Easy Mac and Cheese

A very simple way to get the most flavoursome mac and cheese ever!

I always want to call this thing a one-pot dinner, totally forgetting that it’s definitely not. It just really seems so easy? Boil pasta, make a simple bechamel, chuck in the oven.

I’m also one of those people who overdo the cheese sauce situation because it’s a pretty devastating affair to have a dry macaroni cheese. I mean, I’ve had it, and I didn’t die – but I’m all about cheese sauce. The saucier, the better.

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Made a Veggie Mama recipe for yourself? I'd love to see it! tag #veggiemamafood on social media and let me know!

The Queen’s Teatime Favourite: Dundee Cake

dundee-cakeOk so in the week that was everything I ever baked ever, I made Dundee cake, as well as the Queen mother’s favourite cake that just happened to be a gingerbread sort of business. I have no idea where this came from (I think I was googling royal recipes?) but all of a sudden I was going to make Dundee cake although I’d never heard of it before – if the Queen never leaves home without a slice, it must be GOOD.

And so it’s a fruit cake. I don’t normally get excited about fruit cake, but here we are. There’s meant to be mixed fruit and currants and peel and whisky and orange marmalade and dark muscovado sugar and that combination is nowhere near as frightening as I’ve been led to believe.

dundee-cake-2

This made SUCH  a hefty cake. I ate a ton, and then I took it to a work meeting and we merrily hacked away at it there, and then I ate more, then I took what was left to Rushworth recently to see my fam and it was STILL GOING WHEN I LEFT. This cake is apparently the magic pudding of cakes.

So, put the kettle on. No wait – you’re meant to bake this cake and then wrap it in foil for three days (it gets better with time, I’m told) so make it before you need it. It will smell so good you will cry and have to make the Queen Mum’s gingerbread concoction to get through the agony of waiting. But yeah, go here, make the cake, and then put the kettle on.

dundee-cake

 

Have you ever had it before? Got a legit nana recipe I can borrow?!

 

Made a Veggie Mama recipe for yourself? I'd love to see it! tag #veggiemamafood on social media and let me know!

Staying Healthy this Winter: the Kitchen

This post contains affiliate links.

How we fight off colds and flu at our house - starting with the kitchen / theveggiemama.com

Nobody wants to get sick, but it’s usually pretty inevitable – especially for me, who has an immune system like a doily. But rather than just assume that at some point I’ll be buried under a mountain of tissues and crying into my soup three days in a row, I like to get a bit of a head start when it comes to keeping germs on the outside, where they belong.

I thought I would share some of the things we do to keep on top of it, starting with my favourite room in the house!

This is how we party in the kitchen:

CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO NOTBEINGSICKNESS

I like to keep the kitchen in reasonable shape and I do that with the help of this dish brush situation. I like that the head is replaceable, and that it’s made with all-natural recycled bristles, and a biodegradable bamboo handle. It also apparently can keep up pretty well with my daily kitchen assaults (unlike some other sorts of dish brushes I’ve tried that are beautiful but crumple like paper when faced with a cast iron frying pan).

I have a motley collection of tea towels that appear to do the job (and have just been given some proper grandma Irish linen from a lovely friend), and I bought a bunch of these dishcloths after seeing them on Jodi’s blog. They work like a charm, are affordable, and are 100% organic cotton. SCORE!

I usually just spray the benches with a concoction I make of vinegar, water, a squidge of dish soap and eucalyptus oil, but if I’m feeling fancy, I buy something that smells pretty. This multi-purpose spray and wipe is really good, and has the added bonus of being excellent on CRAYON-COVERED WALLS. Thank goodness. The method ones are also pleasantly scented.

Floors are taken care of with super-hot water, bulk Costco vinegar (bless you, Costco!), and a dash of eucalyptus oil (I get this organic one).

These biodegradable bin bags for takin’ out the trash are also pretty rad, and good for the environment too. Win/win.

And for food storage/leftovers, I use Ball Mason jars (seriously, my collection is epic): these The 440ml (pint size) ones for juices, smoothies, small leftovers and all my preserving stuff, the larger 950ml (quart size) for larger leftovers, soups, storage (popcorn, nuts, lentils, that sort of thing, and the half-gallon/2L situation for flours, sugar, breadcrumbs, etc. I also have the little jam jars for bits of leftover sauce, fruit, and to feed the kids custard and yogurt in – they think it’s a party. Oh, and there was that time I couldn’t get any of my regular ones and instead bought a box of the 340ml quilted ones and ran out of them within a day. Cannot speak highly enough about them! I love the seals, they keep everything fresh, and I’m not using plastic containers or cling wrap.

Do you have a cleaning thingo you just love? 

Made a Veggie Mama recipe for yourself? I'd love to see it! tag #veggiemamafood on social media and let me know!

A little trip to Bendigo Woollen Mills (and THAT vanilla slice!)

Bendigo-12

I love Bendigo – I go there every chance I get, and I make up any reason to go.

That reason is usually that my yarn stash desperately needs something from the Woollen Mills, but we all know that’s a lie. I DO need it though. Honest.

Have you been? I used to go there a lot when I was a kid. Let’s take a little stroll:

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Made a Veggie Mama recipe for yourself? I'd love to see it! tag #veggiemamafood on social media and let me know!

A Cup of Tea With Me

Netflix Australia + me = love

Can you believe on Sunday I was in such a delicate situation I couldn’t stomach a cup of tea until 9pm? True fact.

It all began with a bunch of friends flying down to Melbourne to surprise my cousin who’d moved back from the UK. I got the callup for a drink or two in the afternoon, and off I trotted that night, determined to bypass that bit where this happened last time and I got home at 4am.

Cut to Sunday morning and I’m getting friendly with nothing but a box of Nurofen and a heat pack because somehow I now cannot dance without my body just straight up quitting. Apparently it’s not only my face that’s falling apart, it’s …. everything else too. Oy.

I emerged from my stupor (barely) to visit Smith and Deli and bought basically half the shop before they’d even been open 10 minutes. You can read about how much I love Mo and Shannon in yesterday’s Kickass Chicks post, and how much I love their food next week when I write about exactly how many times I died looking at their wares on the weekend. Another home run, of course, and I woke up the next day thinking I must have been more hungover than I thought that I didn’t even think to try the handmade vegan mozzarella my friend bought.

And yes, that is the UK version of House of Cards I was watching up there – whoa, what a show! There aren’t many episodes, and I love British political thrillers (hell, any political thriller really) but I COULD NOT TURN IT OFF. I tried to give myself the afternoon off on Friday, but I have so much travel coming up I needed to pack in some extra work. But Sunday afternoon at about 5pm I finally admitted defeat and got into my electric-blanket heated bed with my laptop and another heat pack (and possibly a container of olives from Smith and Deli) and watched until my eyes nearly fell out of my head.

Today Bigs and I are off to an event in Sydney, headed to Taronga Zoo to watch Dragons: Race to the Edge, which is a new Netflix original TV series (speaking of, has anyone watched BoJack Horseman? I saw an ad for it the other day and couldn’t stop laughing. Next on my list). She doesn’t even know, so I can’t wait to see the look on her face when I tell her we’re catching a plane today, just her and me!

Meanwhile I should actually pack. I may be very last minute, but I seem to always get it done. Are you a last-minute packer too?

 

Made a Veggie Mama recipe for yourself? I'd love to see it! tag #veggiemamafood on social media and let me know!

Kickass Chicks: Mo Wyse and Shannon Martinez of Smith & Daughters (and Smith & Deli!)

Photography: Stevie Lee

Photography: Stevie Lee

Mo Wyse and Shannon Martinez are about as kickass as you can get. Owners of the Melbourne vegan Mecca (even for the non-vegans), Smith & Daughters, the pair have created a place where food has 100 percent flavour and zero percent cruelty.

They’re feisty, fun, and super-passionate about what they do and I love chatting with them every time I go in. Once I proposed to Shannon after I went there for dinner and I ain’t even mad about it. She is a legit genius with food.

They are also badass when it comes to being women in business. They ensure their workplaces provide an equal and positive environment for all, and Shannon especially can’t stand the casual misogyny that traditionally happens in kitchens when the males outnumber females and strives to banish it totally. I love this quote from an interview I read on them:

“Supporting other women and proving to women that you can be whatever the fuck you want to be, in whatever industry it is, is really awesome.”

Amen. Also, now I really want to meet Shannon’s mum.

Their new venture is a New York-style deli with vegan Jewish cuisine, homestyle food and convenience groceries. I snuck a peek yesterday and semi lost my mind (my mate Callum planned and built everything and his signage work is the very definition of “on point” but I kinda want to puke for using the term), but if you’re in the Fitzroy region tomorrow and you’re desperate for a pastrami sandwich or vegan croissant, head on down to 111 Moor Street and get your fix. Get the Home Alone and tell me what it’s like!

For now though, prepare to fall in love.

Who are you?

SM: Shannon Martinez

MW: Mo Wyse

What do you do?

SM: I am a chef

MW: I do all the other stuff. The spread sheets, the front of house, finance, organising, human resources, logistics, marketing, etc. All the stuff. P.S. Shannon does WAY more than cook!

Why do you do it? 

SM: I have no choice

MW: Because I did it enough for other people and it was time to do it for something I really, really believed in. I really, really believe in the partnership that Shannon and I have, and I believe in Shannon’s cooking. There’s only so much you can do for someone else before you have to question why you’re putting your all in, and what are you getting in return? Are you satisfied? This is the most rewarding, all-encompassing hard work I could ever imagine dedicating my life to. It’s so so worth it.

How did it start? 

SM: I was 12 and mum gave me a massive wicker trunk with everything I needed – a frying pan, wooden spoons, everything, and since then I’ve done nothing else. Mum knew I liked to cook and wanted to cook, so she gave me the tools.

MW: Shannon and I were side by side while working on The People’s Market, an outdoor summer events venue – she, a food vendor, me the operations manager. We had both never seen anyone who worked as hard as the other, when we were noticing that each one of us was the first to arrive and the last to leave, and we were blood, sweat, tears kind of gals, we knew we had to do business together. Plus our combined passion for food and for getting a different conception of vegan food to the world. We met every week for a year, hypothetically making up a restaurant, she found the venue, and we quit our “day jobs” to open our dream restaurant. The first of many projects under the Smith & Daughters umbrella to come. This concept is so much more than one place. We really believe that there’s something to what we’re trying to do.

Were you scared, or did you know it had that something that would see it through? 

SM: Opening a business? The only fear I had in opening a business was losing my life savings. I was always fortunate to have such an amazing following with my food that it was hopefully always going to work out. The extent of the success has far surpassed my expectations. I’m still shocked to this day at how busy we continue to be.

MW: Had to see it through. Had to. When you already have such strong convictions towards dedicating yourself to something you really believe in, you have to relinquish building someone else’s empire for your own. I was never scared in the sense that I had such a strong foundation with a supportive partner, Callum, and I knew Shannon’s food was exceptional and what we could build was exceptional. Details and logistics are my total passion, so I just knew I had to pull it together for the biggest effort of my life. Not scary, just anxious, wanting everything to be just right – but that’s the fear that keeps you going and keeps you wanting to be better and better!

Have there been rough patches where you doubted yourself and your choice to run a restaurant (and deli)? What did you do? 

SM: I doubt myself every day. I doubt that my food is good enough every day. Every time I make something I fluke it. It’s all flukes.

MW: Rather than rough patches, I have moments of clarity that probably comes with growing up / living life. Realising that you can’t do it all, you have to delegate, you have to trust and let go a little bit. The only really tricky part is making sure that all the people I cherish – our staff, the people who keep the entire operation in motion, are happy. I think the thing that I’m most fortunate for is the strength that these efforts have added to my relationship with my partner, Callum, and how much stronger the business partnership between Shannon and myself. I do believe that these efforts are the signs of much more to come.

How do you balance restaurant work with your lifestyle? 

SM: I don’t. Restaurant work is my lifestyle. Luckily, that’s how I want to live my life.

MW: I’m lucky in the same way that I love to work and my life is work, and I love my work, and love my life.

What does a typical day look like for you? 

SM: The biggest question of my day is “Kitchen?” or “Fancy?” I wear a lot of hats with the business. An average day starts out with how many costumes do I have to wear? Am I front of house guy? Kitchen/cooking guy? Scrubbing the floors at the deli guy? And some days I do all three, most days it’s a minimum of two. Needless to say it makes for a big laundry basket.

MW: Assessing the priorities. Making sure that whatever meetings or rostering or emails that need addressing come first, even if that means lying in bed, answering emails on my phone before I get up for the day at 7am. At the moment we’re in flux between the deli being open, and keeping the restaurant operating, even without us there all the time, like we’re used to. Shannon and I had a really wonderful schedule going with equal amounts of time off and on, and making sure that one of us was always at the helm – we both love customer interactions, but that’s when things get “easy” and we want so much more and to go so much farther, so we push.

The best daily routine has been working on product lists, deli schedules, answering emails on the breakfast bar at Shannon’s house while she literally makes masterpieces. Yesterday it was Buffalo Mozzarella, the day before eggs, today it’s vegan Ma Po Tofu… this is plans for the deli, yes, but for so much more – wholesale, future locations / projects, cookbook, this is what this time has afforded us. The opportunity to collaborate. Communicating across her kitchen counter while she creates and we make plans has been one of the best parts of this whole process. Separating ourselves, putting trust in the staff, being undisturbed to assess what the next step for S&D will be…  In fact it’s how we’re doing this interview right now. (me: asking questions & transcribing, us having a giggle, me typing more…)

Otherwise, daily routine is an empty restaurant from 9:30am – it’s me and a computer, then my staff and I making plans, and then from6pm, me and all our beautiful customers and making sure everyone’s happy. It’s a people juggling act mixed with a theatre show, with the cleaning of toilets added in. It’s hard work, it’s busy, and it’s always a good day.

Would you recommend this work/way of life to someone else? 

SM: NO.

MW: It takes a special person to be this crazy.

What is the best piece of work advice you’ve ever been given? 

SM: To be told not to do it – cause it makes me want to do it even more. Told by my family members who are chefs. “Don’t be a chef.” Which makes me want to do it even more.

MW: To not sacrifice the vision. Even if the vision is complicated, or even seemingly impossible. Make sure that every detail comes to life, and everything is as you wanted it to be.

Vegemite or peanut butter? 

SM: VEGEMITE. Peanut Butter, eww, no. (that’s a good question!)

MW: Vegemite. Though I feel like I’m betraying my motherland. My dad still sends me jars of Jiffy, potentially trying to convert me back? Sorry dad, vegemite wins.

#vegemite4lyf

 

You can read about other Kickass chicks in this series here:

Kelley Sheenan /  Peppermint Magazine
Cate Bolt / Foundation 18 + Pretty Fkn Embroidery
Lorraine Elliott / Not Quite Nigella
Cath Young / My Bearded Pigeon

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Made a Veggie Mama recipe for yourself? I'd love to see it! tag #veggiemamafood on social media and let me know!

WIN! A Limited-Edition Box of 10 Loving Earth Chocolates [ended]

Congrats Rant Casey! (although that condensed milk one was swaying me! oh man why has nobody done that before?!)Loving-Earth-New-Packaging

 

This morning the postman arrived bearing a delivery of the chocolate kind – and if you’re lucky they could be hitting up your place too!

My friends at Loving Earth have been busily working alongside the people at Round to design the brand-new packaging for their much-loved chocolate (and they stuck in a secret new flavour to boot! One I’m fully thumbs-up about). I loved the old packaging, but I love this new getup even more. So colour-blocked! Much modern.

And I’m not the only fan – apparently it’s been flying off shelves since it was released a few days ago, and as I was reading their newsletter this week I gave a mental high-five to Loving Earth founder Scott Fry for what he had to say: “It was about catching up with where the product was at – the chocolate has come through so much innovation and evolution but the actual packaging has just become more and more confusing … there’s a depth to it that’s not obvious at the start, but there’s this visual imagery that’s not just artistic but is symbolic – it tells a story. There’s a system there, everything serves a purpose, it’s functional – and I love that, how form is function. I think what we’ve got now is brilliant. I like the stripped-back feel, I like the feel of the board, I like the colours, the way it sits in different light and the three-dimensionality of it.”

That’s a man who’s pleased!

You can be pleased too, if these chocolates end up on your doorstep. When Loving Earth released a couple of new flavours earlier this year (shoutout to that mandarin and gubinge situation), I asked you to guess what you thought they might be – and some of you came up with the gnarliest flavour combos! So I’m going to ask you to come up with a great new chocolate flavour and the one that sounds the most delicious next Thursday June 18 at 5pm will be the winner!

In the meantime, there is a huge stocktake sale going on over at Loving Earth if you just can’t wait another minute for chocolate. For newsletter subscribers, they have 20% off all products at the moment, and a 35% discount on the stash of chocolates they still have with the former packaging. If you haven’t read your recent missive from them, hop to it and get the code. There’s free shipping on all orders over $50 for all.

Please enter by commenting below your chocolate combo and I’ll be in touch with the winner next week. Residents of Australia only (sorry!) and only one entry per person. Thank you kindly, and good luck!

Made a Veggie Mama recipe for yourself? I'd love to see it! tag #veggiemamafood on social media and let me know!