Challenge accepted week 2

Well my first challenge accepted week wasn’t quite as successful as planned. I missed 2 days practicing yoga due to just getting caught up with things and then realizing as I was falling asleep that I hadn’t done anything.

Still, taking the time out to do some asana and breathing exercises was nice. I’m trying to carry this through and practice more at home. My yoga place has reopened after the Christmas break this week so I’ll be back on the mat there Saturday morning. I’m looking forwards to it!

My challenge for the week ahead is to post a photo each day of something that makes me happy.

So here’s today’s offering:

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Food. Specifically cooking food. Playing with recipes, throwing random ingredients together. I love cooking and will on occasion stay up to midnight cooking because the thought comes to me after dinner of baking cookies or making sushi for the next days lunch.

I especially love the challenge of veganising food – for example this photo is essentially a red wine and beef stew, made with mushrooms (and served with mustard chive mash and oh so delicious). I love picking things out of the garden and making a meal out of it (tonight will be zucchini pizza).

There’s something so wholesome about cooking from scratch and seeing my friends and family enjoy my offerings

Cooking makes me happy.

Zucchini tart recipe

You know summer is in full swing when you start coming back from the garden with armfuls of zucchini.

We planted a single blackjack zucchini and a single yellow zucchini. There’s still going to be heaps of them to go round though. Zucchinis are well known for being prolific fruiters – and the fruit grows so quickly that if you don’t pick them for a day or two you end up with a giant marrow (great for hollowing out, stuffing and cooking).

I decided I wanted a tart for dinner, and Google wasn’t really helping with a “vegan zucchini tart” recipe that seemed good so I made my own! here’s what I did.

I made a crust from this book:

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I’ve found this book to be particularly helpful in working out crusts. Generally with savoury meals I’m pretty good at throwing things together, but when it comes to baking, crusts or pastry I’m not so great. I used the recipe for spelt-crusted quiche on page 117. This calls for a crust made from 1 1/2 cups spelt flour, salt, 1/4 cups tahini, and 1/4 cup veggie broth.

I whizzed that up in the food processor, pressed it into the (oiled) dish, then baked it for 10 or so minutes to avoid ending up with a soggy base.

Then I sliced some green and yellow zucchini, quite thinly. I probably used about maybe 2 normal sized zucchini all up – ours had run away so were a little bigger than optimal.

I also very thinly sliced some onion and potato.

I made up a light sauce using a base of 1-2 tablespoons of melted dairy free margarine, with enough plain flour to make a paste. I added garlic and then gradually added soy milk until I got a creamy sauce. If you’re making this, don’t make a lot because you don’t want a soggy tart – it’s just enough to add a little flavour and moistness without soaking it.

To the sauce I added some salt and pepper, and a little nutritional yeast to taste.

To assemble – put a layer of zucchini, followed by potato and then onion. Sprinkle on some finely chopped rosemary (fresh from the garden if you have it – yum yum!) and some salt and pepper before putting half the sauce on. Repeat another layer of each, top with the sauce and herbs.

If you want to make it look a touch fancier, put a single ring on zucchini slices around the top for decoration.

Cook it in a moderate oven (180 degrees C).

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I ended up cooking it for half an hour at 180 and then another half hour at 160. This is how it came out:

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I dished it up with our new favorite bean salad – 4 bean mix, finely chopped red onion, and parsley with a very simple pumpkin seed oil/lemon juice/salt and pepper dressing.

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For tonight we also threw some corn into the salad.

Mmmm!

fun fact: zucchinis (or summer squash) are high in potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Also they are delicious

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chart found at this site

Roasted garlic veggie bowl.

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I’m not even going to talk about this one too much because I’m too busy eating it.

A few veg chopped into bite sizes then tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder.

I roasted them, starting with the harder ones, in this case beetroot (fresh picked from our garden), potato and carrot. Then closer to finishing time I added broccoli and asparagus, both also from our garden.

I chopped up some vegan sausages on a fancy angle cut and seared the bits before adding into the veg.

Serve on a bed of quinoa, cooked in the rice cooker, and drizzle some vegan gravy over.

Excuse me, I have to stuff my face now.

Pumpkin “cheese” sauce: a revelation

Yesterday I was craving corn chips. So I decided to make nachos for dinner. However I also wanted to use some more of the pumpkin we have sitting job our dining room waiting to be eaten.

So I googled “pumpkin nachos” (thinking it was a crazy idea), put some ideas together, and ended up with the most delicious vegan “cheese” sauce I’ve ever tasted. The pumpkin is blended into the sauce, rather than cooked with the beans as I had expected.

I posted a photo on facebook, and although the photo was anything but flattering I had a few requests for the recipe. So I figured a blog post would help.

So here we go…

You need the following:

About 1 1/2 cups of plain soy milk (unsweetened)
1 Tbsp dairy free spread/margarine
1 Tbsp corn flour
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/3 cup of nutritional yeast*
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Pinch of dried thyme
About 1 1/2 cup roasted pumpkin.

How to make:
Melt the spread/butter in a pan.

Take off the heat and mix in the cornflour till smooth.

Gradually whisk in the soy milk and place back onto the heat. Once it’s all in, add everything else except the pumpkin. And whisk to mix well.

Let it thicken for a few minutes, stirring it to keep it from forming lumps.

Let it cool enough to throw in a blender (if you have a stick mixer that would cut out the cooling step).

Blend the sauce with the pumpkin.

I’ve used it on nachos this time but I reckon it would be awesome in pasta or on a veggie lasagne. I also couldn’t stop dipping corn chips into the cold leftover sauce.

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The photo isn’t great here. I made a basic bean mix with garlic, onion, cumin, chili, kidney beans and tomatoes. I layered the chips, beans and cheese, adding some chopped avocado as well and some vegan sour cream.

So enjoy!

* nutritional yeast can be found in most health food stores. It is (from what I know about it) basically an inactive form of yeast which provides a nutty/cheesy kind if taste to vegan food. It’s also usually fairly heavily fortified with B vitamins, particualrly vitamin B12. B12 is the only nutrient which is difficult to get on a vegan diet without supplements or fortified foods.

Homemade tofu mold

Tofu is healthy and also delicious, right? And easy to make at home. I made some last week and I wanted to make more today.

So I used the same recipe and made some, but since I ruined the takeaway containers last time and they weren’t really sturdy enough, I took an idea I saw somewhere (sorry but I can’t remember where!!).

So I got two loaf tins, nicely asked Gary to drill some holes in the bottom and along the base of the sides of one.

He then tidied it up for me so there was no rough bits to catch on the cheesecloth.

Then I lined it with cheesecloth and poured in the curds. I folded the cloth over to cover it and set the second (not holey) tin into it. I have weighed it down with jars of water.

If you don’t want to keep the whey you can do it straight into the sink. Since we are using it for the garden I have balanced my mold on 2 big cooking chopsticks over a bowl.

Can’t wait to eat this tomorrow in a nice fresh stir fry!!

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Also I am watching The Hobbit on my laptop while all this is going down. I love it.

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Quick stirfry with homemade tofu

Mmmmmmmm delicious.

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Remember that tofu I made yesterday?

Well today I pressed it a little more by putting it between two chopping boards with my big mortar and pestle on while I had a shower (so about 20mins).

Then I chopped it into cubes coated it with a dusting of corn flour and shallow fried it in some peanut oil so it was crispy. I put it aside on some paper towel while I whipped up a quick stir fry with onion, garlic, broccoli, baby corn and carrots. Throw in some honey soy sauce and cook some noodles, then chuck the crispy tofu. Dish it all up and nom away!

The tofu is fantastic.

Home made tofu

Today, as evidenced by my spoiler alert heading, I made tofu. I’m pretty proud of myself.

But first, Gary ran the Nail Can Hill run today. It’s a yearly event, and I planned to run it this year however I didn’t feel I could justify the day off hockey given we are going to New Zeland for a few weeks soon. I would have felt bad bowing out this week (even for a good reason) then disappearing again mid June.

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Gary heading off at the start

It’s just over 11kms, through the Nail Can Hill reserve, which according to all reports means there’s “a bitch of a hill” to climb and its along fire trails so its not exactly even, flat ground.

Gary made it in 51:00 ish. I was impressed.

Meanwhile I was playing hockey (so i wasn’t there to see him finish) and I felt like I had a great game. It was a 2 all draw with the Falcons. I was impressed with myself and my efforts.

Then I came home and I made tofu. It was easy, but a bit time consuming. I think that was mostly because I have never made it before.

I used this recipe to make my tofu. It’s pretty easy, but like I said I took a little longer to get the hang of things. I’m very much a free form cook, unless there’s something with a definite “must be exact” feel. Things like cakes and bread, which won’t rise without the correct portions, and this time. Having never played around with soymilk I wanted to pick one recipe and stick with it.

I got some Nigiri (magnesium flakes) at the health food shop yesterday. In essence the curdling and mold section of this process is the same way I made paneer a while ago, and a few recipies said i could use vinegar lemon juice as I did back then to curdle the milk. However a lot of recipes recommended using nigiri for authentic tofu so there it is.

Apparently you can also use Epsom salts, or food grade gypsum (I laugh because Gary adds gypsum to the ground when digging garden beds as a clay breaker).

So anyhow , the process is as follows:

Soak your beans overnight then blend the beans (and soaking liquid) in a blender or food processor till all smooshed up.

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before

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after

Then you boil some water in a LARGE pot. I used my big stock pot, normally reserved for making ridiculous amounts of tomato sauce or giant pots of soup.

Add the bean slurry to the pot of boiling water. It foams up. At one point it foamed up to about twice its original size. That’s where the big pot came in handy.

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Once it’s cooked, you strain it through a piece of cheesecloth to get the fibrous bits if the beans out.

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all the fiber-y bits once I took then out of the cloth. Apparently you can use this for quite a few recipes so I hope to post about that later

So what we have left is soymilk (yay! You could just stop here and have some delicious fresh soymilk.)

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Then it’s basically the same as for paneer, or basic cottage cheese. Being the milk back up to about 66 Celsius, take off the heat and stir in the coagulant (nigiri, in my case).

Let sit for about 15 minutes, until it looks like this:

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Strain through a (clean) cheese cloth again. Congrats! You now have separated your curds and whey. Miss Muffet would be proud.

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Next step is to press it, which can be done in the strainer for a round/irregular blob of tofu. I wanted a square block so I punched some holes in a takeaway container. I put the cloth with the tofu into it, folded the cloth over, and then used a second container on top with some jars full of water to press it.

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After 15 minutes or so, its come out like this (upside down)

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So there you go. Easy peasy fresh home made tofu with no preservatives.

I was wondering what to do with the whey, as I didn’t want to just wash it down the sink. So we will probably use it in our garden as a fertiliser to feed the next lot of veggies. Other options could be as a base for soup or in smoothies. I think the nigiri made it a little bitter though so I might have a play around with proportions or using different coagulants next time.

I also want an actual tofu press, to make it an even size each time.

Now I just have to decide how I’m eating it…..