Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Summery Chicken Wrap with Cool Ranch Dressing

In summertime, like many people, I'm not too keen on eating hot foods. Last weekend in Melbourne the temperature hovered in the mid-to-late 30s celsius (around the upper 90s fahrenheit). This is not my kind of weather and I will expel as little energy as possible and eat as much cucumber as I can to keep my body temperature normal. Enter the chicken wrap. This does requiring a bit of cooking, but with the exception of the "chicken", the rest of the elements are cold.


  • 2 chicken burgers
  • cucumber sticks
  • carrot sticks
  • tomato cut into wedges
  • red onion, sliced
  • lettuce of your choice, washed and drained or spun
  • "ranch" dressing
  • pita bread

This ranch dressing recipe is based on this recipe I found and is very yummy. It's best to keep it chilled for at least 20 minutes in the fridge before serving. 

  • 1 tbsp vegan mayo
  • 2 tbsp vegan sour cream
  • 2 tsp of sugar water (sugar dissolved into water)
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tsp lemon juice
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • dash of paprika
  • dash of onion powder
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley or dried mixed herbs 

Fry up the chicken burgers, then move onto some paper towel or clean tea cloth to drain. Slice into strips. Layer your pita bread with salad, carrot and cucumber sticks and red onion. Arrange chicken strips and drizzle with dressing. Add a few tomato wedges and a dash of black pepper, wrap, and eat.


Monday, 27 February 2012

Pumpkin-Portobello Pasta Sauce With Garlic and Thyme

I present to you another weeknight dinner for your cooking pleasure. This one is also pretty easy and very flavourful. Don't let the colour of the sauce put you off - because of the mushrooms the sauce turns out to be a kind of alien colour, but it's the taste that counts, right! The pine nuts add a much-needed crunchiness, and the mushrooms infuse an extra earthy flavour into the sauce. Makes about four serves.

  • pasta of your choice (I used bowtie)
  • about $3 worth of your choice of pumpkin
  • 3 large portobello mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • about 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme + more for garnish
  • Nuttelex
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • splash of dark soy sauce
  • splash of lemon juice
  • 2 drops of liquid smoke (optional)
  • pine nuts
  • a few shakes of onion powder
  • pepper
  • salt

Slice the pumpkin and wet-roast in the oven on medium until tender. Whilst the pumpkin is roasting, slice your mushrooms. Melt some Nuttelex in a fry pan and add garlic and thyme. Cook for a few minutes then add the mushroom and splash of dark soy and splash of balsamic vinegar. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are well-cooked and no liquid remains in the pan. 

Put your water on to boil and, once boiled, throw in the pasta!

When your pumpkin is tender, cut off the rind and throw in your food processor, along with a cup of stock. Blend until smooth. Next add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, olive oil, onion powder, one teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and blend until combined. Add more vegetable stock, whilst pulsing the food processor, to reach your desired thickness. Taste, then add more of what you need to to reach your desired flavour and consistency. I found that I kept adding salt and more salt and more salt, and it took a bit of adding of more ingredients to balance the sauce.

Once your sauce tastes awesome and the mushrooms are cooked, add the sauce to the frypan with the mushrooms. Stir gently to combine, but not too much that your sauce is too brown! Let cook on very low heat for as much time as it takes to toast a few tablespoons of pine nuts. 

Drain your pasta and stir through it some more Nuttelex, about a tablespoon's worth. Plate and pour a good amount of sauce on top. Top with pine nuts and a sprinkling of fresh thyme. Again, not the most attractively-coloured sauce, but if you're looking to make it more pretty, you could always throw the mushroom mixture on top of the pumpkin sauce, rather than stirring it through.


Saturday, 25 February 2012

Three-Cheese Gourmet Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Sometimes it's difficult to come up with a different dinner idea every night of the week. Especially as I have been working harder than usual at work lately, and the bf has been working late almost every night. And just because I'm feeling tired doesn't mean I want to eat boring food.

All I can say is thank the baby Jesus for my grill pan and food processor! These two kitchen items have really made making quick, tasty dinners a lot easier this year. I present to you, an out-of-this-world-tasty grilled cheese sandwich that is wonderful grilled with a grill pan, but can also be cooked in a regular frypan. The mushroom gives it a smoky, meaty flavour and texture, and the three cheeses' powers combine to make this probably the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever made! Serve with a lazy can of condensed tomato soup.

Ingredients to make two sandwiches:

  • 4 slices of bread
  • 1 large portobello mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 a red onion, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • handful of spinach
  • 2 tbsp pinenuts
  • wholegrain mustard
  • dijon mustard
  • horseradish (the kind from a jar)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Nuttelex


  • Tofutti mozzarella slices
  • Cheezly blue cheese 
  • Sheese smoked cheddar

First, slice your portobello mushroom as thinly as you can. Spread your grill pan with melted Nuttelex and cook the mushrooms until they look cooked - basically when they have a darker colour and are no longer dry - grill marks are not necessary. Whilst your mushrooms are cooking, toast your pinenuts in the same pan.

Layer your sandwich like this:

slice of bread
dijon mustard
Tofutti slice, cut into four sections
bleu cheese spread out in between the pieces of Tofutti
portobello mushroom slices
red onion
pine nuts
thinly sliced smoked cheddar
other slice of bread spread with wholegrain mustard

Spread the top of the top slice of bread with Nuttelex and melt some more Nuttelex in the grill pan. Grill the sandwich on low until the bottom layer of cheese is melty. Salt and pepper the top then flip your sandwich and continue to grill until all the cheese is melty. Salt and pepper again and serve hot! You'll win over vegans and omnis alike.


Sunday, 19 February 2012

Vegan Wine or Wine That Happens to Be Vegan

If a wine doesn't mention egg, milk or fish on the label, has it been filtered and processed to be vegan? Or is it only vegan if the label says it is? These annoying questions are some of the reasons I find myself sticking to beer when I'm in the mood for booze. I know my Coopers, Little Creatures and Mountain Goat are vegan - and if those aren't on tap at whatever bar I'm at, I can easily identify the vegan beer the place does have.

I know which readily-available beers are vegan suitable, but wine floods the marketplace in such a way that it seems every restaurant, pub and bar has a different wine list, rendering it nearly impossible to know if what I'm ordering is filtered with milk or through isinglass. The situation is a lot easier at the bottle shop - I usually just go in and grab a bottle of Yalumba. The awesome people at Yalumba label the wines in their range as to whether they are vegetarian suitable and vegan suitable - my favourite is the shiraz-viognier. If a label says "vegan" (or a restaurant has the word "vegan" on their menu!) I know that business cares about me, and I am more likely to support them. (Even if the company has really cheesy ads that I inevitably have to sit through at least 20 times each year at MIFF!)

If anyone has some suggestions for other Australian wines that label their product as "Vegan Suitable", I would love to hear about them!


Friday, 10 February 2012

Easy Delicious Mexican Rice

This week limes and avocados are cheap so I have been making lots of guacamole and burritos. The first night of burritos we had charcoal tofu and refried beans on them, but it was a bit too much bean-action for the bf to handle, so the following night I mixed it up with dry-fried veg chicken (the nugget-style ones from your local asian grocery) and mexican rice. I found the rice recipe here and I must say, it turned out wonderfully. It looked and tasted quite similarly to rice I've had in burritos in the US. I used slightly different proportions so have posted my version of the recipe. Makes enough for about 6 burritos:


  • 1 cup of long grain white rice
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 small brown onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • just less than 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • the juice of 1/2 a juicey lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
  • 4 shakes of ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small to medium-sized pot, add rice and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil over high heat. Stir and cover the pot. Lower the heat and simmer for another 17-20 minutes until just cooked. Remove from heat and keep the pot covered while you perform the second step.

Cook your onions in a small fry pan with the olive oil for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and stir for another minute or two. Add the tomato paste and cumin and stir again. Now mix in the lime juice, coriander and, finally, the rice.

Stir until the tomato paste mixture is fully combined with the rice. Taste, and add more cumin, lime juice, salt and pepper to your liking. (My stock was salty enough that I didn't need to add more salt.) Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring every minute or so. Serve next to your other sides for an awesome DIY burritoathon!


Other suggestions for burrito fillings:

grilled corn, cut off the cob with a knife
charcoal bbq tofu chunks
dry-fried "chicken" sprinkled with ground spices of cumin, coriander and chilli
cos lettuce, chopped
tomato, diced
jalapenos, thinly sliced
black beans
refried beans
red onion
coriander leaves
vegan sour cream
vegan cheese


Another burritorrific tip:

Instead of leaving leftover ingredients in the fridge to go bad, chuck them into some lettuce as a salad and make a dressing out of warmed refried beans, olive oil, sour cream and lime juice!

My beautiful burrito:


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Lord of the Fries - Breakfast

I wonder sometimes if I was a meat-eater, would I be one of those people who grab breakfast from McDonalds every time I'm running late to work? Because lately I have been running late to work due to my decision to stay in bed for another 15 minutes and forfeit a healthy breakfast. This is where Lord of the Fries comes in. ...Or has come in, ahem, three times in the last two weeks. Once at the Elizabeth Street store and twice at Flinders Street Station. The food has been consistent between locations.

LOTF tempts me with a cheap, yummy and quick brekkie and some days I am powerless to refuse. Breakfast,  as I have mentioned, is my favourite meal of the day and LOTF does a pretty good job. I always go with the big-size meal deal ($7), which consists of one "big" Tibet (the vegan one) sandwich and two hash browns. You also have the choice of adding bacon ($1) or tomato (.50). Not a bad deal at all!

...And these sandwiches are good. In some ways they feel a bit heavy on condiments and cheese but the vegan egg makes up for it. The "eggs" are light and eggy bits of tofu, crisp on the outside and super-fluffy on the inside. They are egg-coloured and flavoured (my guess is they use black salt...) and very yummy. I recommend getting the sandwich with tomato to cut through the condiments' heaviness.


The hash browns are okay. They could stand to be a bit more crispy and a bit less greasy, but they're getting there. The first time I got them they fell apart and the LOTF guy had to give me one of those wooden forks to eat them with. At the menu price of $1.25 each, however, they are the cheapest, most ethical hash browns in town. And sometimes they come with a bonus fry.


Lord of the Fries does a pretty damned good breakfast but with all the mayo and cheese and oil I am going to try to limit myself to one LOTF breakfast every 10-15 days. Really, I'm really going to try.

Lord of the Fries on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Licensed to Grill

The last couple of months has seen my household bid farewell to a few old frypans - a great excuse to purchase a few new ones that I have had my eye on. First, I got a couple super-cute Avanti brand mini pans. One is a mini frypan in blue and the other a mini saucepan in yellow - perfect for toasting small amounts of sesame seeds, frying a small amount of dumplings, making individual but perfectly-sized pancakes and deep-frying using a small amount of oil. (Couldn't find a decent link but if you're in Melbs they had them at that kitcheny shop on Lt Bourke St just near Myer.)

The other toy I bought was something I had been lusting after for months and months. Only costing $20, it wasn't exravagent but I still felt the need to justify its purchase. And I'm so glad I did. The item in question?  A grill pan.

Oh, what fun I have been having grilling stuff. Like that YouTube series "Will It Blend?", it's been kind of like "Will It Grill?" around here lately. Zucchinis, eggplant and mushroom are excellent candidates for grilling, along with bread, polenta and hotdogs. The best, though, is grilled tofu. Somehow the grilling infuses a flavour into the 'fu that is above and beyond its normal taste when cooked in the same sauce.

And Oh! The lines! I love grill lines - they make everything look so so yummy. Here is an example - sauce recipe to be posted in the near future.