Sunday, 2 August 2020

Lockdown Christmas in July

Christmas in July this year was indeed a moveable feast.  Back in the good times of June when 20 people could gather in a home it seemed we could do it but by July restrictions had tightened to only 5 guests and I considered a kids lunch and a parents lunch separately.  And then there were no visitors and I despaired.  Until a colleague suggested taking food to my friends who usually come around for Christmas in July.  So the food got portable and we were able to get together on zoom.  Covid19 is really making us having to innovate to connect in this unsettling and isolating lockdown time.

Once we had agreed on a date to share food and zoom, the planning had begun.  The food had to be vegetarian, include gluten free, be portable, not too bulky, not likely to spill, easy to reheat and easy to divide up.  Sylvia and I discussed lots of ideas.  We bought a few choice items at the farmers market the weekend before and then on the weekend of the lunch, we had a cooking blitz.  Here is the menu.
 
Menu

Mini tomato, goats cheese and caramelised onion quiches
Baked cauliflower bites with hummus and feta
Potato parsley stars
Tabouli salad and green salad
Candy cane pizzs

Christmas fruit cake
Christmas tree meringues
 
Meringue christmas trees
We planned to have lots of Christmas tree shaped meringues for everyone.  Sylvia has made a few batches this year that have worked really well.  So I left her to make meringues but the first batch did not form stiff peaks and it took another batch and a lot of beating (5-10 minutes) to get the desired marshmallowy thickness.  Unfortunately once bitten twice shy meant that the second batch was smaller and then some spilled.  We only had 5 meringue Christmas trees in the end.  One for each kid.  These were made on Saturday and on Sunday Sylvia finished them off by piping chocolate and sprinkling hundreds and thousands on top to look like tinsel.
 
Mini tomato, goats cheese and caramelised onion quiches (recipe at end of post)
One reason I love baking for Christmas in July is the opportunity to try recipes I have been drooling over for far too long.  I had pinned a picture of these tarts some time ago.  They looked cute and delicious and great to packing for a picnic or a potluck.  Planning ahead I bought some onion marmalade and goats cheese at the farmers market a week ahead.  I made them on the Saturday night.  They weren't too hard but were a bit fiddly.

Sylvia, who has embraced eggs over the last year or so, does not understand how I will not eat eggs by themselves but I will eat quiches.  i have tried to explain I like quite a bit else in the quiche other than eggs.  Meanwhile I find it odd I made her a quiche with no onion marmalade and she still left bits of her tomato.  I am not sure if it is a great thing that we agree on cheese and pastry but we do.  Unfortunately the pastry was not as golden as I would have liked.  I didn't want to overcook as it needed to be reheated.  But the silicone (which I used) is quite shy of browning pastry compared to metal muffin tins.  They still looked quite cute with the

Baked cauliflower bites with hummus and feta
Once the quiches were made I set about making the cauliflower bites which I chose because they were gluten free.  I think they appealed because cauliflower and cheese scream Christmas to me, probably because I love cauliflower cheese as part of any roast dinner.  It lifts any dinner to from everyday to entertainment!  I was also interested in the idea of mixing in hummus and happy to find something gluten free I could serve.

The cauliflower bites seemed a bit fragile, especially when they were hot out of the oven.  It helped to Squeeze out as much liquid as possible and press them down firmly in the muffin tin.  This was the last of my Saturday work and I was up late because I am a night owl and I knew I would not be able to do much in the morning.

Potato Parsley Stars
It was a given that we had potatoes.  But we had to choose from roast potatoes, potato salad or potato stars.  Sylvia wanted stars.  So stars it was.  We've made them a few times.  They are fun and fairly straight forward.  I am very sad that my favourite Trentham potato lady at the farmers market has not been visiting since lockdown.  I assume she is unable to to travel into Melbourne.  She sells potatoes that are so full of flavour that it feels a little sad to buy potatoes at the supermarket but that is what I had to do.

Candy cane pizzas
While I love to experiment with the food I serve the adults, I always make the same thing for the kids.  It seems that kids always love pizzas even if they are a bit picky with any other food I made.  I am always trying to get the cheese not to melt too much so it looks like stripes.  It is constantly a challenge.  But I have experimented with this and hope to share a recipe soon.

The last item I made was a Gluten Free Christmas Cake that I baked a week before the lunch.  More about the cake in another post.  Sylvia decided to make Christmas bags for the kids.  We wrapped the pizzas in foil, and put the meringues into popcorn boxes.  I found some old takeaway boxes and used more popcorn boxes to package up the food.  Then I packed everything for one family and had two bike rides with food in my panniers that I dropped off during the ride.  I was pretty behind but by about 3 we all joined in a Zoom video chat to talk about the meal, sewing masks, wearing masks, contact tracing, remote schooling and our families. 

Making lots of finger food seemed more work and less food than a meal we could share in my house.  Luckily one friend left some tubs of salad on the verandah that completed the meal nicely.  I am glad that we did the meal when we did.  The last week has seen among us illness, corona virus tests (negative), contact with people with corona virus, and the government talking tighter lockdown which today has culminated in moving from stage 3 to stage 4 restrictions.  I really hope that in December we will be able to be more social when it comes to celebrating Christmas!

More ideas for Christmas food:

Mini tomato, goats cheese and caramelised onion quiches
Makes 24 mini quiches

12 vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried Italian (mixed) herbs
Sea-salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to season
2-3 sheets frozen ready-rolled shortcrust or puff pastry (25cm x 25cm), partially thawed
2 eggs
1 tbsp cream
1 tbsp finely grated parmesan
1/8 to 1/4 cup caramelised onion chutney (I used onion marmalade)
50g goats cheese, crumbled

Cut cherry tomatoes in half.  Please in a baking-paper-lined roasting dish, drizzle with oil and scatter with herbs and seasoning to taste.  Roast at 190 C for 10-15 minutes or until skins start to wrinkle and burst.

Meanwhile grease and line two x 12 hole or 1 x 24 hole mini muffin tins.  Cut 7cm diameter circles from the pastry sheets and line muffin holes.  I had to use my fingers neaten up the tops of a few pastry cups once in the tin because they were not smooth.

Spoon a generous quarter teaspoon of onion marmalade into the bottom of each pastry cup.  Light whisk together eggs, cream, parmesan and seasoning.  Divide among pastry cups, filling them about 3/4 full.  Place a cherry tomato in each and crumble goats cheese around tomato.

Bake for 15-30 minutes until tomatoes are well cooked and pastry is golden.

NOTES:
  • I used cherry roma tomatoes which were so small I did not cut in half but they would explode with burning juices in my mouth so I think perhaps halving the cherry tomatoes would help.
  • I only used 2 sheets of puff pastry because it was all I had but I was able to get about 20 x 7cm diameter circles and then about 4 x 6cm diameter circles.
  • I used silicone mini muffin tins and the puff pastry cases did not get golden and crisp.  I think a metal tin might help crisp them up.
  • I find the best way to line mini muffin tins is to cut circles of baking paper for the bottom of the tin (by folding a piece of baking paper into a small square and cutting the circle out of it so you cut all many circles at once) and if it is silicone I don't grease but if it is metal I grease it.
  • I made one for Sylvia with no onion marmalade and sprinkled some parsley so I could tell which one it was.  She enjoyed it.

Baked cauliflower bites with hummus and feta
Makes about 24

500g cauliflower cored and riced
5 tablespoons hummus
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (I used GF)
3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper

Once the cauliflower is riced, place in a clean teatowel and wring out as much liquid as possible.  Mix all ingredients together with the cauliflower in a medium mixing bowl.  Spoon into lined and greased mini muffin tins (2 x 12 hole or 1 x 24 hole) and press down in the tin.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Gently remove from tin.  Can be eaten warm, room temperature or frozen for later.

On the Stereo:
An Aussie Christmas

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Kale chickpeas and coconut noodles - and random links

I saw Dylan Moran on tv doing a great comedy stand up session recently.  He said something along the lines that you see the glamourous shower footage on shampoo advertisements and then you look at yourself and you look like a pig in a typhoon in a telephone box.  Likewise this dish looked gorgeous in the supermarket magazine but once I took the fish off (of course) and added my own bits it was ... well ... like the proverbial pig in a typhoon in a telephone box!

There is a lot of noodles around our place lately so I added noodles.  I had leftover roast pumpkin, limes from the tree in the backyard, and ponzu as a vegetarian alternative to fish sauce.  It was more interesting than amazing but I liked having noodles in a different way than usual.  By the way, the coconut cream was a grey sludge and I thought it might be off but when I googled it, apparently that just how it looks sometimes.

It is also that time of year when it is dark early and I lose my mojo for taking photos (and let's not mention the energy sapping effects of lockdown).  So I made no efforts to fancy it up but just shot it quickly before eating.  So I will practice the gentle art of distraction with some entertaining links I have come across lately:


More noodle dishes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chow mein (v)
Lo mein (v)

Kale chickpeas and coconut noodles
Inspired by Coles Magazine
Serves 1-3

1 leek sliced
1-2 tbsp oil
1/4 red capsicum finely sliced
100g kale, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2  x 400g tin coconut cream - thinned a little
50g spinach chopped
2 tbsp lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tbsp ponzu
1/4 tsp chilli paste
200g pack of pre-cooked hokkein noodles
seasoning - about a pinch or two of salt
shredded coconut, to serve

Fry leeks and red capsicum in oil for a few minutes in frypan over medium high heat.  Add turmeric and kale for a few minutes.  Lastly add coconut cream (mine was really thick so I thinned it a bit with a drizzle of milk or water), spinach, lime juice, ponzu, chilli paste and hokkien noodles.  Season to taste.  Bring to the boil and stir to make sure the flavours are mixed through.  Sprinkle with shredded coconut and serve.

On the Stereo:
Franz Ferdinand - self titled album

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Red and green smoothie bowls

It is the last day before school goes back for Term 3.  Sylvia and I had a lazy morning playing with our food.  Smoothie bowls are so much fun!  Because we have Christmas in July on our minds we decided to do red and green smoothie bowls.  Double the fun!
 
We decided we needed the smoothies thick for the toppings to sit on but mine was thin no matter what I did.  I think my mistake was to start off with too much milk.  Most fun was using a spoon to drop dots of Sylvia's red smoothie and dragging a skewer through to make leaf shapes.

Sylvia did more planning than me and placed her decorations on the plate,  I would advise that.  She also made a kiwi fruit flower that looked cute on her bowl.  And she put in lots of ice and frozen fruit so hers was more slushy and held her decorations better.  After her photo she tipped some of my green in and marbled it.  I did the same with her red smoothie.

We are going slow this morning but have lots to do.  My bread has been slowly rising, my kombucha need decanting, the house needs cleaning and I got to get onto the Spoonsville craze.  Plus I have plans to make a fruit cake for Christmas in July - not sure if I will get to share it this year but I have been taken by the Insiders Mike Bowers idea of corona virus baubles on a Christmas tree.  Stay tuned....

More smoothies on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Banana and quince smoothie (gf, v)
Breakfast smoothie bowl (gf,v)
Green smoothie bowl - with pear and kale (gf, v)
Pomegranate and orange smoothie (gf, v)
Raspberry apricot and chia smoothie (gf, v)
Strawberry, plum and orange juice (gf, v)
Tropical orange and carrot smoothie (gf, v)

Green smoothie bowl

Blend:
banana
spinach
kiwi fruit
pineapple
baby cucumber
lime juice
soy milk
cashews
ice

Decorate:
blueberries
banana
strawberries
shredded coconut
chia seeds

Drizzle:
maple syrup

Red smoothie bowl

Blend:
orange juice
strawberries
raspberries (frozen)
blueberries
blackberries (frozen)
banana
morello cherries (from a jar)
ice

Decorate: 
strawberries
blueberries
banana
shredded coconut
kiwifruit flower

Drizzle:
honey

On the Stereo:
The best of the radio songs: The Church

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Carrot Oat Slice and random moments

It was over a month ago I baked this carrot oat slice and haven't baked much since.  Back then, there was a feeling that as we were starting to get out of lockdown, it was uphill all the way.  The diagnoses has reduced to single figures and days with no new cases.  Everyone was hopeful back then.  Sadly life can change quickly these days.  One week of alarmingly rising numbers is all it takes to catapult us back into lockdown.  So I am writing this with a more sombre tone than I expected when I baked the slice.

The slice was made after work when I felt the need to bake but wanted to keep it healthy.  It was made to use what I had in the house.  I have not been using enough carrots or oats or nuts and dried fruit.  I had leftover tinned peaches which seemed as good as applesauce.  I found it quite zen to be chapping up the ingredients (I even chopped the rolled oats to make them into porridge oats) while I watched the third season of Killing Eve.  It is a show I have a love-hate relationship with.  Jodie Comer is fascinating to watching but also horrifying.

It might sound a bit odd to say it, but I loved the slice because it was satisfying rather than amazingly moreish.  It was the sort of slice that I could have for breakfast and snacks and feel better for it.  Which is what I needed after a couple of months of lockdown.  I keep telling myself it is ok that we are going back into lockdown but I do I miss the socialising and being more active when we could get out of the house. 

Then today on Insiders (current affairs tv show) we were told it could be October until we are getting out properly again.  IF the numbers ease.  On Friday, Victoria had 288 diagnoses which is a far more than any daily diagnoses before our first lockdown.  Makes me wonder how many lockdowns there will be.  Meanwhile we have ordered washable masks and are have just heard that kids are back to remote school learning again.  We have proven we can cope.  It helps that we have seen family and friends, and Sylvia's teacher was happy with her remote learning last term.  But it is still a long slog. 

There is a part of me that wants to scream about what I still haven't done: I haven't had a swim for so long, I couldn't book to go to the zoo because I lost my membership number and you don't just walk in any more, I have friends I wanted to catch up with and I missed going to the cinema.  I want to eat out and ride my bike to work and plan travel.  We just need to breathe and know that it could be a lot worse!

Meanwhile as I haven't had much time or energy to post here lately, I am sharing a few random moments:
  • I am brewing my third batch of kombucha.  It is still a mystery to me.  Sylvia thought my last batch had a bitter after taste.  I want it more fizzy.  Perhaps this is why when I picked up my computer to find my kombucha recipe I got distracted and did my tax return instead.  Tax this year wasn't simple with al the working from home time I had to sort out.
  • It seems everyone has developed a new skill in lockdown.  I dreamed of taking up piano again and travelling to the UK this year, but my achievement is darning.  I should not diminish it so.  I have long wanted to know how to darn so I was actually excited to learn how from a video posted by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  I am pleased to have rescued a few favourite jumpers.  Sadly some of them are now only fit for lockdown and not wearing out.  I never said I was an expert!
  • The weekend before lockdown I was lucky enough to have dinner with my family at the Fyansford Hotel in Geelong.  It was great to see my family there (who are luckily now outside the lockdown area.)  We were celebrating my niece's and nephew's birthdays.  As you can see above, we had sparklers not candles on the cake!  I had  soup with some nachos on the side that I was told were starters but they would have served a couple for dinner.
  • It was nice that my neighbours shared some cake they baked in the first lockdown.  A couple of weeks back one of these gifted me some plain flour, caster sugar and icing sugar because although she had made a really good sponge cake (especially considering she had not baked a cake before) she decided she would not be baking another cake.  When we heard we were going back to lockdown, I offered her to take back the ingredients but she said she would buy a packet mix if she baked again. 
  • During lockdown, the library gave us an extended due date for our books.  Last month as the library started to open they were due.  When I gathered our library books to take back, I included the library book that E had given me to read.  When I told him how helpful I had been, he was not so happy because it was actually a decommissioned book he had bought from the library.  Oops!

There are small differences with this lockdown.  Last time it was across the country but this one is just for our Melbourne metropolitan area and an adjoining local government area.  My colleagues who need to be in at work to get on with their projects were locked out of work last time but we have now had permissions sorted for those who have to be there - much to their relief.  Even at home, I have set myself up better than I was at the start of the last lockdown.  And the supermarkets are much better stocked.  I feel happy to see piles of toilet paper and flour and know I can buy it when I need it rather than in some dog-eat-dog act of desperation.  But it is harder to plan ahead knowing that one lockdown was not enough and even two lockdowns might not be all.  I hope there will be more healthy baking ahead and I hope everyone will be careful and stay safe!

More healthy slices on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Carrot Oat Slice
Adapted from Wee Little Vegans
Makes 36

Wet ingredients:
2 tbsp ground flax seed
4 tbsp water
2-4 carrots, finely grated about 1 cup packed
1/2 cup mashed peaches - or banana
1/4 cup maple syrup

Dry ingredients:
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder

Optional add-ins:
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup prunes, chopped

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.  Soak flax seeds in the water and set aside.  Put together wet ingredients and then stir in flax seeds.  In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients.  Pour in wet ingredients and mix gently, then mix in optional add-ins.  Pour into prepared tin (it is quite a wet mixture) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Cool and cat into 36 squares, or to sizes you desire.

On the stereo:
The Secret History: The Best of Divine Comedy

Thursday, 2 July 2020

In My Kitchen: July 2020

We are halfway across a year that has given so many surprises that I can only wonder what the rest of the year will bring.  In Victoria, July brought us the joys and grief in the Covid19 easing out and then then tightening up lockdown again.  It is frustrating, confusing and uncomfortable.  I am lucky not to be one of the 30 suburbs in Melbourne that has been locked down today.  But there for the grace of God go I.  (See more Covid19 rants here.)  Other than the big C, we have had cold weather, school holidays and soups and preparing for summer by learning to make kombucha.

Looking through my photos last month, I was struck at how little I have been out to eat in cafes and with family.  Most eating is still at home.  I seem to go in and out of cuppa soups where you dump the powder in a cup and cover with hot water.  These ones have been useful on work days and great to warm me up.  I could not resist the bright cheery packaging of these Coles soups.  My favourite is the Asian Laksa.  It is so good.  Just spicy enough to warm me without being too much and the noodles are great comfort.  The miso soup is disappointing (murky brown and not enough actual miso flavour) and the potato and leek soup is nice enough.

Having heard a lot about Alpro from British bloggers, I was keen to try this vegan dairy substitute when I found it in the supermarket recently.  Sylvia drinks much more milk than me and rejected the barista soya milk.  It did not sit well in a smoothie I made.  But it is fine in baking or mac and cheese.  The alpro yoghurt was not the wonderful vegan yoghurt I have been waiting for.  It went into baking!

I really loved the look of these Off the Eaten Path pea and pinto bean chips because they sounded healthy and the name amused me.  I found these crunchy tubes quite moreish and enjoyed the cheddar and chives flavour.

Sylvia close these garlic and parsley mini baguette breadsticks.  They are so tiny and cute with their green, herby, garlicky, buttery fillings.  I think these would be great on a cheeseboard.

There is an amazing profusion of vegan processed food in supermarkets.  I generally don't get too excited.  These smoky cauliflower burgers were really delicious.  I heated them under the grill and kept one aside to crumble for pizza.  The toppings were pizza sauce, baked beans and crumbled burger.  The burger was amazing on the pizza - little crispy chewy nuggets with a hearty smoky flavour. 

Every now and again we buy milo.  So we were interested to see it is now available in a vegan version.  Almost half as much sugar as the dairy one.  No surprise that it tastes much more of cocoa.  Same, same but different!

I don't usually buy Old Gold Chocolate but Cadbury has sucked me in with this Cherry Ripe version that is so good it is almost better than the Cherry Ripe chocolate bar!

I went to Northland Shopping Centre to buy a kit to fix some vinyl rips on a lounge chair.  I had expected to buy it at a sewing and craft shop but found it in a car accessories shop!  While there, I also bought a new plate, a large knife and an eggflip to replace on that had fallen apart.  It felt pretty special to be able to do this.

Sylvia got back to school for a few weeks before the holidays started.  Her lunchbox was never used during lockdown.  At school she bought lots of fruit to serve along with cheese in a wrap, leftover veggie sausages and mini cucumbers.  After a while she tired of this and started to take in noodles in a thermos and hot chocolate in another thermos.

We are always excited when fish and chip shops offer Corn Jacks (as close as I've got to a Vegetarian version of a Chiko Roll).  So I bought a packet from the supermarket freezer and served with oven chips (seasoned by Sylvia with salt, herbs and garlic powder), baked haloumi, roast pumpkin and brussel sprouts.  It was delicious.  I went a bit overboard with baking the corn jacks and haloumi so I eased back the next time I cooked it.

I made Pinch of Yum's Triple Berry Cheesecake Muffins.  They were nice but incredibly fragile and not quite worth all the time and washing up needed to bake again.  There is the berry muffin mixture, the cheesecake mixture and the streusel for topping.  Plus the streusel was so messy over the muffin tins.

I found some brioche charcoal burger buns in the freezer and cleared out some lurkers in the fridge for a burger night.  I made a tofu besan omelet with silken tofu that needed using.  I made a sort of burger with rice, pumpkin, breadcrumbs and seasoning.  Then a bit of lettuce, cheese and relish finished it off.  It was really delicious.

A colleague gave me a recipe for salted caramel brownies.  It required make the sauce for a salted caramel layer.  My first attempt at cooking the sugar to the right colour for the caramel sauce was pretty bad.  We made toffee rather than sauce, much to Sylvia's delight!  When I tried again, I found I had been cooking the sugar over low heat and so by the time it melted, it had cooked quite a bit.  Making caramel sauce this way takes some skill and experience to know how it should proceed and nudge it in that direction.  I am not sure it was thick enough as you could not see the filling but it was a really really good dense rich brownie with salted caramel flavours.  I took it to a family lunch and good some great feedback on it.

Lastly I have started parenting a kombucha scoby.  Cindy of Where's the Beef saw my regret at not having a scoby in lockdown so she gave me one of hers.   So far I have made a bottle of blueberry kombucha in one batch and put another on to brew.  I really liked my kombucha - though it wasn't too fizzy but still feel too uncertain to know what I am doing or what I should expect.  It seems that sort of thing that I just need to get some experience in so I can develop a feel for what works for me.  I had read about kombucha but still needed lots of reading and hope to discuss it with those who have their own scoby.  A friend visited today who has her own scoby so we chatted a bit about what she does.

I was so confused about a starter tea to start making kombucha that I bought this wild kombucha to support my first batch.  I still have some in the fridge that perhaps needs to be a vinegar for a salad.  I would be more keen to try this if the recent cold weather had made me feel like I could never imagine wanting to eat salad again.

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,  I am grateful to Sherry for soldiering on despite all the upheaval as In My Kitchen is always a fun event. If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog and visit more kitchens.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Double chocolate muffins - and the Victorian Covid19 Spike

The last week has been full of ups and downs.  At the start of the week in Victoria we were so pleased to be doing well and looking forward to more easing of restrictions.  Then the Corona Virus numbers started going up each day.  We were told that instead of restrictions easing, they were tightening up again.  We made these chocolate muffins at the start of the week but like our luck, they ran out too quickly!

Here is a photo of the only meal I have had out since lockdown restrictions eased in May.  My work group had a meal at Naughtons Hotel in Carlton in the first blush of excitement at opening up and getting our of our houses.  I had a superb main meal of "Roast vegetable wellington, mushroom duxelle & butternut, kale, pepitas" ($28).  We also shared some "thick cut chips, Gruyere cheese, Romanescu" and mushroom and preserved lemon arancini with pecorino".  The chips with the creamy cheesy sauce were a wonderful accompaniment to the vegies in pastry.  I also had an excellent Seedlip Garden, elderflower and soda to drink.  I have not heard of Seedlip before but now I am curious to know more about this non-alcoholic distillery.

This cat towel was purchased at Northland shopping centre.  I went out there with a friend when the diagnoses were so small that we were feeling safer.  I really went there because I wanted to get a vinyl patching kit for a hole in a vinyl chair.  You can see it below.  On the trip a seatbelt in the car broke so I needed it to get my car serviced and the seatbelt fixed.

My part of Melbourne has been linked to the hotspots but then when they narrowed down to suburbs, my suburb was not named.  It was a relief but instead of opening up more, we are told during the week that restrictions get tougher again.  We are going backwards.  Now Northland is linked to a Corona Virus cluster.  And politicians in other states are telling people to avoid people from Melbourne. 

Check out Sammy J's satirical video to see some gentle fun poked at Victorians by one of our own.  And the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper had a go at us today, saying that security at NSW rugby matches would be checked for Victorian telltale signs "such as ankle pants, fedora hats, fixed-gear bicycles, vinyl record players, political ideals and Victorians’ uninhibited embrace of their own cliches."  Yes the other states are enjoying more easing of lockdown and having a dig at Victoria!  And the sports fans are sad that they are having to wait longer to go to footy matches.  (Rugby!  Who watches that?)

The timing of the outbreak of Corona Virus is unfortunately happening as the school holidays start this weekend.  It is hard to know what we can and can't do now.  It seems back to working around the house, reading and craft projects.  Sylvia was so excited about the last day of school followed by a sleepover that she made these bath bombs  before I got up yesterday (and had even cleared up after herself, which is even more amazing!)  I have been to get more paint made so I can paint over some patches on our walls and finished patching the vinyl today.  I wish I could say I was flying through The Children's Book but am a bit slower than I would like.  But I hold great hopes for my week of annual leave coming up.

Our cat, Shadow, is not only able to amuse us (as you can see in the photo above from today while he played on the carport roof) but also loves to snuggle close by.  He has curled on the sofa next to me while I have been watching a few films lately.  Our local ABC iview has lots of Australian films available for free.  Sylvia and I watched Muriel's Wedding which is a part of our culture ("you're terrible, Muriel").  I watched Goldstone which is an impressive example of what a Western would be like in Australia.  And tonight I watched the Goldfinch (on Netflix), which we were going to watch with my bookgroup but never got around to.  It lacks the richness and depth of the novel but feels every bit as long!

We bought cat food last week (and bought a cute bag) but, more importantly, bought toilet paper recently.  Soon after the was a run on toilet paper in the supermarkets!  Again!  Can you believe that yet again the supermarkets are limiting how much people can buy!  Again!  It beggars belief. 

So you might not be surprised to hear that by midweek I was feeling tired of it all.  Tired of sanitising my hands everywhere I went.  Tired of all the handwashing.  Tired of discussions of masks and tracing apps.  Tired of the paranoia.  Tired of hearing about people's experience of being tested for corona virus with a big stick up the nose.  Tired of forgetting to pick up Sylvia from school (it was only once but I better not do it again).  Tired of being told not to go anywhere if you have a runny nose even though I have had a runny nose most days of my life.  Tired of seeing my colleagues who need to return to work having to battle with bureaucracy.  Tired of wondering what statues will remain standing.  Tired of the racism in our world.  Tired of worrying about what the future holds!

I wish I had more of these muffins.  Sylvia found me a recipe when I said I wanted to make chocolate muffins.  But I had an egg white in the fridge so used that instead of the second egg.  Then I added chia seeds and then I was out of wholemeal flour and there was none in the supermarket so I added some wheatgerm.  So they ended up slightly healthier.  I am a great fan of wheatgerm and chia in bakes.  I don't know why I don't do it more often.  They were great comfort food but also a little bit more satisfying.  Sylvia thought they needed to be warmed but I was happy to eat them at room temperature.

I was going to write this post when I was feeling a bit low but I am feeling better now.  I wish I could get out more but chocolate muffins and good films have helped.  One thing that has helped is to know that as soon as our diagnoses start to rise, that our politicians are looking after us and fighting the virus.  When I look around the world, I am glad that when our daily diagnoses hit the thirties, that it is taken seriously.  And that gives me hope!

More chocolate muffins and cupcakes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Double chocolate muffins with wheatgerm
Makes 10-12 muffins

Dry ingredients:
1 cups flour
1/2 cup wheatgerm
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup milo
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg white
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup rice malt syrup
1/2 cup canola oil or butter, melted

Add ins:
100g dark chocolate chopped (or 1/2 cup chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 180 C and line a 12 cup muffin tin witht 12 muffin paper cases. Mix dry ingredients in a medium large mixing bowl and the wet ingredients in a small mixing bowl.  Pour wet into dry and mix until combined.  Mix in chocolate chunks.  Spoon into muffin cases.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean and the muffins smell cooked.  Cool on a wire rack.

On the Stereo:
Just enough education to perform: Stereophonics

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Black Forest Brownies

As soon as I saw the recipe for Black Forest Brownies in the local supermarket magazine, I had to make them.  They were so fancy I was going to make them for Easter and then Mothers Day but had too much other rich food about on these days.  So we ended up making them one evening after an optometry appointment when Sylvia reluctantly chose new frames for new glasses, after finding her favourite glow in the dark frames were not an option.  Change is hard but brownies can make it better!

I really loved the sound of these brownies because they had a big cherry hit without needing fresh cherries which have such a short season.  The recipe used morello cherries, which were a great revelation to Sylvia, and cherry ripe chocolate bars that might not be easy to source outside Australia.  The best way I can think to describe them is like bounty but with a pink interior that is cherry flavoured coconut with the occasional glace cherry piece.  I have suggested Bounty Bars in the recipe as an alternative but it would mean missing the lovely pink chunks even though you would get some of the squidgy coconutty chunks.

My biggest challenge with the black forest brownies recipe was that in the supermarket magazine it called for boxed brownie mix.  I generally steer clear of cake mixes, which are overpriced, full of additives and don't make it that much easier to bake a cake.  So firstly I found a boxed brownie recipe which seemed all I needed.  However when trying to work out the amount of boxed brownie to add to my recipe I found that the supermarket recipe called for a 660g brownie packet mix but that on their website the largest brownie mix I could find was 500g.  This confused me further.  So then I went offroad and just found a good basic brownie recipe that I could fold in morella cherries and cherry ripe chunks.

Then I just had to work out the baking time.  The Black Forest Brownie recipe called for 45-50 minutes and the basic brownie called for 20-25 minutes.  Both were for a 20cm square tin and baking at 180 C.  It seemed a big difference.  As brownies are better slightly undercooked than overcooked, I erred on the side of less rather than more time.  I did 15 minutes at 180 and 15 minutes at 160 which seemed to work well.  No one wants dried out brownies!  So I am glad I didn't follow the supermarket recipe.

We really enjoyed these brownies.  They were great comfort food in lockdown.  I didn't have the patience to boil down morello cherry juice with sugar and vanilla and I forgot to sprinkle with icing sugar.  But we did eat them with cream and extra morello cherries.  I am not a big fan of cream but loved the morello cherries with them.  Sylvia enjoyed the brownies but I think she would have been happy enough to eat the jar of morella cherries by itself.  They are very nice that they are slight more sour than fresh cherries.  And maybe when we are a bit more social again I might make these to share with family and friends.

More brownie recipes with unusual ingredients on Green Gourmet Giraffe:

Black Forest Brownies
Adapted from taste.com.au and coles magazine
Makes 24

1 cup sugar
125g unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
50g dark chocolate melted
1/2 x 680g jar pitted morello cherries, drained
150-160g Cherry Ripe chocolate bars, chopped*
Cream, extra morella cherries and icing sugar, to serve

Preheat oven to 180 C.  Mix butter and sugar together and then mix in the eggs.  Fold in plain flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, then fold in dark chocolate, then morello cherries and chopped Cherry Ripe.  Scrape into a lined 20cm square cake tin.  Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 160 C and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Brownies are best slightly underbaked than overbaked so do a skewer test but a slight amount of mixture is ok.  Also use your nose and check if the top looks dried and does not feel very soft.  Cool in the tin.  Serve with whipped cream, remaining morello cherries and a dusting of icing sugar.

*NOTES: If you cannot get Cherry Ripe bars, the best substitute would be Bounty Bars.

On the stereo:
Mahler's 5th Symphony - BBC Proms 2010