Friday, November 30, 2012

In my kitchen - November 2012

I have decided, two months short of the end of the year, to abandon my "What I've Enjoyed This Month" posts and instead continue with Cityhippyfarmgirl's "Loving This Week" initiative, which falls on the last Sunday of the month. Doing both seems a tad repetitive and this way I can allocate my end-of-month post to Celia's "In My Kitchen" event. This is a lovely initiative hosted by Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, which gives a peek into other people's kitchens.


In my kitchen this month...

There have been signs of summer, with icy smoothies and grilling for dinner.

Hemp seed milk, frozen raspberries, spinach and mint

I could do this in winter,  but for some reason I don't

There was a very odd lolly foot, given to Mr Bite after Halloween by one of his nieces.

There have been roasted chickpeas flavoured with Sicilian herbs and garlic (a delightful mix).

I just wish these got less seasoning on my fingers. They are very messy to eat whilst working.

There have been baking trays from my late grandmother, after the inevitable sorting out of my grandparent's old house. I haven't been able to bring myself to use the trays yet, but they are very special to have.

There have been artichokes, on pizza and in other forms, after many delicious artichoke experiences in Europe. I haven't managed to recreate the deliciousness at home yet, so I sense they won't be featuring in future months. The fresh ones intimidate me and the tinned ones are, well, tinned.

Finding the artichoke amongst the pineapple is a tricky task - but it is there

There has been broken glass. I found myself on another breakage streak, resulting in three broken things this month. One of the breakages was a sweet chilli sauce jar, which was nearly empty but (crucially) not quite. Glass and sticky sauce are a challenge I hope I don't meet again for some time.

There has been coconut water, my first and I suspect my last. I found this so disgusting I couldn't finish the pack! I think this is one trend I won't be following (perhaps for the best, given cost).

And of course, there has been a whole heap of non-dairy ice cream.

I am linking this in to Celia's In My Kitchen event for November 2012.

What has been happening in your kitchen lately?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thai style veggie patties (#2)

Earlier this year, I posted a recipe for vegetarian Thai 'fish' cakes. They included potato, butter beans, breadcrumbs, sweet chilli sauce, coriander, lemon and fresh ginger, amongst other things. Mel of Veganise This! subsequently made a (much neater) version of the patties using potato, chickpeas, breadcrumbs, fresh chilli, coriander, lime and fresh ginger, again amongst other things.

Today's recipe is really a twist on those patties from earlier in the year. The ingredient list is a little different, but not dramatically so. However, it is different enough to need documenting - at least for someone with my poor memory for what I put into dishes! - and so we have this post.

One of the biggest changes in this version is the omission of potatoes. Instead, I used oats. Oats in veggie patties may not be for everyone but they are something I enjoy - and they have the added bonus of avoiding potato peeling and cooking (does anyone else find that easy task surprisingly aversive?). I also added grated zucchini, used chia seeds instead of egg replacer, and like Mel used lime instead of lemon for flavouring. The result was a similar pattie but one that was clearly not the same as version 1.

Thai style veggie patties, #2
Makes about 16 patties

1 1/2 cups cooked and drained butter beans (or chickpeas) (a 400g tin if using tinned)

1 tbsp chia seeds, soaked in 1/2 cup water for at least 15 minutes

1/2 cup grated zucchini (about 1/2 small zucchini)
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tsp lime juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (or use 1 small fresh chilli and 1/2 tsp brown sugar, if desired)
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped finely

Combine the chia seeds and water and set aside.

In a large bowl, roughly mash the cooked butter beans. You can leave some whole. Mel noted that a food processor was an easier alternative if using chickpeas.

Squeeze any excess moisture out of your grated zucchini using paper towels or a teatowel. Then add the zucchini, chia seeds in water, and chopped celery to the butter bean mix. Stir through. Add the remaining ingredients and stir through thoroughly.

Shape the mixture into small patties using your hands and place on a plate or baking tray. Allow to chill in the refrigerator for 15 - 30 minutes.

Heat a non-stick frying pan and cook the patties in batches, 3 - 4 minutes on each side, until browned.

I tend to keep the cooked patties warm in the oven (preheated to ~100'C) while the remaining patties are cooked, but this is optional.


These were less of an 'authentic' Thai fish cake (if any vegetarian dish can be called authentically fish-like) than the first batch, largely due to the omission of the potato. Instead, these seemed like what they are - a Thai-flavoured veggie pattie. I enjoyed them hot the first night and also cold as leftovers the next day. They pair well with Asian vegetables but regular salad also works, or they could even provide a burger filling.

In all, these were a subtle change from the first version, but an enjoyable one. The test will now be in what version I make next time around...

Have you tweaked any old or 'stand by' recipes lately?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Loving this week {18th - 25th November 2012}

I am linking this into cityhippyfarmgirl's 'loving this week' post number 7. Her 'loving this week' posts are about the little moments in your week that have tickled your heart.

Here are some of the things that have recently tickled mine...

Beetroot sourdough bread from Lawley's bakery
An unexpected find. I love the colour and (somewhat surprisingly) the taste

Summer fruit
Lots and lots of summer fruit

Running in my new running shoes
They make me faster, I am sure of it

Baking to ease away inexplicable, no-reason-to-be-anxious-but-I-am anxiety
Mixing, stirring, tasting, baking, breathe

The baking result
No added sugar apple and zucchini muffins that are a twist on these 'ugly duckling' muffins 
(the twist being the omission of carrot, the omission of brown sugar, and the addition of ground oats to replace the plain flour)

Jigsaw puzzling
We still have a lot to go...

Playing with my camera

Alternating coffee with almond milk and coffee with hemp seed milk
I was trying to reduce my two coffees a day to one coffee a day, but I have given up

Printing wedding and honeymoon photos
The albums are yet to be created, but at least the photo selection is done!


What are you loving this week?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

England - Birmingham and Solihull

It is with a certain amount of sadness that I write this post. It is, you see, the last 'real' travel post from our honeymoon. There will be one more food catch-up post at some stage, but Birmingham was our last stop for the month we were away.

Birmingham museum and city council

We drove to Birmingham from Durham, and in so doing transitioned from the north of England where I was born to the Midlands where Mr Bite grew up. His childhood was spent in Solihull, which is just south of Birmingham and has been mentioned previously for the Giraffe restaurant and sushi salad that characterised our final lunchtime.

Birmingham town hall

I had never been to Birmingham and didn't know what to expect from the city. I knew it was big, the second largest city in England (after London), and that it had an industrial history. Mr Bite did his best to keep my hopes low. As it turns out, the city has undergone one of the regenerative experiences that can be found all over Britain. The central district was clean and attractive, and modern buildings and shopping centres were integrated seamlessly into older areas. It was a lovely city to walk around.

Bullring shopping centre precinct

The weather was grey and rainy while we were there, but I found a coffee shop selling chilli chai latte about 10 minutes into our first outing. I don't think there could be a better drink for cold days, and it went a long way to warming both my hands and my impression of Birmingham!

The Birmingham canals are a new focus for the city, and one that Mr Bite was keen to investigate. The canal system has been in place since the 18th century but wasn't easily accessible, or widely known about, until the canals were redeveloped and made a feature from the mid-1990s. The result is a waterway system that is enjoyable to walk along, and which forms an attractive part of the central city area.

Canals by night

We had one day in Birmingham itself and a second day in Solihull and surrounds, which I touched on previously. I had imagined Solihull as a suburb of Birmingham and to find that it was a stand alone town, attractive and pleasant, was a very pleasant surprise.

Solihull town centre

Our day in Solihull also incorporated a visit to Baddesly Clinton manor house, a National Trust property dating back to the 15th century.

Baddesly Clinton

I think I'd like a house with a moat. In fact, I think I'd like it very much indeed.

The house and gardens provided a nice final 'attraction' for our trip. We toured the property on the final afternoon of our final day, which made for a slightly surreal experience ("this time tomorrow..."), especially as  the woman who sold us our tickets asked (a) if we were interested in an annual National Trust membership, and on hearing why we weren't, (b) how one coped on such a terribly long flight as the one from England to Australia.

Putting aside the impending terribly long flight, that final afternoon also saw us squeeze in a brief stop at Kenilworth Castle. This is one of Mr Bite's favourite ruined castles, which allows for independent exploring and climbing on the walls. We only saw the outside on this trip but it was an attractive sight against the late afternoon sunshine.

In all, Birmingham and surrounds provided a wonderful end to a wonderful month. It is hard to believe that it is not quite two months since we were there, but I am certainly grateful for the trip and the many memories (and photos, so many photos) we have from it.

What is your favourite way to warm up when walking in the cold?
And have you been to Birmingham?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Homemade hemp seed milk


I remember when Angela at Oh She Glows wrote, in relation to a home composting system, that "my transition into a tree-huggin, hippy, vegan is now complete" (in May 2011).

I am pretty sure that homemade hemp seed milk puts me in the tree-hugging, hippy, vegan category too. There is just no way to make it sound normal. Ricki seemed to agree when she talked about it recently, with her post titled hippie dippy hemp milk.

While it may sound a long way from 'normal', hemp seed milk does seem to be growing in popularity in North America (and with Australians based within North America). Consistent with this, there are quite a few different recipes around for hemp seed milk. Bryanna Clark Grogan includes step-by-step instructions and some possible variations for the process. Most recipes include agave syrup as a sweetener but the ratio of water to hemp seeds varies enormously, from 2:1 (2 cups water to 1 cup hemp seeds) to 12:1.

I decided to follow the ratio recommended in one of my vegan cookbooks, The 30 Minute Vegan (Reinfeld & Murray). This suggests 4 cups of water to 1 cup of hemp seeds and also advises soaking the seeds for four or so hours before blending. Many online recipes skip over the soaking, but I didn't find it too difficult to put the seeds and water in the fridge ahead of time. I didn't bother with the sweetener, figuring I would try it plain first and adjust after if necessary.

The process is really very easy. Basically, you soak your seeds in water then whiz them up in a blender. The pictures below show the transformation, with a fairly dirty looking water with seeds in it (top) being converted to a fluffy, creamy 'milk' (bottom).

If you stopped here, you would still have seeds floating in your milk, so this is where a nut milk bag or cheesecloth comes in. I have seen the bags in various health food stores and they aren't expensive. Simply pour the milk mixture through the bag, with a container underneath to catch the strained liquid, and then squeeze out the seeds that are left behind. It's a fun process.

I did end up with a sludge after the straining, which may suggest I didn't squeeze the seed remnants enough. I will look into possible uses for the leftover seeds in the future, as it felt like a waste to throw them out. (Does anyone have any suggestions?)

When you have strained your liquid, you end up with a thick, creamy hemp seed milk that is ready for hot or cold drinks, cereal, or drinking straight up. Homemade nut and seed milks reportedly keep for about 3 days in the fridge, and I found my version to last well over that time frame.

Version 1 - super creamy

I wasn't sure what to expect from hemp seed milk, and was concerned it might be a little bitter. As it turns out, I really, really liked it. It is nutty and a little earthy, but not at all bitter - and keep in mind I didn't add sweetener. It works brilliantly in coffee, and in chai lattes.

I did find the 4:1 ratio to yield a very creamy milk, and I ended up trying to water my first version down. After reading Bryanna Clark Grogan's post I realised that her lighter, 12:1 ratio recipe was probably closer to the sort of milk I usually use (unsweetened almond milk) and more aligned with my tastebuds. The only problem with a 12:1 ratio is that you can end up with a lot of milk, far more than I would get through in three days.

Given the above, I made my second batch with 1 cup of water and just 1 tablespoon of hemp seeds. This gives a 12.5:1 ratio and has the benefit of making a small serve, perfect for one day or so.

Version 2 - a little thinner

I found this second version to have a much better consistency, and I think you can tell from the photos that it is thinner. If you like creamy milk then my first batch would probably suit you well, but if you're used to almond milk or skim / semi-skim cow's milk then the second version is more similar to those products.

Basic hemp seed milk

See Bryanna and Ricki's posts for additional tips and ideas
Makes 1 cup; increase ingredient proportions to taste or need

1 tbsp hemp seeds
1 cup water

Soak the hemp seeds and water for 4 hours, or longer, in the refrigerator.

Transfer the seed/water mixture to a blender and process until creamy, about 30 seconds.

Strain the mixture through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth, and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Hemp seed milk on weetbix, and hemp seed milk in coffee - a good Sunday morning

To my delight, I have also hit upon consistent success with using non-dairy milks in coffee, which is something I had a lot of trouble with in the past. I now use at least 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk (vs. about 1 tbsp when I used cow's milk) and warm it in the microwave before topping up with hot water. This prevents the curdling I used to experience, and I really enjoy the resulting flavour. 

I never would have thought I could enjoy milk, non-dairy or not, but this is one area where I am pleased to admit that I was wrong! I don't see myself drinking it plain any time soon, but I am getting through over a litre a week now (mostly almond milk, when I'm not playing with hemp seeds) and it's a shift I'm very happy with.

I am linking this post into the Healthy Vegan Friday event hosted by GabbyShelby and Carrie.

Have you made nut / seed milk at home? Or tried commercial hemp seed milk?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanks giving and a kale salad with strawberries and chickpeas

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia, but my perusal of American blogs has ensured that I know it is happening. I can't say I pine for it to be introduced here (it falls so close to Christmas!) but I do very much like the concept of pausing to give thanks for people and things, both big and small.

You see, there isn't a day that passes at the moment where I don't feel thankful for my life. This doesn't mean that I am always happy, or that my life is perfect. I have my share of bad days. However, even on those days, I am grateful for what I have.

Kale salad with strawberries and chickpeas

Watching Mr Bite sleep in the morning, coming home to a note from him, reading a text or email with his characteristic humour, or just watching TV together in the evening - I am hugely thankful for the turn my life has taken and for finding the person who makes me feel complete.

Shutting the door to my Workplace #1 office and immersing myself in work with a cup of coffee, room to myself, tree-lined views out my window - I am thankful for a work environment that lets me do what I want to do, in a space that is set up to facilitate that.

(Workplace #2 doesn't give me my own office, but I still have a window, so I can be thankful for that too.)

Having tea with my parents, and siblings when they deign to join us, catching up on the week and talking about the past, present and future - I am thankful for family who are a 15 minute drive from me and who I enjoy talking to and spending time with.

Chatting to work colleagues or catching up with friends for a coffee - I am thankful to have people who 'get' me and share my interests, and who I can talk to easily even if there have been months between our conversations.

Reading a good book, drinking tea and coffee, enjoying chocolate or a new supermarket discovery - I am thankful for the small things that give me such pleasure.

A long run, a good workout in the gym, or a new level in strength or stamina - I am thankful for what my body can do and for the joy that I get from movement.

Blogs that make me smile, inspire me, or give me new ideas to try - and blog comments that go back and forth and forge relationships across the country and the world - I am thankful for the online world and what it facilitates.

Im all, I am very thankful.

Today's recipe is a simple one, but it seems to suit the spin I am putting on thanksgiving: pausing to appreciate the little things, to live life a little more fully, and to enjoy what is good. This salad has a short ingredient list, it works well by itself or rolled in a wrap, and it is good. The fact that it is good for you too is a bonus.

Kale salad with strawberries and chickpeas
Easy, simple, and full of nutrition and flavour
Serves 4 as a side dish

1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
10 strawberries, washed, stems removed and cut into quarters
6 cups kale, rinsed in hot water and hard stems removed
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 tin)

Combine the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup in a bowl or shallow dish. 

Take 2 or 3 of the strawberries, cut into quarters, and press with a fork into the vinegar / maple syrup. The idea is to release the strawberry juices and crush them roughly; they can retain some of their shape.

Pour the balsamic dressing mixture over the kale and toss to combine. Use your fingers to work the dressing through the kale. Allow to stand for 15 minutes or longer.

Add the chickpeas and remaining strawberries and serve. 

In theory, I don't like salad dressings on salads, but kale salads have proved to be an exception. I like it best when the kale has sat in the dressing for a while (even overnight or for several days), absorbing the flavour and also softening slightly. Here, the chickpeas and strawberries add extra flavour and sweetness and turn a simple dish into something very enjoyable.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, American or non-American.

What are you thankful for this week?
If you are American, what are you doing to celebrate the holiday?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Super snack balls

There were a few possible titles for this post, and the snack balls that form its focus.

Oat, carrot, zucchini, almond and sultana balls won out in ingredient list accuracy, but didn't sound very appealing.

Vanilla oat balls won out in taste accuracy, but seemed a bit misleading given the longer ingredient list.

Oat cookie balls didn't sound quite right.

Balls with a twist sounded quite wrong.

Super snack balls it was.

In truth, these are super snack balls. They are incredibly easy to make. They include both carrot and zucchini. The sweetener is limited to sultanas. They are not particularly portable, going soft if left out of the fridge for too long, but as an easy snack (or even an easy breakfast) - they work very well indeed.

I'm not sure what prompted me to put zucchini in the ingredient list, other than the success of the carrot, nut and date balls I made back in August. I have found that zucchini works well in just about every baked product that carrot works in, and it seems that part of me wanted to see if the same was true of no-bake products.

It is.

These reminded me slightly of carrot cake, but only very slightly. The taste was really of vanilla but with a texture and depth that went far beyond that. There was no zucchini taste, and other than the small occasional flecks of green, you wouldn't know it was in there.

In all, I am really quite enamored with these. I can also see zucchini having another resurgence in my kitchen. It really is a very versatile vegetable!

Super snack balls
These have a super ingredient list and deliver super flavour
Makes about 16 large balls

1/2 large zucchini, grated (~1/2 cup grated)
1/2 large carrot, grated (~1/3 cup grated)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup sultanas (small raisins)
1 tsp vanilla essence

Grate the zucchini and carrot and then set aside (I did this using the grater attachment on my food processor).

Combine the oats, almonds, sultanas and vanilla in a food processor and process until well mixed and the ingredients are starting to clump together. Add the zucchini and carrot and process briefly, until combined.

(If you don't add the zucchini and carrot at the end, they are likely to end up over-processed and the mixture will be too moist.)

Roll into balls and refrigerate for 2 - 4 hours before serving. Store in the refrigerator.

What do you think of zucchini in 'sweet' / baked products?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

So Delicious ice cream comes to Australia

People, I am very excited.

Overwhelmed, slight hyperventilation (okay, a lot of hyperventilation), buy-as-much-as-you-can-in-case-they-disappear excited.

Farmer Jack's in Subiaco has become, without a doubt, my favourite supermarket in Perth. It is expensive, but it stocks so many wonderful things. It is the store that provided me with So Delicious no added sugar coconut milk (and Pacific hazelenut chocolate milk) last year. Those discoveries led to quite a bit of excitement too, and every time I've been back, I've walked the freezer aisle in the hope that one day So Delicious ice cream might appear as well.

Yesterday, that day came. It seems my sympathetic nervous system wasn't prepared for it.

As the above picture shows, I bought rather a lot. There were more flavours, too, but thankfully I wasn't carrying a basket or pushing a trolley. I wasn't in a restrained mood, and given how much these products cost, I think it's for the best that I only bought what I could pile into my arms.

The turtle trails coconut milk ice cream was one of a number of flavours on offer (including chocolate, cookies and cream, and mango), but won out quite easily. I had heard of turtle trails ice cream via American sites, but never actually seen it before.

It has a base of vanilla coconut ice cream, and incorporates caramel sauce and chocolate-coated praline pecans.

Yes, it tastes as good as it sounds.

It is rich, sweet, and entirely decadent. The recommended serve is half a cup and I can see why; in fact, I think a quarter cup would go a long way.

The mini coconut milk ice cream sandwiches were also rich, but by virtue of their smaller size not overwhelmingly so. The centre was creamy and oh-so-coconutty. Wonderfully coconutty. The chocolate biscuit edges were soft, sweet and very reminiscent of the non-vegan ice cream sandwiches of my youth.

I liked them a lot. A little sweet, perhaps, but manageably so.

The mini almond milk bars were a serious highlight. I have long suspected that I would enjoy almond milk ice cream, more so than coconut ice cream, and it seems I was correct.

These bars had an ice cream centre that was less sweet and less rich than the coconut ice cream products, and I would happily have bought a full tub of it had such an option been available. Having the ice cream in bar form worked well too though, and the chocolate coating tasted entirely authentic despite being dairy free.

My last purchase, the no sugar added coconut milk vanilla bar, is yet to be tried. I could have waited to post this, but my excitement levels are such that I didn't have the patience. I am also striving for moderation in my consumption of these, because they cost about $15 a box (!). So, I can't offer an opinion on the taste, but I am hopeful indeed.

None of these products are low in energy, and they have lengthy ingredient lists (all nutritional information is on the So Delicious website so I am not re-posting it all here). They are probably a little sweeter than my taste buds would like, and a little creamier. However, as a vegan ice cream treat they work perfectly and I am beyond thrilled, really incredibly thrilled, that they have reached my vicinity.

What was the last supermarket discovery that got you excited?