Tuesday 30 July 2013

Mustardy cabbage pasta bake

'Tis the season for hearty winter bakes.  I saw this mustardy cabbage pasta bake on the ever-reliable Where's the Beef.  As is often the way with these dishes, my timing was out and we ate late but once it was made I had leftovers for a couple of nights.  I really enjoyed this, especially with the feta after seeing Cindy's advice about the cheese.

I used a capsicum and spinach fettuccine from the Coburg Farmers Market.  It was superb.  Opening the bag, I was struck by a whiff of capsicum.  And it cooked in no time at all.

I tried using a mixture of potatoes and parsnips but I am not sure this worked so well.  I enjoyed the potatoes crumbled rather than in large slices.  Possibly the parsnip would have worked cut into small pieces.

I also found that the fettuccine would have benefited from a bit more flavour - though it improved on the second and third night.  I wondered if it would have been better tossed through the cabbage mixture.

I really enjoyed this bake.  It wasn't fancy but it hit the spot.  E's main quibble was that he would have liked this more crispy on top.  I baked it again the next night and his wish was granted.  A couple of nights of leftovers gave me more time to make ice cream and birthday cards.  Here is one of the recent birthday cards I have made.

Update 2 August: I am sending this pasta bake to Catherine of Cates Cates who is hosting Pasta Please event (founded by Jac of Tinned Tomatoes) in August with the theme of Pasta Bakes.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: MLLA Chickpea pizza base
Two years ago: Little Deer Tracks - Coburg chic
Three years ago: Turkish Fig Pudding
Four years ago: Bizarre gnocchi and strange crumble
Five years ago: Tagged: Top Ten Photos
Six years ago: Eight plus eight - recycling tags!

Mustardy cabbage pasta bake
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks via Where's the Beef?
Serves 6

sea salt
450g small waxy potatoes (I used potatoes and parsnips)
300g dried fettuccine (I used capsicum and spinach fettuccine)
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 leeks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 savoy cabbage, cored and finely chopped
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 1/2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese
16 fresh sage leaves, chopped
110g feta crumbled

Peel, thickly slice and boil potatoes with a pinch of sea salt for about 15 minutes or until soft.  Crumble cooked potatoes.

Break fettuccine into 10 cm segments.  Cook in boiling water with a pinch of salt until al dente - mine took about 5-6 minutes - and drain.

Fry leek in butter for a few minutes or until soft.  Stir in garlic.  Add cabbage and stock.  I was using a large saucepan but a stockpot would have been better as it was so full I could barely stir it.  Place lid on and allow cabbage to wilt with the steam.  Stir in mustard, 1/2 cup of the parmesan and 1/2 the sage.  Best to have a bit of liquid left in this mixture because the pasta will soak it up.

Lightly grease a 9 x13 inch rectangular casserole dish.  Layer 1/2 cooked fettuccine, 1/2 cabbage mixture, 1/2 crumbled potatoes, !/2 crumbled feta, 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan.  Repeat layers.  Top with remaining sage leaves., repeat and sage.  Baked 40 min at 220 C or until top is golden brown.

On the Stereo
Boy Child: Scott Walker

Monday 29 July 2013

Savoury sandwich ideas

Lord Sandwich's idea was brilliant.  Smoosh your meal between two slabs of bread so you could get on with life while you eat.  Like salad, sandwiches can be brilliant and satisfying or boring and insipid.  Here are some ideas to inspire me and others.

I love a good hearty sandwich.  If only caterers and cafes would learn that just because you are veg*n doesn't mean you want a limp lettuce leaf and some flavourless tomato in your sandwich. Protein, vegies and an interesting sauce or spread make a huge difference.  The sandwiches here are made with traditional slabs of bread, preferably a good dense sourdough.

My favourite salad sandwich
My basic salad sandwiches:
This is a salad sandwich I have been making since I lived in share houses.  I learned to make it in a sandwich bar job and when volunteering for a food co-op.  I have always enjoyed making multiple sandwiches for whoever is about.  Once warm weather hits in spring I crave this sort of sandwich.

Coconut bacon sandwich
Some interesting sandwiches I have made:
I love new ideas in a sandwich.  It is a great way to give new life to leftovers.  Nut roasts, burgers, vegetarian sausages, dips, pates, cheese all give a sandwich a substance that pairs well with salad, avocado, chutney, pesto, and other vegies.

Old Kraft advertisement from Scienceworks
Other simple sandwich ideas:
Many of these sandwiches are ones I have been eating since I was a child.  These aren't fancy but I will make them when I want something quick and easy.  I was never a PB&J sandwich - it isn't an Australian tradition.  I am not much of a sweet sandwich person.
  • Peanut butter (one of my favourite and easiest sandwiches)
  • Vegemite and cheese
  • Vegemite and walnuts (crush walnuts with the back of a fork)
  • Baked beans 
  • Peanut butter, avocado and tomato 
  • Apple and sultanas
  • Sweet potato, cheese and chutney
  • Sliced cold veggie sausage, cheese and chutney

Sunday 28 July 2013

Christmas in July - Chocolate Shortbread and Sovereign Hill

I love Christmas in July.  In Melbourne it gives us a chance to celebrate Christmas in winter, to enjoy some festive cheer at a dreary time or year and to celebrate Christmas twice a year.  It is becoming more popular but not universal so we don't always get to celebrate it.  This year we were lucky enough to experience Christmas in July at Sovereign Hill and at a friend's afternoon tea.  I made some spiced chocolate shortbread for the latter and the recipe is at the bottom after all the photos. 

For those who don't know it, Sovereign Hill is in Ballarat, a little over an hour's drive from Melbourne.  It is a recreation of a goldfields settlement around 1850s Ballarat.  I have been going there since I was a child and seen it grow and develop into quite a complex history park.  And so it ought to be, with the entrance prices of $47 per adult.  Gulp!

Above are people having a go at panning for gold in the diggings that represent the time when there were just tents and bark huts.  It is best to go here first to get a sense of how it was in the early days of the gold rush.  As with other part of the settlement, we were able to talk to actors who play the parts of people from the era to add to the authentic feel of the place.

I have gone to Sovereign Hill many times before but I don't remember ever being there in such inclement weather.  It rained and rained.  And it was cold as you might deduce from the above photo of E.  I was glad I convinced Sylvia to wear gumboots with all the mud and puddles in this area. 

It was definitely worth visiting on a wintery day just to get a sense of how tough life must have been in these tents and bark huts.  This fire was in a bark hut.  It was warm but not enough to take off our coats.  The dark room was very basic with just one room and the chamber pot under the bed.  We saw one character in his tent cooking rock cakes in a Dutch oven with his window open for fresh air and the butchers was in the open air.  When you know how few of the gold diggers actually made their fortune, it does seem a hard life.

I suspect the gold diggers would not have been into Christmas in July but we were.  Here is Sylvia with the first Christmas tree she spied.  I really liked that the Christmas decorations were kept fairly simple.  The goldfields were not a place for fancy living.  Decorations would mostly have been made from what was about at home.

Before we leave the early diggings, I must share one of my favourite parts.  I have mentioned from time to time that I have a fascination with the history of market gardens.  It delights me that there is a market garden at Sovereign Hill.  It is part of the Chinese section of the diggings and an important part of Victoria's history.

After the diggings we headed to the High Street which represents the goldfields when towns became more established and buildings more substantial.  This is more life as we know it, where we can wander along the street, ducking in and out of shops.  Sylvia just wanted to see the lollies.  E was fascinated by the cat in the saddlery.  I loved all the pretty crockery.

The shopkeepers are in character and address us as they might have in the era.  The shops sell the sort of goods that were sold back then.  I have a particular fondness for the grocers and the haberdashery.  When I was a kid I always loved the lollie shop, particularly the red horse head lollypops. 

E was really there for the rare chance (in Australia) to see a Mummers play.  We sat in the foyer of the Victoria Theatre with a woman in a crinoline dress and talked to her about her costume.  She reassured us it wasn't as warm as it looked.   I had been in the theatre before but not to see plays.  Winter really does send us hurrying indoors as much as possible.

The Mummers play was called St Nick and Old Horse (above).  As is traditional, the actors were amateur and the costumes were minimal.  The theatre was packed and everyone had good fun both on and off stage.

We returned later for the pantomime, Beauty and the Beast.  This was also hilarious.  Not only did the actors play the pantomime characters but they also played characters that were actors in Sovereign Hill putting on a play.  I loved the quirkiness of two of these 'actors' deciding they wanted to be a pirate and a witch, with no relevance to the story.

For lunch we went to the New York Bakery.  It was too cold to go down the street to the Hope Bakery or take a packed lunch.  (Later I saw the Sovereign Hill cafe.  It seemed too modern to fit in here but I didn't get close enough to be sure.  Maybe it is new.)  I was a little disappointed at the lack of warm vegetarian options.  E loved his turkey roast dinner but I had no festive options - only risotto or soup.  I chose the pumpkin soup and shared some chips with Sylvia. At least we could enjoy the Christmas decorations.

The most hilarious aspect of the Christmas in July was the snow.  Now in case you think this totally out of character for the setting, it does occasionally snow in Ballarat.  This, however, was not snow as we know it.  It snowed at precisely 1.40 and 3.30 when the snow machine was turned on.

Our last Christmas in July activity was the kids decorating gingerbread Christmas trees (why are such fun activities always kids only!)  Sylvia loved it.  We left, feeling that we had done a lot but still not seen as much as we would have liked.  We never got to the school or the gold mine tour or to ride in the horse and carriage.

The next day we continued the festive cheer with a Christmas in July afternoon tea.  I had said I would take along something and made some spiced chocolate shortbread that morning.  It was lovely and chocolatey but I am not sure mixed spice was quite right.  Perhaps a different spice mix might work or I could leave out the spices altogether.  Sylvia loved helping to cut them out with the Christmas cookie cutters.  After a few days they were less soft but still good.  However we didn't have many at home to test how they lasted.

The afternoon tea was lovely.  Christmas carols, a tree, a reindeer antler headband, mince tarts, brandy butter and good company made for a very festive gathering.  One of the visitors had brought the brandy butter and gave a great recipe.  Mix in as much icing sugar into butter as possible because the more icing sugar the more brandy you can add.  It was a perfect accompaniment for Yav's warm mince tarts.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Celery and blue cheese soup and Open House Melbourne
Two years ago: Apple Spice Cake
Three years ago: Christmas in July Cupcakes
Four years ago: Balancing Soup and Scones
Five years ago: Paella with thanks
Six years ago: Lasagne and the Boy Wizard

Spiced Chocolate Shortbread
Slightly adapted from It Pleases Us
Makes lots

225g plain flour
170g caster sugar
80g cocoa
1 to 2 tbsp mixed spice (or check out It Pleases Us festive spice)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 pinches of salt
210g butter or margarine (I used Nuttalex margarine).

Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, spice, bicarb and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Rub into butter or margarine  until it comes together into a ball of dough.  Knead lightly for a minute or so until smooth.  (Alternatively this can be done in the food processor.)

Flatten dough into one large or two smaller discs.  Cover in clingfilm and chill in fridge for 1 hour.  Before taking dough out of fridge preheat oven to 180 C.  Then roll out dough to about 0.5 cm on a floured surface or if you prefer a cocoa and flour mixture so that white flour does not show on the finished biscuits.  (I can't remember where I picked up the tip to use cocoa instead of flour for the colour but I used half and half.)  Cut into desired shapes and place on lined baking tray - they don't spread much so just a centimetre or two needed between them.

Bake until the cookies change from shiny to dry.  I baked mine at 180 C for 10 minutes on the hot side of my slow oven.  (It Pleases Us baked theirs for 10-15 minutes at 175 C.)  Mine were very soft and I wondered if they needed a bit longer.  Their texture changes to more shortbread-like after a day or so.

On the Stereo
Fin de Siecle: Divine Comedy

Friday 26 July 2013

Carrot dinner rolls

I saw these carrot poppyseed rolls.  They looked great.  But I don't have spelt flour.  Instead I added poppyseeds to these carrot-flecked dinner rolls.  I had promised we would do some painting.  Sylvia was busy setting up a shop-cum-bedroom with her puppet theatre, some blankets and a couple of kiddie chairs.  I took the opportunity to get the dough underway and we were eating soft yellow bread rolls with dinner.

Once the carrots were grated, the recipe was fairly straight forward.   The dough seemed quite crumbly at first but once I plunged my hands in it was pillowy soft.  A light knead dispersed the carrot throughout the dough to give it a glorious golden glow.

The rolls were a great success.  E loved them because they were soft and fluffy.  Sylvia loved them despite the poppyseeds and small flecks of carrot.  Well they were little and tiny. I loved them because they are such a lovely yellow and have quarter a carrot.  Colour and vegies always get my vote in any bread.  Our only quibble was that there were bigger than we though dinner rolls usually are.  Perhaps it is because I left them spread out in a larger baking tin.

I made the rolls to eat the rolls with some leftover chickpea, potato and tomato stew and brussels sprouts.  They were perfect.  Though it probably would have been a bit better if it wasn't just out of the oven.

The next morning I made them up with cheese and vegemite for E and myself to have for lunch.   They were such great lunchbox snacks that they filled me with visions of making these every single week so we could have them for lunch every single day.  If only...  That night we enjoyed them with some sweet potato and red lentil soup for dinner.

I am sending this to Elizabeth of Elizabeth's Kitchen who is hosting this months Fresh from the Oven.  This food blogging event by Michelle from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families and Claire from Purely Food challenges us to share bread recipes.  This month the theme is Picnic/BBQ bread.  These rolls would be perfect on a picnic or even with small burgers at a BBQ.  I am also sending the bread rolls to Susan for YeastSpotting.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: RRC Show us your Cookbooks
Two years ago: Little Deer Tracks - Coburg chic
Three years ago: Tofu omelettes from China
Four years ago: Pudding, Parties and Plate Smashers
Five years ago: Tabouli from the Tree
Six years ago: Quick and spicy noodles

Carrot and poppy seed dinner rolls
Adapted from The Bread Bible via 17 and baking
Makes 12 rolls

1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 tsp dried yeast
270g carrots (about 3 medium carrots)
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
2-3 tsp poppyseeds (I only had 1 and 1/2 tsp)
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp margarine, melted (or butter or olive oil)
2-3 tbsp milk (I used soy), for glazing
Extra poppyseeds (or sesame seeds), to sprinkle

Place lukewarm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle dried yeast on water and set aside while you prepare carrots.

Peel and trip carrots, then finely grate (after discarding peel, tops and tails, of course!)

Stir flour and salt into yeast mixture and then add carrots (I think I might add them all at once next time). Stir in margarine (or butter or olive oil). It will be quite shaggy and take a bit of time to work in all the flour. I did this with my hands in the bowl. Once I plunged my hands in, I realised the dough was a lot lot softer than it looked.

Tip dough out onto a lightly floured board. Knead for about 10 minutes. My dough was quite sticky so I used some flour so it didn't stick to everything. Then I worried I had used too much flour and used a little olive oil on the surface to make it easier to handle. Return to scraped out bowl, cover with a tea towel. Set aside in warm place to rise for about an hour or until doubled.

Punch down and lightly knead for a few seconds. Leave for 10 minutes uncovered on the floured surface. Cut into 12 pieces (weigh them if you want them exactly the same size - I didn't). Place pieces in a roasting dish almost touching. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes or until doubled in size. While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 200 C.

Bake dinner rolls for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and hollow when tapped (it said for 15-20 minutes in original recipe but after 20 minutes I gave it another 5 minutes to brown the tops evenly and then turned them over and they looked slightly pasty so I returned most of the buns to the oven for another 5 minutes bottoms facing up.)

Cool on a wire rack. Break apart rather than cut apart. Best on the day or baking or the following day but still edible on the third day.

On the stereo:

The Boy with an Arab Strap:
Belle and Sebastian

Wednesday 24 July 2013

The helix tree, the dodgy tart and a rather good soup

Sylvia had requested Mazzy Star on the stereo.  I put the CD back after playing it and my eye chanced on the Manic Street Preachers next to it.  We listened to it.  It brought back the time I met E when I saw the Manics at T in the Park music festival and enjoyed Nicky Wire's wit in the NME.

How freaky was it that on the same Saturday evening, I went to Federation Square and heard the back announcement as the music finished.  Unbeknown to me, we had been listening to the Manics who were touring Melbourne.  How was I to know when all I could see was the red jerseys of the rugby fans!  I just wished I had paid more attention.

If I had known the Manics were playing an acoustic set I would have stopped and listened.  Sylvia and I were there for the Helix tree, a light installation that could be seen in Fed Square in June.  We got there early so we walked over to Hosier Lane to look at the street art (above).

Then we walked back over Flinders street to Fed Square.  For those who don't know Melbourne, the glowing yellow building in the distance is our iconic Flinders Street train station.  New proposals were announced for its redevelopment this week (with a request for the public to vote for their favourite).  I am both excited and scared.  I am not against architects with brilliant vision but Flinders Street station is so precious that I don't want it to lose its charm.

Once it got dark the Helix Tree began to light up.  I had been fascinated to hear about it.  Each night in June a community choir would sit and the lights on the tree would then be activated by the sounds.  Light rippled across the iron structure as they sung.  (See my daytime photo of the helix tree structure.)

Not wanting to just stand in the cold, I found us a table in the square overlooking the tree and ordered a margherita pizza for an astonishing $20.  I don't even like to think how this compares with the pizzas we make at home.  I just told myself that the inflated price included watching the light show.

Sylvia wasn't very interested in the pizza.  She was more intent on running  around the large open space.  Her coat didn't stay on her long.  How do these little people have such great reserves of warmth that they don't want cardigans, jackets and blankets!

I suspect one reason she wasn't very hungry is that I had made us treacle scones for afternoon tea.  This time I used a recipe from Ena Baxter (of Baxters Soups) rather than my usual.  The very first time I made treacle scones they were fluffy and plentiful - possibly due to my mum helping me measure out the milk.  Every since they just seem to make embarrassingly small batches and not as fluffy as a scone should.  E's granny would turn in her grave!

It wasn't my finest weekend in cooking.  On the Friday night I had been adventurous and adapted a chard, squash and stilton tart to use up some of the ingredients bursting out of our overflowing fridge.  My slow oven and my lack of pastry experience let me down.  The tart would have been fine if I had only read the recipe closely and baked it til it was golden brown.

Actually E probably would disagree.  He didn't like the blue cheese.  It was rather strong but I though it worked with the rest of the ingredients.  Sylvia just ate the pastry around the edges with no topping.  At least we all enjoyed watching The Ringing Singing Tree (or was it The Tinderbox that came in the same DVD set?).

The next night I made a red lentil soup with spinach and lime.  It was very nice but I was a bit unsure if the lime was too sharp.  Sometimes it is hard to cook from recipes without tasting the dish first.  Yes, I could read a recipe more closely but scratch and sniff computers would be more fun.  The soup tasted lovely and healthy with my no knead focaccia.  There were no complaints.

Finally to return to the coincidence at the start of the post, I will share a few other unlikely moments:
  • The AFL women's round made me wonder if Sylvia is be quite unusual in Victoria (home of Aussie rules football) to have a mother who has played Aussie rules and a father who hasn't.
  • I was talking to my dentist about bringing Sylvia along for a check up.  He said not to put ideas in her mind by reassuring her that it wouldn't hurt.  Unfortunately this was the same week that E had dental treatment that left him with a black eye.
  • A fox killed a friend's chickens in Coburg! (That is the highly urbanised inner north of Melbourne for those who don't know the area.)
  • And a happy coincidence.  E has been trying to sell one of his guitar cases through an online forum.  I happened to overhear two new acquaintances talking about their guitars last week and asked if they were interested in a guitar case.  Sold!

I am sending this tart and soup to Jac of Tinned Tomatoes for  Bookmarked Recipes (July #25) because I found both in my Delicious bookmarks through searching for ingredients I wanted to use.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: The Beachcomber - brunch at the beach
Two years ago: Pumpkin cake for Dolly's tea party
Three years ago: Lentil quinoa balls and fun links
Four years ago: Pear and Walnut Chutney
Five years ago: Chickpea cutlets and gluten strings
Six years ago: Mulled Apple Juice for a Midwinter Birthday

Red lentil soup with spinach and lime
Adapted from The TasteSpace
serves 4

1 cup red lentils
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1.5 tsp turmeric
1.5 tsp salt
4-5 cups water
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp yellow mustard seeds
Juice of 1 lime (or to taste)
100g baby spinach leaves

Mix red lentils, parsnip, carrot, turmeric, salt and water into a large saucepan.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegies are soft.  Meanwhile in a separate frypan, fry onion, cumin seeds and mustard seeds gently in olive oil for about 15 minutes or until the onion is soft.  Add to lentil mixture.  Mix in lime juice and spinach leaves.  Stir briefly until the leaves wilt.  Serve hot.

Pumpkin, kale and blue cheese tart
Adapted from Jane Baxter in The Guardian
serves 3-4

175g plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
125g cold unsalted butter, diced (I used nuttalex)
1-3 tbsp very cold water (I used 1)

Spiced walnuts:
Olive oil
45g walnuts (120g with shells on)
1 pinch cayenne
A dash of Tabasco
good pinch tsp salt
good pinch of garlic powder

Olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1/2 bunch of kale, sliced
500g pumpkin, diced then roasted with oil and salt

54g blue cheese, chopped
30g grated parmesan

Fried sage leaves:
15 sage leaves fried in butter til stiff
knob of butter

To make pastry: 
 Briefly mix flour, sugar and salt in the food processor.  Add butter and continue to process til it takes on the texture of coarse breadcrumbs.  Slowly add water 1 tbsp at a time until the pastry comes together into a ball.  Cover with clingfilm and chill in fridge for 30 minutes.  Roll out  and I quote "into a rought circle" - I didn't know how thick and probably did it about between 0.5 and 1cm thick.  Prick with a fork and bake at 200 C or until golden brown. 

To make spiced walnuts:
While the pastry is chilling,  heat a little olive oil in a non stick frypan and stir in walnuts and seasonings.  Gently fry until the walnuts smell cooked.

To prepare vegetables:
In a separate frypan or use the one you did the walnuts in, fry the onion slices and then the kale in some olive oil.  I didn't take note of timing.  Mix cooked onions and kale with pumpkin.

To assemble:
Scatter cooked pastry with pumpkin mixture, then walnuts then cheeses.  Bake at 200 C for about 10 minutes or until just warmed through.

To fry sage leaves:
Heat butter in frypan and gently fry sage leaves.  You will know they are ready when they are quite stiff when you turn them over.  Drain on kitchen towel.

Scatter fried sage leaves on cooked tart and serve hot.

On the stereo:
Everything Must Go: The Manic Street Preachers

Monday 22 July 2013

Healthy banana bread and kids making do

When I was a kid, I once swapped some shop-made Barbie clothes with my neighbour who had made clothes out of paper and sticky tape.  I was delighted.  It often amazes me how little kids need.  For Sylvia a bucket is a drum and a tissue is a blanket.  She makes a house for dolly out of two chairs and a towel.  So when we were baking banana bread recently and Dolly needed an apron, Sylvia just made one out of paper and sticky tape.  Plus ca change...

Adults do it different.  Sylvia was quite happy with Dolly's apron.  Even proud of her work.  I felt guilty because I had been promising to make an apron.  I have mentioned before that I am not keen on sewing.  So you will understand that this little dress I have finally hand-sewn for Dolly (below) is a labour of love.

Sylvia was happy with the dress.  We even have some material to make more dresses.  Meanwhile, we have undertaken some other little projects that would never sell in a shop but delight Sylvia.  Below is a bunkbed that E and Sylvia made out of rulers, gaffer tape and lids off boxes that hold printing paper.

Another little project is a swing that Sylvia was determined to make.  We started with an old shoebox and painted it.  Then we found twigs in the garden and stuck them together with masking tape and hung the swing with wool. 

Did it work?  No.  We spent more time trying to stand up the swing than swinging it.  But Sylvia loved it.  After we gave up on the twig stand, we hung the shoebox swing between two of her kiddie chairs and she loved that too.

Most recently, she has created a dollies party with her dolls (etc) seated on plastic tubs from the kitchen around a little stool she has.  Children can make so much out of so little.

Enough about making children's toys from very little.  One of the easiest ways to entertain a child is to bake.  Sylvia (and Dolly) are always happy to tip ingredients into a bowl and stir them, if with perhaps a tad too much vigour.

This banana bread had the right balance for me.  It was not so far from the traditional banana cake that I grew up with.  Yet it was more substantial and healthy with lots of seeds, nuts, honey and treacle.  Actually the original recipe didn't have treacle.  I made it and never posted it because it just didn't come out right.  I used a silicone cake 'tin' that wasn't as non-stick as it once was and the cake was just a bit sticky inside.

E said he would love a banana bread with treacle.  At first I considered adding quite a lot of treacle which seemed to make it more gingerbread than banana bread.  In the end I decided that a little treacle (instead of honey) would be enough to make an impact.  It was darker than the first iteration and so much better for staying in the oven a little longer.

We all loved this cake.  Sylvia was a little wary of the bits.  Next time I must remember to finely chop the walnuts.  E wanted it with ice cream.  I loved it spread with chocolate spread.  However I think it is brilliant without any accompaniments.  The flavours are complex with honey, treacle and cinnamon and the texture is interesting.  In fact it tastes so good and healthy that I would like to make this my regular banana cake.

I am sending this cake to Elizabeth's Kitchen and Turquoise Lemons for the No Waste Food Challenge.  This month the theme is freezer stash.  I often have bananas in the freezer and this cake is a brilliant way of using them up.  (It also fits the above idea of making do with children's craft and creations.)

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: WSC Chocolate thumbprints and a stew
Two years ago: MLLA Chickpea, potato and tomato stew
Three years ago: Syrup cake, shoes and chooks
Four years ago: SHF Apricot sponge – by any other name
Five years ago: Vegetarian Cassoulet
Six years ago: Mushroom Yoghurt Pie with Spinach Crust

Healthy Banana Bread
Adapted from Emily Rose's Have your Cake

2 eggs
1/2 cup rice bran oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp treacle
1 tsp cinnamon
3 mashed bananas
1 and 3/4 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup almond meal (or LSA if you have it)
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Beat together eggs and rice bran oil (electric beaters optional).  Mix in honey and treacle by hand.  Stir in banana and then gently stir in remaining ingredients.  Tip into a greased and lined loaf tin.  Bake at 180 C for 1 hour (I baked mine at 190 C for about 10 minutes longer because the first time even at 190 C for an hour it was a bit moist inside.)  Leave in tin about 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack. Keeps in an airtight container at least 3 days.

On the Stereo:
Roaring Days - Weddings Parties Everything