Monday, January 30, 2012

A bunch of brunches

Tofu scrambles have been a habitual weekend brunch item for such a long period when I have the time to cook something up. Although I adore a good scramble and love how it can be changed up in a multitude of ways, I reached the point where I grew tired of cooking and eating scrambles. My last few brunches have been a lot more interesting to eat and photograph so I decided to post about them.

My first effort was centred around trying out some Mexican styled home-made baked beans. The beans had a great flavour although they were tainted by the odd chewy bean here and there. Making up the rest of the plate was avocado, steamed spinach with a drizzle of lime and garlic, a grilled home-grown tomato and some delicious mushroom chicharrones. Last year I made tofu chicharrones from Viva Vegan and loved their taste but not how oily they were. Mandee from Cupcake Kitteh gave me inspiration to try this wonderful marinade out with mushrooms and I have been making them like this since as they are seriously delicious without the guilt.      

I gave the home-made baked beans a miss the following weekend and opted to use some tinned ones instead. The man prefers the sweet chilli variety with a bit of hot sauce added. Some of the same elements from the following week were on our plates again and there was also tofu bacon and some fantastic faux eggs. The faux eggs are adapted from one of Terry Hope Romero's testing recipes so I won't be sharing my version of this until the book is released.

On Australia Day, I decided to cook us up an Egyptian styled breakfast for something even more different. I bought some tins of ful medames from a Middle Eastern store a while ago after being slightly disappointed with my previous ful medames attempt when I cooked fava beans from scratch. The instructions on this tin said to "heat and eat" but I found that the beans needed some lemon and garlic to perk them up. The ful medames were topped with faux eggs, chopped home-grown tomatoes and parsley with some home-made pita bread on the side. The man wanted to know why he wasn't getting the full spread he was becoming accustomed to but I really loved this breakfast.

To appease the man, I went back to a full spread last weekend. Tinned baked beans, tofu bacon, spinach and home-grown tomatoes with a huge dollop of home-made pesto. I usually photograph my own plate but had been snacking along the way and wasn't very hungry by the time everything was prepared, so this is the man's enormous serve of the lot.

Instead of making up a chiccharone marinade for the mushrooms this time, I threw them into the remaining tofu bacon marinade which worked quite well. I also made some tattie scones which I have seen Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe and more recently Theresa of The Tropical Vegan post recipes for. I loosely followed Theresa's recipe although I didn't measure any of the ingredients and just made them by feel. Tattie scones are served for breakfast in Scotland and are made up of mashed potato, flour, salt and oil which are rolled out flat and fried on each side. Tattie scones will included in these types of brunches every so often as they were really nice and quite easy to make.      

These brunches haven't been the fastest meals to prepare but I have enjoyed having so much variety on my plate. They are generally consumed very late in the morning which means there is no need for lunch, a small afternoon snack normally sees us through until dinner. And after all this time without a scramble, I'm really starting to crave one again!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Recent eats around town

As someone who blogs about food, I do an extremely poor job when it comes to posting about eating out experiences. This is something I aim to improve on which means I'll have to remember to take my camera with me more often. My dining companions aren't the most patient people and generally want to chow down as soon as the meals arrive which can be another problem at times.

In the past couple of months we have ventured out of our South Eastern suburban haunts on numerous occasions to sample some of the plentiful vegan food that the inner suburbs have to offer. Buying a pair of shoes from Vegan Wares has been a great way to entice us into tasting food around Collingwood as my one purchase has resulted in three visits; the initial selection, a second for a fitting and finally to pick them up.  

Trippy Taco has been one of the stand-outs so far and you could say that I'm slightly obsessed with their Tofu Asado Burrito (ordering the same meal 3 times in a row is only a mild obsession, right?). I would love to be able to replicate the way they cook the tofu as I find that the smoky, char-grilled flavour is to die for. It took me ages to convince the man to return to Trippy Taco as he had a memory of it being just average when we first went there years ago, but now he's been converted! Our son has been with us once and thoroughly enjoyed a small but deceivingly filling plate of nachos. The smoky seasoning on the trippy fries is sensational too!

Trippy Taco
234 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
9415 7711

Gasometer is a fantastic pub to sample some American styled diner food with plenty of vegan options on the menu to choose from. The man and I both tried the Southern Fried "Chicken" Burger on our first visit several months ago as I had read so many glowing reviews about it. I found that the burger was nice although the herbs in the seitan were a bit overpowering and it was incredibly filling too. The crispy seasoned fries with their soft fluffy interior were sensational.

On our second visit I spotted a Buffalo Tofu salad on the menu and thought that it would be a lighter meal. Upon ordering I was advised that it came with cornbread and not a choice of 2 sides as stated on the menu which was a bit disappointing. I'm not a fan of cornbread so I ordered some fries as well as my meal. The tofu was amazing, buffalo seasoning is not a flavour I have tried previously but it was so delicious. The salad comprised of lettuce, carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, corn chips and facon although it was slathered in too much dressing for my liking. As suspected, I didn't like the cornbread! I found it to be a bit dry and didn't appreciate the sweetness of the corn nor could I detect any heat from the jalapeno so I was happy with my decision to order a side of fries. Again we walked out of there feeling too full and have fondly being calling it the Bloatometer ever since!

484 Smith Street, Collingwood
9415 7711

It was exciting when I heard a few years ago that Lord of the Fries had just opened a new store at Chadstone. I usually detest shopping centres but it's wonderful for us to having a place selling all vegetarian and vegan food 10 minutes from home. We have sampled different burgers, hot dogs and nuggets as well as chips with various sauces over the years and now have settled on the original burgers and chips with gravy as our standard order. I love that they offer mini sized burgers because it's not the healthiest food going around but at least I don't feel as bad eating it in a smaller size.

Lord of the Fries
Chadstone Shopping Centre
Check their website for the store closest to you

Shakahari used to be one of our favourite places to dine and has been our choice to celebrate birthdays and wedding anniversaries over the last few years. After a disappointing experience for my birthday in December, I'm not keen to go back again soon. December is usually a busy month for restaurants with Christmas celebrations but I was advised that the table would be ours for the night when I made the booking for a later time. It certainly didn't feel like that was the case when we arrived. We felt under pressure to order quickly, drinks were extremely slow to arrive after ordering and there were several kerfuffles with the service. I'm generally easy to please when eating out but was rather annoyed that our main meals were plonked onto the table and the waitress didn't even take note that there was no cutlery on the table. Some of the items on the menu that haven't changed are ones that I have ordered and not enjoyed. The latest additions didn't really appeal so I ending up playing if safe and ordering an Indian curry which I have liked previously. There are plenty of other veg*n restaurants around town that I still haven't been to yet so I'm certainly not in a rush to go back to Shakahari.  

201-203 Faraday Street, Carlton
9347 3848

We have also revisited The Mercy Seat a couple more times which I have reviewed previously. The tofu scramble didn't seem to have as much flavour the second time I ordered it, so the blackened tofu and avocado burger remains as my favourite pick. Then man is still enamoured with the Creole "chicken" soul burger and won't order anything else. The Mercy Seat has expanded their menu to include some other items, the details of which I can't recall but I think they now have a range of focaccias.

The Mercy Seat @ 99 Problems
31 Johnston Street, Collingwood
0406 290 353

Monday, January 23, 2012

A new look

After many hours of fiddling around with templates and a lot of indecision, Veganise This! has been given a new look. There may be further tweaks to come but my main aim was to give the blog a cleaner appearance which I think I have achieved. Another item I have been meaning to write for ages is a simple About page which I have finally published; this is accessible from the top menu bar.

Over the last year I have been slack with updating the list of blogs that I read frequently, there are many that I have added to my reading list that don't currently appear in my sidebar. You can expect to see a lot more in the next week or two.

I would love to know your thoughts about the updates. Let me know what you think of the new look!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My first year in review

Many bloggers summarise their year at the end of December or the start of January. My blogoversary falls on the 18th January so I decided to hold out until now to publish some thoughts about my first year of blogging and a few goals for the year ahead. I really wasn't expecting blogging to become a big part of my life, or to have published 142 posts over this time, but it has been a lot of fun and a wonderful experience.

Some of my blogging and cooking highlights throughout the year have been:

Monty was very interested in this chilli that rolled off the bench

Favourite recipes from my blog still on rotation are:

On a personal note, 2011 started off on a high and went downhill from there. It was exciting to move back into a much larger home with a brand new kitchen after our lengthy renovations were finally completed. It wasn't long after the move back home that we discovered a lump on our dog Jasper's hind leg which was diagnosed as a bone cancer. This turned our world upside down as we were faced with the decision to amputate his leg and hope that no secondary cancers had started to form or to euthanise him in a week's time.

We gave our darling dog a chance and Jasper fully recovered from the amputation in a couple of weeks. His spirit did not change in the slightest, he still loved (and demanded) his daily walks and chased our cat Monty around the house at times. We cherished every day that we were able to spend with Jasper and tried to put in the back of our minds that our time with him could be limited.

Six months after the surgery Jasper's health deteriorated in a matter of days and an X-ray of his lungs confirmed our worst fears. A secondary cancer spread to his lungs and had been growing at an aggressive rate. It was so traumatic to hold him in our arms and watch him go to sleep forever. It was the first time the man and I had ever been in such a position with any of our pets. We were both totally devastated and couldn't function properly for days. He was like our second child, not a dog, which a lot of people wouldn't really understand.

Almost 4 months have passed but we are both still grieving. We miss him dearly and I still cry at times when I think of him. It has taken me until now to be able to write about him which hasn't been an easy task but hopefully it will help somehow. I still love seeing Jasper's cheeky grin every time I leave a comment on someone's blog so I won't be changing my profile picture anytime soon.

We planted a Japanese Maple in Jasper's resting place

Rather than leave you on a sad note, I'll sign off with a few goals for the year, which are:
  • Update my blogger template soon. I have been looking into this for what feel likes ages but haven't been able to decide on a layout!
  • Experiment with cuisines I haven't cooked with before.
  • Take photos when eating out and post about these experiences more often.
  • Participate in my 2nd Vegan MoFo.      

I would like to thank everyone that reads this blog and especially those who have left comments throughout the year. I really love hearing from you and appreciate every comment I receive. Hope you stick around for another year! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Calzone craze

There are few meals I make on a regular basis these days as I am constantly trying new things. Calzones are an exception and they are likely to feature every second weekend in our house. When we were vegetarians, I used to cook pizza for the man and I, but my son always preferred a folded pizza so I would make him a calzone instead. I was always keen on calzones but the man has only jumped on the bandwagon since we went vegan.

I wrote a brief post about calzones last year and never felt that I did them justice as I didn't post my full recipe. It's interesting that I haven't changed the filling much since this post although I have changed other things a few times before settling on a final recipe. This formula has been devoured by the man and son so often, they will instantly detect if an ingredient has been forgotten or if anything has changed.

The pizza dough I used previously was a quick recipe which didn't require an hour to prove, however I was never that keen on using 20g of salt. There is more than enough salt in the calzone filling from the pizza sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and tofu bacon, although my attempts to cut back on the salt from this dough meant that the texture suffered. My latest attempt used a Jamie Oliver pizza dough and I was very pleased with how it turned out so I'll be sticking with this one from now on.

Tofu bacon is the only facon I am allowed to use in these babies as my attempts to try out tempeh bacon and more recently coconut bacon have resulted in unhappy diners all around. It was the first time I had attempted to make coconut bacon and I opted to use a quick method which may have been it's undoing.

After the dough has been rolled into a oblong shape, the centre of the base is spread with a combination of a store-bought pizza sauce mixed with home-made basil pesto.

Chopped baby spinach leaves, red onion, mushrooms, roasted red capsicum and sun dried tomatoes are layed out across the centre.

Followed by tofu bacon, chopped olives and cubes of cheezly. I used to add grated cheezly but it seemed to get lost in the filling and was barely detectable. Cubes of cheezly results in a melted gooey surprise every so often.

The dough is folded over and sealed ready for baking.

After about 15-20 minutes in a very hot oven, the calzones are ready!

The recipe below makes three enormous calzones. We usually eat half for dinner and heat up the left-overs for lunch the next day. My son doesn't like all of the fillings so I make his without pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and olives.


Pizza dough (Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe)

7g dried yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons raw caster sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
325ml lukewarm water
400g Tipo '00' flour
100g fine semolina
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
extra Tipo '00' flour, as required

Combine the yeast, caster sugar, olive oil and water in a jug and stir well. Set aside for a few minutes or until the yeast starts to look a bit frothy. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, semolina and salt and then make a well in the centre. Pour the contents of the jug into the well and using your hands work the dry ingredients into the wet until everything is combined together.

Transfer the dough onto a clean bench dusted with flour and knead for about 5-7 minutes, adding more flour as necessary. The dough should be smooth and have a springy texture. Place the dough into a bowl dusted with flour, sprinkle some more flour on top and cover with a tea towel. Allow to dough to rise in a warm spot for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.

Turn the dough onto your bench and punch it down to remove the air. Knead for a minute and then divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces. Roll each piece of dough out to a thickness of about 0.5cm using more flour if the dough is sticky.

Calzone filling and assembly

1/3 - 1/2 cup Leggos pizza sauce with herbs
2 teaspoons basil pesto
100g baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
200g mushrooms, chopped
150g roasted red capsicums, chopped
100g sun-dried tomatoes, drained of oil and chopped
15 kalamata olives, sliced
200g cheezly, cut into 2cm cubes
18 strips tofu bacon, chopped

Preheat the oven to 230C.

Spread a mixture of pizza sauce and pesto on the centre of a base, leaving about 2-3cm around the edges plain. Add some chopped spinach, red onion, mushrooms, roasted red capsicums, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, cheezly and tofu bacon. Grab the edge of the dough that is furtherest from you and carefully roll it over the top of the filling. Starting at one end twist the edges to seal up the calzone. Repeat for the remaining calzones.

Gently place the calzones onto large baking trays sprayed with olive oil. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until the tops have browned.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cheezy roast vegetable pot pies

Last year I went on a pot pie bender after purchasing some ramekins and posted about my experiments a couple of times. The arrival of the New Year prompted me to sort through my draft posts and I was astounded to find that I had never published the recipe for the pot pies that ended up being the household favourite. As it had been such a long time since we last indulged in these pies, I decided to make them again and take some shots of the process.

The concept came from the roast vegetable pie recipe on easy as vegan pie where Carla combined some roasted vegetables with a cheezy sauce from Veganomicon. I turned this into pot pies and we loved them like this for quite some time. When I purchased Appetite for Reduction, we all adored the Easy Breezy Cheezy sauce in another recipe so I had to put it to the test in these roast vegetable pot pies.

The man and son were purposely kept in the dark about the change in sauce and I was thrilled that they could notice the difference and proclaimed them to the best pot pies. I can quite happily eat one of these pies without any condiments but the man always add some ketchup on top and the son prefers his with BBQ sauce.

Extra roasted, steamed or stir-fried vegetables are usually what accompanies these pot pies in the colder winter months. This time I served them with a side salad and garlic bread as I am currently enjoying a supply of sweet and juicy home-grown cherry tomatoes from my garden.

Cheezy roast veg pot pies (sauce adapted from Appetite for Reduction)

olive oil spray
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 small head broccoli, cut into small florets
1 medium sweet potato, chopped into 2cm pieces
3/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons dried garlic flakes
2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
2 teaspoons Massel vegetable stock powder
2 teaspoons Massel chicken stock powder
2 cups water
1 teaspoon American mustard
75g baby spinach leaves, chopped
1 sheet Borg's puff pastry, defrosted
soy milk, for brushing the pastry
sesame seeds, for topping

Preheat oven to 200C. Spread the chopped cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potato in a single layer on a large roasting tray lined with baking paper. Spray with olive oil and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the sweet potato is soft and the cauliflower and broccoli is slightly charred. Leave the oven set to 200C for baking the pot pies.

In a medium saucepan, combine the nutritional yeast, plain flour, onion flakes, garlic flakes, vegetable and chicken stock powders. Pour in the water slowly, stirring to ensure that there are no lumps. Heat over medium-low, stirring often until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir through the mustard and chopped spinach.

Arrange the roasted vegetables into 4 ramekins and then cover with the cheezy spinach sauce. Place a ramekin on the puff pastry sheet and cut out a circle of dough around the base. Stretch the dough circle with your hands a little then place it on top of the mixture in the ramekin. Brush the top of the pastry with soy milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Repeat for the other 3 ramekins. Place the ramekins on a baking tray to prevent spillages and cook for about 20 minutes or until the pastry has browned.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Peppermint slice and Christmas baking

Happy New Year! It wasn't my intention to have such a long break between posts. Time seems to slip by so quickly when you are on a break from full-time work and enjoying spending time with your family. My computer was packed away for most of this period so I ended up taking a break from my blog as well as keeping up with the many other blogs that I read regularly. It was back to work for me today so now it's back to blogging!

Christmas feels like a long time ago but I wanted to share an indulgent slice that originated from an aunt when I was growing up. It was insanely popular amongst the youngsters as well as the adults and I have distinct memories of trying to stuff as many pieces into my belly as possible without making myself physically ill. It was a fine line and often my cousins, siblings and I would just wait another 10 minutes or so before attempting another piece.

The original ingredients for the slice were not healthy in the slightest; condensed milk, chocolate ripple biscuits, butter and Cadbury's peppermint chocolate. I was pleased that by using soy condensed milk, removing the butter and substituting dark mint chocolate in a lesser quantity, I was able to reproduce this childhood favourite. The man and son were delighted that the consistency wasn't perfect in my trial run as it meant they had a whole batch for themselves to indulge on!

I mentioned my plan to make arancini for our Christmas Eve dinner with my family from a batch of cauliflower risotto but in my baking frenzy I didn't take any photos. They turned out great with some sun-dried tomatoes, olives and a small cube of cheezly stuffed inside. I shaped them as cones, dunked them in soy milk, then rolled them in corn flake crumbs and baked them in the oven sprayed with olive oil. I also took half of the peppermint slice, jaffa balls and a salad that I wasn't overly happy with.

For Christmas brunch with the man's family I whipped up a batch of socca from Terry Hope Romero's recipe testing which were a bit tedious to churn out for a large number of people. It didn't really matter as everyone enjoyed them and there were also jaffa balls and peppermint slice to be devoured.

For our formal Boxing Day lunch with the man's family, I made Imam Bayildi for our main meal item which was nice although it didn't impress me as much as when I first made it during Vegan MoFo. I merged a couple of different hummus recipes from Appetite from Reduction and baked some pita bread to go with it. These were both a big hit! A Mediterranean pasta salad was my other contribution which I would like to tweak a little in the future.    

Finally, I would like to share my most treasured present from this year. I was extremely delighted to unwrap this apron and oven mitts from my son. He chose it on his own and knew that I would love the chillies on it! Aprons have never been my thing but this one is getting put to good use because I love it so much.

Peppermint slice (Adapted from an old family recipe)

2 x 250g packets Arnott's Chocolate Ripple biscuits
1 x 330g tin Soymilke condensed milk
1 x 100g mint flavoured dark chocolate (72% cacao)
dessicated coconut, for topping

Place the biscuits in a food processor and pulse until they become a fine powder. Transfer the biscuit powder to a large bowl.

In a small saucepan combine the condensed milk and chocolate, heat on medium-low until the chocolate has melted, stirring occasionally. Pour the condensed milk and chocolate mixture into the bowl containing the biscuit powder and mix thoroughly until well combined.

Press the mixture into a 28 x 18 cm tin lined with baking paper, sprinkle with coconut and place it in the freezer for 30 minutes - 1 hour to allow it to set. Remove the slice from the tin and cut into small pieces. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.