Friday, 4 September 2015

Angel hair pasta with feta, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach

No matter how big the pile of vegies I prepare, once I mix them into pasta, they all but disappear.  Especially greens such as spinach.  Yet if I know there are vegies in there, it seems a little healthier.  I also feel consoled if I have started the day with a green smoothie and eaten dip and vegies for lunch.  Besides, this dish was really about using up some angel hair pasta I opened by mistake.

On the second night we ate this, I had this with brussels sprouts and corn.  I was really pleased that Sylvia had a serving without too much fuss.  This is great progress for her, even if I did find some pasta with minimal "bits".  However on the third night when I put our remains into a vegan cauliflower cheese soup, she was less enthused with it.

Such is the whimsy of a 6 year old who thinks singers claiming to "be true" are singing about "beetroot", who wonders if planting a finger nail clipping will grow a whole finger nail, and who finds much of life's excitment to be found in a wobbly tooth.

The recipe was inspired by this Angel hair pasta with arugula (rocket), feta cheese, tomatoes and pine nuts recipe.  As is often the case, I found the recipe that looked about right and then set about devising dinner according to what was about rather than what was in the recipe. It was excellent comfort food that could be made quickly on the weekend.

I am sending this pasta to Caroline for her Formula 1 Foods challenge (Italy)Lucy and Lauren for Fabulous Foodie Fridays and Jac for Meat Free Mondays.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Strawberry sushi with chocolate sauce
Two year ago: Oreos, Child's Play and Sesame Street
Three years ago: Alphabakes: Creamy pasties with peas or pumpkin
Four years ago: WHB Apricot Delight and Dusty Magazine Clippings
Five years ago: Smoky Parsnip Muffins
Six years ago: Superhero Cake – Kapow!
Seven years ago: Choc chip and cherry cookies

Angel hair pasta with feta, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach
An original recipe by Green Gourmet Giraffe
serves 6

500g angel hair pasta
100g feta
1/2 cup grated parmesan, plus extra
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes chopped
2 good handfuls of spinach, chopped
4-6 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp mustard powder

Cook pasta until al dente (this was 3 minutes for my pasta) and then toss with the remaining ingredients.  Serve with extra parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.

On the stereo:
Stone Roses - self titled

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

In My Kitchen September 2015

This month we welcome spring with its reinvigorating warmth.  September is the time to dig out the school hat for Sylvia to wear in the playground (or buy a new one as the case may be), for lengthening evenings that smell sweetly of jasmine, and to head off on holiday at the end of the month. 

This year is the first year in 5 years that I haven't participated in Vegan MoFo.  I decided that this year's MoFo list of themes wasn't for me but it was a relief not to have to find the time.  However I hope to still be posting some great vegan food on my blog (though some will be lacto-ovo vegetarian too).  Above is a vegan parmesan I made for a pasta dish that I will share soon.  It was delicious.  I photographed it in this lovely salt and pepper set that I bought at a trash and treasure sale as a child.

As I have mentioned before I have done some recipe testing for Leigh Drew's new vegan cookbook.  August saw me taking a break from recipe testing but towards the start of the month, I made these amazing sweet potato fries with pineapple sauce.  Not only were they very moreish when eaten like this, we also loved the fries and sauce in a wrap with salad.

We have been eating wraps more regularly lately.  When I have been busy I have been making sourdough flatbreads to keep my starter going.  I have also been making them as after school when Sylvia has brought home a friend each week after netball this term.  This wrap was made up of some spinach cauliflower fritters from the freezer, spinach, roast pumpkin, tomato and hummus.  So good!

Moving away from vegan light meals, I made this cheese on toast for lunch recently.  I piled some spinach and cherry tomatoes onto sourdough bread before topping with cheese and putting it under the griller.  It made for a lovely meal.

I was interested to see that the new Coles supermarket in Coburg North had a vegan/vegetarian/gluten free section including Amy's rice and beans burritos.  I bought one out of curiosity.  It was really delicious with some yoghurt, spinach and cherry tomatoes on the side.  However I don't tend to buy these sort of meals regularly.

I found these lovely dessert bowls in an op shop.  I'd been looking in other shops for something that is not too big.  So many bowls these days are a big as chamber pots.  These are just right for us.

Not technically the kitchen, though it does seem to find its way in, is Sylvia's new detangler brush (as recommended by my sisters).  It is the pink one on the right.  The bristles are a soft rubber unlike her more traditional hair brush.  I can't even bear to think of all the tears and screams I have endured brushing her hair every morning.  This new brush has made mornings so much easier.

More kids stuff.  Here is a SpongeBob SquarePants ice cream which looks nothing like the picture on the packet (or the cartoon).  Sylvia was most pleased to have it but then she only ate half and the other half sat in the freezer for another week before she finished it off.  The flavours were banana and chocolate with bubble gum eyes.  I have a 5-minute-and-spit-out rule with any sort of chewing gum for Sylvia though I prefer to avoid it altogether.

These goodies are from the new(ish) The Source Bulk Foods in Sydney Road Brunswick.  I finally got there to make those hard choices about what to buy. purchases there.  I was most excited to find it was a good place to buy coconut flakes (for facon and muesli).  I also bought macadamias, dark chocolate bullets (liquorice) and dark chocolate covered dried bananas.  So yummy.

In the nut shop in Coburg's Victoria Street Mall, I recently found that the smoked paprika was $2 for a 100g tub compared to $2.95 for a 50g packet in the supermarket.  Must remember this next time I need some.  I use a lot of smoked paprika.

E bought a bottle of Coburg Lager a while back because he was intrigued by a local beer.  We don't drink a lot of beer in our house, especially in winter.  Weeks later it is still sitting in the fridge waiting to be opened.  You can see why he only bought one bottle!

Our garden is already showing signs of spring.  The lavender is in bloom and we have some buds on the blueberry plant.  Although we have had a cold winter, it has been fairly dry so I hope spring and summer are kind to the gardens.  We need lots of heavy spring downpours for which Melbourne is renowned.

I was out shopping for leggings with Sylvia.  If she is not constantly getting them dirty, she is putting her knee through them.  We didn't find the leggings but we were both smitten with this cute pineapple mason jar.  It looks so perfect for smoothies but is actually rather big for them.  We are getting some use out of it though.
My sister Fran gave me some of these grapefruit from her in-laws' tree.  I was tempted to bake a cake or experiment with grapefruit juice in a tofu marinade but I went the easy route. We put some into our regular banana and strawberry smoothies.  It worked especially well with older sweeter bananas.

Lastly here is another smoothie I enjoyed.  It tasted all the better because Sylvia agreed to have some spinach in her orange, pineapple and banana smoothie.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.  I am way beyond baby steps so I stuffed more spinach in my smoothie once I had poured hers.

I am sending this post to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for her In My Kitchen event.  Head over to join in (by 10th of each month) and/or check out what is happening in other bloggers' kitchens.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Vegan banana french toast

I have had a great night of comfort with a documentary on Countdown on the telly while I baked a batch of favourite chocolate tahini biscuits.  For those who didn't grow up with Countdown, it was a legendary tv music show which was where the youth found out what was going on in music back in the 1970s and 1980s.  Not to be confused with the Countdown game show in the UK.  Countdown: Do yourself a favour is such a fun show that fills me with nostalgia.

Yesterday morning we had another comfort - fried bread!  French toast to be more specific.  And if you want me to be really accurate, it was vegan French toast, which probably sounds less of a comfort to those who love their eggs.  I don't love eggs and never ate French toast as a child but have had some good experiences with the vegan variety.  I found it works quite well with homemade sourdough bread.

While we often use up an old banana in pancakes in the morning, it sometimes seems wasteful to make pancakes while we have bread that I have baked.  When Sylvia asked for French toast and we had a manky banana I decided I must be able to use up old banana and 2 day old bread.  There are few recipe ideas that I can't find someone hasn't done before.  And mostly I check out their recipe and then do my own thing.  As I did yesterday.

I had success with a vegan french toast last year which was coated in desiccated coconut.  We had fresh pineapple and so I said to Sylvia that we should pair it with coconut.  She must have remembered and decided we would dip the french bread in coconut before frying.  Unfortunately she is not quite up to caramelising the pineapple in the frypan so the dish wasn't quite as I would have done in an ideal world.  But we were hurrying and it was really nice with pineapple. 

At least they weren't doused in cinnamon.  At one stage I gave Sylvia a half cup to measure some milk into.  She was still focussed on needing more cinnamon and seemed to think I was directing her to add half a cup of cinnamon.  Luckily I realised the communication breakdown before she added too much cinnamon into the measuring cup.

Maybe a little maple syrup drizzled over the top would have been good.  The French toast was not as sweet as I expected given there was a banana in the mixture.  I did have a little of mine with some peanut butter on it which worked.  Seems that we will now have French toast as an alternative for weekends when we have the manky banana in the fruit bowl.

I am sending this vegan french toast to Elizabeth for her No Waste Food Challenge and to Healthy Vegan Fridays #62.

More vegan breakfast ideas on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Banana oat pancakes
Chocolate muesli (granola)
Potato scones
Roasted vegetable tofu scramble
Smoky apple baked beans
Spinach, sundried tomato and chive chickpea scramble
Super smoothie with berries, pear and banana  

Banana  French Toast
Adapted from The Minimalist Baker and Green Gourmet Giraffe
1 banana mashed
1 1/4 cups milk
1-3 tsp chia seeds
good sprinkle of cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Sturdy bread slices, such as sourdough
coconut, to sprinkle (optional)
margarine to fry

Mix banana, milk, chia seeds, cinnamon and vanilla in a shallow dish.  Dip bread into mixture and sprinkle with coconut on both side (if desired).  Heat frypan over medium heat and melt about a tsp of margarine.  Fry bread for 2 to 4 minutes or until golden brown on each side.  Repeat until the mixture is finished.

On the Stereo:
Best of Bowie: David Bowie

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Carrot almond sauce for bowl food - and random moments

This carrot almond sauce started as bowl food and ended as dip.  I really love bowl food that looks gorgeous and is full of healthy food.  I used whatever I could find for this meal.  Also important is that putting together the bowl was quick and easy.  Strangely I am enjoying celery lately.  Which is probably a result of buying bunches of celery that I must eat through one way or another.  Fresh crisp celery is so refreshing. 

I made some changes to the carrot ginger almond sauce I found at Coconut and Berries.  Emma used almond nut butter.  I had no nut butter on hand so I used whole almonds which blended easily in my Froothie high powered blender.  I also found it easy to use sriracha rather than fresh ginger.  I forgot the turmeric but left it in the recipe as I will use it next time.  And I added some milk to help it blend, which still resulted in quite a thick sauce.  More dip than sauce actually.  But what's in a name.  It was light and really tasty - spicy, smoky, sweet - and lifted a bowl of grains, beans and vegies.

And I will end with a few random moments:
  • Last week I rode past a nursing home and smelt that they were making a pea soup kind of lunch.  It made me wonder about nursing homes for Sylvia's generation which had so many food allergies.  Will they remember their food allergies in old age?  Will nursing home staff spend lots of time labelling and keeping food separate?  Will there be a spate of food allergy related deaths in the eldery?
  • Last night I made sweet potato and lentil soup for tea.  I had told E that I was making it.  Yet when he arrived home late and went to heat up his tea, he still looked under the tea towel into the rising bread dough rather than going to the saucepan on the stove!  Curiosity?  Confusion?  Hope?
  • Recently there was a story in the news about the Victorian Liberal Party's missing millions of dollars.  What horrified me was the suggestion that if they had had that money in the election last year they might have had more chance in the marginal seats and of winning the election.  I know our electoral system is not ideal.  Yet I still feel despair at the suggestion that money can win elections.

I am sending this to Meat Free Mondays and Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: Vegan flourless almond choc chip cookies
Two year ago: Mini baked doughnuts and fun stuff
Three years ago: NCR African Curried Coconut Soup
Four years ago: Potage St Germain
Five years ago: Florentines, salads and what's in a name
Six years ago: Potato boston bun
Seven years ago: WTSIM ... Beer Bread
Eight years ago: Blues Clues Birthday Cake

Carrot Almond Sauce
Adapted from Coconut and Berries
serves 2-4

1 cup chopped carrots (about 2 medium)
1/3 cup soy milk
1 tbsp raw almonds
1 tbsp smoked almonds
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp white miso
1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp tamari
1 tsp sriracha
1 small clove of garlic
1/4 tsp ground turmeric

Cook carrots and blend with remaining ingredients.

Serving suggestion:
Heat some cooked black beans with tamari and old bay seasoning, add warm cooked brown rice, chopped celery, snow peas and spinach.  Top with a generous spoonful or two of sauce.  It also makes a great dip.

On the stereo:
Turn turn turn: Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell with you are my flower

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Urban Revival Market, Pentridge, Coburg

On Saturday the sun shone kindly on our wintery world.  Sylvia and I hopped on our bikes and rose along to the Urban Revival Market in the D Division Block of the former Pentridge Prison.  This was an opportunity to see inside the old gaol and check out some artisan market stalls.

Pentridge Prison (aka "Coburg College") was built in 1850 and officially closed in 1997.  D Divison has been a female prison, the site of the last hanging in Australia and a remand prison.  It now is available for weddings, kids parties and sleepovers.  And hosts the occasional market like this Urban Revival one which was on the ground floor of three levels of cells.  It was both unsettling and impressive when we turned the corner and saw the rows of cells before us.

One of the first stalls we saw was the Luda Vintageware.  They had old crockery, vintage fly spray cans and a pile of suitcase.  I was most amused by an old bag of silverware that looked like exactly the sort of thing that might have helped criminals find their way in here when it was a functioning prison.

I enjoyed looking at some of the old crockery and linen.  Sylvia loved rifling through the marbles and sampling a Minions banana chocolate macaron from the friendly Colette at Chocolette Patisserie.

As we walked along looking at the stalls, we also peeked in the old cells.  Most were empty.  A few were dumping grounds for odd stuff like what looked like a huge deflated blow up mattress.  Some of the stall holder used them for storing goods.

One stall holder even had their wares on display in a cell.

The market didn't have much in the way of food.  Macarons, a Silician stall and the Twisted Mac stall.  We shared a plain macaroni cheese ($8) and it was so delicious.  I was pleased to find something simple that Sylvia could eat.  You could also buy macaroni cheese with fancy toppings.

We ate in what I think was the old exercise yard, complete with a watch tower and barbed wire at the top of the walls.  It was the least impressive part of the market because there weren't many stalls there and at one side was a heap of rubble.  We arrived as a band was ending.  It might have been a bit more lively if the music was still playing.

As it was, we headed back inside to check out more old crockery, buttons and fun socks.  E had been at a gig and was late to join us.  He was pleased to see some crates of used vinyl LPs and found himself a Peter Paul and Mary record to purchase.

This necklace was my favourite item on display.  The swirls of green and purple in the glass were so gorgeous.  I didn't buy it.  I probably should have.  I might not have worn it a lot but would love to see it catching the light in a window.

It was great to get out on a sunny winter afternoon and interesting to see inside the old prison.  It is very atmospheric.

This Urban Revival Market was a one off.  This is perhaps just as well.  There have been a couple of attempts to hold regular markets here but neither have gained the traction they need.  However as this area of Coburg continues to develop, perhaps the time will come when it is viable to have a regular Pentridge market.  Meanwhile there are a couple of cafes in the old Pentridge complex: the Glass Den and the Boot Factory.  I hope to visit and write about these some time.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Chocolate carrot cake

Today was a cake stall to raise funds for Sylvia's school.  We brought home baking to add to all the leftovers in the freezer.  Thank goodness Sylvia didn't bring a party bag of lollies home from the party at the zoo today.  Because I also have some of this chocolate carrot cake left in the freezer.  I had planned to make it for a special occasion but then I ended up making it when I could find time to make it.  Well almost.

The recipe came from Lorraine at Not Quite Nigella who had made a magnificent two layer round cake frosted with nutella and cream cheese.  I wanted a simple one layer affair and when we have cakes at home, I find it easier to bake a square cake that can be cut into square chunks rather than wedges.  And I wanted to justify the purchase of a new square cake plate.

I convinced myself that if I baked it in a larger square tin, it would bake faster.  I even increased the temperature from 160 to 180 C.  However I had a tight deadline with needing to pick up Sylvia and her friend from netball.  As it was, the cake was still uncooked in the middle when I needed to leave.  I turned the oven down low and left.  It was raining hard, Sylvia was playing under a bbq in the undercover area, and I got home to find that the oven had turned itself off.

After 45 minutes at 180 C, an hour with the oven turned off and 40 minutes at 160, the cake was baked!  After that I needed a piece of chocolate cake.  I did have the patience to cool it, decorate it and photograph it (with the light box) before eating it.

The cream cheese frosting I used was a simple one based on a frosting I had made many years ago.  It is the sort you make when you want cream cheese frosting but nothing too decadent.  I also added strawberries because I had just bought some.  However I think it might have been more relevant to just sprinkle some chocolate flakes on it.  I also made a chocolate macadamia butter (sort of like this) that would be a really nice rich ganache for a special occasion, so I have included it below.

The reason I initially loved the sound of the cake was that it was nubbly.  I love texture in cake.  Lots of veggies, fruit and nuts.  Carrots, pineapple, chocolate chunks and toasted coconut.  (I had a great idea of using some carrot jam but it was beyond use.)

I used the coconut instead of nuts because Sylvia is not so keen on nuts in cakes.  Thing is, I have now discovered that she is not so keen on toasted coconut in cakes either.  E wasn't so keen either.  He guessed that there were nuts in the cake.  I really liked it.  I thought I might have the pleasure of eating it all by myself.  E managed to eat some but part of the cake has ended up in the freezer.

It is such a dense cake that a little goes a long way.  I am slowly making my way through it but we have heaps of other leftovers to attend to right now.  However it is lovely to have it in the freezer for those days when nothing but chocolate cake will do.  Meanwhile I leave you with some photos from our visit to the zoo today for Sylvia's friend's party.

I am sending this cake to Choclette for We Should Cocoa.

More interesting chocolate cakes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate porridge cake
Chocolate pumpkin spice cake
Fruitcake with chocolate chunks
Honey, yoghurt and chocolate cake
Mashed potato chocolate cake
Mulled wine chocolate cake
Nigella's nutella cake
Paragon chocolate orange cake 
Walnut fudge cake

More interesting chocolate cakes from elsewhere online:
Black sesame and chocolate cake - Not Quite Nigella
Cherry Ripe coconut fudge cake - Apples Under My Bed
Chocolate cauliflower cake with salted caramel icing - Veggie Desserts
Chocolate, lavender and raspberry cake - Sew White
Chocolate prune cake - David Lebowitz
Chocolate and violet cake - Allotment to Kitchen
Coconut cake with chocolate chunks - The Tolerant Vegan
Eton Mess chocolate cake - Tin and Thyme

Chocolate carrot cake
Adapted from Not Quite Nigella

Dry ingredients:
200g (1 cup) dark chocolate chunks
3/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
2 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon fine salt

Wet ingredients:
400g tin crushed pineapple, drained*
250g (about 3 medium) grated carrots (half finely grated, half coarsely grated)
1 1/4 cup fizzy drink (soda water, cola or beer)*
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs

Chocolate cream cheese frosting:
185g cream cheese
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa


Chocolate macadamia coconut ganache:
1 cup raw macadamias
1 tbsp maple
1/2 cup chocolate
1/2 cup coconut

To decorate:
coconut flakes

Mix dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Mix wet ingredients in a medium mixing bowl or a large jug.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Scrape into a greased and lined 20cm square cake tin (or a 20cm round cake tin).  Bake at 160 C for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

Frost either with the cream cheese frosting (hand mix ingredients in a bowl) or the ganache (blend in high speed blender until creamy) depending on if you want it to be light or decadent!  Decorate with strawberries and/or coconut flakes.

On the stereo:
Love: The Beatles

Friday, 21 August 2015

Cocoa bites

These cocoa bites were made on a day when I felt like baking but wanted quick results, I wanted chocolate but not too unhealthy, I wanted to snack but in a sensible way.  So I made these cocoa bites that are packed with good stuff.  They are the sort of snack you feel ok feeding to little girls who have just been to netball practice or having before doing a body balance class at the gym.

I made these in my high powered blender rather than a food processor.  They were really good but in a nut butter sort of way rather than finely chopped nuts because I think I got a little enthusiastic with the blender. So they were soft and fudgy, sweet but not overly so, and easy to take about with me.  Maybe not too different from a whole lot of energy balls I have blogged here but I think they were exactly what I needed.

I am sending these cocoa bites to Healthy Vegan Fridays #61 and Gluten Free Fridays #156

More energy balls at Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Almond, date and cranberry truffles (gf, v)
Almond energy snacks (v)
Chocolate almond and coconut balls (gf, v)
Chocolate bliss balls with banana and oats (v)
Dried fruit and coconut balls (gf, v)
Wattleseed cashew truffles (gf, v)

Cocoa Bites
From 86 lemons
Makes about 24 small balls

1 cup dates
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup cocoa or cacao powder
1 tbsp flax seeds (linseeds)
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Soak dates in hot water for 10 minutes.  In a high speed blender (or your food processor), blend nuts until ground.  Add coconut, cocoa, seeds, agave and vanilla and continue to blend.  Add drained dates.  Roll mixture into balls.

On the stereo:
Tales of a Librarian: Tori Amos