Creamy Lemon Broccoli and Cannellini Bean Gemelli

This dish is an adaption of one of my favourite recipes, Lemon Herb Cannellini Beans, from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen. This is one of my go to recipes when I’m in a hurry and need a creamy beany comfort dish. For my recipes I decided to add fresh broccoli and broccoli leaves, which full of Vitamin K and Vitamin C. Vitamin K is something I’m really focusing on increasing in my third trimester. I also added mine and Marco’s new favourite pasta, Gemelli. I just love the texture of this pasta. Its tender and chewy and catches the sauce really well. You can find it at good deli’s.

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Creamy Lemon Broccoli and Cannellini Bean Gemelli (vegan, gluten free option, soy free option, nut free option)

Ingredients:

2-3 serves of gemelli pasta or other short pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon italian herbs

1 cup broccoli florets

1/2 cup broccoli leaves or baby spinach

1/2 cup unsweetened soy or almond milk

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup cooked cannellini beans

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 tablespoon lemon juice (or more to taste)

Method:

1. Cook the pasta according to packet directions.

2. Heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat, then add garlic and italian herbs. Saute for 1 minute.

3. Add the broccoli florets and sauté for few minutes. Add more olive oil or some pasta water if the broccoli sticks to the pan.

4. Add the broccoli leaves and saute for another minute. If your using baby spinach add in the next step.

4. Add plant milk, sea salt, cannellini beans and nutritional yeast. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.

5. Add lemon juice and add more seasoning if you need, then serve immediately.

*Serves 2-3

I have been having mad craving for sweets since halfway through my second trimester. Apparently that’s typical when your expecting a little girl. But I feel really guilty every time I indulgent in something that’s got too much sugar or not so vegan. Plus I don’t want my baby to be born a sugar fiend like her father.These Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites from The Oh She Glows Cookbook really hit the spot. They are sweet enough with only the additional of a little bit of maple syrup and some dark chocolate chips. Other then that they only contain oats, almonds, peanut butter, sea salt, vanilla and coconut oil. They are a great snack you can keep in the freezer when your sugar tooth strikes.

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Another recipe I made from The Oh She Glows Cookbook is this Raw Buckwheat Breakfast Porridge. You can see a similar recipe for the Raw Buckwheat Porridge on the author, Angela’s blog. I made this recipe ages ago and forgot how good it was. I added some fresh organic strawberries, coconut yoghurt, toasted pepitas seeds and toasted shredded coconut. The perfect easy breakfast for a hungry mama.

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Zucchini Basil Fritters with Lemon Cumin Mayo

I have been in such a rut with cooking since I’ve been back from holidays. I have still been cooking everyday, but I have been lacking inspirations and finding it hard to get back into a healthy routine. I’m not sure if its me still being in holiday mode or because of my anger towards my electric stove (I miss mums gas stove!).  But today I’m back on the wagon.

Last night after work I went and did my shopping for the week. Normally when I shop when I’m hungry I’m DSC01738overflowing with ideas and can’t wait to get home to cook. But yesterday it wasn’t the same. So I thought I’d go back to the basics and just fill my fridge with healthy vegetables, fruit and spurge on some coconut yogurt. I came home and baked some petite potatoes, red onions and this beautiful little pumpkin that I found in my DSC01740garden. While  I was waiting for it to cook I finally got some inspiration. I made these little fritters with some leftover rice and some organic zucchini. They were very good!

This morning I pushed myself to drink a healthy smoothie.  I made delicious Mixed Berry Kale Smoothie with Coconut Yogurt and Almond Milk. Can’t believe I’ve been avoiding smoothies and juices. Now I remember how good good they are.

Do you ever get in a rut with cooking or eating healthy? What do you do to snap out of it?

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Zucchini Basil Fritters with Lemon Cumin Mayo (vegan, gluten free option, soy free, nut free)

To make Zucchini Basil Fritters:

Ingredients:

1 cup leftover basmati rice

1 medium zucchini, grated

2 garlic cloves, diced

20 basil leaves, diced

2 teaspoons egg replacer, mixed 4 tablespoons water)

1/2 cup plain flour or gluten free flour

1 tablespoon lemon juice

sea salt and black pepper to taste

olive oil

Method:

1. Take a mixing bowl and combine the basmati rice, grated zucchini, garlic and basil.

2. Add egg replacer, flour, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper to taste. Stir through well.

3. Heat a non stick pan with olive oil on medium heat. Take a heaped tablespoon of the mixture and make into a pattie with your hands, then drop into the pan. Cook fritters for a minute or two on both side.

4. Continue Step 3 until you have no more mixture yet. You should be able to make eight Fritters.

To Make Lemon Cumin Mayo:

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Combine all the ingredients and serve with the fritters.

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Homemade Gnocchi with a Spicy Capsicum Sauce

I had a big craving for gnocchi last night. It’s one of my favourite comfort foods, but I don’t eat it that often. I refused to buy any store bought gnocchi. I just don’t understand why they need some many ingredients when I can make it with three. It’s acutally really easy to make. It does take little bit of time, especially if like me half of your potatoes are still hard when you try to grate them. I really have to invest in a potato ricer. But it was really fun to make, especially with someone you love. Marco helped me roll the gnocchi. They weren’t the perfect shape, but they taste the same in the end so that’s all that matters.

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Gnocchi with a Spicy Capsicum Sauce (vegan, gluten free option, soy free, nut free)

To make the Gnocchi:

Ingredients:

600 g potatoes (unpeeled)

1 cup unbleached plain flour, more for rolling (use gluten free plain flour  if you prefer)

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Bring a pot to the boil, then cook the whole potatoes for 20 minutes or until soft.

2. Rinse the potatoes with water and once they are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off.

3. Force the potato through a potato ricer/fine grater/fine mese sieve into another bowl, so that it comes out like almost puréed and without lumps.

4. Season the potato with salt and sift 1 cup of flour slowly into the bowl (you may not need all the flour).

5. Knead the gnocchi on a floury board for about 3 minutes and add more flour if you need.

6. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll into logs. Then use a knife to slice the logs into smaller pieces (enough for 1 gnocchi). If you have a gnocchi paddle, then roll the dough balls to form the gnocchi. Otherwise gently press the dough balls with a fork to leave some ridges or roll along the fork. For both methods check out this video to learn how to roll gnocchi.

7. In boiling salted water, drop the gnocchi into the water. Once the gnocchi rise to the top (should take a couple of minutes), continue to cook for  a further 2-4 minutes (depending on how large your gnocchi are). If in doubt then taste then to make sure they are not over or undercooked.

To make the Sauce:

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

500g whole tomatoes (about 4 large)

1/2 red capsicum, diced

2/3 cup dry white wine

1 large red chili

sea salt and black pepper to taste

couple of pinches of evaporated cane sugar (or raw sugar)

1 handful whole basil leaves

Method:

1. Bring a pot to the boil, then drop in the whole tomatoes. Boil for a couple of minutes, until the skin starts to break. Then remove immediately and drop into an ice water bath or cool down with running water into a strainer. Peel the skin from the tomatoes and dice.

2. Heat a pot on medium heat with olive oil, then add the onion and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until translucent.

3. Add the red capsicum saute for a few more minutes.

4. Then add the diced tomatoes, white wine, and whole red chilli. Bring to the boil, then leave on a simmer for 20-30 minutes. While its cooking season with sea salt and black pepper and balance with sugar.

5. Place the sauce into a Vitamix or high speed blender. Remove the chilli if you don’t want it too hot or leave it in. Blend till its smooth.

6. Return to the pot and add the basil leaves. Cook until the basil leaves have wilted and the sauce is warm. Then serve with the gnocchi.

*3 big serves or 4 entree size

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Cannelloni with Cashew Tofu ‘Ricotta’ Spinach Filling

After that lovely living lasagne yesterday I was really in the mood for one of my favourite things I use to prepare with Marco before I stopped eating dairy. We use to often make spinach & ricotta or pumpkin & ricotta cannelloni together. I was originally going to make a spinach tofu filling with a creamy bechamel, but I had no unsweetened plant milk in the house. So I tried to make a filling of ‘ricotta’ using cashew and tofu with some fresh spinach and topped it with a home made tomato sauce. It definitely had the texture of ricotta. I was convinced it tasted like ricotta. Marco not so much, because he still indulges in dairy products, but he said it was still very delicious. He had seconds, so that’s always a good sign. Unfortunately I was not able to get a good picture of the cannelloni, but trust me what it lacks in aesthetics it made up for in taste. Looking forward to having leftovers again tonight!

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Cannelloni with Cashew Tofu ‘Ricotta’ Spinach Filling (vegan, gluten free option)

Ingredients for Sauce and Pasta:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

750ml passata sauce

350ml water

2 pinches raw sugar

sea salt & black pepper to taste

10 basil leaves, diced

250g cannelloni shells (use gluten free cannelloni if you prefer)

Ingredients for Filling:

1 cup cashews (raw/soaked)

1/2 cup water

250g firm tofu, cubed

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

sea salt to taste

4 cups chopped english or baby spinach leaves

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Prepare the sauce first. Heat olive oil in a medium size pot and then add onions and garlic. Saute for 3-4 minutes or till transparent.

3. Add the passata sauce, water, raw sugar and season. Bring to a boil and then leave on a simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

4. If you haven’t soaked the cashews, cook in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, then rinse under cold water.

5. Place cashews in a kitchen processor. First break down the cashews a little, then add water while it is running. I used my processor instead of my Vitamix so that there would still be the texture of ricotta, rather then cream.

6. While it is running add tofu cubes.???????????????????????????????

7. Once tofu has broken down a bit add olive oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, while the processor is running.???????????????????????????????

8.  Add 2 cups of spinach leaves to the ricotta and let the processor run until they break down into the ricotta. Then add the next to cups but don’t break down the spinach too much.???????????????????????????????

9. The sauce should be ready now, so add diced basil leave and leave to the side.

10. Put a couple of ladles of the sauce into a large baking tray, so that you can’t see the bottom.

11. Fill the cannelloni shells with the filling and place into the baking tray. I managed to use all the filling except for two shells.

12. Top with with the sauce and place into the oven for 40 minutes or until the cannelloni shells are cooked. If you have plenty of leftover sauce use to reheat leftovers the next day.

*Serves 6

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Pasta with Green Beans, Caramelized Onions, Capers and Pine nuts

Over the past week I have managed to get back on the juice train and juice everything in my fridge. This is how my latest favourite pasta dish was born. With only green beans and onions I tried to make something appetizing enough, that keep me away from my mums Rigatoni Bolognese. I ended up making this again for Marco and I. Even though he though he would hate it, he ended up liking it.

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Pasta with Green Beans, Caramelized Onions, Capers and Pine nuts (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients:

2 serves penne or other short pasta (use gluten free pasta if you prefer)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium brown onion, diced

2 garlic, diced

2 handfuls of green beans, topped,tail and cut into thirds

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1-2 teaspoons capers

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan or more to taste

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Heat olive oil on medium heat in a non-stick pan, then add the onion and garlic. Cook for 5 mins till they are slightly browned. Turn down the heat while cooking so it doesn’t burn.

2. Add the green beans and cook for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the capers and pine nuts. Continue to cook until the green beans are tender.

4. Take off the heat then add the hot pasta, nutritional yeast, sea salt and black pepper.

*Serves 2

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Bucatini all’amatriciana and Verdure grigliate

The past couple of days Marco and I have been going into work really early. When I say early I meet leaving the house at 6 am. It wouldn’t be so bad if I went to bed a little early and didn’t get woken up by students showering at 3 am and getting up to turn off the fridge beeping twice around 4 am every night. Strangely enough once I get up I actually feel pretty good. Yesterday we decided to have an early breakfast at a local cafe near my work. While we were waiting for our meals I lrg_2400was flicking through an old addition of Jamie Olives Magazine from April/May 2010. Marco was looking over my shoulder and when I went past Jamie’s Bucatini all’amatriciana he snatched the magazine and said I am making this tonight!

Considering he only knows how to cook eggs and toast I was surprised about his enthusiasm. Then I realized that it was because he wanted this dish because it had meat. He knows there no chance I was going to make something with Pancetta. Besides the fact that I don’t eat meat anymore, I also remember the sweet delicious flavor of Italian pancetta and proscuitto and quite frankly its still too temping for me to prepare for someone else.

Later that afternoon we went to the supermarket on Marco’s mission to buy Pancetta. We went to two big supermarkets and once we finally found it I managed to talk him out of it. From a health persective I don’t understand why ingredients like gluten, soy, lactose, sodium nitrate, glucose, preservatives, etc, need to be included. Italian hams do not include any of this. So after scrutinizing the ingredients he agreed to go with my promise of making a vegan alternative.img30l

Bucatini all’amatricana is famous traditional dish from the region of Lazio in Italy. L’amatriciana (matriciana in Roman dialect) gets it’s name from the Italian town Amatrice, Lazio. The dish is made from the ingredients typical of Lazio, cured pork jaws (Guanciale di maiale), pecorino cheese, and tomatoes.

L’amatriciana is actually derived from another older dish, La gricia. This is also one of the most famous Italian dishes from the same region. This dish is considered its ancestor, as it predates the importation of tomatoes to Europe. La gricia is also made with cured pork jaws and pecorino cheese. It is  believed that it was named after the Grici, who use sell bread and groceries to the Romans. The were perhaps called Grici because they had emigrated from the Swiss canton of Grisons. Alternatively it is thought that the dish was named after the hamlet of Grisciano, which is in a comune of Accumoli, near Amatrice.Apicius_1709

Tomatoes were not introduced to Europe until the 18th century. In fact the first written record of tomatoes being used as a sauce with pasta was from the 1790 cookbook L’Apicio Moderno by Roman chef Francesco Leonardi. The L’amatriciana later became one of the most famous sauces during the 19th to early 20th century in Rome. This was perhaps because of its close proximity  between Rome and Amatrice. Thus, it became a classic dish of Roman Cuisine. Although La gricia is still prepared throughout central Italy, the L’amatriciana is more well known throughout and outside of Italy.

The recipe of the sauce does vary throughout Lazio. The main ingredients are pork jaws, tomato and pecorino and olive oil. are always used, Olive oil is generally used, but some recipes call for strutto (canned pork lard) instead. The cheese type of pecorino cheese used is Pecorino romano or Pecorino amatriciano. Other ingredients such as black pepper or chili pepper, onion (not used in Amatrice)  and garlic are also acceptable.bucatini

This dish is typically prepared with Bucatini pasta. This is a thick long pasta with a hole through the center. The name is derived from the Italian word ‘buco’ meaning ‘hole’. This type of pasta is very common throughout Rome and Lazio. It is made of hard durum wheat flour and water. It usually takes about nine mintues to cook and is often served with buttery sauces, pork jaws (guanciale), pancetta, vegetables, cheese, eggs, anchovies or sardines. This dish is also typically prepared with Rigatoni or other dry pastas, but never fresh pasta.

I remember that we did eat this pasta somewhere when we were in Italy, so I was going back through my photos and found these (below). This is in a restaurant in Trastevere, Rome. We ordered Bucatini all’amatriciana, Patate arroste and Polla alla Romana. The pasta was definitely the best part.

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So how to make this vegan? I used tempeh as a meat substitute. This is my favorite thing to substitute bacon, meatballs and sausages. To give it the smokey taste I used liquid smoke. After marinating the tempeh and frying it it really did have that smoked meat flavour. Then with the wine and tomatoes and really helped it come together as a delicious sauce. Marco loved this dish and said he was happy to have this instead. He was a bit worried while I was cooking it but once he tried my sauce he was very pleased.

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Bucatini all’amatriciana (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

150g Tempeh pancetta (ingredients below)

1 red chili, diced

6-7 small tomatoes, diced

1 can good quality Polpa (Italian diced tomato pulp)

sea salt and black pepper to taste

4 serves of Bucatini/gf long pasta (400 g)

Ingredients for Tempeh Pancetta (150 g):

2 tsp liquid smoke

1 tsp soy sauce 1 tsp agave

sea salt to taste

Method:

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1. First make the Tempeh Pancetta. Slice the tempeh into thin strips, then slice it the other way so they you have small strips. Place the tempeh in a bowl and drizzle liquid smoke, soy sauce, agave and sea salt. Toss through so that it coats all the tempeh. Leave to marinate at least 10 minutes.

2. Bring a small pot to the boil, then drop in the whole tomatoes. Boil for 1 minute or until the skin slighly brakes. Then remove them from the water and plunge into ice water. Peep the tomatoes, remove the seeds then dice the flesh.

3. Heat a large pan or pot with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat, then add onion and garlic. Fry for 3 minutes or until translucent.???????????????????????????????

4. Then add Tempeh Pancetta and fry for another 5 minutes.???????????????????????????????

5. Add white wine and cook until it evaporates. Should take about 5 minutes.

6. Add the diced tomatoes, chili and can of polpa. Fill the half the can with water and add that to the pan as well.

7. Season generously with sea salt and bring to a light boil, then place on a simmer and leave to cook for 30 minutes.

8. Before the sauce is ready cook the pasta in boiling salty water, until al dente. Then move the pasta from the water straight into the hot sauce. Toss through and serve with cracked black pepper.

*Serves 4

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On the side I made grilled vegetables. This is also something we ate a lot in Italy as contorni (side dish). Although I was still eating meat back then, I still craved vegetables. So simple to prepare and really delicious!

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Verdure grigliate (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

olive oil

sea salt to taste

1 eggplant

2 bunches asparagus

2 zucchini (any other vegetables you like)

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

1. First slice the eggplant into thin strips and then halve again if you like. Add salt onto the eggplant and leave for at least 10 minutes to remove the bitterness. After wipe off the moisture and the salt from the eggplant.

2. In the meantime prepare the rest of the vegetables. Chop the zucchini in half, then slice into thin strips. Remove the woody end of the asparagus then chop in half and slice in half again, so they are thin and long.

3. Brush the griddle pan with olive oil and heat. Brush the vegetables with olive oil, then add in batches to the griddle pan. All the vegetables have difference cooking time, between 2-5 minutes. I cooked the eggplant first and brushed with extra oil while they cooked if there were dry parts. Then I cooked the zucchini and asparagus in batches.Season with sea salt while cooking or after the vegetables are cooked to serve

*Serves 4

Amatriciana, 2013 <http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amatriciana>

Bucatini, 2013 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bucatini>

Jamie Magazion 2010 April/May 2010, Amatriciana Pasta Sauce, 2010 <http://www.icanhascook.com/amatriciana-pasta-sauce/>

National Bacon Week – Bucatini Amatriciana, 2013 <http://www.loverofcreatingflavours.co.uk/category/features/food/vegetables-food/grow-your-own/herbs-grow-your-own/parsley/>

Sugo all’amatriciana, 2013 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugo_all’amatriciana>

Tropical Veggie Pizza with Cashew ‘Mozzarella’

As much as I still enjoy pizza without the cheese there is one thing that still bugs me. I can’t manage to get my ingredients to stay on top of the pizza. Even when I have tried using pre-bought vegan cheeses, the ingredients  still slide off and don’t stick the way that regular dairy cheese does. Ok its probably partly my fault. Even though I love real Italian pizza with minimal topping, I just can’t help myself from adding when I make my own pizza. So my pizza ends up so heavy that I have to eat it with a knife and fork. Marco does the same, but his cheese manages to keep his together.

A couple of days back Marco decided we were having pizza, which is always a good since he likes to make the dough himself. He preferred using white flour, but luckily we only had lots wholemeal and a little bit of tipo 00 flour to use. I didn’t have any vegan mozzarella so I got online trying to find a cheesy alternative for my pizza. I remembered seeing Vedged Out’s recipe for Fresh Moxarella Cheese. I also found another similar recipe from Vegie Project, Cashew “mozzarella”. I decided to go with the Vegie Project recipe since it Nutritional Yeast.

I was really easy recipe to follow. I just put everything in the Vitamix, then heated the mixture over the stove. The recipe makes enough for 2 large pizzas. The consistency and taste is similar to other vegan cheesy sauces, but the color is much lighter. It also has a stringly texture, which is similar to melted cheese. The recipe is gluten and soy free as well.

To make sure that my ingredients stuck to the pizza I put some Cashew ‘Mozzarella’ under the ingredients as well as on top. I didn’t cover the whole pizza it in, rather I tried to drizzle it around the pizza. The ingredients I used include red capsicum, yellow capsicum, green capsicum, red onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, mushrooms and tuscan kale.

I was really happy with the result of my pizza. The cheese managed to hold just about all the ingredients in place and the taste was really nice and creamy. I let Marco taste mine and even he agreed it was pretty good for a vegan pizza and would be happy to have that ‘next  time’.

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Tropical Veggie Pizza with Cashew ‘Mozzarella’ (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients for Pizza:

1 wholemeal pizza base (or gluten free pizza base)

2-3 tablespoons homemade/bottled pasta sauce

variety red capsicum,  yellow capsicum and green capsicum, chopped

red onion, diced

garlic, diced

cherry tomatoes, halved

pineapple, chopped

mushrooms, sliced

tuscan kale, sliced

Ingredients for Cashew ‘Mozzarella’ (enough for 2 pizzas):

1/4 cup cashew nuts

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons arrowroot flour (tapioca starch)

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.???????????????????????????????

2. Place all in the ingredients for the Cashew ‘Mozzarella’ in the Vitamix or high speed blender. Blend until smooth.  Then heat mixture in a small pot for 3-5 minutes until the mixture has thickened. Stir constantly while it is cooking.

3. Roll out pizza dough, then spoon on pasta sauce on the base. Drizzle or blob some Cashew Mozzarella on the base as well.???????????????????????????????

4. Top with the rest of the ingredients. Add some more Cashew mozzarella in blobs ontop if you like.

5. Bake pizza for 15 min or until base is cooked.

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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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Tempeh Tempations

I can’t believe another week has gone by so quickly. I have been counting down the days to my graduation. On Tuesday night I will finally be graduation (after I don’t even want to think about how many years) from university. I will be finishing with a Dual degree in Business and Arts, majoring in Marketing, Italian Language and History & Cultural Heritage. I have also just received an award for Academic Excellence for 2012-13. I am sad that my university days are finally coming to an end, but its nice to get the awards to finally show something for all these years. Not sure how long I will be able to stay away from studying though. I have been spending all my free time at work looking up Honors courses I want to take in the ‘future’ and have been reading anything I can get my hands on.

Will all this free time you would think I would have time to be creative in the kitchen, but actually I am usually very tire after work and have been making a lot of meals that get eaten over days for dinners and lunches. Marco doesn’t like having the same thing more then twice, but the days of having a different meal every night are over. Well at least for the moment. I have been cooking a fair bit with tempeh lately. I really like the chewy texture and the trying different ways to use it. Something I didn’t post recently was a vegan massamam curry with tempeh and potatoes. I wasn’t so sure about that combination. But for making sausages, meatballs, steaks or just to add to a chew texture to a pasta sauce it works really well.

If you don’t know what tempeh is don’t feel silly, I only discovered it a couple of years back when I read about it in my first vegan cookbook. After I while I finally got the courage to use it and now I love it. “Tempeh is a traditional soy product that is originally from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty. It originated in Indonesia, and is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but it is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh’s fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins. It has a firm texture and an earthy flavor which becomes more pronounced as it ages. Because of its nutritional value, tempeh is used worldwide in vegetarian cuisine, where it is used as a meat analogue”. It tastes and looks completely different to tofu. There are also many differences, which you can see below (source).

tempeh

My Shiitake mushrooms have been doing really well. I finally have a few that I could try out. I though they would have a really strong taste like the dried variety, but they are actually quite mellow. They are more flavorsome then the regular white mushrooms and have a kind of meaty chewy texture.

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Last night we had the kids over. They all wanted to have pasta so I made them a delicious tomato sauce with red onion and capsicum. For Marco and I wanted to make something a little more interesting. So I decided to make a pasta dish with tempeh, shiitake mushrooms and french lentils. I thought that it would be like a vegetarian bolognese. It didn’t really turn out like I thought, but it was really tasty. I felt a bit bad that the kids was so simple, but that’s what they wanted and I was too scared they wouldn’t like ours. Marco was a bit envious of the kids, until he tried ours. On the side I made some Frys Meat Free Pops. Everyone loved them and they were a good incentive for everyone to finish their dinner. Not that they needed much, all the kids had seconds of the pasta.

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The kids pasta dish

Frys Meat Free Pops

Frys Meat Free Pops

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For this pasta I used an Italian brand of finely diced tomatoes, Mutti from Parma. I am pretty sure this is the same one that we were cooking with when we lived in Italy. I asked my Aunty in Milan what her secret was to her delicious pasta sauce and she told me it was the quality of the diced tomatoes. She showed me this brand that she used and I finally found it in Coles of all places.

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Pasta Shells with Tempeh, Shiitake Mushrooms and French Lentil in a Tomato Sauce (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients:

4 serves pasta shells (use gluten free pasta shells if you prefer)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 red onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 red capsicum, diced

3/4 cooked french lentils

100g tempeh

3-4 shiitake mushrooms

1 can good quality finely diced tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon raw sugar or more to taste

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

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1. Heat olive oil then saute red onion and garlic for 5 mins on medium heat. Then add capsicum and saute for another few minutes till all is caramelized.

2. Add tempeh and shiitake mushrooms and saute for a few more minutes.

3. Add the french lentils,  a can of finely diced tomatoes and oregano. Season with sugar, salt and pepper and cook for 30-40 mins (the longer the better).

4. Cook the pasta until al dente and then serve with the pasta sauce.

*Serves 4

After dinner we made New York-Style Crumb Cake from Chloe’s Vegan Desserts. This was amazing! I will be definitely making this again. It tastes store bought but completely vegan. If you don’t have the book, you can see the recipe here.

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During the week I made Baked Rigatoni with Tempeh Sausage. I made a similar combination to the Tempeh Sausages from Sweet Mixed Tomato and Tempeh Sausage Casserole. However I didn’t add any oil or flour to the sausages and just form the mixture into balls. The tempeh gave that meaty texture that I really miss from my mums baked pasta with sausage.

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Baked Rigatoni with Tempeh Sausage (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients Italian Tempeh Sausages:

300g  tempeh

3 tablespoons Italian seasoning

1/4 cup tamari or light soy sauce (more to taste)

Ingredients for Italian seasoning (makes 1/2 cup):

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion flakes or powder

1 tablespoon ground fennel (grinded fennel seeds)

1/2 tablespoon dried thyme

1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tablespoon ground black pepper

Rest of Ingredients:

500g rigatoni (use gluten free rigatoni if you prefer)

1 tablespoon olive oil

700 ml passata sauce

1 red onion

3 garlic cloves

1 red capsicum

2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

sea salt, black pepper and raw sugar to taste

vegan mozarella, grated (I used Notzarella)???????????????????????????????

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. To make the Tempeh Sausages, cut the tempeh into cubes and steam for 15 mins. Then allow it to cool or if your impatient rinse with cold water. Then break up into crumbs and place into a mixing bowl.DSC06246

3. Add the Italian Seasoning and tamari, add more to make more salty.

4. In the meantime, take a pot and saute red onion, garlic and capsicum with olive oil till caramelized.  Then add passata sauce, oregano leaves sea salt, black pepper and raw sugar. Bring to the boil then leave to simmer for 20-30 mins.

5. While the sauce is cooking bring a pot to the boil and cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet.

6. Take a baking tray and put some sauce on the bottom. Then add the pasta and some more sauce and toss though, so the pasta is coated in sauce.

7. Form balls with the tempeh mixture and place them on top and between the pasta.

8. Lastly top with more pasta sauce and grated notzarella. Bake for 30-40 mins.

*Serves 8

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For more Tempeh recipes check out my Sweet Mixed Tomato and Tempeh Sausage CasseroleLoaded Sweet Potatoes with Spinach and Tempeh ‘Bacon’, Tempeh Pine nut ‘Meatballs’ with Red Wine Tomato SauceFettuccine alla bolognese and Mock Tuna Salad.

Last thing I want to share is the amazing Cherry Pita that I had at Pitstop Pastries and Pizza over the weekend in West End. Best part was that it was completely vegan! I think I am going to have to order some more to keep for mid week morning teas.

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Cauliflower Cheezy Thyme Pie

Hope you all had a great weekend. Mine was pretty quiet. I was pretty hungover all Saturday after work drinks on Friday night. I haven’t drank more then a glass for over a year so I was a bit out of practice. I did go on one vegan adventure last night to Freestyle Tout. Last time I had a vegan dessert there I wasn’t too impressed. My chocolate avocado mousse was so dark, it was uneatable. But this time was a big difference. I had a Vegan Hazelnut Cake with Hazelnut Chocolate Sauce, Vanilla Cocolusious Vegan Ice cream. It was amazing and on pare with the regular desserts they offer.

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Tonight I wanted to make some kind of pie, because its so cold here. I decided on cauliflower because I had two and a half of them in my fridge. Why so much? Well I already had a half and then both mum and I went shopping again with out telling the other. So expect to see more cauliflower recipes this week.

I have never liked cauliflower, but they are growing on my. Marco still doesn’t like them. But we both loved this cauliflower pie. All three of us had seconds and I am looking forward to taking this to work. Marco even commented that it looks like something he would have at a vegan restaurant with the sprout salad. This can be made gluten free and soy free with gluten free puff pastry and almond or oat milk. The nutritional yeast isn’t essential, but definitely makes it more cheezy and delicious.

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Cauliflower Cheezy Thyme Pie (vegan, gluten free option, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more to brush pastry

1 medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 large cauliflower, chopped

1 large potato, grated

1 cup unsweetnered plant milk (rice or oat; almond or soy if you can tolerate)

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

2-3 teaspoons sea salt

black pepper to taste

2 sheets of frozen puff pastry (or gluten free puff pastry)

Method:

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

2. Heat a nonstick pot with olive oil, then saute onion and garlic for a few minutes or until it softens.

3. Add cauliflower and grated potato and saute for a 5 minutes. Stir continuously so the potato doesn’t stick to the bottom.

4. Add soy milk, thyme, sea salt and black pepper. Cook for 10 minutes or until the cauliflower has softened.???????????????????????????????

5. Add nutritional yeast and stir through. Add more salt if you need.???????????????????????????????

6. Place a defrosted puff pastry sheet in the base of a 9 inch pie pan.

7. Fill the pastry with the cauliflower mixture.

8. Top with another sheet of puff pastry and tick in the edges around the sides.

9. Brush pastry with olive oil and then bake for 30 mins or until pastry is cooked.

*Serves 6

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