10

In My Kitchen December 2017

I figured I better get In My Kitchen up for December, given I’ve missed so many months.

I use these dark chocolate chips from Costco but next time I go to Costco I’ll look for the other dark chocolate they sell, which has had good reviews:

I did a big shop up at Lien Hoa Tam in Braybrook, which used to be called Global Green Vegetarian Food Mart. They sell a heap of mock meats, dried soy, vegan confectionary, vegan cheeses, pies and more. This lemon chicken is nice, quite sweet though, but when I crisp it up in the oven I keep going back for ‘one more piece’:

I haven’t tried this vegan bbq pork yet but I think it’s the same sort that Vietnamese places use in their vegan bahn mi rolls and dishes:

Life is good when there are tofu puffs in the house:

I love these Greenfarms steamed buns, you can get a few different varieties at Lien Hoa Tam:

I tried these black bean beetroot burgers which were okay, the family weren’t keen though:

Not in my kitchen, but an identical version used to be in my grandmother’s kitchen! This retro pineapple fruit-nut stand was at Brunswick Savers. The pineapple on the top is supposed to have the wooden spikes coming out, you can see these in the bottom tier. I was half tempted to get it but figured that I’d decided not to have my grandmother’s for a reason:

This is my latest cookbook purchase. I love Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen, which I reviewed here. I haven’t actually read through this new book yet. I can only look at new cookbooks when I have complete silence and ‘me time’:

And now the Christmas rush begins. We don’t have a tree because of the cats. We can’t even have a vase of flowers or a Christmassy decoration because the cats will destroy everything. That suits me though as it means less putting-stuff-away later.

In My Kitchen is a monthly blog link up that is currently being hosted by Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings. I’m submitting this blog post of mine for December 2017. While not a vegan-specific event, anyone can join in and you can also discover new blogs, recipes, products, etc!

4

Blendtec Blender Review

(image from blendtec.com)

I’ve had my Blendtec blender for quite a few years now so I figure it’s about time I did a review.

I think I bought my Blendtec back in mid 2012. I bought it from an Australian distributor for around $750 all up, and that was the sale price. I remember really, REALLY wanting a power blender and preferring this over a Vitamix due to price at the time, and reviews I’d read. After I made the payment online, I felt pretty sick at how much money I’d just spent, but you know, I had heaps of plans to use it. And before that I’d had two other blenders, each around $100 which were not only crappy but they also stopped working and weren’t able to be repaired.

I use the Blendtec all the time, so it’s pretty much paid itself off. I average about one use a day, other days I might use it three times depending on what I’m making. On the whole I love my Blendtec and don’t regret buying it at all. In warmer weather I use it pretty much every morning for a smoothie. I rarely make breakfast and first thing in the morning I want something as quick as possible, so it’s usually a smoothie.

The one major gripe I had was that I’d made a smoothie once and there was a smell. A nasty burning smell. My smoothie also had little bits of weird stuff in it. I couldn’t work it out, I checked the blender jug, thinking I might have left something in it without realising before pouring the ingredients in. I put the blender on again and it started smoking from under the jug. Turns out the rubber seal at the bottom had come away somehow and so the burning rubber smell and smoke was coming out of the hole you slot the jug in to. The seal was being blended up too.

Blendtec couldn’t help me with a replacement jug as I’d purchased from an Australian distributor (I don’t think Blendtec were in Australia at the time, like they are now). So I contacted the distributor, who was extremely helpful, and I had to package up the jug and post it to Queensland for someone to repair it. But the jug was beyond repair so I had to buy a replacement for the special sale price of about $240. This was the larger four sided jug. My warranty had run out a couple months before. Argh! I’d also followed the care instructions, so I was pretty unimpressed this happened and that Blendtec couldn’t help.

It’s been all good since then. Here’s what I use the blender for the most:

  • smoothies (nuts and veggies blend fantastically well)
  • juices (well, water based runny smoothies really)
  • pureeing cooked veg like sweet potato
  • pureeing soups and sauces
  • frozen fruit nice cream
  • cashew cream
  • making oat flour and other flours such as buckwheat
  • vegan nut based cheeses

The only thing that bugs me is when I make nice cream with frozen fruits, always banana and whatever else. I have to constantly stop and scrape everything because the blades do that thing where they just spin around but the food is stuck around the sides. I get there in the end though as the fruit softens, or sometimes I have to add a splash of liquid to get everything moving.

Because the blade is a little high up from the base of the jug, I can’t make half batches of a lot of recipes like cashew cheese because the food gets stuck under the blades to the base of the jug. I don’t always want to be making a full or double batch of something just to get the blades spinning properly, particularly if I’m not likely to eat the food myself over the next few days.

I mostly make smoothies and throw in some cooked veg too such as broccoli with my overripe-banana smoothies. It all blends perfectly for me, with no obvious bits.

In the past I have made my own chickpea flour. I know the Blendtec can handle it, you just have to watch some Will It Blend? videos on YouTube to see how powerful this blender is. But it’s just easier to buy chickpea flour and save any wear on the blades. And the noise is pretty horrible too when you’re grinding chickpeas, it’s like gravel.

There’s just so much you can do with the Blendtec. I don’t know how it compares to other power blenders like a Vitamix or the Ninja thingy I always saw on infomercials. I mostly use the smoothie cycle function. There are quite a few speed/power levels and pre-programmed cycles go for a set time limit, using varying speeds. The whole juice cycle option is a good example of this, in fact when I showed some relatives how to make a juice they thought the blender was malfunctioning and about to explode.

I have the thick recipe booklet that came with the blender but I’ve never used it. There are recipes for bread and one of the cycles is for kneading dough but I’ve never tried it. I might put it to the test one day as I’m sceptical about kneading dough in a blender!

For special occasions where I’m preparing foods, I might use the blender many times in a few hours depending on what I’m making. For some things like nut butters I prefer to use my food processor. Overall though I love my Blendtec and it’s quite likely on my list of stuff to take out of a burning house.

 

I’d definitely recommend a Blendtec but as I said I don’t know how it compares to other brands. I know people who prefer Blendtec over Vitamix and vice versa. If mine exploded tomorrow I would probably see if I could trial another blender for free first to be completely certain, but I suspect I would end up with another Blendtec.

Blendtec Australia currently has the blender online for $913. Even typing that price freaks me out, I keep coming back to “$913 for a BLENDER???” So yeah, I’d probably trial something cheaper first. When I told people how much mine cost they understandably couldn’t believe anyone would spend that much on a blender so I had to point out it’s not a regular cheapy style simple blender, it’s a full on power blender and not like a $50 Breville.

All I can say is that my Blendtec is an integral part of my food prep and diet, in fact as soon as I post this I’m going off to make a smoothie with some ice 🙂

8

Vegan Cruising To Kangaroo Island on the Pacific Jewel

So, this is going to contain a fair bit of first world problem whining.

We’ve just returned from a four night P&O cruise to Kangaroo Island in South Australia. I wasn’t that keen on another cruise, my first being a Dawn Princess four nighter to Tasmania in 2014, but we had an offer for something like a 75% discount. And I’d always wanted to see Kangaroo Island, plus I like a little research for the blog, so off we went.

Armed with information based on that previous experience, I knew how I had to order in the main dining room to get a vegan meal. I checked with P&O beforehand about vegan meals. Yes, we cater for that, they said.

I’ll let you be the judge of that. Oh, and they clearly catered for bed bugs in my bed because I’m currently covered in massive bites from head to toe and my doctor said I’m the most interesting patient he’s seen in weeks (after his very sympathetic “ewwww owwwww yes that’s bed bugs”). Yay for antibiotics.

So, cruise ships have a main dining room (the fancier restaurant looking places) and the more casual eating areas like the traditional buffet. The Pacific Jewel, like some other ships, has done away with the buffet concept and now has different outlets you can get food from. The main dining room is called the Waterfront and you can get breakfast, lunch or dinner from a set menu.

The deal is you go to the head waiter or maitre d’ the day before you want your meal and arrange to have something veganised from the menu, or something else. On the day we boarded I went straight to the Waterfront to organise a vegan meal for that night, which was still okay. Vegetarian meals are marked, but nothing else is. The best they could do was a rice paper roll starter, which was already on the menu so I’m wondering if it was vegan by default, then a penne in a tomato sauce with mushrooms for my main:

The penne was nice enough but just not mind blowing and it’s what I make at home, whereas all the other meals served were the fancy things. Still, we were there to celebrate my mum’s birthday, so this was satisfactory:

They gave me plain boiled veggies on the side. I mixed them in to the pasta:

I had ordered sorbet but all they had in the end was… the chilled fruit plate. The ‘dessert’ equivalent of the dreaded vegie stack:

I decided to give the Waterfront another shot for the last dinner on the ship. They were able to make me spaghetti in tomato sauce for my main and mini spring rolls (which tasted exactly like the ones from the freezer section). A little basil garnish would have been nice at least. What do you think? Again, tasted fine and was a decent portion size but yeah:

I never got to have sorbet after all, boo.

The Pantry is made of a number of different food outlets that replaced the buffet. There’s the Curry House (Indian), Mexicana (Mexican), Kettle and Bun (for salad stuffs), Stix (Asian), and a handful of others.

I know what you’re thinking. Veganopoulous ate heaps from the Curry House, that lucky girl! I’m here to tell you again, like I did in 2014, that THEY FREAKING PUT BUTTER IN  E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. In the dal, butter. In the chickpea masala, butter. Butter in the saffron rice, butter in the teriyaki rice, butter on the roast potatoes, butter in the veg curry, butter everywheeere. WHY WHY WHYYYYY do they persist in doing this?! They have dairy intolerant people on the ship who register their dietary restrictions beforehand (you can tell who they are because they’re asking for soy milk). Why add dairy to dishes that don’t need it? Teriyaki rice doesn’t need butter! Gahhh.

Another big frustration is that serving staff, and often the more uniformed kitchen staff can not tell you if something has dairy in it. Okay I can sort of ‘get’ how they may not understand vegan, but the same applied to people asking about gluten free meals. Serving staff just didn’t know so every time someone asks about the food, the serving staff have to stop and go back in to the kitchen, which holds up the big queues and people get shitty and serving staff don’t always want to hold up the line that way. Hardly anyone knew what vegan meant and some didn’t know what gluten free meant. I don’t fault the staff, but clearly something needs to be done to educate staff and bring them up to speed on what this all means.

Also, the menus are planned in advanced and all the signs and labels are printed out. Why not include whether something is gluten free, or vegan, or whatever? If they can do this for breakfast and write the amount of fibre or such, they should do it for their other foods.

Okay, big whinge over. Here are some of the foods I was told were vegan, or rather, didn’t have egg/dairy/meat. I’m still not convinced everything shown below is in fact vegan.

From Curry House, I was told this was a vegan meal: plain rice, the vegetable sambal and salad. This was okay and hit the spot given how hungry I was:

Another Curry House meal was the is-it-really-vegan cumin potatoes with the I-really-hope-it’s-vegan biryani:

I figured Mexicana was a safer bet. No, not always. Butter in the rice too, now and then. I was told these Mexican potatoes were cooked in oil, no butter.  Ditto for the Mexican bean rice. The taco is just lettuce and salsa:

Another day I had the jalapeno rice with potatoes, guacamole and a taco. Another passable meal:

At the start of the trip, a serving staff told me to talk to the manager of The Pantry to find out what I could eat. I found the manager (I think he was the manager) and he pointed me to Kettle and Bun, which is raw salad and beans from a can. Yeah nah.

Another day I noticed an important looking chef walking around the area so I asked him if he could tell me what was vegan. He said “what would you like to have?” Ehh?! So I showed him the Mexicana bain-marie which had capsicums stuffed with beans but topped with cheese and said that looks good minus the cheese. So he arranged for the kitchen to make me a vegan version. Much appreciated! It took about fifteen minutes though, but that was fine. I commented positively on this and the chef said “if you don’t ask, you don’t get!”. I wish I’d thought to ask the chef the previous days but from the start I felt like the annoying pain in the arse vegan.

Another Mexicana meal was paprika rice and a bean casserole:

Things must be dire if you consider fries to be one of the highlight meals of the trip:

I was holed up in the cabin for the first full day because of sea sickness. I couldn’t stomach food but husband brought me a plate of boiled veg, the star highlight being zucchini that was overboiled by about ten minutes:

I didn’t get to have breakfast in the Waterfront, despite being told they could put together items from the big breakfast (tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, avocado) and that the vanilla bean porridge with stewed rhubarb was vegan (made with water, not milk). But porridge with water has always grossed me out so I went to the Pantry again for cereal and peaches. When I saw the carton of soy milk that said suitable for vegans, I nearly cried:

I got a vegetarian-minus-cheese pizza from a cafe on Kangaroo Island. It was okay, the kind of thing that seems fabulous when you’re really hungry:

On to some of the worst meals. This was the vegetable sushi. I had some nice looking pieces but then ended up being served what you see below. This is before I started eating. No points for presentation… the rice was also dry and bland but at least they offered soy sauce and wasabi. By this time though, I considered the sushi rolls a lifesaver:

These noodles were just labeled vegetable noodles at the Stix outlet. I stopped eating after one forkful and noticed quite a few plates lying around where others must clearly have shared my thoughts:

Hmmm, looking at all those photos it kinda doesn’t seem so bad. I guess when you’re so hungry and surrounded by chillis and curries that are probably vegan except for the BUTTER EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME, it seems like there’s nothing. I did find it all very same-same, I mean you go on a cruise to enjoy food too, you know?

I liked the portion sizes they served you, but you can always ask for more. On the whole my non-vegan family weren’t that impressed with the foods. They said stuff was either too salty, too sweet, or too dry (mum said some of the cakes were terrible). There were ‘donuts’ for breakfast one morning which were clearly just bread rolls in a donut shape and iced, or the croissants which weren’t very croissant like, according to my family. They did enjoy their meals at the Waterfront though.

Enough whinge! On to Kangaroo Island (KI)! 

We had two full days at sea, then on the third day we docked at Kangaroo Island at 7am. We booked a too-expensive four hour coach tour which was pretty disappointing. The bus driver guide was great, but the tour was pretty bland and others I spoke to felt the tour could be so much better and more detailed. We saw a seal though, which made up for a bit of the disappointment.

Here are some interesting facts we learned on the tour:

  • KI has a serious problem with feral cats and pigs. Ditto for turkeys and koalas. The cats are destroying the wildlife and the pigs are damaging the land, but the pigs have mostly been driven to the west of the island.
  • KI is Australia’s third largest island (first is Tasmania, second is Melville Island).
  • Koalas were being culled and there was was a massive outcry when the story made it to the media. People were boycotting KI and as KI heavily relies on tourism, the culling stopped. Instead, the koalas were captured and sterilised and the trees were GPS tagged. While this had some success, it is still a problem because the koalas the parks authority did not capture continued to breed. The introduction of koalas has resulted in the koalas’ preferred food source (manna gum) being close to local extinction.
  • In 1802 British explorer Matthew Flinders named the island Kanguroo Island due to the western grey kangaroo being everywhere.
  • French explorer Nicolas Baudin came soon after, and he was the first to circumnavigate the island. This is why some places on KI have French names.
  • Although France and England were at war, Flinders and Baudin met peacefully and exchanged information.
  • KI’s population is just over 4000. There are about 180,000+ tourists annually.
  • KI has the only pure bred disease-free Ligurian honey bee. Because of this, there are very strict quarantine regulations in place about bringing in any bee keeping equipment and bee products.
  • KI has South Australia’s only eucalyptus oil distillery, using the KI narrow leaf mallee.
  • There are no traffic lights on KI.
  • There are no foxes or rabbits. Foxes weren’t introduced though rabbits were, but it’s thought that goannas would eat the rabbits as they burrow.
  • The western grey kangaroos are shorter and stockier to help them push through dense brush.

Our coach tour took us to the town of Kingscote (everything was closed) and the lighthouse at Cape Willoughby. The tour had some rough, rocky roads that made our teeth and spines rattle– really not okay for the senior citizens so at the very least, there should have been a warning on the tour brochures!

I would have enjoyed the cruise more if I hadn’t been so sea sick and covered in bed bug bites. That, and the butter in everything. But there’s a good schedule of activities and we enjoyed the trivia, a talk by a Titanic enthusiast, live shows and the family party-discos. So glad to be home though!

 

5

A Bunch Of Eating Out What I Ate

I haven’t taken pics of my own home made food in ages because it’s the same old that I’ve photographed for the blog many times before. Instead, I’ll share some photos of meals out. I finally made it to Handsome Her but will keep that for a separate post because I need to go back for more meals and pics.

Back to The Merri Clan for lunch yesterday, with my sister. She got the breakfast tacos which were pretty damn good:

I got the small version of the Big Mock burger. I made a mess but damn, this is a good burger:

Another visit to Divine Realm Veggie Delight in the city for the $7.50 three-meal-plus-fried-rice deal. This place is fantastic:

My son and I went to The Glass Den. He got the vegan roti stack:

and I got the Donnka Burger (vegan version has a veg patty) which I ate too quickly, even while picking at my son’s meal:

I was the northern end of Lygon Street and stopped in for some roast veg lasagna at Vege2Go, where you can buy ready made meals to take away:

Zaatar has become one of my son’s favourites (he loves the plain zaatar breads, like me). The spinach pide triangles are great:

Good Days in Brunswick is one of my favourites, I get the spring roll noodle salad every time:

I call this the Melbourne Harry Potter building:

And finally, an image of the community gardens at the Brunswick Food Forest.

 

8

Easy Tips for A Layered Smoothie

Layered fruit smoothies look really easy, right? That’s what I thought, then I ended up with a greeny brown mess despite three different beautifully coloured smoothies having gone in to the glass. Here are some simple tips to get your multi-coloured smoothies.

Tip 1: Use frozen bananas in all your layers as a base. This helps keep it all nice and thick. Other frozen fruits are good too. Keep it thick!

Tip 2: Use oats (or your preferred gluten free alternative) as an emergency thickener if you need it. Start with a bit at a time and make sure everything is well blended.

Tip 3: Use the minimal amount of liquid possible to get the smoothie blended (you may need to thicken it if you add too much).

Tip 4: Use the brightest coloured fruit and veg. In the photo above I’ve gone with baby spinach, beetroot and frozen mango with frozen banana as the base in all three.

Tip 5: Make your layers in different batches, rinse your blender then store your layers in the freezer or coldest part of the fridge while you make the next layer.

Tip 6: Make the green layer last, so it doesn’t start turning that cacky colour.

Tip 7: Pour slowly! Whilst… working quickly. I know, doesn’t make sense. But you want to keep the different smoothies nice and thick and cold, so make these right before serving and make sure all the smoothies are chilled and thick.

 

My first experiments went wrong because the smoothie layers were just too runny. They have to be thick so they don’t mix in to each other. I also poured a bit too carelessly so everything got mixed together and looked awful!

Enjoy xxxx