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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!

Touching Base

Hello, Everyone!! I just wanted to touch base about a few things that are coming up this week. I hope you all had a great St. Patty’s and are powering through those hang overs.

First up, I got 3 times the amount of views Sunday and Monday because of St. Patty’s Day. If you came and checked out the site or recommended Wicked Vegan along the way, I thank you!

If you came this weekend to check out Wicked Vegan and are coming back for more, I doubly thank you! I promise I’m not normally quite so quiet.

Which brings you to my second point- I haven’t been posting a lot of recipes lately because I am reviewing a cookbook which I hope to have up in the coming days, which I can’t wait to show you! If I am putting my name to something, I take it very seriously. I always look at celebrities who hawk hair products and make-up with severe skepticism because you know good and well they aren’t using that cheap crap they sell at Wal-mart! Their foundation is probably 3 times the cost of that stuff and made from baby’s tears or something.

With that said, before recommending a cookbook, I want to make sure that I have tried some of the recipes so I have a fair assessment of the book. I know everyone has a thousand different things they could be spending their money on so I want to make sure I’m as honest as possible.

Because of this, most of my energy, money and funds has been going toward the recipe in this book. As always, there is only little ol’ me eating the food on this blog so if I’m making recipes out of this cookbook, chances are I’m not also making completely separate items for here. It’s just the way it works, which is why I don’t review cookbooks often.

So, with that in mind, thank you again for reading Wicked Vegan. I love my little blog and I love when it gets some attention. And tune in later in the week for the review if you are looking for a new cookbook. Cheers!

 

St. Patrick’s Day is next week. Look at me being all on top of this holiday thing!

I’m not sure how St. Patty’s Day will be without Boston’s… charm. Toowoomba is just a tad bit smaller. Just a little bit. And the number of Irish people is just a wee bit smaller.  I suspect I will have a much quieter St. Patrick’s Day than I have the past few years.

Either way, here are a few recipes from the past 2 years that I’ve had success with. Some are traditional and some are just green. With it being hotter here, I don’t think I will be breaking out the stew. Those Guinness-glazed potatoes are definitely a possibility, though!

I can’t believe I don’t have any desserts!!! I’ll definitely have to work on that this week.

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Breakfast:

Thin Mint Donuts

Green Chocolate Mint Smoothie

Green Monstah Smoothie

Meal and sides:

Vegan Corned Beef

Vegan Guinness Stew

Vegan Irish Stew

Guiness Glazed Potatoes and Roasted Carrots and Brussel Sprouts

Beer Fries

Guiness Beer Bread

Vegan Irish Cream

 

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Vanilla Cupcakes

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I’m so predictable. It’s Friday and I’m giving you a dessert recipe. I think its because I secretly hope that you will make these on Friday and eat the entire thing over the weekend so I will feel better about having nothing but these for lunch two days in a row.

I actually made these for the 5-year-old that I nanny for. When I asked her what she wanted to bring to school for her birthday, the conversation went like this:

Her: VANILLA CUPCAKES!!

Me: Vanilla cupcakes? Are you sure?

Her: Yes!!

Me: Well…do you want me to throw strawberries in? I can make pink strawberry cupcakes!

Her: No. I want vanilla.

Me: Do you want me to add some sprinkles?

Her: No! Just vanilla

Me: Pink Vanilla?

Her: JUST VANILLA!!

Me: fine…

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I was so underwhelmed. Vanilla cupcakes are never my go to recipe. Ever. I think because all the really bad store-bought cakes and cupcakes that are always brought to parties and events are plain, ol’ stale vanilla. I’ve been scarred.

So I grudgingly made these with some serious trepidation. When they came out amazing, I was really, really surprised. Of course, I flat out ignored her request for all vanilla and paired them with the strawberry frosting from this recipe, which is hands down my favorite. She loved them.

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Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes
from Food.com
makes 12

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350 F and line a muffin tin with liners.

Stir the non-dairy milk and the apple cider vinegar together and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the milk/apple cider mixture, oil, sugar and vanilla together. Add the flour mixture and beat until no large lumps remain. (if you taste the batter after it’s all combined, it tastes just like a box cupcake mix!)

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until done.

I had to make 3 dozens of these puppies. Of course, after I made the first batch of vegan ones, I remembered that one of the 5 year-olds classmates is allergic to nuts, which means no almond milk. I had to scrub everything really well and make 3 new batches with regular milk. Thankfully, I only made 1 dozen of the vegan version before I remembered this.

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The cupcakes pictured are frosted with this Coconut Frosting, which I had left over, and some chocolate frosting from a left over cake that was made. All the strawberry frosting went onto the non-vegan cupcakes so I decided to use what I had instead of making a whole new batch. The vanilla cupcakes went beautifully with all of them but my favorite was definitely the strawberry.

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Now, go make these and report back with how many you ate so I can feel better about how many I had. Kthanks

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This is sort of one of those recipes that I want to post because I love it but it’s so simple that I’m not even sure it can be classified as recipe. Because really? This is pretty much the lazy persons recipe for homemade jam.

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I have been pairing this with my homemade sourdough bread!!! mmhmm. you read that correctly. I made my own sourdough bread. With my own homemade starter! I’m insanely proud of that. Granted, the reason you are getting a recipe for the jam and not the bread is because I haven’t perfected the actual cooking time yet but that’s beside the point! The starter was awesome. My dough rose beautifully. The bread was edible. And this jam complimented is perfectly. I’m practically Martha Stewart, guys!

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Strawberry Chia Jam
from Cookie and Kate
makes about 1 cup

  • 1 bag (12 ounces) frozen organic strawberries or other berries.*
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons of liquid sweetener, to taste (honey, maple syrup, agave necter, etc.) I used 1.5 TBSP of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add your strawberries and sweetener. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently.

Once the strawberries are heated thoroughly and have become saucy (approximately 5 minutes), mash with a potato masher or fork.

Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in the chia seeds. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the strawberry and chia seed mixture has reduced to your desired consistency.

Serve on toast, oatmeal, crackers, etc! I won’t judge if you eat it right out of the jar.

*it is not recommended that you use fresh berries here as they don’t break down in the same way that frozen berries do. If you do use fresh, you may need to add a bit of water. Also, you really want to try and get frozen berries with nothing else added- no sugar, no dyes, no preservatives. Just. Berries.

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This stuff is gooood. Like, real good. I wasn’t sure if I would like it because sometimes the chia seed consistency can be a bit odd. I’ve made chia seed breakfast pudding three days in a row and I still don’t know if I like it. This jam, though…this jam works! And it’s so easy. That’s the best part. You have that great homemade taste in no time. I love it!

Fun Aussie tip: What the US calls “jelly”, the Aussie’s call “jam”. What the Aussie’s call “jelly”, is what the US calls “jello”. I got some weird looks when I offered to make the kids peanut butter and jelly. They definitely thought I was offering to make them peanut butter and jello sandwich. Yum!

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