Tester Thursday: Fusion Food Firing up the grill! Home again, home again It’s time to MoFo!

September 5, 2013

Tester Thursday: Fusion Food

September 4, 2013

Firing up the grill!

September 3, 2013

Home again, home again

September 2, 2013

It’s time to MoFo!


Tester Thursday: Fusion Food


At any given point in time, it’s pretty likely that you’ll find me fighting the urge to live off a diet comprised of at least 85% burritos, for the sake of recipe testing. I’m very fortunate to be able to try out recipes for a few great cookbook authors, and I love using testing as an opportunity to try new things or tackle a recipe that I might otherwise skip over. So sharing some photos from recent books or projects that I’ve tested for seemed like a natural theme to explore this Vegan MoFo. Simple, right?

But then I started to look through my photos, and I realised that I’ve gotten slack- nary even a grainy iPhone photo of some of my favourite recent dishes. Well, this is my motivation to start up again.

I was super excited to see Joni post a pre-launch giveaway for her newest book, Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen, earlier this week. I had the chance to test a few things from this book earlier in the year, and while my schedule didn’t permit me to try as much as I wanted (because there’s a lot in there that sounds seriously great!), there were some definite standouts and new favourites among the recipes I did make.

This Thai peanut fried ‘chicken’ and waffles (that’s right!) definitely fell into the latter category.

This was so decadent and delicious, and that peanut sauce is one of the best I’ve made (and I’m sure I’ve nearly tried them all). Unfortunately this was the only moderately-nice photo I attempted to take during testing (though there are a couple of Instagram shockers), but words can be pretty tempting too, so here are a few other things I tried and really enjoyed:

  • Spicy Korean BBQ jackfruit burritos (these have to be my favourite. I’ve never been fully on the jackfruit bandwagon, but these brought me around.)
  • Spicy cucumber salad (falafel’s best friend!)
  • Seitan gyoza with cotija-style ‘cheese’ crumbles
  • Hot, sweet and sour ribs (complete with lemongrass bones!)
  • Too many great sauces to count, including an aji verde that was a total hit alongside homemade corn empanadas at a vegan meet-up earlier in the year.

There are a ton of recipes that I still so want to try (that miso mac and cheese, and so many tamales!), so I’m keeping a keen eye out for this book’s impending release. Joni’s inventiveness really impressed me, and I’m looking forward to getting creative in my own kitchen again- with her expert guidance, of course.

Firing up the grill!

In keeping with the ‘flying by the seat of my pants hem of my dress’ nature of Vegan MoFo for me this year (and in total defiance of the general forward-planning that my German heritage affords me), I still haven’t settled on daily themes for the month. What can I say, it’s been a busy month already!

As I mentioned yesterday, I picked up a couple of new cookbooks in Adelaide over the weekend. In addition to the super-fun Bake and Destroy, I also finally got my hands on Tami Noyes’ Grills Gone Vegan. I’d had my eye on this one for a while, but was trying to be a responsible adult and limit my book-buying splurges. But the weather over the weekend was so glorious that it just begged for barbecues and outdoor eating. We love barbecues, but we often find ourselves just taking a salad and some pre-made veggie burgers around to friends’ houses. We can do better, but needed the inspiration. So with spring upon us and the weather finally heating up, I’m proposing Wednesday night barbecues to get us through the working week.

Grills Gone Vegan has a ton of really creative recipes and methods, but I decided to dip my toes into the gas-warmed water with one of the more traditional recipes that first caught my eye- harissa seitan burgers. I had almost all of the ingredients for the burger patties at home already, so it seemed meant to be. Until I realised that I was out of foil for steaming the seitan, and that the barbecue was in need of a major de-spidering before being fit for human use. Minor setbacks! I made do with baking paper instead of foil (not really recommended- the patties took a lot longer to steam and caused me to eat far too much chocolate in hungry frustration while waiting), and cooked indoors on the stove. Not quite as whimsical as cooking outdoors as the sun sets, but the end result is almost as good.

We ate the burgers on Turkish bread rolls with the usual bits and pieces as well a quick harissa carrot salad (loosely based on the one from Vegan Eats World- by which I mean I couldn’t be bothered getting the book out, so I thew together the ingredients that I remembered) with a side of homemade Moroccan-spiced potato wedges (based on my favourite recipe from the Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions). The burger patties were a little soft, due to my steaming improvisation, but tasted great. Tami can definitely write a great seitan recipe, and these burgers are no exception. If I can get myself back into my usually vaguely-organised state sometime soon, I would love to steam a huge batch of these and have them stored in the freezer, ready for the grill next time we’re invited to an impromptu barbecue.

In non-food-related news, today I went out and about (well, just to work) for a full day without crutches for the first time in over two months. My knee was a little more swollen and grumpy than usual by the end of it, but it was totally worth it to be able to use my hands to do normal stupid things like texting while walking or carrying caffeinated beverages aplenty.

Look ma, all hands!

And if that’s not worth firing up the grill in celebration, I don’t know what is!

Home again, home again

If you follow me on Instagram (of course you do, right?), you’ll know that Chadwiko and I spent the weekend in Adelaide. It’s been three-and-a-half years since we moved to Canberra from Adelaide, and while we’re happy here, Adelaide will always be home. We take any opportunity we can get to head back and visit our family, friends and of course, our favourite places to eat. As always, we missed out on seeing a few people and eating a few of our favourite meals, but we still managed to pack a lot into three days.

After a long Friday, we crashed early- but all the better for an early start to catch up with our best friend Laura on Saturday morning. She and her friend Dylan took us out to a new-to-us organic cafe south of the city, in Willunga. The Green Room is a total old-school, hippie vegetarian kind of place. No matter how many fancy vegan options I find popping up, there’s a part of me that still can’t say no to the basics- mushrooms, tomato, baby spinach, avocado and baked beans on really great bread.

The drive down to Willunga is pretty nice in itself- and bonus, on the way back into town we found ourselves passing the winery where our friend Josh works (and who provided us with some rather delicious vegan wine) and Bracegirdles chocolate shop, where we stopped off for some dark chocolate peanut butter soy frappes. These were so delicious and filling that I was only able to express moderate outrage that we spent just over a year living next door to Bracegirdles in Glenelg without anyone letting me know that these things were veganise-able.

Though we were pretty full from almost a full day of unashamed grazing, we still made room for dinner with my parents. We headed out to Mitran Da Dhaba, an all-vegetarian Indian restaurant and a recent family favourite.

Despite over-ordering every time we go here, we still couldn’t help ourselves. But the food is authentic and delicious, meals are cheap, and the staff are super knowledgeable about veganism- we’re happy to keep them in business! I only managed to snap a photo of these pakoras, but everything else was great as always. My dad even finally fell in love with malai kofta (my pregan favourite)- good thing there’s an amazing vegan recipe for them in Isa Does It to keep him happy next time I cook!

On Sunday, Chadwiko and I ventured into the city. In addition to picking up a couple of vegan cookbooks (bookstores are disappearing before our eyes in Canberra, and it’s almost impossible to pick up books on a whim), we stopped for lunch at Zenhouse. Zenhouse specialises in tea, but it’s also a great little vegetarian cafe. The food is generally pretty simple, but it’s one of my favourite places for a quick bite.

I picked up a crazy-good hibiscus iced tea with strawberry and apple pieces (it tasted like strawberry ice cream!) and a tofu satay salad that totally hit the spot.

While Chadwiko went for a southern-fried ‘chicken’ burger…

… and spent the next hour or two wallowing in a state of dramatic and uncomfortable fullness.

I had planned to cook for the family that night, but we had a longer day than intended and I’d spent a lot of time on my dodgy knee. Mum suggested Godzilla pizza- she’s a saint, that woman! A saint who remembers just how much I love being able to order great intentionally-vegan pizza, rather than settling for some modified cheeseless creation. I usually can’t go past Godzilla’s vegan margherita pizza, but a new item on the menu caught my eye- and this roasted butternut pumpkin pizza with artichokes, red onion, baby spinach, walnuts and Cheezly is a new favourite for sure.

Before we flew home yesterday evening, we had the opportunity to catch up with our good friend Nick. Nick has been training to be a pilot for as long as I’ve known him, so we jumped at the chance to finally see him in action as he practiced his scenic flight guiding skills on us. On Monday morning, we drove out to the airfield at Murray Bridge for an hour-long chat as we flew down the river to the coast and back.

(Pertinent information- this headset perfectly matched my skirt.)

This was a super fun way to spend the morning. And just quietly (okay, not so quietly), I was more than a little proud of myself for not getting motion sickness as I am wont to do at inopportune moments. It must have been that pilot, he was pretty okay I guess.

We didn’t have a huge amount of time between getting back on the ground and having to rush off to catch a (decidedly larger) plane back to Canberra. But I wasn’t leaving Adelaide without checking out Everything Vegan- the new all-vegan grocery store run by the awesome folk from Vegan Online and Freedom Hill Sanctuary. Luckily for me, we had just enough time for a quick detour.

I was super impressed with the store. There’s a great range of both local stuff and the kinds of goodies we usually have to order online. Aside from the standard grocery items and treats, there’s also an excellent range of body products and household cleaning gear- the less glamorous, but still important parts of vegan life. But we were here for only the most vital supplies. That is, vegan jerky for Chadwiko and Jokerz and Twilight bars for me. Everything Vegan is vegan heaven in a shopfront, and while I was sad to bid it farewell, my purse and waistline said a quiet thanks.

So Adelaide, thanks for being great as always and for keeping our hearts and bellies full. We miss you! We may not be back until Christmas, but just consider our absence time to prepare for the holiday season feeding frenzy we’re bound to unleash upon the city.

It’s time to MoFo!

I love VeganMoFo. It’s one of my favourite times of year, and I love seeing the vegan blogging community come together with some of the most creative and fun ideas anywhere in the food blogosphere. But this year, I swore I was out. September is looking busy at best, and chaotic at worst, so while I vowed to take part over at veganmofo.com, I was sure things would be quiet in these parts. But just a few days ago, my defences fell and I succumbed to the contagious excitement- I was signing up before I knew what had happened!

So, here I am. Things will look a bit different to previous years- I had a theme in mind, but no time to execute it, so that will have to wait until next year. This month, things will be a bit less structured than usual- by which I mean, I still don’t know what I’m doing! I’m quite partial to the idea of daily themes, and I’ve always been fond of Jojo’s football food- and with Australian football heading into finals season and American football starting up again in September, that theme was definitely one to tackle.

Chadwiko is a huge Washington Redskins fan. But the life of an Australian NFL fan is an inconvenient one, with his love of the game forcing him out of bed at 3am on a Monday to stream it live. So in our house, football food is breakfast food. The season may not have started yet, but we decided to get training and whip up a junky, football-worthy dinner in anticipation.

Enter totchos.

Tots (or potato gems, as they’re called in these parts) are one of Chadwiko’s not-so-guiltiest pleasures. Covered in nacho toppings, they’re his sports-viewing dream come true.

The recipe comes from the brand-new Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans, which I picked up in Adelaide over the weekend after Chadwiko flipped through the book in a bookstore and landed on this recipe. It was dude-food love at first sight. It’s a ridiculously simple recipe and not my usual style of cooking at all, but after a long day of travel and an evening flight home, it sounded pretty close to perfect. Topped with refried beans, tomatoes, jalapeños, guacamole and an old-school vegan nacho cheese sauce, these tots were definitely dressed up for the game. And while the look was a little less than polished, the mess was a fun and tasty one.

From my first glance, ‘fun and tasty’ seems to perfectly sum up Bake and Destroy. It’s a beautiful book, and it’s bursting with silly party foods (like totchos) alongside some more serious, from-scratch stuff. I’m looking forward to giving a few more recipes a try in the coming weeks- and the return of both football and Vegan MoFo seems like the perfect occasion for it. Do any of you have this book yet? I would love to hear any recommendations to narrow down the ‘must-try’ list!