Monday, 31 December 2012

A New Baby for a New Year

Yep. The Sprouts have adopted  a baby. Which is part of the reason I've been so slack over the last month, because a new baby takes up a great deal of time to settle in. I've also not been very inspired, so hopefully with a new year I'll feel like posting  a bit more. What? I hear you say. No, we haven't changed our minds about being child free, we just have another furbaby is all.  Not any ordinary baby either, but a beautiful three year old red fawn greyhound by the name of Twiggy.  If we had more room, I suspect we might end up with a few more of them, but for now one is enough. There are many many dogs that need a home, being peak kitten and puppy season most shelters are bursting, and after Christmas, many more are dumped as unwanted gifts. I personally feel giving an animal as a gift is one of the most stupid and irresponsible actions to make. They aren't toys, and they aren't things - they are living beings that need a full commitment for life - much like human babies!

We have wanted to give a dog a home for quite some time, and we really thought a lot about what kind of dog would suit our lifestyle and home. We don't buy our furry companions from pet shops or breeders, so we knew whatever it was it was going to be a rescue. Mrs Bean's sister in law suggested a greyhound - and we, like most people, thought that would be a lot of work! The truth is, having a greyhound is a lot like having another over sized cat. He only needs short walks (although we try to do at least 20- 30 minutes twice a day), and spends most of the time sleeping! He sheds less than the rest of the four cats put together, has very little doggy smell, and loves a cuddle. And just like cats who are connoisseurs of comfort, he finds the best spot to sleep in, including our bed!

During our research on these charming pooches, we came across Greyhound Rescue NSW, run by a retired couple Peter and Janet. They do an amazing job and give up a lot of time and money to these dogs who are treated terribly by the racing industry. A hound that isn't fast enough is shot, dumped in the bush with its ears cut off (to remove the tattoos that can trace the owners), left at the pound (which is basically a death sentence anyway), or put down by a vet. Twiggy was left at the pound, and picked up by Greyhound Rescue. The number of ex racers that find homes is something like 5% of all that are bred. Others are shipped to China, only to die there anyway. This is a terrible thing, because as we have found, they are very loving, easy going dogs. If you had children, they would be great with them. Unfortunately a lot of people think they are viscous due to NSW law which states greyhounds must be muzzled in public. Although small furry things certainly might get a nip depending on the prey drive of the dog, they are very friendly to humans. Which brings me to the next point - we had to find one that got along with cats. And chooks. And ducks.

We are very lucky that Twiggy isn't interested in chasing any of them. In fact, we think he's a failure as a racer because he wouldn't chase. I fancy he's the sort that would have flopped down, and thought "I'll just wait until that rabbit comes back around and then I'll try and get him."

Although initially the cats weren't too keen and he did give a bit of chase if they decided to run, now nearly everyone is settled or resigned to each other so the house is in good order. I feel happy to let the chooks out in the back yard with him running around, a they don't scatter now they are used to him. All in all, we were rather lucky Twiggy just fit right in.

As a result greyhounds have become very dear to our heart and educating people about these animals has become very dear to my heart.

If you are interested in adopting a dog, or would like to learn more about these beautiful hounds, or would even like to make a donation, please go here. There are other  rescue groups in Australian states, and of course, if you don't live on our island continent, your own country is sure to have similar organisations. For the UK, try here or for the US try here.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Mushroom Pate

My  mum used to make chicken liver pate at Christmas. I used to eat it until I found out what it actually was. The thought of chicken livers didn't sound too enticing. When I gave up meat, I looked for something with the same deep smooth flavour. While everyone else is tucking into chicken liver pate, you can be rest assured your mushroom pate is tasty and cruelty free. Slip it onto a platter and don't tell the meat eaters, the hearty flavour is a winner.

500 gr of assorted mushrooms - swiss brown, buttons, and shittake work well. 
two or three dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in brandy
200gr vegan margarine or butter
2 garlic cloves
1 large brown onion
fresh thyme sprigs

Soak porcinis in 1/4 cup brandy.
Chop onion and garlic, and saute over low heat in olive oil, a tablespoon butter, and tablespoon of balsamic vinegar until very soft. 
Chop mushrooms.
Deglaze onions with soaking brandy, and add butter and sliced mushrooms, chopped thyme.
Saute until mushrooms are well cooked, and set aside to cool.
Put in blender or food processor and puree until smooth. 

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Twelve Posts of Christmas: Quinoa & Sweet Potato Pie

This bright multi layered loaf was inspired by two things - a barley and pumpkin pie recipe, and Mrs Bean's favourite sweet potato and quinoa soup. It is definitely a good thing to have on the Christmas table, and wasn't too time consuming. I did the unthinkable and used ready bought shortcrust pastry. Don't tell Mrs Bean, she will throw her hands up in horror -or possibly wave and point a knife in my direction to emphasise her point in exclaiming my foolishness. In any case, it was a winner with or without vegan gravy.

3 sheets of shortcrust pastry
100gr quinoa
Chicken style veg stock for cooking quinoa
200 gr approx sweet potato
500 gr baby spinach
150 gr beetroot chutney this recipe is very good (or you can be lazy and buy it)
2 large zucchini thinly sliced
1/2 cup semi dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
cracked black pepper
pinch of chilli powder

1.Cook quinoa according to packet directions in vegetable stock with chilli powder. Drain, and set aside to cool.
2. While quinoa is cooking, peel and cube sweet potato and cook in boiling water until cooked but still firm. Drain and set aside to cool.
3. Gently wilt baby spinach in a pan with a tablespoon of water, and set aside.
4. Line your tin with baking paper, and arrange pastry to fit, reserving a sheet for the lid.
5.Layer the fillings, and put lid on, pinching around the top.
6. Bake in a 180C preheated oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Allow to cool slightly before removing from tin and cutting into slices.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Raw Vegan Banana Ice Cream Cake


Ahh! It's that time of year again, November has been and gone, and while I am still going strong with my raw vegan endeavours its definitely time to think about Christmas. This year will at our house, and I've decided putting up pictures of snow and mistletoe and singing about reindeer and being white is ridiculous when its hot, hot, hot. So this year it's all about Australia. Even my mum, being a pom thought it stupid to be sitting down to a heavy English dinner with baked ham and turkey when all she could think about was a salad - but Dad can't do without. I do believe one year she cooked christmas lunch in her swimsuit it was so hot!

Anyway, to kick it off this year how about a raw vegan ice cream cake? It is such an easy dessert and nice and cool for a hot Christmas Day. It took me about 15 minutes to put together from start to finsish and I didn't have to use the oven.

150gr raw macadamias
100gr soaked dried apricots (water reserved)
50gr dessicated coconut

5 large frozen bananas
1 1/2 cups mixed berries
1 vanilla bean scraped
meat of a young coconut (or 2/3 cup best quality coconut cream, but this is not raw)

1.Using food processor, pulse macadamias and soaked apricots until coarse large crumbs
2.Add dessicated coconut and a little of the apricot soaking water to bind it together.
3.Press into the bottom of a cling wrap lined spring form or loose base tin (I used a 20cm loose base deep tin). The cling wrap allows you to get it out more easily, but I like to live on the edge ie I forgot until i was pouring the filling. If you have a really good non stick tin yo should be ok if you gently use a palette knife around the edge to get it started.
4. In food processor or blender, puree coconut meat, banana, and scraped vanilla bean. If you can't get a good quality vanilla bean don't use the artificial stuff, try and get the real vanilla paste instead. I didn't add any sweetener because my bananas were slightly overripe when I put them in the freezer and were sweet enough. You could add a little agave nectar but I don't think it needs it.
5. Pour half the mixture over the crust, gently sprinkle berries evenly over the top, and then pout the other half of the mixture over the berries. Tap the side of the tin gently and give a little shake to even out the top, and place in the freezer to set. Since I used frozen bananas to start with mine set in about an hour. 
6.Before serving leave out for 10 minutes on bench to soften slightly. If it is really hot put it in the fridge for about 20 minutes so it doesn't melt too fast. Top with cherries or other fruit of your choice.

You could use unfrozen bananas, just make sure they are really ripe so they are very sweet. when my bananas are getting a bit too ripe I put them in the freezer to use in smoothies, in their skin. To peel frozen, I top and tail, and cut in half before running a sharp knife down the side.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Rawmazingly Good

So I haven't been posting a lot of raw recipes, but mostly it is because this time around I decided to keep it simple. Last time I tried to improve my health by going raw I ate a lot of nuts and seeds, and although I felt really good afterwards, I felt there was too much dehydrating, sprouting...waiting basically! I  also felt that I didn't really need all that stuff. So this time, I've been following a mostly fruitarian approach. Whoa! I hear you say. Is that safe? Is that sane? How can you possibly be full? How can you possibly get all that you need? 


I read a LOT about nutrition first. Yes, you can get enough nutrients, and yes you can get enough protein, if you eat enough. At the moment I can't quite eat that much, but I am increasing day by day. Calorie for calorie spinach has more protein than meat. Who knew?!For anyone interested in this approach I highly suggest doing research first and checking with a nutritionist if you can't work it out. If you are very overweight or have lots of health problems definitely check with a professional. That being said, many doctors will not approve of the approach (my doctor doesn't approve of vegans let alone raw vegans).  

The first few days were hard. I cut out sugar, soymilk, and tea as well. I did have some nut based meals such as the raw chilli burritos, becasue I was so hungry, and this filled me up longer. I only ate some nuts a couple of times the following week. All the smells from people heating up their lunches were driving my cravings into overdrive for toast and pasta and such. I also had some pretty bad headaches and felt ridiculously tired. Had a few mood swings too poor husband! I tried to workout a couple of times but in hindsight this was a really bad idea because I was going through detox. I can't imagine what it would feel like for someone who eats a lot of meat and dairy, and processed or fast foods. It would be hell! I was lucky my symptoms weren't too bad and disappeared after two days. 

This week I have been having juices, smoothies, and fruits. I am absolutely craving more and more fruit. Breakfast has typically been fruit salad with all fresh fruits of course. Mango, pineapple, watermelon, rockmelon, mixed berries, passionfruit, and bananas. I might eat another banana mid morning, and lunch is usually a smoothie - three or four fruit varieties, and some greens. I have at least a litre, if not more, and another one or two pieces of fruit. I have more smoothie in the afternoon. My boss bought a juicer for our kitchen at work this week and we've made a couple of juices this week as well. Woot!

Dinner has been salads, lots of fresh tomato, cucumber, carrot, celery, capsicum, and avocado with greens. I did have gluten free cooked meals twice, quinoa and sweet potato soup with heaps of chilli, and corn pasta with a fresh vegetable sauce. I actually didn't feel like I needed to eat cooked meals, so perhaps by next week I won't bother with them at all. 

By the second week I am typically eating on average 16 serves of fruit a day, plus another 6 serves of vegetables. That is triple the recommended minimum, and I am eating more and more all the time as my body is adapting! I feel pretty great, and this week I powered through my workouts. I increased the resistance on the bike and wasn't really huffing like the guy next to me.

Weekends I eat more freely, but with interesting consequences. We had Chinese take away last weekend and I felt really awful through the night and the next day. A kiwi fruit smoothie fixed the problem - apparently they are really great for stomach upsets! I made pizza last night and feel a bit sluggish this morning, all I want is some fruit. My cooked cravings are just about gone, and although I will continue to eat some cooked foods I feel I don't really need to. 

And what about the weight? A weigh in last night and I've lost almost 5kg. I know this will mostly likely from fluid retention but I feel very hydrated as my skin is lots better, so therefore the excess fluid is no longer needed. It has actually been harder eating ENOUGH rather than cutting down. I am so full from all this great fruit and veg, so I have been tracking what I eat with my fitness pal so I make sure I'm getting enough calories. The Beloved noticed I was smaller which was nice because as with a lot of men he often puts his foot in it without intending to e.g. "it's ok sweetie, there are plenty of people fatter than you." LOL

It will be interesting to see what my next blood test shows, as I'm hoping the thyroxin will be absorbing better and maybe the dose can be reduced for once. That would be nice! I do believe this is something I can sustain long term. It isn't a diet, it's a lifestyle, which is so important if you want to stay healthy!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Sarah's Super Smoothie Juice

Someone I know has been a little under the weather this week. If I could make her a batch and delver it I would, but since I can't I'll post a recipe and hope some kind soul can make it for her :) This should give anyone's immune system a boost,  and most importantly, keep you hydrated to flush out the baddies. It contains Vitamins A, C, E potassium, calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium...just trust me, this is super juice. Because only the carrot and celery is juiced and everything else is pureed into a smoothie, the fibre slows the release of the sugars, and helps keep you full. And count the serves of fruit and veg in there! you got em all in a smoothie!

Makes about 2 litres of smoothie juice.
3 carrots juiced
2 large celery sticks juiced
1 cup watermelon pieces
1/2 cup dried apricots soaked
1 cup pineapple pieces
2 oranges
2 kiwi fruit, skinned and chopped

Soak apricots in water until soft - warm water for 15 minutes should be enough, you can chop up everything else while you wait.
Juice carrots and celery.
Put carrot and celery juice in blender with all other ingredients and blend until smooth.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Raw Vegan Kale Burritos with Mango Cucumber Salsa

This has to be one of my favourite raw meals simply because it's so tasty and easy to convert. There are lots of recipes for raw chilli, but this is mine.

1/2 cup walnuts soaked
1/2 cup pecans soaked
1 cup fine chopped button mushrooms
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes soaked
2 whole fresh tomatoes
1 shallot
1 small chilli
1 small clove garlic crushed
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
fresh coriander leaves

Pulse soaked nuts in food processor for a coarse grind, and add to chopped mushrooms.
Put fresh tomato, soaked tomato, chilli, ground coriander, garlic, and paprika in food processor and puree. Add to nut mixture. Finely chop shallot and coriander leaves, and mix through. If it is too dry add a little water.

For the salsa, I julienned a cucumber, diced a mango, and added some coriander leaves.

I had mine in kale leaves, but you could also have them it in lettuce cups.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Raw Vegan Chocolate Strawberries

Mmmmmm....Just because I'm eating raw doesn't mean a lack of delicious treats. These beauties were dipped in a mixture of raw coconut oil, and cacao, and then put in the freezer for 15 minutes to set. Because it was so warm today I didn't need to sit the coconut oil in warm water to liquify - it took me a minute to mix 1/4 cup oil with a couple of spoonfuls of cacao powder and beat until smooth. If you like it sweet, you could add some agave, but I like bitter chocolate and it went well with the juicy strawberries. Think of all those antioxidants humming around my body!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Raw Vegan : The Real V8 Smoothie Juice

I really dislike V8 juice you get in a bottle. I remember my Nan trying to give it to me as a kid. I tried later on but basically it tastes not very fresh to me, and a bit chemically and too salty. I suppose it's because its reconstituted juice. Anyway, this tastes a thousand times better. I also only juiced the carrot and celery because I think its important to get fibre from the flesh of the other ingredients to fill you up and slow down the release of the sugars.

juice of 4 carrots
juice of 2 celery sticks (leaves reserved)
three roma tomatoes
1 whole cucumber
1/2 avocado
1/4 red capsicum
1 small garlic clove
1 small wedge red onion
1 small chilli

I juiced the carrots and celery, and then put that in the blender with the celery leaves and everything else. I didn't have to add any water, the juice took care of smoothing everything out. It was fairly spicy, so if you aren't good with chilli I would suggest 1/2 or omitting it and adding a dash of cayenne pepper.

So what else did I eat today? Breakfast was my favourite green smoothie - banana, orange, and baby spinach, about 750ml. Lunch was a watermelon, kiwi, celery juice and spinach smoothie, a bit under a litre. I probably drank about  a litre of water during the day as well....I forgot that when you first start a week of smoothies you pee lot because you get super hydrated and all the fluid retention is flushed out. I also forgot how hard it was last time  - when you work in a food business and do nothing but talk about food all day! and my office is opposite the kitchen, so I smell EVERYONE's morning tea toast and lunch. Yikes! But I think if I can get through the week I'll sort myself out and will have got past many of the cravings. Cravings weren't that bad today, the only thing I really missed was a cup of tea. The lack of tea probably explains the headache I got mid morning, but that subsided after lunch. I'll have a chamomile tea before bed probably, but that's allowed being caffeine free!

When I think of how many serves of fruit and veg I've had today, that makes me feel pretty amazing.
For anyone that's doing anything similar or following along I'd love to hear how you are going!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

140 Pounds Plus 42 Mince Pies

You know that bit in Bridget Jones when she has Christmas with her Dad and she reports "Weight :140 pounds (plus 42 mince mince pies)..." I think after this last month I feel a bit like that -let all my good intentions out the window and ate and cooked  too much. Don't get me wrong, I love MoFo, but now I feel I need to have a really good detox. I won't tell you what I actually weigh - I won't even tell my husband and can barely look myself when I gingerly put a toe on the scales. With Christmas approaching there are so many yummy temptations out there, and I would like to get back on track a bit. Since it's spring and the weather is warmer (ha! snow anyone?) I feel it's time for a month of raw. And being World Vegan Month, what better way to celebrate than by eating as wholesome and nutritious as possible? So for 4 weeks, I will be eating only raw vegan. I know it is going to be hard the first week, I'll start craving all those bad comfort food carbs, but I know I'll feel a lot better by the end of it. So let's start with a week of juice and smoothies, call it a smoothie feast if you will!

I've been to the fruit shop and armed myself with an entire watermelon, plus an assortment of various fruits and vegetables I intend to juice or turn into a smoothie - the cupboard is rather bare of any treats and the Beloved will be under strict instructions to prevent me from caving and getting out dip and crackers. Although, truth be told, he probably wouldn't do this so I will have to rely on will power. Or if that doesn't work, I'll use my won't power. A fat picture on the fridge can also help any moment of weakness LOL.

In all seriousness, it's more about me eating properly, and hopefully eliminating foods that might be preventing me from absorbing some rather important medication. I don't believe in crash diets, living on water or any of that nonsense. I want nutrients that aren't in a pill! So, I'll be sharing my food journey, and any recipes I come up with along the way for a month of delicious raw food. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Spiced Lentils & Rice with Cumin Flatbread

When the Beloved and I were first married, I used to make this a lot, as it was quick and cheap. Times have changed, and my repertoire is decidedly bigger than it once was. I decided to make it on a whim tonight since I had all the ingredients on hand, and it's nice to come back to an old favourite once in awhile. If you fry off the spices and onion for a minute, you can throw the rest into a rice or slow cooker.

2 cups long grain rice
1 cup cooked brown lentils
1 onion diced
1 cup chopped greens (I used kale as that's what's in my garden at the moment)
1 tsp tumeric
2 teaspoons crushed coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot chilli powder (less if you can't handle spicy)
juice of 1 lemon
chicken style stock
mint leaves
vegan sour cream or natural yoghurt to serve
olive oil

For the flatbread
2 cups bakers flour
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tablespoon oil

Saute onion, garlic, and spices until fragrant and onion is soft.
Bring 4 cups water to the boil, and add stock and rice. Bring to boil and add lentils, onions, and spices.
Simmer until rice has absorbed all the water and fluff up with a fork. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Serve with sour cream/yoghurt, and fresh chopped mint.

For the flatbread, combine all ingredients and add water until you have a firm dough. Knead for  a minute or two, then pinch off golf ball sized pieces and roll out very thin, dusting with flour to stop it sticking.

On a hotplate, drizzle a little oil, and when it begins to smoke, drop a rolled out dough piece, flipping over when the bread begins to puff, and cook the other side. They cook very quickly, less than a minute a side.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Ironchef Challenge 3: Sunflower Seed Tart & Red Wine Chilli Jam

I almost didn't do this challenge. I was pretty whacked from a lot of extra time at work, and our weekend was already busy with me at work Saturday morning and knowing we would be out all Sunday. And I desperately needed to get into the garden and plant out all the seedlings. But...I  mulled it over while I was weeding (very therapeutic weeding) and came up with something worthy of a post. We don't eat a lot of mock meats, I don't really see the point, but they certainly have a wow factor these days especially with omnis you want to convert ;) I've used some here, but you could omit it, and use smoked tofu instead.

So the secret ingredients were peppers (chilli), sunflower seeds, and grapes. I decided I wanted to make a chilli jam, and combined the grapes with that in the form of red wine. Hey, it can be in any form right? My initial thought was to have it with vegan cheese and crackers, but then I thought these would make a great canape, so made a mini sunflower seed tart case instead. They came out nutty and perfectly savoury, so anything could go with them really.

For the tart cases
1 1/2 cups sunflower seeds
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup plain flower
1 tablespoon garlic oil
1/4 cup sunflower oil
sea salt flakes

For the jam
1 long red chilli
red wine (I used 500 ml)
500 gr sugar
approx 50gr jamsetta (follow instructions on back of packet)

For the filling
1 chick*n style fillet
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
baby rocket for garnish

In a saucepan combine sugar, chillis, wine, and pectin. Bring to boil, stirring constantly, then turn down to simmer for about 10 minutes. Pour into hot sterilised jars and leave to cool.

For the cases, combine flour, sunflower, pumpkin seeds and oil, with a good pinch of salt flakes. Add enough water to bring together to make a dry dough.
Roll out between pieces of baking paper to about 3mm thick.
Using a biscuit cutter, cut out rounds to fit shallow tart tins. flip into tin and bake 180C for approximately 15 minutes, or light brown and crisp.

Shred the veg chick*n and add mayo and a tablespoon of chilli jam, and combine. Spoon into cooled cases, top with a little more jam, some baby rocket, and a few extra toasted sunflower seeds.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Animals Australia Make It Possible Campaign

I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here. I don't really use my blog as a platform for my political views or opinions, but  really wanted to share an exciting new campaign from Animals Australia -Make It Possible. The ad was launched last night, and already has sparked some pretty heated discussions, not to mention some interesting replies from the meat and egg industries. The fact that one of the supermarket giants has agreed to jump on board and push out their factory farmed products has a whole lot of people pissed off. Well done AA! I just wanted to share some of it with you folks because some of the reactions make me want to laugh, cry, and punch them in the jaw! One in particular I read today was  a comment from the Managing Director of the Australian Egg corporation. 

"Each of the three main egg farming systems has welfare strengths and weaknesses. For example, hens in cages are likely to live longer, be more healthy and are safe from weather and predators. Just like Animals Australia, AECL fully supports greater welfare outcomes for all of our laying hens but we believe science should lead the way, not emotion or self-interest." 

Whaaat! I don't know what planet this man lives on, but I'd like to see these creatures in cages that aren't debeaked; lacking feathers, broken bones, and misshapen feet; that aren't trampled by their cage mates, and have room to stretch, flap their wings, and dust bathe. So Mr Kellaway, where are these magical cages you speak of with these healthy hens? And as for emotion - there are plenty of compassionate people on this Earth mate, and if this ad tugs at the ole heartstrings and encourages people to stop eating meat or stop buying factory farmed products, then it's done its job.

He also said

"The decision should be a consumer's, based on their personal choice and budget. Families shouldn't be manipulated by activists such as Animals Australia, and retailers such as Coles." 

It also seems to have a lot of the vegetarian community divided between vegans and vegetarians, and those that eat meat but want animals treated better. Now, I may annoy some people here, but mouthing off about how much better you are because you are a vegan or vegetarian does not make anyone listen to you. It also detracts from the main focus of the campaign, which is to put an end to factory farms - a HUGE step -and one that perhaps, may lead to even better things. Giving some facts in a calm manner, while filling your opponents mouth with the best darn cupcake they've ever had (which happens to be vegan)  is  much more likely to do some good. Nothing makes me happier than when someone tells me the food I made for them was absolutely delicious while going back for seconds. Except maybe, when people tell me I've inspired them to go veg . This has happened a few times this year, and it makes me go all gooey and want to give the person a smooch full on the lips! 
So, for anyone that would care to comment, how do you promote vegetarianism/veganism and how do people react to you? And check out the ad - it's just plain gorgeous!

What he really means of course is "The decision should be the industry's based on their greed and profit margin. The industry shouldn't be manipulated by activists." The bottom line of course, is improved standards means less profit. I doubt the finances of a family has anything to do with it. And besides which, good food goes a lot further than cheap food..but that's another debate ;) quite obviously, these people are mighty afraid of this campaign, or they wouldn't be so vocal about it!

A spokeswoman from the Pork Industry made the comment that Animals Australia  "doesn't mention any of the world-first progress made by the Australian pork industry." Um, well, der. Why would they? There are still sows in stalls. There are still animals suffering every second of every day. Shouting out about any kind of (slow) progress won't convince anyone to give up on meat now would it? Sheesh! 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Pea & Asparagus Caramelle in Lemon Butter Sauce

I love pasta, and I love making it at home, from scratch. Sometimes though, I just don't have time to make fresh pasta sheets, but still want some homemade stuff. This is where wonton wrappers come in. They are neat little time savers, and you can still put your yummiest fillings in. When the Beloved and I got engaged, one of our gifts was a Jamie Oliver cookbook. In it, he went into much detail about pasta making, and it became an obsession of mine for awhile to perfect it at home. One of the recipes was for ricotta and lemon caramelle. I wanted to make a vegan version with the freshness of that recipe, but make it my own.

1 bunch of asparagus, finely chopped
1/2 cup peas
1/4 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons pea and mint pesto
1 packet egg free wonton wrappers
1 lemon
1/4 cup vegan butter
1 tablespoon garlic infused olive oil
ground white pepper
mint leaves

Blanch peas and asparagus, ans set aside to cool. Finely chop.
Add almond meal, pesto, and some ground black pepper, and mix well.
Put a small teaspoon of mixture onto a wonton wrapper, and roll up. Secure ends by pinching so that it looks like a wrapped sweet (hence the name caramelle). you may need to lightly wet to seal along the long edge.
When you have a batch ready to go, gently drop into a deep pan of salted boiling water for approximately two minutes or when pastry is translucent. Drain, and set aside.
To make the sauce, put a scant teaspoon of  lemon zest, the lemon juice, butter, and oil into a small pan. Melt together an mix well, and drizzle over pasta.
serve with fresh young mint leaves, extra peas (and pea shoots if you have them!)

Monday, 22 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Virgin Sangria

I'm a little behind on my MoFo posts, I missed two last week, and was too tired to attempt the Ironchef challenge, as much as I wanted to. Firstly, I've been way too busy and tired to make anything remotely worthwhile posting. I mean, I really don't think you want to see pictures of avocado and tahini on toast. Plus, I was busy working on the Beloved's birthday cake, which took up a lot of my time last week. So, here's a easy one to get me back into the last full week of Mofo. We had this tonight with nachos, and it was ridiculously yummy if I do say so myself.

Sangria has to be one of my favourite summer drinks. The problem is, it's a bit too good, so it's easy to have more than you should. It also tends to make me a bit too thirsty due to the alcohol, so I end up drinking a heap of water anyway. This one tastes just as good, and you can drink a bucket of it without too much regret :) So break out the tacos, cook some beans, whip up some guacamole and have a Mexican fiesta! 

400 ml pomegranate juice
250 ml cranberry juice
1 orange, juiced with pulp
200ml pineapple juice
250 ml ginger ale
strawberries and frozen cranberries, and slices of orange to serve

Juice the orange with the pulp. I did mine in my blender so it was more of a smoothie. Add all the other ingredients, give it a good stir, and serve in a large jug or punch bowl with slices of strawberries, orange, and frozen cranberries. The cranberries act like ice, without watering down the drink. Word of warning here. Due to some strange reaction I put the orange in the blender with some pomegranate juice and created a fluffy mousse monster. Goodness knows I suggest blending the orange separately and allowing to settle in the fridge before mixing it with everything else! Alternatively you could just use orange juice, but I like the pulp, it gives a better orange flavour.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Spaghetti & Beetballs

These brightly hued tasty morsels are a combo of cooked beetroot, quinoa, almond meal, and a little falafel mix,  with lots of herbs and spices, in a rich tomato sauce. I baked them in the oven, and then poured the sauce over the top. I have no idea what quantities I used, but I used garlic, ginger, balsamic vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce to flavour the beetballs. 

The sauce was tomato puree, red wine, italian herbs, and garlic, with cracked black pepper and fresh parsley. I wish I had written down what I did...but I didn't. So until I make them again, you'll have to either try making them yourself, or wait til I actually post a recipe :)

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Chopped Challenge: Popcorn Crumbed Pumpkin Hashbrown with Apricot & Beetroot Relish

This post is my crack at Isa's Vegan Chopped Challenge. The participating ingredients are: butternut pumpkin, fresh rosemary, popcorn, and apricot preserves(jam). It has to be a brunch dish, so what is better than ahashbrown? A crumbed hashbrown, with pumpkin! The texture on the outside was lovely and crunchy, and hey, these are gluten free as well!

Hash brown
2 cups fresh popped popcorn, pulsed in food processor to a coarse crumb
1 cup cooked pumpkin
1 cup cooked potato
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch ground chilli
Oil for frying

1 beetroot, peeled, chopped
1 onion, peeled chopped
1 cup apricot jam
½ cup balsamic vinegar

To make the relish, gently fry onion and beetroot in olive oil until onion is transparent.
Add jam and balsamic vinegar, and cook until beetroot is cooked, and mushy. Set aside to cool.

To make the hash brown, make a thick mash from potato and coarsely chop pumpkin into mixture.
Add spices, mixing well.
Shape into rounds, and roll in popcorn crumbs.
Heat oil in frying pan, and fry hash browns until golden and crisp on each side.
Serve with relish, on wilted greens. Goes great with sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes!

Pumpkin Hotcakes with Spiced Apricot Sauce & Popcorn Praline

This post is my crack at Isa's Vegan Chopped Challenge. The participating ingredients are: butternut pumpkin, fresh rosemary, popcorn, and apricot preserves(jam). It has to be a brunch dish, so this is my attempt at a sweet dish. I was a bit hesitant, because I've never had pumpkin in anything sweet. Nope, nothing. They turned out better than expected, after my head got around the fact I was putting pumpkin in hotcakes. I still don't think I'm ready for pumpkin pie though...

½ cup cooked pureed butternut pumpkin
1 cup plain flour
¾ cup rice milk
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. apricot jam
¼ tsp. cinnamon

Spiced Apricot Sauce
3 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons water
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

Popcorn Praline
½ cup fresh popped popcorn
225 gr caster sugar
110ml water

Whisk rice milk, flour, and baking powder together, making sure to remove any lumps.
Add jam, cinnamon, and pureed cooked pumpkin, adding a little water if too thick.
Allow to stand for an hour.
Drop spoonfuls into an oiled frying pan, and flip over when bubbles appear. Cook until golden.

In a saucepan, mix caster sugar and water, and stir over low heat until mixture thickens and turns golden.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof and spread the popcorn over it.
Pour hot praline syrup over the top and shake to ensure even distribution.
Allow to cool.

Mix all ingredients in small saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Set aside to cool.

To serve, Drizzle sauce over hotcakes, and top with shards of praline.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Australian Lemon Myrtle Dukkah

I know I posted a traditional dukkah recipe not long ago, but this is an Australian one I did as taste testing for a wedding a while ago. The couple decided to go with the traditional dukkah, but the Sprouts & Beans agreed this one was the better of the two. So, inspired by Erin Wiko's Sydney scramble I decided I should make this one again, and post it for MoFo. I used macadamias because they are native to Australia (although many believe they are native to Hawaii, this is incorrect), and I was trying to make a dukkah from as many local/native ingredients at the time.

Making dukkah is very satisfying for me - it doesn't take long but packs a whole lot of flavour. Don't just dip bread into it though, sprinkle it on toast with lots of melted margarine, or add it to breadcrumbs if you're making tofu nuggets. Yummo!

1 cup macadamias
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon lemon myrtle
1/2 tsp mountain pepper (if you can't access this Aussie pepper, black pepper is fine too)
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
1/4 tsp garlic flakes

In a dry frying pan, toast each ingredient until fragrant, and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse all ingredients to a coarse crumb.

Serve with olive oil for dipping

Friday, 12 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Snow Day

Unfortunatel, due to a whacky chain of events, I am unable to post anything on food today! For those in the northern hemisphere, this day may not seem so strange, but for Australia, this is pretty unusual!

It all started when I got up this morning and found it snowing! Well, we get the odd snowfall living in the Blue Mountains, but nothing like today. I didn't get very far up the highway and got stuck waiting for about an hour and a half because of an accident. I finally gave up after calling work, and slowly drove back up to my house, skidding everywhere and sliding backwards trying to get up my steep driveway! The snow was falling pretty heavy by then, and although I tried to get a train, they had stopped operating because there was a blackout, and there was signal failure. Fail! I got the woodfire going, but didn't have power until late this afternoon. It was so eerie and quiet with all these trucks parked along the highway, and me walking up the middle of it trying to avoid falling snowdrifts and cracking branches! So that's why there is nof ood post today! But I do have some pretty pictures :)

Our driveway

Poor veg patch...not sure if it will recover, may have to replant

Trees bowed by the weight of the snow

Moko trying to work out what the hell all that white stuff was!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Home Made Soft Taco Shells

We love Mexican food in our house - how could you not being a veg head? All those wholesome bean varieties, salsas, salads, fresh vegies and punchy flavours! Being in Australia, Mexican foods are pretty limited in the way of ingredients apart from Old El Paso sort of kits. But I have found a couple of good Mexican ingredient importers online based in Sydney, so I've been able to order a few things to try. We also ventured a couple of years ago into growing our own tomatillos, as I found some organic seed, and it's not something you can buy at the markets (not that I've ever seen). I was so impressed with them as the following Spring there was a bunch of volunteer plants, so I don't think I'll ever be without them! 

A request for some upcoming catering possibly involves a taco bar. The tortillas in the shop are always a bit too thin, a bit too big, and tend to tear easily. They also taste a little funny, probably from those little sachets they put in to stop them drying out and such. I want a robust taco that can stand up to some fillings! I had a look at some soft taco shell recipes, but couldn't really find anything that wasn't a basic corn tortilla or didn't involve eggs. Strange...maybe I'm looking in the wrong place, or maybe I'm too picky? What the hey, I'll just make up my own and hope for the best!

I made a yeast mixture with some warm water, salt, and sunflower oil. When it went all bubbly I added a half half mixture of bakers flour and masa, and worked it a bit, adjusting until I got the right feel in the dough. Don't ask me for measurements, this is a work in progress! I let the dough sit covered for a couple of hours, and then rolled out balls of dough into about 6 inch rounds, a good size to fit snug in the hand, dusting with masa and piling them up. I even got to use my vintage Indian rolling pin (so I bought it for Indian roti making, but don't judge ok?)

And this is what I ended up with! I fried them off in my wok (the heat distribution always works really well when I make Indian breads this way). The texture reminded me a bit of naan bread, but the taste of corn was definitely prominent. They were soft, a little flaky inside, and much thicker than regular tortillas.  All in all, I was pretty happy with the first try, they didn't break when we folded them over some char grilled corn salsa, beans, and guacamole. When I've perfected it I might post a recipe...

Finally I've got a moment to update this with an actual recipe! Makes approx 15 taco size tortillas.

1 1/4 cups bakers flour
1 cup masa
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tablespoon sunflower oil (not essential, but easier to work the dough)
approx 1 3/4 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast

In a bowl put water, yeast, sugar, salt, and oil. Allow to bubble and add flour and masa. Add a little more water if needed. Like any baking, temperature of the day, moisture in the air, and in the flour itself all takes part, so add enough water so that you have a soft and slightly sticky dough.

Take golf ball size pieces of dough and roll into a ball. Squish down between your palms and either roll out with a rolling pin or if you have one, put between two pieces of greaseproof paper into a tortilla press...OR you can use the bottom of a heavy saucepan or frying pan and push down. they should be fairly thin, remember they will puff up!

Lightly oil a heavy based frying pan, wok, or even a BBQ hotplate. Cook until toasty one side, most of them puff up when you are ready to flip. Cook off the other side for about a minute. Put them aside and keep warm in a teatowel.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Pea & Mint Pesto

This is  chunky pesto, but it is much lighter than its pine nut cousins, and perfect for Spring. Stir it in risotto, or use it as a dip. Measurements are approximate largely because sometimes lemons are a bit more lemony than others, just like mint is a bit more know what I mean? The mint I use is a runaway that lurks along our back fence popping up wherever it pleases, and since it's such an old variety it's very strong. I use less oil, and smooth it all out with water to make it lighter. for the same reason I use pumpkin and sunflower seeds because pine nuts can be quite heavy and grainy, and better suited to heartier dishes.

1 cup fresh peas
1 cup baby spinach
1 handful mint leaves
1/3 cup sunflower and pumpkin seed mix, toasted
2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil
Juice 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/3 cup water

Blitz all ingredients in a food processor until smooth

Monday, 8 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: Sticky Date & Salted Pecan Coconut Ice Cream

If you are particularly health conscious or on a diet, look away, this is nor for you! I had been thinking about this ice cream for awhile, but it just wan't warm enough to make and enjoy - I just can't eat ice cream if it's not Spring or Summer! Being warm on the weekend, I thought it was about time I made it. after all, I had my cute vintage ice cream tin! The ice cream maker was already in the freezer, begging to be used, I had my dates and pecans, coconut cream...but somehow completely forgot the cornflour to make the custard. Knowing I could perhaps substitute, I turned everything inside out and upside down to find the packet of tapioca  perused the cupboard and found the tapioca. Mr Sprout pronounced it "pretty wicked" which usually means he would eat a LOT more of it if I let him - it's about the most excited he gets about food :)

2x 540ml tins coconut cream (get the best you can, over 55 % coconut at least)
1 cup rice milk
4 tablespoons ground tapioca
1 vanilla bean
1 cup soaked pitted dates
1 cup pecans
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons vegan butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Heat coconut cream, rice milk, vanilla bean, and ground tapioca in a large saucepan, stirring constantly until mixture thickens to a pouring custard consistency. Pour into a container and leave in the fridge overnight to cool (If you have any little lumps, use a barmix to whizz it up the next day after removing the vanilla bean).

Soak dates for a couple of hours, strain, and puree with maple syrup, and 3/4 cup water.

Toast pecans in a dry frying pan.

Melt butter and sugar in a saucepan, and when bubbling, turn off heat and toss through pecans and salt.
Place pecans onto some greaseproof paper and separate with a fork to dry.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, stir through the pureed dates, and pecans into the coconut custard mixture, and pour into ice cream maker. When it has thickened up and won't churn anymore, tip into a container and put in the freezer to finish hardening up.

When ready to serve sit out on the bench for about 20 minutes beforehand if it is a bit too hard. For me, the first day was ok, but the next night it was a little hard. This may have been because I'd left it out and it had gone a little runny before I put it back in the freezer!

PS The vintage tin worked a treat, think it's better than using a plastic tub!

Vegan MoFo: Ajvar

I won't lie to you. I've been making quite a bit ahead of schedule, and keeping it to post simply because of nights like tonight. Because life gets in the way of cooking - like a late night at work, such as tonight, with the I-can't-be-assed-it's been-a-long-day feeling. When you can't be bothered eating a proper meal, so it ends up being dip and crackers. So tonight's post is quite a good one, because it's something to be made and bottled, and poured over some vegies and rice, or pasta when all you can do is open a jar,  Chicken Tonight ain't an option because you're a vego, and tinned tomatoes won't do.

A few months back the Beloved and I were in our local greengrocer when we stumbled upon a jar of ajvar. It wasn’t local (Croatian import) but we had never tried it and it looked delicious. We decided we would try it on pizza instead of tomato paste – oh boy, I think it was the best pizza we ever had! It was pretty pricey though, over $10.00 for a 350ml jar. So, I decided I needed to make it ourselves in summer, when we could roast our own capsicums. However, dreaming of possibly swimming in vats of the stuff, and finding the remains of a big-ass jar of roasted capsicums lurking in the outside fridge (can’t even remember what it was bought for) I decided I would make a cheats ajvar and see how it went before using our own precious produce.

Well…it was pretty darn good! Not having a recipe, and going by the ingredients list on the back of the last jar, I winged it. Sweet and savoury, a little smoky, tangy from the vinegar, I think I got it right. Had some on some crackers with some vegan cream cheese, and was planning n keeping some for a pizza night...but it may just be with pasta tonight :)

400gr roasted capsicums
1 clove roasted garlic
1 large tablespoon mixed herbs
¼ cup vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch salt

Blend ingredients in a blender, and pour into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and allow to reduce to a thick sauce/paste. Cool, and put into a jar. It should keep for a couple of weeks with a little oil on the top to stop the air getting to it, but I doubt you’ll worry, it won’t last that long!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Vegan MoFo: How Does Your Garden Grow?

I thought this year I wouldn't post about cooking food on Sundays, but write about growing it! Since it's Spring for those of us in the Southern hemisphere, I'm pretty busy raising seedlings, thinning out, and re-potting but I do have the opportunity also to enjoy everything bursting into life. Our house is an old one, and our garden has a lot of old fashioned sorts of things in it. Beneath our espaliered apple tree are glodioli, and mint that pops up everywhere along the back fence. I don't mind it, but it must have escaped a long time ago, as it is very pungent, and every time Mr Sprout uses the whipper snipper you can smell it through the whole yard!

The japonica on the left has nearly finished it's display, but the pink and white rhododendron next to it has come out his week, and it happens to be my favourite out of the six or seven we have in the garden.

This year, there is quite a bit of blossom on both our cherry trees, and I'm hoping if I net them quickly enough we might just get a punnet or two of bright red fruit in November! Last year the birds got them...

These beds were all installed by Mr Sprout, and Mrs Sprout (that's me) plants them out every year. You can't quite see all of them but there are 12, plus the big one up top, plus a couple more elsewhere. I already have corn seedlings in the top bed, as well a spinach, kale, and volunteer potatoes cropping up.

This is one of my favourite nooks in the garden. Japanese maples, and azaleas, and something else with pretty pink and white blossom that I just can't remember what it is at the moment!

Romanesco broccoli seedlings have been planted with marigolds this year to break up an otherwise boring bed, and to repel some pests. Alas, they don't repel next door's cats, who think it's perfectly acceptable to toilet in my garden!

Shallots, celery, and heartsease, the pretty purple and yellow flowers pop up everywhere and I let it because it's such a cheerful little plant and the ladybugs seem to like it.

Tomato seedlings thinned out again, and here they will remain until they are mildly pot bound and ready to plant out. I have some early ones already in the beds, but will hold these  ones back probably until November when I know the last frost has been and gone. With any luck, Mr Sprout will have relocated the chickens by then, and their previous home will become my greenhouse. Hint hint Beloved... Tomatoes are a staple in our patch, and this year I hope to get a decent crop for bottling and drying. There is nothing like pulling out a jar of preserves, some dried beans, and herbs in the middle of winter for dinner, and knowing it all came from your own backyard. What do you plant?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Ironchef Challenge # 1: Beetroot Mini Cobs with Caramelised Beet & Onion Mayo

The colour peeping out from the slash I made before baking - so pretty!
Sauteed mushroom, kale, and caramelised beetroot & onion mayo in the mini cob
I love beetroot! Fresh beetroot that is, roasted, juiced, pickled, pureed...just don't give me a tin of Golden Circle slices. Too sugary and unbeetroot. So I was tickled the pink of beet upon discovering this week's Ironchef secret ingredient!

I baked today listening to Edith Piaf which didn't seem quite right with a German style bread - perhaps I should have been listening to Beethoven. But I digress. Being Oktoberfest, I thought it would be a good idea to do a pretzel sort of cob...but with - you guessed it - beetroot. Recipes I've tried to make pretzels with before seem to be lacking a bit on the sweet side, or too much salt, or not enough liquid, or just too small... so I used the juice to colour and subtly sweeten the bread.They turned out great, better than I expected. Not tasting of beetroot, just an earthy sweetness, and a beautiful colour. The pulp I reserved from juicing, and I caramelised with onion and cumin to make a relish to swirl into mayo.  We had these with some sauteed mushrooms, kale leaves, and a generous dollop of the beet mayo.  A good vego sausage patty or vegie burger would be pretty tasty too!  Now, if only I could figure out how to make beetroot beer...

Dough rising in bowl

Cob Ingredients (makes 6 mini cobs)
3 1/2 -4 cups bakers flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt plus extra tsp
1 cup  fresh beetroot juice (I used 2 large beetroot and got 1 1/4 cups) 
3/4 cup rice milk or water
3 tsp dry yeast
1/4 cup bicarb soda
salt crystals (optional)

1. Heat the beetroot juice and rice milk (or water) until lukewarm. Add the oil, salt, and yeast, stir, and leave aside until mixture bubbles.
2. Make a well in the centre of 3/12 cups of the flour, pour in the yeast mixture, and with a wooden spoon, bring in flour to centre and mix. 
3. Turn out onto floured surface, and oil your hands (this prevents the dough sticking to you, plus drying out your skin!)
4. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to add a bit more flour if it is too sticky (when I made this I probably used closer to 4 1/4 cups flour because the humidity was so high).
5. Put into an oiled bowl, cover, and set aside until doubled in size. This may take 1-2 hours depending on the temperature. I set mine on top of a propagating heat mat and it took about 50 minutes. (You can put the oven on for five minutes, turn off, and then leave the door ajar with the dough inside to speed things up).
6. Punch down and knead for a couple of minutes. Divide dough into 6 portions and form into cobs. Place on a lined tray, and allow to rise again until double. 

I can't tell you how bright the dough was - the photo just doesn't capture it!

7. Turn on oven to 190C to preheat, and set a large saucepan of water on the stove to boil. Fill the saucepan about 2/3 full.
8. When water is boiling, drop in salt and bicarb - watch out it froths!
9. Carefully drop the cobs in one at a time to poach, about a minute and a half on each side. Remove carefully and set on greaseproof lined baking trays, a few centimetres apart. 
10. Slash the top in a cross with a sharp knife, and sprinkle salt crystals on top if you wish (the salt makes them a bit pretzel like).
11. Place in the oven to bake for approximately 20 minutes, until dark brown, and set on a wire rack to cool.

Caramelised Beet & Onion Mayo- Ingredients
1 cup beetroot pulp
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup beetroot juice
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1 cup vegan mayonnaise (you can make your own or shop bought)

1.On low heat, melt butter into oil in a heavy based pan.
2. Add cumin and onion, and stir gently until translucent. 
3. Add beet pulp, juice, vinegar, and sugar. 
4. Stir gently on low heat until caramelised and onion is very soft. Takes about 1/2 hour. Put into a clean jar and allow to cool.
5. When cool, stir into mayonnaise.

The colour of the bread - a beautiful deep pink!