Thursday, 24 December 2009

One more sleep!!

Adaptation may be the reason why, as we age, we believe that in our youth the sky was bluer, summer days were warmer and food tasted better.
How to Fossilise Your Hamster by Mick O'Hare

For some reason gingerbread always reminds me of Christmas so what perfect way to kick-start the lead up to the festive season than gingerbread waffles.

I used the recipe from Vegan Brunch (but using half and half white and wholemeal flours) and served them with sliced banana and maple syrup. Perfect!

One thing I absolutely love about Christmas time is Christmas cake! This year I found
this recipe on The Hungry Vegan blog and thought I’d give it a go.

I ended up over-cooking mine a bit since it needed quite a lot less time than the recipe said (well, mine did anyway...maybe it was my cake pan?) but it still turned out delicious.

We also always have our family Christmas party the last Saturday before Christmas day. Being the only vegan or vegetarian in the family usually (one of my cousins is a vegetarian but she lives in Aussie) I always bring a main dish and my famous trifle (well, famous in our family anyway). I also bought hummus because, well, hummus rocks.

The evening started with my Aunty’s rather strong (at least on an empty stomach) fruit cocktail. I could feel my head spinning after only a few sips!

The last couple of years I’ve been making a tofukey for the main dish which is really delicious but I was kind of a bit on the busy side and figured it was time for a change. Instead I made a nut loaf adapted from a recipe I found in the Australian Women’s Weekly Great Vegetarian Food cookbook. I also made a tomato sauce to go with it.

It didn’t stay together as well as usual but never mind ‘cause taste is more important! Here’s it messily plated up amongst other good food. Mum made this awesome kumara salad after I specially requested it. I really should get the recipe off her. But she was kind enough to let me take home all the leftovers which I steadily ate through over the following couple of days.

Of course, no family Christmas party is complete without trifle! This year my cousin D requested the chocolate version.

It’s really very simple although takes a bit of time to make everything. First I make a basic chocolate cake which then gets sliced up and spread with jam and laid at the bottom of the serving dish. I then mash up a tin of berries and pour this over the top and then add fresh, chopped fruit (strawberries are great with chocolate). Finally I make a thick chocolate custard which gets cooled before putting on top of the dish and then you top that with chopped dark chocolate. Super rich but super tasty!

Here’s my dessert bowl...

...trifle, fruit salad, my Uncle’s apple crumble and my Mum’s Christmas pudding. And now I’m super full which is, of course, all part of the tradition!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Racing through time

Sometimes you laugh because you've got no more room for crying. Sometimes you laugh because table manners on a beach are funny. And sometimes you laugh because you're alive, when you really shouldn't be.
Nation by Terry Pratchett

Ooo, today is a good day! I've just entered a longish adventure race in mid-January with a friend of mine so am very excited about that (yep, people do say I'm slightly crazy but everyone needs a slice of craziness in their lives). Better start getting my milage up in preparation! This is also my last day of work for the year (scary thought...not back till mid January unless something comes up earlier).

Anyway, back to the food. It was my brother's birthday earlier in the week so naturally that called a celebration and cake.

I made my go-to carrot cake from
The Damn Tasty Vegan Baking Guide (this time I used pear puree instead of apple sauce and dates instead of raisins) and, as usual, it was delicious and perfect. I love this recipe (if you don't have this book, it's almost identical to the one in Kris' other book, 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes).

We had dinner at my parents house and I brought along some
Fry's vegetarian sausage rolls to add to my dinner.

My cousin D decided she wanted to try a bit and reckoned they tasted remarkably like the real thing. I'm never sure if this is a good thing, a bad thing or just a thing but I guess if your average person thinks they taste good (whether it tastes like the real thing or not) then that's gotta be a good thing.

Cake...good for my tummy!

We've got our family Christmas party on Saturday night...ARGH!!! I can't believe how fast this year has gone. It's crazy. Feels like only a few months ago it was Christmas last year! Come back next time for lots of Christmas food...there are going to be a few busy days in the kitchen ahead.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Take a tour of my stomach

It was not that he had lost his will to live. It was that his brain was so exact and cold a thing that when it told him that his life, for this reason, and for that reason, was within a few hours of its end, he had no faculties wherewith to combat its logic.
Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

In case you were concerned, I have actually eaten things other than cookies and rum balls (although I must admit a fair amount of indulgence in respect of the rum balls!). So here we go...

My flatmates were away for a couple of weeks not that long ago and left me a package of tempeh in the fridge to use up. I adore tempeh but hadn't bought any in ages so this was the perfect excuse to cook some again. For once I was organised and marinated it in the morning (okay, so I wasn't that organised but I was working from home so was probably trying to procrastinate!) and then baked it in our convection oven along with some kumara chips.

On the side I had some stir-fried veges. I grated some sheese and sprinkled that on top of the veges along with a drizzle of tahini. When such a simple combination tastes so good there's no real need to go making a sauce (in other words, I'm just plain lazy)!

This was dinner the following night. I'd cooked up a double-batch of tempeh and had some leftover kumara chips so I added all of that to one of my usual giant salads.

Yes, there are vegetables under that huge mound of tempeh! Ah, so delicious!

One night I had a girls night with my friend S and her darling daughter and she whipped us up some delicious vegetable wraps.

I filled mine with hummus, asparagus, mushrooms, red onion, lettuce, tomato and cucumber. It was so refreshing that I ate two of them! We finished our night with popcorn, strawberries and a good old chick flick! Oh yeah!

On a recent exploration of the local health food shop I discovered these random tempeh rolls (tempeh and vegetables wrapped in pastry) and, out of the curiosity that sometimes overcomes me in there, I bought a pack to try. I threw the package away before I made a note of the brand but if anyone's interested I can have a look next time I'm there.

They were actually delicious and made a great light lunch with salad but they could have done with more filling and less pastry (or maybe that's just me).

A couple of weeks ago when B was up we decided to invite my lovely cousin D round for dinner. I'd been highly domestic the day before and cooked up a huge saucepan of chickpeas (note to self: I really should cook beans more often) so I decided we were going to have chickpea curry. The only snag was I had no curry paste so I sent B off to the supermarket on a mission to find some vegan curry paste. All he could find were pouches of
Thai Kaffir Lime curry paste.

I used 2 of the pouches but it could probably have done with 3 although D still found it pretty hot. I must increase her tolerance for hot food! It was actually delicious so maybe I'll have to buy those pouches again. Pity none of the other flavours were vegan.

No post of dinners cooked at home is complete without a meal of nachos! What is it about nachos that makes them such a staple and should I be concerned?! Oh well, at least B enjoyed them too.

I keep meaning to try these with different beans (preferably some I've cooked myself) just to shake things up a little but I was lazy and used my usual can of kidney beans.

So I rather regularly have pizza as an after-climbing dinner with the rest of the climbing crew but it had been ages since I'd made it myself. I found myself trying to think of meals to make on a recent trip up to my beach house and decided pizza was an excellent idea. Being a little lazy I bought the bases so they weren't as awesome as usual but still pretty good.

I pretty much used any toppings I had on hand (a base of tomato paste topped with mushrooms, capsicum, onion, tomato, avocado and
sheese as well as cooked, chopped Bean Supreme burger patties which I'd found in my freezer at home). SO good.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Crank up that oven

First came the atom bomb, the stealth bomber and the air-borne laser. Then in 2002 came one of the US military's most fearsome weapons: the indestructible sandwich.
How to Make a Tornado edited by Mick O'Hare

For the first time in what feels like forever I had a real baking fest (probably helps having someone around ready to eat it!).

First up, a modified version of the Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Walnut Cookies from
Veganomicon. I didn't want them to be totally chocolate so I replaced the cocoa with more flour. I also had some vegan white chocolate floating around so I used a mixture of both dark and white chocolate.

These were enjoyed with cups of tea and bread with homemade preserves at a friend's place. Loving the crockery!

Next up I made a batch of the ever-popular (at least amongst anyone I've made these for) Chocolate Peanut Butter Shells from
The Damn Tasty Vegan Baking Guide.

I always end up having to add extra flour to get the dough mixture to the right consistency but it's worth it 'cause these are seriously delicious.

Finally, I recently got
Kris's The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes because her previous book is my go-to book pretty much any time I'm baking something so I thought I ought to try something from it. After much debate my friend B and I picked out the Gooey Layered Goodie Bars. I'd run out of dark chocolate but had some white chocolate chips floating around in the pantry so used those instead.

When it came out of the oven I wasn't exactly convinced but after a taste test (this is, of course, very necessary with anything you bake!) we deemed these to be totally delicious and definitely a recipe to make again. Looks can clearly be deceiving.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Rumbling delights

Something was wrong. He could feel it in the air, in the sudden calm, in the way the world felt suddenly as tough something heavy was pressing down on it.
Nation by Terry Pratchett

A few weeks ago my mate B was up for the weekend to compete in an adventure race with me. Anyway, as a treat for after the race we bought these
Leda Chocolate Rum Balls.

They were seriously good and we may have got a little addicted so we decided that next time B was up to visit we'd try and make our own.

Luckily it wasn't too long before he was in my neighbourhood again and bearing rum he'd got from his parent's liquor cabinet. Yay! After searching the internet to find a recipe but not coming up with anything that satisfied me I decided we'd just have to make it up as we went along and they turned out surprisingly well if not a little strong on the rum but hey, they're rum balls after all so I guess it's not really a problem at all!

So, here's the recipe...bearing in mind that I kind of made it up as I went along so the amounts are all rather arbitrary!

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 rum
2 cups toasted, mixed nuts (I used almonds, pecans, walnuts, almonds, cashews and coconut)
1 packet (250g) Arnott's Nice biscuits (or similar)
1 Tbsp molasses
200g dark chocolate, melted
desiccated coconut for coating

Soak the raisins in the rum for a few hours or overnight.

In a food processor, blend the nuts until they are finely chopped. Add the biscuits and process again until finely ground. Add the rum and raisin mixture and blend again. Finally, add the molasses and dark chocolate and blend until the mixture is all combined and holds together (you'll need to scrap down the sides several times).

Put the mixture in the fridge for about an hour so that it's easier to work with and then shape into balls (what ever size you fancy but don't make them too big 'cause the mixture is pretty strong!). Roll in coconut to decorate and store in the fridge.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The art of not being at home

Wicked, wicked morning! How dare the sun so surely rise to gloat over her misery?
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Running late to climbing one night I realised I needed to eat something slightly more substantial than my usual muesli bar as lunch had been somewhat non-existent (that's what happens when you turn up for work intending on being there only a couple of hours but then everything goes mad and you're there all day with no time to even leave the office).

A quick trip to Huckleberry Farms solved the problem with a salad (a mix of their quinoa and raw slaw salads) and an energy ball. Yes, I did eat this in the car...tragic!

Another day I found myself out and about in Mt Eden during lunchtime. A trip to The Blue Bird seemed like the perfect option.

I picked up one of their kumara sandwiches filled with baked kumara, hummus, chutney and heaps of salad (not that you can see all of this from the photo). Filled the spot.

I've been a bit lazy on the baking front so I'd run out of muffins for breakfast so I stopped by Kokako on my way from the gym to work.

Their ginormous spelt blueberry muffins totally rock.

Last week I think I managed to be out almost every night so I ate way too many takeaways to mention! One night I stopped by Burger Fuel with my darling cousin D for dinner after watching my Mum in a fashion show!!!

I got a modified Beetnik burger (no cheese, no aoli and added peanut sauce) with kumara fries and a soy lime malt shake. This managed to fill me up so much I could hardly move afterwards! The problem is that I love kumara fries and I also love their soy malt shakes so unfortunately I ended up getting both...not the best idea but certainly the tastiest!

But best of all was a long lunch break with a friend at Revel.

Their beans on toast rock my world!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

When rather short on time

The terrain about them was as though freshly painted, or rather, as though like an old landscape that had grown dead and dull it had been varnished and now shone out anew, each fragment of the enormous canvas, pristine, the whole, a glory.
Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake

Life has been pretty hectic and exhausting (yeah, I know I say that a lot but it's been even more than normal if that's possible!) but hopefully things will calm down a little bit by the end of the month...but then again, probably not!

Since I'm so often short on time it's really handy to have super quick things around that require very little preparation and work but still taste good. I often have a container of
Turkish Kitchen traditional falafel mix in my fridge for a quick dinner. Scoop out what you want, fry it up and hey presto!

It's a habit of mine to dollop spoonfuls of tahini on top of my cooked veges. I'm too lazy to make a sauce and I adore tahini so it's a win win situation! Add some kumara chips and life is beautiful (or at least dinner!).

Here's another meal using the trusty falafel mix...

Falafel, salad and toast with peanut butter and hazel cocoa malt spread - the lunch of champions!

Believe it or not there have actually been occasions of late I've had time to be more adventurous (not often enough I admit but at least they appear at times!)...

Cornmeal waffles with grilled, marinated asparagas (both from
Vegan Brunch) and stir-fried veges and tofu. My waffles hated me and kept sticking to the waffle iron but they still tasted delicious which is the main thing I guess.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Sometimes I surprise myself

Not for the first time she reflected that there were many drawbacks to being a swordswoman, not least of which was that men didn’t take you seriously until you’d actually killed them, by which time it didn’t really matter anyway. Then there was all the leather, which brought her out in a rash but seemed to be unbreakably traditional.
The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

Training can get a little (okay, make that a lot) exhausting and boring at times so sometimes it's good to mix things up a little and do something a little different...

How about a spin class on the top of a tall hotel/apartment complex in town overlooking the harbour? Oh, and how about adding some rain, wind and sun too?! Yes, it's possible! Last Saturday was Skyspin, a 12-hour event of various different spin classes throughout the day on the top of the Waldorf Apartment Hotel. A friend of mine was taking one of the afternoon classes so a group of us from my gym thought we'd better show up and give some support (oh, and it was for a good cause...hospice). SO much fun (although rather wet and windy!).

Anyway, let me introduce you to my favourite dish of all time, even managing to scrap ahead of Food Alley's claypot. I can't believe I only discovered it a couple of months ago when my flatmate was having it.

So what could it possibly be?

(Tofu) Sausage Salad!!!

Not only is it super quick and basically just uses any kind of salad item you have in your possession but it's also ridiculously tasty. My flatmates and I eat these on a very regular basis that it's becoming a bit of a joke around here.

So how do you make such an awesome meal?! Well it's pretty simple and you can basically use what ever you like but below is how I made the salad above...

Firstly, layer your bowl with a handful of baby spinach leaves then sprinkle some grated carrot over the top. Next, add a sliced tomato and some chopped capsicum (yellow is my favourite to eat raw). Then top with half a sliced avocado and some chopped, dried dates. Drizzle over a little balsamic salad dressing and add a couple of dollops of roasted garlic hummus. Finally, top with two sliced tofu sausages and some chopped walnuts. It just couldn't get any better!

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The garden city adventures: part four

'Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice; 'but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!'
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

My final day in the garden city, Monday, dawned perfectly clear and fine so our mission was climb outside at last! But first, breakfast...

We'd decided we were going to go back to The Lotus Heart to try out their breakfast menu. The sun was streaming in through the window by our table overlooking Cathedral Square and while we waited for our breakfast to be served I had a chai latte made with rice milk.

Believe it or not I had never had french toast, vegan or not, until this morning. Once I tried to come here for brunch to order it but we missed brunch by about 10 minutes so today I was determined!

This was so delicious - grainy bread for the french toast with caramalised bananas sandwiched in the middle and served with fresh fruit salad and maple syrup. It filled me up for hours. I'm going to have to learn how to make my own french toast now!

After breakfast we let our food settle before I set off for a short run to stretch the legs and B biked round the block. We debated trying somewhere new for lunch but were running short on time so settled on going back to
Soul Food. We both picked this delicious flavoured green tea drink to try...refreshing.

I was hoping they'd have a vegan BLT left but unfortunately we were obviously a bit late and the cafe had been super busy so there was none left so I ordered the vege burger (same as B ordered on Saturday) and salad instead.

Delicious (but not as good as the BLT). Why can't we have food like this easily accessible in Auckland? Or am I looking in all the wrong places?

Anyway, after lunch we headed off to the Port Hills (the only real hills in Christchurch!) and to a patch of rock called Rapaki where we met up with one of B's climbing friends.

Climbing outside is quite different to climbing on a wall inside. For a start you can use anything you can as handholds or to put your feet but it isn't immediately obvious what you can use. We climbed fairly easy climbs since it was my first outdoor experience but it was still tough work as it was so different (and SO hot).

Look at that view off the side of the was such an amazing experience. I am totally doing this again (I've become seriously hooked on climbing).

A glorious end to what was quite possibly one of the best weekends I've had in a long long time. As I hopped on the plane I was kind of wishing I didn't have to leave...although my body sure was glad to be able to resort to normal eating habits!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

The garden city adventures: part three

The attendant looks the body up and down and shakes his head. He slides it back inside on near-silent rollers. A heart attack, they say. Extreme shock and terror, they say.
So, the attendant wonders, why is the corpse smiling?
Nonstop from Rite by Tad Williams

Sunday morning did not quite start off as planned (this being last Sunday, not today in case anyone was confused). We had planned to go to
The Orange Tree for brunch but it was closed. So off to the art centre market it was for souvlaki from the Dimitri's stall instead! It might not be what I'd typically see as brunch food but you really can't go to Christchurch and not have a souvlaki.

Yep, that's one HUGE falafel souvlaki because B made us both get doubles. Seriously could not finish this but it was delicious. We washed them down with fresh lemonade from the market whilst lazing in the sun. Awesome.

Once we got home we also might have snacked on some chocolate biscuits B had picked up from the supermarket...

Once brunch had settled (which took a hell of a long time!) we headed off to
McLeans Island.

While B fitted in some mountain bike training I ran round the walking track and took the detour out to the river. I wish I'd had my camera out there as it was beautiful.

Not much is open on a Sunday night in Christchurch but we did manage to find somewhere, the
Dux de Lux, which used to be a vegetarian restaurant/bar but has since added seafood to their menu. They still have a good selection of vegan options though. Both B and I picked options that we could share.

My meal came with salad and I picked the rice and the carrot salads. Very tasty and I had to restrain myself from eating all of it whilst waiting for the rest of my meal to be served.

I ordered the sweetcorn and vegetable fritters which came with a beetroot chutney.

They were huge and delicious with a crunchy outside and a gooey, creamy inside and the chutney went really well. Filled the spot perfectly.

B also picked the rice salad and also went with a couscous salad which we weren't fans of.

For his main B ordered the Indian curry which was served with rice, chapatti, raita and mango chutney.

The curry was pretty delicious and hearty but the chutney was best avoided...tasted like eating a really sweet mango jam which would be fine in some contexts but not this one.

Because we were starving and getting quite good at ordering (and eating) WAY too much food, we also ordered some kumara fries on the side with sweet chilli sauce. I love kumara fries and we polished them all off despite being so full we couldn't move!

Because we hadn't had dessert (which was a requirement for the weekend challenge!) we made brownies (yes, crazy I know)!! Using an
Orgran Chocolate Muffin Mix, we followed the vegan version but used soy milk instead of water and added peanut butter and chopped chocolate (I think we got a bit carried away on the chocolate chopping front but hey, chocolate is all good) and then cooked it in a large square cake pan.

It turned out really well especially when served warm with
Lite Licks Hokey Pokey ice cream. Just to state the obvious, I was ridiculously full after this again! Hmmm...perhaps the theme of the weekend?!