Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Recipe: Simple vegan gravy

Some times, all I want is a quick and easy dinner. From a nutritional standpoint, this meal probably won't win any awards, but from a taste and satisfaction perspective, it's a winner.

After a long hot day spent with visitors, then dragging two tired children around grocery shopping and heading to a work Christmas party that was outside in the heat, no one was in much of a mood to cook anything complicated.

Enter, the oven bake. Turn on the oven, load up with lots of goodies then load the kids into the bath while dinner cooks itself. All I wanted was potato gems, but the husband also baked up some chicken kiev for him (and a few bites for the kids).

For me though, it was all about those potato gems (all about the gems, 'bout the gems, no chicken...). Ahem... smothered with a quick and tasty homemade vegan gravy and other assorted toppings, it was a quick and easy dinner that was delicious. Be still my beating heart.

Anyway, here's the gravy recipe. It's hardly worth posting as it's just so simple, but a good home made gravy makes all the difference, and might just come in handy coming up to Christmas meal time!

Made with simple ingredients, you can make this as easy or complex as you want.

Tasty Vegan Gravy

  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable stock 
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • seasoning of your choice (1 teaspoon or so)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Add all ingredients to a saucepan on medium heat, and stir until the mixture boils and starts to thicken. 
  2. Check seasoning then lower heat and cook on a simmer, stirring constantly, until the gravy is at your desired consistency.
  • The gravy in these pictures is made using a Massel vegetable stock cube instead of anything homemade. It worked out fine
  • The 2 1/4 cups of stock can be made up of a mixture of stock and milk to make it creamier
  • I like adding nutritional yeast or some mixed herbs as my seasoning to make the gravy richer and more complex
  • You can add a bit of pizazz by adding onions or mushrooms to the gravy, sautéing them before adding the rest of the mixture

Monday, November 30, 2015

This and that

Trying to encourage Ellie to stop sucking her thumbs by making them pretty...
Thought I'd test out making my own thumbs pretty too...
I bought a pair of sparkly purple sneakers. They were half price, I'm guessing because not too many other adults want sparkly purple shoes. Or they don't have kid sized feet. My benefit!
Ellie and I got our hair cut, and she insisted on having a picture taken and sent to daddy from the salon (by the by, thank goodness my hairdresser is understanding about my two children causing havoc while she does my hair!)
We had my work Christmas party. There was a face painter there. Serious debate was had about whether a dragon or a butterfly would do. My suggestion to have both was poo-poohed, and the rainbow butterfly option proved a winner. Another selfie, this one she insisted be sent to Grandma...
Jimmy is really enjoying his new found ability to walk. This stage, where they are still learning to balance so stumble around like little monkeys? I love it so much.
I took myself on a date to see Les Miserable. It was a last minute ticket purchase and this is where I got to sit. Third row back. I was so close I could see the orchestra pit and the spit whenever the actors were especially passionate or enthusiastic. A really great production and one of my favourite musicals.
Happy Monday to you all x

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Banana bread

Seems odd to post a recipe that I've not actually eaten, but I promise that it gets positive reviews and I was asked to put it up so who am I to deny a personal request? I personally loathe bananas and if it were up to me, they wouldn't be allowed in the house as I can't even stand the smell of them. Unfortunately, I have two children who just love them, and I shouldn't say no when they ask for fruit right? There always seems to be one or two bananas out of every batch that just don't get eaten though, so I relegate these to the freezer (skin and all) until I'm ready and willing to do something with them. Since our hens have started laying so prolifically, and since there is no way that I'd consume banana bread myself, I don't mind adding eggs to this recipe.
(as a bonus, while the oven is on, I bake up the empty egg shells and then crush them up for the hens to eat and increase their calcium too)

It's a simple recipe that makes a moist loaf and both of my children love it. As it's dairy and nut free, it's also my go-to dish to bring to children's parties too so most people can eat it. I can tell from the texture and look of it that it's a nice moist loaf and I rarely have leftovers. Mr Fork assures me it tastes the way that banana bread should... although he did make the comment that it would be better slathered with Nutella. Hmmm. The receipe freezes well so you can always save time by baking two loaves and putting one away for later.... and who doesn't love to have food on hand coming into the Christmas season, right!

Banana Bread
printable link
  • 1 2/3 cup flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil 
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 160C, and line/grease your loaf tin.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients, then, into a well in the middle, add the eggs, oil, bananas and vanilla extract. Mix until everything is combined. 
  3. Pour into your loaf pan and smooth the top. 
  4. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean (my oven is fan forced and unpredictable so I like to check it at 50 minutes). 
  5. Leave in the pan for five minutes and then cool on a rack.


  • This recipe freezes well, so you can make a double batch and freeze the other (I slice it first so I can pull it out for children's snacks easily)
  • Before baking, I like to sprinkle the top of the loaf with sugar and extra cinnamon, but I bet chopped walnuts would be yummy too.
  • This recipe is dairy and nut free (if you don't sprinkle any on) so it's a good thing to take to bring a plate events where you have special diets there.
  • You can serve as is, or for extra decadence, try some yoghurt, extra banana slices, butter or honey. Or try Mr Fork's suggestion of Nutella if you have a real sweet tooth...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mushroom stroganoff

Sometimes, you just need a dinner that is delicious and hearty and warms you from the inside out. Comfort food to me has always been something creamy and rich, and mushroom stroganoff fits that description quite nicely.

Instead of using a soy milk or cream to make the sauce, the creaminess in this version is achieved with raw cashews, blended until smooth and silky. Any types of mushrooms will do, in the pictured version, I used a mix of white and brown button mushroom, but a good meaty portobello is always a winner as well.

Served with lots of fresh rosemary from the garden, over brown rice, this meal is like a great big hug in a bowl. Yum.
Mushroom Stroganoff
printable link

  • 800g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, brown, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • knob of margarine (I used Nuttelex)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup water
  • fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine the cashews and water and set aside to soak while you get everything else started.
2. In a pot, saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the margarine until the onions are clear and everything is smelling amazing
3. Add the stock and reduce the heat. Simmer for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

4. Blend the cashew and water mixture until it's smooth, then add to the mushroom mix, along with the rosemary.
5. Simmer another 20 minutes, then check consistency and seasoning. If the mixture is too thick, add some water.
6. Serve over the top of a textured pasta or with rice. I like the added chewiness of brown rice.

  • You can add more or less mushrooms. Any type, they're all yummy. Its the star of the dish so I'd say you can't really have too many, although for a bit more texture, some seitan is also a nice addition.
  • You could mix up the herbs as well. Oregano, thyme, maybe a little sage would be nice.
What's your go-to comfort type meal?

Monday, November 9, 2015

How to spend 50k in a day

Recently, I was posed the question by Mortgage Choice* about how I would spend $50000 in a day. I thought, I could be all serious and put it into the mortgage, but then I thought, no, that's not very fun. It's $50000 I didn't have before and I'm playing 'let's pretend' so I'll spend it in a spectacular (imaginary) fashion. 

Then I thought, oh, I could fly everyone to Disneyland and we could go on rides and eat junk food until we're sick with happiness. But that seemed like it would be pretty stressful, hopping on a long haul flight with two kids and then dragging them all around a park that they'd honestly probably be too young to appreciate. So then I sat down and thought about the things I love best. Easy! I love my family, I love to be social, I love to eat, and I love to feel pampered and have fun. It was a bit easier after that. Words started to flow better. I had a great image of this fabulous reading nook that I would build in my house, and then stock with a comfy mattress and pillows and reading material galore!
With the funds that I didn't manage to allocate to books, I thought I'd develop a bit of a sharable area on my front footpath. I already have a passionfruit vine accessible to the street, but I thought it would be fun and social to make a sort of community garden and add in some herbs and things and get to know my neighbours better… and I like the idea of being a little bit of a rebel and doing some urban footpath gardening.
Then I thought, no, what if after all that hard work, something like this happens and I'm made to remove it because someone complains?

And then… I just thought, much as I love the idea of that comfy reading nook (oh how I love it!), there are people out there who need more than I. There are people out there who also love their family, but can't be with them. There are people who love to be social but the world won't socialise with them. There are people who love to eat but have no food. There are people who don't even know the meaning of pampering and fun.

So instead of feathering my nest with a reading nook and adding to my edible garden, I would give that $50k to places where it would make a difference.

People who could help those children in detention centres and refuge camps. Who could make them smile and give them back a little bit of hope and dignity and show them compassion and help them be well. Those places would appreciate having a library and the books I would have bought, I'm sure.

People who need to eat. I'd get them staples and a couple of special things too, because everyone loves a treat, especially coming into the season of festivities.

I've been with both my children when they needed operations or stays in hospital. And I know that it's a pretty grim place for parents and children. My edible garden would be much better placed on a hospital roof somewhere to provide a little area for those who need it.

I could go on and on. But I'd run out of money. It's not 'fun'. It's not 'creative'. But I think I'd feel a lot better spending such a sum these ways than any other.

Anyway, this wasn't a completely random post. Mortgage Choice is actually giving customers a chance to win $50,000 cash if you settle a home loan worth at least $150,000 with them before 31 January 2016. Full details can be found here.

Whether you're in the market for a home loan or not, how would you spend $50000?

*Note: This post is part of my entry to the Mortgage Choice creative blog competition.

Friday, November 6, 2015

What's in my kitchen, November 2015

Wow, it's November. The year is just that much closer to being over soon. Christmas is coming, the weather is heating up and it's starting to feel very much like Summer! If things continue the way they are, it's going to be a very hot, stormy season I think. Which will probably do fabulous things for the garden, but probably won't be as appealing for human (and animal) comfort levels. Already it's getting to be difficult to sleep - although possibly I could write this off to the fact that Jimmy likes to sleep curled up close to my head, with one of his fat little hands touching my face. If I dare to move away, he wakes, so I've had to get used to sleeping next to a warm babe for now.

October was a busy month, with my mother's group in full on baby birthday season, so weekends were busy attending parties (and throwing our own). This is the part of the year where we get busy with celebrations and parties as the lead up to Christmas gets earlier and earlier... in fact, my work Christmas party falls in the middle of November this year! Crazy, but at least it's a great season for fresh foods, gorgeous stone fruits and lots of festivities and catching up with people.

In my kitchen is...

Nuttelex made with coconut oil. I saw this while grocery shopping and had to get it. I'm a sucker for trying things that are a little bit different from the items I usually have at home. I was impressed with the absence of palm oil and the fact that a donation would be made to the Orangutan Foundation. It is smaller than my regular spread, and not really much of a change in flavour. Further research also suggests that it is just rebranded Sunburst spread (no advertising that fact anywhere on the package though!), so I probably won't purchase it again unless it was on sale.
In my kitchen is...
Another birthday cake. This time, it was for Jimmy, who turned one. I have a one year old! Gosh, it doesn't feel like a whole year, but to be fair, I have been in a bit of a sleep deprived fog. I kept it very simple for his cake. A plain chocolate cake (not vegan as it had our eggs and some milk in) and a chocolate 'butter'cream icing made with nuttelex (I forgot to buy proper butter but it still worked out). As the party was on Halloween weekend, I kept decorations simple with some coloured fondant cutouts on top and around the sides.
Easy to make, and I'm told, delicious. It certainly looked lovely, moist and cake-y inside.
In my kitchen is...
Ninja Vegan jelly from Aldi. Ninja Vegan is the term I use when something is sneakily vegan. I'm always super chuffed when that something is a food I would usually expect to contain animal bits.
I haven't had jelly in years due to gelatine, but when I was looking for something for Jimmy to snack on that I could easily pack into a bag for his carers when I don't have time to make my own jelly. I found these. They come in three flavours (there is also a strawberry version) and they are all thoughtfully labelled suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Yay!

In my kitchen is...
Fairy bread! I haven't had fairy bread in so long, but with it being Jimmy's first birthday party and our guests ranging from the not-even-at-solids stage through to the young at heart, I figured you couldn't go wrong with sprinkles on bread. It was store bought white bread at Mr Fork's insistence, as he said my sourdough was too gourmet for fairy bread. I was happy to indulge him, but I did use nuttelex instead so that the dairy allergy attendees could also indulge. It was a party hit, although I was criticised for being too stingy with the sprinkles.
In my kitchen is...
Halloween cupcakes. Well, if I'm going to be honest, there isn't anything really specifically Halloween-ish about these, except for the fact that they're in pumpkin cases with a little pumpkin toothpick in them. In fact, they're the recipe for my coconut bread baked in cupcake form. Quite a few of my friends have food intolerances, so these cater for the soy, dairy and egg free people.
In my kitchen is...
Lollypop spiders. A quirky little addition to the goodie bags at Jimmy's party. So easy and fun to make with Ellie as well. Take a lollypop, bend pipecleaners around to look like spider legs and then hot glue on some googly eyes. They turned out really well and were a bit of a hit. Also included in the bags was a box of Peppa Pig sultanas (I'd hoped the merchandise would encourage them to eat it!), a bottle of bubble mix, a chocolate pumpkin and a Halloween themed chocolate coin.
In my kitchen is...
Tomatoes from a friend's garden. Her plants got a pest infestation and had to go, but she harvested what she could first, and was kind enough to share some with me. Let me tell you, there is nothing like home grown tomatoes. Just look at the gorgeous colours on them (my favourite is that little one at the front that is almost a bit pink). Yes, they taste as good as they look too!
I am linking this post in with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial's monthly In My Kitchen event. Go have a peek through other kitchens around the globe!

What's in your kitchen this month?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Today, you turn one

Jimmy, today you are one. Well, technically, tonight you will be one, but we can celebrate now.
38+3 pregnant
It's been a crazy year.

I can count on one hand the number of times you have slept through the night. And I mean that in the traditional "a sleep through for a baby is anything longer than 5 hours" logic. Since I also had chronic insomnia at the end of my pregnancy, do you know what that means little man? It means that I haven't had a decent night sleep in over a year. That's a long time sweetheart. Any time you want to sleep a little longer, I'm all for it. I'm sure your daddy can attest that I'm not my best (nor is he) without good sleep!
You still aren't walking, but you're really close. You will take the occasional independent step, but you don't trust your legs to fight against gravity yet. That's ok. There will be plenty of time to run later.

You love food. As in, you get a serious case of "hangry" if I don't get something edible in front of you pronto. And forget feeding you, you are all about doing it yourself. You have nearly brained the ever hopeful hounds multiple times throwing your bowl/spoon/fork/cup as they mill hopefully under your chair for the inevitable scraps. Your favourite foods at the moment are blueberries, edamame, watermelon, fruity sourdough, pasta, and stolen licks of frozen iceblocks. It's amazing really considering you still only have two teeth (and about 8 more all reallllly close to cutting through, Mr Grumpy!). Oh, and you love your milk. Lots of milk!
Your favourite place to be is with mama. As soon as I walk into a room, your eyes fix on me. If I'm not speedy coming to greet you, you wail and crawl on over to throw yourself at me. As though I had forgotten you or something (like I could!). You need to be constantly touched; you're a real limpet baby. It's ok, you're only this little for such a short while, I love the snuggles. Mostly. I'm a little over the fact that no matter how many soft silky things I offer, your favourite comfort item is my hair. No style is Jimmy-proof and my ends suffer for it. Lucky for baby wearing, otherwise your poor sister would never get any attention.

Speaking of hair, yours is so fine and light that there isn't enough volume or weight to hold it down so it just grows vertically. I love it, even if your one majestically long hair has now been absorbed into all the others. Your grandparents want to shave your head (as they wanted to do at your red egg celebration) to encourage it to grow back thicker and darker. We aren't talking a buzz cut here but really shave, down to the skull with a razor. I don't know how that would happen as you're so wriggly, but I have said we can have that discussion after your birthday, however, (not so secretly) I hope the idea falls by the wayside.

You aren't speaking much yet, but you understand a lot, I can tell. In fact, you respond to both Cantonese and English, and you're already more fluent than your mama you clever boy!

I had real problems thinking of what to get your for your first birthday. You don't want for things, and your sister is so good at sharing her toys with you. Your favourite thing to play with at the moment is an old birthday card of mine. It's one that plays sounds when opened (sheep noises) and you spend ages opening and shutting it and baaaa-ing right back at those sheep.

You're growing up to be such a lovely little human full of personality and fierce determination to get what you want. It's been a lovely (sleep deprived) year.

Love, mama 


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