Purple bean Caponata

This dish was inspired by my lovely Italian neighbours who gave me some magic purple beans. I have no idea what type of beans they are, but apparently they grow all year round. They are large white and maroon beans that turn purple when you cook them. I think they may be butter beans, but if anyone knows what they are please let me know. Caponata is usually served as a vegetable side dish. I added beans and served it as a main. I also served it along side some sautéed green beans and Farinata. This was my first time cooking Farinata and along with my beans it was a big hit with the family. Its tastes like a big crunchy savoury pancake and is made of chickpea flour. Its a great gluten free alternative to bread. Its also a great lunch box filler for kids or work lunches.

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Purple bean Caponata (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

olive oil

1 medium eggplant, sliced in large rounds

1 medium brown onion, diced

2 celery sticks, leaves removed, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium zucchini, chopped

1 large tomato, diced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon baby capers

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tsp raw sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1.5 cooked purple butter beans or other butter beans

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup fresh italian parsley, chopped

Method:

1. First you need to remove the bitterness from the eggplant, by sprinkling with salt (I just use table salt) and leaving to sit for 10 minutes. Moisture should come out of the eggplant flesh. Wipe the moisture and salt off the eggplant. Then cut into cubes.

2. Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Then add onion and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent.

3. Stir through the eggplant and another tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté for 5 minutes and stir frequently.

4. Add garlic, zucchini and tomato. Stir through and cook for a further 5 minutes.

5. Stir through the tomato paste and capers. Cook for another minute.

6. Add 1/4 cup of water and once it absorbs a little add another 1/4 cup of water, so that the vegetables don’t stick to the skillet.

7. Add pine nuts, red wine vinegar, sugar, sea salt and black pepper. Leave to cook for 10 minutes.

8. Add the beans and another 1/4 cup of water and cook for a further 5 minutes so that the beans are heated through.

9. Take off the heat and stir through basil and parsley. Adjust the seasoning and serve hot or at room temperature.

*Serves 4-6

 

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Farinata

 

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Rolled Eggplant with Cannellini Pine nut Filling and Asparagus Green bean Salad with Caper Dressing

Now that we are so close to getting our new home, I have been trying to gather ideas for what to serve at our engagement/house warming party. Even though I got engaged back in January, we still haven’t had a formal celebration. I did want have it in a venue, but Marco has been pushing me to wait till we got a house. Although I don’t want to cater the whole thing, I think I will try make a few small things. All vegan of course. These are some of the ideas I came up with for an entree/main and a side salad. The filling for the Rolled Eggplant can also be made as a dip or spread. It was so delicious, I couldn’t stop eating it. I don’t think Marco is going to be a fan of the salad. He hates capers and green olives, but I’m hoping when he gets to try it later he will look past the salty ingredients and enjoys it as a whole. If he can’t, well then he won’t be invited to have any of my Coconana-Chia Cake that I just made! ??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

Rolled Eggplant with Cannellini bean Pine nut Filling (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients for Eggplant

1 medium eggplant

sea salt

olive oil

storebought/homemade tomato (pasta) sauce

Ingredients for Cannellini bean Pine nut Filling:

1 can cannellini beans

1/2 cup pine nuts (soaked/boil 10 mintues)

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

sea salt to taste

20 basil leaves

Method:

1. To make the filling place all the ingredients for the filling, except the basil, in the processor. Blend until the nuts and beans break down and it becomes a puree.

2. Place the basil leaves in the process and blend so that they are finely cut but still a little chunky.

3. Slice the eggplant into thin strips (at least 12 with no skin on either side) and sprinkle generously with salt. Leave for 10 minutes, to remove the bitterness, then remove the salt and moist with a paper towel.

4. Heat a griddle pan on medium to high heat and brush with olive oil. Coat the eggplant with olive oil and cook on both sides (3 mintues per slice). While cooking apply more olive oil if the eggplant dries out. Place the eggplant in a warm place so that it doesn’t get cold while you cook all the slices.

5. Place the filling in the centre of the eggplant and then roll.

6. Serve on some warm tomato sauce. *Serves 4 ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? Asparagus Green bean Salad with Caper Dressing (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients for Salad:

30 green beans (topped & tailed)

2 bunches asparagus

2 large handfuls of baby kale/lettuce

small handful spanish green olives

2-3 tablespoons flaked almonds (toasted)

Ingredients for Dressing:

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1.5 teaspoons crushed garlic

2 tablespoons baby capers

2 teaspoons agave

1/2 teaspoon dry oregano

Method:

1. Chop the green beans and asparagus into 5 cm pieces.

2. Steam the green beans and asparagus for 5 minutes or until tender. Then place straight away into a bowl with cold water and ice for 10 minutes or until cold.

3. Strain the green beans and asparagus.

4. Massage the kale with sea salt, so that it breaks down. Slice the olives and toast the almonds.

5. Prepare the dressing by placing all the ingredients into a blender/processor and blend until creamy.

6. To assemble the salad first make a bed of baby kale, then top with green beans, asparagus, green olives and flaked almonds. Drizzle the caper dressing and serve.

Labor weekend recipe roundup

Happy Labor Day weekend fellow Queenslanders! The heat has finally arrived! This weekend has been hot and humid, but really breezy as well. I spent this long weekend with house hunting and spending time with the Mini Marco’s. Below are some of the meals I have prepared over the week.

I finally tried some recipes from Crazy Sexy Diet over the weekend. I adapted her Cornmeal Banana Walnut Pancakes. Since I didn’t have any banana or walnuts, I used dairy free choc chips, which of course the kids loved. I really loved the batter for this recipe. The polenta/cornmeal really gives the pancake a crunch. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to get any photos. Another recipe I tried was her Tofu Country Scramble. Marco and I really loved this. After a year on a plant based diet and I was yet to make a tofu scramble. This tasted really similar to a real egg scramble, but better.

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We also visited The Green Edge with our Living Social Lunch Vouchers. I got Spicy Seitan Burger and a Peanut Butter Milkshake. Marco got the Satay Tofu Burger and Chocolate Milkshake. It was all so good, but I ordered far to much.???????????????????????????????

While I was there I bought a couple of new vegan products. Sweet Freedom Natural Sweetener is made of apples, grapes and carob. Its a great substitute to maple syrup and much more cost effective. Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon powder is an organic dry vegan stock, which i really makes a really flavorsome stock and is the best one I have tried. It is also a lot more cost effective then buying liquid stock.

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Over the past couple of weeks when I haven’t felt like cooking I have been bring home takeaway from Vege Rama on my way home from work. For a less then $10 you can get the most delicious vegan thai, indian curries or even a lasagna, which is big enough  for two. Tonight I tried to recreate one of my favorite dishes from there.

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Easy Thai Pumpkin Curry (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 tablespoon ginger, diced

1 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons thai red curry paste

1 small red capsicum, chopped

4 cups pumpkin, chopped

2 cups carrot, chopped

2 teaspoon vegan vegetable stock mixed with 2 cups of water

400ml coconut cream

1 tablespoon soy sauce

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

1. Heat coconut oil in a wok, then add onion, ginger, garlic and curry paste. Saute for 3-4 minutes, until the oil separates from the curry paste. Then add 1/4 cup coconut cream and heat for few more minutes.???????????????????????????????

2. Add capsicum, pumpkin and carrot and saute for a 5 minutes.

3. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Add coconut cream and soy sauce and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the pumpkin is soften.

*Serve with brown rice or another other gluten free grain, or some wholemeal roti

Ever wondered how asparagus risotto gets that beautiful green color? I found this tip in an Italian cook book, to blend the stems of the asparagus spears with the liquid stock before cooking the risotto. I always find that I need more then a litre of stock, so added some of the steamer water to make use of the vitamins that get lost in the water. I haven’t made risotto in so long, so this was a nice treat.

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Green Spring Risotto (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 bunch asparagus

1 bunches of broccolini

1 litre vegan chicken liquid stock

1 tablespoon vegan butter (I used nutlex)

2 cups risotto rice

1/2 cup white wine

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 cup frozen peas

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Cashew Parmesan/vegan parmesan (optional)

Method:

1. Cut the woody ends off the asparagus and the broccolini. Then cut into each spear into 4 parts.

2. Place the asparagus and broccolini in the steamer, except for the tops of them. Leave them to the side for later. Steam for 5 mins or until tender.???????????????????????????????

3. Place steam asparagus and broccolini in the blender with the liquid stock and blend until smooth. Then place on the stock to boil, so that it is ready for the risotto.

4. Heat butter in a large pot, then once its melted add the risotto rice. Toast for a few minutes.

5. Add white wine, onion and garlic to the risotto and allow it the wine to absorb into the rice.???????????????????????????????

6. Now begin adding boiled liquid stock, a ladle at a time. Allow it to absorb into the rice, until adding more. Stir the risotto continuously.

7. About 5 minutes before the risotto is ready, steam the tops of the asparagus, broccolini and the peas. If you need more boiling water for the risotto, you can used this steam water once your finished with it.

8. Take the risotto off the heat and add in the steamed asparagus, broccolini and peas, and season with sea salt and black pepper.

9. Serve with some home-made vegan parmesan.

*Serves 4 main serves, or 6 entree serves

I love eggplant, but I find I don’t it as much as I like because I need to use so much oil to cook it. This recipe is a bit lighter on the oil, but is just as flavorsome. Its also really easy to prepare and is gluten free.

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Stuffed Eggplants with Sun dried Tomatoes & Pine nuts (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 Italian eggplant

olive oil

2 small red onions

3 garlic cloves

10 sun dried tomatoes

2 tablespoons pine nuts

small handful of basil

2 tablespoons quinoa crumbs (or gluten free bread crumbs)

sea salt to taste

Method:

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

2. Slice eggplant in half, then use a pairing knife and a spoon to scoop out most of the flesh from the eggplant, just leave the shells.???????????????????????????????

3. Brush the eggplant shells with olive oil, then place in the oven for 20 minutes.

4. In the meantime chop the eggplant flesh into small pieces and dice the red onion, garlic, sun dried tomatoes and basil.

5. Heat a pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes, until they start to soften.???????????????????????????????

6. Add the eggplant flesh to the pan and saute for 5 minutes, until its cooked. Add another tablespoon of olive or water if the eggplant is too dry.???????????????????????????????

7. Take off the heat and add the sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, basil, quinoa crumbs and sea salt. Stir through till combined well.

8. Take out the eggplant shells from the oven and fill with the eggplant stuffing.

9. Bake the eggplants for 20 minutes.

* Serves 2 to 4 depending on the size of the serve.

What to do when you have heaps of canned pineapple leftover from pizza night? I made this delicious dressing for my work salads. Well it only turned out to be one work salad, since I accidentally poured most of this dressing on my kitchen bench.

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Pineapple Poppy seed Dressing (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 cup pineapple pieces

3/4 cup pineapple juice

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

3 tablespoon olive oil/other mild oil

sea salt to taste

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Method:

1. Place all the ingredients, except the poppy seeds in a high speed blender.

2. Stir in the poppy seeds last and serve with salad.

*Makes 250 ml

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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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Japanese Favourites

Good evening all! Tonight I tried to make two of my favourite dishes that I have never made before, Sushi and Japanese Curry.

I have always been a bit scared to make sushi. ???????????????????????????????Years ago my brother and I tried to make it, but we didn’t realise you need sushi rice and rice wine vinegar. Our tuna sushi with basmati rice tasted pretty bad, so I thought I would leave it up to the experts. Marco was also very scared about me making sushi when I suggested it a while ago. He was nervous I was going to ruin sushi for him. Well that was until our friends mentions that they made sushi at home. Then he had hope I could do it too.

Making sushi was much easier then I thought. I made 3 large rolls that I cut up into bite size pieces. Half were filled with avocado, for Marco and the rest was filled with avocado and shiitake mushrooms. Not very adventurous  but it was my first time so I thought I would keep it simple. I followed this recipe, Avocado Sushi with Cucumber, but this is also a great site for recipes and tips, Make my sushi. My sushi turned out quite good. The only thing I know for next time is to not putting so much rice, as it is much harder to roll if you have to much.

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I was actually planing to fill one of the sushi rolls with Wakame. When I saw this Dried Seaweed salad in the packet at the Japanese Grocery store I thought it would taste like it. But no, this stuff is completely different. It is a mixture of different seaweeds that you soak and then dress, like a salad. It didn’t taste too bad on the side with tonight meal, but I think I will try to find a dressing to go with it as tastes like the sea.

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For the main event tonight I finally got around to a recipe that I have had on my Pinterest for a while, Japanese Curry with Edamame. I slightly adapted the ingredients in the recipe to give it a more richer flavor. I couldn’t find any organic or non gmo edamame. In fact, I have never seen any before in Brisbane. There are only the frozen edamame from China available at Asian grocery stores. So I decided to use frozen broad beans instead.

This recipe doesn’t taste exactly like the packet Japanese Curry, but it does have a nice strong flavour.  I have been eating Japanese Curry since the first Japanese sushi train popped up in my local shopping centre when I was in primary school. However, as much as I love it I never order it any more  Since I became aware of all my intolerances I avoid anything that may have  milk products or flavour enhances. The only packet version available here, that I think most restaurants would also use, is S&B Golden Curry. This recipe is a great substitute though and you won’t be disappointed in the flavour department.

I got the idea to make Eggplant Katsu from when I fried eggplant for Eggplant Parmigiana. When I made that dish I used corn crumbs. This recipe uses panko crumbs, which makes it all the more taster on its own. It is a really great substitute for fried cutlets and goes well with the curry.

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Japanese Curry with Broad beans and Eggplant Katsu (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients for Curry:

1 tablespoon canola oil

2 onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

4 carrots, cut into ½-inch-thick half moons (about 2 cups)

2.5 tablespoons curry powder

2 teaspoons garam marsala

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups vegan beef liquid stock

4 creamy golden/yukon potatoes, peeled & cubed (about 2.5 cups)

1 small green apple, peeled & grated (about 1/2 cup)

3 tablespoon ketchup

1  tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon white miso paste

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup broad beans (fresh or frozen)

Ingredients for Eggplant Katsu:

1 medium eggplant, washed & peeled

table salt

tapicoa flour

sea salt

1/2 cup soy milk

panko crumbs

canola oil???????????????????????????????

Method:

1. In a large heavy based pot, heat canola oil over medium heat. Then add onions and sauté for 7 to 9 minutes, or until ???????????????????????????????lightly to brown.

2. Add carrots, and sauté  for a further 5 minutes. Add a little big of water if the pot gets too dry.???????????????????????????????

3. Add curry powder, garam marsala and garlic. Cook for 1  minute. Add a little water if the spices stick to the bottom of the pot.

4. Add vegan beef stock, potatoes, apple, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and miso. Stir through.

5. Bring to the boil bring, then place on medium-low heat to simmer with the pot slightly covered.  Cook 30 minutes or up to an 1 hour if you have time. The potatoes need to be cooked through.???????????????????????????????

6. In the meantime, prepare the eggplant. Cut the top and bottom of the eggplant so that it can stand up. Then slice the eggplants into 6-8 fillets.???????????????????????????????

7. Sprinkle table salt on the eggplant, to allow the bitterness and moister to come out. Leave for 10 mins.

8. While you are waiting for the eggplant boil the broad beans then rinse with cold water, peel and set to the side.

9. Wipe the salt & moister from the eggplants fillets, then batter with tapioca flour, sprinkle with seasalt, dip in soy milk then batter in panko crumbs.???????????????????????????????

10. Fry the eggplant fillets in canola oil, then leave on a paper towel to drain the oil.

11. By now the curry should be ready, so add the broad beans and heated through.

12. Slice the eggplant fillets.

13. Serve Japanese Curry topped with the Eggplant Katsu and with Steamed Rice.

*Serves 6-8

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Before I go, this a recipe I came up with this morning.  It is a nutritious breakfast that is gluten free, sugar free and goes nice with nut butter.

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Apple Oat Rösti with Sunflower Seed Butter (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 green apple

1/2 cup instant oats, preferably organic

1/2 teaspooon cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon coconut oil plus more

sunflower seed butter (or other nut butter if you can tolerate)

Method:

1. First peel, slice and grate the apple.

2. Then grind the oats into a flour.

3. Combine both the grated apple and oat flour in a small bowl and add cinnamon. Stir through. If it is too dry add some of the leftover apple juice from grating or a little water. Divide into 3 balls

4. Heat coconut oil in a small pan and add a ball of the mixture. Press it down in the pan with a spatula or with your fingers. Cook for a couple of minutes on both sides on medium-low heat.

5. Serve rösti with nut butter or a sweetener.

*Makes 3 rösti

 

Eggplant Parmigiana

It’s been so long since I have had Eggplant Parmigiana. I’ve been dairy free for nearly 4 years, so it was before that that I last had it at my Nona’s house. It has always been one of my favorite dishes. So I’m not sure why it has taken me this long to make it. I did make Eggplant Rolls stuffed with Quinoa and ‘Mince’ a while ago, which believe me doesn’t look as good as it tasted.

Eggplant Parmigiana or Melanzana alla parmigiana or Parmigiana di melanzane,  is a stew made of eggplant, that can be eaten freshly baked out of the oven or cold. It is a southern slide-450Italian dish, that is similarly prepared throughout the south.

The name and the origin of this dish is often debated. Some believed that its name is from the city of Parma or Parmigano cheese. However, this dish is not found in Parma cuisine. Rather the word parmigiana actually refers to the method in which the vegetable is sliced and arranged in alternating layers. Some believe it is from the Sicilian word parmiciana, which means overlapping wood strips on the shutters. Others believe it refers to the way that Parmigiani (people from Parma) cook their vegetables in layers. alimenti_e_ricette_da_duchi_1

It is also often argued that this dish is from Naples, which was the capital city of a large kingdom that included Sicily and Southern Italy, some centuries ago. This recipe is for Parmigiana was first documented in the treatise Il Cuoco Galante by Vincenzo Corrado. It was a dish served to the most prestigious families in Naples during the 18th and 19th century. However, it was not eggplant that was used but rather zucchini, pumpkins, parsnips and tomatoes. It wasn’t until 1837 that Eggplant Parmigiana was first documented by Ippolito Cavalcanti, the Duke of Buonvicino, in his most important work, Kitchen theoretical practice.

This dish is made by first shallow frying sliced eggplant, then layering with cheese (mozzarella/Parmesan/both) and tomato sauce and then baking it. Some recipes use flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs before frying the eggplant.258454-chicken-parmigiana

There are many variations of this dish using breaded meats (veal/chicken), which have also become popular outside of Italy by Italians migrates. The Chicken Parma or Parmy  is a very popular pub dish in Australia and is served with a side of chips and salad. It is often topped with sliced ham or fried eggplant, tomato sauce and cheese. In Argentina, it is called Milanesa (beef/veal) or de Pollo (chicken) or de Berenjena (eggplant) or de Cerdo (pork) and is topped with a slice of ham, melted cheese, tomato sauce and a slice of tomato and served with chips or salad. In America and Canada, both the Veal Parmigiana and Chicken Parmigiana are often used as fillings in Sub Sandwiches or served with with pasta. In England they even have their Parmo, which is made of either pork or chicken.

The recipe I made is how I remember my mother and Nona cooking it. The eggplant is dusted in flour, dipped into soy milk instead of eggs and then dipped in corn crumbs instead of bread crumbs. I then layered it with vegan mozzarella and fresh oregano from my garden. It did take me a long time to prepare it all, since there was a lot of eggplant. But it paid off. It was absolutely delicious. Even though its dairy free and gluten free version, it tastes just like I remember it. This is definitely a dish for those who want to indulge and is also great to share with friends. Me and Marco are the only ones that got to share this dish tonight. He really, really liked it. I fear we might be a few kilos heavier in a few days, once we have finished devouring it.

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Eggplant Parmigiana (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant, thinly sliced into circles or half-moons

1/2 cup arrowroot flour or gluten plain free flour

3/4 cup whole soy milk

1 cup corn crumbs or other gluten free bread crumbs

olive oil or canola oil to fry

1.5 jars x 500g tomato pasta sauce

2 cups vegan mozzarella (I used Notzarella)

1/3 cup oregano leaves

salt & pepper to taste???????????????????????????????

Method:

1. Preheat oven 200 degrees.???????????????????????????????

2. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant slices and wait 10 mins to get the bitterness out. Then wipe off the salt and moister that comes out. ???????????????????????????????

3. Coat the slices of eggplant in flour and shake of any extra flour. Then dip into soy milk, shake of the excess. Then dip into corn crumbs. Continue until all the eggplant is coated.???????????????????????????????

4. Heat a large pan (I prefer to use a wok) and heat oil. Then shallow fry eggplants pieces, until golden brown. Leave them on paper towel to draw out any excess oil.

5. Take an oven prove dish, then place some pasta sauce on the bottom. Then add a layer of eggplant, sprinkle sea salt & black pepper, then a layer of Notzarella and some oregano leaves. Continue to do another 3-4 layers, until all the ingredients have been use.

6. Cook in the oven covered with aluminum foil for 20 mins.

7. Uncover and cook for a further 10mins or until the vegan mozzarella has browned a little. I had to cook mine for a further 10 mins as the Notzarella took time to melt.

*Serves 8-10

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Parmigiana di melanzane <http://ricette.giallozafferano.it/Parmigiana-di-melanzane.html>

Libro di cucina/Ricette/Parmigiana di melanzane <http://it.wikibooks.org/wiki/Libro_di_cucina/Ricette/Parmigiana_di_melanzane>

Parmigiana di melanzane <http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parmigiana_di_melanzane>

Eggplants stuffed with Israeli Couscous and Cucumber Yogurt Salad

Yesterday I paid a visit to my favorite vegan cafe in Brisbane, Green Edge. I had a Veggie Burger (best in Brisbane) and a Vegan Brownie with Soy Whip. I also topped up on some grocery supplies, such as Notzarella , Kingland Plain Soy Yogurt, Smoky Maple Bacon Marinated Tempeh, So Delicious Banana Split Minis and some loose dried legumes. If you are dairy free, gluten free, vegan or vegetarian, you will be able to find a variety of delicious products here, as well as the most delicious ‘I can’t believe its vegan’ Brownies and Cheesecakes. As far as I know this is the only vegan supermarket in Brisbane, so you will fine stuff here that you won’t see in your local health food store.

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After we had lunch at Green Edge, we paid a visit to some family, then came home late. I decided to make Stuffed Eggplants, which I haven’t made before. But I really wanted to use my Notzarella and Israel Couscous. It turned out quite nice. I probably didn’t blanch my eggplants long enough so the bigger ones had a bit of white color in parts of the shells that didn’t soften as well as the rest. I didn’t really think about a side until 5 mins before they were ready so I just made this quick Cucumber Yogurt Salad.

We were still a bit hungry after, so after some left over pizza from last night. We also had to try the So Delicious Banana Split Minis. They were sooo good! With only 100 calories and all natural ingredients they were pretty guilt free.

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Eggplants stuffed with Israeli Couscous (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

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Ingredients:

4 medium eggplants

table salt

1 onion

3 garlic cloves

1/2 red capsicum

2 tomatoes

1 large zucchini

1/2 tablespoon agave

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/4 cup water

sea salt to taste

1 cup israeli couscous

8 slices vegan mozzarella on top (I used Notzarella)

Method:

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

2. Cut the eggplants in half and sprinkle table salt the eggplants. Leave for 30 mins, to get out the bitterness. ???????????????????????????????

3. In the mean time cook the Israeli Couscous according to packet instructions, then place to the side after its cooked to cool.

4. Wipe off the moisture and salt from the eggplants. Then cut out the center flesh of the eggplants, leaving the skins of the eggplant intact and in shape. Chop the flesh of the eggplant into cubes.

5. In a large pan or pot of boiling water, blanch the eggplant skins for 5-10 mins, or until the skin goes from purple to brown. Don’t over soften, but try to make sure the inside flesh left on the skins are not white (otherwise those parts won’t be soft after cooking).???????????????????????????????

6. In the meantime chop onion, garlic, capsicum, tomatoes and zucchini.

7. Take out the eggplant skins and place on baking paper in a baking tray. Then tip out the water from the large pan/pot.

8. Heat olive oil in the pan then add onion, garlic, capsicum and eggplant. Cook for 5 mins or until softened.

9. Then add tomatoes, zucchini, tomato paste, water, agave, sea salt and black pepper. Cook for a further 5-10 mins or until it becomes a bit saucy. ???????????????????????????????

10. Stir through the Israeli cous cous and cook for a further minute. Then take off the heat.

11. Place these vegetables and couscous from the pan into the eggplant shells. Then top with Notzarella or vegan mozzarella. Bake for 30-40 mins.

Cucumber Yogurt Salad (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 cucumber

2 shallots

1 tablespoon soy yogurt

1/2 teaspoon agave

squeeze of lemon

sea salt  and black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Cut the cucumber finely into slices and chop the shallots.

2. Place soy yogurt, agave, lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper in a bowl. Then stir through cucumber and shallots and serve.???????????????????????????????

Cucumber Yogurt Salad (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 cucumber

2 shallots

1 tablespoon soy yogurt

1/2 teaspoon agave

squeeze of lemon

sea salt  and black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Cut the cucumber finely into slices and chop the shallots.

2. Place soy yogurt, agave, lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper in a bowl. Then stir through cucumber and shallots and serve.

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Calm after the storm

After torrential rain and gail force winds last night we finally got some calm weather today. So today we had to focus on cleaning the mess from the storm. Mum was drying the leaks  and sweeping the water away. Marco was vacuuming up Albie’s hair from all over the house, after his sleepover inside. And I tried to cook up all the left overs in our fridge and went shopping for  more supplies. I’m not so good at the cleaning, but I like to make sure we are eating well in this stressful time. We also got a student at 2 am  this morning. I am really surprised she made it here with the storm and the road closures. I’m even more surprised there were taxi’s working last night. Although the rain stopped this afternoon, we still have to worry about the  flood tonight, now the dam’s are being released. We are hoping that our suburb isn’t going to flood, since we are so close to the river. Our house will be safe, but I’m hoping we don’t loose power.

These are some of the things I made up today out of the leftovers:

Salad: red onion, tomato, grated carrot, baby spinach, rocket, chickpeas and a Sweet Garlic Mayo

Salad: red onion, tomato, grated carrot, baby spinach, rocket, chickpeas and a Sweet Garlic Mayo

For lunch I made salad  for everyone, as we had so many pre-cut ingredients, that my mum brought home from her work. I also had the tiniest bit of silken tofu leftover in the fridge, so I tried to make a homemade vegan mayo. This mayo only made enough dressing for 3 salads. So I will try to make up a bigger batch next time.

Sweet Garlic Mayo (vegan, gluten free)

Ingredients:

100g silken tofu

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon brown rice syrup

1 tablespoon parsley

1 tablespoon ground pecans (optional)

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Combine all the ingredients in the processor and pulse until all is combined.

*Makes about 1/2 cup.

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After lunch I made this pesto to keep in the fridge as a condiment or to dress pasta. We had so much basil in the fridge that was starting to go bad and a jar of artichokes that I had started and forgot about. These ingredients went really well together. I had it as an afternoon snack with the left over Spelt Buttery Biscuits. I kept offering it to Marco to have on toast, but he’s not to excited about it.

Basil & Artichoke Pesto (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pine nuts

1.5-2 cups basil leaves

3 garlic cloves

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

6-8 artichokes from jar

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

1/2-1 teaspoon herbamare/sea salt

Method:

1. Place pine nuts in the processor and whiz till they are broken down and start to form a paste.

2. Then add the rest of the ingredients, one by one, as the processor is whizzing, until it is all combined and creamy.

* Place in an airtight jar or container and top with a bit more olive oil so that it last longer.

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Even though we had the leftover the Spicy Peanut Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Eggplant with steamed rice and Achar de legumes (Ted’s Mauritian pickled vegetables) for dinner, I wanted to use up the rest of the ingredients that were on their last legs in my fridge. So I made this sauce so I can put together a quick meal tomorrow night.

Eggplant & Capsicum Pasta Sauce (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1.5 cup diced red onion, diced

5 garlic cloves, diced

1 medium eggplant, chopped

1 large red capsicum, chopped

1 cup grated/diced carrot

1 cup fresh diced tomato

2x 500ml jars passata sauce

500ml filtered water

sea salt, black pepper & raw sugar to taste

3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Method:

1. Take a large pot and heat olive oil, then add the red onion and garlic. Saute for 3 mins on medium heat.

2. Add the eggplant and red capscium and saute for a further 5 mins. Add more olive oil if the eggplant is too dry.

3. Add the carrot and tomato and cook for saute for 2 more mins.

4. Add the passata sauce and water and bring to the boil.

5. Then place on a simmer. Adjust seasoning, by adding salt, pepper and sugar to taste. Add basil and continue to cook for 1-2 hours (the longer the better).

* Serve with pasta or if not using today let the pot cool (so it doesn’t go bitter) then store in the fridge for later use.dsc02738

One last thing I prepared tonight, which I am looking forward to tomorrow is my Apple Pie Over Night Oats. This is my first time making them, so curious how they are going to turn out. I made a container each for me and Marco. It really is a convenient breakfast that you can prepare the night before if you are in a rush, like Marco will be, in the morning. I will post the recipe tomorrow and tell you how it turned out.

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

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!