Monday, November 5, 2012

The Vegan Apprentice is Pregnant!

As I sit here typing I can feel my unborn son wriggling and kicking.  It is an amazing feeling.  I am 27 weeks pregnant.  Just 13 weeks to go.  Does that at least partly excuse my absence from the blog world recently?  I thought that I would post about the my exciting news months ago but somehow the last few months have just flown by.

I don't usually post photos of myself but as this post is a special one I thought I could make an exception.  This is me at 27 weeks pregnant at my cousin's wedding on the weekend.  I am feeling good, healthy and excited and about becoming a mother.

Vegan and pregnancy go together very well I am finding.  Lots (actually most) of the foods on the banned-due-to-listeria-risk list are non-vegan and I really have not changed my diet much at all.  Well, except I ate much less in weeks 7-14 and a little bit more since then. 

So what changes have I made?  I am taking iron and vitamin D supplements more regularly.  I stopped taking Udo's oil in first trimester (flaxseed has a small association with increased rate of miscarriage).  I started taking it again in second trimester to make sure I am getting that bit extra omega.  I changed from regular Udo's Oil 3:6:9 to the one with the microalgae DHA added.  I have only been taking this about twice a week because unfortunately I have had yucky reflux and although I don't mind the taste of the Udo's oil on the way down I don't like it one bit when it tries to come back up. (TMI?)

I must confess I have not been 100% vegan during the pregnancy.  I have still eaten Vegetarian when out, particularly in situations where there is no Vegan option.  And I have had a few things with a little dairy in them at home on a couple of occasions.  But I would say I have been 99% vegan and I am not going to feel guilty about the 1%.  I think that for me this journey to veganism is about being kind to the planet, animals and myself, doing my best and not sweating the small stuff.  I think that right taking care of myself and the baby is more important than being a fundamentalist of any stripe.

Some catch up posts on what I have been cooking and some vegan pregnancy book reviews to come.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Vegan Fajitas with Mushrooms and Roasted Sweet Potato

A little Mexican spice is a great way to brighten up a Monday evening!  Last night for dinner we had delicious Vegan Fajitas, or Burritos, or whatever you like to call them.

Here is what we put in them, first in pictures and then the recipe follows.

Mushrooms in Mexican Spice Mix and Roasted Sweet Potato Strips.
A smudge of Tomato Salsa and creamy Avocado.

Baby Spinach leaves and Rocket, topped with the mushrooms and sweet potato.
Rolled and ready to eat (I had two of these and dear husband had 3).


Spice Mix:
1 teaspoon each of:
- Ground Chilli
- Smoked Paprika
- Salt (or powdered vegetable stock)
- Cornflour
- Castor Sugar
½ teaspoon each of:
- Ground Cumin
- Cayenne Pepper

Olive oil for cooking
1 large (or 2 small) sweet potatoes (That is Kumera for the Kiwis).
 4 large field mushrooms
1 small onion, sliced.
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Salad greens (baby spinach leaves and rocket works really well)
1 small avocado - mashed
Salsa (I used salsa from a jar last night to save time but if you are not as lazy as me you could make your own).
4-6 Tortillas (Wraps)

1. Preheat oven to 180oC.
2. Cut sweet potato into halves or thirds, and then into wedges.  Place in baking tray.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and toss.  Bake for 45+ minutes depending on how caramalized you like your roast veggies.
3. Combine all the spice mix ingredients in a plastic bag (eg freezer bag) and toss.  You can use more or less chilli and cayenne pepper depending on how hot you like your Mexican food.
4. Slice mushrooms into strips (not too thin).  Put in the bag with the spice mix and toss gently until all the strips are well coated.
5. When your sweet potatoes are nearly done, saute the onions in a little olive oil.  Add mushrooms and garlic and fry over a medium heat until the mushrooms are well done.
6.  Assemble the fajitas as show in the photos above and enjoy!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chickpea Piccata

This dish is soooo good.  Thank you once again dear Isa.  One of my favorite comfort foods (creamy mashed potato) all fancied up and tasting devine.  My taste buds are very happy right now.  And it is very simple and quick to prepare.  This is definitely going on regular rotation in our house.

You can find the recipe here on the Post Punk Kitchen web site: Chickpea Picatta.
(As per Isa's spelling of Picatta).

I served this with lots of rocket (the recipe called for arugula which I had never heard of but a quick google revealed that it is rocket.)  I made a half serve of Thermomix mashed potato - so creamy!  That's 500gm of potatoes.  I used Vitasoy Calciplus milk and plenty of Nutelex for the potato. 

Dear husband was a bit dubious about the flavor of the capers diffusing through the whole dish so I left them out and then used them to garnish.  This worked really well.  I sprinkled a little of the brine from the capers over mine along with a drizzle of truffle oil.  Heaven!

According to the recipe this should serve 4 but actually dear husband and I managed to polish it off for one meal.  This amount would make a great entree for 4 people, but I can't see it stretching to 4 adult sized mains.  I can't wait to make this next time we have an omnivore over for dinner. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Adventures with a Thermomix

My cheap little food processor died earlier this year.  After a lot of internet research I became a Thermomix convert and bought the most expensive kitchen gadget I have ever bought (by a long shot).  It really did feel a bit like joining a cult.  But I am not going to get all evangelistic on you and tell you it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I mean I do love having a Thermomix and I have been using it almost every day.  But I am not ready to tell you that it is worth the $2000 (AUD) price tag. Ask me in 2 or 3 years.  If it is still going strong and I am still using it most days of the week then I might be ready to become an advocate of this expensive gadget.

So what have I made in it so far.  I have tried a few recipes out of the book that comes with it and I have made a few recipes that I have found on blogs on forums.  And of course I have done a lot of experimenting - because I love experimenting with food.

I have been pretty lazy with taking photos so I don't have a lot to share with you.  And as for my experiments - some I am still perfecting, and some I just didn't even bother to keep notes on the ingredients.

Here is a few examples of food from my Thermomix.

Red Lentil Curry from Thermomix "Everyday Cooking for the Family" book.
Served with veggies rather than rice (I kind of think of rice as empty calories).
This is a delicious dish and I have made it a few times already.  The only change I have made is to double the cummin and mustard seeds and I did not mill them.  Suger has kindly typed out the recipe for the "Red Lentil and Tomato Dahl" which appears in the Thermomix Vegetarian recipe book.  It is almost identical to the Red Lentil Curry in the original and you can find it here.

After it finishes cooking it pays to let it rest for 15 minutes before serving as the flavours really come together better.  The recipe makes a lot of dahl and so we had plenty left for the next day when it was even more delicious!

A few examples of the sweet vegan balls I have been making.

And a close up of the Hot Cocoa Fudge Babies from Chocolate Covered Katie

Tex Mex mix made in the Thermomix, and the creamiest whipped Avocado.
Chia seeds milled in the TMx, added to Soy Linseed Bread made in Bread Maker.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism" by Dr. Melanie Joy

I just listened to this amazing talk on YouTube: "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism." by Dr Melanie Joy. It is a little longer than the usual YouTube clip (it's a whole hour) but it is well worth taking the time to watch. 
It is so good I found myself furiously taking notes.  Then I thought "Why don't I just buy myself a copy of Joy's book?" and save myself the trouble of trying to get it all down.

I highly recommend that you make some time to watch this fantastic lecture.

It left me feeling glad that I have already made a big move towards being vegan and fueled my determination to reach my 100% vegan goal.  I particularly related to Joy's description of the denial that it takes to continue consuming animal products. 

A few weeks ago I was chatting with some friends over dinner (most of who are vegetarian/vegan) about our reasons for making the change in our approach to eating.  My initial state reason for becoming a vegetarian was for environmental reasons.  However, once I had made that decision I paid more attention to the animal welfare issues.  I can see that previously I was suppressing any awareness of the animal welfare issues because I did not want to be confronted with the violence inherent in my diet.  Once teh switch was made the flood gates opened and could see very clearly the horrendous implications of meat eating. 

So why did it take me so long to take that first step towards veganism?  Again - more denial and suppression of any thoughts contrary to my desire to consume dairy and eggs.   It has been very interesting to see this veil lifted. 

And now I am wondering what other areas of my life have I built a wall of blindness around?  Peter Singer's "The Life You Can Save" is still sitting unread on my shelf.  The last time I read a book by him was "The Ethics of What We Eat" and that sure had a life changing impact.  I think it is time to quit stalling and read the next book and perhaps embark on the next chapter of my life.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Living Graves by George Bernard Shaw

Living Graves
- By George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

We are the living graves of murdered beasts,
Slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.
We never pause to wonder at our feasts,
If animals, like men, can possibly have rights.
We pray on Sundays that we may have light,
To guide our footsteps on the path we tread.
We're sick of war, we do not want to fight -
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread,
And yet - we gorge ourselves upon the dead.
Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat,
Regardless of the suffering and the pain
we cause by doing so, if thus we treat
defenceless animals for sport or gain,
how can we hope in this world to attain,
the PEACE we say we are so anxious for.
We pray for it o'er hecatombs of slain,
to God, while outraging the moral law,
thus cruelty begets its offspring - WAR. 

I don't think I need to add anything further to this post.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy First Anniversary

Has it really been a year already?
Actually it has been just over a year.  The anniversary on the 19th of April slipped by without me even realizing.  But I am still going to mark the occasion - complete with reminiscing, goal setting and celebrating!

Some highlights of the year:
(Not in any particular order)

1. Vegan MoFo Iron Chef Callenge - I loved creating new recipes and seeing how other vegan bloggers responded each week to the challenge.  The Bounty Slice I made was a big hit and so delicious.  I may never have made it without the Iron Chef Challenge to inspire me.

2. Finding out how easily my taste buds can adjust.  They went from saying "Yuck!" to soy milk in tea to now loving it and being disappointed if I ever drink tea with regular milk when visiting a friend's home.  I am now going to train my taste buds to like black tea so that if I am visiting and the host does not have a non-dairy milk available then I will just smile and take my tea black.

3. Finding that there are so many "accidentally" vegan products on supermarket shelves, including Oreos, Hob Nobs, Lindt 70% Dark Chocolate and many flavours of Corn Chips, Rice Crackers and Potato Chips.  This week I also discovered that Glucojel Jelly Beans (sold in Phamacies here in Australia) are vegan.  I don't recommend eating Jelly Beans on a regular basis but if you have a lolly craving these may just hit the spot.

4. Getting to know other bloggers - both vegans and the not-so-vegan.  I have loved connecting with people and sharing ideas.  I have received so much inspiration from reading about how other people confront the challenges in their lives and how they respond to their convictions - whether it is to live more sustainably, frugally or authentically.  And of course I have loved the recipes! 

5. Sharing vegan cooking.  I especially love baking something yummy and not telling people that it is vegan until after they are hooked.  Vegan "sausage" rolls and vegan chocolate cupcakes with swirling chocolate icing have been big hits with omnivorous friends, family and co-workers.

So, one year on, am I a Vegan, or still a Vegan Apprentice?  Unfortunately I have to say that I am still just an apprentice.  I am not quite ready to graduate and accept my Vegan badge of honor.  But I am ready to take the next step.

*** Drum roll ***

I commit to being 100% Vegan at home!  I have been 99% vegan at home for a while now, but have balked at finally filling in that dotted line.  Now I think it is time to do so!

Phew, that wasn't so hard was it?
(I am sure there are many people who would think "What's so hard about it.  Why hasn't she already made this commitment?".  I guess they won't be lining up to join my cheer squad.)

Vegan when out and about?  Well that is another story.  I am not quite ready to accept the restrictions and social implications of going 100% vegan 100% of the time.  Please don't hate me Vegan community - I am sure I will get there eventually.  And every step towards Veganism is a step in the right direction, right?

My way of tackling Veganism is to see it as something I am learning, just like an apprenticeship in any other area.  I know my approach is not perfect, and I am not perfect.  In someways I guess I am just another person who does not live up to their ethical convictions.  But I hope that my approach can help others who want to make the change but are not yet ready to dive in.  One step at a time, one challenge at a time, and refusing to feel guilty for trying.

Now, on to the celebrations!  Celebrating?  Yes celebrating.  An no self-respecting celebration would be seen without some kind of special celebratory food, right? 

I have been thinking about what to make for my 1st Vegan Apprentice Anniversary for the last couple of days.  I was thinking it would have to be something chocolatey but now I am leaning towards trying to make my first vegan cheesecake. Cheesecake has always been a favorite of mine but vegan + cheesecake, apart from the obvious misnomer, just don't seem to go together naturally.  But if I am going to stick with this 100% vegan at home I am going to need a good vegan cheesecake recipe to indulge myself from time to time.

So, go ahead and inundate me with your vegan cheesecake recipes!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Choc Chips.

I had some left over mashed some pumpkin after making the Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf from the Post Punk Kitchen website (it was delicious by the way but I forgot to photograph it).

So the next day I decided to try these Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies (also from the Post Punk Kitchen).  I made a half batch (as I only had half a cup of mashed pumpkin) but it still made heaps of cookies.  I think you would only want to make a full batch if you planned on sharing them.  As this batch was eaten entirely by Dear Husband and myself, half the amount was definitely enough!

The only changes I made to the recipe were to leave out the flax seeds (I didn't have any), substitute the walnuts for choc chips and to add 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger.  The result was quite yummy but my cookies turned out quite soft and cakey. Like a cross between a cookie and a scone - but quite delicious.  I think they would be great with the walnuts too but I was more in the mood for chocolate than walnuts at the time.  I plan to try them with the flax seeds next time.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sun Dried Tomato and White Bean Dip

I love dip.  I love eating it with crunchy raw veggies and experiencing the different combinations of flavor and texture.  There are lots of vegan versions of Sun Dried Tomato dip around.  I have tried a few and below is my take on it - adjusted to suit my taste buds.  This recipe can be easily adjusted to suit your taste buds and mood.  You can add olives, fresh herbs, leave out the vinegar - whatever!

1 clove crushed garlic
1 cup cooked Cannelloni Beans (rinse and drain if from a tin)
1 cup Sun Dried Tomatoes, drain off most of the oil (although I wish I had not drained quite so much)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt or powdered vegetable stock
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1. Combine all the ingredients except the pine nuts in a food processor and process until very smooth.  Adjust salt/sugar/vinegar to taste. 
2. Add most of the pine nuts and process for about 5-10 seconds so they are combined and a little chopped but not too smooth.
3. Transfer to the bowl you plan to serve the dip in.  Garnish with the remaining pine nuts.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
4. Serve with a variety of vegetable crudites.  Is also very nice spread on fresh or toasted bread and in sandwiches.

When I finished making this dip yesterday I thought it had the perfect texture.  But after refrigerating for a couple of hours it was a little to thick for my liking.  Next time I will add a little extra oil from the Sun Dried Tomatoes to keep it more "dip-able", but you could add a little water instead if you wanted to avoid the extra oil.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What have I been up to?

I set a challenge for myself this year to try one new vegan recipe per week.  I have been trying a few new recipes but not really keeping up with the one a week, and I certainly haven't kept up with blogging the recipes I have tried.

The recipe-per-week challenge stagnated a bit when dear husband decided he wanted to lose some weight.  I decided to go along for the ride and over the last 7 weeks I have finally lost that 5kg I have been wanting to lose for a long time! It really wasn't that hard which makes me wonder why I didn't do it years ago. Though I guess the thing that made it easier this time was doing it with dear husband as our pooled motivation seemed to have a more than additive effect and was enough to keep us both going strong. 

So for the last 7 weeks we kept to a very healthy and fairly low calorie diet.  Typically it went some thing like this:
Breakfast: 3 Wheat Bix with low fat soy milk, or two wheat bix and half a banana
Lunch: Hummus and mounds of raw veggie
Afternoon snack: A handful of nuts eg almonds, brazil nuts, cashews
Dinner: Stir fry with tofu/tempeh, or a mountainous salad with 2 veggie sausages, or a big bowl of legume+veggie soup
Supper: Mini fruit platters (yes I know that all the conventional weight loss wisdom says not to eat carbs like this late at night but that is when my sweet tooth attacks and demands to be fed)
Extras during the day if hungry: low fat soy milk, or more nuts, or fruit
Exercise most days: alternating cycling, light weights, jogging, and what we call "body resistance" which includes things like sit-ups and squats
Not much experimenting with new recipes other than hummus and a few variations on the soup, so I haven't had much of interest to blog about by the way of new recipes.

I just happened to be reading Skinny Bitch around the middle of this 7 weeks.  It was recommended to me by fostermummy in a comment on a previous blog post.  I found it an interesting read (review to come on Mandy Reading Room).  As much as I am very happy to promote a vegan diet as a fantastic tool in a healthy lifestyle, I am not sure that promoting it as a weight loss tool is really a good idea.  It is very important on any low calorie diet to make sure that all your nutritional bases are covered.  I am concerned that if people switched to a vegan diet primarily for the purpose of losing weight they may not meet all their nutritional requirements.  This may result in them feeling lethargic, losing muscle mass as well as fat, and at the extremes may even result in anaemia or other health problems. 

Unfortunately people who suffer side effects of a "bad" vegan diet sometimes become one of those people who proclaim that "vegan diet are no good for you".   I wish that all the omnivores who suffer side effects of their "bad" meat eating diet would go around proclaiming that eating meat is bad for you - but perhaps the noise of this would be enough to cause tectonic plates to move so maybe I better not wish for that.

Also, it is blatantly obvious that switching to a vegan diet certainly does not guarantee that you will lose weight.  I am sure I am not the first person who actually gained a little weight in the excitement of trying lots of lovely new vegan recipes like Bounty Slice, Ginger Kisses and Midnight Cookies.

That's not to say that cutting out meat and eggs and dairy can't help you lose weight.  It can.  I just feel uneasy about a vegan diet being promoted as the means to the ends of losing weight.  But I guess that if the result is more people switching to a diet that is better for our planet and results in less animal abuse - surely that is a good thing.

I think I need to think about this a bit more!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vegan protein? No problem!

The most common myth about veganism seems to be that vegan diets don't contain enough protein.  Fortunately this is not the case.  It is actually very easy to eat enough protein while completely avoiding animal products.

Here is a nice simple article for beginners.  You mind find it useful to share with concerned friends and family who question your decision to move towards a vegan diet, or those naysayers who think you have gone mad: 25 Vegan Sources For Protein

For a much more detailed resource regarding protein in a vegan diet check out one of my favourite vegan nutrition websites: - Protein

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Loving Fresh Lemons

My neighbour has a lemon tree.  Which means I have plenty of fresh lemons!

A lovely big lemon tree behind our garden shed. 
I keep a close eye out for Redback Spiders while I am collecting lemons!

There were 3 perfect lemons on the ground and 2 ripe ones on the tree just within reach.

Today's collection - perfect for making hummus and iced lemon tea.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Raspberry Truffle Brownies

Dear husband and I have been on a bit of a health kick and so I have been trying out healthy new vegan recipes.  Last week we had a friend come over for dinner.  Perfect opportunity to try out the new brownie recipe on the PPK web site?  Hell yeah!

These brownies are squidgey, moist and very delicious.  Want to try them out for yourself?  Here is the recipe on the PPK site: Raspberry Truffle Brownies.  Well done Isa!  You have made me very happy.

I took most of the batch in to work the next day to avoid dear husband and I totally ruining all our good work losing weight recently.  They didn't last long in the staff room.  I'll take that as a sign that they were appreciated.

The recipe suggests a cooking time of 16-18 minutes.  As I lurve fudgy brownies I took them out of the oven at 16 minutes.  They did look like they could have used a couple of minutes longer.  However, as per Isa's advice, a few hours chilling in the fridge and they were fabulous.  But if you don't want to risk the raspberries making your brownies seem a little "wet" you might want to cook them for the full 18 minutes.

Unfortunately there was a layer of gooey goodness left on the baking paper which I absolutely could not waste.  Am I the only one who scrapes the left overs off the lining?

Now all I need is another excuse to make them!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Moroccan Quinoa Salad

It seems like such a long time ago that I made this dish.  I had a big assignment due and so that has taken precidence over blogging for the last few weeks.  Although the assignment was handed in 4 days ago and I am only just now sitting down to post this recipe.  Mmmm, maybe "to busy with study" was just a lame excuse!

For my 3rd new vegan recipe for 2012 I tried decided it was time to try out Quinoa.  I still think of this as Quin-oh-ah in my head before translating to Keen-wah to say out loud.  I browsed recipe sites and books and found lots of delicious sounding recipes before I settled on Moroccan Quinoa Salad. 

So colorful
I wanted to find a summery salad to have for a lovely lunch when my mum came to visit.  You can find the recipe over here at the 20 Minute Supper Club.  It is not a vegan recipe site so be warned.  But there are lots of vegan recipes.  Click on "Special Diets" and you will find that Vegan is a category.  Which just goes to prove how special us vegans are.

I was not able to source the black beans in time so I used kidney beans instead.  I will hunt down black beans and try it again soon as I am sure it will be delicious with black beans.

I served it with a garden salad.  And we had hummus with veggie crudites on the side.  Mum brought over a delicious home made herb scone which went perfectly with the meal.  A lot of food for just 3 people - dear husband, mum and I!  So there was plenty left over for the next few days.

A delicious, satisfying, healthy, summer lunch.

Quinoa is a great addition to a vegan diet.  This was my first attempt and admittedly it came out just a touch gluggy - though that didn't spoil our enjoyment of it. In its natural state Quinoa has a coating of saponins that have to be rinsed off - they are unpalatable and can be an irritant.  However if you buy a box of quinoa it is likely to already have been rinsed. 

I have already made this salad again with a few changes and transformed it into a "Mediterranean Quinoa Salad".  I did a much better job with the quinoa the second time around - a bit less rinsing (I am sure the box of organic quinoa I used was already rinsed), bit less water, a little longer cooking at a lower temperature.  It came out fantastically fluffy!  I left out the cummin, reduced the oil and added balsamic.  I left out the mint and coriander and instead added fresh basil.  I used borlotti beans and added a few extra olives.  Yum!  I think the possibilities are endless - you could use the Moroccan Quinoa Salad as a starting point and make all sorts of substitutions and additions.

In Veganomicon it says that eating Quinoa regularly will have you elevated to a level 7 vegan in no time!  Well, I am not quite sure what a level 7 vegan is but I instantly thought of this classic Simpsons moment:

Not a great quality clip - the only Simpsons clips that seem to be allowed to stay on Youtube are ones that people have videoed of their TV playing the Simpson.  What's with that??  How does that promote the Simpsons brand?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chipotle Chilli with Sweet Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts

The great thing about this "new vegan recipe every week" challenge is that it is leading to me try new ingredients and flavor combinations.  This week I had the pleasure of meeting chipotle for the first time. 

This weeks recipe was suggested by my partner in this weekly-new-vegan-recipe venture: Chipotle Chilli with Sweet Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts.  The recipe is on the Post Punk Kitchen web site.  So I can share it with you without having to type out the recipe which, for a lazy blogger like me, made it an even more attractive choice.

No need to feel like the only ignorant one in the room if you don't know what chipotles are.  I had no idea either and so I went ahead and googled/wiki-ed them before reading the recipe.  And then when I returned to the recipe page on the PPK there was all the info I needed.  Apparently they are "this decade’s sundried tomato" and apparently I have been living under a rock.  :)

A chipotle is a smoked jalapeno.  A jalapeno is a medium sized chilli pepper.  A chilli pepper is a..... No wait, you know what that is right?  Dear husband and I really enjoyed the smokey flavor and aroma.

I only made two teensy changes to the recipe.  I used two tins of beans (instead of one) and, as usual, I reduced the salt to suit my un-Americanised taste buds.   Here is a snap of how it turned out.

This is the first time I have been brave enough to follow a recipe that calls for brussel sprouts.  As a kid brussel sprouts were the most poisonous food on earth (closely followed by liquorice and liver - shudder) and were used in childhood oaths between my sibblings and I, eg, "Honest, really, if I am lying I will eat a whole truck load of brussel sprouts and liver!"  I never thought I would grow up to be one of those adults who actually eats brussel sprouts by choice. 

I found chipotles at my local shopping village at Passione Gormet Deli.  They had dried chipotle and chipotle in tins in adobo sauce.  They also had lots of other cool stuff including the creamiest, most yummiest, most delicious ever hummus.  (Note to self - it is high time you started making your own hummus).  The owner (at least I think he as the owner) was very helpful.  I asked if he stocked any vegan cheese or chocolate.  Apparently he did stock it at first but there wasn't enough demand.  I will have to see what I can do about that!

Pinto beans were a little trickier.  For the second time this year I found myself standing in the shop using my iphone to google "x beans are also known as".  I used borlotti beans which seemed to be the closest thing to pinto beans available at my local IGA.  I need to find a shop near my house that sells a wider range of beans.  I went on a wild goose chase today looking for black beans - but more about that in my next blog post.

Anyone have a fantastic hummus recipe they want to share?  I have been looking at lots this week and can't decide which one to try so I would love a recommendation.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits

For my first new vegan recipe for the year I had a flick through Veganomicon by the Post Punk Kitchen crew.  It is such a great book filled with so many delicious sounding recipes that it was hard to chose.  I have book marked lots more recipes for future vegan cooking adventures.

I chose Leek and Bean Cassoulet with Biscuits.  Probably because the name caught my eye.  Cassoulet with biscuits!  ~ Insert giggle ~ Because "biscuits" are sweet cookies in Australia, and who has ever heard of a Cassoulet?  Well, probably you have, but it was a new word to me.  According to Wikipedia (that perfectly reliable and thorough information source) a Cassoulet is a slow cooked bean stew from the South of France containing white haricot beans.

So I guess we can just say I cooked a Bean Stew with Dumplings.

Verdict: satisfying, homely and nutritious.  Not exactly a "knock your socks off" kind of dish but a good base recipe that you could easily modify by changing the veggies/legumes/seasonings to suit your taste buds.  It would also be a great recipe to use up any veggies getting close to their "best before: date that you can find lurking in the bottom of most peoples fridges and veggie boxes.

I was hoping that the recipe would be on the Post Punk Kitchen website so I could just link you to it but no such luck.  However this recipe on the site for Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings is kinda similar. 

I stuck to the recipe pretty closely as it is the first time I have made a Cassoulet with Biscuits (giggle again - yes I am that childish).  The only changes I made were to leave out the salt, add a few extra peas and carrots, and just before putting it in the oven I added another can of beans as it seemed a little light on for beans.  I had only bought one tin of white beans so the second tin were kidney beans - which added a little colour so I was pretty happy with the outcome.

The dumplings are very similar to the damper I sometimes make when we have soup.  You can find the recipe here.  I love adding herbs to my damper and I think that adding a little chopped fresh herbs to these dumplings would be great too.

Dear husband and I drizzled some truffle oil on top of our stew.  Mm mm mmmmmm!  Thanks mum for buying it for us!

Below is the recipe for this stew and dumplings with my additions.  It might look a little long but it is really pretty simple to make..  I will definitely be making this recipe again and tweaking it each time.  I think it can be used as a very versatile base from which you can let your creative energies be guided by the whims of your taste buds.

Stew Ingredients
2 potatoes, cut into small pieces, boiled until not quite soft and drained.
3 cups veggie stock
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons oil
2 leeks, thinly sliced (~ 2 cups)
1 small onion, medium diced
2 cups diced carrots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon copped fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas
2 cans beans, drained and rinsed (I used white beans and kidney beans, but I think butter beans would be really nice too)

Dumpling Ingredients
¾ cup soy milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1½ cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup vegan margarine or shortening

1. Preheat the oven to 220oC (425oF).
2. If you have not already boiled you potatoes do so now.
3. Combine the milk and apple cider vinegar and set aside.
4. Mix the cornstarch into the stock and set aside.
5. If you have an oven proof skillet - use it.  If not use your soup pan.  Saute the leeks, onion and carrots in the oil over a medium heat until soft and just beginning to brown - about 10 minutes.
6. Add the garlic, thyme and pepper and cook for 1 more minute.
7. Add the potatoes, peas and stock mixture.
8. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat and leave gently simmering while you make the dumplings.
9. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
10. Cut the margarine into the flour and then mix with your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs.
11. Add the soy milk and mix with a fork until it is just combined.
12. Gently knee the dough about 10 times with floured hands - just do it in the bowl, no need to mess up your kitchen bench any more than you already have.
13. Add the beans to the stew. If you have not used a skillet it is time to transfer your stew to an oven proof casserole dish.
14. Break off chunks of the dumpling mix and form roughly into golf sized balls.  Drop on top of the stew about an inch apart.
15. Bake for 15 minutes until just slightly browned.
16. Use a large serving spoon to ladle into bowls taking care to have the dumpling on top.

Before and after baking.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Very Vegetarian Christmas.

It has been over 2 months since my last confession blog.  I am feeling like a very sheepish vegan apprentice.   The time pressures of study, moving house, and all those other tasks that life throws at you gave me an excuse to turn to convenience and take away food - which was all to often non-vegan.  And the festivities of dear husband's birthday, Christmas and New Years gave me a sense of licentiousness that has seen me eating vegetarian treats a plenty.

Becoming a vegetarian was easy.  I decided.  I changed my eating habits.  I have never looked back.  I have never even felt like looking back.

Becoming a vegan has been harder.  It has been a much bigger challenge for me.  But that doesn't mean that I am giving up.  No sir.  Not me.  Excuses and festive licence are now behind me and this Vegan Apprentice is back in training.  Let the vegan trumpets sound!

I am still working on my resolutions for this year, and it will be another week or so before I have crystalised my plans and goals for this year.  But one has already been decided on and I am about to declare it to the world (or at least that teensy part of it that is listening).

Resolution: Be a better vegan apprentice.
Goal: Try one new vegan recipe per week.

Ok so I might be a little behind because it is the 8th of January and I haven't tried a new one yet. But I am not going to let that little fact upset me.  I am not even going to be making a new vegan recipe today.  Dear husband put in a special request for Chickpea, Ginger and Peanut Curry so I made that today.  Yum, yum.  We really love this one.

So trying my first new vegan recipe for 2012 will happen tomorrow.  I have already chosen the recipe, bought the ingredients and gotten all excited about it. 

Many thanks to a dear friend who has encouraged me and is joining me in this venture.  (Love you Sarah!)  She has already tried out a new recipe from the PPK website and enjoyed it.  I will be trying it very soon too and will let you know how it goes. 

I am very interested in hearing from other vegans and would-be-vegans about what has helped you to make the transition.  And if you have any tried-and-tested vegan recipes that are on regular rotation at your house - please share.  Help a vegan apprentice out.

Happy New Year!  I have high hopes for 2012 and I hope you do too.