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Friday Feast: Vegan Okonomiyaki

I tried something new today: vegan okonomiyaki! I’ve never had it before, but let me tell you, it was okonomiyummy! Or maybe I should say okonomnomnom?

Oh come on, I had to go there.

So anyway… now I’m past the bad dad jokes…

Okonomiyaki is a Japanese fritter type of thing (some say pancake, some say pizza, I say big fritter), which is traditionally made with eggs and meat/seafood. However, Sara Lynn Paige shared a vegan recipe that looked so good, I thought I’d try it. Okonomiyaki means ‘as you like it’ in Japanese, so outside the basic recipe, you have a lot of leeway as to what you put in it. You can have it, you know… as you like it. I put in two cups of greens/veges, whereas I think Sara Lynn Paige must have only had about 1 cup of veges, based on her pictures. Mine looked like there was a lot more green. It also took lots longer to cook (maybe I had the heat on too low though). However, the end result was still ultimately yummy, if a little less perfect looking. Here’s what I did:

Vegan Okonomiyaki

okonomiyaki

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup of non-dairy milk or water (I used a mix of oat milk and water)
  • 1 egg replacer (I used Orgran’s)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 to 2 cups minced greens or other fillings (I used 3/4 cup of raw spinach, 1/2 cup of stir-fried celery leaves, 1/4 cup of raw shallots [scallions], 1/2 cup of diced cooked red onions and celery, and approx 1/4 cup diced honey soy marinated tofu)
  • Toppings – optional (I pressed slices of honey soy tofu skin into the moist surface of the fritter as soon as I put it in the pan and I sprinkled chives on top of the finished product to serve)

Method:

  1. Mix the ingredients (except toppings and oil) in a bowl. Do not overmix.
  2. Heat some vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat.
  3. Put some batter in the pan so it makes a thick pancake (about 1cm thick). This should use approximately half the batter you made.
  4. Let the okonomiyaki cook until you start to get a few little bubbles on the surface, then flip it and cook the other side. You might need to flip back and forth a few times until you get a crisp brownish surface. (The original recipe said 3 to 5 mins. I took more like 10-12 mins.)
  5. Remove from the pan and pat the oil off if you want.
  6. Serve with additional toppings and sauce if you want. (I tried with teriyaki sauce on some bites and sweet chili sauce on others. Good for both, although the teriyaki sauce is quite salty.)
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Vegan Attempts @ The Jetty Oxford

I went to a work lunch at a place not of my choosing today. But I wasn’t paying the bill, so I’m not complaining too much!

We went to The Jetty Oxford, at Bulimba. It’s right near the ferry dock. It had big fat no vegan food. Except, I think, chips and maybe olives. There may have been a salad they could have removed the cheese and dressing from. Er… appetising for a lunchtime meal? I think not.

So I talked to the waitress and she talked to the chef, and he was not helpful. But I think I took him unawares, because about two mins later he had the waitress come back out and offer to make me a mysterious risotto. I agreed.

Here it is:

I think it had fennel, asparagus, apple and maybe mint? The sauce was made from peas. That is not something I would typically choose ever, considering I don’t particularly like peas or asparagus and I’ve actually never eaten fennel. However, the chef didn’t know that and it was very good if you discount the fact that the flavours were not particularly to my personal liking (and actually, I found the flavours were not even too bad). It was infinitely better than chips, olives or nude, boring salad for lunch.

So thank you, The Jetty Oxford chef!

The moral of the story? You should never be afraid to ask if the chef can offer anything vegan, cos they just might!

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Friday Feast: Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding

A few weeks ago, I was looking through the cupboard and fridge thinking about what food I needed to use up. I try to avoid wasting food. If you want to know more about why, have a look on the Wasted Food blog, cos Jonathan Bloom lists a bunch of reasons.

Anyway, I found half a stale baguette, some pecans that were on their last legs (or would have been, if pecans had legs), and some apples. The baguette was like a rock – there was no eating that unless it was significantly softened somehow, which prompted me to think of a bread pudding. However, I was never the biggest fan of the kinds of bread puddings I had as a kid. They were made of white sandwich loaf (too soft, which made for a soggy pudding), with milk, eggs, sugar and sultanas. I’m not big on sultanas in sweet food, although I love them in curry. My childhood memory was not what I wanted for a bread pudding. (Sorry Mum and Dad, I know you like it, but it’s not my style.) So I hunted down a new recipe.

My google-fu did not fail me, and I found a recipe for Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding in the Dairy Free Cooking section of About.com. There seems to be some good stuff there, so it’s worth having a look. I tweaked the recipe quite a bit (halving it, then increasing some ingredients, reducing others, swapping nutmeg for cardamom), but I’m really happy with the end result. It’s American tasting (hello cranberries, apples and pecans), but it’s got a special little something something that makes it unlike the typical American fare (probably the ginger and cardamom). The consistency was soft, but not soggy, and the nuts added a lovely bite.

I actually made it with only a quarter of a chopped apple, but I couldn’t taste it at all, so I’ve increased it to a whole apple in the recipe below. I increased the pecans too – I used only a third of a cup, but Yankee Elv insisted it needed more. Otherwise, she loved this pudding though – and so did I!

Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding


Ingredients

  • 4.5 cups stale bread, cut into 1.5cm (about half an inch) cubes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (currants might be a good alternative if you prefer them)
  • 1 apple, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup  pecans, chopped or crumbled
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom (or you could use nutmeg)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups plain non-dairy milk (I used soy)
  • 1 tab vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup liquid sweetener (I used agave nectar)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (about 350°F).
  2. Lightly oil a medium-sized heatproof dish (such as a pyrex dish) and set it aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, cranberries, apple, pecans, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and salt until well mixed.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the non-dairy milk, vegetable oil and liquid sweetener until well combined.
  5. Allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes, so all the bread is soaked. The liquid should be almost gone.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and bake until mostly firm and golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  7. Serve warm with non-dairy custard (which I make the same way as dairy custard, just with soy milk. Please note: there are no eggs in my custard, ever!)

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Plastic-Free Vegan Chocolate WIN

I just had to share… Mrs Flannery’s (an organic health food shop in Queensland) has changed the recipe for their dark chocolate, so it no longer has milk in it.

So now, my fellow Queensland vegans, you can get:

  • Dark chocolate covered strawberries
  • Dark chocolate covered cherries
  • Dark chocolate covered blueberries
  • Dark chocolate buttons
  • Dark chocolate chunks (all sizes, including some rather giant chunks. I drool a little when I see them).

It is really nice dark chocolate. I do like strong, bitter chocolate (like 70% or 85%), but sometimes I want something a little milder and sweeter. I miss milk chocolate sometimes, and while soy chocolate is nice, it’s just not quite the same. This chocolate is not milk chocolate, but it totally meets my needs. It is definitely dark, but it is almost like a 50% or something, which I’ve never before seen without milk. It’s sweet and almost creamy… or maybe I’m just comparing it to 70%…

Even Mr Teeny-bop likes it, and he hates dark chocolate.

You can find these delicious products in the bulk foods section at Mrs Flannery’s so you can totally avoid plastic or other disposable packaging when you buy it! Mrs Flannery’s weighs their food, so they supply light paper bags for you, so they don’t really add to the food weight. Yankee Elv and I save our bags and reuse them. They do allow you to bring your own containers, but you’d have to get them to weigh the container first and take the weight off, and I think that might be challenging on a busy day at the store (like Supa Saver Saturday – the first Saturday of every month, when you save about 15% off bulk foods if you are a store discount club member). You could give it a go though.

Anyway, I’m really excited and I totally love it!

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Teenage Boys Are Not Eco-Friendly

The title of this post says it all really. I can be as eco-friendly as I want. My son is not. This is a juxtaposition, ja?

teeny-bop emo

Mr Teeny-bop is emo, with coffee and crossword. (I got a snap of him smiling after this... emo defeated!)

Sometimes, it’s not his fault. Sometimes it is… sort of. Here are the top 10 reasons why, in no particular order.

1. Teenage boys grow, seemingly exponentially. Buying lots of clothes is not eco-friendly, and of course, teenage boys are too fashionable to want second-hand clothes. Ooh la la.

2. Teenage boys eat a lot. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me so much, but my teenage boy is a picky, picky eater. He likes processed foods, like Kraft’s Mac&Cheese (the kind in the blue box), when he could just as easily eat the fresh, homemade kind his mother (not me, the other mother) makes. Pretty much the only non-processed nutrition he consumes comes from fruit, veges and soy milk. Ok, and cheese and meat and cereal and pasta and bread. But that’s it. And I don’t mean lots of kinds of these things. There are two kinds of cheese (one wrapped in plastic), several kinds of meat and cereal, two kinds of pasta (including Mac&Cheese) and white, low GI bread. Oh, and pierogi.  No other non-processed food. Does coffee count as processed or non-processed? He drinks that too now (one cup a day only; he’s the only person in the house who likes it.) You might think I’m a terrible mother for letting him eat like this, but remember – when you’re a teenage boy, you know it all, and that includes what food you like. Besides, compared to what he used to eat, we are having victories every day. He tried sushi recently. He didn’t love it, but he tried it, and apparently it’s better than baked beans (another recent attempt). It seems resistance is futile after all.

3. Teenage boys break headphones. Sometimes I wonder if teenage boys realise there are actually a finite number of headphones in the world. And what do you do with broken headphones? There’s really no use for them. Can anyone think of a use for them? Mr Teeny-bop has just gone through three pairs in a month. I shudder when I think of the plastic-y, metal-y waste. I think I had one pair of headphones in all my teenage years. Then again, people didn’t walk around with their own personal soundtrack to life playing constantly inside their head (or from their iPod – however you’d like to describe it.) Maybe the next eco-unfriendly thing is increased hearing aid waste due to iPod-induced deafness. (I say waste, because I know teenage boys wearing hearing aids will lose or break the aids as quickly as they destroy headphones.)

4. Teenage boys do half-arsed chores around the house and call it done. For example, teenage boys mow the lawn and leave the cut grass out as green manure… on the concrete driveway. Call me sceptical, but I don’t think it’s going to enrich the soil too much there. Teenage boys don’t take as much care as they could when choosing which bin to tip the recycling into, because they are too busy thinking about lame Facebook applications and text messaging. Teenage boys don’t turn off the lights when they leave rooms. Teenage boys forget to turn the iron off (when they bother to iron). You may be sensing a pattern here. Yes, it’s the pattern of my irritation. Mothers of teenage boys have their own issues.

5. Teenage boys are even rougher on their shoes than pre-teen boys. I did not think this was possible, but apparently it is. Like broken headphones, what do you do with worn out shoes, I ask you? We have to buy new ones every term (roughly 12 weeks).

6. Teenage boys like lots of screen time. Wii, GameCube, YouTube, Facebook, MSN, text messaging, TV, DVD, camcorders, email… (I am looking at a screen a lot too, to be fair, but a lot of that is for my job.) Screen time takes electricity, and more of it means more electricity. Teenage boys also forget to turn appliances off. Before bed every night I do a round of the house, turning off computers, consoles, DVD players, TVs…

7. Teenage boys wear bigger clothes. This is fine, except it means I wash the same number of items, but I need to run more loads of laundry to fit everything in. I also run out of room on the clothes line. Trust me when I say that you should not try to circumvent this by overstuffing the washing machine. Teenage boys also smell, and if you don’t leave enough room for the clothes to get well scrubbed, the smell is going to linger. Even front loaders (which I have, and which apparently are supposed to be full during use as the agitation action is caused by the clothes rubbing together) do not do well being overstuffed.

8. As previously mentioned, teenage boys smell. Self-aware teenage boys (like my dear Mr Teeny-bop), try to circumvent this with deodorant. Unfortunately, mass marketing and peer pressure means Lynx body spray (not anti-perspirant), in a pressurised can, is the deodorant of choice. At least BO smells a little better when mixed with Lynx… even if it is sprayed so thickly I can taste it if I go into the bathroom after Mr Teeny-bop in the morning. Does anyone know what happens to spray cans when they are thrown away?

9. Teenage boys have a social life, which I am all for. Fortunately, living in a city permits a social life via bus, most of the time. However, the car trips we make to drop off/pick up are still considerably more than those made in pre-teen days. There’s just no way around the car and its links to suburbia unless there is dramatic social, demographic and economic change.

10. Teenage boys are rough on clothes. Socks wear out fast. The hems of shorts come down ‘by accident’. Shirts get stained. Jeans get ripped. Jumpers get covered in dog and cat fur. Hats get lost. Undies… well, ok. Undies wear pretty normally. But this brings us back to the first point – buying more clothes. Again. For a different reason. It’s a race to see whether he outgrows them or trashes them first.

Sometimes I think my efforts towards eco-consciousness are circumvented by my son. Sometimes my pattern of irritation feels ready to erupt into firey temper tantrums. (Yes, mothers have temper tantrums, they just look a lot different to kids’ temper tantrums.) Then my teenage  boy does something sweet, like invent an imaginary Italian bed and breakfast, complete with hand-written menu and fake accent, just so he can wear a manly apron and cook pancakes for me as Mother’s Day breakfast in bed, instead of adding to the consumer culture and buying me a gift I don’t really need.

Most days, he’s grumpy and self-absorbed, but sometimes I get a glimpse of who he used to be, and who he’ll become, and I know it’ll be worth these angsty teenage years in the end. No-one who can be that loving and gentle with an aging ginger cat can stay angsty forever.

At least, I hope so!

mr teeny-bop and fatso

Mr Teeny-bop and that aging ginger cat, Old Man Fatso, sleeping on the couch.

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Spotlight: Crop Diversity and Buckwheat

I’m trying to eat less wheat. Primarily this is for my health, but I’m learning that this is also good for the environment. Currently, wheat is one of the top three plant foods eaten in the world. You can imagine how much is produced. This is leading to decreased crop diversity. As the climate changes, we need this crop diversity so our farming practices can change too. You can read more about all that here.

So the other day Yankee Elv made pancakes (yes again, we like pancakes). She made some buckwheat pancakes for me. (Note: buckwheat comes from an entirely different plant than wheat.) You can just go buy them from the supermarket these days – the pancake mix is marketed towards people with gluten intolerance, but of course anyone can eat it.

Woolworth's buckwheat pancake mix.

Woolworth's buckwheat pancake mix.

I didn’t really like them. They tasted like I was eating a musty plant with the texture of a thick, dense, crumbly pancake. Some people say they taste kind of like mushrooms. I’m also not the biggest fan of mushrooms, which makes life hard as a vegetarian when you’re at a catered event, because apparently that’s all we eat. Right.

Anyway, not my favourite. Loodle likes them though. I ate a plateful, but there were still lots left as no-one else really liked them either, so the dog has been having a pancake-y snack every couple of days. I don’t want to just throw them out, because that’s a bit too wasteful for my sensibilities. Today I ate the last two just to get them out of the fridge (ok, the last two of three… the dog got the last one, technically). They’re ok if you smother – and I really mean smother – them in jam and add some honey and cinnamon yoghurt. I try not to eat too much dairy yoghurt either (in fact, I went years without eating it at all, but these days I occasionally have a tiny spoonful of Yankee Elv’s just for the taste, as long as it doesn’t have gelatine), but these things needed all the help they could get. I mean, it’s good that they’re there for people who shouldn’t eat wheat, and if I’m really craving a lot of pancakes, maybe I’d eat them again to avoid the wheat. However, I think I add so much sugar-y jam that it actually makes the avoidance of high glycemic index carbs redundant, so maybe not.

Of course, now I’ve done some more research on buckwheat and found that the grain isn’t even commonly grown in Australia (heck, none of the 20 top foods eaten worldwide are Australian natives). How are you supposed to eat local in a country like this!? I wonder if the buckwheat used in the pancake mix is Australian grown? I don’t think I’ll bother to email to find out… it’s doubtful we’ll be buying it again. I guess we could just try making much thinner pancakes though. It’s not like I dislike buckwheat in all forms. I eat soba noodles. That reminds me, we have some noodles in the cupboard we have to use up. I’ve never been rich enough to waste food in the past, but now there’s an environmental reason driving that too.

Things on my food to-do list:

  1. Increase diversity in the food we eat (I must post this awesome quinoa recipe I created the other day).
  2. Reduce food waste (read more about why food waste is bad for the environment from No Impact Man and at the Wasted Food blog).
  3. Compost food scraps (we just need to finish the compost bin – we have a lid now. It’s a work in progress).

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