Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Relief for Teary Tuesday - Chain-Store Vegan Baked Goods!

So here we are, Teary Tuesday. Everyone around seems to have been hit pretty badly by Mondayitis, so I thought I’d try to bring some sunshine into our day. Tomorrow is Wednesday, we’re nearly halfway there, people. Soon it’ll be Friday, we’ll be “kickin in the back seat”, “lookin forward to the weekend” and singing that ridiculously catchy song by the ever-so-talented *cough* Rebecca Black, in our most deliciously nasal voices. I'm having rapturous shudders just thinking about it.

What could possibly make a Tuesday better, you ask? Well, duh - BAKED GOODS! And before you say that it’s too difficult to get good vegan baked goods in Brisbane/Australia (I feel you there, comrade!), there are magical little places dotted throughout Australia where you can get something sweet and doughy to tide you over before you make another batch of muffins, or another pie – Baker’s Delight!

Yes. Baker’s Delight. The generic bakery chain. Uh huh! Vegan baked goods.

A while ago, I went through their website (which has full nutritional and ingredient information for via their product search, here.) and noted all of the things other than bread that were vegan. I have to say – my favourite is the walnut and apple scroll… Mmmm. The bread is puffy, the walnuts are crunchy, the glaze is sweet, it’s just all so good.

The other great thing is – if you ask at the cash register, they can easily print you out a “receipt” with the ingredients of any of their products. Score! Thank me when you’re eating a finger bun. Bonus tip for Brisbane viewers - Zone Fresh have vegan things, too - like their baklava. They use glucose syrup instead of honey. *Drool*. Bonus picture 1: An awesome person holding delicious home-made Berry Creme Pie with Cocoa-Olive Crust (recipe!). Bonus picture 2: A crazy person devouring a finger bun.

 

















Now all we have to do is convince Coles and Woolworths to start using vegan margarine (theirs has animal fats in it). If they did this, most of their baked goods would be accidentally vegan!

Here is my list of the vegan products at Baker's Delight (please note that ingredients change, so be sure to check for yourself before consuming, if you’re vegan):

Sweet Chilli, Mustard and Sesame Seed Rodini
Herb and Garlic Focaccia
Berry Scroll
Apple and cinnamon scroll
Jam filled bunlet
Jam scroll
Apple scroll
Fruit bunlet
Boston bun
Iced fruit bun
Fruit bun
Blueberry Filled Bunlet
Apple and cinnamon filled bunlet
Coffee scroll
Apple and Walnut Scroll
Cinnamon Log
Apple and Walnut Ring
Apple Ring
Apple and Almond Log
Apple and Walnut Log
Apple and Blueberry Log
Apple Log
Jam Log
Apple and Apricot Ring
Hot cross bun
Apple and Cinnamon Teatime
Blueberry Teatime
Fit2Go Bar - Cranberry and Nut
Coffee and Date Roll
Coffee and Date Log
Apricot Delight Scroll
Apricot Delight Log
Finger Bun – Coconut
Finger Bun – Cinnamon
Finger Bun – Plain
Jam Bunlet with Pink Fondant
Jam Filled Bunlet with Chocolate Fondant and 100s and 1000s
Jam Filled Bunlet with Chocolate Fondant

Enjoy!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Academic: Lunch for the Time-Starved and Inexperienced

Lunch

EAT ME.


Everyone tells us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but when I wake up, eating is generally the last thing I want to do. And, when I do eat first thing in the morning, I just end up feeling sick. So I usually put off lunch for an hour, or just don't eat it.

As such, the responsibility for the day's energy falls on lunch.

I am sure I'm not alone among you when I say that food makes me feel sluggish. And that's fine at night, but when I'm trying to think during the day, all I can think about is the food in my stomach.

BUT, later on, it becomes important. Sure, if I don't eat, I feel like I'm working, but I get distracted and tired and end up getting a headache. When I eat lunch, I may feel bloated for a little while, but I can concentrate for all three hours of a lecture, and I take notes, and I actually LEARN.

As I've said, I'm not the most culinarily skilled person, but even if you are, you usually don't want to spend a heap of time making lunch on a weekday.

Here are two of the things I love making. You can eat them pretty much any time in the day (sometimes I have them closer to breakfast, sometimes closer to lunch). You'll have the energy to concentrate, and you'll be satisfied enough that you won't want to eat EVERY SINGLE THING IN THE UNIVERSE AT DINNER.

Not that I ever have that problem...

What You'll Need
I could seriously eat this every day, and sometimes I do. If you're feeling particularly peckish and/or don't care about the extra carbs, you can make this into a sandwich or wrap.

I usually have:
  • Two pieces of Soyco Malaysian Peanut Satay Tofu (but you can use any flavour you want, really)
  • An avocado
  • A handful of cherry/grape tomatoes (The Perino brand are much nicer than the generic Coles/Woolworths brand); or just a few slices of regular tomato
  • hummus
  • baby spinach leaves
  • left-over roast veggies
Maybe you don't want to buy prepackaged tofu, or maybe you're just terrified of tofu, but you will not regret this. The tofu is pre-pressed and already marinated, so you can use it straight away. And, more importantly, it gives you PROTEIN (note from Matt: and in some cases, tofu also gives you a good hit of calcium!), so your body and brain have energy to work during the day.

What You'll Do
Grill the tofu for a few minutes (until it's slightly brown, but still has some liquid on it), then turn it over and do the same on the other side. If you leave it in a little longer, it will dry out a little, but will still be fine. If you leave it in too long, though, it will turn into rubber and taste awful.

At the same time, you can grill the tomatoes as well; cut them in half and put a few grinds of salt and pepper over them.

If you're having bread, you may also want to grill the bread for a little while as well, so that it ends up nice and crisp. Putting some oil/margarine on each side will help with this, but do so at your own risk! (it ends up becoming very decadent). Have two pieces of bread ready (one for each piece of tofu).

While everything is under the grill, cut the avocado in half. You'll only use half (unless you're super hungry), so wrap up the other half and put it in the fridge. Either slice up the avocado, or put it in a bowl and mash it up.

When everything is ready to go, just put it all on a plate, and eat it! (seriously, who's eating it? the Queen?)

If you want to be a little more fancy, just stack the ingredients as you see fit on top of the bread and make an open or close sandwich. So many options!


The Other Sandwich
This is great if you've had roast veggies the night before. My favourite is sweet potato, but regular potatoes, pumpkin, or all three will work just fine.

First slather some avocado on the bread. If you want, put avocado on one slice, and hummus on the other. Then lay down the ingredient in any order that sits right with you. I generally go:
  • roast veggies
  • baby spinach leaves
  • cherry/grape tomatoes
This is probably my all-time favourite sandwich, so I have it sparingly (helped by the fact that we don't have roast veggies all that often!)

So there you have them; two delicious sandwiches that are easy to make, will fill you up, and are absolutely delicious!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Music Monday!

Music News
37
Kate Bush has officially announced the release of her next album 50 Words for Snow, scheduled to come out 21 November this year. The 65 minute long album is comprised of 7 tracks: "Snowflakes", "Lake Tahoe", "Misty", "Wildman", "Snowed In A Wheeler Street", "50 Words for Snow", and "Among Angels". This is her second album this year (following Director's Cut in May), but her first album of entirely new material since 2005's Aerial. I'm very interested to hear it, perhaps even a bit excited, but it's a serious shame about the album artwork. Yikes.



Tori Amos' new album "Night of Hunters" is officially released tomorrow!! (Tuesday 20 September). I'm a little bit ridiculously excited. It has been streaming on NPR for about a week and a bit now, so if you really can't wait for a day, it's there. Otherwise, go and buy it!
In other news, Australia isn't down with it all and we're not getting it until Thursday (23).
And for those dedicated fans: the song "Star Whisperer" is that song from Abnormally Attracted to Sin that wasn't orchestrated in time for its release.


What We're Listening To
James, The Academic:
I'm currently a little obsessed with HK119. Björk brought her to the world's attention 2004, and the world said "Lol Byork, y u so funny" and ignored her, so her videos have about 1000 views each. It's very lo-fi, but I love the material from her second album, particularly "Divine", and "C'est La Vie".
We're also playing Juliana Hatfield's latest There's Always Another Girl pretty much to death. I'm playing Aimee Mann's Lost In Space pretty much on repeat. (despite what everyone else says) without a doubt her best album; every song is wonderful.
And, much to Matt's shame, I'm also listening to bits and pieces of Kylie Minogue's Impossible Princess (which would have been a better album if someone else had sung it).


What are you listening to?

James also has a blog where he reviews pop music. Or just whatever music he happens to be listening to. And occasionally not pop music. And occasionally he just gushes. Acceptable Pop Music.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Over-Eaters Anonymous

What I'm likely to over-eat. AVOID.
If I tell you that I am a massive over-eater at times, I suppose that there is nothing particularly anonymous about it, is there?

It's so hard not to overeat - especially when there is so much lip-smacking, tempting food around, and creating delicious food begets extra delicious ingredients (like umeboshi vinegar to use in Vegan Diner's Mac and Cheese, or that truffle oil in my pantry, just begging to be used/poured on everything). Each recipe I make also doesn't just make a reasonable portion for two people. I find that most recipes that are designed to feed two definitely aren't enough for two voracious, active adults. One of my favourite "healthy" recipes is a roasted broccoli, garlic, lemon, and chickpea dish that "feeds six". Like heck it does. But it's perfect for two!

Some solutions I've been given over the years have been useful, whilst others have been far from it. I don't want to practice the "French Wo/Men Don't Get Fat" style of one mouthful of everything - that's just INVITING the beast, I mean... If I have lots of plates of food in front of me, and you give me one mouthful of everything, I'm sure as heck not gonna eat just one mouthful of everything, but I'm gonna have LOTS OF PLATES OF FOOD IN FRONT OF ME. See the inherent danger?

... nor do I wish to follow the fabulous and wasp-thin Dolly Parton's various nuggets of weight-maintenance advice, which include: advising people to carry a styrofoam cup around, chew your food to enjoy the deliciousness, but then spit it out into the cup... and then, in the words of the inimitable Dolly, she comments “What is more disgusting, spitting out my food or being a lard ass?” (I am not joking, check out her enlightening autobiography here!), or "I always leave some food on my plate for the angels"... Well, I'm pretty sure being an angel would include either a) unlimited supplies of your favourite, amazingly well-cooked/seasoned food, or b) no need to eat. Sigh. I suppose the angels don't need my half-eaten food after all...

Other people tell me to make big vats of things and freeze them in meal-sized portions, but I also know that almost anything fresh I make that gets put in the freezer usually ends up staying there, most likely forever, and when I do feel the need to eat something from the freezer, it's usually something delicious and pre-packaged, like frozen curly fries or hash browns (wooooo!), or something vegan, delicious, high fat and snacky, that a creamy, zesty, tangy dipping sauce could only improve (for a surprisingly healthy, oil-free dip, go for Isa Chandra's ranch-style Sanctuary Dip). What I don't feel like from the freezer is something which has an undeterminable origin and is exhibiting extreme freezer-burn. So that's not a big help.

My bento box; talk about healthy variety!
Actual Helpful Tips to Minimise Over-Eating:
  • Put your leftovers in the refrigerator as soon as they're no longer steaming! Cravings tend to pass in five minutes or so, so by the time you've thought about pulling a saucepan out of the fridge, dividing a guilt-portion onto a clean plate and reheating it, you've realised you're actually full anyway.
  • Only keep frozen junk food in your home. By the time the oven preheats, and by the time you've cooked something for 15 minutes, flipped it, scraped the burnt bits off the aluminium, which then sticks to a chip, then put the whole thing back in for another 15 minutes, you're usually just left with guilt, not a craving.
  • Don't keep junk food around the house in the first place. No excuses. If you need to buy a bag of chips before a party, you can buy them directly before the party. Not three weeks beforehand.
  • Ensure that your main meals/entrees are as nutritious and colourful as possible. There are theories that the reason we crave junk food is because our body is craving nutrients, which we aren't getting (and sadly, still aren't going to get from high calorie junk food). Perhaps when your body is craving a lot of calories, it's trying to give itself the best chance to get nutrients. So eating a variety of lots of things, not lots of one thing. One of the best ways to ensure a good spectrum of vitamins and nutrients is to eat a diet which includes as many colours as possible, in as many meals as possible.
  • Eating higher protein lunches. Lately, I've been taking a big container of pressed, sliced tofu to work, in a marinade bath. That way, I can leave it in the fridge and take out as many pieces as I feel I need at the time. The microwave isn't ideal for cooking this, but it works fine. For soft, tender slices, microwave whilst occasionally spooning marinade on the tofu slices during cooking. For chewier, firmer tofu, spoon marinade onto the tofu during the start, but microwave it until it has dried up. Another option is to wrap your marinated tofu in a big piece of wax paper and grilling this package in the sandwich press.
The academic is also putting together a post on fast, healthy, filling, easy lunches, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Most of my advice regarding over-eating centres around delaying your ability to eat more than you need. Make sure you have a time-to-breathe window so that you can let your cravings pass. Give yourself that extra five or ten minutes of delay before you can eat that extra portion/junky snack, by which time you most likely will have come to your senses. And make sure that the food you do eat as a matter of routine is as nutritious as possible, so you're not left with cravings.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Academic: Raw Cake

Raw Cake


There's a reason I'm "The Academic". I don't cook. It's not that I can't... well, maybe it is. I've just never really had the time or necessity to do it, and when you're surrounded by people who already cook (very well), what are you going to do?

Become a linguist, apparently.

That said, I do have the occasional foray into the world of "cooking", mainly when I decide I want to make something I'm seriously under-qualified for. Excluding two truly awful, awful dishes I made in Grade 8 Home Economics (let's never go there), so far in my life, I've made ravioli and pizza from scratch, and a salmon (pre-vegan!) dish. And a pasta dish I invented.

But that's all in the past. Or so we thought.


A couple of weeks ago, I was searching around online and found "The Raw Chef". I've always been interested in raw food (not as a full time thing, but good (read: gourmet) raw food is amazing), so I thought "Yeah, sure, I'll sign up for your newsletter".


Turns out, if you sign up for his newsletter, he gives you an ebook of recipes! Raw food recipes!


Such excite!


The final recipe in the book was for a raw chocolate cake. So, because I thought it would be interesting, and as a surprise for my darling Matthew, I decided I'd make it.


Little did I know what I was in for.


Ultimately, it was relatively easy. But if you're a first timer, like I was, I have a few tips that could help you along the way, either by making it easier, or by scaring you off before you start.


Cleaning Up
Making the cake wasn't so much complicated as time consuming. And utensil consuming. If you hate cleaning your blender, or your food processor, avoid making the cake, as it uses both. Though the end result is quite delicious, so maybe you'll realise it was worth it.


On the Wallet
It's also quite expensive. While you will probably have at least some of the ingredients already, there are a couple that you probably won't. Cacao/cocoa butter and coconut oil aren't something most of us have sitting around our kitchens, and they can be quite expensive, and sometimes quite difficult to find. Additionally, you only use a small amount of each in the recipe, so you may end up paying quite a lot for a large container of either (or both), just so you can make this one recipe.


The experience alone may be worth it, and you may end up making heaps of cakes, but the last thing you want is to spend $20-30 only to have it sit in your cupboard for months, or years, until one day you find it (or something that used to be it) and have to throw it out.


So, before you invest:


  • Shop around; organic/health food stores are often the best places to look, but (as you're probably aware) they often vary greatly in how they price things, so don't get them as soon as you see them. Then again, your local supermarket might have them, so look carefully!
  • Find other recipes that use the ingredients; then if/when you have heaps left, you have other things you can make with them. Of course, maybe you'll just keep on making the same cake!
Speaking of Cocoa Butter and Coconut Oil...
The reason these are used in raw desserts is that they have quite a low melting temperature, so a raw cake will set in the fridge and then melt in your mouth. This does make working with them slightly tricky, though, as just the warmth of your hands will make them melt. Of course, to make the recipe, you do want them to melt, but you want them to melt in the bowl, not all over your hands (especially after your paid all that money for it!). Before working with them, run your hands under cold water, or wear gloves, so as little as possible will be wasted. You should also start melting them right at the start, so they'll be ready to go when you need them.


You Don't Need a Vitamix!
As much as we'd all like one... We have Kitchenaid blender and food processor, and they performed quite well, well enough for the recipe. Of course, if you don't have a high-powered blender/appliance, you will need to do some things differently. I soaked the cashews before I started the recipe so they'd be nice and soft before I blended them. When it got to the "Blend everything!" part, things got a little trickier. At first, the mixture wasn't liquid enough for the blender to blend, so I had to take matters into my own hands.


  1. Mix the cocoa into the cashew mixture so it doesn't fly around everywhere.
  2. When it's mostly mixed in, remove most of the mixture and put in another container.
  3. Put back some of the more cocoa-y mixture and blend until the mixture seems to settle. Scrape down the sides, add a little more of the cocoa mixture in and blend again.
  4. Take out about half and replace with more of the cocoa-y mixture. Be sure not to over fill or your blender will have a heart-attack.
  5. Repeat step 3 and 4 until all mixture is blended together. In the end, it should all be a similar texture and colour. Don't be too stressed if it isn't, as long as it looks like the cocoa is mixed through properly and isn't sitting in one lump.
It's incredibly time-consuming, and you'll probably get quite messy (as well as that part of the kitchen), but it's that or shell out a thousand or so for a Vitamix.


Well, two thousand, since you're buying me one. Please? :D


In The Beginning
When you're standing in your kitchen about to start, STOP. There are a few things you should do before you even consider starting.


  1. Put the cashews (or whatever other nuts are being used as the base for the cake itself) and water in the blender so the nuts can soak while you're making the base.
  2. Fill a bowl with hot water. Measure out how much coconut oil you'll need and put it in another bowl over the top of the hot water (like a double boiler, but not boiling), so it will melt. That way, it will be ready when you need it. It may be worth giving it a bit of a mix in between the other steps so it all melts. I put it in a glass, so then it's easier to pour when you have to add it into the mixture.
  3. You may also want to sort out the cocoa butter at the start. Otherwise, you can do it after you've made the base so it can melt while you're blending everything else for the cake.
And Just a few final tips:
  1. The recipe I used asked for a 9" torte pan, and even though ours is that size (slightly larger, I think), it's slightly shallower. So, rather than waste the extra mixture, I just made another smaller cake in a bowl.
  2. The cake will have to set, so plan accordingly! This is probably a weekend/day off work/"hi, I'm a university student" cake. If you can, make it earlier in the day and just leave it in the fridge, so it's ready to eat after dinner.
  3. Don't serve it with ice cream! I made that mistake (as you can see in the picture). As I said above, the point of raw cakes is that they melt in your mouth, but if your mouth is really cold, they can't melt as well, so they end up tasting like really expensive, slightly chocolate... nothings, really.
  4. BUT do serve it with something else. The recipe I used had a cream and sauce that it was meant to be served with, but I didn't make them. If the recipe includes something you might consider a condiment, it's probably there for a reason. As such, we just put some jam (proper jam, not IXL!) on top of it, which went perfectly.
End the end, it was a lot of work, but, especially if you're making it for someone you love, it's all worth it.


Will this be my first and last foray into raw food? Probably not. Will I be making any more of it myself? Well... I guess only time will tell.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Best of the Best: Classic Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Classic, delicious, customisable, and portable. Heavenly.

This is the first in a series of "The Best of the Best", where I will introduce my favourite things, and the best of these things. 

 
Today we're going to talk about cookies, and by the end of this post, you're going to be able to make THE BEST chewy and rich classic Chocolate Chip-Cookies imaginable. I love cookies. Who doesn't? That'd just be weird. No one wants to be weird, unless you're Lady Gaga.
(Terminology Freak-Out Time: In Australia, what Americans call "cookies" are generally called "biscuits", whereas what Americans call "biscuits" are generally called "scones". Of course, Australian "cookies" ("biscuits") are crunchier than American "cookies", so Australians also use "cookie" to refer to biscuits that are soft. Like American cookies. Confused? Us too. For the purpose of this post, I will use the term "cookie". Why? Because I like cookies better, and Mr. Linguist loves cookies too much to risk upsetting me on this.)
From what I’ve seen, Australians and the English tend to prefer their cookies drier, crunchier, and crispier (because they're used to biscuits). Americans tend to like their cookies like... well, Subway’s cookies: chewy and soft. It’s a bit like the age-old brownie debate. Some people like them cakey, some people like them fudgey (I totally prefer them fudgey).

I’ve had so many cookies, and so few have been anywhere near perfect. But yours can be! You just need the right recipes. The recipes below include a spelt option (which is fantastic), and a gluten-free option.

Your Keys to Great Cookies
The best cookies should be light golden-brown, a little puffy, crisp on the outside, chewy-sweet textured on the inside, with a slight hint of caramel molasses flavour. There should be slightly melted morsels of bittersweet chocolate throughout, giving you pockets of a rich soft-crunch and that warm melting feeling in your mouth.

I like my cookies straight-up, savoured slowly, one at a time, with a trip between each one (or two!) from the couch to the kitchen. James is a cookie-monster and prefers his as yummy, warm vessels to sandwich vanilla or chocolate icecream between (Cocoluscious is clearly the best), so that the warmth softens the icecream slightly.

It's All in the Making...
  • Plain white, or white spelt, flour is a must (unless you're gluten-free!)
  • Use the best chocolate. The best chocolate chips I have come across are Callebaut 54% (fine 53.8%); these make such a difference to your baked goods. Otherwise, use your favourite, best quality chocolate block – chop it into small, asymmetrical chunks with a sharp knife. Chocolate chunk cookies can be just as delicious as chocolate chip cookies, if you prefer a bigger chocolate hit.
  • Sift and mix all of the dry ingredients extremely well. Separately, mix the wet ingredients extremely well also. When you combine the dry and wet mixes, mix as little as possible to combine the two. There should still be a little bit of dry mix. I then add the chocolate, and finish off the mixing briefly. Over-mixing will overdevelop the gluten and make your cookies tough.
  • When you take your cookies out of the oven, they should be golden-brown, but they may be quite soft. I know it's hellish waiting, but let them set. Don’t touch them! Let them sit on your metal pan (light is best, for some reason – the darker the pan, the chewier the result), for a minute or two to solidify a little before gently sliding the entire baking paper sheet, with cookies on top, onto something else to cool completely.
Desserts needn’t be a vessel for nutrition. Get your fibre and vitamins from all the wholegrains, legumes and vegetables that you’re eating. Make sure treats are delicious; any healthiness in a good dessert is a bonus. Desserts should be droolworthy, reliable, and appeal to the masses.

These two recipes are definitely the best-ever. They happen to be healthier than your average cookie, but don't they are both rich and decadent tasting - these cookies are no compromise.

The Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1. Dreena Burton’s “Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies”
from her second cookbook, “Viva Le Vegan”

Notes: I’ve served these cookies to *everyone*, from a friend who is the Food Editor of my city’s newspaper (who ended up writing a blog post about them, and despite being notoriously anti-recipe, made them herself shortly after!), to my packet-food loving friends and family who never cook, to church-going grandmothers.

The feedback has always been overwhelmingly ecstatic, and I’m forever being asked for the recipe. And they’re on the healthy side – with only a generous ¼ cup of oil, a hint of blackstrap molasses for a nutritional hit, sweetening mostly from maple syrup, and honestly are best using spelt flour, which makes them wheat-free.

They have a gorgeous, puffy, chewy-sweet texture, owing to the maple syrup, and taste just as great the next day, not that you’ll be leaving them lying around for very long. They’re super quick and easy to make, don’t require a huge amount of washing up, and are assembled from ingredients that most people have in their kitchen. The other bonus is that they don’t make a huge amount (the recipe makes around 8-10 large cookies), so when you cave in and eat the entire batch, you’re not going to hate yourself as much in the morning.

The recipe is available here on her website – and be sure to thank Dreena when you make them!

2. Julie Hasson’s “Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies”
from her first all-vegan cookbook (and one of my all-time favourite cookbooks, it really is comfort-food heaven), “Vegan Diner"
Notes: These are my go-to cookies for baking at home. I make them all the time – they’re so easy, so satisfying, and taste incredibly decadent. If you’re maple-syrup averse (is there such a person on this Earth?!), these don’t contain any (which also makes them more budget-friendly).

They are very similar in terms of deliciousness/ease of making & cleanup to Dreena’s recipe, above, so I won’t repeat the cookie-raving from the recipe above, but these do deserve the same amount of raving/delight.

These have even LESS oil than Dreena’s (only 3 tablespoons! How is this possible?!), and contain 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed, which adds a good nutritional boost of healthy fats and fibre.

They definitely are soft and chewy, and are very, very moreish.

The recipe, including a video where you can watch the fantastic Julie make them, is available here. There is also a gluten-free variation below the recipe, using Cybele Pascal’s Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix.

As always… if you have any questions, just ask in the comments!

James’ Note: And if the cookie dough looks too wet and you’re worried that the cookies won’t turn out, either add more flour, or just freeze them in drops and eat them! Yum!

Confessions of an Ex-Omnivore: Vegan Food Standards

I’m pretty sure half the reason people look at us oddly when we say “Oh, I’m vegan” is because they think our food is awful. I generally just say “Yeah, all the food’s great”. And I’m not lying. I’ve had amazing vegan food, and do consistently.

So why do omnivores think we have such awful food? Let’s explore some of the reasons:

1. “Dinner is meat and potatoes. You don’t eat meat, so you must just eat potatoes. How dull.” And omnivores aren’t the only ones who think this; some vegans do too. This isn’t just dangerous for your tastebuds, but may also put your health at serious risk. More below…

2. “I used to be vegan, but I kept on getting sick, so now I eat eggs/dairy/meat again.” Every omnivore has a story about someone they knew / someone that someone they know knew / etc. who went vegan but got all pale and sick, then ditched the diet and got better. Interestingly, other than for people with medical conditions, these oten seem to be the people who think they can live just by pushing the meat off their plate.

(NOTE: If a vegan diet is making you feel ill, talk to a doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional, or check out www.veganhealth.org, or the new health guide “Vegan for Life”; don’t just deal with feeling sick, or just dump the diet!)

3. “I went vegan to get healthy!” NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Vegan food is lumped with “health food” all too often as it is. And as much as it is much healthier (ooo controversial), most omnivores imagine us munching carrots and celery. Probably in a cage.

4. “Oh, I’m a vegetarian, but I eat fish/chicken”. Vaguely related, but really it’s a whole other kettle of fish. Bucket of asparagus. Maybe I’ll explore this later on.

Sound familiar?

As a consequence, omnivores see the vegan diet as a sub-diet; something that’s cute for a novelty, but completely lacking in taste, variety, and anything of interest. So they make excuses: “Oh, that’s delicious for a vegan meal.”

Let me demonstrate:

My partner Matt and I recently went to a popular restaurant to try their new vegan offering (you’ll have to forgive my vagueness). Matt had previously talked to chefs about having at least one vegan option on the menu, and had provided them with recipes and suggestions; the works. But they decided to go out on their own.

And that’s all very well if you’re working with things you’re used to; vegan chefs know vegan ingredients and how they work together, just as omnivorous chefs know omnivorous ingredients and how they work together. But don’t cross the streams!

The result was… less than satisfactory, to say the least. The ridiculous thing is that if they’d made the same thing as a regular omnivorous menu item, it would never have made it to the menu, at least not without some serious revisions (you know, to make it edible). But because “it’s vegan”, they made, and make, excuses for below-par results.

But what’s worse? We make the same excuses.

As conversation over the meal evolved, Matt said that most vegans would consider it excellent.

My parents have said that if they could change one thing about our upbringing, it would be to raise us on bread on water, because we have rather high culinary standards. As it is, owing to Matt being quite an excellent cook, I’ve gone from having high culinary standards as an omnivore to having similar high (or possibly higher) standards as a vegan.

But apparently many vegans don’t (not entirely out fault). And so, like the omnivores, we make excuses. We decide that because we’re doing the right thing, we can take our hard knocks and deal with food being a bit bland, or downright tasteless.

You know what? Vegan food can be just as good as, and often better than, omnivore food.

YOU KNOW WHERE THE CONTROVERSY IS. YEAH. RIGHT HERE.

The best brownies I’ve ever had have been vegan. And the best cookies. And the best mac-and-cheese. And the best soup. We’ve all had that one meal, even if it has just been one, that’s shown us how amazing vegan food can be. The cookbooks are out there, and the chefs to continue to make them. There’s no reason to make excuses for bad vegan food, because it can be amazing.

Well, maybe there’s one.

We all buy bad vegan cake. It’s just a fact. We go to that shop, because we know that it has vegan cake. And not just any cake, but probably the worst cake in the world. But, despite this, you walk up to the counter and you get a piece of this and a piece of that thank you, and you eat it (or at least attempt to).

You know you shouldn’t, because somewhere in the back of your mind a niggling grain of capitalist ideology tells you that if you stop supporting them, they’ll realise that their product isn’t good enough and they’ll improve it.

But, especially in Brisbane, if we don’t support vegan businesses, they won’t improve their products or price, they’ll just go out of business.

This is the knife edge we walk: we can either take what we’re given and accept that it’s not amazing, or we can have higher standards and end up with few, or no, options.

The solution seems to be to harness the spirit of the vegan community: gently make suggestions to improve the quality of vegan food at restaurants, but support them through the change, and let them know how good things are when they improve. With omnivorous restaurants, make sure they know there’s a demand there, but let them know that we do have higher standards.

And we should have higher standards. Yes, for our own tastebuds, but also for the omnivores. We can have a world where the vegan option isn’t the house salad with chips (which probably aren’t vegan anyway); where omnivores see our meals coming and drool jealously. Where we can take omnivore friends to restaurants and not have to apologise about the poor lighting, the bad service, the not-quite-so amazing food, and look on awkwardly as they look bemusedly at the menu; places they’ll take their omnivore friends because the food was so good.

We can absolutely change how omnivores see vegan food, but we need to set the bar high and lift our game.

Or maybe we should just eat at home.