Beet-ing the country into shape.

August 6, 2011 § 9 Comments

The times in life when I wished I had a camera:

  1. Watching a man on a stand-up paddle board be surrounded by dolphins at Bondi Beach, from the cliffs above.
  2. Many nights of laughter with friends, just to capture the moment.
  3. Seeing the sunset over Charlotte’s skyline from the middle of a traffic jam

And something I never thought I would see, a squirrel sitting in the middle of the road eating Bojangles!
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I kid you not,  a ballsy little squirrel was sitting in the street with both paws around a biscuit and a packet of Bojangles seasoned-fries. I had to give him a little toot in my car because he would would NOT move! Finally he upped and carried his lunch to the sidewalk, where he sat back down and resumed his munching.
What does this mean?
  1. I should never leave my house without a phone or camera.
  2. Michael Moore will release Fast Food Animal Nation in the fall of 2011.
  3. The next Man vs Wild will see Bear Grylls holding his own in a chain restaurant.

Following this experience it seemed only natural to watch Supersize Me & Food Inc. I was hoping to learn whether rodents prefer drive through or counter service.
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Instead I was bombarded with a distressing reality check. Kids as young as 4 and 5 are being diagnosed with diabetes. Chickens are being pumped so hard with steroids that their little legs can’t support their overgrown bodies. And poor Alexandra Jameison (vegan chef) had to sleep with a man who consumed nothing but McDonalds for 30 days…shudder.
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If everyone ate more vegetables the kids would be fit and carefree, Sunday lunch wouldn’t be the result of a science experiment, and Alexandra Jameison would have better sex.
There is this great raw food restaurant in Charlotte called Luna’s Living Kitchen. It is second-to-none. They have this one dish called Lunasagne, which is layers of raw zucchini ‘pasta’ with sundried tomatoes, cashew nut cheese and crimini mushrooms.
Check out the full menu here.
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I have had some beautiful zucchini from our vegetable garden recently so I thought I would turn my hand to a similar dish, using a filling of nuts and sundried tomatoes and topping it with a cashew-beetroot ‘cheese’.
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Now if I could just get some to that squirrel ….
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Raw ‘meaty lasagne’
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  • Slice 2 zucchini lengthways using a mandolin
  • Use the grating attachment in a food processor to grate 2 carrots. Set aside. 1 beetroot.
  • In a blender, mix a handful of walnuts, 2 tbl sundried tomatoes, the carrot and 1 tbl coconut oil until chunky. Set aside
  • Next process 1/2 cup cashews and enough water to make a smooth consistency. Add the grated beetroot.
  • In a glass square dish make a single layer of zucchini ‘pasta’. Add 1/2 nut topping and another layer off zucchini. Add remaining nut topping, final layer of zucchini and top with beetroot cheese and a sprinkle of chia seeds.
Serves 1-2.
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Smoothie Love.

June 13, 2011 § 4 Comments

Gosh I can be silly sometimes.

This Saturday past we travelled up to Raleigh for a wedding. Considering that the weather was sweltering I had packed a bag with a pretty light summer dress, a pair of strappy sandals and a hundred pins to sling up my hair and  keep my neck cool. Makeup would be bare summer essentials: bronzer, clear lipgloss, mascara. The next day I would have a fresh change of shirt and shorts for the drive home. How cool, calm and collected did I sound?

That was until we were driving into Chapel Hill, two hours from home, when I turned to NB and asked:

“Did you put my bag in the car?”

NB: “Did you ask me to?”

BS: “No….ohh gosh!!”

I had a mental image of my overnight bag sitting on our bed beneath the ceiling fan and light that I also didn’t turn off (add electricity bill woes to wardrobe disaster!)

NB looked and me and I looked at NB. NB looked down at the (now unflatteringly sweaty) skirt, singlet and flip flops that I was wearing and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

NB: “How did you forget your bag?”

And this is where food comes into the story, once again addling my brain and dominating my attention.

BS: “I was hungry and decided to make a smoothie before we left…I brought the smoothie with me at least!” I said, holding up a long empty glass. “It was delicious!”

Luckily NB saw the funny side and was happy to make a detour into Macy’s. I’m not adept at clothes shopping on a good day but under a time constraint with the thought of appropriate wedding attire hovering over my head, talk about pressure! It was on like Kong. 10 minutes, a knee length blue dress and a pair of wedges later and we were back out the door. And thank goodness for RH, who hooked me up with makeup, shampoo, jewelry and all the other essentials. Beware, having me as a house-guest may result in a raid on your bathroom cabinet!

But as they say, all’s well that ends well. The wedding was beautiful, full of song and beauty and love, good food and fine company. As for my little faux pas, if I had the time again I probably would still choose the smoothie. It was just really good.

Tell me Blushers, what was your biggest OMG fashion moment?

Banana & Berry Smoothie

Serves 1

Blend:

1/2 frozen banana

1 cup mixed berries (blueberry and raspberry used above)

2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup milk (almond milk used above)

Pour into chilled glass.

Add 1/4 cup cold coconut milk

Swirl with a teaspoon to combine.

Remember your bag.

Happy Cinco De Mayo

May 6, 2011 § 8 Comments

If you asked me last week, I had never heard of Cinco De Mayo.

Last night that changed, and I found myself surrounded by black beans, guacamole and cheese dip as my book club sat sipping coronas and discussing the days of prohibition and circus politics (we recognised the holiday  one night early to coincide with our literary meet).

As we drove to the apartment of our hostess, the lovely Morning Sun, I asked my fellow book lover and blogger for a quick history lesson. I can now tell you that FIRST & FOREMOST Cinco De Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day, as many people will try to tell you (rather September 16). After this is gets a little hazy.

The funny thing is, depending on whether you’re celebrating in America or in Mexico, the day will have a significantly different meaning.

In the United States Cinco De Mayo is a party, a fiesta and it proves to me that these Americans are perfectly happy to have a drink in celebration for a day that is not really their own. I used to think that St Patrick’s Day was a big deal in Sydney, that was before I realised the city of Charlotte would manage to extend the celebrations for over nine days, from bar-crawl to float parade! Perhaps I should get something going for Australia Day, next January 26?! Here, Cinco De Mayo is a day to honour Mexican culture and heritage, and to commemorate the cause of Mexican freedom and democracy during the early years of the civil war. Today you should expect to see people sipping margaritas and ordering nachos or huevos rancheros.

In Mexico, on the other hand, it is about remembering the victory of the Mexican Army over French forces in the Battle of Puebla, on May 5th, 1862. The day is marked by noticeably less boozing, but instead a military fly over and stirring re-enactments take place. Unfortunately the battles are not all in the past:

“Like many things in Mexico these days, the celebration of the 149th anniversary of the battle swung quickly toward the current drug war. In remarks before laying a wreath to the fallen, Calderon spoke of Mexico’s new enemies, the criminals who rob, extort, kidnap and murder — the kind of opponents who beat 183 people to death and buried them in mass graves 90 miles south of Brownsville, Tex., last month”

William Booth, Washington Post

I’d love to see this day celebrated in its home country but this year I am in America and that means making delicious cheesy, chilli black beans. I hope that this recipe for black beans would not make a Mexican mother cringe, originating from my head as it has, but what can I say? It goes down well with a glass of sangria and that’s enough for me!

Black Beans with shredded cheese and jalapenos

2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight,

1 large tin crushed tomatoes,

1/2 cup water,

1 cup red wine,

5 cloves garlic, crushed,

1/4 bunch coriander, stalks chopped finely and leaves picked,

2 tbl chilli flakes,

3/4 cup mexican cheese, grated or crumbled (queso blanco, queso fresco or panela),

1/4 cup jalapeno peppers.

Drain and rinse the black beans until the water runs clear and return to large saucepan. Add all the wet ingredients and the garlic and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in coriander stalks and chilli flakes. Continue to simmer for 1 hour for semi-crunchy beans (I like to undercook my beans slightly so they retain some texture and don’t taste like mush!) or 1 and a half hours for soft beans. Remove from heat and stir through cheese and jalapenos. Serve with corn tortillas for wrapping and guacamole for topping.

When the farmer neglects the vines…

March 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

…the Strawberry Patch will ramble.

 

 

Vegans. Now that’s a hardcore life decision. Or vegetarians – also totally legit. It’s when people start calling themselves ‘pescatarian’ that I get a little cynical, I mean from a life point of view I don’t believe there is a difference between a cow or a sheep. But the dawn of the ‘flexitarian’ revolution has really got my goat, so to speak. It’s a prime example of having your (beef)cake and eating it too…ok, enough puns!

For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, a flexitarian is someone who is semi-vegetarian, or for whom       the ratio of vegetable to meat on a plate is about 8:2, or who choose to not eat meat on Mondays.

How is this making headlines? The Italians and the Asians have been making vegetable based meals for decades but no one is heralding them as the new responsible eaters (sorry to steal your limelight, Paul McCartney).

So yes, ideally each plate should have more vegetables than meat, but do we really need to further segregate the eating community over a chop or two??

 

2. 

 

 

Who would pay $625 for a cookbook?? Because I’m really interested to know!

 

3.    

 

Finally, as a group who probably spend a large portion of our money in the supermarkets I’m sure we’re all a little miffed that prices keep going up while sizes keep going down. If only they would at least be honest about it.

Pesto Hummus

February 11, 2011 § 6 Comments

 

 

I still haven’t mastered hummus, I think it’s just one of those things that you need to be taught by a Lebanese mother. However, considering my lack of Lebanese-mother-friends at the moment I thought I would just have another crack at it myself, and I’m certain that we’ve made progress since the first attempt.

Yesterday was play day with the food processor, whenever I pull it out I tend to have a good blitz in one go. After breadcrumbing, ice cream making (stay tuned for that), health ball buzzing and mashed potato whipping I looked at the chickpeas in the fridge and decided – it’s you and me kid.

 

 

My rough helpings of ingredients might guide you, but don’t quote me on them! For about 2 cups of chickpeas (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed) I added 2 big tablespoons of unhulled tahini, the juice of 1 large lemon, 2 cloves crushed garlic and maybe 1/4 cup olive oil. Then it wasn’t pureeing as much as I would like but I think this had more to do with the wattage of my food processor than the quantity of ingredients, so I just kept feeding it homemade chicken stock (which I finally have down to an art form!) until it smoothed out a bit. Then I poured in the balsamic vinegar and oil from my deli olives and buzzed along a bit more.

 

 

In the end it was still quite grainy, and this is where we need the work, but the taste was nice and not too chickpea-ish.

I served the hummus with dinner last night, as an alternative to butter for nice chewy bread, and while I don’t think anyone else tried it I made a terrific discovery! When I was clearing the table I stirred the remaining pesto into the hummus bowl and wouldn’t you know it, the taste was awesome! I had hummus on toast for breakfast and can’t walk past the fridge without dipping in with my teaspoon.

Now to just work on the texture and I may declare hummus victory (but if you know a Lebanese mother please send her my way!)

 

 

 

The Hunt For Osso Bucco

February 11, 2011 § 3 Comments

Last night’s dinner was Osso Bucco, I thought it would help stave away the freezing temperatures we’ve been having. But what seemed like a good idea turned into a treasure hunt, both time consuming and expensive. With only two butchers within reasonable traveling distance -the pricey New York Butcher Shoppe and the Halal Butcher – and an over representation of steak in the supermarket, I couldn’t for the life of me find the meat! (Apparently there is also a lamb drought, according to my fellow yogi in crime, but that’s another story…)

 

 

Finally I found my veal shanks at The Fresh Market, which would be a nice place to do all my shopping if I was rich, instead of being unemployed and living on the opposite side of the world! Do you remember in my previous Osso Bucco post, back in the days of Gluten Free eating,  when I said:

“Osso bucco is a fantastic dish because this cut of the veal shank is usually quite inexpensive, which means you can spend the savings on two (or more?!) beautiful bottles of red – one for cooking, one for drinking”

 

 

Not so here, and $60 later I came out with 5 pieces. I mean, it’s veal shank, what?!?! Anyway, they were lovely meaty cuts from the hind leg, which is why I’m showing you photos of raw meat, and honestly it’s always worth the effort if the result is a yummy, cosy meal to share with your family and friends!

 

 

 

Tell me, what’s the most expensive ingredient you have paid for??

Blush. Eat. Sigh. Dream. Snuggle.

 

Date and Nut Balls

February 1, 2011 § 11 Comments

Don’t you love a change of scene?! The new sights, the new sounds, the new tastes! Today marks my sixth day in America and I’m settling in to my new home splendidly! Today I spent over an hour browsing through the supermarket where I bought apple sauce, Southern marinades and the ‘O’ (Oprah) magazine – how American am I dearests?! And you’ll find that most of the fresh produce at the supermarket is organic, no price quirks, it just is. Speaking of organic, yesterday NB took me to Earth Fare, a delightful organic superstore where I nearly emptied the ‘bulk buy’ section of its nuts, oats, seeds, grains and licorice – give me a scoop and it seems I can’t stop…There are also a large number of farmers markets in my neighbourhood alone and a giant Asian warehouse further out. WOW! For some reason I thought I was moving into a fresh food drought – perhaps I was blindsided by all the grits, pies, ribs and cajun fare that I tasted at Thanksgiving??!

Oh, and did you know that Target in America has a Starbucks and other takeaway counters instore?? Shopping to the smell of popcorn is a bit of a change, but after being in there for 2 hours this afternoon buying laundry goods and stationary I almost needed some.

 

 

Which brings me to today’s recipe! Make these little round bites of pureed dried fruits, nuts and seeds, for a great high-energy snack on the run, or after dinner with a cup of coffee or cocoa on a cold winter’s night.

 

 

You have probably seen similar morsels for sale at organic stores for $$$, but why buy when you can make your own? I made a big batch with the food processor I bought today and froze half for next week to keep them super fresh. And don’t feel for a minute that you need to stick to these ingredients! Try goji berries, brazil nuts, grated licorice, spirulina, peppermint essence, or dried Syrian blueberries. Next time I’ll dust the outside with coconut but I could only find sweetened today in the supermarket so I’ll wait until I get my hands on some of the natural stuff!

 

 

I can see myself loving these next week when I get back in to the gym, or when I go hiking up the mountains in search of squirrels and moose!!

 

 

Date and Nut Balls

~makes about 15~

1 cup walnuts

2/3 cup cashews

100g blanched almonds

1/2 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup dried apricots, chopped

150g pitted dates, chopped

1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped

2 tbs sesame seeds

2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbs honey

Lightly toast the nuts in a dry frypan over medium-low heat. Place in a food processor and whiz until finely chopped.

Add oats, apricots, dates, prunes, sesame seeds, cocoa, cinnamon and honey and process for 2-3 minutes or until mixture forms a paste.

Divide mixture into golf-ball-sized portions and roll between lightly moistened hands to make about 15 balls.

Roll the balls in extra cocoa, pulsed pepitas or coconut to coat. They will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks but stay super fresh in the freezer, remove 10 minutes before serving.

As they say down here in the South, hope y’all come back now

*blush. eat. sigh. dream. travel*

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