Friday 30 December 2016

Watermelon, mint and feta salad

Melbourne is having a hot, humid and slightly damp spell.  The sort of weather where you get out your coolest dress, worry about the garden wilting and welcome thunderstorms to clear the air.  It is the sort of weather for salads.  I would recommend this watermelon, mint and feta salad.

When I was young I hated watermelon.  I still dislike a fruit salad that is filled with melon.  These days I have come around to watermelon.  It has its moments!  I can now appreciate the sticky juice dripping down your chin on a hot day.  Yet Sylvia wants me to buy it too often.  And too often it sits forgotten at the back of the fridge.  In an attempt to avoid such neglect,  I finally tried the ubiquitous watermelon salad.  As a little bonus, it used up lots of mint from the garden too.

The day I made this it was to serve with a leftover salad which had not lasted the distance.  So we ate it with spinach and spiced nuts.  It was a nice easy meal on the first day of the school holidays but would have been better with a wider range of salads.  We had a similar salad at my mum's over Christmas and it was much better as part of a selection of salads.

It looks like New Year's Eve tomorrow wont be so hot as the last few days.  However if you are like me and just discovered NYE is Saturday and not Sunday, you would probably welcome a simple salad to add to the festive table.  And now that I have discovered that the year ends tomorrow, I can safely say this will be my last post of 2016.  Wishing you and yours a happy and safe New Year's Eve and I will be back next year.

More watermelon recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Watermelon, banana, strawberry, peach juice (gf, v) 
Watermelon curry (gf, v)
Watermelon monster (gf, v) 

Watermelon, mint and feta salad
Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4 or more

900g watermelon, trimmed and cut into chunks
1/4 cup of mint leaves (loosely packed)
1/2 lime, juiced
1 tbsp olive oil
50g feta cheese
salt and pepper to season

Trim rind off watermelon and cut flesh into chunks.  If your mint leaves are large (mine weren't) roughly chop.  Mix watermelon with mint, lime juice and olive oil.  Arrange on a large shallow bowl.  Scatter with crumbled feta.  Season.

On the Stereo:
Matilda the Musical: Soundtrack

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Christmas day food, reflections and quicklinks

We are back at home after Christmas at my parents' home.  The suitcases are unpacked and we are having a quiet day after a busy time of feasting, family, swimming, lights and presents.  Here is a rundown with a few Christmas recipe links at the end of the post.

Christmas Day food starts early.  On Christmas Eve I baked nut roast, cranberry nut rolls, chocolate mince pies, panforte, and pizza.  In the above photo I had not yet made the panforte.  It always seems to get made in front of Carols by Candlelight on the telly.

The pizza was for dinner on Christmas Eve.  Sylvia had one with tomato and cheese.  We had one with tomato sauce, cheese, feta cheese, roast pumpkin and lightly microwaved kale.  I was most pleased with it.  We had leftovers that went into the freezer and were a nice easy meal when we got home from my parents' last night.

Christmas morning started in a blur when Sylvia woke at 4am to check what she had been given by Santa.  It took a while to get her back to sleep.  At a more reasonable hour we had breakfast (freshly squeezed orange juice, cranberry nut rolls and Swiss cheese) before heading down to Geelong.

We took the (vegan) gingerbread house that Sylvia and I had made.  I had hoped to write more about it but had an mishap while measuring the flour and the gingerbread seemed a bit dry.  Sylvia helped with lots of the piping and it looks cute.  We are planning to eat it on New Year's Day.

We opened presents at home and then there was more present giving at my parents' house.  Sylvia laid her presents out on the campbed.  You can see she was well and truly spoiled in the nicest of ways.  She didn't ask for too much but wanted lots of diaries.  I was pleased to read an article about how diaries inspire children to write.

E and I also received some lovely presents between us - perfume, books, chocolates, cordless chargers, a CD and a mug.  Here he is holding the hamper of bikkies, jams and tea that my brother gave us.

It was 38 C on Christmas Day but we had a traditional roast dinner and plum pudding.  With the air conditioner on!  As usual I had nut roast instead of turkey and ham.  My niece amused me with a huge serving of cauliflower cheese and gravy that looked like ice cream with chocolate sauce.

But it is not all traditional at lunch.  My mum also made pavlova and a black forest cheesecake.  I can take or leave a pav but a cheesecake makes me go weak at the knees.  This one was scrumptious.

In the afternoon most of my siblings head off to the in-laws.  Sylvia played with bubbles, fancy sticky tapes and watercolour paints, I read my book while E and my parents sleep.  Dinner is a simple affair of leftovers in a sandwich.  I am very partial to a salad sandwich with thinly sliced nut roast.  It is most excellent on sourdough bread that my mum baked that morning.

After dinner we drove out to see the fun Christmas lights on the Geelong Town Hall.

The next two days we went to the pool in the morning, had lunches with family and friends we don't see often, and played with the nieces.  Above is a picture of my nieces making bath bombs.

This is a platter of nibbles courtesy of my aunt.

Here are the salads that my mum made for two lunches and my leftover slices of nut roasts are in the bottom left corner.  Not included in the picture is the pan of Nigella's roasted potato and pepper bake.

My dad's school friend came to visit and brought a bottle of Lindeman's Maiden Press.  It is a non-alcoholic sparkling juice made in a champagne style.  I was very taken by it.

And we had my panforte with tea and coffee and a platter of my mum's mince pies, yo-yos and some chocolates.  A perfect way to end a meal.

Finally, I had collected a few Christmas recipes I have seen this year that I would love to add to my Christmas repertoire.  As my bookmarking site ( seems to be down, I am sharing them here.

Christmas recipe quicklinks:

Barley salad with kale, walnuts, and cranberries - Bite Sized Thoughts
Parsnip and chestnut nut roasts - The VegHog
Parsnip chestnut and sage wreath - Sneaky Veg
Porcini and chestnut mini wreath roasts - The Veg Space
Puff pastry Christmas tree with chestnut mushrooms - Allotment to Kitchen
Sprout salad with cranberries, pecan vuts and clementines - Easy Peasy Foodie

Candy cane fudge cookies - The Taste Space
Chocolate peppermint bark - Rock My Vegan Socks
Lasso the moon cookies (It's a Wonderful Life) - Cadry's Kitchen
Layered chocolate mint Christmas tree cake - The Gluten Free Alchemist
Rich gingerbread brownies with frosting - Not Quite Nigella
Tear and share Christmas tree cinnamon rolls - Lavender and Lovage

I hope you had a happy Christmas and a relaxing holiday.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Christmas nights and lights

It is Christmas Eve and I am in a whirl of baking.  The gingerbread house and the nut roast is done.  I have baked mince pies and cranberry nut rolls.  The panforte has been stirred and baked while I watch Carols by Candlelight.  Christmas has been filled with late nights, present wrapping, Christmas cards, decorating gingerbread, sleepless nights, eating out, berries, shopping and lights.  Lights on the tree, on houses and on the Melbourne Town Hall.

We have had a tradition of going in to the city one evening before Christmas and spending one evening driving around to see houses lit up with Christmas lights.  Here are some photos:

Christmas in the city square.  Top photo is the tree.  Above is the manger scene

We had Lord of the Fries for dinner and a festive ring doughnut from Krispy Kreme to share for dessert.  Three tubs of sauce from Lord of the Fries despite specifying no sauce for any of us!

We walked along to Bourke St Mall via Royal Arcade (above).

The queues for the Myer Christmas windows were too long so we decided to see them after Christmas.  We headed up to the 6th floor where there was quite a short queue to see Santa.

Then we browsed the toys, gifts and decorations.  This superhero photo window was great fun.  Can you see Sylvia's teddy?

Then we were out late enough to go to the train via the Melbourne Town Hall to see the light show. 

We saw about half of it and were prepared to stay and see the first part.  However unlike the Geelong Town Hall, it wasn't on a continuous loop.  We had to wait 10 minutes for the next light show.  Which is far too long when you have a tired kid you need to get home to bed.

We were glad to see a bit of it.  Sylvia found it magical.

Sylvia also found the lights on houses around us magical when we drove around last week.

This house (above and below) amused us with the kangaroos, Mary and Joseph not talking and DJ Santa in the background.

Then we visited the below house that we had seen last year.

And now it is Christmas Eve.  Sylvia is not sleeping,  E is doing dishes.  I about about to clear the kitchen table for breakfast tomorrow.  I'll be back in a few days after Christmas celebrations.  Wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy holiday.

Friday 23 December 2016

Spinach salad with spiced nuts and cranberries

It was less than a week until Christmas, the last day of school and I had not eaten dinner at home for 4 days.  I was in need of salad.  Something to please my appetite and feed my soul.  I had been planning it for a few days and was delighted with this spinach and spiced nuts salad. 

I have bookmarked far more spiced nuts recipes than I have made.  Which translates as, I love the idea of them but don't make them often.  (Speaking of bookmarks, is it just me that cannot access recently, and does anyone know why?)  They are a great way to make a salad seem fancy and substantial. 

I am unapologetic about giving a recipe for three times as many nuts as is required for the salad.  They are great for festive nibbles and also make delicious gifts.

The salad is reasonably simple.  I left some in the fridge overnight and discovered that it does not keep overnight.  Rather than dwelling on slimy spinach leaves, let's just say that although you can't make it in advance for a Christmas dinner, you can make most of the components beforehand so you just need to toss everything together before the meal.

We ate this salad with some garlic bread for a simple supper.  It is robust enough for a meal but light enough to include as a side dish.  It caters to vegan and gluten free diets.  Best of all, it is perfect for those trying to eat more healthy food, which pretty much covers most of us.  And salads might be in demand in Melbourne on Christmas day where it is forecast to be 35 C!

I hope your festive season is going well.  It is pretty crazy here.  Sylvia's gingerbread house is almost done and I have almost finished buying presents.  I have lots of wrapping and baking to do.  We were out looking at Christmas lights on houses tonight.  It is yet another late night.  I hope to have one more post in me before Christmas to share some of the photos of Christmas lights.  Meanwhile I wish you all the best for a merry Christmas and happy holidays.

I am sending this salad to Healthy Vegan Fridays and Meat Free Mondays.

Spinach salad with spiced nuts and cranberries
Inspired by Salt and Lavender
Serves 4

150g spinach
1 cup smoky spiced nuts (see below)
2 tbsp dried cranberries
1 spring onion
150g sugar snaps
Lime tahini dressing (see below)
roasted and salted seeds (optional)

Toss everything but the seeds with  the dressing in a large salad bowl.  Scatter with seeds.  Best eaten within a few hours of making the salad.  Does not keep overnight.

Lime tahini dressing
adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe

1 and 1/2 tbsp lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp tahini
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp seeded mustard
Generous pinch salt

Whisk together until smooth and creamy.

Smoky spiced nuts
Inspired by Green Gourmet Giraffe and
Makes 3 cups

1 cup raw cashews
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw pecans
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoon maple syrup
1 and 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 170 C or 325 F.  Mix everything well in a large roasting dish.  Roast for 10 minutes.  Stir well.  Roast another 5 minutes.  They will still seem a little wet but should be crisp once they cool.  Once cooled, store in an airtight container.

On the Stereo:
Merry Christmas to the World of Children: Patsy Biscoe

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Seed Crackers and Christmas eats and trees

After months of festive decorations in the shops, it is a surprise that Christmas is almost upon us.  We have had our fair share of Christmas and end of year events.  And so many involve sugar and lollies.  So yesterday when a friend asked if I wanted some leftovers from her birthday cake I declined.  Which is why when we made presents for Sylvia's teacher, we decided to make savoury seeded crackers.  I will give you the cracker recipe after some musing on Christmas eats and trees.

I made these sausage rolls for a Christmas carol service.  We also took bread and vegies but I forgot the hummus.  Sylvia wisely told me not to bother bringing any sweet food as she knew she would have enough there.  She and her friend had lollies from santa as well as fairy floss and gloopy slushies.

I had quite a bit of sausage roll filling leftover as I didn't have time to make them all up.  The remaining filling went into a tex mex puff pastry braid that was made with a layer of refiried beans (kidney beans, taco seasoning and tomato sauce), 1 mashed avocado and sausage roll filling.  It was delicious but I had hoped for a brighter green filling.

I grated cheese onto half of the remaining sheet of pastry.  Then I folded it in half and cut out shapes with some cookie cutters.  We baked the shapes and the rest of the sheet left over from the shape until golden brown.  Sylvia loved them.

I made gingerbread houses for an end of year raffle at Sylvia's gymnastics club.  We had fun photographing them and were late to gymnastics as a result!  The irony!  I have promised Sylvia I will make a gingerbread house with her.  I am planning to try a new gingerbread recipe.

Much as I try to avoid a new flavour of an old brand, every now and again I cannot resist temptation.  The idea of a ginger cola was irresistible.  Ginger beer is a favourite drink of mine.  The ginger cola was nice but I still prefer ginger beer.

We were at the Coburg Farmers Market the morning that we picked up Sylvia from her sleepover (at the ungodly hour of 8am).  There was Christmas cake being sold by the CWA, the above mince tarts from La Madre and also some cute mini chocolate Christmas puddings.  However we headed over to Cocoa Rhapsody for some chocolates to give as thank yous.

Last week Sylvia had her end of year Christmas lunch.  Her class was asked to bring crackers or chips.  Sylvia insisted I make cheese stars from Nigella's How to Eat.  Dutifully I made the dough the night before and rose early to bake on the day they were requested.  Afterwards Sylvia told me she just had BBQ shapes from a box.  I sighed!  Then I decided that I wasn't just baking for her but, to paraphrase Ghandi, to be the change I wish to see.

I am feeling quite behind in lots of Christmas organisation.  One small project I finished was this icy pole stick and button star.  It was inspired by one that a friend made. 

We went to see E play Christmas carols at some local libraries with his ukulele group on the weekend.  Afterwards E suggested stopping for a coffee at a cafe.  I was already behind so instead we bought doughnuts.

The carols were after Sylvia and I had picked up our Christmas tree.  I don't know if Sylvia was more excited about being in the front seat of the car for the first time or driving home with the tree in the back filing the car with wonderful pine aromas.  Unfortunately at home the tree was challenging to get into our stand.  I borrowed a hacksaw from a neighbour to trim the base and broke the blade.  The tree is now sitting at a rather laid back angle.  My button star on the top looks great.

Our tree is top left above.  Top right is a book Christmas tree at Preston Library.  I really loved this tree.  The top reminds me of making angels out of old books when we were young.  Bottom left is a sock tree I saw in a shop that took my fancy.  And bottom right is my parents' tree.

On Saturday after getting out tree into place, rushing off to E's carols and heading home to decorate the tree, Sylvia and I went to my parents so we could decorate the tree the next day.  It is a fake tree.  Previous to this year, they have always bought real trees.  So it seemed strange.  Even stranger was that it was a lot smaller than the past trees.  It looked great.

Before we decorated my parents' tree, I had taken down some fruit mince and chocolate pastry to make chocolate mince tarts.  Usually we put stars on top.  My mum didn't have star cookie cutters but she had gingerbread men cutters.  They looked quite cute on the mince pies.  I made them to take to book club after decorating the tree.  Our last bookclub of the year is a film night and we saw Girl on a Train and took along a plate.  The chocolate mince tarts were my contribution.

A few weeks ago I met my friend Yaz at The Glass Den where we ate curly fries and talked about healthy crackers.  He said he just mixes chia seeds and water to make a thick slurry and then adds as many other seeds as he could before baking them in thin sheets.  I looked up some similar recipes and found this one from New Zealand.

I had decided that we would try and avoid sweet food for gifts for Sylvia's class teacher.  So we made these seed crackers.  They have kept for 5 or 6 days in an airtight container but are slightly more fragile than I had hoped.  But they do hold together fine.  (Perhaps so more chia or linseeds would help.)  My main problem with them was that I misread the recipe and thought I had to scatter 1 teaspoon of salt over them before baking.  They were too salty.  A pinch of two of salt would do.

As well as being a different sort of gift, these crackers make great snacks if you like a birdseed sort of snack.  I do.  I am sure I will be making these again for myself and others.

I am sending these to Healthy Vegan Fridays, Gluten Free Fridays, and Treat Petite.

More Christmas gifts on Green Gourmet Giraffe: 
And for some more fun ideas, check out Tin and Thyme's Advent Calendar of Christmas recipe links.

Seed crackers
Makes about 48 square crackers

1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/4 cup linseed / flaxseed
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
flaky sea salt, to taste

Mix all seeds, 1/2 tsp of salt and all the water.  Leave to sit for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.  Spread as thinly as possible on baking paper on two medium oven trays.  Sprinkle with a pinch or two of flaky sea salt.  Bake at 170 C for 30 minutes.  Cut into squares (I did 4 x 6 rows.)  At this point they are quite dry and crispy but can crisp up more.  Return to the oven and bake another 20 -30 minutes until slightly golden.  Cool on a wire rack.  Keep in an airtight container.

On the Stereo 
White Christmas: Bing Crosby