Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I've enjoyed this month: January 2012

22 comments
When I thought back over my 2011 posts at the end of last year, I realised that the posts I most enjoyed re-reading, and which I got a lot of enjoyment out of writing, were those on "what I'm enjoying" or "what I'm grateful for".

As a way of reflecting on each month whilst also keeping this positive focus in mind, I thought I would start a monthly tradition of looking back on what I've enjoyed over the previous 4 weeks.

Here is my list for January.

Unhulled tahini

What a discovery this was. I went on to enjoy it on its own, with crackers, in wraps, and with Ugly Duckling Muffins.

On one particularly inspired occasion, I even enjoyed it with an Ugly Duckling Muffin, applesauce, and plain yoghurt. This combination is highly recommended!

Definitely a meal in a bowl. Quite possibly the best meal in a bowl I've yet had this year.


Jigsaw puzzling

 Mr Bite and I got this 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle at Christmas:


Quite a lot of pieces, and quite a lot of blue sections that blurred together...definitely a challenging sort of enjoyment :-)


It took us almost one month exactly, but last weekend we completed it.


As an added bonus, we now also have our kitchen table back. Or at least we will once we can bring outselves to break it up and pack it away...


Movies

I mentioned in this post that I only see about three films per year at the cinemas.

It seems that in 2012, I am using up my entire quota in the first month. I have now seen Sherlock Holmes 2 (very good) and the US release of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (brilliant - see it!), and we are going to see Hugo in 3D tonight.

I blame the hot weather for this unprecedented movie run. It's probably fortunate that I've enjoyed what I've seen, because this may have to last me until next January!


Summer fruit

I think I've already drawn two comments from Mr Bite on how much fruit I'm capable of eating at once. It's certainly a lot at this time of year.


Apricots, plums, nectarines, grapes, and mango are proving current favourites.

Frozen desserts

See the above 'heat' reference. In addition to all the usual frozen products I enjoy (frozen fruit and yoghurt included), I've recently discovered Weis sorbet in Summer Berries. I'm also still enjoying the homemade berry equivalent, in the form of banana and raspberry 'ice cream'.


What are you enjoying at the moment? What has your January involved?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In search of (non) perfection

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Are you a perfectionist? It seems like a lot of people are, these days. Perfectionism has almost become a catch all phrase for hard work, achievement and success.

Those traits and outcomes may go hand in hand with some aspects of perfectionism: "positive" or "adaptive" perfectionism is thought to drive people to set goals, strive to achieve them, and do the best they can.

That's not the sort of perfectionism I'm referring to though. It's generally accepted that the "positive" side of perfectionism has an equally negative alternative. Goal setting and striving for achievement might still be present, but the goals will be set higher, the importance placed on achievement will be greater, and the perceived consequences of failure will be catastrophic.

With this sort of perfectionism, doing well can become everything. Self-worth is linked to achieving, and continuing to achieve. Falling short of goals is seen as failure. Achieving goals is still not good enough. 'Success' doesn't bring happiness or satisfaction, but, if anything, relief at not failing, at managing to do what one should have done. Everything needs to be just so and done to your exacting standards.

If you experience "unhelpful" perfectionism, you'll know the self-criticism that can kick in at the slightest mis-step from your plans or goals. And then there's the self-doubt, which makes you wonder if you can do it, even as you tell yourself you have to do it (whatever It might be on the day in question).

Some people opt out altogether, prefering not to try than to try and risk failure.

I used to be an unhelpful perfectionist. In highschool and at university, I defined myself by my academic performance. I lived for praise and positive feedback. I'm conscious of how vain that might sound, but the reality may be different to the image conjured up: receiving praise, or doing well on a test or assignment, was just about the only time I wasn't telling myself I hadn't done enough, or I should be working harder.

My perfectionistic traits have also contributed to my desire for order and control, a feature present from my earliest memories and corroborated by my long-suffering mother (who had to contend with my 5-year-old frustration at things not being right), and which does continue to this day.

At its peak, my perfectionstic tendencies probably extended to every aspect of my life. I wanted to be perfect, in every way, in every domain.

These days, my perspective is a little different. I see the unhelpful aspects of perfectionism. I recognise what I didn't do, in highschool and university, when I was focusing so fully on 'achievement'. Having fun, relaxing, relationships...they were low on my priority list.

These days, I also have other things that I care about. Achieving can't take number one spot any more. I care about people, about Mr Bite, my home life. I don't have space to be focusing on everything being just so.

However.

Sometimes it creeps in.

"You should have worked harder"

"You need to re-do that"

"That doesn't look right"

"You didn't deserve that complement"

"You need to do more"

"You stupid [insert critical word of choice]"

At such times, the desire to be perfect can return. These days, at least, I recognise it isn't possible. If I want to be the perfect girlfriend and the perfect employee and the perfect daughter and the perfect sister and the perfect runner and the perfect friend and have perfect hair and eat the perfect diet - well, it isn't going to happen.

Especially the hair.

And I'm grateful for that awareness. It stops me being sucked back in, and allows me to continue walking on the right side of the "helpful" perfectionism line. Or even, sometimes, skipping out on perfection completely. Life is short, after all.

I apologise for the wordy nature of this post. It's been sitting in my 'drafts' posts list for some time now, and I thought that if I put off posting it for too long I never would. Lighter topics will return soon!


Would you describe yourself as a perfectionist? Has your approach to perfection changed over time?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Peach and Vanilla Cake, for my Mum

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January seems to be the birthday month for a surprising number of people. My mother is part of this group, and I have enjoyed making her birthday cake for some 15+ years now. When I moved out, I was briefly worried that my sister may want to appropriate the role, but it turns out that my siblings are quite happy to let me keep it. This will continue to work well for as long as I live in Perth, after which it may prove more complicated!


This year, I settled on a peach and vanilla cake.


The fact that I chose this flavour combination before finding a recipe could have been a foolish move. Fortunately, my tendency to adapt recipes to suit my needs whimsical desire works out more often than not, and this proved true for this combination.

The cake was adapted from a plain vegan white cake, which gave the vanilla component, and the icing was based on the 'buttercream' frosting in The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes (Kris Holechek). I wasn't committed to making a vegan cake, given that my Mum isn't vegan and I wanted something that would suit her tastes rather than mine, but in the end it worked out that way.

The cake itself was good, but I think in future I would increase the vanilla and the peaches. I wasn't sure how thick the cake texture would be, and I didn't want to overload it with too many peaches if it was on the fluffy side. As it turns out, the cake was almost fudgy in consistency, and so I could probably have doubled the peaches without problem.

Can you tell this was inverted onto a cooling rack? :-)

The icing, in contrast, I wouldn't change at all. Given that I don't usually like icing much (unless it's of the cream cheese or ganache variety) I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed this. I added a generous dollop of plain natural yoghurt to the buttercream ingredients, and that provided a slight tartness that worked very well indeed.

Using my new electric beater was pretty fun too. I was definitely reminded of the benefits of having two beating whisks rather than one!



Peach and vanilla cake
Adapted from this vegan white cake
Icing adapted from The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes (Kris Holechek)
Vegan
Makes 1 large round cake


Ingredients
For the cake;
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1/2 cup non-dairy margarine (I used Nuttelex)
3 cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups non-dairy milk (I used soy)
1 - 1.5 tbsp vanilla (see note below)
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 - 4 large fresh peaches, peeled and sliced (see note below)

Note. I used 1 tbsp vanilla and 2 large peaches, but next time would increase these proportions to 1.5 tbsp vanilla and 4 peaches

For the icing;
3 tbsp non-dairy margarine
~2 tbsp plain natural yoghurt (I did 1 generous dessertspoon dollop)
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp non-dairy milk

2 - 3 medium fresh peaches, to decorate (I used 2.5), plus optional strawberries



Method
For the cake;
Preheat the oven to 180'C and prepare a round cake pan.

Cream the sugar and margarine in a large bowl, until light and fluffy.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Alternate adding this flour mixture and the soy milk to the creamed sugar, stirring to combine after each addition (e.g., add 1 cup flour mixture, stir, add 1 cup soy milk, stir). Continue until all of the flour mixture and all of the soy milk have been added to the large bowl and stirred through.

Add the vanilla and apple cider vinegar. Beat the cake batter with an electric beater for about 2 minutes (or the equivalent by hand). 

Add the chopped peaches and stir through.

Pour the mixture into your prepared cake pan. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Let the cake rest in the pan for 10 - 20 minutes, then cool completely on a cooling rack.

For the icing;
Cream the icing sugar, margarine and yoghurt in a large bowl, until light and fluffy. 

Add the vanilla and soy milk and continue beating until well-combined.

Ice, and decorate with extra sliced peaches and optional strawberries.



Although I would have liked more vanilla and peach, the cake was well received and I don't think others were concerned. The icing mix was also a hit, and the yoghurt addition is definitely something I'll be doing again.



In addition to being a birthday week, yesterday, of course, was Australia Day. I hope the Australians among you enjoyed it, whether you were celebrating or simply enjoying the public holiday (as we did, inside, in air conditioning!).

Do you have favourite birthday cake recipes, or do you like to vary things from year to year?
Are you a fruit or chocolate cake type of person?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Listography: Top 5 biscuits

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Since discovering Kate Takes 5's blog last year (thank you, Lisa), I have enjoyed reading her 'top 5' lists of various items and products.

I have also, on a number of occasions, intended to take her listography topics and participate with a 'top 5' list of my own. Except, to date, I haven't. I just don't seem to get myself organised in a timely manner.

Until now.

A 'top 5' post on biscuits drew me right in, and here I am posting on the topic within a few days of Kate's original list going out. Clearly I just needed the right 'top 5' list to get me going! Interestingly, I don't actually eat biscuits very often, but they obviously hold an important spot in my food heart.

Without further ado, therefore, here are my top 5 biscuits (including a mix of vegan and non-vegan, because some favourites are from my pre-vegan tendency days)...

1. McVitie's Digestive biscuits. These make number 1 because they are so versatile. They work well by themselves, with a cup of tea, crumbled into yoghurt, and even as a base for desserts. They're also vegan to boot. Of English origin, they are readily available in Australia but not (accordingly to Wikipedia) so common in America. Wikipedia also stated that they are slightly similar to American graham crackers, an interesting fact as I've always wondered quite what graham crackers are.


Chocolate digestive biscuits are also enjoyable (and apparently 52 are eaten each second in England!), but I prefer the plain ones best.

2. Fruit digestive biscuits. Sadly, these aren't available in Australia. We once had fruit Granita biscuits, which were virtually the same, but they disappeared from the Arnott's range some time ago. Effectively a digestive biscuit with currants and added spice, these would be my Number 1 if only I could get hold of them readily.

I think the closest available biscuits we have are the Paradise Rich Tea variety. However, the biscuit component of Rich Teas is harder than a digestive, and not quite as enticing. Still good, but not great.

3. Leda Minton dark chocolate mint biscuits. The dark chocolate coating is a relatively new feature of these biscuits. Vegan and gluten-free, they taste like a regular chocolate mint biscuit, but, I think, better. There is a decent biscuit base and a generous mint creme filling, and whilst the chocolate coating is fairly average (chocolate biscuit chocolate, rather than 'real' chocolate), it's on a par with most other commercial chocolate biscuit coatings, minus dairy.



4. McVitie's Penguin chocolate biscuits. Another McVitie's creation and another non-Australian feature on my list, these are effectively English TimTams. I find them more chocolatey and less artificial than the Australian variety. They're also more fun. They come individually wrapped in different colours (I know this isn't environmentally friendly...), with a different Penguin character on each biscuit wrapping, and there is a joke or 'fun fact' on each wrapper. There's also a dedicated Penguin website where you can play penguin-type games, and read about conservation work being done in Antarctica (that at least is environmentally friendly...). In other words, I'm actually 5 years old at heart and chocolate plus child-focused marketing strategies will clearly work to reel me right in.


These are available at an increasing number of Woolworths (in the international section) and at UK food stores, but you do pay for the privilege. I thus don't have them often, but it's always fun when I do.

5. Orgran Wild Raspberry Biscuits. These are vegan, gluten free, and comparably low in fat. They do taste like a 'healthy' biscuit, but I enjoy them and the nutritional profile provides an added bonus. Being 5 years old at heart, I like to nibble the top and sides off the raspberry centre, before moving on to the filling and base.


Honourable mentions also go to Arnott's Malt O' Milk biscuits and Teddy Bear biscuits, which I loved as a child and still enjoy on occasion today, as well as Unibic Sponge Finger Biscuits, which have magical powers of absorption and are thus perfectly suited to dunking in hot drinks.

In contrast, you'll note that none of my favourites are cream-filled. I've never been a big fan, and with age I've come to like them less and less. I also don't like shortbread or Anzac biscuits, or anything plain but very crunchy.

What about you? Any favourite biscuit varieties?

This post is part of the Kate Takes 5 Listography on Biscuits. You can see her original post here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kitchen 'essentials' and a new electric beater

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Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on commenting options. It sounds like Blogger is generally easier to use than Disqus, which was really helpful to discover. This means I'll be sticking with the standard Blogger commenting system for now. 


I had thought this would mean losing the option for people to be alerted when I reply to their comments (something Disqus allowed). However! It turns out this is actually now possible in Blogger. You just have to click "subscribe by email" under the comment box when you are commenting (this is different to the more general "subscribe by email" that will be at the very bottom of the page). You'll then be notified of replies to your original comment, but not of any other comments that aren't linked to yours. 

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It was also interesting to read about how others' taste preferences change across different temperatures. It's clearly an area with lots of individual variation! In my case, I suspect more and more things might be moving to the 'chilled' and 'frozen' categories this week. The current weather forecast is reminding me of why I don't like Australian summer:


Ick. The odd hot day I can cope with, but a string of them with hot nights thrown into the mix? Not my thing at all.

Moving on, though, today's post isn't actually about commenting or weather (focus Kari, focus!). Today is about this:



A new electric beater.


And more generally, the evolution of my kitchen utensils and equipment over time.

You see, this Thursday (Australia Day) is my 3 year house anniversary. The above electric beater represents the final stage of my transition from a kitchen with hardly anything in it to one that has everything I need and quite a few things I just want.

The new beater also generates a scenario where I actually have an 'old' product to get rid of.

My previous electric beater was a hand-me-down from a friend, and whilst it has seen me through 3 years, it is rather one-sided.



For the duration of its life with me, it has had just one beater.

This has made things a tad tricky at times (to the extent that I should probably have just beaten by hand on several occasions), and tracking down a replacement part never seemed to happen.




Given that replacing this mixer has left me in the surreal position of being entirely content with what my kitchen holds, I thought I would document the changes in my house furnishings (or non-furnishings) over time.

Here is what I came up with.
  • December 2008. The lead up to my move. Between my birthday and Christmas, I manage to receive a saucepan set, an 8-piece cutlery set, a 4-piece dinner set, basic knives, chopping boards, a wok, and plastic storage containers as presents. Helpfully, this meant I had most of my kitchen essentials before I even got my own kitchen.
  • January 2009. I invest in a fridge and washing machine. I'm also the grateful recipient of a microwave, DVD player, and cordless telephone that are redeemed via 'spare' (i.e., generously bequeathed) credit card award points from my parents.
  • January 2009. I go from having one room of furniture and 'stuff' to a bedroom and study and living room and kitchen / dining room. I manage to fill a surprising amount of this space without trying. Proudly place kitchen-related presents in the kitchen and have white goods delivered and installed. Buy an Ikea dining room table.

The table is still going strong.

  • January 2009. I receive a full quota of kitchen goods from a close friend, who received new sets of many house things when she got married. This included the above-mentioned electric beater, a toaster, more plates, a grater, herb containers, knives, and much more besides. I'm forever indebted to this friend - I still use her things today. I also received several unexpected second-hand (but still perfectly fine) presents from several people who I didn't even know very well. A gym acquaintance, some work colleagues of my Mum...I was blown away by how generous people were.
  • March 2009. My parents take pity on my sofa-less living room and buy me a sofa as a house warming and PhD completion present. The living room suddenly has a possible use!
  • May (ish) 2009. I buy a TV. The living room has further possible uses!
  • September 2009. I start thinking that a courtyard garden might be nice. Look into costs. Decide a courtyard garden is far too expensive.
  • September (ish) 2009. Use Fly Buys rewards points to buy a Breville blender.
  • December 2009. My parents buy me a Chinese Tallow tree in the biggest pot I have seen, as a birthday present. Arrive home from work the day before my birthday to discover it sitting in the courtyard. Definitely one of the most impressive birthday presents I have ever received.
Picture this courtyard with only the middle pot and tree. With a ribbon around it.

  • January 2010. Buy a frying pan / non-stick pan. Laugh at myself for going a full year without one.
  • March (ish) 2010. Buy a better saucepan with a steamer attachment. Can finally reunite with my beloved steamed carrots.
  • September 2010. One year on from the initial thoughts, I finally invest in some plants for the courtyard. Purchase the two large corrugated iron vegetable planters pictured above, and an assortment of vegetables and herbs. Become quite clucky over my plants.
  • October 2010. Mr Bite moves in. Gain an assortment of additional items and furnishings. 
  • November 2010. Jointly invest in a good-quality knife (vegetable chopping suddenly becomes fun!) and a Scanpan saute pan.
  • February (I think...) 2011. We buy a second sofa, to match the first. We suddenly have living room seating for more than 1 visitor. 
  • April 2011. I purchase a food processor and thereby make the biggest kitchen investment of my life.
  • November 2011. Put up shelves in the kitchen. Also do more gardening.



  • December 2011. Receive a Scanpan grill for my birthday
  • January 2012. Spend $35 on a new, two-beater, electric mixer and thereby complete my range of kitchen requirements.


Of course, along the way there have been many other smaller changes and purchases. Additional bakeware and serving plates. Some new bowls and some extra cutlery. There have been many, many changes, and 3 years on I am feeling very lucky in the assortment of things I have gathered.

And the new beater?


I'm rather looking forward to using it.

How have your house belongings and kitchen utensils evolved over time? 
What do you would you count as "essential" if you were setting up from scratch all over again (or if you are!)?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The right temperature for the right food

28 comments
After back-to-back posts on truffle balls (albeit rather different truffle balls), I thought I should step away from my food processor for a little while.

All the way over to the fridge.

You see, several things have recently caused me to ponder how my food tastes change according to temperature. I think it goes without saying that most people prefer some things cold and some things hot. Few, I suspect, would disagree with the idea that ice cream is best served frozen.

If you're like me, though, you also have foods that you freeze even if that isn't the typical way of serving them. Bananas, for intance. Or you may like some things warmed up, even if others raise an eyebrow or two. Weet-bix, maybe. Right?

Here are my best-frozen, best-chilled, best-at-room-temperature, and best-warm lists of foods (and drinks) that may not traditionally be served at those temperatures. Some foods move between lists over time, so consider this a snapshot at this moment - and I'd love to hear yours!

Best frozen

Bananas

I'm sure I am not alone here. I very rarely eat bananas plain (perhaps 3 or 4 times a year), but I could eat them frozen every day. Sometimes they are processed into banana softserve, but sometimes I'll just eat them plain. I freeze my bananas peeled and broken in half, in small zip-lock bags, so eating them from the bag is easy. It's like a natural, creamy, ice-pole.

Compared to this...

...how could this possibly not be more fun?


Yoghurt

Yoghurt really belongs in the frozen and chilled categories, but I think the frozen category is less 'normal' and so I thought it deserved mention. Also, I'm typing this on a 37'C day. Frozen is looking pretty good all around at the moment.

I think it's established that I adore soft-serve frozen yoghurt, but the type I'm talking about here is actually the regular, non-frozen, variety. (Non-frozen that turns into frozen. It's all a bit confusing really.)

One of the disadvantages of natural pot-set yoghurt is that it actually doesn't lend itself well to freezing. For this reason alone I still sometimes buy the commercial, flavoured soy yoghurts that come in individual tubs. If you time it just right with those small containers, you can freeze them until they're almost frozen solid but not quite. It's like soft-serve frozen yoghurt, but without the hassle or cost of tracking it down. When I bought the regular dairy commercial yoghurts, I ate them frozen about as often as I ate them from the fridge.

Grapes

As with yoghurt, I like grapes in chilled as well as frozen form. However, when frozen they turn into individual bursts of sorbet-like sweetness. Very fun in summer. And just in general for that matter.


Just make sure they are seedless: seeds rather compromise the sorbet experience.

Best chilled

Mango

I like mango in most forms (including frozen), but I like it best chilled. At room temperature it seems too sticky and slimy; refrigeration seems to help with the texture whilst also enhancing the taste.


Sultana bran with (non-dairy) milk

I tried this by accident when I took sultana bran to work and put it in the fridge for a while with coconut milk already added. When I returned half an hour later, it was amazing. The sultana bran had absorbed most of the liquid (possibly because I don't tend to use a lot) and was delightfully chilled. It was the best bowl of cereal I'd had in a long time, and I now recreate the experience regularly. It just seems to taste better cold! I've tried it with soy and rice milk as well as coconut, and all work well.

Chilled sultana bran and chilled mango


Potatoes

Although I really like baked potatoes, there is something about cold (cooked, mind you, but cooked and then cooled) potatoes that I find quite addictive. I like them completely plain, although a bit of parsley sprinkled on top is allowed.


Best at room temperature

Chocolate

Although I will definitely still eat chocolate from the fridge, I prefer it unchilled. I like to enjoy soft centres or contrasting textures if they are available, and in the fridge, everything merges together somewhat. I find the taste less sharp from the fridge too.



Wrap / tortilla bread

Commercial wrap bread packets recommend warming the wraps before serving. I like mine unwarmed, straight from the packet, even if they are being filled with warm contents.


Water

I get through quite a lot of water, and I find that when it's chilled it is too cold to drink in large bursts! I like soda water cold, and cold water on a very hot day is always appreciated, but most of the time I drink water at room temperature. Carting it around in water bottles may have contributed to this tendency.



Best warm

Weet-bix

But only in Winter. And then warm and mushy.


Crumpets and English Muffins

Not toasted, you understand, but warmed. I like these soft, and in the case of crumpets, warmed to the point that they are capable of just slightly absorbing my honey.



Pasta

I'm not a big pasta eater, but if I'm having it, it will definitely not be in cold pasta salad. Ick.

And there we have (some of) my personal, possibly idiosyncratic, food temperature preferences. How do they compare to yours?!

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On comments: Some of you who comment (to who, as always, I am very grateful) may have noticed that I switched from the Disqus commenting system back to Blogger about a week ago. This followed on from the temporary Disqus glitch I experienced, which I think was triggered by Blogger upgrading their comment system. Blogger now has threaded comment replies, and as wanting that was what prompted me to use Disqus, I made the switch back.


However, I've found that there are other things I miss about Disqus and so I'm considering returning to it. Before doing so, I wanted to check if anyone who comments has a preference. Is one easier than the other for you? Any pros or cons for either Disqus or Blogger? If you do have an opinion or preference, I'd love to hear it!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cookie balls, with a twist, two ways

12 comments
These two sets of cookie dough balls have something in common.





Legumes.

Yes, legumes.

I know.


Who would have thought?

A little while ago I bookmarked this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles at Chocolate Covered Katie. The recipe caught my eye because the truffles called for chickpeas or white beans as the key ingredient. The idea of making truffle balls with legumes of any kind had never occurred to me , and I found the idea rather enticing.

Actually, very enticing.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles, Take 1
Makes about 16

Ingredients
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp chickpeas
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp oats
2 tbsp almond butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
1/4 cup dark or dairy-free chocolate chips


Method
Place all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor and pulse until just smooth and well-combined.

Mix through the chocolate chips.

Use a teaspoon to scoop out balls and place in small muffin cups. Set in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or the freezer for at least 30 minutes.


The original recipe offered the option of coating the balls in chocolate, but I wanted to see if they would stand up (so to speak) on their own.

In truth, these didn't work quite as well as I'd hoped. The balls were definitely edible. Very much so, in fact, but they also tasted of chickpeas. Combined with the nut butter, the overall taste was sweet but also nutty in a savoury way. A little odd.

Unhelpfully, they also refused to set. I added an extra tablespoon of chickpeas and of oats in an effort to thicken up the batter (those quantities are reflected in the ingredients listed above), but something about my method of preparation meant that they just didn't firm up, no matter how long they stayed in the fridge.


Putting them in the freezer (which I did before taking these photos) seemed to bring out the chickpea taste even more, so that wasn't a useful solution.

As a result, these were more like cups of soft dough than actual cookie dough balls. Rather tasty cups of soft dough, but still not quite what I was after.

Enter take 2...

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles, Take 2
Adapted from Version 1
Makes about 16

Ingredients
1/2 cup cannelloni (white) beans
Loose 1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
2.5 tbsp oats
2 tsp vanilla
Dash salt
Dash cinnamon
1/4 cup dark or dairy-free chocolate chips


Method
As above -
Place all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor and pulse until just smooth and well-combined.

Mix through the chocolate chips.

Use a teaspoon to scoop out balls and place in small muffin cups. Set in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or the freezer for at least 30 minutes.



These balls were thicker. And less legume-y. And as a consequence, more addictive.


You could still taste the cannelloni beans slightly, but only slightly. The oats were also detectable, in texture rather than taste, which was fine for me but might not suit everyone - using extra flour and reducing the oats would get around this if need be.

Although I usually like nuts, I found that taking out the nut butter improved both taste and texture in this instance. These were lighter than the first batch, and whilst still very moist had no problems firming up.


A success? Yes.

However, there is also a catch. I think these still come across as a 'healthy' variation on a traditional treat. A completely delicious and rather addictive healthy variation, but still not something I'd feel confident serving to guests or taking somewhere to share.


The good thing about this, though, is that I haven't yet reached the pinnacle of legume truffles. I see more experimentation ahead.

And that makes me very happy indeed.

I think the next ones might involve cocoa...

Have you made truffle balls with legumes? 
Or used legumes in any other ways I'm missing out on?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On films, and pineapple cashew balls

18 comments
Over the weekend, Mr Bite and I were updating and looking over our Google Doc spreadsheet of the films we've seen.

(Yes, we have a spreadsheet of the films we've seen. With ratings by each of us.)

(Bear with me.)

It dawned on me that this spreadsheeted information might be worth sharing. As a counterbalance to my books, you see, but on a one-off basis only. I see fewer movies than I read books, and care about them less, so I think a one-off post will do just fine.

Our spreadsheet says that I saw 20 films in 2011, of which 3 were at the cinema (the rest were mostly recorded from TV). 2010 was somewhat more productive in a viewing sense, with 31 films seen overall and 4 at the cinema.

Our spreadsheet only goes back to mid-2009, but since then I have given 2 films 9.5 / 10 ratings:

  • Black Swan, seen at the movies in January 2011. This film captivated me with its psychology, ballet, filming effects, and plot twists. I thought Natalie Portman was outstanding.
  • Love Actually, seen most recently in July 2009, but watched many, many times previously. This is one of my favourite movies ever. It is one of a handful of DVDs I own. With 2.5 years gone since  I last saw it, I suspect it's time for another re-run.

In addition to the above, 6 films received 9 / 10 ratings:
  • V for Vendetta, recorded from TV and watched in March 2011. Scary and clever and captivating.
  • Moon, watched at an outdoor cinema screening in Perth in February 2010. I ate sushi for dinner, lay back on the grass, and was completely caught up in the science fiction plot.
  • Wall-E, watched on a DVD from the library in February 2010. If you haven't seen this animated movie - find it. And watch it. It is great!
  • The Dark Knight, recorded from TV and watched in December 2009. I found this disturbing, but good. Perhaps even disturbingly good.
  • Changeling, watched on a DVD from the library in October 2009. Oddly, Mr Bite and I both gave this 9/10 but on looking over our ratings struggled to remember the film. We recalled it after looking it up, but I think perhaps I over-rated it at the time.
  • Star Trek (the latest one), seen at the movies in June 2009. This rating may reflect the fact that it was the first formal date for Mr Bite and I. I was too anxious to take in much of the movie, so I can only assume my rating reflects him rather than movie content!

Honourable mentions can also go to Amelie, Iron Man, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Avatar, which I gave 8.5 ratings to, and Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows, which we just saw last weekend (at the movies no less). I gave that a rating of 8.25, in part, I suspect, due to Robert Downey Jr. and Stephen Fry both being in it.

And there we have a snapshot of my movie-related entertainment from the last 2 years. 


Moving on to topics that may be more entertaining to the rest of the world, I revisited the above papaya and cashew balls on the weekend. The original papaya version was super easy, delightfully pink, and extremely delicious. The batch I made as a Christmas gift was well received by my Mum, and I've been contemplating possible variations ever since.

This contemplation resulted in pineapple cashew balls:



I have always linked dried papaya with dried pineapple, I think because I often got both in my Christmas stocking as a child. They still seem far more exciting and 'special' to me than other dried fruits.

These pineapple and cashew balls are made to the exact same recipe as the papaya ones, but with a direct swap of pineapple for papaya: 1 cup dried pineapple, 1/2 cup cashews, 1/4 cup dessicated coconut, and 1tsp vanilla processed in a food processor, rolled into balls, coated in extra dessicated coconut (or in my case, coconut flakes, because the dessicated coconut ran out), and refrigerated until set.



Still easy.

Still quite nice looking.

And still quite delicious.

I will confess to liking the papaya ones slightly better, as the flavour and colour of those were more intense than the pineapple variant. The pineapple provides a more subtle sweetness, which was still enjoyable, but didn't quite have the 'punch' of the papaya.

I think making both together would be the perfect solution.

What about you - do you have favourite movies? What about uses for dried pineapple?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Some new products: Roccas Deli Veggie Wafer Crackers, and an assortment of teas

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With the new year, it seems that some new food products have arrived to add excitement to our supermarket visits. Or to be more accurate, my supermarket visits, because Mr Bite has a calmness in the supermarket that I suspect I will never achieve.

These crackers were a particularly thrilling find last week: 



I've not tried the Roccas Deli cracker range before, but these almost jumped off the shelf into my trolley. Thin and crisp in texture, the crackers are potato based with either beetroot or sweet potato as the secondary ingredient. Unlike the rice crackers I favour most often in the cracker department, the flavour of these is all on the inside - there are no added spices on top of the cracker, or seasoning that rubs off on your hands.



I expected to like the sweet potato crackers best, but found myself completely won over by the Beetroot Infused with Mint. Admittedly, I couldn't taste any beetroot. I could taste a slight glimmer of mint, but the taste - to my complete surprise - was like the plain, lightly salted and lightly peppered crisps that I remember from my childhood. I rarely eat crisps these days as they're not something I really enjoy, but these were less oily, less potato-y, and more flavourful than the traditional variety. The pink colour is a bonus.

The ingredients in these crackers are fresh potato, fresh beetroot (38%), vegetable starch, sunflower oil, salt, vegetable gum (zanthan), mint, and black pepper. Nutritionally, 100g (equivalent to the full packet) has 413 calories, 10.3g fat (0.8g saturated), 3g protein, 74g carbohydrate (7g sugar) and 910mg sodium. I'd have liked less salt, but that is really par for the course with most commercial crackers.

All in all? I really, really liked these. I will definitely be buying them again.

The Seasoned Sweet Potato crackers were slightly softer and less crisp than the beetroot variety, and the sweet potato was definitely detectable. In fact, sweet potato and pepper were the dominant flavours. The slight heat from the pepper lingers after the cracker is over, and would probably work well with cheese, if you liked cheese.

The ingredient list starts off, again, with fresh potato, followed by sweet potato (30%), vegetable starch, sunflower oil, salt, garlic powder, coriander, vegetable gum (xanthan), cumin, and cayenne pepper. The nutritional information is comparable, with slightly less fat.

I did like these, but  not quite as much as the beetroot ones. When comparing them, my overall impression was that these were less 'sharp' than the beetroot, both in texture and in flavour. They seemed slightly more starchy and less captivating in taste, although pairing them with cheese or dip would no doubt rectify that (I ate both varieties plain).


These crackers were $2.99 per packet and I found them at Woolworths.

On the same shopping trip, I found two new herbal teas, complementing two I tried for the first time last December. I also re-visited an old favourite, and thought I'd mention all five teas in the one post.



The new varieties were 'Higher Living' Cinnamon and Ginger Kick. Higher Living is an English company I hadn't heard of before, but a look at their website confirms they make plenty of tea flavours I'd like to try.

The reason these caught my attention is that the Cinnamon and Ginger Kick teas don't just have cinnamon or ginger. The Cinnamon includes cinnamon, whole fennel seeds, licorice, citrus peel and ginger, whilst the Ginger Kick has ginger, lemon peel and safflowers.



Herbal teas do have a tendency to be more vivid in look and smell than in actual taste, so I was rather delighted to be able to detect the licorice and ginger, as well as cinnamon, in the Cinnamon tea. The Ginger Kick tasted more like traditional ginger tea, with no real identifiable differences to the other brands I've tried, but was still enjoyable. These were $3.69 each.

The two teas I picked up in December were Celestial Seasonings Red Zinger, and Madame Flavour Green Tea with Jasmine and Pear. The Red Zinger includes hibiscus, rosehips, peppermint, lemongrass, orange peel, lemon myrtle, licorice, and wild cherry bark. Overall, it tastes like berry herbal tea with peppermint and licorice. This flavour combination works very well, and it really is zing-like, despite the tea being caffeine free. The Madame Flavour Green Tea has a shorter ingredient list, with green tea, jasmine and 'natural pear flavour'. To me, it really just tastes like a slightly sweet green tea. Quite pleasant, but not anything very new.



Lastly, I have returned to the Italian Almond Tea that I purchase every now and then. This tea captivates me because it smells just like almond finger biscuits (the dense, cakey ones) - in other words, very almond essence-y. In contrast to the smell, the taste of the tea disappoints just a little, and I do tend to like it in small doses spread at medium intervals. When I am in the mood, though, it is very enjoyable. The taste  definitely includes almond essence, and as it is a black tea base you could serve it with milk (although I haven't done so).

So there we go! Any new supermarket discoveries in your area recently? Or have you tried any of the above products?