Thursday, 20 December 2012

the gift of raw chocolate


It is nearly Christmas, and I am still running around making and wrapping last minute presents. If you are like me and are still in the market to grab a present for a special someone this could be for you. 
The typical token present at this time of year seems to be the box of chocolates. Now don't get me wrong I love chocolate as much as the next person but what if you could give someone a box of chocolates that didn't just taste amazing but would boost their health as well? The media loves to tell us about how dark chocolate (along with that glass of red wine) is good for us and is loaded with antioxidants. Unfortuantly so often the chocolate that we buy in the stores is loaded with sugar with cocoa (the good stuff) far down the list of ingredients. Well this chocolate is about to change all of that. By making your own chocolate at home you can pack it full of the good and leave out the scary stuff. Enter raw chocolate. 
Raw chocolate is quick and very easy to make and can be tailored to suit the very lucky person who receives it. If you don't have time to make the chocolates you could even pack up the ingredients and make a chocolate making kit... including cute moulds and a recipe card.  You can split up the ingredients and make two kits for two people for about $40 total. Not bad! Of course you could make up some chocolates and spread the love even further.  
You could grab all the ingredients at a health food store or online here.   
I promise you this is the real deal, proper melt in your mouth deliciousness.... but don't just take my word for it get in the kitchen and give it a go. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

fruit mince pies with almond custard



Like a lot of families when it comes to Christmas we have some very specific traditions when it comes to food. Most of my family originally come from England, so when it comes to special occasion food that is often the type of food we have. Roasts for family dinners, scones with jam and cream for afternoon teas and of course for Christmas its pudding, shortbread and mince pies. 
Growing up we would always make mince pies for when my Nana and Grandad were coming for Christmas. We'd buy jars of fruit mince and packets of pastry to combine together to make little pies. We'd make some with lids and dust them with icing sugar and some we would leave open to eat warm with cream (especially for Grandad). Although it wasn't fancy cooking they were delicious and tasted like Christmas. 
This year I went and looked at the jar of fruit mince wondering if I would make mince pies this year and I was a little shocked by some of the ingredients on the list (LOTS of sugar and creepy numbers). After putting it back on the shelf I decided to have a think about how I could recreate these childhood Christmas treats without the list of numbers and without the animal products. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

summer garden zucchini pasta


 A few months ago I got a little over excited and planted lots of tomatoes, basil and zucchinis for summer. As the warm days keep rolling in we have suddenly been hit by lots of produce (we are not complaining). In order to celebrate my gardening success I decided to cook something to showcase our little garden. 
I love pasta. This recipe was not created to avoid eating pasta but rather as a way to enjoy the idea of pasta on days which are too hot to turn on the stove. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

christmas cooking and gift ideas


Christmas is right around the corner and I can't claim to be at all organised but we have a tree up and I have at least started thinking about the vego food options. 
Every year for the last few years I have given boxes of homemade biscuits as gifts to family and friends. Although it began as a poor student alternative to having to buy presents I now really enjoy choosing what to make and making pretty boxes to give to people. I love receiving homemade presents and since none of us really need anything it is a nice way to give a little something without adding more stuff to peoples homes that they don't want or need.  

Friday, 7 December 2012

peach and walnut oaty biscuits



This week has felt long, maybe it was the warm weather (which I do love) or maybe my body still thinks I am a uni student and is waiting for our summer holidays (sorry body, those days are over) but I have felt tired. So today as the weather cooled down a little I tried to slow down too. Not something I am very good at. My good intentions didn't really last long and after doing food shopping, having some quick baby cuddles with my new nephew, cleaning the house, Christmas shopping and getting my hair cut by mid afternoon my head was spinning. Since I had the house to myself I decided to stop and curl up on the couch with a good cookbook to flick through and a David Attenborough documentary (I'm a geek I know but I love a good nature doco). The cookbook of choice today was one I have read and read and still love "The Kind Diet" by Alicia Silverstone. I know what you may be thinking, the actress from Clueless wrote a cookbook? and Yep she did and it is a really lovely book full of delicious vegan recipes and good information about vegan diets. One of my favorite recipes in the book if for the Oatmeal, Walnut and Dried Plum Cookies. I am a BIG fan of oat biscuits. I love that they are chewy and not too sweet but I have never found dried plums in Australia. I have tried this recipe with sultanas and apricots but I had just bought a bag of dried peaches which got me thinking...

Saturday, 1 December 2012

rainbow carrot salad


I wanted to share a really quick recipe today. This is something I made a little while ago and I have been making again and again ever since. So what is special bout this very simple salad? Well have you been feeling like you have been over doing it with the festive season food already? maybe you want something light and delicious for dinner that will make you feel better for eating it? Meet my go to salad. It is super quick (thanks to my food processor) and super tasty even though it has very few ingredients. By allowing the carrots to pickle slightly, it makes them easier to digest and gives the salad a pleasant tang. This salad would make great summer BBQ food as well. Although a bowl of this salad makes a lovely light dinner it also went really well with some of my smokey vegan sausages when you feel like something a bit more substantial. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

smokey vegan sausages with summer salsa


It really feels like summer is here now (only a matter of days!). The nights are warm and the markets are full of berries, stone fruit and basil. To celebrate the warm weather I have been thinking of delicious meal ideas for taking to the numerous BBQ's and beach days that  I am sure are coming up. On this theme I decided to create something quick, portable and summery to test run for the summer nights to come, and oh my goodness this one is a winner! I will be making these again very soon..... now I just need a BBQ date... anyone?

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Sweet potato salad with miso dressing



It has not been a very exciting week around here for food. After having all four of my wisdom teeth taken out (ouch!) I really didn't feel up to eating much other then soups and smoothies. But after a few complications and nearly two weeks of a liquid diet I am starting to feel like I am up to managing solid foods, provided of course they are nice and soft. 
So food around here has been pretty boring, I am looking forward to something tangy and crunchy...
This salad came about out of needing a quick lunch that was soft (and not soup!) and that used up some of the veggies left in our fridge before I added all the new produce from the morning trip to the farmers markets.For those of you with out dental issues you could add a tin of chick peas and make it a complete meal, throw in some nuts or seeds (I'm thinking pine nuts and sesame seeds) add some fresh crunchy greens, maybe some baby spinach. So many options. 
It is starting to get warm here and we are heading into BBQ season. I'm always trying to think of things to take with me to events that are tasty enough that everyone will enjoy but can be a complete meal for me if there are not a lot of vego  options. So, this is a great option to take to your festive season events, its dairy free, gluten free, vegan, low fat, grain free.... basically it will suit everyone. Leave out the nuts and its super allergy friendly!


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Little love cakes



I think anyone who has been in a relationship for a long time knows the pattern. There is a bit of a cycle that you start to recognise. Times when you are really in tune with each other and everything is great and then there are times when you are driving each other crazy. A friend asked me a while ago if Kev ever drives me nuts, she was worried because her fairly new boyfriend was starting to get on her nerves and she was worried that it might mean things might not work out. I had to laugh, because of course he does and I can think of plenty of things I do that drive him crazy (... my terrible dish washing skills or my inability to make a bed) But I'd have to say that we are really lucky because most of the time we could tick the everything is going great box. But of course like everyone we have our not so perfect days. 
A little while ago it was one of those days. I was cranky, he was cranky and the house felt too small. Kev went out for something, I honestly can't remember what. I decided to calm down and make us a nice dinner to share together. Amazing what sitting down at the table and sharing a meal can do for a relationship. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Sprouting


Sprouting is a great way to enjoy eating more seeds, legume or grains. By sprouting we make the nutrients more available to our bodies and easier for our stomachs to digest. Buying sprouts at the supermarket can be really expensive and they don't last long and don't really taste that good. On the other hand making your own sprouts is a fun project that is cheap and really easy. It is a great family project, it is exciting for kids to be involved in and they can learn all about seeds and how plants grow. Before you start, don't get sucked into buying expensive kits and special seeds because you most likely have all you need in your kitchen already. 

Friday, 2 November 2012

coconut chia pudding


This is my kind of sweet treat. Chocolate enough to be a dessert and healthy enough to be eaten for breakfast. And best of all quick enough to make any time. What else could you want?


Saturday, 27 October 2012

Sweet vegetable and coconut curry





I have been craving mellow comfort food today. The kind of food you would get served on a yoga retreat. Maybe it is because I have increased my yoga practice lately and I am feeling more mellow than I have in a while, or maybe because it is a lazy weekend type of food. Healthy, slow and comforting. What I like about this curry is it is surprisingly light. Something about the banana and fresh herbs and onions make it feel like a tropical holiday in a bowl.  If only I could slip away to the tropics for the weekend...

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Yogic cold and flu tea


Picture this. The sun is shinning, the birds singing it is a really beautiful time of year.... and I'm sniffling. I'm not alone, it seems like everyone around me has a cold at the moment. Well I'm not interested in having a sore throat or a runny nose this week, so I decided to hit the pantry and create this yogic tea. I don't know how authentic this recipe is. I found the recipe on the back of a card I picked up from a yoga class years ago and had tucked away inside my yoga book. The good thing about it is you most likely have a lot of the spices needed on hand already. Who wants to have to go to the shops when you're not feeling well? A bit of a warning, it is a very strong tasting tea, so feed free to reduce the spices to suit your own tastes. It is very sweet as the licorice is the main flavor, so you may not need any honey. It does however ease a sore throat and I'm hoping by tomorrow I will be feeling back to my normal self. Hopefully you don't need it, but one day if you do, I hope it helps.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Raw strawberry and chocolate tarts


Strawberries seem to have come early this year, maybe I haven't noticed before but I usually associate strawberries with later in the year. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, I have been managing to eat my way through several punnets a weeks for the last couple of weeks with no difficulty. Aside from eating them straight out of the container or putting them on my breakfast I was trying to think of what else I could do with all these ripe berries.
I have been experimenting with raw custards and desserts lately, mainly making chocolate mousse out of avocados and bananas with raw cacao. If you haven't tried chocolate and avocado mousse/ custard before put it on your to do list. It takes next to no time to make and it is silky smooth and rich without containing anything other than fruit (avocado is a fruit right?) and cacao and a touch of something sweet.You don't really taste the avocado either so if you're not usually a fan don't be put off. It is perfect for a quick dessert or sweet snack.
It was these experiments combined with a fridge full of fresh berries that lead me to trying to make a chocolate and fresh strawberry tart. And the result was a very quick, very tasty and pretty darn healthy treat that will satisfy any chocolate craving. Enjoy.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

Brown rice and adzuki bean burgers with avocado mayo



The weather is warming up and it is heading into BBQ season. I love a good BBQ, such a good excuse to gather a group of friends for delicious food. Traditionally a BBQ is not always vegetarian friendly but there are so many ways to make a great vegetarian BBQ beyond the packaged "sausages". Some great vegetarian BBQ options can simply include veggies of any variety either just sliced and chucked on the hot plate or made into skewers with some kind of delicious sauce. For something "meaty" there are lots of premade veggie sausages or burgers available but nothing beats homemade. Here is a version that is easy to throw together with a bit of forethought. The avocado mayo really makes these burgers and takes less the a minute to make so is really worth the effort.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Recycled almond and cacao nib cookies


I love making food from scratch. Bread, milk, jam, pastry, all sorts of things you could buy but are so much nicer when you make them for yourself. One problem with making some of these things is you end up with left over bits and pieces and if you are not careful you could end up with a lot of waste. 
I have mentioned before that I like to make my own almond milk. It tastes cleaner, is much cheaper than buying almond milk from the supermarket and you know exactly what has gone into it. The only problem is you end up with all this left over almond pulp. It would be ridiculous to throw it away, as there is nothing wrong with it, but what to do with it all? I put the pulp in the freezer when I make milk and then I tend to use it in baking or for dips. But I am in need of some new ideas of what to do with it all, I am starting to get a backlog.
I recently bought this book, which has a recipe from some tasty look almond cookies, so I decided to give them a go, with a few tweaks of course!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Mushroom Tacos



Ah Mexican.... kind of like having an awesome sandwich for dinner. As soon as there is a warm day my mind turns to Mexican. Usually I am all up for the Tex-Mex style with black beans, avocado and salsa but sometimes you want something a bit fancier or just a bit different. Mexican food seems to be finally hitting Australia and I am starting to see little Mexican bars and restaurants turning up around the place which is exciting, but Mexican is so easy and quick to make it can be the best kind of mid week dinner. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The five minute lemon cream



Sometimes you just need a sweet treat. It might be because you are celebrating or because you have friends over for dinner or just because you want it. There are also times where you don't have time to make something. So instead of buying a highly processed ice cream or dessert enter the "five minute lemon cream". This is a sweet treat that is not only pretty healthy but takes literally five minutes to make. 
I love lemon desserts, lemon pudding, lemon curd tarts and even those (full of sugar) soy lemon creme yogurts you can buy! It is all good. This lemon cream is a bit different. Most lemon cream or curd is based on eggs and milk, where as this version is based on tofu. I know that will be enough to put a lot of people off but I promise if you didn't know you would never guess. 
When using tofu in desserts there is no need to cook it. Some recipes tell you to steam the tofu to soften the "beany" taste but I found that with silken tofu the flavor is very subtle especially when combined with lemon.
So next time you want a quick sweet treat or  a healthier version of a lemon curd for a tart, give this version a try. I promise you wont regret it.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

White bean and kale stew with salted spelt bread



This is not the prettiest dish but there is nothing like the smell homemade breads and stews. The smell of bread baking reminds me of my mum making bread rolls when I was a kid and we would eat them covered in butter and honey hot from the oven. This bread is a bit different, it remains a little chewy and I like it better the next day when it is a little dryer. You can make it as salty or not as you prefer, I like the bread a little salty and to keep the stew light and clean tasting. If you are feeling creative you could make salty croutons out of the bread after a few days and add them into the stew..... yum.
This stew is one to make the day before. Not because it is time consuming or complex but because after resting for a day the flavors come together better and it gets more and more delicious. 


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Protein Power

Anyone who knows me well would know I have been on a bit of an exercise kick lately. I've always been a active person but it was mainly yoga and dance that I enjoyed and it was never a regular part of my life. A bit over a year ago a friend convinced me to go on a bit of a health kick with her. A week into our plan I called her to see how she was going, she laughed confiding that she only lasted one day and then decided she couldn't be bothered! I decided to stick with it for a bit longer to see how I felt, eating fresh healthy food and walking or yoga each day. The same friend was also trying to convince me to join the gym with her, but I wasn't sure about committing to that unless I had proven I was committed to exercising outside (for free) first. After a few months of walking every day I decided it was time to see what this whole gym thing was like. I was one of those people who hated the idea of gyms, and trust me I was terrified the first few times. That was about a year and half ago and now exercising be it indoor at the gym or jogging around the streets has become part of my daily life. 
Recently I have started exercising with a few friends and have even signed up for a few fun runs (who would have ever thought!!). One thing we have noticed is how sore we are after training, and we are often seen limping around at work the few days following. We did a bit of research and talked to a few trainers who suggested we needed more of a protein hit after our weight training to help our muscle recovery.  This made sense but when we started looking around at quick easy things that would give the right amount of protein everything seem loaded with artificial sweeteners and whey powder and cost LOTS of money. 
That was when I decided to try making my own, I found some plain rice protein powder at a local health food store and started adding it to my smoothies. This was cheap and tasted pretty good but I wasn't always home and able to use my blender after every workout. So I started to experiment with making something similar to the mass produced bars or powders that are available without the artificial highly processed ingredients. Here are a few ideas.  

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Kale and leek tart


Spring is finally here! The weather is warming up and the sun is shining plus I am on holidays, so much to celebrate. So to start the celebrations I decided to make Kev and I a delicious Sunday lunch. Usually we go out for lunch or brunch on a Sunday, but we have a lovely table in our backyard that we hadn't used it yet due to the weather, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity for a sunny Sunday lunch. 
I decided to make a tart, as it is both lunch and brunch option and I had been up for several hours and Kev was just rolling out of bed. I made this particular tart a few weeks ago when my sister and her husband came over for dinner to celebrate her finishing her university degree. Last time I made it as one large tart but today I felt like individual tarts, since they are very cute, both options worked well. Today I served it with a simple spinach, basil and artichoke salad, but any side of veggies would be lovely.
I have wanted to try using silken tofu as a binder in tarts for a while, I have always been concerned that it would leave a "beany" after taste to the tart. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find the tofu didn't add any flavor at all but held the ingredients together well enough to bake with out pastry, which is a great gluten free option. 
On that topic, please don't be put off by the pastry. You of course can use shop pastry (I promise I wont judge) but this pastry is so quick and so easy it is nothing to be afraid of. Plus it is much, much tastier and healthier than anything loaded with palm oil you will buy in the supermarket. Give it a go, you will be surprised at how quickly everything comes together.

Almond custard with roasted strawberries and almond toffee

So I am pretty proud of this one. Firstly it passed the Kev test which was pretty amazing as he doesn't like cooked fruit or sweets in general very much. His initial reaction when I put it down was "you've been cooking my fruit again haven't you?" but he quickly changed to "this is good.... this is really good" Success! But what I really like is that this is the kind of dessert that you don't get as a vegan very often. Most people seem to make custards out of milk and eggs (I guess that is the traditional way) and maybe it has just been a while since I have had something like that but this seems better to me. It is a light, and softly almond flavored custard that you could use in place of cream along side any number of sweet treats.
First things first, to make this you must, must, must make your own almond milk or it will not taste anywhere near as lovely. Homemade almond milk is pretty special. I would include a recipe but there are so many out there, my favorite and the version I use can be found in cute video form here. I put off trying to make my own nut milks for a long time and then when I finally did I kicked myself as it is super quick and easy and the final product is much nicer than anything you can buy in the supermarket not to mention cheaper. 
So once you have taken a moment and calmed down and decided to try making your almond milk, I can tell you that this really is a super easy and quick dessert to make. There is a wait of an hour but you dont have to do anything in that time so you can get on with whatever else you need to do.
So now you are all prepared lets have a look. Here we go!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Vegan peanut butter cups... without the cup



This weekend was my sisters baby shower, we decided to have a afternoon tea for all the lovely ladies in her life to celebrate the final count down to the arrival of her first baby.  When we were planning the menu she had one main request when it came to sweets. Peanut butter cups. So of course they had to be made, when your heavily pregnant sister wants something specific to eat... it is best not to fight it.
These peanut butter cups are based on this recipe by Alicia Silverstone. A year or so ago I bought a copy of her book "the kind diet", which is full of delicious and simple recipes. But back to the demands of a heavily pregnant sister... 
Do not be fooled, just because these are vegan peanut butter cups they are by no means a health food. That said they are delicious and a much healthier version than other treats you could have so if you are in need of a rich, chocolate treat these could be just the thing.

Korean inspired chickpea wraps


Before I became a vegetarian I really loved my sister-in-laws bulgogi. For those of you not familiar with Korean food, bulgogi is a type of Korean BBQ meat which is eaten wrapped in a lettuce leaf with rice and Korean chilli sauce. Korean food is amazing, I cant get enough. I love the strong flavors combined with freshness. There is not a lot of vegeterian options in Korean food but it is easily adaptable when you are cooking at home. 
A few years ago my brother married his wife in South Korea. Of course nearly the entire family took the opportunity to go over be there for the wedding, any excuse for a holiday. South Korea was a really interesting place to travel, but one thing that really stood out for me was the food. The food varied from place to place but it was hands down some of the best (and cheapest) food I have ever had. If you are looking for a travel destination, I would highly recommend it.... but back to the food. 
Since becoming a vegetarian I don't crave the meat at all, but I still love the combination of something tasty wrapped in a fresh lettuce leaf. I wanted something tasty and filling but not a meat substitute. I decided to make a chickpea/ dill mix, I was aiming for something creamy but not too rich. 
So what did the Koreans think of the wraps? my sister-in-law gave them the tick of approval and my 9 year-old niece decided they were "delicious" and ate about five. I would say they approved.



Monday, 27 August 2012

Carrot noodle salad


I love raw vegetable noodles. The first time I had them was when my sister and I went out for a girly dinner to a vegan cafe and we both had a raw zucchini pasta with tofu bolognese. Needless to say it was delicious and we have both been talking about recreating it at home for sometime. One thing that had slowed us down was not owning a spiral slicer. I tried the julienne setting on my food processor but the strips where very short and not very "noodle like" and I just couldn't justify the $40 plus it seemed to cost to buy a spiral slicer. Further more, I wasn't going to attempt cutting the noodles by hand either as Kev has to sit in the other room when I cut things as he constantly fears for my fingers (needless to say knife skills are not my strength). Then I was browsing on the beautiful blog oh she glows and saw a great post where she made raw noodles using a julienne peeler! So I went on the hunt for one of these and found the same brand mentioned in the blog for $15 and it works a treat. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

Peppermint mango smoothie


I love peppermint tea, in fact I love all things peppermint.  I drink peppermint tea constantly through out the day from my first one in the morning with honey lady honey to last thing before I go to bed. In march when I was at Womad I had a delicious mango and mint green smoothie at a raw food stand. I have been trying to recreate it ever since, but no matter how much fresh mint I added I couldn't get the same intense mint flavor. I recently also invested in a peppermint plant while at the farmers markets, and although for the first two weeks it looked like I was going to kill it, my plant has now perked up enough for me to enjoy brewing fresh peppermint tea. That when I started to think, if the flavor I want is so much stronger when I brew the leaves for tea, why not put peppermint tea in my smoothie. And it worked, and it is delicious. 

Ok, so it is really cold here at the moment, and mango and bananas are not in season, but I couldn't resist trying out my idea. I bought a packet of frozen mango cheeks and a bunch of Queensland bananas and set about making a peppermint smoothie. 


Sunday, 19 August 2012

Cupcake day for the RSPCA

Blueberry and coconut cupcakes


My work is holding a fundraiser for the RSPCA this week as part of their cupcake day and I of course volunteered (or was volunteered) to make some cupcakes to sell. I wanted to make something healthy, but not too unfamiliar so they would actually sell (we need to raise money for the animals after all!). They had to be vegan, no animals were going to be hurt to raise money for the other animals, that just doesn't make sense. So I decided to make a blueberry cupcake, I loosely based the recipe on the cupcakes in Veganomicon, with a few tweaks. The result was a moist cupcake that was not too sweet and had a mild coconut and toffee flavor. They even passed the Kev test! 


Saturday, 18 August 2012

Finnish Whipped Porridge



I love weekend breakfasts. Really I just love breakfast but I am always short of time in the morning for anything too fancy so weekends are the times to try new things. Often I like to start with a smoothie, as I am often waiting to see if Kev will want to go out of brunch when he wakes up, but this Sunday I felt like something fresh and light but more than a smoothie and that's when I found this
I can safely say I know absolutely nothing about Finland and absolutely nothing about their food. But I have been reading this blog for a while now and have been very intrigued by the mix of Finnish food and Australian ingredients. So when I saw this recipe I had to give it a go. I love porridge and I love semolina so it seemed like a match made in heaven. I couldn't find any nice looking rhubarb but I did get some strawberries, and since I had just invested in some coconut sugar (yes, it was a financial investment) I decided to use that instead of the stevia. Here is how it went.


Friday, 17 August 2012

Sleepy weekday breakfast



I've always been a morning person, but lately getting up and out the house is getting harder and harder. Not really a surprise given it is cold and wet outside and I'd rather sleep an extra half hour than get up and go for a run or get to work. In order to entice myself out of bed (and to get out the door on time) I have been preparing a delicious breakfast the night before. The breakfast of choice has been a kind of bircher muesli, but kept really simple. The best thing about it is the soaked oats become really creamy and almost milky. If you didn't know this was dairy free you would assume they had been soaked in milk.