Tuesday 31 January 2017

Ginger beer and school holidays

Today marked the end of the summer school holidays.  We spent the day traipsing around the shops for new school dresses and a new ipad.  (Can you believe that Grade 3s require ipads at Sylvia's school).  But before Term 1 starts and we get back into routine, I wanted to write a little about the holidays, complete with lashings of ginger beer!

At the start of the holidays, with no plans to go away, it seemed that there was oodles of time.  It is hard to believe that the holidays have passed in the blink of an eye.  Sylvia had a few play dates, a dentist visit and sleepovers at my parents, I did quite a bit of paid work and caught up with a few friends.

I enjoyed a few visits to family in Geelong.  This was my opportunity to get to the beach.  One evening at Western Beach it was fish and chips from King George Fish and Grill which did excellent chips and potato cakes.  We left the first place because at 6pm they had run out of potato cakes.

On another occasion we went to Torquay Front Beach with my nephew, niece and sister-in-law.  We watched the helicopters circling overhead and the water emptying of swimmers with caution.  The lifesavers weren't emptying the beach at nearby Cosy Corner.  But we were not surprised when my brother phoned to let us know there was a shark at the Back Beach.  That day I also got sunburnt and slow traffic past a grass fire.  Sharks, sunburn and fires seemed to tick all the hazards of an Aussie summer!

I missed the quiet of a holiday house to relax with a good book.  Yet we managed some reading at home.  I read Hannah Kent's The Good People which was a grim but fascinating story of poverty and pagan traditions in pre-famine Ireland.  It was cheering to follow it with Judith Will's wonderfully titled Keith Moon Stole My Lipstick.  It was a fun memoir about her working and meeting celebrities at a pop magazine in the 1960s and 1970s.  I also enjoyed reading Sylvia A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee.

In the news we had the local horror of a man driving down with nurderous intent through the Bourke Street pedestrian mall in Melbourne; the national scandal of politicians travel rorts; the sorry state of USA politics as Trump took up his post as president and continued to show a stunning lack of empathy; and the ups and downs in the Australian Open tennis championships.

Spending more time at home than over the last few summers, meant we got to do more about the house.  We painted the backyard mural and spent some time on small improvements to Sylvia's room.  It also meant more time for card games, board games, and for Sylvia to potter about.  I really loved this little picnic scene she created for a green giraffe.

We didn't get out and about as much as I had intended.  We were just too busy most of the time.  I will share more about Moonlight Cinema and The Queen Vic Night Market soon.  I was very excited to be able to visit the Golden Gaytime Crumb Shed in the city.  I still haven't got over my childhood love of Golden Gaytimes.  At the crumb shed they were doing fancy versions and I had a Crumb Choc Millionaire coated with chocolate crumb, smashed potato crisps, desiccated coconut, blue sprinkles, and edible glitter.  It was really good.

Last night I went to see Edge of Seventeen at the cinema with a friend.  It was a good angsty teen drama (complete with boy next to me in cinema with body odour to really give that teen experience).  We had actually intended to see Lion but it was sold out.  So I ate laksa at Shakahari while we waited to see a later movie.  Other films we saw over the holidays at the cinema were La La Land, Sing and Ballerina.  All lots of fun.

We did get along to quite a few cafes.  Today Sylvia and I saw out the holidays with a visit to the Glass Den.  I just loved the pretty Peach and Avo Bruschetta (lime and lemongrass avocado, with peach, mint heirloom capsicum, cherry tomatoes, baby mizuna, beetroot hummus and almond feta served on crisp charcoal loaf).  It is the most memorable meal of the holidays.

I also enjoyed a vegan meatball sub at Mr Nice Guy, the Golden Gaytime Deth Shake at Curators Collective, tacos at The Snug, and waffles at the Boot Factory.  And a few stops for inari at sushi shops with Sylvia.

January was not a good month for posting recipes.  I didn't cook anything for Burns Night or Australia Day this year.  I made some really nice food (and will share some when I write up my next In My Kitchen post), tried some recipes from But I Will Never Go Vegan, but it was not a month that was memorable for making amazing recipes to share.

Given we were very busy, it is no surprise that one recipe I really loved was a simple one.  This ginger beer recipe was in a supermarket magazine. It appealed because it didn't need to sit around for ages or to be strained.  It was just a matter of mixing everything together and pouring it into a bottle the next day, minus the sludge at the bottom.

The result was really good.  I was surprised how these simple ingredients list resulted in a taste like Bundaberg ginger beer.  (Not like ginger ale which I prefer and is a little less sweet.)  We had it with lunch and felt quite fancy.

The main change I would like would be to add less water so I could make up half ginger beer and half soda water for fizziness.  My mum tells me you just need to ferment it for fizziness.  I don't have the room for storing bottles that may explode.  Not even under the bed, which my mum tells me is traditional.  I also wondered about some extra spices, given how much I love the Christmas spiced Bundaberg ginger beer.

For now I have ticked another recipe off my to do list.  I still feel terribly behind but there is so much to do and so little time.  Just in case you have some time, I leave you with some of the holiday reading I had found enjoyable and/or interesting:
  • Alternative Scottish Fusion Burns Supper - Allotment to Kitchen: Shaheen has links to lots of fun variations on vegetarian haggis dishes as well as some interesting background information on Rabbie Burns.
  • Tim Wu interview - The Internet is a classic party that went sour - The Guardian: "The great mistake of the web’s idealists was a near-total failure to create institutions designed to preserve that which was good about the web (its openness, its room for a diversity of voices and its earnest amateurism), and to ward off that which was bad (the trolling, the clickbait, the demands of excessive and intrusive advertising, the security breaches)."
  • Kittens on Pinterest: we have a kitten at our neighbour's so when I saw a kittens board on Pinterest, E and Sylvia enjoyed going all gooey over the cute pictures!
  • Kids and Television - How to Influence What They Learn - Hey Sigmund: Research has been done on how to get the most out of kids watching television and the results are simple and common sense: "When parents watch television with their children, the capacity of those children to learn from what they see increases."
  • English bubble physicist Helen Czerski says Donald Trump is a Magic Pill - The Age: An article which says Trump seems like a magic pill but there is no such thing: "Life – stuff like climate change and pandemics and antibiotic resistance – is complicated, and even the most agile science communicators can't make it simple."
  • Wesley Enoch wont censor Sydney Festival's Australia Day activities - The Australian: high profile Indigenous director, Wesley Enoch reflects on if we should change the date of Australia Day: “What’s more important? That we have a meaningful discussion and debate about what it means to be Australian, and remember the First Peoples on that day, and acknow­ledge past wrongs.”

More summer drinks on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apricot and passionfruit smoothie (gf)
Chilled apple green tea (gf, v)
Lemonade (gf, v)
Limeade (gf, v)
Lime Spiders (gf)
Tropical orange and carrot smoothie (gf, v) 

Ginger Beer
From Woolworth Fresh magazine December 2016

3/4 cup castor sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice (bit less than one medium lemon)
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp dried yeast
1.25l boiling water*
fresh mint leaves and ice blocks, to serve

Place all ingredients in large saucepan, cover loosely and leave over night at room temperature.  The next morning, skim off any, skim off any scum and pour into a bottle in fridge with at least 4cm space at the top (we used a 2 litre bottle and had plenty of room).  Discard the sediment at the bottom of the saucepan.  Store in the fridge.  Serve with ice blocks and mint leaves if desired.

*NOTES: next time I make this I might experiment with adding a bit more than half the water and then serving it with half ginger beer and half soda water to make it fizzy.

On the Stereo:
Remember Us to Life: Regina Spector

Saturday 28 January 2017

Cranberry and camembert tarts - using leftover cranberry sauce

"Summer's lease hath all too short a date", as the Bard once wrote.  And so the School Holidays are almost over and Term 1 of another year is almost upon us.  Alas I still have fruit mince and cranberry sauce in my fridge.  So in the interest of sharing some leftover ideas, here are the very simple cranberry and camembert tarts I made soon after Christmas.

I have been meaning to make them again with another cheese but am yet to do it.  They are delicious but not quite the healthy eating we all promise ourselves after Christmas.  But a lovely wintery snack.  And who knows, my cranberry sauce might last that long.  So before summer and this recipe fades into the mists of time, here is it.

Actually it is too simple to really need a recipe.  I just cut a square of ready-rolled puff pastry into six rectangles, spread with cranberry sauce and topped with slices of camembert.  I think I baked them for about 20 minutes at 200 C or until the pastry was golden and the cheese was melting and bubbly.

Thanks to The Baking Explorer for inspiration from her Brie Cranberry Tartlets.  Here is some more inspiration:

More recipes to use up cranberry sauce on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Baked brie with cranberry sauce and walnuts (gf)
Cheese, cranberry and thyme muffins
Cranberry and orange glazed tofu (gf, v)
Parsnip, cranberry and chestnut roast

More recipes to use up leftover cranberry sauce elsewhere online:
Brie, pear and cranberry pizza bread - Cook the story
Cranberry black pepper sweet rolls - Daily waffle
Cranberry sauce apple crisp - Just Taste
Sweet potato pancakes with maple cranberry sauce - $5 dinners

On the Stereo:
Set List: The Frames

Thursday 26 January 2017

Curators Collective, Queens Park, Moonee Ponds

"The pigeons stole our gaytime deth shake!" I texted E as we were having lunch at Curators Collective in Moonee Ponds.  Honestly, you couldn't make it up!  And when you saw how cute the cottage is, you would not expect such things of lunch.  I am happy to report that, pigeons aside, it was a really nice place to stop for lunch.

We had first gone there the previous week with a friend and her kids.  As we had arrived we had been shocked to see two little girls sitting at a table watching a pigeon pecking at the lunch their mother had walked away from.  But we had not had any birds too close to use.

Soon we were seated at a shady table.  The service was friendly with our waitress making sure there were enough chairs.  Sylvia was excited to see waffles on the menu, I wanted something savoury and Kathleen's son was off finding turtles in the nearby lake.  There was something for everyone and we all enjoyed their meals.

I ordered the Fat HashBrown, which was a potato and caramelised onion hashbrown served with chipotle mayo, pickled beetroot, poached eggs and pea tendril salad.  However I asked for the vegan version and instead of the egg I had a vegetarian sausage and half an avocado.  It was very satisfying.  I really loved the hashbrown with the beetroot pickle.  It had great flavour, even though the hashbrown softened under the pickle.  And there was plenty of healthy greenery.

Kathleen chose Dr Marty's Crumpets which came with strawberries, icecream and strawberry sauce.  They were pretty to look at and she was very happy with her choice.  She also ordered a tea.  When it came she was told to sit the infuser teapot over her cup and count to three - no more as the tea came out quickly.  She counted a little slowly and her cup was brimming over.  It was a slightly tricky sort of teapot - fun but not intuitive.  We decided the cups needed to be glass so you could see them filling up.

Sylvia zoomed in on the waffles topped with Nutella chocolate sauce, blueberries, vanilla ice cream and chocolate soil.  She was swooning over them and not inclined to share much.  We loved them so much that when passing by a week later we stopped there and she ordered the waffles again.  This time I got more of a look in and agreed that the chocolate sauce was very good.

On our second visit I indulged in a Golden Gaytime Deth Shake.  My favourite ice cream when I was little was a Golden Gaytime with butterscotch ice cream coated by chocolate and biscuit crumbs.  So I ordered this again my inclinations.  It is a salted caramel milkshake, whole golden gaytime, Persian fairy floss, cookie crumble, chocolate and caramel sauce.

My hesitations were that I know I am no fan of caramel milkshakes.  Even chocolate milkshakes are usually a bit milky but caramel are way too milky for me.  And really either an ice cream or a milkshake is more than enough.  But it was a Golden Gaytime.  So I ordered it.  And went to get a spoon for Sylvia.

As I was waiting for service, the waitress said she had to rescue a little girl from the pigeons.  I turned to see those blooming pigeons pecking away at the end of my golden gaytime that I had placed on the top of the jar.  The waitress sprayed water on the pigeons to shoo them away and left the water with us in case they came back.  (Surely this is not what they meant in the commercials that claimed "it's so hard to have a gaytime on your own".) 

Luckily I had eaten a little of my gaytime already.  When I decided just to cut off a big wedge of end that the pigeons had eaten, Sylvia told me they had pecked all around it!  Argh!  She had already eaten my fairy floss.  So we ate the biscuit crumbed chocolate around the top of the jar, which was nutella and very nice.  But I sort of lost interest in the shake.

The above photo of the pigeons in our plates was taken after we left the table when they were there before you could say Gaytime deth shake!

The pigeons are the downside of eating in the middle of the park.  The upside is that it is a really pretty location with lots of lovely plants and mosaics and the lake to walk around.  On the other side of the lake is a good wooden park.  It was really busy in the school holidays.  We have been on other occasions when it wasn't quite so busy.  (We visited the cafe back in 2011 when it was called Oliver's Garden Cafe.)

As well as the park over the other side of the lake, there is a toddler's playground by the side of the cafe.  No wonder there are so many families.  There is also a window for takeaway food.  I know they sell ice creams but can't remember what else.  And there is seating inside for the cooler months.  If you want a lunch, there is a vegan burger that looks good.  The place is not cheap but it does some interesting food and is in a great location for families.

Curators Collective
778 Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds
(03) 9042 4560

Curators Collective Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday 24 January 2017

A backyard mural: forest, fairies and fireworks

This summer's holiday project was painting a mural on our backyard wall.  It is something I have wanted to do for years and am most pleased to have finally done it.  And now that I have done it once, I might even do it again.  So for those of you who are interested, and for my records, here are my notes of what I did.

This was the largest canvas I ever worked with so it was quite a challenge.  I felt a real novice doing it and would probably do some of it differently if I did it again.  For example, I would not paint on a 37 C day because it required lots of sun cream and drinks and it was harder to work with the paint that dried quickly. 

The first challenge was buying the paint.  We went to our local Bunnings hardware store four days in a row.  I was pleasantly surprised at how helpful the staff were.  I was less happy about my hands being quite paint splattered for a few days but most of it came off with soap and water.

Spray Paint
I knew I wanted to spray paint the background and paint more details with brushes.  Choosing spray paints was easy (once the staff unlocked the cage it is kept in).  In the end I think we used about 7 tins of Rustoleum.  This was a good quality oil based gloss spray paint that did about 4 x 4 metres per tin.  As our fence was quite old and soaked up a lot of paint, I think we needed more.  We were told it would be hard to paint over the gloss paint (matt paint was hard to find) and might need some sandpapering.  But it was never a problem, which might be due to the old wood.

Water based paint
For the more detailed painting we wanted lots of colours.  We chose exterior water based paint (ie washes out in water).  Firstly we choose three tints from the colour samples.  Then we purchased a litre of white paint, divided it into four jars, added tints to three and kept one white.  I was limited by sharing my choice with Sylvia (who had her own fireworks section of the wall).  The colours were lighter than I wanted but in the ended looked better than deeper colours.  For more colour options, we bought some pots of primary colours in White Knight Splashes water based enamel paint.  We them did lots of mixing these to increase the palate of colours greatly.  The two colours I really missed were a dark brown and a dark blue or green.  We got by.  At one point, a friend came and helped me mix a dark green using a few of our kids craft paints.

When I did a quick tally, I worked out that we spent close to $200 on paints.  Ouch!  We still have a few half pots of paints. 

Above is a step by step pictorial of painting the fence.

As you can see, the first job was to clear the plants and sweep the concrete clean.  This was great because it is a big job that does not get done often enough.  As you will see in one of the pictures, Sylvia helped with spray painting and doing some of the details, especially the fairy toadstool houses.

In the first picture of the painting, you might notice a very pale blue spray.  It was so pale that we went back and purchased another brighter blue colour that was far more obvious and pleasing.  Generally I think using spray paint for the background saved us a lot of time.  Though I did get a sore finger from pushing the nozzle.  We used face masks when spray painting but no gloves so I got a little on my finger.  (Maybe gloves next time!)  Old clothes were a must too!

I spray painted some vague dark green tree shapes and then gave them more shape with the lime green paint.  Sylvia was unhappy with the lime green looking so yellow in the bottom section but in the end I think it was ok.  When my friend came to help she would have liked to give more shape to the tree tops.  Like me she didn't have the time or the right coloured paints to do it.

And while I would have liked more texture in the tree tops, I was happy to get some texture around the bottom of the trees where the grass and flowers were.  In an ideal world I would have done all the grass and then added flowers.  However, like the bunting, I added flowers as I mixed different colours.  Above you can see that there was a lot of layering.  I really enjoying being able to layer to add texture - a technique I have not used before.

I looked at pictures online and even did a prelim sketch to get an idea of what I was doing.  Sylvia brought me out her Shirley Barber fairy book.  I wish I could paint like that!.  Sylvia enjoyed helping out with the toadstool houses. 

I firstly did the light-coloured longer strings of bunting and felt they were too light.  Then I did some darker smaller strings and realised that the lighter ones were far more visible.  I did the string by painting a line of dots where the top of each triangle should be and adding triangles when I had mixed different colours.  

I had trouble mixing the right greens and it was only when my friend mixed a darker green with craft paints that I was happy with it.  I probably should have gone back and got a darker blue but I was trying to make do with what we had.

A small brush was used for the toadstool houses, fairies, bunting, and  flowers.  I wonder if I should have painted bigger details but it felt right to keep the fairy village small.  Even on this photo you can hardly see the details of the grass and little dots of flowers around the toadstool houses.  But when you actually are in the yard, you see the details. Ditto for the little fairies flying through the air.

While my dream was a little fairy village, Sylvia's was fireworks.  As with the bunting, I think that lighter colours worked better.  I helped with this section of wall but it was done under Sylvia's direction as she had her vision.

One of the issues when painting the fence was that I knew once the plants returned, some of the painting would be covered up - though I also knew that it would be fine to have pictures peeking around the plants.  I took this into account and had the fairy village in an area I knew would have the mint in front of it in small pots.

Once everything returned to its place, it still looks good.  I was pleased to have a place to feature the rusty sculpture of the mother bird feeding it's chick (above).  It was a present from my sister and had been hard to see against the grey wood.

We have had a few rainy days since the mural was finished and it did not wash off.  Phew!  Now I just have to hope the fence doesn't fall over.  It is getting pretty old; we could feel some planks were a little loose when we were painting.

It was really hard to decide when it was finished.  I could have kept going with layers and details and retouches.  But after a week (with a few breaks) I could not justify any more time on it.  So the plants were moved back.  I still dream of some little tweaks.  Maybe one day.  I still would love a giraffe somewhere!  But now my dreams have moved on to Stage Two of back yard beautification: astro turf.  When I regather my energy.  Meanwhile I am enjoying spending time in the backyard, even if it is just hanging out the washing.

Disclaimer: I have noted some of the brands of paints as a reminder but I paid for my own paints and do not have any affiliations with the companies.

Sunday 22 January 2017

Cheesy lentil bake (vegan)

A week or so back I was so intent on painting the back fence that I was hardly stopping for food.  At the end of one of these days, I was so utterly tired I decided to have pasta and a jar of sauce for dinner.  It felt like a cop-out.  So suddenly I found the energy to make the cheesy lentil bake I had originally planned.  Life is always better with a good meal!
Well almost.  Sylvia was not so happy that she didn't get the pasta she had expected.  Recently we had a chat about if there was anything we would have to give up to be vegan and she was quite confident that she would not mind giving up anything.  It seems though that she still has no desire to be veagn and is yet to embrace some vegan staples.  She has not yet learnt to love that earthy smell of lentils cooking.  I find it homey and comforting.

Yes this was great comfort food.  Easy and cheesy.  However I was curious to see how it worked as a vegan bake.  I had sliced vegan Biocheese in the fridge.  It seemed a good idea to use slices of cheese on top but the unbaked version (above) and baked version (below) looked sadly similar.  Not the bubbly golden cheesy topping that dairy would offer.  However it tasted really good.  But next time I would try this vegan mozzarella on top, if I had time.

While Sylvia refused to eat this, E and I loved it.  I really wanted to eat it all that night but I knew that we had a busy day the next day and wanted to make sure we had leftovers.  On the second night, I had it warmed up in a sandwich with baby spinach.  It was just what I needed.  I can see why Becca praised it as a favourite meal of hers.

I am sending this to Meat Free Mondays and Gluten Free Fridays.

More comforting vegan oven bakes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Bubble and squeak frittata (gf, v)
Haggis (v)
Lentil and mushroom nut roast (v)
Shepherd’s pie with sweet potato mash (gf, v)
Smoky apple baked beans (gf, v)
Spaghetti pie (v) 

Cheesy Lentil Bake
Adapted from Amuse Your Bouche
Serves 2-4

1/2 cup red lentils
1/4 cup white rice (I used basmati)
1 1/2 tsp stock powder
1 tbsp oil
1 small leek or onion, diced
1 red capsicum, diced*
1 courgette (zucchini), diced*
100g firm tofu, chopped small*
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp seeded mustard
100g sliced or grated cheddar cheese*
sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Place lentils, rice and stock powder into largish saucepan with 2 and 1/2 cups of water and cover.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until cooked.  After 10 minutes remove lid and stir every now and again to stop it sticking.  Once cooked, remove from heat and keep stirring regularly to let it thicken into a porridge texture.  Set aside.

While lentils and rice are cooking, fry the onion, capsicum, tofu and courgette (or vegetables of choice) in the oil for about 10 minutes on medium heat until softened.  Stir in smoked paprika and seeded mustard.  Remove from heat.  Check and adjust seasoning.

Mix lentil mixture with the vegetables.  Place half in medium casserole dish (no greasing necessary), layer with half the cheese and repeat the layers of lentil mixture and cheese on top.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake at 200 C for 25-30 minutes.

*NOTES: You can use other vegetables instead of the vegies and tofu I used.  Grated carrot, chopped mushrooms, green peas, corn, roasted pumpkin or roasted sweet potato.  I used biocheese (which I think is like violife cheese) so it was vegan.  In future I think I might like to try this vegan mozzarella on top but the biocheese in the middle as biocheese does not melt well on top because it dried out too much.  Regular grated cheese would work here too.

On the Stereo
The Velvet Underground and Nico

Friday 20 January 2017

Catch up on eating out 2015-2016 (Melbourne)

So often when I eat out, I point and shoot with good intentions of blogging about a place but life moves on quickly.  So every now and again - never as much as I would like - I collect these photos into one post to catch up on places I have enjoyed but not had the time to blog.  So much good food and so little time. 

Many are lunches.  Often enjoyed in company.  Or with a good book.  I don't have perfect recollection of all the meals but I would eat each again if given the chance.  Some cafes I have already given a full blog post.  Others are still on my list to return to and write up a dedicated blog post one of these days!  And I am sure I have left some out.  This will do for now.

138 Nicholson Street, Coburg

I had lunch at Ruby's in 2015 with my mum.  This was the vegan breakfast special.  I was particularly impressed by the pumpkin toast.  It went well with the roasted tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, avocado and relish.  I really loved it but it wasn't cheap.  I also had a nutella peanut butter milkshake which I really loved.

Islamic Museum of Australia Cafe
15A Anderson Road, Thornbury

It's a long time since I had a lovely lunch with a couple of friends at the cafe at the Islamic Museum of Australia.  It is tucked away behind the Merri Creek bike path.  It is a really beautiful cafe.  We sat outside on mosaic tables by a colourful mural.  One of my friend's was late because she got lost but she was even more flustered as she was off on a date.  The other was worried about one of her kids.  It was quite an intense discussion over lunch.  I enjoyed the Tesiyeh, a dish of chickpeas with tahini yoghurt and nut topping.  It was nice to have some salad on the side.

Earl Canteen @ Emporium
Level 3, Emporium Melbourne, 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne CBD

I was pleased when Earl Canteen opened in Emporium Shopping Centre as I had long wanted to try their much praised sandwiches.  Sadly I am yet to try one of their freshly made sandwiches.  They don't have many vegetarians options.  But I quite like some of the options in their fridge section.  The above asparagus, grain and seed dish - served with a generous dollop of hummus - was a pleasantly healthy lunch.  Washed down with some kombucha.

Flora Indian Restaurant
238 Flinders Street, Melbourne CBD

E and I have visited Flora in the city a few times.  It is a cheap and cheerful Indian restaurant with bright lights and a bain marie.  Just the place to duck into before heading out to a film or show.  The last time we visited was September last year on our way to seeing Joan Baez.  I can't remember what I ate but am pretty sure it was (Small Combo 1) two curries, daal, rice and pappadams.  It was quite filling but I couldn't resist also ordering a Kashmiri naan, which is is a particular favourite of mine with nutty sweet filling.

120 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East

Milkwood is one of those cafes I sometimes pass in the car, wishing I could stop to sit at the outside tables and enjoy the good life.  When I finally ate there, the white brick walls and blond wooden furniture were indeed relaxing.  I ordered from the specials board: grilled tempeh and rice noodle salad with carrots, coriander and carrots slaw, toasted seeds, and a roasted chilli and lime dressing.  I enjoyed it, especially the grilled tempeh.  But I was grateful that the dressing came in a little jug on the side as I found it quite spicy.

The Old Cop Shop
160 Bell Street, Coburg

I had also driven past The Old Cop Shop in Coburg with interest.  However my interest had been in what they were doing with the old building.  When it opened in 2015, I had lunch there with my mum soon after.  I ordered the Super Food Salad: quinoa, kale, beans, avocado, pomegranates, goji berries, seeds, nuts, vegan cheese, dressed with pomegranate molasses and extra virgin olive oil.  It was fairly similar to what is on the menu now, though the price has risen from $21.50 to $23.  The salad was nice and healthy, the interior was an elegant blend of the old police station and fine modern design.  I keep meaning to return but it has been a while.

Ascot Vale Food Store
320 Ascot Vale Road, Moonee Ponds

My mum took me to the Ascot Vale Food Store last year after discovering it's charms.  It is a modern cafe with white walls and a dark wood counter.  I had the corn fritters, avocado puree, tomato jam and snow pea tendrils.  I had some feta on the side with mine instead of the poached egg.  The corn fritters were amazingly crispy on the outside and tasty on the inside.  I really loved this dish.

We also shared the syringe spiked chocolate and raspberry doughnut.  It was really yummy and fun to syringe raspberry sauce inside the doughnut.  And when I talked to the waitress about vegetarian and vegan food she was sympathetic which also endeared me to the place, even though the menu didn't have heaps on it for me.

Little River
208 Albion Street, Brunswick

I have been to Little River a few times now and still would love to write it up in it's own post.  It is a vegetarian cafe that looks the part with lots of recycled timber in the decor.  The most impressive meal I've had was this award winning KA pies vegan Thai curry vegetable pie with salads.  The pie was indeed excellent and most deserving of the award.  However I was also impressed by the fresh and healthy salads on the side.  A slaw and I think a cauliflower salad.  I hope to go back to try more meals there.

Green Refectory Pop Up
99 Sydney Road, Brunswick

In my first few months of blogging, I wrote about Green Refectory at 115 Sydney Road.  Last year I found that its little sister pop up cafe had opened just down the road with its great vegan sausage rolls.  It took me a while to try something different to the sausage rolls.  This scrambled tofu with "mixed vegies", olives and mountain bread was too tempting.  It was nice but I was disappointed in the vegies being something like pickle cabbage and not quite the colourful vegetable accompaniment I had expected.  I remember I had to check something with the staff but can't remember what.  It may have been chillis in the tofu but my memory is hazy.  Still, it is a good hearty brunch for $10.

Small Axe Kitchen
281 Victoria Street, Brunswick

I had lunch here with my mum because we had both heard good reviews.  I chose the soft polenta, broad beans, peas, nettle, mint and lemon for $17.50.  It is not a cheap dish but tastes good and loosk pretty.  My photos don't do it justice but it was such a gorgeous explosion of greens on top of the polenta.  This is comfort food for hipsters.  Yes, it is a new cafe that opened this year to great acclaim.  The design is beautiful but my mum and I had to ask about a few obscure terms on the menu.  I did love the opportunity to have nettle in my dinner. 

Good Days
165 Sydney Road, Brunswick

I still have very fond memories of the spring rolls with noodles and vegies at the sadly departed Vina Bar.  So I was delighted to find that Good Days offered a similar vegan noodle salad when I visited with Faye of Veganopoulous.  We both loved the huge bowl of vermicelli rice noodles with crispy home made tofu and mushroom spring rolls, Asian herbs, slaw of pickled carrot, daikon and green mango, cucumber, roasted peanuts, fried shallots, and dressed with nuoc cham.  This was a really satisfying meal with lots of vegies.  I really need to get back there!

The Glass Den
15 Urqhuart Street, Coburg

After many visits I wrote about The Glass Den last year.  I continue to eat there.  I have had the gorgeous green Avocado Riot, the pretty Rocky Road French Toast and the Curly Fries.  The menu has been updated recently and seems to have left behind the amazing hotcakes.  However, their Facebook page says they will return soon.

I wanted to show you this photo of the beautiful purple cauliflower and cream cheese soup with kale chips and broccolini.  (I didn't take notes so am relying on memory so I hope this is right.)  It was one of the specials that I had last May.  I really loved it even though it was slightly challenging to eat stalks of broccolin in a soup and I think I had to ask for a knife, if I remember rightly.

Little Deer Tracks
44 O'Hea Street, Coburg

It was back in 2011 that I wrote about Little Deer Tracks on my blog.  I have been to the vegetarian cafe a few times since.  Most recently was in August last year when I visited with Faye from Veganopoulous.  I had an amazing meal of spiced cauliflower, roasted shallots and grilled haloumi; raw shredded cabbage and green beans; rice with cashews and sultanas; all sprinkled with pomegranate seeds!

I love pho express
Level 3 food court shop 355, Emporium, 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne CBD

As mentioned above, I am very fond of a Vietnamese noodle salad with tofu spring rolls.  I was really pleased to find that I love pho does one in the Emporium food court.  Not quite as fancy as the salad at Good Days.  However it is very handy when in the city and needing a quick lunch.  At $10 I would be tempted to call this cheap and cheerful but I don't want this to denigrate it.  The wait is short, the spring rolls are crispy and the vegies are fresh. 

Lentil as Anything
1-3 St Helier’s Street, Abbotsford

Late last year, I had my second visit to the Lentil as Anything restaurant at the Abbotsford Convent.  I wrote about the former Brunswick Lentil as Anything many moons ago.)  A friend came to visit from the country and Abbotsford was a good midpoint to meet.  I really enjoyed the buffet of stews, curries and rice.  Though I still find it odd to choose how much to pay.  It was very pleasant to sit at any outside seat and catch up with an old friend.

Disco Beans
539 Plenty Road, Preston

I took Sylvia along to Disco Beans last year.  She was not so impressed by her cheese toastie because it came with a salad.  I enjoyed my Mexican platter of refried beans, tortilla chips, guacamole, black beans, salsa and salad.  I ordered some vegan cheese on the side just because I love it.  It was a very enjoyable meal.  I decided to go another time and found it was closed for renovations and has recently re-opened as Spiral Beans.  Let's hope I get along there before it reinvents itself again!

Lygon Street Food Store
263 Lygon Street, Carlton

Late last year while Christmas shopping I stopped for lunch at the Lygon Street Food Store.  I have had their sandwiches occasionally.  They are always good quality ingredients.  On this occasion I had the calzone.  It was filled with tomato and oozy cheese but was made even more satisfying for the antipasto on top - olives, sun dried tomato, roasted capsicum, marinated mushrooms and rocket. A great quick lunch.

Juanita's Kitchen
219 High Street, Preston

I had a great catch up with Faye of Veganopoulous and Rosalie of Quinces and Kale at Juanita's Kitchen.  It was hard to choose but I ordered the Ultimate Bean Stack.  It was really really filling.  Just listen to what was in it: soft corn tortilla topped with creamy pinto beans, vegan chorizo, balsamic mushrooms, roasted capsicum, jalapeno, melted cheese, avocado, salsa with Greek yoghurt and salad on the side.  I really enjoyed it and was pleased the side salad was a bit more substantial than a few leaves of lettuce.  At the end I managed to taste some of the raw desserts we shared.  Another place to return to and sample more from the menu.

So there you have some of my delicious eating out from the past year or two.  We truly are spoilt for choice in the inner north of Melbourne..  There just isn't enough time to visit all the amazing cafes and blog about all the good food.  Maybe I will return to visit some of the places and write more about them.

Meanwhile I suggest you visit Where's the Beef and Veganopoulous who continue to share inspiring places to eat for veg*ns, including quite a few reviews of the above cafes.