Vegan Tuna Salad Sandwich/Sushi and Carrot Ginger Mojito

Canned tuna is one of those things that I have struggled with giving up since trying to make the change to vegan. It just has something about it that I crave. If you are one of my non vegan friends, you are probably thinking why would anyone want to give up tuna, its delicious? Well mercury toxicity and BPA toxicity are a couple of reasons that I really try to avoid any canned fish in general. Overfishing and unsustainable fishing methods is also another couple of reasons I discovered this when I blogged on this issue a while ago (The canned tuna debate).

I admit I have actually been better in recent times to avoid canned fish entirely and other seafood.  A big thing that has stopped me craving tuna is re-educating myself on the reality of the detriment it may have to my health and trying avoid toxins while I endeavour to start preparing myself to have a baby. By the way that’s still a secret! I am still in the stages of getting all my tests done and get any deficiencies sorted before we start trying. I am about to start another detox soon with guidance of my new naturopath, which I’m really excited about! Marco thinks I am the only person in the world excited about doing a detox, especially since my first detox a few years back was so difficult. However, over the last 3 and a half years I have learned a lot and my tastes have really changed. I feel more in control and equip to be able to enjoy the ride this time.

Anyway back to cooking… I tried to make a Mock Tuna Salad with tempeh a while ago. If found the texture was there, but not the fishy taste. So I tried again with chickpeas, umeboshi vinegar and nori. This time I managed to get the taste, but the texture was probably a little to fine. Besides that I much prefer this recipe and found it really versatile for making sandwiches and sushi and it passed the flavour test with Marco and Mum (who said I thought you don’t eat tuna any more).

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Vegan Chickpea ‘Tuna’ (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 tin chickpeas/ 1.25 cup cooked chickpeas

1/2 cup celery, diced

1/2 cup onion, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil (optional, leave out for thicker consistency)

3 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar

3-4 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon himalayan pink salt / sea salt

1 sheet nori (cut into 5 cm strips) or  3 tablespoons crispy seaweed

Method:

1. Place chickpeas, celery, onion and olive oil into the processor. Process until the chickpeas have broken down. You may have to keep wiping down the sides with a spatula.

2. Add the remaining ingredients, except for the nori strips. Process until you are happy with the consistency

3. Add nori sheets and adjust seasoning if you need to. Then process for until the nori has been mixed through.

*Makes over 1 cup

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Vegan Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Salad Sandwich (vegan, gluten free option, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

sliced bread ( I used  toasted multigrain vienna sourdough)

2-3 tablespoons vegan tuna per sandwich (recipe above)

sliced tomato

fancy lettuce or mixed lettuce

any other salad items

Method:

1. Spread vegan tuna on one side of the bread. Then top with salad items and other slice of bread and enjoy.

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 Vegan Chickpea ‘Tuna’ Salad Sushi (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 nori sheet

3 tablespoons cooked quinoa or sushi rice

2-3 tablespoons vegan tuna per sandwich (recipe above)

sliced tomato

fancy lettuce or mixed lettuce

any other salad items

Method:

1. Place quinoa in the middle of the nori sheet in a line down the middle.

2. Top quinoa with vegan tuna and salad items.

3. Roll the nori into a sushi roll. Slice in half and enjoy.

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For a mid-afternoon beverage to enjoy while I watching FMTV I made this delicious juicy mocktail. Perfect for this muggy weather and to get into the spirit of detoxing.

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Carrot Ginger Mojito (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

4 small carrots

2 apples

small knob ginger

3 cm wide round slice lemon (including skin)

mint leaves from 2 sprigs

cold sparkling water

Method:

1. Place all the ingredients except the sparkling water in a juicer.

2. Place the juice in a tall glass or large jar and top with some sparkling water and some mint leaves to serve.

*Serves 1

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Zucchini Basil Fritters with Lemon Cumin Mayo

I have been in such a rut with cooking since I’ve been back from holidays. I have still been cooking everyday, but I have been lacking inspirations and finding it hard to get back into a healthy routine. I’m not sure if its me still being in holiday mode or because of my anger towards my electric stove (I miss mums gas stove!).  But today I’m back on the wagon.

Last night after work I went and did my shopping for the week. Normally when I shop when I’m hungry I’m DSC01738overflowing with ideas and can’t wait to get home to cook. But yesterday it wasn’t the same. So I thought I’d go back to the basics and just fill my fridge with healthy vegetables, fruit and spurge on some coconut yogurt. I came home and baked some petite potatoes, red onions and this beautiful little pumpkin that I found in my DSC01740garden. While  I was waiting for it to cook I finally got some inspiration. I made these little fritters with some leftover rice and some organic zucchini. They were very good!

This morning I pushed myself to drink a healthy smoothie.  I made delicious Mixed Berry Kale Smoothie with Coconut Yogurt and Almond Milk. Can’t believe I’ve been avoiding smoothies and juices. Now I remember how good good they are.

Do you ever get in a rut with cooking or eating healthy? What do you do to snap out of it?

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Zucchini Basil Fritters with Lemon Cumin Mayo (vegan, gluten free option, soy free, nut free)

To make Zucchini Basil Fritters:

Ingredients:

1 cup leftover basmati rice

1 medium zucchini, grated

2 garlic cloves, diced

20 basil leaves, diced

2 teaspoons egg replacer, mixed 4 tablespoons water)

1/2 cup plain flour or gluten free flour

1 tablespoon lemon juice

sea salt and black pepper to taste

olive oil

Method:

1. Take a mixing bowl and combine the basmati rice, grated zucchini, garlic and basil.

2. Add egg replacer, flour, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper to taste. Stir through well.

3. Heat a non stick pan with olive oil on medium heat. Take a heaped tablespoon of the mixture and make into a pattie with your hands, then drop into the pan. Cook fritters for a minute or two on both side.

4. Continue Step 3 until you have no more mixture yet. You should be able to make eight Fritters.

To Make Lemon Cumin Mayo:

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Combine all the ingredients and serve with the fritters.

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Homemade Gnocchi with a Spicy Capsicum Sauce

I had a big craving for gnocchi last night. It’s one of my favourite comfort foods, but I don’t eat it that often. I refused to buy any store bought gnocchi. I just don’t understand why they need some many ingredients when I can make it with three. It’s acutally really easy to make. It does take little bit of time, especially if like me half of your potatoes are still hard when you try to grate them. I really have to invest in a potato ricer. But it was really fun to make, especially with someone you love. Marco helped me roll the gnocchi. They weren’t the perfect shape, but they taste the same in the end so that’s all that matters.

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Gnocchi with a Spicy Capsicum Sauce (vegan, gluten free option, soy free, nut free)

To make the Gnocchi:

Ingredients:

600 g potatoes (unpeeled)

1 cup unbleached plain flour, more for rolling (use gluten free plain flour  if you prefer)

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Bring a pot to the boil, then cook the whole potatoes for 20 minutes or until soft.

2. Rinse the potatoes with water and once they are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off.

3. Force the potato through a potato ricer/fine grater/fine mese sieve into another bowl, so that it comes out like almost puréed and without lumps.

4. Season the potato with salt and sift 1 cup of flour slowly into the bowl (you may not need all the flour).

5. Knead the gnocchi on a floury board for about 3 minutes and add more flour if you need.

6. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll into logs. Then use a knife to slice the logs into smaller pieces (enough for 1 gnocchi). If you have a gnocchi paddle, then roll the dough balls to form the gnocchi. Otherwise gently press the dough balls with a fork to leave some ridges or roll along the fork. For both methods check out this video to learn how to roll gnocchi.

7. In boiling salted water, drop the gnocchi into the water. Once the gnocchi rise to the top (should take a couple of minutes), continue to cook for  a further 2-4 minutes (depending on how large your gnocchi are). If in doubt then taste then to make sure they are not over or undercooked.

To make the Sauce:

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

500g whole tomatoes (about 4 large)

1/2 red capsicum, diced

2/3 cup dry white wine

1 large red chili

sea salt and black pepper to taste

couple of pinches of evaporated cane sugar (or raw sugar)

1 handful whole basil leaves

Method:

1. Bring a pot to the boil, then drop in the whole tomatoes. Boil for a couple of minutes, until the skin starts to break. Then remove immediately and drop into an ice water bath or cool down with running water into a strainer. Peel the skin from the tomatoes and dice.

2. Heat a pot on medium heat with olive oil, then add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until translucent.

3. Add the red capsicum saute for a few more minutes.

4. Then add the diced tomatoes, white wine, and whole red chilli. Bring to the boil, then leave on a simmer for 20-30 minutes. While its cooking season with sea salt and black pepper and balance with sugar.

5. Place the sauce into a Vitamix or high speed blender. Remove the chilli if you don’t want it too hot or leave it in. Blend till its smooth.

6. Return to the pot and add the basil leaves. Cook until the basil leaves have wilted and the sauce is warm. Then serve with the gnocchi.

*3 big serves or 4 entree size

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Cannelloni with Cashew Tofu ‘Ricotta’ Spinach Filling

After that lovely living lasagne yesterday I was really in the mood for one of my favourite things I use to prepare with Marco before I stopped eating dairy. We use to often make spinach & ricotta or pumpkin & ricotta cannelloni together. I was originally going to make a spinach tofu filling with a creamy bechamel, but I had no unsweetened plant milk in the house. So I tried to make a filling of ‘ricotta’ using cashew and tofu with some fresh spinach and topped it with a home made tomato sauce. It definitely had the texture of ricotta. I was convinced it tasted like ricotta. Marco not so much, because he still indulges in dairy products, but he said it was still very delicious. He had seconds, so that’s always a good sign. Unfortunately I was not able to get a good picture of the cannelloni, but trust me what it lacks in aesthetics it made up for in taste. Looking forward to having leftovers again tonight!

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Cannelloni with Cashew Tofu ‘Ricotta’ Spinach Filling (vegan, gluten free option)

Ingredients for Sauce and Pasta:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

750ml passata sauce

350ml water

2 pinches raw sugar

sea salt & black pepper to taste

10 basil leaves, diced

250g cannelloni shells (use gluten free cannelloni if you prefer)

Ingredients for Filling:

1 cup cashews (raw/soaked)

1/2 cup water

250g firm tofu, cubed

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

sea salt to taste

4 cups chopped english or baby spinach leaves

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Prepare the sauce first. Heat olive oil in a medium size pot and then add onions and garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes or till transparent.

3. Add the passata sauce, water, raw sugar and season. Bring to a boil and then leave on a simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

4. If you haven’t soaked the cashews, cook in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, then rinse under cold water.

5. Place cashews in a kitchen processor. First break down the cashews a little, then add water while it is running. I used my processor instead of my Vitamix so that there would still be the texture of ricotta, rather then cream.

6. While it is running add tofu cubes.???????????????????????????????

7. Once tofu has broken down a bit add olive oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, while the processor is running.???????????????????????????????

8.  Add 2 cups of spinach leaves to the ricotta and let the processor run until they break down into the ricotta. Then add the next to cups but don’t break down the spinach too much.???????????????????????????????

9. The sauce should be ready now, so add diced basil leave and leave to the side.

10. Put a couple of ladles of the sauce into a large baking tray, so that you can’t see the bottom.

11. Fill the cannelloni shells with the filling and place into the baking tray. I managed to use all the filling except for two shells.

12. Top with with the sauce and place into the oven for 40 minutes or until the cannelloni shells are cooked. If you have plenty of leftover sauce use to reheat leftovers the next day.

*Serves 6

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High hopes…

Hi all, hope you all had a great weekend! We spent the weekend and most of last week organizing to go to auction for our dream house. Unfortunately although we won the auction we didn’t get the house. The owner had really unrealistic expectations of price that they only made clear the day of the auction and would not budge. It was a bit disappointing, but at least I can sleep again. Most of last week I spent tossing and turning and stressing. So its Monday morning and I’m feeling more refreshed for the week. Things could still turn around, but we will just have to wait and see.

Besides stressing about the house I spent most of last week stressing about something else. I admit since I have started my job I have put on a little weight. I spend most of the day sitting down and have found it difficult to exercise in the evenings. Beside that winter has continued into spring, I am just generally exhausted at night and have lacked motivation. However this week someone I won’t mention was not going to let me think my weight gain has gone unnoticed. I was just so embarrassed and upset that I spent the rest of the weekend trying to sustain a mostly liquid diet. All that I achieved was giving myself a migraine, being short tempered with even one and hating myself. It wasn’t until the end of the week that I realized that I don’t need to change myself for someone else. I am still a healthy size 10 and it is expected that a change in my lifestyle was going to impact my body. Which is something that I can bounce back from once I get use to my routine. People who make nasty comments only do it for their own satisfaction. It is not out of care, but to highlight imperfect in someone else to mask their own insecurities. Instead of being motivated by someone else’s jealousy, I rather be motivated by my own need to live the healthiest life I can. So I have been trying to make more of an effort to walk my dogs and be active. Looking forward to the sun staying out a little longer as we get further into spring.

Anyhow on a brighter subject, as I mentioned I tried to live on a most liquid diet. But I still had to eat some solid foods. I tried to keep it as light as possible, but I certainly wasn’t going to eat lettuce leaves. I am really not a fan of plain old lettuce tomato and cucumber as a main meal. So to sprice up my salad I added some roasted Japanese eggplant and sweet potato. This is now my favourite way to have Japanese eggplant. I just chopped them in half and lightly brush some oil roast for 20-30 mins. They taste great in a salad with Agave & Tahini Dressing. I also prepared them to accompany a Roasted Garlic, Cherry Tomato Coconut Oat soup. Marco wasn’t a big fan of oats in soup, but I just wanted to see what it would be like. It wasn’t bad, but still needs so fine tuning. A recipe I did include was Quinoa Sushi with Red Onion, Cucumber and Mayo. Marco was a bit freaked out about quinoa in sushi, but he ended up loving it. The combination was surprisingly really nice and didn’t feel like anything was really missing.

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Quinoa Sushi with Red Onion, Cucumber and Mayo (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

white quinoa

rice wine vinegar

mirin

sea salt

red onion diced

cucumber sliced

Soy Mayonnaise/vegan mayonnaise

nori sheets

Method:

1. Cook quinoa according to packet directions. Then let it cool down and add some rice wine vinegar, mirin and sea salt to taste.

2. In the meantime combine the diced red onion with mayonnaise.

3. Lay out the nori sheet then add a layer of quinoa. Then in the centre add red onion and 3 slices of cucumber.

4. Roll up the nori sheet then slice and serve.

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I have been a bit slack continuing my Cookbook Project for the recipe book Energise Your Life: Release Your Natural Energy. After the Aloo Gobi debacle, I was a bit hesitant to try something else.  I finally got all the ingredients together the Vegetable crumble, so here it is. My family really liked this recipe. I quite liked it too, but I did find the crumble a bit dry. I had a feeling when I was adding the crumble that it was a bit floury and thick, but I decided to trust in the recipe. Turns out my instincts were right and there wasn’t enough vegan butter to make the crumble that hard and crusty, so it was a bit on the floury side. But nevertheless I really liked this recipe.

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Vegetable Crumble (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

To make this recipe you will need:

1 onion sliced

2 medium carrots, sliced

2 sticks of celery, sliced

1/4 cabbage, shredded/sliced

125g vegan butter

200g organic flour

2 tablespoons flaked almonds, plus more to garnish

225g tomatoes (about 3 small)

125g hazel nuts, chopped

1 tablespoons yeast (I used 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast) mixed with 175 ml boiling water

sea salt & black pepper to taste

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First I preheated the oven to 180 degrees and slicing all the vegetables and nuts. Then I melted half the Nutlex in a large pan on medium to low heat. Then sautéed the vegetables till they were soft.

While they were cooking, I adding the flour (minus 1 tablespoon of flour), half the butter and 2 tablespoons of flaked almonds into the blender and blended it. I also dropped the tomatoes into boiled water for a minute, then peeled and chopped them.

When the vegetables were starting to soften I added the hazelnuts top heat through, then added1 tablespoon of flour.

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Next I added the nutritional yeast mixed with the water, chopped tomatoes sea salt and black pepper. I allowed it to thicken a little before taking it off the heat.

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I placed the vegetables into a greased casserole tray. Then topped it with the crumble mixture and some extra flaked almonds. I baked that for 1 hour. Since my crumble looked a bit floury I added a bit of spray oil on the top and cooked it for a further 5 minutes. I think it did help to get make the top a bit more crispy.

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This was the result. It does look a bit dry but actually the vegetables underneath were moist and caramelized nicely. It serves enough for 6.

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The cook book recommended servicing it with steamed green beans and corn, which actually really went well with the Vegetable Crumble. I just sliced the corn off the cob and chopped fresh green beans. Green beans and corn do taste a lot better fresh then frozen. Steamed they taste great, all they needed was a bit of sea salt.

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I really did like this recipe and I think its both Marco and kid friendly. It can easily be made gluten free, using gluten free flour. The only think I recommend is using less flour in the crumble.

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Pasta with Green Beans, Caramelized Onions, Capers and Pine nuts

Over the past week I have managed to get back on the juice train and juice everything in my fridge. This is how my latest favourite pasta dish was born. With only green beans and onions I tried to make something appetizing enough, that keep me away from my mums Rigatoni Bolognese. I ended up making this again for Marco and I. Even though he though he would hate it, he ended up liking it.

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Pasta with Green Beans, Caramelized Onions, Capers and Pine nuts (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients:

2 serves penne or other short pasta (use gluten free pasta if you prefer)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium brown onion, diced

2 garlic, diced

2 handfuls of green beans, topped,tail and cut into thirds

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1-2 teaspoons capers

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan or more to taste

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a non-stick pan, then add the onion and garlic. Cook for 5 mins till they are slightly browned. Turn down the heat while cooking so it doesn’t burn.

2. Add the green beans and cook for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the capers and pine nuts. Continue to cook until the green beans are tender.

4. Take off the heat then add the hot pasta, nutritional yeast, sea salt and black pepper.

*Serves 2

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Revisit The Shady Palm and discover the Flamingo

I can’t believe how fast this weekend has gone. It’s been lovely weather for winter. It’s been really hot during the day, so no needs for jackets and tights. I have been trying to get as much Vitamin D as I can, hoping it will make up the weekdays. It was also perfect weather for brunch. Over the weekend we revisited The Shady Palm Cafe for lunch and tried another new discovery Flamingo Cafe for Sunday breakfast.???????????????????????????????

This was our third visit to The Shady Palm Cafe, however it was our first for lunch. When we arrived it was just as busy and bustling as usually. We already knew what we were ordering. For lunch they have two vegan options, one shared dish and one main. I didn’t know what to order, so I had to order both. I ordered the Crispy Plantain and Peanut Fritters with Mojo and the Fried Okra Tacos with chimmichurri, ranch, black beans and corn salsa. Marco ordered the Handcut Fried Potatoes with Chipotle Mayo and three Sliders with different meats fillings.

Crispy Plaintain & Peanut Fritters with Mojo

Crispy Plantain & Peanut Fritters with Mojo

These fritters were really delicious. I don’t know how to describe the flavor, because I this was the first time I have tried plantain. I think was the sweet tomato sauce was the ‘mojo’, This sauce was amazing and really brought the dish alive. Marco really liked these fritters too. We definitely would order these again.

Fried Okra Tacos with chimmichurri, ranch, blackbean and corn salsa

Fried Okra Tacos with Chimmichurri, ranch, black bean and corn salsa

Handcut Fried Potatoes

Handcut Fried Potatoes

I really loved my main dish. Like the fritters, it was like nothing I have had before. I was expecting hard shelled tacos, like you get out of the box. But this was a nice surprise. I am a big fan of okra, but I have only used it with Asian dishes before. All the flavors of the components went really well together. The potatoes were also great accompaniment too. They mayo wasn’t vegan, but they were great without that anyway. It was actually meant to accompany Marcos sliders, but I can never say no to hot chips. Its my one weakness which I have never been able to kick. So we had a great experience yet again at The Shady Palm Cafe. Although they only have a couple of vegan options, they were good enough for me to come back especially for.

This morning for brunch we decided to try somewhere we haven’t been before. I’m not sure how I found out about Flamingo Cafe. They were listed as vegan friendly, so we had to go and check them out. They are in Fortitude Valley, just off the main shopping strip on Ann Street, in a tiny side street. They are surrounded by shops with independent designers and alternative fashion. We decided to sit inside since it was extremely sunny and were greeted by really friendly waitresses. The decor was really quirky and retro, from the vibrant pineapple wallpaper to the artdeco chandeliers. It is like no other cafe in Brisbane. I have read many review from others who say its their favorite hangover cafe, but I’m not sure I would want be hungover in a place like this. However, being sober I really enjoyed the visual appeal of this little oasis.

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The menu is not very long, but it does change regularly and they have daily specials. I was happy to see a vegan option that didn’t have to be altered. I ordered the Slow Cooked Beans with English Spinach, Herb Salt and Toast. Marco ordered the MSA Minute Steak with Caramelized onions, Fried F.R Egg, tarragon mayo, tomato relish and Rocket. I also ordered the Flamingo Ice Tea to drink.

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My slow cooked beans included a variety of beans, including lima, chickpeas and cannelini beans, with lots of fresh herbs. It was really nice. The only thing I would say is that I would of liked the flavor of the tomato stronger and pack more of a punch. Luckily I had plenty of sea salt to add. The bread was really nice and crispy and the serve was really generous. The signature Flamingo Ice Tea was really amazing. The flavor of  mint, lemon and ginger were really strong and made this drink really memorable. I usually get a coffee, but it was nice to have something so refreshing. Marco was quite happy with his dish. I have to say that his caramelized onions were pretty good. Overall it was a good experience and I would go back with friends. Only con was that the parking in that area is a bit risky and mostly a tow away zone.

After brunch we went over to one of Marco’s new discoveries, Flour and Chocolate. His friend took him last week for Cronuts. Even though I couldn’t eat anything there he wanted to get something for the ‘kids’ (his nieces and nephew). It really is a lovely little patisserie. While we were there I asked the owner about vegan options. She told us about the amazing baguettes and sourdough loafs they do in many different flavors throughout the week. So I don’t Marco visiting them during the week, so long as he brings me some crispy French bread. While he was choosing treats for the ‘kids’ I spotted something I haven’t seen before, Organic Bread Flour. Looking forward to making some focaccia or cinnamon scrolls very soon.

DSC06563The last thing I wanted to share was the most creamy guilty free vegetable pasta I made a couple of nights ago. I had heaps of cooked bucatini leftover and I was craving something creamy. It was also a great way to use a heap of green veggies that had been neglected in my fridge. I also made a cherry tomato foccacia with left over pizza dough. However I wasn’t too happy with it, since it was more like a biscuit then a pizza bread. It wasn’t thick enough and over cooked. I will try this again soon and include the recipe. Its something I really miss that I use to eat really often as a quick lunch in Milan.

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Creamy Pasta Primavera (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients:

3 serves of long pasta (use gluten free pasta if you prefer)

1 cup cashews (soaked or raw)

1 cup water,

1 cup frozen/fresh broad beans (and/or peas)

olive oil

1 small brown onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 large zucchini, sliced in batons

1 bunch asparagus, chopped half

1/4 cup white wine (optional)

3 leaves of curly kale, without stems, sliced

1/2 tsp nutmeg (more to taste)

1/2 almond milk

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method:

1. If you haven’t pre-soaked your cashews, boil for 10 mins. Put in high speed blender and break down cashews, then gradually add water till you get cashew cream.

2. In the meantime boil the broad beans for 5 minutes. Then remove from hot water, rinse to cool down, then remove skin. Put to the side.

3. Heat large pan with olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for 3-4 minutes.

4. Add zucchini and cook for another couple of minutes. ???????????????????????????????

5. Add asparagus and wine. Let the wine absorb and continue to saute until the zucchini and asparagus are tender.

6. Add kale and sea salt. Saute for a minute so that the kale is no longer dry and is bright green in color.???????????????????????????????

7. Add the broad beans, cashew cream and almond milk (add more if cashew cream sticks to pan). Season with salt and pepper and nutmeg. Cook until the cashew cream and almond milk combine and become nice and creamy.

8. Add the cooked hot pasta to the sauce and coat in the sauce and serve

*Serves 3

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Bucatini all’amatriciana and Verdure grigliate

The past couple of days Marco and I have been going into work really early. When I say early I meet leaving the house at 6 am. It wouldn’t be so bad if I went to bed a little early and didn’t get woken up by students showering at 3 am and getting up to turn off the fridge beeping twice around 4 am every night. Strangely enough once I get up I actually feel pretty good. Yesterday we decided to have an early breakfast at a local cafe near my work. While we were waiting for our meals I lrg_2400was flicking through an old addition of Jamie Olives Magazine from April/May 2010. Marco was looking over my shoulder and when I went past Jamie’s Bucatini all’amatriciana he snatched the magazine and said I am making this tonight!

Considering he only knows how to cook eggs and toast I was surprised about his enthusiasm. Then I realized that it was because he wanted this dish because it had meat. He knows there no chance I was going to make something with Pancetta. Besides the fact that I don’t eat meat anymore, I also remember the sweet delicious flavor of Italian pancetta and proscuitto and quite frankly its still too temping for me to prepare for someone else.

Later that afternoon we went to the supermarket on Marco’s mission to buy Pancetta. We went to two big supermarkets and once we finally found it I managed to talk him out of it. From a health persective I don’t understand why ingredients like gluten, soy, lactose, sodium nitrate, glucose, preservatives, etc, need to be included. Italian hams do not include any of this. So after scrutinizing the ingredients he agreed to go with my promise of making a vegan alternative.img30l

Bucatini all’amatricana is famous traditional dish from the region of Lazio in Italy. L’amatriciana (matriciana in Roman dialect) gets it’s name from the Italian town Amatrice, Lazio. The dish is made from the ingredients typical of Lazio, cured pork jaws (Guanciale di maiale), pecorino cheese, and tomatoes.

L’amatriciana is actually derived from another older dish, La gricia. This is also one of the most famous Italian dishes from the same region. This dish is considered its ancestor, as it predates the importation of tomatoes to Europe. La gricia is also made with cured pork jaws and pecorino cheese. It is  believed that it was named after the Grici, who use sell bread and groceries to the Romans. The were perhaps called Grici because they had emigrated from the Swiss canton of Grisons. Alternatively it is thought that the dish was named after the hamlet of Grisciano, which is in a comune of Accumoli, near Amatrice.Apicius_1709

Tomatoes were not introduced to Europe until the 18th century. In fact the first written record of tomatoes being used as a sauce with pasta was from the 1790 cookbook L’Apicio Moderno by Roman chef Francesco Leonardi. The L’amatriciana later became one of the most famous sauces during the 19th to early 20th century in Rome. This was perhaps because of its close proximity  between Rome and Amatrice. Thus, it became a classic dish of Roman Cuisine. Although La gricia is still prepared throughout central Italy, the L’amatriciana is more well known throughout and outside of Italy.

The recipe of the sauce does vary throughout Lazio. The main ingredients are pork jaws, tomato and pecorino and olive oil. are always used, Olive oil is generally used, but some recipes call for strutto (canned pork lard) instead. The cheese type of pecorino cheese used is Pecorino romano or Pecorino amatriciano. Other ingredients such as black pepper or chili pepper, onion (not used in Amatrice)  and garlic are also acceptable.bucatini

This dish is typically prepared with Bucatini pasta. This is a thick long pasta with a hole through the center. The name is derived from the Italian word ‘buco’ meaning ‘hole’. This type of pasta is very common throughout Rome and Lazio. It is made of hard durum wheat flour and water. It usually takes about nine mintues to cook and is often served with buttery sauces, pork jaws (guanciale), pancetta, vegetables, cheese, eggs, anchovies or sardines. This dish is also typically prepared with Rigatoni or other dry pastas, but never fresh pasta.

I remember that we did eat this pasta somewhere when we were in Italy, so I was going back through my photos and found these (below). This is in a restaurant in Trastevere, Rome. We ordered Bucatini all’amatriciana, Patate arroste and Polla alla Romana. The pasta was definitely the best part.

Rome

So how to make this vegan? I used tempeh as a meat substitute. This is my favorite thing to substitute bacon, meatballs and sausages. To give it the smokey taste I used liquid smoke. After marinating the tempeh and frying it it really did have that smoked meat flavour. Then with the wine and tomatoes and really helped it come together as a delicious sauce. Marco loved this dish and said he was happy to have this instead. He was a bit worried while I was cooking it but once he tried my sauce he was very pleased.

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Bucatini all’amatriciana (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

150g Tempeh pancetta (ingredients below)

1 red chili, diced

6-7 small tomatoes, diced

1 can good quality Polpa (Italian diced tomato pulp)

sea salt and black pepper to taste

4 serves of Bucatini/gf long pasta (400 g)

Ingredients for Tempeh Pancetta (150 g):

2 tsp liquid smoke

1 tsp soy sauce 1 tsp agave

sea salt to taste

Method:

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1. First make the Tempeh Pancetta. Slice the tempeh into thin strips, then slice it the other way so they you have small strips. Place the tempeh in a bowl and drizzle liquid smoke, soy sauce, agave and sea salt. Toss through so that it coats all the tempeh. Leave to marinate at least 10 minutes.

2. Bring a small pot to the boil, then drop in the whole tomatoes. Boil for 1 minute or until the skin slighly brakes. Then remove them from the water and plunge into ice water. Peep the tomatoes, remove the seeds then dice the flesh.

3. Heat a large pan or pot with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat, then add onion and garlic. Fry for 3 minutes or until translucent.???????????????????????????????

4. Then add Tempeh Pancetta and fry for another 5 minutes.???????????????????????????????

5. Add white wine and cook until it evaporates. Should take about 5 minutes.

6. Add the diced tomatoes, chili and can of polpa. Fill the half the can with water and add that to the pan as well.

7. Season generously with sea salt and bring to a light boil, then place on a simmer and leave to cook for 30 minutes.

8. Before the sauce is ready cook the pasta in boiling salty water, until al dente. Then move the pasta from the water straight into the hot sauce. Toss through and serve with cracked black pepper.

*Serves 4

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On the side I made grilled vegetables. This is also something we ate a lot in Italy as contorni (side dish). Although I was still eating meat back then, I still craved vegetables. So simple to prepare and really delicious!

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Verdure grigliate (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

olive oil

sea salt to taste

1 eggplant

2 bunches asparagus

2 zucchini (any other vegetables you like)

Method:???????????????????????????????

1. First slice the eggplant into thin strips and then halve again if you like. Add salt onto the eggplant and leave for at least 10 minutes to remove the bitterness. After wipe off the moisture and the salt from the eggplant.

2. In the meantime prepare the rest of the vegetables. Chop the zucchini in half, then slice into thin strips. Remove the woody end of the asparagus then chop in half and slice in half again, so they are thin and long.

3. Brush the griddle pan with olive oil and heat. Brush the vegetables with olive oil, then add in batches to the griddle pan. All the vegetables have difference cooking time, between 2-5 minutes. I cooked the eggplant first and brushed with extra oil while they cooked if there were dry parts. Then I cooked the zucchini and asparagus in batches.Season with sea salt while cooking or after the vegetables are cooked to serve

*Serves 4

Amatriciana, 2013 <http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amatriciana>

Bucatini, 2013 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucatini>

Jamie Magazion 2010 April/May 2010, Amatriciana Pasta Sauce, 2010 <http://www.icanhascook.com/amatriciana-pasta-sauce/>

National Bacon Week – Bucatini Amatriciana, 2013 <http://www.loverofcreatingflavours.co.uk/category/features/food/vegetables-food/grow-your-own/herbs-grow-your-own/parsley/>

Sugo all’amatriciana, 2013 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugo_all’amatriciana>

Tropical Veggie Pizza with Cashew ‘Mozzarella’

As much as I still enjoy pizza without the cheese there is one thing that still bugs me. I can’t manage to get my ingredients to stay on top of the pizza. Even when I have tried using pre-bought vegan cheeses, the ingredients  still slide off and don’t stick the way that regular dairy cheese does. Ok its probably partly my fault. Even though I love real Italian pizza with minimal topping, I just can’t help myself from adding when I make my own pizza. So my pizza ends up so heavy that I have to eat it with a knife and fork. Marco does the same, but his cheese manages to keep his together.

A couple of days back Marco decided we were having pizza, which is always a good since he likes to make the dough himself. He preferred using white flour, but luckily we only had lots wholemeal and a little bit of tipo 00 flour to use. I didn’t have any vegan mozzarella so I got online trying to find a cheesy alternative for my pizza. I remembered seeing Vedged Out’s recipe for Fresh Moxarella Cheese. I also found another similar recipe from Vegie Project, Cashew “mozzarella”. I decided to go with the Vegie Project recipe since it Nutritional Yeast.

I was really easy recipe to follow. I just put everything in the Vitamix, then heated the mixture over the stove. The recipe makes enough for 2 large pizzas. The consistency and taste is similar to other vegan cheesy sauces, but the color is much lighter. It also has a stringly texture, which is similar to melted cheese. The recipe is gluten and soy free as well.

To make sure that my ingredients stuck to the pizza I put some Cashew ‘Mozzarella’ under the ingredients as well as on top. I didn’t cover the whole pizza it in, rather I tried to drizzle it around the pizza. The ingredients I used include red capsicum, yellow capsicum, green capsicum, red onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, mushrooms and tuscan kale.

I was really happy with the result of my pizza. The cheese managed to hold just about all the ingredients in place and the taste was really nice and creamy. I let Marco taste mine and even he agreed it was pretty good for a vegan pizza and would be happy to have that ‘next  time’.

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Tropical Veggie Pizza with Cashew ‘Mozzarella’ (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients for Pizza:

1 wholemeal pizza base (or gluten free pizza base)

2-3 tablespoons homemade/bottled pasta sauce

variety red capsicum,  yellow capsicum and green capsicum, chopped

red onion, diced

garlic, diced

cherry tomatoes, halved

pineapple, chopped

mushrooms, sliced

tuscan kale, sliced

Ingredients for Cashew ‘Mozzarella’ (enough for 2 pizzas):

1/4 cup cashew nuts

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons arrowroot flour (tapioca starch)

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.???????????????????????????????

2. Place all in the ingredients for the Cashew ‘Mozzarella’ in the Vitamix or high speed blender. Blend until smooth.  Then heat mixture in a small pot for 3-5 minutes until the mixture has thickened. Stir constantly while it is cooking.

3. Roll out pizza dough, then spoon on pasta sauce on the base. Drizzle or blob some Cashew Mozzarella on the base as well.???????????????????????????????

4. Top with the rest of the ingredients. Add some more Cashew mozzarella in blobs ontop if you like.

5. Bake pizza for 15 min or until base is cooked.

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Sweet Spiced Baked Tofu, Cashew Mint ‘Yogurt’ and Eggplant and Carrot in a Rich Tomato Sauce with Whole wheat Couscous

This week I finally became an official Graduate! On Tuesday night I had the graduation ceremony in town. I can’t believe its finally happened and I’m not a student anymore. I thought I would feel different, but I think I still haven’t come to terms with it yet. The whole experience was amazing. I kind of knew what to expect, after going to Marco’s a few years ago. Mine was a little different though. There were only smaller number of people graduating and Griffith has really polished up a lot as a university in selling itself.  It does feel different when its your graduation though and definitely is worth all the fuss.

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My mother, her partner Ted, Marco and his mother, Sally, all came to my graduation. I also found that my friend who use to be my International mentee a couple of years ago was graduating. So it was nice to see someone I knew there. The vice chancellor began the ceremony with a very political, yet inspiring speech about how important investing into education is for our country. Then after receiving our awards we had another couple of speeches from these two amazing girls who have achieved so much in their fields, that are typically male dominated areas (computer engineering, bio- engineering). I noticed that a lot of the graduates were female, particularly the students that weren’t international.

Even though we had a short rehearsal before the ceremony, most people didn’t accept their awards in the official way. When I accepted my award I got stage fright and forgot to do the nod at the right moment. I just walked straight to the Chancellor and then panicked when I realized what I did and tried to do my nod again. He laughed at me and told me it was ok. It probably didn’t help that I had sculled a glass of sweet sparkling wine just before the ceremony on an empty stomach. After the ceremony, after taking a few more photos, we all went out for Thai.

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So now its over not sure what I am going to do with myself. Maybe I will go do Honors in a year or maybe keep working in government. Not sure I can do the same thing forever. I am already itching to learn. I have been studying Atlantis every spare moment I have at work or in transit. In case you didn’t know I am also an Ancient Alien fanatic. So perhaps one day I’ll be uncovering some long kept truth.

But for today I am curled up on the couch under a blanket. I was meant to go work today for some special corporate event, but the directors decided  that us temps shouldn’t be there since we aren’t on the books yet. I’m pretty happy to get a long weekend. I wasn’t looking forward to getting up at 5.30 today dressed as a super hero.

For lunch I just made a delicious ‘Chicken’ Burger with fresh bread, coleslaw mix, red onion and lots of avjar and Fry’s Chicken-style Burgers. This is the first time I tried this Fry’s product and it didn’t disappoint. It taste just as good as the real thing.

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For dinner last night I made something I have been wanting to try for a while, Baked Tofu. Believe or not I have never made or eaten it before. I made a marinate with tahini, honey, sunflower oil, paprika, cumin and sea salt. Normally I would use agave, but when I added a tablespoon of tahini I realized it was mixed with honey. It’s Marco’s mothers latest obsession at the moment. I introduced tahini to her a few weeks back when she wanted to learn to make hummus and she feel in love. But of course she needed to sweeten it. Marco got his sweet tooth from both of his parents. As for the Tofu it was delicious! I really like it baked. The marinate cooked onto the tofu well.  It was as nice was a good protein alternative, in terms of flavor and texture.

I also made a Moroccan inspired dish of eggplant, carrots in a spiced tomato sauce. I had a lot of passata sauce leftover and a new box of organic whole wheat couscous to try. I actually really like the couscous. It didn’t taste that different to the regular white one. So no reason to go back to the regular one now. The vegetables were really flavorsome and rich.

For acidity I made a cashew yogurt. It wasn’t meant to be like a yogurt, but that’s what we ended up thinking it tasted like. I added fresh mint, garlic, lemon juice and salt to cashew cream. We really liked the flavor and I will definitely be using this as alternative to yogurt for savory dishes. Best part is that its not processed and soy free !

Sweet Spiced Baked Tofu, Cashew Mint ‘Yoghurt’  and Eggplant and Carrot in a Rich Tomato Sauce with Whole wheat Couscous

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Sweet Spiced Baked Tofu (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

175 g firm tofu

3 tablespoons sunflower oil

1/2 tablespoon tahini

1/2 tablespoon agave (or honey)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet hungarian paprika

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. First preheat the oven to 180 degrees and press the tofu for 15 mins. I just covered it in paper towels and put something heavy on it to get the water out of it.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients into a  bowl and whisk with a fork till combined.

3. Slice the tofu into 4 slices, then dip them in the marinate, coating on all sides, then place on baking tray with baking paper. Top with a little more marinate.

4. Bake for 20 mins. While its baking turn tofu after 10 mins and brush with more marinate if you want.

*Serves 2, double to amounts for 4.

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Cashew Mint ‘Yoghurt’ (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cashews (pre-soaked/raw)

1/2 cup filtered water

1 garlic clove

2 tablespoons mint leaves

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. If you haven’t soaked the cashews then boil them for 10 mins.

2. In a Vitamix or high speed blender the cashews. Break them down, then slowly add 1/2 a cup of water. Blend till it becomes creamy.

3. Add garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and blend. If you need add more water to break down into a cream, but not too much, it should be thick.

*Makes 1/2 cup

Eggplant and Carrot in a Rich Tomato Sauce with Whole wheat Couscous (gluten free option, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 red onion, diced

3 cgarlic cloves, diced

1 small red capsicum, chopped

1 small-medium eggplant, salted

1 medium carrot, chopped

2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoon sweet hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

350ml passata sauce

1 cup water

1 teaspoon raw sugar

2 teaspoon sea salt (more to taste)

1 cup whole wheat couscous (of gluten free couscous)

Method:

1. Slice the eggplant, then salt it and leave it to sit for at least 10 mins to sweat out the bitterness. After wipe the salt off the eggplant and chop into cubes.

2. In a large heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then add onion, garlic and capsicum. Cook for 7 mins or until caramelized.

3. Add eggplant, carrot, cumin, paprika,  coriander and cinnamon. Add more oil if the eggplant is too dry.

4. Add the passata sauce, 1 cup of water, raw sugar and sea salt. Bring to the boil, then leave on a simmer for 30-40 mins. If it drys out add more water.

5. Before serving prepare the couscous according to pack directions.

*Serves 4

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