Friday, December 28, 2012

Blogging update...


Wow...what a year! And, unbelievably, it's almost at an end. I've been MIA from my blogs for a while, after taking a little of my own advice about 'balance'. Towards the end of the year, things really seemed to speed up and Inspire Inq is really starting to blossom (which is, of course, wonderful!), so my blogs had to take a bit of a back seat for a while. 

But...I've had a few people nagging me (in the nicest possible way) so I'm popping my head up for a minute to let  you all know that I'll be back on track very soon with more regular posts. I'm having a wee break right now, and will be back on board on the 7th of January, so stay tuned (and thanks for your patience xo).

Finally...I wanted to leave you with this totally fabulous quote from one of my favourite movie's...

Hope your Christmas break and New Year is full of laughter, love and kindness...



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A farewell to winter recipe…


Well, the cold weather is fading away here in Australia, even more so in sunny Queensland than in Melbourne or Sydney. And strangely, I’m feeling a wee bit sad to see it go (I’m usually a hot weather girl all the way!). It’s been nice experimenting this winter with all things Vegan, and I’ve come up with a few *fabulous* recipes - even according to my non-veg friends and family! I’ve been a bit obsessed with smoked paprika and all things Moroccan, and this dish is the end result of a little experimenting with both. 

So as a ‘farewell to winter’, I’m sharing this recipe, which was given the highest accolades that can be bestowed in my household, ie: “heaven on a stick”. Strangely, there’s not a stick to be seen in the recipe – it’s just a saying – but if a dish is given this praise, it is beholden upon the cook to share  : )

Moroccan Style Cauliflower, Chickpea & Tomato with Couscous


 Ingredients (serves 4)
            Cauliflower & Tomato Mix
+      1 large bottle of plain tomato sauce/puree (Called ‘Passata’ –available in the pasta aisle)
+      1 large onion – chopped into small chunks
+      Half a large cauliflower – cut or broken into small florets
+      1 bunch (or bag) of baby spinach
+      1 can of chickpeas (pref. organic)
+      1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
+      1 teaspoon of sugar
+      Rind of one lemon
+      1 tablespoon of Vegeta ‘Chicken’ stock (or similar) in 1 cup of hot water
+      Couple of handfuls of parsley
+      Couple of tablespoons of olive oil
+      Salt & Pepper (to taste)
      Couscous
+      2 cups couscous
+      2 cups of water - boiled
+      4 tablespoons of olive oil
+      1 tablespoon of Vegeta ‘Chicken’ stock (or similar) in 1 cup of hot water
+      Handful of raisins
+      ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
+      1 teaspoon of cumin
+      Juice of 1 lemon
+      1-4 cloves of garlic (to taste) – crushed
+      ½ teaspoon of chilli (optional – and to taste)
+      ½ cup of flaked almonds – dry toasted
+      Handful of chives (optional)

Preparation

1.    Put on some great music, then…In a large frying pan (or heavy based pan), add garlic, cumin, ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika, lemon juice and chilli (if using) to about 4 tablespoons oil and heat on med-high, while stirring, for 1 minute. Carefully pour into a bowl and set aside.
2.    In the same pan (without cleaning) add 2 tablespoons of oil and 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika and stir on med-high for about 30 seconds (be careful not to burn).
3.    Add onion and cauliflower and stir well. Fry for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4.    Add tomato sauce, stock & water, chickpeas, lemon rind, sugar and parsley. Stir well.
5.    With a potato masher, gently mash the mixture about 5 times, so that some of the chickpeas are mashed. Turn down and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6.    Boil 2 cups of water and stir in the stock powder and oil mixture that was put aside earlier. Add to couscous in a large bowl, add raisins and stir well with a fork. Cover and leave for 10 mins.
7.    To the tomato mixture, add spinach and salt & pepper 5 minutes before couscous is ready. Stir well and take off the heat.
8.    When couscous is ready, uncover and fluff with a fork to separate grains. Stir though chives if you are using.
9.    Serve tomato mixture either on top or beside couscous. Sprinkle toasted almonds on top.

Let me know what you think, and don’t forget to sign up to my e-newsletter if you are interested in staying in the loop with what’s happening at Inspire Inq.
Have an amazing week!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Amazing Vegan Cheese & My Favourite Shop…


Just a quick post today. I have 2 ‘finds’ that I just have to share with you all…

Firstly ~ I have to sing the praises of the most amazing shop & café ~ ‘The Green Edge’ at 191 Wardell St Enoggera (Brisbane). I hardly know where to start…the entire shop is vegan! Yep…every single thing in the shop. For a vegan, or someone shopping for a vegan, it is like a genuine treasure chest! I can go in there and know that anything I pick up is suitable ~ it’s incredible. The staff are so helpful and they all really ‘know their stuff’. They’re always there to steer me in the right direction when I’m looking for something and don’t know which products are the nicest. The burgers they serve in the café are to die for…fresh, and so yummy. I can’t sing their praises high enough (not to mention that their cakes ~ the chocolate cheesecake in particular ~ are spectacular). Check out their website, and make a trip to the shop – it’s always worth it!


But…my most exciting ‘find’, and the product I’m having a complete love affair with at the moment is the ‘Vegusto No Moo Mildly Aromatic Cheese’. It was recommended by the staff at The Green Edge, which is one of the reasons my son & I love them so much! It’s a Vegan alternative to cheese that actually tastes like real cheese ~ heavenly. It’s made by Swiss cheese makers, so it’s the real deal, and it’s dairy, casein, gluten, soy, cholesterol and palm oil free. It’s not cheap, at $10.50 for 200g, but I would pay just about anything for a cheese alternative that’s so fantastic – I usually hate any ‘mock’ cheese – and you only have to use a tiny bit at a time. Our favourite things to make at the moment are simple cheese & tomato toasties – on either focaccia or light rye bread. Mmmmmm.



Thanks Green Edge ~ you guys rock.

Next time round I’m going to talk a little about some of the fundamentals of Vego living…so stay tuned J

And please sign up to receive my brand new e-Newsletter (link to the left). It’s full of inspiring (I hope!) information and a great way to stay in touch with what I’m up to via my business, Inspire Inq.








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Friday, July 13, 2012

Some Vego basics & a Super Quick Vego Medley

My apologies for the long time between posts...as with all of us, things have been busy, busy! 

So...I've been on a bit of a culinary adventure of late. A couple of months back I decided to try to go Vegan for 6 months (to start with, hopefully!) to support my son in his journey, and to try to ramp up my health level a few notches  ;)  It's been a rocky journey, to say the least ~ somewhat successful, with a few deviations along the way, but more on that in another blog...

Firstly, I want to talk about some basics. I've been asked so many questions about what constitutes Vegetarian & Vegan etc, so thought I'd include a little clarification here. There is some contention about the term ‘Vegetarian’, but for the purposes of this blog (and in keeping with my experiences) I’m going with this ~ 
Vegetarian: Eats no meat, chicken, fish etc. and has a diet of foods derived from plants, (including grains, legumes etc.) with or without eggs, dairy products or honey. 
The contention is around eggs and/or dairy products, so the stricter definitions are:
                        'Pure' Vegetarian: eats no eggs or dairy.
                        Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian: eats plant foods plus eggs and dairy products.
                        Lacto Vegetarian: eats plant foods and dairy products.
Vegan: Eats and uses no animal products whatsoever. This includes all dairy, eggs, honey and many breads. Furthermore, most Vegans won’t eat products or foods that have harmed animals in their production. For example, palm oil, which if not produced via sustainable sources, is usually sourced from third world countries, and is responsible for vast devastation to the forests and orangutans. (so many products that have vegetable oil in them use palm oil, so beware, even if you’re not Vego!). Find out more about palm oil
Vegans also don't use or wear animal products – eg: leather shoes.
Now that we’ve cleared that up…
I have to say, that after a great deal of resistance about the whole vegan thing (see my Introduction blog), I’ve been slowly getting more excited about it lately. Being such a ‘foodie’ makes it so hard to let go of some of the non-vegan delights that most of us love – namely cheese (ohhhh parmesan, where art thou?) - but slowly, slowly I’m changing my mind and also finding alternatives that kill my cravings. I’m not a big fan of ‘fake’ cheese and meat products, mostly because they are usually so soy-heavy and don’t taste fantastic. Though I have found a few tasty morsels of late that defy the norm (I’m creating a list, which I’ll share with you all soon).

So I’ve gotten back to basics. Meaning simple products, great vegies, yummy grains & pasta’s, and beautiful beans. Yes…I said beautiful beans ~ I’ve started compulsively collecting pretty beans ~ it’s beginning to get embarrassing…but I mean, just check out these beauties and tell me I’m crazy…


Beautiful Black Turtle Beans (such a great name!)

I'll be writing a bit more about the ‘mechanics’ of our overall diet and the reasoning behind our choices sometime soon (my son & I have similar, but different reasoning), but in the meantime I thought I’d share a very, very simple recipe that is an amazing snack, breakfast (with toast) or dinner (if accompanied by rice, pasta or quinoa). It’s so quick and full of goodness…simple yumminess at its best. And perfect when you too are busy, busy J

Super Quick Vego Medley


Ingredients ~ serves 2/3 for a snack (Or 1 if you have teenagers haha!) or 2 for a meal with rice/pasta 
      I      1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
      I      A couple of cups of chopped mushrooms
      I      1 small red onion or a few spring onions
      I      1 – 2 handfuls of pine nuts (to taste)
      I      1 – 3 cloves of garlic (optional, but highly recommended)
      I      A handful of chopped parsley
      I      2 tablespoons of good olive oil
      I      Salt/Pepper to taste
Just heat up your pan or wok on high, add oil and wait for about 30 seconds. Add all the other ingredients and stir-fry for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms and the onions have a bit of colour, then serve. Told you it was simple, didn't I? 

You can make it a bit 'fancier' by adding any or all of the following: grated lemon rind/ a handful of spinach/ some smoked paprika (oh, smoked paprika is heavenly).

This snack is so full of goodness, and will keep you going for hours…enjoy!

And finally ~ I'm looking for some input...

What kind of recipes would you like to see in this blog in the future? Any particular topics you'd like me to explore? Just let me know in the comments section below. And don't forget to sign up for email notifications for when I post.


And keep your eye out for my businesses *Birthday Celebrations*, coming soon! 





Saturday, May 26, 2012

Winter Delights...


A couple of weeks ago, I got together with a couple of my favourite girlfriends. We had decided to celebrate the change of seasons and to take some much-needed time out to focus on Women's Stuff :) There was lot's of great conversation - some serious, and some just hilarious - and of course, lots of beautiful food. I always volunteer to be 'head cook' and the girls are always more than happy to let me go for it! We all bring our own 'gifts' to the equation ~ mine just happens to be yummy vego delights!!

Well - as you do when you get together with good friends, we laughed. A lot. We cackled like a bunch of witches, and we are in fact labelled the 'witchy women' by my friends partner. We even carved some pumpkins as a sort of therapeutic exercise, and in honour of what was technically halloween in Australia on that weekend. It was so much fun (I've never carved one before) and because it was a rainy, wet and cold weekend, they looked perfect by the fire...


So...in honour of our witchy weekend, I made what I have called Cauldron Soup, but which is really a kind of minestrone. It was soooo beautiful and comforting. Sadly, in all the excitement, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product. You'll have to use your imagination! May your winter be filled with many Winter Delights :)

  


 Cauldron Soup

Ingredients (serves 4-6 with some leftovers...hopefully!)
I     1 cup small pasta of your choice
I     1 can, or around 450g of cooked kidney or white beans
I     I can of tomato soup (I prefer Heinz Big Red)
I     1 punnet of cherry or grape tomatoes ~ halved
I     1 large potato ~ peeled and diced
I     4 slices of Sanitarium ‘Bacon Style Rashers’ or ‘Smoked Deli Slice’ ~ cut into small pieces
I     1 large red onion ~ diced
I     1 large or 2 small zucchini ~ diced
I     2 cups of frozen peas
I     4 – 6 garlic cloves (depending on your taste…I like lots!) ~ crushed or chopped
I     A handful of fresh thyme ~ chopped (or a tablespoon of dried)
I     A large handful of fresh parsley ~ chopped
I     A large handful of fresh basil ~ chopped
I     500 ml – 1 litre of chicken or veg flavoured stock (enough to cover ingredients in pot)
I     Salt & pepper to taste

This recipe can be done 2 ways. If you have a slow cooker, begin preparing anywhere up to 6 or 8 hours early, and allow the slow cooker to do its thing. Otherwise, use a large pot with a heavy base (so it doesn’t stick). I’ll give instructions for both ways in the preparation section.

Preparation

1.    In a large frying pan, heat oil then fry up the onion and the Deli Slice for about 2 mins until they are both browning. Add potato and garlic and continue to fry for another 5-10 minutes, until the potatoes have a little bit of colour (this brings out the flavour).
2.    If you’re using a slow cooker, add contents of frying pan to the slow cooker then add all other ingredients except the stock, frozen peas and salt. Pour in enough stock to just cover the ingredients. Set any leftover stock aside in case you need more later. Put the lid on and set the timer according to the time you have available (I usually set it on automatic, which heats to high then goes down low – leave it for about 4-6 hours – it will be cooked after 3 or 4). Add more stock after a couple of hours if needed.
3.    If you’re not using a slow cooker, follow the steps above (adding a bit extra stock) and bring to the boil (stirring fairly often), then turn down low and simmer for ½ hour – 2 hours (it will be cooked after half an hour, but is always nice if left for a while to develop the flavours). Add more stock after 15 mins if needed.
4.    One hour before you’re going to serve, add the frozen peas & stir, or boil them separately and add just prior to serving.
5.    Just before serving, taste and add some salt if needed (don’t add earlier – it toughens the beans)
6.   If you're not Vegan, you can add a little parmesan cheese. Serve alone or with some beautiful bread…enjoy!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Stuffed Baby Pumpkins ... inspiration from the produce section


I was browsing the produce section the other day, looking for some inspiration for dinner ~ I often see something that looks particularly fabulous, and decide to base a meal around it. Then I came across these...


... oh happy days :)  So teeny and adorable - I just had to use them. I was thinking, Middle Eastern flavours, brown rice and ??? Had to be a pistachio crust! So - despite posting 2 recipes in a row that take a while to prepare - I wanted to share this with you all. As always, it was an experiment - so feel free to experiment yourself! Turned out pretty beautifully though...

               Stuffed Baby Pumpkins

Ingredients (serves 4 as a large side dish)
2 ‘baby’ pumpkins
2 cups of shelled pistachios
1 cup brown rice
2 chicken-flavoured stock cubes
2 1/2 cups filtered water
Olive oil
1 large onion (preferably red)
4- 5 cloves of garlic (depends on your taste)
I lemon (use a potato peeler to remove 4-5 strips of lemon peel, then juice)
4 Cardamom pods
1 teaspoon of Coriander seeds
4 Cloves
1 teaspoon of Cinnamon
2 teaspoons of Cumin
1/2 teaspoon of Paprika
Pepper & salt to taste
Fresh Coriander (half a bunch)

Before you do anything, put on some really cool music...

(anything by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan would work particularly well!)


Preparation

If you're going to shell the pistachios yourself, do this first - it takes time.

Preheat oven to 200°C

Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the pumpkins in half. Scoop seeds and membrane from pumpkin and discard. 

(I love the way they look like little love hearts!) 


Place pumpkin halves cut side-down on a lightly greased baking tray. Cover the tray with foil. Bake for about 30mins or until flesh is just tender. When cooked, remove foil, turn over and press down slightly with a spatula so that the bottom flattens enough to allow the pumpkins halves to stand up (so they can be filled).

When pumpkins go in the oven, boil the water and add stock cubes – mix well. Add rice to a medium sized saucepan and add stock and lemon peel to the pan, stir. Cook uncovered on med-high, without stirring, until all the stock is absorbed. (pay close attention near the end - about 12 mins - listen for a slight crackling sound, which indicated that the stock is almost gone). Remove from heat, cover and leave for 5 mins. After 5 mins, fluff with a fork and remove lemon peel.  

Use a food processor or mortar & pestle to grind pistachios to a fine crumble consistency. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix. Put aside.

Meanwhile, heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook onion, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. While onion is cooking, grind up the cardamom pods (remove outer shell once ground), coriander seeds and cloves in a mortar & pestle. 


Add the cinnamon, cumin and paprika and pepper, and mix (you could add some chilli here if you like it spicy). Add the spice mix and the garlic to the onion mixture and stir for a few minutes. Remove from heat and put aside.

Remove some flesh from the pumpkins (leaving a 2-3 cm border) and chop, then add to a large bowl. Add rice, onion/spice mix & coriander and lemon juice to the large bowl & mix. Taste and add a little salt if needed.  Fill pumpkin cavities with rice mixture, pressing down firmly with the back of a spoon. Carefully sprinkle pistachio mix over the top of each pumpkin and press down with hands (creates a crust). Return to oven and bake for about 15 mins (until crust is browned a little). Remove from oven and sit for 5 mins before serving.




I served this with other roasted vegies ~ YUM! Enjoy. 









(just between you and I, this meal almost begs to be enjoyed with a nice glass of red wine...I'm just sayin')



Next time, I will probably add some chopped up chickpeas to the rice mixture for some added protein. This recipe can of course be done with large pumpkins, with varied oven times. 

Let me know if you try any of your own versions of this ~ there are lots of other spice combinations that would work. 

Have an amazing week.