Friday, September 30, 2016

Vegan Eats Guide - Part 2

It's been over a year since I did my last vegan post and I thought I would share my new discoveries. I absolutely love everything I eat now that I've really found my feet :) It definitely didn't happen immediately but I'm here to reassure you that cutting out animal products does get so much easier!

So this year I really discovered the power of cashews! My big blender broke so I picked up a slim NutriBullet when the shops were having a 50% off sale and it's been great for blending up a cup of cashews. I blend up a cup at least once a week so I always have sour cream in my fridge :) So easy to do, soak a cup of cashews in water (overnight or use boiling water and soak for a few hours) drain the cashews, pop them into your blender cover with new water, add a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, salt and lemon juice and blend away! I just eyeball the measurements now but you really can't go wrong just, keep adding until the taste is spot on for you - sooo easy!

Those tacos above are made by roasting chickpeas (sprinkled with oil, paprika, salt and pepper) in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes, alongside a chopped up roasted capsicum, avo, tomato, red onion and the home made sour cream - my new addiction!

This sandwich above is a classic lunch staple too, promite on sourdough topped with avos, red onion, black pepper and nutritional yeast!

I discovered Thai food is easy to veganise too. You can just sub fish sauce by using a combo of stock mixed with soy sauce! I made that Tom Kha Gai above and it was fantastic. I've also been loving just a plain spud, covered in, yup, you guessed it the sour cashew cream, along with garlic chives, some smoked salt (if you can find a shop that stocks smoked salt, it's a game changer!) and some vegan margarine.

Eating out is still the only slightly tricky thing thing but you just need to do a little research and you'll be surprised just how many places can make you something vegan when you ask nicely :) Cupcake above is by Stormie D's in Caloundra and the burger was from Kimnat in Woombye.

Another game changer for me this year was discovering the group, Australian Vegan Foodies, on facebook. Everyday I get inspired by what others are making and I've found lots of new vegan foods that I can buy locally from our supermarket. Obviously that group is dedicated to us Aussies, but I'm sure if you do a search you could find a group for your location! I learnt about the above cake from that group and I've made it several times and it's always a hit - super fudgey - thanks Nigella!

Mac n cheese with crispy sage and coconut bacon - yes please! And some Chinese inspired cauliflower above - thumbs up from me :)

I discovered the world of spanakopita from my vegan fb group. So easy to make, you just finely chop some firm tofu, soak it in lemon juice, add in some salt, garlic, toasted pine nuts and a pack of frozen spinach (defrosted) and mixed altogether. Then that mix gets wrapped in filo pastry and popped into the oven. Not a huge tofu fan but these convert me!

Another discovery this year for me was Oyster Mushrooms - oh my goodness! When I tried out the "scallop" pasta recipe above, I got a little misty eyed. As a huge lover of seafood and someone who use to eat a lot of prawns, I really missed that option in my diet but I feel like these king oyster mushrooms have such a great texture filling a void in my life. I find that the stems when chopped and cooked in white wine and stock really have a seafood/scallop taste/feel but the tops of the regular oyster mushrooms take on a more of a chicken texture/look. The secret I've discovered is cooking the oyster mushrooms in white wine + stock water for a few minutes, draining the liquid (but keeping it to pour back over later in your dish) and then frying the mushrooms back in a super hot pan so they start to get a lovely seared texture - soooo good! Also oyster mushrooms don't do that weird soggy/sauté thing that happens with the regular button mushrooms.

Not eating animal products, means you'll get well meaning comments from others (which I was also guilty of asking!) "what can you eat?" or "how come your not wasting away?".  Now those questions are strange to hear because I love food and there is soooo much I can eat to the point where I actually eat a greater variety of foods then ever before and hence not wasting away :p

One good thing about eating out is junk food is a little trickier to find, you do have to hunt down places with vegan options, like the doughnut above from doughnut time but I kind of like that it's a special treat now - others might disagree with me on that one!

If you are starving for baked goodies, it's really easy to just make them yourself, I'm fairly confident you can veganise pretty much any baked recipe, you just need to change the milk to a non dairy option, the butter to say a vegan margarine and you can use a few things to sub eggs, have you heard about Aquafaba? Those cinnamon scrolls above I made from this recipe here

I do really enjoy cooking and trying out weird ideas, those sausage rolls I started making after thinking pumpernickel might make a good mince substitute - it does! I just use left over ingredients from when I make burritos and blitz them altogether in my blender. The picture over on the right is a quesadilla, I put a tiny bit of wasabi on the bottom base, along with lots of avo, chopped up tomatoes and red onions, coriander, pop the top on and then grill in my sandwich press, and hey presto easy lunch/dinner! You can grate some fake cheese too, like bio cheese, but I found it really isn't that necessary.

Obviously I love a certain type of food with ingredients making return appearances but my biggest advice is just to find what you like and run from there. Also, don't be scared you're missing out, I'm sure like me you'll find you're adding in lots of new things into your diet and end up truly loving what you eat :)

I've seen some incredible non dairy cheese popping up on pinterest so maybe next year's update will include my journey down that path and perhaps more exploration into cooking tofu! Wish me luck!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Horizon Festival - Caloundra

A few weeks ago was the Horizon Festival with lots of fun things going on all over the place. Ben and I managed to make it down to Caloundra to see the lantern parade and watch some super sexy and amazing Latin dancing and drumming - so much fun. It's always been a dream of mine to get to photograph a lantern parade - so I can now tick that one off the list :) :) Time to spam you guys with lots of photos from that night - enjoy!

Horizon festival - dancer

Horizon festival - let's dance Latin

Horizon festival - Latin dancer

Horizon festival - flowers lantern parade

Do you have a fav lantern? I have a soft spot for that moth above!!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cat Rope Bed DIY

Let me tell you a little story about a DIY that took me 2 days (see below!) and on completion was deemed unacceptable by our cats :( A rope bed that I dreamed up months and months prior and in these thoughts always pictured a happy little cat curled up sleeping inside - sigh. I probably should have heard warning bells after this failed attempt now sadly gone to the bin gods after sitting for months and months unused :( :( 

I'm a slow learner I guess :P 

Adding more fuel to my already burnt out heart, a piece of discarded wrapping paper (left over from Ben's birthday) was thoroughly enjoyed (played with + even slept on) for days and days getting a whole lot more action than my now failed DIY :P :P Give it a few more days, I kept repeating to myself over and over.  Try moving the bed into different locations, let's trick them, pretend it wasn't intended for them.  Yeah yeah, we all know where this is headed :P

Despite this now being a failed project I did actually learn quite a lot about building rope baskets and turning them into something that sort of looks like a bed.  Although I really can't say whether any cat would actually approve of the design, two definitely hated it so, yeah, heads up :P

What you'll need
I bought 100 meters of 3 strand twisted rope (diameter 6mm).  I didn't use the whole amount, although with hindsight maybe if I would have and made the bed super big the cats would of wanted to go inside it more ?!?! I dunno, I was under the impression cats loved small spaces?!?

Cotton thread I think I went through 2 rolls which is kind of unheard of for me with sewing projects

Sewing Machine - don't even think about hand sewing this!

INSTRUCTIONS (very loose!)
Create a base as flat as possible (photos above) and as wide as you want your bed.  I created a little side table using books which became super important/helpful in keeping my base flat. It's actually really easy for your base to go cone shaped, and I'll admit it's what happened on my first go and thus that "basket" became the top of the bed with its (unintentional!) pointy look! Unless you like the pointy top :P

To sew the rope, I found the stitch recommendations from Juliette Lanvers spot on (zigzag 5.5mm wide, length 3mm) and actually her whole tutorial was really really helpful!!

Very very important - put the center of the sewing machine foot in between the 2 lines of rope (see photos above and below) so it catches the base and the new rope as you go round in a circle. Don't pull the rope too tight but just guide it along - after a while the process becomes quite natural and slightly meditative and may also make you go slightly cross-eyed

Make sure, if you're not a super confident sewer you check ever now and again that the zigzag stitch has been catching both sides.  Holes take a lot more time to fix then going slow and checking! I speak from experience on this one.  Oh and the bobbin thread will run out more than once, so keep an eye on that!

When you have your base big enough start curving your basket up. I measured Gremlin our biggest cat and made it to his size but again, I probably could have made it a lot bigger! Another very important point is to sew the basket with the bulk of the base on the left hand side of your needle, it's going to get bigger and bigger and you'll find you'll run out of room if you attempt it over on the right

keep sewing and sewing and going cross eyed

ARGHHH holes! I think this is the first "basket" I made, the one with the very pointy top To fix the holes, I hand sewed them together - this took a very long time, so just check as you're machine sewing that everything is staying together - you may even need to widen your stitch if it isn't catching both sides.

Oncee I had my two "baskets" made I went about joining them.  Pretty straight forward from the photo above - I hope :)

Once joined, I needed an entrance, so I simply cut a huge hole - kind of crazy.  I did use a strip of rope which I machine sewed around the hole's edges to make it pretty and stop everything unraveling.  It actually looked pretty decent by the end - surprise shock

Peachy was very enthusiastic throughout the whole process never making me doubt for a second she wouldn't love it in the end :)

I did notice the entry was very droopy, so I came up with the idea to reinforce it with a wire coat hanger, which I snipped and wrapped with white electrically tape and then sewed in behind the entrance.

By this stage Ben had wondered why I hadn't come out of my bedroom in a while and found me looking cross eyed, wrapping wire and photographing my steps.  He kindly took this photo - thanks Ben!

Oh Peachy if only you could talk and tell me why you hated the finish product so much! If you scroll back to the top you can see I stuffed the bed with a pillow.  Actually it's the same pillow I made for the other failed cat bed *double cries* I couldn't bear to throw that pillow out because it's so damn cute

I will happily accept condolences from anyone, over the two days wasted on this DIY