A Sunday afternoon visit to Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop

Today’s weather forecast is for 39C (102.2F). It’s the sort of day where we don’t go anywhere.  Unless of course I say to myself “well it’s a Sunday, and a hot Sunday at that, which would mean people probably want to stay home or go to the beach, which means we have a better chance of finding parking near Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop and seating for four inside”.  A wise choice, there were loads of free car spaces and we got the bench along the window.  It doesn’t matter that the outside temp was 37C (98.6F) and that I will never go out in hot weather unless I really have to, I wanted to try the pumpkin pie.

DeeW thought the cupcakes display was the best thing ever (which is why she decorated the glass with her fingerprints *cough*).  She selected the ‘vanilla snowman cupcake’:

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Arthur and I said we’d split the cinnamon bun.  This is his styling, because “a fork sticking out of a cinnamon bun makes a very good piece of art.  Mummy, take a photo”:

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The amazingly good pumpkin pie:

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This was our first visit to the bake shop in Ascot Vale.  I was so happy when I learned this bakery was opening as I don’t live that far away and it’s easy enough to jump on trams with the kids to go out for a special treat.    I’m also really pleased because as the only vegan in my family (DeeW is vegan or vegetarian depending on the day…) I like being able to take them somewhere where they can really enjoy their selection and see that vegan food does not mean you are missing out.

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Over to the judges:

Me: “Love this place, the set up, whatever is on the menu, the decor, the philosophy, the friendly staff.  Definitely a ‘special treat’ place the kids will love.”

Husband: “my cupcake was really very good”.

Arthur: “the cinnamon bun is 100 out of 100 perfect points” (remember folks, this is one tough judge).

DeeW: “my snowman cupcake was DEEEEEEE[…]EEEEEEEEEEEEE[hurry up already]EEEEELICIOUS.  Can we go there again so I can get the green cupcake?”

Mr Nice Guy’s Bake Shop is located at 151 Union Road, Ascot Vale and very close to public transport.  Here is their stockists web page:

http://www.misterniceguy.com.au/stockists/

I’ll definitely be returning, especially if lemon meringue pie is on the menu  🙂

My vegan kritharaki

Kritharaki is a dish common to many a Greek home.  It is made using risoni, also known as orzo.  This is pasta in the shape of a large rice grain.  Lots of people assume it’s rice but don’t be fooled!

Husband likes kritharaki and was quite pleased when I sent him email telling him I was making it for dinner:

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Growing up, mum’s kritharaki was one of my favourite meals.  My dad says it’s in his top 5 meals and probably in first place.   For such a simple, humble little dish that only uses stock as flavouring, that’s a pretty big thing.

Mum’s kritharaki is non-vegan most of the time so today I decided to veganise it.  The measurements are ‘rough’ in that I added a bit more-or-less here and there.  You may need to add more or less water for instance, it just all depends.  Sorry, that’s as useless as this attempt to light the stove tonight:

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No, there are no fresh or dried herbs.  This is plain plain plain but for me it’s comfort food.  And don’t forget that if you have fifty Greek yiayias (grandmothers) in the room, you’ll probably have fifty different ways of making kritharaki 🙂

Okay so this is what I did.  Measurements are metric so 1 cup is 250ml.

You will need olive oil, a 500g packet of risoni/orzo pasta, tomato paste, mild paprika (optional), boiling water, vegan chicken or beef stock flavour, nutritional yeast (optional), salt and pepper to taste.

* have a full kettle boiled and ready to go.  Boil it again until right before adding the water.  Boil about 8 cups worth at least.

* heat 2Tbs olive oil in a medium to large pot.

* add in 1 1/2 cups of uncooked risoni/orzo and sautee it for about 5 minutes on medium heat:

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* add in 2 heaped Tbs of tomato paste (add 4 heaped Tbs for a more tomatoey flavour), stir it around for about a minute:

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* optional: add a teaspoon of a mild paprika (more or less if you like).

* add in 6 cups of boiling water.  It should look like a really runny soup:

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* add in the vegan beef or chicken stock powder according to your packet instructions.  Stir well.

* Bring to the boil over high heat, stir, put the lid on and simmer until the risoni is tender.  During this cooking period, stir now and then to make sure things aren’t clumping together. Then turn off the heat when you feel it’s done:

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* Add about 1Tbs nutritional yeast (optional, or add more/less according to your liking), add salt to taste.  Stir well (obviously).  * OR leave out the nutritional yeast and add it to the individual bowls when you’re serving

* Put the lid back on and let it sit about ten minutes before dishing it out:

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* Season with pepper:

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When this cools down and is ready for the fridge, it will have thickened up a bit.  It shouldn’t be runny-soupy but it shouldn’t be dry.

And that’s it!  Extremely simple!  Sure you could add in herbs if you like or some veg but my personal preference is to leave this as is.  I won’t even add onion or garlic because this is the only way I ever ate kritharaki (well, I had vegan and non-vegan versions growing up) and for me to add something like garlic just changes the recipe completely.  I do understand that this would easily be considered a horribly bland boring dish by some, but I find it a welcome relief now and then.  This is a dish that is sentimental to me, hence my reluctance in changing it at all.  My grandmother used to say that with enough pepper  it will put hair on your face:

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Review:

Me: “Quick, easy, cheap comfort food.  Pepper pepper pepper.”

Arthur: “this is 90% yuck.  Actually make that 75% yuck.”

DeeW: “yayyy did someone say kritharaki?  Oh I’m so happy!”

Husband: “This is my third bowl.  Oh poop, I just dropped some on my shirt. I’m so silly!”:

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Enjoy!

Three more sleeps…

… until Christmas!

I like Christmas because for us, it’s all about the kids.  They get so much fun out of things like decorating the tree, making decorations and baking (weather permitting, I’m not putting the oven on when it’s a hot day no matter what). I asked what they’d like for Christmas breakfast and the list now includes waffles, pancakes, fairy bread, hot chocolate, ginger beer.   I’ll make cornbread waffles in advance using Isa C.M’s recipe from Vegan Brunch’ and her Perfect Pancakes from the same book as they’ve never let me down.  Fairy bread isn’t exactly what I planned on serving for breakfast.  That’s what you get for asking kids what they’d like, and not adding your disclaimers.  The weather forecast says 22C (71.6F) for Christmas day.  Perfect!  Yes, it’s summer in Australia.  Last year’s Christmas day reached about 37C (98.6F).  Then a cool change came through, followed by a hail storm (golf ball sized in some areas) and heeeaps of rain:

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The drive home was a very slow one:

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And yes, splashing about in the gutter is more fun when you’re wearing your pyjamas.  This is a fairly typical driveway in suburbia here– concreted by the local council with the large patch of grass (the ‘nature strip’) outside your home.  Which technically you don’t own but you need to maintain it anyway.  I had to throw this driveway information in as I looove seeing photos of what houses and supermarkets and stuff look like around the world.  Even driveways:

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Anyway, for Christmas breakfast 2012 I’ll make up some freshly squeezed juice and have some fresh fruit available.  Which probably won’t get touched.  I don’t want to do any cooking in the morning so the weather forecast is a good one because I can reheat stuff in the oven.

This is my first Christmas as a vegan.  We’re going to lunch at my family’s house and they’re all big meat eaters but don’t give me any fuss about my choices.  I’ll be taking something along but not sure yet, maybe a super kale salad and vegan sausage rolls for the kids (and me).

This year I decided to put together little hampers for family that contain some home made vegan goodies.  I’m thinking Christmas stollen, cinnamon sugar, Christmas fruit cake, black bean salsa and some store bought things.

With only a few more days left for Christmas, today’s the day I need to do all the grocery shopping and start cleaning the kitchen before I start cooking.  So, I better get to it.  Happy Christmas preps!

TVP Chorizo, Refried Beans and Chickpeas of Simplicity

So Arthur is now keen on trying vegan foods I make which is great.  I talked about having ‘taco Tuesday’ and so here we are.  Well, a day later ‘cos it’s Wednesday.

I’ve been wanting to make a chorizo flavoured dish for a while but not a seitan sausage.  ‘Hearty Vegan Meals For Monster Appetites’ has a TVP Chorizo that looked perfect.  It’s so easy to make, although I did add a few drops of liquid smoke.  You just put everything in a bowl, cover and let the TVP reconstitute. I then browned it all in a frying pan because I like crispyness.

Next I wanted a refried beans recipe so I headed straight for Terry Hope Romero’s ‘Viva Vegan!’ and her recipe for  Home-Style Refried Beans.  This is something I rarely make as nobody in the fam is keen on beans apart from me.  Again, this was another simple straightforward recipe.  To me, refried beans are just refried beans and I’ve never gone “oh my gosh these are amazingly good!” but that could be because I always use kidney beans and with kidney beans, I get over them really quick.  This recipe was nice though.

My next recipe was intended for Arthur.  He’s never eaten chickpeas, apart from roasted.  For my simplicity chickpeas, I put a can of cooked chickpeas in the frying pan, added some tomato paste then some water mixed with vegan chicken style stock powder (the Massel one) and nooch and simmered it like a pasta sauce.

So those were my three taco fillings, as well as some butter lettuce, tomato and Tofutti cheese cut up in to ‘shreds’.  I had hard shell tacos and soft tacos:


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I really like the TVP chorizo and I think the addition of liquid smoke was just right.  I can see myself making this again as I love the flavours.  I used the leftovers in some puff pastry:

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Now for Arthur’s review.  I gave him a little taste of the chickpeas, refried beans and TVP chorizo.

Arthur: *massive show of gagging, clutching throat, choking, falling everywhere, getting back up, falling everywhere*

 You know that scene in the original Get Smart where Maxwell gets an acting gig and does the drawn out death scene?  Where he’s falling all over the place?  That’s my boy right there.

Husband was out for dinner but tried some leftover TVP Chorizo and said it was okay which means I should be able to make it again and have him like it more next time. DeeW only had a bit of plain soft taco and didn’t like it.

Okay, so Taco Tuesday was a bit of a flop… here’s to hoping that Thai Tuesday will be a hit!

Status update on the not-vegan-YET-mwahaha family, part 1

Part of the reason why I started this blog was to record my family’s journey with moving to not only a vegan diet, but veganny stuff in general, as being vegan is not just about what you eat (or don’t eat!).

I went vegan in March 2012.  I informed Husband that I could not in good conscience continue to cook the way I had.  He understood and no longer buys meat and when I do the shopping I don’t buy any animal products.  He is however using up the stuff from our upright freezer but once it’s finished he won’t be replacing it all.

The challenge for me was to find vegan meals that my family would love.  Arthur (8yo) was the difficult case, as he is what experts call a ‘fussy eater’ and a lover of cheese.  Cooking him non-vegan meals was hard enough as it was.   Unfortunately, he instantly equated ‘vegan’ with “I can’t have any of my favourite foods and I’M REALLY UNHAPPY ABOUT THAT”.  He has emotional attachments to things and when he is faced with the prospect of losing something, he takes it hard.

Arthur has two vegan friends and even though they’ve never actually discussed being vegan, they have positively influenced him.  When I first tried the vegan sausage rolls recipe, I mentioned this was one his friend’s favourite meals.  I do think it helped because Arthur never ate sausage rolls, vegan or otherwise.  I was also stunned to see Arthur go and eat some of the roasted chickpeas I’d made, again ever so casually mentioning that his friend makes these.

Last week, Arthur said “okay Mum-o, from now on whenever you make something vegan I’ll try it”.  This is amazing, considering how resistant and oppositional he had been.  I mentioned that ‘I know some vegan and vegetarian people on the internet who have Taco Tuesday nights’.  I’ve never made tacos for the kids as there’s no way they’d go near it– they’re not fans of foods being presented that way and anything messy gets put in the too hard basket.  So I loaded up some pictures of vegan tacos.  Come Tuesday, I’ll have taco stuff ready to go.  Even if he fills his tacos with one thing, it’s a great start as he is willing to explore new ways of eating.

As a four year old, DeeW (now 5yo) asked me where meat comes from and why I don’t eat it anymore.  I explained as delicately as I could and she said “you mean the meat is animals that used to run around happy on the farm???”.  Okay so I obviously left out the whole factory farming angle but then she declared “I don’t want to hurt the animals or eat them, I want to be vegan too”.  Arthur explained that being vegan would mean she doesn’t have yoghurt and that vegetarians eat yoghurt but not meat.  So she said “okay I will be vegan sometimes and vegetarian sometimes”.  She asked lots of questions after I read “Vegan Is Love” and was quite upset when she realised animals suffer.  She hasn’t eaten meat since and is always asking “is this vegan/vegetarian?”.  It’s at the point where she was given a candy cane and said “these aren’t vegan because they use crushed up bugs to make the red colour”.  She was offered a piece of non-vegan pizza and said “no thanks, it’s not vegan”   🙂

So that’s where we are at currently.  I take baby steps approaches with my children for most things they find difficult.  Ideally I’d love to only go to vegan or vegetarian businesses but that’s not the reality for my family, nor is it for some others in my position as the only vegan in the family, especially a new vegan.  I am hesitant for example to go to a non-vegan restaurant or cafe and blog about them here but the truth is my family get to see that I can go out and have a vegan meal and still have fun and not miss out on anything.  Some vegans have partners or children who refuse to ‘eat vegan’ so their dining out choices must be an eatery that serves both meat and vegan meals.  I figure that for my family, if it’s one step in to getting my family that much closer to being vegan, I’ll try it.  Even if it means going to a non-vegan place (which is rare anyway).  My children sometimes find change difficult to deal with, so I am treading very carefully.   My approach is working because Arthur is willingly trying food, being curious and sitting down with me to brainstorm vegan foods he likes and foods we can veganise.  DeeW is making her own connections and refusing meat and it’s not because she is copying me.  Had I put my foot down cold tofuturkey I guarantee I would have highly oppositional children on my hands!

Baby steps.  Slowly but surely wins the race.  Good things come to those who wait.  Etc etc etc.

Photo taken from Edgar’s Mission website (click on Polly to go straight there)