Behold my delicious vegan food wizard skillz!

Tonight I turned this:

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Into this:

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Under that delicious pile of roasted tomatoes and zucchini is an equally delicious pile of wholemeal pasta with kale and walnut pesto.

Mix it all up for a hearty meal with plenty of greens and bursts of sweet roasted tomatoes and zucchini chunks, and the taste of garlic bringing it all together.

home grown ingredients:
Kale
Garlic
Zucchini
Mixed tomatoes (tiny red ones, yellow cherry, mini Roma, standard cherry – there’s a green zebra tomato in the picture but I saved that one for another dish)

store brought ingredients:
Wholemeal pasta
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Nutritional yeast

It was quite literally thrown together – no idea about quantities. I can try and guess some if anyone really desperately needs a recipe but I’m confident there’s probably plenty of kale walnut pesto recipes to be googled and the tomatoes/zucchini were just veggies tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and roasted.

You know what else was delicious? These babies:

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I made these cookies and cream cupcakes for a work meeting using a recipe from Vegan cupcakes take over the world . It’s the basic chocolate cake recipe with the variation of adding chopped Oreos to the cake batter and also to the vanilla buttercream. Absolutely superb.

They were a big hit with everybody. I’ve kind of made it my mission to keep feeding my work mates vegan food just to show them how delicious and interesting it is.

I’ve also found that vegan cakes seem to be ridiculously simple. Maybe that’s just because I’ve been practicing but I am really enjoying baking now.

I made this cake for a work mates farewell a few weeks ago.

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It’s a chocolate mud cake I’ve made a couple of times from Not Quite Nigella that I came across a while ago. I’ve found it turns out best when I be a bit liberal with the chocolate in the batter (75grams… 100grams… Close enough). I also take it from the tin while still warm and plate it, pouring the ganache over before it’s cool.

This recipe makes a chocolate syrup – I’ve been adding coconut milk or almond milk to make more of a ganache. Either way will be great.

Moving off the chocolate cake theme, I also tried my hand at a vegan agedashi tofu. I used shiitake for the broth and let plenty of them soak for a long time to get the flavour. I also used some wakame to get that “sea” flavour since I’m unable to buy kombu at the moment.

I kept all the wakame and shiitake in the end so it wasn’t the traditional clear broth but it was delicious and hearty. I used cornflour for the tofu coating and fried it in a mix of peanut and sunflower oils. It was dished up with edamame and plain medium grain rice.

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So there are some of my latest food achievements. I’m pretty proud of my efforts – still learning new recipes and methods of cooking and still keeping it vegan.

And by the way, what do you do with leftover Oreos and extra icing?

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Yoga with Zephyr

I did my yoga outside today, in the veggie garden and under the shade of our apple tree.

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Yes, our garden needs a little tidy up.

Zeph joined me, for the most part just happy to be by my side but there were a few interruptions for belly rubs or pats. I didn’t mind.

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It was really nice actually. There was a cool breeze, and every time Zephyr brushed against the tomato, basil or fennel I could smell the delicious herbs.

Not only that but I heard, and then spotted, the native blue banded bees that visit our garden each year to pollinate the tomatoes. They were the first ones I saw this year and I really like them.

Zephyr was pretty happy.

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Occasionally when she thought I was about to turn around to her she’d throw herself on the ground for a belly rub. She does this regularly. Just lies there watching you and wagging her tail hoping for belly rubs (and how can we resist?)

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It was great. I haven’t taken my yoga outside before but this morning was too nice to stay inside.

It was really pleasant, and at the end I basically just laid there with zephyr next to me, watching the bees and the ants busy in the garden.

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New year

So… 2013 has passed into memory, and 2014 has sprung into life.

At least here in Australia it has. I know much of the world has yet to catch up.

For me it was a perfect NYE. a few drinks and some board games with a small group of people, close to home.

I’ll post a more comprehensive post tomorrow, but for now stay safe, enjoy your time, and use the changing over of the years to reflect on what has been, and look forward to the future.

Enjoy. As for me, I’m off to bed now.

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Also, as a side note – if you have pets and local fireworks, keep an eye on your cats and dogs! It’s easy to be terrified with all the banging and lights.

Kayaking

A week or so ago we loaded up our kayaks onto Gary’s car and went for a bit of a paddle. We haven’t gone for ages, and I was pretty keen to be back on the water again.

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We still don’t have a better system than the picture, and until we get racks for the car organised we will need to keep doing this. It’s ok for the short trip to the river though!

We decided on impulse to hop in to Wodonga Creek at the Stock Bridge rather than going a little further and getting in the Murray, mainly because we hadn’t explored that section of river yet.

Me and My Kayak. I haven't named her yet, but Lucy just popped into my head so let's go with that.

Me and My Kayak. I haven’t named her yet, but Lucy just popped into my head so let’s go with that.

It was a lovely day. Sunny, not too warm, lovely cold (read: refreshing and awesome) water and the river is pretty quiet along this section. I’m not at all confident in rough water or particularly fast water yet so we went upstream to the section where it started getting rough and we turned and came back. I practiced my turns and paddling backwards upstream. When I first got my Kayak I couldn’t even paddle in a straight line. Now I can, and I’ve worked out how to turn (rather ungracefully) and I can correct my course. Progress!

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Below is the old Stock Bridge, and in front of it is the new suspension bridge that the council is building. This is great because they get to keep the historical bridge, and make a better, smoother, link so people can use the path through to Albury without having their teeth shaken out across the rough wooden Stock Bridge.

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After spending some time playing about, we packed up the Kayaks and headed home. We keep them off the ground in a storage nets (totally my idea). What we did was get some nets – I think they are to secure trailer loads, etc, and hung them from the roof with some straps and volia!

Kayak Hammocks!

Kayak Hammocks!

Kayaking is good upper body exercise and I generally find my core is a bit sore after we go as well. I would like to go more often however it’s been a bit difficult to organise time. Ideally I’d love to have some sort of trailer for my bike and ride with my kayak to wherever and spend the whole day being active.

I would also like to get myself a life jacket before tackling anything more than a quiet river. I’m more than confident in my ability to swim or float, but it’s better safe than sorry. Another safety note – I never ever kayak alone, and I also text someone telling them where I am and what time I plan on being back. Each year we have some pretty big ad campaigns locally because our river can be dangerous – cold water, underwater obstacles, very fast flow. We’ve had a few locals in danger or killed on the river because they got caught in situations they weren’t ready for. I tend to err on the side of caution and if I’m not comfortable with a section I don’t kayak there.

remember – its good to take a risk and try something new, because exposure to different experiences is how we learn. Just make sure you calculate the risk and be as safe as possible.

My favourite vegan dish

I feel compelled to blog about this dish because I just ate it and I realised just how much I love it. If it weren’t for my ambition to eat a wide variety of foods I’m pretty sure I could eat this every day and not get sick of it. I’ve been cooking it pretty much once a week lately.

 

Its simple, cheap, filling and nutritious. Its versatile and holds up well to a night (or two) in the fridge, or freezes for a quick fix meal down the track

 

What is it?

 

lentil bolognaise

Basic lentil Bolognese is what it is!  

The recipe is very much a ‘bit of this, bit of that’ sort of recipe. If you end up with too much it freezes well for later on.

My base recipe uses:

2cans of chopped tomatoes (or a few fresh ones if I have them handy)

1 onion

A few cloves of fresh garlic

About a cup of red lentils

About 4 cups veggie stock (or vegan chicken stock)

A generous handful of fresh parsley

A little olive oil or whatever oil you prefer.

1-2grated carrots, depending on how small they are, or how much you like carrot.

Optional spices to add – cumin, some dried chilli – have both cayenne and Birdseye available so I usually chuck one of each in as the Birdseye we grew were super hot.

Optional extra veggies – this recipe can be ‘beefed up’ with some extra veggies. Given I usually use it as a sauce for veggies on the first night I don’t add them. But I have added the following veggies to great success in the past: broccoli, capsicum, zucchini (also grated), celery, etc. Be creative!

 

How to make:

Chop the onion, press or chop the garlic and lightly fry in a dash of oil till translucent. If youre using other spices – chilli, cumin, etc -you will need to throw that in with it. Once the onion, garlic and spices is ready, add the veggies and give it all a stir.

Throw in the tomatoes, and the lentils. Stir through some of the stock – I don’t measure so I’m guessing one cup of lentils to 4 cups of water. I usually throw in what I think is right and add water as it gets absorbed.

It takes about 20 minutes for the lentils to be cooked through. Keep stirring it now and then and once they are tender you can season with a little salt and pepper, then throw the fresh chopped parsley on and dish it up.

Options: this sauce is great on top of steamed veggies, mashed potato, baked potato (any sort of potatoes really), pasta (its perfect with wholemeal spaghetti for a filling post workout meal), and it makes great lasagne. It’s awesome on its own, and it can be a side dish to meals as needed.

 

A bit of holiday silliness.

A bit of holiday silliness.

I know I haven’t gotten around to sharing much of our holiday to New Zealand yet. I’m sorry about that. But I was trying to think of a fun way to pick out the best shots from the thousands of photos we took.

here’s one I like. Not just because it was during our wonderfully beautiful day spent snowshoe hiking with our guide Errol in the Remarkables (the mountian range which was actually used for the distance shots of Mordor in Lord Of The Rings), but because it’s a glimpse into the silliness of our everyday lives.

This day was wonderful. We had a lovely guide and he had all the equpiment we needed, including oh-so-delicious vegan sandwiches for us. We strapped on our snowshoes -something neither of us had done before – and headed off through the skifields and into the unbroken snow.

it was wonderful. A nice clear blue sky, the crisp snow, the rocky peaks. Everything was perfect.

The best thing was we were the only people booked on the tour for the day, so we had the place (and the guide) to ourselves. We cracked jokes, we wrote in the snow with out feet, we dug out a snow cave.

and then Gary and I were discussing the location, as we recognised the frozen lake from the movies. And I smote his ruin upon the mountain side… and then wrote the word “Balrog” next to him so that everyone would get it because he doesn’t really look like a creature of shadow and flame.

anyway the point of all of this is that we had a wonderful day in the snow with a lovely guide (I still maintain that his voice sounded like a cross between Iain Glen and David Wenhem which gave him bonus points for being awesome). And that lovely sunny day in the Remarkables led to us going back up there for unplanned snowboarding lessons. Gary also went for Skiing lessons but I spent that day jumping off platforms attached to giant rubber bands. Thats a story for another time though.