Friday, November 19, 2010

Creamy Butter Bean Pasta

Creamy Butter Bean Pasta

I subscribe to Sanitarium's recipe of the week and a while ago, the recipe was for a Creamy Butter Bean Pasta. I love creamy pastas but since Sophie can't have cow dairy, we have been limited in what we can make. Having discovered oat milk with goat cheese makes a great béchamel sauce topping for lasagna, I thought I would give them a go for this recipe. I have used their recipe as a base and changed a few of the ingredients to what we have on hand, plus I love mushrooms in creamy pasta!


  • This quantity would serve 6 for a dinner.
  • The lemon juice contains the vitamin C which helps with the bioavailability of the non-haem iron in the beans.
  • Their recipe calls for an onion in the method but isn't in the list of ingredients. I tend to use shallots now.
  • I used basil, oregano and thyme from our herb garden.
  • I used a mix of button and Swiss brown mushrooms.
  • It was not really my cup of tea, funny texture for the sauce and well, still not that keen on goat cheese, but Greg had 3 bowls of it! I'm not sure what the girls thought really. Amy didn't particularly like the sauce either but still ate her bowlful. Sophie seemed to like it (she does love her goat cheese) but couldn't get through all her bowl.

Ingredients

250g packet buckwheat spirals pasta
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
400g can butter beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons flour
2 cups oat milk
50g goat cheddar, grated
40 mL lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs
200g sliced mushrooms
350g green beans, topped and tailed


Method

  • Cook pasta according to packet directions.
  • Heat oil in a large frypan and sauté garlic and shallot.
  • Add the butter beans and heat through.
  • Place bean mixture, cheese, lemon juice, flour and milk in a blender and purée until smooth.
  • Sauté mushrooms in frypan.
  • Return bean mixture to pan.
  • Add herbs and green beans and simmer until slightly thickened.
  • Stir cooked and drained pasta through sauce.
  • Serve with more grated cheese on top.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Journalling

I was given a wake up call this week why I started this blog. I wanted to journal what we ate, what I read about, nutrition facts, restaurant reviews of where we eat (in case we do/don't want to go back), keep meal plans handy and keep recipes at hand of dishes we have all enjoyed so we can repeat them when we want and the girls can have them in the future.

As we were planning this week's meals, Amy's request was for a "soupy, chicken curry with rice we had while sitting in the lounge room one night". We all looked at each other wondering what it was and I had no idea which meal she was talking about or how I made it. I have vague recollections of sitting in the lounge room to eat dinner (I think we have done it twice!) but no idea about what we ate or of cooking such a dish. She, however, obviously really enjoyed it! 

Unfortunately, I have started trying to write this blog as more of a what do other people want to read and is that photo good enough type of journal rather than my personal journal, thus taking too long to write, forgetting recipes and meals and missing many reviews. 

So, as of tonight, I must make a conscious effort to go back to my journal and if other people enjoy it and get something from it, great, if they don't, well...


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Macadamias - Sweet or Savoury?

Yesterday, I bought some macadamias. I LOVE macadamias and could probably just continue to eat them natural but they sat looking at me today begging me to do something different with them. It got me thinking - should I do sweet or savoury? What do macadamias call for?

There are so many options; shortbread, with mangos, salads, lightly salted, cake, roasted, toffee, with prawns, avocado, chocolate....

What to do?

What do macadamias want?

We sat taste testing natural macadamias at the dinner table tonight, brainstorming some ideas.

How do you like macadamias?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bitsa Pie


I'm having a big clean out in all parts of the house at the moment; clearing out my unused craft stashes, furniture, and the kitchen pantry, fridge and freezer.

So tonight for dinner was "Bitsa Pie"! I'm going to preface it by saying that at least the mince was free-range and the garlic home grown. It's not a pretty pie and not something I'm used to making. The frozen pastries were probably not ideally fresh, cracked a bit getting them out as well, but it did end up being REALLY delicious and got a big thumbs up from the girls, with even Sophie eating it "in a timely manner"! (That is a big thing here). I'm thinking pies may appear more regularly on the dinner table with more experimentation with the fillings.


"Bitsa Pie" Inside (looks are deceiving - tasted great!)


Ingredients

1 sheet frozen shortcrust pastry
1 sheets frozen puff pastry
1 Tablespoon rice bran oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 shallots, finely chopped
500g beef mince
500g packet mixed frozen vegetables (this one had peas, corn, beans, carrot, potato)
1 Tablespoon plain flour
1 Tablespoon mixed dried herbs
1/4 cup water
splash balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper to taste

Method

  • Prepare filling mixture ahead of time to cool.
  • Heat oil in a large frying pan and saute garlic and shallots.
  • Add beef and cook though then add herbs and vegetables.
  • Cook vegies through then add flour, stir through and add water.
  • When mix has thickened, add vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.
To make up:
  • Defrost both sheets of pastry
  • Preheat oven to 180ºC
  • Line 23cm pie dish with shortcrust pastry, line with baking paper and pie weights* and bake blind for 10 minutes.
  • Remove paper and weights and bake for a further 5 minutes until pastry is golden.
  • Spoon in mixture (it may not all fit so keep any extra aside for just eating!)
  • Cover with puff pastry and cut a small hole in the top to allow steam to escape.
  • Bake for 20 minutes until top is golden brown.
* You can buy reusable ceramic pie weights or use rice or beans.

Serve with salad and enjoy :)


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Basic Vinaigrette

I learnt to make vinaigrette when I lived in France 15 years ago (feeling old now!) I even kept my Maille mustard jar and lid to make it. Memories :)

So after my return I did revert back to the supermarket bottle stuff but in the last few years, have only  used home-made and love the difference. This is the basic version to which all sorts of herbs can be added for variety.


1 Tablespoon acid (vinegar or lemon juice)
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard

Whisk or shake all ingredients together. Depending on the desired consistency, water can be added to thin it.


Simple!!

Now I want to learn how to make real mayonnaise.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"The best chocolate cake EVAR"





Yesterday was Greg's birthday. Now that everything has settled down, kids are well, I'm well, Grandad's funeral is over, I'm back in the kitchen, getting back into some cooking.

For dinner we had lasagna and the most important part of the meal, the birthday cake, was a rich, dense chocolate cake with icing sugar and shaved chocolate on top.  Hmm, feel like some more now!

Originally, it was going to be a chocolate mud cake but then I found the almond meal in the cupboard and decided I wanted to try a gluten-free, flour-free, nut meal based chocolate cake. So going through a few books, I took some ideas from here and some from there to create what Greg described as "the best chocolate cake EVAR"!! I must agree, it's pretty good!!

RECIPE

Ingredients

200g dark cooking chocolate (I used Lindt)
200g unsalted butter (I used European style cultured)

4 eggs
250g brown sugar
1tspn vanilla extract

125g hazelnut meal
125g almond meal
1tspn baking powder


Method
  • Preheat oven to 170ºC. Grease and line a 22cm round baking tin.
  • Over a barely simmering pan of water in a heatproof bowl, melt chocolate and butter together, stirring until smooth.
  • Whisk together eggs sugar and vanilla
  • Sift nut meals and baking powder together.
  • Once chocolate and butter mix has cooled slightly, pour in egg mixture and whisk until well combined.
  • Fold through the nut meals.
  • Pour into tin and bake for 40 minutes. At 40 minutes, turn off oven and leave cake for a further 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, cool, then decorate. 
ENJOY!! (Goes well with red wine :) )


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Back soon

Sorry about the lack of posts - between myself and the 2 girls being sick and my grandfather dying, I have been a bit energy and time poor. I should be back on track next week :)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Father's Day Lunch - Casa Asturiana Restaurant

As usual, our day has revolved around food! We were going to catch the train and light rail to the Fish Markets but given the wind, we decided to drive into the city and to have an indoor lunch.

After the lovely breakfast of Baked Eggs, we headed to Liverpool Street for Spanish Tapas at Casa Asturiana, a favourite of ours and one which has lovely memories from our dating days!

A meal here would not be complete without sangria but since I would be driving we just went for the 1/2 litre...

For starters we chose 4 tapas; jamon serrano (Spanish ham), chanquetes (fried whitebait), chorizo a la plancha (barbecued Spanish sausage) and gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns).

Jamon Serrano

You'll have to excuse the photos as I was more interested in gettting in to eat!

Chicken and Seafood Paella - already started :)


We followed this with a chicken and seafood paella - oh wow! It was so delicious and a big hit with Amy and Sophie who loved all the tapas too.

The service was great and the 2 Spanish waitresses were lovely. Unfortunately as we were eating our paella, another male staff member decided to come through the restaurant spraying air freshener including right next to our table! I hate those things at the best of times and complained to the waitress who also could not believe that he had done it.  Next thing we knew, another 1/2 litre sangria was given to us an apology... Okay, I had another glass!

Sangria and Coffee

Since all the desserts included either milk or alcohol, Greg and I settled for an espresso each and we would look elsewhere for a dessert for the girls.

Greg and I both felt that it may be under new management since we'd last been as the food quality had improved (although they could do something about the parbake bread rolls they serve) and the serving size of the tapas was so much bigger too. The atmosphere was great with families celebrating Father's Day and it was also a good sign to see (and hear) several Spanish people dining there too.

Still a favourite.


Father's Day Breakfast - Baked Eggs

Father's Day Breakfast - Baked Eggs

It's that time of year again when we get the children to "help" make Daddy breakfast; one that is easy enough for them but still nice. Since I have been experimenting with eating eggs again, this year we decided on baked eggs; spinach and tomato topped with an egg and baked in the oven. Easy enough.... so I thought!

Actually it is easy - put some English spinach in the bottom of a ramekin, add a couple of slices on top and then crack an egg... ah yes - silly me thought the girls had had plenty of practice....

Egg #1, Child #1 - mostly on the table, some got into the ramekin but broken yolk...

Egg #2, Child #2 - ramekin, what ramekin, didn't you mean nowhere near it and all over the floor???

So after cleaning it all up, I ended up finishing the eggs and baking them at 180ºC for 15 minutes. This gives a soft but not runny yolk which tends to sit better in my stomach.

Served with sourdough (not gluten free) toast and butter.

The end result was really delicious and one that has been requested by the girls for breakfast again. It will definitely be made again - I think they need the egg-cracking practice!

Monday, August 30, 2010

African Village Cafe and Restaurant

When my friend Yvette suggested dinner out an African restaurant, how could I say no? She and her family spent three months at the beginning of this year in Ethiopia and have been looking for Ethiopian ingredients and restaurants since. When they returned, they gave me an Ethiopian cookbook from which I have been wanting to make so much but some of the ingredients are hard to come by here in Sydney, if not impossible. If anyone knows where to get tef, true berbere or mekelesha, another spice blend, please let me know!

So Yvette's family and the girls and I all headed out to Bankstown to 

African Village Cafe and Restaurant
359 Chapel Rd
Bankstown NSW 2200
Ph: 9790 2696

What we found was an Ethiopian restaurant, decorated with, I am told, authentic Ethiopian pictures and artefacts. The owner explained that, yes, it is an Ethiopian restaurant but she thought that African in the name would be more appealling to people and she also offers some other African dishes. She and some other customers were all very interested that Yvette and her family had spent time in Ethiopia and had learnt some Amharic, the language spoken there.

Since I didn't know any of the dishes and the others were obviously craving certain ones, I let them decide which dishes from the menu we would choose to have in the combination platter served with injera, the traditional Ethiopian bread.

While deciding, we all had some other delicious Ethiopian bread which was quite sweet with a brioche texture

But we were not to get a choice of which dishes to have! The injera and the 5 dishes were brought out - must have been what the owner either thought they would want or that was what she was cooking that day, so that was what we were getting!

Combination Platter
We were served a split pea stew, a very spicy lamb stew, spinach, mixed vegetables and a mince dish (this was the mildest and the most popular with the children). 

Injera

The injera was made with tef, which the owner brings in herself, and another flour, we think was millet. I was told that yes, it was the authentic colour and taste and I must say it was delicious. We need tef to be available for humans in Australia, not just stock feed!


My plate of food
I found the dishes to all be really tasty, some a little spicy (great for the sinuses and my ears did unblock!) and although when it first came out, I wasn't sure whether it would be enough food for 7 people, it was surprisingly filling and we didn't even get through it all! The girls were very good trying all the dishes, Amy finished all of hers but Sophie found some a bit too spicy for her liking. The injera was the highlight as was eating with their hands and using the bread to scoop rather than cutlery!!

Ethiopian Coffee
After the meal, Yvette's husband and I had the Ethiopian coffee. This is freshly roasted and served in a special pot. It did have a slightly burnt smell when she brought the beans out but I really enjoyed the flavour. Apparently they do the Ethiopian coffee ceremony on a Sunday.

The service was certainly relaxed and definitely not rushed. It was a little difficult to find the owner to pay the bill but she was in the kitchen getting some takeaway sorted for some customers. No, they didn't get to choose either! We found this not getting to choose despite getting a menu to be very amusing.

Dessert is apparently not something that is usual in Ethiopia so we didn't have any but the lady did say that if she'd known there would be 4 children, she would have prepared something sweet - might let her know next time. And yes, there will definitely be a next time! I'm hooked!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hardeeps Indian Restaurant

The girls and I decided to treat ourselves to dinner out tonight so we went to the little Indian restaurant, Hardeeps, in Hornsby near the station. I hadn't been there in years, especially since Annapoorna opened, but since we won't be going back to Annapoorna after the last time we went (didn't get around to writing that review) I thought we might as well try Hardeeps again.

It's a quaint little place with Indian art on the walls, a mirror covering one wall (which unfortunately I was facing and kept seeing myself!), a funny in ground curry smell and it appears to be run by a husband and wife team. They are certainly not the same people as before.

We were given a basket of complimentary puppadums but no sauce to go with them so we ordered some mango chutney for them. Of course we had nearly finished them without the chutney before it arrived so I had to order more! Cunning tactics. The puppadums were very average tasting but at least they were crunchy!

For entree we had 2 serves of vegetable samosas as they come as a serving of 2. The presentation was lovely on a hot plate with lemon, orange and shredded cabbage. It was served with a mint yoghurt sauce. Verdict: nice pastry but the filling was grey and nondescript.

For main we had Apple Shahi Korma, a "mildly spiced beef curry in a rich apple sauce". wchich sounded a little bit different to the normal offering of curry sauces. I don't normally order beef at an Indian restaurant so this was going to be a first. It had 1 star on the menu indicating mild so thought it would be a good choice for 2 tired girls and a tired mummy! Verdict: nice but not as exciting as I'd been expecting. The sauce was lovely, couldn't taste any apple but it had a nice sweetness about it and the beef was lovely and tender. It also did have a bit more of a spicy kick to what we were expecting. but it didn't wow me as being different. We ordered rice and a garlic naan to accompany. They used to include the rice with any curry ordered. You can even see where they have gone over the menu in texta to cross this offer out. The naan was lovely and buttery as was the rice.

Service was okay, they started to get more tables in as we were finishing and there were quite a few takeaways rung through and collected. The sound of a microwave was a little offputting!

So will we return? Not sure. The girls were happy enough but I think I still need to find something a bit more special.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Organic and Green Expo

Wow!

Amazing!

We are so glad we went and it's hard to know where to start writing about it.

We arrived quite early, about 10.30 so it was not too busy but too early to start the wine and beer tastings (even for me!) and of course they were the first things we came across.

Very briefly, we 
  • bought some dairy free organic fairtrade dark chocolate
  • patted animals
  • checked out raised garden bed edging made from recycled plastic
  • learnt about how to use and bought some soapnuts
  • ate a delicious pie made from organic beef - this was the food you could actually buy inside from the convention centre catering!
  • watched a Vita Mix demonstration
  • checked out MiEssence products
  • tried some very nice New Zealand yoghurt
  • got some free samples of some mueslis
  • got free samples of an organic instant coffee
  • tried to find the spelt bars we used to buy and they may come back to the country next year
  • bought some pasta and quinoa
  • got a free espresso
  • sampled ice blocks
  • were reminded that there is a supplier of frozen organic berries and vegies just up the road
  • looked at bamboo clothing
  • had the girls allergy tested (fascinating!)
  • drooled over the possibility of drinking organic champagne and cognac (yes, champagne from France, not just a sparkling wine)
Of course having the girls there slowed things down a bit and they ended up getting a bit bored and over it.

Next year, we are going to make a weekend of it, take a trolley and maybe have the girls baby sat for some of the time. I think it was really important for them to go and see and understand more about organics (no it's not just Mummy raving), animals, chemicals and sustainable living ideas and there were activities set up for the kids but it is a long day to get to see everything.

It was wonderful to see how many people attended and the interest in organics and sustainable  lifestyles.

One thing that did disappoint was the lack of "fresh food" information and displays and how it was predominantly processed and packaged foods that were on display and being sold. Just because it's organic doesn't mean it's nutritious! It would have been fantastic to see some of the small, local producers there, although the stall costs (and they would have been working) probably prevented a lot of them from going.

There was so much more to see and do that we missed out on (including the beer and wine tastings!) that we're really looking forward to next year's.

Organic and Green Expo Organic Beef Pie

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Healthy Living Workshop

Hornsby Council Waste Management team are presenting 2 Healthy Living Workshops; one on Non-Toxic Living and the other one about Food Labels (on Wednesday, 25th August).

I managed to get to the one on Non-Toxic living on Tuesday, 17th August and I am so pleased I did as it was certainly very interesting.

Dr Sarah Lantz (PhD) is the author of Chemical Free Kids - Raising Healthy Children in a Toxic World and a mother of 2 children. She is certainly very passionate and knowledgeable about her research area. I am certainly looking forward to reading her book in detail.

The talk was about our "body burden" or our internal pollution, how children are more vulnerable to toxins and why babies are being born "pre-polluted".

Some interesting facts:
  • Newborn babies in Australia still have detectable levels of the pesticide DDT in their blood, even 30+ years after it was banned in Australia.
  • Other traceable chemicals include pthalates, found in personal care products, and teflon, from non-stick cookware.
  • 40 million prescribed pills are taken in Australia each day.
  • 50 000 children are on prescription medications in Australia
  • Over half the chemicals produced for human consumption have never been tested for toxicity to the human body.
  • Even human breastmilk contains traceable levels of DDT, other pesticides, herbicides, fire retardants and other chemicals.
  • 1500 new synthetic chemicals are being created each year.
What does it mean for us?

The human body is amazing and can eliminate some chemicals but there are so many that get stored, damage our cells and DNA and accumulate.

But let's not get too paranoid! We can't live in a bubble and have no exposure - it's just not possible. But as individuals, we can choose to avoid the nasties, not buy the products containing totally unpronounceable ingredients and food containing more numbers than a maths textbook. We can choose not to buy personal products containing questionable and  dangerous chemicals that will be absorbed through our skin. We can choose to buy fruits and vegetables that have not been sprayed with pesticides, many of which have been banned overseas but are still allowed here in Australia. Choose certified organic wherever possible.

It is about choice, and the more people who choose the non-toxic way of life, maybe the governments and manufacturers will listen (we can always be hopeful!) and the better off our health, environment and lives will be.

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    Fortune Cookies


    Multicultural Day at school has come around again. Last year, Amy went as a French girl, dressed up in a red skirt, stripey shirt, scarf and beret with a plate of Madeleine cakes. This year, Greg bought the 2 girls Chinese jackets in Hong Kong (couldn't find anything in Shenzhen, China!). For her plate of food, we decided on Fortune Cookies. No, they are not really Chinese, and like the clothes, won't be found in China, but they are fun and are really multicultural themselves! Of course, these would have to be homemade particularly given the teacher organising it had the nerve to go around to the classes and tell the children that it would not be acceptable for their parents to go and buy a packet of something and that it would have to be homemade! While I don't really mind and have the time and interest (not always patience!) to experiment, many parents don't. And, of course, no peanuts, peanut oil or nuts are allowed. That wipes out so many possibilities! Even the fortune cookies often have almond extract included in the recipe.

    So after searching the internet for recipes, reading them and reviews, I came up with my own version that works well, isn't too sweet and do go crispy although they do soften a bit overnight.

    But the cookie is only half the job! There needs to be a "fortune" quote inside! What is suitable for 5 and 6 year olds?? We came up with a couple but does anyone have any suggestions for future reference?

    Tips:
    • Make sure the batter isn't too thick but also not too thin as it will overcook too quickly and not be able to be folded.
    • Don't try and cook too many at a time - start with 2 at a time - until you get the hang of the folding.
    • The folding needs to be done while they are hot or else they will crack.
    • Some people suggest using cotton gloves to fold them due to the heat. Yes, wish I'd had some!
    • Work with 2 baking trays so that one has the chance to cool down before placing batter circles on.
    • Use a cupcake / muffin tray to put the folded cookies in until they can hold their shape.
    • Putting cookies back in the oven helps to crisp them if needed.
    • Write fortunes on a piece of paper 8cm x 1cm and then fold in half to place in centre of cookie.
    • Cookies are best eaten on the day of making.

    Fortune Cookies

    Makes 20

    Ingredients

    2 egg whites
    1/4 tspn vanilla extract
    45mL rice bran oil
    80g plain flour
    80g caster sugar
    pinch salt
    60mL water

    Method

    Preheat oven to 150ºC.

    Beat egg whites, vanilla and oil until frothy.








    Sift flour, sugar and salt together.
    Add to egg mix with the water.
    Mix to form a smooth batter.

    On a sheet of baking paper, for each fortune cookie, spoon a heaped teaspoon of batter and smooth out to about a 10cm circle.










    Place paper on a cool tray and cook in oven for approx. 9 - 10 minutes until the edges are golden.








    Working quickly, turn cookie over so the side that was against the pan will now be inside the cookie. 

    Place fortune in the middle, fold cookie in half and then over the edge of a glass or cup with the seam on top.










    Place in a cupcake tray until cookie is slightly cooled and can hold its shape.








    After cooking all the cookies, place folded cookies still in the cupcake tray back into the oven for 5-10 minutes to help with the crisping if needed.
    Allow to cool on a wire rack so they don't go soft.

    I hope the class enjoy them.



    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Snack Balls

    Snack Balls   ©Belinda Fox

    My inspiration for these snack balls has come from my horror at the list of ingredients in commercial muesli bars and the like. I was looking to make something with all natural ingredients for the girls to take to school / pre-school as well as something to have as a satisfying snack at home for all of us. The ball shape came about simply because they are quicker and easier to make with the texture of the mix.

    So, the prerequisites had to be nut-free for school, egg-free for me and dairy-free for Sophie. We love our nuts here so I have also come up with a nut-inclusive version. They are also gluten free.

    The texture of the dry ingredients is personal preference; you can make it as fine or as chunky as you wish. If it is chunkier, I find it a bit harder to roll.


    You could add any dried fruit you like or have on hand, just make it up to 200g. The balance of "butter" / honey can also be adjusted to taste, just make it up to 200g. I have also found that adding the dry to the wet ingredients makes it easier to fully combine.


    School Balls
    Makes: 24


    Ingredients:

    100g dried, pitted dates
    100g sultanas
    30g puffed millet
    20g shredded coconut
    20g puffed amaranth
    70 g honey
    130g chunky sunflower butter


    Method:

    • Process dried fruit, millet, amaranth and coconut for desired texture.
    • Gently heat honey and sunflower butter until runny.
    • Add dry ingredients to honey and butter mixture and stir until well combined.
    • Roll into balls.

    Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

    My "Nut Balls" substitute chunky peanut butter for the sunflower butter and include 50g almond meal.

    In either version, the "butter" can also be substituted for unhulled tahini.




    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    Banana and Date Bread - cupcake size!

    Following the same recipe as for the Loaf shape Banana and Date bread, I have made some cupcake size ones for the girls to take for morning tea at school and pre-school. Together with a little apple, they make a great mid-morning (dare I say it, healthy!) snack. The only difference I made to the recipe was to use wholemeal flour and oat milk. I can't really tell any difference between the plain white and wholemeal versions. Cooking time was 10 minutes and it made 30 cupcakes, most of which are now stored in freezer ready to be put into lunchboxes.


    Banana and Date Cupcakes

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Thermomix

    Following on from the entry on "Time" and the comments about the Thermomix, I thought I'd write down my thoughts on this very expensive appliance, mostly to work out whether I would really buy one.

    The Thermomix, to me, is a big, German, industrial strength food processor that can also cook. Being German engineering, it is very precise and accurate and things are done very efficiently.

    So what does it do? It mills, grinds, kneads, chops, mixes, cooks, steams, mashes, blends... anything else? There are so many people who think it is just fabulous, can't live without it and they even used it on MasterChef!

    I went to a demonstration at a friend's house, she now has one and blogs about her uses for it and it really does sound useful but how different is it really to just getting a great food processor and a bamboo steam basket? It doesn't bake or grill like I love to do. It can make a pasta dish all in the one pot, icing sugar, sorbet, flour and is easy to clean.
     
    But I still don't understand how it saves that much time compared to any other food processor, blender or other appliance. I guess, I don't even use a microwave except for puppadums and occasionally reheating something. I love standing at the stove, watching things simmering, tasting, tweaking... 

    Still to be convinced, I think.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Facebook

    I now have a Facebook page for Foxy Food. I haven't worked out how to put the badge on the website yet (tech support husband is away too!) but the link above should work for now.

    I was thinking of having chats about food, recipes, nutrition, "diets", inspiration for dinner! There will also be links to the latest posts as well.

    What would you like to see happen on that page?

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    The Human Body

    After spending an afternoon out at the Cleft Palate Clinic at Westmead Children's Hospital with Sophie this week, I am in in complete awe of the human body, how it works and how it can adapt (with a great bit of determination from its owner!) to overcome structural problems.

    When we bring our bundles of joy home, we care and feed them as best we know how to. Babies can be vomity - it's reflux apparently, their weight gain will fluctuate, their sleeping will be hit and miss, and they will all develop differently with very different personalities and quirky traits. This is what we are told by the "experts". We dutifully weigh and measure them, express our concerns about their feeding, the contents of their nappies, their skin, their sleep, usually always to be told that no two babies are alike.

    Our two babies were certainly nothing alike, except they were both about the same size at birth. Sophie was classified as a reflux baby, had milk coming out her nose, and the vomits needed bath towels, not those cute little over the shoulder burping cloths. She screamed the whole way home from the hospital in the car, sucked her thumb, moved a lot, hated crusts, but grew well enough to be told that she was fine.

    Deep down there was something telling me there was something more. As she grew, the reason for not liking the car became obvious - motion sickness. Cow milk seemed to gum her up but the all-wise doctor just prescribed laxatives (didn't give them to her) - appears she is casein intolerant (not officially diagnosed as the doctor didn't seem to think blood tests were accurate enough) but can handle goat milk. Puffy sinuses and snoring - enormous tonsils and adenoids that were removed. Shortly after, she started eating crusts, harder foods and she even stopped sucking her thumb. But she still wasn't talking and still seemed to be struggling with eating. I even bought a hand-held vacuum just to clean up around her seat after meals!

    After 2 years of speech therapy she is making all the sounds but still there was something not right about the quality of those sounds and she was aspirating food and thin liquids. She has even been banned from using a straw! Recurrent nose bleeds saw us going back to the ENT who then diagnosed significant velopharyngeal incompetence which has its own speech and feeding issues.

    Our lovely speech therapist organised for us to go to the Cleft Palate Clinic and even came with us yesterday. After watching Sophie have a barium video x-ray which also meant squirting barium up her nose, and an endoscopy up her nose, wide awake so she could talk and three specialists and student doctors all watching, observing and talking, we finally had some reasons.

    Structurally, she has some palatal problems but her body and her sheer determination to speak and her need to eat has meant she has used different muscles to speak and to close the gap when the palate would normally do it. Amazing! It's not perfect but it explains so much! Her exposed Eustachian tubes may even explain her motion sickness.

    Finally, there are some answers to this puzzle. We must remember to listen to our bodies, learn what they are trying to tell us and respond. I believe, nothing happens without a reason and if something is happening to the body, it will probably show symptoms. Don't just accept that that is the way some people are. It may be but then, it may be trying to say that something is wrong. If it weren't for Sophie's bleeding nose (which seems to have stopped now) we would probably have just kept going along with no explanations.

    Why fuel this amazing natural phenomenon on a daily basis with bad food and chemical concoctions proclaiming to be food? Never say never (life's not meant to be strict and boring either!) but listen to it and work with it.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2010

    Time!

    Where does the time go? Already we are over halfway through the year and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. I keep saying I will write more often and yet another week passes. I keep telling myself I don't need to write a book with each entry and can keep it short, but I usually have so much going through my head I want to write down! So what have I been doing foodwise? LOTS!

    I have discovered oat milk, bought an ice cream maker, not replaced my kettle, gone back to planning my weekly meals, gone on holidays and eaten out a lot, have been looking more at allergenic foods, baking bread again, experimenting with recipes, watching MasterChef.... 

    So previously I said I needed to declutter the kitchen yet go and buy an ice cream maker! Well, poor Sophie really can't tolerate cow milk so I bought it to make her goat milk ice cream! I've only used it once so far and the recipe still needs tweaking, but even I enjoyed it! (Goat milk is not one of my preferred beverages). It also means that we can avoid some of the other odd ingredients that seem to go into commercial ice cream.

    I did get rid of the kettle though, so I guess it was one appliance out, one in! The kettle decided to stop working and after drying it out to take to the eWaste collection, I decided that the stuff coming out of it really mustn't be good for me, so now, the cup of tea of a morning is made by boiling the saucepan on the stove. It has certainly helped me cut down on the number of cups I have too! It's a bit sad that I really notice the difference not having it on the bench makes to the usable space on my benchtop! It really highlights just how small my kitchen is!!

    As for time, I guess we will always wish for more. I just need to find a way to manage it better!

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    It's cold and wet

    What a day! It has been bucketing down! Normally on a Wednesday, Amy has ballet after school, but thankfully, today, she decided it was definitely too wet. This was good news as we got drenched walking home. So what did we do? After lovely hot showers, it was time for a hot chocolate and some warm banana and date bread which Sophie and I had made just before pick up time. The smell as we walked in the house was certainly welcoming.

    Some notes about the Banana Bread
    • It is egg and dairy free so may appear more dense than "normal".
    • Other fruit such as sultanas and raisins may be substituted for the dates.
    • I used 4 large bananas
    • For the apple puree, my preference is to use the pure fruit found in baby food rather than apple sauce. Of course, home made apple puree could be used but I'm not sure how that would effect the wet ingredients needed.
    • I would like to try it next time with wholemeal flour.



      Banana and Date Bread

      Ingredients
      300g self raising flour
      1 tspn bicarb
      1 Tbspn mixed spice
      100g pitted dates, chopped 
      500g mashed banana
      150g apple puree
      100mL Rice Bran Oil
      250mL rice milk (approx)

      Method
      • Preheat oven to 180ºC and spray / grease a 12cm x 22cm loaf pan.
      • Sift together flour, bicarb and mixed spice.
      • Add banana, apple, oil and some milk and mix well.
      • Add enough milk to make a thick, slightly sloppy batter. 
      • Pour mix into pan and bake for approx 50 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
       

      Wednesday, May 5, 2010

      Back again!

      Gosh, it's been a while and so much has happened! Greg has his new job which involves a lot of travel, (he is, as I write, in the air, en route home from a conference in San Francisco), the girls are back at school and preschool, I've dabbled in a little work, helping out another Mum at school while she was away, we've started redecorating / renovating instead of moving house and I am also in the process of setting up a craft business!

      What has all this meant food-wise? A lot of rethinking!!

      My method of meal planning has had to undergo massive changes as sometimes Greg's travel plans change and he may end up being home or he may end up going away. This means that sometimes I may have too much food on hand (what can I do with it so as not to waste it) or too little. (need to go to the shops again). It really is amazing how one person's presence or absence in a house can make such a difference to the grocery shopping and amount of food consumed. We found out who eats all the rice crackers!! In fact, meal planning has become less important to me now as I move more to just making sure I have a good variety of fresh meat, fruit and vegetables on hand with the pantry staples.

      The pantry staples! Now this has been a major part of my rethinking! This year has seen a lot of reflection about how much "stuff" we live with including how much food we keep "on hand"! Do we really expect to have a siege anytime soon? Do we really live that far away from shops that we need to have so much in our cupboards? Do we really need to have 4 types of crackers and 3 types of rice? Okay, do I need these? Do I really need to have 8 different types of beans and lentils all in their own individual colour coordinated Tupperware Modular Mate container? At last count I had 6 different vinegars! I only ever have 2 maybe 3 types of breakfast cereals in the pantry but some people can have 6 or 7! Why? How do they stay fresh? If we have the space do we really need to fill it up?

      My kitchen is tiny and cupboard space is limited. I have extended the cupboards into the dining room where I did once have my beautifully arranged pantry behind glass doors for all the world to see. Unfortunately, I would also pick something to eat each time I walked past and saw something! So that had to move back into the kitchen behind an opaque door! The glass cabinet now displays our wedding China which does get used and my cookbooks.

      All these things have led to an amazing drop in the food bill which I thought was already quite reasonable given I would only buy what I thought was needed. Looks like I need even less!

      I would love to know what people keep in their pantries and if they know what they really have in there!!

      Sunday, January 10, 2010

      Menu Plan Week Beginning Mon 11/1/10

      How time flies during school holidays. They are never long enough for me to do everything I plan and want to do with the girls. This week has flown by.

      Amy's birthday was a lot of fun and I think we spent most of the day eating!! Pancakes for breakfast, pub for lunch and curry for dinner - we've trained her well! More on the restaurants later.

      The nachos were a big hit! The beans were great, not all mushy like most tinned beans and just the right amount of chilli. I'm thinking they may be an acceptable breakfast baked beans option. They were "Greenland" brand. The pea and ham soup was YUMMY! I will post up the recipe.

      We did get out to Taronga Zoo today and saw the baby elephant. It was a bit hot and busy but the harbour breeze made it bearable. Food? We decided not to take our usual picnic and buy food there. Hmm, will go back to the picnic or find the steak sandwich cart first!

      From this week I will be focusing a lot more on and incorporating more Low GI foods into our menus as I try and deal with my PCOS without medication. We do tend to eat more towards the Low GI side of things but I have been getting a bit slack during the silly season!

      I have also taken to making our bread at home again. I go through phases with this and am experimenting with some different methods.

      So this week on the menu, (I have caved in to the request by 2 little girls to have some fish fingers) we will be having:

      Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
      Beef Stir-fry Steamed Salmon Rump Steak Provençal Beans and Rice Fish Fingers & Chips Lamb Chops & Stir-fried Vegies Pea & Ham Soup







      Beef Strips Salmon fillets Rump Steak Cannellini Beans Fish fingers Lamb Loin Chops Leftovers
      Rice Bran Oil Ginger Beans Fresh tomatoes Potatoes Brown Rice Fresh Bread
      Garlic Garlic Mushrooms Red Capsicum Olive Oil Broccoli
      Ginger Lemon Potatoes Green Capsicum Broccoli Cauliflower
      Eschallot Soba noodles Olive Oil Zucchini
      Rice Bran Oil
      Chillis Sesame Oil Butter Herbes de Provence
      Garlic
      Tamari Asian Greens Garlic Brown Rice


      Jasmine Rice Tamari




      Fried Shallots





      Cauliflower





      Snow peas





      Tuesday, January 5, 2010

      Amy's Birthday Cake




      Amy had a "Fairy Princess" theme for her birthday party so, for the first time, I made one of those cakes with the legless Barbie stuck in the top! Luckily we did have a legless Barbie already, courtesy of Sophie who discovered that Barbie was not able to do the splits past 180º! To make the skirt shape, I baked the cake in a ceramic pudding bowl and it actually baked very easily in it. I'd never baked a cake in something that wasn't tin so the fingers and toes were all crossed!

      I was quite proud of the outcome and now Sophie wants one for her birthday at the end of January.



      Sunday, January 3, 2010

      Menu Plan Week Beginning Mon 4/1/10

      Happy New Year!

      I seem to have been very slack in keeping this blog updated. I thought I was organised and ready for the onslaught of Christmas but didn't factor in how busy we would be with 2 end-of-year school commitments AND organising Amy's birthday party for before Christmas before one of her friends goes away for 3 months.

      The whole school thing was, of course, not without its stresses. Amy's Presentation Day and Sophie's Preschool Concert were both on the same day at EXACTLY the same time. Why hasn't someone developed cloning for parents?

      Having Amy's party before Christmas, I think, worked out well and we may even stick to that idea for future years. Given her birthday is in the first week of January, many people are away at that time and it also means that perhaps, we, too could go away.

      Christmas Day was a day of eating here at home - roast pork, ham and turkey - and I cooked my Nana's Christmas pudding for the first time and it worked brilliantly! Still don't like pudding though :(

      So with the New Year, I am determined to keep the planning under control. This is also to help control the weight I seem to have gained through unplanned meals, eating out too often and picking! Greg also has a new job so I should be able to get back to my good routine and not succumb to suggestions of lunch out!!! I think I'll stick to beans at least once a week though - have been enjoying them.

      A few notes about this week:
      • The Mexican beans are canned but they seemed interesting when I saw them in the supermarket.
      • I use 2 types of cheese when cooking - there is always a goat alternative for Sophie. She seems to be intolerant to the casein in cow's milk and it is not present in goat milk. I'll be getting her tested further this year.
      • Amy has requested curry for her birthday. :)
      • The ham bones are from our Christmas ham - beautiful free range ham that I glazed myself with some success!
      • I stocked up on the mince that was on special at our butcher before Christmas (not knowing if Greg would have a job!) and so there will be a few mince recipes over the next few weeks. They make life a bit easier too since most of the time it will make 2 meals.

      Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
      Mince & Bean Nachos Chicken Stir-fry Amy's Birthday Pea & Ham Soup Grilled Fish & Salad Spaghetti Bolognaise Spaghetti Bolognaise







      Beef Mince Chicken DINNER OUT Ham Bones White Fish Mince Leftovers
      Mexican Beans Snow Peas Annapoorna
      Oil Lemon Onion
      Tomatoes Broccoli
      Split Peas - yellow Avocado Garlic
      Carrot Capsicum
      Split Peas - Green Tomato Oil
      Corn Chips Jasmine rice
      Cumin Cucumber Dried Herbs
      Gruyere Rice Bran Oil
      Stock Cube (Massel) Shallot Fresh Basil
      Goat Cheese Garlic
      Water Dressing Tin Tomatoes
      Olive Oil Ginger
      Onion
      Fresh Tomatoes

      Tamari


      Carrot





      Zucchini





      Mushrooms





      Pasta





      Romano





      Goat Cheese