Earlier this year I decided to try out a vegan diet for a few weeks as a personal challenge. While I found it a bit difficult when eating out, I really enjoyed cooking vegan meals. Setting limitations on the ingredients I could use made me more creative, and I fell in love with a few dishes that I never would have made otherwise.
Before going vegan, I had never cooked lentils before (weird, I know). During the challenge, I made up for lost time, eating lentils nearly every day because they’re a great source of plant-based protein. One of the best things I cooked was a vegan shepherd’s pie that used lentils in place of ground beef. It was just as hearty as a traditional shepherd’s pie and I maybe managed to eat half a tray of it by myself because it was just plants, ya know?
I made nut roasts on Sundays, because Leo and I couldn’t bear to forego a Sunday roast. I stirred coconut yogurt into vegetable curry for extra creaminess. I even made my own pizza crust and sauce and had a vegan pizza night. Yup, no cheese.
I know what you’re thinking. Pizza without cheese? That’s not pizza. That’s just bread with sauce and vegetables. A few months ago, I would’ve agreed with you. But after I discovered vegan parmesan, the prospect of cheese-less pizza was much more appealing.
Now that over a month has passed since we got back from Australia and my “I just spent three weeks on the beach” glow has unquestionably faded, I think it’s time for a little more reminiscing on our honeymoon. I need a little reminder of carefree summer times to power through these last few months of excessive bundling up in an unheated flat.
When I last left off, we had just returned from our New Years adventures on a farm in Mulloon. After that, Leo and I hopped on a plane in Sydney and flew to Melbourne, just the two of us, for a few days of exploring the coffee capital. We stayed in a minimalist-chic Airbnb in Fitzroy, surrounded by colorful graffiti and too many cute cafés to count.
We ate our first meal at Industry Beans, which I had been obsessing over since I found it on Instagram a few weeks before (broccoflower, activated charcoal purée, pickled beetroot, avocado cashew butter, puffed grains, and a pea-dusted poached egg, all on one plate. Need I say more?). We explored the neighborhood on foot, stopping frequently to take photographs and drink Aperol Spritzes. The next day, we wandered through the Royal Botanic Gardens, then took a trip to St. Kilda to try to spot the penguins that waddle out onto the beach at dusk. We were a little too early to see them, but I did manage to drink a glass of wine at a bar overlooking the ocean. You win some, you lose some.
Favorite things, February 2017:
- The new season of the podcast You Must Remember This is finally out and it’s SO GOOD. This season profiles famous blonde actresses in classic Hollywood that died tragic deaths, and it’s dark and scandalous and delicious. Also, Karina Longworth’s voice makes me want to put on my finest housedress and sit next to a crackling fire drinking whiskey on the rocks.
- I’ve mentioned it on Instagram before, but I’ve been getting in the habit of making a big pot of vegetable stock every so often. I save up my scraps from the week in the freezer (carrot tops, the ends of onions, parmesan and lemon rinds, any vegetable that looks like it’s near its end), throw them in a pot, cover it all with water and let it simmer away for a few hours. If it needs a kick I’ll add some Marmite, and I usually throw in some peppercorns and fennel seeds, too. Basically, the stock contains whatever I have on hand at the time. I freeze whatever I don’t use in a few days, and it’s great to have around for weeknight dinners. (Yesterday I made a stock with a lot of veg and FOUR parmesan rinds that I had in my freezer. It was so rich—I highly recommend.)
One of my favorite flavor combinations in the world is chocolate and raspberry. Growing up, I spent my summers eating chocolate-raspberry Handel’s ice cream cones with my brothers in the scorching Midwestern heat, lips stained from the dark chocolate; for my birthday each year, Betsy would make me the most decadent chocolate cake with ganache and raspberry jam. It’s a pairing that reminds me of the people I love.
Last year for Valentine’s Day, I made funfetti mini cakes and tried to pretend that I wasn’t thousands of miles away from my valentine person. While I’m not particularly attached to the holiday, I do appreciate any reason to celebrate, and the one person I wanted to celebrate with was across the sea! Consuming spoonfuls of strawberry frosting helped, but it was hard. Long distance, y’all. It’s rough.
One of my favorite parts of our holiday in Australia was our road trip up the coast to Byron Bay, mostly because of all the amazing beachside cafés we stopped at along the way. Every town we drove through had its own version of an effortlessly cool, laidback, brunch-y coffee shop, and I couldn’t get enough of them. I loved the rustic, fresh-from-the-kiln tableware. I loved the kitschy collectible antique spoons. I loved the meticulously poured flat whites (seriously, can you get a bad coffee in Australia? I think not).
But what struck me most was the simplicity of the menus at these cafés. They all relied on the same healthy-ish breakfast staples: yogurt and granola bowls, poached eggs and sourdough, avocado toast—but they each managed to add original twists to their dishes. One café added avocado slices to a bountiful bowl of yogurt, passionfruit, and granola, a combination that satisfied my sweet tooth and my craving for healthy fats in an unexpected way. Another plopped a generous scoop of coconut ice cream on top of a stack of pancakes and fruit (I REPEAT: ice cream on pancakes!!!). I was in paradise.