Blossoming vegan inspiration

Our July date at Cafe Blossom was a birthday celebration – and we weren’t disappointed. On a summer day this pretty New York Upper West Side restaurant gave our party of four foodies a warm welcome.

Cafe Blossom waiterWe  toasted the birthday girl with a very nice glass of The Vegan Vine cabernet,  chosen from a decent selection.  Alex our server was a great host and answered all of our  menu questions, always good when there are non-vegan dining partners.

There is a competitive selection of starters: The black eyed pea cake ($8) made from yukon potato was a generous serve and delicious with a  creamy chipotle aioli. We also liked the mushroom ravioli ($10) with divine truffle butter. The autumn sweet potato rolls (gluten free, GF) were packed with coconut noodles, peppers, avocado and served with almond-ginger dipping sauce we all had to try! With the live nachos and beet ravioli there is a good choice of GF options.

Entree salads are colorful and beautifully assembled. Try the quinoa salad with its  black beans, sweet corn, diced peppers, watercress, toasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, accompanied with mango guacamole and poblano pepper dressing.

The zucchini linguine is raw and gluten free- a great summer lunch entree, with almond butter cream our non-vegan friend really enjoyed. You might like to try the delicious pistachio-crusted tofu (how can we get that recipe!) or the bold  seitan frites au poivre with its spicy peppercorns and horseradish. The restaurant also serves a good veggie burger as part of a range of sandwiches for around $14. Side dishes, including grilled tofu, start at $5.

The dessert menu at Cafe Blossom is worth waiting for. We were besotted with the special key lime pie and also tried the signature cake ($6 for carrot, chocolate or lemon). And if you like cake you will want to take a slice home too – delicious.

Knowing its reputation as one of New York’s most popular vegan restaurants, we made reservations. And the cafe may have been busy mid week but we were more than satisfied by the professional (and witty) serving staff.

Welcome to the co-kitchen

It’s the weekend and your partner is drooling for a traditional Sunday morning “fry-up” – bacon and eggs at least. You know he or she isn’t go to be excited about tofu scramble – but you don’t want to compromise (again).

Or it is mid-week and neither of you feel like cooking, so you nearly cave in when your Better Half suggests take-away. Mmmmm – another dilemma.  TEN TIPS FOR COPING. READ MORE.



Be bold in the kitchen

I don’t know when i went crazy for aprons but lately I’ve been appreciating the value of covering my clothes with something spatterproof. My latest cover-all is by Anna Chandler Designs and I feel uplifted just pulling this crisp cotton piece of modern art out of the drawer. Seriously, start your collection soon because aprons are IN.



  • mango salad pic 2

How to manage a week in your “mixed” kitchen

It’s the weekend and your partner is drooling for a traditional Sunday morning “fry-up” – bacon and eggs at least. You know he or she isn’t go to be excited about tofu scramble – but you don’t want to compromise (again).

Or it is mid-week and neither of you feel like cooking, so you nearly cave in when your Better Half suggests take-away. Mmmmm – another dilemma. They are lobbying for pizza. You say possibly Thai food because it sounds healthier.

Well you are not alone. You are facing a common quandary for couples where one partner is vegan and the other decidedly not.

Whole food plant-based (vegan) cooking is a growing movement, here to stay, but everyone makes their own choices.

mango salad pic 2

Chunky home made sweet potato fries

While you work on developing some vegan dishes so tasty they can’t be resisted – here are my Top Ten pragmatic and practical tips on keeping everyone happy and staying sane.

  1. First accept your own health is your responsibility and it is important to nurture yourself. This means making time to plan ahead and continue to cultivate new healthy dishes and menu plans – even if you are the only person enjoying them for now.
  2. Don’t be precious about continuing to make your partner’s proverbial “bacon and eggs”. If you have traditionally done most of the cooking, it will be difficult to ask your partner to step into the kitchen and start cooking if you refuse to touch the bacon.  So for a fun weekend leisurely breakfast, fry or grill tomatoes and mushrooms or baby spinach for yourself mixed with a little garlic, onion and basil. Serve the juicy mix directly on a luscious whole grain bread and you won’t need butter, and you can both enjoy the grill.

Ideas for mid week dinners:

3.Remember the salad is the main dish. While your non-vegan partner might prefer a little meat or chicken with their salad, be assured a hearty salad dressing and some starches like sweet potato cubes, tofu or chickpeas, avocado, mushrooms, walnuts, or a home made or bought vegan rissole will satisfy you. The bulk of the food preparation, slicing and dicing salad vegetables will be for both of you.

4. Pasta is an easy fall back when you have had a long day. I keep some healthy but tasty sauces in the freezer, but it is also easy to make them fresh and serve over whole grain penne or spaghetti with a steamed green vegetable on the side. You can both eat pasta.

5. Roast a range of root vegetables in the oven which will be shared by both of you. Add your partner’s traditional roast meat choice as a side. Make a vegan mushroom gravy to share. Add plenty of green beans, brussell sprouts and carrots.

6. Make some chunky home made potato chips (or polenta fries) with a chopped salad and dipping sauce you can both share. Cook your partner’s non-vegan option on the side.

7. Slice a load of Chinese green vegetables to make a stir fry – choosing one of many spicy Asia-style dishes but cooking only the vegetables. Cook a pot of brown rice as a side dish for you both. Separately stir fry a small serve of marinated shrimp, chicken or beef and add to your partner’s meal just before serving. If your partner won’t eat brown rice (it happens) make sachets of cooked brown rice for yourself and freeze so they can be handily re-heated.

8. Put the nutritional yeast “cheese” taste aside for the time being if you like. But you can learn to use nut butters like cashew and almond butter you can buy in the store. Add them by the tablespoon full to a mix of onion, garlic, sun dried tomato, flaked almonds and herbs, mix in a little plant milk or water and you have – white sauce! To make a cauliflower bake just steam half a cauliflower, put the florets into a casserole dish, cover with the almond carbonara mix and bake in the oven. You can both share this with any favourite side dish.

9. Pizza night! Home made – make half with your toppings  and your partner’s half traditional toppings.Everyone can eat jalapeños!

10. Find a knock-your-socks off vegan lasagne recipe, hone it until your partner’s taste buds are sufficiently impressed and make it by the bath-load! You can use gluten free sheets if you want to, you can incorporate mushrooms and spinach, and remember to top it with almond cream or cashew cream rather than using nutritional yeast and tofu. It keeps for a few days, you can even freeze it and re-heat it at work.

garlic ravensfarm

Start your healthy journey today

If you are new to the whole food plant-based lifestyle, and keen to explore more about the health benefits of changing diet to assist you to manage your chronic condition,  you will value this short guide from US-based Dr T. Colin Campbell, who is one of the luminaries in the plant based lifestyle movement. For more detailed information, if you suffer from diabetes, or heart disease, autoimmune or arthritis or another condition where diet will assist your recovery, there are many avenues to research.

Colin campbellIn 2005, Dr. Campbell co-authored the book The China Study with his son, Tom (MD, family practice). Dr Campbell published Whole (May 2013), as well as a new smaller book, Low Carb Fraud (Feb 2014). The very successful 2011 documentary movie, “Forks Over Knives” features his work and that of his colleague, Caldwell Esselstyn, MD. Dr. Campbell founded the nonprofit, T Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, which is now headed by his son, Thomas M. Campbell, MD

This year Thomas published The Campbell Plan which is an easy read and quick start to understanding more about a plant-based diet.

With permission from the Center for Nutrition Studies, download now! Whole food plant based guidelines



Orange and ginger salad dressing

Inspired to combine these two flavors by Fresh on Charles cafe, this quick and easy recipe is perfect for whole food plant based cooks who do not add oil to dressings. Tastes great with an Thai style salad of greens with bean shoots, shredded red cabbage and fresh coriander.


  • Half a large naval orange, in sections
  • 30g of raw unsalted cashews
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • Enough water to achieve desired consistency. (approx 2 tablespoons)


Put the orange segments and cashews in a food processor and pulse till the nuts are broken up. Add the ingredients except the extra water so you can measure that out at the end to achieve the consistency you prefer. Whizz until creamy then add a little water.



chia pudding

Fall in love with chia+berry pudding

Chia seeds are a wonderfully nutritious and delicious addition to your pantry. It’s worth experimenting with your favourite sweet flavor combinations to make it a staple breakfast or dessert. It takes only a few minutes to whip up a glass for breakfast and you can build on the complexity of the flavors as you gain confidence – cinnamon, apple, nutmeg, cardamon, chocolate, nuts, all offer new possibilities.

Getting started

chia pudding

Refreshing chia pudding. Apron by Anna Chandler Design.

I combine two tablespoons of white chia seeds with two-thirds of a cup of almond milk or coconut milk in a jug. Then add a drop of vanilla bean pod, a handful of chopped strawberries or another berry and mix well.

Pour the mixture into a bowl or glass and refrigerate for a few hours. The chia seeds swell to absorb the liquid and form the consistency of a pudding.

Voila! Your chia pudding pod also makes a fairly portable breakfast if you are in a hurry.


Destination: Fresh on Charles

The za’atar grilled avocado at Fresh on Charles is almost enough reason to fly to Launceston! I love this tucked away vegan and vegetarian retro cafe in the centre of the city, with its hidden sun-trap patio perfect for an outdoors winter’s day lunch.

IMG_0102 copyThe warm avocado, coated in the delicious middle eastern spice mix,  is served with a lip-smacking red capsicum, chili and cashew pesto, sourdough rye on the side and with a pomegranate micro salad. Until I ate here I didn’t even know I liked pomegranate seeds! Now I am a convert and will be rushing out to test them out when the fresh red fruit are back in season.

fresh cafe barOther dishes on the  menu at Fresh on Charles include sweet corn ricotta and herb cakes with feta cream, local radish salad and picked fennel.

There is also a clever summer salad with mixed sprouts, shaved baby carrots, snow pea tendrils, sorrel leaves, goji berries and dressed with a delicious orange and ginger dressing that inspired me to attempt to copy this at home later. (Now you can try it too…. learn from my effort HERE).

Burger lovers should try the chickpea and spinach burger, served with polenta crusted sweet potato chips and tomato and chili jam.

fresh on charles veg

Everything fresh here

There are plenty of options if you dine gluten-free too.

Just as we left we noticed the daily special of blueberry, cardamon and almond chia puddings. Now there’s a treat I am familiar with. Try your own delicious and fragrant chia pudding HERE.

Fresh on Charles

178 Charles Street
Launceston, Tasmania
(03) 6331 4299


chickpea curry

Beginner’s chickpea curry

Your Gentle Kitchen doesn’t need to be a vision straight out of a Vogue Living magazine – well, maybe one day. We don’t all have glamorous kitchens with island benches and tons of prep space. Plenty of plant-based cooks manage perfectly well with something much more humble. If you build up a repertoire of one-pot dishes, where the left-overs can be repurposed for lunch, you are being a very smart cook.

This delicious beginner curry incorporates curry powder rather than a longer list of spices so you don’t need to store as many packets.  It makes a simple nourishing lunch you can warm up later with a piece of flat bread.


  • 1/2 cup brown rice (or wild rice)
  • 2 or 3 chopped spring onions (scallions)
  • pinch turmeric
  • pinch curry powder
  • pinch cumin
  • half garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup red lentils
  • handful chopped cilantro (coriander leaves)
  • water or vegetable stock to cook the rice (about 2 cups)


In a saucepan, or wok – saute the spring onions in a little water until soft.

Add the garlic, turmeric, curry powder and cumin to make a paste.

Add the rice and lentils and stir gently until coated with the paste.

Add 1/2 cup water , bring to the boil and simmer gently.


Canned chickpeas are a great go-to standby meal.

Add the drained chickpeas.

Rather like the risotto method, continue gently adding water until the rice is soft and fully cooked, varying from one to two cups total.

Chop the cilantro (coriander leaves)  finely and add to the mix before serving.


Attila is Germany's leading vegan chef

Carbonara Spaghetti with Zucchini Noodles

*Courtesy of Attila Hildmann’s 30-day Challenge in Vegan for Fit 


  • 100g of almond butter
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 150g smoked tofu or tofu
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • grated peel of  1/2  lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 medium size zucchini


Carbonara Spaghetti with Zucchini Noodles

Carbonara Spaghetti with Zucchini Noodles

Whisk the almond butter into one cup (240ml) of water. Wash the parsley and finely chop the leaves. Cut the smoked tofu into small cubes. Peel and finely chop both the onion and the garlic clove. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil and fry the tofu for around three minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook for an additional three minutes. Add the almond butter mixture, lemon peel, lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Allow the carbonara to come just to a boil and thicken.

Wash the zucchini and make spaghetti using a spiral vegetable cutter. Toss the zucchini spaghetti with olive oil and sea salt. Fold into the hot sauce and heat for one minute.

Serve in deep pasta dishes drizzled with oil and grind fresh black pepper over.

HEATHER’S NOTE: Whole food plant based cooks  don’t fry in olive oil but this recipe translates just as well if you sauté in a little water. You can also make your own nut butter from whole raw nuts. It is also a really tasty and basic vegan sauce recipe. I leave out the tofu but add shredded baby spinach. You can also add two or three chopped sun dried tomatoes to the mix.