Cream of Broccoli and Potato Soup

One of my favourite soups in recent times is broccoli soup. I usually add at least one potato for creaminess and then let the Vitamix do most the work. This is not one of Marco’s favourites. I usually threaten him with my broccoli soup when I don’t feel like cooking so that he will go pick up some Thai. However he really liked this recipe. He was a bit apprehensive at first but thoroughly enjoyed it. The cashews give an extra creaminess that was missing without the cream. I promise  your family won’t know this recipe is dairy free when you use cashew cream.

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Cream of Broccoli and Potato Soup (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cashews, pre-soak for an hour if you can

1/4 filtered water (plus 2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 medium dutch cream potatoes, chopped in cubes

1 medium broccoli head, roughly chopped (include the stem and leaves)

3 cups vegetable stock

sea salt and black pepper

hemp seeds and nutritional yeast to serve

Method:

1. If you haven’t already pre-soaked the cashews, then place them in a small pot of water and boil for 10 minutes to soften.

2. Place cashews in a high speed blender with 1/4 cup of water. Add more water if the consistency is too thick. Scrap out of the blender and leave to the side. No need to clean the blender.

3. Place the potatoes in the steam and steam for 15 minutes.

4. Place the broccoli in with the potatoes and steam for an additional 5 minutes or until cooked.

5. In the meantime heat a large pot with olive oil, then add the onions and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

6. Place onions, garlic, potatoes, broccoli and 2 cups of vegetable stock in the high speed blender. Blend until smooth.

7. Add the blended ingredients back to the pot and place on a medium heat.

8. Add the cashew cream (leave some for garnish later) and 1 cup of vegetable stock to the pot and heat through.

9. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

10. Serve with a teaspoon of cashew cream, hemp seeds and nutritional yeast.

*Serves 3 large serves or 4 medium

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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.

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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

Revisit The Shady Palm and discover the Flamingo

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

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

Crispy Plaintain & Peanut Fritters with Mojo

Crispy Plantain & Peanut Fritters with Mojo

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

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

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

Handcut Fried Potatoes

Handcut Fried Potatoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

1 cup cashews (soaked or raw)

1 cup water,

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

olive oil

1 small brown onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 large zucchini, sliced in batons

1 bunch asparagus, chopped half

1/4 cup white wine (optional)

3 leaves of curly kale, without stems, sliced

1/2 tsp nutmeg (more to taste)

1/2 almond milk

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Serves 3

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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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Best Baked Cheezy Butternut Pumpkin Pasta

Hi all, over the weekend I had one of the mini Marco’s come stay with me. On Saturday I took him to the city and we got to see the Scottish march for Tartan Day. Apparently we have had the Tartan Day celebration for the last 17 years. This was news to me. Although I do remember a few years back when I was living in Spring Hill and a parade of drums and bagpipes marched past my bedroom window. I thought my housemate had gone mad and was trying to torture me by turning up the music louder and louder. Marco’s nephew was really excited to see the bagpipes the Scottish dogs marching too.

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After that we went to the Modern Art Gallery and got to make Kangaroo masks, hop around the enclosure and make posters. Not sure who was having more fun.

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For dinner I wanted to make something that was kid friendly. I have tried out vegan cheesy nutritional yeast sauces before with Marco’s niece and nephew, but this mini Marco really didn’t like it. But I am persistent and I figure eventually he would get a taste for it. I have trialed this approach with big Marco and usually by the 6th try he will eat it happily.  Well I was in luck because tonight he really liked it.

I think I have finally perfected this recipe too. My vitamix also really helped to get the cashews and pumpkin really creamy and the panko crumbs gave it a nice crunchy top. The only thing he didn’t like was the crunchy top, but this was big Marco’s favorite part.

This recipe can easily be made gluten free with gluten free pasta and gluten free panko crumbs (or no crumbs). I always thicken vegan cheesy sauces and other sauces with Arrowroot flour (tapioca flour), because I prefer it. It is also gluten free. You can find this in any Coles or Woolworths in the baking section. You can also buy Nutritional yeast at any health food store. I love this stuff and really recommend it to anyone who wants to try out dairy free cooking. It also has lots Vit B, so its good for you and won’t stick to your pots.

Although this was the best Baked Cheezy Butternut Pumpkin Pasta, these are not the best photos ever. But trust me this tastes a lot better and looked alot better then what my photos portray.

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Best Baked Cheezy Butternut Pumpkin Pasta (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 cup cashews

4 cups chopped butternut pumpkin (peeled)

2 tablespoons vegan butter

2 cups almond milk

2 tablespoons tapicoa flour

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoon dijon mustard

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

sea salt to taste

500g penne or macaroni (use gluten free pasta if you prefer)

3 tablespoons panko crumbs

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. If you haven’t soaked cashews, then boil them for 10 mins. Then place in the blender with 1/4 cup of water and blend to make cashew cream. Add another 1/4 cup of water if you need to help break down the cashews to make them more creamy.???????????????????????????????

3. In the meantime, steam the pumpkin until its soft. Then add the steamed pumpkin to the cashew cream and blend till smooth.

4. Cook the penne according to packet directions.

5. In the meantime prepare the cheesy sauce. Melt the nutlex in a large pan on low heat. While it is melting combine the almond milk and arrowroot flour and whisk. Then add the almond milk to the pan with the melted butter.

6. While the sauce is heating add the dijon mustard, garlic powder, tumeric and whisk until it thickens.

7. Then add the nutitional yeast and whisk.

8. Take the sauce off the heat. Then add the pumpkin and cashew cream to the sauce and whisk through.???????????????????????????????

9. Place a couple ladles of the sauce on the bottom of a large caserol dish. Then add the pasta and add the rest of the sauce. Stir it through, so that all the sauce is coating the pasta.

10. Top the pasta with a panko crumbs, then bake for 30 mins.

*Serves 6

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For more similar recipes check out my: Baked ‘Cheesy’ Fusilli Bolognese (vegan, gluten free option, soy free, nut free), Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Spring Vegetable (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Creamy Mushroom Pot Pies

I had so many mushrooms after mum and I both bought mushrooms last week. Marco’s not a big fan of mushrooms, but at least he’s eating them now. One thing that he did like was Fry’s Country Mushroom Pies, that I made a few months back (A little bit British). So I tried to make my own mushroom pies. Instead of making a pastry base I just put them in ramekins. They were really delicious and so creamy. If you aren’t vegan but just want to avoid dairy I promise you won’t be disappointed if you make your own cashew cream. Its so easy and guilt free.

I didn’t make use pot pies, I made a couple of pasties with the mixture so they would be easier to eat for lunches. On the side I just made some simple roasted potato, sweet potato, carrots, with garlic and thyme and steamed green beans.

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Creamy Mushroom Pot Pies (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cashews

olive oil

1 large leek, sliced

2 garlic cloves, diced

500g mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 cup vegan beef/chicken/vegetable stock

1 tablespoon corn flour

sea salt & black pepper to taste

1.5 puff pastry sheets (use gluten free puff pastry if you prefer)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.???????????????????????????????

2. Boil the cashews for 10 mins. Then strain the cashews and rinse in cold water. Place them in the blender/processor. First grind till the cashews break up as much as they can. Then slowly add the water and process until it becomes a smooth cream. Leave to the side.

3. In a pan add 1 tablespoon of olive oil then cook the leek and garlic for 5 mins or until leeks are soft. Then transfer into a large pot.???????????????????????????????

4. Add a bit more oil and then cook the mushrooms in two batches until they are soft and some of the juices have released. Place the mushrooms in the pot with the leeks.

5. Add the cashew cream, liquid stock (I used vegan beef), corn flour and sea salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 8 mins or until it has thickened.???????????????????????????????

6. Fill ramekins with the creamy mushroom mixture.

7. Brush some oil around the top of the ramekin, then place circle cut outs of pastry on top of the ramekins. Brush pastry with oil and bake for 20-25 mins.

*Serves 6

*If you don’t have ramekins you can just use more pastry and make pasties.

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Penne al Cavolfiore

I found this traditional Italian recipe using cauliflower, in one of my mothers old Italian cook books, The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces, by Diane Seed. I have previously made the Sicilian recipe, Pasta al Cavolfiore, but this one is a bit different. I am not sure where the recipe originates. Diane collected her recipes from her travels and life in Italy and I have seen similar recipes on many Italian websites and blogs.

I had to adapted this recipe to veganise it. So instead of double cream, I used cashew cream and instead of chicken stock, I just used vegan chicken stock. I haven’t made cashew cream for a while. When I first made it I used my bar mix, but it wasn’t as successful. This time I used my jug blender and it made it so creamy. I did have to continue to scrape it down the sides and blend, but it was worth the wait. I think I will try to utilize cashew cream more in my cooking, as it works just as well as cream. Also boiling the cashews for 10 mins, softens them just as good as pre-soaking them, in case you forget like I always do.

As for the dish we all really liked it. It was rich and creamy and the taste of cauliflower was there, but in a good way. What I mean is if you don’t like cauliflower, like me and Marco, you will still like this.  I served it with a simple mixed lettuce and vine tomato salad and some toasted sourdough baguette. This is a really healthy recipe and would be great for picky eaters. To make it gluten free just use gluten free short pasta, as the sauce is gluten free already.

Between this recipe and Pasta al Cavolfiore, I really liked both. If I had to chose, I really liked the Sicilian version, because of the raisins and the pine nuts. Marco definitely preferred this version. He’s not a fan of fruit or nuts in savory dishes. It goes to show that sometimes the traditional dishes are the best!

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Penne al Cavolfiore (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients:

500g penne or short pasta (use gluten free pasta if you prefer)

1/2 cup cashews

1/2 cup filtered water

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 small red chili

1 whole cauliflower

230g tin diced or plum tomates

250ml vegan chicken or vegetable liquid stock

sea salt & black pepper to taste

vegan parmesan to serve

Method:

1. First boil the cashews for 10 mins.???????????????????????????????

2. In the meantime cut the cauliflower into small florets and peel the garlic. ???????????????????????????????

3. Strain the cashews and rinse in cold water. Then place in the blender/processor. First grind till the cashews break up as much as they can. Then slowly add the water and process until it becomes a smooth cream.???????????????????????????????

4.  Heat a pot with olive oil, then add the garlic and a red whole chili. Cook on medium heat for 10 mins.

5. Add cauliflower florets and cook for 5 mins. Stir often.

6. Add diced tomatoes and cook for 10 mins. Stir often.???????????????????????????????

7. Add liquid stock and cook for a further 15-20 mins, or until the cauliflower is quite soft. During this time cook the pasta  and strain.

8. Take off the heat, remove the chili and stir through the cashew cream, salt and pepper. Then mash the cauliflower with a potato masher.

9. Heat the sauce with the pasta, then serve with vegan parmesan.

*Serves 6-8

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Pasta al Cavolfiore

Penne with French Lentils in Creamy Tomato Sauce and Apple & Pineapple Cake

I’ve been really unwell the past few days with the flu and my doctor told me yesterday that I needed a hit of protein. She suggested chicken and boiled eggs to increase my immunity. However since I’m trying not to eat either, she suggested pulses. So tonight I wanted to make a hearty meal of lentils.

Our fridge was filled with stuff that was half used or needed to be used, so that’s what inspired tonight’s meals. The cashew cream from a couple of days ago, only lasts for few days in the fridge, so I decided to mix it with the left over pasta sauce. I really miss napoletana sauce with a dash of cream. My mum would always cook that for me at the restaurant with gnocchi.

I’ve never used French Green Lentils before. I found some organic one’s at Woolworths and figured they are similar to cook to Green lentils. They are meant to be a bit firmer, which explains why they took so much longer to cook. They are extremely nutritious, containing protein, calcium, fiber, magnesium. Plus they are a pretty green colour with blue specks and they hold together while cooked.

The cake was a bit experimental. I cooked mine a bit more then I probably should have, I think 40mins is probably the correct amount of time. Really I needed to use the apples and canned pineapple. I was worried that it would be too sweet, but according to my boyfriend it still needed a bit more sugar. Usually when I cook vegan cakes he adds nutella, because they are never sweet enough. Tonight I convinced him to add some maple syrup instead. He agreed it suited the cake better then chocolate spread, so win win.

Penne with Lentils in Creamy Tomato Sauce (gfo, sf)

Ingredients- 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, 1 onion finely chopped, 1 carrot diced, 1 red capsicum diced, 1/2 jar passata sauce (its all I had left), 1 cup french green lentils, filtered water, 2/3 cup cashew cream + 1/3 water,  2 tbsp basil chopped, 1 cup baby spinach chopped, sea salt, black pepper, 250 g penne/gf pasta

1. Boil water for pasta and cook according to pack instructions and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large pan, add garlic, onion, carrot and capsicum. Saute for 5 mins.

3. Add lentils, passata sauce, and water (same amount as sauce). Bring to the boil then put on a medium heat. Stir regularly and add water when need be (I think I added 3 cups). Cook for 30 mins or until lentils become soft.

4. Add basil, spinach, cashew cream, salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add pasta and heat till pasta is hot.

Apple & Pineapple Cake (gfo, sf, nf)

Ingredients: 2 cups wholemeal flour/gf flour, 1 tbsp ground flax seeds, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 cup desiccated coconut  1/2 cup raw sugar, 1 cup almond milk/other plant milk, 4 apples sliced, 1/4 cup pineapple (I used canned).

1. Preheat the oven 180 degrees and grease a cake pan

2. In a large mixing bowl mix flour, flax seeds, sugar, baking powder and coconut.

3. Add almond milk and fold in apple and pineapple. o

4. Place in the oven for 40mins or until you can cleanly stick a knive through it.

Penne Alfredo with mushrooms, peas, spinach

I have finally got over my fear of making my own nut cream. I know it’s easy, but I kept putting it off. I thought my hand-mixer wasn’t up to the job and I guess it probably isn’t if I intended to drink it. I have made my own cashew pesto and cashew cheese before, but with only 10mins of boiling the cashews, they were still quite chunky. This time I finally remembered to soak my cashews overnight, so I could make cashew cream. Ever since I saw Ellen and Portia’s chef making meatless “southern fried chick’n”, I have been eager to try it. Although I’m happy how it turned out, I think it’s still not as creamy as their looked.

Anyway it was pretty easy. Just a cup of cashews soaked in water for 8 hours, then blended with 1/2 cup of water. I didn’t add anything as I thought I would do this when I went to use it. It was still a little lumpy, but after I re-blended it today and added a bit more water it was much less dense.

I think using the cashew cream made was a lot closer to real cream. I’ve tried vegan cheese sauce, soy carnation and rice cream, but this was definitely the most thickest and creamiest of the lot. My boyfriend gave it the tick of approval, so I think it was a success. I served it with garlic french stick. I used my favorite vegan butter, Melrose Organic Omega Gold Spread. As far as I know its the healthiest dairy free butter we can get in Australia and it contains palm oil or hydrogenated fats. It probably taste the best as well. Another new discovery for me was Enoki mushrooms. I saw them on sale finally at the supermarket, so I thought we would try them. They are Japanese, but they are very versatile and can be added to any meal. They can be served raw or cooked.

Penne Alfredo with mushrooms, peas, spinach (gfo, sf)

Ingredients for Cream Sauce: 1 1/2 Cashew cream, 1/2 water, 1 tsp white miso paste, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp onion flakes, sea salt & cracked pepper

Cashew cream, mushrooms and garlic bread

Ingredients: 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, 1 onion finely chopped, 3 tbsp olive oil, mushrooms sliced chunky strips (I used large 6 white mushrooms &  1 bunch enoki), 1 cup frozen peas, 2/3 cup baby spinach chopped, 1 tbsp basil, 1/2 cup almond milk, 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, sea salt & cracked pepper to taste, penne or gf pasta.

Sauteing mushrooms

1. Boil water for pasta and cook according to pack instructions. Also boil small pot of water, to cook peas for 3 mins.

2. Heat large pan, add olive oil, garlic and onion. Cook for few minutes till the onion have browned. Then add the mushrooms and saute for 5mins. Then turn off the heat.

Heating sauce

3. Add to cashew cream (already prepared) water, miso paste, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion flakes, salt and pepper and then blend. Add more of any ingredient to adjust the taste.

4. Turn back on the heat to the pan and add the peas, cream sauce and baby spinach, basil, almond milk and nutritional yeast. Bring to the boil then put on a simmer. Add seasalt & pepper to taste.

5. Heat pasta through the sauce and then serve.