Monday, September 16, 2013


I get to the end of the day and often find myself surrounded by mugs. I love tea.  I feel like most days should come with the buyline 'Brought to you by tea'.

I don't drink caffeine. It just doesn't agree with me. I'm a naturally jumpy person and any caffeine at all makes my day pretty uncomfortable. People used to joke about inviting me out for coffee or 'equivalent beverage'. I thought I'd just run through my current favourite 'alternative beverages'.

Peppermint tea - I am really liking Red Seal Peppermint Lemon tea. I like drinking peppermint tea, it's my wake-up drink but a while ago I got so sick of it. I don't know why, I just got to the point where I couldn't face another cup, then Brent accidentally bought the Peppermint and Lemon tea form the supermarket and I really liked it. I add lemon to a lot of hot drinks but it never occurred to me to add it to peppermint. It's nice and I'm looking forward to drinking it iced when summer finally gets here.

Dandelion coffee - this is my new favourite thing. I've started having it before I eat breakfast with lemon juice. I am a very big bitter fan. I'm not sure dandelion coffee is exactly bitter, like lemon bitter, but it has a really nice, yes, almost coffee, taste to it. Last time I went on a dandelion coffee binge I added soya milk but this time I've just loved drinking it straight with lemon juice. My friends Zef and Sarah made dandelion coffee a couple of years back and I might give that a go this year. In the mean time Golden Fields do a great dandelion coffee bag and also a really nice Chai.

Inca - when I started drinking Inka and it's cousin Caro Brent and I thought it was hilarious. 'The 1980s called and they want their beverage back!' I got it because I was hanging out for a milky warm drink. These two chicory-based granulated drinks fit the bill perfectly. It's funny how many people drink it.

Red African Fire Rooibos - the other day at university I was hanging out for a milky tea (you can see a pattern here, eh?) and I went to the cafe on campus and got a t leaf Tea Red African Fire Rooibus - I can't stop thinking about it. It was such a nice mixture of rooibus and orange.

Puku Love Tea - for a long time my favourite night time drink was Puku Love Tea . I'm not a huge fan of fruit teas and I find licorice tea a bit overwhelming but this is just the most wonderful subtle blend of these kind of tastes.

Having said I don't particularly like licorice tea, I do think Red Seal Black Adder would make a great ice tea. Also, while we were in the States I got a Stash sample which had a couple of bags of Licorice Spice tea which was really good. It was a totally different taste to Black Adder - could it be the sarsaparilla? I really liked it. No one seems to import it to New Zealand. Some of stores here stock other Stash teas and writing this has made me think I might contact them and see if they would consider bringing in the Licorice Spice tea too.

One tea that I tried recently which sits full and is brought out mainly for hilarity is the new Healtheries Lemon Meringue Pie tea. It smells unbelievable. I was kind of excited when I unwrapped it because Lemon Meringue Pie is something I haven't had since I became vegan. My head raced at the possibilities (there is a Strawberry Pavlova Tea in the range as well). But, as you can imagine, the full taste sensation of a lemon meringue pie cannot be packaged in a single tea bag. Science may one day accomplish this but it hasn't done so yet. It wasn't bad, it tasted a bit 'flavoured' but it wasn't that bad, but I think if I wanted that kind of taste I should have stuck with the good old-fashioned science of Hazer Baba Turkish Apple Tea.

Writing this has made me thirsty.


Oh, I just noticed my photo has a subtle piece of advertising in it for Light Perceptions, a beautiful art installation which is on at the moment. If you're in Wellington it's well worth a look. It includes a very interesting work by Rebekah Rasmussen.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Midnight Espresso

If you're ever in Wellington and looking for vegan food, I reckon Midnight Espresso cafe* is well worth a visit. A couple of years ago I was asked to talk about my favourite Wellington restaurant and although I have quite a few favourite places I chose Midnight because it seems to be the place I visit the most. Midnight isn't a solely vegan cafe but they consistently make delicious vegan food. Our friend just got back form the States and is cooking for them again - she is blimmin' talented, so er, yeah, now would be a great time to visit.

Midnight do enormous and delicious vegan filled Turkish bread, scrambled tofu, tofu salads, burgers, udon noodles. If you're not in a tofu mood the vegan nachos are really nice and they also almost always have gluten-free vegan counter food - Midnight do a very nice rice bake. One of the wonderful things for us about Midnight, though, is their baking. There's always something vegan on the counter and it's really nice. Over the years they're had afghans, peanut-butter cookies, yo-yos, baklava, banana cake, chocolate cake, passion fruit cake, vegan ice-cream, vegan cheese-cake - yeah, it's always exciting to go to Midnight for dessert. Here's some photos from our Friday night visit.

Although the angle on this shot accentuates it, this afghan was huge and delicious. Toki most of the time gets chocolate cake. The chocolate cake is legendary in our house. Brent and I had a civil union ceremony about eight years ago and Midnight made us chocolate cakes for desert.

I'm not always ready for big-time dessert but want something sweet, so Toki and I often share a passion fruit smoothie. If you ask, they'll add coconut milk to the vegan smoothies, which is yum! I think the other ingredients are banana, passion fruit pulp and ice. They also often make us a hot soy with a dust of cinnamon which is also a nice and slightly more sustaining alternative to herbal tea. It's kind of like a 'fluffy'.

* The writer of this review is didn't think the service was up to scratch. I personally like a bit of surl in my cafe staff but I still reckon the staff at Midnight are awesome. She also thought the music was too loud. The music is always too loud, but I kind of like that too. On Friday they were playing this and this too loud, which was pretty cool. The great thing about the 'too loud' policy is that you can have a bit of a sing-along, if you feel that way inclined. Teehee.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two Analogies and a Choice (Guest post by Brent)

We went on all the scary rides
One of the first things Brent said to me was, 'I'm vegan.'

The first thing he said when I said I was feeling a little bit over blogging everyday was, 'Can I help?'

Here's a post he wrote.

Analogy 1. 

Veganism is a bit like missionary work - you spend a lot of time alone with it, you have to explain it, justify it and reconfirm it constantly; and people look away after awhile, even when they were the ones who brought it up in the first place.

Analogy 2. 

Vegan life in a non-vegan world isn't that hard. It's kind of like being in an Eastern Bloc country, or New Zealand in the 70s: there aren't many choices, but what there is isn't so bad. We eat out at a few favourite places in Wellington, just like we used to buy either Bata Bullets or Nomads when we needed new shoes. Our grocery shopping is focused on finding the few things we choose to eat, like a scavenger hunt.


Sometimes people ask me about the things I can't eat. It always sounds pedantic when I explain that I can eat meat , eggs, milk, but I choose not to. That choice is important to me, because it makes my veganism more meaningful. In California it seemed so easy to be vegan; it became just another thing you did. Most of the time it's like that here, too, but there's always a bit of a struggle, like I'm being forced to exercise my choice, to make it again and again and remember it.

Here's a recipe - we used to use Griffins' Gingernuts, but they're not vegan anymore. The Leda ones would work just as well. Warning: requires a microwave


1 gingernut
1 piece of dark chocolate (like a square or two of Whittaker's)

Get the gingernut. Put it on a plate. Put the bit of chocolate on it. Put the plate in the microwave. Microwave it for about 15 seconds, until the choclate melts and the gingernut goes warm and soft. Spread the hot choclate around on the gingernut. Let it cool, but not too much, just so it doesn't burn you. Eat the nyumchoc.

This is a family photo. That's Toki's thumb.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Friends and Chickpeas

Last weekend we went up to visit some friends who have recently moved to Paekakariki. It's always nice visiting Maria and Joe because there's always good talk and a lot of laughs and great food.

Joe made us lunch on Sunday and we had a tabbouleh salad with pearl couscous, home made pita bread and yacon.

It was really nice and we ate outside and it was great. It got me thinking about what a vegan meal looks like. I always think of a vegan meal as protein, vegetables and grain and that's where I start most of the time. Usually the protein is a pulse - like in this meal it's the humus made of chickpeas. The vegetables can be raw or cooked. I always aim for as many colours as possible. I always have this goal of including vegetables from as many of the colour groups as possible. I really like these pamphlets to help me remember the groups and what's in them.I really love how this meal has the deep greens of parsley, the purple onion and the red tomatoes (I realise when I say 'vegetables' I also count fruits, plantains and herbs). Wholegrains are awesome! For years I didn't eat them but I am really enjoying getting reintroduced to them. Here's a list of them from A-Z.

These are some of my go to meals, based on this pulse, vegetable, grain plan:
  • Dahl, rice and salad (Dahl may also include vegetables)
  • Quinoa loaf and salad
  • A vegetable soup with pearl barley or quinoa and red lentils
  • Pizza (wheat or other flour base), topped with roast vegetables and tofu or refried beans
  • Buckwheat tabbouleh with hummus and maybe another vegetable or salad
  • A stir fry with vegetables, adzuki beans and rice

I was talking a couple of days ago about raw sprouted hummus. Here's a great recipe from The Simple Veganista blog.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lunch in a Storm

Today is an exciting day in New Zealand. Eleanor Catton's book The Luminaries has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It's so well-deserved and I'm really excited. Yay!

Hm. Now, how to segue into the slightly less heady world of vegan food. Ellie once baked our workshop an amazing vegan ginger, banana quick bread. Actually, Ellie is an amazing baker. Which I guess leads almost unclunkily into the Edmonds Cookery Book.

I can't remember when I was given my copy of the Edmonds Cookery Book (note 'cookery', not 'cooking' or 'cook'). But I'm pretty sure it corresponded loosely with coming of age or leaving home. The book was first published in 1908 as The Sure to Rise Cookery Book as a marketing tool for the Edmonds Baking Company who made baking powder. The Edmonds Baking Factory, which appears on the cover of the book, was an amazing building surrounded by beautiful gardens. Thomas Edmonds was also responsible for other great architecture in Christchurch.

Baking powder is a friend to the vegan. It's a leavening agent which is really important for vegan baking because eggs are what normally gives baking it's lightness. My understanding is that baking powder is baking soda with an acid added. It works like the baking soda and vinegar in chocolate cake in this post I wrote few years ago. I always think of the war when I think of baking powder, I get this idea that it really came into its own as a baking product when there were no eggs and yeast was hard to get too. This War Economy Recipe Book published online by the NZETC is quite an interesting vegan read. There are some great eggless recipes. There's even one for eggless custard which is baked in a piedish stood in a meat dish.

For years, I've used my Edmonds Cookery Book for baking. There are some really well-worn pages. By substituting butter for margarine or oil, milk for soy, almond or oat milk and up to one egg with banana, I've been able to make a lot of the cakes and biscuits in the book. But that's only part of the book, actually quite a small part of the book. The copy I have was published in 1992, the book is always being revised, and it includes quite a few recipes for meals which are quite good. Along with recipes for Beef Pot Roast and Liver and Bacon there are also some really nice rice and vegetable dishes.

There's a storm working its way up New Zealand and yesterday I was working from home when I got this hankering for something warm and savoury and I remembered this recipe I'd kind of veganised from the Edmonds Cookery Book called Savoury Brown Rice Casserole. I really like casseroles. I guess if I was more modern I'd use my slow cooker but yeah, I like the way having the oven on for a long time kind of warms the house. What I really like about this recipe is that it's kind of plain. As a vegan I'm often eating quite highly flavoured food, which is great but sometimes I get a hankering for something with simple flavours and kind of just filling and warm. There used to be this Sri Chimnoy  restaurant in Wellington which served very plain food. One of my favourite meals they did was a bean dish which you could have on brown rice or mashed potatoes.

The original recipe called for butter at the end but I couldn't quite face margarine yesterday so I used tahini and some lemon juice, which works almost as well as salt as a flavour intensifier (um, did I just contradict myself?). Anyway, the original recipe also calls for bacon and chicken stock but this is how I made it yesterday.


1 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup broccoli cut into small pieces (if I'd had a capsicum or some celery or cauliflower, I would have added that too)
1 can tinned tomatoes
3 good tablespoons of tomato pure
2 cups of vegetable stock
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic (I didn't add garlic)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup tofu (I wanted some protein, I've made this without protein before but I added the tofu I mushed it up a bit but it occurred to me that I could have also used some cooked chickpeas or some other types of cooked or tinned bean)
1 teaspoon tahini (Optional)
Juice of one lemon (Optional)

Put all ingredients into an over proof casserole dish and stir. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Cook at 180 degrees Celsius for one and a half hours or until rice is tender. Stor halfway through cooking. Just before serving stir in tahini and lemon juice.

PS: Talking about that Sri Chimnoy restaurant made me want to talk about The Lotus-Heart which is in Christchurch. The Lotus-Heart might be my favourite restaurant in New Zealand. It's so good. If you're ever in Christchurch I really recommend a meal there. I wish I could go right now!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gardening in the City

One of the cool things about living in a small house, with a small outside area is that it forces us out into our community. If we want to rollerskate or skateboard or throw a ball we generally have to go down to the local park. What's nice about this is that we have to walk to the park and when we walk we tend to catch up with other people from the neighbourhood which is really nice.

Last year we got a plot at the local community garden. It's only about ten minutes walk from our place and it is right next door to the dog exercise area. We got the plot original as a place to put our compost, which now sounds awful. But, last year we grew zucchinis and potatoes and pumpkins and cucumbers and kale. Then we went away to America and our plot kind of floundered for a bit. Luckily, no one is too judgemental about a shabby plot. We are by no means the best gardeners, we could never support ourselves, but what is great about community gardening is that there are always people around to ask. We have always tried to garden. Every flat we lived in had pots full of lettuces and spinach and herbs. Firstly, because I love it, but also, so that we can kind of show Toki where food comes from. I am particularly fond of growing herbs. Fresh herbs are really expensive in the shops and there is nothing nicer than popping out to cut some herbs for a salad. Having a plot at the garden has kind of taken us to a slightly new level, and it's been fun. Last Saturday we took the dog up for a walk and checked on our plot. The weekend before we took afternoon tea up and shared it with some friends who also garden up at Tanera.

Tanera is located high above the Wellington CBD which means there are some tremendous views.

A couple of weekends ago Brent and his brother Chris put in a couple of frames for our peas and beans. We've never grown peas or beans before, so we kind of just copied what our friends had done

Toki has a wee corner of the plot which is hers. A couple of weekends ago we planted lettuce, silverbeet and some marigolds. They seemed to be doing okay.

One thing that grows really well at Tanera is Miners Lettuce. It's really yum, Toki pretty much just picks and eats it as she's running round and climbing trees in the garden.

It occurs to me over the last couple of posts there's been a lot of soft-tone filters on photos. Teehee. One things I've realised blogging more about us than I usually do is that it's really easy to idealise a life. To bring some perspective, as I type this Toki is glued to  a tablet playing Minecraft eating Marmite toast, I've just burnt the bejesus out of a pot of lentils because I got tied up reading Facebook and Twitter, and the dog keeps barking when people walk past. The lounge is a mess. The bedrooms are a mess.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Oh my Dog!

 I was just looking through the first week's worth of posts and thinking what I should really call this blog is 'How I am a crap vegan'. While I'm admitting things that make me look like a hypocrite, here's one of my darkest vegan secrets - we have a dog - and not just any dog, a meat-eating dog.

As a vegan, pets are something I think about a lot. I think my veganism is based mainly on the belief that animals shouldn't be owned. This seems really extreme, but it's the ideal which seems to sit most comfortably with my perfect world. This belief was really easy while I didn't want a pet, but since I've been part of this family and got to know some other pet dogs I found myself having some really tricky conversations with myself. As soon as I thought about living with a dog I realised that no matter how I phrased it in my mind (companion animal, furry friend) I would really have all the power and would be making almost all of the decisions for the animal that came to live with us. And this was before I even thought about what I would feed a dog if it came and lived at our house. 

I thought and thought about it for ages and we talked about it as a family and when we got back from America this year we started looking in earnest for a dog, and it was an interesting process. We started off thinking about what dogs we liked and looked at breeds that might suit our family. I really like French Bulldogs, so I started doing some research and found out some pretty upsetting things about breeding French Bulldogs. So we started looking on TradeMe at what dogs were available and started noticing some really horrible breeding stuff going on there. Some breeders always had dogs and they were often from the same mother. So we started looking at other options. We visited the SPCA and met a lot of wonderful puppies there. I wasn't sure we could look after a puppy. I also felt a bit frightened of some of the breeds of dogs that were there. I was terrified of dogs when I was younger and found some of that fear coming back with some of the breeds. I've since met heaps of SPCA dogs, much like the ones I was frightened of, and they're pretty cool dogs.

Then our friend Paula came to stay. Paula had recently adopted an ex-racing greyhound from Greyhounds as Pets (GAP). We contacted GAP and met some really cool greyhounds (they are some of the most amazing dogs I've met) but while we were waiting for our application to be processed we started thinking about some of the needs of greyhounds and thought maybe we weren't quite the right house for greyhounds either. I realised for instance that probably Toki wouldn't be able to walk the greyhound by herself and that we may not be able to visit friends who had cats if we had the dog with us.

While all this was going on I was researching vegan dogs. I found some really promising examples of vegan dogs and some great vegan dog food options.

The day we decided we weren't going to be able to adopt a greyhound, I was really discouraged. I think we all were, we'd been looking for a long time and it felt like we would never find a dog taht we could care for and would like to live with us. In the depths of this discouragement I had a quick look through TradeMe, more to make myself feel worse than anything but I came across an advertisement for four-year-old corgi who needed re-homing. As you can imagine corgis were nowhere on our radar of dogs we might like. To be honest I didn't even know corgis still existed. But something made me call the people and we went and visited Brynn that day. My friend Sarah was visiting at the time and she came with us, which was great. Sarah has been a dog-owner, really understands where we're coming from vegan-wise and also worked as a librarian in a vet school in Sydney. Brynn was pretty overweight when we met him. The woman who had advertised him had several cats and dogs and chickens and rats and chinchillas and a couple of horses - all of which she'd rescued. She got Brynn off someone in Hamilton and helped him to lose some weight but was finding it hard to help him lose any more because there was so much cat and dog and chicken food around. He was pretty much scavenging everyone elses food. He had a really beautiful face and he was very friendly. On the way home Sarah did some research on corgis. We talked about Brynn a lot. Toki really wanted him. I wasn't so sure, there were two things I didn't want in a dog, one was a breed that shed hair and the other was a dog that smelled bad - Brynn seemed to have both these qualities. I also had this weird thing, where I'd kind of fancied myself sort swanning round Aro with my sleek greyhound and this corgi was not going to win me any cool awards. See what a hypocrite I am? I still feel really worried that people might think we were responsible for getting Brynn fat. I am basically an ego on legs. Anyway, we thought about it and decided that here was a dog who needed some stuff - exercise, good food, companionship - and we were a family that could give him that stuff. We rang them straight away and picked up Brynn that weekend and he's been the best dog for us.

He is really friendly and he is calm and he loves walking. When we took him to the vet I said to her, will he be sad if we don't feed him so much and the vet nurse said that sometimes dogs enjoy the attention associated with being fed as much as the food. She said, pat him, love him and exercise him and he'll be happy. And he seems pretty happy. He's snoring next to me know.

I still feel weird about owning an animal but these are some things that I also think about owning Brynn:

  • He's getting fitter and he seems to get happier and healthier as he does, when we first got him he had a lot of trouble getting up from lying down and he couldn't cock his leg to pee, he can do those things now and last week he scratched himself behind is ear with his back foot. Baby steps teehee.
  • I kind of feel like Brynn is part of our pack rather than our property - I'm kind of his alpha-dog, I have some power in our relationship but I also have responsibilities, I read that a dog will only respect you as an alpha if you act with fairness
  • On a totally selfish level, Brynn has really made our family complete, it's been so interesting to see how Toki's place in the family has altered. As an only child she has also always been the youngest child but watching her care for Brynn has made me see her in a whole new light. It's also really nice having another 'energy' in the house apart from me and her, which can get a bit intense
  • Also, selfishly, I love walking this dog! It  does amazing things to my state of mind. I work a lot by myself and now when I hit a hiccup I can take him for a walk. It also really seems to help for me to have another living thing to think about during the day, I can get quite self-centred when I'm working here by myself. I also love taking him for walks as a family, we have these great talks while we walk him.
Brynn eats meat. He's on a special diet regime because he really needs to lose weight. We really want to one day transition him to a vegan diet but who knows how that will work out. It may mean a change in vet. We had a chat with ours about it and she was quite dark on the idea, she even gave us a lecture about humans and how they need to eat meat. Teehee. But, I think we will find some support around us and will give it a go. The meat food is the thing that plays on my mind the most at the moment. I can't justify other animals dying so that mine can live. In my experience, this is what it's like being vegan, having things you really wish were different but aren't. All these ways that my life is not perfect help bring me down from my moral high ground and keep challenging me so I never stop thinking about things, I reckon.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hungry Hungry Sunday

Mang, was I hungry this morning! We had book group last night so I kind of ate snacks for dinner. Baha. Whoops. I woke up feeling pretty energetic but after I did yoga and had a shower I was really hungry. It was quite a nice feeling because along with the hunger came a really clear idea of what I wanted - protein! Teehee.

I usually have porridge for breakfast or a smoothie and some fruit but this morning I really wanted something savory and yeah, bursting with protein. So I put some toast in the toaster, got myself a cup of peppermint and lemon tea and started mashing tofu. Here's the recipe. Its adapted from a vegan omelet recipe in How it all Vegan. It's kind of a cheaty, lazy version of it, but it works great for me for breakfast or lunch or even dinner.

SCRAMBLED TOFU (This is for one person, but you can scale it up, sometimes I do a whole packet of tofu this way)

1/2 cup of tofu (I use medium to firm tofu, I don't think this would work with silken tofu)
About 1 teaspoon of Braggs (people often complain to me about Braggs in vegan cooking, it's a pretty overwhelming taste and I rely on it HEAPS, but I haven't really found a good alternative for it in this recipe)
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
As much parsley as Newtonian physics will allow me to cram into the tofu (Parsley has iron and is yum).
I've been known to add other things, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, even really finely chopped up broccoli.

I place the tofu in a bowl and mash it up, I use a potato masher if we have company but my hands if it's just for me and no one is watching. The whole hand-squishing tofu thing is very big with Toki, actually this is one of her favourite ways to eat tofu, her other favourite way is raw from the container - yikers.

When it's squished sufficiently, I add the other ingredient and mix them in, it doesn't have to be too well mixed.

I heat about a teaspoon of olive oil in a fry pan, I use a little one, then when the oil is hot I put the tofu in the fry pan and cook it just to heat it through. The tofu can stick a bit, I don't have any solution for this sorry, except keeping it moving, lowering the heat.

I ate it with toast spread with tahini. I love tahini.

I have two links before I go:

First, this is Isa Chandra's PPK omelet recipe which looks amazing. Isa Chandra is kind of my vegan warrior hero. Post Punk Kitchen is the best.
Second, this is an amazing recipe for apple butter from Oh She Glows that my friend Jo left yesterday on the blog after I asked about apple recipes.. Thanks so much Jo, this looks yum!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Waffle Saturday

Waffles with Unicorn & Flying Horse (I can't spell Pegasus .. Oh)
For years Saturday was pancake day. Then my parents gave us a waffle maker and since then it's Waffle Saturday. Waffles are not just for breakfast. They make quite a nice afternoon tea alternative to scones. I like waffles also because they don't have sugar in them, cinnamon is powerfully sweet in my experience.

My favourite waffle recipe comes from one of my favourite vegan recipe books, The Garden of Vegan by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer. It's the follow up to the masterful How it all Vegan. It's one of those great recipe books which shares stories from the authors' lives and some great vegan lifestyle stuff. As well as recipes for salads, mains, side dishes and desserts, How it All Vegan includes recipes for health and beauty products and a handy appendix of animal product ingredients. Both books are awesome, if you're at all interested in vegan cooking How it all Vegan is a great first book.

Sarah Kramer blogs at Go Vegan. Sarah Kramer also runs a cool shop called Sarah's Place which is down for maintenance at the moment with a message saying she is currently having chemotherapy for breast cancer, so yeah, any good thoughts you can put that way I'm sure would be really appreciated.

When vegan friends of mine have got cancer other friends have often commented something like, 'But they were vegan.' Kind of like when a really fit person has a heart attack. One of the best things I've read about vegans and cancer was written by Ginny Kisch Messina (MPH, RD) on her blog The Vegan R.D. This blog is one of the best sources of evidence-based information about nutrition and health. Ginny Messina has written about vegans and bone health, vegans and heart health, iron and she has some great stuff to say about nuts.

How it All Vegan was recommended to me by my friend Sarah (not Kramer) years ago while she was home from the States. I open it almost every other day and every Saturday because I can never remember a recipe, not even for waffles. This is the great thing about recipes and recipe books, I always remember the person who shared them with me. I always realise when I write this blog that so many good things have come to me via Sarah. She's awesome!

Anyway, I need to go and make waffles so I'll leave it there for today.

BANANA WAFFLES (Slightly adapted from The Garden of Vegan, Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer, p.40)

1 banana (bananas are a great egg replacer, half a banana will replace one egg in most baking)
1 cup of water
1 cup of soy milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup of rolled oats
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
(We often add seeds to this recipe, a teaspoon or so of linseeds or chia seeds (although watch these because they can add erm texture or sesame seeds or sunflower seeds. We also sometimes add chocolate chips, to balance things out baha) 

In a bowl I blend together, using my stick mixer (I think maybe this blog should be brought to you by my stick mixer, I use it so much) the banana and water until smooth.

Add remaining ingredients and blend until well combined.

Spoon about half cup lots of the mix into a well oiled, hot waffle iron. Repeat until batter is gone. Makes 4-8 waffles, depending.

I've replaced the flour with spelt and once I made buckwheat waffles. Here's a gluten-free waffle recipe from Naturally Attached which I've never made but it looks pretty good.

On top of waffles we have: maple syrup, raw fruit, cooked apples and berries, lemon and sugar, golden syrup. One of the newest vegan products I've come across lately is Coconut Bacon. That's right Coconut Bacon, there's a recipe over at Eating the Birdfood so you can make your own. Or Angel Food, a wonderful Auckland company has Smokonut. Angel Food is awesome people. Up until a wee while back they mainly imported vegan food products for sale here but now they've been concentrating on developing their own products here in New Zealand. At the moment they're running a crowd-funding appeal over at PledgeMe to try and fund the development of vegan meringues and cream - that's right.

Friday, September 6, 2013


I haven't been able to find anyone to swap blogs with today so I'm going to do this instead.

As you've probably noticed I write these posts the day before I post them, that's why the weather is always out of date. Anyway, Thursday is veggie day in our house. Since the beginning of the year we've belonged to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group run by Wairarapa Eco Farms (WEF). Community Supported Agriculture is also known as subscription farming. Basically, we 'subscribe' for a season with WEF, in other words we pay up front for three months' worth of weekly deliveries of fruit and vegetables. What this means is they we share the risk and harvest of the farm. It's kind of like futures trading, on a very small scale. What's great about it is that the farm knows exactly how much food it needs to produce and exactly its budget for doing so is.

Toki with the CSA vegetables

There are heaps of things I like about this way of buying our vegetables. For starters all the produce is organic and sustainably grown, while we're nowhere close to being an organic household the food tastes delicious (and when you're eating mainly vegetables that is quite a big thing) and it feels really nice to know where it's come from and how it's been grown. WEF send out weekly emails talking about how the farm is going and sharing articles and recipes about food. It feels really great to sort of by 'in on' the growing of your food. This year there was a bit of an issue with the potato harvest, which all matured at the same time. The farm experimented with storing some the potatoes underground to try and stagger the supply but then the rains came and the big storm and most of the potatoes got quite ill. Being in communication with the farm during this reminded me that farming vegetables is tricky and weather will often have its way.

Another things which works for us is that we pay up front for a season's worth of vegetables and fruit. I realise being able to find a month's worth of vegetable budget is a really privileged position to be in but it works for our budget. I know exactly how much to put aside for the season to come. We do supplement the CSA sometimes. For instance, we have had a bit of a glut of apples and pears and, well, we have a couple of quite committed citrus fans in the house so we often buy some extra oranges and a head of broccoli if we're hanging out. As an aside, we have a LOT of apples at the moment. I'm trying to find an apple chutney recipe but I'm not even sure I like apple chutney. It would make nice presents but, yeah, if you have any apple glut ideas please leave a comment.

I also like how the CSA keeps us seasonal. I'm not quite sure why but I feel better mentally and physically when I'm eating seasonally. I think it's a hangover from my aryuvedic days.

Me with our fruit and vegetable share.
Our vegetables are delivered to the Aro Valley Community Centre on Thursday mornings. Toki and I walk down after school and pick them up. That's another nice thing about the CSA I quite like carrying my food home by foot. I think it appeals to me hunter-gatherer instinct. While you can pick up your vegetables and fruit any time of the day, there is always someone rostered on in the early evening as people are coming home from work. Once or twice a season Toki and I do this and we get to meet almost everyone in the Aro Valley CSA share. This along with the weekly emails makes for a really nice community feeling.

One of the best things for me about the CSA has been stretching my cooking repertoire. There's something really challenging about not choosing your vegetables. While the CSA makes potato-free bags and will work with individual allergies and preferences generally we've always taken the standard share. What this means is often this year I've been faced with vegetables I've never cooked before. A couple of times I've been faced with vegetables I don't even know the name of. The WEF email lists the vegetables we get in the standard bag and sometimes even offers recipe ideas. This year for instance I met kohlrabi for the first time and it quickly became one of my favourite brassicas. One of the challenges for me has been mesclun and bitter greens. I'm not a big fan of either but I found I really liked them juiced. So again, any mesclun ideas greatly appreciated.

This week's share.
As you can see from this week's share, this time of year at WEF is all about the green, which is great for us because we really like salads and stir fries and I generally find something to do with that pesky mesclun.

Last night I made a soup. Sorry about the photo, taking photos of food is really hard. As I said before I find the mess beetroot makes a bit tiring. I also find the way it turns everything pink tricky. I don't really like pink food. I like it juiced - I like the way it all stays contained when I juice it. Control freak anyone? Anyway, last night I bit the bullet and made this soup. I think the two magic vegan ingredients are Rapunzel vegetable stock powder which basically makes everything taste good. I use small amounts of it mixed with warm water to mash potatoes, I use it in my marinades and I cook rice in it most of the time, it's also nice sprinkled over vegetables before you roast them. The other ingredient that I think makes this soup is the pearl barley. The texture is great and it made the soup more like a meal than a starter. We ate the soup with mashed potatoes mainly because I couldn't be arsed making bread, but it would be nice with bread.


1 splash of olive oil
1 teaspoon of cumin

1 onion
1/4 of a pumpkin cut into 1 inch cubes (I peeled mine)
3 small beetroot peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
6-7 small turnips (at this point I reckon put in whatever vegetable you have to hand)
(If I'd had a stick of celery I would have used that too).
(I'm not a huge garlic fan but you could add garlic, I added a bit of asafoetida.)
6-7 brussel sprouts halved
1/2-1 cup of pearl barley (rinsed)
Enough water to cover the vegetable
2 teaspoons of Rapunzel stock powder (1 teaspoon for each cup of water)
A handful of spinach or other greens

I got a big pot and put the oil in to heat over a medium-high heat. I put in the cumin seed and then the onion and cooked the onion until it was see through.

Then I added the rest of the vegetables and the barley and coated them a bit in the oil and cumin and onions.

Then I added the water and the stock, then I just let it cook covered, checking every now and then to make sure it didn't need more liquid. When it was cooked I blended it with my hand blender and then added the spinach to just wilt a bit.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Thankful Thursday

Image from The Hare Krishna Movement (Can you spot the non-vegan food? Krishna is the Butter Thief after all)

My friend says that people like me have a magnifying mind. Whatever I focus on becomes bigger. Once I start looking for things to be grateful for I start finding things to be grateful for. I feel pretty lucky today, it's blowing a gale outside and I'm grateful to have a roof and a heater and some money to make that heater go and some food in the cupboard and family and health and I could just go on and on.

Recently, I've been writing a story that has, rather unexpectedly, required some research into the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Like a lot of people I've always been aware of ISKCON but up until a couple of weeks ago I called it Hare Krishna and had some rather vague ideas about what it was and what it did. Food and Hare Krishna have also gone together in my mind. I think, possibly, 'Krishna food' was the first real vegetarian food I ate (apart from Sanitarium Cornflakes of course). I've been reading a bit about Food for Life. As I said, I've always been aware of Food for Life, but I didn't realise the extent of it. This is from the Food For Life website:

"The distribution of sanctified plant-based meals has been and will continue to be an essential part of India’s Vedic culture of hospitality from which Food for Life was born. Since its inception in the early 70’s, Food for Life has tried to liberally distribute pure plant-based meals (prasadam) throughout the world with the aim of creating peace and prosperity. The Food for Life Global office, directed by Paul Turner, facilitates the expansion, co-ordination and promotion of prasadam distribution throughout the world. The project started in 1974 after yoga students of Swami Prabhupada became inspired by his plea that 'no one within a ten mile radius of a temple should go hungry!' Today Food for Life is active in over 60 countries."

Food for Life serves up to 2,000,000 meals a day and has been served after the 2011 Japan tsunami, the 2010 Pakistan flood and Haiti earthquake, in Bangladesh, Gujarat, Chechnya, Sarajevo and New Orleans.

Reading about Food for Life made me think about the simple and profound  act of feeding people. It made me think about how many  organisations are involved in this amazing service.

The Wellington City Mission and Salvation Army provide an emergency service which assists people who are struggling to feed themselves.

Kaibosh New Zealand's first food rescue organisation redistributes food that's good enough to eat but not good enough to sell to charities around Wellington.

The Free Store (which is currently closed while it's new premises are being fitted out) is a volunteer-run not-for-profit organisation that redistributes perfectly edible surplus food to those that determine themselves in need of it, right here in the heart of Wellington City.

And even round our area there seems to be a lot of activity around getting food to people. Our local bread shop gives away bread once a week. There is also often free food outside 128 Abel Smith Street. We also have a bit of an unofficial food network at our school. There are a couple of families who have fruit trees which give way more fruit that they can use. When the fruit is ripe they often extend an open invitation to come and pick apples, pears and the like. We still have a couple of bottles of pears from our last harvest. I've also noticed that people are often dropping round food to each other. We have a new baby in the neighbourhood and there seems to be a steady stream of people carrying in pots of soup and loaves of bread and even some sweeter treats.

I realise that although people feeding people sounds wonderful and simple it's not. There are plenty of people who can't access these services who need them. I was at one of these organisations the other day and I noticed,  for the first time in ages, how many crucifixes were up and I suddenly thought about my past self and how much fear and disdain I had for the Christian church and how hard it would have been to approach anyone from the church and ask for help. I was bought up in a house that was quite suspicious of anyone offering something for nothing, especially if they were attached to a church. Religion aside, there are lots of other barriers which make it impossible for people to access help ... I want to say 'but' now, 'but it's a start' or 'but they're there' but, yeah, I just can't bring myself to. I think it's very complicated, and I'm really interested that even now, in these complicated times the simple and profound act of trying to feed is still so relevant and there are still many people involved in it from neighbours to worldwide aid organisation.

With ISKCON on my mind, here is a recipe for EASY INDIAN DAHL WITH SQUASH, BROCCOLI AND SPINACH which seems to fit this cold, cold night, from A Conscious Kitchen which is a great blog full of vegan, largely gluten-free recipes.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Work with it Wednesday

Oat Cover Crop image by Flickr user David Bradbeer

'Focusing on a food you don’t love and learning to love, or at least tolerate, it.' - Vegan Month of Food 2013, Official Prompt.

Argh! Time to come clean, there are very, very few vegan foods I won't eat and enjoy. While in the States I did say to B, 'If I ever see another plate of vegan cheese it'll be too soon.' But on the whole, as long as it doesn't taste/feel too much like meat, I'll eat it.

My mum tells me, as a kid I never liked meat. I'm not totally sure this is an indicator of some kind of proto-veganism. My grandmother lived with us for most of my life and she sure did make some interesting 'meat' experiences available to us. There was often tongue, not sliced tongue, a whole tongue, on a plate, in all it's goose-bumpy glory. We ate sweetbread. I'm still not sure what 'sweetbread' is. When I asked my mother would say, 'Oh, it's some sort of gland.' I've been too scared to look it up. But I just did, and she was right. It's the thymus, but sometimes it's the pancreas and we ate them deep-fried like they were going out of fashion. We had steak and kidney stew. While I was in San Diego B had a 'chicken' wrap and the 'chicken' had the texture of kidney. Yikers. My grandmother loved tripe and onions. No one else in the family would eat it, so she'd often cook it if my parents were away on a Sunday night. My grandmother also used to fry us luncheon sausage for breakfast, which was delicious. But the breakfast dish that stands out above all else, is what she called 'Mock crab'. It was an egg and a tomato and you threw them both in a saucepan and kind of scrambled them together. A friend told me the other day she was a 'snout to tail' eater and I that's always how I remember my grandmother, although, she wouldn't eat pork. I'm not sure why. I know she wasn't allergic to it, because my mother would often cook pork mince and tell my grandmother it was beef. I think it was something to do with pigs and how they were dirty. My Uncle Gavin had a pig, it's name was Garfield, we went to visit the pig, we fed it and scratched it and loved it. A couple of months later Gavin arrived at our place with some bacon. 'How's Garfield,' I said over lunch. Gavin chewed for a minute, 'Perfect.' My mother threw out the rest of the bacon after he left. But, yes, this isn't getting us any closer to 'Work with it Wednesday'.

I never used to like porridge. I like the idea of porridge. It's cheap, it's warm, it's one of those great breakfasts that keep you going until lunch but no matter who cooked it or how I had it I just didn't like it. I've tried it a lot of different ways, I've added cinnamon and grated apple. I've cooked it with soy milk, without soy milk. I've added nuts and seeds and brown sugar and white sugar and agave and yoghurt and bananas and fruit and salt and no salt and still I used to have to gag it the whole way down - for complex carbohydrate's sake. Recently, I've tried to not eat things I don't like. It doesn't work for me, I always begin, stoically swallowing down the 'food that is good for me' and half an hour later grabbing a packet of chips or a piece of toast, which is usually what I wanted in the first place. So, I stopped eating porridge. Toki loves porridge, it was one of the first foods she ate. One morning I was making her some porridge and it suddenly took my fancy - it was way simpler porridge than I would normally make myself, 1/3 cup of oats, 1/3 cup of water, 1/3 cup of soy milk. I figured I'd give myself a plate too, if I didn't like it she would polish off or I could just compost it. I asked her what she was having on hers and she said, 'Hm. Maple syrup.' So I put some maple syrup on my share and then some more milk. It was really nice. I realise now that I was making the porridge way to complex and often way to sweet. Also, my servings were too big. I know that sounds strange but the huge bowls of porridge I'd been serving myself felt like a chore rather than a pleasure. Lately, Toki and I have been making pink porridge, we add a handful of frozen berries before we cook the porridge and it goes pink and is yum.

Speaking of pink, another vegetable I have a bit of trouble with is beetroot. I really like the taste of it roasted, grated raw, in soup but the mess just puts me off. It looks like murder! My friend Helen peels and cuts her beetroot underwater. She also sometimes uses the pink to dye things. The other great thing I discovered about beetroot, as I made piece with its pinkness, was that the green stuff that comes with beetroot, the bit that grows out of the ground, is really nice tasting. It's great in soups and stews.

Oh also, if anyone has a good mung bean recipe, I'd love that. I like mung dahl (split and peeled mung beans) but no matter how I cook mung beans I just don't enjoy them. I always but them in bulk with great intentions but end up sprouting them. Actually, does anyone know how you make mung dahl out of mung beans?

Okay, in honor of oats, here's a great recipe for stove-top granola. This recipe comes from the stupendous Amanda Reid, she of the Quinoa Loaf recipe. Amanda catered a retreat a few years back and was kind enough to send me her recipes from the weekend. I LOVE this recipe because, you know that thing, when you really want muesli but you haven't got any muesli and it will take a while to make muesli and yeah, it's often a bit sweet when you toast muesli and anyway, this is the antidote to that. I cook this in my cast iron heavy fry pan, which is one of my favourite things and it is really nice.

Stovetop Granola
(Serves 4)

1c rolled oats

1/3 c walnuts, chopped

1/3 c sunflower seeds

1/3 c shredded coconut

2 cardamon pods, slit at end

2in cinnamon stick

1/3 c raisins

1/3 c ground flaxseeds

Toast oats, walnuts and seeds in large pan, stirring constantly for 5mins.  Add coconut and spices, stir for 10mins.  Remove from heat, remove spices.  Add raisins and flaxseeds.
What foods do you not love and are learning to love, or at least tolerate, it?
My friend Sarah sent me this great new vegan food website (is it a Tumblr? It looks like a Tumblr). It's called Thug Kitchen and it's funny and delicious. Which is the best combination. Keeping with the oat theme, here's a way to chug your breakfast Strawberry Oat Smoothie.
Also, can someone talk to me about Steel Cut Oats? I've been too scared to ask anyone because I feel like I should know, but I feel brave today because I've been reading Thug Kitchen biatches - baha.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

TV Tuesday

Roasted Chickpeas image by Flickr user trpnblies7
So, after two Monday prompts I'm finally back in line with the official prompts for Vegan Month of Food.

Apart from Bugs Bunny, I couldn't think of many vegan TV characters. I also had a bit of trouble thinking about a meal from my favourite TV show or movie. Although, every time I watch the opening credits for Louis I want pizza and not just any pizza, that floppy huge slice of goodness that we got at Wholefoods in Las Vegas. It had Daiya cheese on top and ... as you can see today is NOT one of my purer no-diary-surrogates days.

Thinking about which characters are vegan and which aren't did remind me of the day Toki realised not everyone is vegan. She was at preschool and her teacher was reading a book about a picnic and a bacon sandwich. 'Isn't it awful that people eat bacon?' Toki said, and her teacher said, 'I eat bacon.' And Toki just about lost her eyes. She'd met heaps of non-vegans, actually, the number of vegans she'd met by that stage could probably be counted on one hand but she just hadn't noticed. 'Pip,' she said to me after school. 'Do you know my teacher isn't vegan?' It was kind of cute and kind of sad.

I don't really have a TV meal. I love baked beans on toast. I love toast teehee. But I've been soaking chickpeas all day and it reminded me of one of my favourite snacks, which might be good for watching TV. We're having a friend over for tea. I don't know her very well and she's just moved here from Scotland. I'm always blimmin' nervous cooking for people for the first time. I think I'm going to marinate some vegetables and bake them and serve them with pasta. But, in a moment of performance anxiety this morning I threw some chickpeas in to soak. I remember reading Isa Chandra saying one time, 'Always be soaking.' It's not a bad motto for people who like pulses. Chickpeas freeze really well, so I've never regretted soaking and boiling big piles of them. Anyway, he's an idea.


Soak some chickpeas (you'll probably need about a cup and half for this recipe) for 8-10 hours, overnight is best. Just throw them in a bowl and cover them in water so the water is, say, one and half times higher than the chickpeas, if that makes sense. In other words, heaps of water.

(I used to boil the chickpeas before I roasted them but they were always a but squishy, I found roasting them from soaked rather than boiled kept them crunchy.)

Drain them and place about a cup and a half of soaked chickpeas in a bowl (you can dry them off a bit with a tea towel, but you don't need to).

Heat the oven to about 175 degrees Celsius
Add about two tablespoons of olive oil and spices like smoked paprika, oregano, cumin, dill, chili, curry powder salt and pepper.
Add the soaked chickpeas and mix it all about a bit so all the chickpeas are coated in oil and herbs.
Place the coated chickpeas on a baking tray, try to make them one layer thick, they cook better that way.
Bake them for about 20-30 minutes, keep an eye on them, they will go a bit brown but watch they don't burn.
When they're done, let them cool and then eat them like nuts.

I just remembered how sprouted chickpeas make great hummus.  I'll try and remember to do a post on that. Chickpeas rock!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mock Meat Monday

Image licensed for Creatve Commons by Flickr user erikadotnet
I just got home to an amazing dinner - pumpkin soup, kale chips and potatoes cooked in cumin and coriander and everything good. But before I eat that, I'm going to write this about fake meat.

Just thinking about fake meat next to the colourfully yum meal B made gives me the slight fantods. I have a very complex relationship with meat surrogates. When I first discovered them, I couldn't get enough. It was so great to fix something fast that hit all the fat, salt, sugar buttons in my caveman brain. I still love that Toki can be a bit invisible at barbecues and sausage sizzles at school. And I am completely partial to a 'fish' curry at Aunty Menas or Natures' finger-licking good crispy 'chicken'. But given the choice, some days (most days?) if we're getting take-out I'd prefer prashadum from Food for Life or a falafel.

We were in America this year which was a bit like a trip to vegan mecca. Man, did I eat some fake meat there. Along with the amazing raw restaurants we went to where we ate zucchini noodles and all manner of juice, we often found ourselves in a Veggie Grill. This relatively new chain of restaurants does the best line in fast, plant-based food I've ever experienced. On some visits to Veggie Grill I would have an amazing salad up-sized with some tempeh or tofu but other trips all I wanted was a 'chicken' sandwich. B and I still glaze over when we think of our last meal there which included a 'fish' taco, which may be the best thing I've eaten in my life. Seitan is king in much of vegan America and I tasted it in almost every way it could be done.

So you can see, I'm miles from being a purest but when I stop and think about it, there is a lot that I find problematic about meat surrogates. For a starter they take a lot of making. I feel really weird eating anything that I'm not sure I could make in my own kitchen. I also feel odd when an ingredient list includes an item I have no idea where to get - Red iron oxide? Colour Caramel 5? Sulphites? Cellulose? Also, and this is my greatest shame about a lot of the vegan convenience foods I eat, most of them contain palm oil. Palm oil seems to be the friend of most vegan surrogates of non-vegan things - ice cream, mayonnaise, cheese and really, I feel evil any time I eat a product which includes palm oil - which I think I probably should.

The other problem I have came into stark focus last week when B came home and said it looked like the supermarket we shop at were stopping stocking Frys in favour of Quorn. Fry's is a brand of meat surrogates which are pretty yum and vegan. While Quorn is another brand of meat surrogates which are vegetarian but not vegan. For the first time I found myself quite aware that what I was eating was a 'brand' of food in a market, fighting for market share. I understand that no food is immune from capitalism but there seems something way less sinister to me about a bag full of lentils from the bulk bin or an apple, or a potato. I'm not sure how the fruit and vegetable industry works and maybe I'm fooling myself but the idea that my food was being manufactured and then packaged and marketed and yeah, it kind of did my head in a little.

On my more staunch days, I think to myself, 'Maybe, if I want to be vegan there are just some things I don't get to eat. What on earth kind of vegan am I if I still want to eat chicken and fish?' But, yeah, as you can imagine, that doesn't last forever and I find myself cooking up some vegan sausages or a Fry's Crumbed Chicken Schnitzel.

I wanted to finish up with a recipe for barbecues that doesn't include any fakery. You'll see I don't consider tofu as a fake meat which is completely, an idea I have no rationale for.


You'll need some skewers. You can use reusable metal ones or bamboo ones. The bamboo ones will need to be soaked in water.

500g tofu cut into cubes about an inch square
Plant stuff like: capsicum, broccoli, cauliflower,mushroom, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, onions (red or brown), garlic bulbs (if you're game) - yeah, anything you can think of that can be cut into quite big chunks.

Then you skewer everything, leave a bit of room at either end. Kids LOVE this. Well, my kid loves this, not as much as Minecraft of course, but you know.

We usually place the skewers in a big square dish and then we pour a marinade over them which might include any or all of the following, depending on what's in the cupboard:

Lemon juice
Vegetable stock
Braggs or Tamari or Soy Sauce
Sweet chilli sauce
Curry powder
Agave syrup (or as we call it in our house 'Vegan Honey')
Smoked paprika

We usually make the kebabs in the morning so they can soak for a while.

In my experience, they go really well on the barbecue.

Another thing that goes great on the barbecue - bananas! Baebecue banana extreme is peel them slightly, stuff some dark chocolate into them, fold the peel back up again and THEN barbecue them. Teehee. It's the vegan s'more!

Also, here's a recipe for homemade seitan. I've never made it. For some reason the whole boiling gluten thing gives me the fantods but I realised it was a bit dishonest to represent seitan as this Frankenfood when really it's quite easy to make.

Also, my dinner is delicious!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mac-and-Cheese Monday ... er ... Sunday*

A Sea of Pumpkins (CC) by Flickr user Quiltsalad
I feel really happy starting Vegan Month of Food shouting out to one of my favourite vegan books - John Robbins Diet for a New America.What I really like about Robbins' book is that because it was written in 1987 the recipes, which make up the second half of the book, rely heavily on wholefoods rather than meat surrogates. I love surrogates as a quick meal or for the barbecue but I find them really salty and processed. What I realise more and more is that nothing makes me happier than a big ole plate of lentils and crisp vegetables.

But, you won't find any pulses in this recipe. While I'm sure you could add some cooked split red lentils if you wanted, this lack of ingredients we would normally associate with protein is a nice illustration of one of Robbins' main beliefs which is, we don't need as much protein as we're being told we do. Robbins argues that a human diet needs less than 5% of it's calories as protein. He bases this figure on the percentage of calories as protein in breast milk.

'How hard is it to get 5 percent of your calories as protein? Not hard at all [...] If you ate nothing but wheat (16 percent protein), or oatmeal (15 percent protein), or even pumpkin (12 percent), we would easily be getting enough protein.' - John Robbins, Diet for a New America, p.50

I'm not a scientist or a nutritionist so I don't know how robust Robbins' claim is but I love the way this book continues to shift my idea of dinner away from protein and three veg. This new way of thinking about protein means our meals are way more flexible and often lighter and more interesting than when I try to mimic a meat-based meal.

The other great thing about this recipe is that it's a great way to sneak vegetables into a small person's diet. The main ingredient is pumpkin (which there is a lot of around at the moment for a reasonable price), but I've also added broccoli, cauliflower, onion, carrot, celery and all manner of greens from kale to spinach to this recipe and it tends to be eaten. If I'm adding a leafy green I just pop it in with the 'sauce' when it's hot. If it's a more substantial vegetable I cook it with the pumpkin.

One thing about the recipe, Toki (who is seven) as a life-vegan has a very low tolerance for anything that tastes 'cheesey' with this in mind I tend not to add the nutritional yeast to the recipe. I think this is a the case if I'm serving this to non-vegans as well. Fake cheese tastes are not fun for non-vegans I reckon. However, on the yeast front, I have been known to use Marmite when I don't have any miso (I use way less Marmite if I do this, like maybe only a tablespoon).

One last thing I really love about this recipe is that it is very easy to substitute gluten-free pasta because the paste is cooked separately from the sauce. Okay, here it is. Also, for the three of us I find these amounts a bit much, so I usually half the recipe.

If you like this recipe, I'd really recommend Diet for a New America.

(Adapted from John Robbins, Diet for a New America, p.356)

About 1 kg pumpkin
1/4 cup white miso
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (As I said, I often don't use nutritional yeast)
3 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon tahini
3 tablespoons tamari (I tend to use less than this as I normally use Braggs)
1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
500g pasta
1/2 cup herbed bread crumbs (I normally grind up some rice bubbles and add herbs like oregano, smoked paprika, oregano and salt - although, there is quite a bit of salt in nutritional yeast flakes and miso)

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Lightly oil a round 1 1/2 quart baking dish.

Cut the pumpkin into, say, 1 inch square pieces (I peel it generally, or you can cook it skinned then scoop out the pumpkin - apparently it keeps more of its nutrients that way). Steam pumpkin (I often boil it and maintain the water as the 1/4 cup hot water, I've also baked it in the oven whole and then scooped the flesh out because I can't be bothered cutting up the pumpkin).

Put half the pumpkin, miso, hot water, yeast flakes, mustard, tahini, tamari and pepper in a bowl and mash or hand blend it (is that the right word? I mean one of those wands with the blades on the end of them). Mash or blend until smooth.

Meanwhile, in a large pot cook the pasta until tender and then add it to the bowl of pumpkin 'sauce' and then add the rest of the pumpkin.

Transfer this macaroni mix to the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with 'bread' crumbs. Sometimes I spray the bread crumbs with olive oil so they brown a bit.

Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

I like it with a green salad.

PS. My friend Sarah reminded me of this DELICIOUS Mac-and-Cheese recipe on Isa Chandra's blog Post Punk Kitchen.

* Vegan Months of Food is run from America. I got my date-days mixed up.