Sunday, 17 November 2019

Halloween foods - Ghost salad, Black cat oreos, Punch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More fun recipes at Halloween recipes, cakes and snacks

Ghost salad

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

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

Black Cat Oreos

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

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

Orange punch with spiders

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

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

On the Stereo:
Melt: Straitjacket Fits

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

In My Kitchen - November 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to visit more kitchens. 

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Easy Halloween cake - eyes in the dark

Last weekend we had a small gathering to remember Alex and Ian’s birthday and for Sylvia and I to have fun with Halloween baking. While I continue to have problems with my computer, I will share a very easy spooky cake we made.  Days like these make me great full for a jar of candy eyes in the pantry!  The cake was simple but delicious.

And as it is currently easier to share photos than typing, I will also share a few photos from Sylvia’s first foray into trick or treating.  I don’t have any of the guy dressed as Trump or the pet rat or the bleeding headless statue or the crowds of kids and parents out on a balmy night of 33 C.

I hope to get my computer sorted soon as I have some posts I hope to share.

Chocolate eyes in the dark cake

2 x 20cm round chocolate cakes
300ml thickened cream
250g x 70% dark chocolate
50g milk chocolate
Candy eyes

Make ganache early enough that it has a few hours to cool to room temperature. Break or chop chocolate into small pieces. Microwave the cream in a jug for 45-90 seconds or until very hot (watch it does not boil over.)  Pour hot cream over chocolate and leave a couple of minutes.  Now stir until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.

When ready to frost, trim the cakes if necessary. My cakes were quite domed so I sliced the top of the bottom cake to make the top cake sit better. Spread some ganache over the Botton cake and carefully place second cake on top. Spread remaining ganache over top and sides of cake, making as smooth as possible. Place candy eyes in pairs around the side. It is fun to have pairs facing different ways.

NOTES: I used double the mixture from this favourite vegan chocolate cake recipe.

On the stereo:
The flying club cup: Beirut

Friday, 1 November 2019

Remembering Alex and Ian 12

It is 12 years since our sons Alex and Ian were stillborn. We miss them always and they have missed so much life they might have lived. They would have been about to finish primary school but instead we remember their death as well as their birthday.

As always on their birthday I share links I have seen About pregnancy loss. Each year there is more and more written.  (Apologies for typos. I have computer troubles.)

When people don’t want to talk about your child it feels very lonely, The Age, 28 January 2019.

A stillborn baby, nine years of IVF and more than $100,000: the trauma of infertility, by Susan, ABC news, 3 August 2019.

We had no idea how much physical danger stillbirth can cause by Hannah Harris Green, Rewire.News, 14 August 2019.

Please find some words for me: the conversations that helped after our son’s stillbirth , by Lucy Biggs, The Guardian, 17 August 2019.

Stillborn twin daughters spurred Hana and Scott Baker to raise money to study neonatal death , by Caen Cluff, The Courier, 13 August 2019.

'I was in a tiny bubble of horror.' Annabel's story of saying goodbye to her newborn baby/, Nama Winston, MamaMia, 21 July 2019

'It was all ripped away': The cruel irony of the '12-week rule' by Sophie Aubrey in The Age, 13 October 2019

How one couple found  strength after their son’s stillbirth, by Jason Om in ABC Life, 14 November 2018.

What to consider when announcing a pregnancy or miscarriage online, by Kellie Scott, ABCLife, 26 November 2019.

Born sleeping: how I grieved for the much-loved daughter I lost before her birth, by Devika Bhat,  The Guardian, 28 October 2019.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Mediterranean pumpkin and chickpea salad

While sorting through some old papers recently, I found a recipe I had torn out of a supermarket magazine for Middle Eastern Pumpkin and Chickpea Salad.  So many salads in magazine are a work of art these days and appear as a tantalising impossibility.  Unusually, this appealed because I thought I could just about rustle up the ingredients. 

In particular this salad inspired me to use a wedge of pumpkin that I had bought from the farmers market. I don't have a BBQ so I roasted slices.  Instead of the spices I used dukkah.  I really loved the look of the seeds on the pumpkin.  After all this salad was very much about style. 

Another change I made was to add purple cabbage.  The recipe included red onion.  This is not something I often have.  But I remembered roasting cabbage years ago.  It was a little crispy around the edges and softened on the insides.

Finally I didn't have yoghurt but I had tzatziki.  We have been loving tzatziki with everything lately so I dabbed it over the salad instead of yoghurt.  The final salad was lovely and fresh.  I cooked a little pasta to have with it.  I suspect it would be fine on its own.  I can tell you that it is a very forgiving recipe that stands up to many changes.  This is the sort of salad that is always welcome in my kitchen.

I am sending this salad to VegHog and Shaheen for Eat Your Greens and to Deb for Souper Sundays.

More vegie packed salads on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chickpea, peach and pumpkin curry (gf, v) 
Hurry up pumpkin alfredo (v)
Japanese-style pumpkin, sprouts and tofu soup (gf, v)
Miso harissa roast pumpkin (gf, v)
Roasted cauliflower and pumpkin salad (gf)
Roasted pumpkin and garlic hummus (gf, v)
Tempeh and pumpkin lasagne (v) 
Thai pumpkin, corn and chickpea stew (gf, v)

Mediterranean pumpkin and chickpea salad
An original Green Gourmet Giraffe recipe.
Serves 2 - 4

350g Kent pumpkin, sliced 1cm thick and halved
1 red capsicum, chopped
2 cups purple cabbage, sliced 2cm thick and halved
2-4 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp dukkah
2 good handfuls of baby spinach

Preheat oven to 220 C.  Drizzle olive oil into the base of 2 roasting dishes.  Dip pieces of pumpkin, capsicum and cabbage in oil, turn over and arrange in dishes. Scatter dukkah over the vegetables.  30-40 min chopped into 1cm slices and halved.  After 20 minutes check capsicum and cabbage and remove from dish.  Continue to roast pumpkin another 10-20 minutes until slightly charred around edges.

When vegetables are cooked, cool slightly (or to room temperature).  Line base of shallow dish (or individual dishes) with spinach leaves (keep some aside to scatter on top).  Arrange roasted vegetables on the spinach, then add additional spinach leaves, chickpeas and spoonfuls of tzatziki.  Squeeze lemon over the salad.

This salad is open to lots of variations.  Your favourite spice mix can be used instead of dukkah or use a combination of cumin, coriander and smoked paprika.  Other vegetables could be used such as sweet potato, rocket, asparagus, eggplant or cauliflower.  If you don't have tzatziki, use sour cream or yoghurt.  If you want it vegan, use other dips such as hummus instead of tzatziki.  

I served half the salad one night and kept the vegies, chickpeas and spinach separate for the next night.  Then I wanted a salad sandwich so I mashed chickpeas with tzatziki and put them in a sandwich with roasted pumpkin and spinach.  The red capsicum was on the side.

On the stereo:
Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Cauliflower cheese pasties (served with carrot pickles)

A large white head of cauliflower in the fridge is a beautiful thing.  It has so many possibilities.  Yet when paired with a stray square of puff pastry, my mind went to the comfort of cauliflower cheese .... in a pastie!  And we needed comfort on the day before school holidays end.  Daylight savings starts just before term 4 starts every year and yet every year I still resent that stolen hour.  So comfort food it was!

The cauliflower I cooked to stuff into pastry was broken up small because I didn't want big chunks in my pasties.  However there was another reason.  I wanted Sylvia to have some and she is not keen on cauliflower.  But what kid can resist any vegetable covered in a rich creamy cheese sauce.  Especially a little fan of mac and cheese.

Amazingly, Sylvia ate her pasties but refused to eat any cauliflower cheese that was not wrapped in a pastry blanket.  Whereas I have loved cauliflower cheese since I was a child and found it as delicious as it was ugly.  And it was incredibly ugly!  I loved eating the leftovers with a simple pea and lentil salad, cherry tomatoes and some pickled carrots.  I really loved the pickled carrots - more than the ones I had made before.  My experimenting in the kitchen does not always work but on this occasion the meals were winners!

More cauilflower cheese recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cauliflower cheese soup (gf)
Cauliflower cheese macaroni
Leftover cauliflower cheese, vegetables and rice soup
My mum's cauliflower cheese 
Vegan cauliflower cheese (v)
Whole cauliflower cheese

Whole cauliflower cheese
An original recipe from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Serves 10-12

1 cauliflower head
15-20 min til falls apart when a knife goes through
2 heaped dessertspoons of butter
2 heaped dessertspoons of plain flour (I used wholemeal)
2 1/2 cups milk (I used soy)
135g gruyere cheese, grated
85g extra tasty cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp seeded mustard
few pinches salt
grind of pepper
puff pastry (ready rolled in squares)
beaten egg or milk for glazing

Preheat oven to 220 C and line a baking tray with baking paper.  (Line more trays depending on how many pasties you want to maek

Steam cauliflower head in a large saucepan with about 1-2 inches of water at the bottom.  Then turn off heat and leave while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce melt butter in a large saucepan or frypan.  Stir in flour to make a paste and stir for a few minutes until cooked - often it is easier to tell by smelling the cooked flour but you may notice a slight darkening in colour.  Gradually add the milk: just a little at first and stir until combined and creamy, continue to add in ever increasing amounts until the liquid becomes thin (this is when you stop adding: it should not be too thick as it will thicken more when you boil it and when you add cheese - you can always add a little extra milk later but it is more work to thicken).  Bring to the boil and it should thicken.  Now stir in the cheeses and it should thicken more.  Season with mustard, salt and pepper, to taste.

Drain the cauliflower.  Tip it into the cheese sauce.  Stir to coat with sauce and use a wooden spoon to break up into smaller pieces.

Cut pastry into squares.  Spread some cauliflower cheese on one half the square, leaving a 1cm gap around the edge of that side.  Brush with egg or milk along the edge around the cauliflower cheese.  Fold the pasty in half (you can do rectangles or triangles but I prefer rectangles for less fussy corners).  Brush with egg or milk and use a fork to make indentations around the edges of the pastry.  Pierce a few times with the fork.

Place pasties on a lined tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until pastry is gold brown.

Pickled carrots
Inspired by The Kitchn

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt

2 medium carrots, grated
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 garlic clove, crushed

Bring vinegar, water, sugar and salt to the boil in a small saucepan and simmer for a few minutes while grating carrots.  Place carrots, mustard seeds and garlic in small mixing bowl.  Pour vinegar mixture over and let cool.  Ideally leave for a few hours but I did have a little white it was still warm.  Keeps in the fridge for a week.

On the Stereo:
Remember us to life: Regina Spektor

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Melbourne city (CDB) street art

It's been busy.  Too busy for much cooking.  But I have street art photos from a day out in the city, a walk along SouthBank on the way to a conference and a meeting in the city.  Some humour.  Some whimsy.  Some beauty.  Lots of greenery.  And a little weirdness!  I hope you enjoy.

Above and below: Off Little Bourke Street near the corner of Elizabeth Street.  Climate change is even come to street art!

Below is a lot of photos from Guilford Lane.  Highly recommend a walk along this leafy lane.  (Even if you are not visiting the Cat Cafe - stayed tuned for some pics!)

Above: on Little Lonsdale Street between Melbourne Central walkways!  Because Molly Meldrum is a legend.

Above and below are artworks off Flinders Lane, some of which were part of Flinders Lane Augmented Artwork Festival in Sept 2019 that you can read about at Hot or Not.  I suspect some of the weird fashion artwork on the metro site in Swanston Street at the top of Flinders Lane is to distract from how high they are building on City Square!  Above is a mural along a wall and directly below is a fading but amusing Gargamel from the Smurfs.

Below is artwork from Yarra Promenade along SouthBank.  It is all under a bridge - maybe the Kings Street bridge?

If you are interested in seeing Melbourne city street art, you can find walking tours online.  More Melbourne city (CBD) street art photos from my blog: