Vegan Tuna Salad: 3 ways

Tuna is something I gave up long ago. I was wanting to avoid BPA, Mercury and was trying to follow a plant-based diet. Fast-forward a few years later and I still remember the delicious taste of tuna but it’s not so tempting anymore. I came up with this recipe a while back I found that it really fixes my tuna craving.

This mock tuna is primarily made with chickpeas and get’s its fishy taste from the umeboshi vinegar and nori. You can enjoy it in a salad, on a sandwich or wrap it in a nori roll.

 

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Como: panoramic lake views and splendid villas

After staying Milano it was time to go further north to visit my family. On the way, we stopped at the north Italian town of Como. This idyllic town sits on Lake Como and the Swiss-Italian border. The amazing panoramic views of mountains and the lake is a little piece of paradise and is known for its’ rich and famous residents.

I’ve always wanted to visit Como, but for some reason or another never got here while I was living in Milano. Luckily we were able to drive to Como and up through Switzerland to visit my family in Luino, Italy. This took roughly the same amount of time as it would be to drive directly north. So we made a stop for a couple of hours to see the majestic lake and have some lunch.

 


 

Our first impressions of Como was the gorgeous old architecture and bustling narrow streets full of shops and cafes. Nearly every directions you look had a beautiful mountainous backdrop.

 


 

Like every Italian town, there was a beautiful Duomo in the centre of the city. Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is a very special duomo because it is last Gothic cathedral built in Italy. It was built between 1396 to 1770.

 


 

The Lago di Como (Lake Como) is a huge body of water and is the third largest lake in Italy. Many wealthy people have built and resided in homes along the shore of the river, as far back as Roman times. It really is so spectacular to see in person and feels like your looking into a beautiful landscape painting. The lake is actually shaped like a wishbone and the city of Como is situated on the bottom left of the fork shape.

 


 

We continued walking around the Giardini del Tempio Voltiano and up to the Aero Club Como to see new perspectives of the lake. The garden itself is quite beautiful and plush and has many war memorials. If you have the time, you can take a small water plane from the Aero Club and see even more amazing birds eyes views. You can also visit the museum Tempio Voltiano, which is dedicated to the inventor of the electrical battery, Alessandro Volta.

 


 

The Passeggiata Villa Olmo is a scenic pedestrian road along the river. This walk will take you past the splendid villas, all the way to neoclassical Villa Olmo. Unfortunately on our visit we were not able to walk all the way to the Villa Olmo, as there was work being done on the grounds and the garden beds were all taken out. I wish the tourist office had mentioned that after they recommended we visit it. I imagine doing a tour of these villas would be amazing, to learn their history and see their interiors.

 


 

After all that walking we were really hungry. So we walked back towards to centre and headed to a hidden gem. L’Ora della Pasta is a small fast-service lunch bar that serves fresh pasta and ready made meals. They use organic and high quality ingredients and offer vegetarian and vegan options. You only need to choose your pasta and sauce and they will whip you up a lovely authentic meal that is reasonably priced and really delicious. We ordered Gnocchi al pesto and Ravioli con mozzarella di bufala.


 

So that was my short visit to Como. I hope you enjoyed revisiting it with me. If you would like to know more about this beautiful town, see Visit Como website for more information.

Carrot Ginger Mojito

Now that it’s starting to warm up again juices are back on the menu! I love this recipe. Its refreshing, healthy and a little bit fancy.

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Carrot Ginger Mojito 

(vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

4 small carrots

2 apples

small knob ginger

3 cm wide round slice lemon (including skin)

mint leaves from 2 sprigs

cold sparkling water

Method:

1. Place all the ingredients except the sparkling water in a juicer.

2. Place the juice in a tall glass or large jar and top with some sparkling water and some mint leaves to serve.

*Serves 1

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Mothers Day at Jamie’s Italian

Happy Mothers Day to all the mums out there. This year is my third mothers day. I can’t believe I’ve already had three. Time has gone so fast. This year I got my first present from my daughter. A plant and painted card with a picture of her and a lovely message that she made a Kindy. It was the sweetest thing ever. This year Marco and I decided to have a nice lunch without our toddler. She spent some time with her nonna and we had a relaxing lunch at Jamie’s Italian.

We have been to Jamie’s Italian a few times since it opened. I know it gets mixed reviews, but we have had good experiences every time. The food is always fresh with quality ingredients and cooked well. What I love about this place is that its real food, cooked from scratch. We have only been to the Brisbane location, but you can find the franchised restaurants in most capital cities in Australia and more across the world.

The Brisbane location just off the street level but actually has a second level of seating under the ground. The top level features the entrance bar and a beautiful marble bar with hanging Parma hams, garlic and chillis, where the antipastos are prepared. The lower level also houses the kitchen, so it’s also nice to sit in the hustle and bustle of the kitchen atmosphere. The rest of the decor is very industrial, yet homely. The walls feature exposed concrete and recycled wooden panels and the floors are polished wood. The tables are mostly wooden, with leather booths or red metal seat. The ambience of the restaurant really makes you feel like your in an Italian trattoria.

I have noticed the menu has changed over time to keep up with the current trends. However, the heart of Italy still shines through with their handmade pasta, classic antipasti and some traditional secondi dishes.

 

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Nodo

I can’t believe I only just found out about this great little cafe in Newstead.  I had actually seen Nodo donuts at Pando Cafe in Brisbane city, but I never stopped to try them. I have been a bit out of the loop since my daughter was born in 2015, which is probably why I never knew Nodo opened their own location in October that year. Then a friend who recently returned to Brisbane told me about this cafe with amazing gluten free donuts. After seeing his Instagram I knew I had to try this place.

Nodo cafe has two locations, in Newstead and the CBD. Although they are known for their amazing gluten-free baked donuts, they also make a variety of other gluten-free baked goods, brunch and lunch dishes and drinks using wholesome ingredients.

I visited the Newstead location, which is quite contemporary and minimalistic in style, yet very inviting. The corner location is flooded with natural light from large windows and features pale timber furnishings and polished concrete flooring and counter. The indoor plants also give the space a fresh and welcoming vibe. Patrons can choose to sit outside, or inside along the windows or upstairs.

The front counter features all the beautiful freshly baked donuts, as well as other baked goods, raw treats and cold-pressed bottled juices. Their menu features a selection of gluten free breakfast and lunch dishes, both savoury and sweet. There are burgers, salads, smoothie bowls and eggs, all featuring super healthy ingredients. The drinks include coffees made from their own house blend, specialised coffee drinks, teas and a variety of super natural shakes. They don’t just cater this menu for gluten-free, but also dairy-free, refined sugar-free, vegetarian, vegan and carnivores. So there is something for everyone.

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Winter Potato topped Bean Casseroles

Winter seems to have come early in Brisbane. So it’s time for winter casseroles to warm these bones. I love topping casseroles with creamy mashed potatoes or sliced potato. It just gives a casserole another yummy layer and a bit more heartiness. I prefer to use Dutch cream potatoes, as they mash well and soften well when cooked. These two casseroles are easy to put together but need a bit more time to prepare the ingredients before baking.

 

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The Velo Project

Recently we took a short trip to the Sunshine coast to have some family time together. Unfortunately, the weather was dreadful so we didn’t get much beach time. We still made the most of it, exploring rock pools and collecting shells when it wasn’t raining.

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The second day we were forced to go home because of storms, but we wanted to have breakfast before we left. Marco found this hidden gem in Mooloolaba.

The Velo Project is a cafe housed in a garage amongst suburban homes.  They are all about high quality, sustainable food, sourced from local farmers and producers.

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The decor was very quirky and vintage, yet homely. The furnishings and accessories are secondhand and the front counter looks to be made from repurposed materials. On the tables, there were old fashioned games to play while you wait for your food. The menus were old books with the selection of dishes stuck inside.

We didn’t just come here for the decor though, we came for the coffee and the food. The menu offers fresh baked good, smoothies, a variety of eggs dishes, salads, heavier dishes with meat and buckwheat crepes with different toppings. There are options and modifications for gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian and vegan dishes. So if you a person with dietary requirements, you have more than one option to choose from.

For drinks, Marco ordered a cappuccino and I ordered the chai latte made with cane sugar, cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom, star anise,  and tapioca. The coffee was spot on and my chai latte nicely spiced was exactly what I needed on a cold rainy day.

For breakfast, Marco ordered the Bacon & Egg Turkish which had free-range ‘sunvalley’ bacon, fried eggs, rocket & housemade tomato chutney. It looked really nice and he enjoyed it. I decided to get something to share with O, so I got the Buckwheat crepes with roasted spiced pumpkin, grilled zucchini, red onion, goats cheese, toasted seeds & basil oil. The crepe itself was really nice and fluffy and didn’t have a bitter taste from the buckwheat. The toppings, although a little tricky to eat, were all really fresh and the flavours worked well together.

We all left very satisfied and will have to visit The Velo Project next time we’re back up north.

Tempting Italian Tempeh Recipes

Have you seen tempeh in the supermarket, heard of its wonderful health benefits but not known what to do with it? Or have you bought it, tried to cook it and vowed never again? That actually did happen to me the first time I tried it. But then after cooking it again using some trusty recipes I feel more comfortable cooking it.

All these recipes are Italian inspired, cooked in rich tomato sauces. I found this is my favourite way to cook tempeh, as it has a very meaty in texture but it needs strong flavours to make it tasty. Chickpea or Fava tempeh should also work for these recipes.

What’s your favourite way to cook tempeh?

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Kidney Bean Casserole with Cheddar Dumplings Topping

Now the weather is cooling down its time for stews, soups, and casseroles. This is one of my favourite casseroles. It’s easy to make and I just love the Cheddar Dumping Topping. You can swap the beans for cannellini beans or chickpeas. You ca also empty the vegetables from your fridge and use what you have on hand.

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Kidney Bean Casserole with Cheddar Dumplings Topping

(vegan, nut free)

Ingredients for Kidney Bean and Vegetable Stew:

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 large brown onions, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 bunch shallots, diced

2 sticks celery, diced

2 carrots, diced

1 red capsicum, diced

1/2 cup white wine (optional)

1 teaspoon sweet hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

1 can good quality tomato pulp

2 zucchini (diced)

2 cups cooked kidney beans

2 cups vegan chicken or vegetable liquid stock

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Ingredients for Dumplings:

200 g self-raising flour

100 g grated Cheezly White Cheddar Style/vegan or organic cheddar

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

6-7 tablespoons ice cold water

5 tablespoons vegan butter

 

Method:

1. Heat a large oven proof pot with olive oil. Then add onion and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes and as it starts to brown, add celery and shallots and cook for a further 5 minutes.

2. Add carrots, capsicum and white wine. Continue to cook until the wine is absorbed.

3. Add the paprika, liquid smoke, lemon thyme, bay leaves and parsley.

4. Saute the vegetables for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato pulp. Continue to cook until the carrots start to soften

5. Add the zucchini, kidney beans, liquid stock, sea salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, then leave to a simmer for 30 minutes.

6. In the meantime preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

7. Before placing the stew in the oven, prepare the dumplings. In a large mixing bowl add flour, cheddar, and parsley. Then add the butter and mix it through with your hands. Then add cold water one tablespoon at a time, until it forms a dough.

8. Roll the dough into about 12 balls.

9. Top the stew with the dumplings on the outer edge.

10. Bake for 30 minutes, then serve.

*Serves 6

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Sweet Potato Soup: two ways

The humble sweet potato makes a regular appearance on our dinner table. It is so nutritious and contains high amounts of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, carotenoids. We eat a lot of them at the moment since its one of the few vegetables my toddler will eat on her own accord. We usually roast them whole or in rounds. I also love to add them to soups to both thicken and add sweetness. These are a couple of my favourite sweet potato soup recipes, which are sure to satisfy the largest appetite.

 

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Eating through New Orleans

New Orleans is famous for many things and the food is definitely one of them. The New Orleans cuisine is largely influenced by Creole cuisine, Cajun cuisine, and soul food. There are so many famous New Orleans dishes that I wanted to try. Some of these include Crawfish Étouffée, Gumbo, Jambalaya, Oysters Rockefeller, Po’ boy, Red beans and rice and Shrimp Creole. So many dishes and only a couple of days to try what I could. Health and good food choice went out the window completely in New Orleans. I didn’t find anything organic, vegan, local or sustainable in this city. I’m sure it was out there, but I was more focused on finding the restaurants with the best examples of New Orleans cuisine. With a bit more time I probably would have liked to sample the best of both worlds. Well, I think I would have too because this food is so heavy and hearty but not something I could eat every day. 

What’s your favourite New Orleans classic?

Drago’s Seafood Restaurant

When we arrived our Uber driver recommended the best places he loves to eat New Orleans cuisine. He recommended Drago’s Seafood Restaurant and Mothers Restaurant (below). So our first stop was Dragos. The location we visited was situated in the Hilton Hotel. The menu is so extensive. They specialize in seafood, so they everything you could want to try in New Orleans.We loved it so much we went back again.

My favourite dish was the Charbroiled Oysters. I’d never had oysters prepared this way and the others were oyster virgins. We are all converts now. They are so delicious and the buttery sauce was so amazing and you just want to dip every last morsel of bread into it. The Po’boy was huge. I’d never had catfish and it was nice, as were the lobster lollipops. On my second visit tried Mama Ruth’s Seafood Gumbo was really good despite the appearance. You expect for it to taste really like seafood but it was very smokey and rich. The brownie was not mine and I just cringe at the sight of the mountain of whipped cream. Marco said it was good though.

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Eating from Washington to Georgetown

We didn’t expect to really indulge in Washington, but the food here was fantastic. There are so many amazing cafes and restaurants to choose, with every cuisine you could imagine. Many of which are dedicated to local fresh quality ingredients and preparing everything from scratch. Although most of this food was pretty decadent, it was lovely to try American classics and other ethnic cuisines done really well. We were only in these cities for a couple of days, but so much more to try and see when we visit again.

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