Thursday, 27 October 2016

Franken sushi and Halloween links

It's pretty silly, isn't it?  We have been talking about Halloween ideas here in our house.  Sylvia is swayed by certain cereal manufacturers to want to make Frankenstein monsters and spiders ou of cereal and lots of sugar.  I thought I would have a go at a slightly healthier sushi version.

It was not a total success.  Kale powder did not make the sushi quite as bright green as I had hoped.  The face on the kale green was not quite as prominent as I had hoped.  And Sylvia took one bite and said she didn't like the taste of the kale.  (It was slightly grassy but still quite tasty.)  I enjoyed a couple as work snacks/lunches, Sylvia had one moulded into a sausage shape and rolled in nori, and I chopped the last one and stirred it into soup.  Don't leave the face in the fridge for a couple of days unwrapped or the rice hardens and is only good for stirring into soup.

And if my funny old Franken Sushi is not enough for you, I can direct you to some lists of Halloween food.  I am proud that all of these include links to Halloween recipes of mine (yes that is a lot of links).  They are quite entertaining slideshows/lists to browse:

Also check out my round up of my own Halloween recipes,

I am sending my Franken Sushi to Kimmy and Mary-Ellen for Healthy Vegan Fridays.  They will be featuring some Halloween recipes tomorrow! 

Franken Sushi
By Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 4

1 cup sushi rice
1 1/2 cups water
4 tbspt sushi seasoning, or to taste
2 tbsp kale powder
carrots, olives and nori, to decorate

Cook sushi rice by placing in a small saucepan with one and a half times the amount of water.  Place a lid on, bring to the boil, stir and simmer (covered) for 20 minutes over a very low flame.  When cooked, stir in sushi seasoning and kale powder.

Line a rectangular tub with clingwrap with a large overhang.  Spoon about a quarter of rice into clingwrap.  Fold clingwrap over it and press down with another similar shaped tub.  Place lid on it and put in fridge to chill and firm up.

Just before ready to eat cut out hair, eyes and mouth and place on unwrapped sushi.  I cut a thin slice of carrot and carefully chopped out a fringe, used olives and carrot for the eyes and nori for the mouth.  However the carrot and olives didn't stay on so many next time I would just use nori for all the face. 

On the Stereo:
Set List: The Frames

Monday, 24 October 2016

Plum and rhubarb jam, a fete and a birthday

This weekend's weather was not kind with wintery temperatures and far far too much rain but it takes far more than that to keep me from the school fete and my sister's birthday party.  I had volunteered to make jam and used what fruit was given to me to make a couple batches.

When I began this blog, I had very little experience of jam making but now I am far more confident about working out how much sugar, when it is done and how to sterilise the jars.  Even so I was a little freaked out when I took a large bag of frozen plums and found how soft they were when they thawed.  I had to use them then and there!  Well, almost.  I actually chopped them as soon as they thawed, put them in the saucepan with sugar and then too another 24 hours to find time to make the jam.  By then I had been given some rhubarb that I threw in the pot with some extra sugar.

I had planned to get to the jam making earlier but I was busy getting my Christmas parcels in the post to Ireland and Scotland.  It was a rude shock to find that Australia Post is only doing seamail for parcels over 2kg and if you dare to attempt it they had a long form to fill out.  Apparently people don't send enough parcels seamail these days.  Hurrumph!  I still love seamail to keep the cost of Christmas parcels down.  Am I the only one?  I guess not many people make jam these days either.

So after posting parcels, doing body balance, making dinner, finding jars in the back of the cupboard , going to my singing group, and fitting in some work hours too, it was evening when I finally made the jam.  Far too late.  Even later than I meant as I had run out of lemons and had to buy some before I started.

I used a bit more sugar that I usually do as I wanted to make sure the jam kept well.  I had added some water and left this in the recipe below but I do wonder if it was really needed as there was so much juice that seeped out of the thawed plums and I was waiting for ages past when I wanted to sleep for the jam to reach the right consistency.  I would have loved to taste the jam but not enough to eat a whole jar so I contented myself with eating some of the scrapings from the pot.

Once the jam was made it sat in the kitchen for almost a week until I got labels printed off.  Far more professional than my usually hand writing!  Before putting them on I dunked the jars in a bowl of hot water to wash off the jam spilled down the sides.

Finally I was given some gingham and rubber bands to top the jars.  Again it really looked quite smart.  I also took along some strawberry and rhubarb jam.  Towards the end of the fete I checked the jam stall and was pleased to find none of my jars left.

The reason the fete was held on the weekend was that we had local council elections and our school is a voting booth.  Incidentally apparently very few of the councils across the state chose to have voting booths.  So you came into the fete through a barrage of how to vote leafleteers and in the middle of the fete was a long queue of voters.

When I arrived it was sunny and I was hopeful that the weather forecasters got it wrong.  Sadly, it did not take long to find that 90% chance of rain really does mean it will rain.  By the time I had voted, the weather was on the turn.  And my voting didn't take long at 9.30am.  But in my rush to leave the house, we had forgotten Sylvia's rides wristband.  A friend was heading home to get the car because the rain was so bad.  I drove her home and got the wristband while Sylvia stayed with a friend.

Sylvia was very excited about the rides.  Buying a rides pass was good value and let her walk into whatever rides she wanted.  Actually "rides" is misleading.  On offer were a chair swing, a bouncy castle and a rock climbing tower.  (The cup and saucer ride did not work as it was waterlogged.)  I was pretty impressed that Sylvia got herself into a harness and climbed up this tower.

It was a great shame that the bad weather meant that the rides were only available in bursts of sunshine.  It gave kids less opportunity and the school less fundraising.  Yet the kids did seem to enjoy it when they were able to get on the rides.  Though Sylvia did once hop on the chair swing as the sky became grey and halfway through her ride it started raining.

We also enjoyed walking around the stalls.  I made a few purchases at the jam stall.  After putting out quite a few books for the second hand bookstall, I was pleased to walk away with only one book (a Clementine Rose novel for Sylvia).  We went to the toy stall where Sylvia insisted on buying a soft panda toy (giving me visions of Peppa Pig at the funfair) who is her latest best friend.  I got some dodgy out of date eye serum in an adult lucky dip (do people use eye serum?).  Due to the weather, a lot of kids activities like hair spray, face paint, tattoos and craft were moved indoors.  It didn't take long for the books to follow. 

I had a vegie burger from the sausage sizzle but Sylvia would not eat them.  There was also a coffee stand and a cake stall.  I was rostered on for the plant stall but there seemed lots of people helping out there already so I offered my services to the cake stall.  I spent almost two hours of constantly telling people cake prices and taking their money.  My contribution to the cake stall was the grubs (truffles) above.  They sold rather quickly.  Yay!

I was really impressed with someone who bought lots of op shop plates and arranged bakes on them and wrapped each plate of cakes in cellophane.  They looked really attractive and would make great gifts.  In fact I might steal the idea for Christmas presents.  And the cellophane was good when gusts of rain blew over the cake stall.  It was no fun mopping water off a few plates of cakes.

The rain came on and off so that the hay bales that would have been a lovely place to eat on a sunny day looked soggy and sad.  When E performed with his uke in this area, he had one brave soul sitting on the bales but I could hear girls buying cakes humming along.

I felt sorry for those who were queuing for up to half an hour when it rained.  One burst of rain was so heavy that everyone in queue looked really shiny wet with coats plastered to them.  I imagine some of them just wanted to head for home once they had voted rather than to spend time at the fete.  But then I also expect some people might have made a sympathy purchase because it was just so sad to have made so many preparations and have the weather turn on us like that.  But that is Melbourne spring weather and we soldiered on as best as we could.

I was ready to go home and curl up after hours at the fete.  But my sister had a significant birthday party in Geelong.  So we headed home to pack our bags and head down the freeway to the party.  It was a great party.  Indoors of course.  She had also dreamt of a lovey spring evening outdoors but it wasn't to be.  The flower-topped two-tiered cake was gorgeous and my family brought along some sweet food.  My contribution was a plate of watermelon.

My sister's partner is great at BBQs and had pork and coleslaw buns for everyone.  We had some vegies sausages with our buns and coleslaw.  I was glad of some decent savoury food for Sylvia.  She wolfed down a couple of sausages accompanied by cheezels and then headed out to the trampoline.

My sister looked gorgeous and I really enjoyed catching up with family and some of her longtime friends.  Sylvia was excited to have a late night but I was glad to collapse into bed at the end of the day.

More jams on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Mixed berry jam (gf, v)
Peach and pineapple jam (gf, v)
Plum jam (gf, v)
Plums and raspberry jam (gf, v)
Rhubarb and strawberry jam (gf, v)
Strawberry chia seed jam (gf, v)

Plum and Rhubarb Jam
Makes about 10 x 250ml jars

2kg plums
350g rhubarb
6.5 cups sugar
1 cup water 
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)

Stone and chop plums.  Chop rhubarb into 1cm pieces.  Place in large saucepan/stockpot with rest of the ingredients.  (At this point I left mine for 24 hours because was busy.)  Bring to the boil.  Simmer at medium heat (reducing to low heat once it thickens a little) until it passed the saucer test or falls off the spoon like jam.  Mine took about 90 minutes.  Perhaps next time I leave out the water!  Ladle into sterilised jars and screw lids on tightly.  I turned mine upside down for about 5 minutes to encourage the lids to seal.  Cool and keep in a cool place until ready to open.

NOTES: To sterilise jars:

While jam/chutney is simmering, sterilise your jars and lids.  I bake mine for 30 minutes in the oven at 150 C and boil the lids on the stovetop for 10 minutes, then driy them on a rack.  I find it easy to put all the jars in a roasting dish so I am not having to handle them individually.

On the Stereo:
The very best of Edith Piaf

Friday, 21 October 2016

Chocolate tahini maca bliss balls

This is not a Halloween post.  However Sylvia is skipping with joy at the thought of Halloween so we have lots of Halloween food props and ideas and plans.  (Though I have said no to trick or treat.)  I am still trying to think what would be the best way to use some candy eyes I have saved from Christmas in July.  Today I made these bliss balls and thought that you could do far worse than to make healthy recipes like this and put some eyes on them for Halloween treats.

But honestly I don't want to talk about Halloween.  I just want to post some good food.  Life is busy with Vegan MoFo preparation (sign up deadline is today), school fete preparation (am going to make grubs after work tonight),  my neighbour asking me who are the candidates in the local elections (thanks Catherine), a busy week with only one night where I am not heading out, birthday celebrations, and other stuff I can't even remember.  Above is a photo of the mac and cheese I made last night.  Perhaps I should call it a Mac and Cheese bowl.  So good.  But it was a dairy one that wont make it into November when my blog goes vegan for Vegan MoFo.

This photo also wont make it into my vegan month of November.  It was a very good afternoon tea birthday spread for my dad recently.  My mum did an amazing job of it.  I loved the guiness chocolate cake and the scones with jam and cream.  I will be telling you about my latest version of vegan sausage rolls.

I haven't done much of my own baking lately.  Yes, I have been trying to eat healthily.  Doing my best but could do better.  However, even if this was not the case, I still have baking the freezer and little time to bake.  Today I just wanted to make these bliss balls.  The combination of tahini and chocolate reminded me a bit of some favourite recipes.

It also seemed a good opportunity to use up some of the maca powder.  Apparently all its powerhouse of nutritional benefits is more potent when uncooked.  I am still a bit scared of the powder after the packet says not to eat too much at first but they say it makes you feel good and I could do with some of that feeling right now.  I am not that sure how much influence the maca is having but I can tell you that they taste great and that makes me happy.

And did I mention that they are nut free which is great for school snacks (if your kids aren't too fussy.)  I found them rather sweet and enjoyed them more when rolled in cocoa.

I took the above photo of some blossoms in Brunswick yesterday.  Look at that blue sky.  It was a wonderful warm spring day.  Today the sky is blue and tomorrow, the day of the school fete, is forecast to be cold, windy and wet with a chance of hail and thunderstorms.  Wish us luck and I will tell you about the jam I made for the fete soon!

I am sending these to Gluten Free Fridays, Healthy Vegan Fridays, We Should Cocoa and Treat Petite

More bliss balls on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Almond, date and cranberry truffles (gf, v)
Almond energy snacks (v)
Chocolate bliss balls with banana and oats (v)
Cocoa bites (gf, v)
Coconut almond balls (gf, v)
Wattleseed cashew truffles (gf, v)

Chocolate tahini maca bliss balls
Adapted from Wholefood Simply via
Makes 20-24

1/2 cup hulled tahini
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp rice malt syrup
2 tbsp maca powder
2 tablespoons cocoa
Pinch of salt
1 cup desiccated coconut
extra 1/4 cup cocoa, for coating

Mix tahini, maple syrup, rice malt syrup, maca powder, cocoa and salt to make a paste.  Mix in coconut.  Roll into walnut sized balls and coat in cocoa powder.

On the Stereo:
Amsterdamned: Tom Waits

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Street Art in Melbourne: Chapel Street, Fitzroy and surrounds

Life continues to be busy and so I bring you some street art photos from July 2014.  They were taken at Chapel Street in Fitzroy where it comes off Johnston Street and turns into Elliot Street.  When I was there, I was impressed at all the street art. 

The street sign has a second sign saying Juddy Roller, a street art company (I didn't know they had street art companies!!!) so I assume they have done some of it.  If I had the time, I would look it up. 

Hope you enjoy the pics, particularly The Hamburgler (does anyone else remember him?)

More street art photos can be found under Street Art in Melbourne in my Reflections and Reviews page.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Carrot, feta and cashew dip

It is busy times here and I am trying to spend time working on writing a few Vegan MoFo posts in advance.  So instead of telling you about some of the wonderful vegan food we have been eating, I am sharing a carrot feta and cashew dip I made last year in August.  Oh dear that is over a year ago.

I really love making dips.  The reality at the moment is that Sylvia is not keen on trying new dips.  She loves hummus but will not eat it when it is homemade so we buy a big bucket of hummus and go through it rather quickly.  It is a treat to make an interesting dip for E and me.

Sylvia does love it when I chop up lots of vegies to serve with dip and crackers.  She enjoys choosing what she wants.  As you can see in the photo she often goes straight for the chips or crackers.  But she also will eat vegies.  I love these sort of relaxed meals too.  Not too much work.  Not too many dishes.  And a nice healthy meal.  

I wish I could remember the dip better.  It was a bit more creamy than I usually have but had a nice flavour.  I wrote a list of ingredients in my notes but not much more.  There is this spinach pesto with almonds and feta link and a note to say "Blend and spread".  Does this mean I didn't cook the carrot?  I am not sure but I think I would cook the carrots before making it.  If nothing else it would give a little looseness to the dip which was pretty thick.  I have made a great raw feta for Vegan MoFo so if I use it to try making a vegan version of this dip, I will report back!

More dip recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Beetroot hummus (gf, v)
Buffalo hummus (gf, v)
Finnish green bean paté (gf)
Hummus (gf, v)
Roasted pumpkin and garlic hummus (gf, v)
Spinach hummus (gf, v)
Vegan salmon pate (gf, v)
Voracious vegan pate (v)

Carrot, feta and cashew dip

130g cashew
130g (2 medium) carrots 
100g feta
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 small garlic clove

Cook carrots.  Blend all ingredients until you have a smooth spread.  Keep in the fridge in an airtight container.

On the Stereo:
On the Road with the Wiggles

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Dal with haloumi and mint

Daylight savings has struck, spring rains are quenching our gardens and the nights are getting lighter.  Just not quite enough light for when I am rushing to make dinner on a weekend after gymnastics, lunch, op shopping and a garage sale.  So today I bring you this gorgeous but far from traditional dal that is served with golden brown haloumi and handfuls of mint from the garden.

I remembered the dal when looking for ways to use my mint that is flourishing after the recent rains.  I had planned to serve it in a fancy plate and take some tempting photos.  It is a dal after all that looks beautiful.  It is not at all traditional.  I took a recipe that used haloumi instead of paneer cheese.  I gather that the advice not to colour the haloumi was to make it look more like paneer but I like my haloumi golden brown so I dud as I pleased.

However I was rushing not just to beat the fading light but also to get dinner finished so we could eat with Sylvia who already had started dinner.  This, of course, did not stop her rushing out to help chopping mint from the garden with E and helping him to strip the mint leaves from the stalks.  She took great enjoyment in tossing a handful of mint leaves on the dal.

The next day I served the leftover dal and rice with some onion, cabbage and carrot that I fried with a scattering of mustard seeds. The dal was delicious but I did love it even more the second day when the mint flavour shone through and it had the vegetables on the side as well as brown rice.  Last night we finished it with the leftover cabbage and pasta.  It is a lovely dal to welcome in spring.

It was also really nice to have a good home made meal.  The first week of school term is always busy both with Sylvia and work.  This term has had a few challenges - technical errors at work, medical appointments and Christmas shopping for overseas relatives - that made me feel quite wrung out by the end of the week.  Then yesterday we heard that our accountant had died.  This week is looking better with a birthday brunch, Italian day at school and hopefully some time to tidy up the house.

I am sending this dal to Meat Free Monday; Eat your Greens hosted by VegHog this month; and My Legume Love Affair hosted by Cooking with Siri which is in its 100th month in October.

More red lentils recipes from Green Gourmet Giraffe 
Creamy lentil and vegetable soup (v, gf)
Curried red lentil and apricot soup (gf, v)
Green dal (gf, v)
Red lentil dosa (gf, v)
Red lentil koftas (gf, v)
Red lentil loaf
Sweet potato and red lentil soup (gf, v)

Dal with haloumi and mint
Adapted from Karen Martini in
Serves 4-6

2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil*
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced*
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups split red lentils
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 tsp chilli paste
1 tsp salt flakes, or to taste
180g haloumi, cut into cubes**
10 fresh curry leaves
2 handfuls mint leaves

Fry onion in 1 tbsp olive oil* for a few minutes until it is translucent.  Add 2 cloves of garlic* and stir for a minute or two until fragrant and then stir in turmeric briefly.  Pour in water, stock, red lentils, peas and season with chilli paste and salt flakes.  Bring to boil and simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentil are soft.

About 25 minutes into the simmer of the lentils, fry haloumi in another tbsp of oil* over medium heat on a frypan until it is golden brown on both sides.   Scatter onto the dal once the lentil are cooked.  Add another 1/2 tbsp of oil* and briefly cook the remaining 2 cloves of garlic* and then cook the curry leaves (about 20 seconds) until starting to wilt.  Arrange over the curry.  Scatter with mint leaves and serve.

**NOTES:  To make a vegan version of this, you could try Rosalie's vegan "haloumi".

On the stereo:
Music From The Motion Picture Once: soundtrack: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Crafternoon: Brunswick cafe

At the beginning of the school holidays, Sylvia and I had an appointment in Brunswick so I wanted somewhere to eat beforehand.  I had always meant to visit Crafternoon in North Carlton and was pleased to find there is now a Brunswick cafe.  (Seems they moved in November and the North Carlton store is now closed.)   We had lots of fun and a nice lunch too.  And after a return visit today, I still think Crafternoon is a great place to take kids.

Upon entering the store, we were enthusiastically greeted and led to a table.  I was struck by all the craft and indeed it does seem to focus far more on craft than on food.  Which is not to say we didn't have some good vegetarian options.  But first look at all those pictures.

As well as pictures hanging from the ceiling, the floor is an appealing collage of magazine pages and the walls have displays of all the craft options such as badges, bookmarks, masks and crowns.

Upon entering we were greeted enthusiastically and given a menu.  The first page of the menu is a list of craft activities available.  Sylvia chose the playdough which came with a box of playdough toys.  She set about making a fruit and waffle ensemble while I drew with the pens and paper offered to us.

She had a cheese and vegemite toastie ($5) for lunch, accompanied by a baby hot chocolate.  The toastie was great but the hot chocolate was a small glass of lukewarm milk with not much chocolate flavouring.  I am guessing it for for toddlers rather than school age kids.  I think she woudl have prefeered an adult hot chocolate.

I chose the Roasted Pumpkin toastie ($9), which came with pumpkin, seared haloumi, baby spinach, and cashew dressing on mutligrain sourdough.  It was very nice.  A cut above the average toastie with lots of nice vegies.  I was surprised that the pumpkin was toasted in thin slices with the skin on but it seemed nice and soft.

Sylvia spied the Decorate-A-Cupcake on the menu but we did not have time for it.  So we returned later in the afternoon.  It was quieter than at lunchtime but we received a warm welcome as though we were old friends.  I really liked the little pain palate cum plate that the cupcake came on.  It had an art and craft feel to it and lots of options for decorating.

Here is Sylvia's finished creation.  I would have used more of the sprinkles but it seems that, unlike me, she knows that less is more.  The eyes are pretty cute!  It is such a fun idea for kids to decorate their own cupcakes.  It did mean a lot of icing to give kids a large canvas but I liked that it was as much about craft as food.

Despite being advised that the chocolate cake was great, I went for the carrot cake.  The cake was lovely and moist with nuts, pineapple and sultanas.  Sadly it was let down by the cream cheese frosting being a bit dry.  I tasted Sylvia's frosting which was soft and perfect so perhaps I was unlucky.  I ignored the cream and was happy just to eat the lovely cake.  Though I wish I had remembered my earlier plan to order the scones with jam and cream.

Meanwhile we doodled with the pencils and paper that is provided to every customer.  I love being able to scribble while I wait for Sylvia to finish.  And I thought it cute that she drew an owl to accompany mine.  I enjoyed it being quiet though it lacked some of the energy of the earlier visit but it was quieter than our visit today.

Today Sylvia and I returned with E in tow.  Sylvia was set on having the Billie Jean.  This is a bowl of mixed rice bubbles and coco pops with a jug of milk.  Sylvia didn't touch the milk because she does not like dairy milk so next time I would get her soy milk.  She also had a cheese and vegemite toastie.  Bargaining with Sylvia about menus has become even more complex since she started to read.  This meal was a bit much for her and half of the toastie came home with us to be eaten later.  I think she was more interested in her playdough activity!

I ordered the Crafty Amigos (which is gluten free and vegan.  The menu described it as "homemade toasted cornbread, topped with corn, capsicum, tomato beans, baby spinach and avocado.  I had imagined it as a fancy fry up but it was more like a tex mex meal.  I really loved it though it was very filling (and worth the $15).  It seems my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

I had also ordered the mini vegie rolls off the kids menu for E and I to share.  They were made with vegetables and marinated feta and really good.  E also enjoyed a soy latte and a poached chicken sandwich which came with an interesting cranberry and pistachio roulade.

I really loved visiting Crafternoon.  The idea of craft activities while eating out really appeals.  The craft and food on offer is quite overwhelming but there are lots of good options and an awareness of dietary options.  It is an entertaining place with lots to do and look at, newspapers and books to peruse, and fun names for meals like "Happily Ever Crafter".  I'd still like to try the pea fritters and the mushroom mountain. 

As we were leaving, two of the staff were dressed as fairies in preparation for  a party and clearly enjoying themselves.  When Sylvia asked for a different colour of playdough, they were happy to oblige and when they saw she did not like her dairy milk they offered soy milk.  I am sure we will be back and will be warmly welcomed when we return.

718 Sydney Road, Brunswick
(near the corner of Albion Street)
03 8777 0125

Crafternoon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato