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Taking Stock : October

I have been meaning to do a “Taking Stock” list for ages.  Pip Lincolne posts them on her lovely blog Meet Me at Mike’s and they always inspire me to do the same.  But I have yet to do it.  So here goes…..

Cooking : Curries – I am trying to make a decent one.  I have a delightful library volunteer (she’s Indian) who brings me equally delightful meals and I am pretty sure she uses some kind of witchcraft on them because they are SO GOOD.

Drinking : Yorkshire Tea.  I always drink tea but am finding I need an extra strong brew these days, so Yorkshire Tea it is.  That, or I dunk two regular teabags in my cup. And then walk away, forget about it, and come back to a cup of tea that is so strong the spoon stands up in it.

Listening to: Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton John Seriously – two of my fave artists combined?  Hello!?  Awesomeness. Have you never been mellow, indeed.

Reading: The Little Paris Bookshop  It’s a lovely story about a floating bookshop in Paris and the owner who “possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers”.

Next read: Haven’t made my mid up yet, because I have SO MANY books to read at home.  But I think I will tackle The Wonder by Emma Donoghue.

Making: Lots of collages.  Which, in turn, means I am making lots of mess.

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Wanting: An electric drill.  It is time I made the commitment to proper DIY projects and got myself some power tools.  It will probably end in disaster, let’s face it.

Looking: For old drawers.  Of the furniture / storage variety.  I don’t mean knickers.  I want to make some groovy storage / shelving thingies from them.  Have a look at some of the ideas HERE

Deciding: On what to do with my life.  This is a recurring theme for me.  But I feel very anxious about it all.  I am thinking about going to a career counsellor.  I can’t work out if they are a load of nonsense or actually quite a good idea.

Wishing: For world peace, obviously.  But also a Lotto win, a flatter stomach, reliable hair and comfortable (yet fabulous) shoes.  Mostly the Lotto win – I really need that.

Enjoying: Strawberries.  We’re in the midst of a bit of strawberry scare at the moment in Australia (some fool has been putting needles in them as some sort of disgruntled-ex-employee protest) but I have been bravely soldiering on and enjoying these luscious little bites of sweetness.  They are so tasty right now.  I could eat a whole punnet in one sitting.

Waiting: For Spring to really kick in.  We’ve had some lovely sunny days, but they’ve been interspersed with very rainy, cold, miserable, ugh kind of days that make me ache and want to hide under a blanket.

Loving: A new discovery, The Rustic Gallery  Full of lovely old and not-so-old STUFF.  Rusty yumminess – everything from furniture to homewares, garden pieces, hardware, tools etc.  Beautifully set out, really well organised and very reasonably priced.  There are treasures around every corner.  You must visit!

Considering: Joining a gym.  It’s a ridiculously scary idea for me.  My physio wants me to start strengthening up and is encouraging me to go to the gym to work on this.  It is freaking me out.  I am not a gym person.  If I could work out in the dark, with no one else around, I would be ok.

Buying: DIY stuff.  Spray paint and house paint and staple guns (!) and all manner of handyman-esque items.  Injury is imminent.

Watching: That should read “binge-watching”.  Because I am overdosing on episodes of Lee Mack’s hilarious sitcom Not Going Out.  I admit to loving him just a little bit.  I have several years of the show to catch up on so it’s nightly viewing for me at the moment.  I’m also watching Jamie Ray Vintage on Youtube.  Her videos make me want to paint and upcycle everything in sight.

Cringing: At my thighs.  Sigh.  I don’t know how they happened.  And also at Donald Trump.  I don’t know how he happened either.

Needing: A hug.  I am not a touchy-feely person and everyone who knows me knows I am not a hugger, so when I say I need a hug, things must be getting tricky.

Smelling: The last remnants of my favourite perfume from Somethin Special.  It’s called Butt Naked.  Which is a horrible name that I am embarrassed to tell people about, but it smells like heaven on a stick.  I must order some more directly.

Wearing: Trousers and jeans.  Ugh, I hate them.  But I have put on weight and none of my skirts fit right now so I have to wear pants.  Many of them with elastic waists.  Which make me cry and want to hide in a cave somewhere.

Worrying: About the future.  A LOT.  Everything seems so unstable and scary, both personally and around the world in general.  I don’t remember there being a time like this, where nothing makes sense and everything seems crazy and upsetting.  The wrong people are in power and it frightens me.  We seem to be evolving backwards.

Knowing: I need a haircut.  Every day I have the same conversation with myself about booking an appointment, but do I do anything about it?  No.  I do not.  I am starting to look like a bedraggled yeti.

Thinking: Way too much.  How do you switch your brain off?  I am attending a Mindfulness workshop next week to see if I can learn to be more “in the moment” and all that stuff.  Most of my health issues are connected to my inability to relax, both physically and mentally so I have to try and do something about it.  Fingers crossed! (and then uncrossed…and relaxed…) 🙂

Sorting: Lots of sorting!  I have just gone through three ENORMOUS boxes of paperwork and shredded/sorted/filed it.  It’s a job I had been meaning to do for YEARS.  Like, why did I have receipts from car repairs I had done 15 years ago?  Why???  I am culling books and clothes and STUFF as well.  Just trying to get in some sort of order.

Getting: Into meditation and mindfulness.  I am trying so hard to calm my mind and stop being so anxious, panicky and sad (usually all at the same time).  I have bought a new little CD player, so I can do some guided meditation at night before bed and I am trying really hard to stay mindful and BREATHE during the day.  It’s not easy.  But at least I am trying.

Coveting: Phil Collins tickets.  I tried to book tickets (the crappiest, cheapest seats I could get) and they had all sold out within minutes.  The next class of tickets was too rich for my blood so I had to bow out.  So sad. *cries*

Disliking: The way people behave on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram.  Who are these people who like to troll and abuse folks they don’t even know?

Feeling: Tired.  Tired.  Tired.  And middle-aged.  That one crept up on me…

Admiring: My dear friend for packing up her unsatisfying life and moving on to bigger and better things in a faraway location where she will know no one and have to fend for herself in an isolated location.  She is so much braver than me.  But I will miss her 😦

Snacking: Way too much.  I recently made these three-ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies and it wasn’t so much snacking as a cram-them-all-in-my-gob-at-once kinda scenario. They. Are. Delicious.

Giggling: At the antics of my temporary lodger, Ella the guinea pig.  She’s my niece’s little piggy and she’s adorable.  I am looking after her while her “people” are away.  She never stops eating.  I believe we are kindred spirits.

 

So, that’s my October.  What are your plans?  Are you looking forward to Spring cleaning, Halloween and the start of Christmas shopping?  Or is October just another month to you – one that flies by like the rest of them?  Whatever you are doing, I hope your month is creative and happy.

Thanks for dropping in x

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Dr Mosley’s Eggplant Brownies

Hello everyone.  These delicious brownies are from Dr Michael Mosley’s Clever Guts Diet book so I take no credit for them whatsoever.  I was lucky enough to attend a talk he did last week in Perth and his book was part of the package I purchased.  I try not to jump on diet bandwagons, but his makes so much sense and is nothing crazy or onerous.  In fact, most of the things he suggests are things I am already doing or eating (so I feel fairly smug ha ha).  Do visit his website and read his book if you are interested in improving your health and feeling better in general.  You may lose some weight too, although that’s not the focus of the diet (it’s just an added bonus).

Anyway, I have recently given up sugar (sort of…I fall off the wagon regularly) and, because of this, have not been craving as much sweet stuff.  That’s not to say I don’t want it at all – we ARE talking about me, after all – but I have been less inclined to raid the cookie jar at work and haven’t been wandering around the house at night trying to find something to eat after dinner.

These brownies are yummy.  You would never know they have eggplant in them and hardly any sugar (none added – just dates).  They are really moist and fudgey and will satisfy any sweet tooth and the most fussy chocoholic.  Do try them 🙂

Ingredients

  • medium eggplant (200 g), peeled and diced
  • 150g dark chocolate (minimum 70 per cent cocoa solids), broken into pieces
  • 60g coconut oil
  • 60g soft pitted dates, diced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 80g almond meal

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Steam the eggplant for 15 min­utes until it’s soft. Put it in a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir in the chocolate and coconut oil. The warm eggplant will melt the chocolate and oil. Add the chopped dates and salt. Using a hand blender or a food processor, blitz the mixture until it’s smooth. By now it should be cool enough to add the eggs and baking powder. Blitz again for another minute or so, then mix in the ground almonds. Spread the mixture onto a medium-sized baking tray lined with baking  paper and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. It is cooked when a knife comes out clean.

Cut into squares to serve.

 

Enjoy! 🙂

 

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Lemon Cupcake-in-a-Mug

Sometimes you just need cake.  Sometimes you just need cake but are well aware that baking an entire cake could prove dangerous.  Because you will eat it all yourself and fall into a pit of self-loathing so deep that there would be no ladder long enough to reach you.  So that’s where little cheats come in.  Cupcake cheats.  Lemony delicious soul-soothing cupcake cheats that make very little washing up and can be eaten quickly so there is no evidence of your adulting failures.  This recipe is super easy and the taste is yummo-licious.  Nice and tangy and citrussy (is that a word?) and very satisfying.  PLus it takes about 5 minutes to make and cook.  I’ll go back on my diet on Monday (I’ve been ill this week and so everything diet-and-exercise-wise went out the window).

Lemon Cupcake-in-a-Mug

Ingredients

3 tablespoons caster sugar
3 tablespoons plain flour
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg
2 tablespoons sunflower oil (or vegetable oil of your choice)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Method

In a 16oz mug, mix together the dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and combine until you have a nice smooth batter.

Microwave on high for approx 1 1/2 minutes.  Check cake and microwave for another 10-20 seconds if need be.  Don’t overcook.  Cake should be moist and springy to touch.  Let cool for 5 minutes and sprinkle with a little icing sugar if desired.  Then eat!  Yummo!

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Vegan “Meat” Balls

Hello, everyone!  I meant to post this before Christmas and then got a little bit sidetracked with, um, Christmas.  Seems like a long time ago now…

My brother and his partner are currently giving veganism a go and so, as Christmas was at their house, we had to come up with something to contribute to the dinner that night.  Normally, this wouldn’t be such an issue – Mum and I are already vegetarian – but because I have kidney issues, a lot of vegan-friendly foods are off the menu.  No chickpea casserole or lentil burgers for me!  So it became a little trickier to figure out what to bring.  And I didn’t want to wuss out and bring something just for me to eat.

Mum was in charge of dessert, so I told her to just make apple pie which is easy to do (just substitute any butter in the pastry with a non-dairy spread) and we served it with soy ice-cream.  Simple!  So she got off lightly.

I had to figure something else out for a savoury dish.  So I came up with these vegan “meat” balls.  I don’t have an exact recipe – I was too busy testing and mixing to actually write down any measurements – but you will get the general gist of things here.  It’s a bit of a keep-adding-stuff-until-you-get-it-right kind of recipe anyway.

Start with the binding agent, which in this recipe is flax seed meal.  Add three tablespoons of water to one of flax meal and mix together in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Now you need a large eggplant, chopped into small-ish pieces.  Chuck in a frypan and saute with a little bit of oil.  To stop it drying out, add a splash of water now and again.  You’re going to want to cook it for a while until….

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…it goes shmushy.  Y’know, all soft and mushy and no longer holding its shape.  Shmushy.  Oh and while you’re doing that, blanch some broccoli florets in boiling water for about 3 minutes until it is tender but NOT shmushy.  I used about 400g broccoli for this.  Drain it and set aside while the eggplant is cooking.

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Into a food processor, chuck the broccoli and eggplant, flax meal, five chopped spring onions (or you can use a small brown onion, chopped and sauteed with the eggplant), 200g of pine nuts, and about a cup of quick porridge oats.  I also added a little vege stock powder for seasoning and some smoked paprika.  Pulse in the processor, until it forms a sticky, combined blob. If it seems a little too sticky and wet, add some more oats or, if you’re not me, you could probably chuck in some besan (chickpea) flour.

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Now, roll the mixture into little balls – about the size of a golf ball.  Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with a little more smoked paprika if desired.

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Bake for 25 – 30 mins in a 180 C oven.  Turn halfway through cooking time so they’re golden on all sides.  They should be quite firm and crispy on the outside.

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Serve with a nice tomato sauce (like you would regular meatballs).  Yum!

These balls freeze really well and are delicious cold as well as hot.  You can use them in place of mince in a “meatloaf” or burgers.  As I said, my recipe is not exact – just go by feel and taste.  The eggplant lends a nice meaty taste to the dish, but you could substitute everything else for something you prefer.  Eg grated carrot instead of broccoli, breadcrumbs instead of oats, etc.  And of course you could use egg instead of the flax, if you’re not vegan.  Anything goes here!  Just experiment a bit 🙂

Hope you give these a try and maybe invent your own version/recipe (using my crappy version as a blue-print).  This recipe makes enough for a whole family and has the added bonus of not looking like they contain vegies (so fuss-pots will eat them too).

Thank you for stopping by x

 

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Easy Lemon Bars

Hello hello!  I discovered this recipe from All Recipes Australia whilst looking for something yummy to make for a morning tea with my cousin.  She is an EXCELLENT cook so I wasn’t going to try anything too fancy that would demonstrate how un-excellent I am in comparison to her.  This slice was very simple, tasted delicious (my cousin took the remainder home to share with her family), and didn’t require a lot of mucking about.  I am lazy when it comes to cooking – I don’t want lots of complicated steps or procedures, or weird ingredients NO ONE has in their kitchen cupboards.  I don’t want to have to do a three hour shopping trip just so I can bake something for dessert.

Anyway, this recipe is super easy and pretty fool-proof (I’m a fool and the recipe worked, so there’s your proof, ha ha).  It’s nice and zingy with plenty of lemon flavour.

Easy Lemon Bars

Ingredients

For Base

125g butter, softened
1 1/3 cups (175g) plain flour
1/4 cup (60g) caster sugar

For Filling / Top

2 eggs
3/4 cup (185g) white sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

Icing sugar to dust

Method

  1. For the base : Rub butter into the flour and icing sugar, until you reach a crumb stage.
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  2. Press the crumb mixture into a 20cm square cake tin, lined with baking paper.  Press down with a fork – make sure mixture goes all the way to the edges.
  3. Bake at 180 C for about 20 minutes.  Don’t allow it to brown – it should be just cooked.
  4. For the filling : In a food processor (or, alternatively, use a whisk), beat the remaining ingredients together until smooth and well combined.
  5. Pour filling over prepared base, and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes at 180 C.
  6. Remove from oven, dust with icing sugar and allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Best kept in the fridge if weather is warm.  The base is basically like shortbread, but the centre becomes gooey if allowed to get warm.  Not that gooey is a bad thing, mind you 🙂

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Hope you give these a try – they really are very quick and easy to make and VERY yummy.  My cousin and her kids approved 🙂

Thanks for stopping by x

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Broccoli & Cheese Party Snacks

Now, I understand that broccoli is not necessarily something you think of when someone says “party snacks”, but trust me, these are yummy and a good dish to have if you are serving vegetarians (and don’t want to give them the same boring old hard-boiled eggs or carrot-sticks-with-dip type scenario).  Easy to make and easy to eat – what could be better?  Serve with a nice, rich tomato sauce for dipping.  Yum!

Ingredients

400g broccoli florets (blanched for 1 minute in boiling water and chopped finely)

1 cup grated cheddar cheese (but any cheese that you can grate would be fine)

3 spring onions, finely chopped

3/4 cup bread crumbs

1 egg

1 egg white

salt and pepper to taste

Method

Mix all of the above together in a large bowl until well combined.  I actually cheated and bunged the cheese, bread and spring onions all into a food processor so I didn’t have to grate and chop, but either way is fine 🙂  Take spoonfuls of mixture and form into ovals, roughly the size of two walnuts (hope that makes sense – I couldn’t think of anything else to compare them to!).  Bake on a tray in the oven at 200 c for approximately 20 minutes, turning over halfway through.  They should be nice and golden and holding their shape.  You could easily make them larger and flatter, to form a burger, if you wanted to perhaps serve them as a meal for dinner with a salad or other accompaniment.

Give them a try – they’re tasty and almost healthy (if you don’t think about the cheese!).  They actually have an almost meaty taste so your non-vego friends will like them too (and if they don’t, too bad – more for me!).

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

 

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Apple Crumble Cookies

I love cooking shows.  You can get some really good ideas from them and, even if the dishes have something in them you don’t like or can’t eat, you can always adapt the flavours.  It’s all about inspiration and having a go.

These cookies appeared on Jamie Oliver’s show, Jamie’s Quick and Easy Food, where he makes yummy meals and dishes using only five main ingredients.  I hastily scribbled down the recipe, hoping I had got all the measurements right.  I am always looking for a good cookie recipe – something that is simple and quick with not too many ingredients or steps.  These fit the bill.  I love apple crumble so what could be better than a cookie based on those flavours, right?  I did add cinnamon because I think that is ESSENTIAL when you are making anything with apple.  So this is technically a six ingredient recipe, not five, but hey, I was never very good at maths anyway.

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Next time I make these, I am going to try leaving out the egg.  I like a really crisp, crunchy cookie, and these were a little softer than I would normally make.  Omitting egg from cookie recipes will generally give you a less “cakey” cookie.  Don’t quote me on that – I’m not an expert.  It’s just my experience.

So, anyway, here is the Apple Crumble Cookie recipe.  Try them – they’re simple, no fuss,  and delicious.  Plus they have my Mum’s seal of approval, which is good enough for me.


Apple Crumble Cookies

Ingredients

100g dried apple
100g butter, cubed
100g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Method

Process apple in a food processor until it is chopped finely.

Add butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon and process again until it resembles bread crumbs.  Remove about 1/4 cup of this mixture and set aside.

Add egg to remaining mixture and process until a dough is formed.

Roll spoonfuls of dough into small balls, about the size of a walnut, and place on baking tray lined with baking paper.

Flatten with a fork.  Sprinkle set aside crumb mixture on top of each cookie.

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Bake at 200 C for 10-12 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

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Apologies to Jamie Oliver for borrowing his recipe.  But these deserve to be shared 🙂