Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Unadventures...

Inadventures? Nonadventures? Whatever, it's a word now.

On the very last day of OzMoFo, I was pretty excited to get out of the house yesterday and into the city, finally! After a quick breakfast of the following (and by quick I mean slightly faster than my usual tortoise-like pace but still fairly lethargic), I chucked on a pair of jeans, singlet, keds and hoodie and threw my bag over my shoulder, waiting to be picked up by my grandparents. It was art gallery time!
Blur it up. Bowl o' fruit (nanner, kiwi, pineapple) plus a slice of plain sprouted toast. I swear that bread does not NEED any condiments, I prefer it straight-up. Granted, it was the size of one-and-a-half servings of bread, but don't my cutting skills look like they may have moved up a notch? 

Around ten in the a.m, my grandma swung by and we drove around to collect my grandpa before walking to the ferry and taking it across to Circular Quay. The boat was supah-rocky! Iused to have good sea legs... apparently not any more.

Upon arriving we started walking on up to the gallery. We passed an Iku Cafe that I desperately wanted to stop at, but my subtle hint (read: "Hey, I've heard so much about that place! Everything they sell is vegan!") didn't gel and we kept on moving. I started to feel very dizzy and just generally out of it, but told myself it was the heat and kept on truckin'.

After checking out the art at the gallery for a solid ten minutes and feeling worse by the second I decided to speak up, and the grandparents decided it was time for lunch. The cafe only had pre-made wraps so there was no cheese-free option for me, plus the upstairs restaurant didn't look promising either. So we headed across to the restaurant in the park directly opposite the gallery and were assured the chef could do something for me. Et voila, my something:
C'est tres jolie, non? I almost didn't wanna wreck it with my destructo-fork. Almost but not quite. I was sure that the impending lunch would solve my lightheadedness. I dug right in and revelled in the simple tastes of roasted eggplant, bell pepper, spanish onion, tomato and zucchini. I'm pretty sure that's all it was, with some olive oil. But I was so not complaining. I'd missed my plain roasted veg mucho since arriving in Sydney and this really quenched my thirst. Whetted my appetite. You know, whichever. But it didn't entirely substantiate a meal since it was just a few glorified veggies so I downed the last of my Larabar supply:
Sad to see it go. Time for another stock-up, methinks? Any fave flavas you wanna clue me in on? I've tried everything except Tropical Fruit Tart, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Peanut Butter Cookie, Lemon Bar, Pistachio, and Coconut Cream Pie. Oh and I've tried all the Jocalats apart from Hazelnut, German Chocolate Cake, Orange and Cherry.

Anyway. After lunching we got up to leave... and hey presto, my head spun right round baby right round like a record baby right round round round. Sorry. But it did. I did try to suck it up and enjoy the gallery for about another hour, and we saw some amazing prints from their "Prints in the time of Romanticism" exhibit, but after that I had to draw the line and we got a cab home. Only on the way back did I suddenly realise what this dizziness probably meant.

THE RETURN OF THE LOW BLOOD PRESSURE!
When I thought of it, I hadn't had much sodium at all and probably have almost reversed all the good work I did on jacking up the old BP. Nice one, Liz. I was bedridden with utter exhaustion the whole rest of the day, abruptly ending my city escapades and thus producing an unadventure. So obviously, to accompany my Gossip Girl-ing (what ELSE would I do stuck in bed all afternoon?) I needed a salty salty snack.
Pretz + hummdog = loves. During the time in which this snack was consumed I finished season two of my beloved GG. Sorry to spoil for anyone who hasn't seen, but in the last ep (if you're not up to this restrain yourself from reading!) I literally JUMPED OUTTA MY CHAIR when Chuck told Blair he loved her. I said "Yay" times a million and got so excited that it's probably sad, considering this is over a tv show and all. Can't wait to start season three now!

After two consecutive nights of almost-recipes for dinner I decided I was allowed to be even lazier and just have savory lentils from a can plus greens and corn bread. Yes, I suck, I'm aware of it. I should be cooking up fantabulous feasts for you all to marvel at! But thing is, my step-mum and my dad have spent mucho moolah on convenience foods for the vegan and I feel pretty obliged to use it all. So I'm a girl on a mission. 
There ARE lentils under my garlicky spinach, that's not just a massive hunka corn bread! But I totally could eat a slice that big. Corn bread is way too good. Probably all that delicious raw sugar. I've been having a very unbalanced diet of late. Gotta get that sorted out... hmm. I'll be back on track 100% come Monday at least, since I'll be back in Brissy. Dessert was semi-healthy bc of the guilt that comes from essentially eating glorified cake for dinner:
Hehe, see what I did there? I'm *so* funny. Apple slices, with cinnamon and AB. And salt. I ain't going to no hospital. The salt added a surprising pleasantness, actually. I recommend trying cinn + salt on fruit. With the nut butter of your choice. Speaking of which, I need to try and make some nut butters of my own when I get home to my darling food processor!

Until tomorrow, my loves! The REAL MoFo begins - maybe I'll actually post more this time, sans exam block!
- VS

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lockout!

I think maybe, when I'm on holidays, my brain goes on to auto-pilot. Only my auto-pilot sucks.

Yesterday started out like any other, really - except I had a larger-than-usual sugar craving. Sup with that? I ain't one to ignore signs, though, so for breakfast I had more than my fair share of sweetness.
Good old reliable wholemeal bread with a mashed banana, plus a mug full of soymilk & froot loops! Man, I hadn't had junky cereal in such a long long time, and this really hit. the. SPOT.

Next thing I know my step-mum's outtie to meditation class and I volunteer to walk Billy, their (our? my?) dog. Bills and I are fully tight and all, but he is a hefty six-year-old staffy who weighs more than half of me, all pure muscle. I was a tad apprehensive about this walking expedition, especially since I had a long black coffee in one hand. But, I'd promised, so I got walking. It was pretty pleasant - Billy didn't drag me all over the place like I thought he might, and my cuppa didn't spill once! The only not-pleasant part was the part where B decided to take a very very big doo-doo right on a grassy curb in the middle of a very public place with lots of people watching, which I then of course had to scoop up. Thanks Bill.

Anyway, I returned to the house with Billy and my step-mum was still at her class, so I whipped out my phone to read the memo I'd written to myself that contained the combination to the lock on the front door. I punched it in... and nothing doing. I figured, oh well, I'd rather go for another walk anyway. I'm sure when I come back it'll open properly, or maybe Samantha will be home by then.

So, I headed straight back out to Harbord Growers. Let me tell you something, kidlets: I LOVE that place. There is an entire freezer full of Syndian vegan products, EIGHT different brands of hummus, and fifteen shelves entirely dedicated to dried fruit & nuts. It's what VS dreams are made of. Did I mention their deli also does an awesome chickpea & pumpkin salad? After spending a good two hours browsing (I love grocery shopping a bit too much...) I filled a basket with baba ghanoush, apple-cinnamon tapioca pudding, tabbouleh from the deli, an avocado, Syndian lentil bites and cinnamon cashews and walked home. 

No car was in the driveway, so I tried the doorbell in case Sam had parked in the garage. No answer. So again I pulled out my phone and punched in the lock code. It still wouldn't open. Fail. I tried calling my dad, but in vain. I didn't have Samantha's number. My cold groceries were meellllting. I was locked out!

I quickly dashed down the side of the house and put my groceries in the cooler, mercifully open laundry. Upon doing this, I spotted the side door and tried it to see if it'd been left open. Nope. However, there was Billy's dog door... but just a word of caution, bloggies: human shoulders are too wide for such openings. Do not try to squeeze your way through. You'll get stuck and look ridiculous.

And so I sat and sat and sat. Lucky Billy was there to keep me company. At one point, I was sitting up on a chair and he was on the floor at my feet, looking lonely. I decided to get down on the concrete and join him. As soon as I sat down next to him, he jumped up onto my just-abandoned chair and looked at me smugly. You win, Bill. I did manage to take an incriminating photo of him licking out a nostril though, so I can blackmail him into giving back my chair should this event ever repeat itself:
And yet he is still utterly adorable. How? If you got a pic of me doing that I'd look a few (dozen!) sandwiches short of a picnic. Ah well.

After about an hour my phone rang. It was my dad. Our conversation went something like this.
Dad: You're locked out?
Me: Yeah! I have the code, but the door hates me and won't open.
Dad: You need to press the first key really hard so it clicks.
Me: That's what I've been doing but it's still not working :( (yes, I can communicate emoticons through tone of voice)
Dad: Punch it in again.
Me: *sigh* Okay...
Dad: Now turn the lock REALLY hard.
Me: ... Oh. Um. Thanks Dad!

So classically me, this. Getting "locked out" because I wasn't turning the lock hard enough. What's your worst or most shameful "locked out" story? Trying not to feel very embarrassed indeed, I put my sweating groceries away in the fridge and made my rumbling belly some much-needed lunch! I wanted more salad than carbs, given the day before's redic comfort bowl.
Spinach, red bell pepper, carrot, bean sprouts, broccoli slaw, pickles, tabbouleh. Topped off with Syndian lentil bites and delish baba ghanoush. That stuff is just as addictive as hummus!

After the morning's adventure I was more than happy to retire to an episode or four of Gossip Girl. So, I grabbed some Cinnamon Cashews to accompany my viewing, continuing my sugar kick from breakfast.
Woaah, blurry enough? Let me just say: if you live in Sydney you NEED to buy these now. The company (I'll post their name later!) makes a range of flavoured nuts but these are the only ones I saw that are vegan. Others contain honey, milk powder, etc which is a shame because they also make Indian Chai Almonds. Dang. Maybe I can try making my own at home in Brissy?

After GG my step-mum was home and she suggested a marathon of taped TV shows that I am too wussy to stay awake for (ie. anything on past nine - I know, I'm hopeless). I skipped off to find more sweet, tooth-decaying eats and returned to the couch with my Apple-Cinnamon Tapioca to watch The Vampire Diaries, Little Britain USA, and Nurse Jackie (purely because of Peter Facinelli).
This was GOOOOD. So good! I'd never had tapioca before apart from in Bubble Tea but of course I never ATE the balls and assumed they'd be hard (yes, I know what I just wrote). But they're not! They're all squishy and soft and this tasted incroyable (I know, I know, I'm trying to be mature and not giggle out loud at what I'm writing and failing miserably). I inhaled this! There was another flavour on the shelf next to it, I think it was Coconut Cream or something. Definitely on my to-try list!

During the marathon, l-o-mum called! She and o-sis are now back in the country and very tired and laden with merch from Kyoto. They loved it over there and are talking about how to adopt the Japanese way of life! Mum's seriously figuring out how we can go grocery shopping on bicycles. I'm a little apprehensive, I ain't gonna lie. I am ALL for enviro-friendly living, and I know usually we don't buy much at Woolworths (we get organic local produce delivered) but I LOVE grocery shopping and, well, simply lack co-ordination on a bike. There are hills around the supermarket. I'm sure I'd end up dead if I tried riding around there, much less with a basket full of groceries! 

Oh well. After I got off the phone, Dad had returned home and was waiting for a taxi to take him to his flight to Melbourne. I was a little sad, to tell the truth. I wanted more time with him seeing as we were getting to bond so much. But he'll be back late on Friday night, and then on Saturday he's taking me to see Wicked! I'm so excited; I've wanted to see this musical for literally three and a half years now. It's a late birthday present :) and yesterday I was told some even BETTER news! Well, at least EQUALLY GOOD news.

Susan strongly suggested I get myself to The Green Gourmet in Newtown. Well, guess who's going there for dinner after the show on Saturday!? I'm super happy, I've wanted to check this place out for soooo long. Can't wait to try their Sweet and Sour Taro! (Yes, I did download a PDF of their menu). But I'm even MORE excited to go crazy in The Vegan's Choice Grocery right next door! My step-mum has told me I can take frozen/cold stuff back to Brisbane with me in a wine cooler, so I'm not gonna hold back!

Come dinnertime, I knew I wanted cornbread. Luckily I'd made up my Orgran packet mix of it that afternoon. I felt like Neil Buchanan on Art Attack!, you know, here's one I prepared earlier type of thing. I sliced up that big ol' block of yella and made some VERY quick Maple-Mustard tofu. Again with the not-recipes? I just whisked 10g dijon mustard with a tbsp. pure maple syrup and browned my cubed tofu in a hot skillet for a while, before adding my sauce and allowing it to caramelize while my cornbread heated up in the microwave. Once that was done I scooped it on to my plate with a heap of tabbouleh. Mixed cuisines, anyone?
Superyum, though. The cornbread was SO thick and rich and the tofu cooked up nicely. I felt a bit naughty eating so much sugar for dinner. But I promised myself, dessert will be different. 
Well - it is KINDA. No refined sugars as such. Just fructose. Heavenly, heavenly fructose. 

With the promise of eating lunch out tomorrow (going to the art gallery with my grandparents) I headed to bed, but not before one last ep of GG. Loves it.

- VS

When you're on a holiday...

I'm still at a total loss as to what to do with myself these holidays! Pour exemple, yesterday. I did nothing. However, this nothing was in itself pretty liberating. I never do nothing. It's kinda fun. Hopefully I'll get down to the beach today, though - there's plenty of local talent around! And by that I mean surfing talent, naturally ;)

It was cold yet AGAIN in the morning yesterday, but I was a girl on a mission. No way was I letting the weather come between me & my potential breakfast two days in a row. I whipped up some impromptu yoghurt and dang was it tasty.
Eated alongside two slices of sprouted spelt, spread with almond butter plus a mug of peppermint tea. I could post a recipe for that yog but I'd feel a bit redic. It's just silken firm tofu, mixed frozen berries and strawberry jam all blenderised together. Simple but gooood.

When lunchtime rolled around it somehow felt even COLDER. Why? Why? And so I grabbed everything comfort-esque and made a meal of it. It was messy, disgusting and delicious.
In the bowl: spinach leaves and bean sprouts (hey, when you eat something daily it's bound to become a comfort food), refried beans (from an Old El Paso can), leftover brown basmati rice, a ripped up barley tortilla wrap, brown rice & vege bites and a LOT of hummus. Mixing this stuff up with a spoon was tough. So tough I resorted to using my hands. Like I said, disgusting.
But so tasteh.

My dad got back from working at Botany (he's going back to Melbourne tonight) at around two. I was thankful for the chance to have some human contact, as I'm pretty sure watching Serena Van Der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf for hours on end doesn't count for being social. We talked for about an hour, and snacked on this:
I'm a pretz fan fer sure (for the record only half of those were mine!). And dried paw paw is so sweet and perfect... I'm a dried fruit aficionado, though. I love dried anything. 

Anyway, it was really welcome, that chat with my dad. I feel like although I've always known him to an extent, I actually have gotten to know him just as a person and on a whole new level, rather than just as my father. It's so weird - in a good way! I found myself thinking, Wow! So you're an actual human being, huh? I know that sounds terrible, but it was just because I guess I had always lumped him into a different category: parent. And now I find out he's just this guy. It's not disappointing, though - it's great! I feel like I understand him more and we're closer than ever. When's the first time you realised parents are people too?

So you'd think with all this extra time and all my cookbooks lying around the house here in Sydney I would get up & start cookin'. No dice, kids. I guess once I get lazy, I get reeeeally lazy. Last night's dinner was even less involved than the night before!
Udon noodles (they were fresh off the shelf, pre-cooked. All I had to do was heat them for two minutes!) combined with frozen peas, again. I covered the whole thing in five-second peanut sauce which is another case of I could post a recipe but I'd feel dumb. It's just a tablespoon of PB, covered with soy sauce and a touch of ground ginger, stirred together with a spoon. I think it could have used some chili, but it was pretty stellar just like that. Anyway, after heating my noodles and peas I added more spinny. I love me some greens.

As I'm sure you noticed, the image quality in this post is just as shocking as that in my last, thanks to my... less-than-amazing camera. But come dessert time I had a stroke of genius! My phone had a very good camera, did it not?
Voila! MUCH better. Not stellar, but at least no icky over-exposure or the like. I'll be sticking to this method of taking photos for the rest of my time in Sydney. Anyway, dessert was pretty basic but very yum. Whittaker's dark chocolate and strawbs. How can you miss?

When I see you all next, I'll have more (quality!) photos to share (and not just of food!), a recipe and some very good news! Until then, bloggies!
- VS.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hola from Sydney!

Okay, so here's how my week played out - on Tuesdee morn', my nanna took me to the GP to check up on the old blood pressure. Good news: it's up ten points so no hospital for me yet! Bad news: Doc thought being at theatre camp was going to be a bit of a danger to me, in terms of falling back into some less-than-stellar eating habits (or lack thereof) which is the last thing anybody wants. So he said, don't go back. It's a shame because my mum forked out a lot of dough for me to go to the camp, but tbh I honestly wasn't enjoying it very much anyway, and was kind of glad to leave. No clue why - I used to love it! Maybe the immense focus on theatre at my school has taken the fun out of it. Not good. Anyway, after going home I was alone since l-o-mum and o-sis are in Kyoto as I'm typing this, and my dad, bless him, decided he wouldn't have that at all (although I wouldn't have minded a little solitary time) especially not in light of me being at risk of a relapse. So it was onto a plane to Sydney that night, and I've been staying with my step-mum ever since since dad's been in Melbourne working all week. He's home now, though!

Whew, that was a lot. So far my time in Sydney has been amazing, food-wise! My step-mum was kind enough to buy a ton of vegan stuff for me - she got falafel bites, brown rice & veggie bites, Aussie-style burger patties, chickpea & pumpkin salad, lebanese lentil salad and mini avocado nori rolls! And that was all even before we went grocery shopping. Now I'm totally stocked up on chickpeas, hummus (love!), fresh dates, fruit, wholemeal tortillas, quinoa, you name.

I decided to make Isa's Cashew-Pineapple-Quinoa stirfry from V'con but unfortunately by the time I remembered to take photos we were clean out. It was an instant hit :)

I've also eaten out at Yok again (I got Tom Yum this time!) and Emilia's, a vegetarian restaurant near South Curl Curl Beach with a LOT of vegan options - highly recommend, kids! PS. If you love you some hummus the way I do, get the Lebanese Platter as a main. Half the plate is covered in the stuff. The other half is covered in baba ghanoush. It's all topped with tabbouleh, falafel, dolmades, carrots, cucumber, tomato, jalapeno, olives and tzatziki (not vegan, I avoided it). Served with a side bowl full of lebanese bread = deeeelish. They also do a vegan apple "crumble" (basically baked apple topped with brown sugary oats, very tasty though) and have chocolate/vanilla soy ice cream too. Very naaaiice.

So, to make up for my abysmal lack of photographs I resolved to snap shots of EVERYTHING that passes my chops (excluding boring things like water or if I chew my fingernails or something) until I leave Sydney. Okay, okay, it's ambitious, but I think I should be able to do it! 

To start things off, today's eats...

When I woke up, it was cold. What gives? It's supposed to be Spring, therefore warming up! Unfortunately it's been chilly and windy here in Sydney and I packed attire such as singlets, shorts and bikinis. Sigh. Thank goodness for my obsession with black tights - they've kept me warm. Anyway, I had been planning on making tofu yoghurt for brekkie, but there was just no *way* I could stand to this morning. I needed comfort in a bowl, pronto. I needed warmth. I needed carbs. I needed mushy, microwaved bran straw cereal with hot soymilk & melted banana. 
With a healthy dollop of almond butter. Me loves. Oh, and sorry about the shoddy image quality again, everyone. Sis and mum have the nice camera.
Anyway, after downing that in 5.4 seconds flat (seriously! I'm normally a very sloooow eater but not this morning, apparently) I opted for a very badly-cut, toasted slice of Pure Life's Essene Sprouted Spelt Bread.
I wasn't kidding about the "badly-cut" bit. Hey, is it my fault if the knife is blunt? No. However I do think maybe slicing heavy breads is a talent I lack. Eating them, however, is an entirely different matter. I've fallen crazy in love with this bread. It's as decadent and filling and moist as a piece of cake, only not sweet and a million trillion times better for you. If that made sense at all, to anyone.

Lunch was at the boat club that my grandparents are members of. They were a little worried I wouldn't be able to get anything, but I assured them I can find SOMETHING anywhere. And I was right! Whilst the fam chowed down on Lobster Mornay, I stuffed this down my gullet: 
Salad & avocado sandwich on verrrry thick toasted white bread. I know, refined grains - boo hiss. But it was all they had, and much and all as white bread ain't good for ya (I never eat it, ever!) it tastes gooood. Oh so fluffy. There was a tad too much avo on my sammich, so I took some off. It came with a side of crunchy slaw topped with a very yumlicious mustard-balsamic dressing.

I spent the afternoon lazing. Translate: I spent the afternoon on Facebook playing Farmville. Dear god I can't believe I just admitted that... if you don't know what Farmville is, do yourself a favor and do NOT google it. Much like my pre-Gossip Girl-addict days, I once scoffed at the idea that a silly virtual farming game could ever suck me in to its vortex. How wrong I was.

Anyway, my sammie was decidedly protein-free and so I needed beans. Or that was my pitiful attempt at justifying a big ol' glob of hummus, anyway.
Alongside carrot sticks and salsa from an Old El Paso quesadilla kit, plus a nice li'l ramekin of pineapple chunks & a medjool date. Nom.

Come evening, my dad and step-mum had decided they were going to get Chinese takeout. I was a little apprehensive at the idea of asking yet more questions... "is there fish stock in this?" so I opted to cook up something super simple for myself. Not wanting to miss out on the cuisine, I grabbed some brown basmati rice, red bell pepper, mushrooms, peas and nasi goreng seasoning sauce and whipped up some very non-authentic fried rice...
... and topped it with a delish Eatwell satay burger patty. And I LOVED it!  The neutral savory taste of the burger cut through the super-spicy goreng sauce perfectly! Who'da thunk it?

My palate still quite spiced-up and peppery, I knew there was only one thing I wanted for dessert. Are ya ready kids?
Banana soft serve in all its creamy, icy, sweet glory! I was actually craving sugary goodness more than usual, so I mixed a few Dandies into my nanner (which I know you probably can't see due to the ridiculous over-exposure of this shot. My camera needs to be replaced, stat!) Seriously, I know evvverryone and their mama posts about this stuff - but that should be an indication to all those who haven't tried it yet: FREEZE A BANANA AND BLEND IT ALREADY. Yumtastic.

So, tomorrow: another all-encompassing post! It'll be a pretty lazy day, I think - no eating out or the like. I may just order vegan pizza... but more about that later. I'm finding that much and all as I looove lazy holidays I'm getting a bit bored! What do you do to shake holiday boredom?

Look forward to hearing from everyone - and to another day of snapping pics of all my food!

- VS

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Calm before the storm...

That's kind of what today felt like! After two weeks of crazed assessment and stressful exams, I spent the entire day reading, writing and Gossip Girl watching (by the way, I'm so glad I'm not alone in my guilty pleasures, TV-wise at least - I seriously encourage you all to watch GG though! It didn't grab me at first either but on a friend's advice I persevered, and well... now... Hi, my name is Liz, and I'm a Gossip Girl-a-holic). I'm now up to Season Two and seriously wish I was an Upper East Sider :) 

Anyway, my day's reading did not consist of Harry Potter or even Twilight. No, I lazed around on the couch reading blogs and MY THREE NEW COOKBOOKS!

That's right, they've finally arrived - actually I use the word "finally" loosely since they're about half a month earlier than I expected. So now I'm the proud owner of Veganomicon, Vegan with a Vengeance, and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I am feelin' the Moskowitz/Romero love.

So, inspired by all the delicious-looking recipes I got cooking. First up I made Isa's plain ol' Pancakes recipe from VWAV for myself and mum. I tend to dodge the oil in recipes and cut it out where possible, but I wanted to taste the authentic VWAV pancake taste and fully planned to use it. However, out of sheer habit my brain switched to low-fat mode and I forgot to put it in! It didn't matter though, as you can see. These two (well, one and three quarters) pancakes are the sorry, sad final ones of the batch...
And I totally ate them. They were reeee-dic.

For lunch, I was feeling a little more lethargic and less inspired. I vaguely skimmed the Garlicky Kale with Tahini Dressing recipe in VWAV but couldn't be bothered to actually follow it. Instead I just sauteed a clove of garlic, added the kale and some water and whisked some tahini & balsamic vinegar together. We're running WAY low on produce and haven't stocked up since I'm off to Theatre Residency tomorrow and my mum and sister are jetting off to Japan. So my lunch choices were limited to say the least... but I scrounged up some mushrooms and red pepper and grilled them, then finished off the couscous and added some chickpeas to my kale/tahini dressing mix and put it in my fave bowl.
In the background, salt. I've been having a LOT of salt on my doctor's orders of late. Apparently my blood pressure has decided to be 85/60 and continue dropping. Boo. Sodium = hypertension instead of current hyPOtension. I have a check-up on Tuesday morn' part way through my theatre camp, at which time it will be determined if I need to go to hospital. Uh, no thanks. I hate hospitals. Pass the salt.

Speaking of which: what's the weirdest food-related piece of medical advice you've ever received, or heard of? Not that getting told to eat sodium to increase blood pressure is weird as a general thing, it's just that I never eat much salt at all anyway so it's a vaiiir big change. I'm guzzling down the H20.

I think my cooking enthusiasm continued to dwindle throughout the day because I chose a very lazy dinner recipe, albeit one that my family loves. Tempeh nuggets recipe hier!
Mmm, tempeh. So different from tofu, which I also love. I could never say which I love more.
I do tend to modify the recipe for these quite a bit, though. Because never once have we had ALL the required spices. Tonight's impro brought to you by thyme, coriander and cardamom. Served alongside boiled beetroot, stir-fry greens, and mashed avocado. And salt. I think the shaker trembles when it sees me coming. It knows I do not come in peace.

Anyway, tomorrow the storm begins! I pack for theatre camp, which involves packing up several of the lovely sweets I bought from the States a while back. I haven't sample the Dandies yet! 

It'll be, oh, about a week before I post again. Sorry! No internet access at theatre residency :( and when I do return, expect product reviews, LOTS of vegan eating out, plus Isa Chandra goodness! Not to mention crappy photos, since mum and sis are taking the "good" camera to Japan and I'm stuck with the crummy old one (that happens to be mine). Oh well, better than nuttin', right?

- VS

ps. Also tried Banana Soft Serve this week! It was incredible... but that's a story for another day ;)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Almond Joy

Operation Pecalmond didn't go so well today. I only had almonds and breakfast & lunch, before running out of creativity just in time for dinner and resorting to stir-fry vegetables and falafels (always a favourite). 

Nonetheless, I tried out a really nice almond-y bowl for breakfast from an old recipe booklet from La Mancha Health Retreat that my step-mum gave me when she learned I'd gone veg. She said she'd been there and it was really cool, apparently they only use pure, whole ingredients for each day's menu that they grow & harvest themselves, all organic. I'd had my eye on this "recipe" for a few days and was pretty much dying to try it out. My Pecalmond pursuits gave me the perfect excuse!
It was really fantastic - the almonds weren't raw like I usually have, but dry-roasted which gave a nice almost smoky kind of flavour, and the banana melted through and caramelized the entire thing. Note the quotation marks around the word recipe above - it's not all that hard to whip up just from looking at the picture. But here's what the booklet says:
Banana Almond Breakfast for one: 308 cals
1 serve cooked brown rice (I used basmati)
1 large banana, chopped
10 almonds

Melt the banana (either in the microwave or on the stovetop). Grind or process the almonds until they are in small pieces. Mix the banana & almonds through the rice and serve hot.

See what I mean? Not exactly rocket science.

Anyway, lunch was my usual massive Hugh Jass salad (too hugh jass for my little vegan bowl!) - consisting of shredded spinach, cukes, red bell pepper, celery, raw corn, steamed carrot & zucchini, sun dried tomato, roasted eggplant, chickpeas, almonds (yay!), goji berries, brown basmati rice (again, I was feelin' the rice today) and a little cilantro to garnish :)
The almonds are under there, somewhere...

But like I said, unfortunately Operation Pecalmond has effectively failed, since I didn't manage to finish either the almonds or the pecans. In fact, due to my Larabar snackage I haven't even finished the dried fruit salad or apricot bites! Ah well - at least I made a decent dint in everything, right?

And just so you all know - I did actually stick to my word and stop studying after midday today. It's been a bit tough - I kind of really want to pull out my books and cram before my exams tomorrow (English and French) - but I promised, and I keep my promises. I loved reading about all the wonderful things your teachers have done for you and how they've impacted you! You've all been very blessed to know such amazing mentors - much in the same way I'm blessed to have a principal who cares so much about me.

At least I got about five hours of revision in this morning! Phew, it was a lot to do all at once... but afterwards I got to laze around watching Gossip Girl (up to Season 2 now!), so all's well that ends well. Does anyone else watch Gossip Girl? If not, what's the trashiest guilty pleasure you've got - TV show or otherwise? I'll happily admit to being a newborn GG addict, but much like my Twilight habit, there's no way I'll ever try and convince anyone that it's a justified habit or anything more than completely insipid... but it's sooo fun to watch just the same ;)

I probably won't post for the next two days due to exams - but after that all I have to worry about is Math (eek!) and I'm sure I'll have SOMETHING interesting to share. Until then, lovelies!

xo xo (sorry, couldn't resist)
VS

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cookies and Carbonara

I really enjoyed reading about all the vegan products you'd love to try. There's so much variety out there these days, it's crazy!

Yes, I know. I suck at blogging like a MoFo. But hey, I've got exam block on right now, so at least I have a semi-legitimate excuse, right?

Actually, I've been under a lot of stress with these exams. In the long term (as my mother and principal keep reminding me) they don't count for anything, but I'm a perfectionist - so I tend to make stakes seem way higher than they actually are, in my head. With all my studying/worrying/Gossip Girl-ing (note to self: exam block is a BAD time to decide to finally give in to curiosity and peer pressure and watch trashy yet addictive tv shows) I've been neglecting my blog pretty badly. And to make matters worse, next week I'm going away - for two whole weeks - to theatre residency week (which is lots of fun, and this'll be the first time I go as a vegan so it'll be interesting to see what they dish up for me) and then to Sydney for a week (I promise to take a million billion photos and visit Funky Pies at least once). 

But I digress. Tonight (or today, or even yesterday, depending on your time zone) I want to share with you two wonderful discoveries of mine.

The first one is breakfast-related (is anyone surprised?) and I can't claim credit for the idea at all - I found it here on Fitnessista. Yes, the wonderful magical Breakfast Cookie.
I basically followed the Fitnessista's recipe guide, using Chocolate Nature's Way Soy Protein Powder and a few sultanas, plus a dash of stevia and vanilla essence, to flavour my lovely creation.

It was fantastic - although not really like a cookie, since I got lazy and just kept it in the bowl I made it in, rather than flattening it on a plate. O-veg sis also made one and enjoyed hers just as much. I ate mine with a healthy dollop of organic natural cashew butter and a few frozen raspberries on the side. Highly recommended, kids :)

And now to the big guns. So, in relation to my self-induced stress fits, my principal called me into his office and chatted with me about a bunch of things. Somewhere in our discussion, I mentioned that my favourite food was dried fruit - all kinds. Later that day he presented me with a bag full of dried fruit salad, apricot bites, pecans and almonds and told me not to do any work that night or after midday on Sunday and eat all of the food he'd given me - by Monday.

Yes, I'm aware that my principal rocks. I was, however, a little apprehensive - eating dried fruit salad and apricot bites in two days is child's play in my eyes, but all those nuts? How am I going to do this? I wondered. 

And my predicament is of such epic proportions that I'm going to give it a super official name:

Operation: Pecalmond.

Okay, not the most creative name... but whatever. Operation Pecalmond commenced this morning, with some French Toast that I actually did crust with chopped pecans - and instead of fresh fruit, I ate it along with some dried fruit salad (pears, apricots, apples, peaches).

My pecalmond pursuits continued at lunch time, with my usual Hugh Jass salad that consisted of baby spinach leaves, red bell pepper, raw corn kernels, cucumber, celery, dried cranberries, steamed zucchini & baby carrots, couscous, chickpeas and - pecans. Yup.

And I could have had a peca-licious afternoon snack but instead ate a Cocoa Mole Larabar. I liked the spiciness, but otherwise not my fave - definitely nothing wrong with it though.

The question of dinner was becoming imminent. I felt a little guilty at my pecan-lovin' antics whilst blatantly ignoring the lonely packet of almonds in my cupboard. A bit at a loss, I opened my fridge and met nose-to-carton with some SoyaToo Topping Cream. I stared at it. It stared at me. I looked down a few shelves and spotted an open packet of Sanitarium "Bacon" Rashers. I pushed aside the abundance of cos lettuce and silverbeet another shelf down and grabbed the brown bag of mushrooms. Then I ran to the cupboard and snatched some rice & corn spiral pasta and my pecans.

We were going to have pasta carbonara.

Now, I never really ate creamy pasta dishes all that often, in my pre-gan days. But carbonara was one that, although I'd eaten a total of two times, I loved. So by gum, I was going to veganise it. I wasn't too sure if the SoyaToo would work as a savoury cream, and my mum did deem it too sweet - so feel free to use whatever non-dairy cream substitute you like. Same deal with the "bacon". I usually don't like to use so many "fake" ingredients in a recipe but this was, in my humble opinion, way too good to keep to myself.
Pasta Carbonara - Serves 4: 425 cals per serve
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
90g button mushrooms, sliced
4 rashers Sanitarium "bacon"
150ml (half a box) SoyaToo Topping Cream
50g pecans, finely chopped
1 packet Orgran Rice & Corn Spiral Pasta (or any pasta packet that contains four servings)
1 tsp. coconut oil
Cilantro (coriander), as a garnish

1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil (about six or seven cups of water). Add the pasta, cover and allow to cook.
2. In the meantime, melt the coconut oil in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add the onion and cook until soft and translucent.
3. Add the "bacon" to the saucepan with the onion and cook for 90 seconds, stirring constantly.
4. Put the mushrooms in the saucepan with the "bacon" and onion. Continue stirring until the mushrooms are soft and browned.
5. Add the soy cream to your sauce mixture (if you've used SoyaToo it'll be kind of solid, so stir it through until it's all melted).
6. Once cooked, drain the pasta, empty the large saucepan of water and return the pasta to it.
7. Add the chopped pecans to the cream sauce, stir through, and remove from the heat. Pour the sauce onto the pasta, and stir gently through, taking care not to break the pasta shapes.
8. Serve garnished with cilantro if desired, which you should because it tastes amazing like that. 

Actually, it tastes amazing, period. At least I thought so - my mum loved it except for the sweetness of the SoyaToo, and my sis is not a mushroom fan and discovered she hates fake bacon. Oh well - win some, lose some. I highly encourage everybody to get in the kitchen and try this - tinker with it however you want, seriously! I think it's perfect as is, but let's see if we can rally together and create the PERFECT vegan carbonara!

Tomorrow: Operation Pecalmond recommences. This time, I'm going to try and incorporate almonds into every meal I eat... in different ways, just like how I never ate pecans the same way twice today. I'll definitely keep you all posted, since after midday I'm on a study/homework ban courtesy of my principal and can procrastinate sans guilt :)

But in the meantime, get cookin' those carbonaras, and tell me because I'm curious: What's the nicest thing your teacher/principal has ever done for you?

- VS

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

MoFo #2 - My goodies

Remember how it was my seventeenth birthday last month? Well, I acquired a veritable cash-stash from said festivity. I decided to blow it all on some overseas goodies, and cookbooks too (but the books don't arrive till next month).

I ordered a few things that could have gone melty and just plain YUCK whilst shipping, so I was on tenterhooks for about four days, wondering if my packages were lost, damaged or scared. Finally, box number the first arrived, containing this:
Above, the cutest darn thing you ever did see.
I now eat every meal out of this bowl. Well, except for school lunches, of course. But everrrything else goes in the Vegan Bowl. I love it - probably more than a person should love a bowl.

Anyway, the next day, box number the second turned up on my front porch. And this is what was in it:
Health Valley Amaranth Graham Crackers, Ricemellow Creme, Dandies, PB & Co. Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, Living Nutz Rawzins, Sweet & Sara Rocky Road Bark, Road's End Cheddar Chreese, Chik-Flavoured Minit Meat (for my seitan-worshipping sister's benefit), and LOTS of LARABARS :)
See them? They're mine. Alllll mine. Sometimes I open the cupboard and just look at them, and smile. There aren't that many of them left now, though. So far I've eaten...
Pecan Pie: This was very nice and moist and yum. I said to my mum, "I've never had pecan pie... but this is exactly what it tastes like. I just know."
Cashew Cookie: Now THIS was good. I literally felt like I was eating a cookie. Cookies are pretty golden in my book. It had big chunks of cashews in it, mmm.
Cherry Pie: I've read a lot of bloggers who like to bash the sh!t out of Cherry Pie. I don't get it. This is probably the best flavour in the whole entire world. No, it's not as sweet as a piece of candy... quit being a five year old and eat your freakin' Larabar. Tartness = goodness. And I just found out The Cruelty Free Shop stock this flavour now, along with Cinnamon Roll and Key Lime Pie (which are also both awesome)! Guess who put in a bulk order...
Jocalat Chocolate: Well, the label said chocolate and it delivered what it promised. I felt like I was eating junkfood, not always a good thing when you've got a not-so-healthy outlook on food/eating/your body, a la moi, though I'm trying to rectify this. But it was tasty, definitely.
Ginger Snap: Literally just finished eating this. Super flavourful and spicyyy, in a very good good way. So far I've yet to meet a Larabar I didn't like.

Anyway, I'd been living in vegan snackfood HEAVEN for a few days, basking in the glory of graham crackers which I've now become addicted to but I've never seen sold anywhere in AUS. I thought my vappiness (read: vegan-happiness, but it sounds icky, doesn't it?) had reached an untoppable peak. How WRONG I was. There I was at Mrs. Flannery's, doing my thang on Super Saver Saturday, when I happened to glance towards the freezer and saw...
Vegasm. Holymotherofcow. I've only tried the Mint Choc Chip Flavour so far, but dayyummm Africa it was so good.

Okay. That's enough of my consumeristic bragging, now. There's a food post in the works for later today, I promise, so keep your eyes peeled!

What's the best vegan packaged product you've ever tried? Or if you're in Australia, what's one that you've always heard about and are DYING to try?

- VS

Friday, September 4, 2009

OzMoFo Begins!


So if you haven't heard yet, the Aussie (and New Zealander!) vegan food bloggers of the world have decided we need a MoFo (Month of Food, in case you thought I was being rude) like nowwww, to account for the fact that come October it's stinkin' hot here and we miss out on making fun winter-like recipes and have to suffer through the stifling humidity while we watch our US and UK counterparts cook up & post delicious winter yums.

In light of this, September's been declared OzMoFo, so in spite of the fact that I have exams for the next two weeks I resolved to get cooking, and not just oatmeal either.

The other night, I was craving tofu. My sister (who along with my mum recently celebrated her third week of vegetarianism!) doesn't like tofu - unless it's in a cheezecake or has been pressed & marinated within an inch of its life. Personally, I'm content with eating cold, waterlogged tofu - pretty much straight from the pack. Is that weird? Probably. In any case, given my sister's 'fu reservations we hadn't had any in a while, and I was biding my time until the rest of the fam decided they wanted an egg or cheese-based meal so I could branch out and cook for me onesies. My wishes were granted just in time for OzMoFo!
I made Cajun Blackened Tofu with Mango & Ginger Salsa from World Food Cafe 2, a vegetarian cookbook (with mostly vegan recipes). I hadn't experienced dinner-food-euphoria in a while, being more of a breakfast girl, but man oh MAN. This was soooo good.
Since I changed it around a bit, I'll post up my version of the recipe - I used more spices than the book said to, and make a few other lil' adjustments. Also because you just need to try it for yourself ASAP.

Cajun Blackened Tofu with Mango & Ginger Salsa (VeganSixteen-style, for one)
100g extra-firm tofu
8 cloves
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp. paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt
Olive oil, for brushing tofu

1. Toast the first four spices in a frying pan until aromatic, then remove them from the heat and stir in with the rest of the spices in a bowl.
2. Cut your tofu into whatever you want (I used slices but cubes would work fine). Brush lightly with the olive oil and coat with the spice mix - it's a little challenging to do this but try and get as much of the spice mix as possible onto your tofu. You won't regret it :)
3. Preheat griddle until it's really hot, then place your coated tofu in the pan and cook until the spices blacken, then turn it over & cook the other side. While it's cooking you can make the salsa...

Mango & Ginger Salsa
1 cheek mango, diced
1 inch ginger, grated
4 mint leaves, finely chopped
Lime juice, to taste

1. Combine alles ingredients. Don't be stingy with the lime juice, it makes it so so good. Once your tofu's done, put it on your plate and top with the salsa. Serve with the rest of the lime half, or wedge, that you used to squeeze the juice from. Enjoy!

I highly recommend this to anyone who likes tropical flavours. I'm kinda sorta falling in love with them at the moment and am adding mango to just about everrrrything.

After eating this I went to bed with a very happy tummy and awoke to a very curious morning. It was too cold to have what I'd planned (cold cereal with homemade soygurt and berries), but too warm to have oatmeal. I spent about an hour procrastinating over breakfast, wondering what on earth to have. Then it hit me, and I whipped out my copy of Skinny Bitch in the Kitch. Now, I bought this cookbook because I enjoyed its original counterpart so much. However, many of the recipes in it are too rich-looking for me, and rely WAY too heavily on processed ingredients like fake meats and cheeses. But their recipe for French Toast was another story.

I'd attempted vegan french toast before, with disastrous results. I'd attempted a mixture of ricemilk, vanilla essence, salt and Orgran No-Egg (pretty much the Australian answer to Ener-G)... and gotten some very soggy results. It tasted nice, but it was ooogleh. I was hoping Skinny Bitch was here to save the day.
And man was she ever. The bread kept its firmness instead of going all gooey and gross, and the texture was perfect - crispy on the outside, fluffy-doughy on the inside, and sweet & cinnamon-y all the way through.
I didn't use the pecan crusting that the book suggested, but other than that I followed the recipe to a T. I made it just for myself, and then topped it with fresh fruit & a little more cinnamon and called it love.

French Toast for One
2 slices whole meal/whole wheat bread
125ml soy milk
2 T. chickpea (besan) flour
1 T. corn meal (polenta)
1 tsp. cinnamon (adjust to suit your own taste)
Dash of salt (tiny tiny amount!)

1. Whisk the corn meal, soy milk & chickpea flour together in a medium bowl. Add the cinnamon and salt n' whisk away until everything's well combined.
2. One at a time, dunk both sides of your bread into the mixture, absorbing all of it into the slices.
3. Preheat your griddle and when it's hot, add the slices of bread. Watch these carefully as they could burn verrry easily. Cook until golden-brown, turning once. 
4. Remove from heat, scoop em onto a plate, top with whatever your heart desires and EAT!

After having that for breakfast I can honestly say it gave oatmeal a run for its money. Nothing, of course, can quite top the mighty oats for me though - sorry French Toast!

I was really surprised at how well that turned out for me, though, after my previous disaster.What's the worst recipe-failure you've cooked up?

Well, I think that's all for now - stay tuned for a post concerning vegan kitchenware and most importantly, air-mailed junk food!

Ciao :)
- VS (VeganSixteen)