Sunday, 19 January 2020

Laneway Greens and the holidays

I longingly passed Laneway Greens many times before I finally ate there yesterday.  I love a place with a healthy bowl of food.  It was lovely to share with a friend from the country.  It was a nice ending to my summer holidays.

Laneway Greens is a clean, modern space with a selection of bowls of food with a few extras and smoothies.  I had the Summer Market Bowl ($18): falafel, ancient grains mix, Laneway leaf blend,  baba ganoush, dill pickles, sesame seeds, coconut yoghurt, dukkah pomegranate molasses, cranberries, barberries and tahini dressing.  It was delicious.

The food was in a cardboard bowl with plastic cutlery.  And according to the notice it could all be composted.

I haven't been out for much fancy food these holidays.  The Lord of the Fries vegan mac and cheese burger has been more typical of our outings than Laneway Greens.  That burger was surprisingly spicy.  I didn't notice the jalapenos.  In fact it was fun and cheesy but I think I prefer the classic burger I usually have.

We haven't got to museums and galleries and zoos or done day trips over the holidays.  So it really has made us focus on the bushfires more.  From overseas it seems that all of Australia is burning but it is not so.  Australia is so big that on the map the bushfire areas look small but they are much larger than usual and having more of an impact.

Instead there has been cleaning up around the house, buying new furniture and moving old furniture around.  Little discoveries of the past.  Hard pizza crusts and loving notes to mama.  Bags of clothes discarded and quite a bit of Netflix.  (Above is a picture of Sylvia's new desk in the shop!)

There has been a bit of fun.  Sylvia has had a few playdates and been doing craft.  We have had a few swims.  Some down at Torquay when we have visited my parents in Geelong.

We had a family lunch at the Wharf Shed, which has recently re-opened with a facelift.  The lunch and dinner menu had some good vegetarian options.  The breakfast menu had a lot of eggs so I had the Buttermilk hot cakes with vanilla double cream, crunchy sesame praline, berries, maple syrup, lemon balm ($24).  It was nice but as I am not so into cream I would have liked a fruit sauce or something.

And tomorrow I am back to work.  It seems too quick.  I have had lots of sleep and got some organisation done around the house. What an odd summer!

Laneway Greens
2/242 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, Victoria, 3000
Monday to Friday 8am-8pm, Saturday 9am-4pm, Sunday Closed

Laneway Greens Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 13 January 2020

Quick black bean quesadillas

I have a week of summer holidays left before I am back to working 9 to 5.  After weeks of lots of sleeping and rest, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and starting lists of things to accomplish before the holidays finish.  There is a lot to do.  I want to do lots of cooking while not exhausted after work but there is so much else on my list.  So some simple quesadillas did the trick on the weekend.

I had hoped to share a recipe for a tahini rice bubble slice today but it was a total failure!  We were baking for a bushfire fundraising cake stall on Saturday.  Luckily we had aimed high.  Sylvia made grubs and honey joys and I had also made vegan cupcakes.  So the slice went to the bin while the rest of our contributions went to the cake stall.  The stall raised about 3 times as much as the school normally makes from a cake stall.

It feels like our politicians are letting us down on the bushfires but the community is showing amazing spirit.  Everyone around here seems to be be doing something for the bushfire funds whether it is donating the takings of a cafe, busking, holding a garage sale, setting up a go fund me page or even marching in the street.

And the bushfires will have far reaching effects whether it be with wild life, accessible roads, drinking water or food availability.  So I am feeling even more than usual that I should be responsible and avoid food waste.  Above is a photo of some strawberries and tomatoes from the garden.  I haven't given the garden quite as much attention as it needs but I am keeping my plants alive.  My cherry tomato plants look quite spindly compared to my mum's lush green tomato plants.  So I just am grateful for any produce.

The quesadillas originally were inspired by Jamie Oliver's gnarly black bean tacos in his new cookbook Veg: Easy and Delicious Meals.  I quite like Jamie Oliver and promised myself  I would buy one of his cookbooks if he ever wrote a vegetarian cookbook.  Finally last year he did.  I bought a copy I saw on sale (forgetting I had requested it for Christmas but I ended up with a book voucher that was great fun to spend).  I am trying to use the cookbook despite not doing much cooking from cookbooks lately. 

Jamie's gnarly recipe looked simple and a good way to use up some tortillas.  Yet I could not quite get my head around cooking the tortillas on the frypan and pressing the tortillas on top.  I predicted a big mess in my kitchen and changed tack!  And I wanted to use up some of the stuff in my fridge: half a tomato, some avocado dip, some old yoghurt, an open jar of salsa, wilting baby spinach and of course my cherry tomatoes.  I listed 1 tomato in the recipe as I don't expect everyone to have half a tomato and a few cherry tomatoes to use up!

I was happy with how these quesadillas turned out.  They were delicious and good easy casual eating that didn't distract too much from my work in sorting out papers, books and clothes around the house.  I had quesadillas as in the recipe the first night and on the second night I was still sorting out stuff and stopped long enough to grill some leftover black beans, salsa and grated cheese on a couple of slices of sourdough toast.  Perfect food for busy times!

More Tex Mex meals on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Kale, cheese and mole quesadillas (v)
Mexican nacholada casserole (gf, v) 
Super easy vegie layered tortilla casserole
Tex Mex vegan bowl (gf, v)
Tex Mex Pizza with sourdough base (v) 

Quick black bean quesadillas
Serves 2

400g tin o f black beans, rinsed and drained
1 handful baby spinach,  chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 tortillas
2 handfuls of grated cheese
Butter for frying
To serve: yoghurt, salsa, guacamole, finely sliced red cabbage

Mash black beans and mix in spinach, tomato, vinegar and cumin.  Spread on half four tortillas.  Spread with grated cheese.  Fold tortilla over and cut in half.  Heat frypan and melt a small knob of butter over medium high.  Carefully place quesadillas into pan (I cook 4 quarters at a time).  Fry a few minutes until golden on one side.  Very carefully turn, melt another small knob of butter in the pan and remove once golden brown on the other side. (I don't time these but I look and smell and sometimes turn the first one a bit too early but it can be flipped back over if needed.)  Serve with yoghurt, salsa, guacamole and cabbage arranged on top.

On the Stereo:
Ruby: Killjoys

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

In My Kitchen - January 2020

January should bring rejoicing at summer holidays and gorgeous blue skies.  But this year it is not quite the summer we expected to welcome.  Our country is experiencing too many bushfires, to many evacuations, too many properties lost, too many lives and livelihoods affected.  Though our emergency services have done an amazing jobs at fighting the fires, supporting the evacuees, and keeping deaths to a minimum.  Meanwhile in Melbourne it is a little smoky.  We are the lucky ones!

At home, I have a couple more weeks holidays.  There has been lots of sleep and not much socialising.  The Christmas tree and decorations are down.  We have been swimming and shopping and to the cinema (loved Little Women and Last Christmas).  I've written my 2019 reflections.  And with Christmas just behind us, in my kitchen you will find lots of gifts and new year feasting!  Let's take a look.

The top photo is a fried egg that Sylvia was having fun with. It is still a surprise to me how much she has loved cooking and eating fried eggs, scrambled eggs and omelets in the last year.  I don't like any of these.  Eggs aren't my thing.  But they are rather photogenic!

Sylvia also had fun decorating some gingerbread cats in the lead up to Christmas.  You can see more festive food in my Christmas eating post.

I met up with Faye who had been in Japan.  She very kindly brought us back wasabi salt, a cute dog purse and an unusual soy sauce dipping plate with a cat shape.  I need to experiment with the salt but the plate and purse have had plenty of use.

We had a secret santa at my workplace.  It was a stealing secret santa which in principle I don't like because it is not about accepting gifts but in practice it is actually fun which you have good presents and friendly people.  We had so many laughs swapping presents that we did another round of swapping presents.  The most swapped present was a coffee voucher!  I got this cat tea infuser (because I thought Sylvia would like it) and it oddly came with some eggs and a stone, all wrapped up in an egg carton!

The cat tea infuser proved very useful.  My sister gave me a T2 loose leaf Frosted Fruitcake Tea and Eggnog Tea in a cute Christmas cracker wrapping.  The fruitcake tea is herbal and smells amazing.  The eggnog is black tea and Sylvia has taken this one which she loves.  The mug with the cat face was a decorate-your-own-mug present to Sylvia, the cat tea strainer is also a present for her and the pink cat mug was bought in the post-Christmas sales.

We got some lovely belgium chocolates in cute Christmas shapes from my aunt and uncle.  There has been quite a bit of sweet food about: pannetone, panforte, Christmas cake, stollen.  There is still quite a lot of this about!

We planted catnip in a pot in the garden last year.  It grew from a little cutting to a leafy abundance without too much encouragement and we had to prune it back when it started going to seed.  Apparently it is related to mint, which explains it growing like a weed!

The catnip was bought for our cat.  Someone told me a genetic difference in Australian cats mean they don't react as much as American cats.  But when we had the leaves on the table after pruning (because Sylvia wanted to dry them out and stuff them in a little bag), our cat Shadow took a great interest in them and was rather playful!

On New Year's Eve we were running late and I didn't have time for making nachos.  Instead I served the vegetarian haggis (that I usually make) in quesadillas with cheese for me and some quesadillas with just cheese for Sylvia.  I served lots of vegetables to make us feel healthy!  We had a quiet one at home with a neighbour visiting us.

A few days later I invited E over to have haggis nachos for tea.  He loves haggis whether it is meat or vegetarian.  I think it reminds him of the home country!  It also turned out to be the New Year's Eve Dr Who special that night so we enjoyed watching that together!

As Australia Day is coming up at the end of the month, the shops are starting to fill with patriotic stuff!  I give the flag waving a miss but could not resist Lamington flavoured crisps!  These are some of the weirdest crisps I have tasted.  So weird and yet moreish.  They have a chocolate and coconut flavour with a bit of salt.  I think they would go well in a nutella sandwich.  But I think either they will be a one hit wonder novelty item or they will be trailblazers in a new fad for sweet crisps.  I suspect it will be the former!  Sylvia is not a fan!

I have been making a few fruit salads.  It is such a great way to eat lots of the fresh seasonal summer fruit.  I dice berries, stone fruit and pineapple, then add some orange juice and passionfruit and keep it in the fridge for a few days.  I know I should add watermelon but melons just aren't my thing.  We had pancakes a few mornings back and they were delicious with fruit salad and maple syrup.

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 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to visit more kitchens.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Reflections 2019

And like that, here we are in a new year and a new decade.  Hard to believe another year has whizzed by but I am pleased to see the back of 2019.  Today I bring you a recap of the year

Last year started full of promise with a fun trip to Sydney.  We also visited Lorne and Port Fairy.  But the end of the year fizzled out with E and I separating.  There was so much change that I found it hard to keep up.  Though I am in the same house, I have had a new phone, a new fridge, new bank accounts, new NBN wifi network, and a new hard drive in my home computer. At work my team dwindled to me and my manager at the start of year.  I was sad when she left due to ill health but in her place came a new manager with her new team of lovely people.  I change my role, moved office twice and had a new computer at work.  It was a year of a lot of change.

Sylvia's home made slime collection!
With a 10 year old in the house, there is always change.  Sylvia became more independent and bloomed as a digital native.  After some swithering, I gave her my old phone so she now has a phone and an ipad.  She had one scooter die and one scooter go missing.  She cooked herself lots of eggs, made lots of slime, loved all things cats and, most of all, our cat Shadow.  She was a big fan of Kate Miller-Heidke.  Meanwhile our garden continued to grow, my bookclub continued, and I got into knitting for the first time in years.

My statistics were down this year.  No surprise there.  I had less time and energy for blog posts.  I had less time and energy for sharing these posts.  I was more surprised that only a little over a half of posts (53%) had recipes.

91 blog posts
14 photos accepted on FoodGawker
9 cafe reviews linked to Zomato
440 likes on FaceBook

Where my blog was featured
I was surprised to find a few links to my blog online this year (or that is what the dates suggest in this digital world where dates don't matter to some people).  More links are to photos than posts!

Most popular
As my stats took a tumble in the second half of the year, it is no surprise that the popular posts, according to my Blogger stats, were from earlier in the year.

Top 5 recipe posts
Twice baked potatoes and SpudFest 2019
Overnight sourdough bread rolls
We Bare Bear cupcakes for a birthday party
Charcoal overnight sourdough bread
Chickpea, potato and cauliflower curry

Top 5 eating out posts
The Tea Cosy tearooms, The Rocks, Sydney
Brighton Soul cafe and Brighton Beach
Are the vegan burgers better at Hungry Jacks?
Grounds of Alexandria, Sydney
Moo Gourmet Burgers and Manly Beach, Sydney

My best of 2019
This is a list of my favourites I have encountered this year rather than the best released this year:

Favourite kids film - Mary Poppins Returns and Frozen 2
Favourite adult film - Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman
Favourite Netflix movie - Pirate Radio (The Boat that Rocked)
Favourite family tv show - Gilmore Girls
Favourite adult tv show - Line of Duty
Favourite Australian novels - Boy Swallows Universe and Past the Shallows
Favourite foreign novels: the Goldfinch and the Night Circus
Favourite non fiction book - The Land before Avocado
Favourite album - Billy Joel's Songs in the Attic 
Favourite musician - Kate Miller-Heidke
Favourite new local eating out - Carringbush Hotel, Abbotsford

What we enjoyed eating in 2019
My cooking mojo was at low ebb this year.  There weren't heaps of recipes that really excited me, other than sourdough baking, but I did find some I really loved when I checked over the posts of 2019.  Here they are:

Savoury meals - Ghost salad, Cauliflower cheese pastiesSt Patrick's day green pizza, Creamy apricot and chickpea soup, Slow cooked smoky chickpeas with tacos, Chickpea tangine with quince, Purple sushi salad with tofu nuggets

Sweet baking - Cinnamon scroll scones, Irish Tea Cake, Carrot cake, Pinwheel pancakes with strawberries and cream cheese,

Fun baking: St Patrick's day shamrock cupcakes, We Bare Bear cupcakes, Halloween eyes in the dark cake,

Sourdough bread baking - Overnight sourdough bread rolls, Antipasto sourdough focaccia, Charcoal overnight sourdough bread, Overnight sourdough hot cross bunsOvernight sourdough cranberry nut rolls, Roast potato and rosemary bread

Happy New Year
We had a quiet new year with vegan haggis in quesadillas.  Then on New Year's Day, Sylvia and I started the year with a visit to the beach.  There is much I would like to do more in 2020 that I haven't done enough in the past year: cooking, baking, blogging, craft, swimming, cycling and catching up with friends.  I have been catching up on sleep during the holidays and feeling a bit more energy so I hope to get more done this year.  I thank you for reading, commenting and supporting me this year.  Here's to more blog posts, good food, good company and good times in 2020!

End of a decade
The world has changed so rapidly over the past decade that it scares me.  Here are a few reflections on the decade that has just passed:
Here in Australia we are intensely conscious of the effects of climate change with so many terrible bushfires raging at the moment.  Fortunately in Melbourne we have not been affected, other than a little smoke haze and looking out for family and friends who might be in the line of fires.  But our community will be devasted for some time to come by these fires.  So I go into the New Year with all those affected in my thoughts.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Christmas sights and lights - gingerbread village, trees and gumnut babies

We got out and about more at Christmas than I expected we would.  One of my favourite places was the Gingerbread Village - see above photo and scroll down for more - which I think was the best I have seen yet.  But there were also lights, trees and the most engaging Santa I have seen.  And at the end of this post, there are some of our presents.

I really liked the native flower display at the farmers market.  They were making native flower wreaths.

We invited some friends over to help decorate the Christmas tree.  It looked lovely and Kerin even magically wove a trimmed branch into a wreath with some baubles, tinsel and bendy metal ties.

The next morning I awoke to this fallen tree.  I have no clue what happened.  Our cat (Shadow) is a suspect but he generally steers clear of the tree so he has grounds to protest his innocence.  Perhaps it was just a year for mishaps.  (We had two broken bowls over Christmas.)  I was mostly sad about our broken star that we had made out of icy pole sticks and buttons.  We put the tree up again and got on as many decorations as possible but it has never looked the same since.

Sylvia had a little tree in Shadow's corner in her room.  She made the little wreath, the gold Christmas tree and the reindeer on the tree at a craft session at the library.  Not pictured are his huge pile of presents, including a lot of stuff from the Cat Show and a lot of home made pom poms.

We went to my parents to help decorate the Christmas tree.  I didn't get a good picture so instead I am sharing a picture of the decorations on the sideboard.

We had an evening out to enjoy Christmas in the city.  It has become tradition that this evening includes dinner from Lord of the Fries and a visit to see the festive doughnuts at Krispy Kreme (though I prefer the Ben and Jerry's ice creams nearby).  Above is Federation Square and in the background is lots of scaffolding which I think is related to the Metro new underground rail stations project.

We've had a few visits in past years to the Gingerbread Village (2018, 2017, 2015, 2013).  This year was the best.  If you look back at past villages you can see that they have developed.  I talked to a volunteer who said it takes 4 chefs working for 2 weeks to make it and some of the village is kept in cold storage for the next year.  What an amazing piece of work.  It was very quiet when we visited late in a new location in Collins Lane this year but a friend went to visit and said there were huge queues on another day.

The Gingerbread Village includes many Melbourne landmarks, with intricate detail even if not strictly accurate.  Above is the crowds outside the Melbourne Town Hall with trams on roads and the Public Purse sculpture on a pedestrian section opposite it.  Any Melbournian knows that the Public Purse is in Burke Street Mall a couple of blocks away.  Likewise Flinders Street Station is opposite not beside Federation Square as in the top photo.

The village has previously included a wonderfully detailed Royal Children's Hospital.  So I am not sure why it was only this year I noticed that proceeds go to this hospital.  However this hospital this year has been rebuilt.  It retains the familiar parts of the hospital especially in the foyer.  I love all the details, especially the below meerkat enclosure which delights kids waiting to see a specialist (in the actual hospital it has a glass wall unlike in the Gingerbread Village).

I have not shared some of the pictures of the village that I have previous shown: the MCG, the kids lining up to see Santa, Brighton beach huts, Luna Park and the zoo.  Instead I have focused on some of the newer buildings that represent Melbourne icons of which I am very fond.

The Shrine is Melbourne's war memorial.  Hence the red poppies in the grass around it.

Young and Jackson's is a well known Melbourne pub built in the Nineteenth Century and is just across the road from Flinders Street Station.  It has bright advertising on its rooftop.

The Arts Centre is a 1980s building famous for its spire, the bottom of which is sometimes referred to as the ballerina skirt.

In the midst of the Melbourne icons is a section of buildings from Osaka because it is the sister city of Melbourne.  I think this is the only place I have seen any reference to this sisterhood.

We then went on to see the Myer Christmas windows.  In the last few years they seem to have revolved around books to the extent that crowds had to wait for an overhead recorded reading at each window and it was very slow moving.  This year it was more visual without the page by page approach and the crowds did not have to wait to move on.  It moved much quicker than on other years.  (Though my sister said on the weekend before Christmas the queues were crazy.)

I was pretty excited about the theme of May Gibbs gumnut babies because I loved my Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books when I was a kid.  I also was pleased to see the Australian theme as I had invited an Iranian colleague to come along.

But while I loved seeing the gumnut babies (and little blossom) I am not sure a Santa Koala ever appeared in May Gibbs drawings but he is the sort of character who might have.  She made lots of characters out of Aussie bush animals.  There were no Banksia men in the windows - they scared me so much as a child that I think it is just as well!

There is always a nativity scene on the last window of the Myer Christmas windows.  Usually it is fairly quiet.  This year they made it into a nativity calendar which grabbed the attention of lots of people.

Inside Myer were more gumnut baby decorations.  After a couple of years finding that the queue for Santa was too long, we were surprised to be told that there was only one family ahead of us and we were welcome as the last guests of the night.  We did a fun train ride where we watched snowy scenes go by out of the windows.  Then we waited briefly and were able to go into see Santa.  He was one of the most engaging Santas I have seen.  He made Sylvia feel comfortable and amused us with magic tricks with a colouring book to demonstrate his magic that helps the reindeer fly.

We did a quick drive around a couple of days before Christmas.  We like to look at the local lights and one of the best houses that always does a spectacular light display, had a snow machine added this year.

Finally here are many of Sylvia's presents.  You might notice a theme of cats this year!

And some of my presents.  Both Sylvia and I are very lucky to have such generous and thoughtful people in our lives.