Saturday, August 6, 2011


In the kitchen
A few weeks ago, I pulled out my 'Women's Weekly Italian Cooking Class Cookbook' to find my Osso Buco recipe.  This book came from my late, great Aunty Teresa, a Sicilian who thought that this book was mostly ok for Italian recipes.

Out of the pages floated two small sheets of paper. In the weeks after her death, I had torn the house apart to find these pieces of paper, and I'm sure that I looked carefully through this book to find them, to no avail.  But here they were now.  They have the recipes for a potato pancake, arancini and Aunty T biscuits scribbled on them.

When she died, I asked my son what he would most miss about her.
He said her stupid jokes and her biscuits.

Her jokes were stupid.  From the time he was eighteen months old, she would tell him that I wasn't his mother anymore, and I was her mum now, just to see his reaction.  Initially, he would cry.  At two years old, he would try to punch her.  By the time he was four, he would just roll his eyes and tell her not to be so dumb.  I think that the purpose of the joke was to help him grow a thicker skin, and entertain her..  She did like a good fight.

Her biscuits were divine. And I'd never made them, or tested her recipe when she was alive because you could always visit her and be force fed them until you exploded, along side incredibly strong expresso coffee.

I tried the recipe and it didn't work - and I've modified it a bit and it still is not the same (the biscuits don't rise properly) but they taste the same which is the important thing...

Osso Buco
4 osso buco
2 carrots
2 onions
3 celery sticks
1 clove garlic
800g whole tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
500mls beef stock
Strip of lemon rind
1. Fry up smashed garlic, diced carrots, onions and celery until the onions are golden brown - transfer to an oven proof dish.
2. Fry up osso buco in the pan, browning well on both sides - put on top of veggies
3. Either use a good jar of spaghetti sauce or make it:
Cook up tomatoes, with wine stock, herbs and lemon rind, bringing it to the boil and season with salt and pepper - then pour this over the veggies and meat
4. Cover the casserole and place in a moderate oven for 1 1/2 hours and serve.

Aunty T biscuits (almost)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 table spoons oil
1 cup self raising flour
cinnamon to taste
1. Beat eggs and sugar together
2. Whisk in oil
3. Add sifted flour and cinnamon
4. Ingredients should form a soft dough
5. Place on tray, lined with baking paper and cook for 10 mins at 250 degrees,
Let cool in oven to crisp up - then eat in one sitting, as if an old Italian lady is compelling you to eat more and more and more.  Leaving any would be an insult.

In the garden this week:
We harvested:
- Turnips (used in a stir fry, eaten most happily by the baby)
- Parsley, coriander
- Heaps of broccolini

Broad beans are flowering, as are self seeded tomato plants.

We need to start thinking about what to plant for spring.

I found some silverbeet, growing out from underneath some broccolini, that must have self seeded from a cutting given to us by Aunty Teresa years ago.  It was nice to be visited by memories from her in the kitchen and garden this week.  I miss her.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Another one bites the dust

Today, as the day dawned over Melbourne, I started a half marathon.
I started running a few years ago, running as far and fast as I could in one direction for 11 minutes, then trying to come back in 9.  Recently, I was running 5 km, 6 days a week, and on seeing the 'Run Melbourne Half Marathon' advertised, I thought I'd give it ago.

This morning, the crowd waited in semi-darkness for the start.  It was gorgeous running through the streets as the sun came up.

At the 2km mark, I thought that the people who were already walking weren't putting in a huge effort.
At 4kms, I thought that the mix tape I'd put on my Ipod was awesome, I was running well but I'd never catch the older lady in hot pink 50m ahead of me (she had great pace).
At the half way mark, I passed the older lady and had really found my legs, making excellent time.  The event had lots of little music groups playing as you passed, a violinist, jazz band, and some djs.  The dj playing 'Another One Bites the Dust' was spectacularly uncool.
At the 13km mark, I realised I was now on track to finish in under 2 hrs - I would never have thought that was possible.

Things looked rosy, UNTIL the 14km mark, when my knee started to go.  I stopped to rub it and it felt better for a while, but by 18kms it was a mess. I had to walk or run with small steps. I lost time but I was finishing no matter what.  

As I came through to the last 100m I saw my folks and my family cheering me on - a big plus and then came across the line and stopped running, and almost started crying.  But then remembered it was all over and instantly felt better and started feeling fantastic again.  The person I came across the line with also started limping as they finished - there were probably lots of people with the same problems as myself.

Earlier this week, my kids and I were struck with the horrible fever/flu/bug thing that everyone seemed to have, and on Wednesday, I really thought that I wouldn't be able to do the event, but everything cleared up and I was able to try.

If you want to have a go at running, I highly recommend it.  Aside from the muscle soreness setting in, I feel incredible and really chuffed with myself.  It was a huge amount of work but the Run Melbourne event was a great goal to have.  A month ago, I ran 18kms as fast as I could, finishing in 2hrs 18mins, so even since then, I've seen a huge improvement.

To train, I've run 5km on Tuesdays and Thursdays (half hour duration, up and down the hills of Moonee Ponds/Brunswick), and a longer run, 12-18km on Saturday mornings (up to Carlton or down to the Maribynong, 1-2hrs).  I have done these runs by myself but running with a pram is great exercise too.  In my experience, the child along for the ride either sleeps or pretends they are flying.  Anyway, once you have a modicum of fitness, the time required isn't huge, and like most people, I enjoyed listening to my Ipod as I went along, spending sometime inside my own head.

In the garden this week:

  • More coffee grinds have been scattered to stop the onslaught of snails and improve flowering.
  • We have plans to trial an idea from Anthony Bourdain's show 'No Reservations' from Spain, where salad onions were cut and put under soil, growing leek like tops - will keep you posted regarding any success.
  • We have capsicum plants growing from composted material throughout the garden - growing fruit even in this cold weather.

Monday, July 4, 2011


This week, in the garden:
While buying the large quantities of chocolate and coffee at our local cafe/sweet shop, my husband has set up a deal with the shop owner, where he gets all the used coffee grinds from their busy coffee machine for our garden.
He is collecting two large bags twice a week, so that now our veggie patch has about an inch covering of coffee grinds over the surface.  Any snail problems have ceased instantly.  And the broccoli is sprouting hugely, so that we have 3 big servings a week, and there is a risk of stuff remaining going to seed.  I noticed when planting out some seedlings that the the soil seems to be improving a lot too.

Also harvested this week:

  • Beetroot leaves for a salad, along side spinach and lettuce, nice for the colour.
  • Coriander, mint, parsley
  • Radish
One school holiday activity will be to set up a structure around the broadbeans to allow them to keep growing upwards.

In the kitchen this week:
When my parents were over for an impromptu dinner, I had roasted brussel sprouts as in this recipe.
My dad was delighted.  My husband and mother were horrified.  Apparently, Mum had never made me eat them, and was shocked that I'd dish them up for her.  The dissenters politely tried them, but clearly were forcing them down, being watched by an amused five yo, exempt from the experiment.  Dad thought the brussel sprouts were lovely.  Everyone else declined to comment.  I thought they were great, and I've never even liked them.  The outer leaves blackened and went crispy like thin chips, so there was a mix of soft vegetable and crunchiness that was fantastic.
I tried cooking them again on Sunday night, again with my folks over, this time adding bacon to the mix.  The diners were far happier with this, with the bacon flavour infusing with the vegetable even appreciated by my semi-vego husband, but all the fabulous crispiness was lost, so I wasn't a huge fan anymore.  Everyone is a critic.  

I think that I'll revert to the original recipe and just make them when my dad is coming over.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Quest and rest

In the garden this week:
Somewhat uncleverly, my husband put painful dermatitis on his hand in close proximity to rotting matter when turning the compost without gloves on.  In the process managing to lose his wedding ring amongst the muck.
I suggested a trip across town to borrow his dad's metal detector, but he preferred to carefully look through the decaying matter (with now gloved hands) in his quest for the ring.  Half an hour later, he immerged dirty but triumphant, ring on finger, quest complete.  And apparently the compost was really well mixed now too.  Awesome.
We have harvested spinach, coriander, lettuce, parsley, and broccolini - very yum.
Roses have been pruned also - despite the fact that they were still flowering - otherwise I'd never have gotten around to it...

For some garden inspiration - 

I also took my folks and baby on a tour of the Fitzroy gardens in the city led by one of their gardeners - it was free and a really great way of hearing about the history of Melbourne, via the development of an amazing garden...  The garden is worth visiting, even without the tour though - lots of little surprises around each bend in the path, with my favourite being the Conservatory - a riot of colour and breath taking plant displays, open every day except Christmas, 9-5pm.  Tours start at 12:30 on Wednesday, outside the Conservatory.

In the kitchen this week:

  • Lemon soup - mentioned last week was trialled and much loved by all, including the baby - with shredded chicken put through the soup for meat eaters.  Good winter meal, especially if you are getting a sore throat.
  • Breakfast for dinner - tonight we had scrambled eggs as per Tetsuya - delicious and prepared in under 2 minutes - excellent!

Monday, June 6, 2011


In the garden this week, we have harvested, spinach, radishes and the first brocollini and lemons.

A few years ago, gall wasp attacked citrus trees through Melbourne and we were told to cut off all affected branches.  My dad and father in law performed the tree surgery, leaving us with a mere stump of a tree.  It was very sad.  More happily, in recent years, we have been told that you just need to cut into the gall wasp bumps on the tree so that affected trees can be allowed to grow.  Ours has regrown and this is the first year where we have a decent crop since the sad stumping.

In preparation for the ripening of the fruit, I'm including my recipes for dealing with a glut of lemons:

Lemon and hot water - excellent cold remedy, important as the weather gets colder and my nose starts running like a tap.

Preserved lemons:
I follow a recipe from Maggie Beer -
Preserving lemons is quick and easy...
With the bitter pith removed, the peel can add a punch to anything savoury, beyond tagine cooking.  My favourite uses are adding it to greek yohgurt with some mint for a kebab sauce, or adding it with tiny diced veggies to couscous for a bright looking, sharp tasting salad...

Lemon slice:
I saw this being made on tv last week - looked very tart but yummo:
I've lost the little book that I have my normal lemon tart recipe in. Grrrrrrr.

Lemon soup?
When picking up our son at school, one of the mum's was passing out lemons from her tree, and another took them all very happily, to make 'lemon soup', a big family favourite based on a staple from Greek Easter - we will be giving this a go - very intriguing.

Lemon Ice Cream: (Makes 8 inch ice cream cake)
For an easy cake for a celebration, try this ice-cream cake.
The only difficult bit of this is standing over the lemon curd stirring as it sets, but is worth the effort for a decadent dessert.
Lemon Ice Cream
1 recipe lemon curd*
500mls cream
6 tb sp icing sugar
lemon juice to taste
 Beat curd until smooth
 Whip cream and sugar
 Fold in curd
 Freeze for 3 hours
  OR alternately, freeze for 1.5 hours and then fold in some meringue for lemon meringue ice cream.

   *Lemon Curd (makes ~1lt)
     4 large lemons
     250g butter
     360g sugar
     6 beaten eggs
       Grate zest
       Squeeze juice and add to sugar and butter
       Double boil it until butter melts
       Add eggs and stir for 20 minutes until it thickens and is translucent...
       Sieve mixure..

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Autumn leaves are falling and the broadbeans have hit around 50cm high, radishes, lettuce, spinach and herbs are being harvested.
On ABC Gardening (Channel 2, 6:30pm Saturday nights) a while ago, they said you could plant out the roots of spring onions and they’d grow again.  As I've said on previous posts, I tried it and it works, and since then I’ve been chopping some off most nights and they keep regrowing which is handy.  With the roots already grown, the veggies shoot up really quickly.

With some experimentation, I’ve found that works for leeks too.  On cold days, it is great to wander out the front and get some leek for a winter soup.
It is nice to find that you can recycle kitchen scraps for something other than the compost.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pick a salad

In the garden this week:
Harvesting radish, spinach, spring onions (regrown from bought spring onions), coriander and lettuce.
Radish is a fast growing veggie, and can be planted year round.  It has a 4-8 week growing time, depending on time of the year (longer in cooler months), worth putting in if you have space, to get some crunch in your salads, especially now when not much with colour is growing.

In the kitchen this week:
A chicken and 'cheese sauce'* vol au vent** with salad made from the above items with a mustard dressing:
Teaspoon - mustard
Tablespoon - balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons - olive oil...

*'Cheese sauce' is code in our house for cauliflower and peeled zucchini soup reduced to make a thick sauce, relabelled to assist in the hiding of vegetables from young children - also doubles as baby food.
**The vol au vent cases were made following Easy to make - kids could do it...  They turned out a bit dumpy but were well received with the comment:
                                      'Vol a what? It's easier to say dinner croissant' from the 5yo.

This was my slightly healthier version of seen on Everyday Gourmet on channel 10 at 4pm weekdays...  

It was nice despite the wintery temperature to be able to walk out into the yard for the ingredients to make a salad with crunch and colour.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's simple, dahl-ing

I spent this afternoon at a 'Food in Writing' event at our local library.  It was a real joy to hear the voices I've seen in writing over a period of time, and hopefully some of their tips improve the writing here.

In the Garden:
When I walk out through our garden, normally in a rush to get to school, or to get into the house out of the rain, I see it in a a greeny blur.  When I took some time this week, to look at how it is progressing and to weed it, I realised that usually, I think about the next thing I need to do, not the learning and effort required to get it to it’s current state.   We aren’t experts by any stretch of the imagination, but overtime, we have formed some good gardening habits.  I thought that I’d elaborate on some of our gardening building blocks today:
 Broadbeans at 40cm...
We have an open compost area ~80cm x 80cm by ~1 m high, where garden waste like grass clippings, leaves, weeds, as well as some kitchen scraps go (onion, banana and citrus peels and egg shells), with some dry chicken manure added, and lime also to reduce any bad smells.  Even in the coolest winter days, the area is hot enough to steam and put out significant heat.

When starting a compost heap, you’ll need some old composted matter to help get the heap going, with the bacteria provided starting to break down the compost matter.  Garden centres supply a product to do this, if you don’t have a friend to provide a starter bucket…

My husband looks after the compost and turns it often (minimum 5 times a week which is definitely excessive) to ensure that everything is mixing through.

There are lots of great, off the ground compost bins that can be easily turned available, but they do cost a bit.   Ours is at the cheaper end of the market, ie just cobbled together.  An off the ground, rotational compost bin may be a good idea moving forward, especially given that a rat plague is apparently winding its way through Melbourne - urgh.

Worm Farm:
All kitchen waste is put in the worm farm except for:
  • Onion, banana and citrus peels and egg shells which the worms don’t like, my husband has noticed their taste over time.
  • Animal products (meat, dairy...) 
Waste paper is added to insulate the space in winter and also as worm food. 
A huge number of worms work to break down the food and paper and create castings (wet poo, as black as petrol).  From this you can put the castings into your garden beds, or use the ‘juice’ or ‘tea’ that goes to the bottom of the container, as a liquid fertilizer, watering it down to 1 cup per 9 litre watering can, and put this over the garden – ideally fortnightly for a veggie patch to help add growth.

Hmmmm, Juicy

Worm farms have to be kept cool in summer, because if the worms overheat and die, it isn’t just sad for them, it is sad for you.  The smell is the most repulsive thing you could ever, ever, ever imagine.  It is the stuff of nightmares.  Thus the the hession bags over our worm farm that are kept damp in the summer months, and left on for insulation in winter.

We have a worm farm from the hardware shop, but there are lots of home made designs around also, if you are looking to make one for yourself.

Clearly, the compost and worm farm are dirty things, full of rotting matter, but create wonderful things for the garden.  ABC Gardening estimates 300kg of waste per household per year can be saved through composting and for us, it has resulted in lower financial costs for gardening, with less bought fertilizer required for the garden due to the worm juice (I estimate ~$90/year, using seasol in lieu of worm juice, fortnightly application to veggie patch only) and bought soil not required for our recent new garden bed addition (~$90 for bagged soil as we don’t have a trailer to bring in unbagged soil from landscape supply centre).  

Coffee Grinds:
Coffee grinds from your coffee pot help flowering plants produce fruit and also, snail and slugs do not like to travel over them, so can act as a barrier to protect  the plants.

Sudden Impact for Roses:
I use 'Sudden impact for Roses' twice a year, in spring and autumn – It is an expensive but v effective pellet fertilizer used on all flowering plants to add flower and fruit production.  I believe it makes a huge difference to the garden overall, though my husband is insulted that I don't rely on this worm juice alone.

I’ve picked up a lot of gardening information over time from the following sources:
-       The local library for various books to peruse, magazines and dvds for gardening.
-       Vasili’s Garden TV show – SBS Wednesdays 7:30pm,
      Vasili is an passionate gardener who visits lots of old school gardensaround Melbourne for tips for food production – It is excellent for lots of tried and tested ideas – This week, he visited a man with an excellent and huge veggie patch who attributed most of his success to ‘chicken manure tea’, chicken manure left to age in water and then distributed through the garden for fabulous results.  The previous week, we learnt about grafting fruit-trees from a master who had an incredible amount of fruit trees on a standard block.  I secretly dream of one day being a featured garden on his show. 

-       ABC Gardening Australia, Saturday Nights 6:30 – they visit lots of gardens, including their own in Hobart’s Botanical Gardens to display lots of horticulture and permiculture techniques, and also have a bit at the end of the show regarding what is good to plant throughout Australia in the current time.
-       3AW Saturday/Sunday mornings 8-10am: Garden star Jane Edmanson is on the radio to answer any garden questions you might have specific to your own patch and often, if she can’t help, she’ll find out or a caller with ring in with a tip.
-       Yates Garden Guide. My copy belonged to my Pop and is from the 70s, and has heaps of tables and info to help plan your garden, I used it intensively when we were planting a summer flower garden for our wedding at home – was a great help.
-       Anyone who has a garden – gardeners love to talk, if you see something in someones garden and want information about it, just ask, they are bound to love to tell you all about it.  We’ve had lots of help from parents and friends, and some of my favourite plants have come from cuttings from other people’s yards…

Creating a garden can be so simple and easy, with occasion bursts of energy required for a long term benefit.  With rising food costs and food miles increasing, and food quality becoming more and more questionable, a veggie patch is an excellent way of doing something awesome for yourself.

If you wanted to check out the produce from a veggie patch before investing, you could visit Annie Smithers restaurant in Kyneton - the duck there is supposed to be to die for:

If I was starting a patch today I would:
  • Ask gardening friends for help, including trying to get some ages compost or worm castings to use
  • Mark out a small area to use in the sunshine, probably making a raised garden bed with lumber either from the hardware shop (recently, this has cost us $36 for a bed 2.4 x 1.2 m) , making sure it is suitable for vegetable patches, cobbling it together with brackets that you can hammer into the corners.
  • Failing that, I’d do something in some containers, anything with holes in the bottom will do at a pinch…
  • Fill in the bed or containers with soil from a landscape supply centre (ring around for best cost – if in trailer and unbagged, you can make big savings).
  • Plant for winter, choosing from: 

                                    Broadbean seedlings (possibly too late for seeds now)
                                    Parsley seeds
                                    Rocket seeds
                                    Coriander seeds
                                    Carrots seeds
                                    Broccoli seedlings – brocollini if you can find them!
                                    SPINACH seeds – Yates Winter Queen worked excellently for us last year.
  • Water in if not raining but in this weather should look after itself, throw on coffee grinds daily to reduce the incidence of snail attack and sit back, watch it grow and wait to enjoy the spoils in no time at all.

It is ok to just have a go in the garden, vegetable gardening can have great rewards.
Sometimes it doesn't work and that is ok too.  In the heavy and unusual rain this year, I 've found some mushrooms growing in the veggie beds, that aren't supposed to be there and are most likely poisonous.  Given that until that last few months, we have struggled with water supply, lugging water from the bath to the patch, this amount of damp is a tad disturbing.  Around the corner from us, a gardener grew bananas on his banana tree for the first time in 20 years!  They didn't grow to full size but it shows what an incredible change in weather we are seeing in 2011.

Spot the mushroom?

In the Kitchen this week:
In Melbourne, the weather has bypassed autumn, heading straight for winter.  We swapped the school sunhat for a beanie and my sandles for boots and trudged through the rain with an umbrella mangled by the wind.  With the rain continuing to fall, possibly aiding unwanted mushroom growth in the veggie patch, we have been eating soup, glorious soup, to stymie the damp settling into our bones.  

These are lentil soups, to follow on from the diet started last week.

Red lentil Soup (Steph’s soup, as provided by my sister in law Jackie – thanks!)
Onion diced
2 carrots diced
~200g of dried red lentils (½ pack of McKenzies Red Lentils)
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1.5 l of stock/water
Cumin a teaspoon or to taste
Paprika a teaspoon or to taste

  1. Fry onion over medium heat until golden brown (3 minutes), 
  2. Add carrots, and spices, tomato paste and then lentils 
  3. Add stock and cover and simmer for 20 minutes 
  4.  Serve, with a dollop of yoghurt to mix through…

With ~800 mls stock/water in lieu of 1.5 litres, this soup becomes Dahl which is also a very yummy winter meal, particularly with chunks of left over roast lamb stirred through it.  Delicious.

Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Leek Soup
2 leeks, rinsed well and chopped thinly
Large Sweet Potato peeled and diced (or pumpkin)
Tin – chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Water/stock to cover the soup in the saucepan (~1.5litres)

  1. Fry up leeks for ~5 minutes or until golden, (a spoonful of butter can help to reduce the chance of the leeks burning if your attention wanders and the pot is not stirred regularly in this time)
  2. Add in sweet potato and chickpeas, heat through for a minute.
  3. Then add stock, and cover, simmering for 30 minutes and serve with chopped parsley and parmesan if desired.

Hopefully as the days darken, this kind of healthy comfort food can warm the soul but not thicken the hips- enjoy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


In the garden this week:
Strong growing continues, helped along by rain (the 4th bed is damp enough to have produced a mushroom - ikkk) and sunshine.  Temperatures are still high enough for self seeded tomatoes to be growing.

Broadbeans are standing ~35cm tall.
Lots of 'micro herbs' growing, as are lots of micro weeds.  Some micro weeding is required.
With the dropping temperature, growing may slow in the following weeks.

Lettuce, spinach, parsley and coriander, basil harvested this week for recipes below.
And shared from friends and neighbours, half a pumpkin, quinces and persimmon - all very gratefully received.

In the kitchen this week - muchos confusion.
On Monday night, I watched the return of Masterchef, where there were drama and cooking aplenty.  I stood idle in my kitchen, until the flying frypans and food motivated me to pull out ingredients to make a cake I'd been thinking about since reading 'A Tiny Bit Marvellous' by Dawn French.  The book was ok but the recipes at the end looked pretty promising, particularly 'Mo's Beetroot Cake.'  I thought that this would be a lovely pink type cake and would push the memory of a less than successful Red Velvet cake that I made at Easter further towards the back of my mind:

Beetroot cake (with modifications due to limited ingredients in pantry/fridge):
180g sugar                         I used 1/2 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
180g plain flour
180g almond meal
50g cocoa powder
1 ts baking powder
pinch salt
200ml sour cream              I used 100ml sour cream, 100ml strawberry yoghurt
1 ts vanilla essence
200g grated beetroot         I used 1/2 a tin of beetroot, mashed up using a hand mixer.

Whisk eggs and sugar for 5 minutes (I did for about a minute - less height in cake due to using brown sugar and not whisking long enough)..
Add dry ingredients and beat to combine.
Beat in liquid ingredients and beetroot.
Pour into greased and papered cake tin and bake for 50 minutes.

But by the time this had finished cooking, 'The Biggest Loser Finale' had come on, and though it smelt gorgeous, eating cake, or more to the point, calorie consumption was not appealing.  Though I was happy it has veggies in it and could use it to get Trojan veggies into my son Troy (would be funny if that was his name..)

I started thinking that after an Easter of heavy chocolate consumption, attempting the emulate the rich food of Masterchef was probably an unwise choice.  I don't want to end up a waddling whale like George and Gary.  Borrowing out huge cook books from the library each week and perusing lots of food blogs may not be the way to go to avoid a further expanding waistline...

Then, I remembered a post from a while ago from regarding the 4 hour body diet:
Relooking through this info, I started formulating thoughts about better options than how I've been eating recently - lots of sandwiches, pasta, etc which are quick and easy and make the rest of the family happy. And me chubbier, despite running ~5km 6 days a week, pushing the baby in a pram...

The diet suggestions include:
  • Nothing white or what could be white - so no pasta, bread, potatoes etc
  • Replace white carbs with beans/lentils where possible
  • Eggs for breakfast
  • Eat whatever you want, one day a week, so your body can't get too used to the diet so that it can continue to work well and so that you get rid of any cravings and end up feeling sick and so strengthen your resolve to continue with the diet.
Considering the diet suggested and considering my current situation (breastfeeding mother) and not liking the idea of having a lot of beans (even baked beans for breakfast don't appeal to me) I formulated a diet to follow:
Breakfast: A banana, blueberry and yohgurt smoothie  (I've been doing this for a while, nice way to start the day.)
Snack: Apple or pear
Lunch: Eggs with tomato and spinach (eggs cooked up quickly in microwave..)
Snack: Cheese or yoghurt
Dinner: Meat with a salad/lentils
Snack: Cheese
And have a day off a week and eat whatever I want.

I'm adding in more meat than I have been eating, after waking up from a dream about porterhouse steak (I must be iron deficient) and also more dairy due to pitted nails but going gluten-free as much as possible.

In terms of lentils, I found the following recipes fast and tasty, recipes with modifications from www.thestonesoup ebook that you get when joining the blog, plus some others that I have used previously:

Lentil, beetroot and feta salad (similar to the popular beetroot and feta salad with lentils added):
Tin of lentils (rinsed and drained)
Tin of baby beets
Some feta, broken into small pieces
Handful of spinach
Mint, coriander, cumin
Balsamic vinegar and oil to dress salad

Throw together for a nice salad...

Chickpeas and Parmasen:
Tin of chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
Handful of spinach/lettuce (whatever is at hand)
Sprinkle of parmasen (or feta)
Spoonful of pesto

Again mixed together for a salad

Chickpeas and Rocket (I think that something like this might have been in a Nigella Lawson book):
Tin of chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
Chopped Onion
Handful of rocket
Spoonful of tomato paste
Dash of balsamic vinegar

Fry onion in some oil
Add chickpeas and tomato paste - heat through
Turn off heat and add rocket and vinegar to serve 

When my family was demolishing fish and chips, along side some grilled flake I had a salad like this:
Fennel and Pear Salad:
A small fennel bulb, cut into matchsticks, core removed
Pear cut into matchsticks
Thrown together with some lemon squeezed over the top.

It was yummy enough and tasted so healthy and crunchy that I didn't steal even one chip.
My sainthood must be in the mail now.

For a larger salad, with a big fennel bulb, this can be dressed up with some chopped almonds and a honey mayo dressing:
Egg yolk
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
125ml oil
Whisk together and drizzle...

These salads are quicker or as quick as knocking up some pasta, and pretty tasty so there was no excuse for me not to continue with the diet attempt..

After 5 days of following the diet, running as per usual, and adding in some pilates stomach tightening things into my daily exercise, I've lost ~1.5kg and 3cm from my middle - possibly the results of not being bloated from gluten - hopefully the trend down will continue....

I broke the diet today with Mother's Day lunch prepared by my husband - roast lamb with potatoes, etc, followed by chocolate pudding - yummo, and tea with macaroons for afters:

Macaroons - no gluten, lots of refined sugar though :)
300g Almond Meal
150g Icing sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1teaspoons cinnamon
1 egg
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons rose water (or to taste)
Icing sugar to dust

Beat eggs
Mix dry ingredients and then mix altogether
Kneed mix and roll into balls, then roll these in some sifted icing sugar to coat
Cook on baking paper covered tray in 180 degree oven for 20 mins.

I was further confused this week was due to a news story regarding the poor treatment of free range hens:
The video apparently taken in the Somerville Egg Farm shown on channel 10 was appalling, with the hens having no sunshine, no feathers, and minimal room to move, stacked to the roof, with some hens dead on the floor, no better than battery hens.  We hope this isn't the norm for free range animals, though could explain how, beyond just squeezing the farmer, Coles and Woolworths are able to sell free range eggs for $4/dozen.  We are also considering how a little chicken coup would go in our small place too...  Not sure how good I'd be at handling them - lots to think about.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal debacle

In the Garden:
The ongoing intermittent rain and sunshine has seen excellent growth in the garden – Broad beans, brocolli and shallots growing particularly well – with broadbean shoots over 15cm tall.
Following a suggestion from Gardening Australia on the ABC,  6:30pm Saturday night, I popped some 5cm roots of spring onions in the ground and they are already shooting new growth, with in a few days of planting - should have new spring onions to use in no time...

In the kitchen:
I'm preparing a royal wedding mini feast:
But before getting to that, I'll introduce myself using my royal title:
Lady Maria Tiger of Richardson, please to meet you...
(Royal title: Lord/Lady {A grandparent's first name} [First pet's name] of (First street you lived in))

In honour of the thousands of strawberries to be consumed in London, in concert no doubt with litres of champagne, we are having a strawberry and basil salad, served with mini hotdogs (the latter requested by the 5yo).  This excellent menu is surely glamourous enough to reflect this sophisticated event.
For the salad, the onion, lettuce and basil come from the front garden:
Lettuce is growing well too – if you don’t have much space, I’d recommend buying lettuce seedlings, you can get 6 various plants in a punnet for~$5 from most nurseries and they’ll grow in containers – and unless you want to feed an army, you won’t need to buy lettuce leaves again for sometime…

Food revelation of the week was pearl couscous - much larger than normal couscous, and far more delicious, on sale at Coles in 250g packages, near the pasta, I used the this recipe for a quick weeknight meal:
I used the 250g of couscous, plus 2 cans of chickpeas, plus spinach and would use a red capsicum next time too for colour - I highly recommend trying this, you won't be disappointed.
I had a few WTF moments this week, when people said things along the lines of:
'What am I going to do with these Easter eggs?'
'Eat them, !@#$%' was my immediate but silent response. They went on to explain some eggs given to them were of dubious quality - I suggested using them in chocolate chip cookies, but they were being thrown out.
I don't think Easter eggs are the best idea, given small qualities of chocolate all individually wrapped, creating a lot of waste in itself, but them to dispose of them in full speaks of being even more wasteful again...

Today, I visited my parents where we had afternoon tea, of chickpea brownies, made with low quality Easter egg chocolate, with lots of tiny eggs painstakingly pealed by my dad.  
The brownies turned out beautifully and were a great use of the chocolate that may otherwise have gone to waste.  (There were also Anzac biscuits in honour of 25 April.)  Bravo mum, meeting the culinary challenge of Easter egg chocolate usage with aplomb and making an excellent afternoon tea.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Easter

In the kitchen - for Easter, we made sugar cookies and iced them, with a cookie recipe and icing technique as taught by

The only changes made were that:

  • For our royal icing I used 2 egg whites mixed with ~400g of icing sugar to get the appropriate consistency - This would change though on the size of the eggs you use, so it is worth reading her blog on the 10 second consistency check for icing to get it right...  When I needed to make the icing more runny, I just added some water.
  • For piping the icing, I use oven bags with a tiny cut made in the corner to squeeze the icing out - cheaper and easier to find at the shops than traditional icing bags.

The sugar cookie recipe is super super sweet, even by my sweet tooth standards - next year I'll convert back to making gingerbread cookies, but will ice them this way again...  Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


This week, we went on holiday... I'd wanted our 5yo son to see some of 'Australia' and so, we set out to take in the Great Alpine Road and some of the Lakes Coast - A 'family adventure' that I'd highly recommend.

On the road - 
Despite incessant rain, we managed to have fun, singing in the rain along the Bright railway walking track and visiting various delicious cafes and bakeries in our travels.   We all enjoyed a few local museums - the Bright Museum is situated in the old railway station, with various displays of historical clothes, toys, town history and gold rush made in a series of train carriages and trucks.  For a train crazy 5yo, it was heaven and we spent ages playing at travelling through time, visiting an old Chinese temple and the Police Cells, a turn of the century laundry, kitchen and drawing room.  The Omeo museum had a log cabin gaol which was apparently in use until 1981 - breezy in winter I'd expect.
We left Bright in heavy rain, and drove along the Great Alpine Road to Hotham, through Harrietville.  It was disconcerting to see how much of these little towns were for sale, most of Beechworth, a lot of Bright and  Harrietville seemed to be on the market.  As we drove up the winding roads, clouds settled over the road and wind blew mist in and out of our vision.  The mountain was snow covered, sleeting, bitter and slippery.  The desent on the other side was less severe, with the snow clearing quickly and the roads less windy.  We broke the drive in Omeo which was great.  The bakery had excellent pasties, with buttery, melt in your mouth pastry and rich hot chocolate.  The local museum was again a source of fun and we also visited the cuckoo clock shop - the 5yo had never seen one, so seeing lots chime the hour was big thrill.

To make the drive pass more easily, we listened to a talking book from the library 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire', excitingly read by Stephen Fry.  The Bright Op shop had an excellent window display of Harry Potter, complete with Harry, Ron, Hermoine dollies, a handmade Hogwarts express and a house elf Dolby, made from stocking and stuffing..  The talking book was 18 discs long, and I was very glad as we listened to this for the full trip that I had chosen this ahead of Bumageddon by Andy Griffiths.  Not sure I could have stood that.  I was not sure how much effect the book had on the 5yo until just now, when I walked into the kitchen and he jumped out holding a stick, yelling 'STUPIFY!!!'  I was suitably rendered stupid.

At one point during the drive, clouds gathered and the skies darkened, and I noticed a signpost indicating that we were passing through 'Hell's Point', quickly followed by 'Evil Stream'.  I stopped looking at signposts when we drove passed the confrontingly named 'Red Knob'.

In the kitchen this week:
Baby food central - with poached fruit, soups and veggie custards at the fore.
Prior to the holiday I went into holiday mode and I'd cooked only once and rolled out the same meal in various guises as follows:
Kangaroo Mousakka
1kg kangaroo mince
800g tinned tomatoes
Olive Oil
Garlic to taste
Balsamic Vinegar
400g tub ricotta
400g grated cheese
2 large eggplants, slice thickly.

Similar to a lasagne, the onion and garlic is cooked in oil, then the mince browned, the tomatoes and stock added to cover and then cooked for ~20 minutes, then balsamic vinegar for taste.
Then take a lasagne dish, place a layer of mince along the base, then eggplant, then dollop ricotta and other cheese, then the mince again, etc until all the ingredients are used....

We ate this as standard mousakka the first night.  
Portions were also put in the freezer for lazy nights.
The second night I blitzed up the mousakka with the hand mixer and used it as a pasta sauce, served with wholemeal pasta - with eggplant hidden in the mixture going unnoticed by the 5yos highly tuned veggie detector. This also doubled as baby food.
It is in the freezer, ready to return as a pizza topping...

In the garden - 
We returned home to find seedlings emerging, with broadbeans, spinach and shallots putting on the best showing so far.

On a happy note, in the kitchen this week also saw manic dancing after I found out that I'd won a hand crafted Easter egg from my favourite chocolatier Willie from Willie's World of Chocolate, as seen on the ABC - the Cacao Kangaroo Stroganoff being a winning entry for his savoury meal competition.  I like to think this means that my cooking is now of international standard.