Sunday, July 31, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 31st July

So, this week is the first week back for the school term, after a lovely break from work. I have lots on this week - the gym on Monday night, accupuncture on Tuesday night and a few other bits and pieces to get through as well. Tomorrow night's dinner is a quick crock pot meal, but this week I am really lookin forward to Tuesday's meal - I've had this recipe filed away on my Pinterest for a while now and can't wait to taste it made up! I loooove peas, and we have a huge bag in the freezer from mum and dad's garden last Spring. Which reminds me, it's actually about time I planted my own peas, as I'm excited to say, it's allmmmooosst Spring here!

Sunday - free-range pork sausages, roasted Brussels sprouts and kumara wedges
Monday - curried coconut pumpkin and chickpeas on brown rice (made in the crock pot)
Tuesday - spaghetti with green pea pesto
Wednesday - steak and mushroom pie with steamed broccoli and swede mash (we didn't end up having it last week!)
Thursday - fresh vege and noodle salad with creamy avocado dressing

- sourdough
- rhubarb muffins (also didn't end up having them last week)

To Do
- soak chickpeas
- soak brown rice
- defrost pie filling

Monday, July 25, 2011

Snow and Bread

Today in my lovely city we woke up to an actual Winter Wonderland! It had been snowing heavily overnight and it continued throughout the day, leaving us with a rather thick layer of the white stuff. In true Christchurch-ian fashion, the city shut down and we all had a snow day!

Max loved the snow!

What better to do on a snow day than make bread and soup. For the soup, I was lazy and used one of those great Kings soup packets and added in a few veges, but the bread was my classic favourite - wholemeal five seed. Perfect with lots of butter, dunked into a bowl of hot soup after a snow frolic!

Wholemeal Five Seed Bread

1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups wholemeal or spelt flour
1 1/4 cups white flour
1 Tbsp each of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed and sesame seeds
1/4 cup wholegrain rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp bread yeast

Place all ingredients in a bread maker and set on the dough option. Alternatively, if you are organised, follow the steps for no-knead bread in this post. Keep an eye on the dough for the first five or so minutes, to make sure it has combined properly. Add a bit more water if it is too dry or a bit more flour if it is too wet. Once dough cycle has finished, turn dough out onto a floured surface and give a quick knead. Shape into your desired loaf, slash the top a few times and place in an oven, preheated to 200 degrees celcious. Bake for around half an hour or until the base sounds hollow when tapped.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 24th July

Brrr it's a cold one here at the moment - I can hear hail on the roof as I type this and we have had snow flurries throughout the day. Normally I would love this stormy weather but as we lost our heatpump to an aftershock about a month ago, it is not quite as nice to be huddled around a struggling oil heater instead. And you better believe getting out of bed is a mission in itself! Luckily, we are supposedly on an 'emergency waiting list' and should hear from someone in the next 7-10 working days but I am not hopeful... Until then, soup is most definitely on the menu!

Sunday: curried mushroom soup with homemade ciabatta
Monday: warm lentil salad with roasted baby carrots and cauliflower cheese
Tuesday: I'm getting taken out for a dinner date, lucky me!
Wednesday: individual baked pumpkin soups (like these, how cute are they!) with cheese sticks and a green salad
Thursday: steak and mushroom pie with a green salad

- muffins for the freezer - perhaps rhubarb, as I have quite a stash in the garden
- spelt sourdough

Friday, July 22, 2011

Detox - Day Three

Breakfast - if only it wasn't 2 degrees
outside when I ate this!
Well, I made it the three days of my detox, as planned. I still feel fine - not hungry, tired, grumpy or like I'm 'detoxing' at all... Was it all a waste of time? I'm not actually sure... Maybe as I don't eat a lot of sugar, drink much coffee or alcohol or eat hardly any processed food, I don't really have much in my to detox? Oh well, I've done it now, and so now I know what it is like and can make an educated choice of whether or not to do it again!

Day Three's Eats:
9am: warm water with lemon.
10.30am: fresh pineapple, mango and banana with chia and flaxseed sprinkled on top and a fresh kale, apple, pineapple and mango juice.
12noon: a big green salad with savoy cabbage, cavolo nero, spinach, sorrel, basil, carrot and daikon radish with an olive oil, apple cider vinegar and mustard dressing and a small portion of wholemeal homemade pasta with tomato sauce.
3pm: a fresh kale, apple, ginger juice.
8pm: (late, because I went to an early play) a delicious Burmese meal of many different dishes. Probably not the best way to end a detox, but I wasn't going to miss this - I have been waiting for a reservation at this restaurant for weeks!

What did I learn:
  • I don't like having to control my food, even if it is me in control. I never normally think twice about what I eat, and I didn't enjoy having to decline myself something I felt like because it wasn't part of my detox plan.
  • I freaking love food. Well, I already knew this, but I have confirmed it for good now.
  • It is not that hard to eat fruit and salad and juice for a few days, and it would probably be quite a good thing to do, say, one day a month, to give the ol' digestive system a rest.
  • Winter is not a good time to do a detox - the seasonal veges are not that exciting to repeat for three days and the fruit is almost non-existent (hence the very-unlike-me tropical fruit binge). I think if I was going to do a multi-day detox again, I would do it in the Summer, when produce was more plentiful and it wasn't freezing!
  • It really helps to read books about health and nutrition when you are trying something like this - it really helped to keep my mind on the end goal to be surrounding myself with inspirational books, TV etc. This probably applies to most things, I imagine.
  • Massages are lovely; I should get them more often.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Detox - Day Two

Day two of my three day detox is almost over. I have had another relaxing day, including a gorgeous massage, choosing costumes for Paddy's students for their upcoming play and a bit of house cleaning (this may not be relaxing to everyone but I am kinda weird!). How am I feeling? Still pretty good, I'm not tired or hungry and I slept well last night. I am getting a bit sick of juice, but I know it is not forever, so I can handle it. I haven't really been hungry at all today, and looking at what I've eaten/drunk today, it's actually not that much. I probably need to take care tomorrow to have a bit more or I will waste away! I'm sort of waiting for the 'detoxing' to begin - the headaches, skin breakout, achy muscle etc that people write about. Maybe it won't happen at all? I'm mildly apprehensive...

Day Two's Eats:
9am: warm water with lemon
10am: fresh apple, ginger, mint and silverbeet juice
12.30pm: cup of red miso soup with wakame
2pm: handful of raw almonds and fresh apple, ginger and kale juice
4.30pm: fresh pineapple and mint juice
Dinner: I have prepared another big salad of savoy cabbage, cavolo nero, spinach, sorrel, basil, carrot and daikon radish with an olive oil, apple cider vinegar and mustard dressing and a dollop of mashed avocado on top. Followed by a cup of fennel tea before bed. Then another early night for me!

Tomorrow I am planning on having chopped pineapple, mango and banana for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, vege juice throughout the day and a light, vegetarian dinner to top the detox off.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Detox - Day One

Tonight's dinner - yum!
As I mentioned in this post last week, I decided I wanted to do a detox of sorts during my week of holiday. It's not that I live a particularly toxic life or anything, but my hair isn't as great as it could be, my skin is breaking out in a hormone frenzy and I am feeling a bit bleh. I thought this would be a good way to give my system a clean out, and start with a clean slate. Originally I was planning on including hot yoga classes along with the detox, but I have decided it might be a bit too much for my body to handle, so I will start those once my detox has finished.

There are about a million different types of detoxes around - I did some reading and designed one to suit me. I would recommend checking with your doctor before doing anything like this. I mentioned my plan to mine last time I saw her and she was happy with it.

So what's my plan? Well, it's mainly focused around fresh vege juice, raw veges, nuts and seeds, herbal teas with some warm food added in towards the end. I have chosen all organic veges, fruit and teas. I also plan on taking it pretty easy, using this time to read, walk my puppy and generally relax. Early nights are a must too!

Day One's Eats
9am: lemon juice in 1.5 cups of warm water
10am: 2 cups of green juice with apple, ginger and silverbeet
1pm: 2 cups of green juice with apple, ginger and silverbeet
3pm: 2 cups of green juice with apple, ginger and silverbeet
6pm: big green salad with (all raw) cavolo nero, spinach, savoy cabbage, pumpkin seeds  and sesame seeds with an apple cider vinegar, olive oil and manuka honey dressing topped with a dollop of avocado mashed with lime juice and chilli. 1 cup green juice with apple, ginger and cavolo nero.

It's almost 7pm now and I feel pretty good! Not hungry or tired, just good. I plan on having a cup of nettle tea before bed and a nice early night! Tomorrow will be similar, but with the addition of fruit during the day and miso soup with my salad for dinner. I have also booked a massage, which will be divine, but also help this little detox along.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Roast Pumpkin and Sage Barley Risotto

I love risotto, but it is not easy to make on a busy weeknight, with all the stirring and the waiting and the watching and the stirring. So when I discovered barley risotto, which doesn't need nearly as much babysitting as regular risotto, I was chuffed. I have made a few different versions of a barely risotto since discovering the recipe I adapted here, including a delightful mushroom and rosemary one. This is my latest invention, based on a flavour combination I found in my River Cottage Everyday cookbook. I was thrilled with how it turned out - so creamy and delicious. The perfect winter meal, I think.

Roast Pumpkin and Sage Barley Risotto

1/2 small pumpkin, chopped into small cubes (about 3 cups)
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 onion, chopped finely
2 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped finely
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups pearl barley
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups stock (vege or chicken)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Toss the cubed pumpkin and two cloves of the garlic in two tablespoons of olive oil and bake until cooked through and a little bit crispy. While the pumpkin is baking, fry the remaining garlic and onion in the remaining olive oil until softened. Add the pearl barley and stir until shiny with oil and sizzling a bit. Add the chopped sage and cook another minute or so. Then add the liquids, stir well and cook on medium with the lid on for 40-45 minutes. Keep checking regularly, as you don't want it to burn to the bottom. Once the liquid is absorbed and the barely cooked until just a little bit chewy, stir through the parmesan and butter and gently fold in the roasted pumpkin cubes. Season to taste and voila, it's ready to eat.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Inspiration and Realisation

A few months ago I shared some pictures that tickled my fancy. One of them was this:

Then, on a chance trip to the Sunday market I found this:

A few coats of paint later, I made this:

Ta da! My very own chalkboard. From inspiration to realisation. You saw it here first, people!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 10th July

It is the last week of the school term this week, which means I am almost on holiday! After such a busy term and a hell of a year so far, I have decided to take a whole week off during the holidays to catch up on some house stuff and generally relax a bit. I want to attempt a 3-day detox and buy an all-you-can-go hot yoga pass to help with the detoxing and relaxing. I am so excited to be able to spend some time just chilling out and calm my soul for a while. This week will likely be a blur, as I rush through to get everything done before my holiday. Dinners are quick and simple this week and baking is almost non-existent. Trying out a few new baking recipes is definitely on my list of things to do these holidays!

Sunday - dinner with the neighbours
Monday - free-range sweet chilli chicken with spinach on brown rice
Tuesday - pumpkin barley risotto with crispy sage leaves and roasted balsamic beetroot
Wednesday - miso soup with mushrooms, greens and soba noodles
Thursday - roast vegetable frittata with greens

- sourdough spelt

To Do
- make coconut kefir
- make kombucha
- soak brown rice
- marinate chicken

Moroccan Chickpea and Pumpkin Curry

A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to have a try at Moroccan cooking, after being inspired by a stall at the farmer's market I go to weekly. Moroccan cooking is fresh and flavoursome, with different textures and ingredients than I am used to. According to Wikipedia, the spices in Moroccan cooking are centered around cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, coriander and saffron. Most of my curries tend to take an Indian angle, so it was good to try something different. I was very happy with the outcome and loved the sweetness the fruit added. This is my attempt at changing out my standard Indian version of a chickpea and pumpkin curry to something a bit different...

Moroccan Chickpea and Pumpkin Curry on Couscous

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 - 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 cup cooked or tinned chickpeas
1/2 of a small pumpkin, cubed (around 2 cups)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Approx 1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup dried apricots
1/4 cup almonds

1 cup dried couscous
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
Sprinkle of chilli powder
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup sultanas or raisins
1 cup boiling water
Fresh coriander

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Fry garlic and onion in olive oil until soft. Add spices and fry gently until they start to smell amazing. Add chick peas and pumpkin and stir until well covered with spices. Add tinned tomatoes, lemon juice, dried apricots and enough water to make a sloppy sauce. Cook for a few minutes until bubbling then transfer mixture to a lidded casserole dish and place in oven. Cook for around half an hour or until pumpkin is soft. If sauce is too sloppy, remove lid for last 10 minutes of cooking time.

While curry is cooking, prepare the couscous. Place dried couscous in a bowl with spices, sultanas and lemon juice. Add boiling water, stir, then place a plate over the bowl to keep in the steam. Leave for 5-10 minutes to hydrate. After couscous has absorbed all the water, fluff with a fork and stir through fresh chopped coriander.

To serve, dish curry over top of couscous and sprinkle with roughly chopped almonds and more fresh coriander if desired. Enjoy!

Serves four.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Real Chicken Liver Pate

Pate is not something I would normally buy from the shops. The undercooked pink colour and layer of shiny jelly on top has always kind of put me off. Fresh pate is a different story though. The farmer's market I visit weekly has an annual pate competition, where anyone who wishes to, enters their version of pate, to be sampled by the masses of market goers and then voted on. Last year's pate competition got me interested in this delicious spread and after a friend brought a batch of his own homemade version to a party, I have been eager to give it a go. A wee while ago, I purchased a pottle of organic chicken livers from one of the market stalls, and with my friend's recipe and an open mind in hand (I hadn't handled offal before), I attempted my own version. The verdict? It was awesome. Seriously, quite amazingly delicious. And, actually really easy! I have made at least two more batches since that time and I also served up the livers, cooked pate style (but not blended) on sourdough toast for dinner last week and it was spectacular!

Here's my friend's recipe, with a few tweaks, of course.

Chicken Liver Pate

500 grams fresh, organic chicken livers, roughly chopped
175 grams butter
2 onions, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
Squeeze of lemon
1 Tbsp port
Dash of cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt 125 grams of the butter in a medium-sized pan. Fry the onions and garlic until soft. Add the livers and fry for around 3 minutes. Add the herbs, salt and pepper and lemon and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and allow to cool slightly. Place the liver and herbs mix into a blender and process, slowly adding in the remaining 50 grams of melted butter, the port and a dash of cream. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Scrap mixture into a jar or ceramic dish and chill in the fridge (although I can never resist a slather of the warm mixture on fresh sourdough). Keeps for around one week in the fridge.

I shared this post on Real Food Wednesdays.

Melt an exceptional amount of butter.

Fry onions and garlic until soft.

Add livers and fry.

Add herbs and other seasonings and keep cooking.

Blend with port and cream.

Store in a glass jar in the fridge. Yum!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What I'm Reading in June

Opps, I'm a few days too late for this, but technically, these are the books I read in June! I finally went to my local library, which has recently re-opened after being taken over by Council workers after the earthquake, and I am absolutely loving having such a huge pile of books at my disposal! I am not really into fiction at the moment, instead preferring non-fiction books about health, food and sustainability. Here is what I was reading this past month:

Food Rules by Michael Pollan - this cute wee gem is a well-quoted collection of thoughts on how the author thinks we should eat. I'm a girl of structure, so rules for eating kind of appeal to my freaky, organised mind. Some of my favourites included:
- eat well-grown food from healthy soil
- eat sweet foods as you find them in nature (i.e fizzy drink and lollies are not natural!)
- don't eat breakfast cereals that change the colour of your milk
- cook
I actually follow most of these 'rules' anyway, but this is a good book if you are looking for a small read and feel like thinking more about what you put in your mouth.

Naturally Gorgeous by Charlotte Vohtz - this book was a fairly comprehensive guide for natural health and beauty. I liked almost all of the content, but found some of the suggestions a bit contradictory. For example, the book was an advocate of essential oils for skin care, but also encouraged fake tanners (which are riddled with terrible chemicals). Overall it was quite a good reference for some nice, natural beauty tips, but taken with a note of caution for those trying to avoid chemicals in their personal care products.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver - I got about 10 pages into this and never went any further. Lots of my friends have recommended it but it just didn't grab me. Maybe I'll go back to it another day.

Women's Health by Gillian McKeith - I own a book by this author and have read a few others of hers previously. I really like her perspective on health and lifestyle and this book is no exception to her excellent advice on health and beauty. This book breaks the four key phases of a women's life up, and examines the individual needs during this time. It provides specific, well-explained examples of the body's needs during each era of life and how to get them easily through diet and lifestyle modifications. The four phases are: Puberty, Reproductive Years, Perimenopause, and Post-menopause and Beyond. This is the kind of book I would buy as a reference, to refer to when I had adult acne, iron issues, wanted to get ready for pregnancy etc. A highly recommended read!

Living Green by Annmaree Kane and Christina Neubert - this book claimed itself as "the New Zealand handbook for an eco-friendly, toxin-free, sustainable life". While the information in it was well written and nicely organised, it was too much about the problems and not enough about the solutions. I thought it spent too much time exploring all the issues we may face on a daily basis, but not enough time (sometimes none at all) on what we can do to solve the problems. I did like the tables of natural cleaning product ideas and it had some good information on the chemicals in everyday products and the effect they can have our our bodies. Did you know talc was a hormone disruptor? No, me neither. My favourite part of this book was the referencing. Being a science-geek, I like to know where the information stated is coming from.

Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano - this was a light-hearted, American version of the above book, but with better suggestions and endless resources. I haven't had time to go through all the websites it provided, but they were plentiful! A good read for ideas on how to be more 'earth-friendly', as it says on the cover.

The Green Year by Jodi Helmer - I haven't quite finished this yet, but am really enjoying working my way through it. A day-by-day guide of little things you can do to help the world. Each suggestion is actually very achievable and you can clearly see how doing even half of them would make a big difference. The book states American statistics, but even in our little country, it is easy to see how simple it can be to help out. I have done a lot of them already but some other things I want to apply soon are: switching to homemade fabric 'paper towels', buying some more houseplants, cleaning my heat pump vents, changing the margins on my Word documents and signing up for paperless billing for my power and phone line. This is a great book fill to the brim with fantastic, easy ideas. Another highly recommended read.

I haven't managed to read the last three books on the pile, but I am hoping to have at least a quick flick through before I return them tomorrow!

Now, your turn! Tell me what you are reading lately?

Monday, July 4, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 3rd July

Well, it's been a very cold week in my house. Our heat-pump decided to spontaneously break last Sunday and finding an Electrician in this city is proving near impossible. Unless you want to wait 3-4 weeks, of course. We have now been a whole week without any substantial heating and it's freezing!! So, soup and lots of clothes are on the menu for this week. The soup I will be eating and the clothes I will be wearing; unless things get desperate...

Sunday - Asian chicken noodle soup (a variation of this recipe)
Monday - slow-cooked spicy Italian sausages with cannellini beans
Tuesday - something with mince, courtesy of Paddy and his craving (only a boy would crave mince!)
Wednesday - mushroom soup with wine and creme fraiche
Thursday - roast pumpkin and homemade feta cannelloni with greens

- spelt sourdough

To Do
- soak cannelini beans
- make kombucha
- soak and sprout mung beans
- make coconut milk kefir