Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Highlights of Singapore (I'm on Holiday)

This post is a little break from the usual - I'm on holiday! If you're after recipes and ideas for organic living, please keep checking back ... I'm still posting those. But I also wanted to share with you some of my trip. Beginning in Singapore ...

What did we do in Singapore, you ask? Robbie worked, Nelle and I swam, and well, we ate, and ate, and ate, and ... ate some more! A place that has such a beautiful mix of cultures ... and truly amazing food ... ah.

Want to see some of the highlights?

Arab Street district

magic tabbouleh at Beirut - you could taste each ingredient in it!

One night we went out for dinner in the Arab Street district, full of Iranian and Turkish and Lebanese restaurants (and a random but very popular halal Swiss cafe!) ... and ended up at a small restaurant, which had this amazing tabbouleh. And some apparently very yum lamb (according to Robbie).

Afterwards, we had a couple of coffees at another cafe up the road ... it had the perfect ambience, including a little tent in the back where we could sit on cushions and pretend to be ... well ... somewhere even more exotic. The best thing was the unique combination of flavours - espresso + ginger + cardamom. Great way to finish the evening!

our special Arabian coffees at Heaven Scene - cardamom and espresso and ginger 


One of the highlights for us was watching Nelle devour sushi everywhere we went. She loved loved loved raw salmon. Our little vegetarian's always eaten fish (even when pregnant mummy choked down those fish oil capsules ... ick ... but another story), but the stronger the better as far as she's concerned!

salmon sushi 

We just had to convince her that the big blob of green on her plate was NOT avocado!

Little India

We wandered around Little India one lunchtime, looking at gorgeous fabrics and woodwork and potential food ... and stumbled onto a special little restaurant with two lovely ladies who sat us upstairs in airconditioned comfort and brought us lovely curries and naans and mango lassi ... It was one of those great finds, where the atmosphere is perfect and the food is too. And it was soooo affordable. My favourite combination!

Lagnaa Barefoot Dining in Little India


How's this for thrifty? Our hotel had an amazing spread of pastries in the foyer restaurant ... and after 8pm they were 30% off. So, a couple of nights we picked up some to try out ... in bed, just me and Robbie and a sleeping toddler and the World Cup. Almost perfect, and for only S$5.60 ...

pastry from Carousel at the Royal Plaza on Scotts (great deal on accommodation!)

And every day we walked past this patisserie/chocolaterie, known for its pastries. So, of course we had to try it. But I couldn't resist the unusual teas and chocolates they had. Chocolates with basil and strawberry, or tomato and thyme, or black pepper and anise and cinnamon. Amazing, and really inspiring, too! I can't wait to start playing with some of these combinations at home ...

chocolate + black pepper + anise + cardamom + cinnamon = yum

And my tea was a blend of black tea, strawberry and rhubarb pieces, carrot peels and chocolate. It was perfect.

now this is afternoon tea, at Canele

Nelle Dances on Orchard Road

If you have a daughter, you may be familiar with Angelina Ballerina? Yes? Well, Nelle is obsessed with her! And with dancing ... and ballet ... though she has an unusual interpretation ...

I've missed out heaps of our week in Singapore, but hope you've enjoyed a little taste!

PS. For the first time, I googled 'food blogs in Singapore' for some advice on great places in Singapore - it worked really well! Usually I'm a bit of a wander-and-find ... which is fun, too. Anyway, here are some of the blogs I used on this leg of our trip:

Chubby Hubby - whining, dining & marriage
Lady Iron Chef

Amanda xx

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sorry, It's Just Some Spreadable Butter

I know, I know, I've tricked you. I've put a picture of a big fat buttery cinnamon roll up here ... and I'm not even going to give you the recipe for it (yet).

Have you forgiven me? Just a little? Good. What I am going to give you is a super easy peasy recipe for spreadable butter ... or heart-healthy butter ... or lower-saturated-fat butter. Because sometimes you want instant spreadability on your hot toast. And because the supermarket brands of spreadable butter/margarine contain all kinds of weird and suspicious ingredients.

Sorry, It's Just Some Spreadable Butter


1/2 c light olive oil
1/2 c soft butter (as in, let it sit out on the bench for an hour)

*Use organic ingredients when you can! And you can probably use other oils, too ... but extra virgin olive oil might be a little bit too strong. Up to you.

1. Put the butter and olive oil in the blender and blend.

2. Transfer into a lovely jar to store in your fridge.

3. You're done!

How much did it cost me?

I used all organic ingredients ... and well, the butter was about $2.50 and the olive oil was about $1.25, so a total of $3.75 for this amount. And it lasts for ages, because it spreads more easily (so you don't use as much at a time!)

Amanda xx

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cheesy Polenta Crackers

I think if you asked a certain 2 1/2 year old what she would need to live on a desert island you might get something like this:
1. Dummy (aka pacifier)
2. Bottle
3. Fairy dancing dresses
4. Maisy the Mouse DVD
5. Crackers

I'm pretty certain she'd remember Mummy and Daddy eventually ...

Anyway, this is why we always always always have crackers of many varieties in the cupboard. But I do my best to buy the ones with simple ingredients, or I make them myself, because the thought of putting MSG or weird preservatives into my baby girl horrifies me.

A couple months ago, I made olive oil crackers - and I just want to add a note here ... we found some weeks and weeks after they'd been made, and they were still good! I'm not saying that's going to happen everytime, but I was pretty happy because my little angel was starving and you know what that does to a toddler's mood ...

This is another great cracker recipe, with a little more nutritive value than the previous lot. Polenta, wholemeal flour, cheese, milk ... sounds almost like dinner!

Cheesy Polenta Crackers

makes about 18-24 + another lot of dough for another time

1 c plain unbleached flour
1 c polenta (cornmeal)
1/3 - 1/2 c wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c grated parmesan or pecorino
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
2/3 c milk
1/2 tsp vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 180C, 375F, pop your tray or pizza stone in if you've got it.

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the oil and milk and vinegar and mix with a fork until it starts to clump together.

3. Tip the dough out onto a floured benchtop and knead just for half a minute or so until the dough starts to get smoothish. Put the dough back in the bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rest for 10-15 min.

4. Divide the dough into 1/2 and stick 1/2 in an airtight baggie in the freezer. Trust me, you'll appreciate having crackers ready to make at a later date!

5. On a floured surface, roll out the dough thinly - the thinner the better for your crackers. Use a cookie cutter to cut out rounds (or other shapes, or whatever you'd like).

6. Put the crackers onto the pizza stone or tray and bake them for 10-15 min until they're golden brown and crispy. Remove, cool on a rack, and store in an airtight container.

How much did this cost me?

I used all organic ingredients to make my batch ... the flour and polenta cost about $1.20. The cheese cost me about $3 and the olive oil was about $1.10. The milk was $0.50. So, all in all I estimate this double batch of yummy biscuits cost me around $6. Heaps cheaper than at the shop!

Amanda xx 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rosemary Shampoo and Shower Gel

Tomorrow's holiday time!! Today I'm packing and cleaning and generally going a bit nuts, but tomorrow night I'll be in balmy Singapore with my 2 favourite people on earth. What could be better?

Now, I won't leave you hanging for more recipes ... don't you worry. I've written up some already and I'm hoping to do some updates from our adventure, too! I thought I'd do a quickie today, since I just made some shampoo/shower gel for us to take away. It's Robbie's fave and a real winner!

Rosemary Shampoo and Shower Gel

*Perfect for itchy or sensitive scalps
From Bodyworks

1/2 c liquid castile soap (available from your natural foods store)
1/2 c boiling water
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
20 drops of lemon essential oil
10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops of peppermint essential oil
A foaming pump bottle, if you have one ... otherwise a regular pump bottle or old shampoo bottle

*Use organic ingredients when you can ...

1. Boil the water and pour it over the fresh rosemary. Let it steep until it cools to room temp then strain into the bottle.

2. Add the soap and the essential oils.

3. That's it! Remember to always keep essential oils out of the reach of children. This concoction will last a month or so and can be used on hair and body.

How much did this cost me?

The castile soap I get bulk at the local natural foods shop for something like $11/L, and the rosemary was from my garden! The oils I had on hand ... (you'll start collecting them, too, if you haven't already!) So my natural, organic shampoo/shower gel cost me less than $2. Which means of course that I get to spend more in Chinatown ...

Amanda xx

Friday, June 18, 2010

Billy Makes Ricotta

Will you please make me a promise? Ok, actually 2 promises ...
1. Always buy the marked down milk at the supermarket when you see it (we don't want it tossed out!)
2. Never let milk in your fridge go off.

I'll help you! I'll give you the easiest recipe ever to make farmer's cheese or ricotta or whatever you'd like to call the basic curdy cheese you can make from any type of dairy milk. For way cheaper than buying it!

Warming .. warming ... warming ... 

I have to thank our friend Billy for humouring me the other night, and letting me show him how to make ricotta from 2L of organic skim milk I got for $1. He did a great job! And even read Nelle a story while the milk heated up ... what a guy ...

Are you ready for the simplest ever recipe? Blink and you might miss it ...

Billy Makes Ricotta


2L milk (skim, 2% or full fat are all fine)
1 tsp salt
1/3 c white vinegar (though I've used other types in a pinch ... this batch was an apple cider vinegar)

*Try to use organic milk when you can

1. Heat the milk in a large ceramic or stainless steel pot over medium heat until the point just before it boils. If it looks like it might start bubbling, or gives a few big belches, it's likely ready. If you like to have more control, heat it to 90C. Stir periodically so it doesn't burn on the bottom.

NOTE: If you forget, and suddenly your house smells like boiling milk ... that's ok! Just continue as below and we'll soak the pan after we're done ...

2. Remove the pan from heat and add the salt and vinegar. Stir. It should separate into curds and liquid (the whey). I tend to leave it for a bit at this point before filtering out the curds.

NOTE: If it doesn't separate, you'll need either more acidity (vinegar) or more heat. Do that now if you need to.

3. Use a strainer or a slotted spoon or a strainer lined with cheesecloth to strain out the curds. You're done! But save the liquid - it's great for baking with, and for soaking grains or beans.

4. Store your ricotta in an airtight container in the fridge and use within a few days. The whey will keep for a week or two in a jar in the fridge.

Nice work! We all celebrated with a couple of cold beers ...

How much did this cost me?

Um, $1!!

Amanda xx

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ode to the Coffee Grinder

I originally bought my coffee grinder to grind up flaxseeds ... but now I use it for so many different things. None of which involve coffee! (I'm too addicted to actually sitting in a cafe ... )

Here are a couple of my favourites:

Ground oats or ground nuts
1. To use as a flour in baking (for example, the Sunshine Waffles)
2. A great, natural exfoliator for face and body (try oats + almonds)
3. A Tbs in a smoothy adds extra fibre and thickness (try both together!)

Ground toasted pepitas and lemon peel
1. This is fantastic in hummus or on pasta or pizza ...
2. and it's a great way to use up the peel of the lemon

Grind your own flour
1. Out of brown rice flour and want to bake for a gluten-intolerant friend? You can grind your own. Just make sure there are no stones then grind the rice into flour in small batches.
2. You can also grind small legumes, like lentils, to use in baking.

Basically, as long as it's not too oily or too moist, the coffee grinder will do a great job pulverising things for you. I'm so happy I spent that $15 on mine!

If you have any great ideas for how to use a coffee grinder, please post a comment!

Amanda xx

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunshine Waffles

My poor baby girl, she's been flu-ey all week ... so I was pretty thrilled this morning when she requested and ate a wholegrain waffle with butter and maple syrup. Well, she didn't request the wholegrain part (but that's what she gets around here) ... I had one too, in the sunshine. And we both felt pretty good.

Sunshine Waffles 
(Oat and Wholemeal Waffles)

Makes 4 waffles or 12 x 2cm pancakes
Adapted from The Electric Vegetarian

1 c rolled oats, ground into a flour in a food processor or coffee grinder
1 1/4 c wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

2 free-range eggs
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs honey or agave syrup or malt syrup or maple syrup
1 1/4 c milk

*Use organic ingredients when you can

1. Preheat the waffle iron.

2. Stir together all the dry ingredients. Then add the wet ingredients and mix well (but don't over mix).

3. Now, how much you put into your waffle iron at a time will depend on how big it is ... mine takes about 1/2 c at a time. Make your waffles according to the directions of your particular model.

4. To serve, separate into segments and drizzle with melted butter and maple syrup. Yum! Any leftovers can go in an airtight bag in the fridge or freezer for another day.

NOTE: You can make these as pancakes, too - just warm up a frying pan on med-high heat (you can use non-stick pan or a cast-iron pan with 1 Tbs oil) and drop heaping spoonfuls of batter in. Turn them over when they start to bubble on top, and when they're nicely browned on the bottom. When they're golden on both sides, they're done!

How much did this cost me?

I used all organic ingredients, except for the baking powder and salt. The oats and flour cost me about $1.00 together, and the eggs were $0.50 each. I actually used whey from a previous ricotta-making venture instead of milk, so that cost me nothing. The rest of the ingredients totalled around $0.50. So my waffles were about $2.50 total. But who can put a price on happiness?

Amanda xx

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sexy Salad for One

This is what I mean by 'sexy'!

I know, this sounds a bit contradictory ... and if you're not on your own on a weekend evening I encourage you to double this and share. But, if like me you find yourself alone and watching Masterchef on the couch all evening, this salad will be the perfect accompaniment.

The great thing about this salad is that:
1) It's a salad, so you'll feel virtuous enough to have extra dessert

2) It's got fried cheese and avocado and sour cream - need I say more?

3) It might even make up for a crazy week where your partner was overseas and your daughter had a virus from the day he left until very likely the day he comes home ... (or maybe salad + wine + dessert will be required for that - I'll let you know in an hour ... )

On to the recipe ...

Sexy Salad for One

Serves 1
Very loosely adapted from Jamie Oliver's Jamie Cooks at Home

The salad:
2 large carrots, cut into thick slices
a few cups of boiling water
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 avocado, cut into small chunks
100g haloumi, cut into 1cm-thick (1/2 in) slices
2-3 g mixed greens, washed and torn
1 tsp toasted cumin seeds

The dressing:
2 Tbs sour cream (you can use yogurt but it won't taste quite so amazing)
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 Tbs tomato paste (or ketchup will do, in a pinch)
1 tsp salt

1. Put any young children to bed, especially ones that are cranky. Open a bottle of wine and pour yourself a glass.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C, 375F.

3. Put the carrots into a small saucepan, pour boiling water over to cover and boil for about 5 min until they're tender. Drain the carrots and put them into a roasting pan with 1 Tbs of olive oil. Mix to coat with the oil, and put into the oven for around 30 min, until nicely roasted. Set aside to cool.

4. While the carrots are roasting, mix together all the dressing ingredients and set aside. Toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until they start to pop ... and set aside. Pull out a nice bowl.

5. Ok, now it's time to fry the haloumi. Heat the other Tbs of oil over med-high heat, and put your cheese slices into it. Turn them after 3-5 min, when they are nicely browned on the bottom side. When they're browned on both sides, you're done! Cut them in 1/2 and drain on a paper towel.

NOTE: I actually used the carrot-roasting oil for my haloumi - yum!

6. Assemble in the bowl - mix your greens + avocado + roasted carrot + haloumi. Put dressing on and mix well ... don't use all the dressing to start with, see how you go - people vary in how much dressing they like. So add it to taste. Sprinkle the toasted cumin seeds over top.

NOTE: If you have some stale bread on hand, slice it thinly, rub the slices with a clove of garlic and toast them up in the frying pan and oil you did the haloumi in ... cut into small chunks and you've got some lovely croutons!

Hmmm ... costing this up or having dessert? Sorry guys - this time I'm going with chocolate!

Have a lovely Friday!
Amanda xx

Friday, June 4, 2010

Light and Dark Orange Shortbreads

'Antiqued' shortbread photo

Yesterday we had an impromptu lunch at my house with my favourite newlyweds ... toasted cheeses and orange and fennel salad and chai tea with orange peel and bis-... eek! No biscuits!

Well, it was definitely a biscuit type of afternoon (cool and dim and breezy) ... we couldn't have survived without them ... so I made shortbread. This particular shortbread represents my attempt at wholemeal-ifying a Nigella Lawson shortbread recipe . We ate half of them straight out of the oven, and 2 of us weren't even pregnant ...

Light and Dark Orange Shortbreads

makes about 18 bars in an 8 x 8 in square baking pan
adapted from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer

3/4 c cornflour, sifted (the "Light")
1 1/3 c whole wheat flour, sifted (the "Dark") - I replace the wheat bran that's left back into my flour jar
3/4 c icing sugar, sifted (use raw if you can)
200g softened butter*
finely minced zest of 1/2 an orange
2 tsp vanilla extract

*They came out really yum, but towards the crumbly end of the spectrum. If you want them creamier, use 225g butter instead.

** As always, use organic ingredients when you can.

1. Preheat the oven to 160C, 325F.

2. Mix the flours and sugar and orange zest in a large bowl. Then add in the butter and vanilla and mix well.

3. Grease your baking tin and press your shortbread mixture into it. Use a fork to poke holes in the top of it, so it doesn't think about puffing on you.

4. Pop it in the oven and pour yourself a cuppa tea. Bake for 10 min, then pull out your shortbread and cut into rectangles (still in the tin!). Put back in the oven for another 10-15 min until it's firmish to the touch and a little hint of golden around the edges. But it should still be light-coloured. I find myself taking it out before I really think I should be ... and it comes out perfect. (Guess that suggests a lack of shortbread intuition?)

5. Cool for as long as you can, then carefully extract your shortbread rectangles. Eat up, or store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

How much did this cost me?

All of my ingredients were organic. Well, the wholemeal flour was about $0.40 and the cornflour was $0.60. The icing sugar was also organic, a little more expensive than the regular raw sugar I usually use ... probably about $0.80 for the amount here. The butter was $3.50 for this amount, and the orange used for the zest was one I was eating anyway ... The vanilla we made in April, and it's already paid for itself!
So, my batch of shortbread cost just over $5. But soooooo worth it.

And these would make a really lovely present, too - I know I'll be making them at Christmastime!

Amanda xx

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Candice Makes Mayonnaise

Candice with her finished product!

A funny thing keeps happening to Robbie ... he goes up the coast, goes out for a beer with his dad, and comes home with 1 to 3 meat trays. There's a raffle at the club his dad goes to, and somehow they always seem to win. Yep, hubbie of the definitely-vegetarian, daddy of the mostly-vegetarian, and he comes home with 15 rib-eyes (having left half of them with his parents). Hmmmmm......

So, what to do but invite around some meat-a-tarians to share his feast. Don't worry, this isn't a post about steak! It's a post about how one of our carnivorous friends made her very first batch of mayo ... ever.

Let's preface this by saying that 2 of the 3 cooking shows I watched on Saturday (I was home alone, and in complete chill-out mode) made fresh mayonnaise. I thought, this has to be a sign! I made a batch to go with my lunch that day, and you know what? It was as good as they all say it is.

Back to meat-fest ... while I'm busy preparing salads and putting away our market finds of the week, Candice whips up a beautiful mayo for us. Here's how she did it:

Candice Makes Mayonnaise

makes 1 1/3 c

2 med free-range egg yolks, at room temperature
300 mL extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon (or 1 Tbs white wine vinegar, if you're out of lemons)
a pinch of dried garlic (or the tiniest ever amount of fresh, I'd think)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste

*As always, use organic ingredients when you can.

1. Put the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl and beat them with a whisk (or electric beaters - if you're not feeling energetic) for a few seconds to make them creamy-looking.

2. Now, this is the most crucial part - when you start making mayo, you have to put the oil in drop by drop as you whisk. You are going to think to yourself - "this is going to take forever!", but don't worry, you get to speed up the process later on. Drop ... by ... excruciating ... drop.

3. Drop by drop - remember!

4. At some point (probably around 100 mL of oil in or so ... ) your mayo will start to look creamy and mayo-like. When this happens, you've passed the critical stage and it's ok to add more oil at a time. Still keep it to a Tbs at a time or so, but it'll go faster.

5. By the time all the oil's been incorporated, it should look just like mayo. Whisk in the lemon juice, garlic, salt and sugar and taste it. Yum! Add more salt or lemon/vinegar if you need to.

6. Whatever you don't use you can store in the fridge for sandwiches or dipping or whatever! Just keep it for a few days though ... without preservatives it loses its freshness more quickly than store-bought.

It's ok, this is a common problem with mayo which occurs when too much oil is added too quickly at the beginning. If this happens to you, all is not lost. Put a fresh, room-temperature egg yolk into a new, clean dish and slowly (drop by drop) pour in your first batch. When that's incorporated, keep adding the oil just as you were initially doing, only more slowly (ha ha). Should be completely fine!

Now all we need is a bucket of hot chips ...

How much did this cost?

We used all organic ingredients. The egg yolks were, say, $0.50 for 2 (as we saved the whites) and the 1/2 lemon was $0.35.  The oil was the expensive bit, at $3 ... and the rest was really negligible. So, let's say $3.90 for a large amount of mayo. Seriously, you might consider halving this recipe unless you're having a lot of people around. (We used it on salads and on veggie patties and still have heaps in the fridge.)

So, well done Candice! Let's see if you can pass this on, Jamie Oliver-style, on your trip overseas. I'm sure there's something yum to have with mayo in South Carolina!!

Amanda xx