A Raw Food Portrait

When my friend Brendan, who is an art student, asked me to create a portrait of him, he was pretty loose on the details. He must have sensed my nerves and apprehension because he quickly told me that it could be words, or something abstract, or anything I felt comfortable with. The thing is… I consider myself creative, but I’m certainly not an artist by any stretch of the imagination. I did, however, accept the challenge.

Brendan
Raisins, silverbeet, celery, zucchini, mushroom, red capsicum, strawberries, carrot & apple.

I decided on a food portrait for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Brendan and I met via our mutual interest in raw foods. He constantly works towards a happier, healthier existence, so it felt fitting to portray him with a variety of items I found in my organic food delivery! Secondly, food is a medium I’m obviously pretty comfortable with – I’d say most of us are fairly well versed in making faces out of our food from a young age (am I right?).

These days I just eat… And sometimes talk. I’m starting to re-think my strategy – afterall, what’s wrong with a bit of re-arranging and day dreaming? Life is so fast paced sometimes. A couple of pea-eyes in my mash could transform a horrible, exhausting day at work into a happy, relaxed evening of silliness and laughter.

House Toast
“House Toast”. Not because I have kids, but because I AM a kid. And yes, I realise the chimney is crooked and that’s a horrible photo. Whatevs! I’m in it for a smile today, lack of perfection isn’t going to bother me.

Don’t Waste Produce: Juice & Freeze

Although our diet isn’t 100% organic, our home is fairly well stocked with organic foods compared to most and in addition to never wanting to waste money, I never like to waste food. You know that line parents use to guilt their kids into eating everything on their plate? “What about all the starving kids in Africa?” Well, it stuck with me and I can’t waste food without feeling like an ungrateful little brat – so the trick is to not waste it.

A lot of people carry on about organic food being expensive and sure – in some cases, it really is outrageous (I’ve seen celery for $6.95 a bunch lately and red capsicums for $24.95/kg) but in most cases, you can shop smart by buying in season and in bulk. It’s common sense, really.

So what’s a girl to do when she buys in bulk but can’t eat it all?

Freeze it. In some cases I will juice and freeze things, or blanch and freeze them – it just depends. Today, I’m going to focus on juicing.

Apple Juice
Frozen organic apple juice.

I’ve recently started juicing all the fruit & veg that I realistically won’t be able to eat before it goes bad and freezing it in mini silicone cupcake trays – each pod holds exactly one tablespoon of liquid. When they’re solid, I transfer them to a container or zip lock bag and keep them in the freezer; I also freeze the pulp. For the most flexibility/options for use, I juice only one fruit or vegetable at a time, rather than mixing items together.

What’s it good for?

  • Blend cubes in smoothies with fresh or frozen fruit of your choice. It’s a great alternative to plain ol’ water ice cubes.
  • Cocktails. Need I say more?
  • You can defrost the juice (in the fridge or at room temp) in any combination you like for a refreshing, cold juice.
  • Add the frozen juice to a glass or jug of water.
  • The pulp can be used for making raw crackers. I’m yet to come up with another use for this, but feel free to throw some ideas at me!

This simple act feels like some kind of genius accomplishment to me. For one, it means I only have to dirty my juicer once to get several serves of juice. That’s right, folks. No more messin’ about trying to clean the 5,632 parts of your juicer while you’re still half asleep in the morning!

Las Vegan Bakery/Café

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne

Las Vegan Bakery/Café
22 Smith St
Collingwood
VIC 3066
AUSTRALIA
Ph: (03) 9415 9001

Upon entering Las Vegan, it was apparent to me that my anxiety levels were quickly rising, so Mr. AA & I opted for a table outside, even though the weather was a little questionable. The space is small and cramped with badly arranged furniture that makes you feel like an intrusion. I didn’t take any photos inside because it felt too awkward, but there’s potential for the space to feel a lot more comfortable, it just needs some attention. Thankfully, our waiter was kind and relaxed, and after looking at the menu, I could see these guys had a sense of humour.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne

Everything on the menu is reasonably priced, though I’m not sure much of it would appeal to a non-vegan. There was a few mock meat & fish options, lentil options and black bean options. The specials of the day were eggplant parmas and lasagne – both were tempting! However Mr. AA & I were both drawn to the same item on the menu: the mushroom mince.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne

Mr. AA chose the sloppy joe burger with chips and I chose the mince on rice with salad. The mis-matched plates amused me… I’m not sure if this was an attempt at being kitschy or a symbol of their firm hippy/recycling beliefs. Either way, I didn’t have a problem with it – it made me feel like I was eating food made with love in someone’s home.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne
Las Vegan Sloppy Joe Burger with mushroom mince.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne
Mushroom mince on rice with gourmet salad.

We were both big fans of the mince – it has a really good, mild flavour and a realistic texture. Admittedly, I was expecting a higher mushroom to TVP ratio – in fact, I was hoping for no TVP at all because I don’t really dig it, but in this case, there’s no question about making an exception. It was pretty damn tasty. Also – two thumbs up for serving this with brown rice, not white.

The “gourmet salad” was fairly plain and barely dressed, but I liked the grilled eggplant and capsicum in it and I honestly prefer salad to be under dressed as opposed to over dressed and soggy. My only complaint here is that the olives weren’t pitted, so I almost broke a tooth! Watch out for those little suckers.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne

The chips were… pretty amazing. Perfectly crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside – they’re exactly what Mr. AA & I look for in a chip!

We (*I*) also grabbed a slice of the raw lemon cheesecake to take home. There were Mr Nice Guy cupcakes on display and a dense looking chocolate bundt cake with icing dribbling all over the place (which looked delicious!) but I wanted to take a chance and try something that I’d only ever made at home, to see how someone else’s version compared.

Las Vegan Bakery/Café in Melbourne
Raw Lemon Cheesecake.

This was, hands down, my favourite item. I took it back to the car with the SOLE intention of sliding it out of the bag and taking photos before the agave spread out and looked ugly/messy. My stomach was full and I planned to save it for after dinner that night, but… Well, look at it, guys. I couldn’t resist having a little taste and before I knew it, I’d stuffed the entire slab of compressed nuts into my face and my hands were sticky with agave. But I didn’t care. Because it was incredible.

These guys do take-away and have gluten free options. One thing I didn’t take a photo of (and wished I had) was the glasses of juice we ordered. It wasn’t fresh juice, but I suspect it was organic and the size of the glasses was impressive. You know how most places serve a $7 juice in a slim high ball glass with lots of ice? Not these guys. They’ll give you your money’s worth!

(r)Adelaide: Bliss Organic Café

Bliss Organic Café
7 Compton Street
Adelaide SA 5000
AUSTRALIA

Bliss Indoors 2

Saving the best for last isn’t normally my style (I don’t have any objections to eating dessert before dinner) – but in this case, I did it – because Bliss won me over in a heartbeat and I wanted to write a special post dedicated to it!

Dedicated vegan restaurants & cafés are not easy to come by in Australia; they’re not a dime a dozen, so if you run one, it’s gotta be pretty special in order to survive – and Bliss is just that.

For a start, the drinks menu is nothing to roll your eyes at. It’s not the standard so-and-so you find everywhere. I mean, sure, they’ll make you a latté if that’s what you want, but why would you want that when you can get a ginger hot chocolate or a spiced hot apple juice? Not only that, but soy isn’t your only option – you can also get oat, rice and almond milk! By the way, I tried the ginger hot chocolate and it was freakin’ amazing!

I struggled to decide what to order for breakfast. My friend Shane suggested the scambled tofu; I was weary, but decided to take the risk. OH. MY. GOD. Boy, did it pay off.

Tofu Scramble

I always think of scrambled tofu as such a cliché. It’s the standard vegan dish that everyone makes differently and I’ve never found one that seemed quite right. Either the tofu is too chunky or it’s nicely crumbled but kinda rubbery… Or people just get far too carried away with adding flavours to it. It’s never just… right. I’d never met the perfect scrambled tofu until I tried the one at Bliss (which, by the way, craps all over my version – I now have a very high standard to strive for!).

It contained a perfect amount of veggies which didn’t out-shine the simple, fluffy tofu and was laced with pepitas, sesame seeds and flax meal. One of my favourite things about it was the addition of potato – which made the idea of toast completely superfluous.

My friend, Shane, ordered a raw bruschetta for brekkie (yep, they have both raw and gluten free options) which is pictured below. It was simple but also perfect. I often prefer raw food when it’s not over the top.

Raw Bruschetta

In order to try something else from the menu, I ordered the Bliss Burger to take to work for lunch and it definitely didn’t disappoint! The patty was primarily beans & lentils – thus it was nice and soft. The only down side to this was that when I squashed the burger to fit it into my mouth, the patty squeezed out the sides. It was definitely a man-sized serve; I actually ended up removing the top half of the bead bun and eating it with a combination of cutlery and my hands. It got a little messy and involved a lot of finger licking, but I’m not afraid to be classy like that – even in front of my favourite HR advisor 😉

Food-wise, these guys don’t mess around – everything they serve is seriously something special and I’d recommend a trip to Adelaide for the sole purpose of visiting Bliss. Yes, really.

In addition to my big rant about the amazing food, the premises themselves are really inviting. There’s three main sections – the first part has wooden tables and chairs and is set up like a nice cozy café. The second front part has retro style tables and chairs and a little grocery store where you can buy both pantry and refrigerated items AND books. The range is huge and even includes a very decent section of raw foods by the counter. The third section is out the back and is really relaxed – there’s even a little under cover area with cushions for you to remove your shoes and sit at ground level! It’s oh-so-hippy but not in a pretentious way.

Bliss Indoors 1

Bliss Indoors 3

Bliss Outdoor Area

During this wonderful experience, my friend Shane of Pure Gaisha gave me a black waterproof mascara. Since being vegan, I’ve tried a few different mascaras and they often end up smearing under my eyes after only a couple of hours – so for a long time, I just gave up and wore fairly simple eye make up.

Waterproof Mascara

After a full day of wearing the mascara, I can confidently recommend it and tell you that it did not budge from my eyelashes one bit. No smudges, no flaky bits… It’s the most amazing stuff I’ve ever used! And it’s vegan! YAY! Pure Gaisha’s body products and scrubs are also pretty amazing – I’ve been using them for years. I’m not sure why I didn’t take the plunge & try the cosmetics earlier.