Friday, July 31, 2009

Easy caramelised tofu

In our house, there is one tofu recipe that is always popular. This is a simple recipe that I took from the amazing Jennifer of Vegan Lunch Box blog. You fry 500g cubed tofu, add approximately 3 tablespoons of sugar (brown is good, but white will do) and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Fry gently until the liquid is absorbed and the sugar has melted. In the picture above, it is served on rice with stir fried vegetables and peanut sauce.

The kids love this tofu. In fact Z calls it "My favourite tofu."

It is good hot or cold, in salads, added to stir fries, with noodles or in lunch boxes. It even finds favour with a lot of omnis. Thanks Jennifer for an awesome staple for our house.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Easy Minestrone

A few nights ago, I made a big pot of minestrone. It is not the most authentic recipe, but it is popular in our house.

The recipe that I use is one that I read ages ago in a women's magazine. Unfortunately, I can't remember which one and now just make the soup from memory, so I have tweaked it a bit anyway.

I used the left-over cabbage from the cabbage roles that I made a few weeks ago. When I made them, I chopped the remaining steamed cabbage and put it in the freezer. The cabbage amount below is just an estimate based on about how much was left.

Easy Minestrone

2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic (more if you like)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 800g(?) tin backed beans
1 440g tin crushed tomatoes
1/4 cabbage
2 sticks celery
2 carrots
1 teaspoon dried thyme
dash black pepper (or more to taste)
2 vegan stock cubes (your choice of flavour)
250g short shapes pasta
water to cover well.
  1. Chop the fresh vegetables. Gently fry them in a large soup pot with the oil.
  2. Once the onion is translucent, add all remaining ingredients except the pasta. Add water to desired soup consistency.
  3. Bring to boil and then simmer 20 minutes.
  4. Add pasta. Bring soup back to boil. Reduce to a simmer and simmer until pasta is tender (10-15 minutes).
  5. Add extra water if the soup has become too thick as the pasta cooked. Reheat it if you do this.
  6. Serve with crusty bread.
This recipe freezes well. It is usually popular with everyone, including omnis.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Random Cat Photo

And finally for today I present my lovely cats asleep and cuddling:

I think that this is just too cute!

Random Food Roundup

I have taken heaps of food photos, but not had long to blog. So here are some meals we have enjoyed in the last few weeks.

Savoury pastry, with agave glazed carrots and mixed stirfry veges with peanut sauce. The pasty is a square of puff pastry topped by home-made rocket pesto, Redwood Cheatin' Ham (vegan - pretty good flavour, though the texture is a bit more luncheon meat than ham). Both Borg's and Aldi puff pastry are marked vegan.

Pizza with 3 toppings. There are spinach and toffuti mozzarella, Mediterranean vegetables and pumpkin with Cheezly herb and garlic vegan cheese, ham and pineapple, also with Cheezly.

Quick cannelloni with a medley of baked vegetables. The cannelloni is just 20 instant cannelloni tubes stuffed with a mixture of 500g frozen spinach, 1/2 container of Toffutti Better Than Cream Cheese and finely diced onion. I then put a little oil and a layer of home-brand pasta sauce in a lasagne dish. After putting in the stuffed cannelloni tubes, I covered them well with more of the sauce and scattered over some small chunks of Cheezly Herb and Garlic cheese. Baked for 40 minutes and it's ready.

La Dolce Vegan biryani (pretty good), plus some mushroom chunk curry (the one on front right - I love mushroom chunks to replace dead cow in recipes) and a quick salad of onion, tomato, cucumber, coriander leaves (cilantro) and a little lemon juice.

Sausage roll, chips and veges. I made the sausage rolls with Borg's vegan puff pastry and a filling of Vegemeal Herb Vegetable Sausage Mix. Everyone over 10 loved the sausage rolls. The younger 2 hated them. No idea why the difference of opinion. I thought they were great.

"Fronch" toast and microwave berry sauce

I had 1 and 1/2 slightly stale French breadsticks in the pantry. What to do? An omni would make French toast, that egg and milk eggstravaganza. Well, so would a vegan, sans egg and milk!

I made the Fronch Toast from Vegan With a Vengeance. The recipe calls for rice milk, but I subbed it for soy milk, as that was what I had. Mixed with corn and besan flours and a pinch of salt (that's me, not Isa), the soy milk is the basis of a light batter. After dipping the sliced bread in the batter, you fry it. I recommend using a generous knob of margarine in the pan, as it gives a better flavour and texture. It also stops the french toast from sticking.

I topped it with cinnamon sugar for some berry haters and microwave berry sauce for Z, M and me. I made the berry sauce with the syrup from a can of berries, that was sitting in the freezer. I had previously used the berries to make a cobbler. However, I think that it would be even better with the berries in it.

Microwave Berry Sauce

Makes 6 generous or up to 12 smaller servings of sauce for deserts or French toast.

1 440g can mixed berries in syrup, syrup retained
2 teaspoons wheaten cornflour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Mix the cornflour into some of the syrup from the can of berries.
  2. In a microwave safe dish, mix the cornflour mixture into all of the other ingredients.
  3. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Mix and then microwave for another 2-4 minutes or until slightly thick and hot.
  4. Serve hot or cold over French toast, waffles, pancakes or desserts. (Or if you are M, eat it out of a bowl with a teaspoon!)
(May also be made with just the syrup for 4 silky smooth serves of sauce or may be blended for a smoother fruitier result.)

By the way, I had to make a second lot of batter to use on normal sandwich bread. The hungry hordes were not satisfied with only one serve of this delicious French toast.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sydney Trip: Mother Chu's

I'm still talking about Sydney over a week later!

My final Sydney post is about another favourite restaurant of mine, Mother Chu's Kitchen. This is a vegetarian, mostly vegan, Taiwanese and Chinese restaurant. It is a family business, presided over by Mother Chu herself every night.

Unlike many chinese vegan restaurants, Mother Chu's does not rely heavily on mock meat. The menu uses very few dead animal names. Instead, it lists gluten, tofu, tempeh, soya roll (with seaweed, a bit like mock fish). It also has a great range of traditional naturally vegan dishes. If you order steamed rice, there is a choice of brown or white rice. I love brown rice, so I think this is a great option.

The food is very good and moderately priced. I have tried a wide variety of food and have never been disappointed. This time I had:

Wonton soup first. Lovely broth with several wontons and gently cooked Chinese veges. I liked the addition of heaps of veges to this soup, especially the greens, which are a favourite of mine.

I followed the soup with this unusual dish. It is eggplant stuffed with a mix of minced tofu and veges, then battered and deep-fried. It was then topped with a mild miso chilli sauce and julienned vegetables, including enoki mushrooms. Instead of being slightly sweet, which I had expected, the sauce was tangy with some sort of vinegar. It was surprisingly good, as the tangy sauce balanced the richness of the deep-fried eggplant. Again, there was more vegetables, which is a feature of many of Mother Chu's dishes. I enjoy a lot of vegetables, so this was welcome. (For the less vege-obsessed, there are some dishes with little vegetables.)

Finally, I made room for Mother Chu's homemade vegan ice cream. I chose mango and passionfruit for my two scoops. This slightly creamy, fresh ice cream is a delicious end to a Taiwanese experience.

If you are trying Mother Chu's, you may wish to book the night before for Peking duck, which must be ordered a day ahead. They also make excellent home-made gluten and fantastic tempeh and tofu dishes. This is another restaurant without alcohol, but there is once again alcohol-free wines and beers, plus several soft drinks and teas. They are worth a try for consistently good food that can be standard Chinese (e.g. sweet and sour) or something a bit out of the ordinary.

For the bibliophiles, after you go to Mother Chu's, there is a great little used book store just a few doors torwards the city. It has all sorts of new and used books, including a range of graphic novels. Even better, it stays open late most weeknights. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name, but I can tell you it's worth a look.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sydney Trip: Peace Harmony

Another restaurant that I regularly go to in Sydney is Peace Harmony. Peace Harmony is a Thai vegan restaurant, which serves some seriously good Thai food. I usually go to the restaurant in Erskine Street. They also have a takeaway outlet in King Street.

The menu is heavy on mock meats, but also has some more traditional items. Mr BrisVegan, an omni, has said that it is some of the best Thai food that he has had, and, seriously, he has had a lot of Thai food.

Here are my most recent choices:

This is a Mixed Entree plate, Tom Yum Soup and tropical juice. The Mixed Entree is satay, spring roll, curry puff, money bag and tod mun. The spring roll is pretty standard, but the money bag and curry puff are miles above average. The satay is juicy seitan served with a very satisfying peanut sauce. The tod mun was probably the best thing on the plate. It was a spicy tangy patty very similar to the traditional tod mun pla.

The Tom Yum soup behind it is fantastic. It is a wonderful hot, sour soup with delicious umami undertones. It is full of veges, mock meat and tofu. I always order this as it is seriously the best Thai soup I have ever had.

Another entree that I have had in the past and heartily recommend is the Tofu Tod, a plate of tender juicy deep fried tofu with chilli and peanut sauce.

For a main I had the Musman Curry quick meal, as I was in the mood for curry. It was very good. I got this for a change, but Musman is not my favourite style of curry. I enjoyed it very much, but in the past have liked the red, choo chee, jungle and roast "duck" curry even more. I have also enjoyed several of their stir fries and their excellent salads. Most meals (but not the salads) come as a quick meal with rice, for usually under $10 or as a larger meal without rice, which would probably be enough for two to share after entrees.

I did not have desert, but they have a good range of sorbets (including chocolate) and traditional Thai deserts.

As a Buddhist restaurant, they do not serve alcohol or allow for BYO. However, they do serve several vegan non-alcoholic wines and beers in addition to fresh juice and the usual soft drinks. Their prices are very good and the quality is consistently high. As you can tell, I am a fan.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sydney Trip: Iku wholefoods

While in Sydney, I work 9-5 in my teaching job. While the organisation that hosts me would be happy to provide salads for lunch, I often decline.

Why? Because, in a food court across the road is one of Sydney's 10 Iku Wholefood oulets. Iku has several outlets, with 4 in the CBD and the others in various suburbs. They sell delicious vegan organic food. They also have a great range of gluten free food for those who don't eat gluten. Most of the options are based around curry, asian snacks or soup. They also have lovely salads.

The great part about Iku is that it has turned good organic vegan food into a mainstream, popular food court outlet. With luck they will go national and we will see them in Brisbane one day.

So here were 3 Iku lunches:

This is a mixed box, with 3 salads, an inari and a piece of tofu fritter. The tofu fritter is based on brown rice and tofu. The inari is not a standard white rice creation. It includes vegetables, brown rice and herbs, which is unusual and delicious.

This is rice paper rolls and polenta square with chilli sauce. I have to try and replicate this polenta. It has carrot, corn, chilli and other vegetables in the polenta with a subtle sweet savoury flavour. Very tasty.

This is tofu and black bean curry with brown rice, coriander (cilantro) and sprouts. A mild tasty curry, which is elevated by the tang of the vinegared sprouts. I also had a lemon and orange sago pudding, which blends the citrus flavour with just enough creamy coconut milk to complement the starch and citrus.

If you are grabbing lunch on the go in Sydney, Iku Wholefoods is only one of several places serving vegan lunches. If you look around, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Sydney trip: Airport food rant

I spent from Tuesday to Friday last week in Sydney for work. I am an academic, in a professional area. I was doing skills training for new graduates in a large professional organisation.

On Tuesday, my original 5.00pm flight was cancelled. I had to wait until 8.00pm for a flight leaving Brisbane for Sydney. Virgin were good and gave me food vouchers.

Now for the ranty bit. There are no vegan meals in the Brisbane domestic airport. None. There is no vegan sandwiches, sushi, soup, anything. Don't believe the coffee shop that claims that their falafel roll is vegan - it has non-vegan dressing (been caught before!). I used my food vouchers for wine and chips, which sucked for dinner.

On the up side, I found out that Oxford Landing wines label their piccolo Sauvignon Blanc wine as "vegan friendly". Yay Oxford Landing!

Virgin sells only a few vegan snacks. I knew that I would be able to get very little food on their flight. That's why I had booked an early flight, so that I could get food in Sydney.

Sydney airport is much better. The Virgin Blue terminal has kebab, salad and sushi outlets that sell vegan options. Of course, they were all shut by the time I got to Sydney.

So, as usual, if you are travelling from Brisbane, pack a snack!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cabbage Rolls

Prompted by a post from Tropical Vegan, I decided to try the cabbage rolls from La Dolce Vegan by Sarah Kramer. I replaced the burghul in the original recipe with rice, as I had a lot of rice in my pantry.

They were pretty good. I made a big double batch, so we will be eating them again. However, the children were not particularly fond of them. I think that the cabbage was a bit much for them, though I liked it. Only M likes cabbage and she did not like the idea of the sauce and filling. She likes her cabbage sauted only.

I particularly liked the filing mix and will make it again to stuff other things or as a side dish on its own.

I am heading to Sydney for a few days for work. I hope to blog some of the great restaurants there. I'll be back to Brisbane and the blog at the end of the week.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Brisvegan Feline Contingent

I have not previously introduced two very important members of the Brisvegan family. They are our 2 delightful feline companions, Berry and Switch. Here they are cuddling on a blanket on our bed:

Switch is on the left and Berry is on the right.

They are rescue kitties. At the end of January this year, there was a post on the Vegetarian and Vegan Society Qld forum about 2 fostered cats that desparately needed a home. They had been fostered with a wonderful young couple since they and their siblings were born. Their mother and 2 other siblings had found homes, but Berry and Switch still needed a forever home. The lovely couple who were caring for them lived with the parents of one of the couple. Unfortunately the parents' cats were old and becoming stressed by the extra cats, to the point that their health was suffering. The fosterers were asked to find the cats a forever home.

I had been thinking about getting cats to live with us. I knew that we needed two cats who loved other, to keep each other company when we were at school and work. We needed primarily indoor cats, as we don't like the idea of cats roaming and killing wildlife. I thought it would be better to offer a home to adult cats, as they are harder to place than kittens. When I saw the post about Berry and Switch I knew that they would be perfect. They were fond sisters, indoor cats, and 11 months old.

So I contacted the fosterers. They came to meet us, to check that we were genuine. Obviously they were happy, as they left our lovely girl cats with us. It may have been the fact that I had gone a bit nuts that morning buying cat paraphernalia.

Since then, the cats have become an integral part of our life. Mr Brisvegan summed it up perfectly when he said that they filled a hole in our life that we didn't know was there. They are mostly indoor cats, though they enjoy supervised visits to the back yard.

Miss Berry:

Berry was named because of her dark bottom lip that looks like she has been eating berries. Berry is the bolder sister. She can be quite bossy and talkative. She will come and tell us to empty the litter tray, or ask us to sit down, so she can jump on our lap.

Miss Switch:

Switch is more timid. However, she can also be affectionate or quite cross. She was named "Switch" because she could switch personalities depending on who she was with. She is a dear, quiet, often affectionate girl with us. She will also tell me she wants things, though she doesn't talk to everyone in the house. She prefers adults to young children, but will let the younger 2 pet her if she is in the mood.

Adopting adult cats has been a breeze. They came to use very well mannered and trained. They are now well bonded to our family and enjoy our company. Please consider adopting an adult rescue, if you are considering adding cats to your family.

These girls will be making regular appearances on this blog.

Leek and Bean Cassoulet

I forgot to blog this one from a couple of weeks ago. A while back I made the delicious Leek and Bean Cassoulet from Veganomnicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

This recipe by itself is reason to buy this recipe book (well, this and the choc chip cookies and ... well you get the picture). It is real vegan comfort food. I love it. It is relatively easy to make and freezes well.

The original recipe is made with what the authors describe as a biscuit topping. They mean American style biscuits (small heavy breads) which are baked on top of the cassoulet like dumplings. They are very good, but do add time to the recipe and are a bit high fat, if that is an issue for you. I have also served the cassoulet with store-bought rolls, instead of the biscuit topping. If you don't bake the biscuits on it, you can make it entirely on the stove top, instead of transferring it to the oven halfway through. Just give it a bit of extra time on the stove top (20 or so minutes from memory).

This time, I defrosted a batch that I had previously frozen and made a pot pie, by putting Borgs vegan puff pastry on the top of a casserole dish of cassoulet. It worked very well. I served it with mixed baked vegetables.

Here it is plated up.

Everyone but M loves this dish. M will eat it, but it is not her favourite thing. The boys, J and Z, always have seconds. They liked this variation with the pastry. I think that this would be a great dish to share with omnis at a potluck, as it is tasty and has no "scary" ingredients.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pasta Puttanesca

Tonight's dinner was pasta puttanesca. This is a really easy dinner. My kids love olives and capers, so they always gobble this one up. (J is reading over my shoulder and says that he doesn't like the green olives now. Fussy!)

This is a really quick and easy dinner. Tonight I served it with homemade garlic and herb bread. For the garlic bread, I didn't measure anything, so I won't post a specific recipe. Basically, I mixed oregano, thyme, parsley, a pinch of salt and garlic into Nuttelex margarine. I spread the margarine mix over halved bread rolls and put them under the grill until they started to lightly toast. Making garlic bread this way means that you can use around 1 teaspoon or less of margarine per 1/2 roll and not have too much fat.

Pasta Puttanesca

Serves 6

500g short pasta of choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium diced onions
2 cloves of garlic
150g jar of capers, drained
300g olives, drained (this time I used stuffed green olives, but pitted kalamatas are best)
800g tin diced tinned tomatoes (don't strain)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Massel chicken style vegan stock cube (optional)
ground black pepper to taste
  1. Set pasta to cook pasta as per package instructions
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion and garlic. Heat until translucent.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to skillet and heat for 5-10 minutes while the pasta finishes cooking.
  4. drain the pasta.
  5. In a large bowl or saucepan, mix the sauce through the pasta.
  6. Serve.
This is a fairly traditional pasta dish (though the original recipe includes anchovies). It is usually well received by omnis. I have taken this to potluck parties with omnis, and it has been fairly popular.

Burrito Pie

This was dinner a few nights ago.

From a previous night's dinner, I had 6 leftover tortillas and enough Cheat's Chilli for around 2 small serves. For my family, 6 burritos is definitely not enough. However, there is plenty to make this simple layered dish.

I added a can of drained butter beans to the chilli. I gave the casserole dish a quick spray of rice bran oil. I then put in a tortilla, added 1/5 of the chili mix, then layered tortillas and chilli until the final tortilla was on top of the last layer of chilli. Over the top, I grated some nacho flavoured cheezely. I put the lid on the casserole dish and then heated the pie in a 190 degree Celsius oven for 40 minutes (basically until it was hot).

The cheezely melted really well and was a tasty addition to the dish. However, you could replace it with any vegan cheese or omit it entirely.

I served it with baked smoky BBQ capsicums and a salad of diced lettuce, tomato and capers. The green and red capsicums were baked with a sliced onion, good splash of BBQ sauce, around 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke and a dash of chilli powder.

The children liked the pie, though the younger 2 were not really salad eaters. Even J, who normally hates capsicum, really liked the smoky BBQ capsicum. I enjoyed the whole thing. It was pretty good for lashed up leftovers.