Single Serve Super Salad

Okay, so I lied. This recipe is more like a double serve, but it just didn’t have the same ring to it.

Over the last week or two, I’ve found myself skipping lunch on quite a few occasions – more often than not because I’m busy doing something, or I’ve snacked on something else and as a result found myself not hungry. So yesterday I resolved to make a nutritious lunch for myself to try and make up for my days of no lunches.

This is my go-to salad when I want to pack heaps of goodies into one meal.

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Single Serve Super Salad (for two)

1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
100g tofu, pressed and cubed (I used some leftover marinated tofu from the night before for extra flavoury goodness)
1 tsp rice bran oil
1/2 lebanese cucumber, diced
1 medium carrot, grated
1/4 cup capsicum, diced (whatever colour!)
Small handful of snowpeas, chopped
1 small tomato, diced (or a handful of cherry tomatoes)

1/2 cup mushroom, sliced
1 cup baby spinach or other leafies such as rocket or arugula
1/4 cup coriander, chopped
2 Tbsp pepitas
Small knob of ginger, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 small lime
2 Tbsp flax seed oil
2-4 Tbsp tamari

Chili flakes (optional)

Cook quinoa according to instructions. Set aside.

Heat rice bran oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and tofu and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, being careful not to burn the garlic and ginger. I also added the mushrooms for a couple of minutes, just to make them a little golden. I’m not the biggest fan of raw mushrooms (I’ll get there…) but if you are, feel free to chuck them straight into the salad raw. When golden brown, take off heat.

Combine all salad ingredients, including the quinoa and tofu mix in a bowl. Add flax oil, lime juice, and 2Tbsp of tamari and stir well to combine. Taste for flavour, adding more tamari if required. If you love chili, like me, sprinkle some in and combine.

And voila! A healthy and filling lunchtime booster.

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Raw Caramel Slice

While I have been known to enjoy raw desserts, I have been yet to foray into the world of cooking them (cooking? preparing?) aside from variations of the old bliss ball. That was, until now (duh duh duhhhhh!)

I’ve been using mesquite powder a fair bit lately, in smoothies, bliss balls, chia pudding and the like. Mesquite powder is produced from the seeds of the mesquite tree, and I love the naturally sweet, nutty, caramel flavor it adds. It’s also low GI and helps stabilise blood sugars. Oh, and it’s also packed with various vitamins, minerals and amino acids, including calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, lysine, iron and fibre. Yowzers!

But while sipping on my mesquitey smoothies, I had a dream. A dream where the nutty carameliness of the mesquite could really be the star of the show. And what better way than caramel slice? And now I’ve finally done it. It was highly experimental, as is most of the stuff that I do in life, but I think it turned out pretty well. The slice is super rich so it’s not something you can wolf down, but it certainly hits that sweet spot.

Enjoy!

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Raw Caramel Slice

Base
1 cup medjool dates (soaked)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup almonds
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp cacao powder

Caramel
1 1/2 cups medjool dates (soaked)
1 1/2 Tbsp tahini (less if you’re not the biggest tahini fan – the flavour is quite noticeable. Omit entirely if desired) **edited to say that the tahini flavour settles right down after a day – the next day I couldn’t taste it at all!
3 Tbsp mesquite powder
1 cup cashews, (soaked)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla
Generous pinch of salt

Chocolate
1/2 cup cacao
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch salt
1/2 cup coconut oil

– Line the bottom of a slice tray with greaseproof paper. I used a square casserole dish that was about 20x20cm
– Combine base ingredients in a blender/food processor until they are the consistency of a thick paste. You may need to add a little water if it is too dry
– Press evenly into slice tin and place in the freezer to set

– Next, combine all the caramel ingredients in the blender. I like to do the nuts first, then add the rest.
– Blend until smooth. Again, you can always add a little water if you need to thin the mix out.
– Spread over base, then return to freezer

– Whisk chocolate ingredients together in a bowl
– Spread over the rest of the slice and return into the freezer one last time to ensure it sets

Slice up and devour! Store any leftovers in the fridge to keep them firm.

Papaya Salsa

While in Broome, we were lucky enough to have some super generous caravan neighbours.  Upon hearing that I was vegan (after declining on some fresh fish they had caught), one of them popped over with a couple of papayas for us. How cool is that?

I don’t have a heap of experience with papayas, and truth be told I find the flavour a little bland so I decided I’d have to make something with it. We had seen lots of Thai papaya salads around Darwin, but these were too ripe for that.

Instead, I decided to do a very quick and simple papaya salsa to have with some beans in tacos. The flavours are simple and fresh, perfect for dinner on a warm night.

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Papaya Salsa

1 medium papaya, diced
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 red chili, finely minced
1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 spring onion, finely sliced
Pinch of sea salt, to taste

Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Choc-peanut ‘keep-you-going’ balls

I’ve made these balls a couple of times over the past two weeks or so, particularly since the big trip across to Darwin. When you’re driving for 6-8 hours a day in the heat, you need something to keep you going (aside from the bazillion litres of water) and give you a bit of a kick. These are great for stemming sugar and chocolate cravings too, as they have the sweetness and the chocolateyness plus nutrition, all rolled in one super duper little ball!

The first time I made these, we didn’t have access to power so I waited for the dates to get really soft, then mashed them with a fork. If you prefer, you could definitely whizz these in a blender or processor.

Also, it might be worth noting at this stage in my blog that I eye most of my measurements. We live in a small van as we travel, and I don’t have measuring cups or spoons. I use a mug for my cup, but mostly I just eyeball things – I think I have a pretty good eye by now. In saying this, some of my recipes may be a bit out of whack for you. This can normally be remedied by adding a bit more of this or a bit more of that. When I get home, I promise I’ll be more precise, but I’m afraid that’s how it is for the time being.

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Choc-peanut ‘keep-you-going’ balls

1 1/2 cups dates
3 Tbsp natural peanut butter
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup oats, pulsed a few times in the blender (or use already crushed/ground oats)
3 Tbsp chia seeds
2 Tbsp cacao powder
pinch of salt

Soak the dates for a few hours until soft, then mash with a fork (or process).

Add peanut butter, cacao and coconut oil and mix into a paste. Try to resist eating off spoon or spreading on toast.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. If mix is too moist, try adding some more oats or coconut or cocoa. Likewise, if the mix is too dry, add a little more oil or some water.

Roll into balls and refrigerate until ready to eat.

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Banana Breakfast Crumble

For the last week or so, we have been being extra frugal in preparation for our trip across to the Northern Territory. Petrol is not cheap and we have a long way to go in a short period of time. What this has meant for us is eating very basic food, and using what we have in our little stores. We’ve been having noodle and pasta dishes, stir fries, salads, and the odd soup. So far we’ve been doing pretty well.

The other day we stopped at a bakery in Innisfail to check out what they had. It was late in the arvo and they were starting to prepare to close. Before we’d even purchased anything, the man there asked us if we’d like some bananas – apparently one of the local growers drops bananas to them to make banana bread but they had plenty left over. He didn’t want to waste any, and so filled up a bag with them for us. How generous was that?

We had to use them pretty quickly as they don’t really do very well in the heat of the van. So the next two mornings, we had this breakfast that I invented from our cupboard stocks. It’s kind of reminiscent of a crumble, and was so yummy.

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Banana Breakfast Crumble
(serves 2)

2 bananas, sliced
1 tsp raw sugar or stevia
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Topping:

¾ cup oats
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp chia seeds
¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp stevia (or agave/maple syrup/sugar)
Pinch of salt

To make the topping, heat the coconut oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Continue to cook for 3-5 minutes, until the oats are slightly toasted. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little (it will become a bit crisp and crunchy!)

For the bananas, heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle sweetener over the bananas, and add to the pan when hot. Cook for a couple of minutes on either side, until they start to get golden.

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Serve bananas in a bowl and top with oat mixture. This would probably be nice with a dollop of yoghurt too!

Hope you enjoy this one – we did!

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The next few days we are going to be making our way up to Cape Tribulation. I’m pretty sure we won’t have reception up there, unless we find some wifi, so I’m not really sure how I’m going to go for the last few days of MoFo. Hopefully I’ll get a couple more posts in…we’ll see!

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A Simple Salsa

This is a super quick post, as I think my laptop charger just blew and I don’t have much battery left. It’s a race against time!

I just wanted to share what we ended up doing with those Late July cornchips we got the other day. As we had a bunch of tomatoes left over from the markets (possibly back in Mackay even?!) starting to look a bit sorry for themselves in the heat of the van, we decided to make a simple salsa to accompany our chips.

This is how it turned out (excuse the dodgy pics)

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The corn chips were good – nice and crunchy and you could definitely taste the chili. Not sure they are something I could regularly justify spending $6 on, but definitely worth trying (and a bit fancier than your average corn chip).

The salsa recipe is super simple, but I’ll share it with you anyway. Ordinarily I’d add some fresh coriander, but we are being super frugal at the moment as our travel expenses are high.

Simple Salsa
(makes about 2 cups)

1 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp oil
3 large tomatoes, diced
1 green capsicum, diced
3/4 cup corn kernels
1 red chili, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp lime juice
Salt, to taste

Heat oil in a frypan over medium heat and add onion. Cook for a couple of minutes, until slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, stirring frequently.

Add ground spices and chili, and sauté until fragrant, about another 30 seconds – 1 minute.

Add the capsicum and tomatoes – this should deglaze the pan. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until tomatoes break down.

Add lime juice and corn, and cook for another couple of minutes until heated through. Season to taste. Serve and enjoy! We topped ours with some avocado mashed with lime juice, salt and pepper.

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We had plenty of leftovers, so the next day we had a salsa salad topped with avocado. This was so good, possibly even yummier than with chips the night before. I think Mexican style food always tastes better the next day though, must be the flavours all oozing into one another…mmmm….

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Picnic in Townsville

We arrived in Townsville this morning at about 8.30am. It was already close to 30 degrees. Crazy!

First thing we did is head to one of the skate parks for Billy to have a roll around before it got too warm. Then we went on an epic journey trying to find a health food store, called Sprout. With some poor map reading skills and unfamiliar road, we made a ten minute trip take about forty-five, but hey, we got there in the end.

We were planning an antipasto style picnic for the afternoon, and had heard that Sprout stocked Vegusto cheese, which we haven’t had since Katoomba. Sprout was a big store with friendly staff (despite what many of the online reviews said) and they had heaps of cool vegan items. Because we are trying to be modest with our purchasing, as we have a huge trip to the Northern Territory ahead of us (which is gonna cost us plenty in petrol), we were pretty reserved with our purchases, selecting four things to enjoy. Vegusto, some Tartex herb and garlic pate for our picnic, soybean chicken – which we like to put in Caesar style or super salads, and some Late July jalapeno and red pepper corn chips, because I’ve never seen these in store before and really wanted to try them.
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Last night in preparation, Billy made some grilled eggplant slices, by cooking our farmer’s market eggplant from the other day on the cast iron griddle plate with basil oil, garlic and salt. He was pretty proud of himself. I was proud of him too, they were so good!
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We also found a new brand of hommus at the supermarket, called Obela. They had a few different kinds – this one was roasted pine nut, with little bits of red capsicum in it too. It was really yummy, a nice thick creamy hummus – just how I like it!

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We went down to the Strand, which is a popular place for picnic-ers, exercisers, swimmers, tanners and so on. It’s a lovely spot on the water, which has a long stretch of grassy park areas, beach, cafes, exercise equipment, playgrounds, barbecue areas and so on. It’s really quite nice. We found ourselves a shady table and set up our spread with our hommus, eggplants, garlic chili marinated olives, semi-dried tomatoes, rosemary crackers, celery, carrot, Vegusto mild-aromatic cheese, potato, sweet potato and taro chips and Tartex pate. Ooh la la…
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We looked across the waters to Magnetic Island as we enjoyed our lunch. It was beeee-a-utiful.
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After lunch, we went for a walk along the length of the Strand, swapping between the footpath, grass, and dipping our toes in the water. The water temperature was so warm…and it was winter two weeks ago right? Yeah….

We found some cool sculptures along the way, a favourite being this little guy – a dugong! He was so cute. I got some strange looks from passers by when I started cuddling him but I couldn’t help it. Look at him!

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What a cutie!

We strolled back down to the other end of the Strand, before heading into the edge of the city for a bit of a poke around the shops and cafes. We walked down Flinders St, which had some interesting bars and shops, and if we end up picking up some work here we’ve noted a few places to come back to.

In the heat of the afternoon, we bumped into the Perc Tucker regional art gallery and went in for a look. It was so nice to be in somewhere cool, it gave my body temperature a bit of a chance to drop back to normal. The gallery was small but had a really nice range of pieces. Downstairs they had a really cool exhibit on solastalgia, which is to do with the mental distress or impact on people caused by environmental change or degradation. It was really interesting, and apt too – there was one piece showing the impact of mining in the Hunter Valley, just after I was reading an article about creeks there being affected by acid leaching from abandoned coal mines. It’s crazy the environmental and social price people are willing to pay for a quick buck.

After that, we went into an absolutely gorgeous Eco store, called Plant Essentials, which was full of beautiful things from jewellery to clothes, homewares, skin products, toiletries and foods. I got some pau d’arco lotion, some lemongrass soap, as well as a little gift. I saw the most beautiful ring which I promised myself I would come back and try on if we end up getting work here. It was stunning. I could have had one of everything from here, it was all so lovely and natural – no petrochemicals, synthetic colours, flavours or preservatives and of course, no animal testing. The company is from Queensland, and their slogan is ‘made fresh locally’, which is awesome.

We also got two Clif bars to try, as I had started seeing them pop up and heard that they were completely vegan. Billy spotted them and chose white chocolate macadamia nut and crunchy peanut butter. We shared the white chocolate one which was nice – I liked the texture, it was much lighter than I expected.

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After that, we returned to the Strand and lazed about on the grass for an hour or so, before setting off to a free camp spot for the night.

It was such a great day! The little part we saw of Townsville seems really nice…while it is a big city, there has obviously been a lot of effort put in to make it accessible and appealing to locals and travelers. Check out this man made waterfall along the strand. I’ve never seen one like this in a city before!

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Sprout Greener Grocers

36-48 Kings Rd, Townsville QLD
Mon-Fri – 9am – 6pm
Sat – 9am – 4pm

Plant Essentials
2/271 Flinders St, Townsville QLD
Mon-Fri – 9.30am – 5pm
Sat – 9.30am – 3pm

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Spring Pea and Mint Risotto

Okay, so as promised, today I’ve got a recipe for you!

As I said yesterday, we made it to Bowen in the afternoon. Aside from the Big Mango, Bowen is also known as ‘the Mural town’, due to the (you guessed it) murals painted on the sides of many buildings around town. We took a little wander and saw some of them, I think there were upwards of 20 in total though. They all told a little about the Town’s history, or the community which was pretty cool.

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Afterwards, we went down to the foreshore, where they’ve obviously done some recent upgrades. There was a killer new skate park that Billy enjoyed, and also this amazing waterpark/playground that was free for all. Every couple of minutes, the big bucket at the top would fill up and then pour over the whole playground. It was pretty spectacular.

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We decided to cook up a feed before travelling a further 45km to a free overnight stop north of Bowen, on the way to Ayr.

This recipe was adapted from a Donna Hay magazine, and truth be told, my mum was actually the first to veganise this one last time we were in Melbourne. I really enjoyed it, the mint brings a nice fresh flavour to the risotto.

This time I made it slightly different, as I got a bunch of snow peas at the farmer’s market the other day and used them in the place of sugar snap peas. The original recipe also calls for snow pea tendrils for serving, which would have given it a bit more oomph, but we were just using what we had available to us. We got the lovely big bunch of mint from the markets too, and it had been picked just the night before. It smelt and tasted amazing. Anyway, here’s the recipe!

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*note: when we had this at my mum and dad’s, mum used a mortar and pestle to grind up the mint leaves and salt. We don’t have one in the van, so I gave it a few pulses in the food processor, and then used the back of a spoon and a bowl to mush it into a paste.

Spring Pea and Mint Risotto
(serves 4-6)

2 cups fresh mint, roughly chopped
1tsp sea salt flakes
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups Arborio rice
1 1/2 L hot chicken flavoured stock
3/4 cup frozen peas
200g snow peas (or sugar snap peas), trimmed, blanched and halved
1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2 Tbsp Tofutti cream cheese, plus extra for serving
Snow pea tendrils for serving (optional)

Put the mint and sea salt in a mortar and pestle and pound until a rough paste forms (see note above). Add 1 Tbsp of the oil and stir to combine. Set aside.

Heat the other Tbsp of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4-5 minutes until the onion has softened. Add the wine and cook off for another 2 minutes, before adding the rice and cooking for a further 2 mins, stirring frequently.

Add the stock, 1 cup at a time, allowing each to absorb before adding the next, and cook, stirring frequently, for 20-25 minutes or until rice is cooked al dente.

Remove from heat and stir in yeast flakes, Tofutti, snow peas, frozen peas and salt and pepper (to taste). Serve with a dollop of Toffuti, and if you like, drizzle with a little olive oil. Chuck on some snow pea tendrils too if you have them! I didn’t..

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More Strawberries!

We were supposed to work all day today, but it was so quiet that we got let off at 1pm, which was a bit of a bummer. Hopefully tomorrow is busy enough to keep us on all day, same for Sunday.

We are staying in the showgrounds, which is where the expo we are working at is held which is super convenient. These showgrounds don’t normally permit camping for some reason, but they do for workers when there are events on. They have ultra new showers/toilet blocks which is like luxury after the mosquito cesspool bathrooms of the last place we paid to stay at.

Also, there is possibly a farmers market here tomorrow morning, which is AWESOME! When we got work I was pleased, but also kind of bummed that we wouldn’t be able to look for a farmers market for the second weekend in a row. Now maybe they will come to us! I say maybe, because no one seems to be 100% sure whether they are on due to the expo being on. Fingers crossed!

Anyway, today’s food related business comes to you courtesy of Emma over at Coconuts and Berries. Her theme for vegan MoFo is awesome – she’s doing an A-Z of ingredients, featuring a different one every day. This was way back at C for chia seeds!

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I love chia pudding. I also love overnight oats with chia seeds. I am also up to my ears in strawberries in Queensland! And while I have topped my brekkies with strawberries, I’d never thought to blend them into the milk. This was something I had to try!

Unfortunately, upon opening our strawberries we discovered they had begun to grow mould from the inside out, so I salvaged what I could but it definitely could have done with a few more. In saying that, this was a delicious change to my usual vanilla or chocolate version. Emma calls it ‘strawberries and cream’ and that’s exactly what it’s like – super creamy and sweet.

I recommend checking out this recipe (and all her other wonderful ones) here on her blog!

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Cheesy Spaghetti in Mackay

We are now in Mackay, the sugar capital of Australia!

We were going to just pass through as we were told there wasn’t much in the way of work here at the moment, but I guess we lucked out and checked gumtree at the right time, as we managed to snag three days cash work working a stall at an exhibition at the showgrounds. Awesome! This kind of thing is super handy when you are averaging $70/day in petrol money.

So we will be working here until Sunday, after which we’ll head north towards Townsville.

Mackay seems nicer than the last few towns we’ve stopped in, definitely more lively. The weather is crazy though! I can’t believe we are only a couple of weeks out of winter…it’s averaging 30 degrees every day! My driving arm has got a serious tan going. Also I am too scared to swim because of crocodiles….I’ve never been in croc country before so am super paranoid.

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We managed to take a little peek at the town yesterday, visiting ArtSpace, the contemporary art gallery here which was pretty cool. It had this amazing exhibition called Two Islands, One Home: A story of belonging, which commemorated the 150th anniversary of the arrival of South Sea Islanders in Queensland. It was a really heartbreaking history of South Sea Islanders being brought to Australia (either tricked, kidnapped or lied to about their prospects) to work in the sugar fields (under slave-like conditions). After some time of being here, many were subject to the nasty White Australia policy and deported. Those who stayed faced harsh discrimination. This was really educational for me, as while I know a lot about Australia’s history (past and present) of racism and discrimination towards Aboriginal people, the stories of the South Sea Islanders were new to me.

Today we ran some errands and got ourselves organised, used a movie voucher we’d been carrying around for MONTHS (we saw a pretty lighthearted movie – R.I.P.D, it was pretty good. I love Jeff Bridges so y’know.) When we got home, we prepped some hummus for sandwiches tomorrow while we have to work, some brekky for tomorrow and then just wanted something quick and easy for dinner. Enter cheesy pasta!

I’m not really doing a great job of sticking to my theme, although all the salad ingredients bar the red onion were locally sourced (either here in Mackay or on the way here). We bought the nooch yesterday at the health food store, and it was a type I’d never seen before. Most stores here seem to stock the Lotus brand, but this shop had their own packaged nooch so we decided to give it a try. It was much paler and when I tasted it dry it almost had a smokey flavour.

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However, when I used it to make cheesy sauce, it didn’t quite stand up to the test as well as the Lotus brand. It didn’t thicken as well, and the flakes didn’t completely break down – there were specks through the sauce. Nevertheless, it satisfied our need for a quick ‘cheesy’ dish.

I just kind of threw this one together…this is my quick cheesy sauce when I want something easy. It’s sort of based on the one in Sarah Kramer’s Vegan A Go-go, as well as the Mac n Trees from AFR. I don’t suppose you really need the recipe, but here goes anyway. I usually use onion and garlic powder, but we don’t have a huge herb/spice collection as we don’t have the spare space in the van.

Cheesy sauce

2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp flour
Half a Massel veg stock cube
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a pot over medium-low heat and sauté garlic until golden.

In a separate bowl, mix yeast and flour together. Add water and whisk to combine.

Add liquid mix to the pot, add stock cube, and bring to a boil while stirring continuously. Once bubbling, turn down to a simmer and continue to stir for another couple of minutes, until sauce thickens.

Turn off the heat and add mustard, lemon juice and salt and pepper and stir through. Stir through pasta and top with cracked pepper and smoked paprika (or hot sauce, of course).

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