Wednesday 26 June 2013

Q is for Quinoa pizza balls, quitting parliament and quite nice weather for a picnic

Yesterday I made a batch of quinoa pizza balls and planned to take a few quick photos today, tell you that they were slightly disappointing and then tell you about the last picnic I had.  After all I had made them for Louise's Picnic Game.  Then I set up the quinoa balls like a picnic and Sylvia and E decided to join in and we had a fun picnic at home where we enjoyed the balls.  Finally before I could write the post we find outselves in the midst of a change of prime minister.  Goodness it is hard to concentrate on these quinoa pizza balls.

Being the middle of winter, we haven't have many picnics lately.  The last one was back in May when we went on Puffing Billy, the iconic steam train that chugs its way through bush on the outskirts of Melbourne.

Before leaving home, I whipped up a batch of cheeseymite scones , packed them along with some walnuts, tomatoes, lamington bars and a thermos of tea.  It was simple but excellent.  We took the train to Emerald and ate our picnic at some tables by the railway line.  A charming place for a relaxing lunch.

Puffing Billy is a special treat.  It is not cheap.  However we were really impressed at the way they made room for us on a full train when we arrived late.  Travelling close to the engine was very noisy.  Sylvia had her fingers in her ears a lot of the way.

Coming back we had open air seats looking out at the bush.  This is God's own country.  Spectacularly beautiful with the sun lighting up the smoke that filtered through the majestic gum trees.  It made me think of my ancestors travelling by steam train through the bush before so much of it was cleared.

Now back to the Quinoa Pizza Balls.  The recipe came from Ricki at Diet Dessert and Dogs.  It is just the sort of snacky balls that I love.  However some tomato paste did not seem to warrant the 'pizza' in the name.  So I added some tofu bacon, sun dried tomatoes and olives.  At first I was not sure they made a difference.  Later I decided I quite liked the chewiness of the bits in the balls.

Perhaps my main problem was that my favourite pizza ingredient was missing.  Cheese!  (Ricki is vegan and more used to cheeseless pizzas than I.)  I meant to add either dairy cheese, soy cheese or nutritional yeast flakes.  I forgot.  I was distracted.  Maybe next time.  I think nutritional yeast flakes would work well for extra flavour and thickening.  The mixture was quite wet.  It looked disturbingly like raw mince meat.  At least it didn't taste like it.

I made these balls for dinner and served them with a simple tomato sauce and steamed broccoli.  Don't do this, my friends.  The balls tasted overwhelmingly of tomato.  They don't need more tomato sauce.  I liked them far better today at room temperature with hummus.

As I mentioned above, this post is written as part of Louise's picnic game.  (You remember the game you played as a child, I went on a picnic and I brought along apples, then the next person brought bananas and the next cucumber.)  She holds this every year.  Louise chooses this time of year because it is International Picnic Day on 1 July.  Everyone takes a letter to help choose a recipe to make.  I took part in 2010.  I finally had time to take part again this year.

I chose the quinoa pizza balls because picnics mean transportable finger food to me.  It also seemed timely, give that it is the International Year of Quinoa.  And did I mention they are easy to make?  When I set up my picnic to photograph, Sylvia was excited.  Before I knew it, we found ourselves actually having a picnic on her bedroom floor.  The quinoa balls were excellent.  Then we moved to warmth of the winter sun on the front verandah to continue the picnic with pikelets and lemonade.  (I will write more about both another day.)

But to return to Australian politics.  It is a mess.  It saddens me.  First we had Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister.  Then Julia Guillard took over.  Kevin Rudd was upset at being turfed out.  He wouldn't let it lie.  Now Kevin Rudd is back as Prime Minister elect.  No wonder Antony Green called him Kevin Guillard.  So there goes our first woman prime minister.  Much for our nation to reflect upon.  We can expect some interesting discussions at picnics and dinner parties in this country.

And the game?  We are going on a picnic and we are bringing:

A - Aloo Gabi
B - Blueberry Cucumber Salsa
C - Crispy Curry Fried Chicken by Kitchen Flavours
D - Dying for Chocolate Cake
E - Eton Mess
F - Fish in a Jar
G - Golden Pillow Hee Ban
H - Hummingbird Cake
I - Ice Cream Sandwiches
J - Jersey Hot Dogs
K - Kahlua Mocha Ice Cream
L - Light and Soft Japanese Cheesecake
M - Ma’moul
N - Nettle Quinoa Tart
O - Oriental Pasta Salad
P - Pan de Mango
Q - Quinoa Pizza Balls

Quinoa Pizza Balls
Adapted from Diet Dessert and Dogs
Makes about 30 balls

2/3 cup dry quinoa
2 cups stock (I used stock powder)
400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup fried tofu bacon*
6-8 black pitted olives, sliced*
3-4 sun dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped*
16 basil leaves, chopped with scissors
1 garlic clove, finely chopped*
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Bring the quinoa and stock to the boil.  Simmer for about 20 minutes or until all stock is absorbed.  Mash kidney beans and mix with remaining ingredients.  Stir in quinoa when it is cooked.  Roll mixture into balls the size of golf balls.  Bake until crispy and brown on the outside.  I baked mine for about 45 minutes at 200 C in my slow oven - Ricki advises to bake hers for 25 - 35 minutes at 180 C, so you may need less time for more powerful ovens.  I preferred mine room temperature with hummus the day after baking.  They can also be eaten straight from the oven or kept in the fridge a few days.

*NOTE: This recipe feels like work in progress because I would try changes, despite enjoying it.  I am not sure the tofu bacon, olives and sun dried tomatoes are essential.  The garlic was quite strong on the first night but better the next day.  Possibly less would be better.  I would also try adding nutritional yeast flakes or cheese for more pizza flavour.

On the Stereo:
Cruel Sister: Rachel Unthank and the Winterset


  1. What a perfect Picnic Game post, Johanna. We are so lucky to once again have you join.

    I love the way you took us on a picnic journey and in the middle of your winter no less. Your family picnicking on the bedroom floor makes it all the more entertaining.

    I think you Quinoa Pizza Balls are as you say, just perfect since they are so portable. I find working with Quinoa trying sometimes because it doesn't always form well. Your pizza balls look quite stable.

    Thank you for joining us for the Picnic Game. Just wait until you see what will be filling our blankets July 1st!

    1. Thanks Louise - it was a fun picnic journey - am very glad to have been part of the game this year - I haven't done many quinoa burgers or patties so am curious to use it more - it was a bit softer than I expected inside but held together well

  2. That picnic game sounds fun! I've never played it though. And I really miss picnics, the past couple of months felt like constant November. :(

    I'll make those quinoa balls! They sound so good!

    1. Thanks Kath - picnics are so much fun - I hope you get some nice sunshine and have some outdoor eating ahead of you

  3. I have to try these. Mozzarella for Cooper and I and nutritional yeast for Graham. Great idea. I wish we had a new prime minister. The one we have is a nutter!

    1. Thanks Jac - be careful what you wish for in prime ministers - I would like a new prime minister already but the alternative is even worse. Let me know how you go if you try these with cheese

  4. Loving the picnics :) I haven't had a picnic in years- this has given me some great ideas, thanks!

    I'm so glad you both had a lovely day in Belgrave. I keep trying to get my hubs to take me on Puffing Billy again but because he works at a school right next to it it's a 'work' not fun area. Shame..

    I agree with you about the state of Australian politics.. it's a big mess at the moment... fingers crossed whoever gets in (lets be honest, Abbott is looking mighty likely) it gets better!

    1. Thanks Claire - if you haven't had any picnics in years I highly recommend easing yourself back into one on the your bedroom floor :-)

      I have only been on puffing billy once before so many years ago I couldn't remember it - it was fantastic - probably better in autumn than in the height of summer heat - you can hop on and off puffing billy in a few different stops so maybe you could get on at emerald and off at gembrook or something to avoid belgrave

      And yes - please let us have some improvements in politics - compassion as well as stability

  5. Love the look of these quinoa balls! A great picnic addition :)

  6. I made these quinoa balls last year and liked them although the texture was a bit softer than I was expecting. We enjoyed them with a vegan nacho cheeze sauce, similar to the one you used in the sauerkraut casserole. I love your addition of tofu bacon, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.

    1. Thanks Mel - the texture inside these balls was softer than I expected too - but I was really pleased at the way they crisped up on the outside without oil. A vegan nacho cheeze sauce sounds like a great way to serve them

  7. I love your addition to the balls--but sorry you weren't a fan! They're one of my favorite snacks. But next time, I'm going to add olives and tempeh bacon! :)

    1. Thanks Ricki - actually I liked them and have added this into the intro because I was worrying it was misleading - I think I had some ideas about how they would be and they were quite different but I can see myself making them again esp as they are quite easy.

  8. ivy sew http://simplybeautifulhealthyliving.blogspot.com27 June 2013 at 12:59

    Hi Johanna,

    This is so healthy and yummy. I will be in the queue for the picnic with a big empty plate!
    Cheers and see you there! :)


    1. thanks Ivy - will be sure to give you a generous helping

  9. I love the sound of this game and the quinoa balls - I'd enjoy their cheeseless nature ;) Your outing also sounds very appealing and your pictures are beautiful. It seems like you saw some of the best Victorian countryside.

    As for our political situation...I was caught unawares last night as I had missed the earlier news reports about the leadership poll happening. It seems like a sad end to what have been a very sad few weeks. It's certainly a farcical and somewhat embarrassing way to conduct national politics!

    1. Thanks Kari - I am sure you would love these without cheese - they would definitely appeal to people as pizza balls if you have pizza without cheese.

      The political situation caught me unawares - I barely was aware of it when E told me that Rudd was in but then we watched annabelle crabbe and leigh sales talking about it - annabelle crabbe in particular is full of good sense and compassion so it was good to hear from her after such crazy times

  10. I'd like to have some those cute Quinoa balls, never tried them before. I may be way down the line as I joined in quite late. Keep some for me, ya!

    1. Thanks Cheah - there are a few put aside for you :-) Sure you will enjoy them

  11. I have not been on Puffing Billy for over 10 years, but I loved it. These quinoa balls sound really good.

    1. Thanks Cakelaw - I can barely remember my last trip on it but this was just so much fun esp with sylvia who was really into steam trains after we saw one pass through coburg recently (very strange occurrence)

  12. These balls sounds and look amazing!!!

  13. This week has been crazy in politics. I must admit that I caught 5 minutes of Parliament Question Time and had to change the channel straight away.

    1. Thanks Lorraine - all I've heard is the commentary and talkback and it is still hard to get my head around how it could all happen like this

  14. Oh yum will be trying these!!

  15. Oh's more to bring home at the picnic party. So you mind? haha... Slurppp.... simply tempting. Enjoy & have fun!
    Cheers, Kristy

  16. I am always looking for new ideas for snacks and appetizers--thanks for bringing them to the picnic! And you must be the most fun Mom ever for setting up a winter picnic in your daughter's bedroom!

  17. What a fun post! Winter picnics indoors... great idea, and a tempting recipe too.


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