Wednesday 30 October 2013

Boozy chocolate cake - work in progress and still delicious

I almost didn't post this case recipe.  It is more work-in-progress than brilliant recipe.  But we loved it so here it is in all its wobbly glory.  I made it on one of those days when recipes worked but not quite in the way I expected.  I forgot the oil.  I think I got the tofu quantity wrong.  The gas jet went off while cooking pasta.  I used more sugar than I meant to.  Yet it all came together eventually.

This is the sort of recipe that would horrify Martha Stewart who recently commented on bloggers not being experts and not testing recipes.  She seemed to imply that this meant recipes were not really very good.  Actually it has taken me ages to stop confusing her with that nice old lady Martha Gardener whose face is on the wool wash mix so Martha Stewart doesn't really mean much to me.  Even Google seems to think they are the same person when I try and find out anything about Martha Gardener.  But I digress.

Martha Stewart's comments made me reflect on this blog being a recipe journal rather than a recipe book.  It helps me learn about cooking.  Blogs are for punks, Martha.  And by that I don't mean the way my grandfather used it to describe an annoying young person.  I mean it is a place for people to explore and learn and become expert by doing.  It is far better and cheaper than university education.  In this spirit, I will not apologise for a recipe that is as far more scrappy notes than rigorously tested method.  I love reading about how others really cook and I hope if you are reading this, you will appreciate that this is how I cook too.

My initial intention was to bake this healthy banana bread .  Sylvia objected to the bits.  I didn't have enough honey.  I had leftover icing from my dad's birthday cake.  It also seemed a good opportunity to use the mini fudge chunks I bought at Sainsburys in December (use by date June 2013).  Somehow even though I was using the bananas from the freezer, the recipe was not what I intended.  I found the chocolate banana cake bookmarked and veered more in that direction.

I was halfway through adding dry ingredients into the mixing bowl when it struck me that perhaps here was the perfect opportunity to use up a bottle of brandy sauce in my fridge.  I bought it as a present to send by airmail to Scotland for Christmas.  Then when I got home and put on my glasses I found the use by date was the end of October 2013.  I had another brilliant idea to give it to my dad as a birthday present.  I forgot.  It had to be used.  So I chucked it into the cake with some extra cocoa to compensate for the extra sweetness.

It was no wonder I forgot about the oil.  I only remembered when I took the cake out of the oven.  It looked ok, albeit slightly sunken.  Our neighbour visited and tasted some with us.  We all loved it.  The real reason I posted the recipe was that it was lovely and fudgy, even a little chewy around the edges.  I don't know I would ever make it again like this but who knows when the opportunity will present itself again. 

I am sending this cake to Michelle at Utterly Scrummy Food for Families where she is hosting the Credit Crunch Munch event that is founded by Helen and Camilla’s blogs. I managed to use up leftovers, use lingering ingredients and use bananas that had been kept in the freezer.  And it made enough to freezer half of the cake.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago:
Sweet potato, chickpea and hemp seed burgers  
Two years ago: Vegan pad see ew - with tofu omelette
Three years ago: Pea pate - sandwiches
Four years ago: Pumpkin bread pudding for interesting times
Five years ago: My Personal Vegetarian 100 List

Chocolate brandy banana cake
Adapted from The Joy of Baking

2 cups raw sugar (or less)
1 cup plain wholemeal flour
3/4 cup white self raising flour
3/4  cup cocoa (I used 1 cup)
1/2 cup fudge drops (optional)
1 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 mashed bananas
1 cup warm water (I used brandy sauce)
1/2 cup milk (I used water)
1/2 cup neutral oil (I forgot)
Chocolate frosting (optional)

Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix wet ingredients in a large jug or small mixing bowl.  Tip wet into dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Pour into a greased and lined lamington tin (9 x 13 inch). Bake at 180 C for about 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly.  Great warm.  Great frosted.  Half of this cake with frosting has gone into our freezer and E tells me it defrosts very well.

On the stereo:
The Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Potato, edamame and carrot fritters

Spring is edamame weather.  A time for fresh green vegies.  So I was delighted to visit a new Asian supermarket (KFL)  in our neighbourhood.  Finally I can walk down the street and buy edamame.  Now I just need a local health food store that sells sorghum flour.  Enough wishful thinking!  Let me tell you about these fritters I made last week after my discovery of a local source of edamame.

I was so excited at a new Asian store that I made miso soup for lunch.  It has been too long since I have made it.  I overdid the Asian greens but who could blame me.  At dinner time I didn't have many vegies about.  There were some old potatoes growing eyes, old carrots in the bottom of the fridge and the new packet of edamame.  I also had the remains of a packet of white miso to use up so I searched for potato fritters with white miso.  I found these potato cakes.  It was all I needed to work up these fritters for a quick weekday meal.

I have also been ignoring the mint in my garden too long.  The fritters went well with sausages and caramelised corn with mint.  They weren't quite cheesy but had a pleasingly smooth mellow taste.  It was just the sort of simple meal I needed.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago:
WSC Chocolate Pumpkin Digestives
Two years ago: CC Tamarind Tempeh with Noodles
Three years ago: SOS Tahini Muesli Bars or Mama Mia!
Four years ago: Vegan feta crackers for sleepless nights
Five years ago: Lysy’s smoky burgers
Potato, edamame and carrot fritters
original recipe by Green Gourmet Giraffe
Serves 2

2 smallish potatoes, diced
handful of podded edamame
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
1 tbsp white miso
1 tsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt, or to taste
2-4 tbsp wholemeal flour
rice bran oil, to fry

Simmer potatoes in salted water for about 10 to 15 minutes until just cooked.  Cook edamame until soft (mine weren't quite soft enough - perhaps they could be done with the potatoes).  Mix in remaining ingredients and shape handfuls into fritters.  (Keep hands damp to avoid mixture sticking all over you.)  Heat frypan and pour in 1-3 tbsp of oil to cover bottom of frypan.  Fry fritters until golden brown each side.

On the Stereo:
The Sound of Music soundtrack

Sunday 27 October 2013

Tempting Fete and Easy Lentils

Yesterday, after a book launch, I went along to the Spensley Street Primary School's Tempting Fete in Clifton Hill.  Last year E played there with his ukelele group and we enjoyed our visit.  I wrote about it.  The organisers read it and let me know it was on again this year.  How thoughtful!  And helpful.  I took Sylvia and her friend Amelia.  We met up with my friend Yav and her little girl.  A great time was had by all.

Upon arrival I decided to take the easy option and have pizza for lunch.  It was something I knew all three of us would love.  Yav did the same.  There is a pizza oven in the school yard and the pizzas are excellent.  Thin margheritas with leaves of fresh basil on top, if that is your thing.  (Try suggesting that to two 4 year olds!)

The pizza was a good strategic option.  Though I know there were some interesting food choices around the back, queuing for pizza meant the kids could play on the nearby playground.  It was easy to keep them amused and keep an eye on them while we waited.

Last year, I felt a little overwhelmed at the tyranny of choice.  This year was a little easier because the fete was fairly similar and I had a feel for the lay of the land.  As with last year we enjoyed the craft stall.  E would have enjoyed the second hand record stall.  None of would fancy washing the dishes but I am still impressed that there is a dishwashing station for the dirty plate.

After the pizza I was hoping to find some nice cake.  Sadly there was not much choice.  It is a testament to the success of the fete that you need to get in early to buy cake.  By the time we finished pizza and playtime, the cake stall was sold out and even the brownie bites and snickerdoodles at the coffee station were gone.  The cafe that had the marvellous hedgehog last year only had toffees and sugar cookies left.  Not my sort of thing.  Though my inner child was delighted to see old fashioned jaw breaker toffees for sale.  Instead I joined Sylvia and Amelia in having an ice cream.

Last year, Sylvia had not wanted a garland.  This year she and Amelia were eager for one.  The garlands are just gorgeous.  They are reminiscent of ye olde English village fetes and May queens and the innocence and closeness to nature of times gone by.  The little girls looked so sweet in theirs.  It gave the fete a touch of class to see lots of kids with garlands as well as face paint and crazy hair.

Garlands on and ice creams in hand, we sat and watched some of the activities.  Right by us was the jaffa crushing machine.  It is a fancy contraption where the jaffa (a little chocolate ball covered in a red shell) rolls down the tube and onto a tray where the kids crush it with a mallet.  We didn't get into all the games but it was fun to watch.

Ice cream finished, we wandered off to look at the second hand toys, the trash and treasure and the second hand books.  I couldn't help feel that coming this late meant that some of the best stuff had gone.  However it also meant everything was going for a song.  We were quite happy to walk away with some hand puppets, some old crockery and a few books.

By the evening, I was quite tired. Rather than the pasta bake I had planned, I made a simple lentil dish with some leftover marinade from a batch of facon (tofu bacon).  It was rather good.  I hadn't planned to write it up but I enjoyed it so much that it seemed worth jotting down.  Hence the photo focuses more on the slice of sourdough bread (more on that soon) than the lentils.

I am sending these lentils to Princy of Spicy Food for My Legume Love Affair (#64), the monthly event celebrating beans and lentils and legumes, overseen by Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen and founded by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago:
Pumpkin Spice Scrolls 
Two years ago: MLLA Vegan sausage rolls 
Three years ago: Spinach Rice Gratin 
Four years ago: Chocolate cookies, bbq and mum’s sponge 
Five years ago: Broccoli Soup from AWW 

Easy facon-seasoned lentils
serves 2

1 tsp rice bran oil
1 onion, chopped
1 celery, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
400g tin of lentils, rinsed and drained
leftover tofu bacon marinade (2-3 tbsp)*

Heat oil in a frypan and cook onion, celery and garlic until soft.  Add remaining ingredients.  Check and adjust seasoning.  Bring to the boil and cook for 5 to 10 minutes until tomoato soften and mixture thickens.

*If you are not in the habit of having leftover tofu bacon marinade like we are, you could substitute here some soy sauce, maple syrup and smoked paprika.

On the Stereo:
The best of Blur

Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free Giveaway Winnter!

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway for Ricki Heller's Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free.  Using the Random Number Generator I have selected Eloise Williams to be the recipient of the cookbook.  Congratulations Eloise.  I will email you to arrange to send the cookbook your way.

I hope to post a recipe later tonight, but meanwhile, if you missed it, I recommend you check out my interview with Ricki Heller and the suggestions in the comments for allergy friendly recipes.

Friday 25 October 2013

Pancakes, Mellow Music and Family Get-togethers

It is hard being the child of a food blogger.  You find a recipe you love but new recipes are constantly appearing.  Take pancakes for example.  On Sunday morning, Sylvia got up and decided we would have pancakes for breakfast.  After a busy previous day, it was wonderful to have a relaxed breakfast.
Before we started on breakfast, we attended to more important stuff.  We bathed Dolly.  It was warm enough for her to dry outside.  Hurrah for warmer weather.  (Which left as suddenly as it arrived)  Most of her stains disappeared and her white trim became whiter.  She was just about dry by lunchtime.  And it isn't even summer yet!

I can't mention the weather without telling you how glorious the weather was on Saturday for a community Mellow Music in the park.  I was there early for a couple of hours as a volunteer to help prepare food for volunteers and an AGM.  The first task I was given was to shred the flesh of a cooked chicken.  I asked for another task and was given the lettuce instead.  Phew! 

We were at the music event long enough to see E play ukelele to the early birds.  Then we headed off to Fitzroy Market so he could play with his ukelele group there.  We really love going to the Fitzroy Market but felt it lacked a little of its charm with the new site. But there were some great new food stalls.  I had a delicious falafel made by Palma's Pantry and a dense chewy chocolate cookie from Mumbles and Rumbles.  There was also ukeleles, waffles, face painting and the playground.

After the market, we headed back to Robinson Reserve for more Mellow Music.  We got back in time for the belly dancing.  Seeing all the kids get up to dance along was great fun.  It was very relaxing to sit under the trees on a warm afternoon, catch up with friends and enjoy the tunes of local musicians.  Kids put their handprints on the work-in-progress mural, Sylvia found the hula hoops and E was pleased to find some snags still available on the bbq.

It was a busy Saturday.  So you see why a leisurely pancake breakfast was so welcome the next morning.  Sylvia wanted our regular banana oat pancakes.  I had a vegan buckwheat pancake recipe from here I wanted to try.  It seemed like a good way to use up my buckwheat flour until I discovered it was all gone.  By then I had promised we would make shapes with the pancakes so I found a thinner pancake recipe that.  So thin that it was quite easy to pour into a squeezy bottle.

The pancake batter came out of the squeezy bottle rather quickly.  It spread too much upon hitting the pan to make shapes.  As you can see with my attempt at a lollypop below.  On the plus side, it made lovely light lacy pancakes.  Not quite as thin as crepes but more British than American.  We all gobbled them up. 

The pancakes included wholemeal flour, maize flour (because I need to use it but cornmeal is what the recipe originally specified) and oats.  The original recipe fascinated me because it was for a gift pack of pancake mix, apple cider syrup and candied walnuts.  I wish I made those sort of gifts.  I wish I was given them too. 

We have also had a few nice family outings in the West of Melbourne recently.  One to Scienceworks with my sister Fran and Stella and Ashy.  I was disappointed that the House Secrets exhibition was being replaced with another exhibition and there interactive displays in the pumping station (below) were gone.  We still had fun in the Nitty Gritty cafe. The highlight was seeing a show at the Planetarium.  Sylvia has been learning about the planets and stars and solar system at kinder so she was really into it.  And those chairs that lean back are great fun. 

I didn't think the food was great last time so I made tofu-bacon and spinach muffins (leaving the spinach and onion out of half the batch for Sylvia) and chocolate almond and coconut balls (substituting ground popcorn for half the coconut).  We also took along lots of apple slices. 

Then we had a family lunch for my sister Susie's birthday.  We went to a cafe called The Reading Room on the Footscray campus of Victorian University.  The food was very nice with lots of gluten free cakes.  I had a mushroom and pumpkin quesadilla.  It was lovely but lacking a bit of protein.  I wish I had noticed the savoury muffins earlier.  They would have been great with the salad.  The kids were fascinated by the typewriter.  The cafe has an extended menu on weekends.  We must return and try that some time.

And now for a few random quicklinks that have made me sit up and take notice over the last week.
  • Active memory - a new website by our national broadcaster, the ABC, following Todd Sampson's amazing television series Redesign my Brain.  Freaky to see how much we can change in our minds and bodies with some brain exercises.  And now the ABC is offering a website where we can try it ourselves (for a price).
  • Greg Hunt used Wikipedia research to dismiss links between climate change and bushfires.  Hot on the heels of our Prime Minister being taken to task by the head of the UN's climate change negotiations, Christiana Figueres because he plans to ditch the carbon tax, we now see why the government is reluctant to fund university research.  Who needs rigourous peer reviewed evidence when you have Wikipedia!  (Wikipedia has its place but not here!)
  • Disability - a fate worse than death - a great opinion piece by Stella Young, about her relief at the Tasmanian parliament defeating the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2013 when there are not yet safeguards for vulnerable people.  It is not often I see a commentary about euthanasia from the perspective of a disabled person.
  • Are these the top 25 albums of all time? NME thinks so - I love a good list, especially when it involves great music.  Not sure I agree with all of it but was pleased to see Pulp at number 6.
  • 31 haunting images of abandoned buildings that will give you goosebumps - These are gorgeous dreamy photos.  You will feel a little sad that nothing lasts.  You will sigh with pleasure to see such beauty in our world. 
After a rambling post, my story ends on Monday morning.  Sylvia told me that she didn't like the pancakes we had yesterday so could we have her favourite pancakes today instead.  Cunning and clever.  But no pancakes on a Monday. Pancakes are what Louise of Eat Your Vegies and Vanesther of Bangers and Mash call Weekend Slowies.  That is the theme of their new blog event called Family Foodies and I am sending in these pancakes.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Vegan Sweet potato and cheeze scones
Two years ago: Vegan Party Pies: Aussie "meat" pies for the footy
Three years ago: Pate, Goslings and Bubbies
Four years ago: All About Apples: history, culture and soup
Five years ago: Milestones and Rissoles

Pancakes with oats and cornmeal
Adapted from Tora's Real Food
Serves 3-4

1/2 cup white flour
1/4 cup maize flour (or cornmeal)
1/4 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 cup rolled oats (or oat flour)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp maple syrup (or granulated sugar)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used soy milk)
1 egg
butter, for frying (I used margarine)

Blitz the oats in the blender to make oat flour.  Mix dry ingredients into a medium mixing bowl.  Lightly whisk maple syrup, milk and eggs into dry ingredients to make a smooth quite runny batter.  Pour batter into a squeezy bottle or jug (or use a mixing bowl with a lip for pouring).

Heat heavy based non-stick frypan over medium high heat.. Take a small knob of butter in a metal teaspoon and run it over the frypan until the pan is just covered with melted butter.  Pour 3 to 4 small pancakes or 1 large pancake into the pan, leaving quite a bit of room for spreading.  Fry until bubbling and flip over.  Leave another minute or two until golden brown both sides.  (I don't time this so this is an approximate time).

Eat warm with your favourite pancake topping.  (Mine are lemon and sugar or maple syrup and butter.)

On the stereo:
Yes Virginia... - Dresden Dolls

Thursday 24 October 2013

Port Fairy: Clonmara Tearoom

When I wrote about our holiday in Port Fairy last month, I was a bit "meh" about the food we ate in cafes.  Of course it wasn't all bad.  We fell in love with the Clonmara Tearoom.  The food was lovely, the service friendly and the building welcoming.  It was so good that after a delicious breakfast we returned for lunch the next day and were prepared to wait for half an hour.

We arrived at the charming 1860s cottage as the husband and wife team who run the Clonmara Tearoom were setting up for the morning (around 10am).  We whiled away time in the giftshop until the tearoom was ready.  The giftshop was small but full of really nice stuff.
Once a table was ready, we sat by the window and perused the menu.  I had bought crayons and paper for Sylvia when in the town.  It wasn't necessary here.  The lady of the house (Mrs Clonmara) produced a selection of colouring books and crayons to keep Sylvia amused and generously gave her the page to take away.  Meanwhile E spent some time talking to their cat.

Sylvia chose a scone and orange juice.  The scone was amazingly light and fluffy.  Mrs Clonmara chose a pink straw for the juice.  E and I each had a pot of tea.  The tea menu was extensive with some interesting herbal choices and the pots had loose leaf tea.  Each pot came with a large smartie.  Sylvia was so excited when she was given one of her own.  I liked the attention to little details. 

E was very excited to be able to order a full Scottish breakfast with lorne sausage, bacon and black pudding, egg and a potato scone.  There was no vegetarian breakfast on the menu but I found that I was able to put together a very decent one from extras.  I had a potato scone, grilled tomatoes, hash browns and home made baked beans.  It was a very generous plateful and everything was cooked well.  The yardstick for me was the tomatoes which are often grilled on top and cold underneath in cafes.  They were beautifully cooked all the way through.

We later talked to Mr Clonmara who cooks the food.  He is from Glasgow and was happy to talk about variations in potato scones.  I made potato scones at home that are like unleavened bread and imitate those we would buy in Edinburgh.  The Clonmara potato scones were more like a fritter of roughly mashed potato held together with a little flour.  The whole menu reflected his Scottish heritage and E was really pleased to have food he usually can't find outside Scotland.

I was only able to take a quiet photo of the tearoom because we arrived so early.  It was well patronised on both visits.  In fact on the second visit the indoors room was full.  It was too wet to sit outside at the garden tables.  We were told a table would be available in 30 minutes.  E was reluctant but I thought it worth the wait.  We drove to the city for a quick purchase of toothpaste and were back before we knew it.

While my vegtarian options weren't huge, they were well marked and very welcome in a country town.  (There were also a reasonable amount gluten free meals and cakes marked on the menu.)  I was tossing up between the macaroni cheese and the ploughman's lunch but I really wanted the Welsh Rarebit.  Once I found it wasn't marked as vegetarian because there were anchovies in the Worcestershire sauce, I was happy to order it.  (While I have vegetarian Worcestershire sauce at home and strive to find vegetarian food, I do make occasional small concessions.)

There is nothing like a warming rich cheese on toast on a cold wet day.  If I were to quibble I would prefer a dense sourdough to an English muffin.  More important was the bitey intense cheese sauce, hot crisp chips and the lovely salad of leaves, beetroot and feta.  E also enjoyed his haggis with chips and mushy peas and Sylvia loved her chunky chips.

I was enjoying the Clonmara food so much that I had to have dessert.  A decent holiday should include at least one good dessert.  We chose two desserts for the three of us to share.  A sticky toffee pudding and an apple pie.  Sylvia was not very interested in either, with the exception of some pastry, but E and I were happy to pick up the slack.  The pie was wonderful and fruity with the toffee sauce.  The pudding was lovely, soft, sweet, sticky.  We were very full.

Feeling very satisfied, we were out to our car where we discovered that we had foolishly left on the headlights and the battery was flat.  (You would think we would have learned on our last trip to Port Fairy.)  We rang the RACV for roadside assistance.  They couldn't reach the local mechanic on the phone but told us it shouldn't be too long.

We trooped back into the tearooms to ask to sit and wait there.  Mr and Mrs Clonmara welcomed us back.  They even gave the mechanic a call to check he was there.  They were the sort of people that when I asked about the Port Fairy community market, they not only looked it up, but suggested another option if the weather was really bad.  Fortunately our car was still on the road.

If you are down Port Fairy way, I would highly recommend the Clonmara Tearoom.  (They also have accommodation which I would love to try.)  We didn't discover it on our last trip because it is on the highway and not among the central shops and cafes.  It was a relaxing and welcoming place to stop for a meal and a chat.  We left from both visits feeling well fed and only needing a light evening meal.  I look forward to returning there on our next visit.

Clonmara Tearoom
106 Princes Highway
Port Fairy, VIC 3284
03 5568 2595

Clonmara Tea Rooms on Urbanspoon

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Healthy spaghetti hoops, caramel popcorn and a cardboard computer

I bought a book with popcorn recipes lately.  Then I found a healthier caramel popcorn recipe online.  On the same day I also tried a homemade Spaghetti-Os recipe.  I was pleased that both these recipes were fairly quick to make and used ingredients I had on hand.  While I wont turn my nose up at convenience food when time is tight, I would far prefer to make it myself. 

Nothing like a bit of DIY.  Hey I even made Sylvia her own computer!  (Inspired by this computer.)  Well it doesn't actually work.  But you don't need to spend much time with kids to notice that their imagination is pretty powerful.  Sylvia and I had fun painting, designing a desktop and drawing in the keyboard.  Sylvia helped writing out the letters.  Then she used it for a seat and a dolls bed and kept tapping away at my own laptop at inappropriate moments!  Sigh!

Even harder was convincing her to eat the tomato sauce on any pasta.  When I was little my mum occasionally trotted out tinned spaghetti on weekends.  I loved it then.  Today it merely holds nostalgic value but tastewise is a flaccid flavourless imitation of home made pasta dishes.  I am not familiar with calling it 'Spaghetti-Os'.  However Spaghetti Hoops rang a bell.  However I think this is the British name and ours is just boring old Tinned Spaghetti. 

I am not sure I have ever given Sylvia tinned spaghetti.  Recently I have been trying to introduce her to some different tastes.  Something a bit more adventurous than the plain food she loves.  I thought these Spaghetti Hoops might appeal. 

She loves pasta.  So long as it is her way.  In her ideal world she only eats pasta with soy sauce, parmesan cheese or tomato sauce.  By tomato sauce, I mean the stuff from a bottle that Americans call ketchup and Australians call dead horse.  We had a chat about what was in the bought tomato sauce.

With a little gentle persuasion (ie cajoling and wheedling) she ate some of this slightly more sophisticated tomato sauce on pasta - covered in parmesan cheese.  So maybe there is hope that this very simple and smooth sauce might help her try some pasta sauces.  As for me, I loved it and ate the remaining sauce with more pasta for lunch the next day.

On the other hand, Sylvia will jump at any offer of sweet food.  When I suggested we make caramel popcorn she was excited.   She doesn't care if it is full of white sugar and butter or coconut sugar and cashew butter.  Just so long as it is sweet and sticky and finds its way into her hair.

I loved how easy this caramel was.  No faffing around with cooking caramel to the right colour and waiting for it to cool.  It probably doesn't last as long as the real caramel.  (Having said that I ate some about 4 days later and it was edible albeit soft and chewy.)  Even better that it was healthier and didn't make oodles.  A fun rainy day recipe.

I am sending the caramel popcorn to Ricki's Wellness Weekends and the Spaghetti Hoops to Jac for Bookmarked Recipes.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Asparagus, potato and quinoa soup, mermaids and tulips
Two years ago: How to make gravy
Three years ago: GYO Tahini Caulflower and City Sights
Four years ago: Nicki’s Nana’s Chulent
Five years ago: Sticky toffee pudding - my kind of healthy!

Homemade spaghetti hoops
Lightly adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie
serves 2 (light meals for adults, a lot for a resistant child)
  • 1 cup dried pasta hoops (or other small pasta)
  • 1/2 jar of passata (about 350ml)
  • 2 tbsp milk of choice (I used soy)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder (I only have granules so used these)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3/4 tsp to 1 tsp salt (according to taste, I used 1 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp margarine (I used nuttalex)
  • 3-4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp agave or other sweetener
Cook and drain the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.  Meanwhile mix the remaining ingredients together in a saucepan.  Check and adjust the seasoning. Bring to the boil and then heat for another minute or two until the margarine is melted.  Toss tomato sauce with the drained pasta.  Now all you have to do is convince your child (or your inner child) to eat it.

Healthy caramel popcorn
Lightly adapted from Sift Stir and Savour
Serves 2 (very generously)
  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1 brown paper bag
  • 2 tbsp coconut sugar (or other granulated sugar)
  • 2 tbsp agave (or other liquid sweetener)
  • 1 tbsp cashew butter
  • 1 tbsp soy milk
  • 1 tbsp coconut cream
  • sea salt, to taste (I used couple of good pinches)
Place popcorn into paper bag and fold over edge a few times to seal.  Microwave for about 2 minutes or until the popping slows down.  (I am not sure I got this right because I had some burnt popcorn and some that wasn't popped at all.)  Heat remaining ingredients over a low heat, stirring frequently, until it comes to the boil.  Then heat 30 seconds, remove from heat and sit another 30 seconds.  Toss through cooked popcorn and enjoy.

On the Stereo:
0898: The Beautiful South

Sunday 20 October 2013

A-Z bookish survey

As soon as I read Nupur's A-Z bookish survey, I wanted to do it myself.  So here it is.  Written over a few weeks, it was lots of fun to do.

It also made me feel quite nostalgic for books I had read.  My life has been surrounded by books from when I was a child and my great uncle would send us boxes of books for Christmas; through school when I was the child in the corner curled up with a book that I would take to bed and read in the doorway in the light from the hall, through my university days where I studied literature; during my travels when I would never go anywhere without a book for company; right up to today when life doesn't allow much time for reading but I can't end the day without reading at least a few pages of a book.

After doing the survey, I took photos of some of my bookshelves and finding even more books I had forgotten and wished I had included.  I was strong and let it lie.  I mostly focused on fiction.  If you want to see more of my books you can read a bit about my cookbook shelves and my children's books.

Book Affair - one of my former favourite bookstores in Carlton - RIP
Author you’ve read the most books from: Enid Blyton, K M Peyton, Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith.  I am sure there are more but I draw blank.

Best Sequel Ever: The Edge of the Cloud by K M PeytonThis is the one that comes to mind as a sequel that was better than the first book.  It is the second book in the Flambards trilogy.  The other books in the trilogy focus on riding the horses to the hounds.  I loved this one because it focuses on the second son, Will who is in love with airplanes in the early Twentieth Century.  He is a great character and the novel gives great insight into the challenges and courage of aviation history just before World War I.

Currently Reading: Lunch in Paris: a love story with recipes by Elizabeth Bard I have an Alexander McCall Smith novel on the back burner because the Lunch in Paris book is from the library and I want to make sure I read it before the due date.  I will then not want to return it because there are lots of recipes in the book I really want to make.

Drink of Choice While Reading: Herbal tea

E-reader or Physical Book? Physical

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Patrick Pennington from K M Peyton's Pennington trilogy.  I absolutely loved K M Peyton's books as a teenager.  Favourite character of all was moody talented concert pianist Patrick Pennington.  (Oops the question says 'actually'.  Not sure.  I think I will stick to the fantasy!)

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: Women on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy.  I wouldn't have read it but I agreed to swap favourite books with a friend while at university and I loved it.  It is the sort of science fiction I often avoid but find fascinating when I read it.  This book creates a fascinating utopian future that a woman in current day is visiting.

Hidden Gem Book: Sea Room by Adam Nicolson.  I picked it up off Readings bargain table.  It is an amazing book about the author's reflections on an island he has inherited off the coast of Scotland.  It gives great insight into Scottish history and as a bonus was written by the grandson of Vita Sackville-West.

Important Moment in your Reading Life: A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf.  I read it in the first year of my arts degree and it made a huge impression on me.  Not just because it made me think about women's place in the literary canon, but also because it was non-fiction written in such an entertaining and creative way.  

Just Finished: It has been a few weeks since I finished a book.  Since then I have started three but not finished any.  I think the last one I finished was The Convent by Maureen McCarthy.  It is about three generations of women involved with the Abbotsford Convent in Melbourne.  It took me a while before I really fell in love with the book.  Once it had its claws in me, I loved it.  By the way, this is well travelled book.  I took it overseas to read last year and left it with my sister in Ireland who returned it via my mother when she visited in June.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Mills and Boon - though I did once by accident.  I was 16 and borrowed a book from the school library (it was a Catholic girl's school).  It was a nice story about a gentleman and the nanny of his children.  You might imagine how shocked I was at the end when there was suddenly a passionate romance between the two.  I also was given a ghost story to read by E recently and had to stop reading it because it was too scary.

Longest Book You’ve Read: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  It took me about 3 months.  If I remember rightly I wanted to read it before I saw the musical.  I booked my tickets about a year before I saw it, together in a double deal with tickets to Phantom of the Opera.  The story of Les Mis is an amazing tale of redemption.  My favourite scene is when the bishop gives Valjean the candlesticks.  If only more of us could be as generous and non-judgemental as the bishop, we might live in a kinder, happier world.

Major book hangover because of: Science fiction/fantasy books tend to leave me reeling when returning to the real world.  Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy and The Lord of the Rings are examples of such books.

Number of Bookcases You Own: Six.  One that I have had since I was a teenager.  Two large bookcases that we had made when we first got to Melbourne.  One small case that we bought to fill a space.  One large Ikea bookcase that we bought last year for Sylvia's books - it also houses some of our books, lots of craft stuff and some blogging props. One bookcase is built into our loungeroom wall.  We still struggle for space for our books and have stacks around the house.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson.  I first read it at university when I was studying it.  Since then I read it every now and again.  It is just so beautiful and I am fascinated by the outside and loner, aunt, Sylvie.  I love how her housekeeping consists of stacking up old newspapers.  (Hmmm maybe this is where I learnt to keep house!)  Strangely enough, it took me some time after naming my own little girl to make the connection with this book.

A paper bag from a local bookstore.
Preferred Place To Read: In bed

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: This is a hard one.  I don't remember quotes.  I once had a book where I wrote such things but it is lost.  So I looked online and found one that seemed right “Without stories, we wouldn't be human beings at all” from His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman,

Reading Regret: As a child I refused to read The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper.  The cover gave me nightmares.  I recently saw the film of the book and it was a really interesting story.

Series You Started And Need To Finish:  The 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall, if only to read a book called The Unbearable Lightness of Scones.  I am halfway through the second book of this series.  I have read quite a lot of his Isabel Dalhousie Mysteries and would also like to finish that.  I have too many crime series (such as Ian Rankin, PD James, Stephen Booth) that I have started and lose track of which ones I have read.) 

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: Carpentaria by Alexis Wright, Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Unapologetic Fangirl For: Harry Potter.  If reading the whole series counts as being a fan girl.  I haven't dressed up as Hermoine or queue up all night for latest releases.  I haven't read any of the books 20 times like my niece has.  I did lie in bed most of the day once reading a Harry Potter book.

Very Excited For This Release: The Naughtiest Reindeer by my very talented friend, Nicki Greenberg.  (Her Monkey Red, Monkey Blue was one of Sylvia's favourite books but now she thinks she is too old for such books!)

Worst Bookish Habit: I am cheating here and giving you E's worst bookish habit - though it does impact on my bookshelves.  He stacks books on the edges of shelves when he can't find a space for them in the shelves.  Now most of my shelves have books stacked so badly that I can't find the books behind them!  (To be fair, he would probably say I am no good at using proper bookmarks.  I just use whatever piece of paper is about rather than one of his nice bookmarks.)

X Marks The Spot: Anne Sexton: a biography by Diane Wood Middlebrook.  I love reading about writers almost as much as reading their writing.  Sometimes more.

Your latest book purchase: We went to a bookstore lately in search of a better version of the Sleeping Beauty.  I foolishly agreed to buy a Disney version of the story and every time I read it, it upsets me that Princess Aurora is taken away from her parents for the first 16 years of her life and they don't seem to care.  Children being taken from their parents is wrong and sad and not to be taken lightly.  That book has been binned.  I wont even give it away.  So we bought The Orchard Book of Grimms Fairy Tales and Sylvia chose a book by Maurice Sendak called Outside Over There.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  Such beautiful writing, such fascinating characters, such depth of love and so so so sad.

I am sending this meme to a few bloggers I think might enjoy it (if they can find the time).


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