Monday, September 16, 2013


I get to the end of the day and often find myself surrounded by mugs. I love tea.  I feel like most days should come with the buyline 'Brought to you by tea'.

I don't drink caffeine. It just doesn't agree with me. I'm a naturally jumpy person and any caffeine at all makes my day pretty uncomfortable. People used to joke about inviting me out for coffee or 'equivalent beverage'. I thought I'd just run through my current favourite 'alternative beverages'.

Peppermint tea - I am really liking Red Seal Peppermint Lemon tea. I like drinking peppermint tea, it's my wake-up drink but a while ago I got so sick of it. I don't know why, I just got to the point where I couldn't face another cup, then Brent accidentally bought the Peppermint and Lemon tea form the supermarket and I really liked it. I add lemon to a lot of hot drinks but it never occurred to me to add it to peppermint. It's nice and I'm looking forward to drinking it iced when summer finally gets here.

Dandelion coffee - this is my new favourite thing. I've started having it before I eat breakfast with lemon juice. I am a very big bitter fan. I'm not sure dandelion coffee is exactly bitter, like lemon bitter, but it has a really nice, yes, almost coffee, taste to it. Last time I went on a dandelion coffee binge I added soya milk but this time I've just loved drinking it straight with lemon juice. My friends Zef and Sarah made dandelion coffee a couple of years back and I might give that a go this year. In the mean time Golden Fields do a great dandelion coffee bag and also a really nice Chai.

Inca - when I started drinking Inka and it's cousin Caro Brent and I thought it was hilarious. 'The 1980s called and they want their beverage back!' I got it because I was hanging out for a milky warm drink. These two chicory-based granulated drinks fit the bill perfectly. It's funny how many people drink it.

Red African Fire Rooibos - the other day at university I was hanging out for a milky tea (you can see a pattern here, eh?) and I went to the cafe on campus and got a t leaf Tea Red African Fire Rooibus - I can't stop thinking about it. It was such a nice mixture of rooibus and orange.

Puku Love Tea - for a long time my favourite night time drink was Puku Love Tea . I'm not a huge fan of fruit teas and I find licorice tea a bit overwhelming but this is just the most wonderful subtle blend of these kind of tastes.

Having said I don't particularly like licorice tea, I do think Red Seal Black Adder would make a great ice tea. Also, while we were in the States I got a Stash sample which had a couple of bags of Licorice Spice tea which was really good. It was a totally different taste to Black Adder - could it be the sarsaparilla? I really liked it. No one seems to import it to New Zealand. Some of stores here stock other Stash teas and writing this has made me think I might contact them and see if they would consider bringing in the Licorice Spice tea too.

One tea that I tried recently which sits full and is brought out mainly for hilarity is the new Healtheries Lemon Meringue Pie tea. It smells unbelievable. I was kind of excited when I unwrapped it because Lemon Meringue Pie is something I haven't had since I became vegan. My head raced at the possibilities (there is a Strawberry Pavlova Tea in the range as well). But, as you can imagine, the full taste sensation of a lemon meringue pie cannot be packaged in a single tea bag. Science may one day accomplish this but it hasn't done so yet. It wasn't bad, it tasted a bit 'flavoured' but it wasn't that bad, but I think if I wanted that kind of taste I should have stuck with the good old-fashioned science of Hazer Baba Turkish Apple Tea.

Writing this has made me thirsty.


Oh, I just noticed my photo has a subtle piece of advertising in it for Light Perceptions, a beautiful art installation which is on at the moment. If you're in Wellington it's well worth a look. It includes a very interesting work by Rebekah Rasmussen.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Midnight Espresso

If you're ever in Wellington and looking for vegan food, I reckon Midnight Espresso cafe* is well worth a visit. A couple of years ago I was asked to talk about my favourite Wellington restaurant and although I have quite a few favourite places I chose Midnight because it seems to be the place I visit the most. Midnight isn't a solely vegan cafe but they consistently make delicious vegan food. Our friend just got back form the States and is cooking for them again - she is blimmin' talented, so er, yeah, now would be a great time to visit.

Midnight do enormous and delicious vegan filled Turkish bread, scrambled tofu, tofu salads, burgers, udon noodles. If you're not in a tofu mood the vegan nachos are really nice and they also almost always have gluten-free vegan counter food - Midnight do a very nice rice bake. One of the wonderful things for us about Midnight, though, is their baking. There's always something vegan on the counter and it's really nice. Over the years they're had afghans, peanut-butter cookies, yo-yos, baklava, banana cake, chocolate cake, passion fruit cake, vegan ice-cream, vegan cheese-cake - yeah, it's always exciting to go to Midnight for dessert. Here's some photos from our Friday night visit.

Although the angle on this shot accentuates it, this afghan was huge and delicious. Toki most of the time gets chocolate cake. The chocolate cake is legendary in our house. Brent and I had a civil union ceremony about eight years ago and Midnight made us chocolate cakes for desert.

I'm not always ready for big-time dessert but want something sweet, so Toki and I often share a passion fruit smoothie. If you ask, they'll add coconut milk to the vegan smoothies, which is yum! I think the other ingredients are banana, passion fruit pulp and ice. They also often make us a hot soy with a dust of cinnamon which is also a nice and slightly more sustaining alternative to herbal tea. It's kind of like a 'fluffy'.

* The writer of this review is didn't think the service was up to scratch. I personally like a bit of surl in my cafe staff but I still reckon the staff at Midnight are awesome. She also thought the music was too loud. The music is always too loud, but I kind of like that too. On Friday they were playing this and this too loud, which was pretty cool. The great thing about the 'too loud' policy is that you can have a bit of a sing-along, if you feel that way inclined. Teehee.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two Analogies and a Choice (Guest post by Brent)

We went on all the scary rides
One of the first things Brent said to me was, 'I'm vegan.'

The first thing he said when I said I was feeling a little bit over blogging everyday was, 'Can I help?'

Here's a post he wrote.

Analogy 1. 

Veganism is a bit like missionary work - you spend a lot of time alone with it, you have to explain it, justify it and reconfirm it constantly; and people look away after awhile, even when they were the ones who brought it up in the first place.

Analogy 2. 

Vegan life in a non-vegan world isn't that hard. It's kind of like being in an Eastern Bloc country, or New Zealand in the 70s: there aren't many choices, but what there is isn't so bad. We eat out at a few favourite places in Wellington, just like we used to buy either Bata Bullets or Nomads when we needed new shoes. Our grocery shopping is focused on finding the few things we choose to eat, like a scavenger hunt.


Sometimes people ask me about the things I can't eat. It always sounds pedantic when I explain that I can eat meat , eggs, milk, but I choose not to. That choice is important to me, because it makes my veganism more meaningful. In California it seemed so easy to be vegan; it became just another thing you did. Most of the time it's like that here, too, but there's always a bit of a struggle, like I'm being forced to exercise my choice, to make it again and again and remember it.

Here's a recipe - we used to use Griffins' Gingernuts, but they're not vegan anymore. The Leda ones would work just as well. Warning: requires a microwave


1 gingernut
1 piece of dark chocolate (like a square or two of Whittaker's)

Get the gingernut. Put it on a plate. Put the bit of chocolate on it. Put the plate in the microwave. Microwave it for about 15 seconds, until the choclate melts and the gingernut goes warm and soft. Spread the hot choclate around on the gingernut. Let it cool, but not too much, just so it doesn't burn you. Eat the nyumchoc.

This is a family photo. That's Toki's thumb.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Friends and Chickpeas

Last weekend we went up to visit some friends who have recently moved to Paekakariki. It's always nice visiting Maria and Joe because there's always good talk and a lot of laughs and great food.

Joe made us lunch on Sunday and we had a tabbouleh salad with pearl couscous, home made pita bread and yacon.

It was really nice and we ate outside and it was great. It got me thinking about what a vegan meal looks like. I always think of a vegan meal as protein, vegetables and grain and that's where I start most of the time. Usually the protein is a pulse - like in this meal it's the humus made of chickpeas. The vegetables can be raw or cooked. I always aim for as many colours as possible. I always have this goal of including vegetables from as many of the colour groups as possible. I really like these pamphlets to help me remember the groups and what's in them.I really love how this meal has the deep greens of parsley, the purple onion and the red tomatoes (I realise when I say 'vegetables' I also count fruits, plantains and herbs). Wholegrains are awesome! For years I didn't eat them but I am really enjoying getting reintroduced to them. Here's a list of them from A-Z.

These are some of my go to meals, based on this pulse, vegetable, grain plan:
  • Dahl, rice and salad (Dahl may also include vegetables)
  • Quinoa loaf and salad
  • A vegetable soup with pearl barley or quinoa and red lentils
  • Pizza (wheat or other flour base), topped with roast vegetables and tofu or refried beans
  • Buckwheat tabbouleh with hummus and maybe another vegetable or salad
  • A stir fry with vegetables, adzuki beans and rice

I was talking a couple of days ago about raw sprouted hummus. Here's a great recipe from The Simple Veganista blog.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lunch in a Storm

Today is an exciting day in New Zealand. Eleanor Catton's book The Luminaries has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. It's so well-deserved and I'm really excited. Yay!

Hm. Now, how to segue into the slightly less heady world of vegan food. Ellie once baked our workshop an amazing vegan ginger, banana quick bread. Actually, Ellie is an amazing baker. Which I guess leads almost unclunkily into the Edmonds Cookery Book.

I can't remember when I was given my copy of the Edmonds Cookery Book (note 'cookery', not 'cooking' or 'cook'). But I'm pretty sure it corresponded loosely with coming of age or leaving home. The book was first published in 1908 as The Sure to Rise Cookery Book as a marketing tool for the Edmonds Baking Company who made baking powder. The Edmonds Baking Factory, which appears on the cover of the book, was an amazing building surrounded by beautiful gardens. Thomas Edmonds was also responsible for other great architecture in Christchurch.

Baking powder is a friend to the vegan. It's a leavening agent which is really important for vegan baking because eggs are what normally gives baking it's lightness. My understanding is that baking powder is baking soda with an acid added. It works like the baking soda and vinegar in chocolate cake in this post I wrote few years ago. I always think of the war when I think of baking powder, I get this idea that it really came into its own as a baking product when there were no eggs and yeast was hard to get too. This War Economy Recipe Book published online by the NZETC is quite an interesting vegan read. There are some great eggless recipes. There's even one for eggless custard which is baked in a piedish stood in a meat dish.

For years, I've used my Edmonds Cookery Book for baking. There are some really well-worn pages. By substituting butter for margarine or oil, milk for soy, almond or oat milk and up to one egg with banana, I've been able to make a lot of the cakes and biscuits in the book. But that's only part of the book, actually quite a small part of the book. The copy I have was published in 1992, the book is always being revised, and it includes quite a few recipes for meals which are quite good. Along with recipes for Beef Pot Roast and Liver and Bacon there are also some really nice rice and vegetable dishes.

There's a storm working its way up New Zealand and yesterday I was working from home when I got this hankering for something warm and savoury and I remembered this recipe I'd kind of veganised from the Edmonds Cookery Book called Savoury Brown Rice Casserole. I really like casseroles. I guess if I was more modern I'd use my slow cooker but yeah, I like the way having the oven on for a long time kind of warms the house. What I really like about this recipe is that it's kind of plain. As a vegan I'm often eating quite highly flavoured food, which is great but sometimes I get a hankering for something with simple flavours and kind of just filling and warm. There used to be this Sri Chimnoy  restaurant in Wellington which served very plain food. One of my favourite meals they did was a bean dish which you could have on brown rice or mashed potatoes.

The original recipe called for butter at the end but I couldn't quite face margarine yesterday so I used tahini and some lemon juice, which works almost as well as salt as a flavour intensifier (um, did I just contradict myself?). Anyway, the original recipe also calls for bacon and chicken stock but this is how I made it yesterday.


1 cup brown basmati rice
1 cup broccoli cut into small pieces (if I'd had a capsicum or some celery or cauliflower, I would have added that too)
1 can tinned tomatoes
3 good tablespoons of tomato pure
2 cups of vegetable stock
1 large onion
2 cloves of garlic (I didn't add garlic)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup tofu (I wanted some protein, I've made this without protein before but I added the tofu I mushed it up a bit but it occurred to me that I could have also used some cooked chickpeas or some other types of cooked or tinned bean)
1 teaspoon tahini (Optional)
Juice of one lemon (Optional)

Put all ingredients into an over proof casserole dish and stir. Cover with a tight-fitting lid or foil. Cook at 180 degrees Celsius for one and a half hours or until rice is tender. Stor halfway through cooking. Just before serving stir in tahini and lemon juice.

PS: Talking about that Sri Chimnoy restaurant made me want to talk about The Lotus-Heart which is in Christchurch. The Lotus-Heart might be my favourite restaurant in New Zealand. It's so good. If you're ever in Christchurch I really recommend a meal there. I wish I could go right now!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gardening in the City

One of the cool things about living in a small house, with a small outside area is that it forces us out into our community. If we want to rollerskate or skateboard or throw a ball we generally have to go down to the local park. What's nice about this is that we have to walk to the park and when we walk we tend to catch up with other people from the neighbourhood which is really nice.

Last year we got a plot at the local community garden. It's only about ten minutes walk from our place and it is right next door to the dog exercise area. We got the plot original as a place to put our compost, which now sounds awful. But, last year we grew zucchinis and potatoes and pumpkins and cucumbers and kale. Then we went away to America and our plot kind of floundered for a bit. Luckily, no one is too judgemental about a shabby plot. We are by no means the best gardeners, we could never support ourselves, but what is great about community gardening is that there are always people around to ask. We have always tried to garden. Every flat we lived in had pots full of lettuces and spinach and herbs. Firstly, because I love it, but also, so that we can kind of show Toki where food comes from. I am particularly fond of growing herbs. Fresh herbs are really expensive in the shops and there is nothing nicer than popping out to cut some herbs for a salad. Having a plot at the garden has kind of taken us to a slightly new level, and it's been fun. Last Saturday we took the dog up for a walk and checked on our plot. The weekend before we took afternoon tea up and shared it with some friends who also garden up at Tanera.

Tanera is located high above the Wellington CBD which means there are some tremendous views.

A couple of weekends ago Brent and his brother Chris put in a couple of frames for our peas and beans. We've never grown peas or beans before, so we kind of just copied what our friends had done

Toki has a wee corner of the plot which is hers. A couple of weekends ago we planted lettuce, silverbeet and some marigolds. They seemed to be doing okay.

One thing that grows really well at Tanera is Miners Lettuce. It's really yum, Toki pretty much just picks and eats it as she's running round and climbing trees in the garden.

It occurs to me over the last couple of posts there's been a lot of soft-tone filters on photos. Teehee. One things I've realised blogging more about us than I usually do is that it's really easy to idealise a life. To bring some perspective, as I type this Toki is glued to  a tablet playing Minecraft eating Marmite toast, I've just burnt the bejesus out of a pot of lentils because I got tied up reading Facebook and Twitter, and the dog keeps barking when people walk past. The lounge is a mess. The bedrooms are a mess.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Oh my Dog!

 I was just looking through the first week's worth of posts and thinking what I should really call this blog is 'How I am a crap vegan'. While I'm admitting things that make me look like a hypocrite, here's one of my darkest vegan secrets - we have a dog - and not just any dog, a meat-eating dog.

As a vegan, pets are something I think about a lot. I think my veganism is based mainly on the belief that animals shouldn't be owned. This seems really extreme, but it's the ideal which seems to sit most comfortably with my perfect world. This belief was really easy while I didn't want a pet, but since I've been part of this family and got to know some other pet dogs I found myself having some really tricky conversations with myself. As soon as I thought about living with a dog I realised that no matter how I phrased it in my mind (companion animal, furry friend) I would really have all the power and would be making almost all of the decisions for the animal that came to live with us. And this was before I even thought about what I would feed a dog if it came and lived at our house. 

I thought and thought about it for ages and we talked about it as a family and when we got back from America this year we started looking in earnest for a dog, and it was an interesting process. We started off thinking about what dogs we liked and looked at breeds that might suit our family. I really like French Bulldogs, so I started doing some research and found out some pretty upsetting things about breeding French Bulldogs. So we started looking on TradeMe at what dogs were available and started noticing some really horrible breeding stuff going on there. Some breeders always had dogs and they were often from the same mother. So we started looking at other options. We visited the SPCA and met a lot of wonderful puppies there. I wasn't sure we could look after a puppy. I also felt a bit frightened of some of the breeds of dogs that were there. I was terrified of dogs when I was younger and found some of that fear coming back with some of the breeds. I've since met heaps of SPCA dogs, much like the ones I was frightened of, and they're pretty cool dogs.

Then our friend Paula came to stay. Paula had recently adopted an ex-racing greyhound from Greyhounds as Pets (GAP). We contacted GAP and met some really cool greyhounds (they are some of the most amazing dogs I've met) but while we were waiting for our application to be processed we started thinking about some of the needs of greyhounds and thought maybe we weren't quite the right house for greyhounds either. I realised for instance that probably Toki wouldn't be able to walk the greyhound by herself and that we may not be able to visit friends who had cats if we had the dog with us.

While all this was going on I was researching vegan dogs. I found some really promising examples of vegan dogs and some great vegan dog food options.

The day we decided we weren't going to be able to adopt a greyhound, I was really discouraged. I think we all were, we'd been looking for a long time and it felt like we would never find a dog taht we could care for and would like to live with us. In the depths of this discouragement I had a quick look through TradeMe, more to make myself feel worse than anything but I came across an advertisement for four-year-old corgi who needed re-homing. As you can imagine corgis were nowhere on our radar of dogs we might like. To be honest I didn't even know corgis still existed. But something made me call the people and we went and visited Brynn that day. My friend Sarah was visiting at the time and she came with us, which was great. Sarah has been a dog-owner, really understands where we're coming from vegan-wise and also worked as a librarian in a vet school in Sydney. Brynn was pretty overweight when we met him. The woman who had advertised him had several cats and dogs and chickens and rats and chinchillas and a couple of horses - all of which she'd rescued. She got Brynn off someone in Hamilton and helped him to lose some weight but was finding it hard to help him lose any more because there was so much cat and dog and chicken food around. He was pretty much scavenging everyone elses food. He had a really beautiful face and he was very friendly. On the way home Sarah did some research on corgis. We talked about Brynn a lot. Toki really wanted him. I wasn't so sure, there were two things I didn't want in a dog, one was a breed that shed hair and the other was a dog that smelled bad - Brynn seemed to have both these qualities. I also had this weird thing, where I'd kind of fancied myself sort swanning round Aro with my sleek greyhound and this corgi was not going to win me any cool awards. See what a hypocrite I am? I still feel really worried that people might think we were responsible for getting Brynn fat. I am basically an ego on legs. Anyway, we thought about it and decided that here was a dog who needed some stuff - exercise, good food, companionship - and we were a family that could give him that stuff. We rang them straight away and picked up Brynn that weekend and he's been the best dog for us.

He is really friendly and he is calm and he loves walking. When we took him to the vet I said to her, will he be sad if we don't feed him so much and the vet nurse said that sometimes dogs enjoy the attention associated with being fed as much as the food. She said, pat him, love him and exercise him and he'll be happy. And he seems pretty happy. He's snoring next to me know.

I still feel weird about owning an animal but these are some things that I also think about owning Brynn:

  • He's getting fitter and he seems to get happier and healthier as he does, when we first got him he had a lot of trouble getting up from lying down and he couldn't cock his leg to pee, he can do those things now and last week he scratched himself behind is ear with his back foot. Baby steps teehee.
  • I kind of feel like Brynn is part of our pack rather than our property - I'm kind of his alpha-dog, I have some power in our relationship but I also have responsibilities, I read that a dog will only respect you as an alpha if you act with fairness
  • On a totally selfish level, Brynn has really made our family complete, it's been so interesting to see how Toki's place in the family has altered. As an only child she has also always been the youngest child but watching her care for Brynn has made me see her in a whole new light. It's also really nice having another 'energy' in the house apart from me and her, which can get a bit intense
  • Also, selfishly, I love walking this dog! It  does amazing things to my state of mind. I work a lot by myself and now when I hit a hiccup I can take him for a walk. It also really seems to help for me to have another living thing to think about during the day, I can get quite self-centred when I'm working here by myself. I also love taking him for walks as a family, we have these great talks while we walk him.
Brynn eats meat. He's on a special diet regime because he really needs to lose weight. We really want to one day transition him to a vegan diet but who knows how that will work out. It may mean a change in vet. We had a chat with ours about it and she was quite dark on the idea, she even gave us a lecture about humans and how they need to eat meat. Teehee. But, I think we will find some support around us and will give it a go. The meat food is the thing that plays on my mind the most at the moment. I can't justify other animals dying so that mine can live. In my experience, this is what it's like being vegan, having things you really wish were different but aren't. All these ways that my life is not perfect help bring me down from my moral high ground and keep challenging me so I never stop thinking about things, I reckon.