Avocado and Zucchini Chocolate Cake

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Pretty proud of this one! I’ve been reading a lot of Poppy’s blog lately (bunnykitchen.com). I really like her innovative use of ingredients that you wouldn’t really expect otherwise, and pushing the boundaries of vegan food. Even though I’m not vegan myself I love a lot of vegan food, especially when it involves a lot of fresh produce (and cake).

My parents are market gardeners, and after I visited them a couple weeks ago I had a heap of produce leftover that were destined for the bin if I didn’t use them up! Like most cakes, it doesn’t matter too much if your veggies have turned for the worse a little, so it’s a great way to use up large amounts of veg in one go. Brilliant!

This cake is inspired by Poppy’s beetroot and avocado cake. I swapped out a few ingredients and it still came out deliciously moist and rich. The avocado acts as a healthy replacement for margarine, which isn’t all that great for you. It’s great for vegan cakes where butter is obviously not an option.

The dark chocolate ganache is super simple but really rich. It can be a bit bitter, so I added agave nectar to sweeten it (you can use any kind of sweetener really).

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Avocado and Zucchini Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups flour (I used self-raising)
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 ripe avocado, mashed
1 cup zucchini, grated
1/4 cup sunflower oil (any flavourless oil is okay)
1 cup liquid sweetener (I used half cup agave nectar, and half vanilla sugar syrup I just happened to have in my fridge haha)
2 tsp vanilla extract/essence.

Method:

Preheat oven to 175°C.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour through to salt).
Add wet ingredients (everything else), and mix until combined well.
Spray a 20cm springform tin with olive/canola oil and spoon cake mix into tin, smoothing down the top as much as possible (I didn’t do this and as a result the top of my cake was really lumpy and ugly).
Bake for about 45 mins, checking every 10-15 mins with a skewer. Cake is done when the skewer comes out cleanly.
Put cake on a rack to cool for 5 mins or so, then take it out of the springform tin on the rack to cool completely.
Decorate with ganache and sprinkles of dessicated coconut.

Vegan Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

300g dark chocolate (I used 200g of 70% and 100g 85%)
100g coconut cream
2 tbsp liquid sweetener (optional)

Method:

Melt chocolate down in a small pot on a very low heat, stirring often and taking care not to burn it (you can microwave, but I find that really erratic and potentially messy).
Once completely melted, take it off heat and add coconut cream and liquid sweetener (if using), stirring quickly until it forms a thick ganache.
Spread on cake while warm as it hardens as it cools.

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Cat Pizza Pockets

It happened.

I made food to look like cats.

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These are relatively simple to make, if a bit finicky. I also haven’t worked out how to stop the pizza sauce and cheese to leak out from the bottom, but it’s fine because a) they’re cute and b) as they cool the cheese etc. solidifies, and you can discard the excess and they stay relatively whole.

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Leaky cats!

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Cleaned up.

So yeah, very simple. Pre-heat your oven to 175°C. Take a pizza dough recipe (I used this one: http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/14433/pizza+dough), and separate the dough into evenly sized balls. Leave extra dough for decorations like tails and cheeks. Take one ball of dough at a time and roll into a flat circular disc. Then add filling (I used tomato pizza sauce, onion, mozzarella, mushroom and capsicum/bell pepper).

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It’s really important that you only use small amounts of ingredients, especially sauce. I’d also recommend chopping your filling much finer than I have in the above pic, as it makes it easier to fold/roll up. The result is a mostly doughy vaguely pizza tasting treat, but I feel the visual effect makes up for any lack of taste (and they still taste good, don’t get me wrong!).

Carefully fold/roll your dough into a ball shape, taking care not to tear the dough (if you do, just seal it up with some extra dough). I find pinching it together like a dumpling, then carefully rolling between your palms works best for me.

When you’ve got your pizza pocket, pinch the dough on one side and make your cat ears.

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Add extra decorations like cheeks, tails, and faces (I used peppercorns for eyes and noses).

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Repeat for the rest of your balls of dough. Once you’re done, brush the tops with an egg wash (if vegan, you can probably just skip this step or brush soy/whatever milk instead).

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Bake for ~15 minutes or until golden brown on top and crispy on the outside.

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Meow!

Asian-Style Corn and Vegetable Soup

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This is a little something I whipped up last night for dinner. It looks a bit like vomit but i promise it’s delicious! It’s great as an entrée or as a main, and super quick and easy to make – perfect for busy people or beginner cooks. It also freezes relatively well so great to cook in bulk.

This dish in particular is a hybrid inspired by two dishes commonly found in Asian cuisine: chicken and sweet corn soup, and Asian hot pot (‘lau’ in Vietnamese). Lau is traditionally a communal dish, with a big pot of boiling broth in the middle of the table. Diners then put whatever meat (usually seafood), tofu, noodles or vegetables they like until cooked, then that is quickly taken out to be consumed and replaced by more raw stuff. The nature of the dish therefore is quick-cooking food for a high turnover rate, hence why this is so quick to make.

It’s great because you can throw however much you want of whatever you want into this and it still turns out amazing. Unfortunately, because of this I don’t have exact quantities for a recipe, but I’ll try my best for the sake of this post, haha. This particular version is vegan (I had vegetarian guests over for dinner last night), but would go amazingly with chicken (poached beforehand and shredded) or seafood (thrown in raw).

Corn and Vegetable Soup
Serves ~4

Ingredients:

~3 cups chicken/vegetable stock (I used water and 2x Massels chicken style stock cubes)
1/2 brown onion, finely chopped (optional)
1 400g can of creamed corn
1 cup baby corn, chopped to desired length
1/2 bunch bok choy, chopped to desired size
1/2 broccoli, chopped
100g enoki mushrooms
1 cup button mushrooms, chopped finely
1 tbsp corn flour (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Coriander/cilantro, as a garnish

Directions:

1. Bring stock to boil. Chuck in onion and stir through.

2. Stir through creamed corn and bring back to boil.

3. Stir through remaining ingredients and allow to cook. This should take all of 2 minutes to cook everything.

4. At this point you can either take off the heat and serve, or you can stir through the corn flour mixed with a tbsp of cold water if you want a thicker broth. You can also crack and mix through an egg for a non-vegan version (be sure to break and stir the egg so the yolk will mix into the soup and the white makes little ribbons throughout the broth).

5. Serve topped with finely chopped coriander/cilantro and generous helpings of salt and pepper.