My Childhood Favourite Oozes and Delights

A friend sent me a food porn recommendation last week – for vegan lasagne. Its worth mentioning that lasagne was my fave dish as a child. Something about it never ceases to delight me – the ooziness of the sauce, the crunch of the lasagne pasta that always crisps up towards the edges, and of course the cheesy bechamel sauce. It was always the meal I’d ask for as a birthday treat and more often than not, the one I’d order at restaurants. So simple. So much joy.

As an adult, however, I don’t cook it very often…the mind boggling number of calories late at night isn’t often my first choice, and, of course, it takes effort. Thought and planning are involved and when I get home from work I usually just want to throw something yummy together without all the prep lasagne involves.

But last week, as I said, a good friend sent me a link on FB to this recipe from Cilantro and Citronella and all week it was bouncing around in my thoughts and teasing my tastebuds. It promised to deliver an easy to cook, delish vegan lasagne and glancing over the recipe it did, indeed, seem pretty simple.

Thursday night beckoned and I got involved, elbow deep, in chopping, prepping and seasoning and I have to say it wasn’t hard at all. The whole process took me about 40 minutes to prep and then another 45 to cook in the oven and it was (and still is) delish. The portions made enough to serve about 8 adults (my husband and I will now be eating this for dayssssss) and it really is tasty, proper tasty.

The ingredients are simple but I confess I did thrown a few of my own into the mix…they are italicised below in case you want to give this one a crack and ignore my additions.

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (for the flour blend stage)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter (to fry the veg…my addition instead of olive oil as I like the buttery flavour)
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 600 grams (21 oz) button mushrooms, chopped (use the stems too)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 400 grams (14 oz) frozen spinach, thawed according to the package directions and squeezed
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups (480 ml) unsweetened plant milk (they used soy, I used almond)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) vegetable stock
  • ½ cup (75 grams) flour
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast / I doubled this and used 4 as it wasn’t cheesy enough for me
  • 3 cups (700 ml / about a jar and a half) marinara sauce (I bought a large tin of crushed tomatoes and added fresh basil to it)
  • 2 tablespoons white miso (blended into the bechamel sauce mix after the flour and milk have been added…gave it another cheesy kick)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder (again added to the bechamel sauce)
  • 1 packet veggie mince fried in with veggies
  • Lasagna sheets

IMG_0470I wholeheartedly recommend this recipe to any vegan lasagne lovers out there. The only tricky bit was the bechamel sauce…which wasn’t even really tricky at all, you just had to keep a close eye on it. And my sauce was a little lumpy so I just used a hand blender to get rid of them and make sure it was silky and smooth. But the taste of the sauce is fantastic and goes so well on the lasagne. It even bubbles and browns and oozes on top…just like a cheese lasagne would…an amazing achievement to behold (and even better to taste).

Even writing this blog is making me think about eating some. Yup. Its that tasty.


What do vegans eat?

After the question about where I get my protein and the question about whether I miss bacon…this is the next biggest question I get from the curious is, ‘what do you eat?’ Usually followed with, ‘it must be really hard to figure out what to cook. You must have to really think about it.’

It always interests me this question. I think its, of all the questions about my diet, the one I like the most. Because it has healthy connotations and is devoid of judgement (unlike those about missing bacon whether I am lacking in iron and protein).

I can genuinely understand people’s bemusement and concern about what they would feed a vegan. I have seen the panic/fear in people’s eyes about the thought of trying to cook for me (to which I usually suggest a simple, easy stir-fry).

Its easier when you have already transitioned from vegetarian to vegan because you’ve already got used to thinking about substituting, different flavours, different ingredients and work-arounds. Plus, being vegetarian in now socially accepted and much easier to cater for as a meat-eater because you just chuck in some cheese or a fake sausage and you are good.

However, catering for a vegan requires a whole new ninja level train of thought – take out the butter, the eggs, the milk, the cream, the cheese, the honey, the ice cream, the chocolate…and I can understand why most people would freak out to varying degrees about the thought of cooking for me.

So – I thought I’d spend some time thinking about answering that question, what is it that I eat…

This blog is a collection of some of my fave meals over the last week; breakfast, lunch and dinner (recipes on request should you be remotely interested in them) in an attempt to demonstrate the variety of food that I eat and how easy it is to cook for and eat as a vegan.

Let’s start with the brekky options...these were my three fave breakfasts in the last week. They were packed with flavour and colourful. I am not really a marmite on toast or cereal kind of ‘cat’ unless I have no choice (and most people in my life know that I will pretty much eat anything for breakfast…so you might find these a little odd).

What about lunch? What did I have for  lunch this week that I really enjoyed? Some highlights included the below vegan quiche and especially my take on San Choi Bau.

Finally…dinner. Some delish meals in the last week which were fairly easy to cook and with a great variety of flavours.

And finally, an almond tart I made for myself for my birthday! My hubby wasn’t keen but he doesn’t like almond essence – but I really enjoyed it. It took about 10 mins to prep and then 50 in the oven…easy easy easy.

2016-05-11 09.03.55

All of these meals were packed with flavour. Easy to prepare and cook and delish to eat.

I hope that this has given you some inspiration whether its as a new vegan, as a
meat-eater trying to figure out what the hell to cook for a vegan or as someone who is thinking about making the leap to being vegan.

Its not bland, its not boring, its not colourless or lacking in flavour. In fact – I think its some of the best damn food I’ve ever eaten.

Here’s to our tastebuds.

Vegan Bacon, yep you heard me right

Ok so let’s start by saying…(for all the meat-eaters who will think this is ridic) that its not really like bacon except its cut into long strips and that it has a smoky taste.

However, let’s also qualify (for all the vegos and vegans out there) – that this sh** is delish.

I actually don’t miss bacon. I’ve never missed bacon. I will never miss bacon. Since the day I became a vegetarian in 1992 I haven’t given bacon a second thought and I’ve never understand the lamentation over missing it. I don’t even think it smells nice when its being cooked. So…its not like I’ve been pining for bacon for 24 years and trying to figure out how to replicate it. Quite the opposite.

2016-04-11 18.03.11.jpgHowever, I spied this recipe the other day on someone’s blog and I thought…hmm, that sounds tasty, I have some tempeh in the fridge, let’s give it a whirl.

So I tried it. It was really really easy. Obviously waaaaaay better for you than actual bacon (and clearly, way better for the pig who doesn’t have to die for the benefit of someone’s tastebuds).

I totally recommend you try this at home. I thought this would last me for days as I made 21 slices of it out of my 1.5 blocks of tempeh…however it was so tasty it only lasted me for 3 days as I basically had 3 slices of it for every meal (I couldn’t leave it alone).

2016-04-11 18.03.27.jpgSo here is the recipe and the process:

  • Tempeh (300 g) – I use the nutrisoy brand which I love
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for the marinade
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil for frying the bacon
  • 1.5 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ tsp red hot sauce
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke flavouring
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • Black pepper and salt to taste
  1. Slice the tempeh as thin as you can without it falling apart.
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except the salt) in a bowl. Soak the tempeh slices in the marinade for 15 minutes. If there is not enough mixture to cover make up some extra and pour over. You really want them to soak it all up.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a frying pan and when it’s hot, add the tempeh and cook for 3-4 minutes each side over high heat until both sides are browned and crisp. This took me longer than expected. Persevere with it as otherwise it will be soggy and not quite as amazing as you want it to be.
  4. Lay cooked tempeh on paper towel to cool. Add salt to taste.

I had this on toast with avo for brekky, I had it chopped up in a salad for lunch, I had it with roasted potatoes and steamed veg…it literally went with everything!

My fave had to be as part of a fresh and delish buddha bowl that I served up with my lovely friend Elsie as we sat and ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ our way through it!

2016-04-11 18.32.33.jpgSuper satisfying. In summary, get some tempeh and get this stuff cooking.

Your tastebuds will absolutely thank you for it. 

Once again, thanks to the simple vegan blog for this fantastic recipe and share.

How I learned more about vegan nutrition in the last 5 months than I thought possible

I am happy. Really happy.

Today I got my results through from the docs of my most recent blood tests. After 1 year of being vegan I had my bloods done as I wanted to know I wasn’t deficient in the big stuff, you know, the stuff everyone thinks vegans are deficient in…B12 and Iron. And…I was super happy in November when I discovered I was mid range and in the healthy range for everything.

However, I’ve been seeing a nutritionist since then and she felt I could still improve in my results. The woman is a legend, and has taught me so much about what I could eat more of and how to balance all of the nutrients I need in my diet.

Today, I got another set of results back, after a further 5 months and I am beaming. Literally beaming. I can’t stop smiling. 

Not only have my results improved, but they have improved dramatically. To well above the mid-range and into the upper range.

Check them out below….my iron levels have gone from 16.8 back in 2013 as a vegetarian to 29.6 as a vegan (the range is from 5.0 – 30.0) so I am almost literally at the top of the range).


My vitamin B12 has gone from 262 as a vegetarian in 2013 to 460 now in 2016 as a vegan (healthy range is deemed to be 135 – 650). I am over the moon. Quite literally.


Amanda Ford, of Zest and Zing has done wonders with my diet. SO much amazing advice and such great tips. If you read my last blog and enjoyed it (click here to read) on the ultimate vegan shopping list….it works. And whatever you think about nutritionists versus dietitians etc etc….its hard to question these results. I am so pleased.

And its not just on paper. I feel amazing. I have so much energy, my nails are strong, my hair is shiny and my skin is clear. Who could argue with it.

Its been a journey and I’ve had to really apply some thinking and research to my diet. Its not like being vegetarian, or eating meat, you do need to think, really think, about what you are eating and how it’s sustaining you. But its worth it, really worth it. I am worth it. I am so pleased with all of the research I did, reading I did, and the assistance of this amazing woman.

To any doubters of the vegan diet out there…here’s the proof. You can be vegan without being unhealthy, skinny, unwell, sickly and all those other stereotypes that the meat matrix would have you believe. You are what you eat and I am living it and loving it and hope to go from strength to strength. Glass of wine in hand. Celebrating.

Love and chickpeas all.



My first Vegan Christmas

Its been an interesting few weeks observing all the the impending hype about Christmas and watching all of the amped up adverts on the TV concerning getting some ‘pork on your fork’ and making sure you order your ham and turkey in time. On the radio this morning driving back from North Sydney I listened to a conversation on Nova about the importance of ordering in time to make sure that, god forbid, you went without meat on Christmas day and had to eat tofu. They laughed and laughed as if that were the funniest joke in town and the most awful outcome on a day of indulgence. I turned over radio stations disgusted with the presenters and their attitude.

Its a time of year when there is so much meat eaten, so much. Which…in my head, equates to so much death. So much. I think its especially apparent in my mind after watching this recent expose (well done to the team who did it) about farming in NZ.

Coupled with this I just read an amazing book, ‘Slaughterhouse’ by Gail Eisnitz. It made me so angry. It is an amazing amazing read. Not, unfortunately, a tempting title for many non-vegos or vegans I imagine, but its such a revealing and shocking read that I wish more would read it. I wish I had read it years ago. It documents the untold cruelty exacted against animals in the process of factory farming and documents that they are NOT one-offs and they are not unusual incidences of cruelty, they are (as I always felt was the case) everyday and common and par for the course. It talks of cows reaching the 4th stage of ‘processing’ (eg after shocking, having throats cut, and having limbs dismembered) and STILL BEING ALIVE. It has interviews with many many workers at these plants to reveal this is true in about a 3rd of all the cows they have to skin (alive). It talks of pigs having pokers stuck in their eyes, in their anus, in their mouths just to get them to move more quickly through the line. It talks of chickens still being alive when they reach the boiler (already having their feathers removed and their throats cut). And…the important distinction here – is that ALL of those workers interviewed agreed that none of these movements were muscle reactions / twitching, but rather than animals were still bellowing, making noises, rolling their eyes etc.

So – when I read the reaction to the farming expose in NZ and the reactions of, ‘but we love our animals…’ I just wanted to cry. The problem isn’t about whether you love them and treat them well whilst they are at the farm. The problem is when they leave the farm and where there is no accountability and no visibility. I say that again, no accountability and no visibility. If the workers themselves reveal that they are seeing this every single day, that means every single day that thousands of animals are being abused and tortured and its all hidden away and secret and instead what we see are images in the media about getting your christmas ham in time. It sickens me, honestly.

This is the reason I gave up meat all those years ago. The invisibility, the pain, the hidden agenda, the profits of the companies who run these factories and, its not just the animals who suffer, its also the workers who get injured and psychologically scarred by what they have to do every day.

If even one animal is abused in this way (and there is so much more I haven’t mentioned that’s shared in this book) then I can’t ever justify eating meat. I don’t understand how anyone can. Except I can, because its not widely known, its not widely shared and its designed to remain that way.

In the states at the moment a woman is being charged criminally for giving a pig on its way to a slaughterhouse water. Water. Apparently that pig is public property and she had no right to interfere with it. When did we stop seeing animals as beings and start thinking of them as property to be treated as we see fit. This underbelly of human emotions terrifies me.

So – I am looking forward to a christmas where I inflict no pain, am the cause of no suffering or death and where my life choices do not in any way mean that another being is abused beyond any level which we could call humane. I am not perfect, I make mistakes, I am not putting myself of a pedal stall here, I am just so pleased to not be part of the process and I am so happy that all those years ago, aged 14, I saw that documentary on TV late one night and it opened my eyes and forced me to question the world as I knew it.

Happy christmas to you all and please please consider the choices you make and what really happened behind the scenes to make for a merry christmas.


TVP burgers take me back to the Eighties

Once upon a time as a younger girl, perhaps around my teens if I remember correctly, my mum and I used to shop in a fabulous UK store called Holland and Barrett. I used to (and still do) love the shop as they had a wonderful array of vegetarian and alternative foods. I used to love the experimentation of trying out new things. My mum stumbled on this bizarre food called TVP (textured vegetable protein) which – when mixed with hot water – made a brilliant mince replacement for things like bolognese. However, it was bland, pretty unexciting and served really only as a backup for specific dishes as a meat replacement for me. I used it through my teens, at uni as a quick and cheap meal and then sort of forgot all about it.

5285303632_72c747614aIt was only when I purchased this amazing book recently that it was once again brought to mind. This book is brilliant for any new or even longer-term vegans as it literally runs through alternatives for everything; sugar, honey, butter, cream, eggs, milk, meat and so on.

The first recipe that tempted me, however, was a TVP creation for steaks. I thought, what the, let’s give that a go.

And so I did. I made a few little alterations as there’s quite a few calories in the ingredients and I only actually wanted to attempt my own burgers as opposed to steaks.

2015-10-31 18.43.32Its great that I have found something I can make as a replacement burger as, with my love of (but sadly intolerance to) chickpeas and other pulses, I struggle to make the standard replacement burgers which are all filled with pulses and which generally leave me happy with the taste but unhappy with how they affect me.

So here’s the recipe (with my twist):

TVP Burgers – makes about 8 burgers at about 250 calories a burger:

  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 cup TVP granules
  • 3 tablespoons tamari
  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • half teaspoon paprika
  • a couple of drops of liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • Third of a cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

20151030_162834In a microwaveable bowl mix the stock, TVP and tamari and cover with clingfilm / cling wrap and microwave for 5 minutes. Take it out and give it a stir, re cover it and then leave it to cool down substantially.

Whilst this is cooling prep all your other ingredients and then mix into the TVP mixture. Use your hands and mix gently to avoid crushing all the ingredients together. It should start coming together when you press it and doesn’t crumble. Don’t shape it at this point just be certain you are happy with the consistency. I then walked away and left it for an hour so that the gluten developed.

20151030_165317Once time has passed, come back and shape them. Into whatever you want…burgers, steaks, sausages, meatballs…and then cook! I BBQ’d mine and served with watermelon and mixed salad.

They were seriously yummy. Quite possibly the best burgers I have had in years. They were juicy from the oil, they got a nice colour, they had a lovely texture in the mouth and they tasted awesome. Super happy with this recipe and with the book overally!

I absolutely recommend a purchase:

Thanks Vegan Substitutions…I look forward to cooking more of your recipes!