Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tofu with barbecue sauce

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I had to title this post carefully, as I realised that the title I was going to use (barbecue tofu) may be misconstrued. You see - as I think this revised title highlights - the barbecue here is in the flavour and not in the cooking method. If you're like me and don't own a barbecue, this is a good thing.

This recipe is easy, versatile, and gives a rather delicious result. The barbecue sauce could also be used in a number of ways, and I can see myself making it for all sorts of purposes in the future. I think it would pair well with veggie burgers, for example, or with tofu wraps.



Having never given much thought to what actually goes into barbecue sauce, it's also rather nice to know just what it consists of - in this version at least.

Tofu with Barbecue Sauce

Lightly adapted from the Smokin' BBQ Tofu recipe in The Vegan Table, by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
Serves 4, with sauce left over

Print recipe

Ingredients:
  • 1 packet of extra firm tofu, cut into slices and pressed for ~20 minutes to remove moisture
  • Oil, to taste, for cooking the tofu and onion
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce (or real Worcestershire sauce)
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180'C and set the pressed tofu aside while you make the sauce.

2. In a non-stick pan (preferably one with a lid), saute the onion for approximately 5 minutes, until soft.

3. When the onion has softened, add the tomato sauce, lemon juice, white vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and water, and stir to combine. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, covered if possible, stirring occasionally.

4. While the sauce is simmering, saute the tofu in a separate non-stick pan until golden brown on both sides.

5. When the tofu is crispy, place it in a baking dish and cover with the barbecue sauce. Cover the dish and bake in the pre-heated oven for ~30 minutes.

The sauce...

The sauteed tofu...

Well coated in sauce...

And oven baked...


I think in future I would bake the tofu in slightly less sauce - as the above picture shows, it was a fairly generous coating and much of the sauce in the baking dish had to be thrown away and wasted. I think the sauce recipe could easily be divided in two, with half saved for future use and half used for this meal.

The generous sauce coating meant that Mr Bite and I both found the flavour of this to be a little strong, but even allowing for that, it was very enjoyable. There is a slight spice kick to the barbecue sauce (despite the lack of anything notably spicy in the ingredient list) and it tastes fresh and flavour-packed.


Highly recommended!

Now, I have a question: how do you spell barbecue? Because I would rather spell it barbeque, but Mr Bite informed me I was wrong, and some Googling informed me he was right. Does anyone else like a q?

Spelling aside, what are your thoughts on barbecue sauce in general, or barbecue-flavoured dishes?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Unplugged

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Recently, I was delighted to be tagged over at cityhippyfarmgirl, to take part in the Food Bloggers Unplugged concept started by Susan.


There are 10 questions...here are my 10 answers.

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

The blogging world generally, I think. I can't recall how I first stumbled on to the concept of blogs - although I think Oh She Glows was one of the first I followed - but after entering that world I wanted to be part of it. I had two brief blogging efforts before starting Bite-Sized Thoughts but this time around I stopped worrying about following a format or fitting the traditional 'food' blogger category. Also, I had finished my rather extended stint of studying, which may have made a difference.


These days, I can't imagine not having a blog. I love it, and I love the ongoing inspiration that comes from reading others' posts and seeing their ideas and creations.

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?

My answers to this would change all the time. However, I think my current answer may be Jamie Oliver (even though I almost never make his recipes and don't own any of his books). The reason? I have been constantly impressed and delighted by his efforts to educate children and families about healthy, real eating, as shown most widely in Jamie's School Dinners and Jamie's Food Revolution.


3. Your greasiest, batter - splattered food/drink book is?

Despite having some lovely cookbooks, which are relatively well-used, my most splattered recipes are those  scrawled on pieces of paper (or occasionally printed out) from recipes online. More and more of my recipes are getting to be in this format, and it's starting to be a bit of a problem!


They all end up in a drawer by the kitchen, which also houses the free cooking magazines given by certain chain store supermarkets, and that drawer is now a slight disaster. 




It's hard to believe I once claimed to like an organised desk...


4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

This one is easy, and a joy to re-live. Last year Mr Bite and I travelled through Austria, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, on our first joint holiday and my first holiday as a 'real' (by which I mean working and thus slightly more cash equipped) adult. When driving from Salzburg in Austria, where I had been at a conference - partial justification for the whole trip - to Ljubljana in Slovenia, we stopped at Lake Bled for lunch.


 
We had crepes, sitting on a bench overlooking the lake. Mr Bite had an appropriately lunch-like tuna crepe, while I went for an inappropriately lunch-like strawberry one. But I am so glad I did!

The crepe itself was superb, better than any crepe or pancake I had ever tasted, and the strawberry filling was pureed strawberries rather than jam. 

I was hungry, the work part of the trip was over, we had 3 weeks of holiday ahead of us, the setting was amazing, and the meal was divine.


5. Another food bloggers table you'd like to eat at is?

I wouldn't turn down any invitations :) One of the things I like most about food blogs is that even when the meal in question isn't one that appeals, there are so often new ideas and new ways of cooking that give me inspiration at home. Everyone on my blog list has a table I'd like to visit for the food, the presentation, and/or the company.

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

I would love to have a KitchenAid Stand Mixer to complement my food processor, preferably in plum (yes, I have done my research). However, I think we would need a new kitchen to go with it, as there is literally no space at all for another appliance on either the bench tops or in the pantry.

Given that, a garlic press. I know, what an item to pick when money is no object! But I don't have one and when I want to crush garlic that is most inconvenient.

7. Who taught you how to cook?

I suppose my Mum, although it's difficult to recall a particular time when I learnt key things. The kitchen of my childhood was adjoining to the meals area, and we were often around doing homework (in the younger years, before homework required quiet and focused attention), or just hovering and making conversation in the lead up to dinner time. I also have fond memories of baking with my Mum from quite a young age, and think I learnt that side of things through helping (and tasting...) from 5 years or so onwards.

8. I'm coming to you for dinner what's your signature dish?

Once upon a time, vegetarian stuffed peppers. But the problem with signature dishes is that after a while you have made them for everyone you know, and so I think I have exhausted my stuffed pepper options for the next little while.

One thing I can say, though, is that it is likely to be oven baked. I hate worrying over stove tops when people are around, and ovens are my only comfortable option for heating / cooking when we have guests.

You may also get a choice of desserts.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure? 

I seem to recall that I don't believe in guilty pleasures :) However, if I was making an exception, I probably have two: cereal for lunch and chocolate during the day.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

Tricky...here are two that I think are unlikely to be known.

1. I was born in England, but spent most of the first 2 years of my life living in the Middle East. We came to Australia when I was 2.

2. The only person in my 'real' life who knows about this blog is Mr Bite.


Tag 5 other bloggers

The whole tagging scenario makes me a little anxious (who to pick? will they want to do it? will the people I don't pick feel left out?) so I have tried to pick 5 people who I feel I know comparatively little about...and have been a little flexible on the strictly food blogger aspect.


Eleah at Brocstar - I'm not sure she really wants to be tagged in the middle of college exams and assignments, but hopefully she will forgive me. Anyone who can run a marthon and understand college-level organic chemistry is someone I'd like to know more about!

Lisa at Blithe Moments - what I do know of Lisa suggests that we are remarkably similar when it comes to height, shoe requirements, and current work place challenges. My interest is piqued for more :)

Mrs Bok at The Bok Flock - entertaining tales, and gorgeous photos, of gardens and chickens and now a rabbit.

Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen - incredibly creative recipes from Scotland, including black pepper and chocolate muffins that are sitting in my bookmarks list (among others...).

Theresa at Tropical Vegan - who has been entertaining me with travel stores (and now mango mania!) and lives a vegan lifestyle in Northern Queensland.

Friday, November 25, 2011

An Asian themed post: Wagamama and bok choi

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A few weeks ago I mentioned that I went to Wagamama's for the first time, and that I would return to that topic another day.

Today is that day.

Unfortunately, though, my Wagamama experiences really don't require a whole post. Especially as I don't have a single photo from the lunch. (Clearly, I am not a real food blogger.)

Given this, I am combining Wagamama discussion with bok choi discussion. They are related, I promise!

Wagamama For The First Time

I was starting to feel a little odd for never having visited this Asian inspired noodle restaurant, which now has over 90 stores worldwide. The company describes their food philosophy as combining "great, fresh and nutritious food in a sleek yet simple setting with helpful, friendly service and value for money" (Wagamana website) - which sounds quite good. Also, I am generally sucked into food trends that start overseas, particularly England, and so the opening of Wagamama in Perth in 2006 should really have prompted me to try it sooner.



I was thus rather pleased to have the opportunity to visit for a workday lunch, especially as there are comparatively few restaurants I'm happy to visit at lunchtime during the week (I don't, generally, want a dinner-sized plate of hot food, at dinner prices, in the middle of my work day).

I was a little surprised to discover that almost all of the vegetarian menu options involved egg. Even when I used eggs in baking, I wasn't a big fan of egg dishes - and so egg in stir fries is not really my thing.

There were, though, a few egg-free dishes to ponder. The vegetarian Spicy Itame ($17.30) was one such example, involving "fried tofu marinated in ginger, garlic and lemongrass with stir fried broccoli, zucchini, red chilli, red onion, mint, basil, corander, garlic, ginger and chilli oil, served on steamed jasmine rice and garnished with a wedge of lime".

I very nearly ordered this. On re-reading the menu description now I kind of wish I had. The reason I didn't? Fried tofu is my least favourite type of tofu, mostly because it varies so much between restaurants. Slightly fried so that the tofu is still detectable - that is just fine. Fried so that the tofu is more batter than tofu - that is not good at all. I didn't know how to ask about the Wagamama preparation without sounding, well, odd (and probably not making sense!) so I skipped this option.

The people I was with ordered Cha Han ($18.50) ("stir-fried jasmine rice with egg, chicken, prawns, snow peas, spring onions, sweetcorn and mushrooms, served with a bowl of miso soup and pickle"), Thai Style Stir-Fried Noodles ($19.90) ("stir-fried rice noodles with chicken, prawns, egg, spring onions and beansprouts cooked in a spicy tamarind sauce. garnished with crushed roasted peanuts, fresh coriander and a wedge of lime"), Ginger Chicken Udon ($19.90) ("teppan-fried udon noodles with chicken marinated in ginger, garlic and lemongrass. served with snow peas, egg, red and spring onions, beansprouts and chillies") and a Vegetarian Bento Box ($15.00) (fried tofu + 1 selected side dish + some standard sides).

The Vegetarian Bento Box inspired me to make my own combination meal, minus fried tofu, and in the end I settled on Chilli and Garlic Edamame Beans ($5.80) (" freshly steamed green soya beans, stir-fried in chilli and garlic") and Wok Tossed Asian Greens ($8.40) ("seasonal asian greens wok tossed in soy and ginger"), complemented by some Sweet Potato Kusabi ($7.20) ("hand-cut sweet potato chips") that the table shared.


The side dish portions were surprisingly generous. The Asian greens were served on a main-meal sized plate, and the bowl of edamame was larger than seemed typical. I found the 'chilli and garlic' seasoning to be more garlic than chilli, which wasn't quite the balance I was hoping for (I would probably order the lightly salted edamame in future), but the edamame themselves were fresh and perfectly cooked. The Wok Tossed Asian Greens were similarly delightful. I could have eaten two plates worth - stir fried to just the right level, seasoned enough to enhance the vegetables rather than disguise them, and quite addictive. The mix included (as far as I could detect) bok choi, gai larn, and choy sum.

All in all, I found my choices worked well for lunch, but I am not sure that there would be many options to keep me happy at dinner - unless the fried tofu is lightly fried rather than battered. I wonder if anyone can comment on this, if they've tried it? Irrespective, I am pleased I have finally visited the Wagamama empire, and those wok tossed greens have been playing on my mind ever since.

Which brings me to my second point...


Bok Choi

Bok choi (also known as Chinese cabbage) is one of my favourite Asian vegetables, but I do go through stages with how often I eat it - sometimes multiple times per week, but other times more like once per month. My Wagamama experience sparked off a persistent and unquenchable craving, and so the last few weeks have been more like the former than the latter!

Given that this vegetable is high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Calcium, this is a craving I am more than happy to indulge. As it has been on my mind, I also thought I would share my favourite, super quick method of preparation. Four ingredients and five minutes don't exactly make a recipe, but the result is extremely rewarding.

Bok choi with ginger and soy

Take 2 bunches of bok choi, well washed and torn or roughly chopped
~2 cm piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
~1 tsp soy sauce
Oil to taste


Heat the ginger, soy sauce and oil in a non-stick pan or wok
Add the bok choi
Stir fry for 4 - 5 minutes, until just cooked


Serve as a side dish


Or eat on its own

And enjoy

What are your thoughts on Wagamama, if you've been? How about bok choi?

Making non-dairy yoghurt

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One of the things on my 5 Things I Would Like To Make list was non-dairy yoghurt. After some months of experimentation, I am pleased to finally have some things to report. Not all good things, mind you, but things nonetheless.

If you dislike yoghurt then I'm afraid this post may not be the one for you. However, if you do, and/or if you might want to make yoghurt yourself one day, I hope some of the following may be of use.


The background

Why did I want to make yoghurt at all? After discovering that gelatin was in almost all of the commercial yoghurts sold in Australia, I switched a few years ago to favouring the natural pot-set yoghurt varieties. Comparing typical commercial yoghurts with natural pot-set yoghurts (Jalna is a particular favourite) is like comparing a Mars bar with quality dark chocolate. They aren't the same at all, and whilst the latter in each comparison is probably an acquired taste, I well and truly acquired a preference for pot-set.


The problem with this switch is that, over time, it became harder and harder to find my preferred brands. Where pot-set varieties were available, they were increasingly of the flavoured sort, and I was having to invest more and more effort to track down the type I liked. Driving to a supermarket with the specific goal of buying yoghurt was getting a little frustrating.

This supermarket inconvenience corresponded with my experimentation with reducing dairy, and so the idea of making non-dairy yoghurt was born.

For reference, I shall note here that a 500g tub (0.5L) of natural pot-set yoghurt usually cost in the vicinity of $4, or a little higher, when bought from the supermarket. Let's see if we can beat that $8 / 1L benchmark, and achieve just as good a result...

The first step - cheating

Although my goal was to make non-dairy yoghurt, I actually started at the other end of the spectrum. So much so that instead of making non-dairy yoghurt from scratch, I was making dairy yoghurt from a sachet. It doesn't sound quite the same does it?

I invested in an EasiYo yoghurt maker, which is effectively a 1L jar and a larger thermos-type thing in which the yoghurt sits while it is fermenting. These cost about $20, and the EasiYo products seem to be available in a number of shops in Western Australia (in my case, I found that Big W had the biggest range of yoghurt sachet options, designed to go with the yoghurt maker).




To my slight embarrassment, I picked the 'Skimmers' EasiYo sachets as what seemed like the closest to the yoghurt I usually buy. I would have preferred a different name, but there you go. There are plenty of flavoured options too, if you prefer something with a better title and/or with added sugar and flavour (there is also a Greek-style option).


The ingredient list of the Skimmers variety is nice and short: pasteurised skim and whole milk solids (98%), from free range cows, and live lactic cultures.
There is no real challenge in making this yoghurt. You pour a sachet into the 1L jar, fill it half way up with cold water, put the lid on, shake, continue filling the jar up with cold water, shake again, fill the thermos thingy up half way with boiling water, put the 1L jar in the thermos, put the lid on, and wait.

You can wait anywhere from 8 hours until (reportedly) 24 hours - I've settled on about 12 hours as my favourite time frame to get the yoghurt nice and thick.

The verdict on this cheating option? Perfection in a bowl. Seriously. And despite how easy it is to make, there is still a strong sense of satisfaction at making the yoghurt yourself.









A 3-pack of sachets costs $9.95, so the cost for 1L made this way is $3.32. In other words, less than half of the price of commercial yoghurts.


The second step - still on dairy

It took me a little while to work my way up to my non-dairy aspirations. After trying out the sachets, I thought I would try doing things 'properly', using skim milk powder and a yoghurt starter.

Brydie talked about this recently, using the same EasiYo containers. My approach was virtually identical to hers, with 1.5 cups of milk powder and about 2 tablespoons of yoghurt as the starting ingredients. You mix those up with water, in the 1L jar, and then go through the same process as with the sachets.

I used skim milk powder for this rather than full-cream, and I think a mixture of the two may work slightly better than skim alone. My verdict on this, when made with skim milk powder, is that it wasn't quite as thick as the 'cheat' option (or the store bought varieties). Whilst it was still delicious, I was left preferring the sachet overall.



This does have the advantage of being very economical though, coming in at about $1.50 - $2 per 1L - and I suspect that using some full-cream milk powder would make it thicker if desired.


The third step - choosing a non-dairy option

When I was finally ready to enter non-dairy territory, I was faced with the challenge of choosing precisely what non-dairy option to pursue. I knew I didn't want to make soy yoghurt, as I like to vary things away from soy whenever possible (given it is the default non-dairy option available commercially). For those who are interested in making soy yoghurt, though, some links are at the end of this post.

The non-dairy milk comparisons I blogged last month were actually part of this decision-making process, as I wanted to start with a milk that I liked the taste of and (ideally) which contained reasonable amounts of protein and calcium.

Based on those comparisons, I decided to try protein-enriched rice milk and coconut milk yoghurts.







The coconut milk didn't have the protein or calcium content I was hoping for, but I thought the slightly higher fat content might be useful for yoghurt-making, and I knew that others had made coconut milk yoghurt successfully before.


The fourth step - rice milk yoghurt

For this, I mixed about 1/4 cup soy vanilla yoghurt (as a starter) with nearly 1L of the Vitasoy protein enriched rice milk pictured above - enough milk to fill up the 1L jar, when mixed with the starter yoghurt. The 1L jar went inside the EasiYo thermos half filled with boiling water, and was left to ferment away.

I actually left this for over 14 hours, as I found it didn't thicken as readily as the dairy variety. Even with the slightly longer standing time, the final product was still, if I'm honest, more like drinking yoghurt than yoghurt. Very good with cereal, but not so much in a bowl on its own.


Whilst some separation of liquids is normal with pot-set yoghurt (as the whey separates from the yoghurt), this was also more marked with the rice milk variety:



I do wonder whether spooning off the top whey layer would have made the overall product thicker, but I  just kept stirring the two layers back together. I think the separation is probably related to the amount of yoghurt starter, which is somewhat of a moving target when making yoghurt at home. In this instance I may have used a little too much soy yoghurt at the beginning.

All in all? The tart yoghurt taste was there, and it was thicker than regular rice milk, but it wasn't at all like dairy yoghurt. With that said, I did like it, and will continue to play around with this to try and get the proportions right and reduce the whey-yoghurt separation.

This option works out to be about $3 per 1L. Still big savings!


The fifth step - coconut milk yoghurt

I had such high hopes for this. After my experience with the rice milk yoghurt being a bit too thin, I added 1 tsp agar-agar flakes to the ingredient list, in an attempt to thicken the final product. The agar went into the 1L EasiYo jar with 1/4 cup soy yoghurt starter and just under 1L coconut milk, to ferment in the thermos in the same way as above.

Sadly, this was a dismal fail. In every sense possible.

The whey-yoghurt separation was so pronounced that the 'yoghurt' was extremely odd to look at and far too off-putting to even taste:



Not quite what I was looking for.

I'm unsure if the problem here was not enough sugar for the yoghurt bacteria to breed on - as the coconut milk was lower in sugar than some of the other non-dairy options (and than regular milk) - or whether it was the soy yoghurt starter. I know that some people use commercial powdered yoghurt starter to make yoghurt at home, which I guess is similar to what comes mixed into the EasiYo sachets. 

I do wonder if that would work better than guessing at soy yoghurt quantities, especially as it would also be a 'purer' source of the live cultures. Also, I don't know if soy yoghurt and coconut milk go together particularly well, and if not, trying to combine them here may not be sensible. Unfortunately, I've not been able to find the powdered yoghurt starter and am reluctant to order it online when it may not prove to be any use.

All in all, then, this did not inspire me to pursue coconut yoghurt! It was also rather an expensive mistake, considering the $5 price tag per 1L carton of coconut milk (albeit still cheaper than store-bought yoghurt). I know that coconut milk yoghurt is possible, but I may take a break to re-gain confidence before trying it again...


The sixth step - reflection

Interestingly, after this process of experimentation, I went back to the EasiYo sachets (I had two left) and fell in love with yoghurt all over again. After trying the slightly thinner options that came from skim milk powder and rice milk, the EasiYo result was noticeably thicker and more enjoyable. 

As the sachets don't require a yoghurt starter to be on hand (useful given that I'm happy to have a few days off between yoghurt batches, and don't really want to keep buying soy yoghurt to start things off), and the ingredient list is short enough to seem 'almost' from scratch, I suspect that this cheating option may in fact remain my default. It isn't dairy-free, in fact quite the opposite, but this may be a time where I need to acknowledge that real milk does have its place.

With all of that said, I will continue trying rice milk yoghurt and if I ever see powdered yoghurt starter I will re-commence experimentation. I'm certainly glad I went through this process and I love the fresh taste, the reduced cost, the reduced packaging, and the ability to have the resulting yoghurt plain or mixed in with any flavours or add-ins as desired.





For other references on yoghurt making, I collected the following bookmarks -

Soy:

Coconut:

Nut:

Oat:

Dairy:




Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Workplace essentials

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I have recently had cause to reflect on what I value in my workplaces. One of them has recently had a fairly large scale office reshuffle, which, combined with one of my closer work friends going on maternity leave, means that I am now in a new office (in the same building) where I don't really know anyone.


Given that my other workplace gives me an office of my own, in a hallway with people I know very well, I am not entirely enamored with this new arrangement.

I am also not very good with change, which means that even if I was going to a better office, I would probably be slightly unhappy for the first week or so. This is a personality trait I really need to try harder to change.

I'm sure I'll get over it in a week or two, but at the moment - well, I'm doing all I can to make the workplace in question as nice as possible. And this, of course, has prompted me to think about what matters for me at work.

The things I've hit upon as my top three are...

1. Order and desk organisation

It sounds a bit precious to say I can't work at a messy desk, but, well, I can't - or at least not very well. I also struggle to work at a desk that is organised in a way that seems wrong to me. I like things lined up and have a strong sense of aesthetics when it comes to certain things. (Some might say obsessive rather than aesthetic, but I shall stick with aesthetic.)

Given this, I have made sure my files and other desk-related objects are organised in a way that meets my peculiar standards. I have put up my calendar, made sure I have my own mug, and generally done what I can to make my new desk my own.



2. (Mini) breaks

I never thought breaks were something I valued, but it's surprising how much the day is sped up by a few brief non-work related conversations. Now that I've lost my usual conversation partners, I've done things like take a 5 minute walk outside mid-afternoon. It helps!


3. Food - and particularly the right kind of food

Fruit is always part of what I take to work, but the rest varies considerably. Sometimes my lunches are a balanced combination of vegetables, protein and grains, but sometimes they are carbohydrate with virtually no vegetables or protein, or, if I'm honest, an ad hoc combination of snack-type foods.

This week I've been making more of an effort.

Chickpea, spinach and capsicum salad with sweet chilli sauce


Homemade trail mix (pecans, almonds, goji berries, sultanas, dates, puffed kamut)


I'm also planning in minor treats. Tomorrow morning will be a purchased coffee morning, and I'm already looking forward to it.



Of course, if all else fails, I can remind myself that it's only 5 weeks until Christmas, and that I'm only at the workplace in question 2 days out of 5. When phrased in those terms, I really have nothing to complain  about at all.

And if that fails...well, there's always chocolate. And more coffee.

What makes a difference to your work days? Are there things you rely upon to make the day pass smoothly?

Monday, November 21, 2011

The novelty of banana bread

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When I think of banana bread, I don't really think exciting, or novel, or my first choice when offered a baked product.

Banana bread (and muffins) falls into the category, in my mind, of a good stand-by product. A fairly safe option, with minimal fuss and a fairly short ingredient list, that most people will probably eat. Banana products even carry 'healthy' connotations, even though many banana breads are equivalent in sugar and fat content to chocolate cake.

All in all, I like banana bread but I don't generally crave it or make it. Banana and pineapple, banana and chocolate, and banana and peanut butter are exciting combinations, but banana alone is just...well, not.

That all changed when bananas became a rare and over-priced, cyclone depleted, commodity.

When they were suddenly unavailable, I started craving them at odd moments - typically in the middle of a work day, when there was nothing I could do about said craving even if I was prepared to pay $2 plus for one piece of fruit.

Now that the banana prices are back in the acceptable range, and bananas are starting to seem more of a normal item and less of a luxury one, I thought I would celebrate by making banana bread. We had a slightly too ripe banana, I had an untried recipe (for the best banana bread, no less) in The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes, and the time seemed right.

Banana bread
Lightly adapted from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes (Kris Holechek)
Makes 1 loaf / 10 generous slices
Print recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 bananas (I used 1 medium and 1 large)
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp non-dairy milk (I used soy)
  • Optional: brown sugar, extra, to sprinkle on top (I didn't actually do this, but you could if you wanted extra sweetness)

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 180'C and prepare a loaf tin.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. In a large bowl, mash the bananas and then add the oil, brown sugar, and milk. Stir to combine.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to combine.

5. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes (mine took 38 minutes), until the bread is golden and a toothpick comes out clean.









This sits right in the middle of 'cake' and 'bread', which is just where I like my banana bread. Pairing with tea or coffee is highly recommended :)

What are your thoughts on banana bread? Do you have a favourite version or recipe?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Foods I no longer seem to eat, or miss

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Once upon a time, I ate the following foods regularly. Some of them I deliberately cut down on, and some I just seem to have stopped eating. But I am rather pleased to say that I don't miss any of them (or at least not much...).

I don't intend to imply that any of the following foods are 'wrong' or 'bad', or that others should stop having them. This is really just my own curious reflection on how much tastes can change, and I'd be interested to hear if others have had similar experiences over the years.

Diet Coke and other diet soft drinks

In my early 20s, I could drink 600ml plus of Diet Coke (or equivalent) each day. I thought of it as a good way of enjoying a drink when I wasn't hungry but wanted something more than water. I also thought of it as a better option than 'real' soft drinks, with the large amounts of sugar they contain.

At some point my niggling concerns about artificial sweeteners got louder, and I started to think of Diet Coke in terms of what it actually is: a black fizzy liquid with no calories and a whole lot of unpronounceable ingredients, most of which could be better described as chemicals.

Somehow it was less appealing after that.

I didn't stop drinking diet drinks cold turkey, and for quite a long time after dropping Diet Coke I still drank other diet versions. These days, though, I stick with water, soda water or tea, and I very rarely want anything else.

Apparently Diet Coke isn't good for kidneys either. Who would have thought? [Source]

The last time I had a glass was when we went to Tasmania, and I had a Diet Coke on the plane. It must have been 6 months or so since I'd last drunk any, and I was quite surprised to find I didn't like it at all (it tasted artificial, funnily enough).



Regular / dairy ice cream



I wouldn't say that I was ever a big ice cream eater, but I probably had it weekly or so until this year. In line with my frozen yoghurt soft serve obsession, I also enjoyed it in soft serve form if available.

Since trying to transition to a lower dairy intake, I've stuck to soy ice cream and frozen yoghurt (and frozen banana soft serve), and now I can't recall when I last had the real variety. It also doesn't seem to appeal anymore, so I suspect I'll be sticking with my new alternatives for now.



Other dairy desserts



In this category comes small individual mousse tubs, flavoured and sweetened yoghurt, and other products in the dairy section that contain gelatin and various varieties of artificial flavours and/or sweeteners.


Dropping these was a conscious decision, after I realised just how many (= all!) contained gelatin. I do still have an occasional moment when I would like one - typically in relation to mousse - but the moments pass.  Most of the time I'm grateful that I've been able to find alternatives made from real food.


Instant hot drinks - hot chocolate and coffee varieties

Does (or did) anyone else use those instant sachets of hot chocolate / coffee / lattes? I remember when I first discovered them, and in my mind they were incredibly convenient. I thought they were the perfect way to have a cafe-like drink without the cafe-like prices.

They were convenient, in a sense, but the trade off was an ingredient list that I couldn't easily pronounce. These days, I have tea, higher quality instant coffee (if that isn't an oxymoron) and just splurge on cafe drinks if I want something more. I recently discovered a sachet in the back of the pantry, and thought I may as well use it up by drinking it instead of throwing it out.  However, I found it too sweet and just...not right. It's now hard to believe I used to have these drinks almost daily.

I will say that the advertising is still a little alluring [Source]


Iceburg lettuce

This might seem like a slightly odd item, and in truth I do still have it when I buy salads or sandwiches when out. However, I no longer buy this variety of lettuce myself, and I wouldn't choose it over other leaf options. These days I favour baby spinach leaves in salads / sandwiches / wraps made at home, and have the curly lettuce varieties too on occasion. Iceburg seems rather flavourless now.

  Source 
                Source                                                                                          Source


I'll follow-up this post at some stage with things I now eat but didn't used to...there are rather a lot of those too when I think about it.

Have your tastes changed over time? Or have you worked to eliminate foods that you now don't miss?