Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Where to find us now.......

Welcome to the journeys and adventures of two vegan food lovers, drink lovers and avid cooks on a journey to discover all the marvels the world of vegan has to offer.

Like us, this blog has also moved on, so to find out more about us and to see what we are up to now, what we're eating and where we're travelling too please join us at Instagram, Tumblr or Twitter. We would be delighted if you visited us there to see what we are up to.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

KITCHEN HELPERS: THE COOKING OIL COMPARISON CHART

Another little useful thing I found the other day was the Cooking Oil Comparison Chart by Eating Rules. It looks a bit confusing a first but you'll get the hang of it and it's a helpful little tool if you're trying to decide what oil to use. You can download the chart in PDF from Eating Rules and have it as a reference whenever you spot a new oil. More information on the chart and oil can also be found at Small Bites.
Note that it's not a comprehensive nutritional tool on oil, so follow up with your own research if you require more info

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

PARSLEY, SAGE ROSEMARY & THYME SCONES

These are what I like to serve with the Roasted Potato and Fennel Soup I blogged about last week. They are so easy to make and yummy. I have been making a batch of these weekly for snacks or as something to go with a bowl of soup. This recipe comes from The 30-Minute Vegan and the author calls them biscuits but to me they are scones. It may be cause I am making them wrong or it could be a lost in translation, USA vs. Commonwealth Country thing. Whatever you want to call them or however you want to make them, though, they are delicious. I love that they are super quick to make with things you would have in your pantry and there is hardly any mess. I have made a few modifications to the recipe (which you can find in a Google Search): 

My tips: 
  • To mine I added a little bit of soy or oat milk to get the consistency wetter as I used less margarine than required. I only use 55g of margarine, which already sounds like a lot.
  • I add a teaspoon of onion powder to my dry mix. 
  • I usually make 8 large ones, scone size rather than small biscuit size.
  • The first time I made these I didn't have any spelt on hand and just used normal all-purpose white flour (550). At the moment I am using spelt flour but normal flour all-purpose flour is cheaper so I will probably go back to using that.
These taste great hot or cold, smothered in vegan margarine or plain. If you need a bread side or are looking for a snack that you can make in a jiffy then I would recommend you whip a batch of these pronto.
This recipe comes from:
by Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray

Monday, 2 January 2012

CHRISTMAS EVE DINNER 2011

Christmas is a small affair for us as we are in a foreign country and all our family is back in Australia. We don't fly home and visit them over Christmas like many people do, as it is too expensive. Our family is very small too. If you got our immediate family from both sides in a room together there would be eight people, plus four dogs and a cat. Not a big affair! My family hasn't ever really gotten too much into Christmas. We did when my sister and I were little but now that we have both grown up, Christmas has become a mild celebration. Mike and I don't even decorate. I have one little Christmas Tree candle holder decoration, which comes out at the first of advent. I also really enjoy getting the advent calendar tea selection from Sonnentor, which gives you a new tea everyday leading up to Christmas. But that is about as Chrismassy as I get. The streets here are usually covered with lights and Christmas Trees pop up everywhere, so we figure that's enough to make it feel like Christmas for us. On Christmas Day we Skyped my family and then went for a walk and visited the big decorated tree in the Old Town Square and did some window shopping. It was a good day! I was amazed at how many people were out and about but it reminded me that not everyone is with their family at Christmas and some people have small families too.
But on to the food! One thing we do like to do now we are away from Australia is cook a big meal for Christmas Eve. This meal is only for two and usually lasts a couple of days afterwards but is worth the effort.

The Main
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Seitan Roast Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms and Leeks
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This year Mike wanted to make a home-made roast after he saw this one posted on the Post Punk Kitchen. We can't get items like Tofurky here in Germany and there are only a couple of places online you can order vegan roasts for Christmas, so we decided to make our own. This roast was super, super yummy. I didn't make many changes to the recipe except to remove the Shiitake Mushrooms - I can't eat them, I had some at a stressful time in my life where I had an ulcer. After this I associate them with pain and even now I think they give me stomach aches. They probably don't, but the mere thought of them sends my stomach into knots. I used a mixture of Button Mushrooms and canned Porcini Mushrooms. I was going to use dried Procinis but found some canned ones for less money. I think the saltiness of these went really well in the roast and because of this I didn't over salt the roast with stock as Isa suggests. I also probably had more filling than the recipe recommended as I had two really large leeks but I think this worked out well. I think I prefer it with a little more filling.
I stored the roast in the fridge once it was cooked and it reheated really well. To reheat it I cut off the individual portion sizes and wrapped them in tin foil with a few teaspoons of water to keep it moist.
This was a great roast and I think we will definitely be having it again for Christmas next year!
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Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy

To go with the roast we had to have a gravy. My go to gravy is the Mushroom Gravy from Veganomicon but I like to use that with Chickpea Cutlets (as you could see from my last post). I like to keep meals whole and together. So I won't use a sauce for two recipes - I have so many cookbooks I can find another! So I decided on Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy (recipe can be found at Google books) from Vegan with a Vengeance. This gravy was so good, Mike loved it. It went really well with the roast and was quite filling being made out of chickpeas. I think it was perfect for the roast as it added a lot of extra flavour. I again stored it in the fridge and added a little bit of water to loosen it up when I reheated it.
(The gravy is under the roast - can you see it????)
The Sides
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Sautéed Green Beans with Mushrooms 

This was my least favourite part of the meal. This recipe also came from Vegan with a Vengeance and can be found on food.com. I found this dish a little too salty (there are 4 teaspoons of salt in it!) and 'winey'. It wasn't bad just not great and I would have preferred something else as a side. I still think green beans will be a perfect side for the roast and potatoes but next year I will be hunting for another recipe!
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Rote Bratkartoffeln

This recipe came from Vegan for Fun and was super easy and really tasty. It made a wonderful side! Brat Potatoes in German generally means to boil them first, then let them cool and peel them and then fry them in a pan with your choice of additives (butter, onions, sauce etc). It gives the potatoes a lovely soft inside but crunchy outside. I couldn't be bothered peeling them so I left that step out. Lots of people cook the potatoes the day before and let them cool over night. I forgot to this so just stuck them outside and let them cool. The flavourings for these Bratkartoffeln were Onions, Pine Nuts, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Tomato Paste. This was a really nice version of Bratkartoffeln and I really liked the addition of Sun-Dried Tomatoes. The recipe recommends using dried Sun-Dried Tomatoes without oil but then adds Olive Oil. My favourite Sun-Dried Tomatoes come in oil so I used a combination of the oil from the tomatoes and Olive Oil.

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The Dessert
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Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
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During Vegan Mofo 2011 I won a copy of Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale. I knew that I had to make something out of it for dessert. When I opened the book I immediately went to this recipe. I used to love Sticky Date Pudding as a non-vegan (the tacky Sara Lee kind you put in the microwave - classy!) and couldn't wait to try it. It would be a perfect replacement for the usual Christmas Fruit Pudding (which I never liked anyway). I made the Ice Cream the weekend before Christmas using this recipe featured on my blog from The Vegan Scoop. The pudding itself was dense and tasted lovely warm or cold. It tasted best with the caramel sauce. I made triple the quantity of this sauce (cause it's Christmas and everyone must put on at least 2kgs right?) as I didn't think the recipe made enough. I wanted to let it soak into the cake and then later heat it up and pour it on the cake and ice cream. My sauce didn't really soak through the cake so I was glad to have some sauce to pour over each individual slice. This cake is rich, fatty and sugary, so it's definitely a Christmas treat. I'm not sure how you would serve this pudding at a bake sale but I am so glad it was included in this book!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

TRAVELLING VEGANS: Travelling with your cat

When Mike and I travel, we take Skadi with us. As you may know a few weeks ago we went to Venice – all of us. It takes approximately 10 hours by train to get to Venice from Frankfurt with one train swap. It’s a long journey but Skadi handled it like a pro, but she’s had plenty of practice. Skadi has been to:
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Paris
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(looking on to the streets of Montmartre)
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Berlin (twice)
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(Hanging out in the safe – it is where we keep our valuables after all)

Ingolstadt, Amsterdam, Basel, Zurich and Bruges. In fact Skadi has probably been to more cities than some people. Skadi has also been on lots of modes of transport: car, bus, train, subway, tram and plane (when she flew here from Australia). She is yet to tackle a boat but there is plenty of time for that.
Now I bet a lot of you (like a lot of people) can’t believe we travel with a cat. But we have some very good reasons why we do it:
  1. Firstly cost is the biggest. It doesn't cost anything for Skadi to travel unless we make her a 2.50 euro seat reservation – which we don’t. We’ve only been charged by one hotel for her stay, most don’t mind. It would cost us a lot more to find a cattery, get her to the cattery (we don’t have a car) and have her stay there. Europe makes it really easy to travel with a pet.
  2. Secondly we don’t want people in our house we don’t know. We don’t want to pay someone to feed her. Skadi is also used to having people around her. She is an indoor cat and we have no other pets. I think she would get a little lonely if someone came here for an hour and then left.
Reasons aside there are some times when you need to travel with your cat. Now I know some cats are not travellers and freak out completely but here are some of our travelling tips that might help you through.
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Before you travel
Planning is the key.

  • Choose the right carrying medium: Unless you are travelling by plane, what you choose to carry your cat in can make a lot of difference. We used to carry Skadi in a caged box. When we went to my parents we would pack her in the car in it and she hated it. She would cry all the way and not settle. When we moved to Germany we bought a bag to carry her in. I think this bag is meant to carry small dogs but works for small cats. Skadi loves it and we’ve had much better results. Here are a few reasons why this bag works. I carry it on my shoulder so Skadi is closer to my body and higher up. When I have my hands free I can hold it closer to me which might make her feel more secure. The bag also closes in around her making it dark, warm and cosy. It has flaps to open if need be, but I usually don’t open them. When we’re on the train I can open or close the bag easily and Skadi can stretch out how she pleases, yet still be encased in her bag. It works, she feels safe in it. If she’s out of it on the train stretching her legs as soon as something happens she runs straight back into it. It may take a couple of goes to find something your cat likes but it will be worth it.
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(Also has pockets for carrying things, like rollers, and small blue whales) 

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(There’s a cat in there…..) 
  • Familiarisation with the travel Medium: If you picked me up and shoved me in a bag that I had never seen before after strapping me in a weird harness that might as well be some kind of torture device – because I AM FREAKING OUT – then yeah I wouldn’t be stoked. Cats are creatures of habit. Sure they are curious and inquisitive but it’s all on their terms. If you want your cat to travel then start weeks, months before hand. Set the travel medium out for them to explore, play in, sleep in, transfer their scent to. My trick was to put the bag in a warm spot that Skadi liked to sleep in. She spent hours in it before we made the trip to Venice – actually she spends so much time in it, it has a permanent slant to one side where she’s flattened it out. After seeing her sleep in it four almost 12 hours straight I knew she could make it to Venice. Get it out long before you intend to travel and leave it out long after you get home. Cats are good a recognising patterns so if the bag/box/basket is something that is just always lying around they are less likely to freak when they see it.
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    (This position?…..)
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    (….. or maybe this?) 
  • Familiarisation with the restraints: This is the same as the points above. If you travel for long distances with your cat you are going to need to let them get out occasionally to stretch and curl up into another position. The only safe way to do this is with a harness and lead. If you travel internationally throughout the EU you may also have to present your cat and her passport when crossing borders – we never had to but we are prepared should we need to. It took a while (and Skadi still doesn’t like the lead) but she is comfortable with the harness. We did this through practise. First we put it on for a little while and then we increased the time. Yes she rolled over and tried to work out how to get it off but eventually she worked out it was useless. We kept at this until was happy to sleep in it. This needs to be done before you travel anywhere because the harness will signal travel.
  • Practise with short trips: Just before we took Skadi to Venice we had to take her to the vet for her rabies shot (should we need to get her back into Australia she has to have one every year) and then for a blood test (Australian requirements are once a year), it was a disaster. Skadi was so scared at the vet when the shaver came out that she shook. We had to take the blood from both legs and it takes a long time to drip out her leg. It took four of us to hold her down. Traumatic! We didn’t want that to be the last thing she remembered about her bag and travelling. To counter this, every couple of weekends after the vet and leading up to Venice we took her on a short tram ride and then home again. If you do want to go on a long trip with your cat then build up to it. It’s also a good idea to go somewhere and then straight home so they get tricked into thinking this bag ride will probably end at home.
  • Test any medication before you go: We don’t need to drug Skadi. She sleeps fine on the train without anything but if you do, then test it before you go. Drugs effect individual cats in different ways and the last thing you want is an aggressive, doped up cat on your hands. Know what it will do before you need it.
  • Know your legal obligations: It goes without saying, which is why I won’t spend any time on it, but if you are travelling throughout Europe know where you can and can’t take your cat. Be up-to-date on your rabies shots and vaccines and always have your pet passport easily accessible. IMG_0835
Travelling
So now you’re all ready to go.
  • Choose your hotel carefully: Skadi has stayed in several hotel rooms and there have been winners and losers. We can usually tell cause Skadi starts whinging and basically telling us she wants to go home. If you are staying a couple nights then it isn’t as important but there are still a lot of things to think about. If you are staying for longer than a few nights look for a bigger room that allows your cat to run and play. A room with a good view is also important. Skadi gets bored in rooms that don’t have views. It doesn’t have to be a stunning view but it is better if it is a view of a busy street or somewhere with a lot activity. Something they can watch – no scenic views. Check out the photos of the hotel carefully for any traps or cat no’s. Air-conditioning is also a must in summer as most windows in hotels in Europe don’t have fly-screens and open fully. Lots of hotels don’t have air-conditioning so make sure yours does so your cat doesn’t overheat.
  • Know your check-in and check-out times: You can’t leave your cat with the staff on the day you check out while you continue to see the sights. Nor can your carry it around until your room is ready. So make sure you know when you can check-in and plan your arrival to that time. Know when you can check-out and depart at the same time or earlier. Try to negotiate with management for something appropriate.  If you arrive too early or leave too late scope out the train station and find somewhere comfy and quiet to wait. Another bonus of first class is that you may have a lounge to wait in. Yes it is a pain but we don’t mind.
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    (Skadi chillin’ in her bag on the train)
  • Choose your seat carefully: Travelling by car is a little easier as there are no other people, stops or things you can’t really control. If you are travelling on public transport, and you want to travel far,  often and successfully with your cat, be prepared to think about going first class. If you plan ahead you can get good deals. If you have a % off card (Bahncard in Germany) you can get more savings. Luckily in Europe first class doesn’t cost much more than second class. Even if you are not travelling first class think about where you will sit and pay for the reservation. Sit in a quiet area. For us we travel first class which gives us more room and Skadi more room. It is quieter and has fewer people. On a long 10 hour trip we will sit in a cabin where we might get it to our selves the entire way. This is important because we took Skadi’s food and some water for her to have (not that she did) along the way. The extra space gave her room to stretch and feel comfortable. If travelling second class I would recommend travelling in a cabin and reserving your cat a seat so you have somewhere to put them that is out of the way. We did this when we went to places which were only 4 hours or less away. ALWAYS SIT or rest your carry bag on the case. You may be an expert in the train and tram groove while standing but your cat will appreciate a more steady base.
  • Know where the vets are: Store the details of at least two vets in your phone which are close to your hotel. Know where they are on the map. Be prepared, if you need one you don’t want to have to hunt for one.
  • Minimise the time spent waiting: Try not to get to the train station too early. The worst part of the trip for us is the train station. There is so much noise, so many people, so many smells, it sends Skadi into overdrive. We try not to get there too early and when we do we always go to a book shop or somewhere quieter to wait. If you are waiting choose a corner out of the way where it is less noisy – not on the platform, that is the worst – those brakes screech.
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    (Packing of cat incorrect)
  • Know what signals travel to your cat: Skadi knows we are going to travel as soon as the suitcase comes out. It doesn’t matter if we get it out the day of travel or weeks before she is always going to hide when we leave the house. Monitor your cat when you travel and see if you can eliminate any cues. Even cut out using the word travel if you’ve used it often when travelling.
  • Prepare you medication: We took some cat drugs with us. We didn’t need them but we had them in case. And no we didn’t try them beforehand so we could have had a disaster but I was pretty sure we wouldn’t need them. 
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     (Skadi’s Stash – It’s just cat tranquiliser I swear)

  • Play, feed early or not at all: We can’t play with Skadi before we travel as she’s usually onto us. But if you can, wear your cat out before you travel and there is more chance they will sleep. Get up early and feed them early so they can have any bowel movements before you go – if you’re cat is like Skadi, its body will shut down into hibernation until you reach your destination, so it won’t be a problem. If leaving early give them an extra snack at night before bed so they can eat during the night.
  • Break or no break?: Decide whether it would be better to break-up a long trip or just get it over with. It is stressful being shoved in a bag continuously so we opted for get there as soon as possible with no breaks. Skadi sleeps the entire way anyway. Your cat might appreciate a overnight stop somewhere to break-up the long trip. You will know by doing shorter trips with them and seeing how they handle those.

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Arrival
Once you’ve made it and it’s all over there are a few things to do before you let the cat out of the bag.
  • Check for traps, annoying hiding spots and other cat no’s: Before you let you cat out look around the hotel room. Remove anything that might be dangerous. Remove anything they may knock over.  Move tables, chairs or items that may let them jump up onto something you can’t get them down from. Use blankets or spare pillows to remove hiding spots you can’t get to. Check under the bed for slack vacuuming and traces of food, plastic wrappers anything that may harm you cat. As so as you let your cat out it will hide and explore. Make sure there are no spots left that it can get into that make it hard for you to catch them when you need to pack them up again.
  • Set up your cats items: Make your cat feel more settled and at home by setting up the kitty litter, drink and food bowls, favourite toys and SCRATCH MAT (always pack a scratch mat unless you want to pay for hotel furniture). As soon as your cat jumps out of its bag it will explore so finding things from home will give it some reassurance. Once they’ve done a round of the room show them where their food bowls are and where the litter is, make sure they know.
  • No room cleaning: Get the hotel to bring you spare towels when you’re there. Don’t let them clean your room when you’re not. We never do. Don't freak your cat or worse risk it escaping through an open door. Make sure you always have the do not disturb sign on or make sure you clearly tell management.
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(Skadi relaxing after he long train ride in Venice)

Travelling with your cat gets easier as you do it, ok maybe not all cats but hopefully it will with yours. Not only do they get more used to it but you get to know their signals and issues with travelling. Once you have done it a few times, hopefully, you’ll find it fairly easy.
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Post reviewed by Skadi.
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Friday, 16 December 2011

TRAVELLING VEGANS: Venice


A few weeks ago Mike and I went to Venice for a long weekend. We took the train, which took 10 hours through some of the most beautiful scenery. The time passed us by as we watched movies and caught up on a few TV series. We were also lucky enough to have a cabin to ourselves so we could really stretch out.
Venice was beautiful. It is such a different place to anywhere I have ever been before. The alleyways are just that, small winding alleyways. There are no cars or roads. Everything is so old. There are no new shiny high-rises or brightly lit supermarkets. Everything is tucked away into old buildings. It would be a very unusual and different place to live. It is magical to walk through the alleys at night which are so quiet and maze-like.
Although Venice is beautiful, it is full of tourists, I think half the population at any one time is made up of tourists, which means almost everything in Venice is geared towards a tourist. So as you can imagine the food isn’t gourmet. As Venice is set on a Lagoon, seafood is one of their specialties – not so great for a vegan. This doesn’t mean it’s not tasty, it’s just noting fancy. We ate pizza most of the time we were there. Mike would eat pizza for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner so it was no struggle for him.
Two nights we ate at a pizza chain called Ae Oche. This was pretty good. The pizzas were reasonably priced and there was big selection.  
Venice 2011-001This was a pizza we had at a small place on the island of Burano – all the pizzas look the same!
Venice 2011-005A different take on a pizza I had was at Il Profeta/Pizzeria Al Profeta, where I ordered a vegetarian pizza (no cheese) and it came closed up (like a Calzone). It was super yummy and by far the best pizza dish I had in Venice. I loved how the dough that was enclosed had gone stretchy and chewy giving the effect of melted mozzarella. Mike stuck with the traditional pizza and ordered another wild mushroom pizza. He thought it was the best pizza he had in Venice.
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The only non pizza meal we had was at GAM GAM Kosher Restaurant, the only Kosher restaurant in Venice. This restaurant is fantastic and the starters were amazing. I’m a big fan of having lots of little dishes to try and there were plenty here. I then had a Mushroom Pasta for dinner and it was really nice. I had saved some of the chilli dip starter and mixed that through my pasta for some extra kick. It was really nice. You definitely have to book on a Saturday night as this place was packed and there was a serious line up.
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If you do travel to Venice remember that some focaccia breads and other bread products are made with strutto (pork fat ) - yuck. As we were leaving Venice we also had another falafel for lunch, just before we hopped on the train. It was so good! It seems that Venice makes awesome falafels…… who knew.

Monday, 28 November 2011

PASTA CARBONARA

Pasta Carbonara - 03.11.2011-0001
In another examination/investigation into vegan creamers we also made this pasta from Vegan for Fun. This is a veganised version of the meaty, ‘eggy’, creamy Pasta Carbonara. It uses soy creamer to mimic the sauce and smoked tofu for the bacon. I never ate Carbonara when I was a meat eater, as I haven’t ever really liked eggs, but Mike used to enjoy it. In it’s traditional form it is pretty full of fat, dairy and eggs; it isn’t very healthy! This recipe isn’t exactly low fat either with the addition of soy creamer and some margarine but it’s much better than the original. In this pasta I decided to use soy creamer as I thought the oat one would be a little to strong. The oat one worked well in the Quiche but I wanted something milder for this recipe. There isn’t much to this pasta but, soy creamer, margarine, smoked tofu, onion and parsley. Cook and combine those together with cooked pasta and you have it. So it is really, really simple. We both enjoyed it but I don’t think we were blown away, we enjoyed our Autumn paste more. I definitely will make it again though when I need a quick pasta dish and feel like something creamy.
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This recipe comes from:
by Attila Hildmann
Language: German
Vegan for Fun: Vegane Küche die Spass macht