Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Sydney noms and Joss Whedon!

This past weekend I went down to Sydney to see Joss Whedon speak at the Sydney Opera House and spend some wonderful time with by Browncoats. And, of course, for eating!

Saturday night was Brendan's birthday party, and he was showing off his new Thermomix by whipping up several vegan-friendly dishes (and one not so vegan friendly meaty chili). Combined with two delicious tarts that Leigh brought along, everyone there, vegan or otherwise, was very well fed!

Here is my dinner plate, loaded up with goodness. What you can see here is a slice of Leigh's two quiches - a sun dried tomato and smoke Sheese quiche and a hummus and vegetable quiche, with lemon and pea risotto, brown rice salad and beetroot salad (those last three all from the Thermomix). It was good, and I went back for some seconds as well! For dessert I tucked into a delicious little treat that Leigh had brought me from the vegan bake sale - but more on those in a later post!

Sunday morning came along and this was Joss day! I started my day with an almond croissant and cherry pie, then had a mini cheezecake snack about an hour later. Again, more on these in the bake sale post! We then headed into Newtown for a late brunch at Naked Espresso.

After my super sweet start to the day, I decided to try something different from new usual, and I had the scrambled tofu feast - scrambled tofu, mushrooms, spinach, pumpkin, hashbrowns, toast and homemade baked beans.

Diana had my usual, which is different from her usual (the BLAT). My usual is the buckwheat pancakes with a side of Redwood bacon and hashbrowns. There must always be potatoes at brunch!

Brendan is contemplating his Pie Floater.

After brunch, Brendan and I headed down for a stroll through Newtown (Diana had to go help set up for the Joss Whedon cocktail party her work was involved in), and we ended up at Buppa's Bakehouse - one of Brendan's favourite places in the world. Buppa's is an American style cake and pie shop. They also have New York style bagels, which are vegan! Even though I had just eaten brunch, I could hardly say no.

Mmmmm.... warm bagel with Nuttelex and sour cherry jam. Buppa's has an excellent grasp on what is required to be vegan. Unfortunately they don't offer a vegan option in their regular daily selection, but they can bake a range of vegan cakes and cupcakes to order.

After the bagel, I was just incredibly full. And a power walk from the bus stop the Sydney Opera House was not helping. But no matter, because it was Joss time! Wow, what an incredible 90 minutes! He is an incredible speaker - funny, articulate and honest. I laughed, I cried, I love it. For a great write up of the event, click here. And if you are going 'Joss who?', well then - get thee to a DVD store and stock up on Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Dollhouse and friends stat!

Afterwards, some people went to the after party, and those of us that didn't went to a nearby pub to wait for them. I was still quite full, which was good because the pub had a very uninspired selection on the menu and certainly nothing vegan! But once we were all joined up again, a large group of us headed out for dinner at Wagamamas. Leigh, my fellow Browncoat vegan, was also there. So what do two hungry vegan ladies eat at Wagamama?

Edamame with salt. Always a classic, though we had to add lots more salt!

Sweet potato chips, without the mayo dipping sauce.

Some sort of stir-fry. I don't remember the exact names. We subbed out the soba noodles (which contained egg) for rice noodles.

Again, I don't remember the name of this. But it was fried tofu, vegetables and chillies on rice.

And, of course, pickles! You cannot have Japanese without pickled vegetables. Nom! All washed down with Japanese tea and water. A tasty feast indeed!

I headed back to Brisbane yesterday, thankful for a wonderful weekend with some of my favourite people, my favourite write/director/producer/etc and some delicious food!

This photo isn't from Sydney. Last night, after I got back, I went to Loving Hut with The Jens. I just wanted to share their new starter - French Onion Pouches. Inside these little crispy packets is hot, melty french onion cream cheeze... which sounds wrong, but is oh-so-right! I could become addicted. ;)

Cute kitty photo of the post

This handsome man is Caleb, one of Brendan and Diana's kitties. Here he is being just utterly adorable - his back legs are still sitting on the top platform of his scratching post, but he has his front legs standing on the lower one. He sat like this for ages, looking rather happy and zoned out. He's a gorgeous big cutie. :)

Monday, 30 August 2010

Sahara turns NINE!

It's so hard when your babies grow up. Saturday the 28th of August is my little Sahara's birthday, and this year she turned NINE! And she's my youngest! I can't believe how quickly time goes by. It seems like just yesterday that an 18 month old Sahara came into my life, and my brain always considers her to be that age, forever. Unfortunately I had a plane to catch the morning of her birthday (more on that later) so I only had a few hours with her, but my parents made the rest of her birthday super special and took lots of photos for me.

We started her birthday with some Greenie's in bed! I keep a packet in my bedside draw, and every time I think about opening it she materialises like magic! So on this particular morning I risked spoiling her appetite for breakfast with a pre-breakfast crunch and snorgle.

Sahara enjoying a birthday sunbake.

With her birthday present - this cat has a lot of toys!

Look how very cute she is!

If there is one thing that makes her very excited, it is steamed broccoli! Here is a picture of her nomming into a special birthday bowl!

Again, looking cute. She is very good at that!

Go away and stop taking photos of me! It's sleepy time!

Happy birthday beautiful red girl. I will love you for eternity.

Food Picture of the Post

It's a flipped around post today, so here is a single food photo to end it on! My friend had her birthday a few weeks ago, and when I asked her what sort of cake she would like she said strawberry shortcake. I made this recipe, from Now Vegan by Lynda Stoner. I had to bake the cake about ten or fifteen minutes longer than she said in the book. Once you bake the shortcake, you cut it in half. The recipe then calls for strawberry jam and fresh strawberries to be layered in the middle. I also added a thick layer of Macadamia Creme from Vegan With A Vengeance, because I always thought strawberry shortcake was meant to have a creamy layer. Anyway, it was an awesome addition. The cake was very cute, and really nice. I wisely chose to take to work in bits and assemble it there, because after sitting for too long it goes a bit smooshy.

Coming up next, my Sydney adventures and my vegan bake sale experience!

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Little brother, big journey.

At the end of May this year, my little brother Greg moved to London to be with his beautiful girlfriend Jordy. Jordy has moved over the previous year to study acting, so they had been missing each other a lot during that time! Jordy flew home for a few weeks first to catch up with her family and friends, and then they flew back together.

While Jordy was here, our two families got together for lunch at our house. While there was some sort of fishy stew (eww), I made the following vegan options for the table.

Lemony Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves from 1000 Vegan Recipes. This was the first time I had ever made dolmades, and I was quite happy with them. The tangy lemon flavour here is delicious! Plus, super cute.

Roasted Ratatouille Gratin and Chopped Salad, both from 1000 Vegan Recipes, also served with some olive and thyme sourdough bread from Sol Breads. The ratatouille was yummy, and the capsicum taste was not strong at all. However the capsicum content was enough to give me heartburn for the evening. Susan and capsicum are unmixy things. The salad, on the other hand, was awesome! It is a huge salad involving different lettuce varieties, chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, carrot, olives, radishes and avocado. But you can more or less sub ingredients in and out at will.

The night before Greg set off, he selected the menu for our last ever family night dinner for some time. He did an excellent job of choosing some five star dishes!

The first course was French Onion Pastry Puffs from 1000 Vegan Recipes. These were delicious! The instructions say to cut either a 2- or 3-inch circle out of the puff pastry, and I used a 2-inch cookie cutter. Next time I think I would use a 3-inch cutter, as when they puffed up in the oven the yummy caramelised onion, olive and caper topping fell off a couple.

Rustic Cottage Pie from 1000 Vegan Recipes was the main course. This is a yummy combination of seitan, vegetables and mushroom sauce topped off with mashed potatoes.

To go on the side, he chose Roasted Baby Potatoes with Spinach, Olives, and Grape Tomatoes. Another excellent choice!

Here's what it looks like on the plate, with a leafy green salad mix as well. Yum!

For dessert he picked Bread Pudding from The Joy of Vegan Baking. Just the thing to finish up the meal on a chilly night. Especially good with some soy ice cream as well.

The next morning it was up at an ungodly hour to head off to the airport to say our farewells.

And here are our jet-setting couple about to leave us. Aren't they a gorgeous pair? I should probably mention that the third person going in this flight with them was my brother's double bass, which was packed into a double bass case that stood at over eight feet tall! That was fun to get around. My brother is a fantastic jazz musician. I went to his farewell gig at the Brisbane Jazz Club a couple of weeks earlier, and it was amazing. The first time I had ever really seen him play in all those years. I am a slack sister.

Greg is having a lovely time in England, by the sounds of it, doing lots of gigs and experiencing all that London and its proximity of Europe has to offer!

(1000 Vegan Recipes blogged: 3.5%)

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

In honour of my brother, I thought today I would spoil you with three photos! Here you can see how much my girls loved spending time with their uncle.

Sahara takes no prisoners! Actually, Greg and Sahara once jammed on the piano together. It was so super cute.

Dim Sim joins Greg for a nap on Christmas Day. All that lunch makes the kids sleepy!

Speaking of napping, Gizmo snuggles up double warm. Actually, I have a lot of photos of Greg and Gizmo napping together. This cat does not waste the chance for a warm place to snooze!

In exciting news, Greg and Jordy will be coming back home for Christmas - hurrah!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Losing my one wisdom: a tale of woe.

Today I am home feeling sickly, I have the head cold thing that seems to be going around. As I work my way through an entire plantation's worth of tissues infused with an entire something's worth of aloe vera, I thought a blog post was in order. Earlier this year, I had my wisdom tooth out. I say tooth because I only have one wisdom tooth, the other three had never actually formed, and it chose this year to make itself known. There are a lot of photos in this post, by the way. Let's not forget the backlog I need to get through!

My mother had her wisdom tooth out a few weeks earlier. She had it done under local in the chair, and was pretty much fine straight away. I made her some soft food for the first couple of days, but then it was business as usual.

Green and Yellow Split Pea Soup from 1000 Vegan Recipes. Definitely use the option sliced vegan kielbasa! Seeing as we don't have vegan kielbasa ere in Australia, I just used a packet of Sanitarium sausages. They make a nice addition.

Autumn Medley Stew from 1000 Vegan Recipes, which is delicious - seitan, chickpeas and awesome vegetables with some pasta. It is also fantastic for breakfast the next day on toast!

So, when it came time for my wisdom tooth extraction, I was feeling calm and zen. I elected to have mine done under a general anaesthetic because I have a severe gag reflex, the tooth was impacted so would require sectioning, I do dental extractions on cats at work and know it is a brutal business at times, and I am a great big wimp. I had it done on a Thursday and had the next three days off. All would be right, right?

On the plus side, the anaesthetic was delightful! Propofol induction and sevoflurane maintenance, I did not feel groggy or gross at all afterwards. Hurrah! Also, I had a nasty cat bite on my hand from work the day before that was red and swollen and infected, and the IV antibiotics I had really knocked that on the head and it was heaps better even by the time I woke up! They also had vegan jelly for me when I woke up. The downside was the local anaesthetic they gave me that was meant to least for 12 hours wore off about an hour after waking up, which led to one of the most horribly painful half hours of my life until my trusty Nurofen Plus kicked in.

That night, I was meant to eat cold food. So my mum had made me some soup.

Chilled Carrot Soup from 1000 Vegan Recipes. Which is nice, but to be honest after an anaesthetic and having to fast from 5am that morning, it so wasn't hitting the spot I needed it to. So I had some leftovers.

Roasted Cauliflower and Shallots with Millet from 1000 Vegan Recipes. OK, so this photo is not from that night, it is from the night I actually made it. I had served it with marinated tofu and salad. It is really delicious, who doesn't love roasted cauliflower? Also great for a breakfast snack. However, on post-op night I just had a little bit of the millet stuff, warmed just to take the chill edge off, and then smooshed with my fork to break it up a bit more.

The next day the swelling had kicked in big time, and I was loving my good friends Paracetamol and Nurofen Plus. Not to mention the awesome ice pack head wrap the hospital had given me to keep ice on my swollen face. Here are the dinners I made in those first few days.

Orzo, White Beans, and Tomatoes with Lemony Spinach Pesto from 1000 Vegan Recipes. This was delicious, and also small and easy to eat for someone who couldn't use one side of their mouth and couldn't open their mouth open further than about 1cm.

Millet, Chard, and White Bean Casserole from 1000 Vegan Recipes. This is all kinds of awesome. If you have this book, go and make it. Again, it fits the easy to eat post tooth removal criteria.

Rice and Pea Soup from 1000 Vegan Recipes. This is lovely and creamy and has a really subtle flavour. You can either just enjoy the flavour as is, or sprinkle with some nooch, or alternate. My mother was particularly in love with this dish!

Barley and Winter Vegetable Stew from 1000 Vegan Recipes. This was made on the day I was meant to go back to work. I say meant to, because I did not. My face still looked like I had been punched and I couldn't really talk and I was still relying on trusty codeine, which makes me happy but sleepy. As luck would have it, I had the following two days off as well because my brother was moving overseas (more on that in the next post), which gave me some extra time to heal.

Yellow Dal with Spinach served with Chapati, both from 1000 Vegan Recipes. This is lovely, though I found the dal only really made about three servings.

This was almost a week after my operation, and I was finding that while to tooth pain was fading (even though my sutures had pulled through a few days after the op - gross), I was developing a burning pain in my throat. To the point I was dreaming that I was being strangled. A quick exam into the back of my throat explained why - I had ulcers all around my soft palate and on the end of my uvula! Thus started the longest and possibly most painful two weeks of my life.

Things I tried to dull the pain: Savacol mouth-rinse, alcohol free Savacol mouth-rinse, Difflam mouth-rinse, Difflam sore throat spray, lignocaine, xylocaine viscous. The latter is normally super expensive, but thankfully we have some at work so I was able to get a little from there. It is revolting, but was the most effective thing at numbing... though only for about ten minutes. Gah!

And what does a girl eat during this time? Not much, to be honest. Pain is great killer of hunger. Ice cold soymilk, lukewarm peppermint tea into which I dunked vanilla biscuits until they were smoosh and I could suck them, icy smoothies (rockmelon, soymilk and a little soy icecream) and soup... lots of soup. At slightly warm temperature. Soup that did not have anything spicy or acidic in it. Mostly made by my wonderful mother!

Golden Potato Soup from 1000 Vegan Recipes.

Cream of Broccoli Soup from 1000 Vegan Recipes.

Creamy Potato-Chard Soup from 1000 Vegan Recipes.

Carrot Soup with Ginger from 1000 Vegan Recipes.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup from Vegan Cooking for One.

Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie from 1000 Vegan Recipes. I needed a change from rockmelon.

All these recipes were good, but I don't have too much to say as I was in pain, my throat was temporarily numb, and I was just happy to be getting something with actual nutrients into me! Originally I had seen a doctor near work who said there was nothing to be done but ride it out, but eventually I made an appointment with my normal doctor, who is awesome. She got me to make a mouthwash using dexamethasone, and that stuff started to do the trick and healing finally began. Sweet relief!

So what does a girl make the first night back to real food after weeks of sore jaw and sore throat?

Tempeh and Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie with Roasted Zucchini and Tomatoes, both from 1000 Vegan Recipes. A delicious return to solid foods!

Pear Gratin with Cranberries and Pecans from 1000 Vegan Recipes. Because dessert is awesome and nothing says 'farewell nasty ulcers' like some nice crunchy nuts.

(1000 Vegan Recipes blogged: 2.9%)

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

For making it all the way through that post (or maybe you just flicked through the look at the photos), I give to you Prince in his papoose! Prince is a gorgeous old man, he was a Singapore street cat who was brought over to Australia by his mum. She's had to go back to Singapore for work, so Prince lives with one of our nurses and comes in to the clinic to say hi when she comes to work. He travels in his little papoose. How cute is that? None of my girls would ever sit in that. He just really enjoys being carried around, and I think being super close and snuggly to Pip, who does the carrying. Despite his many health issues, Prince is still going strong and is a much loved little kitty by many.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Jen and Ryan's Wedding

Last weekend, my wonderful friend Jen married her partner Ryan. No to be confused with the other Jen who married Freddy last year. It was a glorious day, and a beautiful bride.

Isn't she just so beautiful you could cry? OK, so I am totally biased... but what a glorious bride!

The wedding was lovely, and was held at Victoria Park in their Garden Marquee, which ad a beautiful view overlooking the golf course and the city.

The kiss! Our beautiful married couple.

After the wedding, it was a chilly wait for an hour and a half at an outdoor bistro waiting for the reception. I was obviously looking forward to some vegan noms, and was curious to know what they might serve me. Apparently the venue has some vegan options naturally, and she kindly informed them that I was a hungry vegan so they could plan accordingly.

While other kids were eating crab cakes or mushroom gnocchi, I was given this bowl of yummy pumpkin and coconut soup. It was really thick and delicious. Fairly small, though a big bowl might have been a bit rich. There was the standard bread roll at the place setting, but with no guarantee of its veganess I skipped it. It left me slightly hungry though. But taste wise the soup was a winner.

Who needs steak or fish when you can have a gorgeous vegetable risotto? I have to say that this function centre certainly knows how to get some great flavour from some simple vegan dishes. Though I would have liked a slightly bigger serving size! Given that I was not comsuming a huge chunk of animal on my plate (eww and ick), surely they could have spared a little more?

The wedding cake was for dessert, and the happy couple had chosen a cupcake cake - very cute. But very not vegan. However - and this is when you know that you have wonderful friends - in the business of the day before the wedding Ryan found time to head over to Loving Hut to pick me up a little something for dessert. How awesome are my friends??

So I enjoyed a Raspberry Cheezecake that was carefully transported in. The venue provided a little scoop of mango sorbet, instead of ice cream, that was fantastic (I knew there had to be more than one scoop out the back and I really wanted to sneak into the kitchen and devour it all!) and also some berry compote that everyone got. The raspberry cheezecake was very rich, which made up for my slightly grumbly tummy with the previous two courses.

Jen and I. :)

Two posts in two days! What is this crazy talk?? Hee. So I have a lot of various events to blog about as well from the last ever. I have decided to start at the most recent and work backwards, it seems like the thing to do.

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Possum the family cat has become more intrigued with my shoes after I get home from a long day at work. They must smell very interesting to him!