Sunday, 30 October 2011

Chocolate Orange Pecan Muffins (and Australian wholemeal flour advice!)

A batch of orange, pecan and chocolate-chunk muffins sounds pretty droolworthy, right?

How about a batch of wholemeal (wholewheat) chocolate orange pecan muffins? Or a batch of low-fat wholemeal chocolate orange pecan muffins with only two tablespoons of oil included? The fun sounds like it is quickly exiting stage left, doesn't it? Well...

How about a batch of low-fat, wholemeal chocolate orange pecan muffins? Yeah, I've lost you now, I know. But come back, and read on for a little while longer. Bryanna Clark Grogan created this recipe. Need I say more?

After attempting to get myself together, and after James and I experimenting with raw food for a short time, we're having a tough time adjusting back to the desserts I used to make. I'm still a food snob with high standards, but too much fat and sugar this week, and I find myself pinging around the room like a madman. Enter a new recipe from Bryanna Clark Grogan (an old one for her Vegan Feast subscribers!).

Chocolate Orange Pecan Muffins

Being completely honest, I didn't expect much from these (despite my utmost respect for Bryanna Clark Grogan!), based on the fact that the recipe called for "wholewheat pastry flour", which to the best of my knowledge, we can't get in Australia. She warns against using ordinary wholemeal flour in the recipe, but I remembered in her new book, World Vegan Feast, she has looked at the protein and gluten contents of flours around the world, and had indicated that despite our inability to access wholewheat pastry flour in Australia (we can only get white pastry/cake flour), our ordinary wholemeal flour has a much lower gluten and protein content than that available in the United States.

That means, that in Australia, we should be able to use ordinary wholewheat flour in recipes calling for the pastry version. How awesome are her research skills?! This has just opened up a gazillion more recipes to my repetoire.

I've not had much luck with wholewheat baked goods in the past, but I've had some success with low fat recipes (and some very, very dry disasters), and with little to lose, I attempted this recipe.

What a pleasant surprise - they were just wonderful, somewhat rustic, and suitable for company. They were surprisingly light, moist, rose and browned well, and were delicious and satisfying. The chocolate-chunks were a lovely addition, as they melted somewhat - while keeping some firmness, the orange was not overpowering (or underwhelming), and the pecans added a lovely nutty crunch. Perhaps I would leave them chopped a little more coarsely, next time.

James' Note: And I absolutely concur; they're so delicious! Don't expect these to last long if you leave them out.

Anyway, after all of these words, I present you with a link to the recipe here and a strong recommendation that you make these! These are also similar to The Urban Vegan's citrus-scented blueberry muffins (made with coconut oil), which I think would sit alongside these nicely. Please leave Bryanna a comment when you make them (come on, we both know it's just a matter of time before you do), and keep an eye out for my upcoming post on Bryanna Clark Grogan's work. You can Bryanna's blog here.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Adorable Animal Update

Even though the animals that live with us are the most adorable and wonderful and lovely and cute (PLEASE DON'T HURT ME, SYLVIA), there are some particularly adorable other animals out there. And, yes, differs from our usual posting schedule (as if we have one), but who doesn't love adorable animals?

Graeme the Cat
See the video here if the player above doesn't work
Graeme is most often see at a Melbourne train station, doing the normal cat things: lapping up attention, sunning himself, and just generally sitting around being adorable. But he isn't just any cat; he accompanies his owner to the train station in the morning for her commute to work, and then is there to pick her up when she gets the train home at night. Now that's devotion.

Polar the White Wombat
Some information and the video here
Polar is a very rare white wombat. He was found in South Australia, alone and sick, but has since been nursed back to health. There are no words for how absolutely adorable he is. No. Words.

Mystery Cat "Macavity" Catches the Bus (read the story here)
Two to three times a week, Macavity catches the the 331 bus from in front of some houses, to a row of shops (including a fish and chip shop) a little down the road. Apparently cats are better at public transport than we are? He's been catching the bus since January and is apparently the perfect passenger; sitting quietly until he gets off at his stop.

And that's the wrap of cute animals this week, because sometimes it's nice to have nice news about nice things that have happened. Nicely.

See you soon!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Boozy Mexican-Inspired Iced-Chocolate

I don't know about you ladies and gentlemen, but when I get home from work, I just want to stay home. If I've turned the TV on, started reading a book, or had a snack, chances are - I'm gonna stay at home. Generally this is fine - when I go out to dinner with friends, I plan it so that we have an early dinner, and meet even a little earlier. This way I can just swoop home, feed Sylvia, and head out again, without getting comfortable.

Sylvia. Feel the eyes of judgement? How do I cook under these conditions?!

But the above scenario is so idealistic it makes me vibrate with happiness. Reality doesn't always happen that way. Quite often, dinner/catching up with friends and family is at 7:30pm, or in the case of my friend Ang, who swings by after work on Thursdays, 9:30pm (but at least I don't have to leave home for that!). And I cherish Ang's visits - I sit in my pyjamas (James is at dance rehearsal, so I don't have to keep the illusion of perfection up), her in her work uniform (and what an interesting uniform that is...), and we watch the greatest TV series  in the history of the Earth - "The Comeback" starring Lisa Kudrow, whilst eating desserts.

The Issue
So it happened the other night was my Step-Mother's birthday dinner,  but, shock-horror, it wasn't until 7:30. How could I possibly motivate myself to get up back off the couch after watching the freak-show that is Iron Chef?! I knew what to do. The answer was easy. The answer was delicious. Give myself a little bit of dutch courage and a kickstart in the form of a creamy, spicy, alcoholic drink. But I didn't have a recipe to follow.

The Solution
Luckily, I was feeling unusually creative - spurred on with a laissez-faire attitude from whipping together that delicious chia pudding, and having a little leftover nut cream from the weekend. So it was decided that I would just throw some decadent things together and hope for the best, and to trust that magical alchemy would take place. Fingers crossed. And tasting something awful would probably motivate me even MORE to leave the house.

Above is my creation. And wow, this is exactly what I needed/wanted. It's a little bit spicy, with warm, cinnamony chocolatey notes, sweet from the agave nectar and fruit syrup, a delicious tang from a good slash of Cointreau and some chilli, and a whole-lot creamy, thanks to the home-made almond milk, nut cream and a big dollop of chocolate-chip-cookie-dough flavoured Cocoluscious. Purr.

A perfect Monday night drink, it gave me the strength to put my happy celebratory face back on to celebrate a birthday. I'll be back with a recipe for it soon.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

My Frozen Favourites

So, I was "studying" when Cale from The Green Edge tweeted about getting in Smooze ice creams. At which point I remembered that we have some in the freezer, and if we weren't meant to bracket lunch with dessert, why can we?


Admittedly, it's cold today (at least where I am), but before we know it, the hot weather will be here and we'll have no idea what happened.

And apparently ice cream places sell more ice cream in Winter than they do in Summer. I have a feeling that's rubbish, but I also find that I love eating cold things in Winter. No idea why.


My favourite ice cream is Cocoluscious, mainly because it's DELICIOUS. My personal favourite flavours are Mexican Chocolate, Choc-Chip Cookie Dough, and Coffee. All of the flavours all vegan (and thus dairy and egg free), gluten free, and soy free (except for choc-chip flavours (the chocolate chips have soy lecithin in them))! Best of all, unlike many vegan ice creams, it uses all natural ingredients, some of them organic, and you can pronounce all the ingredients! (and it's a small business based on the Gold Coast, so you're supporting a local small business = amazing karma!)

Available flavours Vanilla, Chocolate, Coconut, Raspberry, Blueberry, Mango, Chai, Vanilla Choc-Chip, Peppermint Choc-Chip, Mexican Chocolate, Coffee, Choc-Chip Cookie Dough
Available from The Green Edge Enoggera; Freestyle Tout West End & Fortitude Valley; Flannerys Natural Grocers Taringa, Loganholme, Wynnum, Chermside, Wooloongabba; Wray Organic Newmarket, Indooroopilly. If you don't live in Brisbane, Flannerys and Fundemental (Fundies) in other locations should have Cocoluscious. Otherwise, check the stockists on the Cocoluscious website.

Of course, sometimes you'd rather just have sometimes quick and delicious rather than having to crack open a whole tub (because opening a whole tub usually means finishing a whole tub). Fear not! SMOOZE to the rescue! These are basically little packages of smushy goodness, all made with fresh fruit juices and purees, and coconut milk. They're kosher, halal, vegan, free of artificial preservatives, colours, and flavours, and delicious!

Available from most major supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths), as well as smaller grocery stores (like The Green Edge, etc). If you can't find it, the website even has a "report Smooze missing" link. The website also tells you how you can get smooze into schools (so your kids can choose something delicious that isn't full of artificial colours and bucketloads of sugar).

DIY Totally Natural Ice Cream
But maybe you're stuck at home and just want to make something yourself. In this case, this is one of my favourite desserts. It takes a little preparation, so it's not as quick as either of the others, but it's absolutely delicious and creamy.

You'll just need a couple of bananas and some frozen berries. Cut up the bananas into a container and put in the freezer for a couple of hours (you want them frozen, but it's probably best if they're still a little soft to make it easier on your food processor!). Once they're ready, chuck them in the food processor with about the same amount of frozen berries. Process! It may start out a little grainy, but after a few minutes, it will become smooth. Either scrape out into a glass / bowl and eat right away, or put it in a container and put it back in the freezer to eat later.

Yes, it sounds too simple to be any good, but it's quite amazing. And it's just fruit!

There are many variations on this basic recipe, so have a look around for other recipes (raw food uncookbooks will often have something like this), or just experiment until you find something that works for you.

Well, consider yourself prepared for the hot summer days. We're trying to keep a low profile so everyone can keep up with all the Vegan Mofo posts, but we'll be back in a few days with something new!

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Urban Vegan's Mexican Chocolate Chia Pudding

The other day, I came across a blog post by a fantastic author, "The Urban Vegan", with a recipe for her spin on chia pudding - in a mexican chocolate flavour.

I was first introduced to chia seeds by a Naturopath who told me to add the seeds to water, wait for the "gel" (slime) to form, and then drink them. Eeeew. Saturday, I made a spooky/strange chia drink that promised to be a "Natural Red Bull" after finding this blog post/recipe on the internet. It contained chia seeds, water, lemon juice and agave nectar. I then prodded The Academic into drinking it (he's so adorably trusting of me). He wasn't impressed with the level of deliciousness (James' Note: It tasted like I'd imagine swallowing tadpoles would and it didn't give me any energy. What gives, Incas?), so was even more skeptical of my idea of a chia pudding.

Now, the blogosphere has been obsessed with chia pudding ever since it was served for breakfast (!! pudding, for breakfast??) to many of the internet's best bloggers at Vida Vegan Con. For those of you who attended: I am so jealous. I've read the blogs of everyone who attended, drooled over their photos and wished I'd been able to attend the seminars and meet so many incredible people who have inspired me in the kitchen. Believe me, I'm insanely jealous like a crazy person.

Many recipes and variations for chia pudding have been circulating on the internet since Vida Vega Con, and although it certaintly does not photograph well (it definitely falls into the category of "ugly food"), I really wanted to give it a try.

Chia seeds are a bit of a new health-food craze, famed for their high level of Omega-3 fatty acids. A number of bloggers are eating them, drinking them, and using them to replace flaxseeds for binding in baking. They seem to be up and coming in the superfood world (but like most superfoods, the pushers are always telling us how "ancient" these foods are, and how the Incans and the Mayans and the Aztecs and Minnie Mouse herself etc ate them. Who cares!? Do those civiliations even exist anymore?) but most of us are familiar with them as they were used in the form of "Chia Pets". A quick Google also reveals a "Chia Britney", and a "Chia Obama", amongst others. Hmmm..

According to the USDA (via Wikipedia):
"In a one ounce (28 g) sample, dried chia seeds contain 9% of the Daily Value for protein (4g), 13% fat (9g) (57% of which is ALA) and 42% dietary fiber (11g), based on a daily intake of 2000 calories.The seeds also contain the essential minerals phosphorus, manganese, calcium, potassium and sodium in amounts comparable to other edible seeds, such as flax or sessame."

I'm pleased to report that I made a chia pudding, and it was fantastic, delicious and satisfying. As a bonus, when made from raw ingredients, it's actually quite nutritious (even for breakfast), containing almond milk (so easy to make at home, and a particularly good source of Vitamin E and magnesium), a little bit of delicious low-GI sweetener in the form of agave nectar, cacao powder (depending on the source, a great source of minerals and antioxidants), vanilla, chia seeds, and a pinch of salt. It's a breeze to whip together, but unfortunately you do need to give it a few hours or overnight to set. We've had it twice in two days - I'm clearly impressed - it's so delicious for something so nutrient-rich.

The Urban Vegan's post, with her excellent, easy recipe and a photo (I warned you it doesn't photograph well, but thank goodness for Frida Kahlo), is here. Also, The Urban Vegan's new cookbook "Celebrate Vegan" is going to be released very soon. As a massive fan of her first cookbook, which had a fantastic mix of both fancy cuisine and quick-comfort meals, I'm very much looking forward to the release of this book.

And I'm pleased to report that the chia pudding does make a good breakfast. Now that I'm back, and after having tried other raw puddings, I'm going back to making this!

I'm Coming Home (the end of the food tour)

Well, Hi All!

First of all, let me excuse us for not having posted over the last week or so. We took a short break to Sydney, house- and dog-sitting in Surry Hills for some friends of mine, and the week prior we were madly preparing!

What a trip it has been. Both of us flew down last Thursday, and unfortunately The Academic had to fly back on Monday due to meetings and study/show commitments. I fly back tonight and I am hoping for a smooth, timely flight after the lengthy delays, turbulence and disorganisation of the flight down.

Well, the eating! Woah. I definitely need a break from rich/large portions of food for a while, I'm definitely suffering from food exhaustion. For some reason, for the first time in my life, the idea of eating white carbohydrates has no appeal, and I just want to eat wholesome, nourishing, simple foods, proteins, fruit and vegetables. The Academic will be pleased by this.

I'll be needing a bit of a holiday to recover, as it has been a whirlwind tour. When I've not been eating or walking, I've been doing doggy things. What high maintenance dogs can be! It's a whole other world with social outings, walks and schedules! I do have more of an inner sense of calm, and I've purchased some interesting books and had a good look around while down here.

We'll be back soon with some Sydney-specific eating advice with tips and recommendations, one from each of our perspectives, and in the meantime there will be some chocolate-themed posts, including The Urban Vegan's Raw Chia Pudding and a boozy mexican-inspired iced chocolate... Enjoy!