Pearl Couscous with Green Lentils, Kale and Caramelized Onions

After seeing my naturapath yesterday I realised I really have to amp up my bean intake and make more of an effort to combine plant-based proteins for the baby. As much as I love eating beans I always forget to put them to soak the night. Although I don’t enjoy lentils as much, they are really handy when you have limited time and are out of bpa free canned beans (which I have been relying on). I was also craving pearl couscous after that delicious dish I had from East Elevation a few days ago in Melbourne.

This dish was inspired by Mujaddara but with a few alterations. I used pearl couscous for a different texture and some kale and pepitas seeds for an extra nutritional boost. This dish usually calls for crispy fried onions on top, but I decided to not over cook the onions, to  leave as much nutrients as possible. It was a delicious combination. I hope my little one is enjoying some new flavours.

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 Pearl Couscous with Green Lentils, Kale and Caramelized Onions (vegan, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup green lentils (you only need 1 cup of cooked lentils, so cook 1 cup dry for leftovers)

2 cups diced brown onion (about 1.5 onions)

olive oil

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon all spice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup pearl couscous

1.5 cup liquid vegetable stock (chicken or veg flavoured)

2 cups sliced kale, tightly packed (about 2 large kale leaves, large stems removed)

3 tablespoons pepitas seeds

Method:

1. Place the green lentils in a pot with enough water to cover and bring the boil. Then place on a simmer and cook until tender. Once cooked leave to the side.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and then add the onion. Cook on a low to medium heat until the onions have browned and caramelized. This should take about 20 minutes. Once they are browned remove from the skillet and place to the side.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized pot and add the garlic. Cook for about 30 seconds, then add the ground cumin, ground cinnamon, all spice and sea salt. Cook for a future 30 seconds or until fragrant.

4. Add the couscous and vegetable stock to the pot. Bring to the boil, then place on a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until the couscous is tender. Add more stock if it starts to stick to the pot.

5. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet and then add the kale. Lightly saute until the kale has wilted and is a vibrant green colour.

6. Toast the pepitas seeds in a dry pan until they start to pop a little then place to the side.

7. Make sure the couscous is off the heat and then add 1 cup of cooked green lentils, 2/3 of the caramelized brown onions and kale to the pot. Stir through.

8. Serve the couscous with extra carmelized onion and toasted pepitas seeds.

*Serve as a main for 3 or as a side for 4

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Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms, Sundried Tomatoes and Peas

A couple of days ago I finally received my copy of Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen. I didn’t even know Chloe Coscarelli had written another book, but as soon as I found out I added it to my Amazon order. I have a been a long time fan of Chloe and have previously bought and cooked recipes from her other books, Chloe’s Kitchen and Chloe’s Vegan Desserts.

I am really excited about this new book because it combines my two favorite things, italian food and guilt free delicious vegan recipes. You probably noticed on my blog that I have many Italian inspired recipes that are recreations of the food I grew up with and other traditional dishes that I have eaten in Italy or always wanted to try. So I am so excited to get some ideas on how to better veganise my favourite recipes.

You can see a sneak peak of Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen on Amazon and Google Books.

Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen: My Vegan MoFo Cookbook of the Week

This recipe below was adapted from Chloe’s White Wine Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms and Peas from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen. I used dried shiitake mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes in mine. Both have really strong flavours that really shone through. Marco was a bit scared when he saw the shiitake mushrooms, but he ended up being really happy with the taste of this risotto and wanted to have the leftovers for lunch the next day.

DSC03179Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Peas (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

6 cups vegetable liquid stock

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms (soak for 10 minutes and slice in strips if large pieces)

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/4 cup chopped fresh italian parsley

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Take medium pot and heat the liquid stock.  Leave it on a simmer while you start cooking the rest of the recipe.

2. Take a large skillet and heat olive oil on medium to high heat. Then add the onion and shiitake mushrooms. Saute until the onions have softened and are translucent.

3. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Saute for 1 minute so that the garlic is fragrant.

4. Add the rice and the white wine. Stir through and cook until the white wine has been absorb.

5. Begin to ladle about one cup at a time of liquid stock into the skillet. Stir frequently. Add another ladle of liquid stock once the first has been absorbed and continue until the rice is cooked and there is no more stock. This should take about 20-25 minutes.

6. Add the peas, italian parsley, sea salt and ground black pepper. Stir through until the peas are warmed through. Adjust seasoning if you need and then serve.

*Serves 4

DSC03183So far I have made a couple more dishes from my new favorite cook book. Last night I made Lemon Herb Cannellini Beans (Cannellini all erbe e limone) with Spinach and Mash Potatoes with Garlic and Sea Salt (Purè di patate con aglio e sale marino).  This was the most delicious creamy, cheezy bean dish I have ever had and was really simple and quick to make. The main ingredients are cannellini beans, garlic, nutritional yeast, plant milk and lemon juice. The Mash Potatoes were also really creamy and delicious thanks to the fresh garlic and plant milk.

For dessert I made Olive Oil Pancakes (Frittelle all’olio di oliva). I’ve never cooked pancakes with olive oil and I usually don’t use that much baking soda, but they came out so fluffy and delicious. For a recipe with only 5 ingredients I was really happy with the results and so was Marco. Usually he lathers his pancakes with nutella, but was content with natural maple syrup. Can’t wait to serve this the next time the mini-Marco’s come to visit.

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French lentil and Kale Ragout with Pesto Polenta

Another week has nearly gone by and I just can’t wait for the weekend. Today was the kind of day that made me want to run away from my responsibilities and crawl into my cupboard. Normally after a day like this I go home and become a couch potato. However today I came home inspired to cook a healthy wholesome meal for one. Probably because I spent my long bumpy bus ride home reading my new book that I just couldn’t put down. This book is Starch Solution, by Dr John A McDougall and Mary McDougall.  If you haven’t heard of it look it up. Its a great book for anyone looking for answers on how to be healthier and shed some pounds. I was just happy to have someone agree that carbs should be on the menu tonight. Especially since I’ve been eyeing the organic polenta in my cupboard ever since I bought it and been putting it off for a lighter alternative. And boy did it make me feel better. I also got to use left overs vege in my fridge, right in time for my organic set box delivery tomorrow from Home Fresh Organics. I just found out earlier this week that I won a free box, after attending the Inspiring Living Events last week. Looking forward coming home to fresh produce tomorrow! 

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French lentil and Kale Ragout with Pesto Polenta (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients: 

1/2  cup french lentils

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

4 large tomatoes, diced or 1 can good quality crushed tomatoes

1 cup vegetable stock/water

1/2 cup white or red wine (optional)

1 teaspoon raw sugar

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 cup filtered water

2 cups tightly packed curly kale leave (chopped)

1 cup intant polenta, preferably organic

3 cups filtered water

1/2 cup home-made pesto (more to serve) (made from pine nuts, garlic, basil, evo, nutritional yeast, sea salt, black pepper)

italian parsley to serve (optional)

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method for the French lentil and Kale Ragout:

1. Bring a small pot to the boil and add the lentils. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until tender.

2. In the meantime heat olive oil in a large pan and add onion and garlic. Saute for a few minutes until they soften.

3. Add diced tomatoes, vegetable stock and wine. Bring to the boil, then place on a simmer.

4. Add raw sugar, basil and sea salt to taste. Leave sauce to simmer for 25 minutes or until it has reduced and tomatoes have completely softened.

5. Add another cup of water and the kale and lentils. Stir through until the kale has wilted.

6. Serve French lentil and Kale Ragout over Pesto Polenta with some extra pesto sauce and italian parsley

Method for Pesto Polenta:

1. Place polenta and water in to a pot on a medium heat. Stir polenta continuously for 3-4 minutes, until the water has been absorbed and the polenta has become thick.

2. Add the pesto and sea salt to taste.

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Sweet Potato Sage Risotto with Hazelnut ‘Parmesan’

Now that I know the secret to making a good risotto it is one of my favourite midweek meals to make. I have never made it with sweet potato or sage before and to be honest I was a bit worried how it was going to turn out. However this has to be one of the best risotto’s I’ve ever made. I was worried that the sweet potato would be  too sweet, but it rather completed the risotto rather then overpowering it. The sage also gave the risotto a really nice aromatic flavour. With the addition of hazelnut ‘parmesan’ it was a winning combination.

What’s your favourite ingredients to add to Risotto?

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Sweet Potato Sage Risotto with Hazelnut ‘Parmesan’ (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

3 medium sweet potatoes (about 3 cups), peeled and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons hazelnuts

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

sea salt to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups risotto

1 large brown onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 cup white wine

1 litre boiling vegetable stock (I used steamer water and Marigold Swiss Bouillon Powder)

20 sage leaves, roughly chopped

Method:

1. Steam the sweet potato. Once it is cooked set aside and mash.

2. In the meantime place the hazelnuts and nutritional yeast in a coffee grinder. Grind into a flour and add sea salt to taste.

2. Heat olive oil in a large pot, then add risotto. Toast the risotto for a minute, then add the onion and garlic. Saute for another minute.

3. Add the white wine and allow it to absorb into the rice. Stir continuously.

4. Ladle spoons of boiling vegetable stock into the pot, one at a time. Allowing the rice to absorb the stock and before adding another ladle. Stir continuously. After you add a couple of ladles of stock, add the sage leaves.

5. Once the rice is just about cooked, add the mashed sweet potato and stir through. Adjust the seasoning with sea salt to taste.

6. Serve the risotto topped with a generous couple of spoons of the Hazelnut ‘Parmesan’

*Serves 6

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To complement the risotto I made a great big salad with fresh organic lettuce, kale, pea sprouts, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and red onion. To dress it I used my homemade Sun-dried Tomato Basil and Almond Pesto.

Pesto is also my new weekly obsession. Every week when I go to the Farmers Market I get a big bunch of basil and just blend it with olive oil, nutritional yeast and what ever nuts I have on hand. It’s great to use as a spreads, salad dressings, to add to sauces, etc. Actually tonight I used the remaining pesto to give my homemade burgers an extra kick. I am too tired to post that recipe tonight, so it will be coming out soon.

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Brunch at Grub Street and Tofu Scamble with Sundried Tomatoes and Kale

What I look forward to most on the weekends is doing brunch with Marco. In the area that we recently moved to there are lots of funky little cafes that offer different unique breakfast options. This weekend we visited Grub Street, a popular suburban cafe in Gaythorne. This was our first visit, so we were curious  to see why this little cafe is always so busy and has such great reviews. I was also very excited to try their vegan option.

I ordered the Carrot pancakes with roasted corn puree, rocket, corn relish and avocodo. Besides being dairy free and vegan, this dish was also gluten free. From what I could tell these pancakes were made of carrot, red onion, capscium, cumin, coriander, fennel seeds and chickpea flour. They were so dense, but not really heavy. The corn relish was also amazing and sweet, so it perfectly complemented the savoury pancakes. It was absolutely delicious and definitely made Grub Street one of my of new favourite cafes.

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When we don’t brunch out on the weekend, there is one special dish that Marco always likes me to make. This recipe is Tofu Country Scramble from Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen recipe book. In fact last weekend I made it for some visiting meat-loving tofu-fearing family members. They actually preferred my tofu scramble over my mum’s scrambled eggs. So you guess which one was left over and which was gobbed up quick.

This morning we decided to do brunch again. But by the time we drove over and realised that the cafe we wanted to go to was closed because they hadn’t reopened for the new year, Marco was about to murder me. So  I suggested another cafe, however they had already swapped to the lunch menu. I was willing to stay but Marco really wanted eggs. Instead he suggested we go back home and he would ‘help’ me make tofu scramble. So thats what we did. It was so satisfying and the money we saved in eating out paid for 4 bags of groceries.

I slightly adapted the original recipe and added kale, red onion and shallots. I love the flavour combination of the nutritional yeast, sun-dried tomatoes and tofu. I think this recipe taste better than regular scrambled eggs, which can be rubbery and tasteless and other tofu scrambles that can be watery and not really convincing. It is a great way to include some green vegetables first thing in the morning. I usually enjoy this dish with grilled turkish bread (like Marco did this morning), but today I just enjoyed it with some creamy avocado and it was just as good.

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Tofu Scramble with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Kale (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium red onion, diced

2-3 shallots, diced

10-12 sun-dried tomatoes, diced

500 g medium-firm organic tofu (pressed and crumbled)

1 large handful of red or curly kale, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons gluten free organic soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 heaped tablespoons nutritional yeast

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Heat a pan with olive oil  on a medium heat. Then sauté the red onion and shallots for a couple of minutes before adding sun-dried tomatoes. Continue to sauté till the onions start to soften.

2. Add the crumbled tofu and sauté for another couple of minutes until the tofu starts to brown a little.

3. Add the kale, soy sauce, turmeric and nutritional yeast, sea salt & black pepper and cook until the kale has wilted.  Serve immediate.

*Serves 4

Back for the new year

Hi all, I’m back!! Thanks for all the lovely messages that you left me while I was away. The past couple of months have been really hectic with family, travel and the big move into our new place, but everything has finally settled down.

The funeral of my uncle was very sad, but I am glad that I got to go down to say my goodbyes. It was the first funeral that I have attended of someone that I really knew my whole life. So it was really heart wrenching and a reminder that we can all go at any time. On the bright side, my grandfather who was also in the ICU, ended up being well enough to return home. However, it was also a reminder that my grandparents are getting older and won’t be around for much longer. Something I sometimes forget when I’m going about my life interstate.

Anyway, after that was my big trip to Japan for a wedding of two dear friends. I had so much fun and definitely got the travel bug again. Not such a great thing now we have a mortgage, but I can’t help it. I just love to experience different cultures, eat interesting food, photograph everything and of course the shopping! When we arrived back we moved straight into the new house and have been busy moving  in our stuff and renovating when we haven’t been at work. So its been pretty crazy, hence why I hadn’t been back to blogging till now. But now the New year has finally begun I am feeling more motivated to start cooking and writing again.

As promised I have much to share about Japan. If you were hoping for an inspirational vegan travel guide to Japan you will be very disappointed. I tried to stay true to my vegan journey, but it was difficult and I slipped a lot. Do I regret it? Not really. What I love about travel is experiencing the food. There is something about trying something that looks strange and taste different that I have always loved when I travel. I was probably the most food curious and adventurous person on the trip. I did stick to pescetarian/vegetarian diet though. I did not eat any meats or dairy. This was not always easy when you are travelling with 20 other people and meals where often preplanned by our hosts at carnivorous restaurants and can not speak Japanese. But I always managed to find something else where ever we went. Unless you eat in only vegan restaurants in Japan it is hard to stick to a strict vegan diet. Many Japanese snacks and dishes are flavoured with fish products, even simple things like miso soup and noodle soups. Rather then scrutinise everything  before I put in it my mouth, I just accepted the fact that the food wasn’t going to be all vegan. But since being back I’m striving get back to a vegan diet.

The wedding we attended was in Osaka, which is where we spent most of our time. After the wedding the bride and groom took us on a tour around Osaka and on day trips to Kyoto, Nara and Inari. After that Marco and I visited Tokyo and Hiroshima before heading home. We visited many temples, got to immerse ourselves into Japanese everyday life and experience all different types of Japanese foods . The highlights were: watching our friends get married  in a beautiful ceremony overlooking the Osaka city lights; eating the amazing food in Osaka; dressing as a Geisha in Kyoto; shopping was Harajuku, Tokyo and visiting the Hiroshima A-Bomb Museum.

Japan collage

Here are some of the vegetarian options that I found in Japan:

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One of my favourite discoveries in Japan was Mochi. I have heard a lot about it, but had never seen it in real life. I feel in love the first time I tried it. When we first arrived we went to a food department store in Osaka and were told by our friends to buy this Mochi with a fresh Strawberry inside. After the first bite I was kicking myself I didn’t by more since I had to share this one with Marco. The outside was soft like a mash mellow and the inside was so sweet. I couldn’t believe how fresh the strawberry was. After that day I was addicted to Mochi. I usually buy a strawberry Mochi fromt the convenience store in the morning or have it for dessert if it was available in the restaurant. Chocolate Mochi is also really amazing and the perfect end to a good meal.

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Another delicious discovery was Warabimochi, which is a jelly-like confection made from bracken starch and covered in sweet toasted soybean flour. I first tried this at a Sushi train. But I also found it available at markets and given a side dish in Japanese restaurants. It is sweet but not too sweet and is also a little spongy in texture. Have you tried it? What did you think? Marco wasn’t a huge fan, but I loved it.

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Another sweet discovery was Soy bean milk Soft serve and Tofu Donuts. I saw these at the Nishiki Market in Kyoto. I haven’t had a soft serve in years. I gave up the 50cent cone long before I went dairy free. Someone told me it was made out of pig fat, which turned my stomach. Soybean milk Soft serve tasted just as good as the regular one and had a really mild soy taste. The Tofu Donuts were great. They didn’t taste like tofu at all. Wish I bought two bags of this after sharing them with everyone.  Pretty sure these are vegan. After having to make mooing sounds to the guy selling them, he understood what I was asking and said no to cows milk products.

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Another thing that I finally got to try in Japan was Natto. I have heard that this fermented soy bean is really healthy and great for the stomach.  We were at the sushi train and one of the guys picked it off and put a whole Natto boat in his mouth. He said that it tasted disgusting and dried up all the saliva in his mouth. Everyone was confused what this strange ingredient was, but I recognised it straight away. I have been looking for Natto for so long, so I was very excited when he gave me the other Natto sushi. I decided to be safe I would just try a little bit of the Natto. It was so stringy like cheese. There was this clear like glue that stretched from the sushi to my mouth, which didn’t make it pretty to eat. The taste was horrible. It was nutty with a strong bitter taste. Everyone else took my word that it was horrible and were content not to try it. We at least I know now. Otherwise I may have surprised Marco with Natto for dinner.

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To celebrate moving into our new place, we decided to have Christmas at our house this/last year. I didn’t have very long to prepare and was lacking inspiration. So I researched recipes that I thought everyone would like while I was at work. I was going to make it a completely vegan Christmas, but in the end we decided to doing a couple seafood dishes. Here are some of the dishes that I made for my Christmas buffet. I doesn’t look like much, but there was so much food. I was up from 6.30 baking the breads, cooking the mains and sides and preparing the desserts. We ended up making it a Christmas dinner because we didn’t get to eat till after 5. It was so hot that we didn’t get to eat as much as I hope, but at least we had so many leftovers that I didn’t need to worry about cooking for everyone the days after. I was just so burnt out.

Some of the dishes include Rice pilaf with Almonds & Cranberries, Roasted Eggplant with Sumac Tahini Dressing, Traybaked Fish & Prawn Keralan Curry, my Eggplant Parmigiana, Roasted Potatoes, Carrots, Pumpkin and Beetroot; Tahini Thyme Flat bread and Olive Rosemary Foccacia.

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These are Tahini Thyme Flat bread and Olive Rosemary Foccacia, as well as some Kiflice that Marco’s sister prepared. The Flat bread probably took the longest to prepare out of anything for Christmas. I should really read the recipes before taking them on. But it wasn’t until I made the dough and left it to rest that I realise it needed to rest 4 times in 45 min intervals before being baked. Luckily it was the first thing I prepared that morning, so I had plenty of time. The recipe for this Flat bread can be found here. It is from recipe book The Bourke Street Bakery’s Bread and Butter Project; by a Bakery in Sydney. Only thing I did different was use whole soy milk instead of cows milk and dry yeast instead of fresh. The bread was pretty good and it tasted just as good the next day and it didn’t go hard. However considering how long it took me I think I would prefer to just make the Foccacia next time, which was just as good. I got the recipe from here. I didn’t have any Saffron, but other then that I stuck to the recipe. It was probably the most successful Foccacia that I have ever made. I made it again for New years and it was still very popular with the family.

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This Rice pilaf with Almonds & Cranberries was probably one of the most popular dishes on the day. Everyone loved it. It was adapted from Jewelled wild rice with Almonds. So I decided to include the recipe for you. Its is full of flavor and a great crowd pleaser that that can be serve on the side with just about anything. For my version I only used white basmati, which was all I could get on short notice and I cooked mine in the pot instead of the oven. This was actually not the plan but it just happened to cook on its own and I forgot about it.

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Rice pilaf with Almonds & Cranberries (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

500g basmati rice

100g dried cranberries

1 litre vegetable stock

sea salt to taste

2 bay leaves

2 large thyme sprig

small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

50g toasted flaked almonds

finely grated zest ½ orange

serve with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice to taste

Method:

1. Take a heavy based casserole pot and heat the olive oil. Then add the onion and cook on a medium to low heat for 15 minutes, until the onion starts to go golden.

2. Add the basmati rice and the cranberries and stir through until coated with the onions.

3. Then add the vegetable stock and sea salt to taste.

4. Place the bay leaves and thyme into the pot. Don’t stir them through, just leave float on the top.

5. Bring the pot to the boil, then down to a simmer with the lid on and leave to cook for 10-15 minutes, until the rice is half cooked. There should still be plenty of liquid in the pot.

6. Turn off the heat and leave the lid on for 15-20 minutes. In this time the liquid will be absorbed and the rice will be cooked, light and fluffy.

7. Add the parsley, almonds and orange zest.

8. Serve warm or leave it to go cold cold. Top with some extra olive oil and lemon juice to taste.

*Serves 8

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Another big hit at Christmas with the guest was this delicious Roasted Eggplant with Sumac Tahini Dressing. I haven’t made this since Sally’s 60th. Its really easy to prepare and is so delicious. I ended up making a double portion for New years to feed the demand for eggplant. You can find the recipe here. I guarantee you guests will love it! The original recipe is from Honestly Healthy: Eat with your body in mind, the alkaline way, by Natasha Corrett andVicki Edgson.

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So for my Christmas dessert buffet I had plans to make more then this. But with time restrictions this is what I managed. Firstly I finally got around to making this Pumpkin Tiramisu from Chef Chloe’s website. I have been wanting to try this for so long. I learned my lesson a few years ago making a traditional Tiramisu for everyone for Christmas that I could not eat. Not only was it depressing, but my skin broke out after I had to try all the elements before putting it all together. So this recipe is completely vegan and seemed like a better option. I would love to say that I fell in love with this recipe, but to be honest I was a bit disappointed. I’m not sure if it was because I used fresh butter nut pumpkin purée instead of canned pumpkin or because I had to use a hazelnut syrup instead of alcohol. But I just found the color was off, there was far to much sugar, especially in the vanilla cake. Everyone who tried it said it was nice, but that I shouldn’t of ruined something that’s perfect already. I think the concept of the pumpkin creme was excellent though and very creamy and thick like mascapone and eggs. I think next time I would use some Savoiardi if I can find dairy free and definitely some alcohol.

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This dessert was actually more popular that I had to make it again for New years. It actually looked a lot more stunning with the fresh fruit on top, but I forgot to take photos just before serving.  It is slightly adapted from Vegan Two-Bite Blueberry Cheesecake by Cheeky Kitchen. I used vegan ginger snap biscuits for the base,  frozen mixed berries for the berry compote and fresh blueberries, strawberries and cherries for the topping. I also made 8 serves instead of 12-15. So they were more of a full dessert serving then a bite size. The recipe is really easy to prepare and very quick. So long as you remember to soak the cashews with coconut cream the night before. It actually turned out more like a pudding instead of a cheesecake.

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Mixed Berry Pudding with Ginger snap base (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

2 cups cashews

2 cans full-fat coconut cream

3/4 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup finely crushed ginger-snap biscuits (vegan gluten free)

3 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar or raw sugar

3 tablespoon vegan butter

2 cups frozen mixed berries

pinch ground cardamon

zest of 1 lemon

1 cup fresh mixed berries

Method:

1. The day before, place cashews and coconut cream into a bowl/container. Stir in the vanilla extract. Then cover and place in fridge overnight.

2. The next day place the cashew & coconut cream mixture into a Vitamix blender. Add 1/2 cup of maple syrup and blend until smooth.

3. In a small bowl, combine ground ginger-snap biscuits, sugar, and melted butter. Spoon mixture into the bottom of small serving bowls. Place a dollop of cashew-coconut milk mixture on top.

4. Take a small pot, heat together blueberries, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, cardamom, and lemon zest. Cook until the berries begin to bursting. Allow to cool.

5. Melt nutlex in a small pot, then add the biscuit crumbs on a low heat.

6. Spoon the biscuit crumbs into 8 dessert glasses. Then top with cashew coconut cream and berry compote. Place the glasses into the fridge until ready to serve.

7. Top the dessert with fresh berries and serve.

*Serves 8

Sweet Potatoes and Kale: Two Ways

The last couple of nights meals have been quick easy meals using two of my favorite ingredients, sweet potato and kale. I also finally made use of the organic wild black rice that I bought from Fundies two months ago. I have a habit of collecting beans and grains and storing them for a rainy day. This was the first time I have tried wild black rice. I quite like it. Surprisingly Marco was a fan too, even though he hates brown rice. It is quite chewy, but it has a nice flavor. I combined the rice with sauteed onions, kale and spices and stuff it in a whole baked sweet potato. I topped it with the Lime Cashew Sour Cream that I made over the weekend and served it with some Baked Spicy Panko Crusted Tofu and Guacamole.

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Whole Sweet Potatoes with Wild Black Rice, Kale and Lime Cashew Sour Cream (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

4 sweet potatoes

1/2 cup wild black rice

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 small onion, diced

2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1.5 teaspoons garlic powder

1 bag baby kale, roughly chopped

sea salt to taste

Cashew Sour cream (recipe below)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

2. Wash and scrub any dirt of the skin of the sweet potatoes. Stab them a few times with a fork then bake for 40 mins or until the inside flesh is soft.

3. In the meantime cook the wild black rice in the rice cooker and leave on warm till ready to use.

4. Heat coconut oil in a pan, then add onion, cumin, cayenne and garlic powder. Cook for a few minutes or until onion has softened.

5. Add wild black rice and kale and saute until kale wilts. Season with sea salt.

6. Slice a slit across on side of the sweet potato, then stuff with the wild rice and kale. Serve with Lime Cashew Sour Cream.

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Lime Cashew Sour Cream (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 cup raw cashews (soaked/raw)

1 cup water

2-3 tablespoons lime

1 teaspoon garlic powder

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. If you haven’t pre-soaked the cashews, then boil for 10 mins.

2. Place in a blender and grind until cashews break down.

3. Add water (little bit at a time), lime, garlic powder and sea salt. Process until smooth.

*Makes about one cup

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Tonight’s recipe was inspired by the last whole baked sweet potato that didn’t get eaten last night. I considered making sweet potato gnocchi, sweet potato pasta, sweet potato burger or even sweet potato pancakes. I was pretty tired so I just decided on Sweet Potato Hummus with kale and vegetables. Since I already had my Vitamix out I made a dressing using the hummus and peanut butter. That was the best part! I ended up drizzling a lot more then what you see below. Now I am so full and looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow for Ekka public holiday.

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Sweet Potato Hummus Salad Bowl with Peanut Sweet Potato Dressing (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Sweet Potato Hummus (recipe below)

2 handfuls baby kale

chopped salad and vegetables (cherry tomato, broccolini, avocado, capsicum)

sea salt to taste

2 tablespoons Peanut Sweet Potato Dressing (recipe below)

Method:

1.  Steam broccolini or other vegetables. Rinse with cold water to cool down.

2. Massage the baby kale with sea salt, until it breaks down.

3. Place baby kale on the bottom of a large bowl and top with chopped salad & vegetables, hummus and drizzle with the dressing.

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Sweet Potato Hummus  (vegan, gluten free, nut free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 can chickpeas

1 whole roasted sweet potato (about 1 cup)

2 large garlic cloves

1 tablespoon tahini

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Peel the Sweet potato, then place all the ingredients in the processor. Whiz until combined.

*Makes 2 cups

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Peanut Sweet Potato Hummus Dressing  (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons Sweet Potato Hummus (recipe above)

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon apple cinder vinegar

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Place all the ingredients in a high speed blender and whiz till combined.

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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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Sauteed Broccolini and ‘Chicken’ with Brown Rice and Corn topped with Avocado Mousse

Hi all, hope you had a good week. I’ve gotten over my cold and nearly finished university. Today was my last day with my little mentees, who I have been helping get through the perils of first semester of university. But I still have my last Italian exam next Tuesday and my last assignment, which I will hopefully hand in next week. My lecturer is pretty cruisey about due dates, but I just want this to be over. Its been 5 years, so I’ve had enough of studying. I need at least 6 months off, in case I decide to do honors, but at this point I’m just looking forward to freedom. I also want my freedom back to cook.

This is the first meal I have prepared worth documenting this past week. It was more out of necessity of cooking all the vegetables in our fridge. My mother and I have a bad habit of doing food shopping on the same day without realizing, then we end up with too much food. Me and Marco can only eat so much of it, since she has more of a social life then us these days. I don’t know why but it stresses me out knowing that the vegetables are running out of nutrients everyday that goes by. I’ve especially become crazy when it comes to juicing. If Marco and mum don’t finish their juice within the first 10 mins after I’ve made them, I start yelling about the nutrients dying lol. I really need a break…

This dish was inspired by Natalie the Naturopath’s Pan Fried Buckwheat & Silverbeet with Spiced Tempeh. Unfortunately I didn’t have any tempeh and Marco negotiated ???????????????????????????????brown rice instead of buckwheat. I didn’t add any spices like hers, instead I made an avocado mouse to give the rest of the dish a lift. It was very simple, but delicious. Marco is looking forward to taking the rest of the leftovers tomorrow.

By the way, this little pink piggy was a surprise that Marco brought for me after work from the Cupcake Parlour. Unfortunately part of the surprise was that I had to share it with him. I guess it’s the thought that counts.

Sauteed Broccolini and ‘Chicken’ with Brown Rice and Corn topped with Avocado Mousse (gfo, nf)

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Sauteed Broccolini and ‘Chicken’ (vegan, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 brown onion

1 red capsicum

2 garlic cloves

2 bunches of broccolini

1 tablespoon coconut oil

200g Fry’s Chicken-style Strips/Tempeh, sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Slice onion and capsicum into thin strips and dice garlic cloves.DSC05323

2. Cut off ends of broccolini, then cut them in half.

3. In a large pan heat coconut oil, then add onion, capsicum and garlic. Cook for 4-5 mins, depending if you prefer them more crunchy.

4. Add broccolini and ‘chicken’ or tempeh. Saute for 7-8 mins, or until both are cooked. Season with sea salt, then serve.

Brown Rice and Corn

Ingredients:

1 cup short grain brown rice

2 ears of corn

1 tablespoon coconut oil

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Cook brown rice in a rice cooker or on the stove if you prefer.DSC05322

2. Meanwhile  cut the corn kernels from the corn cobs.

3. Once the rice is just about ready, heat coconut oil in a large pan, then add corn kernels. Cook for 5 mins or until corn kernels are cooked. Season with salt.

4. Combine brown rice with corn kernels. Add more sea salt if you need, then serve.

Avocado Mousse

Ingredients:

2 small avocados

1.5-2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1/2 small lemon)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

3 tablespoons filtered water

sea salt to taste.???????????????????????????????

Method:

1. Place avocado and coconut oil into a processor.

2. As its whizzing add the lemon, water and sea salt.

*Serves 4

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Warm Buckwheat and Lentil Salad with Pumpkin and Broccolini

Hi guys hope you all had a good weekend. I can’t believe how fast its gone. I’ve been juicing away every day with my favorite new addition. I just love watching it do its magic  Here is a couple of the juices I prepared recently. The first one is Beetroot, Pear, Kale and Cucumber. I also made some Sushi with honey soy tofu, avocado and cucumber. The next one is rockmelon, lemon and ginger. That one was a bit tangy, but still very good.

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Last night we popped into the vegan restaurant Banana Lounge for some dessert. I also got a sticky beak at their new menu, which is the same for lunch and dinner. I have heard mixed reviews about their food, but I would like to check it out soon. I have only been to the vegan buffet breakfast. On their new menu they have nachos, burritos, mexican rice bowl and raw pizza etc. I was the only one that order dessert. I got the Raw Choc, Date & Pistachio Brownies and the Mexican Chili Hot Chocolate. Both were really delicious! They really know how to make a good vegan dessert.

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Tonight I wanted to make something healthy, but hearty. Its so cold here at the moment, so we need something a bit heavier. This dish just keep evolving till I got hungry enough to stop adding things. I brought a whole lot of sprouts today so I am going to try add them to more of my meals for extra nutrients. I am trying to get Marco into sprouts. He didn’t mind a sprinkle of these snow pea sprouts, but they aren’t his favorite thing.

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Warm Buckwheat & Lentil Salad with Pumpkin & Broccolini, Roasted Garlic Tahini Dressing and Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup dried brown lentils

1 cup raw buckwheat

900 g kent or butternut pumpkin

olive oil

2 bunches of broccolini

sea salt to taste

snow pea sprouts, washed, roughly chopped

Ingredients Roasted Garlic Tahini Dressing:

1 whole garlic head

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon ground cumin

pinch ground cayenne pepper

1/4 cup italian parsley

1 tablespoon tahini (unhulled)

sea salt to taste

Ingredients Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

2. Place lentils in pot with 2 cups of water and bring to the boil, then leave to simmer for 30-40 mins or until lentils are cooked. Then strain any water and leave to cool.

3. Place buckwheat in a pot with 3 cups of water and bring to the boi, then leave to simmer for 30 mins or until the buckwheat are cooked. Then leave to cool

4. In the meantime remove the seeds and skin from the pumpkin and slice into flat bite size pieces.

5. Place pumpkin pieces and a whole garlic in a bowl and toss through 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Then place all on a baking tray and cook for 30 mins or until the pumpkin is cooked, leave to cool.

6. Clean the pumpkin seeds then combine in a bowl with olive oil, cumin, cayenne and sea salt. Then place on a tray and roast for 5 mins or until cooked. Leave to the side for later.???????????????????????????????

7. Peel the whole roasted garlic and place in the processor.

8. Add olive oil, lemon juice, water, cumin and cayenne and whiz until combined.

9. Then add tahini, italian parsley and sea salt. Whiz until combined. Add more sea salt if you need.

10. Roughly chop the broccolini, then saute in a pan with olive oil until tender.

11. In the mean time, combine the lentils, buckwheat and pumpkin in a large bowl. Then top with the dress, stir through.

12. Add the broccolini to the salad and stir through.

13. Serve the warm salad, topped with snow pea sprouts and roasted spicy pumpkin seeds.

*Serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side.

For dessert I made these Gluten free Yoga Chocolate Cupcakes from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts. You can find the recipe here. Mum called them disgustingly delicious lol. She couldn’t believe how good this vegan cupcakes are. They are really crunchy on the top and soft and moist on the inside. Instead of making 34 mini cupcakes, I made 12. This also means I needed half the chocolate icing.

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