New Places and Random Stuff

I’ve taken pics over the past few months but never blogged about where I went, what I did, what products I received for Christmas and so on.  I always meant to write up stuff but time got away from me so now I must lump it all in to one blog post.

Okay, new places!  In Melbourne we have a new vegan store in town called Mad Cowgirls Vegan Grocery in Preston.  The Facebook page for Mad Cowgirls has more info so check there first. I visited back in December but a lot of stuff had sold out and not able to be ordered back in for a while as suppliers were closed for Christmas.  Compared to a place like Radical, Mad Cowgirls is much smaller in size and naturally, the selection of products wasn’t as extensive but the business is still in its early days.  I asked about a couple of things and the owners said they would look in to stocking it, which was much appreciated!  Service was friendly too, always a plus!

Mad Cowgirls Vegan Grocery

Aaaages ago, I went to Shokuiku on High Street in Northcote.  It was a quick visit more to see what they had in there, as Husband and the kids were waiting in the car.  I’m a bit on the fence about my experience.  The place was not busy at all (one table had a couple seated, after I placed my order two more customers arrived for a take away order, so not busy at all).  I asked for a piece of the raw mocha choc cake in the fridge display to take away, paid, and then proceeded to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  There was absolutely no reason for the delay apart from the staff person just taking their time… which ended up being eleven minutes.  Eleven minutes of me standing there as useful as a half sucked jellybean as my mate T would say, with the cake right between myself and the staff member, who took her sweet time serving others after me instead of just taking twenty seconds to put my cake in the box. Just as I was about to ask if she could please do it now (instead of wiping down the counter area!) she decided it was time to get my cake.  I’ve since had people tell me how painfully slow the service was for them too, so yep… not really a place I’d go to again, despite being a fan of what they had on offer.  The cake was great though:

Shokuiku cake

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Now for gift ideas!  When my sister asked what I wanted for Christmas, I said a 1kg tub of tahini.  I use it all the time and I love it, so to me it was the perfect present:

1kg tahini

I love Botanical Cuisine’s products and I bought the Lemon & Dill raw vegan Cheese from Mad Cowgirls.  Oh my goodness.  You know how there are some foods that make your eyes roll back with how good they are?  For me it was THIS:

Botanical Cuisine lemon dill cheese

When browsing those specials aisles in Aldi, for things I never really need, I saw these fruit jellies.  Husband likes them so I bought a packet.  Got home and realised they’re vegan!  No gelatin!  Well… I’m hoping they’re vegan.  The ingredients list looked completely vegan:

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I went to a real deal op shop recently.  Real deal as in cramped, over crowded, dirt cheap and musty smelling.  Look at this amazing score for ONE DOLLAR:

icecubetraysI looooove cutesy ice cube trays, that can double as chocolate moulds, and these are divine!

I also loooove the green tea flavour of Nushie’s ice cream.  My sister bought this for me and kept it in mum’s freezer for my next visit:

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I’m really pleased at how vegan offerings in Melbourne seem to be increasing all the time, ditto for raw food.  I think I’m more pleased about those ice cube trays though!

World Vegan Day 2013 and more info on Loving Hut in Northcote

Today my sister and I headed off to World Vegan Day here in Melbourne.  The start time was advertised at 10am so we figured we’d “get there early before the crowds”.  About fifty million other people had the same brilliant idea.

It was difficult to take photos inside as there were people everywhere and I was conscious of stopping the flow of traffic in the aisles, which unfortunately (in my opinion) were a bit too squishy.  It was a good decision to leave the kids at home and I felt for the people with prams! Personally, I preferred last year’s set up outdoors (though some people prefer the indoor arrangement).  I don’t like crowds much and I had a shopping basket with me today and at times it was really difficult to move around. So I apologise for the lack of photos:

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First off: lunch!  I feel a bit silly not knowing the name of this business, but my sister and I had some dumplings and shared a Vietnamese pancake.  Both meals were delicious:

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We polished it off with a Bounty (coconut flavour) gelato in a waffle cone from Fritz Gelato:

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Here are some of the exhibitors.  One of my go-to stores, Global  Green Vegetarian Food Mart in Braybrook:

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Gorgeous soaps from High Tea in the Bath:

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I bought a stainless steel straw, though I was eyeing off the glass straw:

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The fabulous Al Nada sweets were on offer:

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I came home with a stainless steel straw for my juices and smoothies, a Mac and Cheese from Bed and Broccoli and some Fresh Ginger ginger ale.  I tried all the ginger ale samples and decided the Jasmine Tea was my favourite, though all were delicious:

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Ideally I would have liked to do a few more laps of all the stalls as I felt I had rushed through due to the crowds but I started feeling a bit too ‘over it’ (ditto for my sister) and so we decided to go home.  I do appreciate the work involved in organising an event like this, but for me last year’s outdoor setup was lovely as lots of people were lounging around on picnic blanket.  There was more room for the queues too.

Now on to the info about Loving Hut Northcote that is opening soon.  An exhibitor told me that the Northcote restaurant will feature more European style dishes like pasta.  I’m pretty sure she said French and Italian influenced.  I’m curious to see what they’ll be serving though we still don’t know when they’ll be open for business.

Did you go to a World Vegan Day?

Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Muffins from ‘Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free’

I’m pleased to share today’s baking adventures with you.  Because of THIS:

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My copy arrived a fortnight ago and I swear my eyes just kept popping out a little more with every page.  Although I’ve blabbed on about going gluten free on my blog before, I have slacked off but Ricki’s book and blog have really made me sit up straight and make more of an effort.  Ditto for changing the way I use sweeteners, and what sweeteners I use.  I use white sugar rarely but there are times when I’ve used white caster sugar.  I use more brown sugar and raw sugar but again, I want to move away from those. I’ve fallen in love with coconut sugar though, so I have to be mindful not to start baking too much!

Ricki is the author of the blog Diet, Dessert and Dogs, though her site is now found at http://www.rickiheller.com.  In the past I used Ricki’s walnut-cauliflower ‘meat’ recipe in my vegan moussaka. From there I was sold and Ricki’s recipes have worked out well for me since.  Although I tested negative in all my coeliac-y tests I do sometimes feel blergh after gluten (and sometimes outright sick after eating something with vital wheat gluten) but the most important consideration here is my children and I would like to improve their diets further.  I would like to bake a couple of times a week but even then I’m mindful of that they’re eating.

I was also super pleased to see fellow Melbourne veg blogger Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe post up an interview with Ricki. And to add to the excitement, Johanna has made the exact same recipes I bookmarked to try first!  During the past week I shopped and waited for deliveries to arrive and now everything is here, wheee!  I went down to Naturally on High in Thornbury to get some supplies:

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From there we drove down to Fruit Pedallers.  I wish I had more time to look around but Husband and kids were in the car and the shop was packed so I decided to get out of there as soon as I could (because I was hungry and the very glutteny Lord Of The Fries was a ten minute drive away):

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I really like this part of Melbourne:

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When we got back home it was baking time.  I had previously cooked, pureed and frozen some sweet potato so I had it ready to go this afternoon.  The rest of the ingredients were easy to get together, including Ricki’s own flour mix (there’s a recipe for that at the start of the book). One of the flours in Ricki’s mix is garfava flour, which I’d never heard of before and briefly worried about how I’d get it in Australia.  I then discovered it’s garbanzo (chickpea) and fava bean, whew!  Bob’s Red Mill garfava flour is sold in Australia.

Enough chat.  How did the muffins turn out?  Good!  And blurry:

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Now ah, you may notice the choc chips are white choc chips.  That’s because I can’t find Sweet William small dark choc chips anywhere.   I have found the white choc chips and buttons and the dark choc buttons but not the dark choc chips.  So this part of the muffins was probably using refined sugar, gahhh.  And I guess the dark choc chips would be the same, right?  I don’t like carob chips so if anyone can suggest another vegan choc chip, please leave a comment!

For me, the muffins didn’t have that strong taste of bean/chickpea like some “I swear you can’t taste the beans!!!” recipes have. You can’t taste the sweet potato either, if you’re worried about that.  I was surprised at how light and delicate they were, I was expecting something more dense, like every other sweet potato baking recipe I’ve tried.

The flavourings (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla) in my opinion are just right.  I found these helped to disguise the taste of the flours.  Husband said he would have preferred them sweeter and he found the aftertaste a little strange, however that’s how I felt when I started using things like besan and millet flour.  The kids liked them but I think next time I will make them in the mini size.  I suspect the regular size resulted in too much “strange tastes”.  I’ve used things like millet and quinoa flour before but not in things they liked, so I think they need to get used to the taste.  Arthur absolutely hated soy milk and tofu once upon a time, now he asks for tofu, or stuff made with soy milk, or vegan ham and cheese pizza.  I confess I must also get used to the gluten free flours and different sweeteners, though it’s easier for me now as I know what is better for me.

I’m looking forward to making more recipes and sharing them here (like the marbled halva and brownies, yummm.  And I don’t even like brownies much)  😀

Friends Of The Earth and a stroll around Collingwood

I had a very early start to the day yesterday and as much as I don’t like waking up at 5:30am, I do love being out alone on crisp clear mornings.  I was waiting for a tram in the city at 7am and although my hands were freezing, I had to snap a pic of Collins Street:

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When I was done with my appointment I had some more errands which took me to Melbourne Central, which is a shopping centre complex (and train station).  I was surprised to see this community garden set up in Melbourne Central, and people were seated against the plants reading or chatting with friends:

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Glad to be out in the fresh (polluted city) air, my next stop was Smith Street in Collingwood:

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A closeup of the poster in the top righthand window made me laugh in a resigned, unhappy way.  Meet our new prime minister:

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I loaded up the Happy Cow app and found that I was around the corner from Friends Of The Earth.  Sweet!

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On offer were a selection of sweet treats such as donuts from Crumbs though I opted for the fine looking cake which was apple and walnut.  The texture was very crumbly but that didn’t stop me, naaaatch:

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I also ordered a soy chai to go with it, which was lovely:

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I wish I had more time to look around Friends Of The Earth (check their website) and I’ll definitely be back:
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Friends Of The Earth is located at 312 Smith Street, Collingwood.  Website here.

A visit to Basfoods Direct in Brunswick

A friend very recently introduced me to Basfoods Direct.  Which was a little embarrassing because I don’t live far away and I’d never heard of it.  I had forgotten to take my purse with me that day and was determined to go back… with  money.

My sister had the day off work yesterday and bless her, offered to come over and help me clean the house.  Arthur and DeeW are staying with my parents for a few days so I can get the cleaning done.  Why do I need my children away from the house, you may ask?  WELL.  This is why:

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I present Arthur’s room.  Many a time I’ve said Arthur, go clean your bedroom floor.  It’s a mess.  And he says “Mummo it may be a mess to you but it’s not a mess to me.  So is it really a mess?” That’s what you get for being Greek folks.  You stand the risk of giving birth to Socrates. Socrates has a super clean room now.  Socrates will not be impressed.

I wanted the kids out of the house so I could thoroughly clean their rooms and get rid of stuff.  Their stuff.  SSSHHH.  The sort of stuff they haven’t seen in years and then suddenly it’s their faaaavourite thing when I drag it out from behind the bookshelf.  So my sister offered to help me out and then drop things off at Savers and have some lunchies.  And I said that’s totally cool and I’m taking you to Basfoods.  And off we went:

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Basfoods stock Mediterranean and Turkish foods.  There are also bags of nuts, beans, grains, dried herbs and spices.  It’s not a veg*n specific store but there’s lots in there you can use in your veg*n kitchen.

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I’m not really sure how their prices compare to other places although they do seem cheaper than the big supermarkets.  I have bought my supplies from Preston market in the past, or small Turkish or Lebanese stores.  I didn’t have time to note down prices and I have already lost my receipt.

I left there with containers of herbs and spices, more pink Himalayan salt, pulses, legume and some Spanish paprika.  No musical instruments though or the cute terracotta bowls (which I’ve always wanted but know I’d never use):

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After Basfoods we dropped donations off at Savers and had a quick look around.  I used my discount card to get these Johnson Brothers plates (designs I collect, haven’t seen these in Savers yet), an unused knitting set and game for DeeW and this sweet little sewing basket for Dee-Dubs:

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knitting

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For Melbourne peeps reading this, got any recs for other cheap beans/nuts/etc stores?

See you back here soon folks!

Basfoods Direct is located at 419 Victoria Street in Brunswick.  Website is http://www.basfoods.com.au