A post about nothing in particular.

I want to write something, but I don’t know what. I know plenty of people are talking about the Boston Marathon tragedy, but I feel like the words I would want to say are already out there. 

I have no desire to share a recipe today, and I want to write about our weekend camping over easter… But I need to go through photos. 

So instead, here’s 5 things people may (or may not know about me) 

1) When I went on exchange to Scotland in 2003 I secretly harboured a belief that it was entirely possible I would accidently bump into an actual prince and he would fall in love with me. I’m actually pretty glad that didn’t happen. The prince, castle and money and all that would be great, but the rest would be pretty terrible. 

2) I am a little bit of an old lady – I crochet, I sew, I quilt, and I make preserves. However I balance that with xbox and a strong desire to jump in puddles and throw food at my Gary. 

3) One of my eyes doesn’t work and won’t focus on anything, ever. This means my depth perception is pretty crap and it’s hard for me to catch something if it’s tossed to me from directly in front. From the side or on an angle is fine. Also I can’t watch most 3D movies without my brain exploding. 

4) I really like brussel sprouts. 

5) Secretly, I still like Savage Garden.  

 

apologies for my terrible post. 

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Pumpkins!

We have a very large pumpkin plant out the back.

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This is Gary, amongst the patch a few weeks ago.

This whole patch is one single Queensland Blue plant. It’s huge. I don’t even know how it has managed to take over so much of our yard. The only training we’ve done is me trying to direct it away from the rhubarb and out of the other garden patches.

Yesterday we (mostly Gary, but I also helped) went out to find all the baby pumpkins and put stakes in so we can find them again to keep track of how they are going. We have a large population of bees and bugs visiting our garden on a regular basis, so pollination hasn’t been an issue. We found plenty of little beauties.

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One of the baby pumpkins. There’s no sign of ill health in this plant so fingers crossed they will all survive to maturity.

All up Gary said he found 20 pumpkins, with another five close to the flower falling off stage. So if they all grow we will have at least 25 pumpkins, plus whatever else ends up growing.

Off one single plant.

That is crazy!

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Last season we had a few plants, but none this big. We got some unexpected downpours with a whole lot of rain in a short period of time and most of then split and we lost them. We only got 2 usable big pumpkins and a couple of smaller varieties, but not much.

I’m hoping everything will work out well and we can have pumpkin right up until next season.

I also found this little guy in the second hand shop the other day.

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I thought it was a pretty awesome little container. Today I washed it out and filled it with some home roasted pumpkin seeds.

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I love these. None of that pepitas rubbish, this is the whole seed, crunchy and spicy and delicious. I made these from seeds I scooped out if a farmers market pumpkin, which I used for a pumpkin, pea and sage baked risotto.

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Other awesome uses for pumpkin:
Roasted pumpkin
Pumpkin soup
Pumpkin bread
Pumpkin scones (I need to find/make a vegan recipe)
Pumpkin curry
Pumpkin dip
Pumpkin pizza
Pumpkin salad

Pumpkin is so awesome!!

The end of the experiment, and beyond.

Hi everyone, 

I just thought I needed to post a bit of a report at the end of the month of eating vegan. It’s been interesting (but not difficult at all) and the short version is that as long as we keep feeling healthy I think we will keep eating plant based. 

what was easy: 

This month has not been anywhere near as difficult as what people might think it has been. For a start, I love cooking a variety of food and I love a culinary challenge. So the creation of animal free meals has been easy. I was already starting to get into the habit of closely reading ingredients lists on any processed foods so scrutinising them for animal products was again just a small step up. Our veggie garden is still producing plenty of food for us, and I have a pantry full of grains and beans and spices. 

Both Gary and I are pretty good with trying just about any food. We aren’t fussy at all. So expanding my cooking even more was not a problem. 

What was difficult: 

Desserts and snacks when out or at work, which is probably a good thing. My work is across from a service station so we regularly duck across the road for snacks during the day. This is pariticularly helpful on days when I’m too busy to eat a proper lunch – I was relying on a chocolate bar and some biscuits to get me through to a break later in the day, which is obviously an unhealthy choice. Now I have to plan ahead and make sure I’m taking some fruit, muesli bars, or nuts etc to snack on. 

If I do go and get lunch, another habit I used to be in was grabbing something to finish off the meal – e.g. I might get a lamb and salad wrap, with a cocolate slice or cupcake. Cutting out dairy and eggs means that immediatly cuts out most cakes and slices you find in a bakery or cafe, so I am simply not consuming those high sugar and fat treats. Instead I cook vegan versions at home and we all know home cooked can be better because you control what goes in. 

The other difficult part has been eating out with friends, because sometimes the choices people make of where to go means it’s difficult to find vegan options. But we have gotten by. One place had no vegan options, so we asked for a plate full of veggies and a side of chips. We had to eat again an hour later as it wasn’t filling, but it got us through the meal without any issues. 

How I feel: 

I feel great. I have not missed meat. I’ve had two particular temptations – funnily enough both while camping and at the start, and end, of the month. The first was when we were camping at Mount Buffalo and one of the boys pulled a bag of prawns out of the esky. Cold cooked prawns are a favorite of mine. I didn’t have one though. The other was while on our Easter weekend camp near Corryong. We cooked a roast chicken on a spit over the campfire and it looked (and smelled) amazing. Again, I managed to beat the temptation. 

I did also have some dairy. We were camping on the property of family friends, and they have a dairy. In the interest of educating myself (and also curiosity and a touch of thinking cows are pretty awesome up close) we ventured up to the dairy on the sunday morning. I want to write a seperate post about my observations as I think it was pretty lovely there. Anyway, long story short is that we were given some fresh, raw milk to try. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity and had a mouthful, knowing with my lactose intolerance and the fact that we haven’t had dairy for a month that it was likely to be a bit uncomfortable. 

It was delicious, absolutely delicious. It was creamy and rich, not at all how even full cream milk from the supermarket tastes. A few minutes later the aforementioned uncomfortableness in my stomach struck, with my body protesting against the rich unprocessed dairy. My stomach regretted the choice, but my taste and my curiosity did not.   

Dairy has been relatively easy to avoid, except for trace elements in processed foods. Most supermarket chocolate bars are out, even the soy cheese I thought was ok was not once I flipped it and read the ingredients. having cut out dairy has it’s obvious benefits for someone who has had varying degrees of lactose intolerance. Apparently it is possible for the amount of dairy you can tolerate to fluctuate. My brother also had it as a child and can now drink as much milk as he wants. The amount I can happily have has been pretty low for the past couple of years – A little in my coffee or some parmesan on dinner and that’s about it. Cutting it out completely means the stomach cramps, gas, eczema  and bloating associated with tipping over that minimal amount is eliminated. So that’s a pretty easy choice. 

Eggs, again, I’m not sure about. I’ve avoided them for the purpose of being vegan for the month, but I’m still not certain where I sit on continuing to avoid them. I think that’s a post for another day. 

I don’t feel like meat. I don’t feel like dairy. I don’t crave those things and I feel like I’ve been doing something good for my body. 

Healthwise I feel pretty awesome.

Running: 

It is hard to link my current achievements with my running to just veganism, as I’ve been improving gradually over the last few months anyway. I would say that eating plant based is a factor though. I have had two breakthroughs this week with my running. The first was running 6kms in 39:10. While this is by no means a fast pace, it must be compared to the Color Run I did last November. That was a 5 Km run and I did it in 40 minutes. So I have dropped a minute and added a Kilometer. I am impressed. 6Kms is also my longest run since I was a teenager without numerous extensive walk breaks. I backed that up with a 4.2 km run 2 days later – not impressive distances for any regular runner, but they indicate a milestone for me. 

the other breakthrough was doing that 6Kms in my Vibram Five Finger KSO’s. These shoes take some getting used to, and if you go too hard too soon you will damage your feet. Basically they are more suited to making your foot muscles and leg muscles work the way nature made them. If you haven’t run barefoot or minimal before those muscles won’t have been used so much and they will HURT until you strengthen them. The best explanation I found for the difference between traditional running shoes and these sorts of shoes is that Traditional shoes will do the work for your feet. With these, your feet do the work. Anyway, I got overexcited and injured the tendons under my foot initially. After a rest and going all the way back to basics, I’ve built up to 6kms in them without any ill effects.

But back to being vegan…. I’ve read plenty of accounts from vegan athletes saying that plant based foods has resulted in shortened recovery times. I have felt like this, but I think it’s too early to definitively say being vegan has done this. I do definitely feel more energised and less weighed down after eating though, and I’ve also felt like I have more energy at the end of a run or training session.  

Hockey 

Hockey season starts again this weekend. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve found the few training sessions I’ve been able to get to (the timing is extremely difficult with work) I have been able to push harder than usual and I am still not drained at the end. My overall fitness and nutrition has improved and I think I will only keep improving for the time being. 

Will we keep doing this? 

Yes. As long as we both feel healthy and there are no concerns, we will. For my part I feel better within my body eating only plant based, and I don’t believe that humans should need supplements so I like to focus on eating a wide variety of foods to ensure we get the most nutrients. Ethical reasons for veganism are something I’m still working through, but health reasons are enough at the moment. There are a few things to get through, including the Chocolate Lotta’s mother Annika brought over from Finland for us (Which is amazing and delicious – thanks Annika!) but for now I’m simply not buying anything with animal products and accepting things like delicious Finnish Chocolate when people give it as gifts.

I will try and post again later as I have more to talk about, but it’s time for me to head off for a bit.  

 

Roasted Eggplant, chickpea and tomato stew.

The other night I used my new recipe book for the first time. I brought Veganomicon as it seemed to be a popular vegan cookbook. It’s lovely, with that wonderful non glossy paper that I love, and sprinkles of humour throughout the recipes.

I modified one of the recipes within it as we had heaps of eggplant and I wanted to use some. I also wanted to use some dried chickpeas I’ve had in the pantry for a while so it was great to find a recipe using them both. It took about 1 1/2 hours in the end, including time to cook the chick peas that had been soaking overnight. Here’s what I ended up with:

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Doesn’t it look delicious and colourful and very very tasty?

And yes, I cooked it in a wok because my pot wasn’t big enough.

ingredients

Equivalent of 2 medium eggplants. I used one regular and several of the tiny fairytale eggplants.
1 onion
A head of garlic (tone it down if you don’t like garlic as much as me)
2 red capsicum
1 can of tomatoes (crushed/chopped)
1 can of chickpeas, or 1 1/2 cups of soaked and cooked chickpeas if you have the time.
1/2 cup white wine.
Fresh Basil and parsley
Paprika
Ground coriander seeds.
Thyme
Salt and pepper
Olive oil.

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look at our lovely eggplants!

method

Heat your oven to 180c and prepare some baking trays.

If using small eggplants, slice lengthways in half. If using regular eggplant, cut into half lengthways then half across to make quarters, then slice.

Lay them out on the baking tray.

Cut the capsicum into quarters, remove the seeds, brush with olive oil and place cut side down on the tray.

Brush the eggplant with olive oil and throw a little salt and pepper onto them.

The recipe called for roasted garlic, but I didn’t trust it to cook quickly enough as it was already late when i started so I added the garlic at the sautéed stage. It would be lovely roasted though so you now have two options – peel the loose papery skin off the cloves (its ok to leave some on) and place whole on the tray, OR chop/mince the garlic while everything else is roasting.

Put the trays in the oven and prepare everything else while its roasting.

If you aren’t roasting your garlic, chop/mince it now. Chop your onions as well – I just halved them then sliced thin so I had long slivers of onion.

Sautéed the onion and garlic till its starting to brown.

Add the dry spices – paprika and coriander. The recipe called for 1 tsp of coriander and 1/2 tsp of paprika.

I just winged it.

I also added some fresh thyme at this stage, although dried thyme would be fine…. Maybe 1-2 tsp should do it.

Then you splash in the wine and let it all cook down for a few minutes.

Check your veggies and flip them over. Brush with a little more oil if they look a little dry.

Once the onion/herb/wine mix has cooked down a bit, add your can of tomatoes. Give it a good mix, and throw your eggplant in (and roasted garlic if you did that) once they are ready. If you’re ahead of yourself don’t worry, just turn the heat on the tomatoes off and wait for the veggies to finish. You want your veg nice and brown and roasted through.

Put your capsicum into a plastic bag as soon as they come out of the oven. This helps to steam off the skins so you can peel them.

Stir the eggplant/garlic through the sauce and add the chickpeas. It doesn’t matter if you crush or break the eggplant.

Once your capsicum has cooled, peel off the skin with your hands (don’t worry if some is still attached), slice your quarters into strips, and mix through the stew.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chop your fresh basil and parsley into thin strips and mix through at the last minute.

Let it simmer gently for as long as you like, but don’t let all the moisture evaporate! The flavors will only get better over the next day or so. I had some for dinner and it was great. I then had leftovers the next day for lunch and it was amazing.