Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What I've enjoyed this month: February 2012

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Another month is over and 2012 is now two-twelfths of the way through. Eek.

February is actually quite a hard month for me to review. It has been one of the busiest, most hectic months of my working life, and I have found myself feeling more than a little overwhelmed on more than a few occasions. Without boring you with the details of my work life, there are impending deadlines that have quite a bit of importance, and I suspect that full relaxation will continue to elude me for a little while longer. A preliminary deadline passed on the 22nd February and things have been somewhat calmer since then, but the final, conclusive deadline is the 14th March. I'm certainly looking forward to our trip up north to Exmouth over Easter!

Although there are some obvious downsides to this work-related busy-ness, there are upsides too. The main one is that is that I'm still intact. I have been a bit distracted, a bit (anxiety-driven) sleep deprived, and had semi-amusing memory lapses (names, mostly, and things like getting in the shower before I am fully undressed - something I really thought I had mastered by now), but I am in one piece. I am quite proud of this.

Putting work aside, there have also been other good things this month. Here are some of them.

This view...
Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia

...taken the evening of my brother's birthday dinner, this photo reminds me that I am lucky to live near the coast and makes me think that I should make an effort to visit the beach more regularly.

This picture isn't bad either.

Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia, again

Fixing (hopefully) my plantar fasciitis

This might sound like an odd thing to list. And, granted, it is a bit of an odd thing to list. But I started February with a right heel that was incredibly painful to walk on when I walked bare foot or in non-supportive shoes - which in summer, was most of my shoes. The verdict was plantar fasciitis, most likely as a result of my over-pronating (rolling in) feet and the lack of shoe support, outside of my running shoes, over the last few warmer months.



Just for fun, my right hip and upper back also joined the party, which meant that I was finding routine movements surprising hard 4 weeks ago. I've now used almost all of my annual physiotherapy health fund rebates, which with 10 months of the year still to go isn't exactly great, but the plus side is that my heel is now fine, my back is back to normal, and my hip is improving.


My new work bag

This isn't actually new any more, as I bought it in the post-Christmas sales. The zips on my previous, black work bag gradually lost all zipping ability, so it was with some relief that I found and bought this replacement. It usually takes me a while to find the 'right' bag but this one appeared within a few hours of arriving at the shops.

Although I bought this in January, it's only after two months of use that the bag is starting to prove its worth (and it is worthy!). I can fit A4 documents in it (just, if sideways, or sticking out the top, if upright), it has usefully located and sized pockets, and the zips are still going strong.






Finding kale, using besan flour, and returning to smoothies

All worthwhile discoveries / re-discoveries.

My enjoyment of homemade ice cream and frozen banana soft serve deserves a mention here too, as I have really become quite obsessed.







Picross 3D

Another slightly random entry to this list, but Mr Bite's Nintendo DS Picross 3D game has been one of the few things to quickly and effectively distract and relax me this month. This game requires all of my mental energy, which means there is no energy left for niggling doubts or anxieties. Perfect. It's also rather fun, and I'm on a private mission to catch up to Mr Bite (he's on the Hard level, I'm on Easy...).

As an interesting aside to this point, did you know that researchers in England are trialing Tetris in emergency departments, for individuals who experience traumatic events or injuries? Playing Tetris and other visuospatial games in the aftermath of trauma has been shown to reduce the intensity of later trauma-related flashbacks and intrusive memories. The theory is that trauma-related information can't be encoded in detail when the brain is using its visuospatial resources to play Tetris. This reduces the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and related symptoms. From my experience with these sorts of games as an anxiety reduction tool, I can see how this could work!

How has your February been? And how do you reduce anxiety when you're in the midst of a busy patch?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Meals that can go both ways: How to please vegetarians and non-vegetarians

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I know there are families out there where everyone sits down to the same meal each evening. Individual tastes are accommodated, but overall there is one meal that everyone eats.

I also know that there are households where multiple meals are created every day, to cover variations in taste, dietary requirements, and, perhaps, views on meat.

As a child, my family was somewhere between the two. For most of my childhood, there was one main meal prepared each evening and that is what we all ate. This is quite remarkable in hindsight, as it's an approach that became less and less tenable as my siblings and I grew older. What's more, my Dad has 'meat and three vegetables' tastes - he's not a big fan of spice, legumes or tofu, and would definitely take mashed potato over rice - whereas my Mum hasn't eaten red meat for some 30 years now, and spent some of her childhood in Jamaica and Africa, gaining a taste for spice and for vegetarian dishes.

Somehow, it worked for a while. If we had a barbecue, there were meat sausages and burgers for my Dad and us children, to go along with chicken and some vegetarian salads or side dishes. My Mum also made us spaghetti bolognaise on occasion, and she never actively restricted our intake of red meat. Most of the time, though, it was chicken, fish or vegetarian options (for the latter, think legume-based soups or stews, vegetarian lasagna, spinach and ricotta filo triangles...). My Mum didn't work outside of home when we were young, and she prepared meals that by and large everyone enjoyed. My Dad bought his work lunch each day, and I guess if he was craving red meat that's when he would have it.

That started to shift when I was about 12. At that time, my brother turned vegetarian. He had always disliked fish (and still does) but at the age of 8 he decided that eating animals was something he wanted nothing to do with. Thus, my Mum gained an ally for her vegetarian dishes, but an extra challenge when considering what to make for dinner. This was complicated by the fact that I was lactose intolerant as a child and teenager, and haven't liked cheese from a young age - many vegetarian dishes, particularly back then, were heavy on cheese.

So, we started having meal variations. If we had chicken, my brother had a vegetarian replacement. If we had vegetarian pasta with cheese, mine was cheeseless.

This general pattern persisted for another 7 years or so. But then I started moving away from chicken - occasionally was fine, but I didn't want it twice a week. My brother swung the other way and started eating meat, including lamb and steak and other dishes he'd barely tried as a child. He is still anti-fish, but these days will eat just about anything else.

In the years before I left home, therefore, it was rare for everyone to eat the same thing in the evening. Usually there were 2 alternate meals (there were 5 of us), and generally the difference was that one was meat-based and one was not, or that one was chicken / fish whilst the other was beef. My Mum and I tended to share the evening meal preparation at that point, with help from my siblings and Dad, so having additional cooks with their additional opinions probably contributed to this too.

When I moved out, there was a period where it was just my own meals, and thus just my own tastes, that required consideration when eating at home. When Mr Bite moved in, there was a shift back to thinking about another person, but that change wasn't too significant (he doesn't really eat red meat and his family is largely vegetarian). However, when I decided to drop chicken completely, I took myself back to preparing different meals some of the time. If I have family or friends over, I'm also mindful that not everyone necessarily wants vegetarian food. There are times when both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options are required.

The good news is, it doesn't have to be hard.

And so, after that very long preamble, here are 5 dinner options that can be easily tweaked to be vegetarian (or even vegan) or meat-based. Please excuse the photos, some are before my new camera and some are just poor shots!

Pizza

There was a reason I picked pizza when I hosted friends for dinner 4 days after we returned from Tasmania.  It is easy, and it is versatile. 

On that occasion, I went with a few varieties of vegetarian pizzas, but it is also easy to add ham or chicken to one pizza (or one half a pizza) whilst leaving the rest vegetarian. Similarly, it's easy to leave off the cheese, or use soy cheese, for those who want a cheese or dairy-free option.

Tomato and basil with cheese (top) and spinach, pumpkin and coriander with  feta and sweet chilli sauce (below)

I've also found that even meat eaters are quite happy to enjoy vegetarian pizzas - perhaps because properly prepared vegetarian pizzas have more toppings and better flavours than a generic ham and pineapple from a local take away chain!

Vegetarian with and without cheese

Burgers

When I make burgers at home, we both have vegetarian ones. However, at barbecues with my family, veggie burgers are an easy way to fit in with the barbecue theme without actually eating meat. 


There are now so many veggie pattie options available that this makes for a very straightforward meal, whether you buy the pre-prepared variety or make your own. I'm not sure I'd like to make meat patties from scratch, but many deli's and butchers now sell them ready to cook, so even if you are accommodating meat eaters it doesn't have to be hard.

Pasta

This is such an obvious option that I'm almost embarrassed to include it in this list. However, it is one of the first adapted meals I had experience with, and it is so versatile that it really does deserve mention.

I am not actually a big fan of pasta - I prefer rice, or potato - but it is one of our 'go to' meals when we are away on holiday and self-catering. This is because it is (i) easy and (ii) can be made using whatever ingredients you're able to find. Our versions are either vegetarian (tomato-based) or a bit like a tuna  bolognaise (Mr Bite's specialty dish), and we have managed to create these across the globe, including in Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana, when our nearest supermarket had no English speaking staff and we recognised virtually none of the brands.

It still turned out well!

Impromptu Ljubljanian pasta

Now, this isn't a post about meals you can easily make on holiday. However, the fact that one can create an enjoyable pasta dish using ingredients from just about any supermarket, anywhere in the world, highlights that pasta dishes are incredibly versatile, and they can also be tweaked to suit meat or non-meat tastes. 

After my brother and sister started requesting meat, my Mum would routinely make a meat bolognaise for them and my Dad, and a lentil bolognaise for herself and me. It worked well. A simpler version could include a jar of commercial pasta sauce, some meat added to one saucepan, and some canneloni beans added to the other.

Ginger noodles two ways

Stir fry

I find the most time consuming part of stir fries is the chopping of vegetables. Having two pans on the go to cook chicken as well as tofu is no trouble at all, and I probably do this every other week. After browning the chicken and grilling / sauteing the tofu, I toss about half of the chopped vegetables into each pan and add sauce / seasoning to each separately. If you don't like cutting up meat, you can even buy pre-prepared stir fry strips these days (albeit at a price...). 


Although Mr Bite will eat tofu if I give it to him, he is always happier with chicken, and this way I can also tweak the sauce and seasonings to suit each of our tastes. Definitely worth one extra pan to wash up.

Burritos

With lentils...
I imagine that most Mexican food could be adapted to be vegetarian or non-vegetarian, but I've never really been a big fan of nachos or tacos. Burritos and fajitas, though, I very much enjoy.

I like mine with lentils and plenty of vegetables, including grated zucchini. My Mum is similar. The rest of my family and Mr Bite prefer theirs with chicken, optional avocado, and topped with cheese.

When I make them at home, Mr Bite and I have the same tomato-based salsa sauce, the same grated (carrot and zucchini) and cut (capsicum) vegetables, the same burrito bread, and then simply swap lentils and mushrooms (me) for chicken (him) and either do (him) or don't (me) add cheese.

With chicken and cheese...
Of course, tofu fillings are also an option.

The tofu wrap at the Purple Possum Wholefoods & Cafe, Tasmania...

The options with burritos and wraps are almost endless and they make for an easy meal however you choose to prepare them.

What are things like in your house? Are you all vegetarian or non-vegetarian, or do you find yourself making variations on meals? I'd love to hear how others deal with different tastes and food preferences!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mango ice cream

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Do you remember the raspberry-banana ice cream I made at the start of this year?

I think I've found something better.


With four ingredients, no added sugar and minimal fat, this is incredibly easy and incredibly enjoyable.

Incredibly.


Mango 'ice cream'

Ice cream without cream and sugar? Oh yes. No one will know that this is almost entirely fruit!

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 large banana, peeled and frozen
1 medium mango, peeled, chopped and frozen
About 1/4 cup (2 decent dessertspoon dollops) plain yoghurt*
1 tbsp coconut, optional

*I used homemade natural non-fat yoghurt. I would recommend pot-set or Greek, for maximum creaminess.

Method
Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend to combine.

Serve immediately, for soft-serve ice cream, or freeze in individual serves covered with cling wrap, for a sorbet-like product.


I had half of this straight from the food processor (above), and froze half to eat the next day (below). I thought that the re-frozen half may turn icey and solid, but it worked surprisingly well. After 1 - 2 minutes out of the freezer, it was fine to eat with a spoon.


I'm amazed at how well this worked. And with the simple ingredient list, you can even serve it for breakfast.

I know this because I did.

It was a great start to the day!

Do you enjoy frozen desserts? Any favourite flavours?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chickpea pancakes

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There have been a lot of pancake recipes around over the past few days. Other, more organised bloggers remembered it was Shrove Tuesday yesterday and planned and pancake-d accordingly.

I'm not in that category.

These pancakes, you see, are from last week. Made with no thought of Shrove Tuesday whatsoever.

What's more, they were prompted by a sudden realisation regarding the best before date on this packet.


A 'best before' date of January 2012. Which, when discovered in February 2012, is perhaps not entirely convenient. Fortunately, it is well established that 'best before' is not the same as 'use by' and so I was determined to get at least one meal out of this before it really does pass its best.

I bought the besan flour last year after being inspired by various recipes for chickpea flour crackers and chickpea flour pancakes (also known as pudla). Most of these recipes are firmly in the savoury category, often with vegetables or spices included in the mixture. Last week I wanted something plainer, more like a regular pancake base, and so those bookmarked savoury recipes remain bookmarked for another day.

You see, I grew up with the tradition of having dessert pancakes for dinner once or twice a year. This was often a holiday treat, or done on a weekend when we'd already had a substantial lunch. I was in the mood for this last week, and wanted my chickpea pancakes to provide a blank canvas for whatever fillings I came up with, sweet or savoury.

In the end, this super easy recipe from Food and Wine provided my base. I effectively just halved their recipe and omitted the pepper, to give 1 cup besan flour, 1 cup + 2 tbsp water, and a pinch of salt. I used spray oil to coat the frying pan rather than adding oil to the mixture. These quantities gave three large pancakes.


I find pancakes surprisingly filling, so started off with two of the three. 


The first two were flavoured with tahini and plain nonfat yoghurt (my nod to a savoury filling), and maple syrup. Both were enjoyable, and the tahini / yoghurt one particularly so.


It turns out, though, that chickpea pancakes are deceptively light. Or at least, they were to me.



After the first two pancakes, I felt hungry enough to finish the third one with strawberry jam. About 15 minutes after the third one, though, I realised that perhaps two would have been just fine. These definitely have the traditional pancake trick of expanding after they are in one's stomach!

Looking at the nutritional information for besan gave me some insight into this experience. Although besan flour and plain flour are similar in terms of overall energy (about 380 calories per 100g), besan flour has twice as much protein: approximately 22g per 100g vs. 11g per 100g in plain flour.

Fullness and nutritional information aside, I was really happy with these. They are not traditional pancakes and I can see that they would be better suited to savoury flavourings - I will definitely be trying that in the future. They have a slight earthy taste, with a depth of flavour that defies the short ingredient list, and would also pair well with soup or stews.

All in all, I'm glad I got to the flour before it truly was past its best!

Have you experimented with besan flour?

Monday, February 20, 2012

A breath of fresh air, and a birthday

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Some weekends disappear so quickly that it's like they were never there: Friday to Monday is almost an overnight experience. Thankfully, other weekends are slower, calmer. Like a lifeboat, they rescue you on Friday evening and allow you to catch your breath before you return for a new working week.

This weekend was of the lifeboat variety. I finished work on Friday having done the things I needed to do, and we had few weekend commitments, no real errands.

On Saturday, we went for a long bike ride, something I always enjoy. Cobwebs disappear from my mind when I'm outdoors and active, and I find lower intensity casual (non-ball!) exercise to be perfect for unwinding. Running wakes me up but cycling calms me down.

We also finished watching these two episodes of Dr Who, the conclusion to Rose Tyler's time as the Doctor's companion and an explanation of Torchwood. As someone who came to Dr Who late in life, these episodes were before my time...but they may have been the best of the ones I've seen (I started watching about half way through Season 3, I think).

I also finished Zeitoun, by far the best book I've yet to read this year. And I finally updated my 2012 books spreadsheet.

On Sunday, I bought fig and fennel sourdough bread. An indulgence (especially as some people would make their own ;) ) but a worthy one I think.



And last but definitely not least, it was my brother's birthday. An opportunity for dinner, presents, and celebrating his 25 years.


I truly don't know how he went how he looks in the above picture, to, well, an extra 20-odd years and a considerable amount of height.

My Mum was responsible for making my brother's cake, but I wanted to make him something edible to complement the more standard, gift-wrapped gift. And so, his birthday was also an opportunity for baking.


Vanilla biscuits with a drizzle of lemon icing, to be specific.



Vanilla Biscuits with Lemon Icing, to say Happy Birthday

Makes about 30-40 biscuits, depending on size
Adapted from these two recipes on Taste.com.au 


Ingredients
For the biscuits
185g butter, margarine or non-dairy spread (I used Nuttelex)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1.5 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour

For the icing
1 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Method
For the biscuits
Preheat oven to 180'C and line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter / non-dairy spread and sugar, until white and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine. Stir in the flour. Mix well.  

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for ~30 minutes. Then roll out the dough between 2 pieces of non-stick baking paper, to about 1cm thick. Cut shapes or roll into balls.

Bake for 10 minutes, until just starting to go golden. Allow to cool on the baking trays and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing
Mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice. Drizzle onto the biscuits, or pipe on using a piping bag.


As it turns out, my Mum make a lemon cake, so these were a surprisingly complementary choice :-)



What did you get up to this weekend?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A post-tennis smoothie

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I think I've mentioned before that I am not very good at ball sports. Inevitably, they require hand-eye coordination and sporting prowess that I just don't have. In the words of my first grade teacher, "[Kari] is to be commended for real effort in work requiring fine motor skills".

Real effort, but, I think it is safe to say, not natural ability.

Sometimes, though, I do venture to play actual, ball-related sport. Tennis is undoubtedly my favourite option, in no small part due to a tennis racquet being much larger than a tennis ball, and a tennis court providing a much easier target than a goal hoop or net.

Last weekend, we played tennis with Mr Bite's brother. This ended up working quite well, as the advantage of playing 2 vs. 1 went some way to countering my lack of consistency. I'm always worried about ruining games by hitting the ball somewhere completely irrelevant, like directly sideways, or about 50m out of the tennis court, and having someone else to balance out my hitting was a good option.

It was a fun 2 hours, but it was also a hot 2 hours. Perth's weather has cooled down relative to a few weeks ago, but it has been far more humid than we are used to. Queenslander's would probably play 2 hours of tennis in a humid 30'C and be cool and composed at the end of it, but we, well, we were not.

After a shower, therefore, I felt that a smoothie was called for.


I make smoothies far less often than I would like, in part because if faced with the choice of a smoothie or something thicker and more ice cream-y, I tend to go for the latter. Also, I don't have quite the right appliance for smoothies. I use my food processor because it does a great job with frozen fruit, but when liquid is added to that fruit, there is inevitably some spillage out the top. My basic blender does well with liquids and soft fruit, but it's not up to anything frozen.

In spite of these obstacles, smoothies do sometimes come out of my kitchen, and last weekend was a case in point.


To say this post-tennis smoothie was perfect would be an understatement. It ended up being just what I wanted and a combination of cold, thick, creamy (but not milky!) and banana-pineapple-y that I have never quite managed  in a smoothie before.

One of the nicest things about this is that it is incredibly, extremely simple. You probably already make smoothies like this and I'm just late to the party. There are 4 ingredients and they are ingredients that are always in my kitchen.

Having since made it for a second time, I can also attest that this is equally good when you haven't just played tennis.

Super simple, super thick banana pineapple smoothie
Serves 1

In a mixer, blender or food processor, process:

1 large peeled and frozen banana
2 rings of tinned pineapple, from a can of pineapple rings in juice *
1/2 cup protein enriched rice milk (or milk of choice)
1 tsp chia seeds

* I didn't have any fresh pineapple. But 1/4 cup of that would obviously work well too - and if it was frozen fresh pineapple, this would be even thicker.


Delicious. And cold. And thick.


Definitely worth the tennis!

How are you with sports? And are you a smoothie person? Any favourite combinations?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chocolate strawberry tart (which is also vegan)

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On Valentine's Day I posted about kale. I'm pretty sure kale doesn't make the Top 10 List of Romantic Topics.

(Actually, I know that it doesn't. I just Googled 'Top 10 List of Romantic Topics' and kale was definitely not in there. I learnt a lot, but nothing about vegetables.)

Fortunately for Mr Bite, I didn't serve us kale on Valentine's Day.

I served us this:


I think it was probably more appropriate.

The inspiration for this tart actually came from one I made for Valentine's Day last year, which was a raspberry chocolate tart adapted from a recipe on my 2011 Chocolate calendar.


It was a good calendar, and it was a good tart.



I figure if I'm going to have any baking traditions, a chocolate fruit tart once a year is one I'm happy to have.

This year, the tart was adapted from the Chocolate Strawberry Tart in Kris Holechek's The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes.

It was chocolatey. And strawberry-y. And surprisingly jam-y.


So all in all, rather good.

Chocolate Strawberry Tart
Adapted from Kris Holechek's The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes
Makes 1 tart
Vegan

Ingredients

For the tart base -
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup good-quality cocoa
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup non-dairy spread (I used Nuttelex)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup plain non-dairy yoghurt (or regular yoghurt if preferred)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp non-dairy milk (or regular milk if preferred)

For the filling - 
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup corn starch / cornflour
1 300g pack frozen strawberries
1/2 cup water

Dark chocolate, ~60g
Strawberries, ~1 punnet


Method

For the tart base -
Combine the flour, cocoa and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the non-dairy spread and sugar until smooth. Add the yoghurt, vanilla and milk and stir to combine. Add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing well after each addition.

Flatten the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180'C. Grease and/or line a tart pan, springform pan, or (in my case) a heart shaped baking pan.

When the dough is chilled, roll out between two sheets of baking paper until 1-2cm thick. Press dough into the prepared pan and prick the bottom with a fork in a few places, to keep it from rising.

(I forgot to prick mine. It rose! But I pushed it back down successfully post-baking.)

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until firm. Allow to cool completely in the pan.




For the filling -
Combine the sugar, cornstarch, frozen strawberries and water in a saucepan. Bring contents to the boil, stirring regularly.

Reduce the temperature and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until thick, stirring constantly.

(I didn't stir mine constantly, but you do want to keep a close eye on it as the mixture thickens up quickly.)

Remove from the heat and stir every few minutes until completely cool.




To assemble -

When the crust is cool and while the filling is cooling, melt 1-2 rows of dark chocolate (~30g) in a small heatproof bowl. Line the base of the tart with the melted chocolate. Set in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

Chop strawberries into halves and grate another 1-2 rows of dark chocolate (~30g) into a small bowl.

When the chocolate lining on the tart is set and the strawberry filling is cool, pour the filling into the tart case. Decorate with the strawberry halves and sprinkle over the grated chocolate.

Set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.






I was surprised at how 'cakey' the base was when I made it, and I was quite concerned it wouldn't turn into a tart base at all. However, it did. It was deeply chocolatey and could be used as a base for any number of fillings.

I was also surprised at how jam-like the strawberry filling ended up being! On looking at the ingredients and method, I probably shouldn't have been: the steps are virtually the same as those for making jam. I liked it, but I think I could have had less of the jam-like filling and more fresh strawberries.

As for the comparison with last year? I think I may have liked the 2011 tart just a little bit more, but that may be skewed recollections over time as I can't pinpoint why. Both were certainly good, and Mr Bite seemed happy with this one.



Which, given the day, was the main thing.

Do you make tarts, chocolate or otherwise? I'd love to make a more traditional fruit tart one day, with a custardy base!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On kale

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I've already mentioned my recent kale discovery twice, so this post may be taking things one step too far. However, if there is one thing this blog is useful for, it is reminding me of recipes and food preparation techniques that I would otherwise forget. Thus, we have this post.

I hadn't heard of kale prior to last year, when it started being mentioned all over the blogosphere. I can't say it grabbed me at first. It didn't seem all that different to spinach, and I knew where to find (and how to cook) spinach. But then I read more and more about it. Positive things. Kale started to hold my attention.

When I looked into it, I discovered it wasn't related to spinach at all. Kale is part of the cabbage family and its purported anti-cancer benefits are consistent with that group. It is high in beta-carotene (76% of recommended daily intake per 100g), Vitamin K (778% of recommended daily intake per 100g!) and Vitamin C (49%). It's also moderate in calcium (7%). 

As I now know, kale also comes in many varieties. The type I have found, and the only one I've yet to find in Perth, is curly kale. Tuscan kale is reportedly sweeter and more versatile, but I'll defer judgment on that to people who have actually tried both varieties.

Last week, my one head of kale provided me with four servings and four preparation methods. 

The first I have already mentioned - Mama Pea's Sunshine Kale. Although raw, this kale isn't plain. It's massaged with dressing (a mix of tahini, sweet chilli sauce, nutritional yeast) and left to absorb the flavours before eating.


I liked it. But it did make me think that raw plain kale probably wouldn't be my thing.

The second serving actually involved left-over Sunshine Kale. I used about half of the head of kale in making the raw salad, ate half of that (one-quarter of the head) plain, and put the remainder with leftover vegetarian burrito filling.


Four-bean mix with vegetables and tomato salsa, on top of the kale, all heated up together. It was quite divine.


This approach is definitely one I'll be repeating.

The third method wasn't photographed, but wasn't too different to the above. Mr Bite makes a signature tomato pasta dish and I placed some raw kale underneath my pasta, heated it all up together in the microwave, and then ate the kale with tomato pasta flavouring. Very good.

The fourth and final approach was steaming. I'm surprised it took me so long to get to it, as steamed vegetables are usually my default. This method allows the kale to reduce in quantity nicely, helping to avoid a large bulk of green on one's plate!


I had this topped with flavoured tofu, in what was effectively a 'cheat' dinner (in other words, super easy with no real cooking).

            


Quite a good cheat dinner if I do say so myself.

So there we have my kale experiences - I promise not to return to the topic for a while! I will enjoy buying kale as a rotating vegetable option though, as I enjoyed all of the above preparation methods and it proved surprisingly versatile. I'm definitely pleased I was able to find it after so many months of looking.

Do you like kale? What is your favourite preparation method?