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.

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*

Gluten Free – The Verdict

July 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Nearing The Finish Line.

Gluten free week has finished and I have arrived unscathed, healthy and none the poorer (…relative to other students anyway!) I think GF must be touted as an expensive diet because, when people learn they have coeliac disease or decide to change to a GF lifestyle, they stock up on expensive gluten-free versions of breads, crackers, and pizza bases, which are often not nutritionally substantial or fortified with vitamins.

What I did, to keep the cost down and make sure my diet was balanced, was to base my meals on fruits, vegetables, rice, potatoes and meat in their purest form. If you can cook from scratch you can ensure there are no additives or thickeners that might trigger a gluten allergy. It also means everything tastes so much better. Admittedly, we don’t all have the time to be baking our own buckwheat bread but this comes down to a little game of give and take…and then knowing where to shop.

I gave pasta.

Despite the awesome sauce in my leftovers recipe the pasta was a soggy let down (several brands – same deduction) and I think I just want gluten in my linguine, my conchiglie and my papperdalle…Saying that, my Gluten Free Girlfriend swears by homemade GF pasta, I have asked for the recipe, it’s worth a shot…you know the drill – watch this space!.

But to give, I took.

I took rice, I took polenta and I took potato, glad to reignite my relationship with the humble spud, a long lost childhood friend that was distorted in my kitchen by fads of low carb dinners. Welcome home mash!

And sometimes it was expensive.

I did make my own GF muesli and it was costly, but it was also delicious and I would happily do it again. Why was it expensive? This was not a bowl of empty puffed rice and sultanas my friends, oh no I put incredible amounts of goodness in there: amaranth for protein, millet for calcium/magnesium/zinc and B Vitamins, rice bran for fibre, goji berries for antioxidants…the list goes on!

But we need to be smart about where to shop.

Lesson learnt! If buying GF, know where to go  – for cereals look at bulk buying in health food stores, don’t shop where it’s fancy but do shop where it’s local, and apparently check out Aldi if you have one near you, the GF Girlfriend says they do a good range of inexpensive gluten free and organic.

And when we’re sick of cooking…

There are places to go (gluten-free/ dairy-free/ Sydney)

Bodega, 216 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, 9212 7766.

Wafu, 460 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills, 9319 1880.

The Bentley Bar, 320 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, 9332 2344.

Longrain, 85 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, 9280 2888.

Iku Wholefood, many restaurants.

Suveran Cafe, 244 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, 9369 4040.

Crust Pizza, many restaurants.

The Gluten Free Kitchen Makes Osso Bucco

July 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

You may think that writers block – chefs block?! – has ravaged the strawberry fields like Ireland’s 1845-1852 potato blight. Alas, the opposite is true, and too much time spent in the kitchen has left little time for blogging. It seems ironic yet apt that the time I have to blog is when I’m sitting down to eat lunch (yes this habit is why my laptop screen is marred by the flying juice of a sweet cob of corn!).

THIS week has been sunny but freezing so when I saw that my butcher had some lovely, meaty shin bones on special I immediately thought osso bucco. 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. I love this recipe because its quick to prepare and then you leave it to do its thing for 2-3 hours, becoming thick and aromatic. Slow cooking makes the best of the bony cut leaving the meat meltingly soft and the marrow to suck out of the bones at the end. Osso bucco pieces from the hind shin will have more meat than those from the foreleg, so ask your butcher to cut it specially!

Now ideally you would cook this in a crockpot – no stirring involved, how easy?! – as it generates a much more even and intense heat. As I don’t have a crockpot, nor do I have temperature control on our appalling hot plates (how I dream of gas), I did this in my electric frypan and it worked really well. To stay gluten free I made mashed potato (and NB did his awesome sauteed spinach), you could also use polenta (yes GF), cous cous (not GF) or large shell pasta – most important is that you serve the meat on something that will soak up the deliciousness that is the sauce!

Gluten Free Osso Bucco

Serves 4-6

Preheat the oven to 180°c.

Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large flameproof casserole over medium-high heat. In batches, cook 2kg osso bucco (about 5cm thick) for 6-8 minutes, turning until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 30g unsalted butter to the casserole and when it starts to sizzle add 4 anchovy fillets, 10 garlic cloves, crushed, and 2 chopped onions. Cook, stirring over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Add 1 peeled, sliced carrot, 2 thinly sliced celery stalks and stir until beginning to soften. Add 200g pitted kalamata olives, 1/4 cup capers (rinsed), 2 bay leaves, 1 cup beef stock or port, 1 cup red wine and 1l (4 cups) tomato passata (check ingredients list – it will be gluten free if there are no thickeners added).

Bring to the boil, then cover the casserole and transfer to the oven for 2-3 hours – check occasionally to make sure meat is covered with sauce. When cooked, if the sauce is too thin remove the meat and boil the sauce vigorously (isn’t that a divine word?!) over high heat with the lid off until it begins to thicken. Return meat to pan to heat through. Scatter with flat leaf parsley and serve with mash or polenta.

Hot Potato Tips!

  • Drain your potatoes really well before you mash them, dry potatoes make fluffier mash.
  • Leave the skin on for a change, just wash them really well first.
  • ‘Healthy’ mash – Use 2 tablespoons butter per 5 potatoes and 1/4 cup milk. Consider using a combination of potato, sweet potato and carrot for lower carbs. Salt and pepper are your friend!
  • Delicious mash – Go wild with the butter, taste test. Add two cloves of crushed garlic at the end. Mix up the potatoes – use desiree, Yukon gold potato or russet.

The Gluten Free Kitchen Makes Leftovers Pasta

June 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

As a 22-year old university student living in Sydney I can’t pretend that I don’t have money problems – it’s simply the nature of the beast. My friend and I were talking at dinner on Tuesday night about the cost of shopping/cooking for one, both admitting that we usually buy just one carrot, one tomato, two apples etc rather than letting anything go to waste. I remember one time when my (cheeky) local grocer commented on the selection in my basket – one potato, 6 mushrooms, 12 snowpeas…“still single I see“, he said to me!

But the truth is I abhor the thought of waste, I admit I’m one of those* people who will save a tea-bag for multiple uses, a habit many of my friends and family try to deny. Still, I think this is a step up from my Nan who washes cling wrap to hang on the line!

(*one of those – presuming there are other tea-bag hoarders out there)

The Great Depression grandchild that I am caused a minor waste-panic-attack in my crisper on Monday evening. A zucchini and six mushrooms were starting to tire (I never did make the omelette that I had planned), there was the mandatory lone carrot and a few other bits of veg, about half a cup of tomato sugo was left from making osso buco and a decent scoop of Philadelphia cheese that I had used in the most delicious accidental chocolate brownie cupcakes – not gluten free but I had to try the corner of one to make sure they were edible before I inflicted them on NB and the roomies (Note: definitely edible and if I can replicate the mistake I will post a recipe!).

9pm Monday isn’t the most inspirational time of night for cooking up a feast, but the things you can do with a tin of tuna, token veg and a zest of lemon…well, you know!

So here is my leftovers pasta! I know it doesn’t look much but it tasted so good, it probably cost less than $5, it took less than 10 minutes and is gluten free if you use GF pasta (I used a buckwheat spaghetti from my local organic store). I got the idea of stirring through cream cheese from the woman I babysit for, she made a delicious grated zucchini and fettucine dish recently that tasted too yummy and creamy to be good for you. I limited myself to a tiny bowl and then she came home and said she used 95% fat free Philadelphia cheese – I should have gone back for seconds!! Try it out at home, a healthy winter indulgence!

Leftovers pasta (quantities depend on how many people you’re cooking for, play it by ear!)

Cook pasta and set aside.

Slice or grate whatever leftover veg you may have in the kitchen, I used carrot, green capsicum, mushroom, corn, broccoli and onion. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frypan, lightly fry onion with crushed garlic and sprigs of fresh sage or dried herbs, until fragrant and starting to soften. Add remaining vegetables, cook, stirring until they begin to soften. Add a good slug of tomato sugo and a dash of wine – red/white or vegetable stock. Add drained tin tuna. When nearly cooked through stir in some low fat cream cheese and grated lemon zest. Cook 3-ish minutes, add drained pasta and heat through. Season with salt and pepper and serve with fresh herbs and grated cheese if that’s your thing.

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