one girl’s perspective on life, neopaganism, veganism, politics, books, films, and… stuff.

Posts tagged ‘veganism’

Gingerdead House for Xmas 2014

I’m baaaa-aaaack! It’s not like I haven’t been creating things, I just haven’t really felt like sharing them. But I’ve decided that that is just too great a loss for the Internet, so here we are with a zombie-themed gingerbread house/people!

This was my first-ever attempt at making a gingerbread house, by the way. I’m pretty damn satisfied with the results! And the recipe for the gingerbread itself came from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, one of my FAVE cook books!

Collage of all four sides:

Gingerdead House Collage

Gingerdead House 1

Gingerdead House 2

Gingerdead House 3

Gingerdead House 4

And then the gingerdead people/zombies themselves!

Gingerdead 5

Gingerdead 4

Gingerdead 3

Gingerdead 2

Gingerdead 1

Gingerdead 6

Tah dah! Questions? Comments?

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How-To Guide: Preparing Tofu

I’m working on expanding my blog again, as it had largely descended into collections of photographs and little else. Hence the more diverse and wordy posts!

Today I’m going to show you, step by step, how to prepare tofu for maximum flavour and texture. A lot of people have had bad experiences with watery, gross tofu, because success largely rests on preparatory steps that most people don’t know about. Here they are:

What you will need:

  • Tofu – generally, you want to use firm/extra firm tofu. Silken tofu is mostly used for baking and making desserts. Recipes will generally specify what type you need: this tutorial looks at how to prepare firm tofu.
  • Paper towels, at least 4 sheets (I always recommend 100% recycled)
  • Two plates (smaller is generally easier, but use what you have)
  • A handtowel or other rag for absorbing any excess liquid
  • Something heavy and regular shaped for pressing; the Oxford English Dictionary works a treat (I used a box of breadmix for this example)

Preparing tofu 1

1. Put down a towel on the bench to catch stray water (I used a dirty tea towel then throw it in the wash). Lay down two sheets of paper towel on the bottom plate.

Preparing tofu 2

2. Remove tofu from package, drain thoroughly, and place on the paper towel covered plate.

Preparing tofu 3

3. Place two more paper towels over the top of the tofu.

Preparing tofu 4

4. Place the second plate on top, making sure it’s centred.

Preparing tofu 5

5. Place the heavy object on top of the top plate, making sure the stack is stable.

Preparing tofu 6
(Sorry about the blurry picture!)

6. Leave the tofu to press for up to 4 hours, then slice it as desired. And don’t forget that paper towels are recyclable!

If you’re making a stir fry or something similar I highly recommend putting the drained and diced tofu in a container and covering it with the sauce you’re going to use. Leave it to marinate for up to 48 hrs, and the tofu will absorb more of the sauce, now that the water has been squeezed out!

Any comments or questions? Was this helpful or the same old same old?

Ethical Shopping; A Quick Guide

The more I learn about the world of food production, corporate supermarket operations, and the environmental implications of modern lifestyle, the more thought I have to put into my shopping. The maxim about “voting with your dollar” is largely true, and there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. That being said, it doesn’t need to be difficult, and we all choose which factors most strongly influence our buying.

One of the biggest factors, which I don’t discuss below, is having the income to be able to make ethical shopping purchases. I am on a pretty damn low income, but I have made buying quality (and conscionable) food/products a priority. I don’t buy much (other than books, second-hand mostly), I don’t “eat out”, buy new clothes, etc. To me it’s worth saving my pennies elsewhere in order to eat well!

As a side note, I am surprisingly lucky in terms of access to local (and often organically) grown produce, and local businesses to support. For a small country town, the access to ethically sourced foods is amazing. Not to mention said local produce is usually MUCH CHEAPER than the produce available in the supermarkets!

Now we’ve gotten the preamble out of the way, here is a brief guide to the things I consider when buying a product.

  1. Where am I buying it? Especially with products in the major supermarkets, I always ask “Can I get this from a local business instead?”
  2. Is it vegan? Any animal ingredients (including E numbers)? Is it tested on animals?
      Animal-derived (i.e. non-vegan) E numbers:

    • 120 Carmine
    • 441 Gelatine
    • 542 Bone Phosphate
    • 631 Glutamic Acid
    • 901 Beeswax
    • 910, 920, 921 L-cysteine
    • 913 Lanolin
    • 966 Lactitol
  3. Is it Australian made? Check for products made from LOCAL ingredients only, not a mixture of local and imported.
  4. Is the manufacturer Australian? Even if the ingredients come from Australia, the parent company itself may be a multinational/international corporation. So it’s always worth checking.
  5. Does the manufacturer have a “black” listing? Has the company been accused of any unethical practices, code violations, human rights violations, etc.?

    As a quick guide, the 6 major companies you should boycott on this basis are;

    • Nestlé (aggressively marketed infant formula in developing countries; dependency on these products leads to infant deaths, workers’ rights, pollution)
    • Coca-Cola (murders, kidnappings and torture of union leaders in Colombia, pollution of soil/groundwater in India)
    • L’Oréal / Procter & Gamble (ongoing involvement in animal testing, with no interest in stopping; L’Oréal is also part-owned by Nestlé)
    • GlaxoSmithKline (animal testing, adulterated drugs, $3b fine for fraud)
    • Unilever (animal testing, BPA policy, price fixing, worker exploitation in Kenya and India)
    • Johnson & Johnson (animal testing, unethical marketing, price fixing, action on Darfur)
  6. How many ingredients? Is it mostly whole foods, is the ingredients list a mile long, how many artificial ingredients are there? I try and avoid unnecessary processing where possible.

    For example, quick oats have one ingredient, oats. Pre-flavoured quick oats often have up to FIFTEEN ingredients, even for flavours as simple as “brown sugar”. I’d rather just add some brown sugar to the oats myself; with soy milk that’s a total of 3 ingredients!

  7. How much packaging is involved? Can I get a version with less packaging? Is the packaging recyclable?

    I buy my cat tuna in tins for this reason; the individual sachet pouches aren’t recyclable, but tins are!

When buying produce there are a few extra considerations;

  1. Can I get this locally? A lot of farmers are happy to sell the produce that supermarkets reject because it’s not “perfect”, with the bonus of it being fresh (and did you know those rough brown spots on the skins of apples usually indicate a sweeter apple?). It’s worth hunting around to find out if you have this option.

    Obviously, if you live in a city (you poor thing!), this isn’t very practical; I’d suggest trying to find produce that comes from within your own state, if possible. The aim of the game is to select produce with the lowest food miles; there’s also nothing like fresh produce!

  2. Should I buy organic? This is a tricky one; as a general rule, I first consider whether the item is one of the “Dirty Dozen” or the “Clean Fifteen”. These are general guides indicating which foods are grown using the greatest amount of pesticides and petro-chemicals. They are:

      Dirty Dozen (buy these organic where possible)

    • Apples
    • Capsicums
    • Blueberries
    • Celery
    • Cucumbers
    • Grapes
    • Lettuce
    • Nectarines
    • Peaches
    • Potatoes
    • Spinach (and kale and other greens)
    • Strawberries
      Clean Fifteen (minimal pesticides used in production)

    • Asparagus
    • Avocado
    • Cabbage
    • Cantaloupe
    • Corn
    • Eggplant
    • Grapefruit
    • Kiwi fruit
    • Mangoes
    • Mushrooms
    • Onions
    • Pineapples
    • Sweet peas
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Watermelon

So there you have it, a (reasonably) short and sweet guide to ethical shopping considerations! Now, this is a lot to remember, especially when you’re busy grocery shopping. I use several reference materials, in handy pocket form, that ensure I can look all this stuff up on the fly. They are;

  1. The “Shop Ethical” guide, a new pocket-sized guide book that I am absolutely NUTS about! It provides you with information about products and companies, including animal products/testing, human rights violations, companies accused of ethical violations, the country of origin of companies, and a very useful guide to what is Australian owned/made. (And it’s only $9! I actually have two of these, one for each of my bags, so I’m never without!)
  2. A list of animal derived E numbers; I have written the above list out on a post-it and taped it to the back of the Shop Ethical guide.

  3. “The Chemical Maze”, which comes in a bookshelf or pocket size, and gives you a complete list of all E numbers and common chemicals in cleaning and costmetic products. It tells you what they’re derived from, what their function is, whether there are any health/safety issues associated with the chemical, and common uses.

As always, questions and comments are more than welcome!

Blenders, Dehydrators and Raw Foodism – Oh My!

While I will never be 100% raw vegan, I often look for ways to incorporate more whole plant foods into my diet, and in interesting forms; enter raw food. However, my lack of equipment prevented me from ever delving into the world of “gourmet” raw food (i.e. not just plain whole fruits and veggies).

Buuuuut… I got my tax back, and am now the very proud owner of a dehydrator, courtesy of eBay (and yes, I am always this awkward in photographs);

And, because I am apparently several years slow on the uptake, I worked out that the bottom of my blender IS removable, it’s just difficult to do so. So now I know how to easily access and clean it, I’ve been using it far more often. By the combined powers of blender + dehydrator, I’ve been having a great time experimenting in raw foods;

1. Kale chips (recipe from Ani Phyo’s ‘Raw Food Basics’), which are now my favourite food;

2. Flax crackers, from the same book;

3. Raw chocolate mousse (from an Internet recipe);

I’ve also created my own recipe for some AMAZING raw cookies, so stay tuned for pictures and the recipe!

Super-Easy Vegan Pasta Bolognaise

Two-Pot Super-Easy Pasta Bolognaise (with extra veggies)

This is a continuation of my praise of the mighty rice cooker. Once again proving its versatility, it can be used to make a delicious TVP-bolognaise with a few extra servings of vegetables in there. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly long ingredients list; it’s mostly touches of common seasonings.

Equipment:

  • Rice cooker
  • Medium sized saucepan
  • Strainer

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP; available in the health food section at Woolworths or Coles, or at any decent health food shop)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 jar vegan tomato pasta sauce
  • 2 cups pasta of your choice (gluten free is fine)
  • 2 cups mushrooms, diced
  • 1 head broccoli, diced
  • 1 tbsp canola oil or vegan ‘butter’ (I use Nuttlex)
  • 5 tsps ‘beef’ stock (Massell’s do a good one)
  • 2-3 tsps mixed herbs (or to taste)
  • 1-2 tsps minced garlic
  • 2-3 drops liquid smoke (optional)
  • Bragg’s liquid aminos to taste (optional)
  • 2-3 tsps porcini powder (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Add the diced mushroom and broccoli, oil and Bragg’s to the rice cooker. Mix well and set rice cooker to “cook”.
  2. In the saucepan, add the TVP, water and 3-4 tsps of ‘beef’ stock, and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until it’s absorbed most/all of the water.
  3. Once the TVP is cooked, strain it and press out the majority of the moisture (reserve the stock for later use if you wish).
  4. Add the TVP, jar of tomato sauce, 1-2 tsps ‘beef’ stock, mixed herbs, minced garlic, porcini powder and liquid smoke to the vegetables in the rice cooker. Mix thoroughly and leave on “cook”.
  5. Rinse the saucepan, and fill ¾ full with water. Add a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil on high. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, then strain.
  6. Pour pasta into a bowl, add a few heaping tablespoons of the sauce on it, and sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Enjoy!

Note: if you want to get a really thick sauce, leave the rice cooker on “cook” for longer, or while you eat, with the lid off.

Food pr0n: The Vegan Baking Extravaganza (Part 11)

Welcome to part 11 of the ongoing series of posts on the various foodstuffs I like to create in my spare time. Once again, this post is a mixture of actual “baking” and other methods of food production – notably, my love for banana icecream.

Block uncheese (from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook);

For taste, I’d rate it 10/10, but the texture is nowhere near solid. It’s more like a delicious cashew-based patè. More experimentation from this cookbook is needed.

Pasta bolognaise with TVP ‘meatballs’ (this was the first time I’d used the larger-sized TVP chunks, and I think I needed to soak them a little longer than the finer TVP ‘mince’), topped with nutritional yeast;

Strawberry-banana-choc-chip icecream; it’s a variation on my banana “ice cream” recipe, using vanilla soymilk, strawberry essence (I’d use fresh strawberries, but was out at the time) and agave nectar.

Some random sprinkle-mad sugar cookies; dinosaurs, butterflies and cupcakes, oh my!

Stay tuned for the next sugar-loaded installment of the Vegan Baking Extravaganza!

Food pr0n: the Vegan Baking Extravaganza (Part 10)

Apologies for the slight delay in posting, this week just got away from me.

Welcome to part 10 of the deliciously decadent Vegan Baking Extravaganza! This week features a slightly wider variety of foodstuffs, as I’ve been somewhat more adventurous in my vegan concoctions of late.

Caramel popcorn (from the recipe in Lickin’ the Beaters 2). Apologies for the rather dark photograph.

Chocolate crackles made with Reeses Pieces cereal, which is way too sweet to be eaten as cereal. Combine melted copha (vegetable shortening) with cocoa, mix in cereal, and pour into patty cases/silicon moulds.

Smores Bars pre-oven (recipe is from one of my cookbooks, can’t remember which one right now – basically it’s just a biscuit base, covered with marshmallow and chopped dark chocolate).

Smores Bars post-oven.

And our final items aren’t baked, but they are made by me, so hey, close enough! I’ve been getting into banana “ice cream” (frozen banana pieces chucked in the blender with soymilk, agave nectar, vanilla essence (optional), cocoa (optional)) lately, making both “plain” and chocolate flavoured, both with chocolate chips. I also used one of the new VitaSoy breakfast drinks – delicious and enriched with calcium, B12, fibre, etc. I highly recommend it.

“Plain” banana choc chip ice cream.

Chocolate choc chip ice cream.

And thus conclused the 10th installment of this series, which will be going for more than 10 installments, apparently! Tune in next time for my attempts to make “cheese”, chocolate mousse cups, and more!

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