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sorta socca, and less sleep

My favourite thing in the world used to be sleeping.  I would literally go to bed at about 7pm every night, and snooze my way through to at least 7 in the morning.  I would get up, eat my breakfast, and if it was the weekend, I would sometimes go back to bed for a mid morning nap (because I must have been exhausted).
Maybe this should be the subject for a DMC? (no, not Devastating Mic Control, gotta love Run DMC) but a Deep and Meaningful Chat.  With Misty’s first birthday only a few days away, I have been doing a bit (ok, a lot) of reflection on the past 12 months, and how much I have grown and changed.
These days, I don’t need as much sleep (I’m getting to bed by 10pm, and getting up at 4am!) maybe I’ve just adjusted to the broken sleep –  getting up and down, and up and down throughout the night – either to sooth Misty or just to check (can’t resist, sleeping babes are just too cute).  Or maybe I don’t want to sleep as much any more – I’ve got a reason to be awake.  I actually got to bed excited about waking up.  I haven’t felt like this since I was probably 7 years old.  I’ll tell you something, Misty is the best anti-depressant I’ve ever come across – sleeping just isn’t as tempting any more, I’d rather be hanging with Misty than sleeping my life away.
Wish I could snooze somewhere this groovy.
Anyway, enough emotional stuff – this was one of those ‘panic’ meals.  Driving home after an afternoon out and about, knowing that Misty would be wanting feeding and watering pretty close to quick smart as soon as we got in the door.  Nothing prepared.  Bad, bad Mama.
The usual equation went through my head – what do I have in the fridge/pantry that I can combine that involves fat, protein and carbs easily and quickly?
What will Misty actually eat?
This sorta-socca turned out really well for a 2 second-throw-together-on-a-whim meal.  Misty ate two and a half by himself, and I sampled the remaining half for quality purposes.  You could easily sneak in vegetables to the mix; the cheese helps everything stick together, and it gets all delicious and crispy like.  They actually reminded me of a parmesan wafer in a way, albeit much thicker and heartier.  Awesome for using up those last little dregs of cooked grains you have hanging around – rice, millet, quinoa, whatever you have.  Go on, scrape that fridge.   What I would give to scrape a fridge like this: (Is it weird I have fridge fantasies?)
Sorta-Socca:
(Gluten, soy, egg, nut free.  Could be made vegan by subbing in vegan cheese and using oil)
  • 1/4C cooked grain (I used barley)
  • 1/4C chickpea flour
  • 1/4C grated cheese (I used mozzarella)
  • 3T water
  • 1t olive oil/melted butter
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2t mixed dried herbs
  • Butter/oil for pan
Mix all ingredients together.  Set aside for 15 minutes.
Heat some butter or oil in a pan.  I got 3 medium sized socca from the mix – I cooked each one individually, making sure as I spooned the batter into the pan, I spread it out thinly.
Cook for a few minutes each side, squishing down with the back of the spatula to help flatten and crisp up…. it’s also fun to watch the cheese bubble up and ooze.
Cool before serving for the little ones that could burn themselves.  I burnt myself. I highly recommend serving with a touch of Vegemite (or Marmite for Lindsay and Heather of course)
X marks the spot.  A spot of deliciousness.
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smokin’ salmon struggles

You probably know I’m fond of salmon.  I know a certain yogini that’s very fond of the stuff too.  As well as being ridiculously delicious, eating salmon has done wonders for my skin (Skin Series #2 coming up).  Salmon has a special place in my heart;  it was the first meal that Viper cooked for me, as he tried to woo my affections.  He definitely has talent when it comes to preparing and cooking fish.  Wooing?  Not so much, but the salmon did help his cause.  We love to play around with toppings/flavours to pair with salmon  … honey, sweet chilli, soy, miso, brown sugar – so many great combinations.  Keeping things sugar free this week, and the results spoke for themselves.

One of our favourite meals that we eat without fail each week is the same one he prepared for me, many moons ago.  Sometimes the simple things are best – grilled salmon (on the rarer side of cooked) a fresh seasonal salad, and boiled potatoes with a home made dill tartare.  I know I tease Viper about his fisherman-skills, but he totally knows his fish and how to wrangle them in the kitchen.

Smokin’ Salmon technique

Piece of salmon (250g ish) with skin ON.  (I don’t eat the skin, it creeps me out, but it is essential for the cooking method).

  • 1t soy
  • 1/4t tamarind paste
  • 1 medjool date, chopped up as finely as you can
  • 1cm piece root ginger, grated
  • 1T boiling water

Mix tamarind, soy, ginger and date.  Pour over the hot water, which just loosens everything up a little.  Loosey goosey.

Top fish with mixture.  Sprinkle over a pinch of salt.

Now I can’t take credit for the method – this was Viper’s stroke of genius.  I’ll be honest with you; I can’t cook fish.  Well, I just don’t – Viper is a ninja at it, he always presents the most perfectly cooked, succulent fish – so why would I try and risk botching it?  Oh, and I’m lazy.  So while I was having a shower, Viper did this:

  • Place the fish on a baking sheet, lined with aluminium foil.  Crank up your grill (around 200 degreesC) get the fish under it (maybe the second rung down, not too far away) for a fast and furious scalding.  Basically, you want to get the outside of the fish crisping and the skin even slightly burning at this point.  This seals in the moisture and gets the smokey flavour happening.
  • After 4-5 minutes under the grill, pull fish out, and wrap it up in the aluminium foil you have it sitting on.  CAREFUL.  Use tongs.
  • Place your fish parcel in a hot dry fry pan, and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Remember, it’s always better to pull it off the heat earlier rather than later – overcooked fish is such a shame!  If it is too rare for your liking, you can always return it to the heat.  We removed the skin before eating, as it burns with the cooking process.
Wow, this was crazy good.  The tamarind-date sauce combined with the new cooking method produced a sweet, smoky, deeply flavoured piece of fish.  I’m still getting over it now.  I don’t have an after-shot of it, too busy eating.  Sorry guys (I’m not really).
Dill Tartare
(inspired by my Mum’s home made dill mayo I sampled the last time I was in NZ)
  • 1/2C mayonaise (I usually make my own, here is the general idea, but pre prepared is totally fine)
  • 1 gherkin (5cm in length, approx) grated or chopped very finely
  • 1/2T capers, chopped finely
  • 1/2t wholegrain mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon juice to taste
  • 1T fresh dill, chopped finely
Combine all ingredients.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
Adding different seasoning and herbs to plain mayonnaise creates a whole new element to a meal.  Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of mayonnaise – I find the flavour and texture a little off putting.  This tartare, however really goes amazingly with seafood.  I think I like it because the acidity from the capers, gherkins and lemon cut through the creaminess of the mayo which usually I find way too rich.  Viper is a freak for mayo – we seriously go through so much of the stuff it’s a little concerning.  I never could understand the dipping chips (French fries) in mayonnaise thing.  Ketchup all the way.  What do you reckon?
This meal was amazing.  Amazing.  I am struggling with eating fish though – I love it so much, and nutritionally, it is stellar. The issue is that it’s proving quite difficult to get wild salmon where I am – most of it is farmed in Tasmania these days.  My conscience is getting the better of me… what to do, what to do?

small, but hot like chilli*

* Viper tells me this is how one of his workmates describes (ahem) himself if you get my drift.  Wouldn’t think a male would willingly admit this, anyhow…  One time, we had a Mexican party.

I had a mono-brow.

We drank sangria.  Lots of sangria.  I made cactus sculptures out of pickles.  There was a pinata.  A lot of cheese and corn chips were consumed.   I drank lots of sangria.  I didn’t make this particular dip, but something kind of close to it.  Basically, I wanted something yummy and spicy for lunch today, utilising what limited resources I had on hand.  I am also participating in Alex’s Sugar Free Challenge  so needed something that would not cause a sugar induced coma.

Luckily I’m not a big sugar fan at the best of times, so it’s not too difficult for me. This is what I came up with:

Red Bean Small Chilli Dip:

(If you want to make this into a salad dressing, simply thin with water and a splash of apple cider vinegar until you reach the desired consistency).

  • 1C cooked red kidney beans
  • 1/3C jarred salsa (one with no added sugar, of course)
  • 1/2C cooked sweet potato (or pumpkin)
  • 3T nutritional yeast
  • 1/4t sea salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • Black pepper, freshly ground to taste
  • 1/4t ground cumin
  • 1/4t ground coriander
  • 1t lime juice
  • 1/4 small birds eye chilli (or to taste, the ones I have at the moment are blow your face off HOT).
  1. Blend all ingredients together in a food processor.  Serve with assorted ‘dippers’ (not the birds eye chilli as pictured if you would like to keep your eyebrows… HOT).
A baby friendly version would go something like this:
  • 1C cooked red kidney beans
  • 1/2C cooked sweet potato (or pumpkin)
  • 1/3C canned tomatoes
  • 3T nutritional yeast
  • 1/4t garlic powder
  • 1/8t ground coriander
  • 1/4t ground cumin
  • Black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2t lime juice
  1. Blend.  Spread on rice cakes, toast, or just let your little one smear it all over themselves.

no hat required

Halloween didn’t really register on the radar where I live.  OK,  so the confectionery companies do still try to use it as a marketing ploy, but it’s not really a big thing here in Queensland.  I did buy some little chocolate bars just in case of trick or treaters, but there were none.  Viper was very happy with his acquisition of sugary milk chocolate treats.
Something that is a highly celebrated day in Australia, particularly down Victoria way, is Melbourne Cup Day (today).  Basically, it’s a big horse race which gives people the excuse to a) dress up fancy b) drink lots c) gamble d) drink lots e) lose lots of money f) drink lots.  I’ve never been a fan of it, because I don’t like wearing little dresses and high heels, and of course, I’m Cheap.  The drinking part is attractive, but hey, I can do that at home, not pay $8 a glass for some fizzy wine.  I have never gotten a buzz off gambling – probably due to the fact that I’m Cheap, and don’t want to part with my coins.  Some people LOVE it though – what about you?  Love to thrill of the rush?  Double or nothing?
I did attend Race Day once – I think I did pretty well, particularly with the dressing up and drinking.  Winning the big bucks with my betting?  Not so much – the first and only time I’ve gambled on a horse race.
Dressed up? Check.
Fizzy wine? Check.
Large attention seeking hat – nothing to do with races, but fun all the same?  Check.
Tonight’s dinner was cheap, quick and easy.  Much like these girls after a long day at the Melbourne Cup.
I love salad-meals.  It’s an awesome way to use up leftovers (think cooked rice/grains/vegetables) and is pretty quick to assemble.  I’ve made my own “meaty” substitute, which makes this meal preparation a little more time consuming –  but really, you can sub in anything here – chicken, tofu, tempeh, fish, beef whatever you enjoy or have in your fridge.  The sauce is sweet with a nice spicy kick (feel free to add more chilli I added one tiny birds eye, thinking I would need a couple more, but woah these chillies had some BITE.  I rubbed my nose after cutting it, and think I burnt out my nasal passages).  Oh yeah, no MSG in my sauce.  I love the fresh ingredients and vibrant flavours in Thai-inspired dishes…
Thai Coconut Strips: (Based on method in this recipe) 
  • 1/2C coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 T Thai green curry paste
  • 1/4C TVP
  • 1/2C vital wheat gluten
  • 1T onion granules
  • 1/2t ground coriander
  • 1/2t chilli flakes
  • 1t ginger powder
  • 1T soy sauce

  1. Quickly fry off curry paste in a fry pan until fragrant (a few minutes).  Mix into coconut milk, and add soy sauce.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.
  3. Mix wet and dry together.
  4. Give “dough” a quick knead, and shape (this time instead of the usual sausage roll I just made little patties)
  5. Place in a steamer for 30 minutes.  Chill in fridge until ready to serve.
  6. When ready to serve salad, slice into strips and pan fry.
Sweet Chilli Sauce:
  • 1/2C soaked dates (chop dates and pour about 1/8C boiling water over them to soften)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2C + 3T water
  • 5t lime juice
  • 5t fish sauce
  • 1/2-1 small birds eye chilli, chopped (depending on how hot you like it)
  1. Blend all ingredients in a food processor.  Chill in fridge until ready to serve.
Salad Assembly:
This is what I used, but feel free to utilise whatever you have on hand (mushrooms, carrot, broccoli, coloured peppers, bean sprouts, sweetcorn, cashew nuts, toasted coconut, steamed rice, cooked quinoa, noodles etc)
  • Mung bean noodle threads, rehydrated and tossed in sesame oil
  • Dry toasted chopped peanuts
  • Cucumber
  • Fresh coriander
  • Red onion
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Steamed Pak Choy
  • Steamed Pei Tsai
  • 1/2 bunch fresh coriander, chopped.
I  assemble everything on a large communal platter, with little bowls of sauce, wedges of lime, extra chopped nuts, fried shallots etc.  Everyone helps themselves and creates a plate.  A big free-for-all…just how I like to eat.
I’m not going to put any money on it, but if you’re anything like me –  I bet you’d love this meal.

mon petit chou

One of the maybe 3 things I can say in French.  I think the other 2 are inapropriate.

Cabbage is one of those strange vegetables.  It’s pigeon-holed a little bit (well, it is in my brain).

…Coleslaw

…Sauerkraut

…?

I’m not allowed to eat raw cabbage.  I love it, but it does not love me.  Viper has banned me from it.  You join the dots.

I love sauerkraut, but it’s more of a condiment than a ‘dish.’

I got excited by Katie’s idea of roasting.  I managed to score a whopping sugar loaf cabbage from a sweet lady’s organic vege patch on an afternoon meander with Misty.  60c.  Wicked.

This was 1/4 of a monster cabbage – it cooks down to about 2C worth.

  • Sliced cabbage
  • 2T balsamic vinegar
  • 4T water
  • 1t sea salt
  • 2T nutritional yeast
  • 1t wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2t onion powder/granules
  • 1/2t garlic powder/granules
  • 1t olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Mix ingredients together
  2. Spread on a baking tray and roast at 200 degrees C for around 25-35 minutes.  Give it a good mix around every 5 minutes until it’s tender, browning and getting little crispy bits (or however you like it)
  3. Season with extra salt and pepper.

I cranked up the grill for the last 2 minutes so it got lots of little crispy bits going on.

Viper was afraid.  He knows what happens after I eat cabbage.

Good news!  No unfortunate after effects (cooking the cabbage is the key.  Still banned from coleslaw) and delicious.

Gives the humble old cabbage a bit of sex appeal.  mmm sexy cabbage.