"Even amidst fierce flames the golden lotus can be planted"

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In my kitchen lately

This week I gave wontons a go again. I'd actually forgotten that I'd made something like this before but then the blog reminded me. I have Gwyneth Paltrow to thank for this recipe although I don't as a general rule thank her for much. The last time I attempted a recipe from her latest cookbook,  'It's All Good' it was anything but good and I ended up feeling completely inadequate because try as I might, I could not coax her millet felafel recipe into a felafel shape. It insisted on maintaining its status as a bowl of mushy millet with seasonings. I quite clearly remember thinking as I made it,  I bet it always turns into a felafel when Gwynnie is making it and then closed the book up, returned it to my shelf and silently vowed never to put myself through that again.

However, time heals and I completely forgot about how inadequate Gwynnie's book with its beautiful pictures of Gwyneth and her beautiful children eating beautiful healthy food including intact felafel, outside, in beautiful weather, made me feel and I rashly attempted another recipe, this time for veggie dumplings.  I realized that it would be totally unreasonable of me to presume that I could possibly make both the contents and wrappers for the dumplings from scratch - I mean, yes, I would attempt this if it were someone else's recipe but I suspect that to get Gwyneth's recipes to work from start to finish, you need that certain magic that Gwyneth has been blessed with and I and most other mortals have not. So I took a short cut. Now I know that Gwyneth would never do such a thing but Gwyneth as we all know, is in a league of her own (although in all fairness to her - she did say it was okay to use store bought wrappers - I don't really believe she ever would but she did gave her blessing to people like me who are not quite as gifted). I used store bought wonton wrappers to make the dumplings and I didn't add some (many) of the ingredients she recommended for the filling. For example, I felt I could live without quinoa in them especially as that would involve another pot and apparently she only eats Perfectly Cooked Quinoa which I pretty much knew I wouldn't end up with despite all my best efforts.

Okay in the interest of full disclosure, I also didn't steam them in a bamboo steamer. I baked them in the oven. I'm not sure Ms. Paltrow would approve. Actually I'm not even sure it would be reasonable to claim that I made her veggie dumplings as I think the only common denominator between hers and mine was tofu.

Having said that, despite many missing ingredients and not making homemade gluten-free dumpling wrappers these turned out pretty well and I got an "I love these" from my son which considering they contained tofu and cabbage and were completely devoid of meat, was a pretty incredible thing to hear. Hmm, maybe Ms. Paltrow is onto something.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy 2014

The other evening I was tucking into Portobello Mushroom Cashew Cheese Burgers, recipe courtesy of this beautiful blog, whilst my family ate some breaded chicken which I had prepared for them. I wanted to scream with joy about the fantastic experience my taste buds were enjoying but decided to keep it to myself. My love of mushrooms in all their forms is not shared with any of my immediate family and the mere mention of cashew cheese would probably send them running for the hills. The thing is I felt guilty. It is my usual dilemma. I have been vegetarian for 25 years and during that time I have never once felt nostalgic about meat. I've only felt good about my choice. My health, weight, skin, energy levels all improved when I gave up eating meat. Nowadays we are being bombarded with the message that a predominantly plant based diet is good for you and more and more high profile people are switching to vegetarian and vegan diets and making a lot of noise about it which is great. However, when my children were small, I decided not to enforce vegetarianism on them but rather to try to educate them about healthy eating and to let them make their own dietary decisions when they are ready.

Having said that, it's definitely time for me to gently nudge my family towards a more plant based diet and to reduce their consumption of meat and dairy, so this morning, before preparing my shopping list for the week, I flicked through some cookbooks and online resources and tried to hunt down some vegetarian recipes which will really please them and make them want more. I've done this before and  usually a meatless dinner is met with complaints. It's extremely difficult to find vegetarian recipes which skip the ingredients my kids and husband vehemently dislike which include beans, cheese and mushrooms as mentioned above. I'd also like to avoid fake meat substitutes. It's challenging but I'll let you know how I get on.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fell off the blogging wagon again

Whoops! Seems I completely forgot to blog for the last six months. How did that happen?? I blame the weather! When the weather is bad and the light is bad I stop taking photos and when I stop taking photos I forget to blog and then after not blogging for a while I also forgot to take photos so I ended up in a vicious cycle which I am now trying to desperately break out of.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Winter scarf in Liberty Print

A little while ago, my mother-in-law very kindly sent me an exquisite piece of Liberty fabric. It would have made a beautiful skirt for summer but as it was December and I was dying to get this gorgeous textile onto my body, I decided to make it into a winter scarf instead. I backed the fabric with some black wool that I had left over from another project and the result is a very warm and elegant scarf. Unfortunately, the winter has been so mild this year that I've barely had the need to wear it. In fact, if I'd gone ahead and made a lightweight skirt, I probably would have worn it more than the scarf by now. I'm not complaining. I've made no secret of my distaste for the winter months although I am a little freaked out by the strangeness of it all. Having said that, the temperatures do seem to be dropping again so I shall be pulling out my scarf and reveling in the luxury of it for the next few days at least.

I'm still trying to eat vegan. It's funny, I thought that as I'm already a vegetarian, being vegan would be quite easy for me but for some reason I'm finding it rather challenging. I shall stick with it though. I'm having lots of fun trying out new recipes to keep me motivated and the excuse to indulge in things like these very yummy peanut butter cups from Alicia Silverstone's, 'The Kind Diet' (recipe here) makes it all seem worthwhile somehow.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Vegetarian Sushi

About seven years ago, I bought a sushi mat in Chinatown thinking I couldn't live without one. This week I got it out for the first time when I became overwhelmed by an urge to make vegetarian sushi. I used a recipe from Rose Eliot's 'New Vegetarian Cooking' which is a book that I have owned for about ten years. I've looked at the sushi recipe hundreds of times but always moved on because the first words of the recipe are "These are quite a lot of trouble to make...."

Now that I've finally got around to making them, I can't believe how simple they are to pull together. I would say that they are quite a lot of trouble to make compared to scrambled eggs on toast but otherwise really not that much trouble at all. I'm guessing that the key to ensuring that all goes well is that the rice needs to be the right consistency i.e. sticky because that's the glue that holds it all together. I used Japanese sushi rice, followed the directions on the packet and then followed Rose Eliot's instructions to add 2 Tbs of rice vinegar; 2 Tbs of mirin and 1 tsp of salt to the cooked rice and that combination resulted in perfect rice. For the fillings I used strips of peppers which you need to broil and skin and slices of avocado. Once you have your rice and fillings ready, you roll them up in a piece of pre-toasted nori seaweed and voila, you have a lovely sushi roll. I'm not even sure that the mat is an essential. I think you could probably use a cloth just as effectively. There are some useful vegetarian sushi recipes here including this one which looks interesting.

I pulled these together whilst also cooking dinner for my family who wouldn't touch seaweed with a barge pole. However, the rolls were so pretty that the girls showed a lot of interest in them so next time I make this (which will be soon, I'm not waiting seven years again) I'm going to get them to help and then try it because I think they would actually like the sushi if they gave it a go.

One of the reasons for my overwhelming urge to try out new recipes lately is that I've been flirting with the idea of becoming vegan. I haven't eaten meat for over twenty years so it's not a huge leap just a deepening of that commitment I suppose. I don't think I could be a one hundred percent vegan for ever but I'm certainly going to try to limit my intake of dairy and eggs for a while.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Herbal remedies to beat the winter blues

When it snowed in October, I got a bit panicky about Winter. It's not my favorite season and the thought of it starting so early sent me into a mad panic to get myself prepared so that I could at least survive it with some level of comfort. I've already mentioned the socks I've been knitting feverishly (I'm on my third pair) but other preparations were made too. That very first cold snap made my skin start drying out (which is one of the things I hate most about winter apart from the searing unbearable cold and short days) so I did a bit of research and found a recipe for a healing hand salve here. First of all you have to make a herbal infusion with calendula flowers which are marvelous pretty things with lots of healing properties, and then you make the salve using beeswax. "Wow" is all I can say. Every time my hands look a teeny bit too dry, I break this stuff out and so far It's done a fantastic job of healing my skin and preventing it from cracking which is one of the casualties of winter for me. I keep it in my bag at all times.

I also made some Elderberry syrup to both prevent getting nasty bugs and to use medicinally in the event of a nasty bug getting a hold of one of us. Again all I can say is "Wow". I've been taking this every day since the start of the flu/cold season and so far, I've managed to elude those nasty viruses. There have been a few occasions already where I felt as though I was coming down with something but took a dose of this and the symptoms miraculously disappeared. There's still plenty of winter left and still lots of lurking viruses but I feel a bit more confident about warding them off with this in my arsenal.

Lastly I think this is a time of year where a bit of pampering goes a long way so I made these delightful lotion bars for us to use after showers and baths. They smell delicious and are easy for little hands to hold so my kids happily apply them to their own skin after their bath and then run around asking it they smell like chocolate, which they do.

Crikey! At this rate I'm going to be sorry when the winter ends.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tree Figures

Last Friday I took the kiddos to a local art museum which is something I haven't done for ages. They are all at a good age for this now. My middle child recently decided that she wants to be an artist so I thought it would be particularly interesting for her. My eldest child claims to have no interest in art but then blows my mind with his observations when actually confronted with it. The youngest always seems happy to tag along with what everyone else is doing.

One of my favorite things in the world is talking with children about art. It's so refreshing to hear what they see in a piece. It's always unfiltered and without pretension - just an honest reaction to what they see. They also seem to learn so much from it.

There were some very nice pieces on display but we all really loved these tree figures by Joseph Wheelwright in the sculpture garden.

I am totally captivated right now by this amazing murmuration clip.