Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shrooms and Avo on Toast


Life's been super full lately. Like bursting at the seams, exploding in every direction full. I moved. I got a real person job, then lost it. I made new friends. I've surfed everyday. Gardened and cleaned and weeded in exchange for a place to live. Realized what things were important in life still, and realized some that weren't. Went to my first ever music festival. Life is so entirely different right now than it was this time last year.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes a life. What are important things you should have in it, and what aren't. How you should try to decide what to do with everyday. Learning how to let go of what you thought was what you wanted but maybe now it doesn't fit anymore. And accepting new thoughts of things you maybe want that you never ever did before. I made a resolution to stop planning. To just show up and go with the flow. Before maybe I told myself that was lazy, or that I wasn't 'trying' for anything. That somehow it was lesser. But all I've been doing lately is just filling my time with things that are exactly what I want to do and not worrying about anything that isn't exactly right this minute.

Byron Bay, NSW Australia

For a long time I thought I wanted to be a fashion photographer. I did, really. I love taking pictures, I love meeting people, I love beauty and anything creative. It seems to all fit but somewhere along the way in trying to be that I lost what it was I wanted. It didn't feel right, and it hasn't for awhile. And I told myself it was cause I wasn't trying hard enough, or wasn't doing enough, and that it's hard to do anything creative, that the struggle is part of it. But when I moved to Byron, I stopped. I stopped organizing shoots, I didn't even think about it really. And I was/am happy. I surfed and gardened and talked to people and felt free in a way I haven't felt in ages. I hardly touched a computer. It had been who I was for so long, that I almost didn't know who I was without it. I got to melt into this anonymity of no one knowing that's what I did or who I was and I liked it. I worked a regular person cafe job for a bit, which was a first in years. I've worked freelance for myself for the past 3 years, and while I liked it, it was nice having a simple job. Someone tells you what to do, you get paid for the time you put in. It's a strange thing, realizing the thing you thought you wanted so much for so long, is no longer what you want. Maybe I knew somewhere in there for a long time that it's no longer what I wanted. I'm just stubborn as hell though, and have a hard time giving up sometimes. I have no idea what I'm going to try to focus on now. But for some reason, it doesn't bother me. Things work themselves out.



Australia seems to get my idea that a smashed avocado on toast is pretty much perfection. Loads of cafes and breakfast spots around here all seem to feature it on their breakfast menu. And it is perfection. I love shrooms almost as much as avocados, so this is the best of both worlds. This recipe's pretty simple, but then most of the best things are.



Mushrooms and Avocado on Toast
2 Slices Toast(gluten free or otherwise)
1/2 avocado
salt and pepper to taste
slice of lemon
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
clove of garlic
2 tsps vegan butter
sprig of fresh parsley

In a pan heat the vegan butter on medium heat, stirfry garlic til slightly browned. Add shrooms, salt, pepper, and parsley. Cook til softened and browned. Top one slice toast with shrooms

Smash avocado with a fork in a bowl, then spread on toast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon slice.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Scones


Today marks the day that 5 months ago I got to Australia. Overtired from being awake for over 24 hours, but more excited than I've ever been. It still seems a bit surreal, like I wake up and pinch myself and can't quite believe I'm here. I remember the first few days where it was like the game you play where you add a phrase to the end of anything you're doing and it automatically makes it more exciting. Like waiting for a bus is generally boring, but sitting at the bus stop I'd think to myself I'm waiting for a bus in Australia, and I'd start smiling like an idiot.

Have you ever gotten a call from the universe, that seems so random, but it feels like everything you've ever done has lead you to that moment. Sometimes I think about the things that have happened, or people I've met, or how if the timing on things had been a tiny bit different my life could be entirely different? It makes every moment seem a little more magical and I can't help but marvel at it. Life's pretty astonishing when you look at everything as a miracle. Australia was a call like that for me. I was on the beach the first time I was here and I just sort of had this realization that I was supposed to be here.



I started packing everything again this week. And been trying to use up everything in my cupboards, so I made scones. Sometimes Australia feels really similar to back home, then something random will come up that reminds me that I'm on the other side of the planet, little subtle differences. Like Australian Football, and regular football, and scones and biscuits. Back home scones and biscuits are the same thing pretty much. I googled to see what the difference was, cause I couldn't figure it out. Scones are more for sweet things, biscuits can go with gravy and the like. But here biscuits are cookies. So don't tell an Aussie that you're gonna put biscuits and gravy together cause they won't like it. But if you're in the Southern States that should go over fine? Confusing as.

I'm quite wary of scones normally, cause most of the ones I've had remind me of cardboard pucks. And  jam or no that's not something I really wanna eat. These guys stay nice and soft though, thanks to a weird addition of cornstarch, which I've found out keeps lots of baked goods nice and soft. Just a teeny bit is needed but it's worth it for sure. You can play around a bit with the amount of sweetener you want in these too, if you wanted a savoury scone add just a tablespoon or two and a bunch of vegan cheese. Or you can keep the 1/4 cup and throw in some berries or chocolate.



Scones

1 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon ground flax

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup vegan butter(stick form preferably)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon-1/4 cup sucanat

Preheat oven to 400.

In a bowl mix together milk, vinegar, and flax. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Stir together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and sucanat. With a fork or pastry cutter mash in vegan butter til the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces. Don't overmix, it's fine if it's not totally even. Stir in milk mixture til dough forms. Drop 1/4 cup size balls of dough onto a pregreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or til lightly golden on top.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Grape Expectations



Sometimes it takes you getting rid of absolutely nothing to see that you don't need all those things you think you do. In fact they weigh you down. Possessions, money, your friends and family. They're nice to have. Obviously. But the more things you strip away the more you realize that you're all you really need. If you're alive and breathing you are so lucky. You have it all. You're alive. And that is such a beautiful thing.

It took me awhile to realize this. I'm still not perfect at it. There's things I think that I just couldn't live without. And I know that's not true now. You just have to learn how to wrap your head around it. But once you do, once you realize you don't need any of those things that you cling so hard to, your safety net, you realize you'll be okay without it all. And it's remarkably freeing. It makes you appreciate having those things so much more. You can't know how much you'll miss something until you lose it.

It's a scary thing, stripping yourself of all the things that make you comfortable. But once you do, it brings this sense of freedom. Of infinite possibilities. It opens you up to things you never thought you could experience. The universe always provides what you need. It may not be what you think you need, but the universe knows better. It always gives you exactly what you need.

Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is a scary thing. It's your comfort zone for a reason. But nothing exciting in life happens to you while sitting on your couch(well maybe sometimes it does, but the majority of exciting things don't). And when you push yourself to try what's different, and feels weird, and is difficult, you encounter such a richer experience of living. And that's what it's all about, no?

I made a smoothie yesterday. Lately after not eating so great the past couple months, I've been gravitating back to just pure, clean, simple, whole foods. Things that came out of the ground, with not much done to them, if anything. Smoothies have always been such a great way of enjoying amazing fruits and veggies, so I did. I put grapes in too, which was weird for me. I never really seem to think grapes when I make smoothies, and was pleasantly surprised. It turned out remarkably grape-y, kinda like grape popsicles. I have no clue what took me so long! Sorry about the blog post title. Couldn't help myself!

Blueberry Grape Smoothie
1 banana,
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup grapes
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon flax seed
a couple ice cubes
1 packet stevia
dash of cinnamon

Put everything in a blender and blend!


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bread



I've begun to notice how life seems to go in cycles. Lots happens, then nothing. Like sets of waves. Then there's a lull, and you sit waiting for what seems like forever. And you start to wonder will another wave ever come? But one always does. Almost everyone who lived in the house I'm in right now has gone, and it feels a bit empty. It's strange to go from living entirely on my own last year, to a house with 6 other people. At first I was a bit scared, I've never spent so much time with so many people. But then I loved it. Always people around, someone doing something interesting. Now it's mostly just me and I'm readjusting to what feels like being an only child again. But it's given me some time to sit and think about things, and I'm reminded that there's opportunity in every situation, even if you can't quite see it at first.

Mostly I've been just baking. Baking a lot, cause it's what feels right right now. That and surfing and sitting at the beach and walking around a bunch. And taking lots and lots of photos. I feel like I'm a bit obsessed with memories right now, trying to capture them, remembering them, writing them down. When all of your life fits into two suitcases you have to find something aside from things to help you remember what's happened. Like a turtle, everything you own can be carried on you. I reckon turtles must have the best memories.



So the baking. I've never been a patient person, but bread forces you to be one. Or to employ just enough patience for it to turn out. You can't rush rising things, and the longer you wait the better the results. I think the key is to distract yourself. Mix the dough, knead it, chuck it in a bowl and set yourself a timer, then try to do all those little things that you've been putting off in an hour or two. Or my favorite distraction, make your dough before you go to bed and let it rise in the fridge overnight. You're making bread in your sleep! Then when you get up in the morning you pop it in the oven and you've got fresh baked bread to cram into your mouth while you're still half asleep and that's the best feeling.

Making bread is less complicated than you think probably. A couple cups of flour, some yeast, warm milk or water, vegan butter or oil. A pinch of salt and a little sugar to feed the yeast. I've been using dry yeast so you don't even have to proof it. With a batch of dough you can do so many things with it. You can bake it straight up and just have toast. You can roll it out and fill it with tasty things, or smush fillings into the dough. You can make it as interesting or as simple as you want.

A lot of bread making is just going by feeling. Does the dough feel too dry or too wet? Is it slightly elastic(it should be when you're done kneading it). Once when I was younger and making bread with my Aunt, she said dough should feel smooth and soft like a baby's butt, then you know it's ready. And while I'm not in the practice of fondling baby bums, it's a good analogy.



Basic Bread Dough

3 cups flour
1 packet dry yeast
1 cup warm dairy free milk or water(milk yields a softer dough)
2-3 tablespoons vegan butter(melted), or olive oil
pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar

Stir together flour, yeast, salt and sugar.

Make a well in the center and a well, add your liquid, and butter or olive oil, and stir with a wooden spoon til the dough comes together.

Finish kneading with your hand in the bowl til the mass is mostly stuck together. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead til smooth 5-7 minutes. Punch it extra if you've got any stress you'd like to let out.

Roll it into a smooth ball, and place it in an oiled bowl.

Cover with saran wrap or a damp tea towel, and place in a warm-ish, draft free place(on top of your fridge is good. Or, turn on your oven for 10 minutes, then turn it OFF, place the dough inside to rise. Make SURE your oven is OFF).

Let rise for an hour. Or put it in the fridge overnight.

Now you can bake it like this, roll it into a ball, or place in a loaf pan. Bake at 375 for about 20-30 minutes. Check on it after 20, tapping it should yield a hollow sound.

Or you can make it a little more interesting. I've experimented with a cream cheese/vegemite/spinach(always sneaking in greens) filling which was pretty good. Roll the dough into a rectangle, spread with toppings, roll it up like a jelly roll. Slice it down the middle with a knife, and twist the pieces around each other. See this link for pictures:http://www.justlovecookin.com/2011/11/estonian-kringel.html.

Or if you'd like to make a sweet version, chocolate chips and nuts are pretty great too. Brush the top with melted vegan butter before baking.

After you've shaped and filled the dough, let it rise for 30 minutes again while the oven preheats. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.



Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bread, and cookies, and cakes, oh my!

This blog has changed a lot since I first started writing it. I guess I have too. And so has what I've eaten and my approach to it as well. But a couple things are still the same, I started blogging because I wanted to show people that vegan food could be delicious and show off the variety of things you could eat. That's still the same. And I'm totally obsessed with food. Even moreso now probably.

What began as a raw vegan blog, turned into a recovery blog, turned into a strictly whole foods blog, and now it's just a vegan blog. And a bit of a peek into my life as well I suppose. While I totally believe you should eat as many fruits and vegetables as you can stand, and incorporate as many whole foods into your diet as you possible can, I've relaxed my rules(standards?) on what I put into my mouth as of late. Let me explain a little.

As far back as I can remember I've been an avid baker. I'd bake so much when I was younger that my mom started reprimanding me cause our family could never finish it all, and also cause I wasn't eating any of it since I had an eating disorder(whole 'nother story). Even before that fiasco, I was reading cookbooks like they were novels. I've just always loved looking at photos of food and reading instructions on how to make it. Baking's especially magical to me, you take a couple weird looking powders, chuck them together, heat them up and something amazing comes out. I never get tired of it. Bored, stressed, happy, all of it just makes me wanna bake things. And share it with others, cause that's my second favorite part of baking.

A lot of baking involves slightly less than healthy ingredients. And for the longest time I'd either just not bake, or experiment with healthy versions of baked goods, which was fun too, if expensive. And just now I'm starting to realize that it's okay if the things I want to bake aren't perfect. Doesn't mean you should eat a whole tray of them, but I'm coming to terms with if I wanna bake an amaaaaazing fluffy loaf of white bread, and I'm gonna use white bread flour to do it, it's okay. Which is a weird hang up to admit, I'll agree, but I feel like my focus now is trying to just stop making myself feel guilty about what I eat. Doesn't serve anyone, and it hurts more than it helps. A super rigid though pattern I've always dealt with is classifying foods as 'good' and 'bad'. Like if I eat one I am a perfect human, and if I stray I need to punish myself for the rest of the day.

So I've been baking a lot lately. Cookies, bread, cake, whatever. And using ingredients that previously I was terrified to touch. While I do think on the whole most people could eat less processed crap and more veggies, it's pretty hard to be mad at a loaf of bread you baked all on your own and you know it only has 3 ingredients in it. Sure one of them is flour, which isn't all that great for you, but life is about balance. And I think that's the thing I'm still trying to learn the most when it comes to food(and everything else really).

So that may have been a bit wordy and not made a lot of sense, but hopefully it explains the bouncing around of types of recipes on here. And it means you might be seeing a whole lot more bread on here cause I've been going through a big bread phase! Starting with a foccacia recipe tomorrow :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shepherd's Pie



When I was younger at Thanksgiving and Christmas I was only had one goal: eat as much mashed potatoes and gravy as my stomach could hold. Keep your turkey, and weird cranberry sauce, and everything else. I just want mashed potatoes and gravy. Not much has changed, really. Except it's usually mushroom gravy these days. Who decided berries should be on a dead bird anyways, that's just weird.

I'm getting to the point in my fridge where there's a few lonely vegetables rolling around from my last shop, and we just keep eyeing each other up whenever I open the door. I try not to make eye contact cause I feel guilty about not using them. Like I picked them out from tons of other veg at the store and now I don't want anything to do with them? Heartless.

I figured out what to do with them today though. There was a lonely veggie burger lurking in my freezer, as well as a cabbage and some cauliflower. So they turned into a Shepherd's pie. This fit into a pretty small dish, enough for 2 hungry people or 3 not very hungry ones.

I've been adding cauliflower to my mashed potatoes as of late. Makes more potatoes, more veggies for you, everyone wins.



Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Mashed Potatoes:
3 Small Potatoes, diced small
1 cup cauliflower florets, chopped
1/8 cup vegan butter
1/8-1/4 cup non-dairy milk
Salt and Pepper to taste

1 cup shredded Napa Cabbage
1 Small Tomato, diced
1 veggie burger(meatier tasty ones will work better for a more authentic flavor)
1/4 cup corn
1 carrot, diced
1 tablespoon vegan butter
Salt and Pepper
Dash of BBQ sauce

Bring a pot of water to a boil, boil potatoes and cauliflower until fork tender. Drain and set aside.

In a pan sautee the corn, carrot, cabbage and veggie burger with salt and pepper and vegan butter. When almost done add in the BBQ sauce and tomato.

Preheat broiler on the oven.

In a small square pan press the veggie burger mixture into the bottom. Layer the mashed potato mixture on top. Broil until the top is slightly browned(15-20 mins).

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Veggie Soup



Winter always seems to make me want soup, and even though it hardly seems like winter in Queensland I still want soup. This came together pretty quickly one rainy afternoon, and it's got a weird secret ingredient: Vegemite. I've been looking for ways to incorporate it into everything, and one suggestion I came across online was adding a little to hot water and drinking it as a broth. While I didn't go quite that far, I figured it would do okay as a broth substitute. It came out great to me, but if you're not feeling that adventurous you can just stick with regular veggie broth.

Pretty much any veggies you've got on hand go great in this. The one thing I find easy to overdo with soup is chopping up too many things and sticking them all in, and by the time I've done that it's hardly soup and more a very thick stew. Which is okay too, if that happens to you just chuck some more broth in. It thickens up quite a bit overnight as it sits too, especially if you use rice which seems to soak up the liquid quite a lot. You can sub rice with pasta too if you prefer.


Veggie Soup

15 oz can diced tomatoes
2-3 cups veggie stock
1 1/2 cups finely chopped cauliflower
1/2 cup corn
2 small potatoes diced
2 carrots, chopped
1 can cannelloni beans
2 large handfuls of spinach
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup cooked rice/pasta
salt and pepper

Into a large stock pot put the tomatoes, stock and garlic, bring to a boil. Add in cauliflower, carrots, corn, potatoes, turn down head and simmer for 15 minutes, or until potatoes are soft when poked with a fork. Add in cannelloni beans and rice, simmer for 10 minutes more. Turn off heat and add in spinach, stir to wilt. Taste and add salt and pepper.