MoFo day 19 – post!

Considering that when I left my house this morning it was lashing down and really windy, today didn’t turn out so badly, weather wise. It’s the little things in life!

…like getting goodies in the post!

I get very little post. Most of my bills are digital at this point so the majority of stuff that comes through my letterbox is composed of junk mail, free newspapers and assorted information packs from assorted religions. Snooze!

Every now and again I get something cool though, even if I have to order it myself. Last week I finally stumped up and bought two sets of to go ware, and they finally arrived!

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As I’ve moved from college to work, I’m eating takeaway lunch (and even dinner) on a more regular basis – maybe once a week. Not as frugal as I’d like, but sometimes it’s inevitable with the line of work I’m in.  I invariably end up with at least one plastic utensil with my meal, even if I’m having a sandwich or burrito (mmmburrito) – clearly the wooden forks that were so commonplace during the economic boom are too  expensive and everything’s gone plastic again.  This does not sit well with me at all, as I try to be as eco friendly and minimal waste as possible. On top of this, there’s a lot of plastic cutlery in the studio as the metal stuff seems to vanish like the dust sprites in Totoro as soon as the washing up has been done (and don’t get me started on the washing up….suffice to say that some people should not be allowed to share communal kitchen space. Blargh).

This fab looking purple pouch is made from recycled PET and has a carbinger clip on the back, for easy retrieval from bags, or for hanging off suitable things. Inside is a full sized fork, knife, spoon and a set of chopsticks, made from responsibly sourced bamboo. I think that’s what sold me on this kit in particular – many cutlery kits are made from plastic, which is easy to clean but no fun to eat with (as well as being petrochemical-tastic, even if BPA free). Most of them that I’ve looked at also don’t come with a full set like the to go ware. The best of them have fork/spoon/chopsticks, but no knife and I’m not big into spreading peanut butter on bread with a spoon, especially if I’m already dealing with the bag-as-plate that seems to go along with most of my eating al fresco.

Many kits also have my most hated of all eating utensils – the dreaded spork.

The ToGo ware kit fits nicely in my normal sized bag, which means that hopefully I’ll never again need to take a plastic fork if I’m getting takeaway lunch, or a plastic spoon if I stop somewhere for ice cream. (Is anyone else annoyed when you get takeout or ice cream in biodegradeable paper wrapping, only to get plastic cutlery to eat it with?)

I also plan to bring it on holiday so that I can pick up vegan snacks in supermarkets and have instant picnics without having to fork out (gettit? FORK out? hur hur……yeah…..) for ready sliced this and that. It also gives me the excuse to get a pint of ice cream rather than a piddly little tub, all for want of a spoon. I already have “real” napkins at home, so one of those wrapped around the pouch and no food is beyond me!

Unfortunately I’ve had nothing to eat today that required cutlery. It has been a nibbly, dunky, snacky kind of day. I’m planning on using them a lot over the next few days though, and will give a performance review then. I got a second set for HusBeast as well, and he was delighted with them. I think we’ll be taking them to check out Oktoberfest Dublin this weekend! (Here’s hoping the sauerkraut is vegan!)

 

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VeganMoFo Day 17: A walking tour around Grafton Street..

This one will be rather long and picture heavy, but will hopefully be useful to anyone planning a visit to Dublin.

The Happy Cow website is fantastic, but doesn’t do the city justice at all (I know, I know, I need to get my butt in gear and contribute to it!). There are oodles of places to eat, drink and be very merry indeed, and while it’s not the veggie-topia that many American cities are it’s really possible to eat well. That said, it can be confusing for tourists, so I thought I’d do a bit of a walking tour. It’s also entirely possible to be ripped off to epic proportions here, as with most capital cities, so hopefully this will make your dosh go a little further.

This is the National Art Gallery, and is well worth a look.

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It’s a stone’s throw from Trinity College and the corner where all the tourist and local busses converge. It’s very much worth a look around – not just for the Caravaggio.

Down the street, back towards Trinity, you’ll find a few good places to grab a takeaway post-gallery coffee to sip as you stroll. Cup and The Brewbaker are two, and both have non-dairy milk.

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Nibbles may be on the short side though, so head further down the street to The Runner Bean for a sandwich, coffee, some kale chips or other goodies (it’s where I buy my avocados!).

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It’s a little treasure trove.  Right next to it is O’ Briens, a familiar Irish sandwich chain that I usually avoid like the plague – I find them to be overpriced and overrated.

If the weather doesn’t lend to al-fresco eating, which it often doesn’t, then you might want to escape in out of the elements for some lunch or drinks.  Continuing up the road you’ll find the fabulous K.C. Peaches, which is good for coffee/tea and cake (there’s always a vegan one – just ask!) or breakfast…or lunch or dinner.

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I heart this place. It’s an omni restaurant where you don’t get looked at like an alien if you ask what the vegan options are – and there are lots of them. Just take a plate and have a little of everything you fancy. All the serving dishes are labelled clearly and if in doubt, the staff are very knowledgeable.

A little further down the street is the Porterhouse, which is good on craft beers and therefore one of the best places for vegans to drink in the area.

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As we head to the corner and look to our right, we can see the side of Trinity on the right, largely obscured by trees, and Bank of Ireland at the end of the street with a queue of morning busses in front of it – this used to be the old Irish Parliament building.

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Turning (or possibly stumbling!) left onto Grafton street (with the highest land prices in Ireland), then we turn right down Wicklow Street.

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Here we pass Nourish, which is an itty bitty goldmine for vegans as they have a freezer full of Frys products (with a few Amy‘s vegan products as well). They’re also the only place in Dublin with a reliable stock of seitan in the fridge. Next door is the secret book and record store– one of the few remaining independant music shops in the city.

A couple of doors down is the veg*n mecca, Cornucopia.

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It started in just one building as a health shop with a takeaway counter and has bloomed. In the last few years it took over the building next door and also has seating upstairs now – despite this, it’s always jammed to the rafters. They even have a (very nice) cookbook out. I highly recommend their vegan breakfast (portabello mushrooms, roasted onions, homemade baked beans, homemade vegan sausages, toast and tea or coffee with a few non-dairy milks to choose from). If you’re there at lunch, you can’t go wrong with a bowl of their soup – it’s life-enhancing stuff. Their garlic and roasted hazelnut potato salad is something that I lust after, and they make a great vegan brownie.

If you’re still peckish, directly across the road is the best thing to happen to ice cream in Ireland, ever.

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Murphy‘s make amazing handmade frozen treats and always have two incredible vegan sorbets on hand. I’d recommend one, but they’re all fantastic and the flavours rotate during the year, depending on what fruit is in season.

Down the road again, Wicklow Street turns into Exchequer Street and we have itsa and Fallon and Byrne (our teeny version of Dean and Deluca) side-by-side. Itsa have a great vegetarian bagel that is vegan if you have it without the goats cheese (I ask for extra hummus instead). It’s truly delicious. Fallon and Byrne is very omni-targeted, but is great for store cupboard essentials and breads.

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If we take another left here, we pass Blazing Salads, which is very much closed at 8.30am.

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I thought it was just being painted, but the name has been gone from over the door for a while now, leaving nothing but an intriguing carrot to identify themselves. It’s spendy, but good, especially for people with food intolerances.

Georges market, likewise, is closed, so I’ll have to talk about that one again.

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Passing my beloved Asia Market we see two pubs that everyone ends up in at some point, but that really should be avoided; the first is the rather cute-named Hairy Lemon. The other is Break for the Border.

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Around the corner and across the street there’s a laneway which holds Pablo Piccante.

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There are a couple of branches in Dublin – this is the only one with tortas, but I haven’t tried them yet. Head to the burrito side for a Vittorio Verde, no cheese, and have your tastebuds thank me. Probably the best burrito in town.

Around the corner to the right and directly under one of the tackiest tourist shops in the world lives Wagamama, which has a few vegan options (mostly the yasai, or “healthy” options). I like their udon quite a lot.

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Passing the Gaiety Theatre on the left..

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..we’ll pop out at the other end of Grafton Street.

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A word to the wise – don’t get coffee from Butler’s. Blargh. Their dark chocolate with almonds is delish and accidently vegan though.

Right beside us is Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre (photo from across the road) which is a lovely building that reminds me of  the Botanic Gardens – it’s like a huge Victorian greenhouse. The shops always leave me a bit cold though, as they just don’t live up to the dramatic and beautiful structure.

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Across the road from the centre is the entrance to Stephen’s Green park – which is well worth a stroll around and tends to be mobbed at lunchtime in summer with locals enjoying the sunshine.

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No sunshine today though, so I’ll leave you here as the rain is pelting down and I need to get to work. Hope you enjoyed this round of the vegan survival guide: Dublin edition 🙂

Tea-tastic!

Seeing as my first proper post involved potatoes, I figured I’d go the whole stereotype hog and start this one with tea.

I like tea.

I go through phases with it, and with coffee. Tea, coffee and water are my beverages of choice over the course of an average day – I don’t drink much juice and I steer clear of fizzy sugar water/soda/pop, apart from the occasional Fentimans with some rum

I didn’t like either beverage much until my early twenties and, honestly, I’m still not enamoured with most “Irish tea” or Irish breakfast blends which generally involve crappy tea in crappy bags and are served with far too much milk and sugar for my liking, probably to kill the taste of tannin and cardboard. I’ve had far too much coffee over the last year due to college (and a 60+ hour lecture/study week), sometimes up to a couple of pots a day – yup, pots! I’ve been cutting down a lot though, and generally I’m a one mug a day girl, except for weekend brunch.

This was my start to the day.

 

tea for one

 

Apple loves Mint tea, from the amazing Suki Teas. This is technically an infusion or tissane, and not “real tea”, but it’s delicious and a great, slow start to the day. I had this in KC Peaches, one of my favourite places in Dublin, which I’ll probably talk about at length later. I first discovered Suki when I was living in Belfast, as they were a regular at St. George’s Market on weekends (which I highly recommend visiting if you happen to be in the neighbourhood). They have an amazing range of teas and I’ve yet to find one that I’ve not loved. I bought so many of them to take with me when I was moving back “down south”. My favourites are the Apple loves Mint, blue flower earl grey and the amazing Belfast Brew, which is possibly the best Irish breakfast tea on the island (and I’ve drunk a lot of different teas over the years!).

When I’m in work, I have my own itty bitty desk that I share with a crapped out CRT monitor, that used to be mine until recently (and there’s no way I can huff down three flights of stairs for recycling). Beside it is my itty bitty tea station.

tea corner

I used to have a few boxes on the go, but it started to turn into tea jenga, so I’ve gone this route instead. The tub currently contains Numi Aged Earl Grey and Pukka Three Mint. These are two of my favourite teas and tea brands – they’re very good for bagged tea, which I often find tastes more of the packaging than the ingredients. Pukka make a large number of more unusual teas, involving spices and things like rose petals. Numi have an amazing range of blooming flower teas as well, which are incredibly pretty to watch unfurl in a glass teapot.  These two brands, as well as being tasty, are also pretty widely available and don’t require a mortgage, unlike some of the really specialised tea shops. I also have brown, unrefined sugar, which I’ve decanted into a tub, for when I have the need for coffee. My giant mug (which currently contains the last of my Pukka Vanilla Chai) is also handy for cereal, on occasion, or some much needed lunchtime soup. There’s also chocolate, because…well…chocolate.

We all have our own nerdy mugs in the studio. It guarantees that you’ll never be without a vessel when the urge for tea strikes and it’s a nice way to show a bit of personality. Most of the huge mug collection is comic or movie related. Not surprising, seeing as we essentially make cartoons for a living 🙂

Anyone else have favourite tea or coffee-ish beverages? Any that work really well iced, or that are perfect morning or late evening drinks? I’m intrigued by the idea of sun tea, but unfortunately I live in Ireland!

 

 

Weekend washout.

This weekend was going to involve lots of foodie indulgence and a great post about cooking vegan food for Sunday lunch with my omni parents, and I’d then blog about how they loved it. It’s been a bit of a washout though, to be honest, culminating in my being woken up at 6am with a migraine so bad I thought my eye was going to pop. HusBeast is also fighting off a horrible cold, so lots of garlic, ginger and chilli is on the menu.

The sum total of my cooking since Friday night, then, has been this.

 

before

Two pizza bases from the freezer, topped with garlic spread and copious amounts of Vegusto No-Muh melty. I adore this cheese. It melts beautifully and tastes squidgy and cheesy. Even omniHusband likes it, which is saying a lot.

The pizza bases were made in the breadmaker a couple of weeks ago. One lot of dough makes four one person sized thin based pizzas. I part bake them in a superhot oven, allow to cool on a rack, then bag and freeze. When I want pizza during the week then, it’s just a matter of taking out a couple of bases, smearing with tomato sauce and slapping on a few toppings. Proper dinner assembled and in my gob in under 30 minutes, including oven pre-heating time. Perfect for work nights, as we generally don’t get home until at least 7pm.

after

Yum!

I probably should have helped to balance this out by having it with a salad, but no. I scoffed it, then followed it up with a bowl of chocolate Swedish Glace. I regret nothing.

Time for an episode of Fringe and some well deserved sleep.

 

Best laid plans

Next time I decide “I know! I’ll make two huge sushi rolls, then bring one for lunch tomorrow!”, I need to step away from the rice cooker. I have no resistance when it comes to these tasty rolls of rice and avocado and a giant sushi binge is a great idea until half an hour later when belly is arguing with waistband*.

This is one of the worst photos of homemade sushi ever taken, but here ya go anyway.

sushiroll

 

 

That’s what I get for using a camera phone at almost 9pm. (In other news, we’re starting to lose light here really early in the day now. Like, really early. BOOOOO!!!!)

Sheet of nori, seasoned sushi rice (rinsed twice, cooked in rice cooker with some salt, then sprinkled with rice vinegar and mirin while still hot), avocado mush and daikon. Double daikon, to be precise. Love me some crunch in mah sushi.

The avocado mush is the easiest way I’ve found to roll something that does not want to be rolled without a fight. I scoop the flesh of the tasty fruit into a bowl and attack it with a fork, as if I was making guac. A small squirt of lemon juice and a couple of teaspoons of plain soyghurt mixed in, and it’s much easier to gain it’s cooperation. Do leave it chunky though, or as soon as you try to cut the roll it’ll just squish out each end and leave you with goo on your chopping board and not much in the middle of your sushi (particularly if your rolling is less than professional, like mine).

Avocado is by far my favourite filling for sushi, and was even during my omni days. It’s got that beautiful creamy texture and the high fat content (for veg, that is!) that just ticks all the boxes for me. Honestly, I’ve not had a single craving for the fishy kind since going vegan, and I think it’s down to this beautious green fruit. Ideally I’d have rummaged in the presses and found some sesame seeds to toast and sprinkle on – it really takes this humble roll to a whole new level of awesome.

This was scarfed with copious amounts of wasabi and pickled ginger, and a little soy sauce.

It’s not even half past nine and I’m ready for bed…..

 

 

*Let’s be honest though….totally worth it, at least once in a while.

Rhapsody in red.

So this evening’s post was going to involve me assembling a lasagne, using that tasty, tasty sauce from yesterday. Unfortunately I seemed to be suffering from a serious case of the Wednesdays.

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Yup. Taking the pot out of the fridge I managed to drop the whole sodding thing. What’s missing from this photo is the surprised expression on my face, followed by the horrified realisation that at least half the sauce was dripping down my chest and bare legs (as I’d been rained on and changed into my pajama shorts when I got home ten minutes earlier).

I particularly like the spatter pattern across the kickboard, which extended up the side of the fridge and press.

On the up side, I can heartily recommend ecloths, which made short work of this mess.

Instead of getting annoyed and calling a takeaway place (or, in honesty, eating every biscuit in the house with a giant mug of tea) I fried some garlic in a little olive oil, chopped up three portabello mushrooms that were lingering in the fridge, along with a small chunk of broccolli and a couple of sundried tomatoes. Sauteed for a few minutes, added a blob of tomato puree from the bottom of a jar, a couple of tablespoons of natural yoghurt, and tah dah! The most makeshift creamy pasta sauce ever.

Not my finest culinary moment, but entirely edible when stirred through some spaghetti and topped with an ungodly amount of nooch. No photo, due to inhaling of said pasta as it was nearly 9pm by the time it was ready.

Anyone else had any kitchen disasters lately?

 

 

Pantry pasta sauce

I’m a big fan of making everything food-wise from scratch as far as possible. My mother is regularly over-awed by this, but really, there’s not much to it once you get a bit of practice in. Multitasking is also a good skill.

This pasta sauce is not my most used recipe, but it is really useful. It involves nothing more than ingredients from the pantry, which makes it very handy in the few days before payday, or when getting home from a few days away to an empty fridge and an emptier belly. It’s quick as well. Put on a pot of water to boil, get your dried pasta of choice out of the press along with a few other ingredients – including two of my five favourites from yesterday’s post.

First, some herbs and spices.

pantryplate

Moving anti-clockwise from the yellow pile…

One teaspoon marigold boullion powder

One teaspoon dried garlic granules

Half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper

One teaspoon granulated sugar (this is just supermarket golden granulated, and is unrefined so no bone char)

One teaspoon dried onion granules

(middle) One teaspoon dried oregano.

If you’re using the low salt version of the boullion, I’d also add a pinch of salt.

potty

Take a tin of chopped tomatoes and pour into a saucepan. Swish a couple of tablespoons of water around in the can to get the last of the tomatoey goodness out. Add all of the seasonings above.

The sugar is a trick of my grandmothers, and is a great idea for any recipe involving tinned tomatoes, as it helps neutralise any over acidity or metallic aftertaste, as well as bringing out the flavour of the tomatoes.

Give everything a stir (it will look rather unattractive) then turn on the heat. Bring the heat up until the first couple of bubbles pop on the surface, then lower the flame. Tomatoes are much better off at a low simmer – bringing them to the boil does not-very-nice things to the taste of the final sauce. Give it another stir; the seasonings should all be melting in nicely.

After five minutes, your pot of water should be at a rolling boil. Add salt and your pasta.

About 3 minutes before the pasta is cooked (check packet directions), turn off the heat under the sauce, give a final stir and break out the stick blender.

blend

Give it a quick whoosh (“whoosh” being a technical term, of course), leaving chunks if that’s your bag. Don’t be tempted to use the highest setting. Hot tomato sauce can spatter a lot, and that stuff will burn your skin and stain your clothing. Stir well and then taste. Adjust seasoning, then clap a lid on it to keep warm.

Drain pasta, apply sauce, nom.

saucy

This is my finished sauce, which is cooling down in a very unsexy lock n lock tub, and will be turned into part of a lasagne for tomorrow night. If just pouring over pasta, I’d say this is enough sauce for 3-4 people, unless you like your pasta swimming in sauce.

Homemade dinner on the table in under 20 minutes, under two euro. Take that, Jamie!