Thursday, 7 December 2017

Wild rice, cranberry, celery and walnut salad

It may be beginning to look a lot like Christmas but my computer is not giving out any festive cheer.  Instead it is refusing to turn on.  I am most displeased with it.  Luckily it is only 2 weeks since I backed up but I think it needs a computer doctor.  So I am on E's computer without all my usual systems or downloaded photos and managing a short whinging post.  Fortunately salads have not been so frustrating.

This wild rice salad was quite good.  Not quite perfect.  I at first added some maple syrup and mustard but found it a bit oily so next time reduced the olive oil to 1 tbsp and then used 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar rather than 1/2 tsp maple syrup.  It was a bit too tangy to be a meal but very good as a side salad.  It would go well with a creamy potato salad or a festive spread of salads.  In my first attempt below I ran out of cranberries and used some dried apricots which I also really loved.

When I made this salad it was hot sweltering weather that called out for salads.  Tonight we have yet another downpour after 127mm in our suburb in 3 days over the weekend.  I am happy to be snug and dry at home and relieved that the rain waited until after our barefoot bowls work Christmas party today.  Meanwhile, I am not sure what is happening with computers so might be fairly quiet until this is fixed.  Sigh!  Just what I need in the crazy season.  On the upside I am enjoying getting lots of reading done. 

Wild Rice, cranberry, celery and walnut salad
Adapted from taste.com.au
Serves 6-8 on the side

1/2 cup each brown rice and wild rice
1 cup dried cranberries
2 sticks celery, thinly sliced
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp seeded mustard
pinch of seasoning mix

Cook brown rice and wild rice by simmering for 30 minutes.  (You can cook the rices together if you don't mind them both being dark purple.  Cooking them separately will keep the brown rice a lighter colour.)  Rinse with cold water to cool.  Add remaining ingredients and toss well. 

On the Stereo:
Songs for the young at heart: Various Artists

Friday, 1 December 2017

In My Kitchen - December 2017

Well they say, it never rains, it pours!  That certainly seems true of my life and the weather.  November has been such a crazy month.  For example, I don't often know people who are in hospital and in a fortnight 4 people around me are in hospital. 

As for the weather, we had a hot spring and now the first day of summer brings us storms.  I rode to work and took heed of suggestions I leave early.  I rode through heavy rain and soon after I got home it cleared up.  Sod's law.  But at least it wasn't too wet going to work and I didn't have to deal with a crowded damp public transport system.  But enough talk of the weather.  Let's have a look at my kitchen.

Firstly pizza.  Tonight there was pizza.  We have had tonight's Coburg Night Market and tomorrow night's carols service cancelled due to the weather.  I had planned to have dinner at the market but instead made pizza at home.  It would have been fine but the oven kept going off.  Do heavy rains affect gas supplies?  The pizza at the top and above is one I made a few weeks back with asparagus.  It made me think that asparagus looks pretty but is not an idea pizza topping.

One busy night I bought some Bean Supreme beetroot and black bean burgers, fried up some asparagus and cherry tomatoes.  With some bread rolls, it made a delicious quick meal.

We've enjoyed Smalt fudge and when I saw that Smalt had Cold Smoked Honey I had to try some.  It is odd to smell the smoky flavour and taste the sweetness but I like it.  The smoked flavour takes the edge off the tooth aching sweetness of honey.  I really want to bake with it but I also just want to enjoy it on crumpets.

We had fun making watermelon pancakes a few weeks back.  We made green pancakes, spread them with strawberry chia seed jam and then dotted them with choc chips.  The red could have been a bit pinker but it was pretty good and tasted delicious.

One of the purchases that has perplexed me the most is these Pure coconut chips with a smoky barbecue flavour.  They tasted really good, though quite rich as coconut is liable to be.  I really wanted to try them in Joanne's recipe for Spiced Braised Lentils with Tomatoes and Toasted Coconut.

What bamboozled me was the ingredients list.  I could swear there was no coffee in these.  I am sure I would have noticed if there was just coffee flavouring them.  And where did the red come from.  Finally I checked the website and found that there must have been a major typo on the packet because the smoky barbecue ingredients are listed as " Organic coconuts*, organic coconut sugar*, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, Himalayan pink salt".

With all the warm weather, we have been drinking smoothies for breakfast.  Our strawberry plants have been producing like crazy.  I have had quite a few mornings of bringing in a large handful of berries from the garden.  Sylvia, contrarian as ever, has decided she does not like home grown strawberries, only bought ones.  The home grown ones are really soft and melt in the mouth.

The strawberries are growing well thanks to my mum.  Not only did she buy the plants for us but she also bought some netting to put over the strawberries to stop the birds and insects eating them.  (No it is not on in the above photo).  We have not used netting for our blueberry plant and it is not boasted many berries.

I've been enjoying experimenting with my favourite overnight sourdough bread.  This version had 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup of tomato paste, 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 tbsp honey added to my regular recipe (with salt reduced to 12g).  It was good but not as much flavour as I had hoped.  I enjoyed some bread rolls for lunch and also had fun making a few into fish.

Here is a close up of some of my tomato and parmesan bread.  It was lovely, especially in a fancy sandwich with a cold Wild Rice Burger.

I love listening to the discussions about advertising on Gruen.  They recently talked about special editions of favourite brands.  For example Tim Tams do lots of special editions that cost more and have less biscuits in a packet than the regular Tim Tams.  They laughed at the idea of this Vegemite Blend 17 limited edition jar.  So did I.  Yet when I saw it in the shops I still wanted to try it.  We have not quite got through the last jar so I still haven't tasted it. 

Meanwhile for those looking for a cute gift idea, I noticed that our local KMart is doing personalised Vegemite jars.  For the person who has everything!

The supermarkets have lots of Christmas decorations and stuff that is just a cynical exercise in marketing and filling our houses (and landfill) with stuff we don't need kicking about.  But I liked this idea of Colour Your Own bunting from Coles.  Sylvia did too and we already have it hanging in the house.  She has embraced Christmas with a passion this year. 

When we made squeezy bottle pancakes recently, Christmas shapes were a must.  Such as this Christmas tree.  I have been resisting the Christmas bug as much as possible. 

For me, 1 December is the day to start taking out all the Christmas books, CDs, and decorations (the Christmas tree is still a couple of weeks away).  Sylvia has been sneaking out what she can over the last few weeks but today she knew I would let her take what she wants so this morning she took as much out as she could from the shelves and after school, got our everything else.  There is no avoiding that Christmas will be here very soon.  Hope you are coping with the Christmas onslaught!

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 10th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to peek into more kitchens. 

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Easy vegetarian thai curry and days out

On Saturday, I had a long Christmas shopping expedition with Sylvia and we had a rather dismal dinner on the train as we came home at 7.30pm.  So the following night I made a Thai curry that I make from time to time.  It was so satisfying to have a dish of lots of vegetables and flavour.  Today I am sharing how I made a curry with a jar of curry paste when I am in the hurry.  It is embarrassingly simple.

Before telling you about the recipe, here are a few snaps from some days out.  We had a weekend in Geelong recently to see family.  We also had time to go into the city.  I enjoyed seeing some street art around St James Street.

When I stumbled across Uncle Donut in Little Malop Street I thought I had better make a purchase for my doughnut loving daughter.  I liked the lamington doughnuts but quibble at the custard as well as jam in the filling.

E and I visited the Archibald Prize exhibition.  This is a prominent Australian portrait prize.  It is held in Victoria in different regional galleries each year.  This year it is at Geelong Gallery.  Such an eclectic collection of artworks with lots of clever ideas.  Above is Anh Do's portrait of Uncle Jack Charles.

After the exhibition, we stopped next door at the Geelong Library's cafe called Public.  While it is not cheap ($4.50 for a cookie is just too much), we enjoyed our wedges with sour cream, salsa and jalapenos.

As an aside, while looking for the cafe link on the library website, I found a reference to their Food for Fines program where people can have their library fines waived if they bring in donations for food banks.  Such a great idea.

On Friday we got along to the Coburg Night Market.  I enjoyed some Ethiopian curries and ice cream but did not get as much time as I had intended for browsing the craft stalls.  Our time there was cut short by an imminent thunderstorm.  I was relieved to get home just as the heavens opened.  Sadly it looks like more rain on Friday for the next market but maybe we can sneak in early.

And we had our Christmas shopping session in the city.  Sylvia is all into Christmas and delighted by all the decorations.  I wanted to get some Christmas shopping done because there are busy days ahead.  My proudest and most nervous moment was when Sylvia decided she wanted to buy me a present and went off by herself.  This was done with quite a lot of planning and discussion but she was very happy when she had done it.  I am being quite restrained with my Christmas photos as I plan to share more closer to Christmas.

So back to the curry.  Above is the curry I made on the weekend.  It is quite soupy when cooking but the top photo is after sitting for a day when the liquids get soaked up.  I cooked the noodles separately each night and then put them in with the leftovers for the third day.  Often I cook the noodles in the curry.  But I also often make rice to serve with it.

This last photo is of a Thai curry I made earlier in the year with a whole lot of different vegies but I did not write down the list.  In fact I have been making this style of curry for a long time but it is so easy and I often change what is in it so I have never blogged it.  Now that I am going through a busy patch, I thought it useful to share some of the meals I have when I am busy.

More Thai inspired dishes on Green Gourmet Giraffe blog:
Skye's Tomato and Pumpkin Curry with Lime and Coconut (gf, v)
Thai curry split pea soup (gf, v)
Thai pumpkin and lentil soup (gf, v) 
Thai style salad with noodles (gf, v)
Vegetarian Pad Thai (gf, v)

Easy Vegetarian Thai Curry
Serves 4

1-2 tsp neutral oil such as rice bran
1 onion
1 carrot
2 dessertspoons Thai curry paste*, or to taste
300g tin of coconut milk
1 cup water
1 tsp stock powder
350g tofu, diced (or chopped cashews)
Chopped vegetables - whatever you have*
Noodles or rice, to serve

Fry onion and carrot in oil until softening.  Stir in curry paste until it smells aromatic (30-60 seconds).  Add coconut milk, water, stock powder, tofu and vegies.  Simmer 10-15 minutes until vegies just cooked.  Hold back any delicate vegies like asparagus, spinach , snow peas until just before serving.  Keeps well overnight for leftovers.

*NOTES: I have made this with different curry pastes - green, red and yellow.  Vegetable suggestions: tonight I had 1 carrot, 1 large sweet potato, 1/3 of a cauliflower, 2 corn cobs, 2 mushrooms, 1 bunch asparagus.  On other occasions I have used pumpkin, spinach, cabbage, capsicum, snow peas, bean sprouts, spring onions, zucchini.  Mostly quick cooking vegies work well here.  If I don't have tofu I often throw in some toasted cashews at the end.  Or sometimes I put in both tofu and cashews.

On the stereo:
The Sound of The Smiths

Thursday, 23 November 2017

I Dream of Sushi, Moonee Ponds

When you find a sushi place that is named after a favourite childhood tv show and has a separate vegan menu, you know you are onto a good thing.  As soon as I saw Veganopoulous's fantastic photos I had bookmarked I Dream of Sushi as a place to visit when we were next in Moonee Ponds.

It is just a small place with some seating along the window and wall but it has a nice ambience with kewpie dols and maneki neko.  Sylvia and I also enjoyed watching the trains from the window.  I Dream of Sushi is right opposite Moonee Ponds Train Station.

I was excited that the sushi display had more than the standard vegie and avocado handrolls that you find in shopping centres.  I haven't yet tried the fried eggplant miso sushi but hope to some day.

But then I saw that they had a separate vegan menu.  You might need to ask for it as it is not necessarily given to you unless you ask about vegan options.  But it is extensive and impressive.  Bento box, Gyoza, Soup, Soba noodles, Tofu.

I chose the Tofu Don on my first visit.  the photo is at the top of the page.  It was delicious.  While not dirt cheap, at $14 I got my money's worth.  Four large squares of tofu in batter with don don sauce, lots of vegies and salad and heaps of rice.  In fact Sylvia really liked it and there was plenty for two of us.

Sylvia had ordered her favourite Japanese dishes: inari and edamame.  While sharing a bit of my dish she managed to knock a plate to the floor and it smashed to smithereens.  The staff showed just how lovely they were by tidying up with little fuss and easing our embarrassment.

We also had drinks because I cannot resist a good kombucha and Sylvia always wants apple juice.

My second visit was by myself.  I ordered the Bento and was most impressed.  While I prefer a little compartmentalised bento box, I loved the plateful of food so much that I was willing to overlook this.  The bento consisted of what the staff called "tofu steak" but I would call battered tofu, tempura root vegetables, a green vegetable mixture of broccoli and asparagus with a creamy nutty sauce, some edamame, lots of salad leaves with a delicious dressing and a bowl of rice on the side.  So so so good.  Again it was great value for money at $15 with lots of vegies and flavour.

I really want to return and try other dishes but I loved the Tofu Don and the Bento so much that I want to eat them over and over.  It will be hard to branch out even if the soba noodles and gyoza are calling my name.  The staff are lovely and the cafe is a pleasant place to stop and eat. And don't forget to admire the cute little sushi cartoons around the place.  They will make you leave with a smile.

I Dream of Sushi
6 Margaret Street, Moonee Ponds (opposite train station)
03 9375 7961
Opening hours: M-Th 11am-8pm, Fr-Sat 11am-9pm, Sunday Closed
www.idreamofsushi.com.au

I Dream of Sushi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 20 November 2017

Wild Rice Burgers

It has been a week of burgers.  It has been such an intense few weeks that some simple burgers have been welcome meals.  We have had to deal with Sylvia's flu, medical appointments, school swimming lessons on consecutive days, neighbours' noise and my workplace gearing up for some big events, just to name a few of the challenges.  Sylvia has embraced Christmas (thanks major supermarkets and all your unseasonal displays) so I am now starting to worry about getting organised for festivities.

I had my eye on these Wild Rice Burgers from Pinch of Yum for some time and finally made them on the weekend.  I still had salad vegetable that I had bought the previous week in hope of making them.  Unfortunately it was more the sort of week when I was eating baked beans for tea because no energy to think about it, or eating a little tub of nuts and some stewed fruit found in my bag because I didn't have time to make lunch or go and buy it.  Thank goodness that I have well stocked pantry and bag even in busy times.

I decided to veganise the burgers.  Actually I had seen these burgers veganised on Yup It's Vegan but wanted to come at it from another angle.  There are so many ways to make any dish vegan!  I stuck a lot more closely to the recipe, using vegannaise instead of mayonnaise and substituting aquafaba (chickpea brine), chia seeds and flours for the 4 eggs.  I also changed around the flavours.

At first I thought that my changes had made the burgers too soft.  However once chilling them, they mixture was much easier to handle.  I also found that the flavours, which initially seemed too strong, settled after chilling.

My burgers were much darker than Pinch of Yum's burgers.  I am not sure why.  They were really really good.  I really loved them because they reminded me a little of the burgers I had as a child and they crisped up really nicely.  Though I wish they had had a bit more protein.  I was pleased in a busy period that the mixture produced 12 burgers which almost lasted a week.

The first day I served them on  my own sourdough buns , which were a bit heavy for the burgers.  The more traditional light and fluffy white burger buns worked better.  The day after I made them I took a sandwich to work of fresh sourdough bread and cold burger with some cheese and tomato sauce.  It was so good I ate it before lunch with a colleague and did not see anything better at the cafe where I was quite content just to drink a green smoothie.  I took them down to my parents on the weekend and cooked them up for dinner.  The leftover I took for when we arrived home. 

I can highly recommend these burgers.  I would suggest maybe starting with a bit less aquafaba and serving in a burger bun.  But I am confident that they would be excellent in so many ways.

More vegan burgers on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Earth Burgers (gf, v)
Roasted beetroot tofu burgers (gf, v)
Smoky apple vegie burgers (v)
Sweet potato, chickpea and hemp seed burgers (v)
Tamale burgers with mole sauce (gf, v)
Vegemite burger (v) 
Watercourse Foods tempeh burger (gf,v)

Wild Rice Burgers
Adapted from Pinch of Yum
Makes about 12

1 1/2 cup raw wild rice
1 cup button mushrooms, finely diced
1/2 cup aquafaba*
3 tbsp potato starch
2 tbsp tapioca flour/starch
3 tbsp chia seeds
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
2-3 cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp salt and pepper mix
2 tsp smoked paprka
1 tsp seeded mustard
oil for frying

Firstly cook wild rice.  Place raw rice in hot water, cover and bring to the boil.  Stir, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Pinch of Yum says this should make about 5 cups of cooked rice.

Mix rice with all ingredients.  It is best to chill the mixture in the fridge.  My mixture lasted about a week in the fridge.  Heat 1-3 tbsp of oil in a large frypan.  Wet hands.  Take a handful and shape into round flat burger patties and put straight into frypan.  Fry for a few minutes on each side over medium heat or until crisp and dark.  Drain on kitchen towel.

Mixture keeps in the fridge for up to a week.  Serve straight away in a burger bun or keep overnight and eat cold in a sandwich.  Cooked burgers can be left in the fridge overnight and heated either in the oven or on the grill.

On the stereo:
Flood: They Might Be Giants

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Sock doughnuts and doughnut mania

When Sylvia's suddenly loved everything about doughnuts I decided it was time for a craft project.  I mentioned a while back that we had made some sock doughnuts.  Real doughnuts are delicious but they do get stale quickly.  These doughnuts really liven up Sylvia's doughnut den.  So here is a post on how we made them and a little more on everything doughnut.

Before I tell you about making sock doughnuts, let me tell you a story about my late father-in-law.  He told his daughter that it was so hard to find "fun socks" any more.  She went and found some socks with lots of crazy colourful stripes and spots.  He looked disappointed.  Apparently she had misheard him and he had asked for "fawn" socks.

I agree with my father-in-law.  Fawn socks are very hard to find.  Which makes it tricky trying to make sock doughnuts when fawn or beige socks are the first thing you need.  I ended up buying mostly fawn socks.  I didn't choose this project for the socks.  What attracted me was that there was no sewing involved.  Lots of hot glue gun instead.

So we ended up cutting the fawn legs off socks, rolling them up and then when I glued the edges on I had to pull it as tight as possible to make the holes in the middle more visible.  Then I cut out felt icing to glue on top.  Lastly we used fabric paints to put sprinkles on top.  It was great fun.  We made a dozen over a few weeks.

We experimented with a few different ways of decorating the doughnuts.  The white on chocolate was to be a lamington but the white paint was not quite bright enough.  The coloured sprinkles were the best.

Ironically after avoiding all the sewing, Sylvia has decided to start sewing a stuffed felt doughnut that I have finished off for her.  We just need to sew on the sprinkles.

While we were in doughnut sock mode, Sylvia had to do a craft project for school.  So she put some googly eyes, a red felt mouth and icy pole stick limbs on a sock doughnut.  Voila!  A walking, talking doughnut. She used some modelling clay that we bought at the Wallace and Gromit exhbition to make more little doughnut.

The sock doughnuts go in the Doughnut Den.  That is the area where Sylvia creates her own world's in our living area.  All her doughnutty things go in here.  Even her doughnut outfit.  Just so you know she is not totally obsessed with doughnuts, she does not wear her own doughnut very much.

I have scratched my head about this doughnut obsession.  It seemed to come out of nowhere.  When I think back, it might have started with purchasing some Sylvanian Families dolls house furniture and Sylvia pouring over the catalogue, as she loves to do.  She decided she must have the doughnut shop.  It took quite a while before I found it in a shop but you can see why it would make you swoon over doughnuts.  They are so so cute.

Once you start to look, there is actually quite a lot of doughnut stuff around.  Not enough for Sylvia.  But enough for my wallet.  She also says there are not enough doughnuts in movies.

So here are 5 movies/tv shows with notable doughnuts:
  • The Simpsons
  • Zootopia
  • Adventure Time
  • Wreck it Ralph
  • Emoji Movie

We've been giving Sylvia pocket money so she has to make some choices about what she buys.  Then she finds a Shopkins Delish Doughnut for a bargain $1 in a department store.  Right beside her is Donatina who was bought with her savings.

There are heaps of shops selling doughnuts.  Sylvia loves collecting their business cards.  Quite a lot of them were collected at the Donut Fest.

But we have been visiting more doughnut shops than usual.  Above are some of them: from top right: All Day Doughnuts, Doughnut Time, Krispy Kreme, Donut Fest, Doughnut King and Dooughnut Time.  My favourite doughnut place is not there though - the hot jam doughnut van at the Queen Victoria Market.

Even when doughnuts aren't involved, they look like they are.  Here are some gingerbreads we made to take to the Grampians holiday home.  We used the doughnut cutter to shape them and then iced and sprinkled them.

And then we made "cheese puffs" with a doughnut cutter.  That is what Sylvia calls it when we grate cheese on a sheet of puff pastry, cover it with another sheet, cut it into shapes and baked until golden brown.

And of course we have been baking lots of doughnuts.  Mostly for social occasions.  They don't last well if not eaten on the day.  Occasionally we have just been experimenting.  Above from top right chocolate sourdough doughnuts, yeasted doughnuts, baking powder doughnuts and overnight sourdough doughnuts.  Don't ask me which are my favourites!  I love them all.  Just don't ask me to fry them.