Warming Pumpkin Soup

So I’ve been out of touch a while…we’ve been having some awesome adventures which I’ll talk more about later. We’re in country Queensland at the moment – yes! – we made it over the border at last. Just a quick post to say I’m still here – I had an awesome cannelloni recipe to share (my best one to date!) but I lost the paper napkin I wrote it on…I’m hoping it shows up in the van somewhere. I know, keeping information on a paper napkin is not ideal. Instead, I’ve got a quick and easy one for you – a pumpkin soup I made in the van last night. We were given a whole pumpkin a few days ago, so we used the opportunity we had being plugged into power at the Chinchilla Weir to whizz up this one. We only have one smallish pot, so we had to make do with whatever would fit. I know everybody has their own spin on pumpkin soup (I like a healthy dash of white pepper, or some red or green thai curry paste), but this one is a simple one that can be tweaked however you like.

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Pumpkin Soup
(serves 4)

Half a medium sized pumpkin, peeled and chopped
1 medium potato, chopped
1 tbsp oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
Thumb of ginger (about one inch), minced
Vegetable stock (enough to cover veggies)
1/2-1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium to large saucepan. Add onion and saute over medium heat for a couple of minutes until softened. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant.

Add curry powder, cumin and cayenne pepper and cook for about 30 seconds, before adding pumpkin and potato. If you have the space and feel like a thicker soup, throw a couple more potatoes in. Fill with enough veggie stock to cover the vegetables.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Allow to cook until veggies are soft enough to mash. Add salt and pepper, then get your whizz stick and mix until smooth (or transfer to a blender – but remember to let it cool a little first so there’s no soup explosions!). And voila! Ready to eat! We toasted some garlic bread under the grill to dip in and topped with plenty of pepper and cayenne as I like it spicy.

Enjoy!

Last days in the bay + Orange Chia Seed cake

We had a lovely last week in Nelson Bay, being able to get out and about a bit more than the previous few after my little accident. On the long weekend, Billy’s brother and his partner and two of their friends came up to stay, which was a nice opportunity to get to see them all one last time before we shipped out. We took a little trip out to Stockton Beach, which is famous for its sand dunes, which appear to just go on forever. Billy tells me they ship sand from the dunes there to beaches in Hawaii but I’m not sure if that’s actually true or not (sometimes he tells very convincing mistruths), so I cannot confirm this for sure. It was a gorgeous day, and we were lucky enough to see whales playing off in the distance from the shore which was cool. They are all migrating north for the winter, so it’s apparently really common to see them pass up the coast at this time of year. That being said, it was my first whale sighting so it was pretty exciting for me!

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The long weekend also coincided with the Bluewater Country Music Festival, which was happening all around Port Stephens, but predominantly in the Bay. I love it when things like this pop up unexpectedly, especially when it’s something that you might not have normally gone out of your way to attend. The little town of Nelson Bay came alive, with performers on every corner of the town, market stalls along the waterfront and gigs at pretty much every venue in town each night. There was even – wait for it – the longest line dance (for charity) down the main street on Monday morning. You better believe we were going to be there for that!
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It was amazing! I think the count was over 100 people, some of whom were very happy to have their photo with us. Billy even managed to get a few dancing tips…
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We spent the next few days repacking, reorganising, fixing little bits here and there, doing loads of washing and so on, preparing to get back on the road at last. We picked wednesday for a set of date, which also happened to be Billy’s birthday, so we had a nice farewell lunch with Billy’s grandparents and set off in the afternoon. I made an Orange Poppyseed cake (subbing poppy seeds for chia seeds as we had them on hand), which was absolutely delicious. You can find the recipe over at Veggieful’s beautiful blog – go check it out, there are loads of mouthwatering recipes accompanied by stunning photos. I just discovered this blog the other day when searching for the perfect cake, and am already hooked!
I tweaked the recipe a tiny bit, adding extra juice and zest as the oranges I had didn’t have the strongest flavour. I made about double the icing as well, so that I could do a middle layer. This picture doesn’t do justice to the deliciousness of the cake…not my best icing effort, but trust me – the taste made up for it.
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Billy rated it his third favourite cake, after this one that I made for his birthday last year, and the VWaV carrot cake. It’s definitely going to be added to the cake rotation!
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Nelson Bay + VWaV Ginger Macadamia Coconut Carrot Cake Recipe

So we’ve been hanging out in beautiful Nelson Bay for a couple of weeks now, staying with Billy’s grandparents. We have had to go into Sydney a couple of times to get to the hospital, but as the burn is healing well, I got the all clear the other day, and don’t have to go back again! Hallelujah! So now we can get our trip really kicking again, and we’re going to take off on Wednesday up the coast for some sightseeing and job searching. It’s really exciting to be on our way again, but there’s always a hint of sadness when we leave a place, particularly one where there’s been so much family (for Billy anyway).

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We’ve loved staying here, and have had beautiful weather for the most part, which has meant we got to have some fun in the sun. We borrowed some bikes off of B’s grandparents and went on a few rides around the bays and beaches here which was awesome. They are getting rid of one of their bikes, as they’re moving house, so we are going to lock it to the bullbars and take it with us, hopefully picking up another somewhere along the way. It’s awesome having bikes as we can just park the van somewhere and ride off, and cover a far greater distance than if we were walking. That being said, we have also been on a few walks, a favourite being up Mt. Tomaree. It was quite a short steep walk, with a well established pathway and stairs up to the top. Apparently people run up and down it for exercise, but that was a bit too keen for us. The views from the peak were just stunning!

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Mothers Day also passed while we were here, and I took the opportunity to make one of my favourite cakes for Billy’s Nan. This one comes to you from Vegan with a Vengeance, it’s the amazing Ginger-Macadamia-Coconut-Carrot Cake. Ideal for a special occasion (but also ideal for eating whenever you want to). In my experience, this cake never fails to please, no matter who the audience. It is just deeeeeelicious!! If you’ve never tried it before, do – trust me, it will seriously blow your mind!

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Ginger-Macadamia-Coconut-Carrot Cake with Coconut Icing

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups carrots, grated

Preheat oven to 180C and lightly grease two 8-inch round springform cake pans, or if you prefer, one 9×13-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground spices.

In a separate large bowl, mix together the pineapple juice, oil, sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in small batches and combine well with a hand mixer or strong fork. Fold in the macadamias, ginger, coconut, and carrots.

Divide the batter evenly between the two round pans, or spread in the rectangular pan, and bake for 40-45 minutes. Let it cool in the pans. Allow to cool, before icing between the layers and on top with the following recipe. If you used one pan, you can either cut the cake in two or just leave it as a single layer. The double tier makes it just that bit snazzier.
Coconut Icing

1/4 cup nuttelex or other vegan margarine
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Cream margarine until light and fluffy. Add the coconut milk and vanilla and combine. Add the confectioners sugar and mix until smooth. Add the coconut, mix to combine, and refrigerate until ready to use.

This usually makes enough icing to do the sides too, but I kind of like how it looks without. I also like to sprinkle more shredded coconut on top, just to make it look pretty and fluffy. Hope you enjoy it!

– x –

Raw Zucchini Pesto Pasta

Our cooking facilities in the van are somewhat limited, with a small two burner gas stove and a thin grill underneath (which we have not yet used). We do have a stick blender/processer for when we are plugged into power which is amazing and means smoothies for breakfast on those days. Yay! Otherwise, we have to be somewhat imaginative with our meals. We also have pretty limited cupboard space, so we can’t keep a lot of ingredients. We have to be picky with our spices etc, and I don’t have the array of flours that I used to have at home! So far so good though, we’ve whipped up old favourites and some new inventions. A fresh favourite is raw zucchini pasta (we also brought a spiral veggie gadget), which we have a number of variations of – this is one of those basic variations. Enjoy!

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Simple Zucchini Pasta
(serves 2)

2 smallish zucchinis
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4-1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
3 tbsp pesto
Salt
Pepper
Chili Flakes

Using a spiral veggie gadget, or however you like to do your raw pasta (you can do thin wide noodles with a veggie peeler), turn all your zucchini into noodles! From there on it’s pretty easy – toss through the rest of the ingredients. Voila! Delicious raw pasta!

With the pesto – I made a batch the day before that we had leftovers of. I don’t have an exact recipe, as I just use what I have and pour things in until I get the right consistency. This one was actually made with activated almonds, basil, spinach, lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper and garlic. I like to had nutritional yeast flakes in too to make it a bit cheesy. I normally chuck the nuts and garlic into a food processor and whizz them up for a bit, then add the rest until it gets to how I want it. Mmmm pesto.

Hold tight and I’ll post some of the other variations on our rotation – raw pasta with balsamic garlic dressing, avocado dressing, and am thinking about trying a raw pad thai in the near future.

– x –