Saturday, 6 August 2022

In my kitchen: August 2022

So it is August and the health department is saying we are just over the peak of the latest covid wave.  I had my 4th covid vaccination yesterday and hope it will keep me free of infection but vaccination is no longer a guarantee.  In fact, the government is saying that there are many people who must have had covid with no diagnosis so I begin to wonder if I have had it after all!  I am wearing a mask in the office again, and hoping this will help others as well as myself.  Quite a few family and friends have tested positive recently.

July saw me visit the Melbourne Museum three times.  I credit this to school holidays, crystals and returning after the giftshop was closed for the annual stocktake! With chilly wintery weather, I am baking a bit more and riding my bike a bit less.  The economy is out of sorts with iceberg lettuce prices soaring and avocados unusually cheap.  Interest rates keep rising month after month, but petrol prices have recently come down slightly.  Our Prime Minister Albanese is working hard at giving our Indigenous people a Voice.  While the UK has a dodgy caretaker Prime Minister and people queuing at Dover to leave the country.

Winter also means citrus.  I have been pleased to have plenty of lemons and limes from our trees to share at work, pep up avocados, and add to cooking. Recently I found sooty mould on the lemon tree, which according to the ABC is a sign of a white fly.  So I took all the ripe lemons off the tree and sprayed it with eco oil.  I think it is improved but I still worry about it.  I hope these aren't my last crop of lemons!

I came home from work one day and when I opened the fridge, I found a mirror in the fridge.  I couldn't even entertain the reasons why Sylvia might have done this but was glad once it was out.  It was soon after we had found a few different flavour of Nippy's milk.  Sylvia likes Nippy's but I prefer kombucha. 

One of my favourite recent finds in the supermarket recently (as well as Butterscotch Tim Tams which never last long enough to get organised for a photo) are these Hearty mushroom and lentil pies.  I am not a huge mushroom fan and was dubious about the concept.  However these are one of the best vegetarian pies I have even had which manage to be meaty without being fake meat.

During the school holidays, I had lunch with Sylvia at Smith and Deli while on on a trip to Collingwood Bunnings Hardware.  It made us nostalgic for the days we used to go to the cramped old shop with no space to sit.  These days it is a much bigger space, though in an area of Collingwood that I don't know well.  In fact I got so lost driving there that I accidentally found Bunnings and didn't have to look it up on GPS to work out how to get there.  I bought a salted caramel oat milk chocolate at Smith and Deli out of curiosity.  It was nice but always seemed too wintery snappy cold for my liking.  I feel I would like it more in summer!

We also bought a packet of pineapple salsa corn chips.  I was curious.  They tasted a little like sweet and sour.  I enjoyed them but I did not love them.  I feel like they needed a creamy yoghurt or cream cheese based dip.

I finally finally found an opportunity to use of the saffron an Iranian friend gifted me.  It is a very generous little bottle of the strands.  I made saffron rice.  It looked and smelled amazing.  I served it with lots of vegetables and chickpeas like a pilaf.  It made quite a few delicious dinners and lunches.

A colleague recommended Ottolenghi's Confit Tandoori Chickpeas.  It appealed because the recipe was simply a matter of dumping the ingredients in a casserole dish and baking it all together.  The chickpeas were delicious with all sorts of meals.  In the one above I topped them with yoghurt and lime juice, and served it with roast pumpkin, mashed avocado and muffins topped with grilled leftover mac and cheese sauce.  So delicious!

We love baking gingerbread in our house.  It is fun to cut the dough into all sorts of shapes.  When we made this batch, some of the butter didn't blend in quite as much as it should.  When the gingerbread had baked I found that the little dots of butter that wasn't properly mixed ended up as holes in the biscuits.  It still tasted wonderful.

Once Sylvia was in the mood for gingerbread, she asked for me to bake this Treacle gingerbread.  It is such a soft sweet sticky cake.  I wrapped it in foil which worked well but foil really does not photography that well.

I baked this batch of easy brownies last weekend.  The recipe interested me because it was mixed in the tin.  I usually used baking paper when I bake in a cake tin but this recipe was different.  I was impressed at how good the brownies tasted and that they came out of the tin fairly easily with only a little of the brownie sticking occasionally.  Definitely a recipe for when energy is low but desire for chocolate is high!

During the school holidays, we went to Spotlight to buy more jewellery making supplies for Sylvia.  I could not resist a pack of colourful buttons. 

The buttons were inspired by all the wonderful button art I see online.  The problem of seeing art online is that you don't handle it.  So Sylvia and I spent an afternoon arranging buttons into a hot air ballon picture and then painstakingly gluing on each button (which required one of us removing the button with tweezers and one of us weilding the hot glue gun).  We were really happy with our picture.  I planned to put in on the wall until I picked it up and found it was too heavy to blutak up.


I'll finish up with a photo I took on the way home from work recently.  There is nothing like beautiful trees and sunsets.  I am pretty tired of wet dark nights that make the bike seem downright unpleasant but I am cheered by the evenings getting lighter and that soon it will warm up.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen 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 to visit more kitchens and her wonderful hand drawn header.

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Red Velvet Mug Cake with Frosting

This red velvet cake dates back to October 2020.  It is embarrassing how many recipes I have in my drafts and how few I am making right now.  But as it is the chilly depths of winter almost two years later, Sylvia and I have been talking about mug cakes.  So it seems timely to post this recipe, even though October 2020 gives me bad flashbacks to lockdowns.  That is not comforting with 102 deaths in Australia today: the highest death tally since 27 January this year.  Our government is resisting mask mandates as the covid diagnoses rise but everyone seems to be getting more worried which might mean that just a few extra public health measures to keep the numbers down will be welcomed.

Who would have guessed that ageing banana and pineapple in the fridge would lead to a red velvet mug cake!  The banana and pineapple went into Hummingbird Cake (photographed above).  We made lots of cream cheese frosting - twice the amount that I had made last time when I posted about it.  Sylvia was delighted with extra frosting because she wanted to try a red velvet mug cake recipe that she had seen online.

Sylvia was peckish after her school work and came to ask if she could make the mug cake she had seen on Tik Tok.  While it seems decadent to make a frosting for a mug cake, it seemed positively frugal to make a mug cake to use up leftover frosting from our Hummingbird cake.

She made it all by herself while I was working at my desk in the bedroom.  It also seemed quite indulgent to eat the mug cake while I had a zoom committee meeting but I was so pleased to meet a deadline, and sylvia had made an effort to make me one as well as her own and mug cakes really need to eaten warm.

The cake was delicious.  It was on the dry side.  In the past I have made a few microwave cakes that have been a little dry so it did not surprise me.  I think we substituted milk for cream because that was what we had.  But the frosting made it all ok.  It was good to have a home made mug cake work after Sylvia's brownie in a mug from a packet had ended up like hot chocolate. 

I regret to say I don't know the link to the TikTok vid that Sylvia used or I would credit it.  I did find a red velvet mug cake recipe online.  It has a little vinegar which I have added to the below recipe because it always makes the flavour shine that bit more.  That is from my notes and all I can say about it.  It is so long since we made it that I don't even remember if we made it more than once.  I can tell you that Sylvia is not so much into recipes any more.  She tends to make cakes in a mug and cookies in a mug with no need for a recipe these days.

More microwave mug recipes online:

Red Velvet Mug Cake with frosting
From TikTok
Serves 1

1 tbsp margarine
4 tbsp flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp cocoa
1/4 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
drop or 2 red food colouring
cream cheese frosting or white choc chips

Melt margarine in a microwave mug.  Mix in flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, milk and food colouring.  Mix until combined.  If you prefer white choc chips to frosting, sprinkle some on top now.  Microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds.  Set aside for 5 minutes and, if using, top with a dollop of frosting (or white chocolate chips if that is all you have) and some sprinkles.

On the Stereo:
Don't look at me: Billie Eilish

Saturday, 2 July 2022

In my kitchen - July 2022

How is it July!  How is it past the winter solstice!  How are we passed the halfway mark in the year!   How are we here when I haven't blogged much this year but I have photos, drafts and ideas!  How it life still so unsettled and askew!  Not to mention the disturbing news that the Supreme Court of America has overturned Roe vs Wade.  It is a reminder that life is cyclical not just moving in one direction.  We can't take the good times for granted nor should we forget in bad time that it will change.  This too shall pass!  In Australian news we have airport chaos (brought to you by Covid and Qantas) but at least our new Prime Minister Albanese is warmly welcomed by foreign leaders, as though in relief it is no longer Scomo!

There have been improvements and moments of light for me: a Sammy J gig, meeting a friend for a meal, and a centre-wide meeting at work where I could sit and chat with members over lunch.  And Covid is not over.  A few family members have had it recently.   So, unfortunately, I am not the only one to see life pass me by!  But there are plans for more good times ahead.

June has seen a few more home cooked meals in my kitchen.  Not all cooked in my home.  My mum has brought me  the above pumpkin soup with spiced chickpeas and also enchiladas with bean and cheese filling.  Both have been fantastic meals to have about for busy days.

We have had quite a lot of fresh ravioli for meals.  Recently as I was draining a saucepan, the pasta started to sink lower than it should and I realised the bottom was falling out of my colander.  I am so sad to have had to say goodbye to this colander which has been useful for many years of draining pasta, rice and beans.  It had the perfect handle to hold, the right shape, the right size holes.  I have looked for a similar colander.  No sign of one.  So I have a cheap one to keep me going until I find my dream colander.

These groceries are from our local supermarket which has rearranged everything and seems to have increased its range.  The tortellini that comes with a pumpkin sauce was ok but not as nice as pasta from the fridge.  The Turtle cups were quite moreish with soft chocolate filling in crisp layers.  Sylvia ate the seaweed crisps which were quite savoury.  And the crispy broccoli florets indeed shatter in the mouth but it is a bit disconcerting how much they taste like broccoli.  I guess they are healthy!

This soy crisp and cashew mix was a nice snack to take to work.

I cooked a huge Shepherd's pie ("Shepherd's lie") that gave me lots of lunches and dinners over a week plus more in the freezer.  I made a tomato tahini sauce filled with vegies and then a cheesy mash on top that was baked until crispy.  A great winter warmer.

I made this fried rice with tofu scramble for dinner when I had leftover basmati rice.  The I fried some pumpkin and purple cabbage to eat on the side.  Sylvia had quite a bit of the fried rice but not the vegies on the side.  I enjoyed quite a lot of leftovers.  

Oh and I photographed this with a pamphlet from our local Moreland Council which has recently discovered the name comes from a slave plantation in Jamaica.  They are on a crusade to change it to an Indigenous name and have chosen Merri-bek meaning rocky land but is yet to be formalised.

Sylvia wanted this brown sugar bubble tea.  She liked it.  I still find the concept very odd!

We tried a new flavour of ice cream - Butterscotch and Gingerbread.  It was quite nice but I was not as taken with it as Sylvia.

At work I tried tiramisu for the first time in my life.  One of my thoughtful colleagues made a regular tiramisu for her birthday and I declined because I don't do coffee.  She then made another with green tea which I tasted and it was really nice - I was pleasantly surprised that the lady finger cake layers were so soft.

And I am constantly amused by the notebook I bought to make notes at work.  The small print is not so easy to read on the screen but worth a read.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen 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 to visit more kitchens and her wonderful hand drawn header.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Wild Timor Cafe, Coburg

Lately I have enjoyed visiting Wild Timor Cafe in Coburg a few times.  It is slightly South of the main shopping strip, which I imagine is very convenient for the people living down that way.  It is also just near a second hand book shop and the St Vincent de Paul opportunity shop.  It is a cafe run by the Wild Timor Coffee Company that was set up in East Timor to help sustain local villagers.  So you can have your ethical coffee and then head off for a spot of sustainable shopping too.

I checked back through my photo archive and found that I had been here for a beetroot chckpea burger with kale and tahini in 2015.  It seemed so long ago but I remember enjoying the meal which I had with my mum.  The  menu has changed since then but they still do burgers, albeit haloumi burgers right now.


I was surprised at how little the interiors seem to have changed according to my photos 7 years ago (from which I have spared you).  They still had the blue tiles by the counter and distressed brick walls but they are looking fresh so I guess thay have had a refresh since I visited.  I think the blackboard is new.

I recently met a friend there and could not resist trying the drink special: bubblegum kombucha.  It was a weird combination of a modern health drink and childhood junk food.  The bubble gum flavour was there in the chemical artificial way it is in a stick of gum.  Once was enough but it was fun to try.

My friend Kerin was slightly late and sent a text asking me to order her a dirty chai latte.  It was the first time I had heard the term and had to check if it was a typo.  So I learnt it means chai latte with the coffee!  And I had the fruit toast with butter.  It was delicious.  A little like brioche.  Soft and rich with a hint of lemon.

I met Faye there for lunch a few weeks later.  She chose the vegan version of the Breakfast burrito: spinach tortilla stuffed with mushrooms, beans, advar relish, avocado, jalapeno and tomato salsa, and red cabbage slaw.  It looked impressive and she was happy with it.

I was tempted by the Hola hibernation bowl, a tex mex combo of beans, corn, rice, avo, rice and more.  But instead I chose the Wild poke bowl of brown rice, edamame, cucumber, cabbage, carrot ribbons, broccoli, avocado, lemon, pickled radish and ginger, marinated tofu, with a creamy vegan dressing.  It needed the extra dressing and lemon but was lovely and healthy.

And then I met Kerin there again and had the watermelon and rhubarb juice which was superb.  Refreshing and great flavour.  I also ordered the special: Polenta bites with rocket and chilli tomato sauce.  I would have liked them crispier but otherwise they were pretty good.

Good food.  Friendly staff.  The space is not huge and can fill quickly on weekends but is worth a visit.

Wild Timor Cafe
282 Sydney Rd, Coburg  VIC  3058
Hours: 8am - 3pm

Saturday, 11 June 2022

In My Kitchen: June 2022

I am in denial that is is June and just about halfway through the year, even though the recent chilly weather had hit us with peak winter.  We have been spoiled by mild weather this year until recently and now we are digging out coats, winter woollies, and brollies.  Mortgage rates are up and we face huge spices in gas prices.  May was busy with Mothers Day, crystal craft, the nervous wait for the Federal Election, pub lunches at work, lost glasses, flu injection and doctor appointments for asthma.

The top photo is of most of the Darrell Lea mother's day pack that Sylvia gave me for mothers day.  Almost all of it has now been eaten.  I enjoyed lots of chocolate and licorice.

There is still not heaps of cooking happening, although a few more stews and side salads.  I am trying to cut down on the beige.  Above is a meal of haloumi chips with aioli, hash brown, and coleslaw.  

We have this sort of "fresh" ravioli or agnolotti pasta pasta -about once a week right now.  Usually we have spinach and ricotta but I was excited to find this broccoli and potato version recently.  I quite enjoyed it with garlic olive oil, brussel sprouts, peas, baby spinach, brie, parmesan and seasoning.  I really liked how the brie melted to make a creamy sauce that pulled it all together.

This is a winter montage.  A cheese and vegemite pie from Zaatar for a warming lunch.  A lime off our tree and one of my favourite pears in season - Packham Pears.  Bike lights are a must at this time of year when it gets dark so early.  And a friend gave me that cute knitting badge.  I really need to find my knitting mojo this winter!

I bought these"Veggie Snaps because I was curious.  Occasionally I have bought veggie chips fro the health food section at the Supermarket.  I was interested to see how Thins do it, as a more mainstream chip company.  The "snaps" were closer to regular crisps - ie thinner and more processed.  Nice but really really salty.

My mum gave me this zuccchini relish that she made.  It is really nice change from the tomato relish we often have in the fridge.  Great with pastry and fritters.

Being back at work last month, I find that making lunch is hit and miss.  I sometimes find some leftover stew in the freezer and occasionally make a sandwich.  This sandwich was made after I roasted some pumpkin.  It was excellent with relish, baby spinach and cheese.

I bought this crystal ring making kit for Sylvia.  She enjoyed making rings with it.  I enjoyed just looking at all the pretty colours.

Once Sylvia had made lots of new rings she needed somewhere to keep them.  She made saltdough to shape into bowls.  Once baked (I think they took about 4 hours at 120 C) and cooled, she painted them.  They look great on her desk.


On 21 May we had the Federal Election.  Above are a selection of How to Vote brochures that I was handed on the gates of the school where I went to the voting booth.  For those who don't have preferential voting like in Australia, we have political parties handing out a list of their recommendations on what order to vote the candidates.  And elections mean democracy sausages (ie fundraising BBQs) and cake stalls.  The selection of cakes I bought is also in the above photo.

I made us nachos for dinner on the evening of the Election.  It is so long since I made nachos I forgot to buy avocados.  But I enjoyed the rapid refried beans with them.  And I made some limeade to serve with them.

This election the preferences had a lot of sway over who won seats.  It was notable not just for change of government but also for the high percentage of votes that went to the minor parties and independents.  It was such a nail biting wait to hear the election called for the Labour Party.  So it took me a while to get over my election nerves and join an interstate friend on a zoom election get together! 

We had a work morning tea for IDAHOBIT Day.  (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia - I still have to look this up to write out the full name.)  I loved the Licorice Allsort Slice I made for IDAHOBIT last year, I made it again.  It delivered yet again.  However I kept some at home which Sylvia liked ... without the chocolate on top!  I don't get it!  The combination of licorice allsortsand chocolate is the best bit.  At least it was appreciated at work!

And there was also Mother's Day.  I thought it was a bit cynical to call this marketing ploy of calling the Strawberries and Cream Twist Yoghurt, the Mother's Day Edition.  I liked the sound of the flavour but did not break it open on Mother's Day.  I went to Geelong to see my mum and eat roast potatoes, eggplant bake, and cauliflower cheese, pavlova and cheesecake with family.

When I got home on Mothers Day I had some stewed rhubarb from my mum.  I stirred in raspberries and made a rhubarb and raspberry sponge to share with Sylvia.  We had leftovers for a couple of nights.  I didn't get to photograph it til the last night when it was past its best.  It was our first dessert, despite the weather not getting ridiculously chilly til the end of May.

A few weeks later, I mixed some farmers market strawberries and soft peeled pears with lime juice and maple syrup.  I baked this with this crumble topping.  It wasn't my finest crumble - too much butter in the crumble and too much liquid in the fruit.  However a fresh baked dessert is always delicious and we enjoyed it with the uncrumbly crumble and extra juicy fruit.


Lastly, here is our cat, Shadow, coming through the new cat door in our security door.  He is loving being able to go in and out even when the security doors are shut.  Of course it will be even better in the warmer months but we are already loving it.  The photo is not in the best focus as I needed a long focus to catch him in the act!  If you know cats, you know that they never deliver when you want so you need to catch them unawares!

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen 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 to visit more kitchens and her wonderful hand drawn header.