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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Little Lamb Hot Pot and revisit to The Cardamon Pod

Hey guys, this weekend went fast! Only one more week till I’m back at uni. I have enjoyed this holiday, but I need to do something constructive. I just realized today I  have put on 2 kilos. Not enough exercising and too much indulgence. So I will be back on a health kick from now. Anyway over the weekend we ate out at a couple of places. On Saturday night we went to dinner with our  new home stay student and today we went out to lunch for Marco’s mother 60th birthday.

On Saturday night our student, Jane took us to new restaurant, called Little Lamb Hot Pot at Runcorn. I have never heard of  this place and the name scared me a little. I didn’t think I would be able to eat anything. But Jane assured me that there were plenty of vegan options and that I wouldn’t go hungry. When we arrived this place was packed. We had a booking luckily, so after we chose the type of Hot Pot, we paid and were shown to our table. It cost about $30 per person.

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On our table had a large Hot Pot and a BBQ with hot embers. The Hot Pot we chose was normal and spicy. So first thing, we got the ingredients from the buffet area to start cooking. For the hot pot we got green leafy vegetables, sweet potato, lotus root, bean curd skins, tofu, skiitake and enoki mushrooms and starch noodles. Jane made us a special sauce made of condiments that we could eat the food from the hot pot in. She said she put soy sauce, vinegar, peanut sauce and more. We also got meats, seafood and vegetables skewers to cook on the BBQ. This BBQ rotates, so it cooks the ingredients all the way around. Luckily they had corn and marinated eggplant skewers for me. We also got some cold sides, such as beans, sea vegetables and pickled tofu. For the hot dishes there was fried pumpkin puffs, red bean sesame balls and fried fish. So we got a little bit of each. To drink we got some plum juice.

Hot Pot

Hot Pot

Special Sauce for Hot Pot

Special Sauce for Hot Pot

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BBQ

BBQ

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Everything was really delicious. We ate until we felt we were going to pop. I especially liked eating the hot pot vegetables with Jane’s special sauce, the eggplant skewers and red bean sesame balls. I did have a little bit of fish, which was really good too. I couldn’t resist. When I looked around while we were eating I couldn’t believe how much other people were eating. They just had mountains of skewers and prawn heads. We probably should of paced ourselves, but we were so hungry.

After we ate I took a few photos, as I have never been to a place quite like this. In fact I think it is the only one of its kind in our city, hence why it was so busy. Even if your not a carnivore, this place has heaps of vegetables, noodles and tofu to take advantage of. You will definitely not leave hungry. However, if the smell and look of meat disgusts you, this is probably not the place for you. The smell of the BBQ’s was very strong.

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Ingredients for Hot Pot

Ingredients for Hot Pot

Ingredients for Hot Pot

Ingredients for Hot Pot

Ingredients for Hot Pot

Ingredients for Hot Pot

Skewers for BBQ

Skewers for BBQ

Condiments

Condiments

Cold Sides

Cold Sides

Hot Sides

Hot Sides

Drinks

Drinks

After this meal we wanted to keep chatting, but the seats were really uncomfortable and it was hard to talk over the steam in the center of the table. So we thought we would take Jane to a new cafe that has opened at Sunnybank Plaza, Coco Jungle Chocolate Lounge. I have been hesitant to try this place, as its all chocolate drinks and desserts, which means lots of dairy.

When we arrived I asked the waitress if they could do the Italian Hot Chocolate with Soy and whether there was any dairy it it otherwise. She said they sure could do it with soy and their was no dairy. In hindsight I am not so sure this was a dairy free drink. I really hope it was. I will go back again to investigate what is exactly in these drinks. If its all clear I will visiting this place once a week. The Italian Hot Chocolates come in around 20 flavors and you can chose thin, medium and thick. I had the Strawberry, mum had Raspberry and Marco had White Chocolate & Hazelnut. They tasted amazing and is definitely one of my top foods I could live on.

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Strawberry Soy Italian Hot Chocolate

Strawberry Soy Italian Hot Chocolate

For Marco’s mothers birthday we took her to The Cardamon Pod at Broadbeach. We were so impressed last time we came to The Cardamom Pod for Marco’s Birthday, that we had to come back. I fell in love with the food and especially the Raw Vegan Cheesecake, that I really wanted the rest of the family to experience the food.

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We ended up ordering  four platters of hot and cold dishes for lunch. These included Vegetable Curry, Lentil Mousakka, Creamy Cauliflower and Polenta Bake, Dahl, Kofta Balls, Samosa and some healthy mixed salads. Everyone loved the food and luckily Marco’s little nieces and nephew all were happy to eat all these healthy dishes from the platters.

Vegetable Curry, Rice, Lentil Moussaka, Samosa

Vegetable Curry, Rice, Lentil Moussaka, Samosa

For dessert the kids had Sago Puddings and Ice cream. Unfortunately they ran out of Cocoluscious Ice cream and only had the normal dairy kind. The kids didn’t mind though. The rest of us all ended up ordering the Raw Vegan Vanilla Berry Cheesecake. I told them they had to have it and once they tried it they would see why. They all loved it and couldn’t believe it had no dairy or sugar. Definitely another thing I could live off. I need to find out the recipe for this cake. Everyone agreed that it tastes just like New York Cheesecake except better.

Sago Pudding

Sago Pudding

Raw Vegan Vanilla Berry Cheesecake

Raw Vegan Vanilla Berry Cheesecake

Unfortunately because of the wet weather we didn’t end up going for a walk on the beach after this, but all in all it was worth the trip down to the coast. The most importantly thing was that Marco’s mum enjoyed the day and the food. Can’t wait to come back down for this cheese cake!

Finally hit 100th post

Hi all, it’s been a rainy, windy couple of days in Brisbane. Everyone’s on alert for flooding and cyclones. Everything should be fine for us for flooding, but it’s a bit scary knowing that the rain isn’t going to stop for another couple of days. Our house has a couple of leaks from some screw ups from tradies that were working on our roof recently. We also have few little waterfalls flooding into our property from our neighbors. At least the dogs got a shower and a blow dry so they could join us inside. They are very happy chappy.

On the brighter side this is my 100th post. I can’t believe I’ve made it this far already. A big thanks to all the people who follow, comment and visit on my blog. You have no idea how much of a difference it has made to my life. Although I have had some slips this is the longest I have stuck to any kind of lifestyle change, so I am really proud to share it with you guys. You visits, likes and comments really help to keep me going on my transition, even though I often feeling like giving up.

Since I started this blog back at the end of September I have received a lot of positive feedback from many people. I have received a lot of great advice and praise from many regulars bloggers, many of which have given me awards for my efforts. I’ve also had views from from 77 countries to date. I can’t believe people from all over the world have found my blog and taken the time to check out out. So thanks again for all your support!

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Tonight I cooked an African Stew. The recipe is adapted from Spicy Peanut Soup with Chicken from Bon appétit website. I adapted it to be vegan and gluten free. It was really nice comfort food for a cool, windy night and everyone loved it. I haven’t used peanut butter in a stew before, but it tasted really good. To go with it I made Spelt Buttery Biscuits. Marco, mum and Ted haven’t had these before. Last time I made them it was for the Marco’s niece and nephew, who also loved them. They all really like the buttery biscuits and they went really well with the warm stew.

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Spicy Peanut Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Eggplant (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

450 g sweet potato, cut into cubes

1 tablespoon hot sauce

sea salt & pepper to taste

4 cups vegan chicken/vegetable broth

1/3 cup peanut butter

2 tablespoons tomato paste

5 tablespoons vegan butter

1.5 cups chopped onion

1 cup carrot, grated or diced

1 medium eggplant, cut into cubes

2 tablespoons arrowroot flour (tapioca)

1 cup canned diced tomatoes

Method:

1. Place the sweet potato in a large bowl and coat in the hot sauce, salt and pepper.P1000577

2. Take another large bowl or jug (big enough to hold 4 cups) and combine the stock, peanut butter, and tomato paste. Whisk it till it is all combined.

3. Take a large pot and melt the vegan butter on medium-high heat.P1000578

4. Then add the onions, carrot and eggplant.  Saute for about 8 min. Then add the sweet potato and saute for a further 3 min.

5. Add the stock, tomatoes and flour to the pot and stir it through.  Cook for 30 mins, or until the sweet potatoes are soft enough to put a fork through.

* Serves 8

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Yesterday I had another try at the Eggless Fritata. Last time I made it I used firm tofu instead of silken tofu. I also didn’t have a nonstick pan. So it didn’t turn out as smooth as I would of liked. Since then I tried to make it again, but unfortunately I dropped it when I flipped it. This time was a success! I had silken tofu and my new neoflam pan I got for Christmas. I found the silken tofu made the batter a lot smoother and cooked more like an fritata, instead of a scramble. The pan also kept it together and didn’t let it stick, so that I could easily slide it into a baking tray to grill before serving.

I adapted the recipe this time and used sweet potato, red onion and carrot. It was incredibly fluffy and according to both me and Marco (the egg lover) this tasted much better then an egg fritata. The potato really makes it creamy and less plasticy then egg. Although this breakfast took me a lot longer to prepare it was definitely worth the wait. It is also great to pack for morning teas or lunches, which is what I will be doing for Marco for work next time.

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Sweet potato & Carrot Eggless Fritata (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato

200g soft silken tofu

2 tablespoons vegan butter

3 tablespoons cornstarch/arrowroot

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon onion flakes (or onion powder)

½ teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small red onion diced

3 tablespoons grated carrot

Method:

1. Peel and cut the sweet potato in thin slices, then put it a small pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender. Then strain and leave cool. DSC02685

2. In the processor blend the silken tofu, vegan butter, cornstarch, baking powder, sea salt, black pepper, turmeric, onion flakes and garlic powder.DSC02686

3. Heat pan with olive oil, then add the red onion and cook for a couple of minutes.

4. Then add sweet potato and grated carrot and cook for another couple of minutes.

5. Add the tofu batter to the pan, coat the vegetables, then level the batter and let it cook for 15 mins on medium heat.DSC02687

6. Preheat grill in the oven.

7. Slide the frittata onto a circular baking tray with baking paper and place into the oven (grill). If you have the right pan you can put the entire pan into the oven. Grill for 3 mins or until slightly golden brown on top.

*Serves 2

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Last night we had Marco’s niece and nephew stay over, so I made them Black Bean Brownies. I got the recipe from Happy Herbivore, you can find it here. I used 1/4 cup of oats more then recipe said as the batter a bit too thin and added vegan chocolate chips. I also cooked for about 10 mins more and then had to let it set in the fridge, so that I could slice it. It was nice, but the texture of the black beans was a bit strange for me. Luckily the kids loved it. They had two slices and even took the rest home, so it was a success after all. This recipe is gluten free, so if you don’t mind beans in your brownie, this is a nice recipe.

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The only other exciting thing I have had to eat this week was on thursday night. Marco and I meet some friends at our favorite Indian Restaurant, A Night in India. I  have been visiting the Toowong location for ten years. Seems like just yesterday I was there with my newly legalized girlfriends, eating Indian and drinking wine, before hitting the clubs. I’ve change a lot since then, but the food hasn’t. It is still fantastic and fresh. Since then I have also discovered the Carindale location, which is owned by the other brother. Depending what side of town we are on, we visit both regularly. They both have many vegan, dairy free and gluten free options. So after I was forced to give up dairy and gluten a few years back and now eating vegan, this place was a god send to me. I don’t have to order the one boring vegan dish on the menu, because there are many exciting, delicious dishes to try, which are ‘Vanessa friendly’.

When we arrived the other night, our friends were running late and we were really hungry. So we ordered Vegetable Samosa. I asked if they were vegan and yes they are. The mint yogurt sauce that it came with was not, but I still ordered it for Marco. They were probably the best samosa I have every had. They weren’t greasy at all. We usually order Pakoras for entree, but I am happy I took a chance ordering this. For main I usually order the Vegetable Madras, as it is a creamy, dairy free dish, that has coconut milk. Tonight I decided to be different and order the Mushroom Sabji. It is a creamy curry with mushrooms, potato and peas. Although it isn’t vegan I asked the waiter if I could have it dairy free and the chef agreed to make it for me. On the side I ordered my usually Roti made of wholemeal flour and is dairy free. As much as I miss naan, when I eat the roti I forget about naan.

Vegetable Samosa

Vegetable Samosa

Mushroom Sabji

Mushroom Sabji

Roti

Roti

Raw Cherry Ripe Buckwheat Porridge

To finish off the last of my batch of buckwheat porridge I decided to make something different. I still had some cherries I froze from a few weeks back, so I tried to make a cherry ripe like layered dessert . I only made enough for one, so I think Marco is going to be very jealous when he sees this. It was such a filling breakfast, not sure if I’ll be able to have lunch today.

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Raw Cherry Ripe Buckwheat Porridge (vegan, raw, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup raw buckwheat porridge

2 teaspoons cacao or cocoa powder (more to sprinkle)

1/2 cup pitted cherries (fresh/defrosted)

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon toasted coconut

Method:

1. Combine the buckwheat porridge and the cocoa powder and stir through till it is brown.

2. In the processor add the pitted cherries. While it is still running add the coconut oil and toasted coconut. Whiz until it has combined and has a jam like consistencey.

3. Take a dessert glass and layer the buckwheat porridge and the cherry mixture. Top with with some cocoa powder and serve.

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Last night I was invited over to my mother’s partners house. Since Ted’s been having a few dinners over at my place, I suggested we go over to his for one of his curries and for some air con. He is Mauritian and makes beautiful Indian curries and chapati breads. Lately he has been making more Thai curries. So last night we had a Thai Green Curry with Tofu and Vegetables, Rice and Lentils. He made the spice paste from scratch and he made it vegetarian for me. It was really good! I really like the lentils as well. His family usually make this kinds of lentils on the side, just with garlic and ginger.  I am going to try get some recipes from him soon and try to cook some of them.

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Su Life Vegetarian Restaurant

Today after seeing a morning session of The Hobbit (which was really, really good), me and Marco decided to check out Su Life Vegetarian Restaurant at Upper Mount Gravatt. I  have been wanting to come here for while, as I saw many good reviews. First impressions it looked like it was closed except for the open sign. We were happy when we saw another table. It was late in the afternoon, but it wasn’t long till a couple more tables arrived. They had a really extensive menu so I was bit confused what I should order. I wanted to have some mock meat, since I can’t have that everyday. I don’t often make it at home, so its more like a treat.

We started with the Satay Veggie Chicken, since I love satay. The actually veggie meat was quite good and it was hard to tell that it wasn’t chicken. However some of it was hot and some parts were cold. The bed of lettuce also had a couple of black pieces, so I stayed away from that.

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Satay Veggie Chicken

For mains we ordered the Japanese Curried Veggie Steak & comb Vegetables with Rice and the Bendon with Thai Spicy Chicken with Rice. The mock meats were not bad, however the batter was a bit thick and under seasoned. The Japanese curry wasn’t what I expected it was more like a gravy. On the bright side they were generous with the vegetables which were cooked well. There was some fried banana to accompany the curry which wasn’t bad. For the Spicy Chicken, the side dishes weren’t bad either. The sauce for the chicken wasn’t really to our taste though.

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Japanese Curried Veggie Steak & comb Vegetables with Rice

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Thai Spicy Chicken with Rice (Bendon)

All in all it was a cheap lunch, but not sure I will come back. I may have ordered the wrong thing or I have higher expectations. Blackened lettuce and uneven cooked food is not really acceptable though. If you have visited this place and have a better experience let me know and I will be open to try it again.

Tomorrow I’m off to Murwillumbah for a couple of days. Can’t wait to relax with just Marco. Hopefully I will find some more good eats there.

Last week in Melbourne

I’m back almost. I just got back from Melbourne last night but off again tomorrow to a Rainforest Retreat at Murwillumbah. This week has been a big week for me. We have been celebrating birthdays and spending time with family. Sometimes coming to Melbourne feels like its a working holiday. It’s not that I am doing a lot, but I trying to make sure I see everyone and spend enough time with them. I have missed a few people, so have to make up for it next time. Family time can also be very stressful when everyone wants to catch you up on who and why they aren’t talking to someone else. So looking forward to go and relax in a nice hotel for a few days with Marco.

This post is about my last experiences in Melbourne. There were alot of highlights and I am really happy I got through my first holiday trying to stick to my vegan lifestyle diet. I was good for the most part and feel quite good even though I did indulge a lot.

Last Friday night we had my mums birthday dinner at 400 Gradi  in East Brunswick. I ended up having Linguine Pescatore. Besides having vegetarian pizza with no cheese, there was really nothing else on the menu that was vegan. I haven’t been eating seafood everyday but I have been finding it the easiest alternative and am really struggling to give it up permanently  I don’t know at this point whether I will ever be able to. I really like it and I don’t feel heavy after I eat it, like when I eat meat and whole eggs. I think probably will just avoid, so it doesn’t become an every substitute to meat. For Italian food this place was really, really good. We got told about it from some people we meet at a BBQ the night before. The food was the closes thing I have had to Italian since leaving Italy. I love pasta without too much sauce and thin wood fire pizzas. So I recommend to others who eat meat and seafood.

Anyway after dinner we went out for gelati at Gelobar, which was across the road. This place was packed with people and had a line that went all the way through the store. Price wise they were very good 1 flavour for $3 and 3 flavour for $6 (usually price of 1 scope). All of the sorbet was dairy free, so I got lampone (raspberry).

Gelobar

Gelobar

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For  my mum’s second birthday dinner, for everyone that couldn’t come before, we had dinner at one of my aunts. My cousins girlfriend, Tanya made her famous Crunchy Asian Salad and Uncle Joe Benich  made his Artichoke and Rocket Salad. My mum and I prepared the roasted vegetables of potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, capsicum  onion and eggplant. So there was plenty for me to eat.

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Tanya’s Crunchy Asian Salad

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Uncle Joe’s Artichoke and Rocket Salad

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Roasted Vegetables

Tanya’s Crunchy Asian Salad I found out wasn’t actually created by Tanya. But she has become known for making this salad. I am addicted to it and thought it was worth talking about. The recipe is on the back of the packet of Chang’s Fried Noodle, which you can find on Chang’s website.

Uncle Joe’s Artichoke & Rocket Salad (gf, sf, nf) is a simple recipe but a good one. All you need is a can or jar of marinated artichokes, a packet of rocket or baby spinach and store bought or homemade Greek Salad dressing. It is zesty and delicious.

Since I didn’t want to have the roasted chicken or bbq meats I bought Fry’s Original Burgers. I haven’t tried them before, but I am happy I did. These are the closest thing that I have tried that tastes like a meat pattie. They have a meat like texture and has the smokey, beefy taste. They do not taste of soy at all. If I didn’t know, I would think they were beef. Since the box said the best thing was to grill them, I got my cousin to put them on the bbq. I should of put some oil on them first, but I didn’t so when they were cooked they looked a bit white. Still tasted good though.

The next day I ended up making a toasted ‘beef’ sandwich for me and little cousin Mia. Instead I cooked in a pan with oil for 10 mins and this gave them more the look of a meat patty. She had no idea and really liked it. This will definitely be a something I will purchase again. I also added store bought Sicilian braised eggplant, ajvar and tomato with toasted wholemeal bread.

My vegan lunch with Fry's burger

My vegan lunch with Fry’s burger

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On Tuesday we had a big cook up for my cousin Adam’s Birthday. My Uncle Joe came and he loves seafood. So he brought a heap from a Vietnamese store in Richmond and made a few different dishes. There was baked mackerel, mussels cooked with tomatoes & chili, squid with shallots, baked baby octopus roasted with onions & tomato, penne frutti di mare, roasted capsicum, baked eggplant with onions & garlic. We also had Tanya’s Crunchy Asian Salad and Uncle Joe’s Artichoke & Baby Spinach Salad. I couldn’t help myself and did eat lots of seafood. One serve was enough though, I felt really full. I think I’ve had enough for a while after that night. What was great about this dinner was that it was made with lots of fresh basil, parsley and mint and lots of garlic.

For the vegetarian dishes I loved the Roasted Capsicum we made. We did them in the oven so they were a lot softer then when I did it on the stove flame. We then just added fresh garlic and olive oil. I also really loved the Baked Eggplant with Onion & Garlic. We just cut them in chunks with olive oil, garlic, onion and baked them for half and hour. Then we added fresh Italian parsley to serve. These are too things that will be a must at our next celebration.

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Second big cook up

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Roasted Capsicum

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Baked Eggplant with Onion & Garlic

On Wednesday we went to Bendigo to visit some family of my Uncle’s partner. I was surprise how much of a beautiful city it is. The Sacred Heart Church is amazing. I never get bored of churches and this was one of the must spectacle I have seen in Australia.

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On the way we stopped at a bake house and there was no sweet or savoury pastries that were vegan. So I ended up waiting. By the time we had lunch/dinner  it was 5 pm and I was starving. We ended up going to Grill’d for burgers. I ordered my favourite  the Garden Goodness and the chips. Their vegetable patties and bread are all vegan. The only thing that isn’t is the cheese and herb mayo. I usually leave the mayo. Still one of my guilty unvegan pleasures. It has no dairy but it does have eggs. Grill’d are popping up everywhere now in Australia. They are a great healthy alternative for eating in and take away.

Garden Goodness (veggie pattie with beetroot, avocado, salad, relish & herbed mayo)

Garden Goodness (veggie pattie with beetroot, avocado, salad, relish & herbed mayo)

On Friday I visited my grandmother, grandfather and great grandmother in Brunswick. I already had seen them for a few hours last week. So on this visit I went out with my Nona for a few hours to the  famous Queen Victoria Markets and the CBD. I have been to the markets many times over the years, so I didn’t really look around. We just checked out the food section. Everything looked really beautiful and fresh.

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For lunch we went to Cafe Bisqui in the CBD. The owners are a young couple, who I know from my church years ago. I have been looking forward to visiting their cafe for a while since I saw it on facebook. Simone is always posting pictures of the freshly baked muffins and cakes that she makes. I was very impressed with their cafe it was very classy and the staff were really lovely. On the menu they have panini’s, salads and other light meals. They had a few vegetarian options. I got this the Roasted Pumpkin Salad, which was vegan. It was very fresh and filling. Their was roasted pumpkin, rocket, baby spinach, mint, red onion, almonds, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and an orange balsamic glaze. My Nona had a Chicken Panini and she really liked that too. After that we had coffees, which were also spot on. Very happy I tried them out and I really recommend them if you come to Melbourne city and want to quick, cheap delicious lunch, away from the hustle and bustle.

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Later that day I went to Woodstock Pizzicheria at East Brunswick, with a friend from my old work and my mum and uncle. Mark was my manager when I use to sell satellite television at the shopping centre. He moved here a couple years ago and I was happy to see him. He’s moving back to Brisbane in a few months so looking forward to going to some nice restaurants with him. Woodstock was also another restaurant that those people at the BBQ recommended. I think this is their second location. They serve really rustic traditional Italian food. For entrée I shared a pizza with everyone. I had to push the cheese and ham off, but it was worth it to have the nice thin base dough and artichokes. For my main ordered the Garganelli alla Puttanesca. It was simple, but beautiful. The olives and Sicilian capers tasted amazing. The sauce was just a light, red sauce that coated the pasta. I don’t like heavy sauces any more, so for me this was the perfect dish.

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After this delicious dinner we went to Gelobar again, since it was across the road from the restaurant. I got mirtillo (blueberry) gelato. I never tried this flavour before so that was a nice treat. It did leave my teeth a bit purple after. As you can see my mum indulged a bit more then me. She is not meant to have dairy either, but she’s not as strict as me.

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On Friday I hung out in Craigieburn, did a bit of shopping at the Broadmeadows. I have an Aunty and a cousins that live here, so it was the last place I expected to get a takeaway vegan dinner. Lucky for me their local Noodle Hut has many vegetarian and vegan options. One of my favourite dishes of all time is Char Kwai Teow, which is a typical dish you will find in Malaysian or Singapore. It is a stir fry with flat rice noodles, seafood and dark soy sauce. It often has egg and pork. They had a vegetarian one, so I had to try it. Besides the seafood taste, it was pretty close to the real thing. I didn’t feel jealous when I looked around the table at everyone else’s  It was pretty cheap too. $10 for a large. Probably didn’t need to eat the whole thing but I was very hungry.

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Saturday was my last day in Melbourne. I had a night flight, so I had the day to visit my Nona & Bisnonna’s graves in Carlton and have a last lunch. I was a bit worried what I should chose, since I know the rest of my family really, really love their animal foods. Luckily it was only me, my mum, one of my aunt’s and her daughter who came. So I took them to Shakahari Vegetarian Restaurant at Carlton. I have seen online that it is often rated as the best vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne. As far as I know it really is. If you didn’t know about this place, you might miss it if you walked pasted. From the front it looks like a small terrace house, but once you walk down the hall way it looks more like a trendy restaurant. On the advice of some customers sitting next to us, we ordered two Avocado Magic to share. This were amazing, so I can see why its their signature dish. It is  avocado & red capsicum  rolled in eggplant and fried in tempura batter with a sweet coriander sauce.   I also shared the Satay Shakahari with my mum and the others shared the Croquettes Cassava. The satay sticks were great. It was seitan and bean curd with a delicious thick satay sauce. I never tried seitan before. I never been able to buy or make it, but I really liked it. The dish was well balanced with plenty of vegetables. I also tried their Croquettes and they were also amazing. They were good on their own, but with the sauce made them even better.

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AVOCADO MAGIC ( V, N-D, G-F )
Avocado wedges and red capsicums rolled in thin eggplant slices then ‘tempura’ fried in a rice batter, served with a jade green sesame coriander puree.

SATAY SHAKAHARI ( V, N-D )Deep fried skewers of beancurd,seitan,onion and capsicum dressed with a mildly spiced peanut sauce. This dish comes with pickles, blanched greens and turmeric rice. A house classic.

SATAY SHAKAHARI ( V, N-D )
Deep fried skewers of beancurd,seitan,onion and capsicum dressed with a mildly spiced peanut sauce. This dish comes with pickles, blanched greens and turmeric rice.

CROQUETTES CASSAVA ( V, N-D, G-F )Crunchy patties of steamed cassava, yam, potatoes,roasted macadamia nuts and high-protein black quinoa. Served with steamed greens, kim chee and a mild lemongrass capsicum sauce.

CROQUETTES CASSAVA ( V, N-D, G-F )
Crunchy patties of steamed cassava, yam, potatoes,roasted macadamia nuts and high-protein black quinoa. Served with steamed greens, kim chee and a mild lemongrass capsicum sauce.

This is a place you have to visit if you come to Melbourne. My cousin and aunt are not vegan, but they loved it. The dishes were also gluten free and after we ate them we felt really good. This is probably one of the best vegan restaurants I’ve ever been to. So this was a really great end to my holiday.

For dessert we ended up getting Soy Lattes at Degani’s. This is second time I had coffee here and its very good. No vegan desserts, but didn’t really need it.

Coffee's at Degani

Coffee’s at Degani

Hope you all enjoyed my trip as much as I did!

More Melbourne eats

Hi all, hope you are all having a good new year. I’m still here in Melbourne, but returning on Saturday  Still have a bit less then a week to catch up with family and hopefully do some shopping. Last week after new years I went out a little, but was mainly with family. Didn’t get to go to any vegan restaurants or cafes, but did find some fantastic eats.

Last Wednesday we visited a cousin that recently moved to Carlton, a trendy suburb known for its Italian food. For dinner we went to Cafe Notturno at Lygon Street. It is not the best place alone this strip, but probably one of the cheapest. It was extremely busy, but I wasn’t that impressed with my meal. We ordered Lambrusco to drink, which was nice cheap, sweet red and garlic pizza to start. That wasn’t to bad. Then for my main dish I had Vegetarian Risotto with mushroom, sun dried tomatoes and olives. It wasn’t a real risotto in the sense, as the normal rice was precooked with out liquid stock and then sauce was added. For a vegetarian dish it wasn’t as bland as usually served in this kind of place, but it was not real Italian food in my opinion.

Vegetarian Risotto with mushroom, sundried tomatoes and olives, Cafe Notturno, Lygon Street, Carlton

Vegetarian Risotto with mushroom, sundried tomatoes and olives, Cafe Notturno, Lygon Street, Carlton

For desert we had gelato from Gelatissimo. They have a few locations around Australia and most of their sorbets are dairy free. I had chocolate sorbet. This tasted amazing and was the closes gelato I have had since leaving Italy.

Gelatissimo, Lygon Street, Carlton

Gelatissimo, Lygon Street, Carlton

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Choc Sorbet, Gelatissimo

Lygon St, Carlton

Lygon St, Carlton

After staying at my cousins house we spent the day doing light shopping in the city. Light shopping because I didn’t come back with heavy bags. For lunch we went to Central Place in the CBD. This is a small alley way with cafes along the walls. It has always reminded me of Europe and I usually come here when I visit. We ended up not having anything fancy, just toasted focaccie from Cafe No. 5. Although none were vegan, I got them to removed the feta from the Roasted Pumpkin & Rocket Focaccia and had a Soy Flat White. For a pre-made focaccia it was good and cheap eat. I would of probably preferred something else, but I compromised with the others. This cafe is really funky place, staff were very nice and the coffee was good.

Bourke Street, CBD

Bourke Street, CBD

Central Place, CBD

Central Place, CBD

Cafe No. 5

Cafe No. 5

Roasted Pumpkin & Rocket Focaccia, Cafe No. 5

Roasted Pumpkin & Rocket Focaccia, Cafe No. 5

After that we went to the Suzuki Night Markets at the Queen Victoria Markets. I have been to the day market but never the night market. This market is completely different. Its all about the food, rather then the cheap Asian goods and leather jackets. They had fast foods from every country imaginable. Italy, France, Poland, South American, Nepal… I managed to find a few vegan eats. DSC01899

First I had a Chickpea Blaster from the Caribbean vendor. This was a soft herb pastry made with olive oil and served with chickpeas, island mango, cucumber salsa & pepper sauce. Although it doesn’t look like much it was really good and full of flavour. It didn’t taste like anything I have had before and I really liked it.

Chickpea Blaster

Chickpea Blaster

Next I visited an Indian vendor and had Spicy Aloo Chat, which was potato, coriander,  and spicy tamarind sauce. This was also really tasty and not very spicy. Apparently this is a popular Indian street snack. We also had with Homemade Lemonade.

Aloo Chat

Aloo Chat

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Lastly, I shared a Traditional Korean Twisted Potato. This was nice but very very greasy. Overall it was a great experience and gave me heaps of ideas. I was a bit jealous that none of my meals came with salad like meat dishes, but flavor wise they were really good. This is not a healthy market, its  a street food market, so expect to feel a bit greasy after.

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Since then I have only been out a couple more times. For brunch on Saturday we went to Jimmi Jamz at Lygon Street, East Brunswick. It was near my grandparents place and ended up being a good choice. I had Spicy House-baked Beans with Rocket on Toast, Soy Flat White and ordered Parsnip Chips for the table. I was really happy with everything I ordered. My uncle had paper pasta, which we didn’t realize was cooked on paper in the oven. Other then that this place is funky, tasty and really cheap. In my city I am use to paying $20-30 for breakfast to lunch, so for around $10-12 this was great.

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Soy Flat White

Soy Flat White

Spicy House-baked Beans with Rocket on Toast

Spicy House-baked Beans with Rocket on Toast

Parsnip Chips

Parsnip Chips

Hopefully will get a couple more posts in this week in my spare time. So hope you all enjoyed the photos.

Happy New Years

Hi everyone, hope you had a great new years! I’ve been visiting with family in Melbourne. It’s not so much of a vacation, with so many people to see, but it still feels good to be away from home. So far we have been out and about a lot more this trip. We have had family dinners and BBQ’s, and have had a few meals out.

On my first night I was having  dinner with the family and I met the temptation of the beef ravioli. It was from a local pasta factory that my uncle had bought. Instead of eating this I used the Napoletana sauce, that my aunty made for the pasta, and added sauteed mushrooms and wholemeal penne pasta .  I didn’t really want what they had. I tried one just to make sure, but I am not really craving the taste of that anymore. I have got to the point that I can take it or leave it. Its only been since last september that I stopped eating meat daily and I am finally not wanting it at all.

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I have been eating a lot of hummus, ajvar and bread. I also have been a bit of eating egg mayo, eggs and seafood. When I am home its easy to avoid, but when others are cooking I find it harder to hold back, especially if the alternative would only be eating green salad. I don’t feel too heavy, but my metabolism is not as fast as it was. I don’t think I would continue to eat these things regularly. As for dairy and meat, I have been able to avoid them, which is most important to me at the moment.  My family haven’t been a problem with my diet. They always ask me if I will be able to eat what they made. Some still think anything vegan is ‘gross’, but I am not going to try to defend my diet choices. Everyone finds their own way and unfortunately some have to find out the hard way.

On Saturday one of my uncles took use to a Italian Deli, Lakes Fresh Food Market at Taylor’s Lakes. This place had everything it was amazing. They had heaps of the fresh fruit and vege and many italian products that I remember in Milan. They even some Eastern European stuff too. We bought ajvar, braised pickled eggplant and lots of bread. I can’t believe how much cheaper this places was for this stuff too. Wish we had a deli like this in Brisbane.

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On Sunday I was at another aunt’s house for a BBQ. My family prepared lots of meats. My uncle bought steak and sausages from the Italian deli. Luckily, my aunt prepared lots of salads. I had pita bread, hummus, BBQ mushrooms and onions, rice salad, potato salad and bean salad. Below is one of the recipe of the most delicious salad that I have ever had. I  couldn’t stop eating it. It’s vegan and very flavor some. The only thing I may do differently is roast or toast the cashews myself. I don’t know the exact recipe, but this is what my mum can remember, as they made it before I arrived.

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Aunty Rina’s Rice Salad (vegam. gluten free)

Ingredients:

cooked parboil rice

red & green capsicum, chopped

shallots, chopped

roasted cashews

raisins

coriander, diced

Ingredients for Dressing:

3/4 cup rice bran oil

2 tablespooon soy sauce

2 teaspoon sugar

8 garlic cloves, diced

2 teaspoon crushed ginger

Method:

1. Cook the rice and let it cool.

2. Chop the capsicum, shallots, coriander and prepare the dressing.

3. Combine the rice, dressing and capsicum, coriander, raisins and half of the cashews. Add the rest of the cashews on top and serve.

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Yesterday for New Years Eve I got to go to Mr Nice Guy Bake Shop at Ascot Vale. We just happened to be around the corner, so we dropped in and had some afternoon tea. It was actually Ally from Made of Stars that told me about this place. The cupcakes on the website look amazing and I am really sick of watching everyone eat cakes and pavlova. This place was really cute little cafe. They staff were really friendly despite my uncle making constant jokes about vegans. To my family the idea of a vegan bake shop is strange, hippy or just gross. But I didn’t care this place was awesome and really worth the visit. In the end I think he liked it too.

I ordered the Red velvet and Beetle Juice cupcakes for me and Marco. My mum and uncle shared the Strawberry Champagne cupcake and a Cinnamon Bun. We all had coffees as well. I had a cappuccino with Hazelnut Milk. It was quite nice. I have never had it before. One litre to buy is $7 or more at health food shops, compared to $2 for organic soy/rice/etc.  Marco ordered a Peppermint Mocha, I think it had soy. That was really nice too. They also have another store at Prahran Markets. So if your in either areas I really recommend this place.

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Beetle Juice, Strawberry Champagne, Red Velvet, Cinnamon Bun

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Cappuccino with hazelnut milk & Peppermint Mocha

For dinner I went to Victoria Street in Richmond to have Vietnamese with another Uncle. This street is packed with Asian restaurants and Asian grocery stores and is a favorite place to eat for my family. We went to Thanh Hà 2. I had a lot to choose from here. Vegetable Colesaw, Vegetables with Garlic Sauce, Vermicelli Noodles with Vegetables  I ended having Fried Bean curd with Mushrooms and Steamed Rice. It was really nice. I don’t usually like thick sauces in stir fries but this was spot on. After dinner we went to watch the fireworks for New Years at my uncles apartment in Fitzroy. He has a penthouse apartment and the view was spectacular  Anyway hope everyone had a good time last night and will post again soon.

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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

Mushroom Wellington

Tonight my friends came over and made the most amazing Beef Wellington from scratch for us. I decided before they came that I wasn’t going to eat any beef. This was my first biggest temptation since transitioning to vegan. Instead I made my own version of this dish.

I adapted the recipe from Virtually Vegan Mama’s Portobello Wellington. I added toasted walnuts to mine and used silver beet spinach, vegan chicken stock, worcestershire to flavor it.  I ended up having to use pre-made frozen chapati, since I didn’t have any puff pastry and the shops were closed by the time I realized I was out. I wasn’t sure if it would bake like puff pastry, but surprisingly it puffed up nicely. This recipe is only really enough for one portobello mushroom. I only had a teaspoon left over and an extra mushroom, so I made a mini one as well.

I did taste their Beef Wellington and it was very good. They did a great job and it cooked perfectly. Mine was a good enough substitute and I don’t regret having this instead. For the sides they roasted asparagus and carrots with honey. These were very quick to cook and delicious. This could be veganised by using agave or maple syrup instead of honey.

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‘Mushroom Wellington (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons walnuts

1 large portobello mushroom

2 button mushrooms

5 shittake mushrooms, soaked in 1/4 cup vegan beef/vegetable liquid stock

1/4 cup vegan liquid stock

1/4 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon onion flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 leaf of silverbeet spinach (discard the spine)

1 teaspoon vegan worcestershire sauce

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 sheet of vegan puff pastry/2 sheets of frozen chapatiDSC01166 (use gluten free if you prefer)

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees

2. Dry toast the walnuts in a pan, then set to the side.DSC01168

3. In the processor, blend button mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, 1/4 cup liquid stock and toasted walnuts.

4. Next add spinach leaves, thyme, onion flakes, garlic powder, sea salt, pepper and rest of the liquid stock.DSC01178

5. Heat a olive oil in a pan then add the mixture. Add the worcestershire sauce and cook for 5 mins or until the liquid drys up.

6. Prepare the large mushroom, by washing or brushing it clean, removing the stem. Then stuff the mixture into the mushroom.

7. Cover the mushroom in puff pastry and bake for 20-30 mins or until the pastry is golden brown.

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