and now it’s Christmas

December 22, 2014

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So, what’s been happening, peeps?

This month has been FULL on my end. Wonderful, even. Here are some snaps and words from my December brain to yours.

I hope you’re set for a Happy Christmas (if you celebrate). For us it’s an excuse to stop our regular routine, hang out at my parents’ house and eat pudding. We keep it pretty low key and local, gathering with our immediate family and a few close friends. It’s the opposite of overwhelming, it’s familiar and easy and for that I am thankful. On Christmas morning we still open presents together, from the same stockings as when we were kids. I make fruit salad, dad makes coffee and we all drag Jackson out of bed. Mum is always thoughtful and indulges us just the right amount, dad always gets socks, about which he is more than appropriately thrilled. Tradition warms my heart, I am comforted by it, it is what makes Christmas special, as every year you anticipate joy… and that is a grand feeling. It’s the same every year, but every year is different, as we bring twelve months worth of colours and experiences, all wrapped up in our older, wiser selves. Another year lived. How special is that?

And there I go again, rambling on. Back to the snippets of my world at present. I think I’ll number them to keep me on track…

1. Last Sunday we spent the day at mum and dad’s house with friends we have known since forever. Us kids grew up together, spending school holidays camping and composing inappropriate, though catchy, songs. Dad made pizza and we ate Monika’s stollen and raided the raspberry bush. It was nice to be together on the anniversary my brother’s death. 7 years on and more then ever I wish he was here, because now I feel like we’re all finally living again and he’s missing it.

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2. We’ve been exploring the hiking spots in our area, from Arthurs Seat to Bushrangers Bay. Hiking is my most favourite activity. It’s like IV nature, straight into my veins.

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3. The bunches of carrots we’ve been receiving in our weekly vegetable box from Transition Farm has seen me whizzing together some sort of carrot top pesto with great regularity. Lately it’s been a carrot top and caper sauce with walnuts (see my recipe here), which I serve alongside scrambled eggs, salads or any kind of grilled, baked or steamed meat, chicken or fish. It’s an efficient and tasty way to get even more vibrant green into my life. I’ve been seeing more and more clients come to the clinic with a simple but awesome desire to eat better and learn how to make healthy, crazy delicious meals. Walking them through recipes like this, and how to assemble nourishing meals is just the best.

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Also, each week when I collect the veg and pick a few flowers from the farm I have a hard time leaving….

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4. I wrote a post on my Dietitian private practice website called “Healthy Gift Ideas” that you night find useful (link here). I know, I know, it’s only a few days until Christmas. But these ideas are good year round and I really encourage you to have a look rather than scrounging around for something you can “re-gift” (we’ve all been there!) or buying something pointless at the shops on the way to a get-together.

5. Gingerbread granola continues to be made for gifts. It’s a case of “one batch for presents, one batch for me”. I tried it with pecans. YES.

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6. We recently watched “Submarine” and freakin LOVED it. It felt very Wes Anderson. Watch it. We have the following movies on our “to watch list” at home: Short Term Twelve, Ever After (right?!) and Twelve Angry Men. At the cinema, I am itching to see St Vincent and Foxcatcher. I love movies.

7. This guy helped me shoot a piece for Tucker. I made cultured butter with mix-ins and we now have a freezer full of maple bacon, blackberry vanilla and oregano lemon butter. I’ll repost the article on the blog shortly, as I think you’ll appreciate it, but for now check it out on Tucker and go browse their killer site.

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8. Morning walks along the bay with my assistant/intern have been so great lately, getting all sweaty (from the sun, folks, from the sun) and then running back home to change into bathers and go for a swim. Living less than 200 meters from the beach is nothing short of rad.

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9. Serial ended and I don’t even know what to do. I just… I need some direction. What do I listen to on morning walks now? Oh, that’s right, This American Life and The Splendid Table. But GUYS!?!?!! Did Adnan do it? And what’s the deal with Jay, seriously?

10. Sucess! I re-tested my Nut, Seed and Oat Loaf as a double batch, using a more common, larger loaf tin (6.5 x 19cm), and it worked splendidly, with just a slightly longer cooking time! I’ve updated the recipe (here). Go forth and loaf!

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11. Here is our Christmas tree. I picked him because he was on the small side and also on the round side. I like a plump tree rather than a tall one. We named him Wallace and he smells like presents.

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12. I bought Ben Fushia Dunlop’s much revered cookbook Every Grain of Rice for his birthday earlier this month (did I mention he had a birthday?). It’s both traditional and modern and the recipes appear to be wonderfully achievable. We cannot wait to get stuck into it.

13. Speaking of presents, I treated myself to a dress from Pop Basic. It’s black and figure hugging and I LOVE it. I feel like Kim Kardashian in it. In a good way.

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14. Also purchased, two pairs of shoes that actually fit + are comfortable!! One black pair and one cream (I’m wearing one of each here). Having an oddly shaped foot means shoes are rarely a comfortable thing and are certainly not an easy shopping endeavour. This was such a win.

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15. We have family from Hong Kong coming to stay and I am beyond excited to squeeze some little children, play on the beach and get lost in mazes. I’m hoping to lure my in-laws to move back with all our local eats – cider, beer, cheese…surely they won’t go home?

16. Last year our Aunt gave Ben and I a giant towel for Christmas and it’s been our constant sand companion. Summer days, friends. Sorry for the double foot shot, I am just in love with the crinkled towel + sand image here…

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17. I think this detox flow session is my favourite Yoga with Adriene video. I did it for perhaps the fifth time on Saturday morning and was hitting all the spots like YEAH. Best. Try it, it’s like IV energy.

 

18. The birthday celebrations continued (is that possible?) when Ben’s parents arrived home from Hong Kong. They came around for dinner and I served Muriel’s Chicken, a recipe on Clotilde‘s website (recipe link). I am so in favour of cooking a chicken this way (you put the chicken into a cold oven then turn the heat to 150 degrees Celsius and cook it for 3 hours, basting every 45 minutes). We adored the results, though next time we’d remove the lid and crank the heat at the 2.5 hour mark (to get a crisp skin), rather than letting it go for the full 3 hours. The chicken was served with its hella good gravy on mashed potatoes, with nasturtium leaves and steamed Transition Farm carrots.

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19. Lastly, cake! This flourless salted chocolate cake by Teresa Cutter was BONKERS good (recipe link). Seriously. It will be a staple in our household, that’s for sure. Beating the eggs for 10-15 minutes transforms them into a golden, airy stream into which you fold the cocoa, buttery goodness. UGH. Magic.

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Some adaptations: I used panella sugar because I got a bag of fancy the other day, and I used 2.5 tablespoons, not 2 – this is not a super sweet cake! It is, however, super rich. I also used a combination of Green & Blacks dark cooking chocolate + Plaistowe + Lindt 70% as that is what I had in my chocolate drawer that Thursday afternoon. I also baked it for about 28 minutes, not 35, and it was perfectly moussey. Again, UGH. And I refrigerated it for about four hours before serving modest slices with cherries, blackberries and generous spoonfuls of creme fraiche. We’ve been eating slithers as dessert following breakfast, lunch and dinner for the past few days.

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20. I did an interview recently for Lou in Paris, which was super fun. I stumbled across Lou in the instagram land (a girl from the UK living in Paris and posting pretty pictures? FOLLOW) and we got to chatting. She is so lovely and I was absolutely chuffed to be featured on her site. Go check out her blog and the interview (link).

And there you have it, my December brain dump.

Merry Christmas, from my 1992 family Santa photo to yours.

Heidi xo

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All the things we love

December 19, 2014

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My husband is a unique man. At least that’s what we’re told, I don’t really know any different and he obviously doesn’t. Ben just is who he is, and who he is is someone who wants to spend their thirtieth birthday cooking with our friend, Rosa, and her Sicilian-born mother.

Rosa runs cooking demonstrations, you see, which Ben adores attending. And he has long expressed a desire for a private session so I arranged just that, with the help of lovely, generous Rosa. On the morning of Ben’s birthday we arrived at Rosa’s parents’ home where we were greeted with hugs, espresso and aprons. Here are some photographs from that day, some of which were taken by Rosa and my mum, who joined us for lunch.

Rosa and her mother, Pina, taught us how to prepare beloved family dishes and shared the stories behind these recipes, as well as tales from when Pina first arrived in Australia in the 1950s. This narration, through a Sicilian-accent, gave the food a context and depth that was very special and touching. With each cooking step and taste of sugo (which we sampled from tea cups!), our appetites were further encouraged, and by the time we sat down to our meal inspired by the land of citrus, swordfish, tomatoes and olive oil we could hardly contain our excitement.

To start we ate pasta alla norma, followed by chicken pizzaiola and then our favourite sfinci doughnuts. It was perfect because it was love. For Rosa’s family and ours, food and the act of eating with loved ones is an expression and celebration of love. This is a language we all understand. If you’d like to learn how to make these recipes yourself be sure to attend one of Rosa’s cooking demonstrations (read my posts here and here). It’s a lovely thing to do with friends, but also as a treat for yourself #treatyoself.

Ben and I spent some time foraging in Rosa’s parents’ garden, marvelling at the variety of plum trees and an old wine press, and laughing with the prickly pears. Have you tried prickly pear fruit before? The red one is the best, Rosa said, and as kids her siblings would all fight over who got to eat the coveted fruit. Throughout the day Ben would pause, look around and say to me, “this is the type of home I want to have. One day we’ll have land like this…”

I know we will, sweets. We’ll make sugo the way Pina did on your birthday and we’ll add the baking powder to the batter for the sfinci, the way Rosa reminded us, and we’ll keep living and loving the way they do, generously.

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Gingerbread Granola…in Summer

December 17, 2014

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Winter tones in Summer. It’s fine. I can deal with warming spice, a hot mug of coffee and temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius. Just as long as it’s not humid, right? I do not manage well in thick heat. I do, however, harbour an ability to uncompromisingly pursue my food cravings. And, friends, I needed this granola.

Yesterday morning, after drooling over lovely Dana‘s recipe on Monday night, I made a batch for Ben and I. Fresh from the oven with, oh, about fifteen minutes cooling time, and served by the handful atop of little bowls filled with yoghurt and milk, it was one of the loveliest breakfasts we’ve had in a while. Not so subtly spiced and just sweet enough, it felt terribly festive and appropriate for gift giving. This will be the recipe I make for Christmas presents this year.

Homemade gifts are my favourite. Bonus points if they’re edible. For a quick option, I encourage you to make your own vanilla extract (it’s a lot simpler than it sounds). Last year I got a bunch of little bottles, added a whole, split vanilla bean and filled them with rum. Done! (let your recipient know it should infuse for a few months before consuming). Homemade nut butter is another favourite, as is a personalised batch of muesli or granola. This year I’m going with granola. Gingerbread granola in Summer…somehow it feels right.

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A few parties for Ben

December 13, 2014

…because one isn’t enough for this guy. This guy with the smile.

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This guy, who’s honest definition of a good time is hanging out with family and friends, maybe cooking some food and drinking a little wine…certainly playing a few games. So that is what we did. Ben turned 30 on the 8th of December, and because he is my best friend and I know how hard he works, I took it upon myself to plan a weekend of family, friends, food, wine and games.

Friday 

We begun our celebrations on Friday night at Longplay in North Fitzroy. Here we drank cocktails named after Susan Sarandon and watched True Lies in the private cinema out the back. 90s Arnie movies make Ben happy, so we watched one together and remembered that they don’t make movies like they used to. Thank you to the incredibly helpful staff at Longplay, what a wonderful space. You’re all class. I thoroughly enjoyed my pisco sour.

Dinner was at 400 gradi, with superb margherita pizza followed by an ice-cream cake in the shape of a toadstool from Messina. And as a thank you to these friends who came for a drink and slice of pizza, I cleaned out our local Supermarket’s stock of Ben’s favourite biscuits and gifted packets. Ben was spoilt with tickets to see the Foo Fighters live next February (watch this video!), so Malt’o’Milks with a personalised message from the birthday boy seemed only polite.

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Turmeric Butter and Thoughts from my Father, the Sourdough Scientist

December 9, 2014

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This is the third and final piece I wrote for Food For Thought, a wonderful website celebrating food made with intention and craftmanship…with thought. You can read my other posts on bread on their website (here) but I wanted to share my final article here today along with a few more photographs from that late November Saturday. Happy bread making and/or eating, folks.

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My grandfather can tell you everything you need to know about Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour’s “Road To…” movies. And my father-in-law will gladly take you on a history tour of all the buildings in Hong Kong. We’re all nerdy about something. My father is a science nerd, geeking-out over hypotheses, conclusions and everything in between. Dad’s geekery (a true scientific term, I assure you) is a glorious thing because it has lead to a fascination with gastronomy.

Food experiments are (mostly) edible, and so my family has been nothing but encouraging of Dad’s endeavours. He began with mixology (which had tasty, if somewhat foggy, results) and then moved onto yeasted pizza dough in his newly constructed, outdoor woodfired oven, playing with caramelisation and other cooking-related alchemy. Lately it’s been bread. And not just any bread…sourdough.

Good sourdough is important to me as both a Dietitian and a lover of food. Many who believe bread to be “bad” (or who react poorly to mass-produced supermarket bread) can thrive on sourdough produced in the traditional method (see my previous articles on bread and nutrition for more information). As a result, bread is free to resume its rightful place as a staple in our diet. This is important. A slice of authentic sourdough bread, dipped in extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt brings an insurmountable amount of pleasure. And I know my father agrees.

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Sicilian Potato Salad

December 6, 2014

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We’re playing Christmas carols already. Oooooh I can’t help it. Ben started the tunes this week, blame him. We love the album A Very She and Him Christmas and are planning on listening to it an unreasonable amount this season, as we do every year. Next weekend we plan on picking up a Christmas tree, though the two of us go back and forth as to where we will put the tree. Ben feels the middle of the living room is a good spot so we can, and I quote, “marvel at it”. I am perhaps a bit more practical and am championing the right corner. Watch this space.

Yep, it’s December alright. But before we watch White Christmas and Love Actually while drinking festive cocktails, we have Ben’s thirtieth birthday party this weekend. True to form, I have planned a weekend extravaganza. We’re pretty psyched. Ben has been working hard so I haven’t bothered him with many details, which I think will make it all the more fun.

I’ve been riding a bit of a hormonal train of late, as I mentioned not so allusively in a previous post on lady hormones and getting my body ready for baby making. And I’m getting there. My brain is still not letting my body do what it should but it’s cool. I mean, it’d be great if it was super easy and I didn’t have to actively do so much, but this is how it is… so there you go. September was a mess, ooof. October? Meh, it wasn’t great either. But then November came and it turned out to be pretty alright. And now December…oh, December! It’s charming the pants off me. No but seriously, there is something about December this year. The sun has arrived, the rain too, and I’m bare foot on the hot, wet cement outside out door and it feels good, really good. For now. It’s a wave, they say. I just gotta ride it and eat potato salad.

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Today, Fruit Toast

December 3, 2014

Fruit bread is an art form, a tricky endeavor, encouraging firm opinions from aficionados. And in my opinion, it all comes down to the ingredients.

I’m not one to be too dogmatic about what fruit is included, though I lean towards dried figs and large raisins with more affection than sultanas and dates. My main request is that the base be dense and chewy (preferably sourdough), and it must be decorated with dried fruit of the plumpest, richest variety, whether (preservative free) dried apricots, little currants or speckled figs. You cannot fake quality ingredients and for that, I’ll gladly pay eight dollars a loaf.

Sliced a little too thick,  gently toasted and served with a creamy pat of lightly salted butter (and perhaps a spoonful of berry jam that I never end up eating), it is a breakfast I assemble too infrequently for my liking. Why? Well, I tend to get caught up with visions of grand breakfasts. My need to prepare and stir, flip and fold on weekend mornings means I rarely simply slice and toast. It’s only when I’m sick, tired or perhaps have had a little too much to drink the night before that I reach for a loaf at the shops, adding it to my coffee order. Ben is always pleased when I do, as am I. Especially as our local shops store this lovely loaf by Lievito bakery. I might have to start drinking more keenly on the weekend.

This morning I defrosted two slices of Lievito’s rye, raisin, fennel and orange fruit bread for breakfast. Their preparation includes fennel seeds, which intrigues and large, super juicy raisins, which please my sensibilities. It’s yielding but substantial, and balanced in its sweet, sour and savoury qualities. This variety is our favourite, along with Flinders Sourdough and Tivoli Road’s fruit toasts. Tell me, do you have a favourite fruit bread?

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♥ Lievito Fruit Toast
Butter
Home Hill Berry Jam
♥ Coffee, black

What did you have for breakfast today?

Heidi xo

 

Feeling Thankful and a Salty Honey Pie

November 27, 2014

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I like people. They fascinate me. I want to hear their stories – who they are, where they come from and why they are the way they are.

I also want to know what people eat. No, really, I am genuinely interested. Tell me, if you could have anything to eat right now what would it be?…a plate of spaghetti and meatballs? I hear you. What’s your favourite toast topping?…raspberry jam, interesting. With butter? What did your grandmother make at Christmas gatherings?… jelly slice? Cool.

People and food make me happy. As do writing and cooking. It’s nice when you know what makes you happy, and you can create a life that is full of your particular brand of happy. Everyone has a different definition and realising this can take time. As a twenty-two-year-old you have four jobs: to stay up past 11pm, to drink cheap beer, to think pensively on all of life’s question and to figure out your happy. I failed at the first task, I only drank cheap beer with pizza or curry (though I could down cheap wine with embarrassing ease), and I only sometimes thought on life’s questions because honestly, how can I possibly ponder what happens when we die without going mad/stopping everything boring immediately/quit giving Optus my money because WHAT’S THE POINT?!! Instead I chose to debate in which country I would spend my summer-job cash, because travel made me happy. And I’d go and do just that, returning with a tan and one too many pairs of Thai fisherman pants (and I only bought one). That’s what you do in your twenties, you figure out what you want out of life. Or at least what you don’t want. You also learn that Thai fisherman pants don’t suit anyone.

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Put Tabasco On It

November 23, 2014

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We’re a pro-Tabasco household. When in doubt, put Tabasco on it. Fried rice? Sure. Eggs? Niiiice. Fish tacos? Heck yeah.

I’ve been told the green Tabasco is a bit lame. Though that’s not really the right word. I wanted to tell you I have been called a pussy for going for the mild, green Tabasco as opposed to the hot red stuff (fair call)… but was trying to be a little more genteel than that, and so I put “pussy” into a synonym generator website. Don’t do that.

The point is we favour the green chilli sauce but will accept all Tabasco offerings. It’s a new love, this Tabasco business, but it’s a sure thing. One or two bottles live permanently in our fridge door, keenly clinking as we open it, reminding us to add a little to any and all of our dishes. Though I’m yet to make Tabasco porridge. And I don’t think I will.

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Nut, Seed and Oat Loaf

November 19, 2014

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My Dad is the bread baker in our family. After almost two years of sourdoughing with great regularity, he can now churn out a stellar loaf like it’s no big deal. My parents went on holiday last month and I was given the task of feeding Sassy, Dad’s starter culture, a task I only very slightly messed up. I am happy to report that Sassy survived and has since formed a number of stellar loaves. Apparently Sassy is pretty resilient.

Dad’s talent in the bread department remains unrivalled and you know what? I haven’t fancied rivalling him until recently. My desire to have a starter of my own, a sister for Sassy, is growing. But until then I’ll eat thick slabs of perfect sourdough, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil or a spread of butter and sea salt when visiting.

And there’s also sourdough bread alternatives, like my quick brown seeded soda rolls and this obnoxiously nutritious nut, seed and oat loaf…
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