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The Highs and Lows of Veganuary

Posted by on Feb 5, 2017 in Recipes - breakfast, Recipes - Savoury, Recipes - Sweet, Soup, Topical | 2 comments

“Animals are my friends…and I don’t eat my friends.” – George Bernard Shaw

 

It’s been nearly a week since I proudly completed Veganuary, along with my very un-vegany partner – which makes me doubly proud. It has been a brilliant show of solidarity with nearly 60,000 people world wide joining together to abstain from all animal products for the month of January. My pre January diet was about 80% plant based with the remaining 20% made up of a tiny bit of fish, a fair amount of eggs and the occasional product containing dairy. Here’s what I discovered / learnt from the full experience :

PROS

People are overwhelmingly kind

My partner’s very blokey fire brigade crew all decided to have vegan meals for all of their shifts together – entirely off their own bats, to show their support for him ! Bless !

I found a couple of working week staples which I fell in love with

Overnight oats (1/2 cup of oats, pinch of salt, 1/2 cup coconut/almond milk, 1 tsp acai powder, 2 tsp chia seeds, 2 tsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp maple syrup – mixed together and left overnight) every morn’ and

a quinoa buddha lunchbox creation (1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 1 tbsp kimichi (from green street kitchen), 1 square of flavoured tofu (Thai, Japanese etc)  1/3 avacado, 1 tbsp sesame oil, chopped capsicum, shallots, a few spinach leaves), every lunch.

Dark chocolate

Happily munched on the 90% Cocoa Lindt variety and adapted to it’s bitterness with ease (as opposed to my super sweet, milk containing Caramel variety which I usually eat).

Greek Delis are a good source of great vegan cheese

I was pleasantly surprised by this.  I learnt that Greek people abstain from animal products leading up to (and perhaps during) Easter. My purchase of a big block of their most popular vegan cheese (name unknown) from a big Marrickville Greek deli has kept me going all month. They told me that more options will be available closer to Easter.

Dairy Free Kingland  yogurt is delightful

Particularly the berry / chai one. It does not have that overwhelming soy or coconut flavour that some non dairy yogurts have.

I am in good company

There are many but my new discovery this month was the tennis champ William sisters.

My friends were happy to give a bit of vegan eating a go and joined us for a brilliant feast at :

The Green Lion – the new vegan pub in Rozelle, Sydney. It was a big hit and I’d thoroughly recommend it.

The list of sublime things to cook up is infinite. The standouts this month were :

Spicy Braised Tofu Tostadas,

*this ridiculously easy chocolate cake

Corn Zuchhini Fritters (in which I replaced the eggs with the aquafaba from the chickpea can – 6tbsp for the required 2 eggs) topped with avocado,salsa and Toffutti creme cheese

* even in the midst of a horrendously hot summer, this spicy Thai soup went down a treat.

* I am yearning to try this baked spinach and artichoke pasta. It’s on the menu this week.

My go to recipe sources just keeps expanding

The Happy Pear was my favourite discovery this month. I could happily live on their recipes alone. These healthy, inspiring Irish brothers are utter gems. I love their instagram feed of their early morning Irish sea swims.

Other people have removed the hard work / label stalking in supermarkets

Thank you Vomad. Your free guide specifically for Australia is outstanding (helps to identify products containing palm oil too).

I’ve scored a good one.

Not only did my fella dedicate 31 days to a plant based diet with no slip ups or complaints but he upped the anti at the end of the month. I had used some bribery to get him to commit to Veganuary by promising him that I’d make a $10 a day donation to his favourite charity (Medicens Sans Frontiers) per day that he made it through unscathed. He ended up donating the $$$ himself, enabling me to donate the same amount to my charity of choice (Project Hope) to let me say thank you. They have helped a situation I have been closely involved in over the last few days which is not my story to tell here. Suffice to say, the staff over at Southern Cross Vets are phenomenal.

CONS

  • Spending $12 on 3 miniscule donuts and cupcakes at a way too trendy little vegan Sydney place.
  • Put on a couple of kgs – too much good food to try !
  • I didn’t achieve the full conversion (or even partial really) of my fella as I had hoped – alas, he is adopting a couple changes (like my overnight oats) so I am happy.

So, looking at the pros versus cons…the way forward for me looks pretty clear. For me it is the most intentional way that I can express my love and respect of animals. It is also the most practical way that I can do my bit to fight against climate change (google animal agriculture and climate change, pick a reputable source, and you’ll see what I mean).

Despite it’s name, if you want to dip your toe in and give it a try, you can sign up with Veganuary at any time. The resources, information and recipes are great.

As per the beautiful words of Pam Ahern from Edgar’s Mission “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others, why wouldn’t we?”

Why not indeed ??

 

 

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My Vegan B&B Experience

Posted by on Sep 28, 2014 in Holidaying | 12 comments

Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as following an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. (Wikipedia)

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The menagerie – all living together in peace !

During my recent 7 week stint off work (now just a distant, fading memory…waaa.) I did many wonderful things…..including visiting Australia’s first Vegan B&B… Bed and Broccoli near Shepparton in country Victoria. This destination was one that has sat for a couple of years on my lengthy “I want to go there one day” list.

Despite the content of my blog, I am not vegan – but I do teeter on the edges of it. In terms of labels, I don’t quite know what I would be called or where I fit in. See the PS section at the end of this post for more about my dietary and lifestyle choices. My fella is a meat eater but only sparingly these days (I am the cook of the family afterall !).

Bed and Broccoli is run by the lovely and  down to earth Nikki and Scott. The B&B is a transformed old dairy and sits smack bang in the heart of dairy country land which seems an odd fit for a vegan couple and their menagerie. However, to me the small property felt akin to an oasis in the middle of a desert. In a land of flat, fairly tree-less terrain – admittedly with some stunning, yellow canola fields dotted about….Bed and Broccoli is a little haven of life, trees and peace. Birds gravitate to it, obviously feeling safe there – including a stunning pair of wild peacocks, Samson and Delilah, who have made it their home.

On arrival we were greeted at the front gate by Khan, the charismatic ridgeback cross who fawned and gushed over us and made us feel like we were his favourite guests EVER…..only for Nikki to tell us that every guest receives this treatment. You hussy Khan ! The other beautiful canine resident was Chaz, the soulful, quiet Wolfhound cross who would stare off whimsically into the distance like a wise old man. Heartbreakingly, Chaz had been found many years before tied to a tree deep in a forest, emaciated and left to die…..only to be adopted by Nikki and Scott into the dog’s heaven equivalent of a life he leads now.

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Soulful Chaz

 Two cheeky cows (steers ? Sorry, I am a city lass !), Frankie and Pacific also call Bed and Broccoli home. Fate, in the form of Nikki and Scott, stepped in and saved them from slaughter when they were “bobby calves” (usually deemed as waste products by the dairy industry). They are now 2 strapping, cheeky, naughty, rough tongued creatures (as you can see by my maniacal grin….I was very happy to have my hand licked as I fed them apples). The sweet old dairy cow “Squirty” was similarily saved by Nikki and Scott and acts as a surrogate mum to the 2 boys, Frankie and Pacific.

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Feeding Frankie apples

And then there were the bevvie of “girls” – the chooks who have been rescued from different, grim fates to lead “the life of Riley” at Bed and Broccoli….along with their bossy rooster sidekicks. All of them made us giggle with their crazed running styles and unbridled enthusiasm for canned corn.

Now we’ve covered the animals….onto the next most important thing……the FOOD ! In short, it was delicious and whipped up by self taught vegan chef extraordinaire, Nikki.  “Cheesy” (but not of the dairy kind), vegetable packed, enormous calzones were dished up on the first night and home made, delectable pizzas on the second night. The breakfasts were similarly divine (apple pancakes one morning and scrambled tofu…much nicer than it’s name suggests I promise…on the other). We dined outside by the dam, with the sun setting and the magpies warbling in the trees.

Our cottage was comfortable and well equipped (including an 80’s style pac man gaming machine – incongruous, yes, but kept my fella amused) with DVDs and games and a fire to stoke. There were a billion stars to gaze at during the night and, at dawn, we had a bracing reminder about just how early roosters do like to herald in the new day !

The thing which I think would be of most surprise to people who have a stereotypical image of what a vegan life style is like…..our experience was the opposite. I am not at all surprised at how flavoursome the food was as plant based meals are the norm at home but what was a little bit of a pleasant surprise was the “robust-ness” of not only Nikki and Scott but of the animals. Scott is a very blokey, muscular, wood chopping, champion boxer. The dogs, Chaz and Khan, eat a vegan diet too and, the proof is in the photos – they are strapping, shiny, healthy and happy.

I love the way that what would no doubt be considered an “unusual” lifestyle choice in the midst of dairy farming land, is accepted by the local  community. The local farmers want to know when Nikki’s book is coming out and Nikki’s vegan sausages and cakes are shared (and devoured) at community events. From chatting with Nikki, there is no “us and them” mentality which I think is just lovely.

If you are after a unique get away which encompasses kind living, animals, serenity and great food, I would highly recommend a visit to Bed and Broccoli. The next best thing would be getting your hands on a copy of Nikki’s soon to be available book which I cannot wait to get – it promises recipes, stories about the animals and why Nikki and Scott left their jobs on the outskirts of Melbourne and chose the beautiful life they have now.

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Meandering the countryside nearby

PS As for me and my ever evolving dietary and lifestyle choices…this is where I am currently at. For any fully fledged vegans reading this page, I know that my choices are riddled with contradiction and far from perfect but they are a work in progress.

– I no longer eat meat but do have a small amount of seafood (around once a week). The seafood thing is becoming harder to justify as I learn more about the issues of over fishing and the unsurprising fact that, yes, fish do feel pain.

– I eat about 4 eggs a week from organic / free range sourced eggs but will not buy any products (eg mayonnaise, banana bread etc) which I know to contain eggs as they will be caged sourced. I usually use egg replacements in baking as they work just as well as eggs.

– I buy meat for my partner from “ethically sourced” suppliers. I do use that term with some trepidation as I do not believe that humane slaughter happens in Australia and that most animals will die in fear so classing any meat as “ethical” can be a bit of an oxymoron. I do acknowledge, however, that the likes of Feather and Bone or Jonai Farm do help the lives of animals raised for meat by raising awareness about the evils of  factory farming and improving some aspects of the meat industry such as transportation and abattoirs (eg sourcing ones that voluntarily install CCTV cameras).

– I will no longer buy leather but I still have some a few leather items in my wardrobe which I occasionally wear. I rarely buy wool products and prefer to source alternate ways to keep warm. See more on my wool post.

– I don’t eat jellied lollies or any thing else which contains gelatin (crushed up bones/tendons – gross !)

– I eat a small amount of dairy at home- namely cheese from Barambah Organics where they don’t remove and slaughter the male calves as they do at conventional dairies. As for milk, I now actually prefer plant based milks such as coconut, almond and soy (Bonsoy is the best !) to cows milk. Out and about, I tend to avoid all dairy.

– My dog does eat meat but I bulk up his dinners with a lot of lentils, chickpeas and vegetables so I can reduce the amount of meat that he does eat.

The vegan lifestyle may not appeal to everyone but it would be hard to argue against the notion that it is a kind and compassionate way to live.

Would love to hear any thoughts you may have !

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Up close and personal with Pacific

 

 

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All things Cheesey

Posted by on Sep 21, 2013 in Dairy | 2 comments

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That is the essence of inhumanity” – George Bernard Shaw

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Kite Hill vegan cheese

Cheese, or should I say, the absence thereof in it’s conventional form, is a tricky topic. The removal of dairy from ones diet due to ethical reasons has, at first glance, a whiff of hippy extremism about it. (“I can understand about the pigs in the cages but, not eating cheese, WHAT ?!? You have completely lost me on this one” – quote from my dad). That is, until you start researching the reasons why people choose to give it up. I do believe that if we all watched videos of mother cows running and bellowing after their calf being taken away on the back of a ute, viewed rows of immobile, miserable calves in veal crates or watched footage of baby cows who are barely able to walk being stunned and pushed down a shoot to be slaughtered just like rubbish into a bin, any compassionate person would or should question the origin of cheese (or any other dairy product).

The facts are basic. Cows need to give birth to a calf each year to produce milk which humans use for yogurt, milk, cheese etc. The calf is taken away from it’s mother at the tender age of around 5 days of age. Male calves are considered waste products of the industry and are killed. Our laws to protect them from suffering are woefully inadequate (for example, baby calves on their way to the abattoir can be legally denied food for up to 30 hours). Their mum’s are killed when their milk production wanes.

The silent suffering of these most vulnerable of animals – mothers and babies in the far away land of sale yards, dairy farms and abattoirs remains hidden from most of us. Which makes it very easy for us to forget about what really does happen out there.

I have room for improvement in my cheese eating habits. I still eat a bit of Barambah Fetta and Cheddar Cheese (see my  “kind dairies” post). I also sometimes come up with excuses to eat a bit of “ordinary” cheese now and again but I want to be stronger in my resolve. I want to think about where my food comes from and what animal has suffered for my greed, desires, laziness or lack of thought. I am trying to be a kinder, more thoughtful eater.

Thankfully, I am on the path of discovering the world of non diary cheese and, much to my surprise,  it is tasty learning curve.  Non dairy cheese can be made at home with recipes varying in their complexity. I have made a couple – see my ricotta recipe here. I have many more waiting in the wings.

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Botanical Cuisine vegan cheese

Non dairy cheese can also be bought with relative ease. I have made some recent delectable discoveries, some of which I even prefer to “normal” cheese. Botanical Cuisine’s range is out of this world – the Lemon and Dill is blissful. Also it is Australian which is appealing. Most other non dairy cheese on the market is made overseas.

Here’s a few brands which I would recommend to Buy :

Tofutti – regular or sour cream is a good replacement for cream / sour cream cheese and can be found in supermarkets and health food shops. Affordable and can always be found in our fridge. Was not so keen on their “better than ricotta” and much preferred my home made version !

Vegusto No-Moo cheese – expensive – around $10 for 200g but so convincingly “cheese like” that I will continue to buy it. I also like the fact that it is palm oil free which seems a rarity. I found it at Dr Earth in Newtown but it can be bought online too (including Cruelty Free Shop and Vegan on line). I spied it on the weekend too for sale in my favourite Blue Mountains bakery / café – Rubyfruit (which, by the way, has the best pies and cupcakes I have ever tasted – all completely free of animal products).

Redwood Cheezly. Great variety of types such as “Blue Style” and “Melting Mozzarella”. Can be found at the Cruelty Free Shop and Vegan On line. Affordable and dependable.

Sheese – have spied these cream and hard cheeses in a few places like Harris Farm and Thomas Dux. Great to mix through pastas. Have the “Smoked Cheddar Style” waiting for me in our fridge (I bought it at Dr Earth in Newtown).

If only Dr Cow and Kite Hill (see top photo) would make their way to Australia. Kite Hill does the full on, aged camemberts and the like with such authenticity and rave reviews that I am having the worst of kind of vegan cheese envy possible.

Learn to make your own dairy free cheese

Here are a few recipes to get you tantalised !

Parmesan made With Cashews

Almond “feta cheese’ spread with herb oil

Another Feta Cheese version (thanks Bed and Broccoli for this one)

Vegan cheese – good for on crackers 

Non-dairy Baked Nut Cheese

Dairy Free Brie

Cashew Cream Cheese

Soft Cheese Platter

Marscapone

Rustic Pumpkin Cheese ravioli

Macaroni Cheese

The health issues surrounding the consumption of dairy are beyond the scope of this little post but I have read as many articles denouncing the health benefits of dairy as those promoting it so the jury is out. Calcium does not only come from dairy products but is found, in high doses, in the following foods – soy, nuts, seeds (especially sesame seeds), sardines, tinned salmon with edible soft bones, legumes, dried figs, whole grains and broccoli and kale.

A few suggestions on how to make some kinder choices

Say no to dairy cheese. Buy or make a vegan cheese and be baffled by how convincingly cheese like they can taste (not all of them, mind you !)

If you want to continue to eat conventional dairy cheese, try and buy from the “kind dairies“. These dairies treat their cows and environment better than conventional ones. Usual story, yes, it is usually more expensive but just eat less or it and / or try a vegan cheese here and there. Remember too that most cheese contains rennet which is an enzyme derived from the stomach of baby cows. Become a label stalker and ensure that  “non animal rennet” is listed as an ingredient.

Instead of cheese, try a delicious diary free dip / spread on sandwiches, pasta etc. I made this delicious pesto yesterday. Hummus is always a great, protein rich option too.

Sponsor a bobby calf at Edgars Mission, Brightside or one of the other wonderful sanctuaries around the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Recipe of the Week – Ricotta “cheese”

Posted by on May 11, 2013 in Recipes - "Cheese" (but not quite) | 0 comments

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Photo from  “Be Their Voice (Stop Animal Cruelty)”

This absolutely gorgeous photo has nothing to do with non dairy cheese BUT it captures how I feel about my favourite season of autumn being here and my happiness at finding a decent and tasty dairy free substitute for ricotta cheese.

Plus, I managed to drop our camera into the wild south coast surf on the weekend, complete with memory card containing  my Ricotta and Spinach Cannelloni dish photo which I was originally going to include….so, you will just have to use your imagination on this occasion !

If you are looking to cut out or cut down on dairy, this recipe is a great one to start with. It is easy and fairly economical to make and it can be used in the place of ricotta cheese for any savoury dish. Should you see yourself venturing into the making of non dairy cheese on a regular basis you will need to stock up on savoury yeast flakes and raw cashews both of which are readily available at any health food store.

This recipe is courtesy of The Simple Veganista with just a few adjustments :

Ingredients

1.5 cups of raw cashews

1/3 cup of water

1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar or the juice of 1 large lemon

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 Tsp of onion powder

1 heaped Tbsp of Savoury Yeast flakes

Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Do

Soak cashews for at least 2 hours in a bowl of water. Ensure that the nuts are covered by about an inch of water.

Drain cashews and place all remaining ingredients into a blender or food processor until creamy.

Store in fridge. Makes about 2 cups.

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Winter witterings

Posted by on Jun 14, 2015 in Uncategorized | 10 comments

Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless. ~Terri Guillemets

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Homeless (but snug) dog we spied in Osaka, Japan a few years ago

Aside from having to traipse to work in the chilling pitch black during the week, I adore winter – even this mild excuse of one which we have in Sydney. And I don’t mind a list. So, here we go, a nice winter obsessed list of everything that has been grabbing my attention of late.

Eating

* I made this ramen this other night and it was divine. I added corn and tofu to it – scrumptious.

* Can’t wait to make Lila Wolff’s Leek and Potato Soup or this Italian Orzo Spinach Soup.

* Just check out these drool worthy baked potatoes and accompanying dipping sauce thanks to the delightful Tassie Cabin Fever. Oh my lord !

* Victorian based Dairy free Damona Divine Brie is a magnificent example of how sublime vegan cheese can be. I hunted it down after reading this very funny review on vegan cheeses in general. I polished off the whole wheel in a week on some biscuits with quince paste. Can’t wait to try the entire range (easily found here in Sydney at The Cruelty Free Shop).

* This home made Chai is so easy to make and so tasty and warming on a chilly day. I make mine with coconut / almond milk.

* Being a porridge lover, this hot Apple Pie Oatmeal looks entirely up my alley.

* I am attempting to be a good, savvy shopper and buy seasonally. Thanks Cityhippyfarmgirl for your great guide to what we should be buying during winter. Sustainable table do a fab guide as well.

Wearing

* Yearning after these very suave little ankle boots from Vegan Wares in Melbourne.

* These articles, The Ugly Side Of Ugg and 18 Vegan Ugg Boot Alternatives are filled with cruelty free suggestions to keep your feet toasty in winter.

Skin Spoiling

* Avoid reptilian dry skin this winter by giving yourself a good ol’ rub with the scrumptious hot salt body scrubs by the ethical Australian company Mancine ( I’ve been using the Coconut and Vanilla scented one). Or DIY it up with one the many homemade scrubs out there – I like blah, blah, blah’s coffee body scrub.

Doing

* Despite being the “challenged” pupil in my recent learn to crochet class (complete with the indignity of being the sole member of the class to be given a gigantic, beginners crochet hook) I am still determined to master the granny square and beyond. When I am ready to purchase some wool, I’ll be going straight to EWE Ethical Wool Enterprises where the wool comes from loved, rescued sheep and alpacas. (Need a reminder on what is wrong with (some/most) wool ? My post here may help). I am far, far away from knitting / crocheting projects but here is a great way to share your skills (and keep a rescue dog snug) at the same time.

* Petition signing. This month, the growing surge of protest against the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, scheduled for next weekend in China needs your support too – you can sign here. Public outcry last year led to the number of dogs killed being 2000 instead of the previous years 10,000 so petition signing does help.

* Starting to de-clutter the shed. Today is the last day of the Tu-Share challenge but it is not too late to join up and rid yourself of what may be trash to you but treasure to someone else (whilst bypassing landfill) – plus, plus, plus !

* Gardening. Gardenate is my bible for finding out what to grow, next to what and when. Things to plant right now include asparagus, spinach and kale. A loved blog I follow “Think Big Lives Simply” provides a cute, printable guide when you subscribe (which you should, it’s a beautiful blog – particularly for tree change fantisizers like myself). My garden is currently chock a block full of weeds (really hideous, entrenched ones) and I have missed the boat for this winter so my aim is to prepare for spring by de-weeding and “green manuring” the soil – faba beans, field peas, oats and wheat are apparently good ones to use at this time of year to put nutrients back into the soil.

* Dreaming of a get away to The Beet Retreat which will become a reality next winter. Those misty Yarra Valley hills (and Jan’s food) are calling me !

* I’ve just finished reading “The Opposite of Loneliness” by Marina Keegan. Goodness, if you need a kick up the bum to make the most of your time on your earth (and marvel at the outrageous literary talent of this 22 year old), read this book.

What wintery delights have been tickling your fancy ?

 

 

 

 

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