Oh She Glows’ ‘Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta’

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It’s been a busy few weeks leading up to submissions for this semester of uni, and there are still a couple more to go. With the mounting stress, decreasing sleep and looming cold and flu season, I figured it was about time to look after my health a bit better. Starting with a hot cup of rose hip tea followed by a hearty meal.

With ‘health’ on my mind, I recalled a blog I once saw called Oh She Glows. Pretty healthy and inspiring things happening over there. It didn’t take long to find a recipe that appealed to my cravings: Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta. Yes, pasta. But it’s not your standard nutrient-lacking pasta sauce. While you’ve got the standard tomato, garlic (great for warding off those colds) and fresh basil combination, there’s also nutritional yeast, spinach and walnuts! It’s got to be the healthiest pasta recipe I’ve ever seen.

It’s easy enough to make, although with all those amazing ingredients it does end up on the expensive side. I’m also not sure how Angela manages to keep her version so red. Once I added the nutritional yeast to mine, the best I could manage was a vibrant orange. However, it is tasty, comforting and guilt-free. At least, more guilt-free than mi goreng or frozen dumplings, which are currently my unhealthy stand-bys for when I don’t feel like cooking. Next time I might whip out the food processor to really speed things up.

Hazelnut & Raspberry Muffins

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My friend Denise posted a photo on Instagram this afternoon of a fresh batch of green tea and mixed berry muffins. Naturally, I saw them and began to drool. She tagged the photo with ‘#procrastibaking’ and upon reading this, I dropped my essay research all over the floor and ran to the kitchen.

Procrastibaking is a real thing (I know, I was shocked too. And then I embraced it. Completely). It’s basically avoiding study by baking instead. Slightly more productive than trying to watch every Youtube clip ever uploaded.

My brief Google search turned up a recipe from Vegan Foodgasm, a vegan food blog that sadly hasn’t been active since 2010. But the person who ran it had exactly what I was looking for: a basic recipe that I could manipulate depending on what I felt like. I had some left over hazelnut meal that I was keen to use, so I substituted some of the flour for that. I also baked my muffins at 180°C (because 200°C scares me) for 25 minutes. The ingredients I ended up using were:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut meal
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup Soy Milky
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup frozen fruit raspberries

Made 10 medium muffins. Nom nom nom. Now back to studying.

Hommus

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Hommus, houmous, hummus, hummous, hommos, humos or hoummos. However you spell it, it has chickpeas and it tastes good. This Middle Eastern dip is a classic addition to any spread, but also extremely easy to dress up: throw in caramelised onions, sun-dried tomatoes or harissa for something a little different.

Hommus uses an ingredient called tahini, which is essentially ground up sesame seeds. To most people, it’s not exactly appealing by itself, but it does improve hommus. You might find you have a choice between buying hulled and unhulled. I’ve always bought the hulled type – the unhulled is darker and apparently has a stronger flavour – but there doesn’t seem to be too much difference between them. The brand I buy is Mayvers, which I get from the Health Food section in Coles supermarkets.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon of tahini
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil

Method:

  • Chuck everything except the oil into a food processor. I like to juice the lemons buy hand, using one to squeeze and the other to catch any pips. If you’re not sure how much lemon you like, only add half to begin with.
  • Turn on the food processor and slowly add olive oil until the dip reaches a consistency you’re happy with. Taste a bit and add more lemon if desired. You can also add some salt and garlic to season the dip, but I never find it needs it.
  • And there you have it: hommus! Serve with parsley to garnish/eat and sprinkle with sweet paprika.

It works out costing roughly $2.20 for about 2 cups (or 400g) worth of hommus, which is the same cost as the Coles homebrand version… except you end up with twice as much and it tastes far superior.

Vegenista’s ‘Orecchiette with Cabbage, Peas & Lemon Cashew Cream Sauce’

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Dinner tonight was courtesy of Vegenista‘s ‘pasta salad’ recipe, which you can find online here. I had to make a few substitutes due to availability (shell pasta for orecchiette, spring onions for scallions, soaked nuts for not-soaked nuts) but overall I was very pleased with the result. Basically, I’ll make it again. Tomorrow night.

I made roughly a quarter–half of the recipe, which was plenty enough to feed three people. One thing I’ll do differently tomorrow is serve it with some sort of leafy green side salad as it’s quite a heavy meal, despite all that healthy cabbage. I might even go searching for some tempeh bacon if I’m feeling inspired. Yum.

Lucky Coq

The ‘Organico’, without soy cheese.

Lucky Coq in Prahran (possibly the most difficult suburb in Melbourne to spell) is famous for pizza. Four dollar pizzas that is. I decided to spell out the price just in case you thought you were having trouble with your eyesight. Lucky Coq are open every day of the week and you can get pizzas until 2:30am* every night. They’re pretty chilled during the day but they get busy at night, so take the old ‘first in, first served’ sentiment seriously; otherwise you’ll be struggling to find a spare couch, especially with large groups. If I had to label the crowd I’d be leaning towards ‘hipsters’, but they really do get a mix of everything.

Their pizza list is decent, and the vegetarian category rivals the meat-eaters’. Some combinations will turn out quite bland without cheese, so make sure you check off the non-cheese ingredients in your head to ensure you get a decent feed.

My favourite is the Organico (pictured above), but do be aware that the soy cheese is NOT vegan. Sigh.

Lucky Coq has a sister establishment on the ‘northside’, called Bimbos, which also feeds the Fitzroy crowd for a bargain price.

* The $4 reduced price is only available at certain times: 11:30am–4pm, 7–11pm weekdays (7-9pm Fridays); 7-9pm Saturdays; and until 11pm Sundays. Bimbo’s has different times, see the website.

Prices accurate at time of post.

Lucky Coq on Urbanspoon

Mister Nice Guy: New Bakery Launch Party

Cupcakes! FREE (mini) CUPCAKES!

It’s very exciting to hear that Mister Nice Guy is opening up a new bakery in Ascot Vale this weekend. Not only that, but they’ve been hard at work perfecting other delicious vegan treats for your tummies. Including CHEESECAKE. I’ve been searching for good cheesecake—it’s my favourite dessert—since becoming vegan. Baking at home, I’ve had a few failed attempts, and am yet to find a vegan cream cheese that holds up to my expectations. Finally, we have a contender.

I’ve bought Mister Nice Guy cupcakes before. They have a pretty decent stockist list that includes The Radical Grocery, Kino Cinemas and Dymocks in the city.

I was so impressed by the small version that I even bought a cake from them for my birthday earlier this year. And it was delicious. I chose the “Sour Puss” flavour, which is a lemon-based cake with lemon zest cream cheese frosting. I had to buy the medium size in order to have it delivered, so we had a whole week of happy memories.

Lucas and Deb, the couple who run the company, are featured in fairly-recent Issue 47 of Frankie Magazine. It’s an interesting little read (if you can get your hands on a copy) about the highs and lows of working with your significant other.

My birthday cake

I have to say that it’s very impressive the company is endeavouring to cater not only for vegans but other fringe dietary resrictions such as gluten free, soy free and the raw movement. That’s a finger in a whole lot of pies. So far they are doing a mighty fine job filling Melbourne’s vegan-shaped hole with batter and icing.

Hopefully I’ll see you there on Saturday!

Vegan Freaks

I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon Bob and Jenna. It was during the early days of my veganism, and I wouldn’t put it past me to have typed something like ‘I have no vegan friends’ into Google. Somehow I landed myself on iTunes, listening to these two people on a podcast. I feel in love. I was 19 with no vegans in my life, and overnight I found two fanatical, sarcastic best friends who whined about the omnivores and how stupid some people could be (especially PETA). They also had an amazingly angsty theme song, not to mention their insane sound board featuring George Bush quotes—including an invitation to pet the turkey—and Oprah, welcoming the hommus to the table. Scouts’ honour.

Unfortunately they’ve since gone MIA so the podcasts have stopped and the website has timed out, taking the old recordings with it. But, fear not! Someone over on Youtube has uploaded 20-something of the most recent episodes, which you can find here.

Vegan Freak: Being a Vegan in a Non-Vegan World is a practical survival guide for veganism, written by Bob and Jenna Torres, published by Tofu Hound Press (best publisher name ever?). If I recall correctly, they wrote it because they were sick of answering the same questions over and over. Which is just naturally what you do.

The book includes: a how-to on becoming vegan; smart ways to deal with reactions from family and friends; it explains what is and is not vegan; and more importantly, why you should be vegan. Bob and Jenna have done their research (Bob has even written a second book about the political economy of animal rights, Making a Killing). Vegan Freak recommends some further reading and every chapter has a list of references you can follow up if you feel that way inclined.

The book is written in a casual tone—occasional language warning by the way—which means you feel less like you’re being lectured at and more like they’re just giving it to you straight. The authors are Americans living in America but they take a very global position towards veganism, and I felt I could apply most of the book to my day to day Australian life.

Looking back now, there’s so much content both in the book and the podcasts that’s relevant, even after three years. And if nothing else, it reminds me why I made this decision in the first place and it keeps me passionate.

You can check out Vegan Freak over on The Book Depository: grab a sneak peak and buy a copy for around AU$13 here.

★★★

Guacamole

Out of everything I’ve ever made or cooked—vegan or not—Guacamole is hands down the greatest crowd pleaser there is. Dinner party, house warming, birthday: it doesn’t matter what sort of gathering, people are going to love you. You literally can’t go wrong (except if the person doesn’t like avocado… which is too bad for them) and what’s more, it’s über easy to make. That also means that it’s über easy to remember too, so it’s no trouble to whip up at a moment’s notice when you don’t have your hands on a recipe.

One of my pet peeves about commercial guacamole is that companies often add cheese. This completely baffles me; it’s not like guacamole is bland without cheese, and who needs the extra calories and animal suffering anyway?

I’ve come across loads of recipes in cookbooks and online, but the best one I’ve ever learnt is from my cousin’s Chilean wife—no pen or paper involved.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1 small onion

Method:

  • Cut the avocados in half and remove the stones. Scoop out the flesh, with a fork, into a medium bowl.
  • Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the avocados. I use my fingers to strain out any pips (you know how I feel about dishes). I’d use the whole lemon, but you just have to make a judgement call on how lemony you want your guacamole and how juicy the lemon is to start with.
  • Using the fork, mash up the avocado and then whip until there are almost no chunks.
  • Dice the fresh tomato and onion and add to the mixture. Sometimes if I’ve bought spring onions to use for another dish, I save them from going bad in the fridge and add three, instead of a brown onion. Stir in the onion and tomato.
  • Voila! That’s it. Seriously. The mixture will make a loaded small bowl (plus some extra to snack on during the process).

Enjoy!

Blue Train Café

One of the first restaurants I went to after becoming vegan was the Blue Train Cafe in Southgate. They have a great mix of food so it was the perfect place to drag along my brother and father, who would have had fits at a vegetarian restaurant. It’s described as the ‘people’s cafe’ and I’m fairly certain you either need tattoos, piercings or an artistic hairstyle to be hired. But don’t worry, the staff are just as friendly as anywhere else.

Blue Train has retro outside seating, which is gorgeous for summer-time meals.

Although they don’t advertise for vegans, there are a reasonable number of dishes on the menu marked with a (V) for vegetarian. Some are suitable or can be modified for vegans. The following are dishes I’ve ordered in the past, and although I’ve asked waiters numerous times about being vegan, make sure you do too, just incase the people I’ve been talking to haven’t understood the ‘no meat, no cheese, no butter… etc’ spiel.

  1. > Pizza #5 with roast pumpkin, marinated fetta, caramelized leek, mozzarella, pine nuts and fresh wild roquette (V) $17.90 (Make sure you request NO cheese!)
  2. > Vietnamese style vegetarian spring rolls w wrapping lettuce, mint, coriander and dipping sauce (V) $12.90 (The dipping sauce comes on the side but I’m fairly sure it contains fish sauce, so either check or leave it in the kitchen.)
  3. > Golden dahl with coriander, hot stone bread & tomato, red onion and coriander salsa (V) $10.90
  4. > Roti bread served with peanut dipping sauce (V) $7.50
  5. > Moroccan spiced pumpkin with roasted capsicum, sesame chick peas & mixed leaves with honey yoghurt dressing (V) (G) $16.90 (Obviously avoid the dressing, ask if you can switch it out for the lemon vinaigrette if you like.)

My favourite dish so far is the Moroccan pumpkin salad. I believe I might have actually drooled when they brought it out, it looked and tasted divine. The portion sizes are filling, but if you find you’re after a little bit more, you can order a side of garden salad or steamed vegetables (watch out for dressing and butter!).

Salad: Moroccan spiced pumpkin with roasted capsicum, sesame chickpeas & mixed leaves with lemon vinaigrette

It’s not the easiest place to find—in fact, I don’t even remember how I discovered it in the first place. It’s address is given as:

MR5 Mid Level
Southgate Landing
Southbank VIC 3205

Map from the Southgate Melbourne website.

Directions: Cross the Southgate Pedestrian Bridge over the Yarra (away from Flinders Street Station), which has Ponyfish Island underneath, and take the entrance to the left. Walk down the hallway past kikki.k and there are escalators to the right of PJ O’Brien’s Irish Pub. Blue Train is upstairs, just a few large strides away from Chill On Ice Lounge.

Prices accurate at time of post.

Blue Train Café on Urbanspoon

Koko Black

Did you know Koko Black has vegan chocolates? I mean, well, there’s three… but it’s a start! They do have a high price tag but gosh they’re deliciousand this coming from someone who isn’t that keen on chocolate to begin with. What a great excuse to visit Royal Arcade in the city. And don’t worry if you forget the chocolate names before you get there, they have a great little pamphlet (that you can keep) with some of the best allergy labelling I’ve ever seen.

Dark Pistachio – “Almond and pistachio marzipan enrobed in dark chocolate”

Orange Segment – “Candied South Australian orange dipped in dark chocolate”

Mint – “Soft fondant with natural mint oil encased in dark chocolate”