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…

 

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…

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…

Pistachio, chia seeds and vanilla “icecream”…

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The first fire training night after I got back from my training course the Fire Services’s  National Training Centre in Rotorua was our first Brigade meeting for the year. These are every two month and are where we decided on allocation of funds and resource, develop training programmes etc. In our Brigade we always lay on a dinner.

I normally draw dessert – our dinners are all self-cooked: everyone contributes to a course. This time I wanted to play with some of the ideas I’d hoovered up off the ‘Net in the previous few weeks. I settled on three recipes to make a single disk but the way it panned out, I ended up with two separate desserts.

Plan A was for a  pistachio chia pudding layered with a plum cream topped with a dairy-free vanilla ice cream. The layered part went together OK, although my layering needs work as you can see from the image above.

I had to double both recipes as I was preparing for fourteen – that’s a lot of pistachios to shell and ideally to fill the cups I would have needed the same again. The pistachio flavour is very strong and distinctive: it went OK with the plum cream layer but both would have been better if served separately- next time I do this recipe, I’ll be thinking more along the lines of three sampler deserts with plain ice cream…

The ice cream just didn’t work and, going on many comments on the page, that’s more down to the recipe than anything that I did or didn’t do. Simply the recipe, Jamie Oliver or not, does not contain any ingredients that will set it. A more recent note on the recipe page says that the staff will have a look at it. What I ended up with was a large vanilla-flavoured ice block with not the slightest creamy characteristic.

My Plan B recovery plan was to grab a tub of TipTop vanilla ice cream from the local GAS petrol station and Four Square dairy – when they learned it was for the Brigade dinner, they kindly refused to charge me for it…thanks, team!

The ice cream was the common denominator between the pistachio and plum dessert and what was now a rich vanilla cream over ice cream dessert. The pistachio and plum dessert would have been better served as two separate option and not layered in the same cup – next I’ll serve each of the three desserts in separate corners of a dinner plate, with a scope of ice cream in the middle.

I’m quite keen to play more with pistachios as the flavour is so distinctive and strong; the plum cream I could take or leave but the vanilla ‘cream’ was to die for – seriously: rich, sweet and strong…unfortunately not enough survived for any photos…next time..

Literal green pizza

Playing with toys again…had to wait weeks before the Todo pizza makers showed up again at NZSale…only a third of the price they go for at Mighty Ape…Yes, I know I can make pizzas in the oven but I was interested in something that might offer a more portable pizza-ing experience and a new toy (plus it IS in Deadpool colours)

p70101-192150I made a few conventional dough-based pizzas but I’d been hearing for a while about vegetable bases for pizzas. Being gifted a full head of broccoli seemed like a perfect opportunity to try this (plus a head of broccoli goes a loooong way in conventional meals).

I found this recipe at Gothamist. It was easy, easy, easy…I put some baking paper down case it stuck but I need not have worried: the base pan is super-non-stick.

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The topping was just whatever was in the fridge: tomato, pineapple, yellow capsicum and some mozzarella…

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Forgot to add the tomato sauce base (store-bought pasta sauce) so applied over the top of the other toppings…

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Came out OK…cooked for about 20 minutes…even though the base is a full head of broccoli, the taste is quite subtle and not as overpowering as you might expect – probably a good way to sneak soem veges into unwilling younger diets…

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I use the pizza make quite often with a variety of bases, including store-bought ones which are good to rush meals and also wraps, although these need some care so that the more liquid toppings don’t flow off the edge…

No cheese cheesecake #4

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If I stopped looking at Facebook, I’d stop getting these inspirations…I thought I was done with the ‘ no cheese’ cheesecake thing (#1, #2, #3) but this one just looked too good not to try…It’s another Nadia Lim creation, a bit pricier than the others only because avos area  little pricey at the moment: not a problem in season or if you are lucky enough to have your own tree…

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I need some more practice building a  level base as it always seems to build up unevenly around the edges, giving this untidy appearance of more base than filling: it is actually, more filling than base, just doesn’t look it…

My base was simply the meal left over from a batch of almond/coconut milk (a litre of milk gives up exactly the right amount of meal for the base). The avocado gives the filling a silky smooth texture and the lime zest and juice adds a real zing to the flavour – or it would if the only limes at New World that week weren’t nasty little dried up things with nary a drop of juice….and if my back bottle of lime juice had more than half the required cup of lime juice.

I’m tempted to try this again this week with the full charge of lime to see how much zingier it is…it was OK this time but I felt the lost zing potential…

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I did make the berry coulis recommended in the recipe but tossed in the last of the coconut milk just to expend it…tasted OK but the milk neutered the sharp crisp berry taste…should have just used water like last time…

Still…it went very nicely with ice cream down at the station…

 

Beetroot and prunes in breadless burgers

While not in the market for another burger mix, the bright colours that accompanied the recipe on Sugar Soil hooked me: any healthy benefits aside, most beetroot recipes have striking colours and this one was no exception…

I made the mix i n accordance with the recipe on line but next time I thin l’ll aim for a mix with more even proportions of the beans, beetroot and prunes: I foud that the sweetness of the prunes rather underwhelming even though I did add more than the recipe quantities.

On a whim, I also decided to have a play with breadless burgers…Empowered Sustenace had some good ideas...it wasn’t difficult and I’m keen to try some of the other ideas as well. The most successful in this go-round was the mushroom evolution: fried just enough to bring out the flavour, and then stacked with the usual fillings burger-style…

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Mushroom ‘buns’

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Open burger on an eggplant ‘bun’

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Open burgers on pepper ring bases

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Mushroom and eggplant ‘buns’

Very tasty, with crisp clear flavours and surprisingly filling…no dairy, no nuts, no meat, no bread, no sugars, no hassle…

No Cheese Cheesecake #3

Continuing my cheeseless cheesecake theme from before Christmas – yes, it has been a while since I did some writing! – this was the third (#1, #2)recipe that I wanted to try: not only cheeseless but also raw…it is from The Awesome Green and, apart from increasing the mix for a bigger dish, it is pretty much out of the box…

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The base is the simplest of the three: all you need is:

  • 2 cups of dry pitted dates, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup of raw almonds

Placed them in a food processor and blend them until you get a sticky mix: spread this evenly across the base of your pan – I used a 9″ spring form, lined with baking paper just in case the base needed some support when lifted out of the pan – needn’t have worried: it was sturdy as and easily popped out and on to a plate.

For the filling you need:

  • 4 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 2 lemons, juice only
  • 1 cup of coconut milk*
  • 4 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Drain the cashews and place them in the food processor  with the lemon juice,
coconut milk and raw honey.Process into a smooth cream.

Pour the cashew mixture in the pan on top of the crust, and spread evenly.

Because I doubled the mix for a larger pan, I made the filling in two batches. My plan was to add some blueberries to the second batch for a layered result but I my haste to get it done, I forgot to check whether the first batch had set before pouring in the second, hence the inner/outer effect you can see below…

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Done properly, it would have looked quite good but adding blueberries to both batches would have been even better.

To top off the topping – as a last minute addition to the plan – I tossed some semi-frozen strawberries, raspberries and blackberries into the blender for a berry coulis to pour over the top.

Happy with the final product but next time, I think I’ll add some vanilla ice cream…

* The recipe said “...use homemade for the raw version or full fat for the vegan one...” I used homemade coconut milk (well, 3:1 coconut/almond) and I don’t see how this could upset any vegan sensibilities as all it is is coconut, almond and water…

‘No Cheese’ Cheese Cake #1

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Our brigade is a foodie brigade. A couple of weeks ago one of our firefighters returned from her (successful) recruit firefighter course.  Dessert was my contribution to her welcome back .

I’m more savoury that sweet and while I like traditional cheesecake, only in small amounts: the overall cream cheese effect is too heavy and cloying for my taste…I also like the idea of a base that is a little closer to the raw materials  than ground up biscuits…that’s just like a bit of a Green Journey principle…

Googling provide a range of opportunities for a less cheesy cheesecake but nothing quite what I was after in a single recipe so this is a combination from two sources: the base is the coconut macaroon crust from Two Peas and Their Pod, and the filling is from A Baking Girl.

The base

  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups sweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Spray a 10 inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. I heavily greased the tray, especially the base and still the base stuck quite a bit. Next I will line it with oven paper.

Stir together the sweetened condensed milk, egg white, vanilla extract, and salt until combined.

Add in the coconut and mix well. I bought a single bag of desiccated coconut – don’t normally have this in the pantry as I tend towards threaded and chunked coconut – but didn’t quite get the maths right and had to top this up with the meal leftover from my almond coconut milk.

Press coconut mixture into prepared pie pan. I was aiming for about a 5mm thickness and this left about a cup of base mix leftover – I knocked this into the sink and that was the end of that but next time I would press any leftover base into cookies and bake alongside the cheesecake.

One of the recipes I looked at during my research phase recommended prebaking the base for 5 minutes before adding the filling so I did this.

The filling

  • 2 cups fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used ‘bad’ white sugar to eat into the remaining stock in the pantry)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean (seeds scraped out) or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch

Combine the eggs, sugar, yogurt and vanilla in a food processor. I think that this is where the leftover yolk from the base went as well.

Blend until smooth, then add the cornstarch and salt and blend again.

Pour the filling over the base and bake for 35 minutes.

When the cheesecake is done, it will still be jiggly in the centre but will have a “done” look to it. The edges of the cake will start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Make sure you don’t over-bake.

Let it cool then chill for 2-3 hours in the fridge before releasing the springform.

The topping

  • 1/2 cup of cream, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla sugar (this worked to edge the edge off the cream taste but next time I would probably double it and/or add half a vanilla bean to add more of a flavour counterpoint to the filling and the base.

The filling set to a degree that the sliced strawberry topping would not stick to it. The sole purpose of the cream was to provide a layer for the strawberries to sink into slightly.

I’m keen to try this again with non-dairy yogurt to further de-dairy-ise it; it is wheat-free for those who have a genuine gluten issue; and, of course, to use an alternate sugar source once the last of the white is gone…

Cowspiracy

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My green journey started when Bubble asked me if I had seen Cowspiracy…seen it? I had only vaguely heard of it…but in the spirit of learning and breaking down preconceptions (of which, I may or may not have a few), I tracked down a copy, put my feet up one night with a cold root beer and watched…

…and watched…

…and watched…

…but this guy really just didn’t do it for me…nor did his story…

Cowspiracy presents like a ‘real crime’ expose…but the producer is so sure that everything is part of some great but unstated conspiracy but all his smoking guns are wet bus tickets. I think the point is is trying to make – bit never does – is that any sort of dairy farming is unsustainable.

That may or may not be true but his logic never gets to the point and the narrative wonders from one conspiratorial form of commercial agriculture to the next. He accuses Greenpeace and other organisations of being complicit in the conspiracy and then wonders why they don’t want to speak to him – which he then presents as further evidence of the conspiracy.

From my own research I get that feeding cattle wheat-based products has an effect on the environment. I get that this may lead to a profit-motivated clearing of forest for cropland. I get that extensive marketing drives over-consumption of meat products. But Cowspiracy didn’t tell me that. The only things I got from Cowspiracy was the clever title and an unpleasant sensation that ‘antis‘ like the producer of Cowspiracy do more harm than good to their cause and that crossing the road to avoid them is probably a good idea…

But I’m glad that Bubble recommended that I watch it. It made me think and so my own research and develop my own opinion. I love a good steak, dripping with garlic; I love my homemade burgers and nothing beats a good roast on a winter weekend. But, like most things, in moderation. the thing that really discouraged me from commercial meat products was the Hot Doc’s comments about the amount of hormones and other additives in the commercial food chain. So now, I aim for free range or organic chicken and when I do buy meat, it is an unprocessed as possible, no marinades, crumbing, etc…

So good things come from pseudo X-Files exposes like Cowspiracy…and from Cowspiracy, Bubble led me on to That Sugar Movie which is well-produced, logical and inspired me to think about me and sugar…