hee!

The entree came out with not a salad in sight! Off to a great start. It was a tomato stuffed with white beans and bulgur, with a tomato and balsamic sauce. Extremely nom.

The main was a vegetable stack, but at least it had a bit of a twist. The sauce was delicious and curry, and the eggplant slices were breaded and crispy perfection. The only downside was that two eggplant slices and a few bits of carrots, potato and cauliflower do not a filling meal make. Plus I had no spoon, so all that tasty sauce was wasted! Woe! Ideally I would have liked a big scoop of rice to soak it all in and carb me up.

Notice to all venues catering for vegans: We cannot live on fruit and vegetables along. Carbs and protein make for a happy belly!

But all in all, a good and tasty effort. I am impressed that there was no salad! Though it seems no one can go past a vegetable stack. ;)

Here is my dessert. Everyone else had wedding cake, so I brought along a cupcake I had purchased from My Heart Garden the previous day. Unfortunately all the icing melted on the way home, so I had to do a restoration job on it. I smeared the icing back on, topped if with buttercream balls and a ganache disc and sprinkled with chocolate sprinkles. If I may say so myself, I think it looks quite cute for a three minute emergency repair job. I then packed it lovingly to preserve it all the way to the reception. I enjoyed it with some soy icecream that the bride and groom had so thoughtfully provided for me. *hugs them*

But really, at the end of the day who gives a toss about the food? For once, not me. Because this was about Jen and her Freddy, and their amazing and perfect day together. And it was a sensational day! Here are just a couple of quick photos to share with you all.

This is our most beautiful bride. It was taken at the gardens where we went to get the girl photos taken before the wedding. She is wearing her Bride to Be sash from the hens night, for a couple of silly photos before the photographer got there. How gorgeous is she? I am not tearing up looking at it, no I am not.... *sniffles*

Jen and Freddy having their first dance together as husband and wife. *hic*

A couple of super sexy bridesmaids. Oh wait, that is Jen and I! The other Jen, that is. Excuse my crazy squinty eyes, they are very sensitive to light and the flash is their natural enemy.

Jen passes the Bride To Be sash on to Jen, who will be getting married to her Ryan next year!

I need to do a gathering up of all the photos on different cameras, because there were a lot of photos I didn't get!

Jen and Freddy have taken off on their honeymoon to Peru as of yesterday, to be away for a month. What shall other Jen and I do without our third? Anyway, this post is deicated to Jen and Freddy. Or Freddifer, as Jen and I call them because they are one of those ridiculously perfectly adorable couples. I hope they have every happiness in the world, have an amazing honeymoon and bring Jen and I back awesome presents. ;) To Freddifer!

*sniffles some more*