Monday, 26 May 2008

The King of Sandwiches is in the house

Cia is my sister and I am her leader. The two of us are sitting on the flagstone steps outside the kitchen door eating our peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Cia peels hers apart, as she always does, and slowly licks out the filling, while I squash the slices of bread together between my palms until they turn doughy and ooze peanut butter and jam goo, then gulp it down.
The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam by Lauren Liebenberg

We make quite a lot of our own bread in the trusty breadmaker (okay, I make it and we eat it) which gives us the perfect excuse to eat healthy lunches and make elaborate sandwiches for work. Here's one that J put together for me one morning.

The bread is a homemade spinach pesto bread made with plain wholemeal, wholemeal spelt and 7-grain flours. Inside is more of the pesto (the perfect way to use up the last of a big bag of spinach when it's starting to look a bit old), homemade hummus, tofu luncheon, grated carrot, tomato, avocado and big you can barely get your mouth around it!!

The other day I was browsing through the library as usual and stumbled across The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Joanne Stepaniak. I'd seen this book mentioned at The Tropical Vegan's blog but hadn't really thought of looking for it. It was a very exhausting weekend so we decided to finish it up with the Grilled Cheez Sandwiches from the book since there was some leftover homemade bread needing using. J was delighted and actually pretty excited about the whole idea so I left him in charge of the kitchen.

They were surprisingly good but we didn't have any turmeric which probably aids the colour. J reckoned that although it was the right consistency and tasted pretty damn close, the colour just wasn't right. We also used a lot more of the mixture than it said. Apparently it's supposed to make 4 sandwiches but we only got 2 and a bit out of it. Then again, the bread slices are pretty large.

Last weekend after orienteering we were wandering through one of the many fruit and vege stores out on the road towards Kumeu and Woodhill and J spotted basil pesto wraps. I was suspect since pesto traditionally has cheese in it but these were all good and vegan-friendly.

I filled them with stir-fried veges, marinated and lightly pan-fried tempeh, avocado and tomato then baked them for about 10 minutes (or something like that...but they were nice and crispy). Delicious!

Friday, 23 May 2008

The Arc of the South

A silence followed, as if the sound of the sea had faded. It seemed to Arren that the sun failed and dimmed, though it stood high in a clear sky. A darkness came over the beach, as though one looked through smoked glass; directly before Ged it grew very dark, and it was hard to see what was there. It was as if nothing was there, nothing the light could fall on, a formlessness.
- The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin

I lived in Dunedin for a time, one of New Zealand's more Southern cities and pretty bleak and freezing in the winter (the perfect weather for staying indoors and reading under a blanket...or pulling on your polypro and going running in the ice if you're slightly crazy as I was...and still am). Luckily I was only there a year and a half or so otherwise it might have all got too much. Anyway, there used to be this cafe buried away on the more shady side of town called Arc Cafe. They used to have eclectic live music many an evening and the best vegetarian and vegan food I've found in New Zealand...seriously. I found out a few months after I left that it had shut down much to my disappointment.

My favourite treat from there was one of their vegan vegetable muffins...huge and filled to the brim with all sorts; mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, spinach, corn... Anyway, I've been on a little bit of a mission since then to create something vaguely similar. So far this is how far I've got (yes, the photo is corny (nooooooooo!) as...I was feeling a tad on the ridiculous side):

Ode to the Arc Muffins
(makes 5-6 giant/texas muffins)

2 apples, peeled and chopped
1 cup soy milk
1/4 cup oil (I used oil from the sundried tomatoes)
3/4 cup creamed corn
6 sundried tomatoes (in oil, drained), chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1/2 capsicum, chopped
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp dried parsley (if you've got fresh herbs then chop and use them instead)
1/2 cup polenta
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder

Cook the mushrooms and capsicum in a lightly oiled fry-pan until tender then set aside.

Cook the apples in the microwave until tender then blend until smooth. Mix in a large bowl with the soy milk, oil, creamed corn, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, capsicum, paprika, parsley and polenta.

Mix the flours and baking powder together then add to the rest of the ingredients, gently mixing until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into 5-6 texas muffin tins and bake at 210ºC for about 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Best served warm (spread with hummus, pesto or vegan margarine). These freeze real well too if you wrap them individually and put them in the freezer on the day they're made.

Friday, 16 May 2008

In honour of Coldplay

but suddenly there it is
right in front of you
bright and vivid
quietly waiting
just as you imagined it would be.
- The Red Tree by Shaun Tan

Because it was that kind of day, I met J for lunch at the Raw Power Cafe. To start with we ordered one of their juices to share (in jumbo size as you can see). Can't remember what was in it but we both agreed it looked awful! I assure you that in fact, looks are deceiving here and it was actually very tasty.

To celebrate the release of Coldplay's latest single,
Violet Hill from their upcoming album Viva la Vida, J and I both ordered the tofu burger. According to the New Zealand Herald, when Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow were last in New Zealand they dined at Raw Power and he ordered the tofu burger as well so it seemed only fitting that we should too!

I also picked up a vegan chocolate vanilla creme to take away. It was VERY delicious. They are geniuses here!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Westlife burgers

"The young are often overly concerned with matters to be settled in later years."
- Calin in Magician by Raymond E. Feist

J and his friends were off to Westlife on Saturday but coming round to our place for dinner beforehand. I, in a moment of insanity, decided I'd cook for everyone and settled on the idea of burgers and fries (always goes down well).

For the patties I made the Peanut and Tofu Cutlets (well, I
actually made Peanut, Almond and Tofu Cutlets to be more precise since it seemed more interesting) from my favourity, and terribly creatively named, cookbook, Tofu by Becky Johnson. It's bascially brown rice, nuts and tofu blended together (don't get me started on J's blender. I have to find my old food processor when I'm next at my parents or I'll truly go insane! It's like a battle ground in the kitchen when the blender and I are pitted against each other!) with onion, garlic, herbs (well, I only had dried ones) and soy sauce. One of the guys reckoned they had the consistency of mince patties so he was quite thrilled. I have no idea, but I've always thought they were tasty!

must have been feeling domestic on Saturday as I made the burger buns too (well, the bread maker did all the kneading). I mean seriously, what's up with all this domestic girlfriend business?!! J even offered to go down to the shop and get some buns, but no, I had to go and make them!

We (hey, wait a minute! I should be saying "I" not "we"...J was busy playing Mario Kart with his mates!) served the burgers with fried onion and mushroom, tomato, hummus, spinach and sweet chilli sauce along with the fries. Always a favourite, they were kumara and potato oven chips seasoned with paprika, my favourite tuscan seasoning and chilli garlic sauce. Ah, those chips bring me back to childhood when Dad would make huge batches of them for Sunday night dinner. Yummy...

I have no idea how the concert, but at least dinner was good right?!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Hop on into my tummy

"Collar that Dormouse!" the Queen shrieked out. "Behead that Dormouse! Turn that Dormouse out of court! Suppress him! Pinch him! Off with his whiskers!"
- the Queen of Hearts in Alice's Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Welcome to a snapshot from out and about in Auckland eating good (well, mostly) food.

A vegan wrap from Harvest Wholefoods.

A buckwheat, rice and tapiocoa flour wrap filled with avocado, hummus, relish, roast pumpkin, toasted sunflower seeds, celery and mesculin salad. Apart from being incredibly fragile (hence eating it with a knife and fork) it was delicious.

A vegan muffin from Kokako

Another one of Kokako's delicious spelt flour muffins - this time it's apple and rhubarb. They sure know how to make the tastiest muffins added, I suspect, by the addition of the spelt flour.

Peach and Passion Smoothie from Rivet

Delicious as usual but sometimes getting them to understand that yoghurt is a dairy product and can you please leave that out can be a tad trying sometimes.

Vegetarian Burrito (minus all the cheese and sour cream it normally comes with) from Lone Star in Newmarket.

Out to dinner for the birthday of one of J's friends. The waitress was great which took off a little of the pressure of going out to dinner to a rather carnivorous restaurant. Sitting next to someone eating a huge plate of ribs though is never a highlight.

A fruit mocktail from Lone Star.

Dinner took SO long to arrive so J and I resorted to this mocktail to curb the stomach pains. Of course, as it was being made our dinners arrived! Typical! It was well worth it though.

An apple walnut scroll from Baker's Delight

When all else fails, just pop along to Baker's Delight and there is bound to be something there worth eating. They have a fairly large range of breads that happen to be vegan amongst their range. The scrolls are a bit sickly sweet and the bread is kind of plain but still, at least they make stuff I can eat on the run (and it’s dirt cheap compared to everything else in Ponsonby).

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Ooo, I do like Fridays!

Cyllan saw what lay ahead of her, saw the whirling chaos of black light and impossible colours that tore the world apart beyond the Maze. She glimpsed the tortured crags of the mountains twisting in on themselves, moulded by the Warp to hideous illusions, and in terror she flailed at the gelding, struggling to stop its headlong flight before it was too late.
- The Outcast by Louise Cooper

The Outcast, for reasons unknown, is probably my all-time favourite book. Well, favourite fantasy book anyway. My lovely cousin and I were both entranced by it on the first read. The interesting thing is that it is the second book in a trilogy and yet the first book that either of us read from not only that series but also by Louise quite different times and quite apart from each other. I have since become a Louise Cooper fanatic. Her books are notoriously difficult to find as they are mostly out of print and many of the libraries no longer hold copies as they have become so old and worn but that's not stopped me from managing to source almost all of her adult fiction. Anyway, that was just a random aside!

I don’t work on Fridays for a variety of reasons but that doesn’t mean I am not generally incredibly busy. One of the things I generally try to do in the day is visit the library. This is both wonderful and deadly as it is like a kind of heaven (books are my home) but I’ll always end up getting more books out than I expect and will have to lug them up the hill to my apartment.

The highlight of moving into the Auckland City zone was finally being able to join the Auckland Public Library system. Although I’ve always lived in Auckland it has actually been divided up into 4 main centres (the outskirts of Auckland are also divided up but not included in this list): Manukau City (South and East Auckland), Auckland City, Waitakere City (West Auckland) and North Shore City. Each centre has its own library system among many other things. As a student I’d visited the library and been incredibly jealous of the amount and range of books that the Auckland library system had but living out of zone meant I had to settle for my local library system which I often found a little lacking in depth.

This Friday wasn't the greatest of days
so I called into my favourite vegetarian café, Raw Power Café on Vulcan Lane in the central city (Friday is the only day I can go there as I’m working Monday to Thursday and it’s shut during the weekends) to pick up some food to brighten my day.

I treated myself to a kumara sandwich filled to the brim with all sorts of veges and hummus. It was so fat I could barely get my mouth around it! I also got a slice of their extremely good vegan chocolate cake (although to be honest it's pretty rich so I felt a bit ill afterwards!).

I also finally got myself a new bike helmet. Isn’t it pretty?!

As the girl in the shop pointed out, it matches my camelbak pack too! It also stops J from pinching it since he reckoned he wouldn’t be seen dead in it as it might ruin his manly reputation! Here are my random thoughts on girly things for tough sports: I like the contrast of pink and of flowers against the mud and rough terrain of the outdoors plus generally the other option is going to be blue and I’m not a big fan of the colour blue.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Scones for dinner...tasty!

"Some women can cry and look beautiful," she said dryly. "You and I can't."
- Thayet from Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce

Sometimes when J's not home in the evening I can have some fairly interesting ideas on what constitutes dinner food...cereal, peanut butter on toast, corn toastie pies, soup out of a tin. Yes, I do cook more interesting, elaborate meals too but you know, sometimes I can't be bothered.

The other night was a good example. J is not a great fan of scones although he'll eat them if I make them but I happen to love them so since I was feeling in the mood for something comforting and sweet I resorted to making a half-batch of the Banana-Date Scones from Veganomicon again. As per usual I made some alterations. I generally don't bother with the ground flaxseed, maple syrup costs the earth so I used golden syrup, and the amount of dates and walnuts is, well, not exactly measured. I actually used dates this time (I've normally just left them out and gone with extra walnuts) and also decided to add some white chocolate chips since I have a couple of bags of them needing use (my brother brought me over some from Vegan Essentials, among other things, from the States when he visited earlier this year).

They are especially good fresh out of the oven with vegan marg and jam. Oh, or you can always use peanut butter...'cause that goes with everything (White Chocolate Wonderful is awesome)!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

When you're stuck on what to cook...

And then the moment came, the uncontrollable moment when the sounds forgot to hush themselves. The feet ran faster and faster - they were nearing the garden door - there was quick strong young breathing and a wild outbreak of laughing shouts which could not be contained - and the door in the wall was flung wide open, the sheet of ivy swinging back, and a boy burst through it at full speed and, without seeing the outsider, dashed almost into his arms.
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

...make pizza! We had my beautiful cousin round for dinner last night which was the perfect excuse to get my hands dirty and make some pizza dough.

The topping is comprised of marinated then lightly fried tempeh, hummus, mushrooms, tomatoes, capsicum, spinach, cashews and sundried tomatoes topped with Parma! vegan parmesan and drizzled with olive oil on a 50/50 wholemeal and white flour base covered in tomato paste.

And of course, we bribed her over by offering crumble...which we served up with Lite Licks vanilla soy ice cream!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Open the pantry and what do you see?

I began to clutch at snatches seen normally and rationally; a face on a sea of white which stretched limitlessly beyond my blinkered perception. I would be aware of bending over this face. I kept trying to make the face resemble someone I knew: one of the junior account men who invaded the source library of the advertising agency where I worked; one of the anonymous faces on the buses I rode from my 48th Street cold-water flat.
- Restoree by Anne McCaffrey

So, what are we cooking tonight?

Hmmm, well we've got a 50/50 blend of brown and white rice left over from last night, just under half a packet of soy and ginger tofu chunks, 1 capsicum, 2 tomatoes, 1 carrot, a handful of cashew nuts, hoisin sauce, peanut butter, soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce. What shall I make with this?

Voila! I guess it's a cross between a stir fry and fried rice! It wasn't intentionally a very reddy/brown meal (I swear there is normally something green in my meals!). But it looks kind of like slump or mush and not exactly hugely appealing but it was actually delicious (although, I'm a peanut butter addict and since it had a taste of that peanutty goodness, well, how could it not be tasty?). Oh, and it passed J's taste test too.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Challenging autumn in pink

In my family, we seem to have a tortured history of not saying what we ought to and not meaning what we do. Kate covers her mouth with her hand. She backs out of the kitchen door, bumping into my father, who fumbles by cannot catch her as she scrambles upstairs. I hear the door to our room slam shut. My mother, of course, goes after her.
So I do what I do best. I move in the opposite direction.
- My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

I've done quite a few different sporting events in my time: orienteering of all descriptions (even relays in the dark!), rogaining and both road and off road running races but up until recently I'd never tried my hand at adventure racing. The Macpac Autumn Challenge Women’s Adventure Race seemed like the perfect place to start. You compete in teams of 3 and the race involves rafting, hiking/running and mountain biking all the while navigating where you are supposed to go. Well, I’m terrified of falling into the water (I’m fine if I’m swimming in it) and I truly suck at biking, let alone mountain biking. But hey, I can run and I sure can navigate so there was nothing really to lose.After a 2 hour crash course in mountain biking with J and his friends at the Woodhill Bike Park (as well as a bit of road cycling and spin class) I was fairly confident that I could get round without too much disaster. After all, the event info had said that limited experience was fine as it wouldn't be too tricky. Little did I know what was ahead...but hindsight is a wonderful thing!

The race was based in Taupo and the night before involved a crash course in rafting followed by race briefing and the handing out of maps. At briefing we also got our race packs which, for once, contained something I could actually eat, mini
Lara bars!! I managed to score 3 different types: pistachio, cashew cookie and cherry pie.J and my friend from Palmerston North were on support crew duty which basically meant making sure everything was ready for us at transition points like moving the bikes (and pumping tires, testing gears and any other bike maintenance between thrashings), lining up clothing or footwear changes, and making sure liquid and food were waiting ready for us at each transition. Oh, and taking photos of us looking rather the worse for wear!!

The race started at the Taupo equestrian centre with a 1.5km run to the rafts (over some equestrian water jumps!) where you then paddled 8km down the
Waikato River to the next transition point. You then hopped onto your bike for a 15km mountain bike back to the start area. Here you dumped your bikes and set off on an 11km run along the edge of the river up to the Huka Falls to the third transition area. Here you jumped back on your bike and headed up into the Craters of the Moon (Wairakei Forest) single track mountain bike trails. Once at the Craters of the Moon car park you ran round the boardwalk to collect clues then picked up your bike again and rode back to the transition area again where you then navigated your way to Spa Park where there would be a short orienteering course leading to the finish. Confused yet? Exhausted?!

I could give you a run down of the event but that would take ages (well, it was a LONG race…we finished in about 8 hours 54 minutes) so I’ll give you some highlights (or lowlights depending on the angle you’re standing at!).

  • the weather was not exactly pretty but not awful. It mostly drizzled all day. At least it wasn’t too cold though.
  • wetsuits are not flattering on ANYONE but for some reason J enjoyed taking photos of us waddling around in them. They are also hellishly difficult to run in.
  • the water level of the Waikato River was down quite a lot which meant not many rapids and therefore a whole lot more paddling to keep the raft moving. But I didn’t fall in so it was all good!

  • getting out of wetsuits and wet socks in a hurry is no easy task especially when your arms are dead from paddling hard out for an hour.
  • my first fall from the bike came in the first section where I arrived at CP1 and skidded round the corner in the gravel right in front of one of our top adventure racers (and orienteers). I felt pretty embarrassed.
  • somehow my tyre managed to be a bit flat by the end of the first mountain bike stage despite checking everything before the race. Lucky for support crews I guess (thanks J) so I didn’t have to fix anything!
  • the first running leg was along the edge of the Waikato River (after a brief struggle through some blackberry). One of our team members was struggling a bit so we just took it nice and easy (that’s what happens when you head out madly at the start).
  • we crossed the Huka Falls (always an impressive sight) twice – once during the first running leg when it was nice and quiet, and one on the last leg to the finish when it was covered in tourists and their umbrellas oblivious to the fact that we were in a race and therefore in a hurry to cross the bridge.
  • I don’t think I ate very much at all during the race; just drunk water and Mizone Rapid and ate a little bit of Whittakers dark Ghana chocolate and a couple of mini lara bars. You don’t really seem to feel like eating, just quick bursts of energy to keep you going. The main thing is not to get dehydrated which is where the Mizone comes in.
  • the second mountain bike leg was an absolute killer. Not only are the tracks in there rough, narrow, incredibly windy and steep but the map we were given of the tracks was not particularly accurate.

  • I had a few impressive falls off my bike in the forest during the second mountain bike leg. One of my team mates was not so lucky as she came off in the gravel and ended up with blood everywhere.
  • my other team member had her bike break on her about two thirds of the way through the second mountain bike leg! The back gear thingy (see, I know heaps about bikes!!) broke and we had to break the chain off so she could wheel it out.
  • by the time the chain on my bike came off and got stuck I was too weak to tip my bike over to fix it but the spirit out there was amazing as another team stopped to help me. Luckily it was fixable (but took some serious work).
  • I had no idea there were places in Taupo like Craters of the Moon (the board walk we had to run around after the second mountain bike leg). It’s a highly active geothermal area NW of Taupo and really awesome.
  • we finished the third leg of the mountain bike just slightly too late to do the orienteering section.
  • Ironic really since this was going to be the part I was going to (finally) excel in!
  • the final run to the finish was beautiful. There are parts of the Waikato River which are so clear you can see right down to the rocks at the bottom.
  • our support crew were asleep in the car by the finish line when we came in…
  • even my jaw was weak by the time we finished ‘cause I was exhausted just trying to chew through my dinner!
  • we all got a free lunch the following day! Which we followed up by eating copious amounts of sorbet!!

So after all that will I do another adventure race? Hell yes. But next time I will do a whole lot more mountain bike training!