Sunday, June 28, 2009

Buddha's Happiness

Last night for dinner I made a big wok full of the delicious stir fry called Buddha's Happiness. You will sometimes see this on the menu of even omni chinese restaurants. If you like mushrooms and other fungus, this is the stir fry for you.

I originally downloaded several recipes for this from the internet. However, now I just make it myself from my memory of the ingredients. Here is my recipe:

Buddha's Happiness

Makes 8 serves

40g dried black fungus (about 1/2 pack)*
40g dried white fungus (about 1/3 pack)*
40 g sliced dried shiitake mushrooms (about 1/3 pack)*
1 onion, cut in slices lengthwise (probably not traditional, but I like it)
1 cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
6 fresh button mushrooms, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and slices
1/4 small wombok cut into 1-2 cm slices
Small head of broccoli, cut into florets and sliced stem
500g hard or extra firm tofu cut into 2 sm squares (If you can get deep fried tofu puffs,* they are even better)
2 tablespoons of neutral vegetable oil (I used rice bran oil)
2 tablespoons cooking sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce (+ extra if you wish a saltier taste)
1 Massel Chicken style vegan stock cube
1 rounded tablespoon cornflour
500 ml boiling water + 3 tablespoons cold water

  1. Break up the black and white fungus into chop stick size pieces. Rinse all the dried mushrooms. Soak dried mushrooms in half of the boiling water for approx 15 minutes. Do not drain.
  2. While the mushrooms are soaking, chop the vegetables as above.
  3. Heat the oil in a hot wok or very large skillet.
  4. Add the tofu and stir fry until golden. (You can omit this step if you are using pre-fried tofu). Remove from the wok once done.
  5. Add the onion and ginger to the wok. Stir fry for a minute or two until the onion starts to become translucent.
  6. Add the sherry and boil for around 30 seconds to boil off the alcohol.
  7. Add the soaked mushrooms and their soaking liquid. Add the stock cube. Heat to boiling. Turn the heat down slightly and simmer for a few minutes.
  8. Mix the cornflour and the cold water. Add to the simmering liquid in the wok. Simmer until the liquid thickens slightly.
  9. Add the tofu and remaining vegetables.
  10. Add the remaining boiling water. (You may add less or more to taste, to make as much liquid as you like). This is a fairly saucy stir fry.
  11. Once the wombok wilts slightly and the carrot is slightly tender, serve. This is good with steamed or fried rice.
* The black and white fungus, shiitake mushrooms and pre-fried tofu are usually available from asian supermarkets. Some supermarkets may also carry some of these items, especially the shiitake mushrooms.

My husband always likes this, though that could be because he really likes vegetables. Our 13 yo, J, had thirds. However, the younger two were not overly impressed, as they don't like stir fries with lots of liquids. They had caramelised tofu and quick fried carrot and broccoli instead.

Choc Chip Cookies to Share

Yesterday, I went to a Tupperware party at a friend's place. (Tres suburban, I know!) So what does a vegan eat at an afternoon tea party?

I always offer to take a plate to such events, as I know that the odds are high that people will not cater for, or know how to cater for, a vegan. By taking food, I know that I will have something to eat. With my food, I can demonstrate to omnis that vegan food can be absolutely delicious, decadent and not at all about deprivation. I like Isa Chandra Moskowitz' tongue-in-cheek plan for conversion by cupcake.

This time, for a change, I took a plate of chocolate chip cookies.

The recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. This is the first time that I tried this recipe. They say that they are the best chocolate chip cookies in the world and, by golly, I think they are right. They definitely compare favourable with any omni cookie you could ever imagine. The recipe makes a lot (they say 36, I made 74 smallish biscuits), so there were plenty left at my place.

How did they go? Both adults and children loved them. This was the first plate emptied, so they were definitely a hit.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Supermarket Spaghetti Bolognaise

This could also be entitled "Vegans can eat crap too!" This is not a recipe. It is heating things up. However, I thought that I would blog it to show that vegans can find convenience food at the supermarket, just as easily as omnis.

Here are the ingredients:

The sauce and spaghetti are naturally vegan, though not marketed as such. I used homebrand because I try to keep costs down. I am generally not a huge fan of Sanitarium's canned meat replacements. However, I do like and regularly use the casserole mince. Though it probably has way too much salt, it has a good texture. I like the flavour better than most TVP products.

You boil water and cook the spaghetti as per the packet instructions. In a separate saucepan, add the Sanitarium casserole mince to the bottle of pasta sauce. Heat while the pasta is cooking. Serve sauce over pasta. This serves 6.

Voila! The thing you eat when you can't be bother with actual cooking!

It is tasty, though it probably contains far too much sugar and salt. The children like it. I serve it occasionally when I need to get food on the table in 10 minutes or so.

Overall, being vegan is just as easy for me as being omni was. It's just a matter of knowing what products and ingredients to look for. There are plenty of ready made, restaurant and junk food items that are vegan. So if you are a non-cook, you too can be vegan!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Broken Finger Update

Z returned to the fracture clinic earlier this week. Fortunately, the fracture is more like a crack in the bone than an actual break. He now only has to have it taped to the next finger for the next few weeks. Even though it is over a week since he broke it, it is still pretty bruised. It is slowly getting better every day.

Z has been very brave about the whole process. He seems pretty unaffected by the whole thing. However, he has realised that a broken finger may be a good excuse to get out of all chores. Sorry, Z, you can still set the table with one hand!

(Sorry for the fuzziness of the shot, but none of them were really clear for some reason.)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Broken Finger Foods

Since Z broke his finger, I have been serving food that is easy to eat with one hand. Anything that can be eaten with fingers or a spoon is popular.

On Saturday night, we tried the lovely Char Siu Rice from Vegan About Town. I served the fragrant savoury rice with Lamyong roast “pork” on lettuce, tomato, and stir fried gai choy. To make the food more child and finger friendly, I also added store bought spring rolls, money bags, mini samosas, turnip cakes and “drumsticks”. Everyone loved the meal. Thanks to Vegan About Town, the rice was a great hit.

Sunday night was Veganomnicon and Vegan With a Vengeance night. Both are recipe books by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. We had the chickpea cutlets, with mustard sauce (both V’con), with garlicky kale with tahini sauce (VWAV), roast pumpkin and sweet potato chips.

This time I did not have any gluten flour and the shops were shut before I started cooking the chickpea cutlets. I decided to try plain (all-purpose) flour and to bake the cutlets. It worked almost as well as the gluten flour, though it would not pack the same protein punch. I also made smaller medallions (one was already eaten before I took the picture, because I couldn’t resist). Isa is right, the tangy mustard sauce is delicious with it. The children always like these cutlets.

They also like the sauce, to my surprise. I had thought that it might be a bit too tangy and spicy for the younger two, who tend to be a bit cautious about that sort of food. I should have known that their love of capers would win over all other considerations.

The garlicky kale with tahina sauce was simply delicious. My omni, greens-loving husband was quite impressed by it. The younger children were not fond of it, but then they are not overly fond of many types of leafy green. 13 year old J will eat anything that an adult would eat. Though he didn’t rave over the kale, he ate it all.

The sweet potato chips are a bit of child vegetable psychology that I have been using for a while. If called “chips” and cut in batons, the younger, fussier kids will happily eat sweet potato. If it is served in chunks or medallions, they are not so enthusiastic.

Monday night I served a Middle Eastern style platter. On the plate was pita bread wedges, baba gannouj, hommous, caperberries, baked stuffed olives, baked mushrooms, baked chickpeas with tomato, spring onions, coriander seed, cumin and time, and chickpea balls. When I made the chickpea cutlets, I doubled the recipe and made these balls at the same time, so that I could use them for this meal. The baked chickpeas were left overs from the cutlets.

This sort of food is always a favourite with my family. They love Middle Eastern dips. We ate an entire jar of caperberries, which was no surprise. The children love caperberries and capers.

Both hommous and bab gannouj are naturally vegan. These were both shop bought versions. They can easily be made at home, but I was being lazy. If you buy these dips, make sure you check the ingredients, as some brands might include non-vegan ingredients, which are not traditional or necessary.

We have also had some rather boring bangers and mash and pies and chips for the football, though I didn't take photos of them. So far the invalid has not starved!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Risotto: Easier Than You Think

I don't know why risotto has a reputation as a difficult dish to prepare. Once you get the hang of it, it is surprisingly easy.

Tonight we had roasted pumpkin risotto for dinner. Everyone enjoyed it. My carbo-holic kids are generally big fans of rice, though they are not fond of every type of risotto. The younger two also will not normally eat roast pumpkin. However, they liked this one. Z asked if there was any left for seconds.

I served it with grilled grape tomatoes, peas and carrots, for an extra vegie and protein boost.

The concept of risotto based on pumpkin broth with oregano is based in part on a recipe I saw years ago in an Echo Bistro cookbook. I haven't got a copy of the book, so I am not sure how close this is to theirs. I do know that this omits all the cheese and feta cheese from the original, as well as a lot of fat. They also used matchsticks of pumpkin rather than roast pumpkin.

Roast Pumpkin Risotto

Serves 6 with side dishes or 4 larger serves

500g pumpkin (more if you want a stronger pumpkin flavour)
3 Massel salt-reduced chicken style vegan stock cubes (2 if you don't like much salt)
1/4 cup cooking sherry
5 cups water
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Nuttelex vegan margarine
1 diced onion
500g arborio rice
1 small bunch oregano (eg small supermarket bunch - I actually used fresh leaves from the garden), with the leaves stripped from the stems
dash finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegan cream cheese (optional)

  1. Cut 250 g pumpkin into approx 1 cm pieces. Roast until soft. (Mine was precooked on a previous night when I made roast vegetables for dinner)
  2. Boil water with the stock cubes, the sherry and the other 250g pumpkin, also cut into smaller chunks.
  3. When the boiled pumpkin is cooking in the water, put oil and margarine into a large saucepan and heat until margarine is melted.
  4. Add diced onion to oil mixture. Cook gently until onion softens and becomes translucent.
  5. Check if pumpkin is cooked. Once it is cooked, mash or blend the pumpkin into the liquid. I simply used a stab blender for this step. It will become a pumpkin broth. Return it to the heat.
  6. Add rice to the oil and onion mixture. Mix thoroughly into oil.
  7. Gently heat the rice, onion and oil mixture for a few minutes, while stirring it often. You want the rice to become translucent at its tip and to lightly seal it. There will be a faint fragrance of toasting rice. However, you do not want to colour the rice, so keep it moving and not too hot.
  8. Add 2 soup ladles of pumpkin broth into the rice. Stir through. Turn down the heat to low, so the risotto does not catch on the bottom of the pot.
  9. At this point, some people say you should continuously stir the risotto until it is cooked in about 20 minutes. I however, don't always have that much time or patience. I simply make sure that I stir it well, often enough so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. This is about every 30-60 seconds. Apparently continuous stirring will give you an even creamier texture, as it breaks up the starch even more. I actually prepared the other vegetables in between stirs.
  10. As the liquid is absorbed, add an extra ladle or two of broth. The liquid does not have to be completely absorbed. Once the rice starts to clump together rather than be loose in the liquid, you should add more liquid.
  11. Keep adding liquid and stirring regularly until most of the broth has been used.
  12. When the rice is almost al dente and you are down to the final ladle fulls of broth, add the roast pumpkin, oregano leaves and vegan cream cheese, if you are using it. Also add pepper to taste. Add final amount broth.
  13. Heat until the rice is just al dente. You want a little bit of bite in the texture of the rice, but no hardness. You don't want it completely mushy.
  14. If you want a little more liquid in the mix, add a little boiling water.
Basically, for any risotto, you seal arborio rice in oil or margarine, add liquid in ladles, stir regularly and add most of the non-rice ingredients at the end. It must be arborio rice to get the right toothsome texture and creamy mouth feel. If using onion or garlic, gently cook it in the oil before adding the rice. Most of the other non-rice ingredients can be added at the end. You can use plain stock, stock and wine, stock and tomato puree etc as the liquid. Add liquid until the rice is cooked. You generally need liquid which is at least 2-3 times the amount of rice you use. If you don't have enough liquid, boil the kettle and add boiling water. You can add all sorts of vegetables or protein foods at the end. The non-rice ingredient might be asparagus, sundried tomatoes, peas (good with a touch of mint in the liquid), zucchini, mushroom or any other vegetable or protein that you fancy. If the add-in will not cook in a couple of minutes at the end of cooking, precook it. Basically the trick is to keep adding liquid and keep stirring regularly until it is ready.

Risotto is an easy dish to serve omnis, as it is something that many people will be familiar with. Many will have eaten vegetarian risotto. It doesn't rely on the unfamiliar proteins that bother many omnis, like tofu, seitan or tempeh. It also has a reputation of being tricky, so you will look clever if you make it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Spinach, Peanut and Tomato Pasta

Tonight, after today's broken finger treatment dramas, we needed easy-to-eat, quick, comfort food. This recipe fit the bill with ease.

This recipe is adapted from "Mathew's Spicy Tomato Peanut & Kale Pasta" from Sarah Kramer's La DolceVegan. It is quick, easy and delicious. It can be made in about 10-15 minutes.

Spinach, Peanut and Tomato Pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, diced.
1 litre tomato juice
250g frozen spinach
75g smooth peanut butter
500g pasta shapes (I used spirals, but any short pasta works well)
Hot sauce (eg tabasco), black pepper and salt to serve

  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. While pasta simmers, heat oil in a 2 litre saucepan.
  3. Add garlic. Cook on a medium low heat until the garlic becomes golden, about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add juice, spinach and peanut butter to pan. Bring sauce to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve peanut butter and break up spinach.
  5. Drain pasta once it is cooked.
  6. Once the peanut butter and spinach are mixed well through the sauce, add to the drained pasta. If it is not hot enough, heat on low heat for a few minutes, being careful not to burn the pasta.
  7. Serve. Offer hot sauce, salt and pepper.
The original recipe called for chilli garlic sauce to be added to the sauce. This is too hot for my younger children. Instead, I cook garlic into the sauce and the older members of the family add hot sauce to taste at the table. We also like to add a light sprinkle of salt flakes, like Maldon salt flakes.

This is a great favourite in our house and is a regular on our table. The children love it. The green vegetable averse younger children eat the spinach happily. With pasta, spinach, tomato and peanut butter, it is a pretty healthy meal, with carbs, red and green vegetables and protein.

I have made it before for omnivores. It is always popular. My favourite omni, Mr Brisvegan, told me tonight that this was probably the best meal this year, which is ironic considering how easy and thrown-together this recipe is.

The peanut butter, tomato and spinach blend sounds weird, but it is definitely worth a try. Give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Broken finger

Poor Z broke a finger yesterday. He tried to catch a ball which had been lobbed really high. It came down on the tip of his finger. It hit at just the right angle to crack a bone in his finger. Fortunately, the fracture hasn't split.

Today it was splinted, but it will be treated further next week.

Z was very brave and has not made a fuss, even though he must be in pain. I would be happy for him to wail and cry, but he has been quite stoic, especially for a 9 year old.

For the next week or so, we will be eating food that are easy to eat with a spoon or one hand.

[By the way, I plan to keep my family fairly anonymous on this blog. So, generally there will not be identifying pictures on this blog. This is due to some unpleasant past dramas which have led to a need for some personal security measures. So, this is the most you will see of Z for now. Thanks for understanding.]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cheat's Chilli and Tortillas

Last night we had chilli with burrito tortillas and salad. The chilli was one that I had made earlier and froze. The recipe is below.

Burritos are a great favourite with my children. They love to make them up themselves at the table. We usually have salad, which includes at minimum lettuce, tomato, olives and avocado. We usually have store-bought salsa, which I know is sacrilege to proper Tex-Mex cooks. We also have some sort of protein, which may include refried beans, TVP taco mince or chilli, like tonight. Sometimes the children will have cheese, though often we skip that.

When we have burritos, the children eat a lot more salad than they would ever eat alone. They usually eat several tortillas worth of food (5 or 6 for the teenager!). It's a quick and easy way to have the whole family eat a healthy salad-based meal.

Tonight we had simple chilli, in our tortillas. It's not really authentic mexican food, but it was good. Because it's so easy to make, I called it "cheat's chilli."

Cheat's Chilli

Serves 8-10. You can freeze some for later, which is what I do.

2 onions diced
3-4 cloves garlic crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 x 400 g tins of beans (kidney, soy and butter beans for me), drained and rinsed
1 large tin crushed tomatos
1 small tin corn kernels
1 small zucchini grated
1 chipotle chilli,* chopped
3 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
large pinch cumin
1 massel "beef" style vegan stock cube
Additional chilli powder to taste, if you like it hotter.
  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add onions and garlic. Heat gently until the onion is transparent, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add remaining ingredients. Heat to a gentle boil. Reduce to a simmer.
  3. Stir to dissolve tahini and stock cube.
  4. Simmer gently for 20-30 minutes. (You can serve it sooner, if you wish.)
  5. Serve with rice, tortillas or rolls.
* Chipotle chilles are smoked jalapenos. The can be bought canned or dried. However, if you can't get them, you could just put in chilli to taste and a dash of liquid smoke,** if you have it.
**For Australian people, you can order liquid smoke from the Vegetarian and Vegan Society of Queensland. They will mail order it to you. It's handy for a whole range of recipes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Some notes on labels

I know that people often ask what to feed children or omnivores. Many people also want to make something quick and easy.

I regularly feed omnivores. Though I sometimes attend vegan and vegetarian events, most of my friends and family are omnis. My wonderful husband, Mr Brisvegan, is an omni, who is quite happy to give feedback on food. Though he eats vegan and vegetarian most of the time, he still occasionally eats flesh and regularly eats dairy. He lets me know how vegan substitutes compare to omni foods. My occasionally omni children also give comments on food. I also feed other omnis who rarely eat vegan.

Where I've had feedback on food from omni sources, I'll label the post "feeding omnis." I'll let you know whether they liked or hated the food.

I've often been asked what vegan food I feed my children. As I've mentioned, I have 3 children, who are 13, 9 and 6. I also feed various friends and family of all ages. If the children enjoy a meal, I'll label the post "child friendly."

Finally, I finish work after 5.00pm most days. I get home after 6.00 pm. I am the main cook in my family, because I enjoy it and Mr Brisvegan doesn't. The children want dinner before it's too late. So, I regularly need to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less. For all the busy people who will be cooking in a hurry, you'll find those meals labeled "quick and easy."

Hope these are useful for you.

Sizzling "pork" in plum sauce

On Saturday night, it was time for more Asian-inspired food. It had to be quick, because I got home from work late and wanted to get dinner on the table in a hurry.

We had Lamyong vegan roast "pork" in plum sauce, with simple stir-fried vegies and plain steamed rice. The vegies were simply carrot, broccoli and onion quickly stir fried with some sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce.

Sizzling "Pork" in plum sauce

Small amount of neutral cooking oil, eg rice bran oil
Lamyong vegan BBQ "pork"
2 cm fresh ginger minced or very finely sliced
1 small onion
Commercial plum sauce 175 ml
1/2 capsicum (green would be better, but I only had red)
1 small capsicum
pepper to taste (optional)
  1. Slice pork and vegetables into bite sized slices.
  2. Heat oil in a cast iron pan. Use a standard skillet, if you don't have a cast iron pan.
  3. Put oil into pan and fry on medium high heat for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add "pork" and ginger. Fry for a few minutes.
  5. Add remaining vegetables and fry for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add sauce. Fry for 1 minute.
  7. Taste and add optional pepper if you like a little heat.
  8. Serve sizzling in the pan.
For a very quick dinner, this was a big hit. Mr Brisvegan (an Omni) said that it was "very, very nice." The children all had seconds.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Product Review: Soyatoo vegan whipped cream

In my last post, I mentioned Soyatoo Soy Whip vegan whipped cream. I bought some at Mrs Flannery's organic supermarket at Wooloongabba last week. I have tried it on cake and as part of a banana split.

I have previously bought the carton of Soyatoo cream, which has a texture similar to double cream. It was good on scones.

What's Soyatoo like? It is a pretty good simulcra of whipped cream. It has a sweetish creamy flavour, with only a slight soy overtone (less than most soy dairy products). Both products have a texture very like the cream product that they are copying. It is the closest thing that I have tried to actual cream, since I became vegan. It hits the spot for cream cravings. I would recommend it to vegans who miss creamy toppings.

My three dairy eating children say that it is "Yummy." The comment was unanimous.

Mr Brisvegan, who is an omnivore, doesn't mind it. However, he is pretty used to vegan foods. I am not sure if more mainstream omnis would love it. It does have a slight soy overtone and is not an exact copy of cream. Most of the omnis I know would probably think it was weird vegan fake food. Then again, most of the omnis I know won't even try a soy sausage.

Girl's night at home with M

On Friday night, Mr Brisvegan, J and Z went to a Broncos match (Rugby League football for the non-Aussies out there), thanks to our wonderful friends Allan and Tania, who gave them tickets. The Broncos are the Brisbane team and have a huge following here. The Broncos lost, as half the team is out due to a swine flu scare. The Brisvegan guys still had a good time.

[For the record: I could care less about the Broncos since a sexual coercion (their story)/sexual assault scandal last year. I think that the whole football code needs to clean up its attitude to women and to player behaviour and stop treating women as disposable rewards for playing a game.]

M and I were left home alone for a girls night in. M suggested a pyjama and movie night. We donned our PJs, made popcorn:

Watched a movie:

Had a junk food dinner:

(Vegan pies, bit of zucchini for me, generic oven chips, mushie peas and sauce. The pies were from the Vegetarian and Vegan Society of Queensland stall at Greenfest. A genius gentleman cooks them for the VVSQ to sell at events. They are amazingly like an Aussie meat pie, but 100% vegan.)

Followed by banana splits:

(Banana, melted chocolate, Soyatoo whipped cream, nuts, for me and gelatin-free marshmallows from the White Lotus Vegetarian Supermarket at Inala for M. Yes, I may in fact have discovered vegan marshmallows commercially for sale in SE Queensland! I just have to run down a bit more information about the unspecified colours in them.)

I started reading M a story, then she took over and read the ending to me! Very good for grade 1.

It was a wonderful night.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Asian Inspired Meals

Our meals recently have been asian inspired:

This was Monday, the Queen's Birthday holiday. We had sushi balls with pickled ginger and avocado, Woolworths Rainbow salad, baked tofu, shop bought spring rolls, and miso eggplant and pumpkin.

The sushi balls were simply sushi rice, made according to the packet instructions, with sushi vinegar, and shaped into balls. The tofu was baked with equal amounts of soy sauce and brown sugar.

Miso-baked Eggplant and Pumpkin

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

One large eggplant
Small butternut pumpkin
2 tablespoon white miso paste
dash soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar

  1. preheat oven to 180 degrees Centigrade
  2. Slice eggplant into 1 cm slices.
  3. Slice pumpkin into 1/2 cm slices, with skin on. Cut each slice in halves or quarters.
  4. Mix other ingredients in a small bowl. Add enough water to make a thin paste.
  5. Spray a baking tray with cooking oil of your choice. (I used rice bran oil.)
  6. Baste vegies with 1/2 the miso mix.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Baste with the rest of the miso mix and bake for another 20 minutes or until done.

Last night we revisited the asian theme, with yum cha for dinner:

This was done as a super quick dinner, as I got home late. Most of it came out of packets from the White Lotus Vegetarian Supermarket at Inala. There are cabbage buns, turnip cakes, "chicken" drumsticks, satay sticks on cucumber and tomato, asian-inspired vegetable soup, rice vermicelli with bok choy and soy sauce. The soup was one I made up on the spur of the moment to pad out the meal. It was very good.

Asian-inspired Vegetable Soup

Serves 4-6, depending on your preferred serving size.

1/2 cup sliced dried shitake mushroom
corn kernels from 1/2 cob
2 cm knob of fresh ginger, diced
1 tomato, chopped
1 bok choy plant, chopped, keep leaves separate
4-5 cups water (enough to fill a medium saucepan)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 Massel "Chicken style" vegan stock cubes
pepper to taste

  1. Place all ingredients except pepper and bock choy leaves in a pot.
  2. Bring to boil, then reduce heat.
  3. Simmer for 15 minutes until mushrooms are tender.
  4. Taste. Add pepper to taste. Add additional soy sauce if you wish.
  5. Add leaves from bok choy.
  6. Simmer for a minute or two to soften bok choy leaves.
  7. Serve!
For both these meals, we put the food in the centre of the table and let the children help themselves. We find that they take more food and try more things if they can select. The favourites for the under 10's were the rice balls, noodles, spring rolls and cabbage buns, though they tried most things other than the turnip cakes, which they have tried and disliked in the past.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sanitarium sausages

Tonight we had sausages and 3 veg. Very anglo and old fashioned. We tried the new Vegie Delights Gourmet Sausages from Sanitarium. In the photo you will see a sundried tomato & kalamata olive sausage on top of a rosemary sage & parsley vegie sausage. We served them with smashed potatoes, corn, peas and mushroom gravy. The gravy was 1/2 cup of Massel gravy, Windsor Farm mushrooms in lite sauce (a ninja vegan product) and a dash of soy sauce.

The sausages were a cut above the normal Sanitarium sausages, which we have fairly regularly. The flavour was a bit "meatier" than other Sanitarium sausages, and the seasonings were good. In my household, 3 out of 4 people preferred the sundried tomato and olive, (M fell asleep early and didn't want dinner when we woke her). Z preferred the herbed flavour. I liked both and would think about buying them again for a change or a barbecue. However, I wouldn't say that I loved them so much that I would buy them in place of the much better-value Sanitarium hotdogs and BBQ sausages.

A downside of this product is that each packet only contains 5 sausages, which would be an awkward number for a lot of people, if you prefer to eat more than one sausage. Another issue is that they are quite high in fat and calories, so if you are watching your weight, they are not ideal. They are also rather expensive, as they cost almost $6 for 5 smallish sausages. My omni husband liked the flavour, but was not thrilled with the texture, which is a little softer than the standard Sanitarium range.

Overall, the sausages are a good product, but not one that I would buy often.

Smashed Potatoes

2 small potatoes per person
1-2 tablespoons Olive oil

  1. Boil potatoes until just tender.
  2. Place in a baking tray. Smash with the back of a spoon.
  3. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil.
  4. Bake for half an hour at 200 degrees Celsius, until golden brown. (You can finish them under a grill, if you want to speed things up).

Monday, June 8, 2009

Backyard visitor

This is why I can't have nice things in the garden:

We had heard possums in the yard before. Tomatoes, pea seedlings and parsley leaves all go missing from my garden. At dusk tonight, I spotted this guy and his partner climbing from a large gum tree in my neighbour's yard into this tree in our yard. It appears that they live next door and use our yard as their first stop on their night's foraging.

They are native common brushtail possums, as far as I can tell. Other than the occasional nibble on my garden, they have been no problem for us.

To keep them out of the garden, I will be spraying plants with "Poss-Off" a commercial garlic, chilli, and bitter citrus organic spray. It doesn't hurt the possums, us or the environment. It just makes things taste bad. We will leave some fruit and things out for them, from time to time, so that they don't go hungry.

Easy pumpkin soup for lunch

Today my Mother-in-Law popped over for a while, including for lunch. I needed to make a quick omni-friendly lunch. Fortunately, I had a big pumpkin in the cupboard. Pumpkin soup was on the menu!

I made fresh bread rolls and pumpkin miso soup, which everyone loved. The rolls were a breadmaker cheat. I used Laucke whole gran bread mix, added a couple of tablespoons of pumpkin seeds and followed the instructions for ingredients (basically adding water and yeast). After a mix in the bread mixer, I shaped the dough into rolls. After an hour of rising, a brush with soy milk and a sprinkle of sesame seeds, they cooked for half an hour and they were ready. It takes a little rising time, but is very simple.

Pumpkin Miso Soup

2 medium onions, diced
1 tablespoon Nuttelex margarine
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 very large butternut pumpkin
3 vegan "chicken" stock cubes (Massel brand for me)
large pinch of ground ginger
2 generous tablespoons white miso paste
black pepper to taste
water to cover

  1. Melt margarine in a large pot.
  2. Add onions and sugar. Turn heat to low and gently caramalise onion while you chop the pumpkin.
  3. Peel pumpkin and cut into in 2-3 cm chunks.
  4. Add pumpkin, ginger and stock cubes to pot with onion. Add water to cover.
  5. Simmer pot until pumpkin is tender, around 20-30 minutes.
  6. Once the pumpkin is tender, blend contents of pot until smooth. I used a stab blender in the pot. Heat to a low boil and turn it off.
  7. Add the miso past and stir until dissolved. Add pepper to taste.
  8. Serve. It's good with warm crusty bread.
Serves 6 small serves or 4 large serves.

This went well with everyone. Even my younger children, Z amd M, who will not eat pumpkin by itself, like this soup. If you like it less salty, cut back on the stock cubes.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I love cupcakes. They are easy to share and eat. They look impressive to take to parties. Mini-cupcakes are wonderful for children's parties and nibbles at adult cocktail type parties. If you make them gluten-free there is usually at least one person at a party or pot-luck who will love you.

Yesterday, I baked cupcakes to sell at the Vegetarian and Vegan Society of Queensland stall at Greenfest. Here's a sampler:

Clockwise from top, they are cappuccino, carrot and walnut, gluten-free chocolate and vanilla.

Other than the cappuccino cupcakes, the recipes for the cakes are from the fantastic recipe book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by vegan cooking goddesses Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero ("VCTOTW"). The cappuccino cupcakes are the vanilla cupcakes with 4 tablespoons of coffee dissolved in around 1/3 cup of water, plus 2 rounded tablespoons of extra flour. For the gluten-free, I replaced all the different flours in the recipe with 1 1/2 cups of commercial gluten free flours.

For frostings, I keep the frosting fairly stiff so that it keeps its shape well. In the icing for the cappucino and vanilla, I used a simple vanilla frosting made with 3 cups of pure icing sugar, pinch of salt and 1/3 cup nuttelex and around 1-2 tablespoons of soy milk. The chocolate frosting has around half of that with 1/3 cup cocoa pwder and enough extra soy milk to make it workable. The carrot and walnut cupcakes had Isa's VCTOTW vegan cream cheese with around a teaspoon of lemon essence added.

They seemed to be pretty successful at Greenfest. There were many beautiful cupcakes left from the previous day. (To the maker of the lamington cupcakes: I bought one. Thanks, they were delicious!) We didn't put out my vanilla cupcakes, but most of the others sold by the end of the day. If you bought one, I hope you enjoyed it.

Well, now I am going to eat left over cupcakes for dinner!

Who is BrisVegan?

Ok, so I haven't figured out the picture posting thing yet, though I am going to get on to that later today.

To give this blog a decent post I thought I'd tell you a bit about myself.

I live in Brisbane, Australia. That's a major city about half way up the east coast of Australia. It is the capital of Queensland, the second largest Australian state. It's subtropical, so I can garden all year round. I live in deepest suburbia.

I am a white, middle-class, cisgendered, hetero vegan woman. I have a mild to moderate hearing impairment, though I am otherwise currently able-bodied. That adds up to a whole lot of privilege, which is unearned, though not, I hope, completely unexamined. I grew up in poverty, so I am pretty aware of the luckiness of the middle class. I am also a happy feminist (though depending on the nightly news, I can also be a pissed-off feminist).

I am married to a wonderful man, who is still an omni. I have three children, J, Z and M. The oldest boy, J, is a teenager. Z, a boy, and M, a girl, are primary school age. They are clever, healthy and socially engaged almost-vegetarians. As I am the main cook in the house, they all eat vegan meals at home, though they sometimes add dairy foods to their meals.

I work as an academic. I am lucky enough to work for a great local university that is vegan friendly. My boss and co-workers are supportive of veg*n lifestyles. I enjoy my work.

I have been a vegan for 3 years. Before that, I was a vegetarian for 10 years. I find it easy to be vegan in Brisbane. We have easy access to many great vegan resources and products. There is even a vegetarian "supermarket" (actually a little shop) in a suburb near mine.

I love reading vegan and feminist blogs. I hope my little effort adds something useful to the blogosphere. I plan to mostly blog about food, as I hope to show how delightful a vegan life can be. However, I am sure that my garden, family, cats and maybe my political views may get a look-in.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Well, this is the obligatory starting test post.

Will follow with pictures of cupcakes and such once I figure it all out.