Saturday, August 23, 2008

...while making Mexican food

Every time I hear a four-syllable word or phrase with the emphasis on the first and third syllables, I get an irresistible urge to sing it to the tune of the Hallelujah chorus.

"Gua---camole. Gua----camole, GuacaMOLee, GuacaMOLee, gua--AH-CAAH-moLEE."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Vegan Zebra Cake (Jaffa)

I saw a link to this amazing-looking cake on

(image from I thought I'd give it a go. Looks impressive, but the technique for achieving the stripes is miraculously easy. However, I thought I'd have a shot at veganising it rather than using the recipe provided, so that my egg-and-dairy-eschewing Beloved could enjoy my handiwork.

The original recipe uses chocolate and vanilla stripes, but I thought I'd use up an orange and make it into a jaffa cake. I adapted the recipe from another chocolate cake I use all the time - it's the easiest cake on earth, made from ingredients I always have on hand, plus it's juicy and fluffy.

Vegan Zebra Jaffa Cake recipe:

Batter 1:

1 cup S.R. flour
2 tbsp cocoa
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
3 tsp white vinegar
4 tbsp oil
Pinch salt

Batter 2:

1 1/4 cup S.R. flour
2/3 cup sugar
Juice of 1 orange, plus water to make 2/3 cup
Grated rind of 1 orange
1 tsp white vinegar
4 tbsp oil
Pinch salt

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.

Make up the two batters - just put everything in and stir.

Now for the fun part. Into a greased circular pan, spoon a couple of tablespoons of batter 1. Into the middle of this puddle, spoon a couple of tablespoons of batter 2. Continue this process until all the batter is gone. By some miraculous process, the two colours won't combine, but will push each other up vertically into stripes.

For a photo tutorial, try here.

Bake, checking after 40 minutes with a skewer, and removing when solid.

Here is how mine turned out:

I iced mine with a ganache based on one in the awesome book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

1/8 cup soy milk
50 grams good-quality vegan chocolate (I like Lindt 70%)
Dessert spoon of syrup - maple or rice syrup work well

Heat up soy milk in microwave. Break up chocolate into little bits. Add chocolate to hot milk and stir stir stir until it melts and becomes smooth and glossy. Stir in syrup. Use.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Gap

I can't remember if there was ever a time when my thighs didn't brush past each other when I walked. I'm assuming so, because I remember a couple of summers ago when I realised that wearing bike shorts under skirts made them a lot more comfortable, so presumably before that it wasn't an issue.

I've become fascinated with The Gap. I covertly watch people walking down the street in front of me, to see if their legs touch or swing freely. Until that recent summer, it never really occurred to me that some people have freely swishing legs and some don't. Now I look for it all the time. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Australian music in the 90s

Last night, my Beloved's iPod shuffle function dredged up a song I used to love about ten years ago, but had since wiped from my mind entirely - Greater Expectations by Sandpit. Such a great song, wistful yet upbeat. I immediately went into a nostalgic reverie, jumping up and down and squealing.

It made me remember just how awesome and exciting Australian music was in the 1990s, and how much of my time I used to spend in the cosy, cave-live interior of the Au Go Go shop - Snout, Sandpit, You Am I, Jebediah, Tomorrow People, Tumbleweed, Bodyjar, Regurgitator, Drop City, Dreamkillers, Spiderbait, Powderfinger, Pollyanna, Screamfeeder, Augie March, Something For Kate, Non Intentional Lifeform, Effigy, Even, Grinspoon, The Mavises, Ammonia,  Not From There, Front End Loader, The Fauves, Voodoo Lovecats, Magic Dirt.... it was such a time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

So very sad

This Sweet Juniper post is so sad, I could just about cry. I can just imagine the organiser afterwards, tears welling up as they pack up the paper plates. *Sniff*

More smugly healthful cookies

In my ongoing quest for cakie-things I can eat with reckless, guiltless abandon, here are some fruity goodies I just whipped up. They taste good straight out of the oven - surprisingly so, given that they are essentially baked porridge - and go nicely with chai.

(Recipe from here)

4 very ripe bananas

2 cups instant oats

1 cup raisins or chopped dates

1 large or 2 small peeled, diced apples

1/3 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder (my addition - not sure if it made a difference)

Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Mash bananas to a pulpy mess. Add everything else. Stir and leave to sit for 15 minutes. Spoon teaspoons-full onto a silicon baking mat or tray with baking paper. Make them nice and shapely. Bake for 20 minutes. 

Makes about 36. 

Monday, July 7, 2008

Cookies for noble healthy people

I like eating chocolate. Sometimes, however, I ponder the amount of chocolate I eat, and then I start trying not to eat chocolate per se, but chocolate-flavoured-things-that-are-less-good-but-healthier.

My latest recipe has been chocolate cookies, with no added fats/oils, no added animal products (i.e. vegan) and minimal sugar. Not to mention being high-fibre. And high-protein. They sound pretty boring, and in comparison to chocolate, they are. However, for nibbling something with a hot beverage - say, a hot chocolate - they work well.

She, in turn, modified them from somewhere else.

I added pecans for texture. (Actually, I added walnuts, but I wish I'd added pecans. The walnuts I used had bits of shell in the packet, which added some trepidation to the cookie-chewing experience.) I also replaced 1/4 of the flour with high-protein soy powder, simply because I have some in my pantry and wanted to see what would happen. Likewise, I replaced the sugar with agave syrup - I once bought some because it's in lots of recipes from American vegan cook books. It worked okay. It's made out of the same cactus plant as tequila.

I should add that straight out of the oven, they aren't at their best. You know how fat is a flavour carrier, in a way that plain-flour-and water-dough isn't? They start out quite doughy and chewy. When they are cool, pop them into an airtight container, and over the next day or two, the doughiness gives way to a cakier, chewier texture and the flavour comes out. 


1 cup flour (I replaced some with protein powder)

3/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch salt

1/2 cup cocoa

2/3 cup brown sugar (or other sweetener)

1/2 cup prunes, pureed in a bit of hot water

1/3 cup soy yoghurt (I used vanilla flavour, it being the only flavour stocked at my supermarket. It works out to be about half an individual container)

1 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup pecans

Magic ingredient - 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 180C/350F. Mix together wet stuff, add dry. Make teaspoon-sized splodges on a greased tray or silicon baking mat. Flatten with wet hands. Bake 10 - 15 minutes. 

Vegetarian trophy wall

In line with my long term goal to have a vegetarian trophy wall, here is another artist whose works I covet - Jennifer Khoshbin. 

Running Hot and Cold quilt

I live in fear that someone will buy this before I can. Which is to say, that someone will buy it in the next two years.

Scood / Skood / Barf

A few days ago, I got a sudden, strong urge to own a beanie or hood-thing with attached scarf. 

I had no idea where to start - what are these things called? After some googling, it emerged that they go by the charming "barf" (beanie-scarf) or scood/skood (hooded scarf).

I'd seen some cool ones at the Rose Street Artist's Market off Brunswick Street, but I couldn't spend the $50+ (although I'm sure the cost is more than justified). So I decided to make one. 

I've always been wary of sewing machines, probably because they haven't really featured much in my life. They just seem counter-intuitive to my way of thinking, which basically means I have no idea how they work, and therefore they are unpredictable and liable to hurt me. Perils include getting stabbed with needles, mysterious knots and extra pieces of thread that emerge out of nowhere from the lower-thread-thing, daunting-looking diagrams and potentially ending up with something that makes a cruel mockery of the glorious concept I have in my mind. 

It therefore took some courage on my part to dig out my Mum's old machine, cart it to my house, read the manual and get it functioning, without any external coaching. 

Anyway, the end result was very gratifying! I may be a sewing convert yet!

I made a reversible scood with a Japanese-inspired print on one side, and some purple tracksuit type material on the reverse. 

I'd tried to find a pattern on the 'net - not that I have any idea how to use a pattern - but I couldn't find one, so I traced the hood part of a tracksuit top onto newspaper (praise broadsheets! You couldn't make THIS with the Herald-Sun), then added a scarf. I then pinned that onto the two layers of fabric and cut it out. Then I sewed it on the reverse side, leaving a gap at the base of the back of the head to turn it inside out. 

To jazz up the finished product, I cut out circles of the fabric and made badges with my trusty badge machine and pinned them on.  

Ta da!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Apropos of nothing

Beloved: I wish the world was made out of titanium dioxide.

Staring intently into the toilet bowl

Me: Um, sorry to ask, but did you do a poop and not flush?
Beloved: No, I just cleaned the lint off the clothes dryer and dropped it in there.
Me: Oh! Thank God. My next question would have been - did you notice that your poop is blue?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Who is Tom Ripon?

It always amazes me in this day and age when you go to Google someone you've heard about, someone who makes and sells things, and they have no dedicated Internet presence.

It is even more perplexing when you do so because you'd quite like to hand them over some money.

So at the Melbourne Zoo, in the past and maybe even now, they used to have these life-sized elephant sculptures made from fluoro wire mesh.

In Plenty Road, there was a pet shop that had giant fluoro mesh sculptures out the front too.

Then, in The Age, in a tiny home decor feature in a Sunday supplement, there was a fluoro wire mesh deer head, courtesy a la Douglas and Hope.

So I jumped on my bike and rode to Brunswick Street, and sure enough, the walls of Douglas and Hope were lined with fluoro wire trophy heads. I was in heaven. A vegetarian household! With ironic trophy heads all over the walls! Ha!

So the artist was Tom Ripon. I went home and Googled him, and he shares the name with a famous American ceramic artist, and all in all he had NO INTERNET PRESENCE WHATSOEVER. (Except a mention in a couple of online corporate newsletters and the like.)

It nagged at me. Who is Tom Ripon? Can I buy a trophy head from him directly? How do I track him down? Is he in the phone book? No.

Anyway, we ended up putting the trophy head on our wedding registry and getting it (an orange reindeer head, although for ages I referred to it as the wildebeest with no clear concept of what a wildebeest looks like - for the record, nothing like a reindeer).
But I want MORE. Even though I will soon be a poverty-struck Masters student. I want another head.

Then, the other day, my Northcote-based friend had some startling news - HE HAD TRACKED DOWN TOM RIPON! While on a bus, my friend had passed a house with multitudes of neon wire mesh sculptures out the front. I an going to ride there tomorrow and case it out!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The organic tomatoes in my backyard look like tumours. Maybe I need GM.

"Chrystie realized this was more than a growth spurt, and there was no such thing as 'big boned'. 

Rumor had it she was genetically modified."

(From Leungski. Check it out.) 

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Doughnut machine

I have discovered a whole new concept!

Doughnut food!

During the Myer stock-take sales, I walked past a Kambrook Doughnut Factory - basically, a jaffle iron but in the shape of six tiny doughnuts. Make a circle with your index finger and your thumb. That's how tiny each of these doughnut moulds is.

So I couldn't justify it to myself at the time, but for weeks, I have been secretly coveting it. It stems from the same place within me that gets gleeful when I think of cupcakes and sprinkles.

Last night, we had our first book club (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - I'd heard that the series Lost was heavily influenced by it, and I can see why, but it was a hard slog, despite being very skinny. I digress). Anyway, instead of bringing a cake, I went out and bought a doughnut factory after a day-long inward struggle, and turned up with a bowl of batter and some cinnamon sugar, happy and relieved to be free of the burden of lusting after a kitchen appliance.

Tiny little hot cinnamon doughnuts ensued in three-minute batches.

Today, I was walking down Flinders Street between Swanston and Elizabeth, and passed an Indian restaurant with pictures of vada (deep-fried blobs of lentil puree) in the window. "Ah," I thought. "Those things are shaped like doughnuts."

Then I had a remarkable thought. I don't just have to put doughnut batter in my doughnut machine.

Wehell! I just about skipped home. The possibilities! Doughnut-shaped vada! Doughnut-shaped potato cakes! Doughnut-shaped risotto balls!


I could have a five-course doughnut FEAST!

Monday, January 21, 2008

All those years I spent conjugating verbs

I did four years of French in high school. I haven't spoken a word of it since.

The funny thing is, I can remember random phrases, without having much of a clue what they mean anymore. I thought it was supposed to be the other way round - that you forget the words to express what you want to say, not that you remember the words and forget the meaning.

A few days ago, I woke up with je ne sais quoi in my head. I spent the rest of the day murmuring it to myself in quiet moments at work.

zhenesay KWUH!


I remembered enough to vaguely figure it out before resorting to Babel Fish.

Another time, the words je suis en enfant du monde got stuck in my head, in a rather hysterical female voice similar to Lisa Simpson exhorting "I AM THE LIZARD QUEEN!"

Did they even teach us that at school?


I wonder what English phrases ESL people get stuck in their heads.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mixed-handed couple

I am left-handed, and my beloved is right-handed. Whenever we hold hands, it is always the same way - with our dominant hands, our fingers interwoven, my thumb on top. We've tried it other ways, but it just feels weird and awkward, like writing with your wrong hand. 

Because we are opposite-handed, it means that we are always nicely symmetrical in the hand-holding stakes.

What I don't get is how same-handed couples - most couples - negotiate this hand-holding thing. That would mean that one person always has their dominant hand free and the other doesn't. So what happens - do they alternate who gets to be the dominant-free-hand-person? Does one person always have the upper hand, so to speak? Who gets the top thumb?

I've asked around. Most people just look perplexed, and say they've never really thought about it, or that the hand-holding just comes naturally, whatever the configuration. 

Seriously, is this not an issue for most people?

Nicole Kidman, Daddy's girl

It has been widely reported that Nicole Kidman intends to have her father deliver her baby - news which has been accompanied by a mass outpouring of squeamishness.

I have never been present at a birth, but my good friend has done it more than once, and has described it as follows:

“Lots of excruciating pain and uncontrollable bodily ejections. Poop. Projectile vomit. Uterine fluid, blood, sweat, gas, slime, that sort of thing, followed by something the size of a watermelon coming out of a lemon-sized hole. All the while, a bunch of people are staring intently at your crotch.”

Honestly, what kind of woman would want her father prodding around at the business end of all this?

Nicole’s little sister Antonia apparently, whose fourth child was delivered by her Dad, and whose precedent Nic wishes to follow.

Knowing what you now know, doesn’t this photo make you feel a little bit icky?

The future of swearing is in safe hands

  • M: My sister's three year-old has learned how to swear already.
  • Me: What can she say?
  • M: She gets it all out of context though. The other day, my sister told her off for something, and she just glared at her Mum and yelled, "FUCK IT OUT!"
  • Me: Fuck it out?
  • M: Fuck it out. So my sister was shocked, and explained to her about rude words and not using them. Anyway, this little toddler just averted her eyes, and muttered it again under her breath. Fuck. It. Out.
  • Me: Wow. I have to say, it's kind of catchy. Like, pretend to say it after banging your elbow really hard. It really nails the sentiment.

Yes, but what does it mean?

I thought I had a pretty good grip on the English language.

I've come to realise, however, how completely dependent I've become on Google's define: function.

Just in the past couple of months:
  • Soliloquy
  • Iconoclast
  • Picaresque
  • Ennui
  • Asinine
  • Soporific
  • Quixotic
  • Shambolic
  • Quietening (moment of doubt - is it quieting or quietening?)
  • Polak (trying to figure out if I could make a homophone out of poleaxe and Polaks, before having an unsettling suspicion that the work Polak might be a derogatory term. Had a similar moment of PC quandary when I went to write the heading “Live like a Sheikh” on a press release, and then wondered uneasily what a Sheikh was, exactly.)


After a recent visit to the dermatologist, I now have a square patch on the underside of my left upper arm that everyone ASSUMES is a nicotine patch, even though I don't think I've ever made it all the way through a cigarette.

There are basically three reasons I don't smoke. The first two relate to health concerns and lack of enjoyment. The third is because I'm simply too uncoordinated to pull it off.

In drunken teenage moments, I would always be the kid trying to light the filter end. Once I got the hang of which bit to put in my mouth, I would inevitably end up with the screwed up face and watery eyes of someone trying very hard to preserve their dignity by not spluttering.

My main issue, though, was timing. I could never, ever get the rhythm of it right. I would either end up leaving the ash to accumulate so long that it would drop off and singe its way through my clothes, or I would overcompensate by tapping the ash off so frequently that the cigarette would end up extinguishing. My frenetic flicking became a bit of a running joke.

The people who really amazed me though, were the people who would light up at the packed front sections of music festivals. I would stare at them incredulously, thinking "DOESN'T IT WORRY YOU THAT YOU ARE TIGHTLY PRESSED ON ALL SIDES BY JOSTLING PEOPLE, HOLDING A LITTLE OBJECT THAT COULD TOTALLY WRECK SOMEONE'S DAY BY BURNING THEM OR RUINING THEIR TSHIRT?!"

Nonetheless, while I would never take it up, I remain a little envious of people who can do do the inhale-exhale-flick-hold routine with effortless nonchalance. Such skill.

Does smoking come naturally to most people? Are there smokers out there as uncoordinated as me, who have simply overcome its difficulties through practice and sheer determination?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Puppy bloodlust

Our household is a vegetarian one.

Was. Our puppy refuses to buy into it.

For the first time in our pantry's history, foil-sealed fortified offal sits next to our soy milk, and I am making an uneasy, temporary peace with meat.
The meat issue was one I grappled with when deciding to get a dog, because I view what my pets eat as an extension of my own consumption. But dammit, I need something fluffy and cuddly in my life, and my beloved just doesn't cut it in the furry stakes. Besides, someone told my beloved that he'd better either get me a puppy or get me pregnant, us being newlyweds and all, and I think that contributed to his acquiescence regarding my baby animal yearnings.
For a while, we considered rabbits, which ticked the boxes of cuddly, furry and vegetarian, and I became quite taken with the idea of coming home to a house-rabbit lumbering around on our floorboards.

Then I noticed just how many of our treasured, ground-level objects are made of wood or other delicious chewable materials, and remembered that rabbits teeth don't fall out - they get worn down.

So a little redhead carnivore called Etta joined our lives about a month ago, and she has definitely sated my need for furriness, if not uninterrupted sleep.
I say carnivore, but actually dogs are omnivores, and capable of living healthily on a flesh-free diet, while cats are true carnivores, and I've heard they will actually die if fed exclusively on commercial dog food.
We found a vegetarian dog food called Veganpet, made in Melbourne. Animal-free! Mostly organic! Human-grade food! Complete source of nutrition! Suitable for puppies! Given the tick of approval by our trusted family vet! Seriously, this stuff is so good that I've considered serving it as a bar snack.
Etta, however, was weird about it from the start. She would pick up a kibble, walk away with it, sit down and crunch it, then lose interest in the rest of the bowl. We tried soaking it, hand-feeding her, but she just wasn't eating enough to convince me that I wasn't going to end up with a stunted midget-dog. She didn't dislike Veganpet, I think that the large kibble size just made it hard for her to eat. Besides, as I came to realise, the soy protein just wasn't quite dead enough.
"She LOOVES her puppy Pal!" enthused my Mum, her work-day puppysitter. "You should see her waggy tail when I bring out the foil pouch!"
I felt inadequate. My human-grade organic kibble was no match for my Mum's remnants of cow and/or turkey.
There was no doubt about it though, Etta would go nuts for any food that used to have eyelashes.
I know this is a kind of gross thing to take into consideration, but I am also averse to picking up poop made from dead things. Dog poop is gross in any case, but at least it was vegetarian poop, you know? Looking at those pungent little piles, I just think about the cow that went into that poop, and how sad it would be if it knew that's where its destiny lay. (That's if it was a anthropomorphic cow.)
Anyways, we've decided to take it slowly and supplement her diet with meat while she's growing, and wean her off it later down the track.