Sushi for dinner.

What do you do when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen with the stove?

Throw on your rice cooker, grab some seaweed and some bits and pieces and make this:

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the only fish involved is on the platter which came all the way from Finland. Thanks Annika!

Technically speaking these are nori rolls, not sushi but…. Sushi seems easier. I’ve been big on these lately. I made some for lunch the other day as well with some edamame and some raw veggies.

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Fun fact: in a metal container and an air conditioned office, frozen edamame in the top compartment works well – it’s defrosted by lunch but it keeps the sushi cool without getting cold. I prefer them at room temperature.

Anyhow, nori rolls are a simple thing.

You will need:
rice. Medium or short grain rice can be used – often it’s labeled as sushi rice. Just don’t use any variety of long grain rice. It won’t work.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
nori sheetsmmmm seaweed. Tasty tasty seaweed.
optional extras for the rice – I use raw nori flakes and black sesame seeds.
fillings whatever you feel like – I used carrot, cucumber, avocado, and tofu.
condiments- wasabi paste, soy sauce and pickled ginger

Step 1: cook sushi rice. I use my rice cooker now because I can pop it on while I do other things and it will just keep it warm till I’m ready. I generally have about a cup of uncooked rice to 2-3 rolls – but I like a lot of rice in my rolls.

Step 2: make your seasoning by gently heating 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 tsp salt on the stove until it all dissolves together.

Step 3: mix the rice with the seasoning – add it to taste. The amount of seasoning generally does me about 2 cups (uncooked) rice. This is best done in a non metallic bowl. Fold some of the vinegar through the rice and taste – add more if you feel it needs it.

Step 4: extras! I tend to mix some raw nori flakes through the rice and also some black sesame seeds. Just for some extra crunch and nutrients.

Step 5: lay your nori sheet shiny side down. You can use a mat if you wish but I don’t usually bother. Lightly brush some water over the nori
Spread rice in a thin even layer, leaving a gap at one end. Use a spoon or your fingers dipped in water so it doesn’t stick.

Step 6: fillings. Spread a tiny bit of wasabi on your rice, down the middle. It’s hot so if you haven’t tried it before go very easy on it. Top that with your chosen fillings. Avocado, carrot, cucumber and tofu were my choices last night.

Step 7: roll. Take the end you have rice to and roll it tight enough to keep everything in but not so tight that it tears. You’ll get the habit of it the more you do. Wet the free end and seal your roll. Slice gently with a wet knife into whatever size you want.

Dip in soy sauce and enjoy pickled ginger in between rolls.

Enjoy!!

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Challenge accepted week 4.

Whoops. I ended up missing week 3.

There’s no excuses really – work was flat out, I felt unwell and unmotivated and it just didn’t happen.

So back on the horse for week 4. My challenge actually started yesterday so it’s kind of the Monday and Tuesday of week 3 and then all of week 4.

Which works well as my challenge is to grow a sourdough starter and then bake a sourdough loaf. This may take up to a week to develop the starter. Given the forecast heat for the week – high 30s and low 40s it may not take that long.

Meet Tim:

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apparently it’s bad luck not to name your starter

I started with about 100g of plain flour and enough (filtered) water to make it the consistency of thick paint. I let that sit most of yesterday to activate then added 100g fresh flour and water to maintain consistency this morning.

Then it’s a matter of refreshing it daily for up to a week by discarding half and adding fresh water and flour each day until it’s ready. Then I can start baking!

I love the idea of sourdough as it’s making bread with just flour, water, and a touch of salt. The starter ferments and grows the natural yeast in the air and that’s what makes the bread rise. It’s vegan in the sense that there’s no animal products involved and great because there’s no additives unless I put them in. Mind you, the starter is often considered to essentially be alive and people refer to feeding it and looking after it. Kind of like making yourself a little bread friend… And then eating it…

Anyway, creepiness aside, it sounds like a fun challenge! I’ll try and report every few days and let you know how Tim is going.

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

Running, random stir fry, and other things.

Q) what does Nicole do if she’s got a day off and it’s raining?

A) takes the dog for a run.

I love running in the rain. It’s refreshing, there’s puddles to splash in and there’s not too many other people out and about on foot (which also means no other dogs to distract my dog).

Plus, all the people driving their cars about think “why is this crazy person running in the rain?” .

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pic source, and tips for running in the rain

I think I’ve always enjoyed rain. I love the sound of it. I love puddles. Actually, I think it’s the fact that it’s water. I love water. I love being in it, on it, or under it.

This run was better than the last couple I have done. I ran a couple of short runs after the half marathon, but my ankle started hurting again. I think I need to work more on strengthening it because today I ran with the brace back on my ankle and it seems to be ok.

Zephyr seemed pretty happy about it too, until about halfway through. I think she was fully soaked through by that point and wanted to go home.

Last night I made this:

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I couldn’t decide what to make for dinner, so I threw some quinoa in the rice cooker and then raided the fridge and garden. I ended up with what appeared to be good candidates for a stir fry (carrot, celery, zucchini, sweet potato, mushrooms, kale, basil). I tossed it all together and added some veggie balls (kind of like fish balls but vegan – from the Global Groceries place nearby) and cashews. Gary got some sprouts for me and they went in at the last minute.

There was also onion and some pickled garlic – just for something different – thrown in.

The sauce was a bit of soy sauce, Kekap manis, and chili sauce.

I threw the quinoa in once cooked and it was delicious!

I also went Christmas shopping yesterday. I made the dangerous move of going into a bookstore and while I did find some presents I also found this beast of a book:

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An 800 page hardcover collection entitled “Dangerous Women”, focussing on strong female characters and including some of my favorite authors? Yes please. There is a real possibility I may spend my entire time on leave reading and re-reading this book.

I also found this:

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I’m going to use it as a training planner and log for next year. Garmin connect logs my runs, but I want to have everything in a book so it’s all there – runs, cycling, swimming, yoga, hockey, whatever. I couldn’t pass up such a beautiful diary!

(And yes, I did actually buy things for other people!)

Now that I’m cooling down from my run I’m going to do some stretching, have some breakfast, and get on with the day.

Verdict: I’m not broken. Also spinach pesto is delicious.

I’m sore.

Very sore.

But my legs work. I started a new one week challenge this week. I drove to work on Monday and left my car there (I have use of a fleet car) and walked -slowly- home. I rode to work this morning, knowing that firstly, it would be painful, and secondly, active recovery is always a good option.

My challenge for the week is a no-car challenge. I’m using my car at work only and biking or walking everywhere. This really isn’t difficult since I’m only a few kms from shops and friends, but I figure a bit of light exercise won’t hurt me this week since I’ll be resting and recovering from the weekend.

My thighs hurt the most. It’s the front of my thighs in particular, and not my ankle or my calves. My backs a little sore too but nothing drastic.

I’m trying to feed my body good food at the moment, with the exception of today’s lunch chips because I ran out of time and couldn’t decide what to eat.

Last night was spinach and basil pesto on wholemeal spaghetti.

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not the greatest photo

I didn’t measure, but I threw some fresh garlic, fresh picked basil (mmmm!), baby spinach, cashews, salt and olive oil together in the food processor and added bits and pieces until it tasted good. Because of the spinach it had a milder flavour than my normal basil pesto, but it was pretty good. I also threw in some hemp seeds, for the lovely omega 3s!

To serve, I cooked the pasta, drained it and then tossed the pesto through. I topped it with some olives and sun dried tomatoes as well as “super sprinkles”. Super sprinkles are a Parmesan replacement, but Gary didn’t want to call it “fake Parmesan” so super sprinkles it is! I make it from roughly equal parts pine nuts and nutritional yeast, with a twist or two of the salt grinder, and then whizz it in the food processor. Some recipes say to put it in the oven to dry it out but I don’t worry about it.

This is what it looked like in the end (again I was a little slack on the presentation/photographing!):

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Now, before I get murdered by pesto purists, I know this isn’t a traditional pesto. My favorite pesto is actually a fully traditional basil pesto smashed in my mortar and pestle because nothing has ever compared to that flavour. However, this is a delicious and highly nutritious way to get some greens into you!

As a side note, I made sure to have an orange afterwards because the vitamin C aids absorption of the iron from the spinach.

Tonight I’m planning BBQ tempeh and some grilled veggies with a spinach based side salad. Can’t seem to get enough spinach lately!

Mmmmmmmmmmm

What summer means to me.

It’s only halfway into spring right now, but it’s been so hot and the air has been heavy with the threat of storms that haven’t eventuated yet that it feels more and more summery each day.

When the weather gets like this, there’s no way I want to be cooking inside over a hot stove or heating up the kitchen with the oven. So that means cold food, or move outside.

I haven’t turned the BBQ on since we started this vegan thing in March. But, in line with the weather, I’ve been craving grilled zucchini and eggplant so I dusted the cobwebs off the gas tank, hooked everything up and gave the BBQ it’s first run for the season.

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I marinated some tofu in the morning in a peanut sauce – which I am not quite happy with yet so I won’t be providing a recipe! We then skewered this with some mushrooms.

I sliced up some eggplant and salted it for a little. I generally don’t do this with homegrown ones as I find they usually aren’t bitter. Supermarket ones are a bit iffy so I usually salt those eggplants.

I sliced some zucchini, pumpkin and sweet potato. Tossed the veggies with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I added some Cajun spice to the pumpkin and sweet potato.

Throw it all on a nice hot BBQ, with a squeeze of lemon (still have no lemons so I used lime – lemon is definitely better!) over the zucchini and you’ve got a really quick delicious meal.

Lotta threw together a salad for me out of my fridge ingredients and we were good to go. So good!

To me, summer is epitomized in grilled zucchini and grilled eggplant. Both vegetables I fell in love with last year, and were it nutritionally viably I could happily eat nothing but grilled zucchini and eggplant all day every day.

Summer is definitely a salad and grilled veggies.

Interesting thing to note – Lotta commented that she found it nice to have a BBQ with us. She doesn’t eat much meat, and traditionally most BBQs are very heavy on the meat. I hadn’t really thought about that, but when she mentioned it I realized it was true. Aussies are always having BBQs, and the veg component is always a side dish – a salad, or some onions.

And that’s if there is a side dish. One of the typical Aussie responses to an informal event – whether it be Election Day or a school fete, or a fundraiser – is a sausage sizzle, which is a sausages and bread with sauce. Hell, the weekly sausage sizzle at Bunnings for various charities used to be our Saturday brunch tradition!

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So now we are eating plant based, and it’s heading into summer, I’m actually pretty excited to be exploring the world of vegan BBQs. I have a few ideas, but I do know that once our zucchini and eggplants start producing fruit I’ll be out there on a very regular basis. Mmmmm…

Cabbages and lentils!

So we had half a cabbage left from the one we picked last week. We also have a few more in the garden that will need to be used soon. Much as I’m a fan of the super basic steamed cabbage with salt and pepper, I also wanted to experiment a little with it and find some new dishes.

I also felt like lentils, so tonight took on a bit of an Indian flair.

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I delved into my spice rack and pulled out some of my favorites – cumin is my most used spice of all, I think. I also found the ground coriander seed, as I wanted a shortcut because it was getting late.

While I boiled about a cup of green lentils in some stock, I made the naan dough.

For this I used 2 cups plain flour with 4tsp baking powder – you can use 2 cups self raising as it’s the same thing. I then added a sprinkle (or two) of cumin seeds and then mixed some coconut milk and water in – a little at a time – till a nice dough formed. I kneaded it a little then covered it with plastic wrap and let it sit while I prepared everything else.

Finely chopped garlic and chili went into a small bowl with a generous sprinkle of each spice – heavy on the ginger and cumin, light on the coriander. I ended up throwing in some fennel seeds too. I didn’t measure anything so I can’t tell you how much of what went it.

I then thinly sliced some onion, and threw it into my pan with some coconut oil.

Once it had cooked a little, I added the bowl of garlic, chili, and spices. I let them all sizzle away till fragrant, then added some tomato. Next was the sliced cabbage, then when that had cooked down I threw in the lentils and some of their cooking stock.

After a bit of simmering, I had this to serve over some basmati rice:

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As for the naan, I just chopped off a small bit of the dough, rolled it out flat, and fried in a hot pan with some more coconut oil before serving.

Delicious, healthy, and filling!

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