Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Easter-over!

As much as I love Easter and all it means, there is such relief when it is over.  I am an emotional wreck during Good Friday service as I am always pierced to my heart remembering all Jesus suffered for me .... and thankfully this was tempered with a wonderful meal afterwards with most of my family.  I had found some gorgeous organic pork shoulder roll roasts that crackled perfectly, and had with delicious apple/pear sauce, green salad (thanks Wendy) and piles of roasted veg - shallots, sweet potato, potato and pumpkin.  With my amazing apple and rhubarb crumble afterwards, it was a lovely wintery meal in gorgeous summer weather.  Yep, we went to the beach later!

There was more beachifying with cousins on the Saturday - another big feast which still included mostly additive, & sugar free foods.  Sausages, grilled veges, coleslaw, Frittata, mini-quiches, apricot balls, snowcake, Elana's scones with raspberry jam made from dates and raspberries (thanks Vikki) and piles of fruit. Gosh we ate well.  And there were 10 adults and 13 and 1/2 kids. 

The kids engrossed in the Easter Egg Hunt that my cousin Jess put together and skillfully entwined the Easter story into.

Saturday night was a shared meal with friends from church:  what a spread!  Fantastic food & wonderful company, it was actually nice  to have a night off of hosting and to not have to clean up afterwards.  Wonderful.

Easter Sunday began with choc eggs and ended with choc eggs - for my kids, that is!  I couldn't stomach much at all (thank goodness) but I did enjoy the rocky road I made to give to all the family as presents:  70% dk  chocolate melted, with toasted macadamias and shredded coconut, organic crispy rice cereal and juice-sweetened dried cranberries.  Lunch was a relief:  rocket and water cress salad with apple slices and grilled king prawns (thanks Mermaids) before the enslaught of another roast with lemon meringue to follow....... *groan*.

And for the finale:  My Chocolate Easter Cake!

My flourless hazelnut choc torte with a chocolate ganache icing, topped with 70% dark chocolate Easter eggs.  Thankfully I managed 2 small slices and the rest was gratefully shared.

And since then it's rained on & off and turned very chilly.  Time for trackie pants, socks & some hearty meals.   However, check out my little green oasis out the back:

Radish sprouts, can't wait to snip some into a salad (very peppery) soon. 
Somehow, this gorgeous green baby growth makes me understand the meaning of new life, moreso than the chocolate eggs & fluffy bunnies.  Such joy, such promise in these fragile beings.  I hope I foster some of this new growth in my heart towards a more joyous relationship with my God.

Beetroot sprouts with some fast multiplying kale in the background - tuscan & curly.

Little babies ......

Lettuce & Rocket is growing well but looking a little beaten by the heavy rainfall we've had.

My favourite - slender tendrils which will hopefully become fantastic leeks.

And for the proper finale - my gorgeous organic capsicum!  I had a crop of 2 and have seen no other flowers so I will enjoy this all on it's own, crisp and sooooo tasty.

And after such a hectic long weekend, I now need another holiday.  Thankfully next weekend is Labour Day so another 3day weekend.  I am hoping for a little more resting but I'm sure there will still be plenty more food! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter XOXOX.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Hate the Creep!

No, this isn't another diatribe on Charlie Sheen.

This is a different sort of creep:  an insidious, almost sinister-like oozing of certain unwanted things, easing their way surreptitiously back into my life again. 

I don't know if I should call it the 6 week itch or what, but there just seems to be a neverending cycle of certain bad habits starting to creep back into my life, just as you start to see some improvements again and are feeling great.  For some reason the sneaky sabotage begins anew.  I am speaking of this as though I had no control over it, but sadly, I am the one that gives permission to letting my guard down once, and then DOH!  not putting it back up again.

Coffee intake has skyrocketed recently.  I don't mind this so much as I still mainly wait till after lunch to kill the kidneys (so to speak) but I rarely stop at one now.  I have discovered the official term for the type of coffee I now LOVE - it's a Mezzo Mezzo, meaning half & half.  One shot of espresso with the same amount of milk, no sugar thanks.  That's the Italian term, the Australian term is Piccolo Latte - a miniature Cafe Latte.  And I love it so much, I can't get enough of it.  And when I don't get it, I cry.  Addiction much????

And that confounded bread!  I love, love, love my Organic Markets but seriously the Sol Breads stand is killing me - Easy-Gest Hi Top, Hot Cross Buns, Pain-au-Chocolat, and the killer:  Spinach & Fetta Calzone.   They are all sourdough, they are all sugar-free, they are all made from spelt flour - so I shouldn't feel too bad should I?  Oh, except for the massive gut-pain afterwards, and then the instant craving for more, more, more.  And then there'll be the massive mood swing, the sudden irritation at the fact that none of my children or my husband get anything right, EVER.  Oh yes, I know the pitfalls, I know the signs.  But I still let it creeeeeeeeep in.  Blah.

Oh, hahahaha, and the "only 2 pieces of 70% dark choc" with my cup of tea after the kids have gone to bed!  Hello, where did that block of G & B go???  And oops, no 70% left so better just have the crappy Nestle cooking dark choc instead, or maybe some of those Cadbury choc chips ........ it doesn't even taste nice, yet, you gotta have something ........ anything, and look, I'm not even hungry.  Oh, those mindless food traps - they kill me every time.

Salad?  Fruit?  Who can be bothered?  Just as the bad stuff increases, the good stuff decreases.  I'm lucky to shove a banana down in the mornings.  And then I start sneaking stuff at 10:45.  That's close enough to lunch isn't it?  I wonder if I have the whole bear-hibernation thing going on.  You know, the winter's coming, better start stocking up for the cold months ahead.  I want loads of heavy, dark, chunky comfort foods, not light and breezy bits of greenery.  I want deep intense cloying sweetness, not zesty bits of zing.  Oh I know I am going to have to find a medium or things will really spiral out of control.  I can't remember it being this way last Autumn but maybe, I just don't want to remember.  Nothing I hate more than feeling the control slipping out of my hands ......

But, that's not the worst part of the creeping.  It's those symptoms that's the worst of all.  Such achey fingers in the morning.  The dragging myself out of unconsciousness to put one foot in front of the other to make it to the gym in time (was I seriously bouncing out of bed, not 2 weeks ago???)  Struggling to get up those stairs again afterwards.  No interest or effort in gathering food for a healthy meal.  Such utter & debilitating tiredness at 4pm.  Losing my senses by 4:30.  Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ..................

Do  I bother trying to detox before Easter, or let it all roll past and get on with life afterwards.  Maybe, planting my Winter patch out the back, will be the revival I need?  Maybe, seeing my little babies poke their heads out of the chocolate (oh, yum) earth will inspire me to get down with the greens again?  Probably I should stop looking or viewing things through a highly imbalanced guilt complex, and start to realign the scales towards a more balanced view of food for the season to come.  What works in Summer may not work in Winter and it's best to figure it out now than wait till everything comes unravelled. 

I'm beginning to think the whole no-dairy thing is a bit of a loss.  I haven't enjoyed my dabble in the almond milk/cashew cream arena so what's a girl to do?   After reading more French-based cookbooks & literature lately, I am  definately wanting to get  into the yoghurt arena again - drizzled with some honey, nuts & seeds - that may be the more fulfilling snack mid-arvo that I need.  Oh, and how quickly did I forget about Socca!!!  My in-laws brought me back a recipe card from their trip to France for traditional Socca (not knowing I knew anything about it) and it all came flooding back to me - herb & garlic flavoured socca, crispy from the oven - loaded with pesto, greens, beetroot and avo.  What a nice change from the old buckwheat crispbread! 

So, here's to a fabulous Easter, some exciting garden growth and a more balanced (& always well-researched) view to eating warmly for the coming Winter!

PS   Any help or encouragement kindly accepted :-)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A bit almonded out ......

I've been feeling a little over the whole "let's make everything with almond flour" thing lately and it didn't help matters when I attempted an almond meal scone recipe and it turned out DISGUSTING.  What a waste of 2 and 1/2 cups of almond meal (it aint cheap you know)!  The things I've tried lately are just so far removed from what I love and enjoy that I've felt very much like giving up.  I've gone back to baking things for the kids with wheat flour (and trying very hard not to imbibe myself) and just swapping the caster sugar with xylitol, and yes, they've worked out very well, but I've lost the whole BUZZ of discovering a new recipe that fits my requirements and tastes AWESOME!

*sniff* poor me.

Until today.  My faith was renewed.  Thank you Elana - again. 

My relationship with Elana has been mostly positive.  There are very few of her recipes that have failed me, but due to others' discontent (you just gotta read some of those comments - phew!), I've been a little wary of late and have not tried any of her latest recipes.  But, I seriously needed bread today, and it was with a little trepidation that I decided to attempt the Irish Soda Bread.  I wanted something that I could drizzle with honey, smear with peanut butter, or slather with jam & actually get a fairly "safe" hit of good ole breadiness. 

I did not go into this blind-folded.  I studied all the comments and variations people had tried for the best results.  Due to other almond flour baking mishaps, I decided to adopt a little more liquid approach with this recipe, and it worked like magic.  Now, I never baked it truly the way Elana did, so I honestly don't know if hers would have worked for me and I probably never will, as this recipe ticked all the boxes with me:

Irish-ish Soda Bread

2 and 1/2 cups of blanched almond flour (yes, the blanched part is actually incredibly important)
1 and 1/2 tsps  of baking soda
1/2 tsp crushed celtic salt
1/2 cup of juice sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup of milk (I used coconut milk) with 2 tsp of souring agent (lemon juice or vinegar) - let sit for 10mins
2 med eggs (if you are using smaller eggs, use a little more liquid.  If larger eggs, use a little less liquid)
2 tbsp agave syrup

I mixed the dry stuff together, and whisked the wet ingredients together.  I then added the wet to the dry and mixed it all together with a wooden spoon. It came together in a perfect moist dough.  I could easily lift it out and shape it into a rough 20cm round (on some baking paper on a tray) and score a cross through it nicely.

I baked it in a mod oven for around 20 mins - however, I kept a close eye on it as it does brown quickly.  As soon as it seemed cooked in the middle, I turned the oven off and let it sit for another 10 mins before pulling it out & carving meself a wodge.  It barely rose, but I really didn't need it to.


A lovely cross between a scone and a cakey-bread.  Drizzled with honey - completely satisfying.  Loved the cranberries, loved the texture, loved the taste.  Total win for me! 

(And no chocolate)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Just a little bit fancy ...... Poached Chicken, Green Bean and Basil Mayo Salad.

I had ear-marked this page as soon as I saw it in Gourmet Traveller Magazine (a freebie from the Melbourne Food & Wine Show) and have been waiting for the right moment to make it (ie:  have all the ingredients, am feeling brave, can be bothered).  And today was the day.

After starting, I realised it was a little fiddlier than I expected and I should have prepared all the elements yesterday, and then I could have just "thrown" it together.  Oh well, it wasn't too bad, just the mess to clean up ......


1.  I had some vege stock (500mls should be enough) in the fridge so I poached my 2 very fat chicken breasts in this for 20 - 25 mins.  Not only does it produce delightfully moist chicken but it flavours the vege stock further and you can reuse it for something else (I'm thinking soup) to get the maximum out of it.  After it's cooled, shred it - there was enough meat for all 6 of us.

2.  Collected 2 cups of loosely packed basil leaves, put them in a small sieve and dunked them in a pot of boiling water for 30 secs till ludicrously bright green.  Then I drained them, and doused them in a bowl of icy water, drained again, squeezed out the most moisture I could (in the strainer) and then dried them further on paper towels.  I did the basil in 2 batches and was left with 2 very attractive lumps:

3.  Using the same boiling water & sieve I also blanched the trimmed green beans (2 handfuls worth) for 2 mins and refreshed in the cold water too.  

4.  While all the blanching was going on, I was also roasting a tray of walnuts in the oven till toasty brown. 

5.  Time for the mayo:  put basil, 2 egg yolks, 2 tbsps of white wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp dijon mustard (I didn't have any & I don't think it hurt it any) in a processor and make it go crazy till well blended.  Then add 150mls of extra virgin olive oil very slowly through the spout (while the processor is still going) in a thin, constant stream.  I was highly dubious that it would turn to mayo consistency - but it did.  YAY!  And it was a very foxy green colour too.  Taste and season with S & P and some lemon juice,  even a little honey if you need it a bit sweet.  It can also be thinned out with a little water for the drizzling effect.

6.  Assemblage:  Rocket leaves and Radish sprouts laid out on a platter (I like my salads flat not piled into a bowl), I would have used watercress as was suggested but darned if I could find any, even tho I saw it everywhere last week.  :-(   Then loaded up with chicken, green beans, walnuts ..... but there was one thing missing.  The GT's recipe also suggested red grapes in the salad as the final touch, but I can't have grapes (cause of Candida diet) so had to find that last sweet element.  Finally decided on some thinly sliced red gala apples - and hey! we were ready to rock:

And there's some left for lunch today.  Very happy girl.