Slow Cooked Red Wine Mushroom Soup

Another Jen Rice creation…I saw this one in my feed a few weeks and read enough to include the makings in my next supermarket shop. Since, it’s just been a case of waiting for a day off as I get dinner supplied at work now – I have a decent breakfast and don’t usually make a bid deal about lunch so other opportunities are a little lacking…

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The soup I made following the recipe…it’s very simple and would be tough to get wrong. I’m kinda over having bread as my only side for soup meals so cast the Google net to see what alternatives I could find.

I found mention of using vege burgers as a side to soups and that reminded me of  this recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie . The only change I made was to sub kidney beans for the pinto beans and to dribble my last remnants of block cheese over the top – wasn’t very much so it looks a littler snotty…sorry… I also referred to this site for some tips on cooking quinoa

The recipe make about a dozen of the ‘biscuits’. I though that I would dip them as I would with bread but this soup isn’t thick enough for decent dipping. I ate them as a side: quite tasty and very filling…worked well with the soup which is very rich, tasty and filling.

A simple, tasty dinner with the only time-consuming aspect being the slow cooker phase of the soup…add in a few chunks of beef and this would be an even chunkier soup or the makings of an equally fine stew…

 

MHAW Photo-a-day Challenge – Oct. 15 – Nature is key to…

…health…but what sort of image depicts health…?

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The Challenge

Mental Health Awareness Week in New Zealand is 9-15 October this year. Each year, the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand runs and sponsors a number of awareness activities.

The MHAW Photo Challenge runs from 1-15 October  Each day participants post an image that is their take on that day’s theme:

Oct. 1 – My view
Oct. 2 – Gratitude
Oct. 3 – Light
Oct. 4 – Water
Oct. 5 – Small treasures
Oct. 6 – Nature indoors
Oct. 7 – Bush walk
Oct. 8 – Art
Oct. 9 – Pop of colour
Oct. 10 – MHAW Lockout
Oct. 11 – Papatūānuku (Mother Earth)
Oct. 12 – Creature
Oct. 13 – Spring
Oct. 14 – Love my backyard
Oct. 15 – Nature is key to…

#MHAWNZ

Sautéed Honey Mustard Cabbage

This sautéed honey mustard cabbage bowl is a perfect detox breakfast, lunch or dinner. Cabbage is not only insanely good for you but it simply tastes amazing as well.

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Another winner from Jen Rice’s Sugar Soil stable…I’ve included the whole recipe here because I’ve had trouble getting it to show on the Sugar Soil site…very simple, very fast, very yum…

Ingredients

2 tablespoons of apple cider

1 tablespoon of mustard

3 tablespoon of olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons of honey

1/2 head of cabbage chopped into bite-size pieces.

An onion chopped

One large egg

One avocado diced

Directions

Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1 tablespoon olive oil, honey and apple cider together and set aside.

Over a medium heat add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, the cabbage and the onion to a skillet and sauté for 5 minutes.

Pour the mustard sauce over the cabbage and mix well, turning the heat to low and cook for about 5-7 more minutes.

While you are cooking the cabbage, fry or poach your egg in another pan.

Place the sautéed cabbage in a bowl with the egg and avocado on top.

Easy as an easy thing…reversing the quantities of honey and mustard will give you the same less sweet and with more of a mustard ‘bite’…

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Yesterday’s leftovers on black rice that I soaked overnight before cooking this morning…I used a very small pan to poach the egg and then realised that I don’t have a scoop small enough to  slide the egg from the pan…hence the semi-deconstructed look…

Of the two variations, I think I prefer the more mustardy version with rice: cabbage, mustard and honey for flavour, avocado of textural contrast and the rice for bulk.

As I type, I notice that I forgot to do the avocado this morning…a mission now for whatever tomorrow’s breakfast will be…

A nutty two in one…three even…

I think this idea first fell from a recipe that popped up in my or a friend’s Facebook feed for no bake cranberry energy bites from Life Made Sweeter

I liked the sound of it – ‘cept the peanut butter part. Almonds I’m reserving for coconut almond milk: it’s getting warmer here and porridge has dropped on the breakfast menu (pending more snow!) in lieu of muesli, which uses more milk.

Looking at the nuts available, sunflower seeds looked promising and a quick Google led me to this recipe at Pretty Prudent. It is so simple. The only crucial ingredient not listed in the recipe is patience: depending on your food processor, it may take a while for the powdered nuts to cream into butter

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Not yet..keep going

….just keep the faith, follow the directions and it will turn out OK. Three cups of seeds = about two cups of sunbutter.

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It’s fairly solid but spreads with care…more oil would make it creamier but compete with the sunflower seed flavour…the solution, as offered in the comments on the original recipe, may be to use sunflower oil for the creaming…

Keeping the butter in the fridge also contributes to the harder consistency and I’m wondering if my Mad Millie Ceramic Butter Keeper will keep it cool to enough to stop it going off too early but warm enough to be more spreadable…

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Why doesn’t someone invent a straight banana…?

Fresh banana and sunbutter on herb bread toast has been part of breakfast the last two mornings. Very filling with an interesting combination of sweet banana and stick nut…nice…but I would probably go for it more if the sunbutter was a little more creamy and a little less sticky – always my one big objection to most peanut butter…I may sub the sunbutter in instead of peanut butter in one of our peanut rice dishes to see how it goes…

So, getting back on track for the energy bites…again a recipe so simple…just follow the directions….too easy…

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My only deviations from the original recipe were subbing in the sunbutter and using almond coconut meal (leftover from almond coconut milk) in lieu of coconut…if you’ve got, I say, use it…

As writ, the recipe is good for about 20-25 bites. They store well in the fridge and are tasty and very filling: ideal for fending off attacks of the munchies…

Next time around, I will double the dried fruit – not necessarily cranberries – and use normal rolled oats instead of the quick cook oats – I just don’t think they add a lot of value – and/or I may sub in a not-oat-based alternative…not because I am particularly concerned about the gluten thing but because, again, I can…

And there you go, an easy three-fer….

Salmon with Spicy Tomato Rice

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Spur of the moment invention dinner…

As part of my green journey, I have been slowly reducing the number of production steps between me and the raw materials. Last week, I used the last can of tomatoes from the pantry and resolved henceforth to only use fresh tomatoes where previously I would have used the canned variety.

Obviously this means a little more planning ahead due to the shelf life of fresh tomatoes v their tinny competition. So the tomatoes I bought last we were starting to scream for attention and tonight was the night. I wanted to do something a bit different and also empty out the freezer a little more – still don’t have much space for frozen soups and TV dinners after giving up the chest freezer in the garage.

I took some salmon steaks out and only once they were committed to defrosting did I stop to consider how tomatoes might figure in tonight’s dining experience. I got some ideas from Google, selecting this one for Mexican tomato rice and beans from Fine Foods as my base.

It looked like – and was – a quick cook so I got the rice on first. Now that the last of the white rice is gone, it’s all brown from here on – I’m using a mix of long and short grain – with black held in reserve for special occasions. The spicy tomato bit has this in it:

  • 1 teaspoon of oil (grapeseed tonight)
  • 6 close of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 generous tablespoon of Jalapenos, also finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of black salt (the colour doesn’t really mean anything)
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1 can of red kidney beans (also the last can)
  • 440 grams of fresh tomatoes, blended
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of oregano
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of coriander powder (will use crushed seeds next time)

I started by frying the garlic and jalapeno in the oil til the flavours were rally strong – about a minute – before stirring in the spices and slat. After a couple of minutes add the tomato and beans, followed by the herbs. If it looks a tad dry, add about half a cup of water (I rinsed  the bean tin into the pan).

Once this is simmering away, I added the salmon steaks, and let it all simmer away until the rice was done.

Nice a simple. Hot and spicy. Brought out a good sweat on a cold wind wet night…

Took out some more fish to do again with the leftovers tomorrow…

 

Say no to sugar taxes

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Drone alert in more ways than one…

Healthy Food Guide reports today that

“A petition calling for a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages that collected nearly 10,000 signatures was presented to Maori and Green Party MPs in Parliament last week”

That’s on the HFG site that is so paranoid that it has blocked the right mouse button function to prevent people copying or printing its articles and recipes. Heads up, team, all that does is force people to other sites more friendly (you’re not that unique), to use the browser drop-down menu, and/or just give you a miss: most, if not all of your recipes are available elsewhere (it’s not called the world-wide web for nothing you know)…just Google the recipe title to see if you can’t find the same -or often a better – recipe elsewhere…

But…back to the sugar thing…dear food fun Nazis, please get a grip…taxes don’t stop people using commodities they want to use…increasing taxes hasn’t drastically changed usage stats for spray paint, petrol, alcohol or nicotine, nor, had the legislation been enacted, would it have stopped sheep farting…all taxes on products like these is make them more expense so that people waste more money on them (less the sheep farting – sheep farts will always be free).

If you really want to stop people using something, then ban it and make it totally unavailable, except of course, for the bootleg and black market alternatives that will spring into existence the second the ban goes into effect. Bans – certainly where the market mass is most of the population – are rarely (not really!!) effective.

Ongoing effective education is the solution. Not anti-sugar propaganda because even kids can see through that. Tell it like it is. Put the truth – not truth, not your truth – out there. Be first with the truth. It’s not perfect but have a read of That Sugar Story anyway. Damon Gameau is a bit OTT at times but his basic premise is pretty good and pretty healthy – and you don’t need any laws or taxes to make it work. Consume less sugar. Avoid hidden sugars: quick tip, if it’s in a plastic wrapper that says it’s healthy, don’t touch it…you DON’T have to give up food fun to be healthy…there’s more to healthy food than water and lentils …

(lentils get a bad rap sometimes)

Stop trying to protect everyone from themselves. Nanny-stating has an opposite effect in the long term: instead of protecting the people from themselves, the increasing absence of challenge turns them into mindless drones incapable of applying judgement, solving problems or thinking for themselves.

I caught up with an old friend last week – someone who I had not physically seen 2007 but whom the miracle of Facebook had kept me in touch with. She made the very telling comment that the more support services we offer, the more people demand AND the less capable they become of thinking and fending for themselves. More and more people expect everyone to be nice to them and for ‘someone else’ to doing all think and supporting for them as well…

The truth is that sometimes life throws up challenges; life is sometimes a bit hard; things do not always go according to plan. ‘The people’ need to make their own decisions and accept the consequences of those decisions. They need to be given opportunities every day to exercise and practise those skills. Taking away their ability, indeed their right, to make lifestyle decisions for them and their families doesn’t make us smarter or healthier as a nation…

Look askance at any politician babbling in support of a sugar tax…

 

Mad Millie Nut-milk Bag

 

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a big fan of reducing dairy content in our diets. I caught up with my sister and her family in Waitomo late last year when they were visiting the NI: we exchanged a few foodie tips and then this arrived a few months later for my birthday.

Previous on this green journey, I’ve tried nut-milk bags and dumped them in favour using simple squares of voile that I bought from Spotlight. I was happy using the voile but squeezing the milk out was kinda messy. Using the Mad Millie bag works best if the milk mix is left to drip through overnight so adding an overhead of coordination and organisation to ensure a continuous supply of milk: in short, the full process of soaking and filtering takes 24 hours so ideally needs to start as soon as the current bottle runs out.

I usually only use the milk at breakfast time on my muesli and in my cuppa tea and only in my cuppa if it’s in my take to work thermal cup. The reason for this is that something in the milk reacts with some teas (haven’t worked out a pattern yet) and causes a mild congealing reaction. It doesn’t affect the taste but doesn’t look so sharp: a friend recently re-introduced me to straight black tea and I’m more likely to have this for an open cup cuppa. Unless it’s bake fest night and I need to use some milk, I don’t usually use any milk in the evening.

My daily coffee fix, I now usually get via a bannofee smoothie using coconut milk powder for the milk content so no need for milk there anymore ‘specially since switching to this drink has dropped my coffee consumption to a cup a day (from 7-8!)

So..the Mad Millie Nut Milk Bag

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It’s quite simple really: extend the legs, hook the bag into the frame and pour in the milk and meal mix. The legs aren’t quite long enough to rest on the counter and hold the bag clear of the accumulating milk. One day I might get round to making a base frame to hold it slightly higher…

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After that, just let it sit overnight. By morning most of the liquid will have filtered through and the last vestiges can be gently squeezed out before consigning the remaining meal to the dryer.

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You do need to take care that the stand is set up squarely or life may become messy. My meal mix is about 1.25 litres; although the bag would hold more, I would start to worry about its stability if it was filled much more.

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I used this bread bag that Mum made, especially in summer, to prevent any ‘floaters’ or ‘swimmers’ getting into the milk.

The meal mix I’m using at the moment is a 25/25/50 mix of almonds, sunflower seeds and coconut chips. The sunflower seeds help spread the life of the more expensive almonds and add a slightly less sweet edge to the flavour but this could be easily counteracted by dropping a vanilla pod or some dates into the blender during the first part of the soaking phase.

Verdict? Certainly a handy device and now my tool of choice for making non-dairy milk. Yes, the filtering time means I have to be a little more organised but that’s not a bad thing. It would be nice if it came with a second bag so that I could still ‘milk’ when the other bag is in the wash but I guess that I can get another made up if I really feel the need…

A second oxymoronic treat…

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My first go at an oxymoronic treat was nice and got good reviews but I felt it was still a bit heavy…once again the path of true serendipity took me on another path. A friend posted a different sweet potato/kumara-based chocolate cake on her Facebook page and one of her daughters responded that it wasn’t as good as her black bean chocolate cake…a challenge, for sure…

The recipe is from Chocolate Covered Katie and can be made in a flash: I left work at 4-32 (it’s a 15 minute drive, 20km, 485 vertical metre trip) home, stopped at the National Park GAS station for a can of black beans (was sorely tempted to opt for the chilli black beans but might reserve that for a colder night) and had this OUT of the oven by 5-35…it is that simple but I did modify Katie’s recipe slightly:

  • 1 1/2 cups black beans (1 400ml can or 1/3 cup dry black beans before rehydration)
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • I dropped out the stevia as it doesn’t need any extra sweetening after the maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil It didn’t say to melt or soften it but I had a couple of lumps in the mix that were quite hard to smooth out so, yes, at least soften the coconut oil if you live someplace too cold for it to remain liquid in the bottle.
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup of chocolate chips This worked for me, personally better than the 1/2 to 2/3 cup recommended in the original recipe.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Combine all the ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor, and blend until completely smooth.

Stir in the chips, then pour the mix into a greased pan.

Cook the black bean brownies 15-18 minutes, then let it cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut or remove it from the pan.

This was only the first attempt but I much prefer the crispy crunchier texture and the more subtle chocolate flavour than what Katie originally intended. The fire fighters and rangers who tested the end result on Wednesday and Thursday certainly give it a thumbs-up…

Still keen to try a chilli variant next…

An oxymoronic treat…

An recipe that I didn’t, not being particularly chocolatey inclined, seek out…it appeared in one of my culinary feeds and the concept of a healthy chocolate cake begged further exploration, more so when one of the main ingredients is kumara…

I cannot find the source of the original recipe: all the links in my PDF of the recipe go to Happy and Healthy (one of my main sources of healthy raw materials) so I’m assuming that this a Kiwi recipe from a site not particularly visible to Google…

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Rather that try to cut a neat circle with scissors to line the base of the pan, I tried trapping the baking paper between the base and sides of the spring-form pan: perfecto!!!

Ingredients

2 medium (baked & skinless) kumara
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil, melted.
60g or 6 squares of 85% cacoa dark chocolate (Lindt or Green & Gold), melted
¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
¼ cup organic rice malt syrup
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda (sifted)
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 165°C

Lightly grease a 20cm cake ring pan with coconut oil.

Place the baked sweet potatoes in your food processor and process until pureed.

Add the rest of the ingredients and process them until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes. Bake slightly longer for a crunchy outer shell.

Let it cool. Once cool, place it in the fridge overnight.

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This is the first result made exactly in accordance with the recipe. I used the Lindt chocolate and, once it had cooled overnight in the fridge, had collapsed into quite a firm slice with e very strong chocolate taste. This version did rise during baking but slowly deflated into a more solid slice during its overnight sojourn in the fridge. To be honest, I think it has a better flavour and texture ‘deflated’…

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For my second attempt I didn’t change anything in the recipe but used the slice as the centre layer on another variation on the no cheese cheesecake theme. The effect that I was after was a strong contrast between the deep chocolate centre and a tangy orange topping.

The base is the standard mix of dates, coconut oil and meal derived from my nut milk production line. This base had a very strong baked overtone and I think this is from overheating the meal when drying it over the fire – we scraped most of this off and the slice was strong enough to still support the top layer.

The orange topping is a cup of cashews soaked overnight in the the zest and juice of a dozen navel oranges and then pureed in the blender. More zest required next time, I think, as the orange taste was quite distinct but without the tangy effect I sought.

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An outcome of discussions on the orange chocolate cheesecake was a curiosity regarding the necessity for the syrup in the recipe. We felt this could be safely replaced with a mashed banana. Version #3 replaced the quarter cup of syrup with a mashed ripe banana and the Lindt chocolate with an equivalent weight of Healtheries sugar-free chocolate baking bits. To compensate for the additional liquid in the banana I added two extra tablespoons of coconut flour.

The result was definitely workable and one small segment survived fire training the following night. An unexpected but not unpleasant result was the embedding of small chunks of unmashed banana – not properly mashed – spread through the slice, delivering a nice banana hit every couple of bites. I don’t think it was necessary to add the extra coconut flour so will skip that next time but keep the banana. The chocolate flavour was not so smooth or strong – but still eminently doable – as with the Lindt but I’m not sure whether that would be due to the change in source chocolate or the drier mix caused by the extra coconut flour.

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A surprise chunk of unmashed banana is just visible in the edge closest to the knife…

Definitely a winner recipe…very simple to make, albeit with the slight inconvenience of needing an overnight chill in the fridge and with the high kumara content, if nothing else, is at least one way to get the kids to eat their veges…