In My Kitchen, July 2014

I look forward to Johanna’s ‘In My Kitchen’ posts at Green Gourmet Giraffe.  I often have all these kitchen blog post ideas floating around but they kinda never seem to fit other posts I make (or don’t make, especially lately!). Inspired by Johanna, I thought I could put everything together in an In My Kitchen Post. The In My Kitchen series is hosted by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

I very much enjoy stickybeaking in to other kitchens though I’m cringing a little at showing my own, because it’s a bit poxy. We are planning a renovation but no idea when it will actually happen. My house was built in 1930. The previous owners updated the cabinetry and put in a small oven-stove combo, but the food prep area is still original shoebox size and incredibly frustrating to work in. Both Husband and I have cracked our heads on the wooden mantle you see in the photo. To give you an idea of how small the kitchen is, two people can’t stand side by side at the sink.  And I took this photo from the doorway (the kitchen table is behind me). If you stretch your leg out from where I’ve taken the photo, you can almost touch the dishwasher.  You can’t see the contents of a pot on the rear stove burners clearly, unless you stick your head in the alcove.  I did this once, some oil suddenly splattered right near my eye causing me jump up and I banged my head hard. The chimney mortar also falls down so the stove gets covered with gravelly bits, so I always have to cook with lids on.

So, in my kitchen I have “charming original features” that I smack my head on often. I have a set of anodised canisters that hold dishwasher tablets, all kinds of tea bags and the ‘random stuff’ canister for things that don’t seem to fit anywhere else.  I found the old coffee jars in my dad’s garage.  The red striped jars come from both my dad’s garage and op shops (thrift stores).  When I see the striped ones I can’t resist buying them. I don’t get natural light in the kitchen so I’m not that concerned about keeping stuff out on the shelves. I also love my pink whistling kettle you see on the stove.  My grandmother always had a whistling kettle when I was growing up.  I think my tea always tastes better when the water comes from a happy little whistling kettle. I like to pause when turning the flame off, because the kettle does this final little high pitched whistle and it reminds me of looking forward to that sound when I was a child in my grandma’s kitchen. DORK:

1930s kitchen

A little rearranging here, so you can see these sweet little sweet packets my sister in law bought from overseas and a little tea tin:
kitchen mantle

In my kitchen my latest addition is a cast iron frying pan (skillet).  I really do love how you can get crispy tofu without needing to use stacks of oil. The thin mental spatula is from an op shop:

cast iron pan

Thanks to Doctor Who, Arthur wanted to try fish fingers and custard.  I bought these fish fingers by Making Waves from the Cruelty Free Shop.  I never liked fish fingers at any time in my life but I thought these did the trick for a fish fingery vegan alternative. Arthur says he prefers them with tomato sauce than custard.  Somehow, I’m not surprised:

Making Waves fish fingers

Also from the Cruelty Free Shop is this delicious caramel slice. There was no label on the packet so I don’t know who makes it but it was really, really good. This is the last bit left, I ate most of it before remembering to take a photo:

caramel slice from Cruelty Free Shop

In my kitchen is the blue cheese variety of Cheezly vegan cheese.  Although I was never much of a cheese lover before I was vegan, I did enjoy a blue cheese pasta now and then.  This Cheezly has the same sharp stinky cheese kind of taste.  I’ll have to look up some non-pasta recipes so I can figure out how to use it.  I usually cut a tube of Cheezly in to thirds and freeze it:

Cheezly blue cheese

I received a packet of Twinings Chai and vanilla scented teabags as a gift.  I love chai and this Twinings flavour is quite nice:

Twinings Chai tea

In my kitchen is my trusty sandwich press.  When it comes to sandwiches toasted in a grill, I have to get the bumpy grill. No flat plates for me, I have to get the grill marks. Now and then I buy a packet of tortillas then stuff them too much and get impatient so I press the lid down and end up with tortilla guts everywhere:

exploding tortilla

In my kitchen is this jar of cashew butter I bought from Terra Madre in Northcote.  I know I can make my own but sometimes it’s just easier to have someone else do it for me:

 Terra Madre cashew butter

In my mum’s kitchen is this tomato kasundi my sister brought. It was pretty good and although I was just using it as a dip, I think it would be really nice mixed through chickpea and lentil dishes:

tomatokasundi

In my kitchen is (was… I ate it all) this cashew cheese, made following a recipe given to me by Cate from Green Renters.  The recipe calls for miso and apple cider vinegar which I forgot to put in and I had doubled the amount of nutritional (savoury) yeast.  It was fantastic:

vegancashewcheese

I had planned on including a few more food items but realised I’ve already mentioned them on the blog before. And thanks to this post, I’ve realised I really should clean my oven door…

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My favourite kitchen appliances and gadgety things

A lot of my day is spent in the kitchen either preparing food or cleaning up.  This is why I love appliances because when something makes my life that little bit easier, I jump on it.  See, I have a really small kitchen.  Two adults can not stand side by side at the sink. The floor space is teeny and my bench (counter) for cutting up food is about 155cm x 35cm deep (that’s about 62″ x  14″).  I might do a separate post on my kitchen some day. Anyway, I prefer recipes or meals that don’t involve me being in the kitchen for too long because the kids always need me for something and when we’re all crowded in the kitchen it can actually be dangerous, given the confined space.  We’re planning on renovating the kitchen this year, yay.

Okay, so I like to make meals and preparation as quick and simple as possible or to at least minimise the need for me to spend ages chopping or standing at the stove.  So here are my favourite items.  The photos below are not mine but clicking on them will take you to the page I found them on.

Okay, we have:

Rice cooker

I love that I can just chuck my rice and water in an appliance and it does all the work.  I always sucked at cooking rice on the stove.  I keep reading about cooking quinoa and other stuff in the rice cooker but I’m yet to try it.

Pressure cooker

I used this a lot before I became vegan and since then I’ve used it for cooking beans and chickpeas.  Good for when I don’t have much time to cook those things the usual way on the stove.

Food processor

If this kicked the bucket tomorrow I would immediately go out and get a new one.  Essential in my kitchen!

Mandolin slicer

Love this when I have to slice up lots of apple, potato, etc.

Blendtec blender

blendtec

Easily my favourite purchase ever.  When I bought this I was telling myself “it’s an investment in your health, your children’s health, do it do it”.  So I did it.  I felt sick after placing the order because it cost so much (and mine was on special).  Then it arrived, I made a smoothie with spinach and was all ZOMG THERE ARE NO BITTY BITS.  See, I’d had a few cheaper blenders before then in those well known appliance names and they all crapped it after a year or so.  Plus I was never happy with how they blended, some left telltale chunks and I was never confident with putting ice in there as I’m sure it ruined my first blender.  Anyway, I use the Blendtec at least once a day (more like twice) and some days as much as five times.  I make juices with the whole fruit (peeled/cored/etc where necessary) so you’re drinking pulp and all.  Cashew cream, nut milk, frozen fruit soft serve, purees, grinding grain, chopping.  I loooooove this.  Love love love it.  Most of all I love that I can put all sorts of veggies in smoothies and the kids can’t tell because everything gets thoroughly blended.

Excalibur 5-tray dehydrator with timer

5-tray-excalibur

Another great purchase but one I should use more often.  My favourite thing to make in the dehydrator are kale chips and buckwheat crispies.  Or apple and date puree mixed with buckwheat then dehydrated so it’s in crispy little chunks and eaten with a nut milk for breakfast.  I’ve also made fruit leathers and dried fruit as well as crackers.  Handy for eating raw but not absolutely necessary.

Tofu Xpress

TofuXpress

I delayed purchasing a Tofu Xpress for ages because the shipping to Australia is so expensive.  Initially when I began to press tofu, I did the wrapping in towels heavy objects thing.  But it really began to tick me off because it took up space in that teeny kitchen.  So I invested in this press which is so nice and small and am glad I did because I can throw it all in the fridge.

Vegetable spiraliser

I use this for zucchini and carrot noodles. You can make thin angel hair style or thicker ribbons.

spiraliser

old Sunbeam Mixmaster

 I don’t do a lot of baking, certainly not enough to justify buying a stand mixer but I inherited this from my grandma.  Brilliant for those occasions when I do need to mix something up and let the machine do it’s thing while I do something else.  I have a small electric hand mixer too which is handy for smaller jobs.  I’m too lazy to take a photo of it right now but it’s one of those old vintagey white ones with the small and large bowls.  Love it to bits.

Other appliances I own but don’t use all that often are a slow cooker with two sections, milkshake maker (from pre-vegan days), hot chocolate maker (ditto), old juicer (getting rid of this as I can make juices in the Blendtec), microwave steamer for vegetables and rice, mini chopper.

So that’s it!  If I had to choose just one thing I could take with me (or even if I couldn’t) if the house was on fire, it’s the Blendtec hands down.

Meal planning: Week 1 that was

My weekly meal planning plan, which I discussed here, has gone mostly pretty well.  More veggies were consumed by the family (unknowingly in some cases) and I felt so much more organised.  I love not having to stress out about what I’m going to make.

On Monday the kids had sausage rolls.  Husband and I had black pepper sneaky tofu and veg on plain steamed rice.  Arthur’s snack was a smoothie made with non dairy milk, cinnamon, Udo’s Choice Essential Oil Blend, overripe banana, baby spinach and cooked pumpkin.  He didn’t know about the veg.  I made him these smoothies throughout the week.  I also made a banana bread based on the recipe by Joann over at Woman In Real Life.  I had some passionfruit to use up so I had a bit of vegan margarine on my slice of banana bread, topped with passionfruit:

smoothie2

kidssmoothie

blackpepperveg

bananabread1

bananabread2

For Tuesday’s breakfast Arthur had asked for toast and hazelnut milk.  Lunch for Husband was the leftover rice and black pepper veg.  The kids had a sausage roll and the sausage roll filling made in to a burger (baked along with the sausage rolls).  Ultimately I want the kids to move away from the puff pastry and just eat the filling although a once in a while sausage roll is fine by me.  My lunch was packet mix falafel (just add water and cook) on a bed of salad greens and tomato, with homemade hummus to help wash it down.  Those packet mix falafel are really dry.  Dinner plans were leftovers but Husband had stopped at a Lebanese bakery and got me some zaatar bread so I had that instead:

falafelsalad

zaatar

Wednesday’s breakfast was just fruit, it was more a brunch as we all woke up late.  For lunch we made vegan Hawaiian/Tropical pizza.  In Australia this pizza is topped with ham, cheese and pineapple.  I used a vegan bbq ham and the pale Tofutti cheese slices with a tin of sliced pineapple.  They turned out okay but they weren’t great enough to repeat.  Dinner was kritharaki and some veg:

vegantropicalpizza

kritharakiveg

Thursday’s breakfast was supposed to be ‘breakfast crumble’ which is more healthy than your traditional crumble.  The fruit layer was made up of apples, sweet potato, rhubarb (these three finely chopped in the food processor), currants, cranberries and frozen blueberries.  The topping was a mix of oats, ground pecans and walnuts, a flour made from a five-grain porridge mix, a little brown sugar (not much), cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves (ground), coconut oil and some vegan margarine.  Dinner for me was supposed to be falafel, hummus and veg sticks but I had an ulcer in my mouth which made it painful to eat foods with a crunch, or falafel.

I had a nice unexpected treat (well, as unexpected as you can get with “Husband, you’ll be driving within a 50 kilometre radius of Mr Nice Guy’s and I see he has the peanut butter brownie cheesecake today, you know what you have to do”).  This is the first time I’ve tried a peanut butter chocolate version of a cheesecake and it was lovely.  The base is chocolate and the filling isn’t, so there was no overpowering chocolatyness for me, yay.  I wanted to photograph it in suitable surroundings, like a glorious field full of lavender with humming bees and fluttering butterflies but all I had were the lavender bushes in my front yard.  And I had to zoom in so you wouldn’t see my rubbish bins.  Anyway I had half the cheesecake and put the other half aside for my mum.  Arthur had his usual cinnamon bun.  Mr Nice Guy’s told Husband to inform Arthur that the recipe had changed.  Arthur’s verdict? “This new cinnamon bun version 2 is even better than version 1, HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?”  Geez he cracks me up:

peanutbutterbrowniecheesecake

For Friday, I hadn’t filled in my meal planner as I wanted to see how I would go with leftovers.  As expected, this was a more disorganised day in the kitchen.  I took note of the things in the fridge that needed to be used up: the mushrooms, coriander, dill and wonton wrappers (or wanton wrappers as we call them in my fam, I went to Costco with my mum once and she was asking the staff for the ‘wanton soup’, I just stood by and let her keep on askin’).  I’d been leafing through ‘Vegan Brunch’ and noted the pierogi.  So  I made two fillings, one with mashed potato, onions and dill.  The other was food processor-chopped mushrooms and coriander.  They were okay but too fiddly and time consuming for me to repeat again, unless I had fifty hands on deck:

pierogi

On Saturday I made up this monkey platter of fruit for the kids which, mercifully, they ate most of.  What didn’t get eaten made it in to a banana bread cake (leftover zucchini and broccoli also disappeared in to the cake, ssshhh.  Yay for blenders). Dinner was again unplanned so I made some packaged chickpea-sunflower seed burgers and packaged curried pumpkin-corn balls, served with veggies.  As expected the kids didn’t like the burgers but Arthur scoffed down the pumpkin corn balls so hallelujah, I now have something else he will eat and I will try to make my own version.    I also made myself some cheezy coconutty chickpeas and kale, one of my favourite quick kale recipes:

fruitmonkeyplatter

bananavegbread

chickpeaburgersandkale

Here’s a closer look at my kitchen cooking area:

kitchenalcove

My house was built in 1930 and this is the original cooking alcove.  Now, I found that people who have never used a little alcove like this often say oh how gorgeous!  People who have experience cooking in an alcove often say “when are you getting rid of it”.  Our last house had an alcove too and when we were buying this house I inwardly groaned.  I love original features of homes but cooking this way is a complete pain.  I can’t see the contents of pots on the rear burners properly.  Husband is really tall and has banged his head too many times.  One time I was sticking my head in the alcove to see what was in the rear pan and oil splattered in my eye.  My instant reaction was jumping back and I banged my head hard.  Not only that, the mortar from inside the chimney keeps falling off in chunks so my pots and pans must always be covered.  And that little window doesn’t let much light in, at least not where I need it.  I love the white tiles though and the new kitchen will have the same. We’re hoping to renovate this year and I am getting a much bigger stove-oven setup, this one is way too small and I can’t fit larger pots and pans together.

Tomorrow (Sunday) will just be leftovers.  Must admit I get sick of leftovers.  For next week I’ll try spaghetti for the kids (I’ll use buckwheat noodles) with some kind of healthy veg-lentil sauce sweetened with roast sweet potato.  I’m also hoping to try a lasagna where the ‘meat’ sauce is made from cauliflower and walnuts.  See you then!