Monday, January 31, 2011

A minute to relax - 2 recipes!

I had a very busy weekend (I did a painting for a silent auction for donation to the Premier's Flood Relief fund thing and it took AAAGGGES) so it was nice to come home from work this afternoon and actually do something I wanted to do. (Not that I didn't want to do the painting! I just didn't have any chores tonight :)) I tidied my garden! I cut back more lemongrass (the stuff just grows and grows!) some flowers I have that were taking over, and I pulled out my basil because the above little buggers had demolished it all. I rescued enough for a pesto though! I have one bean plant growing (Bob dug up the rest, naughty cat) and I fertilised everything with seaweed and the juice from my bokashi bucket.
On Sunday after we went to the beach we made a light lunch. It may no look very exciting but wow it was delicious. The recipe is adapted from 'Australian Good Food' magazine, Jan/Feb 2011.

Barley and Pea Salad
Makes 4 small serves

2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
pinch of dried chilli flakes
Handful of mint, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
Rind and juice of a lemon
1 cup pearl barley
200g frozen peas
250g frozen broad beans

Mix all but the last 3 ingredients into a small bowl and set aside.

Cook barley as you usually do (I use 3 cups water per 1 cup barley, bring to boil and simmer for about 30 mins). In last few minutes add peas and broad beans. Wait for it to reboil and cook for a minute.

Drain barley mix and return to pot or put in a bowl. Stir through dressing and serve!

To make this go further you can add tofu or seitan or something.
On Sunday evening I decided to make something for work lunch/snacks. I've been wanting to make my own muesli bars for ages since store bought ones almost always contain honey or milk powder, or are coated in yoghurt or filled with sugar, or hideously expensive *breath*, and of course are all individually wrapped in plastic and cardboard and printed and etc. Useless wastes. So I came across this recipe that I used as a base for my own bars! Let me tell you, they are the best muesli bars I've ever had. I had one with toast for breakfast this morning and I wasn't starving like I usually am by morning tea.

Homemade Muesli Bars
Makes about 14 bars

1 cup rolled barley
1 cup rolled rye
1/4 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
2 tbsp chia seeds (black or white)
2 tbsp sunflower seeds, lightly bashed in a mortar and pestle
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used almonds and brazil nuts)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup rice syrup*
1 tbsp molasses**
1/3 cup tahini
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

In a small saucepan, bring rice syrup and molasses to boil. Take off heat. Stir in tahini and vanilla.

Mix into dry ingredients.

Line a brownie pan with baking paper and turn the mixture into it. Get another piece of baking paper and press it all down flat.

Let cool and cut up into bars! I had mine in the fridge before I cut them up and they crumbled a bit. I'd cut it up at room temperature next time.
*Rice syrup is my new honey. I swear to god, it looks like honey, tastes like honey and is as sweet as honey. It even burned my throat a little when I ate a teaspoon, like honey. I don't think it has the same antibacterial properties as honey though ;) I bought this brand.

** I didn't have any maple syrup as stated in the original recipe so I used what I had on hand. Maple syrup would be better.

I've also been making yoghurt :) Proper yoghurt with probiotics and everything (except the dairy). I'll take a good photo of my next batch. The last one looked like vomit. As yoghurt tends to do. Haha. Another storebought vegan alternative that just doesn't cut it for me (SUGAR!!!). The cheap-cheap easiyo yoghut maker called for me at Woolworths!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Home baked whole grain bread

It turned out really well!! Not too dense or heavy. It wasn't as soft as I'd like for sandwiches but it was just fine.
Straight out of the oven
Next time I'm going to put more seeds in it. I bought a bag of poppy seeds, and I've also got sesame, sunflower and flax seeds. So good. And the recipe I used didn't have any sugar in it, which was good. I adapted it from Squirrel's New Vegan and Vegetarian Cookbook.

Makes 1 smallish loaf, depending on how big your loaf pan is

450g wholemeal flour
1 sachet of instant dried yeast (this is about 2.5 tsp)
1/2 tsp salt
50g gluten flour (vital wheat gluten)
Seeds of choice
Enough warm water to make a firm moist dough


Mix together flour, gluten flour, salt, seeds and yeast. Make a well in the center and pour in the warm water (start with one cup).

Mix the dough, adding more water until a firm elastic dough is achieved.

Turn onto a floured bench. Knead for 5 minutes or until smooth. Place in an oiled bowl and let rise* for about 1/2 an hour or until double in size.

Knead again lightly. Press out dough gently to about the length of your loaf tin and roll it up. Place the rolled up dough in the tin with the 'seam' side down. Let rise again until doubled.

Bake at 200 degrees C for 30-40 minutes or until brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Try to let it cool down before you slice it or eat it!

*I have a gas oven at home so I light it for a few seconds then turn it off and leave the dough to rise inside. It works perfectly. I probably don't need to do that since it's summer here now, but I do anyway.

I discovered after looking through endless recipes for bread online that the reason wholemeal/grain bread is much denser than white bread is because it doesn't have as much gluten in it. Interesting. Then I found the recipe in the squirrels book and gluten was an extra ingredient! Whaddya know. Shoulda looked there first. :)

Also, try not to oil the loaf tin too much. Next time I'll use baking paper. I let my loaf cool in the pan before I took it out and it soaked up all the oil I'd greased it with, so the bottom few mm or so of my loaf was soggy. It did dry out though, but still!

This bread freezes well. You just have to fight a little to pull apart the slices, just like when you freeze fresh bakery bread.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Finally some sun

This weekend has been the first sunshiny weekend since I can remember so I took the oppurtunity to go and repair my tiny little garden and nearly walked into this lovely spider and a baby her teeny tiny man-friend It had created a huge web stretching from my hills hoist clothesline to my lemongrass, which reached my waist. So I left it there and went around (through our lawn which also almost reaches my waist) and weeded and planted some new butter beans.
Bob glared while we had iced soda water and lemon on the back stairs.
Speaking of lemongrass, it was growing over the footpath so I cut it back and am drying it on the back of our kitchen door. (We share the yard with neighbouring units). When it's completely dry, I chop it up in tiny pieces with some scissors, and put it in an empty spice container. 1 tsp makes a good cup of lemongrass tea. Grate some fresh ginger into the pot and it's the best lemongrass and ginger tea ever :) My lemongrass seems to be loving the Brisbane climate. Almost as soon as I planted it out from it's pot it took off. When I figure out how to harvest the stalks, I'll use it in cooking. Ha.
We had a delicious lunch after gallivanting around to shops to buy storage stuff. We now have a shoe rack. It's magnificent. Anyway I made Robin Robertson's 'Very Veggie Burger's from Vegan on the Cheap a while ago to have on sandwiches for work. I didn't really like it because they are too soft, but I thought maybe they'd be better freshly grilled and hot on a burger bun. They are definately better eaten right after cooking! Haha. We had it on wholegrain bread rolls with a spinach/kale salad mix, red capsicum, tomato, kalamata olives, basil pesto and tomato sauce. I also cooked up some potato chips on the side :) I sliced up 1 small potato with skin on each into chip shapes, steamed them until they could be pierced with a fork and then fried them til crispy in a bit of rice bran oil. Pretty damn good.

I am baking some bread right now. If turns out good I'll post it :) This is my third time attempting bread by hand. The last 2 times the bread tasted fantastic but was like a brick! We ate the whole lot at once. This time I'm attempting a sandwich loaf. If it works I'm going to be so excited haha.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Look what you missed out on!


I love making my own pizza. Why don't I do it more often? I think it's because I get it in my head that the dough takes forever, but really it's ready in an hour and a half. That's not that bad. =D

I based it on a recipe from Vegan on the Cheap, and just went a bit nuts with the toppings. I really wanted mushrooms on it, but Brisbane has gone nuts and all the groceries were gone! So I had to make do with what I had. My dad and my sister were supposed to come to tea, but because of all this water dad got evacuated from work near the city and my sister was stuck further south. And damn they missed out.

The dough ingredients are: 2 3/4 cups wholemeal flour, 2 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast, 1 tsp salt and 1 cup warm water. It was a nice thick soft crust when cooked, the way I like it.

The toppings I chose in order from bottom to top:
Tomato paste
Caremelised onions (with maple syrup and balsamic vinegar)
Cooked kidney beans pureed with parsnip and garlic
Sliced tomato
Before cooking

When I worked at a continental delicatessen, we sold tiny little containers of caremelised onions for about $8.50. Dude. People actually BOUGHT it. It was one of our most popular condiment things. Jeez. I've never made them before but they are so easy.

So pretty
I thinly sliced a huge onion, poured a liberal amount of rice bran oil in my frying pan and cooked them for about 20 minutes on med-low. About half way through I put in a blob of maple syrup and a dash of balsamic. They are so delicious. I might make some tonight to have on a sandwich for work tomorrow.

Anyway, pizza = mmmm. Maybe we should have pizza night more often. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Low Fat Black Bean Brownies

I'm baking various desserts lately to test out for a small birthday do we are cooking for. These are on the list (the tasteless peach mini muffins aren't, but I'm trying a different recipe soon.)

Mine turned out really thin but that's because I had to use a long rectangular brownie pan to make them. But that's ok :)

I added the optional extra 1/4 cup of oats (except I used oat bran because that's what I had). They were still fudgy and delicious :) I've made brownies using tofu before but these were way better (and not too banana-y which is good because I'm not banana's biggest fan. I sort of chose this recipe so I could get more banana in me without having to actually eat a banana.)

I'm also trying to lay off the sugar, so I didn't add the optional sugar in the recipe. It didn't need it anyway!

The recipe is from Happy Herbivore.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Banana-Blueberry-Buckwheat Pancakes

Poor Nadine had to go to work this morning, so I was eating breakfast alone. On the weekend days we have off work together we usually cook up a fancy breakfast: tofu scramble, baked beans, mushies, homemade hash browns...

Anyway I'm pretty sure I was dreaming about pancakes last night because when I woke up I really wanted some. I can't remember the last time I had pancakes. Either way they weren't very good because we just put flour and soy milk in a bowl and mixed it all up. They weren't bad, but we probabaly should have used a recipe :)

I also had a heap of buckwheat flour that my sister's boyfriend's mum gave me. Apparently she bought it for something and only needed it once and when she heard I was vegan she just gave it to me haha. Apparently vegans eat all sorts of weird health food store products...yes I do. Anyway I was very grateful because I'd been wanting to start using buckwheat flour (I want to make my own soba noodles one day) but I couldn't be bothered going to buy some. Hooray!

I borrowed the idea from this recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie's blog.
Banana-Blueberry-Buckwheat Pancakes
Serves 1


1/6 cup whole meal flour
1/6 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup of soy milk
1/2 a mashed banana
Handful of blueberries
Pure maple syrup
Vegan margarine

Mix together the dry ingredients in one bowl.

Mash banana in another bowl then stir in milk and blueberries.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients. (You may need to add more milk if the mixture is too thick. I did but I didn't was an extra couple of tablespoons I think.)

Melt the margarine in a frying pan and blob in the batter. Cook each until bubbles form around the edges then flip over and cook for a bit more on the other side. (I managed to burn mine a tiny bit but it was fine).

Serve on a plate with the rest of the banana sliced up, some more blueberries and maple syrup.

This should make about 5 small pancakes :) 
Nadine was missing out! She's going to be very upset when she hears about it. If I had the time to make these every morning before work I would. They were so delicious! I reckon the best pancakes I've ever had.

I'll be making these for Nadine next weekend I think :) I'm pretty sure just doubling the recipe will be fine. I wonder what they would be like with 100% buckwheat flour?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Orzo Pilaf with Tofu Feta

Orzo Pilaf with Tofu Feta
(I used risoni pasta, a packet of frozen spinach, canned chickpeas and fresh herbs.)
I love pasta. I could eat it every day. So when I was looking for something that I hadn't already cooked 3000 times that was cheap, simple and quick to make for a mid week meal (ah, working life) this jumped out at me from guess which book? I'm almost embarassed to be using one book so much.

I plan my meals a week in advance so I don't have to think about it. Doing this also seems to cut down my grocery bill a fair bit :) I made up the Tofu Feta the day before I planned to make this to let the flavours develop overnight. Every day after it just tasted better and better :)

The only problems I had with this meal were that my stupid frozen spinach was what they call 'finely chopped' otherwise known as minced, and turned the whole thing kind of brown; and my olives tasted disgusting. I bought a different brand than I usually buy because they had a good special. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! Now I have a whole jar of gross olives to finish. Damn.

Other than that it was delicious, even better as leftovers, and made 6 servings instead of 4 as said in the book, and we were eating the tofu feta for days.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I got my juicer out of hiding

Want a drink so potent it'll make your eyes water?
The last few days I've been feeling a little lethargic and gacky in the throat. Uhh, nuh uh. No way am I getting sick - haven't been sick for years and don't intend on starting now.

Potent Juice of Doom

Juice together, in order:

2 cm chunk of ginger
1 large garlic clove
1/2 a small onion
1 red sweet chilli or a chunk of capsicum (red or yellow)
2 med-large carrots
1 lemon or 1 small orange

Drink up! It's pretty spicy from the ginger, I liked the version with the orange better, it took the edge off a bit, but both were delicious. I'm going to keep this up for a couple more days and I'm pretty sure I'll never ever get sick again.

Don't want Allium spp. breath?

Chew a fresh sprig of parsley! I got no complaints from my girlfriend ;)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Obligatory 2011 resolution post?

I never make New Years resolutions. Well, I lie, I make half hearted suggestions to myself and immediately forget them!

Every year since I can remember I've said 'This year I'll go to the beach to swim more'. And every year since I can remember I'll go to the beach once, remember why I don't like it very much, get sore ears and sand up my bum and come home and don't go again until the next December. So I think that's a pretty useless goal isn't it? Haha. Maybe if I don't tell myself to go, I'll actually go more often? I do like the beach, I just have to remember to get out of the water as soon as my ears start hurting, and learn to ignore the sand. It's kind of unavoidable. (Though in Nice the beach was made of round rocks and pebbles – brilliant idea, France!).

Going to the beach is hard from where I leave. Though we are in a coastal city, the nice beaches are an hour's drive away, no matter which direction I choose. (I generally choose North – we went on a short holiday to Noosa beach at the beginning of last December [2010] and it was fantastic even though it rained everyday. Queensland also seems to have turned the beach showers back on so the sand can go away sooner now ;)).

So, this entry isn't about the beach, funnily enough. I've decided to make a few goals for myself for 2011. I'm older and have more self control now, so maybe it'll work out well :)

  • This one seems to be popping up everywhere. Spend less money. I don't really spend that much money (or I thought I didn't) but my savings account has whittled down to zero too many times that I really need to not spend. Seems obvious doesn't it? Besides, big things to buy will be coming up soon. Car. House, maybe one day. If I have no money then that won't happen will it?
  • I aim to cook more of my own recipes this year, so I can post actual recipes on this blog for people. How boring is it when you just see a picture of someone's lunch? This isn't a food diary! I don't particularly want readers to think I have some sort of eating disorder.
  • This one ties in with the first, make more of my own clothes, and try to only buy second hand materials and other supplies. Vintage fabrics can be very expensive (I just blew $70 on two fantastic curtains from the 70's!! I have been looking at them for months, and still wanted it, so I think I can validate that purchase*) but recycling is very important to me. Most of my clothes now are from op-shops or vintage stores and I like them. What's the point of making my own clothes out of new, expensive, probably sweat-shopped fabrics? I have vast amounts of fabrics in my sewing room now anyway. Use that before I buy more!
  • This one is more of a joint goal since we both share house responsibilities. Keep on top of dishes! And cleaning! We don't want our home to be turned into an episode of How clean is your house? We aren't dirty people, but with a tiny kitchen sink from the 50's, dishes do tend to pile up and take over the country, you know?
  • Another one that pops up all over is to get more exercise. This doesn't apply to me as my job is pretty much 8 hours of movement (ie. Exercise). So getting more exercise in a 40 hour gym week is useless. However since I am moving so much my muscles – legs, back, arms, neck, you name it – need help. So yoga is this years goal. I used to do yoga 6 days a week before I crashed my bike and hurt my wrist and leg, and even though they have been fine for a number of weeks now I haven't bothered to pick it back up. (Which is silly because now is when I need it most!) I fully intend on paying for a weekly yoga class to help me along. Most places seem to do Saturday sessions, which will fit in perfectly.
So that's it. I think that's doable. We'll see next January, huh.

I'll leave this blathering entry with my favourite picture from 2010!
Every year is a new start!

*The curtains are two different patterns. One is going to continue to live as a curtain in our living room, and the other is turning into an awesome dress when I can find appropriate patterns :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011 :)

We don't like to venture into the city on New Year's Eve. It's a frightening place, so we opted to stay home inside :) We made it into a date night (which seems to be becoming a tradition) so I cooked a simple 3 course meal and we bought some pink bubbly to drink in our fancy glasses :) It was nice.

I had been up since 4:30am because I had to start work early (and finish early because the boss wanted to get ready to party haha) so I was exhausted by 9:30pm. So we crashed and went to sleep. However, technically we were awake to ring in the new year because the fireworks from the city woke us up! We could see them from our front stairs, but there's one stupid tree that's in the way so we couldn't :( Oh well.
We started off with a little bowl of cleansing cucumber and ginger soup, recipe from Boy George's Karma Cookbook. It was surprisingly delicious! Not very flavourful, but it wasn't intended to be a main dish. Put a bit of chilli in this and it'd be perfect if you have a cold! (The ingredients are: cucumber, leek, lots of ginger, shiitake mushrooms, kombu seaweed, water, tofu and parsley for decoration.)
The main was the best. The recipe is from Robin Robertson's Vegan on the Cheap. Fusilli with Potatoes, Green Beans and Lemon Basil Creme. The creamy sauce was made from cashews, soy milk and lemon juice, basically. It's a pity I can't post the recipe. Maybe just buy the book, it's brilliant.

Now this is truly a crap picture. We have more for dessert tonight so I'll try to take a better photo! Ijust threw this together off the top of my head. I'll call it...Summer Fruit Freeform Tart with Balsamic Reduction. Yum.
Summer Fruit Freeform Tart with Balsamic Reduction

1 sheet square vegan puff pastry (I use Borg's)
*1 small nectarine, thinly sliced
*1 small peach, thinly sliced
*1 apricot, thinly sliced
*4 mulberries cut into thirds
Vegan margarine, for brushing on pastry before cooking

Half a cup of regular balsamic vinegar

While letting the pastry defrost on the bench, pour the half cup of balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan. Turn element to it's lowest heat, and let vinegar reduce until thick. (Mine actually reduced all the way down to barely 2 tablespoons. It was very rich and sweet!) Set aside when it's done. I don't know how long it will take, just keep an eye on it.

When pastry is defrosted, cut across and down to make 4 squares.

Arrage slices of fruit in a fan (like in the photo) and top with the little bits of mulberry.

Smoosh sides of the squares of pastry up to surround the fruit so it won't go everywhere. Brush with melted margarine and put on a baking tray lined with baking paper. (I even buttered my paper because I was paranoid it would stick. It shouldn't.)

Turn oven to 200 degrees C. Cook pastries for about 25 minutes (I checked mine after 15, then every five minutes after that).

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and drizzle with the balsamic reduction!

* Any fruit would work, really. Apples and strawberries? Banana and blueberries? Yum. Use whatever is in season and slice it thinly so it cooks in the oven :)

My mulberries were labelled as blackberries in the shops. They aren't :S Perhaps they are some sort of cross? Whatever they are, they were on special for $4.80 or something at Woolworths so I couldn't resist. Frozen berries would work perfectly as well.