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.