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Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

This Precise Moment

BReakfast at Tiffany's and Ice Cream

Because sometimes you have to not only embrace but be the cliché.

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Just a quick one today, folks! Life is suddenly quite busy. Many things to think about and do and remember and be a part of and enjoy. And then there are the essays.

So, here goes (oh, and I hope you appreciate the way I’m humiliating myself by showing you horrible things I’ve eaten in the past. To make myself feel better, please keep in mind that these photos are from my trip to America three years ago).

Things I’ve Done (And Eaten) In My Life That I’ve Felt Really Silly About Afterwards:

1. Climbing really high up a tree at my primary school, getting stuck, and needing a teacher to come and carefully guide me back down whilst I sobbed in panic. (Age: under 10)

Lay's Crab Spice Chips

Maybe it's because I didn't grow up with Crab Spice Seasoning in the cupboard (i.e. what the bollocks is Crab Spice Seasoning?), but these just tasted awful and bitter to me. Postprandial silliness rating: high.

2. Unwrapping a present on Christmas Day to discover a doll I’d desperately hoped for, becoming hysterical with happiness, and then accidentally thanking the wrong grandparent for it in a really over-the-top fashion. (Age: under 9)

French Toast Pop Tart

Another Pop Tart: "French Toast" flavour this time. Slightly better than the Hot Fudge Sundae, but still sickeningly fake and sweet-tasting. Postprandial silliness rating: High.

3. Getting a teensy bit drunky at a sleepover with two friends, accidentally knocking a bowl of almonds to the floor and deciding, in my drunky logic-befuddled state, that the only way to rectify the problem was to eat every single almond off the floor without touching any with my hands. (Age: 15) (Note: This was one of only two times in my life I’ve been legitimately drunky. Now do you see why I prefer to make one beer last for three hours?)

Reese's Crispy Crunchety and shoe

*giggle* In all honesty, this didn't taste awful. Postprandial silliness rating: Moderate, but only because I knew I'd just eaten a candy bar the size of my shoe in under five minutes.

4. Climbing really high up a tree in a friend’s backyard, getting stuck, and needing her mother to come and carefully guide me back down whilst I sobbed in panic. (Age: under 10) (Note: This friend’s mother banned me from ever climbing trees again when under her supervision.)

Stouffer's Stuffed Pepper

Ewww. Stouffer's Stuffed Pepper with Beef and Rice. What was I thinking? Stupid American dorm living. Postprandial silliness rating: Really high.

5. Falling prey to a “sale!” sign and buying a bag of marshmallows at the supermarket, despite the fact that I don’t like marshmallows (except toasted over a bonfire). Then realising that most of these marshmallows were apricot and banana flavoured, which means they were disgusting. (Age: one week ago.) (Note: I went through half a jar of peanut butter just to render the marshmallows edible. Which, in translation, means I ate about a spoonful of peanut butter in tandem with each marshmallow, simply so I couldn’t taste the latter. GENIUS.)

Hershey's S'mores bar

Oooh, tenuous marshmallow link for the win! Postprandial silliness rating: Moderate, because this tasted of nothing but sweet and I'm ashamed to admit I've never had a real s'more.

6. Climbing really high up one of the trees in my own front yard, getting stuck, and needing my dad to come and carefully guide me back down whilst I sobbed in panic. (Age: under 10)

Reese's Brownie

So disappointing. Postprandial silliness rating: High, because this could have been so tasty and was instead dry, insipid, non-peanut-buttery and overall lame.

Moral of this story? I ate a lot of non-awesome foodstuffs when in America in 2007-8. (And a lot of them seem to have been orange-ish in colour?!) 

Oh, and don’t let me anywhere near trees, unless you’re in the mood to play the hero.

Question Time: What have you done and eaten in your life that you’ve felt silly about afterwards?

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Vegan Caraway Cake

Off the top of my head, I can think of one positive and one negative for getting up early after a bad night’s sleep and baking a cake to cheer oneself up.

Positive: Cake batter for breakfast. It’s funny how much batter can be “accidentally” left on the electric beaters, bowl, and two spoons used in the batter-making, isn’t it?

Negative: Finding cake batter in one’s hair hours later.

Vegan Caraway Cake

This wasn’t the cake I was originally lusting after. But when I ducked home to find the recipe for the originally-desired cake, I saw, directly to the left of that recipe, this fella. (What brilliant sentence construction! The essays I’m marking must be rubbing off on me…) My mum used to make this fella occasionally, but nowhere near as often as she made the originally-desired cake. I remember, though, that I used to feel more grown up eating this than the other (the originally-desired cake, that is. Have I lost you yet?), because of the below’s rather unique and non-children’s-party-friendly flavour.

So I forgot about the cake I had initially been craving, and made this one instead.

Oh, and I veganised it.

Oh, and I love it. And it still makes me feel grown-up.

Vegan Caraway Cake

This cake tastes like old-fashioned to me. It tastes like something one of the heroines in my beloved-childhood novels would have eaten whilst sitting in her garden dreaming about the future, or whilst serving afternoon tea to a dear grandmotherly-aged friend. This is the cake I imagine Elnora from A Girl of the Limberlost would have slid into the oven with her soft hair falling in front of her face and her butterflies adorning the wall behind her. This is the cake I imagine Anne Shirley would have shared with Theodora Dix as they listened to the echoes of their voices calling back to them from faraway hills.

It’s also the cake I can imagine I’ll  have polished off in two day’s time, but that can be our little secret.

Vegan Caraway Cake

Caraway Cake

Serves 8 -10, adapted from The Women’s Weekly Cakes and Slices Cookbook. For a non-vegan version, substitute Nuttelex with butter, two eggs for the flaxmeal, and normal milk for the soymilk. My mum used to make this wheat-free with her own mix of cornflour and rye flour, so I assume it would also work with gluten-free flours.

  • 2 tbs flaxmeal (ground flax)
  • 125g Nuttelex (I used the Olive Oil kind)
  • 1 cup caster sugar (I used raw caster sugar)
  • 1/2 cup soymilk
  • 1 1/4 cups self-raising flour (the original recipe said to sift this, but I didn’t bother. What can I say? I’m a rebel.)
  • 1/4 cup custard powder
  • 2 tbs caraway seeds.
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C, and grease and line a 14cm x 21cm loaf tin.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flaxmeal with 90ml water and leave to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add Nuttelex, sugar, milk, flour, and custard powder to flaxmeal and beat on low speed with an electric mixer until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and continue beating for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture has lightened in colour.
  4. Stir in caraway seeds.
  5. Spread mixture into prepared tin and bake for 50m-1hr. Stand in tin for five minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Question time: Are there any particular dishes you make that remind you of a storybook character? Saying oatmeal makes you think of Goldilocks or beans of Jack doesn’t count…

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Panch Phora Lentil Pilaf

I love cooking. Really, I do. I love the way that cooking is my escape from anxiety and misery; it’s one of the only activities in this world that entirely captures my attention and makes the whirly-burly-thoughts stop their whirling-and-burling. I love attempting to follow recipes then being unable to stop myself from improvising, and I love when the people I care about enjoy what I’ve made for them.

That said, I probably shouldn’t admit the number of times I’ve stood in Smurf Kitchen at dinner-time, peered into my cupboard filled with quinoa, rice, millet, legumes, vinegar, sesame oil, canned artichokes, sardines in tomato/chilli sauce (don’t knock it ‘til you tried it. Unless you’re vegan/vegetarian. Then knock away), coconut milk, canned tomatoes… and made a frown-y face.

You see, sometimes I look at those wholesome, pantry-staple, Make-A-Nutritious-Dish-In-Half-An-Hour items and find myself unable to push away one forlorn thought:

How on earth can I get enough sugar, fat, and processed goodness into my tummy with those stupid ingredients?

More often than not, I’ll succumb to my mother’s voice in my head, which tells me to Make Something Proper That You Won’t Be Ashamed To Tell Someone You Ate.

Panch Phora Lentil Pilaf

Other times, though, the world goes blank and all of a sudden it’s ten minutes later and I find myself, with no idea how I got there, sitting with a plate in front of me upon which is perched a double decker sandwich of wonderment. You know the sandwich I’m talking about, right? It goes: Wonder White bread -> peanut butter -> chocolate chips -> Wonder White bread -> peanut butter -> maple syrup -> Wonder White bread.

And you know what, Mum? The only thing I’m ashamed of is that I never seem to take the final step towards frying such a monstrosity piece of art in butter.

However, for those of you who do like to cook Something Proper That You Won’t Be Ashamed To Tell Someone You Ate, I’ve got just the dish for you. It’s even the dish for me, because when I stopped being lazy and invented this, I couldn’t understand why I’d ever want to eat a sandwich instead.

Also, I want to marry Panch Phora. Just sayin’.

Panch Phora Lentil Pilaf

Panch Phora Lentil Pilaf

Serves 2 (easily doubled)
(recipe from my noggin)

  • 1 American tb (i.e. 3 tsps) Panch Phora
  • 1 tb oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 200g celery, sliced (or celery and carrot, or whatever vegies you have on hand)
  • 1/2 cup (100g) rice
  • 100g red lentils
  • 2 cups veggie stock (estimated… I think I started with 1 1/2 cups and then I threw more in…)
  1. Toast Panch Phora in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until the mustard seeds start to pop and the mix is beginning to get fragrant. Tip the spices into a pestle and mortar and give it a quick grinding. Don’t fuss over it, though. I love the flavour burst of whole spices, and none of these are crazy-intense like, say, cloves are. A bit of whole fenugreek isn’t going to kill you, I promise.
  2. Heat oil in a medium (or large, whatever floats your boat) saucepan, and fry onion and vegetables for 5-10 minutes until softened and gettin’ tasty-tasty.
  3. Throw in rice and lentils and stir around, and then pour in stock. Bring to the boil, cover, then turn down to a simmer and let it potter on its own for 20-25 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. (And tabasco, if you’re me. Which you’re not, clearly, but… hmm. Where was I?)
  4. Eat, and be bemused by the thought that you ever wanted to eat a double decker sandwich of wonderment instead. Silly poppet.

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I’m fairly certain that my housemate and I were destined to be housemates. We laugh a lot together, act as sounding boards and provide advice for each other when need be, and also know when (and how) to give each other space. Here are just a few recent moments that have reminded me of how well we fit/live together:

1. I’ve been introducing the Housemate to the marvellousness that is Freaks and Geeks, and she’s slowly but surely coming around. The other night, though, we decided to watch Legally Blonde instead.

Towards the end of Legally Blonde, a character called Chutney appears on the witness stand. Unbeknownst to either of us, this character is played by Linda Cardellini, who is none other than Lindsay in Freaks and Geeks.

The moment Chutney/Cardellini appeared on the telly, I gasped, pointed at the screen, and turned to the Housemate. At the exact same moment, the Housemate gasped and pointed at me. For a second we remained frozen in this strange me-Housemate-television–pointing triangular formation, then we both burst into giggles. It’s not the first time such a moment of synchronicity has happened, either.

Sunspire Peanut Butter Chips

Unrelated snackage. Did I open this bag and start eating before thinking of blogging it? Yes. Is the bag all crumbled in this photo as a result? Yes. Do I feel guilty? No.

2. I grin and bear it when she cooks bacon, and she indulges my tendency to get, erm, creative in the kitchen. (Tabasco peanut butter cookies or tasteless flax lumps, anyone?)

Sunspire Peanut Butter Chips

Somehow, these taste both like and completely unlike peanut butter. BUT I LOVE THEM.

3. Despite being embedded (like me) in the discipline of Sociology and, by extension, in the currents of cynicism that such embeddedness entails, the Housemate retains faith in the idea that, ultimately, Good comes to Good and Bad to Bad in this world.

Case in point: last night, we were watching Cruel Intentions (spoiler alert), which she’d never seen before. For those of you who don’t know, Cruel Intentions revolves around Kathryn, who is a nasty piece of work, making a bet with Sebastian, who is also nasty but redeems himself in the end, that the latter can seduce Annette, who is a Good Person. Here’s what went down in our house while watching the movie:

Two thirds through the movie, with Kathryn proving to be increasingly awful, self-serving, and malicious.

The Housemate: Kathryn’s going to die, isn’t she?

Me: I’m not saying a word.

The Housemate: She must. Yes, she’s going to die.

Later on, and Kathryn does more nasty things.

The Housemate: She has to die.

Me: I’m not saying a word.

About 15 minutes before the end of the movie, and Sebastian is fighting with another character on the street while Annette rushes into the traffic to stop them.

The Housemate: Oh, it’s Annette who’s going to die, isn’t it? She’s going to die!

Sebastian pushes Annette away from an oncoming car and gets hit by the car himself, rolling up and over the car before crashing onto the bitumen.

The Housemate: Oh. So it is Kathryn who’s going to die.

Let’s repeat that, shall we?

SEBASTIAN GETS HIT BY A CAR. BY A CAR.

The Housemate: Oh, so it is Kathryn who’s going to die.

Scene switches to Sebastian’s funeral.

The Housemate: Oh.

Me: *laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs*

(I defy you not to love my Housemate a little bit too, after that.)

Sunspire Peanut Butter Chips

Salty and sweet and melty and cute and I can eat dozens in a sitting without caring because they're so darn cute and tiny.

But just in case you think I’m trying to make myself look clever at the Housemate’s expense, take a guess at who the following happened to:

Girl walks to kitchen, wearing her glasses so that she can watch the news whilst getting a snack. Girl takes a spoon, dips it in the peanut butter jar, pops it in her mouth, and simultaneously decides to change out of her jacket and into a jumper.

Girl retains spoon sticking horizontally out from between her lips whilst pulling jumper over her head. Girl suddenly starts making strange clinking and choking noises.

Housemate looks up to see a jumper with naught but curly hair poking out the top flailing around the kitchen.

Yep. Girl = me.

Thomas the Tank Engine Cake

My cousin made this for her two-year-old son's birthday. Isn't it awesome? I'm muchly impressed.

Moral of that story? If you try to pull clothing over your face while you’re wearing glasses and have a spoon sticking out of your mouth, the jumper will push the glasses down your face, the glasses will get caught on the spoon, the spoon handle will get caught on the jumper, and, erm, you might start panicking.

I think that was one of my sexiest moments ever, bar none.  

So you see? The Housemate and I are perfect for each other, what with our abilities to equally tolerate, understand, and entertain each other.

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Carrot and Cardamom Muffins

Carrot and Cardamom Muffins

This world of ours is full of contrasts and contradictions.

We’re told that obesity is a prevailing issue of our time and yet, this year, the KFC Double Down came into existence.

Over the past few months, Tony Abbott has cast aspersions on Julia Gillard for usurping Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister without being voted in by the public, yet he himself became Leader of the Opposition through the same process of usurpation, and the public didn’t get to weigh in then either.

In San Francisco, I walked out of the Ferry Building Marketplace after spending an unwholesome amount of money on fancy cheeses, pastries, and fruit, only to see a homeless man pulling food scraps out of a rubbish bin.

Carrot and Cardamom Muffins

Pre-baking.

The corps de ballet in Swan Lake are presented onstage as ethereal, delicate, and unaffected by physical pain, and yet their ballet shoes hide a myriad tales of blisters, lost toenails, and torn ligaments.

The media presents paedophilia as utterly and incontrovertibly wrong (no arguments from me there), but at the same time teenage celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Momsen are earning oodles of money dressing like coked-up prostitutes.

Nutrition guidelines dictate that I should eat five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit every day, but peanut butter, blue cheese, and dark chocolate taste better*.

Carrot and Cardamom Muffins

Post-baking (in my swanky silicone tray)

And a week or so ago, I showed you a holiday-spiced chocolate that I couldn’t stomach because it included orange essence, whereas yesterday I baked a batch of 18 muffins made with orange juice.

More to the point, I’ve already eaten seven of them. Just goes to show that not all contradictions in this world are bad.

Carrot and Cardamom Muffins

It's what's inside that counts.

A few words on these muffins: the best way I can think to describe the taste is Grown-Up. They aren’t particularly sweet, and while neither the cardamom, carrot, nor orange dominate the flavour, there is definitely something interesting and almost-but-not-really-bitter going on. The texture is intriguing, too – more doughy than crumbly, but in a good way. Almost like crumpets, but without the holes, so, really, nothing like crumpets.

I’d never proclaim these to be as splendiferous as my Spiced Sesame Slice or Date and Banana Bread, but they’re unlike anything I’ve made before, and that has to count for something. Plus, I’m an avowed anti-orange lass, and I foresee no problems in finishing these muffins myself. So that’s something else to count for something. What does that mean, anyway? I stopped counting when I quit maths in Year 11.

Carrot and Cardamom Muffins

Smurf Kitchen’s blueness makes me happy sometimes.

Carrot and Cardamom Muffins

Makes 12-18. I made 18 because the original recipe said to use 12×1/2 cup muffins tins but I only have 1/3 cup muffin tins, so I feared the batter would spill everywhere if I made only 12. However, I’m certain you could safely make 12 slightly-bigger muffins than 18 slightly-flatter muffins. I don’t really mind, though. This way, I can eat seven in thirty-six hours with nary a qualm.

  • 1 large carrot, finely grated (mine came to 150g)
  • 1/4 cup (90g) honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or macadamia oil, if you’re wearing fancypants)
  • 1 cup orange and passionfruit juice (or just orange juice. Whatever floats your boat.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (250g) self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C and oil or line a 12-hole muffin tin. (I used my silicone muffin tray for the first time since receiving it over a year ago. It worked like magic! No need for lining or greasing, as the muffins popped out as easily as babies don’t.)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the carrot, honey, oil, juice and eggs.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and cardamom into the wet ingredients, and stir quickly to just combine. Don’t overmix –  you want it to look a bit lumpy.
  4. Spoon into muffin tin and bake for 16 minutes, until golden. (16 minutes worked for me as I was making 18 muffins… if you make only 12 muffins, I’d estimate letting them cook for 18ish minutes.) Cool in tin for a few minutes, then turn out and serve warm. Or, if you are like me and have to eat almost all of these yourself, pop some in the fridge and some in the freezer and eat them at any temperature you see fit.

Question Time: What contradictions or contrasts in the world have you noticed recently?

*Little bit of a fib there. I adore vegetables as much as chocolate, and in fact I’m crankier if I’ve had a day without greens than if I’ve had a day without chocolate.

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Kids these days (I’ve always wanted to say that, even if it doesn’t really work right now because I’m talking about people my own age) occasionally play a drinking game called “I’ve never”. Everyone takes a turn saying something [truthfully] that they’ve never done, and anyone who has done whatever was said has to take a drink. A drink of alcohol, that is. A drink of alcohol which, in turn, leads to more and more outlandish statements until (theoretically at least) Hilarity Ensues.

I haven’t played this game much myself, mostly because I haven’t done many crazy things in my life. As a result, I end up sitting there with a full glass for an hour or so, whilst other people giggle and get sozzled. However, after getting a whopping total of one-and-a-half hours of sleep last night, I suddenly realised that I now have a few things up my sleeve which I can no longer say I’ve never done.

Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tart

A Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tart. This may look like a cardboard-backed school art project put together by an eight-year-old, but don’t be fooled. It didn’t taste like that at all. It tasted like a cardboard-backed school art project put together by a five-year-old.

Statements that I can’t say anymore because they are lies:

  • I’ve never been twirled around a living room floor at two in the morning, singing along to Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival. (I love that song.)
  • I’ve never had my shoe slip on a jacket whist being twirled around a living room floor.
  • I’ve never gone from dancing to being flat on my back, quicker than you can say “down she goes”, wondering why gravity decided it suddenly loved me more than anything else in the world.

Amy's Kitchen Veggie Loaf

I know I professed to having loved Amy’s products when I lived in the States in 2007, but this was utterly flavourless. I remember thinking that a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon would’ve taken far less time to eat, and would have been infinitely more pleasurable.

Amy's Veggie Loaf

Ugh. And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

  • I’ve never come home from a party at 6:30am in the morning. (And had a christening to attend six hours later.)
  •  I’ve never found myself unable to say no to a beer followed by a glass of Yellowtail cab sav followed by a shot of vodka. (I thought I couldn’t stomach spirits. Guess what? I can, at least when they’re being served to me by a very tall new German friend.)
Zen Soy Chocolate Pudding

Funnily enough, this was rather delicious. Who knew pandas made good pudding?

  • I’ve never watched Metropolis. (TERRIFYING. Cover the childrens’ eyes. But you needn’t worry about their ears: it’s a silent movie.)
  • I’ve never been on a balcony that makes me feel like I’m almost certainly 100% nearly Juliet.
Rice Divine Mudd Pie

Vegan coffee ice cream with almonds, chocolate cookies, and chocolate fudge. I miss such non-dairy delights.

Rice Divine Mudd Pie

And it was goooooood-oh.

  • I’ve (almost) never acted so spontaneously, nor been so happily and unexpectedly rewarded for it.

The best thing of all is that I was already having a lovely weekend. Thanks, world (and Friend Whose House-Warming It Was). I shan’t forget it.

Question Time: Have you done something recently that you now can’t say you’ve never done? (That sounds almost Suess-like to me…)

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