Tofu ‘Ricotta’ and Kale Filo Pie

Something I really miss since going dairy free is ricotta or feta and spinach pastries. I often use to buy one for a quick breakfast before work. However all that dairy was not doing my hips a favor. This version has creamy texture and mild cheesy flavor of ricotta without the lactose and casein. The filling would also work well in a hand held filo pastries, which can be prepared in batches and froze before being baked fresh.

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Tofu ‘Ricotta’ and Kale Filo Pie (vegan, nut free)

Ingredients:

olive oil

3 cups tuscan kale leaves, chopped

1 brown onion, chopped

375g firm tofu

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1.5 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 tablespoon white or barley miso paste

1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

1/2 cup vegan mozzarella or cheddar (I used Vegusto No-Moo Melty)

7 filo pastry sheets

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Heat olive oil a fry pan on medium heat. Sauté the tuscan kale leaves in a few batches. Only cook the leaves for a few minutes until they start to wilt, then place on a dish or a tray to cool down.

3. Use the same fry pan to sauté the chopped brown onions, until they are transparent. Place the onion on a dish to cool down.

4. Place the onion, garlic, and tofu in a processor. As it blending add the sea salt, black pepper, miso paste, apple cider vinegar and nutritional yeast. Blend until the onions and garlic are broken down and the mixture becomes like a moist crumbly ricotta texture.

5. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir through the tuscan kale and vegan cheese. Add more salt and pepper if you need.

6. Take a 20cm-round springform pan and brush the base and sides with with some olive oil.Take 1 sheet of filo sheet and place on a flat surface. Brush the filo with olive oil, then place the oiled side on the base of the pan, letting the edges hang over the edge. Repeat this, layering 5 more sheets on top of each other in a clockwise pattern.

7. Place the tofu ricotta and kale filling in the centre of the pan, making sure its equally distributed.

8. Scrunch the sides of the filo sheets to form a border around the filling.

9. Brush another sheet of pastry with oil on both sides, then scrunch the sheet over one side of the filling, within the pastry border. Repeat with another sheet on the other side of the filling.

10. Bake for 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crunchy. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before removing from the springform pan and serving.

*Serves 6

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Almost Raw Chocolate Cheesecake for Valentines / Pod Espresso

Happy Belated Valentines! This Valentines I got my gift early from Marco. He surprised me early in the week with some lovely lilies and some vegan cupcakes. He also put together our new desk, which I have been harping at him for the last few weeks. Considering he forgot our engagement anniversary and didn’t get me a DSC01932present for Christmas, he wanted to make sure he got in early this time.

For his gift he wanted me to make a nice dinner and following by a Chocolate cake. I spent most of the last couple of days at work looking a different recipes online. I didn’t want to make a traditional chocolate cake, I wanted to make something a bit more special. I came across The Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Pie by Chocolate Covered Katie and thought I had to try this. I love vegan cheesecakes and pies. Whenever I get the chance to order one I always do. I never tried to make one myself so I thought this was my chance.

I adapted the original recipe a bit by making a brazil nut base and changing the amounts of ingredients a little to taste. This recipe was really easy to make and doesn’t take long to make at all. It was also really delicious and I swear you can’t taste the tofu. Marco didn’t even know that it was made of tofu and he can usually pick these things. He was a little disappointed he didn’t come home to a death by chocolate cake, but he still did like it. He also took a nice big piece to work and professed this afternoon that it was much better then he thought.

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Almost Raw Chocolate Cheesecake (vegan, no bake, gluten free)

Ingredients for base:

1 cup brazil nuts

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon vanilla essence

3 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons cacao peanut butter

Ingredients for filling:

1 1/3 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used Sweet Williams)

350g organic tofu (semi firm)

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 tablespoons cacao

3 tablespoons coconut oil

3 tablespoons plant milk (coconut, rice or oat; almond or soy if you can tolerate; more if you need)

Method:

1. First make the base by placing the brazil nuts in a process and wizz until they have broken down a little. Add the rest of the ingredients for the base into the processor. Don’t over process the brazil nuts too much, leave a little chunky.DSC01954

2. Take a springform baking pan and place baking paper on the bottom and grease the inside edges with coconut oil.

3. Place the base mixture into the pan and push down with a cake spatula, making sure that it is equally distributed.

4. Next prepare the filling. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler use a small heavy based pot and add a couple of tablespoons of milk, so that it doesn’t stick.DSC01963

5. In the processor add the tofu, melted chocolate and the remaining ingredients. Continue to process till smooth. While its processing you may have to wipe down the edges with a cake spatula so that all the ingredients combine well.

6. Pour the filling on top of the prepared base. Smooth the top with the cake spatula.

7. Place the cake into the fridge or freezer until ready to serve. The longer it sits the firmer it will get. I put mine into the freezer until it firmed up a little, then into the fridge and served about an hour later.

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Before I go I wanted to share a new vegan friendly cafe just down the road from my place. Pod Espresso is a little cafe in Stafford just of the main road. They serve great coffee, breakfast, lunch, desserts, cold press juices and smoothies. They are more then just a cafe, they are also an organic supermarket. They sell organic packaged and fresh products and were quite reasonably processed.  Marco and I went in for brunch last weekend. I wasn’t sure if they were vegan friendly, but I have seen many vegan options on their facebook page.

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On the day they only had a couple of breakfast options. I ordered the Avocado on Sour Dough with Dukkah, Rocket and Lemon juice. It was really delicious and a nice change from the usually Avo on Toast.

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Next I had to try their coffee and Vegan Mint Lamington. I haven’t had a lamington in years and I have never seen a vegan one before. This was absolutely delicious. I just wish Marco ordered his own so I didn’t have to share. The coffee was also great.

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We are very happy that we have such a nice cafe so close to home. Hope to visit Pod Espresso again soon.

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Satay Noodle Soup with Grilled Tofu

This soup was adapted from Shredded chicken satay noodle soup. Not such a great idea while we were having a heat wave, but still delicious and very healthy.

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Satay Noodle Soup with Grilled Tofu (vegan, gluten free)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon coconut oil

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 large red chilli, diced

1 tablespoon diced ginger

2 medium brown onions, chopped

5 tablespoon natural peanut butter

3 tablespoon soy sauce

2 litres vegetable stock

sea salt to taste

1 x 400g tin coconut milk

2 bunches buk choy/other asian green

2.5 serves bean thread noodles/other noodles

2 x 200 g packets of marinated satay tofu (or homemade)

coriander (optional)

Method:

1. Heat coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and red chili. Saute for a 5 minute or until the onions are browned.

2. Stir in the peanut butter and soy sauce.

3. Add the vegetable stock and whisk so the peanut butter mixes well through the stock.

4. Bring to the boil, then leave on a simmer for 30 -40 minutes. Season with sea salt or more soy sauce.

5. Wash and slice the buk choy and leave to the side.

6. Bring the kettle to the boil, then fill a pot and soak the Bean thread noodles for 5 minutes, then strain.

7. Add the coconut milk to the soup and season with more sea salt if you need.

8. Add the buk choy, let it wilt, then turn off the heat and add the noodles.

9. Before serving the soup,  slice the tofu and grill it. Then serve the tofu on to of the soup. Also top with some fresh coriander if you have on hand.

*Serves 6

Brunch at Grub Street and Tofu Scamble with Sundried Tomatoes and Kale

What I look forward to most on the weekends is doing brunch with Marco. In the area that we recently moved to there are lots of funky little cafes that offer different unique breakfast options. This weekend we visited Grub Street, a popular suburban cafe in Gaythorne. This was our first visit, so we were curious  to see why this little cafe is always so busy and has such great reviews. I was also very excited to try their vegan option.

I ordered the Carrot pancakes with roasted corn puree, rocket, corn relish and avocodo. Besides being dairy free and vegan, this dish was also gluten free. From what I could tell these pancakes were made of carrot, red onion, capscium, cumin, coriander, fennel seeds and chickpea flour. They were so dense, but not really heavy. The corn relish was also amazing and sweet, so it perfectly complemented the savoury pancakes. It was absolutely delicious and definitely made Grub Street one of my of new favourite cafes.

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When we don’t brunch out on the weekend, there is one special dish that Marco always likes me to make. This recipe is Tofu Country Scramble from Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Kitchen recipe book. In fact last weekend I made it for some visiting meat-loving tofu-fearing family members. They actually preferred my tofu scramble over my mum’s scrambled eggs. So you guess which one was left over and which was gobbed up quick.

This morning we decided to do brunch again. But by the time we drove over and realised that the cafe we wanted to go to was closed because they hadn’t reopened for the new year, Marco was about to murder me. So  I suggested another cafe, however they had already swapped to the lunch menu. I was willing to stay but Marco really wanted eggs. Instead he suggested we go back home and he would ‘help’ me make tofu scramble. So thats what we did. It was so satisfying and the money we saved in eating out paid for 4 bags of groceries.

I slightly adapted the original recipe and added kale, red onion and shallots. I love the flavour combination of the nutritional yeast, sun-dried tomatoes and tofu. I think this recipe taste better than regular scrambled eggs, which can be rubbery and tasteless and other tofu scrambles that can be watery and not really convincing. It is a great way to include some green vegetables first thing in the morning. I usually enjoy this dish with grilled turkish bread (like Marco did this morning), but today I just enjoyed it with some creamy avocado and it was just as good.

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Tofu Scramble with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Kale (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium red onion, diced

2-3 shallots, diced

10-12 sun-dried tomatoes, diced

500 g medium-firm organic tofu (pressed and crumbled)

1 large handful of red or curly kale, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons gluten free organic soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 heaped tablespoons nutritional yeast

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Heat a pan with olive oil  on a medium heat. Then sauté the red onion and shallots for a couple of minutes before adding sun-dried tomatoes. Continue to sauté till the onions start to soften.

2. Add the crumbled tofu and sauté for another couple of minutes until the tofu starts to brown a little.

3. Add the kale, soy sauce, turmeric and nutritional yeast, sea salt & black pepper and cook until the kale has wilted.  Serve immediate.

*Serves 4

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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(Cookbook Project) Energise Your Life – Asparagus, bean curd and mushrooms

I’m still determined to finish cooking my way through Energise Your Life. This recipe is another one of the Sustaining Dinners, which uses some ingredients that I have never tried before. As much as I love making up my own recipes, sometimes consulting cookbooks pushes me to us ingredients that I have never tried or not familiar with.

Believe it or not I have never cooked or tasted Oyster Mushrooms. It was until more ???????????????????????????????recently that I have been experimenting with different types of mushrooms. Now I can’t believe what I’ve been missing all this time. Oyster Mushrooms are tree mushrooms that are found around the world. They are used in a variety of cuisines, but you ???????????????????????????????can find the variety I have used in Asian Grocery stores. The taste is a little different to a regular mushroom. They are very delicate and have a mild flavor, which easily soak up the flavors of other ingredients. Compared to other mushrooms these ones a bit more pricer, but are worth the cost. For this recipe I needed 250 g, however I only bought a pack that had 150g. So I also added half a 250g jar of Oyster Mushrooms that I got for Aldi (for $0.99). Obviously the jar ones didn’t taste like the fresh and they were a bit dark, but once they were cooked it was hard to tell the difference. The real test is that Marco really loved these mushroom. In recent times he has put up with my mushrooms but he usually dreads them.

Another new ingredient I have never tried is Dry Sherry. I  have seen heaps of recipes that??????????????????????????????? call for Sherry. I have been looking in the supermarket for a while, but never saw it.  I didn’t realize that it was too alcoholic to put in the supermarket. Well that’s because unlike other states we can’t buy alcohol in the supermarkets. I ended up finding it in Dan Murphy’s. There were so many to buy, but I decided on this Spanish brand. Also a bit pricer then I thought, but it was really worth the addition to this dish. It gave the most amazing flavor to this stir fry.

This stir fry includes bean curd, leek, oyster mushrooms, asparagus. It was a really nice light stir fry that had great flavors and left us feeling really light after.

The recipe book gives this recipe a 4 out of 5 star rating for energy. The ingredients contain Vit B, folate, biotin, calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. This recipe benefits the immune, circulatory and nervous system, skin, hair, bones and soft tissue.

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Asparagus, bean curd and mushrooms (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

To make this stir fry I first heated a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Then added 225g Bean Curd, cut in cubes. After heating that for a couple of minutes I added a sliced leek and cooked that for a further couple of minutes.

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After that I added 1 clove of garlic (diced), 1 tsp of fresh ginger and 250 g oyster mushrooms (whole) and cooked them until the water came out of them. This took a few minutes as they were released a lot of water. Then I added a brunch of aspargus (chopped),  2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons dry sherry and 100ml vegan chicken stock. The recipe calls for vegetable stock or water, but this worked well to and you would never know there was no chicken in there. Then I covered the wok and allowed it to cook until the asparagus was tender.

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After that I added 1 tsp corn flour (dissolved in a little stock) to the wok and cooked that until it thickened.

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The recipe called to be served with noodles, so I just soaked some Bean Thread noodles in some hot water. I then strained it and added some soy sauce and oyster sauce for flavor.

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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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BBQ Tofu Bagel and Linguine with Kale in a Pumpkin Cashew Sauce

I’ve still been quite busy with uni. Yesterday I had my Italian exam, which I hope will be the last exam I ever sit. Not sure it went too well, so I am praying for a pass. All that’s left to go now is to hand my last assignment for history. By friday or maybe sunday I should be finished for good and I can’t wait! Then I can put more effort into cooking. My mum has been cooking more for us lately or I whip up something quick and simple for us.

Yesterday I got a chance before my exam to go back down to Fundies Wholefood Market for their Friends day. Once a month they offer 15% off, so I thought it was worth buying up on organic fruit and veggies. I recently saw the EWG’s 2013 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Although this data is from the USA, in Australia we do use a lot of the same pesticides. In fact I did an assignment a while back and I found that we use a lot of pesticides that are illegal in other countries.

In the last couple of years since I have been buying and growing more organic produce I really notice the difference in the taste. I notice that particularly conventional apples, zucchini, green beans, rocket and other leafy greens have a really bitter taste. Marco can taste it as well now and enjoys the taste of organic vegetables much better. Before I went to Europe we were regularly going to the Organic Markets on Sundays, but I have gotten slack since I got back. But this latest shoppers guide has really reminded me why I want to buy organic. We can’t afford or find everything on this list of the Dirty Dozen, but I am going to make a conscious effort to try to buy organic or avoid these ones. So you can see what I bought below. I got most of this stuff for juicing since its something we do every day.

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We also bought these Bagel Boys Sesame Bagels from Fundies. They looked too good to pass up. Coles and Woolies have just recently got bagels, but they are full of preservatives. These ones have completely natural ingredients.521441_10151054742632292_1369225709_n

When we were living in Milan we use to often go to The Bagel Factory for breakfast or lunch, when we were sick of pizza or pasta. We would chose a whole wheat bagel and usually get the Bagel con uova all”occhio di bue  filling, that was full of egg, ham, capsicum and onion. When I wasn’t as hungry I would order the  hummus filling instead. They were both really delicious. In case you didn’t realize I wasn’t vegan this time last year. But now I look back and I can’t believe I use to eat this bagel with all that egg and ham. I remember how good it tastes but I think I ate enough of them to live without them. Marco still has fond memories of these bagels.

Marco really wanted to recreate this breakfast bagel, but instead I made some veganised versions. Yesterday  since we were in a hurry, we quickly cooked up some Fry’s Traditional Burgers, prepared some fresh salad items and stuffed them into our bagels. These were so good! The Bagels were not as good as the fresh ones in Milan, but toasted they still good.

Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs

Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs

Today I had a bit more time to think about lunch so I made us these BBQ Tofu Bagels. I still had heaps of homemade BBQ, that I used to make the Sweet and Sour Meatballs from Chloe’s Kitchen a while ago. You can find the recipe for both the sauce and the meat balls on Smith’s Vegan Kitchen blog. I marinated the tofu and the onions in this sauce then cooked them in a griddle pan. These bagels were even better then the day before. This tofu is also really good on its own.

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BBQ Tofu Bagel (vegan, gluten free option, nut free)

Ingredients:

200g organic firm tofu

1/2 homemade BBQ sauce (recipe above)

1 brown onion olive oil

3 bagels (wheat flour/gluten free)

1 tomato sliced

1 small carrot grated

1 small beetroot grated

1/2 cucumber sliced

3 lettuce leaves

1 handful of alfalfa???????????????????????????????

Method:

1. Press the tofu, then slice it into 6 pieces.

2. Marinate the tofu and sliced onion in the BBQ sauce.

3. Heat a griddle pan with olive oil, then cook the tofu and onions for 7-10 mins. The onion should be softnened and the tofu should be heated through.

4.Slice the bagels so you have two halfs, then brush them with olive oil and toast them in the griddle pan.

5. Add some extra bbq sauce onto the bagels, then fill them with tofu, onion, sliced tomato, grated carrot, grated beetroot, sliced cucumber, alfalfa and lettuce.

*Serves 3

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Tonight Mum went out, I was nearly not going to cook, but I felt guilty having all this food in the fridge. I really wanted to try out this Red Russian Kale that I got from Fundies, so I came up with this. Marco loved this dish and was disappointed I didn’t make enough for seconds. Luckily I have some left over sauce so this will be lunch again tomorrow.

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Linguine with Kale in a Pumpkin Cashew Sauce (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients for Pumpkin Cashew Sauce: 

3 cups chopped butternut pumpkin (or 2 cups mashed pumpkin)

3/4 cup cashew (raw or presoaked)

1 cup almond or other plant milk

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional for cheezy flavour)

sea salt to taste,

Remaining Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch red russian kale (or other type kale/spinach), roughly chopped

4 serves linguine/other long pasta

2-3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (optional)

italian parsley (optional)

Method:

First Prepare the Sauce:???????????????????????????????

1. Steam the pumpkin in a large pot of water until it is soft. This should take about 20 mins. Then remove the pumpkin and mash it.

2. In the meantime if you haven’t soaked the cashews already, boil them for 10 mins.

3. In a processor, add the cashews and blend them until they are mostly broken down.

4. Add the pumpkin and almond milk and continue to blend. The cashews should be braking down now. Keep scraping down the sides of the bowl so there are no pieces of cashew that aren’t being blended.

5. While the processor is on add the dijon mustard, olive oil, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and sea salt.

Now prepare the rest:

6. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

7. Heat olive oil in a large pan. Then add the kale, sea salt and pepper. Saute for 2 minutes or until it begins to wilt.

8. Add the pumpkin cashew sauce to the pan and heat through.

9. Serve sauce ontop of hot pasta and garnish with lightly toasted pumpkin seeds and italian parsley.

*Serves 4

General Tso’s Tofu with Brown Jasmine Rice

Tonight I was trying to figure out what to make with a nearly empty fridge. All I had was some leftover tofu. I was searching for recipes and I came across this recipe for General Tso’s Chicken. Luckily I had all the ingredients for the sauce and some frozen vegetable in the freezer to go with it.

I am really happy I made this dish. The sauce was really delicious. Although this dish isn’t the healthiest it has rich flavors and so you don’t need to eat a lot of it. It went really well with steamed rice and stir fried veggies.

General Tso’s Chicken is a popular Chinese dish, which is you can find in Chinese restaurants across North America. It consists of deep-fried chicken, breaded with eggs and cornstarch, with a thick sweet and mild spicy sauce made of soy sauce, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, dried red chili peppers (whole), garlic, MSG. I have never see this dish in any Chinese restaurants in Australia or heard of it before, but it does have an interesting history.

zuozongtangSo who was the man that this dish was famously named after? General Tso Tsung-tang (左宗棠 or Zuo Zongtang) was a general and statesmen from Hunan, during the Qing dysnasty. He famously served his country during the dynasties civil war again the Taiping Rebellion, founded modern arsenal, dockyard, new efficient logistics systems; pushed Russian forces out of China and held many positions in the China’s government.

This dish was not a traditional dish that was created for General Tso when he was alive, nor is a traditional dish in the region that he comes from. Even the people from his home town, and his living descendants haven’t heard of this dish. Rather this dish was created  in the late 20th century and named after General Tso for his historical significance.

Who actually invented this dish? Well there are a few different theories and claims that have been made. Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, who wrote The Chinese Kitchen,  claims that this dish is actually adapted from the humble Hunan chicken, which is known as Zongtang. This translates to ‘ancestral meeting hall’ in Cantonese and does not refer to  Zuo Zongtang. Another claim is that the dish was created by Taiwan-based Hunan cuisine chef, Peng Chang-kuei. In the 1970’s he moved to New York, and began experimenting with old dishes and creating new ones. Apparently he adapted this traditional dish to please local American tastes, by adding sugar. The last claim is from a New York Chinese restaurant that claim that a Chinese immigrant chef who worked for them, T.T. Wang, invented this dish in 1972.

Regardless of the creator of this dish, it is clear that it is an adapted Chinese recipe that was designed to attract local American patrons. Like many other dishes from other cuisines, many Chinese dishes have also been modified by Chinese chefs for local western tastes. Dishes like this one have been deep frying and sweetening and undoubtable bears little resemblance from the dish it was derived from.  A typical serving General Tso’s chicken has around 1300 calories, 11 grams of saturated fats and 3200 milligrams of sodium. So its definitely not a everyday dish. Since this version uses tofu, it is a bit healthier then the original, but the sauce still has alot of sodium and sugar added, so it won’t be a regular weekly special on my menu.

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General Tso’s Tofu with Brown Jasmine Rice  (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

2 cups brown jasmine rice

400g firm tofu

1/2 tablespoon shaoxing wine

pinch of sea salt

1/3 cup cornstarch

canola oil

2 teaspoons diced fresh ginger

1 garlic clove , diced

4 dried red chilli, rinsed and deseeded

white part of 2 scallion, diced  (optional)

Ingredients for Sauce:

2.5 tablespoons chinese rice vinegar

2.5 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 tablespoon mushroom soy sauce or dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon hoisin sauce

1/4 cup water

2.5 teaspoon evaporated cane sugar or raw sugar

1/2 tablespoon shaoxing wine

1 teaspoon corn starchP1000607

Method:

1. Put rice in the rice cooking or cook on stove according to packet instructions.

2. Press tofu, then chop it into cubes. Marinate the tofu in shaoxing wine and sea salt. Leave for 15 mins.P1000611

3. Place all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and set to the side.

4. Coat the tofu in corn starch.P1000612

5. Heat wok with oil then fry the tofu until golden brown. Place the tofu on a paper towel to drain oil. Remove oil from wok.

6. Add 1.5 tablespoons oil in the wok and add the garlic, ginger and red chili. Cook for 4 mins or until the chili becomes fragrant.

7. Then add the sauce to the wok. Cook until it comes to the boil and comes thick. It took about 10 mins for my sauce to become thick.

8. Add tofu and shallots to the wok. Cook for 2-3 mins then serve immediately with steamed rice and asian greens/stir fry vegetables.

*Serves 4

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General Tso’s Chicken <http://rasamalaysia.com/general-tsos-chicken/&gt;

General Tso’s chicken <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Tso’s_chicken&gt;

Who Was General Tso? <http://mentalfloss.com/article/28421/who-was-general-tso&gt;

General Tso’s Chicken <http://appetiteforchina.com/recipes/general-tsos-chicken/&gt;

Spaghetti alla carbonara (vegan) and Tomato, Shallot & Ajvar ‘Cheesy’ Tart

One thing that I have really been missing since I went dairy free and vegan is Spaghetti Carbonara. This is something that I have grown up on and no one cooks it better then my mum. Marco also loves this dish and when ever he does something for my mum he asks to be rewarded with her Spaghetti Carbonara.

Before I was dairy free I would eat this dish with lots of cream, but after I would just make it with eggs and bacon. Now that I can’t have either I have been thinking about how I could substitute it. Tonight I think that I have actually achieved in making a vegan version of this family favorite. This version is closer to the more traditional version, which has no cream. Now that I have successfully created this recipe, I will try to also make a more creamy version for Marco.

I was really happy how this recipe turned out. I took what I know from making an eggless frittata and tried use that to make an egglike mixture. I also used the last of my  Tofurky Smoky Maple Bacon Marinated Tempeh to substitute the bacon. On the side I made a Tomato, Shallot & Ajvar ‘Cheesy’ Tart. I think I used a bit too much Notzarella, but it was so good! I think this is the first time my Notzarella has melted so well. Perhaps because usually I grate it after I have frozen it.

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Pasta alla carbonara is recipe that only dates back to the middle of the 20th century. It’s origins are debatable, but generally it’s known to be a Rome dish. It is traditionally prepared with Spaghetti, but it is also often made with Fettuccine, Penne, Rigatoni or Bucatini. The essentially ingredients of the Carbonara  include Eggs, Cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano), Bacon (pork cheek or pancetta), and Black pepper.

The traditional  Italian way to make a Carbonara is by first cooking the pork in fat (olive oil, lard or sometimes butter). Then cooking the pasta and adding  it straight to a pot (with no heat) into a mixture of raw eggs, cheese, fat (butter or olive oil) and the cooked pork (pork cheek, pancetta or local bacon). The raw eggs should become creamy and saucy due to the heat from the pasta, so it doesn’t need to be cooked. The pasta should be coated in the egg mixture and served immediately.

What you probably know to be a Carbonara is probably alot different to the Italian version. You are probably used to Cream and Garlic as essential ingredients. However these are not commonly used for this dish in Italy.  Outside of Italy you will also find other ingredients added such as mushrooms, peas and other vegetables added to this dish. Generally outside Italy a Carbonara  is a cream based sauce with eggs, bacon and cheese. The sauce would therefore have to be cooked off before adding the eggs and pasta.

In Australia, in Italian restaurants and homes you will often find the creamy version of the Carbonara. We often add mushrooms as well ours. In saying that last year in Italy we also found the creamy version of this dish in many restaurants. Whether this was because they knew we were foreigners or because of the influence the outside world is having on Italian cuisine, I’m not sure. But as you can see by some of the Carbonara’s Marco ordered all over Italy they were very creamy.

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There are many different theories to how the Carbonara sauce was invented. I was intrigued by the different theories that people have come up with to claim this dish, so I listed a few for your own interest.

1. The name carbonaro is derived from the Italian word for charcoal burner. Therefore, many believe that the Pasta alla carbonara was created as a hearty dish for the

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

Italian charcoal miners. Thus, in some parts of the U.S. it became known as the coal miner’s spaghetti. As these men would of had to camp outdoors for months, it is said they brought ingredients such as cheese, cured pork, olive oil, salt and pepper, which would keep well. They would combine these with eggs, which were available from local farms.  This theory is perhaps the only with an eye witness account. Apparently, while Sophia Loren was filming Two Women at the end of the 50s outside of Rome, was introduced to this dish. The crew of the film had met someCarbonai, and made this dish for them. She took notes and recorded this dish in her recipe book Sophia Loren’s Recipes & MemoriesIn her book she includes cream, which bring this story into doubt, as most variations of this dish don’t use cream.

The Carbonari

The Carbonari

2. It has also been said that perhaps this dish was invented to pay homage to the Carbonari, the charcoal men, who were apparently secret society during the 1800s Italian unification. Perhaps its name was given due to the heavy handed use of the ground pepper, which remind one of coal flakes.

3. Perhaps the name of the dish was not derived from the charcoal miners, but from the woodcutters, who made the charcoal for fuel,  in the Appennine mountains of Abruzzo. It is said that they would cook this hearty dish over a hardwood charcoal fire. They would apparently use Penne pasta, instead of spaghetti, as it was easier to stir through the eggs and cheese.

Carbonai

Carbonai

4. Another theory which supports this is the connection to the Restaurant, La Carbonara, in Campo de’Fiori, in Rome. Apparently the original restaurant was Il Carbonaro was founded in 1912 by a coal salesman, Federico Salomone. He would of had many dealings with the Carbonai. The signature dish of this restaurant was Penne alla carbonara. Roberto Cavezza, a man who was waiter for many years at La Carbonara said that even if this dish was not invented by the Carbonai, the ingredients were typical of the rural area. He said “It’s a dish for people who couldn’t make a meal with primo, secondo, and contorno [courses]—something for those who couldn’t spend much money on food.” Another restauranter nearby,  Elio Mariani concers that “It comes from a peasant dish that was called unto e uova [fat and eggs]. Originally it was made with lard and eggs, then, in time, guanciale supplanted the lard. It was a little more flavorful and less greasy.”

After-the-French-Resistance-staged-an-uprising-on-August-19-American-and-Free-French-troops-made-a-peaceful-entrance-on-August-25-1944.-Here-four-days-la

American Troops in Rome

5. There are also theories that connect the food shortages after the Liberation of Rome in during the World War Two. It has been said that hunger and rations were the inspired this dish. Apparently the Allied troops were given or gave Italian people powered eggs and bacon,  to season their pasta. Apparently, when the American troops returned to the US, they brought this recipe with them and it began appearing in the American restaurants.

6. Another war time theory tells during the German occupation of Rome, many middle class families escaped to the province of Ciociaria (outside Rome, inside Lazio region). It was here that they learned of the Neapolitan style dish that used eggs, lard and pecorino cheese. After the war, Roman cuisine became famous throughout Italy and this dish, renamed the Carbonara, was a typical example.

Now this is my versions of Spaghetti alla carbonara, made completely vegan and guilt free. This is now not just a special occasion dish.

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Spaghetti alla carbonara (vegan, gluten free option)

Ingredients:

100g firm tofu

1 tablespoon vegan butter

1/2 teaspoon onion flakes or powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 tablespoon soy milk

sea salt & black pepper to taste

4-6 Tofurky Smoky Maple Bacon Marinated Tempeh (or other vegan bacon)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 serves of spaghetti (use gluten free pasta if you prefer)

3 tablespoons Cashew Parmesan/other vegan parmesan

Method:

1. Place the firm tofu into the processor and process until it break downs.???????????????????????????????

2. Then while it is running add vegan butter, onion flakes, garlic powder turmeric, salt pepper and soy milk. Process until smooth. Adjust seasoning if you need more salt.

3. Bring salty water to a boil for the pasta. Then cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

4. In the meantime, chop the ‘bacon’ into small pieces. Then heat olive oil in a pan and saute the ‘bacon’ until it is golden brown.

5. Place the tofu ‘egg’ mixture from the processor into a large bowl. Then add the vegan parmesan and stir.

6. Add the ‘bacon to the bowl and stir through. Adjust seasoning if you need.

7. The pasta should be ready, so use a tongs to place the spaghetti into the bowl. Also a little bit of pasta water. Stir the pasta well through the sauce. Then serve immediately.

*Serves 2

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Tomato, Shallot & Ajvar ‘Cheesy’ Tart (vegan, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 puff pastry sheet

4 tablespoons ajvar or roasted capscium spread

4 small vine ripened tomatoes, sliced

4 shallots, chopped

fresh basil chopped (optional)

sea salt to taste

grated vegan mozzarella (I used Notzarella)

olive oil to brush pastry

Method:

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

2. Place frozen puff pastry on a baking tray and bruss some olive oil on the pastry, then turn it over.

3. Spread ajvar on the puff pastry. Then add tomatoes, shallots, basil and sea salt.

4. Add grated mozzarella. Then fold in the outer sides of the pastry and brush with some olive oil.

5. Bake for 20-25 mins or until the pastry is cooked and golden brown.

* Serves 4

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