Monday, 29 February 2016

Recipe Round Up: Salad Samurai

Salads are not what they used to be. I enjoy a big salad made up of whatever is lying around for lunch several times a week, and they are anything but boring. Boring salad makes me sad. Also hungry. If you are looking to take your salads to the next level, Terry Hope Romero has created Salad Samurai just for you! And for everyone else. This book is packed full or imaginative, delicious and filling salads that will have everyone wanting to eat their veggies. The book is divided into chapters by season, so I have listed what season each recipe belongs to. Some of the recipes also require that you make some other recipes from the Dressings or Toppings sections, so I have mentioned those recipes specifically, and have also noted which recipes are self-contained. Forget everything you thought you knew about salad, and dive in!

Blueberry Tamari Greens Bowl (Spring): This is a refreshing recipe. It makes 2 servings, but I scaled up for three people by using more baby spinach and big Lebanese cucumbers. This recipe has a simple tamari-based dressing, but does require two other recipes to be prepared for it - the 5-Spice Tamari Almonds (the recipe calls for 1 cup but I just used the entire recipe of almonds) and Ginger Beer Tofu. The almonds are delicious! I didn't chop them, I just left them whole because I was lazy. They would be great for snacking. I needed to give them an extra five minutes in the oven to get a good glaze on them. The tofu was okay, but I didn't get much of the ginger flavour coming through. Also needs much longer and higher temp in the oven for it to absorb all the marinade.
Rating: Salad :), Almonds :D, Tofu :|

Blueberry Tamari Greens Bowl

Asparagus Pad Thai Salad (Spring): This salad uses a fun mix of cooked Pad Thai noodles and raw ribbons of asparagus. The asparagus was really nice in this, and softened up in the lime-based shallot dressing. I doubled this recipe to serve four people, though I still used a single batch (500g) of the Lemongrass Tofu, which you will need to make in advance. The lemongrass tofu has quite a lovely and sweet flavour, though the lemongrass could have been a bit stronger.
Rating: Salad :), Tofu :)

Asparagus Pad Thai Salad

Couscous with Snap Peas and Za'atar Dressing (Spring): Israeli couscous is fun to eat. In this salad, the soft and chewy balls mix with crunchy radish and snap peas, plus soft chickpeas (which were meant to be chopped but I did not because lazy). The za'atar dressing is a delightful flavour with everything in the bowl. I did use chopped dried apricots instead of figs in this recipe, because I am not a fig fan, and it was great. This salad does not need any additional recipes prepared in advance.
Rating: :)

Couscous with Snap Peas and Za'Atar Dressing

Pesto Cauliflower & Potato Salad (Summer): This yummy and very green salad is a great twist on the regular potato salad. I roasted the cauliflower in little pieces, rather than grilling and then cutting it. As well as cauliflower and potato, peas are also included (I love peas), and it is all coated in a basil pesto dressing that is very quick to put together. Great for a summer gathering! This recipe doesn't require any other recipes to be prepared in advance.
Rating: :)

Pesto Cauliflower & Potato Salad

Avocado Amaranth Bhel Puri Chaat (Summer): The amaranth part of this recipe involves popping raw amaranth in a pot, and I completely failed at this. It pretty much just burnt, with a couple of little pops, so I just left that out all together. The tamarind and maple vinegarette was quite acidic, even when I served over baby spinach (my own addition). The salad itself is made up of a yummy combination of cashews, avocado, black beans, mango, tomato and coriander with bhel puri mix... my mix had cashews and peanuts in it because it was the only one I could find. I left out the onion. This salad goes soggy quickly, so you should eat as soon as possible! I did have some leftovers, and though they were soggy they still tasted OK, and I served it with some rice which helped balance out the acidity. This recipe says it serves 3-4, but it was really two big servings. You don't need to prepare any recipes in advance for this salad.
Rating: :)

Avocado Amaranth Bhel Puri Chaat

Miso Edamame Succotash Salad (Summer): This salad is amazing! It is sweet and crunchy and creamy and salty, with a great texture! Edamame, snow peas (the recipe called for snap peas, but I couldn't find any), tinned butter beans, corn and celery. I couldn't find any shiso leaves, so I left them out. I also left out the raw onion. The Marvelous Miso Dressing is made in advance, but comes together quickly and is very yummy.
Rating: Salad :D, Dressing :)

Miso Edamame Succotash Salad

Backyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad (Summer): I got 3-4 servings from this salad, rather than 2-3. The slaw is cabbage, carrot and celery, which is quick to shred and put together. You need to make three other recipes for this salad. The Back at the Ranch dressing is a simple and creamy cashew based dressing (I used parsley, dill and chives as the herbs). I made the Red-Hot Saucy Tofu into Very Mild Heat Tofu. Instead of using 3 TBS of hot sauce, I used 1 TBS of hot sauce (Franks) and 2 TBS of V8 juice. It was tasty and mild, just as I like it! Finally, you need to make some Classic Croutons, which are quick and tasty and nice and crunchy. Put together, you get a very nice salad. The leftovers are lovely in a wrap!
Rating: Salad :), Dressing :), Tofu :), Croutons :)

Backyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad

BBQ Tempeh 'N' Dilly Slaw Bowl (Summer): This is a pretty fun salad. The BBQ tempeh comes together quickly in a frying pan (I used maple syrup as the sweetener option in the sauce). For the slaw I used red cabbage and left out the raw onion. I like this salad because it has lots of dill - half a cup in fact. I can never have too much dill! The salad is tossed with the Back at the Ranch dressing, and it is topped with BBQ potato chips. I couldn't find any vegan BBQ potato chips, so I used BBQ pringles. I think it would be better with a sturdier chip. I got trhee servings out of this salad (rather than two) and served it over some baby spinach as well.
Rating: Salad :)

BBQ Tempeh 'N' Dilly Slaw Bowl

Broccoli Peanut Lemongrass Rice Salad (Autumn): This salad is delicious! You get big servings, but they are not too heavy. You can definitely eat a whole serving without feeling heavy afterwards. The lemongrass and shallot dressing is fantastic! I used black rice in this salad. I also added the optional That 70's Tofu (250g worth), which is a classic and tofu marinade including aple cider vinegar and tamari. Yum! I was lazy and used garlic powder rather than crushed garlic in the marinade.
Rating: Salad :D, Tofu :)

Broccoli Peanut Lemongrass Rice Salad

Smokehouse Chickpeas & Greens Salad (Autumn): This is another delicious salad. The chickpeas come together quickly in a frying pan and are delicious, they taste so good! Make them and snack on them or add them to everything! I was eating this salad alone, so I halved most of the rest of the ingredients and enjoyed a lot of chickpeas (I snacked on the extra). The salad has baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, carrot and avocado. I left out the raw onion. This salad does not require any other recipes to be prepared in advance.
Rating: :D

Smokehouse Chickpeas 'n' Greens Salad

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Three kitties sunning themselves

Flashback photos to three kitties sunning themselves. Dim Sim, our sadly departed Possum, and Sahara.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Eating Out: Vegerama West End (Dinosaur edition)

Phew, I have had a busy couple of weeks. Lots of thesis writing, working and preparing for a bake sale. I haven't had much time for blogging! Though I have been sure to make time to read all my favourite blogs! So here is another eating out post, because they are quick and easy! I have infinity recipe round ups still in the wings though, so they will be back soon!

Back in January I went into town with a friend to see a super cool dinosaur exhibit. Dinosaurs are cool! This one had huge screens where dinosaurs roamed around and looked at you and did dinosaur things. It was pretty fun. We were the only adults there without kids, but dinosaurs are for all ages! My favourite dinosaur is the stegosaurus. They had Steve the Stegosaurus wandering around in the background. But you could get up close with Princess the T-Rex.

Princess the T-Rex


It was nice to be out and about. If you ignore the fact that the river water is disgusting and would likely kill you if you dipper a toe in, Brisbane is quite pretty. It was also a lovely cool and overcast day.

Brisbane River

Because we were in the area, we decided to take a little walk and do to Vegerama at West End for lunch.

We all started with the beautiful Liver Cleansing Juice ($8) that I fell in love with last time.

Liver Cleansing Juice from Vegerama West End

Ashleigh had the cannelloni that I had last time, and also a side of Roast Garlic Vegetables ($7), which I shared with her.

Roasted Vegetables from Vegerama West End

Bec and I both had the Sweet Potato Gnocchi ($17.50), which I had heard a lot about. This was nice, but I was a little meh about it after my high expectations. The gnocchi were good, but the chive cream sauce was oddly cold and the king brown mushrooms needed a bit more seasoning. Also, a teeny serving!

Gnocchi from Vegerama West End

For dessert, Ashleigh and Bec both got the Chocolate Cheesecake (sorry, I am not sure on the price). I tried a little bit, and I am glad I just had a little bit because it had a lingering taste of coconut fat. But very moreish as well. I probably would have nommed a whole slice even knowing that it would make me feel sick. Tasty.

Chocolate Cheesecake from Vegerama West End

Vegerama West End - Shop 2a 220 Melbourne St, West End, QLD - 07 3255 3388

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Shauna Sleeping Silly

A throwback photo to Shauna, who is sleeping in a very silly position. Shauna belonged to a staff member at work, and sometimes used to stay upstairs in the intern flat. Sadly she is no longer with us. She used to sleep with me when I was on call and drool on my pillow!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Eating Out: Charlie's Raw Squeeze at Greenslopes

A while ago I tried out the Greenslopes location of Charlie's Raw Squeeze after doing one of my bikram yoga classes. I went for lunch, but also picked up a few things to take home for dinner and the following day. I tend to try and buy a few things at any visit now!

As I had just done a lot of sweating in yoga, some rehydration was in order with this Tropicana Juice ($7 for large). It has watermelon, pineapple, kiwifruit and mint. Unfortunately the pineapple and kiwifruit were the overwhelming flavours. It was fine, but I was really in it for the watermelon and mint.

Tropicana Juice from Charlie's Raw Squeeze Greenslopes

I also tried out one of the Bowls. This is the Bubblegum Bowl ($15 for large): Acai, red dragonfruit, banana, coconut water and coconut chips. This was so yummy! Definitely one of my favourite bowls so far (I have tried others that I will talk about at later posts). As you can see, you get a lot of fruit on top. This bowl included a fig. I haven't eaten a fig since I was little, when I got awful ulcers when I ate one. I approached this fig with caution, but thankfully remained ulcer free afterwards! Everyone raves about figs. I thought it was OK, wouldn't go out of my way for one. Would go out of my way for this bowl

Bubblegum Bowl Charlie's Raw Squeeze Greenslopes

I picked up a salad to take home for dinner - the Falafel and Kale Salad bowl ($12.95). This is my favourite of all the salads I have had from there. So good! I did have to pick out a fair amount of capsicum from the kale salad part, but it was worth it. As well as kale salad there was a healthy serve of falafel, heaps of tahini sauce and some pickled radish. So much yum!

Felafel Salad from Charlie's Raw Squeeze Greenslopes

I also grabbed a wrap for lunch the next day. This is the Taco Wrap ($9.50). Unfortunately the girl who was at the counter was new, so didn't know what was in the wraps, so I didn't know until I bit into it the next day that it had corn chips in it. And unfortunately they were of course mostly soggy by then. The flavours were still OK. I would have liked more avocado and sour cream like they have in the taco bowl.

Taco Wrap from Charlie's Raw Squeeze Greenslopes

Finally, I also picked up a couple of cupcakes. They stock the Cloverly Cupcakes ($10 for 2). This was the Turkish Delight and the PBJ. The PBJ was definitely my favourite, although the amount of jam actually in it was tiny. If you are filling a cupcake, fill it good! But I love the PB frosting. The turkish delight was OK, though the frosting was very sweet and could have had more rosewater.

Turkish Delight and PBJ Cloverly Cupcakes from Charlie's Raw Squeeze Greenslopes

Charlie's Raw Squeeze - 47 Old Cleveland Road, Greenslopes, Queensland

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

The beautiful face of Gizmo

The reason I was at yoga and Charlie's that day, instead of being at work like I normally would be on a Thursday, was because it was the four year anniversary of Gizmo's passing (the 14th of January... that is how far behind I am in eating out posts!). I always take that day off work, because it makes it extra hard to mourn the loss of your own cat while dealing with health issues of other cats. Over the years, I have dedicated the day to the memory of my love, of course, but also to self-care. It took me a while to not feel guilty about doing things that I enjoyed on this day, but it is important to look after myself on a day that brings intense sadness. I miss my Gizmo, always and forever.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Eating Out: Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

I have a lot of eating out posts still to share, but I am skipping a head a bit so I can tell you about a very special dinner I had recently! Earlier this month I was lucky to be able to attend a pop-up vegan degustation dinner held at Wandering Cooks near South Bank in Brisbane. The event was run by The Chicken Pen. I had never been to the Wandering Cooks facility before, but it was very pretty. And thankfully it was a lovely evening as well. I went with my friend Ashleigh, and we met up with a couple of other people to complete our table of four.

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

The original booking page said eight courses, but when the menu came out there were 12 different little delights to look forward to!

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

Let's get onto the actual food though! Please forgive the photos. The lighting was not set up to be photo friendly. I ended up taking photos with the low light setting on both my phone and my fancy camera, and just had to pick the best one.

1. Flaxseed cracker with fresh peas and bergamot jam: This was a lovely fresh start to the dinner. The bergamot jam was almost like a little marmalade. The only issue I take with this was all the inedible leaves and twigs on the plate!

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

2. Local variety of cucumber cooked with thyme and dill: Four varieties of cucumber, in fact. I loved the cucumbers and the dill (my favourite herb). I had hoped the white crumbles were going to be some sort of nut feta or something, but it was some sort of coconut cream. I scraped as much of that off as I could, given my coconut fat issues.

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

3. White lentils fermented in the basement with wild mushrooms and burned toast: I love that these are fermented in the basement. I googled and it seems to be a home brew related thing? Much better than fermented in the attic? I was looking forward to this, and the flavour did not disappoint. It was great!

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

4. Plate of biodynamic beetroot glazed in bitter apple vinegar blackberry consomme and wild pickled lavender: This was a favourite at our table! It was great, the beetroot was cooked a variety of ways, and the sauce was perfect. We were scraping our plates to try and get more off!

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

5. Tofu cooked in hay with fermented and juiced celariac: This was my favourite of the savoury dishes. The tofu was crumbed in something that was almost cheesy tasting, and the cooked celeriac was just divine. The celeriac sauce they came around and drizzled over the top was lovely as well. Unfortunately at this point they also brought out some smoking leaves to the table, which smelled pretty much like a campfire and are really not great for someone like me who has asthma triggered by smoke. We blew ours out and put them far away from me!

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

6. Sourdough bread with cashew butter, black salt and burnt scallions: One person at our table was gluten free, and they bought gluten free bread out for the whole table. This made me a little sad, as I had seen them taking loaves of delicious hot sourdough around to other tables. So I mentioned I was not gluten free and they bought me a sourdough. And that meant instead of having to share a plate, we each got to eat all the bread. Mwahahaha. This was so good. The bread was hot and crusty and perfect with the cashew butter. I only used a sprinkling of salt. Ashleigh said the gluten free bread was amazing as well.

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

7. Tempeh from Byron Bay with blueberries and local beer: This one divided the table, but I liked it! The tempeh was hidden under slices of roasted heirloom carrots and pickled daikon, and was actually finely minced and mixed up with seasonings and blueberries. Apparently someone said it was miso based. I loved the combination of sweet blueberry and salty miso with the tempeh.

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

8. Liquid nitrogen poached pear sorbet with dried ginger and coconut: This could have been amazing, but it was a bit unbalanced. The top part was delicious frozen pear sorbet that I could have eaten forever, and the bottom was chunks of coconut and ginger with a drizzle of coconut cream (but not too much for me). However the middle was a very sour lime granita. A little lime would have been great with it, but there was so much of it that it just took over the other flavours. I just really wanted all the pear sorbet bits!

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

9. Toffee apple from the school fair: This was a fun little spoonful that sort of melted in your mouth to release a yummy toffee apple flavoured syrup. Only issue for me was that the shell was white chocolate, which I don't like, and that was the flavour that really lingered.

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

10. Dark chocolate pulled and stretched potatoes from the southern highlands: Say what? No dish had me more excited than this one. Chocolate and potatoes? It ended up coming out in the form of a slice of deliciously dense and rich tart, which was amazing. Sprinkled with a great oaty crumble and served with some sort of chew berry wafers. This was my dessert highlight of the night!

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

11. Aerated beetroot meringue and bitter chocolate: I really liked this, though it was more like the chocolate was the meringue and the beetroot was a rich, earthy gel. I loved the combination. Some of the tablet found the chocolate too bitter, but I prefer my chocolate dark and bitter so I was super happy! It was served on a mound of dirt (underneath the baking paper), which seemed a little silly, but I am willing to overlook it because the actually edible part was great.

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

12. Stone fruit whiskey: These seemed to be chocolate shell with a lime liquid centre. Tragically, as I was putting mine in my mouth (you had to eat it whole), the chocolate unexpectedly cracked and the liquid went everywhere! It was kind of funny. A little bit sticky! Though miraculously I managed to get almost none of it on my dress!

Vegan Degustation by The Chicken Pen

This was a fun night, but very long. The kitchen was running behind, so there was a long weight between courses and we got pretty hungry. The bread course saved my life! Instead of finishing at 10pm if finished at just after 11pm. I was exhausted at work the next day (even 10pm is a really late night for me). Thankfully, the exceptional company kept the evening moving! And I did really enjoy the food for the most part.

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Dim Sim on her 16th birthday

Yesterday (the 16th of February) was my little Dim Sim's 16th birthday. Here she is, on her birthday. I am having a hard time coping with her getting older, but she is still sweet and frisky!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Recipe Round-Up: Quick-Fix Vegetarian

The last of the Robin Robertson books in the alphabet for a while (and I didn't even include Party Vegan or Nut Butter Universe this time round as I don't have enough photos for a round-up currently), Quick-Fix Vegetarian was the first of the 'Quick-Fix' books. It is completely vegan, and once I realised that I snapped it up. You can see what else I have blogged from this book here.

Green Onion Hummus with Lime: This is a delicious version of hummus, I loved it! It is pretty simple, the ingredients are what they say, but it comes together perfectly to be super yummy.
Rating: :D

Green Onion Hummus with Lime

Lemon-Braised Tofu-Hummus Wraps: Terrible photo, but this was nice. The tofu is seasoned and fried with lemon pepper, and then drizzled with lemon juice. It went very nicely with the green onion hummus recipe from above. I added tomato and avocado, which went well.
Rating: :)

Lemon-Braised Tofu-Hummus Wraps

Pretty Quick Pinto Picadillo: I really enjoy picadillo, though the flavour combination in this wasn't a punchy as some other recipes I have tried. I used four scoops of leftover brown rice for this, rather than cooking up some new rice, left out the capsicum and used coriander instead of parsley. The toasted almonds on it are great! I served it over spinach with some salsa and avocado.
Rating: :)

Pretty Quick Pinto Picadillo

'Radiatore' with Chickpeas, Baby Spinach, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes: I am yet to find radiatore pasta at a supermarket here. I saw it once at a deli, but was not in the mood to pay $9 for some pasta! I used spiral pasta here instead. I got two dinners and two lunches out of this halving the amount of pasta from one pound to 8 oz.
Rating: :)

'Radiatore' with Chickpeas, Baby Spinach, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Spicy Ziti with Olives and Capers: This is very easy to make. It ended up being made by my mother, because right as I was starting to make dinner I received some bad news, so mum took over. We added some kidney beans and served it over baby spinach. I also used penne rather than ziti because that was what I had.
Rating: :)

Spicy Ziti with Olives and Capers

Soba Noodles with Asian Greens and Slivers of Tofu: This dish is very simply sauced, but I found it a little dry, I would increase the amount of tamari to your liking. I used pak choy as my Asian greens. This gave about 3 serves.
Rating: :)

Soba Noodles with Asian Greens and Slivers of Tofu

Ginger Sesame Noodles with Broccoli: This is linguine and broccoli in a gingery tahini sauce. The recipe calls for 8 ounces of broccoli florets, I used two medium sized heads (which weighed a bit more) but I could have easily have had even more! I also added some Japanese-style tofu cubes. I used 8 oz pasta here instead f 12 and got 2.5 serves rather than 4.
Rating: :)

Ginger Sesame Noodles with Broccoli

Udon Noodles and Baby Bok Choy with Creamy Tahini Sauce: I love udon noodles. This recipe called for a 12 oz packet of noodles, mine was 9.5 oz. I always used the dried udon noodles, rather than the soft udon noodles, because they have a much better chewy texture. I also added some peas and Japanese-style tofu cubes, and served it over spinach. I got 3.5 serves.
Rating: :)

Udon Noodles and Baby Bok Choy with Creamy Tahini Sauce

Indonesian-Style Noodles: This dish was so simple and yummy, the stand out ingredient was the delicious chared cabbage. The noodles themselves are cooked and then fried, though mine didn't really go particularly crispy. I halved the noodles (8 oz instead of one pound) and added some of the Japanese-style tofu cubes (yes, I add them to everything), and got 2.5 servings.
Rating: :D

Indonesian-Style Noodles

Golden Garbanzo Sauce: Very quick and easy to make, it is like a warm hummus sauce. Yum! I served it over some broccoli, rice and some 'gluten' rings (literally a hollow tube of gluten meat from the Asian grocery store that I sliced into rings and fried up).
Rating: :)

Golden Garbanzo Sauce

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Twinkle Tush

Have you heard of the Twinkle Tush? It is a parody product. A little circle of bling designed to hide your kitty's butt from always being on display. Of course I know someone who bought one. We tried it out on this kitty. Two seconds later he swished his tail, flicked it across the room, and continued showing his butt proudly.