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Last week I was on fire! I had a breakfast, Travel Tuesday, Lunch and had  dessert plannd. That is what I want every week to look like!

But, then the house got a new router. And my Macbook HATES it. Like, with the fire of a thousand suns. I turn it on and it freezes after about a minute. We’ve rebooted the router, we’ve messed with my Macbook, I’ve sacrificed small children to the computer Gods but nothing works. Ironically, I can get free wifi at McDonalds though *groan*

So, to spare myself any unnecessary trips to Maccas (Aussie slang for McDonalds. They crack up when I try to pronounce it), I’m just going to go on a bit of a hiatus until things get worked out, which hopefully won’t be for too long.

If you have any recommendations on fixing issues with a Macbook and a Billion router, email me. If your suggestion works, I’ll shower you with an uncomfortable amount of gratitude.

Thank you for your patience and hopefully you will hear from me soon!

Erin

 

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This post is being written approximately three, two 1.5 hours before I want it to go live. Why you may ask? Well, because I had very important things going on this week. Things like:

1. Watch every vlogbrothers video ever created. Considering they have been creating videos for the past seven years, this is a giant project. It’s got me thinking that I could totally do that! I should create a series of vlog videos with my friends, after all, we all live in different areas- Boston, California, Australia, etc. We could all rotate in our contributions or just post randomly in reply to others. Then I realized, uh, nope. I know nothing about making vidoes, youtube and I’m crap at updating a blog so regular video updates would be awful. I’ll leave the blog updates to the Green’s and waste my time watching those. Win/win for me!

2. Reading 8 books at one time. No seriously, it’s like 8 books. I think I’ve acquired ADD and it’s running rampant. I’m reading teen, non-fiction, graphic novels, travel books, a book my friend, Melissa, wrote (YEAH!), and two I’ve already read! What is wrong with me? I don’t know.

3. Plan every trip I am ever going to take in the year 2014 and NOT book my ticket home. Because I am in denial. Hardcore.

and most importantly, 4. Lounging around in yoga pants all day because I hate all my clothes and have nothing to wear in the cooler weather that is descending.

so, yeah for procrastination and stuff. (My english teacher once told me to never use the word ‘stuff’ in a formal writing situation because ‘stuff should only appear in a turkey’. Does a blog count?)

I’m actually really glad I told myself I was posting this today because I was *this* close to having a bowl of granola for lunch but I knew I had to actually get up and photograph this sandwich. Plus, I can have cereal for dinner!

Nutty Basil Pesto
only slightly modified from FF Detox.com

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup Brazil nuts or macadamia nuts (I used Brazil)
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cups fresh basil
  • 1 cups fresh parsley
  • 2/3 cup cold pressed olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Big pinch of sea salt

Soak the seeds and nuts overnight to release the enzyme exhibitors. Process the parsley, basil and olive oil in a blender until chopped. Add the garlic, nuts, and seeds, salt and lemon juice and mix until the mixture is finely blended into a paste. Store in dark glass jars if possible. It freezes well also if needs be. Serve as a dip, a sauce or a spread. My favorite way to eat is:

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Grilled Mushroom and Avocado Sandwich
serves 1

  • Earth Balance or dairy friendly butter, divided
  • 5 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, mined
  • 2 slices of bread (I like homemade sour dough)
  • 1/4 avocado (mine were fresh off the tree from the Gold Coast. Thank you, Sharon!)
  • hummus of choice
  • Detox Pesto

Heat some Earth balance over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, give it a quick stir and add the sliced mushrooms. Sautee until golden.

To assemble to sandwich: Spread one slice of bread with hummus and the other with the detox pesto. Add the garlicky, sauteed mushrooms and the 1/4 of the avocado sliced. Smoosh sandwich together. Butter the outside of the sandwich and grill in a pan over medium-low heat (or use a panini maker if you’re fancy like that)

Serve immediately.

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There are 6.5 more years of vlog brother videos to watch; rereading Hazel and Gus’s story (with a side of thoughts of crying); LA trip planning to do; demon love stories to sort out and you know, maybe some showering happening. This is all very pressing and I must go sort it all out! I promise you, I do actually have real plans this weekend. I’m hoping they will even make it into Tuesday Travels. YEAH!

 

 

So, I did some more traveling. Finally! I went to the Sunshine Coast with the kids I nanny for and their mom over the kids’ April vacation. She had to work, the kids and I had no plans so we just hung around- beachside. It was fun. I didn’t do too much exploring down there because I didn’t have a car but I walked down to the Maroochydore Esplanade (they had starbucks and vegan fro-yo. Life made) and made it out to the Australian Zoo and Currimundi Beach.

Note: My camera had a terrible crash at Bundi beach back in December and it just hasn’t been the same since. Just a wee bit fuzzier then I like. I think I need a new lens :( :( Also, some of these are off an old Samsung phone. Moral of the story- These pictures aren’t the best but I’m trying not to obsess over them. Trying be the key word.

Beach time and Maroochydore Esplanade walk:

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I built a sandman! Think more Frozen “Do you want to build a snowman?!” and less Metallica

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Vegan lunch one day at Raw Energy. I ordered the Mexican Roll Up with no sour cream. Yum!

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and followed it up with some Soy Chocolate Fro-yo at Yogurt Land. I was SO happy about this.

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Australian Zoo:

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Perentie, Australia’s Largest Lizard

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AHH!! Crocodiles!!

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Cassowary

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and more koalas!

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Robert Irwin picking up a little croc. He’s only 10!

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Kangaroo just chillin’

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aww, cute baby giraffe…

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and baby tiger!

and, last for the Sunshine Coast, Currimundi Beach:

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Currimundi had beaches…

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…and a shallow lake area

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We saw this randomly at a little airport. I don’t know anything about planes but I know that I sort of love this one!

 

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If there is one thing I have learned in this whole nannying gig, it’s that children between the ages of 6 and 13 (and most likely older) are vultures when it comes to sweets. I tried to stealthily open a package of cookies the other day and I had three little heads pop up over the couch like meerkats. The bag of marshmallows I had sent from home? Hoovered down before I had four s’mores. Bag of chocolate chips left open? Went to make cookies and there’s one chip left. Literally, 1.

So it didn’t really surprise me that the mom of the house decided to limit the sugar the kids were getting after Easter. We’d noticed one of the kids was sensitive to sugar and the other two, well, cutting their intact certainly wouldn’t kill them!

Along with cookies and candy, cereal was actually on the list of things that was limited. As I mentioned above, I clearly can’t keep things around the house without the kids finding them so having a box of cereal hidden wasn’t going to happen! I’d have to wait until I dropped the kids off at school before coming back for breakfast and that would not fly. I have to have some coffee and food in me before I face they world or things get ugly!

So here is my fast, easy breakfast that gives me fuel without attracting a swarm of sugar-and-cereal-detoxing children. They take one look at it and run the other way. Yes please! More for me!!

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Coconut Chia Pudding
adapted from How Sweet Eats’ Coconut Cream Pie Chia Seed Pudding

serves 2-4. 

1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk (I used the Aussie brand “Ayam Organic Light Coconut Crwm. It was “light” but it’s cream, not milk. Aussie coconut milk tends to be a lot thinner then the US kind).
1/4 cup chia seeds
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (I’d start with 1 TBSP and drizzle more on at the end if needed)
1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1.5 teaspoon coconut extract
1 pinch of salt

optional toppings: granola (I use 1/4 cup), fruit, toasted coconut, coconut whipped cream, jam swirled in, graham crackers, etc.

In a large bowl, whisk together the almond milk, coconut milk, maple syrup, coconut, vanilla bean paste, coconut extract and salt until combined. Add the chia seeds last and whisk until combined.  Divide into servings, cover and chill for about 2 hours or even overnight. When you are ready to eat, top with your toppings of choice and Enjoy!

You can also keep it in one bowl, cover and divide into servings when ready to eat. I find the individual servings easier though because I can grab it, top it, put the lid back on and go out the door. No need to pour or divide anything in the AM. But I’m literally the laziest person in the world in the mornings and want to do as little as possible.

Will keep in the fridge for a few days (I’ve never tried more then three days).

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So it took me a while to get on board with this whole chia pudding trend. The texture is so strange! I actually prefer the homemade variety to the Chia Pods in the stores. The kind in the store is too solid and jiggly!

This kind though is delicious, especially with fresh berries and granola to give it some crunch. It’s also fast in the mornings. I like fast! If you want it to be faster, throw the fruit on at night and get your granola ready in a separate container so all you have to do is dump the granola in. SO easy.

Do you have any other fast breakfast ideas for the morning? I could use some kid-friendly, low sugar ideas!

 

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My April vacation has come to an end and I’m back to the daily grind. I will get more into what I did in my Travel Tuesday spots but I spent about a week at the Sunshine Coast, two days on a tour of Fraser Island and 4 days on the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast was a surprise addition to my travels and I am so glad I seized the opportunity to go when it was presented. Sometimes the best things in life are the ones that aren’t planned!

Anyway, with all of my traveling I haven’t had a ton of opportunities to cook. I did have a chance to help out at Easter dinner on the Gold Coast, though. I spent dinner with one of my boss’s business partners, Sharon, who opened her home to me and made me feel like family. Her family was so welcoming!

On Easter, I was put on veggie duty and helped make some homemade salsa and this super yummy salad. I was surprised how much I loved it! The ingredients are so simple but it is just so delicious. The first thing I did when I got back to Toowoomba was make a big batch for myself.

Of course, my second attempt at this salad didn’t come out as good as the one I made at East. Apparently, searching Youtube for Taking Back Sunday music videos instead of stirring the pine nuts is a big no-no. So you know, I wouldn’t recommend doing that.

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White Bean and Tomato Salad

  • 1/2 c. pine nuts
  • 550g or about 3 cups of mixed tomatoes, sliced (I used 350g of mixed grape tomatoes and 200g of yellow perino tomatoes. I like the smaller tomatoes but any kind will work)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. basil, thinly sliced
  • 1 can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
  • slightly less then 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Place pine nuts in a small skillet and heat over medium-low heat. Stir continuously until the pines nuts begin to turn golden. Remove from heat and set aside.

Combine tomatoes, red onion, basil beans and toasted pine nuts.

Right before serving, add olive oil, salt and pepper to the tomato mix and tossed until well combined.

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I opted for the mixed grape tomatoes and the yellow perino because they tend to be sweeter and because they were just so gosh darn pretty! I mean, the deep red ones are practically purple so clearly I had to purchase them.

Plus, You tube distractions aside, this was such an easy dish to make. I love it because it comes together in minutes and it will last me a few days. It’s pretty and it comes together easily. What more could you ask for??

 

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Greetings from the Sunshine Coast!

I’m here for a week with the mom and the kids then I’m off to spend a few days at Fraser Island. I will be back in action around Easter with new recipes and new Travel Tuesdays.

If I don’t talk to you before Easter, have a great holiday!

XO

Since I moved to Australia, I’ve gotten totally hooked on the Big Bang Theory. It was one of the few US shows that was played regularly when I got here and it reminded me of home. I won’t even tell  you how little time it took me to get through all the seasons. It’s embarrassing. Anyway, when I heard Mayim Bialik (aka Amy Farrah Fowler from BBT) had released a vegan cookbook, Mayim’s Vegan Table, I was so excited!

As I mentioned in my Touching Base post last week, I really wanted to make sure that I gave Bialik’s book a good look through and tested recipes before giving it a review. I didn’t want to just post a recipe given to me and tell you to go buy the book because it’s an actress I like. It took a little bit of time but I’ve read the book cover to cover, made some of the recipes, tested it on the kids I nanny for and feel I can give it a good shake. So, let’s do this thing!

Hot Pretzel Challah Bread. Recipe Below!

Hot Pretzel Challah Bread. Recipe Below!

Overview and Pros:

Bialik co-wrote the book with Dr. Jay Gordon, a California-based pediatrician and pediatric nutritionist, and their goal in writing the book was to present “fun foods- foods that can please finicky toddler palates, and a lifestyle that is not expensive, time consuming, or only available if there are vegan restaurants”.

The book definitely met this goal.  It starts with an introduction of the vegan diet, breaking down what vegans eliminate from their diet, why and what they can replace these foods with. This section is organized, concise and approachable and manages to avoid getting preachy. It also presents ideas on what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is super helpful if you don’t know where to start.  Dr. Gordon also includes tips throughout this section on how to talk to your kids about eating well, cutting out french fries, etc.

The recipes that the duo present include everything from breakfast favorites to entrees, to dessert. The bulk of the recipes are family staples that kids already love- french toast, mac and cheese, baked ziti and cookies. There are new recipes, like zucchini pie and a sushi bowl, and a number of Jewish staples, like Matzoh Ball soup, Challah Bread and Rugelach.

The book also contains pantry staples, Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen shopping lists and a list of calcium rich foods, all helpful for new vegans.

The two authors also stress a relaxed approach to a vegan lifestyle, suggesting gradual changes and slow switches. They aren’t making outrageous promises of bodily nirvana if you give up meat and dairy. This is a refreshing, realistic approach that I think most families can appreciate and introduce into their lifestyle, even in small ways.

French toast (I used some homemade sourdough bread) with a side of fruit.

French toast (I used some homemade sourdough bread) with a side of fruit.

Cons:

The downside is the book has some recipes that lean heavily on vegan substitutes, such as vegan cheese, vegan sour cream, vegan yogurt, etc. As someone who has done the transition from vegetarian to vegan, I know these can be a great crutch. They can also be hard to find! In Australia, I have yet to find a vegan cheese. So, forget about anything more unusual, like vegan sour cream! I’m not even sure I saw that in stores in the states, outside an odd Whole Foods or so. I’m concerned that the lack of availability may turn people off to some of these recipes, such as the Mac and Cheese. I would have liked to have seen some suggestions on what to use if shredded vegan cheese couldn’t be found. Is there a substitution? Maybe a homemade cheese sauce? The Raw Nut Cheese recipe that was included as a substitute for ricotta is a great start but, as someone without access to any vegan substitutes, I would have liked to see more.

Also, the cookbook tends to lack stories from the authors. I don’t have any of my cookbooks here in Australia to quote but I know one of my favorites, Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny, another family vegan cookbook, has almost a full page story before each recipe. Definitely not the norm, but very entertaining! I think even Alicia Silverstone’s cookbook, A Kind Diet, included various stories such as heading to the rain forest with Woody Harrelson. These stories elevate a cookbook by making it more memorable and interesting. As a celebrity, I understand  and respect that need for boundaries but I would have liked to get a little bit more of a glimpse into her personality, her life and hear stories from her kitchen.

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Kneaded Pretzel Bread, before it started rising

Recipe Review:

Now, let’s get down to the recipes!  After all, that’s what matters, right?? In the reviewing process, I chose 4 random recipes to review as well as the 5th one which I get to share with you. I made: Rainbow Smoothie, Udon with Edamame and Peanut Sauce, Bev’s Banana Bread, Hot Pretzel Challah Bread (which I will be including below) and Cocoa Brownies. Most of these came out amazing!

I am obsessed with the Udon noodle recipe and the Pretzel bread. I hid the Udon noodles so that I wouldn’t have to share them with the kids. True story.

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The banana bread also went like crazy. When I saw the 13 year old carve off another huge piece, I actually had to pause and remind myself, he doesn’t even like bananas! It was gone within a day.

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The greatest success, though, was the rainbow smoothies. It started a huge smoothie revolution in the house. During the afternoon, I’ll make up smoothie packets for each of the kids and freeze them. When the kids come home from school, I just throw the contents of the packet into the blender with some liquid, blend it all up and serve it with sliced up veggies. It has replaced the single fruit/cookie snack which was the norm.  Even Liz, my boss, has gotten in on it!

Thumbs up from the boys for the Rainbow Smoothie

Thumbs up from the boys for the Rainbow Smoothie

The cocoa brownie was the only recipe I had difficulties with. They just didn’t seem to solidify enough! They tasted good but were definitely an ‘at home’ treat. I had to chill them to get them solid so I wouldn’t recommend sending them to school in a lunch box or bringing them to a party. I felt they were too gooey.  This was truly the one hiccup I found in the recipe portion of the book. We loved the rest of the recipes!

Here is the recipe for the Hot Pretzel Challah bread that I am allowed to share with you. I am so in love with this bread. I still have some in the fridge and am dreaming of it slathered with jam for breakfast.

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Hot Pretzel Challah Bread
From Mayim’s Vegan Table by Mayim Bialik and Dr. Jay Gordon
Published with permission from Da Capo Press / Da Capo Lifelong Books

 Makes 2 Loaves Challach; Serves 8

Challah is the traditional braided Jewish bread served on the Sabbath and Holy Days. It is known for it’s crusty exterior and soft and slightly sweet inside.

A vegan company in Los Angeles makes a pretzel challah that is not only crusty on the outside, but tastes like the best soft pretzel ever. This recipe takes a little bit of work to get the crust just right, but it will not disappoint! It’s best eaten warm on the day it’s made, as the outer crust can get hard the next day. Dip in pretzel salt or kosher salt and add sesame seeds, if you like. Serve with mustard.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 6 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 cup canola oil, plus more for bowl
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • salt or sesame seeds, for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium glass bowl or measuring cup, combine the yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the sugar, and the lukewarm water. Leave for 10 minutes, or until foamy.

2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, on medium-low speed, mix the remaining 4 1/2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 cup of water, and the kosher salt and oil. (This also can be done by hand with a whisk.)

3. Add the yeast mixture to the mixing bowl, beating well. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour. Raise the speed to medium and knead for 4 to 5 minutes, until smooth, satiny dough forms. It will have almost a matte finish (see picture at the beginning of the Recipe Review section). If you are kneading in the flour by hand, it may take a few minutes longer to get a good, smooth texture.* Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean dish towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, or until double in size.

*Wicked Vegan Note: If you are making this by hand, add the yeast mixture into your sugar/water/salt/oil mixture and continue to whisk until while combined. Set aside these wet ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, add the 3 cups of bread flour. Make a little crater or well in the center of the flour. Pour your wet ingredients into the crater. Begin to fold your dry ingredients into your wet ingredients using a wooden spoon or your hands (I used my hands). Keep gently folding the ingredients together until you have formed a dough ball. Once your ingredients are all together, take the dough out of the bowl and begin to knead the dough on a clean, floured surface. Mine still took about 5 minutes to reach the satiny dough form that Bialik mentions. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean dish towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, or until double in size.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. If the dough is sticky, knead in more flour, a little bit at a time, until the dough is easy to roll. Divide the dough into six equal balls and roll each into a long strand. Braid the three strands of dough into a challah for a total of two challahs. (Wicked Vegan note: This is going to seem silly to mention but each strand should be about the size of your baking sheet. I got a little overzealous with my first loaf and it was too long for my back sheet. It ended up being more snake-like then braid-like. This also made the next step more difficult. So, reign in your enthusiasm for the strand making and keep them in proportion to your baking sheet.)

6. Bring 8 cups of water and the baking soda to a boil in a pot with a wide opening. Gently and carefully, lower a challah into the baking soda solution. Using two wooden spoons or spatulas, carefully turn the challah so both sides get equally covered in the water, or bathe the top with spoonfuls of the solution. Remove after 30 seconds and place back on the parchment-lined pan. Repeat with the other challah.

7. Brush the top of each challah with some water from the pot and then top with salt or sesame seeds (Wicked vegan note: I hate pretzel salt so I just lightly sprinkled table salt on top and it was perfect)

8. Bake for 30 minute, or until starting to brown. (Wicked vegan note: my cook time only took 15 minutes so watch your bread closely)

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As soon as I pulled these out of the oven, the first loaf went in under 10 minutes. I acutally had to hide the second loaf so that I would have something to photograph in the morning! It was so, so good! I’ve been on a big bread making kick and I suspect this will be made again…like, this afternoon! The kids loved it too. It works great as a morning snack with some fruit.

Overall, I think Mayim’s Vegan Table is a good family, vegan cookbook for beginners. It is a well-organized, no nonsense cookbook which has a variety of recipes that will satisfy everyones taste buds from kids to adults. After testing a number of recipes, I would recommend it for those thinking of experimenting or switching to a vegan diet. Trust me, one bite of this pretzel bread and you will be agreeing with me!

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