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

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Spring Cleaning

Hi all, hope you had a lovely weekend. I can’t believe its over again. My weekend has been very quiet. Plans with friends were cancelled twice, so I decided to stay home and get a few things done that I have been wanting to do. So I spent most of the weekend cleaning up my house while mum has been away.

Beside spending an exiting weekend doing housework, I got a chance to start reading my two new books that arrived this week! Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen and Crazy Sexy Diet!! I first saw Kris on the Hungry for Change documentary. If you haven’t heard of her before, she was an actress  and photographer in New York that got the wake up call of her life, when she was diagnosed with a rare cancer incurable cancer back in 2003. Since then she has become a survived cancer and a wellness activist.

I haven’t seen her original documentary, but I have been following her on her website for a while. I finally subscribed to her website last week and got a sample copy of both her books (below). I was so enthralled by them that I had to find out more. Luckily I only had to wait a few business days for their arrival. I haven’t been able to put Crazy Sexy Diet down. If you curious I recommend subscribing to get a sneak peak inside. You will also get to see inside her Crazy Sexy Kitchen recipe book as well and get a copy of a few of the recipes. The recipes are beautiful and really healthy, but at the same time something that I think omnivores would also find appealing.

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Other important development this weekend was that I finally tried out my Vegg. This is a vegan 100% plant based egg yolk replacer, which I bought ages ago and left it in the back of my pantry. When you scroll down later you will see how I could forget about it. I ended up making a vegan quiche with leeks, mushroom and roasted capsicum. It wasn’t exactly a successful quiche. My wholemeal spelt crust didn’t work out and the moisture from the roasted capsicum let out too much moisture, so not even my puff pastry would crisp up. With a splitting headache, it was just a bad night all round. I tried to salvage what I could and below is what we ended up with, which looks deceivingly good. But actually it was not set at all. It wasn’t the fault of the Vegg, it was mine for trying something new without consulting a recipe. Anyway back to the Vegg, I can’t believe how much it smelt like fresh egg yolk. Marco also was amazed by it. When I combined it with soft tofu and became like an omelette batter and heated it was like scrambled eggs. The only difference is that it wasn’t rubber like an egg, it was much softer. I really want to try making a traditional Spanish omelette when I get some more tofu. Fingers crossed I have better luck.

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I have been really trying to eat more sprouts. They are so healthy and nutritious that I don’t know how I lived so long without them. Marco wasn’t a fan, but slowly I have managed to increase his intake of spouts, that he now doesn’t mind them. I juice them, put them in smoothies and add them to salads and sandwiches. I have yet to try and spout anything yet. So when I saw this Seed Sprouter Kit at Aldi for $7 I had to get it! I assembled it this yesterday, so not sure how many days it will take, but don’t have to water it for another 2 more days. Do you know if you can sprout anything else in something like this? Next I think I will try sprouting chia seeds. I have never tried them but apparently it can be done.

Seed Sprouter Kit

So what I spend the bulk of my weekend doing was doing the washing, cleaning my computer room, tidying my bed room (a little) and arranging the pantry and other food storage areas. This is something I have been wanting to do a lot long then I like to admit. I think I must of been a horder in another life, because I get so overwhelmed with clutter and I don’t like to throw anything out. But after I chuck out the junk I actually feel really good.

As you can see from my pantry we have a little to much food. My mum likes to bulk up on anything from Aldi and stuff for the home stay students and I just keep buying new ingredients, use them once them chuck them at the back of the pantry. You have to be really careful when you open my pantry that something might jump out at you. Most of this stuff doesn’t include my secret stash of super foods and other vegan ingredients. I have been storing things in my desk and a travelling cardboard box, since there was just no more room in here.

So first things first I took everything out and started looking at the Expiry dates. To help me to figure out what needed to go and what could survive a bit longer I used this helpful website, Eat by Date. It really helps for ingredients that don’t have an expiry or its rubbed off. Then I cleaned out the shelves and started grouping things together. I even got Marco involved by cleaning off the stickers from empty flour containers, so I could store legumes. I would love to have one of those kitchens with large mason jars filled with all my beans and flours, but besides the fact that it would cost my a lot, it just wouldn’t fit. I managed to fit most of my open packets of legumes and grains in a container which can be easily taken out and looked through. The same was done with the nuts. Mum’s snacks are all on the top to keep her away from them, and her nuts are up front and center. All the flours and sugars have been  grouped together by type and put into tupperware containers, so its easier to know what’s inside them before opening. All the half open pastas and rices are also easy to access, so they can get used before full packets are opened. All the everyday ingredients are now more easier to access and keep track of. I hope my mum is happy when she sees this. I’m already pretty strict in the kitchen so now I will be more so. If anyone messes my new system up…

Pantry

Another problem area was this other small pantry. I can’t believe how much tea we have. I’m not a big tea drinker and neither is my mum, but we have just about any tea you can image in here. Herbal blends, Japanese, Chinese, British… I only usually come to this pantry for one thing, the can opener. I’m not very tall and its a real bitch trying to get that thing down. Even though I have a step ladder now, Its still very awkward getting it out. So that had to come down and empty containers went up. Notice the cookies have been put to the back. Mum is also dairy free, but she doesn’t keep to the strict diet rules I do, even though I’m always telling her off. Hopefully she won’t realise they are here.

Pantry 2

Lastly and the place I have been dreading the most, the Spice draw. I have at least two of everything in here, yet I can find nothing. I’m always rummaging through and trying to fit it all in so it will close. I have to admit, I think this draw is mostly my doing. The students do always dump their instant noodle sauces in here, but they don’t use anything else. Plus some of this stuff is from the 2000’s. A while ago I got rid of the stuff from the 1990s, so it wasn’t too bad at least.

When I started taking everything out I got a nasty little surprise. This tiny bit of vanilla extract that I have been saving had gone all through the draw. It was so sticky. Luckily I didn’t find any critters in here. I had to take out the draw apart and give it a good clean, as well as clean a lot of the containers and plastic bags. It was well worth it though. Look how great it looks now. These aren’t all my herbs and spices, but the stuff I don’t use as often. To get rid of the abundance of plastic little bags I emptied them into these old little spice jars I had, that were part of a set. I have been saving them for a while to do this. I just made little labels with pen, paper and sticky tape. Unfortunately I didn’t get rid of all the plastic bags, but most of them are gone.

Spice Draw

While cleaning out my spice draw. I decided to finally try making nut butter with almonds. It was so easy. Just a matter of roasting them for 6 minutes then letting the processor do all the work. It came out so beautiful and creamy. But I still decided to flavor it with some sea salt and maple syrup. I think I should of perhaps of mixed this in by hand after. As the nut butter dried out a little, a bit like when you buy it and its all oily at the top and the bottom is dry harder to spread.

Almond Nut Butter

So I ended up making cookies and bliss balls with the almond butter. Although I made them small they area really filling, since they are only really made of nuts. These are vegan, gluten free, soy free, sugar free and so easy to make.

Nut butter 3 ways

3 Ingredient Salty Maple Almond Butter: 3 ways (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1.5 cup whole almonds

2 pinches of sea salt

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup

First make the Salty Maple Almond Butter:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Roast the  whole Almonds for 6 minutes.

3. Place the almonds in the food processor and process. I first used the larger bowl to break down the almonds into a mead, which should take a few minutes. Then I put them in the smaller bowl for the next 10 minutes to break down further into an almond butter.

4. Once you have the desired consistency of the almond butter, add a couple of pinches of sea salt and 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup. If it becomes too dry add a couple of tablespoons of water.

*Makes 3/4 cup of Almond butter

To make Salty Maple Almond Bliss Balls:

1. With clean damp hands roll the almond butter into small balls and place on a tray.

2. Place the try in the freezer for at 15 minutes, so that they firm up. Then serve.

*Makes 16 balls

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To make Salty Maple Almond Cookies:

1. If your oven isn’t still on, preheat again at 180 degrees.???????????????????????????????

2. With clean damp hands roll the almond butter into small balls and place on a tray.

3. Press lightly on the balls with a teaspoon to flatten them a little.

4. Bake for 5-6 minutes.

5. Immediately place them on a drying rack. If the spaces are too big on the rack then place some baking paper on top of the rack.

6. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes so that they firm up a little, then serve.

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(Cookbook Project) Energise Your Life – Carrot and almond jacket potatoes with herb salad

Tonight I made another recipe from Energise Your Life. This is a really easy recipe to make and very filling. According to the book this recipe has Vitamin C & E, calcium, iron, essential fatty acids and is beneficial to the heart and circulatory system. I was quite liked the sweet carrots on top of the jacket potatoes. Marco thought that the potatoes needed a sauce. I served it with a the Herb salad and some steamed corn.

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For the carrot and almond jacket potatoes, I stuck to the recipe. To make the potatoes I first scrubbed the dirt off them and then covered them in olive oil. Then I baked them whole for over an hour. For the carrots, I cut them julienne and then sauteed them in olive oil for a few minutes, before adding chopped almonds. After sauteing them together for a few more minutes, I added orange zest, maple syrup and sea salt. I cooked these down till the carrots were soft then topped the baked potatoes.

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I had to adapt the Herb salad as I couldn’t get most of the ingredients from my local shops. The recipe called for red lettuces, sorrel leaves, coriander,  dandelion leaves and beetroot leaves. I only used some Red Oak Lettuce and Beetroot leaves. For the Tarragon dressing I couldn’t get the main ingredient, the tarragon. So I used parsley instead. I also used only extra virgin olive oil instead of safflower oil. With the help of my vitamix, this dressing came out really light and delicious.

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Parsley Dressing (vegan, raw, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

4 sprouts of Italian parsley

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Method:

1. Blend all the ingredients in a blender until combined.

*Makes about 100 ml

Pesto alla trapanese used two ways

I have been wanting to make Pesto alla trapanese for a while. 8003267902010_A_L This is a traditional Western Sicilian pesto that is used to make Pasta con il pesto alla trapanese or pasta cull’agghia in the Sicilian dialect  This is a typical dish from the province of Trapani, in Sicily. The pesto is also a traditional Sicilian food products, which is recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, in Italy.

F030_trapaniPesto alla trapanese is an ancient sauce, that originated from the the port of Trapani. It was influenced by the Genovese, who arrived on ships to the Trapani ports with their Agliata ligure, a traditional garlic sauce, made of garlic and walnuts. The Trapanese sailors, then developed their own interpretation using typical produce from their region, tomatoes and almond.

The main ingredients of this pesto is basil , tomato and almonds. Other ingredients that are added to classic recipes include red garlic, extra virgin olive oil, black pepper and sometimes grated Sicilian Pecorino cheese.

Busiati

Busiati

The pasta that is traditionally paired with this pesto is fresh Busiati pasta, which is also typical of Trapani. It is a type of macaroni-like pasta that has been twisted around a branch of the Mauritania grass (dis grass).  Another pasta that is often use is Gnoccoli, which is about 15 cm long and has a large cavity. They also use Linguine or Bucatini, which are also long pastas. Pasta con il pesto alla trapanese  can be served hot or cold and is usually served along side Eggplant, Fried Potatoes or Fried Fish.

Making this pesto is really easy. I have never blanched almonds before, but it doesn’t take long and worth the effort, as blanched almonds usually cost more. I noticed initially the color of my pesto was quite green, unlike many recipes I saw online which had a yellow-orange colour. However, this color changed the next day, after it had been sitting in the fridge in a sealed container. Nevertheless still tasted the same.

I first used the pesto to make a sauce for my pizza. It went really well with the spicy red chili  salty black olives and slightly bitter rocket. I ended up eating my whole pizza. It was so moresome. Today I used the pesto again to make Pasta con il pesto alla trapanese . I just used spaghetti, as this pesto requires long pasta as it coats it better, than short pastas. I added some vegan cashew parmesan, more salt and pepper and a handful of olives again. The almonds in the pesto make this dish really filling and the tomatoes and cashew parmesan bring a beautiful creaminess to the dish.

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Pesto alla trapanese (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

50g almonds

250g cherry tomatoes

1 bunch of basil

1 red garlic clove

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method:

1. First blanch almonds by bring a small pot to the boil, then cooking them for 2-3 mins. Remove almonds and rinse with cold water, then remove the brown skins.

2. Peel the tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for 1 minute, then emerging them in cold water. The skins should easily peel off now.

3. In the processor (or mortar and pestle) add the almonds, basil, and garlic. Process until they are ground down.

4. Then add the tomatoes, followed by the olive oil, salt and pepper. Processor until it liquefy into a dense consistency.

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Pizza with Pesto alla trapanese, Chili, Black olives and Rocket (vegan, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 pizza base

3 tablespoons pesto alla trapanese

2 small red chili, diced

1/4 red onion, sliced

small handful of black olives (deseeded and halved)

cashew parmesan

large handful of rocket leaves

sea salt and black pepper to taste

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Method:

1. Roll out pizza dough, then cover the base equally with the pesto.

2. Add red onion, garlic, black olives. Sprinkle vegan parmesan, then cook the pizza in the oven until base is cooked.

3. Add the rocket, salt, pepper and lightly drizzle some olive oil.

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Pasta con il pesto alla trapanese (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 serve spaghetti (use gluten free if you prefer)

3 tablespoons Pesto alla trapanese (recipe above)

2 tablespoon cashew parmesan

sea salt & pepper to taste

small handful of black olives, deseeded

Method:

1. Cook 1 serve of pasta according to pack directions.???????????????????????????????

2. Once the pasta is cooked, use a tongs to move it from the pot into a mixing bowl.

3. Add the pesto, vegan parmesan, black olives, sea salt and black pepper. Toss until the pasta is coated. Then serve immediately.

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Pomogranate and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Sweet Tahini Lime Dressing

I woke up really tired and late this morning, so I needed a power salad to prep me up. This salad is sweet, zesty, earthy and full of nutrients. Hope you guys like it!

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Pomogranate Quinoa Salad with Sweet Tahini Lime Dressing (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients for Salad:

1/2 cup quinoa

1 small stick of celery

1/2 carrot

1 small avocado

1 handful italian parsley

2 handfuls pomogranate seeds

1 handful almonds

extra lime and agave to garnish

Ingredients for Dressing

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon agave

1/2 tablespoon tahini

1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Method:

1. Place quinoa in a small pot with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to the boil, then place on a simmer and cook for 15 mins. Strain with cold water and place to the side.

2. In the meantime make the dressing. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing a small bowl and stir through.

3. Then prepare the ingredents for the salad. Slice the celery finely, grate the carrot, slice the avocado in cubes and roughly chop the italian parsley.

4. Roughly chop the almonds then dry toast in a pan till golden.

5. Combine the cooked quinoa, celery, carrot, avocado and italian parsley in a bowl and stir.

6. Then add the dressing to the bowl and stir through

7. Place the quinoa salad on a plate and top with pomogranate seeds, toasted almonds. Serve with extra agave and lime wedges.

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I also wanted to share with you guys another great food find in Carindale, Brisbane. Last night our friends took us to Grand Taj. It is a small Indian restaurant off the main road in a shopping complex. Before going their I checked out their website and they had plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. Some of the dishes I haven’t seen before so I was very excited to try this place.

I ordered the Pumpkin and Eggplant Curry (diced butternut pumpkin and eggplant steamed with onions and flavored with white mustard), which came with Saffron Rice. On the side Marco I shared two Indian Breads, these were Onion Kulcha (bread stuffed with finely chopped seasoned onions and garlic) and Aloo (Potato) Paratha (wholemeal bread stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes). These were also both dairy free. Normally when I go to Indian these stuffed breads are’t dairy free or wholemeal, so this was a nice treat. I especially liked the Onion Kulcha. The onion was all the way through and nicely spiced.

I was really impressed with Grand Taj and I definitely hope to visit them again soon.

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Raw Buckwheat Breakfast Porridge

I discovered a new way to prepare buckwheat for breakfast. I saw this recipe, for Raw Buckwheat Breakfast Porridge, on Oh She Glows and finally got the courage to make it. I love Angela’s recipes. I have been a fan of hers for some time. She has some of the most creative and inventive vegan recipes I have ever seen. She also has an amazing story, so check her out.DSC02642

I was a bit worried that I didn’t have the right buckwheat. I never knew before that soaking them would make them go soft. I just had organic raw buckwheat from Woolworths. They looked the same as the ones Angela used, so I left them over night to soak and this is how they looked. They were tender, but if you apply a bit of pressure to them between your fingers they break.DSC02647

I actually made a half portion of this recipe, as I only had 1 cup of buckwheat left. Other then that I followed her recipe all the same. Once I rinsed the buckwheat well, I put them in my processor and added soy vanilla milk (use rice, oat, almond or soy), chia seeds, agave, vanilla extract and cinnamon. I processed them till the entire thing is nice and smooth.

To serve it I just added slices of banana, toasted slivered almonds and toasted shredded coconut.

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Later, when Marco came home I made him a portion as well. He wanted it to be more like a dessert, so made a Raw Chocolate Coconut Buckwheat Porridge. I added cocoa powder, more agave and toasted shredded coconut. He really liked it too, so I think this will be a regular for a while.

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Toasted Almond & Coconut Gelato

I can’t believe its Christmas in 2 days. I went Christmas shopping yesterday and I was meant to get the last minute presents for my family. But I ended up coming home with only a  pair of Guess Jeans for me. Have to do some last minute shopping tomorrow, as well as plan what I am going to cook for Christmas. Usually we do it here, but this year we are going to my cousins house. They are big meat and dairy eaters so I want to bring something I can eat and they can also enjoy. Not sure what I’ll make but I better think of something soon.

Last night I made this gelato. It didn’t stay in shape for too long since it is so hot here at the moment, but it was really good. It was also very sticky and got stuck in the the crevices of my processor. It got into places are really hard to clean and I don’t know how it happened. Luckily I already know what I am getting for Christmas from my mum. She is getting me an ice cream machine and a dehydrator. So I can start making real ice cream soon. I can’t wait to try out some new flavors and not rely on frozen bananas.

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Toasted Almond & Coconut Gelato (gf, sf)

Ingredients:

3 frozen bananas

1 can coconut cream

agave/maple syrup to taste

hand full of almonds

handful of dried shredded coconut

Method:

1. Cut the almonds roughly, then dry toast in a pan and then set to the side.

2. Dry toast the shredd coconut and set to the side.

3. Roughly chop up the banana and place into the processor

4. Spoon out the cream from the coconut cream (discard the water) and place into the processor.

5. Turn on processor and while it is mixing add the agave.

6. Once all the banana has been blended, add most of the almonds and coconut. Only pulse so it mixes through.

7. Serve with the toasted almonds & coconut on top.

Today was Marco’s birthday lunch with his family, so I prepared some dishes to take. I made a few things from Chloe’s Kitchen recipe book including Sweet-and-Sour Party Meatballs, Rosemary Tomato Galette with Pine Nut Ricotta and Chocolate Walnut Fudge. The meat balls were delicious and really easy to make. They were made of tempeh, walnuts and lentils. They tasted and smelled more like meat then other recipes I have tried, but texture in the center was a bit soft, more like a processed meat. The sweet and sour sauce was really easy to make and it was a bit like the McDonald’s nugget sauce. The galette turned out really well. It really paid off refrigerating the dough 3 times before baking it. The pastry was more like a short crust pastry and had a much better texture then the other galette I have made previously. The pine nut ricotta was really really good. I was more like a pesto. It had roasted garlic, soaked pinenuts, oil and lemon juice. I found I had to add a bit of water to make it really creamy, but definetely something I want to make again, even if its just to have on toast. The fudge was the most wicked I have ever made. It called for 3 cups of chocolate (I used Sweet William), 1 can of coconut milk, cocoa, 3 cups of powdered (icing) sugar and toasted walnuts. Unfortunately I didnt realised till I had made it, with only 30 mins till I had to be at the party, that I realized it was meant to set in the fridge for up to 8 hours. I don’t know how I forgot about that. So it wasn’t exactly set when it came time to eat it. We still tried to eat it though. It was so rich and decadent, the photos don’t do it justice. Not sure I will make this again. Too fattening! I am not sure if I will bring it to Christmas or I will freeze it and allow Marco a small piece once a month.

Marco’s sister made toasted pita bread with oregano with a chickpea and roasted capsicum dip, which was really good. They also had their traditional salads, of tomato and onion, and cabbage with vinegar and roasted chicken with mayo and gherkins. For main course they made roasted pork, chicken and vegetables. I managed to stay away from the meat and ate my meat balls. I love the way they do their vegetables though. I’m not sure how they get them to taste so good, but they are always perfect. For dessert there was also a serbian cake made of nuts, plasma biscuits and egg whites. It is a serbian cake they always make for celebrations. I did have a bit of that, since it was dairy free. They also had baklava. I am not a big fan of that, its too sweet for me. It was nice to bring somethings though. So I could have a proper meal and not have people worrying about that I’m not eating. I was really happy they they also had the food I made. I think some vegan foods freak some people out. But what I love about Chloe’s recipes is that they don’t look ‘vegan’, they just look and taste delicious.

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Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs

Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs

Rosemary & Tomato Galettes

Rosemary & Tomato Galettes

Pine nut Ricotta

Pine nut Ricotta

Toasted Pita bread with Oregano

Toasted Pita bread with Oregano

Roasted Meats & Vegetables

Roasted Meats & Vegetables

Chocolate Walnut Fudge

Chocolate Walnut Fudge

Plasma Cake

Plasma Cake

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Baklava