Saturday, 7 December 2019

In My Kitchen: December 2019 and changes

When Sylvia got up on 1 December and started to put out some Christmas decorations, I was in deep denial it was so late in the year.  I still am!  The mild weather does not help (after some soaring temperatures) and the terrible bushfires in NSW and Queensland seem far away.  And there has been so much change that I can barely keep up with my life.  The main change in my kitchen is one less mouth to feed due to E and I separating recently.  And as a result there has been a lot of upheaval and tiredness in adjusting to change.  Within weeks I have had a new phone, a new fridge, a computer out of order, a first (secondhand) phone for our 10 year old, and a 7 week saga of getting the new NBN wifi network at home. (At the same time as dealing with new computer, new office and new colleagues at work.)  Lots of endings and beginnings.

Above is a photo of of kale and radishes from the garden.  We planted them with Woolworth's seed giveaway.  The great thing about the garden is that it is always in a state of constant change, reminding us that change is what nature intends.  My problem with gardens is still to work out the right moment for harvest.  When do we see enough of the little radishes poking above the earth.  When is the kale leaves right to eat?  The only answer is experience. See below for the radish harvest!

These polenta chips were inspired by VegHog and were delicious with roast tomato, baby spinach and a relish and aioli dipping sauce.  The book by Maggie Alderson was light and easy reading.  However I can highly recommend my current book, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern which I am finding fascinating.

These are new bowls because we really love our small bowls but they have been breaking and my kitchen has had some walk-outs with E leaving.

Fortunately E and I still get along.  I invited him over for tea but my cooking mojo has been a little low.  I made a vegetarian straganoff pasta bake with mushrooms and spinach which was disappointing.  Perhaps too much tweaking the recipe.  The flavours just weren't right.  I rescued some by adding it to a pumpkin and lentil soup.

Another kitchen fail were the cupcakes I made to eat for dessert after the straganoff pasta bake!  Oops!  I took a recipe for mars bar and brazil nut cupcakes.  I decided to make an Aussie version with Chokitos and macadamia nuts.  I was surprised to find the nuts were raw and so I used walnuts instead.  The cupcakes were just too dry!

The happy outcome of the cupcakes was that I ended up making macadamia butter with the nuts and finding that vegemite and macadamia butter is excellent on toast!

Another weird kitchen experience was making coconut ice.  It was actually part of a school project where Sylvia had to make it for a bake sale but to write up a recipe and work out costings.  She made one batch which kept its colour but then we made another for the cake stall and overnight the pink colouring turned orange!!!!

I did a double take when I saw cauliflower as a flavouring for tortilla chips,  I had to taste these Cauilflower, linseed and aged cheddar tortilla corn chips.  They were really nice.  The cauliflower flavouring was there but it was subtle.

Sylvia thinks that summer should mean always having ice cream in the freezer.  I disagree.  But occasionally there is an ice cream that pushes my buttons.  Golden Gaytimes were my favourite ice cream as a kid and my dad loved Violet Crumbles.  Combining the two in an ice cream made it a double whammy of nostalgia.  It was good but not as amazing as my sentimentality expected.  But it was rather nice during a heatwave a few weeks ago.  It is forecast to be 38 C on Monday so I am bracing myself for more unbearable heat.

My worm farm has had problems for months.  It has been wet and smelly,  I could not work out if rain was getting in or if it was something else.  I tried some shredded paper, this Biochar potting mix and more newspaper layers on top but it got so wet that my worms all died.  I might have saved them if I had not been so busy and tired that there was a little neglect going on but I just could not get them back on track.  I hope to get my worm farm going again when I have a bit more energy.  Meanwhile it is fantastic that our council is now collecting food scraps with the garden waste so at least my fruit and veg waste is not going to landfill.

With E moving out, there was some dividing up kitchenware.  My kitchen still seems filled to the brim!  One big change was that he took the fridge so I bought a new one.  I bought a bigger fridge because the old fridge was always so crowded.  Interestingly the freezer and crisper always seem full but it feels like there is always lots of room in the fridge.  Part of me thinks it is a waste of space and part of me loves it when I need to find room for large items such as a drink dispenser.

My cooking mojo isn't completely gone.  Last week I made some great vegan stovies (slow cooked potatoes with vegan "mince meat").  They were really good and I will write a post on them.  Today I just show you some stovies pizza which was delicious.  Stay tuned ...

Sylvia made this plate at school.  I think it was a great project to do because this is something we can have around the kitchen that she can feel proud of and which is quite practical.

I started the post with a picture of some healthy radishes and kale.  As I mentioned I was unsure when to pick them and left them a bit long.  Here is the radish harvest.  Laugh if you like!  Ironically I don't even really eat radishes.  I have sort of tried and not succeeded.  Maybe one day when I grow up!

Finally here is a photo of some festive items in my kitchen.  Christmas is now hurtling towards us at an alarming rate.  Last week I started in disbelief when someone told me it was 3 weeks til Christmas.  Sylvia has been doing her craft sessions at the local library and made some bon bons, a wreath and baubles (these are not home yet).  I have bought stollen and spekulatius spice cookies from Adli, and we have bought more nutella jars that become glasses. 

I am sure more Christmas will creep into the house soon, especially next weekend when we get our tree.  But for now I am more excited by cherries and summer holidays. 

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. 

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Port Fairy holiday, Rebecca's, Le Crepe Man, etc 2019

At the start of November, Sylvia and I drove to Port Fairy for a relaxing holiday.  We stayed our favourite holiday rental, Orchard Cottages,  and spent a few days eating good food, reading and watching tv.  I considered some walks but it rained so much that we just kept reading our books.

We didn't take much food other than some necessities such as baked beans and vegemite.  Luckily Sylvia remembered how bad Port Fairy tap water is so we brought along quite a few bottles of our much loved Melbourne tap water. 

We were pleased to see Terence the cat, whom we had seen on previous holidays.  He came in on our first night when we went to East Beach Fish and Chips (146 Griffiths Street) for some excellent chips and corn jacks.  I think he was disappointed we didn't have any fish but he still hung around for a while.

We didn't do lots of big meals out but found a few places we enjoyed eating. Rebecca's Cafe (70-72 Sackville Street) is a place I have visited quite a few times on previous visits to Port Fairy.  It has a modern Australian cafe menu that provides a few vegetarian options.  I like some of the vintage decor effects.  There was an old typewriter next to our table that gave great amusement to little kids.

I had the lentil burger with sweet chilli sauce and avocado, plus a salad on the side.  I also ordered chips because they are meant for burgers!  The burger was nice but big and messy.  I had to use a knife and fork and found it too much for me. 

I liked the salad on the side with the burger.  Sylvia bravely ordered the bruschetta with pesto, feta, roasted tomatoes and rocket.  I suspect it would have been very nice if not dissected by a child.  Sylvia ate some of it but I had most of the rocket with my salad.  She also ordered the garlic bread which she loved.  I was so full after my burger but Sylvia always has room for an ice cream. 

I had a case of not quite finding what I wanted when we were looking for cafes in Port Fairy and then finding something good later.  Sylvia was set on visiting Le Crepe Man (43 Sackville Street) from the first day.  Finally I caved.  My problem with the place was that they offered quite plain sweet crepes with lots of variations (including gf and vegan).  But the savoury crepes were complex and not quite what I was after but there were very little options for vegetarians.

Is it any surprise then that on our visit we both chose sweet crepes.  I had the strawberries, nutella and maple syrup.  It was delicious.  The fruit worked well at cutting through the rich sauces.  You can see in the background I had a jar of Lana's Garden Rhubarb Relish.  I have been working my way through this jar and absolutely love it.

Sylvia had the banana with butterscotch sauce and ice cream.  She really loved it.

Le Crepe Man had a really nice ambience.  It is a little french and a little modern with old wicker baskets and a big vase of flowers, magazine racks and preserves for sale.  The menu is hand written on the blackboard with bon mots like "Let them me eat crepes".

We enjoyed browsing shops in Sackville Street, even though I noticed a few favourites had disappeared since our last visit a few years ago.  Sylvia's favourite was The Old Lolly Shop.  It has a for sale sign in the window, so I wonder if it will be there on our next visit.

It was unseasonably cold so I lit the wood stove to warm the house on a couple of nights.  It is so lovely to relax in the glow of the fire of an evening.  I was reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt which is an amazing book but so weighty that it needs the quiet of a holiday house to do it justice.  And being in a place we knew well was a really nice way to unwind.

To read about previous visits to Port Fairy:

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Purple sushi salad with tofu nuggets

A couple of months back I mentioned some rather good sushi salad I had made.  I decided to make it again because the first go had pickled cabbage made with cardamom seeds.  They tasted so wrong with sushi salad.  But everything else worked.  I then reverted to one of my favourite spices, mustard, and the salad came together perfectly.

Sushi is something we love to make for a light meal.  Occasionally I have mine as a sushi rice salad instead of wrapping the rice in nori.  It gets more vegies into the meal.  This sushi salad is different because it uses pickled purple cabbage which colours the rice and gives the salad quite a zing, and it also has chopped tofu nuggets.

I used to make tofu nuggets for Sylvia when I had more time but now we are able to buy them, which suits my current time-poor lifestyle.  You can use home-made or shop-bought here.  However be aware that the leftover salad tastes great but misses the crunch of freshly baked tofu nuggets. 

It reached 39 C last week in Melbourne with a nasty hot wind.  And it isn't summer yet.  Not for another week!  This might be just the salad to see me through summer is this is a sign of weather to come.

More sushi recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Snowman sushi (gf, v)
Sushi rice salad (gf, v)
Sushi with broccoli, edamame and pickled carrots (gf, v)
Sushi stack with carrot, tofu omelet and avocado (gf, v)
Sushi with sticky walnuts and edamame (gf, v)
Sushi with vegan salmon pate (gf, v)

Purple sushi salad with tofu nuggets
Feeds 2-3 as a main meal

Seasoned sushi rice - about 1 1/2 cups
Pickled cabbage, including liquids
1/3 Lebanese cucumber, diced
1/4 red capsicum, diced
1/2 avocado, diced
3 tofu nuggets, baked, cooled and diced
1 sheet nori finely sliced, to garnish
Black sesame seeds to serve, if you want to be fancy

Mix all ingredients. 

Pickled cabbage:

1 cup purple cabbage, diced

Pickling liquid:
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1 crushed garlic clove

Bring all pickling liquid ingredients the the boil in a small saucepan.  Tip hot pickling liquid over cabbage and let cool.

To finely slice the nori I use scissors to cut a sheet into bands of our 5cm and place these on top of each other, then I chop finely with scissors into very thin strips.  I tried it with scissors with zig zag blades which was fun for the top photo.  I never start the pickling liquid early enough - usually I end up putting it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes to bring down the temperature. You can vary the vegetables according to what you have in the house.  You can keep leftovers overnight in the fridge but you lose the nice crunch of the tofu nuggets.  For instructions on cooking sushi rice, go to this sushi recipe.

On the stereo:
I am Sam (soundtrack) - various artists

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Halloween foods - Ghost salad, Black cat oreos, Punch

On a rainy Saturday at the start of November, we held a small lunch to remember our stillborn sons.  Their sister is ever intent of hijacking it as her Halloween party.  As usual the gathering was small, the energy was low and we didn't get everything done we planned.

The night before Sylvia had a sleepover which meant I had some extra time to tidy the house.  I spent too much time on the morning of the lunch trying to fix computer problems and missed having it working.  And though I can't blame the rain for anything, it was constant!  So we planned Frankenstein sausage rolls and fruit salad in jack o lantern oranges but just served sausage rolls and fruit salad plain because we didn't have energy for fancy.

Mostly I stuck to favourite (ie easy) recipes.  She also made the Halloween corner with some of her Halloween stuff.  E's contribution to the sweets was a packet of Vampire Fancies.  My mum made scones and Kerin brought drinks (including some very nice herbal tea).  She also did a fine joy of arranging the ghost salad as I chopped veggies at the last moment. As well as sausage rolls, we also served some chips, rice crackers, hummus and leftover pizza.

Sylvia did a fine job of the punch.  Important to her vision were spiders in iceblocks.  So I tried to fit the plastic spiders (washed of course) in the ice block trays the night before but they didn't fit but I put them in mini muffin silicone tins. 

On the morning of the lunch, Sylvia mixed the drinks into our cactus drink dispenser and added a generous garnish of mint and fruit salad.  It looks quite impressive.  She adapted our favourite kids punch to an orange punch that she had seen in a Halloween recipe magazine.  I was quite pleased we could move the shelves around to fit the cactus in the fridge.

The night before the lunch, Sylvia and I sat down to make the black cat oreos, based on some she had seen online.  She made a brilliant suggestion to use an edible black marker to draw a line on the MandMs.  In the past, I have tried using icing pens for this sort of delicate markings and it never ends well.

Sylvia organised a Halloween display with the oreo black cats, vampire fancies and the eyes in the dark cake that you can see at the top of the post.  We almost forgot the fruit salad but it came out soon after we started dessert and was a big hit.  The adults enjoyed chatting over a leisurely lunch but it was rather wet outside for the kids.

I am sending the ghost salad to the very final month of Eat Your Greens.  Thanks to Shaheen of Allotment to Kitchen and The VegHog who have cheerfully helped us share so many lovely green dishes.  I will also send it to Deb who continues to share soups, salads and sammies on Souper Sundays.

More fun recipes at Halloween recipes, cakes and snacks

Ghost salad

Green vegetables - we used spinach, sugar snap peas, celery, green capsicum, and cucumber
2 generous spoonfuls of tzatziki
2 Radishes
1 ghost platter
2 small bowls

Place small bowls where the eyes would be on the ghost platter.  Dollop two good spoonfuls of tzatziki to fill the little bowls and top with a radish in each bowl.  Arrange green vegetables around it.  (If you don't have a ghost platter, you could use vegetables to make the outlines of a ghost on a large platter or chopping board.)

Black Cat Oreos

1 packet of Oreos
Mini MandMs
Dark chocolate chips
Chocolate buttercream  icing
Black edible pen

Use edible pen to draw a vertical line on each large MandM.  Use chocolate icing to attach 2 large MandMs (matching colours of either green or yellow) as the eyes, a mini red MandM as the nose and two choc chips as ears on an Oreo.  Repeat with other Oreos.

Orange punch with spiders

4 cups fanta
4 cups soda water
2 cups tropical juice
2 cups orange juice
fruit salad, mint, lemon slices to garnish
plastic spiders in ice blocks

[Create plastic spiders in ice blocks the night before - I had to use mini muffins silicone moulds because my spiders were too big for the regular ice blocks.)  Mix all drinks.  Garnish with fruit salad, mint, lemon slices and spiders in ice blocks.

On the Stereo:
Melt: Straitjacket Fits

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

In My Kitchen - November 2019

November has seen lots of change.  The weather has gone very hot, very cold, very windy and - further north in Australia - has ignited terrible bushfires.  There is political instability in USA, UK and Hong Kong.  Technology has driven me batty but I will write about that later (still struggling with it).  On a more positive note, spring brings stone fruit and longer daylight hours.  This month's kitchen features holiday purchases (more about our brief trip to Port Fairy later), comfort food, and experiments.

First up is a potato salad (top photo).  Sylvia loves to make this when the heat soars.  She bases her potato salad on the one in the Enid Blyton's Jolly Good Food book. I like to add lots of greens to mine!  Baby spinach, avocado and asparagus.

We served these Mr Kiplings Vampire Fancies at a lunch at the start of November.  I forgot to try them but Sylvia says the icing is tooth achingly sweet.

More scary than the Vampire Bites is when the cat sits within reach of the chef's knife with a crazed look in his eyes!

I was quite amazed to read on Tinned Tomatoes blog that baking Betty Crocker's boxed chocolate cake mix and cola (instead of eggs and milk and butter) makes a conveniently quick vegan chocolate cake.  I had to try it.

Here is the vegan chocolate cake.  We spread the Betty Crocker chocolate frosting and raspberry jam between the layers.  It was far far too sweet.  I think the cake was actually ok, though the sweetness of the cola would have made it sweeter than intended.  The frosting seemed really sweet.  I would experiment with the idea but generally am not really into buying boxed cake mixes.

I bought these crisps for our start of November lunch.  The Vintage cheddar, caramelised onion and rosemary oil crisps were good in the morning to snack on while preparing the lunch.  I don't get the difference between rosemary and rosemary oil in a crisp.  The Creamy feta, avocado and lime tortilla chips were lovely with dips at the lunch.

We tried some mozzarella sticks from the supermarket freezer.  They were lovely with buttered potatoes and salad.

When we made pizza later in the week we had some leftover frozen mozzarella sticks.  I chopped them into discs to place on the pizza.  They browned up nicely.  If I were to do it again I would want some other toppings other than tomato sauce and mozzarella.  Maybe some onion and roasted pumpkin would be good.

We bought this Coconut and Vanilla Serious Popcorn on the trip home from Port Fairy.  Sylvia was very keen on the popcorn.  She snacked on some during the trip but had plenty at home for school lunches.  I loved the look on the face of the bear (?) on the packaging. 

Another holiday purchase was the Lana's Garden Rhubarb Relish.  It is magnificent.  Great with cheese on bread!

These limited edition Twisties that turn the tongue blue were a Colac service station impulse purchase on the trip home.  We didn't try them until the next night when tired after getting back to school and work, we snacked on them when we got home.  Our neighbour dropped into visit and found us giggling at our blue tongues.  These twisties were weird!  They looked like regular lumpy cheese dusted "crisps" but upon any moisture make fingers and tongues blue!  I didn't want to think about what chemicals they added to the Twisties.

Sylvia had a lunch of scrambled eggs while away.  She loved it.  Since returning, she had had scrambled eggs quite often.  Always served with style!

I bought this bread bag in Winchelsea.  It is an attractive alternative to storing bread in plastic bags.  So far it seems to work well, although I am still a bit wary of the zippered closing and if this is quite as airtight as I would like.

Lastly we have had this Cat Bike Bell in the kitchen until last weekend when Sylvia got a new scooter.  Her old one wore out.  It has a lot of trips between home and school.  The bell is so cute.  Sylvia just needs to get used to her new scooter now!

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.