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Friday Feast: Mango Pico de Gallo

This home-made salsa is based on a mango pico de gallo we used to eat when we lived in Texas. It was my first foray into pico de gallo ever (I know! But I’m Australian and it’s not something we typically eat here.). It was from HEB. Don’t look like that. It was good! Especially with those Tostitos cups or fresh made tortillas. You can’t get fresh made tortillas in Brisbane unless you make them yourself. I miss them. I miss Tostitos cups too.

I eat this pico de gallo piled on Mission corn chips/strips which I heat in the oven. In my pre-vegan days, I’d put cheese on top, but I find that it doesn’t taste that different. The heated corn chips add a really rustic flavour to the bright salsa. I also sometimes eat the salsa as an accompaniment to beans and rice. Or as a dip. Or on a spoon.

Yankee Elv has a weird genetic thing that makes coriander (cilantro) taste like soap, so we substitute parsley for coriander. However, if you don’t have that weird genetic thing, you like coriander and you’d like to be authentic, then that’s what should really be used.

Mango Pico de Gallo

Ingredients:

  • 2 mangoes, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 5 – 6 tomatoes, with the cores discarded and the outer flesh diced for use
  • 2 green chilis, diced finely (include the seeds if you like more heat)
  • 1 red chili, diced finely (include the seeds if you like more heat)
  • a handful of chopped parsley leaves
  • lime juice, to taste

Method:

  1. Stir all the chopped fruit/veges together in a bowl.
  2. Add the parsley and lime juice and combine.

THE END! Easiest recipe ever. 🙂

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Friday Feast: Pickled Watermelon Rind

It’s almost summer here in Australia, which means it’s time to eat watermelon! I like to use my handy dandy melon baller so I can eat it with a fork. I know, it’s kinda un-Australian to not eat it in great big slices and get it all over your face… but I don’t really like getting sticky. If someone builds me a swimming pool to jump into after eating it, maybe I’ll change my method.

Anyway, I was eating watermelon the other day and after I’d removed all the lovely pink flesh of the melon, I was left with the rind, and I remembered reading about a Southern (as in the South, in the USA) snack – pickled watermelon rind. I don’t mind regular pickles, but I’m not as in love with them as my Polish-American partner, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat the pickled rind of quarter of a watermelon… but I figured I might as well give it a try at least once. Everyone raved about them, so why not?

Well, I gotta tell you, pickled watermelon rind is yummy! It’s crunchy and cool and refreshing – a perfect snack for hot weather, and it’s not super sweet. Most cold foods are sweet. This one is vinegary,  but a little sweet from the sugar. It’s nice for a change. And I really like the crunch!

I chose the absolutely easiest watermelon pickle recipe I could find. Others call for certain herbs, or soaking the rind overnight – stuff like that. Since I wasn’t even sure I would like them, I was going for minimum effort. I think this actually was a great idea. The simplicity of the flavours is part of what I really like about these pickles. Plus they’re quick and easy, and they use up something I’d normally discard. I just changed the vinegar to apple cider vinegar cos that’s what I had in the cupboard.

So now that I’ve raved… here’s the recipe.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

pickled watermelon rind

Ingredients

  • Watermelon rind (from a quarter of a big melon)
  • 1 very scant cup of water
  • 1 very scant up of apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup caster sugar

Method:

  1. Cut the watermelon rind into small chunks, about 1 to 2 inches in size. Make sure you remove the green skin.
  2. Stir the water, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add the watermelon rind and stir.
  4. Turn off the stove, but leave the saucepan on the hotplate. Let the rind sit until it reaches room temperature.
  5. Place rind and as much brine as you can fit in a jar(s) and put them in the fridge.
  6. Eat them right away or save them for a bit in the fridge. Remember, these haven’t been properly sterilised and sealed, so they’re not shelf-safe. You should eat them within a few weeks at most and keep them in the fridge.

pickled watermelon rind in a small jar

Note: swish your mouth with water after eating, because it’s not good for your teeth to let acidic foods like vinegar sit on the enamel.

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Mulberries: An Interlude

Guess who stepped in a mulberry?

cat's paw coloured purple

Princess.

Guess who left little purple paw prints all over the tiles?

woman holding a cat with a purple paw, kissing its head

Princess.

Guess who was highly unimpressed I was taking her photo while she had a purple-stained foot?

unimpressed-looking cat

Princess.

Yeah. Diva Princess. That’s who.

Just to show she’s not always messy and disgruntled…

tabby cat and tortoiseshell cat snuggling together on a bed

Princess is very sweet to little Fruity.

Awwwww.

Now if only the possums would hurry up and eat all the mulberries on the ground under the tree. We were just lucky this time that we didn’t end up with purple stains on the carpet. Fortunately only the bedrooms are carpeted. Phew! Now, keep up, possums!

P.S. My eco-friendly cat toy tip of the day? A twig from a poinciana tree. I was using one to encourage Fruity to follow me back inside and she loved it. I forgot though, that I used to play with Princess in the same way… she had to come join in! They took turns to bat the twig. So cute. Pou was very confused as to what they were doing. An ex-stray, Pou doesn’t really understand the concept of playing like that. But my point is – who said cat toys have to be expensive and made of plastic? These two get more fun out of a bendy twig than they ever have out of some weird plastic ball with a bell inside. Yay nature!

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Mulberries: The Beginning

I am attempting a semi-microblog. I don’t think I quite managed it! lol

Here are the mulberries Yankee Elv and Mr Teeny-bop picked. This is a ginormous sieve/colander. These berries filled two large containers.

mulberries in a big sieve

The mega mound of mulberries.

Day One of The Great Mulberry Harvest: Muffins

mulberry muffin cut in half on a plate

Check it out: the crumb isn't right and neither is the outside. But I like how the mulberries stain the muffin bluey purple!

I made muffins with 1.5 cups of mulberries. It was the first time I tried this recipe. I didn’t use any of the lemon stuff, and obviously, I used mulberries instead of blueberries. Unfortunately, I wasn’t overly thrilled. They came out a bit tough; the outside was too hard and chewy and the crumb inside wasn’t right. My friend Jho said they tasted like cardboard! Yankee Elv was slightly more diplomatic and just said they tasted a bit bland. Mr Teeny-bop didn’t like them, but he is super picky, so that was no surprise. I thought, however; they tasted reasonably good when warmed up and spread with some nuttelex. And it used 1.5 cups of mulberries, so that was a win!!

Day Two of The Great Mulberry Harvest: Giveaway

I gave a container of mulberries to Jho and her partner BB. Jho, as it turned out, didn’t like them (“They taste like semi-sweet small cherries!”), and she shared them around to other pepole in the office. BB will eat them with yoghurt, though. Yankee Elv took a much bigger container to work, where everyone picked at them all day long, quite happily.

Day Three of the Great Mulberry Harvest: Taking a Break!!

We still have a couple of cups of mulberries left in a container in the fridge and we’re still getting through the muffins too! I don’t want to make much more til we get through those, but I’m going to have to do something tomorrow or the berries will go bad.

I think we’ll probably pick the next lot of ripe ones off the bush (tree) tomorrow and get going on the next lot of things to make. Ideas include:

  • Mulberry nutbread: Yankee Elv makes a great one with zucchini and dried cranberries – I think the addition of mulberries would work quite well
  • Frozen mulberries: For later in the year when we want berries but the growing season is over
  • Mulberry cobbler: Yankee Elv introduced me to cobbler when we were living in the USA; we don’t have cobbler in Australia really. I love it.
  • Mulberry jam: I’ve never tried making jam before, and I’d like to try, but it seems like such a big job. If I have time, I’d definitely like to do this – especially cos it means using up berries now before they go bad, but not having to eat them incessantly for a month!
  • Mulberry syrup or stewed mulberries: To eat with pancakes, on icecream or with yoghurt.
  • Mulberry/hoisin marinade to eat with tofu
  • Mulberries in salad.
Anyone got other ideas?
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September Already?!

Whoa, so it has been ages since I’ve been here… I’ve been keeping an eye on things, but haven’t had a chance to post. It’s been a crazy year so far. Some major highs, like…

  • Buying (mortgaging) our first house, just 5 mins up the road from my good friend Jho’s place
  • Getting a new kitten (rescued off the road at 5wks old, poor wee thing, just in time for my birthday)

I hereby christen this kitten Fruit Tingle.

  • Ending a lease for the last time ever (no more renting!!)
  • Everyone going great guns at work and school
  • My health hitting a plateau (and since the only other way it could go was down, I’m taking plateau as a major win)
  • Yankee Elv getting dreadlocks, which she loves, and which killed my hands for the 50-odd hours it took me to do them for her

Yankee Elv loving her dreads (they were less than a week old at this point)

Yankee Elv's new hairdo gave me the perfect opportunity to rock a dreadstache.

  • Mr Teeny-bop getting taller than me and is starting to act less like an irritating teenager and more like a sensible verging-on-grown-up boy
  • Our old mate The Dyke Mike coming back down under… maybe for good again
  • My vegan-ness continues unabated
  • …and did I mention our new house? Quarter of an acre, baby!

Yankee Elv running around the lounge room on the day we got the keys.

But there have been some heavy lows too. The biggest and hardest hitting was Loodle and Old Man Fatso leaving us for greener pastures/another turn at the wheel. They were both very old and it was time… but it still sucked. It’s been since January for Fatso and since May for Loodle, but we still miss them and catch ourselves looking for them. That’s probably partly why I haven’t been here too much. I didn’t feel like I could write about it. Time helps, a bit.

Fatso and Loodle in times gone by.

Otherwise… Yankee Elv’s health has gone down as mine has improved plateaued and we’re not sure what’s going on with her yet. The car has been a never-ending money pit, but we have found an awesome mechanic and our new place is closer to Yankee Elv’s work, so there’s less driving (better for us and the planet!) and everything seems to be on track now. There’s an enormous possum in our ceiling who refuses to leave and is probably peeing all over everything up there as I type. I think his little minion possums come bring him food and water. He sounds like an overgrown wombat wandering around over our heads.

But in the grand scheme of things, life hasn’t been treating us too badly. Some days are diamonds, some… no, I’m not going to go there John Denver. Especially since I only realised the lyrics were ‘stones’ when I looked them up just now. I always thought he said ‘dogs’. Why did I think that?

Sorry, sidetracked.

So anyway, basically, I’m here to say I’m here. I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I still read your comments and I still think of things to write here all the time. I just haven’t been able to get here to write anything. Mortgages involve a lot of paperwork. Paperwork = time-consuming.

I hope to get here more often from now on, I’ve got lots I want to say, but I’m going to be honest. No promises. There’s lots we want to do with the new house to get it just how we want it and the rest of my family are planning on applying for Aussie citizenship shortly, now they’re eligible. More paperwork; more time. But I’ll pop back again at least periodically, if not regularly… maybe I’ll do some shorter posts. Somewhere between the microblogging of Twitter and the super-epic-macroblogging I tend to do here.

So on that note, I leave you with one of the awesome surprises we found it our backyard (it was a stick when we moved in and suddenly, rapidly, ended up like this):

Mulberries

More mulberries (there are tonnes of them)

Peaches! I think it's a dwarf peach tree.

More to come…

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Friday Feast: Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding

A few weeks ago, I was looking through the cupboard and fridge thinking about what food I needed to use up. I try to avoid wasting food. If you want to know more about why, have a look on the Wasted Food blog, cos Jonathan Bloom lists a bunch of reasons.

Anyway, I found half a stale baguette, some pecans that were on their last legs (or would have been, if pecans had legs), and some apples. The baguette was like a rock – there was no eating that unless it was significantly softened somehow, which prompted me to think of a bread pudding. However, I was never the biggest fan of the kinds of bread puddings I had as a kid. They were made of white sandwich loaf (too soft, which made for a soggy pudding), with milk, eggs, sugar and sultanas. I’m not big on sultanas in sweet food, although I love them in curry. My childhood memory was not what I wanted for a bread pudding. (Sorry Mum and Dad, I know you like it, but it’s not my style.) So I hunted down a new recipe.

My google-fu did not fail me, and I found a recipe for Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding in the Dairy Free Cooking section of About.com. There seems to be some good stuff there, so it’s worth having a look. I tweaked the recipe quite a bit (halving it, then increasing some ingredients, reducing others, swapping nutmeg for cardamom), but I’m really happy with the end result. It’s American tasting (hello cranberries, apples and pecans), but it’s got a special little something something that makes it unlike the typical American fare (probably the ginger and cardamom). The consistency was soft, but not soggy, and the nuts added a lovely bite.

I actually made it with only a quarter of a chopped apple, but I couldn’t taste it at all, so I’ve increased it to a whole apple in the recipe below. I increased the pecans too – I used only a third of a cup, but Yankee Elv insisted it needed more. Otherwise, she loved this pudding though – and so did I!

Cranberry Pecan Bread Pudding


Ingredients

  • 4.5 cups stale bread, cut into 1.5cm (about half an inch) cubes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (currants might be a good alternative if you prefer them)
  • 1 apple, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup  pecans, chopped or crumbled
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom (or you could use nutmeg)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups plain non-dairy milk (I used soy)
  • 1 tab vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup liquid sweetener (I used agave nectar)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (about 350°F).
  2. Lightly oil a medium-sized heatproof dish (such as a pyrex dish) and set it aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the bread cubes, cranberries, apple, pecans, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and salt until well mixed.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the non-dairy milk, vegetable oil and liquid sweetener until well combined.
  5. Allow the mixture to stand for 10 minutes, so all the bread is soaked. The liquid should be almost gone.
  6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and bake until mostly firm and golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  7. Serve warm with non-dairy custard (which I make the same way as dairy custard, just with soy milk. Please note: there are no eggs in my custard, ever!)

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Friday Feast: Carrot, Pineapple and Soybean Stir-fry

Ok, I know this combination of ingredients sounds weird, but it’s good, trust me. This is one of Yankee Elv’s recipes, and she first made it while she was in the USA. I think it’s some kind of weird US North Pacific Rim fusion sort of meal. Anyway, it’s really easy and tastes great, so give it a go!

Carrot, Soybean, and Pineapple Stirfry

carrot, pineapple, soybean stir-fry

Carrot, Pineapple and Soybean Stir-fry, with rice.

Ingredients:
• 2 tablespoon oil
• 3 cloves garlic, minced (or as much as you want)
• 2 medium carrots, sliced
• 1 240g (8oz) can pineapple chunks WITH juice – don’t drain
• 1 – 1 1/2 cups frozen green soybeans (edamame)
• 2 tablespoon soy sauce
• 2 teaspoon sesame oil
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (less or more to adjust spiciness)
• 2 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
• cooked rice (preferably cooked at least a day before, so it is less sticky)

Method:
1.
Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat.
2. Add garlic and carrots and stir-fry for  about 4 to 5 minutes
3. Add the pineapple with the juice. Saute on medium-high until juice is almost gone; about 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, defrost the frozen soybeans so they are no longer frozen (but they can still be cold) by heating them in the microwave, in water to cover, for 1 minute (if you don’t have a microwave, you can do it on the stove).
5. When the pineapple juice is almost gone, add the soybeans, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and red pepper. Heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until the spices are mixed and the beans are warmed through.
6. You can either mix in the rice and cook it some more with the stirfry (gives the rice some extra flavor), or just ladle the stir-fry over the rice.

Optional: sprinkle sesame seeds over the meal for a bit of a crunch.