Cookbook challenge: Foccacia, hommus and tamarind lentils

The new addition has been keeping our house a veritable hive of activity, so week two of the cookbook challenge has gotten off to a slow start. But tonight I was determined to make up for that. This week’s cookbook, Veganomicon, doesn’t need a lot said about it. Everyone has it, and everyone loves it- even my decidedly non-vegan mother, for whom I bought the book for Christmas (much to the horror of my would-be-entirely-carnivorous-if-it-wouldn’t-kill-him brother). Perhaps the best signifier of my love for this book was the look of pure joy on Hank’s face as he sniffed my battered, stained copy and discovered the smells of dozens of spilled ingredients and thoroughly enjoyed meals.

The real challenge this week is picking out meals that I haven’t made before. Two recipes that I started with today are ones that I’m honestly slightly surprised that I hadn’t tried yet. The first was hommus.

Rosemary foccacia and hommus

Why I hadn’t tried this hommus recipe before is still a mystery to me. But this gave me the chance to test out my new blender- although it struggled at first and took longer than using a food processor, I was pretty pleased with how this turned out. Chadwiko couldn’t tell the difference between this and my usual recipe (which, admittedly, is almost identical, with the use of the blender being the main difference), but I found it creamier. In the end, it’s hommus, which almost always equates to delicious.

I also made the rosemary foccacia from Veganomicon, which is a lot less labour-intensive than it seems. It was so easy to throw together and leave to rise while I made dinner, and then bake as we were eating. This was very similar to the way that I make garlic bread, which is probably a good thing since we like that garlic bread enough that it gets made every couple of weeks. But this makes a lot, too much for two people, so I’m hoping that it freezes well.

Tonight’s second ‘why haven’t I tried this before?’ recipe was tamarind lentils.

Tamarind lentils with sauteed spinach and tomatoes

I love tamarind, and often wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t seem to love it as much as me. I don’t often see recipes including tamarind, so my jar usually only gets used when I’m making up or adapting my own recipes. So why I hadn’t made a dedicated tamarind recipe is entirely beyond me. But now that I have, I definitely will again and again. Chadwiko raved about this dish, loving the pairing of the flavourful lentils with the gingery spinach and tomatoes. I had to agree.

I also loved how weeknight-friendly this was. Once the lentils were boiling, there wasn’t a lot to do other than run around the backyard trying to stop Hank from addressing our outdoor wolf spider infestation with only his teeth. As soon as he was safely back inside with his only injuries to his pride, it was time to finish up the lentils and sautee the spinach and tomatoes.

A healthy puppy, spiders banished outside and a satisfying hot meal on the table? It doesn’t get much better on a Wednesday night.


The newest member of the Wiko family, Mr Hank Scorpio!

With a visiting Laura in tow, we spent our Friday driving three hours out to Wagga Wagga to visit Wagga Animal Rescue. The Wagga pound is a kill shelter, where animals without microchips are euthanised within seven days. Those with microchips are given fourteen days. Hank was lucky to be picked up by the animal rescue organisation, who work to rehome abandoned puppies and older dogs.

The moment we saw him tackling much larger dogs despite his size, we knew he was our feisty little puppy. He’s since settled in well here, claiming our house (and possessions) as his own. Although he’s starting to show his terrier craziness, he’s a smart little beast.

He’s also enjoying the vegan lifestyle, including this apparently delicious mock pig’s ear.

He looks confused, but he was loving it.

Welcome home, Hank!

Cookbook challenge: Chickpea picatta

With our new house still resembling some kind of thrilling box factory worthy of a school excursion, I decided that it was time to class up the place. Enter last night’s dinner and my final Appetite for Reduction meal of the week, chickpea picatta.

Chickpea picatta on garlic herb caulipots and rocket

I served this with the garlic and herb variation of caulipots (mashed potato and cauliflower, for the uninitiated) and fresh rocket. At the risk of sounding like a complete yokel, this here stuff sure is fancy-tasting. Neither Chadwiko or I had ever tried any kind of picatta, and this was a very nice introduction. The caulipots really surprised me, though. Mashed potato has never been a major part of my diet, so I didn’t really understand where the hype around these was coming from. But the garlic and herb version made it very clear- this tastes like all the best things about garlic bread, in potato form. If that description doesn’t get you excited, then nothing ever will and you should resign yourself to a life of constant disenchantment immediately.

Despite not actually having the book yet (curse you, Book Depository!), I’ve been really impressed with Appetite for Reduction so far. The health factor is great, but what won me over was how accessible it is- the ingredients are all reasonably easy to find, and most recipes are quick enough to make on a weeknight with no major stress-related incidents or yelling at spouses while they unhelpfully sit around playing Madden. A lot of recipes in the contents that weren’t available online caught my eye, particularly the curries and chipotle lentil burgers, so I’ll definitely be cooking out of this one over the next few weeks (as well as my upcoming cookbook challenge books) when my copy arrives.

Of course, in my true style, I celebrated the end of a week of healthy eating by making a pile of cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies

What? Don’t you realise how much salad I ate? Come on.

Cookbook challenge: Fried rice and hoisin-mustard tofu wraps

Much to my dismay, after one whole day of eating salad for lunch, my clothes have not become immediately baggier. Nor have I become more skilled at sports or general physical activity. But never fear, a few more dishes from Appetite for Reduction combined with my new morning running routine (from the front door to the bus stop across the road, to avoid the giant, territorial magpie that has claimed our house as its own) and I should start seeing the kinds of changes I see people weep about on the Biggest Loser.

Tonight’s dinner was another step in this direction.

Unfried fried rice and lettuce wraps with hoisin-mustard tofu

This was another winner in the Wiko household. The ‘unfried’ fried rice was similar to my own usual recipe, light but filling. I found the hoisin-mustard tofu to be a little milder than I would have liked, even after adding extra mustard. Next time I would add a healthy dose of heat to each- chopped chilli to the rice, and maybe Sriracha to the tofu. But even without the spice, the cooling effect of the lettuce was pretty great, and makes me want to try serving other things this way.

Now to figure out what junk I can cram into lettuce leaves and dub a ‘healthy meal’. That’s how this low-fat thing works, right?