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.