Wednesday, 28 August 2013

MoFo is Coming...and a Grilled Fennel Salad

Hello vegheads, MoFo 2013 is just around the corner! Spade and Spoon is definitely participating again this year and I have a heap of things I want to do and share with you over the next month. You know what I love about MoFo (apart from drooling over all the food porn of course)? It's Spring for Down Under!!! Since we are vegging it out a month earlier MoFo starts on the first day of Spring, what better way to celebrate than using some really great ingredients that have been missing from the veg supplies over winter. Just when you think you can't eat anymore winter stodge and you're too afraid to step on the scales, the weather warms up, the days get longer, and lovely Spring veg becomes available. I'm looking at you asparagus! On the other hand, I fear baring my winter legs may just blind everybody and perhaps I should hand out the sunnies until the shock subsides. Or the glare.

I have a winter salad to share with you before we delve into MoFo, grilled fennel and blood orange with a tahini dressing. It's pretty simple. Enjoy!

1 fennel bulb cut into thin slices lengthways
2 blood oranges, peeled and cut into rounds
2 cups mixed salad leaves
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 tsp olive oil
cracked black pepper to taste
pinch sea salt

Pan grill fennel until softened on each side, and set aside.
Pan grill blood orange, it only needs about 30 seconds on each side as the sugars will burn otherwise!
Whizz tahini, lemon juice, water, oil, salt and pepper in a blender or use a hand mixer.
Assemble salad leaves, fennel and orange on a plate and drizzle with the dressing.

Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Red Onion Jam

I don't know why people don't like Brussel Sprouts. Is it because they have only eaten them boiled to a yellowy mush and forced to eat them as a child? I fear many such vegetables have been shunned and mocked, the last to be picked as part of a team, or left on the bench while the other more cool and hip fruit and veg get to be in the spotlight. Kale which is so in right now ( I mean Donna Hay jumped on that band wagon after all) was once left to wilt on the bench, and it now has more glamour than the Kardashians. Sprouts and kale are cousins after all, so why not give the Brussels a shot ?

Simon Bryant is one of my favourite chefs, and although he is not a vegetarian does some pretty fantastic work in making them appealing to the carnivorous lot. I loved watching him with Maggie Beer on The Cook and the Chef, he always seemed to balance out Maggie's meat and dairy rich meals with a large helping of vegetables. Add to that a good sense of humour about "cheffy showing off" and a love of really good produce from paddock to plate. I snapped up his book Vegies  as soon as it came out, and we have tried a few recipes - its probably one of my favourite food porn books. He also happens to be a fan of the poor sprout, so we tried his roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion Jam. I omitted the egg yolk and cheese,  and subbed dairy free margarine and soy to make the white sauce. I already had a jar of homemade red onion jam in the fridge, so making it was a snap. It was absolutely DELICIOUS! the jam really makes this dish in my opinion, the sauce is the subtle carrier. Honestly, if you don't like sprouts, give this recipe a try. You may just be converted.

Bon appetit!

Pockets of Happiness

There is a certain amount of smugness I have this evening as I type. I haven't got out of the habit yet of having a panic mid Sunday afternoon because I haven't done all the weekend jobs that I intended. Then I realise its ok because I don't have a job to turn up to now and my timetable is my own, so its perfectly OK to get that job finished on Monday. 

Today however, I got all of my tasks done. As much as it irks me to have to buy a garden mix to help top up the vegie beds, it's just not possible for me to make enough compost for 14 beds, plus all the fruit trees, and everything along the back fence. At least with the chooks I never have to get manure.  So today we got some top up mix, and I managed to get three large barrows of compost out, plus mucking out the chook shed - a very productive day in the garden - chooks helping by turning everything over and having a good time! It was warm and sunny for August, little pockets of happiness poking up all over the garden. The jonquils and snowdrops have been flowering for a few weeks now, the daffodils are beginning to open, and the broad beans are flowering already. Taking the hounds for a walk the bush is heady with wattle bursting out everywhere. This week the weather has lulled me into the false sense that Spring is already here, and some of the plants have been fooled as well. 

The apricot decided to burst into blossom early, ruining my intention to treat it with lime sulphur before bud burst. Lucky for me the peaches, cherries, apples, and roses haven't decided to poke their head out from under the doona yet and decide to get up for Spring, so those I did spray. If you have ever used lime sulphur you will know it stinks to high heaven like rotten eggs, so I tried spraying in the least breezy part of the day I could. I daresay if it doesn't succeed in keeping away the fungal diseases it may succeed in keeping away the brats that live next door. Hmm, I shall have to keep that in mind and spray along the fence where they tend to pop up and peer over. Nevertheless, despite my care (it is a dangerous substance after all) I am in need of a raspberry and vanilla scented bath to be rid of the smell. The beloved didn't realise what I was doing and thought the dogs had let off until I told him what it was! 

I also got some seed trays underway for those plants that aren't too keen on our low temperatures at higher altitudes. If you haven't thought about what you are planting for the warmer season you had better hurry up! Even if you don't need a sneaky head start in mid August like myself, many of the popular heirloom seed varieties are sold out by the end of September, so order them now! As always I used many of the Lost Seed varieties, supplemented with some heirloom varieties from Yates. The Beloved bought me a tin full of them last Christmas, so I gleefully rifled through them this morning, and suddenly realised somehow I had three packets of rocket from my combined seed hoard?!  I shall have to donate some to Mrs Bean, who has a fondness for rocket that is only surpassed by her love of freshly cracked black pepper...

Happy gardening!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Chocolate Fudgey Oatmeal Cookies & Blackstrap Gingersnaps

Chocolate Fudgey Oatmeal Cookies
 Admittedly I'm not posting this on Monday, but I can assure you, the Beloved's Treat Tins were full to bursting on Monday! First off are the Chocolate Fudgey Oatmeal Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  I knew these were going to be super choc and super sweet just by reading the ingredients, and hence the Beloved would like them. They taste great, and are very fudgey, and moist. If you are going to make these, don't get too alarmed if the dough is more like batter! I found it was quite runny, but let it stand for 10 minutes for the oats to soak up the moisture, and the dough was fine.
There isn't any mention of this in the recipe, so just a heads up if you're going to make them.
Blackstrap Gingersnaps
Next I made the Blackstrap Gingersnaps. I was looking forward to these because I quite like ginger biscuits, and they aren't overly sweet. They taste really good, there is a bit of a back note of bitterness from the molasses to balance out the sugar, and they are lovely and gingery. To make them more snappy I would personally make the dough a little firmer to roll out and cut out the cookies so they are thinner and more like biscuits (that's Aussie biscuit, not American biscuit for those of you in the northern hemisphere). I did find with these ones that I had to add more flour than the recipe called for to get a dough firm enough to roll into balls, somewhere between 1/2 to 3/4 cup, so keep that in mind if you have a crack at these ones too. 

I'll keep going with Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar for a couple more recipes and then switch it up with another recipe book, just to keep me from getting bored with the one book :)

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Cookbook Mondays: Choc Chip Cookies & Carrot Raisin Spice Chewies

I won't be the first to admit it, but I do have a slight cook book addiction. Previously, I would snap up magazines and cook books that I knew in my heart of hearts I would likely rarely (alright I'll be honest NEVER) use or barely scratch the surface of. I was suckered in by all that food porn, the pretty pictures and the delicious descriptions. Occasionally I might get some out, flip through and vow to make something...but would usually end up making something else instead. and that's sad, because there is a lot of work that goes into cook books and I only think it fair to actually genuinely try to make a dent in the recipes of every book I buy. Otherwise, what's the point? And how will you ever learn something new?  So now that I'm a SAHW and part of my job is to keep the Beloved's treat tins filled, I decided to start blogging Cookbook Mondays. I'll be making something from a cookbook I own at least once per week and posting my success or failure. 

To start off with I decided to go with Isa and Terry's  Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar because lets face it, if my hubby was a puppet he'd probably be the Cookie Monster. I have made a few cookies from the book with success before, but there are so many the logical thing to do was start from the beginning.

Choc Chip Cookies 

Hmmm. I was a little disappointed because I have used various recipes of Isa and Terry's and they are nearly always spot on for measurements. I was very surprised when I made the cookie dough and discovered it was more of a thick batter consistency. After double checking my quantities and not having made any errors, I started adding in more flour. I ended up using close to 3 cups instead of the original 1 1/2. Even allowing for humidity etc I can't understand why the batter was so wrong. After baking they turned out OK, not too sweet, although I hadn't increased the sugar to make up the flour, but that was OK by me because I'm not a super sweet tooth. It is a good basic vegan cookie, but lacking in a buttery choc chip cookie flavour if you know what I mean, so I probably wouldn't use this particular recipe again.

Carrot Raisin Spice Chewies
I really liked the flavour of these guys, and again, not overly sweet so I was pretty happy to dunk them in my EGT (earl grey tea). Like they say in the book, they are best eaten the day they are made, as they dry out a little, but I'm a dunker so being drier later on wasn't an issue. The only discrepancy with them was the recipe said to leave two inches between cookies (presumably as they would spread) but mine did not spread at all, so on my second batch I flattened them out so they weren't mounds. I did make the drizzle but did it in orange not lemon as I already used orange in the cookies and didn't want to be wasteful. Really good, I will definitely make them again (when I've worked my way through the rest!)

Friday, 2 August 2013

The New Life of a SAHW

Poppy, our sixth furkid
Awhile ago my husband took a leap, quit his job, and started his own business. It was scary, exciting, and nerve racking. To be honest, I was a little put out - I wanted to start my own business, and he had made this decision quite suddenly. BUT, we had talked about it, and although it worried me at first, we put my plans aside for awhile, and now my husband is quite a busy man! 

Life for me, however, was becoming quite dissatisfying. I was stuck in an office all day, and although getting catering requests was great, I wasn't getting enough time to do it, as well as a full time job and look after the Beloved, our house, and all the furkids. The Beloved was also getting bogged down with paperwork. We tussled with the idea of me quitting my job, but it had to be viable. So, we decided to take a trial just living off what the Beloved earned for a few months, to see if it were possible for me to quit my job, and build up my business while looking after his paperwork. Amazingly, it did work, so we thought about it a bit more, took the plunge, and I quit my job.

So here I am, a Stay At Home Wife. Some might say I have thrown away all my feminist principles, turned back time by 50 years, and agreed to  keep house, and look after my husband. Well, yes. On the other hand, I'm not doing it because I HAVE to do it, I'm doing it because I WANT to do it. I am lucky enough to have that choice, and lucky enough to have a husband supporting my ambitions too. I'm putting my business admin skills to use by helping him, and hopefully I will get busy enough running my own business as well. That aside, I quite like being at home to make sure everything is neat and tidy, the Beloved comes home to dinner ready for him, and I get to bake more often! He works very hard, starts early, and often gets home late. Its nice that he doesn't have to worry about helping me out with the house as well now. 

In order for catering to be doable for me, we are converting our sunroom into another separate commercial style kitchen so I can cook from home rather than hiring a kitchen and having to work around other people. This is quite an exciting process, so I will be posting the progress as we go. 

I also have a few other projects up my sleeve, but it does mean I will have more time to blog now, which is GREAT!!!   It also means I get more time with our six furkids (we just adopted another ex racing greyhound), and more time in God's creation, growing our own fruit and veg. 

And in case you were wondering (as a few people have asked me), I won't be changing my title in future to a SAHM. God just didn't make me to feel the urge to have some small humans, He blessed me with a love of animals instead :)