Thursday 31 December 2020

Stuffed Giant Pasta Shells on Bolognaise - the roast dinner leftovers version!

As we make our way through the no man's land between Christmas and the New Year, we plough through leftovers and try to remember what the day is.  Making the most of festive leftovers is always fun.  I always make plenty of nut roast because there is nothing like thinly sliced cold nut roast on a salad sandwich.  My mum also gave me some of her leftover roast potatoes and pumpkin.

We always have a roast dinner at Christmas and I take along a favourite nut roast.  However roast dinners are a regular meal in my family so this is not just for Christmas leftovers.  I was inspired to add the leftovers to pasta by Sylvia's request for mac and cheese for tea.  I had jumbo pasta shells and had wanted to try stuffing them with mac and cheese.  It seemed the right thing to do to cook the shells on a tomato sauce.  And bolognaise sauce with chunks of nut roast is a favourite of mine.

Some people find leftovers annoying but I consider them a win.  Sadly I did not come home with any leftover cauliflower cheese but if I had, I would definitely consider stuffing these jumbo pasta shells with cauliflower cheese, diced roast potatoes and peas (if they are leftover too).  As I only had a few roast potatoes and Sylvia wanted mac and cheese, I used this for the stuffing, with a few diced roasted potatoes.  

Sylvia had loved a cute dinosaur in a snow globe at the shops that day so we used the dinosaur pasta in the mac and cheese.  I lazily put the dinosaurs and the jumbo shells in the same pot rather than cooking separately.  I had thought I might need to cook the shells more but they were cooked enough, though rather toothsome.  Considering they cooked more in the oven I thought this was fine though they did dry out slightly as they were sitting on top of the sauce rather than in it.

The stuffed jumbo shells were The bolognaise sauce was one of my regular tomato sauces that had onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes, maple syrup, worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, and tomato paste.  I added diced nut roast and diced roast pumpkin.  If I had leftover gravy I would consider using this in the sauce - probably by adding some fried onions and tinned tomatoes. I am still not sure where the cranberry sauce comes in but I always have some leftover!

The next day, my brother visited.  He has finally been able to come from his interstate home to see family and friends in Victoria after borders were closed most of the year.  It was nice to have him to lunch.  I made sourdough flatbreads and stuffed them with leftover bolognaise sauce and cheese.  Leftovers just keep giving!

Then we headed off to see Wonder Woman 1984 which was a fun movie.  As is pretty standard in Covid days, we had to book.  I don't mind booking most of the time.  It has helped me get the pool more because once I have booked I am locked in, rather than just finding myself too busy to go.  But at this time of the year when I can't get the day or date right, it has been a bit challenging.  I have had confusion when booking a bike service, a car service, lunch with a friend, and even a sales consultant appointment at the Apple shop to look into buying a new laptop. Yes my laptop is driving me a bit crazy and turning itself off without warning too often.  But it is not just me.  I visited a friend today who did not know it was New Year's Eve!

I started writing this post a few days back but as it is now New Year's Eve, it is time to bid good riddance to 2020.  In our state of Victoria, we have just had the 6 new Covid diagnoses - the first community transmitted cases for 60 days!  I am glad we are bunkering down at home tonight and was not planning or attending a party for 30 people. Just this morning we were told that permitted numbers in a private home were reduced from 30 to 15.  I don't know if it would be worse to tell people we can't fit them in or to be one of the people rejected from a party.  I hope that you have a fun and safe New Year's Eve and that 2021 is far better for everyone.

More Pasta recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cheeseless mac and cheese sauce
Hurry up pumpkin alfredo
Macaroni cheese
Macaroni cheese with broccoli

Stuffed cheese and spinach jumbo pasta shells
Vegan pasta bake with cashew cream
Vegetarian bolognaise

Stuffed Giant Pasta Shells on Bolognaise for Leftovers
I haven't specified amounts as I find that when dealing with leftovers, it is harder to have control over quantities.  I wrote about my family roast dinner years ago and recommend you go there if you want recipes for roast vegies, cauliflower cheese or gravy.  My standard macaroni cheese and some other versions of the mac and cheese recipe are linked above.

Jumbo pasta shells
Bolognaise sauce (add leftover gravy if leftover)
Nut roast
Roast Pumpkin
Cauliflower Cheese or Mac 'n' Cheese
Roast Potatoes
Peas (optional)
Sesame seeds

Cook jumbo pasta shells.  Mix bolognaise sauce, diced roast pumpkin and diced nut roast.  Spread on the bottom of an oven dish.  Mix diced roast potato and peas into cauliflower cheese or mac and cheese.  Stuff this mixture into the pasta shells.  Place on the bolognaise sauce.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and breadcrumbs (or more grated cheese).  Baked in a moderate oven (180 C) for about 20 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.

On the Stereo:
Kylie Christmas: Snow Queen Edition: Kylie Minogue

Sunday 27 December 2020

Christmas eating

Hasn't it been an odd Christmas!  Covid has made us so aware of how others are doing around the world.  It was not a pretty sight.  I consider myself lucky to have be able to attend Christmas parties and celebrate Christmas day with extended family out of town.  Nothing is taken for granted in this pandemic.  Gathering with colleagues and friends.  Going out of town to see family.  Swimming in the sea,  These are precious freedoms.  Sadly the year has not left me with much blogging energy but a week into my month of annual leave, I am hoping to post a bit more while I have more time.  Above is my Christmas day lunch - a roast dinner and punch on a mercifully mild day.

This is a Strawberry and Lemon Soda (muddled strawberry, lemon and cranberry shaken with house-made rhubarb syrup, garnished with fresh mint. $8) at the Rooftop Bar at the end of a work Christmas party.  I had a lovely Christmas party with my Centre at Fitzroy North Bowling Club, the Edinburgh Gardens and Panna Thai, followed a week later by a Christmas lunch with my team at The Arbory Bar and Eatery, which ended up at the Rooftop Bar.

I didn't take photos but I ate well.  The lunch of corn, sweet potato and chickpea patties and the roast portobello mushrooms stuffed with quinoa, roast vegetables and pesto were both fantastic at the bowls club.  The desserts platters were even more impressive with bite sized brownies, macarons, slabs of cheese and seasonal fruit.  (I was so delighted to have cherries instead of boring old watermelon!)  I was pretty full but still enjoyed slurping noodles in my Pad Thai in the evening before riding my bike home just as it was darkening.  Then at the Arbory we had lots of delicious finger food such as hummus and bread, pea arancini and chips before getting stuck into what I could of a huge green risotto. However the drinks were pretty ordinary if, like me, you didn't fancy alcohol.  So I was pretty happy to find mocktails at the Rooftop Bar.  And it was just lovely to spend time with colleagues face to face after working from home most of the year.

There was very little baking before Christmas.  I didn't seem to have either time or energy for it.  When we went to my parents to help decorate their Christmas tree, Sylvia and her cousin Ashy had great fun on the bunjee trampolines at Geelong's Eastern Beach and decorating gingerbread.  We stayed the night and the next morning I walked at the water's edge of the beach in Torquay with my brother and nephew, followed by a swim at the pool with Sylvia.

It was only on Christmas eve that my baking mojo returned, though I could have done with a bit more energy.  Making familiar recipes is always easier.  I made some of my favourite Christmas recipes: nut roast, panforte and cranberry nut rolls.  When I took the above photo, I had made fruit mince but not yet started the panforte.  You can also see some pizza dough so I could make pizza for dinner to have with lime spiders.  Sylvia was keen to make and decorate cupcakes so we made a favourite vanilla cupcake recipe with added mixed space and choc chips. 

Sylvia's plan for the cupcakes was to leave some out for Santa.  He was quite spoiled with cupcakes, gingerbread, a mince tart, all washed down with spiced ginger beer.  The carrots were for the reindeer!


On Christmas morning, Sylvia, E and me had a festive breakfast of cranberry nut rolls, swiss cheese, cherries, and orange juice combined with spiced ginger beer.  As always it was not a meal to relax over as we had to leave for Geelong to arrive in time for the present opening!

Christmas lunch is never early so my mum often has nibbles about to keep us going.  Crackers, nuts popcorn, gingerbread, marshmallows and turkish delight.  Washed down with punch.  Great while opening presents.

At the top of the post I have a picture of the main course for Christmas lunch.  Of course it doesn't stop there.  Afterwards we had pavlova, cheesecake, Christmas pudding and this amazing cheese platter that my aunt brought with her.  Kudos to my aunt and oldest brother for doing the dishes for a big meal for 20 people after the dishwasher broke on Christmas Day.

I am back home now with leftovers of pizza, nut roast, roast vegies, panforte and Christmas cake.  Above is some of my presents.  We are in that odd time of year when not much happens.  Actually in 2020 you might say that not a lot happened all year.  I have much to catch up on before the end of year: swimming, cinema, bike service, cleaning rust off the verandah and mopping the floor.  And on and on and on.  I hope there might be some blogging too.  I hope you had a good Christmas and have a relaxing and safe break as the end of a difficult year is in sight.

Saturday 12 December 2020

In My Kitchen - December 2020

And finally December comes around.  It does not bring much festive cheer this year.  There seems to be less socialising and more cancellations than usual.  I consider myself lucky to have two work Christmas parties and live in Melbourne that has had over a month of no diagnoses or deaths from Covid.  We have had the edict on masks eased so yesterday I had my first Christmas party in the sunshine, without masks, sharing a bbq and drinks, catching up with colleagues I hadn't seen for most of the year moving from lawn bowls to the park to a Thai restaurant. Today we had our first cinema outing since lockdown and put up the Christmas tree.  But I am still not in the mood for Christmas shopping and there are no carol services.

At home it has been mainly easy meals but Sylvia has been enjoying a bit of the festivities.  Above is a rice, vegetable and hummus bowl I made for dinner recently.  Now that we are getting some warm days, I am enjoying more raw vegetables.

We had our first department store shopping out of lockdown on the weekend that we went to Geelong to visit my family.  It was busy on the road between Melbourne and Geelong because the "ring of steel" that stopped Melbournians getting out of town for months was finally down.  After marvelling at escalators and realising how long it was since I was on one, thanks to lockdown, I bought this Grazing Collection in a supermarket to nibble on. 

Miso soup is a favourite of mine.  I know mine is not traditional.  It is always full of vegies.  It is full of flavour, chewy dried mushrooms, soft slurpy noodles and lots of healthy veg.  It both comfort food and what Nigella calls "temple food". 

I have also been eating quite a few wraps lately.  Above is one that has some of the salad from a pesto and veg pasta salad I made to last most of a warm week.

This wrap had some leftover tempeh black bean taco filling that I mixed with corn and tomatoes and piled on hummus and spinach.  It made a really filling lunch.

I was intrigued to find this vegan vanilla brownie ice creams.  It was ok but not much in the way of brownie pieces.

Sylvia made this cute snowman pizza (it looks a bit like Daddy Pig off Peppa Pig).  The snowman is made of mushrooms, olive eyes and buttons, carrot nose and chive arms and hands.  The actual pizza is a tomato sauce, egg and cheese one that she makes quite often now.

Here we have the cooked snowman.  The mushroom outlines have darkened.  The light part is where the egg has cooked in the oven under the cheese.

More of Sylvia's Christmas touches around the house.  This is her desk which has been made rather festive.

We bought Christmas sprinkles.  So when Sylvia made a chocolate mug cake with a nutella topping she finished it off with the red, green and white sprinkles.

With the arrival of summer, the garden is thriving.  Strawberries and flowers are appearing.  Parsley and johnny jump-ups are moving around the pots.  Shadow is enjoying the catnip.  Sadly the rosemary and blueberries are looking brown and dead.

We have purchased a few festive goodies.  Gingerbread biscuit chocolate, Nutella in a festive glass and Festive gingerbread shapes.  I always thought that gingerbread and chocolate were a great combination but it hasn't been doing it for me this year.

Sylvia made this reindeer cheese on muffins with pretzel antlers, olive eyes and round tomato slices for the nose.  The pretzel antlers were added after the cheese was melted.

I am not a huge fan of outfits for pets.  Animals do not want to dress up but they do look cute.  Sylvia had made him wear a santa hat and beard for Shadow that she found in the Christmas decorations.  It has disappeared 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 check out her cute hand drawn festive banner and visit more kitchens.

Sunday 29 November 2020

Stuffed cheese and spinach jumbo pasta shells

Sylvia has been trying a few foods with spinach and cheese filling lately.  So I thought if I did some really simple spinach and cheese stuffed pasta shells she would like them.  I did a really simple tomato sauce and that was a vegetable too far.  So she ate plain pasta shells while I really enjoyed the stuffed ones.  I had a little of the filling leftover to put in some pastry for her that was a hit!

I bought the ingredients before looking up the recipe.  As I stood at the deli at the supermarket, when I was asked what I wanted, I guessed I would need soft ricotta and Dodoni feta .  They are not cheeses I eat a lot so I thought I would be able to buy smaller amounts in the deli.  It turned out to be close enough for jazz.

The pasta shells were easy to work with and tasted delicious with the filling and a nice plain tomato sauce.  I added a lot of garlic and lemon juice to the Kraft recipe because it was a bit creamy for my tastes.  Once cooked they were still quite garlicky but that was fine once in the mix.  I was sad Sylvia would not eat them with the tomato sauce but I happily ate her portions and they lasted a few nights. 

I really loved this recipe that I made on a low energy day back in October when we were still in lockdown and diagnoses each day were in double figures.  At that time it seemed impossible that we might reach a month of no diagnoses or deaths.  Now that we are in a better place, diagnoses-wise I am dreaming of perhaps having dinner parties one day.  This would be a suitably easy and impressive dish to serve up to guests.  But it works just as well to eat quietly in lockdown as comfort food.

More baked pasta recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Baked gnocchi with radicchio, gorgonzola and walnuts

Fennel and lentil lasagne (v)
Leftovers pasta bake
Neofolk Buckwheat Pasta Bake (gf)
Pumpkin and tofu ricotta cannelloni (v)
Simple vegetarian lasagne
Red capsicum and mozzarella pasta bake
Spaghetti pie (v)

Stuffed cheese and spinach jumbo pasta shells
Adapted from Kraft
Serves 3-4

15 jumbo pasta shells  

250g frozen chopped spinach
175g ricotta
150g feta, crumbled
1 tbsp lemon juice (half a smallish lemon)
2-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
black pepper

Tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400g tin of tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp Italian herbs
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
good pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta shells until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

While pasta cooks, make the cheese and spinach filling.  First microwave the frozen spinach for 2-3 minutes until defrosted.  Once defrosted, place in a sieve and use a spoon to squeeze as much liquid out as possible.  (I had my sieve over a small bowl and used this water in the tomato sauce.)  Mix with ricotta, about 125g of feta, lemon juice, crushed garlic, and black pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Make tomato sauce.  Fry onion in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Add garlic and fry another couple of minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in herbs and then pour in tinned tomatoes and about half the tin of water (including water from the spinach if you set it aside for this sauce).  Add tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil and simmer about 5-10 minutes until sauce slightly thickens.  Puree with a blender.

To assemble: Tip about two thirds of the sauce into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.  The shells should have cooled by now.  Stuff each shell with a generous dessertspoon of stuffing.  Place on the tomato sauce.  Drizzle remaining tomato sauce over the shells and crumble the last 25g of feta over the sauce.

Bake in a 220 C oven for 20-30 minutes.  (I did 30.)  They will be warmed through and I like my sauce bubbly and thickened.

On the Stereo:
Super Trouper: ABBA

Sunday 22 November 2020

Red velvet cupcakes with eyeballs, and musings!

Every now and then this year, the craziness seems to settle but the calm never lasts long.  Last week Victoria was into its third week of double doughnuts (no cases and no deaths each day) and everyone got used to Biden moving on as Trump refuses to concede the presidency  Then my brother wass finally confident enough to book to come from South Australia to Victoria for Christmas.  Days later, the state of South Australia had its first outbreak of community cases since April.  SA went into lockdown, borders closed but this all eased when it was found that someone had lied to contact tracers!  And we all sighed and wondered if this virus would ever go away.

Meanwhile closer to home over the past few weeks, I have had a mouth ulcer, a tooth extracted in two parts (3/4 one day by the dentist and then the final 1/4 the next day by a specialist), plus my doctor has told me I have low iron and vitamin D.  The only good news was that my good cholesterol had gone up since the last test.  No doubt that is due to my peanut butter comfort food eating during lockdown.  And the cat has had fleas.  Thank goodness it was 34 degrees when I did three loads of washing and changed all the bed linen.  Given that it is warming up, I am very glad that this morning the Victorian Premier has announced that we will no longer have to wear masks outside from midnight today!  There are also more freedom next week about how many people can gather indoors and outdoors.

All of this is not at all relevant to these red velvet cupcakes that Sylvia and I made for the lunch we had to remember the birth and death of our stillborn sons.  Halloween is more relevant but that seems so long ago, given how much has been happening lately.  Sylvia is now into Christmas and has festive decorations all over her bedroom, though I am holding out in the rest of the house.

The recipe was a really good one but it did call for a lot of red food dye.  One tablespoon of red food dye is a big hit of red.  I discussed it with Sylvia who had made a red velvet cake in a mug a few times and she told me to start with half a teaspoon of food due.  As you can see above, that gave a very bright rosy red colour.  I did keep wondering how it would have looked if I had followed the instructions to put in a tablespoon. 

Otherwise, it was a great recipe with lovely domed cupcakes.  The order of mixing in ingredients was unusual but worth following as it resulted in a mixture like mousse and, when baked, a light fluffy crumb that still tasted good a few days later.  In fact it was so good I have considered tweaking it to make other flavoured cupcakes.  I made 12 muffin sized cupcakes and about 10 mini muffins. 

Decorating the cupakes was pretty easy.  We were inspired to try these cupcakes because Sylvia was sent red food gel from Scotland last Christmas.  When we used it, we decided it would be perfect for these cupcakes.  At first it was hard to pipe and then I cut more off the tip off the tube and it came out quite thick.  For some cupcakes I used a toothpick to stretch some of the jags in the jagged lines.  Sylvia also had a Halloween cupcake decorating kit so she did a few with sprinkles and cupcake toppers.

I took this photo of the ghost wearing a mask as well as cupcake eyeballs because lockdown had made it hard to plan the lunch.  My parents usually come to this lunch but were kept out by the "ring of steel" separating Melbourne and regional Victoria.  It was not until about a week before that we knew we could have any visitors.  We had a friend of mine and her daughter who is good friends with Sylvia.  As well as the cupcakes, we did a (mostly) savoury platter of crackers, chips, dip, vegies, berries and cheese.  It was so good to have friends in the house and just sit and chat and nibble and try the sugar free drinks that Kerin brought along.  

Since then I have been a pub, cafes, bookstores, department stores and ridden escalators.  Sylvia has had playdates and sleepovers.  Last weekend we went to my parents' home in Geelong.  I was so excited to go to the beach at Torquay.  So was everyone else, based on the all the traffic.  It was impossible to get a park and finally we parked where another car was just leaving but as it was on the grass we got a parking ticket.  I would be more annoyed if I had seen any other free parking spots.  And I guess the council was catching up on all the fines it hadn't been able to collect in lockdown.  Every first out of lockdown still seems new and exciting, even parking tickets!

More fun cupcakes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Cat cupcakes
Ghost cupcakes with marshmallow frosting
Minion cupcakes 
Owl cupcakes
Shamrock cupcakes
Sloth cupcakes  
Spiderweb cupcakes (v)
We Bare Bear cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Eyeballs
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
Makes 18-24 cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes:

165 millilitres soy milk
3 teaspoon cider vinegar
100 grams soft unsalted butter (I used Nuttalex) margarine)
175 grams caster sugar
1/2 heaped teaspoon postbox-red paste food colouring, or as required
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (sifted)
250 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 170 C and line 2 x 12 cup muffin tins with muffin liners.

Mix milk and vinegar and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and creamy.  (I did this by hand.)  Mix in food dye to make a bright red mixture.  Add more food dye if required to make it glary.

Add cocoa and then mix in one egg.  Mix in a spoonful of the flour and another egg.  Now mix in the remaining flour with baking powder and bicarb.  The other ingredients will take the glare off the colour of the mixture but it should still be quite reddish.

Spoon mixture into prepared muffin papers.  Bake for 20 minutes or until round and domed and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

Eyeball Decoration:

Cream cheese frosting
Round black liquorice
Green food dye
Red food gel or frosting

When cupcakes are cooled to room temperature, spread with cream cheese frosting.  Cut the liquorice into rounds about 0.5cm thick.  Place a liquorice round in the middle of the cream cheese frosting on a cupcake.  Colour a small amount of cream cheese frosting with green food dye (about 1/2 to 1 cup).  Pipe a thick line (about 0.5cm) green frosting around the black liquorice.  Use a gel icing pen or red frosting to pipe thin jagged lines coming out from the green frosting to the edge of the cupcake to look like veins.  Repeat with other cupcakes.

On the stereo:
Back to Basics: Billy Bragg

Friday 13 November 2020

Aboriginal Street Art in Melbourne (3) for NAIDOC Week

Our Aboriginal communities, like the rest of us, have had an odd year.  With corona virus preying upon vulnerable groups in the population, there was fear that if it got into the Aboriginal community who have a much worse health than their non-Aboriginal counterparts, would take it badly.  The community rallied and made sure the elderly and sick were protected.  Then in AFL football there was the bad news that the Aboriginal flag could not be used in the Indigenous round because the rights had recently passed to a company who seemed to value money over community.  There are moves to change this but nothing is happening quickly.  Lastly NAIDOC week which is a week of celebration by and for Aboriginal communities, was moved from its usual time of July to 8-15 November 2020.

 So today, to celebrate our Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, I bring you some photos of street art I have taken (mainly) around Melbourne.  Above is an Aboriginal "Spoonville" resident.

VACCHO (Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) in Sackville Street, Collingwood.

A banner that was outside Coburg Library last year.

Paintings at CERES, Brunswick.

This stunning mural is on the side of Charcoal Lane (restaurant celebrating indigenous culture and training Indigenous youth).  You can read more about the mural here.

Details of the Charcoal Lane mural.  Handprints are a traditional way to say "we were here".

More details of the mural - I love the Aboriginal designs on the red flowers.

Hosier Lane in the CBD.

Victorian Aboriginal Health Service (VAHS) on Bell Street, Preston.

A moment in Aboriginal history on the VAHS building.

Above and Below: Artwork on the wall of Waurn Ponds Leisurelink Aquatic and Recreation Centre (ie the pool and gym).  Not quite Melbourne but worth sharing!

Love the blue - I think this artwork is meant to signify coming together in water!

There might be arguement on copyright of the Aboriginal flag but you wont stop it appearing all over town.  This hand crafted flag was seen by the Upfield Line.

Happy NAIDOC Week!

More posts on Aboriginal people on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Aboriginal flag cake for NAIDOC Week
Aboriignal Street Art in Melbourne (2) for NAIDOC Week

Choc almond slice and Koorioberee 
Porridgies, children's books, racism and recognition
Reconciliation damper, snags and dead horse
Street Art in Melbourne #6 Aboriginal art for Sorry Day
Walnut hedgehog and a museum visit (including Bunjillaka)