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
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.
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*
June 19, 2010 § Leave a comment
I simply love how productive I feel after a day of organising and cleaning my house and kitchen cupboards! Yesterday was a beautiful, energising, sunny day and, while I was conflicted about not sitting outside and soaking up the warmth, the domestic goddess in me was just itching to come out, so I let her free to play!
Here are the results:
Firstly, I’m proud to say I knocked over two of the things I have been writing about doing since blog day one! Hummus and yoghurt cheese! And now I question why I wasn’t making these all along as it took me less time to whip up 2 cups of hummus than I normally spend in the deli trying to decide which brand to buy, and yoghurt cheese was at least 1o times cheaper to make myself!
Hummus makes 1 cup.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. I used too much tahini in the first batch (1/4 cup for 400g chickpeas), which left a slightly bitter taste, so I just cut it down by 2 tablespoons the second round and it was much better!
Place 400g chickpeas (soaked overnight and drained – reserve liquid), 3 cloves garlic (crushed), 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup tahini (or just under depending on your taste), 1 tsp cumin, pinch cayenne pepper in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly add 1/4 cup olive oil and process until smooth. Add a little reserved chickpea liquid if the mixture is too thick. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Leftover hummus can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen.
I also got around to the elusive yoghurt cheese, which took all of 4 minutes to make! How lazy do I feel about buying it all this time! I will have to make another Sheaf Salad with my own cheese now!
Cover a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth. Empty into it a carton of low fat natural yoghurt (with no thickeners or gelatine). Place the strainer into a large bowl (leave room between bowl and strainer) and cover with wrap. Refrigerate over night.
Ideas for yoghurt cheese:
- Topping for salads, fruit, meat dishes
- Fat reducer: mix 1-2 tablespoons yoghurt cheese with 1 tablespoon peanut butter, mayonnaise, chocolate spread etc
- Used as topping on baked potatoes by adding sour cream flavour buds and herbs
- Mix 1/4 cup yoghurt cheese with 1/4 cup commercial ice cream
- Add 1 packet low-calorie chocolate drink mix to 1 cup yoghurt cheese for a cheats chocolate mousse
- Use as a frosting by mixing 1/2 cup icing sugar with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and I cup yoghurt cheese. Chill and spread on cake before serving.
Thanks to Karen I also discovered how easy it is to make almond milk, only another 5 minutes out of your kitchen time. This is an expensive drink – 1 cup almonds only make one large glass of milk, but have a go and see what you think!
Blend one cup almonds (soaked overnight) and 2 cups filtered water until smooth. Strain milk through muslin into a large bowl to remove husks. Taste. If you want it sweetened, return to blender and add a couple of dates or scrape a vanilla bean into the liquid. And voila – homemade milk, so much easier than when I had to go and milk the cow in the mornings!
I then dehydrated the almond solids from the muslin in a really low oven, let them cool, pounded them in a mortar and pestle and made almond meal to use in baking this week. I kept some of the bigger clusters of almond to sprinkle over soy vanilla ice cream and it was like a healthy sundae crunch!!
June 17, 2010 § Leave a comment
Well the first stage of my challenge has ended happily – despite the one encounter with delicious buttery wok fried sirloin. Red Lantern you had me baited.
At first i just avoided dairy altogether. Not exactly practical in the long term.
And then it seemed that the only way I found dairy substitutes palatable was to disguise them behind grams and grams of sugar- (p.s no regrets about discovering the vanilla milk).
After trial and error I realised that oat and rice milk weren’t for me but So Good Lite soy milk was able to hit the spot minus the extra sweetness. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s attempt at almond milk (the nuts are soaking and the muslin has been rinsed).
As far as cooking goes, I found it easy to create main meals that aren’t dairy based, personally I rarely cooked creamy, milky, buttery dishes in the first place, and perhaps in this way i didn’t challenge myself as much as I could have. Although I felt the pinch in the little extras – a sprinkling of parmesan on your bolognese, a dollop of yoghurt raita on your curry and the like. Consciously taking dairy out of the equation will definitely leave you cooking lighter meals, and it reduced my post-dinner snacking as i couldn’t guzzle litres of soy as I tend to do with cow’s milk.
I also found myself caught out a few times with the ‘hidden dairy’: water crackers, biscuits, some cereals. For those with an allergy, a keen eye on the ingredients list would be absolutely vital.
As far as price goes I didn’t notice any major difference and I think this is because so many ‘non-dairy’ foods exist as independent ingredients, not just as a substitute.
So, to finish up!
- I think I could be converted to some days of soy milk
- I don’t think I will be converted to faux cheese!
- Coconut milk is not dairy -I didn’t realise this previously
- Eating out can be a challenge – inform your waiter of your diet
- Check, check, check ingredients list. As with all diets like this, cooking from scratch is often the safest option
- One week isn’t long enough to really test the possibilities of this diet. I will continue to attempt interesting alternative recipes along the Blushing Strawberries journey
June 13, 2010 § Leave a comment
Nibbles and cocktails – a girls night in. I was impressed that, even under the influence of caprioskas, I managed to stay true to my dairy diet!
- Dairy free dips (hummus, chunky basil pesto, sundried tomato and pinenut)
- Carrot sticks, cauliflower florets, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, shaved turkey breast
- Fruit platters
- Little zucchini and basil frittatas
- Caprioskas and white wine spritzas
- Chocolate dipped strawberries (ok I did have two of these!)
Zucchini and Basil Frittatas
Preheat oven to 175 degrees celsius and butter a 12 hole non-stick muffin pan. Dust each hole with breadcrumbs and tap out the excess.
Place 2 tbs olive oil and 2 large garlic cloves (halved) in a frypan over medium heat, cook for 1-2 minutes until the garlic starts to sizzle. Increase heat to medium and, in 2 batches, cook 500g zucchini sliced into 4mm-thick rounds, until speckled with gold. Transfer the zucchini to a bowl and set aside, discarding the garlic.
In a large bowl, lightly whisk 8 free-range eggs with 1/4 cup firmly packed shredded basil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper until just combined. Stir in 100 g soy cheese, cut into small chunks, then whisk in 1/2 cup self raising flour. Add the fried zucchini, reserving 12 rounds to decorate, then stir everything together. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin holes and top each one with a zucchini round. Transfer to the oven and bake 20 minutes or until the frittatas feel firm when gently pressed. Remove from oven and let settle in pan for a few minutes until gently pressing them out.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Caprioska (serves one)
- Ice cubes
- Chopped mint
- 60ml vodka
- 15ml sugar syrup (about 1 tablespoon)*
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 1lime, quartered
Place everything in a cocktail shaker and shake to combine. Serve with extra mint and lime wedges.
*To make sugar syrup – bring equal parts sugar and water to the boil. Reduce to simmer for about 20 minutes or until reduced by a third. Let cool, refrigerate.
June 12, 2010 § Leave a comment
Thomas H. Palmer first said, “if at first you don’t succeed try, try again” to encourage American schoolchildren with their homework. Well, feeling somewhat like a child myself this week by only drinking milk that had been disguised with vanilla flavouring, I have now found a soy milk that I like! Persistence pays off it seems! The champion of my kitchen is So Good Lite Soy, which actually tastes pretty close to real milk when it’s cold (but something changes in the taste when it’s heated and I still don’t like it in my tea). What a breakthrough for the week!
I have also found a recipe for almond milk which I will try over the next couple of days, I bought my big bag of almonds yesterday, it’s not cheap to make but per litre the drink is $5.50 so I may as well try my own! Will keep you posted on how it goes!
On Thursday night I cooked a divine Vietnamese dish using coconut milk – the recipe called for coconut cream but Dairy Free For Dummies warned that coconut cream often contains milk solids, and while the ingredients in a jar of Ayam coconut cream seemed fine (coconut kernel extract, water, vegetable gum) I still used lite coconut milk.
Here is the recipe:
Cha ca (Vietnamese grilled fish)
In a food processor: 3 garlic cloves (chopped), 5 cm piece ginger (peeled, chopped), 3 long red chillies (chopped), 2 tbs fish sauce, 2 tsp ground tumeric, 1/2 red onion (thinly sliced) – blend all with 2 tbs water to form a smooth paste.
Heat 2 tbs sunflower oil over medium heat, fry the other half of the red onion (thinly sliced). When soft and slightly golden, add 1/2 cup chopped dill and paste, then simmer, stirring occassionally for 10 minutes.
Add 400ml coconut milk, and simmer for 18-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened and reduced by a third. Stand at room temperature for an hour or chill on fridge overnight to allow flavours to develop (I didn’t do this and it was still fine!)
Heat paste (if you let it stand) and add 600g ling (or other skinless white fish fillets) – cut into 3cm cubes. (I had chicken thighs in the freezer and used them instead, worked well). Coat meat with sauce and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes. Squeeze the juice of 2 limes and stir through. (Here I added a handful of snow peas, 1 thinly sliced red capsicum and 1 head broccoli that I had partially cooked in the microwave).
Serve with 200g rice vermicelli noodles or brown rice (1 cup uncooked rice = 4 serves) and mint sprigs, coriander, thinly sliced red chilli, chopped peanuts.
On the Vietnamese theme, NB and I ate at Red Lantern on Crown St last night, somewhere I had been dying to try for ages! And I’ll admit that I did fall off the band wagon and knowingly ordered dishes that contained dairy…Sorry! I’ll add another two days on the end of my DF week to make up for it!
On the plus side, the dinner was fantastic! I am a huge fan of Vietnamese, the flavours are so fresh and clean, and this place was a real stand out. Fortunately we were able to get a table straight away when we arrived at 8:30, last time we tried to go the wait was going to be over 90 minutes. The waitstaff were friendly and efficient and it didn’t take long to decide what to eat.
We started with fresh rice paper rolls with duck and enoki mushroom and a couple of triple 3 beers. Unfortunately for NB they didn’t have soup, although the waiter said everyone had been asking so maybe they’ll make some changes for the winter. We also missed out on the last of the scrumptious looking specials, but not to worry, it’s just another excuse to go back.
In the end we ended up with masses of food in three dishes:
- Ga Chien Don (crisp skinned pasture raised chicken) – oh my goodness, that skin, there had to be butter involved in getting it that crispy!
- Bo Luc Lac (cubed pasture fed Black Angus sirloin tossed in a flaming wok with garlic butter and sesame),
- Rau Cai Xao Lang (organic seasonal wok fried vegetables with rice noodles), which impressed NB – fried rice connoisseur – more than he was expecting!
I also had one of their signature cocktails, with blended lychee and soursop – amazing – and nicer than the lychee cocktail that I tried from Longrain. Also, I saw that if you go with a group of four or more you can order a fantastic looking tasting menu for $55 a head. Overall, highly recommended!
June 10, 2010 § 2 Comments
I was lying awake in bed at 2am last night because something was niggling in the back of my mind. I blamed my sleeplessness on freezing toes that two pairs of socks couldn’t warm, but then out of the blue it hit me – the Arnott’s malt-o-milk biscuits that I had been eating all week contain milk powder! Apparently all my comments on ‘hidden dairy’ weren’t enough to get the message into my head, I was still only focusing on obviously dairy dairy!
This also led me to realize that my diet (apart from vanilla milk and ice cream) was more about avoiding anything dairy than trying to incorporate substitutions. So I spent some serious research time in the health aisle of my local Coles this afternoon and here are some findings:
- There are so many delicious oils you can substitute for baking, dipping breads, roasting, cooking mushrooms…Think olive, grapeseed, avocado, orange, macadamia, rice bran, canola and sesame (to name a few!)
- Sweet William Dairy Free Chocolate is $2.19/50g bar. Per 100g it has: 42.7g sugar, 32% cocoa solids, 2120kj (507cal), 31.7g fat.
- BUT! It tastes fake and watery and saccharine like. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dairy Free Eating tells me that chocolate with cocoa solids over 50% is usually fine for dairy allergies, so I would still prefer to eat Lindt Dark Noir: $3.50/100g block, 28g sugar, 70% cocoa solids, 2180kj, 40g fat. It’s the real deal and has no artificial sweeteners.
- LEDA produces:
- ‘Choculence’ – Tim Tam style
- ‘Minton’ – like a Mint Slice
- Choc rum balls (all made from dairy free compound choc) $3.99/pack of 9
- Fruit filled bows (GF, DF) $4.64/ 5 bars
- Freedom Foods has separate lactose free and dairy free biscuits so check the labels carefully.
I bought Freedom Foods crunchy coconut biscuits (GF, WF, DF) and LEDA Ginger Nut cookies (GF, DF). Both are pretty good, using canola oil in place of butter. The coconut biscuits are slightly reminiscent of macaroons, if that’s your thing!
- I bought faux cheese – Simply Better Foods Soy Cheese (black pepper) – no gluten, no butter fat, no lactose. This isn’t completely dairy-free as it does contain casein, but I couldn’t find one that didn’t in my supermarket. It tastes like the triangular pieces of long life cream cheese that I used to eat as a kid, but not quite as nice. It’s definitely edible but has 70% canola oil and leaves an oily aftertaste. It cost $5 for 200g.
Dairy free substitutes are slightly more expensive than the ‘regular’ product but I don’t think the difference would be too noticeable on the grocery bill.
Here are some comparisons (average price used):
Skim – $2.10
Regular – $1.90
Soy – $2.50
Rice – $3.00
Almond – $5.50
Blue Ribbon (buttermilk based) $5.25/1.25litre
So Good (DF) $5.65/litre
Weiss sorbet $6.99/litre
Butter (Check ingredients list as many oil based spreads contain dairy)
Nuttelex (DF) $3.18/500g
I also bought plain soy (skim), which I’ll try tonight, and another brand of berry yoghurt, this one only has 10g sugar.
The things you learn from half an hour in Coles – although one staff member came up to ask if he could help when he saw me note taking…maybe he thought I was going undercover for Woolworths?!